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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

1
Neither Alexa nor Echo live at our house. Behind the times on most things electronic, these are just not additional technological toys we wish to deal with at this point. Most likely they are handy, reducing the necessity of actually rising from a seated position to turn the lights on and off, but for now we will continue our lives in the dark ages and flip the switches ourselves. Apparently users of Alexa are experiencing some disturbing side effects. Alexa’s, without prompting from their handlers, have begun laughing unexpectedly. Oh-oh. This brings to mind 2001 A Space Odyssey. Remember Hal? When I saw that movie for the first time back in the day, the idea of having robots at the controls seemed so far off. Now, however, with robots flipping burgers and computer driven vehicles the concept is right on our doorstep.

Still straddling the fence about cars driving themselves. What if the computer goes rogue or something in the wiring goes south? Not so unlikely a scenario really. My laptop regularly decides to go off on its own requiring a tweak here or a geek there. Our SUV recently staged a computer rebellion of its own. The dashboard gauges one after another went on strike. The gas gauge needle now remains fixed on full (if only this were true) and we have to rely on the mileage indicator on the dash to tell us how many miles before we run out of gas.  Thankfully this is to be repaired next week. Cars certainly were far less complicated before computers were introduced and less expensive to repair. Not cheap getting the car computer worked on BTW. Cars have to be diagnosed now, which is an initial charge. Once the problem is identified and repairs commence, the labor and parts then begin to add up. Used to be men worked on their engines themselves. On the weekend you’d see hoods open around the neighborhood with guys in groups bending over and scratching their heads. You don’t often see a guy with grease on his jeans leaning over his engine these days. Not much the lay mechanic can do with complicated codes and programming to deal with.

Devices are taking over our world for sure. Pedestrian deaths have risen at such an alarming rate due to distracted walking, some cities have been forced to enact laws fining people caught walking and texting. A video on Facebook showing the dangers of such a practice including one guy so wrapped up in his cell phone he actually ran into a bus passing in front of him. Literally crashed into the side of a bus. Really? I mean not noticing a guy on a bike is one thing, but a municipal bus? That’s like not noticing an elephant reading People in the seat next to you at the hair dresser. Another man walked into a pole with such force he broke both his glasses and his phone. Thankfully, his face was still in tact. Amazingly he looked as if his dog has just died while surveying the damage to his cell phone. I guess if I paid the going rate for a new phone, I might be looking like that myself.

More often than not I feel out of step with the world as it is. Yesterday, for example, I was cooling my heels waiting for Rick at his physical therapy appointment. Knowing I had time to kill, I grabbed my book on the way out of the house. Once Rick’s name was called, I opened my book to the bookmarked page and began reading. Peeking over the rims of my glasses, I noticed one again I was the only human in the crowded room reading an actual book. A man came in shortly after I got situated and took up the chair next to me. After surveying his phone for a while he asked me what I was reading. I began to answer, “a book”, thinking perhaps he hadn’t seen one in the flesh recently and didn’t recognize it, then I realized he meant what book.

Have to admit I did enjoy my first video chat with my cousin the other day. That was fun. Most probably the reason I’ve been resistant to participating in these prior to this is I don’t always want to put on lipstick or blow dry my hair before turning on my laptop. Usually my first jolt of technology comes along with my first jolt of caffeine when I look as if I’ve just exited a rigorous workout in a blender.

A step in the right direction, I have recently acquired an Instant Pot. It required a slight learning curve but now I plug it in often shaving cooking time off my schedule. I was concerned these ribs might be dry but to my delight they were succulent and delicious.

Instant Pot Spareribs

1 rack back ribs (membrane removed)
dry rub (recipe below)
4 cups apple juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. Liquid Smoke

Dry Rub

1 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. seasoning salt
1 tsp. sea salt (fine)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Whisk rub together and rub over ribs. Wrap tightly in foil and refrigerate overnight.

Barbecue Sauce

1 cup catsup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
2 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Liquid Smoke
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tbsp. Sriracha sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together ingredients. Simmer over low heat for 1/2 hour until slightly reduced. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Pour apple juice, apple cider vinegar and Liquid Smoke in Instant Pot. wrap ribs in a circle around inside wall of pot. Cook on Meat/Stew for 20 mins. Allow to cool down. Remove ribs and discard liquid.

