Monday, September 15, 2014

"Let's Annoy Earl - The Technological Story Of My Life"


Are you familiar with the concept of “Touch Typing?”  I learned about it during my “Typing Option” at Ledbury Park Junior High School.  (My other “Option” was “Singing.”  Eschewing such alternatives as “Metal Shop” where I could easily solder my fingers together, and “Auto Shop” where the notorious “Tech Boys” could weld my head to the hood of a car.)

“Touch Typing” is a typing strategy in which, by placing your fingers in the appropriate position on the keyboard, you can then type entirely by “touch”, it being unnecessary for you to look where your fingers are going, because they will automatically strike the appropriate keys.  Your eyes can therefore remain fixed on the document you are typing, it being unnecessary to focus on your fingers. 

I employ “Touch Typing” to this very day.  Though it is trickier on a computer, since, having more keys on it, the keyboard is wider, meaning you can easily mislocate your “Starting Position” and as a result every letter you type is going to be wrong. 

That, however, is not today’s problem.  Today’s problem involves “Touch Typing” with my television remotes. 

And, believe me, it’s a messy one.

On the Time-Warner cable representative’s last visit, he replaced one of my remotes that had worn out with a new and different-functioning remote. 

The Short Version of the Problem:  Not one of the control buttons is in the same place.  Wreaking bloody havoc on my “Touch Typing” approach.

I was used to the Original Remote.  Then, every remote in our house was the same, offering a comfortable consistency in their use.  Now, there’s a debilitating interloper.  And my “pressing without looking” technique is entirely out the window.

It’s a different remote manufacturer, it was explained to me.  That’s why the button are in different positions.  Fine.  But did they have to move every button to a totally different place? 

Imagine every piano manufacturer rearranging the piano keys, so that on one piano it’s C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C and on another piano it’s G-D-C-C-A-B-F-E.  A veritable “Jumble” on the keyboard.

CONCERT PIANIST:  “I can’t find anything!

Can we talk about form of “Remote Button” standardization?  Apparently, we cannot.

Here are just five differences between my new and improved “downstairs” remote and my original “upstairs” remote to which I had become so accustomed I could habitually press the buttons on it without looking.  (And, believe me, there are more.)

The Original Remote:  The “Master Power” button is at the top on the right.

The New And Improved Remote:  Does not have a “Master Power” button at all.  When I “Touch Type” “at the top on the right” on it, I mistakenly press the “Cable” button, and the cable goes off.

On the Original Remote, the “Mute” button is an oblong-looking button about a third of the way down.  

On the New And Improved Remote, the “Mute” button is small and round and in the middle of the remote.  If, without looking, I press the same place on the New And Improved Remote where the Original Remote has the “Mute” button, I instead hit the “Pause” button.  Making me “Pause” when I am trying to “Mute.”

On the New And Improved Remote, the “Info” button is a Tylenol­­-shaped affair near the top, the third button on the right of an arcing “button grouping” of three.  On the Original Remote, the “Info” button is also near the top, but it’s small and round and in the middle of an arcing “button grouping” of five.  When, without looking, I press where I am used to the “Info” button being, on the New And Improved Remote, I get “Menu.”
 
The “Exit” button on the New And Improved Remote is on the right, directly below the “Info” button (which actually makes sense.)  The “Exit” button on the Original Remote is the second button from the left below and between the “VCR” button and the “DVD” buttons.  I press where I expect “Exit” to be on the New And Improved Remote, and I get “Settings.” 

And I don’t even know what that is!

Lastly, the “Last” button, which allows you to go back to the channel you were watching immediately before.  On the Original Remote, it’s a third of the way down on the right.  On the New And Improved Remote, it is two-thirds of the way down in the middle.  From a “Touch Typing” standpoint, I can’t even find that one.

A COMFORTING NOTE:  In the name of delicacy, I could have told the same story about our toilet seats but I didn’t.  We have three different toilet seats with three different capacities, ranging from traditional “Manual” to “Entirely Automatic.”  I have not infrequently found myself standing over the “Manual” toilet seat wondering why nothing is happening. 

Fortunately, I decided to stick with “Remotes.”

I know this is a miniscule difficulty, but, to me, it’s a cumulative matter.

With all the “Trouble Spots” in the world, do I really need another one in my hand?

Now…

To examine them for this story, I brought the two remotes into my office, each of them programmed to a specific TV in our house.

