Sunday, January 15, 2017

Good, Better, Best

                 Image result for children who are praised best
by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
At the end of each episode of America's Top Model, Tyra Banks critiques the contestants.  In one episode, the losing person, the one eliminated from the show, lets call her Louise, had only one look.  Whatever the pose, she looked the same.  Tyra explained that Louise needed to have different looks for different poses. As Tyra likes to do, she then flashed off several poses and looks -- sad, sadder, saddest; mysterious, mysterious-er and mysterious-est; sexy, sexier, and sexiest.

As I watched Tyra's amazing performance, the ease that she did her demonstration, I wondered why Louise did not do this in the first place.  Why didn't Louise spend time practicing the poses and facial expressions.  It's not like it was a surprise to her.  After all, America's Top Model has been on television for fourteen years.  They do the same thing every season: select women, put them in curious poses, and photograph them.  Plain as day.  Louise could have binge-watched the episodes until the judging criteria became obvious to her.  Louise could then run out to Home Depot, buy a wall-mounted floor-to-ceiling mirror for her home, stand in front of it and begin to practice, practice, practice her poses and facial expressions.

I know why she did not: Louise was told by friends and family that she was great.  She was indeed great.  She was greater than all her friends and family and did not see the need to practice. But that is not enough.  Louise ended up on America's Top Model, competing with all the other contestants who were told by their friends and family that they are great too.  She was among the best candidates selected.  Louise began to look ordinary.

You can see the opposite side of this phenomenon in women's tennis.  Serena Williams regularly beats her opponents.  All the women that Serena defeats can play tennis better than 99.9 percent of the people in the world.  Sometimes, Serena plays well beyond her opponents' ability and the match is over quickly with a lopsided score.  Yet, Serena goes out and hires a coach to make her tennis game better still.

Have you looked at yourself, at what you do well, and how you may do it better?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Money Baby

                  Image result for tax money fly away


By The Urban Blabbermouth
~
The Social Security Administration sent me an estimate of my retirement benefits. I did not request it. Maybe the nice folks in my Company's HR Department requested it on my behalf. Maybe the thoughtful folks at Social Security randomly selected me or maybe the old folks AARP arranged for it as one of their recruiting strategies. I just don't know.

Included was a Statement Of Earnings, every dollar I ever made from my first year of work to last year's pay. My economic biography in black and white.

In my first year of work, and I shall not mention what year that was, I made $704. I was a teenager then and I was working at McDonald's Hamburger Restaurant. McDonald's back then was the biggest employer of teenagers in the world. My father saw a hiring sign as he drove by the McDonald's. He pushed me to go and apply, "Get a job, my beloved son!" That's how parents are, always training their kids to work hard and do well for themselves.

I remember the job interview. The manager asked the usual hiring questions: Where do you go to school? What are your grades? What do you want to be when you grow up? The last question was, "A customer's bill comes to $1.47 and he gives you $2.00. How much change would you give back?"

I stumbled on this question for a while and finally told him, "Fifty-three cents."

He said, "Good, but you will have to do that faster. We will teach you how to count up. Come back next Tuesday to fill out paperwork."

Yippeee, on my way to millions.

I remember my first McDonald's pay check. I was expecting tons of money and I kept imagining of all the things I would buy. When I got the check, I was shocked. It was half what I expected. I went to see that manager and complained that there was a mistake.

He took my check, looked it over, and said, "No it's right," and handed it back to me.

I said, "No it's too little. Something is not right. It should be..." and I named some number.

He looked me straight in the face and said, "Nooo, it's right. You don't get the full pay. You have to pay taxes and other deductions."

I took the check from him, cashed it, but I felt cheated and disappointed. It's been like that ever since.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 in Review

                     Image result for links to blog posts
By Vol-E

First, I need to express the wish that 2017 won't be "Same as it Ever Was" when it comes to the stuff we didn't like about 2016. For many, the political landscape looks bleak, but many of those people are resolving to either keep a positive attitude and do what they can, or go flat-out Resolution: Revolution! and throw everything they've got into encouraging the Good and fighting the Bad. So I hope everyone gets the wish in that area, and that on a personal level, 2017 brings many delights.

I made a tally of the posts The Urban Blabbermouth and I did for 2016; like many of the favorite blogs I read, I'm going to use today to comment and provide links, in the hopes that you will go back and check them out if you haven't, or go back to enjoy them a second time.

