The first time I accessed Facebook was early 2011, a year before the 2012 Presidential election went into a full-tilt boogie. I had never been on a social media site though I’d heard of MySpace. My impression was it was where 12-year-olds went to pretend they were 16. (I was right.)

Initially, was surprised by Facebook. It was easy to use. I could connect with almost anyone. Anywhere. That warm fuzzy feeling evaporated faster than morning mist on the river. Facebook was very soon the most angry place on earth.

Everyone is pissed off about something, frequently for no logical reason. So much of the stuff on it is based on opinions which are based on rumor and some kind of bizarre obsession — nonsense or just plain scary.

Facts? We don’t need no stinking facts! This is Facebook! MY opinion is as good as anyone else’s (no, it isn’t). It seemed as if everyone was posting angry diatribes. From the left, right, middle and far ends of the universe, everyone had something to shout about. Whoa, I thought to myself. This could get ugly (I was right … it did).

Then I discovered games. I connected with kids (now grandparents) with whom I went to grade school or college. People I wanted to reconnect with. Then, with people I had hoped to never to hear from. The good, the bad and the wholly unattractive, all in one basket. Whoopee.

I began backing away as fast as I could. The games were cool, or some of them were. But the percentage of enraged people, illiterates, the mentally unbalanced, the lunatic fringe — all posting whatever was on their minds (perhaps “minds” is too strong a word) was too much for me. The temperature on Facebook was permanently in the red zone.

I continued to play games, which is why so many friends are those with whom I connected because we were playing the same game. The remaining 5% are real live people, some of whom I actually know. Personally. Among these, some prefer communicating via Facebook rather than email, telephone, or in person. To each his/her/their own. Who am I to judge? (Okay, I think it’s weird, but I try not to judge.) (I don’t succeed.)

In the beginning, I got upset when Facebook made blatantly exploitive changes to their site. Then I remembered: I don’t have to go there. I don’t need to post there. If Facebook vanished tomorrow, my world would not crumble.

By then, I’d found WordPress and begun blogging. The more into blogging I got, the less reason I had to visit Facebook … unless I was in the mood for a game. And of course, there is the convenience of using Facebook to publicize my blog. I may not like it, but lots of others do.

The thing is, you can’t completely avoid Facebook. Whether or not you post on it, so many places do — builders and electricians and plumbers and all of that kind of stuff — if you are going to find a local worker, that’s where you’ll end up looking. And that’s where you’ll get recommendations, too.

Facebook is the elephant in the room, the itch you can’t scratch.

The elephant in my (living) room

Moreover, a surprising (to me) number of authors and artists choose Facebook in preference to having their own website. Is it because Facebook offers wide open access and effortless connectivity? It is less demanding than a website. Since almost everyone already has Facebook access, so no one has to forge a new alliance.

Maybe that’s it.

For me, the open access of Facebook is a reason to avoid it. I want a modicum of control over who does what on my site. Others feel differently. Or as Mom used to say: “For everyone, there’s someone.” In this case, something.

Facebook is the something many people choose. It will never be my first choice, but freedom is one of my core values.  And, it’s the American way — or used to be. In the old days. When we lived in the real America.


I’ve been watching the Republicans trying to convince themselves and the world, yet again, that 2 + 2 = 5. An overtly political Republican Congressional memo was released recently that clearly states “A”. However, it is being touted as proof that “A” is false. Most of the country has not been taken in, but a majority of Republicans have been.

Republican Congressional Memo released to the public

This is just the most recent example of a Republican misinformation campaign. This one is designed to prove that the entire intelligence community, all 17 agencies in the government, are all biased, corrupt and working together to overthrow the Trump government. This is a ludicrous, far-fetched and dangerous idea.

But so was the popular right-wing conspiracy theory about the Newtown School massacre. The conpiracists claimed that the massacre never really happened. Actors were hired to make it look real. It was faked to make Second Amendment gun advocates look bad. Hard to believe that people actually bought into this craziness. But many Republicans did.

