Archive for January, 2019

Eight Below

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

2018 was a tough year for us. I lost my Dad in early April, and my Mom on Thanksgiving day. For all of my 66 years, they’ve been there… none us perfect, but each respecting the other and with few harsh words.

Nothing had prepared me for this. I found many important things in my life not getting done, and had to just roll with it. Whether it was at home or at the fire department, things were just not getting done, or someone else was stepping up and doing them.

I have a German’s sensibility about how things should be, and I feel a little stab every time I encounter something that is not right. I get this tingle that says (in a German accent) “How hard can it be? Just roll up your sleeves and get it done!” I’m embarrassed to admit that our downstairs freezer has been nagging me for some time. We have two freezers, that do a great job preserving our yearly bountiful harvests. Neither freezer has a self defrost. Before this year’s garden produce started infiltrating, I moved everything from the smaller upright freezer into the larger chest freezer and defrosted the upright. When that project got completed, I pronounced a hearty “Ja Wohl!” onto myself.

But the chest freezer remained frosty. And as the produce began to fill it up, the chances of that frost sticking around increased. I make a lot of trips into that freezer, and each time I opened it, the frost crystals seemed to spell out “loser.”

That is until this morning. Being in the northernmost region of one of the northernmost states, we get our share of cold. And being surrounded by Lake Superior on three sides gives us our share of snow. All the seasons are welcome to us. Sometimes the cold gets a bit extreme though, like this morning’s eight degrees below zero. It is hard to get much accomplished outside in temperatures that cold.

Alice and I decided this was the day to empty the chest freezer. I made 6 trips up the steps with boxes and baskets of frozen food. I stacked them all neatly on the brick patio outside our door in the -8 air. Then I grabbed my Milwaukee heat gun and went to work on the frost. As each sheet of freezer frost fell off the sides, a chuckle of delight escaped my lips. I took great satisfaction in dumping each chunk into a bucket, and then into the sink to slowly melt away and disappear into the basement sump.

When it was all defrosted, I washed the whole inside with a solution of baking soda and water, and then made 6 more trips back downstairs with the still frozen food. Alice took the opportunity to organize the food back into the freezer as I brought down each container. I think it was a balmy -1 outside by the time we finished the project.

Now I can eagerly anticipate future visits to a frost free chest freezer, secure in the knowledge that no frost will soon deface its walls.

I’ve heard it said there is not bad weather, just inadequate gear. I’ve also learned that when minus eight is tossed in front of you, an opportunity to make use of it might just present itself.

Rudeness

Monday, January 7th, 2019

One of my pet peeves is junk mail. Especially in this era of email, the Internet, and online shopping, catalogs and junk mail seem mostly superfluous to me. I can’t remember the last time I’ve found something in a catalog that I’ve wanted to order. I can’t remember the last time I opened a bulk mail letter and said, “Eureka, I need that!”

I own several domain names, which cost me $15/year to maintain. I only actively use one of them (tedsoldan.com) but I keep renewing the others thinking I’ll use them someday. All domains are stored in a database that is freely available on the web. Along with the domain name is name/address information of the domain name owner. Several times a year, I get a junk mail letter from a company that gets my name from that database, and wants to be sure I don’t let my domain name expire. I’ve written back to them a couple of times asking them to stop sending the mail, but have not been successful in getting it stopped.

So today I looked up their phone number and dialed it. A man came on the phone, and once I made it clear that it was my intention to be removed from the mailing list, he grew increasingly hostile. As I was questioning him about being sure we were removing all mail from his company to my address, he told me he had just explained to me that was what he was going to do (he hadn’t) and suggested I “…put on my thinking cap.” I asked him if he was having a bad day, but there was no answer, because his end was dead.

These things bother me, although I know they shouldn’t. I’m sure whoever it was on the other end of the phone forgot about our interaction as soon as he hung up on me. But I’ve been thinking about it all day long. The world is changing, and I’m having to learn to change with it. You see, I’m used to dealing with companies like Amazon that seem to value me as a customer. When something goes wrong with an order, they bend over backwards to make it right. It works for me. I usually search Amazon before I look elsewhere. Wal-mart has an excellent return policy, and seems to have their customer service representatives trained well enough that the experience of standing in line for a refund or exchange is not a negative one for me.

With a bar set that high, I find that I’m pretty unprepared for rudeness. I’m getting better at is as I get older, I think because the anger juices are slower to start flowing. And that is a good thing, because I’m not good at being angry. And there surely are some experts at anger out there. My goal is to make sure I do not cross paths with these folks if possible.

Which brings me to a couple of books I’ve been reading lately, both by Jaron Laniar. The first is “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” and the second is “You Are Not a Gaget.” His basic argument is that social media has a customer, but you ain’t it. The customer is advertisers, and you are the product. This isn’t sinister in and of itself, but Jaron suggests that social media has determined that if it can feed articles to you that make you angry, you’ll be more likely to hover, thereby spending more time looking at the advertisements it sells. Anger sells widgets.

The ostensible reason you keep coming back to social media is to keep track of your friends. Perhaps the real reason is a bit more deeply buried in your subconscious. Whatever the technique, it seems to work… people keep coming back day after day, and the advertisers that pay a lot of money to social media have access to a select group of folks that will look at their online ad, while they would just toss a piece of junk mail.

Since I’ve been reading these books, I’ve curtailed my use of social media significantly, but not completely. I wonder why I don’t just pull the plug?