First and foremost, this blog probably would have ceased to exist about four years ago if The Urban Blabbermouth hadn't started sending me posts. I am really grateful to him for this and hope he will never dream of stopping. He's a funny guy!  This year we met Lilly, a woman of a certain age who isn't easily fooled or impressed by the dating scene or popular trends in social relationships. She can give most 20-somethings a run for their money and some free wisdom.

The Urban Blabbermouth speculated on what a lottery win would look like, something we've all done at least once in our lives. He described a scenario in which sex workers went on strike, and what their demands might be.

My co-author made several forays into pure fiction, mostly of the speculative type, but also a dandy little noir offering called "Death By Romance." My personal favorite among this subset is "How the Cow Jumped Over the Moon."

I shared a fable that I first heard from the former minister at the UU church I attend. I liked it back then and still do. Hope you will as well.

"Office spouses" were spotlighted, as well as fashion trends, personality assessments and bathroom woes, all common threads for us working folks. Neither of us is getting any younger, so there were reflections on age, loss, and the passage of time, as well as retirement and what kind of Baby Boomers we are. Pop culture and technology were often on our minds.

Some advice was dispensed, having to do with keeping journals and lists, and the proper use of GPS. About 45 years ago, a friend's mother gave me advice that has stayed with me ever since -- I'll bet she never knew the effect it had.

Since neither of us here at Same As it Ever Was has much money, we had a lot to say about it. We both like to share morsels about our everyday lives, but not with too much intrusive detail, so you got to hear about our spouses, kids, friends, and childhoods.

There's just a lot going on all the time. We hope we did our best to enliven this blog and contribute to your reading pleasure. If any topics occur to you, let us know in the comments, and we will be very appreciative of not having to come up with all the ideas. Sometimes it's OK to rummage around among old papers, but usually not.

The very best to you in 2017!
Vol-E
The Urban Blabbermouth

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Yoga Asanas ... Doing it right at Om

by Vol-E
                     Image result for shilpa shetty
                                                   Shilpa Shetty

I started doing yoga asanas, or postures, back in July, and while it hasn't been an everyday practice, it's still made a huge difference for me this year.

The lady pictured above is Shilpa Shetty, known primarily as a Bollywood actress, but also deeply involved with yoga. It was her video on YouTube, Total Body 40-minute Workout, that helped me to actually maintain a good habit.

Most people think of "yoga" as the positions, sometimes along with breathing and meditation, but it is actually a complete life system with eight components that include right conduct and mindfulness. So out of respect, I'll specifically refer to asanas, since I haven't (so far) adopted most of the other parts of the path.

The following is entirely my own view of the practice, but I'm hoping this might be helpful to anyone who has shied away from it due to misconceptions.

1. Yoga asanas are nice to look at, but they are NOT designed to be a spectator sport. Having been working on this for nearly 6 months now, I am no closer to putting on a leotard and joining a class than I was back then. I cannot imagine how clunky and clumsy I look as I stretch and bend ... and I don't want to imagine it. How one looks makes absolutely no difference. It's about how you feel. And I ... feel ... mahvelous, as Billy Crystal often said back in the 1980s.

2. Asanas are also not a competitive practice. Our Western values are so tied up in how we stack up next to the next person. I'm especially aware of this because I apparently was born with some muscle issues that are very challenging in most athletic settings. I can't stretch or bend as well as other folks -- at the age of 5 I discovered that situps were not in my repertoire (and they're still not). But when I exclude the comparison factor from consideration, what the practice boils down to is...

I'm having a conversation with my body.

I stretch out a leg.  That leg, its mate, and my back have a comment to make. It's either "Ooh, thanks, I needed that--hey, me too!" or "Whoa, lady, what have you been doing? Want to rethink that?" First thing in the morning, there's nothing like 15-30 minutes of back, stomach, sitting and standing postures to wake up your joints, bones, skin, digestion, nerves and circulation. I can do roughly 35 postures -- not all the ones in the video, but most to a degree. The routine is designed to introduce you to each part of your body, one by one and learn to respect it. 

To me, this conversation is just as intimate as what you might say to your partner on a quiet morning over coffee. Neither of you is quite awake, but you know each other's rhythms and have enough respect for each other to encourage them to wake up gradually ad take a positive attitude toward the day. This is in total contrast to most "public" situations, where you know little or nothing about the people around you and have no real connection to them -- so why on earth would you care what they think of you and your postures, or whether you do them as well?

