Friday, November 30, 2012

Scene of the Crime

Recovering From The Kids

 It was wonderful having the family here visiting, and this morning I finally found the hair dryer, tucked under a bedside table in the little back guest room. That about does it.

I have no idea which harried parent shut which little kid out on the porch to watch TV, right next to the wicker chair with all that tempting wound rattan.  Or to be more precise, formerly wound rattan.

I’m still wondering who parked my car under the sparrow tribe in the buckthorn tree, with the resulting splats on the hood and incidentally the radio pre-sets changed to an assortment of ear-splitting stations.  Or who stowed the handicap parking permit in the passenger-side map pocket, where I didn’t think to look for a week.

It took only a few days to figure out how to get the outside post lantern on at dusk, off at dawn again.  Someone must have jiggled the wrong switch; admittedly, it’s tricky.  Re-setting the night light on the microwave took longer – I  finally had to dig out the instruction manual.
I couldn’t understand why the clothes dryer was so slow, had already called a repairman when I noticed that all the heat and fan settings had been changed. And my best spatula has disappeared.  Sure, I have other spatulas, but it’s almost impossible to cook without that particular one I’ve had for at least 50 years.  I’m not exactly saying anyone stole it, but you’d think it would have turned up by now.
Probably the unkindest kindness of all – one morning after highly successful popovers, some misguided person energetically scrubbed my cast-iron pans within an inch of their lives.  It’ll take months to get them properly seasoned again.
When I came back from taking the last kids to the airport, the garage door opener didn’t work but I managed to haul the door up myself.  Strained my back for at least a week, then finally noticed the automatic opener has a manual override cord dangling from it.  Obvious: what ten-year-old boy, suddenly tall enough to reach that tempting red cord, could walk through the garage without pulling it to see if something would happen.
 And don’t even get me started about the thermostats!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Greatest Generation

This blog is indeed supposed to be about Being Old and I wish I knew how many genuine elders are reading it.  I get statistics from Blogspot but they just tell me things like --  seven people in Russia looked at it last week, and more than half the viewers are using Microsoft.  Wish they could break it down by age groups -- after all, it's clear that Facebook can. 

I'd like to think I hit a "me too" nerve when I confess that in those columns of celebrity news where
People's Names appear in bold face, I don't recognize a single one of the famous newlyweds, hit-and-run drivers or heroin busts.  Only time I know the name is -- usually at the end of the column -- when they break the news that someone formerly famous and long forgotten has finally died. 

And then, take a phrase like this one, out of a current New Yorker article --
"a circulator to sous-vide the pork belly". I recognize two words there, the last two.

Okay, maybe five words if you include "a", "to" and "the". 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More Being Old

This blog is supposed to be about Being Old but I keep getting distracted.  So today, to return to our theme, here are the targeted ads in the right-hand column when I signed in to  Facebook this morning:

Mom's Facelift Secret

Faithful Women Wanted   which appears to be a seniors dating site -- who knew?

Aging Skin Care               and

Death With Dignity           that one's a book.

So I wonder:  Are they just after me, or do younger people get the same Special Offers (as Kindle calls them)?

Monday, November 26, 2012


Correction:  Connie e-mails, after trying a comment that failed to post , that "Dungeons and Dragons" was -- is -- not a computer game.  "It was 'Adventure' that we played on the mainframe at Cornell."

Haven't heard that word "mainframe" in some years.  Guess it went the way of "eyeballs" and "floppy."
So last-century.

Fox Redux

Can't resist showing you a better one -- it just got up and started walking around the yard.

Wildlife Adventure

If backyard wildlife doesn’t excite you all that much, you can skip this one, but I just have to share.  I’ve lived in this suburban development for 58 years now, and never before seen what just plopped down for a rest here.  Pictures just taken through a not -very-clean window while sitting at my desk. 

It’s still there.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Birds are Coming!

I used to think that when you were old, They sent an eagle to tear out your vitals.

