So when I was out surveying our gardening progress (and the progress of a certain wascally tenant of the rabbit persuasion who has taken to digging holes in interesting places), I noticed that in the corner of the house's eave a little piece of siding was bent askew. This image recalled in an instant images from my childhood living in a big ole house that was frequented by bats and, famously, a family of quarrelling raccoons who got particularly frisky in the middle of the night the week of my senior AP exams.
Needless to say, it was the first thing out of my mouth to Dr. X when he walked in the door from work. This, however, he informed me, would require a ladder. Not just any old ladder-- a big honkin' outdoor ladder. Leading the busy lives that we do, it took a couple of days for said ladder to be purchased. Fine. No problem.
After an afternoon at the playground with my son, I called home to find Dr. X already there. I asked him to put on a pot of water and boil some pasta for our voracious toddler-- it was, after all, already 6pm and I had just worked for over a half an hour to drag him from the playground.
But I was going to get up and fix that siding, said Dr. X. No problem on a normal day, but with an already disgruntled, now hungry and dirty toddler, I asked him to delay until the boy was fed and taken care of.
By the time the boy was in bed, it was just shy of 8:30pm. The sun was going down. And Dr. X was going up. The ladder, that is. Granted, he had all the right intentions. He is a conscientious homeowner and father, and didn't want to leave that hole up there for inquiring minds who want to know the inside of our attic.
Still, two minutes before total sundown is not particularly the greatest time to go up a 20-foot ladder. I pointed this out to him and (perhaps not politely enough, I've realized in retrospect) told him in no uncertain terms that he should not go up that ladder. Not a good idea. Period. No.
To which he responded, Well thank you. You have been extremely helpful at every step of the way here.
I will spare you the details of the just plain dumb back-and-forth we had (involving empty threats about someone sleeping on the couch). The next morning, as promised, we put the toddler into his playpen to further disassemble his favorite pop-up book and Dr. X scaled the ladder to snap the offending piece of siding back into place.
Then, with much satisfaction, I read this article from the NYTimes today about the various and sundry ways that (I'm just guessing here) male DIY-ers find of disassembling their bodies (primarily hands) in the name of home improvement.
That's not to say that you can't do many things yourself, it's just that you shouldn't do them in a hurry and, (gloating here) perhaps not in the dark.
And, while we're on the subject of DIY disasters, there's the Iraq war. So I come to read this blog over at Salon.com where they're talking about a hearing of the US Armed Services Committee of the Senate on "Defense Department language technology and training and cultural awareness". There I found this little jewel from Retired Major General Robert Sales, Jr.:
'I think we can all agree that most of our shortcomings in the recent wars have been human and not technological, Scales told the committee. "And the list is long; cultural awareness, the ability to influence and shape opinions, soldier conduct, information operations -- the list goes on.'Yes. The problem "over there" is that for all the little handheld translation devices and strategies for "winning hearts", we never knew who we were talking to. Hand me that hammer, will you?
Changing this state of affairs, said Scales, is 'going to require a real transformation in how the Department of Defense views war, that we move from a technocentric view of warfare to a cultural-centric view of warfare, and that the human, behavioral, cognitive, and cultural aspects of warfare become as much a part of our lexicon, our research and development, our training and education, as learning how to operate machines is today.'
Scales finished by noting that the U.S. fumbled its early successes in Iraq, 'because of our penchant to find technological solutions, as I said, to human problems ... I suggest that the lesson from Iraq is, we should have started earlier to apply human sciences to solve the human problem ... We Americans view war as a science project, and we tend to find technological solutions.'