After Life

I’ve started watching a new series on Netflix. It’s called “After Life”. It stars Ricky Gervais as Tony, a man who just lost his wife to cancer and becomes depressed and suicidal and tries to plod onward as best he can. 

The first episode was indeed depressing. But I somehow already started developing an attachment to the character, so I watched episode two. I’m glad I did. Episode two was better. The humor started coming out, some of it laugh out loud funny, and characters started forming relationships, and it’s now the show that I most look forward to watching every day. 

I won’t say too much more about the show. You can try it and see if it is for you. I imagine it’s not for everyone. But one last thing I want to mention regards one of the differences between US and English society. (The show takes place in England.)

Here in the states, when you want to get out of a conversation, it’s often uncomfortable and awkward. You say something like this. “Well, it’s been really nice talking with you, but I have to go. I have a thing.” You know, the THING! Or if you are at a party and are not leaving, you have to come up with something else. “I need to get some food.” That does not always work, because the person who doesn’t stop talking to you might follow you to the food table. So maybe you tell them you have to use the restroom. But sometimes they don’t take the hint, and they follow you there too. Ugh! Annoying. 

In England, as I’ve learned, it’s very easy. You just say “Cheers” and walk away. Nice and simple and short and sweet. Works every time. 

Cheers!

My Crossroads

The year was 1983. I was about to graduate from college in Philadelphia, and I had some choices to make. As I saw it, there were two directions my life could take. I could get a permanent job, or I could continue on to graduate school. 

At the time, I actually had a job, in my field, which I did not necessarily consider permanent, as I was working to simultaneously complete two bachelor’s degrees. I’ve always been a multitasker. 

I had an interview with RCA, in Moorestown, New Jersey. That’s Moorestown, not to be confused with Morristown, which is another town in New Jersey. This was explained to me, so I didn’t drive to the wrong part of New Jersey! Oh, and also not to be confused with Morristown Pennsylvania, or Morrisville, Pennsylvania. Got it?

I remember the person who was interviewing me at RCA told me before the interview was over that I would be receiving an offer. Job hunting was so easy, I thought! A few days later, I got a letter in the mail from RCA with an offer for a full time job paying $25,000 a year. 

I had another interview with TRW, in Redondo Beach, CA. They flew me out, and they gave me a rental car, a 1983 Toyota Corolla. Orange. I remember how fun it was to be on my own, driving a car in a new city. Being from Philadelphia, I assumed the hot spot was downtown, so I drove to downtown Los Angeles. Mistake! First, I was quickly introduced to the jammed 405 and the jammed 10 and jammed 110 freeways. Second, there was nothing of interest in downtown LA in 1983! Realizing that I made a mistake, I drove back to Redondo Beach and parked near the beach. That looked like a cool place. I liked it! I imagined myself living in a house near the beach, growing mother nature in my back yard. Hey, I was only 21.

I don’t remember this very clearly, but I’m pretty sure that TRW also offered me a job, and they offered a bit more than RCA. Maybe $27,000. I turned this down right away. I wasn’t ready to permanently move across the country just yet.

I had a third interview with the Naval Air Development Center (NADC), in Warminster, Pennsylvania. I still remember the man who interviewed me. He had curly hair and was wearing wire framed glasses. He also told me I would be receiving an offer, and he even tried to sell me on the job. He said the government pays less than private industry, but it has benefits, namely, you don’t have to work hard, you’ll never get laid off, and when you retire, you’ll get a pension.

A few days later, I received the official offer in the mail from NADC, a full-time job paying $17,000 a year. He wasn’t kidding that government jobs paid less, but I remembered his pitch.

After I received my diploma, I told my boss, at the software job I didn’t necessarily consider permanent, that I had received another offer from RCA for $25,000. He had been paying me minimum wage, since I had not yet received my degree. When he found out that I got an offer from a real company for $25k, without hesitation, he said he’d counter the offer with $28k.

I thought about this for a while, and I ended up accepting the counteroffer. My recollection over the years was that I accepted this offer, rather than taking the job at NADC, because money NOW was more important to me at age 21 than a stable job with a pension at retirement. I also was still considering going to graduate school in the fall.

