Tag Archive | computers

A foray into the confession genre

Years ago I took an adult ‘Writing for Publication’ class. Attending weekly required the

teacher

She taught us about all the genres

juggling of work, family, pets, etc. so it was sometimes difficult to complete assignments. Frances Rockwell, our delightfully wacky teacher, usually understood. She taught us about all the genres available to writers.

With little free time, my reading was selective. I enjoyed, as I still do, history, classics, biographies, and novels. I once tried reading six romances with the idea of writing some, but decided if you can’t read it, you can’t write it.

One assignment was to write a piece for the ‘Confession’ market. I didn’t bother. This time, for some reason, Rockwell chose to ask me, as I left with a whole group of women, why I hadn’t turned it in. Why did she pick on me???

embarrassed

I had to open my big mouth

Had I not been so young and stupid, I’d have apologized and said I hadn’t had time. She would have accepted that. That wasn’t what I did. Oh, no! I had to open my big mouth! (Maybe I needed a lesson I’d never forget.) Instead of being wise, I chose to be a smart-ass.

‘I’m not interested in writing that kind of crap.’ I announced. Oh, oh. That did it!

teacher scolds. jpg

You’re not interested?

‘You’re not interested? Indeed, if there is anyone in this class who could bend a little, it’s you. NICE ladies don’t write interesting stuff. It would do you in particular good to climb down from your pedestal. It would do you good to write a Confession piece.’

I goofed

embarrassed, humiliated

I deserved it, but why didn’t the floor open up and swallow me at that moment? I would have been happy to have breathed my last breath if only it would. I was embarrassed, humiliated — and humbled. Right there In front of everyone I had been properly cut down. Demolished.

I’m sure that wasn’t the last time I allowed a thoughtless, stupid comment to pass my lips, but I’ve never forgotten it. I sheepishly crawled back to class the next week and completed the course.

typewriter

It was long before computers

You know I’m too neurotic to forget something like that, so years later, when I finally had some time to write, what was the first thing I worked on? Right. I did that darned assignment and sent it off to ‘True Story’ in New York.

Lo and behold, our telephone rang while we were breakfasting weeks later. They wanted it! They paid me $250. (The most I’d ever been paid for anything at the time.)

Susan, a very clever teenager, looked up over her Cheerios. She had no idea what it was I’d sold. (I hadn’t told anyone about it.)

‘Can I read it?’ She asked. How could I say no? She’d think that strange so I got it for her and she read.

‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this,’ she almost stuttered, and again ‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this!’ Susan, usually so verbal, was almost speechless.

True Story

The actual issue I was published in

Afterwards, I sent a published copy to Mrs. Rockwell, with a note saying I’d finally done the assignment she had dressed me down for, and that I was sure she would find it satisfactory — since I’d sold it.

Her response was a total surprise. Not being as neurotic as I am, she didn’t recall the incident. However, she wrote if she had done so, it was because she felt I was someone especially talented enough to make it. Interesting, I hadn’t realized that.

Well, the ‘Confessions’ genre is long gone. Young people today have no need to read about it — they’re busy doing it themselves. And no. I didn’t choose to write another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hurrah! I did it!

confused-old-lady

I’m technologically Challenged

My children say I’m technologically challenged and they’re right. Computers and websites ARE beyond me at times, so I’m feeling particularly proud of myself right now. Somehow I managed to complete a late request for air miles on the Aeroplan website. I can hardly believe it.

It had been well over a year since I was able to travel. That meant I’d not seen Michael and daughter Susan’s new home in Nevada. New hip firmly in place, I could finally make it and even climb the 17 stairs (Susan counted them) up to their second floor to see every corner of their lovely abode. Before anything else could go wrong, off I went.

I was so excited, I didn’t focus much on details or the fact I was traveling on the July 4th holiday. It cost more? So what? It was well worth it. Son Rafi, his Chandra, and their Remy drove from San Francisco to join us. Everyone spoiled me and I had one of the best birthdays ever.

Whether because I hadn’t ordered airline tickets for so long, or just forgot — yes, that’s possible too — I didn’t get my air miles added to my Aeroplan account. Maybe now that I’m a real bionic woman I’ll be able to use them.

The dozens of hard copies generated by this transaction in our modern, ‘paperless’ society were stacked high here and there wherever I’d dropped them upon my return, gathering dust on my desk, guest bed and the dining table — how could there be so many?

