Tag Archives: technology

Life, liberty and the pursuit….


Recently  I heard that one man owns five authentic copies of the Declaration of Independence. He’s a billionaire.  Scholars have determined that there are fifty-one in existence.  On either a trip to Washington D.C. when I was a teenager, or when I was in fourth grade and took a tour of New York City, I acquired a copy of the same document.  Suffice it to say, it was not one of the original (facscimile) fifty-one but was a commercial copy acquired at a museum store or at Fraunces Tavern in New York where one could see George Washington’s wooden teeth.  I held onto it for a long time. I liked opening it up and reading it and examining the signatures.  The words were meaningful even when I was young and didn’t know much about the world. Independence only meant going places on my own, with no supervision, under my own power with little accountability. It meant making decisions that only I could make in the moment without relying on anyone else.   Even then, I knew it gave me power.  I think at one time, when I didn’t like the rules at home, I wrote my own declaration of independence.  I drafted it with intent and put it with the “real” one but never declared it to anyone by myself.

Having had a short break from the routine weeks of working and working more, my FHB  and I took off to head north into New Hampshire.  Our destination was a place that was off the grid, not in terms of electricity or water, but more a place to recalculate and find our centers, both as individuals and as partners.  It was, no joke intended, a place that even a GPS couldn’t find.  We attempted to follow a route from the Google directions and ended up on a road surrounded by the contemporary way of siphoning maple syrup, which is through blue and green tubing attached to maple trees.  Long gone was the way of tapping the tree and letting the syrup fill a galvanized bucket.  The road was muddied dirt, and was somewhat reminscent of what I imagine a stagecoach ride might have felt like.  We were off the beaten track for sure.  We reached our destination and found ourselves in a place that time forgot by about two hundred and twenty five years.  We were welcomed into a space, rustic and warm, with the view of a field and a mountain and a wall of windows to take it all in. We sat in time worn chairs in front of a large woodstove that was the source of heat to fill the room and bookshelves from ceiling to floor filled with knowledge and history on every shelf.  There was no television or radio or sounds other than a few trucks or cars passing by.  It was a little bit of paradise filled with large amounts of quiet.

We are a pair that don’t need ongoing conversation. We came equipped with books and the twenty first century tools to write or catch up on information.  Our breathing was slower and our heart sounds healthy.  Our vision was clearer and not mired by worries or thoughts of the past or the future.  We found our way to places to eat and then back again to sit and write or sit and sit some more.  My FHB has always had this ability to sit for long periods in silence and contemplation.  I struggle to do that.  It seems as though having to leave home, and the obligations of things undone that I believe, in the moment need doing, is the way for me to learn that skill.

We spent 44 hours in “our” respite and it felt like a very long and productive span of time.  We sorted through our thoughts and let go of some, and recycled others.  The concept of ” We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” resonated through my mind as I looked at the surroundings outside our window, as well as acknowledging the feeling inside.  The billionaire, who has those copies , might be considered a lucky man.  I understand the value of the words, but luck is subjective. Being okay with yourself, gives you your own sense of independence and can be as enduring.


Talk to Me!


I actually know a few people who aren’t on Facebook, don’t have smartphones, or Instagram and they seem pretty content with their lives.  They have managed to create a life that is still connnected to the world and other people, and they are friends of mine.  Sometimes we actually have phone conversations.  When we do, it is not an emergency. We text one another and check in and in one case we use Messenger and Skype.  You wouldn’t know that they aren’t connected like a lot of other people just to look at them, but they are out there, seemingly not worried about what’s being posted or who’s where in the moment.  I straddle the world of technological conversation with mailing postcards and birthday cards and thank you notes.

What concerns me, is that we continue to have more ways than ever to keep in touch and yet some of the old school ways, like a phone call, sitting at a telephone table, has gone the way of the hoop skirt and spats.  I also struggle with trying to see the nuances between one emoji and another.  It is a source of stress, in that I don’t want to use the incorrect one and give someone the wrong impression.  It is another language that I find difficult to translate at times.   I do give it a try but I realize that I use the same ones over and over again and that makes me feel as though I am not trying hard to figure out how to exactly communicate my feelings.  They are certainly somewhat efficient little characters.  I am not sure what the difference is between laughing with tears and laughing with tears sideways.  I wish there was a cheat sheet that I could reference while I am efficiently texting my message.

