REMEMBERING ROOMBA – THE ROBOT VACUUM THAT COULDN’T

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No, he couldn’t and didn’t.

I don’t remember exactly when Roomba, the vacuum robot, was first introduced. It must have been more than 20 years ago because we were still in our 3-story townhouse in Boston. We didn’t have any dogs yet. We were still deep into a world full of cats, maybe a couple of ferrets too. Regardless, the television was full of advertisement for this the exciting new robot vacuum.

I had my doubts. Roomba didn’t look likely to do much in the cleaning department. Cat hair is notoriously pernicious. The most powerful vacuum cleaners are hard put to pull it out of rugs and furniture. I had curtains I knew would never come clean. When I would finally took them down, their next stop would be the trash. The hair of the cats was so embedded in the fabric, nothing would make them clean again.

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Nope. Not true. Just sat there chugging in place while the battery wore down.

Still, Roomba was tempting, though not for the advertised reason. Those early versions of Roomba were not terribly expensive, less than $100 (or maybe just a little more?) and both Garry and I were still working. It didn’t seem a lot of money for something that might provide a great deal of amusement.

Amusement? What about cleaning?

None of us expected Roomba to actually clean. Just looking at its design and its lack of power, I doubted it would do much of anything … but it might absolutely drive the cats bonkers. The amusement factor alone could make it worth the price. Big Guy, Spanky and Pookie would get crazy and we hoped drive us to paroxysms of laughter. Big Guy was already completely obsessed with electric trains and slot cars, so a robot vacuum cleaner seemed the logical next step.

I ordered one. With mounting excitement, we unpacked Roomba and charged him up. Given his very small size compared to the amount of animal hair and other dust and dirt, he didn’t look likely to accomplish much, but we weren’t expecting much … at least not in the way of cleaning. Our amusement expectations were far higher, though.

Sadly, neither cleaning nor hilarity ensued. Roomba got stuck under every chair, every piece of furniture. He did not navigate around obstacles nor did he climb onto the area rugs to clean them. He didn’t even change direction when he bounced into a wall. Poor little thing just sat there, chugging hopelessly while the cats turned up their collectively snooty feline noses and walked away, tails high with disdain.

Note the puzzled Australian Shepherd in the background? Appropriate.

Note the puzzled Australian Shepherd in the background? Appropriate.

He cleaned nothing and proved a poor source of amusement. What we nowadays refer to as “a waste of money.” But the idea was good.

I’m assuming, now that there are so many models of Roomba and his companion that supposedly scrubs floors … and the price is hundreds of dollars more for even the most basic model, that the technology has improved.

Frankly, I’m skeptical. Roomba was not merely not quite good enough. Roomba was useless. Even when he actually managed to find a piece of floor flat enough and uncluttered enough to attempt to clean, he didn’t pick up enough dirt to make a noticeable dent in the dust and dirt.

He was eventually consigned to a box in a corner and ultimately thrown out with other stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ll be charitable and suggest maybe Roomba has improved during the past 20 years … but unless someone gives me one for free, I’ll stick with traditional vacuums cleaners. Because they actually suck dirt.

I’m sure the day of the robot will come. But I don’t think it’s here yet. Where’s Robby when we need him?

robbyTheRobot

 You, Robot – The Daily Prompt

THE PELLET WITH THE POISON IS … WHERE?

It’s either in the chalice from the palace … or the vessel with the pestle … or possibly, the flagon with the dragon. One of them has the brew that is true, but if you mistakenly drink the wrong one? Then you’ve consumed the pellet with the poison. And your goose, so to speak, is cooked.

I don’t have a line of music to add because although I’ve read lots of books recently and listened to a bunch of audiobooks, I have not a single line of music to offer here. I haven’t heard music on the radio, on CD, in a movie, or anywhere else.

But I can give you words that are almost music and I’m pretty sure will make you laugh.

Herein I praise some of the funniest movie dialog ever to grace a screen. This particular “bit” has been going through my head since yesterday. Lacking music, I’m going to suggest this as Very Early Rap or maybe Hip Hop — from the days of yore.

I defy you to memorize the words and keep them in order. I’ve been trying to remember them in order for decades, to no avail. I always lose track eventually.

Maybe you’ll have better luck (but I doubt it)!

It isn’t on Netflix any more, but it is available on Amazon Prime: The Court Jester.

Opening Line – The Daily Prompt

COFFEE NOW, COFFEE FOREVER

I picked my potion more than 30 years ago and it is COFFEE. 

Mr. Coffee and familyI grew up amidst coffee drinkers. My mother was Head Coffee drinker because she didn’t just love having her cup of coffee. She loved everything coffee. Coffee milk, coffee ice cream, coffee-flavored cakes and cookies. She began the morning with a few cups of coffee, to jump-start her day, then eased down by adding more and more milk until it was officially coffee milk.

