router woes and recovery

Stuff sometimes happens even when you’re minding your own business. Yesterday before I went grocery shopping I checked my email. All was well. When I got home I had no internet access. My router was non-functional. There were no lights lit up on it. None. Completely dark. He’s dead, Jim. It’s a dead parrot.

routerI called Spectrum and the automated voice support was no help, so I enunciated very clearly rep-RE-sen-TATIVE. After twenty minutes on hold I got a real person who was very friendly, but finally agreed with me that I had a dead parrot, er, router.

While I was on hold I used my Spectrum iPhone app to make an appointment at the Spectrum store to swap out my router, but the first available appointment was the next day. The real person at Spectrum told me that I didn’t need an appointment; I could just head over to the store, which I did.

I had to wait a bit for my turn, but once someone came over to help me the equipment swap was very quick. I brought the new router home, connected everything, and waited. No internet access. Another call to that automated lady, a complete power cycle on both the modem and the router, then voilà, internet access!

I did a speed test and saw that I was getting almost twice the internet speed I had before, which is what Spectrum had been telling me for some months that I should be getting.

It’s a cliche, certainly, but it’s also true: all’s well that ends well.


At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic Terry and I agreed, out of an abundance of caution, to discontinue our housekeeping service. Fortunately Pat, the last time Terry spoke with her, had sufficient work to not feel stressed.

Of course not having a housekeeper means we have to do the housekeeping ourselves. That has been manageable, but vacuuming is an issue. Given her bad knee, which will be replaced like the other one after the pandemic is past us, Terry can’t vacuum without pain. I will vacuum when asked, but I really don’t enjoy it.

JimmyTerry, having been laid off like so many others, has plenty of time on her hands and was using some of it, unbeknownst to me, to research robotic vacuums. She decided that the Shark was the best option and announced to me one day that she was going to the Best Buy about a half hour away from us to pick one up. I was dubious, but after twenty-six years of marriage I have learned that when Terry makes a decision there is no point in arguing.

She brought the device home and set it up to charge before sending it off on its first mission. The Shark is controlled by a smartphone app, and you need to give it a name. Terry decided on Jimmy. Personally, I might have preferred HAL, but parrot heads will recognize the reference to a certain Jimmy Buffett song.

One thing you learn from the online Shark forums is that it takes several forays for Jimmy to get to know your house. I had my doubts, but on his third or fourth reconnaissance mission Jimmy found the master bedroom. And with that, as the Monkees sang, “Now I’m a believer.”

Tasha regards Jimmy with a certain level of disdain, but for me, not needing to vacuum? I’m good with that.

New York in the ’50s

New York in the 50s coverNew York in the ’50s
Dan Wakefield
Open Road Media (February 9, 2016), 355 pages
Originally published in 1992
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $16.24
Purchased during an Early Bird Books sale for $2.99

I had never read any Dan Wakefield. I was only familiar with him as a novelist from his place on the paperback fiction shelf during my days at B. Dalton Bookseller. In this case, however, the title was intriguing and the price was right.

While the title might suggest history or sociology, New York in the ‘50s is in fact autobiography. Wakefield describes his desire to leave his native Indiana and his arrival at Columbia University. He talks about his college years and his decision like many of his fellow and sister students to stay on in New York City after graduation.

Wakefield describes his attempts, generally successful, to survive as a freelance writer and reporter in the city. He recounts his covering Dorothy Day and her hospitality house along with the struggles of drug addicts and those who worked to help them. He writes about life in Greenwich Village and hanging out at the literary watering hole, a bar called the White Horse.

The author is honest about the newness and initial awkwardness of sex and relationships. He is candid about his struggles with depression and alcohol and about his dependence on analysis, something he did five days a week and which ate up a good share of his income.

Ultimately Wakefield found New York stifling and a journalism fellowship allowed him to go to Boston. It was only after leaving the city that he published hist first novel, Going All the Way. But his time in New York makes for entertaining and at times enlightening reading.

a fun new toy

I lost my hearing aid in the parking lot at Kaiser Riverside during the so-called storm of the decade a few years ago when I was taking Terry home from one of those routine but unpleasant procedures that we older folks must endure every five to ten years. When I went to replace it I asked for a hearing aid that would connect directly to my iPhone without an intermediate device. The clinic’s ReSound line did just that. I love it.

