Category Archives: The Future

Brave New World

YA: I’m going to Costco.  Do you want anything?

VS: Can you get me a box of my sausages?  (Vegetarian – good price at Costco)

YA: (rolling eyes, clearly hoping I hadn’t wanted anything).

VS: Wait, I’ve got a $20 you can take.

YA: Can’t you just Venmo me?  (Online money transfer app)

VS: But I’ve got the cash right here.

YA:  I don’t want cash.

VS:  What?  (You have to imagine the incredulous tone of voice here.)

YA: It’s too much trouble.

 

What has surprised you this week?

Darla Buys a Funeral Plot

My next door office mate, Darla, is just a joy. I have written about her  several times, and she never ceases to amaze and delight. She  monitors the services and care that Developmentally and Intellectually disabled individuals on her case load receive, and makes sure they are being treated appropriately. She has some fairly serious health complications of her own, yet is a fireball of energy with an infectious giggle and a wicked sense of humor.  Her latest quest, started, I suppose by the COVID-19 pandemic, is to have all her own end of life decisions and plans completed, and that means buying a funeral plot. Morbid, I admit, but the way she goes about these things is so refreshing and life-affirming.

Darla decided that she wanted to be cremated, and then buried in a plot near New Hradek, the small Czech community where her husband’s family has a farm, 5 miles north of our town.  She is from a German-Russian/German-Hungarian community 10 miles to the East, and has no intention of being buried in the Gladstone Cemetery.  Her parents are buried there, and she initially  thought she could save a lot of money if she and her husband were buried in the same plot, as all of them would be cremated. “How many urns can you fit in a plot?” she asked a local funeral director.  “They don’t take up that much space”.  He just rolled his eyes at her.  (They are old friends). She  got somewhat fanciful, and suggested that she and all of her seven brothers and their spouses could also be cremated and buried with their parents in the same plot, stacked like eggs in a double layer crate with the same sort of packaging between the urns.   None of her siblings thought that was a very good idea, so she returned to the New Hradek plan, and is waiting for the very elderly manager of the cemetery there to get back to her.  It is taking him a while.  “I just hope he didn’t wake up dead !” she said to me the other day.

Darla has a very specific directive for her husband if she goes first. He is to rent a coffin long enough so that all her DD clients can view her body and see and understand that she is really gone.  Then they can cremate her. I can hardly wait to hear how this all turns out.

What are your plans for eternity?  Got any good funeral stories?

King of the Mountain

The other day I happened to look out the window as three squirrels were playing… I can only call it King of the Mountain – they were taking turns being on top of the snow piles, alternating with a round of Hide and Seek, followed by more King of the Mountain. (Turns out it’s as important for animals to play as it is for humans, according to Dr. Gray, see below.)

There is precious little outdoor play happening around our neighborhood – the one family whose kids would regularly be out playing during the warmer months has moved away. I see several kids walk by afternoons after the school bus deposits them, but I seldom hear see/hear them later on.

So this article, based on the work of Dr. Peter Gray, psychologist, caught my eye yesterday, about what has happened to Play here in our tightly scheduled culture. In the article, “for an activity to truly be considered play, it must:

– be self-chosen and self-directed

– be done for its own sake and not an outside reward

– have some sort of rules/structure

– have an element of imagination

– be conducted in an alert frame of mind.”

Then I found the TED Talk by Dr. Gray, which is even better (16 minutes).

He points out that kids are now more depressed and anxious, largely due to no longer having an internal sense of control over their lives that comes from experiencing plenty of real play. Adequate play allows children to learn to solve problems, get along with peers and practice empathy, be creative and innovative.

Here on The Trail we have told stories of our various play exploits in freer times, and have lamented the loss of this kind of childhood. At the end of his talk, Peter Gray suggests some ways for us to get play back into the lives of children, but first let’s give our baboons here a shot at it:

What changes would you make in our homes, schools, and neighborhoods that would allow more true play to exist for children?

