At Death’s Doorstep but Refusing to Knock

My computer has been damaged.

It happened several weeks ago. In a moment of lumpish movement, I reached for my mug of ginger lemon brew.

But I missed the handle.

Hit the mug.

Mug tumbled.

Liquid spilled.

Computer morphed into Margaret Hamilton in toxic emerald green paint, hissing burbling words of, Ohh! You cursed brat! I’m melting … how could a good little girl like you … what a world …

I looked at the flattened mass of steel, glass, silica sand, and bauxite and wondered how an object so small could oversee so much.

Of my life.

And how could an infusion of chamomile, ginger, and lemon—a trifecta of ingredients that would likely be the doppelganger action behind any yogi crossing himself—be the orchestrator of such tumultuous chaos?

I checked off the usual boxes of people-based panic.

  • Took immediate useless action to undo damage
  • Scoured the Great Book of Knowledge via smartphone to employ other useless actions to undo damage
  • Set up a small alter of candles, stones, and spice jars in place of unavailable idols to undo damage
  • Carved new idols from Irish Spring soap bars to replace spice jars in hope of undoing damage
  • Took a hot shower with useless idols

Days later, news from the twenty-year-old behind the We Fixit In Fifteen counter said it might make a nice new coaster for my mug and take a look at our newer models behind you.

Twenty-four hours later I order a new computer.

Twelve hours later I rest my hand atop my faithful old friend and remind him that all the great dogs die in the best movies and I promise not to forget you.

Five seconds later I see a blinking light on my old computer and am flooded with the same adrenaline as a SETI scientist having discovered evidence of extraterrestrial contact.

Immediately, I cancel the newly ordered computer—of course via smartphone, as who would be so cruel as to break up with your new obsession by letting your old obsession deliver the shattering message?

The old obsession should never be aware you were so quick to replace him. Especially if you’ve got a serious conversation to have about some accidental drowning and electrocution charges lodged against you.

But now … he is not the same.

There is flickering, sluggishness, unresponsiveness, and a fan with sound comparable to that of a Hoover on high churning all the time.

I am counting the minutes of life.

I am too nervous to unlock his tiny screws to reveal his backside—possibly caked with flecks of ginger, lemon peel, and sticky with agave syrup.

I will live with his new dysfunctions. I will admire his determined efforts to keep his optical drive optimal, his CPUs from functioning fractiously, his unrelenting maternal push of cool air on his overheated, sweet-caked motherboard.

Except, he’s really distracting.

It’s just like the heavily taxed HVAC unit outside which when both starting up and shutting down mimic a driver pulling up curbside beneath my window depressing the breaks on a massive antiquated school bus.

Or it’s like my pre-biblical flood-aged microwave which will only work if I slam the door shut and squeeze its sides together, chanting Judaic words of encouragement which are probably only the lyrics to an old Chanukah song.

And it’s like my nearly old enough to vote printer which jerks and coughs with every line it successfully prints and then spits out the finished product, shooting a barely-inked piece of paper straight across the room as if it finally hacked up some pestiferous phlegm.

The one thing these objects share is my fear of finding their faults.

The flaws in a system indicate weakness, deficiencies, and malfunction.

They panic you into late night visits to urgent care, house calls from specialists, and the poking and prodding from unqualified quacks who advise you to toss your not-quite-dead loved ones onto the wheelbarrow of the deceased.

And they are options that for me usually equate to an insanely expensive fix that lasts for three days, versus a ‘do nothing about it’ choice where they quietly die in two.

I’ll choose the latter.

Because there is something noble and magical about a piece of machinery anthropomorphizing into a half-marathon runner who crawls across the finish line as the balloons are being taken down and the banners are all rolled up.

I will cherish every second of my enfeebled laptop as it gushes out with audible vibrations akin to the phrase, I can’t feel my legs.

I will celebrate my tubercular printer with applause as it heaves out my text.

I will bear hug my nukebox and switch from Hebrew to Ladino when it’s beans and burrito night.

I will stand in a giant pink bubble—like Glinda, beaming an identical smile of unflappable tranquility, likely due to one too many mollies in her dressing room—as I ponder what it is like to be bereft of these items.

Okay, that last sentence is likely impossible for me. Presumably, I will continue to be needled by all their noisy and toilsome imperfections.

But at least now I will sip my tea an arm’s length away.

~Shelley

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My Simpleminded Smartphone

My smartphone is …well, how do I put this—not terribly smart.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, I am hugely amazed at the capability of said smartphone, and believe these miniature, magical machines deserve daily praise and admiration. For Pete’s sake, I punch a button and the world of wireless wealth unfolds before me–coupons, car diagnostics and my hourly cholesteral calculation.

Yeah, I rightly should set up a tiny shrine and go through a nightly ritual of lighting incense and candles to properly worship its cache of riches. Maybe toss in a ceremonial dance or two as well.

But what I’ve come to discover, and sheepishly so, is that smartphones are pretty much a mirror image of their owners.

Meaning, only as intelligent as the Joe Schmo operating it.

I’ve seen plenty of people (read: teenagers) actively attempting to reprogram satellites with their handhelds, and I’ve come across numerous folks (okay, you know who you are) who have found great use for them as doorstops, coasters, and bookmarks.

And as impressive a span of accomplishments one’s phone has been programmed to complete, the world of technology, and those who consume it, are hungry for more.

We are always looking for a smarter phone.

A phone whose IQ is regularly improved upon and impressively upgraded to achieve more than ever before, and more than your below average science fiction writer could ever conjure up.

We want a device that’s more than super smart.

More than slick and sassy.

And more than sharp and shrewd.

We want a new brain.

Thinking is hard. It’s taxing. And oftentimes, we decide to hell with thinking, I’m just gonna fly by the seat of my pants on this one.

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And then if we find ourselves in the middle of giant whoopsi poo, we rely upon a few tired backup systems put in place by millions before us that regularly explain our errors.

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We brush our hands of the dust, and off we go, convincing ourselves that everyone is fully on board with our excuse for the screw-up because:

We’re low a quart of caffeine

We never got the email

Or

The President was apparently flying within one hundred miles of my town and, therefore, all roads were blocked off to allow safe air passage and now I’m running three days behind schedule, plus my child just lost a tooth.

Yep. Heard it all before.

What we need is a scapegoat brain.

What? You mean the report that was due about first quarter financials? Yeah, that was outsourced to my Neural Network Simulator. Not my fault.

Of course I didn’t pick up the kids from your mother’s. My Collective Cognitive Conveyance took that over last week,

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don’t you remember, or is your Recapture App on the fritz again?

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Why didn’t I pick up your weekly pint of Chubby Hubby at the supermarket? Apparently, our AI Grocery Gofer scanned your current waistline, honey, and deemed it an unnecessary purchase.

I think you get my point. Responsibilities, memories, decisions—all this riff raff gets in the way of living a calm and quiet life, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to assign basic thought—or occasionally all thought—to an outside source?

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Hoping to head off on a much needed, hard-earned vacation?

Got the flu and you’re laid up in bed?

Desperate for just one quick, blissful afternoon nap on a rainy Sunday afternoon when there’s still so much to tackle before the new week begins?

Yes, there’s still work to be done, but how about you just hand all that over to some form of artificial intelligence and rest easy knowing your best work—and quite possibly better than your best work—will still be happening without you.

Researchers all around the world in both private industry and well-funded university departments, not to mention a few shabbily decked out basements and garages, are beavering away bringing us ever closer to that reality.

Google, Facebook, NASA, IBM—just a few of the ‘big boys’ making giant strides across the fertile fields of artificial intelligence.

In the past, machines progressed on the scale of intelligence by collecting vast amounts of data on our habits, compiled that info, and then systematically revealed how we as individuals would behave in the future. A boon for marketers, if nothing else.

A little freaky for those of us who believe choosing which color socks to put in the morning is going to be the first monumental struggle of the day.

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But machines had been getting stuck with a tiny little thing called REASONING. Apparently, data analysis was running across a pothole in the road when it came to human inference and interpretation. Ones and zeros had a hard time with rationale.

Except now it seems that technology is making it over this hurdle too. Machinery is finding success with the art and skill of human reasoning with nothing more than algebra. Yep, math. Well, in truth, this is an extraordinarily dumbed down explanation for the concept of Deep Learning within machines where data is fed in, spat out, judged and fed in again round after round. There are countless articles explaining it far better than I could with the space I’ll allow for it. Just Google ‘machine learning algorithms.’ We’ll wait.

No, don’t. On second thought, unless you want an instant software freeze within the confines of your own neural network, I suggest you hold off on that. Nobody appreciates the acrid smell of synaptic burning coming from between their ears first thing in the morning.

Nevertheless, a faster, sleeker, smarter digital assistant is on its way to each of us.

But if, like in my original assessment, we are still stuck with a reflection of our individual capabilities, I’m fearful that after opening the protective casing of my newest device I will be greeted with the spine-chilling voice of Barbie giggling and saying,

Math is hard!

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

For the time being, our blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dipping a Toe in the Pond of Progress

Apparently, I live under a rock.

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Which is a declaration from one of my kids that makes me snort with laughter, because although from his perspective, yes, I am not as ‘hip and with it’ as a sixteen-year-old immersed in the ever-changing kaleidoscope of pop culture, but seriously, buddy, look around. We actually live on top of a rock. In the Blue Ridge Mountains.

He doesn’t appreciate the irony.

I’m typically not one for labels, so when I receive my weekly life assessment from my son it’s pretty easy to shake off. But when Seth Godin, one of my great-brained literary and entrepreneurial heroes tells me I’m a laggard … I sit up and take notice.

And then I cry a little.

Because he’s brought graphs to prove it.

And pictures never lie.

According to Seth, whenever something new is unleashed from the great minds of opportunistic impresarios, and we are all launched into the next great race of Don’t Be Left Behind!, there exists a graph that needs to be understood if you’re hoping to make a shift in cultural behavior. The graph illustrates a picture that reveals how the population is divided.

It’s called the INNOVATION ADOPTION LIFECYCLE.

I call it: Nature’s Crowd Control.

Folks are divided up into factions that label how quick they are to get on board with new concepts, new technologies, new devices or new celebrity baby names that could only have been dreamed up by taking the online quiz to determine your ideal prostitute moniker and blending it with a piece of fruit found strictly in South American street markets.

The factions are as follows:

Innovators

Early Adopters

Early Majority

Late Majority

And LAGGARDS

When I read this, I straightened up and shouted, “NOW HOLD ON A MINUTE!”

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And then I quickly apologized to the cashier who had snatched back the jumbo package of toilet paper that probably took out a forest equaling half the trees in one of our country’s smaller national parks to create. I had been looking at the graph on my smartphone while grocery shopping and reassured him that yes, I really did want all that toilet paper, and then took note of all the people around me who now suspected I had some sort of minor colonic affliction.

Once I got safely home, I pulled out my favorite book of all time—my Thesaurus—which, like The Bible, The TV Guide, and The World Atlas of Whisky—all books of paramount significance—should be capitalized.

I looked up laggard. I was not impressed with the alternatives. I am not a dawdler, or a loafer, or a slowpoke. I am not a slacker, or a sofa spud,

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or a navel gazer—except when specifically cleaning that important and oft-ignored body part.

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As this beautiful bell-curve was specifically created in 1957 and applied to agriculture and home economics of the time, and was used to track the “purchase patterns of hybrid seed corn by farmers,” the definition of the term laggard meant: very conservative, had small farms and capital, and were the oldest and least educated of the populace.

But I would not consider myself very conservative. In fact, I can recall a time, years ago when I actually considered having a third child—and not just because of the tax deduction.

Yes, maybe the small farm thing would stick and likely the bit about not much capital too—but surely that’s about to change because we all know how it’s typical for unknown children’s author’s income brackets to shoot right through the roof after they’re published.

But oldest—nuh uh. And least educated? Nope. I’ve got me some learnin. And as long as I keep up a steady stream diet of news feed from The Drudge Report and The Onion I should be golden on most international issues of import.

