May 2004 Archives

The Pen is Mightier�

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pilot_1.jpgI really like Pilot Precise V5 rolling ball pens. I use the extra fine point in black. There is nothing that I haven�t liked about this pen - until today.

I left one in my shirt pocket yesterday and it went through the laundry today. Out came a whole load of clothes with blue/black ink splotches. That is understandable. We didn�t notice it until the clothes came from the dryer so most of the stains have been baked in. It was my error and I can�t fault anyone else. We�ll have to replace some clothes and maybe some sheets.

We thought that the ink got on all the stuff by direct contact with the pen. What we didn�t notice was that the pen had spewed its ink all over the inside of the dryer - great big globs of ink that adhered to the sides of the drum and dried there. At least we thought that they dried there. It turns out that each time the dryer heats up the ink globs soften enough to smear blue/black schmutz over everything in the load.

We tried alcohol. We tried Windex. We tried Fantastic. We tried every chemical in the kitchen arsenal. The damned blobs won�t come out. Short of crawling into the dryer while it�s running at full heat with a spray bottle and a roll of paper towels (something that Nancy probably thinks I deserve), we now own a laundry/Rorschach version of the venerable mimeograph machine.

The dryer was on its last legs, maybe 17 years old, but we thought we�d wring a few more months to a year out of it. No luck. This pen was mightier than the dryer. First thing tomorrow morning I�ll be standing at the door to Sears, waiting for them to open. Better that than twirling at 300� with a spray bottle and a roll of paper towels.

Printed Pringles

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WASHINGTON (AFP) -These new chips will be both edible and readable.

Procter and Gamble announced that its Pringles potato chips will include printed words and images in a "variety of colors."

The Cincinnati, Ohio consumer products giant said it was using a "revolutionary" technology for the designs, which will include "fun facts" and animal designs as well as questions and answers from the Trivial Pursuit game.

How about printing public service announcements instead...

Dorr's Tractors #2

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More Dorr's Tractors

I was shooting more pictures today when one of the guys doing some earth moving over on the other end of the property drove by in a dump truck. "They're not all out yet", he yelled.

I asked how many more there were.

"About 60... come back in a month"

I'll be there.

Listening to the Ball Game

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Image22BMaleFan.jpg When I was a kid and REALLY into baseball, not all of the games were televised as they are today. Most games were played during daylight hours (which gives you an idea why so many of those guys in the stands in old film clips of baseball games are wearing white shirts and ties - they were playing hooky from work) and the networks didnt see much value in televising games when most men werent around to watch them. That meant that you listened to the game on the radio. It was a completely different experience from what we are used to today. allen_mel.jpg

Youd sit near the tabletop radio or hold the transistor to your ear. Youd hear the crack of the bat or the roar of the crowd but you focused on the announcer and his skill at describing what was happening. Yankee fans were blessed. They had Mel Allen and Red Barber. Red Barber practically invented modern sports announcing. With his southern drawl and encyclopedic knowledge of the game, he breathed true baseball life into every pitch.

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I cant get my Yankees on cable here in Vermont without subscribing to one of those services that let you watch every single game being played every day on 8 channels all at the same time. Its a mere $40 a month or so - the cost of a nice meal out at a local restaurant. Ill take the meal. Who is dying to see the Milwaukee vs. Montreal? Not even the folks in Montreal want to watch their own team. So I try to listen on the radio.

The Yankees are carried on WCBS 880 AM in New York, a 50,000 watt station whose signal reaches almost 200 miles. Unfortunately, Im about 250 miles from their tower. If I get in the car and drive to a high spot, the game might come through in a fade-in/fade-out comedy that almost always times the fade-out with the action. After a bit of searching, I discovered that there are three stations within 100 miles that are part of the Yankees Radio Network. One is in Albany, another in Pittsfield Massachusetts, and the last in Burlington.

Reception for all is pretty dismal. AM stations have to drop their transmitting power at night because of ionospheric conditions that cause signals to bounce off and land all over the place, causing interference with stations outside their licensed area. These stations are not 50,000 watt behemoths like WCBS. They are either 5,000 or 1,000 watt punies. At night their signal strength drops by 50% or more. Theyre lucky if anyone can hear them. But through the static I can just make out my Yankees.

So I sit next to my radio with my special AM antenna plugged in. One hand is on the antenna tuning dial. One ear is cocked near the speaker. I hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. I can almost hear Red and Mel. Im 10 years old again and somehow the games seem better.

