Thursday, July 31, 2014

Existential despair

My township has a website I've mentioned on occasion. I post the news, take care of the calendar, post meeting minutes—housekeeping stuff. We have a lovely webmaster who put it all together for me. He teaches creative writing, websites on the side. We didn't know each other when the website project started, but have become friends over the years. I don’t indulge in messy punctuation with him, that’s for sure.

Ted (that’s his name) humors me with little tweaks that make me happy and big tweaks when I think of a good one. Like my picture page. When we put this website together, several years ago, I insisted on Google Analytics being attached. I’d seen how it gathered facts on visits to a web site, and I was impressed. And for several years I've looked at Google Analytics every December and made a little report on how many people looked, and what pages they visited. In fact, I asked for the picture page because of the annual numbers of visitors to the pictures of Boston’s Bicentennial Celebration in 2011.

For the first time in forever, I had a burning desire to look at the website’s Google Analytics before year end to see how many visits there had been to my picture page. My little brainchild that gets no help except from me, as you may recall. No one contributing, but for sure there were many curious lookers, I just knew.

Google Analytics has gone all metrics on me. Metrics! Little interlaced ribbons of sine waves. I’m mired in the playground of the children in charge. How can they understand the world not knowing the facts? When I earned my BS in accounting, metrics was one chapter of the business math course.  Perhaps even a footnote in the matrix chapter. I sent a primal scream email to Ted; fix this. He answered me:

“…amidst all available metrics, I couldn't find a way to break sessions into specific page views.  I’ll check again, but I can only take so many metrics before I start feeling an existential despair coming on.  Metrics and algorithms – the Smart Money says that’s all that will be left of us soon.  Most of GA’s metrics are ways of testing how many eyeballs are looking at which advertisements.  (Once we’re all wearing Google glasses we won’t have to treat eyeballs as pairs, we’ll be able to display an ad for each eyeball, right and left.  Run separate metrics for each side of the User’s head.)”

We have looked over Satchel’s shoulder; it is there; it is gaining.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Non judgment day

I've spent years observing there is no such thing as a “functional family,” and written more than a few posts about my rather dysfunctional family. The operative word in much of what I write is “family”, a unit created to live life and face the world.

I've written about my brother Walt. Click on Walt in Labels; there may be some stories there I used in my eulogy. I've called him a cornmidgen, too, which predates curmudgeon, that’s how far back his brand of orneriness goes.

Now for the “bad mother gene” that my cousin and I have pinpointed in several women in the family. I am officially changing that to “bad parenting gene”, and the old cornmidgen was prima facie a bad parent. Like others, good at making babies, bad at raising them.

In my eulogy I said my brother loved children, and that was good, as he had a few.  Some mothers he married, others he just shacked up with. (That sentence was not in my eulogy!) He had children of his own; he adopted a real keeper from among the clans of children he was associated with. He always wanted to take care of helpless things, and he always did. But his expertise seemed to stop around age five or six.

Two of his several children, by association or birth, met sad ends. His youngest boy, Mark, was plucked from a bad mix of step children, taken in by our mother, Jan, Tom, me, to “finish off.” Good kid. Some of the children played the hand they were dealt and rose beyond. Walt’s wonderful adopted son told me he took mental notes and applied none of those lessons to his life.

A whole lot of folks came to my brother’s funeral. A daughter I met once when she was two years old, although I was responsible for getting braces on her teeth for the lovely smile I saw, came from several states away. Neighbors and co-workers came from southern Ohio, from Ohio Bell in Akron, where he started his career, from “the old neighborhood.”

I heard many new stories. Here’s one. Walt was supervising a project his neighbor was involved in. Heavy lifting involved. His neighbor tried to stop him helping. “You just had a heart attack!” My brother, lifting, responded, “Maybe I’ll have another one.” Prima facie my brother. We never knew until the stroke a couple of years ago there were prior heart attacks.

The family was summoned to appear early at the funeral home, and I arrived promptly, but not first. I was met by a young woman, her husband, her new baby, come to give us "prime baby time" with our new niece, great niece, with her, because she was going to get to know these siblings and aunts her father always told her about.

It was a tough day, working around the coming out party this young woman had planned for herself. I did not change a word of my eulogy, although I put emphasis on “he had a few!” Children that is. If and when I have opportunity I will explain the difference between a funeral and a drama production. Yes, I believe she’s his. I see my aunt’s face in hers.

I do have a good funeral story for you. Here’s a fairly recent picture of my brother, in his beloved wood shop. That’s what his hair always looked like.

