Recently, I have become wise and venerable, by virtue of celebrating my 62nd birthday.  Now I qualify for some more senior discounts!  That's a good thing, because this was a very expensive birthday.

The first gift was a two-week trip to Switzerland, which ought to be enough of a present for anyone.  But the trip's primary purpose was to assist Janet and the kids in coming to the U.S. for an extended stay, including a month living with us.  On top of that, for eight days of that month Heather and her kids joined us, giving us all children and grandchildren here for a while, including Father's Day.  Grateful as I am for Skype and other modern means of communication, there is nothing like physical presence and shared activities for building bonds, and I'm especially happy that the cousins had that time together.  Living an ocean apart is tough.  Overseas (or cross-country) travel with children drains the spirit, body, and pocketbook—but the rewards are incalulable.  Yes, it would be better for all concerned if we lived in the same town and could see each other regularly on a more casual basis, but we make the best of what we have, and the cross-cultural diversity (family, state, country) is an important blessing, too.  These visits are the most important to document, but such a post requires much more time—and organization of photos—so it will have to wait.  At least now you know why this blog has been so silent recently.

Then thealtaltre's the gift that deserves a post of its own, but for practical reasons will only get bold lettering here:  Thanks to Heather (and Jon), we're expecting a ninth grandchild next Februay! Or maybe early March.  For Father's Day I'd given Porter this mug, commemorating the visit of the cousins.  Heather made their announcement by telling him it was nice, but out of date.  :)

My most expensive birthday present—ever—was the "gift" of a new HVAC system for our house.  The old one gave up the ghost in the middle of a Florida summer, and our used-to-colder-Switzerland guests were even more grateful than I was that Porter dove into the project and had us enjoying cool air again in record time.  (We had known this was coming eventually; the system was 40 years old.)  Let's just say that it's times like this that make me really appreciate having a pool.  Kids get a lot less cranky in the heat if you let them swim as much as they want.  We won't get to test the heating part of the system for several months.

Skipping the more affordable but none the less valued birthday presents, we come to a life-changing gift: we have finally joined the ranks of the smartphone users.  Technically, Porter was one before, having a Blackberry, but that had belonged to IBM, which made the really interesting stuff off limits.  I knew we would love smartphones when we finally broke down and got them, but was very reluctant to increase our phone spending by more than an order of magnitude.  (Porter's was provided and mine—which works just fine for talk and text—cost $100 per year.)

But change comes to us all, even (especially?) those over 60.  Being myself one hundred percent occupied with grandchild-related activities, I left the decision (like that about the HVAC) in Porter's capable hands.  After much research, he chose AT&T (we've always had AT&T, except for when IBM forced him to use Verizon with his Blackberry, an unpleasant experience) as the provider, and Samsung/Android for the phones.  He has a Note 3 and I a Galaxy s5, and we're both very happy with the choices.  I find mine a little too big for comfort, especially in its OtterBox case (which I like a lot), but I do appreciate the screen real estate.  I just have to figure out a decent way to carry it.

There's a lot I have to figure out.  The phone itself is amazingly intuitive.  Say what you like about us old folks, this is certainly no harder to figure out than PDP-12 assembly language and learning to follow a program's progress by turning up the volume on the speaker and listening to the changes in the accumulator register.  It's the lifestyle changes that require more careful thought.  I am determined to make my new phone a servant, not a master, which I acknowledge is a non-trivial endeavour.  I'll probably be blogging more about that for a while than about the good stuff that requires organizing my photos, another non-trivial endeavour.  Especially since I now have phone pictures as well as camera pictures.

Speaking of life-changing events, the impetus for our plunge into the smartphone world came when the higher-powers-that-be at IBM decided that Porter could do without his Blackberry—because they could do without his services.  I have no doubt he could find another job, but what would be the fun in that?  So as of June, Porter is officially retired!  He expects to continue to do occasional consulting work; even now, the less-than-higher-powers-that-be at IBM—the ones who really know how good Porter is at what he does—are working hard to get approval to hire him back as a consultant.  But for now we are greatly enjoying having him available to the family full time.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Edit
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