Brush liberally with sauce. Place until broiler for 5 mins. watching to keep from burning. Serve with extra sauce.

Serves 2-4

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100
I was down visiting family in the Bay Area over Labor Day weekend. When I drive down I camp with my Mother and get righteously spoiled and then we spread the joy among my son and his family and friends. Recently my son sold his house. While deciding what their next move is to be they are renting. Buying or renting is a pricey proposition these days with the San Jose housing market one of the costliest in the nation. Amazing. I can recall when the San Jose airport was one building. Ach. For my mother and I this was to be our first look at their new digs. Wow. My son said the owner, presently on extended leave in China, is a total techni nerd. As you walk in the front door the house announces your arrival and what door you entered through. The system doesn’t identify you by name, naturally, though it wouldn’t have surprised me, but indicates someone has come in the house and where. This feature can become annoying, I was told over dinner, when the dog lets herself out to pee around 2:00 a.m. I would disconnect this voice. Every time I looked out a periphery door the house told on me. What a kiss up.  Shortly after we got there my grandson rounded the corner on a hovercraft. Suddenly I was reminded of “The House of the Future” displayed in Disneyland back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Located in Yesterland (I know!) the kitchen featured a revolutionary microwave oven. Microwaves were not yet on the market if you younger people can imagine.

futurehouse_entrance

I’m not a big fan of such digitalized voices. I had a 300 ZX back in the day that came equipped such a voice. Looking back on my times with my Z makes me melancholy. Cars for me up until the ZX arrived were mainly a way to get from Point A to Point B.  What a gorgeous car that was. Bronze on the outside with an interior swathed in rich creamy leather. The T-top, always open during the warmer days, allowed the sun in and the impressive dashboard display signaled the driver’s every move as they were cruising along. If you can truly love an inanimate object, this car would have been my first. Driving down the coast to L.A. in fifth gear with the wind tossing through my hair, glorious, truly glorious. The one drawback to the car was the resident android living in the computer system. We called her “Regina”. I don’t know why. Put there to guide the driver away from mishaps such as running out of gas or leaving a door open, for me she simply served to drive me crazy. When low on fuel, the computer would signal Regina to announce in her syrupy electronic voice “Fuel Level Is Low” every five minutes until the situation was rectified. After about ten miles of this I’d find myself yelling “FINE” or worse into the air with people passing me shooting odd looks in my direction as if fearing I was a danger to myself and others. My mother was less annoying when trying to get me up for school.

On one occasion my roommate and I were taking Regina for an evening out in San Francisco. Buckled in and on our way to the city Regina began to interrupt our conversation signalling “Right door is open”. Really? At the next convenient opportunity I pulled off the freeway and checked the doors. A quick process as there were only two. Finding nothing I hopped back into the driver’s seat and looked for the on ramp headed in the direction we wanted to go. Shortly after pulling on the freeway once again Regina began her “right door is open” at intervals and would not stop. Had I had a gun, well that’s another story. Again we pulled over and inspected both doors to no avail. Figuring the computer had gone rogue I turned up the radio and for the 45 minute drive into San Francisco and the return trip we listened to eardrum rupturing tunes trying to drown the woman out.

The following day I took the car still making the annoying announcement to the gas station. I asked one of the guys working in the bays what could be wrong. After inspecting both the passenger and the driver’s door and finding nothing he walked around to the tailgate door. Feeling around the bottom he found it barely open. Looking up he tossed me a condescending “aren’t we blonde” smile. What? The woman never uttered “tailgate”, she specifically said “right door”. He just looked at me. FINE. The following week I went to the Nissan dealer and had Regina permanently silenced. I have no regrets.

I digress as usual. Back at my son’s house I continued to be fascinated by all the gadgets at hand. The high-end electric stove top has more bells and whistles than the North Coast Limited. Pans must be set on the designated burner areas, for example, before the burners will become operational. For the first three days they were in the house my son said they stood and screamed at the burners because they would turn them on and no heat would arrive. Finally he located a manual and a light went on both in his brain and on top of the counter. Yea. Also, you can’t use square pans on this stove top. Seems it only recognizes round bottoms. Hmmmm. I think I was married to its cousin in the 80’s. Again, that’s another blog.

