Sunday, September 19, 2021

Ironing Out Crime Problems

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published September 20, 2021] ©2021

Last time I wrote about the spate of crime in our area and the frustrated efforts of my neighbors to rein in what seems to be a nightly onslaught of bike thieves, garage break-ins, porch pirates, creepy trespassers, and brazen burglary attempts even when people are home, all caught up-close-and-personal on what are now pervasive security cameras. 

Fortunately, between the time I submitted that column (eight days before its September 9 publication) and the time it appeared, one of the boldest of the bike thieves, who had probably starred in more videos than the Kardashians, was finally apprehended, thanks to dedicated efforts by the neighborhood.  The La Jolla Light reported that the perp was being held in San Diego County Jail with bail set at $300,000.  Is he still there?  Did he post bail with profits from fencing all those high-end bikes?

OK, sounding a little jaded here.  But I was genuinely happy that at least one of the miscreants preying on my neighborhood was finally at least temporarily a guest of law enforcement. One down, fifty to go.

Like many of our neighbors, we installed exterior security cameras, although not the popular Ring variety that so many of our neighbors have.  (They hadn’t really come out when we installed ours.) 

I have to say that these cameras are a huge improvement over my earlier efforts at self-protection against crime. Or at least the illusion of it.

In my 12 years of single parenthood from 1983 to 1995, I felt utterly defenseless.  I remember calling the police department early on and asking what they recommended for a woman alone with two young children.

After a long discourse about how I couldn’t do anything more to them than they intended to do to me (i.e., I was not permitted to murder someone who only intended to beat, maim, and terrorize me) and a lecture that most weapons I might have could be used against me (no argument there), the officer suggested the alone-woman’s protection of choice: spray starch.

Seriously.

Frankly, spray starch never inspired that much confidence in me.  Would the assailant wait while I shook the can and hoped the nozzle was pointing at him and not me? Incapacitating myself seemed counterproductive to the scenario although I’m sure the perp would have been grateful, if puzzled. The mere shock might have caused him to flee.

I specifically remember an incident soon after getting this advice where a neighbor friend mentioned that the previous night, she thought she heard someone in their back yard.  Her husband got up and quietly got the gun out of the safe and loaded it. I found myself desperately envious of her: a man and a gun to protect her. (Three generation of rabidly feminist ancestors were turning over in their graves that I even thought this.)  I, meanwhile, would have quietly reached for my can of spray starch and removed the cap.

When we installed our cameras, plenty of people told us that security cameras rarely result in anyone being arrested or convicted of a crime. But as I’ve written about before, we’ve had our front fence taken out three times, the second and third times by hit-and-run drivers.  (The 86-year-old lady in the ‘49 Dodge who did the first one may have tried to make a break for it but I was faster.)

On another occasion, some reprobates seriously vandalized 50 cars on our street, including ours. So even if the police weren’t interested in making them accountable, I could see myself getting in touch with my inner vigilante and sending my cousin Guido over to chat with them about it.

The folks who installed our video cameras told us that pretty much everyone who installs them has at least two motives. One, of course, is security.  The other, the installer said, is not infrequently related to dog poop. Seriously. People want to know once and for all whose dog is inflicting feculent ordure on their lawn. Dare to deny it now, scumbag neighbor!

A friend who has outdoor security cameras warned me that they are so much fun, I might end up cancelling cable. And I confess she’s right. When I’m in a waiting room for an appointment, I pull out my phone (on which I can see my cameras) to see what’s happening at home. Frankly, usually not much. Sometimes somebody is putting a bag of dog poop in our trash.  I watch the neighbors unloading their groceries, and people blasting through the stop sign in front of our house without even slowing down. (SD PD: we could work a deal here.)  Now that we’re official crazy paranoid spy people with security cameras, I cruise through the replay of the night before to see if there was any action.

But most of all, I’m just grateful I have options other than spray starch.

 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Pandemic Eating: When You Ate The Whole Thing

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published August 30, 2021] ©2021

A Harris poll done for the American Psychological Association that was released in March showed that 42% of Americans have gained a stunning 29 pounds on average during the pandemic.  this made me feel better since I only put on 21.

I just couldn't seem to socially distance myself from my refrigerator.

It didn't help that Gelson's doubled down on their six-packs of freshly-baked chocolate chunk cookies, maliciously placed just inside the door. 