Mom, look I'm telling you 2

I felt guilty

They stared at me accusingly every time I walked past, making me feel guilty. I know very well how to feel guilty. I do that almost as well as I worry. They had no choice but to wait for me to clear up other matters deemed more important on my long ‘to do’ list. Finally it was time to bite the bullet.

Woman_Sitting_at_a_Messy_Desk_clipart_image

It must be here somewhere

First thing that morning I took a deep breath and tackled the stacks. I refused to be overwhelmed by the quantity. I started by eliminating and setting aside all the extra pages and pages of legal stuff nobody reads anyway. Those papers themselves could have represented a whole tree.

old yellow telephone

I got on the phone

I got on the phone and spoke with a woman at Aeroplan, who confirmed, indeed, I hadn’t claimed the miles. She gave an involved explanation of what I needed to do, besides which, she seemed sure the expertise I required was beyond me. Plus, at this late date, it could only be accomplished on their website. It sounded so difficult, I now wonder if she was purposely trying to discourage me.

That’s all I needed. Challenge me and I’ll surely take you up on it. Well, waddaya know!

I was better to him than you were

That’s all I needed.

After I assured them I wasn’t a robot and filled in all the spaces for the two flights home, it seemed to work. Was I sure it was right? Did I know I’d receive credit for my missing miles? Would they believe I’m not a robot? I had no idea. However no red flags went up, the request was accepted, and they acknowledged by yet another email they’d received it. Hurrah!

It was reassuring to know just that it went through. That, in itself, was an accomplishment. I decided if I do get the air miles, I’d let you know. I did hear from them.

Here’s what their email said:

Your missing miles have been deposited. We’re pleased to let you know that your request for missing miles for (my name) on ticket number 274939843639 has been approved and 896 miles from the following credit request(s) has/have been deposited:

True, that’s not such a big deal, however, I made it on their website — and that IS a big deal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would you believe? A radar technician…

scan-1

Airwoman 1st Class

My children gently tease me about being technologically challenged. Well, I’ll have you know, you young whippersnappers, believe it or not, I was a radar technician during the 1950s. It was the height of technology at the time and I did it for the Air Force! So there!

The Air Force Auxiliary paid more per hour than I earned at my office job and I was always interested in earning extra money. They provided a free air-force uniform, winter coat and shoes, plus trips to the mountains on weekends, which, because I didn’t date much, were boring anyway.

muriel-and-mary-vien-1950s

Arriving by bus — Mary, a devout Catholic, and I attended Church services every Sunday morning

It proved to be an adventure. They’d drive our ‘flight’ (class) to the Radar Station atop a mountain by bus. It was an interesting experience and I look back at it with pleasure.

I also had my very first marriage proposal (from a regular airman) whom, I believe, really meant it. I shall never, ever forget that! He was from Prince Edward Island and handsome in his uniform. I’ve never been to PEI, but have always wanted to visit there because of this memory. Perhaps he was attracted to me because I was the first virgin he ever dated. He told me I was, he respected me for it, and never attempted to change my status.

airforece-auxiliary-1950s

No, I didn’t get garbage detail, but already had a twisted sense of humor

Some other flight colleagues obtained jobs at Montreal’s Dorval airport. It was miles away from my home and I didn’t drive. The mere thought of bracing dark winters on public transit all the way out there didn’t appeal. I just didn’t have the courage. Thus, I was perhaps saved some health issues.

My friend Philip was a WWII pilot. Now, he chuckles when he tells me that on the way out on flying missions, he’d turn hot and cold, a cold hand would clutch his innards and oops, the poor guy would throw up — in the cockpit. It was embarrassing and humiliating for him, and unpleasant for others. Surprise, surprise — they didn’t want to fly with him. So Philip was grounded — and he believes probably survived the war as a result.

Recently, I heard on CBC Radio that Radar Technicians from the 50s are trying to get compensation from the government for health issues resulting from electromagnetic rays they experienced from those early radar screens. I could have been one of them. The only reason I’m not is — I was chicken.

