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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

We’re Here ’til Wednesday. Try The Veal

[Editor’s Note: Sure, we take requests. Ruth Anne, The Maternal Optimist, is calling out for an encore, or perhaps a do-over of a venerable essay that caught her fancy. We live to serve, Madam. We feel we must comply, because if you know the lovely Ruth Anne, you know she’ll remember it forever and make cutting puns about it in perpetuity if we don’t.]

{Author’s Note: There is no editor, but I suspect Ruth Anne might be real.}

OK yesterday we defamed the elderly. It don’t matter; they’ve barely learned to use the telephone, and I doubt any of them are ever going to be reading teh intarnets, no matter how big they make teh intarnet pipes. So let’s get back to where we started: If you’re not a stick-in-the-mud, technology can improve your life immensely.

As I am the foremost authority on myself, I can assure you in my case that’s absolutely true. That might seem odd at first blush.

I make reproduction antique furniture. Talk about a stick in the mud. Well, go to IKEA if you want to buy Jetsons furniture made out of wooden shredded wheat and formaldehyde glue, swathed in woodgrained wrapping paper. I’m not interested. And I’m not interested because “modern” furniture is an old idea. It’s just as dated as any Shaker table is. It’s the method of making it and selling it that’s new, and I put IKEA in the shade on that score.
So I’m a thoroughly modern mill- man, trust me. So what exactly makes my day so modern, in the true sense of the word, and how is it different than it was just twenty-five years ago? I’m glad you asked:

1. I can get really good coffee anywhere, including in my house.
This is totally overlooked. Good coffee was really hard to find 25 years ago. Home brewed was boiled, generally -a terrible way to make coffee. And your average diner had coffee from the tenth century in that pot. I’ve got a German coffemaker that cost $16.99 and makes sublime java, or I can drive four miles in any direction and get really good joe. I do.
2. I can live where I want.
Everybody told me I was crazy to move where I live now. They said I was too far away from everything. My house has appreciated 539% since I built it 13 years ago. Yeah, I’m a dope. You don’t have to live in a crummy apartment next to your job in a big factory chugging smoke if you don’t want to anymore.
3. My house is comfortable
Hot water always comes out of the shower head. It ‘s warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s dry in the basement.The furniture’s not bad in here either. I ride when I mow the lawn. My children have their own rooms. These were magical dreams when I was a kid.
4. I’m alive.
I’ve been brought back from near dead a couple of times. Twenty five years ago, they would have given me aspirin and last rites.
5. I don’t have to drive anywhere.
Look, I’m sympathetic if you’re a road warrior. I’ve been there myself. But I never drive anywhere now. It’s possible now. Even bank robbers can stay home and steal on the internet.
6. I make money at home by writing.
This one kills me. I tap out some text, which is visible in a little window on a screen, and occasionally get an attaboy or WTF from an editor that I have never met, and money is deposited directly into my bank account. This is the equivalent of alchemy circa 1975.
7. People find me even though I simply exist.
I invented guerilla marketing. I was the king of “copier art” word of mouth, free publicity, you name it. Now I simply exist on the internet, and people looking for what I have to sell find me and buy things. I think I’ve spent about $125.00 on advertising in the last three years. The internet is making willing buyer/willing seller come true in spades.
8. I have really good equipment from all over the world.
I’ve bought really good equipment and materials from all over the world and had it delivered to me here and never met the people I bought it from. I remember how hard it was just to get a 1×12 piece of pine after four in the afternoon on a weekday, and forget weekends. Now I can buy a 600 pound cast iron table saw made in Taiwan and sold through a company in Washington state, 2500 miles from me, at 2 AM on Sunday and have it delivered in less a week. I know this is the case, because I did exactly that. And Home Depot is open on Christmas.
9. I have access to really good information
Of all kinds too. Maps, directions, weather, pricing, comparative shopping, the internet is an astounding treasure trove of information.
10.You’re reading this, ain’t you?
I really can’t say enough about this mode of expression. They didn’t even teach men to type when I went to high school.
11.My packages get where they’re going.
I was a shipping clerk for a little while 25 years ago. Shipping used to be as reliable as lottery scratch tickets. Now everything gets there right away, and you can track it all the way there.
12.I know how much things cost.
How does a saleman get paid? It used to be that salesman got money by knowing what a customer didn’t, and taking advantage of that situation. Good luck trying that now, with this screen and Firefox in front of me. A saleman is in customer service now, or he’s fired. Unless you’re a car salesman. Then you’re still evil.
13.I can be contacted at all times.
When I entered the construction trades, the idea of a phone on the job was science fiction. We all met before the sun came up in a dingy construction office and tried to predict everything that would happen all day to everybody and fix it before it happened. Yeah, that’ll work. My life has been immeasurably ennobled by the cellular phone and e-mail. I f your job is miserable because of those two marvels you’ve got a bad job. Quit now.
14.I can make financial transactions on the web.
I go to banks to sign mortgages. I go to the Post Office…Never mind, I never go to the Post Office.
15.I have access to money easily.
People in the real world think easy credit is a snare to catch you. I’ve built empires on unsecured loans. All you have to do is always pay them back. People like me used to be trapped in laboring, or preyed upon by loan sharks, because regular banks wouldn’t touch us. Now they beg me to borrow money. I don’t need any today, because I could get my hands on it when opportunity knocked.
16.I have digital photography

