Thursday, July 04, 2013

New Operating System Blues

Computer users  know the feeling of being in front of a machine that ought to do what you tell it to but the machine is absolutely so dumb that it doesn't understand what you are telling it to do.

A person needs to upgrade. Old systems become incompatible with the web and with other people's systems.  Even if you are not particularly interested in keeping up with latest developments, sooner or later for often unforeseen reasons, almost every one I know has to deal with it.  I refer to ( dun dun dunnnn) the dreaded new operating system. Some people are dragged kicking and screaming, some meekly go along, some suffer in silence and some love to update. There are even those who will take the time to read the instructions. But new operating systems are inevitable for us all.

Plus with a new operating system, there are clever new ways of doing things that will make the user a thousand times more productive if only they would read the instructions. These instructions are written by people who are not skilled communicators. These young folk work in environments designed to make them feel good, Google and Yahoo offices or other such places. The design of the workplace of the coders and developers does not help the user understand which (darned) button to push to get the thing to work. The instructions of technical writers are comprehensible to 20 percent of the people who read them, tops. Little thought is given to the other 80%. If the writer is recently graduated from an ESL class, the instructions may be impossible. I don't usually read the instructions.

Our children have been raised in environments that encourage pushing every button in sight and seeing what happens. People over the age of 50 have the image of the President with his hand on the button that starts a nuclear war embedded in their subconscious somewhere near our brain stems and autonomous nervous systems. Older folk simply do not trust blind button pushing.

These button pushing young folk look down on quaint notions that if a device doesn't work, you take it to the repair shop and get it fixed. Or maybe they don't know about repair shops, since repair shops are mighty rare these days.

Sometimes, you just have to upgrade and I can't blame you if you don't like it. Getting comfortable with a technology can be hazardous when a new development comes along and we all have to grade. No wonder we have no time, so much keeping-up we have to do. No time to get cranky with the younger generation when we need them to show us which button to push (even though the world is going to hell in a hand basket, as those over 30 know).

I wish I knew of a solution. Feeling helpless and frustrated is dues person pays for getting to use the fabulous new machines, I guess. Sometimes I like to fancy that the old typewriter is on the old desk in my old office, but don't tell anybody about that fantasy, especially my children.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Good Luck

The day starts out as it always does. Out the door at half past six for a full day

of teaching. It’s a long drive with five railroad crossings, three hidden driveways, and

five school zones. Twenty-seven miles of winding roads and a dozen curves demand

a slower speed.

The journey’s a mesmerizing one. The roadside’s a canopy of trees and blue

lakes. It’s a peaceful time for reflection and anticipation of what the day will bring. Not

far from home a black cat suddenly darts across the road in front of me.

I don’t think of myself as superstitious, but for a moment I want to turn back

and return home. I thought if I had just spilt salt I could always throw it over my

shoulder and be done with it. On the other hand, it’s good it isn’t a tortoiseshell-colored

cat and I’m not in Normandy because that means accidental death.

Other superstitions keep popping into my head. If you walk under a ladder you’ll

have bad luck or step on a crack you’ll break your mother’s back. It’s best to walk

around the ladder and avoid the crack-just to be safe. Superstition is the irrational

belief that an object, action or circumstance not logically related to a course of events

influences its outcome. The black cat syndrome followed me on my drive.

An old gray pickup truck towing an older trailer covered by a tarp passes me on

a double yellow line in between curves. Perhaps the black cat was bad luck. A few miles

further up the road and just before my first railroad crossing, a large square flat board lies

on the pavement in front of me. I drive over one edge of it because of on coming

cars in the opposite lane. After the bump I think, So far-so good.

Around the next hairpin curve a missile rolls towards me from the opposite

side of the road. It is a twenty-pound portable gas tank! My car clears the thing

and I look in the rear view mirror to see the cars behind me playing ring around the


Once again, thoughts of the black cat bringing bad luck are back and verified a

few moments later when a larger tank appears in the middle of the road. A big dark

gray tank with a cable attached to a black box or something. I hope this is the last

encounter and I will make it to school safely. I see the pickup truck with the trailer.

The driver makes a u-turn and I hope he is going back to retrieve his lost articles.

