Posts Tagged ‘Meme’

Computer retirement home

Two weeks before Christmas, I was standing in Brother K’s kitchen with Sparkles for that 36 hours in Boston. We learned that my uncle wanted to get a computer for our Meme.

We thought the idea of our grandmother finally getting online was a brilliant idea. A couple years ago, we gave her an HP printer that calls home three times a day and gets her email. I started to occasionally send her posts from my blog. She loved it. So I’d send her crazier and crazier posts until I finally gave up and just had my blog automatically email her whenever I posted.

I know what you are all thinking. There is no way that you would send your grandmother some of the stuff that I write. Well, what I learned was that Meme has 50 years of experience on me. So even though she is sometimes surprised by my stories, she appreciates my candor, and we have the best conversations when I call weekly. I may live 3000 miles away, but I feel closer to Meme than I ever have.

I was so excited that she thought she might want a computer. So we quizzed our Grizzly Uncle on what the specs are. Turns out, she has been using Grizzly’s girlfriend’s laptop a lot lately. To play hangman.


So, she wants a laptop. To play hangman. We all kind of sighed in disappointment. But then talked about teaching her to use email. And video ichat. And how nice it will be to include her in the crazy family emails we send.

But a laptop? Well, we had all agreed we needed to get her a mac. There was no debate. But a 13″ MacBook wasn’t going to have a big enough screen when we lowered the resolution. And we couldn’t justify buying a new 15″ or 17″ MacBookPro.

Then I came up with the crazy, sleep-deprived idea. What if we gave her my laptop? It is a three-year-old, 15″ MacBookPro. And I’d been thinking of getting a new one lately. Since I do a lot of programming and use Aperture often, I need speed and lots of harddrive space. My laptop had already run out of space, and was feeling a bit slow during compile time. It was getting time to put her to pasture.

So I dumped the contents of the hard drive onto Brother K’s Drobo just in case my Time Capsule hadn’t backed up everything. He reformatted the drive. I mailed him the original box and cables when I arrived back in Cali. He wrapped it up to look like new.

Who better to get my old laptop than Meme? She will love it and care for it and appreciate that I used it to write all of those crazy blog posts she has read over the last three years. And hopefully she won’t care that I scratch the hell out of the ‘d’ ‘n’ ‘s’ and ‘m’ keys. I don’t know what it is that I do exactly, but The President has my old 12″ PowerBook and turns out, it has the same keys scratched up. I’m trying to keep my fingernails shorter now.

So my old machine has been sent out to a computer retirement home in Maine. May it live a good long life!

I’m already enjoying receiving email from Meme—although she still occasionally sends me notes in the post.

Strange dreams

The other day, a friend quoted Shakespeare, “To sleep, perchance to dream.” I said, I’d rather not because I have crazy vivid dreams. Here is the one from this morning. I bet dream interpreters would have a field day with this!

The first thing I remember in this nightmare was my siblings and I on the side of the divided road (like El Camino) and something happened. I think it was a bad driver, but I don’t remember exactly what rules were broken and who was breaking them. But this woman was pissed, and she was going to do something about it. I think she was a real estate agent, and she looked like someone on tv, but I don’t remember what show. I don’t know why, but she drove her sub-sub compact to a turn lane in the median, but to do so, she had to drive a few feet the wrong way down the road. As she did, she honked at some guy passing her, and I couldn’t get over how what she was doing was so much worse than what the other person did.

My siblings and I walked down the road. It got smaller and smaller until it was just dirt, and we came to the shack that we lived in with our mom. I was about to take Perl out for a walk when my sister’s friend came running up and regaled us with a story of this serial killer going around town. He had chased down a car and beaten two people to death with a tire iron. And no one could find him. I tried to convince someone to go with me to walk Perl, but I couldn’t.

Then, a man wearing a gorilla mask started pounding on the door. It took me two times, but I pressed 911 on my phone and showed him. That was when he pounded so hard on the glass next to the door that it shattered and he walked in. He took off his mask and it was a friend of my brother, so I hung up the phone and started yelling at him. How was I supposed to fix that glass? How were we going to keep the serial killer out now? Gorilla man had a friend behind him, and they went to find Brother K in the one story house.

