12.16.11: Don Draper Christmas


As promised: Harper Lee and the nuclear dread of a 1961 Christmas. But you’ll have to go to the bottom of the Bleat for that. Feel free to skip. Go on, I’m not looking.

Still here? Okay, let’s bleat.

Pulled out of the driveway this morn to find a big honking pickup truck outside the house. I knew who it was: the Inspector General. The last step in the window-upgrade process was the visit from the City Inspector, who would look at the work, pronounce it good, and all would be fine. I rolled down the window and we had a brief chat - turns out he was a representative of the window company that had been involved in the entire window rehab process, and done absolutely nothing. They won the bid to replace thousands of windows of people who lived in the airplane flight path, but some of us chose to have our original windows soundproofed and replaced, and that went to a subcontractor. Nevertheless, this fellow had to be involved, because they had the Overall Contract.

Thus ever is Process.

He was waiting for the Inspector. “When we’re done we’ll take the lockbox off your door,” he said. Great. Made me feel like the house was for sale.

Off to work. Wrote a column, did an interview. After work . . . nerd heaven.

No: Geek Heaven. No: computer guy heaven. The terms nerd and geek have shifted; can’t quite say with any certainty that a geek is a guy who gets a small thrill of pleasure at the sight of 100-foot spools of CAtT-6 wire (with molded plugs!!!!), or that a nerd cares overmuch about plastic cable ties vs. velcro. I do know this: whomsoever realized that there was money to be made from the OCD / anal-retentive market was a very savvy fellow. He knew some people can’t get a good night’s sleep because they keep thinking about the nest of cords behind the desk - they’re all jumbled and they’re unlabeled and they’re different COLORS - no wait that makes sense, because you can tell what they are by visual inspection. Oh WHO am I kidding. They need labels. Consistent cabling, appropriately labeled, that’s the key. That’s the secret. Then I won’t stop biting my nails.


This all began because the cables that come out of my stark white router are multicolored. Yes. I know. Steve Jobs scowls down from the Cloud. I went online to see about white cables, but the reviews - because there are reviews on Amazon of 7’ white Ethernet cables - said that the cables weren’t exactly white, but greyish, and for some people this might matter. Well hell yes. I needed to eyeball the cables, so I went to a store whose name just screams “born in the age of home-brewed computing,” Micro Tech. The store was located in an old shopping center, possibly a defunct grocery store, with a Burlington Coat Factory next door. The lot was packed. Cold weather makes people assess their coat strategies, I guess, but no: Micro Tech was packed with guys buying computer things. I’d never been there before. I wanted to weep. Half an aisle devoted to things that organize cords. O frabjous day.

Got the cords, but realized this was not the time to grab cord-management devices willy-nilly.

These things have to be planned.

Got in line. Six registers. There was a line. And what a crew: the obligatory Gimli types, bearded and short, the backbone of the computational-tinkerer brigade; tall managerial types sent on an errand by someone with more juice at the home office; middle-aged men who’d found themselves here for reasons similar to my own - a cord was required. A plug. An adaptor. The line passed through a gauntlet of temptation, with USB drives and cheap batteries and more cable ties, oh my stars so many options: each had their advantages. Plastic: brightly colored! But you had to cut them to reconfigure. Still, the colors could be assigned to different functions. Velcro: reusable, NASA-related, somehow. There were thick plastic-covered wire ties in bright Neon green, but I resisted. If you start to use those, you’ve introduced a new paradigm into your cord-management strategy. Plus, I already have some. They match the Neon green travel bag I use for my cords, ensuring aesthetic continuity.

It’s amazing the things you care about when the basics of life are fulfilled.

There was also a small plastic knob with a suction base: two bucks. I picked one out (choice of colors!) and dropped it on the counter when my turn came.

“What are these for?” the clerk asked.

“They affix to the back of an iPod or iPhone,” I said. “So you can prop it up and watch a video.”


“I saw them at Urban Outfitters yesterday, but they were six bucks.” Forgot to note that trip: Urban Outfitters has all your hipster gear, including a wide array of real cheap film cameras that take real lousy pictures. Why, people use their iPhones to reproduce these lousy pictures - go for the authentic thing, dude! They also had cards that said HAVE A MERRY $%ING CHRISTMAS, because authentic people who don’t buy your tired old rules like to cuss, particularly when it upends the Normal Rockwell lingo, don’t you know. There was a nice old mom looking at the items on the shelf, perhaps because a grandson said he wanted something from the store or had a “lomo camera” on his list, and when she searched the google this store came up. I wanted to take her by the elbow and guide her away from the stack of MERRY $%ING CHRISTMAS cards.

I know this sounds terribly old-fashioned, but I believe a 65-year old grey-haired lady ought to be able to walk into any store in a large mall and not see the F word on a Christmas card.

So I went home, dropped the plastic knob in the bag of things that will go in daughter’s stocking. Started disassembling the cord nest; realized quite quickly I am a cord short, and will have to go back to Micro Tech. Great! By the next trip I’ll know how many things with hooks and adhesive backs I need. But while I was stringing the cable for the network-attached storage I heard the door chime ring. The alarm system. Eh? Too early for my wife or child. Checked the back door: locked. Looked at the front door: the wind had blown it open.

Because the City Inspector hadn’t locked it. They looked over the windows and left and didn’t lock the door. I could have come home to find my house ransacked and my dog gone.

Color-consistent cabling would not have been an adequate compensation.

Today: Have a Don Draper Christmas. Also, column at the Strib. (Scroll down.) Enjoy! And have a grand weekend.



blog comments powered by Disqus