The Wheel — A History

wheel

Everybody yips about The Wheel as the greatest invention of all time.  What a media whore!  Think about it!  What can you actually do with a wheel?  Not much!  Try it!  Look around for something round, (pie plate, saucer, jar lid, even one of those ancient DVD discs — it doesn’t matter.)  Now, try and find a use for it.  Frankly, once you’ve done Frisbee, you’re pretty much finished.  The fact is, despite the hype, a wheel, by itself, is absolutely useless.  And whoever invented it must have been a dumbass.  Imagine the caveman conversation.

“Hey, Marvin!  What you got there?”
“I call it a wheel.”
“Cool!  What does it do?”
“Watch this!  I just give it a push, and look, it rolls all the way down the hill.”
“Cool!  And — uh?”
“And nothing.  I go down, carry it back up the hill and do it again.”
Serious silence.
“Dude!  We’re like friends and everything, but that is totally stupid.”
“That’s all you know.  The wheel is going to be a big thing, someday.  It’s goin’ be as big as like fire, probably.”
“Man, you gotta stop lickin’ those shiny frogs.”

Here’s the deal.  In order to do anything except roll away, wheels need other wheels.  Plus, they need something to control the spin and some way to attach the spin to something else (i.e. transfer the energy.)  In other words, they need an axle, and that concept it very complicated.  It took prehistoric humans 10,000 years of circular hit and miss just to figure out they could use tree trunks as rollers to move heavy stuff like stones.  And it was another millennium plus before Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II’s two-wheeled chariots kicked the crap out of the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 B.C.  However, it was actually a Roman genius, Vitruvius (who most people have never heard of, BTW) who unleashed the tireless potential of the wheel axle, when he built and used the first vertical waterwheel around the time of Christ.  Eighteen hundred years later, steam turned the wheels axles of the Industrial Revolution, and from there, it didn’t take very long (less than 200 years) for NASA’s Planetary Surface Exploration Device to be doing wheelies on Mars.

So even though the wheel gets all the credit, it’s really the tireless work of the axle that is one of the greatest human achievements of all history.

Everybody Works

work

Everybody works.  Some work harder than others, some work smarter than others, but as each of us wanders along life’s incredible journey, we all have a relentless series of jobs to do.  Just to clarify – I’m not talking about gainful employment; I’m talking about all those nasty little tasks that haunt our otherwise leisured existence — everything from filling out income tax forms to assembling a Fridekgloben bookcase from Ikea.  This is the work that torments our souls.

Having survived on this planet for – uh – a number of years, I’ve done my share of personal chores and, without bragging, I’ve gained some valuable experience.  Here are just a few bits and bobs from what I’ve learned along the way.

1 – Every job takes longer than you think.  No matter how simple it looks or how comprehensively you’ve prepared, the task at hand is going to eat up more minutes than you bargained for.  (See items 4, 5, 6, 7 and sometimes 8 for a detailed explanation.)

2 – The rule of quarters.  No matter what you do, the first 75% of the job takes 25% of the time and the last 25% takes 75% — or more.

3 – Do as much as possible before lunch — cuz after lunch, you’re going to be useless.

4 – Something you need isn’t going to be there.  Whether it’s a particular medical receipt, a pinch of coriander, an account number or an oddly shaped one-use-only tool, there will be one item, that’s absolutely necessary to the task, which you either don’t have or can’t find.  This means you have to stop, search or go buy it – no other choice.  And, BTW, this never happens at the beginning of the adventure but always more than halfway through — when you’ve got everything torn up, half assembled, disassembled and/or spread out all over hell.

5 – There will be an essential piece of information missing.  Assembly instructions are notorious for this – the placement of Lock Washer #3 is a mystery known only to God.  Meanwhile, the Federal Government will not accept your tax return without an entry in Box 906a even though its purpose is a bigger secret than the contents of Area 51.  But the very worst are online forms that demand an encyclopedia of personal information and, after you’ve entered it all, flash the big red “Error” warning at you — while slyly refusing to tell you where the error occurred.