Dusk

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Dusk through the trees

The 5th of July

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explosion.jpg When I was a kid Independence Day was a big event in our neighborhood. My mother would put up red, white and blue decorations. My father would barbeque his famous pickle relish hamburgers. But best of all, the neighbors would set off fireworks.

Note I said the neighbors. Aside from the occasional sparklers, we werent allowed to have fireworks. Firecrackers, M80s, rockets, and the like were out of the question. Firecrackers would blow off your fingers. Rockets would go off course and set the house on fire. My mother spent years predicting wholesale slaughter down that other end of the block. In her visions the morning of July 5th would reveal limbs hanging from telephone wires and bodies strewn cross lawns and the fenders of cars, hardly recognizable for the burns, mutilated faces, and missing limbs. The smoldering wreckage of destroyed homes would waft acrid smoke into our windows - London after the Blitz on 270th Street in Queens.

So we had to content ourselves with watching all the kids from the other end of the block tossing whole packs of crackers into the street and lighting rocket fuses. We would peer from the curb as the rockets were launched 200 feet away, arching over the trees to burst gloriously over the rooftops. My Dad would try to assuage the pain by breaking out a box of sparklers. They would be dutifully lit and we would wave them around with half-hearted enthusiasm. By 9:00 p.m., adding insult to injury, our mother would make us go to bed before the fireworks had finished.

One year, after being sentenced to bed and forced to listen to the continuing fusillade outside, Chris and I lay in our room aching to be in on the action. Thats when the idea came to us. All those full packs of firecrackers that were set off invariably resulted in some duds that didnt go off. The occasional rocket fizzled. Tomorrow morning the streets would be littered with them. We would find them and have our own 5th of July.

Dorr's Tractors

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In a field across Rte. 30 from Dorr Oil are a few dozen old tractors all lined up as if on display. Mixed in are a couple of other old vehicles and fifty yards behind are a few incongruous items such as a teepee and a life-size model of an ICBM. Some folks have told me than Donny Dorr keeps all this old equipment out for all to see in order to rub it in the eye of all the gentrification and development that has occurred in Manchester over the past twenty years. I went there to shoot photos today and came away with a very different feeling.

Here is a history of the machines that made Vermont go before the tourist industry took off. Many of these tractors have been restored to varying degrees and some look like they are in condition to start up tomorrow. Some have rusted beyond utility but are beautiful up close. These machines are here out of respect for the life that they and the people who ran them lived. They symbolize a Vermont which still exists in some places but that is fading with time. Walking among these tractors you experience a bit of Dorr's respect for what came before. He may being rubbing it your eye a bit, but it's more like he's just trying to open them so that you can see a little better. I hope he keeps these tractors here for a long, long time.

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Village Walk

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Some practice shots using the new camera on a walk down through the village last week.

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A rhododendron flower outside our house.

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A detail from the war memorial in Manchester Village square.

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A detail from the Mother Myrick's Chocolates sign.

Ever So Politely

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Vtech.gifA few minutes after we got off the phone with Corie our Vtech wireless multi-station phone beeped and gave a meesage that it had lost contact with the base station. I went downstairs to the office to see what the base station had to say for itself and found smoke pouring out - quite an emphatic statement, wouldn't you say?

Looked like the something fried bigtime. I called Vtech and told the nice young woman of indeterminate nationality that the station had just belched smoke and died. She then (ever so politely) kept asking me to plug in the base station and tell her what lights were blinking. After the third time she finally realized smoke=fire and that whatever might be blinking would probably be flickers of flames. The station would have to be replaced. However, she (ever so politely) added, since it was over a year old, it was out of warranty. She then (ever so politely) told me that she would sell me a new version of the station at a steep discount. When I asked if my other two existing satellite phones would work with the new base she (ever so politely) said no, the "old" phones were incompatible with the new base and so new satellites phones would have to be purchased, but she'd give me a deep discount on them as well.

When I objected to having to pay anything to replace satellites that were in perfect working order and pointed out that their product cycle neatly coincided with the warranty period, forcing any system over a year old to scrapped if the base started belching smoke, she (ever so politely) agreed and repeated her generous offer to sell me a completely new system.

I asked that she consult a supervisor to see if there was anything they could do to get me free phones to replace the perfectly good ones I was about to throw away. She (ever so politely) asked me to hold. A minute later she was back on the line and (ever so politely) said no, the steep discount would have to suffice, and asked if I was ready to place my order.

I (ever so politely) declined.

Now I know another reason why companies farm their "support" service overseas. It's a lot harder to strangle someone who is 10,000 miles away.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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