I read recently how having a smartphone is like having a slot machine in your hand. Every time you pick it up, you wonder what you’ll get. You’ve just got to know what you’ve received since you put it down. On your email, texts, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Three cherries?
A friend said, “Having this object within your reach is addicting.” I thought she meant that having the Encyclopedia Britannica in hand to answer your every question in the moment was addicting. She meant the slot machine.
There are other effects: texting neck, thumbs supposedly growing larger, people losing the ability to read facial cues, families texting instead of talking within the home, device lights bedside ruining sleep, mysterious waves irradiating our brains…who knows? For sure: teens hiding in their darkened rooms gaming (weird) instead of fleeing their parents (normal) to run around in the woods (healthy).
A woman on a plane told me she’d instructed her grandkids, “Leave those things in the car.” Horrified, they asked, “What will we do?” Her response: Talk to each other.
When people go on such “screen diets,” limiting their hours on devices, they feel freed yet perilously untethered. When we misplace our phones we absolutely panic, the cost and nuisance aside. We are disconnected, lost at sea. An animal cut off from its herd. Danger!
I once asked a techy friend a techy question and he said he knew the answer at one time but no longer needed to commit anything to memory because his External Brain had all the answers. How many times have you looked up a fact on your device and immediately forgotten the answer? Because you don’t need to knowit any more.
Your “multi-purpose mobile computing device” has crazy stuff inside: a magnetometer, proximity sensors, barometer, gyroscope and accelerometer (Wikipedia!). Is all that in our internal brains?
The stats about smartphone use – 3 hours daily for adults, way more for teens – boggle. A decade ago it was 90 minutes. Apps are designed for addiction, with intentionally varying (slot machine!) reward patterns that tease your brain’s reward circuitry. We’re hooked.
With my phone, I mainly communicate – a lot. I’m hooked on communicating. I stress when I realize I haven’t responded to a missive, when the reality is that people send so many that they are hardly waiting for my answer.
If your kid constantly consulted an encyclopedia, you’d be thrilled. That’s the gorgeous Internet. But how many people are doing this? I do searches and read various newses, but mostly I’m texting and forwarding funny stuff. I “Google” with tremendous urgency things like, “Who’s hosting SNL?” or “What does Serena Williams weigh?” Not: “What is a Rhodes Scholar?”
So despite what most impresses about our devices — the world at our fingertips — many use ours mostly to spread joy. Nice! Until: suddenly the day’s over and your free time went down the iDrain. Your room untidy, tasks incomplete…and that class you were gonna take? The bridge club you were to form? All gone. When I’m in Boston I’m texting Vermont and when in Vermont I’m texting Boston when, really, who cares what I’m up to? Why do I have to “report in?” Send a photo? Suggest a restaurant?
I mostly quit Facebook. Because every time I went in, OOPS, there went another :45. I could’ve learned a musical instrument in the hours I wasted reading rampant, silly pandering in there – “Beautiful!”, “That roast looks delicious!” or, the worst, “You look like sisters!” where a woman and her daughter are pictured. Madness.
The line for phone etiquette is ever moving. First, it was rude to talk on your phone in an elevator with trapped others listening to the asininity of your half-convo. Then that became fine, then to be on your phone at a meal. Then to set your child up at a restaurant with an iPad, no earbuds. We don’t look up from our phone when people speak to us. We answer their questions while typing. Lately, I don’t look at them while we’re talking no matter what I’m doing. I first ascribed that to the increased concentration required in your 50s for word retrieval and recalling the names of celebrities. I’m staring a chair leg trying to describe a movie (Ryan … Gosling? Wait: Reynolds … er … O’Neal? Let me check my External Brain.) No, I’m not old; I’m just rude.
What’s the solution? Tweet suggestions to #rudeandgoingblindfromlooking10inchesawayallday. Happy Pesach, Happy Easter, and good day.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @uvgvt. Or by opening your mouth and forming words I receive with 2 sensors on my head.
