Saturday, January 19, 2008

Small Wonder !

Sony is offering a nearly-free gift. For fifteen dollars, you can purchase a phenomenal AM and FM Walkman radio complete with headphones. Light as a feather, the SRF-59 is so sensitive that Internet groups have popped up just to discuss its use. Sony's radio has become the standard in a new category of 21st century portables known as ultralights. Hobbyists who relish exotic long-distance reception have heralded the SRF-59 as a technological miracle.

The unit houses a little printed circuit board with two integrated circuit chips. One is a self-contained complete AM / FM tuner and the second is the audio amplifier to drive the headphones. Due to its concise nature, its single AA battery lasts for over 100 hours. The SRF-59's performance is comparable to other radios costing hundreds of dollars. Sony's ultraweight Walkman has been compared favorably to legendary units such as the GE Superadio, The Sony ICF-2010 and the Sangean CC Radio. If you are looking for the ultimate receiver to hear distant ball games or talk shows, this is it.

Seasoned DXers, the skilled sophisticated listeners who often homebrew their own equipment, have devised several modifications for the radio itself along with ideas to augment its circuitry with powerful outdoor antennas. Even as a stock unit, right out of its plastic bubble packaging, SRF-59 owners have heard AM radio stations all the way across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans from places like Japan and Saudi Arabia. The SRF-59 truly has enormous ears.

After using Sony's miracle for several years, only a few criticisms can be made. The headphones are only average quality. Tuning the Walkman is a little fussy. The knob provided to adjust what station you are listening to is pretty tiny even for petite thumbs. With ferocious abuse, you can wear out the radio. After about a year of pounding during train commutes, and walking across Manhattan, I had to buy a new one because I wore out the tuning capacitor. The SRF-59 is worth the price of admission. I used to listen to WWKB in Buffalo, New York, on AM radio, while sitting in an electronic noise nightmare (a steel Metro-North commuter train) on my way to New York City. WWKB was 300 miles away!

Whenever you need a little casual entertainment, the SRF-59 can't be beat. Leave one in your purse or coat pocket or in your attache case. The SRF-59 is low maintenance. You don't need to download to it. It almost never needs a battery. You can hear amazing things nearly everywhere you go. It weighs so little, you'll have to feel into your pocket just to know it's there. For in-depth information, take a look at two radio hobbyist web sites: and As a dyed-in-the-wool radio listener, I couldn't recommend a purchase more highly! At this incredibly low price, you can't miss!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

It's a Miracle!

Are you miserable with plants? Any worthy horticulturist would categorize me as a 'black thumb.' Invariably, a plant will come into my life and, in a matter of weeks, it will be transformed into a flat brown mass sitting lifeless in its pot. I try to follow the basics: Water regularly, but only until moist (not wet.) Provide plenty of indirect filtered sunlight and warmth. Feed with Miracle-Gro every once in awhile. Without fail wilting follows. Leaves fall along with my hopes. Mastering the art of growing things has always defied me. Until now!

I bought a beautiful small house plant in a food store. Blooming with petite dainty white flowers, its little plastic identity stick claimed it to be a Fleurette. I later discovered its complete identity as a fleurette chrysanthemum. It's a hybrid of a domestic and wild Asiatic mum known for producing endless amounts of blooms in a four inch tall pot. Its full leaves were dressed thoroughly with white blooms . It was hard to resist.

After a week of serving as a centerpiece on our dining room table, it was moved away from the window view it enjoyed to a much darker peninsula. It did not appreciate the loss of light. Its blooms browned and collapsed. Leaves, once high in the air, fell to the soil. Noticing its plight, I immediately tried to pull it out of its dive into oblivion. I moved it to a sunny table by a window to keep a small new cactus company. With cautious watering, it began to recover. The blooms didn't recur, but the leaves perked up. It was a start.

Another move confirmed my flora illiteracy further. I watered the plant with an overly generous helping of plant food. The leaves browned and dried within a day or two. Trying for a retreat, I cleaned out the plant from its pot and replanted it in poison-free fresh potting soil. Another round had passed. The plant remained alive!

It became obvious I needed to learn a thing or two about pinching and pruning. Quickly I was left with three tall surviving stalks that grew rapidly but only vertically. They could not support the ever-increasing height and they began to dangerously droop. Taking a tact only worthy of a beginner, I tried tying a leftover wide piece of ribbon around them to gain needed strength. Only a week later, two of the three thin stalks had been strangled of moisture and died away. 'Black Thumb' strikes again, I feared.

I daintily trimmed the dead stalks away from the last living branch. Now it resembled a miniature Jack-and-the-Beanstalk tree. One morning I noticed a round bud at the very top of the stalk. Could it be a flower? It was! In a few days, to my delight, a single white flower appeared. A miracle indeed! Four flowers eventually bloomed, but the tentative juncture, where the original stalks once joined, could not sustain the weight. My family and I went out shopping. When we returned, the stalk (along with my hope) had fallen like a chopped tree.

"All that is left is cut flowers" I said in disgust. I clipped the fallen stalk and placed it in a tall cup of water. There it sat for a day of two. My conscience did a tug-of-war. Should I try to replant it? Could I revive it? I finally decided that it couldn't hurt to try. I cut the base of the stalk as I would cut a tree branch for grafting. My wife suggested dipping it in a rooting mixture she had. Prepared for the worst, I carefully planted the remainder of the plant in the soil. Day after day I watched it. The plant didn't fail. In fact, it thrived!

Now the stalk is broader and healthier and the entire plant stands lower to the ground. The leaves have become slightly dry, but the blooms proliferate. What an adventure! As the picture will attest, new flowers have now appeared and the plant continues to grow. I have taken a sacred vow to pinch as necessary and train the plant to be broad and not tall. Careful watering and sun will follow. Let's see what happens next and be sure to pray! With any luck, my gardening talents will grow along with my little plant.