Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Day in the Life

       Several days ago the remote for the kitchen TV disappeared.  I looked all over, searched through the trash can, but I’ve been pretty much getting along without it  – about all I watch in the kitchen is CNN, and these days it’s all Donald Trump anyhow.
      To set the background – I take hot baths every morning and night, with a book on the bath tray.  Right now it’s The Vicar of Wakefield, and I’m about to email a friend who’s an English prof, because I can’t figure out -- is that novel for real or was it intended as what Jane Austen called a “burlesque”?  But I digress.
       So this morning I happened to take a good look at the portable phone I keep next to the tub, thinking maybe it was time to re-charge it back on the stand – and whaddye know – it was the remote for the kitchen TV.
       I've been making jokes about Old-Timers-Disease whenever I have trouble remembering a word (usually it’s nouns, incidentally) but this morning for the first time I got genuinely scared.  That was just too close to the classic car-keys-in-the-freezer for comfort. 
      OTOH, I had remembered to send my kids the “I’m still here, it’s okay” morning email.  And I did remember to take the antibiotics before I headed out for the dentist – said driving not quite as simple as it sounds.  When old friends meet now, just about the first question is “So are you still driving?”  That’s the big dividing line, the next question being “but what about at night?”  Sorry, digressing again…
      It occurred to me that the electric Smart, which is in the garage, might not be the best bet, for the dentist’s office is in Bushnell’s Basin, an old Erie Canal village out by the Thruway.  The Smart doesn’t have all that much range, and the Thruway doesn’t come very close to Rochester.  That was a getting-even by Governor Thomas E. Dewey, after the Rochester publisher Frank Gannett went after the Republican nomination and showed up at the Convention with a live elephant.  I remember as a child seeing pictures of said elephant on some front page.
      So with just a cane I tottered out to the Chevy on the driveway, only to find I’d brought the wrong car keys.  Back to the house, during which trip it was clear I'd forgotten to take the morning painkillers.  And the garage-door opener doesn’t work right, and I keep forgetting to call the repairman.  But anyhow –
      Let’s skip right to the dentist’s office, where I manage three steps, wobble in, hang up my jacket(painful right arm will no longer stretch up to those hooks, as usual installed by six-foot workmen) only to be told by a smiling receptionist that my appointment is for tomorrow.  Today is Monday.
She phoned the pharmacist so I could pick up more meds for tomorrow.  And so back to Rochester, where I circled Wegman’s parking lot til I spotted one of those Helpers and got him to leave a shopping cart right by handicap parking.  And where, when the prescription still wasn’t quite ready, I went over and bought – it still feels pretty weird – a single baking potato.  Weight .68 lb.  Cost 69 cents. 
Bought two bags of groceries in all.  And the pills still not ready, I tried the do-it-yourself blood-pressure machine.  126 over 61. Maybe this would be a good day to buy a lottery ticket after all.
      But I didn’t.  Drove home, realized I usually unload groceries right into the rolling cart from the garage. Eventually figured out how to get those two grocery bags up the driveway anyhow.
     And it’s not yet noon, so I guess this is just a Half-Day in the Life. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Slice of Past Life

The movies are black-and-white  -- they start with an Old Lady sitting in a wing chair and telling us in a fake creaking voice that she  remembers -- and it appears she's going to look back over her life and share the memories with us.  She serves as bookends for the movie.
That's how I feel these days, because I'm reading through my old journals -- in bed, though. The wing chair (originally designed to hold the warmth in front of an open fire, btw) may have looked better in the movies, but your genuine old lady prefers to read in bed.
So -- in the 1944 Date Book, we take a look first at the address list.  Letter-writing was big in those days -- think today's fingers poking  smart phones -- and judging by these addresses, we're right in the middle of The War.  Most are c/o postmaster San Francisco or New York City.
Only one classmate there, Lola -- she later became a lawyer.  (I didn't even know how one became a lawyer back then.)  And the Mass state hospital -- that must have been my Aunt Pearl. One guy has a simple street address, but he soon went into the army also. 
 He later proposed marriage -- come to think of it, so did two other guys on these pages.  I was a great letter-writer.
 But anyhow, what I set out to tell you --
Looks like I was really busy -- house duties (co-op dorm), hours working on the next day's edition of the Daily Orange, band practice (first time girls were allowed in the Syracuse band .  They had to -- all the
boys were overseas.)  Then classes  to become a Red Cross Grey Lady, and -- even academics!  What do you suppose derivatives were, and why did I have to find them?  I evidently ended up scheduling time to eat and even to sleep.  But just when I'm really impressed -- what shows up but this frantic reminder, underlined SIX TIMES --

