Segway

I’ve recently read no less than three articles where the word segue was incorrectly used/spelled, because a writer, trying to appear erudite, had no idea what he was writing.  The word, pronounced, Seg – Way, reminded me of the Segway scooter, the two-wheeled person mover, which balances on its tiptoes, by means of gyroscopes.  The company is located near H. E. Ellis’ pile of tires in New Hampster.

On their website, the company brags about being green because Segways produce no emissions, and shows a picture of a wind turbine, but most people plug it in to recharge from an electrical outlet supplied by a sulphur-laced coal-burning power plant.  They also list Segway racing.  I wondered how you hop up a Segway, until I found that they were sponsoring BMX motorcycle races.

When these things first appeared, almost 11 years ago, there were people who touted them as a game changer.  They were to completely revolutionise the personal transportation scene.  These cheerleader types were what I like to refer to as seriously demented.  These things cost almost $4,000.  For that kind of money, you can get a decent-sized second-hand automobile which will carry four people at sixty MPH, enclosed and protected from the weather.

The only places where they are bought and used, is at companies with large, sprawling buildings, and malls.  If you’ve seen Kevin James, in Paul Blart – Mall Cop, you have my sympathy and pity.  If you send me a stamped, self-addressed postcard, I will send you, absolutely free, your choice of either two tickets to his new movie, Zookeeper, or enough IQ points to get you up to being able to watch Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour movies.

The automotive Big Three try to bully their suppliers into using single-floor plants.  It obviates many potential problems of moving parts from floor to floor in case of power failure, or other emergencies.  My company’s Plant II, which they sold, was one floor.  Despite the Jeep plant in Toledo being five stories high, Chrysler urged our management to move to a single-floor facility.

Plants like that often use golf carts for management to get around.  They cost about as much as a Segway, but again, will carry up to four people and/or freight, move faster, and you ride sitting down.  Some buildings are so crowded with machinery or stored goods that golf carts are not useful.

I did two weeks of Monday to Friday, midnight security in a building where furniture for Electrohome was made, stereo and TV cabinets, as well as easy chairs and footstools.  They had a boiler in the plant which required a 24/7 rotation of Stationary Engineers, but for the two-week summer shut-down period, the place was empty, therefore, security guards.

To make the hourly security patrol around the vast, winding pedestrian walkway on foot would have taken almost an hour, and then it would be time to do it again, with no-one to answer the phone or watch the doors.  For the supervisors, they provided three or four pony-bikes.  Remember them?  Small bikes, banana seats, back wheel larger than the front, protruding, chopper-style steering!  I suppose it would have been possible to roll Segways around the twisty, narrow walkways, if they’d been available back then.  I did it with the pony bike.

My then teen-age son accompanied me for a couple of midnight shifts.  Like the big kids we both were, we brought along water pistols, and rode around trying to hit different targets on the fly.  We each earned a compliment from the other.  I have taken almost 350 hours of gun handling/safety training.  Despite playing with “only water-pistols” I controlled the muzzle, and never pointed it at anything I didn’t intend to shoot.  The son lauded me for that, and I returned the praise for having noticed, and learning to do the same.

The furniture moved from department to department on roller conveyors, 30 inches off the floor, some of them powered.  In the shipping department there was a roller ramp, where the pallets/boxes rolled down to the floor.  The second night the son came with me, I rolled into the shipping department on my little pony bike, with him right behind me.  I saw that roller ramp, and silliness ensued.  I rode my bike right up the ramp, and onto the conveyor system, and he followed me.

Soon, we were making the security rounds by riding on the rollers.  The bikes were short enough that any balance problems could be immediately solved, just by putting feet on the conveyor side rails, but that never happened.  You had to maintain modest, steady acceleration.  A sudden powerful push on the pedals produced a short stretch of wildly spinning rollers. I bet you can’t do that with a Segway.

You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.  A big part of security work is boredom, and how to combat it.  The employer hopes that as much energy and attention as possible is directed toward actual security of the facility, but, ya gotta have a little fun sometimes.  My son also accompanied me on a Friday night shift in a small-town, where they had an arena full of expensive boats for a weekend boat-show, and a broken lock on the back door.

