The iPhone 6 and the “Teddy-Tickle-Me-Cabbage” Generation

I’ve become increasingly aware lately of the sheer mindlessness with which we spend money. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back in my awareness landed a few days ago when the iPhone 6 came out. Thousands of people worldwide were camping out in front of Apple Stores. A simple Google search revealed that people pitched tents in Boston, Houston, Chicago, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Manhattan, and Dayton, just to name a few American cities.

Around the world it was much the same. In London, 100 people who were camping out in front of their particular phone store were surveyed (the article made it sound like more than 100 were present!) and 67% believed the iPhone was a “good value.”

Really?

Here at home, from my cell provider (AT&T), the iPhone is $649.

If you didn’t catch that, let me type it again, longways this time.

Six Hundred and Forty-Nine Dollars.

Dollars!

I could almost make two mortgage payments with that kind of money.

Perhaps someone should have asked, “A good value compared to what?”

In Perth, Australia, the first person to purchase an iPhone, in his zeal to reveal it to the reporter who asked for a look-see, promptly dropped the thing face-down on the concrete, among the collective gasps, derisive laughter, and expletive-laden exclamations of onlookers.

I wonder if that was a good value?

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At least his girlfriend has the sense to look sheepish.

In Sydney, Australia, a California couple became the first people in the world to own an iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. They ordered the things online and TOOK A PLANE to Sydney, simply so they could say they were among the first to grab the latest model. There he is above, in all his arrogant, Yankee glory, nostrils flared and hands raised in victory. At least his girlfriend had the sense to look sheepish.

I simply can’t fathom why that sort of thing is important to them. I wonder if they will do it again in a couple of years when the next model comes out?

How many people, I wonder, are actually buying an iPhone 6 because their current phone is wearing out, broken, or desperately in need of updating? And by “updating,” I mean they’re still using a clamshell phone, or they have one of those clunky nineties models that don’t fit in your purse or pocket or the operating system is just too ancient to work with today’s technology kind of “updating.”

It’s enough to give this forty-something wicked Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch, and Tickle Me Elmo flashbacks.

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Perhaps that’s it. This “Teddy-Tickle-Me-Cabbage” Generation grew up with it. How many of these individuals begged their parents for the latest craze until the hapless adults descended, en masse, upon toy stores and shopping malls, pushing and smacking each other to obtain the latest thing to be shoved under the bed or left outside in the rain or thrown, stained and headless, into the attic? How many of their parents bid outrageous amounts on eBay for these toys? How many parents came home without one, whatever it was, and was greeted on Christmas morning with “I hate you!”? What if they were successful in wrestling from some harried shopper whatever polyester-clad, fuzzy plastic gewgaw they were after and their children responded with “This is the wrong color!” or “I TOLD you I wanted the one with Kung-Fu grip!”?

Is that really what’s happening here? Are our spending habits stuck in the 80’s? If so, that’s rather sad, for our prices certainly aren’t. Do we (and I mean we, collectively) think we have that much disposable income that we fork over $649 without a thought because that’s what our parents did during the age of shoulder pads, enormous hair, and reckless overspending? Have we a grossly overdeveloped sense of entitlement? Where did it come from? What fuels it? It’s as if, as consumers, we’re stuck on a toy rocking horse, rocking furiously, the springs constantly whispering their chant, “There must be something else to buy! There must be something else to buy!”

I will be the first to admit to being tethered to my cell phone. Granted, I am an Android user, but the shackles are much the same. I text my husband, son, and mother regularly. I have even been known to text my son that dinner is ready so I don’t have to leave the kitchen. I read Harry Potter FanFiction. I play MahJongg. I’m even trying a 30-day trial of KindleUnlimited to see if it would be worth spending the ten bucks a month. I snap photos of the dog’s “cute-to-me-but-not-likely-the-rest-of-the-world” moments and post them on Facebook like some deranged doting grandmother.

But to purchase the next phone (read nonessential appliance) as soon as it comes out? Not this gal.

