Friday, October 2, 2009

How Do They Do That?

I'll read anything.  It's my nature, for some reason.  So the other night I picked up this book that I brought back from my weekend in Kentucky, and started reading it.  It's called "How Do They Do That?"  Or at least I think that's what its called.  The book is upstairs right now, and to be honest, I don't care enough to make absolutely sure that's the title.  I also do not know who wrote it.

So this book has essays of various length answering questions that perhaps most people have not thought about in awhile.  Like, how do they measure the distance between the earth and the sun? How do they build subways under cities?  How do they stuff all that shaving cream into a can?  I flew through most of it last night.

This book reinforced something I already knew about myself, and that is, I pretty much don't care. I never have, for the most part.   When I get in a car, I want it to start and take me where I want to go.  I don't have the least interest in how it does it.   I have never been mechanically inclined, I've never wanted to physically build anything, I've never cared how an engine worked. Even as a young child that stuff BORED ME TO TEARS!!!  

Instead I'd read Robin Hood and wonder what it must have been like to live in the middle ages, amongst the winding cobblestone streets and castles and crap.   Or what would it have been like to be an assistant to the Doge of Venice, especially the blind one, plowing through the halls of San Marco's in the service of some 16th or 17th century bureaucracy, eating whatever they ate for lunch on the warm late winter days in the Plaza.   Of course I know that living in those time periods would most likely have sentenced me to a short and brutal life - I know that now anyway.  When I was young, it seemed like a lot more fun than airplanes.

My general apathy to the way things work may seem a strange quality for someone who worked so many years as a computer systems engineer.   As an SE it was my job to figure out how things worked, so I could fix or modify them, or heaven forbid, create things out of thin air.  And it was not easy, it was complicated, difficult, abstract, computer junk, the kind of job where it did no good to try to picture a solution in your mind, unless you can think easily in multi-demensional type tables and such.  I can't.  You just made your peace with the world and accepted that the computer could deal with it.

So, maybe I should become a Sherlock Holmes scholar in my spare time.  Except old Sherlock was very good at chemistry, very good at figuring out how things worked.  

One question that HAS  always puzzled me though, is when builders build a building (say that fast) how to they keep it straight?  This is technology that has existed for thousands of years, but I don't have a clue how they get it right, how they keep the building from leaning.  There's lots of stuff like that I don't know.  I could write a book.

3 comments:

Patti Anne said...

Ask the guys from Pisa about the building junk; they'll tell you it ain't always straight. I think they drop sky hooks with levels on them to make the buildings straight.

linlah said...

I had to laugh at the last paragraph cause my career was building and straight is relative.

A Valdese Blogger said...

PA: I'm pretty sure that if I had a sky hook, I'd still screw it up.

linlah: Straight is relative. I like that concept. I'll have to think about that....