Saturday, June 19, 2010


My brother-in-law and I have one of those quirky gift exchanges: There is a certain coffee mug we both admire -- a basic diner-style mug (I can’t recall who first owned it) -- so every Christmas one of us wraps it up and puts it under the tree for the other, in whose possession it remains until the next Christmas. We’ve been doing this for about twenty years; after the first five years we introduced a variation: We insert a gift, as long as it fits into the mug. That is, it can be thirty feet long or weigh a ton as long as some bit of it can fit into the mug. (Theoretically, my brother-in-law could give me a Porsche with the coffee mug dangling on the shift lever.) But I digress. Last Christmas my in-mug gift was a small, sleek, stainless steel, two-bladed Swiss Army pocket knife. I carry it all the time –- in my jeans’ pocket and in my clergy suit pants. I carry it all the time because I use it frequently, for all kinds of projects, expected and unexpected. I have to remind myself to take it out of my pocket before heading to the airport, and it’s like leaving a beloved puppy behind.

The knife is one of the things in my life that “works.” Many years ago, NPR had a brief series in which they invited listeners to send in an appreciation for something that worked in a satisfying way –- that delivered as promised (especially in a world where so many shoddy things are so frustratingly unsatisfying). It could be anything. I didn’t participate in that series, but today I would submit my little knife.

Or, I might send in a paean to my lawn mower. Twenty years ago I bought a bright orange Ariens lawn mower from a local dealer. When I see him, I sing the praises of my Ariens and I tell him that I’ve considered changing the oil, but I don’t want to jinx it. He responds with a sigh like the Maytag repairman.  I love my Ariens. It works. (I’ve heard that if I buy an Ariens today from a big-box store I will discover a diminished quality. I hope that’s not true.)

But my appreciation is not limited to the tool shed. I’m happy to report that my iPod Touch works. Superbly.  Not counting the books I’ve downloaded with my iPod Kindle app, I calculate that the ¼” depth of the Touch replaces at least eighteen inches of tomes and gadgets I would otherwise have to carry around: Dictionary, Bible, date book, memo pad, newspaper, laptop, CD player, etc. And in every application the Apple gods have delivered as promised. (I am intrigued by the question of what we lose when we gain such wonders – another issue for another time.) I’ve now read a number of books on iPod, and I agree with author Nicholson Baker who, in a review article in the New Yorker, didn’t like the Kindle very much but loved the iPod Kindle app. If you wrap the pod into a leather wallet or case, the feel in the hand even becomes quite book-like. It works.

Alas, if only I had a reader for this blog, I could ask for your submissions of what works for you. We could have a little exchange of ideas. Alas.


Joseph G. Crippen said...

Honda mowers. My own Swiss army knife. My iPod - just normal iPod. Wondering about iPads, for very reasons you mention.

Warren Hanson said...

The iPad works. Mostly. Being the first generation, it has some quirks, which I am confident will be cleaned up in the second, or certainly the third, iteration. I'm still happily using my first-edition iPod touch. Every Mac I've ever had (starting in 1985) has worked as promised. Or better. And my 2003 Honda CR-V has 135,000 miles on it but works as well as it did when it was new.

Anonymous said...

Oh,you mean there are more options to your IPod then just playing a mindless game of Solitaire?
I had no idea I was interrupting your latest reading of some mighty tome when I've asked you to hand it over for my game playing. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

My MacBook, my Leatherman multi-tool, and a pair of Adidas soccer shorts that I bought 13 years ago -- these things just work as they should or better.

Ron Rasmussen said...

I hate to be a trend follower, but here goes; My Leatherman mini tool (although my daughter cried when a nice TSA agent took it away, but that's another story), my Jeep Liberty, my iPad (which, by the way, Dick, I have loaded with all the music from my big band. Works like a dream.