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Are Americans Losing Touch with DIY Skills?

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*Link Fixed*

Science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein once wrote: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

...

Are hands-on skills — building things, fixing things, operating machines and so on — really in decline?

...

Does this matter? And if people are becoming less mechanically handy, is that so bad? I think so — and not just because specialization is for insects.

We don't all have to be MacGyver, but from time to time all of us will face problems that can't be addressed with a laptop and a cellphone. In a genuine emergency, having some basic manual skills could be the difference between surviving comfortably and being totally helpless.

That is a very interesting article. What do you think about it?

35 Replies

AnarchistKid (author)2008-02-22

I don't think all of those are neccesery, not everyone needs to be able to program a computer and I think cooking big meals for little money is better than cooking tasty meals

Goodhart (author)AnarchistKid2008-02-22

I think cooking big meals for little money is better than cooking tasty meals

still, it is nice to sit down and have a meal one can enjoy savoring, rather then wolfing down ;-)

AnarchistKid (author)Goodhart2008-02-22

i agree, but when it comes down to saving money, ya'know

Goodhart (author)AnarchistKid2008-02-22

Yes I know. Each year we purchase a "coupon book" that has literally Thousands of dollars of coupons in it. It allows us to eat at some restaurants we would not normally be able to, and with places we do go to, if there are coupons for them, we save a lot more than the $25 usd we spend on the booklet.
I took my wife out to a little Inn and restaurant called the Accomac, they serve French cuisine in an old tyme style that would have cost us over $60 a PIECE to eat there, without the coupon.

Goodhart (author)Goodhart2008-02-22

Maybe you have seen it ? the Entertainment Book

Kiteman (author)2008-02-16
  • change a diaper - check, and then some.
  • plan an invasion - does re-planning the Battle of Hastings counts?
  • butcher a hog - I can't even bone a chicken
  • conn a ship - canoe, at least
  • design a building - check
  • write a sonnet - haiku, mucky limericks, short stories, a few 'ibles, but no sonnets
  • balance accounts - check
  • build a wall - check, and demolish one
  • set a bone - I've held one together
  • comfort the dying - check
  • take orders - check
  • give orders - check
  • cooperate - check
  • act alone - check
  • solve equations - check
  • analyze a new problem - check
  • pitch manure - check
  • program a computer - I once made my ZX81 draw a box...
  • cook a tasty meal - check
  • fight efficiently - I don't know about efficient, but it was spectacular
  • die gallantly - no way, they'll have to drag me kicking and screaming into the void. I'm not going willingly, never mind gallantly.

I guess I would be proud of checking off so much of Heinlein's list, if it wasn't for the fact that it's Heinlein's list.
ll.13 (author)Kiteman2008-02-16

fight efficiently - I don't know about efficient, but it was spectacular

Pleeease expand. =)

KentsOkay (author)ll.132008-02-16

*nodsheadinagreement*

Kiteman (author)KentsOkay2008-02-16

Just school fights, you know the kind of thing. There was the time I got my head put through a window, but the only injury was to the teacher who checked my head and cut himself on glass caught in my hair. Or the time that wasn't so serious, mood wise, but I found myself under a pile of furniture in the common-room. When I dug my way out, the snooker table slid off the top of the pile and through the window. The closed window, balls and all.

tech-king (author)Kiteman2008-02-18

hahahaha. the snooker table one was funny. then what happened?

Kiteman (author)tech-king2008-02-18

We ran outside, picked up the snooker stuff and then blamed the window on a trip over a loose carpet with a cue - that got the carpet glues down as well.

tech-king (author)Kiteman2008-02-18

at least some good came out of it.

jtobako (author)Kiteman2008-02-16

Is that because it's someone else's list, or someone in particulars list? Just curious, 'cause I grew up on Heinlein but was disappointed in his later efforts.

Kiteman (author)jtobako2008-02-17

Because it's Heinlein. The man was a loon - never mind his later works, the man had a very odd axe to grind.

Starbeast was "OK", but with a hugely contrived plot twist, Number of the Beast and Stranger... were just plain warped.

