Writer’s Workshop: Wicked Weather

Fairly clear… for now. From the NOAA Hi-Def Radar app.

Thank heaven, in the 33 years Mary and I have lived here, we haven’t had to deal with any damage to our house due to severe weather. It’s a constant threat here, especially during the summer, but really any time of the year can be bad. We’ve seen more dangerous weather here than we ever saw in Chicago.

We’ll be watching TV in the evening, and suddenly a red stripe appears at the top of the screen and we’ll hear the duck calls of the Emergency Alert System, letting us know that there’s a severe thunderstorm or tornado on its way to make life interesting. Problem is, when they announce the counties, sometimes we can’t tell whether we should be concerned. I have a bunch of weather apps on my phone, including a couple of radar apps so I can tell where the storms are and roughly the direction they’re moving. If it looks like it could be bad, we move down to the garage and sit in the van until it passes over.

I generally don’t have much use for Twitter, which too often seems to be strangers yelling at strangers, but during severe weather I’ll watch it for what people are saying about the weather and what they’re seeing, if they include their location (most do, some don’t). Plus, it can be fun when you’re stuck down there.

Forewarned is forearmed, as the old expression goes, but unfortunately knowing bad weather is coming doesn’t mean you can do anything about it. You can protect yourself from the bad weather, but you can’t keep the bad weather from coming. Shortly after we moved here, we woke up in the middle of the night. The electricity was out and we could hear the wind blowing outside. After a couple of minutes, the wind died down and the red letters re-appeared on the alarm clock, so we rolled over and went back to sleep. Early the next morning, Mom called, wanting to know if we were all right, that she had heard there were severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in Marietta. We assured her that all was OK, they didn’t come close to us.

A couple of hours later, I was at work, and one of my former managers came up and said “I bet you’re happy you didn’t buy my house.” (When we had been working with our realtor, we stopped at a house that was pretty nice, then I discovered he owned it. We would have bought it if there hadn’t been so many stairs to deal with, thinking my father-in-law would have trouble with them.) When I asked him why, he told me that a tornado had come through and knocked it off its foundation and that it had been condemned. It was about a mile south of us. We never told Mom…

Writer’s Workshop: Vintage Stuff

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis probably remember this post from this year’s A to Z Challenge, where I talked primarily about the difference between “vintage” and “retro.” The two terms are used interchangeably, but there is a difference: “vintage” refers to something that comes from the past, whereas “retro” is something that’s made new to look like it came from that period. An example is tie-dyed t-shirts, which make a comeback every so often: their heyday was the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. There’s a good chance that there aren’t any that have lasted 50 years. In fact, they were probably used to wash the car or dust the furniture before they were thrown away at last sometime before 1980. If there are any genuine t-shirts from the ’60’s, they’d be worth a fortune at vintage clothing stores, so if you find one, promise me you’ll split the proceeds with me. Anyway, tie-dye t-shirts you find today were probably made not that long ago, so they’re rightfully called “retro.”

Clothes aren’t the only thing that can be vintage or retro. I had (and unfortunately got rid of) a copy of Beatles ’65 from 1965. (I got it as a gift from my godmother for my Confirmation, which was in, you guessed it, 1965.) At the time I got rid of it, I hadn’t had a turntable in years and had all the music on my hard drive, to which I had ripped it from CD. Had I kept it, it might have been worth a few bucks at a vintage record store. Not that much, though: a minute ago I checked eBay, and found one that was still shrink-wrapped and ostensibly in perfect condition for $33. Mine was in considerably-less-than-perfect condition, meaning I’d likely have to pay someone to take it off my hands. I’m sure that Capitol Records will, at some point, reissue their catalog of Beatles albums on vinyl, and they would be “retro.”

