It happened again. Someone’s left a voicemail message, but all I can make out are a few words. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I recognize the voice. Maybe not.

roku and headphones

We used to leave messages on our answering machines telling folks to speak slowly and clearly, but most callers thought we were being funny. Leaving a coherent message was apparently a joke. These days, we get lots of incoherent messages. Usually, with caller ID (and now with a caption phone), we know who called and can retrieve the number, but not necessarily. If it’s garbled enough, the caption phone won’t get it either. It’ll just say “Incomprehensible” or “muffled” or something else that means “sorry, no idea what he/she said.”


“Garry, your brother called. No idea what he said. Call him, okay?”

“Hey, Jim called about something. Call him when you have a moment.”

“One of your cousins called. They left a message but I can’t make it out.”

My favorite: “Someone called. Maybe it was important. They left a number but I can’t understand it.  Guess it wasn’t important enough.” Note: If it really is important and we don’t call back? Pick up the phone and call again. Seriously. If it’s that important, make sure we got the message.

wires and blue sky

If you leave a message, speak up. Clearly. Repeat the phone number. Don’t forget to include your name — in case we don’t actually know you as well as you think we do or can’t recognize your voice.

Don’t mumble.

While we’re on the subject, how about those cell phones, eh? On which you can’t hear anything? From either end? I miss telephones on which you knew you had a connection that wouldn’t drop and on which you could hear what someone said to you — and know they could hear you.

No wonder texting is so popular. No one can understand what anyone else is saying.



Telephones on which both you and the party to whom you were speaking could hear each other.

Sound tracks on movies where dialogue was louder than background music.

72-Mobile and Regular Phones_07

Silence when you were out and not near a phone. Being out of touch was wonderful — the whole point of vacation.

People walking on the street without things stuck in their ears, paying attention to where they were walking. Saying “hi” and smiling when they passed by.

Conversations which were not constantly interrupted by tweets, dings, beeps, and ringing.

Good manners. “Please” and “thank you” being part of normal human intercourse.

The customer always being right. I’d settle for the customer occasionally being treated with respect.

Complete sentences with words spelled correctly and including punctuation.

Full-service gas stations where they cleaned your windshield.


SCENE I. France. Before Harfleur.

Alarum. Enter KING HENRY, EXETER, BEDFORD, GLOUCESTER, and Soldiers, with scaling-ladders
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’
Exeunt. Alarum, and chambers go off.


Sorry, I just had to do that. Now, back to our regularly scheduled broadcast, already in progress.


For your blog do you basically use Mac or Windows applications.  What type of device laptop, desktop,tablet, phone or pad?

I work on a powerful little Alienware gaming machine running Windows 7 Professional.


I also have an iPad, which I don’t enjoy, but it comes in handy if I want to check something quickly from the bedroom.

I have an 8.9 inch (big) Kindle HDX which runs Amazon’s proprietary Android OS. Smooth as silk, it’s a reader, music player. Great for movies and audiobooks, too. It has excellent sound quality, with headphones, but like the iPad, isn’t loud enough with its speakers alone. I’m thinking of getting a wireless Bluetooth speaker to use with all my small devices.

The iPad is easier for general use than the Kindle because I can run Chrome on it, same as my laptop. It automatically has my contacts, bookmarks, usernames, etc.


The Kindle is more fun, but both tablets have a place in my world. The iPad sound is not nearly as good as the Kindle, by the way. Not even in the same class and its tendency to lock up or never finish loading is maddening.

In my office, I have a big desktop with a large HD monitor. Runs Windows 7. I don’t use it much these days. The laptop is both faster  and more. And I like not being locked away alone in my office.

If you were to treat yourself to the “finer things” what would you treat yourself to?

A house without any stairs and an all-wheel drive car for winter. I know that’s two things, so if I had to choose, it would be the house — with a garage for the car.

Can you change a car tire?

I’m embarrassed to admit, no. Never have. For this reason, I have AAA. I call. They come.


