A To Z Challenge – U

april-challenge

When NBC convinced Johnny Carson to move his Tonight show from New York City to California, the changeover happened quite quickly.   His Burbank studio was ready far before he had a chance to buy or rent accommodations on the Left Coast.

He was put up for almost two months in a luxury suite at a ritzy local hotel. I don’t know if it was just having to live in unfamiliar, if posh, surroundings; if there was some friction between him and hotel staff and management; or if it was just an easy target for the gag-writers jokes.

Every night for weeks, there was a snide comment, and the Sheraton Universal was changed and referred to in his monologues as the Sheraton Unspeakable, the Sheraton Unreasonable, the Sheraton Uninhabitable, the Sheraton Untenable, the Sheraton Unbearable.

It was almost amazing how many U-shaped insults were crafted.  Finally, one night it became simply the Sheraton Unique, and we come to the word for this post about

letter-u

I recently composed a post about how huge percentages of the population have an overwhelming compulsion for conformity. They must be like everyone else, and everybody else must be exactly like them.

When the grandson was small, he was diagnosed with a variety of food allergies. Several of them caused behavioral problems, something the non-plagued are often not aware of.  Certain chemicals and compounds in food can cause physical and neurological stress, in turn causing moodiness, edginess, irritability, anger and lack of focus.

As a child it was relatively easy for his mother to watch his intake and ensure that he took his medication. As he neared puberty, and his character was developing, he regressed to sullen disinterest, if not disobedience, more so than most tweens.  Careful cross-examination revealed that he was sneaking foods from classmates, and not taking his pills.

When he was asked why he was doing this, even knowing his allergies, his answer was that he didn’t want to have allergies. He didn’t want a restrictive diet.  He didn’t want to take pills.  He just wanted to be like everyone else.

It didn’t take long to prove to him that ‘everyone else’ wasn’t like ‘everyone else.’ His Mom and his Grandma had to avoid certain foods and take medications.  When he looked closer, he found classmates with similar restrictions and needs.

Grandma, the chef, pointed out that the spelt-based cookies, cakes, bread and rolls, even the spelt-crust pizza, with lactose-free cheese and tamarind sauce, instead of tomato, were treats that no-one else got to have. Did he want her to stop making them for him?  The way to a man’s head, as well as his heart, is often through his stomach.

As a knowledgeable adult he can control the allergic affects, although he is still careful. As well as being a friendly, caring young man, he is largely indistinguishable from the rest of the herd, but he takes pride in knowing that he, like all the rest of us, is one-of-a-kind.  He is unique!  I don’t know why more of us can’t embrace that.

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What Time Is It Now?

I waited the other night till after the son had left for work, shortly before 10:30 PM, to have a bath.  I like to soak, and I took three books with me, but also wanted to see the Tonight Show. (Didn’t matter!  It was a rerun.)  That gave me just an hour, and three books can be quite a distraction, so I did as I usually do.  I took my old Timex work watch with me and placed it where I could keep an eye on the time.

As the water cooled, and I ate into the second book, I glanced at the watch – 11:10.  Seemed like it should be later than that, so I craned my head around the shower-wall (Which is why I take the watch with me.), and the clock above the door read 11:20.  Time to wash up and get out – or is it??  “Honey, what time is it?”  “Almost quarter after; the bathroom clock runs a bit fast.”

I had feared that the old Timex was running slow because I haven’t put a new battery in it since well before I quit work, over three years ago.  I have two wrist watches, the 20-year-old Timex which only follows me for a bath now, and a gold Rolex-look-alike which I only wear when I go out.  I’ll probably not bother to put another battery in old Digital Dan when he croaks.  The son wears exactly the same model, and I offered it to him, but he declined.

I never wear a watch in the house because I have All The Time In The World.  As I said, we have a clock on the wall in the bathroom.  I could adjust it to run a little slower, but it nudges the wife to be ready just a little earlier when we have a doctor’s appointment to get to.

