Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

The Burglar Who Stole My Heart

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Did I mention that I like to read? And that my favorite genre is mystery?
I have 16 shelves of books devoted to various mysteries, most being books in series, some single examples. I think there are more in the basement. And in my bedroom. And on my Kindle.

This love of mysteries started in grade school with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and the Three Investigators. In junior high I moved up to Barbara Michaels and Mary Stewart, and was glad that the ladies were prolific writers. When I was 19, I joined The Mystery Guild and branched out.

And then one day, I fell in love with a burglar.

Bernie Rhodenbarr began letting himself into houses without a key a year or two before I graduated from high-school. When I met him, he’d already pulled a couple of jobs, nearly gone down for murder, and dealt justice to a few scoundrels. I immediately ordered the rest of the series and waited impatiently for more.

Bernie is a pretty unassuming guy to be the hero of a whole series. He’s a quiet bachelor who’s kind to his elderly neighbor, appreciates the art he steals, and loves to read. He’s a little of a renaissance man, appreciating fine cognac, attending the occasional play or concert, dining at a private club, dressing correctly for every occasion. A decent, steady kind of fellow. And then he’s also a dashing rogue, who just occasionally opens locked doors, helps himself to a few choice morsels, and thoughtfully locks up behind himself when he leaves.

Alas, Bernie’s creator, Lawrence Block, was enjoying the adventures of Matt Scudder and Evan Tanner, and he ignored Bernie for years at a time. After The Burglar in the Rye, back at the turn of the century (this one,) I’d not heard from Bernie again except when a sleepless night sent me on a visit to a familiar adventure. My copies of the Burglar books are well worn and showing their age now, a little like me.

BUT HE’S BACK! This year for Christmas, Block is treating us to another adventure with the gentleman burglar, and if you haven’t fallen in love with Bernie in the past, here’s your chance. We find our rogue hero doing what he does best—selling books in his book store, that is. Can he help it that people look him up there and offer tempting challenges? Soon he’s deeply involved in rounding up early American silver, solving a murder for his old friend Ray, and enjoying his popularity with the ladies. With his henchperson to help and some unofficial investigating along the way, Bernie soon puts things to right. Well, maybe not right, but at least all the guilty pay.

Through the years, as I and my books got older, Bernie didn’t age much, but he kept up with the times. When we started off together, he didn’t even have a cell phone. These days, he’s using burner phones, googling bad guys and lamenting the popularity of Kindle.

I, too, lament the Kindle, even as I have decided I like reading with it. Yes, I love the feel and weight and smell and appearance of real books. In my fondest dream, I own a store like Bernie’s and sit among good friends and new aquaintences, surrounded by reading for every mood and need, sharing these treasures with customers and aquiring new ones. But unless I take up burglary, I’m as unlikely to be able to do that as I am to turn a corner in New York, wander into a bookstore and toss some wadded paper for Raffles while lunching with Bernie and Carolyn on Juneau Lock.

What does the future hold for Bernie? I don’t know if he’ll be back for another adventure. I always hope. But if this was the last time we hear from him, it was worth the wait, and so much fun that I might just start my second reading tonight.


Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

I came home from work today to find my electricity is off.  I had noticed that the traffic light a few blocks from home wasn’t working, but didn’t think anything of it until I tried to turn on my dining room light and nothing happened.  Bulbs all out in the chandelier?  Hmmm, probably not.  No lights on the printer, no display on the phone.  I deduced very cleverly that there is a neighborhood power outage.

What a treat!  The power NEVER goes off at my house for more than a minute.  After 19 ½ years in the same location, I can remember only twice when the power was off more than a minute.  Once was when my kids were very small, and a car took out a power pole a couple of blocks away.  The second time was in the middle of an ice storm.  It took over a week to restore power to much of the area.  Mine was off for two or three hours total.  I’ve also never lost water pressure during a water main break.  I live in utility heaven.

So I walked around enjoying the quiet.  You don’t realize how much noise electricity makes until it’s all turned off.  There is a wonderful stillness without that almost unheard hum of appliances and computers and charging batteries.  I made some tea (because my water heater is gas!) and, congratulating myself on having the battery charged in my laptop, I sat down to work at my computer.  I turned it on, signed in, clicked on e-mail….AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!! NO INTERNET!  I looked over at the modem—not one light lit up!  No friendly wink of worldwide information sharing!  No email!  No online Multiple Listing Service!  No bill paying!  NO FACEBOOK!!!