As a kid, I didn’t like the taste of coffee. Which my mother could not comprehend. There were so many things about me she could not understand. Like how come I couldn’t sew, crochet, knit, sculpt, hook rugs, or play ice hockey. And why I didn’t love coffee.

It turned out, I would eventually love coffee, but not until later. The rest of it? Nope, sorry.

I went to live in Israel when I was 30. Everywhere in the middle east, coffee is The Brew That Is True. It isn’t only that everyone lives from one caffeine fix to the next. Coffee is ceremonial. Coffee is how you welcome guests.

This is how it works. As long as the coffee continues, you are welcome. When tea is served, say your good byes and go home. If you are in an Arab household (or the household of anyone who observes Arab or Bedouin customs), this is important to know.

Mediterranean boiled coffee, also known as Turkish coffee, Greek coffee, Armenian coffee, Arab coffee, Bedouin coffee … and who knows how many other names — with or without cardamom — is boiled in a special pot. A feenjon.

feenjon coffee pots

These little round pots come in many sizes. You put in whatever amount of coffee you want to serve, add enough water, usually a good dose of sugar, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, boil to a rising again. After the third rising, serve. It’s an honor to get the froth.

This is very strong coffee. I don’t know whether it will put hair on your chest, but it will probably strip the paint from your car. It was the first coffee I really liked.

turkish coffee with cardomom

Shortly thereafter, I discovered Israeli “upside down” coffee which is a variation on a theme of café au lait. Eventually, I just loved any good coffee and still do. Because there’s something about coffee and nothing else hits that spot.

My day does not begin until I have consumed at least one big cup and I’m not ready to deal with reality until I’ve gotten half way through the second.

My brew is coffee.

My second choice? Some other version of coffee.

After that? How about a cappuccino?

Sharing My World – 2014, Week 33

Share Your World – 2014 Week 33

Do you believe in ghosts? 

I don’t know. Probably not exactly ghosts, but something weird.

Regardless of your physical fitness, coördination or agility:  If you could play any sport professionally what would it be?  Or if you can’t picture yourself playing sports, what is your favorite sport?

I used to ride horses. If my back weren’t so broken, I still would. I always loved horse from when I was very young, so if I were to pursue anything, it would definitely be from the back of a horse.

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Do you prefer long hair or short hair for yourself?

I love the way short hair looks, but I hate the bother of taking care of it. So I wear it long. A pony tail is easy peasy and Garry likes it too. He sees me younger than I am. But that’s okay. It’s mutual.

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If you were on a small island, who would you want to be with? And where is it?  How big is it?

Martha’s Vineyard, thanks. Garry and me, back on the island we love. In that little house we used to rent in Oak Bluffs, overlooking Nantucket Sound. Would be nice if we had a few dollars to spend, too … but just to be there again would be wonderful. We used to be there every summer. Funny how quickly time passes.

me martha's vineyard stairs

On the stairs between beach and house, Martha’s Vineyard, 1992

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

I am grateful for Amazon.com and Audible.com. Since this is a whole other story, I will write it. Soon.

GOING COMPOST

Uncanned Laughter – A misused word, a misremembered song lyric, a cream pie that just happened to be there: tell us about a time you (or someone else) said or did something unintentionally funny.


Once upon a time, my father had a business partner who liked making cabbage soup. Bob (not his real name) and my father would go into the kitchen and produce gallons of soup and laugh a lot. We all had to eat it for weeks until we were sure we were turning into little cabbages.

Bob was an enthusiastic story-teller, mostly about his own misadventures. This was my favorite.

“So I was at the beach, at Coney Island” he says, almost shouting. He always talked very loud and with a slight Russian accent. “Very sunny day. Blue sky. A good day to take my mother to the beach, let her relax in the sun by the water. She is just settling down with her chair. She asks me if I’ll set up the umbrella for her. She didn’t have to ask. I always do it, but she always asks anyway, like if she doesn’t ask I won’t do it. I took her to Coney Island, what did she think, I’m going to leave her to cook in the sun?”

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We all nodded dutifully.

“It’s a big umbrella. With stripes. Red and yellow. I got it myself, on sale. Umbrellas are expensive and this was a good sturdy one and I paid bupkas for it. If you ever need an umbrella …” and he paused to remember what he was going to say. “Anyway, this was one of the good ones, with a heavy pole so it would stay put.

“I opened the umbrella. Had to find the right place to put it because, you know, because if it’s in the wrong place, the shade isn’t going to be where you want it. So I walked around a bit, then took the pole and a jammed it into the sand as hard as I could. Seemed good and solid.

“With everything looking okay and mom settling down with a book, I thought it was a good time to get something to eat. I told her I would go get us some hot dogs and something to drink.

She said “Good, tell them to leave the mustard off.” She’s always reminding me but I know she doesn’t like mustard.