I shall be a happy man today if I can remember which of them goes back where.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Protecting The Franchise"


A mathematician comes home from a day of mathematical immersement, and they can’t help themselves.  They almost immediately plunk themselves down, and start doodling numbers on a scratch pad.  This is maybe an annoyance – discarded mathematical scratch pad doodles all over the place, family members perhaps under-attended to.  But overall, as the great and greatly missed basketball announcer Chick Hearn used to say, “No harm, no foul.”

A comedy writer comes home after a pressure-packed day at the office, and they can’t turn it off.  The jokes keep coming.  Again, it’s not terrible, if it’s not forced or overdone.  A house filled with laughter?  A person can live with that.

A rabbi, priest or some other person who does religion for a living returns home after of day of dispensing unqualified acceptance, kindness and love and they can’t stop themselves.  The “goodness” keeps pouring out of them.  And what’s the harm there?  You don’t hear,

“Seamus, I have had it up to here with your uncritical acceptance, kindness and love.  Will you just please knock it off! 

(I just gave a priest a wife, which is doctrinarially inaccurate.  But you get what I’m talking about.)

The point attempted to be made here?

Two points, actually, provided in the opposite order of importance.

Point Two:

The things you bring home from work can vary from annoying to harmless to acceptable to fun.

Point One:

You always bring something home.

So.  (With the preceding as build-up…)

You’re a professional football player… 

And you know where that’s going.

You play a game that is savage, brutal, physical and aggressive.  You hit people for a living.  And the better you do it, the more successful you become.

You come home from work…

And what do you expect?

They leave the mayhem on the playing field, and they’re a pussycat off the job?

“You always bring something home.”

(An article in this morning’s Sports Section reveals reports not just of the current story in the headlines but of a total of four known recent physical attacks on spouses, fiancees or girlfriends inflicted by current professional football players.  Making this more than an “isolated event.”)

My original thoughts concerning this matter arose not about football but when I heard about the alarming number of mistreatments of women taking place in the military.  Along with my inevitable responses of outrage and empathy, an insistent inner voice demanding to be heard exclaimed,

“What do you expect?  Soldiers are drilled to be intense, cold and dispassionate.  You want them to start caring about people when they’re not on the clock?”  (Suggested Reading on the Subject:  The Great Santini)

Now let me be clear here.  My proposed expanded perspective should in no way be perceived as an exoneration of unacceptable behavior.  Or even a rationalization a defense attorney might present in the name of mitigating circumstances, mandating lighter sentencing.

Bad is bad, and wrong is wrong.  I do not know what Ray Rice’s (then) fiancĂ©e said or did.  And I don’t care.

Nobody deserves “unconscious.”

All I am saying is: 

Do not close your eyes to the context. 

Football.  The military.  (Throw in cutthroat corporate combat.)  What is the prevailing environment?  What are the participants programmed to do? 

Although, free will, individual responsibility and self restraint must and should be the determinative words on this matter, when people come home, and they engage in the same behavior that would earn them a medal or the “Game Ball” (or the corner office) at work…

Should we really be surprised?
You come home from work – whatever work that is – and you inevitably bring some inherent element of that work home with you.

Ipso facto

That work – as it, to date, has been – should not be entirely excluded from the conversation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"A Lesson In Humility"

Major league ballplayers make millions of dollars a year.  

Still, sometimes - very rarely but sometimes -

This happens.

Reminding us - and momentarily them possibly as well -

That' they're human.

Watch and enjoy.

(Then file under "Schadenfreude."  Subsection:  "On-field humiliation.")


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"An Unexpected Discovery"


I feel a compelling need to come clean. 

This is a first for me.   (Not feeling a compelling need to come clean.  I always feel a compelling need to come clean.  That is substantially what writing is about.  At least for those feeling a compelling need to come clean.)

I cannot definitively attest – you know, like with a Notary Public, a thumbprint and a stamp – that this has never happened before.  I am almost certain it hasn’t, but I have no corroborative backup.  I do admit sometimes fantasizing about someone poring over my work and writing their PhD. dissertation on “The Blog Writings Of Earl Pomerantz.”  But that may be serious imaginatorial overreach. 

PhD. EXAMINER:  “You have chosen to write your dissertation on ‘The Blog Writing Of Earl Pomerantz.”

PhD. CANDIDATE:  “I have.”

