September 24, 2007

Cobblestones.

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It's nice to see an old-fashioned skill preserved and used.

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm told these are not cobblestones but Belgian blocks and that these men are not using good technique. Oh, well. It looked nice to me. Made me think the song lyric "Just kicking down the cobblestones... Life I love you, all is groovy." But all is not groovy, because there are no rubber mallets, no levels, not eye protection. Me, I'm impressed by the appearance of skill. I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep...

40 comments:

Maxine Weiss said...

Diversity or not, there are some jobs women still refuse to do.

Parker Smith said...

Actually not very skillful - using a plain old claw hammer to settle the cobblestones is a good way to crack them.

They need rubber mallets, or at least a chunk of 2x4 as a 'pad' to prevent this.

John Burgess said...

To be pedantic, those aren't actually 'cobblestones', though they're often called that.

They are, in fact, 'Belgian blocks'.

Cobblestones are not geometric, though they're generally round. The most often originate in riverbeds as water-washed stones.

Belgian blocks are rectangular or cubical, either formed with a chisel or, increasingly frequently, shaped in a mold of some sort of aggregate.

Christy said...

Satisfyingly connects us to the old, but Hell on heels.

Gerard said...

And hell on wheels too.

Residents like them for their nostalgia value, but drivers hate them for the useless wear and tear on tires and suspension.

Anti-globalists love them because it gives them something to throw from the barricades if they should take a notion to rage against the machine.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Parker Smith is spot-on about the rubber mallets. They'd be better off using the butt ends the handle than what they're doing.

One consequence is that they can't whack the blocks hard enough to really settle them and drive a bit of sand up between them for stability. Another consequence is that the blocks end up terribly uneven.

Not that it matters. There's not a level in sight. No apparent safety goggles either. Rank amateurs.

Ann Althouse said...

Aren't they good for drainage and long wear?

rhhardin said...

It's nice to see an old-fashioned skill preserved and used.

Watch me scythe / my / lawn.

It takes about a week for an acre, at a swath a day.

MadisonMan said...

The guy on the left is wearing some kind of eye protection. Look closely.

The lack of a level doesn't bother me. If these guys have been doing this for a while, I'm sure they can get it very close to level without measuring -- perhaps the level is in the wheelbarrow to the right of the picture.

If this is a residential neighborhood, the effect on auto tires and suspension doesn't bother me either. If the design requires slower driving, I'm all for it.

Roger said...

This project could also be viewed as a great example of a make-work; (presumambly for the good civil servants of NYC)

As rhsaid--need to scythe my crop of crabgrass today!

AllenS said...

I've done this kind of work. You don't need to hit them at all, but wiggle them around. When you have them laid out, you throw clean sand on them, and then, with a broom, sweep the sand back and forth, until the area between the bricks are filled. This looks like a sidewalk. Trying something like this on a road, in an area that you need to plow snow, is not such a good idea.

lee david said...

I wonder how much taxpayer money could be saved by just putting down some base course, compacting it and asphalting it over, rather than the time consuming process of having a couple of guys who obviously aren't stone setters putting back the stone substrate block by block?

MadisonMan said...

This looks like a sidewalk.

It looks like the one guy is sitting on the curb. The blacktop in the street where the car is driving has a stone underpinning. I think these stones are destined to be blacktopped over.

Pogo said...

Maybe they are removing the stones; wily Haliburton employees disguised as city workers.

The green hardharts are clearly not government-issue, but typical of Haliburton, and the guy on the left is not showing a shadow.

Bush is involved, of that I am certain. The rocks contain important evidence about 9/11.

Gedaliya said...

Gerard...

Are you this Gerard?

Maxine Weiss said...

Never send a woman to do a man-sized job.

Welders, plumbers, electricians....has anyone ever seen a woman change a tire at the side of the road? (Fear of rape, they usually wait patiently to be towed). Men will readily get out and change a flat tire!

Clearly, women, even if they say they want equal rights.... don't like to get their hands dirty.

bearing said...

Sure, they're hard on the car, unless you drive really slow. For that reason I think they'd be better than speed bumps at controlling speed, say, on a residential street.

Wish my street had 'em. Then maybe the school buses wouldn't be doing 50 past my house six times a day.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The reason most old-fashioned skills get lost is because they are grossly inefficient. Since these cobblestones are just going to be covered with blacktop, is there any reason ( other than union regs ) to use them instead of gravel or concrete?

I'm all for people preserving old-fashioned skills, but not at taxpayer expense.

David53 said...

Pogo is correct. The Green Hats are worn by supersecret DoD subcontractors known as KAOS. KAOS infiltrated and subverted parts of DoD in the 1970s and continues operations in support of the big multinationals. The exact meaning of KAOS is still unknown but this photo clearly reveals that agent 13(the guy on the right) is hiding something with his left hand. Notice the "cones of silence" in the background.) Further surveillance is recommended.

