educator, writer, speaker, devoted family man, amateur philosopher, chess enthusiast, basketball junkie, connoisseur of fine hip hop, and purveyor of wit and wisdom
Today’s Five for a Friday…
I believe God wants us to be happy. That is why He created butterflies and photosynthesis and raisins and Sanaa Lathan. But there are a few man-made creations that are so awe inspiring, I often pause and marvel at the human potential for ingenuity, reason, and beauty.
#1: Paper clips
Okay now, contemplate this for a bit. Someone was divinely inspired to hold 8 or 9 or 27 pieces of paper together. The paper clip is an amazing manifestation of good old American creativity and innovation. At first, I considered the stapler, but then I realized that in one single slim piece of metal, the paper clip accomplishes a somewhat similar function for a tiny fraction of the cost to purchase (and an even tinier cost to manufacture.) Ahhhh…the paper clip…it is the beautiful result of blending physics, engineering, cost efficiency, and man’s innate desire for hoarding.
It’s amazing how much meaning can be squeezed in such a small typographical symbol. The asterisk (*) can be used as a substitute for letters in profane words (such as in the word sh*t or in the word ************.) The asterisk is our keyboard’s multiplication operation as an alternative to the symbolically confusing “X”. However, the asterisk is more frequently used to refer readers to a “bottom-of-the-page” footnote that may convey entire ideas. Consider the following:
#3: The U.S. Postal Service
The U.S. Postal Service is getting lost in the shadow of the burgeoning technological advances these days. So many people communicate via text, email, Skype, IM, threaded discussions on forums, Facebook updates, and Twitter feeds that we forget the beauty and power of the mighty USPS. The USPS is the country’s second largest civilian employer (behind WalMart), and it’s one of the only federal agencies that operates entirely without taxpayer money. (There are many more fun facts about the postal service in the link at the start of this paragraph…go on…click it.) A very intricate system that was created over two CENTURIES ago is still in place today (let’s just see if Twitter can last 200 years.) And…AND…AND…the postal service should be recognized for being a large part of the world’s very first social networking phenomenon…pen pals.
It was a toss-up between aqueducts and sanitation systems, but I went with aqueducts for a couple reasons. Reason #1–it’s hard to argue against the massive network of aqueduct systems that bring water to the country’s most remote areas. (Can you imagine the Los Angeles basin without water from the Colorado River Aqueduct?) Reason #2–as good as it feels having our garbage taken care of for us (out of sight, out of mind), managing our garbage is something that we can actually have more control over without very much effort. Click here to see what I mean.
#5: The Watts Towers
This is an amazing monument to man’s ingenuity and persistence. In 1921, an Italian immigrant purchased a parcel of land in south Los Angeles. He began building these structures out of steel, mortar, broken glass, tile, pottery, sea shells, and other items local kids would bring him. After 33 years (yes, you read that correctly…33 years), he finally finished. The result were the Watts Towers–seventeen structures, the tallest of which is over 99 feet high, containing “the longest slender reinforced concrete column in the world” (according to the Watts Towers website.) What’s even more fascinating is that he did it all himself without any machine equipment, without any scaffolding, without any bolts, rivets, or welds, and without any drawings or designs. Twenty years ago, the Watts Towers was named a National Historic Landmark.