TAKING A HINT

ATTACK OF THE ELECTRICAL GREMLIN

Garry was on his way to visit his brother in New York. He got a late start … too much last minute stuff, too much time checking email and sipping morning coffee. When finally he got on the road, it was almost noon. He was a couple of miles from home, heading for the Mass Pike, when the electrical gremlin hit.

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The right side rear window went down and refused to go back up. Finally, after some wiggling of switches, the right rear window closed. But the left one promptly went down and refused to rise again.

Why? Who knows? The mystery electrical gremlin, the bane of modern computerized cars had struck. It has happened before. For no reason.

Garry called and said he was coming home.

When the car was in the driveway, I went down to see if I could convince the system to reboot. I opened and closed windows. I jiggled switches, turned things on, turned stuff off. I turned the engine on, off, on.

Locked and unlocked the doors. Eventually, the gremlin was exorcised, disappearing as mysteriously as it arrived.

Garry had enough.

“I know how to take a hint,” he said. He called his brother and rescheduled. Next week is looking good.

WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

My enthusiasm for cooking is at an all-time low. I’m not sure why, but it may have something to do with 45 years of cooking meals for husbands, children, family, friends … even myself. But, like it or not, dinnertime arrives everyday.

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I am left staring into the freezer wondering what to defrost. We just went shopping, so there’s a choice. My fallback position is frozen pizza, but we’ve eaten too much pizza lately.

As I stood there pondering, a package of frozen Italian-style turkey sausage flew out of the freezer and landed at my feet.

“Okay,” I said. “Got it. We’re having pasta and sausage for dinner.”

I too can take a hint.

TECHNOLOGY CHANGES. PEOPLE DON’T.

Buyers, Beware? – The year is 2214. Your computer’s dusty hard drive has resurfaced at an antique store. Write a note to the curious buyer explaining what he or she will find there.


Yesterday, I transferred ownership of the my Dell XPS laptop to the (hopefully) loving arms of my granddaughter. Kaity’s computer up and died. It was the computer I gave her when she started high school 3 years ago. It was a cheap computer. I’m surprised it lasted this long.

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The XPS she inherited is not a cheap computer. Top of the line, state of the art when I bought it. With a fast 750 (7200) GB hard drive, 8 gigs of RAM, and an Intel Core i7 processor. It is still superior to most of the crap they are selling these days. Fatal flaw? Graphics-cum-audio card. When I bought it, it was the only choice. They didn’t offer another video card and no other card fits in its slot, so upgrading was not an option. How Apple of them!

It wasn’t a big issue in the beginning, but as photography has gained prominence in my world, the inadequacies of the graphics card have become serious. Blue screens follow every use of Photoshop. Recovering from these crashes is harder each time. The card shares space with sound, so I can’t listen to an audiobook while photo editing. It kind of took the fun out of it.

With no way to fix it, I reluctantly replaced it.

Yesterday, Kaity dropped by to collect the computer and snag a few bucks to put gas in her car. I hoped to reload it before passing it on (I have the original windows installation disk) but life got in the way. The operating system is cranky. With a reload, it could easily run for years … as long as Kaity understands its limitations, doesn’t mistreat it, allow it to overheat, or drop it.

What’s on that hard drive?

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39,000 (give or take a few hundred) photographs. No worries, mate. I transferred all of them to external drives. They are as safe as modern technology can make them. There are also 3000 documents including my novel, illustrations, covers, and the stuff I put to together to promote it … before I got cancer and somehow the book wasn’t all that important.

Applications. Card games. Scrabble. Photoshop. Lightroom. Chrome. Specialized software for Canon. Software for Panasonic and Olympus cameras.

Since Photoshop CS5, I haven’t needed the special Olympus software anyhow. Maybe I deleted it. Not sure. Buried in there are also versions of Photoshop Elements and Corel PaintShop Pro which were my fallback positions until I got my own Adobe licenses.

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Open Office is on that drive. I stopped liking what Microsoft did to MS Office. I found Open Office and have been using it for the past decade. Price? Free, but they appreciate contributions from developers and civilians. It will open and edit documents created by pretty much any office application, except Framemaker (Adobe) and no one uses Frame except weirdos like me.

Tens of thousands of system files. Windows is bloated. Somewhere in every Windows computer are every other version of Windows. Microsoft does not clean up their code. Ever.

The computer Kaity inherited is a time capsule. You can see the changes computers have gone through in their passage from office machines to the one thing we can’t live without.

200 years from now? The hard drive (or whatever they will call it) will be made of different stuff. It will easily contain a universe of data with no moving parts. It won’t ever wear out but it will become obsolete every couple of years anyway because the profit motive won’t disappear either.

