No Vanilla Cookies For You

No Vanilla Cookies For YouProcessed food is bad for you. White sugar and bleached flour are unhealthy substances. You shouldn’t eat them. I understand that these ideas are true. My diet is mostly organic and vegetarian, but sometimes $1.25 for some nice vanilla cookies seems like a good idea, too. If I choose to find a dollar bill flat enough to go into the vending machine and add a nice 25-cent piece down the slot, shouldn’t I at least get a ration of sugar, flour and palm oil in return?

Maybe it isn’t a good idea to eat junk food, ever. I imagine it’s wrong to want the cookies at all. Probably this desire proves that I’m a wretched sugar addict or at least susceptible to cynical advertising. Not only do I know these cookies are poison, I suspect they are produced by abused workers, out of ingredients that are harvested by slave children on plantations that destroy the environment. Picky, picky.

One might think that gobbling the cookies and suffering the toxic effects would be punishment enough, but no. I don’t even get the short-term pleasure of eating food designed to make me happy instead of to nourish me.

Secret Police in Schools

Secret police don’t have a good reputation in America. The Nazis, Soviets and East Germans gave them a bad name. Since America is The Only Exceptional Nation, we don’t have secret police. We have “undercover officers.” Our secret police pretend to be students, entrap classmates and help create a climate of suspicion and fear on campus. Why? For a look at what’s going on right now, try these interesting and troubling pieces at teenvogue.com, vice.com, and rollingstone.com.

Today I want to share some documents out of my high school files. They shed a little light on how our government bureaucracies find eager recruits and how they seek to coopt and flatter their critics. This is a curious little slice of history.

1975_1008_Scott_Pearce_DA_ID_aWhen I was a teenage high school student in the mid-1970s, I thought it outrageous that my city would put a higher priority on secret police than it did on textbooks. I figured that teenagers ought to work through the system to be heard. Surely there would be some grownups who would be able to appreciate the corrosive, anti-intellectual consequences of putting “undercover” cops in classrooms. Smart people would be able to stop this expensive, completely unproductive practice.

At the start of the 1975-1976 school year, the LA County District Attorney announced the1975_1008_Scott_Pearce_DA_ID_b formation of The District Attorney’s Youth Council. Here’s the press release from September 18, 1975. “Everyone knows that the juvenile crime problem has multiplied in recent years. Perhaps by explaining some of the functions of the criminal justice system to these student delegates, and having them go back to address social science and government classes, we can further some understanding of the law.”

January 1, 1976

January 1, 1976

Here’s the DA’s October 8, 1975 letter appointing me to the DA’s Youth Council. Here are DA letters about meetings from October 27, 1975, January 9, 1976, February 19, 1976 and May 7, 1976. It’s worth mentioning that California’s marijuana laws changed dramatically on January 1, 1976, when possession of an ounce or less was decriminalized.

The meeting referred to in the January 9, 1976 letter featured a discussion about “The Presence of Open and Undercover Police in Schools.” Representatives from the DA’s management team and the LAPD were on hand. I think I got to address the group for about 45 seconds – and, speaking as a student-athlete and not as a representative of the counterculture, I told them that secret police were a much bigger problem at Hollywood High than drug use among students. I said it reflects poorly on Los Angeles that it can afford to put “undercover” police in classrooms that don’t have enough books. As I spoke, I noticed some of the parents and teachers in the room appreciated my comments – and absolutely none of the prosecutors or cops were favorably impressed.

The DA’s office sent me a nice letter on May 17, 1976, which is reproduced below. The LA County District Attorney wrote, “Your deliberations have been particularly valuable to me in evaluating the policies and attitudes of this office in regard to juvenile justice and undercover narcotics operations on high school campuses.” That’s nice – I guess my ideas helped the DA conclude that the secret police operations should be expanded on high school campuses!

Here’s an interesting LA Times article from 2006, explaining how the City Youth Council is a nice training ground for future politicians and lawyers. It features some nice students who are looking to polish their skills and their resumes.

Too much wealth and power rest in too few hands. How come the American People don’t rise up and do something about their own oppression? Maybe one reason is that the last couple of generations have been warehoused in schools that frighten them into submissive obedience.

