Remember those days of tinfoil wrapped rabbit ears, or going back even further through Mr. Peabody’s “Wayback Machine”, when you had to go outside and manually turn that giant pole attached to an antenna on the roof? After all the sweating, cursing, and adjusting, the picture was still fuzzy and wavy enough to make you seasick.
Those days are gone, my friend, with HDTV and something called a signal booster. As of two days ago, I’m cable free!
While my cable bill was going up, up, up, I was using the service less, less, less since I got a Roku a couple of years ago. Roku streams wirelessly over the internet to your TV and makes hundreds of channels available, including Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Many are free. The only real disadvantage is that sometimes the programs aren’t available until the next day via Hulu. But you can still watch news programs, network series, listen to music, and have access to thousands of movies for less than ten dollars a month plus the cost of wireless internet.
My biggest problem when I considered breaking my cable habit was what to do in case of emergency. I wanted to have access to my local channels when spring tornadoes inevitably rolled through Kansas. After doing a little research, I discovered a nifty gadget called an HDTV signal booster. It looks something like a small, thin stereo speaker with extendable antennas and attaches easily to your cable port on your TV. The one I purchased came with everything I needed, including the cable, and cost about $35.00.
The picture is incredible! I’m able to get all the major networks–NBC, CBS, Fox, and ABC, three public broadcasting stations, and a 24 hour weather channel. I can access about twenty channels for free, and I haven’t missed cable one little bit.
So if you’re interested in joining me, here’s what you’ll need– access to wireless internet that delivers at least 7-8 Megabytes per second (I use AT&T DSL), a signal booster antenna (mine is an RCA from Best Buy), and a way to stream programs (Roku, Wii, Playstation, or a television with built-in internet capability). If you have an older model TV, you’ll need a digital converter. Since my television is HD, I don’t know how the picture quality would compare. You could find out by searching online or asking someone at your local electronics store.
You could also go “cold turkey”, forget about wireless streaming, and just hook up the signal booster. But the package I have allows me to enjoy TV viewing that is comparable to cable at a fraction of the cost.
The only drawback is the booster sometimes interferes with my internet signal to Roku; however, it isn’t a problem with my laptop. I found an easy fix by turning the signal booster off–either with the switch or unplugging it– when I’m using Roku.
Maybe you’ll consider joining me, or perhaps, you’ve already cut the cord and you’re screaming with me at the top of your lungs, “I’m cable free”!
When I worked at Borders, I used to spend my lunch hours wandering the store aisles and thumbing the pages of all those wonderful books. One day, I picked up a book called “The Hidden Messages in Water” by Dr. Masaru Emoto. It was pretty interesting, because if the evidence is credible, water consciously responds to its environment.
The experiment was simple–just write a word on a piece of paper like “ugly”, “beautiful”, or “hate”, place it in front of a glass of water, superfast freeze it, and photograph the magnified image of the crystal structure. The resulting photos (captured in the book’s pages) showed remarkable differences. The “beautiful” water formed organized, eye-pleasing crystals and the “ugly” water formed disjointed, unattractive ones. Even more bizarre, if you put “you fool” by a glass of water, it didn’t form crystals at all! Seemed that the water actually became too stupid to crystallize!
My first thought after reading the book was, “could water really respond to words?” Actually, my first thought was, “this is pretty crazy”. Think about it. Some mad scientist decides to destroy the world by tossing giant pieces of paper marked “hurricane” into all the oceans. Or he is less ambitious and destroys a Midwestern town by throwing “flood” into the Mississippi. Crazy, right?
I don’t think that’s likely anytime soon. However, it is possible the experiment wasn’t measuring water’s response, at all. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed possible that they were measuring the observer’s expectations. There’s some evidence this might be the case based on quantum experiments. It’s called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal.
Maybe, we just see what we decide to see. We tell water it’s ugly, and we see ugly water; call it beautiful and it responds in kind. That’s true of a lot of things in life. If we see hate and distrust in other people, we’re likely to find it there. If we search for something positive, we’re likely to see that too. Words and thoughts have power—even when they are directed at something as simple as a glass of water.