It’s hard to exaggerate its usefulness. I sent a picture of the exact item purchased to a customer, with a picture of it inside its crate with one side open, to show a customer what’s inside and how to unpack it. He purchased it because he saw a digital photo of the last one.
17.I have a big truck.
I never go anywhere, but when I do, I can carry an enormous amount of stuff, safely and comfortably. The very idea of air-conditioning in a work truck boggles my mind still. Is that an FM radio?!!
18.I am not isolated from society.
I reiterate: you’re reading this, ain’t you? I have friends I’ve never met, all over the world. A note in a bottle, or waiting for my Nobel Prize ceremony was my only hope of meeting such persons before.
19.I can fly.
When I was a young teenager, my father took me to Boston’s Logan airport, who was running a sort of tour where the children of the great unwashed (that’s me) could get a chance to ride on an airplane. We took off, circled Boston twice, and landed. I thought at the time that was going to be my only chance to fly in my life. Thirty years later I was flying twice a week to a remote office for my last regular job. I used to get home in time for goodnight stories for my kids. My father worked in Boston when I was a kid, commuting only 35 miles from our house, and I almost never saw him at the dinner table.
20.This box makes me smarter than I am.
That’s not that difficult, but the computer and the internet is the greatest cheat sheet in the history of mankind.

There you have it. It’s always “the future” right now, and it’s so bright… well, I told that joke already. I must be getting old, I’m repeating myself.

9 Responses

  1. Finally made it to an IKEA. I was on holiday in Dallas. Yes, Dallas. Scandinavians have a certain eye for things that left me squinting. I came away with the notion that, aside from the hand crafting vs. made-by-assembly-line-in-the-dark-of-the-northern-winter and the mindset that a furniture box shouldn’t fit under the seat in the van, the most critical difference between this place and your shop was all the attractive women in the aisles.

    Of course, for half of this theory, I’m working on pure assumption.

  2. But, but, but … America is an awful, eeeevil place, full of slack-jawed troglodytes. Our lives are getting worse all the time! Average people can’t get ahead! You’re either lying or you cheated someone to get where you are! I heard it on YouTube, so it must be true!

  3. You’re awesome.

    That’s true, but it’s a curse, really.

    Hey Steve- I’ve seen all the attractive women currently in my shop naked.

    Pastor J- You humorously say “slack-jawed troglodytes” like that’s a bad thing. I suppose we could live in a sophisticated country with four hundred kinds of cheese but only one political party. I’ll pass.

  4. As good a summary as I’ve read as to how good we have it today…somebody should tell the politicians as apparently we are all in dire need of saving…me… I’m a happy chappy too.

  5. Hi Tully- Yes, and I threw my back out lugging the hogshead of pixels up the stairs to write this list, so I’m done.

  6. I agree. The future rules, and these are all the good reason why. I take advantage of the future’s awesomeness on a daily basis, just never was able to put into words why it was so great until now.

  7. I’ve been saying this stuff for years. It sucks to live today for some reasons, except for the fact that we’re livin’ in the future, man.

    Cell phones have changed the entire planet in the last decade. In my profession (police), we’ve seen it change the way we receive and answer calls, and the way that we respond to them when we get there.

    Computers– especially laptops– have changed the world. Hell, I’m at home, and I’m not even using my desktop. Why should I? the little notebook does it as well, and I can pack it with. In my patrol car, I can bring up a suspect’s mug shot, criminal history, and what he paid for his house, without even invoking privelidges given by the badge– I’m doing that on the public side, through Internet Explorer.

    My tired old Honda that’s 11 years old and has almost 200k miles on it still gets 32 mpg, when I drive it like a bat out of hell.

    Telephone service is cheaper than it’s ever been in the history of ever. I can talk all day long to my friends in other states on the reasonable flat fee that I pay once a month.

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