Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THE INTERNET: Instructions that were actually helpful

I almost can't believe I'm writing this, given that most online instructions for setting up electronic devices are incomprehensible ... but Verizon did a great job of walking me through the upgrade to my Wifi router.
My heart sank when I received their email about upgrading my wireless router to WPA2 (apparently that offers better security), but I went to their link and there was a list of clear, jargon-free, acronym-free, step-by-step instructions, complete with illustrations. I know; how incredible is that!
They didn't use terms like "system tray" or "protocol" (although I did see "ASCII" and "hex"; huh?); they just told me what to type in and what to click.
And best of all, the instructions worked! I now have a super-secure Wifi system with a new password, so don't even think about trying to poach.
Well done, Verizon. Now, about all that junk mail you keep sending me...

HOMEVILLE: Happy 175th Birthday to Homeville Meeting

The 175th birthday party for Homeville Friends Meetinghouse on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 24, was a memorable and well-attended event.
The meetinghouse and its adjoining burial grounds sit along Route 896 in Upper Oxford Township, near the Lancaster County line, and the rural view looking west is stunning.
Before the worship service, guests mingled outside (I saw many from London Grove Friends Meeting), listened to Cochranville musician Janet Witman playing the harp, and browsed through the research about the meeting's history. We wandered through the peaceful burial ground, which has are both traditional, simple grave markers and modern ones featuring pictures of the dead person, and recognized a lot of familiar Chester County surnames on the gravestones.
Trustee Charlie Brosius of West Marlborough, whose family has deep connections to the meeting, helped organize the event and served as emcee. He welcomed the guests, outlined the afternoon's agenda and introduced local State Rep. John Lawrence, who brought along a fancy certificate from the General Assembly honoring the meeting's anniversary.
For the worship service, the small meetinghouse couldn't accommodate everyone on its wooden benches, so some people sat outside under the shaded canopy. During the service several people were moved to speak about ancestors who had been members of the meeting. Some said the clip-clop of horses' hooves on the road outside (there were a lot of Amish carriages passing by) made the past feel not so distant. One woman who lives near the meetinghouse said she had always considered it a cold and lonely place because it's no longer active -- but she wouldn't anymore.
After the service, we listened to an entertaining talk by Chris Densmore, curator of the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College. He gave a brief history of the meeting and Quaker life in the nineteenth century and noted that Homeville members were active in abolitionist groups, including the Clarkson Society, and promoted the use of "free produce," meaning cotton cloth and other consumer goods that were made with no links to slave labor. The Homeville Quakers were also part of the fledgling women's suffrage movement.
A nice spread of cookies, brownies, lemonade and iced tea greeted us after the talk (Mr. Densmore made a joke about having the dangerous time slot of "just before the refreshments").

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Patton Middle School: Another school year gets under way

At a family dinner the other night, the week before school started, the Young Relative was critically reviewing his middle-school class schedule on his phone. Things looked good, he said: in particular, his classes were clustered together so he wouldn't have too far to walk between rooms. This, apparently, is a priority.
As usual, the Unionville-Chadds Ford district (to my mind, the equivalent of a private school anywhere else) is offering up an admirable curriculum: he's taking an advanced math class that his father and I didn't take until high school. And I can't imagine what they'll be able to teach him in his "Digital Communication" class that he doesn't already know. I proposed that for a hands-on project he could teach his elders how to use their cell phones. To that suggestion I got the classic Young Relative eye-roll that he perfected at the age of 5.
And back in our day, did we have these long lists of brand-specific school supplies that parents have to spend hours tracking down? I don't think so, but it's possible my mother just went out and bought them with no fuss. What we did get was a new pair of school shoes, a new pair of gym shoes, a lunchbox (always a tough decision: "Mod Squad" or "The Monkees"? What would the cool kids be carrying?), some spiral notebooks, and rolls of Contact paper we'd use to make covers for our school books (you didn't strip off the backing). It would last the whole year and it came in cool designs -- this was the Seventies, after all!
Parenthetically: for our pre-back-to-school dinner we had crab cakes from Pappas Seafood in Baltimore. They are without question the best I've ever had. You can pick them up at the restaurant or order them online ( and have them shipped.

Kennett YMCA: "And we gonna let it burn, burn, burn"

This has been a humbling week, fitness-wise. You think you're in good shape until you switch up your routine a little!
Normally I split my workouts between the Kennett and the Jennersville YMCAs. This past week the latter was closed, so I tried out some different classes at the former. What a challenge! There are some extraordinarily limber teachers at Kennett, that's all I can say.
So I did three tough classes, and when Friday rolled, I was ready to take the day off from the gym. But then a friend emailed and said she'd be at a Friday-evening class, and I really should attend too. I didn't want to let her down, so even though I was feeling pretty beat up, I said yes.
So I walked in to class -- and she wasn't there. Class started -- and she wasn't there. The warm-up finished -- and she wasn't there. In my head I was composing an arch email for the ages to send her when finally she came in, breathless: she'd been delayed by a crash on Kennett Pike at the Tower Hill School.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hood's BBQ: Get your Ribwich now

Well, all of us Hood's regulars knew this day would come, but that doesn't mean we happy about it: Hood's BBQ in Unionville is closing down for the winter for renovations. Their last day will be Friday August 29 (closing at 3 p.m.), and they hope to reopen their revamped and expanded restaurant in the spring.
Take heart, though: their mobile trailer will still be in operation at various equestrian and community events. They'll be posting the trailer's schedule on social media.

A Field Near You: The geese are learning to fly

My ring tone is dissonant enough to grab my attention, but I didn't realize how similar it is to the squawking call of Canada geese until some of them flew over the other day and I stared stupidly at the phone, which didn't seem to be responding. A goose-hunting friend from Cochranville who is very familiar with their habits told me that at this point in the summer the goose parents are training the young ones to fly, looking for the first-cut corn.

Longwood Gardens: Lights! Camera! Fountains!

On Aug. 18 I got an email from a reader who wondered what was going on at Longwood Gardens: "As I was walking at Longwood this morning, I was redirected around the Italian Gardens. I saw what looked a lot like a film production - light poles, trailers, lots and lots of cable. One of the security guards told me, 'If you want to be in pictures, here's your chance.' There's also a big white tent set up in the Open Air Theatre." What, she wondered, was going on?
I asked around and found that several locals were wondering exactly the same thing. A Kennett restaurant owner noticed what she called a "cloud" on the set of the shoot: "Big, white inflated thing, tethered to hover and diffuse light for the photo shoots below. New to me! Would make an awesome patio cover!"
Another reader said a security guy told her they were shooting a documentary. Pretty cool!
By the way, the Longwood fireworks on Aug. 16 were spectacular. Our guests from the Midwest said they'd never seen some of the types of fireworks that were set off, especially the ones that looked like a crested celosia.