The downstairs bathroom has an interesting feature, several actually. The huge shower stall is equipped with three shower heads. A large round one dominates the center of the stall and the other two protrude one from either end. Interesting. Either they were attempting to get at their bodies at all angles or company was coming.

The toilet, I left the best for last, was my favorite. The toilet, unlike the television, has a remote. There is User 1 and User 2. I will refrain from commenting on the obvious pottie humor lingering in that statement. The toilet has a bidet which you can program to be body specific as to where you wish the water to go (if you will). It also self cleans and has a bum heater for those cold winter nights. I tried to get it out the front door but the damn house ratted me out.

This baked chicken came out of the oven moist and delicious. The addition of the fruit to the vegetable mix really made it stand out in the crowd. I made gravy out of the pan drippings which was the perfect addition.

Baked Chicken with Vegetables and Fruit

For the chicken

1 roasting chicken 3 1/2 lbs.
2 Tbsp. butter
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 large onion

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash chicken inside and out. Pat dry. Sprinkle cavity with salt and pepper. Place peeled onion in cavity. Spray large roasting pan with cooking spray. Place chicken in center. Rub butter over chicken and sprinkle with kosher salt and dust liberally with pepper.

For the vegetables and fruit

6 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks
2 red potatoes, cut in chunks
10 Brussels sprouts, halved
1 onion, quartered
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut in chunks
2 peaches, cored and cut in chunks
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
pinch garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Place the prepared carrots, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and onions in microwave dish. Microwave on high for 3 mins. Place in large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Toss well to mix. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.

Bake chicken for 1/2 hr. at 400 degrees. Add vegetable/fruit mix to pan distributing all around chicken. Sprinkle vegetables with olive oil. Continue baking 1 hr. and 15 mins. tossing vegetables once until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees. Slice and serve with vegetables and fruit.

Serves 4

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What an odd day. I woke up to a fine mist decorating the windshield of the car, the skies overcast, and the air heavy. Atypical of Northern California weather this time of year, it’s a bit unnerving. Old timers used to refer to weather patterns of this sort as “earthquake weather”. To add to the odd mix the weather’s serving up, our immediate neighbors are moving out. We are friendly with them casually, not what I’d call friends. However, I am used to waving good morning or catching up on their lives while collecting the mail. Every afternoon like clockwork their cat comes down the hill to drink out of our bird fountain and in the heat of the day he catches a siesta underneath our car. It feels odd, if you will, not to see a light on in their window.

Not to be a nosy neighbor, but our living room window faces out on their driveway, we have watched the proceedings as they unfolded. Early yesterday morning five vehicles pulled up and people poured out. Since then a U-Haul has made numerous trips and all the pickups filled and emptied many times. Reminiscent of those videos of people exiting a car that just keep filing out one after another, loads keep exiting the house. Where on earth all this stuff was stored in a house smaller than ours boggles my mind. Watching the proceedings has served to cement my resolution not to move again any time soon. Another strange occurrence is the new occupants are moving in before the old have moved out. Never tried that before.

To add to the confusion, our new cell phones arrived. Droids, ach. Compared to the technology floating around at the moment they’re like comparing a caveman’s club to a scud missile, but for us they’re a step up. The moment we deactivated the old cellular service if became quickly apparent we had no idea how to either make or receive a phone call on the new units. To be honest, I couldn’t even figure out the voice mail message. When a call did come in the caller was informed I was too stupid to know how to set up a voice mail account so they’d have to call back when I located an active brain cell. Nice, a phone with attitude. First I had to figure out how to get into the phone as it was locked. Having accomplished that, another call came in. Three phones appeared on the screen, one white, one green, and one red. If you went with the logic used at a stoplight one would think pushing on the green phone would achieve the desired effect. Apparently this would be too easy. Repeatedly pushing all three phones, the call finally went to the voice mail guardian who once again reported I was too ignorant to own the device. Trial and error proved you have to move the green phone inside a circle in order to engage a caller. A glimmer of hope.

