Category Archives: Technology

Reinforcement Schedule

The friend with whom I am staying in Howard Lake has a downstairs apartment. It reminds me of being in the lower level of a split level house. There are some nice, large windows in every room. Despite that, her cell phone reception is terrible, and she has no wifi. I rely on the unlimited data plan I have on my phone for it to function, but service is intermittent and I often have to go outside to get emails and phone calls.

Sometimes, in the morning as I sit in her living room, I have no difficulty sending and receiving texts and calls. Then, out of nowhere, I have to move really close to the windows for it to work. At other times, I have good reception between the sofa and the kitchen. Then, inexplicably, that area doesn’t work, either, but holding the phone high above my head helps, sometimes.

I realized the other day how silly I must look using my phone as I wave my arms and move around and outside the apartment, and it dawned on me that my phone has me on a variable-ratio reinforcement schedule, like BF Skinner demonstrated using pigeons in the 1960’s. Pigeons were taught to press a metal bar to get food pellets, and were then subjected to random reinforcement, in which food was delivered randomly, and there was no way for the birds to figure out what they had to do to get the food. They tried their hardest, though, developing odd behaviors they thought were associated with food delivery. Some developed odd head movements. Others turned around three times, because that is what they were doing when the food was delivered. Skinner used this research to explain the development of superstitious beliefs and behaviors, as well as gambling addiction.

I leave for home tomorrow, and there I know I can feel more in control than I do here. Besides, my shoulder is getting sore holding my phone above my head so much.

What motivates you? Do you have any superstitions or know anyone who is superstitious? Any technology horror stories?

The Dog Gate Conundrum

Last week I bought a fold up free-standing gate.  The dog behaviorist has finally made me realize that I am not going to “fix” Guinevere so that she doesn’t wake up violently when the kitty jumps down from the windowsill in the middle of the night.  That means I have to solve how to keep the kitty safe.   It’s always a pretty short scenario; Nimue thumps down on the floor, Guinevere startles awake and lunges.  Then Guinevere wakes up and it’s over. 

We tried keeping Nimue in YA’s room but kitty does not like being imprisoned all night.  After all she does her best hunting in the wee hours.  Then we put Guinevere in YA’s room but then the dog whined all night and scratched at the door.

So now we have a pretty white, fairly heavy free-standing gate in my room that separates where the kitty jumps down from my bed, where the dog hangs out all night.  It’s only been a few days so Nimue hasn’t quite figured it all out, but I expect in the next few days, she’ll have it worked out.

That’s not really what I’m here to talk about.  What I’m here to talk about is that it’s been over a week since I ordered this thing and today I have seen at least SIX ads recommending various dog gates.  Oh and an ad for a pet door.  I’ve probably said this before, but if the computers are so smart and connected into my life to know I’m looking at dog gates, then why aren’t they smart enough to know I already bought the darn thing.  Do they think I need lots and lots of dog gates?  I hate to think what would happen if I returned it – what pop-up ads would I get then?

Have you ever worked retail?  Any good stories?

Royal Living

Last week I extolled calling a professional concerning my front porch.  The stucco guys weren’t the only professionals I called upon last week.

The story of my “privy” is a long one.  When I moved into my house 30 years ago, the lid on the bank had been previously broken in 2 places and glues back together….badly.   The glue had been liberally applied and the excess, which had yellowed, had not been wipe off.  It looked so awful that I always draped a towel or napkin over it.   A few years later, it got dropped and broken again, this time it couldn’t be put back together again.  Luckily YA, Child back then, found an exact replacement at Architectural Antiques downtown.

I had learned early on to changed out the tank ball; it needed to be done every year or so.  I also installed a new fill valve several years back.  So when the trip lever broke about a year ago, I figured it would be a quick fix.  Wrong.  I won’t go into the excruciating detail, suffice it to say, it went from bad to worse and we ended up having to jiggle as we flushed and then jiggling again after the ball dropped.  Sometimes twice.  I’ve probably spent 40 hours in the last year trying to adjust, replacing levers, replacing the ball.  Awful. 

I was pretty sure what the plumber would tell me, but when he showed me what was contributing to my issues and talked through the repairs, I knew that I had been right to expect the worse.  He came back two days later and voila – a new throne!  It uses less water, fills faster and does its job better.  I almost wish I had replaced it years ago.  YA is reserving judgement as it’s taller than the old one.

Toilet paper – over or under?

