Friday, August 31, 2012

Why I'm Not Writing Here or Posting Pictures

The gremlins living in my computer are on such a serious  sit down -- or slow down -- strike that I don't have the patience to try to post a picture.  One thing and another has been super frustrating in the past ten days -- all computer related. In other parts of life things are going along generally well.

It started when my printer sprung a spring which somehow was related to feeding the paper through.  The printer was 7 years old and had been cranky about paper jams for some time so I had to get a new one. The lovely one I bought proved to be such a new model it was incompatible with my 7 year old Macbook.  Either I could get an expensive upgrade to the computer or take the printer back. I took the printer back. I also ranted a bit amongst some friends and one angel said she had a printer sitting unused and I could have it -- for free. Yipee! Except she arrived with it and spent a couple of hours trying to install it.  It was going to be compatible, but she's not a Mac person and I'm inept. However, the next morning my daughter arrive at 7:30 a.m., wet from a shower, foregoing breakfast with her husband before church, to help me. We just about did it.  Later in the day, all by my little self, I managed the final step.  Viola!  a printer that works and talks to my computer.

Meanwhile my external hard drive was not backing things up properly. It hadn't for a while and I was getting nervous with files on the computer I absolutely would hate to lose.  Two trips to the Mac store eventually revealed the hard drive had an internal defect of some kind. That's when the internet connection on the computer began to act like a stubborn snail that could take all day to move a millimeter.  It's still doing it and I'm mega-frustrated.  And looming ahead of me is probably a period in the Mac service department just when my writing is rolling along wonderfully and I need to do other work on it as well. 

So that is an update on my unhappiness with the fact that I feel so dependent on this little machine in my lap.  How did I get to this impass? I don't want to need a machine, I don't like it to hold in its innards some of my most precious possessions -- my writing, my photographs, my contacts with friends and businesses and much of the outside world.  And I hate that my most primitive impulse, which would be to simply buy a new computer and transfer the important stuff is both very expensive and also time consuming.  I feel as if aliens have taken over a large part of my life.  And I DON'T LIKE IT.

Friday, August 24, 2012

One of those days -- yea, weeks really

The fag end of summer is here; the days are still nice but a sense of tiredness is in the air and a feeling that what can go wrong will go wrong.  Nothing big and bad but small and irksome.  (I put this picture here because the ram has an expression  that I relate to this morning.  BAAAH!)

There was the nice lady who backed her SUV into my front bumper in a parking lot. No biggie, but enough to need body work on the car.  Bother! And I still have to make calls about her insurance paying for the rental car I had about 28 hours. I HATE these niggling calls.  There was the capsulotomy on my right cataract lens; no problem really and now I can read comfortably again, but it's still eye drops three times a day until I use up the bottle of drops. There was the ear check up and the news that my right ear is 24% less acute than the left and to find out why I need an MRI. I am highly claustrophobic and this makes me mega-anxious.  I have to return the call of the clinic and make the appointment, then go get the Atavan prescription filled and I think the MRI is going to be useless -- maybe that's wishful thinking  because if it shows a neuroma many questions arise.

I've been struggling with the tension on my sewing machine.  I don't know how or when I got it off but it is and I can't seem to adjust it back properly.  Maybe I'll need to go to a repair show -- the instruction booklet is minimal and no help really.  And finally adding insult to injury, my 7 year old printer got a paper jam and refused to realize it was fixed-- this has happened before. I wait for the gremlin inside it to wake up and let me print.  But this time when it decided to print, it again jammed and when the paper was removed a twisted little spring popped out also.  No point in repairing a 7 year old printer so I went to Staples and bought the latest version of basically the same printer. But, AARG and BAAAH, the disk to make it work with my MacBook said it was incompatible.  Ridiculous.  So in a short while I will call the help number and see what's what and how to make it compatible. I need -- I REALLY need -- a working printer.  I'm convinced some genius will tell me what buttons to push to make it work. 

What I really want is a world in which everything works smoothly and there are no potholes and speed bumps.  Would life be perfect and boring?  No, I'm only talking about the mechanics of every day living.  People would still be the wonderful and maddening beasts they are and my own inner life would still have it's oddities that I haven't resolved in all these years.  I just want to get on with it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our Canadian friends are back

They've been back for  a while.  They arrived in the spring and then disappeared -- either going further north or to a local site for family raising. Now they're back in hungry numbers. This morning thirteen arrived while I was having breakfast, looking like an air force squadron but landing gracefully without need for a runway.  Mostly they stalk along the lawn grazing and looking, I assume, for bugs as well as succulent greenery. Now and then when I have a stale heel of bread, I tear it into pieces and throw it out for them -- although I wish the cute little squirrel would come by in time to get some. 