Now just to quiet the shouting in the background that’s coming from the balcony containing my teenagers and all of mankind’s teenagers who believe their parents are still dressing in high-waisted culottes and are on the verge of no longer sleeping with their teeth, I figure it’s only fair to look at the chart through their un-cataracted eyes.

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It’s true that I am not the person who “comes up” with the shiny brand new inventions. I’ve not worked at a start-up, I don’t have a lab in my garage and I’ve yet to start a movement. So innovator is not a term applicable to me.

It’s also true that I’m not the first to stand in line all night waiting for the release of something that may or may not work, might be massively overpriced, and will likely be remembered in a pop culture montage at the end of the year in a reel entitled AND THE BIGGEST WASTES OF SPACE THIS YEAR WERE …

Yep. Not my style.

I also hate to be a crowd follower. If all of the Kardashians own one in every color it comes in, cross my name off the customer list.

Which brings us to the ‘late majority’ category. This is where I usually get caught. I reason with myself relentlessly. Something might prove to be a good idea—after a great deal of trial and error and three review cycles in Consumer Reports—but then I get whiff of the new contraption coming down the pike. If I buy it now, I’ll have something outdated within minutes, but waiting another month for the replacement means I’m now proudly sporting the unwanted badge of ‘I got it first.’

So this slides me back into the category of laggard. Or worse–I never board the bus.

So I’m left with this degrading classification reserved for folks who spend a good chunk of their day talking about how their latest operations panned out.

But you know what? I’m fine with it. I am who I am. A little behind the times, but careful and diligent. And I certainly don’t have time to worry about what a bunch of teenagers think of my speed of progress. I’ll get there.

First I have to head out to the garden and get the soil ready for my big corn crop this year. I just finished thumbing through a catalog and purchasing a bucketload of super seeds through this new company I discovered called Monsanto.

~Shelley

*ROBIN GOTT’s NEW POST* (click)

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

 

 

 

Memory Lane; How Science is Planning to Make a Few More

I love learning about the brain.

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I’m continually unearthing new research revealing fresh discoveries that must make the neuroscientists who discovered them leap up and down like seven-year-olds when you tell them you’re taking them to the local ice cream parlor for a double scoop.

Some of the studies are astonishing.

Most of the studies are encouraging.

All of the studies are in a version that is appropriate for a twelve-year-old to interpret. That’s pretty much the only way I will be able to absorb all of the astonishing and encouraging data. A neuroscientist I am not. But I do have a brain. And that’s about as much as we share in common—apart from the fact that I will leap up and down for a double scoop when offered as well.

The latest brain study I stumbled upon was all about memory creation. I can’t remember who authored the paper, or which university the research took place at—but that likely points toward exactly why I was out hunting for memory studies in the first place.

The study discussed two particular regions of the brain that need to speak with one another in order to create successful learning:

the hippocampus,

and the prefrontal cortex.

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Apparently, if we are working on a task of learning to connect two objects to one anotherlike shoe and foot, or chair and tableour brain’s neurons are busily firing off. And, as a result, generate brain waves.

And also apparently, these two chunks of gray matter—the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex—use two different frequencies to communicate whether or not we guessed correctly, in which case we’ll get a blue ribbon to sport, or whether we guessed wrongly, and are then seated in the corner of the room with a pointy shaped hat on our heads.

It all comes down to the oscillation of the waves.

Answering correctly—a thumbs up—makes the waves oscillate at a high rate referred to as the beta frequency (9-16 hertz), and a thumbs down results in a lower oscillation called theta frequency (2-6 hertz).

I’m pretty sure we should add a two thumbs down result in here for the general faction of teenage boys which typically operate at the lowest frequency setting of thunka (-3-0 hertz) just to be on the safe side of science.

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If I can remember where I placed the study, I will petition the authors to include my data into their research.

The scientists documented brainwave frequencies while studying test subject animals. These critters were tasked to learn which two images should be connected to one another and which two images should not be coupled. This was done through trial and error. A reward was given to indicate a correct choice. It’s like when you try to teach your cat how to drive. The only way they will receive the reward of finally making it to their favorite acupuncturist on time is if they learn that they must insert a key into the car’s ignition and not a spatula.

Simple, right?

Choosing the “right” answers showed that the pathways between neurons were strengthening. And choosing the “wrong” answers weakened pathways. It was as if the brain was trying to communicate through the oscillation of waves which neural pathway should have a giant WELCOME sign at its entrance, and which should be choking with weeds, overrun with poison ivy and displaying a placard with a skull and crossbones.

And the hope is that now scientists will be able to utilize low voltage electrical stimulation to the brain to “speed up” the process of learning. And who wouldn’t go for that, right?

Soon we’ll all be able to put on a special hat, attach ourselves to the nearest electrical outlet, and begin the once arduous process of learning a language, conquering physics, or watching something like Seth MacFarlane’s film, A Million Ways to Die in the West. With a few tweaks of current control, you’ll be conversing in Chinese, building the next Mars rover, and hacking into production facilities with the intent to destroy wretched films in the nick of time just before they’re widely released for public consumption.

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If nothing more, I’m incredibly encouraged by the research taking place and wholly support any studies that will not only retain the vital neurological pathways I’ve worked so hard to establish already, but potentially make it possible for me to go on learning new information that can only enrich and deepen my intellectual experience.

As a reward to myself for having made it through reading this particularly challenging study on cognitive function and its future, I’m heading out to the nearest, local ice cream parlor for a double scoop.

Now if I could only find where I put my spatula …

~Shelley

 

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Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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Don’t Be Alarmed …

I am a time freak.

Obsessed by the hours, minutes and seconds of my day, I am surrounded by the ever present notion that time is slipping away. And I am desperately grasping at those units of time with the same success as a giant Maine lobster trying to thread a needle.

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Not terribly successful.

But I’m not a total bust either, just realistic when looking at my chart of accomplishments and noting the upward trajectory is minute at best—no pun intended.

When I take a 360 glance about myself, I note the myriad gadgets that help me track my day and the plan I have for it.

Clocks are everywhere.

Tiny ones live on my desk, on my computer, on my shelves. Scheduled pop ups announce themselves on my smart phone and my tablet. My wrist ‘wearable’ vibrates every forty-five minutes with a tiny trumpeting announcement that the only things moving during the last three quarters of an hour have been my fingers and my eyes. Get up. Get going. Get active.

Too often, I feel my life is accompanied by a giant, ticking clock—a timekeeper so inescapable it is like trying to run from the wind, the unseen currents ubiquitous, uncontrollable and disorderly.

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My car has a clock that is always in a hurry. It runs several minutes fast, which consequently makes me feel late—and that of course adds to the general mental mindset malaise of never being able to keep up. Somehow the message surreptitiously sneaks into my brain that even if I am on time, I am late according to the beast of a manufacturing company I purchased this product from. Perhaps they have passed on their own unhealthy psychology to me, their consumer? The attitude that sounds—if you press your ear to the dashboard—like the desperate, drumming tattoo of, Churn them out. Churn them out. Churn them out.

I have a grandfather clock in the hallway which I long ago stopped setting. In the past, when waking to its hourly bong, I thought it absurd to be reminded that another sixty minutes had gone by since I last fell asleep—a good chunk of them spent attempting to fall back into slumber.

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I have three alarm clocks that are bedside companions. One is on an insta-glow setting, so that I’m never farther than one elevated eyelid away from knowing how many more precious moments of pretending to sleep I have before the other two audibly announce, “TIME’S UP!”

On the zootechnical front, I have two domesticated animals whose internal rhythms are so precisely tuned to their biological needs, there is no reason to own anything battery operated or electrically charged.

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And lastly, I find myself wholly annoyed with our planet’s main source of life—a star that, when visible, speedily tracks across my window pane and taunts me with the incessant reminder that the hours are slithering away, vanishing without a hint of anything to suggest they once existed apart from what lies behind and above the cursor on my screen. I long for cloudy days.

Of course, I am tied to the most vital of metronomes, the one which most of us ignore unless we are in an urgent state of health—either mental or physical.

The heart.

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I know it is there. Yet I’ve never seen proof. I feel its presence if I place my hand upon my chest, if I sprint after my hound, or if I come upon the faces of my children.

It stretches and nearly bursts with the swelling that takes place when discovering that my work mattered to someone, and it aches when it splinters after grasping the unrelenting unkindness in our world.

In my quiet moments of yoga practice, I am asked to find a stillness so deep and connected with the internal workings of my physical-ness that I can locate, feel, and hear my own heartbeat. That is a thin thread of ‘knowing’ available to all of us, but seldom sought and rarely found.

I am reminded to live in the present, to acknowledge each moment as prized, whether I am glowing with joy, or wrestling with pain. I am told to sit within time—not in the past, nor in the future.

I am a devotee of days, a maniac for minutes, and crazy with chronography.

I am a time freak.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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I’ve Got This Down to a Science

I felt like a million bucks walking into the Koch Institute Auditorium.

Okay, that’s a big fat fib.

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I did not feel like a million bucks, I felt like a million bucks couldn’t make a dent toward improving my current status.

I was more water-logged than the Cutty Sark’s figurehead: hair plastered to my skull, rainwater sluicing down my pants and overflowing from my squeaky shoes, and mascara tracking soil-black furrows in all directions away from my eyes. I was in need of some serious respackling.

This was a result of my rain-battered, late afternoon mile-long walk from my hotel to my daughter’s university campus where I’d been invited to attend a lecture given by one of the esteemed faculty members before “Parent’s Weekend” the following day. (Full story here.)

I slogged to the lady’s room and wrung out my clothing, paper towel dried my hair, and attempted to scrape off the black grout that now epoxyed itself to my skin. Waterproof Wonderful, my Aunt Fanny. I left the bathroom looking like I’d been camping in a nearby peat bog for the last three weeks. I snatched up my name tag and dashed into the lecture hall to locate a seat near the back. And in the dark. And under a tarp if I could find one.

The invite stated the program was to begin at 4 pm. But what actually started was the wine and hors d’oeuvres party. This meant I’d get to watch other people—other people who were dry—enjoy themselves with the first rate food and the five star confidence that they’d not scare the bejeebies out of the other lecture guests during the meet and greet. No, it was best I stayed put.

And did for the next hour.

I dripped a melancholic puddle beneath my chair, forming a large enough pool to gather the attention of one of the catering staff, who kindly brought me two cocktail napkins. It had the about the same effect as trying to cap the eruption of Old Faithful with nothing more than a Tupperware lid.

But it was the thought that counted.

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The well fed and lubricated crowd filed into the lecture hall and the Chancellor took to the podium. She thanked us for coming, and then launched into a long-winded, rhapsodic introduction for the professor we had gathered to hear. The man sat looking sheepish as the Chancellor gushed with exuberance over the prof’s accomplishments.

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I prickled. No human being alive could have done this much in three lifetimes let alone two thirds of one. The man introduced and moving toward the podium had a name akin to that of a James Bond villain—Vladimir Bulović. I felt he should have been wearing a cape.

The lecture’s title? Why the Future Will Be Measured in Nanometers.

A plethora of questions buzzed through my head: What is a nanometer? Did anyone bring an extra calculator? And will I be seen if I crawl on all fours toward the exit and swim home in the direction of a clean, dry bed?

Professor Bulović spoke in a torrent of rushing words—and Russian words—or maybe it just sounded foreign because it was all diodes this and photovoltaics that. Yep, total Greek.

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So I stopped listening and started reading. The slides from the power point presentation were filled with words and symbols, and thank god occasionally moving pictures. Those I could follow.

The snippets of video showed objects that all fell under the umbrella of ‘nanoparticles.’ Quantum dots, carbon nanotubes, icosahedral twins and triplets and the rest of their unpronounceable family members. And soon I was enlightened with what this man, his team, and the monumentally small world of nanotechnology had been beavering away with in laboratories across the world.

For your mind-blowing pleasure, here are a few of science and technology’s newest projects Professor Blofeld–er, Bulović discussed:

LiquiGlide – A freaky non stick coating that can be applied to food packaging to eliminate waste. In this particular instance: ketchup. Click and be amazed.

Transparent Polymer Solar Cells – Windows that clearly harvest energy from the sun.

