Monday, November 25, 2013

Phones, Facts, and Latkes

We have phones! It only took 8 days, a dozen or so phone calls...all made on my cell phone which resulted in a certain Junior Son chiding me on my reckless use of shared resources...and a really nice guy named James who came on Sunday, precisely on time, and who, after examining phone jacks in the house and the outside connection boxes, pronounced my situation bizarre at best. Throwing his hands up in the air; he declared, "Let's go take a look at the inside junction box. I have no other ideas."

Bingo. Hanging on the wall right above the junction box was mysterious second modem. In short order, the offending box was removed, the wires properly reconnected, and voilà! a miracle! All the phones rang! Now, I am not a fan of Comcrap by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a fan of James and his online counterparts in the great state of Washington, Janice and Robert who went above and beyond to get this fixed much faster than the expected November 27th date the repair calendar showed as the first available date.

Life is slowly getting back to normal at Chez WP. Grandpa Sieg is going up and down the stairs like a champ. The dog has stopped growling at the walkers, and I've gone back to lobbing comments over the interwall at the NY Times, Huffington Post and other news organs with greater regularity. I have to confess there is a certain satisfaction in doing that, although these days, the commenters seem more polarized than ever.

This bothers me but I’m not sure what bothers me more: the vitriolic stridency or the extreme wing positions. This is a democracy and there are going to be positions taken to which I am vehemently opposed. There are going to be op/ed pieces, like Ross Douthat’s on JFK this past weekend, that seem to defy logic and are just plain spiteful. But just as I do not begrudge Donut’s right to opine, I do not begrudge anyone’s right to agree or disagree with him. That’s not what it’s about. Or at least what it’s supposed to be about. But some of the anger than comes through in the comments! Oh, I suppose I occasionally set my hair on fire…Okay…I did ask if he was functionally illiterate or just unable to discern between real life and fiction. Even so, I don’t think I’m particularly vicious.

Y’know, watching all those documentaries about JFK this past week made me nostalgic for a time when appearance was important. Looking at Mrs. Kennedy, the black veil over her face, holding the hands of her children… her grace and graciousness giving such dignity to our national tragedy, Watching it play out over and over again, and knowing what we now know about JFK, the machinations of his government, and all the rest, I still long for the façade of elegance, a pretense of dignity, and moment of civility.

But that was a very different time. There were secrets in those days. We no longer have that luxury. We have instant info-gratification. We can fact check anything and everything, and heaven knows, there are cameras everywhere. Hiding is no longer a viable option...just ask Mark Sanford about that.

I keep hoping that our ability to fact-check will be turned toward good, and stem the tide of spin and lies. I want a survey to report the raw data, not the extrapolated opinion paid for by some PAC. I want politicians to say, “Look, this is going to help my constituents,” and not worry about what the big pockets will say. I want all this knowledge we have at our fingertips to improve our lives, not give some hack a leg up in manipulating the truth.

In this way, I am neither Democrat nor Republican. I am not Libertarian nor Socialist, nor any other kind of “ist.” I am one of We, the People, and as we head into the next election cycle, I want the candidates to just tell the truth about what is going to help and what is going to hurt…not what the deep pockets tell them to say.

Right now, listening to the talking heads talk about which states are working and which states are not, they’re saying Kentucky is doing really well with ACA registration, much to the chagrin of their GOP congressclowns.  I am of the opinion that the GOP is not worried about ACA failing…because it won’t; they are worried that it is going to succeed far beyond everyone’s expectations…and they’re going to end up having to explain why they didn’t want regular people to get health insurance.

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
Thursday is Thanksgiving and the first day of Chanukah.
Thanksgiving commemorates a shared feast between Native Americans and Europeans.
Chanukah is about the usual Jewish non-harvest-related holiday stuff –
they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.  
Either way, it’s all about survival.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ghosts in the Machines, The Phones, The ......

So, we had this blackout last Friday afternoon;  the power went out for about 45 minutes. Poor Grandpa Sieg; the house alarm kept beeping and resetting the motion detector over and over so every time he moved, the alarm started beeping again. I wasn't coming home for lunch, so he was pretty peeved by the time I walked in. I got the alarm turned off, and burbled, "Oh! We're just in time for Jeopardy!" 