As late summer approached, I was accepted to graduate schools. First New York University, then Berkeley, then UCLA. Remembering my fun couple of days at the TRW interview, I decided to take the offer from UCLA.

I obtained my Master’s degree in 1986. It took me three years, because I was also working simultaneously, from the second year onward. Still multitasking! Along the way, I bought my first car, a 1984 Orange Toyota Corolla. I kept that job for seven years, and then went on to the job that would define my adult career, which kept me employed for 29 years.

As I had friends who worked for the government and had either retired and were receiving pensions, or had plans to stay at their government jobs until they were vested in their pensions, I asked myself if I had made a mistake turning down that job at NADC. And the memory that was still with me was that I foolishly turned down the job at NADC because it did not pay enough.

As my 29 year career at my last company came to an abrupt end this year (thank you very much Covid economy!) I was again thinking back on my decision not to accept the offer at NADC. If I had accepted that offer, I could be receiving a pension now, instead of applying for unemployment benefits for the first time in my life.

So here I am at another crossroads. And it’s the first time ever in my life that I’m not working or in school or doing SOMETHING, with the exception of one or two summers in my early teens when I was too old to go to summer camp and not old enough yet to work. And this free time, off the treadmill I’ve been on for so many years, gave me time to think. 

With thinking came some newfound clarity, and I had an amazing revelation. The reason I turned down the job at NADC was NOT because of the lower salary. I suddenly remembered this very clearly. I did not want to work for the Navy! I did not want a job that contributed to killing people.

When I realized this, I also realized that I had a new blog post that I would have to write. I started typing it into my phone, and about ten minutes later, I switched over to my computer to finish it. I Googled to verify what NADC stood for. I knew N was for Navy, A was for Air, and C was for Center. I thought D was probably for Development, but I wanted to be sure. And yes, NADC did stand for Naval Air Development Center. 

But I also found some other things. First, the facility closed in 1996, and some of its operations were transferred to a facility in San Diego. But a few years before it closed, the base was renamed NAWC, which stood for Naval Air Warfare Center. Warfare! OMG. So glad I didn’t take that job!

Also, and I can’t believe I never noticed this before, the NADC facility was in Warminster, Pennsylvania. That’s WAR-minster. I had to look up the history of Warminster to see if there was a military significance to the name. Apparently, it was named after Warminster, England, which was originally called Worgemynstre. And it turns out, Warminster, England was the site of some battles in the English Civil War.

Peace.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon strikes again

I learned a new acronym today. HOG.

I was watching Jeopardy. It was Wednesday’s episode, which was “from the vault”. It was originally broadcast as Million Dollar Masters in 2002.

Round one.
Category: Mind Your Own Business
Clue: This motorcycle manufacturer sponsors an owners group called HOG.
Question: What is Harley Davidson?

Hmm. I’d never heard of HOG before. A useless tidbit of information, I thought.

When Jeopardy was over, I tuned to Netflix to watch the final episode of season 6 of Grace and Frankie. In this episode (SPOILER ALERT!), Sol buys himself a Harley. Robert laments that they are short on money, partly because Sol is now “a HOG man”!

Wow. I just learned a new word, and not even 30 minutes later, I see it in use! There must be a word for this phenomenon!

Coincidentally, I also felt a sense of deja vu, as if I had written about this before! Yep, in my blog post from 2018, I wrote about learning the word “bibelot”, and then seeing it again five minutes later!

But wait, there’s more. Earlier in the evening, I was reading a Reader’s Digest article that came up in my Facebook feed. The title of the article was “Only English Majors Will Know These 26 Words from the Thesaurus”.
The second word mentioned in the article was “bibelot”!

That Girl and the Coronavirus

I was reading the news yesterday, and I came across the word “awry”. Whenever I see that word, I think of an episode of That Girl. In the episode, Ann’s father, Lou, pronounces the word incorrectly as AWW-ree, and Don corrects him and says it’s pronounced uh-RYE. And so starts a series-long rivalry between Don and Lou.

I did a Google search to find out which episode that was, and I found that all five seasons of That Girl are available to stream for free on Amazon Prime Video. Yay!

