Out With The Old

I think we need to start thinking about buying a new home computer.  I’m kind of dreading the process and trying to forestall it for as long as possible.

IMG_1232Our current computer has served us long and loyally.  It’s stored countless to-do lists, been a repository for family photos, served as a mailbox and news ticker, and been a blogging platform.  It’s moved around with us to the point that we don’t really think our household has been established until the computer is hooked up and functional.  I’ve watched and rewatched YouTube videos of the Ohio State Buckeyes’ run to the National Championship on it countless times.  The keyboard characters have been tapped so often and the mouse clicked so frequently that they’ve acquired a worn, comfortable feel to the fingertips.

We’ve totally lost track of how long we’ve had the computer. Has it been six years?  Nine?  Longer?  We’re really not sure.  All we know is that the computer has been a staple of the desktop for as long as we can remember.

But lately we’ve started to have some performance problems with Old Faithful.  It’s sputtering and slowing down.  That annoying spinning circle, shown as the computer processes commands, seems to spin ever longer and longer.  “Force quit” has become a more frequent solution to apparently intractable problems that even the spinning circle can’t resolve.  We get more messages about certain programs “not responding.”  It’s as if they’re mad at us and have simply decided to give us the silent treatment — even though, so far as we know, we’ve done nothing to provoke such disrespectful treatment.

There’s a certain out-of-touch embarrassment factor to our computer set-up, too.  Our techno-nerdy friends who have those razor-blade-thin and ultra-light laptops and tablets, the kind that make even techno-nerds look a little bit cool, laugh at our clunky desktop unit.  Once it was cool and cutting edge, now it’s more like relying on an “adding machine.”  The ongoing technology revolution waits for no man, and no computer, no matter how faithfully it has performed over years of service.

So we’ll work a new computer into the home budget, and once we’ve saved up we’ll head to the Apple store, look with a lost and vacant expression at the lines of gleaming laptops and desktops and tablets, and hope that one of those bright instruments of the modern era speaks to us.  Hey, which of you wants to come home with us and become an important part of the daily pattern of our lives?


Nighttime Angle

We had good friends over for a party tonight.  After the afternoon thunderstorms rolled through, it was hot and bright, and the sturdy Cinzano umbrella was adjusted to protect against the sun sinking in the west.  Now the umbrella maintains its position, even though the sun has long since set.  Like me, it’s tilted, yet still upright.

You’ve Been Warned

When we were redoing our front beds, Kish found an old “Beware of Dog” sign that, unbeknownst to us, had been tucked into our fence line by a prior owner.

We’re trying to decide whether to post it on the house, or just fashion a way for Kasey to wear it.  Either way, we think it only fair to advise everyone that they run the risk of a serious gumming whenever they visit our house.

Here Comes The Sun

IMG_1147We decided to get something to hang on the door that leads from the brick alleyway into our back yard.  I’ve always liked sunburst figures, and Kish found an excellent one — a jovial, star-cheeked, chin-dimpled Sun to grace the entrance and greet us as we head to a place where we really enjoy hanging out.  I particularly like the look of it during that very short time period each day when the real sun reaches just the right point in the sky for its rays to fall unimpeded by tree or brick to warm the door and our smiling Sun.


Kish and I have been talking recently about taking a trip.  Travel is always a fun topic of conversation.  We do research, get suggestions from friends, read materials and look at photographs that inevitably cast the potential destinations in the best light possible, and then basically close our eyes and mentally stab a finger at a spinning globe.

The process always makes us recall the really wonderful vacations we have taken in the past — where we’ve gone, and what we’ve done when we were there, and why we enjoyed those places as much as we did.  And that raises a very basic question:  why not just go back to one of those places that you visited, and really enjoyed, before?

stock-photo-9315426-spinning-globeThere are a lot of people who do exactly that.  They go to Las Vegas every year and stay in the same hotel, make the same canoe and camping journey year after year, or take a Caribbean cruise on the same cruise line.  Things may be tweaked a bit to make this year’s version of The Vacation even better than the last one, but it’s basically the same trip.

