THE STRANGE CASE OF THE FROZEN SIRLOIN

It started the other day. I reached for my sandwich and encountered a frozen sirloin steak. On my desk. Where my sandwich ought to be. I picked up the frozen beef, took it to the kitchen, and showed it to Garry.

“Why,” I asked him, “Do I have a frozen steak to my office?”

Camera bags in their natural habitat.

Camera bags in their natural habitat.

“I have no idea,” he said, “Offhand? I’d guess you took it out of the freezer and put it there yourself. Or the pixies are at it again. Maybe the dogs did it. They look guilty to me.”

“I think they are trying to sucker you out of another round of treats,” I commented. But that was a safe bet as they are always on the prowl.

I never got to the bottom of the steak mystery. Usually if something odd appears someplace odder, it’s because I meant to grab one thing, but instead, grabbed another. In this case, I also carried my drink and my sandwich, so the odd thing was one more thing. A frozen sirloin is not the sort of thing I have lying around, so I would have had to make a special effort to get it. Which is to say I’d have had to extract the slab of beef from the freezer.

I assume — unless someone out there has a better explanation — I was intending to put it in the fridge to defrost, but I got distracted. However, I don’t remember taking it out of the freezer and thus have no idea what (if anything) I had in mind (what mind?). Perhaps I was planning to eat it frozen and raw. Anything is possible.

It is not difficult to distract me these days. Truth be known, forgetfulness is my constant companion. It just gets worse.

We are planning another visit to friends. It won’t be until after the holidays, but the days are whizzing by. I’m trying to get things organized in hopes I’ll remember to bring everything. I’m passing along my oldest, favorite camera, an Olympus PEN PL-1, the first of my now numerous mirrorless cameras. I have long-since upgraded to newer Olympus PEN cameras. It will go to live with my best friend, so I can visit it often.

Garry silly with dogs 30

That’s background. Here’s where it starts getting complicated.

During a pre-Black Friday sale (or Advance Cyber Monday) sale, I bought a pair of super fast SD memory cards. The camera I’m giving away has a good, premium chip in it, but after I replaced the card in one camera, I found myself with a spare card. One more than the number of slots in my card case.

Are you following me?

I thought “Okay, I’ll give her this one as a spare. I don’t need it anyhow. It’s not super fast, but neither is the PL-1.”

I put the chip on my desk in front of the monitor while I searched I-don’t-know-how-many camera bags for one of those little plastic cases in which to put the card. Not long ago, all these memory cards came in plastic cases, but no more. Today you have to buy them. Talk about a rip-off. Seriously, how much do they save by not giving you a case? A penny? Less?

Anyhow, somewhere along the way in my search, I unearthed a couple of empty plastic cases.

I turned around to get the card to put into one of the new-found cases, then realized I had to take the cases out of the bag. I wheeled my chair around, but couldn’t remember in which bag I’d found the cases. I looked where I thought I’d seen them, but they weren’t there. I rotated again. The card had vanished.

During this exercise, my butt never left my desk chair. I never stood up. No one else was in the room, even briefly. But somehow, I had lost the cases and misplaced the card. It eliminated my problem since I no longer needed a case, having lost the card. On the other hand, it left me with one more mystery.

Nothing is lost. Just temporarily misplaced. The cases are in one of the bags and the card is somewhere in my office. I’m sure of it.

But what about the frozen steak?

GOOD MORNING BABY

Reverse Shot – What’s your earliest memory involving another person? Recreate the scene — from the other person’s perspective.


You asked for an early memory. This certainly fits that bill. Funny how I have to come back to life to write this for you, but we all live on, at least in the memories of our children, friends, family.

It was a cold, pre-dawn morning in New York. Marilyn was in her crib. We were still been living in that terrible old house in Freeport because Marilyn was not speaking yet. After she found her words, she never stopped talking … so this had to be early.

I heard her crying. When I came into the room, she was standing there, in her crib. Just looking around at the lights, at the old dresser. There wasn’t much light. No sun is shining at four in the morning and in those days, you didn’t automatically turn on lights when you entered rooms. The legacy of the war, I suppose.

The room was mostly empty except for my little daughter, that old dresser — I think it came from my parents house — and the white, wooden crib. Painted white. Probably with lead-based paint. We were terribly uninformed in 1948.

MarilynApr1948

Marilyn, April 1948

I stood there. Looking at my daughter. She stood there, looking at me. And smiling. I was so tired. The house was cold. The steam wouldn’t be up for hours yet. But she was happy, glad to see me. Too young to worry or be afraid. Life is simple for the very young.

We watched each other. Exhausted mommy, perky baby. After a few minutes standing, holding onto the crib’s railing, she let out a wail. It startled me and I turned on the lights, lifted her from the crib. She cooed a little something. A happy noise. I cooed in answer, a mommy sound with no special meaning. What mattered was I was there and holding her. Easy to make a little one happy.

She stopped crying. Mommy was there. I wrapped us both in blankets, moved the rocking chair in front of the still-dark window. Then, we sat, rocked, and waited for sunrise. And the steam to come up.