Whatever happened to the rubric, ‘When you hear hooves, assume horses, not zebras’? What kind of person is willing, if not eager, to believe the convoluted conspiracy theory rather than the simple reality? Do you have to be somewhat paranoid yourself to believe this shit? Can you just be a low information person who never goes anywhere near critical thought?

I think you have to believe that people are horribly nefarious and at least a little bit out to get you. But you also have to so desperately want to cling to your beliefs that you will buy into anything that allows you to keep them, untarnished.

I strongly believe what I believe. But I critically evaluate the information I’m given both for and against my positions. I would get no comfort from a flimsy, outlandish theory that could not be verified, just because it bolstered my world view. I would analyze it and reject it as false or unsubstantiated. And move on.

So we’re back to what makes me reject the ridiculous theory and others embrace it. Maybe it’s that my most fervent belief is in the existence of absolute facts. I believe that there is a way to determine, definitively, what is real and what isn’t. Maybe others have a looser definition of ‘truth’ than I do. Maybe others don’t care if something is true once they choose to believe it.

Have you ever watched “America’s Got Talent”, or any other talent show? There are people out there who genuinely think they are great singers or dancers, or whatever. And they are, in fact, horrible. So horrible that they get booed by a huge audience and eviscerated by a panel of judges. Yet most of these performers leave the stage believing that everyone is wrong about them. That nobody sees or ‘gets’ their true talent.

That may be the answer to my question. People have a great capacity for self-deception. Particularly when there is a deep seeded need to perpetuate that deception.

People don’t want to be bothered informing themselves and finding actual facts to back up their beliefs. They just want to ‘feel’ that they know what they’re talking about, that they understand the world around them. Most important, people want to ‘believe’ that they are 100% right about their beliefs.

Everyone wants to think they are smart and have a good sense of humor. So they just ‘believe’ it. And they live happily ever after.


We lost power in a big wind and rain storm a few weeks ago. Our power was out for 24 hours but we didn’t suffer much at all. We have a generator that powers most of the house. We had most of our lights and our heat was on, as was our refrigerator and freezer. The toilets all flushed. So we were in pretty good shape.

Except that our internet was out, which meant no phones, no texting, no emails. Our only means of communication was our fax machine phone, which is a land line not connected to the cloud. So I could let people know that we were okay but would be incommunicado for a while.

Everything should have been fine. But we were freaked out! We have become so dependent on the internet that we went into a mini withdrawal. The newspapers we read obsessively are all online. Facebook is a valued part of my day. I’m used to being in constant contact with friends and family.

It’s weird how discombobulated we felt during our 24 hours offline. I read actual books and played games on my phone a lot. Tom watched MSNBC 24/7. So we adapted.

Flash forward a few weeks. We were expecting a blizzard with high accumulations of snow. We got snow but nowhere near the amount expected. Great. We dodged a bullet.

Except that the snow was very heavy and coated the trees that are all around us. Tree limbs were cracking like twigs all over the county, and probably the state. Power lines went down right and left. We lost power again, as did 40% of our town. Our trusty generator kicked right in, but, as usual, we did lose internet and phones.

Initially we also lost our TV reception because the snow-covered our satellite dish. This was unacceptable to Tom. He could only take so much technology deprivation at one time. So he went outside, in the cold and dark, to try to McGyver the snow off our very tall roof. He decided he would use the garden hose to blast the snow off the satellite dish. It was a comedy of errors. One hose was broken. The other hose, that was on the wrong side of the house, was frozen to the house socket. He tried numerous other tactics, to no avail.

After an hour of freezing and lots of cursing, Tom gave up. He came back into the house, changed out of his cold and soaking wet clothes and sat down in his favorite chair. He was frustrated and defeated.