My co-worker said "I'm not flexible enough to do yoga." Do enough of it and you might become more flexible over time. I'm somewhat surprised at how far back I can bend. My mom was an acrobatic dancer in her youth. She could bend all the way back and touch the ground. Me? Never, but I can see the clock on the wall behind me, and that's an accomplishment. 

Some of the postures are fun and whimsical. My two felines like watching me do the Cat Pose, and they always seem impressed when my leg goes up and transforms me into the mighty Tiger. I picture someone I don't like when I assume the Warrior Pose -- don't mess with me!

You can cool it down with breathing exercises and a bit of chanting and meditation if you like. 

Do it for YOU. And if you ever wondered what "Namaste" really means, it's about honoring the unique spirit of everyone you meet. 

But you start with yourself.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Free(d) Music

Image result for digital music
by Vol-E

Ahh...technology. I do love it so. Like this morning. Today during meditation, I had Pandora set for my WAVES channel. "Waves" is a great song by Mr. Probz, and if you check it out, you'll find about half a dozen versions of the same piece -- some very slow and soft, others more brisk with more percussion, with various other featured artists. It enchanted me the first time I heard it on the car radio and promptly set up this Pandora channel. The channel has since acquired artists such as the Grateful Dead and The Werks. Similar, yet different. They're all good for meditation -- for me, at any rate.

So, as I was sitting there, blissing out to the station, it occurred to me how nice it is to listen to music this way. The only drawback for us stingy folks who don't want to pay for commercial-free is, um, the commercials. But it's ok. They're not long, and when one knows to expect them, they are not intrusive. You can use them for bathroom or coffee runs.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Do you write English

               Image result for typo autocorrect
By The Urban Blabbermouth
~
Now that I have spent several years writing for this blog, I have, quite unintentionally I assure you, turned into a writer.

I know this because I have come to notice how tricky words are. As write, I type as fast as I can to get my thoughts on screen before I forget what I want to say. I am a terrible typist so I make mucho mistakes. I hit the key next to the key I wanted, I transpose letters, or worse, I just simply misspell words. Every once in a while, I hit one of those control keys and a mysterious window opens, or weird characters appear on my screen, or my document starts to print out.

I rely heavily on my spell checker to catch my typing mistakes. But the English language being what the English language is, the spell checker catches the mistakes and substitutes the wrong word. I am really annoyed by this. Here I am typing furiously trying to get what I hope is an amazing story out of my head before I lose my idea, and my concentration is interrupted by the wrong words. My writing folder is full of ideas that went, poof, into thin air.

Somewhere in repeated cursing at my spell checker, I began to notice how simply changing one letter changes a word. For instance, cork so easily becomes dork and short becomes shot. Close but such different meanings and usages. Sometimes I combine mistakes, change a letter with a transposition of another letter and end up with an unexpected and quite saucy result, boost into boobs. You can see why that one stuck in my mind.

If the word has many letters, then it becomes harder to spot, previous becomes pervious. I found out that there are words when reversed spell another word. I have no idea what they are called but here is one: star reversed turns into rats.

I have started to wonder where words come from. I was writing the word tomorrow, messed up the spelling and the spell checker came up with to morrow. The spell checker guessed I wanted to write two words instead of one. I didn't realize that to morrow was compose of two words until then. It's probably a phrase from a poetic Shakespearean speech - for to morrow may bring such sweet sorrow - that eventually got mispronounced into one word.

It's ironic that as I write this post, my spell checker is throwing up curious words that I did not intend. I give you a hint: hint became hing and where became whee. You figure out the rest.

Now that I have discovered that I like words and their formations, I am starting to feel like a writer. I am getting ambitious too. I want my stories to be more interesting and fabulous than they already are. I will enroll in a writing course. I want to move to the next level, from an amateur writer to a hack writer.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

History is Fragile

                        
by Vol-E

On Facebook today, a friend close to my age commented that "we didn't learn about Pearl Harbor in school."  A shame, right?

