LOVING AND HATING THE PHONE WHILE WISHING IT WORKED BETTER – Marilyn Armstrong

Since everyone’s into talking about hating phones, I figured I’d throw my oar in the water too.

I loved the phone right through my teenage years. I and my girlfriends would chat the night away, even though we lived two houses apart. The phone was more intimate. No one else was around. Just us, hidden under the bedclothes.

From the 1910 and 20s (reproduction, original had a dial) …

From then on, it became gradually more of a nuisance. When I was a kid, a telephone call meant someone you knew was calling to say hello. You could talk and laugh. There were occasional wrong numbers, but that was all. Later, it might mean I’d gotten a job I’d applied for or a story had been accepted.

Technology changed everything. At first, subtly, but eventually, it changed the telephone from a communications device to a sales tool. The concept of “cold calling,” trying to drum up business meant fewer than half our incoming calls coming were people you knew, though they might and include calls you wanted. Reminders from the doctor of an upcoming appointment or another pending appointment were useful and usually brief.

Telephones look like this for at least 30 — maybe more — years

By the time I was in my 40s and had recently returned from Israel, most calls were solicitations or surveys and occasionally, a person you knew and actually wanted to talk to. At least those earlier calls were live human beings, but over the years, they became recorded messages. It’s extremely rare to get a human being on any business call.

Thirty-two years later, no live person ever calls except a couple of friends and a few local businesses. All the rest of our calls are medical, hackers, surveys, insurance companies trying to get your business, and my personal favorite, silence.

Making calls inevitably involves waiting and I think I can hum the background music to at least three companies “waiting” mode.

Our local hospital, where most of our medical appointments take place (other than our personal physician) has the longest recorded voice mail call I’ve ever heard. It’s a full five minutes waiting for that final moment when you are allowed to press “1” meaning “Yes, we’re coming.” Instead of giving you the most useful information at the top, they give you the hours of service, a reminder to bring your medical card, and money (can’t forget that now can we!), the address of the building (but never directions to get there), followed by a rambling buildup until, at the very end, you can push “1” (“I’ll be there”) or “2” to rebook — or worse, a different phone number which is read so fast I have to have them repeat the entire recording to get the number written down.

Our own wall phone. It doesn’t work properly anymore, but it lives on that wall anyway.

As a technical writer, I know that no one wants messages like that. The “are you coming?” should be on top followed by “make a new appointment” with a list of options including directions, speak to a human being, talk to a doctor or lab for test results, and finally, “Thank you for calling” so you know you’re done and can hang up. A lot of these calls just leave you wondering if you completed the call or not.

If, for example, you are a long-time patient, you should be able to just press “1” and hang up after that, but they won’t let you. You have to listen to the entire recording. I sometimes fall asleep while they drone on. They first call you a week before your upcoming visit, after which they call every day until you are ready to dive through the phone and beat someone with a handset.

Then there are customer support departments. Clearly, when you finally connect (and hopefully have been disconnected multiple times), one person with a headset in a huge room full of other customer service people are all talking at the same time. The background noise makes it impossible to hear anything. Maybe they can hear you, but all you hear is jabber. All of this following an endless stream of music that becomes an earworm you can’t dispel.

None of this makes calling people fun, especially because when I finally do call a friend, they are never home anyway and I get their answering machines. At least they usually call me back — or email me or something.

Modern phones … for a “landline” and a cell

It’s not hard to learn to hate telephones. It’s much harder to like them. If indeed they ever eliminate solicitations, hackers, and poorly designed recorded messages removed from phone lines, someone might try making a phone call in the hopes of having a conversation.

Of course, it would help if the phone stayed connected long enough to have a conversation, which is entirely another subject! Since getting a real landline is absurdly expensive, everything — even our supposed “landline” is part of your WiFi service with its tendency to glitch or fade in the middle of a call. It’s turn-of-the-century telephoning on the most up-to-date technology.

U.K. phone booth, but where’s Dr. Who?

Often, I realize the issue is not how far we’ve come, but how far we haven’t come. I think we’ve really circled back to about 1917. Now, we can’t hear anything on mobile phones. But hey, you can text, right?

WOULD YOU PLEASE ANSWER THAT PHONE? – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The world can be divided in many ways – Republicans vs. Democrats, religious people vs. non religious people, cat people vs. dog people. Here’s another way – people who love the phone vs. people who hate it.

I love talking on the phone. I have many close friends who live far away now and it’s the next best thing to spending time with them in person. You can have real conversations that drift from one topic to the next. You can even interrupt each other! You don’t get the subtleties of body language that you get in person, but you’re actually engaging with the real person. You can remember why you loved this person in the first place.

Another important advantage of phones is laughter. We can hear our friends laugh at our jokes and our friends can hear us laugh at theirs. We get to laugh TOGETHER, which is huge. Laughter is a powerful bond. Most women list a sense of humor as one of the things they most value in a man. Sharing laughter is one of the great joys in life. You can’t get it in a text. Typing LOL is not the same thing!

When I was dating online, I discovered that liking someone’s emails was NOT a good indicator that I would like them in person. But liking someone on the phone gave me a pretty good chance that I would like them in person. That’s when I fully realized that writing and talking are on two separate planes.

Talking is personal. It reveals personality and connects people on an emotional, visceral level. You get most of what you get when you are physically with someone.

Emailing may tell you the writing style of the person but not their speaking style or their personal “je ne sais quoi.” In texting, people tend to write shortened sentences with abbreviations and even Emojis. So you don’t even get the “voice” or writing style of the person. The time lag with texts also annoys me. Write then wait. Read then write. Rinse and repeat.

Try watching a movie or TV show and hit pause for twenty seconds after each person speaks. Not very gratifying. In fact, it will probably drive you crazy.

