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Letters From Home - Page 3 Letters From Home - Page 3

Letters From Home

Life looks at infmom / infmom looks at life

October 30, 2012
by infmom

Farewell, my friend

In years gone by, people could be great friends without ever actually meeting each other, by exchanging letters through the mail. Anyone could have a pen pal, and many of my friends did while we were growing up (I had a short-lived correspondent with a young man in Japan when I was in high school; his school connected with ours to help its students practice their English writing skills). I’m sure the long-time pen pals of days gone by would understand perfectly how strong a connection can be that’s sustained only by the written word. It is a mind to mind connection that does away completely with the distractions of the “package” that the mind comes in.

With the advent of online networks, the opportunity for rapid expansion of one’s circle of friends took off exponentially. I signed into CompuServe for the first time sometime in the spring of 1983, and quickly got into the swing of conversing with a wide group of acquaintances in the Forums.  (It was also possible to do live chat in those days, but networks charged by the hour and I could barely afford a few hours a month online as it was.) As I moved from network to network I made more friends, and did get to meet some of them in person. Most, however, remained online only and we never even talked on the phone.

Finding a like-minded friend and ally online is something to be treasured. One of my first online friends, George Brickner, remained my friend until he died two years ago. I was privileged to meet him in person once. I still miss his “Good morning, FB and Twitterverse!” greeting every day.

Yesterday another of my long-time friends, teachers and allies died after a long struggle with multiple illnesses. We knew that he didn’t have much time left, but still, the shock was profound.  John Kruszka was a bright light, especially in the Books and Writers Forum on CompuServe (and in all its predecessors as well) and it was always a joy to read his messages, whether he was dismantling some nonsense he’d seen in another message, or displaying his lovely sense of humor, or even just commenting on how he was managing, these last few months.

Even though we never met or spoke on the phone, he was my friend for nearly 20 years and it’s going to be a very different world without him.

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September 25, 2012
by infmom

Wile E. and Me

A coyote in Yosemite National Park, California...

Coyotes. Somehow the famous Warner cartoons and the Disney movies make them seem cute and funny and appealing. When they’re prowling through your back yard at two in the morning, they’re downright toxic. And scary. And looking to make a meal out of any critter they happen to find.

I don’t think I’d care too much if a coyote chowed down on one of the possums that come around, and I’m sure the raccoons could easily kick them some coyote butt (and I know I would not want to hear THAT going on) but the appeal for them in our yard is the small family of feral cats we’ve been taking care of for about a year now. I like those cats. I do not want to think of them being coyote chow.

At least one of the cats thinks the same way, because the other night I heard a scuffle and a yip and by the time I got to the window the mangy coyote was headed out the driveway at top speed. In the morning we found small blood drops on the pavement. I think one of our cats smacked not-so-Wile-E a good one across the chops, and more power to her if that’s what happened, but she’s not always going to be so lucky.

So our goal is to keep those lousy canines from getting into the yard in the first place regardless of how tasty it smells. We’re still not sure how they’re getting in. Probably over the wall between our house and our neighbor’s, which is wood on their side and stone on ours, or over the short chain link gate in the side yard. I did see a coyote slinking down the neighbor’s driveway once, and they have no barrier between driveway and back yard. We have a metal gate on our driveway, but I don’t think they are going over, under, or through it because we would hear it rattle. I didn’t see how the coyote got out of the driveway that night, nor did I hear the gate, so I’m guessing it went over the wall onto our front porch and out that way.  Which means it knew the way and might have come in that way as well. They evolved to be stealthy.

So, after a little internet research, we decided on the least expensive deterrent: Locally Produced Large Male Carnivore Coyote Repellent. Yes, it’s what you think it is: The two resident males peed in a spray bottle and then went out and anointed all the possible coyote entrance routes. We figured this would not bother the cats because they’re familiar with the way our two resident male carnivores smell, and that turned out to be correct.

Then I bought some battery powered LED motion detector lights on closeout at Home Depot. The idea is to affix them to places where they’ll be more or less protected from the elements but still aimed to get into the eyes of marauding canines.  Haven’t done that yet, still debating the best placement. I think probably on the wall of the garage, somewhere on the front porch and perhaps on the side wall of the house.