Meanwhile, Fox News reported on August 7 that a Russian woman sued McDonalds maintaining that their mouth-watering cheeseburger ads completely demagnetized her moral compass compelling her break her Lenten fast of meat and animal products.  In the U.S., of course, that would earn McDonald’s a Clio.

Maybe I could use this as a precedent to compel Gelson’s to send me to the fat farm.  I was thinking The Golden Door.

It’s a well-known fact that Americans are fatter than they were one or two generations ago. Partly this is due to the many ways that people used to have to burn calories that they don’t have to any more.  TV remotes immediately come to mind.  My grandchildren were agog to learn that there was a time that people (that would be moi) had to get up and walk over to their TV to change the channel.  Then you had to walk back over a few more times to adjust the rabbit ears to get the reception right.  Which, actually, never quite happened.

We had to manually roll up the windows on our pre-power-steering cars. Typewriters were manual. As a tot, I wrung my fingers in our wringer washing machine.  (Early 1950s IQ test.)

It was definitely a more active era.

However, I was delighted to read in the April/May issue of AARP Magazine about a study that found that people ages 70-75 who were overweight were less likely to die over the next ten years than those of “normal” weight.  The article didn’t define “overweight” and I certainly am not going to ask.

Still, this gave me serious pause.  I have been working hard to shed those Chocolate Chunk Cookie pounds. But am I risking my health by doing so? 

Prior to my divorce, I always wore a size 4, which in today’s deflationary size market is probably a 2, or even a 0. (Personally, I think size 0 is what you should be after you’ve been dead a while.) Afterwards, I packed on 30 pounds eating the Post-Divorce Mrs. Fields Cookie and Chardonnay Depression Diet. (You may be noticing a common thread of chocolate chip cookies in my weight journey.) Alas, I’ve been heifering, er, hovering around a size 16 ever since.

My kids were three and five when my first husband and I separated and have few memories of us together.  When showing some DVDs to the kids and grandkids last year, my older son, the irrepressible Rory, said, “So who’s that woman with Dad?”  I said, “That’s me.” He said, “Nah, your ass was never that small.”  Out of the mouths of 42-year-olds?

I still think of myself as temporarily overweight, that this extra adipose is a mere blimp, er, blip in my life. But the fiction is getting harder of maintain when I remember that I was divorced in 1983.

Now, even aside from health concerns, there are compelling reasons to not be fat.  Among them is texting. It is truly to your advantage to have pencil-thin fingers. At least if you want anyone to actually understand what you wrote.

Another, of course, would be clothes shopping. I would chat it up with the personal shopper at Nordstrom who would inform me that they usually only order one size 16 in any particular style and those are so in demand that she immediately pulls them for her regular customers.  Now, I’m not in retail, but if I had a size that was instantly selling out, I’d order, well, more. But I’d be missing the point. Once you get past a certain size, department stores don’t want you waddling around in there among the osteoporotic svelte. 

Chunker departments, where they even exist, are invariably hidden in a corner of the third floor which you can spot from fifty yards: racks of nasty brown, navy, and black polyester slacks, and skirts with hideous floral prints in colors not found in nature. We chunkies just hate wearing this stuff – a point that I routinely note in the feedback box at Nordstrom Oinker. (It’s actually Nordstrom Encore, but if you say it fast it comes out sounding like Oinker, which, in fact, I am convinced is the subliminal meaning in that choice of word. What, after all, does “encore” have to do with fat people?)

Meanwhile, I’ve just got to put my hopes into Gelson’s doing the right thing by me and making that reservation at the Golden Door.  I may have to do a cookie detox first. 

Kryptonite


 

 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

I Guess They Didn't Mean Me

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published August 9, 2021] ©2021

As my readers know, I’m always a sucker for those internet and magazine self-help articles on the theme of “What your car/phone/hair style/electronics/wardrobe says about you” or the ‘How To’ pieces:  How to Land the Man of Your Dreams, How to Look Ten Pounds Thinner in One Day, or even How to Look Great Naked.

You know the ones. Catchy copy gushes breathlessly: “Your Audi screams fun and flirty!  You’re a go-getting jet-setting trend setter yearning for the wanderlust lifestyle!  You were born to the live on the other side of the pond.  In your ideal life, Fridays would find you on your way to a weekend rendezvous with your Italian lover!” 