To me, texting is great for short, immediate communications. Like: “In traffic. Running 15 minutes late.” OR “What time do you want us for dinner?” Otherwise, not really communications.

Nevertheless, I understand that some people are just not phone people. My daughter is a phonophobe. She would rather talk for an hour every few weeks and text in between to stay in touch. My mother hated the phone. When I was growing up, she would have me call people to change or cancel appointments for her so she would not get “stuck” talking on the phone.

My husband, Tom, is also not a phone person. When we were dating, it didn’t even occur to him to talk on the phone the nights we weren’t seeing each other. Once I started the pattern, he was fine with it. But he wouldn’t have done it on his own.

I think the younger generations are growing up totally immersed in texting and internet communications. They may never learn the pleasure you can get from a long phone conversation with a friend. They may not even have long conversations in person anymore either. From what I hear, kids spend time online even when they are really with other people. The art of the conversation may be dying out altogether.

I guess I shouldn’t be worrying about fewer people talking on the phone. I should be worrying about fewer people talking to each other. At all!

REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE HAPPY TO GET A PHONE CALL? – Marilyn Armstrong

“Holy shit,” I said to no one at all. “That really HURTS.”

I was referring to my back and left hip (aka “the good one”). It was early. Although morning often is accompanied by stiffness and pain, I don’t normally wake up with quite such a jolt.

Rolling slowly out of bed, I tried to remember what I’d been dreaming about. Something about cats made of smoke and a clothesline that was part of a computer game. And a shrink who offered to scratch my back, but couldn’t find the right spot.

I took a couple of Tylenol and a muscle relaxant. I rearranged the bed and tucked myself in for a few more hours of sleep.

The phone rang. Of course.

I looked at the caller ID. It showed a local number. It was not a local call. Scamming technology shows local numbers on my Caller ID including my own number. I’m pretty sure I’m not calling myself.

I answered the phone in what has become my typical surly morning greeting: “Who are you and what do you want?” There was no response. A bit of crackle on the line, but no voice. Not even a recording. I hung up. More accurately, pressed the OFF key.

It has been a long time since I expected a ringing telephone to herald a call from a friend. I don’t even expect it to be a return call from someone with whom I do business. I expect all calls to be scams, surveys, or sales pitches.

All the calls I get are recorded messages. I can’t even insult the caller or his company. That used to be the only positive side to these endless calls from anonymous people. Even that small pleasure is gone.

I have utterly abandoned good telephone manners. Telephones are not a way to communicate unless I’m making the call. Otherwise, it’s annoying and intrusive — another attempt to steal personal data so someone can hack our accounts, steal our identity, or scam us in some other way.

I can’t make them stop calling because they never call from the same number twice and the number that shows on the Caller ID is fake. There’s nothing to report. NOMOROBO dot com has considerably limited the volume of calls, but nothing eliminates them. Somehow, they get your number. When I ask how they got it — assuming there’s someone to ask — they tell me they got my telephone number from a form I filled out “online.”

Except, I never do that. I do not fill in forms online and anything which requires I include a phone number. I tell everyone I don’t have a mobile phone.
I actually do have a smartphone. I just don’t use it.

As part of the day’s epiphanies, I realized how technology steals pieces of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with the technology. It is neither good nor bad; it is what it is. It’s what people do with it that’s can be life-stealing. Those People have ruined telephones for me, probably forever.

Unwanted telephone calls may seem a minor detail in view of the many awful things going on in our world these days, but I can remember waiting with pleasant anticipation for the phone to ring. It wasn’t that long ago.

Or was it?

ORDERING A NEW PHONE – REALLY! – Marilyn Armstrong

I gave in. The flip phone was not working for me. I needed a phone with something resembling a keypad. Using the multiple hits required on the flip phone keys plus my inability to find text markers in case I might WANT to text meant it wasn’t working. I also couldn’t find any way to save phone numbers although I’m pretty sure there IS a way to do it.

This is what I have. It was free. And worth every penny!

On the other hand, I don’t need the internet — just the ability to phone someone in case of an emergency (like — the phone is down at home or we are on the road and typically lost), so I had to carry a notepad with friends’ numbers and the phone number for the electric company who do not seem to “get” that when the electricity is “out,” so is your wi-fi as well as the TV and telephone cable, heat, and the well pump. And pretty much everything else, come to think of it.

In the mail! I even bought a case for it. Wow, eh?

I also wanted a phone that would link to my wi-fi at home because it makes life simpler. Right now, I have — for $14.50 — unlimited text and phone. That price won’t change, either. So it was $80 for an LG3 LTE phone – plus $2 shipping.  This time, they are supposedly sending a manual.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

I almost never use our cell phone. It’s the emergency phone for when we are on the road or the power at home is out … or Charter has gone down and taken the phone with it.

For someone who is pretty savvy around cameras and computers, I am a total dummy around telephones and printers. Not just cell phones. Regular phones, too. I have some kind of mental disconnect. I can’t change ink in my printer, haven’t figured out how to make copies or use the scanner. So for me to actually get a phone that might work is a giant step.

They have pretty good prices on “fancy” phones, too, but what do I need fancy for? I always have a camera with me and usually have a Kindle in case I have some dire need for the internet while away from home. If I’m on vacation, I have my Mac with me AND the Kindle. And I’m not 100% sure, but I think there’s a wi-fi link in my cameras, too. I have no idea how to use it, but it’s there.

I do not use a telephone for anything financial. I’ve been hacked once and that was enough. I canceled a credit card because it got hacked once and then someone tried to hack it a second time. I figured those people (Walmart) need a better security service before I’ll use their card. I don’t need it anyway.

