Archive for January, 2018

As I was growing up in a tea-drinking family, my mother’s universal remedy for just about every conceivable ailment was a cup of tea and a side of cinnamon toast. This was so ingrained in me that even now–at the age of 67–I still find comfort in a cup of tea.

"There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea." ~Bernard-Paul Heroux

Changing Tastes

But as George Orwell tells us,

"…I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than 20 weak ones. All true tea-lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes…." ~George Orwell, "A Nice Cup of Tea," Evening Standard, 12 January 1946

In my own case, I find it to be true. Oh, I’m not ready to go full-on Orwell in my habits–I still prefer milk and sweetener in my cuppa–but neither am I content with the tea of my youth: weak, insipid tea brewed from a bag and served with so much milk and sugar that it might as well have been called tea-flavored milk.

But I’ve slowly been cutting back on the additives. Less sweetener, less milk result in a more astringent taste. A slight bitterness. Sometimes I’ll add some Tea Masala, that Indian blend of spices that results in what I call Masala Chai, and most people erroneously refer to as "Chai tea," not realizing that the very word "Chai" means "tea." So they’re ordering a cup of tea tea.

Then again, what else would you expect from the nation that gave us the baseball team called "The The Angels Angels"? And just why in the hell did they move them from Brooklyn in the first place?

But I digress.

Flavored Teas

With the exception of Masala Chai, I find the idea of adding flavors to tea quite abhorrent. You are no longer drinking tea but rather some watered-down Kool-aid substitute.

And that’s why, with rare exceptions on the even rarer exceptions that I go to a restaurant, I won’t order tea. This is simply that American restaurants don’t know how to make a proper cup of tea. And why do we spell it "rest-o-RANT" but pronounce it "REST-ront," anyway?

These are but a few of the thoughts I have whilst enjoying that all-important first cup of tea of the day. There are some mornings when all that gets me out of bed in the first place is the whistling of the kettle when my roommate boils his own pot of water to pour over the coffee grounds in his French press coffee maker.

And not even that works all of the time. Sometimes my depression is as black as my roomie’s coffee.

Still, I continue to find beauty, comfort, and bitterness in a cup of tea.

Why I Compose Blog Entries Off-Line… And Why You Should, Too!

This morning, as I was enjoying my first cup of the day—a nice Kalami Assam—I did something I’ve never done before: I had an idea for a new post, and so I opened my WordPress editor and started writing. I am a firm believer that absolutely nothing should interrupt the first cup of the day, but it was a pretty messed up morning.

To begin with, I didn’t wake up until 10:30, as opposed to my usual 09:00. So I didn’t drink my first cup until 11:00 a.m. Which is fine, if you believe in the tradition of “elevensies” (or Second Breakfast, as our Hobbit friends call it).

As I’ve mentioned earlier, my first cup is a meditation, a short period of mindfulness when I concentrate on the act of drinking the tea. With practice, I’ve managed to block out most distractions for this short time of experiencing the tea. But as I said, this was a messed-up morning, and so I wasn’t at my best.

I normally write my blog entries on my laptop, in Open Live Writer. But I also keep the WordPress app and a couple of others on both my iPhone and my iPad, in case I get an idea when I’m away from the computer. I learned long ago that I’m lying to myself when I say, “I don’t need to write it down—I’ll remember it.”

And so it was this morning: I had such a brilliant idea for an entry that I opened the WordPress app on my iPhone and spent the next 20 minutes or so composing an absolutely brilliant article, between sips of my cooling tea, and saving it as a draft.

After a wonderful fry-up breakfast—eggs, sausage, hash browns, beans, and toast(1)—I sat down at my laptop and proceeded to edit the draft.

Only to find it didn’t seem to exist. Anywhere. Not on my phone, not on my laptop—nowhere.

I had violated my own Robyn’s First Rule of Computing, which states:

Be Paranoid And Compulsive!

It’s not a matter of if you’re going lose files, but when.

My new practice in light of all of the above is to make notes in several places, or rather in several applications on whatever device I happen to be using at the time.

Yes, it’s more work. Yes, it’s a pain in the you-know-where. But not nearly as painful as losing a good idea.


(1) At this time of the month, money is scarce, and so my fry-up was lacking the beans. And the sausage. And the hash browns. Okay, so I had 2 eggs on toast.

Pretty catchy title, eh? Sometimes just coming up with an idea for a title is harder than writing an article.

I don’t speak French. Oh, sure—I know a few words, but not enough to claim I understand the entire language. And sometimes I can even understand what I’m hearing based on context and tone of voice.

Which brings me back to Skype.

Apparently, rebooting Ed’s system fixed everything. At least, when he got back from walking the dog, everything seemed to be working.

