Just Another Book for the Stack

I belong to a writer's group and at each get-together, we read what we recently wrote. For me, that happened to be the "Guilt Free Reading" article I had published on Hubpages. http://deenygirl.hubpages.com/hub/Guiltfreereading  We meet at Barnes and Knoble and of course,  we are surrounded by thousands of books. Basically my story was relating about how difficult it is to read the stacks of books I already have and how I have gravitated to audiobooks in order to multitask. My reading was well recieved--most can relate, but when we left for the night, I went down to pay for the one book I wanted and picked up another. I wonder how long it will remain on the stack?

Tech: A Love Hate Relationship

I love tech. I just don’t like installing it.

I hadn’t had a DVD player that worked in a long time, so I bought a player that would not only play Blu-ray and DVDs but would wirelessly connect to the net to download a Netflix movie. Every one has them these days. The Wii can do it, so can a number of gaming consoles, which I also don’t own. So I wanted one and thought I’d spend some of my Christmas money.

I’m an old head (as we used to call older folks) but I like to keep up with technology. I don’t want to just own it, I want to know how it works and I want to be able to install what ever it is, myself. I don’t want to impose on a friend or my brother to help me unless I’m desperate. The problem is, I’m impatient and I rarely understand the terminology associated with this kind of stuff.

Installations never go as planned. Even opening the plastic clamshell wrapped around the cell phone I bought proved to tax my patience. I eventually cut the plastic off but not without stabbing my hand with the scissors. I haven’t had a tetanus shot in a while so thank Goodness it didn’t draw blood.

My last cell phone exhausted hours of looking for ring tones and volume controls and I finally imposed on my grandson to help me and No—it wasn’t under “settings”.

But back to the Smart Blu-ray player. I tried to understand what they were all about and looked on line to see what was available and then went into Best-Buy and looked at what they had. I bought something on sale and avoided the high-end sixty-dollar HDMI cables because my TV was only a 720p. I only came to this conclusion after asking lots of questions of the kid in the store – like what’s the difference and why do I need this one versus that one? He finally admitted I only need the cheap fifteen-dollar set. I caved in on the four-year warranty though, but not without a fight. A $165.00 later, I walked out with my new player ready for hook up. I was ready to roll.

The hardware was pretty straightforward and the hardest thing at first, was trying to fit it the wiring through the small hole in the back of the cabinet and finding an extension cord. I was a little intimidated however, because now there were going to be three remotes. I’m often confused by which remote needs to be in control. It’s sort of like understanding the hierarchy in the company I work for.

In years past I had thoroughly given up even trying to watch television because I couldn’t get the damned thing to work. Like my friend Ruth says… “Can’t I just have an on and off switch with these things”? I had pushed so many function buttons that resetting to the beginning became impossible. The frustration of that temper tantrum has faded but I was still somewhat reluctant to complicate my life with another add-on. So was this player setup really going to work?

I somehow managed to install it and it does turn on. I tried following the prompts, which by the way— did not match the written instructions. I entered the security key for the wireless connection and it was recognized but won’t connect to Netflix. Should I be surprised? I have a stronger signal coming from my neighbors and I’m guessing because my access point (like that one?) is on the other side of the house. I only have a tiny house but OK do I need another device to help get the signal across?

I researched repeaters, which are supposed to boost the wireless signal across distances and I became interested in one that resembled a smoke detector. I liked the idea of it being out of the way. I found the manufactures website and clicked on the users manual, was taken to another page and got nothing. I tried again and again… nothing. All I really want to know is how it’s powered. Do I have to hardwire it? Does it use a battery? I really have no intention of buying it if I’m drilling holes in the ceiling and running an electrical wire but clearly it has to be powered somehow. It’s a simple enough question isn’t it or am I just being old and stupid?

As I write this I’m still waiting for the new cell phone company to port the number over successfully and that has not gone smoothly. I keep calling from my landline to see which cell phone will ring. So far neither one works.

I guess my next move is to run to the store to look at the repeater itself and read the actual instructions because I’m not sure I want to buy it. Shit, what a pain in the ass this is!

I have learned one thing with all this electronic stuff though—if it’s locked up and you want to start over—pull the plug or pull the battery. If it doesn’t reset itself, take it back.

