DRIFTING ALONG WITH THE TUMBLING TUMBLEWEED

ADRIFT IN THE WEST

I am retired which is, by definition, at least a little bit adrift. This is a good thing and the real reason we retire. After a life of deadlines and commuting, some drifting seems like a pretty good idea. So here I am. Just drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweed … with memories of those great cowboy movies of childhood.

Hi Roy! Hi Trigger! Hey, Bullet! Hope y’all are doing well. I miss you. All of you. You were the good guys. We trusted you. Where are you now, when we need you?

TWO SHORT STORIES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love stories about clever solutions to thorny problems. Here are two of my favorite family stories about creative problem solving.

THE DIVORCE DILEMMA

My mother was a psychologist. In the ‘60’s, she got a call from a famous divorce lawyer in New York City. His name was Louis Nizer and he wanted her to testify in a society divorce case. He represented the wife who was suing for divorce. The problem, to put it bluntly, was that her husband only liked having sex with her shoes. Not with her.

Nizer wanted Mom to testify to the severe emotional distress the wife was suffering because she was being deprived of her “conjugal rights”. But the lawyer was worried because the judge was an old school, devout Catholic. Nizer was afraid that his argument would fall flat on this particular judge because of his religious beliefs, which didn’t include women “needing” sex.

Mom thought for a minute and suggested that Nizer change his tactics. She asked “What is the only time conservative Catholics believe that sex is appropriate?”

The answer is, to have children. Children, who will be raised as practicing Catholics. So, my mother argued, why not claim that the reason the wife needs a divorce is her husband’s practice of ejaculating into her shoes is depriving her of children. Good, Catholic children.

Nizer thanked my mother profusely. He used her argument and won the divorce case on motions. No trial and no need for my mother’s testimony. No credit for her brilliant idea either. But we know the truth!

THE MEDICAL DILEMMA

My mother’s first husband was a physician. His name was Abraham Otto but he was always called A.O. A.O., who was Jewish, had a Jewish friend who was overseas as a soldier in World War II.

A.O. received a letter from him asking for medical advice. The friend had been told he needed non-emergency surgery – a gall bladder or appendix. Something minor today but which required major surgery in the 1940’s. His friend wanted to know if he should let the field doctors do the surgery or if he should request a flight home to the states for the procedure.

A.O. felt strongly that his friend should have the surgery done in the states, but he also knew all letters were read and censored by the military. He worried if he told his friend not to trust the overseas military doctors, the letter could be confiscated and would never reach his friend at all. So, A.O. wrote a glowing letter about how wonderful the overseas army doctors were and the total faith he had in their abilities.

He signed the letter “Dr. Kim A. Hame.” “Kim a hame” in Yiddish, means “Come home!”

A.O. knew his friend spoke Yiddish. The army censors didn’t. Problem solved!

TALKING ABOUT STUPID

TELL ME ABOUT STUPID

I have been assured it’s not stupid because:

  • It seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • I had a lot to drink, smoke, or was otherwise drugged.
  • Everyone was doing it.
  • I did it on a bet.
  • All my friends agreed — it was the right thing to do.
  • I’m an ignorant ass.
IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME

This only works if you had an idea … and followed it to a logical conclusion. In other words, you were thinking about the decision. If you just did it because you were there, it or he was also there, so y’know, shit happened? That IS stupid. Sorry, but saying it seemed like a good idea doesn’t make it one. Anything done by reflex or without thought? Stupid.

I WAS DRUNK

You had too much to drink? Were really incredibly high? You took a handful of drugs?

Why would any of these things make you less stupid?

EVERYONE WAS DOING IT

As your mom used to say, “If everyone is jumping off the roof, does that mean you should do it too?” If your mom wouldn’t buy it when you were six, what makes you think anyone would buy it now that you’re … fiftyish?

Yup. Stupid.

I DID IT ON A BET

Even you think that was stupid, right?

ALL MY FRIENDS AGREED IT WAS THE BEST CHOICE

Since when are your friends, family, co-workers, shrink, or that guy you met while checking out your groceries, become the people who will decide on your future life? Since when does anyone but you count in your final decision to do anything?

