Monday, August 26, 2013

SILENCE ~ The Unacceptable Alternative

This is the inaugural blog from the new Mac. It's great to have a big screen and a nimble keyboard once again. While I am sad to retire the ol' war horse, it was overdue. 

Preparing for the arrival of the new Mac was a veritable one woman Marx Brothers' movie. I crawled under my desk to make sure all the things that had to be plugged in were still plugged. There were two surge protectors but as I moved them, I realized there were way too may cords considering the amount of stuff plugged in on my desk. Gently, I started tugging cords. I could hear Steve grumbling, "Don't pull that. That's an important connection Don't mess with that, Sue! You'll undo stuff. Nothing'll work." Contained within the Medusa head back there, only two plugs were actually attached to something other than the surge protector. But wait; there's more.

Then the Post-It notes started snowing down on me. All in Steve's eccentric scrawl, I recognized them immediately: they were the IP routing addresses...ghosts of computers past...when routing was done by hand before the days when computers talked to each other instead of me and Steve shouting back and forth between my study and his desk where the modem was housed. As I held them in my hand, I listened closely...just in case any of them started yelling, "Fucking packets! Goddam router!" But they were silent. I saved one for old times' sake. Yes, that's it on the left side. 

But enough self-indulgence. This is not exactly a news-free week and Syria tops the list of human indignities. What would possess even a madman to gas villages where non-combatants lived? What does this say not just about the lunatic Assad, but the people who carried out his orders? And then they continue to shell those hamlets as if the fires would eradicate the evidence? Where is the rest of the Islamic world to step forward to condemn this ruthless, heartless attack? 

Clearly, it's not okay with the rest of the non-Islamic world. I would venture to guess, by the bye, it's not okay with most Muslims in general. But most Muslims in general aren't running Islamic regimes that are sitting on their hands doing nothing to stop the massacres of civilians in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon or Iraq. The silence, you have to admit, is pretty deafening. Where are the demonstrations at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza and in front of the Syrian Embassy? I keep remembering how we, as teenagers, went after the Soviet Union on Refusenik immigration. We were relentless. We were in their face. The Jewish community kept hammering at this issue until the world had to take notice. Why aren’t the mosques and Islamic community centers and schools take a page from our playbook?

So what happens next? As members of the human community, how do we stand silent against this? Yet, We, the People, know that regime roulette is not a great idea. Ever. The US has no business going in militarily to intervene on either side, yet standing still seems morally inadequate…not to mention ethically bankrupt. Russia and probably China are waving their hands in the air telling the West to stay away from Syria. Are either of them prepared to rush in to defend the defenseless? Not bloody likely.

Senator McCain is pushing for action but I’ve not heard anyone from his cabal discuss how We, the People, are going to pay for this new front. Charging to Syria ain’t gonna happen unless it is part of an international coalition that works from the air and/or offshore. The price of Iraq and Afghanistan is too fresh and too painful to ignore. Economically, opening a front is neither feasible or, for the matter, prudent. In terms of human life, that would be over the top; We, the People, will not stand for sending more kids into harm’s way.

But how do we stand by and do nothing?

New York City c. 1967
Maybe, we need to take a page from our old 1960’s playbook and start a movement protesting the bombings and the gassings and the abuses and the destruction being rained down upon the civilians of the Middle East. Maybe those demonstrations need to be for everyone by everyone: Muslim, Jew, Copt, Baha’i, Egyptian, Syrian, Israeli, Lebanese, Yemeni, Tunisian, throw in the Afghanis and the Pakistanis…any people who live in fear of homicide bombers, terrorist missiles, and murdering warlords. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for all of us to rise up together.

Anyone out there interested?

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Day

Need to move an iPod library to a new ‘puter?
The magic word is SENUTi.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Appliance Revolt Continues.....

So the toaster quit on Sunday morning, and although my machetenister offered to take a shot at fixing it, I went over to Target to pick up the $16 Sunbeam sale special just to keep my FIL in his favorite toast. I had already rethreaded the new string trimmer, so that was working. I mowed, trimmed, did laundry, and changed the linens. All that was left to do was to print a couple of documents and I was done for the day. And then....and then.....

