Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Computer Crash Blues

I knew my ancient computer had to be replaced. I was holding out until I finished my book on second wave feminism in Philly and somehow got it published. I didn’t want to have to deal with transferring all those files.

The plan was, after I finished the book, I’d get out those back issues of Consumer Reports I was saving for this purpose, do the research, and get the best deal I could on a computer. Well, best laid plans and all that.

Lately, the computer was getting really, really slow and making weird noises. I was having trouble re-booting, and when we went to Block Island I left it on. I decided it was worth wasting electricity, so I wouldn’t have to worry about re-booting. (From an environmental perspective, very bad, I know.)

I have a publisher interested and was making the revisions she wanted so I could get the manuscript back to her by the beginning of October as promised. At this critical moment, my computer made a very loud, horrible sound and then the screen went black. Rick said it sounded like a power supply problem.

My students were always claiming something like this happened to them when they didn’t hand their papers in on time. This may be payback for never believing their stories.

So I had no time to do research to get the best possible deal on a new computer. I went to Staples (because it’s five minutes from my home) and bought the cheapest CPU from a manufacturer whose name I recognized and hoped that the extra hundred I paid for file transfers would work. I had thought I was backing everything up with Simple Save, but apparently not.

I finally got the wretched computer set up and then discovered there was no wireless adapter. So, back to Staples. I asked them why they didn’t tell me the computer did not come with a wireless adapter—I thought that was standard these days. The sales person acknowledged he should have told me.

Why am I bothering to write all this boring stuff? Maybe the real question is: why can’t I deal with the possibility of going without a computer for one day??

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Block Island is Glorious in September!

One of the great joys of retirement is taking a seashore vacation in September! The prices are lower, the weather cooler, the crowds much thinner, and the ocean temperature still warm.

Last September Rick and I went to Martha’s Vineyard. We hadn’t been there for about 25 years and decided it was time for a revisit. It will be our last visit. Although thanks to our inn, we had access to a gorgeous beach in Menemsha , the public beaches were disappointing and beach access was severely restricted. The mega mansions took up large stretches of precious beach.

We found ourselves saying over and over, this is nowhere near as beautiful as Block Island, a tiny little island about 14 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. Unlike Martha’s Vineyard which is so large that you’re often not aware you’re on an island, on little Block Island you are always within sight of the ocean. And there's no problem with beach access. There are expensive houses on Block Island but no mega mansions commandeering large stretches of beach.

Block Island was once considered “the poor man’s Martha’s Vineyard.” I don’t think it’s exactly a poor folks’ vacation spot, (although it does have a new restaurant called The Poor People’s Pub), but it is no playground for the super rich.

We have been going to Block Island in the summer for the past few years and renting a house big enough to invite friends and relatives. Part of the fun is sharing Block Island with good friends. This year we decided to do this at the last minute and we had fewer visitors. We were so happy that our good friend Beth could spend a few days with us. The weather was glorious and it was our best time ever on Block Island. In the future, Block Island will be a September vacation spot for us.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


From Fran Waksler who gardens in Cambridge MA
This spring’s azaleas promised a wonderful gardening year
As did the hibiscus

The spring of 2012 started out very well in my garden and I was looking forward to a beautiful and lush year. For a variety of reasons, however, the summer turned my garden into a big disappointment. As the weather and other issues interfered, the garden suffered. At first I was disappointed and unhappy, but I finally decided that it was more productive to focus on what I could do now to make next year a great gardening year.

With this year’s warm spring, I got an early start on yard work. I was optimistic that this year I would be able to keep up and have the best garden ever. Alas, it was not to be. May and June were taken up with finishing a book I edited with a friend of mine—a fully enjoyable project, but the amount of intense work involved limited my time in the garden. And then, in June, I had cataract surgery, after which I was not supposed to bend over or lift anything heavy for two weeks, so all I could manage was the little light pruning that could be done standing up. When I finally had more free time to devote to gardening, the weather scuttled my plans, with alternations of heat in the 90s and days of torrential rain, both of which kept me inside.

