Neither a Nerd nor a Technophobe Be

I am neither nerd nor technophobe. I used to enjoy tinkering with computers, like installing a “Hardcard,” which was an immense 40 Megabyte(!) hard drive on a PCI card, which plugged into the motherboard of an old PC that came stock from the factory with just two 5-¼” floppy drives. As a neophyte, that seemed a lot easier to me than attempting to install (read: plug in) a hard drive and hope it worked. It worked and I felt invincible. I wrote a novel on that computer.

Just today I “rooted” an old Barnes & Noble NookHD+ and turned it into a basic Android tablet. It worked! I followed a simple “30 minute” process that I found on the Internet. I also found that “30 minute” claim to be a bit ridiculous, but I fumbled through it without the usual roadblocks. Oh no, I had all new roadblocks, rather than getting to step 3 where the instructions say something like “from this dropdown menu, choose FORMAT,” only to find that FORMAT is not an option on my computer or in that particular menu.

This time step 3 was as simple as “Unzip the file to a temporary folder.” Hmmm. Apparently Windows 10 doesn’t come with unzip app. So I was sent back to the Internet to download, install, and figure out how to use a free unzip app. Step 4  was to install the newly unzipped file on a microSD card and make that card bootable. Back to the Internet to find, download, install, and figure out how to use a dedicated app to do those jobs.

“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” —Winston Churchill

After two or three hours yesterday, and another two or three hours today, I was booting the old Nook to Android 7, and installing the apps my wife will need to find, download and read some eBooks that she can’t find in hard copy in the library (which we can’t go to during this quarantine anyway). So far so good. I’ll stand by to assist with that process, since this is something I do all the time. I’m not a nerd yet—or anymore—but I’m still marginally capable.

But what irritates me most these days is this: when I think back to my youth, the ’50s and early ’60s, we had only black & white TVs with screens barely larger than a dinner plate. The screen was an electronic tube, and behind that tube were dozens of more tubes, all of which had to warm up for many long seconds before a fuzzy gray picture would appear on the screen. Eventually, years later, it would be a color picture. (An aside: I remember the first time I ever saw a color TV; it very memorable, in part because the primary color was purple; I was impressed, but not bowled over.) How far we have come since those days! How far have we come since those days? Not sure. I turn on a TV today and I have to wait many long seconds for it to boot up before it gives me a picture. No question, it’s a great picture. But it still feels a little like going back in time to a simpler day.



Practicing Safe Social Distancing

I realize it’s been months since I posted anything here. It’s not like I’ve been too busy. Too lazy, maybe. Yes, definitely.

But first, a word about Safe Social Distancing: I’m packing a tape measure and I’m not afraid to use it.

So rather than just sitting home, watching the endless Covid-19 coverage, with scenes of overworked medical personnel and crowded facilities; endangered seniors and compromised individuals; bickering politicians; and concerned epidemiologists and virologists pushing constant handwashing and strict social distancing, interspersed with upbeat, bouncy, innocent, and typically shrill TV ads imploring me to get on down to Menard’s and Best Buy and FELDMAN CHEVROLET!!! (among the shrillest of annoying ads, and a personal pain in my ears and the mostly-empty space between), to say nothing of the reports of irresponsible Covidiots who are generally-but-not-always young enough to think they know everything, and who also erroneously think they are invulnerable, bulletproof, immune, and don’t care who they might infect (“Let’s party like it’s 1917!”). And everybody hoarding toilet paper, of course.

Continue reading

First World Problems, Technology Edition

Yah, I’m spoiled. And I know Ford has has had issues with its Sync technology since its inception, with steady but gradual improvement over the years. But I can’t buy a new car every 12 months just for that. For now I’m stuck with a 2012 Fusion. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto probably weren’t on Ford’s radar back then.

