Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August 27, 2014

You can never predict just what new thing will capture the imagination of the masses on the Internet. The latest trend to catch fire and go viral in the last couple of weeks is the “ice bucket challenge”, and it’s in support of a very worthy cause: funding research to find a cure for ALS - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

It’s refreshing to see something like this become popular. I’m not certain how it started. The why of it doesn’t really matter. Every day brings new little videos posted to the Net, a few even filmed by folks I know, getting in on the fun(?) of either self or family inflicted icy water filled buckets being dumped on their heads.

I don’t imagine it hurts the popularity of the challenge that so many areas have wicked hot weather right about now. [I’m pretty certain the challenge wouldn’t have caught on at all in the winter.]

Of course for some people, dumping a bucket of frigid water over their head isn’t recommended, for health reasons. But that’s fine. The challenge, as I understand it, is take the bath and donate $10, or decline the bath, and donate $100. I’m glad it was structured that way, so people like yours truly could still participate without any undue health risks.

Yes, it is refreshing that this latest fad is for such a great cause, because sometimes I worry about really unlikely things when it comes to humanity. For example, I worry that ET will be training his telescope on us just as we’re consumed with twerking, or doing things gangnam style, or tossing ourselves off of cliffs, bungee cords attached, hopefully, correctly. I mean, really, do you want “first contact” to happen when all the aliens know about us is some of the stuff that we egomaniacal Homo sapiens have posted on YouTube?

But if that event happens in the next little while, at least we are shown to be a race willing to endure a good dousing in support of our fellow human beings.

You can never know what’s going to catch on next. In recent memory, there have been some books: Harry Potter, Twilight, and Fifty Shades. Who could have predicted any of those would be such phenomenal hits?

With dancing and music, the afore mentioned twerking and gangnam have been recent crazes, but there have been dancing fads catching on since the jitter bug back in the 1930s—and likely even before that. Just a few years ago, it was “flash mob” dances and songs. Fads come and go, but the speed with which they do so has increased with each year, and with the new and many technological ways we have of communicating and sharing them.

There are video compilations making the rounds on a regular basis showing us at our worst: we’re either doing stupid things, or dangerous things, or illegal many times, as you’ve surfed the Web have you been tempted to click on those little montages and witness your fellow human’s most embarrassing moments?

Some of these embarrassing events are staged, of course. I suppose there are those who think fame is fame, and as long as they have that video of themselves up there and people watching, it makes them...famous. Some aren’t staged, they’re the result of people, armed with cell phone cameras, who cash in on the misfortune of others—seizing the moment, as it were.

Just one brief digression, if I may. People, in this day and age with cell phones everywhere, and even satellites taking pictures which you can then see on Google Earth, why, oh why would you do anything outside, ever, while naked? How many times have you heard of someone speeding dangerously, filming it themselves, posting it, with the result that they are subsequently arrested? Seriously, give your heads a shake! It’s not a case of “big brother” watching you. No, it’s more like little brother and the damned varmint is going to tattle on you big time, no ifs, ands, or buts.

In the meantime, keep those ALS ice bucket challenge videos coming, and, more importantly, keep those donations flowing.

When we stand together, and will it to be so, we can make miracles happen.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 20, 2014

The saga of the Ashbury’s quest for television repair continues. The bad news is we that are still without our television. The good news is, the part that was needed to fix the thing is in the hands of the tech, and has been since last Friday...when the service desk called to give us the earliest possible appointment for said tech to come with the part in hand. That date? This coming Friday, August 22nd.

To recap, our television went on the blink on July 27th. We called the service center that very day, and we received the earliest possible appointment for the tech to come came out to our house which was... Friday August 1. Of course, it turned out that a part had to be ordered. The tech had told us it would take a week. It took two.

I was very polite when the young woman called us last Friday. After she announced (in a tone of voice that suggested I was most fortunate to receive such prompt service) that the tech would make his appearance at our door the following Friday, I told her I only had one question. I asked her how she could imagine that waiting 27 days to have one’s television repaired was, by anyone’s definition, acceptable.

Strangely, the young woman seemed at a loss for words as to how to answer me.

Now here I must be honest and tell you that I, personally, don’t actually miss the thing all that much—but only because it’s still summer re-run season. Even when the new shows start, I won’t, in any given week, watch the tube for more than a handful of hours.