So sometime this week, I’ll have to take a very deep breath and try to figure out how to use the phone. I’m already scared and I don’t even have the phone.

THE SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD: KUDOS TO MARTHA KENNEDY – Marilyn Armstrong

Sunshine Blogger Award

I don’t do awards. Except occasionally, I find the questions intriguing and decide to throw my hat in the ring. Except I’m not nominating anyone because so many people I know really dislike getting nominated, I’m just not going to stick my foot into the trap again. I still have scars from the last attempt.

Martha wrote some really good questions that are worth answering, so that’s what I’m doing. Anyone interested should definitely go to Martha’s post, copy the original questions, and take it away!

Here are YOUR questions

1. What made you decide to write a blog on WordPress?

What made me decide to write a blog was that I’d been following a couple on WordPress and I had to sign up with them just to have a conversation. Of course, this automatically gave me a blogging space. I didn’t really think very hard about blogging because I had never wanted to do it … but I had some space. And I had a few thousand photographs that no one ever saw because they were on my hard drives and would never get printed.

I didn’t actually think about the writing part of the exercise at all. I just figured I’d post pretty pictures. Technically, I started in February of 2012, but really, I didn’t write or post anything until May and that was one single post. The next month, I posted maybe half a dozen times.

Then something happened. I realized blogging was exactly like writing letters and I used to be one of the world’s great letter writers. Between editing material about air pollution, the spread of Hepatitis B in Israel, and reusing water for crops and raising carp, I wrote letters. Mostly I wrote to Garry who had a full drawer of my letters when I got back from Israel.

I should have saved them, but when we were moving, I dumped everything we didn’t absolutely need. I later regretted it but gone is gone.

So I started writing letters on my blog. Various subjects. Political. Funny. An occasional book or movie review. Opinions on this and that and sometimes, bits of fiction. And I posted pictures with the stories, so I sort of got to do both things, which was good. My best hobby combined with what was left of my profession.

Why WordPress?

I had already landed there. I had signed up when I started following other bloggers and it was free, so why not? I didn’t get serious about it for a few months, but it was an explosive time on the web. It was right in the middle of Obama’s second run for office and everything online was hopping and crazy. There also weren’t nearly as many bloggers then as there are now. I picked up a lot of followers pretty quickly.

After a while, Garry started writing pieces when he felt like it. And Rich started contributing and eventually, Tom and Ellin pitched in.

As it turns out, WordPress is pretty much the only game in town right now. Blogger (Google) has just as many problems and lacks the easy communications you get with WordPress. I originally thought I’d go find another place to do this again, but I have realized that I don’t want to do it again. Once was interesting and fun. Another would be work.

2. You’re writing a blog post and you find it taking on a direction of its own. Do you assume control or do you follow it?

Most of my pieces take on a life of their own and I follow faithfully. I’m often surprised where my posts end up, too. Sometimes, all I have is one good line and the rest just falls into place.

It’s getting the typos out that really kills me. I’m such an awful proofreader.

3. What are your goals as the writer of a blog? What do you hope for?

I really never had any goals. I write anyway, whether I have a blog or I’m just writing. I have always written, even when I had no one to read it. I might as well blog because at least a few people do read it. Also, it has really improved my writing.

Having no goals to begin with, I have none now. I like to write and I love the friends I’ve made online. They matter to me more than I imagined possible.

4. Describe the best day you’ve had in the past twelve months.

Yesterday when the birds stayed put and I got some great shots. The best day before that was the day we went to the movies.

A flock of Goldfinches

Cowbird and House Finch

Before that, the day they installed the new shower.

Looks pretty good!

I think every day I wake up still breathing is a GREAT day.

5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why? What experiences would you hope for?

I’d like to go to England and see Sue Vincent and the great, ancient stones. I’d like to go to Switzerland and have tea with Pat and Australia and New Zealand and Utah and drive through the Rocky Mountains.

I don’t think we are really going anywhere except down to the river, but Paris would also be very lovely. Because it is Paris.

6. What was the worst road trip of your life? What happened?

Any trip I took with my parents as a child. They were ALL nightmares.

7. How much time do you put into your blog? Do you write every day?

I write every day. Even when I have decided NOT to write, I can’t help myself. That seems to be what I do.

8. Do you write to a daily prompt? Why or why not?

Sometimes if I can think of something to go with them. But I often have my own ideas of what I want to write and when I do, I don’t bother with a prompt.

I do use a lot of photo prompts. They help me find uses for many of my archived pictures.

9. What’s your favorite post? Why? Please share. 

https://teepee12.com/2019/01/31/my-best-year-1969/

Titled: MY BEST YEAR -1969

I think I’ve rewritten is half a dozen times at least and I’m sure I will again. It brings back happy days when everyone was young.

10. Is there a book, film or person (or animal) that inspired you and changed your life? What or who was it? How did it have such a profound effect on you?

Angelique by Anne Golan.

11. What advice do you have for someone who has just started writing a blog? What rewards has it given you that might inspire someone else?

If you enjoy it and if you are having fun, don’t give up. Everyone starts slowly. A blog needs time to find its place in the online world.

I really don’t have any questions to add. There have been so many question-asking blogs this year, I feel like I’m questioned and answered out. I do apologize. I think since Martha put so much thought into HER questions, you should definitely use hers!

NO CONSPIRACIES IN THIS HOUSE – Marilyn Armstrong

After many years of not watching “The X Files,” Garry and I ran out of stuff to watch. So … we decided to try watching X Files.

Now, maybe a dozen episodes in, I have some thoughts on conspiracies and secrets.

x-files poster


Has anyone ever confided a secret to you? And you realized at that exact moment, it ceased being a secret.