Now as a regular reader of these articles, the one thing I’ve noticed is that they never seem to reference my particular car or phone or electronics.  I’m not sure why but it irritates me beyond belief.  I can only wonder, if they wrote about me, what would they say?

What Your Car Says About You:  Your 2005 Corolla fairly screams Cheap Car!  But the fact that this one actually has automatic windows says it is a huge step up from your Jetta.  You were truly born without the car gene!  Still, this is the first car you’ve ever owned that your husband doesn’t tell people belongs to the cleaning lady.  Next time go wild and crazy and get a Prius!

What Your Cell Phone Says About You: Hey, this one is actually an iPhone!  Unlike your last phone it even has a camera! And the fact that it isn’t a pre-paid minutes phone means you even have internet!  Not that you know how to answer it! Just like the last one, as soon as it rings you panic and start yelling “hello?  Hello?”  Your sons do a really vicious imitation of you!  But you’ve finally learned to text!  You had to get the largest size iPhone so that you’d have room to paste all the instructions on the back.  Well, not all the instructions.  Even using the smallest 8-pt font there’s so much more you’d like to cram on the back of it! Like how to email a video!  That used to be so easy but IOS version 2,000.8 made it impossible!  Usually you ignore the updates for that reason! But then the phone stops working altogether!  Which is truly irritating!  Likely, your next phone will be a Jitterbug!

How to Look Ten Pounds Thinner in One Day:  Photoshop, Baby! Heck, go for fifty!

What Your Wardrobe Says About You:  You have a wardrobe?  Did you age out of contention for “What Not to Wear”?  Giving away the iron ten years ago was a great feminist statement: you’re not about to wear anything that isn’t wash and wear.  But eventually even wash and wear wears out! Yes, it really does!  Are you going for Bag Lady Chic?

How to Land the Man of Your Dreams:  Actually, he’s already flopping on the dock. (Love you, Olof!)

What Your House Plants Say About You:   Survival of the Fittest!   Is it any accident you only have one house plant left?  And it’s on probation?  Your philosophy is: How expensive is a friggin’ golden pothos anyway?  If it needs watering more than once a week, it’s not happening at your house.  You’ve spent your entire adult life taking care of kids, husbands, pets, plants.  Can’t let the first three crump (however tempting) but the second the horticulturals make a single demand, they’re compost!  Enough already! 

What your hairstyle says about you: You have insane amounts of hair!  Are you sure there’s not another person (or two) under there?  Your hair takes seven hours to air dry! Yeah, really! Most people think they want lots of hair!  No, they really don’t! Certain styles – like that perm you once stupidly tried – made you look like Medusa with extra snakes. You’d think a layered cut would help but good thing you destroyed all the photos! During the pandemic when you couldn’t get a haircut for five months, you were practically rendered legally blind.  You don’t even want to calculate what percentage of your life you’ve spent under – or holding – a hair dryer.  You’ve had the same haircut for 50 years!  Is there something wrong with that?  Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! 

How to Look Great Naked:  Short of losing sixty pounds and being reincarnated as a supermodel, there is no way on God’s green earth that you are going to look great naked!  Or even OK naked!  That ship has like totally sailed.  Or in your case sunk!  Sorry, Inga, this article was intended for people for whom there is actually hope!  Can’t believe you even read it!  The link you were looking for was: “How to make sure people never see you naked!”

 OK, I think I’m officially sorry I asked. 

 

 The last surviving house plant (it's on borrowed time)

 

 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

People Behaving Badly (The Dogs Were Fine)

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published August 2, 2021] ©2021

If you think there is a lot of contention about the seals and sea lions at the downtown La Jolla beaches, you don’t read Next Door.  Dog Poop Wars – with photos – are constantly waging, and with no more likelihood of a meeting of minds than about the local pinnipeds.

The combatants are roughly divided into six groups:

(1) Responsible dog owners who pick up after their pet and only dispose of the bags in their own or public trash cans.

(2) Semi-responsible (but see below) dog owners who pick up after their pet and dispose of the bags in the nearest homeowner’s trash bin.

(3) Irresponsible dog owners who pretend to be on their phones when their dog is pooping on someone’s lawn.

(4) People who may or may not own a dog but enjoy tormenting people who post “Pick up after your dog signs” on their lawns.

(5) People who let their dog poop on the sidewalk – and leave it there.

(6) People who simply hate dogs, pooping or not.