The Flexible Light Bulb – What if the light bulb of the future wasn’t a light bulb at all?

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Cancer detection – with magnetic nanoparticles.

Flexible solar panels – printable too!

Eyeglasses that can recharge your hearing aid while you’re wearing both.

Nanoparticles that clean oil spills via magnets – You’re welcome Exxon Mobile.

Water filtration—or desalination. Here we have folks working to make a filter device that allows a glass of seawater to become drinkable water after a few minutes of hand pumping. I think some hand shaking is in order.

Reengineered cement that will reduce carbon emissions. Now that’s a solid idea.

Better lighting with quantum dots. As far as I can see, this is some brilliant science.

Yep, hearing this lecture had been one tiny head explosion after another.

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So even though I traveled what felt like a million miles to get there, and even though much of the lecture was a million light years beyond my ken, and it was clear that folks had spent millions of dollars on research and development, I now just want to say, Thanks a million. The future looks wonderfully exciting, Professor Bulović—although it’s a little hard to see.

~Shelley

CALENDAR WINNER AWARD!

Our free calendar goes to the lovely Linnet Moss. Kindly contact Robin with your address so that he can post your 12 month doodle diary. (info@robingott.com)

Congratulations, Linnet!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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Hell-bent, Bound and Determined

There are a few words in the English dictionary that I’m drawn to like gum to a shoe, or bugs to a windscreen, or women to Benedict Cumberbatch. Words that bring me joy, like Holiday, Free, and #BenedictCumberbatch. And there are words I crave that I want to see used to describe me, like Winsome, Adept, and ‘Admired by Benedict Cumberbatch.’

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There is one word that I can safely say I would pin upon myself like a nametag to a kindergartener:

PERSEVERANT.

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It has served me well for the time I’ve spent thus far in this world, although it is not an easy pageant sash to keep securely in place draped across from shoulder to hip, and the damn crown is forever attempting to slip off sideways if not topple from my head at every challenging bend in the road. Which is why you need an extra dose of perseverance to maintain a perseverant attitude. A bit of a Catch 22.

A couple of days ago, I returned from “Family Weekend” at my daughter’s university. I’d been invited to attend a lecture on campus the evening before the official weekend began, and thought it just might be possible to back up my eleven hour drive and make it there in time. Plus, the lecture was on a topic I knew nothing about, but was fascinated with. To top it all off, my daughter would be sitting a mid-term exam, so I’d be going it alone, and would hopefully be coming out of the experience with fresh, new and exciting science to dazzle her with.

Starting off a car journey at 3 am is somehow furtive and exhilarating—you’re leaving the house in the middle of the night, rolling down the long, dark driveway and hoping you’ve left all the other living, breathing creatures still tucked snugly in their beds.

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Somewhere about 6 am, furtive and exhilarating fly out the window as you’re imagining for the one hundredth time all the other living, breathing creatures at home still tucked snugly in the their beds.

By noon, the rain is no longer a gentle, soothing patter on my windshield, but a ragged dermabrasion effort by Mother Nature who apparently does not like the olive green paint on my car and is hoping something else lies beneath it.

I reach my hotel a few hours later and have just enough time to dash into the shower to untangle a few long-journey knots that have left my spinal cord resembling a larger version of my iPhone earbud’s cord.

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With my newest and now most coveted app—Google Maps—ready in my hand to direct me to the lecture hall—an easy 1.2 mile walk away—I head out of the hotel lobby and immediately note that it’s still raining. I sprint to my car and grab my umbrella. Off we go.

Google Maps tells me to turn right on Third Street. I love how the sweet little app also vibrates the smartphone in your hand to let you know that new directions have been given, so you don’t have to stare into your phone whilst walking.

Clever Google Maps.

I admire the neighborhood’s historic architecture, looking up at some of the snug brick homes and their heavy-lidded windows. My tiny umbrella is suddenly pulled from my hands—a gusty updraft—and I snatch at it just before it leaps into the air, but not without seeing it turn inside out.

An everted umbrella has got to be one of the most side-splitting images to come across as you’re walking down the street. Holding an everted umbrella is definitely one of the most humiliating ordeals. Seeing an individual, or being the individual who is in custody of an umbrella that repeatedly turns itself inside and out is to realize that your rain gear is possessed.

I search for a Catholic church along my route, hoping for a quick exorcism before I reach the lecture hall.

No such luck. I will have to purchase another ticket for the demonic banshee and hope he will be still during the power point presentation.

The rain pelts down, and cascades in cold rivulets along the undersides of the brolly. It flows down the spindly handle, over my hand and puddles at the tip of my elbow, soaking the arm of my raincoat, sweater and skin. It waterfalls onto my head and finds all available avenues to sneak beneath my collar. The wind batters at me from every direction, leading passersby to believe I am holding on to the legs of a massive black crow, flapping and thrashing, determined to take flight.

I am the antithesis of Mary Poppins.

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Google Map’s app vibrates, and threw squinting, rain pummeled eyes, I follow its directions to turn left. I walk and clutch at the edges of the umbrella waiting for the next buzz. Several blocks later, it comes, and directs me straight into the concrete barricades of impenetrable road works. There is no way around them. I must backtrack.

I am fully saturated at this point, with only my sense of humor remaining dry. I am positive the universe is sending me the message that I am not welcome here. Perhaps it knows something I do not? That the lecture will be disappointing? That the reception will be dull? That the entire auditorium has been swallowed up in a massive burp of earthly indigestion?

Perhaps it’s just that there’s a rerun of Sherlock playing on the television back in my hotel room, and wouldn’t I prefer sharp and caustic Sherlockology to abstruse and befuddling scholarship?

Well …

NO! I say to myself. I carry on. We carry on. Me, my bedeviled umbrella, and my Google Map app, which at this point is now shrugging rather than vibrating, communicating that despite all of the advancements in technology and space to earth communication, the elements have won, and I am on my own.

I shove my phone down my shirt and inside my bra, hoping this, at least, is not as underwater as the rest of me, and toss the bewitched brolly into the bushes. I stop a student, scurrying from class and look pleadingly into her eyes.

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“Where is the Koch Institute Auditorium?”

She casually points across the street.

Sure enough. There it is. Right behind the shuttle with the name of my hotel on it.

~Shelley

PS – Next week: I do actually get to the lecture!

PSS — This is the last week for ordering a Gotta Have a Gott calendar. The deadline is December 12 and Rob has TWO LEFT!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Falling Off the Map

I am a big fan of maps. I am a big admirer of spontaneity. The two are not usually found holding hands. But recently, I spied them making come hither looks at one another and decided to watch an unlikely romance blossom.

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Being a timely planner, getting my hands on the ultimate map for purposes of accurate and expeditious routing is a must. There is nothing more satisfying than showing up someplace not simply on time, but early. I’m fairly sure this is a byproduct of my childhood, as I was the creation of someone who lived life with an elevated sense of urgency, namely because she was invariably late. For the longest time I thought the proper way to enter a room and greet someone was with a sincere apology.

Eventually I figured out that my mother and clocks were rarely in sync with one another. She was a frenzied woman of four and the fact that we all made it safely into adulthood speaks volumes of her ability to pull it all together at the last minute. It could easily have turned out that the least vocal of her brood would still be outside on someone’s curb waiting to be picked up from piano lessons.

To further embed the trait of timeliness, I studied for a year with a teacher whose motto was:

To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unforgivable.

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She would shut and lock her classroom door one minute before instruction began. Punctuality was not a casual dialogue with her. In fact, dialogue was something she found tedious and rife with excuses, and it was not even a safe bet to make eye contact with the woman. But she did impress upon me the need for speed. And no less than four alarm clocks.

Over the years, I found that knowing where I am going and how long it takes to get there is an essential element to scoring a mental high five with myself. Cue my love for maps. The colors, the words, the numbers, the grids—it all adds to the magic of orienting myself in some vague spot in the universe.

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As a child, I paid a great deal of attention to the sage words of an elderly neighbor who frequently took my brother and me on deep woodland walks, showing us which plants and berries we could safely eat, which would slay us on the spot, and which would provide a magic carpet ride like Walt Disney could never imagine.

On the back of her ‘Stalking the Wild Asparagus’ lectures were the general outlines of her ‘Navigation 101’ classes. Finding north, reading shadows, and leaving a non-edible trail behind you were all necessary skills she felt worthy of passing on to two children who were nearly as intelligent as the psychotropic fungus she made a wide berth of on the trails. We did our best to take her schooling with us, and throughout the years found that some of it actually stuck.

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It’s really nothing more than paying attention to your surroundings and making a mental map. Clues as to your location are around you everywhere. She likened our walks to a giant Candy Land board game. Shake the dice, move your marker, land near the licorice sticks—or in our case, the giant marsh filled with cattails. Easy as pie.

Today, satellite guided imagery squished down to the size of a fingernail on your smart phone nearly takes all the fun out of going on a journey. Some mild-mannered voice is pleased to guide you with well-timed and repetitive instructions if you are hoping to go from point A to point B and not be bothered with the pedantic details of topography and mile markers.

But this is where I get a small hitch in my britches. Having been fooled one too many times with outdated and malevolent automobile equipped GPS systems, I’m not terribly keen to give total control to anything that requires a continual “update” in order to fix the latest “bugs” in its system.

091114goldfish (708x800)But I was assured that this newest directional diva would not only get me where I wanted to go, but would find the path of least resistance as well. That is a tall order to believe when one is determined to head north, but hearing an announcement of interminable congestion yonder down the road, you are encouraged to head south.

I look. And see no congestion.

I eyeball the device and give it a thunk on the dashboard in case there’s a wire loose, but am told by my companion that, no, the information is not only correct, but is being gathered by the bazillion of other cell phone users around you—not satellite. Trust it. Be spontaneous and go for it. Let go of “The Planned Route.”

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I do. And then cheerily wave at those stuck in the hour long delay I am passing via another well-kept secret route. Amazingly, I will still be on time. I lift up my phone and shout to the other cars, “You all should get one of these!”

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Yet as magnificent as modern technology is in assisting folks by guiding us over hill and dale, I slowly realize I am left with an emptiness of accomplishment. Deep down inside I still believe there is something worthy of retaining those rusting aptitudes for course-plotting. And passing that proficiency on to others.

Knowing and identifying where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there are crucial life skills. Ultimately, they might just save you from getting lost or being late, but maybe—just maybe—they will bless you with a blissful magic carpet ride.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

At Your Service, Madam!

Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet! You’ve reached repair services. For English, please stay on the line—para Espanol oprima nueve.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

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I have your phone number as 988-042-1414. If you’re calling about the account for that number, say yes, or press one. Otherwise, say no, or press two.

Yes.

Sorry. I didn’t hear that. I have your phone number as 988-042-1414. If you’re—

Yes. YES. YEEEESSSS!!! *1*

–Otherwise, say no, or press two.

*1*   *1*   *1*   *1111111*

If you’re uncertain as to the telephone number for that account, you’ll find it on the top right hand corner of your In A Jiffy Internet bill. Just say or type in the ten-digit number now.

Nine, eight, eight. Zero, four, two. One, four, one, four.

Sorry. I didn’t hear that. Let’s try that again.

*9 8 8 0 4 2 1 4 1 4*

I have your phone number as 988-042-1414. If you’re calling about the account for that number, say yes—

Operator.

 –or press one. Otherwise, say no, or press—

OPERATOR.

Sorry. I didn’t hear—

OPERATOR!!

Let me get an agent to assist you. Please be in front of your computer when the agent becomes available.

I’m here. I’m waiting. In front of my computer.

All of our agents are assisting other customers at this time. Your approximate wait time is … TWELVE MINUTES.

Twelve minutes??

*Muzak*

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Hi, this is Harmita. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. Can I have the phone number you’re calling about? Area code first please?

Seriously?

Hello?

Yes. I heard you. I just can’t believe you. Fine. 988-042-1414.

And the last name on the account, please?

Sackier.

And who am I speaking to?

Shelley. Shelley Sackier.

Hi, Shelley. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. What can I do for you today?

Well, Harmita. For starters, internet service would be awesome.