POOF! Suddenly the TV just came back on! The snow must have melted or fallen off of the satellite dish. We were back in business, TV wise. So Tom could get his news fix. But we still felt disconnected – literally and figuratively. We were going to have to hunker down and deal with it for up to two days before power was restored to our area.

But we were in much better shape than our friends a few streets away. They don’t have a generator. And my friend works from home so she can’t be without internet access. In addition, my friend’s mother has cancer and is on a feeding tube, which relies on power to work. Her power was also out. So my friend had to pack up her mom, with all her medications and medical equipment, and move to a hotel suite in a neighboring town. My friend could work there but the hotel doesn’t take dogs, so she had to put her dog in a kennel. What a mess!

Our backyard in the snow

When I was a kid, losing power was an adventure involving lots of candles and cooking over the fire in the fireplace. We often had to move food from our frig and freezer to a friend’s house who had power. We also had to try to bring water in from the swimming pool so we could flush our toilets. It was a hardship, but somehow we made it into a fun time working with our family to survive the crisis.

Today, without power, we are in the lap of luxury compared to the old days of my childhood. Yet somehow it feels worse. It’s no fun. It’s not an exciting challenge. It’s just a kind of isolation that is very uncomfortable. This is one time when I do miss the good old days!



I don’t have a lot of friends in the Republican camp, but there remain a few. It didn’t used to be such a gigantic divide, but it has loomed hugely since the last election.

The other night I heard from an old friend who lives down in the middle of Georgia. Not Atlanta. The less expensive part where the non-city folk live. She is a warm, sweet, kindly woman, but times they are a’changing.

I don’t know what I said — probably nothing I really thought about — and she said “But we don’t know what the truth is. The media just lies all the time.”

Pause. Longer pause.

“Garry spent his whole life in news and many of our best friends were or are in the news business. Sally, they DO NOT MAKE UP THEIR NEWS STORIES. They never did and they don’t do it now. They spend their lives searching for the facts. For proof. For truth. They do not lie.”

An even longer pause. “But what difference does it make anyway?”

If she cannot understand that there is an uncrossable gap between truth and lies, then what is there to discuss? Perhaps that is the bottom line of our current issues with truth, that so many people on both sides of the political lines don’t care about truth and don’t think truth matters.

If the truth doesn’t matter, then I am not sure what does matter. For me, the truth always matters and I can’t even imagine a time when that would no longer apply.


Yesterday I decided to put a new header on my template. I do this regularly and there doesn’t need to be a special reason. I just feel like it. I used to put up a new one daily, but that got old after a while, so now it happens when the spirit moves me.

Notice that where that they are all shown as “purchased” now

In the beginning of January, I re-upped my “customization package” with WordPress. This package gives me more space for photographs (I need it!), my own domain, no advertisements  and recently, unbeknownst to me, access to all the templates. This was not true in the past, so I was delighted to discover it.

It didn’t change anything for me because I’m always looking for the same basic shape and format, mainly because the material I’ve created fits easily into that format. I don’t have to start reformatting the entire template. But you never know. I might decide I want to try something really different. Anything is possible.

New Header Image formatting

Little did I know that much more change was on the way. This time, when I went to change the Header Image, the design format for my template had changed. Big time.

All my previously embedded headers were gone.  What had been my header image (including my site information) had transformed into a logo which seemed etched in virtual stone and was part of the format of the theme.

New fonts!

I couldn’t find any way to remove it. If I put in another pictures in the header image area, my old image was glued in the middle of it — not what I was trying to accomplish. But I was sure there had to be a way to dislodge the old image and I stuck to messing around with it. I am nothing if not tenacious.

Finally, I tried a different (not very different) format, but it had the same problem. Next I returned to “Plane,” my previous format. Having move to different theme in the middle, then coming back, I hoped that might have dislodged the old header image.

It hadn’t. But I kept messing around with it until finally, hosanna, the old image went away. I’m not sure exactly what I did that was different. It seemed I was just repeating the same stuff, but this time, it worked.