Within Category 2, there is raging debate as to what circumstances it might be OK to put your bag of dog poop in someone else’s trash can.  This subject has even been passionately argued nationally in Dear Abby. The hotly-contested options include:

(1) Never

(2) On trash day, before that trash can has been picked up

(3) When it’s not hot (and therefore the bag doesn’t have the opportunity to percolate in a black trash bin over a period of days creating an odor that could knock over a goat at 10 yards)

(4) A trash bin is a trash bin so get over it already

(4) Only in the trash bins of fellow dog owners

(5) Especially in the trash bins of non-dog owners, just to annoy them

(6) If you don’t see any security cameras

(7) In the dead of night

I know people who specifically review their security cameras not to see who broke into their garage but to see who is putting dog poop bags in their trash.

During my daily walks around my neighborhood, I often see piles of poop from what is clearly a very large dog artfully arranged around the base of a “Please pick up after your dog” sign. 

I confess that this brings up a number of questions.  First, how did they get the dog to do it?  More puzzling, when someone cleans it up, how did they get the dog to come back and do it again?  This dog definitely has his/her own signature poop print 

Given the precision of placement each time, one might conclude that this is imported dog poop that has been intentionally staged to annoy the owner of the sign.  The only alternative is that some very passive-aggressive person has specifically trained their pooch only to poop around the base of those signs.  Inquiring minds (and America’s Got Talent) want to know. 

I myself have grown suspicious. Given the staggering resemblance to previous piles, is it really even real poop? On a hunch that I now deeply regret, I searched “fake dog poop” on Amazon.  You can buy some frighteningly-realistic looking dog egesta for $5 in either regular or “chunky”, or a 6-pack of assorted styles for $11.  This will haunt my dreams.

As a dog owner myself, I obviously have opinions on these issues. Our city-mandated-and-dispensed black trash receptacle lives at the far end of our driveway nestled next to our house, its unfortunate accessibility making it a neighborhood poop dump of choice.   In the pre-city-dispensed receptacle days, our trash cans resided safely inside our back gate away from excretory-abandoning miscreants.   But the required new bins are too big for that space.  If you opened our trash can on any given day, you’d think we were running a kennel for digestively-compromised canines. 

So a few years ago, I decided to importune the offenders with a polite entreaty on the top: “Please – we’re asking nicely - no dog poop in the trash bin!” 

Of course, that just dares people, just like the yard signs, even though our sign was posted on top of the bin where you couldn’t see it until you were right there.

Despite the sign, I’d still heard the lid of my trash can being raised during the day, but more quietly, and admittedly less often than before.  I confess that I sometimes entertained delicious fantasies of rigging it in some excretorially-vengeful way.  But forget to disarm it even once and the garbage men would never pick up our trash again.

I finally decided it wasn’t worth the energy. I took off the sign. Have at it, folks. People are gonna do what they’re gonna do.

But I think there is one consensus. There ought to be a special place in hell and/or the DMV non-appointments line for people who leave trails of dog poop on sidewalks. 



Unsolved mysteries: every time this is cleaned up, it's back again a few days later

in the exact same place

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Just When You Thought Things Were Getting Back To Normal

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published July 26, 2021] ©2021

The stove gods have been pooping on our heads again.

We were enjoying a quiet post-prandial evening last month when all of a sudden we heard the ominous Three Beeps of Death.  We looked up at each other from our books, hoping against hope that this was some other appliance beeping at us. I’ve done whole columns on this, trying to determine which of our many electronic apparati is vying for our attention. If we had Alexa, our first request would be “disable all beeping.”

But these three beeps were all too familiar.  On three previous occasions they had been immediately followed by the dreaded F2 E1 error code.  The electronic panel has shorted out.

We know from past experience that there is no hope for this.  It’s going to be a whole new panel – about $500 after service calls and wait time for it to be ordered, during which time we will be relegated to microwaving and crock potting.

But the idea of not having a stove for indeterminate periods puts my sourdough-enthusiast husband into full yeast-deprived depression.  Last year when this happened, we decided to just go buy a new stove. 

Alas, it was early-on in the pandemic. In April, 2020, appliance emporiums were only accepting on-line orders – you couldn’t go into the store itself – and were not installing.  They would deliver your large kitchen appliance to your garage (we don’t have one), or alternatively “curbside” which, translated into English means “in the street.”  Where a car could hit it.  And certainly not improve the functionality of the appliance especially if it is now on the next block. 

