Saturday, January 14, 2017

My Electronic Gizmos are Driving Me Nuts!

My electronic gizmos are overwhelming me and driving me nuts. In our two houses, my wife and I have, 22 active handheld remotes, 2 computers, two smart phones, two modem/routers and two landline phones. We have 128 active and ever-changing passwords that are necessary to operate this stuff. The computers talk to two iClouds and several other clouds of questionable pedigree. They talk to each other and to both phones. The smarty-pants phones talk to each other as well as the computers and they talk to our security system. Even the landline talks through the cable provider to one of our computers. Everything except the handheld remotes passes digital photos and other information back and fourth directly and through the various clouds whenever it pleases and not when it pleases us. I can even talk (literally) to a gal name Siri inside my phone and she talks back to me. E.g. “Hey Siri, what’s the capital of Spain?“ Siri replies, “Here are some boutiques within 300 miles where you can buy Spanish clothing.”

I have no idea where digital photos and files reside any more but it seems that when I alter or delete something from one gizmo it gets altered or deleted from the other gizmos and probably rapidly fills the various clouds, which I am sure are watched over by Putin’s hackers.

Sometimes the gear plays impish tricks on me like a couple of mornings ago when the security system, which was supposed to be disarmed, made video of me shuffling through the living room wearing only a T-shirt. Of course it sent this to its cloud before sending me a “notification” that it had detected “activity” in my living room. I have no idea how to delete it. I’m sure it will resurface in four years if I decide to run for president against Trump.

Sometimes we go for help to the experts who sell us this stuff. In a typical visit we are greeted by the millennials who only thinly disguise their disdain for more geezers whom they suspect of being deep into irreversible dementia. Our visits usually leave us more confused than before and limping home defeated with yet another new $120 external hard drive.

At this point I am afraid to take a photograph and unable to access the landline voicemails that are piling up on my computer. Voicemails don’t really matter though because they are all from telemarketers or worthy organizations seeking money. These will call again in a few days or a few hours when I am frying bacon, sleeping, watching a movie, about to take a shower, using the toilet, entertaining guests, or some combination of the above.

Will somebody please stop the world or at least turn it back to 1958?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Doll Play with Granddaughter

Yesterday I was left home alone with 4-year-old grandaughter Yaiza for a while. As usual she orchestrated our play down to the smallest detail. We played with Barbie-style dolls. I was assigned to do the voice and actions of Ryan (a friend of Ken). Ryan was clad in a surfer swimsuit. In the plot devised by Yaiza, Ryan was to introduce himself to about a dozen Barbie-type dolls (At least one "Stella" was totally nude.) and invite them along for a trip to Paris. I don't know how the heck she knows what Paris is. Once Ryan had gathered a good-sized harem, Yaiza directed me to board them all into an airplane (a plastic box) for their flight to Paris. Ken had to stay home. He was dressed in a tuxedo and had to attend a ball at home with some other girls. As Ryan, I announced that the flight was about to take off. Yaiza looked at me like I was an idiot and said, "It's already in the air." When we arrived in Paris, I (as Ryan) suggested we all visit the Louvre. Yaiza nixed that idea and said we were all going for pony rides and produced a considerable herd of plastic ponies and unicorns. Then Yaiza announced that we were to attend a parade. Speaking as Ryan I suggested to Stella that she might want to get some clothes on to keep warm and be more appropriately dressed for a parade. Speaking as Stella, Yaiza said she was just fine and would go as she was. Ain't grandparenting fun?! Oh…yes. For more commentary on Barbies, see

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Return of Mr. T Nearly 60 Years Later

Some fifty-six years ago my nemesis at Foote Jr. High School was the young assistant principal, Mr. Harley S. Teague. I have totally disguised the names of the school and the man so nobody can ever identify the real person and place. That is because my encounters with Mr. Teague were numerous and brutal and there is no need to open old wounds.

When he wasn’t doing assistant principal duties, i.e. lecturing and punishing bad kids, Mr. Teague taught South Carolina History. I had him for that subject and that part of our relationship wasn’t too bad. He had a wonderful collection of historical artifacts. I remember actual envelopes of letters written by survivors of the Confederate war that were re-used by steaming off the glue and turning the envelope inside out and re-gluing it. Such was their desperate state of poverty after Sherman had killed all their livestock and burned their farms. He even told us how starving survivors had to pick undigested grain kernels out of cow dung for food. Ugh!

With this education from Mr. Teague, you can surely understand my outrage when a kid in my class named Terry Stull (That’s his real name; he deserves to be outed.) called me a Yankee one day at recess. I couldn’t catch him so I threw a rock and bloodied his head. I was promptly marched off to Mr. T but I was sure there would be no punishment for anyone but Terry. Surely Mr. T would understand that such an insult could not be left un-answered. He didn’t understand, even though I explained to him it was only a small rock. He kept insisting that even a small rock could put an eye out. I tried to explain that Terry was running away so his eyes were on the far side of his head from me.

