Flash Fiction #62

Storage

PHOTO PROMPT – © Claire Fuller

COMPUTER STORE

Welcome to the Computer Museum. Nothing in Man’s development has changed as much, as fast, as computing.

This is ENIAC’s grandson. In 1955, a crew of 9 men took almost a month to solder together 37,000 tubes. A large Montreal company used it mostly for payroll. My pocket calculator will do more than what they paid $2.5 million for.

Moore’s law says that speed doubles every 2 years, while size halves. You see that here in data storage also, rows of cabinets of tape reels, rolled by triskele arms for reduced space. School kids’ flash drives now hold this much.

***

In 1976, an erstwhile co-worker told me of being the design engineer in charge of the installation of Ferranti-Packard’s ENIAC successor, in a hall as big as 8 bowling lanes. Fortunately, Carrier had invented the air-conditioner, or all those tubes throwing off heat could have baked bread in the room. Dot-matrix tractor-printers had to be properly grounded, or the static electricity they generated could wipe the core.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple  site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

#498

Fruit Salad

Not to be confused with White Lady In The Hood’s poke salad, this is just an excuse for another little serving of a bit of this and a bit of that, with some humor dressing.

If KayJai goes back to Chatham, Ontario to visit friends and family, she’s going to find that she’s got some new neighbors.  A Fundamentalist Jewish sect from near Montreal, has been ordered to surrender 14 children, from two months to 16 years of age, to Child Welfare Services, on charges of neglect and abuse.  Instead of doing so, 200 of them moved 500 miles west, into a new province.

The newspaper article does not say how many families are involved, but 14 children were from only two families.  Even more so than our local Mennonites and Amish, they wish to do things the modest, old-fashioned way, a claim validated by photos, black clothing, hats, ankle-length skirts on girls, clunky shoes, adult females swathed in black blanket-like wraps, covering half their faces.

Most of the members speak only Yiddish and/or Hebrew. Despite this, and their declared dedication to a simple life, they have an English-language website.

The son has a young male temp at his shop who is white.  Not an albino, but the guys agree that he looks like he lives in his mom’s basement and eats chalk.  He is as white as the Elf, Legolas, from the Lord of the Rings movies.  If you built a child’s toy blocks replica of him, it would be a Lego Legolas.  If you broke the bottom off the figure, it would be a legless Lego Legolas.

The son insists that, if you read and inflect the following eight words correctly, they form a coherent sentence.  Anybody want to try? Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo; buffalo buffalo buffalo.  Translation provided upon request.

The local Traffic Department seems to have been working overtime to further F**k things up.  There are two spots, one a mile to my east, another, a mile to my west, where small subdivision streets come out to meet the main thoroughfares.  In both cases, they do so at a tee intersection, and at the top of a hill.

The Works Department has installed a (partial) set of lights at each.  The main road faces the lights, but there are none on the side streets.  With reduced sightlines, it is surprising enough to have someone make a right turn in front of oncoming vehicles, but panic can ensue when lines of traffic are rushing up the hill, with a green light and the right-of-way – never faster than the 40MPH limit of course – and have some asshat little jackrabbit driver perform a perfectly legal, but highly unsafe, left turn, in front of four lanes of traffic.

Many bus stops were located just before intersections.  Apparently there has been much complaint about drivers not being able to make right turns on green lights, so, with agreement from the Transit Department, many of the stops have been moved to the other side of the intersections.  Now, the buses go through the lights, and immediately stop – and traffic backs up behind them, right across the intersections, despite regulations about not entering unless you are sure you can clear.

Even after the lights turn red, and there is no following traffic, the sheep refuse to pull out and pass the bus, and just sit there and wait for it to proceed.  Thanx Traffic Department, I see how this new system is so much better.

A local city councillor has chosen a strange hobbyhorse to ride.  He was quoted in the paper recently, railing against the proliferation of used clothing donation bins around the city.  I agree with most of his rants.  They are everywhere, beside corner stores, in mall parking lots, sometimes two and three, side by side.

They’re often overflowing.  There are often boxes of wet books and magazines, broken toys, even old black and white TVs, beside them.  This guy wants to licence and restrict them.  (Doesn’t every politician?)  He wants to get the names and addresses of all these charities, so that they can be notified and held responsible for cleaning up the mess.

I’m with him through most of that – right until he gets to the word “charity.”  Just because the word “donation” appears on these bins, doesn’t make them the property of any charity, except for the odd Salvation Army one.

Almost all are owned and placed by commercial companies.  They take the used clothing that you throw in.  They sort it out, and anything worth reselling is shipped to a third-world country.  When your raw material is free, even sorting, shipping and sale at pennies on the dollar means you can turn a tidy profit.