1976_0516_DA-Scott_Pearce

Skimming the Surface

Surface Close

Here is a brand new Surface 2, the result of diligent shopping and careful research. Microsoft might have taken a billion dollar write-down on the first-edition Surface, but maybe this time around they will do a little better. So far I think this is a beautiful new product. Too bad they make it so hard to buy one!Surface Out of the Bag

The new line of Surface tablet-laptop gadgets went on sale a month ago. They are beautifully packaged and the machines have a high-end, premium feel. I ended up buying mine at the San Diego Microsoft store, which is located in a wretched citidel of greed and materialism known as the Fashion Valley Mall. Although I don’t like malls I did like this store. They had plenty of display models of the various Surface products and several tables devoted to new Windows laptops and tablets made by other companies.

The first time I went to look at the new Surface line, I ended up going to several different Staples stores and a few Office Depots, throwing in a side of Fry’s for good measure. Not only did these places not have what I wanted, the workers at the various stores appeared to have advanced-level training in “studied indifference” to people shopping for these devices!

When I went to Microsoft store, even they didn’t have the new Type 2 keyboard in blue, which these days goes by the name of “cyan,” but they did take my email address and promise to be in touch when the accessory was in hand. Yesterday somebody from the store sent me an email telling me that I had 24 hours to come buy the item. When I showed up a few hours later the staff was friendly and helpful. I said I wanted to get a new Surface 2, and they took care to explain that this device is “a tablet not a computer.” I said I knew it ran Windows RT rather than full Windows. I’d thought about buying the Surface 2 Pro, but for $1,500 I could get a tricked-out new ThinkPad or Fujitsu desktop replacement. For my purposes, the Surface 2 will be more of a fancy netbook replacement.

I bought the 64GB Surface 2 and the Type 2 keyboard. They threw in a free version one Touch keyboard, a nice move I appreciated. Setup was a breeze. From opening the box to being on-line and editing a Word document on Sky Drive took about five minutes. The screen is beautiful and responsive. The keyboard is a feat of engineering. Although the device is fairly large it feels lighter than you’d expect.

Probably Microsoft expects Fashionable People to attract envy at cool coffee shops when they flash their new Surface 2 units. Instead they get customers like me. I’m sure the other folks at Denny’s ordering off of the Senior Menu will be most impressed with what a cool gadget I have!

1976 Hollywood High Flashback

Here is a picture of the Hollywood High School Still Photography Club. This shot was taken on February 20, 1976.

Hollywood High Photography Club 1976

Here I am, front and center, the consequence of a discrete transaction with the photographer. Although I can identify most of the other people in this picture,  I’ll leave it to everybody to tag themselves if they care to. Isn’t it strange to see an old picture of yourself come from out of nowhere after 37 years? Surprise!

These days I know at least a couple of us have maintained a close relationship with still images over the decades. I wonder if any of the other people in this picture have photographed as many reptiles as I have …

It Won’t Be Long Now

Super 8 Movies

How many of you have ever watched super-8 movies? These items are to video as cylinder recordings are to audio. During the 1970’s I spent many hours shooting, editing and watching creations made with this art form.

Here is a large pile of ephemera – 80 little reels of 40-year-old movies, half a dozen larger reels, and a couple of boxed 16mm movies from 50 years ago. This is the first lot that I am taking to be digitized. None of these movies have been projected in decades.

Diane Webber - May 1972

What is going to be on this film? I imagine there will be plenty of swimming and diving on these reels, though I think most of the swimming footage is on different reels that have yet to see the light of day. The key movies in this lot likely will be from the Renaissance Faire from 1971 and 1972. Both my dad and I shot quite a few minutes of movie film of Perfumes of Araby, featuring Diane Webber.

One little movie I hope to discover here is one I made with a couple of friends back in the early 70’s. Back then it was possible to hike right up to the Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee. My friends were of Canadian heritage, and one of them had a nice maple leaf shirt on, so we decided that the movie would be a Canadian exploration of the Hollywood Hills in which the intrepid young explorers would claim the Hollywood Sign for Canada.

How many of you would like to watch movies of yourself at age 14? After all, that’s the time of life when everybody is at their most attractive! At least a few will get the chance fairly soon, because one of the movies in this pile of reels is one I made at Yosemite back in the spring of 1973, on a school field trip with a lot of bright kids. The school bought a Yashica LD6 which I got to use on that trip.

