WIRES – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Electric

I can hide in the woods and live without wi-fi. I wouldn’t like it, but I could do it. I could shudder with fear and use an outhouse. I would hate it, but I can (and have) done it. I can easily live without a cell phone, half-heartedly without a computer … but without electricity?

It is over.

Recently, I read (again, but in Audible with Garry), George R. Stewart’s immortal “Earth Abides.” I have heard some people say “Oh, the technology is so old.” Clearly, they missed the point of the story.

It simply doesn’t matter what your technology is, was, or might have become. When the power goes out, it’s finished.

The book was written in the late 1940s, but technology is barely mentioned except to point out how it is decaying, rusting, breaking. It doesn’t make any difference because when the electric failed, everything else went down the tubes.

Whether it’s wi-fi, television, boiler, or the pump which pushes the water from well to faucets, the bottom line is electricity.

Without it? It doesn’t matter how advanced you were. How many of us could fix a generator? Not the one in your house but a big one, like Hoover Dam? Or fix a fallen wire? Or even reconnect the power lines to our own houses?

In “Earth Abides,” in a single generation, all technology is gone from the earth. A very few cars drive, in the rare case where they can find one that has gas in it and hasn’t rusted to nothing. Weapons don’t work and no one remembers how to read. No one is even interested in reading. The author, a university academic, wants desperately to have readers so they can rediscover what has been lost, but in the end, only “Earth Abides.”

The last time our power went out, we were in the dark for little more than an hour and a half, but it felt like a lifetime. It reminded me — again — that no matter what we invent, no matter how clever we get with technology, in the end, it runs on power.

Until such time as Earth has a viable alternative to massive power generation, electricity is the end of the line for our technological structure.

It is something to think about.

I AM MY CAMERA – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Camera

Ever since I got a couple of bird feeders, I feel like I really am a camera. Because almost the entire east side of this house is windows — and that’s where I’ve put the feeders — the first thing I look for when I open my eyes in the morning are birds.

When I walk to the kitchen to click on the coffee, there are birds. Flocks of them, regardless of the weather. Apparently, birds get hungry even in the rain. Even hungrier when it’s particularly cold.

My little Chickadee
A very fat Slate-colored Junco. I’m amazed he can still fly!

The east end of my dining room table has three cameras lined up on it. I don’t even put the lens caps on them because when you are shooting wild birds, you shoot now or that shot may never come again.

I keep intending to not take any pictures this morning. I’ve got things to do. Stories to write. And all of the pictures I took yesterday still waiting to be processed and turned into a post or story.

Three American Goldfinches unless they are Magnolia Warblers. It takes a lot longer to write about birds when you first have to figure out which bird you are discussing — and so many of them look so much the same!

But there are the birds and there are the cameras and there am I, so … I shoot.

Nuthatch sharing the feeder with a Goldfinch

Yesterday, my new bird field guide came in. I had begun to realize that my book was out of date when I was seeing birds that, according to my guide, don’t live here.

I finally bothered to look at the publication date on my Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds and realized it was 1979.

Magnolia Warbler

There have been a few updates since then, the most recent in 2010. I found a used copy (it looks new to me!) and it arrived yesterday.

Philadelphia Vireo? Looks like it (and they are certainly common enough) … but a lot more yellow than shown in the guide. It turns out all birds do not look exactly like the guide’s picture.

I’ve been mesmerized ever since. Phooey on politics. The hell with the news. Pass the camera and I will take bird pictures.

Hello Tufted Titmouse

Mind you when I’m done with the birds, the news is still waiting for me. There’s no escaping it, but at least for however many hours I’m spending processing photographs and trying to figure out which warbler I’m looking at, I’m at peace. I didn’t get the feeders to buy me peace of mind, but oddly enough, that’s exactly what I am getting from them.

Not quite as fat Slate-colored Junco

Just a little bit of peace and the joy of watching things on wings chomping up sunflower seeds, flax, and bits of corn.

I really am a camera.

NEW DRIVER? YES/NO/LET ME THINK ABOUT IT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Driver

I just got a new download for Windows 10 — which was a followup to the new download I got for my Mac laptop and the one I got for my Kindle and whatever happened to make my mini iPod completely unusable. I didn’t use it anyhow, but having paid for it, it irks me that they’ve downloaded a “new version” of whatever was supposed to make it useful and now, NOTHING works. Among other things, they wiped out my password.

The iPad mini 4

I am too incurious to ask someone how to fix it, even though it’s insured and I could probably just get a new one … which will also sit unused. I must remind myself that unless I actually have a valid use for a gadget, DON’T BUY IT. Even if it is on sale.

Now, about drivers.

There are, unlike you and me behind the wheel of a vehicle, programs that tell other things how to do whatever they do. They link an application to the operating system and if it doesn’t work, nothing works. A driver is often linked to more than one thing on your computer. Many drivers are part of your operating system. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Apple, PC, or Android. Everything needs a driver.

I have a lot of high-end stuff on this monster and every time I see the question “Would you like to download the new driver for … (fill in the blank) …?” I go into a panic. The most panic-producing issue is the driver that links my graphics super NVIDIA stuff which handles both what I see and what I hear to everything else on the unit. NVIDIA is not part of Microsoft, but Microsoft — and every other computer company — use their products. They constantly introduce new drivers, many of which are designed for whatever the latest video game is. Because this is a gaming computer, even though I don’t game. I would, but I don’t have time.

