You must build a toaster. From scratch.

Wondering if that got your attention.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Pop!tech meeting last week – blogged about it quite a bit.

One of the best if not THE best talks in my humble opinion was by Thomas Thwaites who spoke of his experience making a toaster from scratch.  It was such a great talk that I did hunt down his book which I have finished (it’s a great, quick read and I’ll gift it to Dru C now).

The talk and the book got me thinking — what a great thing for a human ecologist to know?

Don’t you think? I mean, not a toaster necessarily, but some small appliance or other household accoutrement with unclear origins.

NOTE: This idea has not been discussed with anyone besides my wife who, incidentally, thinks it’s kind of peculiar.  Thoughts?



  1. Hey Darron, How about gifting Thomas Thwaite’s book to none other that the Thorndike Library? Best, Jane

  2. Well, I think having to construct SOMETHING like a toaster would be a great graduation requirement, actually. Most senior projects are written, or some sort of independent lab research or compilation, unless they are senior projects in the arts. I feel like a lot of people take the distribution requirements to get them over with, and then focus on what they’re into – which is fine, but it seems like some element of interdisciplinarianism is lost here.

    I tried to be interdisciplinary my idea COA career, culminating my final term with a senior project that was a novel, playing a supporting lead (read large role with monologues and dialogues IN THE NUDE) in an original play that was a friend’s senior project at the same time, as well as working on a review paper on ethnobotany with Nishi that I’m hoping to submit for publication within the next year.

    But one thing I realise I really lacked at the school was hands on BUILDING STUFF. It’s fun to work with tools, and it’s a practical skill that’s very rewarding: to make something, to put together raw materials and create an end product. This September, while in the Atlantic Rainforest of southern Brasil, I got the chance to weave a basket from philodendron roots (an epiphytic rainforest plant that grows throughout South America). The roots were harvested traditionally, a process I got to witness: only the older roots are taken, and the harvest only happens once a month, during the waning gibbous moon, due to some obscure local folk tradition that essentially keeps them from overharvesting the roots. Afterwards, I got to remove the root husks and shaved them down into rounded, usable form, and let them dry for three days before finally weaving them into a basket which I now proudly carry around with me and will take back home to the US. It was an extremely rewarding experience, and now I regret not working more with my hands while in college – building and constructing and going through the process to obtain an end result that can then be used for some purpose.

    At the very least, I feel like it would be cool if in addition to the History Req, the Quantitative Reasoning Req, and the Writing Req, there was a Construction Requirement too. It would be fulfilled usually by an Arts and Design course, but I could see potential Environmental Science courses incorporating construction into their course of study as well.

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