Swing Set Demolition

Every kid should have a swing set.  Or, at the very least, access to a swing set.  When we were kids, my sister and I had a swing set.  It was your standard 2-swing model with a slide and that see-saw/glider thing.  When we were small, having the legs/poles of the set jammed into the dirt was good enough.  We could swing as far as we liked, jump off at the apex–which had to have been 20 feet in the air, right?–and come down onto the grass, the pile of leaves we had prepared, or the friend or sibling who didn’t get out of the way in time.  As we got bigger, we had to be careful.  Swinging back too far pulled the poles out of the ground! 

Good times.

But, to paraphrase Peter, Paul, & Mary, "giant [swings] make way for other toys."  We used the swing set less and less.  It slowly rusted; and then, one day, it was gone.  I remember the pang I felt in my stomach that day.  There was a flash of brilliant indignation: "How could they take it down without at least asking me?"  Perhaps more than anything else, that swing set symbolized my childhood.  And now it was gone.  That flash quickly faded as I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I actually used it.  And the yard looked so much better without it.  It would certainly be easier to mow that spot now!  Minutes later I didn’t really miss it at all. 

This past weekend I demolished our family swing set.  Fourteen years old and made of wood, it clearly had seen better days.  I had hopes of merely dismantling it and giving it away on freecycle.org.  But as I approached, toolbox in hand, I realized that giving it away would be irresponsible.  It was rotting.  It was unsafe.  I preserved the swings, their mounting hardware, and the slide and gave those away.  The wood has been cut up and left by the side of the road for anyone to take away.  That spot in the yard is now easier to mow.

I had contemplated doing this for over a year.  My reasons were practical.  I can’t remember the last time it was used. Indeed, I think Amanda and one of her friends were the last people to use it!  I expected to feel relieved.  I did not expect to feel loss.  That same feeling I had as a kid came back, with a twist.  It wasn’t just my childhood I was missing this time, it was my kids’.  When I picked Brady up at his Mom’s and he asked what I did this weekend, I told him about the swing set.  His response was a remorseful, "Awwww…" 

And then it was gone. 

I know exactly what he felt.

A Book By Any Other Name…

I haven’t been reading much lately.  Like, for the last decade.  Or two.  I read the Harry Potter series; Snow Crash; perhaps one or two others.  But I haven’t been reading anywhere as much as I used to.  I used to love reading.  A LOT.  I probably still do and would likely realize that if I made the time to find out.  Shortly after it came out about a year ago I got the iPad.  Along with everything else that is wonderful about it, it touted itself as a "Kindle Killer."  Everyone was supposed to start reading books and whatnot on the iPad.  Well, it didn’t kill the Kindle.  Or the Nook.  There are lots of eReaders out there.  And lots of people love them.  

I’m not sure I’m one of them.

I’m a follower of the Rands In Repose blog.  The author, Michael Lopp, has authored a couple of books based on his blog.  His latest is "Being Geek," which intrigued me.  So off to amazon.com I went to order up.  But wait!  There’s a digital version and it’s only $9.99!  I have an Amazon account and, therefore a Kindle account and I have the Kindle app on both my iPhone and my iPad.  So I got the digital version.  Why not?  

Well, HEY!  This is COOL!  I can read a book no matter where I am!  At lunch, in line, at a long red light, in the car (if someone else is driving), on the toilet, in bed…wherever!  And it WAS cool.  Not having to remember to bookmark or remember which page you are on is cool.  Highlighting favorite passages is cool.  Seeing other people’s highlighted pages and passages is cool.  Having the Kindle app synchronize your place between devices is cool.  (i.e., stop on page 43 on the iPad, read 20 more pages on the iPhone, then go back to the iPad and it knows you are now on page 63.)  In fact, there was nothing "not cool" about the experience.

Except it’s not a book.