Off to the damned store!

Dear Postal Service, You have served us well, but...

I had two packages I needed to mail the other day and used a post office sub-station closest to where I work. I listened as the clerk explained to the guy ahead of me that many post offices and distribution centers were closing across the country. Of course that meant that more folks were going to lose their jobs at a time when we are expecting an increase in jobs, not a loss.

The postal worker looked to be about my age and nearing retirement I guessed. I know that I can’t afford to retire and I mentioned to her that I would be alarmed if I were faced with that situation. Retirement wasn’t in her game plan either and she was trying to avoid thinking about the possibility of being cut from the work force. Her post office could barely keep up with the volume as it was and she wondered how they would manage it with fewer facilities and workers.

She and I are both grateful for our jobs and I felt her concern. At my place, we have been working harder by rushing to do more and more and we can barely keep up with the influx of smaller business. Note that I said smaller. Large orders seem to be a thing of the past and less profit made it difficult to hire on new people. We are working harder for less. We need more people to help carry the load. Our customers have an expectation that we’re hungry enough to see that everything they want will get taken care of immediately. That’s more and more difficult to do. People need jobs, so why isn’t this working out and how will cutting thousands of  jobs help the economy? It won’t. We are losing more jobs, which will snowball into even more consolidated and eliminated jobs because less money will find its way into the nation. This is not going in the right direction at all.

One could say that the post office is losing money because people are using it less often but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Certainly the gal I had talked to didn’t think so and I’ve never been in any post office that didn’t have long lines. I no longer pay my bills by mail but that doesn’t mean I don’t use the post office and anyone looking at the amount of junk mail in their mailbox would have a difficult time believing the postal service has nothing to deliver.

Although I pay my bills electronically, I opt out of the electronic versions of those bills. I like working towards sustainability but billers saved themselves a bunch of money by shifting the printing responsibility to us instead. So greener  for them (tsk tsk) but not for me. Nice try. I can’t manage the end of year stuff without a hard copy. They save paper and the post office loses revenue there too. The thing is however – the USPS ships stuff other than cards and bills. We can’t magically send things like books and shoes and goods  from stores until Star-Trek transporters are a reality. We could choose Priority Mail and other services if we want faster deliveries. The choices are there.

There are plans to cut Saturday deliveries. Who will deliver a letter- sized envelope for under fifty cents when there is no more postal service? Not all mail is delivered by e-mail. Some people still mail checks and send cards and I’m betting FEDEX and UPS would charge more than forty-four cents. It’s the prerogative of the business community to say, “We will only offer services or products that are profitable”. That’s OK, it’s what businesses do, and they hopefully make a profit, but the post office is a public entity and doesn’t operate under the same rules. Of course, I’d like to see the post office not lose money. Breaking even would be ideal as far as I’m concerned. Not everything we do should make a profit—or should it?

Postal workers need their jobs just like I do and just because they’re not in the private sector helping some corporation make gobs of money, doesn’t mean they don’t have mortgages to pay and mouths to feed. They deliver the profitable and the unprofitable door to door, no matter what. When did UPS or FEDEX ever do that?

Every citizen who has a job contributes to the whole. It doesn’t matter if the job comes from a public or private sector. Every dollar spent on groceries, movies, cars, every dollar deposited in savings accounts or donated to charities helps lifts us all by recycling some of the money to the community and economy.

My dad walked a mail route for twenty years in all kinds of nasty weather with a bag on his shoulder and given a choice, I will continue to support the postal service. I don’t think there is a clearer message than this one. What happens to any of us, affects us all even if it’s only receiving or not receiving mail on Saturday.

Who Am I ?

Most people would agree that I have a distinct personality but I’m not really sure that I am my own unique person. After hanging out with people for any amount of time, I seem to absorb some of their mannerisms and facial expressions when I’m communicating. If I let myself think about it, I remember feeling as though I was that other person for a moment. Of course, I could not possibly know how it would feel to be another person. I only imagine how it might feel to be them in that moment when I am making a point -- all delivered with the same cadence of their borrowed personality.

