Please do not send me anything by Facebook, or at least, don’t expect me to get it.  I do not understand it and don’t plan to learn. You are overestimating my computer knowledge.

Facebook often sends notifications over your name but without your knowledge.  Don’t worry about these.  I simply delete them, which only takes one click.  Just be aware I do not read them.

Years ago, I signed up for Twitter just to see why anyone would use it.  I quickly saw that I would not, and never have, but signing up for Twitter automatically signed me up for Facebook.  I never use Facebook either, although you may see I have an account.  Email coming from either source gets lost in my spam folder. Mostly, they seem to be messages about what my granddaughter’s friends are doing.  They would all die of embarrassment if they knew I was getting them, so I don’t even read them.

If there is anything you really want me to know, send an email under your own name.  My email address is always at the bottom of each posting.

The big problem I have with computers now, especially Windows 10, is that they show you from the beginning everything they can do and let you disable the ones you don’t want.  This is contrary to the way computers used to be (I started out using MS-DOS that had no graphics and opened only with a “C-prompt,” but it made Bill Gates rich).  We started out with a blank operating system and added the programs and features we wanted.  Under that old system, we knew exactly what we had and how it worked because we first recognized the need, then bought (or downloaded) and installed the programs to do it.  Under the new way of doing things, you do not know if you will ever need what is offered, so you tend to leave it, not go to the extra effort to eliminate it, and your computer becomes unbelievably cluttered and complex.

As I recollect, on something like Windows 4, a software company whose product compressed and stored music complained that no one bought their software because Windows had something similar, inferior but workable, as a free part of the Windows operating system.  They claimed this gave Microsoft a monopoly, or at least, an unfair advantage. The next version of Windows came as only the basic operating system, but had all of the bells and whistles on a free download.  Somehow, that was resolved in Microsoft’s favor and Windows now comes supplied with everything you could possibility want, and much you will never use.

Adding to the complexity, several devices are often “synced” together.  That is, you can work on a report on your smart phone, and what you accomplish can be seen and refined further on your desktop when you get home.  I suppose this is handy for some people, but it quickly becomes too complex for me.

Adding another layer of complexity, Microsoft has announced Windows 10 will be the last one offered, and they will modify and upgrade that version automatically for everyone.  The trouble with that is you may buy a book to tell you how to use Windows 10 and find their instructions no longer match what you see on your screen.

Someone once explained tennis pros spend hours practicing just one aspect of their game, such as an overhead smash. If you did that, it would only prove your life priorities are badly screwed up.  The same is becoming true with keeping up with computers.

The bottom line:  if computers are getting too complex for you, it is not your fault.  It is the fault of system designers.  Understanding computers is nothing to be proud of. It is like the scholar of ancient history who can read hieroglyphics, but forgot to tie his shoes.


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An Outgoing Personality

When I first started as a volunteer at Longwood Gardens as a greeter in the Peirce-du Pont House, they told me I had just the outgoing personality they were looking for. This surprised me. Do you remember me having an outgoing personality in high school? I never thought I did.

But since then I have observed many others, both men and women, and I have to agree. Compared to most, I do have an outgoing personality, at least now.

For example, I have walked past many people coming from the opposite direction, passing within 6 feet, with no one else around, and they refuse to make eye contact, let alone say anything. They just look straight ahead and ignore me. Men and women. (But not at Longwood Gardens, at least away from the entrance. When they first come in, some are still in their uptight city mode, but they quickly loosen up.)

Or, as I take my evening walk along Concord Pike, I pass a bus stop kiosk that often has a sullen black man (always a different person), under 40, slouched on the seat, hood up and earphones plugged in.  He ignores me, even though I am only 3 feet from him and I just said Hi.  I cut him some slack because he is a city boy going back to his own environment. My neighborhood is only the temporary environment for his fast-food job that he is already planning to quit.  He doesn’t have any need to be pleasant to some old white guy who he will never see again. He is wrong, but I am not the one to educate him.

I am not making a moral judgement about this—it just seems strange. When I am that close to anybody, I feel compelled to say something—anything! How ya doin’? Nice day, whatever. The words are not important. By saying something, I am acknowledging their existence. If I say something first and the environment is right, they usually respond positively and seem to enjoy the exchange (except for the one nut case who hissed at me on my nightly stroll.)

I understand why a woman alone may be cautious about making social contact with an unknown man, but that is why I often carry a walking stick, especially at night. Any man carrying a walking stick could not be a threat. Most women under 50 feel they could push me over or outrun me with ease. They will even hold the door open for me (which is a little insulting, if I thought about it).


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Toilet Talk

I understand that you do not like to read about toilets. Well, I do not like to write about them, but toilets are important in our lives (just try to live without one) and some things need to be said. You will only read it here.

