The Last VCR

This month the last VCR to be manufactured will roll off the assembly lines at a Funai Electric factory in Japan and will be sold, somewhere in the world, under the brand name Sanyo.  Last year Funai sold only 750,000 VCRs, just a tiny fraction of the 15 million units it sold annually back when VCRs were selling like hotcakes and you just couldn’t keep them on the shelves at places like Circuit City.

vcrsOur family had a Sanyo VCR at some point — one of about 10 VCRs that we went through over the years — but we haven’t had a functioning VCR in forever.  Why would we?  With the other options available, from desktop to streaming to Netflix and Hulu and God knows what, who would want to fuss around with a VCR, deal with the tapes, tears and clogs, rent videos, buy videos, and pay late fees?  Not us.

Interesting, isn’t it, how quickly technology moves.  I remember when we bought our first VCR in the early ’80s — first stupidly choosing the Beta format that promptly was crushed in competition with VHS — and how in the blink of an eye were Blockbuster video stores in every strip mall.  But home entertainment was such a fertile market that entrepreneurs, inventors, and visionaries came up with multiple options that turned the once-hot VCR technology into the horse and buggy in only a few short years.  Now VCRs are going the way of the dodo, thrown onto the ash heap of history, a technology so antiquated that people can’t even give them away.

Thirty years for an entire industry to bloom, flourish, and die.  The world moves awfully fast these days.

Talking About Trump (Or Conversing About Clinton)

After this week, we’ll begin the final stretch of the presidential campaign between two candidates who have actually been nominated by their respective parties.  I’m glad that the calendar pages are turning, because I just want this election to be over.  I don’t think we can withstand much more of the level of vitriol that’s being hurled back and forth.

I’m not talking about the two campaigns, either.  I’m talking about what we’re seeing from the masses, from our friends and colleagues, from Facebook pages and emails.  You can’t even talk about politics without seeing, and hearing, evidence of it.  Many people obviously find it impossible to talk about the candidates without lapsing into flaming, superheated language — the kind that people don’t easily forget.

hqdefaultThe anti-Trump group loathe The Donald and honestly seem to believe that only utterly ignorant racists and fascists could possibly consider voting for the guy.  The anti-Clinton folks are revolted by Hillary’s duplicity and corruption; they think the media is in the tank for her and the elites are trying to fix the election for her.  It’s coarse and visceral stuff, and a lot of bitterness on both sides is leaking out into our daily discourse.

I don’t care about the two candidates.  They are both egregiously flawed and deserve the strident criticism they’re getting.  No, I’m more concerned about the average people out there who are choosing sides, and doing so in a way that seems to leave no room for quarter or disagreement.  I wonder how many long-time friendships will be ruined and how many families will be splintered by the harsh language and even more harsh judgments.  If you are to the point that you think Trump will be the next Hitler, are you going to want to hang out with a guy who wants to vote him into office — even if it’s a guy you’ve known and worked with for 20 years?

The old saying about the wisdom of not talking about politics or religion has never been truer.  It used to be that people of good will at different points on the political spectrum could have a good-natured discussion about who they were voting for, and why.  I’m not sure that is even possible this year.

In our personal lives, we need to declare a truce, and take politics off the table.  Talk about your kids, talk about your travels, talk about sports — talk about just about anything other than the awful choice that we must make come November.  Hold your fire, folks!  That way, at the ground level of our everyday existence, maybe we’ll be able to make it through this flaming car wreck of an election.

Exercising The Bike Muscles

IMG_2413I’ve really been a slouch when it comes to riding my bike.  It’s been at least two years, and probably more, since I’ve straddled the Schwinn Caliente and pedaled off.  My bike has been needing new tires and some basic maintenance, and the bumpy brick roadways of German Village aren’t exactly conducive to a thin-wheeled bike, anyway.

This past week, though, Kish got our bikes fixed, and this morning I got up early and decided to take a ride. By staying on Third and Whittier I could stick to smooth asphalt roadways, and that worked out well because my destination was the Scioto Trail bike path on the Whittier peninsula.  It’s a nice, shaded ride along the river, winding past the Audubon Center and under the I-71 bridges, that emerges from the woods at the southern point of downtown Columbus.  If you’ve got the energy and desire you can then head north, past the Scioto Mile park, and join the Olentangy bike path that rolls past Upper Arlington and the campus area.

It was a beautiful morning and I rode for a few miles, turning around when I read the Main Street bridge.  I quickly realized, however, that my years of non-biking had taken their toll.  I can walk forever without a problem, but cycling uses different muscles, and on the way back my thighs were screaming as I labored up the very gentle incline that takes you over the railroad tracks on Whittier.  I desperately fought the urge to hop off and walk my bike up the hill — which would be a horrible embarrassment and egregious confession of failure — downshifted repeatedly to the lowest gear, and kept going at a snail’s pace until I finally made it to the top and could blessedly start coasting again.  Fortunately, I wasn’t passed by any elderly joggers or children on tricycles.