Then there was the more-than-minor problem about getting this curbside appliance into our home which would included a long walkway and several steps. We're senior citizens.  So the two of us wrassling a heavy appliance box from the street into our house might not be an exercise we would survive.  We would, of course, instruct our children to sue the appliance place for premeditated, wrongful, elder-abusive death.  

OK, so let's assume that we were actually able to get the new stove into our house and into our kitchen. It's a gas stove.  Gas stoves are connected by means of something called "gas lines." We could just see getting the whole thing installed only to turn it on and blow up the house. And ourselves. It just seemed that the appliance company ought to be a tad more concerned about liability in expecting people to install their own major appliances. Covid-19 would eventually go away, but personal injury lawyers are forever. 

So our only alternative was to get the panel replace again. A mere 13 months later - 1 month out of warranty - it shorted out again. 

But hey – the pandemic was now pretty much over. Installers would come into your house! I went on-line to look at our prospects.  It had to be a 30-inch gas slide-in, white, but other than that we were flexible.

There was exactly one option that was going to be available to us before early November (we’re not even sure they meant 2021).

Friends had mentioned that they’d had similar problems ordering large appliances. Factories were closed for months during the pandemic.  Parts were not being manufactured either.

The brand we were forced to buy had $1,000 worth of features we didn’t want and will never use.  An air fryer, for example.  We don’t even regular fry. And by the way, the no-pre-heat feature for the air fryer was an additional $200. It also had convection (never used it on my old one), and worst of all, a center griddle that takes up much of the cooking real estate on an already-narrow stove top.  But it advertised it can do six grilled cheese sandwiches at once! 

Further, the store that was carrying it had exactly one of them left in their warehouse until potentially the next millennium. But allegedly available for delivery next week.

And, in fact, it did show up despite multiple people warning us that we’d probably get a call the night before saying, “oops, don’t have it after all.  Next order expected in January.”  It’s apparently an all-too-common post-pandemic experience, along with four-hour hold times with airlines, a dearth of restaurant workers, and a national shortage of pool chlorine.

Personally, I would give anything to be able to buy a stove of the type I grew up with that exactly two dials – one for preheat-bake-broil and the other for temperature, and exactly one thing that could go wrong with it (the bake igniter at the bottom). 

But in the spirit of embracing all the features we never wanted, Olof and I made air fried onion rings on the Fourth of July which really weren’t bad. Olof can bake boules again which is a major mental health benefit.  And at least we don’t have to be on hold with an airline.

 Grilled cheese, anyone?

 

The dreaded F2 E1 Error Message strikes again (fourth time)

 

I see a lot of griddling and air frying in our future

 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A Rodential Dilemma

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published July 12, 2021]  ©2021

One of my most common topics over the years – and probably the least favorite of the local Chamber of Commerce – regards La Jolla’s rat problem.

The little varmints are insidious.  Also pervasive, prevalent, ubiquitous, widespread, epidemic, and generally everywhere. If you were a rat, you wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else.

This is because upscale areas like La Jolla offer lush foliage for high-end rodential housing, never mind a veritable cornucopia of rats’ preferred cuisine, including and especially oranges, pet food, and snails.

On your tax bill, you pay for something called Vector Control which deals with disease vectors, particularly typhus, plague, and Hanta virus, all potentially carried by our rodential residents. Rats can also be complicit in damage to the wiring in one’s home should they move into your warm cozy attic. 

When you have a prolific orange tree as we do, word gets out in Rodentia Land.  I’ve spent four decades attempting to control our rodent guests with everything from reducing their food supply (donating all the oranges to food banks) to smiting the little buggers in ways that sometimes make even me feel bad.

In my defense, I did try to start with the humane approach. A gentleman from a local pest control firm responded to my call for rat-control services and installed live-capture traps around my property with promises that he would be back daily to check on them.  It was all very humane, he explained.

“So, what do you do with them after you catch them?” I asked, immediately regretting the question. 

“Oh,” he said, “we drive them out to the country and let them go.”  He actually said this with a straight face.  Unfortunately, he looked like he’d had a supporting role in The Terminator and that the back of his truck was filled with devices I didn’t want to know about. 