Next, I went to the contacts. Figuring out how to access adding a new contact I began the laborious task of entering all the numbers from my old phone. Usually the contacts could be moved along in a simple transfer on a sims card. Our old phones, so old the technology probably only exists in a dusty garage somewhere, aren’t compatible with the new not allowing this to occur. Fortunately there’s an X to erase an incorrectly entered letter because you need to have fingertips the size of a pencil eraser to do this with any accuracy. I am here to report it is most amazing these little phones aren’t floating in the toilet at the moment, but I am not one to give up on a good fight.

As of this writing I still have no voice mail message in place, and have no idea what an app is or how to own one, but I will in short order. It puts me in mind of learning the computer. How confusing at first were the floppy discs, yes I said floppy discs, and files floating on a computer screen which stored your information? Just learning to maneuver the mouse was incredibly awkward. Now it seems as familiar as tying my shoes (They still do that don’t they?). In the beginning the instructor might as well have been teaching me Mandarin Chinese. To stop for a moment on tying shoes, I was interested to note while working in my daughter’s day care children aren’t taught this skill anymore. Along with telling time, done digitally these days, velcro has replaced laces eliminating the necessity of tying anything when putting on one’s shoes. I certainly hope they’re never faced with a pair of laced tennis shoes as adults. No matter how many times you try to get laces to stick to one another, as yet I’ve never owned a pair that did. Also, if confronted with a clock on the wall with hands and numerals will they have to ask someone when to go to lunch?

Another constantly fluxing media would be music. There were 8-tracks, which were huge. It was like inserting a loaf of bread in the 8-track player which took up half the dashboard. If you carried more than five in the car you had to travel alone, as there was no place for a passenger to sit. Cassettes followed, much smaller and easier to manage. With each innovation new devices were necessary to use them ensuring just as you crested the learning curve, another upgrade would swoop in to recreate the bog in your brain. CD’s came along once we’d gotten a grip on the cassettes. Naturally, a CD player, CD case, and of course the CD’s themselves were necessary to get into the swing of things. Many times over the years my garage sales have been kept afloat with leftover pieces of each bit of technology as it became outdated.

So I continue to strive to keep up with each technological jump. I fear I am trailing far behind, but like Hansel and Gretel I am leaving a trail of used devices to mark my way.

These are some of my favorite green beans. My bins are stocked with fresh vegetables and this is a great way to put them to work.

BLT (Bacon, Lemon and Tomato) Green Beans

l lb. green beans, trimmed
Garlic salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 button mushrooms, sliced thin
4 slices crisp bacon, crumbled

Lemon Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

Place all sauce ingredients in small saucepan over med. heat. Whisk and cook until butter is melted.

Place beans in top of steamer over 2″ water. Sprinkle with garlic salt. Steam green beans until fork tender, about 10 mins. Drain.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in skillet over med.-low heat. Add garlic, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms. Saute about 6-8 mins. until tomatoes are wilted and mushrooms cooked.

Add tomato/mushroom mixture to green beans and toss with sauce. Top with crumbled bacon.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson


Today I am behind on my original plans to clean. A friend going through a bad patch in her life needed some time with me on the phone. It is not a new rough spot for her, actually having been in place for several years due to a situation or several situations at home. In my estimation, not being a psychiatrist, though sometimes I feel as if people think I have hung out my shingle, she is stuck. By this I do not mean her feet are cemented to the living room carpet, rather stuck figuratively or emotionally.  This has happened to me a time or two in my life, usually after something traumatic having occurred.  Sometimes it’s difficult to get pointed in the right direction again when you’re thrown completely off course. I always suggest baby steps. If you put a long list of to-do’s in front of someone already overwhelmed with their lives the effect most likely will be self-defeating. As I said, I do not presume to know what is or what is good for someone else, but I do know what works for me.

People often ask me how I maintain a relatively “sunny” outlook on the world. Truthfully, I have no idea. I feel sunny most of the time, and wake up generally looking forward to the 24 hours stretched out before me with unbridled enthusiasm. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not one of those perpetually chirpy humans who only sees rainbows in torrential downpours, but I do try to concentrate of what is going well in my life if possible rather than what is not.