Human behavior astounds this time of year, as people drive 30 mph through parking lots and a stranger grabs the last of a coveted toy right out of your hands in Walmart to cheery strains (“It’s the hap-happiest time of the year, ding-dong, ding-dong!”) as, all around you, children enact the nuclear option in in an attempt by the majority party to overcome obstruction by the minority.
In small compensation for your endurance of these annual indignities, I try to gift Dear Reader with something of value. In the past I have proffered, for example, A List of Great Books suggested by the nutters I call friends. This year, the parody one friend and I were writing for you–of the duet Baby, It’s Cold Outside as sung by a starlet and Harvey Weinstein–quickly became unfit for publication and was unfortunately scrapped.
I instead asked the nutters I call friends the following: “Can you recall anything your kid(s) said that was precious – a mispronunciation, or something amusingly wrong (e.g., the “Undertoad” in The World According to Garp), or that was wrong yet somehow right, or just interesting?” Following, for Dear Reader’s 2017 gift (of laffs!), are their responses. For as much as we savor excellent expressions such as ”He looks like the cat who ate the canary” or “trophy wife,” really nothing is as treasured or hilarious as our own private lexicons, created over a lifetime.
Once I read about a couple, both writers, who kept an open envelope on the fridge. When their child said something classic, they’d jot it down and insert it into the envelope. Most of us are not that organized, so please enjoy this envelope on our collective refrigerator.
THE MISPRONUNCIATIONS beginning with the foods: lomster, pisghetti, a tuppa cheer, as in have a “cup of” cheer. Custusting , diriculous, the Bommiddle Snowman, hepitata and hopeeter for helicopter, dennerous for dangerous, serra-mix for ceramics, and: my 3 year-old neighbor running frantically down the street screaming, “Good Hoopah, good Hoopah!” at the bizarre and diabolical Good Humor man who purposely drove through our neighborhood at top speed without stopping, presumably to torment children.
ONE LETTER IS WRONG: Remoke, groken, vantastic, brickly, buddons, library, and “E. said fruniture until he was like twelve.”
THE MISUNDERSTOOD LYRICS: Round John Virgin; The Whos down in Whoville singing, “Christmas day is in our breast”; Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds‘s “girl with kaleidoscope eyes” misinterpreted, sadly, as “A girl with colitis goes by.”
OTHER: When one girl’s mother asked her to stop doing something, she’d reply, “I want to if I want to.” Another once called her mother “the Ruiner of Ruiny Ruination.”
A little boy who could not pronounce his L’s, using Y’s in their place, famously asked, “Do caterpiyyars yive in a yittle, yong, yong house?” assuming, naturally, that its housing would suit the insect’s body type.
At wine o’clock, as we tucked into some chips and dip, our visitors’ daughter opened the door and briskly informed passerbys strolling down the dirt road, “We’re having a snack!”
When the priest paid a visit, my young brother opened the door and said, probably imitating our father on a totally different occasion, “Hot damn. Company!”
One kid’s: “I meant for that to be an accident.”
My son would exclaim when he saw any kind of chaos, like traffic, “Power Rangers all fighting in a mess!”
A neighboring child who was a huge fan of Barry Manilow would pepper conversation with random exclamations of, simply, “Barry!”
In the 70s, my little brother tried to show off for two cute southern girls at the Silver Lake State Park’s swing set by jumping off a moving swing in mid-air. His shorts caught on the S hook and shredded, sending the girls into hysterics. One howled, once able to speak: “Y’all ripped yaw pay-ants to pieces!”
CHRISTMAS: In a store, my cousin loudly advised our group, “That Santa smells like beer.”
My 4 year-old brother refused to create a list for Santa Clause, declaring “Santa knows what I want.” This was not a test; he simply understood that Santa knew, and that prying adults–who were in reality trying to extract information for my motherwere a needless bother interrupting his day.