I cannot imagine life without a Mac on my desk. There has been a Mac on my desk since 1989. The first was a little nudge from my husband's wonderful boss, Thea Hodge (z"l), who thought I needed to come into the 20th century with a Mac Plus...complete with everyone's signatures inside. It was a lovely little thing and the first time she sent it over, I sent returned it to her, flummoxed by the mouse thingee and terrified by the itsy-bitsy screen. A year later, when we had moved into the new house, she sent it back with a lovely note assuring me I could master this thing. This time, it was as if the Computer Fairy nestled on my shoulder ...and I never looked back. I became a total MacHead. I could run 'em, cajole them, noodge them...hell's bells! I could program in HyperCard! Since that first little Mac, there have been three others, each one replaced only when the death rattle in the hard drive was louder that fan.

In the 8 years this Mac has been sitting on my desk (and yes, that is her monitor in the WP logo) she has been an unfailingly faithful friend who has never given me a moment's worry. But she is exquisitely old in machine years; time (and probably a fair amount of dog hair since the shedding machine sleeps on the floor below her) has taken its toll. I think I kinda knew what was coming. Little things were getting to Mac and she was slowing down. She could no longer absorb updates on programs that had moved on into newer processing platforms. Considering this seems to be the year of appliance revolt, I was thinking it might be sooner rather than later. 

Sunday night, Mac entered a persistent vegetative loop and refused to wake up. None of my usual Mac tricks seemed to work. I turned her off and decided that perhaps overnight the Computer Fairy would come and fix whatever ailed her.

The Computer Fairy must have been busy elsewhere. None of my MacHead tricks seemed to work. I needed help. 

Help arrived in a hybrid destrier with GEEK on the license plate. My friend Jessica Z. arrived at the house, confronted the Mac, typed a magic incantation onto the screen...and voilà! Mac answered. It wasn't quite the answer we were hoping for, but at least she was awake enough to give us access to the important stuff. Onto a 16-gig thumb drive went all the Word and Excel files….duplicates of files (already pretty much backed up on another thumb drive, but hey! You can never be too careful about that)  along with most of the pictures. We will go back in to get two other picture files that are a bit buried, but I’m not worried now. We know we can at least talk to Mac a little....and I am so eternally grateful to Jessica. 

But the bottom line is that while a laptop is nice and I love having one, I prefer writing a real key board and a big screen. And I like Macs. I like how they run, how the look, and how I relate to them. Silly? Sure...but why choose a Nissan over a Toyota? There has to be something about one you like more than the other. Odds are real good the next episode will be coming to you from my new iMac. 

Now, if the Sub-Zero can hang on a little longer, I'll be a happy camper. 

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Day

Back up your stuff.

Monday, August 12, 2013

No Intro Today.....really

I read this week's blog and it, in a word, sucked. 

After 161 uninterrupted weeks, through wind, rain, snow, heat, thunder, dark of night, trips to Florida, and one broken arm complete with surgery, I need a week off. 

For all you fans of ZJOD, here it is: how to tell a joke....just in case you forgot. 

Ziggy's Joke o'the Day
1998 - 2006

Today's column is the 100'th edition of Ziggy's Joke o' the day.  In
honor of this dubious feat, and because Derek, one of my vast horde
of ZJOD Irregulars, has challenged me to it, I'm gonna skip my
special brand of observational topspin on the usual diatribe and
obscure news piece.  Instead, I'm doing a piece on how to tell a
joke so folks will laugh at the joke... and not at you for trying to
tell it.

                      How to Tell a Joke

Before Starting

Always make sure your fly is zipped before trying to tell a joke.
If it isn't, people will be laughing at you, not at your joke.  Try
to make sure your socks match and that you've got your shoes on the
correct feet.  This will reassure people who don't know you very
well that you haven't just been released from the local booby-hatch,
are not a fugitive from the fashion police, and are not a computer
programmer.  While optional, inflatable shoes aren't usually
necessary and, if you really, really upset the people you're telling
the joke to, also interfere with a quick getaway.  If you choose the
inflatables, please remember to wear a red sponge-rubber (NOT
plastic) nose...  a joke fashion-accessory must (it also helps
cushion a hard blow to the bezel better than anything yet invented
for boxing).