Sometimes when my mind wanders, an event happening about every three seconds, I wonder if we evolve as we move along on our journeys.  Trials and tribulations, tests of our mettle and stamina, seem to fill in the gaps between happy and blissful times we live through. As the years pass I ponder more often if this is our only visit on earth, or if we do, in fact, evolve through a series of life experiences coming back in a new and better version of ourselves each time until we are complete.  This is a lot to chew on on this lovely day, so I shall move on to lighter subjects but the unanswered questions will linger with me for a while as I haven’t had my second cup of coffee which usually makes moving rather than thinking a more likely choice for the day.

I spent most of yesterday doing spring cleaning. Basically, I lugged all the heavier clothes and jackets to the closets downstairs, replacing them with more springlike attire in the upstairs master bedroom closet.  At least I was able to combine my cardio for the day with moving my closet. Second on my list was installing the new box from our satellite provider. My other half, a lovely man by all accounts, hasn’t got a technical bone in his entire body. There’s someone out there running around with extra hardware savvy programmed into his brain having used up the savvy originally targeted for Rick. In other areas he’s genius but give him an unfamiliar computer screen or some software to load and his mind goes to pudding before your very eyes. I’ve often reminded him should anything ever happen to me he’d better rush out and find a computer motivated female who likes to cook or he’s doomed to sit alone staring at a blue screen while the microwave runs through the minutes until his chicken pot pie is ready. I consider it sort of a tenure clause, keeping me around til the end of the run.

Unpacking the new unit to be installed, I set up a stool at the back of the mammoth TV in our family room. Setting the new unit atop the old, I began unplugging the old cords from the back of the malfunctioning unit and transferring them to the back of the new.  Once done, I followed the instructions on the card provided and worked my way to the final screen where it indicated I was to call the service provider to activate the receiver. Yea for me. I got a lovely woman on the phone who began at the beginning. Stopping her, I explained I’d already gotten to the last screen and all I needed was for her to activate it. She asked who was here with me. I said, “the cat” . For some reason this amazed her and she asked if I had technical background. She went on to say most people call her as soon as they exchange the plugs. Really?  Maybe this stems from my single mom days when I could fix everything from the garbage disposal to the Hubble Telescope with a kitchen knife and electrical tape. We went on to hook up the wireless setup and she said she was going to send me a gold star for excellent “techie” performance. Even I was impressed with me at that point.

It does suck, however, even as far as they’ve come technically all the programs you’ve taped up until the receiver starts to fail are all lost when it is replaced.  I don’t have time to watch that much TV but when I do sit down to watch a program it’s nice to find a movie in the DVR I’ve saved for just such an occasion. Having hooked up the wireless connection allows for a lot more choices available so perhaps this will be a great change! Ahhh, the rainbow in the torrential downpour.

My mother called as I was typing with one of many daily “culinary questions”. I never mind the interruption. Some day I will not be able to pick up a phone and hear her voice on the other end, so consider a pleasure (most days anyway) to speak to her when I’m available.  Aside from how long her tortellini soup would last once prepared, she shared with me her cat, Susie, had left the remainder of her lunch on Mother’s pillow. This was something I could easily have finished my day without knowing. I’m just sayin. Once the descriptive phase of the conversation was over Mother concluded by saying, “I don’t like it when she does that.” I pointed out most likely the cat didn’t wake up from her nap and come up with a devious plan to ruin Mother’s afternoon. More likely all the treats my mom insists on giving her when she begs upset the animal’s stomach. Ah well, those treats are not a problem any more.

This garlic cheese bread is the best. Someone gave me a similar recipe a while back at a get together and I took it and ran with it. It’s easy, impressive, and absolutely addictive!

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Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread

1 loaf sliced sourdough cheese bread

1 cup Italian blend cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1/2 cup chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place bread on piece of tin foil large enough to fold up around the sides leaving the top of the loaf exposed.

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Mix cheeses together in small mixing bowl. Sprinkle cheese over top of bread, opening each slice and sprinkling cheese in between each piece.

Melt butter together with garlic and chives in microwave for 1 min. or until completely melted. Pour over the top of the bread. Cover top with tin foil. Bake for 15 mins. Remove cover and continue baking 20 mins.

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