Maxine Weiss said...

Ohhhh---I just saw a woman mowing the lawn....on I Love Lucy.

Garbage dumps, construction sites, masonry.... no place for a lady.

All that hot air about workplace equality.... when most women are completely content doing stereotypical jobs.

The picture proves it.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

I've done a fair bit of masonry and block laying. Those guys really don't have a clue what they're doing. As I look at the picture again I think the answer is related to the valve in the right foreground.

This was probably a pipe repair that required ripping out the existing roadway ... now being replaced, more or less

Trooper York said...

In fact it is repair in a historic district, where you are required to repair the problem leaving the area exactly, and I mean exactly the same if at all possible or be subject to hefty fines.

Kirk said...

MM,

"If the design requires slower driving"

Aha! So you're the terrible misanthrope behind the "traffic calming" movement, eh?

Ralph said...

They're probably replacing the stones because a more modern material would not work as well with the existing stone. Someone call Bloomberg and ask.
There's about 200 ft of real cobblestone street in old town Alexandria, VA. You have to drive at a crawl or you'll throw up. Forget riding a bike down it.

MadisonMan said...

So you're the terrible misanthrope behind the "traffic calming" movement, eh?

I don't really like most traffic calming devices -- especially those humps across the road. I prefer very narrow roads where you have to slow down to nothing to squeeze past any oncoming car.

Traffic calming means that the original road was very poorly designed for its intended use.

halojones-fan said...

MadisonMan: You're watering your poison. Just admit that you want to ban private automobiles.

MadisonMan said...

See, here's how things would work in the United States of MadisonMan.

Drive drunk? The car you're driving is confiscated. Not your car? Well, the person from whom you borrowed it should have known better. Need the car to get to work? Learn how to walk. The confiscated cars can be sold, and the proceeds given to either bus companies, or cab companies.

Proof of insurance is required if you own and drive a car. It's just one of the expenses you have to factor in to car ownership.

There should be a much higher tax on gas. The proceeds can be used at present to fund the Gulf War/GWOT. Or mass transportation.

Disclaimer: I own a car and love driving it. Most of my driving involved schlepping a kid from point A to point B. I commute to work by walking. My wife uses the car much more than I.

Ralph said...

"I prefer very narrow roads "
Which would lead to head on collisions, the most dangerous kind.
In Alexandria, VA, they used to time the lights so only a certain number of commuters could go through the city to or from DC, forcing people onto the interstates. If an intersection was bad, they made it really bad, so people would avoid it.

Original Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Original Mike said...

I've got no deeds to do, no promises to keep
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all it's petals on me
Life I love you, all is groovy

Simon and Garfunkel's "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" was my first album, given to me by my eccentric playwrite uncle who lived in Manhattan.

I love that song. I can still do it from memory.

Ralph said...

"I'm Simon"
"I'm Gar"
"We're Simon and Gar Farkel."
(Laugh In)
What a silly show that was. Has it every been reshown?
Where is the 59th Street bridge, anyway, Central Park?
I wish they played more S&G on the radio. Down here Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks seem to be the favorite oldie.

Anthony said...

I've done paving stones in the garden. Very labor-intensive. I suppose if you get good at it you don't need a level, but I sure did. Flatten new spot, set stone, check for alignment with adjacent stone, re-flatten/adjust new spot again, check alignment again, repeat, check absolute level, re-flatten/adjust, lather, rinse, repeat, move on to next stone.

I suppose preparation -- spending some time grading the area up front -- would make it a bit easier though. Still, it's kind of a nice accomplishment when you're done. Making something neat and attractive and functional with a lot of simple objects.

ricpic said...

What's the difference? They're all going to be covered in asphalt anyway.

Ralph said...

Philistine!

Paddy O. said...

Reminds me of the long discussion in Rivers and Tides about the art of rock wall building. Goldsworthy decided he was only an artist, and that he needed masters for the real work.

babuilder said...

There are layer upon layer upon layer of every type of utilities under the streets of NYC so I'm guessing this is the practical solution rather than aesthetic. Probably explains the lack of professionalism others have noted. They have to leave reasonable access to what's below so this is the compromise.

Kirk said...

"Traffic calming means that the original road was very poorly designed for its intended use."

That's certainly not the case around here. More typically, someone (in government somewhere) decides a perfectly good road should have a lower speed limit, so they narrow the lanes, add a large center median with lots of shrubs, etc, so that the road feels very narrow and people naturally slow down.

Well, it certainly does achieve the goal, but only by removing all the safety margin in terms of extended visibility, etc.

MarkW said...

FWIW -- one of the cool things about actual cobblestones (in coastal cities anyway) is that they often came from sailing ship ballast -- cobblestone streets: an early product of globalization.

Wade Garrett said...

Um . . . no, these aren't necessarily going to be paved over. Many streets in lower Manhattan (especially in Tribeca) are still made out of brick and/or cobblestone.

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