My column’s been missing. Here’s what happened.
I’m no techie, but, in 1957, I was a nerdy kid who took up ham radio, planted antenna towers in my parent’s backyard and filled their basement with racks and cabinets of big vacuum tubes that hummed and glowed a bluish green when I sent Morse code with my “Bug” telegraph key.
It looked like Dr. Zarkov’s laboratory in a 1930’s Flash Gordon serial. I thought I was pretty smart and smugly made sure other kids, and my teachers, knew about it.
At age 13, I had an FCC license and could send and receive Morse at 40 words per minute. Let them play football, date girls and go to dances — I could talk to Moscow. This was B.C. — before computers, and integrated circuits — a time when technical writers still provided intelligible documentation and diagrams to help with trouble shooting when things blew up.
“Quoth the raven, nevermore.”
All this was on my mind a couple weeks ago when my computer quit. I tried to revive it, sought technical help but couldn’t understand the logic, much less the acronyms tossed about by the tech people I spoke to. For me, without documentation, it was a lost cause.
So, there I was; a depressed, old nerd sans portfolio. It was a comeuppance — pride goeth before the fall, that sort of thing. So, I bought a new computer, and Best Buy and Apple are the richer for it.
Today, I’m making progress thanks to patient people who are wiser than me on such matters. I have email and Microsoft Word up and going, and can read and do research with Google, and listen to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky on YouTube, but I’ve yet to download ten years of research and writing from my Carbonite backup — a frightening prospect. Most days I wish I could step into “Tralfamadore” and be in 1957 all over again.
I do have more time to read words printed on real paper. I love books and the smell of newsprint — even though I have problems folding newspapers. A week or so ago, I picked up the Nov. 13 Prior Lake American and read a piece by Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle titled “Growing Shade for a more livable region.” It was about trees and their importance for the environment, climate change, communities, future generations and Prior Lake’s “small town feel.”
I hope our city solons read it, because they will soon have to make some important decisions. Pleasant Street is losing its remaining boulevard trees next spring. The city is rebuilding Pleasant Street, and Colorado along with a stretch of Main south of Highway 21. Its ancient sewer and water infrastructure will be renewed, but, as things stand, its few trees won’t come back.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials publishes specifications, test protocols and guidelines for highway design and construction throughout the United States. AASHTO has been around since 1914 and is the maven of highway engineers and similar dispensers of asphalt and concrete. It’s “Green Book” (No pun intended) is the universal reference for road design in the United States.
ASHTO doesn’t like boulevard trees and discourages them in what it calls the clear zone — the space where a car and driver would go if they accidently ran off the road. ASHTO thinks trees are hazardous. They, also, crack curbs and sidewalks as they grow. Highway engineers and public works people discourage them.
Take a walk along St. Paul’s Summit Avenue under its magnificent trees on a hot, summer day. Enjoy its beautiful, old homes. Look closely and you may see a cracked sidewalk or a broken curb — then take a moment and imagine how barren the experience would be if the trees were gone.
Pleasant Street isn’t Summit Avenue, but it is the oldest neighborhood in Prior Lake. Its grand elms are long gone, lost to disease and the few trees that remain will be cut down in the spring to create clear sight lines; presumably so future, speeding drivers won’t smash their cars or damage themselves if they lose control and hit a tree. There won’t be any broken curbs or sidewalks, either, just an unobstructed stretch of asphalt and concrete — and with it a requiem for the neighborhood and its “small town feel.”
I’m with Charlie Zelle, plant more trees. But I also encourage city officials to read “Green Cities: Good Health—University of Washington.” Its researchers take a different view and have the statistics and expertise to prove it. Trees and streets can coexist and, even, prosper and complement each other. Put back the boulevard trees on Pleasant street.