January 2010

I take my modern life for granted. I am surrounded by conveniences that have become necessities. They aren’t really necessary. Food, clothing, shelter, air, water … those are necessary. The rest is extra.

It's electric

Electricity makes my modern life possible. Even my gas heat has an electrically run fan. We know how much we depend on electricity when a storm comes through and knocks it out. How did the world that was once dark at night become the place of light?

Electrical generators are based on Michael Faraday’s principle of “electromagnetic induction” discovered in 1831.

By 1837 the first industrial electric motor was in use.
By 1879 the first commercial power station was built in San Francisco.
By 1883 the transformer was invented.

And in 1882 Thomas Alva Edison used his patented electric distribution system to get power to 59 customers in Manhattan so they could light the darkness with his candescent light.

Now for the history of humanity.

3.8 billion years ago the first life appeared
1 billion years ago multicellular life appeared
600 million years ago simple animals first appeared
360 million years ago the first amphibians appeared
200 million years ago the first mammals appeared
2.5 million years ago the first appearance of the genus Homo
200,000 years ago the first anatomically modern Homo sapiens appeared
10,000 years ago humans had covered the planet – except for Antarctica

We have had electricity to power our world for a mere 124 years. That is 0.062% of the time since modern humans first appeared. That is only 0.0000000033% of the time since life first appeared on Earth.

When my power goes out, when I lose my electricity, I am stymied. I cannot work much of anything in my house. There is no cooking because I have an electric stove. There is no television or computer. There are no video games. I can tell what time it is because I have battery operated clocks, but that’s cheating because it is stored electricity. I do have a pendulum clock, too, but it isn’t always wound up and working.

How different life would be if I was born a mere 150 years earlier. Candles are pretty now, but in the past they sputtered and guttered. They gave off smoke and grime but not all that much light. Reading by candlelight isn’t easy or thrilling. Kerosene lamps were available and they smelled even worse.

My life would have been quantifiably poorer without this marvelous invention I simply take for granted. I believe it is necessary to life and yet … it is only necessary to modern life. For most of the time life has progressed on this planet, there was no electricity. Isn’t that scary?

I wonder how any of us from this society, this culture, this advanced technology could function in the societies of even 150 years ago. I bet we wouldn’t fare so well.

All these thoughts because I wondered at turning off a light!

First published on March 28, 2006 over at my other blog.

Is my life boring? In a word – yes. However, it is my only life. Every time there is some excitement in it, it gets to be almost too big for me to handle. Therefore I choose boring and safe and predictable.

Except that life is never predictable. I can try to control all that happens around me and make life conform to my way of thinking. I do try. But as Yoda, that wonderful philosopher says, “Do or do not, there is no try.” So I do not. I cannot, even when – or especially when – I most want to. [English purists – I know I should not end a sentence with a preposition – but I wanted to.]

When given the choice, I choose the safe and predictable. And yet I have two seemingly fearless sons. I didn’t teach by example. I have no idea how they learned. I am proud of them beyond measure. Their choices, while diametrically different, are so very risky from my viewpoint. That flying by the seat of one’s pants lifestyle – verbing oneself through life – seems fraught with danger to me. Going. Doing. Being. Having. Getting. Giving. I prefer a passive life. Reading. Listening.

And then …

I see even in a passive mode I can only live by verbs. I watch the going and doing and being and think if I were less fearful I, too, could go and do and be. It is so chilling to think I am master of my fate. I am captain of my ship and I keep my ship in port or very close to the shore. If it were up to me, Columbus would never have set sail across the vast and uncharted seas. And I know the folly or idiocy of that choice.

Is this a function of motherhood? Protect life because it is so difficult to create. Is this a function of age? I’m too old to behave that way [whatever that way may be]. Is it simply a function of fear? Admittedly, this is probably the most accurate cause.

So how does one go from wimpy, scared, and safe to courageous and risky? I suppose one chooses to take the next step. Whatever that step is. However small it is. The risk of not taking the step begins to outweigh the risk involved in taking the first step. It is the first step that is the riskiest. Each time I move farther out to sea – farther away from the safe shores of my life – I somehow survive. Survival is necessary, but the growth that comes in the next millisecond is the true goal.

My choices are not always brave. My responses are not always based on my own best interest. I sometimes retreat into the safeness that I crave. Okay – I often retreat. But is it safe?

My dreams are minimal to non-existent. This is because to dream, to hope, to look away from the safety of the past, is so risky.