I used to watch That Girl back in the day, and I’ve seen all the episodes, some, multiple times. I remember my grandmother was a fan of the show, and this was something she and I bonded over.

As I was browsing the episodes in the Amazon app, I naturally went to Season 5, which originally aired in 1970-1971. I was old enough to watch that season as it originally aired on Friday nights, on our black and white Zenith TV. What immediately caught my eye was S5E19, Chef’s Night Out. Here is a description of that episode, which was not about COVID-19.

“Running her father’s restaurant is tough for Ann and Don when the staff comes down with a virus.”

I rewatched the episode today. First the maitre d catches the virus. Then the chef becomes infected. And then some customers. I couldn’t help but notice the crowded room full of customers in the restaurant sitting less than six feet apart with no masks. It made me nostalgic. For February!

There is another episode of That Girl that has been on my mind recently. It’s S3E3, titled Eleven Angry Men and That Girl. In the episode, Ann is assigned to a jury. The case is about a man who is accused of hitting his wife with an ashtray, bruising her face and knocking out two teeth. The jury votes, and it is 11 to 1, with Ann being the only juror voting not guilty.

As Ann is unable to convince the jury that there is reasonable doubt, the jury is sequestered in a hotel overnight. The next morning in the jury room, Ann comes up with a convincing argument. She says that the defendant was right-handed. She has another juror help her reenact the alleged crime scene. She argues that if he had hit her, as alleged, the left side of her face would be bruised, since he was right-handed and she was facing him. But the bruise and missing teeth were on the right side of her face, consistent with the husband’s account of her falling and hitting her face on the side of the chair, which was on her right.

After hearing this, the jury votes again, and it is 12-0 to acquit. Back in the courtroom, the foreman reads the verdict: not guilty. Upon hearing the verdict, the wife cries out. Then she and the husband get into an argument, and before long, he picks up an ashtray with his right hand and hits her on the right side of her face. Backhanded! Aha!

Why has this episode been on my mind? Ann’s argument, and the jurors’ acceptance of it, show a superficial look at the evidence. A little thought would raise the possibility that the man could have swung the ashtray in either direction, either forehandedly or backhandedly. Similarly, many people today argue that children should be sent back to school with no masks and no social distancing. They argue that children generally do not get severe cases of the coronavirus. But a little thought would raise the possibility that older teachers, parents, or grandparents of the infected children could catch the virus and become very sick or die. The old backhand!

Finally, curiosity was getting to me about the “awry” episode. I didn’t remember the context of the discussion, so I Googled and found that it happened in S2E18, titled “The Rivals”, which aired in January 1968. Ann and Don stay overnight at her parents’ house. In the morning, Lou brings in the newspaper and starts reading it. Then he states, “Well, I see we made it through another day without the world going awry.” It seems a lot has changed since 1968!

Isolation

Bored with the COVID quarantine, I decided to watch an episode of The Twilight Zone. Season 1: Episode 1. Why not? 

This episode first aired on October 2, 1959. The name of the episode was “Where is Everybody?” A man finds himself in a town with no people. He walks around the town trying to find someone to talk with. First a diner. Then a police station. No people. Not even an operator on the line when he walks into a phone booth and picks up the phone.

He starts going crazy. He can’t deal with the solitude. He just wants someone to talk to. 

At the end—spoiler alert!—we find he’s been in an isolation chamber for 484 hours. It’s an experiment by the US Air Force, in anticipation of future flights to the moon. They want to see how an astronaut will handle isolation. They take him out of the chamber on a stretcher. They ask him, “Where did you think you were?” His reply is, “A place I don’t wanna go again, sir.”

At the end, Rod Serling says, “Up there in the vastness of space, in the void that is sky, up there is an enemy, known as isolation.”

I couldn’t help but compare this with the current quarantine situation.  It’s not quite the extreme of the Twilight Zone. I see the few close family and friends in my “bubble” from time to time. And friends are always an email or text or even a phone call away. But the vast majority of time is spent alone. 

This made me think: Wouldn’t it be great if this whole thing was just an experiment, and the commanding officer woke me up and carried me out of the isolation chamber in a stretcher?