So, talk to me.  After a while the texting is just too labor intensive.  Most of the people I communicate with are near a phone, cell or otherwise.  In the time it takes to text, we could talk about so many things and switch topics and gossip about other people.  My FHB claims that his fingers are too big and he can’t figure out how to text more efficiently.  I become the texter in the family.  We are also not on the same phone plan.  He’s an android and I’m an iPhone.  He can’t really answer my phone and his phone confuses me.  One more reason we talk every day around noon.  My spouse telepathy is usually good enough to catch him eating his lunch with his mouth full. He will sounds irritated and hiss at me “how do you know when I am eating?”  I don’t need a text or an emoji to know he eats at the same time every day which is the same time I call.  I guess that it is good that he doesn’t use emojis.  I can read his face, through the phone.  I can hear him smiling.  I can do that with a lot of people and that is the connection that keeps on going.  A picture of a small smiley face may be worth a thousand words or bytes or characters, but a good conversation can’t be recreated with the press of a finger.  Keep talking, I’m listening.

What’s in your fridge?


Her name is Giselle. She is French and she just moved into our loft.  She is very cool.  She replaced an unnamed, nondescript, fairly ordinary appliance.  My FHB is thrilled that Giselle is here.  He, a tall person, could never easily find anything in the old fridge.  I had to be the navigator when he was the explorer.  I would give explicit directions.”It (insert said food product) is on the second shelf on the right, no the other right, probably in the back, in a clear container next to the chinese food container”.  Generally, I was sent into the field to retrieve said food product.  This was a frequent occurance.  As I am not the tall one in our pictures, I never really minded the search missions but apparently he did. Hence,  a brief discussion ensued when I said I wanted to buy a used piano,  and he said he would rather buy a new refrigerator.  If  at this moment, you are trying to follow the logic, you should probably be reading the political news in the New York Times.

The purchase was seamless.  I, pretty much, couldn’t care less.  That left the decision, in total to my FHB.  I cannot get passionate about appliances as long as they are functional.  Looks don’t matter as long as you know what you’re supposed to do, don’t draw too much attention to yourself and please don’t have that incessant, uber annoying beep when the door is open for about 30 seconds.  That, unfortunately, was one of the “features” which luckily a quick Google search for turning off the beep, solved.

The next step was, prior to the delivery, to transfer the contents into several Trader Joe bags, some borrowed coolers and anything that really didn’t require refrigeration but I thought should be refrigerated,put on the counter.  Remember that I am the person, who acquiesed about a piano versus a refrigerator.  The transfer occurred when I was at work.  The transfer back into Giselle’s French Door sculptured arms was left to me upon my return.  I made some amazing discoveries.  Apparently I had been stockpiling mustards which had taken on vintage qualities.  Several condiments, including horseradish and tartar sauce had died in 2016, as that was the expiration date.  They were not the only ones.  I think I found something that might have been garlic or an onion at one time.  It was unclear by its remains.  Is owning  more than six  jams considered excessive?  Does cheese go bad or does it just age?  Is anyone really going to drink that half an ounce of white wine or should I just cook with it?  Why didn’t I use the almond milk in the back corner, first?

My mother used to sit in front of the refrigerator before she left on a vacation.  No worries, the door was open and the trash pail was next to her.  She would use this time to sort through mystery foods and trash them.  She would wipe down the shelves and find pieces of errant chocolate and declare them a treat.  I generally would decline her offer to have some.  Once, someone was visiting while she was doing her thing, and came and mentioned “your mother is sitting in front of the refrigerator!” I asked if the door was open or closed.  When they said opened, I just explained that was her pre-flight ritual.

I consider myself to be an aware human being.  I often, when at the grocery store, believe that I remember that I need something.  Therefore I buy it.  When I get home I put it in the refrigerator, often discovering its sister product has already been living with us.  So there is a reunion and I never break up the family.  In fact, sometimes I add to them.  Practical, not really, odd, most definitely.  If I had  gotten a piano, this would never have happened.  My FHB  and I could have sung in harmony, but no, he wanted a new fridge.  Guess I should be grateful I am not on the replacement list.

Contemporary Concerns


I couldn’t be afraid of Friday the 13th…could I?  All signs indicate, according to my Magic 8 ball, that I should ask again later.  I am not sure if the Oujia Board disk or heart or whatever that plastic form with the clear piece in the center ever moved on its own, or whether I “helped” it along.  I was born on Friday, November 13th, almost 64 years ago.  It has been my legacy and a conversation starter as well as a confirmation, when I report that fact, and  people say… “Oh, I see!”.  I worried about a lot of things, but black cats, walking under ladders, spilling salt, and opening an umbrella in the house were other peoples’ concerns.  Have a birthdate on a day of superstition made the possibility of  awful things happening, the very least of my worries.

