Author: Marilyn Armstrong

THE LANGUAGE OF THINGS? WHAT THINGS?

The Language of Things – You have to write a message to someone dear to you, telling that person how much he/she means to you. However — instead of words, you can only use 5-10 objects to convey your emotions. Which objects do you choose, and what do they mean?


Usually I’m pretty smart, but I wasn’t at all sure what this meant. So I had to read Anglo-Swiss’s – I, Me, and Myself to get a handle on what this was supposed to mean.

BEDROOM SOUTH 7

So it’s sort of about things that define our relationship with someone else? Like maybe how our bed defines my relationship with my husband? It doesn’t define anything except that we are of a certain age and comfort counts. We are past the point where things are critical in our relationship. Come to think of it, we were never about things. Things are tools, toys. Fun or necessary.

If I were a hired assassin, maybe I would have a very special high-powered sniper rifle and it would be my best buddy. If I killed people with it, that would certainly impact our relationship … perhaps even define it. But I’m a writer. I kill with words.

Or I could be a serial killer and own a great big bloody knife. Cool. How about a cereal killer? I would then need my own special spoon!

side view alienware closeup computer

Does my computer define me? I’m happy with this computer. And I have a bunch of cameras that I love, though there’s always room in my world for one more camera and an extra lens or two … but I don’t think this stuff defines me. It enables me. I get to write, post, take pictures, edit them because I have tools that make it possible.

I’m not defined or described by objects. I doubt most people are. I hope not. It doesn’t sound like a good way to be. I can’t think of any relationship I’ve got with a person that’s defined — or shaped — by anything tangible.

TACHYON WAVES, WARP DRIVE, AND INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES

Garry and I have been watching “Star Trek: Next Generation.” We missed the show’s initial run. 1987 through 1994 were our busiest years. Rebuilding a life. Restarting a career. Buying houses. Getting married. Moving. Moving again.

Watching TV wasn’t a big item on our agenda.

BBC America is showing the series, albeit not in any particular order. We are catching up, watching two or three episodes per night.

star trek next gen cast

They do a lot of tech talk on the Enterprise. I accept it with alacrity. No problem. Pass the warp drive. I’ll have a side order of tachyon particles. I understand that science as well as I understand ours.

Which is to say, not at all. Tachyon energy is crucial to all kinds of weaponry and fuel. They are part of what powers the warp engines on the Enterprise. The warp engines are what lets the Enterprise be the Enterprise, travel at speeds faster than light … fast enough to explore the universe. Slither through wormholes. Travel through time.

For your information, a tachyon particle moves faster than light. The complementary particle types are luxon (particles which move at the speed of light) and bradyon (particles which move slower than light). If you live in the Star Trek universe, tachyon particles are as common as dirt. Or electricity.

I understand exactly as much about tachyon waves and warp drives as I do about the internal combustion engine. True, I studied this stuff in junior high school (middle school to you kids). The information didn’t “take,” and whatever is going on under my car’s hood is a mystery. As is the electricity that powers this computer. As is all technology.

enterprise next gen

Effectively, everything is a mystery. I understand the technology of the 24th century exactly as well (and as much) as I understand the technology of the 21st. I am equally comfortable in both.

How many of you know how the stuff you use all the time works? I know how software is designed, how code is written and compiled. I used to know how to do a little coding. In the end, though, I have no idea why code does anything. Why, when you compile a program, does it work? It’s just text. Why does it do what it does?

Why does anything work? Tachyon particles, warp drives, internal combustion engines, electricity, cell phones, WiFi. It’s all the same. Magic.

And now, back to the Enterprise, already in progress.

HOLIDAY HOME

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 41

This week, I thought I’d post some of the pictures I’ve taken around the house. Decorations. Lights. Our tiny little Christmas tree from L.L. Bean. I hope you enjoy them.

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Tomorrow, it’s time to start the wrapping!

AS THE YEAR DRAWS TO AN END – SHARING MY WORLD, WEEK 49

tree and dolls

CEE’S SHARE YOUR WORLD WEEK 49 – CLOSING IN ON A NEW YEAR

What is your preferred hot drink: coffee, tea, water, hot chocolate, or other?

Coffee still gets the number one sport. I like everything else too. Hot chocolate, tea, mulled cider … but coffee is my jump-start on the day.

Without it, I feel like I’m pushing my car up a hill that never ends. Lately, it’s vanilla-flavored coffee, but it may be hazelnut next week. Or plain Columbian bean. As long as it’s hot and fresh, I want it.

What was your favorite toy as a child  . . .  and now?

Annabelle

Annabelle

I was passionate about dolls and oddly, I still am. I have nearly 300 of them. On shelves, in boxes, in display cabinets. Most of them hard plastic dolls of the 1940s,1950s, and early 1960s.