Now here’s the problem: my younger granddaughter recently decided she wanted two pet rats, and persuaded her mom to take her to the local pet store to acquire some.  I told her father that there was no need for them to have wasted a single dime on this as I could have supplied as many rats – live trapped, health-screened, and overnighted – as they wanted.  I would even have felt my guilt assuaged a teeny bit, kind of like the White House pardoning a turkey every year.  (Let me tell you, that turkey should be buying lottery tickets.)

But by the time I heard about it, they had already acquired Velma and Louise, two alleged sisters. I say “alleged” because two days later, Velma (or was it Louise?) gave birth to 11 more rats.  Either Velma was getting it on with another rat after hours in the pet store, or Louise is really Louis.  Time will (quickly) tell. 

But my granddaughter is absolutely besotted with Velma and Louise and has built them an elaborate multi-tiered ratopian habitat with toys, exercise wheels, swings, and every accoutrement a rat could ever want.  Rat World should do a spread. 

When I FaceTime my granddaughter, she has Velma and Louise snuggling her neck, crawling around on her head, and otherwise being the cuddliest of pets.  She says their fur is incredibly soft.  She has even taught them tricks. Why, she asks pointedly into the phone camera, would anyone ever kill them?

Correct answer:  Because you have two and I have 500?

Still, Velma and Louise have really caused me to suffer a full-on attack of cognitive dissonance about our rat abatement efforts. 

Truth be told, Velma and Louise are not the first rats who have caused me to feel bad about this. Several years ago, the son of my dear friend, “Carol,” had an adorable white rat named Cream Puff. 

When Carol went through a horrible divorce, “Puff “ would lick the tears off her face at night as she sobbed into her pillow. One can never underestimate the power of pets to sustain people in times of sorrow.

A year later, a bereft Carol reported that Puff had been diagnosed with breast cancer. We’ll leave aside the obvious questions as to who treats pet rats (I have enough trouble finding vets for our birds) and how this diagnosis might have been made.  Routine mammogram? Self-exam?

But there were actually treatment options for Cream Puff, including surgery.  These days, if you can do it for a human, vets can do it for your pet. Carol agonized.

Some weeks later, I got a call from Carol. She weepily reported she was in the vet’s waiting room waiting to have Puff put down.  The treatment plan would likely cause Cream Puff considerable discomfort with no guarantee of appreciably extending her small furry life.

We cried over a memorial bottle of wine later that evening. And yes, it was really, really sad.

Sorry, rats. It all comes down to being invited. Velma and Louise, you should be buying lottery tickets too.


 R.I.P Cream Puff. The best of rats.

 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Shopping For My Next IT Guy

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published July 5, 2021] ©2021

I personally think that it’s not too much to ask that computers do what you want, not what you say.

Not long ago, I was just typing along, minding my own business, when my computer suddenly began spell checking in German, cheerfully morphing  my prose into variations of Ich bin ein Berliner.  I officially dispute my engineer husband’s allegations that I had anything to do with it. 

My husband will try to insist that I obviously “did” something as computers are, in fact, simply machines cycling ones and zeros, and not malevolent spawns of the devil as some might maintain.  But he will concede that when, for example, a tool bar suddenly disappears, I might not have done it intentionally. 

“So what exactly went away?” he’ll query patiently, knowing that this conversation is as doomed as many that have gone before it. 

“Well, there used to be a tool bar thingy and now it’s gone.”

“What was on it?”

“I don’t know.  But I know I need it.”

My techno guy presses on.  “Would you recognize the thingy bar if you saw it again?” he says patiently.  He recognizes the value of not getting overly technical with me.

Now there are those who think the Undo command fixes things like this.  But they would be wrong.  Undo fixes the text mistake you just made nanoseconds ago but the second you even breathe on the machine, it’s already moved on.  The Undo command has a very short attention span.

Ditto, on-line help.  Totally, completely useless unless you know the technical term that some eighteen-year old acned techno geek gave it.  For example, I lost an entire day of work unable to edit a document until my husband came home from work and observed, “Oh, you switched to Overstrike Mode.”  A keystroke and it was back to letting me insert text.  

“I did not switch anything!” I whined. “Why would I switch to something that keeps me from editing and whose name I don’t even know?” I can assure you that you can’t get out of Overstrike unless you know you’re in Overstrike. 

