My town has been replacing an outmoded sewer system, which will improve the cleanliness of the Connecticut River but has played hob with trying to get from one place to another, since it involves very large pipes under very important streets.
This has given me many opportunities not only to contemplate how they could have done it better but the times I've had to listen to people go on and on about projects and particular jobs that could have been done better. Like the esteemed and very important J. Barnard Pillsbury in today's Barney & Clyde, their expertise comes mainly from not knowing how the job works.
I don't know how far back the term "sidewalk superintendent" goes, but the more visible your work, the more you can count on getting advice from people who don't, as Clyde suggests, explain all the experience they have had doing your job.
So they complain about "shovel leaners," which might mean they've never used a shovel and honestly think you can keep it up from 8 to 5 with only a half-hour break for lunch, or they can't see that the guys are waiting for the pipefitter in the bottom of the trench to finish his specialized job so they can fill in the trench.
And that pipefitter then has to stand around waiting for the next chance to do his job because you can't just drop people off the clock and send them home for the moments they aren't needed.
Construction isn't the only place you can watch and comment, though it's one of the most clear-cut examples.
Meanwhile, one of my favorite things about being a business reporter was getting to tour factories and get the inside skinny on how they do things, especially if you were doing it with someone like Susan Collins or Gerry Ferraro, who swung enough weight that, if they wanted to stop and get a particular worker's view on how things were going, well, that's what we did.
Sen.Collins, by the way, grew up in Caribou, Maine, as the daughter of a prominent family, but it was one that owned a building supply company, which added a blue-collar tone to her POV, while, like all the other kids in Aroostook back before automation took over, her school shut down during the potato harvest and everyone went out and got some dirt under their nails quite literally.
She didn't offer a lot of advice on factory tours, but she sure asked some interesting questions.
Pajama Diaries hits on an issue very much alive (no pun intended) for people of my generation in a sort of sandwich way -- we're coping with our own parents' mortality, and starting to consider sparing our kids the same process.
It starts with downsizing. I've been empty-nested for decades and currently have a livingroom, bedroom, kitchen and bath, so there won't be a lot of furniture.
Most of what my kids will have to sort through is old clippings. If I were some literary tyro, the researchers would want it all for their doctorates but I suspect the outcome in my case is that a half dozen major pieces will remain for great-grandchildren to puzzle over and the rest needs to go.
And my progeny can be grateful that the old man was a writer and not a sculptor.
Things to read that I didn't write
Speaking of the boxes of clips I've got under my bed, this Graeme MacKay panel is a commentary on recycling limitations, and, while it is specific to the Hamilton, ON, area, what he describes is happening in a lot of places.
Recycling used to be kind of complex and not many people did it, and then it got super-easy and everyone was doing it and now a lot of places are re-thinking whether "easy" was an approach that works.
It's not plain to me whether China's rejection of dubious recyclables is true economic necessity or part of the gathering trade war, but even before that, I heard pushback on no-sort recycling.
To start with, you can't recycle pizza boxes because they're greasy, and that's just the tip of the list of things you shouldn't put in the rollout bin. But even people who know that can accidentally leave a little beer in the bottom of bottle, the spillage of which will contaminate any paper or cardboard and make it unusable.
And, if you know all that, it doesn't matter because your neighbor doesn't, so his unsorted recyclables will make yours unusable.
Having to rinse things out, remove labels and check the numbers on the bottoms of the plastic things was a pain in the ass that meant only a small number of people bothered. But the stuff they recycled could be recycled.
We're close to a situation where we're just sending out two garbage trucks, one that knows it's full of garbage and one that pretends it isn't.
MacKay lays it out in more detail. As for the cartoon, I love the phrase "feel-good social engineering," and I support recycling, except for the extent to which it destroys my faith in the trainability of hairless apes.
I featured this Bizarro the other day, and in his current weekly wrap-up, Wayno goes into some detail about its inspiration.
I don't know what the second album I bought was, but the first was the Yardbirds' "For Your Love," in 1965, and I bought "Sgt. Pepper" along with "Fresh Cream" and "Absolutely Free," on my way to college, six months before "We're Only In It For the Money" was released.
So I'm not any hipper than Wayno, just a little older.
Anyway, he's right that The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny is probably not the moment of zen to unload upon an unprepared audience, and I like his alternate offering which does not require familiarity with Kafka.
And, being older, here's something from my first album, which does not require familiarity with Eric Clapton, but it's how we first met him (and Jeff Beck):