WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE TOOL? – Marilyn Armstrong

Blogging Insights # 36 — Devices

And the question is:

You could probably take an educated guess from the picture containing the question, but in case you aren’t sure, it’s a laptop. It’s a hunky laptop with 16-gigs of memory and almost 2-TB of memory — SSD plus standard (fast) HD. I don’t need this machine for blogging, but I do need it for photographs. Not only do I need the power (because Adobe is a real memory hog), but because I need the real estate. It’s difficult to edit a photograph on a tiny screen. Actually, it’s impossible. You simply can’t see enough of the graphic to do the job.

Text doesn’t take up much space in computer memory, but photographs do. Videos are even bigger. I have more than 100,000 photographs on this machine and probably another 50,000 only on backup drives. But those aren’t the only reasons.

I’m a 10-fingered touch typist because I went to a New York city high school. For anyone on a college track, you had to learn typing, both boys and girls. They theorized — correctly — that once you got into college, you would probably be writing paper for your course and good handwriting notwithstanding, your professors were going to want your paper typed. In one of their more remarkable — and valuable judgments, they made everyone learn touch typing. It was the one really useful class I took in high school, along with swimming lessons (we had an Olympic-sized pool, probably the last high school in the city that still had one). So, whatever else I learned, I could swim — which saved my life at least once and probably more than that — and I could type. Who knew I was going to spend half my life working on a typewriter or computer keyboard?

And finally? Laptops have a full-size keyboard. I can poke around the iPhone for short texts, but by the time I get to a full paragraph, I’m too tired to bother with more. That’s why kids don’t know how to use English as a language. In an attempt to make their texts shorter, they’ve invented a whole sub-language consisting of common computer expressions. I don’t understand more than a quarter of them — maybe even less. Then they get to college and they really think LOL is a real word and try to use it on compositions for English classes (I know a couple of English professors). They don’t learn spelling or punctuation, either. It’s all Emojis and contractions.

I really love my computers. Both of them. I even love my Kindles. I’m also getting quite fond of the iPhone because it has good sound levels and Garry can actually hear it. I can Facetime friends with a lot less complexity than Zooming or Skyping. That being said, the iPhone is pretty much a communications device for me. It has a couple of other uses, especially in an emergency, but it’s too small for me to use for blogging. Also, I do a lot of rewriting … and that too requires real estate. I used to have a desktop Mac that had a huge and wonderful screen, but it finally got old and died.

I use my iPhone to take pictures if I don’t have a camera and I really want it, but it isn’t going to replace my cameras. The pictures are good, as long as you don’t try to enlarge them. That’s when you can see the difference. Fine for snap shooting cute dogs, family, the friends — but the lens has significant limitations. It’s definitely better than not taking the picture at all, but if I have a choice, I’d rather use a better camera.

So there you have it. As for all the places you can blog, I’m not a toilet writer, I never take buses because we don’t have any, and I get seasick trying to read or write in a car … and anyway, we never go anywhere these days. We didn’t go a lot of places before, so the fact that I could blog from my treehouse is entertaining, but not especially practical.

UNEQUAL TERMS – Marilyn Armstrong

While I was growing up, mostly in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I knew there was plenty of inequality to go around. Whether you were non-white or non-Christian, or a woman, there was plenty of prejudice and bigotry to give everyone a healthy dose.

While it was no longer fashionable to be (at least in my home state of New York) an obvious bigot, it didn’t eliminate bigotry. Many of us felt the effects. It was subtle. It always left a question mark hanging in the air. What had really happened? If you were a member of any group that suffered from social and workplace intolerance, you had to tweeze apart encounters to make sense of them. There was what had been said aloud. Then, there were innuendos and attitudes that left you trying to figure out if it was personal or something else.

I remember talking with my mother about this following an unsuccessful job interview where I had gotten the distinct impression the real issue was not my education or experience, but my plumbing. Or maybe it was the hook in my nose. Or both. What did she think?

“When I started working,” she said, “I was only 14 … so I guess that was 1924? I didn’t look particularly Jewish. Blond hair, green eyes. But in those days, they didn’t have to guess. They just asked. It was legal to ask about religion and race. They gave me a form to fill out. I filled it in. Name, age, address, school. Where I had worked before. Then they asked for my religion. I wrote Jewish, then handed back the form.”

“That was legal?” I asked. It seemed incredible to me that this had gone on, but of course I was naïve and young. I would grow more cynical as years went on. “And then what happened?”

“He looked over the form,” continued my mother. “Then he mumbled Jewish. He took the paper, tore it up, and threw it in the trash. Right in front of me. At that point, I decided I would write “Protestant” when I was asked. No one was going to do that to me again.”

