Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sittin' by the Bay

     Well, I'm no slouch. B and I also have a "cottage" by the water. Maybe it's not The Breakers, and maybe it's not on Belleview Ave., and maybe we don't own it, we're just renting it for the week. But still, we like it . . .

    And here's our own belle view, looking out from Pocasset, Mass., on Cape Cod, across Buzzards Bay to the mainland.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Along the Cliffs

     Yesterday we saw Hammersmith, childhood home of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis -- albeit from a distance, from the water. What we didn't realize was that Hammersmith was on the . . . well, not exactly on the poor side of town, but not on Bellevue Ave., where the biggest, fanciest, most ornate "cottages" were located.

     Jacqueline's father, "Black Jack" Bouvier made a lot of money on Wall Street. But he didn't make anywhere near the kind of money that the Vanderbilts had. Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) made his fortune in steamships and railroads (and donated $1 million to found Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.), but it was his grandson Cornelius Vanderbilt II who purchased the property in Newport, RI, in 1885 and built The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo. A number of Vanderbilts (Cornelius Vanderbilt II had seven children) along with many other Who's Who of the 19th century Robber Barons summered on Bellevue Ave., in huge mansions facing out to the sea, the bay and the sound.

     By the way, CNN's Anderson Cooper is one of Gloria Vanderbilt's four sons, and a great grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

     Some of the mansions along Belleview Ave. are still privately owned (and I noticed a couple for sale, if you're interested), and some including The Breakers are owned by the Preservation Society of Newport and are open to the public.

     We didn't go in any of the mansions. Instead, we walked the three mile cliff path along the back of the properties, which offers great views of the water and occasional sightings of the mansions. Here's The Breakers, the weekend "cottage" of Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

     And here's the truly belle view he enjoyed.

Monday, September 15, 2014

On the Water

     One guess where we are . . .

     Yes, we're making the scene at the Newport, RI., boat show ... 

     There are a lot of boats; but we only came to gawk.

      We did take a sunset cruise out across the harbor:

     We got a view of Hammersmith, the childhood home of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, and venue of her wedding reception in 1953 when she married John F. Kennedy. The property is named after the home town (Hammersmith, England) of William Brenton, governor of the colony of Rhode Island, who built the original farm in the 1600s. The smaller building on the left, nearer the water, was Jackie's playhouse.

     May peace be with you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hitting the Road

     This coming week I'll be joining the great diaspora of retirees and Baby Boomers who travel around the country, visiting relatives, seeing the sites, going to places they've heard about, read about, dreamed about.

     I'm not as ambitious as some people -- Bob Lowry, for example, who as he reports at Satisfying Retirement, just got back from a 5,000-mile trip halfway across the country. B and I are barely going 500 miles roundtrip.

     Still, we will be traveling this week. And still, we'll hit four states. So I thought I'd do a little something different. Instead of my usual verbiage covering one topic or another that (at least in my judgment) affects Baby Boomers one way or another, I'm just posting a photo -- one suggesting where we are, where we're going, what we're doing.

     Well, we're just starting out, so you know what's going on here . . .

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tom's TED Talk

     Last night I opened a twitter account. So first of all, my apologies to any of you who might have received an unwanted, unsolicited e-mail invitation to join my twitter feed.

     Honestly, I'm not at all sure I'm going to do twitter. Over the past year or two I've read maybe two hundred tweets. And I've never seen one -- not one -- that was worth the few seconds of time it took to read it.

     But last night I was reading an article on the New York Times website, and I clicked on the author's name, and it brought me to her twitter page, and up popped an invitation for me to join twitter. It just looked so easy. Why not?

     Well, nothing's as easy as they make it seem. But I powered through the questions, filled out the forms, opened an account, @TomatSightings, and even posted my first tweet. And I may or may not have sent out a mass invitation to everyone on my gmail list.

     But I don't know. Does anyone our age tweet away on twitter? Or it is just for tweens and pop stars trying to build their tween audience? I think the tweetiest tweeters are Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry. And I don't want anything to do with any of them.

     As an aside, and on a more serious note, here's the link to a twitter page for 9/11 -- today is the 13th anniversary.

     So honestly, I don't know if I'll become a real tweeter. But I'm pretty sure I will not be buying a new apple watch. I haven't worn a watch since I stopped going to an office 12 years ago. I don't punch a time clock anymore. I don't need to run on anyone else's timetable. And besides, it's hard not to know what time it is at any moment of the day. The time is registered in the lower right-hand corner of my computer. It's on my cellphone. There's a clock in my car and one on the TV. And another in my kitchen, and in the bedroom, and pretty much in every other room in the house.

     But the main reason I won't get an i-watch is that I couldn't possibly see it. The numbers would be way too small for my aging eyes. Also, my fingers are probably too fat to hit the tiny numbers on a watch -- I can barely manage to manipulate the text message feature on my phone.

     And there's another thing to consider. A lot of older people shake a little bit, for one reason or another. How's that going to work when you try to call up an app on your watch? I don't shake. But I will admit that my hand-eye coordination is not what it used to be. I would have neither the fine motor skills, nor the patience, to work a smart watch.

     I doubt I'll be doing any mobile bill paying either. I don't understand what the big deal is about that. So you can pay your bills while you're driving down the street, or having dinner with friends at a restaurant.

     I don't know about you, but my bills can wait until I get home, and I take a few minutes at my own convenience to sit down and pay my bills.

     But just so you know, I'm no Luddite. I think one of the greatest -- and most unheralded -- advances in modern civilization is the ability to pay your bills online. No more writing checks, no more addressing and licking envelopes. No more stamps -- and at 49 cents a pop, that's not a small thing anymore.

     I also like ATM machines. No more bank lines; and again, no more writing checks. Now I know ATMs are not exactly new -- the first ATM machine was installed in America in 1969, and they came into common use through the 1980s -- but they are yet another convenience of our modern world. In fact, a lot of people hate their banks. I don't exactly love my bank (I've paid off my mortgage so I don't have to worry about that; but I wish I could get a bank CD that paid 5%, like my parents could; it would make my financial life a lot easier and more secure); but I've got to at least give credit to banks for producing (along with one financial disaster) a lot of financial progress.

     Also, I couldn't do my work, couldn't make whatever modest income I make, without a personal computer and Microsoft Word and e-mail and google and amazon -- and I listen to music on youtube, Spotify, Pandora and SiriusXM radio.

     So, yeah, technology has made our lives a lot more comfortable and convenient . . . and productive. But you can't do anything if the devices are too small, if you can't read the print or tap the right keys. I wonder if, technologically speaking, we're reaching the law of diminishing returns -- that despite Moore's Law which says processing power for computers doubles every two years, we're just running faster to stay in the same place.