Guess again.

Well, there appeared to have been a casualty of the blackout: the "original equipment" HD cable box on the big TV was dead. I made the requisite "you take his wallet, I'll get his phaser" joke, and tossed the thing into the car. About the same time, something else happened: the dishwasher came back to life. I know not how such things can be, I only know there came to me a blinking, winking power light that said, "Hey! I'm alive!" 

So much for the good news. 

I picked up  new cable box...I won't go into the unwashed masses waiting for service at Comcrap and the dearth of people behind the counter. It was a simple trade, no money, no signature, no nuthin'. I took the thing home and after dinner, I installed it, no sweat. It did the download dance, and I did the authorization online and voilà! The new box was up and running. Then cable modem started flashing odd yellow lights and I thought it best to call Comcrap.  The desk phone was dead. in fact, all the land line phones were dead. Thank G-d for cell phones. 

Let me just say that Janice is Seattle is a saint. Older than me (so that makes her ancient) she was fantastic. Between the two of us, we isolated what we suspected is the problem and at least I had dial tone when we were finished. Getting a call, however, remains another story. Comcrap is working on it. I told her it was refreshing to talk to someone who wasn't 12, was clearly competent. We opened a ticket on the issue, and now, it's up to them to figure out what went wrong. 

Now, as this isn't enough, while checking connections, and trying to untangle the cords under Ziggy's desk, something I've been dreading due to the Siegfried Theory of Electronic Replacement which means you unplug it from the back of said device and drop the cord on the floor (see 8/19/13: Silence ~ The Unacceptable Alternative for details.) There was so much stuff tangled back there, I couldn't separate any of them without something else becoming undone. Into this Medusa's nest fell the modem and the router. And then I couldn't wake the router up. Now, there was no phone, no cable, and no internet. 

Good thing my friend Bill the Hardware Dude was not otherwise engaged. He zipped over and in fairly short order, the router was awake, the cords attached, detached, and rolled up. Meanwhile, we can get calls, theoretically, but the phone doesn't ring. So we don't know we're getting a call. So we can't answer it. So people who are calling to talk to grandpa won't even get the message machine. Which means some of them will panic. This worries me. 

Monday Night:

We are now in Day-3 of the phone saga. When I came home to make lunch for Grandpa, I spent almost all of it on the phone with Comcrap. This call revealed that when I flipped out the modems last year, they never "deactivated" the old modem which might be why I never had to back wire the phone, which, when I plugged it in initially, resulted in no-dial I took it off and never plugged it into the modem. This could be the root of the problem, or so Peter in the Philippines said. He promised it would be fixed by the time I got home. However, when his tech counterpart called the house number, he claimed someone answered. That was weird. I was standing there. The phone did not ring. He promised it would be fixed by the time I got home from work.

Yes, I know how to dial a phone
Not so, Kemosabe. I called again. I have no idea who I was talking to this time, but he was completely humorless. He decided call forwarding was stuck. Call forwarding?????? I never ordered call-forwarding and in fact, I requested the no other service beyond call-waiting be operational on the phone. I don't even know how to use call forwarding and I don't wanna know. Just like I have a dumb phone in my pocketbook, I want an equally dumb phone that rings in the house. Is this asking so much?

He wrote a novel length ticket....and adjusted my bill for three days of non-service. And then said it would take "a few more days" to get this straightened out.

Then Prakash from who-knows-where called to tell me the phones were now just fine. His opening salvo? "I understand you think your phone is not functioning properly." I begged to differ. As you might well imagine, I imagined a number of appropriate and inappropriate response. Then he said he was actually calling the house phone number which was now correctly forwarding to the cell. I had a fit. Quietly. I patiently explained to this latest technogeek that I don't have call forwarding, don't want call forwarding, and as a matter of fact, I want it off my phone pronto. This puzzled him, but I told him I wasn't soliciting his opinion on the matter; only on the matter of why the phone is not ringing in the house. 