Small inconveniences: why oh why would they bury the lone USB port in the bottom of the center console, a tiny dark hole deep down in a large dark hole full of cables and sunglasses and tissue boxes and hand sanitizer bottles, and… and… and… It takes a flashlight, small hands and several minutes of digging to find it, and a lot of fumbling to plug in a media player. Then there’s Sync itself. Occasionally it’ll recognize a device and play it through the radio, but not always, and when that happens just unplugging and re-plugging, or turning off the radio (entertainment system), unplugging again, rebooting, turning off again, in all possible sequences, will yield… nothing! The only fix then is to pull off to the side of the road, park, shut off the engine, open the door to make sure the system is dead dead dead, then start over. And cross your fingers. What the hey?

Continue reading

The Things You Find When You’re Looking for Something Else

I was searching for some costume accessories we’d squirreled away last year. This would be for a masquerade ball we were to attend recently. Don’t ask. Okay, it was a fundraiser event for an education association raising money for, well, education. Which is not to say I’m generous in that respect, but I do sometimes want to help out. Plus the meal was great and the musical entertainment was fabulous.

The stuff I found was not noteworthy, but along the way I found other things when the search took me to a dresser in the spare room. There were old cameras, including a rare Kodak 828 I picked up at least 50 years ago. (That box of film expired in 1982.) Also an even older Argus Argoflex dual lens camera that probably belonged to my parents, if not my grandparents. A couple other cameras, including a panoramic camera that still has film in it. Oops, I think I ruined the film making that discovery. (I think I sold my first camera, a Kodak Starbright, at a garage sale a few years ago.) The odd folding rule and string levels were my grandfather’s. I’m still using his whetstone for sharpening the kitchen knives. And speaking of sharpening knives, I’d been wondering where my old Boy Scout Camp King jack knife had gone.

The big find for me was the Lloyd’s tape recorder. This came to me on a Christmas day when I was… I have no idea how old I was. Possibly 10 or so. There were also four tapes sitting there in the drawer, and I got to wondering what might be on them. I do remember that when I got the tape recorder, I made my grandfather play Santa Clause and say “Merry Christmas from the North Pole” into the microphone. Beyond that? I had no idea.

Their was a lot of rust and corrosion in the battery compartment. Not good. This is a battery-only unit: one 9-volt for audio (I assumed) and two “UM-2” batteries to run the motor. I did a quick search on eBay and found an identical unit in non-working condition listed for $60. Um, no thanks. I also found that UM-2s are more commonly known as “C” cells.

Yesterday I retreated to the basement, turned up the lights, unscrewed all the little screws, and pulled the unit open. Hmm, it didn’t look as bad as I might have expected. I cleaned up the rust and corrosion with a knife, some contact cleaner, and a little emery cloth. I worked the mechanisms, lubed the platters and spun them around until they turned freely. I had found a a 9-volt battery, but had to put out a call for a couple C-cells. I popped the 9-volt in. I got sound out of the speaker! A crackling hiss, but sound is sound, right? Then! I found some C-cells in another drawer and plugged them in. The platter turned. I had forward– play– but no rewind. I can work with that.

Continue reading

Yurrup called, we answered… FWIW

There is a clue to our sudden departure in this photo

Having loosely reviewed my previous post (below), I’m compelled to come back and–briefly–say that, yes, we returned to Europe again, for 12 days. How was your vacation? you ask. And I’m glad you asked. Now I have about 20 seconds to respond:

Although we didn’t bring back very many souvenirs, we did manage to snag a couple killer sinus infections before making it home by the skin of our teeth. Not to say we almost missed the boat–we almost missed getting off the boat! In which case we might still be there, trusting our lives to the benevolence of the Viking Cruise line and the Hungarian health care system.

Oops, my 20 seconds are up and you’ve already wandered off to get another cup of coffee.

