Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tweets, Texts, Pokes and Avatars

To give you an idea of my age, I started out with 78 rpm records, then switched to albums. My husband and I were the first of our friends to install an 8-track player in our car.  Eight-tracks were replaced by cassettes, cassettes were replaced by cds. Buying pre-programmed cds was replaced with burning your own. I kept up with all of the musical technology although I was a little late catching on to Napster and ITunes.

If advances in music have been rapid, the changes in communication have been mind-boggling. Again, my age is telling. My first phone was a party line (2 short rings, 1 long). I was thrilled when Ma Bell honored me with a private line, just as I was excited about my first electric typewriter and then even more ecstatic when they started to come with correcting tape as a standard feature.

My syndicate sent me my first personal computer, a Leading Edge, which was an IBM clone. I could send my columns via cyberspace - at 1200 baud! The operating system was MSDOS, totally incomprehensible to anyone but a computer wizard. I struggled to learn to compose on a computer screen rather than on paper. About that same time, faxing became the quickest way to transfer documents from one location to another.

Those upgrades all came at a rather reasonable pace. You had time to digest one before they hit you with the next. Then came the flood.

Cell phones and satellite and cable television and Windows and high speed internet connections. The first cell phones were heavy. They came in a bag. All you could do was call and receive calls. They cost you both ways so that people were wary about giving out their cell phone numbers. "Don't tell anyone else," they'd warn you.

By now, I was starting to feel like a swimmer treading the technological water. The faster I paddled, the farther I drifted from shore.

I resisted getting my first cell phone and by the time I finally gave in and bought one, it was already obsolete. My co-workers had moved on to the more advanced models. They could take pictures and get weather reports and read e-mail on their phones, while all I could do was make calls.

I'm on my fifth generation phone but I'm still bringing up the rear. My phone doesn't have a touch screen; it doesn't do apps that let me draw or go to sleep to the sound of ocean waves.

I've never texted. I don't know how and I don't want to know. I've advised friends and clients alike that I delete any texts I receive without reading. I could have won the Clearinghouse Sweepstakes but if they notified me by text, the boat sailed without me.

Eventually, I broke down and joined Facebook. That's what you have to do now to stay in touch with friends. They don't e-mail individuals anymore or even forward. They post news and information and pictures and game scores and music videos and send hugs and kisses and flowers by way of Facebook. Sometimes, they poke one another though I've never understood what poking is all about. They advertise their businesses and support their causes. If you're not an FBer, you will be left in a communication wasteland.

I plinked around forever trying to upload (download?) a picture of myself  on Facebook but now I don't remember how I did it. Hipper people than me have Avatars. I'm not exactly sure what an Avatar is but I think I'd like to have one. I gather it represents the kind of person you believe yourself to be. I'd like to see myself as someone who'd be symbolized by a wolf but a guinea pig would probably be closer to the truth.

Then came Twitter which I determined to resist. You see the pattern here? I've choked down with about all the technological marvels I can stomach but finally, if you want to be part of the in crowd, you're forced to give in, knowing you're facing another huge learning curve if you're old and distinctly un-geeky like me.

Lots of NASCAR drivers and reporters Tweet and many of their Tweets are funny and/or informative. That was the allure of Twitter for me. So, I created a Twitter account (@vdeputy) and then, I didn't have a clue what to do next. Where do Tweets appear? I now understand that it can be on my computer, my phone, or both but how do you make that happen and do I care enough to find out? Do you have to text to tweet? I expect you probably do.

Since I started my Twitter account, two people have signed up to be my followers. I think I'm going to be a disappointment to them.  Meanwhile, I signed up to follow Danica Patrick.....somehow.

I can hop on the internet with my latest Sprint phone. And I learned how to take pictures on it though not how to download them onto my computer. I probably made a mistake simply throwing all the various connecting cables that came with various products in one big box. I never get rid of the cables when I replace the things they attach to so there are about a hundred of them and I don't know which one goes with the camera and which one goes with the phone.....