Throwback

The movie, Grease, came out in 1978. It was a throwback to the late 1950s, which at the time, seemed like very long ago.

The TV show, Happy Days, came out in 1974, even earlier. Its pilot, an episode of Love American Style called “Love and the Happy Days”, was aired even earlier, in 1972. I remember watching it with my mother. Although I was born in the 1960s, the haircuts in that episode were reminiscent of early to mid 1960s, which I did remember, and which seemed like very long ago. It seemed long ago to my mother too. I remember her commenting about it as we watched it.

As a comparison, would a movie that throws back to the 2000s feel today like it was so long ago? Or would it feel like yesterday? To me, it still feels like yesterday.

But, I also feel that this time perception is changing in 2020. Right now, 2019 is starting to feel like ages ago. I’m yearning for an episode of Modern Love that throws back to the 2010s. They could call it, “Love and the Happy Days”.

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Neatly Stacked

I normally have a busy life. I work full time, often long hours. I typically go to yoga class at least three times a week. Home, work, and yoga are in three different cities, so I am on the road every day. I normally do not have the time or the mood to prepare my own food. So in my typical life, I often eat out two meals a day.

All this has changed with the stay-at-home order that happened as a result of this coronavirus, which has domesticated me.

I call it “this coronavirus”. This reminds me of when I was a child. When there was a boy my mother didn’t like, she would use the word “this”. For example, “I don’t like this Jeffrey.” I assume all mothers do that.

On Friday night, I was watching Season 2 Episode 1 of Dead to Me. Jen’s older son, Charlie, told his mother that he was getting a ride to school from his friend, Parker. And Jen asked him, “Do I know this Parker?” I also remember in Breaking Bad, Skyler used to refer to Jessie as “this Jessie”. Interesting tie-in to Mother’s Day, huh?

Anyway, it’s definitely this coronavirus. I don’t like this coronavirus!

As a result of my new domestication, I’ve been preparing all my meals at home. This has resulted in increased awareness of my silverware drawer. And I didn’t like what I saw! Forks, spoons, knives all randomly scattered in their compartments. I tried stacking them neatly like this:

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And yes, I do realize that there is a problem with the knives. They cannot be stacked. Not sure what can be done about that.

But alas, after closing and reopening the drawer, everything was already falling off its stack and returning to random scatter.

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Although I’ve had this silverware organizer since I was first on my own in the early ’80s, I had never noticed this before. But now that I have, there is no way to get it to stop bothering me. I quickly realized that this organizer is poorly designed. The spaces are too wide. I don’t like this organizer! At this point, I realized that I have to buy a new silverware organizer!

I searched online for silverware organizers with narrower compartments. I didn’t have a lot of hope, because I realized that my obsession was atypical. But lo and behold, look what I found! A silverware organizer with this description:

Stay-Put Design
Utensils remain neatly stacked and the organizer includes sturdy non-slip feet

Wow, and yay! Amazon to the rescue! This made me feel better, because I am not the only one who cares that my silverware is neatly stacked. And what’s this? Sturdy non-slip feet? Yikes, I didn’t realize it, but not only do the forks and knives and spoons move within their compartments, but the whole tray also slides around. Thanks for pointing this out to me, Amazon!

This is what Amazon’s silverware organizer, which is also called a utensil organizer, or a cutlery tray, or a flatware tray, looks like:

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This utensil organizer sells for $16.99 and is in stock. If I order within 11 hours and 19 minutes, it will be delivered TOMORROW!

The Washer Dryer Dilemma

I had a new clothes dryer delivered and installed today. It was long overdue. The old dryer was not heating up appropriately, and the moisture sensor was not working well. As a result, if I didn’t pay attention, the dryer would run for hours. Non-action was costing me money. My gas bill last month was over $100, the first time that ever happened.

The installers arrived today at 1:30 pm, a full thirty minutes ahead of the scheduled 2:00 to 4:00 pm window. Good thing I was home!

They installed the new dryer quickly, and they did a good job. They even cleaned the area under the dryer after removing the old one.

One thing about new dryer installations is that they require four inches behind the dryer for the new improved semi-rigid venting.