The odd weather was responsible for a number of disappointments. The lilacs, which reliably bloom around Mothers’ Day, had a very short season and were gone by the holiday. Clematis came and went with equal dispatch, as did the roses. The red roses, fortunately, rallied and gave a second show (despite the fact that their trellis fell down and had to be nailed back to the house, a task that involved many painful scratches from thorns). The June white roses were also short lived, but for some reason just last week decided that they owed me a second blooming, offering me both encouragement and pleasure. Strawberries and raspberries, however, produced almost no berries. The purple Concord and green grapes look good but don’t yet seem to have gotten the kind of weather that will make them sweet.

I finally identified the hateful vine that has been invading my yard for the past few years—swallow wart—and I have been on a mission to exterminate it. Apparently I am not the only one, for in my city and adjoining ones there are actually “vigilante” groups bent on its destruction. People walk through neighborhoods, talk to neighbors, and collect what pods they can that are in public places. Interestingly, we are told not to compost the pods and not to put them in the trash. The only suggestion is to burn them, but to the best of my knowledge burning them outside is illegal. I’m not sure what one is supposed to do with them—all I have come up with is putting them in plastic bags in the trash and feeling guilty.

So, in preparation for the wonderful garden I will have next year, I have started madly weeding, pruning, taking stock, and making plans. I’m cleaning up the strawberry and raspberry beds. I’m encouraging a shaded area with sparse grass and a moderate amount of moss by pulling up the straggly grass and transplanting moss that is growing is less desirable locations such as the strawberry bed. I’ll let the grass and moss decide on the dividing line between them and support their decision. It’s been a wonderful year for ferns, with the consequence that they are overspreading a north side path so I am cutting back where I can. When they die back, I’ll go to work with my edger, define their limits, and dig up those that have spilled beyond their boundaries. There is a certain perversity in the fact that plants that don’t do well and those that do too well are both problems!

And I will relocate some of the lovely tall phlox that Karen gave me years ago. The pink ones have spread in just the right places. The few white ones, however, have spread willy-nilly. Since I have a particular weakness for the white ones, I am carefully marking them where they self-seeded and will gather them together in a single place to make a beautiful big white splash.

Tall white phlox from Karen

Monday, September 3, 2012

The academic calendar still shapes the way I see the world.

I’m still kind of surprised by how easily I’ve adjusted to retirement--how it so quickly became the new normal.

Yet there are some old habits that linger. The academic calendar still shapes the way I see the world. I haven’t shaken the idea that the year begins in September and I have to get my house in order before the new year begins in the fall. One ritual was cleaning out my kitchen cabinets which I did religiously every summer (Yes, it’s true I only clean my cabinets once a year.)

Last week, I had a moment of panic. It was the end of August and I hadn’t cleaned the kitchen cabinets! But then reality set in—it doesn’t matter if this job stretches into October.

Just as it doesn’t matter that I haven’t gotten through that stack of books I wanted to read this summer. There will be time for that later in the year. No stacks of student papers will get in the way.

Labor Day used to be a serious work day for me as I desperately tried to finish all my course outlines. There was always one syllabus I hadn’t nailed down before Labor Day weekend. No more.

There is one Labor Day ritual I really miss—the Waterloo Gardens Labor Day sale, the mother of all plant sales. Sadly Waterloo Gardens went bankrupt and closed this summer. I learned the hard way never to plant in the late spring or summer. If hadn’t got a shrub in the ground by mid-spring, it would have to wait until the fall. When we were working the only time we could travel was summer vacation or winter holidays and it was just too risky to plant during the summer when we weren’t around to water plants for 3-4 weeks.

I really looked forward to going to Waterloo Gardens to buy their always healthy and (during Labor Day weekend) deeply discounted plants. Fortunately, we have a lot of good garden centers in the Delaware Valley, but nothing quite like Waterloo Gardens. I miss that wonderful Labor Day sale, but I sure do not miss going back to work!!!!