I’ll finish with my own, Dear Reader, a phrase I use to this day. When very little, my niece received a toy doctor’s bag for Christmas. She went around the room “checking” people’s blood pressure. As my brother-in-law took out the stethoscope to “check” someone’s heartrate, she ran to the bag and angrily asserted, “This…doctor…I!” Meaning: “Listen up, Pally, I am the doctor here—not you—and you must not touch this bag, which is the sole property of me, the doctor, for the exclusive use of my personal doctoring activities.”
Do gift us with your own gem in COMMENTS as able. Happy New Year to all. And to all a…good day.
In modern tymes, it is difficult to avoid corporate jargon invented by management smoothies who write books. This invasive lexicon trickles down via Meetings and Presentations to people that have not read the books. Like a parasite, it penetrates each Host and rewires his brain, implanting annoying phrases and replacing perfectly good words with bogus ones, such as “utilize” for “use,” and “impact” (as a verb) for “affect.” A “platform” is always “robust” — when a number of other adjectives would suffice. A “problem,” apparently a dirty word, is reduced to a “challenge.”
I’m not sure why corporate language is grating, but it makes my friends insane. I suppose it’s because the speakers of this terrible language are parroting management smoothies — instead of using their brains – because they think it sounds more sophisticated. Yes, that’s what it is. Dumb, over-repeated phrases are Downloaded, Integrated, and Utilized by the speaker to sound more articulate or techy.
Thinking outside the box, pushing the envelope, and being on the same page, now 20 years old, cease to amuse. But the newer ones, often hyphenated, remain rich. The white space. Multi-tiered. Value-added. Portal-based. Drill down. Impactfulness. Granular.
Hilariously, a founder of Silicon Graphics invented Buzzword Bingo, to be played surreptitiously at meetings where it is likely that speakers will deploy buzzwords or arcane business concepts rather than supplying actual information. Bingo card squares come pre-loaded with corporate jargon, and you get a dot each time some silly lingo on your card is spoken in the meeting. The various ways to announce that one has achieved BINGO are mouth-watering. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in such a meeting, mercifully, but I’d suggest alternate mischief wherein contestants randomly combine buzzwords in nonsensical ways to jar deeply tranquilized meeting-goers out of their fog, e.g., “Drilling down to multi-tiered value-addedness was impactful,” or “His low-hanging fruit is right in my wheelhouse.”
The Corporate BS Generator, a fun online pastime, takes 2 “corporate” adjectives and randomly pairs them with a noun. Synergistic, results-based solutions. Top-down, client-driven transparency. Go ahead, make your own. What’s more fun than spewing twaddle?
I asked some of the brilliant cynics I call friends for their most despised terms. Their choices:
From CT: Alignment – when all divisions of an “enterprise” need to buy office furniture in the official corporate color palette. Branding – see above regarding the color palette. Re-branding – new colors.
From VT: Silos (not the farms). Organic (not the food). Cross-pollination (not the bees).
From NY: Reaching Out – “I thought I’d reach out” rather than “I’m contacting you.” Disintermediation – eliminating the middle man. Multi-sourcing – code for outsourcing. Business Development – a.k.a Sales. Market Development – a.k.a. Marketing.
It makes me wax nostalgic about another form of invasive language, one I welcomed as Host, probably because I was an unsuspecting child at the time. It remains a part of us. Yes, television advertising.
Wessonality. Certs with Retsyn®. Figurines (“Crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch.”) “I’m Rula Lenska.” (Alberto V05). Kind of wow, kind of now (Charlie!). “She conked out, but her hair held up,” (Final Net). “…and my dress is vivid red,” (RCA). I miss the flagrantly untrue, now-illegal product claims (Mark Eden’s “bust enhancement”) as I miss TV in general back then, when snow shoes were always falling out of closets, people were routinely shot out of cannons, and “the old switcheroo” prevailed.
