Longevity

These days in our ‘throwaway’ society one doesn’t really think about longevity in products. Other than appliances like dishwashers or laundry equipment which are designed to last 10 years or so, typically your average appliance may last 5-6 years if you’re fortunate.

A month ago my Boom speaker stopped charging. It’s a Bluetooth-enabled speaker I’ve had since 2013 when I bought one because it did all the things I needed a BT speaker for and it was water-resistant so it could be used in the shower.  Seeing as this is 2021, it managed to live for 8 years of use.  Pretty good for nowadays, IMO.  Unfortunately, the business that made it is no longer IN business, for whatever reason they went bankrupt, and their products are now made by another company.  Not this particular speaker, however, since I can’t find any reference to it on the new company’s website.  The only references to it I can find are reviews that were published in 2012, and someone is selling backstock on eBay, for a ridiculously low price compared to the $150 price point it was originally.  Me being me, I bought two of them from the eBay seller, just in case the ‘newer’ ones aren’t as sturdy as my old workhorse.  Can’t be too careful, right?

Naturally, this incident has caused me to think about all the other appliances and doodads I’ve had over the years that have managed to overcome their anticipated demise date.

  • The Kitchen-Aid mixer that I inherited from my mother-in-law, that was probably made in the 1950s or 60s and is still going strong.
  • The box fan that my parents bought in the 1970s and still works just fine.
  • The Conair hair dryer I got for Christmas while I was still in high school that still runs fine, though more likely it still works because I use it so infrequently.
  • The metal power strip that my parents bought for me when I went away to college in 1983 and has outlived and outlasted dozens of plastic ones we’ve had since.
  • The wood and canvas director’s chairs that I inherited from my parents.  Canvas seats last nearly forever if you don’t allow them to get wet, or if you do, you make sure that you don’t leave them wet so the canvas rots.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  The old adage “they don’t make things like they used to” is spot on anymore.  Certainly one will find solely American-made products seem to outlast their contemporaries, for the most part.  Yes, I know there are many American-made items that don’t last very long, but I challenge you, dear reader.  Go to an antique store and find something that was made in the USA during the period of 1920 to say 1975.  I’ll wager if you were to plug it in (or not if it wasn’t electrical) or use it, it would, by and large, outdistance its 21st-century replacement.

Hey, it’s good to be back home again

I realize that I’m writing this at the back end of my vacation, but since I haven’t posted since March, I think you, dear reader will forgive the faux pas.

I’m back home in the Hudson Valley of NY where I grew up.  I’m a little further south than where I actually lived, but that’s due to the fact that my family lives more in the Newburgh to Westchester area than the upper Valley near Kingston.

Still and all, it’s been a good trip.  With the pandemic happening last year, any trips were canceled due to health concerns, and now with the Delta variant becoming more of a problem in places, our decision to use AirBNBs to stay in, rather than hotels, ended up being the right choice.  Interaction with the public at large has been mostly at arm’s length, as everyone for the most part is still social distancing, some are wearing masks again, and others have never stopped.

This trip has mainly been one of connecting and reconnecting with my ever-enlarging family.   On the way here, we stopped in Syracuse to visit with my maternal cousins, who I haven’t seen since 1999.  While there, I was able to meet my first cousin once removed (my cousin’s daughter) whom I’d never met.  The boggling thing about that is, they only live two hours away!  Between work, responsibilities, and just life, the years have gone merrily by and we just haven’t gotten together.  Every Christmas we’d exchange cards and write in them that in the next year we needed to get together.  But we never did.  That oversight has now been rectified.

Mom, myself and brother 1967While here in the Hudson Valley, I managed to reconnect with my estranged brother and his family.  He has lived in Westchester County for the past 20 years and has a 13 yr old daughter that I’d never met.  I knew she existed, and what her name was, but I was unable (for a variety of reasons) to get there to see them.  Too, there’s been bad blood over the years, (don’t ask) and reasons why I didn’t want to go.  There was one particular reason I did need to go, and that was to collect the family photo album he’d had in his possession since we cleaned out our parent’s house.  Up to now, the only photos I had were a couple of when we were children and one or two of our parents.  I’ve had NO baby pictures at all, and that’s been a sore point of contention for me.  As I get older, I want to be able to have that family history to rely on and share with my birth mother, with whom I’ve recently been connected.Mom, myself and brother, Easter

Finally, I was able to meet and interact with my half-sister and her family.  When I was reconnected with my birth mother, I managed to meet my half-brother and his family (well, most of them) and get to know them a wee bit.  My half-brother is a workaholic and is more than a little introverted, so both meeting and getting to know him have been problematic.  My wife and I had set up a get-together for the family at our second AirBNB, but for whatever reason, my half-brother decided at the last minute to decline.  His children are older than his sister’s (college-age versus toddlers) so getting together that side of the family might have proved a bit more difficult.  Even so, it was a good time.  I got to meet my brother-in-law and my nephews are both amazing and hilarious.   Watching them play caused me to remember how my brother and I played and interacted.

I would definitely say this trip has been a success.  I have a treasure trove of memories for the future and a box full of slides to digitize and share with my birth mother, and my other family so they can see what has been obscured these many decades.

Going home will be good (the beds in these AirBNBs are murder!), but I’ve had a really good time here too.  Vacations are both tiring and awesome.

Have a Merry (Socially Distant) Christmas, this year

Hearkening back to the time when I was in school, during various history classes, I don’t honestly remember going over the period where the Spanish flu was raging through the country in particular and the world in general.  Certainly, there was some mention of it at some point, either in high school and/or in college, but I don’t recall seeing any pictures of people wearing masks, or at the time didn’t put any import to it had I seen them.  This makes sense, there wasn’t any current correlation to the practice, perhaps it was just something that happened at the time, and it was glossed over in my mind as just another picture of a time in history.  Not like pictures that are rooted in people’s minds of landmark events, like the attack on Pearl Harbor, the first atomic bomb test ‘Trinity‘, and the portrait of the three CSA soldiers outside of Gettysburg.

Battleship Row during 1941 attack
Trinity atomic bomb test, 1945 New Mexico
Three Confederate prisoners, outside Gettysburg, 1863

I wonder if in 60 years when kids are in school (or learning remotely still because of the precedent of what occurred this year) will they be seeing pictures (or holos?) of people in 2020 wearing masks, keeping a distance from one another, and attach any meaning to it all?  Will there be nostalgic shops online that sell overpriced vintage KN95 masks so people can recreate what happened back then, play ‘pandemic’ like they recreate battles of the Civil or Revolutionary Wars nowadays.  Will there be another pandemic in 2120?