You can’t get away from clocks these days.  They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere!  In the computer room, there’s one in the computer, one in the microwave that the wife uses to heat bead-bags for her arthritis, and one on the wall.

There are two digital alarm-clocks in the bedroom, as well as the ones available in the TV, and through it, the satellite box.  The same set-up in the rec-room, plus the ones staring at you from the DVD player and the Blu-Ray.

With both a DVD and a Blu-ray, we’ve got rid of our old VHS.  At least if you couldn’t set the clock on a VHS, all it did was sit there and flash 12:00, 12:00, 12:00, but it worked.  In the kitchen we have a clock in the microwave, a clock in the stove and a clock in the toaster oven.  If the power goes out for any reason, we have to go around and reset all these clocks, or the appliances won’t function.

We also have a wall clock in the kitchen, and a desk clock in the living room.  It is said that a man with one watch knows exactly what time it is.  A man with two watches is never sure.  With the exception of the wife-nudger in the bathroom, I try to make sure that every clock in the house is at least at the same minute.

I had an online discussion with Jim Wheeler about the number of gadgets in our houses which steadily eat our electricity.  The bathroom clock, the kitchen wall-clock and the desk clock all tick, even though they run on batteries.  All of the rest of them, whether I want, or use, the clock function, quietly, continuously, just keep sucking up the power.  At least the new 12-volt toys use far less electricity than the old 120 V units, but there’s so many more of them.

The first electric clock we had in my family home, was a 120V, plug-in model.  We placed it on the wall at a spot where it could be easily seen, and went to plug in the cord, only to find the receptacle about five inches too far to the right.  Oh well, says Dad, and firmly pulled the cord.  It plugged in but, for years, that clock hung on a 10 degree slant.  It lasted for decades, but, not meant to be on a slant, after about ten years it developed a noticeable grind-y whine, yet kept perfect time.

Towns used to set their time by the sun, and residents knew what time it was, vaguely, by town hall or church bells.  The development of railroads, in Europe, but especially in North America, created a need for some agreement on “What Time Is It?” over hundreds, or thousands, of miles.  Several others had proposed limited plans, but a Scottish-born Canadian, Sir Sanford Fleming, oversaw the birth of both a trans-Canada railroad, and the 24-hour, world-encompassing Standard Time Zone system.

The continued rise of, and finer division of, technology, has produced more and finer divisions of time.  This is important for both individual machines and systems, and co-ordination between/among numerous, far-flung operations.  GPS knows where you are, because it knows “exactly” when.  It’s just that I sometimes feel that I’m drowning in TIME.

They’re almost impossible to find, but I wish I had a microwave that just microwaved, a stove that just cooked, and a toaster oven that just heated.  I feel almost threatened in my own home when I roam around in the dark, with those red and blue eyes staring accusingly at me from the dark.  I’m sure I could make do with the wind-up timer the wife uses in the laundry room.

Good grief, you old Luddite!  Get with the 21st Century!  What next?  You’ll want a cell phone that only makes and takes telephone calls?  I’ll use the reminder app. on my camera phone to send you a picture of one.

Yay! Olympics!

When I was about eight years old, my father bought a camper-trailer.  Unlike today’s lightweight units, this one was built like a small shed, heavy as sin.  Being trailering tyros, we took along four full-sized concrete blocks to support the corners.  Thank something, that the days of heavy, powerful cars were not past.  I don’t know how we pulled that monster, but from then till I was 14, we went somewhere every summer.

I need to clean out the paint locker at the back of my mind and offer up another story of how a small-town boy had his horizons widened a bit.  In the meantime, this story isn’t about a trip.  It’s about who we saw when our trip was interrupted.

This was the summer of 1953, or ’54.  We had been camping here and there for almost two weeks.  We were moving from north to south, somewhere just east of Toronto.  We almost reached a main east/west highway and were stopped by a Provincial Police officer.  He told us we’d have to go back and around another way, or find a place to park at the side of the road until “She” went through.  She, who??  Queen Elizabeth, of course!  He took pity on a family of campers, and told us how to get down to the little city ahead, and where to park, but insisted that we could not cross the main road until after the parade.

