Saturday, 10 March 2007

Hubble wrap

Yesterday, this arrived. "Whoohoo," quoth I. "A box! My favourite!" I opened it up, and inside I found six smaller boxes. "Not just a box," I said to myself, "but a cardboard fractal!" I opened up one of the smaller boxes, and lo and behold, it contained even smaller boxes! This was getting good. I saw a future in which I opened ever tinier boxes of boxes. I saw the infinite reduplication of boxes. I saw my life as a kind of boxy mise-en-abyme. Had I been reading too much French theory? Playing with too many Russian dolls? Not getting out enough?

Then I opened one of the other six boxes, and there, inside, was this (NB: I strongly advise you to follow that link back there; it takes you to one of the best sources of mindless procrastination the world wide web has to offer; no actual plastics will be harmed). Yes, bubblewrap, item number three in my list of top ten all-time favourite inorganic materials.

I sat in a sea of boxes, popping my way through acres of bubblewrap, wondering how to organise things so that this kind of cultural endeavour gets to count as paid professional activity. And then I saw it, beyond the cardboard, beneath the layers of bubblewrap, my very own personal one of these:


Okay, not a duplicate of the Hubble, exactly, but an optical telescope, complete with lots of little lenses and a tripod and a screwdriver.

It's sitting right now in the middle of my loungroom (and I'm about to go out, so if ever you wanted to nick a telescope, now's your chance). It looks mighty flash in my loungeroom, but the opportunities for astronomy and the like are fairly limited. My options, as I see 'em, are these:

  1. Keep telescope in loungeroom. Could be good way to make friends. "Hey, want to come round some time and see my telescope?" definitely a line to sort the sheep from the goats. (Whatever that means. I quite like goats.)
  2. Keep telescope in fifth floor office at work. Spy on persons up-to-no-good on the lawns. This may be illegal, or just anti-social, although, as Penny says, a bit of civic-minded voyeurism never went awry.
  3. Take telescope to parents' new alpine chalet for use on customised viewing deck. This, in keeping with a long tradition of exploiting parents' capacity to store stuff. May help parents to practise civic-minded voyeurism too. Probably not entirely in parents' interests.
Whatever, I'm feeling closer to Galileo than I ever have before. I'm also feeling closer to the neighbour's fence than I ever have before. Egad, every splinter writ large.

7 comments:

TimT said...

Ever read John Sladek's book 'The Replicating Machine'? It's about a robot that's programmed to make boxes that are programmed to make other boxes. Pretty soon the boxes start swallowing up whole towns in middle America.

Incidentally, when I visited my parents house at Christmas, I found my mother had a similar thing about bags - she used large portmanteaus to place smaller portmanteaus in to place even smaller portmanteaus in. "What is this, a bag fetish?" I scoffed scornfully.

alexis said...

Hey, don't bag bags, Tim. Some of us like them so much we turn them into musical instruments.

Sladek and I, yet to cross paths (although how I could have reached this advanced age intact without reading a book about a box-making robot, I can't imagine).

Anyway, welcome back south!

"Like the drink" and losing count said...

Cardboard fractals? Trust you to marry two concepts as unconnected with each other as Latin is with differential calculus.

Alas, the description of the sequence of events and actions left me somewhat confused. You opened the outermost box and found six smaller boxes, one of which you opened next… and then you "opened one of the other six boxes". Does that statement not carry the presupposition that there are six unopened boxes, at that point, that are on the same logical level in the hierarchy of boxes as the one you last opened? The inherent contradiction in the number of boxes leads the rational mind to go into a spin, and is apt to put the reader into a… trance…-like… state…

alexis said...

Well-observed, LTD. After I had opened the first of the six unopened boxes encountered upon opening the first big box, I then opened one of the unopened FIVE boxes remaining from the six that I had initially discovered, unopened, upon opening the first big box.

Lucky you were here to sort that out. Merci.

Karen said...

How could you do that to me? Now I've got the virtual bubble wrap bookmarked I'll never finish a thing!

I think you should keep the telescope in your living room. You can keep it in reserve as a conversation starter should there be any awkward pauses when you have guests around. And stars are nice, after all!

alexis said...

Um. Sorry. If it's any consolation, your mouse finger will develop RSI eventually and you'll be saved from eternal bubble-popping (although you could use your nose, I suppose).

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