Two posts about trees

Post the first: I just ordered the 20 foot Christmas tree that we install in the Chapel + Cultural Center for the holiday season. We ordered one last year, too, my first Christmas here, and I was thinking (at the time), no big deal: I’ve purchased and installed an eight foot tree in my house before, all by my lonesome, so I wasn’t really all that concerned about getting the 20 footer up. It should only weigh about two and a half times as much as an eight footer, right??

Wrong. I was absolutely stunned by what it took to get that thing into the building and upright. I had four other guys helping me, two of them with ropes tied to pulleys up in the light rigging, two pushing up on the trunk of the tree, one holding the base to keep it from sliding . . . and it just about killed us to get it upright and balanced. I thought the battle was over when it was vertical . . . but it had really just begun, since when it started swaying at the top, it became pretty well unmanageable at the bottom.

When it was all up and steadied and wired to the wall, I dusted off my trig and geometry skills to get a sense of how wrong I had been with my “two and half times as heavy as an eight foot tree” assumption. The punchline? I was very wrong.

An eight foot tall tree whose top point is a 30 degree angle (when looking at the tree as a flat triangle from front view) would have a base diameter of about 4.4 feet.

A 20 foot tree with the same proportions would have a base diameter of about 10.8 feet.

The volume of a cone is 1/3*pi*r^2*h.

The volume of the little tree is therefore about 40.2 ft^3.

And the volume of the big tree is therefore about 611.5 ft^3.

Assuming the trees are of equal density, the big tree would weigh about 15.2 times as much as the little tree, accordingly. So if that eight footer that you put in your living room weighs 50 pounds, the monster we installed weighed about 760 pounds.

I will have more people to help this year. I see myself taking a supervisory role: “pull! pull! pull!”

Post the Second: In our back yard, we have a line of arborvitae trees (tall, skinny evergreens) that run shoulder to shoulder along the back fence. On the other side of the fence is a soccer field for an elementary school . . . with about a six foot barrier of brush and bracken that has grown up over the 20 years or so that the house has been there. Very impenatable, good for privacy.

Among the weeds that have sprouted on the other side of the arborvitae are several “weed trees,” things that have grown unmolested since whenever their seeds blew in from the woods at the other side of the field. A couple of them are quite nice, tall and healthy and providing good shade for parts of the yard (although one of them has its main branch growing through the chain link fence, so something’s gonna probably have to give their eventually).

And then there’s the monster tree.

It’s tall, too, and healthy . . . but its main trunk splits extremely close to the ground, with two main boles climbing to about three times the height of the arborvitae (I’m guessing 45 feet). It’s the tree that we look at when we look out our bedroom window, and in the evening, when the sun is setting to the west behind the tree line, it looks like a monster standing behind the arborvitae, reaching its arms above its head, menacing the house.

It’s got personality, it does. If anyone wants to make a movie about a haunted tree, you can use mine.

Unrelated post about bad cover songs:

Someone once said that you know you’re getting old when you hear your favorite songs in an elevator, but I think that these days, a better indicator of age is hearing your favorite songs on the radio again, but it terrible, watered-down cover versions.

I ranted about the terrible, terrible Limp Bizkit desecration of “Behind Blue Eyes” last week, and I had the (dis)pleasure of hearing No Doubt’s version of Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life” yesterday, making me shake my head again at the pointlessness of the cover. To be fair, No Doubt certainly give it a better, more quality try than Limp Bizkit do . . . but, still, it ain’t nothing like the original, quality and emotion wise.

While “It’s My Life” is the one song most people know by Talk Talk (if they know any of them), they were a stunningly good group, very powerful, in a quiet, unobtrusive sort of way. Their album Spirit of Eden is one of my all-time faves, a gorgeous, slow, ruminative album that builds in amazing ways, six long songs (the shortest is about six minutes long) that are as lush and atmospheric as any you’re likely to hear anwhere else.

So buy Talk Talk’s back catalog, not No Doubt’s flavor of the day disc.

Another unrelated Jethro Tull post, despite previous promises to not have any more of them:

My two disc “Best of Jethro Tull” compilation was great, but I felt like I missed too much stuff, so I made a third volume:

1. “My Sunday Feeling”

2. “Beggar’s Farm”

3. “Move on Alone”

4. “Son”

5. “Hymn 43”

6. “Locomotive Breath”

7. “Cheap Day Return”

8. “Won’dring Again”

9. “Tiger Toon”

10. “No Rehearsal”

11. “WarChild”

12. “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day”

13. “Cold Wind to Valhalla”

14. “One White Duck/0^10 = Nothing At All”

15. “Salamander”

16. “Taxi Grab”

17. “Ring Out, Solstice Bells”

18. “Acres Wild”

19. “Crew Nights”

20. “Clasp”

21. “Roll Yer Own”

I still couldn’t bring myself to include the obvious “hits” (“Living in the Past,” “Teacher,” “Bungle in the Jungle,” “Steel Monkey,” “Kissing Willie”), since I guess radio familiarity has indeed bred contempt for those tracks. Not so for “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath.” They’re just too damned integral and essential to leave off.

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