Have you ever told someone something you wished you hadn’t said? Or realized that what you said should have stayed in your head and never crossed your lips?

Sincerely wished you hadn’t said anything then asked them to please, please, never repeat it? And you absolutely knew everyone was going to know about it before lunch?

top secret 2

So how did the whole “secret” thing work out for you?

Now. Imagine a secret so secret that the entire military-industrial complex including all the important politicians of the world — the basic whos-who of world power — had to keep THIS secret or the world might end.

What secret?

That aliens are here and have always been here? That we are hiding spaceships in dark caverns in the desert and mountains? That every individual in touch with this secret — and you have to figure there were a lot of them, even counting them one at a time — was mandated to retain the secret for their entire lives and never tell anyone.

Figure that’s going to work? Whatever the secret was supposed to be, it would be in every newspaper and on every television station — not to mention every social medium — before lunch. Before morning break.

It would be a multi-part television serial by the weekend … and these days … forgotten by Christmas.

That’s my point.

Not that aliens might be here — now or in the past — but that a secret of such magnitude could or would be kept for a single day, much less for decades. This could not, would not, will not ever happen in this world.

Certainly not anywhere with Internet.

Which is pretty much everywhere.

BRUTAL HONESTY IS ALWAYS MORE BRUTAL THAN HONEST – Marilyn Armstrong

72-Quincy Harbor_036

Rules of criticism:
      1. Brutal honesty is always more brutal than honest. It is never well-meant. There are plenty of ways to be honest that are not brutal.
      2. Honesty lacking kindness is merely spite and malice flying under false colors.
      3. When criticism is given without affection or humor, its aim is not to inform, but to wound.
      4. Be wary of anyone who starts the sentence with “Trust me.” To me, that screams “The guy is a liar.”

Anyone can tell the real intentions of someone who is “only telling the truth for your own good.” Mostly, it’s a lie with a wash of “honest” on it.

Usually, it’s an outright lie. I wish people who have a bone to pick would say so and stop pretending it’s for “my own good.” It’s for their good if any “good” is involved. Personally, I doubt it.

brutal honesty

Some people really can’t handle criticism, no matter how gently given — or even a suggestion there might be a better way to do something. For these people, quit trying. Sometimes, they have good reasons for reacting that way, but you’re in a lose-lose position. Move on. You cannot make the unreasonable see reason.

On the whole, people who constantly criticize other people enjoy it. They should shut up and look in a mirror.


So, to sum this up, are you suggesting I don’t take criticism well? Who do you think you are, anyway? I take criticism fine. You are out of line. I am the soul of restraint and patience and if you don’t agree, I’m going to shout at you until you apologize.


There.

Now I feel better.

NON-VERBAL AND PRESCIENT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Prescient

The definition of the word means “knowing events or information before it is available,” but the word is usually used to mean “having a sense of what is coming.” Like me, having a sick feeling despite all the surveys, Hillary was not going to win. It is also prescient knowing that the little squirrel is hiding in the branch of that tree, waiting for me to stop waiting by the window so he can come back for more black seeds.

We have one young one who is totally hooked on black sunflower seeds and will settle for nothing else. He would be there 24 hours a day if I didn’t occasionally come outside and tell him he really needs to move on.

Prescient is that feeling you get when someone very sick is going to die … you just “feel” it. I’ve often watched my dogs communicate with each other. Without words, they seem to know what the others want — or they are letting them know what’s happening with just a nose-to-nose sniff.

Animals use non-verbal communication constantly. It isn’t prescient … it’s just non-verbal communications that I bet we could use if we wanted to. I suspect we did, too, before we started to chatter all the time. I think we all could, like our dogs, tell each other “things” without words or formal knowledge. We still do it. Couples use “the look” a lot. It’s the look which says “let’s split” or “that guy’s an idiot.” We know the look, we know its meaning. We pick right up on it.

So we are all prescient at some level.

Can I read tomorrow’s news without a newspaper? Sure I can. Trump will do something insulting and evil while everyone acts as if it’s normal. England will still not know what to do about Brexit. Half the world will hate refugees and the other half will be refugees.

Most foreknowledge is solidly based on past knowledge. You know what always happens, so you have no doubts what is about to happen. Is that prescience or experience? Both?

These days, I think our whole world is prescient.

A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE – Marilyn Armstrong

A MERE FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE, BOSS

This is one of the biggest problems with electronic communication. I suppose it’s a problem with any communication that isn’t face-to-face. People probably misunderstood each other’s handwritten letters too.

😀  I believe the  🙂  was invented to convey that what you wrote was not meant negatively  😦  Emojis are just an artistic advancement of the stuff we used to do on the keyboard.

I use emoticons liberally, though they are not English and cannot be considered in any way grammatical. They are also childish, but that’s good because children convey feelings easily. I’m not averse to being childish if it improves communications.

communication-intimacy-10-levels

I tend to be brusque. Short. I try to be witty, but it doesn’t always come across that way. My attempts to be “cute” can easily be misread as snide, snippy, and dismissive. So for all of you with whom I attempt electronic communications:

1) If I seem to be snide, snippy, or dismissive, you’ll know it. I’m not so subtle. Really.

2) My wrists hurt and I forget almost everything within 15 seconds. Sometimes I forget what I’m doing while I’m doing it. My typing is getting worse. Of the emerging issues caused by pain in wrists and forgetfulness, most malignant are those missing words. I’m not talking about misspellings. I meant words that aren’t there. At all. Particularly unfortunate when the missing word is “not” — exactly reversing the meaning of a sentence yet appearing as grammatically correct.

SOLUTIONS?