My friend Linda stepped to the podium to share some lovely stories of the old cornmidgeon, and added one. At a show recently she had no time between set up and opening, was hot and sweaty and needed to comb her hair. All she could find was a fork. I told her our dad often accused us of combing our hair with a fork. She turned to my brother in the casket, hair neatly parted and plastered down. “They should have combed your hair with a fork.”

My little brother and his big sister. That looks like the back to school perm; I'll guess I'm five and Walt is three, 1948.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

File under "Life Goes On"

 I dropped Emily for band camp this morning, to the only people she trusts, her peers.

On consideration, of course.
Five homes in fifteen years, five different sets of care givers.

Ignored by the brother she adores and struggled so hard to get here.
He has not contacted her in two months, in spite of the fact,
to quote a gleeful Emily to an old friend, two years ago,
"They were stupid enough to give us computers and phones."

She's so smart, she carries over a four point average.
Yet she seems uninterested in researching colleges that might interest her, and scholarships.
In two years these people will be gone, too
Big decisions between now and then.

My thoughts this morning, while hanging my laundry. It looks lovely, in a gentle breeze under blue skies, the awful clouds above cleared away. Tomorrow a service for Walt. Dear Mark, who has soldiered through this first test of life, death of a parent, with grace, said simply "I can't talk about him in front of a lot of people." 

I asked an older relative to speak about my mother, and now I'm the last one standing. I wrote out many index cards. Mark read them and even laughed several times.  Jan thinks it may not be long enough; I'll take questions from the audience.

There was a severe storm over night. I took a trip through the garden this morning.

The new rose on the trellis. A kind of multiflora, grows up to six feet tall.
It lost some petals in the storm, but not many. It's fairly protected.

A toad who waited patiently. We disturbed his home to plant the rose yesterday,
but he nimbly hopped aside.

The phlox lost a lot of petals.

 The rain seems to have beat through the petals of some flowers.
You all have given me this flower's name before. I hope to hear it again.
Funny, I managed to recover all my nouns after the stroke,
but I struggle with the ones I never knew.

Another one whose name I've been told. Maybe this time it will stick.
I was after the bumble bee, but they are in and out of these flowers so fast!
See him there a little left of center.

Petals from the purple flower were knocked down last night,
And the balloon flower has many petals made seer.

School starts in three weeks. Life goes on.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The old cornmudgin left us

Our brother, Walt, left us this week. A bit of a surprise and not. He’s been in the hospital since Memorial Day weekend, and was working at physical therapy and coming home. One morning he told Mark he was just going to take a nap.

“OK, Dad. See you this afternoon.” But Walt left before lunch. I think he went off looking for better advice on the model airplane wing he was drafting.

Above all we are proud of his sons, who cherished and cared for him. What better legacy than loving children?

From one old soldier to another;
Tom lowered the flag
to honor Walt.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cue up the clowns

Getting Emily’s band uniform was slotted into the nonstop activity yesterday, squeezed in while Laura was at archery camp. Emily’s boyfriend emerged the school building shortly after Emily went in, put his uniform in his car and hurried back into the building.

Forty five minutes later Emily came out, uniform bag and hat box in hand, plus boyfriend and a girlfriend. After a fond and solicitous farewell near the car Emily slid into the front seat. I was backed into the parking place where I waited; good to leave.

Except, there was a car in front of me, exiting the lot into the service drive. As it rolled past a young man jumped on the trunk. Another young man lifted the trunk clutcher's legs and “wheel barrowed” him around the corner. The trunk hanger slid off the car, unharmed.

I looked left and right again, in order to exit my spot. Another car approached. The two boys rushed it, this time one jumped on the hood, one the trunk. The car proceed through the lot, onto the service drive.

“Teenagers do not drive teenagers. I rest my case,” said, probably, the only adult driver in the sea of cars.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Garden thoughts

When we bought this house on top of the hill there was a garage under the long studio wing, its entrance  paved with pebbles and the front bank was sliding down. An extra oak tree was leaving the front yard and moving down the hill.

In front yard what passes for grass (and still does) went right up to the studio foundation and where there is a ramp now. When Guido built the retaining wall and poured the drive and apron we specified steps from the lower level, up the hill. I asked him to snap a garden hose from the top of the steps in a nice curve, to lay a sidewalk to meet the walk that ended at the porch steps.

One little snap and we had that entire garden between the walk and the studio. Oh, yes, and all the backfill of the old stone driveway. 1988. There were many abortive attempts by Jan and me to start a garden. By fall it would be weeds and meet the weed wacker.

