7 September 2014

Oma gets an iPhone

I’ve always been a reluctant cell phone user. For years I had a jumbo-sized Nokia of a generation that still sported an extendable antenna. Since its battery would run down after about an hour I took it with me only on rare occasions and told few people my number. In fact, I had a hard time remembering the number myself. Basically I was happy with my home telephone, or “land line,” which worked reliably and had a number I could recite in my sleep.

However, as my partner, sister, daughters and sons-in-law all gradually acquired up-to-date smart phones and could be reached in the grocery store or at work I began to think about upgrading. The straw that finally broke my resistance came when I realized that my 11-year-old granddaughter also had a smart phone, one passed along when her parents had upgraded, and was an expert in its use, even confidently chatting with a voice called “Siri.” The family applauded my wish to venture into the 21st century; skyping from Germany, my partner Luise even offered to give me an iPhone for Christmas. Thus encouraged and supported, I went onto the Apple website and put in my order.

A sleek iPhone 4S arrived in the mail a week later. I was somewhat hesitant to tackle the set-up by myself, but finally, after many false starts, I successfully registered my number and – wonder of wonders – synchronized my calendar and address book, which shuttled magically from phone to Cloud to computer and back. By now it was almost one o’clock in the morning, but I was on a roll. I touched the “contacts” button and scrolled down to find my sister’s name. I brushed the screen lightly to see whether her various numbers were there – and suddenly her phone was being dialed. Before I realized what had happened her sleepy but worried voice was saying, “Joey, are you all right?!?” I assured her that no home invasion or hemorrhagic stroke was in progress, apologized profusely for waking her, hung up – and promptly touched the screen again, once again setting her phone to ringing. 

Since that embarrassing first encounter I’ve learned a lot about using my iPhone, mostly through the tutelage of my daughters, sister and Luise, who purchased the exhaustive “Missing Manual for the iPhone” to guide us. Yet, after 8 months I admit that I have barely scratched the surface of the device’s capabilities. In contrast to my tech-savvy offspring, for example, I have only one universal ring-tone instead of a different one for each high-frequency caller. But I did spend a fair amount of time selecting the text-tone for my incoming messages. It’s named “Sherwood Forest” and consists of French horns blowing a proud alert, perhaps a call to the hunt, or better still, Robin Hood rousing his Merry Men. Quite impressive, and startling to those who haven’t heard it before when it sounds from within my purse or an adjacent room. 

I have barely begun to explore the amazing world of Apps, but so far two have proven especially useful. I can recommend “Cleartune” for string players and anyone else who needs to have a reliable tuning source. It will tell you whether your instrument is in tune, and how far off key you are playing or singing. It will play middle C or A or whatever you ask it to. It has helped me become more accurate in my cello practice, even if that requires more patience than I’m accustomed to.

The most essential App for me as an “Oma” (grandmother) is the popular “WhatsApp,” a free multi-media messaging program for sharing text, photos and videos with selected friends and family. It’s a way to stay constantly connected to those on your “channel,” and quite addictive. A photo or video taken with the iPhone can be sent instantly to all family members, whether in India, Germany, Connecticut or two blocks away in Jamaica Plain. Just this week we all saw Elizabeth and Aeryn nervous and excited on the first day of 7th grade at a new school, and 14-month-old Rishi plastering his cherubic face with avocado. An appreciative reply to such visual treats can be sent just as quickly using emoticons, little symbols selected by a touch to the screen, for example a thumb’s up, colorful heart or bouquet. But usually I’m tempted to send a verbal message as well, and here the built-in microphone does the trick: tap on its image, dictate your message, click “send,” and off it goes, converted to text!  The program even understands punctuation marks when dictated, so that your messages can appear truly literate, if you remember to say “comma,” “period,” etc., of course.

I’ve learned, though, that it’s important to check the text before touching the “send” icon. Sometimes the microphone makes a mistake. For example, I wanted to tell my daughter Kate, who was on her way to our house, that Luise and I were out walking but that the coffee maker was full of fresh coffee for her. The message as printed and precipitously delivered came out as follows:

Lulu and IRS just setting out for our walk should be back by 10 or so fuck coffee in the pot is freshly made this morning. See you soon bye

A second message, sent to my other daughter Sarah, demonstrates the importance of articulating clearly when dictating punctuation marks, in this case “exclamation point.” Sarah had written that she would text us from the store to get our grocery list. My grateful response was rendered as:

Exactly – do that. Thanks so much excrement

Fortunately both daughters have a high level of patience with my enthusiastic but amateurish use of modern technology; after all, just look at the progress I’ve made already (exclamation point).


