No Economy for Old Folks

I was reading recently that consumer spending accounts for 56% of Canada’s economy. How much of that is represented by the Boomers I don’t know. But we Boomers are all becoming old folks (both men and women) so if we are typical in our spending patterns it doesn’t look that good for future growth.

So what are some of the things consumers spend on and how do we personally fit into the pattern?

  • Shelter and Real Estate – this is a biggie but not for us. We have owned a house for many years, no mortgage and we have most of the stuff like landscaping taken care of. We might need some major repairs in the years to come like roofing and heating but that isn’t an ongoing thing.
  • Autos and Transportation – We have 2 cars right now (both older models.) We still can’t get down to one – not while we are in the sandwich generation. However we don’t put a lot of Km on either car. We don’t have to commute anywhere daily at least.
  • Food and Restaurant Fare – Nothing fancy. Maria is a demon bargain hunter when it comes to groceries and as far as eating out goes, we can have lunch in a local family restaurant or take the grandkids to McDonald’s once in a while. That’s it.
  • Clothing – we can get our “foundation garments” at Walmart and other things at the Hub – our thrift shop in Almonte. I suppose I bought some slacks a few years ago at Mark’s Work Warehouse. Don’t need fancy duds when you aren’t working.
  • Travel and Entertainment – We have had some cruise holidays over the years but those are mostly outside Canada. We didn’t travel at all in 2017 – not even to Syracuse NY. I guess we are getting into our “Go Slow” phase.
  • Health Care – some paid by our government health care but we have to ante up for dental, hearing aids and of course vet care for Mr. Oates. So far we can cope with that. I have some cataract surgery coming up but that shouldn’t break the bank. We have to plan for the future though.
  • Gifts – we can afford to be generous and we are. That sort of cash gift often gets saved or at the very least someone else spends it so we aren’t responsible for boosting the economy directly.
  • Electronics – our TVs and computers are old (the newest TV is from 2009.) I can fix a lot of stuff like old PCs anyway. No need to buy new, and with Linux a 10-12 year computer lifespan is normal. We have one smartphone which mostly gets used for talk and text.
  • Taxes and Pensions – Well can’t get away from that although we take advantage of the seniors tax breaks – certainly we pay less than we used to. We are receiving pensions, not paying into them.
  • Furniture and other stuff – we collected our art years ago. Our household furniture is still going strong and we can pick up the odd knick-knack at the Hub. Like most old folks we have more crap than we will ever need. Well, I did buy a new pillow the other day.
  • End of Life – got that taken are of, hopefully won’t need it soon. My grandfather bought our “final resting place” back in the 1930s and still lots of room there.

Sorry all you sales and service entrepreneurs out there. Unless you are selling geriatric stuff you’ll have to rely on someone else to keep you in business. Canada appears to have no economy for old folks, and there will be a lot of us in the years ahead. Maybe we could learn to gamble.

 

My Girl Turns 7

Yesterday (August 24, 2017)  was Veronica’s 7th birthday and she had lots of opportunity to flash her lovely gap toothed smile all kids her age have. Too bad you can’t see it here as this is more her Betty Bacall Look.

She wanted to have Apple Fritters as a special treat and how could we say no? I teased her a bit calling them Apple Critters and she was quick to correct me. She always is – just like her Nonna.

Sometimes you hear that the middle child gets neglected in a family. This will never happen with Veronica. She’s assertive to a “T” and she wants to make sure everyone has a fair share of mommy and daddy’s attention. Maybe she gets a bit more of Grandpa’s but hey…you’re only old once.

I still find her the sweetest and most affectionate of our grandchildren. She has a special spot in her heart for me and I for her. She is the joy of Gunther the tabby cat’s elder years. She feeds him, cuddles him and makes sure he can safely get on and off the couch beside her. She looks out for her older brother and younger sister with passion.

I think Veronica has inherited the musical talents of both her parents. She wants to learn dance and piano and yesterday she was busting a lot of moves in a dance oriented video game – racking up the points as she moved and grooved to “Barbara Ann.” But she’s also a demon karate student – although she’s not a big girl the schoolyard bullies better watch out!

She’s worked hard with her mom to become a proficient reader It didn’t come as easily to her as it did to Teddy but she’s doing well now.

Probably it’s not politically correct to say so but she is a girl’s girl. She loves her dresses and “princess costumes” from the Disney Store. She has a gutsy female character costume from Star Wars to wear for her weekend party when all the kids arrive.