Jan once tried to barter with a master gardener to quilt for her for life, for free, in exchange for having the “garden” become a garden. Her customer’s response: “You don’t have enough money to turn that into a garden.”

There was another attempt several years ago, when Laura was maybe four or five and we had the children for a summer, to make order of chaos. The square pavers were laid, but by fall the garden again met the weed wacker.

In the meantime, the other side of the porch was grass, until a warm weekend in March, 1997, when another contractor friend built the ramp in three days, and Mom made her last trip from the house in dignity, in a wheel chair, not on a stretcher. Another bit of garden produced, filled with Aunt Laura’s iris and Dad’s fall blooming crocus. And the weed wacker.

We needed all last summer, as you know, and a deal of grandkid muscle, and the gardens were wrested from the weed wacker. Not by a professional, but we did sort it out as we went. The master plan is to stuff in enough plants to smother weeds. It may be working. Or, to quote my garden vice president, Laura on how long it will look this nice, as long as you live here, my dear. 

The very bottom, by the steps down to the garage. Hamilton and Emily laid all those extra stones to form walk ways and make garden sections. This lower third was all anemone in the spring, then Laura's neat rows of fall crocus foliage. Now the wooly thyme is spreading and spreading. That should be the name of a song. There's a pampas grass and a bleeding heart back there, too.

In spite of transplanting all the yucca to the back, the two hardy souls at left will not be deterred, so they remain. As I noted before, there will always be yucca.

The middle. At the back, pampas grass and yucca, just like the decorators do in professional building landscaping. Take that, Ms. Master Gardener.

In the front, some Canterbury bells and some daisies. This was a place to ponder, but now I know. I am as fond of Canterbury bells as I am of chipmunks, and I'll put another half dozen or more in here in the fall, together with that low ground cover that has purple flowers. What of the daisies, you ask? 

This is the top third, and has a great assortment from back to front. Butterfly bush, brown eyed Susans, phlox, the Solomon seal that bloomed in the spring. But the old peony that escaped the weed wacker is too big. In the fall it will move back by object d'art wisteria trellis, and I'll fill in the space with all the orange and yellow center plants.

Many failed years of trying to establish clematis on the trellis, I'm going for a climbing rose in the fall or spring.

Another little pretty, over in the triangle by the ramp. And that's the plan.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Archery camp

Laura started archery camp this afternoon, at Old Trail School in Bath, on Ira Road, just over the river past Riverview Road. I’d not been there before; nice campus.

I haven’t been that way into the valley since taking Hamilton to and from church every Sunday, and occasionally spending the three hours between enjoying the valley, the river and the herons. Sad Hamilton couldn't be bothered to stay in touch with the men who would underwrite his mission. Like his father, I agree the structure and direction could only benefit him, as much as proselytizing turns my stomach.  Now he wants sent to college, and his dad says “Get a job.” I suppose he’s waiting for a really good job for a summa cum laude high school graduate to come up the steps and knock.

Metro Parks has an archery range on the way to Old Trail, and we stopped there to show Laura what a range looks like. No targets were up; I suppose because the range wasn't booked for the afternoon. However, the posts the targets hang on are there and all the backstops.

As we left I said she’ll know what she’s looking at this afternoon. “Yes,” she replied, and I also know the string goes toward my nose!”

I dropped her off in a classroom; I bet they start with theory. “Only William Tell and Douglass Fairbanks shot arrows over the shoulder. The string goes toward your nose.”

I opted to wander the valley while I waited. When I picked her up I learned there is an up and down to a bow, and it’s necessary to bend the elbow of the arm holding the grip, else the string will thwang you on the forearm. I do recall that from gym classes in college. She will most certainly go back tomorrow.

I drove down Ira to the end, which is not the end, but where the road is closed because no one has enough money to put it back together again. Since the only landowner is the national park, it’s their problem.

In the order in which I took them:

Impatiens around a mail box 

I'll be. Hale Farm. I'd forgotten it's on Ira Road, past Old Trail.
It's a sort of living history place now. Admission charged.

The Hale House, but you can bet not the "homestead." Took some money to put up such a house.

Ditch lilies, brown eyed Susans, and I think, phlox. 

A barn at a private home on the way down Ira.

 The Covered Bridge!
It was on our way to Aunt Laura and Uncle Frank when I was a child.
There was a sign with clearance over the cross beams.
Ira Road makes a sharp right under the bridge.
Drivers had to blow a horn to see if another driver might be in the bridge.
It's part of the Towpath Trail now; not a road.