So here I sit….semi-phoneless. Yes, cable and internet are just fine and there is dial tone so we can call out, but if you have to reach us, try my cell. 

Oh, yeah; odds are pretty good I won’t answer that one either, but at least you can leave a message. It's smart enough to do that.... but not much else. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Seat assignments are at the discretion of the airlines. Period.
Yelling will not help. In fact, it might get you a seat right beside the loo. 
End of discussion. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

More Fun Than Monkeys With Clothes

I cannot catch a break, y'know that? Revolt of the appliances took another twisty turn when I went to start the dishwasher, chock full of fleishig dishes from the Grandpa Is Home celebratory dinner...and it just sat there like a latke. It's 12 years old, and I suspect fixing it is not going to be cost effective...or at least not as cost effective as fixing the Sub-Zero because it's forming ice-dams in the freezer again. But now that Grandpa's back in residence, I can at least call the repair man....again.

I'm trying to decide what's pissing me off most this week, but it's kinda hard. I'm sick to death of talking about Obamacare; there's nothing more to be said on the matter until after the first of the year. Syria seems to have fallen off the radar in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan which,in the scheme of things, is a disaster of Biblical proportions. Iran is dithering, which is probably not big news if you've been following the cha-cha going on at that negotiation. I don't even want to talk about Governor Christie as a possible candidate in 2016.

I do, however, want to talk about the media. 

Secretary of State John Kerry had a transcendental moment of brilliance on Sunday for which I will be forever grateful. 

J. Fred Muggs....
still alive and retired in Florida
Let me preface this whole thing by saying that after some 55 years of news-watching, I have departed the NBC shores for almost all things journalistic. The only two exceptions are Nightly News with Brian Williams and Meet the Press. I even quit the Today show because they've turned it into drivel. J. Fred Muggs had more gravitas than Matt Lauer and the ding-dong contingent with whom he shares the couch.

Now, all thing considered, David Gregory is not a stupid guy and while he doesn't have the élan of Tim Russert, he's grown a bit into the job. Sunday, however, he seemed to have had a momentary lapse of reason. After a sharp interview about Israel, Iran, and the other players in the Middle East, David had some kind of episode and asked a question so absurd, so ridiculous, so inappropriate that one had to wonder what he had in the morning coffee.

Here's the transcript; it's too good not to reprint:

Mr. Secretary, final question before you go. You gave some comments in light of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy to NBC News that have now been widely broadcast and reported on. And in those comments you said this, "To this day I have serious doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone." That certainly would be surprising to a lot of people that those are your views. Would you care to elaborate?

No. (LAUGH) I just have a point of view. And I'm not going to get into that. It's not something that I think needs to be commented on, and certainly not at this time.

Do you think the conspiracy theory, his involvement with Russia, motivation from the Soviet Union or Cuba, are valid at some level--

David, I'm not going to go into it. It's just inappropriate, and I'm not going to do more than say that it's a point of view that I have. But it's not right, or worthy, or appropriate for me to comment further.

All right. Mr. Secretary, we thank you for your time very much.


Verrrrry fake. 
Really? Conspiracy theories? What's next, fake Obama school IDs? 

It was the "Thanks" at the end that put me over the edge. I was doubled over laughing. The delivery of that one, single word conveyed the absolute essence of cholera, plague, and chicken pox rolled into one. Not even Queen Elizabeth herself could fling that much disdain with a single word. And there lay the brilliance: he wasn't buying the whole premise. 

This stupid ass question was set up to get the guest. Despite the fact we are marking 50 years since the assassination  of JFK, there was no reason for that set up. There was no news value in the question, except as a possible sound bite, and Kerry refused to give them the bite they wanted. 

What is wrong with David Gregory that he felt compelled to ask such a stupid question? Was he impaired in some way? This is something fundamentally wrong with television.

When did delivering the news become infotainment? Are Americans so dumb that the media moguls think we have to be entertained by natural disasters? I'm beginning to think so. To see Meet The Press reduced to such a cheap, sleezebag Press the Meat kinda trick just broke my heart. 

