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!

THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT GOOGLE! – Marilyn Armstrong

I woke up this morning with an earworm. Not your normal earworm. Mine was a 1920s earworm. It was a song my mother sang often and for once, she actually got the words right. Ask any member of my family and they will assure you: my mother never ever remembered the words to any song — except this one. She would sing words from other songs to whatever melody was bouncing around in her head. But she knew all the words to this one. It’s SUCH an earworm, once you listen to it, it just sort of sits in your head and goes around and around and around.

So I get up this morning and this is what I’m hearing, but without the scratches:

And by golly, the words I had in my head were dead on. Next, the obvious question arises:

How did Google get its name? – Mobilis In Mobile

The mysterious mysteries of the Internet

How did Google get its name?You may have read this kind of “official answer”: Google derived its name from the word “googol”, a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner. The story goes, Kasner would have asked his nephew to invent a name for a very large number – ten to the power of one hundred, and Milton called it a googol. Blah-blah-blah!

Whatever say GSpecialists, Wikipedia or Google corporate itself, last Friday I discovered the secret when I was twittering with Orli. Google was named after Barney Google.*

Just listen to Barney Google’s song. No more to say!

One of you might write an essay on how, when and why granny Brin and/or Page was singing this song.


You may have read this kind of “official” answer: “Google derived its name from the word “googol”, a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner but I’d bet money (and I never bet money!) that Google was named after Barney Google.” The most popular comic strip in the U.S. for dozens of years … and still around even today.

Barney Google – The History

Now you know the truth about Google and somehow, it makes a lot more sense than
any other explanation I’ve heard!

OPTIMISM SEEMS A BIT MISPLACED AT THE MOMENT – Marilyn Armstrong

I started reading an article about what’s going on in Tasmania and Australia. The apocalyptic heat. The fires. The dying animals. The dying giant kelp. Dead koalas falling from the trees. I got about halfway through the article and couldn’t read anymore.

I am trying to keep my hopes up but it’s hard going. We are having a non-winter. A few days of cold, a bit of snow, then the temperature zips up to shirtsleeve levels again. And still, the idiot in the White House keeps making it worse. Then there’s the moron in Brazil burning down the rain forest because things aren’t bad enough.

That was the most depressing newspaper article I’ve ever read. If you have any doubt that climate change is real, check it out for yourself. Following is just a piece of it. If you are subscribed to the Washington Post, you can use the link under the title to read the whole thing. Otherwise, these are sections. Maybe as much as you can handle.


2°C: BEYOND THE LIMIT
On land, Australia’s rising heat is ‘apocalyptic.’ In the ocean, it’s worse.

BRUNY ISLAND, Tasmania — Even before the ocean caught fever and reached temperatures no one had ever seen, Australia’s ancient giant kelp was cooked.

Australia is a poster child for climate change. Wildfires are currently raging on the outskirts of its most iconic city and drought is choking a significant portion of the country.

Nearly 100 fires are burning in New South Wales, nearly half of them out of control. Residents of the state, where Sydney sits, wear breathing masks to tolerate the heavy smoke, which has drifted more than 500 miles south to the outskirts of Melbourne.

This is happening even though average atmospheric temperatures in Australia have yet to increase by 2 degrees Celsius.

The ocean is another story.

A stretch of the Tasman Sea right along Tasmania’s eastern coast has already warmed by just a fraction below 2 degrees Celsius, according to ocean temperature data from the Hadley Center, the U.K. government research agency on climate change.

The bats, called flying foxes, cannot survive temperatures above 42 degrees Celsius. Another 10,000 black flying foxes, a different species, also died. Bodies plopped into meadows, backyard gardens and swimming pools.

A month later, more than 100 ringtail possums fell dead in Victoria when temperatures topped 35 degrees Celsius for four consecutive days.

The warming waters off Tasmania are not just killing the giant kelp, but transforming life for marine animals.

Warm-water species are swimming south to places where they could not have survived a few years ago. Kingfish, sea urchins, zooplankton and even microbes from the warmer north near the mainland now occupy waters closer to the South Pole.

“There’s about 60 or 70 species of fish that now have established populations in Tasmania that used not to be here,” said Craig Johnson, who leads the ecology and biodiversity center at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. “You might see them occasionally as sort of vagrants, but they certainly did not have established populations.”

But the region’s indigenous cold-water species have no place to go. Animals such as the prehistoric-looking red handfish are accustomed to the frigid water closer to the shore. They cannot live in the deep-water abyss between the bottom tip of Tasmania and Antarctica.

“It’s a geographic climate trap,” Johnson said. Marine animals unique to Australia — the wallabies and koalas of the deep — could easily vanish. “So there’s going to be a whole bunch of species here that we expect will just go extinct.

“You know, it’s not a happy story.”

“It’s getting hotter and that heat, it’s affecting not only the giant kelp, but the color of the abalone is changing,” Dillon said.

“We just take too much out of the Earth and we don’t put it back,” Dillon said. “Australia is one of the worst if you know about coal. How much coal do we need to dig up? And we’re too stupid to see what this is causing . . . because we make money out of it.”

