Friday, August 2, 2019

Frustration - redux

It's been more than a few years since I wrote the newspaper column below. A few things have changed, more than a few actually, in that time. Now living alone, so I have no one else to blame for many of the frustrations I encounter. Some are the normal aggravations in life that everyone encounters, of course. Some due to changes in the world around us, when we might prefer that things stayed the same.
Nowadays 'responsive' is the buzz word when it comes to web site building. An even steeper learning curve than first learning HTML code, I discovered. But, as with the coding, I've learned a smattering of the subject. And I'm glad I learned a little about coding. When my responsive design won't do what I want it to do, I can look at the code, and maybe, possibly, get a hint of the reason. And sometimes I look at the code and don't have a clue, to re-coin a hoary phrase.
* * *
I don’t deal well with frustration. So of course many things in life seem to conspire to frustrate me. Say I set out to tighten the drawer knobs on a small chest of drawers for which I’ll need several items. Can those items be found? Certainly not. That would make it too easy. Some gremlin has moved the screwdriver from where it has resided for years in the front of the junk drawer. After half an hour I locate it in the secondary junk drawer underneath the plastic baggie of tiny leftover screws from a DIY shelf unit.
Muttering inaudible, I hope, imprecations I clutch the screwdriver and go to the kitchen drawer which normally holds tools I use more often. I’ll need the needle-nose pliers to hold the washer inside the drawer while I tighten the knob. I use the pliers most often to rip open those tabs on milk and other liquid container plastic lids, another long-term source of frustration.
Frustration is not limited to the physical. It has been my daily fare for the last few weeks as I try to clean up the code on several web pages. I created the pages two and three or so years ago while attempting to learn the basic skills of website building with HTML code. I learned a little and made working pages, after a fashion. I kept learning in fits and starts as I wanted to make changes to the pages. Then other interests and duties kept me from working with code on a daily basis. Lately when I would look at my early coding in the source code I itched to do more than make minor changes, to clean and tighten it up. I just couldn’t seem to find time or feel I could concentrate enough to do it. Finally, housebound periodically by snow this winter, I tackled the job. Only to find that evidently my little gray cells failed to retain enough knowledge and I’ve had to dig to figure out how to get the pages to do what I want them to do. Perhaps another benefit for all this cerebral activity will be to keep some of the bugaboos of old age at bay.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

My Country, 'Tis of Thee

When I was in school, we used to sing this song the beginning of our school day. And recite the Pledge of Allegiance with our hands over our hearts, turned toward the U. S. Stars and Stripes flag. Without these things, America might not have produced what is now called The Greatest Generation. Hundreds of thousands of young men and officers who were willing to lay down their very lives so that their families, the citizens of their United States, and most of the rest of the world, might not fall under the rule of tyrants. Tyrants named Hitler, Mussolini, and others. My heart breaks that so much of the world, including many in this country, have forgotten.Some elected leaders, sworn to uphold our Constitution and follow the clearly expressed will of the people, have not forgotten either. They simply choose to employ those same tactics used by the would-be tyrants to undermine and overthrow the will of the people. But as long as enough young and old Americans DO remember, those modern-day would-be tyrants who choose riches over integrity and patriotism will also fail.

Consider these lines, first stanza of the song title of this blog post:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of Liberty, Of thee, I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside, LET FREEDOM RING!




Sunday, May 26, 2019

Honor to Whom Honor Is Due

I'm old enough to remember May 30 as being called Decoration Day. People went to the cemetery, cleared off graves, placed flowers/wreaths near the markers (tombstones) in memory of the people they were honoring. This was done particularly to honor those who had fallen in battle in defense of their homeland. Later when the designatiion of many holidays was changed to the nearest Monday, providing a three day weekend, Decoration Day was among the ones changed. I don't remember, perhaps that was also when the name was changed to Memorial Day. Either name is fitting. I am just glad many people still revere those who were willing to lay down their lives to defend the freedoms we who remain enjoy in this country in which we live. Can we do less than our share to ensure that those freedoms continue? 
The piece below, despite its title, was inspired by two different events, a visit to the car wash and a visit to pay my respects when one of the replicas of the Vietnam Wall was brought to my city.


