Rugged Woman Tools

I’ve spent a lot of years working on my skill set.
In my 20s I got far more schooling than any reasonable human being needs. The schooling came with some of those very general skills like writing and analysis. But I got some very specific skills as well that most people have never heard of. Most of my research data was survey data and required statistical models for categorical dependent variables such as the multinomial logit model. Back in the day, not only did I walk ten miles in the snow to get to my classes, I actually wrote programs to create the graphic representations of these logit models.
Somewhere around here I have a published paper using some sort of times series technique to model what I called the “extraordinary politics” in Poland in the early 1990s. And my friend Burt and I did a paper on the effect of variation in district magnitude in countries with an urban/rural cleavage.
Stop laughing because these issues are very important to academics and actually have important policy implications should anyone ever read them.
So I was struck by the irony of all of this Tuesday when my dad came up to help me reconstruct what may be the world’s most interesting domestic sandbox.
“Hey Dad, I need to put holes in that wood to secure it to the ground with rebar.”
My dad looked through the workshop for a drill bit. He explained:
“Look at this one, it’s for metal. This one is for wood. Do you see the difference?”
Of course I could see the difference, but I don’t remember the difference now.
And after a rather long hunt for drill bit I said,
“This is all well and good but what in the heck do you put on the other end of that bit to make it drill a hole?”
I wish I had documented the look on his face but these sorts of moments are not all that predictable.
It was far better than the time I told him I used the circular saw to cut some wood. I was quite proud that I did it without help and that I knew the name of the saw. He looked a little shocked and said “remind me to show you the rotary arm saw you have.”
“What in the heck do you put on the other end of that bit to make it drill a hole?”
His look was mostly astonishment.
“You used the drill the other day.”
“No, I drove screws in the other day.”
His look turned into amusement.
Back when I was in graduate school a common discussion among students was that the program did not prepare students for “the real world.” Discussions were too philosophical, research did not have strong policy implications, research designs were too quantitative to capture real-world processes, and research designs were too qualitative to capture real-world processes.
No one ever pointed out that none of us knew the bit end of a drill. My guess is that about ten percent of the men in the program had used power tools. The percent of women with such experience surely approached zero.
I wish I could say that “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Graduate School,” but the real school came later. It came when a planned and much anticipated pregnancy turned my life on its head and apparently it’s still coming. In this month alone I learned to use a drill, a chainsaw, a circular saw, and a rotary arm saw.

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