I feel like I'm getting lost in progress. I need a Tech Tutor to bring me up to speed....or maybe I should just quit paddling.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Continuing Adventures at Walmart with Mom

Mom brandished her list - "we have to go to Walmart."

"Oh, no," I groaned, "please, not Walmart again."

Turned out, she was slightly testy because during our last trip to Walmart, she felt liked I'd rushed her. Rushed? How the heck can you spend two hours wandering aisle after aisle, lovingly fondling item after item, and feel rushed???

Her solution was for me to take the list this time. "Since you like to go so fast, you can get the things on the list and let me dilly-dally."

I made no effort to put my list in any organized order to speed up the shopping process so that I criss-crossed the store, selecting an item in Cosmetics, then circling back to Electronics, then over to Hardware. I forced myself to walk at a snail's pace. I kept a pen in hand and very deliberately marked off each item as I put it in the cart. I leafed through magazines and considered shades of eye shadow. I spent some time at the Jewelry counter though I had no intention of buying any jewelry. I chit-chatted with a couple of friends I ran into along the way.

Finally, when it seemed to me that no human being could possibly "dilly-dally" in Walmart any longer, I checked out (choosing the longest line just to use up a little additional time).

I wheeled my cart of sacks to the door and surveyed the store to see if I could spot Mom. And, sure enough, there she was. She'd got no farther than the Grocery section! I asked the Greeter if I could leave my cart in his safekeeping for a minute, then rushed over to her.

I looked down at her cart. In it, were all the food items that had been on my list!

"Mom!" I said, "you got all the same things you told me to get!"

"I know it," she agreed, "but I thought you might miss something."

I had not missed anything. I got beans, so did she. I got sausage, so did she. I got a head of cabbage, so did she!  She had specifically ordered me to get three packages of a certain brand of English muffins which I had - and so had she. She also had two other packages of a different brand.

"Well," she explained, "I couldn't find the kind I like best at first so I got these instead but then I saw the good ones, so I got them too. I didn't want to waste the time to take the others back".

"TIME, are you freaking kidding?" I thought, but didn't say. Here I'd been doing everything I could to KILL time but she didn't think she had the time to take her muffins back!

There was no way I was going to make the effort to traverse all those aisles again to put all her items where they came from so I told her to just go ahead and check out. If we had double and triple everything, so be it.

"Okay," she said, heading toward the back of the store.

"No," I cried, "the check out lines are over there!"

"I just want to take a quick look at the shoes first."

I took my purchases out to the car, then I came back in and bought a magazine. I read most of it with an eye on the door. About 20 minutes later, she was checking out. Of course, she too chose the longest aisle even though she would have qualified for the express check out.

"Why didn't you use the Express check-out. We could have been out of here ten minutes ago."

"I like to save the Express check-out for people who are really in a hurry," my generous-hearted little mother said.

I told her I'd go get the car. I parked, entered Walmart for the third time, and carried her bags out.

"So, did you buy any shoes?" I asked.

"Oh, no, I never meant to buy any, I just wanted to look."

Silly me.

When we got home, I had to clean out one entire section of the cupboard for English muffins. As I was doing that, she decided to have one.

"Guess what?"

"What, Mom?"

"The toaster isn't heating up. You're going to have to run back to Walmart and get a new one."

"Oh, geez, you can get along without a toaster for a few days, can't you?"

She shrugged. "Well, if you don't mind watching all these English muffins go to waste."

I went back. Walmart Entry #4. The Greeter probably thinks I'm stalking him. I thought I was prepared for the vicissitudes of caring for an elderly parent but no one ever warned me that Walmart was part of the deal.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'll Keep My Gun, Thank You

Every time we have a shooting tragedy, such as the one in Arizona, we hear the same predictable responses. The gun-haters scream that we need stronger gun control laws;  the gun-lovers shout that every citizen should be encouraged to exercise their right to carry a concealed weapon.

