Service, sometimes good, sometimes bad

One thing that Sharon and I like about our city of “love” is the friendliness and attitude of most “people servers” we come in contact with.

But, our recent visit to one of Loveland’s largest retailers, proved that there still are a few locals who haven’t gotten the message — and should have.

The reason for the venture was to have the oil changed in our car, and rotate the tires. I pulled up in front of the service department, and Sharon proceeded into the store. I cooled my heels in the auto service department, until an “associate” appeared, and after taking note of my needs, informed me that it could possibly be a lengthy wait; “maybe an hour and a half.” “Whoopee“, thought I, “bet I can “$pend” the time in the store.”

So, we shopped. And when my bride queried another “associate”, as to where she might find coffee filters, the reply (in passing) was: “Right next to the coffee.”


Biting my tongue, we shopped, studiously being ignored by the “associates“. When the 1-½ hours passed, and no page to the auto center, I went back to see how things were progressing. I added another 15 minutes to my wait, as the “associate” at the counter gabbed with a potential customer. Fifteen minutes of being ignored—like part of the furniture, (pinching my arm occasionally in the event that I had become invisible, and to stay awake, should he happen to make eye contact).

For an instant, I wanted to grab my “associate”, and give him a five minute course in customer relations, but lucky for him, I had magically become visible. I asked the status of the Foley family car.

“They’re almost ready to rotate the tires.” Said my favorite “associate”, not bothering to apologize for the delay.

Really? Said I.

Rather than “$pend” the time needed to complete the task, we cancelled the second course, and headed out the door.

I needed a hug.

Posted in Cars, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Computer Joy

No one in their right mind, would write a book entitled: “The Joy of the Computer”. It’s an oxymoron, for one can’t use the word “joy“ to describe any interaction with a “computer”.

Other than a golf club, has there ever been another device that can send a person from ecstasy to despair in mere seconds? I think not.

One of the first acronyms I learned concerning computers, was GIGO….”Garbage In, Garbage Out”. A truism if I’ve ever heard one. I know that the speedy way my hair turned from steely gray to white, was no doubt caused by too many frustrating hours spent attempting to get my computer to do my bidding; it has been a one-sided battle.

Just today, I attempted to open an email that a friend had sent, and each time I tried, the process caused the infernal program to shut down. After about ten tries, I’d had enough. I phoned my friend : “Just read me the message.” I said.

We treasure those special times when we’re working on a document, and suddenly, a warning pops up: “Fatal Error”. I ask you, couldn’t the programmers have come up with a better idiom? FATAL Error? I suppose that the nerds in charge gleefully felt that it might be an appropriate term, considering the suicides such a message would no doubt cause.

I can think of only two joyous moments when I‘m working with my computer: First, if it boots up with no problem, I am almost giddy when it appears everything is as it should be. Second in the world of PC joy, occurs when a program actually works as it‘s supposed to. A word of caution here. Just because the machine has fooled you into thinking all is well, it is merely waiting for an opportune time to whack you with it’s ultimate weapon; “Fatal Error“.

Just a few weeks ago, I wasted possibly 10 or 15 hours trying to edit a family video using my electronic nemesis. The editing program was much too sophisticated to simply warn me with a firm: “Hey stupid! That won’t work. Go back to step B.” No, it allowed me to think I was winning, and from what I could see on the screen, my video was just the way I wanted it. That was until I attempted to play the finished product on our DVD player. I could have gotten better results with a 6 inch, pepperoni pizza.

Well, friends, after a couple of sleepless nights spent mulling over the problem, my favorite acronym drifted through my somnolent brain….“GIGO”. Not that my artistic endeavors were garbage, but it seems that a step I missed, relegated my end product to the trash. So, once more, my PC showed me who’s boss.

Remember this: It’s never a win-win situation when one is dealing with computers. Any joy you feel at that keyboard today…….will be surely be tempered with despair tomorrow.

And here’s a gizmo for you to identify.