At this point, I was talking with Meme in the living room. She was in a chair, I was sitting on the floor in front of her. My dog really needed to go out to pee. And in walks Meme’s best friend, thin and frail, and covered in dirt from head to toe. I couldn’t imagine she had outrun the serial killer. I gave her a hug and didn’t want to let go. She explained how she had gotten dirty, and even though it had been an accident, and on any other day, I would have been shocked, I just laughed because it wasn’t the serial killer.

So I left Meme and her friend in the living room and went to the bedroom where Mom was wrapping gifts for me to give my Indian friend at her wedding. Something long and rectangular, something the same length, but cylindrical, and something smaller and square. I was impressed with Mom’s wrapping skills. My siblings all came into the room, as well as my dog who still had to pee. We decided then and there to take a vacation somewhere until they caught the guy.

And I couldn’t take the stress anymore and woke up.

I can place some of it. On Heroes recently, Skylar beat a man with a tire iron. I was watching my friend wrap gifts last night for her wedding. I do have an Indian friend getting married, but this isn’t her wedding. I saw someone try to make a left turn through a space in a divided highway through a turn lane for the oncoming traffic. And I think the realtor was someone from a tv show I was half watching last night while painting my nails. Brother K was prominent because I was talking to him on the phone before bed. And yesterday, I was talking about seeing Meme and her friend this summer when I went to Maine. So it isn’t like my dreams are random, they just seem it.

And sometimes they are good dreams. This just wasn’t one.

Photos from Frankie’s Memorial Service

I felt a little awkward taking photos at a memorial service, but there were so many memories there. So hopefully, I will be forgiven for that—and for not using a flash, which produced a bunch of blurry photos.

I’ve attached a few below, but you can find all of them in My Gallery

Frankie’s memorial service

Usually I go to Maine for the Fourth of July. I used to go for Christmas, but a few years back, Meine Schwester and I started wondering why we went back during the worst weather instead of the best.

This year, I came out a little later so that I could attend Frankie’s memorial service. It is part of my Four Weddings and a Funeral year. Hopefully this will be the only memorial service this year.

Frankie was the guy who would yell at you to get off his lawn—or dock, as the case may be. He and Virgie have the camp next to ours. They and my grandparents used to live together in the house I grew up in. They like to think of it as the first commune.

As much as Frankie was that mean, old bastard who’d yell at you for making too much noise, Frankie was an instrumental piece of my childhood.

Frankie and Virgie ran Rollerland on Sebec Lake, just a few hundred yards from my house. My summers consisted of four things: sleeping, eating, swimming, and rollerskating. Every Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday nights, and Wednesday afternoons, we would gather our change and don rollerskates.

At Rollerland, you didn’t just skate in one direction and change direction for one song. Our play time was structured. We feared, respected, and loved the sound of Frankie’s whistle. Sometimes it meant reverse skate. Othertimes, it indicated time for a game, such as the wheel, memory with six wooden cards, or the game where we would all pick different special locations around the rink and Virgie would call out a location and those kids would be out of the game. Frankie also used the whistle to punish someone (usually one of the boys) for skating too fast, or hot dogging in a way that was dangerous.

What the girls all waited for was the whistle blow that indicated a couple’s skate. This was when you found out who liked who. There would be a slow song, and the lights would dim, and couples would go out on the floor hand in hand. I spent a lot of couples skates looking out the big window at the boats in the marina, but occasionally I’d get a chance to skate.

My favorite boy was Zippy, who would come up from the exotic Boca Raton to spend the summer with his grandmother. He was the kind of boy you’d find in a magazine or Abercrombie & Fitch ad. The girls all loved him. I adored the Adonis. I was fairly homely as a kid, but he’d hang out with me, and occasionally, he would make my night by asking me to a couple’s skate. Those were some of the best nights of my childhood.

And those nights wouldn’t have been possible without Frankie and Virgie. They provided a safe environment for teens to hang out. They gave jobs to my brothers who worked in the skate room. And when we didn’t have the money to get in to the rink, they would let us in for free.