Being personally offensive or threatening isn't funny.  If you have
a cold, projectile vomiting, bad breath, a broken shower at home,
are holding a large-caliber handgun (.22's and .25's are okay), are
on a multi-day drinking binge, or ate a bean burrito for lunch, try
and tell the joke from a minimum distance of 18 feet from the jokee.
If none of these conditions apply, it's probably safe to tell the
joke at normal interpersonal distances.  Either way, try to remember
good grooming is important and that good grooming really _does_
include nose hair, too.

Selecting the Joke

Keep in mind short jokes are usually better than long jokes...
especially if the joke sucks, and until you've told a joke a few
times, you just never know.  Yeah, you might've thought it was funny
when your buddy Al at work told it to ya, but HEY, you're not Al,
okay?  Also, short jokes are better than tall jokes because tall
people are generally bigger and stronger and can hurt you if you
offend them.

Know something about your audience before trying to tell them a

For example, don't tell sexually related jokes at church, to your
kids, at the dinner table, at work, or to the social worker who
visits to make sure you're living up to the conditions of your
parole so you can get your kids back.  Don't tell a cop a joke
containing the words "cop" and "doughnut" unless you're a cop, too.
If you're not a cop, don't tell drunk jokes during a sobriety stop.
And so on, and so on...  You get the idea.

Before telling a joke to someone, put yourself in his/her shoes (you
should _always_ first ask if you can borrow their shoes), and reject
jokes that, while funny to _you_, will only piss _them_ off.  Avoid
telling jokes to people without shoes.  Their feet probably hurt,
and absolutely nothing's funny when your feet hurt.

Important safety tips: never attempt to tell woman-driver jokes or
jokes about PMS to a female of any age.  Also, never try out a new
change-of-life joke on a women in short sleeves standing in a
walk-in cooler.  It may be a really funny joke, but you're taking a
life-threatening risk telling it in these situations.  Along these
same lines, never attempt to tell a physician a joke while he's
holding or probing an important piece of your anatomy.  Policemen
generally like jokes and usually are good natured people, especially
if you're nice to them, but NEVER tell cops a joke when they're
pointing guns in your direction... if they laugh really hard at the
punch-line, they might shoot you by mistake.

If you're not a member of any of the following groups, never attempt
to tell a joke to: accountants, actuaries, funeral and/or choir
directors, Cobol programmers, members of the KKK dressed in sheets,
IRS auditors, the Queen of England, the Pope, any child below the
age of 5, the judge at any trial in which you are a defendant, or a
prison-guard whose job is to pull the switch on "Old Sparky".  What
these folks think of as funny and what you think of as funny will
never, ever intersect.

Know yourself as well.  For example, don't ever tell dick-jokes if
your name is Johnson.

The next important thing to remember about joke selection is: pick a
funny joke.

The Setup

Avoid trite or inappropriate setups like "Hey, Shithead!  Did I ever
tell you the one about...", "I just heard this _really_ stupid
joke..." or even "We're here today to honor and remember the life of
a man we all...".  Setups like these usually signal you're a
beginner.  Most sophisticated joke consumers know a lame setup is
usually followed by a lamer joke.

If you're unsure the jokee hasn't already heard the joke, don't ask
"Did I ever tell you the `You're a mean drunk, Superman!' joke?"
when `You're a mean drunk, Superman!' is the punch-line of the joke.
Believe it or not, scientists at the University of Oslo have found
this single mistake tends to reduce positive reaction to a joke by
at least 47.32%.  After 50+ years of listening to my mother-in-law
say stuff like "Sidney, tell the Superman-goes-into-a-bar joke", my
father-in-law confirms this is true as well.

The Delivery

The single most important thing about telling a joke is to tell the
joke in a language your audience speaks.  Obviously, telling a group
of Japanese tourists visiting Paris a joke in Swahili won't generate
those resounding belly laughs most jokesters crave.  Why not?
Because there just aren't that many jokes which translate into
Swahili while keeping the biting humor intact.  Also, bilingual
Swahili speakers should note jokes originating in Swahili generally
don't translate out, either.  This seems to be a feature of Swahili
that's baffled linguists for years, especially since this is not the
case for Bantu, a related language.