REAL CRABBY

I had a strangely quiet afternoon on Tuesday, and when my only late afternoon appointment cancelled, I went home. I felt  tired, slightly unwell, and really crabby.

I was crabby for several reasons. It is bitterly cold out most of this week. Our local paper just announced it is going to be published only weekly starting in March.  Since January 4th,  our mail has been  delivered a total of four times.  The last time it was delivered there were five pieces of mail belonging to a couple who live on the next block. I delivered it to them myself.  We are told that the carrier for our route quit, and our mail will only be delivered if other carriers have time. They are in the process of hiring, and suggest we have our mail held at the post office for us to pick up ourselves until we have a regular carrier.  Who has time to do that? Grrr! I wrote my congressman about this even though I don’t care for him and he makes me crabby, too.

I also was crabby due to the frustrating work of getting all the necessary documentation for an  appointment later in the week to get my REAL ID.  That is the identification card/drivers license that one needs to have after 10/2020 to use as an ID for air travel.  My driver’s license expires February 1, so it was time to get the new ID. There are very specific requirements for the documents so that there is primary source verification of identity and address. Do you think I could find my Social Security card?  Of course not. I am thankful that my most recent W-2 form came in one of the two mail deliveries this week so I can use that to provide proof of my Social Security number.

I am a government employee and I am pretty used to the slow workings of the bureaucracy.  That said, I really hope that the bureaucracy is in good fighting trim and all my documents are the right ones and sufficiently current to make my appointment at the DOT go smoothly this week.

What makes you crabby? Are you getting the REAL ID? Got any good bureaucracy tales?

Inked For You

Photo credit:  Cody Black

I saw an article about the taboos of tattoos on bbc.com yesterday. We all know that tattoos are much more prevalent  – almost a fashion statement these days – among the younger generations, but there is still a lingering social taboo against them.  Apparently it is legal in the US (and the UK) for companies to have a “no tattoo” policy.  Never occurred to me that a company would even have such a policy, much less that it would be legal!

YA has a few piercings and two tattoos. I’m not crazy about her tattoos (some style choices, some money issues) and just a few days ago we had a discussion about still being careful about tattoos and piercings until you know the acceptance level of a possible employer.

For quite a few years, I’ve fantasized about getting tattooed myself. Small, on my wrist (toward the inside), multi-colored hibiscus flower with YA’s name, in her handwriting.  She knows about this plan and every now and then tries to encourage me.  My guess is it will probably never happen, but you never know.  I know it won’t be a problem here at my company but I might have to wait until Nonny is gone!

Knowing you could get rid of it tomorrow if you don’t like it, tell me about the tattoo you would get.

Weddings and Rice

As I was walking out of the co-op the other day, I looked down to see a large splotch of rice in the parking lot. The kind of splotch that can only be achieved by having your bag of rice break open while you’re carrying it to the car (you can guess why I know this).  My first thought was that the local birds would be happy but then I remembered that supposedly uncooked rice is bad for birds, which is why they throw birdseed now at weddings.

Then when I got home, I discovered that YA had received TWO “save-the-date” cards.

Wedding reminder #3 was when I was watching Cake Boss that night and one of the bakers (sorry I don’t watch this enough to know any of their names) was celebrating a milestone anniversary with a big party and a wedding cake. When the couple began to cut the cake and feed each other, I cringed, hoping they wouldn’t smash the cake into each other’s faces.  I detest that.

So all these wedding reminders in one day made me think about weddings how the traditions have changed over the years. My first wedding, which was completely orchestrated by my mother, was fairly traditional.  Church, gown, reception, cake (unsmashed), lots of people I didn’t know.  My second wedding was the exact opposite, we met the judge at  Good Earth restaurant and were married at the table with our server, Philip and the server from the next section, Sarah, as our witnesses.  Honeymoon at Day tons that afternoon.  I am much more fond of my Good Earth wedding memories than my traditional ones so it makes me wonder why so many brides and bridegrooms adhere so stickily to all the “musts” when getting married.  Why not do something different, stretch their boundaries, find things that are meaningful instead of just traditional. Those of you with psychology degrees, any ideas?

