Sunday, September 28, 2014

iPhone 6 for $199! Really??

Hey I'm hooked on Apple products. I've got an iMac computer, iPad 4th gen, iPhone5 and a Apple TV. Also my three old iPods that are in use at various times. I like all of them. MacWorld magazine comes into my mailbox once a month. That sounds like a full disclosure. Well it is.

 I've friends that love their Samsung smartphones. One of them asked me why I spend more money for these Apple products when he is very happy in his cheaper  PC/Android world. To answer that question is another story.

Last week the iPhone 6 came out. So being hooked I just had to find out if I was qualified to get a new iPhone 6. I wasn't looking forward to ringing up ATT to learn when my two year contract expires or did it already expire? After all I kept reading that the new iPhone 6 only costs $199 go the 16 GB model. My budget can handle that. 

After pressing a couple of  buttons on my old clunky Panasonic wireless phone, After going through three menus a text message is sent to iPhone 5 saying congratulations I'm eligible for an "upgrade". That's sounds good right from the start. "Hold on" as the Brit's like to say. Does that mean I can order my new iPhone 6! 

Then I go back to yet another menu to press zero to talk to a nice customer sales rep. After about 15 minutes of marketing lingo, she says that I've got to wait until February 9, 2015 to buy it for $199. That's the day after my birthday and when a new contract begins if I sign one, to get the brand new iPhone 6. 

Was I disappointed? Yes. But now after reading this  zdnet article I'm glad I was't eligible.

 I'm re-thinking ATT Mobility and how to pay for the new iPhone. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Family Christmas Tradtions


It was the first week of December. As a tutor I was sitting in the ESL (English as a Second Language) class listening to the teacher describe an assignment for the adult students. Since it was Christmas time the assignment was to present to the class either a family Christmas tradition, or a Christmas tradition in their home country or some other country tradition that is celebrated.

The assignment got me thinking about my Christmas family traditions. Specifically what are my traditions? What is the best way to tell the story? How should it be presented?

My starting point was a mental image of what I was soon to do and that was putting up my tree and the other decorations. My family traditions soon became clear.

Family Christmas traditions are unique and not usually found in other homes. Traditions have their origins in the past. Mine started nearly 55 years ago.

Family Christmas Traditions

Once upon a time two young people fell in love. His name was Robert and hers was Rose. Oh how they were in love.

One day in August 1958 they got married. The sun was brilliant. The skies were a deep, rich blue. The clouds were huge, pure white and filled with promise. They spoke their vows. The one Robert remembered was “... for richer or poorer” because they had so little money.

The first Christmas Rose sewed two Christmas stockings made from red felt with white trim at the top. One said Robert and the other Rose. These stockings by tradition would be filled by St. Nicholas with little wrapped gifts.  Little did they know, it was the start of a family tradition.

Soon after their fifth Christmas together they were blessed with a baby boy. They called him Randall. Then the next Christmas Rose sewed another stocking. It had “Randall” stitched at the top. In the autumn of the following year this family was blessed with another boy. They called him Roger. Very soon Rose was seen sewing a fourth Christmas stocking with letters Roger stitched at the top. Less than two years would pass when this happy family was blessed with a baby girl. Robert named her Maria. The next Christmas Rose sewed the fifth and final Christmas stocking. Maria’s name was stitched to the top of it.

Christmas after Christmas Santa filled these stockings with small wrapped presents for this happy family.

Then one Christmas,  eleven year old Maria gave her father a beautifully illustrated book, “The Night Before Christmas”. This was the beginning of the second family tradition. For several Christmas’s Rose gave Robert a Christmas book. Each year he would look forward to reading another new Christmas story.

As the years went by the small children grew up to be fine adults. One by one they left home to find their place in the world. Robert and Rose had an empty nest. They were like newlyweds, free to come and go as they wished.

Then one day in July of 1995,  just a few weeks before their 37th wedding anniversary, the sunlight was dull, the sky a lifeless blue, the clouds pale white with dark grey edges and filled with grief. Rose departed. She left this world a better place. Robert remembered another vow of so many years ago, “Until death do us part”.

