Thursday, December 16 2010
A large tree near the road in front of our house died a few years ago. I've been working under the impression that this tree was an unusally large specimen of native Red Mulberry (perhaps I saw its leaves, though I never saw any fruit), though Wikipedia claims it never exceeds 19 inches in diameter and that it is restricted to the east bank of the Hudson. The tree had been threatening Dug Hill Road, so today the Town of Hurley came out with a bucket truck subcontractor and cut most of the tree down. They left the main trunk standing (which had a diameter of about 24 inches), though the main branches were plenty big, on the order of 15 inches in diameter (near the limit of what I can carry unsplit in stove-compatible lengths). The highway guy had told me he leave the wood for me, so later today I cut up some of the limbs and hauled them home using first the hand truck and then my special customized wood-hauling cart.
Using the chain-and-rope saw, I cut down a hemlock trunk south of the house, but it ended up hung up in a deciduous tree that was just large enough to support a ladder. So I climbed up that tree with a bow saw, delimbed most of the hung-up hemlock, and then unhooked it from where it was snagged and threw it down to the ground. Its several-hundred-pound weight had been pushing the tree I was in to one side, and so it swung back violently as it was released. I was prepared, of course, and held on tight. But my ladder was dislodged and fell and I had to shimmy back to the ground (20 feet below) without it. This was probably the most dangerous single thing I've done in the past five years.
Our couch-centric entertainment system has grown a bit unwieldy in the past year or so. We have a DVR, a DVD, a media computer, a Roku, and there's even a VCR that we never actually use. It's hard to find a remote to control all of those devices, particularly the Roku. Most universal remotes have a four or five device limit, and they can't speak all the dialects of infrared spoken by device remotes (this is usually a technical limitation either of the spectral output of the infrared diodes themselves or the bandwidth of the hardware driving them). Last night I took delivery of a high-end remote, a Logitech Harmony 880 (which I managed to get affordably via eBay, partly because it is not the latest generation of Harmony remotes). Instead of wading through esoteric and error-prone key sequences, programming Harmony remotes is done via a web interface on a computer attached via a USB cable. This method is not perhaps as intuitive as it should be; in particular it's important to understand the difference between activities and devices. The former can include multiple instances of the latter, though usually one has to manually tweak the activities to make them usable. Happily, though, over the course of today I was gradually able to get the Harmony 880 to control all of the couch-centric media devices, including the mouse and media-control functions of the Linux-based media computer (which is also controlled by a 2.4 GHz keyboard/trackpad combo). To get the Harmony to talk to the media computer, I had to use the infrared USB dongle that came with a cheap Chinese media computer remote. Such dongles do not seem to be as sensitive as the IR diodes on electronic components, though the Harmony 880 partly makes up for this with the wide beam and power of its IR transmitter.
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