Also important, but not as obvious, telling a computer-nerd joke to
non-computer-nerds will usually draw blank looks.

If you don't speak Yiddish, avoid using it in jokes...  you'll only
mispronounce it and make yourself look like a smuck, or worse yet, a

Another important about joke telling use full sentences.  Don't use
contractions or TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms).  Don't touch a cliche
or a pun with a ten foot pole (who you can't afford anyway because
the NBA is paying him _way_ too much and it's gone to his head).
And, for general audiences, none of that damn profanity, thank you
very much.

Avoid doing jokes requiring accents if you can't do the required
accent.  Don't even think about starting a joke about an Irish guy
with "Imagine this guy's Irish and he talks with an Irish brogue..."
That'll suck even worse than telling it with a Swedish accent
(because, it so happens, Swedish is the only accent you can do).

However, owing to inflection and the way consonants get pronounced,
a joke in Swahili done with a Swedish accent is usually pretty
hilarious.  But then, so is a funeral mass.  No one alive knows why.
Swedes are encouraged to hire a translator when visiting Tanzania,
where Swahili is the national language.  Swedes _can_ learn the
language, but most Tanzanians generally laugh so hard when Swedes
speak it, bilingual Swedes probably won't even be able to get
through customs, let alone to the hotel.  FYI: The highest rated
show on Tanzanian TV is the evening news on nights when the regular
guy is on vacation and Sven sits in.  That factoid alone ought to
tell you something.

The Punch-line

Before telling a joke, clearly remember the punch-line so, when you
get the the end of the joke, you don't screw it up.  To a joke
consumer, nothing's worse than sitting through a version of "You're
a mean drunk, Superman!", only to hear, "Hey, Mr. Kent.  You've got
some issues to work out."

If you don't remember a joke's punch-line clearly, a cardinal rule is
the funny part always belongs at the end.  Thus, "You're a mean
drunk, Superman!" is _always_ funnier than "Hey, Superman.  Did you
know you're a mean drunk?".

Telling a joke is like a one night stand: the setup is your pickup
line, the delivery is foreplay up to the point where you're both
breathing hard, and the punch-line is the part where your eyes roll
back and you start telling God you'll be there in a moment.  Also
remember, premature punch-line is never a good idea.  So, always try
and pace yourself until you've got your audience fully lubricated
and actively urging you on before letting the punch-line spurt out.

That's it kids; everything you need to know about telling a joke.
Speaking of jokes, it's probably well past time for Ziggy's Joke o' the day. Feel free to try out your new joke telling skills with this one, remembering to follow Ziggy's how-to-tell-a-joke rules when repeating it to your friends. You'll be amazed at the difference my simple tips will make. Today's Joke o' the day concerns a guy, a bar, 3 ducks and... Ah, you get the idea. This guy walks into a quiet bar. He is carrying three ducks, one in each hand and one under his left arm. He puts them on the bar. He has a few drinks and chats with the bartender. This particular bartender is experienced, having worked in shaggy-duck jokes before, he's learned not to ask people about the animals that they bring into the place. So, he doesn't mention the ducks. The two men chat for about 30 minutes before the guy with the ducks has to go to the restroom. The ducks are left on the bar. The bartender is alone with the ducks. There is an awkward silence. The bartender decides to try to make some conversation. "So, what's your name?", he asks the first duck. "Huey" "How's your day been, Huey?" "Great. Lovely day. Had a ball. Been in and out of puddles all day." "Oh, that's nice." Turning to the second duck: "Hi, what's your name?" "Dewey" "So how's your day been, Dewey?" "Great. Lovely day. Had a ball. Been in and out of puddles all day. If I had the same chance again, I'd do it all over." So the bartender turns to the third duck and says, "So, you must be Louie, right?" "Look buddy, I'm having a bad day," growls the third duck, "so don't ask me about it, okay? And my name ain't Louie either... it's Puddles." Okay, it's final exam time... Now let me hear _you_ tell that joke.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Heroes, Models, and Feet of Clay

There were a couple of topics under consideration for this week’s episode, but I need to address MLB, PEDs and hero worship.

