SOME STUFF NEEDS INVENTING – Marilyn Armstrong

In a world where we are launching cars and other vehicles that can drive themselves, why can’t anyone create a pump for soap, shampoo, hand cream, and other gooey stuff that will keep working until the bottle is actually empty?

I’ve been a very good sport about paying huge amounts of money for fancy creams to deal with rashes. Soaps free of anything that might be remotely allergenic to use for my body and for the washing of clothing. The “good” dish soap that is safe the environment and is supposed to outlast all the other soaps but never does.

I have — for example — a soap dispenser for the Dawn in the kitchen. Why? Because Garry is a firm believer that more of whatever goop it is is always better than less. Thus he uses twice as much toothpaste as I do and ten times more kitchen soap. I figured if I put it in a dispenser, he’d get tired of pumping it out a lot faster than he would if he were to have his hands on the entire half-gallon container.

Today, though, he couldn’t get anything to come out. I opened it and it was more than half full, so I figured — as usual — it was all gunked up with soap. So I rinsed everything out with hot water, then found a pokey pointy thing to clear out the pump in the front, then washed the entire pump container which was all sticky and gooey.

After which, it worked. I commented that if we can replace human beings in production plants with AI devices, why can’t someone make a soap or hand cream pump that doesn’t clog up? Or, for that matter, a dispenser for packing tape that doesn’t stick to everything except the package you are trying to get ready for shipping?

Kitchen jar opener

If we can make so many complicated things that will ultimately make most people unemployable, why can’t we make the simple things work? Make child-proof drug dispensers that don’t require a wrench, lockpick, and hand-ax to open?

How about one of those zip pull envelopes that works? How about a “push here to open” place on a box that will actually open the pasta or whatever it is supposed to open rather than simply caving in the entire container?

I keep knives, scissors, and small wrenches in my night table and that’s just to open up sealed pill containers.  I have special implements to open the tops of jars and bottles. Even with all of these items conveniently at hand, sometimes, I can’t get them open and Garry can’t get them open either. Maybe Owen could, but he’s not here. Usually punching a hole in the jar’s lid works because it breaks the seal. But then you have a jar with a hole in the top.

Very expensive shampoo dispenser

I’m really tired of throwing away half a container of expensive goop because no one can get it out of the container. It is aggravating and a big waste of money. I want someone to FIX the problem.

My favorite innovation? Amazon charges you extra to get a package that a normal person can open without special tools.

STATS FOR THE FIRST HALF OF 2019 – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Stats

This is a good time of year to look at statistics. It’s just past the middle of the year and in theory, it should give you a reasonably good idea what the year will look like. But my stats have gotten pretty erratic and I have bursts of big numbers, then occasionally surprisingly low numbers … and we are still hoping to go on vacation next week which will probably mean a nearly zero week for the numbers game.

July’s bar chart (it’s still early today …)

I really shouldn’t care. I’ve been at this a long time and I know that stats don’t mean much except when they dip very low and I realize WordPress has disappeared me from their database.

Again.

Overview. I had 1500 additional Facebook followers a couple of weeks ago as well as 2000 more Blog followers. I wonder where they went?

I’ve had years when I got a huge explosion of big numbers from them and years when I get almost nothing. For reasons I don’t understand, about 1000 of my Facebook followers have recently vanished along with about 2500 blog followers. Not sure what that’s all about but I haven’t cared enough to follow the trail of crumbs and see what’s going on. It would require yet one more annoying conversation with their Happiness Engineers.

Aren’t those people embarrassed by that title? I would be ashamed to tell anyone I was a Happiness Engineer for WordPress or for that matter, for anyone.

Yesterday’s reading states. For unknown reasons, it was a good day.

But I suppose a paying job is a paying job and these days if you get one that pays the most of the bills and keeps and your family living in a house with heat, light, and a roof that doesn’t leak, you’re doing fine.

We used to have higher standards, but as time as marched on and things like “raises” have become scarcer than hen’s teeth, we are just happy if we manage to keep even.

Now that we are on a fixed income, we can’t even count on staying even. In theory, Social Security pays “cost of living” raises to its recipients, but whenever Congress is feeling poor, the first people whose “cost of living” that mangle are retirees. After all, we are old and therefore we don’t need anything, right? Like … you know … food. Medication. A home. A car. We just need a little, dark room in which to quietly disappear.