They usually stay two or three hours in the morning and then go away for a siesta, probably near or on one of the many little ponds, and then return in the afternoon for dinner.  I like to walk across the lawn to where my car is parked instead of taking the slightly longer route on the sidewalk.  But I have to keep my eyes on the ground because it's well scattered with their droppings. Joe, the handyman told me yesterday morning that he had swept up all the droppings on the sidewalk and in the parking lot  but he knew it was a futile effort. I thought it remarkable that he went to the trouble of sweeping at all.  He chases them when he's got the riding mower out. They may get vexed enough to leave for a while but they always come back. I like looking at them but their piles are an annoyance.  Such is most of life, a mixture of good and bad.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Laser Eye Surgery

Several years ago when I heard of laser surgery to correct myopia, I was horrifed in the squeamish way people often are about any kind of surgery ... but on one's EYES?  And could it really make near-sighted people see like well?  It's been around now for quite a while and thousands of people see better because of it.  But I was content to stick with my contact lenses which were as daring as I was likely to be about my precious eyes.

We get older and, if not wiser, sometimes more needy and more desperate than we imagined in younger years -- actually, in younger years, thought of a time when I might have cataracts simply didn't occur to me.  But my eyes aged with me and cataract surgery became necessary about three years ago.  I was apprehensive but I found many acquaintances who had had the operation and were glad to have thrown away their glasses or contacts.  The Boston Opththalomic Consultants were recommended by a neighbor.  I had one eye done and a few weeks later the other.  Hurray!  I could see better than I had since I was thirteen.  Because my eyes had been very differently affected by myopia, the lenses that were implanted were different: the right one for reading  and the left for distance vision. It worked just fine ... until last winter when I found reading becoming difficult. 

Soon I was using reading glasses for all near vision.  Something was wrong.  My near vision was becoming worse and worse.  So I went back to the clinic and discovered that, in fact, such a problem was not unusual but that it could be easily and quickly corrected with what's called a capsulotomy which is accomplished with a laser in a very brief operation.  While waiting for the appointment I actually met three other people who's had the operation.  "A piece of cake," said one. They others agreed less graphically.  Now I agree too. 

I had the operation this morning.  The same surgeon who did the cataract operation, a Chinese woman who looks like she's about 20 but probably is over 40, sat me down in front of a small machine.  Her assistant held my head gently but firmly still while I rested my chin on the familiar cup and my forehead against the curved bar that it seems all ophthalomic devices have.  I had been given some numbing eye drops.  For a few minutes I saw orange circles, quite graphic and attractive, and heard little beeps from the machine the doctor manipulated.  That was it.  My vision was somewhat blurred for about fifteen minutes.  My daughter had come along to drive me home.  An hour after being home I already knew I could see more than before with my right eye.  Twelve hours later my reading vision seems to be about what it was after the cataract surgery.   Viola!  A miracle of modern technology!
Lasers are still mysterious to me, a little frightening, very awesome. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

No more Pollyanna, I've Grown up

I read the original Pollyanna book in the fourth grade.  The following summer I brought Pollyanna Grows Up home from the library.  One day I made a decision I still remember, I was bored and didn't feel like finishing it.  For many years after--I  mean 40 or 50 years--I resolutely finished every book I started. Often I was glad I did, sometimes I wondered if I'd wasted my time.  I have great respect for writers and feel they deserve a full reading.

BUT I'm getting older and  I've begun putting books aside after I've read enough to know I don't want to finish them.  This is a kind of liberation.  Yesterday I decided not to finish Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I'm nearly at page 200 and I've just had it with the swaggering young protagonist. I read a review of Eggers' new book (4th or 5th) and felt he is a writer whose work I should know and take seriously.  Maybe I'll read the new one if the protagonist is an adult.

Lately I've purposely avoided books that are written from the point of view of a very young person, especially memoirs that dwell on growing up years.  Yes, I just read American Chica, but the voice of the writer was very much a mature person and it was bi-cultural.  I am somewhat horrified when I read magazines for writers and find great emphasis on Young Adult fiction as a genre.  On one hand I'm happy if young adults are reading fiction; on the other, aren't writers copping out of depth and insight by ignoring the world of adult responsibility and concerns? 

Recently Ronni Barrett in her blog Time Goes By (see sidebar) wrote that older adults are turning more to memoir than to novels.  And writers who have a story to tell (often just one story) are not writing novels but memoirs -- ready made plot, characters, setting! Plus nostalgia. There's a glut.

