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?