This is a verbatim of the tail end of an endless day of trying to get accurate information about what is included in my AT&T wireless plan and how much it costs. Garry was afraid I was going to have a stroke and die. The telephone was horrible and we returned it, another long and tedious tale.

I had gotten emails from them with a variety of wrong plans for phone numbers that were never ours, or which were disconnected years ago — for long discarded telephones. Every email had incorrect prices. I had gone beyond frustration to frothing-at-the-mouth rage.

Q7 and lenses with cell phone

Agent : I see, thank you for all the information, Marilyn.

Me : And in return, I get what?

Agent : I have checked all my resources here, and the email that was sent to you contains the updated information of your new plan and the device that you have purchased.

Me : I do not want one of your generated documents. I want a real document. A simple typed email will do nicely, one that details the account and purchase information. Accurately. Without any wrong numbers. All you sent was a link to the online information which has no details. I want an actual document. Do you understand?

Agent : Yes we do understand.

Me : After all you have put me through, someone can sit down, and type out the information into an email, sign it with a real name and a return address, and email it to me.

Not links. Data. Accurate data. Correct numbers. The right account, the right plan, the right phone.

Agent : As much as we would want to send a typed email to you, we don’t have the record, because as what we have here on our end, we can only see the last order that you made and that is the Nokia Lumia.


THE PLAN. YOU KNOW, THE PLAN? Not the phone. The plan. P – L – A – N. I changed the plan today. Surely you can see that?

Agent : Your current plan right now on line XXX-XXX-XXXX is the Mobile Share Value Plan 300MB for $20, Mobile Share Value iPhone w/Visual Voicemail $25 a total of $45/month before taxes.

That will be your monthly recurring charges,Marilyn.

Me : That isn’t our phone number.

Agent : Oops! Sorry …

Me : And this includes texting? Because it doesn’t SAY so.

Agent : Your line is XXX-XXX-XXXX and your current plan is Mobile Share Value Plan 300MB for $20/monthly before taxes.

Me : $20?

Agent : This Mobile Share Value Plan 300MB includes unlimited text,unlimited international text from U.S to over 120 countries, unlimited talk, sharable data of 300MB, mobile hotspot feature.

Me : And the $45? If the plan is $20 … what is the other $25?

Agent : Sorry again, my mistake.

That is Mobile Share Value Plan 300MB for $20 and Access fee charge for the device for $25, a total of $45/monthly before taxes.

That is now the accurate plan details,Marilyn.

Me : Can I get a transcript of this call for MY records please?

Agent : Yes, Marilyn. You may.

Me : Thank you. I am so tired. You guys are trying to kill me.

Agent : So that you may use this as the basis for the plan change that you made today. We sincerely apologize, Marilyn.

Me : Shall I bill AT&T for 9 hours I can never get back?

Agent : Thank you for patiently understanding what we have discussed on this chat. We are really sorry, Marilyn.

Me : Yeah. I bet you are.

Agent : We really appreciate your time, Marilyn.

Me : Okay. Enough. I need to make dinner and take a few blood pressure medications before I explode.

Agent : Thank you so much for your time.

Me : Right.

Agent : Thank you and have a wonderful dinner, Marilyn.

We eventually wound up with a Samsung Galaxy Alpha because it has the best audio of any mobile phone AT&T had available. Also the loudest. I still hate cell phones, but at least we have one that works as opposed to paying for a phone, but not being able to use it (iPhones are overrated).


I wrote a long version of this in November 2012. The “experts” agreed. Tablets would shortly replace desktops and laptops. By 2015, everyone would (according to them) be using a tablet or other mobile device for everything.

tablets kindle iPad

Tablet sales have slowed and will level off. I wasn’t surprised. They aren’t the hottest new toys in town. There has been a huge drop in tablet prices. Everyone has a few.


I remember the articles announcing the imminent replacement by tablets of laptops and desktops. The big machines were obsolete. This, based on the surge in tablet sales and the slowing of computer sales. Every time I read one of those articles, I wanted to reach through my monitor, grab the author by the throat and shake him or her.

