Category : personal

A Spam Test

Last week’s post, a quote from Carl Sagan, earned me nearly 100 SPAM comments over the course of a couple of days. Was it Sagan who drew them? The quote itself? I have no idea.

I eventually deleted the post and all the spam, but what a nuisance.

This is a test—a simple photo a friend of mine took of the NYPL from her hotel room across the street, to see if the spammers will follow me here.

Yours, Camille/Margaret/Ada/Jean, and now Elizabeth!

House Decluttering Time

A guest blog today from my Shelter-in-Place partner, taking us down a bit of music history through technology.

Had enough time within your house to notice what’s in the nooks and crannies behind your everyday life? My last 30 years of music listening has produced hundreds of recorded media devices; LP records, “45” records, reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, and CD’s. They took and take up a large volume of space. Recently, I converted all of the music on these devices to digital files using computers. I made many discs with these files and stored the files on them, in addition to having them stored on my computer. These discs needed 4 computer paper boxes to contain them.

Scale: 4 life-size computer paper boxes

Most, but not all, of this music was performed by various artists. Some of the music was from special concerts that were broadcast and others came from satellite transmissions. A typical special was the Farm Aid concert. A typical partial content of one of these boxes is shown below.

The entire digital contents of this 30 years of musical content is about 136 Gigabytes. It can be stored on this 256 GB Flash Drive, with another 120 GB worth of other digital content, like 10’s of thousands of digital photos from a Smart phone.

The disc in this package is about an inch long, much of the length needed to plug it into the computer that will play its music.

Do you wonder what’s next?

Sheltering

Today we have a guest author, JOSEPHINE MELE, sharing her thoughts on our lives with Covid-19.

Times Square, 2018

Full Stop by Jo Mele

The city that never sleeps is taking a nap.

Streets are empty.

Restaurants are for take-out only.

Bars are closed.

Theaters are dark every day.

Streets have no traffic jams.

Times Square is quiet.

Shops are closed.

Churches are empty.

A New York minute now takes a full 60 seconds.

Josephine (Jo) Mele is a world traveler, tour guide, magazine editor, and life-long mystery reader. Her first book The Odd Grandmothers, is a memoir of three generations of her immigrant family. Her second is Two Travel Mysteries: Bullets in Bolivia and Homicide in Havana. She wrote “ABC’s of Asperger’s Syndrome,” an article for Parents Magazine that was co-authored with her grandson Nick Mack; “Ellis Island Story,” New York Times; and is a regular contributor to Reminisce Magazine, The Lamorinda Press, and Cine Cuvee Magazine.

Jo and Patience

Check out Jo’s books: The Odd Grandmothers and Two Travel Mysteries.

Grand Slam

Pittsburgh Pirates Park

You may remember my husband as “the cable guy,” but we have hardly any physical cables anymore so I might have to refer to him as “flash-drive guy” or “Bluetooth guy.”

He used to watch sports. All sports. While he did jigsaw puzzles, while he read his newspapers, while he listened to music. In his younger days, he played a few sports; now he mostly watches. I’ve walked by his screen and observed scenes of football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, volley ball, golf, racing, and of course Olympic sports, all in no particular order. He wasn’t a huge fan in the sense of cheering for one team. In general, he simply liked to watch.

What if we no longer have sports as we knew them — with stadiums full of people and athletes as pop heroes all over tv? What sports fans will do with their time is one thing. But What happens to our language, that is so dependent on sports terminology? Will anyone remember what the terms mean?

• step up to the plate

• go to the mat

• out of the gate

• down to the wire

• drop the ball

• hit it out of the park

• par for the course

• get the ball rolling

• take off the gloves

• eye on the ball

• below the belt

• low blow

• on the ropes

That’s a baker’s dozen (I hope we’ll get our bakeries back!)

What are your favorites?

SMILE

Are you ready for something silly?