I love  baseball. This is a well-established factoid and anyone who knows me well also knows my love of the game began with mad crushes on PeeWee Reese and Duke Snider. Actually, I’ve written about this any number of times, but today’s version is not with the same relish. In fact, I am so sad that I find even writing about this difficult. No one like to admit a most beloved thing has feet of clay.

Here’s today’s 13 suspensions:

1.    Alex Rodriguez             Yankees third baseman          211 games
2.    Nelson Cruz                  Rangers outfielder                  50 games
3.    Jhonny Peralta              Tigers shortstop                     50 games
4.    Everth Cabrera             Padres shortstop                    50 games
5.    Antonio Bastardo           Phillies reliever                     50 games
6.    Jordany Valdespin         Mets outfielder                      50 games
7.    Francisco Cervelli         Yankees catcher                     50 games
8.    Jesus Montero               Mariners catcher                    50 games
9.    Cesar Puello                 Mets outfielder (minors)          50 games
10. Sergio Escalona            Astros pitcher (minors)            50 games
11. Fernando Martinez        Yankees outfielder (minors)     50 games
12. Fautino De Los Santos    Padres pitcher                       50 games
13. Jordan Norberto           free-agent pitcher                  50 games

It’s not just baseball. Football rosters these days also resemble blotter sheets. These are just five members of the class of 2013:

1.       Aaron Hernandez  – New England Patriots – murder
2.       Ausar Walcott – Cleveland Browns – attempted murder
3.       Adam Pacman Jones – Cincinnati Bengals – assault
4.       Quentin Groves – Cleveland Browns – caught in prostitution sting
5.       Leroy Hill – Seattle Seahawks – two felony counts of domestic violence.

Basketball, hockey, even tennis and golf; there isn’t a sport that isn’t tainted by violence and illegal substance use. How is this okay for kids to hold these people up to a higher level of icon?

Steve (ז"ל) was a great devotee of cyclist Greg LeMond.  Despite a road accident followed by an accidental shooting while hunting, LeMond return to racing and returned to the top of the Tour circuit. His anti-doping stance cost him dearly, but he stuck to his guns year in and year out. Steve stressed that to the kids. Greg LeMond became the gold standard. If you couldn’t live up to LeMond’s level, you couldn’t be a hero. ( In 2006, LeMond accused the Union Cycliste Internationale of doping related corruption...and continues to do so.)

Neither of us parental units encouraged hero worship amongst the athletic set. We were of a single mind that a man’s character was not separate from his talent on the playing field and both needed to be carefully considered when handing out accolades and adulation. I called the junior son, the one who was the three sport athlete in high school, to ask who his sports heroes were because the only one I could recall being held aloft was Ken Griffey, Jr. Even then, it wasn’t exactly hero worship. So I guess I wasn’t all that surprised when he said, "There weren’t any…except maybe for Ken Griffey, Jr. and that's was because he was a good guy.”  

Tonight, A-Rod was resoundingly  booed at this first at bat in Chicago. Are people rushing to judgment? Probably not since he was already working hard to negotiate a settlement with MLB before the announced the suspension. That kinda gives it away no matter what he ultimately says. You really think the kids didn’t notice?

Bad sportsmanship, drug abuse, banned substance abuse, felonies, domestic violence…all of this stuff makes the front page, the sports page, and, most unfortunately, the OpEd page. We pay these guys a zillion dollars, but they cannot manage to control themselves on or off the field. Yes, sports is highly competitive and everyone is looking for an edge, but what message are we sending to the kids coming up through Little League, PeeWee League, Midget League…whatever league? Does letting a kid wear the jersey of a guy who is banned for using PEDs also tell the kid it’s okay to sneak in  few steroids…so long as you don’t get caught? What if he's in the can for attempted murder? Should the message change?

If athletes are to be held aloft as heroes and role models, let them behave as such. Let's all make certain that those who deserve excoriation get it. For everyone's sake, athletes need to walk the walk and not just mumble the talk. If they want to be on the jerseyed backs of our kids, then they damn well better earn that place with honorable behavior.

If we don't absolutely insist on that, when exactly are we gonna get around to teaching our kids about honor?

The Wifely Person Tip o'the Week
Never comment on an angry, hostile person's blog. 
They are neither going to get nor understand what you're trying to say. 
It's a waste of perfectly good electrons.