Monthly Archives: January 2013

Technology Wednesday–Technology that Consistently Works Well

We haven’t had a Technology Wednesday for a while, and I just checked and technology is still with us, so why not?

I think I thought of writing about technology since I’ve been, uh, engaged in trying to get my scanner to work this week.

I have one of those all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax machines, and to this point, it has worked well. I especially like the scanner function because I can scan funny cat pictures and send them to people I know. Yes, I know there are other ways to do that. I just like using the scanner.

But then I “upgraded” to Windows 8 a few weeks ago. Dear Microsoft: Windows 8 is pretty to look at, but where is everything? Where’s my Start button? I can’t find programs! I can’t find files! I promise I won’t even make fun of your putting the “Stop” function on the “Start” icon. Just put it back, please!

I feel better now. Anyhow, my all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax machine wouldn’t work all of sudden, and I surmised its printer driver needed an upgrade. I hied myself off to the Brother support site to see what I could find there and after an exhaustive search among posts and replies on the help pages, found that the LAN connection I was using with the printer didn’t support scanning. I would have to switch the machine over to a USB connection. Once I found a twelve foot USB cable. Which I did after a few days, hooked it up and scanned away. Except the automatic data feeder (ADF) didn’t work with the scanner. I suppose I should be happy it works at all.

Clearly printers and even computers are not high on the list of consistently reliable technology. I became so frustrated with one printer (long since sent to the electronic recycling bin) that I literally wanted to throw it through a closed window into the yard two stories below. I didn’t, but the impulse was there.

I got to wondering, what is a consistently reliable technology? I’ve written enough for this time, so I’ll save that topic for another time. In the meanwhile, what are your nominees for most consistently reliable technology? (I know, it depends on the meaning of “technology.” Yup, it does.)

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Familiar–and Familial–Phrases

Careful. These animals might have the epizootic.

I’m not sure that our family is unusual in that we have certain code phrases from our shared experience that we make use of in certain situations. That’s as clear as the tax code, so I’ll try to explain. Here are some examples (the ones I can make public, anyhow):

The term epizootic for a human illness. Becky’s mother used this before we were married. She wasn’t feeling well, and when Becky asked her what she had she replied, “I guess I got the epizootic.” I thought initially she had made the term up or that it was a bit of local dialect. I looked it up, and it’s a word, meaning “disease of animals.” This use of the word struck me as incredibly clever and extremely funny, so much so that the mere mention of the term sent me into gales of laughter for months afterward. So watch out for the epizootic: you don’t want to get it!

Another code phrase came from Becky’s grandmother long before I met Becky. The family was watching television and Kate Smith was singing. Becky’s grandmother came in, quickly looked at the set and exclaimed, “That woman’s big enough to be Kate Smith.” She was because it was Kate Smith (just wanted to point that out). This phrase is used when something is self-evidently evident. One of us might say, seeing someone across a parking lot unexpectedly, “That looks like Tom Wilson.” If it is Tom Wilson, the other will reply, “And that woman’s big enough to be Kate Smith.” (Trust me, this makes sense in context.)

The last phrase I wanted to mention (there are many, but they’re too embarrassing to put here) has to do with a lady at the church (who has since passed on) who fixed meals for functions at the church. She had a heavy hand with the sugar scoop, so her sweet iced tea came out sweet. I’ll call her Grace Jenkins, which was not her real name, but it will help to make the point. Any overly sweet tea we call “Grace Jenkins tea.” And we know what we mean.

Maybe you have some sayings or words in your family. If you do, send them along in a comment. I’d love to publish some of them in a future post.

Bonus terms: Becky is an excellent cook, and has only had a couple of disasters in the 39 years we’ve been married. One time, the oven stuck and the meatloaf came out looking like a big charcoal briquette. Becky called it “forest fire meatloaf,” and the term has stuck to any overdone item. There were also microwave pork chops, a code term for any underdone food, from our attempt to fix pork chops in the microwave. They came up so underdone I thought I could hear them squealing. We would have been better off baking them in the Easy Bake Oven with its light bulb heat source. (See last week’s blog about this sterling toy.)