There is no cover to open in anticipation.  There are no notes about the author in the jacket cover.  There are still all those annoying pages that have no information you care about at the very beginning, but are robbed of the aggravation of having to flip past them in order to get to the real book because the table of contents lets you "flip" straight to page 1.  When I finished the book I had the same sense of content absorption.  I had, in fact, read a book.  No problem there.  But I was…annoyed.  And I didn’t know why.  I have thought a lot about it.  What else was different?  That was so cool, but why do I feel so robbed?  What’s missing?  What was so different in a bad way?

I’ve zeroed in on two things.  First, there is no real sense of progress when reading an eBook.  "Real" isn’t a good word.  It’s there, but it’s different.  The concept of a "page" is subjective on an eReader.  Your screen is a fixed size, but your ability to change the size of the text means that you could flip through 500 pages or 700 pages for the same book, depending on your settings.  At any time you can tap the screen and see where in the book you are, relative to its beginning and end.  But it’s not. the. same.  When you’re holding a real book, you know how far you have gone.  More importantly, you know how far you have to go.  Before you even start you flip to the end to see how many pages it is.  As you turn each page, you are subconsciously fist-pumping: "YES!  One more down."  If you’re any good at math, you’re also calculating how many pages left.  (I don’t do this, but I imagine some people do.)  You can feel how far you have to go.  The number of pages under your left thumb gets steadily bigger while the pile of pages under your right thumb gets steadily smaller.  
Then it happens.  You’re DONE!  How do you know you’re done?  I mean aside from the obvious running out of pages to read?  You do the second thing I missed:  You CLOSE THE BOOK.  I’m talking about closure in both the literal and figurative sense.  I couldn’t close the damn book!  I could quit the app.  Yay.  I could go back to my virtual Library.  Whoopee.  I have no sense of satisfaction.  I don’t feel like I actually read the book.  

I don’t feel this same sense of loss about tweets or Facebook posts or blogs.  They’re different.  They set different expectations in the reader.  But a book is something else.  It’s a relationship, not a one-night stand.  You get to know it.  You even get attached to it.  You love it.  Sometimes you dump it.  And at the end, you have to leave it.  Closure.  I can’t mentally "leave" my eBook.  And that sucks.  

In fact, I think I may very well buy the real-world version.  I DO want to read it again.  There’s a lot of good stuff in there.  But when I do, I want to be able to close it and be finally done with it.  I love my gadgets.  I really do.  They’re more than mere toys; they’re tools.  And like any tool, you have to use the right one for the job at hand.  I will try this again, but I think that the "right" tool for reading–for me–is a real, old-fashioned, BOOK.

Review: Billy’s Deli

Billy’s Deli is now open in Potsdam.  It’s where The Fields coffeehouse was.  Enter on Main Street next to the fair trade store.  The stories I’ve seen in the local paper say they are touting fresh, local products for their sandwiches.

The first thing I noticed is that BOTH entrance doors now work!  They didn’t before.  And the "Please Use Other Door" sticker is still on the door.  (I’m a stickler for this.  I’ve never looked it up, but I’m pretty sure that having one of two exit doors blocked is a fire code violation.)

The second thing I noticed is the decor.  They brightened up the place and got rid of the old service counter.  I can’t say it’s an improvement.  But I’m old-fashioned and really liked the way The Fields looked and felt.  This is a highly subjective point, however.

FRIENDLY!  They are really excited and enthusiastic about being open.  Customer service is awesome!

My tastes are simple.  I ordered a "sub"–heavy mayo, roast beef, and extra Swiss cheee.  That’s it.  That’s all I want.  I got it.  And it was delicious!  The kitchen/prep area is clean. 

I’ve only been there once so far and only had that one thing.  Will I go back?  Most likely.  But I have to say this: the deli at the IGA has larger subs with more "stuff" (meat/cheese) for less money, and my taste buds don’t have a preference (based on this one visit to Billy’s).

Your mileage will vary.  I encourage you to try them out!