And now, Australia is caught in a record-breaking heatwave. 

The apocalypse

The heartbreaking video went viral late in November: A koala bear slowly walked through wildfire.

The marsupial, euthanized days later because its burns didn’t heal, was just one victim of the many wildfires that started burning in the Australian spring and are still going at the start of summer.

At least nine people have died and 700 homes have been destroyed. One woman in New South Wales took a few of her house’s charred remains to Australia’s Parliament in early December with a message for Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Morrison, your climate crisis destroyed my home,” Melinda Plesman wrote in bold red letters.

Morrison is an ardent supporter of coal excavation in a country that produced 44 million tons in 2017. Australia is the world’s leading exporter of coal, mostly to Asia, and the fourth-largest producer.

A few weeks before the koala — nicknamed Lewis — was euthanized, the newly re-elected prime minister took his advocacy for coal to a new level. He pledged to outlaw environmental demonstrations, calling the protests a “new breed of radical activism” that is “apocalyptic in tone.”

One month later, a Sydney Morning Herald headline described conditions in Australia’s most iconic city as “apocalyptic,” as residents choked in a smoky haze from bush fires. A coalition of doctors and climate researchers declared it a public health emergency.

The bush fires have arrived amid record heat and particularly dry conditions that experts say are being made more common thanks to climate change.

Fire!

The country experienced a five-day heatwave in the state of Victoria that shattered records. The Friday before Christmas was the hottest December day on record, measuring 47.9 degrees Celsius at the Horsham weather station.

Rescuers searching for human survivors in the scorched remains of forests have discovered koalas, a creature found only in Australia, burned to death in eucalyptus trees where they sought shelter. At the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, where Lewis was put down, it was called “a national tragedy.”

The tragedy playing out underwater is much worse, but invisible to most.


There is quite a bit more and these are clips, not the entire piece. If for some reason you are still convinced that this is some kind of overblown rhetoric by a crazy bunch of scientists, take a look at maps and see if you are living in an area that has already met or exceeded the 2 degree Celsius limit. This area already has. New Jersey has.

So I’m going to try and not think about this right now. I’m going to try to believe that we can fix this. Somehow, some way. Because the time we thought we had isn’t really there. This is terrifying information and it affects ALL of us. You can make yourself a billionaire, but when the world is on fire, your money won’t make the flames disappear.

A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! FROM THE SHINBONE STAR – Marilyn Armstrong

A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!

WRITTEN BY MADMEGSBLOG

A small but significant Christmas miracle recently happened on Friday.

The magazine Christianity Today published an op-ed that said Trump should be removed from office.

It seems like the Evangelicals denounced their quasi-prophet, and boy, what a denouncement it was! Yes, the very same people who claimed with absolute certainty and not an ounce of shame, that Trump was sent from God himself to the White House to save us from….well, I’m not sure what, but it’s all moot now.

That unbelievable whirlwind romance between a narcissistic sociopath and the conservative, religious elite is over.

I am so delighted that I am not even going to nit-pick the Evangelicals with silly questions like why is this particular sin the winner? Or ask them why after all this time they suddenly find his Twitter rants and treatment of women immoral?

Even though I really want to, I’m not going to try to uncover the mystery of God’s horrible choice in a president allegedly, of course. Instead, I’m going to sit back and watch this surprising yet absolutely satisfying gift unwrap itself. Or rather, unravel. Bigly.

As you’d expect, the IMPOTUS responded instantly to the op-ed that called for his removal from office as all the cool commander-in-Cheetos do it … It started off pretty ‘Presidential’ for him:


Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump

I guess the magazine, “Christianity Today,” is looking for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or those of the socialist/communist bent, to guard their religion. How about Sleepy Joe? The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!
114K –
Twitter Ads info and privacy –

I’m guessing there may be a few Muslims who disagree with that last part … just saying.  And just like a screen door in a hurricane, his retorts escalated from there. I guess he was expecting more than an “It’s you, not me” rejection from the very people who could ignore the multitude of this man’s “indiscretions” (sins) and abhorrent hateful rhetoric just for political power. Apparently, Jesus approved though?

Now, as the orange hurricane grows and Trump keeps showing us who he truly is, as he abandons his TV luster (still ungodly), the cheap and obviously orange veneer can’t hide what was really in front of his believers and yes-men the whole time. All the people who actually sacrificed, in some cases, everything for this charlatan might pause to ask how God and their churches could be wrong?

This dissidence and public rejection from a powerful, nationally influential congregation sends a message to everyone. Many fans and followers of the Orange One won’t question their Church and their congregation. Sanity could even be restored in some areas. Perhaps another miracle in the making!

Trump’s ego sold him on his ability to con the Holy Grail of marks — religion. He went after the biggest target because they were necessary. The Conservative Right Wing Evangelicals’  wealth and influence are paramount to Republican politics. And their stunning and scathing rejection was an assault he didn’t see coming. Trump was conned by his own con.

And maybe you can’t screw with God and get away with it?

Since the Evangelicals swore it was God himself who sent The Orange One to Washington, it would appear someone has some explaining to do.