Now I think it's more like -- what They send is a flock of canaries, one at a time, to peck you to death.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Queen's Earrings Revisited

I owe you an apology for my off-hand statement that Queen Elizabeth has worn the same earrings every day for 40 years.  Should have done some research.  It would appear from these pictures I just ran into (1957 and 1960) that she has worn them and -- while we're at it -- that triple-strand pearl necklace, every day for way more than half a century.  

and this is a woman who owns more jewelry than Elizabeth Taylor ever did.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ancient Artifact

     All right, children, now this is a floppy disk.  It doesn't look all that floppy but it would be if you took it out of the protective casing.  It is eight inches high, almost twice the size of a CD case, and goes in an eight-inch slot in your Tandy computer.  I don't remember if it would have been compatible with the Commodore, the Thinkpad, the Epson or my $4,500 IBM.  Nor do I remember how many bytes it held, but it was few enough that the number could be expressed in "bytes" -- just tiny naked individual bytes.
     I bought the IBM to serve as a word processor (ugly term).   It  processed words with something called Volkswriter, which I had chosen over something more difficult called WordStar.  Then I would exit the processing program and load a different one to print out what I had written -- that's because the computer couldn't remember two things at one time. 
     All I did was process words for at least five years.  Then my grandchildren visited, bringing more floppies containing  A GAME.  I had heard there were computer games--one of my sons was playing Dungeons and Dragons at midnight on a college machine.  By that time I was on a different computer myself -- they developed fast and we had to buy new ones every so often.  That  first game, Pharaoh's Tomb,was in exciting amber and green!  and a five-year-old  taught me how to play it.
    It was the beginning of the end.  I could have written ten books in the time I've invested in computer games.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Ever Happened to Eyeballs?

    What ever happened to eyeballs?  Way back--I went on computer in 1983, paid about $4,500 for my IBM and got 64k.  And those were good dollars.  I remember the price of the dot-matrix printer because it was kind of cute: $1,776.
    Anyhow -- in the early days of  the Internet, we used to hear about "eyeballs" -- how many eyeballs a web site was getting.  I always used to wonder whether 300 eyeballs represented 300 viewers or -- think about it -- 150.
    Now I receive daily reports about the number of  pageviews for the blog.  That's obviously one viewer per, but I don't really understand the reports (they're complicated) and above all they don't tell me what I most want to know:  Is anyone reading all this beyond my own family (who know they have to keep up or they'd fail the pop quiz next time they visited) and my own friends (who don't really count)?  Well, yes, you count but you know what I mean.
   What I'd love to know is if, after seven weeks, are any genuine strangers looking in on all this?  If you're a genuine stranger, perhaps you could let me know with a comment, or email to  (Yes, the kids say my address is back in the last century, but I'm not about to change it.)
    If I still had one, I'd take a picture of a one-sided single-density floppy disk to include here.  But at any rate, please, I'd enjoy hearing whether there's anyone out there!

Monday, November 19, 2012


Thought it’d be interesting to make a folder listing everything that’s wrong with me, and just so I wouldn’t miss anything, I’d start at the bottom and work my way up.  Before I got to the right ankle I had six things on the list, which was so discouraging that I quit.
Details upon request; be sure to enclose an SASE.  If you don’t know what an SASE            is—or at any rate was -- you’re too young for this conversation anyhow.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dark Mystery

Living alone – more specifically, cooking alone – naturally leads to attending lots of senior lunches and church suppers.  This past week, they’ve all been turkey dinners, of course.
n      United Methodists, usual plastic gloves on volunteer buffet servers, white meat, the squash had nutmeg in it, cranberries were the superior kind, ground up with orange peel.
n      Senior Center, white meat, trouble cutting it up with those plastic knives, one old guy brought his own knife.
n      JCC, white meat,  no pumpkin pie, apple strudel instead.
n      Trinity Reform Church, platters to pass (does the Health Bureau approve that?), and those platters included dark meat!  They roasted whole turkeys!
So here’s something I’ve been wondering about a long time – what do they do with the dark meat?  Every big association luncheon you attend serves the same thing, right?  Breast of chicken with some sort of sauce (and sometimes stuffed with something), with rice to which something has been done, and chunks of yuppie veggies.

So what about the dark meat? I realize they’re breeding turkeys and chickens these days for big white meat (my mother, who was from Boston, reprimanded us if we ever called it breast meat).  But those birds must walk around, so wouldn’t you think there’d be drumsticks involved?  Or maybe they don’t walk around these days.

Wild turkeys do, at any rate.  This one showed up at the window right in front of my desk last spring..

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Incredible Free Prize p. s.

