Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Whatever works for you

The other night at pickup frisbee a player asked me what I did? (meaning for work from the context). -"Mechanical engineer, I design steel mill equipment."
The reply was promptly "sounds boring."
I like my job .

It seems mankind was built with an ingrained desire to be artistic. Scientifically we're told of the great structure and societies of critters like ants and bees. While ants & bees may have a great society and social structure they are not artistic. There are no statues. No paintings. No odd colored honeycomb cell from the artistic bee.

Also consider music. Wolves howl & birds sing, but it is predominently signals to attract attention, good or bad. American Idol has shown people trying their best and doing both; but before the show existed everyone sang because they enjoyed singing. It's not reserved only for those who are good at it. Will walking be left for professional walkers? many people enjoy and will continue in it regardless of salary concerns.

The intrinsic art-nature pours into nearly every human endeavor.

I look at an old draft page and it is clear that the drafter took pride in their work. It is artistic, it is precise and intentional. The artistic effort has a guide rail of conveying information correctly, but the art is there.

My job is the next level of this. It used to be an engineer laid out concepts and something like 2-10 drafters moved that from sketches to drafts that a shop could use for manufacturing. Computers Aided Drafting (CAD) started as a way of making drafts quicker and possible for those with less artistic nature and patience. CAD moved to 3D and has basically put the engineer directly into the realm of making the drafts. The rough napkin sketches are now done on a screen. Essentially play-dough building models which quickly produce drafts.

Everyday I'm solving problems to make things work. It can be at a concept level - we need to make a widget to do function A, while doing B also. Or whether it's moving the concept to real world and figuring every part of a complex assembly and how the parts are built and fit together; or figuring out how to fit item X into the space that is already packed.

Problem + creativity + implementation = solution.

It wouldn't make good TV but it makes for a busy mind and busy hands. I understand the need for a job to pay the bills, put food on the table and take care of a family. Luckily, presently I enjoy my paying job. Even if circumstances required to do another job that had no enjoyment I would still be solving problems just on a smaller scale. I'd still build things and design widgets.

In our town there is a small mattress store with artwork that covers every wall. Pretty good artwork too. The owner is talkative and quick to discuss his art. He has no interest in selling any of it. He enjoys the art and the artistic effort. The mattress sales is simply a means of supplying his passion.

I find it no wonder that DaVinci excelled at artistic things and had countless sketches of wonderful machines. They are the same creative spirit just bordered by a frame of wood or a frame of physical laws.

Houses to me are a prime example of this. While functional aspects determine much the art seeps into trim work, wall colors, archways, cabinets, fixtures,...

Home is where the art is.

1 comment:

  1. While at an astronomical instrumentation conference this week (out geek THAT!) I had a realization that: art is man's way of asking 'What am I?' while science is man's way of asking 'Where am I?' The public education system abhors the unselfish, so those indoctrinated by it favor art (introspection) over physics (extrospection?).

    It is interesting to me how much engineering lives between these two questions. In essence, engineering just asks, 'How can I help?' Thus it necessarily incorporates aspects of both art and science since it both begs and answers both questions for one altruistic purpose .