Happy birthday sweet girl. I am sure you’ll be able to twist Grandpa around your little finger for as long as I am able to be twisted.

 

Statues and Values

There seems to be a lot of controversy about the presence of statues in our communities, and it’s not just about the Civil War monuments in the US. Cornwallis is having his problems in Halifax at the moment. But in our tiny community of Almonte there are a few monuments that aren’t going anywhere any time soon. They reflect the values and sentiments of the time they were set up in the town but so far they haven’t been controversial or divisive.

First we have our war memorial which was sculpted in the early 1920s by Dr. Robert Tait-McKenzie at the behest of the Alexander Rosamond family. Mr. Rosamond – Almonte’s primary Edwardian businessman – enlisted in the Army in World War I and was killed at the Battle of Courcelette in 1916. The statue bears a startling resemblance to Lt. Alex – so much so that it shocked his widow.

This one has 94 years of Almonte history behind it and certainly reflects the values of Remembrance, Courage, Sacrifice and Sorrow that marked the thought in town right after the War. It’s not the friendliest or most approachable monument though. The stone benches are more designed to hold wreaths than people’s bottoms.

A little more whimsical Dr. Tait-McKenzie sculpture. This one uses an old millstone with a bas-relief of his parents in the center. The bench is on the opposite side and gives a peaceful and tranquil view of the river above the falls. This one is from the 1930s and reflects Almonte’s industrial history, traditional side and family heritage. Totally non-controversial.

And here’s my favorite – a masterpiece by by Kansas sculptors Elden and Kim Tefft, it is a duplicate of the one in front of the University of Kansas fieldhouse. James Naismith, the inventor of Basketball, came from Almonte so it’s only fitting that he sits right downtown amid all the historic buildings. This one is fun, informal and welcoming – certainly the way we’d want to look at life in Almonte today.

Just a brief look at some ways that sculpture enhances rather than complicates our lives.

Cell Phone Roulette

We are nothing if not loyal to our wireless provider. That was the first service Rogers Communications ever provided us – way back in 1991 when they were called Cantel.

In the ensuing 26 years we had 3 – count ’em – cell phones:

  1. (1991-2000) Motorola bag phone – plugged into cigar lighter in the car and only worked there.
  2. (2000-2008) Nokia candy bar phone. We’d probably still be using this puppy except Rogers dropped their analog service and forced us to upgrade.
  3. (2008-2017) Nokia flip phone. Great for phone calls but little else.

So today we joined the 21st century I guess. Maria was up visiting my sister this past week and she discovered the convenience of instant messaging on Linda’s smartphone. She was going to try it on the flip phone. It supported it but all you had was an old numerical keypad that took three presses to get the right letter. You could probably write an instant message faster on a stone tablet with a hammer and chisel.

To make a long story short, we were off to Rogers in Carleton Place today and we came back with our 4th cell phone in 26 years – a Samsung Galaxy A5. Not the latest and greatest tech but it does have a nice display and keyboard and yes – she can send messages on it. She’s happy.

The Joy of Tampering

When Dave and Sarah got their HDTV close to a decade ago, they gave us Dave’s old RCA Standard Def TV along with this snazzy Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300 PVR. Since then the PVR and TV have graced our basement where Maria uses it to record soaps as a backup to our upstairs NextBox 3.0 HD-PVR. She often watches the soaps in SDTV down there. I don’t question her choice of soap viewing – nor of format.

All went well until last week the old PVR started to say “Disk Trouble – record and playback are not available.” Not a good sign. I tried to reboot the box and reformat the drive but no joy. All signs pointed to hard drive failure. It happens after 12 years or so. The tuner worked fine but Maria wasn’t happy.

Now this is old technology. Really old. I checked online and found out the hard drive was IDE/PATA – the old fashioned ribbon cable variety. Who has one of those archaic hard drives around today?

Well turns out I do. I checked my junk parts box and sure enough there was a perfectly serviceable 160GB PATA drive I took out of an old desktop PC years ago. Problem solved, right? Not so fast Mac.

I quickly ran into Ray’s First Law of Repair:

  • No matter how many tools you have collected over the years, you’ll never have the right one for the job.