If we would just stop doing annoying things like voting, we could be completely dismissed.

Except we do vote. More than any other age group, we vote. Moreover, we think about voting well in advance of doing it. We actually watch the news with all the advertisements for medications we can’t afford, reverse mortgages that will ultimately leave us living on the sidewalk, how to sell off our life insurance, and how to sue people who have ripped us off.

Can we sue the Federal Government? They are the biggest ripper-offers of all time.

In God we trust. We might as well trust in God because we sure can’t trust the people we elected. Or other people elected. I’m sure I didn’t elect them!

Stats. I have pretty decent stats. I don’t work at them anymore and when the numbers drop into low digits, I shrug. Tomorrow will be better. Probably. If it isn’t, does it matter?

Basic numbers

All of this mattered more years ago when I was trying to establish a “base.” Now? I’ve got one. It isn’t gigantic, but it’s not tiny, either. If I keep writing, someone will read me. Maybe someone who matters will read me. Maybe I’ll make a difference.

I would like to make a difference, though I’m not sure what that means anymore. The world in which I live is twirling on its ear and the future is looking a bit abbreviated.

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?

NO SPELLCHECKER – Marilyn Armstrong

There will be no spellchecker. I asked and they answered. This was WordPress’s response:


A. Jay (Automattic)

Jun 22, 07:25 UTC

Hi there,

Thank you for contacting us.

The spellchecker was a part of the publication process. I don’t like Grammarly and it interferes with other apps — and Google’s isn’t very good. What was the problem with including it? Was it in someone’s way? Was it harming someone? I do not understand.

Spell checkers are a specialty product, and it’s not something we specialize in. The WordPress.com spell checker was developed years ago when there didn’t exist any alternatives yet. Since then things have changed and a lot of other companies have started specializing in this, which led to the decision on our end to step back from the field and focus instead on the things we do specialize in.

Modern browsers now provide built-in spell-checking tools, so we have removed this feature from our product to avoid maintaining unnecessary dependencies. I read that you do not like Grammarly or Google’s spell checker, however, following are our recommendations as an alternative option:

        • the spell-checking built into most browsers
        • a browser extension that offers additional grammar checks
        • a third-party service that offers additional grammar checks

You can read more about some of these options here – https://en.support.wordpress.com/proofreading/

Please let us know if you have any questions or if we can help with anything else.

Best,

A. Jay | Happiness Engineer
WordPress.com | Automattic Inc.


I’d be interested to find out in exactly what WordPress does specialize. Certainly not in helping bloggers do whatever bloggers do … or creating functional software for bloggers to use. They have been forging ahead with their preconceived notion of what we are supposed to want for years.

None of us were ever consulted. No user surveys were ever taken among users. So with each “update,” they make the software harder to use. More awkward, slower. Essentially, dumber.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. It certainly didn’t surprise me.

WHAT NOT TO DO WHILE RUNNING DIAGNOSTICS – Marilyn Armstrong

Why is my computer freezing and sending me blue screens? I guess I should run some system diagnostics. I ran them recently and I was assured everything is hunky dory.

If it’s so hunky and dory, why does it keep freezing?

Diagnostics-89

FREEZE!

No, Marilyn! You cannot run diagnostics while surfing.  Bad Marilyn.

MORE FREEZING! 

No. You must not check email. Okay, check it, but don’t send anything. Shoot. Frozen again.

PUZZLEMENT

Why is it prompting me to update the drivers I just updated? Should I do it again? Nah. Waste of time.

BAFFLED CONFUSION

Why is Dell installing the software again? This is the fifth time. It’s installed. Geez. It’s just doing this to aggravate me.

HEADACHE, POUND, POUND, THUD

I need lunch. Afraid to leave the computer. Who knows what mischief it might get into?

STOMACH GURGLING

Bathroom, I don’t care what’s going on. I gotta go NOW. Computer? Sit! Stay! Don’t do anything while I’m gone.

FREEZE!

I guess no matter how boring it is, I should NOT play Bridge while running diagnostics.

ANOTHER FREEZE!

