The Promise of a Newfangled…

They have promised to bring a new dishwasher and microwave today. This is beyond exciting news.

The old ones were older than my college-aged children, and the dishwasher wasn’t a particularly good one. Always noisy with a groaning noise that went on for a long time – we had to learn to set it when we were planning to go to bed, or we wouldn’t be able to hear each other talk. The dishes also never really came clean, and we had to scrub them in advance. Years of arguing at length, what was the point of a dishwasher, why don’t we just hand-wash everything?

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The microwave has been more reliable, except in that last eighteen months. Sometimes when the fan starts up, the whir would make a strange scientific sound as though it were thinking about whether it wanted to start or not. For about a month, we wondered whether it would start at all. Joe, the installer who came to measure, told me that microwaves actually can last for decades. He had one that he gave to his mother, and when she died, his brother got it, then ended up given it to a cousin, until it eventually came back to Joe, who still uses it in his garage to heat up coffee. Continue reading “The Promise of a Newfangled…”

Carolina II: Support your Local Artists & Bookstores

One thing we can argue about nearly as much as politics is the arts. You enjoy a nice country ballad; I love a nice bit of Bach on the harpsichord. You like that singer with the nasal whiny voice; I like the painter that throws splotches all over the canvas. I look forward to curling up with a nice meaty Henry James novel; you would like to get through more than two paragraphs on your lunch hour. We don’t always feel the same way about the same artists. But we can probably agree on one thing.

Life would be pretty bleak without the arts.

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North Carolina artist Kathryn Abernathy

This theme kept popping up in North Carolina last week as we drove through the windy Appalachian hills. Our friends live near Blowing Rock which was the definition of Quaint. Small towns in America work hard at developing that proper Quaintness – enough shops to wander in and out of, a nice park or two, a  restaurant with good fried pickles, and the best place to get ice cream. Along with the good ice cream and the old-fashioned barrels of candy, the coolers with Cheerwine and SunDrop, there was a lot of local art that was pretty darn good. Continue reading “Carolina II: Support your Local Artists & Bookstores”

Carolina on My Mind

In my mind I’m gone to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind?
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind.

James Taylor forgot to mention the trees. North Carolina is a state full of trees.

I’m used to the hills of my Bay Area home, but those are spread with golden grasses that turn gray in the dry of the late summer, where these are waves of rounded green mounds that undulate out to the horizon. We were bombing down the Blue Ridge Parkway all last week, traveling between Raleigh, Charlotte, Boone and Asheville, a trip full of conversation and scenery, heavy on the friendship and light on the tourism.

Isoprene-happy oak trees
The blue of the Western Appalachians is a little unique, according to www.ourstate.com, and can be traced to the isoprene-happy oak trees that make up most of the forests. The hydrocarbon isoprene is produced by these trees in part to protect themselves from excess heat. The hydrocarbon mixes with other molecules and acts like a kind of smog to create the haze of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Continue reading “Carolina on My Mind”

Do Not Go Gentle Away from that Frenzy

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This past Monday, September 19, the Japanese celebrated Respect for the Aged day.  It is called “keiro-no-hi,” chosen as the third Monday in September.  The celebration recommends sharing a special meal for the elderly, providing perhaps a musical presentation, and giving presents. The ecommerce website Rakuten, for example, suggests giving a kumquat tree or a hydrangea wreath.

The older I get, the more it seems we need this day. In America, we celebrate holidays that glorify the military, the labor force, religion, harvest, love, our country, our country’s dead presidents, our country’s dead inspirational leaders, the change of the season and the calendar—as well as the day that people are born. But we have no celebration aimed at the 1/6 of our population who are the wise elders. We celebrate “Grandparents,” but as an event the way that we celebrate “Secretaries” or “Administrative People” – primarily as a limited commercial boon for florists and card shops. We don’t respect the aging. We don’t celebrate getting older – we run and hide from it. Continue reading “Do Not Go Gentle Away from that Frenzy”

Autoexec.bat, We Hardly Knew Ye

My tablet screen wouldn’t rotate. The position was stuck in Portrait, and pressing the Auto-Rotate icon on and off didn’t fix it. I had no idea what caused it, and a thorough search through the jungle of Settings and Application Manager just made me sweaty and full of scratches. Since 90% of the way I use the darn thing is in Landscape, this was bad, bad, bad. I was completely perplexed.

I have only had this tablet since May. My colleagues and spouse have been whispering “iPad” and other salacious ideas in my ear for years, but I left the cutting edge many years ago, I ignored it. Finally, I gave in and now I carry it around with me.  There was a time though…

Once upon a time, there were no handheld computers. You did not walk around the house looking for the special charger to plug in or with three separate devices in a stack. You wrote checks, you played cards, and you read newspapers, magazines, and books.

Once upon a time
The first computers I ever used were the UNIX mainframe systems at Berkeley when I was an undergrad. I had two Computer Science classes.  In one, I learned to write a program that mimicked one of my board games (IF NOT STANLEY STEALS TREASURE THEN DO NEXT TURN). In the other, I created a concordance for e.e. cummings poetry. To an English major, computer programming was whimsical. Someone tried to get me to play Adventure on the mainframe, which was the only non-classwork related thing students could do. “You are standing at the entrance to a cave with a bag,” it said to me. Yeah, so? I thought? Now What? What are the rules for this thing?  I always need to have a book of Rules. Continue reading “Autoexec.bat, We Hardly Knew Ye”