I’m in the camp that believes there’s no longer a point of return for the Republican party; morally ethically and possibly politically. Everyone needs to stop hoping that these people will find their hearts or conscience or, I don’t know, maybe their duty to their country.

This is not the same GOP you think is just buried somewhere deep down in Mitch McConnell’s neck. That party isn’t going to come back. They sold their souls long before Trump won the Republican nomination. The GOP is responsible for Trump and they have been the trick behind his con.

Trump is their Frankenstein and the irreparable damage is deeper than anyone thought possible.  I know my hope has been all but lost….unless this beautiful stocking stuffer that could be a “sorry” from above, makes them pause.

No, they don’t suddenly get their hearts back like some Christmas movie and start doing the right thing. But just maybe they realize what will happen to their own careers, and even their futures outside of politics if this man does get kicked out of office.

All it takes is one Republican to worry about covering his own treasonous ass to start thinking somewhat clearly. They aren’t going to suddenly agree with healthcare for all or that poverty is the government’s problem, but they might vote to push the clown back into its box.

Whatever happens, I’m making popcorn watching it unfold without despair for the first time in what feels like a century within three years and I know I’m not alone with his misery.

So I say to you all: Just enjoy this little nugget of glory! Let’s all bask in this real-life Christmas movie/heavenly blessing sent from a possibly sheepish savior above. And dammit, hark those herald Angels sing!

Hallelujah!! Merry Christmas!! Happy Holidays! Feliz Navidad!!

Let’s Make America Sane Again!

WHAT’S THAT SHMATAH YOU’RE WEARING? – Marilyn Armstrong

“How come Gibbs is wearing a coat in Arizona in the summer?”

I was talking to Garry. It was an NCIS rerun. We watch a lot of reruns, though this new fall season of TV is shaping up better than I expected, so maybe there will be new shows to watch.

 

The question about costumes comes up often and on various shows. One of the more common “duh” moments is when the male lead is wearing a coat and the female lead is skimpily dressed. No explanation needed for that one.

More weird is when each cast member is dressed randomly, apparently without regard for the plot. One is wearing a heavy winter coat, another a light denim jacket. A third is in shirtsleeves. Some are clothed in jeans or other casual stuff while others look ready for Wall Street … or a cocktail party. Women are supposedly hiking. Or running from or after serial killers while wearing 4-inch spike heels. My feet hurt looking at them.

A pair of red shiny leather stiletto heels with gold heel-pieces

Garry and I have done a tiny bit of movie “extra” work so I’m guessing it goes like this:  “Go find something that fits in wardrobe and be on set in ten.”

Everyone hustles off to wardrobe, which looks like a jumble sale or the clothing racks at the Salvation Army store. Most of the clothing in the wardrobe probably came from some second-hand source or other.

72-Garry-NCIS-Uxbridge_01

Everyone dives in looking for something that fits. As soon as they find an outfit … any outfit … they head for a changing booth, then off to be on set before someone yells at them. Stars get slightly better wardrobe or wear their own clothing. Wearing ones own clothing, both on TV shows and movies is common. I understand why.

The real question is not why everyone on a show is poorly or inappropriately dressed. It’s whether or not the people who produce the show think we won’t notice.

My theory is they don’t care if we notice or not. They don’t want to spend money on a wardrobe. They figure if you and I notice, we won’t care. In any case, we’ll keep watching. And they’re right. It’s a bottom-line world. A wardrobe is one area where corners can be easily cut.

The thing is, we do notice. You don’t need to be a professional critic or especially astute to see the incongruities of television costuming.

Open closet

It’s not just costumes, either. Sloppy editing, crappy scripts, stupid plots that include blatant factual and continuity errors. Ultimately, we do stop watching. Because it’s obvious they don’t care so why should we?

75-WalmartNK-1

You notice it on long-running shows that originally had good scripts and editing, but not anymore. The quality of the show slides. Producers are baffled when loyal fans stop tuning in. Obvious to a normal person, but apparently incomprehensible to network executives. Disrespect for viewers is at the root of much of the illness besetting the TV industry.

They should be nicer to us. We’re, after all, the customers. Aren’t we?

WHAT A DAY FOR NEWS JUNKIES! — Marilyn Armstrong

I admit it. By the end of about six hours of impeachment testimony, I knew I’d never survive the Democratic debate. Also, Garry said he’d leave home if I didn’t change the channel — which I was intending to do anyway — but he supplied the final push. I just handed him the remote and said: “Go at it!”

I’m pretty sure that even the anchors were exhausted by then. There’s only so much bombshell testimony (Was it bombshell testimony? I no longer know what that means) anybody can take. And I missed the beginning — what I gather was the really hot testimony, but they talked about it constantly, so I really didn’t miss anything.

Is this enough?

But now, it was post-dinner and the idea of watching however many people are running for president on the Democratic ticket snipe at each other was over the top. I need a very long night’s sleep before I reconnect.

And since they delayed the debate, bet we’ll catch the last hour of it anyway.

I do not know how anyone remembers anything on these shows. I can’t even remember the names of the senators or testifiers. Moreover, when someone is going to drop a bombshell, that is when I have to go to the bathroom.

Carry on, America!