Well, actually, no. It's more a shame that "kids today" need to have someone in school teach them about it. And it's a shame that a lot of them are going to pay scant attention, more interested in the latest missives from SnapChat. Just five years after 9/11, I was sitting in a car repair shop waiting room, and on the TV, the news station was showing the annual reading of the names in remembrance. One young woman looked at the screen and said "What's ...? Oh, it's that thing in NY with the towers and all." And then she went back to her phone or magazine or whatever had claimed her attention. I was kind of outraged. That was 10 years ago; the number of people like her must have multiplied tenfold by now.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

American Lottery

      Image result for roulette wheel with trump face

by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
America elected a Black man as President of the Unites States. Twice!  Black people did not do this.  If all the black people voted for Barack Obama, he would only get 13 percent of the vote.  Throw in the Hispanics, the brown ones, not the white ones, and the vote would bloom to 21 percent. Not enough.  So it was the white Americans who elected Barack Obama. 

It is slowly becoming clearer why they would do that instead of electing the other white guy who ran against Barack Obama.  Obama stood for change.  His campaign slogan was "Change we can believe in" and "Yes We Can".  The white people wanted him to change America to bring back their good old days. 

There is a trend here starting with Barack Obama, the election of an improbable candidate, a black man, by white people in a unresolved racially divided America, who spoke of hope, change and an improved America ... to Donald Trump, another improbable candidate, white man with old 1950s white man tendencies, who spoke of improving white people's lives.  Trump's  campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" spoke to the white people of a return to their good old days.  

The desire for a return to their good old days by white Americans has grown stronger since Obama, leading to the election of Donald Trump.  If you look hard enough, and I didn't, you can find some experts who predicted that this trend exists and maybe what some of the implications might be.  Just as easily, you can find experts who said that the trend was unimportant.  How would anyone know who was right?   Everyone was guessing differently and they were all looking at the same America.  We can only know years later when it is plain as it is today that the trend was important.  We will now bless those who are right and castigate those who are wrong.

The odd thing is that the experts who were right, were right by sheer luck.  They won the Guessing Lottery.  But that is not the point to take from this.  The point is what trends are happening right now that we cannot tell are important, or which expert is right.  This particularly applies to Donald Trump as there now abound many trends from his election and from his future actions. The answer will not be known for many years yet, long after Donald Trump leaves office.




Sunday, November 27, 2016

Boring is Good

       Image result for space alien with magnifying glass
by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
Louie muttered to himself, "I'm so bored.  I wish something interesting would happen."


A green Martian stepped though the wall of Louie's bedroom, zapped him with a ray gun.  "Gotcha," said the Martian as he picked up Louie and threw him into the hunting bag.

The Martian, Gork, was a procurer.  The scientists on Mars hired him to gather humans for their experiments and they paid well for it.  Gork muttered to himself, "Hunting humans is boring.  I wish to hunt Venusians.  At least their telepathy told them you were coming before you got here. More challenging to catch."

A yellow Uranian stepped through the wall of Gork's spaceship and threw a net over him.  "Gotcha," said the Uranian as the net was dragged by a cable through the ship's wall. 

The Uranian, Kork, was a procurer.  The anthropologists on Uranus hired him to gather specimens for their zoo and they paid well for it.  Kork muttered to himself, "I love hunting Martians.  They are so easy to catch.  I hate hunting Venusians. Their telepathy told them you were coming before you got here.  Too challenging to catch."

If you must know, Louie, the human, eventually died, forgotten on the Martian spaceship.

 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Locomotive Heart

                            pic:  http://www.longliveny.org/

 
by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
“How's my heart ticking Doc?” asked the Tin Man.
Wavy lines appeared on Dr. Konigsberg's forehead as his mouth turned down, “Hmm, not so good."
The doctor disconnected the sphygmomanometer from the patient on lying on the exam table and closed the access panel in Tin Mans’ chest. Tin Man was fortunate. His doctor was Alvin Konigsberg, chairman of the Cardiac Engineering Department at Saint Joseph Plumbing Hospital and the All-England Doctor of the Year in 1884 and 1885.
"You are maintaining a steady 80 psi but there is some deterioration in the valves. Are you changing the air intake filter? The valves are sensitive to dust contamination.”
“Yeah Doc. I am using the same HEPA filters as the ones in my vacuum cleaner.”
Dr. Konigsberg looked at the Tin Man's face, squinting his eyes slightly as he pursed his lips, then said, "We have spoken about how important it is to use the higher quality medical HEPA filters. The commercial vacuum filters are inadequate. Look, Mr. Tin Man, you wanted a heart and we gave you a heart. If you don't take care of it, you will lose your heart. Use the medical filters."
Dr. Konigsberg sat down next to his patient in the Consulting room. Standing behind the doctor was his intern, a junior engineer, recording the medical data from the exam into the hospital logs. The doctor looked directly at his patient's face once more and asked, “How are you managing with the other lifestyle changes we asked you to make?”
“I am doing pretty good, Doc. I make sure to eat at least a quarter cup of beans every day. But Doc, I am getting tired of it"