PhD. EXAMINER:  “My first question is ‘Why?’

Okay, here it is.  A painful but necessary admission.

Yesterday, I wrote a post about going to this coffee place and, due to an oversight resulting from habitual behavior, I accidentally dropped a five dollar bill into the “Tip Jar” when I had intended to drop a “One.”

Straight-out confession with no weasly pussyfooting around:

That did not happen.

I have just checked, and this is my 1714th blog post.  And I can assure you – as best as one can assure without actually knowing for certain – that this is the first time I have ever written a fabricated story and presented it as the truth.  The absolute first! 

I am virtually certain of that.

Yes, I fool around sometimes and write a post about two warthogs talking, or whatever.

WORTHOG:  “You’re ugly.”

ANOTHER WORTHOG:  “You’re ugly too.”

WORTHOG:  “Hey, maybe if we’re all ugly, then we are all actually beautiful.”

ANOTHER WORTHOG:  “No.  Some warthogs are uglier than others.”

But I have never tried to pass off such flights of anthropomorphical fancy as actual warthog conversation.  Not that I ever bothered making the distinction.  I respect my readership too much to offer a clarifying disclaimer:

THE FOLLOWING IS NOT ACTUAL WORTHOG DIALOGUE.  I MADE THE ENTIRE THING UP FOR ALLEGORICAL EFFECT.

This time, however, it’s different.  This time, I related what I represented as an actual personal experience.  And it wasn’t.

Oh, the humiliation!  Oh, the shame!

And therefore, oh, the confession, as soon as I could get back to you.

The majority of what I related did indeed take place.  I only actually changed one thing.  Which is not a lot in the overall assemblage of factual specifics.  I will admit, however, that the one thing I changed is the thing that makes the story worth telling in the first place.  So yeah, that is not a small thing.

Here’s what actually happened.

I walked over to Groundwork.  Taking a “Ten” instead of a “Five”, because I did not have a “Five” in my wallet (and I did not take my whole wallet because it’s heavy and having it in my pocket strongly increases the chances of an exercise pants “Drop-down.”)

I get my coffee, I hand over the “Ten”, and when I get my change, I drop a bill into the “Tip Jar.” 


As I walked out, however, I became suddenly agitated that I had mistakenly dropped a “Five” into the “Tip Jar” instead of the habitual “One.”  I had no actual proof that I hadn’t, because when I dropped the bill into the “Tip Jar’” – the behavior being habitual – I did not actually look.

It could have been a “Five.’  And for an upsetting interlude, l was absolutely certain it was.

The thing is,

It wasn’t.

It was a “One.”  That I Nervous Nellily believed was a “Five.”  Though to this day – hand on the Bible or book of equal intimidation – I am, in fact, not entirely sure what it was.  Still, I wrote my story as if I knew it was a “Five.”  (Did I not check my change later?  I was honestly too aggravated to.)

The only redeeming insight from this regrettable debacle is an “Unexpected Discovery.”

By changing one event in an otherwise accurate narrative, I had just written – and simultaneously discovered the essential nature of –

Fiction.

That’s right.

The thing I never write, do not much enjoy reading, and in no way aspire to write…

I had just written.

(Passing it off as the truth.  Oh, the humiliation!  Oh, the shame!  Again.)

My newly discovered definition of fiction:  A logical likelihood that didn’t happen.

You amass a bunch of credible elements, but you “massage” them a little, so it’ll be a better story.  That’s fiction.

Do I have a rationalization for this inexcusable deception?  I was looking to effectively dramatize a concept.  The “Tip Jar” incident is an identifiable exemplification of “The Downside of Habitualism.” 

It just didn’t happen.  And there is no excuse for that in a blog whose reputation is based on stories that did.

It’s funny.  While I was writing, I was exclusively focused on telling the story the best way I could.  I had written a First Draft the day before, believing I was eighty percent finished.  When I returned the next day, it took another three hours to complete. 

Congratulations.  You worked very hard on hoodwinking the public.

Okay, I deserve that.

Did it never concern you that you were foisting a fabrication on an unwitting readership?

The disturbing part is the thought never crossed my mind.  It’s like I was hypnotized.  I was totally concentrated on the writing.

I have transgressed, and I ask your forgiveness.  (Yom Kippur is just around the corner.)  I promise you, I will never do it again.

Now excuse me while I open a window, to drive the stench of disgrace out my office.