The notion that a number of other personalities may jump in and out at will, is more than a little weird, but maybe not, which I’ll talk about later. Looking back through my life though, I realize that I’ve always done this. Mannerisms of other people seeped into my persona, layering and flattening over me, like a Photoshop application. When I’ve adopted additional nuances, I’ve done it rather subconsciously. For a mere few seconds, my minds eye pictures the other opaque personality, laminating to my own, while I do my shtick.

It’s only a “sometimes” thing. I duplicate how Cindy places accents on certain words when I’m telling a story and I see myself as her while I’m in that groove. I use Barbara’s hand gestures while saying nah nah nah nah. I like Kathy’s facial expressions when she’s making a point and I really love my grandson’s body language when he’s trying to be hip. So every now and then I replicate those expressions or gestures and visualize those people when I’m doing it.

So really... who am I? Am I a fraud because I (even unknowingly) copy other peoples verbal characteristics? I know I’m a sum total of all my experiences, but am I also a composite of other assumed personalities? It’s not as though I do this on purpose so I wonder if the world views those presentations as me? Well I think they might! After all -- why would they have any reason to know that some of the things I say or do are embedded nuggets of someone else?

At first, I was a little timid about admitting that I was somehow less than authentic. Nevertheless, I mentioned these thoughts to a co-worker and she remarked that it was a fascinating idea and thought I should explore deeper. When my brother read my short account, he not only liked the story, but said he was reading something that was talking about that very phenomenon. This was a known phenomenon? Wow...you mean I’m not an impersonator?

Mark Matousek, the author of Ethical Wisdom writes:

“The second great boon has come with the discovery of mirror neurons. In 1995, a neuroscientist at the University of Parma, Giacomo Rizzolatti, identified the mechanism whereby empathy (and a host of other behaviors) is communicated physiologically. The sole purpose of mirror neurons is to reflect what we see in the world around us and imitate it, instantly—literally “bringing the outside inside”—in order to harmonize with our environments. These “empathy neurons” (or “Dalai Lama neurons” as one brain scientist calls them) match up our inner reality with the world around us, helping to dissolve the barrier between self and other (the goal of most wisdom traditions, coincidentally). In order to know other people, nature provided us with a mechanism for becoming other people—at least a little bit. This does not happen deliberately; mirror neurons are a subconscious, body-to-body communication network that makes social life possible. They help to undergird moral behavior first learned in our infancy, smiling when our mother smiles, absorbing empathic tendencies from the way our parents care for us. Have you ever wondered why seeing a yawn makes you yawn too, or witnessing someone weeping automatically brings a tear to your eye? Mirror neurons are the answer. They are our primary physical means of stepping outside our own skin.”

I’m wondering now, when people mirror me, if the parts they mirror are the parts I’ve assumed from someone else. My friend Lynda envisioned a string of mirrors like a fun house suggesting that this could possibly go on into infinity and that perhaps we have no authenticity at all. After further depressing pondering however, I’ve come to my own conclusion. Several someones somewhere and at some time, had to be original and therefore, why not any of us? Maybe pieces of us do live on forever, but I’m also betting that we all create genuine stuff to call our own.

The synchronicity of this tickles me. I guess I’ll have to read the book.

Leftover Toilet Paper

Tim walked across the room with a questioning look on his face and an arm full of partial rolls of toilet paper. He remarked as he went from one room to the other… “I guess we’ll have to use these part rolls”. I laughed at the sales manager trying to figure out why we had all these unfinished rolls in the first place.

Every few days, the cleaning service swaps out a small roll for a full one when they clean the bathrooms and then houses the leftover in a closet. We had run out of toilet paper and leftover rolls were all he found. He was determined to use the miniature ones, which were better than no fanny paper at all.

I had worked evenings, part-time as a cleaner in the not-too-distant past. So I explained to him that part of my job in any office cleaning routine, was to sanitize the bathroom, which included replacing toilet tissue, paper towels and re-filling hand soap. If any of us on any job, failed to exchange the partial roll for a full one, the main office oftentimes, received a complaint from our client and we would be reprimanded. Heaven forbid someone would run out mid-roll and have to install a new one all by themselves! As a result, if the roll were less than half full, we’d replace it with a new one.

