Thursday, November 29, 2012

LOFT LIFE: We have the Willys

Jay and I decided it was time to explore some more New England history for our long Thanksgiving weekend. So we decided on Sturbridge Village.   
Well, actually, we didn’t exactly decide it that way. I had a Groupon for a hotel in Sturbridge, which I remembered as Stockbridge (I do get these easily confused). So after explaining to Jay that we would be staying at the Red Lion Hotel, then go to Norman Rockwell (which frankly we have done enough that there’s not much left for us to see there), he agreed.

Then I looked at the Groupon, the address, and the MAP (which I had earlier claimed to be an expert at), I realized it was NOT Stockbridge or the Norman Rockwell area at all. Whew. That prevented spending another $300 at the Lee Outlets too.

It was Sturbridge, in the Sturbridge Village area, which we have never been to. The hotel was not the Red Lion of dim memory (mine) at all, but the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center. A good deal all around with discounted tickets to the historic village.

But, it wasn’t until we were walking around the rustic, historic Massachusetts site that we realized why we felt so at home there: we both have ancestors from Massachusetts.

Jay’s more famous relative is Willy Dawes, 

the one who got through the lines to warn that “the British are coming.” Family lore has it that Longfellow knew it was Dawes, not Revere who made it through, but that Paul Revere sounded better in a poem. Hmm. Also the family says Willy pretended to be drunk, so got through--but that he probably didn’t really need to pretend. Jay’s Granny Mac, recently died at 101, and was the oldest living Dawes, of the William Dawes Who Rode legacy. Quite a family history, Dawes is, including the VP under Coolidge, Charles Dawes. 

Charles Dawes

Anyway, that is Jay’s Willy.
Mine, who may or may not have as illustrious a claim to fame, was Willy Russell, a Massachusetts farmer from Cambridge, born in the 17th century, who lived in Concord, and decided to go to medical school and become a doctor. He was a handsome chap, the family says, and the women in the town would feign illnesses so they could get in to see the tall, dark doc. He ended up saying this was a lot of hooey, and went back to farming.

So we have Willy’s from Massachusetts, and felt that explained our at home feeling when we are in a historic Mass. locale.

We enjoyed many facts of our visit, including standing to watch the Shooting Match with those flint muskets, with costumed men shooting at targets for prizes of sheep and such. I was standing next to Mike, from Torrington, and we had a lively conversation about his being a practicing Puritan. Fun.

We had our pork loin with apples and pomegranate at the OxHead Tavern, on the hotel premises, a homey establishment with an illustrious history of its own. We loved the crackling fireplace, good service, good values and friendly people there, including a table visit by the manager, the aproned-Giuseppe Fasulo, who couldn’t have been more cordial.

The Sturbridge Coffee House (The Fireside Inn) in Fiskdale, up the road on Main Street, was also a real treat. Though perhaps not historic in its current form, we loved the coffee and treats, and had two breakfast there, wishing they were closer to us in CT.

All in all, we felt like we had returned to our history, and atThanksgiving, the perfect time to visit Mass. as descendants of the Mass. SOR (Sons of the Revolution) Willys.

Friday, November 2, 2012

LOFT LIFE: Changing my reality

My husband and I finally worked out our decision to replace our T-Mobile serviced- non-Internet touch phones with AT&T service for the iPhone. This was a huge decision really, because we are of an age group that still thinks a phone is a phone, and that paying more than $150 per month, not to mention hundreds for the phone itself, is just not within the realm of practicality.

I have many friends who brag that they are not on Facebook, not using the Internet except for an occasional email, and not spending their time in technology. They read, they garden, they visit grandchildren, they travel, they watch television, and they talk on their land-line phones.

I, on the other hand, am not such an anti-tech-y. I actually pride myself on thinking young, keeping up with technology relatively speaking, and enjoying the benefits of international communication, free calls to Spain through SKYPE, Face-timing my L.A. daughter, syncing my MacBookPro, my iPad and my new iPhone.

But I do confess, even with my somewhat savvy approach, I was hit with a blow to the gut, when the AT&T salesperson, Oliver, suggested 1G would not be enough to share with two phones, and also that I could actually save money by including my iPad in the data plan we were purchasing, which would only add $50 a month. The iPad data plan by itself would cost $30 for every month in which we were traveling and wanting 3G of data capacity. Whereas including it with the phones would only add $10 per month and with the 4G for the 3 devices, should be adequate, since we don’t use our phones for movies, TV shows or other data rich media. I am considering, however, podcasting from my iPad, and that might change the game radically. For now though, we email pictures, use GPS app maps, and browse the Web for news, travel info and other practicalities when we travel. The rest of the time we are on Wi-Fi. (Anybody lost yet?)    