Then, of course, there’s vintage TV. Mary and I watch a lot of vintage TV, including The Andy Griffith Show and Hogan’s Heroes on weeknights and Columbo movies on the weekends. We’ve seen these shows many times over, but they never get old. With Andy, we’ve only seen the episodes from the first five seasons, the ones that were filmed in black & white. The last three seasons of the show were filmed in color, but people don’t like them, primarily because Don Knotts, who played Deputy Barney Fife, had left the show to focus on movies. It’d be interesting to colorize the five black & white seasons and see what the reaction would be, whether people would see color and immediately assume they were no good.

CBS seems to have gotten into the habit of “updating” some of their old series and putting them back on the air. For example, they brought Magnum, PI back with a Hispanic Magnum and a female Higgins, and managed to keep much of the same feel of the original show. The same can’t be said for their reboot of Hawaii Five-O, where the characters were light years apart from the originals (more action figures than law enforcement professionals) and the new show being much more violent than the original. The same is true of MacGyver, which is nothing at all like its predecessor. And don’t get me started on their attempt at The Odd Couple

Writer’s Workshop: My July

Giphy.com

Well, the prompt said “Share a photo that best represents your July.” All right, it’s a GIF, but you get the idea.

As the fourth full month of our two-week shutdown draws to a close, I find myself questioning whether all of this “shelter in place, wear a mask, practice social distancing” is really working. Due to mobility issues, I don’t get out of the house too often, which means I’ve spent a lot of time at home. Too much, maybe.

Probably just as well. The dog days of summer are upon us here, and we’ve been experiencing temperatures in the 90’s (that’s over 32 for you centigraders) with humidity in the 40-50% range, making for some very uncomfortable days, days where Mary also stays home and doesn’t go out. The National Weather Service has predicted rain every day this week so far, and you know how it goes: if the NWS says it’ll rain, it’s not going to rain. Maybe we should have a picnic or wash the car. Nothing brings torrential rain like that.

We did manage to get a few things accomplished: we bought a refrigerator for the garage and had an extra electrical line put in for it. I get all the information on what was done second hand, but from what I understand it required adding a breaker to the breaker box and running a line from there. But we have that down there now, and Mary’s happy because it means she doesn’t have to lug bottles of lemonade up from the garage to make sure it’s cold enough for mealtime. I’m happy because we have a freezer large enough to hold some extra Home Run Inn pizzas. I know some of you are saying “frozen pizza? Icky poo!” but these are really good.

Blogwise, I welcomed my 500th follower today. Keep in mind, those are just the followers that use the WordPress reader to read The Sound of One Hand Typing and doesn’t include people who have subscribed by mail, who use a feed reader like Inoreader or Feedly, or who are prompted to read by the blog’s Facebook page or my Twitter feed, or just drop by every day because they know I’m here, but still, I’m happy for all my followers and appreciate your reading, liking, and commenting. Thanks!

Writer’s Workshop: Close Enough For Horseshoes

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Remember when Jay Leno, who hosted The Tonight Show during the OJ Simpson trial, proclaimed Mondays “OJ-Free Monday”? I thought it was a great idea. I think we’ve spent enough time discussing the coronavirus known as Covid-19. So, other than to say that I’m through discussing it, I’m not going to talk about it anymore. Call it “Covid-19 Free Thursday.”

Ever heard the expression “close enough for folk music” or “close enough for government work”? It’s a way of saying, “yeah, we could get it even closer, but it isn’t worth the trouble.” I think that’s the motto of physics professors. My one college class in physics was with a guy who would calculate something and fudge the numbers to where he would get the answer he wanted. For example, he had this elaborate experiment set up to show us how to calculate the value of gravity, which as some of us know is 9.8 meters per second per second. He’d press a button on this contraption which would simultaneously start a timer and drop a metal ball onto a steel plate, which would stop the clock. He did this about ten times and took the average time of the trials, then went through some mathematical gyrations and computed the value of gravity as 13.1 meters per second per second. He then then came up with a plausible but not very likely explanation as to why his result was 3+ meters per second per second greater than what it was supposed to be, and voila! it was 9.8 exactly. Of course, when we tried to reproduce the results in the lab, we had to come up with it exactly and offer no BS stories as to why our results didn’t match.

