Little Apple Tree on the Prairie

On this trip I’m reading The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan. I’m just at the beginning, where he is talking about apples and John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed).

Historical books have always interested me (as do historical novels with a wee bit of fiction in them) and so I find this part especially fascinating.

Much of his information seems to come from the writings of people who met Chapman on his travels, homesteaders who took him under their roof in exchange for stories and, naturally, apple trees.

There must be a huge wealth of these writings, diaries, stories, back-of-the-Bible scribblings. But I can’t help but wonder if there were any actual writers he met. Imagine, if you will, an encounter between John Chapman and Laura Ingalls Wilder. What colorful, wonderful, engrossing narrative might have resulted?

Did they even live at the same time? Was there anyone else alive at this juncture who could have served? Would Pa have even let this “frontier Dionysus” in? (Pollan’s words)

Perhaps it is time for some historical fiction. Anyone?

The WiFi button

I have a suggestion for Apple. Yes, I know they are (not) listening.

I think the next iPhone/iPod touch should have a WiFi button. Like the power button on the top, maybe on the other side of the device, it should glow a light blue when it is on. You’d use it to turn WiFi on and off on the device, without having to dip into the settings all the time. It would then be incredibly easy to prolong your battery life.

What made me think of this? Running out of battery halfway through my flight yesterday, partially due to constantly looking for WiFi at the airports. (Partially due to watching a lot of TED, admittedly.)

There, Apple. All yours. The fifth button.

Courtesy of US Airways

Today I am flying to Philadelphia for a brief weekend visit with my parents and a couple of my sisters. Or rather, I am trying to.

Let me preface all of this with a warning so dire, you would be foolhardy to ignore it: fly not on US Airways.

This morning, while I was relaxing at home, wife safely off to work, children in her care for the next 54 hours, I got a call. It was a recording, and I almost hung up in a reflex honed during this past electoral season.

But just as soon as I had determined that this was not a Real Person on the other end, a multi-phonic chime of the sort you hear in an airport told me that while not Real, this was probably a call I should listen to. US Airways was informing me that my flight had been cancelled. Nothing else beyond an 800 number if, IF!, I had any questions. Like, what was I supposed to do now?

The young woman on the other end of the 800 number helpfully got me a seat on another flight leaving at 2:30, two hours later than my original, arriving in Philadelphia at 9:30, five hours later than I was supposed to be there, with a stop in Washington, DC. Did I want that flight, she asked helpfully. And I refrained from suggesting that my other option seemed to be handing her my ticket money and staying home.

When I got to the airport, I was informed that my 2:30 flight was now going to be taking off at 4:00, and that I might have to run in DC. This with a helpful smile.

In the end, the flight wasn’t so bad once I got off the ground. Reagan National Airport even managed to provide a vanilla milkshake in the terminal, which can’t be all bad. I sat next to a nice young woman from a company called… Vangard? Vagrant? I thought I’d remember it, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Vagrant. And then next to a very serious young man in a suit, who reminded me a little frighteningly of Pee Wee Herman crossed with Tim Roth. He spent the whole flight in zen-crazy mode, hands flat on his thighs, staring straight ahead. Though I did catch him nodding off a little.

Wheaton the new Niven?

One of my favorite books growing up was Bring on the Empty Horses by David Niven, an autobiography of his life in Hollywood, full of amusing stories about Hollywood greats and their lives off camera. My mother had it on her bookshelf. Niven was an accomplished but not overly famous actor in his day, but he knew a lot of people and had a long career, and thus had a lot of stories. I have a theory, having read this piece by Wil Wheaton, that he might be this era’s David Niven. He might have to meet more famous(er) people. Any other candidates?