The next time you see some kid on television after the tsunami in Malaysia, or typhoon in Bangladesh, wearing an AC/DC concert tee, just like you used to own, it doesn’t mean he’s got the same shitty taste in music you do.  That’s your old shirt!  The unsalable balance is ripped to pieces, and winds up at places like my son’s plant, in fifty-pound bales of rags, again, turning a further profit.

If you’ve been putting clothing in these boxes, thinking it goes to underprivileged kids, or homeless people, you may want to think again.  Then again, maybe not.  We occasionally donate used clothing and other household goods to either Muscular Dystrophy, or Juvenile Diabetes.  They call us and tell us when they’ll be in the neighborhood with a truck for pick-up.

Okay, the meds are kicking in.  You may want to take some now – or a three-martini lunch.  I hope you’ve all had a good Christmas, and we look forward to New Years.

Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns

We often think that the important things which happen, and the marvelous things that are created, are the products of “big city” people.  It just seems right that those with the most exposure to society and education, would be the “doers.”  It is often a surprise that some city-, country- or world-changing events are caused by small-town, backwoods boys (and girls).

On August 21, 1860, Aylesworth Perry was born in a tiny Ontario hamlet.  Despite being a patriotic Canadian, interested in our history and heritage, I had never heard of him.  It seems that this was the gentleman who went on to transform the North West Mounted Police – who would later become the R.C.M.P. – from a loose-knit band of rowdy frontiersmen, into the effective, respected organization it became.

What caught my eye about the little newspaper filler article was the fact that this strong, powerful organizer of tough, gritty men, in a tough, dirty landscape, was from the tiny-rainbow-pissing village of Violet.  Like the famous….whatsisname, above, I’d never heard of a place in Ontario named Violet, so I began to do some research.

The officially-issued, Province Of Ontario roadmap refuses to even mention it.  Time to go online!  My first search for Violet, Ontario, got me Violet’s Violets, in Milton, ON, and Violets and Roses Flower Shop in Brampton, ON.  My next step was my usual, Mapquest.ca, which located a Violet Hill, ON, not far from my home town.  This magnificent megalopolis boasts almost 300 residents, which is probably why I’d never heard of it either.

When all else fails, go to Google, which had no trouble locating Violet for me.  Where my town is almost as far west as possible, in Southern Ontario, this place is at the far, east edge, close to Ottawa and Montreal.  To call this place a village is perhaps to stretch a point some.  It’s more than just a wide spot on the road, with a house on both sides, but not much.  It makes Violet Hill look like urban civilization.  There is one road into town, which splits at a Y, and two roads leave town.

I was astounded that Google Earth had actually driven these roads.  They must have been on their way to a real town.  It had to have been a remote-controlled vehicle.  A human driver would have dozed off.  If it’s this tiny now, I wonder how much smaller it was, a hundred and fifty years ago.

At about the same time in history, a famous feminist/suffragette/ human rights proponent, named Nellie Mooney McClung, was born in a tiny village about 30 miles east of my home.  She’s so famous, you’ve never heard of her either, and the only sign that she and the village ever existed, is a dedication plaque, and a small cemetery.

“Famous”, in Canada, means that two people know how to spell your name.  More recently, just before I crawled out of the igloo, a famous female Canadian author was born in a small town 30 miles to my south.  At the age of 76, she’s decided to stop writing, and retire back to her birthplace, to count up all eight Loonies she’s made from the Canadian publishing industries.

A couple of years before my birth, a man was born in a village of 300, twenty miles south-east.  He went on to be the long-term editor of the Toronto Sun newspaper, until the Frogs from Quebecor Publishing hopped down from Montreal, and gobbled it up.  You’d probably not notice his birthplace either, if it weren’t for the stench of the pig-processing plant, and the truckers’ restaurant, which is well-known for its ribs and wings.

All of this has generated great optimism in me.  If people from places like Nowhere, and Never-Heard-Of-It, can become movers and shakers, it’s never too late for me to become famous also.  (It’s spelled S.M.I.T.H.)  Two more posts like this, and it’s onward and upward to FreshPressed, and fame and glory.  Did I mention the money?….or I could just keep trying to amuse, entertain and educate you, my faithful followers.

Being famous, and from a small town is not always a good thing.  We have a Canadian lady (?) from Wadena, Saskatchewan, a mighty little town of 1300.  She’s been a television news reporter, and then anchor-person, who puts her pants on one leg at a time, just like all the other guys.  The Prime Minister gave her a pork-barrel appointment to the Canadian Senate.

She now has to, grudgingly, repay $140,000 in expenses to the Government, because she was “confused” and “forgot” things like that her “primary residence” was in Wadena, not Toronto.  She’s one of four recently appointed Senators under investigation by the R.C.M.P.  I’m not sure how much of this type of thing the American system of electing Senators would prevent, but I’m pretty sure it couldn’t be much worse.

End of bitch!  Insert comment here.