When a girl with my size skates left hers at the rink and didn’t claim them, Frankie and Virgie gave them to me. At least that is the story they told me. The skates were beautiful. White and perfect in their own case. I eventually got new rubber wheels for them and new stoppers and they would glide on the floor. I never skated as well as Frankie and Virgie, but we all aspired to their grace and talent.

Frankie passed away back in October. It was probably for the best, as he hadn’t been doing well for a number of years and hadn’t been able to spend his summers in Maine. But he is certainly missed—every time there is silence when someone slams the screen door on the camp. And every time I hear a whistle and think maybe this time I won a prize.


A few weeks ago, I convinced my grandmother to start sending me The Piscataquis Observer, our hometown newspaper. I'm fascinated with how newspapers are going to survive, so I thought it fun to get inky hands and relearn how to manipulate and fold those large pages.

They are unmanageable in an airline seat.

It just makes me wish I had wifi.

Do any of the iPhone apps for newspapers cache articles on my phone? I really don't want to carry around a camera, laptop, iPhone, *and* a Kindle.

Why is it called a kindle? At least you can use newspaper as kindling. Electronics don't burn after reading well.


The NYTimes had an article the other day about U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny. It seems that the nuns in this country have been playing fast and loose with the rules. Not wearing habits. Living outside the convent. And God forbid, doing good deeds in the communities while spreading God’s word.

On the Apostolic Visitation website, these visitations seem completely harmless. The Catholic Church is looking into the “‘quality of the life’ of women religious in the United States.”

But the NYTimes has found a few nuns who feel that this visit is not so genuine. Looking at the FAQ sheet, question 10 explains that the outcome of the visit is a confidential report to be given to the Prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated Life. So the women in the study may or may not ever know what information is actually gathered and reported back about how they live.

Question 7 notes that “Various institutes will be visited. Communities of cloistered, contemplative nuns will not be visited.” This sent up a red flag for some nuns who, according to the NYTimes article, “Surmise that the Vatican and even some American bishops are trying to shift them back into living in convents, wearing habits or at least identifiable religious garb, ordering their schedules around daily prayers and working primarily in Roman Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals.”

I found this quote from the NYTimes article to be most interesting:

“They think of us as an ecclesiastical work force,” said Sister Sandra M. Schneiders, professor emerita of New Testament and spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, in California. “Whereas we are religious, we’re living the life of total dedication to Christ, and out of that flows a profound concern for the good of all humanity. So our vision of our lives, and their vision of us as a work force, are just not on the same planet.”

And this passage in the article gives me hope that the women who have taken these vows are not doing so by completely relinquishing their rights as women:

A few nuns have also been active in organizations that advocate changes in the church like ordaining women and married men as priests.

These are changes I could see making a huge difference. Although it might still not be enough to get me to come back to the Church. There are other issues where we disagree.

Below, I have re-written a previous post about Me versus Religion to give you an idea of why this article bothered me as much as it does.

I am a recovering Catholic, like being a recovering alcoholic—-you are never not one. I spent 18 years being brainwashed, and another 17 years trying to determine what is right and what is wrong from what I was led to believe.

At age 16, when my family, my friends, the Girl Scouts, and my teachers were all telling me that as a woman, I could do anything I wanted (iDad did recommend that I not try pissing on a campfire), the Catholic Church, through Catechism classes and preparing to be confirmed, was telling me that as a woman I am not equal.

One day during Confirmation Class, someone asked, “Why can’t women be priests?”

The priest barely hesitated when he replied in his heavily accented English, “Because women can’t keep secrets.”

I do not blame my priest for not having a good reason. He had led a difficult life, but the Catholic Church had rescued him. He had escaped Vietnam on a boat and was taken in by Canada where he learned English from Sesame Street. He later moved to the United States where the Catholic Diocese in their infinite wisdom, placed him in the center of Maine.

My hometown had culture if you think that different economic levels of white people is culture. The only people of color were five adopted children with white parents. As a kid, I secretly thought that my black and Vietnamese friends would grow up to be white. This was confirmed when a friend of mine, who lived with his two white aunts (it took me until college to realize that they weren’t related, but were probably lesbians) admitted that when he was five, he thought that he was black because he drank too much chocolate milk.