After installing the new dryer, one of the men, WITHOUT ASKING, grabbed the washing machine and started pulling it out. I asked him why he was doing that, and he said, “So they are even.”

The told him to leave the washing machine where it was, as far back against the wall as possible. I have a small laundry room, and every inch of space is valuable to me. I’d rather have them uneven, but have the extra space in front of the washer.

But I have to admit, I do see his point. It looks not quite right with them not lining up evenly. It’s a dilemma. While I enjoy the inch or two of extra space in front of the washing machine, I have to tolerate the unevenness. #sophies_choice #first_world_problem

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Nosedive

plane under gray clouds
Photo by Luan Oosthuizen on Pexels.com

A friend was raving about S3E1 of Black Mirror, an episode called “Nosedive”. So I decided to give it a try.

If you are not familiar with Black Mirror, it’s a modern day Twilight Zone. Each episode has its own writer and director and is like a one-hour mini movie. Some are quite good. Nosedive is a particularly good one.

You know how Uber and Lyft let you rate your drivers? And in turn, you receive a passenger rating. The scale is 1 to 5. Well, in Nosedive, this is taken to the extreme. Every interaction with every other person you encounter in life is potentially rated by the other person. The top rating is 5, and everyone strives to get close to a 5. It is a combination of posting your life on Facebook and waiting to see how many likes you get, and the Uber rating system. As you can see, life today is almost this dystopian future, and it is certainly headed that way.

I started the episode, but less than five minutes in, I had to pause it. I was thinking about my Uber passenger rating, which by the way is a 5. (Thank you very much!) But I do not know my Lyft passenger rating. They do not show it in the app, the way Uber does.

So, I had to do a little Googling, and I found a discussion about the Lyft ratings. What I read explained that Lyft does not show your rating in your profile, but whenever a driver gives you a 5, you get an email telling you about it. No emails for lower ratings. I don’t remember receiving any such emails, but perhaps I didn’t notice. So I frantically searched all my emails for messages from Lyft, looking for those 5 ratings. And I found nothing.

I searched my Lyft ride history and found three rides. I remember all of them. I remember the drivers, and I remember giving them all 5 ratings. But no emails, so no 5 ratings?

At this point, I started to panic. I looked at Uber to make sure I still had a 5 rating there, and yes, it’s still a 5. And I’ve had seven Uber rides. So, what’s going on with Lyft? Why do I have seven perfect ratings from Uber, but none from Lyft.

I did a little more Googling, and I found that Lyft will tell you what your rating is if you email them and ask. So I did that. Three minutes later (!) I got a reply from Lawrence at Lyft telling me my passenger rating. It is a 5. Whew!

Finally, I could get back to Nosedive. The main character, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, wants to improve her rating, and she has a plan. But the plan does not go as expected, as hinted by the name of the episode. I won’t say more—no spoilers—but do know that this is a Twilight Zone type show.

In the end, I enjoyed the episode. But now I’m going to have to find alternate transportation to and from the airport, to preserve both my Uber and Lyft perfect 5 passenger ratings!

Do you like my post? You know I will be counting the likes!

Have You Never Been Mellow?

As I was driving to yoga class today, I put on my Olivia Newton-John playlist. I hadn’t listened to Olivia for quite some time, so all the songs sounded fresh.

One song had lyrics that really spoke to me: “Have You Never Been Mellow”. I must have heard that song a hundred times when it was popular in the 1970s, but this was the first time it meant something to me.

There was a time when I was in a hurry as you are
I was like you

Now I don’t mean to make you frown
No, I just want you to slow down

Have you never been mellow?
Have you never tried to find a comfort from inside you?

That’s me! I’m always in a hurry. I’m always trying to do too many things at the same time. And I’m often stressed out.

My respite from all of that is yoga. And meditation. My yoga instructor, Savita, has told me many times that I need to slow down. When I heard Olivia sing “I just want you to slow down,” I could hear the words in Savita’s voice.

So, I wrote this blog post as I waited for tonight’s yoga class to start. I arrived ten minutes early, and I had to make optimal use of those ten minutes!