Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Broaching the Subject

Metal working and Latin.  I continue to be surprised by odd little connections between the ancient world and the machine shop.  I really should not be, we create words in proportion to the importance of objects and activities in our lives.  And the working of metal was at least as important back then as it is today.

Our latest project involves "broaching".  In simplistic terms this is cutting a precise slot on the inside surface of a hollow tube of metal.  If - unlikely I suspect - you are curious, this is to seat a keyway, a precisely sized bit of metal that can mate two seperate parts together.  Think of a wheel and and axle for instance.

This is a broach.

You use a gigantic machine called an arbor press to ram this through the metal, each little tooth taking off a slightly larger bit of steel.  It amuses me that this huge machine sits next to the door that leads into the nanotech lab....where they work with things smaller than a human hair!

Broach is one of those words that teased at me for a few days until I gave in and looked it up.

Walking it back we have:

Old French (12th century) broche, a pointed tool or awl.  Also a spit for roasting
Vulgar Latin broccca, a pointed tool, with the related word broccus, projecting or pointing.
Deeper down it may come from a barbaric Gaulish word, as in the Gaelic brog, meaning awl.

When excavating at Vindolanda I have had the fun, once or twice, of unearthing a brooch. Very similar sounding word.  And of course it is an off shoot (13th century, Old French) of broach that means "long needle".  This actually refers to a feature we seldom actually find in Roman brooches, the bronze needle on the back of them.  The brooch was used to pin together layers of clothing and what is usually left after centuries in the ground is the more robust decorative front parts, not the functional "needle". 

Any word in circulation this long will naturally pick up some side meanings.  When discusing a pointed tool it is not surprising that an Old French version brochier has a rather pornographic meaning.  But we also get the sense of "broaching" a cask or keg,  by hammering a pointed tap into it.  This derivation also gives us the fairly common useage of "broaching a subject", that is to open it up for conversation.

We also get brocade, a Spanish origin word for fancy cloth with projecting nubbins.

And brochure, a multi paged document that in times past was stitched together.

And for those who take a dim view of Wall Street, consider the origins of the word broker.  It also comes down to us from the original broach.  By the mid 14th century it designated a "commercial agent" with overtones of "agent in a sordid business".  This sense spins through various Anglo-French interpretations off of the "broaching a cask" meaning, with a bit of the side meaning of "pimp or procurer".  

I would like to think that the financial services industry of the modern age is focused on providing us with more than watered down vino and doxies best looked at only in dim tavern lighting,  but evidence to the contrary is not hard to find.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gold, Frankencense, Myrrh. And Salt.

My wife usually regrets taking me into any retail establishment.

Recently we went into the local Hallmark store to get a few cards. This entails careful shopping on her part.  And wandering about wide eyed and marveling on my part.  When I found myself standing in front of the line up of Hallmark Christmas ornaments I was spellbound.  So much, so very much to see.

Where to begin.  Well, just let your eyes wander across that display for a few seconds.

Yep.  It's a Death Star tree topper.  No more Star or Angel to remember Christ's birth.  Lets just put up this emblem of tyranny and planetary genocide.  It has a remote control that lets you cue the "Imperial March" music.  Also to start up a light show.  

Not exactly Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.  But we have more to see.

Of course it is Easter, not Christmas, when we celebrate Christ dying and arising from the Dead.  I hope, I really, really hope that this "Rick Grimes, Walking Dead" ornament is not still hanging around on clearance sale by then.  Hallmark seems pretty efficient with respect to moving old stock out.  They probably have a huge cavern storage facility somewhere to store all the things that don't sell very well.  Please, let this be one of them.

These photos were snapped with my phone, and I sometimes sense the puzzled eyes of salesclerks directed my way.  So sorry, "The Alien Queen" is a bit blurred both photographically and thematically here.  Again, really hoping this does not carry over until Easter.  Just think of the eggs.....

But to get about as bizzare as I think is possible in this Time-Space continuum I had to get a couple of shots of an ornament that does not appear in the wide shot up top. C'mon in close, the sales lady is busy ringing up my wife's purchases...

What the....?  

This is listed in the Hallmark catalog as Star Trek (tm) "The Man Trap" Kirk and Salt Monster Ornament with Sound. 

