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Hot stuff!

With temperatures as high as 98 degrees expected this weekend, our new portable air fireballtransportconditioner is scheduled to arrive Thursday by Fireball Transport. How apropos.

This just in: They must be really hot to trot. They called today at 8 a.m. and again just after noon to make sure I’d be home.

A name like Fireball makes me wonder what kind of condition the air conditioner will be in when it arrives …

 

The Birds and the Bees

img_1450Here we are in North Hero, Vermont, getting to know our new environment. Or, more specifically, as you’ll see from these pictures, here we aren’t.  Not a soul to be seen on the deck.

We chose this place, in part, because of the quiet, the back-to-nature feeling, and especially because of the sunsets, such as this one. We love the deck and the two screened-on porches, one adjacent to the deck, in the west, and one off the kitchen, in the east.

Apparently, we are not alone in our enthusiasm.

We noticed, on our first tours of the house, the bird nests. “That’s great!” said I. “We love the birds.” I was a little concerned about the nest directly over the door to the deck, and the one over the main entrance door, but I figured it was off-season and the occupants, like many other seasonal residents, had flown south for the winter. They wouldn’t be back in the spring, or they’d find another place.

When we were up here in April, I scrubbed down the poop deck and the entrance alcove, and tried to dislodge the muddy nests (unsuccessfully). It was still early in the season, so no one was home at the time.

Now we’re here at the end of May, and the barn swallows — for that is what they are — apparently come back for the holiday weekends, too. There are families in both nests over the deck and the entrance hall, and probably others as well that we haven’t discovered yet. I’d watch from the west porch, but that seems to be attracting yellow jackets. We suspect a nearby nest, perhaps in the crawl space under the porch. So the birds and the bees (metaphorically, as I know these are wasps) have been teaching us a thing or two.

Here’s another view of the barn swallows, closer to home.

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Rhetoric Referee: The Straw Man

 

tilt shift lens photography of brown stand twigs
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

American political discussions violate many rules of logic and debate, but one of the most outrageous, easiest to spot, and hardest to parry is the Straw Man argument. Usually this takes the form of one side oversimplifying and distorting a point the other side has made, asserting that this is the core of the opponent’s argument, and then proceeding to ridicule it as simplistic, unsupported and possibly dangerous.

In this era of sound bites and tweets, it’s most frequently used on complex issues that require many different approaches to solve, such as school or workplace violence. A true solution will require cooperation on mental health, school and workplace security, and specific, reasonable, enforceable, control of access to weapons and ammunition. In a complex society, reasonable laws for Connecticut will not be reasonable for Texas or Alaska. It will take time to work these out.

But in the heat of the latest incident, time is a problem because Something Must Be Done Now. Enter the Straw Man. When one side proposes further gun laws such as age restrictions or limits on certain weapons, their opponents counter with “They just want to take away your guns.” When the other side proposes permitting trained, licensed school employees to carry weapons for self-defense, the first says they just want to turn all teachers into armed guards.

Neither is entirely true, but to fully explain their true proposals requires detail, nuance, and give-and-take. In a world of oversimplification and lack of attention to detail, we’re likely doomed to hear more from the Straw Man next time.

 

Living Here: Starting over

living-hereWith permission from the Republican-American, I plan to self-publish one or more collections of “Living Here” columns published between 1994 and 2018, with proceeds to benefit the newspaper’s charity, the Greater Waterbury Campership Fund.

So far, so good: I identified and retrieved nearly 1,000 columns — including more re-runs than I had anticipated, so probably the actual number is closer to 950 — in electronic form. I have also clipped four or five boxes of these columns over the years, for preservation.

Now comes the fun part: Reading, editing, organization and publication.

The reading part truly is fun, partly because I’m now enjoying these essays as a reader rather than as an author, and partly because I’m rediscovering stories and memories long since overlooked or forgotten.

Not that I’m on a par with either of these writers, but Peggy Noonan wrote an essay last week in The Wall Street Journal about the passing of author Tom Wolfe, in which she recounted an event at which she had quoted to him something he had written years before. “Oh, that’s good,” he had responded. “Did I write that?” Noonan assured him that he had, and in her essay she recounted a similar story about Tolstoy’s daughter reading him an account of an epic battle, from “War and Peace.”

Apparently I’m in good company in having these moments.

The hard part is organization: I started by sorting the columns into five broad collections: Curmudgeon, Community, Home Sweet Home, Home for the Holidays, and The Kids Are All Right. I was hoping to keyword them somehow to better organize them, but that function doesn’t exist in Word (WordPress would actually be a better tool for that, but I’m not going to put them online). Barbara suggested putting them into a database somehow, so today I started that. I’ll go back to re-read and enter the metadata for the essays I’ve done so far, then continue reading and entering from this point forward.

On a project this size, that will require a lot of time and effort, but the results should be worth it. Fortunately I have and am familiar with Access. That’s a secret weapon Tolstoy, Wolfe, and probably Noonan didn’t have.

Bubble Wrap begins

Nomination of Alfred W. Fielding to National Inventors Hall of Fame

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An invention that flopped as a wallpaper 60 years ago popped into public awareness soon after as the material IBM chose to protect its delicate super computers. It changed packing and shipping forever, and today its role in pop culture as a toy, stress reliever and even modern art is also celebrated every January on Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day.

In 1957, Marc A. Chavannes, a Swiss chemical engineer, approached mechanical engineer Alfred W. Fielding with the concept of creating an insulating, textured wallpaper by sealing two sheets of plastic together on a paper backing.

Working out of a small garage across the street from the Fielding Machine Co. in Hawthorne, N.J., they started by trapping air between two shower curtains. The material was not practical as a wallpaper, but in creating it they had developed a method to vacuum-form a pattern of air bubbles between two sealed sheets of treated plastic using machines Fielding developed.

The next application they tried was greenhouse insulation, but that also was not a success. However, on a bumpy flight into Newark Airport one day, they hit upon the ultimate use for their product: protecting fragile items during shipping.

BubbleWrapThey were the first to envision what became an entirely new industry: protective packaging. Until then, products were shipped mostly in sawdust or discarded or shredded newspaper, paper wadding, and other dusty, abrasive and often inky paper products. Now they faced another challenge: persuading shippers to buy a stronger, cleaner packaging material instead of using essentially free recycled industrial waste.

Continue reading “Bubble Wrap begins”