LIVING THE GOOD LIFE. SLOWLY. Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #52

The question?

Given the realities of who we are and what we need, I think this is a pretty good life. I might wish for gentler weather and a bit more money, but overall? I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to live in a place where most people are on the same side I am on. Where getting around (unless there’s a lot of snow) is pretty easy. No traffic jams. No parking meters.

Life is simple, peaceful, and sometimes, joyous.

Short of suddenly becoming physically young (that would be quite a trick!), this is “the good life.” For us. Maybe it wouldn’t be for you, but it works for us. We live “the good life,” but slowly.

LOVING WORDS AND KNOWING HOW TO USE THEM – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #51


If people find typos or grammatical, punctuation, spelling, or usage errors in your posts, do you welcome having them pointed out to you, or do you resent it.

As a blogger do you let people know about such mistakes or do you just let them go?


There was a time when I was the aggravated editor at large. However, in recent months, my typo count has risen so high that there are often more typos, missed words, wrong parts of sentences which belong elsewhere, I do not feel I have any authority to speak on the subject.

I was never a good proofreader, even when I was much younger, but now it’s wildly out of control. If I change keyboards? I go from bad to “What IS that word?” I make typos so bad the spellchecker doesn’t recognize the word at all.

I admit that I go and change really badly typoed words in comments because WordPress doesn’t even give us 10 seconds to go back and change it. I read through typos. Of course, I do. I am the typo queen.

I do NOT have the same attitude towards poor grammar, though. The inability of even adults to recognize the difference between shorthand for Facebook or whatever they are using these days and language. Or, for that matter, the difference between an adjective and an adverb because they don’t know the difference between a verb and a noun. If you listen to sportscasters, you’ll know why. They don’t use adverbs. Ever. It isn’t stylistic. It’s pure ignorance.

It isn’t necessarily their fault. Our educational system is sorely lacking. They don’t teach grammar in public schools. If you don’t pick it up by reading book, how COULD you learn it?

And oh lord, PUNCTUATION. I swear everyone makes it up as they go along. My personal favorite is the    ,,,.    between what might be clauses, but isn’t a clause the guy who drops down the chimney with toys? No? 

People our age often leave out the subject of the sentence because we forgot to type it. But the younger ones? What’s their excuse? A good friend is (actually, now WAS) a college English professor. Every once in awhile, he’d show us what students turn in as essays. They truly do not know the difference between LOLWFOMA, TY, BRB, and what we used to call English. I don’t think we are setting a good example, either.

The other thing is that many young people have never read a book. Personally, I listen to audiobooks rather than reading, but I did read thousands of books before I moved to audio. So if my eyes are tired, they earned it.

One busy wall

Neither parents nor teachers forced them to read. Anyway, what with owning every electronic device ever made, what motivation do they have to read? You have to get them reading when they are young before they get hooked in electronics.

We spend millions on electronic devices that are outdated in six months — and don’t put any effort into convincing kids to read. Owen’s deal (from ME) when he was young was before he got an allowance or his bicycle, he had to turn in a book report — to me — every week. I didn’t care what he read, whether it was easy or difficult, but it had to be a BOOK.

Vineyard art – the second painting is the one from the book I gave to Owen.

Thus he fell in love with Stephen King, a love that still lingers, TinTin, Hardy Boys, and all of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventures. He also loved anything with great illustrations and can take very excellent pictures when he remembers to have a camera — which is rare and rather frustrating. He has talent, but he works 50 hours a week or more, so I suppose that’s a bit limiting.

“How to Live With a Conniving Cat” was a favorite. When we summered on the Vineyard, we bought one of the original paintings done for that book. It was a piece of luck because the painter died while the exhibit was up. His family came and took all his paintings home. They refused to sell any of them. We have the only one that isn’t family-owned.

That was back “in the day” when we went to galleries and bought stuff! You know. Two salaries? Those WERE the days.

I gave the painting to Owen for his birthday. He really, really wanted it. Turns out, he also likes art. Kids like what they learn to like. If you don’t teach them, they don’t get it. Schools are only a piece of education. The rest comes from their home environment.

And yes, there still ARE libraries and they are still FREE. What’s more, there are art galleries in all kinds of places. You don’t have to buy things to go and look. And, oh yes. Museums!


P.S. I don’t have a problem with typos being pointed out, or for that matter, entirely missing words or pieces of paragraphs, or duplicated words. I have always worked best with an editor! I’d correct them myself if I noticed them.

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #50: REDOING LIFE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #50

So this week’s question is:

My answer is exceedingly simple.

Hell, no.

I’ve enjoyed my life. Even the bad stuff was interesting. One of the things Garry and I love about getting old together is that we don’t feel like we missed anything. We did everything we could as often as we could. We didn’t get to every city or every historic site, but we did a lot and it was tons of fun.

It wasn’t great for our longterm financial future, but damn, we have wonderful memories. And because we’ve known each other so long, many of those memories are together — before we were married.

There are pieces of my life I wish I could fix, but life, as a whole, has been fascinating — good, bad, and in between!