Former radar technicians complain of ‘headaches, fatigue, weakness, sleep disturbance, irritability, dizziness, memory difficulties, sexual dysfunction and occasionally shortness of breath after exertion……

‘During the 1960s and 1970s, ophthalmologist Milton Zaret, under contract with the Army and Air Force, examined the eyes of thousands of military and civilian personnel working at radar installations in the US and Greenland. Large numbers of them, he found, were developing cataracts….caused by chronic exposure to radiation of the eye at power densities around one milliwatt per square centimeter — a level which is regularly exceeded by each of the two and a half billion cell phones in use today.’ (Birenbaum et al. 1969, Zaret 1973)

I did develop early cataracts, which my eye specialist called ‘juvenile cataracts’. But they were probably as a result of my juvenile brain rather than being caused by 1950s radar screens.

projectionist-certificate-mur

Okay, so I don’t know how to scan these and get them straight, but I’ll learn

I looked for some of the photos taken then with one of those Brownie cameras, (remember?) and also found my official R.C.A.F. Projectionist Certificate. Hey guys, look at me!!! This old gal was up on the newest technology of her time — the 1950s. Have some respect.

 

 

 

(For more information on older radar screens, microwaves, and televisions, try Google.)

How to open a jar…..

Mom, look I'm telling you 2

photo by Susan Kauffmann

After our Arthritis exercise class the other day, friends gathered to chat over coffee. Isabel had given me a gift of a battery-operated jar opener. Goodness knows, I’d done battle with some stubborn tops lately and probably told her so. I said I couldn’t wait to get home to play with my new ‘toy’. This led to a discussion of our children and their toys.

My son, Rafi, was a ‘lets-see-whats-inside’ kid. When he was five, I thought he’d enjoy a walkie-talkie — okay, I would anyway. (This was before computers.) We both loved it and communicated with each other from room to room. The next day, after work, I returned home and found Rafi had taken it all apart. He thought he could put it back together. No more walkie-talkie. He was so sincere, you couldn’t get upset with him.

raf kid dancing

Rafi was a funny wonderful kid

 

70s toy Simon

70s toy Simon

The next thing Rafi took apart was the then-brand-new and very popular Simon game. I got the biggest kick out of it. It lit up! We loved it. If memory serves, it cost over $60, a hefty sum at the time — but well worth it. What happened?? The next evening I learned Rafi couldn’t resist taking Simon apart. He wanted to see how it worked. No more Simon.

I’m a slow learner and since I never grew up, I was soon entranced by a real working watch for children. An educational toy… The inner workings were clearly visible and coloured in bright red, green and yellow. It, too, didn’t last more than a day. Mr. ‘Take it Apart’ was at it again, and the loving woman who cared for him found it impossible to say no to him. That was the last toy I bought for Rafi  which could be taken apart.

I had several employers through Rafi’s growing up years. I asked if I might have any ready-to-be-discarded, no longer functional adding machines, telephones or radios. I’d tell little Rafi my boss wanted him to try to fix them. He happily took them apart with screwdrivers and spent hours working on them. He was perfectly happy — and so was I.

Balsa Wood Model Airplane

Balsa Wood Model Airplane

Rafi then became interested in building planes out of those kits kids used to play with. He put them together while I was at work. He never bothered reading the directions and there were always a piece or two left over. Yet, they seemed perfectly okay.

When we bought our first computer, my CPA husband and I thought we’d use it for accounting. It was a classic double disk drive — Microsoft?? Rafi had attended a summer computer class and he and his friends were playing/trading Apple computer games. These didn’t work on our computer, so we bought something perhaps called a ‘card’ (program?) to install. I planned to hire someone to do it since we wanted Rafi to be able to use it.

disk for our first computer

Remember these disks?

I’m still intimidated by computers, so imagine my concern when I got home from work to find the computer taken apart, and Rafi, about eight at the time, sitting there, cool as a cucumber, screwdriver in hand, putting the card in. I gulped. He did it. And, it worked. Not surprisingly, Rafi’s grown up to be a handy kind of guy.

One_Touch_Jar_Opener__61279.1431664533.380.380

automatic jar opener

So, what about my new automatic-battery-operated jar opener? Amy came over and the two of us experimented with my brand new toy. Press the button and it makes this fabulous noise, parts move, it does a little dance and removes the top —  just like that! It was so much fun, we opened every new jar I could find in my kitchen cabinets.

I’d love to do more. Have a few I can open? Just bring them over…..