# | Joey Horsley on 7 Sep 2014 at 04:30 AM | printer-friendly

6 March 2014

A Poem for the Beginning of March

March 5

oops – another month gone by!
time to change the calendars –
a different view of granddaughters
a different arrangement of fruit –
turn over the page and forget
the penciled appointments and events
that seemed so urgent
at the time
another month gone by
another month gone

another week gone by!
time to put the garbage out –
seven days’ accretion to be dispatched,
plastic and paper to the recycling bin,
while orange peel and banana skin
will head for the dump to decay
or not
the pile of newspapers, mostly unread,
will transmigrate and return again,
along with their stories of war and greed
another week gone by
another week gone

another day gone by!
time to turn out the lights
and lock the doors,
head upstairs and
crawl into bed
close my eyes and try to sleep
try to remember
what I did today
another day gone by
another day gone

# | Joey Horsley on 6 Mar 2014 at 10:33 PM | printer-friendly

24 August 2011

Late August Walk in Forest Hills Cemetery

                                            -Joey Horsley

(Deutsche Übersetzung unten)

Today we walked at Forest Hills,
Historic graveyard, well maintained,
Its residents, the living and the dead,
Ignore the charms of nature and of art.
Such pleasures are enjoyed
By those who come to walk.

A perfect day: the sun is warm, the breezes fresh;
No one in sight but for a strolling older couple –
She gives a smile, he glares and grunts –
Would they be first-time visitors,
Admiring statues by the paths
Or searching out a chiseled name?

Familiar with the stony shapes,
We focus on the living:
Below, the mushrooms throng near spruce and oak
Disclosing fairy circles’ secret presence –
After rains, abundant sprouting.
Above, four hawks sail high,
Their circles ominous, their shadows flashing dark
Across our path. And then they vanish,
Invisible within the still-green foliage.

Across Hibiscus Pond we barely see
Three turtles on the rocks,
Heads turned upward, aiming at the sun
Above the water still and green.
      They’ve just put poison in,
      we read,
      to kill the vegetation –
      before the long-off moment comes
      (yet one day irreversible)
      when geometric growth could push
      a half-full lily-pond
      to total suffocation.

We wander on; around the bend
Up on the left-hand hillside
Four muscled riders guide four chomping mowers
In and out among the graves,
Giant insects chew through August grass
Roaring and growling to disturb the dead,
And upset walkers, seeking calm and beauty.

But through the din, a sudden scent of fresh-cut grass –
You’re taken back to early times and places
To homes with spacious lawns where weekend mowers drone.
A glint of childhood safe – and gone.

Beauty in the balance
Between becoming and decline:
Gratitude and bliss
Shot through with mourning.


Ein Spaziergang Ende August auf dem Friedhof Forest Hills

– Übersetzung Rosemarie Wiegel

Wir gingen heut im Forest Hills spazieren,
dem alten, gut gepflegten Friedhof.
Die hier wohnen, lebendig oder tot,
beachten nicht den Zauber von Natur und Kunst.
Nur die hier wandern kennen dies Vergnügen.

Vollkommen ist der Tag,
die Sonne warm und frisch der Wind,
niemand ist in Sicht. Ein ältres Paar nur,
das gemächlich schlendert,
sie lächelt lieb, er glotzt und brummt.
Ob sie zum ersten Male hier sind,
die Statuen am Weg bewundern,
oder einen Namen suchen, der
in Stein gemeißelt ist?

Die steinernen Gestalten kennen wir
und richten unsern Blick auf das, was lebt:
Unten drängen sich die Pilze –
Zeichen von geheimen Hexenringen –
üppig sprießend nach dem Regen
um die Fichten und die Eichen.
Oben ziehn vier Habichte bedrohlich ihre Bahnen,
werfen dunkle Schatten über unsern Weg.
Dann sind sie verschwunden, unsichtbar
In dem noch grünen Laub.

Mitten im Hibiscus Pond, kaum zu erkennen,
drei Schildkröten auf Felsgestein,
die Köpfe hoch gereckt, der Sonne zu
über dem Wasser, still und grün.

Eben hat man Gift hineingetan,
so lesen wir,
die Pflanzen zu vernichten –
rechtzeitig vor dem noch fernen Tag
(doch unumkehrbar irgendwann),
da exponentielles Wachstum
den halb bedeckten Teich
mit Lilien ganz ersticken könnte.

Wir gehen weiter; um die Biegung
oben auf dem Hügel links
lenken muskulöse Reiter
vier beißende, kauende Mäher
zwischen den Gräbern hin und her.
Rieseninsekten fressen sich durch Sommergrass,
dröhnen und brummen, stören die Toten
und ärgern die Vorübergehenden,
die Ruhe hier und Schönheit suchen.

Doch durch den Krach trifft dich ein Duft
von frischgechnittnem Gras,
der dich zurückversetzt
in Zeiten und an Orte,
zu heimatlichen Häusern, weiten Rasen
wo samstags Mähmaschinen friedlich dröhnen.
Kindheit und Geborgenheit – vorbei.

Schönheit in der Schwebe
Zwischen Werden und Vergehn,
Dankbarkeit und Glück
Durchwirkt mit Trauer.


# | Joey Horsley on 24 Aug 2011 at 03:27 AM | printer-friendly

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Hedwig Dohm