A few older ones made of composite — basically sawdust and glue, which is what they made dolls from before hard plastic injection molding came of age.

Candy factories of the entire world have become one and will now be making only one kind of candy.

Which kind, if you were calling the shots?

Only ONE? That’s rough. I need two … one for dark chocolate, the other for crystallized ginger.

ginger-1

if I had to give up one of the two, I’d go with ginger. But I’d miss the chocolate. A lot.

Would you want $100,000 right now or $120,000 in a year (tax Free)?

I’d take it now. Because I could pay off all the bills leaving just the mortgage. I’d make up the remaining money in no time flat just by not having all those bills to pay. Life would get considerably easier here given a sizable infusion of cash. Very much easier and a lot more fun. Could you toss in a new car, too? With 4-wheel drive please?

UNSUNG HEROES – ALL MINE TO GIVE – 1957

Unsung Heroes — We all have our semi-secret, less-known personal favorites — a great B-side, an early work by an artist that later became famous, an obscure (but delicious) family recipe. Share one of your unsung heroes with us — how did you discover it? Why has it stayed off everyone’s radar?


all mine to giveI have quite a few favorite obscure movies (and Garry has many more), but this one is particularly appropriate since it is, after all, nearly Christmas.

All Mine to Give (British title: The Day They Gave Babies Away) is a 1957 film starring Glynis Johns and Cameron Mitchell that’s a four hankie special.

I crossed paths with it sometime in the pre-dawn hours during the late spring of 1969 while I was nursing my son and the television was playing late night movies. I was deeply hormonal at the time and though I’d missed the beginning, I watched it to the end.


The Story

Robert and Mamie Eunson (Cameron Mitchell and Glynis Johns) are Scots who have just landed in America (the year is 1856). Mamie is heavily pregnant upon their reaching Eureka; she delivers baby Robbie (Rex Thompson) soon after the cabin is completed. Robert eventually starts a successful boat building business and Mamie gives birth to five more children.

The Eunsons are doing well and happy — until little Kirk is diagnosed with diphtheria. Mamie and Kirk are quarantined while Robert takes the other children away. The boy recovers, but the goodbye kiss Kirk gave his Dadda before his departure proves fatal, and Robert succumbs.

Mamie takes to working as a seamstress and Robbie becomes the man of the house. Things stabilize, but only briefly: tired and work-worn, Mamie contracts typhoid. Knowing she will not survive, she charges Robbie, her eldest, with finding good homes for his siblings.

After Mamie’s death, Robbie places his brothers and sisters with townsfolk as Christmas approaches. Baby Jane is the last to be handed over — Robbie stands at the door of a house and asks the woman who answers, “Please, ma’am, I was wondering if you’d care to have my sister.”

The Rest of the Story

It would be 30 years before I found out the name of the movie. When I described it, Garry knew it immediately. Garry always knows. He’s the Movie Maven.

We watched it the other day. He saw it was on and recorded in on our DVR. What would we do without Turner Classic Movies? Surprisingly, it was still good. Still gave me the sniffles. Because now we have Google and all that implies, I looked it up and discovered the story is based on real events. The movie was made from a book written by one of the kids (grandkids?) of the children portrayed in the movie. If you are up for a good cry, this is an excellent choice.

This is definitely a Christmas story. I’m not sure if you would call it inspiring. I’d have to ponder the definition of inspiring. Touching, for sure.

CHRISTMAS AT THE POPS 2014

Of all the things we do in December, our trip to the Boston Pops for their Christmas concert is my favorite. First of all, what’s not to like?

It’s a great concert, fine orchestra, perfect symphony venue. Boston’s Symphony Hall was built in 1900. It’s a classic, both architecturally and acoustically.

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According to the BSO’s website, Symphony Hall opened on October 15, 1900 with an inaugural gala led by music director Wilhelm Gericke. The architects, McKim, Mead & White of New York, engaged Wallace Clement Sabine, a young assistant professor of physics at Harvard, as their acoustical consultant.

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Symphony Hall is widely regarded as one of the top concert halls in the world. The walls of the stage slope inward to help focus the sound. The side balconies are shallow so as not to trap any of the sound, and the recesses of the ceiling, along with the statue-filled niches along the three sides, help to distribute the sound throughout the hall.

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The 16 replicas of Greek and Roman statues are related in some way to music, art, or literature.

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They were placed in the niches as part of an appreciation of the frequently quoted words, “Boston, the Athens of America,” written by Bostonian William Tudor in the early 19th century.

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The concert organ at Boston’s Symphony Hall

The Symphony Hall organ — an Aeolian Skinner designed by G. Donald Harrison and installed in 1949 — is one of the finest concert hall organs in the world.