Looking at these beams and timbers, I doubt it is the bridge of my childhood. Too new. 
Part of the rewritten history of the valley, courtesy of the National Park. 
On the other hand, another generation can look at and understand a covered bridge.

The river under the bridge and
the origin of one of Dad's favorite remarks as we passed through the bridge.
"Mary (an artist friend) sat in the river and painted the bridge."
"Did she have a ladder?"
"No. She sat in the river and painted the bridge."

Along the river bank.

On the way back up the road.
I cut off the openwork metal piece on top of the church.
On the Hale Farm property, one of the buildings moved to the site to emulate early 19th century life.

Must be private property.

I believe this barn and the next are on Old Trail School property.

Altogether too precious, and that's not a compliment.

Raspberries along the parking lot, waiting for Laura.
I left them for the birds.


Friday, July 18, 2014

You can close a road but you can’t close a bike trail

My road ends at Akron Cleveland Road, the main north-south between Akron and Cleveland, until the expressways and interstates were built. Heck, it used to go from Cleveland and Lake Erie to Marietta and the Ohio River. Interstate 77 does that now. 

Actually, there’s less than a mile of Akron Cleveland Road left, the city encroaching from the south has renamed it State Road, the name of the road at their border, and still is. The border has simply moved nine or ten miles north. 

A new business owner on Akron Cleveland Road, in our township, petitioned other business owners in the corridor to support changing the name of the last bit of the road to State Road, to de-confuse Google. Another business owner, who seemed to represent the opinion of most of the rest of the business owners, snarled at a public meeting, “It’s all we have left of ourselves. Let Google figure it out!”

But, I've digressed.

The bit of the road to the north that is in the village of Boston Heights is a bridge crossing a bike and hike trail.  In Ohio, or at least in our county, bridges that cross water are the responsibility of the county. Bridges that cross bike trails are the responsibility of—you got it. The jurisdiction they are in. Bridges are probably the most expensive bit of roadway ever devised by an engineer.  

I’m sure the original purpose of this bridge was to cross the substantial gully below. As in, the gully always was there and needed bridged, and the bike and hike trail was the afterthought. You now can get half way through Ohio on that particular trail, and under that bridge was probably the easiest route.

The bridge is deteriorating badly. My last venture on a bicycle ended with crashing into my own garage, so I haven’t looked at the underside of the bridge from a bicycle. I’ll take all the engineer’s words for it. It needed repaired. We’re talking millions. 

The village secured a grant for a study on how best to repair the bridge, and those road engineers came up with such a fine plan the state kicked in the money to implement it. They’re turning the bike trail into a tunnel under the bridge.

This project was supposed to happen last year, but then the hitch showed up, as it would. You cannot close a bike trail. That’s what the officials tell us, and I’m sure they’re right. Of course, there was a second hitch. They would close the road for something like three months.

That caused an out roar, led by the fire/EMS district and the police.  Closing the road would add fifteen or twenty minutes to response to a call in my end of the township. Out here in the sticks you can’t just go around the block.

The eventual compromise: detour the bike trail and keep one lane of traffic each way on the road. I took some pictures this morning.

There it is, the Bike and Hike Trail right under Akron Cleveland. And, I am extremely pleased with myself for finally mastering cropping a screen shot, although I'll probably need to watch the video a next time.

The trail, heading down to the bridge at the left.

But the trail is closed down there, take this detour.

The bike/hike detour takes them across the road here; there will be a switch to activate the lights and stop traffic. The lights haven't been activated yet.

This fellow skipped the detour lane and made his own way across.

Here's a look down the trail toward the bridge.

Here's a closer look. Not to worry; the operator left for a minute and I scooted right down. We said Hello as he came back and I left.

Job headquarters, across the road. The detour goes right behind and rejoins the trail.

A view of the road.

And traffic going by those two supervisors, still standing under the lights.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Clicking through the news

Yesterday I took the camera, in the event something interesting appeared. There is a lot of road construction going on around us, so I took the best detour possible through it, and approached the local Islamic Community Center from a different direction. There is a whole stoop devoted to flowers, and planters of pots at wacky angles. I liked it.

Then I went to the post office because I had the keys and stopped to photograph one of the best looking gardens around town. I believe it belongs to one of the town's ex-mayors, although it's not hard to be an ex-mayor in a town of 695 people, not all of them adults.

As you know, I went on to work and found the payroll I could have overlooked, so all's well that ends well. I clicked on through the AP news this afternoon, to get to my photo editing program.  A passenger jet downed over the Ukraine. It took a long time just to get my watermark on these pictures, so here are the rest of the pictures I took yesterday, on a very disused road in the township.