For good or bad, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Now TV shows are based on doctored “reality,” and the ads are all for prescription medicines (“side effects may include new body hair, sleepwalking, swollen tongue…”), or class-action lawsuits (“Were you or a loved one exposed to…THIS?”). Just as Fab detergent had an intoxicating secret ingredient (lemon-freshened Borax), today the power of suggestion secretly leads us by the hand to litigation and a cascade of daily pills. Well, at least the car commercials remain. A comfort. Until they start driving themselves.
Let’s face it. Sometimes a problem is not a challenge; it is a bloody problem. It may not be fun or solvable. I had so many “challenges” outside my “sphere of influence” recently that in the ocean I was momentarily afraid of my own shadow — thought it was some kind of ray, poised for attack. My advice: when the going gets that rough, get yourself on a robust platform that can withstand the weight of a cannon, get a cannon, climb inside it, ask someone to spark that baby up, and just get the hell out of there. Good day.
*This title written before Harvey hit Houston.
** Cannon photo credit and interesting column here.
Sometimes I hear about people following their Bliss, Mainly I see people struggling to manage their time between their jobs and home lives. Which begs the Seinfeldian question, “Who are these people … who have time for bliss?”
I’ll be a on a date where we part at sunset – to go back to work. Our parents did not do this. Holidays, weekends, while making dinner or getting dressed for work … we’re answering work calls and email. If you’re an on-call neurosurgeon, okay. Most of us are not. In New England you see elderly workers, who cannot retire, in physical jobs. Where’s their bliss? Their feet hurt. My grandmothers worked only because they wanted to.
There are few chunks of time off for working stiffs. With puny or nonexistent raises, there is no disposable income to vacation – or to pay helpers (to clean, babysit, shovel, mow), that could free up that elusive little minx, time. The self-employed Vermonters I know work 7 days a week just trying to keep it afloat.
Our “free” time is gobbled up by work, social media and, sometimes, compensatory overparenting. Vermonters who’d rather support local businesses order goods online instead because they have neither cash nor time for local shops. Despite a screwed-up economy with gross inequity of wealth distribution, it’s not money that’s often the issue, it’s time. Retirees and people living off of other people, and those rare birds that live for their jobs, they have time for bliss. Not that I begrudge them that.
Ryan Seacrest, when 20 years ago a funny DJ in Cali, said on air once (I paraphrase): “I thought the weekend was supposed to be for fun. Basically you’re just trying to catch up on everything you didn’t get done during the week.” This was 20 years ago.
I remember summers as a young child. Lazily swinging on a tire swing, at the pool with friends, with cousins in Vermont, household chores, but often lost in rumination, reading, or bored. Kids today aren’t bored. They are whisked from appointment to appointment, Snapchatting feverishly in between. No time for tire swing. No time for deep thots.
Boredom has merits! It means time to imagine (what might be) and review the past (what happened). Social media, alternatively, has algorithms that withhold your incoming new followers then deluges you with them all at once — to make you feel good … to flood your reward circuitry and hook you. My tire swing never did that. Bottlenecked the fun, to affect my neural wiring in a way advantageous to the tire.
But God Bless America; the Fourth fell on a Tuesday this year. A 4-day weekend! I hope yours was fraught with burgers, water sports, sun, mayo, time, and the lifting of nothing more taxing than a fork, paddle, or leash – and that you could hear the Vermont Symphony Orchestra cranking out the 1812 Overture’s timpani, which can and must be felt by the people of the Land, even as it depicts Russia’s victory over Napoleon’s French army, not the U. S. victory over Britain but hey.
Back to the future. Sure, modern tymes have advantages! You can’t touch Al Gore’s Internet for convenience and kicks. And that iPhone secretary, Siri. “Siri, find a driving range near me.” “Here are driving ranges near you.” Wow. Of course, I never have Location Services on because I’m the OP (old people) wary of surveillance … evil forces tracking us … unlike the YPs who don’t seem to care … so I can’t ask Siri to find stuff near me because she doesn’t know where I am. (Good!) Yet it’s a modern option that’s there for me. I turned Siri into a male a week ago (in, naturally, Settings) because I wanted a man working for me, but he was bland. I’ll try the Australian version. Keith Urban working for me. Yeah, Baby (rather, “Bye-by”). I’ll have to learn his vowels.
