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The Observer, Sept. 4 

The Observer has always loved our gadgets, but we've never quite had the courage to dive headlong into the shiny, complicated innards of modern digital goodies — all those plugs and wires and circuit boards. We took the first, trembling step toward electronic independence over the weekend, however, thanks to The Observer's brother, D.

Even when D was but a youngster, he was something of a geek — mechanically brilliant, always taking things apart to see how they worked. If there was a cover charge to get into Radio Shack, D would have the laminated lifetime Playas Club all-access membership card with the gold seal. As an adult, that proclivity for tearing up perfectly good stuff led him to become the family's computer nerd. These days, he gets paid a fairly significant amount of money to spend all day in front of a monitor, moving virtual goo-gaws back and forth and round and round. Don't ask us to explain it.

A few weeks back, D finally talked his computationally illiterate older brother into going to Radio Shack. Once there — even though we usually avoid things that can leave permanent scarring and burn down our house, D talked us into buying a soldering iron.

It looks an electric fountain pen. On one end is a wall plug, and on the other is an iron tip that reaches somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 degrees, or at least you'll think that the first time you accidentally stick it to your finger. This past weekend, D came up to La Casa Observador and gave us our first lesson in the magic of soldering. The patient: an LED flashlight that hasn't worked in over a year.

We'll spare you the technical details, but it turned out to be a wire that had broken loose. Under D's instruction, we pressed the end of the wire down on an impossibly tiny spot, then held the iron and a twist of solder to it. With a minute curl of smoke, it was done. D pulled on the tiny wire to check The Observer's first, quicksilver blob of solder, and then pronounced it good. Best of all, when the light was put back together, the damn thing worked again.

While The Observer is not quite ready to fill out the paperwork for our Star Trek Fan Club membership, there is a supreme sense of satisfaction in knowing that if something breaks, we might be able to crack it open and do something about it instead of pitching it in the dumpster. In the old days, the law of the frontier said that all a man needed was a sharp knife, a good rifle, and an axe. On the digital frontier, however, self-reliance apparently means being quick on the draw with a soldering gun.

 

The Observer was hailed by a fellow on a bike the other day who was managing to carry a bouquet. He offered us one of the flowers. The Observer, our self-esteem being what it is, was flattered, but we encouraged the gent to give the whole bouquet to some young thing.

Then he passed by and we thought. That was crepe myrtle he was offering. He had picked someone's crepe myrtle and was giving it away, though it wasn't his to give, wasn't he?

On our return trip to the office, we bumped into the man with the flowers again. He again offered a flower and said he couldn't get anyone to take one. Then he thrust one our way and said he only wanted a small donation. For the homeless, see.

In 15 minutes, we'd gone from thinking we still had something going to realizing we'd been offered swiped flowers to finally understanding that it wasn't our beauty but our booty the guy wanted. We're a slow study.

Since then, it occurred to us how long it had been since we heard a wolf whistle. Of course, our first idea was that they'd gone out of style. Then, we came around. It's The Observer that's gone out of style. Like we said: slow study.

 

Once again, a co-worker of The Observer's has been hit trying to cross a city street. So once again, a rant about crosswalks in our town.

The city does nothing to alert, inform, warn or otherwise slow down people who are plowing into pedestrians trying to cross the street when the little walking man light tells them it's safe. It's hard to find someone who hasn't had to leap up, jump back or throw themselves forward to avoid entering that other crosswalk, the one into eternity.

So if you're reading this and are planning to ever make any kind of a turn at an intersection at some point in your life, and you thought cars had the right-of-way, put the brakes on that idea now.

 

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