Maybe I could watch a movie?  Nope, TV won’t come on.  I could do laundry.  No, same problem.  I could catch up on my email.  Head shake.  Take a look at my TO DO list….which is in my email.  And my computer battery is running down fast!  WHAT WILL I DO????

I’m pretty sure I know what I WON’T do.  I won’t be moving to anyplace where the electricity goes out very often.  This visit to utility Hell is not quite two hours old, but it’s been long enough to make me sure of where I want to spend eternity.  I’m going to take a nap.  And if I should die before I wake, I hope my Heavenly mansion gets Roadrunner Turbo.

The Facebook Club

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I’ve been out of high school a lot longer than I’d like to think about. I really hadn’t kept in touch with my friends. The ones I spent the most time with moved away, and I’m not good at maintaining long distance contacts. But with “social networking” all the rage, I got a Facebook page, and suddenly there were people I hadn’t seen in years, asking to be my “friend” and posting 30 year old memories. And it was like we’d always been together.

I went to a fairly small high school. I knew everyone in my class, along with most of the kids in the three years before and three years after I graduated. Give me a few minutes and I’ll name’em all. I knew their siblings and their parents.

The funny thing is that I guess my memory isn’t as good as I thought. I get friend requests from people I don’t remember until I look them up in the yearbook. I can’t remember who were siblings and who were cousins. Some people I remember well from grade school but was surprised to learn they were still around at graduation. Or that they weren’t. Looking through the yearbook, I’m shocked to see how many people I haven’t thought about at all since we left. I knew all these kids. Didn’t I?

So I have renewed close friendships, happily made new ones, dug out old pictures and newspapers, and rebooted my memory. I’ve chatted long into the night with some people, while I may just leave birthday wishes on the walls of others. I admire all the children and (GASP!) grandchildren, and pray for parents who are getting along in years. As I see my own children growing up and preparing to leave high school behind, I’m learning to cherish that time.

The best part is that it’s not at all like high school. We share a history, which gives a foundation to new friendships. Some of us share specific stories and memories. But the petty things which kept us in our separate cliques, the insecurities that kept us from talking to someone different from us, the jealousies that kept us from being happy for someone else’s success, are gone. We don’t have to keep up an image anymore—the jock, the good girl, the brain, the doper. We’re not the Breakfast Club anymore. The dumb kids aren’t dumb. The pretty girls are still pretty, even if they’re chubby now. The jocks have brains and the brains are coaching their kids. And we all have real feelings and dreams.

So here’s an apology for any hurt feelings I caused. Some forgiveness for hurts done to me. A thank you for little acts of kindness and a promise that if I ever get rich, I’ll buy pizza at Fred’s for everyone to pay back all the pizza I bummed when I was broke. I was blessed to have such friends when I was growing up. I’m blessed now to have them back.

Lost in Automation

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I am on medication for high blood pressure. My insurance company pays part of the cost for this medicine, and that’s nice. They also send me fliers and magazines and emails about wellness, which include ideas on lowering blood pressure without medicine-smart, since if I quit taking it, they won’t be paying for it. I have a suggestion to help them with this endeavor. HIRE AN OPERATOR!

Yes, today I called my insurance company. The woman who answered the phone had a fairly pleasant voice with a flat mid-western accent. She greeted me nicely and asked if I was a provider or a patient. That’s when my blood pressure started to rise. I REFUSE to speak to a computer as if it were a real person. Sorry, I’m not going to do it. If a computer is going to answer the phone and route my call, it should be easy to tell by the “press one” list that the company is saving money by not hiring a real person to do this job (and thank you for not hiring India.) See, I also called my cellphone company today, and while I hate their menus and “press one” instructions, at least I don’t feel like an idiot. Talking to the nice fake lady makes me feel like a freak. (And no, she won’t let me bypass her questions by pressing zero. She is a tyrant.)

Once, after ranting to the poor woman who finally answered the phone, I found out that each choice the fake lady gives has a corresponding number on your phone, so yes is one, no is two, and in a list of choices, just count each one and press the number. So I no longer speak to the fake lady, ever. But there is also no “undo” among the choices, so every mistake means beginning again (para espanol, el prima DOS.)

So my health suffers a little more each time I’m forced to speak to my insurance company. My blood pressure is higher, my stroke risk soars. But that’s what insurance is for.