The nimrods who designed the 8300 put three screws into it to hold the case onto the chassis. They were tamperproof Torx – and I did intend to tamper, believe me. I had to go to Home Depot and get a special security screwdriver set. An odd name don’t you think – because I was about to jailbreak the secure appliance. Anyway armed with this screwdriver I got the case off. Then I needed two more types of screwdrivers to remove the drive cage and free up the drive.

The rest was easy – just like replacing an old hard drive in a computer. Plug and pray, as they say.

Once I got the unit reassembled and hooked up, it started the reboot cycle – this time it flashed electronic messages like “HDD+” – which I took as an encouraging sign. When the reboot was finished, the recording capability was back.

Of course I had to reprogram the dam’ thing to record Maria’s soaps and I hope I did that right – we’ll see tomorrow. Old technology and the joy of tampering on a Sunday afternoon – can’t get any better than that.

 

Laundry Agitation

My daughter’s 15 year old GE washer bit the dust earlier this week. With three kids that wasn’t a pleasant situation so she decided to replace it ASAP.

In helping her research a new model, I had some personal concerns since our own Maytags are getting up there. Granted they don’t get the steady use Sarah’s machine did but you never know.

I learned more about washers and washer efficiency than I really wanted to know. It appears that in the past decade there has been a revolution in technology in the washer biz – not to mention a concentration in brands. Not only do you not know who’s who but also what’s what. Whirlpool, Amana and Maytag are the same company today. GE and Hotpoint are brands of Haier – a Chinese appliance powerhouse.

The new buzzword in laundry is high efficiency – lower water levels, longer wash cycles, more efficient spinning and lots of digital gew-gaws. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to surf the Web on my washer or phone it on my cellphone – it’ll happen sooner or later though. High efficiency used to be the domain of front loading washers, but now the venerable top loader is also going that way. Why, even the non high efficiency top loaders are being designed with load sensors and automatic water level controllers you can’t switch off.

Anyway Sarah went over to Home Depot, was dissatisfied with the service and delivery times and ended up at a real appliance store. These folks know their business, gave her good advice and offered to deliver the next day and remove the old machine for free.

She ended up buying a Speed Queen – a brand I was not all that familiar with but apparently is built like a tank and is old school as can be – no fancy-schmantzy  electronics or missing agitator. A bit more costly but she thinks it’s worth it.

As for me – well I don’t think I need a washer to last 25 years at an age when I don’t buy green bananas. I just hope we can squeeze a few more years out of the Maytags.

Motown

Sarah and Dave gave us tickets for our anniversary to see “Motown- the Musical” and I am glad they did.

We went to the show yesterday at the National Arts Centre. Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I was wondering how Barry Gordy – who wrote the musical book – could fit a storyline around 60+ Motown classics but it didn’t take long to find out. There were actually three storylines:

  1. How Barry Gordy founded Motown Records, how he developed it from a “black artist” label to a worldwide success, how he moved to LA, how the major record companies stole his performers away and left him bitter and disillusioned.
  2. How Motown and specifically Marvin Gaye reacted to, and interacted with the turbulence in American society in the ’60s and early ’70s.
  3.  Gordy’s long term romance with Diana Ross.

All the hits were there. All the major players were portrayed – Marvin, Smokey, the Funk Brothers, Mary Wells, The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Contours, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Holland Dozier and Holland etc. etc.

Chester Gregory (Barry) and Allison Semmes (Diana) were standouts. Both had show stopper numbers, as did the precocious 12 year old who played Michael Jackson (right down to the Moonwalk moves and uptempo vocals.)

The story begins with young Barry in 1938 and ends with the Motown 25th anniversary celebration in 1983. They used lots of actual film footage of the historical events as a backdrop to the music.

Barry Gordy is now 87. All his fans are getting old too. But we had a good time yesterday.

 

Television in the Digital Age

Remember back when you dialed up one of the 4 VHF channels you could get on your 21 inch B&W TV, and then went outside to pull the wires to rotate the antenna? I do too – but nowadays ain’t your grandpa’s TV era.

Last weekend my wife went down to visit her mother – and noticed that MIL’s 10 year old LCD TV was a mess. It had double images, shadowy figures and jumpy behavior- all bad. I checked online and this was symptomatic of display failure. Not worth fixing.

Maria’s mom is 87 years old and mostly watches Italian TV shows. She doesn’t stream video, has no DVD player. All she needs is a simple dumb LCD TV the same size as the bad one. So it was off to Amazon where we got a new 32 inch Vizio – decent specs, good price. In a couple of days it was here and then we were off to Kingston to install the beast.