Every phone I’ve ever gotten from my provider I’ve spent $30 or less for. Most of the time they were free. In one case I actually waited to upgrade until the phone I was after was free from AT&T. It was an LG Phoenix, and for my meager purposes, it was well worth the wait.

I wonder how long it will take people to realize we’re not in the 80’s anymore. Until then, I shall simply marvel at those who continue down this road of mindless spending.

A Response to Shawna

Occasionally, given my position on campus, I receive a letter from a concerned student or parent regarding a situation they are particularly vexed about or just downright angry about. Most of the time I do not answer, as I feel they have reached me in error, and I forward it to the appropriate party if necessary. As an administrative assistant (read secretary), there is very little I can do regarding the drafting or enforcing of policy, but as a mentor, encourager, and friend to students, I felt I needed to say something to this student who wrote to me regarding a recent potential threat to campus safety. She writes:
“There are a great number of students very concerned with this possible shooting threat. Many of us believe that Indiana State is not taking it seriously enough. It is not even mentioned on ISU’s homepage, yet all the media outlets understand the potential danger this is putting students in, just as we do. We students believe that campus should be closed today after this threat so our lives will not be put in any potential danger. Allowing students on campus when a threat has been identified is careless, dangerous, and a move that is staggeringly unbelievable in this time when school crises are a common occurrence. In no way has the university made known of any efforts to protect the students or prevent this potential situation from occurring. The well-being, both physical and mental, of ISU’s students, faculty, staff, and community members should be a primary concern of the university.
Shawna —————.”
My response is as follows, and I feel anyone near a college campus will do well to read this message and glean what they can from it. Forewarned is forearmed!

Shawna,
I completely understand your concern. As a staff member and wife of another staff member, former student, and mother of a potential future Sycamore, I too am concerned about the message I received this morning regarding the comment about a potential threat to our safety.
I can only speak as a staff member and not a Public Safety officer or administrator, but from my perspective I can assure you, in reference to your concern that this campus is not taking the online comment seriously enough, nothing could be further from the truth. It is not just during times of potential threats and severe conditions that faculty, staff, administration, and the surrounding community are mobilized to protect this campus and its inhabitants. We train, retrain, and train again on procedures and safety measures and guidelines. When unfortunate incidents on other campuses force us to revisit our policies and procedures, we take the opportunity to reeducate ourselves and make sure we are doing our utmost to protect this campus and its people. Then we practice those procedures, regroup, and educate ourselves again.
Below is a photo of the RAVE alert I received at 12:47 this morning:

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If you do not have RAVE on your cell phone, I strongly encourage you to register for it. Here is the link:

https://www.getrave.com/login/indstate

As you can see from the photo, there is a link to the Public Safety page that explains what happened:

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As you will see in the second paragraph, it states “There has been no corroborating information received to support this.” It goes on to say, essentially, that their wish is to be as transparent as possible and share their findings with everyone on campus and the surrounding community. The notice I received on my phone specifies “a heightened security awareness,” meaning we should go about our business as usual but keep an eye out for and “report any suspicious activity to the ISU Police Department.”

This is where you come in as an individual. Your personal protection demands that not only are we educated, but you too. That is why campus encourages everyone—students, staff, faculty, administration, and surrounding community—to prepare for such an event and act accordingly. Stay informed. Report suspicious information. Educate yourself via the instructions available on the ISU Public Safety website. Take a minute or two to think about where the exit is, whichever building you happen to be in—in fact, it would probably be a good idea to scope out more than one. As you’re walking across campus, think about which door you can duck into should trouble arise. Find out whether your classroom has a phone on the wall—it will ring when disaster strikes. Those slideshows your professors lecture from? They will be interrupted by this bright, in-your-face warning:

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Staff computers are hooked up to this warning, too. Search through the Public Safety website to find what else you can do to protect yourself, though I pray you and I will never need it.

Again, I am simply a staff member, not a Public Safety officer or campus administrator. I don’t write policy. I do, however, take the time to educate myself on campus policy concerning dangerous situations and think often about what I can do to protect myself and others around me. This does help my personal physical and mental well-being, and I know that my coworkers are looking out for me. We’re looking out for you too, Shawna.