When I acknowledge that biking uses different muscles, I can’t ignore the hindquarters, either.  My keister hasn’t had to deal with a bicycle seat in a while, and it clearly needs some toughening up.

 

 

Early Birds

I’ve always been an early bird.  I wake up at the crack of dawn as a matter of course.  On most Saturdays and Sundays, I try to roll over and get a bit more sleep.  This morning, though, I saw the early morning sunlight lancing through the slats on our blinds and had the opposite impulse — so I got up and got ready to head out for a walk.

IMG_2397When you’re out for an early morning stroll, there’s no need to primp.  You’re not going to run into anyone at 6 a.m.  A ratty t-shirt and old shorts will do just fine, and don’t worry about totally eliminating that bed head, either.  Drag your fingers through your sorry excuse for a coiff, try to pat down the more egregious hair eruptions, and get going.

One nice thing about the early morning hours:  during the high summer days in the Midwest, when the daytime temperatures can reach the 90s as has been the case recently, they’re one of the few reasonable walking times of the day.  This morning there was still a delightful whiff of lingering nighttime coolness in the air, not yet burned to a crisp by the blazing sun and throttled by the steamy humidity that will be coming soon enough.  Simply breathing was a pleasure, and a few deep gulps of the fresh air tasted wonderful.

As I took my lap around Schiller Park, the robins were out on the lawns, hopping and hunting for worms with their sharp-eyed, birdlike intensity.  The duck pond was swarming with ducks and geese, and some of the adventurous fowl mysteriously decided to march across the street, apparently in search of food.  For the birds among us, it was time to be out and about, even if most of the sleepy human world was still fast asleep.

This morning, it felt good to be one of the early birds.

Here’s To Cleveland

I didn’t watch a minute of Republican National Convention coverage, but I have been following news reports about what’s been happening outside the convention hall.  I’ve also talked to friends who live and work in Cleveland area about how things were going.

I had read all the dire forecasts about chaos, and warring protests, and a replication of the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968.  The pundits painted a pretty bleak picture of what they thought would happen on the shores of Lake Erie, and my concern was that poor old Cleveland was going to get a black eye on the national scene, having been unluckily saddled with the most contentious political convention in decades.

IMG_5545By all accounts, though, that didn’t happen.  Sure, there were a few incidents here and there, and there was a heavy police presence that sought to fend off trouble before it began, but the drama (if you can call it that) was confined to the convention hall itself.  One of my colleagues whose office looks out over Public Square happily reported that the protests that were staged were peaceful and respectful.  The predictions about clashes and riots and police beating heads turned out to be nothing but hot air and, perhaps, wishful thinking by pundits hoping for the worst.  I’m confident that, this morning, the Cleveland local government leaders and city fathers are breathing a sweet sigh of relief.

A report in the Washington Post captured the spirit of the city and the convention-goers and the people who came to protest — and for the most part the prevailing mood was to simply get along.  That’s a pretty good way of describing what we’re like in the Midwest, generally.  We’ve got people representing all points on the political spectrum, but somehow we manage to get along, drink a beer now and then, and come together to cheer for the local sports teams or stand up for our home towns.  As the Post report indicates, maybe that generous, accepting, prevailing spirit had something to do with a riot-free convention.

So, here’s to Cleveland, for surviving the doom and gloom predictions and coming through without a scratch.  With the Cavs championship and a successful hosting of the RNC, it’s a city on a winning streak.

In Ted’s Fantasy World

Some mornings, Kish starts the day by reading news stories, and sometimes watching video clips of newsworthy events on her iPhone.  Today was one of those days.

ted_cruz_rnc_cleveland_ap_imgUnfortunately, the clip she chose to watch this morning was footage of Ted Cruz closing his speech to the Republican convention last night to a deafening chorus of boos.  Even more unfortunately, I was able to hear Cruz’s whining voice — which in my view is the human equivalent of a dentist’s drill — over the uproar.  I had hoped that, with the ending series of debates finally behind us, I would never have to endure Cruz’s irritating and overly studied vocal gyrations again.  Alas, it was not to be.

I don’t like Donald Trump, but I like the smug and smarmy Cruz even less.  If I’d been at the Republican convention — fat chance of that! — I’d have booed him, too.

Apparently Ted Cruz thinks his performance, and failure to endorse Trump, positions him to be the presumptive GOP nominee in 2020.  I think Ted Cruz is living in a fantasy world.  The only reason anyone other than Bible-thumpers backed Cruz was because he was running against Donald Trump.  Once Trump is gone — and by 2020, he’ll either be President or yesterday’s old, old news — Cruz’s base will dwindle to back to the religious righters who don’t mind his scripted speech patterns because it reminds them of the cadences they hear every Sunday morning from the pulpit.  By 2020, the world and the United States will be moving in a different direction, and everything that gave Cruz a shot this year will be totally changed.

I seriously hope I never hear Cruz’s holier than thou voice again.  It makes my teeth ache.