The nearest he got to a decent book was Starship Troopers, and that didn't work until it was turned into a big-budget movie ( yes, I know the book won awards, but for the first time I know of, the script writers seem to have added a plot).

Stranger.. even spawned a religion.

Exemplar review of "Number of the Beast"

jtobako (author)Kiteman2008-02-17

If you take him seriously, yah, loony works. In my defense, I found him shortly after Sherlock Holmes...

KentsOkay (author)Kiteman2008-02-16

Dang he meant building a ship? Shucks I thought he was meaning conning people... Ack well I can do that to...

Kiteman (author)KentsOkay2008-02-16

Not building, steering.

KentsOkay (author)2008-02-15
Wow, I've done just about all of that in some form or another...
In my opinion, those with DIY skills continue to get better, and those without are way behind.

Umm the link just says "we're up!"

I've:
  • Changed a diaper
  • Planned invasions
  • Have knowledge to butcher hogs
  • Have conned
  • Designed and built buildings
  • Never to my knowledge written a sonnet
  • Balanced accounts
  • Built walls
  • Can set a bone
  • May be capable of comforting the dying
  • Taken orders
  • Given orders
  • Cooperated
  • Acted alone
  • Solved equations
  • Analyzed problems
  • Definetly have pitched manure
  • Programed a computer on a basic level
  • Cooked many a tasty meal
  • Devastating in armed/unarmed combat
  • Hasen't died, would do so gallantly if possible

I'm so awesome...
KentsOkay (author)KentsOkay2008-02-18

I can also construct a ship.

tech-king (author)KentsOkay2008-02-18

based on the instructabel here no doubt

ledzep567 (author)KentsOkay2008-02-17

change diaper:well, i was only a babysitter for 3 years of my life. so yes Planned invasions:of course, i went to middleschool afterall... butcher a hog:have done, well it was a wild hog conn ship:35 footer designed a building: i built and designed my chickens windproof portable pen written a sonnet: sadly yes, i took creative writing as an elective balanced accounts:yep built walls: all the time, and ive scaled them set a bone:i know how but hope i never have to comfort the dying:i think i did, my grandpa died of cancer take orders:i play lacrosse given orders:who hasnt cooperate:when it will benefit me act alone:whenever possible solve equations: again, sadly analyze a problem:of course pitch manure: all the time. literally program a computer: nope! cook a tasty meal: all the time. fight efficiently: when i have to die gallantly:dont know yet...

Goodhart (author)2008-02-18
Well, let's see then what I may lack LOL:

I've:

  • Changed a diaper (for the first time at ag12, some 38 years ago, the cloth ones, not the peel and stick paper and plastic jobbies)
  • Planned invasions ( Does chess and Stratego count?)
  • butcher hogs ( not hogs, but Pheasants, rabbits, squirrels, and filleted a few fish)
  • Have conned ( a small boat - 18 ft craft )
  • Designed and built buildings ( nope, not a whole building, rooms though )
  • written a sonnet ( poems though, those that rhyme and have proper cadance, organizes one's thoughts as it were )
  • Balanced accounts ( of course )
  • Built walls ( a partial wall, with brick, no less )
  • Can set a bone ( Hmm, broke a few *shrug* )
  • Have comforted the dying ( My Dad, at age 49 )
  • Taken orders ( what child hasn't |? ;-)
  • Given orders ( again, what child hasn't LOL seriously though, yes )
  • Cooperated ( teamwork is a necessity at jobs today )
  • Acted alone ( most of my life )
  • Solved equations ( are there really people in the civilized word that haven't ? )
  • Analyzed problems ( almost unceasingly )
  • Definitely have pitched manure ( if it is meant as in cleaning out a horse, etc. stall, yes )
  • Programed a computer on a basic level ( beyond basic, I learned BASIC , COBOL, RPGII, TRS-DOS, several forms of Scripting, and touched on Assembly )
  • Cooked many a tasty meal ( ask my wife as I love to make French or Italian cuisine when I have the time )
  • Devastating in armed/unarmed combat ( at one time knew Isshinryu karate-do )
  • Die gallantly if possible ( one can not really determine this ahead of time, and many will find they have lied, when the time actually comes..... )
tech-king (author)2008-02-17