A virtual basket of virtual cupcakes to the winner.

Well, I think you wind it up.....

Well, I think you wind it up…..

Posted in Computers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Flowery Food

Looks like wine to me

Looks like wine to me

Sharon and I had dinner a while back in a nice restaurant. When I picked up the menu….after the shock of the price had somewhat worn off, I was taken by the descriptions of the food offered.

It seems they couldn’t simply depict their offerings in real terms; for example, rather than tout their mashed potatoes as “mashed potatoes”, their spud offering was shown instead, as something akin to: “our creamy, fluffy clouds of Idaho‘s finest potatoes.”. Gag me with a spoon. Let me be the judge, I’ll be the first to tell you if I’ve just enjoyed a fluffy potato cloud, or if your fluffy cloud has lumps in it large enough to stop a 747.

Flowery terms don’t guarantee one a great meal, I can promise you that. I would prefer just a straightforward menu entry, one that I can decipher, without having to summon a waitperson to translate. That said, I think that flowery portrayals seem to, well, really bloom, when it comes to wine.

I’m not a wine drinker, although I have in the past, consumed my share of the beverage. However, I was more concerned with the quantity rather than the quality…or at least what wine critics determine to be quality. For instance, at another restaurant, when dining with friends, our dinner partners ordered some kind of wine buffet. They were each served three small glasses of three different wines. To someone of my unsophisticated tastes, it appeared that two were red, one white. Resting around the stem of each glass, was a small paper disk.

Each disk identified the wine to the imbiber, so the sipper would know what qualities they should be able to detect; providing they were wine savy. One disk declared that it was a “Pinot Noir” I comprehend enough French to figure out that Noir means “dark”. Don’t expect me to tell you what “Pinot” means. Anyway, the label went on to tell the imbiber that the wine was: “Light bodied and exhibits black cherry, raspberry, cranberry,” and get this, “Vanilla.” This was delivered with a “light, earthy aroma and a smooth finish.”

I took a sniff from the glass, attempting to avoid depositing any stray fragments of moustache, or H1N1, lest our dining partners be afflicted, and after giving it much thought, it seemed to me, to have much the same qualities as the Gallo Burgundy I used to decant in much more generous servings. I definitely didn’t sense any raspberries or cranberries in the bouquet, and not even the most meager hint of vanilla.

As far as the “smooth finish”, well, I’m afraid that the term would be more appropriate describing a dining room table, than a glass of red wine.

Guess I’m just old fashioned, so if you decide to invite me out, for a fancy dinner, no need to attach a descriptive tag to the diet cola, I don’t need to know that it is “light bodied, and exhibits hints of coal tar, and household bleach”, I’ll just down it without a thought, and pray for a “smooth finish”.

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While in a fast food restaurant a few days ago, I spotted a young man obviously in a fix. He had only two hands, and needed more. He was nattily attired for our times…wearing a pair of baggy pants that could have clothed two boys of his size quite handily.

He was in a fix, because he had several hands full of food, and was in dire need of an extra to hold up his pants. Frankly, I was quite impressed with his dexterity, yet I wanted to yell: “Pull up your pants!”

His britches struck him somewhere below the waterline, in fact, I thought I saw daylight occasionally between the top of his pants, and the lowermost part of his torso. I was extremely thankful he was wearing underwear, which I suppose were also a fashion statement.

The scene brought to mind another young man about his age, a half century or so ago.




I wasn’t immune to faddish dress, and as I wanted to be accepted by my peers, I guess I made a few concessions to good sense, and wore what “everybody else” was wearing….. the 16 year old fashion plates.

First, I want you to know that having ones pants defy the laws of gravity is not just a phenomena of today, for I too, wore my jeans lower than what would qualify as a waistline. However, we wore ours on the crown of our hips…not resting on our thighs. We rolled up the legs of our jeans; to show off our argyle socks, we knew that would be difficult, if ones cuffs were mostly being dragged through the dirt. And, we wore narrow suede leather belts to hold our jeans up.