I am a liberal, sort of, but I have a loaded handgun on the table beside my bed and another in the kitchen. I drew my weapon once when two young gang-bangers flanked me in a lonely mall parking lot. I was sure they intended to mug me. Would I have shot one of them if they hadn't seen the pistol in my hand and gone flying in the opposite direction? You bet I would, having been taught by my then-boss, the county sheriff, never to draw a weapon unless you're willing to pull the trigger.  It seemed to me that two young guys versus one plump, old, gray-headed woman with a gun made the score just about even.

Generally, we liberals are kinder and more generous-hearted about assisting the unfortunate than conservatives but if anything, we can be even more patronizing about those to whom we feel superior. Mika Brzezenski is the most perfect example. She'd be absolutely self-righteous about inflicting her views upon me "for my own good". Cigarettes? Horrifying! Fast food? Awful! Soda pop? Despicable! NASCAR? Well, actually, I've never heard her mention NASCAR (as a matter of fact, Morning Joe never mentions NASCAR) but I assume she'd be o-so-condescending about anyone who loves a sport that involves gas-guzzling un-green machines. And guns? Well, needless to say, in Mika's world only elites would carry weapons.

Would either the liberals' views or the conservatives' views toward guns have prevented the tragedy in Tucson? I don't think so.

Banning guns doesn't mean no one has guns. It is trite but true. If guns are outlawed, only those willing to break the law will have them. You would even force people like me, who are mostly rules-followers, to skirt the law, (just as I smoke in my car in the hospital parking lot in defiance of a regulation I consider over-bearing). Even if gun sales were outlawed tomorrow, there are already enough weapons in this country that there would continue to be a thriving underground for the foreseeable future. Would a strict gun control law have stopped Jared Loughner from obtaining a weapon? Not likely.

But encouraging citizens to carry concealed weapons wouldn't have helped either. Barring a steely-eyed off-duty law enforcement officer, most of us who might have had a weapon in pocket or purse would never have gotten it together quick enough to stop Loughner from emptying a clip. It takes a period of time for your brain to analyze what's going on and then to decide if you have a clear shot at the perpetrator. By that time, it's all over - six dead, 13 wounded. React before you have the complete picture and you might do more harm than good.

Neither side has the answer but it doesn't matter anyway because we're more interested in scoring points from our opposing philosophical foxholes than in actually trying to solve the problem (which may have more to do with treating mental illness than it does with guns).

In the meantime, while the debate goes on, I plan on keeping mine.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NASCAR Predictions

(*Note - repost from my blog at NASCAR.com)

Johnny Depp wins an Academy Award for his role as Jimmie Johnson in the movie, "Unfavorite Son".

Danica makes the cover of both the swim suit issue and the regular issue of Sports Illustrated. She agree to play herself in her move, "Fiberglas Ceiling".

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. writes his autobiography - "Laughing All The Way To The Bank".

Jeff Gordon pens a hit song, sung by John Mellencamp - "I Taught You Everything You Know...Dammit!"

Mark Martin writes a poem - "If Two Was One, I'd Be Jimmie Johnson".

Denny Hamlin composes a Dear John letter to Mike Ford.

Kyle Busch writes 1000 times on the NASCAR blackboard - "Dirty Words and Double Digits are Dastardly Deeds".

Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray, Bobby LaBonte and Kasey Kahne all make the Chase in 2011 and sing a barbershop quartet chorus of "Sometimes You Have to Get Really Down Before You Appreciate Coming Back Up".

Kevin Harvick tweets - "yeah, but MY firesuit came in 3rd in the points".

Ryan Newman goes hunting and kills Sasquatch, whose head is now mounted in Ryan's den.

Tony Stewart and his partner win the final 2011 episode of Dancing With The Stars.