An article I read recently recommends “coyote hazing,” which means making plenty of noise and waving your hands around and generally giving the coyote the idea that he wants to be somewhere else. (No mention of whether yelling BEEP BEEP would make a difference.) I did try that, but at 2am I didn’t want to go full-out or the neighbors would be reporting me as a nuisance. For the first time in my life I’m considering buying a BB pistol. I don’t want to kill the coyotes (and I don’t want a real gun in the house) but it would be very satisfying indeed to be able to zing one of ’em on the ass as it trots off up the street.

Since we started spraying the Repellent around, we have not had any more nocturnal prowling, scuffling or yipping. Whether this is because the Repellent work or because the mangy beasts are off eating someone else’s critters, I don’t know. I’m just happy not to be waked up by sinister Canis latrans in the middle of the night.

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September 1, 2012
by infmom

On speaking up

Yesterday, we were in a store where we shop fairly often. In front of us in line was an older gentleman who was talking with the cashier when we walked up.

Out of the blue, he said “And be sure to vote for Romney.” It had nothing to do with the conversation, and nothing to do with the business of the store. And of course even if the cashier disagreed, he could only stand there and offer no opinion.

Not so for the lady behind the older man in line. “Romney, oh yeah, sure,” I said, in a joking tone of voice. And thereby discovered that the man was clearly not accustomed to hearing anyone disagree with his opinion. He spluttered a bit, and then tried to repeat the usual Fox News lies about how Obama’s so bad. Unfortunately, he wasn’t dealing with one of those phantom liberals that Fox and the other media windbags conjure up to display their own superiority. He was dealing with someone who had the facts at her command and was not intimidated by bluster.

His final shot was “Yeah? Well, where’s all that change Obama talked about?

“The Republicans blocked it all.”

“No, they didn’t!”

“Yes, they did. They blocked everything they could.”

“They didn’t! I’m not stupid!”

“I didn’t say you were. But I know what I’m talking about.”

That ended the conversation. He picked up his purchases and marched out.

There are people who are accustomed to making Declarations of their Opinion and not getting any opposition, either because the people they’re talking with agree with them, or the people they’re talking with don’t want to get into it by expressing a different opinion–or they’re in a position where they’re not allowed to offer an opinion. Thus, blowhards become more and more convinced of their own invincible correctness.

It’s astonishing how fast so many of those people wilt when someone who is both verbally fearless and informed on the subject speaks up, which is why I speak up. Someone needs to put a hitch in their gitalong. It doesn’t take much, and it doesn’t take much in the way of confrontational skills. Just have the facts on your side, which makes it easy to stand your ground.

I don’t know why so many people let windbags go on and on and on, when a simple “That’s not true” will go such a long way.  As Davy Crockett either did or didn’t say, “Be sure you’re right. Then go ahead.”

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August 5, 2012
by infmom

Believe it or not, it’s just me

Young mountain lion kittens

Today marks a milestone in computer ownership for me.

Up till today, I have invariably been one of the last people to install any new operating system. It’s got a lot to do with my unwillingness to be an unpaid guinea pig, lack of interest in being a first responder, and profound lack of money to spend on expensive hardware and software. I am not the kind of person who stands in line at the computer store or waits till the clock ticks past midnight online to grab the newest whizbang whatsis. Never have been. Heck, my Commodore 128 was my main computer well into the mid 1990s.  I just installed Windows 7 last year.

I am also a devotee of printed manuals, or, failing that, good solid books that explain stuff. The Missing Manual series has gotten a lot of business from me over the years, as have For Dummies and Visual Quickstart Guide. I want to know how to do things before I do them. I want to have the directions in front of me, and not in some stupid PDF or un-helpful Help. I want someone else who already knows what they’re doing to explain everything so I don’t mess up.

I never owned a new Mac till this year, when I finally saved up enough to buy a Mac Mini. Before January 2012, I had two Macs that were handed down to me by kind and generous friends, which got me off the hook for buying new software because the hardware was so old it wouldn’t run any of it. Which was OK with me. But now I’ve got a new Mac. And Apple released a new operating system. And they’re only charging $19.95 for it.

Reader, I bought it. And I installed it today.

Maybe I need to sit back and fan myself. There aren’t any books about Mountain Lion available yet, although I’m #1 on the list for OS X Mountain Lion for Dummies at the Pasadena library. And yet I went ahead with this. (OK, so I downloaded the OS and backed it up on a flash drive first and waited till the next day to make that fateful click…  but I did it.)