“I walked all the to Nathan’s. Long walk, to the end of the boardwalk. Worth it. They have the best hot dogs.” Definitely worth it. Nathan’s does have the best hot dogs, “And fries. I got five, two for her — no mustard. Three for me. I was hungry,” and he paused to pat his big belly, “I started walking back. I could see where to go ’cause I could see our umbrella.”

Nathans at Coney Island

“The weather began to change. Big clouds coming from the ocean. Getting windy too. Funny how fast weather changes at the beach, you know? I’m almost there when up comes a big gust of wind. The umbrella pulls right out of the sand and flies at me. Whacks me over the head. Boom. I thought my head was gonna come off.

“I dropped the food and fell over. Like a rock. I just lay there. My whole brain was like scrambled eggs. They had to come and take me to the hospital. I was compost for TWO DAYS! Two days! Compost!”

I’ve been laughing ever since, but luckily have never gone compost.

(NOTE: He meant “comatose.”)

ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS

As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place.

I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will produce movies I like, though sometimes, much to my delight and surprise, they release something I like a lot (remind me to tell you about “Quartet,” the movie Dustin Hoffman directed last year). I’ve stopped trying to like new music and most television shows.

Some stuff gave me up. Other things I gave up voluntarily, but in the end it comes out the same.

When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was on religious grounds.

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No one has yet asked me what I mean by that. But just so you, my faithful readers, know the secret …

I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. Since no one wants to offend me by asking about my religious beliefs, I can make pretty much any conversation go away without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!”

99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

I’m fine. For religious reasons.

GETTING OLD BEATS GETTING DEAD

10,000 Spoons? Excuse me?

Mr. Ben Huberman, what were you thinking when you posted today’s Daily Prompt? Was this a test? To see how many of us knew what you are talking about? Well, guess what? I failed.

I don’t know  Alanis Morissette from a hole in the wall. I don’t know if he is a she, or maybe a they, and what “the classic” refers to — a book, movie, or music?

A thing that happens as we age is we lose contact with, and interest, in pop culture. It starts early, as early as ones 30s when you realize you don’t like the music. By your 40s, you don’t care who knows it and drop any pretense of caring about “the latest thing.” Movies and some television may go the distance … but Alani Morissette didn’t make my cut.

In protest and because I think putting up a prompt of which more than an entire generation may well have no knowledge or interest is rude, I’m just going to link this post, which I think is pretty good, to the Daily Prompt.

If today’s prompt was an attempt to exclude me, get rid of me, it didn’t work. On the other hand, if Mr. Huberman is merely incredibly insensitive and out of touch with the people who follow these prompts, many (most?) of whom are not kids or even young … maybe it’s time to find someone else to do his job.

Because this isn’t merely incompetent. It’s bad manners.


I hear a lot of bitching about aging. While getting old ain’t fun, NOT getting old is worse.

Age brings financial limitations, aches, pains, and indigestion. On the positive side, it brings an end to commuting, doing whatever your boss tells you because you need the paycheck, and never having time for yourself. Regardless, whatever the limitations, being alive offers significant advantages over being dead which, to the best of my knowledge, is the only alternative to growing old.

I think we are most afraid of age when we aren’t old yet, but see it coming. Most of the bewailing and bewhining about getting old comes from people in their forties and fifties who are old enough and would like to just stop this aging nonsense. Can’t things just stay as they are?

Unfortunately, no. Nothing ever stays the same. As soon as you think you’ve got a handle on it, life moves on.

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The good news is the fear of getting old is worse than being old.

When you get to whatever age you have defined as officially “old” (probably when you sign up for Social Security and Medicare), old turns out to be a continuation. It’s not something brand new. There’s no sign saying “Welcome to Old, a really BIG town.”

Many of my friends and family died younger than I am now. A lot younger. There’s damned little point in agonizing about what might happen. Worry doesn’t change anything, but sure does suck the joy out of the here and now. The worst part of all the stressing over possible future disasters is we worry about the wrong stuff. Inevitably, what actually happens isn’t what we worried about. It’s something we never expected, for which we are totally unprepared.

Someone said that in this secular age, worry has taken the place of prayer.  I don’t know whether or not prayer was ever effective at preventing bad stuff from happening, but I’m sure worry  isn’t.

In the long haul — if you’re lucky enough to have a long haul — there will be enough real problems to keep you busy. You don’t need to worry about stuff that may never happen. Figure out what to do about the crisis when and if it happens. Otherwise, enjoy what you can.

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I gave up worrying. Life has been hard and I’m more than a little surprised I’m still here to write this. At some point, I decided I didn’t need an extra layer of stress. Life was already dumping on me.

I recommend living in the moment. It’s better. Try it. You’ll see.

I don’t mind getting old. I resent being sick and hate being poor. On the positive side, I’m alive to complain about it. A lot of folks I used to know cannot say the same. They can’t say anything. That’s the down side of being dead.

Getting old, with all its hazards, will always beat getting dead.