I know you believe campus should be closed today. Maybe others feel the same way. I can understand that. I do know, however, that this situation was researched in the wee hours of the morning, thanks to a student like you who took the time to report this incident out of concern for the well-being of the campus, and it was found to only require a “heightened awareness.” If that changes, we’ll know as soon as Public Safety does. There is currently no notice on the homepage because circumstances at this time don’t warrant it. No threat has been identified at this time.

If you choose to stay home today, that’s completely your decision. I have no say whatsoever in whether you come to campus. I do know that if we live our lives simply responding to fear, people like the person who posted that awful, tasteless, threatening, abhorrent comment will win. They will keep you from obtaining the education you came here for, and may keep you from living the life you want and deserve.

You say “In no way has the university made known of any efforts to protect the students or prevent this potential situation from occurring.” I tell you, Shawna, they have, and it’s on their minds daily. They’re doing everything humanly possible.
I am forwarding this message to your SGA representatives, as well as Public Safety. It is my hope that if I have provided you with false information, they will help to correct me. Please don’t limit yourself by sending your future concerns to just me. All of us will take them seriously.

Maria ——-, MS
Class of 2008
Class of 2010
Administrative Assistant, University Faculty Senate

The Indulgent Chuckling of Father Time

I was taking the dog out the other morning when Fall came.

Before I leave for work Mags gives me the face. Dog owners know that face. It’s the face that says, “Pleeeeease can’t we go outside for just a little while? The ground is damp, and it’s perfect sniffing weather! Plus, there may be something new to roll in. You guys are going to be gone all day. You owe me this!”

Naturally, I caved.

We stepped out onto the front porch, which is currently festooned with an assortment of dew-dotted spider webs, dying tomato plants, and various containers of shriveled herbs in damp soil. Beyond lay the acorn-strewn sidewalk and the tiny stretch of yard we call ours, blanketed with the heavy August morning fog that is understood by almanac writers and old wives to predict a hard winter.

We picked our way along the sidewalk—I tiptoeing around the acorns, Maggie stopping to inspect several of them, eventually deciding on one to bring into the house on the return trip—and simultaneously I saw, heard, and felt:

  • Children across the street waiting for the bus, eyes half closed, kicking lunchboxes with their knees,
  • Crickets lingering and chatting to each other, probably about the coming winter, and
  • That slight chill in the air, faint and humid, which immediately and irrevocably sealed it…Fall is on its way.

Funny how I should think it’s the day Fall came. That chill in the air was the switch that alerted my awareness, but Fall had been on its way all along. Days have been getting shorter for two months now. Children are in their third week of a new grade. Local newscasts have already been speculating on the chances of each high school’s swift, scrappy, and spirited football lineups.

It’s a gradual progression that sneaks up on me. A yen to feel the soft, insulating bulk of a cardigan or hear the zip-zop of corduroys slowly emerges. I start noticing that regardless of what I wear, there’s a certain time of day when it’s inappropriate for the weather. Short sleeves in the morning are too chilly. Sweatshirts in the afternoon are too stifling.

I go online, and seemingly overnight, Pinteresters are eagerly pinning garish yet carefully arranged photos of apple cider recipes, Halloween crafts, and pumpkin spice…everything.

That morning the switch in my awareness tripped, sloughing away the minutiae of adulthood with which we occupy ourselves, allowing me to register the ancient, subtle, visceral reaction present in every one of us.

Into my mind flew visions of countless versions of myself, at various sizes and ages, hearing the crickets’ ancient song, lyrics as old as the Creation. Feeling the snap in the air at the elementary school bus stop, my kneecaps faintly knocking my Snoopy lunchbox as I fidget. Smelling the burnt dust from the furnace duct after months of icy air conditioning and corn pollen breezes.

Hearing the rhythmic creak of the rope supporting the tire swing and warming my arms on the old pickup tire which retained the heat of the day, staving off the chill from the evening breeze. Walking the nature trails with a bouncy blond mini-me, filling a baseball cap with acorns of every shape and size.