Our shoes weren’t left out of the trend either. Florsheim shoes were the requisite, if we could afford them….I couldn’t. Blue suede, was the finish of choice. The boys who could, took those high dollar shoes to a shoe shop, and had the soles “wedged”….eliminating the heels by adding layers of leather to the rear of the sole, until a comfortable height was achieved. Next, heavy horseshoe taps were added, making the walking wearer sound like the entire Buckingham Palace guardsmen on parade.

If we wore short sleeved shirts, the sleeves were rolled, forming a cuff…way cool. For effect, a shiny watch chain was added, (the longer the better) hooked onto your belt, and disappearing, into a pocket. It could even have been attached to a watch…but seldom was.

Our hair also deserved special attention, and a well greased, “D.A.” was the ultimate. The trick was to comb the sides of your hair back, coming together at the rear….similar to the way a duck’s wings meet, forming a “Duck’s Aft”. (I think we used another word.)

So, as the young fellow waddled towards his table, I thought that things really haven’t changed that much since I was a teen. I remember stumbling out the front door to head for school, and my mom yelling: “Pull up your pants!”.

Nope, things haven’t changed.

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He’s done it again

Why is it that software providers decide that we mere mortals are willing to dump the program we’ve become comfortable with, and without seeking our opinion, or permission, inflict what they determine to be an “improvement” in a computer’s operating system, whether we like it or not?
I recently purchased a new little laptop, so that I may from time to time, compose a story when it isn’t convenient to use my desk-top PC. I love the new computer; but I don’t love what Bill Gates has done to it’s innards; for you see, it is afflicted with that new technological wonder: “Windows 8″. It’s a wonder, alright, for I find myself wondering how to operate the operating system.
For instance; right now, I’m using the so-called word processor included with the software package, and frankly, I can’t say that I’m thrilled with it’s properties.

This Tandy TRS-80 was my first desktop computer...4K of RAM...whoopee

This Tandy TRS-80 was my first desktop computer…4K of RAM…whoopee

I’ve been one who has dutifully upgraded my computer each time Mr. Gates has assumed that I need to be upgraded. I only wish that it was possible to upgrade my person as easily as Bill updates my various nemeses. If that were the case, then by now, I’d no doubt be in my second childhood, enjoying it as I imagine I would—(knowing what I know now). And, based upon what I’ve observed in today’s youngest generation; computer updates are their mother’s milk. I think that our eight year old grandson would whistle while he worked through Windows 8, since he has been computer literate ever since he became literate.
I recall a few eons ago, when I had one of my first computers, and an acquaintance set it up with a menu. I was beside myself; to think, all I had to do, was to locate one of the four or five programs I had from a list, click on it, and in mere minutes, the computer was ready to do my bidding.
One of the first things I’ve discovered about this new rendition, is that Bill thoughtfully left out the “spell check” feature, or if he did include it, he hid it so carefully, that I can’t find it. I assume he figures that by now I should be able to spell everything from antidisestablishmentarianism to zucchini, without the need for assistance. The more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to feel that he knows there are a few of us who while computing, create an occasional orthographical error, and is hoping that we dummies here in the heartland will cry for help, and with the application of a few monetary digits from one’s credit card, Mr. Gates would happily supply a spell check function; and a few more credit card digits may get one a spreadsheet program, and possibly a few bucks more may provide the programs to allow the user to actually use their computer.
Thanks Bill, I can hardly wait for “Windows 9”.
Interesting jewelry...whazzit?

Interesting jewelry…whazzit?

OK,Sherlock, What is it?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cecil B. Junior….Home Movies

Tiny, but a giant in capabilities.

Tiny, but a giant in capabilities.

A few weeks ago I began a project of epic proportions; I attempted to burn 30 years worth of old home movies onto DVD‘s. Well, I didn’t just attempt it, I did it.