This was my  existing theme, called “Plane” and no, I have no idea why they name them what they name them. Even though it’s the same theme, it looks quite different.

On  my computer, it is wider. The pictures are wider too. Both important pluses for me where how a pictures displays on-screen is a big deal.

As far as typeface issues go, WordPress added some new fonts. Oh yay! Excellent! The site’s title now appears on top of the picture, so I don’t have to keep creating special headers and can use any picture and my site name with tagline will appear above (on top of) it.

Aside from that glitch where it didn’t want to say good-bye to the old image, this is an excellent set of improvements for those of us who with a customization package. It would have been a nice touch had someone mentioned to me that this was going to happen, however.

What is it with WordPress that they can’t bother to tell you anything before they do it? For a company deep in communications, they really don’t communicate well.

I’m happy with the changes. Very happy. I can only imagine what less computer savvy customers are making of the changes, though. I hope they’ve put some explanations online for us to read.

I don’t know what they did or why they did it, but it’s a major improvement and one for which I’ve hoped for a while. They’ve been removing pieces of the customization package for years. This is the first time they have ever expanded it and done it well. The wider stretch on the computer screen is a major improvement for photography. The text is also a slightly bigger and my eyes are saying “thank you.”

I like the new fonts, one of which I’m using for my headings and a different new typeface for writing.

Well done, WordPress. Next time, you think you might consider sending a notification? Please?


A while back, Marilyn wrote a piece using the word chutzpah. This is a word I’ve always badly mangled when I try to say it. It’s just a word, what the heck? That was my take for many years until Robin Williams and Billy Crystal gave me a proper public whupping for butchering the pronunciation of chutzpah.  I don’t try to say it in public anymore. It’s a word. I respect it because it carries its own meanings and images.

These days, people often use words or phrases without understanding their origin or meaning. I hear political aspirants, celebrities, athletes and civic leaders say things that make me scratch my head and run back to my dictionary.  Words!  They can be powerful tools used correctly. They can be dangerous used in ignorance.

I grew up in a home full of books. Including dictionaries. Big ones and pocket dictionaries. My parents insisted on using proper language and crisp diction.  Street slang guaranteed a head slap or a smack. My two brothers and I were warned about using prejudicial clichés. Since my head has never been properly wrapped, I’ve been guilty of violating those warnings because of my warped sense of humor.

Marilyn warns people that I have toys in the attic.  True.  Some of the toys are very old.

A friend and I were trading insults the other day. I snapped at him with, “That’s white of you”.  His smile said everything. Words!  You gotta know who, when, and where to use them.

Way back in olden times, I was 19 years old and worked in a department Store in Hempstead, New York. I was the only goy working in the children’s shoe department. I was waiting on a customer who drove me bonkers. I couldn’t take it anymore and told the parent he was a schmuck.

The manager quietly called me into the stockroom, explained what schmuck meant and asked me never to use it again — even if the customers were jerks. I think he was smiling although reprimanding me.  It was a word I’d often heard used in friendly banter, but I didn’t know its origin or meaning. It was just a word. What was the big deal?  I was 19 and knew everything!  I used big words, “20 dollar” words to impress people. People often complimented me, saying I spoke very well.  I didn’t understand the veiled insult behind many of those compliments.

After all, they were just words.

John Wayne, of all people, once commented on words and ethics.  It was movie dialogue but still reverberates a half century later. In the 1961 film, “The Comancheros,”  Texas Ranger “Big Jake” Cutter (John Wayne) is lecturing his younger sidekick, Monsieur Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman). Regret asks Big Jake to spin a lie to his superiors to alleviate a problem. Big Jake refuses. Regret doesn’t understand, saying they are just “words.”

Big Jake, with that iconic Wayne frown, says softly, “Just words??  Words, MON-soor, are what men live by. You musta had a poor upbringing.”  Regret looks puzzled, not fully grasping the ethical code of this rough and ready Texas Ranger.  It’s a sublime moment and perfect for the young 1960’s when youth was defying the older generation’s moral code.