If a software company had asked me, and inexplicably they never do, I would help them design a computer that real people, especially aging non-technical but really nice people, could actually use.  The Clairvoyance Model.  Your computer would get to know you, realize that those nasty keystroke commands that are the boon of techno types, but the bane of the techno challenged, should be ignored at all costs.  The Clairvoyance Model would quickly learn that you have the frustration tolerance of a gnat.  It would sense when you are so aggravated with your computer that you are ready to drag it out to the driveway and run it over with your car. It would know that you only activated Tracking inadvertently by some accidental keystroke and that you want all those stupid red lines in the margins to go away right now.

I confess I lie awake nights wondering what am I going to do if my live-in techno guy goes to the great recycling bin in the sky before I do. Would I ever be able to find someone willing to have the conversation I described above? 

I have a standard joke with him that at his burial, I am going to throw myself on top of his coffin and let them dump dirt on me. It would be an act of kindness to all future persons who might be forced to deal with my technical difficulties.

It might not surprise you that my husband actually agrees with this. His version of heaven is someone having to deal with my computer problems who isn’t him. He says he hopes his successor drinks Scotch.

I know that there are theoretically services that will come to your house and sort out computer problems for you. But I have computer issues pretty much daily. When I accidentally hit Control Whatever and send my screen to Mars, how fast will they respond? I require service. Immediately.

I understand from friends that some of the more upscale retirement facilities actually have IT guys on staff.  But do they have the Patience of Job, er, Olof?  I fear not.

Will they let me get out my lined legal pad and wait patiently as I take down their instructions in the minutest detail so as to make the resolution of this problem potentially (operative word) replicatable in the future? I really do aspire to the “teach a person to fish” strategy even if the techno fish I’m angling for seem to go immediately extinct.

But you can be sure that if I end up in a retirement facility by myself that the top criterion I’ll have is interviewing the IT guy.  Food, schmood.  It’s all too bland and sugar-free anyhow. I just want my computer to work.  Right now.

 


 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Sobbing At The Salad Bar

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 28, 2021] ©2021

Who knew that June 15, California's official alleged re-opening, would be the happiest day I’ve had in 15 months?  I went to Gelson’s to shop for dinner and was happy to see no cart guys. Nobody spraying anything.  No masks required for customers.

Then a few steps further inside, I saw it, like a mirage in the Sahara.  The salad bar was back.

I actually started crying.  OK, my husband doesn’t call me the Grim Weeper for nothing. But I truly thought salad bars were going to become permanently-retired relics of the past, along with blowing out birthday cake candles and shaking hands. We’d tell our great-grandchildren about them and they’d say, “Seriously? People touched each other? There was food that wasn’t plastic-wrapped?”

Pre-pandemic, Gelson’s fabulous salad bar, along with their hot food bar and soup station, were mainstays of my life.  At the salad bar, you could get exactly how much you wanted of about 50 different salad ingredients, freshly replenished multiple times daily, with a choice of six dressings as well.  I blame my 22 pounds of Covid weight on the loss of that salad bar.  Also from not socially distancing myself from my refrigerator.  But especially the salad bar.

I guess sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it.  Covid has given us all more opportunities to experience this than we ever wanted.  Like most people, I got the message after three months. Didn’t need another whole year of Appreciating How Good I Had It Before - especially about masks.

Let me be clear that I did, and will continue to, wear masks when required (or someone specifically asks). But for those of us who wear glasses, unloading the mask requirement in most locations was right up there with the salad bar.  For more than a year, I’ve felt like I’ve been rendered legally blind with fogged-up eye wear. It’s amazing I haven’t fallen and broken my hip. In my age group, that often leads to pneumonia and death. Either way, it seemed like I had “respirator” written across my forehead.

We all developed our own comfort zones over the last 15 months about personal boundaries. By definition, anyone whose standards are more lax than yours is a risk-taking idiot. And those folks who are still standing in their back yard wearing masks as they water the tomatoes might as well have gotten Covid for all the quality of life they have (in some of our opinions).

Let me just clarify that my husband and I have probably been less impacted by Covid 19 than 99% of Americans.  We’re retired. Nobody we knew died of Covid.  In fact, no one we even knew contracted it.

Regardless, there are some things I am just totally over.

At this point, I can’t even bear to hear the C words (Covid or coronavirus) or the V words (vaccine and variant).