I've just bought five more books from our  library's sale, all by non-American authors. The blurbs promise stories that will be a bit exotic to me about adults in cultures that are not mine.  I'm sure the human  problems will be familiar but when I read I will be transported into a different world. For this reason I also prefer foreign films. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Stereotypes at the Beach

I had no beach to enjoy when I was growing up in the Indiana.  I continue to be surprised on hazy, humid days like we've had for a couple of weeks now, that sitting on the sand beside the ocean can be wonderfully refreshing.  Last week I enjoyed it too much without sun screen and got some burn.  Today I was prepared and no burn. Both times we watched a wind surfer, some distance out on the water.  It looks like so much fun although we both know we couldn't do it.  The person was very good, never took a spill, rode the moderate waves expertly; lovely to watch. 

Today the surf was fairly strong although yesterday when I walked by the beach it was a gentle rolling, almost quiet lapping. Rachel and I decided to walk beyond the public beach at the water's edge which is public although the houses beyond the public beach had exclusive right to the sandy area.  Great clumps of seaweed was being deposited by the surf, and a short distance down the beach a family seemed utterly uninterested as an very intent German shepherd  dug a hole that looked like he was  planning to dig all the way to China.  Further on we saw the wind surfer sitting with his back to us fixing something on the sail.  We had assumed the surfer was a young guy, maybe a teen, maybe early twenties.  We were wrong; he was a balding man probably in his forties or fifties (we couldn't see his face).   Another sterotype hits the dust -- or sand.  Then I remembered that a man who owned a company I worked for was an ardent wind surfer in his forties, perhaps he still is as he's pushing sixty.  The surfer, of course, might have turned out to be a woman -- time to think in politically correct terms.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Momentarily forget about the photographs above.  Picture this:  a white clapboard, middle sized house in a small Cape Cod town.  The house has been turned into a casual restaurant that encourages people to come, chat, have meetings, spend time on their computers, and go out and enjoy the patio, which has a terrazzo area surrounded by wrought iron chairs and tables. The patio is enclosed by a weathered wood fence that protect patrons from the fairly busy street and from the sometimes noisy day care center next door.  There are trumpet vines covering the small porch to the door to the restaurant and at night it sparkles with little fairy lights.  The establishment is called the Chat House and is in the town of Dennis.

Now think of the patio and add five women of various ages and body types.  Some are attired somewhat like the woman above in blue; all have scarves of golden pailettes that sparkle around their hips, three have bare midriffs; two -- the older of the group (one is the teacher) wear more covered up but distinctly middle eastern  gowns.  Only two women are young enough to have what could be called bikini bodies. The last performer is the teacher who is not dressed like the woman in black but does dance with a sword which she variously balanced on her head, on her forehead and on one hip as she continued to dance, sometimes with castanets. Each of the five danced alone to music of their choice, and all seem fairly accomplished to this viewer who is ignorant of serious belly dancing standards.

Impossible to forget it's New England, wonderful to realize that the variety of arts and dance, as well as crafts and music, in this place is far more varied than stereotypes would suggest.  My daughter and I had a very entertaining evening and especially liked a dancer who seems to be expressing a hidden self when she dances.  Her expression told us clearly she was enjoying her gyrations.  But if one met her elsewhere in every day clothing she would look like a bespectacled, rather prim sort.  Hurray for her! To me she personifies something I've discovered about Cape  Cod.

Friday, August 3, 2012

American Chica, Marie Arana

Many people live the double life of having parents from different countries, and even alternately living in the different countries.  In American Chica Marie Arana (called Marisi throughout the book which deals with mainly her pre-teen years) looks back with ultra vivid descriptions of her father's Peru; he was from one of the elite families, an engineer in a very traditional social position.  Her mother was an American with a partly secret past, part of which is discovered when the family goes to Wyoming as the American grandmother is dying.  Three months in quintessential cowboy ranch country severely dislocates the very strong headed child and her brother, George.  An older sister, Vicky, is such a bookworm she hardly plays a role in the memoir.

The two cultures couldn't be more different. The parents' love for one another is strong enough to withstand the differences, even when they spend months apart.  Arana is editor of the Washington Post Book supplement, an extremely literate woman with a vocabulary and writing style that few native American writers can equal.  I think writers for whom English was not the first or primary language often write more self-consciously than native speakers.  There is such a richness of crafted sentences I sometimes wanted to shout "enough already".  Yes, sometimes you can write just too darned well.

The blurb likened Arana to Isabel Allende, one of my favorite bi-cultural writers.  Allende is from Chile but she does not seem dislocated and her writing style is easy unself-conscious American.  I prefer Allende.