Automotive Aeronautics

Saw a news story yesterday about a Tesla flying into a building.  Watch until the end, because the last camera’s viewpoint is fascinating.

Of course, I assumed it was a Tesla that was driving itself.  Imagine sitting back in your Tesla, kind of paying attention and suddenly you are crashing into a building.  Turns out that it was a guy driving; he said he lost control.  Witnesses suggested he had sped up to make a light before the car took wing.  So the story isn’t as fun as a Tesla auto-piloting it’s way into a building – not sure what that says about me.

I’m thinking the driver was incredibly lucky – his entry point into the building was the glass window and door entry way; if he had sailed into some other part of the building at that speed, I wouldn’t be writing this story because the poor guy would likely be pushing up daisies. 

When was the last time you flew anywhere?  Any flights coming up?

Before / After

The next step in the front porch drama has concluded.  I’m sure you remember the photos of tim and me from sandblasting last summer.  So so dirty. 

What I didn’t say at the time was that what we uncovered when we got rid of the 3-4 layers of paint was horrific.   Completely uneven, a few long gouges and all the holes from when the house had been insulated back in the `80s.  My vision of painting the weekend after the sandblasting and being done were shattered.  tim walked me through plastering process but as the weeks went on, I knew I wasn’t up to it.  3 years into this project, I just needed a professional.

I found The Stucco Guy through my hardware store.  He came out, looked it over, took a few photos and the next day sent me a quote.  I accepted but by this time it was too chilly to do stucco work so we made a date for this spring.

They came last Tuesday morning and spent most of the day prepping.  Then on Wednesday they did the base coat.  It was a little disheartening because it is dark gray on application and it made the front porch seem quite gloomy.  They assured me it would lighten up over night and they would do the final coat the next day. 

On Thursday, I purposely stayed upstairs in my home office; I was so worried how it would turn out and if I would like it.  When he texted me at 4:30 that they were done and cleaning up, I was almost afraid to go downstairs.  It’s so beautiful that when I stepped out onto the porch, I teared up a little.  Best news?  He didn’t increase the price he had estimated for me last fall.  Very reasonable for 3 days of work (for 2 of them) and such a fabulous result.

There is some work to be done yet, but it’s the kind of work that YA and I are qualified for (little sanding, little painting) and hopefully will be done within the next month.  Only 3+ years to remodel a small front porch.  Gotta love these old houses!

When was the last time you gave in and called a professional?

Old Tech

This past weekend was a “comfort tv” weekend.  After a LOT of hours gardening and then recuperating in my studio while it rained, I was all about watching some of my standard oldies but goodies.

WarGames.  Looking at the technology that was over the top when the movie came out, it’s a little laughable now.  Rotary phones.  Dot matrix printer.  Oh, and Matthew Broderick makes a call from a phone booth.  Except for the ones that they keep around in London for tourist photo ops and the one that Dr. Who uses, are there phone booths anywhere anymore?

Hopscotch.  Walter Matthau types up his anti-CIA memories on an old typewriter, which he drags with him through the movie.  It’s not even an automatic return typewriter.  Phone booths in this movie as well.  Also, all the information on agents and criminals in on paper in a file room: when Matthau shreds his personnel file, they don’t even have a photo of him any longer.

Romancing the Stone.  At least Kathleen Turner is typing on an automatic return typewriter.  There are a few calls from phone booths in this one as well which is interesting since most of the movie takes place in the Colombian jungle.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash.  Whoopi Goldberg works in a bank on a data terminal (not even actually a computer).  She doesn’t have a phone on her desk – although there is one for the whole department of workers that they are only allowed to use in an emergency.  This means she ends up in a phone booth down the street.  (Then she gets dragged in the phone booth all over Manhattan but that’ another segue.)

A few things are clear.  #1. Phone booths and typewriters were clearly a lot more prevalent 30 years ago than they are today.  A bit of research reveals that you can still buy a typewriter (Brother and Royal are the top manufacturers out there) but they’re not a cheap as you would think they would be.   #2. The plots of a lot of the movies I like would really have to be punched up if there weren’t phone booths and typewriters abounding.  #3. All my comfort movies are way too old.

Do you still have a typewriter?  Do you use it?

Take a number, please

I recently visited the nearby Department of Motor Vehicles office to renew my driver’s license.

My oldest memories of visits to the DMV usually involved walking up to the dispenser on the counter and receiving from it a little piece of paper with a preprinted number on it.