It’s Mr. Ashbury who has been going into withdrawal.

Knowing this would be so, the first thing I did when it we realized we were going to be setting a family record for waiting for a repair was to set him up with a service our cable company provides called “anyplace TV”. This service is included in the astronomical subscription we pay the company and in essence, lets him watch several channels on his computer.

Sadly, the news networks aren’t among the channels provided, and those are the programs he especially looks forward to watching—and arguing with—on Sunday.

However, he’s been able to see a few programs, and of course, he has his kindle, currently loaded up with a good dozen books from his “TBR” pile, so he has been a relatively happy camper throughout this very trying time.

 He has also been spending almost all of every evening since July 27th with me, right here in my office—which is where his computer is. Yes, he and the dog have been keeping me company as I sit here and do my thing. Since I multi-task all day, interspersing my writing time with housework time, and since I also often nap in the afternoon, I end up extending my “working” hours into the evening. After dinner I write, and I also attend to my social media obligations.

It’s very unnerving having him looking over my shoulder as I work. If I’m writing, at some point I stop noticing his attention, because I get lost in the words. But if I’m scrolling through Face Book, following up on “tags”, reading what some of my “friends” are doing, or even posting in my street team, it’s very disconcerting to have a face hanging over my shoulder—even the face of my beloved. I don’t have anything to hide, it’s just...weird. And in case anyone thinks I’m being overly sensitive, Mr. Ashbury himself positively hates it when people look over his shoulder at his computer screen.

So if I seem a little antsy as the days count down this week to blessed Friday, it’s really got nothing to do with waiting to have the boob tube working again, filling my brain with minutia and my ears with noise.

It has to do with ending the twenty-seven days long siege of my office.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014

Hell has indeed frozen over. Mr. Ashbury this past week became the proud owner of a brand new cell phone, and iPhone 5.

This is something that the rest of the Ashbury family, myself included, have been suggesting to the man for, oh, the last ten years or so. Why now, you might ask. It could very well be that the decision to arm himself with one more piece of modern technology (he has a Kindle, a digital camera, and a PC) is connected to the fact that his major piece of modern technology—the fifty-four inch totally digital, complete with computer keyboard on the back of the remote television is still not working.

The tech came out a week ago last Friday, but discovered the part that was kaput was one he didn’t have. Update: as of the end of business last Friday, the part had been shipped to him, but he had not yet received it.

So, did Mr. Ashbury cave and get an iPhone because of boredom? Possibly. But I rather think it was that day last week when my daughter was nearly an hour late picking him up from work that pushed him over the edge. He claimed he was neither upset nor worried, because he’d heard on the news that a local bridge had been shut down by a drunken dump-truck driver. Actually I think most of North America heard about that one. But I believe the incident brought home to him how isolated and cut off he really was.

He couldn’t call home to ask me about daughter being late because, as luck would have it, the phones where he works were out that day.

So yes, he has a cell phone. He has actually not only spoken on it, but he has sent texts! My husband, for all that he is a senior citizen, isn’t one to let technology scare him over much (unless it’s the afore mentioned big ass TV. The first thing he does when there’s a problem with that is to call our daughter).

There are several reasons why a cell phone for him is a good idea. I’m looking forward to the next time we are both in a big box store and I’m trying to track him down. That will be handy, indeed.

He doesn’t like to talk on the phone much because he is partially deaf. Even his hearing aids don’t help him when it comes to phone calls. But he can text, and that requires no hearing at all. He’s sometimes felt as if he’s out of touch with his son who lives thirty minutes away. And actually, unless we go there or they come here, he is—because he doesn't like to talk on the phone.

I use my cell phone to keep in touch with those grandchildren, too. They all live busy lives, but all I have to do is send a text, and they answer me.

 Mr. Ashbury has already also figured out how to use several different functions on his phone, including looking up the weather, and doing just a little bit of web surfing. Three days into cell phone ownership, and it’s already the first thing he checks when he gets up in the morning.

I, of course, am looking forward to another benefit of my beloved finally having a cell phone. I can text him from the next room instead of trying to yell at him (especially when he has his TV headphones on), to remind him that the dog is still outside—or that it’s time to feed the cat.