6 – The thing that’s supposed to fit … won’t.  Carpenters and plumbers know this and are skilled in Improvise, Adapt and Overcome, but the rest of us are utterly stunned when the last bolt’s too big, the connecting rod’s too short or the brand new muffin pans don’t fit in the oven.  The result is an extended period of swearing and weeping.

7 – The experience you gain from one task does not translate to anything else.  What you learned trimming the hedge doesn’t help you buy car insurance online.  Painting the porch and making a soufflé are straight chalk and cheese.  Every task demands a particular expertise, so whatever you attempt to do (unless you’re a poly-skilled professional, or spend your life watching YouTube) you’re going to waste a lot of time reinventing the wheel.

And finally:

8 – You can’t get there from here. – This doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens regularly enough to be included here.  Basically, there’s always a danger that the first touch on any project will set off a chain of disasters, each more expensive and time-consuming than the last.  The leaking faucet that eventually becomes a $5,000 plumbing job.  The birthday cake that ends up with a new stove.  The computer upgrade that resets your Netflix account to Serbia and your banking information to Good Shepherd Savings and Loan in Azerbaijan.  Seriously, I have a friend who tried to buy a paper shredder and is locked out of Amazon forever.  (Even they don’t know why.)

Yeah, we all have jobs to do, but I’ve discovered that only paid professionals and enthusiastic hobbyists get anything out of these mundane tasks.  The rest of us just have to grit and bear it.

 

10 Jobs You’ve Never Heard Of!

weirdjobs

There are tons of jobs in this world that nobody’s ever heard of.  They’re not advertised anywhere — and companies will deny they even exist – but they do.  And after years of research, I’ve managed to identify a few of them.

Flak Catcher – Every company on this planet employs an army of people whose only job is to answer the telephone and get yelled at.  They’re the ones on the other end of “Customer Support.”  They have no real power and can’t actually fix your problem, so they are just supposed to listen to your assortment of threats and obscenities and hope the hell you go away.  Most companies prefer ex-nuns for this position.

Complimentary Crying Baby – You’d think that child labour laws would prevent this sort of thing, but every airline employs a variety of babies who fly around the world and cry — during takeoffs, landings and just when you’re about to take a nap.  There’s a lot of room for advancement in this position, and many babies go on to become the “Obnoxious Child.”  I have no idea why airlines do this, but I’m assuming it’s to boost liquor sales.

Motorcycle Rider – This occupation dates back to post World War II when housing developers hired ex-servicemen to roar around the streets of urban areas on noisy motorcycles.  Their purpose was to “encourage” young families to buy houses in quieter suburbs — and it worked.  These days, the building trade still hires “Motorcycle Riders,” and in some cities, it’s considered a growth industry.

Useless Government Employee – All governments hire one person whose sole purpose is to give you the wrong forms, send you to the wrong department or generally muck up the paper trail so completely that even Stephen Hawking can’t figure it out.  They do this so the other government employees look good in comparison.

Cat Sex and Barking Dog – I don’t know how they train these animals, but pharmaceutical companies have employed them for years to help sell sleeping pills.

Arguing Woman – Always found in grocery stores, this person’s job is to hold up the line by arguing with the cashier over some ridiculous thing like expired coupons.  The purpose is to stall you at the checkout long enough so you buy stupid crap you don’t really need — like magazines, gum and candy bars.

Movie Talker – The jerk in the movie theatre eight rows back who insists on explaining the coming plot twists to her hearing-impaired friend.  I’m not sure who hires these people, but I imagine it’s probably Netflix, Hulu or some other streaming service.

Condescending Techie – Companies that sell electronics all have one techie who’s an utter asshole.  His job (and it’s always a guy) is to roll his eyes, speak gibberish at you and reconfigure your device so you can’t find anything.  They do this in the hope that you’ll eventually get so fed up with the problem you’ll just say, “Forget it!” and buy something new.

Stereo Guy – This is a seasonal position (summer only.)  Air conditioning companies hire people to wait until midnight, turn their stereos up to a million decibels and blast Mega-Death Hip Hop Techno Country music into the stinkin’ hot summer night.  The purpose is to force you to buy an air conditioner so you can close your windows against this unholy din without dying of heat stroke.

And finally:

Dog Walker/Jogger – These people are hired by the police to go to secluded wooded areas and find dead bodies.