So my Vietnamese priest was put into a town that lacked exposure to other races. His accent was thick, but I enjoyed the challenge of understanding him, which was easy since all the readings seem to repeat from year to year and after 16 years of hearing the same words, I knew what to expect. His accent though, was a barrier for the elderly with hearing difficulties and the closed-minded people. They stopped coming to church, exclaiming in their Downeast accents—with their slow drawl, harsh sarcasm, and insurgence of “ayuh” ending sentences—that they couldn’t understand him. His Latin, however, was excellent, and he sometimes helped me with my homework.

The next to leave the Church were the liberals. The priest who had preceded him was a flamboyant man who let women loose upon the alter and made us all hold hands while saying the Lord’s Prayer. It took a while before the congregation was comfortable with holding hands across family units and sometimes across the aisles, but once the tradition was established it was hard to break. So when the new priest came in and God went back to his fire and brimstone ways and women were removed from the alter, the liberals left in droves, including my Meme, who’d I’d always known as a fixture in the Rectory.

It made sense then, that in Confirmation Class, when we were being told that the Catholic Church is the “one, right, true religion,” that we would question the presence of women on the alter. I conflicted with the Church in many respects. I couldn’t understand why they were so against homosexuality when it was obvious that many of the priests were in the closet themselves. I didn’t understand how they could be against both contraceptives and abortion when they themselves acknowledge that evil exists. How are women supposed to protect themselves? This was another indication that in the eyes of the Catholic Church women are not equal and have no rights over their own bodies. We aren’t even allowed to stop the Devil from impregnating us.

But the thing that really pushed me over the top was realizing that our previous priests had all been playing fast and loose with the rules by allowing women on the alter. Now we had a priest who followed the rules direct from the Vatican. And the rules are that there are no alter girls. No women on the alter at all.

This is when I realized that the Catholic Church believes that a penis is a microphone to God. As a woman, I can not be a priest, a bishop, or the Pope. I must speak through a penis if I want to talk to God. Sure, I can talk to him myself, but for confession, I must speak into the penisphone. And confession is the most important thing because that is why women can’t be priests—they can’t keep secrets.

Obviously, that is true, since I am telling this to all of you.


I have a day off and I'm not travelling. I think the world may have ended. For those of you who are concerned, don't be. I have plenty of trips scheduled for the next six months. You won't be disappointed in my Four Weddings and a Funeral year. And I'm not kidding. Weddings in Mexico (successfully completed without catching the swine flu), Montana, Texas and upstate New York and a funeral in Maine.

Yes, I've had a funeral on my calendar for a couple months now. Frankie was a good family friend. He and his wife, Virgie, ran the rollerskating rink and were a big part of my childhood summers. He lived a good long life, but his last few years were rough. He passed this winter and was creamated. Burying someone in Maine through six feet of frost is a bit difficult, so a plan to celebrate his life was scheduled for the summer when his family could all make the trek north.

One side benefit is that Meme has her best friend back for the summer. I'm looking forward to seeing Virgie in a couple weeks.

But before that, I have an exciting wedding in Montana. And next weekend, Pocket Watch Man is coming to visit! Pocket Watch Man is a friend from London. He and I worked together back in the dark ages before my family knew about the Internet and CD drives were new. He used to test our software by timing it with his pocket watch. So now I have to come up with some crazy stuff to do while he is here.

Before that though, I need to finish cleaning my apartment. I had piles of stuff to go to goodwill on my dining room table. Now my little convertible is filled to the brim. I have a whole list of things to do including dropping books off at the library, going to the DMV to get the bank off the title of my car that I have owned for the last three years, changing my address which I also should have done three years ago, and recycling some old electronics. It should be a busy day, but my goal is to have my place back to normal by the end of the weekend.

So far, I've walked the dog and I'm having a vanilla latte in a coffee shop telling all of you my plans to be productive. I'm currently failing. But the bookstore just opened, so I'm off like a prom dress!

New Journalism

I was listening to On The Media rehash the events from the Senate’s Future of Journalism hearing where proposals were made for saving the American newspaper. I say American newspaper because I am unaware whether technology is also killing off news outlets in other countries, or if they have found solutions for saving themselves.