After I’d completed the transfer to video, (a process that took several afternoons) I produced a copy for each of our children. Some ten days after the fact, our daughter Michele called to let me know that she had played her set of disks, and was happy with the result. What made me write this column, was that her husband Jeff, when watching the old films asked: “Where’s the sound?”. Michele, having been raised in a household where her father usually had a movie camera, or video camera either attached to an eye, or certainly close by, explained to her hubby what I’m going to tell you.

For those of you who may feel that “old home movies” were filmed using a video camera, (with sound) and transferred onto video tape, I have news. Home movies have been around since Thomas Edison’s time. The first movies were shaky, for they were filmed with hand cranked cameras. A strip of film passed through the gate of the camera, and was exposed at a hoped for 18 frames of film per second.

By my era, cameras were much smaller than Tom’s, used color film and were powered by a hand wound, spring motor. Each roll of 8mm film delivered 3½ minutes of movies; but still, no sound. Not that I wouldn’t have loved to have sound, but that was not available for the home movie maker.

The first home movies I made were produced during the first year my wife Sharon and I were dating. I continued to film any occasion I deemed noteworthy.

I’m in hog heaven now, because I can make HD color movies with sound, and, without worrying about a 3½ minute time limit. And, I can take the raw video, and edit it in my computer. How great is that?

My latest camcorder (shown above) is a tiny Samsung that set me back less than $150, and takes amazing video. I also have a larger Canon, that cost 10 times as much, but isn’t 10 times better . I always have a couple of batteries charged and ready; for most other camcorder owners in our family rarely have a fully charged battery within a mile of their camera. Not Pop, no, my gear is always ready for any recordable event—not that it’s always been that way, for until I started buying a spare battery or two for my current camera, I was left up the dead battery creek many times.

I think the most frequently heard phrase when I drag out the camera, is: ”Don’t video me, my hair’s a mess!” Or, the victim throws a hand in front of the lens or, over their face, leaving me with little of the retreating subject matter to film.

I take what I can get.

Over the years I have “filmed” many hundreds of hours of video; video that sometimes is actually viewed by the family. I’ve discovered is that there is a certain reluctance on the part of family members to return to those days already lived, unless there is truly something worthwhile to view. Quite often, I find an audience consisting of just myself, pretending that what I am viewing is interesting.

Possibly after I’m ancient history, one of my ancestors will find a dusty box of old DVD’s, search for a similarly antique DVD player, and watch what passed for “home movies” way back when.

Yep, Jeff, my antecedents, and possibly yours, will see those images, and say: “Where’s the 3-D?”.

Seems like the more things change, the more they seem the same.

Posted in Hobbies, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cyberspace Travel

I visited Bangladesh or even possibly Katmandu, the other day. I’m not sure which.

I love to travel, and, in fact, to visit such an exotic place as Katmandu, could be very exciting, since many of the mountaineering stories I enjoy get their start in Katmandu.

However, I wasn’t readying myself for a high altitude adventure, no, I was merely attempting to contact a company’s customer service department. A year or so ago, when I had occasion to call to the same department, I was quickly routed to a human of obvious Midwestern USA origins.

My questions were quickly and efficiently answered, a solution to my problem soon found. I ended the call and I moved on to other tasks. So this time, when I sat down to make my call, I assumed that within a few minutes I’d have the problem resolved, and could head for the dinner table—since my wife had advised me that: “Dinner is ready!” (The exclamation mark is hers.) I foolishly answered that I’d “be there in a minute.” I didn’t know of my pending visit to the other side of the world.

This has nothing to do with this post, but I wanted you to see I can  catch fish

This has nothing to do with this post, but I wanted you to see I can catch fish

The first change I discovered when I dialed the almost familiar number was, that the first “person” to take my call wasn’t. It was some recording of another Mid-westerner, a gentleman who decided that this would be a good time for me to tell my life story, and answer few hundred pointless questions; in order for him to: “direct your call to the proper department.” He also electronically informed me that: “Your call is very important to us, so please be patient.” What he didn’t say was, and should have said, is: “I’m not a real person, I don’t sleep, drink, drive, or eat dinner, so honestly, I don’t care how long this takes.”