I changed my two toilets to low flush ones several years ago when I read that the average person pees 8 times per day. My old toilets took 5 gal per flush, so between my wife and me home all day, that was 80 gal every day just to get rid of slightly polluted water. Modern toilets take only 1.5 gal per flush, so a change seemed worthwhile. Humanity cannot afford that extra 80 gal per person per day. The low-flush toilets had been around long enough that any major problems have been overcome. (The primary change has been to enlarge the hole between the tank and the bowl so more water drops down quicker.)

I dreaded beginning the work because our old toilets had been in the house since it was built, 60 years ago. I imagined everything corroded and frozen together, and I was ready to call a plumber if I ran into more trouble than I could handle.

The job turned out to be much easier than I expected. The old nuts and bolts were of brass, so they looked brand new and came apart easily. The standard seal between the toilet and the drain pipe in the floor was of soft wax, readily available in Lowe’s, Home Depot, and my local hardware store, for only a few dollars. Once the old toilet is off, you scrape off the old wax, put the new wax seal on the drain pipe and lower the toilet onto it. Then sit on it. Your weight squeezes the wax to form a perfect seal.

The old pipe supplying water to the toilet was once solid and took a lot of trial-and-error to bend to the exact shape. Now, everyone uses a flexible, braided metal shielded rubber hose that screws right on and will last longer than you. They come in various lengths, and almost any hardware store will have what you require.

The weight of a toilet may be a bit much to handle, but my new toilets were two-piece, bowl and tank separate, and each piece was not too heavy.

I caulked around the base of the toilet, but I later read this need is debatable.  Some claim you should, some say you shouldn’t.  I certainly was not going to un-caulk mine.

Most new toilets come in the elongated shape that they claim is more convenient, but never say why. I think I have the answer. For a man standing up, an elongated bowl is easy to straddle, and we can stand a little over the bowl rather than in front of it. All women (the usual toilet cleaners) want this for the men in their house, but it will require a new seat to fit the shape. Toilet seats are mostly of thin plastic now. They flex alarmingly when you sit on them, but they do not break. My lids close slowly and never slam, a feature I like. New toilets come with cheap, but usable seats, and they are easily replaced, if you want other features.

Speaking of seats, split seats are only seen in commercial establishments, supposedly to meet male hygiene standards, never in homes. Men’s “low hanging fruit” could otherwise touch the solid seat.

The best of both worlds with a Squatty Potty.

Toilets come in different heights.  A “chair-height” toilet (about 18″ high) is easier to stand up from, but the standard lower “squat height” (15″) is better for the intestinal action involved.  You can have it both ways by installing a high toilet and buying plastic foot-stools for those times when they are needed. Amazon has “Squatty Potty” at 9″ high and “Squat N Go” at 7″ high.  (Free shipping!) Both can be kicked out of the way when not needed. Whatever suits, but kicking it out of the way may leave it out of reach when you need it. (I use old upside-down flower pots.)

All of the low-flush toilets completely flush away any solid matter (to use the standard euphemism). That problem has been solved, but the force leaves many “skid marks” around the drain. If the skid marks are below the water level, the new porcelain will slough them off in minutes, but this means you may have to flush again to get rid of the visible residue that sinks to the bottom. Marks above the water line will stay, so have a toilet brush handy. (The water surface forms a circle about 6 inches in diameter, much smaller than in old, high-flush toilets.)

Bottom line, all toilets will someday be low-flush, so you may as well change now and get the economic benefits. A new, no-frills toilet, seat, seal, and pipe should be under $200 if you do the labor yourself.

Trivia: Why are most toilets made for left-handers with the flush handle on the left side? A.: The toilet tank was originally mounted high on the wall and was flushed while seated by pulling a chain hanging on the right side of a user. When users began standing up and turning to face the toilet to flush, the chain was now on their left side, a development never foreseen by inventor Thomas Crapper.


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A Day In TV News

It was about 1969, the time of the Israeli–Egyptian wars, and a reporter was standing at the top of a bare hill, absorbed in describing whatever developments he thought were important. In the distance behind him, at the foot of the hill, was a road.

As he was blathering on, we could see an Israeli tank speeding along the road, traveling much faster than I thought tanks could move, certainly not a lumbering behemoth of WWII. Farther down the road was an abandoned car that seemed to be blocking the way. What wold happen when they met? The anticipation drew all of our attention away from the reporter and what he was saying.

The tank hit the car at full speed, not slowing a bit. The car seemed to explode in flying pieces of tires and fenders, but the tank continued on as if nothing had happened. All of this was in total silence—the sound was too far away.

What was the car doing there? Where was the tank rushing to? The episode was too trivial for anyone’s comment, even by the reporter on the scene, and that alone told us much about the war.