Tin Man was the recipient of Dr. Konigsberg's latest experimental procedure. Dr. Konigsberg snaked a tube from Tin Mans digestive tract to the fire box in the heart, dispensing with the external kerosene tanks. The heart now ran on gas generated in the digestive tract. Dr. Konigsberg named the procedure The Beano-Kligerman Conduit after the founder of the Bean-O Product.
"It is difficult. Keep the benefits in the front of your mind. Think of beans as medicine for your heart. Keep eating beans and your heart will work well for you. Otherwise, there will be negative consequences."
"Well, at least my wife is very happy. No more me passing gas around her. She says she always knew I was full of gas but at least now I am making some good use of it. Is it OK for me to sit up now Doc?"
Dr. Konigsberg smiled at the joke, “Yes of course. I have completed my examination."

The doctor stood up next to the exam table as Tin Man sat up, his bare legs dangling a six inches from the ground. Tin Man shivered as the gown opened in the back. The doctor disconnected the water IV from his patient's arm.
"I guess you hear these jokes all the time? Kinda old to you, eh Doc?"

"I look forward to hearing them Mr. Tin Man. Only patients who are healing well and feeling well make jokes. It is a valuable indicator of your well being. Are there other issues I should know about?"

"I still have some trouble sleeping. It's hard to get a good night sleep, sleeping at a 40 degree angle."
"I am sorry about your sleeping discomfort. Remember it is imperative that you keep your water reservoir as level as possible at all times to keep the water feeding to the heat exchanger in the firebox otherwise the heart will malfunction. Are you refilling the reservoir with distilled water?”
“Yes and I am bleeding the lines after every refill.”
“Excellent, and how is the steam outflow working? Not too hot?”
“Great Doc. I don’t feel the heat at all. It was genius to route the steam exhaust through my stovepipe hat. Scare Crow and the Lion have started calling it my Steam Powered Willy."
“Most amusing,” replied a smiling Dr. Konigsberg. “Now for some good news. We have gotten approval from the Royal Steam Engineering Society for a new muffler. It will cut down the noise from the ventricle pumps. No more thump thump in your ear.”
Dr. Konigsberg reached his hand over his shoulder and his intern placed a folder in it.  The doctor sat, crossed his legs, and studied Tim Man’s file now in his lap.
The doctor looked up, “Hmm, before we do the muffler swap, I want to run a stress test. We will run up your heart to 180 psi and monitor how it handles the high pressure. We want to make sure that the Pop-Off valve will open and that the Governor will limit the revs of the pumps.”

"Anything you say Doc," said Tin Man.
Dr. Konigsberg turned to his intern, “Jennifer, please make an appointment for a stress test for Mr. Tin Man before he leaves.”
“Yes Doctor,” replied the intern.
Turning back to his patient, Dr. Konigsberg asked, “Do you have any questions that you would like to ask me?”
“Well Doc, My wife cringes when she sees me doing a refill. She worries that I will mess it up and my heart will run dry and stop. We both would love an easier way.”
“There is a tentative solution.  We have a team of doctors flying on the Zeppelin to Germany to inspect a new Mercedes-Benz horseless vehicle refueling nozzle. We think that their latest improvements will make reservoir refills easier. The Royal Society will have to approve the changes before we can install the refill spigot in patients.  The approval may take many months."
“That is great news."

"Do you have additional questions?”

"That was it Doc, no more questions.”
“Very well.  Remember, it is imperative that you use the medical HEPA filters.”
Tin Man nodded as Dr. Konigsberg rose to his feet and held out his hand.  Tin Man stood and shook it.
“Thanks Doc for all you have done.”
“You are welcome Mr. Tin Man. Jennifer will escort you to the dressing room.”

Friday, November 11, 2016

Economists elected Trump

               Image result for dollar bill flying off into the sunset
by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
Many political experts have said that white people elected Donald Trump.  Well, they did vote for him but that missed the reason why white people voted for him.  I think the reason is the failure of economists.

Let's talk about jobs.  We all understand what can happen if we lose our jobs.   Where did the jobs go?  Well, Mr. Trump says that they went to Mexico and to China through various trade agreements like NAFTA.  He calls the trade agreements a disaster.  On the other hand, economists keep telling us that trade agreements are good for America.  Maybe so but economists have not shown us how. 