Are you saying you don’t have any?

I am.

Oh dear. That is a dilemma. Well, we’ll try to sort you out in a jiffy, okay?

You betcha, Harmita. Thanks.

*tap tap tappity tap* Hmm … I can’t see why you’d be having a problem. Everything’s running beautifully from our end.

Not so pretty from my side, Harmita. Can you check again?

*tap tap tappity tap* Yep. We’re good.

We are NOT good, Harmita.

Well that’s strange. Hold on … Here it is. It says you’ve requested to disconnect your service.

I assure you I did not.

Oh really? I’ve got the order right here.

Well, it’s one I did not give. Can you please turn it back on?

*haha hahaha haha* Wait—are you serious?

Yep. Turn it on please?

Oh, well, you’ll have to speak to our service department for that becau—

Harmita? Can you please get me a supervisor to speak with?

Hold please.

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Tap. Tap. Tap.

Hi, this is Jarime. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. Can I have the phone number you’re calling about? Area code first please?

You’re kidding.

Hello?

Yes. I’m here, but good grief already. 988-042-1414.

And the last name on the account, please?

Sackier.

And the billing address on the account?

Umm … wait … I think it’s PO Box 8213

And the zipcode?

Oh, good heavens, I’m not sure. I’ve got the actual account number if that’s helpful.

Sorry, I need the billing zipcode.

That’s funny. So do I. What does your paperwork say?

*silence*

Hold on, let me grab my phone book. It’s 48321.

Sorry, no.

48322?

Not that either.

Does it really have to be exact? I’ve got the account number right here. Can’t we work from that?

*silence*

48323?

There we go. And who am I speaking to?

Did Harmita not leave you a note? Nothing? This is Shelley Sackier.

Hi, Shelley. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. What can I do for you today?

Really, Jarime? Harmita just handed you the phone and said, “It’s for you”?

I have a notation that you’re having a problem with your service. Is that true?

Yes. I have no internet service, Jarime. I’ve paid for it, but it is absent.

*tap tap tappity tap* Yes, it says here that you’ve asked to be disconnected.

That is wholly inaccurate. Can you please switch it to the on position?

*haha hahahaha haha* … Oh, you’re serious?

Yes, Jarime. I am serious. I want my internet. I’ve paid for the internet. I’d like to have what I’ve paid for.

Oh, well, you’ll have to speak to the new services department. Let me switch you ov—

No! Jarime. No, don’t do that. Let me speak to the supervisor above you, please.

I’ll see what I can do, Shelley. Sit tight, ok?

Great. Yes. Thanks.

*Muzak*

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Hi, this is Leonard. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. Can I have the phone number you’re calling about? Area code first please?

You’ve got it. In fact, most of the folks in your department have got it.

Hello?

Oh, my godfathers. It’s 988-042-1414.

And the last name on the account, please?

Sackier.

And the billing address on the account?

It’s PO Box 8213

And the zipcode?

48323.

And what was the total you paid on your last billing statement?

This I don’t know, as I don’t have the statement in front of me. And it doesn’t come to this address.

You might want to call back when you do. We can’t go any further without that information.

Yes we can. Harmita and Jarime didn’t need it!

Do you have the physical address of the where the service is?

Well it ain’t at THIS address—which is where it’s supposed to be. That’s why I’m calling. You’re pumping it elsewhere.

And whom am I speaking to?

Do you people really call yourselves a communication company? This is Shelley Sackier.

Hi, Shelley. Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet. What can I do for you today?

Well, for starters maybe have a quick chin wag with Harmita and Jarime. They’re up to speed. I’ll wait.

I have a notation that you’re having a problem with your service. Is that true?

Yes. I have no internet service.

*tap tap tappity tap* We’ve got a request that you be disconnected. Yes?

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No. Not a request. There was no request. I vehemently request you unrequest that request.

*haha hahahaha haha* … Seriously?

Leonard, please don’t toy with me.

Yes, this appears to be a mistake on our part. Looks like we’ll have to get you set up with new service—as if you were a brand new customer.

Fine. Okay. Fine. How long till we can fill the line with juice?

Oh, probably no more than, let me see … *tap tap tappity tap* … seven to nine … maybe ten days.

NOOOO! Leonard! No! That can’t be right. Please, Leonard!

Yeah, that does seem rather long. Hold on. I’ll see what I can do, Shelley. Sit tight, ok?

Please! Yes. Thanks. I’ll wait.

*Muzak*

Welcome to In A Jiffy Internet! You’ve reached repair services. For English, please stay on the line—para Espanol oprima nueve.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

 

 

In the Heat of the Moment

There are moments when you feel the stars align and the gods have smiled down upon you, and then there are the moments when you’re actually awake.

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This week has been an exercise in staying off the “She’s gone postal” bulletin. I’m sure it’s not been pleasant for anyone around me, despite my epic efforts to remain sane and calm and far away from a loaded shotgun.

It all began with a tiny glitch in the air conditioning.

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The “glitch” was that it stopped working. And I’m sure everyone is perfectly aware of the chapter in the manual that states all A.C. glitches will occur at precisely the moment when previously unseen record blowing heat waves sweep across your area and stall atop your house. This is a given.

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Fueled by an inordinate amount of optimism, I brush it off and call the repair fellah who kindly comes three days later. When he announces the problem—some bits are broken—I smile and nod sagely. Yep, another given. When he reveals that the bits are not under warranty, my smile slips a tiny bit and I try to recall the several years of hard work those bits put into minding my comfort with very little applause.  When he lastly discloses that the replacement bits are not on his truck, nor at his headquarters, but still in a factory somewhere in Sri Lanka, I sigh and say, “What’s a few days with a little sweat?”

“More like seven, ma’am.”

Okay, seven.

Sleeping is a little challenging with all that extra heat, but I mentally try to rearrange my body’s meteorological time clock and convince it that instead of 89° in my bedroom in a spectacular resurrection of summer, it’s actually January 7th and my heat is working beautifully to combat the subzero temperatures outside. My time clock remains stubbornly unconvinced—a total lack of enthusiasm in the arena of creative imagination.

A week passes by with my nightly inventive game stalling on the idea that perhaps I’m actually losing weight as I sleep. Surely with all this sweating my metabolism is racing to cool down my body from its hours of feverish temperature. But the only thing I see sliding off me in the morning is my freshly applied makeup.

After twelve days of no A.C., I finally receive the hallelujah phone call with a date for installment—four days from now. I show an extra amount of gratitude after hearing the news and refrain from slamming the phone down. Four more days. I can do this. No sweat. Well … yes, maybe some sweat, but I can do this.

The next morning I am greeted by the deflating discovery that the house is now internetless.

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I immediately panic. Being teased by the gods who removed my coolant system and shoved the sun a few inches closer to the Earth is one thing—yes, it’s fun for them to see the tiny ant dance on a hot plate under a heat directing magnifying glass, but detaching her from the godhead and rendering her silenced from the mainframe?? THIS WON’T DO!

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It’s the equivalent of Sandra Bullock letting go of George Clooney in Gravity. I am alone and silent and inside an overheated spacesuit.

Thank heavens I still have phone service to call the internet company. But the service is only available from my bathroom, which, because of its super cheery wall of windows and two skylights, is doubling as a fully operational sauna. I call, I chat, and am told the usual—Just turn everything off, unplug, wait, reattach and allow your modem to cycle through.

Okay, except I have to do this downstairs in the basement—where the phone has no service—and hike back up to report the lack of progress. Four times.

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After ninety minutes, I am handed off to the supervisor’s supervisor who now recognizes the problem as, “Well, it says right here there’s an order to disconnect your internet.”

COME AGAIN??

Firstly, why would anyone purposefully do that unless they knew the exact time they were going to die and hoped to save the remaining family members a couple days on the billing cycle? And secondly, how long had that little notation been popping up on someone’s screen, but hadn’t been seen because … well, you know, computer solitaire?

I am told I have been escalated to the top of their priority list and that the matter will be resolved shortly.

“Define shortly,” I request.

“Lady, I’m just reading from the handbook script here. Maybe take a chill pill, eh?”

“I WOULD IF I COULD!” I shout back.

On the morning of the A.C. visit, the phone rings and I hear that my technician has the flu. Or heat stroke. Doesn’t matter. He ain’t comin’. I slog through another day of heat and disconnection to the outside world. I watch the weatherman smile apologetically and announce this is quite a remarkable weather pattern. I throw the remote control at the screen and now have no television. I go to bed wondering who I killed in anther life. Surely this is karma coming back to bite me in the ass, right?

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It is too hot to sleep. I throw off the covers and toss off my clothes. It does not help. I am quite desperate and open the porch door to see about a stirring breeze. But instead of a breeze I’m greeted by a buzz. It sounds as if my room has become the test facility for a batch of angry drones.

I flip on the bedside lamp and count a small swarm of about five hornets—each just a shade smaller than my fist.

I dive beneath the heavy blankets and try to determine if I’m crying or if my eyes are now sweating. The sound above me is bitter and determined. They are worker bees who have obviously been thrown off their mission by an open door that normally wasn’t open. I look for the smallest redeeming quality in this series of fiascos and I am left with only one thought. Well at least somebody’s working.

“Hey, I don’t suppose any of you guys have a background in tech support?”

~Shelley

September Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for September!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

 

How to Get Found by Losing Your Way.

Orientation is a concept I spent a lot of time thinking about this last weekend as I helped move my daughter into her new digs at university. From the moment I put the key into the ignition and the car into drive until I parked my automobile snugly into the garage returning home, I was in a constant state of getting my bearings.

As a writer, one is schooled to continually practice the art of noticing.

The teenager sitting beside me rarely noticed anything that wasn’t coming into view on the flat screen of her smart phone.

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There is a vast difference between us. We orient ourselves in completely different ways.

We both learn about the world using our eyes, but mine make grand sweeping gestures east to west and north to south, taking in trees and buildings, street signs and faces, while hers make a minuscule movement barely left and right of center—just enough to absorb the bazillion articles on Reddit that tell everyone reading what’s happening in the world today.

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But at least we know what’s unfolding around us.

We both use our ears to scope out sound. As we sit in a lecture hall, in front of a panel of teachers, advisors, administrators and staff, I soak up the voices and what they say: the chief of campus police—serious and dour, the dean of students—confident and erudite, the chair of the physics department—stumped by all the befuddled faces, the university healthcare representative—thoroughly weary from repeatedly answering the same question, just posed in a different accent.  The incoming freshman I’ve placed in the seat next to mine has used her ears as a holder for two pieces of electronics and plastic in order to block out the ambient voices and welcome in somebody else’s streaming from iTunes.

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I look at the distance we need to maneuver from one end of campus to the other and pull out a map; she hears the phrase lovely walk and clicks on an app to hail a cab.

We pass by groups of kids and I scan the clusters of faces from all ends of the earth and say, “It’s going to be wonderful getting to know so many new people from places you’ve never been.” She replies, “I already know most of them. We’ve all met on Facebook.”

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The list of activities–the get to know you parties–are poles apart from what would ease me into my new surroundings had I been the newcomer on campus.

Come build a rollercoaster!

Edible LEGO bricks. Let’s eat our architecture!

100 somewhat illegal uses for all your tech gadgets—shhh.

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Yeah, my university mixers were more of the sort that announced: We’re having a pizza party in the Student Union. Come meet your mascot.

I watched a kid zoom by on a ten speed bike powered by a chain saw. I heard music coming out of a speaker that looked like a small Oreo. I saw someone typing words onto a screen, which would have been fine apart from the fact that there was no keyboard beneath her fingers.

I was now completely disoriented.

By the end of the day I had amassed a file full of papers—everything from phone numbers to calendars, lecture notes to course requirements. I turned to my teen, “I’ve got spares for you too because I noticed you weren’t taking any.”

She waved her phone at me. “Got it all right here.”

Smart phone. A helluva lot smarter than me.

We bring the last of her gear up to her dorm room. “Do you want me to remind you how to do your laundry?”

“Nope. I’ll YouTube it.”

“Shall I walk you to the university’s clinic and campus police?”

“Already Google-Mapped it, Mother.”

