THE COMING OF THE iPhone – Marilyn Armstrong

My son talked me into it. It was the best deal I was ever going to get. My cousin’s son and my best friends’ sons did the same for them — all at the same time. It’s probably the quarantine that did it. They said that we were seriously in need of good telephones and, it was time they did something about it.

I guess we’ve reached the point when our kids are in the lead which is great. I needed a break!

I also needed to learn to text. Owen didn’t care so much about the rest of it, but he needed me to text because whenever I called him at work, even if the rest of the day had been boring and nothing happened, the moment I called there would be ten people lined up waiting for him. One of Murphy’s Laws.

So now I have an iPhone 11. That’s the small one (I don’t need a giant phone — at that point, I might as well get an iPad and I don’t like them, either, but Garry has one and he does like it so maybe I’m just not a Mac person.

I also got a new set of regular phones for our regular number. I will happily give my cell number to people I want to hear from, but I’d be just as happy to not have everyone calling me all the time.

I don’t understand most of how it works, but I can, reluctantly text. He’d buy and pay for the phone and the monthly “rent” if I would learn to text.

As far as cameras go, it’s a pain in the butt to transfer pictures from the phone to the PC. I don’t know if it would be easier to transfer them to the Mac, but my Mac has no decent photo software and I don’t have the money to buy it right now.

To use the pictures, I have to mail them to myself. Since I take a lot of pictures at a time, I usually have at least a few dozen to download. The photographs are physically large but only 72 pixels — which I find odd. For all that, they are sharp. I wonder who makes the lenses?

For unknown reasons, the camera doesn’t recognize the difference between a short movie and a photo. When you press “photo,” you get whatever it feels like giving you. It’s an existential photographic implement. It probably was raised in France.

It is useful to have something that is small, light and can take respectable pictures, but if you really want art, you need a camera. Focusing on an iPhone is slow compared to a camera. I suspect most people just take the picture and edit later (if they bother to edit). Most snapshooters don’t edit and all they are going to do with the picture is mail it to friends or family. That’s easy. Anything else is klutzy and ponderous.

Still, having something in your bag with which you can take pictures is useful, especially when you are someplace you weren’t planning to take pictures. But LOOK! There’s the most handsome squirrel or duck you’ve ever seen giving you his or her “good side” from a nearby branch. Assuming you can get the camera set up in time, you’ll get a clear, sharp photograph. For me, it will always be a way to shoot when I wasn’t planning to take pictures. I can see how for people who don’t post photographs online or on a blog, it is the “Brownie camera” with a far better lens and some cumbersome wide-angle and telephoto capabilities.

That is always the problem with something that does everything. It never does one thing perfectly but does many things pretty well (if you are lucky).

I took pictures at the dam the day before yesterday. I didn’t take my camera because it’s so heavy, but the day was beautiful and we were actually outside in The Big World.

The pictures are surprisingly good. It also took me the better part of the afternoon emailing them to myself. You can email them individually or as a compressed file, but one way or another, there’s a good deal of work you will need to do from the computer end of the process.

I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to hold the phone without my thumb in the middle of the shot. I still haven’t fully downloaded all the pictures. I probably never will. It’s too much like work.

I can text — slowly — and as a telephone, it’s loud enough for Garry to hear comfortably and that’s a big plus for him. It’s the first time he’s had a cell loud enough to hear clearly since we owned our first Blackberries. Those were classy phones! No photographs, but great sound, a clear signal, plus a usable keyboard. A great portable “office” to carry with you wherever you went. Lacking bells and whistles, but a fine working unit.

So, in summary, for a cell phone, it’s a good camera for grabbing a snapshot on the go.

LITTLE FLAGS IN A COUNTRY THAT’S DYING – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t know how they will get it done, but I’m sure there will be flags in the Revolutionary War cemetery in the middle of town. It’s directly across from the dam and it is beautiful especially in the autumn.

It is just a hundred or so yards from the river itself. Uphill, so it never floods, even when the rivers rush over their banks. The people who created that cemetery knew about the rivers and flooding. They picked a beautiful spot, but dry and safe for the bones and memories.

An old cemetery, dating back to the early 1700s. It contains traces of many generations of those who lived and died in this town, this valley. Folks who lived along the Blackstone and its many tributaries fished in its lakes and streams. They fought in our wars and are buried here — Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War veterans as well as those who fought in all the American wars since.

Every Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day, the cemetery blooms with bouquets and flags. The schools bring the children here, so they will remember too and traditions will be maintained. They bring bouquets of wildflowers or from the back garden. Lilacs and lilies, scarlet poppies … and always a miniature American flag. Even if there’s no special holiday, the cemetery always shows signs of caring, remembering.

Maybe it’s easier to remember here, with such a small population. Is that it? Or it’s just part of the air, the character, the history. Remembering is what we do in the Valley.

The cemetery is one of my favorite places. We’re newcomers after all, only living here 17 years. Our ancestors — Garry’s and mine — come from Sligo, Antigua, Minsk, Bialystok … from tiny villages in Ireland and the West Indies and the shtetls of Eastern Europe.

Valley people have been here longer. Many came from French Canada in the late 19th century to work in the mills. Another large group formed the dominant Dutch population. They built churches, businesses and factories, dairy and truck farms, shops, horse farms, and sawmills. Their names are prominent wherever the rivers run.