If you were planning your wedding today, how would you like it to go? (Like all good fantasies, money is no object.)

Hole in My Heart

Although I think of myself as flexible and resilient most of the time, there are some changes that I just don’t like. My friends and loved ones moving away is right up there in the “I hate this” stratosphere.

Lori and Tom live 2 doors up from me. I knew right away when I moved onto the block 29 years ago that they would be good friends.  They championed me when I was divorcing wasband #2, supported me during the adoption process.  Lori is a rubber stamping buddy of mine, we share reading as a passion and I’ve been drawn into one of her favorite charities, Mission Haiti.  Tom more often than not does my snowblowing and now that they are moving to an apartment in Chicago, he is even giving me the snowblower.  YA had a ton of hand-me-downs from their 2 daughters (which really helped my finances back then) and we did a lot of activities together when the kids were all younger, including Supper with Santa, trick-or-treating and many backyard neighborhood get-togethers.  They are two of the kindest, most generous people I know.

This move to Chicago has been coming for a while. They actually rented the apartment a year ago but a health crisis kept them here until now.  Their oldest is in Cincinnati with the only grandchild, Lori’s work has offices in Chicago and Tom does programming work from home, so the Windy City seemed like a good next step for them.

But it doesn’t make me happy, even if it’s good for them. I know how to use e-mail and texting and even skype, but it isn’t the same as just running a couple of houses up.  So on Friday I have a chunk of time blocked on my calendar that says “cry on the sidewalk” as I fully intend to go home to wave them off as they depart Minneapolis.

Who would you have move closer (or back)?

Going Forward in Life

I know from discussions on previous New Year’s Days that we are not a big resolution group. Around our house, New Year’s Day is traditionally the day we take down the tree, put away the ornaments and other decorations and generally straighten and clean up.  It feels like a fresh start after the big holiday season so it’s easy to understand how folks can spend time taking stock and deciding how they’d like to go forward in life.

No particular ways I’d like to go forward, although I will note that 2019 was an abysmal year for keeping up communications with the people in my life. Not sure why, it wasn’t more busy than usual, but in looking back I realize that I did more responding and less reaching out.  So maybe I’d like to change that.  If this is a resolution, then so be it.

If there are resolutions in my past that I managed to keep, I can’t remember. I assume that most of my former resolutions remained as resolutions and not life changes. This means I don’t have a game plan based on past experience for making a change.  I guess I’ll just have to wing it.

Have you had any spectacular resolution failures? Or success?

Are We Really Ready?

The headlines today say that Facebook is creating  “an immersive environment called Horizon to tempt people into spending more time in virtual reality.”  They’re calling this virtual world “Horizon”.

I just recently finished reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which is about a future in which a worldwide virtual reality called “Oasis” has become the reality for most people.  Despite there being some seriously bad guys in the story, Ready Player One is much more optimistic about this future virtual world than I am.

Having just written yesterday about my unhappiness with my phone game addiction, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to jump into a virtual reality world with both feet. I mean, if you spend lots more time in “Horizon” or “Oasis” or “Eden”, who does the dishes and vacuums the dog hair?  My job of physically sending people to exotic destinations would be kaput.  In Ready Player One, many people got jobs in the Oasis but it still doesn’t answer the question of who makes your frozen burritos and who maintains the building you live in.

So I think I’ll pass. At least for now.

You just got a new planet for your birthday. What would you call it?  Anything special about it?

Back to the Future

A weird coincidence resulted in three dystopian future books hitting my reading list in the last month. First there was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel that was a Blevins Book Club selection.  Then there was The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch then Ready Player One by Ernest Kline.

Normally I like the dystopian future genre but by the time I got to the end of Ready Player One, I was ready to renounce any other titles that come my way.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m feeling like a dystopian future is already on our doorsteps or if it was just too many of these books in a row.  Whatever the reason, I’m looking forward to a Jane Austen title I just picked up from the library!

Do you have a favorite genre? Do you ever get tired of it?