Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The plant rooms at the Victorian Conservatory, and a brief note on the 1932 Tarzan.

Perhaps I should wait a few minutes before posting the pictures to which I referred yesterday. The problem won't be the pictures, but could easily be a typing tantrum from me. I have just gotten off the phone with Comcast-Xfinity-NBC-Universal-etc. and I'm madder than a hive of hornets in a Warner Bros. or Disney cartoon. The miserable corporate entity with which I was dealing could easily be depicted as a cartoon villain, but that would only serve to humanize it. Then again, depicting it as Simon Legree would only serve to humanize it.

A few of the angry dancing dwarfs, pictured while
in the act of menacing the white folks in the pit.
Last night, a friend came over to watch a movie. After looking at the options available on the DVR, I asked to take a quick look at the Turner Classic Movies on demand section, as titles appearing there are only available for a few days. I had noticed a listing for a Popeye cartoon, with an allotted time of two hours. I wanted to see what the listing comprised - if it was cartoon after cartoon, etc. Imagine our surprise when after the first cartoon, it turned out that the entire 1932 'Tarzan, the Ape Man' was there. Feeling the hand of divine cinema providence, we watched it. It had been quite some time since I'd seen it, and I had forgotten a number of things. Unbelievably, I had forgotten about the tribe of nasty dwarfs. After being captured, the white folks are lassoed into a pit to fight a large ape creature. The dwarfs hurl darts at them for extra fun while performing an odd, gleeful jumping up and down while waving darts menacingly in the air dance. My instinctual reaction is to identify with the white folks in the pit, feeling as though I've been lassoed into it, forced to battle a large creature while deadly darts whizz by - which is how it feels to deal with Comcast-Xfinity-NBC-Universal.

But I digress.
I'll try to write about Tarzan tomorrow.
Today I wanted to post a few pictures of plants in the other rooms of the Smith college horticultural department's 120+ year old conservatory, the rooms not dedicated to the spring bulb show.

While the bulb show always provides that first overwhelming fragrance of Spring, providing a lift to winter weary spirits (not that I am personally weary of winter), the other 'rooms' of the conservatory provide a green and happy relief from the gray world outside. Sadly, this year what has lately been called the 'cool temperate room' was not its usual self. The waterfall was shut off and under repair, many of the plants had been removed, or relocated, or cut back. Things change from year to year, but the waterfall and pool were missed. Herewith, a few pictures of the offerings from the various environments the rooms emulate.

Someone, perhaps with a sense of humor, threw one of the daffodil flowers in with the water lilies.

Sadly, I must get ready for the bus to the grocery store, so this will be it for today.
I hope the various photos are found to be enjoyable.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

On becoming obsolete, and the spring bulb show...

(a mental dance and rumination illustrated with pictures taken yesterday at the annual Spring bulb show held in the 120+ year old conservatory of the Smith College horticultural department.)

My computer, a desk top, is aging.
It is slowing down; it's innards are constantly examined for viruses, but they are not the problem.
It stays updated, but the updates seem to add stress.
It's use of the fan has increased; it tries to keep cool as it deals with changes.
It seems as though it no longer has the ability to quickly process the ever increasing amount of data required for its ability to quickly complete what should be simple tasks.
Sometimes I wonder if all of this is a metaphor for the person who operates it.
I was going to write, "the person who owns it..." but that raises a few uncomfortable questions about the true nature of our relationship.
Certainly, it runs programs designed to keep it trouble free more than it once did.
It runs them so much, in fact, that I often have problems getting it to let me use it.

I've encountered this problem before.
It was solved with the purchase of a newer more powerful computer.
That event was in early May of 2011.
As the purchase was a discounted model from a chain store, I suspect that the computer was introduced the previous year.
Which means that it is old in computer years.
I can't believe I just wrote, "in computer years".

Sometimes it seems that most of the electronics are breaking down.
The tv works without a hitch, but the cable box often refuses to respond to commands as it busily updates the schedule page, or spies on people, or whatever it is really doing when I only want to see what else is on, or to simply change the channel.

Some days the internet pauses, takes a few breaths, and acts as though it is about to demand a vacation. It reminds me of the days when someone on the east coast could tell that it was after 5pm on the west coast - even simple internet searches slowed down when so many people got home and turned on their computers.

Over the last year I've explored streaming audio-visual content from services such as Amazon and Netscape. The hope was that I'd be able to cancel a large portion of my cable-phone-internet package to reduce costs. If there is a holiday, or a storm which keeps a large number of people home, streaming becomes a problem. One never knows where the problem originates, of course. Is it with Comcast, slowing down my service now that they can? Is it due to so much demand that Netscape or Amazon can't handle it? Is it a part of the electronic infrastructure somewhere in between the coast on which I'm located and the coast on which the streaming service originates? The reality is that when there is a problem, there is nothing we can do about it, whether or not we understand why it is happening. Is that a metaphor for life in the current version of America (or the world)?

These aren't new complaints, of course.
A minor problem can now have major repercussions.
I no longer carry more than a couple of dollars on my person.
If my bank's system, or the internet, or the company that screens for fraudulent purchases for the bank, or the grocery store's system hiccups, or is down, for any reason, I wouldn't be able to purchase groceries (this has happened to me couple of times).

The modern way of using plastic cards to access the 1's and 0's that represent money has been frustrating for some time. I still haven't forgotten my attempt some years ago to make a purchase in New Hampshire, a state that borders the state where I reside (Vermont), in a town about a half an hour's drive from my apartment. The purchase was around $100.00, and was for the business for which I worked (to be reimbursed). The purchase was denied. Luckily, this was during banking hours, so I called the bank. They quickly determined that the problem was that I seldom bought anything in New Hampshire, and seldom spent that amount of money on a purchase, so it had been denied as suspicious. They would authorize it so the sale would go through. Only it didn't. Another call to the bank revealed that they paid a company to flag what it considered suspicious activity on an account, and that company hadn't yet released my own funds to make the purchase. They would call the company while I waited on hold. I was eventually told everything was okay. Except it wasn't. All told, it took about 45 minutes to an hour just to be able to spend my own money which was in my own account.

When everything works the way it is intended, the modern electronic digital computer world can be quite an improvement over the old fashioned, low quality, slower analog world in which I grew up.
As long as one can afford it.

So why do I sometimes wish for a simpler time, a more gregarious time when people connected in person rather than through devices, when movies were screen in theatres and watched with a hundred or more friends of the dark in a shared experience?

The older folks always seem to complain that life was simpler, more beautiful, better crafted, more enjoyable, more social, more (fill in the blank) when they were young. That is when they weren't complaining about how difficult it was when they were young.

Now that I am of that older generation, I hear these same contradictory complaints from myself, see them in the things I type out, and revel in the open space, the balance between them, while accepting that there is nothing I can do, and that it doesn't do any good to try to understand. Then I try to understand.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the computer, simply pushed beyond my capacity by the newer programs, that don't work as well as the older programs. If, in short, I am becoming old fashioned, and obsolete. I also wonder if I care about it in the least.

For now it is snowing, yesterday I reveled in the promise of Spring at the annual bulb show , and I plan to spend the rest of today reveling in a world passing away, a world that, like myself, is busy becoming obsolete.

addenda - While uploading the pictures for this post, the internet paused, lost the connection, and the program became stuck trying to upload the last picture. Tomorrow, I'll try to upload pictures from the conservatory rooms that aren't part of the bulb show. If the technology lets me. In the meantime, I'll be left to ponder whether the systems are simply breaking down, or becoming obsolete. I'll try to let pictures of spring flowers distract me. Before they become obsolete too.