“How bout I—”

Smart phone is waved in my face.

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It is clear I have been replaced by an app. By copper and wiring and eye tracking and satellites. This is her world not mine. It is fast, it is immediate, it is clever and it is made for a group of brains that do not see the world as I see it.

I collected my things and we walked to my car. I looked at my daughter and thought about our positions in the universe, how I would find my way back home, how I would go back to what was familiar and well-worn, and how I’d be recalibrating life and adjusting to the “new normal.”

So much of the weekend was, in truth, an orientation meant for me. I watched this young woman and all her peers around us utilize unfamiliar signs, and oftentimes unreadable directions, leading them confidently down their new path.

There really was nothing left to do apart from stand aside and lovingly snip the last threads of that invisible umbilical cord between us. I let her go … wireless.

~Shelley

August Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for August!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Rockets and a lot of Red Glares (part 2)

I couldn’t sleep last night. In my head, all I could think about was that tomorrow was Launch Day—the culminating event of a two week, end of high school senior project my eighteen-year old daughter was tackling. The title of the adventure was Project SkyHAB (for Sky High Altitude Balloon). But I referred to it fondly as One Teenager’s Dream to Make it Rain in Space.

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In order to fully understand the impossibility of success for this operation, you must catch up. Read this. It’s part one. The rest of us will wait while you’re gone. Hurry up.

Alrighty then, now that we’re all on the same page, it will not come as a surprise to find out I was assigned to be Head of Mission Control. That meant I would need to be glued to the monitor attached to my computer with no distractions like food or water, and maybe only the occasional gulp of air for the entire four-hour flight. I would need loose fitting clothing and a slickly greased swivel chair. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. There is a bucketload of stress attached to the job, and I’m guessing at some point, someone may consider making a film about it.

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I heard my daughter leave for the launch site just before 5 am, and like most folks in charge of the less physical aspects of a job—particularly those in management—I went back to sleep for a couple of hours. She’d call if there was a snag. I was sure of it.

After a while, those of us who considered ourselves top brass rolled out of bed. The hound, the hellcat, and I all found some grub. One of us was supposed to purchase freeze dried astronaut food as a way of setting the mood and creating a scene, but didn’t. I glared at them both. This was going in the report.

We waited anxiously for the phone call that was to signal the start of the countdown, and bounced around from room to room keeping limber. We did laundry, washed some dishes, pulled a few weeds, and penned yet another lengthy epistle to Carl Sagan, who for some rude reason started ignoring my missives around 1996. I was hoping to Skype with him while the balloon was making its way spacebound.

Apparently, my personal Houston was not going to answer, so I’d have to go it solo. I wasn’t deterred. More donuts for me at the afterglow party once we’d achieved success.

Although I was told to hang tight for the T-minus 60 notification, my anxiety about the many hour delays compelled me to phone the launch site every 30 minutes for an update.

I heard explanations about faulty equipment, excuses that laid blame at the feet of a roll of duct tape, and a lot of foul language. It was a little like attending one of my daughter’s violin gigs.

Wanting to make sure I was totally up to date, I continually refreshed the website that broadcasted the GPS coordinates. It pinged the same longitude and latitude for hours on end. I decided I should be prepared with backups in case of an unforeseen local blackout and a complete loss of power, a massive equipment failure with my desktop, or a solar flare incident that wiped out the one satellite dedicated to me and Project SkyHAB for today.

I called my dad and a friend.

I told them science depended upon their willing participation and announced they would get credit in the report write up sent to NASA.

My dad bargained for a nap mid-afternoon.

I told him this would affect his performance evaluation in the report.

He told me that either he got the nap, or I could go fly a kite.

I reminded him that this was A BALLOON.

There was some terse language about a union, and a reminder that he knew people who worked at the local Pennysaver, so I finally gave in and agreed to the nap. Bad press is not gonna happen on my watch.

At precisely 12:43 pm—or something close to it—I received the much anticipated phone call. My head was in the fridge. I was cleaning chocolate milk off the shelves.

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“WE’VE LAUNCHED!”

“Wait—what?? Where’s the countdown? There was supposed to be a countdown. And I needed to have my people on standby. How could you have already launched when I—”

“MOTHER! ARE YOU TRACKING THE COORDINATES? WHERE IS MY BALLOON?!!”

“Hold on a sec.” I raced to my super slickly greased wheelie chair and tried to get my computer to wake up from sleep mode. It was obviously over-tired from the taxing morning work of refreshing the GPS site and refused to be roused.

“MOTHER?!!”

“Yep, yep … yep, hold on a sec, I’m checking.”

“MOTHER! WHERE IS MY BALLOON!”

The computer screen flared to life. The coordinates flashed in front of me. My heart seized up and stopped beating. “Huh … how bout that.”

“WHAT?”

“It appears your balloon is still at the launch site.”

“NO IT ISN’T!!”

“Says so right here.”

I heard the phone drop and the distant voice of my daughter shouting, “Come back! Wait … come back, baby!”

You want to know what happened next? I’ll bet you do. Let me just say this: it involves a gun, a team of humiliated London policemen and Benedict Cumberbatch. No wait … that’s the contents of the next Sherlock episode I’m about to watch. Sorry.

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Come back next week for the next installment of Hopefully Not a Waste in Space.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

The Mother App

What is one thing absolutely every human being has from the moment they were born?

I know you’re tempted to say reflexes, or kneecaps, or a smart phone, and you’re close, but in this particular case, the answer is: a MOTHER.

I think we all know plenty of people with stories to tell of their mothers. Some of the anecdotes are fairy tales, but most of them are historical horrors that will curl your toes. Others will admit they have no memory of their mothers, no history with their mothers and were likely hatched in a Petri dish in a laboratory buried deep beneath the Swiss Alps.

I’m not here to argue, but I think we all know that the whole ‘babies hatched in Petri dishes beneath the Alps’ story to be totally false.

They’re beneath the Bernese Alps. Let’s be specific.

Regardless, if I were to hazard a guess, we’ve probably all spent a minute or two of our lives imagining …

THE PERFECT MOTHER.

And I would like to suggest someone in AppLand creates “The Mother App.”

There are bucketloads of “mother-like” apps available for purchase and downloading today. Assistance for the working mother, the single mother, and even the “Oh my God, I’m going to be a mother!” mother. Fancy apps will turn themselves into a baby monitor. They will track your phone, your purse, or your diminishing bank account. These apps can even wash and fold your laundry for you and keep it tucked up safe in cloud storage. They’re amazing.

But I think many of us dream about the day we can make our ultimate wish list on the mother menu a reality. Heck, Obamacare is all about tailoring our medical management and wellness programs, and we’ve got the options to modify everything from our choice in education to our online surfing experience, so why can’t technology whip up a workable version of exactly what everyone wants and needs? And then slip it into the palm of our hands for effortless access?

Easy peasy.

Some of us need The Coach. A constant slug of You can do it! slogans from the moment the alarm buzzer fires off to the minute the game is called, you finish the day and hit the showers. You’ll feel like a champ and likely complete the day with a medal around your neck.

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Others require The Nudge. This app is for the individuals who without constant reminders will forget to have breakfast, misplace their gym shoes, waylay their keys and fail to keep appointments. They’ll even show up at the wrong address after work only to realize they don’t own a standard poodle, somebody moved the bathroom and the woman they just kissed hello at the front door was not their wife. They need that tiny tapping at the trap door to their brain that only a mother (the Nudge) knows how to access.

No one wants to feel like a total failure in this department so one would need an app that will fill your head not only with the necessary motherly memos, but also throw you a few bones in the format of Don’t you worry, honey. Your brain is filled with much more important things than recalling passwords and remembering birthdays. I’m here for you. Now eat some fiber like my good little tiger.

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A few folks desire Dr. Mom. Do you feel like you’re continually right on the edge of coming down with something? Achy, stiff, potentially feverish? This would be the Mother App for you. Just by holding your smart phone in your hand, or keeping it in your breast or back pocket, it will effortlessly monitor your heart rate, body temperature, and bowel movements. It will remind you when you need your next dose of pain killers, suggest you take a nap, and write an excused absence note for you to take to the office the next day. It will care for you better than you care for yourself. And you will sleep better for it. Now go eat some fiber.

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But maybe you’re seeking The Ear.

You don’t want any I could see this coming a mile away.

No thanks on the Here’s what I think you should do.

And a big fat nix on the I told you so, and this is the thanks I get for it?

Instead, you pay for silence. With the occasional Um hm thrown in along with a light sprinkling of You poor baby. Some people just need a place to unload and not have the eye-popping therapy bill to show for it.

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There you have it. I know we can all think of gobs and wads more, but I’m going to suggest you have at it in the Chatty Cathy comment section. Let me know what would be available on your perfect Mother App.

And now folks, I’m off to attempt to be the best mother I can be, and will remember to send a huge hug of thanks to the best mother I model myself after—my own. There ain’t no app like her! (Thanks, Mom. ❤ )

Happy Mum’s Day to all our American mothers, but Happy Being a Mum Day to all the rest around our globe even if today isn’t the day you get served burnt toast in bed. (And if you’ve not seen this short and wonderfully special video yet, I promise you won’t regret it!)

~Shelley

Ten days left for the “Help A Teen Do Experiments in Space I Don’t Understand”  fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. If you think space is cool, give it looksee! And a massive thanks to all of you who have already contributed to science. You guys are awesome. 😀

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

Open Sesame. Pretty please?

Like millions of people living today who are semi-computer capable and who have a love/hate, “but mostly hate” relationship with technology simply because it moves at precisely the same speed as the tip of a bullwhip, I have one overwhelming pain-in-the-backside problem that grows monumentally larger every single day:

PASSWORDS.

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In early history, Roman soldiers used watchwords. These secret keywords were inscribed on wooden tablets and given out when the troops made camp at night. Passed from one guard to the next, and returned to the equivalent of their commander in chief in the morning, it was pretty easy to determine who was going to get a lickin based on the handwriting of all the tic tac toe games on the reverse side. But who could blame them, right? Angry Birds, Flappy Bird and Candy Crush were a few years off.

Skip and jump forward a few wars and the military decides to up the ante in their “anti-theft” division. Now you not only have to remember the day’s password, but you have to come up with the day’s counterpassword as well. So he says, “Potato,” and you say, “Potahto.” Capish? It’s the old call and response routine, and it worked well enough until everyone repeatedly forgot where they were and took to belting out Broadway tunes for the rest of the night. It made them an easy target for any folks on the enemy side who hadn’t already developed a taste for Liza Minnelli.

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Let’s time travel all the way up to the mid 1960s and walk through the hallowed halls of MIT, into the overly warm, clamorous, wall to wall stuffed room where researchers housed their newly built contraption—a time-sharing computer called CTSS. Supposedly it was an acronym for Compatible Time-Sharing System, but it could easily have been dubbed Create Trouble & Steal Security. The folks who worked on this computer are in many circles given credit for being the first to see the necessity and employ the use of passwords. They were also the first group of young adults to coin the term hacker and make a profitable practice developing the art.

Yep. It’s like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

The rules for keeping your data safe on the internet today have grown from Think up a word and you can sleep at night knowing your emails are private, to Yeah, buddy, even if you come up with a brand new language using only tab keys, your door bell and the scroll lock switch, we’ll find out how many pennies you’ve got stored in your piggy bank in the time it takes for you to brush only half your teeth. So there. Nighty night.

It seems impossible to conform to all the dished out sage advice that counsels you to use different passwords for every site where you need to leave behind some of your personal identity.

There’s got to be a better way.

Let me blow in a tube that can code my breath, lick a saliva indentifying patch on my monitor, or bite down on a dental impression fitted to my keyboard. Surely the millions of kids with stupefying techy talent out there can whip up some solution to this world-wide conundrum we repeatedly face multiple times an hour, yes?

I’m told not to create a password that would be easily guessed, not to make it personal, not to repeat characters, not to use too few, but not to use too many. Have some letters, throw in a number, squeeze in a character, and do the hokey pokey.

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Now … do not, even under threat of torture, write it down.

But don’t forget it.