I give the morning drive a good deal of thought and decide the cat has brought

me good luck since I have managed to avoid all the obstacles dumped in my path. All

those superstitions just seem like fallacies. I think Groucho Marx had the right idea

when he said, “A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going


Excerpt from The Heart of It All by L. Goff
Available from

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sun Worship

Long days of the solstice
And we bake willingly--
Change metabolism to bask
as the lizard in us calls
The sun sets late-- reluctant
We stare in reverence
at the huge, orange pagan eye.

News flash

From the tongue-in-cheek department, roving reporter Ginny Grush sends this news flash.


Historic Find Revealed

Paris, France (Rotters) It was announced today at a Bastille Day Celebration in Paris that present-day, CSI-type tests recently conducted on the remains of the defenders of the Bastille have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that 99% of them died of injuries consistent with head-butts.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Poetry is the language
of experience and emotion
translated imaginatively
with care and devotion.

Poets struggle with words
in free verse and rhyme
creating lovely poems
pertinent to our time.

Some poems are lengthy
evoking moods and reverie;
others are notably short
succinct and fancy free.

Poetry is written
for each one’s pleasure,
to read and to savor -
a lifetime of treasure.

By:  Elaine Mazany Simpson
        C.  April 2000

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ambulance by Louise Greenfield



     He wasn’t supposed to do it this way.  Nobody is.  He was supposed to get gray and dry and wither away.  It should have been a gradual process.  But he had to do it differently.  He kept me on the ropes for years.

     He lived in one state while I was living in another.  That alone made it tough to keep tabs on him.  Not that I wanted to keep tabs on him.  I wanted to lose him.   

     Growing up, I was so ashamed of him.  He was an ill-dressed, ill-spoken immigrant son who refused to be American.  I longed for the day when I could get away from him.  When I married, I moved from Ohio to Michigan with the greatest of glee. 

     His intrusion into my life began in the way that bad news always comes, with a phone call.  A hospital called and said he had been brought in with a head injury.  Going to see him was not an easy matter.  I had a baby still in his playpen and a husband who was a traveling salesman, gone from Monday to Friday.

     We had to drive there on Friday nights, arriving at three the next morning.  The Jewish lady whose husband lay in the next bed raved about what a marvelous daughter I was, coming all the way from Michigan to see him.  I didn’t feel marvelous; I felt churlish and resentful and somehow surprised. 

     The doctors were puzzled.  The severity of his condition did not seem warranted by the extent of the injury.  They kept him for a month trying to figure it out.  They released him after a month, saying he needed to go into a nursing home.  The bill was $865.  You can imagine how far back that was—1964 to be exact.  However, salaries were lower, too, and we could not have spared it from my husband’s paycheck.  Luckily we had a rainy day fund and that’s where it came from. 

     He had to be transported by ambulance with me riding along with him.  That summer the fashionable thing was black cotton dresses.  And that’s what I wore, a tight black dress.  The tightness and blackness were all wrong.  The air conditioning in the ambulance worked erratically and I got hot as a firecracker.

   He began asking me where we were going.  He looked bright-eyed and inquisitive, like a baby chick.  Just for a little ride, I told him.  After a while the motion of the ambulance lulled him to sleep. 

    Looking back I can see that the nursing home was an old wooden structure that was a firetrap.  At the time I didn’t even notice.  The main thing I noticed was the calm, bedrock confidence of the nurse who ran the place.  She didn’t wear a nurse’s cap but her uniform was white and starched and the gleaming gold nurse’s pin said, “St. Catherine’s.”  Help us, St. Catherine, I said to myself; surely we all need it.

    The nursing home was on a side road in the country, but only four miles in a zigzag course from our house in a new suburb.  Trees shaded the home pleasantly, the front lawn was neatly shorn showing the marks of a well-aimed scythe, and windows sparkled in the afternoon sun.

    They tucked him into bed in a room with two other men.  Mrs. Ronquin led me to her office where she examined the doctor’s reports and gave me forms to fill out.  The cost would be $230 a month.   I signed a paper agreeing to pay it.  The question of how we would pay that amount over a prolonged period hovered in my mind. 

    “You can have every confidence,” said Mrs. Ronquin, “we will take good care of him.”

    I did have confidence and it was well placed.  When I went back a week later he was sitting in the common room fully dressed, his color much improved.  Mrs. Ronquin was busy and a nurse’s aide told me I could take him out for a cup of coffee.  The place being so far out in the country I had drive to a restaurant near my sub-division. 

    I was in fear every moment.  Was his mind right?  Would he act appropriately?  In years past he always refused to tip the waitress.  Nobody ever tipped him when he was digging ditches, why should he tip her?  I would sneak a dime or quarter under my plate so the waitress would not think we were rubes straight from the hicks.  This time all went well and we returned to the home.