For obvious reasons they didn’t give us the key to the refreshment stand area, but there were chairs inside, as well as paper cups and ice we wished to use for soft drinks we brought along.  Two curious monkeys investigated the stand.  I found one way in at the same time the son found a different way.  When two of the organizers staggered walked in around 2 AM, after closing a bar, we immediately waved to them.

After being asked, we pointed out the soft spots.  One could be fixed by having personnel reminded to lock the steel roll-down.  The other was a hole in a concrete wall, where they had inserted an easily moved popcorn machine.  Not so easily remedied.  Fix the damned lock on the back door!

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An Analog Curmudgeon In A Digital World

The new world of communications is owned by the young.  The younger the person, the more and better they are connected to the rest of the world.  I value my peace and solitude.  To a large degree I do not wish the rest of the world to be connected to me.

I suppose, like many other things, I’m communicatively in the middle.  Unlike people like my brother, I own and use a computer, and have for years.  Unlike some of you young whipper-snappers out there, I don’t Face Book, I twit people, but I don’t Tweet, I don’t Pinterest, I don’t pingback.  I don’t include photos with my posts, although I’m on the slow train to learning how.  The wife is trying to learn how to embed videos, and when she figures it out, she might get the whip and chair, and train me.

The younger the more likely but, what many of you have learned about computers and other electronics, almost by osmosis, continues to elude me.  I’m a light-switch kind of guy in a serial-thinking world.  I can do 1/0 easily, but 1011010011100101100 makes me work for it.

Continuing with the light-switch analogy, (see, I told you I was analog.) I remember twist light-switches, before the up/down, on/off version became standard.  If I want a light on, I flip the switch up.  If I want the light off, I go flip the switch down.  Simple, easy!  Even light-switches are becoming “computerised”.

I had a new garage door installed recently.  If I push the button to raise or lower the door, the light on the motor comes on….and stays on for a minute, after the door is up or down.  I could (maybe) reprogram it down to 30 seconds, if I just climb up on a ladder and remove the housing.  I probably won’t go broke paying for a minute’s electricity, but my cheap Scottish OCD wants that damned light off when I’m done.

To turn the light off, I have to push the light button.  Not an ON button, or an OFF button, just a light button.  The light’s already on, but I have to *turn it on.*  I push the button, and wait two seconds for it to recognize.  Now the light knows it’s on, so I push the same button that I just pushed to turn it on, to turn it off, and wait two seconds.  If all goes well, the garage goes dark.  If all does not go well, the neighbor kid learns some new words.

Speaking of lights, these new twisty fluorescents that they’re pushing us to replace our incandescents with, are not an unmixed blessing.  Oh, they do save money by using less power, and they will give the equivalent amount of light….if you wait for them to warm up.  All you have to do is go into a dark room five minutes before you need light, and turn them on.  The ones outside the front door and garage take forever in the winter.

In our garage, we have our garbage pail, a blue recycling bin, and a heavy-duty paper bag for kitchen waste.  I open the door/step out a half-dozen times a day.  All four cats are fascinated.  Two have learned to squirt out for a look, as I drop stuff in the pail.  One has been squeezed by the rapidly closing door a few times, but still makes the run whenever he can get away with it.  Oh well, the light’s out, let him stay out there in the dark for five minutes.   As the weather gets colder, he’ll stay warm inside more.

I stepped out a couple of weeks ago and pushed the up-door button….and it didn’t.  Great!  A brand-new closer, and it won’t work.  It took me a week to figure out why.  The old door went up and down!  If there was something under it on the way down, too bad, guillotine!  The new door has an infra-red sender/receiver combo mounted 6 inches off the floor.  If they don’t talk to each other, the door don’t work.

One time, when the cat was prowling around in the dark, he must have stepped on the receiver unit, and popped it off the rail.  I snapped it back into place and, Viola, the door works fine, finally.  I only learned a couple of years ago about drag-up and drag-down menus on computer screens.  Actually, they’re not on the screen.  If I can’t see them, how in Hell do I even know they’re there?!