INVENTORY, MEMORIES AND BRAIN FUEL

It’s going around. I’ve got it. Garry’s got it. My best friend is just getting over it. My son had it last week and my granddaughter got it and recovered in a couple of day. If you’re a teenager, you get a cold, feel cruddy for a few days, then you’re better. No biggie. 50 years later, it’s a different ball game.

“How do you feel?” I ask Garry. I can take a good guess but I’m obliged to ask because this is how I express concern. And how he knows I care.

“Lousy,” he says. Succinct, to the point. That’s why they paid him the big bucks for all those years.

75-BosCommonHP-2

I remember when an inventory of bodily functions would pinpoint problem areas. I could assume everything else was fine, thanks for asking. Standing was one smooth movement, no grunting. I could eat anything that didn’t eat me first. I could (did) live on pizza and donuts with a side of diet Coke. It wasn’t healthy, but who cared?

We weren’t as obsessed with food as everyone seems to be these days. I doubt the current obsession with “healthy and natural” is going to make anyone live longer. Or forever, which is the underlying fuel for the obsession (beat death by eating healthy).

But we’re old school. We eat healthy because we like it. If we didn’t like it, we’d probably eat junk. It’s not a religion, just dinner.

75-AdventureBos-HP-1

In my 50s, I hiked from the Stop and Shop to our apartment on Beacon Hill carrying 20 pounds of groceries in each hand without breaking stride or breathing hard. Thighs of iron. On days off in the summer, Garry and I walked from our apartment to the Commons, then strolled to the Public Gardens. Rode a swan boat then stopped for dinner. And rambled on home just pleasantly tired.

75-BeautifulBoston_HP-14

I don’t want a younger brain (the body is another matter). I like my wise old brain, the way my thoughts dodge and weave through the mind’s object-linked file system. Each thought evokes a complete set of memories including pictures, music, smells and emotions. Whole experiences recreate themselves as the little electrical impulses fire. Good for you, old brain!

According to the AARP, coffee drinkers are 40% less likely to develop dementia than non-coffee drinkers. I drink a lot of coffee. I always knew it was the best brain fuel. Brew me another pot, would you?

ASK A SIMPLE QUESTION, GET A SIMPLE — WRONG — ANSWER

I bought a small Dell tablet that I hope will serve a purpose … something compact that I can use to connect to the larger world, but tuck in my bag for quick excursions when I’m not going to be processing photos or writing posts for my blog. It has been ordered, but not yet received. When I ordered it, I was told it accepted a standard SD memory card up to 128 GB in size. Cool. Adorama was advertising a sale on memory today, so I popped over to see what bargains were to be had. I figured I’d get — depending on price — one or two 64 GB cards. And realized that anything larger than 32 GB is XC, not HC.

So I used Dell’s chat to ask a question. I thought it was a simple question. Will the Venue Pro 8 read an SDXC card?

This is how the first call went. After this, I went to working the phone.

This is an automated email sent from Dell Chat. The following information is a log of your session. Please save the log for your records.
Your session ID for this incident is …
Time Details
01/20/2014 11:07:21AM Session Started with Agent (A-D)
01/20/2014 11:07:21AM Marilyn Armstrong: “.”
01/20/2014 11:07:27AM Agent (A-D): “Welcome, my name is A-D. I can be reached at … How may I help you?”
01/20/2014 11:07:45AM Marilyn Armstrong: “I have one question about the Venue Pro 8 which I’ve already ordered”
01/20/2014 11:08:15AM Agent (A-D): “No problem you are free to ask questions Marilyn”
01/20/2014 11:08:19AM Marilyn Armstrong: “I know it takes an SD card, but does it read the newer SDXC cards?”
01/20/2014 11:08:55AM Marilyn Armstrong: “HC is the older format, but all the larger cards – 64GB and up — are SDXC, not SDHC.”
01/20/2014 11:09:42AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Hello??”
01/20/2014 11:10:15AM Agent (A-D): “Yes you can still use other SD card …”
01/20/2014 11:10:24AM Agent (A-D): “I mean other brand”
01/20/2014 11:10:24AM Marilyn Armstrong: “SDXC?”
01/20/2014 11:10:34AM Marilyn Armstrong: “This isn’t a brand. It’s a FORMAT.”
01/20/2014 11:10:46AM Agent (A-D): “Yes it can”
01/20/2014 11:10:53AM Agent (A-D): “It is back ward compatible”
01/20/2014 11:11:21AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Are you sure? Because this is a NEWER NOT AN OLDER FORMAT and I don’t think you understand what I’m talking about”
01/20/2014 11:11:50AM Agent (A-D): “let me double-check for you”
01/20/2014 11:11:53AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Please connect me with someone who understands the technology.”
01/20/2014 11:13:27AM Agent (A-D): “Upon double checking the format can only support SD, SDHC only”
01/20/2014 11:14:08AM Marilyn Armstrong: “So it can’t actually accept a 128GB card because they are ALL in SDXC format. The bigger cards are all SDXC
01/20/2014 11:14:16AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Is there someone I can really talk to?”
01/20/2014 11:14:27AM Agent (A-D): “yes it is …”
01/20/2014 11:14:54AM Agent (A-D): “you can go on this link http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/en/chat?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs&~ck=mn for you technical support”
01/20/2014 11:14:56AM Marilyn Armstrong: “Where? Not on dell, not on Amazon, not on Tiger Direct, not anywhere.”
01/20/2014 11:15:01AM Agent (A-D): “You’ll be able to contact our Technical Support Department at 1-800-624-9896, they are open 24/7″
01/20/2014 11:15:39AM Marilyn Armstrong: “This is a simple question. I don’t want to spend hours on the damned phone. Just have someone who actually knows the specs of the item I already ordered.”
01/20/2014 11:16:41AM Agent (A-D): “I already give you the information that you want…”
01/20/2014 11:18:38AM Agent (A-D): “that is the only format that can support the tablet is SD, SDHC only”
If you require further assistance, please visit us at support.dell.com