After disconnecting the old TV and putting it in the car to recycle later, we took the old SDTV cable box to the Cogeco store and swapped it out for an HD model – new TV, no point in watching crappy old standard def shows. I got everything hooked up. Then I had to wait an hour for the box to initialize – which it did NOT do. I had to call Cogeco tech support, then wait another 45 minutes. I was 2 hours into the install and still didn’t have a picture.

Finally I got some action out of the box. Then I had to reprogram the remote so that it would switch the TV off and on, and finally switch both the box and TV off and on in sequence. This activity was slightly more complicated than installing a wifi computer network – but I digress.

After the remote was working I then had to deal with Cogeco’s archaic high definition programming. Unlike Rogers Cable – which just broadcasts HD on every channel if it’s available – Cogeco is still in the late 20th Century. You have to dial up the HD channels in the range of 700-800 and none of the channels have numbers remotely similar to the old SDTV ones. Maria’s mom will have to relearn her channel surfing I guess.

It was worth it though – at least her TV picture stays in one place and looks great in HD. She’s happy. And I am longing for that rotary dial and wires on the antenna.

 

Thanks a Lot, Photobucket!!!

The photos displayed on this blog mostly come from a photo sharing site called Photobucket. I have used Photobucket for a decade and I even pay them for the privilege. I don’t abuse their storage capacity or bandwidth.

Photo sharing sites have three basic uses:

  1. To store your photos safely in the Cloud.
  2. To provide a means to link your stored photos back to the photo site from a blog post or forum.
  3. To actually embed your photo in another forum or blog post. This is called 3rd Party Hosting.

Like 75% of Photobucket’s customers I used it for option 3. But Photobucket didn’t make any money this way. They decided the best way to rid themselves of these troublesome clients was to extort money from them so they would pay or disappear. A month or so ago, they changed their Terms of Service without telling anyone via email or clearly in a notice on their site. All they did was make a cryptic post on their blog about it.

Then in early July they replaced millions of embedded photos in blogs, sites, forums and eBay with the above image.

Nice, eh? Looks like a Wannacry notice.

PB broke uncounted eBay auctions, blogs and websites. Unless you pay $400 per year you won’t be able to do 3rd Party hosting and get your photos back online. Unless you pay $100 per year you won’t even be able to link. Your account is useless. Get lost, Dude.

Now to be fair only free users got the roughest treatment. As a paid subscriber my hosting still works – and I get 18 months to ante up the $400 per year to continue what used to cost me $30. The value isn’t there, since I can simply host my own images here at 104vaughan.ca for no cost, no bandwidth nor capacity issues.

I thought I was helping Photobucket out – apparently not. So now I have 300 blog posts here I’ll have to edit one at a time to remove the Photobucket links and upload the graphics to my own site. You wanna believe I’ll be doing this.

Thanks a bunch, Photobucket -NOT!!!!

 

 

 

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Internet service providers get little love these days it seems. In my town I have a choice of two – one really if I don’t want to get TV via satellite dish. My local monopolist is Rogers Communications.

Generally Mr. Rogers gives good service although I pay him well for the privilege. And don’t expect him to tell you if he has a better deal.

Lately one of the guys in my coffee group got a new Rogers modem installed and for once he didn’t have to attach a separate router to it to get decent wifi speeds. The early Rogers combination Internet gateways were horrible. No speed anywhere in the house more than a couple meters from the gateway.

So I got sniffing round the Rogers website and discovered what looked like a better deal for a few bucks more. Faster speed, new modem and more bandwidth. I started chatting with a Rogers rep (in Moncton I think) and she did even better – almost double the speed and unlimited bandwidth for about the same price. An offer I couldn’t refuse.

The catch? I had to switch my older but nicely functioning Cisco modem for a new Hitron Rocket Modem. I noticed really bad performance with Hitron gateways when my friends and family used them – that’s why I made the local Rogers store give me a Cisco modem in the first place. But the deal was too good to resist. Besides I figured I could always reattach my old router if need be.

Well how wrong I was. The Rogers store in Carleton Place gave me one of the latest and fastest Hitron modems. My wired connection to the upstairs desktop is just flying. And I didn’t have to reconnect the external modem. The internal wifi in the Hitron gateway is providing just as good if not better speeds than I was getting with my earlier, more complex setup. Looks great so far.

Maybe you have to nag Mr. Rogers a bit, but in the end he does the job.

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