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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

Month

March 2014

Another Perfect Day

abstract-rain-umbrella-14218893I had it all planned out. I was going to complain about this weather lately. Hot, cold, hot, cold. And yesterday, I was all set to go to the local green market and it started pouring. I mean like thunder, lightening, Frankie-under-the-bed kind of pouring.

Then right when I was settled, and it was too late to get there by power chair, it turned beautiful. I was frustrated with the weather yesterday. Then, on television this morning, I was reminded of those poor people out west dealing with the wreckage of mudslides and thought, who am I to complain?

Both yesterday’s plans and today’s blog had to change. As a friend reminded me recently, “the best laid plans of mice and men …” Whatever that means.

So instead, I’m feeling grateful. I walked Frankie this morning and basked in the sunshine as he trotted happily beside me. And it turns out that any day’s a perfect day when your family is healthy and together — even if it’s pouring.

My favorite weather is bird-chirping weather. ~Terri Guillemets


In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours. ~Mark Twain

The Bermuda Triangle got tired of warm weather. It moved to Alaska. Now Santa Claus is missing. ~ Steven Wright

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. ~Anthony J. D’Angelo

More Technology

thIt started with a simple question: What exactly is a hashtag? 

I knew I was falling behind the times when commercials started mentioning them. As in, Samsung Galaxy #The Next Big Thing. Except, I don’t think there are spaces. I think it’s #TheNextBigThing. No spaces. I don’t know if running your                                            words together is a hashtag rule or what.

Then a friend’s daughter made a joke that my name should be Amy #Did I Punch You? because I always ask that question after transferring to or from a vehicle. My right arm (the one with decreased sensation) flails out and inadvertantly smacks whoever’s standing there. So, she made the joke, and I got the humor without actually getting hashtags, and I laughed. But inside I wondered, does she know what a hashtag is? She’s only 12.

The final straw came when a writer friend and I viewed a contest form online that asked for our Twitter handles. As if we had such things. And it was required info, mind you, as evidenced by the bright red asterick. Like it was as common as a zip code. Twitter and hashtags are linked somehow. This much I knew, but little else. It was time to stop feeling stupid. It was time to figure a few things out.

Now, this will be old hat to some of you. Probably, the younger someones or the otherwise technologically advanced. And some of you will be clueless, having never even heard the term. Like my 95-year-old grandma (sorry, Jeanie) or my 83-year-old uncle who still uses a non-electric push mower and a rotary dial phone. (Sorry, Peter. Hey, you’re nobody till you’ve been written about in my blog.) The rest of you may have varying degrees of knowledge on the subject, but who, perhaps like me, have been faking whatever you don’t know. In fact, I bet if a lot of people were really honest, you’d find very few of us who actually know what a hashtag is at all.

So, I did the first thing any person over 40 does when they want to know something — consulted the encyclopedia. The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, to be exact. And I googled it. Here’s what I found out: hashtags are to Twitter what keywords, or tags, are to search engines. In fact, I think (don’t hold me to it, this is very new and shaky knowledge) that search engines use hashtags too. Hashtags are just a way of grouping and categorizing information on the Web, predominately on Twitter. So, if a million people are tweeting about the Olympics using hashtag #Sochi, then all those conversations will be grouped together and there’s a greater likelihood that the subject will “trend” on Twitter. (There’s a list of what’s popular, or trending, when you first log on to Twitter.) So, this explains why all the advertising corporations are doing it. It’s the latest form of marketing.

That said, I think Twitter is dumb. I apologize to those of you out there who love it, but I mean, really. How much spare time do you have to have on your hands to bother telling people you just polished off a box of Girl Scout cookies? Who cares?! (I have an account now and a grand total of four followers and I swear that’s what most of the tweets are about. Nothing.)

UnknownI much prefer that other time waster. I mean, aside from Facebook. (Hey, I’ve lost hours playing Candy Crush as much as the next person.) I’m talking about Pinterest. It’s my latest addiction. And I believe worthwhile. It’s like browsing a huge magazine store where you can rip out pages from the magazines without buying any of them. Like a recipe? Interesting article? No more stealing from the doctor’s office. You just “pin it” to a virtual bulletin board.

I remember my writing teacher leading my retreat group in an exercise creating vision boards. We poured through magazines looking for images that spoke to or inspired us. It allowed us to dream, to create, to plan for our futures. I loved the idea, but felt hindered because of my inability to cut or paste. Enter Pinterest. It’s vision boarding without the mess!

Of course, you could be really old school and just read a book to pass the time. I was sharing some of my new techie knowledge with my friend Diana the other night. As she left, she asked about a book on my shelf. “I haven’t read it,” I admitted. “I got it for Christmas.”

“Perhaps you can start it during your Twitter time.”

