Monthly Archives: June 2012
This could also be called “Pruning and Revision,” except that I have written about pruning and revision. This post has a different pruning story, though, and a different focus. Anyhow, as I was saying…
When we lived in Fairfax, we had a pear tree that stood by the sidewalk. It wasn’t much of a tree: it was about fifteen feet tall and its small tough-skinned fruit was as hard as a brick. My mother decided that it needed pruning so my dad got up on a ladder with his pruning saw and went to town. Maybe it’s more accurate to say he went to several towns. By the time he finished, the poor sorry pear tree looked like a small telephone pole with a few leaves hanging on for dear life at the top.
My mother was less than pleased by my dad’s work with the saw. In fact, she was livid, saying that he had probably killed the tree and that he might as well go ahead and chop it down.
The idea of pruning is to allow the plant to concentrate its resources and energy into a smaller volume, producing greater growth and, int he case of fruit trees, better fruit. There’s an analogue in writing: more concise writing is more energetic and more to the point. It doesn’t waste anyone’s time with excess verbiage. It doesn’t annoy the reader by skipping around the point. Flabby writing annoys the fool out of me. I can’t tell you.
But I can tell you that the tree came bustling back the next spring, with an honest thriving bushy growth of limbs and leaves and, miracle of all miracles, huge pears that were sweet and delicious.
I learned an important lesson from this and it is if your wife wants you to prune your pear tree, be sure she watches so you don’t hack too much off. Oh, and pruning, revision and concision are good practices.
One of the things in the list of Nine Things that Will Disappear during our lifetime was privacy. I hate to say it, but it’s gone already. In the name of national security, government agencies scan emails and other electronic media and who knows what else. Now, I don’t think I’m paranoid and I don’t expect the black government helicopters to come swooping down on my cul-de-sac at any moment, but we are pretty much surveilled 24/7/365.
Take security cameras, for example. They are truly ubiquituous and we don’t even think about them. This was brought home to me recently when I went to take a pair of slacks back for my dad which were the wrong size. I exchanged them for a pait the correct size and the clerk offered to put them in a bag for me. I said I didn’t need a bag, thank you, and she allowed as how the security cameras would pick up the fact that I was carrying something out of the store which was not in a bag and register it as a theft.
Well. I didn’t even think about security cameras. They can be useful when a child is abducted or a crime has been committed, but we’re all pretty much on Candid Camera when we go out.
Information is collected on us when we go on the internet. Have you ever noticed that the ads online change according to what you’re looking for or in my case, writing about? Someone’s watching and it ain’t Santa Claus.
I also am concerned that drones are going to be used domestically for law enforcement. I know that they will be a tremendous asset to the police, but I worry about abuse of their surveillance capabilities. The New Yorker had an article on the domestic use of drones recently, and one of the major takeaways for me was the number of ways their abilities can be abused. I just hope there are clear and stringent guidelines for their use and that someone with ill intent doesn’t get hold of a Predator equipped with a Hellfire missile. We wouldn’t know what hit us.
I found the movie Minority Report to be the most chilling one I had seen in a long time. In that dystopian vision of the future, citizens can be arrested for crimes they haven’t committed yet. Sure, it’s secure, but what privacy? It looks like the brave new world that we are rapidly attaining, if we haven’t already.
So, what is there to do but when we go out, mind our p’s and q’s and smile and wave! We’re on camera and someone is watching!
I’ve written about the various household projects I have in progress, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned one of the most frustrating.
I wanted to run a “copperline” telephone line to the glass-enclosed observation post here at the Biscuit City studios after the existing line was taken out when Verizon installed Fios about three years ago now. Instead of the four-wire telephone feed, I have what looks like a coax cable (a fiber-optic) leading to the router for my wi-fi. Fios has worked extremely well: when the cable was cut by a sliding ice sheet a couple of years ago, the repair guy came out and fixed it on a Sunday morning.
We do have a couple of hardwire phones: the kitchen phone that hangs on the wall and one of those wireless bases with four phones that go with it. The phones are a bit frustrating because if you get a call and someone else wants to pick it up on another phone, you have to transfer the call to the other phone. I have no idea where the directions are to do this, so we have to go to the kitchen phone or take the handset to the person receiving the call. Then the handsets all end up in the same place. First world problem, I know.