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A couple of interesting points for observant concert-goers: Beethoven is the only composer whose name was inscribed on one of the plaques that trim the stage and balconies; the other plaques were left empty since it was felt that only Beethoven’s popularity would remain unchanged.

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The initials “BMH” for “Boston Music Hall”, as the building was originally to have been called, appear on the stairwell banisters at the Huntington Avenue side, originally planned as the main entrance. The old Boston Music Hall was gutted only after the new building, Symphony Hall, was opened.

Four calling birds ...

Four calling birds … in “The 12 Days of Christmas

This year’s program was a bit different than previous year’s. Instead of the usual reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” there was a reading and music dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I (November 1914) and the spontaneous “Christmas Truce” of 24 December 1914.

The classic performance of "Sleigh Ride" brought the audience to its feet

The classic performance of “Sleigh Ride” brought the audience to its feet

There was less use of projected images, more orchestral music. But Santa Claus made his traditional appearance and “The 12 Days of Christmas” was as joyful and raucous as ever. The program was intentionally more inclusive. It was great hearing some songs I remember my mother singing in Yiddish played by this wonderful orchestra.

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Sometimes the question comes up whether it’s worth supporting orchestras and concert halls like this … and I think of how much we would lose without them. The shine in the eyes of my granddaughter the first time she saw Symphony Hall. For that matter, the shine in my eyes the first time I heard a concert in Carnegie Hall. These places are national treasures. We have so little of our past preserved. I am so grateful we have held onto these precious, beautiful places.

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And the music. Oh, the music.

YOUR BUSINESS IS IMPORTANT TO US

It’s an epidemic, a pandemic  — of bad service.

Do you remember when the customer was always right? I do. It wasn’t that long ago.

Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until approximately 2002, at which point everyone — more or less simultaneously — decided to save money by “automating” customer service, eliminating it entirely, or shipping it overseas to be handled by people who speak heavily accented English and don’t know anything about the products they are supposed to be supporting. That was when you and me, the customers, the ones who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services, became unimportant.

outofserviceThat was the year when we all became not worth the effort of answering a question, or supplying documentation. The gold standard for customer service became … nothing. These days, after slightly more than a decade of working out the details, most organizations do not offer any service to their customers. At all.

The overall attitude is “do the least you can — nothing, if you can get away with it. All customers are liars and thieves. Treat them as such.”

Customer disservice. I think I’m permanently pissed off. Even thinking about calling a customer service department gets my blood boiling. I’m shocked if I’m treated well. Delighted, but shocked.

SO WHAT DO I HATE?

Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching. Calls that display on caller ID as familiar phone numbers, but they’ve hacked your data or bought it from someone from whom you bought something.

waiting

Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of breast cancer research or some other form of advocacy. Who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.

“Surveys” that are nothing but scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.

“Discount cards” for every shop you go to, all of which are a way to collect your personal information so they can sell it. Because you may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.

Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t recall the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on and on, until you are ready to scream. Worse, you have to listen to the entire spiel every time you call. The message starts with “Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. Our menu choices have recently changed …” Recently was 10 months ago … or a year or more. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.

CustServCartoon

Many places no longer offer any option of speaking to a live person. Try to find a live human being at your electric company, cable provider, or credit card company.

Our electric company had customer service. Today, if you can find their phone number, a recorded message will tell you to visit the website. Online. Not quite what you need when the power’s off. Make sure you have their actual phone number on your device. You can’t look it up online when there’s no electricity because if there’s no electricity, there’s also no cable or WiFi.

If your whole life is online, it’s over when the power goes out.

Death cust serv

Assuming you can worm your way through voice mail and finally push the magic number to connect you to a live agent, you hear: “Your business is important to us …” followed by Muzak and a 40-minute wait on hold. Better yet, it’s the long wait, followed by a disconnect and dial tone.

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Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers are probably playing games on Facebook while you listen to their 5-minute voice-mail message. All you wanted to do was ask on which night they are open late. By the end of the message, you no longer care.

THERE ARE STILL SOME GOOD ONES OUT THERE 

Amazon and Audible. Audible is an Amazon company now, but they always had terrific customer service. The more I deal with Amazon, the less I want to deal with anyone else. They are proof getting service does not have to be a nightmare. Trauma need not part of all interactions with vendors, medical facilities, utilities, or other corporations.

AT&T is good. Not as good as Amazon, but you can eventually get a real live person who knows what they are doing. And oddly enough, Medicare and Social Security. Though you may need to wait on hold for a while, you will get a live person in the end — and they will speak your language. They will stay on line with you as long as it takes. Credit where it’s due. These underpaid public servants try hard to help you.

L.L. Bean has wonderful customer service. Land’s End is good too.

To everyone else, I offer a big raspberry and a Bah Humbug in honor of the season.

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