One time the art teacher, Ms. Craig, marched me off to Mr. T for drumming on her garbage can lid. We kids were all queued up for something and in good spirits. The garbage can was right next to me, and the lid seemed to call out to me to make music, so I did. I had no idea there was a rule against drumming on garbage can lids. Ms. Craig never even told me to stop. She just hauled me in for discipline where both she and Mr. T poked fun at me, lampooning my musical aspirations. This scarred me for life and is probably the reason I never learned to play the guitar well.

Foote Jr. high included grades seven through nine. Each grade was divided into about 14 sections (classes) based on how smart you tested. I’m some sort of a genius so I was only about two sections down from the top. When I reached the 9th grade, they decided to try something new with the 9th grade. I’m sure Mr. T was behind the idea. They made two of the sections exclusively for male troublemakers, one for boys who didn’t test well academically and one for those who tested well. I’m proud to say I was in the one for boys who tested well. Still, it was hell. The class was filled with devious rowdies and bullies, and there were no girls. There went my chances of finding a sweetheart in my class. The kids were so bad that the homeroom teacher was forever keeping the whole class after school for being rowdy. This infuriated me because I had an afternoon paper route, being an industrious young man with an entrepreneurial spirit. I only made about a dollar a day and if I was late, customers called in complaints which were assessed to me at the rate of 50 cents per complaint. One day the kids were going berserk and I was sitting quiet as a mouse hoping the whole class wouldn’t get detention. We did. Worse yet, the teacher forbade us to utter a single word during our detention. That was the most disempowered I had ever felt. Finally I raised my hand but was ignored. I blurted out that I needed to go to the bathroom. Still I was ignored. I protested that it was pretty urgent and I couldn’t wait. This was an exaggeration, but how was she to know? Finally she dismissed me to the bathroom, ordered me to return afterwards, and, worse of all, to suffer detention again the next day. Ooh! After a couple of days of me refusing to stay after school (because of my innocence) and my homeroom teacher bursting into tears, I was marched off to Mr. T. My case was weakened by the fact that when I arrived at the bathroom on that initial detention afternoon I found, to my horror, Mr. T in the bathroom, probably erasing graffiti. He regarded me so suspiciously that I was unable to relax enough to relieve myself and I had to return to the classroom un-relieved.

There was a rule against fighting. That’s reasonable of course but Mr. T (being a step ahead of today’s insurance industry) had a no-fault amendment to that rule. It said combatants involved in a fight were punished and punished equally, no matter who was the attacker and who was the victim. Of course I was always the victim or at most, the reluctant party mercilessly taunted into combat. Once Mr. T suspended me for getting into three fights in one week and my father had to meet with him to arrange my re-admittance. I can’t remember the fights per se, but I am certain I was innocent in all cases. I do remember one fight when a lunatic kid arrived late for class and ordered me out of the desk where I was sitting. I refused to budge because it was open seating and he had no right whatsoever to a desk I had already occupied. He charge like a bull and overturned both desk and me. That meant I was involved in a fight and had to take detention and more complaints on the paper route.

If you’re still with me, you need to get a life. No, actually you’re wondering what all this is leading up to. Here it is. I listened to one more lecture from Mr. T last evening! I hadn’t laid eyes on him since 1959, but he is still alive. He looked pretty good for his 86 years. He had a full head of white hair and was commendably trim for an old man in the land of BBQ and hushpuppies. Sponsored by the Edisto Museum, he delivered a very engaging lecture about finding ten unmarked and forgotten Union soldier graves on Otter Island (an uninhabited island between here and Hunting Island).

I had a chance to talk to Mr. T beforehand. Of course he didn't remember me. I didn't expect him too. I told him I was sure he had a thousand Bart Simpsons pass through his office in his teaching years. Nevertheless, I apologized for hitting Terry Stull in the head with a rock. Mr. T’s adult granddaughter and her son were with him. She seemed to find it amusingly incongruous that a white-whiskered old man was calling him Mr. Teague (instead of Harley) and apologizing for hitting a kid in the head with a rock.

But enough about me; what about the lost soldiers of Otter Island? It is an inhospitable place. Yes, boaters party on the beach at Otter Island but they never go into the interior because it is a tangled jungle of brush and vines infested with mosquitoes, chiggers, snakes, and alligators. The amazing part of Mr. T’s story was not just finding previously undiscovered graves with no marker stones in that thicket, but also actually discovering who was in them. The latter discovery was by wild coincident when he somehow found a diary of an Otter Island Union soldier held by an antiquities dealer somewhere near the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Mr. T bought the diary. He wonderfully communicated the emotional experience of finding not only the resting place, but also the identity of these long lost and forgotten soldiers.