I suppose this means running diagnostics is not a perfect opportunity to thoroughly clean the keyboard.

HUH?

My system is fine. Absolutely nothing wrong. So what’s with all those Blue Screens of Death referencing my video card? Let’s stress test the video card.

ZZZ

This is more boring than watching paint dry. Are we there yet?

Diagnostics-91

RESULTS!

Everything is freaking fine. I’ll tell myself that the next time it locks up. Thanks for nothing. Another afternoon I can never get back.

EPILOGUE

It turns out that the fancy sound I use is part of the video card. This is the “fancy” sound most people only use when they are playing video games. I use it all the time because the sound is so much better than the standard sound. But, that means I really am using my video card for the sound I’m playing — while I’m photo-processing.

So if I’m listening to an audiobook while trying to process photographs using both Photoshop and Topaz filters, everything runs fine unless there’s a particularly big draw on the memory. Then, it just locks up the computer. Sometimes it brings up the blue screen, indicating a video card problem. It isn’t video or at least, it isn’t only the video.

It’s the combination of video and audio together.

The answer? I could choose to not use the fancy audio sound which runs on the big graphics card. Except, I don’t like the other sound.

Better yet, I can play the book on my Kindle and process photographs on the computer. The audio doesn’t use much memory, but Photoshop with Topaz uses a ton of it. And I’ve got 16 gigs of memory on this computer. It was a lot worse on the old computer which had a mere 12 gigs.

I’VE MADE CONTACT! – Marilyn Armstrong

SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR THOSE WHO NEVER GOT THE MEMO FROM GOOGLE AND CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THEIR CONTACT LIST

Google is always changing the browser. As soon as you get used to it, they do something to “fix” it. The most recent change was that “contacts” are now a separate section, not part of the email application.

I was lucky. I (entirely accidentally) read the single note Google sent to tell everyone that contacts would now be available only by clicking a group of small boxes on the right top of the screen which will be visible only if you have the email page open. If you aren’t using the inbox or you are, but another page is open, you can’t see the little boxes. Your contacts remain invisible until you realize that you have to have the inbox visible to see the other stuff.

I’m sure there’s a logical reason why they’ve done it this way, but I haven’t worked it out. Yet.

Even if you know how to find your contacts, you may not be able to find the contact you want. This is because you can’t categorize anything by company or profession. Everything is listed by the first name. This becomes a bit of an issue if your doctor’s name is “John” and so are 75 other people on your list. When I’m trying to find my cardiologist, I don’t remember his first name. I may not even know it. These days, it’s possible I don’t remember his last name either. What I remember is “cardiologist.”

Also, there’s nowhere to write addresses. You have to go into a section titled “more” and “advanced.” Within that section, search and thou shalt find a section for “address.”

Apparently, we don’t need addresses anymore. We can list as many emails as we like — but no physical address. This is inconvenient when it’s a place you need to go. Physically go. Like — the cardiologist, for example.

I should mention that they’ve made the calendar similarly inconvenient and I didn’t get a note about that one, but I wasn’t surprised. You have to keep those developers busy!

The company’s name is no longer a search column. The only way you can use it is to substitute it instead of the name. Otherwise, it’s the first name of whoever you are looking for. Period. No choice. A bit bizarre, but hey, it’s still free. That’s something, right?

You may think I’m picking on Google, but it took close to 45 minutes to enter the local pot shop information into my contacts form, including their email address and physical address. Fortunately, they still consider the phone number part of basic information, but who knows for how long?

So, just to back up a little bit, yesterday, in a fit of enthusiasm for Uxbridge’s newly opened Pot Shop, also known as “Caroline’s Cannabis Uxbridge Marijuana Dispensary,” I decided to add their address to my contact list. This was when I made the remarkable discovery that the contact list no longer automatically includes a physical address section. You have to ask for advanced material and then you get an insanely complicated bunch of stuff.

Is it me? Isn’t there supposed to be a physical address to go with a contact’s phone number? For that matter, you need to go into “advanced” for the website address too.

Although I don’t go out as much as I used to, there are places I have to go. The Pot Shop is one such place. The grocery store, the bank, all doctor’s offices, and hospital too. There are places where I have to take my physical self that are not medical — like (for example) Home Depot.