“Nostalgia is a longing for something you couldn’t stand anymore.” Soon I will offer more proof!

 

Sucking in the Seventies

Rolling Stones Ticket July 24, 1978

July 24, 1978 was a hot day in Anaheim, California. I was there with 50 or 60 thousand friends to see The Rolling Stones, with Peter Tosh opening the show. A few months shy of my 20th birthday, I was one of the younger audience members.

The scene was as decadent as any I had ever seen at a rock and roll show. There was no assigned seating. Stretched out on the field somewhere under the blazing sun, I saw somebody in an old Stones t-shirt nearby take out a mirror and a razor blade. He chopped a piece of cocaine into the finest possible dust. I was impressed with the dope fiend’s dexterity. Next, he carefully moved the drugs off of the mirror and into a little bottle. Working with the precision of a lab scientist, he added water to the bottle and shook it.

I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next. Our innovative drug user then put a dropper into the bottle and squeezed the rubber end. He raised the dropper out of the bottle, leaned his head back, and put several drops of the cocaine solution into his eyes!

“F***ing hell,” I thought to myself, “That’s pretty hard core for three in the afternoon, isn’t it? Maybe this guy thinks he’s being moderate because he’s not using a needle. Wow, I suppose the optic nerve is a pretty direct route to the brain…”

After the audience had a couple of hours to get good and loaded, Peter Tosh took the stage. I still remember being surprised and delighted with how musical and tight the performance was. Mick Jagger joined them on stage to perform “Walk and Don’t Look Back,” which went over well. The opening act wrapped up and the audience was happily anticipating the Stones.

Hours later, the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band took the stage. They played with obvious indifference. Watching each casual, sloppy attempt at playing a song made the audience increasingly angry. This band sucks! They charged us all this money ($12.50) to show up higher than we are and not even bother to pretend to have fun with us? No way!

Angry fans with good arms started throwing shoes at the Rolling Stones! The band had to start moving around a little just to get out of the way of the flying objects headed their way, but it did not improve their poor musicianship. Finally, Mr. Jagger had enough. The band stopped playing and he stood at the front of the stage. “C***suckers! If you’re going to throw shoes I want all of them!”

In reply, for several minutes the air was thick with shoes flying toward the stage. The band took cover. Everybody within 20 feet of the stage rushed for cover too. After a suitable delay, some people with big brooms came out and swept thousands of shoes off of the stage. The Stones returned to play a few more songs and call it a night. Everybody left happy, though many were barefoot.

July 24, 2013, was a warm, sunny day in Anaheim. I returned to the same stadium 35 years later to the day, to watch the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim win an exciting afternoon game against the Minnesota Twins. The audience and the venue both were a lot tidier and better groomed than back in 1978.

Angels Stadium

New Home Stereo System

Netbook & Bluetooth Speaker

Audio is my favorite media form. Sound artists always have captured my attention and my imagination more fully than the visual arts.

Years ago I wrote an inspirational tech piece about installing a new hard drive in an old Fujitsu laptop. Finally the time came to retire that ancient device – but the ‘new’ hard drive still had plenty of viable life in it. I reformatted that hard drive and stuck it into this venerable Toshiba Mini NB205 Netbook.

Although my audio collection is vast, my conventional music collection will (mostly) fit on a 650 GB hard drive. Coincidentally, that is the size of the drive that went into the old netbook. I copied my music to the midget laptop. Next, I added a small Bluetooth dongle.

To the left of the little computer is a Logitech Mobile Boombox Bluetooth Speaker and Speakerphone. It is a one-point stereo speaker, with two one-inch drivers. This is a spectacular device! Wired gave it 9 out of 10 with a rating of “nearly flawless, buy it now.” I paired it with my phone as well as with the netbook. The sound is warm and clear across the frequency spectrum. Although one doesn’t expect much bass through speakers this small, this set delivers a surprising punch. From the other side of a moderately sized room the stereo separation is startlingly good as well.

Cylinder recordings Cal Stewart’s Uncle Josh made late in the 19th Century sound remarkably good on this 21st Century setup. Modern Internet radio stations such as Radio Suby Nice, Triple J from Australia and KUSC from LA are crisp and clear without being too sharp. MP3 files I made from my large collection of ECM Records releases from the mid-to-late 1970’s continue to delight me as much as they ever did. Classical music, jazz, rock, rap, international music and acoustic music of all kinds sound fantastic and are totally portable.