 

Choo-Choo

Before the summer ends, I thought I’d take you all on another virtual vacation trip with my parents.  After we had bought that bank-vault on wheels, we took it camping in a variety of places.  One summer, my Dad decided we would concentrate on the area near Bracebridge, Ontario.  Since that fateful summer so many years ago, Bracebridge has installed a theme park called Santa’s Village.  Nowhere near as large and all-encompassing as the all-Christmas, all-the-time town of Frankenmuth, MI., but it still draws its share of tourists.

We pulled into town and located the tourist camp.  The town is on the edge of the Canadian Shield, so there is lots of rock.  The camp itself nestled along the edge of a river at a big bend.  Projecting above the campgrounds was a vee-shaped, hundred foot high, stone outcropping.  After we got set up, my younger brother and I went for a walk.  About a block back, where we entered the camp, the rock sloped down so that you could drive about half-way up the steep grade, and climb to the precipice.

We walked up and stared down at our tiny trailer.  In today’s world, there would be steel railings, high mesh fences, air-bags at the bottom and so many warning signs, that you couldn’t see the magnificent view.  Back then there was common sense and self-reliance, and a hundred foot drop.  Having seen what was to be seen, we felt we should return to camp.  Most people just went back down the middle, but we wandered around one edge.  The front was so sheer that only a professional climber with pitons could ascend.  Around the side, where it was merely 90 feet high, the wall was only an 80 degree slope and had cracks and little ledges.  “Do ya want to climb down?”  And down we started.

We made it down safely, although we could have walked back around and got home sooner.  At the bottom was an eight foot pile of scree, which angled down to the edge of the road.  I stepped off onto it carefully, but my brother dropped the last couple of feet into it, and lost his footing.  He tumbled into me, and the two of us rolled right down onto the road, and nearly got run over.  The fact that it would have been ironic wouldn’t have made the hospital visit any better.

The next day we packed the trailer back up and headed further north.  I asked Dad where we were headed, but he just said, “You’ll see.”  We didn’t exactly get lost, but we didn’t get where Dad wanted to be, and had to turn around and go back, and then onto a different road.  Back before GPS and computer maps, I’m surprised that anyone ever got anywhere.  Without Sacajawea, Lewis and Clarke would still be in the parking lot at a Wal-Mart in Montreal.

We finally turned off the paved road, and headed into the bush.  After a couple of miles, the dirt road T-ed out.  Do we turn left or right?  Dad finally decided on right, and started to drive.  After a while I noticed that there were steel rails not too far off the road.  Dad finally admitted that he had heard from someone, that there was a miniature railway back here, which connected two lakes.  We drove for another mile or so and came to one of them.  The tracks went right out onto a concrete dock.

Apparently, by getting lost, we had come at this railroad from the wrong side, and should have turned left at the T-intersection.  If we had gone the other way, we would have reached a nice little campground and village.  On this end there were a few houses and a tiny general store.  Because we drove the extra miles, we had run out of daylight.  The sun was going down.  No time to drive back through the bush to the other end.  Dad talked to the store owners.  They were heading for bed, but told us we could park on the tiny lawn at the end of the building.

There was no room to open the trailer, so we decided to just sleep in the car.  Fortunately it was a station-wagon.  We hauled the stuff in the back out, and Mom, Dad, and my brother slept (?) in the back.  I jammed my feet under the steering wheel in the front.  We had no mosquito netting and it was way too hot and muggy to roll the windows up, so it was doze, slap, doze, slap all night.  I don’t want to say that the mosquitoes were big, but I saw two of them molesting a seagull.

We were out of the car at first light, and down to the lake with soap and wash cloths.  These little lakes sit in hollows of solid rock, and their average temperature is enough to make penguins order take-out.  The store finally opened at eight AM and we got some coffee and hot chocolate for breakfast.

The tiny train was sitting right across from us, so we went over to have a look.  Unless it got lost when Mom died, we have a photo of me, as a twelve-year-old, stretching up to lean on the walk-rail around the front of the steam engine.  Re-watch Back To The Future III to see Doc Brown, and how big the full-size model is.

Finally a couple of guys came from the nearby cabins and started the boiler on the train.  By ten o’clock it was ready to make its first run of the day.  A locomotive, a fuel tender, (I don’t remember if it burned coal or wood.) three flat-bed freight cars and a passenger car.  The two lakes were only four miles apart, but, to get from one to the other by water, was over fifty miles.  The little railway had been put in to haul lumber, small boats and other freight.

Off we went for a lovely ride through the woods.  When we got to the far end, there was a two-hour hiatus before going back, but at least there was more civilization to wander around and look at while we waited.  Finally, we huffed and puffed and chuffed our way back to the car.  We drove back to Bracebridge and stayed at the same camp for another day to recuperate.  Wrong turns and giant mosquitoes and all, it was an adventure I’m glad I didn’t miss.  I hope you’ve enjoyed rummaging through my fading memories.