Monday, August 16, 2004

Bob Frickin' Vila

I’m an academic, a recovering nerd, a devotee of the life of the mind. Last week I could be found in the basement, frantically bailing out the French drain while waiting for the power to come back on so the basement wouldn’t take on water again. (It worked, btw. The power came back about two hours before it started to rain.)

Sometimes I wonder about science and engineering in America. For all of the tremendous advances we’ve made, I’m still in the basement, bailing water frantically, hoping that the telephone pole repair folk finish before the rain starts. Why? Because the house is made of termite food (and highly flammable, at that!), the basement features lots of wallboard that is easily destroyed by water, and we haven’t yet mastered DRAIN technology.

I question our priorities. We’ve got the best minds of a generation devising ever-more-pornographic computer games, but we’re still building our houses out of termite food and protecting them with sump pumps that haven’t changed meaningfully for decades. As near as I can tell, neither water nor gravity has changed in any significant way since before we developed the concept of ‘shelter,’ so you’d think we would have made some progress by now.

My barometer for when things get desperate is when I start to know what I’m doing. I’m not Bob frickin’ Vila, and I don’t pretend to be; I’ve dealt enough with basement-drain issues now that I can knowledgably critique sump pumps. That ain’t right.

I hereby challenge the engineers of the world: how about less time dealing with ever-faster ways to deliver pornography to desktops, and more time dealing with WATER? It covers the majority of the globe, so this isn’t quite special pleading. Samples are relatively easy to find. It falls from the freakin’ sky. Heck, check your basement.