Sometimes it worth pausing a moment to reflect on how dramatic these changes have been. I remember being amazed by the idea that a C-120 audio cassette could hold two whole hours in such a compact way. Moving my music collection required transporting a couple of carloads of records and tapes. These days a USB hard drive about the same size as a Compact Cassette in its box can hold a terabyte of data. I’ve got easy access to a lifetime’s music collection anywhere I go in high fidelity…remarkable.

A Tale of Two Mustangs

Many of us have fond feelings about cars we had when we were kids. Here’s a 1980 picture taken in Forest Grove, Oregon, featuring me and my 1968 Mustang. I drove this car for many years, from college through law school and into the early years of my professional life. Although everybody agreed it was a cool car, it was far from fancy. It had “three on the floor” and a little 200 cubic inch “straight six” engine. It did not have air conditioning, but it did have a black plastic interior well-designed to retain heat.

For me this blurred image has a vaguely dreamlike quality. Could this picture really be 33 years old? The field in the background has been richly developed during those years. Was that shirt one I’d bought in ’73 to wear at my graduation from junior high? Inside the car I can see that my disassembled racing bike is in the back seat. Wasn’t that fancy bike stolen right out from under my nose at Venice Beach seven or eight years later?

1980_0904_scott_pearce_mustang

Here is a 2013 Mustang Fastback, which I rented for my latest excursion to Redwood Country. The modern car is quite similar to the one that was built 45 years ago, but it is more comfortable and has more modern conveniences. It was fun to drive around northwest California in this car…but it did serve to prove that nostalgia is a longing for something you couldn’t stand anymore. I’m much happier with my Sebring than I ever was with a car with a hard-top.

2013_0420_mustang

4/20 Graffiti Wisdom

2013_0420_graffiti

Highway 20 is a magnificent place to drive. You take the 101 into glamorous Willits, Gateway to Redwood Country, and turn left towards Fort Bragg. A series of remarkable events found me on this wonderful road on April 20, headed to Garberville in southern Humboldt County. The graffiti is from a rest area bathroom off Highway 20. Here’s a sample of the local color!

2013_0420_trees

 

Newspaper Farewell

Newspapers have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. The Los Angeles Times always was scattered around my parents’ house, and I got my first newspaper subscription (to the Portland Oregonian) when I went to college at age 17. These days, the number of Americans who read print newspapers continues to decline.

White Netbook

Here in the Shire, the local fish wrap is a sorry and petty embarrassment known as the San Diego Union Tribune. This product is published by somebody who calls himself “Papa Doug” Manchester, a name more suitable for the owner of a chain of pizza delivery stores. The San Diego Free Press says Manchester “…took a hard right turn and drove the local newspaper off the cliff of delusional insanity.”

This paper used to have a little slogan near the top of the first page that read, “More Than 1,000,000 Readers Weekly.” Now in the same spot are the words, “The World’s Greatest Country and America’s Finest City.” Really? I’m reminded of something once said by Spiro Agnew, Vice President of the United States: “America is still the greatest nation in the country!”

Over the years I’ve observed that San Diego has “America’s Finest Weather,” but it’s hard not to notice that the town is dominated by the military and big money connected to developers and other standard-issue rich folks. Even so, out of habit our household has carried on subscribing to this increasingly shrill Republican paper – until recently. Alexis and I decided we were fed up with the constant barrage of naked Republican propaganda and the general absence of meaningful content. Why pay for this rubbish?

Take a look at the white netbook in the picture. It cost $150 new. I’ve got it configured as a dual-boot Windows / Ubuntu system, but I find myself using the Linux OS almost all of the time. It’s a perfect operating system for a little cheap computer because it is so much faster than Windows.

Breakfast is a little different without newspapers flying around the table. There have been times when I subscribed to several newspapers at the same time. These days I am not subscribing to any at all. The little computer screen is easy to read. The trackball mouse turns all the pages, my morning coffee conveniently adjacent. When the Financial Times renews its offer to give me the pink fish wrap for Peasant Price instead of Daddy Warbucks Retail, I’ll gladly take them up on it.

If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that my dainty little netbook is browsing the UT’s  website. Now “Papa John,” er, “Papa Doug” will have to carry on working to enrich himself and his cronies at the public expense without getting any further monthly checks from me.