Don't know when I've been so impressed.  A friend (not up on blog ettiquette yet, don't know if one is supposed to name names? -- maybe initials?)
          S. P. sends a link that shows someone on Espy offering the following:
Wilton Black Cat & Moon Halloween Cupcake Decorations 1985
The yellow plastic moon is 1 3/8" in diameter. The black cats have sculptural detail. The decorations are old stock from a candy store and have not been used. The back is solid yellow with the following embossed - copyright 1985 Wilton, Woodridge, IL 60517, Hong Kong, 2113-4301           $6.50       one only        
So what I want to know is, how on earth did he find them?


Friday, November 16, 2012

Act Now to Receive Free Prize

   Okay, so I fell for the ad and sent for the Jane Austen bandaids.  (Sorry about use of trademark.)  I just had to see them for myself.  They'll be fun to pass around when I speak at the library next January, on the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice.  I'll also be taking the Pride and Prejudice board game, the Pride and Prejudice beach towel,  and the Pride and Prejudice paper dolls.
   But then a friend emailed to remind me that I was entitled to a free prize.  So I pulled the mailing wraps out of the waste basket, and sure enough, here was a ...well, you tell me.

   Hint:  This Free Prize is plastic, if that helps you figure it out.  I'd like to get it into the hands of someone who would treasure it, so it goes to the first person who contacts me, and I'll even pay the postage.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rothschild p. s.

         A propos Frau Rothschild: 
         What she was doing is known,  nowadays,  as "Aging in Place"
         and perhaps in an NORC-- a Naturally Occuring Retirement Community.

What's Better Than Growing Younger?

Just as strong as the old nest-building instinct is a new driving urge to divest.  Whenever a tall person visits, I get them to clear off one of the top shelves.  I’m packing for the library book sale because the kids don’t take much – not even their own old books --“they just won’t fit on the plane”.

Some books, though, I want to read one more time first.  And it’s weird, going through volumes that have been untouched for half a century, like meeting my young self coming.  Some feel entirely different today.  It’s evidently true -- you never read the same book twice.

Anyhow, at the moment I’m in a paperback of The Rothschilds. You can see by the cover that it cost about a half-hours’ work at minimum wage in 1961.  And I’ve hit a quote from old Gutele Rothschild, mother of the five sons who conquered Europe’s finances and lived in huge chateaux, while she insisted, at the age of 94, in remaining at home in the ghetto of Frankfurt.  When “a Highness offered his personal physician” who could take years off her life, Frau Rothschild said,

“People always think I want to grow younger.  I don’t.  I want to grow older.”

Right on.  You go, girl!

Funniest Bird Name

     It may interest the birders among us, and it could give the rest of you a chuckle, to hear that  a Red-Breasted Nuthatch has shown up at the feeders.  It's a swift little guy that makes even the chickadees look stodgy, and beautifully colored. 
     And on the off-chance that you find that a funny name, how about some of the others I'm including in today's report to Project Feeder Watch at Cornell -- two White-Breasted Nuthatches, a Flicker, and three Tufted Titmouse.  Titmouses?  Titmice?  Anyhow, three of 'em.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Somewhere around 1934, my mother handed me a copy of The Secret Garden, said a teacher had given it to her when she was a child, which would have been somewhere around 1914. That's copy's long gone, probably to one of the kids. So now, somewhere around 2012, I’ve just downloaded
            The Complete Works of Frances Hodgson Burnett (cost: 99 cents)
and I’m re-reading The Secret Garden on my new Kindle Paperwhite.
Okay, with no pictures. But it seems they’re all still here, in my head.

And with no grandchildren due here until Thanksgiving, I figured out how to do it all by myself.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Armistice Day

When I was growing up this was Armistice Day, in memory of the 1918 ending  of the nightmare of World War I -- on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, at eleven a.m
In school (this was in the '30s and we must have been in school that day?) I remember the bells in the hall all clanging at 11, and we stood beside our desks for a minute of silence.   But I also remember once being out on a sidewalk 
when church bells started ringing and factory whistles blared.  A trolley car stopped in the middle of the street, everything went silent, men took off their hats and held them to their hearts for a full minute, then everything started up again.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Time Travel

               I’d never miss the annual fund-raising luncheon, held last week by the
ladies of the Order of the Eastern Star in the basement of the Masonic Temple at a village near here.  I did not take part in the card party, but showed up promptly at noon for the meal.  Knew no one but felt comfortable because there was lots of white hair in the room.
               A committee must have written out the procedures for serving this absolutely delicious menu a century ago,  and it’s clear no one’s ever seen any reason to change it.  Hope they never do.