We can see the jobs going to Mexico or China and economists have no issue with that as they can see it too. But, how do economists explain that as beneficial?  Economists have said that the products made in Mexico or China come back to America and cost the American consumers less to buy.  The American consumers will have more money to spend on other things and that will create more jobs America.  That is how it is beneficial.  So, because I save at Home Depot on some pipes made in China, I can afford to take my kids to Disney World in Orlando and to stay in a Hilton hotel.  Disney World and Hilton hotel will now have more business and have more jobs.

Economists have failed to prove this point.  They cannot point to a job (maybe two or three more?) created in other parts of the America as a result of any job going to Mexico or China.  Without this direct link, how can we know that economists are telling us the truth.  It is just a theory.  The economists themselves still don't know if this is the truth.   Since economists cannot prove their theory, the white voters remembered the jobs going to Mexico or China and ignored the unproven parts.

A side thought.  Mr. Trump has said that illegal immigrants are taking jobs.  That is only a piece of this story.  At one time, factory jobs were well-paying jobs, say $25/hour, and the illegal immigrant had the $5/hour landscaping jobs.  The $25/hour jobs went to Mexico or China to become $5/hour jobs there.  American workers went looking for another job and found the $5/hour landscaping jobs already held by illegal immigrants.  So there arose the call that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from Americans.  The untold part of this story is that it was not an illegal immigrant who made the decision to send jobs Mexico or China, it was one of those corporate chieftains.  Direct your anger there.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Im gonna git u Sukkah

               Image result for bench the lulav
by The Urban Blabbermouth [who may or may not be shown in the photo above... - v-E]
~
True story. I am walking to my car and I notice a couple of Jewish fellows, twenty somethings, with the bouquets of what looks like bamboo or palm. I know they are Jewish for they look Hasidic. They are wearing long black jackets, wide brim black fedora hats, and have curly sideburns. In truth, I classify all Jewish who dress like this as Hasidic although they may identify themselves differently. They are standing near the corner canvassing passersby.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Sad and Lonely Goodbye

                  Image result for a lonely person died
by Vol-E

As they say, things can change in a heartbeat.

My next-door neighbor Mike died this afternoon. He was 38 and the non-custodial father of a 9-year-old who was known to say "My dad is my best friend."

Friday, October 21, 2016

Good Advice, Mr. King!

                   Image result for kid practicing the saxophone

by Vol-E

Author Stephen King's nonfiction book On Writing is one that I turn to often. For a short work (short compared to his usual), there's a lot to be found there. He gives an overview of the highlights and lowlights of his youth, including harrowing bouts with ear infections, a babysitter who sat on him and farted in his face, an older brother who came close to getting Stephen killed with various scientific experiments, and his early forays into writing. He moves on to technical advice about writing (most famously "The adverb is not your friend"), gives us the play-by-play on his near-fatal encounter with a careless van driver, and shows us exactly how he goes about taking a raw idea and working it into something publishable. He even gives us a list of books that have made an impression on him.

Recently, I had occasion to put into practice one of his principles, which could easily have gotten lost in the midst of all the other equally pertinent nuggets.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Memoir - The Year of Kent State

         Image result for married couple reading newspapers
by The Urban Blabbermouth
~
I wanted to write a fictional memoir and it got away from me. 
 
Original
I was born in the Year of Kent State. I didn't know. I was watching a cable channel specializing in historical programs, in this case, newsworthy events from the 1970s. The Ohio National Guard shot 13 unarmed students protesting the Vietnam War on the Kent State University campus. Four students died. By the time I was aware of a bigger world than my own, Kent State passed into history.

My world, then, was the golden triangle - one leg from my home to my grade school, the base from the grade school to the candy store, and the return leg from the candy store to my home. I could wander about within the golden triangle as I pleased since this territory was ruled by parents. There were no gangs nor drug lords to challenge their supremacy. That would come later and would also pass me by.


------------------------------------------ 
 
Final
I elbowed my wife sitting next to me on the sofa, "Honey, did you know that I was born in the Year of Kent State?"

I was watching a cable channel specializing in historical programs, in this case, newsworthy events from the 1970s. The Ohio National Guard shot thirteen unarmed students protesting the Vietnam War on the Kent State University campus. Four students died.