We bought a new stereo receiver a couple of years ago.  The demo model in the store worked fine.  I took mine home and connected the Gordian Knot to the back of it and turned it on to AM.  Nothing!  Switched to FM.  Nothing!  Switched to CD.  Nothing!  Back to AM.  Nothing, nothing, nothing!  I took it back to the store and said it was defective.  The little sales clerk, who was younger than my socks, soon had it working perfectly.  Apparently, this unit has a five-second recognition span, and I didn’t have a five-second patience span before I changed functions.  Duh, never mind.

I’m learning new things and getting more proficient with the computer all the time.  With my attention-span and crappy memory it’s a struggle.  Just when I get barely competent, version 7 of some program comes out, and I start learning all over again.  Click on this icon.  Open option box, choose and enter option.  Pull up currently invisible menu, activate function initialize.  Choose desired function, place cursor on box and right-click twice, while holding a piece of Edam cheese between your upper lip and nose.  Perform all these actions with a hand with Parkinson-like tics, and three cats crawling all over the computer desk.

I don’t want to have to train the computer.  I want one that’s already smarter and has a better memory than me.  That’s the whole point.  Shouldn’t be that hard; the light-switch and his friend the doorknob can already outwit me.  I’d go back to the Freddy Flintstone sheet of slate, with hammer and chisel version, but it’s no longer compatible!  Aaggh!  Insanity, version 3.0.  Failure is not an option.  It comes pre-installed.

Time Keeps On Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’,

into the future, or so says Steve Miller’s song, Fly Like an Eagle.  I wish I were like an eagle.  I’m more like an overfed, ground-bound tom-turkey, lucky to have survived two adjacent thanksgivings.  But the time is still dashing past, while I do little more than mourn its passing and grow ever closer to my own.

When you are young, you have not had many experiences to produce memories.  Each memory is separated from the next, and the mental reach to retrieve any given one is so large that time seems to stretch.  I wrote recently that, as a child, summer seemed to last a whole year.

As you grow older, you experience more and more, and the memories begin to pile up, one against the next, and the mental reach to retrieve each reduces, till time seems to fly past.  With so many memories, it’s not unusual for old folks to reach back and mis-remember, by grabbing the wrong one.  Did I feed the cats today??  I remember feeding the cats, but, with 2000 days of cat feeding, did what I remember, happen today?  Or yesterday?? Or last week?

Four things have occurred in my life recently, in, what to me, was the blink of an eye.  First, I had a birthday.  I turned 68 on the autumnal equinox, and temporally hurtled past it so fast, that I didn’t even blog about it for two months.  Next I managed to reach my 100th post, at my frenetic pace of every-three-days.  Then, on Nov. 21st, two months to the day past my birthday, I reached my blogiversary, and got around to mentioning my birthday.  Last, but definitely not least, the wife and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary on December 2nd.

I look at a couple of photos taken that day, which we have mounted in a collage, and wonder, who are those kids?  Where have they gone?  Of three people other than us in the shots, all later married, and all have got divorced.

We were poor as church-mice when we married.  We met while taking educational upgrading at the local Community College, and had both just got jobs, after living for over a year on the equivalent of Unemployment Insurance payments.  We married in my home-town in a compromise church.  She was about to become an ex-Catholic, and I was a non-attending Baptist, so we were wed in an Anglican Church.  I tipped the preacher $5.

My mother and half-sister prepared food, and the tiny reception was held at the sister’s big house, which had once been a Presbyterian manse.  Of the wife’s nine siblings, only the two other failed Catholics attended.  The group numbered only about 30.  The bakery provided a two tiered cake.  Normal wedding cake is heavy and solid, like Christmas-cake, to provide support for the tiers.  Since ours was so small, we convinced the baker to do it in white cake.  He slid a disc of cereal-box-like cardboard under the upper layer.