Point taken. It’s good to keep up with technology. Especially as a writer — I might want to write about a character who tweets one day. But time spent reading a good old-fashioned book will never be time wasted. I started it that night. Thanks for the reminder, Diana.

Technology

I've fallen and I can't get up!
I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!

My handicap has aged me before my time. Cell phones, for example, have created a whole new problem for me. I suppose the fact that I have one at all makes me somewhat young. The fact that it comes with the five star alert system and free medication reminder does not.

The problem began when my old flip top died. Apparently, technology has advanced light years in the last 18 months. When did cell phones become so complicated? Me, at the phone store: No, I don’t care about apps. No, I don’t want to be able do four things at once. No, I don’t need to get on Facebook when I’m out. (I can’t see the screen well enough to know whose calling let alone post cute pictures.) I just want to make calls! And text. I can text. But the old school way – scrolling through the alphabet, hitting the same key multiple times. I don’t want a full-size keyboard with keys the size of bread crumbs.

And smart phones with touch screens are out of the question. I can’t make that smooth little swiping motion. For a while, I thought the voice recognition feature would be cool. Then I realized, with my voice the phone doesn’t even seem to recognize I’m speaking English.

I finally succumbed. I am now the not-so-proud owner of The Jitterbug. The phone for old people. I use the term “old people” with absolutely no qualms, because I’ve discovered that regardless of your age, “old” is always at least 10 years older than you. (And when I say you, I mean anyone reading this.) The possible exception to that may be my 95-year-old grandmother, who might finally acquiesce to being old, but who could probably run circles around half of you. (Well, maybe not run, but she could definitely trike circles around you — she puts in two miles a day on her tricycle.) Besides, while not as respectful as writing “older people,” using the term “old people” is just funnier.

So, I bought the phone for old people. And, in doing so, became the youngest person in the world ever to own one. It’s not the “I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up” system, but it’s close. I actually have to push 5 and then the * key for assistance, but the idea is the same. You’ve seen the ads. Help for your mom. Or your dad. Or handicapped friend. You could hear the surprise in the operator’s voice every time I called to ask about speed dial (non-existent) or getting a picture onto my computer. (I still haven’t figured that out. The Jitterbug doesn’t appear equipped to handle such techy tasks.) But the loud and slow-speaking person on the other end was happy to try to add a pill reminder or nurse practioner call to my service. They’ll even have someone call in every day just to check on me! My luck, I’d miss the call while fumbling the phone and they’d call out the SWAT team.

I need The Jitterbug for it’s large, easy to read font and big buttons. What I don’t need are simple memory match games or a customer service number that always rings straight to a live person. Sometimes I just want to get down to business, not chit-chat about the weather down here in Florida like I’m just a stone’s throw from the nursing home. But, I haven’t found a happy medium. I’m too disabled for a smart phone and too with it for The Jitterbug. So, next time you’re cursing some automated system and praying to speak to a live person, just think of me being condescended to by a 20-year-old or being asked how many times I get up at night to go to the bathroom so they can assess my fall risk. One day, they’ll come out with a phone for middle-aged people called The Grasshopper, but until then, be careful what you wish for.

Coming Around

sochiI believe that eventually the world gets it right. Just think, there was a time, not too long ago, when women weren’t allowed to vote and the color of your skin dictated which water fountain you had to drink from or where you were allowed to sit. Our children may find that hard to believe. But I believe in another 50 years or so, our children’s children will find it hard to believe that gay people didn’t always have equal rights or that there were actually public places a disabled person couldn’t get to. It takes what it takes (usually a lot struggle), but the world eventually comes around.

Yes I know, I’m getting a little political, but I am, after all, my mother’s daughter. It hit me while watching a rerun of Will and Grace. That show was groundbreaking at the time. Now it seems old hat, the way Modern Family will seem in the future. And something else groundbreaking is happening. NBC is televising the Paralympic Games for the first time in history.

During the London Paralympic Games, I was petitioning to have NBC televise them. Now, I’m asking you to watch them this week. I’ve found them on NBCSN (which is channel 24 if you have Comcast.) It’s not exactly prime time viewing with Bob Costas, but it’s a start. And as the president of the International Paralympic Society said during the opening ceremony which illustrated the theme ‘Breaking Down Barriers’, “I call upon all those who experience these Games to have barrier-free minds.”

Original Post: Changing Times

“Look up at the stars, not down at your feet. Be curious.” ~Stephen Hawking

If you’re like me, your favorite part of the Olympics is the human interest stories. Someone who seems destined for greatness, loses and then, struggling against all odds, fights their way back to the top again. If you are moved and inspired by these stories, then you’re going to love the Paralympics. Every single athlete is a human interest piece. Everyone’s got a story to tell.

