Sunday, April 17, 2005

War Work

With economic uncertainies swirling around me, the not-yet-ready-for-retirement professor (what, no tenure?) put his little pink toe in the current job market last week - visiting a job fair. Held at the local tech school, the job fair seemed like a giant gill-net, dozens of employers trying to ensnare hopeful workers in the labor pool. Many positions were offered, some right up my alley, others were not even in the same universe. But one was especially intriguing. Modern machine-operators have a whole new world of options beyond the old drill press and press-brake operationsn (or, in my case photo enlarging machines). One outfit did custom, computer-controlled laser machining and even more esoteric - water machining. High speed streams of water (with abrasives) created intricate parts in a variety of substrates. Regular grids of hundred of square holes set in at compound angles in a saddle-shaped piece of alloy. Modern art. Looking at the display closer I realized that this was a part of a fighter-bomber, and that most of what this company did was defense department work.

The war comes home.

My mother did war work, first during WWII, in an arsenal, making bullets. Then, during Vietnam, she worked in a metal plating factory, racking parts of anti-personnel grenades. She contracted Parkinson's syndrome, and suffered with it until she died, twenty years later. Some forms of Parkinson's are thought to be envirionmental.

Situational ethics made real.

By Professor Batty



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