Fast forward to this life of 21st century concerns. Back in time I worried about taking the subway and getting on the wrong train and getting lost and ending up in the wilds of Brooklyn.  Now I think about losing my phone with the GPS feature, while on a trip, and getting lost in the wilds of North Dakota.  I imagine dropping my phone in the toilet and losing all the contact numbers that I don’t or can’t remember.  I worry that someone else is trying to reach me but the phone is missing, wet, or has been hacked by who knows what or who.  Forgetting passwords is now a 21st century concern along with forgetting my PIN which clearly, as noted in recent times, won’t stop someone from stealing my information which will really cause a downward spiral of the worst kind of bad luck.

This new layer of something to worry about, compounds daily.  There is now the personal development of the continuum of things that might be “of concern” that lead to things that “might happen” and end with natural and unnatural disasters.  I am still unsure of what the difference is.  I always wonder if when I read or hear about “terrible tragedies” if there are any tragedies that aren’t terrible.  Hyperbole for sure.

When I get in this frame of mind, I take a few steps back, and sometimes more than that. I reconsider what really should concern me because technology and all the elements that accompany its use, could and have failed each of us, at different moments but not in a natural or unnatural way.  Beyond our control is one of those expressions that really means, no one right now knows what happened and how to fix it.  So,  now what do we do?  Here’s a thought.  We shift our attention to the very small amount of control that we have over the things around us, our relationships, our recognition of real possibilities that matter like good health, good manners and cooperation with other people who we can see in our viewfinder.  It’s not to say that we should abandon hope or ignore those situations or others that are not in our immediate circle .  Two year ago, Friday November the 13th, the attacks in Paris had not a thing to do with a superstition.  It was human actions of the worst kind.  The date, ironic, the outcome catastrophic.

Today I asked folks at work about growing up with superstitions and their reflections were more about what family believed and passed on, that had to do with the care and safety of one another.  One person talked about homemade remedies, another about not telling his mother he thought he had a cold because she would show up with soup and he didn’t want to worry her, but somehow she knew and the soup arrived.  When you have that human connection, you just know what helps and what someone you love needs.  There is no technology that is more powerful than the awareness and and instinct that we human beings have for the people who matter most.  No one really pays much attention to Saturday the fourteenth after a Friday the 13th.  I will however, especially tomorrow, because someone in my family who has a piece of my heart is celebrating their birthday.  Use your powers of thought and connection and send some birthday wishes out to Sasha.  You don’t need a phone number, email address or more than that.  Good thoughts travel faster than anything.  Keep them going.

Stuck on Words

This evening, while gathering some paperwork to send out in the “regular” mail, I turned to my FHB and said “I’ll go make a photocopy of the documents”.  I heard myself and thought I should look at my feet and see if I am wearing sensible oxford shoes and ankle socks and perhaps a poodle skirt.  Sometimes I think I am stuck in a time warp because as much as I consider myself a woman of the 2017s, I revert back to terms that really date me, and not in an attractive way.  There are smells of the purple ink of the mimeograph machine that I can conjure up and imagine choking on chalk dust.  I still refer to Xerox machines and Mixmasters despite being able to send a copy wirelessly and  make some cakes in the Kitchen Aid mixer.  Sometimes I say to people, “I left a message on your answering machine” and I get strange looks.  They usually remark…”You mean a voicemail?” and I will smile, a sort of sheepish smile.

Many of us grew up in the world of telephone exchanges long before there were area codes.  We had two phone numbers in our apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens; one that started off Illinois 8 and the other was Havemeyer 6.  I was told that in the towns surrounding and including New Bedford, all you had to do was dial the last five numbers.  When is the last time you spoke to an operator?  Do they still exist?  Is anyone out there worrying about whether our phone calls go through?  Probably not.  It was comforting to speak to some random woman when you pushed the “O” and she genuinely wanted to help.  There’s no more long distance although there are certainly many long distances.  It’s just different.  Moments where I forget the terminology and lapse back into the venacular of 1962 or thereabouts, I wonder why those words are still so imbedded in my vocabulary, as thought it was my first language.  It felt like a connection to where I lived.  Our neighborhoods were identified by the exchanges.  Folks stayed in one place and your phone number was something that didn’t change and you remembered long after you moved away.