So, I needed a copperline for the fax machine in the Biscuit City office. Actually, I have a laser printer/fax/copier/scanner. It has been fabulous. My dad’s financial guy, Mike Washer, told me to get one and it has been so useful. But I occasionally need to fax something and to do so I go over to the church and use the fax there. I know, it’s only about half a mile, but I expect convenience (I’m so spoiled, I know).
So, first I had to drill a hole through the wall, which I did with my 12-inch bit. Then I fed the telephone cable through the hole and went outside to hook it up to the junction box. There was no sign of the cable protruding through the wall. It had gone down inside the wall and had probably wrapped itself around the HVAC unit in the basement.
I pulled the wayward cable out and enlarged the hole Someone suggested a fish tape, which is a long metal ribbon (of darkness–it is black. Pace, Gordon Lightfoot!)that is used to “fish” cables through walls and other barriers. I got the line through the wall, hooked it up and tried the phone. Nothing. Since it was February and cold to be monkeying around outside, I put this project on hiatus and just got back to it this past week.
I thought the problem was the old cable I was using (nearly 45 years old) so I got a nice new run of cable and fed that through the wall. Three times. The cable kept going and slid outside the house. Finally I tied a pair of pliers at the end and that stopped the slide. I connected the wires (only need two out of four. I’m sure the other lines have a function: I’m just not sure what it is) and hooked up the jack. Nothing.
I then thought the problem was the jack so I got another one from my collection of cast-off telephone parts and tried that with the same result. I then thought the cable might have been bad even though it was new. Stranger things have happened. So I rigged up a telephone that I could take to the old school junction box and touched the cable wires to the terminal. Still nothing. Then I noticed that the hardwires that do work went to the Fios (new school) box. That was what was necessary to make a new line work. I didn’t want to mess with a Verizon installation so I ordered a VoiP box (voice-over-internet telephone. I think.) that will give me a wireless hardwire (oxymoron of the week). It’ll be here this week. I’ll let you know how the electronic genius that I am makes out with it.
Or any comment either, except to wonder if the execs at Adidas have truly lost their minds. (News flash: apparently recovering from what they had been smoking, Adidas execs have decided to withdraw this particular model. It will probably become a collector’s item, like all those cans of New Coke I have sitting around.)
Never let anyone say that Becky and I don’t know how to have a good time. One of our favorite things to do when the Bloom grocery store used to run double coupon specials was to go to the store, split up the shopping list and buy groceries for ourselves and the food pantry at church. I liked to see who could finish first, but Becky didn’t want to race so my victories were always hollow. I like grocery stores in general, so we had a good time.
Saturday evening about 9:00 or so, Becky asked me if I would go with her to get gas in her Glass-Enclosed Toyota Music Machine (aka her 1999 Avalon) and, never one to miss out on fun, I said sure and we were off. The station is about a mile from our house, so we arrived quickly; I jumped out and pumped the gas, noting that it was “down” to $3.20 a gallon, and got back in. Becky proposed that we go to Nathan’s Ice Cream Bar (or whatever it is) about half a mile away. I wasn’t sure I could take that much merriment, but I agreed and we went to Nathan’s where the line was about thirty people long. They serve quickly there and soon we were enjoying a vanilla cone and a pineapple sundae respectively.
We sat at one of the tables, ate our ice cream and watched the line double in size in about ten minutes. It was a nice evening and nice to be out. Then we went home, but it was a nice (if brief) outing.
We are not what anyone would call outdoor people. Most of the time in this area it’s too humid or hot or cold or rainy or snowy or whatever to enjoy being outside. Generally we go from our heated or air conditioned house to our climate-controlled cars and then to temperate buildings and stores and rarely stay outside. We’ had a nice stretch of low-humidity warmish weather and it’s nice just to be out.
When I was a lad, we frequently sat outside as a family. Our house didn’t have air conditioning, and we would sit in the dark (fun times!) until the interior cooled down enough to sleep. I remember chasing and catching fireflies in a jar and seeing if they gave off enough light to read a comic book by. I never could, but I kept trying.
Our mother preferred that Ron and I stay outside anyone so we wouldn’t tear up the house, so we pretty much did live outside. There have been a lot of changes since those days, but it was nice Saturday evening to, in a sense, revisit an earlier time. We’ll have to do it again soon.