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Poem of the Week: Richard Blanco’s Reading at the Inauguration

A video from ABC News of Richard Blanco reading “One Today” at the ceremony this past Monday:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mDrk8AC4G4

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Cat Fishing

Bob and Dick were excited about the big catfish their friend Steve caught using only his hands, but sorry that it  swallowed him in the process.

Now, to a boy from Georgia, cat fishing used to mean going out to the river where the big ones lie in wait with your pole and can of worms and trying to catch one of those big whiskered fish to take home to fry up and eat. Not that I actually ever did this. My fishing expeditions were few and far between, and when I did manage to catch something, it was usually a perch or bluegill. There was more to eat off a jumbo shrimp.

I’ve also seen shows about guys with some skill and less sense who catch catfish by hand. This process is called noodling, and it involves sticking one’s arm and hand into an underwater hole where the catfish hangs out. When the fist tried to escape, it usually clamps onto the noodler’s hand, who quickly grabs the cat by a gill and hauls it out of the water. That is, if a snapping turtle or poisonous snake is not living in the hole formerly occupied by the catfish. Other outcomes follow from this scenario, including but not limited to the loss of fingers and death. I think I had an uncle who noodled for catfish, though I’m not sure. We called him “Seven-Finger Bob” after he disturbed a snapping turtle. (I made that up because deception is related to the theme of this post. Trust me.)

But I’m not here to talk about that kind of cat fishing. I found out just the other day about another kind which involves the mighty river of the internet. And deception. Lots of deception. According to the online Urban Dictionary ( http://www.urbandictionary.com), a “catfish” is “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.” “To catfish” is to fool someone using the internet by creating a false identity.

All this came up after the revelation that Notre Dame football player Manti T’eo was hoodwinked into thinking that a non-existent young woman was his girlfriend. It’s more complicated than it sounds (for more of the story, go to http://abcnews.go.com/US/notre-dame-football-star-manti-teo-dead-girlfriend/story?id=18232374 ), so it’s about more than a delusional young man creating an ideal relationship. Officials at Notre Dame believe he was the victim of a cruel hoax, and I suppose there are some things to be learned from this.

One is that online relationships are not real relationships. I’ve had the experience of “getting to know” people in our local writers’ group on Facebook, but I’ve always wanted to meet them in person, although months might elapse before we do so. A second learning is, not everything on the internet is true. (Notice the number of times I steered readers to the web in this post. Uh, yeah, I did.) We still have to check out what appears to be true. When I was teaching, we told students to not believe everything they read. That advice still holds true, perhaps even more today. And, third, the human heart, while capable of much that is good–love, respect, caring, sacrifice–also may be a place of darkness.

Be careful out there. Every fish swimming in the sea ain’t necessarily a cat fish.

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A Day of Service

Last Saturday was the National Day of Service (more information at http://www.2013pic.org/service). I know Biscuit City readers are involved in all kinds of service year ’round, and I salute you for that. I’d like to suggest one way local folks in the Manassas/Prince William area can be of service to some of our older residents. These people by and large don’t “do computers,” and with the recent loss of the News and Messenger print edition, I’ve heard a number of them say they have no way of keeping up with recent news, including deaths and obituaries. (Prince William Today comes out once a week)

So, my suggestion for service is this: if you know someone who can’t or doesn’t go online for news, give them a call or, even better, a visit, and take a few minutes to catch them up on the local news, not just the recent deaths. I know they will appreciate it and I believe you will enjoy making a difference in their day.

Here’s the website for local news coverage: http://www.insidenova.com/

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Poem of the Week– Correspondence with My Brother

Correspondence with My Brother

Amy is in the dining room
Writing a letter to a friend
Dark hair falling around the paper.
She does not move
Except for her hand
While I range between
Refrigerator and stove and table
In the kitchen
Preparing dinner.