MEDICARE FOR ALL: WAY TO GO AMERICA! – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #48

Personally, we both are on Medicare because we are at an age where we deserve it. Lord knows we paid enough money over the years for the privilege of having doctors when we got old.

Medicare is a pretty good system and it is getting even better. The people who run it are competent, ready and willing to talk to you any time of the day or night. They are incredibly patient, which really helps because a lot of people on Medicare are not entirely “all there” anymore.

Medicare’s way of distributing drugs was deeply flawed and still leaves a lot to be desired, though it is better than it was. Their unwillingness to deal with — until this year — seeing, hearing, chewing, and breathing was cruel.

I don’t know if the changes we are seeing this year are local Massachusetts changes or national, but this year we are actually going to get enough money to buy a pair of eyeglasses, get our teeth cleaned and x-rayed and if Garry still needed them, hearing aids. Too bad they are available now because a few years ago, Garry really needed them.

We just changed from BlueCross to Harvard-Pilgrim. It will save us about $170/month and we can keep all our doctors (I checked). Also, since we’d use the same hospital where they already have all our records, I wouldn’t have to get a new institution “up to speed.” I honestly didn’t think I could cope with swapping all my doctors again and records again.

Do you believe the government of a country has a responsibility to provide universal, affordable (if not “free”) healthcare for its citizens?

Yes. Absolutely.

If you live in the United States, would you favor Medicare for all/single-payer health plan?

Having lived in Israel where medical care is free if you are poor, but if you aren’t quite that poor, you can buy into any one of a number insurance plans that give you other options, like private doctors rather than clinics, or one of the groups that offer more options for natural care. But all medical care uses the same hospitals and surgeons are not your choice but are based on your problem(s) and who they think can best solve it.

You got incredibly good medical care, probably because there are more doctors per capita in Israel than anywhere else in the world. Well, you know. Jewish doctors are a “thing.” Half the doctors were American or British, too. All the top surgeons were American — but of course, that was the 1980s and things have probably changed.

The thing is, you had a choice of how you wanted the services delivered, but one way or the other, you were entitled to the services. Everyone had medical care, free or paid. Whether you were a citizen or tourist, you could go to the nearest health clinic and they would take care of you. No identification needed.

Medicine was free. For everyone.

It was such a good system that I think that’s what we should have here. You can use the government “free for all” system or spend a bit more money and get extra services. But regardless, everyone gets medication at no cost. No one is left out of the system.

If you live outside of the U.S., does your government provide universal healthcare? If so, how do you feel about it? If not, what kind of healthcare coverage do you have?

See my answer above. Having lived in two countries with two very different medical systems, Israel’s was really great. I think Switzerland has a very similar system too.

WHO ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #46

From Fandango:

“I was watching “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last week and he and his sidekick, Guillermo, paid a visit to the New Yorker magazine in an effort to get a cartoon published in the magazine. Neither was successful, but Jimmy came up with this cartoon, which serves as the inspiration for this week’s provocative question:
CDAE46BB-E23E-40BF-BDB9-14331575A5F4The cartoon shows a picture of a young man sitting in a jail cell with headphones on. He’s busy using his smartphone when the prison guard apparently advises the guy in the cell that he’s entitled to a phone call. The guy then asks the guard, “What’s a phone call?”

So here’s the question:

Question of the week #47

I grew up before mobile phones — or at least before mobile phones became popular and common. Garry and I were among the earliest users of cell phones. Garry was always out in the field and he really needed a phone. Even back then … the early 1990s … there weren’t many functioning payphones. Most of the booths had broken or entirely missing phones.

The first phone I bought for Garry was the size of a brick and weighed at least as much and possibly more. On the other hand, that phone could connect with anyone anywhere. It was very much like the big “field phones” the telephone technicians used.

One day, the Blackberry came out and for years that was our phone. Garry loved his Blackberry. It had good sound and he could actually hear when he used it … and he could read (and send) email. I had a phone too, which was good because I was always looking for a job and I needed to find a quiet corner to set up interviews. Sometimes the phone WAS the interview.

Texting hadn’t arrived yet and phones were not miniature computers. They were small, portable telephones that also had email and calendar. Which was what I needed.

And the granddaddy of them all:

The standard black dial telephone

But how do I feel about taking on the phone? There was a time when the phone rang and I knew it was a friend. Or someone who wanted to talk to a parent, a brother, a husband, even your child.  But now? The phone is nothing but a noisy, device large used to try to scam you out of money or steal your personal information. It’s rarely fun.

I have three or four people — close family and dear friends — to whom I enjoy talking. Otherwise, I’d rather use email. The joy of email for me is its wonderful silence. My cell is always dining and ringing and jingling and binging and bonging. It never stops updating so as soon as you think you know how it works, they decide it needs to be fixed. When it is actually broken and needs to be fixed? That’s a wholly different story and usually costs you money.

With the exception of good friends and family, I don’t want to use the phone. I have to beat myself up to actually make a phone call, even if it’s important. Email is great because I can ignore it until I feel like doing something about it. I never learned to text, probably because that would mean I’d have to leave my phone on and people would actually CALL me. I don’t want them to call me. I’m very happy to not have something ringing all the time.