And hey, the body is about 60% water, so I’m taping “beautiful” to my mirror and waiting for good things to happen. Instead of being what we eat, we’re more likely to be what we think we’re going to eat, or what we think we’ll look like after we eat, or……oh, never mind. Just have a “beautiful” day.
“Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Yesterday, at about 11:30 in the morning, I felt a blast shake my house. Curious, I went outside to see what was up. Nothing seemed unusual, so I came back inside and investigated the basement, second floor, and attic to see if something had fallen off my house. Everything looked fine, and I shrugged it off.
Later, I found out what had happened on the local news. While installing lawn sprinklers in a neighborhood down the street, someone had cut into the gas line, and caused an explosion at the adjacent house. Incredibly, there was almost nothing left of the split-level structure. Even worse, an elderly woman was inside, and is now in the hospital in critical condition.
This is almost mind boggling. I feel so sorry for that poor lady, who was probably just going about her normal, morning routine. Doubtless, there will be plenty of discussion in the coming weeks about who or what was to blame. Regardless of the outcome, the house will still be gone and the woman’s life will be forever changed. It all happened in the blink of an eye.
We never know what the future holds; nothing is certain. We live on a rock filled with molten lava that is hurling through space at unimaginable speeds. Sometimes, it’s important to remember just how fragile life is, and that tomorrow is never guaranteed. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, if there is music inside you, let it sing; don’t wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come.
Several years ago, I wrote a story called, Snow Dancing With Ghosts, which is available on Writer’s Cramp. The tale is about an elderly lady who refuses to give up a dream that her childhood sweetheart will one day rescue her from her crazy, painful life. It is about faith and love.
Most people don’t know that the story is based on a woman I used to see riding the Tenth Street bus when I lived in Indianapolis during my own youth. Dressed in a ratty coat and tattered clothes, she boarded the bus almost every day in the gypsy neighborhood on Massachusetts Avenue. Her hair was bleached and frizzy, her red lips were cracked. Rouged circles melted into the lines of her weathered cheeks, and the soles of her worn shoes were patched together with band-aids.
She was Venus in decay, sad and noble, and unforgettable. Many years later, I finally wrote the story that gave her a happy ending.
Of course, I have no idea what her real story was, but I suppose that’s what writers do—weave tales about people we encounter and imagine “what if”.
I was thinking about her today, because I’m considering writing a novel about that crazy time in the 1960s when I lived in Woodruff Place. I have mostly ignored it in my writing, partly because it is my own special treasure—a place that glows and vibrates with the intensity of youthful exuberance. Everything is in Technicolor and poignant and relegated to long, long ago.
It’s also possible, I haven’t written about it, because a very, good friend of mine was killed in Viet Nam during those years. He is in my thoughts, even now, and I wonder what would have happened if he and so many others had lived. Of course, I carry his unfinished story in my heart, much as I did the elderly lady on the Tenth Street bus. And maybe, as a writer, that’s all we can do. Tell our stories and hope they do justice to the people we remember.
Here’s a link to Snow Dancing With Ghosts on Writer’s Cramp, if you care to read it: http://www.writerscramp.ca/archives/snow_dancing_with_ghosts.htm
Somehow, I missed Thom Beers’ (Deadliest Catch) latest reality show, Coal. Maybe it was because the series, set in West Virginia, aired on Spike TV. I have no idea where the channel is, what it is, or if I even get it on my cable provider. Lucky for me, however, Coal showed up in my top suggestions on Netflix Instant View, because I am definitely digging Coal! … continue reading.
Last night, I decided to go highbrow and watch Masterpiece Classic’s, Downton Abbey. I just love those English manor tales where you can practically crawl into the lush gardens, oak-paneled libraries, and draped four-poster beds. When the Lady of the Manor pulls the cord for tea, I am right there, Lady Ann, in my little white gloves and velvet hat with my ankles politely crossed, as the butler pours tea into my china cup and passes cream-filled scones.