Lacking fonts that clearly express sarcasm or irony — both of which are far better expressed by tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions — maybe we (me) should consider alternate forms. This is difficult since I have always tended to be sarcastic. (I used to be worse, but I’m in recovery.) That kind of wit doesn’t translate well into text. Not yet, anyhow and until it does, I’m considering finding types of humor which are less likely to be misread.

The second solution isn’t a solution but might help. Before you decide you’ve been insulted, dismissed, treated with scorn, or anything like that, check with the comment’s originator. Make sure what you know is what was meant. That it wasn’t a complicated typo or a joke gone wildly wrong.

PARANOIA

It’s easy to read everything as a form of criticism. I’ve seen people slide into this by degrees until they successfully misinterpret everything. You need a degree of toughness to live a virtual life. You also need patience, in the sense of not jumping to conclusions. Finally, you have to remember you are not the center of everyone’s world and when people say something, they are not necessarily targeting you.

One of my many problems with the whiners, complainers, and the “oh woe is me-ers” is they have sunk so deep into their own “issues,” they forget other people have lives and problem of their own. People can be brusque — dismissive — and it hasn’t got anything to do with you. They are responding to something going on in their world.

Usually, you will never know what is or was going on unless they choose to tell you or you directly ask. Because many of us like to keep our private life private. I deal with intimate issues face-to-face and telephone-to-telephone. Even email-to-email. Not on my blog.

PRIVACY IS GOOD

Which brings me to my final point.

Bloggers can easily contact each other privately. If you have a bone to pick with someone — or think you do — try email. Directly. To the individual. Even if your position is righteous and your cause is just, in public is rarely the best place to resolve a dispute. After you’ve publicly insulted or hurt someone, they may refuse to forgive you.

And finally, squabbling about personal stuff online is tacky. Totally teenage, very Facebook, and not classy at all.

DREAMING ABOUT CHICKENS – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night I dreamed about chickens.

It looked a lot like it does around here. A bit hilly. Lots of trees. There was a movie star living in the house. She was supposed to be young, but her skin looked like the bottom of an old leather suitcase and was a trifle orange. She was going back to California where she believed she would be better off.

youtube.com

That left me with 200 chickens. The fowl were arriving (shortly) by truck. Healthy, young, hens and roosters. Enough to start a nice little chicken farm.

Except I didn’t want to be a chicken farmer and I was pretty sure, neither did Garry. I couldn’t just leave the chickens to die of hunger, thirst, and cold. I’m a responsible person and I love animals. Even chickens.

Chickens don’t get lost

I was still baffled over the whole chicken conundrum when I finally gave up, opened my eyes, and began my day. Coffee would banish chickens. Garry said it was from a movie we’d seen and I was caught in an old movie loop.

Sometimes, the absolutely best storyteller in the world has got to be my subconscious. I would never consider creating a story involving me and chickens.

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Author Gordon Winter, Garry, and chickens

Not counting authors since this prompt doesn’t concern that … who tells great stories?

Garry tells wonderful stories. He makes us laugh. I don’t know if the story is true or maybe just a little true, but whatever, it is great entertainment. Tom tells great stories too and he usually has a good closing line, which is probably my biggest story-telling issue. I can tell a good story but I run on too long and am not good at wrapping it up. I’m good for the yarn’s first three-quarters.

Story-telling is the glue that makes friends want to hang out with each other. If you can keep the crowd laughing, you’ll never be alone.

It’s not booze, movies, or video games. Certainly not texting. It’s stories. The tales of our experiences, things we remember, times and places and people we’ve known.

Photo: Ben Taylor

I keep wondering what people will do when they realize you can’t live forever with just a cell phone? They don’t seem to have a clue about having conversations or telling stories. From whence will their stories emerge?

Our stories are our personal mythology. Will our children and grandchildren have stories? Or anyone to tell them?

It worries me. It really does.

WIRES – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Electric

I can hide in the woods and live without wi-fi. I wouldn’t like it, but I could do it. I could shudder with fear and use an outhouse. I would hate it, but I can (and have) done it. I can easily live without a cell phone, half-heartedly without a computer … but without electricity?

It is over.

Recently, I read (again, but in Audible with Garry), George R. Stewart’s immortal “Earth Abides.” I have heard some people say “Oh, the technology is so old.” Clearly, they missed the point of the story.

It simply doesn’t matter what your technology is, was, or might have become. When the power goes out, it’s finished.

The book was written in the late 1940s, but technology is barely mentioned except to point out how it is decaying, rusting, breaking. It doesn’t make any difference because when the electric failed, everything else went down the tubes.

Whether it’s wi-fi, television, boiler, or the pump which pushes the water from well to faucets, the bottom line is electricity.

Without it? It doesn’t matter how advanced you were. How many of us could fix a generator? Not the one in your house but a big one, like Hoover Dam? Or fix a fallen wire? Or even reconnect the power lines to our own houses?

In “Earth Abides,” in a single generation, all technology is gone from the earth. A very few cars drive, in the rare case where they can find one that has gas in it and hasn’t rusted to nothing. Weapons don’t work and no one remembers how to read. No one is even interested in reading. The author, a university academic, wants desperately to have readers so they can rediscover what has been lost, but in the end, only “Earth Abides.”

The last time our power went out, we were in the dark for little more than an hour and a half, but it felt like a lifetime. It reminded me — again — that no matter what we invent, no matter how clever we get with technology, in the end, it runs on power.

Until such time as Earth has a viable alternative to massive power generation, electricity is the end of the line for our technological structure.

It is something to think about.

NOT INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, OR TWITTER – Marilyn Armstrong

I used to look at the posts that came to me. There was stuff to read. Thoughtful pieces full of ideas, humor. Whimsical material. Ideas to ponder. Often heartfelt pieces about personal tragedies, working through issues, finding answers to important questions.

