The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 23, 2009


Shovels at the ready?

One of the buzzwords surrounding President Obama’s economic stimulus package is “shovel-ready.” Initially defined in the media as a project ready to “put shovels in the ground” within six months of bill signing, new versions of the legislation proposed by Congressional Democrats last week define the period as three to four months from the time President Obama signs the bill into law. To qualify for funding, the project must also have been designed and permitted as part of the “shovel-ready” rule.

The overriding goal of the stimulus package is to generate job growth as quickly as possible by pumping billions of dollars into infrastructure, schools, and energy-related projects nationwide. The funding would be distributed by the states, and every hamlet and metropolis in Massachusetts rushed to answer Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray’s request for lists of eligible projects by January 8.

Carlisle is vying with municipalities throughout the state. According to page 1 of the January 9 Mosquito, the town’s wish list includes repairs to the Spalding Building, repair and restoration of the Gleason Library’s façade and the building of a water-storage cistern at the Fire Station. Repairs to the Highland Building to prevent its further deterioration were not on the list, nor was the Greenough Dam repair.

It is hard to imagine that any of these initiatives, while surely worthy, would stimulate much local job growth; presumably local-area contractors would be employed on these relatively short-term projects. (Once begun, the projects must be completed within two years.) Ferns would benefit from feeding more hungry workers in town, generating a brief spurt in our local economy.

This is not to predict that Carlisle will not receive some of this government largesse. Lieutenant-Governor Murray’s state-wide task force has cast its net wide and far in assembling lists of eligible projects.

The stimulus bill will undergo many changes and amendments before it becomes law. Since hope is the byword of the new administration, let us remain hopeful that Carlisle will be successful in completing some of these projects with government (i.e., taxpayers’) money, which would offer tax relief to much-burdened residents.

Do it yourself

My ancient HP Laserjet IIP printer stopped working a few years back. The LED display read “Error Code 12.” I didn’t know what that meant, but instinctively knew it wasn’t a good thing. I connected another printer and set the IIP aside, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to throw the printer away.

It is a phenomenon of the modern age that very few things are worth fixing – certainly, at least, in the category of computer technology. Most products are assembled by computer controlled robotics, untouched by human hands. Configuration settings are too complex, and microcircuitry too delicate, to be amenable to “do it yourself” repairs.

By contrast, I remember my first car – a 1970 Ford LTD. It had a 390 V8 engine, housed in a compartment the size of a contemporary Boston studio apartment. There was plenty of clearance to reach the various parts that needed occasional adjustment. I carried a crescent wrench, a screwdriver and a hammer, on the theory that I could perform most minor repairs by deploying that basic toolset, more or less in that order – if the wrench didn’t work I’d apply leverage with the screwdriver; if that didn’t work I’d whack something with the hammer.

Despite the increasing complexity of my newer devices, I remain an unreformed tinkerer, often with unfortunate results. For example, a couple of years ago I converted an iPod into an elegant paperweight during a failed attempt to change its internal battery.

The Laserjet IIP constituted an interesting case. It comes from an era midway through the evolution from the simple past of my old Ford to the microcomplexity of my new iPod. And the wealth of information available on the Internet tempted me – surely someone could tell me what to do about “Error Code 12.” So I punched the code into Google, and – sure enough – found several discussions about the problem.

The oddest suggestion came from someone who had discovered (who knows how) that the printer could be restored temporarily by blowing a hairdryer into the printer housing for 15 minutes or so. I tried it out of curiosity, and it worked! But it was hardly a sustainable solution. Someone else advised that the problem was a faulty “density control board,” and furnished a link to a replacement available for about $40.

Finally, I found that the core of the problem was a faulty capacitor. I purchased a replacement at Radio Shack for $1.25, and emailed my neighbor Carl for assistance in removing the old and soldering the new. Carl, you see, is a real engineer.

We arranged a date, and our wives wisely suggested dinner as prelude to the event. Under Carl’s steady hands, the replacement operation went smoothly and successfully. We powered up the printer, it went through its warm up sequence, and – voila! – said that it was ready for use! We couldn’t wait to print a test page.

Alas, we had no such luck. When we attempted to print, the machine started to whir, but stopped. The LED screen now read “Error Code 52.” A quick Google search revealed that the new problem is a faulty scanner motor (with a replacement available for about $50). A search of a different sort uncovered a new color laser printer-scanner-fax available for about $200. I surrendered.

But the attempt at least brought us together with Carl and Joan, whom we hadn’t seen in far too long.

Can I interest anyone in a gently used Laserjet IIP, in need of minor repairs?



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