Salad – a square of red jello made with canned fruit cocktail, on iceberg lettuce
                               assorted mini muffins -- margarine
Entrée – creamed chicken with canned peas and carrots, over biscuits
Dessert – Neapolitan three-flavor ice cream with vanilla wafers.
                               coffee -- good strong already-brewed tea

                    Okay, now shift gears!
So yesterday I attended a book fair luncheon in the city, not so much white hair in evidence, and here's the menu:

Entrée -- a large square white plate full of yuppie green stuff, topped with
     chicken, mandarin oranges, glazed walnuts and craisins.
                                         rolls -- margarine
Dessert -- macaroons and chocolate cake cut in diamond shapes.
                                iced tea.

I traveled at least a century in less than a week.

Queen and I -- p. s.

Simon P., who is currently in England, emails that

You're right about those earrings. I checked the change in my pocket and they're portrayed on every denomination!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Queen and I

 I used to think it was pretty silly that “Needs help with dressing” was one of the criteria for judging whether someone was ready for Assisted Living.  I could understand “Needs help with... bathing... managing meds…but come on, I used to think -- who needs help with dressing?
Well, Queen Elizabeth and I are the same age and now for the first time ever, I envy her.  She seems spry, but I’ll bet she has Assisted Dressing -- someone to pull her sleeve over that painful  shoulder, and put on her socks (no, scratch that, she doesn’t seem to wear socks), and someone to fasten those earrings – those single pearls dangling from little diamonds, same ones she’s worn every single day for at least half a century,

and someone to remember where she put those earrings down when she took then off yesterday.

Monday, November 5, 2012

1976 AD, BI (before Internet)

This blog is supposed to be About Getting Old, and I had resolved it would never degenerate into About My Kids, but anyhow, here's part of an email just received from Quito, Ecuador:

Dear Family,
     In half an hour we are off to the airport for our great Galapagos adventure.  Contact will be spotty, but we should have electronic contact at some points during our voyage, so please do drop us a note... I expect we will hear about the results of the election somehow!  Fingers crossed!
     love you all

And I suddenly flashed on --
It's November, 1976.  We're staying at a luxurious wildlife lodge in Tanzania, built into a cliff overhanging the Ngorogoro Crater.  I'm leaning against the railing of a balcony, holding a transistor radio far out as I can over the half-mile drop, and through the snatches of different languages and all the static I finally make out one word--  "Carter".

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Class of '47

In today’s mail, an invitation to my 65th college reunion.  It includes a formal group shot of nine dressed-up students and a woman I faintly remember as a faculty member.   Male students look older, undoubtedly back from The War, in tight collars, ties, and that breast-pocket handkerchief.   Women all dressed up too, in best skirts, sweaters, pearls, and white ankle socks.

Only one student I recognize – she and I were editors at the Daily Orange together.  She’s in a nursing home near here now.  I phoned her to chat about the mailing, which she had also received.  Go figure -- she remembered the names of nearly every one in the picture.  Then 15 minutes later she phoned me and we had the exact same pleasant chat all over again. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

User-Hostile and Out-Sourced Fibbing

Message on the screen this morning from AVG said security program is expiring, click BUY NOW.  Took precautions (Practice Safe Computing).  Clicked.  No problem sending payment, extremely user-friendly.
Then it turned extremely user-hostile while activating, registering, downloading -- whatever was supposed to happen next.  I phoned a cordial woman in India, whom I could actually understand (since this impaired hearing business, the slightest accent usually throws me, can’t listen to the BBC at all these days.)
She said she'd transfer me to “a technician” and a question appeared on my screen --could he(?) take  control of my computer?
“Yes, certainly!”   At that point I would have been happy to give it to him altogether.
 “Okay,” he typed.  “I will do.”
And he did.  Talk about a weird sensation! – to sit here and watch my cursor dancing around the screen all by itself, hitting the right buttons, efficiently downloading, installing, giving the right answer to all those questions. From half a world away it even told a lie for me, without any hesitation clicking that I had carefully read and accepted the Legal Agreement and Terms of Service.
Intercontinental lying – what a world we live in!