Of flames and forks

The flaming email — we’ve all received them.  We might even admit we’ve sent one.  Maybe not a flame that rages like a “Howler” in Harry Potter, but certainly one that smolders.  While we think of internet flames as caustic remarks on public message boards, PC Magazine defines to flame as “to communicate emotionally via email.”  If that’s the case, I’m definitely guilty of flaming, as are some people who have emailed me without pausing to re-read or reconsider before hitting “send.”  Numerous publications have explored the flame phenomenon, including Wired and the New York Times. Flaming arises in part due to a key problem with the email genre — namely, the brain’s inability to discern “tone” in the absence of facial and voice cues. To me, however, email flames are more than poor “netiquette:” they reflect how manners are changing not only in our cyber-communities, but also in our “real time” relationships.

I  bristle when I enter a bistro or church service, and I see a man wearing a baseball cap.  While I realize such behavior is ubiquitous and even accepted in our culture, it still bothers me.  I can’t help it: I was raised in the South at a time when gentlemen removed their caps while attending church or dining inside.  They opened doors for ladies – didn’t just hand off door handles like relay batons to females entering behind them.

Yet I wonder, what IS it that causes us to “forget” our manners?  Are we in too much of a hurry?  Consider, for example, the school carpool line.  Drivers actually try not to recognize each other.  Allowing a car to merge ahead of you is a sign of weakness, as is a wave of thanks from the “merger” to the rare person who lets her merge.  It’s the driver’s job, after all, to stay isolated and maneuver as quickly as possible to her destination.  [Read more…]

Date Night at the Sharks

People are swigging beer, waiting in line for hot dogs and pizza, partying as if they didn’t have work tomorrow.  In search of healthy food, we follow the big foam finger pointing upstairs as a Japanese man calls out, “Bento Box, Sushi Here!”  The cashier recognizes my husband.  She knows a lot of the season ticket holders, as does the foam finger man.  Regulars nod to familiar faces, a community drawn together by fervor for hockey.  Or is it something else?

The San Jose Sharks vs. the Colorado Avalanche.  Number twenty-eight out of forty home games.  Hockey has three periods, each lasting twenty minutes.  Between each period is a seventeen-minute intermission.  If teams tie in regulation, they go into five-minute “sudden death,” where the first team to score wins.  If no one scores, they go to shootouts, three shots per team.  The whole thing takes about two and a half hours.  Not that I’m counting.  I’m married to a man who enjoys spectator sports, especially baseball and hockey.  Well, maybe basketball and a little football.  He loves sports, and I love him. You get the picture.

The temperature drops as we descend towards our seats.  Having learned that my jeans aren’t warm enough, I dress as for skiing.  Except in black and teal, of course.  One sees more black and teal in the Shark Tank than out in real life — adults wearing hats like shark heads, fuzzy teal scarves and jerseys everywhere, emblazoned with names of players past and present.  The gal in front of me still has the tags on a Sharks tee she’s wearing.  Does she plan to return it if we lose?  Then there’s the size of the fan base: not only is HP Pavilion always sold out, but REAL hockey fans come in three sizes only: Large, XL and XXL.  Despite the wide seats, there are spillovers everywhere.  A woman to my left texts faster than I type, but from the look of her, she exercises only fingers and thumbs.  Guys without necks chum with their seat mates, and in most cases, letting someone slip past you means getting up and stepping out of their way. [Read more…]

Unplugging, and facing the truth

Thank goodness, I’m back online.  Friday a story about the “National Day of Unplugging” came on my car radio.  You can read about “The Unplug Challenge” here .  Basically, you disconnect from your cell phone, email, text, Facebook, Twitter, etc. for a 24-hour period, to help you “slow down life in an increasingly hectic world.” Ironically, the Sabbath Manifesto folks created an app to help you disconnect.

Anyway, I decided to take the Unplug Challenge.  I spent Friday night sending emails, doing online “work” for my various volunteer jobs, and printing out documents from a class I’m taking online, so I could be productive even though “unplugged.”

I officially shut down my computer and turned off my cell phone and iPad at 8:30 pm.  With a little fear, but also self-satisfaction, I headed out to unwind in the hot tub.  While there I panicked, remembering a couple more messages I needed to send, plus the idea of putting a “vacation response” on my email — so people would know I hadn’t dropped off the face of the earth, merely unplugged from it.  I went in and booted up my computer, did these things and printed out Saturday’s calendar, since I wouldn’t have access to it on my phone or computer.  Much calmer, I officially began my Sabbath from the Internet at 9:30 pm.  [Read more…]

My grandmother’s bread pail

Every so often I pull out this bread pail that was my grandmother’s.  She mixed bread in it for her family of six children, plus two of her husband’s younger siblings who lived with them during the Depression.  I think at one time she owned several of these, but this one is the only one I know about that’s still left in the family.  I continue to use it, but obviously I don’t make as much bread as she did.

The bread pail’s official name is the Number 4 Universal Bread Maker by Landers, Frary & Clark of New Britain, Connecticut.  It won a gold medal in the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair.  Winning a gold medal at the World’s Fair was a big deal — Landers, Frary actually put it on the front of the bread pail itself.  This particular World’s Fair celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase (1803), one year late.  You can read lots more about it here if you’re interested.

Anyway, the bread “machine” was one of many products that came out around the turn of the twentieth century, all of which were designed to make women’s home-making jobs easier.  According to the National Housewares Manufacturers Association (see this reprint), the company who manufactured my bread pail produced goods under the trademark “Universal” from the 1890s until GE’s Housewares division acquired it in 1965.  In addition to the Universal bread maker, they produced a new type of food chopper that chopped vegetables as well as ground meat, and even more significant for us caffeine lovers, they designed the “Universal” coffee percolator.  Remember, electricity was just becoming available to the masses at that time: the first percolators were designed for the stove, and they made coffee that tasted better than people had ever made at home before.  [Read more…]