This morning, we verified my theory that I had fixed Skype when a friend in France called Ed via the program, and they talked about 30 minutes. Now here’s the thing—and the whole point of this post—about language: From what I was able to understand in my limited knowledge of French, they were both railing against modern technology in general and Skype in particular.

Let me repeat: they were both railing against modern technology in general and Skype in particular—all the while sitting in front of computers, chatting between two countries thousands of mile apart, complete with live video feeds—and not seeing the irony.

And my frustrations? I drowned them in TWO large cups of whole-leaf Assam.

To paraphrase that great American philosopher, Homer Simpson, “Tea: is there anything it can’t do?” (Homer actually asked this not of tea but of jelly donuts, but hey, poetic license!)

Frustration is…

Posted: 21 January, 2018 in Frustration, Technology
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…Trying to Provide Tech Support to Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Learn Anything

My landlord Ed is a pretty intelligent guy. My rent includes free Internet, so from time to time I have no issue helping him with his computer. But usually the first I’m aware that he’s having an issue is when I hear him downstairs, screaming at his computer.

The latest problem began when one of the agencies he contracts with for jobs told him the reason he was having problems logging into their billing system was that he needed to empty his cache and clear out all of his cookies. So he did, only to discover later when he tried to answer a call on Skype that deleting the cookies broke Skype. He could see and hear the caller, but the caller neither saw nor heard him.

Robyn to the Rescue!

Except Robyn has never used Skype, and so knows absolutely nothing about how it works (Coincidentally, my ex texted me a couple of days ago asking for help with Skype.)

Okay, okay. I can take a hint. I guess I’ll have to learn how to use Skype. But so far as Ed’s problems go, well, I’m running Windows 10 and he’s still on Windows 7. So I’m worried about possible compatibility issues between the two versions of Skype.

A Learning Disability?

Can the fact that someone refuses to learn anything new truly be considered a disability? Because this, more than anything, is Ed’s problem: he doesn’t want to learn anything new. He has his own ideas about how programs should run, and gets frustrated and angry when they don’t fit those preconceived notions.

I once considered recommending he get a computer where everything works the same way (Macintosh), but then I realized that would mean having to learn new things.

Peace and Quiet

Ed’s pretty quiet now. At least he’s not screaming at the computer any more. So I’m going to take the opportunity to sneak back upstairs and learn how to use Skype.

Because I don’t know if it’s truly quiet, or if this is the calm before the storm.

George Harrison Had it Right

Posted: 20 January, 2018 in Rants, Technology
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As a child of the ’60s, much of the soundtrack to my teenage years was provided by the Beatles. I wasn’t quite as fanatical as, say, Douglas Adams (who wrote–besides A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) also famously said,

I remember my school days. They were what was going on in the background while I was trying to listen to the Beatles.

Still, I was so into the Fab Four that even now, some 55 years later, I still remember the lyrics to most of their songs.

Do what you want to do
And go where you’re going to
Think for yourself
‘Cause I won’t be there with you.

That was one of George’s contributions, Think For Yourself.

Which brings me to today’s post.

You’re Smarter Than You Think You Are

Trust me on this. Know how I know? Because you in your great wisdom close to read my blog instead of Netflix and Chill. Instead of Facebook.Just kidding. I do both of those things when they’re appropriate.

But here’s the thing: as I was conducting my morning ritual of brewing the perfect cup of tea (which will be the subject of a future post), it dawned on me that before Google, most of my knowledge came from my own investigation and experience.

library catalog

Remember this? This was my generation’s Google. The library card catalog was where we started our search for information. It was a system which itself took practice before we could consider ourselves its masters.

This system still exists, although in many libraries it’s been computerized. It’s quicker to find what you’re looking for, although I would argue that mastering it on the computer requires its own set of special skills.

Google and World Domination

Now consider Google. You can think of it as a huge library card catalog containing the contents not only of your library, but every library in the entire world. In a sense, it is the 21st century’s Alexandria Library: a repository of all the knowledge in the world.

And therein lies the problem. Imagine going to your local library and asking the librarian for a book about the silk industry. She (or he: after all, we must be politically correct) returns with a cart overflowing with books about the history of the industry, ancient Chinese and Japanese history, the silkworm, the care and feeding of silkworms…you get the picture.

Information overload. A concept more common in the Age of Google than any other time in world history. I can’t give you an exact dictionary definition, but to me, it means too much information than I can possibly absorb.

And that’s the problem. It’s like asking for a glass of water and getting the Pacific Ocean.

If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?—Anonymous creationist

If we have Google, why are there still stupid people?—Me

So What’s The Point?

Think for yourself, ‘cause I won’t be there with you.

Although your mind’s opaque,
Try thinking more if just for your own sake.
The future still looks good,
And you’ve got time to rectify all the things that you should.