We wanted to spend a night at Niagara Falls, a two and a half hour drive.  Married at noon on the Saturday, by 4 o’clock my mother mentioned that we should be on our way, but it had just started freezing rain.  We left town and took the county road toward Niagara, but within three miles, we were falling off the crown of the road, and limping along the snowy shoulder.  We decided to turn back for guidance.  Just as we approached the crossroads, a sander/salter truck went by.  He must be going somewhere!  So we followed him.  He went about half the way to Niagara, and, as night fell, he pulled into a works-yard in a small village.  We spent our first married night at the village inn, and didn’t reach Niagara for several years.

I carefully inspected the car before we left, but found no soaped windows or just-married signs.  I disconnected the de rigueur string of tin cans, and off we went.  About five miles after we pulled behind the Roads truck, I found that someone had purchased a smoked fish, and wedged it under the exhaust manifold.  The grease got hot, and I re-cooked it and burned it on.  Getting it off a red-hot manifold without getting burned myself was an adventure.  The smell of overcooked fish dissipated in about two weeks.

Like many other things in our lives, the wife and I are not so much stubborn about being married, as determined.  We’ve been to counselling a couple of times, to file some of the sharper points off.  As we age, and aches and pains multiply, and the number of external idiots seems to stretch to infinity, our patience diminishes, and we irk each other a bit more than we did when we were younger.  I like to think though, that there is still some solid love for each other under the tough crusts.

When you are married for 50 years, you get a congratulatory letter from the Prime Minister.  My Mom and Dad received theirs shortly before they died, but it was Mom’s second marriage and Dad’s late first.  I think it meant more to me then, than it did to them.  Still, I am looking forward to reaching that milestone, for more than just a piece of paper from some politician.

All aches and pains and diminishing strength aside, both of us are healthy enough to last another 15 years.  My Mom was 92, and Dad was 85 when they passed.  I have good genes.  If the family cancer hasn’t even touched the wife before now, there’s a strong chance it never will, and medicine continues to improve.  After 60 years of marriage, you also receive a letter of congratulations from the Queen, in the same way you can now get a personal tweet from the Pope.  I anticipate getting my certificate from a Royal Footman.

What’s In A Name?

I don’t believe in magical qualities, but, there are names we take and hold to ourselves, and names we let others know us by.  Many bloggers hide behind some sort of pseudonym, myself included.

Fake or changed names are very common within the entertainment industry.  Frances Gumm became Judy Garland, and Marion Michael Morrison got to be John Wayne.  Norma Jeane Mortenson emerged from her chrysalis as Marilyn Monroe.  Singers like Cher and Madonna get by with a single name.  Gowan did it for a while, but finally became Lawrence (Don’t call me Larry!) Gowan.  Eileen Edwards re-invented herself as Shania Twain, and Reginald Kenneth Dwight legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John, and let’s not forget Meat Loaf.

At my son’s plant there is an Andre, and they just hired an Andrej.  You can see the difference when you read it, but whenever anyone is referring to one – which one?  I had a woman named Laurie Embro at my plant. Her younger brother had a girlfriend named Lori, whom he eventually married.  When times were good she applied to the company for a job and got hired.  Fortunately they placed her down the street at Plant II.  As times got tight, they amalgamated the two plants.  Now we had Laurie Embro, and Lori Embro – which one are you paging?

In a plant of 200 workers, three of them were Smiths, no two related.  Tony seemed to be the most common male first name.  We had six.  Of a three-man part-forming team, two of them were Tonys.  One time, a Tony on another shift traded places, so, for a week we had a crew of Tony, Tony, and Tony.

When we got new union cards, there were two names that had problems.  One was a Newfoundland fella named Junior.  Not Robert Jr. or anything like that, just Junior.  The union phoned three times to verify that.

The other guy’s first name was Chuck!  Again, not Charles anything, CHUCK!  He was a huge, foul-mouthed buffalo biker.  When he received his union card, it read Church.  “Do I look like a f*%#in’ church??!”

Number three Tony, above, was another Newfoundland boy. He named his two sons Robert Russell and Michael Russell and never noticed the duplication until Tony number two pointed it out to him.

I went to school with a girl named Venetia – venn eeh sha – didn’t seem difficult.  I ran into her at a plant I worked at.  It must have been more difficult than I thought.  Now she was addressed as vanessa.