Now rinse and repeat for the next fifty web sites you do business with.

My brain is exploding.

Can’t I get a chip implanted in my wrist? How about a fingertip recognition keyboard? I would even go so far as to willingly give a small blood sample in place of recalling absurd, brain-blunting codes that a computer could crack in the blink of an eye.

Apparently organizing and overseeing passwords has a hefty price tag attached to it—somewhere in the region of billions of dollars in productivity losses every year. The extra time snatched away from me has surely affected my day negatively. I write less, bathe less, and have had to forgo putting parsley on my family’s dinner plates. Every second counts in my day, and instead of carving tomato flowers, I am desperately trying to protect my social security number from computer criminals who would one day like to have my checks sent to their mailboxes and not mine. No matter that by the time I qualify, social security numbers will be as financially valuable as an avocado-colored bar blender, but I’m sure some of their efforts are paying off now.

I know there’s no quick fix on the horizon, but I think I’ve come up with a few pretty good ideas.

If none of the above are worthy of consideration, I might even be willing to go back to showing my computer my daily wooden tablet to gain access.

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It’ll probably only bring me to a site where I can play tic tac toe.

~Shelley

 

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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Breaking my silence

I owe my ears to a bug and a meditative master. Well, maybe more so to the meditative master because he’s the one who gave me a gift.

He taught me how to listen.

I don’t mean he advised me in the art of paying attention to people’s words and the message they endeavored to convey. I mean he instructed me to hear sounds, and tone, and vibration.

In absolutely everything.

At the time, I thought I had a fairly well-developed ear. I was a musician, trained to hear intonation and pitch with a considerable degree of competency. But he had a level of attention to sound that was mystifying to me. His auditory skills were on par with most owls and marine animals. Mice feared for their lives around him. Beluga whales bowed down in his presence. I just wanted a little piece of that magic.

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But be careful what you wish for, right? Because a boon can just as easily become a blight.

I cannot find silence. I can’t remember the last time I have heard … nothing.

This man was a sound engineer, someone my music producer had hired to mix the final cuts of the album we were making, the film score we had finished and the commercials we whipped out. My job was done. I was excused and told to go work on the next project, but sometimes I’d plop down on the studio couch, make myself as invisible as possible and watch what unfolded.

And what unfolded was a brain twisting mystery. This man would sit in front of the sound board console and hold his breath. He was as still as the Buddha, who probably would have slapped him on the back with a thump of well done! Then he would crawl around on the floor, beneath the equipment, searching for an elusive something-or-other. Sometimes it would be hours before he actually played our music.

When I finally dredged up enough courage to ask him what he was doing, he’d answered, “I’m noticing.”

“Noticing what?” I asked.

“A lot,” he said.

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And during the next year I began ‘noticing’ too. He showed me how to find the buzz in each cable, the hum in all the machinery and the layer upon layer of sonance everywhere.

I went a little wild with my practice and drove my producer crazy with my newfound enthusiasm and belief that we would both benefit from this exciting auditory adventure I pulled him along on. At one point when recording the vocals for a lush and abundantly orchestrated song, I made him stop and pull out track after track after track, positive I could “hear” something that didn’t belong there.

We found it. It was a cricket in the recording booth. Finding the cricket to pitch him out proved impossible. Finding the musicians to bring them back in proved expensive.

No one was happy with me.

Except the sound engineer.

But now I can’t go anywhere without listening for the layers. It’s not as if I’ve developed the auditory capability to hear dog whistles, but rather I’ve stopped tuning things out. And I practiced this for so many years now I can NEVER tune them out.

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I lay awake at night, and hear the usual things.

The clock ticking, the dog breathing, the cat licking, the stinkbugs flying … and then smacking into walls and dropping onto the floor.

There is the sink dripping, the toilet running, the wind rattling, a coyote howling and an aircraft droning.

And when I have categorized these sounds, I am left with others that pull me out of bed and ask me to hunt them down.

The fridge has a little hum. The freezer has a funky hiss. The DVR has a purring motor that churns and roils, keeping something tiny inside of it cool and protecting it from combusting.

Down the hall in the family room I find two speakers, softly throwing out sound in the key of A. I bend down along the floorboards and hear muffled scratching—someone is busy making a tiny nest in the wall. I crawl beneath my desk and trace a treble tone to my computer’s hard drive. I start at an unexpected sound and bump my head, taken by surprise at the vibration above me where my smart phone was set to silently buzz with an incoming email.

I hear the heat vent whir to life, the soft whooshing of air, spongy and constant. Then the generator which lives halfway down the hill to the sheep barn clicks on for its weekly test drive. I open the back porch door and stand on the icy cold steps to count the multilayers of sound the generator is generating.

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Far off, on the other side of the house, the wind chimes chingle.

And then I hear the birds chirping and something high-pitched and tiny. The sound takes me up the porch steps and back into my bedroom.

And right next to my bed.

It’s my alarm clock.

It’s time to start another day. Another day filled with sound.

I’m thinking the sounds will most likely be my yawns.

~Shelley

February Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for February!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Twelve years a slave to satellites.

There are a million things I know with absolute certainty that I have no talent for:

1. Numbers. If there are more than three, and something is required to be done to them, other than the elementary operations one practices in school up to about the age of twelve, then I am the last person you want to consult. Okay, maybe the penultimate person, because kindergarteners are notorious for making up answers where I would at least try to get it right.

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2. Cutting hair. I’ve cut my own, I’ve cut my children’s and I’ve cut my dog’s. It’s amazing how quickly a crowd will scatter if I walk into a room with a pair of scissors.

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3. Squeezing my entire body through the head of a tennis racket. It’s impossible. I’ve tried a million times. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up, I’ve just got to study a few more Chinese circus children before I try again.

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But if asked what skill I can claim an aptitude for, I would not hesitate to point out that I possess a great sense of direction.

That is, unless I’ve programmed my car’s satellite with an address, or I’ve handed a map to my mother.

For this particular journey, I mistakenly did both.

As is usual for this time of year, I headed northward toward the big city lights to attend my annual writers’ conference and hoped that I should walk away inspired, incisive, but not in a fog as to how much work I would have in front of me once I got home.

Also, as is usual, I brought my mother along—not only for the company, but because her birthday always falls within this week. And as my father feels that recognizing birthdays is a surefire way to spoil the people you love or live with, leading them into a false sense of security, I’ve taken it on as my duty to make sure my mom gets to have a dinner out once a year that doesn’t get ordered at a counter.

This year, I thought we’d see a film before heading to the restaurant. After listening to nearly a dozen NPR programs, interviewing everyone from the director down to the steadicam operator, I was wholly keyed up to see the film Twelve Years a Slave. I felt it was a hugely important film, and even though I usually lose out during the voting round when suggesting we view a story that could be classified as political, controversial, or requiring the skills of a second language to truly understand its nuance, I thought my mom would find kinship with the hero because he too was a violinist, and string players just understand one another like no one else can. It might have something to do with inhaling too much rosin while preparing your bow hair, but that’s just a stab in the dark.

It’s taken me a while, but I now know better than to program my car’s sat nav because after initially feeling the thrill of having it installed in a car of mine around a dozen years ago, I soon came to realize that it was full of bugs. And I’m not referring to the kind I wrote about two weeks ago.

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These are the wonky bugs that require attention from a team of computer programmers. Surely they’d look at my car’s software—supposedly teamed up with one of our Earth’s satellites—glance at the jumbled stream of letters, numbers and characters within the code, and then sit back to laugh in their chairs because they’d soon recognize what I have: my operating system is overwhelmingly archaic and probably manufactured by Toys R Us. It doesn’t matter what I program into the device at the beginning of the drive, because according to my GPS map, my destination is always in the middle of a lake.

I refuse to trust the voice guidance, who has confidentially admitted to me that regardless of my request for the quickest route, she will direct me through every tiny town, as many intersections as possible, and throw me onto a toll road for a quick drop of a few coins before pulling me off again and back into the thick of traffic. I despise that woman.

Handing my programmed iPhone to mother proves just as pointless. I must confess it’s not entirely her fault. My smart phone has lost several IQ points over the last couple of years and being one of the first models of Apple’s handheld devices, it continues to plummet at a rate of knots.

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Some applications refuse to participate any longer, texts sit there until I’ve pressed ‘send’ the requisite magic number of times, and the maps icon acts like an obnoxious delinquent—a rascally miscreant who takes great pleasure in changing the address of my arrival destination on route when I am not paying attention.

My son calls my phone buggy.

I call my phone … a few other names.

We arrive at the theater only to find out that although technically this theater shows films, it does not show the film we chose to be directed to, and our real destination is on the other side of a ten-lane freeway. I ask my mom to give me a number, from a scale of 1 to 10, as to how athletically agile she is feeling today.

We get back into the car.

My mother redirects me to another theater, which is actually a state park.

Our next, “You have arrived,” moment has us turning onto an old dirt road having passed several police vehicles before I pull off to the side and announce, “Something evil has happened down there, and I’m damn sure they are not selling popcorn to folks who dare to come view the events unfolding.”

It’s now that my mom pulls out her brand-spanking new iPhone and says, “Let’s use Siri.”

I let my head clunk onto the steering wheel.

Finally, we arrive at the correct theater. We watch the film. I gasp, I am struck with horror, I am fixated, I am appalled, I weep. The lights come up and I turn to my mother, my eyes streaked with mascara.

“Well?” I ask hopefully.

She says, “He really wasn’t a very good violinist, was he?”

*sigh*

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~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

Related articles

Out of touch

Panic has set in at my house.

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It’s as crisp and as tangible as hair-raising electricity, sharp as a floor full of tacks, and capable of creating irreparable organ damage from the anxiety-ridden heart palpitations taking place. We’ve been cut off. Specifically, the little optic fibers meant to supply juice to our technologically dependent family have been severed.

We are addicts and our drug of choice has been snatched away, brutally and without warning.

And … on a holiday weekend.

This Labor Day three day festival is turning out to be a labor-less one, as far as our phones and Internet are concerned. And did I receive a memo about this? Nope. No one said, “Hey lady, if it’s okay with you, we’re going to shut down the overworked, desperately needed, wholly depended upon nerve center of your home for … awhile, alrighty?”

No, not alrighty.

Not alrighty at all.

Blood is beginning to spill out of my ears from hearing the teenage trauma as realization sinks in. We’ve lost all connection to the outside world. Studies have shown that if you allow this to happen to adolescents for any length of time longer than it takes to make a sandwich, neurological damage begins to take place. Synapses disconnect and their little points of contact shrivel and retract. I’m quite certain that Internet access is the same as sunshine to the plant kingdom, gas to a car, or a camera flash to Kim Kardashian.

No juice, no point in going on.

Find cliff. Leap off.

Everyone is looking around wondering what to do, baffled and bewildered that this could be happening. It’s almost as bad as discovering that air decided not to show up for work today.

Normally, something like this happens when there’s a massive storm, four feet of swirling snow, or there are trees down county wide from a slicing wind and rain storm. But that hasn’t happened. The sun is out, the grass is glistening with dew, birds are flitting about doing bird-like business. And there’s a thin blanket of mist in the valleys below us. Morning fog. Wispy bits nearly transparent and sylph-like. I am positive that fog does not have physical fingers capable of finding the plug that connects our house to the world and yanking said plug from its outlet. There is nothing to blame it on.

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I run downstairs into the utility room to scan the panels of blinking lights and machines that ping. I make my way through miles of wiring, and I wriggle around pipes that snake from floor to roof, pass through concrete walls and zigzag their way like thickly-roped spider webs across the ceiling. I find the receptacles that house all lines and cables relating to technology and magic, as they are one and the same to me. Some lights flash and others flicker. The important ones are dark or blaze in angry red tones signaling their lack of life or surfeit of irritation. Even these machines echo the family’s disposition.

I unplug everything and standby. I do yoga while waiting the requisite amount of time so as not to waste the minute and hope it will improve my mood. I replug and watch.

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No joy.

Perhaps I’ve done it incorrectly.

Wrong order? Too quick? Didn’t say the magic words?