Smearing the car’s condensation from the night’s dampness on my school clothes as we crammed three middle schoolers, one tuba, two celli, and a 6’ 3” driver in a 1971 Super Beetle. Feeling the nubbly warmth of the basketball that keeps missing that hoop, dangit, in the driveway, while the muffled cheers of a football game waft across the yard and the sun slowly sinks to sleep.

Swishing, with high kicks and much giggling, through the knee-high leaves in the park, scattering gold, orange, and red like confetti, watching the dust motes dance in the rays that pierce my vision, fiercely asserting themselves between the branches.

Slowly, the penetrating heat of the day will be replaced by crisp breezes and the sweet, earthy smell of damp, decaying leaves. Fall has arrived, not with trumpet fanfare, but with a gentle, wafting insistence that sunk into my awareness until its presence could no longer be denied.

As I came back to the present version of myself, I could almost hear the indulgent chuckling of Father Time. It’s almost as if he said, “It caught you unawares, child, once again! Someday, when you’re older, you’ll learn to look for it more often, and the memories will carry you. Until then, listen to your dog more. She knows.”

I looked at my surroundings in wonder, and finally my eyes came to rest on Maggie, who glared at me as if to say, “Duh! Why do you think I wanted to come outside? Now walk me over here, human, because I’ve caught a whiff of something I might wanna roll in.”

Raynaud’s and Me: Singing (and Sporting) the Blues Year-Round

My feet are freezing.

Seriously.

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It’s late August in the Midwest, and my feet are cold, despite the two pairs of socks and clunky leather shoes I’m wearing. Actually, I don’t really consider them clunky…I think they’re rather happenin’. I’ve always been a fan of Eastland shoes, and prefer them to the spindly flats other women seem more than happy to scoot around in.

My tendency towards stiff and sturdy footwear probably started when I was very small, when my mother would outfit my brother and me in Stride Rites that practically willed one’s feet to correct themselves. You 60’s and 70’s kids know what I mean!

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Come to think of it, I could use those tennis shoes some mornings…which is the right foot again?

The reason they’re freezin’ can be attributed to one thing…Raynaud’s Syndrome. It’s a condition that has left me with cold hands and feet (and nose, and ears) since I was 15 years old. Suddenly I had no circulation in my extremities, or so it seemed. Simple things like walking into an air-conditioned room or picking up a cold bottle of water can cause the blood vessels in my fingers to react like it’s 20 below zero outside, and sound the alarm to the rest of my body to shunt blood to my core to protect my innards. My ghostly, mottled skin and fingernails with their distinctive bluish tint often prompt coworkers to say, “Eww! Are you okay?” (Touch them and watch them jump about eight feet in the air and yelp!)

I have seen a doctor about it, who said that I could either wear layers to keep my core warm and get regular exercise, or I could take blood pressure medicine to open my blood vessels a little, improving flow. I decided on the former since he explained that people who take blood pressure medicine when they don’t have high blood pressure could cause them to pass out a lot. Instead I try to walk in the sunshine at least once a day and wear layers. I also began taking Vitamin D a couple of years ago, and for some reason that helps. (It apparently also helps to write the words “blood pressure” a lot; so much so that they cease to make sense to me after a while.)

Know what else helps? Not wearing shorts. Ever. For over a decade. Sandals, either. Just the thought makes me shiver–literally! Long pants and socks are the order of the day, year round.

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Despite the extra layers (especially the two pairs of socks!) I still get cold. It starts with my feet and creeps up from there. Several years ago I started knitting legwarmers with a Knifty Knitter loom set and some acrylic yarn. Now, I’m not talking about those thin little fashionable legwarmers made out of t-shirt material—these are thick, chunky, slouchy legwarmers. The thicker the better!

It took some time to hammer out a tried-and-true pattern; the instruction booklet that came with the loom was written in no less than six languages, and for a while I couldn’t knit anything functional in any one of them! I added a couple of my own tricks and now have a pattern for a functional pair of legwarmers that takes me about 6 hours to finish.
Here are some of my past creations:

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I have branched out into scarves in the past couple of years, and this summer I was able to crank out two of them in the five days we spent in Pennsylvania. I knit while I’m watching television so I don’t feel so guilty about mindless hours on the couch.