The thing I don’t understand about mobile phones is that they never shut up. They are always making some kind of noise. It’s like being on an electronic leash: you are never out of touch. It’s why when people ask if I have a smartphone, I say “no.” I do have one. I just don’t use it any more than I have to … and I do NOT give out the phone number.

My favorite calls are from Indians or Pakistanis who say their names are “Bob” and they are calling from Texas. And they know a Nigerian prince. Moreover, if you give them all your personal information, you can inherit a fortune and never have to worry about money again.

My all-time favorite call was a woman who called to ask for money to be collected for women who’ve had breast cancer. The money, she averred, would be given directly to people who had cancer and needed help. I told her she could call me back when my check was ready.

Modern telephone technology has taken all the fun out of making phone calls just as “modern airplanes” have taken all the romance out of travel. From all of this, I have concluded that progress is good but not every change is going to improve your life.  The only thing I hope for is that people will get tired of living on their phones and start to consider the possibilities of conversations.

And sometimes, enjoy the amazing possibilities of quiet and even silence.

ARE WE GOING TO “RUN OUT” OF CREATIVITY? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #45

From Fandango:

“Some smart people claim there is nothing new under the sun. I’m not normally one to reference the Bible, but in the Book of Ecclesiastes, the author complains frequently about the meaninglessness and monotony of life. One entire passage reads, “That which has been is what will be. That which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Which brings up the question:

Question de jour

To me, “merely rearranging concepts and building on previous ideas” doesn’t sound like a “merely.” Have you got a recent invention up your sleeve? Then maybe the ability to take concepts and build on ideas to create a new “thing” is the nature of creativity. I’m sorry the guy in Ecclesiastes sounded so dreary, but the world was having a hard time. Unlike now when things are so easy! Poor guy, he didn’t even have a computer or television to make it easier.

Everything is part of a context. To invent the telephone, you needed people who could talk. The telephone’s inventors — Antonio Meucci and Alexander Graham Bell — let people talk at a distance, but they didn’t have to create language, just another way to use language.

Everything new evolves from a construct of what we saw, then imagined what it might do for us. These days, a modern mobile phone does everything except work telephone calls.

I don’t think there’s a limit to what we can create, although to create something that no one can imagine seems implausible and unlikely.

I do think there are limits to what people want, need, or are willing to pay for. That has happened with all kinds of electronics, from color televisions, computers, telephones to many other things. At some point, people don’t want them that much or feel they’ve got enough (and spent enough) on whatever it is.

Which means creativity will need to find a new direction. No doubt it will. Creative ways to make money are even more nonstop than mere invention. It would still have to be something humans can imagine owning and believe would make their lives easier, more fun, and maybe more exciting.

HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #44

From Fandango:

“You’re probably familiar with this quote from philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.“ In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.“

Or my favorite version of this particular saying:

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” ― Michael Crichton

So, speaking about what you remember about the past or have learned from history, how would you answer this question:”

Achievement? By the human race?

Right now, I’m having a lot of trouble crediting the human species with any significant event. I suppose it depends on what you think is significant. Would it be something that makes a life for people better? Or for a specific part of the human species better? Even if that “advancement” decimates or destroys other important aspects of the world in which we live? Like, for example, when we learned to plow and created the Sahara desert? And eventually killed ever last living mastodon? Was that an improvement?

Or how about when we broke the sod in the west and created the Dust Bowl? You know all those westerns where the sodbusters are the Good Guys and the ranchers are the Bad Guys? You know — the ranchers were right. We destroyed the prairies.

How about the invention of the government? After the Black Plague, the central government that was created produced giant grain silos and thus managed to feed the starving people after the plague wiped out the serfs — aka, farmers.

So the central government enabled people to rebuild after the worst (known) 100 years of human life or at least the worst time we still know about. But the deep plowing of the soil essentially was the beginning of what we are now experiencing: the ending of the world as we know it.

Will we take from that lesson that few have understood and somehow avoid total annihilation? Shall we yet come up with a world in which we can all live? Not just the human race, but all creatures?

Was the world better when we foraged for food and hunted our meat? I suspect it was. Were humankind’s invention of the railroad, automobile, and the airplane an improvement or was it the beginning of our end?

Do I live with any substantial hope that we will find a way out of this disaster we are in and rebuild a world in which we can live at peace as a part of nature and not its murderer?

I don’t know. Do you know?

We aren’t going to live long enough to see the end result of this madness and I’m not sorry about that. I love this world with its birds and bunnies and squirrels and eagles. With its tigers and lions and the elephants that crush the crops — but they were here before me and they have the right to live, even when it makes our lives more complicated.

Doesn’t every living thing deserve the right to survive? And our grandchildren — do they deserve the right to survive too?

We came out of our caves as killers and so we have remained.

And here’s my answer:

The most significant thing we ever invented were weapons. Significant isn’t, after all, the same as “good.” Or positive.