I’M AN IGNORANT ASS

Right. Stupid. Because ignorance is not something you were given at birth. Ignorance is a choice.

YOU KNEW IT WAS THE WRONG CHOICE. WE ALWAYS KNOW.

When everything you know about right and wrong is telling you the choice you are about to make is wrong or bad for you — and you do it anyway? For whatever reason? That IS stupid. I’m not talking about deciding whether you should buy bananas or apples, or which television show to watch. I’m talking about decisions that will affect your life and possibly the lives of other people.

When you have an important decision to make, you are the one who gets to decide. What your friends think is neither here nor there. They have nothing to do with your understanding of right, wrong, good and evil … not to mention the larger context of who else lives in your world.

Sure, it’s possible to be intelligent and make a bad choice. We’ve all done it. It remains a stupid choice. The concept of choice and decision requires your judgments be the result of reason. If you typically make decisions without thought, do stuff you know in your gut goes is wrong, you can’t go back and say ‘Oh, it seemed like a good idea.”

No. It didn’t. It wasn’t the right idea, even when you made it. Maybe you did it out of spite or jealousy. Maybe you did it to prove something to yourself or someone else.

It’s still STUPID.

MY NOTORIOUSLY NEW PRINTER

I hate printers. I also hate copiers, scanners, and fax machines.

Nowadays, you get one, you get the batch, but I still hate all of them, whether in one package or many. I got my new printer a few days ago and finally got around to installing it yesterday. Maybe I should have waited.

When you are setting up a new printer, what can you do if your WiFi simply won’t “see” it?

It turns out, the most popular technique is highly technical denial. This means you turn everything off and go shopping. Really, any outside-the-house activity will do the job. We went to Garry’s hearing place to see if they have a significantly better hearing aid for him. Not quite. Yet. Maybe it would be a little better, but not $4000 better.

When we came back from the hearing place and having briefly stopped at the grocery store, I realized I had to confront the printer again. Another one of the small aggravations of modern times: new computers — like this one — don’t have DVD players. I bought an external one, but first I tried downloading the setup instructions from the website. This is supposed to work just like the disc, but surprisingly, didn’t.

Probably, because the WiFi did not find the printer. Or maybe there was some other inexplicable reason.

When your WiFi won’t find a device, there isn’t much you can do about it. You can wave your hands in the air like a fan. Maybe that will blow the WiFi in the right direction. You can shake your devices — but this may work to your disadvantage. Then, there’s cursing. For many people, that works well, but for me, it’s a distraction from getting on with the job.

Turning everything off, then turning every back on is one of the most effective ways of convincing something that should be working to really work, but this time, it didn’t. I should have figured if going shopping didn’t fix it, I needed a new approach.

So, after we came home and I quickly realized it hadn’t magically fixed itself (damn), I hauled my laptop and DVD player into the office. There are — as it turns out — alternate instructions which only appear when you click “NO, that didn’t work either”  for the third time. At which point alternate instructions pop into your browser. These are apparently dangerous weapons of mass destruction and can only be used if your WiFi absolutely can not find the printer, even after you wave your arms and plead with the manufacturer.

It turns out, you have to press the WiFi button until the ALERT button flashes twice. Not three times. If it flashes three times, you have to start over. Next, you have to push the start button again, at which time the WiFi button should start to flash very quickly (not slowly … slowly won’t do the job). They also don’t warn you there’s a pause before it starts rapidly flashing — but if you push it again, you have to start over from the top.

If all goes well, at this point, unless your WiFi is actually out, you should have a connection.

Then you push another button while pressing a third button. Which prints a sheet which you will attempt to scan. Which inevitably produces an error message. If you try to do it again, all it will do is keep printing the same page.

I said screw it and gave up. Then, I decided to register the printer. It turns out, I can’t. Because I am a Canon user — but have no idea what my password used to be. I’m exhausted from carrying the laptop around and having to follow all those instructions.

Since the printer was been found by the WiFi, it would surely print if asked. If the WiFi had found the printer all by itself like it should have, I wouldn’t have had to do any of this. Windows would have taken over and installed everything. Immediately.

Good news? The printer says it works. I’m trusting this to be true. I’m not at all sure about the scanner, but I’ll save that for another day.