Dancing Ladies



When I was in high school I took one year of Spanish. Almost all of what I may have learned has disappeared from my memory. I can count to five, know hacienda means house. Beyond that, not much. I’d like to learn more of that language, but doubt I’ll ever devote sufficient time to do it. So I suppose it is not a strong desire.
This musing about language was brought to mind by a note I’d written a while back while at the local car wash. I watched the conveyor belt pull my car through the long, flapping strips of material and streams of liquid soap and water. The strips bounced up, down and sideways, then slowly, sensuously dragged across the top of my car as it moved along. What are those strips made of anyway? Canvas? Felt? Surely it would have to be a special kind of felt. Whatever they are, my car seemed to be meekly surrendering to their ministrations. To be saying, I need to be clean, wash the pollen from my windows, dirt from my wheels, bird droppings from my roof. Fanciful thoughts, but we humans are prone to such about the inanimate things we care about.
I dubbed the incessantly moving car wash strips ‘dancing ladies’ because they reminded me a little of a flower I’ve seen. The plant has a long, twelve or more inches, almost bare stem topped with lovely, spherical blooms which dance constantly in the smallest breeze. Though also inanimate in the sense that they do not consciously dance, as far as we know, they project a sense of happiness in the mere act of movement. Much as talented human dancers do in a ballet or musical production.
I think many things we encounter in daily life ‘speak’ to us in a language our subconscious may understand but can’t interpret for us. I recall when a replica of the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Wall was brought to Kingsport. I thought it was my fancy that there was a heavy quietness around that wall. But since then I’ve read that others feel it, too. Spirits of those mostly young souls, or our own sorrowing spirit? I prefer the latter, and that the brave ones are in a better place.
 
sylvia@sylvianickels.com

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Cyber Millionaires

 My phones, some would say Luddite that I am, landline and cell, ring so often I'm tempted to turn ringers off. Most are telemarketers and I am loath to be really rude to them in hopes they will take me off their list. After all, they are working in an almost universally disliked job to earn a living and to me that's commendable. So many, in present times, are not willing. So I don't answer if the number is not familiar. What does aggravate me very much is that some unscrupulous places have the ability to 'spoof' numbers and names. This is fraud, pure and simple. I learned by trial and error(answering) not to be fooled if a number is very similar to one I know. Names from different providers sometimes do not show, unfortunately, so memorize the numbers you want to talk to!
The piece below is a column I did a number of years ago for a local weekly newspaper. Even more valid, today, I'm sorry to say.



Completely Free 

Riiiight! How many times are we taken in by that phrase? I know I have been too many times to count. And its cousin, ‘If dissatisfied, cancel anytime.’ Uh huh. Just try calling the number you’re given to call and cancel the subscription to Clutter-Free Living after six unread issues clutter your coffee table. If you persevere through half a dozen pass-the-buck call transfers, or manage not to be disconnected, you might get to talk to a live person. You very calmly explain that you wish to cancel your subscription and receive a refund on unused issues. The person oh so sweetly wants you to tell them why you could possibly be dissatisfied with such a stellar periodical. When you remind them you were told you could cancel for any or no reason, you get more circular talk. And to please hold while the representative confers with the ‘circulation manager.’ ‘Circulation manager’ comes on the line to persuade you how much you need the magazine. You yell and scream and finally are told that yes, of course, your subscription will be cancelled. Relieved, gullible you hang up. Only to have to go through the same thing for the next two months when the magazines keep piling up. By the time the next-to-last issue is due to ship, your subscription might be cancelled. Three months pass and eventually a check for five dollars arrives in your mailbox. Once upon a time we only got into these predicaments if we unwisely allowed a door-to-door salesman – or an earnest student ‘working his or her way through college’ - inside our front door. Now telephone solicitors calling from huge boiler room operations, and online offers too good to pass up, lie in wait for us multiple times daily. Online websites which charge for information are masters of this sleight-of-hand scam. Sign up and browse for free. Only once an account is created a credit card number is required before any useful information can be accessed. Humans are so constructed that once they’ve invested time in a project, they are more willing to invest money. Thereby are cyber millionaires created, from ‘free’ stuff.