We followed his directions, and decided that, if we were stranded, we might as well get a vantage-point on the sidewalk.  Mom and Dad piled up at the back of the crowd.  Mom was 4’ 11”, I don’t know if she saw anything.  Dad was 6’, he might have.  I was about eight or nine.  I just insinuated myself through the crush until I was right down front.  The crowd ran right to the curb, and wasn’t allowing any room, even for a little kid, so I just stepped off the curb and stood in front.  As the Queen and Prince Philip rolled regally through town, I was only eight feet away from her.  Big F…..ng Deal!  Can we get back to camping now?

It happened again last Friday night.  The wife and I went down to the Rec room, to watch Jay Leno, and there was that damned woman interrupting my planned enjoyment again.  The Tonight show was delayed by an hour for a broadcast of the opening of the Olympic Games.  Well, it wasn’t just her.  I got to see David Beckham, a man who makes his living on dry land, row his boat up the Thames and pass off a fancy cigarette lighter to some other guy, who gave it to a passel of pre-teen arsonists, who managed to start a big fire on the ground.

Get the feeling I’m none too impressed, yet??  How observant!  Actually, as shows go, it was a decent show.  The pacing fireworks as Bend-it’s boat raced up the river, how the individual copper leaves on the ground rose on gas-pipes, to amalgamate and form the Cauldron, the fireworks that went off after the flame was lit, all of these were grand theater.  At least they went off in a timed display, not like San Diego’s 10-second, Fourth of July, boom and fizzle.  But theater was all it was.  Bread and circuses for the masses.  Proof of this is the fact that responsibility for the show was given to a Hollywood director.

Owned, sponsored and controlled by multi-national corporations, it reminded me of the movie Demolition Man.  Do you know that attendees’ clothing style was restricted and controlled?  If you were wearing a tee-shirt mentioning Pepsi-Cola, you would be prevented from entering, because Coca-Cola bought all soft-drink promotional rights?

Perhaps it’s because I learned early that I can’t compete, but I’ve always been more of a fan of co-operation.  For every competition, there’s only one winner, and all the rest of 203 countries, are just a bunch of losers.  It’s all just a feel-good societal ego sop.  Millions of dollars poured into each country’s athletes’ training and transportation.  Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of hours spent training for this soap opera, and when it’s all over, even if “we” garner a few fake medals, not a job has been created, our GNP has not increased, nor the national debt reduced, and banks still need bailing.

Us vs. Them prevails.  Tribalist chest thumping.  I wouldn’t be so cynical if people watched simply to see top-level athletic performance.  They’ll tell you that’s why they watch, but, the same folks who haven’t even driven past a swimming pool in the last four years, are suddenly experts on synchronized three-meter diving.

These games are supposed to promote international fellowship but their very competitive format prevents it.  It all boils down to, “Our team doctor is better at masking performance-enhancing drugs than your team doctor.”

Some of the “sports” that are getting in are just ridiculous.  One person synchronized swimming?  I could send over a dictionary so they can look up the meaning of synchronized.  And the little girls running around on gym mats, waving sticks with ribbons on them??!  Are they just so chi-chi that they got kicked out of drum-majorette school?  Trampoline?!  I thought the kids down the street were just playing.  Good Lord, what’s next, Tiddly-Winks and pie baking?

Ah well, it is the middle of the summer, and there’s almost nothing else on television.  Everyone can watch what they want but, I don’t watch chick-flicks.  If I watch something by a big movie director, it better have some adult language, rock-‘em-sock-‘em Kung Fu action, car chases, explosions, and maybe a little gratuitous nudity in it.  Why is Victoria fully clothed??!

I’ve kept my eyes tightly closed for a week now.  It’s half-way over.  Soon I won’t have to worry about this meaningless display for another four years.  What’s that??  What Winter Olympics in two years??  Will it include competitive Sno-Cone Serving?  Where’s a good movie when I need one?