I’ve admitted the Scottish lad is saddled with the English name of Smith, even if it is really German.  My half-sister was born a Hepburn, but changed to Smith when Mom remarried.  She went out and married another Smith, not related to us.  She was throwing a Christmas get-together one year.  There were my parents, the other set of parents, the sister and her husband, myself and my wife, my brother and his wife, and my two adult nephews, each with a wife.  The phone rang, and a telemarketer asked to speak to “Mrs. Smith.”  “Which one do you want?”  We got a snotty, “How many do you have?”  Seven in the room at this moment.

My first name isn’t John, but for the sake of this post it is.  I’ve come to know about a lot of local John Smiths.  The wife and I were watching a late movie one Saturday morning around 2 AM, when the phone rang.  “Hey.  This is Guido.  I’m checkin’ in!”  Who in Hell is Guido and why is he calling me?  Seems there’s parole officer named John Smith.  Shouldn’t Guido have his contact number?  Did he lose it?

I got an angry call from some guy promising to come over to the house and punch my lights out.  Why would you do that?  “I got half way to the next town and my transmission fell out.”  Again, so?  “Well, ain’t you John Smith of John’s Transmissions?”  No, and next time take a business card.

When I first came to town, I took an adult retraining course from the community college.  A ten month course took me sixteen months to get out of because I worked as acting office manager for three weeks, and taught a class to others, for four months.  I got a tentative call one evening.  Is this John Smith?  Yes. From Adult Education?  How do I answer that?  It’s been years.  Turns out there’s a new teacher named John Smith.  We finally decided to put the phone in the wife’s name, listing only her initials.

I went to the nearby dental clinic for work on a right, lower molar.  The technician stuck a freezing needle in on the upper left.  Another John Smith had moved into the neighborhood, and picked the nearest dentist.  I got his anesthetic shot, and then I got my own.  I walked around for the rest of the day with my face falling off the front of my head.  Since then I’ve learned to double-check birth date and/or address before any procedure.

Once, I lived downtown, five blocks off the main street, where there was a bank on the corner.  Since it was handy, I opened accounts there.  Two old century-houses directly across the street were torn down, and a ten-storey apartment building went up.  John Smith from Kingston, five hundred miles away, came to town to find work and moved into an apartment.

My street number was 250.  His was 251.  He went to the nearest bank and opened accounts.  Our checks and deposit forms both had account numbers in magnetic coded ink at the bottom, but the tellers would scratch them out.  If I made a deposit, they put it in his account.  If he wrote a check, they took it out of my account.  Despite promises to straighten the mess out, they bounced my rent check three months in a row, and couldn’t understand why I went to another bank.

Smith is an easy and common name.  I once worked with a girl from three hundred miles away, by the name of Kauffeldt.  She met, here, and married, a 42nd cousin from the same area, also named Kauffeldt.  Talk about not having to change the initials on the towels.  I’ve got it under control now, but, for a time I thought of taking my little buddy’s name, Bftzplyk, and just pronounce it Smith.

Seinfeld Re-Run

Being another collection of unrelated thoughts which carom and rattle around inside my vacant skull.  Think of this as mental spring-cleaning, which it would be, if this were spring.  This is fall.  By the time I post this, I will have overnight become 68 years old, and that fact should be obvious.

I recently, righteously, slagged four female Canadian singers.  I ran out of space and energy before I could include a fifth.  I give you the, famous in her own mind, even when she’s out of it, Nelly Furtado.  Like the others, Nelly is a decent singer and performer.  Unlike Shania Twain, she doesn’t have a long history of verbal malaprops.  She managed to do it all in one TV interview.

This one occurred just as she was breaking out.  She was booked on a meet-the-artist show on MuchMusic, Canada’s we-don’t-need-no-stinkin’-American MTV, alternative.  For a half an hour she unwittingly proved herself to be an up-and-coming Canadian racist.  Everything she bragged about herself, was because she was Portuguese, not Portuguese-Canadian, just Portuguese.