Alas, also in modern tymes, low-water-use washing machines, as my sister noted, do not clean your clothes. When the indicator says six minutes remaining, it’s like football minutes in the 4th quarter. Also: you can’t sit on closed toilet seat lids; they’re too flimsy now. Not that I’m complaining.
With malevolent algorithms, diabolical surveillance, dirty clothes, misleading time indicators, buckling toilet lids, little free time, and way too much mayo, in July people are frothing at the mouth, forced to meditate the hell out of themselves. After work I recline, plug in my headphones and select something promising from a meditation app (Insight Timer). I’m asleep in five. I’m not meditating, true, but I’m not panicking watching the news either. Religious services can be meditative. I don’t hear the prayer words or scripture sometimes, but I am thinking deep thots, like why do humans worldwide kiss and why do we super like to watch others kissing, or how a friend offhandedly described his son’s friend’s mother as “drunken Catholic awesome.” Not that I’m condoning anything.
Modern tymes, oof. Try to tune out the noise. Eat something health-giving, then do something life-giving, rest, go to the actual movies, laugh. This is one short summer, bye-by, and you need to recharge to face yet more modern tymes come fall. And, taking the longer view, one day you won’t be in an office chair, you’ll be in far more permanent furniture. So fill what remains of summer with fun and peace. Mop your brow. De-froth your kisser and plant one on a creature you love. Not that you asked. Good day.
Dear Reader, I‘ve done it again. It’s gorgeous outside and everyone is strolling or gardening and I’m inside. Doing my taxes. At the last minute.
Generally, it seems, humans love to get away with something. Like when my mommy would say I could have “a couple” cookies and I’d take three. A friend still has a stapler from our first job together 30 years ago, technically white collar crime; I’m pretty sure her family would have given her a stapler had she asked. Tax advisors to corporate giants find secret, magical tax loopholes, and their clients are rolling themselves in wallpaper paste and 100-dollar bills, having gleefully denied Uncle Sam his due.
My current scam is the Substitute Task System. Say, I’m supposed to write my column. I don’t feel like it, so I scrub the tub. It’s productive but it feels like I’m getting away with something. Later, when I am to vacuum, I’ll sort a drawer. Write birthday cards? Clean the dashboard with a toothpick. All less of a yawner because they’re not the thing I’m supposed to be doing. Then, when I’m supposed to do my taxes, I’ll write my column. You get the picture. By not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, even if I’m doing something measurably less pleasant, I think I’m getting away with something. Delicious.
Back to taxes. Why do I put this off? Because every year I can’t find some document, or I think the accountant is going to ask me for a document I don’t have and I’ll never get through to the people that can get me the document, lost in an endless loop of recorded phone options (“Press 9 to hear these options again”) as the grains of sand cascade hopelessly through the hourglass’s waist.
Or: kindly people at the library, paid by God, are helping me at no cost in a super lean year. They examine my documents and murmur softly, “Uh oh. She has to file a 27-K19…” because of some 75-cent “dividend” I got in a way I don’t understand. They can’t find the 27-K19 form and the good citizens on line behind me begin melting as their kids circle the library in a frenzy. A hole starts opening in the floor and through the smoke I can see the gates of Hell and I’m going down. I am a bad person. I’m unprepared. I never got rid of the thing producing a 75-cent dividend requiring a 27-K19. I’m inconveniencing the hard-working Americans on line behind me. Run.
Weirdly, I’m not by nature a procrastinator. I dislike putting things off. I could never understand college friends concocting cockamamie excuses to get an extension on a paper – why prolong the agony? An inveterate list-maker, little gives me more satisfaction than (a) lining tasks up and (b) knocking them down. Saturday morning is my favorite. A whole DAY to check items off the list. Brilliant!
