Tuesday, November 29, 2016

That Time of Year

Has it really been 3 weeks since I last posted?  Shame on me.   All I can say for myself is that it is "that time of year".

You know the time of which I speak.  In theory it seems that everything should be slowing down a bit as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter.  Of course, that is not reality.  The reality is that while the days may, indeed, be getting shorter as in "less daylight" but the demands on our time seem to remain ever vigilant.   PLUS...holiday preparation rears it's demanding little head, nagging us to be strategically planning for Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanuka/Kwanzaa and/or whatever holidays you have going for you.

Currently I am sporting a bit of a cynical attitude.  ( I know...shocking isn't it?) I am feeling a bit saddened that Thanksgiving got over shadowed by Christmas decorations and the anticipation of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  While this has been going on for several years, it appeared to me that Black Friday is now usurping the whole meaning of Thanksgiving and hogging the month with weeks and weeks of  PRE-Black Friday deals and steals.

With all that being said, I am clearly in the minority here with my negativity on the subject.  A early analysis of the numbers tells us that 154 million people were out shopping over the weekend.  The fact that since all the pre-black Friday advertising began (supposedly) people have spent around 36 Billion (yea...billion with a B) dollars.   

I have to think that perhaps I am not alone in my inner conflicts.  It seems to me that the whole country talks about the season of love and thankfulness in the same breath as they are spending hours scrutinizing the Internet and paper ads looking for the big bargains that they are hoping to get on more STUFF.

Not to be a total party-pooper, I typically find my holiday spirit in holiday baking, Christmas music, and all the pretty holiday decorations. OH and I do love a lot of the Hallmark Christmas movies.  Sure you can say they are sappy, but I think they are sweet.  I am prepared to immerse myself into holiday movies to remind me that everything about the holidays is about love and joy and has the added bonus of a happy ending.  Not reality you say???

Reality is a thing of the past according to the rise of virtual reality head gear.  I was reading an article about the newest techy devices on the market to stream VR programming.  Let me be the first to say that I would totally embrace a virtual world where children are awestruck by the lights and sounds of the holidays.  I suspect though that just as with many other things, young children are so inundated with the commercialism of Christmas that they no longer even notice how special the decorations are let alone the meaning of it all. The added component of decorations coming out in August (or is it now July?) doesn't help foster awe.

I know this picture is grainy as it is 60 plus years old but this is a picture taken in Kankakee, Illinois.  It was, in fact, taken nearly a year prior to my birth but Schuyler Avenue remained pretty much the same through my childhood.   I LOVED going Christmas shopping and seeing all the Christmas lights.  Sadly, the wreaths that were put on every light pole are not terribly pretty in a black and white photo but to my little child eyes they were magical. It was looking not so differently 17 years later when I got my engagement ring at Edward's Jewelry...also at Christmas time. 

Anyway as I was saying...where is the magic?  If we  now require head gear to live in alternate, virtual reality shouldn't THAT be magical and wonderful???

In the same paper that was talking about the choices we now have for virtual reality head gear there was a separate article about  a virtual reality program that allows you to actually feel what it is like to die in a traffic accident.  Yeah, how much fun is that?  I can hardly wait to ask Santa for some of that escapism....well that is if I can't find it online in a POST Black Friday give away. 

The placement of Black Friday being the day after Thanksgiving seems questionable.

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and have plenty to be grateful for. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Don't Scratch That Itch

I was reading the USA Today and it said that 52 percent of the US population is experiencing stress related to the election. Really?  Only 52 percent?  I would of guessed more but then they didn't ask me my opinion.  Will anyone other than me, be glad when the election is over?

Although...if I weren't being irritated by the landslide of political ads, articles and junk mail telling me why or why not I should vote for or against someone or something, I don't know what I would fill my time with.  I am currently playing on a pretty flat field of "boring".  Autumn lull, I guess.  I am sure that this post will reflect on just how little is going on in my life right now. Yes,  I defy anyone to ask me what I am  currently doing  for fun and expect an answer anytime soon.  If being dull was classified a sport, I am good for the gold.

Autumn around here usually has me working out in the garden getting things pruned, mulched and prepared for the cold weather. The first "freeze"  usually arrives around late October.  This year, however, the cold isn't anywhere to be seen or felt, as the case may be.  Despite the fact,  it has been feeling a lot more like summer than fall,  the leaves are doing what leaves do this time of year. They are falling by the bushel into never ending piles that regenerate as quickly as I rake them up.   In years past, I might say that I enjoy tending to my gardens in the Fall and find a measure of serenity in tidying things up for the winter but this year there is a rub. Actually, it's an itch.   A beyond human endurance kind of itch thanks to an infestation of a nasty pests that go by the name oak leaf mites.  Often they are called itch mites for obvious reasons.

Over the years, I have come to a certain understanding that Kansas is intent on driving gardeners mad in a number of ways.  There are four seasons that are respectively: tornado, flood, drought and blizzard that make growing things a bid tricky here but on top of that, we have a climate where cool weather grasses can't take the summers and the warm weather grasses can't stand the winters.  Are you starting to see a bit of a problem with gardening here yet?

Well...there's more.  Just when good gardeners have done all they can to to add cubic yards of compost to the clay so they might be able to break ground without the aid of a jackhammer and backhoe, and have planted the short list of plants that can survive,  we now are the recipients of an unexpected (and dare I say?...unwelcome) guest....the aforementioned oak leaf mite.

Daily...and I do mean daily..there are articles in the local papers talking about the infestation of these microscopic pests that float through the air and land on people without their knowledge.  Four or more hours later the person (or landing strip  if you prefer), will find a lot of  blistery welts that itch like a mosquito bite times a billion.  Yeah, like that.