I got word from the cable company last week that they’d be doing work in the neighborhood and that our Internet service might be interrupted on and off. They always say that it’s to make everything lightning-fast, but I heard there’s another reason: they have to add additional bandwidth so that everyone who suddenly finds themselves stuck at home and wants to stream can do so with few interruptions. They had enough when most of the neighborhood was at work most of the day, but not now. I haven’t seen any degradation of service, but I’m not trying to watch all the stuff I’ve missed since the beginning of time or play video games. Still, the extra bandwidth will benefit me and Mary, because we spend a lot of time on the Internet. So I’m not complaining.

UPDATE: I got a text from the cable company this morning that, “due to circumstances beyond [their] control,” the work has been postponed and they’ll let me know when they plan on coming out.

Writer’s Workshop: My Most Frequently Used Apps

The wallpaper on my phone

I’ve had my iPhone 8 for over 2 ½ years (I know this because I’ve paid it off) and have lots of apps installed on it, somewhere near 100. I don’t use anywhere near that number, of course; I generally will use either my desktop or laptop computer. Here are the ones I use most frequently…

  • Inoreader: My feed accumulator, i.e. my RSS reader. All of the 200+ blogs I read, plus some feeds from Facebook and some email newsletters, and even a few YouTube feeds pass through here. At mealtime I read blogs this way.

  • WordPress: I don’t blog from my phone, but I do use the app to read and occasionally reply to comments.

  • Instagram: Can’t get enough of the pictures. I also get a good deal of information and news through it, as well as find new musicians to listen to.

  • YouTube: I don’t use this as often as I did, because I’m usually sitting either at my desktop or laptop, but on occasion I’ll pull up videos on this.

  • Dark Sky: I actually have five or six weather apps (as well as a couple of radar ones) installed, all of which are right some of the time. Dark Sky is my go-to app because it’s the simplest.

  • IMDb: As we watch TV, Mary’s always asking “who’s that?” I then dutifully find the show and the episode and read the cast list until we’re satisfied we know who it is.

  • TV Listings: Helps me find the shows and episodes so I can look up the cast lists in IMDb. Also helps when Mary asks what episodes of The Andy Griffith Show or Columbo are on tonight.

  • Amazon: We do a lot of shopping online, especially since Covid-19 arrived from Wuhan.

  • Connect The Pops!: This is a game that I play almost constantly, especially at mealtime, for some reason. It’s hard to describe how the game is played, but one thing I’ve figured out is that there’s really no end to the game; you just go on colecting points ad nauseam. So far, I’ve accumulated 334 quadrillion points.

  • Other TV apps: All of the local TV stations have apps, which I’ve installed. I don’t use them much, but they’re handy to have.

  • Spotify and Apple Music: I don’t use these as much on my phone, but they’re installed in case we’re out and about and I want to hear some music while Mary’s in a store or whatever. I think my music annoys her…

  • Other Games: Solitaire, sudoku, Slices, 2048. Nothing where I shoot anything or break through walls.

  • A few other apps I use from time to time:

    • Discord: There are some groups I belong to that have Discord servers (dead malls, EAS activations, Inoreader), so I keep up to date with those groups there.

    • Podcasts: There are a few I listen to, mostly music and noise-related. I’m not very good about staying up-to-date on them.

    • Reddit: There’s a lot of good information out there, as well as a lot of silly stuff. Anything to keep me off Facebook and Twitter.

    • Twitch: I use this for one show, Best Smooth Jazz, and only if I’m away from my desktop or laptop.

    • FEMA: I don’t use this per se, but if there are any weather warnings, they’ll pop up in this app. We get severe weather occasionally, so this is always a good one to have.

    • Siri: I use the flashlight function on my phone at night. Apple makes it practically impossible to access the flashlight quickly, but Siri can. So, I just say, “Hey, Siri, turn on the flashlight,” and she does, and when I’m done, I say “Hey Siri, turn off the flashlight” and she does. I’ve given her the Australian voice, just for fun. That’s pretty much all I use her for, at least for now.

I do everything with my phone except talk on it…