Have I mentioned how much I really hate printers? I used to hate fax machines and copy machines too, but now they’re all one thing. So I have just one big thing to hate instead of three.

Is this a good or bad thing?

SHARING MY WORLD – MIDDLE OF MAY

Share Your World – May 15, 2017


How many languages do you speak?

One and two halves. I used to sort of speak Hebrew, but now I can only understand it when someone else speaks it. I used to read French well enough to get through the entire Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel “Les Misérables.”

Columbine

I never really spoke French, though I could read it. I tried to get to France which I was sure would have improved my speaking skills, but alas, it was not to be. So mostly, unless I’m listening to a French song, or watching a movie in French, it’s English. All English, all the time.

What are you reading, watching, listening to, eating?

I’m reading Richard Kadrey’s “The Wrong Dead Guy” in the living room, but in the bedroom, I’m reading “Open and Shut” which is a courtroom and crime story … with dogs. I have “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Terry Pratchett’s “Wintersmith” waiting in the wings. I am always reading at least one and typically two books. Since I started playing games too, I’m running a little behind on the reading, but that’s okay.

As for watching, we watched “Steve Jobs” — the movie — last night. We just finished up a British series called “Pie in the Sky” with Richard Griffith who was a chef (with a restaurant) and a cop (awaiting retirement). We haven’t settled on a new series yet. We tried out “Father Ted” Priest-detective, but so far, it hasn’t quite taken yet. Really, we are waiting with bated breath for the return of “House of Cards” at the end of the month.

We are also watching baseball, though the Sox are pretty mediocre so far, but the Celtics (basketball) just made the semi-finals, making them this year’s over-achievers. No one thought they would get this far. And we have a bunch of movies to be watched, most of them new. And we always watch “The Daily Show” and Colbert at night. Because we need a good laugh.

What was the last photo you took with your phone?

I don’t take photos on my phone. The only time I took them was when we were in Boston a year ago this month. I’m not a fan of telephotography.

What is your favorite time of day?

Sunrise. If I’m awake.

Sunset, when possible!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

TELEPHONE PEOPLE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

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

I’M SORRY … WHAT? – GARRY ARMSTRONG

This began as a lengthy comment to a blog posted by the imminent eminent wordsmith known as Evil Squirrel.  Squirrel’s blog For whom the Beltones” was a humorous look at the history of aids for the hearing-impaired and the advertising of the 1980s. Squirrel, this is truly evil. Maybe even blatantly racist if I can find an angle. I love it! You’re yelling to the choir with this one.


As you may know, I have needed hearing aids since I was a kid, back to the days when they were the small portable radios with a wire and earpiece. It was damned humiliating for a young guy.

As time went by, technology upgraded me to tiny, all in the ear aids. They were invisible on TV so it was great for me since I wore my aids all the time at work — except when I did live shots. Then, I had to replace one of my hearing aids with the IFB thingy which allowed everyone to talk directly into my head. Everyone could — and did — talk at the same time.

Sometimes there were two or three dozen people talking and shouting into my IFB as I calmly did my live reports. And smiled.

Often (simultaneously), the other hearing aid would pick up frequencies from nearby radio towers. I had a myriad TV people shouting into my IFB while Air Traffic Controllers yelled into my hearing aid. I calmly delivered the live reports. Then I went out for a few drinks.

Marilyn actually saw and heard a tape of one of these live shots, The station had accidentally recorded the stuff coming in through the IFB instead of the sound track for the story. She was awed. How could I function during all the clamor? Looking back, I’m awed too. I’m an awesome guy. That’s why they paid me the big bucks (not).

I interviewed Eddie Albert when he was filming “Yes, Giorgio” in Boston. Eddie was sunbathing along the Charles River. He smiled when he caught a glimpse of my tiny hearing aids. Pulled his out for comparison. A lot of “WHAT?” went down that day.

Fast forward to the present, I have the current behind the ears model hearing aids. My hearing is getting worse.

Huh? Can you hear me now??”

Postscript:

I didn’t always wear my hearing aids on a regular basis. Back then, it was worse (much) than being called “four eyes”. One night changed my whole attitude. My date had reached that critical point where you wonder if “it” will happen. The lady answered my query. I misheard her answer.

End of evening.