Well, you can imagine my horror—my sense of social impropriety– when my virtual tea was interrupted by a bat soaring over my head and almost parting my hair. … continue reading.
I have a confession. I’m a genealogy junkie. I can spend hours, sometimes weeks, going through thousands of old records and books. I sort of see myself as an astronomer gazing at a billion, billion stars until something oddly wonderful shows up on that telescope glued to my squinty, bloodshot eyes.
One of my missing ancestors is John Henry Ferguson, who probably lived in Scotland or Ulster in the late sixteen hundreds. It’s also possible he traveled the wide oceans to “the colonies” before his grandson, (my 3rd great grandfather) Samuel Ferguson bought a ¼ acre lot in Staunton, Virginia, and showed up in the Augusta County Records, “The Chronicles of the Scots-Irish in Virginia”. … continue reading.
I woke up this morning to a sprinkling of snow, not much more than a thimble’s worth, but as I sit here drinking a cup of steaming, hot chocolate, my thoughts drift back to my childhood and cold winters’ mornings at Kent Elementary on Snow Days.
The school had two classrooms of four grades each. A single teacher stood at the helm of the room, conducting rowdy students with the deftness of a maestro at Carnegie Hall. Later, they opened up two storage rooms and cut the classes to two per room. Still, it was a strange environment by today’s standard. After our lessons each day, we’d just sit there coloring and listening as the teacher taught the other grades. By osmosis, alone, we pretty much knew everything for the next year and had the past year’s lessons drummed into our skulls over and over, until we could almost teach the class, ourselves.
It was a lawless, wild west, method of teaching children. During recess, we all traipsed over to Tub Temperley’s, the town’s general store, to buy penny candy, waxed lips, or cream sodas. The store was a wood frame structure with oiled floors, an ancient register, and a group of old men gathered around a pot belly stove spinning yarns. They were a fixture in most of the local towns, gathering each day at the barber shop or general store. They all looked the same to me– overalls, grizzled beards, and plaid shirts– and I sometimes wondered if they traveled from town to town like a bunch of gypsies. … continue reading.
There’s a wonderful scene in Princess Bride when Westley, still weakened from being tortured and left for dead by Prince Humperdinck, storms Humperdinck’s Castle with Fezzig and Inigo. Westley is lying in Buttercup’s bedroom, because he is too weak to stand. Prince Humperdinck walks in and challenges Westley with brandished sword, “To the death!”. Westley slowly stands up, takes his sword, and says, “To the pain!”.
Well, it turns out to the pain is a lot scarier than to the death, since it involves maiming body parts, gouging Humperdinck’s eyes, cutting off his nose and lips, and only leaving his “perfect ears”, so he can hear every horrible scream when people see his horribleness.
It’s an exaggeration to claim that any pain caused by writing will ever come close to that! But, believe it or not, that call rallies me when my body sometimes wants to give up, and I tell myself “Write—to the pain!”.
For several years I’ve had to deal with tendonitis and shoulder pain when I’m trying to write. Other times, my legs start to ache after sitting for hours when I’m “in the zone”. And sometimes, my eyes are so strained; I see everything as a blurred haze. There have been many periods that I’ve just given up writing for months on end. Voice Recognition Software doesn’t work very well for me, since my creative brain seems to be glued to my fingers. I need to type to write.
In the grand scheme of things, this problem is little stuff. When I look at my life, I feel lucky and blessed. God has been good to me. But sometimes, like today, that shoulder pain niggles and my wrists feel like melted butter while I sit here looking at my blurred screen.
I have so many things I want to say, and so many stories that fill my head so full, that sometimes it wants to burst. Those are the times I have to tell myself to write—“to the pain”!
I don’t collect much. There are no china dolls, baseball cards, or rare stamps hidden away in the attic. What I have collected is pretty much intangible: old family stories going back to the seventeen hundreds, weird facts, and legends.
One of my favorite legends is about Swift’s Silver Mine. It is what I call a “traveling legend”, because the mine’s location bobs and weaves with the agility of a greased pig on county fair day. … continue reading.