And of course with texting, it’s ever so simple to copy and paste so I’ll be able to remind him again and again and again.

But maybe I’ll hold off on that until he is thoroughly hooked on the thing.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

August 6, 2014

Quite the debate has been happening in the Ashbury household this summer. And the topic of these intense discussions has been our back yard. We don’t spend much time there, because it’s unappealing. Basically, we have a couple corner gardens, it is a fenced space so it is puppy proof, but I’d like to be able to use it more. But how best to use it? That was our discussion.

To give you an idea of the situation, we have a back yard that stretches from our back door, about 110 feet to the west, to our back property line. And of that land, only about the first 18 feet of it is flat and level with the house. The rest is a hill, steep in places, with a couple of small plateaus. If you stand at the back property line, you are level with the roof of our two-story home.

We have a corner property, and the only way I can get up to the top of my yard, is to walk up a steep road and then make a 90 degree turn and walk onto the grass. This “terrace” is part of the old Grand River, river bottom, from ancient times, when it was very wide, indeed.

Even with my cane, I can’t walk up that road onto my yard without assistance.

So our useable back yard measures about 25 feet wide and 18 feet deep. In recent years we had one of those umbrella-type clothes lines in the grass, to the left of the back door, and, an innovation that my beloved installed, a flagstone patio to the right of it. In between grass and flagstone, the area in front of the back door, for a foot left and right and extending for all of the flat area to the beginning of the slope, is a concrete slab that is beginning to crumble. On that concrete slab, near the back fence, stands our propane barbeque.

Now, the thing about a flagstone patio is, if it isn’t installed meticulously, beginning with a ground sheet to prevent weed growth and extreme settling, then the weeds take over and some stones settle more than others, making it uneven.

You can weed that patio in twice April....and then May....and then June....well, you get idea. You are never free of those weeds. Up until a couple of years ago, however, I did weed it. I was able to get down onto a chaise lounge cushion, stretch out on my side, and weed. Getting up was difficult, but doable with the help of one of our sturdy metal lawn chairs and my cane.

Unfortunately, I can no longer put that much pressure on my knees, even for a moment.

I’ve tried various “home” methods to kill those weeds – methods that won’t poison our animals. But nothing has worked really well. I wanted my beloved to re-do the patio, this time putting down the ground sheet that should have gone down the first time. Alas, he said no.

I suggested then that we just dig it up and forget about it—let grass grow there again. This wasn’t an option either, as it was labor intensive plus we really have no place to store the stones. We spent too long picking them out to just waste them (for free, years ago, when his place of employment was family owned and the boss said, “help yourselves”). The truth is, I do believe my beloved is emotionally attached to that patio.

In the interim, after our clothes line thingy broke and while we were debating what to do with the yard, he suggested that we might get a small pool for the area to the left of the door. Ah, my beloved knows how to mollify me. I began to look into this. We could fit a 12 foot diameter above ground pool in that grassy area (because, remember, the concrete and flagstone stay). The pool I was looking at had special steps out of the water that I could easily manage, and we could build outer steps, that I could use to get into it. The pool we considered had a 52 inch sidewall, effectively making it 4 foot deep. I don’t need more than that in the dog days of summer. Just enough to get in, get cooled off and get out.

And then my beloved said, “And we can move the dog’s area to a fenced in run up the hill.” I wouldn’t be able to get him there on my own, not in the summer and sure as heck not in the winter. So, alas, no pool. I threw my hands in the air and said, “Okay, fine. You decide, do whatever you want.”

I love my husband. I really do. And I accept that he is, as he takes great pride in admitting, a redneck.

We now have outdoor carpeting covering the flagstone patio and most of the concrete slab. On top of this carpeting, stands a gazebo with mosquito netting, and a patio set consisting of a table and 4 chairs. He has wired the gazebo so that I may sit out and use my lap top plugged in if I so choose. The patio beneath is still uneven and I need to take care walking on it, but it works.

And, he said, in the fall, both the rug and the gazebo will be stored in his shed until spring, and the theory is that the patio beneath will then be weed free—and grouting should take care of the problem permanently.

I didn’t point out that the weeds are no longer an issue if the patio is going to be covered, spring until fall. I just thanked him for his hard work and left it at that.