My reasons for choosing safety don’t seem so perfect.

First published on March 19, 2006 on my other blog.

My life is quite a bit different nearly four years later. Or maybe not so much different at all, depending on perspective or measurement. I’m employed at a job I can enjoy. I’ve been writing consistently for four years now and am published in a variety of places, most of the non-paying, but still published. I now have four grandchildren, a daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-love.

I’m still in the same house with the same husband and the same dog. I’m still afraid of jumping into the deep end blindfolded. However, I’ve learned to take a few small risks and they have paid off. I would like to take even more risks, but …

Maybe I can update this in another four years with a list of accomplishments.
PS, I did ride the zip line ride.

It is bad enough to have to do taxes. But as I was sealing an envelope to the IRS, I cut my left index fingertip on the envelope. This assault seemed like a double blow. Taxes and a paper cut. Horrible!

Either / Or - same pain!

Although I’m no longer on aspirin for migraines, the stupid thing would not quit bleeding. I think that was mostly because I kept trying to use my hand. I didn’t want blood on the rest of the paperwork nor on my keyboard. I ended up putting a bandage on my fingertip, thereby making the whole minor wound into a major pain.

So how much mileage can I get out of a simple paper cut?

Last night at MWC, my writers forum, I decided to go for a bit of hyperbole honest and descriptive writing. I reported last evening at 8:14 pm: “I forgot to report that I was mortally wounded today at my place of employment. I suffered an extreme paper cut and hemorrhaged for decades, nearly exsanguinating.

I’m lucky to still be among the living.”

I was consoled with offers of chocolate and coffee. I really do spend a lot of time there. My friends knew how to make me feel better.

Don, who purchased virtual coffee and chocolate cake for me from the virtual bartender, Bones, helped to spread the tales of my woe. “Patti got a paper cut that required 108 stitches,” he informed newly arrived patrons at 8:54.

I immediately added, “And blood transfusions.”

Tim came along and offered me a band-aid. He has always been a bit stingy with me although he is generous to fault with others.

I replied moaning, “Band-aid? I’m exsanguinating here. I need more than a band-aid. I need chocolate.”

Never one to miss an opportunity to get chocolate, I opted for the damsel in distress and hoped for the best.

I finally left the bar, drained but somehow delighted with the amount of chocolate I had procured.

I awoke to Gyppo’s concern for my wellbeing, “I wonder if Patti is totally desanguinated yet,  or if the emergency main-line chocolate injections thickened her blood to the extent that the fibrin net finally formed and stopped the bleeding before it was too late.”

“Thanks Gyppo, I do believe I have finally begun my struggle back to health. Chocolate. Is there nothing it can’t do?” I asked all bright and bushy tailed this morning.

After my morning coffee and feeling all perky, I added an update, “Today, I’m going to be recovering from my horrible injury from yesterday. It seems to be healing adequately after a great infusion of chocolate. I can type with ease today. Still hitting the wrong keys with wild abandon, but doing it quickly and without pain.”

And then, disaster struck.

I purchased some fresh vegetable in order to make salads. But I hate all the chopping and dicing and turning things like stalks or broccoli into bite-sized bits for a salad, slicing mushrooms, zucchini, and onions, dicing tomatoes. Therefore, I do a whole bunch at once and store it in airproof plastic containers and mix my salads quickly.

I needed to create my in-house salad bar and so I went through the slicing and dicing routine. Oh the fresh horrors.

It is such a painful memory, I can’t bear to repeat it here, so I will copy it from MWC once again.

My 10:59 am post from today:
“I thought my serious wound from yesterday was healing nicely because I can once again type without the agony inflicted on my person via my fingertip.

However, I just sliced up a tomato. Whoa! That burned.

But I have my salad bar ready to go and will have a lovely meal later when I put it together with some left over chicken and some bacon and a sprinkling of grated cheese. All good for dinner. By then, my finger will stop burning – I hope.”

And then I thought to myself. This sure is a lot of talk about a small paper cut. I really hate paper cuts. They look like nothing but they are always in a most inconvenient spot and for such a minor assault on one’s person, cause more than enough grief for a major wound.

For all this grief, I should get more play. So I opted to create this scintillating blog report as well.

There are a couple things about this picture that stand out. First, on the side of the picture, a date says that it was developed in February of 1956, while the legend on the bottom says it was taken in September of 1954. This explains why there aren’t more pictures in my book.