Something else I noticed, was that the outfit who had recorded this electronic waste of time, included special little tricks and phrases, like: “Okay, I get that.”, or “ Just a minute while I jot this down.” That would have been quite an achievement for our robotic whiz. Minutes later, (after receiving several other ignored dinner reminders) I was transferred to a real person. In Katmandu. Or Bangladesh. “What is your name?” he asked, adding: “Mine is Bob.” At least I think he said Bob.

“What is the nature of your problem?” I could have told him that at that very moment, I had just had my dinner dumped in my lap, but I knew he wasn’t interested in a difficulty of that sort. I attempted to explain to “Bob“, just what the reason for my far-reaching call was, but I quickly realized that frankly, he didn’t grasp my problem anymore than I understood his solution.

My wife was threatening another food delivery, so I finished my call by asking Bob, “How’s the weather there in Katmandu?” There was a pause. “I am sorry sir, I am unable to give that information.”

So, I hung up, realizing that the only question that I asked that he could have possibly answered in a way that I could understand, was off limits. So was my trip to Katmandu.

I later noticed the company had a website, and a customer service link. I wonder, do you suppose Bob will be the one to man the website as well?

And by the way, tell me if you can, just what is this little gizmo?

Okay friends, whazzit?

Okay friends, whazzit?

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Be Mine

About a week before Valentine’s Day, each of us in Mrs. Zenino’s 4th grade class began to think about constructing our personal Valentine boxes. The box that she deemed most spectacular would receive a special prize.

I liked prizes.

Valentine boxes as far as we boys were concerned, pushed the envelope of masculinity. Certainly, we could never let any of our friends (or non-friends) think that we were even remotely interested in the opposite sex. Occasionally that was put to the test, when we were in a mixed group, and one of the girls wanted to play “Post Office”, or “Spin the Bottle”.

Both of these games usually meant that someone was going to have to kiss someone else—someone else like a girl.

Valentines wouldn't hold up my pants

Valentines wouldn’t hold up my pants

Anyway, the prize was the thing, and even though I liked to find a few Valentine cards in my carefully crafted receptacles, what I really wanted that year was the prize. It was a “pencil box“, made from brightly colored cardboard, and contained a trove of school supplies. The fancier boxes (as the prize was) usually had several little drawers holding their treasures.

So, drawing upon my vast experience as a Valentine box creator, and adding a little input from my older brother who was gifted with an artistic bent, and a bit from my mom, who could provide the feminine touch, I planned my box.

My creation was not to be just a shoe box wrapped in crepe paper, no, in my mind’s eye, it would be irresistible to both the card giver, and, hopefully, Mrs. Zenino, who incidentally happened to be one of the few teachers who may have actually had some affection for me.

So, using the tools at hand, the construction began. I used my share of crepe paper, construction paper, and paper paste, and the box began to take shape. I worked, and my pit crew assisted. Ignoring the bits of paper and paste stuck to my various limbs, within a few hours, I felt I had the ultimate Valentine box.

The day before Valentine’s Day, I trundled my creation to the classroom, and placed it where Mrs. Zenino indicated. There were many favorable comments from my classmates, and best of all, she liked it too. Now I awaited the judging. When the dust settled, I didn’t win the pencil box, however I did collect a few Valentine cards, and best of all, I didn’t have to kiss any girls.

That revulsion was short lived, for within just a few years, I came to like kissing girls.

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Papa Mike’s Spaghetti Recipe

Alright spaghetti fans, for those who haven’t partaken, according to my family, my spaghetti recipe is their favorite. It doesn’t require you to sit at the stove for hours, nor does it have to simmer for days on end. It will be ready to serve in an hour.

