Any joy I ever felt for chemistry disappeared in the lecture halls and laboratories of the Keir Building, Queens University, Belfast between the years of 1997-1998. It got lost in thermodynamic equations I didn’t understand, extremely boring university lecturers and disappointing chemical yields from fume cupboards.
And any joy I have for cleaning a burnt oven ring or burnt saucepan evaporates with each rub of the sponge and scrub of the pan. I do not enjoy cleaning oven rings.
So I felt a surprising amount of joy reading the following paragraph from John Stewart Collis because the black residue on the burnt oven ring or scraped from early morning toast is a small reminder and sign of the main building block of life, carbon.
It’s part of what makes you you and me me, of what makes life on planet earth life.
The trick will be to remember it next time I’m pissed off cleaning the oven..
‘It seems that carbon is the main staff of life. If we take anything to bits we find that it possesses carbon. The way to way take an organic thing to bits is to apply heat to it so that its more volatile particulars fly off. We all know what happens when we do this to bread or sugar or almost anything – we are left with the residue of carbon. So with plants, animals, or ourselves – we can all be reduced to carbon. It is odd that the stuff itself looks so inglorious, for this black substance which smudges the coal-heaver and the chimney sweep is the insignia of all that is most colourful on earth, responsible for the parade and panoply of the living world no less than for the glittering of the diamond’
John Stewart Collins, The Vision of Glory
We don’t get much junk mail, I try my best to not waste food yet still there seems to be constant trips to the bins, the study is a full of paper ready to be thrown away, black leads leading to trips and stumbles and then perhaps an occasional trip into a USB port, half used pencils, unread books.
That is not even to consider things like the amount of energy I waste on the computer or heating the house.
I read a book a few weeks ago called ‘The Waste Makers‘ by Vance Packard. Having been written in the 1960 you might have thought it would be dated now that we know so much, but no. It still seems relevant and wise.
He claims that to make the economy grow we need to consume and then outlines nine ways in which we are encouraged to consume and keep things growing.
1 Have more than you Really Need
Why do I have to many pencils when I rarely use pencils?
Why do we have 3 containers of concentrated lemon in the fridge?
2 Have a throw away spirit
Why am I constantly throwing away paper?
Why am I so wasteful with food?
3 Planned obsolescence (Things breaking)
4 Planned obsolescence of desire
5 Things that can’t be easily repaired or mended
Car electronics that can only be ordered from the manufacturers, funny screw heads etc. The repairman is helpless.
6 Sell things with lots of ‘spin’
Look at this! It’s the greatest thing ever! Your life will be much easier if you get this! Stephen Fry uses it!
7 Sell things using credit
8 Encourage Hedonism
Unlimited broadband! Excellent, I’ll be able to do more now.
9 More People Means More Markets
(no picture for that. But selling for/to children and teenagers? Markets like China and India?)
I’ve become a man obsessed with trying to make a stringed instrument out of some old can/biscuit tins so the house is now a tip and my hands have been shredded by the edges of biscuit tins. I wish I had a shed or a garage as well so that everything I need is there and a work bench, but would it be as much fun?
(The answer to that is yes, of course it would be more fun because H___ wouldn’t kill me for messing the house up. Again!)
So here is today’s model. I’ve learned a lot about what not to do and need a tuning peg system that works, not just some nuts and bolts drilled in the wrong place.