change a diaper ahhhhhhhhh.nooooo
plan an invasion done. ive also planned against an invasion of my armrest on an airplane
butcher a hog: or a fish
conn a ship: been there done that
design a building: done. my nuclear bunker/house plans are already drawn up
write a sonnet: done. but i was no very romantic
balance accounts: my mom is an accountant. i can sorta do that
build a wall: how else do i not see my neighbor?
set a bone: can do
comfort the dying: if i have to
take orders: if i have to
give orders: no problem
cooperate: when necessary
act alone: sure. when ever possible
solve equations: done
analyze a new problem: done
pitch manure: assuming i have a good target, yes
program a computer; yes
cook a tasty meal: spicy carrot ginger soup anyone??
fight efficiently: depends. im not sure how efficient my taser is.
die gallantly: have not done that yet.

Doctor What (author)2008-02-16

change a diaper - yep. plan an invasion - of course. conn a ship - do bumper boats count? design a building - done. write a sonnet - tried. balance accounts - started five years ago. build a wall - no, I have out of snow. comfort the dying - no. take orders - yep. give orders - yep. cooperate - hell no. act alone - yep. solve equations - yep. analyze a new problem - yep. pitch manure - I've done dirt, but I'd rather slit my wrists than pitch manure. program a computer - I've started programming my calculator, but not a computer, yet. cook a tasty meal - yes. fight efficiently - error. die gallantly - Now why on earth would I do that? I don't plan to die.

Doctor What (author)Doctor What2008-02-16

I forgot the hog: Butcher a hog - no. but I'd like to learn.

Doctor What (author)Doctor What2008-02-16

Oh, and the set a bone thing: No, but I have taped my toes together when one broke.

its a lion (author)Doctor What2008-02-16

I played with my broken toe, seeing how far out I could bend it before it started hurting. I think I did more harm then good though. It's basically permanently dislocated. So... Set a bone - nope. Refuse to let a broken bone heal - yep.

Doctor What (author)its a lion2008-02-16

I do that with most wounds. They are so interesting, I don't want to let an investigative opportunity go to waste just because of side effects.

Firebert010 (author)2008-02-16

# change a diaper - It's not that hard... # plan an invasion - On an abandoned barn in middle school, they fought gallantly # butcher a hog - I can do a deer, so a hog shouldn't be that big of a deal # conn a ship - I have a boating license in new Jersey # design a building - Architecture and Design 2 baby # write a sonnet - I dunno, do blogs count? # balance accounts - BOORRRING # build a wall - On several occasions. It helps having parents who do these things themselves. # set a bone - Nope, never. # comfort the dying - I'm sure I can find it in me # take orders - Only if I have to # give orders - Like a pro. # cooperate - Yup # act alone - Independence! # solve equations - Calculus sucks # analyze a new problem - Read: Above statement about calculus. # pitch manure - I mulch a 6 1/2 acre property every year # program a computer - I'll leave that for the smart people... # cook a tasty meal - Spaghetti? # fight efficiently - I can fight, I'm not sure what you have to do to fight efficiently though.... # die gallantly - I haven't tried...

westfw (author)2008-02-15

There have been comments on this in EETimes as well. It's not so much that DIY skills have gotten that much worse (although perhaps they have gotten worse), but that the GAP between what it is possible to DIY with reasonable amounts of skill and what it is possible to buy with reasonable amounts of money has gotten much wider than it used to be. I mean, it used to be that electronics kits were CHEAPER than buying an assembled product.

Bran (author)westfw2008-02-16

Yup, but although it is cheaper, it isn't as much fun! ;-)

guyfrom7up (author)2008-02-15

yes

Brennn10 (author)2008-02-15

Is the link dead? I can't seem to open it.

Bran (author)Brennn102008-02-15

The link is now fixed. Sorry 'bout that.

Goodhart (author)Brennn102008-02-15

well, when I place my pointer over the link I see "http://are/" at the bottom. The Jscript is not pointing to http://www.are.com/
but as Rocket has said, you only get "we're up" when you go there. *shrug*