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Memory Book Memories

Looking through, throwing out --
Here's a Memory Book from summer camp on Seneca Lake, 1943.  I think maybe I mimeographed that one.  It  was right in the middle of The War and --
Flag raising by the mess hall -- that's a 48-star flag.
"Gone this summer were the visiting days"
   [gas rationing, parents couldn't drive down]
"...the pineapple salads"
   [canned goods scarce, pineapple completely unavailable]
 "...the bathing caps sold at canteen"
   [no rubber even for tires]
  "...We learned this summer that Don Natapow had joined Marvin Lee, both former campers and counselors, in giving his life..." 
     Further on in the Memory Book we learn that in years past we'd had camp in July for boys and August for girls -- but now, in 1943, we were co-ed all summer for the first time.  No explanation of why the change -- but it was because with ten million men overseas,  there was no way to find enough counselors for a whole boys' camp. 
     Nice to see that some things never change -- in a two-page spread on the Waterfront we learn that "Every camper a swimmer" was this summer's  motto of the Waterfront Department..."Aunt Lynn and Uncle Buddy are very proud of the improvement shown by every single camper.  All merited the ...glory of a card bearing a Swimming Award." 
You have to wonder if Bob Berman even remembers that at the Waterfront Carnival in 1943, he won an award for "breath holding."  You have to wonder, for that matter, if he's still breathing at all.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Talk about weird!

You may remember -- my first real estate column of 2016 included excerpts from some of the weirder letters received from readers over 40 years.  To refresh your memory, here's a bit of  that column:
                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Some questions never make it into print:
          “Would you please tell me what careers are going to be the best opportunity for women 50 years and older?”
      “Do you still have to make mortgage payments after you’ve listed your home for sale? "
    “If I own the air rights above my land, why can’t I charge for all electronic signals sent through my property?”  
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
but TALK ABOUT WEIRD! -- look at this snail mail just received.  You can see the date yourselves -- written just a week ago, and see how it starts!

Who IS this writing?  I'd say it's a young woman for three reasons -- it's printed, the "i"s are dotted with circles (altho I sort of thought that went out a couple of generations ago) and it's on notebook paper.  But the writer is supposedly 50 years or older...
is this in earnest?  have I lost the ability to write something that readers can understand?
Okay -- I answer all letters.  What do I say to this one.?  Suggestions welcomed...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Health Insurance Rebate !!

The news was full of warnings, this month, that anyone who did not carry health insurance should act quickly.  I figured that didn't concern me, so I wasn't paying much attention, but one day last week the mail did give me pause -- there was an official-looking envelope from my insurance company. 
But hey !!  Look here -- it said that during recent analysis they discovered I had a credit, with a rebate due; see the attached check! 
And yes, there was a check!  I'll give you a closeup --

And in case you  can't read it, here are a couple of closer-ups:

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What My Mail is Like

Okay, so a couple of days ago I sent you some of the material I'd used in the first column for 2016 -- weird letters that came in from readers.  But this one just came in by email and I live alone and absolutely have to share it -- so here it is (minus, of course, the signature)

Dear Edith,
I just read your article in Jan. 3, 2016 KC Star, with the headline "Reflecting on House Calls" and it gave me a start: I thought, oh no, my favorite Sunday column is being dropped, or she has died! Thankfully, I see neither has happened..,[I deleted some nice words here.]  It seems the financial waters get worse as I age, at 57, I have retired, and there are more credit card notices, we have paid all of ours off, and paid everything off except a small amount of about $40,000 on a home we refinanced down to about 4% about 5 years ago, so ten years left and we pay extra principal. The credit card notices are financial breaches at various companies which require cancelling one card, sending new debit and credit cards with chips, banks I've been with for 20-30+ years changing policy, one adding a monthly $5 fee to checking account for the first time last month, now I have to go in and close account or change to a true free account, etc. It is hard enough for me to handle, and being online paying accounts online, etc. I don't see how older folks handle it, or even folks maybe of average intelligence, as I have a college degree and it stretches me to handle it all. It seems worse lately, and when you go in the bank or call, the young people don't really seem to care or know you have been a customer 30 years.  In addition, at one credit agency my spouse and I both have 850 credit rating, the top it says, of their chart, and my score at another is 888! I just got that one, guess their chart goes to 900. Thanks to hard work, sensible spending, and probably too, reading your column over the years, we have been able to save, pay off all debt except the house I mentioned, and have good credit scores. I don't see how people with credit card debt, late payments, car payments, no savings and low credit scores can handle things in today's world. It's hard enough for us. Thanks for including your address again for people to write.