Douglas Adams inspired “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” AND he shares my birthday, so I feel bonded

I have this machine so I can process pictures. Still photographs. Also, it has — if you can figure out how to tune it properly — a really good set of speakers in it. But it has two full sets of graphics in the machine. A generic set from that another company (a Microsoft product?) plus the NVIDIA set up.

I feel like the robot in Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

“DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT DRIVERS.”

I managed to get through the last collections of updates apparently undamaged. So far. I haven’t, I admit, gone in to check the setting, so the next time I try to listen to an audiobook, I’m sure it’ll sound all weird and I’ll have to reconfigure the entire thing. Again.

Drivers. Don’t talk to ME about drivers!

WELCOME TO THE SHOW! Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Theater

When the dogs barked me into awakedness this morning, I figured that must mean my son was here. They get frenzied, vying for his attention. But to be fair, they pretty much bark me awake every day.

At least it was daylight and I was ready to get up anyway. It isn’t always as easy.

Sometimes, they get nibbly by 4 in the morning when I am NOT feeling nibbly or particularly affable. I still give them biscuits, even though they don’t deserve it.

It’s faster to feed than argue.

I looked at the window and realized some of their frenzy was because two big squirrels were hanging onto the bird feeders.

The dogs don’t get excited about birds, but squirrels on the deck? NOT to be tolerated.

Then my son came up the stair and soon had refilled both feeders and the show was one. Birds. This was the entire run of birds. Out came titmice and chickadees.

Red finches and nuthatches. A couple of woodpeckers and a few Sapsuckers (you don’t see them often). The feeders had been close to empty, so the word apparently went out and everything with wings showed up for a feeding.

The birds are looking rather fat. I’m sure winter will slim them down, but right now, we have roly-poly birds.

I tapped on the window and the squirrels were so startled, they fell flat on the deck and took off. Those were not thin, hungry squirrels. These are fat, thickly furred healthy squirrels. I don’t mind feeding them, but I prefer they not hang on the feeders.

There’s plenty of goodies on the flat feeder and the deck. I may get them separate feed as winter comes on, but right now, they seem very content with corn and sunflower seeds.

It’s our morning show! Birds fly in from the woods, a few squirrels hang around, the dogs’ bark and I try to drink some coffee.

That is theater!

THE LEISURE SUIT: THE LOST JOY OF POLYESTER – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Leisure Suits

Back in the 1970s, some clown decided that men were overdressed and need stretchy, comfortable clothing. And thus they invented the polyester leisure suit and to his immense embarrassment, Garry had one. I never saw it, but I know he bought it because he said so and what man would lie about a thing like that? He wore it to work, but I never saw it.

Maybe that is just a well.

Except Garry is such a clothes horse, he rarely admits it.

Leisure suits came in slightly stretchy polyester (throw in the wash, hang it and wear it) fabric. Light blue was very popular and some were truly indescribable.

I owned some clothing that was more than a little embarrassing, but I can honestly say I didn’t buy it. My mother made it for me. It was exceptionally well-made clothing, elegant clothing, but when I wore it I looked like I came from another planet. It didn’t improve my fragile popularity in high school, though it had a certain something by the time I got into college.

I never owned a leisure suit because, for me, a leisure suit means a pair of yoga pants and a sweatshirt. That’s what I’m wearing now. It’s what I wear. Most importantly, it’s virtually immune to dog hair.

AS ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE SAID, “WHAT FAMILY DOESN’T HAVE ITS UPS AND DOWNS?” – GARRY ARMSTRONG


“What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?” – Eleanor of Aquitaine, “The Lion In Winter” (1968)


Family!

We are always in the middle of dealing with our relatives, especially this time of year. It can be a challenge. We love them but brokering who is going where while trying to avoid the inevitable battles which will last until the next century leaves us having “loud conversations” with each other.

Which is not fair. It isn’t even our drama. I suppose that’s why some families just give it up after a while. The drama overwhelms the joy.

Dublin, September 1990

We don’t have Mom and Dad, Gramps or Gramma, Uncles or Aunts to consult for help. We’re it!

July 2012

I look at the old photos of my family from long, long ago. I wonder how they dealt with these things. They look so young and carefree. I know things were not always easy for them as my brothers and I grew up. I still recall “loud conversations” between Mom and Dad.

I used to wonder why they didn’t resolve things easily like they did on family TV shows which were forever playing as we were growing up? You know, where father definitely knew best? I once even asked my Mom why our house wasn’t like Donna Reed’s home. You can guess how she answered me.

1963

Why didn’t the clock stop for Marilyn and me when we were younger and healthier with some of those beloved family members still around to help us deal with stuff. We’re the “old folks” now, the senior members of what was once a lot bigger bunch of relatives.

Family are us. It’s more than a little disconcerting.

A CREDIT TO YOUR BANK? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Credit

Credit. That’s the money you don’t have that you spend anyway because look at that HUGE line of credit. I could buy a car with that kind of money!

Of course, then there’s paying it back which is so much less fun than spending it.

Merry Christmas from my cactus to yours!

With Christmas no longer the spend until you have topped out all your cards thing it used to be, we manage to survive. Financial credit is the best and worst thing in our lives. When you need it, you need it. When that chimney needs fixing and the carpenter ants are eating your doorsill and the window is falling out, it’s credit or waiting until the house crumbles.

Otherwise?

Let’s dream about money falling from the skies into our open arms … and not use a credit card!