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.

My fan club?

Today on a trip to the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA I donned a respectful green polo and khakis. Soon after, a carload of guys similarly attired came in, then a few others, then busloads. I seem to have set a fashion trend.

Bubble Wrap begins

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


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. Chavannes had been working on ways to emboss thermoplastic film as early as 1948, but that method resulted in a textured sheet without the air cushioning we know today.

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.