Then Nancy came into Robert’s life and it became new again. Nancy encouraged him to celebrate Christmas anew.  One year she bought him a small little Christmas tree. The ends of the branches light up and change colors, blue, green, red, and white. This tree makes Christmas new and fresh. Each year Robert places his Christmas books under the tree. The days leading up to December 25 he reads the stories.

Robert finds that Christmas time and indeed the rest of the year is filled with joy and gratitude for Nancy’s love.

December 10, 2012
The Christmas tree that changes colors. A gift from Nancy.

My collection of Christmas books. Note the book "The Night Before Christmas" (lower left)
Robert's Christmas Stocking note the small  bell on the  toe.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Street Food Chain

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

Years ago I saw an illustration depicting the food chain. It starts with a large fish (reading left to right) about to eat a slightly smaller fish and that one is about to eat another smaller one etc. until the last one is a very small fish.

After witnessing streets in numerous Chinese large cities in my 2005 trip here and this current trip there is two significant differences. First there are more vehicles and pedestrians. Secondly, there are more roads but still not enough. But what remains the same is the street food chain.

That food chain can be best described this way: at the top are large trucks, then buses, small trucks, 155 cc motorcycles (no fat hog Harleys), motor scooters, bikes (both 2 and 3 wheelers) and then you guessed it, humans of all ages.

The trucks, buses, and cars are seen as blending, weaving, cutting off and horn blowing.

The drivers' strategy appears to be get ahead of the next vehicle as soon as you can, so the option to cut off the driver behind is available.

Everyone knows how the food chain works on these streets.

Turning to pedestrians and how they fair. When people step into the street they go as far as possible, stop and wait for the vehicles to pass before continuing. They must have nerves of steel because I've seen cars pass by within inches with no apparent alarm. There were times my heart was in my throat when seeing such a close call.

Drivers either either slow down or speed up when seeing a person in front of their path. It appears that they don't want to leave their lane anymore than necessary.

I'm not sure this Chinese free for all on the streets and roads with little traffic regulators i.e. traffic lights and stop signs can be sustained. As more and more cars are added to the roadways and smaller motor vehicles too the traffic snarl will demand change.

But then maybe not as one driver said to me "The traffic moves now. Change would make it stop".


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Li River Boat Cruis

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

This time email from China brings a blog post from Nancy...
June 26, 2012

Today's four hour boat ride from Guilin to Yangshou was picture-perfect. Take your best memory of a Lake Superior Picture Rocks boat ride and extend the rocky landscape by three more hours.  Mix in, if you can, views of the Pinnacles, Canyonlands, and Glen Canyon National Parks all covered in lush, tropical vegetation. What a treat! We took many, many photographs.

 Later this afternoon, we will go to the walking streets to see many local handicrafts and then we'll complete the day's adventure by attending a ballet light show, after dark, if the weather holds. Guilin and Yangshou are very special places, for Chinese and for visitors. The pace is slow and noticeably different from other cities we've visited.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Scenic Guilin

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

The Guilin metropolitan area is over 4.5 million in population. It seems that every Chinese city has 5 to 8 million people. We are staying in a suburb about 40 minutes by taxi from the heart of downtown. It was raining when we arrived yesterday. It's the monsoon season with high humidity.  It has the feel of the current weather in Florida.

The area is surrounded by mountains with two major rivers flowing through it. The images in this Wikipedia page are representative of what we have seen today. Guilin, as every sizable city in this country, has a history dating back centuries. But I was surprised that it got its name in 1940.

I'm sure people who live in mountainous regions anywhere in the world would laugh to hear people call these foot hill size land forms mountains. But this city has a mountainous feel to it.

I've noticed that the drivers of motor scooters, battery bikes and motorcycles do wear helmets here. Well perhaps 5 to 10 percent do. Compare that to the other cities we've been, where helmet usage is almost zero. Why the difference here? My guess is it's due to the heavy rain fall, not because they are more safety conscious.