I bet my kids are wondering where their Mesozoic mom went and who’s sitting here typing in her place.  I doubt it’s the beginning of a trend.  🙂

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July 27, 2012
by infmom


Tower of London, seen from the River Thames, w...

Tower of London, seen from the River Thames, with a view of Traitor’s Gate, created by Viki Male 17/09/03 16:38 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently, one of Mitt Romney’s minions thinks that President Obama doesn’t understand the whole “Anglo-Saxon” thing. I guess he thinks that the WHITE House has gotten a little too, ah, non-Anglo-Saxon for his liking.

Here’s the thing. When the 2008 election was going on, I was doing some research on my mom’s genealogy, and I discovered that we are distantly related to the (now) President through a common English ancestor.  But that’s not all. That common ancestor was a direct descendant of William the Conqueror’s brother (and therefore, so is the President).

So, yeah, that whole Anglo-Saxon thing? The President’s a Norman. And we know what the Normans did to those Anglo-Saxon guys.

Watch out, Mitt and Minions.

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June 22, 2012
by infmom

Twiggy, not Mae

Warning: If you don’t want to read about old ladies’ underwear, nothing to see here, move along.  🙂

I have often wondered what the people who design ladies’ garments ingest before they sit down at their drawing board (or whatever it is they use). They clearly figure that once your butt gets wider your arms get longer (I once got a women’s XL jacket that had arms too long for my 6’7″ son).  And they also clearly figure that your butt and your boobs expand at equal rates. Thus every “plus size” lady is presumed to be built like Mae West or Anna Nicole Smith. We all need

Mae West posing in front of mirror for promotion

us some over the shoulder boulder holders, right?

Wrong.  I’ve got a fat butt and a flat chest. And shopping for bras is something I undertake only when I’ve got the patience to plow through box after box that’s the wrong size, and try on bras that are ostensibly the right size but would require me to bring along two halves of a soccer ball to fill out the allegedly B cups.

I have been known to baffle even the most helpful salesladies beyond recovery. I tell them I don’t want underwires, I don’t want padding, I don’t want any kind of weird colors and please lay off the lace. Just a few plain old bras in beige (preferably) or white. I offer to buy every one they can find that actually fits me. I have never been able to buy more than two. Usually it’s “I’m sorry, we don’t carry anything like that.” (Try asking for my size at Victoria’s Secret and watch the saleslady slink away.)

Yes, I know there are bra fitters and specialty stores.  I tried a bra fitter at one of the major department stores and she was able to figure out my size in no time… but couldn’t find anything in the whole department that WAS that size. The plus-size-clothing stores are all about the underwires for the ladies who are built. They are not about the plain old bras for the ladies who are Twiggy plus a hundred pounds.

There are catalogs that sell “lingerie” for plus sized ladies, but anyone my size is outright crazy to order something she can’t try on, because she’s going to have to pay to send it back. So I have to resign myself to slogging through store after store trying to find something that doesn’t look like it should come with a stripper pole or arrive in a package with “training bra” on the outside.

Why am I ranting about this today? Because I went on yet another unsuccessful bra hunt (you probably guessed). The stores are well stocked with glossy double D’s containing industrial strength underwires. There are bras in every color and fake animal skin print you can imagine. There are bras with extra hooks and “extra support.” There are plenty of bras for women who barely have anything to put in one–but not for people who have extra to put in every other item of clothing (like me). Last time I went shopping it took me nearly three days to find three sad looking bras that were one step up from the training bra, and those are finally wearing out.

I’m just glad I have more patience for this nonsense now that I’m older. Of course if I didn’t have patience, I would have to bounce around braless, and believe me, NOBODY wants that.

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June 11, 2012
by infmom

Aw, Mom.

My kids lose patience with me pretty quickly. I suppose that runs in the family, since my mother drove me crazy on a regular basis. However, my mother and I communicated by talking with each other, so usually it was not difficult to get the general tone of the conversation.

Being a Modern Mom, I communicate with my kids via text message, Twitter and IM a lot. (For those of you who don’t know me, my “kids” are in their 30s and got their first computer in the mid 1980s.) I first started chatting online in 1984 and know that it’s ridiculously easy to misunderstand, misconstrue and just plain go off into woo-woo land when all you have is letters on a screen, but still…

We rearranged the office not long ago. Part of the new arrangement involves putting my Mac computer in a corner that’s

office arrangement

My little corner of the world

not quite big enough to hold the arrangement I have for its keyboard and mouse. There’s not room for another desk in here, I’ve had bad luck with KVM switches, and… well, trust me, the Mac has its own separate Microsoft Natural ergo keyboard and wireless mouse, and they take up space, and I made a “desk” of sorts for them by putting a Levenger lap board on top of a Dave table from Ikea. This worked wonderfully in Office 1.0. Office 2.0 doesn’t have enough room, even after I chopped about three inches off one end of the Levenger board.