Write a blog? Who? Me?

Photo, like so many others, by Susan Kauffmann

Photo, like so many others, by daughter Susan Kauffmann

I feel lucky. My son, Rafi, is loving, warm and considerate — and so is his

Son Rafi, who with wife Chandra and their Remy bring me joy

Son Rafi, who with wife Chandra and their Remy bring me joy

wife, Chandra. I am certainly blessed to have them, and they are doing such a great job raising my grandson, Remy, that I proudly claim all three as my own.

Then, there is Brian and his wife Rebecca. Brian claims to be my #2 son and as such, like Avis, he says he tries harder. I saw Rebecca grow up, but not Brian. I would have liked to. He always manages to make me laugh and I’d love to know where or when he developed his crazy sense of humour. There is also something very special about someone who decides to adopt YOU as a mother and I love Brian especially for that. Plus, he’s a good sport and puts up with my nonsense, and, as you can imagine, that ain’t easy. He listens patiently to how thrilled I am with this blog, and not for the first time, suggested a topic for a post — this one.

Whenever I visit #2 son Brian and his Rebecca it is my birthday and we celebrate

Whenever I visit #2 son Brian and his Rebecca it is my ‘birthday’ and we celebrate

Daughter Susan, who understood what this blog would mean to me before I did

Daughter Susan, who understood what this blog would mean to me before I did

Before that, however, I must attribute the whole idea of this blog, which brings me so much pleasure, to my daughter Susan. Susan suggested it to begin with, set it all up for me, taught me what little I know about managing it, and continues to help whenever I mess things up which I do regularly — very regularly. Because of her thoughtfulness and loving patience, I’ve had a grand time since she talked a reluctant me into it.

I wonder if at times Susan doesn’t feel she’s created a Frankenstein. The poor thing has had to take time out of her own busy life to rescue me again and again when the technology gets the better of me.

It was also Susan, who, seeing how excited I get about the people from other countries who visit my little blog, suggested I start keeping track of where you live. Clever girl — I started doing so in July, 2013.

This is my list so far:

Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China!!! (just today), Columbia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France,

An outdoor market in Latvia

An outdoor market in Latvia

Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, (South) Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan,

Flag of Montenegro

Flag of Montenegro

Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Republic, United Kingdom, United States, Viet Nam — and any day now, I may be able to add yet another.

A scene in Saudi Arabia

A scene in Saudi Arabia

At the very beginning, it was a thrill to approach and then reach 500 views. After that I looked forward to 1,000; then 1,500; and now, here I am at 6,998 — 7,000 coming up! And, you are the one who makes it all possible. Thank you!

Robbers, rogues and rapists….

Photo: Timothy Stark

Photo: Timothy Stark

There was a time I wrote often about fraud, but haven’t done so before in this blog. However, a friend has been taken by the ‘you’re having a problem with your computer and we can help you fix it’ phone scam, so it is time I did. This friend has a P/C, uses word and like most of us deals with the often baffling confusions of modern technology. He thought the call was valid.

After allowing them into his computer, his credit card was charged over $300 and his computer was so messed up, he had to bring it into a shop to have it straightened out — at additional cost. The credit card company would not refund his money, it had gone off to a faraway third world country and there was no possibility of reimbursement. I’ve received dozens of the same calls and I don’t even use a P/C. We are all possible victims of fraud.

Someone was recently wearing a T-shirt which read ‘Prey or Predator’. What it implied disturbed me — I don’t like to think humans must fall into one or the other category, but there certainly are a few predators out there and we really need to be wary. It isn’t that the world is going to the dogs, and it isn’t that you can’t trust any one anymore. There is nothing new about dishonesty. It hasn’t just arrived with the advent of the computer, it has always been a part of the human condition.

Mode of travel once upon a time

Mode of travel in the 12th century

We’ve had thieves and rogues aplenty throughout history. For instance, in the days of the Plantagenets, the English royal house of Anjou, (12th century) a journey from one British town to another was fraught with extreme danger. Murderous villains lurked in the bushes on the roadways, ready to terrorize and plunder hapless travelers. Women were so vulnerable they often dressed as men in an effort to avoid being raped as well as robbed by the highway men lying in wait.