It’s not hard to understand their reasoning.  For those of us who work for a living, vacation time is limited and therefore precious.  Why take a chance on going to a new place that might not work out when you can go with the tried and true?

Deciding whether to revisit an old destination or try a new one involves a factors that can tell you something about a person.  There is the yin and yang of familiar versus unfamiliar, comfort versus excitement, and stress versus relaxation.  There are risks either way.  A trip to a new place could turn out to be a bomb.  On the other hand, going back to a place where you had a marvelous experience might not quite live up to your memory.

I wouldn’t say that Kish and I are adventurous, exactly, but we do err on the side of the new rather than the old.  We’ve been to some places multiple times — like Paris, or New York City — but they are destinations that are so rich in things to do that there isn’t much duplication, and each trip has had a different feel depending on whether we have gone by ourselves or with the boys, or stayed at a hotel versus a VRBO apartment rental.  Most of the time, though, we reason that it’s a big world with lots of great places to see.  And our forays into new lands and new settings have, for the most part, been great.

Still, there are some places I wouldn’t mind seeing again.  And I think that, one of these days, we’ll go back to some of them, and see if they still have the same magic.

Man Versus Squirrel

It was the squirrel Olympics at the Webner household this past weekend.  With a new bird feeder set out and freshly stocked with tasty birdseed, the conditions were perfect for a squirrel gluttony extravaganza.

The food attracted every squirrel in the immediate vicinity.  Soon our yard was swarming with squirrels, all of them eager to show off their amazing athletic abilities.  We had squirrels racing along the tops of fences.  We had bright-eyed squirrels somehow shinnying up the thin metal pole holding the bird feeder.  We had squirrels leaping from tree branch to tree branch to better observe the festivities.  And we had squirrels improbably long-jumping from patio chair to bird feeder pole and then daintily perching on the bird feeder, munching away at rapid-fire pace and stuffing their plump furry cheeks with as much birdseed as they could hold.

IMG_1128It was a pretty entertaining show — but of course the birdseed wasn’t put out for ravenous squirrels.  It was supposed to attract cardinals and song birds, and the squirrels were keeping them away from their intended grub.

What to do?  We didn’t want to hurt the squirrels, just make them stop eating the birdseed.  We went out into the yard and made noise, but the squirrels weren’t easily intimidated.  They knew they had a food bonanza, and they weren’t going to leave until you got very close to them — which is unnerving — and they came back as soon as you left.  We tried throwing pebbles at the bird feeder, but only a direct hit had any effect, and my aim isn’t very good.

So the only choice was to apply some intellectual brainpower to try to defeat the squirrel invasion.  It was clear that the squirrels needed to use the pole to reach the food.  How to prevent that?  We could have bought or built some kind of anti-squirrel cone, but given the awesome squirrel capabilities we were seeing I wasn’t sure how or where a cone should be placed.  But perhaps if the pole were rendered too slippery for the squirrels to grab a foothold?  I grabbed a can of non-stick spray for pots and pans, gave the pole a good coating, and voila!  The next squirrel that tried to climb the pole promptly fell onto its bushy-tailed keister, with a shocked look on its face.  So did the next, and the next — and then the squirrel invasion stopped.

Later that day, we saw a cardinal out on the bird feeder, having a nosh, and my heart welled with pride that raw intellectual firepower had defeated a gaggle of yard rodents.  In this chapter of the ongoing battle of man versus squirrel, man had prevailed.

Emily Appleseed

One of Russell’s friends and fellow Cranbrook Academy graduates is interested in urban farming.  Emily has started a fruit farm in the middle of Detroit on some derelict property, in hopes of bringing fruit and a neighborhood resource to families in the area who don’t have ready access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  It’s an incredibly cool idea that shows that, once again, one person and a dream can really make a difference in America.

Emily’s efforts are being chronicled in a Detroit Journal video series called Emily Appleseed.  You can watch the first episode above.  Russell himself makes an appearance in the second video, below, helping to clear the property and following a tractor to turn the soil.  He looks like a natural farmer.  His grandfather, Bill Kishman, who was a farmer for many years, would be proud.  The rest of the series can be found on YouTube.