Candy Comparison

Sometimes it is nice to follow one’s own decline – after all, it can be a fun trip! It’s a relief to know that the simpler things in life really are quite fulfilling, and as the years go by I find that this is increasingly true.

With regard to chocolate, I am blessed in many ways. Not only can I afford to buy all I want, that amount is not enough to do me any serious harm. It happens that I am particularly fond of the smallest snack sizes available. Now I am able to bring you yet another public service on these pages – a review of specialty items from Nestle Crunch.

In the above picture you can have a nice look at examples of Nestle Crunch Jingles, Eggs and Hearts. These are seasonal items, only available a few weeks out of the year. Now you might assume that these treats aren’t any good because they haven’t already been eaten. It’s also not entirely unreasonable to suspect that, seeing as how these are not exactly “high end” candies in the first place, it might make more sense to just eat them right away and try not to draw much attention to the whole deal.

Over the years I have come to associate Easter with the best holiday candy. Are the Nestle Crunch Eggs the best of these novelty seasonal items? I’ve always thought so, but this opinion never was put to the test – until now. It required both discipline and a bit of absent-mindedness to keep a few of the bell shaped Jingles on hand and to add a stash of Hearts to the pile that might last until the candy buildup towards Easter.

I can’t avoid making one religious point here, one aimed at any ordained clerics or laypeople on the boards of directors of houses of worship who may stumble onto these few paragraphs. Are you ready? Here goes: Chocolate makes everything better. Last fall I found myself at a Jewish High Holy Days break-the-fast service. They had a big chocolate fountain and a gigantic pile of fresh strawberries waiting to be dipped. Properly marketed, this practice can’t help but be good for membership, no matter which of God’s various franchises is serving up the fresh-dipped chocolate strawberries!

Right. Where was I? Oh yes, the Nestle Crunch novelty chocolate question. Well, I’ve had a chance to engage in some thoughtful empirical tests in addition to visually inspecting these items at close quarters. It turns out that the Jingles and the Eggs are made with the same basic technology. Two halves are fused together to make the whole product, which is then wrapped in foil as illustrated above. The Hearts, on the other hand, are only one piece thick. That leads to a certain physical integrity when the item is bitten. The Jingles and Eggs are likely to split along the seam when bitten, whereas the Hearts will break where bitten.

For what it’s worth, I guess I still think the Eggs are the most pleasing of the lot, all things being equal. I like carrying one or two around in my pocket long enough for them to become soft enough to chew without a lot of give but not so soft as to lose their physical integrity entirely.

There is a way to make the most of the Hearts, however, one that might make that item the best of these three treats. It takes a little work. Get a Heart. Unwrap it. Put the foil on top of a coffeemaker and put the heart on top of the foil. Make the coffee. By the time it’s brewed, the heat will melt the Heart without causing it to run. Lick the heart off the foil and get a delightful massive hit of Nestle Crunch goodness.

Agree or disagree? How do you know if you haven’t compared them yourself? Face it, you’ve got a lot of work to do. Maybe it’s time to get busy.

Incidentally, am I the only one old enough to remember the old jingle they used to use on TV a long time ago? Didn’t it go something like this? “N-e-s-t-l-e-s, Nestles makes the very best chocolate.” Isn’t that right? Sure it is. OK, somebody explain to me what happened to the “s.” Did they take it away at some point, or did the TV jingle contain a misspelling of the product’s name?

Time Travel is Real

Is there visual evidence of a woman speaking on a cell phone back in 1928? This is a question that has caused some controversy in recent months, and it’s about time somebody looked into it, with sober determination to get at the truth. I’m pleased to report that my investigation advances the effort to resolve this matter once and for all. Not only am I going to offer a second example of a time traveler caught on film, I’m going to identify both of them and explain what they are doing.

Regular readers have come to expect some serious journalism from me once in a while. This is where a waiting world learned of the 1972 zombie invasion of Hollywood. Here the public finally received confirmation that the twin towers were moved to New York from West LA, where they were originally built. I also published compelling evidence that UFO’s are responsible for San Diego having the nation’s best weather. You don’t have to thank me; I consider it part of my duty as a citizen.

