Bad Tools.


I’ve just finished writing another book, number 4 and it has taken me some time because I think I started in 2007. It is more or less the story of my life starting in 1940 when Hitler’s Herrenvolk army invaded my homeland, the Netherlands when I was a boy of ten years.

I’ve called it ‘A Long Day’s Learning’ because as my story grew I slowly began to realise that I had been obliged to learn a great deal of things if I wanted to live the independent way I could not do without.

Already very early in my life I had decided that you should not have more possessions that you could carry on your back because ownership ruined your independence. I have to admit that as I got older I had to modify that decision

A number of years ago I built a table, a job that I had had in mind for about 40 years. It was a 17th century Italian table that had taken my fancy and I had kept a photo of it during all those years. It was not an easy bit of carpentry but I managed to make a good job of it. People in the know complimented me and asked how I had gone about it.

“Well,” I told them, “the only thing I did not do is plant the trees from which the table is made.” Of course that remark raised eyebrows and I was asked to explain.

Evidently I needed wood, but what wood? The original table had been made out of lovely walnut that cannot be bought anymore for a price I want to pay. In commerce I could not find any timber that pleased me as I wanted wood from wild trees. Then I went to see a farmer neighbour and there I saw about twenty big poplar trees. I asked Japie for a sample and a few months later I made a plan with him and cut down these trees.

I had measured the physics of that poplar wood, another learning experience and found that it was superior to any wood I could buy. You see all commercial wood is kiln dried and that destroys any kind of wood. Not only was my poplar stronger it was lighter also.

So, now what, I had a chainsaw to cut them down and a truck to transport the logs but I had no saw to cut them into planks. I searched and found a horizontal band saw with an 8meter blade for little money because the Ford diesel that drove it had to be repaired. I installed the thing on 15meters of railway track and cut my trees into suitable thicknesses. All that remained to be done was building a hangar to stock and dry my wood for the next ten years.

Of course I used that wood for many other jobs and it is one of the finest building materials I ever used but when asked about the table I could rightfully say that the only thing I hadn’t done about its manufacture was to plant the trees.

Now for my new book, I’ll have to have it printed but before I do that I will print and bind half a dozen copies myself. I cannot appreciate a book when I can’t read it in book form. Screens are a necessary nuisance. But, the binding I learned how to do that, I made a little machine and it’s quite easy to do a few dozen. However, the printing is the bastard because it has to be done with the computer, which is the worst tool I ever had the misfortune to use.

It has happened that to do a job, I didn’t have the tool. So, I made it. But I can’t make a good computer, I’m obliged to buy a piece of shit. Whatever make, whatever program, those machines can not do an adequate job. I defy anyone to brag that he/she can utilise 100% of the potential of their computer. And to me that’s understandable because these bloody machines have been built by thousands of minds clubbed together. All the people to whom these minds belong consider themselves pretty goddamn clever but all the fruits of these intelligences make an indigestible cocktail.

My previous computer had windows xp. Now I have windows 7. Now it takes me at least 3x as long to do anything, many things I can’t do at all any more. Many clever little sods could not leave well alone, don’t fix it when it’s not fucked, no they had to exercise their cleverness with the result the tool is far worse than its mediocre predecessor.

One miserable example. You like the pages to follow in proper order. A bloody computer can’t do it, either a phrase is repeated on the next page or it is missing altogether. You have to watch it like a hawk but of course a hawk would never lend itself to such kind of stupidity. The ‘Save’ button doesn’t improve things, trying to print is learning to suffer.

A computer is a machine that promotes bad workmanship.

I think I see more and more indications that brace my conviction. Not a week goes by and you read that some carmaker is recalling tens of thousands of cars for some eff-up. All these expensive bits of machinery have computers and have been built computer-aided with bad workmanship as the result. Newly built buildings fall down, possibly because of graft but computers also that gave the grafters wrong information.

Tools that no one can understand should not be used but will be used more and more because  no one can do a job anymore without them.

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2 Responses to Bad Tools

  1. Chris Smith says:

    Hey , looking forward to reading the book. I will ask Jan to get me one when he sees you next

  2. Chris Smith says:

    Meant to say “hey Nic” but this dam computer misplaced your name !

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