Talking about safety conscious, vehicle seat belt usage approaches zero percent. Well, maybe not that low, but I've been told seat belts are just not used in China. Maybe it's because most drivers are first generation and that car usage is relatively new to many people. There was quite a discussion in Chinese when I asked that our driver provide seat belts. The next morning all the seat belts were in place. Our driver actually belted me in as if to show me how it was done. That act brought an internal smile. But I did say thank you. I can just imagine what a laugh he and his buddies had chatting about this silly American wanting seat belts.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thoughts on Shu Yuanmen

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

This time email from China brings a blog post from Nancy...

The street of brushes, Old City Xi'an, 21 June, 2012
I remember Shu Yuanmen from my two visits to it in 2005. Handicrafts and artisans fill these five streets with goods. There were relief carvings and soap stone stamps, exquisite cut paper rose windows and intricately cut shadow puppets, charms, bracelets of jade. Everywhere souvenirs and chatzkes were colorful and plenty.

Ah, but the brush stores. The brushes took my breath away. Imagine the front of a deep, narrow shop entrance hung with brushes neatly arranged by every size , including six foot brushes on the edges of the opened doorway. As you walk under this brush canopy you see brushes hung above your head- running the full depth of the small shops, the sides of which are filled with rice papers. How these shop owners make a living is curious as everyone seems to sell the same goods. I found my perfect brushes in a shop run by a young, smiling man who was gracious and patient, as I tried out the brushes with water and paper, but ferocious and stubborn when Jia Yue and Wan Huan ( Crystal ) tried to negotiate the price. I succeeded in convincing all that the final price was very satisfactory to me, although JiaYue is still certain that I overpaid. I now have three new calligraphy painting brushes to use in America.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learning English at the Park

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

This time email from China brings a blog post from Nancy...

We are in Xi'an, this week, and then we will tour Guilin for one week before returning to Shanghai. Last night Hongying, her husband, and son took us to a neighborhood park for an after dinner stroll.  18 babies from one to two years of age were on a blanketed area, learning English to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. GymBaby was the name of the group of leaders. With clapping hands, stomping feet, touching noses, toes, it was quite a site. Learning English to music, who would have expected such a sight. This was a local neighborhood scene with no tourists. Jia Yue was asked if we are their tutors. He tells them that we are friends, and we are welcomed into the evening's events, openly.

Bullet Train in China

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

Bullet Train - China
We arrived at the Suzhou Train station in plenty of time prior to its scheduled departure. Hongying assures us the trains run on time.

As we approach the entrance with our luggage in hand we join the crowd around the opening to the massive station. The guard allows only two persons to enter the area where four x-ray machines are in operation. In typical Chinese fashion there must be 40 or more people crowding around the opening without any line or sense of organization. Pushing with a hand or elbow is acceptable not to be taken for rudeness. It's just the way it works anywhere you would expect a line in the US. In China it's everyone for themselves.

We got to the turnstile twenty minutes early and we were second in line. Well it appeared to be a line. The turnstile lights up, and that is the signal for about twenty some passengers to form a clump of humanity around a machine that will allow one person at a time to enter. About five people cut in front of us. We all move about twenty five feet forward only to gather around the escalator to go down to the train loading platform.

In a few minutes a bullet train quietly zips into the station. It's on one set of tracks over from where we are waiting. This train looks sleek and streamlined. It was a preview of ours which shows up ten minutes later.

Our reserved seat tickets says car 8. We only have to walk about 40 feet and board this up to date train car. On time we pull out of the station. What a smooth quiet ride no rocking no jerking. All announcements are in Chinese and English. I think they are getting ready for the North American and European travelers.

After two smooth stops and starts we arrive at the Hangzhou station on time. Hangzhou's population is 8 million.

My overall impression is that this is travel at its finest. Well, I'm sure not all China trains are like this one but they have shown it can be done. If our government shifts some money from subsidizing air travel to trains then people will want to travel by rail.