Nothing is new. In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra’s priests, who mummified cats to be buried with humans for the trip to the other world, often filled those ‘mummies’ with sand instead of cats. They had a good scam going — cats were revered. Go further back and I am convinced the caveman raided his neighbor’s den to commandeer meat, berries and women, while the poor unsuspecting

One of our forefathers ready to steal from his neighbor

One of our forefathers ready to steal from his neighbor

chap next door was out doing what he should — hunting a mastodon. Not much changes.

Out to get you

Out to get you today

Despite history and the many warnings on the news, some of us continue to get needlessly burned. And, if you have already been cheated once, be even more alert. You are considered ripe for another try, thieves trade information about ‘easy marks’. You may be approached by a scam artist again, so be extra vigilant. I care about you.

“May you live in interesting times.”

Mom, look I'm telling you 2 They say “May you live in interesting times.” is an ancient Chinese curse. Indeed, ‘interesting’ can be horrible if there is war, political unrest, famine or real trouble in your life. To me, the curse sounds wise enough to be Chinese, but there is some doubt about where it actually originated. No matter. Some of us who are lucky don’t consider ‘interesting’ as ominous.
The other day, over lunch of Eggs Benedict, a friend who has reached the venerable age of 90, declared: “I’ve lived through the most interesting of times”. She shared with me all she had seen during her long lifetime — and since she has been truly lucky, she’s absolutely right. An elderly Los Angeles friend had said the very same to me over 25 years ago and I still remember….

He remembered his family's first radio

He remembered his family’s first radio


He had recalled with pleasure and wonder his family’s first radio — all of them sitting around the table wearing earphones, with the contraption of open tubes and wires sitting in a place of honor in the centre of the table while they heard a symphony on radio for the very first time. It was a thrilling event he never forgot. He told me about the time their gas lights were changed to electric and when his mother no longer had to go out into the hallway of their apartment building to get water because new plumbing was installed right in each and every suite. He thought it all miraculous.
An 1895 automobile

An 1895 automobile

He also remembered the excitement of receiving wires, seeing his first automobile, the introduction of the telephone, then later television, microwave ovens, electric typewriters, and his first computer and printer. He did not dwell on the fact he had had to flee for his life from his beloved Vienna and then, serving in the U.S. Military, had witnessed the liberation of a Nazi death camp. He felt he had had a fascinating, interesting time of it.
My lady friend who last week talked about all the wonderful changes she has seen has been even more fortunate. She spent her whole life in Canada. And, yes, the advancements we’ve experienced are great in many ways, but sometimes I wonder…..
I am old enough to remember learning to type on a manual typewriter and how difficult it was to deal with my first electric one. Those keys typed letters at the
I learned to type on a manual typewriter

I learned to type on a manual typewriter

slightest touch, and it was frustrating. If I found that intimidating, you can imagine how intimidated I can be by the complexity of modern computers.
I also remember when we called any business and a real, live person answered the phone. Now, a machine tells us our call is important and the wait will be 15 to 30 minutes. Or, we must push this button and that while the minutes tick by and we desperately concentrate on following the recorded directions correctly because just one blunder — and we’re out of the loop with no possible way back. And, since these electronic telephone systems aren’t always perfect, we can do all the right things and still end up with a dial tone. No wonder we grind our teeth!
Just where oh where have all the people gone? And if our calls ARE important to them, why don’t they employ enough people to handle them? Perhaps we’ve made a Faustian pact with the devil where modern technology is concerned. Even flesh-and-blood humans are beginning to behave more like humanoids than people. We bank at machines, our bills are paid automatically and too often we have little human contact in our everyday lives. I miss that, don’t you?
Will our grandchildren who nuke potatoes in a microwave ever know how great a real baked potato tastes? Is that important? Will future generations who grow up texting each other and using cell phones have any idea how to have a real conversation? Will the youngsters who are no longer taught how to write at school know how to sign their names? Does any of this matter to anyone besides me?
True, my own relationship with modern technology is tenuous. My computer and I have an agreement — I try not to goof too often and it tries not to scare me too much. I know how to turn on my microwave, but have no idea how to decrease the power, so everything gets heated on high. Still, we manage to live together in peace.
And, all those unnecessary clocks that are pre-installed on microwaves, CD players, and most other electronic gizmos in my home remain unset, so don’t bother looking at them for the correct time. I don’t know how to set them and nor do I care.
There is just so much I can handle.