Oliver made a throwaway statement, when I balked at spending more than $150 for a phone bill, that maybe we all need to change our “reality.” That got me thinking.

Truly, I am willing to examine my reality. I depend on technology. I used my old phone for calls, message texting, viewing the date and time, setting an alarm now and then, maybe using the tools (calculator and stopwatch) and not much else. 

But with an iPhone, things have, in reality, changed dramatically. Now my phone is synced to my MacBookPro and my iPad, and I can quickly get a message, check weather (more extensively with an app than with just seeing the daily temperatures on my old, non-Internet, phone). I can show my FB pictures to friends without having to load in my iPhotos, I can listen to music, I can have retailers scan purchases, I can Face-time my daughter and others, and on and on and on. If I wish to, which I don’t at present, I can watch a movie or a TV show, I can purchase things, read my Kindle, my Nook, my eReader, I can sync my calendars and appointments, and on and on.
                    So my new reality: this is not a phone. This is a mobile media center. Yes, so is my iPad, and in some ways they are redundant. But, having that choice of screen size is also a benefit. I can travel with both, and use whichever is more convenient. For instance, the iPad was really handy in viewing maps on the GPS app as we traveled from Princeton, N.J. to Connecticut on a route that was altered from our original plan, for which we had printed maps. Using the GPS on the larger screen, that turned to a black screen with lighted maps for night driving, was amazing. I don’t want a GPS that is stuck to the windshield with adhesive, partly because it is a common cause of auto break-ins and theft. This GPS goes with me not my car.

If I want to get a list of local restaurants when we travel, the smaller iPhone screen in just fine. If I want to get on a plane, my iPhone has my boarding pass, so no more paper. I can load my Starbucks card, I can transfer funds from bank to bank, and I can take really good pictures and email them to my laptop. 

As I adapt my life around new technology, I have to think that perhaps the money I am saving from the new way of living, equals if not surpasses the increase in my phone bill. For instance, I seldom use my printer, when I have a screen to view, which saves on printer toner and paper. I no longer need to buy checks, because I only use bill pay. This has the added advantage of my not having to shred bank statements, etc. constantly, because I am on paperless systems. I seldom mail a letter, because my friends mostly seem to enjoy texting, emailing, and calling. Really even emailing is becoming far less common, since texting is shorter and faster. That distresses my two or three friends who like the snail mail thing, but I try to accommodate them, even though my letters and notes are far fewer than if they would allow for technology.

OK, so what is the point here? I am changing my reality. I am going to enjoy the benefits of iPhone and not feel bad about paying for it. I will readjust our budget to accommodate more than doubling our phone bill. In the end, I actually expect to save money. I will not be buying paper books, CD music, or software for most things. I will use my free Kindle books, the occasional Kindle or Nook purchase, the library, and use Pandora and my vast collection of already purchased iTunes and CDs. I will not be purchasing any DVD’s, since Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, You Tube and other streaming sources fill that need just fine. Those things alone will save hundreds per year over what we used to spend. (We can’t find those diamond needles for the stereo anymore.) 

I can compare purchasing many things--for instance the Amazon screen shields, which are incredibly cheaper than those at the AT&T store. I had instant confirmation of that online and so could easily pass up impulse buying of a screen shield at $25 instead of $6. Two day free shipping makes the Amazon purchase very convenient.

I also noticed my new MacBookPro does not have an internal DVD/CD drive. I found that curious at first until I realized the rationale. It is thin and the drive takes up space. And, I have not had much reason to insert a CD or DVD lately, since most of my viewing and listening is from streaming, as mentioned above, and most software is downloadable from the Internet. 

Life is changing. We must decide whether to go with it, even stay ahead of it a little on the cutting edge, or to dig in our heels and insist on the “good old days,” which, frankly, weren’t always so good.

That reality shift actually began some time ago, without my realizing it, and is why I started this blog. I am a journalist. Newspapers are dying. I don’t want to die with them. 

Thanks for reading. As usual, would love your comments on your realities concerning the new world of technology.