"What is that?" she asked as she lowered her Agatha Christie novel. I explained the story.

"Okaay, if you say so," she replied.

"We should look up what great news event happened in the year you were born," I said.

"Okaay," and she returned to her novel.

I went over to our bedroom, retrieved my laptop, returned to the sofa and started Googling great news events of the year 19...

Elbowing my wife, "Honey, did you know that you were born in the Year of the Watergate Break-in."

Lowering her novel, she frowned at me and said, "I don't like it. If you can't do better than that, then I am going to have to break your head in."

Smiling a fake smile at her. "Says here that the secret informant was someone named Deep Throat. Huh, so you were born in the Year of Deep Throat."  My smile grew bigger.

"Forget it, not happening," and she stuck the tip of her tongue at me.

"You're turning out to be no fun in my old age. I'm going to have to send you back to your mother for retraining."

"My mother was right, I should have married a funny man."

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Get Lost! Or better yet, don't.

                   Image result for using maps gps
by Vol-E

Two or three times in the last couple of months, I've heard from people who "just got totally turned around" while relying on GPS to get them to a destination. Their situations prove, in capsule form, why you should not rely on GPS to do all the lifting when you're trying to find your way.

Susan rejected my verbal suggestions on the phone for the best way to find my house. "Oh, I'll just use GPS," she said. But she sang a different tune when her GPS thought I lived on South K Street, when in fact it's North K Street, a couple of miles away. South is where all the drive-by shootings happen, and as she cruised up and down that block looking for my house number, all she saw were hostile-looking folks standing on their front steps, glaring at her. Unnerving, for sure. I'm only surprised she couldn't find a police cruiser to approach for help. Local law enforcement has taken up a semi-permanent position on that block, in hopes of curbing violence. She was extremely relieved when I talked her, block by block, to the right destination.

Joe and Joyce came up for my husband's birthday in late August. I had emailed the address of the restaurant where we were to meet, as well as the map from the web page. They could have taken one of two exits off the interstate and it would have been a pretty short drive along secondary roads to get there. But Joe was sure his GPS would take care of everything. However -- whoops! His Garmon lost its screen image. All he had to work with was the friendly voice saying "In a quarter mile, make a left at..." Apparently, it wasn't sufficient because I got the inevitable panicky-sounding call, asking if I knew where such and such a street was. And of course I hadn't heard of it. I had to hang up, get the map going on my phone and look it up. By that time, they had found their way to a main intersection that I did know, and it was just a matter of asking them to tell me if they saw a particular grocery store and where it was in relation to them. From there it was easy to talk them over to us. And they did get back home OK, though of course we worried.

Eileen and her kids hoped to pick apples in a rural town in the northern part of the state. She keyed in the address, and her helpful GPS guided her to the southern end. Hours and hours of driving, and no apples anywhere. Her GPS did send her to the right town...at least the name was right. But plenty of states, such as Georgia, have incorporated towns as well as unincorporated, unofficial "wide spots in the road," and her GPS only knew of the other one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Spy School

                  Image result for we're all being spied on
by The Urban Blabbermouth
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A new course must be added to the High School curriculum, Spy Craft.

Every day we are spied upon.  It begins with our computers.  The internet tracks us, what web site we visit, how long we stay, what we do there.  I often visit Macy’s web site to see the sales of the day. On the next ten web sites I visit, I will see adds target to me for Macy’s menswear.  My cell phone spies on me. The GPS tracks me like a cat stalking a mouse.  Coupled to Google Earth, somebody knows where I am and what I am doing.

Cities are spying on you too.  It began easily with toll tags.  Now they watch you all the time.  The City of Baltimore has drones watching the streets 24/7.  When a crime occurs, the police “go to the video tape” for suspects. Your neighbors are spying on you too.  There was a break-in at a home down the block from me.  The police knocked on my door, not to find out if I saw anything, but to ask if the cameras of my home security system recorded the robbery.

We need a Spy Craft course in the High School because we do not know how to defend ourselves from these intrusions.  Worse, some of us have no idea we are spied upon.  It’s not the police or the government you have to worry about.  It’s your husband looking for where you spent “our” money, your girlfriend looking for your new girlfriend, your boss looking to get rid of you, or your nosy neighbor looking for gossip.

I can see a time when we are all a community of Jason Bournes, with six internet IDs rather than six passports or always aware of where the cameras are and walking in a zig-zag pattern to avoid them.