These days I’m finding it hard to be cheerful, to see the humor in life. I wake up in a land I’d thought of only in sci-fi terms. A flare-up. An outbreak. An epidemic. A pandemic? When someone cracks a joke (rarely), my smile or laugh seem foreign to me, as if my lips and mouth are not used to the configuration.

So for this week, I thought I’d look for Quotes that make me laugh, or, at least not depressed.

• from George Carlin: May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

• from Woody Allen: My one regret in life is that I’m not someone else.

• from Steven Wright: A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me. I’m afraid of widths.

Fordham, c. 2020

• and this one is an original from my colleagues in our physics lab at Fordham U., c. 1965.

Me: The spectrograph is off kilter again. It’s going to take hours to fix it.
Ron, a classmate: Let’s just rotate the Bronx.

Keep safe, everyone!

WORD OF THE WEEK

I’m reading Susie Steiner’s MISSING, PRESUMED, an excellent British police procedural.

This evening I came across the word toerag, used by one of the detectives to describe a colleague. I figured out from the context what was meant, but decided to check it out. Was this an invention of the author or a widely used word in the UK?

My search produced no fewer than 72 synonyms, but here’s the best definition.

I might need to use the word in the near future.

Enjoy!

Another Thurso

I’ve gotten used to LOL, BFF, OMG, and other abbreviations, but there’s another trend that I’m seeing in Comments on social media and in other blogs.

Here’s the new rule: any word of more than one syllable gets knocked down to one or two. Thus, conversation becomes “convo.” Problem becomes “prob,” or, in a perverse twist, expanded to “problemo.”

Thinking about it, haven’t we been using “info” and “demo” for ages?

What new ones have you heard? What do you think of the new landscape of vocab?

Still Life with Books
attributed to William Notman
Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Real Me Comes Back

The Real Me is back.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

I wish it were all good news, but the upheaval in our lives in the wake of Covid-19 is frightening. I hope you are taking the necessary precautions and making the best of inconveniences.

My sympathies and best wishes for recovery to anyone who has not been able to escape the virus. 

What’s there to do or talk about while we struggle with isolation?

• Here’s a relatively new blog that’s perfect for your time at home, or otherwise:

            Check out Sara Bly’s PHOTOCRAFTING FUN. Neverending ideas for DIY projects for yourself and gifts for others. Currently there are instructions for a memory-matching game on the site. Check out Recent Posts for more ideas and sign up to follow!

It’s never too soon to start holiday shopping, especially when it’s as easy and satisfying as this. And please share the results of your crafting with us!

•  Books

            — Catching you up with a short story I contributed to the anthology of mid-century crime fiction. Read “Lorna” and let me know what you think! And read all the rest, too!

           

— A new series will debut on May 5: guess who Elizabeth Logan really is. You can preorder Mousse and Murder, the first Alaskan Diner Mystery.

            — My local Castro Valley library participates in the “Reads” program. This year, Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird was the choice. Because of gathering restrictions, the discussions have been cancelled. To be rescheduled, I hope, because the book is outstanding. If you’re looking for a great read, give it a try.

Let me know if you have interests or hobbies you’d like covered here. Book reviews? DIY crafts? Writing topics? Your own “book of the week” to recommend?

For more of The Real Me, or The Real You, SIGN UP for my newsletter and visit www.minichino.com

That’s it for this week. I hope you’re all taking care!

Reading Habits

A frequent question at panel discussions and bookstore events is What one book would you take to a deserted island?

I heard Margaret Atwood answer the question during an interview a few years ago: “Only one book? I’d take the biggest book I could find,” she said.

Same here!

But apart from that unrealistic “what if,” I’m what you might call a heavy reader—3 book clubs, hardbacks and paperbacks everywhere, and always a full e-reader. But for some reason, none of my four main protagonists are readers.

I’m not sure why no one in my gallery of characters is even a light reader. They confine themselves to literature that’s pertinent to their jobs or interests, almost never including fiction or reading for relaxation. Nor do they ever discuss books, a favorite pastime of mine.