The problem is that for quality journalism, a publication must hire quality journalists. However—through the advent of the internet with its free access to news through searches, blogs, Twitter, and the like—people are no longer willing to pay for their news. This in turn, means the quality of the news has significantly degraded. The people reporting the news are not trained journalists, but are common people spreading (mis)information.

Sometimes, bloggers have first-hand knowledge of what they are reporting, and that can be useful, but it is often biased, filled with emotion, and missing supporting facts. In most cases, like this, bloggers are just adding their own opinion to what they have read or heard elsewhere. What I write here is not news, but is an aggregation of news that I found interesting throughout the day, littered with my opinion and thoughts.

But readers now expect immediate information, which is hard to do when facts have to be verified and reputations and lawsuits are on the line. Readers are more willing to forgive a blogger for passing on misinformation than they are willing to forgive a legitimate news source, but they aren’t willing to wait for the news source to produce a report, or pay for it when it is ready. News in a daily newspaper is already old by the time it reaches the stands. Weekly newspapers and magazines have an even harder time trying to determine the value they can add in a digital age. Monthly magazines shouldn’t try to report news at all.

The news media is trying to stay afloat. Weekly magazines are doing more analysis of the week’s events rather than reporting. Both weekly and daily news outlets are using technology to promote the news, but they aren’t making enough money from the advertising to pay for the resources they need to create the news. They have cut back staff and taken pay cuts to stay alive until they figure out how to make money. Just this week, The Boston Globe almost went under.

I have to admit, I am part of the problem. I expect news to be free. I’ve only ever bought a newspaper subscription when guilted into it by some kid knocking on my door, but now my guilt for saving the environment is stronger. I have one magazine subscription, and the only reason I subscribe is to support a friend who writes for it. Ironic, since his stories are usually published online and I read them the day before I receive the magazine in the mail. And I listen to the news on the radio on NPR, but have only ever pledged money after 9/11.

I’ve added The New York Times and the Mercury News to my twitter feeds. I’d love to have the Bangor Daily News and The Piscataquis Observer so that I might read news from home.

I like the Twitter feed model for news because I have a link when the article is posted, I can read the title and decide if I want to keep reading. Most articles I skip until something piques my interest. It doesn’t feel as time consuming as reading a newspaper—I don’t have that much free time. And I don’t have to search for stories, they come to me.

I’ve totally given up on sites like Slashdot and Digg because I don’t like wading through the crap. But would I pay to be able to click on the links from Twitter? I don’t use the Wall Street Journal because I have to pay for that. Or used to. Maybe I don’t anymore.

So what would make me pay for the news? And how much would I pay? Some say the media outlets could charge per article like a song on iTunes. The problem is that I usually hear songs on the radio for free before I buy it. Once I read an article, I am unlikely to read it again.

Some think the Kindle is the be-all solution to the problem. But I don’t have a Kindle because that is like buying a calculator. I already have a calculator on my phone and my computer, why would I want a separate device for it?

Some think the NPR model, becoming a non-profit and asking for donations might work for larger media outlets. It might. Today I made a pledge to KQED. And I pledged more than I was going to pledge because I read through the benefits you get as a member and I wanted to do some of the stuff that people who pledge more get to do. And because I like the quality of their reporting. And when I want to know the truth about what is happening in regards to a news event, I go to NPR. So I’m willing to pay to have them continue reporting. I also chose not to get a gift because I want all the money to go towards NPR/KQED.

I also read the NYTimes to find the real story. I’m close to buying a NYTimes subscription, but I don’t want physical paper. I just asked Meme to cancel my Reader’s Digest subscription and instead give me a subscription to The Piscataquis Observer so that I will have more stuff to talk to her about.

So what would make you pay for your news?

I went to church today

Well, it is my kind of church. And no, Meine Schwester, it was not Ikea again. Neighbor S and I spent the day at the California Academy of Sciences. Meme, you will have to come visit again because I found some cool stuff we missed! The planetarium was great. I’m sorry it was full when we went.

It’s a small world

Waiting for my grandmother's flight, Meme ran into someone she knows who vacations in our hometown.

Guess that is why they call Maine Vacationland.