In case you don’t catch it (and why would you? It’s not televised in the U.S.,) you can watch the Games online. I’ve been watching Paralympic Sport TV. The only problem with this is that I remain hunched over my computer instead of in the comfort of my own living room. If you, too, would rather be watching it on the big screen instead of a small one, my little petition is still struggling out there in cyberspace, so sign it!

The Paralympic Games, which started August 29th and continue until September 9th, started with an opening ceremony extravaganza, held in front of a record audience of 62,000. It began with inspiring words from Professor Stephen Hawking and featured deaf and disabled performances.

This was a homecoming of sorts for the Paralympics because, although the first official Paralympic Games was held in Rome in 1960, the idea was founded in Stoke, just north of London in 1948. Sir Ludwig Guttman began the revolutionary practice of using sports in the rehabilitation of spinal cord injury patients with just 16 athletes on a small piece of land between the back of a hospital and a railway embankment. It has grown steadily to 2012, with over 4200 athletes competing from over 160 countries. Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, thanked Sir Ludwig Guttman for “generating the first sparks that became the Paralympic spirit.”

As I scanned the U.S. athletes for sight of my friend Jerry, a Paralympian I met back when we both tried wheelchair tennis (he found his sport in archery – see the previous links,) I found it impossible to keep a dry eye watching the athletes take part in the night of their lives. The Paralympic athletes are a celebration of the human spirit, a testament to the amazing things a body, particularly a disabled body, can do. Isn’t that what we love about sports? And the growing Paralympic movement, with more people watching than ever before, is a sign that we are one step closer to an inclusive society. These are, indeed, changing times.

My Two Cents

dreamstimecomp_13302520I realize the fact that I write and happen to love movies doesn’t make me a film critic, but if you can’t wax poetic and force your opinion on the world on your own blog, than where can you? Besides, the Oscars are on tonight and I have some thoughts on the nominees.

One of my favorite movies of the nominees this year is Nebraska. I thought it was smart, funny, touching and well-acted. I doubt that it, or Bruce Dern, will get any well-deserved recognition aside from the nomination, but I’ve cast my vote. It’s probably too simple of a film to take Best Picture or Actor anyway, but that’s what I loved about it. It was like good writing, full of rich observations of character and human nature while leaving a little something to the imagination. It was quiet where that other family drama was loud. I mean screaming, crying, in-your-face, over-the-top loud. Of course, I’m talking about August: Osage County, a movie that really let it all hang out. Every twisted, horrid detail was shouted out on screen until you felt as drained and limp as dirty laundry left flapping in the breeze. Or like you’d just been hit by a bus. And not the happy, hippy Partridge family bus either.

Another of my favorites, and one that stands a better chance of winning, is Dallas Buyers Club. I’ve never been more impressed with Matthew McConaughey, who even managed to be memorable in a bit part in The Wolf of Wall Street. And Jared Leto has my vote for Best Supporting Actor for his gender bender role as Rayon, particularly over Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips. Not that I have anything against the Somalian actor, he was truly frightening as a Somalian pirate, but c’mon, how much of an actual stretch was it? Jared Leto played a transvestite. I had to look him up, wondering what I’d seen him in. Turns out, I’ve seen him in everything! (Fight Club, Requiem for a Dream, Alexander.) And each time he’s been virtually unrecognizable, from one role to the next or from himself. Besides, acting is his life’s dream. I gotta support that. If Barkhad Abdi won, it’d be similar to how I feel when one of the real housewives writes a best selling novel. (Like whining, “That’s not faaa-irrr!”) 

I confess to not seeing two movies, mostly by choice. 12 Years a Slave, because I prefer to be emotionally disturbed in the privacy of my own home, and Her, because the idea of Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with his phone creeped me out. Joaquin is creepy enough as it is.

The movie I’m afraid will take the majority of awards is Gravity. Don’t get me wrong, Sandra Bullock was great, as were the visual effects. But, in the end, I couldn’t have cared less whether George and Sandra made it safely back down to earth or spun away in space forever. I’ve read there were more than a few gaffs in both the laws of physics and credibility and heard Clooney’s character likened to that of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear, which cracks me up and seems accurate enough.

While I may have been impartial to the astronaut’s fate in Gravity, in All Is Lost, I wanted to shove Robert Redford off the boat and drown him myself. As someone who continually mutters and curses to herself (just ask my mom), I couldn’t get past the lack of dialogue. If it weren’t for the lone dropping of the F-bomb, I’d have wondered if Redford’s character were human at all. Thank goodness all it’s up for is a Sound Editing award, and even that I have to give to Gravity. There was something very cool going on with sound, from the deafening silence of space to the crash of flying debris. I’m not savvy enough to know what it was, just that it was good.

So there you have it. My two cents, for what it’s worth. Feel free to agree, or disagree as the case may be. It will be published in the comments for all the world to see. Today we’re all film critics. And that’s gotta be worth at least a penny.

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