I don't think I can imagine, and my imagination is pretty darned good, something with less connection to Christmas.  So I guess we will simply have to appreciate this peculiar cultural artifact on its own merits.  This references one of the very earliest of Trek episodes, when the "creatures" were rather crudely fashioned, and when William Shatner had yet to develop the subtle nuances that have since come to characterize him as perhaps the most sensitive and accomplished actor of the modern era.

Here is a screen shot from the original 1966 episode.  Did Hallmark capture the moment properly?

Oh my.  They appear to have out Shatnered Shatner himself!

I shall hide nothing from you.  I am a terrible Christmas shopper.  Most of this is my fault and I make few apologies.  But when the themes of Christmas have gotten this peculiar I feel as if my distracted and inefficient shopping efforts really should not come as a surprise to anyone.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Things that circle outside the light...

On our front porch we usually keep a little Fall Tableau up until it starts to look "Christmasy" and it is time for those decorations.  Nothing elaborate.  A pumpkin, a few gourds, some corn. The odd purple things are a plant that I am too lazy to identify properly so I call it "Alien Cabbage".  They stay viable quite late in the season, no doubt having been bred hardy on the dark, radioactive plantoid of their origin.

With my wife out of town for a few days I was given discretion with respect to when the Fall Tableau got taken out to the compost bin.  The other day I looked down and saw that I was Too Late.

I don't know what kind of critter crept up in the dark and gnawed a hole in the pumpkin.  So many generations, such a gulf of time that separates us from our cave dwelling predecessors.

But still there are hungry things that circle just outside the light, just beyond our doorstep....

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Remembering Campaigns Past.....

Politics has never been an entirely safe topic to discuss among family and friends.  This was true even before people took their social relationships off into the Virtual world where it is much easier to have your meaning misconstrued, and where "Unfriending" is a public and irrevocable thing as compared to say, having a few days where you decided to not have a cup of coffee with somebody at work.

I've been around for more election cycles than most.  I will admit that this last one was an eye opener.  The results surprised everyone and I think that whether you like or dislike the outcome it is salutary to periodically re-evaluate your world view.  Some world views are being dismantled down to their very foundations and every brick and board being tested.  That is a good thing.

For the Record I did not vote for either Donald Trump or for Hillary Clinton.  You may express your opinion of my declining to support either of them but it was my decision to make. So I decided this year to write in my choices for President and Vice President.  I picked two individuals, one a Democrat and one a Republican.  Who? Again, my business, not yours but I picked two people who I consider to be among the few honest, capable, willing-to-put-country-ahead of party politicians who have appeared on the ballot for these positions in recent years.

This has caused me to go back and re-visit all the Presidential campaigns I can remember.  I made various choices in them which is only reasonable as I was a different person years ago than I am now.  And it was a different country.  Or of course from another perspective I and the country are not so very changed over time.  You judge.

my age: 7
my issues: plastic dinosaurs
my memories: I recall going with my mom when she went to volunteer at a campaign office for Barry Goldwater.  I remember it was downtown Minneapolis. It seemed like it was some kind of big garage or former auto dealership.  Signs were being made. For years there was a can of "Gold Water" soda on a shelf.  I think it was acquired that day.

my age: 11
my issues:  The Vietnam war was going on pretty actively at that time.  I do recall observing that all the bombing raids never seemed to actually hit anything important. This was a very turbulent election, probably crazier than 2016.  

my age: 15
my issues: I was in high school, so things that concerned me then are almost by definition all trivial in retrospect.  That was the year Richard Nixon beat George McGovern by a tally of 520 to 17.  A pretty bad Electoral College 'whupping' but a real nail biter compared to 1820 when James Monroe put it to John Quincy Adams, 231 to 1.  JQA came back four years later for the Win.

my age 19
my issues: I was in college.  I concerned myself mostly with inexpensive beer and interpersonal relationships that had no future potential.  This was the first year I could vote, and I cast it for Gerald Ford.  I felt then, and still do, that he was a fundamentally decent man. Jimmy Carter was one of those political peculiarities that come along once in a while.  He had bad luck with respect to the times and the circumstances he was handed.