Here is a single frame from the famous video from the 1928 opening of Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 movie “The Circus.” Folks have been debating whether or not this woman is speaking into a cell phone. Obviously this is ridiculous, since there were no cell towers in Hollywood in 1928. The truth? She’s speaking into a satellite telephone! We all know that UFO’s have been a fact of life for centuries. Satellite telephone technology has been in use among select human beings since at least the time of Ancient Egypt.

I am prepared to suggest an answer to what is really going on here.  To begin with, let’s get one thing straight: this is not an isolated incident. For the first time anywhere, let me be the one to connect some very important dots for all of you. Our second example of time travel caught on film comes to us from Canada, in1940.  This isn’t some video off of YouTube, either – it’s a photograph from the Bralorne Pioneer Museum in British Columbia, Canada.

OK, now take a look at the above image.  Can you identify the time traveler? It’s worth noting that this photograph had been available for years as part of an exhibit “Their Past Lives Here” before anybody noticed the conspicuous guy from the future.

Who are these people? Why have they chosen to go back in time? It’s quite simple, really. A couple of intrepid, determined radio artists are doing everything they can to bring their listeners pristine examples of ancient recorded music! They go back in time to collect old discs and cylinders to bring back to the present for the entertainment of their listening audience. Let’s take a closer look at each image:

A careful look at the 1928 image strongly suggests that our first time traveler is not a woman at all! Scroll back up and take a look at the full image. Look at how big “her” feet are! It seems pretty obvious to me that, for whatever reason, Andy Senior felt the need to dress as a woman while talking on his satellite phone in Hollywood, back in 1928. He must have had his reasons. Maybe he felt the need to try to avoid being too conspicuous, which is more than we can say for the second time traveler, isn’t it?

Radiola is a weekly, two-hour podcast that features jazz and pop music from the 20’s and 30’s. Most, but not all of the music featured on this tremendous program comes from the “electrical era.” The sound quality of the recordings Andy presents is spectacular. It’s pretty obvious that he’s playing pristine copies of records he bought in Hollywood during trips back to the 1920’s and 1930’s, isn’t it? Incidentally, the Radiola shows offer subtle evidence that frequent time travel might be harmful to one’s health. That might explain how “Wake Up, Chill’un,” by Willard Robison and the Ipana Troubadours, was chosen as the show’s theme song.

The Antique Phonograph Music Program, on WFMU, is presented by Michael Cumella. In the color photo, Mac is explaining the fine points of acoustic recording without electricity to Nipper (the RCA Victor dog).

Mac clearly isn’t afraid of publicity, as proven by the nice article about his show from the Wall Street Journal.

The Antique Phonograph Music Program specializes in acoustic-era records and cylinders, played on original equipment. This is another brilliant program, where music from 100 years ago comes to life as if it had been recorded a few weeks ago – because, in fact, that’s how old some of the recordings really are!

It’s evident that Mac was caught on camera when he was visiting Canada to join the crowd at the famous cylinder record liquidation sale that was held in British Columbia in 1940. Once again, it’s not hard for a trained listener with a good ear to be able to tell that, although the recordings played on the Antique Phonograph Music Program are authentic, neither the cylinders, the discs, nor the record and cylinder players Mac uses are very old at all. On occasion Mac brings his son on to co-host the show. Rumor has it that, technically, Mac is younger than his son, the consequence of a birth control accident in a time machine. If true, this would be only the second documented case. (The first was Zaphod Beebrebrox.)

As one who appreciates the lively timelessness of good old recordings, here is one of my favorite spoken word pieces by Eddie Cantor, recorded at the very end of 1929.

Unscrewed

Are you a good screw or a bad screw? This is a question everybody ought to ask out loud before each step of any serious laptop repair or upgrade work.

The image to your left is an example of the former. This is a fine screw indeed, for one simple reason: it goes out as well as in. Let me explain. If you’d like to learn a couple of lessons about the value of persistence and stubborn devotion to duty from a guy with the sort of keen intellect and clever “outside the box” thinking of smart men like Shemp Howard, this story is for you.

Since the mid-1990’s, my life has been a series of Fujitsu laptops. Not surprisingly, the first one I owned ran Windows 95. The computer at the heart of today’s little parable is a C Series Lifebook, running Windows XP. I like it and it has a lot of expensive programs installed. Sadly, the 40 GB hard drive that came with the unit was showing signs of getting ready to give up the ghost, things like being 42% fragmented at the end of running all the defrag and disc maintenance programs on hand.