The ingredients are:
Olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 Large can tomato sauce
1 Large onion diced
1 small can sliced mushrooms (if you like)
1 cup red wine
Italian seasonings (Basil etc.) or use an Italian spice mix
1 rnded tsp Chopped garlic
1 tsp sugar

Pour a generous amount of olive oil in a large skillet or electric frying pan, when hot, dump in diced onions, and allow them to brown nicely. Then drain the mushrooms and add to onions. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, then crumble your ground beef into the pan, stirring until it is nicely browned. Add the garlic, black pepper (we like lots of pepper) and salt to taste. Next add the Italian spices and the cup of wine, cover, and let simmer for 10 or 15 minutes. Lastly, add the tomato sauce, recover the pan, and let it simmer until you want to serve it.

Son Patrick and I in our spaghetti cooking garb, with a special tool of the trade.

Son Patrick and I in our spaghetti cooking garb, with a special tool of the trade.

The secret is to add a teaspoon of sugar or sweetener to cut the sour taste of the tomato sauce. Double check for seasoning, and whatever you deem necessary i.e. more salt, pepper, sweetener, etc.

Let it simmer away until your pasta is ready, and serve to your spaghetti lovers.

Call me when it’s ready

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Christmas Miracle

In the spring of 1946, when the girl of my dreams was a skinny, knobby kneed little girl with a head full of dark ringlets, she and her family moved from urban Salt Lake City, to rural Orem, Utah.

Her parents, Al and Isabelle Lupus, purchased a run-down 10 acre farm, that included an old house. It wasn’t much of a house, it was a ramshackle place that needed lots of work.

Al was a carpenter by trade, and immediately set to work to make the place habitable. Before he began, he erected a tent for the family to live in while he gutted the house. So, that summer, the family of five, lived a rather Spartan life. Meals were picnics, and baths were taken in the tent, in an old wash tub.

LaWana, Isabelle, Al, and in his lap, Sharon. (The year before the move to Orem)

LaWana, Isabelle, Al, and in his lap, Sharon. (The year before the move to Orem)

By the time the leaves began to change color, and as the nights grew colder, the campout lost it’s fun factor. Thankfully, before the first snow fell, Al moved the family into an improvised, (but heated) combination bedroom and living area in the basement. The bathroom was finished, so bathing was more civilized, and the kitchen was completed too. They almost had a home.

When Thanksgiving rolled around, Sharon and her sister LaWana thought about Christmas. “Where in the world will Mom and Dad put the Christmas tree?” they wondered. They knew there wasn’t room in the basement, and the rest of the house was a construction zone. “Not in the living room, that‘s for sure.” They both agreed, for it was blocked off, while Al continued to work on it.

The week before Christmas, their parents made furtive trips into the blockaded living room. Sharon and LaWana, pestered them about a Christmas tree, and wondered: “How will Santa find us? He doesn’t know we live in the basement.”. The girls hadn’t seen any mysterious packages enter the house either, as they had in the years before the move. “Maybe Mom and Dad have forgotten about Christmas.” The worried little girls whispered to one another, as they snuggled in their bed.

Christmas Eve arrived, and still no tree, and apparently no gifts. They went to bed that night, not knowing what to expect the next morning. Both girls had asked for dolls and velvet dresses. Gifts they had hoped they would find under the tree….but, they knew there was no tree. They drifted off to sleep.

Early Christmas morning, Al and Isabelle woke the girls, and Al gathered both of them in his arms, and took them upstairs to the renovated living room. “Surprise!” Both parents exclaimed. There in the middle of the room was the most beautiful Christmas tree the girls had ever seen. “Santa did find us! Santa did find us!”, they squealed, as they danced around the glowing tree. Displayed underneath were those beautiful dolls and the velvet dresses they had dreamt about. “It’s a miracle!” they said, “It‘s a miracle!”.

I hope there’s a miracle in the offing for your family this year.

Merry Christmas!

(This story was published in Reminisce Magazine’s current Christmas Book.)

Posted in Christmas, Uncategorized | 3 Comments