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Pitfalls of Computer Searching

Last week, I was searching my contacts for “Debbie” (two Bs) and had no hits when I knew she was there somewhere. I had her name as “Deborah” (one B). I should have searched for “Deb” which would have got both. (I was trying to contact her husband who uses her email address. I have since added his name to my contacts list to avoid this problem in the future. And note: “Deb” is not the same as “Deb “. The space is a searchable character, handy when you want to specify the letters come at the end of a word.)

The rule in computer searching is to keep it as simple as possible. If one combination of letters will find what you want, only use that one combination. Add additional combinations to narrow the search if you get too many hits. Try the simplest one first, and search again with more letters, or words, but only if you must.

For example, if I were searching for our classmate, Bob Gallen, “Gallen” alone would find him (plus all other Gallens). If there were too many to examine individually, adding “Bob” to the search would eliminate many of those others, but it would miss him if he were listed as “Robert.”


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Familiarity Breeds . . . Boredom!

This morning, about 7am, I was on the Internet, watching the many people on the Ocean City boardwalk, and noticing how everyone there was exercising: cycling, running, jogging, or just walking briskly, even those clearly unused to exercise. My view was of the normally thrilling Music Pier as they passed by, and I thought how the thrill is gone now that I can see it anytime.

As a child on family vacations we used to enter the Ocean City island over the 9th Street bridge, then drive down a central street to our rental, north in the early days to 3rd Street, south in my teenage years to 56th Street. Sometime during the winter, my mother had written to the landloards and made the reservations.  At each intersection, I could see the cross-streets ending at the boardwalk, knowing the beach and ocean were just out-of-sight past the dunes. That evening, we would make our first of nightly visits to the boardwalk. Many of the old buildings were iconic, but the most familiar and the most thrilling was the Music Pier.

Then, years later, when AtTheShore.com started its website of cameras all along the boardwalk, I could see the Music Pier anytime, day or night, winter or summer, clear weather or stormy, and I connected frequently. Now, not so much. Nothing changed, but after seeing it well over a hundred times, of course the thrill was gone.

I once knew a man who was a retired New Jersey freeholder. He told me he was once leading a town hall meeting on a new water tower. The room was packed with dissent. No one wanted it in their neighborhood, claiming it was an eyesore. He countered this by pointing out the town already had two other water towers. Did anyone know where they were? Most had no idea until they were told. (“Oh, yes,” they would say. “I forgot those.”) His point was that after a while, no one sees them as eyesores—they don’t see them at all.

It wasn’t until I was showing the Ocean City Boardwalk to Chinese newcomers that I realized how tacky it was. Showing it to them, I was seeing it with fresh eyes.

Long ago, my parents retired to Florida. After they had been there long enough for the novelty to wear off, they laughed how everyone moving down wanted a house with a view of water (any water: a canal, or bay, or gulf, or ocean) and a swimming pool. After a month or so, newcomers rarely used the pool or noticed the view.

I am reminded of this whenever I watch a House Hunters show on TV.  They’re always impressed most with the view and are willing to pay for it.  “Oh, wow!” they exclaim in every room with a view.  We know they will buy the house with the best view.  The view always trumps anything else.  A year later, they will think about schools, public transportation, and grocery stores—and the neighbor with the trashy yard.

My freeholder friend had a 10th floor condo with a spectacular view overlooking Tampa Bay, but the view only impressed visitors. He and his wife no loner saw it, as they reverted back to the daily routine they knew in New Jersey. The condo pool was mostly for visitors and new residents. The long-time residents rarely used it, even though it was a beautiful, well-maintained pool.

You can see the same thing when someone moves into a new home. At first, all they talk about is the new features, but this is only temporary.  Within a month or so, they return to talking about their bunions and backaches.


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Aging Gracefully at the Grocery Store (Or Not)

Most days, most times, we can get away with it. If our health is good and we are reasonably fit, we can convince ourselves that we are not aging and are just as good as ever. Until reality hits us in the face.

Not my store, but the self checkout stations look exactly the same (except for the hot girl in cowboy boots).

Yesterday, I was at my favorite supermarket, not because it is the best quality or the cleanest, but because it is the most convenient. I drive by it several times everyday on other chores, and I can easily stop in. They recently added a group of self-checkout stations and have a teenager there to help customers. I almost always use the self-checkout as faster than waiting for a cashier and have never had a problem. But yesterday, the marked sale price of an item I entered did not discount, and I called the kid over to fix it. He immediately scanned his own store card on a lanyard, typed in several numbers and  corrected the transaction.

I was amazed at how quickly he did this, without hesitation, without notes, even though he did not look like his school’s star pupil. In between entering numbers, he waved his hands impatiently for the screen to respond. “C’mon, c’mon,” he muttered.

I noticed no delay.

He probably was paid only minimum wage, but I knew I could never do his job. Maybe once I could, but no longer. Not even close.


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