Lol: My 75 year old mom has the house problem as you discussed: her father died over 10 years ago. Single sister, retired teacher had will made up so she stayed in house at his death with clause she had to pay taxes, insurance, and upkeep. All 4 adult children in their 60's and 70's left the house. Then divorced brother moved in. He is not on list to live there. Anyway, my mom and other sister get no "benefit" and house in ill repair. I am afraid at some point I may be involved in the mess somehow after my mom dies, and thankfully she is in good health now. It is a terrible, terrible mess to leave a house to all 4 like this because, I suppose, the parent did not want to make a decision. I don't need a column or advice on this, just "lol", FYI.

Sent from my iPad=

Monday, January 11, 2016

like a full professor at Harvard!

One summer day back in the 1970s? '80s? someone at Cornell called our house (long-distance! in the middle of the day!) with an important message for my son.  Dov was at that point out somewhere on the marshes of Finland chasing shorebirds --ruffs -- and I was frantic not knowing how to get in touch with him.  As I remember, a deadline was involved.   
       Then friend Mary, who taught at the University of Rochester, said "I'll just email the University at Oulu -- they'll get the message to him."
        I had no idea what she meant.  She came back the next day saying it was all taken care of, and all I could think to say was "How much do I owe you?"  
        Nothing?  It seemed like magic.  I did have a vague impression that the military and the colleges had some sort of complicated scientific communication...

But what I set out to tell you was that I just found my own pioneer email.  For that I have a specific date.  I've been reading old journals, and on December 14, 1993:
     "Conrad Bakker at school walked me thru getting on e-mail.  For teaching real estate nights as adjunct lecturer at a two-bit college -- I have an e-mail address just like a full professor at Harvard!   Esty and I tried email to Dov."

      And on the next day the journal says triumphantly:  "E-Mail back from Dov!  Through the Frog Pond."
(I have no idea what the Frog Pond was -- it could even be a restaurant we went to on the evening of December 15, 1993. Does someone know if it had any relevance to that exciting first e-mail?)

Dov and Ruff on CBC last year.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Forty Years On

      For the first column in 2016, I shared some of the more weird (just rejected the word "weirder") questions that have come from readers over the past 40 years.  You might enjoy them -- scroll down past all that black, on my flagship paper's web site:
      For the first few years of the column I used that modern marvel, the Selectric typewriter.  But by the '80s here was this suitcase-sized computer equipment!  That's a pretty big slot in the disk drive  -- were those floppies six or eight inches across?  And you can't even see the computer itself -- what did we call that component? -- at any rate it was a hefty affair under the desk.
     That was a great keyboard.  I'm still using an IBM, a heavy one one with loud clicks and -- the kids say when they visit -- everything in the wrong place.  It's not the original one, I confess -- had to upgrade the year they added F function keys. 
     When one of my grandsons spilled Orange Crush all over this keyboard,  I just took it to the kitchen sink and ran it under warm water.  And if it ever gives out, there are two more in the cupboard -- found them years ago a flea market.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

As It Must to All...

I had the unpleasant task, today, of breaking the news to the family.  Our friend Mr. Yukon Gold, whose acquaintance we made while peeling potatoes for 29 diners on Thanksgiving, is no more. 

Alas, poor Yukon!   I knew  him well.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Communications Overload

 When my daughter Anna IM'd from her office in Manhattan, as she does most afternoons (I think she has me on a checklist), I typed that I'd just applied for a couple of  captioned telephones.  They're free -- delivery, installation and the service -- some government program.   Like hearing aids, they don't work as well as -- say -- reading glasses, but they do help.
      A few minutes later, Dov skyped from his office in Vancouver.  It seems he and his sister bought captioned telephones when they were here at Thanksgiving, hid them in his old bedroom, planned to install them as a surprise. 
     I told him the audiologist recently said my hearing aids have a telephone setting, and I thought I'd phone some recording -- maybe a weather channel -- to try that out.  "Why don't I just phone you?" he asked.  Marveling as always that long-distance doesn't cost extra these days -- not even before 5 p m -- I watched on Skype as he dialed my number. 
     Meanwhile, Anna, no longer getting responses on Instant Messaging, fired off an email to tell me she had informed her brother that I had gone ahead and ordered ...
and at that point I'm afraid I lost it -- suffered a severe attack of Communications Overload.

Four Ways !!  I was in touch with people on both oceans, Atlantic and Pacific, free (sort of)



In 1931 I saw my first full-length movie, -- Charlie  Chaplin's The Kid. It was in black and white. 
Too bad I couldn't read yet, because it told the story in what were called titles,
slides that were


Sunday, December 20, 2015

How Far We've Come

Some of us remember when Nelson Rockefeller's divorce cost him the nomination, when Adlai Stevenson's divorce may have cost him the Presidency, when worries about the Pope dogged John Kennedy's campaign, when Eleanor Roosevelt polled as the most admired woman on the planet but no one ever thought of her running for office.
Today no one even seems to notice -- our media is frantically considering presidential candidates who have been divorced, been divorced more than once, who are Catholic, black, female, Jewish.
     Does anyone even realize there's not a single male Protestant on the Supreme Court?
We've come a long way, baby!