I recalled the scene years later in an interview with John Wayne. He smiled, shaking his head because he was in the middle of on-going national dissent against the Vietnam War.  Wayne was one of the most visible and vocal “hawks” in the Vietnam controversy. He had been ridiculed by strident protesters at a Harvard University gathering earlier that day.

“Words, dammit,”  Wayne looked at me, angry and sad. “My words! No damn Hollywood script. I have as much right as those damn college kids.”  Wayne was fuming. The Hollywood legend collected himself as I redirected the conversation to my time as a Marine. I had enlisted in 1959, fired up by the “Sands of Iwo Jima.

“Words. Good words,” I said to Wayne who smiled broadly.

Today, words are often tossed around loosely on social media with little regard to truth or the repercussions of ill-advised words. We have a president who uses words without thought in a daily barrage of tweets. Our media is engaged in a daily war of words, ignoring crucial issues facing our nation and world. Those of us of a certain age shake our heads as we watch young people immersed in tweets rather than direct conversation with friends in the same room. Words have become an endangered species.

I remember the good old days when me and friends went face to face with verbal jousts like “Your Mother wears combat boots!”

Words!  I love’em.


I am having a conversation on Facebook involving a kid drinking water from a dipper, presumably drinking well water. The question was whether anyone had ever had water from a well.

Many people commented that yeah, they had well water, but they used glasses. Like regular people.

I said: “We have a well.” They were unimpressed. Because apparently only city water is “safe” and wells are dangerous. Everyone has city water these days unless they live in the really super deep rural wherever. Total boonies.

Really? Seriously?

Finally, I pointed out if you don’t have a well, then your town has wells. and you get your water from their wells. And pay them to pump it into your pipes. No one uses an old wooden bucket to get water from a well unless you don’t have electricity. Most places have electricity and everyone uses an electric pump, just like the city, but not as big.

So, to sum it up: Water that comes from your well is just like getting it from the city, but closer. Also, it is better water and typically, free of chemicals.

Marilyn Armstrong In the 1950s you got free glasses with your laundry detergent, so EVERYONE had glasses. If there was a dipper, it was so you could put the water into another container — like, say a pitcher? And by the way, a lot of people have wells for water. I’m just 65 miles outside Boston and everyone around here has a well. If you don’t have a well, then your TOWN has wells, so you get your water from THEIR wells. Seriously, where does everyone think water comes from?

Eventually, I pointed out that we aren’t all that rural. We’re just an hour or so outside Boston and everyone out here has a well. Which is typical of most states in New England. We have an aquifer, so when you need water, you dig a really deep hole and when you find water, install a well pump and hook it to the pipes … and voilà! Water!

That was when I asked them if they understood where water comes from.

We have an artesian well.

Do they think when you hook up to “city water,” that water magically appears through some mystical city apparatus? Do they not understand you are getting water from wells or reservoirs, but no one is “making it”? City water is water. Pumped by the city, from wells or reservoirs. After which, they put chemicals in it and send you a bill. A big bill.

I know the people in our town who get “city water” (you have to actually live in town to get “city water”) pay a bundle for it. And the water is pretty bad.

I keep hearing how daring it is to drink “raw” water. RAW water? What other kind do you drink? You mean … if it isn’t full of chlorine, you shouldn’t drink it? You know, when you buy bottled water? It comes from a well. Like ours. Sometimes, not as good as ours.

Fresh water tastes good. Our water is delicious. Ice cold because our well is deep. Clear as crystal and free of chemicals.

(But … isn’t that … dangerous?)

I haven’t heard a lot about people in the country with wells getting sick from their water. It’s cities where the water is bad.

This was one of the funniest conversations I’ve ever had on Facebook. You all know where your water comes from … right? Just checking.