It was a small thing, not more than two inches square, with a perforation to facilitate easy tearing off.

This time, I walked up to a table just outside the door to the office, with an employee seated at it. She had an instruction sheet with a QR code. I stood in line while a guy tried to scan the QR code. It apparently wasn’t working for him, so the woman pointed to the instruction sheet and told him to text this code to that number. He looked at his phone and, although I couldn’t hear precisely what happened, the face he turned toward the employee spoke of disappointment. The woman said, “Okay, I’ll go get you a number.” She went into the office and returned with a Post-It® note that she handed to him.

The next woman in line tried to scan the code, and then said, with an apologetic shrug, “I’m sorry – my battery’s going dead.” The employee responded, “Okay, I’ll go get you a number.” Another trip to the office, and a Post-It® note.

I was next. The instruction sheet with the QR code on it was covered in a somewhat rumpled sheet of plastic, so it was giving my camera a weird reflection, and after i had failed to get a good image for maybe twenty seconds or so, the employee pointed to the next part of the instruction sheet and said, “Text this code to that number.” I texted the code, and then it pinged back an error message that said, “Please provide a ten-digit mobile number or enter a valid code.” I read it to the employee. She said, “Okay, I’ll go get you a number.” Off to the office. Post-It® note.

At this point, I was considering making a comment on the process…maybe saying something like, “You know, I saw a cool thing the other day – it was this little dispenser on a counter, and you walked up to it and it had these numbers on paper, and the paper was perforated, so you’d tear one off. And it was sort of like, you know, a Post-It®, but not sticky.”

I thought, though, that the woman at the table probably doesn’t appreciate smart-alecky customers. So I accepted my Post-It® and said “Thank you.”

Got any smart remarks you’ve wanted to make but haven’t?

Search Engine

I took a look at my phone search history the other day, and it struck me that someone who didn’t know me and who read through the searches I had done on Google would think me an odd duck. Here is my most recent search history:

Ladbury Funeral Service

Marie Jaell

Yo Yo Ma, Emmanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakis Beethoven Symphonies

Kay Aaenson obituary

Creamy scallops with tomatoes

Waconia, MN grocery stores

Red Star Yeast Conversion Table

Hartquist Funeral Home

The Book of Mormon musical

Brotchen recipe

ND wildfires

Einaudi: I Giorni

West Bend, IA

What on earth does this say about my interests? Husband often asks me to look things up for him, but most of these are a result of my own curiosity.

What are your recent on-line research topics? What do you like to research? What does your search history say about you?


My company is still on “work from home” protocol.  For another week and a half.  You can work in the office if you want or you can work from home.  Most of us have been given an additional big monitor so that we can have one at the office and one at home so working at home is a pretty sweet deal.

There are people going in but not many.  I had to check on a mailing yesterday in Building 5 and it was quite deserted.  Echo-y even.  In cutting through the back hallway to get to the mailing center, I turned a corner and found a little nook with a printer on a table, a rug and five chairs.  There are no offices nearby.  And with hardly anyone in the building, the nook had an eerie, otherworldly feel.  Kinda like a surreal set in a Man Ray movie. 

I thought about this funny little scene all afternoon.  Why a printer there?  Why a rug?  And for heaven sake, why all the chairs?  Does someone really think there will be enough paper shooting out of this printer that there needs to be a waiting area?

Do you have a favorite chair?  To snuggle up in to read?  Or to watch tv?

Tailor Made

Our son was the Best Man in a wedding last September. Instead of renting tuxedos, the Groom and all the Groomsmen had matching suits sewn by a Vietnamese tailor company that specializes in doing precise measurements virtually. Son just happened to be going through Kansas City where the headquarters is, so he got measured in person. Everyone else was measured via Zoom or something. The suits were of such good quality and fit so well (as well as being affordable) that he ordered a sports coat, some dress shirts, and five pairs of chinos from the company. He got them last week and they all fit beautifully. They are of very good quality.

Whan Husband and I married in the early 1980’s, we opted for a tailor made suit for him, too, instead of renting a tuxedo. Winnipeg at the time had many tailor shops, most run by tailors who had immigrated from Italy in the 1960’s. All the conversations between the workers were in Italian. It was fun for Husband to meet the guys who made his suit. We still have it, although it doesn’t fit anymore and is sadly out of style.

What are your experiences with tailors or seamstresses? What clothing have you rented? What are your memories of wedding clothes? What are Baboon experiences as tailors?