Thursday, June 7 2007
The universal remote that controls the four components of our video entertainment system is a very important piece of household hardware, up there with the microwave oven, the second of the two Honda Civics, and the entire basement floor of the house. I don't know what the mileage is on its button travel, but it's probably more than a kilometer, even though the device is only about two months old. The previous one, a Phillips PHDVD5, was nearly the same model and had to be replaced when its pause button wore out. We're now using a Phillips PMDVD6, which can be had for about $12.
Recently, though, this replacement has started behaving strangely, particularly after I tried teaching it a few commands from other remotes (it has the ability to record another remote's transmission patterns and assign them to specific buttons). The worst of its new failings was that it stopped repeating functions when a button was held down. In other words, when you'd hold down the "VOLUME UP" button, it would only increment the volume one tick louder instead of continuing to increment the volume until you'd let go. In addition to this volume problem, loss of repeat is almost a deal breaker for using Tivo when you have a lot of shit in your now playing list.
I spent the morning in Phillips Electronics hell trying to fix the remote. Not wanting to buy another one, I resorted to calling the Phillips support line (919 573-7854), where I languished for a good half hour on hold before talking to Tray, who sounded like an African American (which surprised me because I'd expected a Dot-Not-Feather Indian). Tray had no idea what was causing my problem, but he did give me an essential nugget of information that wasn't present anywhere in the user manual. It turns out that Phillips remotes can be told to forget everything you've taught them and return to factory defaults if you take the batteries out and hold the power button for 90 seconds. This didn't actually work for me unless I put the batteries back in while continuing to hold the power button down. In the end, though, I was able to restore the remote's ability to repeat functions, although I'd also have to recustomize it so control our specific set of devices.
After that nightmare was over, Gretchen and I drove down to Catskill Native Nursery (which is near Kerhonkson) to get some plants for our reclaimed decorative garden. We also wanted some native shrubbery to accelerate the screening of the road (enabling us to be nude in our front yard before we're too old for it to be indecent - wait - does that even make sense?). Aside from a few vegetable plants like basil and tomato, all of the nursery's were native perennials. We were a little overwhelmed at first by the selection, but them talked to the guy who started the place and he led us around making suggestions based on our descriptions of the various sites (the sunny, seasonally swampy place near the road subject to deer browsing, and the shadier, drier, deer-free sites near the house). He was a bit of an odd duck, obviously a bit shy and more interested in nature than dealing with people. As we walked around, we didn't just look at plants and shrubs growing in pots; there were plenty of volunteers here and there in the actual soil among those in the containers, and they sometimes gave us ideas.
We settled on Elderberry, Redbud, Hazelnut, and Blueberry for the road screen, got some everbearing strawberries, phloxes, evening primroses, petunias, and a hydrangea for near the house. We also got some kind of vine to add to a simple wild grape trellis I built. I didn't want to know how much money we were spending, so I let Gretchen conclude the transaction. Catskill Native Nursery doesn't accept credit cards, but they were fine with us mailing them a check.
We spent the rest of the day planting all the things we'd bought. My job was mostly to plant the trees and shrubs, while Gretchen dealt with smaller plants near the house. My biggest challenged was the blueberry, a cultivar bearing large berries in early summer. In nature, blueberries are normally found on the tops of ridges and prefer a lot of sun and well-drained soil. There was no such place in the yard, so right there in the part that occasionally turns into marshland, I constructed an elaborate artificial knoll. I began by digging a hole drained by a ten foot long ditch, and then I put a drainage pipe in that ditch. Next I lay down a layer of rocks in the hole and then I drove down to the Esopus Valley to gather gravel to fill out the rest of it. I would have preferred sand, but, strangely there was none in the place I've been mining across from the Hurley Mountain Inn. I placed the blueberry's root ball on top of the gravel and then humped soil around it on all sides, fashioning a little hill. Hopefully the blueberry will think it's high above a valley and will never notice the swamp only inches away.
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