But filing taxes is simply, for many, an odyssey fraught with peril. One wrong move and it’s Hefty Fine City plus Audited For Life. I’ve done my taxes last-minute in all ways: on paper with an instruction booklet, via affordable accountant, via pricey accountant avec late filing fee (his idea), via kindly people paid by God to help those in a super lean year, by phone (before Al Gore invented the Internet), and with TurboTax (after Al Gore invented the Internet). My suggestion: TurboTax. Start it, ignore it for a few days, and they’ll halve the price to lure you back. Score.
That lucky reward aside, procrastination is ultimately unsatisfying because you’re not getting away with something. In the end, it has to get done. All the sweating and hair pulling and the crying and the bloodletting wreak yet again their senseless damage when you could easily have dealt with things earlier during a blizzard instead, and gone frolicking outdoors with everyone else on a gorgeous Palm Sunday.
Could it, Dear Reader, have been gorgeous that earlier weekend, and a snowstorm this? No, it could not. Mother Nature collaborates with God at tax time to punish human laggards for dillydallying. Hades is the only stop on this terrible annual journey across the River Styx aboard the S.S. Procrastination. It’s not a local, it’s an express. The doors will not open until the last stop and you cannot get off and you know exactly where you’re headed and it’s nobody’s fault but your own that you got on board. Good day.
HOT TIP FROM A LOCAL: A tax-prep service apparently accessible to 70% of Americans, but only 2% use it because no one knows about it: irs.gov/freefile.
I don’t think I can improve upon this old St. Patty’s Day post. It pretty much says it all.
But if you follow me on Twitter (@uvgvt), I’ll retweet the cement mixer parade in Burlington. It’s what we dew.
The advantage of being friendly out in the world, aside from generally vexing your friends, family and boyfriends, is that you learn a whole lotta interesting stories and facts wherever you go.
This from a hotel’s front desk clerk: she saw a box of guavas on sale at such a price that she couldn’t possibly turn them down. But what do ya do with that many guavas? Boil ’em down, of course. Five hours later, a jelly like no other. And the color!
Thank you, Cindy. Enjoy your nor’easter.
High time for a shared visual experience, always a delicacy.
I saw several Oscar contenders and I suggest:
Lion, Hidden Figures, Jackie, LalaLand, Manchester by the Sea, more or less in that order. If you don’t want dire, go Figures or Lala. If you hate musicals, skip Lala, tho it’s an unconventional one. I missed Moonlight and Fences, alas, so I can’t factor them in. This Lion poster is misleading, in my opinion.
See you…at the movies! Report in as able.
Since Keurig was bought by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in 2006, the K-cup waste issue has been a long and local one. Here are two alternatives that work. Aside from, obviously, not using them at all.
Problem is, many workplaces have this as the only coffee maker. And I’m pretty sure it’s one of the most re-gifted items ever. People get one as a gift, re-wrap it, pass it on, and on and on, until it finally makes its way to someone who says, “Okay.”
First, if you’ve got a bunch of K-cups you already bought, you can cut the lids off with this little baby and recycle the plastic housings. Not perfect, because recycling is a dirty, energy-consuming process. The recycle a cup® , available all over the place, is fun to use:
Second and better, the reusable Solofill Cup® vastly improves the “coffee cage” that had in past incarnations brewed a terrible cup of coffee. Available all over the place. Brew on.
Another week, another protest. This one against the “non-ban.” Alt-facts and the temporary lift of the “non-ban” aside, Winooski gathered for the smallest, proudest protest of the Land, held in the center of its infamous rotary. Even the sun participated.
True fact: the Burlington area is famously refugee-friendly, has been for decades. That’s Vermont for you. First in so many things, including outlawing slavery, allowing blacks and women into its (first in the nation) private military college, first state college, and of course the first rope tow. Let’s not forget: first in civil unions. Yay, ‘mont!
Here’s some more signs, mostly last-minute, with heart.