Here’s the lineup and their reading habits:

• Dr. Gloria Lamerino, retired physicist, reads Physics Today, Scientific American, assorted technical papers, and The New Yorker cartoons. That’s it.

• Geraldine Porter, retired English teacher and miniaturist, often quotes Shakespeare, but not once in nine books has she picked up a volume and had a quiet read. She does occasionally leaf through a miniatures or crafts magazine.

• Professor Sophie Knowles, college math teacher, reads and contributes to mathematics journals and puzzle magazines. No fiction.

Finally, with my 4th series, I might have a reader.

• Cassie Miller (ADDRESSED TO KILL, July 2017), postmaster in a small Massachusetts town, reads crime fiction. Though I don’t give specific titles, I do have Cassie commenting on certain plot devices, and actually trying to read crime novels before bedtime. Granted she’s quickly distracted and turns to focusing on “the case” at hand.

One reason my amateur sleuths don’t read: they’re very busy people! In general, they solve a murder case in a week or so, sometimes sooner. That’s pretty quick, considering real cops sometimes take months, often years. I think this is typical of amateur sleuths—they crowd more into one day than the clichéd one-armed paper hanger, maintaining jobs, snooping around crime scenes and suspects’ desks, and sometimes juggling children on their hips.

Also, reading is very passive, as opposed to, say, a car chase, a shoot-out, or even a quiet stalking scene. It’s hard to make a reading scene exciting.

She stretched out on the couch, put on her reading glasses, picked up a book, found the bookmark, opened the book,  . . .

See what I mean?

Star of a TV movie!

Here’s a twist on this topic. A few years ago, a book by Bay Area screenwriter and true crime writer, James Dalessandro, was made into a movie for TV. In one scene, Jane’s Aunt Gertrude is pictured sitting comfortably, reading. Her book of choice: my first release, a hardback copy of The Hydrogen Murder. She holds it up, the turquoise cover visible, plain as day.

Suddenly an intruder breaks in and murders her!

The book falls out of her hands and onto the floor, cover side up, immortalized as part of the crime scene. Later in the show, crime scene photos show the book as it lay on the floor near Aunt Gertrude’s feet.

So, although my characters aren’t reading, someone is reading my characters!

Busy, busy

Do you know any busy people? Are you one of them?

Here’s my pet peeve (and by now you know it has nothing to do with physical pets): people who are busier than you, no matter what. They’re the people who can force you into exaggerating your own busyness just not to lose the busy battle. Or maybe I’m the only one who responds that way when someone tries to convince me that he’s the busiest person in the world (BPIW).

My father used to say: he’s the kind of guy, if you’ve got a bottle, he’s got a case.

I think that translates nicely into what I mean.

You can have 5 classes to teach, 4 deadlines to meet, and a marathon to run, but BIPW will best you every time. “I’m doing all that, AND I’m expected in New Zealand any minute,” he’ll say. To which I’m tempted to respond, “I just got back from there and I’m packing for Greenland.”

I never like myself when I get into that mode of claiming to be a BPIW. It makes me tense about my life and my projects. I’d rather take it easy and think how lucky I am to have many things to do, instead of trying to impress people with my to-do list. That’s what happened last week when a friend came for lunch and announced, “I can’t stay very long. I’m very busy.” No, I didn’t say, “Sorry to keep you from your busyness,” or whip out my own to-do list. But I wanted to.

I had a colleague once who was a BPIW and also a BMIW (busiest mother in the world.) If I came into the office with a new jacket, she’d moan about how she’d love a new jacket, but she had to feed her children. If I went to a movie, she’d complain that she hasn’t had time for a movie since her twins were born. The only way I got her to stop was to confront her with, “Gee, BMIW, you make me very happy I never had children. I’m so sorry you weren’t so lucky.”

Here’s a paraphrase of one of my favorite cartoons: God is on a cell phone, saying “I’m sorry, I can’t. I have to be everywhere.”

Now, that’s busy.