I’m working on my third novel with Scrivener for Mac, because it is the BEST, hands down (the PC version is hot stuff, too, but the Mac edition’s been around longer and has more features). This means that every day I have to try to type while working in less space than I really need.  So, what’s the point, you say? Well, the other night I idly wrote on Twitter that I should start saving up for a Mac laptop. I meant it in terms of “and then I’ll have more options as to where I sit,” and my kids took it as “there she goes, trying to reinstall Windows to fix her wallpaper AGAIN” and came down on me like a ton of bricks.

Honestly, I was surprised and a little hurt by the reaction. I mean, I get enough of that from them when I deserve it, but this caught me completely by surprise. Trying to explain myself just annoyed them more. I could console myself with the thought that they weren’t pulling that on MY mother.  🙂

So, I figure that if I save up at the same rate as I did to buy my Mac Mini, I can probably have the least expensive Mac laptop in about a year and a half. Of course, by that time Apple will have abandoned the current cheap model, raised the prices and put in something completely new, but hey, a gal’s gotta have goals.

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May 14, 2012
by infmom

Changes upon changes

We recently spent an entire week renovating our home office. Since the budget for this project was pretty close to zero, the renovations involved removing everything, washing and painting the walls, laying down an inexpensive recycled rug, and then (oh boy) putting everything back in a new, more efficient arrangement.

It was a lot more work than either of us thought it would be. Granted, we didn’t get started on the office till all our other obligations had been dealt with, most days, but once we got started we worked steadily till that day’s work was finished.  The rest of the house was in absolute chaos while this was going on. This house is small, and moving the entire contents of one room into other rooms made us look like good candidates for Hoarders.

When all was said and done, though, it was worth it. The room went from grubby flat white (the previous owners slapped $1.50/gallon white paint on EVERYTHING in this house) to a nice tranquil light federal blue (Behr “Liberty Gray” if anyone’s interested).  It feels more welcoming and more tranquil. We moved the furniture around so that now each of us has a tall bookshelf by our desks, and our desks are no longer in a position where we bang into each other with the chairs all the time.

Re-attaching all the computer equipment took most of a day all by itself, since we had to figure out where the cables went and run them through new baseboard cable trays. I still need to go get some USB extension cords so we can both use the label printer and the all-in-one. There’s a lot of smaller stuff (books, tchotchkes and so forth) that needs to be schlepped back in here and put in place.

And ye gods, did we ever pile up books to be donated to the library book sale. This is a book reading, book writing family, and we’re prone to buying books to explain computer software (mourning the loss of printed manuals in software boxes). But software goes out of date, and so do the books that explain it.  So we buy new books and set the old ones aside, but until now we hadn’t done a good solid book purge in the office. That’s now done, and our daughter’s gaming books have been added to the collection (with her permission). I hope this means that our favorite local branch of the Los Angeles library gets some money out of them at their monthly sale. I just have to remember to schelp everything over on the proper day for donations.

I also got rid of several big binders full of information I collected back in 2004-06, when I had very different plans for my blogs. Mostly marketing stuff, before I decided that my purpose in life was not to get rich online (as if that were ever a realistic idea in the first place!) Now there are huge open spaces in several bookshelves. I guess the next project, after I finish schlepping all the Stuff back in here, is to start on the boxes of books out in the storage room and decide whether we want to keep them, recycle them, or donate them to the library or the thrift store.

I feel energized! I’ve been a devoted reader of the Unclutterer web site for a long time, and although I’ve always agreed with the philosophy of decluttering one’s life, it didn’t really hit home till now.

The photo’s not of our actual trash pile.  Just for illustration. Thank goodness.  🙂

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April 29, 2012
by infmom

It was 20 years ago…

Twenty years ago, I worked in a camera store in downtown Burbank. The man who delivered the photofinishing came inRodney King poster

and told us that the verdicts in the Rodney King beating trial would be delivered that afternoon. The store got busy and I didn’t get a chance to hear the actual announcement, but when the last customer left I went into the back room where my boss had the TV on.