I have a gyro wheel in my office for students to play with while we are talking.  They are completely fascinated by the fact that I had that as a child and loved to move the wheel back and forth, no batteries, no wires and a rather simple lesson in movement and flow.  They are mesmerized by the motion and often ask if they still make them because it turns out “it is really cool, Miss”.  I could play with my Jack In the Box endlessly and time after time, I would jump like it was the first time.  Probably a bit weird, right?  My FHB and I will often talk about the words our parents said which sounded so wrong when they used them.  My father used to say that he felt “uptight” and I remember shuddering and thinking that I will never use that word again and he’d better not talk like that in front of my friends.  I was just horrified. I imagine that my children as they were growing up, had similar moments when I embarrassed them by saying something that they felt was their word or expression, and I had no right to use that in conversation.  I remember when one of my sons was travelling to South America while he was in college and he said that he would send me pictures of his travels but I had to establish something he called a Facebook account.  When I told him that I already had one (this was in 2008), he was adamant that I was doing it to spy on him.  What a concept…a parent monitoring their child’s activity or anyone else doing that to people you don’t even know based on information as part of an algorithm.  Whoever thought I would understand and use a word like algorithm with appropriate meaning.

I suppose that my current experience is akin to my grandmother’s wanting to see what the inside of an RV looked like or to fly in an airplane since she was born in 1887.  So, if a self driving car shows up, I’ll get in, put on my seat belt,  hang on,  and enjoy the ride.



Control Freaks


It rained today.  I washed my car yesterday. People around me were grousing (one of my favorite words) about the rain. I was sure that they knew about the car wash and would hold me responsible for the rain.  This morning the fire alarms went off in the loft building and I put on my dirty clothes that were sitting next to the hamper…okay sue me…and got my shoes on sans socks, grabbed my coat, phone, eye glasses and headed out the door. I did assure the cat that this was probably not a real fire so she didn’t need to worry.  Of course Paka gave me a glare that indicated “But  how are you  so SURE it’s not real and  yet you are so willing to abandon me?”.  I hurried down the staircase and heard lots of footsteps ahead and behind me as one of the neighbors was heading back up and told me that the sprinklers were being worked on and there was no fire.  I turned back to return up several flights. A couple of neighbors who  were appropriately anxious were just about to head down and I reassured them that there was no fire, just work being done, and they started yelling at me about not being notified.  I just smiled and squeezed by them.  I am not in charge as much as I like to think I am.

I would readily admit sometimes I act as though I am in charge of stuff or that I know how things are supposed to be.  A long time ago, before cell phones, my sister and I were meeting at a store that she had never been to, and I had been to once. It was not near either of us and there were no GPS directions, apps and no one looked at maps while driving alone.  I gave her directions, very explicit directions.  It was a matter of being absolutely adamant that I knew the way.  Did I mention that I will often say left when I mean right? I didn’t send her directions via snail mail since we didn’t have email or texts and skywriting was out of my budget.  I just told her in that tone, which she will icily recall, seems less reassuring and more defiantly demanding, as to how to get there.  Needless to say (another favorite expression which is clearly out of vogue), we both got lost but eventually found the store and there was still time to shop.  The store is long gone. I attribute it to being difficult to find.  In retrospect I probably should have used logic and contacted the store and written down the directions, rather than relying on instinct or memory.  I actually have a good memory for directions, but there may be something lost in translation since I often use landmarks that no longer exist but reference them in the “remember where the Gulf gas station used to be….” and so on.  Sometimes people are impatient about these things. I don’t get it.

Technology is still mysterious to me although I have a lot of devices that I use with some skill. The skill has been developed as a result of dumb luck and some intuition.  I can’t be bothered to be taught how to do things by my Gen X and  millennial age children. They are impatient with me since there was an obvious adaptation in DNA in the generations after I was created, that makes people in those age groups believe that I should just “listen and watch” and when I listen and watch, it still does not gel easily.  I’m no luddite and I am willing to be part of this great new world, but I will figure it out.  Yesterday, while in the middle of doing a project for work from home, the printer stopped actually printing but went through the lemon juice process wherein, it typed, but nothing actually appeared on the paper.  This was after I had “printed” eight documents only to find that I had eight blank sheets.  Screaming while living in a loft does not get you good results.  Trust me, the neighbors, whether they care about your safety or wellbeing will know, and they will give you knowing glances while waiting for the elevator.  I was hellbent on figuring out the problem with the printer. I did not have time to waste.  Ink supply, plenty on tap.  Paper, plenty in the tray.  Connection, no problem.  I went through the list and consulted with my FHB who after a cursory review from across the room, indicated things looked fine to him.  Gotta love the man.  I deigned to go to the computer’s website for an additional opinion and troubleshooting despite knowing that I already did everything anyone who knows everything would have done.  Kind of like the “is it plugged in moment” which it was.  The website encouraged me to consider, rather than tell me to, that I might want to clean the printer heads.  I hadn’t thought of that although I might have if I had more time.  I proceeded to follow their directions, begrudgingly.  Victory was mine.  Small dance of joy!  I am just brilliant under pressure.  People who know everything will understand what I mean.  This was an inherited trait that I learned from my father, who actually did know everything. All you had to do was ask him.  One of his favorite expressions was “I knew that!”.  He was the person in the family that others went to for advice.