Aunt Babe, Pam, and me

The picture includes the Roberts children – up to that point – and their glamorous aunt. We had a total of four aunts. Aunt Genevieve was fairly sophisticated, for a farm wife. Aunt Betty was a farm wife, a lovely person, but without pretense or any form of chic anywhere near her person. These were our father’s sister and sister-in-law. My mother’s sisters were Aunt Kathy, who was the essence of motherhood, and Aunt Babe who the very definition of class.

Aunt Babe was the baby of her family, a married woman, working industriously in an office. At least she was all that by the time I knew her. She always had the most beautiful clothes with purse, shoes, and jewelry to complete the outfit. She was always totally put together. Not like a farm wife or harried mother with spit-up spattering disheveled clothing.

It is what I can look like now that I’m a grandmother. Now, when I have the money to spend on clothing for only me and have the time to dress carefully, now that I have the funds to purchase matching accessories. Except that Aunt Babe could do this while still young and beautiful.

Aunt Babe could also sing like a bird – still can, in fact. She loved music as all the Francis girls did. When they weren’t thinking about it and a 40s era big band piece would play, all three of them would have their butts swaying to the beat, twitching their hips in time to the music. But Aunt Babe could sing along, as well.

Pam is also looking all gussied up. She has her anklets not quite pulled up to the same height, but that can be forgiven a small child who probably had to get ready with the gloves on. Gloves. She is wearing gloves. And her purse is carefully worn like a bandolier’s ammo belt. It seems that too-short bangs were de rigueur for the times as both aunt and niece are sporting them.

Even at the tender age of one-and-a-half I didn’t like to have my picture taken. I’m squirming, hopefully not mussing Aunt Babe’s suit in the attempt to get away.

It makes everything easier unless or until it doesn’t function. My technology at work has been an issue since I started. The new computer works perfectly. I can make the new scanner/copier/printer/fax machine work. I can make the duplex color printer work. I can even make the automatic stamping machine work. I can print little sticky labels in a variety of fonts. I can even work the fancy coffeepot that brews one perfect cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate) at a time.

What recruiting for tech support might look like

So what’s wrong? My proprietary software package has been malfunctioning. People keep trying to help. I get one thing fixed and learn to use it and move on to the next learning experience. All the experiences are made more taxing because the stuff doesn’t work. I never know if I’m not learning or the technology isn’t working. I call in to tech support – which carries a fee for each call – and they fix my computer. It will be functioning for a time and then I try a new task. Since hope springs eternal, I always believe my computer will work. You would think I would know by now.

I wish I had kept track of the hours I’ve spent with tech support. With just this newest issue, I called and spoke with someone for hours on New Year’s Eve. The issue wasn’t fixed. I was with them for over an hour on Monday and over three hours total (a variety of calls) on Tuesday. I still have some issue to clear up on Thursday, but they won’t technically be handled by tech support, but a different support team. They were backlogged on Tuesday and after fifteen minutes of hold time, I was running out of my time.

I would like to believe this will all work out and my computer will function beautifully forever more. But I’m becoming cynical or maybe jaded. I really don’t have much faith in the process. But I do remain hopeful. You see – I love technology.

This is a blog and not a web page. I’m so sorry. I have no idea how else to do this. This was way too much information to be put into a single post. I don’t know the limit, but I’m sure this is past it.

But because it is a blog, it posts newest on top. I suppose I could have tricked the machine by posting it all backwards, but I didn’t try that, either.

Instead, I’m counting on the reader helping me along a bit.

Here is a list of links to the story in order. It will pop up in a new tab or window. Then you can click through and it will take you to the next bit of the story. There have been links added to each piece of the story, taking you to the previous piece at the beginning as well as leading you to the next piece at the end.

It took longer to place this up than I imagined it would. I fully intend to get links into the pieces, taking the reader to the next portion of the story. Last night, okay it was this morning, was not the time to fully get that done.

I did take out the pictures of my sister’s grandchildren. I’m not really sure if they are permitted here. I know she isn’t allowed to put them on Facebook and although they were included in my webpage, I don’t want to put them here without permission. They may be added later. If not, they are just as cute as ever.

I also didn’t get through the whole thing proofreading, so there may be changes as I get more time to do that. I knew when I posted it that it was only going to stay up for a month or so. At least that is what Pam told me. Just a diary for a few friends to keep track of our experience. Here it is because …

There are some people who we will do anything for. We love them, cherish them, and when asked for something we make it happen. Because my bestest ever big sister wanted this returned to the web, here it is. I will try to make it look a bit better in the coming days. It’s under construction, going from temporary diary to permanent blog post.