She was born in British Columbia.  Her first big song, I’m Like a Bird, contains the line, “I’m like a bird.  I don’t know where my home is.”  I think it fitting that, the only bird which doesn’t know where its home is, is a cuckoo.  The same pair of robins flew back from Florida, and nested in my porch for five or six years. Apparently, she also doesn’t know where the National Geographic Channel is.

She claimed to be a great song-writer because she was Portuguese.  I don’t know what that says about Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot or Buffy Saint-Marie, who have Jewish, English and Cree heritage, respectively.  She lauded herself about her high morals because she was Portuguese, and I almost choked.  I’ve watched Portuguese girls coming home from Catholic school on the bus.  The only thing sluttier, might be some Romanian girls.  The only thing they don’t show is restraint.

I’d even forgive the Portuguese references if her parents had been born there, but they weren’t.  They come from the Azores Islands, which are to Portugal, what Newfoundland is to Canada, only more so.  Further out in the ocean, more isolated, more ignored, poorer, less literate, if it weren’t for the fact that several airlines use the big island for trans-Atlantic fuelling, they’d be eating jelly-fish and smoking seaweed.

There was another blogger, whose site was also called Archons Den.  He was a Filipino who posted on BlogSpot.  He was big into electronics, posting about Smartphones, iPods, expensive car stereos and big-screen TVs.  He may have gone bankrupt.  I haven’t seen a new post in almost a year.  Archon is also the name given to a yearly science-fiction conference in Kansas City.  I believe this year is number 37.

Booksellers like Chapters have a current book for sale, titled “Archon.”  It’s sort of an H E Ellis’, Reapers With Issues, crossed with 50 Shades of Grey.  A book titled, “The Archon”, is a children’s story about a trek to seek peace with the Rain Queen.  I’m honored, in a vague way, but I think I’ll skip them both.

The niece who ate Ex-Lax, but only drank Javex once, went with her parents and siblings for a weekend visit with her other grandparents on their farm.  Out of her clothes and into a nightgown, the six-year-old wanted to know what was in the coffee-pot protruding over the edge of the stove.  She pulled it down on her left shoulder, and the boiling coffee was held like a sponge by the flannelette nightie.  By the time the adults pulled it off the screaming child, she had been burned so badly that she developed a quarter-inch thick mass of scar tissue from the base of her neck to her vaccination mark.

Mr. Automotive Q&A published another duh-mb letter this week.  The writer wanted him to help, because he had bought a used car from a dealer.  He gave the salesman a cheque, which had been cashed.  The day he bought the car, he needed to do some running around, so he got them to let him take the car out.  He was to return it, and they were to do a safety on it.  When he brought it back, the dealership refused to safety his car, and he wanted the columnist to pressure them into it.  That’s his story, and it sounds straightforward.

Mr. Q&A did some phoning, and quickly found out that:  He left the dealer’s lot at about noon on a Friday.  He was supposed to return the car before end of workday.  Closing time came, no car.  Monday came and went, no car!  Tuesday came and went, no car!!  On Wednesday, the dealer plate and its holder were hanging on the dealer’s front door when they opened for business.  That was early in April!  Now, early in September, he wants them to do all the work necessary to pass a government test, and of course, they demurred.

In Q&A’s response, he told the guy that the dealer was willing to do the rear brakes, which should have been fixed five months ago, along with several other minor repairs.  They would not replace the windshield which was not cracked when he took possession, nor the right headlight, which was working when he left.  Since he drove 3800 kilometers after he left, they would also not replace the alternator or the windshield wipers.  They would do the emission testing, but he would have to pay for any parts needed to get the car to pass.

The dealer admitted that they should never have let him off the lot, and should have notified the Ontario Transport Ministry when the car did not return.  Mr Q&A, and the rest of us, assume he was driving for five months with illegal licence plates, not registered to the car.  Also, since the vehicle was not in his name, he drove for the five months without the legally required insurance.  Q&A gave him one week from the date of the column printing to get all this stuff done, because, as a licensed mechanic, he is legally bound to inform the ministry, if he has knowledge of non-compliance.

This all happened in Southwestern Ontario, but I’ll bet you drove past a car today, driven by a yahoo like this.  Scary as hell, isn’t it?