I try again and decide to throw in a minute of holding my breath for good measure. I think positive thoughts and shine the basement flashlight on the box thinking maybe it just needs ‘healing white light.’

Nope. It needs a technician. Or a good spanking.

I search the house and yard for any place I might be able to get a signal in order to phone in and report our outage. I find one in the closet that gives quarter to the cat’s litter. I scan an object with real pages and inked printing, giving me direction to the telephone number of the one person out there who can take on my troubles and ease my family’s distress.

There is a plethora of numbers. I try them all. One by one, and even though they are listed as specific departments, they arrive at the same desk: the automated hotline. Businesses do not answer telephone calls any longer. Businesses have business to do. They have money to make, not problems to solve. Promises to guarantee, not satisfaction to deliver.

I give up playing the game by the rules since those on the other end have none. I mess with the machine and press buttons that they did not offer as an option. This often produces an individual whose game of solitaire or updating of Facebook was interrupted. They’re usually not pleased.

I provide the details. More than they need. Phone numbers, addresses, shirt size and bank account sums as incentive. Do what you will with it, just make the magic happen again, please. Can’t you hear the children suffering in the background?

He does not.

He issues “a ticket for service.”

Sometime, maybe soon, depending upon availability and mood, someone may or may not attempt to unravel your puzzle. Don’t hold your breath.

I know, I say, I tried that already and it didn’t work.

Well, you have yourself a good holiday weekend. Maybe spend some time with the kids, eh?

 I sigh, disconnect the call from my cell phone and go to the game cupboard.

I bring a stack of possible pastimes and place them on the table before my offspring. “Puzzle?” I offer. “Board game? Checkers? Gin Rummy?”

They stare at me blankly, eyes wide and unregistering.

The phone rings. THE LANDLINE PHONE!

It works! We are saved! We have been rejoined!

We bow down to the mighty, joyful ring, displaying our gratitude.

290913landline (800x443)

We will always remember the holiday we nearly spent together. We laugh about it now.

Ah, memories.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

 

The Gates of Hell

I live on top of a mountain. It just barely counts as one as far as qualifying height is concerned, but hey, a med school graduate at the bottom of her class is still called doctor. You pass. Congratulations. Hang up your shingle and warm up your stethoscope.

Back to my big hill.

The road up to the house measures a solid mile long—and a thousand feet up. Most cars chug up to the top with the old engine standard of ‘I think I can’ grunting from beneath the hood. If a car, on route to the top, should give up before reaching its destination, the choices for its passengers are either to roll backward along a death-defying series of dead man’s curves, or secure chalks beneath all four wheels and limp along on foot the remaining distance.

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The county decided they had no interest in claiming responsibility for road maintenance, and the post office, who still delivers mail via horse drawn carriage or carrier pigeon out where we live, said PETA would be all over their sorry arses if they had to consider our address as part of their route.

Together, the two organizations colluded and decided to call the road … our driveway.

In order to gain access to the stretch of road that has more animal encounters than a National Geographic Special, you must pass through a set of gates. They are formal looking, sharply pointed, black and menacing. Iron bars meant to intimidate. In fact, I’m fairly certain they are possessed. I feel as if they should brandish a sign with a giant skull and crossbones, displaying blood-scrawled words, “I’d turn back if I were you.”

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Growing up in Wisconsin farm country, gates were a part of life. They served a functional purpose. They kept animals off the road, animals from eating the crops, and teenagers from making crop circles in the corn fields on late night sprees. Of course, the last one was the hardest to control, and that’s pretty much my point: it was rare to find a gate we couldn’t outwit.

But this gate …

I’ve given up on the programming manual. It requires a degree in electrical engineering and more brain space than my head can provide.

The gate is electric and attached to a phone line—and although we pay each bill on a monthly basis, juice to both services is supplied only on every other Thursday as long as it falls on a combination bank holiday and Catholic saint day. Seldom do they all align.

More often, the box providing electricity is just a small metal house that offers shelter to either an enormous ant colony or a den of mice–whoever stakes claim to the space first after it receives its monthly cleaning. If the box does happen to hum with some form of voltage, it is only a matter of hours before someone inside becomes fed up with the incessant noise and chews through a wire. And if they’re a little slow with work that day, then surely lightening will come to the call of duty and strike the box with a massive bolt, rendering all residents inside to simple carbon atoms.

I’m positive the “antenna” meant to catch the signal of our remote control devices was accidentally switched out with a lightening rod. Pressing the remote control never works. You can point it at the gate, level it at the aerial, or even put it under your rear tire and back over it to make sure you’re pressing down hard enough, but I’ve found it ain’t up to the job.

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It does, however, change the channel on our dish receiver and it usually messes with the cockpit info in overhead planes.

Handy in some cases, I suppose.

Folks coming to visit who do not have one of our remote controllers meant to lull you into a false sense of consumer product reliability must depend upon their savvy skills of speaking into a box to gain entrance. This box is occasionally hooked up to our phone line which will dial up to our house, but only after you figure out a complex math equation and punch your results onto a keypad. This was done to ward off the mass of hunters who often show up and ask permission to track the land with their coon dogs.

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I don’t have any problem with hunters. I just want to make sure that if there’s a guy and a gun walking the woods where I live, he has to have passed fifth grade math.

It’s usually not such a big problem anyway, as the phone line is habitually broken and we’re on a week long waiting list to have someone from Appalachian Power come and take a look at one of our many issues. It might be just as effective if we simply tied two tin cans to the ends of a mile long string. I’m willing to give it a go.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run down to the bottom of the driveway to help someone get in, or arrived home to find the damn thing on the blink again. Either way, my car is usually parked on one side of the barrier or the other while I’m unlocking padlocks, pulling out circuit breakers, wrenching out lynch pins and roping back the gates to allow entrance or exit. Frequently in a downpour.

I have proposed we get rid of the whole system, but the three other adults who live up top are all English and find the gate reassuringly British, so I am outvoted.

Therefore, I’ve decided to think tactically. I’m now researching the cost of hiring a beefeater. Safe, traditional, and classy.

080913Beefeater (555x800)

I sure hope he doesn’t come with a manual.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

I just can’t hack it.

My computer is possessed.

I’m nearly certain of it. I say nearly because this is strictly a gut instinct based on years of a Catholic upbringing, recalling bloodcurdling, spine-chilling words whispered by the nuns who taught our catechism classes and warned us of the imminent dangers when messing with the dark side. They listed all the classic signs of demonic domination:

Flickering lights? Check.

Erratic movement and activity—not by your hand? Check.

Bizarre and spasmodic sounds impossible to locate or predict? Check.

The ability to levitate of its own accord? … Not yet, but I’m totally prepared for this to happen and won’t be caught off guard when it does. Seeing that will explain absolutely everything else.

Most folk, in this modern day and age of tech talk, gadgetry and regularly giving birth to children who can reprogram satellites by the age of six, have grown accustomed to the idea that they either keep up or bite the dust. It’s like running alongside a train that’s picking up speed and every time you brush the fingers of the guy who’s reaching to pull you in, someone slams the door shut and slides open the entry to the box car in front of it. And instead of just somebody new reaching for you, they’re now also offering you a cool drink—which at this point you’re desperate for, but still can’t quite reach. And so it goes.

LastTrain (800x419)

Somewhere within the time frame of barely grasping word processing (plus a couple of DOS code commands) and grappling with the concept that someplace in the air above me floats everything on my hard drive, smart phone and tablet, there is another sector of computer practice that befuddles me to the core. Other people are using it. Let me make this clearer:

Other people—people I don’t know, have never met, and haven’t given permission—are using my computer.

GoogleRain (498x800)

I first recall seeing “remote” usage of my computer when, years ago, after unsuccessfully thumbing through the eight manuals that accompanied that dinosaur and holding on the phone for approximately the same amount of time it takes to make cheese, a pricey technician was granted access to fix some niggling problem. Seeing the arrow my mouse used to have control over being manipulated by a faceless operator proved fascinating. Sadly, it always moved to quickly for me to register what to click or unclick should my problem reoccur.

Shortly thereafter, I remember thinking the world was full of hackers. The news raged over them, spy novels were rife with them, Hollywood made blockbusters about them and I sat staring at the index to my “help” files wondering how in the world folks could overcome the quirks of their own computers and then manage to have leftover time to mess about with somebody else’s.

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The whole hacking culture is a bit of a head-scratcher to me, and what defines this group is heatedly debated. There are classifications and subgroups that depend upon the attitude, the aim and ambition of each individual. Do you hope to breach security, make money, send a message or befuddle the Luddites? Then you might be a white or a black hat, maybe a script kiddie, a neophyte or a hacktivist, or even simply a cracker. If you’re going to be one of these, you will need a cutting-edge education of computers and their networks. There is no technical help line that will walk you through the steps of ‘How to hack into Twitter accounts.’

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In addition, there is another brand of hacker I came to admire simply from having enjoyed the college tour at MIT. Here, our guide told stories about the much loved school tradition of demonstrating technical prowess and jaw-dropping ingenuity in the form of institutional pranks. These are not your typical ‘Animal House’ fraternity shenanigans, but rather, “We’re going to need a crane and a squadron from the National Guard to fix this,” type of tomfoolery.

The one thing both of these groups have in common is what baffles me most.

Time.

Knowing how long it takes me to defrag my computer and run a simple disc cleanup, I’m wondering when these people have an opportunity to do laundry. It’s not surprising to find out that a sizeable chunk of these tech-savvy cool cats are young enough to still occupy a room down the hall from their parents—which explains my query regarding their dirty clothes.

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Recently, I walked passed my daughter’s laptop and stopped to watch what I thought was a pretty nifty screensaver. When I asked her about it, she informed me that, no, this was not some downloaded piece of fluff, but that she had actually loaned her computer to science. Apparently, when she’s not using it herself, she lends her computing power—along with multitudes of others—to analyze data while it scours the universe for intelligent life. Hers is part of a virtual supercomputer for SETI@home. Those pretty squiggles were simply an indication that her laptop was actively reading radio bandwidth.

And now I look askew at my own PC, wondering if she has rigged my computer to service science, if a huckster has hacked my doohickey, or if indeed a demon has bedeviled my data processor.

I’m just waiting on the floating keyboard. Call it an old Catholic stirring, but I’m pretty sure a phantom has floored my firewall.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott’s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

SILENCE!

Writer'sRock_240113 (800x684)I … can’t concentrate.

Everywhere I go there’s too much noise. A plethora of distractions. An abundance of chatter. Multiple—what? No, you may not make a pizza. We just finished dinner.

I need a space where no one is allowed. An opaque bubble unpoppable by anything apart from spurting blood, ravaging flames, or—I’m not sure. Ask Dad, but I think it’s your turn to feed the sheep.

 My space is not sacred to anyone but ME.

A propaganda cartoon of the arrest of Governor...

The act of writing does not come easily to me. In fact, it’s much like hiding under the bed and trying to gather dust bunnies. Suddenly, I’m holding my breath, desperately hoping not to be discovered by the serial killer who’s broken into the house and is hunting me down. If I don’t move, if I’m very still and shut my eyes to the scariness around me, I just may make it to the other side. If I let a squeak of surprise escape my lips at seeing the shoes of my killer slip through the door and bonk my head on the bed frame, he then drags me by my feet out from under the bed and poof–that’s the end of that.

Okay, let me try and explain. I am me. Under the bed is my dark, safe, quiet haven. It’s full of ideas in the form of gossamer, almost intangible substances. And the rest of the world’s occupants are the killers of my creativity. Bam! It’s over.

I don’t know how people do it–how to think through noise.

English: "Discussing the War in a Paris C...

I’ve had to alter my schedule this week and have been forced out of my dark cocoon. I’m set up in a coffee shop. I hate it.

First of all, I’m forced to buy something I don’t even want in order to justify taking up space and bandwidth. I could make five or six cups of tea at home for the price of one that I had to purchase here. And it’s not my kind. It’s not my anti-stress/full-of-zen/conquer-the-keyboard kind of tea.

Secondly, the chairs are horrible. Like sitting on rocks. I miss my chair. It swivels. It has padding. It’s got wheels. And I’ve changed my mind. These chairs should take lessons from rocks. They aspire to be as comfortable as rocks.