Mr. T no longer works to reform bad boys but he still does important primary historical research in S. Carolina. He has donated many artifacts to the Edisto Museum. I no longer want to kick him in the kneecaps. Forgiveness is liberating.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hey dude. We're gonna cut your leg off.

Went to the Asheville orthopedic surgeon Monday for a follow up on my toe surgery. It’s fine. The exam room was a double room. Behind the thin curtain was another patient, waiting for the doctor to come with his X-ray results. He was in a wheelchair and looked to be a Cherokee, maybe 60 years old. He spoke like a simple fellow from some hillbilly holler. A nurse or assistant came in and loudly delivered the news that his mended leg bones were collapsing. The surgeon came in and repeated the same thing more loudly and added, “We did the best we could. It looked good when you were last here but the bone pieces are just collapsing. We need to remove your leg so you can heal.” The man was silent and the doctor continued, “We need to amputate your leg. You’ll have a prosthesis. Do you understand?” The man spoke, “I’m gon’ hab a wooden laig?” The doctor said, “Oh they don’t make them out of wood any more. It’ll be metal and plastic.” More silence. The man said, “I’d like to tawk to somebody.” The doctor said, “Oh, you’d like a second opinion? Sure. I can get my colleague in here right now and we’ll see what he thinks.” The man said. “I wanna tawk to my fambly.”

Anyway I’m not sure why I’m relating this, but it was kind of emotionally wrenching for me to hear someone get such abrupt shocking news, up close and personal. Part of me wanted to laugh and part of me wanted to cry. I felt like jumping up and hobbling over to give him a big hug, but that really didn’t make any sense. He’d probably think he was really in a surrealistic world of craziness. I sat respectfully quiet. I was very thankful that all I had to whine about was a stiff big toe. I’m still counting my blessings.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Magazine Rack Sociology

I just took a good look at the Edisto Island BiLo Magazine Rack. Ouch! I’ve always heard you are what you eat, so naturally I figured that your brain contents are what you read. If so, I think humanity is being redefined. The top two shelves were women’s magazines, about 50/50 divided between food and house & garden stuff. Ho hum! The men’s shelf was entirely stocked with firearms magazines. OK, there was one on muscle building. The remaining dozen were ALL firearms magazines. Duck and cover…at least until you can buy your own firearm and shoot back! The bottom shelf was mostly games and kids stuff.

Does this represent all that today’s humans thinks about or just what BiLo thinks we think about? Maybe BiLo just figures it’s the only thing that low country southerners want to read. Were there any magazines that both genders would find interesting? No, but one actually exists, Garden & Gun. Yankee friends, I’m not making this up; that’s the actual name of it. It’s published in Charleston of course. Who does BiLo think we are? Men are so much more than this suggests. Where are our hot rod magazines and girly books? This is an island for goodness sake, so where are our fishing magazines? I thought women had also been short-changed, but I discovered those gems that define the feminine gender up by the checkout lines. I’m speaking of celebrity scandal sheets that let you know who else John Kennedy was bonking, what aging movie actress showed acres of cellulite in a bikini, and when Elvis was last sighted.

I’ve got to be fair. There was actually a weekly news magazine. You can see it in the photo, looking lonely down on the right end of the games and kids’ stuff shelf. Couldn’t BiLo give it some company? Maybe a couple of science mags, a business mag or some periodicals on sports other than homicidal sports. Fellow citizens, take up the cause of our enlightenment. I shall certainly do so, but right now I’m taking my erudite carcass into the living room to watch the super bowl. Go Seahawks!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The End is Near

Yipes! I’ve recently read two fiction books set in the present and near future that describe the end of the United States as we have always known and loved it. They are One Second After by William Forstchen of Black Mountain, NC and Christian Nation by Frederic Rich. They may not be the literary masterpieces of the century, but they each describe a different danger to our lives, security, and freedom. They kept me on the edge of my chair. I’m now more wary of two dangers, which I believe are both real.

In One Second After, the US gets hit by a nuclear attack involving about three electromagnetic pulse nuclear bombs (EMPs). An EMP is an atomic bomb exploded just a bit above the atmosphere. At that altitude it unleashes a terrific electric pulse that plays havoc with modern electronics over many tens of thousand square miles. The effect is many times more severe than the worst lighting strikes or solar storms that are know to bring parts of the electric grid down.

I didn’t identify closely with the main character in One Second After because he’s sort of like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character. He’s not much like me. He’s a super achieving nicotine addict with lots of guns, and he sort of defines himself by his former great military and academic accomplishments. Worst yet (for me) is Forstchen’s book is highly praised by his pal Newt Gingrich. OK I’m diverging.