But Secretary Kerry, on the other hand, refused to take the bait. I was so grateful for him not coming out as an idiot. It was so refreshing. 

The Wifely Person's Tip O'the Week
If you didn't call your favorite veteran to say 
"thank you for keep ups safe,"
there's still time to do it tomorrow or the day after, or the day after that.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dancing Has Been Temporarily Discontinued.....

I’m sitting in a bar at FLL…that’s travelspeak for Fort Lauderdale International Airport, with the Senior Son, Mr. and Mrs. Junior Son, and my baby cousin Perdie, having just left my mother at my father’s bedside at the hospital. Seems my father, so excited about the 70th wedding anniversary weekend, decided to get the party started when we arrived on Friday afternoon by falling and breaking his hip.

The ambulance came very quickly, and at the hospital it was just as quickly determined he had fractured his hip. That was by 4:00 p.m. Everyone stayed around for a while, but we convinced Mom to go home while I stayed with Dad. That was about 6. Meanwhile, the crack ER staff couldn’t find the “admitting” physician to get him to write admission orders. They tried again. And again. And again.. It was a veritable clown routine. My father was stone on whatever it was they were giving him, no one knew anything about his Parkinson’s disease, no one seemed to know we were even still in the ER triage room; I kept having to go in search of nurses for help. And by 9:30 I was ready to maul the next person who asked him “Is room 10 occupied?” Finally, someone found the admitting doc, got the orders, and moved Dad up to a room around 10pm. Thankfully, upstairs was a different story and I was finally able to leave him in good hands around 11:00.

My brother and sister-in-law went straight to the hospital when they arrived Saturday morning, while the rest of us were still in shul. Having all of us in one place at one time is a rarity, but this time, it was positively karmic. Mom spent most of the day not knowing whether to smile with the sheer joy of having us with her, or to cry because Dad thought he was still at the clubhouse. 

Saturday night, we decided to all go out to dinner as planned. We needed the break. But when we got to Mom’s after dinner, there was a long, rambling message on the phone reminding Mom to tell the driver not to pick him up at the clubhouse in the morning. That and he needed chocolate. I was staying over at my Tante’s house, so Tante took a bag of “Bliss Chocolates” with us and went to the hospital…where Dad said he didn’t understand why he was still at the clubhouse and no one had come to pick him up even though he told Helen [Mom] that he needed to be picked up. The nurses assured us these were the drugs talking.

Sunday morning, we went ahead with the 70th Anniversary brunch, even though the groom was not present. So many people had come in for the occasion, that Mom just wanted to see everyone…and we did and as surreal as it all was, the brunch was just fine. The only other person who was at the wedding and was supposed to be at the brunch was not present either. My tante insisted that she stay with her favorite big brother… who was still asking to be picked up at the clubhouse.

Home Again…thank G-d.

Though I don’t usually do this, there are some shout-outs that need to happen here. My brother's implacable calmness coupled with his professional understanding of the rehab industry was hugely comforting; he knew the questions to ask and perhaps more importantly how to translate the answers for mom since he's the one she actually listens to. The Senior Son gets special kudos for his incredible patience and gentle guiding of his Bubbe this past weekend. He was the one who got the guestroom at their place, while the couples were at the Colony and I was bunking in with my aunt (giving two widows a chance to compare notes.) I could not do what he did; his kindness was much appreciated not just by his Bubbe, but by me as well. Mr. and Mrs. Junior Son, who have been doing Grandpa duty here in Minnesota, also stepped into the fray with smart phones…looking stuff up as we needed instant information, and additional support for their grandparents. And there aren’t enough “thanks yous” in the world to be said to our friend…and the son of our folks’ dear friends,  Art, who has volunteered to be Bubbe’s “wheels” for the next month.

And one more giant “thank you” to Handy, who babysat the dog here in Minnesnowta, and visited Grandpa every day while we were in Flah-rida.

The good news is that Dad was making much more sense by last night and cogent enough to be yanking Mom’s chain. I think he’s gonna be just fine.

Next week, it will be back to business as usual.

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Day
If the doctor tells you to use the frickin’ walker,
use the frickin’ walker.