Thursday, June 27, 2013

Urban hospital setting

I just returned from the University of Pennsylvania Hospital gynecology Department without seeing the doctor. The place looked like photos I have seen of Ellis Island, only these huddled masses weren't huddling; they were eating, drinking, talking on their cell phones, shushing or feeding their babies. It was like the emergency room in a large urban hospital, only no-one was actually bleeding. After a couple of hours, I went to the desk and asked the receptionist if I would be seen soon. She told me that there were plenty of people ahead of me. Apparently this was a clinic they held once a month. But why I had to be there on that particular day was not explained. The room didn't actually have a sign over the door: "Abandon hope ye who enter here," but the vibe was definitely there. There were too many people there, doing too many things to too many patients. Something told me I would not like to be treated in this hospital or by these people. So I decamped. The search for a surgeon moves forward.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Our career as brewmasters

I can't believe I never mentioned it, but Mr Charm and I once brewed our own beer. It was not bad either.
We got the idea from a neighbor and fellow graduate student. He made his own beer, due to being an impoverished graduate student. We were pretty poor ourselves, and had a couple of years more to go before Mr C got his PhD. We had tried hand rolling our own cigarettes, but it was tedious and hard to do. We bought a little machine to roll them with, tobacco, and cigarette paper. The hard part was getting the right amount of tobacco in each cigarette--and you'd be surprised how difficult that was, and in the end, more than we bargained for. So we got rid of the machine, the papers, the tobacco, and eventually, the habit of smoking.
But, back to the beer. We discovered that our local supermarket sold malted barley with hops. Yeast was also available, I can't remember what kind. You mixed the barley with the yeast, put it in a large crock, which we placed in the corner of the kitchen. I believe water was also involved, but I don't remember. Occasionally a burbling sound came from the crock, as if a frog had taken up residence in it. After a certain number of days, we strained it into washed soda bottles, which we capped with a bottle capping tool. You had to be careful pouring it out, as there was about a quarter-inch of sediment in the bottom. But it tasted okay, and we kept up making it for a while.
The problem was that this beer had a punch. Ordinary beer has about 6 percent alcohol, but ours had about 20 percent. Mr Charm found he could not drink it with his dinner and then prepare for the next day's classes, because he was pie-eyed. I didn't have to teach classes, but I just lurched around the kitchen, totally forgetting to put the kids to bed, or wash them, or remember I had them. So we stopped production.
As it happened, we were living in an old building at the bottom of a steep hill, which was divided into four apartments. Our fellow tenants were two old ladies with a cat and a dog, respectively, and the aforementioned graduate student and his family. The ladies felt that the young men should do all the heavy chores, taking to garbage up the hill, shoveling snow, etc. The men felt that the age of chivalry was over and that the ladies should hire someone to do the scutwork at least occasionally.
Now I have set the scene. well, not completely, because I forgot to mention that there was a capacious attic in which we stored things we were not using, including a case of the beer. Occasionally, we would hear the faraway sound of one of the bottles blowing up--but it was very far away. Perhaps it was a mouse, or the wind? Or just the house settling? We did not inquire.
After a couple of years we moved on, and moved away. We seriously planned to get rid of the beer, but one of the ladies made a cutting remark about the beer, and we got mad. We left it there.
I liked to think of the old ladies lying in bed and hearing the faraway explosion of the beer in the middle of the night. But the reality of the situation was that the college donated the building to the city, which turned it into a low income housing development. hrthe reamreality

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

I am not blogging as frequently because...

blogger has become less user-friendly. I have an enormous collection of photographs in Picasa. It used to be super-easy to transfer photos to blogger; there was a button which said "blog this," you pressed it, and there it was. I've been using blogger for 7 years now and it was ever thus. However, the button has now disappeared. My daughter tells me to figure it out--it will stimulate my brain, according to her. But the last thing I want is stimulation of my brain. Thinking through problems is frustrating, vexing, and a waste of time. I have half-heartedly tried to go around this problem, but doing it the roundabout way is clumsy, kind of like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time. I thought this was a subtle inducement to using blogger+, but it isn't. Blogger+ is just a pointless new way to waste time on the Internet. Like Facebook and its peers.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Data mining

Why are we worried because the government is recording our phone calls, e-mails, and for all I know, bowel movements? The various governments in the nation don't know what to do with this data.
For example, a man hired to demolish a building in Philadelphia managed to kill 6 people in the process. A cursory background check of this person would have revealed numerous arrests, two jail sentences, and the fact that he was a pothead. Why this individual was hired to handle heavy equipment when there is 7.5 percent unemployment was not explained. Clearly, the government's methods of using the information it collects on individual American citizens needs tweaking.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Military ceremony

We had a military ceremony at Mr Charm's interment. I felt like a bit of a fraud when they gave me the flag, because he got more out of the army than they ever got out of him. He trained as a mountain climbing instructor, but was sent to Austria where he was company clerk and everyone was very nice to him, because he had control over who got furloughs and when. He also drank lots of beer and ate lots of cake topped with shlag (whipped cream), causing him to gain 40 lbs.
But the best thing he got out of the army was the GI Bill, which enabled him to go to college. It changed his life. He went to Brooklyn College, a very fine school which was free in those days, good going for a young man who dropped out of high school because he didn't want to read Silas Marner. No, that's not accurate--he refused to read Silas Marner.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Let's go easy on the IRS

People without a sense of humor are giving the IRS a hard time over a line-dancing video.
I applaud these jolly tax-masters for having a sense of humor. Do you know what librarians do when they have conventions? Powerpoint presentations, that's what! I'll take line dancing any day.