I like to think I work well with others, as long as they know that I probably know what I am talking about. If not, they will come around.  I’m patient. It has taken me a lifetime to know that control is just another way to hold on to what makes you comfortable.  Learning to compromise in all my relationships has forced the issue, over and over again.  People are so stubborn.  We could save a lot of time and energy if I would just let other people lead.  Maybe that’s why I am not a good dancer, except with my very wonderful FHB.  At six feet tall, hovering over my four foot eleven inch stature,  he leads and I happily let it happy.  The choice is still mine, but if I want to dance, and I do, I let the music handle any differences.

Unplanned Obsolescence



A protractor, a jump rope, and a steno pad.  All things I mastered and figured having those skills made me a well rounded person.  I thought that in combination, I might be considered a bit strange (imagine that) but individually,  they might be skills that I could teach others, or get paid to know or have a future with.  The jump rope might be a stretch, I’ll concede.  Knowing how to use a protractor would gain me engineering skills.  For those near and dear to me, I imagine they are rolling their eyes as I am the least precise person that they know.  This is why I use the terminology “more or less” , ” approximately” and “my best guesstimate would be…”.  We can’t be good at everything or there would be a lot of redundancy.  In high school I took, on the advice of my mother and guidance counselor (two separate women), shorthand.  It was the 1960’s and the women’s movement was building momentum, but if I didn’t join, I could get  a good job as a secretary and take dictation.  I still have a few moves, which I use….NEVER!

Sometimes I imagine explaining to my granddaughters that I know things that were fun and helpful back in the dark ages.  Nothing required batteries and we used them to figure out things.  Actually, the jump rope could be used as a tool to measure distance, so there you go.  Something fun that is now an exercise tool.  In reality, my sense of balance and timing excluded me from double dutch and jumping in and in fact, just jumping in place risked my tripping over the rope as it came down or whacking myself in the head with it. I was dogged in my attempt to master it and I found, although it was a game with others, I took it as a solitary pursuit.

Looking back is realizing that progress is hard to measure when you are in the moment.  What we thought would be the future was beyond our imagination.  My grandmother, who was born in 1887 and died in 1978 was fascinated by mobile homes and we often took her to shows where she could climb into the ones that could be driven and she would examine the cabinetry and storage and would marvel at how compact and clever they were.  She wanted to fly in an airplane and in her late 80s, she and my father flew from New York to Massachusetts so she could have that experience and she loved it.  I guess it would be akin to my wanting to ride in one of the first space crafts when I was a ten year old.  I wanted to know what it would be like to be weightless and float around.  Anything greater than that was the stuff of movies and  H.G. Wells novels.

When I think about the things we have now I  realize that I didn’t imagine that I needed anything more to do life with.  Driving a car was a hope that was realized and having a phone in my room as a teenager, with my own phone number, was a very big deal.  The world was big enough and even with my imagination, my dreams and hopes were based in my future as an individual, being productive and independent.  Navigating by public transportation in New York City was through maps and memorization and asking people for directions.  There was my competency.  Interactions with others was valuable, and the skill in the art of conversation was the subject of books to improve your chances and choices in life.  I sense I am ranting.  The irony is that writing this discourse is possible now because of all I never expected or imagined.  Those of us who write blogs, or posts or texts or emails, are published, actually self published, with the help of many others, I will never know or know by name.  With every word and sentence sent, we attempt to connect with others and share our frame of minds in that moment.  We have learned to react through Twitter and other social media links, or respond through emails.  We fight virtual battles through clouds and  data and never look in the other person’s eyes or see their smiles or tears or frustration or pride.  We may have more ways to communicate what WE are thinking but are often disconnected by those we truly want to reach.  We can say hug, but we can’t really feel it and there is nothing like a good, old fashioned pat on the back, hug and feel of the energy between human beings.  I see the change, I participate in it, and yet, I feel that a jump rope was a short distance between two people and you can’t copy, send or paste that.

Have a good week.  Send a postcard.