I like portable devices and have a bunch, but they are not a total computer solution. All other issues aside, the devices are too small. Don’t you love the way mobile phones are growing? They are less and less pocketable and portable. Eventually, they will morph into laptops. Again.

I recently read yet another article that extols how easy it is to type on the iPad’s virtual keypad. I have an iPad. You can’t type on it. It has no keys.

You can’t run graphics software on a tablet. Or a Chromebook. Or a Smartphone. This is a big issue in my world. I bought this computer entirely so I could run Photoshop without crashing. Even online versions of these applications don’t run on small devices.

You can’t edit photographs on tiny screens. This is not opinion. It’s a fact. You can’t see enough. Mobile devices are too small to do the job.

About your next novel

Do you want to write 100,000 words one letter at a time? I can’t even write a long response to a comment on my iPad, much less a mobile phone.

alienware side view computer

Some people use phones and small devices instead of a laptop or desktop computer for many things I think are inappropriate. I feel like my mother warning me to not read under the covers with a flashlight. “You’ll ruin your eyes.”

It’s a big world

There’s room for computers, tablets, phones, and everything yet to be invented.

Know your equipment. Respect its limits. Make sensible choices. Small devices have a place in our world but will never replace larger machines. They do what they do. They don’t do everything.

Nothing does everything. You can’t replace everything with one thing. Nor should you.

One size does not fit all

Not in clothing, cameras, computers, politics, or relationships. It’s okay to be different. Choice is good. We should enjoy it while we can because every day, we have fewer choices. Eventually, we’ll have none.

IMHO – The Daily Rerun Prompt


I have, after considerable investigation, decided there’s a reason — other than fashion and  lifestyle changes — to explain the popularity of texting.

No one can hear anything on their cell phone. The sound quality of voice on most mobile phones is poor, unclear, prone to disconnecting, and dropping. It’s easier (and much more dependable) to text.

I researched this. I talked to my granddaughter and her friends. I talked to my son and his friends. I talked to my friends. Texting is a defense against poor quality voice transmission.

iphone-whiteMy response? I don’t use a cell phone at all. I turned it off. Nor do I text. I use email extensively, especially if it isn’t urgent. Otherwise, I pick up the VOIP phone I get free with my cable package, and make a call. The quality isn’t great, not compared to old wired phones we used for years, or even early mobile phones, but it’s better than a cell. VOIP depends on a WiFi signal from your ISP. We all know how dependable that is, don’t we?

VOIP depends on a WiFi signal from your ISP. We all know how dependable that is, don’t we?

On a cell phone, you depend on Verizon,  AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or one of the newborn el cheapo services run by Walmart, or some other retailer. Unless you happen to be directly under a tower, you’re going to get white noise, crackling, and dropped calls. It doesn’t matter which carrier you use or which telephone you own. The iPhone has horrible voice quality for phone calls. I’ve heard tell some Android phones are loud, but no one has suggested they’re good.

Venu 8 size compared to phone

Our Blackberries had great voice quality. They aren’t players anymore, so you can choose from bad, worse, and WHAT???

We haven’t discarded the out-dated technology. We’ve lost technology that worked and replaced it with a poor substitute. I’ll bet if companies began making mobile phones with decent audio (again), many of us would use it.

What do I know, right?

It’s a Text, Text, Text, Text World


Today, ignoring everything going on in the world, the Daily Prompt is “Five a DayYou’ve being exiled to a private island, and your captors will only supply you with five foods. What do you pick?

It’s a pretty dull prompt. Unlikely to inspire anyone. Trivial. Not funny. Dull, flat, and forlorn. So, instead, I’m going to tell you a true story. The names have been not been changed to protect the guilty.

Just before Christmas this past year, I treated myself to a long-deferred gift: a premium theme. It is/was not WordPress’s most expensive theme. At $49, it was on the low-end, but it was the first one I liked enough to consider buying.

It wasn’t cutesy. Blogly is tidy, squared off. Black on white text, with a choice of background colors. Flexible layout. Many post styles (which, it turned out, never worked).

A left-hand sidebar for widgets. Pictures feel cramped when hedged in by a right-hand sidebar.