my age 23
my issues: I was in medical school.  It was all rather overwhelming.  This was another time when neither major party candidate looked appealing.  Carter had an air of "malaise" about him. Reagan was a B movie actor.  Also he was old.  Well, I was young.  So the appeal of voting for a Third Party candidate was strong.  There was a guy named John Anderson running on a platform of not being either of the other two guys.  He had a full head brilliant white hair which on a fairly young guy looked striking.  This is the only Presidential campaign I have ever donated money to.  Anderson lost, and to boot seems to have sold my name and address to a bevy of fund raisers.  It was two more years before I moved out of the house I shared with my brother. The plaintive letters asking us to save the (Seals/Whales/Planet) were still going strong then.  The house has since been demolished.  In my imagination the fund raising appeals are still delivered to the north east corner of a modern day parking lot where they have just as much impact now as they did then.

my age 27
my issues:  Well by now I am married and in Residency.  I think I voted absentee for Ronald Reagan's second term.  I actually spent November of that year in a sleep deprived blur doing a high risk OB program in Houston Texas.  I suppose there were major issues that year but seem to recall it not being much of a contest.  The 525 - 13 Electoral College landslide buried Walter Mondale so deep under that I had forgotten that he was involved.

You'd think that my perspective on issues would have changed as I approached real world, working guy status.  But we were poor, newly wed and happy.  That was just fine.

my age 31
my issues: Maybe there were none.  I was now starting out in practice and a new father.  The country seemed to be running fairly well under the existing managment.  And Michael Dukkais seemed an unserious challenger.

my age 35
my issues: Having been around the health care system long enough to see that it was a jumbled, dysfunctional mess I decided to vote for Bill Clinton who said he was going to do somthing to fix it.  I had nothing against George H.W.Bush, but three terms of one party is almost always plenty.  Time for new ideas.

yes, 39. Where does the time go?
So much going on.  The Berlin Wall comes down. Scandal in the White House. Times are good economically.  My first "if this-then this" decision.  I felt Bill Clinton was the better choice for the country but I found his behaviour as a person to be repugnant.  So my decision was that if Wisconsin was looking to be a close call I would hold my nose and vote Clinton.  If it was not close, a vote for Bob Dole as a token of respect for a hero and patriot.

The Twenty First Century
The issues that concern me have become more weighty.  In recent years I have had to ponder the nature of work and retirement, of being a parent and a grand parent.  More things bother me now than in the past,  perhaps that comes with age.  More things delight me than in the past, perhaps that comes with experience.

It is always more recent history that becomes more contentious.  My decisions have become less predictable even to myself.  I have donated to two more campaigns at the local level.  Both were to friends who were running as Democrats.  In each instance - one won, one did not - it looked to me as if politics did not do good things to them.  I found myself sometimes voting different ways when the same individual stood for election in two different cycles.  I have voted for one of the recent political dynasties and against another.  

I wonder if we will ever see a "normal" election again.  Candidates can't realistically influence people by newspapers or television any more.  Most of the money spent in any given cycle serves only to enrich consultants and to clog land fills.  Large segments of the population simply won't, or perhaps can't, get their minds around anything other than party line allegience. 

It is sobering to realize that you have more four year increments behind you than ahead of you. But for what it is worth, and I'm not sure how much that is, the strangest times probably lie ahead. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

After the Feast

A photo from after Thanksgiving dinner.  

The human of  course has every reason to lie back -hand atop belly- and take life easy.  The canine of course knows full well that he is not supposed to be on the furniture.  But standards get relaxed a bit on holidays, albeit not as relaxed as either of the two family members seen above.

The dog's name is Bruce.  He is the "older brother" to a toddling Next Generation.  Said youngster's first word was "BRuuuuuuuuuuuu..". This gets Bruce some permanent tolerance points. Interestingly, just as Eskimos have many words for snow, Toddler has devoted about half of his identifiable vocabulary to this very important feature of his life.  In addition to "Bruuu" there is a five or six syllable version of the word "Doggie".  He also knows "P.U." but that could apply specifically to the dog or generally to assorted other family members including himself.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Boring Project

Sometimes in machining you need to make a large hole in a piece of metal.  Maybe larger than the drill bits you have around or can fit into your equipment.  Also, you might need this hole to be accurate to 0.001 inch.  Why I am not sure.

OK, time to deploy a milling attachment called a Boring Head.

It spins around and around shaving off a few thousandths of an inch of metal at a time.  Every few minutes you have to stop and adjust it again.  

This gets rather tedious.  And actually the term "boring" dates from the late 1700s, and is felt to be a figurative extention of "moving slowly and persistently, as a boring tool does".

I can certainly see how a machinist doing this task regularly would have been very happy when CNC milling came along and automated things.