She is composing her life.

I am glad, Ron, that I have you to write to
Since we don’t see each other enough
And don’t have much of a chance to talk.
Our lives are so busy and
Without someone to write to
I am not myself.
To be myself
I thought I needed to read
But this summer I read nothing
And it made no difference
But I do need to write
And I need to write to you.

Amy is in the dining room
Writing to her friend.

I am in the kitchen
Washing potatoes and
Writing this in my head
To you.

We are composing our lives.

–Dan Verner

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The Story of the Easy Bake Oven (A Cake Tale)

“Light bulb not included.” Should have been a clue.
Cindy Brookshire, Write by the Rails guru and a wonderful writer who works in all sorts of genres  wrote this recently: We all have a cake story. Lianne Best wrote about her chocolate pound cake gone lopsided in a “Mom on the Run” column.  Now there’s a “Bake Off” challenge on the Write by the Rails website to see how many cake stories we can raise.

As I thought about this passage, I realized that even I have a cake story. And I don’t bake cakes. Well, once. So here’s the story. I call it “The Great Easy Bake Oven Cake Fiasco.” 

Let me preface this tale by saying that women seem to do most of the cake baking in this world, although many bakers are men. Alyssa’s betrothed (she hates the word “fiancé) Chris B. (to distinguish him from Amy’s bf, Chris M.), is a wonderful baker. He made little covered wagon cupcakes complete with little animal cracker oxen pulling them for Alyssa’s Oregon Trail-themed birthday party last year. Believe me, Chris B. can bake a cake for me any time.

Which is not to say that I am completely lost in a kitchen. I am a fair-to-middling cook and would likely not sicken most of the people I feed. I cook for ordinary situations. When it comes to the big celebrations though–Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs–and there is a family meal where everyone brings a dish, I make the iced tea (if it’s chez nous–it’s easier that way). The real cooks in the family handle the main and side dishes. I know my place in the food chain. (Pun intended.)

But baking, as I have said, not so much. My ineptitude was confirmed when one of the girls received an Easy Bake Oven for a present. The commercials make it look easy to produce delicious, actual edible cakes and cupcakes in the Oven. Here’s a commercial from that era. It speaks with forked tongue. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fT-Oia09fBE (Note that the name of the product was actually the Tasty Bake Oven. I think I have suppressed that bit of information.)

So, we were set to have some father-daughter baking fun with the new oven. The cake mix came in cute little boxes, like the real cake mixes, only smaller. We mixed it up and put it in the cute little cake pans and put the cute little cake pan in the cute little oven and plugged it in and waiting to taste the results of our labors. And waited. And waited.

“Baking time” was supposed to be two minutes. After two minutes, the alleged cake was still a glutinous mass. And after five minutes. And ten minutes. It simply wouldn’t turn into a cake.

The girls were disappointed. So was I. And after some thought, I ascertained the problem: the source of heat for the oven was a 60-watt light bulb. No wonder it wouldn’t bake. It was about like holding the cake pan over a living room lamp and expecting it to bake.

Together, we worked out that we could use full size cake mix boxes and the oven in the kitchen to bake cakes. That worked well, but I think the emotional trauma of the Easy Bake experience put me off baking cakes forever. No doubt with proper treatment I could turn into a Cake Boss. But it’s too late for me now.

I know that other people have had spectacular success baking over a light bulb. I’ve even seen accounts of people fixing full Thanksgiving meals with an Easy Bake. (Didn’t say how long it took–days, probably.) But in our family, sadly, Easy Bake has become a code term for Never Baked or Half Baked or Misrepresentation in Advertising. I should have taken the thing back. Maybe it was defective. In truth, I think I was too embarrassed to admit that I actually thought you could cook a cake, even a small one, over an incandescent bulb. Maybe our magic was not strong enough. Either that or we needed 75 watts of blazing oven power. Yeah…that’s it. 

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