So anyway, with the EMP attack, virtually all computer devices used for electric power, communication, and vehicle engine control are destroyed even though humans are not directly injured by the bomb blasts and radiation. Nobody can drive anywhere and nobody can make contact with anyone beyond walking distance. The US is sort of knocked back into the 18th century. That might sound nice but we’re hundreds of millions of people now and very few of us live near a nice water well and a patch of arable land with tasty wild animals browsing nearby. Everybody starts dying fast and battles over scarce resources begin.

The other book is even more chilling. In Christian Nation, the Republicans win the 2008 presidential race and McCain with Palin as VP take over the country. McCain promptly croaks and Palin becomes president. This sparks a tremendous political advantage for the evangelical Christian right who promptly gain majority control of the Senate, House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court. Freedom of religion quickly ends, replaced by the US being proclaimed officially a Christian nation. Soon there are rules and laws forcing prayers everywhere and proof of literal bible-believing Christianity for anyone who wants a job. Eventually fundamentalist hardliners bring back public stoning to death as a penalty for perceived immorality of all sorts, especially homosexuality. Even the treasured relief of masturbation is forbidden and enforced against with the help of hidden cameras for those not fortunate enough to find an opposite sex marriage partner before they’re very far into adult age.

All right, I’ll stop right there for all you readers on the edge of your chairs. I’ll just say (as I always said in my elementary school book reports) “If you want to see how it all ends, just read the book.” As for me, I’m gonna pray to keep my religious freedom while I head to the hardware store to buy metal Faraday shield boxes to protect my treasured electronic gadgets. Actually those metal tins that Christmas cookies come in work fine. I think I shall buy a bunch of cookies.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

In the south, even religion is interesting.

I love living in the south. There’s some of everything going own somewhere in this motley culture. Not everything is to my liking, of course, but every bad thing has its antithesis and there’s always some high drama, often with comical, poignant, or absurd manifestations. Sometimes it’s even uplifting.

My latest experience in southern culture is getting up close and personal with the civil war in the Episcopal Church. This issue is not confined to the south but it is really big here. For those of you who live on Venus, this has blown up over the issue of gay marriage. I understand from my neighbors in the struggle that attitudes about sexuality are not the only issue but it’s probably the issue that precipitated the big flare-up and it’s certainly the issue of wide popular interest.

How did I get up close and personal in this? A retired friend here is a former Episcopal rector. I know my close friends, especially in the heathen west, cannot picture me being friends with a clergyman. But, this is a real regular guy who has traits I admire like a liberal theological and political ideology and the spunk to cuss a stupid motorist with colorful eloquence. He invited me to attend an important church service of a minority group of Edisto Episcopalians who…(pause for disclaimer) OK, I’m a real outsider to theology so I’ll probably get this screwed up, and certainly oversimplified, but here goes. It seems that the diocese of South Carolina seceded from the overall Episcopal Church over issues crowned (at least) by the gay marriage issue. Then, a minority group, within the seceded diocese, is seceding its way out of the seceded diocese and back into the Episcopal Church. (South Carolina is big on secession.)

All this splintering off wont seem like a big deal to most of my friends who have only lived in their current home states for a couple measly generations to as little as only a few months. However, the real estate helps make it a really big deal here on Edisto Island. Not only is there a lot of dollar value in the church buildings and grounds, there is a tremendous emotional or spiritual tie to the land. Some people have ancestors in the church cemetery tracing all the way back to when Adam slew his first dinosaur. They feel their very souls dwell not just in their bodies, but also in the hallowed halls of the sanctuary, and the massive spreading Live Oak trees draped in vestments of Spanish moss. Right now, the minority group (the one that wants to stick with the national church and its more liberal attitude toward gay marriage and other stuff) is on the outside without property.

This real estate struggle ensures that the lawyers will be making a killing on this deal. For the present, the minority group has borrowed what they call “St. Bobo's Cathedral” for their Sunday worship services. Other than on Sunday morning this cathedral is known as “Bobo’s Po Pigs Barbeque.” Bobo is not the owner’s real name of course. About everyone in the south has a nickname. His real name is (Yankee friends, I’m not making this up.) Robert E. Lee.

I know this is shaping up like a southern caricature farce but it’s not right down the formula script line. Bobo is a Clemson grad and a Democrat, which doesn’t fit the formula script. Also there is some pretty real heartbreak in this rift. People in the breakaway minority love their friends with whom they disagree and they don’t want to lose their relationship with them any more than they want to lose their claim on the church facility and the white sandy soil upon which it sits. I’m sure most folks in the majority group feel the same and I hear many of them are on the fence in this issue or just hope for any reuniting resolution. I hope they get this healed up as soon as possible. As for me, I’m sticking with my Unitarian Church, which is very accepting, multi-faith, and tolerant. And, if you, gentle reader, are not accepting and multi-faith tolerant, I hope you keep your ass out of my UU church.