According to the articles we should cover up our arms and legs, limit our time outdoors, use DEET products liberally  and shower immediately after coming indoors.  As much fun as all that sounds, none of it is working all that spectacularly.  Of course, it's hard to say if the numerous bites that made their way onto our spot-riddled, itchy hides are just from mites or is it a combo pack of chigger bites, mosquito bites and the oak tree mites.  They all seem to have had a banner year here.

SOOO..with all that being said, these pests are sucking the joy (and body fluids) out of gardening. The up-tick is that the first hard freeze is supposedly going to take care of them.  Should I be happy about their impending demise?  Maybe that makes me heartless.  It most assuredly makes me less itchy though. 

Hope you all are itch free and having fun.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Conversation, May You Rest In Peace

There seems to be an abundance of talking, texting, and tweeting going on as of late but I can't help but notice how little conversation there is.  Frankly, I find it troubling.

As a little girl I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents who resided in the South. It was an era when the men would gather at the "filling" station to sit on the bench, drink their Yoohoos and Dr. Peppers and visit...at length.  Their conversations were usually pleasant with a lot of head nodding but even when they disagreed, it all seemed friendly enough.  Their chats consisted of stories of the past as well as all the current local news. These men stayed friends for life. Maybe all that sharing bonded them in some way. Those that were still living shuffled their way into his funeral.

The act of getting together to visit wasn't solely a male activity back then.  This was true for the women as well.  Women in that area met for "quilting bees" which was done around a big wooden frame while women hand stitched quilt blocks onto fabric but as they worked they were catching up on all the local stories.  I learned a lot about life listening to the chatter.

 For example: At one point when I was eavesdropping the conversation was about a lady named Sally that lived down the road. Sally had started a little side business "visiting" with men during the day when her husband was working out in the fields. From the tone of the conversation, I gathered that the women weren't enthusiastically supporting Sally's entrepreneurial exploits.  I later asked my grandma why men would want to visit with Miss Sally as she was really scary looking and was minus a lot of her teeth.  My grandma assured me that the men weren't paying to look at her face. 

Anyway....I come from a long line of people that enjoy just sitting around talking. That would be  the long-winded, storytelling, killing time, kind of talking.  I am saddened that it is disappearing. 

Every now and then I see glimpses of this style of conversation but it's becoming rarer.  Usually, I find that conversation, even when spoken out loud as opposed to communicating via devices, it tends to be more likened to a volleying of quips.  Not so much expounding on facts or ideas as much as pitching short thoughts at someone while they try to punt their ideas back at you, often while you are still talking.

If you ever have watched the television program,  The View, you know what I mean.  OR if you watched any of the current political debates, you can see what I am talking about.  Basically, it's an auditory assault more than a two way conversation.

Last week was a busy week for me as I had to spend some extra time preparing for the computer class I teach to "senior" seniors.  We are currently working on how to use our smartphones and tablets.  Part of the struggle of teaching 80 and 90 year olds about this type of technology is trying to explain "why" at their age any of this technology is even worth the effort to learn.

The reason they want to learn it is to stay connected to their families.  One gentleman in the class was saying about the time he had developed a great way to communicate with his grandson through emails, his grandson had moved onto texting.  The boy now has stated he would prefer chat via text messaging.  So  Chuck (name changed as he may not want me talking about him) bought an iPhone and now  is eager to learn the ins and outs of texting.

My heart breaks. I suggested he trade in his grandson but he seems very attached to the one he has and is willing to become a proficient texter.  I asked him the age of this particular grandson and he replied the child is now 18.  I hope against hope that this child will grow into a man and sit down with his grandfather to talk.  I, of course want for them to have  REAL lengthy conversations that grandson can reflect on when he is in his 80s.  Is that too much to ask?

Frankly, I am tired of the art of talking being reduced to status updates.   I am prepared to blame both Facebook and Twitter for  their part in turning the tide on the old relaxed give-and-take style of talking to this "one sided" launching of words into the territory of someone else's "one side" launching of words.  One could always hope that at some point the ideas land together in some meaningful  way to form a conversation.

BUT...technology conspires against those of us that long for lengthy, wordy, descriptive talk fests. Just as Chuck's grandson many people have embraced a text only lifestyle that is reduced to shorthand, abbreviated words or even worse.... communicating with emojis.  Take for example: Recently a car company conducted a customer satisfaction survey but asked the participants to answer only in emojis. They have a commercial that shows  a portion of this survey as well.   Visualize me having a sad face.

If I wasn't already a bit peeved at the current lack of expansive and civil conversation, yesterday I received an email from Twitter. It asked me if I know how to Tweet.  I could think that their comment sounded a bit accusatory but they aren't entirely wrong.  While I am surprised that they have missed  seeing my tweets among their millions of users, they seem to have grasped part of the problem with me and Twitter.  I just don't "get" it.

I must not be alone in this, though, because I was just reading an article that said 60 percent of people that signed up for Twitter  never used it past trying a tweet or two.  I initially thought I would be great at Twitter as I am somewhat a twit but it didn't take me long to realize that I am not great a keeping within the bounds of 140 characters.  Nor am I particularly great at coming up with hilarious one liners at a moment's notice.  I am failing at Twitter.  I may never actually accomplish a Twoosh  (a perfect 140 character Tweet but remain secure in my belief  that it doesn't make me less of a person.)
I am willing to confess that I am challenged to say what I want to say when given a mandated character count.

A Twoosh is a Tweet that is exactly 140 characters long.

But that brings me back to my class of seniors that want to board the Facebook and Twitter train thinking that it's taking them someplace fun and relevant.   In my heart of hearts, I think that they have far more to teach the techies than the techies have to teach them.

I hold out hope that lengthy conversations where people share thoughts without getting indignant, offended or feel the need to over-talk each other makes a comeback.   Imagine my happy face.