    “Is this my hotel?” he asked.

    “Yes, it is,” I told him.

    At the end of two months he felt good, looked good, and it was time to take him home.  I asked Mrs. Ronquin to release him and she said she would the following week after the doctor okayed it. 

    Two days later I was folding laundry at my sunny kitchen window.   A knock sounded at my door.  When I opened it, there he stood. 

    “I found you,” he said.  “I remembered where you were.” 

    “How did you get here?  Did someone give you a ride?”

    “I walked.  You took me for coffee and I remembered.”

    “Well, come in and stay.  I haven’t had time to get your room ready, but it won’t take long.”

    “No, I won’t stay with you.  You shouldn’t have put me in that place.”

    “Don’t be silly.  You needed good care.”

    “You’re not a good daughter.  I won’t stay here.  Give me six dollars and take me to that hotel where I stayed one time.”

    “That flea bag?  No, I won’t.”

    The upshot of it was that I gave him the money and drove to the small neighborhood hotel.  He insisted on being dropped off at the corner so I did and went home.  The next day when I tried to call him the hotel had no listing.  Further investigation revealed the hotel was there but the name had been changed.  When I got that squared away and obtained the right number I dialed it.  The hotel said he never showed up.  If only I had driven round the corner I would have known the name had been changed.  I was worried sick.  Where could he be?  Did somebody mug him?  Was he lying in an alley? 

    A few days later I got a call from Cleveland.  He had gotten rattled when the hotel had a different name.  Somehow, with six dollars in his pocket, he had gotten himself to Cleveland where he went to my uncle’s and borrowed money.  It was my uncle calling; he bawled me out for being so mean to my father.  I hung up. 

    “What will he do?  Where will he go?” I asked my husband.

    My husband comforted me.  “He’s got a lot of life left in him.  Just think!  He got all the way to Cleveland on six dollars.  You or I couldn’t do that.” 

    A year later he began calling.  He sounded like his mind was leaving him.  He appealed to me in the wheedling manner of a child.    He would ask me to come to Cleveland to help him file for Social Security benefits.  He couldn’t find his card and didn’t remember the number.  When I did go there, it was futile; from one minute to the next he’d forget what we were supposed to be doing.  He lived in a fleabag hotel downtown around the corner from his bank.  He slept a lot, waking up twice a day to go out and get breakfast.  Each time he got up he thought it was a new day and he would pay his daily rent of two dollars.  The hotel happily collected the double rent until he started urinating in the corner of his room.  Then they wanted him out.  No ambulance this time.  I brought him back in my car, my husband having advised me to get the door handle removed on the inside of the passenger door.

   Once again, this time by stupid happenstance, I was wearing a black dress.  This time the air conditioner worked fine but he kept trying to jump out, pawing at the door, looking for the handle.  I began sweating buckets.  I didn’t dare make a rest stop.

    This time I put him in a home twenty miles out in the country.  A week later they called and said he wasn’t eating.  They wanted me to visit and try to feed him.  I put on my black dress.   

    He lay in bed, a shrunken wisp between the white sheets.  He knew me; he spoke my childhood pet name and looked at me with an affection I hadn’t seen in years.  Before I could put a spoon in the bowl of cream of wheat, he began coughing, a wrenching cough. 

    Suddenly two nurses appeared from nowhere; they motioned me away and pulled a screen across the bed.  I heard their anxious remarks as they inserted a suction device into his throat.  I saw shadows moving frantically behind the screen.  I heard an ominous gasping gurgle.  I heard a prolonged noise, a sort of pounding.  The shadows grew still.

    A nurse came out.  “I’m so sorry, he’s gone.  It’s sad that you were here to hear all that.  Thankfully he didn’t suffer long.”

    “But why did he die?  He looked all right.”

    “His heart, dear.  He should have been on medication for years.  His lungs got full of water.  At least you were here and you know we did everything possible.”

    They helped me with all the arrangements.  After the funeral I plucked a red rose from his casket.  Then I went home and took a pair of scissors to my black dress.      

     THE END

Friday, September 30, 2005

30 September 2005


A warm spring day,
the window is thrown open.
And even though the cat can get outside,
she chooses to stretch herself to the window.
Her nose gingerly sniffs the breeze.
- Margaret Wilkie April 2005