Newcomers, like us, aren’t quite as rare these days, and anyway, we’ve lived here 18 years, so we are no longer outsiders. Nonetheless, we have no ancestors in this cemetery.

The valley is the only place I’ve lived where the majority of families have lived in this town or in nearby villages for three, four, five generations.

“We’ve always lived in the Valley,” they say, meaning as long as anyone can remember. If gently prodded, they may recall at some point, long ago, they came from somewhere else … but some can’t remember when or if it’s true.

I point out they must have come from somewhere because unless they are Native American, they came to this place, even if a long time since. They get misty-eyed trying to remember old family stories handed down when they were young. Hard to remember, they tell you. “You know, that was 75 years ago … a long time.”

We nod. It was a long time ago. A year has passed. Little flags and flowers bloom in the cemetery. It’s a nice thing they do. Remembering.

But this is not like any other year. I wonder who remembers the holiday.

HOW THE DISCOVERY OF GERMS CHANGED SOCIETY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In ancient societies, people thought diseases were caused by an imbalance of body fluids or by angry Gods. Centuries later, scientists suspected that illnesses might be transmitted through air or water but they weren’t sure how. Then, in the mid-19th century, Germ Theory proved that tiny microorganisms, like bacteria and viruses, definitively caused disease. This discovery had a profound effect on almost all aspects of human behavior.

You would be appalled by some of the common practices before people understood that germs cause disease. Families shared toothbrushes as well as dinner utensils and public drinking fountains had a single cup that was shared by everyone. Lodgers in inns routinely shared beds with same-sex strangers and families often had several members sharing beds at home.

Customs changed and laws were passed rapidly to adapt to the new scientific knowledge about infectious diseases. Sharing beds and silverware was suddenly unacceptable and restaurants began making male waiters shave their large beards and mustaches. Long skirts for women and heavy Victorian draperies for windows went out of style because all the heavy folds of fabric were thought to harbor germs. Laws were passed to outlaw public spitting, a very common practice among men. An entire industry came into being producing sanitary products and disinfectants, which is how Listerine was born.

Wicker was believed to be germ-resistant so it became the material of choice for seating. The invention of plastic wrap (by the Cellophane Company) in the 1920s was touted as a major sanitary innovation because it could keep food and other personal items germ-free. Refrigerators and vacuum cleaners became necessities for keeping a clean, hygienic house, the new primary goal of all women.

Another esoteric custom came into being. Have you ever wondered why sheets are folded down over the blanket at the head of the bed? We didn’t always do that. Once germs were discovered, sheets were lengthened so that they could protect the blanket from human touch. Therefore the blankets stayed germ-free and could be reused and needed to be washed less frequently than the sheets. Who’d have guessed that one?

The adoption of sanitary practices had some wonderful effects. For example, the frightening levels of infant mortality were greatly reduced. In 1870, 175 of every thousand infants died within the first year of life but by 1930, that number was down to 75. Unfortunately, there was also a serious negative effect on children, as child-rearing practices took an ominous turn.

By the end of the 19th Century, mothers and child givers were warned against cuddling or even touching children for fear of spreading deadly infections. Chilly, aloof, and almost totally non-physical relationships with children were encouraged by doctors and even the government. Parents were told they would do psychological damage as well as physical harm to their children by ‘spoiling’ them if they showed any kind of physical affection. It was this hands-off approach that did serious damage to generations of children because it goes against the inherent need for physical affection that all primate share.

This awful period of child-rearing didn’t end until WWII. That’s when John Bowlby developed attachment theory after observing the damaging effects of children being separated from their parents when they were sent away to ‘safer’ areas during the Blitz in England. Bowlby believed that the attachment between a child and its parents is one of the most important factors in determining a child’s mental and even physical health. He believed that anything that damages the formation of that attachment, like the absence of physical contact and emotional warmth, would have a lasting impact on a child’s emotional and cognitive development.

Around the same time as Bowlby, an American psychologist named Harry Harlow did world-famous studies with monkeys that proved that all primates have an instinctual need for touch and affection. He also found that baby monkeys who were deprived of physical contact exhibited abnormal and even pathological behavior. His work bolstered Bowlby’s and helped initiate a new era of child-centered and emotionally as well as physically connected parenting. My father was a prominent psychoanalyst and anthropologist who wrote in the 1940s and 1950s about the importance of parental intimacy, stimulation, and affection for their kids, especially in the first, critical three years of life.

I always find it fascinating to unravel the connections between seemingly unrelated events in history. There was a wonderful PBS show years ago, aptly called “Connections” that did precisely that. The concept is similar to the “butterfly effect.” I never would have thought that the discovery of germs would influence child-rearing for several generations.

Maybe our experience with the Coronavirus pandemic will have similar, unpredictable effects in all different areas of life. We can guess that more people will work from home from now on, that many people may eat out less frequently and maybe that shopping online will supplant in-person shopping for most things. But what else will change? Only time will tell.

SUNDAY MORNING IN AMERICA: THE MANY DEAD AND WHO KILLED THEM – THE SHINBONE STAR

It’s Memorial Day and this page says too much about this nation and everything you need to know about Donald Trump. Less than you need to know about Memorial Day — which used to be Decoration Day — and far too much about Der Drumpf.


 

THE SHINBONE STAR

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