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A personal computer (maybe called something else but performing the same functions) will be part of everyone’s life. As will a communication device and a personal vehicle. There’ll be many kinds of media players. If not TVs, then something which performs entertainment functions. Everything we have now will be there in the future.

We will need food, shelter, transportation, entertainment, ways to organize and distribute information. We will read and write. We will have old and new ways to create art. People will live in old houses they restored and modern houses with all the bells and whistles — just like they do now and always have. We will build places to live, furniture, and toys for children.

These things define us as people.

Unless we make our planet unlivable, we will change the form of what we use, but the functions will continue. Technology changes. People don’t.

DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

Trio No. 3 - Today you can write about anything, in whatever genre or form, but your post must mention a dark night, your fridge, and tears (of joy or sadness; your call).


It was a dark and stormy night when the power went out. I knew the first windstorm would knock down the line. Why can’t Mass Electric take care of business before it becomes an emergency.

Stormy Skies - By Marilyn Armstrong

I stood with my head leaning on the refrigerator. The big, metal box was silent. Not a hum or a vibration came from his hulking presence. No little happy tune this night. The only sounds I could hear were the howls of the first winter storm of the year.

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There was nothing I could do but continue to stand there. Lurking, occasionally emitting a soft, gurgling moan. Poor refrigerator. There he stands, messy — covered with magnets, the messages and events of a household on his metal hull while he waits. As do we all for the power to return. Waiting and worrying. How long would this outage last? If I call the power company, they would lie to me or tell me they “were working one it” and they would “let me know” when it was fixed.

Don’t they think I’d notice when the power comes back on? Like when all the lights come back? Not to mention the computers, the heat, and the well pump?

I, with tears of sadness and frustration trailing down my cheeks, knowing all my food is in that fridge … and the electric company is holding it for ransom.

Was my silent fridge crying too? Only the shadow knows and he’s not talking.

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Interior Design: Pornography for the Heavily Mortgaged

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

designer living roomThis week, I finally made it to my semi-annual appointment for a dental cleaning (Can it still be called “semi annual” when you end up cancelling three times and are therefore seven months late for a once-every-six-months event?).  I love my dental cleanings because there is no risk of the dreaded needle and because I can count on about half an hour of waiting room time.  As a working mother, this is like a mini-holiday - child-free, husband-free, client-free, and surrounded by magazines.  So lovely!

In keeping with my mini-holiday fantasy, I refused to read anything that included health and fitness advice, tips on cooking/cleaning/organizing the home, or pictures of skinny, young models sporting clothing I cannot afford.  This left me with a stack of home decorating magazines, or as I like to call them, “pornography for the heavily mortgaged”.

Inside the glossy covers, every room was freshly painted, perfectly lit, and usually sans people (

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MOUNTAIN DREAMS – WORLD SHARING, WEEK 40

Cee’s Share Your World – 2014

You’re given $500,000 dollars tax-free (any currency), what do you spend it on?

Pay off ALL our debts.

We need a new house. Maybe build one on the land we already own, but have it properly graded so that it doesn’t flood. Clear enough trees so we get the sunlight and it’s not always dark inside.

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Build it without steps! Make it friendly to those of us who have trouble navigating. I’d like to get a scooter for when I need to get around in malls or parks, but something that can handle bumpy terrains so I can go where pictures lure me. I can walk, but my hiking days are done.

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I would like a vacation house in the mountains. Maybe in Colorado or New Mexico, but here in Maine is nice too, though it’s rather a bit cold. There is something restful about mountains. The air is so sweet, sharp, crisp. Everything is clean and uncrowded.

Time has — to a large degree — run slower in high altitudes than at sea level. That’s the way mountain people want it. It’s the way I want it too. I want my cable TV and WiFi, but the slower pace, the less charged atmosphere is soothing. I don’t even mind the cold so much, as long as I can cuddle up to a fire and watch the snow swirl around me, not have to shovel it!

What’s the finest education?

Whatever education you want to get is the finest education. For me? I’ve enough formal education. One degree will suffice for this lifetime. I’ve learned most things I know for which I have any use, by reading and living. Everyone should get enough education to work and support themselves and maybe others, but beyond that? Only if you want something special.

What kind of art is your favorite? Why?

I love music, literature, painting, photography, lithography, sculpture, and graphic arts .Did I miss anything?

Is there something that you memorized long ago and still remember?

Some poems, bits of Shakespeare, words to some songs. Nothing terribly meaningful.

What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful we got through last week … and for the generosity and kindness of friends. Including many friends I never knew I had. I’m looking forward to a peace week in these mountains, visiting with friends Garry and I haven’t seen in nearly 50 years … and coming home to a repaired well!

