Friday, February 24, 2012

More technology; Ralph

My blog friend Bob has a good post about his use of the iPad as a pilot.  Like me, Bob sometimes eschews technology (maybe it's a thing with guys named Bob), but he's found the iPad to be a great resource for a pilot. 

Wife has an iPad and she lets me use it sometimes.  I won't deny for a minute that  it's cool with all its "apps" and I asked her to download the one with the piano keyboard after seeing it on a commercial. 

Here's the thing, though: yes, the piano keyboard is kind of fun and I guess it would be a good way for someone to learn to play piano.  As for me, well, I've played piano since I was six years old and I could never get used to flat piano keys as opposed to the raised ones on a conventional piano. I enjoyed playing around with the iPad virtual piano for a while but then I thought to myself that I don't play the real piano nearly as much as I would like to, and it would really be more enjoyable doing that.
Likewise the typing keyboard on an iPad. I would much rather type on a keyboard where I can feel the keys depress, at least ever so slightly, as I hit them. 

Along those lines, I got a new phone last week. We were down in Auburn, AL visiting Younger Son and mine stopped working. 

I do depend on my cell phone so I needed to replace it forthwith. For me, that's not difficult. I went to Wal-Mart last Sunday morning as soon as I realized my old phone was not to be resurrected. I bought one of the "pay-as-you-go" brands, slipped off the back and inserted the SIM card from my old phone, and I was good to go. It's automatically part of our "family plan." In other words, I'm just buying the phone, not the phone service. I already have that. 

For some reason some of my contacts did not transfer, so I had to send e-mails to a few folks asking for their phone numbers so I could re-insert them. I think Kelly might have gotten a little excited, as her reply to my e-mail requesting her phone number said, "What kind did you get?"

No, Kelly, there's still no "smart" phone in my life, just the same old dumb one. Maybe someday but not now.


I am sorry to report that Ralph the Dog has not been well. He came back from a recent kennel visit very sick. He began heaving in the middle of the night and stopped eating and drinking.

The diagnosis was some kind of liver malfunction and after a round of medication, IV fluids, a couple of shots, a baby food diet and a a couple of hundred bucks (conservatively), he is recovered from that, but his doctor's visit revealed a malignant tumor.  Our vet has referred us to a veterinary surgeon and Wife and I are going to meet with him this morning.

We don't know exactly how old Ralph is but we got him in August of 1999 and he was full grown. At that time, at his first vet visit, his doc estimated his age as between 1 and 2 so Ralph is probably somewhere between 14 and 15.

He's a "terrier mix" and weighs about 20 lbs, about the size of a Jack Russell, although he doesn't look like that. He's tan colored, kind of like a Cairne, but not as big as most Cairnes I have seen.

Anyway, we might be faced with a hard decision.   Do we want to subject a dog Ralph's age to surgery? Would it prolong his life that much?  And even though I hate to say this, what about the cost?

All questions I should have answers to within a few hours. We're going to the doc's office at 8:30.

Whatever the outcome, Ralph has been an outstanding dog.  He's had a good life.  He is neurotic but aren't we all on some level.

I'll report back when I know more.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Modern appliances

It is no secret that, although I enjoy and take advantage of many parts of it, there are parts of modern technology that frustrate me.

I will give you a good example.

In 1985, when Wife and I bought our first house after being married less than a year, my parents bought us a house-warming gift: a Maytag washer and dryer. My mother told us we would have them at least 20 years and she would have never had another brand.  They had very simple little knobs and controls and the washer had the normal cycles like gentle, delicates, permament press, etc.  All of this was, of course, operated with a little dial that would point you to the various features. Even I could work it.

Through the years of raising a family we washed and dried, I am certain, literally tons of laundry. 

In 2006, after 21 years of faithful service from the two machines, Wife and I dedcided it was time to replace them. We were not having any significant trouble but the drier was taking longer and longer to get clothes dry and the washer seemed, well, "tired."

We had gone a year past the time my mom had said they would last.  We had never had one repair call for the washer. We had had the drier serviced a couple of times but, as I remember, neither time was anything major or expensive.

We did a little research back in '06 and decided the front loading washer and dryer would be a good kind for us. The washers were reportedly very efficient and used less water and with a front load washer, we might as well have the same feature in a dryer.

I was on a trip to Colorado in September of that year and Wife called and said she had found a set she liked. I told her it was fine with me and when I got home, they had arrived.

We opted out of the little platforms you could buy to set them on so you wouldn't have to bend over as far.  They added several hundred dollars to the price and we reasoned that we could still bend down just fine and even envisioned maybe building (or having built) a custom platform sometime in the future.

Both machines have digital displays which are, of course, more difficult for me to deal with than what we previously had. But Wife was excited to have these new, modern appliances and I was confident we could both master operation of the updated controls.

We did learn how to work them but I am sorry to report that these machines, especially the washer, have been a major disappointment. The dryer has never seemed to get clothes completely dry on its normal run and we almost always have to add additional time to it. I've always felt like there was something I could probably do to remedy that problem but have never taken the time to try to figure it out.

The washer has been a nightmare. It is noisy beyond belief and it shakes the ENTIRE HOUSE. It sounds like an airplane about to take flight and if I'm upstairs and the windows begin to vibrate, I know that Wife is downstairs washing clothes. This is no exaggeration.

As to its ability to wash clothes, I would rate it a mediocre -- at best.  Clothes have seemed a little mildew-y at times. But the noise is by far the worst feature. 

We are throwing in the towel. Last weekend the digital display on the washing machine stopped at 22 minutes. Then it started flashing "N-D" which we, upon investigation, learned to mean "No Drain."  So our clothes were sitting in the machine, soaked, and the water was not draining. And we couldn't open the door.

I pulled it out from the wall and fooled around with the drainage hose.  Long story short, we were able to get it running again and got the water drained so we could get the clothes out, but this went on all week. We can operate the thing but we have to stop and start and it takes about 1.5 - 2 hours to wash a load.

Friday we had a repair guy come and he pronounced the control panel "fried."  The cost to repair?  A whopping $700 -- MORE THAN THE COST OF THE MACHINE!   In other words, this way cool, up- to-date washer lasted less than six years, about a fourth of the time of our first one.

We are going back to top loading and we're getting the simplest one we can find.   You know, all these digital displays and controls are just as cool as they can be but if they are not going to last any longer than this, I'm really not interested. 

Wife says we'll continue to live with the dryer for a while but I wonder about that.