Friday, March 18, 2011

Top Ten Signs You Should’ve Given up Social Networking for Lent

  1. You think ‘news feed’ is a legitimate source of news and you spend more time reading it than actually feeding yourself.
  2. You use your cell-phone to ‘check-in’ so often that you’ve forgotten it’s also a telephone.
  3. You think ‘send friend request’ is a great way to meet new people.
  4. You wonder about how to follow Jesus if he’s not on Twitter and doesn’t blog.
  5. [#5 has been removed at the request of readers to allow a moment to check facebook. This list will resume at #6 momentarily]
  6. You update your status more often than you empty your bowel and you think your cell-phone is ‘smart’ because it allows you to do both at once.
  7. You used to workout, now you just Photoshop your profile pic.
  8. You think ‘unlike’ is an unspeakably severe form of condemnation: ‘God loves the sinner but unlikes the sin.
  9. You can’t even imagine going forty days without online social networking. Right now the thought is making you irritable, nauseous, clammy, and defensive. You just impulsively quit reading this to accept a friend request from a complete stranger.
  10. This list has made you decide to ‘unfriend’ me for posting it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wrench Conversion: A True Fable of Canadian Grit.

“The essential ingredient of politics is timing.”
- Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau 

In the history of educational controversy in Canada, surely the hottest was the eruption forty years ago over how to train auto-mechanics. The trouble began in 1970 when the Liberal Government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced legislation to convert Canada to Metric.

At the time many mechanics insisted that Canadians should stick with measuring things in Imperial, arguing that it was already established and was anyway perfectly sufficient for getting the job done. Others said if Metric was good enough for France and the rest of the planet, then maybe we should give it a shot.

Both sides proceeded on a similar premise: The weaker system would eventually be assimilated by the greater. Predictably, the proponents of both Metric and Imperial imagined themselves the ultimate victors. Entrenchment ensued with interested parties forming opposing schools of thought until, ironically, it was our Mechanical Colleges that got caught in the middle. Some opted to train young apprentices with government-sanctioned Metric tools, and others stuck to their Imperialist roots. A rare few tried to train would-be mechanics in both tool-sets, bringing into being what was then a bold new educational program: Wrench Conversion.

Although Wrench Conversion (WC) was a small and entirely optional program, it was seen by some at the time as ominously unorthodox, and so it met with resistance. 

Certain elements of teaching theory in the early 1970s suggested that punishing a child for throwing pinecones at recess by making him wear “the bad hat” and go without lunch while sitting on a stool facing the corner with the sound of his friends snickering behind him (even though he didn’t start it, and even though everyone else on the playground was throwing pinecones too, and even though this child was only singled-out because he happened to be two feet (0.61m) taller than his peers) – certain elements of teaching theory in the early 19070s deemed this perfectly acceptable. Other elements of teaching theory in the early 1970s suggested that streaming some mechanics out to learn both Metric and Imperial would compromise the quality of training in the single-track shops.

There is no connection whatsoever between these two teaching theories. Except that they were both teaching theories.

The pinecone throwing punishment technique was not found to be especially relevant to the mounting controversy over WC. But the ‘anti-streaming’ idea, it caught-on and eventually lead to the now-famous whisper-campaign jingle: Isn’t Wrench Conversion elitist?

Plus – it was eventually pointed-out – Wrench Conversion was kinda hard. The sheer persuasive power of this argument stood unchallenged for almost twenty minutes. Then an anonymous father-figure in the back of the room stood up and barked, “Difficulty – bah! – builds character.” With the brilliance of that insight as a guiding light, the appeal of Wrench Conversion shone brightly and inspired proponents to form the Canadian Association of Mechanics For Wrench Conversion (CAMFWC).

The CAMFWC worked tirelessly for years until, with their cause almost realized, a loosely organized band of Journeymen-Instructors entered the fray. These Instructors spoke passionately about the way their colleges were already brimming with diversity, and about how increasing it yet further with “Wrench Conversion” would certainly upset the already tipsy cultural melting pot. Too sheepish to confront these large people directly, some of those in favour of Wrench Conversion resorted to posting thinly-veiled polemical allegories in obscure corners of the internet. (This was possible because in 1974 the Canadian auto-mechanic community had been given high-level security access to early CIA prototypes of the internet for testing purposes.)

Eventually the situation escalated to the point where the Federal Minister for Tools and Rural Affairs had to intervene. At a special joint task force meeting between the Canadian Auto Workers’ Teachers’ Union of Canada and the National Board for Increment Equality the minister introduced his policy paper: “Conversion de clé: Est la moitié de la classe plein ou à moitié vide?” (trans: “Wrench Conversion: Is the class half full or half empty?”)

Unfortunately, only the title of the Minister’s paper was ever translated and so most of the country was unable to benefit from whatever he said.

Forty years after the boiling point of the most heated controversy in Canadian educational history, one thing hasn’t changed: Take a peek at the gleaming nuggets of chrome inside the toolbox of any mechanic worth the grease under his fingernails and you’ll see two sets of sockets. Inspect that towering chest-of-drawers further and you will also discover dual sets of wrenches, spanners and sundry other twisty-tools. Four decades have passed but amazingly these differences remain. Distinct yet deeply complimentary, Imperial and Metric are no longer seen as ‘alternative’ sets of tools but have somehow become a single, collective way of being a well-trained, well-tooled Canadian mechanic.

And so, as it turns out, the mechanics best prepared for how their trade actually works today are those who faced the challenge of being trained in both sets of tools. As it also turns out, even those who were not specifically trained in Wrench Conversion but who attended Colleges that included it as an option, they became better mechanics too. Apparently the fact that their training was not earned within an artificially simplified college culture helped prepare them for the less than ideal conditions of real repair shops.

No one would deny the fact that the automotive industry would be easier to deal with if all our nuts were spun the same way. Who amoung us hasn’t wedged ourselves underneath a ’91 Dodge Ram with a 13mm wrench only to find a 9/16” drain-plug? Sure, a person could just strip that bolt-head into a perfect circle out of brute stubbornness. But a person could also wiggle back out of the situation, stride calmly over to the work-bench, find the right tool for the job and return to the source of the dilemma equipped to face it. After all that – and with a faint smile and a sense of true Canadian grit – such a person would then be ready to get right back to work. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Young Life Ski-a-thon: Sponsor Me Here.

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.

Young Life in Pemberton is an unqualifiedly great thing. I'd like to support them by riding laps on Blackcomb on Saturday. 

There will be Advil. But it needn't be like that for you. Just use the 'comment' feature to sponsor me and I'll take it from there.

This is legit. Here's a quote from the pledge form provided by YoungLife:

"I am participating in the Pemberton Young Life Ski (SNOWBOARD)-A-Thon. All proceeds will help fund the planning and operating budget. You can sponsor me for an amount per lap and can name a maximum amount that you are willing to contribute. After the ski-a-thon, I will return to tell you how many laps I ski and collect your contribution. Make checks to Pemberton Young Life. All contributions are tax-deductible."

"Comment" below with your pledge. Any pledge of $5/lap or more will receive dramatic 'before and after' photos, possibly X-Ray.