One look at that dirtbag Daryl Gates on the screen and I knew what had happened without a word being spoken. And I said “We’re in for it now.”

And so we were. It didn’t take long before we could see plumes of smoke rising up past the mountains, as the riots started in Los Angeles. My boss decided to close the store early, just in case. A lot of the businesses on that block also closed early, just in case.

Those were scary times. We did not know if our community would be touched by the riots. Torching and looting were going on in cities that seemed perilously close. Smoke hung over the entire Los Angeles megalopolis for days on end and the air was hard to breathe.

We always watched the 10pm news on KTLA, so we were watching the very first time the video of the beating was shown. Rodney King has since admitted many times that he should have just pulled over, but people do stupid things when they’re drunk. Still, I can’t think of anything any unarmed person could do that would merit being beaten with that degree of savagery by that many people. It was sickening to watch it, the first time and every replay.

But how can people outraged about someone being savagely beaten turn around and savagely beat someone else? Why did all those hoodlums do what they did to Reginald Denney? I remember seeing Damian Williams’ mom on TV mooing about her baby boy. If she really loved her baby boy so much, why did she let him hang out on street corners when he should have been in school or at work?

Even at this late date I don’t understand any of it, to tell you the truth. I’m glad our community was untouched, but so many others weren’t so lucky.  In the end, Rodney King had it right: Can’t we all get along?


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March 7, 2012
by infmom

The Jesus Discovery (book review)

I’m a passionate consumer of the printed word. I read hundreds of books every year, almost all of which I get from the public library. I seldom buy books any more, lacking both budget and storage space, but there are a few authors whose works I will buy sight unseen as soon as I can get my hands on them. The most notable of those authors are Diana Gabaldon (fiction) and James D. Tabor (fact).

When I first read Dr. Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty several years ago I was astounded by the simple rightness of it. I found myself saying “Yes! That’s how it was! That’s how it had to have been!” over and over as I turned the pages. I wrote a review of it here at the time, but in the various transitions and transformations of this blog over time (several new versions of the software, one big database swap, etc etc etc) the review itself got mangled and I can’t link to it now.

When Dr. Tabor teamed up with Dr. Simcha Jacobovici to write The Jesus Family Tomb, and to produce a show about what they then called the “Talpiot Tomb,” I read the book with interest, but could not quite agree with them on their conclusions. I had no religous objections (obviously, since I espouse no recognizable religion) to the idea that the man whose name has come to us as Jesus the Christ was interred with his family in a tomb near Jerusalem, and Dr. Tabor and Dr. Jacobovici laid out their case carefully and with plenty of supporting evidence. But I just could not accept the idea that after all these thousands of years, any particular family’s tomb would still exist, much less the tomb of such an important family.

However, with the publication of [amazon asin=B004T4KX9G&text=The Jesus Discovery], I must say that Dr. Tabor and Dr. Jacobovici have changed my mind. With the new discovery of another, adjacent tomb from the time of Jesus, with clear evidence of its occupants’ belief in the resurrection, it seems clear that the first tomb could indeed have been just as the authors said it was.

I’m just sorry that the book jacket design is so incredibly unfortunate. I think it’s supposed to be a Torah scroll with a silhouette of Jesus overlaid on it. But what it looks like, especially from any distance at all, is a vew of someone’s bare backside. I hope, hope, hope, that new editions will get rid of this cover!

As always happens when new discoveries have been made that have anything to do with Christian origins, there has been the predictable amount of breast-beating, sniping and derogatory commentary. I have never understood why some people are so completely frightened by the notion of new discoveries like this. After all, everything we discover now has been there all along. One would think that anyone who believes the concept of “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,” would have no reason whatever to fear and would welcome the chance for greater knowledge. Alas, this is definitely not the case.

Whether you believe or not, you really owe it to yourself to read this book. Dr. Tabor and Dr. Jacobovici once again lay out their case, point by point, backing everything up with evidence and facts. This is not a matter of accepting the improbable on faith; it’s a matter of following the facts to an inevitable conclusion. I can’t do justice to it in a short discussion because the reader needs to see and understand each step along the way. It’s also worth reading Dr. Tabor’s blog and the Jesus Dynasty Blog (see the link in the right sidebar) to see how he and Dr. Jacobovici answer their critics.

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