Two phone calls later:

The Venue Pro 8 only accepts micro SD cards and only SDXC format. Wow. There’s nothing like really terrific customer service to start the day off right, eh?

The previous is an actual transcript of the conversation. Only the name and other identifying information have been changed to protect the guilty.

WHERE DID IT GO?

It started when, the other day, I reached for my sandwich and discovered a frozen sirloin steak. On my desk. Next to my sandwich. I picked up the solidly frozen beef (it must have been recently taken out of the freezer) and carried it back to the kitchen.  I showed it to Garry.

“Why,” I asked him, “Do your think I might have brought a frozen steak to my office?”

“I have no idea,” he said, “But it sounds like a great post.”

96-MyGear_3

I’m still puzzled about the steak. Usually if I bring something odd to some place even odder, it’s because I meant to grab one thing but instead grabbed the other. However, in this case, I also had brought my drink and my sandwich, so I had brought an extra thing, the frozen sirloin. I put it in the fridge to defrost. The mystery remains unsolved.

Tomorrow, we are going away for a few days to visit friends, a long overdue visit to which we are looking forward. In preparation, I needed to do some sorting. Among the many things I’m taking with us — the gifts I bought for them that needed to be wrapped — I’m giving my buddy my oldest, favorite camera, the Olympus PEN PL-1. It was the first of my mirrorless cameras and I love it. It’s been replaced by newer Olympus PENs — the PM2 and E-P3, both of which are faster but not necessarily better. The PL-1 is the camera on which I took many of my favorite pictures. It came with a great little lens and handles beautifully. It also produces the best color balance of all my cameras.

That’s just background information. Here is where it starts getting complicated. Try to follow along.

On Black Friday or Cyber Monday or maybe during one of the gazillion sales events of the past month, I bought two very fast SD 8 GB memory chips for my cameras, replacing the older slower chips. The camera I’m giving Cherrie has a good, premium chip in it, but when I took the older slower chip out of my camera and put the new one in, I was left with one more chip than I had places or containers to store it.  (Are you still with me? Good.) I thought “Okay, I’ll give the chip to Cherrie as a spare since I don’t need it anyhow. It’s not super fast, but neither is the PL-1.”

96-MyGear_8

I put the chip down on my desk in front of the monitor and proceeded to search my I-don’t-know-how-many camera bags to see if I had any of those little plastic cases to put the chip in. All chips used to come with a little case, but not anymore. Now you have to buy them — talk about a rip-off. I mean really, how much do they save by not giving you a case? Anyhow, at some point, I found a couple of empty chip cases. I turned around to get the chip to put into one of the cases, then realized I needed to take cases out of the bag. I wheeled my chair around again, but couldn’t remember in which bag I’d found the empty cases. I looked where I thought I’d seen them, but they weren’t there. I rotated again. The chip was gone.

During this exercise, my butt never left my desk chair. I never stood up. But I had lost (again) the cases and somehow misplaced the chip too. On one level, it solved a problem. I didn’t need the case anymore because I had no chip to put in it.

Someday, somehow, I’m sure that chip will show up. And maybe so will the cases because they are in one of the bags. But what about the frozen steak?

Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember Before Words

I was in my crib. We must have still been living in Freeport because I was not speaking yet, probably less than a year old.

I was looking around at the light, of which there wasn’t much since the sun was not up yet. I don’t recall any sounds, just the room which was mostly empty except for me and my crib. The crib was made of wood and painted white.

MarilynApr1948

I stood there. Waiting. I don’t remember thinking anything. Just being. Too young to think.

After a few minutes standing, holding onto the crib’s railing, I started to cry. I remember crying, but I don’t remember any reason why. Maybe it was all I knew how to do before speech, before words.

My mother came, turned the light on in the room, then lifted me from the crib. She said something to me, but the words were nothing but comforting noise with no special meaning. What mattered was she was there.

I stopped crying then. I had gotten what I wanted. Mommy was there.

And there, the memory ends.

(6 Minutes, including finding the picture and a quick spell check.)