No problem. I’ve been sliding new hard drives into laptops since before a lot of you were born. I went out and bought a nice 650 GB drive and came home to enjoy the smooth and easy transition that has been my standard experience in these matters. I attached the new drive externally and ran a cloning program with no problem. After that the first screw securing the hard drive caddy – the one depicted with such loving and sharp clarity in the photo – came out with no problem. Sadly, the second one stripped and remained in place, mocking me, a part worth a fraction of a penny telling me my computer soon would be worthless and that I likely was powerless to do anything about it.

I presented this situation to my beloved wife, who cares about my wellbeing and happiness, and who doesn’t enjoy life so much when I am lying on the floor, biting the carpet with frustration and misery over some computer mishap.

“How old is that laptop?”

“Four and a half years.”

“You know, I think probably Santa would get you a new laptop for Christmas if you were a good boy.”

“That’s nice, but I’m not going to need it because I’m not going to be getting screwed by this screw. I’m going to sort this out and this new hard drive over here is going to be in that laptop over there, working fine, really soon.”

Over the subsequent couple of weeks, I learned about screw extractors at the local hardware store and I watched how-to videos. I checked out the family power drill, which I brought into the house and started to examine. I tried to use the screw extractor. I didn’t get the screw out. On the other hand, I did not damage the laptop further. My wife appeared to be relieved that this setback left me undaunted but I could tell she was worried it all would end in tears.

I slept on the problem, and decided to escalate the level of violence. I  waited until nobody but the family dog Rainbow was in the house with me.  The laptop found itself face down on a pillow on the dining room table, its battery out and its AC cord unplugged. I put the smallest bit into the drill and brandished the power drill at the prone laptop.

“You’re not mocking me anymore, are you? You’re gonna give up that screw right now and like it, or it’s gonna hurt you a lot more than it’ll hurt me. If you continue to defy me, I’ll bring Lana and Em’s brother Jason in here with his hockey mask and power saw. You’ll look back and wish you’d surrendered that screw a long time ago.”

It’s important that you show the laptop who’s boss. That’s something they don’t tell you in the computer user manuals, at least not in the ones put out by Fujitsu.

I got to the business of cutting a little doughnut in the plastic around the bad screw. I figured if I could cut away a bit of the plastic I’d be able to use tweezers or needle nose pliers to remove the screw. As I was completing the task, the drill bit touched the side of the screw and turned it. I was able to remove it with my fingers. The hard drive caddy slid out without further delay. My delight was tangible. I sent Alexis a text, telling her about what a tech-savvy spouse she’s married to.

The first three of the four screws that attached the old hard drive to the caddy came out with no problem. The fourth did not. It instantly stripped and remained in place. The last thing that could have gone wrong went as wrong as it could go wrong! Somebody explain the justice of that! Something inside me started to snap. Slowly, deliberately, I walked up a few of the stairs toward the bedroom and I got down on all fours to start chewing at my favorite spot in the carpet, when I noticed Rainbow at my side.

“Don’t do it. Your teeth are in no shape for that kind of work, and you know I’m going to get blamed for it anyway. That’s not fair. Go back and finish.”

Sometimes you have to take your dog’s advice. I went back to the table and looked at the hard drive caddy, with three screws lined up neatly to one side and one screw keeping the old hard drive held fast. I decided to do what any experienced, mature grownup would do: I grabbed that damned hard drive and began twisting it furiously until I was able to break the old hard drive off the caddy entirely. Ha! That’ll teach the #$%@& thing to mess with me for sure! I threw the old hard drive to the table with contempt and with a sense of triumph. Then I noticed the hard drive caddy in my other hand and looked at the twisted, broken piece of metal that once housed the fourth screw. That part was going to require further careful, delicate surgery. I got out a pair of pliers and flattened out the shredded piece of aluminum as well as I could.

To my delight, the new hard drive slid in with no problem and the three remaining screws mounted it straight and solid. It went into the computer and the surviving external screw, the one pictured in all its glory at the top of this post, smoothly went back into place. I plugged in the laptop, hit the ‘on’ button, and the computer booted up perfectly and has been working like a champ ever since.

Perseverance Furthers.