Total Pageviews

Friday, August 27, 2010

Waterin' The Liberty Tree

"A shapely American elm at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA "
Source:, accessed 27 August, 2010.

When I was a lad American elms were large shade trees that lined many a street in my home town of Wilmette, Illinois.  In fact, most towns of any size in America still have an Elm Street.  But during the latter half of the 20th Century the species was almost made extinct by a fungal blight called Dutch Elm Disease, that was carried by a beetle that bored into their bark.

Here in New England our autumns have always been spectacular because our forests are so diverse.  It is said that New Hampshire has more different species of deciduous trees than anyplace else on Earth, with the possible exception of some parts of Siberia.  Our autumn colors are legendary.  But I remember the view to the east from the fourth floor of James Hall at Amherst College in 1961, and I truly miss the Elms.  We no longer have the glowing yellow highlights that they lent to the autumn forest's flames.

Today there is hope for a regeneration of the American Elm.  Several non-profit organizations have been working to produce clones of the few surviving elm trees, those that had some natural resistance to Dutch Elm Disease. 
The Campton Conservation Commission teamed up with the local garden club and the town's historical society to buy one of those cloned trees, and has planted it across the road from our home, in The Pattee Meadow.  Our home was once the farm house of the Pattee family, and the field across the road was where the local regiment of New Hampshire Volunteers held "musterings" during the Civil War.  So that field, which the town bought as conservation land just two years ago, after Eddie Pattee, the last of the line to live here in Campton, passed away, was as good a place to plant the elm as any.  Especially so, as this tree came from the Elm Research Institute (ERI) of Keene, NH, sponsors of the American Liberty Elm program.
The ceremonial planting occurred two weeks ago tomorrow, on 14 August, the 235th anniversary of the day that the evacuating British Army cut down the Elm tree in Boston which had been the meeting place of the Sons of Liberty, and which has gone down in history (and in a Disney dramatization) as "The Liberty Tree."
The first gold leaf.
As its nearest neighbor, I volunteered to keep Campton's Liberty Tree watered for its first month in Pattee Meadow, a chore I've been doing each morning with both civic and patriotic pride.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Radio Shack's Bait-and-Switch Scam

As everyone who follows my blog knows, I rarely post negatives.  But today I had an experience at the Plymouth Radio Shack store that made me see red.

After a morning at the University and lunch with her fellow graduate assistants Alexandru and Barbara, Raluca T. and I went out today to price cell phones.  We were specifically looking for a Net10 prepaid phone for Raluca, as both Alexandru M. and I have had excellent luck with Net10 service, and found it quite economical.  Our first stop was at Radio Shack in the Hatch Plaza in Plymouth.  We found a Samsung 401G on a Net10 hanging card advertising the features of the phone, and above it a price of $59.99.  One of the features advertised was that the phone comes with "300 minutes of airtime and 60 days' service, available upon activiation."

Ralu liked this phone, so we took it down and brought it over to the counter.  There, Ralu told the clerk that she would buy the phone, but that she wanted it activated before she did so.  To "show the clerk the money," I pulled three $20 bills out of my wallet, saying, "Our full cost will be the $59.99 that was on the hook, right?" She did not answer, which I attributed to her concentrating on the activation process.

It took at least twenty minutes to get the phone activiated, a problem which I finally solved for the clerk by turning my Net10 phone on and discovering that there was no service at the counter, but four bars' worth of signal at the storefront window.  Finally, the clerk came over to the window, and "Voila!"  The phone showed 60 days and 300 minutes' available.  Time to close the deal!

Back to the checkout counter we walked, at which point I again offered the clerk my three twenties (Ralu's money was accidentally left at home).  The clerk asked, "Would you like to add more airtime to the phone?"  I looked at Ralu, who decided that 300 minutes was plenty for starters.  We declined.  Then the clerk said, "We only sell these phones along with extra airtime.  It is our policy."

As a retail customer, poor service is a pet peeve of mine, but a bait-and-switch scam like this one struck me as unethical at best, if not illegal.  I protested, citing the price tag on the hook above these phones on the wall. No argument would make the clerk relent.  We went back over, and found that the clerk had removed the price from that display hook.  When I returned to the counter, I lost my temper.  My ears must have turned red with my anger, and I am surprised if they did not smoke.  I told the clerk I wanted to talk to the manager.  When the manager came out, she upbraided me for getting angry with the clerk, and told me that the clerk would have been fired if she had taken our money for the phone without selling us more airtime.

After a short argument with the manager that was clearly going nowhere, we left.  As I walked away, the manager shouted, "You're an idiot!"  I beg to differ.  I'd have been an idiot to have bought anything from that store.

The Outcome for Ralu:

Thanks to some coupons that Alexandru got when he bought his Net10 phone, we have just ordered online a Samsung 401G from Net10's website, refurbished, for $41.99, guaranteed, freight included, accessory kit included, and 500 minutes of airtime included.

Net10's motto is "No Bills, No Contracts, No Evil."  That is the kind of customer service that has kept me loyal to Net10 for the past five years.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tales of the Tilley Man

A long time ago, perhaps 1997 or 1998, I had a fine MBA student at Plymouth State College named Derek Tilley, who came to study in Plymouth from his home in St. John's, Newfoundland.  After his outstanding performance in our program, during which he took at least two courses with me, Shirl and I invited Derek and his parents to have a post-graduation lunch at our home, an event that I recall as a most-pleasant May cookout on our patio.

Since that time, Mr. Tilley, who now lives in Toronto, and I have remained friends.  I attended his wedding in Montreal some eight or nine years ago.  I drove to North Hatley, Quebec, to have lunch at his in-laws' home there a few summers back.

Earlier this year, when PSU's current Romanian MBA student Alexandru M. visited Toronto (and his cousin's family there), I arranged also a meeting with his fellow PSU MBA, Derek

Today, Derek is on his way down from N. Hatley to join Alexandru and me for lunch at Biederman's Deli in Plymouth.  It seems he has a shopping list to fill here in tax-free New Hampshire, so is taking the opportunity to keep our friendship current.

Such events are among the finest rewards of teaching.

Monday, August 16, 2010

In a Fog

It is about 11:30 on Monday night. I had an urge to ride an hour or so ago, so I told Shirl I'd be out awhile, pocketed my cell phone, donned my black leather jacket and my helmet, and started up my 1966 R27 (on the first kick). Then, I backed her out of the garage into a pea soup fog.  It was not fun, not being able to see the road in front of me.  So, I only rode about 10 Km, down past the covered bridge to the highway, up to Campton Corner on I-93, and back home along Route 175.  Fortunately, 175 rises high enough to get me above tonight's river-valley fog. Still, the humidity was such that I had to use my glove to wipe condensation from my glasses every 30 seconds. As Tom Wolfe might have put it, "I don't recommend it, but it can be done...  ."