WHY CAN’T I FIX IT WITH SOFTWARE? HAPPY 5775!

Monday, the well went dry. Bummer. Scary bummer. Mother Nature saying “The joke’s on YOU!”

While I’m saying “Hey … but … wait a minute … Can’t I fix that with software? “

Going home

So after I stop running around in circles and weeping hysterically — bet you’re glad you missed it – and with the help of a whole lot of people (it takes a village), we gather money to fix the well. Because we have been assured by both well contractors who work in our area that our well can be fixed. And they have the know-how and equipment to do it.

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We need a firm estimate – real numbers. Not the vague estimate one typically gets from a contractor. A commitment to do the work before the ground freezes. Contractors are a lot like Mother Nature. You can’t control a contractor. They show up when they show up, work when they work. If you annoy them, they might not work and you don’t want that. If you haven’t seen The Money Pit, see it. It’s a hilarious movie, in a rueful way. Good for a guffaw mixed with memories of other jobs, other contractors. Waiting for them to show up, hoping they will show up. Feeling you should have a party if they do show up.

There is nothing more humbling than being in thrall to a contractor. You can’t do the work yourself. You need him and are committed. If he doesn’t get the work done when he says he will, for the price he has promised, you are so screwed.

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In the middle of this sturm und drang, I had to go to the cardiologist. And the pacemaker lab. The pacemaker lab both fascinates and creeps me out. They mess around with my heart. Literally, tuning me up. Tuning me up? She does a read-out and tells me my heart has had no “incidents.” There’s a complete electronic record of everything my heart has — or has not — done since my last visit. She decides to skip a beat. Weird feeling. Then she speeds up my heart and skips two beats. If my heart is beating faster, missing a couple of beats won’t bother me so much, she says. Not really.

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“I’m going to turn down your pacemaker to 55. I’m going to turn it down to 50 from midnight to 8 am. So it might make you sleepy. A little sleepy. Not a lot. You might not even notice.” I’m in favor in anything that has a prayer of helping me sleep.

“Okay. That’s pretty much my natural — or was my natural — heart rate. I mean, before all of the surgery and the pacemaker and everything.”

“That’s the point. Try to integrate the pacemaker with your natural heart rhythm. Uses less battery power.”

Battery power. “What happens if the battery dies?”

“It won’t.”

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s telling me it has 12.5 years of life left in it. Actually, you don’t have to worry about the battery. It’s the wires.”

“The wires?”

“Yes, the wires that run from the pacemaker to the parts of your heart. They could come loose.”

“Then my heart stops beating.”

“Not necessarily.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, it’s not quite that simple. There’s more to it than that. There are back-ups and fail safes and anyway, by the time you need a new battery, who knows what the technology will be?”

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I actually find that comforting. I am one sick puppy. She gives me a souvenir pacemaker after I explain I’m a blogger and I like taking pictures of this stuff. It’s not exactly the same as my pacemaker, but it’s close. And there are no wires. But mine has wires and I can feel them through my skin. I can feel the wires, the little screws to which the wires are attached. All of it. I have no muscle or breast tissue there because I had a double mastectomy a couple of years before all this heart surgery … and I’m not a very big woman. But time to move on down the hall to the doctor himself.

“How are you?” asks my doctor.

“Fine,” I answer, skipping over the catastrophes of the past week. “Terrific.” I’m lying but, it’s easier that way.

Chit chatting, getting prescriptions. He tells me I need more exercise. I can’t argue with this. I do need more exercise, though I doubt it’ll happen. I’m anti-motivated toward exercise. It hurts. But I’m not going to tell him that. He wishes me a happy New Year. It’s Rosh HaShannah. Tonight.

Happy 5775. That is a lot of years.

And now, I’ve chased down the contractor. Firmed up a price. I was scared when the well went dry, but I think I was even more terrified waiting for that number from the well guys.

And winter is coming.

ANOTHER WEEK OF SHARING MY WORLD

Share Your World – 2014 Week 38

If you could be a tree or plant, what would you be?

aloe veraI think I’d like to be something useful. Maybe aloe vera. Good for skin, burns, hair. A very useful plant and it smells good too.

If you could have a servant come to your house every day for one hour, what would you have them do?

Cook dinner!

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If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?

Salmon, probably. It’s my favorite fish. I’d honestly prefer shrimp, but my cholesterol wouldn’t hear of it.

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What was one of your first moneymaking jobs (other than babysitting or newspaper delivery)?

I washed poodles. By the time I was done with that job, I never wanted to bathe another animal of any kind. But I have. I have scrubbed many, many dogs, cats and other critters over many decades. But I never use poodle shampoo or paint their nails some weird color.