Customers expected lots of toilet paper at all times it seemed, and rarely completed the entire roll.  We considered it wasteful to throw them away, which amounted to a large collection in a storage closet. Cleaners are careful not to take anything off the job and certainly don’t need to be accused of stealing itsy bitsy rolls of toilet paper. Consequently, orphaned rolls taking up too much space eventually found their way into the trash instead of actually being used.

And on my full time job…Co-workers leave dishes in the sink, toilet paper holders empty, spilled coffee and sugar on the countertop and paper towels on the floor and have every expectation the “cleaning people” will take care of it – and they do. We are no different than any other inconsiderate bunch. I’ve become even more indignant about it however, since my  “let the cleaning people do it” experience. 

Most adults wouldn’t be that thoughtless at home but are at the workplace. In my opinion, every office should have a sign hanging in their kitchen and bathroom. “You are all grown up now and your mother doesn’t live here so please clean up after yourselves”.

Are we really all that lazy? You bet we are!

Clutter Display

I'm a clutter bug. I can never quite bring myself to throw things away. You know... maybe that could be used for something. I finally found out what to do with some of the crap from my desk drawer though. This display gets a change-up every few days.

Getting Out of a Snit

I asked my doctor for Xanax, a drug to help me with those freaked out times that threatened to blow a hole in my chest. The doctor didn’t have much faith in that drug. It was addicting and made people lethargic. But oh.. let me put you on an anti-depressant. It will take about 30 days to start working vs. Xanax which will work right away and by my count, thirty more pills than I would have otherwise taken in a month. Would this be long term? Reason would indicate that they would recommend for at least another month or so before re-evaluating, so I declined and walked away with nothing.

I’d been feeling a little down lately. Job in a dead end industry, health issues on the horizon, the state of the world, current and future financial worries and retirement and social securities uncertainties to name a few. Really… I’m kidding myself. Who can retire? All this sounds like depression, but I’m not in the depths of despair about it… it’s just kind of bothersome. I’ve really been anxious and kind of fed up with things I have no control over and then get into a snit for way too long. Temper, temper Alice! I just want to calm down when I’m over the top. The hell with my doctor.

When I give myself a chance to feel grateful, I’m thankful for many things. I am grateful to have a job, even though I’ve been doing the same unfulfilled job for 32 years. I have a financially secure roof over my head and lunch money every day. Maybe that’s all any of us can hope for and perhaps I should be happy I don’t live somewhere else.

Taken from an article written by Brian Ross from ABC news—

 “Fatah, bin Laden's fifth wife and the only one left living with him in the house, had been gifted to the al Qaeda leader from a Yemeni family when she was just a teenager and later had three young children with him. Of his other wives, he had divorced one and three others had moved to Syria.”(Oh gee, I wonder why?)

Being “gifted” means a whole different thing, in my world. I’m blessed not to be living in a place that allows people to make a “gift” of another person. Next thing you know I might be set –up as a goddess somewhere. OK, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad; but I kind of like being me even if I do freak out now and then. Maybe I can skip the drugs and just be thankful instead.

Feast or Famine

All you guys who have been waiting for business to get better...just remember, most people who had been laid off have not returned to work yet. So we all know you're in a hurry for your quote, order, or information... and we are hungry for your business, but we're a little thin on the personnel side yet and can't always get it done as fast as you want.

Chicken Priorities

Hours before he called me to take him to the emergency room, Fred suffered with severe stomach pain. The call woke me around mid-night. When I arrived at his apartment, he debated whether to go or not. It was Saturday night and the weekend drinkers, and shooters might have found their way to the E.R. too. His pain might have had a long wait. They would need to be sure he wasn’t just a Saturday night drug seeker. Tests would be taken before pain relief measures were even considered.

He and I both knew it wasn’t a heart attack. He had no pain in his chest, just in his stomach. His appendices had been taken out years ago. He wasn’t sick to his stomach so no food poisoning; he was just in severe pain. It wasn’t until I suggested he might be having a gall bladder attach that he decided to let me take him in. The pain started a half-hour after he had eaten  an avocado. That high fat, avocado probably did him in.