Looks good, doesn't it? Caveat emptor!!

Looks good, doesn’t it? Caveat emptor!!

The more I looked at it, the better I liked it. I gave it several test runs. Finally, I bought it. I figured, hey, I’m a blogger. I can have a nice theme. It’s a one-time purchase I can use forever.

It turned out that forever was not long. In January, WordPress decided including an “Edit” link in the “My Sites” drop-down menu would ruin their design. This made no sense. Regardless of any other consideration, the ability to conveniently edit your blog is critical for all of us.

It was particularly important to me, because Blogly, unlike most themes, had no built-in “edit” link. Without its own link — and after removing the Edit function of the drop-down menu — making even a simple correction became nearly impossible. I was not the only one who got upset. A lot of furious bloggers later, WordPress restored the edit function to the “My Sites” menu.

But — they weren’t through messing with me. They decided to “fix” Blogly because, they explained, it should have its own internal edit link. All themes should have an edit link. So the talented development team (they keep telling me how great they are) put an edit link in Blogly. Not where it belongs, in individual posts, but only when you are looking at posts in “home” and scrolling. So if you had an individual post open to read it, there was still no edit link. I consoled myself that at least they’d restored the link on the drop-down.

Thing is, half the things it says it does don't work. But you won't know that until you already own it. There's only so much you can test in their trial mode.

Thing is, half the things it says it does don’t work. But you won’t know that until you already own it. There’s only so much you can test in their trial mode.

Then they did something else to Blogly. I don’t know what they did, or any idea why , but suddenly, when you clicked a comment, you went to the comment. The rest of the post — the rest of the site — became inaccessible.

You could not scroll up past the start of comments. Getting home was daunting. Complaints from readers poured in. I checked the function in Safari. IE. Chrome. I checked on my laptop, desktop, Kindle and iPad. I had the same problems across all platforms and browsers.

Blogly was dead. I could not re-size graphics. Text got weird. I was never sure what margins I would get — or what size titles would be. So many issues. A couple of nights ago, when all my text got pushed to the far right into an ugly narrow column with pictures glued together in a solid lump, I gave up.

I was pissed. The next time the annoying “How can we help you” box popped up, I asked for my money back. Barring that, I suggested they let me select a different theme that actually worked.

They said it was too late to get my money back -- you only have 30 
days to change your mind.

I pointed out that I hadn’t changed my mind. They had trashed my theme. They broke it and they owed me. They called in the infamous “Happiness engineering” development team. They were sure it would be a simple fix. Not.

Today I got my money back. Apparently it was not simple.

The good news? They did the right thing. Somewhere, somehow, someone in WordPress stopped spouting the party line and acted like a professional.

The bad news? How could this mess happen? And why are they still offering the theme for sale?

It was not always like this. Those of us who have been blogging on WordPress for more than a few months remember when it was a happy place with support, encouragement, and sometimes, inspiration.

They’ve taken all the good stuff away and left us with warmed over prompts and what has got to be the most incompetent crew of developers and customer disservice people anywhere. They are worse than my cable company and I don’t say that lightly.

It doesn’t have to be this way. They have taken a good thing and are destroying it, piece by piece. Bad choices, a determination to create a platform for a market that doesn’t exist. Despite their firm belief that the future of blogging is on small devices, it’s not true. People may view blogs on small devices, but no one writes or creates them that way. All of us use a computer. With a keyboard, mouse, or other pointing device.

The success of WordPress depends on having bloggers who attract readers. That means content creators. Writers, photographers, artists. Chefs, craftspeople. All if whom need professional tools to do their thing — and that thing is never going to be done on a phone or tablet.

We are their customers. We generate revenue for WordPress in exchange for a platform. At which WordPress keeps chipping, making it harder and harder to do what we do. Making it easier to view blogs on cell phones while taking away critical tools bloggers need to produce content is stupid. Short-sighted. It will eventually bring down the house.

So I say, send them all to their favorite desert island. Give them just five foods to eat forever. Most important, don’t let them near a computer.