I didn’t read everything. I never could get all of it in a day, but at least everything I read had meaning. Even if it was about a travel day or examining ancient rocks. Mountain climbing, dog-walking, memories — there was a heart in it and a bit of soul.

All I see these days — with some obvious exceptions are lists of supposedly personal (but not really) questions, riddles, games, and really bad short poems.

When I say “I don’t like poetry,” that’s not really true. I love poetry. I love good poetry. I love poems filled with emotion and humanity — or humor. Not just rhyming for the sake of making the final lines match. I used to read poetry. Amazingly, I even bought books of poetry and memorized it.

About the writing. Maybe it’s me, but with the aforementioned exceptions — people who have been writing for a while and know the difference between flipping off a “meme” or a comment and a post worth investing time into — where have they gone?

They’ve left, is what has happened. They got tired and went away. Between the crazy software and price rises … and now, one MORE price rise … and the resulting loss of quality … why bother?

Some people began writing but gave up in favor of puns, puzzles, and games. None of which are particularly inspiring for readers. They may be fascinating to those who write them, but for me? How many times do I need to find out all about the same person I read about yesterday? How many times does the same person need to answer supposedly “intimate questions, the answers to which are not intimate, but essentially identical to the previous?

Questions and answers are fun sometimes — but that’s not a post. It’s not for thinking. It’s not even worth getting to the bottom of the page before abandoning the piece. I have stopped adding a “Like” to the bottom of these pages because I don’t like them. I should stop saying I do.

So many of the people who used to write strong pieces have left and I don’t blame them. What’s the point in writing meaningful material if all that’s left for you to read are nonsensical puzzles and a dazzling array of Q & A?

This isn’t blogging. It’s gaming and after a couple of weeks, it’s also boring. The lack of thought and ideas is mind-numbing.

I put a lot of time into my writing and photography. I’m not the world’s best writer or photographer, but I work at it. I write, rewrite, edit. Republish when new facts are available. Even when a post isn’t as good as I’d like it to be, it’s never “tossed” off. I do the best I can and hope that I manage to connect, even a little bit. However it comes out, it comes from the heart. I’ve put time into making sure that it says something.

And a merry whatever you celebrate to one and all.

As WordPress gradually destroys itself, I’m sure I’ll go down with it. I’m losing the will to push on. The more I read of the “new stuff,” the less I feel compelled to keep writing. It’s not that I don’t get read. It’s that there is so little worth reading for me.

I keep hoping that someone will realize puzzles and Q and A is not interesting. It has no center, no concept.

This is not a rant. More like a moan. I feel so sad about this and I’ve been thinking about it for a while.

Yesterday, I went looking for something worth reblogging because if someone else has written it, there’s no need for me to try and do the same thing. Let the original author speak for him or herself. I discovered I’d already read, commented on, and plucked out the best of it. And it was surprisingly little.

Blogging isn’t only about “self-expression.” It’s also supposed to have some value of its own. You know, legs to stand on. If the stuff you are churning out has no value, why are you bothering?

LIFE. EXPONENTIALLY. – By Tom Curley

Did you see DJT on Fox and Friends this morning? Or maybe you saw him on Colbert this evening. He was also on the evening news, so if you watched TV at all, you saw him. It was also all over social media.

Whoa! Talk about out of control. It would have been funny if life on earth were a comedy. But this was our actual, elected President Of The United States. POTUS. The Man. Sounding like an out-of-control elderly family member whose drinking problem has gone way over the top.

2018 is 2017 on steroids. It’s almost October and it is crazier and much weirder than last year. We expected crazy — but weird? And there are midterm elections in less than 2 months!

In 2017, we experienced “Trump Time.” A crazy story which would have normally lasted a week or two — maybe even a month — lasted for two days, tops. We were reeling from the insane shit the Shithead-in-Chief did on a Monday, only to completely forget about it because he did something even crazier on Tuesday.

That’s how it went all year.

But something happened or seemed to happen on January 1, 2018. The crazy went into overdrive. I say ‘seemed’ to happen because his turning the crazy up to eleven was inevitable. Now those same stores last a couple of hours before the next bizarre event.

Why? Well, it’s because of the word exponential. Most of us know what it means, but I think most of us don’t really understand it.


ex·po·nen·tialˌekspəˈnen(t)SH(ə)l/

adjective

1. (Of an increase) becoming more and more rapid. “The social security budget was rising at an exponential rate.”

2. MATHEMATICS – Of, or expressed by, a mathematical exponent, for example, “an exponential curve.”

More specifically, we need to understand exponential growth, something that gets bigger and bigger or grows faster and faster over time.

It’s hard for humans to think like that because we are hard-wired to think linearly. It’s easy for us to understand it takes a guy two hours to paint a room, so he can paint two rooms in four hours. Commonsense, right? That kind of common sense is part of our DNA. It helped us survive in the old caveman days. Back then, we had to be able to figure out in a hurry how fast we had to run to get to that tree before the really large saber tooth tiger caught up to us and ate us for lunch.

The best example of exponential growth today is in technology. Like, say, computers. There’s a thing called “Moore’s Law.” It says the processing power of computers doubles and the cost is cut in half every 12 to 18 months.

That was true, but, it is a perfect example of linear thinking.  In reality, the time that computers double in power and drop in cost is taking less and less time. Science and all knowledge, is growing at an accelerated rate.

It has always been that way. The increase in human knowledge has always been on an exponential curve, but the way the curve works didn’t make it seem that way until recently. On an exponential curve, things grow at a steady rate for a long time. Then suddenly, it hits a tipping point and everything begins to race along much faster.