Saturday, December 19, 2015


              You may remember the organic maple syrup that left me somewhat bemused -- syrup is, I understand, made from nothing but maple sap, and it's hard to visualize just what makes a tree organic?  More to the point, probably --  how can a tree not be organic? 
                     So here's another one to worry about -- what makes this hair conditioner gluten-free?   Was the copywriter just latching on to a fad, or must someone who really needs to be gluten-free read cosmetic labels? 

 Am I showing my ignorance by wondering if gluten on the hair could get that person in trouble?  Any information will be welcome.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Information, Please!

The words typed above won't mean anything to the younger ones among you.  In the 1940s they signaled a weekly radio show our family never missed -- one that invited readers to "Stump the Experts!"  Among those experts was someone named Clifton Fadiman...  pause while I wikipedia to make sure I'm remembering right -- yes! 
"While still at the New Yorker, Fadiman became well-known on radio, where he hosted its most popular quiz show, Information, Please! from May 1938 to June 1948. A regular trio of pundits—Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran and Oscar Levant—...literate...humor..."
If the program used one of your questions, you'd receive an Encyclopedia Brittanica. 
I never made it, but in 1941 I did have one question used by the junior program, Quiz Kids.  My prize was a portable radio.  It was the size of a suitcase --I just found an internet "image" of the exact one!   New batteries cost $4.95 --
pause again while I click for the current equivalent -- more than $65, which would be much easier to find now than $4.95 was then.  I couldn't ever afford a set of replacement batteries.  Years later it was on that radio (using its AC cord) that I heard Japan had surrendered and TheWar was over.
But I digress:
Even if you do recognize that phrase as the name of a radio show, you probably don't know where it came from originally -- it was what you said to the phone operator when you didn't know the number you wanted to call.  All of which has nothing to do with today's question:
     Information, Please!  After my Thanksgiving visitors left, a bunch of these foil-wrapped tablets turned up in the little kitchen drawer next to the dishwasher.  So what are they? Dishwasher soap tablets?  Some kind of second treatment to leave the glasses shining?  Either way, how would one use them?  Where to put them?  Surely foil won't dissolve in the dishwasher?  Information, Please! 
So what was the question I asked the Quiz Kids? 
Where would you get if you went:
                     a.  first to the right and straight until morning? (Peter Pan's NeverNever Land)
                     b.  to the end of the yellow brick road?  (As I remember, this was before the movie)
               c.  I forget what the third part was -- it might have been "down the rabbit hole?" 

Monday, December 7, 2015


     Finally, a picture of The Queen with a closeup of  Those Earrings she's worn every day for more than half a century.      This won't interest anyone but myself, but I just have to share the information.  I've always figured the pearls hung from little diamonds, but I wasn't sure about size.     I append a portrait from 1964 -- and the recent one that settles the matter.  Now for something else to obsess about.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Darwin'd be Interested

       Here's a different thought about evolution -- last night at a meeting of the HLA (Hearing Loss Association, which turns out to be a particularly friendly cohesive group) the speaker showed a world map of languages based on whether they emphasized vowels or consonants.  Colors shading down to lots of blue (vowels) in the South Pacific, in northern South America, all around the equator except in Africa.  
      All of us in the Hearing Loss Gang know it's consonants that are the more difficult to distinguish, right? (Peter Rabbit Cedar Rapids), and the theory is that when people called to each other across thick jungles, they were more likely to use vowels.  Persuasive when one thinks of Hawaii, which has, come to think of it, more vowels than consonants in its very name.
What would Darwin say?
        It'd be nice to reproduce that colorful map for you but I'm not having any luck.  You may want to see for yourselves at http://wals.info/feature/1A#2/19.3/152.9.  Meanwhile, just to dress up this posting, here's a bit of Hawaii.

Monday, November 23, 2015

You Heard it Here First

Whenever I’m lying down surfing TV for movies (which I do a lot these days),and I hit a film with the words “Heart’, “Neighbor”, “Wishes” or “Surprise” in the title, it’s a pretty sure bet I’m on the Hallmark channel.  Their productions are reliably upbeat, and they are well-done.  But –
here are the titles I jotted down a couple of weeks ago, of the movies they would be showing in the following 24 hours:

A Christmas Blessing
A Plum Pudding Mystery
Santa Jr.
Angels and Ornaments
Deck the Halls
The Christmas Secret
The Christmas Shepherd
Mrs. Scrooge
Mistletoe Over Manhattan
Finding John Christmas
A Christmas Wish
The Christmas Ornament

And that was two weeks before Thanksgiving.