Things have supposed gotten better. After all, we have the civil rights amendment and laws which, in theory, prevent people from being fired (or not hired) because of race, age, having children, being female, being any religion other than Christian and in some cases, being the right kind of Christian. Prospective employers can’t directly inquires about your race, religion, or suggest that being a parent would make you unsuitable for the job. But whether or not they ask, people get fired (or not hired) every day for having children. For being the wrong sex, wrong color, wrong faith … wrong being whatever the person doing the hiring deems it to be. You can make prejudice, race hatred, and gender bias less visible, but you can’t make people be fair. Prejudice live in the bones and no law will change it.

The one guy I hug a lot

Inequality is every time a woman gets paid less than the guy next to her for doing the same (or more) work. When the white kids applications rise to the top of the pile and those of the non-white applicants somehow remain on the bottom. When anything but who you are, what you know, what you can do are issues in the workplace or our culture. That’s inequality at its worst — not counting being black and getting shot for no known reason except your skin color. That’s definitely worse.

You can rail about “political correctness” and how it’s being overdone, but I disagree. It’s bad enough so many people have to suffer the indignities of bigotry. The least we can do for them is make it illegal to shove it in their faces and down their throats.

I suppose we can thank Orangehead for taking the subtlety out of racism and putting is back where it belongs. Nothing subtle about it these days. You don’t have to guess anymore.


This is one of the funnier old family stories. My family believes that it documents the first time being a conscientious objector was used as a rationale to get out of military service. The concept didn’t exist in World War I.

Abe was my grandmother’s brother. He was a nebbish and a schlemiel. He was not too bright, whiny, screwed things up a lot and the family often had to bail him out. For example, in around 1908, he and my grandmother had first class tickets on the ship that was bringing them to America to live. He lost the tickets. New tickets had to be procured, but this time they were steerage. My grandmother was not happy with him.

My grandmother and Abe

Abe got drafted and somehow managed to snivel his way through basic training. He was scheduled to ship out to Europe to fight in World War I. The family got a call. It was Abe. “They want to send me overseas to get shot at! I’m not going! I’m coming home!” He went AWOL, was caught, thrown into the brig and faced a long prison term. Or worse – he could be shot!

Whenever the family faced a serious problem, the person to call was Ivan Abramson, a well-connected cousin. He was brilliant, charming and knew a lot of “important” people. He was a producer in the Yiddish theater and I think he had something to do with gambling. He was definitely “a player”. One of the people he knew was the Secretary of the Navy. Go figure. It just so happened that the Secretary was coming to New York City to review the troops before they shipped out. A perfect time for Ivan to talk to him about Abe.

So, picture the military pomp of a formal viewing ceremony. There was the Secretary of the Navy, the troops, the press, Cousin Ivan and – Uncle Abe, dragged out in chains, crying. The story goes that Abe was pleading with Ivan to “Save me! Don’t let them shoot me!”

Ivan was clever and made a persuasive pitch to the Naval Secretary. He said that Abe belonged to an obscure Jewish sect that didn’t believe in violence. He said that fighting in the war would be against all of Abe’s religious convictions. He argued that this should never happen in “the land of the free” etc., etc. The ploy worked. Or he paid off the Secretary in some under the table way we’ll never know about.

Abe was discharged from the navy and released back to his family. He continued to cause problems for everyone for the next 60 odd years! But I like to think that he had one shining moment, inadvertently paving the way for future conscientious objectors. It would be the only candidate for shining moment in his life. So I’m going to stick with my story!

WHAT LURKS IN THE DARK? – Marilyn Armstrong

Humans, throughout history, have feared the dark. Our eyes are not well-adapted to seeing in low light levels and we fear what we cannot see. Our hearing is not as acute as our feline and canine companions. Nor can our sense of smell inform us what may be stalking us in the night.


Almost all of our literature, night means danger. The things that happen in the dark are twice as frightening because they happen in the dark.

Yet, in the normal course of things, pretty much what is “out there” in the dark is the same as what is there during the day. Those frigtening things are not inherently scarier or more dangerous than anything that happens in daylight. But at night, we are unsure what things are. We have to go by touch, small, and memory. It produces uncertainly which for humans is usually frightening.

Would anyone like to take guess why? Does it go back to caves and lurking saber-toothed tigers? Or is in buried deep in our DNA?


TRIPLETS – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Threes and Threes

Three is a good number. It’s considered one of the lucky numbers (the other is 7) and somehow, things look very good in sets of three.