To read this in order, please see Sister Saga or follow the links.
Previous post is here.

I got to my new seat and plugged in my computer and it began to recharge its battery and some guy came through a door and announced the plane for Charlotte, NC was sitting way over there at gate B14. No one else mentioned this, but still.

I turned off the computer and got my stuff together and began the trek to the new gate. A14, my original gate was all the way at the end of the A (lower numbers) concourse and B14 was right across the parking lot, at the end of the B concourse. So I hauled my stuff and schlepped my way to the B14 gate. By the time I got to a bank of television screens with all the Departing Gates listed, the gate change was listed.

I had three large cups of coffee prior to arriving at the airport. I stopped at the bathroom on the way to the new gate. As I was ensconced in a only relatively clean stall, an announcement came over the PA. “Fight 1544 to Charlotte, NC now boarding at gate B14.” PANIC!!!

Since I didn’t have a watch and had turned off my cell phone, I had no idea what time it was. I knew I had gotten to the airport for enough time to cope with long lines and there were no long lines. I thought it was too early to have my plane boarding, but who am I to argue with a loud speaker. I got myself together and rushed to the gate.

Translation of message: The flight that used to be in a waiting section at gate A14 is now in a waiting section marked B14 but it will still be eons before we do any of that actual boarding stuff. Do not panic.

So we waited and of course, two gates right next to each other tried to board at the same time with people tripping over each other while trying to roll all their carry-on luggage to the plane since no one wanted to pay the extra charge for actually taking luggage on a trip.

I got to my seat without problem and stowed my stuff under the seat, except I couldn’t. There was some large obstruction in the way and only my purse would fit and my computer bag had to go in the overhead bin. The flight would take about 3.5 hours.

My ticket said they would feed me some horrible in-flight food, but it must have been subject to change. Because instead of that, they had a chicken sandwich and Caesar salad sealed inside a box wrapped in plastic for $7 or a “snack box” sealed in plastic for $5. I was fearful of the sandwich and don’t eat Caesar salad and the snack box probably contained pretzels, a pretend food item I don’t eat even when its free.

I’m so glad I packed three granola bars. I did eat the last English muffin before leaving Pam’s house and I had some of the taffy with me. I would have loved to have had some of my dry roasted peanuts, but that probably would have been a very, very bad idea. The airlines graciously served my a ¾ full 6-ounce cup of coffee during the 3.5 hour trip. The peanuts would have only made me thirsty.

There was an in-flight movie if one chose to watch it and they sold the fifty cent headphones that used to be overpriced at $2 for $5. I don’t watch movies at the best of times, so I passed on the opportunity to watch some really stupid one on the plane. I had my book and my crossword puzzles along with a magazine. I read. And tried to nap.

We arrived in Charlotte just slightly late and landed at Gate B4 and my flight was departing in 45 minutes from Gate B2. I threw caution to the wind and found a bathroom where some Latino women had taken all the paper towels out of the automatic dispensers and were tearing off sheet of them and thrusting them at unwary sanitary bathroom goers. The tip jars were right there next to the empty paper dispensers. I took their damn paper towel and scowled.

I looked around for a place that sold either food or drinks, but there was nothing at all close to gates B1-6 where I was located. I have no idea if I could have found some coffee or water let alone some food and make it back to the gate where they like to board 30 minutes before the flight time. I got seated and was going to try to see if I could access the internet and they began calling for us to seat ourselves. I shut my computer back down and got on the plane.

While waiting to pull away from the gate, I called Dick and asked him to bring some coffee with him when he picked me up. We pulled away and got in line, the twelfth plane in that line and waited to take off.

It was a quick flight so they didn’t even offer us anything to drink. If you didn’t have liquid with you, you were simply out of luck. However, the flight was soon over and Dick was waiting for me as I got to the baggage claim. I gave him my computer and purse and took the coffee and went and stood around waiting for my suitcase to appear.

Everything is unpacked and put away. The dog was happy to see me, but now she is pouting because I had absolutely no right to be gone this long. My computer is set up and I have a real keyboard again and it seem my email is working.

It’s only 8:20 in Arizona. Pam and Cheri are probably playing some game. If they called me for rules, I would still be up. I bet they are having fun and still laughing. I sure hope they are.


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