what endures

Bearing Tree Marker

I got an iphone because my friend bricked it and then bought a new one for himself and then unbricked this one and then gave it to me. It’s not a phone but it works well as a wifi appliance. There is something about new technology that is immediately enervating to me. I like gadgets, but it’s like having a giant marble coaster made of sugar. Sure it’s fun to run marbles through it, but you just keep waiting for it to rain.

Anyhow, what’s really neat to me is the idea of bearing trees. I went to the Michigan Museum of Surveying — “the only museum in North America dedicated solely to the surveying and mapping profession” — when I was giving a talk in Lansing and enjoyed a really information-filled hour alone in the little museum. I had already known some about bearing trees, mostly through the idea of witness trees — a somewhat more informal way to think about semi-permanent boundary markers. The idea is once you’ve established your little plot of land in European pre-settlement times, you have to find a way to indicate where the boundaries of your property are, or where the town is. So, you put notches in the big trees and note the notches in a book. Surveyors have used them for centuries and there were examples at the museum, carved sticks in boxes really, of very old boundary markers. One example is the boundary tree at Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. Before it died in 1978 at 195, it was considered the “last living link” to Lincoln.

Sometimes when I go out walking in the woods I see big old-looking trees at the corners of fields and go peer at their bark to see if I can see any notches in them. I don’t really know what I’m looking for. I might enjoy myself less if I did since I can make up all sorts of fanciful stories about what I find. As fun and hackable and extensible and customizable as the iphone is, it really doesn’t do much for my imagination.

“It’s a good idea to walk your boundaries and check that you have posted signs at least the corner markers. If you are new to owning land, you have to think about land differently than you do in the city. I know in the city a few inches difference in a boundary is a big deal and grounds for a law suit, but not in the county. The general rule of thumb is that preexisting boundary markers like fence lines, old posted signs, old large boundary trees are accepted boundaries by usage. So save your money on getting a professional surveyor. If the boundaries of your land are clearly marked and there is no dispute, then leave it at that. Put up your posted signs along the current boundary at the currently accepted spacing in your area (not on every tree!!!!). Your neighbors know the boundaries. It is more important to get along with your neighbors than to get an “accurate” survey and squabble about a few feet.”

odd little iphone day

I did not get an iPhone. I’ve been a cell phone user for about two months now, I don’t need a cell phone that costs more than I make in a month at one of my jobs. Oh, and they don’t have service in Vermont. I’m sure you can use them here, but I wouldn’t be able to get an 802 number. However, I was definitely iPhone curious so when my friend Casey said he was going down to the Rockingham Mall to wait in line, I said I’d swing by and say hello and see what was happening. It was a good time. I took a few pictures. I made a little video. I watched my Flickr photostream fill up with pictures of people with their new phones.

Once Casey got his phone registered we messed around with it a bunch. The interface is impressive. It’s not Mac-like at all, and to me it felt sort of intuitive, but I’ve been around computers a lot. It does some pretty basic things fairly well: phone calls, photos, video-watching, music playing (great speakers actually) and has some really killer mapping tools. The on-screen keyboard is a little tough for people with big hands and as near as I can tell there’s no other way to interact with it. It took forever to sync up the first time. And, of course, it’s $600 or so. The line-waiting experience was so weird, so staged, so hypey but the people were really nice and chummy. I like geeks. I even met a guy who had been linked on MetaFilter which was a fun story.

The last time I can remember waiting in a really long line for anything that wasn’t food in Eastern Europe, a roller coaster ride, or airport security, I think I was buying Violent Femmes concert tickets in high school. We camped out overnight in Boston and got fourth row seats. This was before Ticketmaster was a huge Internet business so if you waited in the big line at the box office you’d wind up with something good. There were maybe 100 people in line at the Apple Store when I stopped counting and I think the bulk of them wound up with phones. While Casey was making his purchase I noticed that the store model phones were active so I stood around making iPhone calls while he finalized his purchase.

At some point in the whole crazy mall experience — when do I ever go to malls anymore? never — I misplaced my wallet which I realized the next day right before I headed home. After a few phone calls it turns out that the mall security people had it and all my crap was still in it. I had spent a lot of the drive back making a mental list of what was in my wallet [credit cards and library cards mostly] and getting to not spend the rest of my saturday reporting all my stuff missing or stolen turned out to be the high point of what was still otherwise a very entertaining start to my weekend.

note: for those of you who were wonderng why you couldn’t comment all of the sudden (this past month) without being part of my “team” it was just a momentary blip. I suddenly got a ton of comment spam while I was on the road, turned comments off until I could deal with it and then… forgot. Feel free to comment away. Thanks to Kate for pointing this out.