Think about it. Humans have been on this planet as Homo sapiens for a few million years. Most of that time, we spent surviving. And throwing rocks at each other. Then, about 12,000 years ago, we stopped roaming and settled down. Although we still threw rocks at each other.

We created agriculture and civilization. Why did we do that? Because we discovered beer. I know this sounds like a joke, but it’s true. There’s a great documentary called “How Beer Saved The World.’  It’s fascinating, but that’s another blog for another day.

Basically, we had a choice. We could continue to wander around and throw rocks at each other. Or,  we could stay home and make more beer. And throw rocks at each other. It wasn’t a hard decision.knowledge-curve.jpg

Think of all the science — all the knowledge — mankind figured out starting 12,000 years ago up until 1900. By the 1900’s the industrial revolution was well underway. Cities were lit by gas and some places, by electricity. People and industry moved on steam-powered trains. The internal combustion engine was in production.

All this knowledge doubled between 1900 and the 1960’s. From horse-drawn carriages to putting a man on the moon.

The knowledge of mankind doubled again between 1960 and 1980, then doubled again by 1990.

Can we remember when smartphones didn’t exist? When iPads didn’t exist? They’ve been around for a while, right? Actually, the iPhone came out June 29, 2007. That was just eleven years ago. The iPad was released on April 3, 2010. Just eight and a half years ago!

That was five years ago. Today, they’re talking about making kidneys with a 3D printer.

What happened?

Mankind reached the tipping point of that exponential curve. We’re at the point where the curve ends and the line goes straight up. This is when our knowledge quite literally explodes.

knowledge curve

We’re way over to the right.

This is not something I thought of myself. There is a fascinating book by futurist Robert Kurzweil, called “The Singularity Is Near.” I highly recommend it.


What does any of this have to do with our Toddler-In-Chief? A lot. In particular, with his mental illness. Literally, hundreds of psychiatrists and psychologists are screaming at the top of their lungs that this nut job is, well, nuts.

And getting worse.

Fear

They have collectively pointed out that the stress of the job is accelerating his illness. He’s not merely getting crazier at warp speed. He has gone all the way to plaid!

You can see it yourself and you don’t need a Ph.D. either.

Every interview he gives is a trip further down the rabbit hole. His last few interviews have gone from, “Bizarre” to “Unhinged” to “Insane” to “Insanely insane.” Read the transcript of his last interview with The Wall Street Journal. It was a literal word salad. Not a single sentence was complete or made any sense.

Remember the news conference where the doctor that supposedly just examined Trump said he passed a cognitive mental test and he got all 30 questions right!

Really? The questions were things like “name four animals” and “point out what 3:15 looks like on a clock.” Wow, so the President is sane because he recognizes a cow, a pig, a dog, a rhinoceros, and a pussy. He also knows when it’s quarter after three.

Meanwhile, the doctor in charge, apparently known locally as “Candyman,” excused himself from his upcoming promotion to run the V.A. Maybe the doctor should be taking the test.

I think Grandpa is not just losing it. He’s losing it faster and faster each day. It’s time to take away the keys to his car. Remove the big nuclear button from his desk. Get him into the memory care unit at a good nursing home. Hell, you can designate Mar-A-Lago as his official nursing home and lock him in his room. It’s the end of September as I write this and I’m hoping we make it to November and elections. Last year, at this time we were hoping to make it to 2020.

I apologize for not finding more humor in all of this. I try, but sometimes it just ain’t there. So, to make up for it. Here are two dogs playing “I Got Your Nose!”

8/12/2018 – TODAY IS NATIONAL MIDDLE CHILD DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

I was a middle child. I’m not anymore because my older brother died and my younger sister got addicted to everything and disappeared. I’m assuming she is alive since no one has told me otherwise, but I have no actual evidence to that effect.

1963

Middle children have an interesting place in family life. If the family is big, there are lots of middle children so you can have quite a heap of middle children, but in the three-child family, middle children are often communicators. We take messages to the other warring family members.

Mom tells you to tell dad whatever, which you do, then he tells you to tell her something else. You brother confides in you because you are “The One Who Talks.”

It’s a weird role for a kid. It makes you feel important. Everyone counts on you to take and deliver messages. But it’s a fake importance. What you are really doing is helping your dysfunctional family not communicate with each other.

That was the final reason I went to Israel. My marriage was tired and not doing well … and my family had gone from dysfunctional to dangerously dysfunctional. Frighteningly dysfunctional with potentially lethal results. I felt — and I’m sure I was right — that if I didn’t go far away, I would never break the chain of recriminations, threats, lies, prevarications, fear … the whole ugly wrapper.

Not all families are equally dysfunctional, but mine was way beyond standard. Matthew and I survived. I survived better than he did, though he lived a good — if sadly short — life.

He had a great wife and an amazing relationship with her. I’m pretty sure she saved his life. Although I had one really awful marriage, Jeff and I got along well. As a marriage, it faltered, but it was a strong friendship. We were supportive of one another until finally, he died. Even after we divorced, we stayed friends.

I was right. My time in Israel broke that chain of me as the family communicator. Unfortunately, my mother died … and then, there was only my brother, and then Jeff and Matthew died — both much too young.

2012

But then there were new friends. There was the internet.

I communicate again. I don’t see your faces, but I feel you. I worry about you, want to know you are okay. You matter to me. I am not good at virtual relationships. To me, you are real. Distant, I admit, but real.

Stay real. Stay well. Stay safe.

WOULD IT BE PREMATURE TO ASK … Marilyn Armstrong

Premature vs. Post-mature

Premature indicates a time “before maturity” has imposed itself. Like –“childhood” or “infancy.” Or still budding, yet not bloomed.