A person only has two legs to warm, so I’ve taken to selling my finished products on an Etsy page. It’s a nice little site (that’s not so little anymore!) that allows serious, I-do-this-for-a-living crafters as well as plodders like me a chance to make a few bucks on our creations. If you haven’t looked at Etsy before, I encourage you to do so; many of the pages there are maintained by some very talented individuals who take pride in their work.

Around here, where Necessity is the Mother of Invention (or, according to my guys, Mother is the Necessity of Invention), it takes a little thinking and a little handiwork to get around some of the things life throws at us. It’s just another tightwad, DIY, hooray-for-the-80s way to deal with what I call “The Blues.”

Container Garden Successes and Flops, 2014

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This year, in addition to the usual tomatoes and onions in my garden, I decided to give some herbs a try, as well as miniature pumpkins and a couple of easy flowers. Sounds simple enough, right?

If I take nothing else away from this year’s experience, I will remember that pumpkins, miniature or no, have no place in a 12×12 porch—unless you harbor some bizarre fantasy of hacking through the vines on your way to walking the dog or especially like hearing, “FEED ME, SEYMOUR!” whenever you step into your container garden. At any rate, you’re risking your life.

I planted two innocuous-looking seeds in my little newspaper planters and watched them sprout demurely, greeting the sun with palm-sized leaves, hopeful that I had found another productive crop for my humble little garden. Four weeks later, I couldn’t find the 2×6 foot table they were planted in for all the vines, leaves the size of platters, and fist-sized blooms I could almost see growing before my eyes!

Note to self: pumpkins make great, fast-growing house camouflage.

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I also planted some herbs this year, mostly in the hope that the dastardly tomato piranha would stay away—I had read on several sites that the fragrance of dill in particular was something they didn’t like. Just to see how they would do in my containers, I also added parsley, spearmint, oregano, sage, and basil.

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They thrived in my containers. So much so that a Black Swallowtail Butterfly decided my parsley and dill were the perfect home for its larvae. At one point I actually counted nine white, black, and yellow caterpillars munching away at my fragrant, lush herbs. At the time I write this, two are still munching away at my nearly skeletonized dill, two are still cocooned in my sage, and one has emerged and flown away. I’m sure there are others who remain hidden, preferring to gorge themselves away from an audience. It’s been fun to watch, actually.

I told my mother about our new critters, and she said something about how our garden attracts every wayward and weird creature imaginable…if you call “I had only seen maybe two tomato hornworms in my life, and you practically have a breeding ground for them over there, and now this!” any indication.

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Naturally, none of these measures so much as dented the enthusiasm of the tomato piranhas, who made straight for my beefsteaks and my grape tomatoes and chowed down with great energy. The infestation was not as bad as in previous years, when I found upwards of two dozen, but their presence in smaller numbers was still enough to ignite my ire. I got my revenge when I pulled them off the plant and tossed them under my neighbor’s heavily patronized bird feeder.

I wish I could say I did the same to the aphids. Sigh. Just can’t get rid of those buggers, either.

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Growing tomatoes from seed did work very well. The Patio Princess and Beefsteak varieties provided many tomatoes and fared well, despite the worms and aphids. A recent cold snap is currently preventing the remaining green fruits to ripen, and they linger, soaking up rain and hosting scads of aphids.

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The onions did very well this spring. I planted some 350 bulbs in my 2×6 table and ended up with enough fresh to last us for weeks, as well as a gallon bag of chopped and frozen to use in cooking this fall. I prefer using the ones I grow to those available in the store because they’re more flavorful and I get more bang for my buck, as it were.

We’re already thinking about next year…Bald Guy picked up some PVC at work that was being thrown away, and visions of new cold frames have been dancing in our heads ever since. I’ve been considering all kinds of designs, from the existing dowel-and-sliding-door-plastic to the 2-liter-bottle-wall to the clear-rigid-wall variety. Who knows? I’m looking forward to extending my growing season either way.

Heck, I’ll probably plant dill and parsley again next year, just for the butterflies. :)