Brian France is quoted as saying, "whose freakin' bright idea was the Chase anyway?"

Cat in the Hat, Jack Roush, puts himself in a bubble, having done the calculations to realize he's on his ninth life.

David Ragan gets kicked off the island in Survivor and hopes that isn't a trend.

Carl Edwards polishes a limerick -

"There once was a driver who flipped back,

whenever he won on the track.

A cool flip of your own,

when done all alone,

But not when used as an attack.

Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski get together to croon a duet - "So, our fathers love us and may be a bit over-protective but isn't that better than the alternative?"

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Can I Hire You to Take My Mother to Walmart?

I still don't feel comfortable with Mom driving since she had her stroke. She's bounced back amazingly but she still has a few concentration glitches. She was hot to go to Walmart yesterday so I ended up taking her. I'm sure there are times when I've been more frustrated but, off-hand, I can't remember when it might have been.

I personally loathe Walmart. I probably don't step foot inside the door more than a few times a year and that's because, of course, there are now many things in a small town like this one that you can buy no place else. Eventually, I expect little communities like Wabash to consist simply of a Ginormous-Mega-Supersized Walmart surrounded by a ring of residential neighborhoods. Maybe we'll keep a couple buildings for government services and possibly a downtown block for lawyers and insurance sales people (unless Walmart offers them space too). I suppose we'll continue to have fast food restaurants but, naturally, they'll all want to be clustered near Walmart.

We started out with a regular-sized Walmart (we also had a K-Mart and a Target for a while). Then the baby Walmart sold out and moved across the street into a new Supercenter. In addition to a grocery section with a delicatessen and a bakery, this store features a bank and a beauty shop and a pizza place and a pharmacy and place to sign up for cell phone service and a Western Union.  Of course, you can also get your garden supplies and auto parts there. No gas station yet but I'm sure that's coming and then one trip to Walmart will do it all. We won't need anything else. At some point in the future, you could imagine that every single resident of Wabash County (population: 30,000 or so) will be in Walmart at the same time.

On this particular trip with Mom, I was determined to be cheerful. She hadn't been out of the house much so it was rather a treat for her. My good cheer lasted the length of the first aisle (bakery) but faltered as we rounded the corner into the meat department. That's because Mom wanted to pick up and inspect every single item! Even things we wouldn't eat in a million years.

"Mom," I said, "you know there is no way we're going to buy tongue or brains or lamb or head cheese. Why are you fondling them?"

"I just like to see how much they cost," she said as if discovering the price of a cow's tongue was a fascinating way of passing time.

We ambled slowly up and down the various aisles, testing the firmness of tomatoes and estimating the weight of cabbage heads. We debated for fifteen minutes which kind of orange juice we wanted - high pulp, medium, or low. We discussed the pros and cons of various brands of bacon and argued about whether to purchase large curd or small curd cottage cheese.

After we left the grocery section, we proceeded into the rest of the store, of which we had to cover every square inch including the baby department.

By now, I was a seething mass of stress inside. "Mom!" I almost yelled, "why are we looking at layette sets? We haven't had a baby in the family in 35 years!"

"No, but I was thinking I might pick up something for Larry and Alice's Little Stephen."

"Little Stephen is going to graduate high school before we're out of Walmart at the rate we're going!"

There was no hurrying her. We looked at tools and towels and car batteries. We checked out fabrics and craft supplies. (Neither us has sewn a stitch or created a craft in decades). She debated whether she wanted a new suitcase and pondered purchasing a a plant. She flipped through magazines and compared prices of computers although she has never even turned on a computer.

She ran into people she knew and chit-chatted, leaning against her cart, while I slowly tore my hair out.

I was having heart palpitations by the time we finally got thru check-out. We were almost out the door, when she said, "oh, I forgot, we were going to get you another jar of creamer".

"That's okay," I replied, "I decided I don't like creamer in my coffee anymore."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive," I said, giving her a little shove through the door.