The wait was non-existent. There were only two others in the waiting room. We filled out a form and the triage nurse took his vitals right away. I could hear her 15 feet away, telling him that his blood pressure was extremely high. He was soon taken back into the E.R. while I stayed behind. A cop had walked by with a man in handcuffs. The guy probably had been stopped for drinking and was there for a blood test. After the shooting incident at another hospital that resulted in an officer’s death, cops don’t take chances and neither did I. I moved to a seat at the end of the row. Soon after, the nurse asked me to come back and see their reluctant patient.

There hadn’t been a determination yet, but he had an EKG and an oxygen tube planted in his nose. He would be going over to radiology next. Just before they rolled him out of there though, they blessed him with a shot of Dilaudid. There’s no fooling these folks, the initial blood pressure was telling them the real pain story. By the time he returned from x-ray his pain was less, but he still held on to some. On a scale of one to ten, they asked “how is your pain?”… he was a five.

He waited for his blood pressure to drop while I was trying to find comfort in the only chair in the room. I shifted around, and slouched down trying to stretch my legs out onto the floor and we waited some more. I looked up at the clock. It was 2 AM and we still hadn’t been told anything. I was trying to stay awake but was falling off the chair and now they were waiting for him to pee. He wasn’t feeling the need and it seemed it would take awhile. I decided to go home. If they were admitting him, then he was in good hands. If they were sending him home, I’d come back. I asked them to call me. I needed some sleep.

At 2:20 and fully dressed, I crawled into bed, wondering whether I was a bad friend for leaving him there. I tried to sleep and kept the phone next to me. It rang at 3:30. Fred was released and I was back there in 10 minutes. Freddie boy was waiting outside with a smoke when I pulled in. I never will understand cigarette smokers.

On the way home, he remarked about how much hospitals had changed. He came away with a Percoset prescription for filling and had also received a narcotic while in the E.R. I told him that pain creates spikes in blood pressure and was why his blood pressure dropped back to an acceptable level after the drug was administered. They had decided he wasn’t looking for drugs and was also awarded a scrip for later discomfort. After all the tests and poking and prodding, they hadn’t really found what was causing the problem. They suspected gallstones and issued him a do-not-eat list with his prescription.

As I dropped him off at his place, I asked him to call me later with an update on his condition. I watched him get inside the door and drove home. I hugged my pillow at 4:00. The cats woke me at 6:30.

I hadn’t been to Sunday Services in four weeks. I promised myself I’d go that week and had written a check for the collection. I was back in bed after feeding cats and woke on my own around 9:30. Services started an hour later. My sister called when I was only partially dressed. I had rushed though my shower, but I was already late and wasn’t going to make it so we talked for a time. Another call rang in.

The caller ID showed Fred’s name and number. This is where my techno know-how stops. I don’t know how to drop one call and catch another without loosing both. I hung up with Kathy and returned Fred’s call, only to get his voice mail. Many calls later, I still hadn’t reached him. Some time passed when I received an email notice with a translated voice-to-text phone message. It seems Fred was back at the hospital and was going to have an operation on his aorta. He was asking me to bring his cell phone, computer and toiletries. The craziness was just getting started and I was wondering why he needed his computer.

I hot-footed it over to his apartment and tried to find his stuff. I was packing a bag when I heard the door open. There he was, back from the hospital because he didn’t think I had gotten his message. Apparently, the hospital had initially, released him too soon and wanted him back. Fred told the doctors he had only come down for a few tests that they requested. He complied but wasn’t going to check in. Mr. overly tired, hadn’t expected to stay and needed to go home and finish up a few things. Against their objections, the crazy man left the hospital, telling them he’d be back that night or the next day. Holy shit! This wasn’t like ordering take-out. What was he thinking and what was so important at home? Turns out… one of the things was the chicken thawing in the refrigerator. He had to come home to cook the chicken so it wouldn’t go bad.

Fred had an aneurysm on his aorta and they wanted to put in a stent. I was thinking that was a pretty important thing to get done but he was betting it could be put off another 12 hours or so. After all, he hadn’t dropped dead yet. After a long discussion he was finally convinced to go back later that night. I showed up at seven that evening and cooled my heels while he e-mailed his on-line honey and a few other friends. He was delivered to the E. R. and the process began, all over again. Fred got into a room around ten that night and I went home and crashed.

Nutso was right though. The aneurysm didn’t blow and he made it to Wednesday’s surgery and he got to cook that Goddamned chicken.