Sometimes, though, I want to use earbuds. The sound quality is better, and when I am doing yard work or exercising I worry that the sweat could damage my hearing aid. The wired earbuds that came with my iPhone 8 have good sound quality, but the frigging things don’t stay in my ear. Not only that, but if I’m doing yard work the cord gets in my way.

Letsfit earbudsI have avoided wireless earbuds because of the price, but our morning news tech guy on KTLA channel 5, Rich DeMuro, reviewed a product from Letsfit that sold for only $26.99 on Amazon. I thought it was worth a try, and with the rewards points on my Amazon VISA credit card the earbuds cost me six dollars and change with tax. (The price, by the way, was $19.95 at last check on Amazon.)

They are really cool. There are four sizes of ear tips and the sound quality is excellent. When the weather allows me to do yard work I can listen to audiobooks without fighting with the cords or worrying that my hearing aid might be damaged by my sweat. The earbuds are advertised as waterproof and they seem to be. The left one fell into my leftover black beans from El Pollo Loco with no apparent damage. (The only time the seem to fall out is when I am using them while eating, which I probably shouldn’t do anyway.)

Practical, fun, and inexpensive. What more can you ask?

The Year 1000

The Year 1000 coverThe Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World – and Globalization Began
Valerie Hansen
Narrated by Cynthia Farrell
Simon & Schuster Audio, April 14, 2020
$13.22 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

In The Year 1000 Valerie Hansen makes the case that humans first began exploring outside their own local regions around that year. She of course discusses the discovery of North America by the Scandinavians and notes that while they didn’t stay on this continent they explored other regions where they did stay. She makes an interesting case that the Scandinavians may have made it as far south as Mexico. While this is argument may be controversial, most of the rest of the book is pretty much standard history.

In addition to the Scandinavians Hansen discusses central and eastern Europeans, Africans, Chinese, and Arabs. One of the more depressing aspects of the book is how prevalent slavery was. The Scandinavian Vikings engaged in it, Africans were complicit in enslaving other Africans, and the Arabs traded in slaves as well. She points out that the Arabs, in spite of their many cruelties, did believe in freeing slaves under certain circumstances. She tells us that because of their large population the Chinese did not need slaves, and were therefore also slow to adopt powered technology in their manufacturing processes.

By necessity Hansen discusses events before and after 1000, but her thesis that globalization began throughout the world around this time is well supported by her narrative.

The book is adequately and listenably read by Cynthia Farrell, though at times her narration is a bit stiff, and she can sound like Siri at moments. Still, listening to The Year 1000 was time well spent.


Semicolon coverSemicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark
Cecelia Watson
Ecco (July 30, 2019), 221 pages
Kindle edition $12.99, Amazon hardcover $13.29
Kindle edition purchased on sale for $1.99

I downloaded a sample of this book as soon as I saw the review last summer. I’m not sure why I’m just now getting around to reading it, but the advantage of waiting is that I got a darn good price on the Kindle edition.

Watson reassures us that if we have ever felt any confusion about the use of the semicolon we are very much in the mainstream. She makes clear that while the “first professional grammarians sought clarity through rules, they ended up creating confusion, and the semicolon was collateral damage.” She tells us that before professional grammarians showed up, “the marks of punctuation were analogous to the rests in a piece of music, and were to be applied as individual circumstances and preferences dictated.”

It is interesting to read that Herman Melville had a passion for the semicolon in Moby-Dick, and that Raymond Chandler never touched a semicolon in his mystery novels but used them extensively in his literary essays.

Personally, I prefer to adhere to the standard American English rule for use of a semicolon: it is to be used “either when the items in a list are lengthy and have their own internal punctuation, or when separating two independent or coordinating clauses.”

I use the semicolon rarely; there are times, however, when inserting a semicolon makes sense.