Personally, I am post-mature. I flowered, then I got old and my petals fell off. No amount of putting stuff in the water is going to fix it.

Right now, I’m dealing with a lot of stuff. Getting the car fixed from a small but significant accident. This requires setting up a time with the appraiser, renting a car, making a date with the repair shop — at least a four-way deal. It’s also long past the point of finding out exactly which surgery Garry is supposed to be getting for his ear, not to mention and finding out about the technology.

We need to get the chimney fixed though I’m assured it will survive at least one more winter, or so we hope.

There’s a lot of tearing down coming up, too. Removing the collapsing shed. Tearing down the long out-of-use outdoor shower. Fixing the mangled back lawn where the snow plow kid hit it hard with the plow and left it a mess. He was the one who was going to come back and fix it. I think he left town.

What are the odds of my getting this stuff done? {Possibly approaching zero on a close order. Effectively, if I wait for texts and emails., it could also be never. It’s amazing how many texts and emails you can send without accomplishing anything. Without ever setting a time, or place. Whether it’s surgery or appraising the damage to the car.

I’ve given up on emails. They don’t get stuff done. It’s the procrastinator’s tool for prolonging something you don’t really want to do anyway. It turns out, despite rumors to the contrary, a month of emails back and forth doesn’t get an appointment made as fast as a five-minute phone call.

No number of emails to and from your doctor will make you feel like you actually know what your surgery involves. There are many things requiring a personal encounter and a conversation. With questions asked and answered. Especially when you want to know exactly what is going to happen, you need to talk. If you need to know precisely how and when it will happen, ask the questions and get real answers.

More wires!

And — oh yes — how much is this going to cost? You can run through a month or two of emails when a short call will handle it 100%.

Yesterday, we made a date to meet someone for lunch — and we did it in (gasp) one quick 3-minute call. He’ll email the address for the GPS, but we have a date, time, and location for FOUR PEOPLE! Imagine that.

That is my post-mature opinion on the matter of talk versus endless electronic messaging.

–  Texting is for people who don’t want to really be involved.
–  Talking is for people who want to solve a problem.
–  Emails are for people who want to say they never got the email. It is the ultimate procrastinator’s tool.

All life feels pretty much premature. We don’t have a date for the surgery, don’t know the technology involved. Don’t have a date with the appraiser or the repair guy or a car rental. Neither of us know when or even if the chimney is getting fixed. Garry is doing errands and I’m on telephone and email patrol. Which is like doing nothing — with purpose.

I thought all this technology was going to speed up the processes of our world?

As far as I can see, all we have done is extend the amount of time and effort it takes to do every little thing. We are also managing to avoid doing a lot of things entirely. The dates never actually get made. The appointments you only remember because you get an automated call from the hospital.

Doves on the wires in Phoenix, Arizona

It really is living in a bubble with no fixed address. That’s apparently what people really want.

Personal? No one has time to be personal. There’s no time to talk, no time for a leisurely conversation. No time to hear the sound of a friend’s laughter because that’s not available on an electronic communications device.

“I’ll text you.”

And I’ll be waiting.

TALKING ON THE PHONE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The world can be divided in many ways – Republicans vs. Democrats, religious people vs. non religious people, cat people vs. dog people. Here’s another way – people who love the phone vs. people who hate it.

I love talking on the phone. I have many close friends who live far away now and it’s the next best thing to spending time with them in person. You can have real conversations that drift from one topic to the next. You can even interrupt each other! You don’t get the subtleties of body language that you get in person, but you’re actually engaging with the real person. You can remember why you loved this person in the first place.

Another important advantage of phones is laughter. We can hear our friends laugh at our jokes and our friends can hear us laugh at theirs. We get to laugh TOGETHER, which is huge. Laughter is a powerful bond. Most women list a sense of humor as one of the things they most value in a man. Sharing laughter is one of the great joys in life. You can’t get it in a text. Typing LOL is not the same thing!

When I was dating online, I discovered that liking someone’s emails was NOT a good indicator that I would like them in person. But liking someone on the phone gave me a pretty good chance that I would like them in person. That’s when I fully realized that writing and talking are on two separate planes.

Talking is personal. It reveals personality and connects people on an emotional, visceral level. You get most of what you get when you are physically with someone.

Emailing may tell you the writing style of the person but not their speaking style or their personal “je ne sais quoi.” In texting, people tend to write shortened sentences with abbreviations and even Emojis. So you don’t even get the “voice” or writing style of the person. The time lag with texts also annoys me. Write then wait. Read then write. Rinse and repeat.

Try watching a movie or TV show and hit pause for twenty seconds after each person speaks. Not very gratifying. In fact, it will probably drive you crazy.

To me, texting is great for short, immediate communications. Like: “In traffic. Running 15 minutes late.” OR “What time do you want us for dinner?” Otherwise, not really communications.

Nevertheless, I understand that some people are just not phone people. My daughter is a phonophobe. She would rather talk for an hour every few weeks and text in between to stay in touch. My mother hated the phone. When I was growing up, she would have me call people to change or cancel appointments for her so she would not get “stuck” talking on the phone.

My husband, Tom, is also not a phone person. When we were dating, it didn’t even occur to him to talk on the phone the nights we weren’t seeing each other. Once I started the pattern, he was fine with it. But he wouldn’t have done it on his own.

I think the younger generations are growing up totally immersed in texting and internet communications. They may never learn the pleasure you can get from a long phone conversation with a friend. They may not even have long conversations in person anymore either. From what I hear, kids spend time online even when they are physically with other people. The art of the conversation may be dying out altogether.

I guess I shouldn’t be worrying about fewer people talking on the phone. I should be worrying about fewer people talking to each other. At all!