“No, Aunt Em. This is a real, truly live place. And I remember that some of it wasn’t very nice. But most of it was beautiful. But just the same, all I kept saying to everybody was, ‘I want to go home.’ And they sent me home.” –Dorothy

Yurrup calls

Roughly 27 years, 5 months and a couple of weeks ago (but who’s counting?) we spent some time in London, Cambridge, Stratford-upon-Avon, Florence, Italy, and Paris… I think that’s in France. They seemed like good places to celebrate my 40th birthday. That happened in Florence, although upon reflection it just meant that age 40 hit me 5 hours earlier than it would have otherwise. But I haven’t noticed any ill effects. So far.

Now, all this time later, we’re planning yet another excursion overseas, which brings back a lot of old memories. Not so much of London, Florence, et. al., but of days and parents gone by.

My parents traveled extensively, especially in retirement, but without ever leaving the United States, and rarely by anything but car, van or trailer. There was enough for them to see right here, at least if you include Hawaii and Alaska, which they did. We’ve seen several states, from Cape Cod to San Francisco and Seattle, but we’ll save any more than that for when we’re too old, timid and confused to venture overseas again. Which will probably be sometime next month.

My dad caught the tail end of WWII, ya know the Big One, as Archie Bunker used to say. He was stationed in Italy, guarding the Allied end of a bridge while Soviet troops guarded the other end and artillery sailed overhead toward enemy holdouts. He and a buddy decided to take a Jeep and cross the bridge to shake hands with the commies, but thought better of it when the Russians declined to let down their guard and offer a big welcome. So Dad and his buddy spun a U-turn and headed back to safety, rather than risk getting shot– after the war was already over.

Beyond that neither of my folks never had any interest in travel beyond U.S. borders.

They picked us up at Detroit Metro when we came back from two weeks of fun and adventure in Europe. We climbed into the back of their car and they were polite enough to ask us how the trip was, and we enthusiastically started up with some amusing anecdotes of the wonders we’d seen and experienced– we did not travel with a tour group, we did it all out our own: two innocent kids sussing out the train schedules and finding our way to hidden hotels in unfamiliar lands where they didn’t speak our language, especially in England. To their credit, my folks let us ramble on for five minutes or so, before Mom said, “well, nothing new here, not much was going on,” then they proceeded to relate everything that didn’t happen in our absence for the rest of the hour-plus drive home. Europe and our experiences were obviously of no interest to them. *sigh*

Which brings me to the point of this tale, the advice given to us by a friend many years ago. She said when you come back from a fabulous vacation and someone– family or coworkers– ask how your vacation was, you have 20 seconds to tell them it was great… and you’re done. Shut up. Move on. They’re no longer listening. Good advice, which I will follow, as I pretty much always have. But that’s not to say I might not write about it here. If there’s anything to say about a couple days in Munich, a couple more in Salzburg, and eight days on the Danube from Passau to Budapest. Well, maybe something interesting will happen with customs or the TSA. It usually does. We’ll see.


Attn: Jeff Daniels

Caving to overwhelming pressure from an untold number* of bizarrely polite Deathe readers– I hesitate to say “fans”– I’ve sent a copy of Bedderhoff Dead to actor Jeff Daniels. Because, to be honest,  I have to feel sorry for poor Jeff.

Jeff Daniels is a Michigander, living near Chelsea, where he owns the Purple Rose Theatre. (His spelling, not mine!) He’s known for such renowned movies as Radio Days, Gettysburg, The Purple Rose of Cairo (for which he named his “theatre”), and of course that super megahit, Dumb and Dumber, to say nothing of the Michigan favorite Escanaba in Da Moonlight. Continue reading

Meet Fillmore (and friend)

This is Fillmore. He’s an elephant ear philodendron. He literally showed up at my door some time around 1974 or so. I was living in a small third floor apartment in Mason when I heard a knock on the door. I opened it to find a homeless plant saying gimme shelter, or something like that. I took him in. Turned out he’d been delivered by my friend Marty as a housewarming gift.

So here we are, two moves from apartment to house to house, three ever-larger pots, and nearly 45 years later. Continue reading