Next, I can’t even keep track of the number of conversations taking place around me—none of them interesting. I’ve eavesdropped on them all. Wendy is having another baby. Pranav doesn’t think this semester’s anatomy class is moving along fast enough. Jared is finally quitting his job because his boss, Alicia, keeps cornering him in the men’s bathroom demanding—shhh … wait … that one is interesting.

 Someone’s cell phone twinkles with silvery, sparkly twiddly bits every twenty-two seconds, which is what I’m guessing is the exact amount of time it takes two teenagers to text a conversation that involves words like:

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘Sup?

Dude

Heya, Bro

WUU2

Nothin ATM U?

i hate my life

Lol

JK

LMAO

OMG

T2UL

k

Riveting, right? WRONG.

It’s distracting.

But only for me, apparently. Everyone else is still able to focus on reading their emails, memorizing great swaths of soon-to-be tested-on material in their textbooks and most importantly, following Jared as he struggled to politely pull his tie out of the sharply filed, dragon lady red fingernailed fingers attached to the breathy and threatening Alicia.

The espresso machine hisses and sputters. The earphoned man next to me watches The Office on Netflix and laughs like he’s sitting in his boxers on his apartment couch. He even belches impressively and doesn’t take notice of the fact that three people around him recoil in disgust. Okay, it was just me, but I did it twice in case he didn’t see me the first time. It doesn’t matter. Steve Carell rules.Rock_solid_240113 (800x612)

I put my earbuds in. Should have done this a long time ago. I tune into Pandora—Native American flute music. But it’s too close. The flautist’s breath is right in my ear, making my hair flutter. The earbuds are massive, built for someone with an ear canal the size of an elephant. It’s painful. On top of everything else, every two minutes an announcer reminds me I’m too cheap to spring for the full paid version and maybe I should consider this for the sake of uninterrupted sanity.Zen_tea_240113 (800x566) (347x323)

I know what will save my mental health, and it ain’t forking out more moola. It’s just me. Back home. In my chair. With my tea. And no earbuds. And no one else.

Okay, except for Jared, but just until I find out if he finally gave in.

~Shelley

 Don’t forget to check out what was cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here)!

*And another big thanks to Robin Gott for his perfectly accurate penned depictions of  how my words look in pictures. To see more of his humor, click here and here.

NASA finally asks for my help.

“Hey, mom?” (daughter, Chloe, in kitchen)

“Uh huh?” (wordsmith, me, at desk)

“Would you like to do an experiment with me?”

One of my eyes strayed from my computer screen and glanced toward her school workspace. The eye noted no test tubes or beakers. The eye reported back to the brain a thumbs up sign.

“You bet.”

“Great,” she said. “You and I are going to go without chocolate for one week.”

“Sure thing … ” (type, tappity tap) “Wait—what?” Both eyes scanned kitchen. Found kitchen empty. “Chloe? … Damn.”

This has happened to me before. I have answered yes to buying a pony, sleepovers that require train travel across two states, the shaving off of one eyebrow and a small down payment on a developing goat herd in Uganda.

They know how to get me. As long as I’m writing, I’m cognizant of nothing apart from the cursor on the screen and how bitter my tea is becoming.

How in the hell was I going to survive without chocolate for seven days? I looked around my desk. There was chocolate everywhere. Having it near me brings a balm of comfort and serenity to my writing space.

Chocolate

Chocolate (Photo credit: EuroMagic)

I’d have to get rid of it.

Out of sight, out of mouth, right?

I could do this. It was probably for the good of science on the whole. I bet I’d be part of some study for NASA. Good for me. I’d show my support for Chloe, and science, and … space?

It didn’t matter. I loved challenge.

Day One: I made it through breakfast. In fact, I just ignored breakfast and got busy. Better not to think about food in general. I left the house for lunch. If I wasn’t at my desk, things would be a heck of a lot easier. After dinner Chloe checked in with me.

“How’d today go?”

“Not too bad. This might be pretty easy. I’m going to bed.”

“Mom? It’s 7 o’clock. The sun hasn’t even set.”

“Yep. But if I’m sleeping, then I won’t want to eat chocolate, okay? Goodnight.”

Day Two: Rising at 4 a.m. is fine if I have to catch a flight to a tropical island getaway, but getting out of bed simply to avoid dreaming about chocolate seemed somehow wrong. I ate a lot of brown food.

Day Three: “Mom?”

“Stop shouting at me!”

English: A small pad of Post-It notes.

English: A small pad of Post-It notes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Day Four: Post It Note: Dear Mom, It’s okay if you want to quit. You’ve made it through three whole days and I know that’s a lot for you. You’ve done great. Love, Chloe

Dear Chloe, Really? You’d just love that now, wouldn’t you? I’d be the laughing stock of everybody else who’s a part of this study. Chocoholic Mom can’t hack three days of deprivation. No way! I’m not going to be the butt of some joke down in Houston.

Dear Mom, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There is no study. It’s just you and me. Have a brownie.

Chloe, I don’t want a brownie. I want you to clean out the damn cat litter!

Day Five: Dear Chloe, I am writing this note to you on your bathroom mirror with your all-time favorite pink lipstick left in the pocket of your blue jeans, which I found just before washing them. I have repeatedly told you what to do before throwing things down the laundry chute, but it appears yo— … sorry, I ran out of lipstick and I’m now using the perfumed soap you got from G-ma at Christmas. CHECK YOUR POCKETS!

Day Six: Text from Chloe: Mom, there is no study. U r off the hook.

Text from me: Not on your life, kiddo! I refuse to abandon my duty to civilization. I know you’re supposed to be reporting back about my behavior and mood swings, and you’re probably going to tell all the people at the lab that your experiment had to be aborted because of some instability issues. That is not going to happen on my watch—NO WAY!

Text from Chloe: Can Dad pick me up after school?

Text from me: NASA just called and wanted to let me know I’m doing great as a test subject. They were ENCOURAGING. Unlike the scientist conducting the study.

Text from Chloe: Mom, u r delusional. There is no study.

Text from me: CONSPIRACY!!!

Text from Chloe: U need rest.

Text from me: I’ll tell you what I need. I need a family that’s going to pitch in when I ask them to! I need a cat that’s not going to vomit hairballs the size of Long Island! I need a dry cleaner that isn’t going to send me back a dress with two more stains on it than before I sent it in! I need an endless supply of orange juice pumped out of one of the kitchen faucets and hooked up to a pipe in Florida because I can’t keep up with the amount your brother is drinking! I need you kids to start picking up the books you toss onto every surface and leave for me to pick—

Message from AT&T: You have exceeded your monthly text allowance.

Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Day Seven: I did not get out of bed on day seven. Not even to pee.

Day Eight: My bowl of cereal was half a bag of Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao chocolate chips with chocolate milk poured over them.

I feel a lot better. Especially since I helped NASA figure out something space related. I’m sure it will eventually be revealed in a Reader’s Digest article, or I’ll see my results reported on the Discovery channel. I’ll probably be part of a documentary.

It was worth it if it meant I’ve aided mankind.

And you’re welcome.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery this week (here) and what we’re all talkin’ about down in the pub (here)!

 

Ears wide open

English: A square open cardboard box. Based on...

I live in a box.

Literally and metaphorically.

Within that box are many other boxes. One holds my thoughts—well, truthfully, that one is always spilling over, so I’ve had to invest in a few more.

Some attempt to contain my emotions (again, the previous statement applies, although those cartons explode occasionally with the heavy artillery they apparently house).

Some cradle my dreams—the ones where I somehow become a master distiller living off the grid with nothing more than the fuel created by sheep poo, and a certificate from Joe Salatin congratulating me for filling up more than half the food banks of Virginia with the excess of my prolific garden. (I said they were dreams.)

tiny uggs

tiny uggs (Photo credit: phil denton)

Other boxes support my curiosities. Much of those spill out into word form and show up on my blog, but there are others I’ve been advised not to share. Because how can you really explain the desire to seek out the price and possibility of making little boots for your sheep so their feet stay dry and don’t develop hoof rot without appearing to have lost your marbles? You don’t. That’s why this stays between us.

There are stacks of other boxes, but the container I’m cracking the lid on today is one that recently had its top pried off and its sides expanded. It’s the box I hold music in.

My early life was threaded with strains of virtuosic violinists, tobacco-spitting gitbox strummers, and tight horn sections swinging notes with the ease of trapeze artists.

As a young teen, I clung to sappy lyrics and vocalists who’d grown used to audiences full of swooning females, allowing myself an occasional attachment to a collection of notes that could double as a big wad of pink bubble gum.

Eventually, when I hauled two extra lumps of squiggling arms and legs around with me, toing and froing from crib to car to couch, I threw in side-splitting comedy, although I think I discovered there’s a limit to the amount of humor one can musically squeeze out of a banana.

Cowboy

Cowboy (Photo credit: AngryGlock)

At present, my summers are filled with slick Aussie cowboys and gun-slinging, sharp-tongued women who are fed up with the men that have wronged them. My autumn days slither by with filaments of tunes all penned in places thick with thistles, the pain dulled with whisky. Winter months are warmed with somnolent crooners, antiquated motets and the soft, round notes of lap-held harps. Come springtime, I’m surrounded by singing bowls and Native American flutes mirroring my hopeful spiritual growth with the new green shoots in the garden.

I’ve been quite content with my steady routine—a life immersed in a melodic soup of simple ingredients that make for a merry musical meal.

But it’s not just me in this house. Or car.

There are other beats that bleed into this shared space.

Our musical preferences are vastly different. And by different I sometimes mean whatever Ive been forced to listen to cannot in anyway shape or form be mistaken for music.

Except, it appears I am the mistaken one.

Music is defined not by a set of words, prosaic and pleasing, but rather by a set of ears. Just one person’s.

Pink Floyd Experience

Pink Floyd Experience (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband is so deeply entrenched in songs from his impressionable youth that he cannot shake himself awake from the 70’s. We’ve tried. He ain’t budging. We can’t even get him to set a toe into the next decade. But who’s to say the answers to all of life’s problems are not buried beneath the lyrical lines of Pink Floyd?

My daughter has an appetite that spans the taste buds of thousands of tongues. She continually stuffs her earbuds into my head to share astonishing compositions from cultures that have nothing to make musical instruments from other than a goat hide and a handful of sand. It is heartbreaking, inventive and worthy of a plastic spy ring for the sleuthing she must do to uncover such gems.

English: Black & White photograph of Lil Wayne...

English: Black & White photograph of Lil Wayne taken by RJ Shaughnessy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My fourteen year old son has joined a tribe consisting of many of his white middle class peers. Somehow, a slice from this generation of children has responded to a constant tug toward the music of their “true” people. I’m guessing they feel they were torn away from the hood before concrete memory was possible. But genetics are hard to fight and we have a mass of angry rapping white kids thankfully speaking on behalf of those with no voice.

Truthfully, he has forced me to listen in order to connect with him. Ignore the lyrics. Listen to the rhythm. Find the themes. Search for the story. Feel the pain.

I do.

Occasionally the pain is located in my eardrums.

But I am surprised at how much (if I work at it—and I do because it’s important to me) I can find to absorb and sympathize with, if not actually enjoy. I have to admit, when we’re jamming to somebody with a first name like Lil, Killah, Busta or 2, I wish I was driving one of the souped-up bagged vehicles that bounce because of added hydraulics. It could be fun. For about five minutes.

poppies on a breezy day

poppies on a breezy day (Photo credit: jon smith.)

Of course, there are still the other occupants of this mountaintop that provide me with a type of music not typically recorded or heard in places other than a meditation retreat at Yogaville. Birdsong, rustling leaves and blades of grass, the morning rooster a mile down the road, the slow grunts of pleasure from sheep scratching against the fence, the sigh of my dog in the middle of the night and the purr of a waking cat who rouses minutes before the blare of the alarm clock.

This too, is worthy.

Harmonic and grand, melodic and winsome.

It’s all music to my ears.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery this week (here) and what we’re all talkin’ about down in the pub (here)!