Apparently, no one goes anywhere anymore, so getting somewhere to write down a physical address is an “Advanced Contact Item.”

Seriously?

One of the things I learned about writing software is that developers put information wherever it fits conveniently on the screen. They don’t actually care whether you — the user — will find that location useful or convenient. They say “Oh, there’s an empty space in the  “color droplet” menu, so I think I’ll put the leveling control there.” They have no idea how you will use the software and they really don’t care. They know how it works (or think they know). The rest is your problem. And now that there is no manual either … good luck with that.

No one would ever look there for a leveling tool since it has nothing to do with all the rest of the items on the list, but that’s where they put it and that is where it still resides. I had to do a deep dive into Google to locate the function.

It is for this reason that I have a little paper booklet in my bag that has basic information about places I go in it. Addresses, names, and a few little directions. Because my body needs to get there, too.

IT ALL STARTED WITH “FANTASIA” – Marilyn Armstrong

This post began because my husband is not fascinated by dinosaurs. He seemed a bit baffled as to why I’d want to write a story about dinosaurs.

Note: Should a dinosaur wander through my back yard, be assured that I will be out there taking pictures until either the huge reptile ambles away or eats me, whichever comes first.

Unlike many things which have adult origins — technology, philosophy, history — all the “ologies” and “osophies” that attended my education and subsequent research — my passion for dinosaurs goes all the way back, back, back in time to when I was four or five years old and my Aunt Ethel took me to see “Fantasia,” the original, not the later remake.

Who remembers in “Fantasia” the history of the earth, starring the rise and fall of the dinosaurs? It is set to Igor Stravinsky’s brilliant “The Rites of Spring.” The music itself might be enough, but with the Disney artists on their best game, it was something else and embedded itself in my mind for a lifetime.

None of the movie’s graphics were generated by computers. All of them … each frame … was drawn by human artists. The music was played live by an orchestra full of real musicians. Contrary to popular opinion, special effects were not invented by Steven Spielberg.

I was just a little kid and it scared the bejeezus out of me. I had nightmares for years about dinosaurs hiding under the bed, in the hallway, in my closet. I couldn’t sleep without a nightlight because I was sure there was a dinosaur lurking, ready to grab me in giant jaws with teeth 9 feet long. I was a child of great imagination and excessive sensitivity.

As I got older, I began to read books and discovered lots of really cool stuff about dinosaurs, most important (to me) was that North America — what is now the middle of the United States had been giant reptile central, the heartland of the Brontosaurus, Velociraptor and other astonishing creatures. Wyoming was the hot point where Tyrannosaurus Rex ruled. Perhaps their legacy lives on in Washington D.C., but I digress.

When this was made, the whole asteroid thing was yet unknown, so the history of the earth is missing that piece of information, but I’m sure Disney’s artists would have happily included it had they known. Meanwhile, I’m totally whacked at the idea of the earth getting hit by an asteroid. I always have a good laugh when someone in some space lab mentions, casually, that there’s an asteroid headed our way, but not to worry, there’s no better than a 50-50 chance it will really hit us.

That we pathetic creatures, crawling around the surface of the earth, believe we are all-powerful and can control our destiny by technology is funny. Not only has this planet been hit by asteroids — not once but many times — but each time, the event precipitated the extinction of Earth’s dominant species. The dinosaurs lasted a lot longer than we have. Should one of those big hunks of space debris smack into us, I think it unlikely that all the computers, weaponry, technology or prayers we can muster will be of any use at all. Our collective ass will be grass without even the opportunity to text our best buddies about the impending big bang.

We will be gone, quite likely having had even less effect on our planet, in the final analysis, than did the dinosaurs.

Humankind has always suffered above all from the sin of pride. Hubris, as the Greeks called it. We think we are creatures of God and perhaps we are, but who said we are the only creatures of God or that He gave us a permanent free pass from extermination?

map-dinosaurs-1993

And this is what so fascinates me and probably always will. That these creatures, these huge, powerful creatures who ruled this planet for more years than we can comprehend were, in a single calamitous event, exterminated. Eliminated from the earth leaving just their bones by which to remember them. And we think we are so all-powerful. I bet they thought so, too.