In various mindfulness classes I have taken over the years, the power of visualization has been emphasized as a way to manage stress.  So when someone other than a doctor’s office says, “have you been vaccinated?” I can visualize myself inflicting some major act of violence on them.  It allows me to continue to smile the whole time. 

Forty-two million doses of vaccine have now been administered in California. Watching the evening news, I think I’ve personally witnessed every single one of them.

I’ve written about the 30+ hour slog it was to get appointments for Olof and me, only to have them repeatedly cancelled.  I feared that as younger and more computer-savvy groups became eligible, it would be harder and harder to get appointments. They’d be giving shots to offshore infants and we’d still be hitting Refresh.

Turns out, we could have gotten a free ticket to Six Flags and a $50 gift card if we’d waited long enough. Now, those once-elusive vaccine folks are begging us to show up.  In another month, they’ll probably be offering foot rubs and a glass of Pinot along with the shot. I’m guessing all those people who waited five hours in their cars to get into PetCo Park are feeling Refresh Rage right now. 

Initially I wore latex gloves at the supermarket, and washed my hands a lot. But I lived for those two trips a week to Gelson’s and a weekly jaunt to CVS. If I lived in a locked-down retirement home, I would have broken out early on.

Plenty of people we know are more comfortable continuing to wear masks which is fine with us. We, however, hoped getting vaccinated would allow us to start living a freer life. As we experienced during this past year with a family friend, Covid isn’t the only horrible thing you can die of.

It’s been emphasized that Covid has probably never going to completely disappear.  Its future course is still unknown.  But as long as Gelson’s salad bar is back, I can live with it.


 

               Gelsons's salad bar miraculously re-appears.  Was it a mirage?

 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

How To Ignore Internet Wardrobe Advice

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 14, 2021] ©2021

As anyone who has been reading my column for a while knows, I’m a sucker for “listicles,” those popular website lists like “what your car/phone/plants say about you” and “12 ways to lose 30 pounds in a week.”  So it wasn’t too surprising that when I saw “10 styling tips that will instantly slim you down,” I had to go for it. Especially after the 15-month food felony that was the Covid pandemic. 

The one thing that was clear about this listicle is that it was not geared to my demographic.  I may not be in the pastel polyester pantsuit crowd just yet, but for me, it’s all about comfort.  Unless I get a spinal transplant, there is no way a pair of heels will ever grace my feet again. 

So here are the 10 listicle suggestions:

(1) “Invest in shapewear, particularly a seamless slenderizing piece that has reinforced panels to suck in your stomach, slim your thighs, boost your derriere and define your waist when wearing bodycon dresses, clingy skirts, tight pants or evening gowns.”  First, what is a “bodycon” dress?  Does Land’s End sell them? Actually, it doesn’t really matter because I’m pretty sure I don’t own one, or for that matter, any clingy skirts, tight pants, or evening gowns.  Whew! Dodged the fat-squisher bullet! 

(2)  “In terms of skirts, a knee-length pencil skirt is the most universally flattering silhouette.”  Are you kidding?  The only silhouettes that pencil skirts flatter are pencil-shaped people. The rest of us look like fermenting pork sausages.

(3) “Say ’yes’ to higher rise jeans.”  They advise “going for a rise that hits directly above your belly button.”  That’s their idea of “high rise”?  I will say no more. 

(4) “Rock out with vertical stripes.”  I will concede that vertical stripes can make a person look “longer”. But we chunkies tend to eschew stripes altogether.  For good reason.

 (5) “Cinch with skinny belts to accentuate your natural waist.” What if you have no waist?  Of course, I make up for it by having multiples of other parts, like chins. And thighs.  But it makes the whole skinny belt thing moot.

(6) “Don’t discount maxi skirts; a well-cut maxi skirt can actually give you the appearance of looking longer and leaner.”  I’d totally agree, so long as you weigh a maximum of 95 pounds.  The rest of us look like a beluga whale about to give birth.

(7) “Buy a new bra.”  I don’t know what it is about aging, but bras just keep getting more and more uncomfortable as you get older.  For me, it didn’t help that I got my chest crushed and three thoracic vertebrae permanently de-stabilized by a drunk driver a few years ago. But maybe I wouldn’t be any happier with bras even if hadn’t had this accident.  I was telling a friend that the first thing I do when I get home is take off my bra.  She said she usually takes hers off in the car.

(8) “Choose heels with a low-cut vamp.”  A vamp, apparently, is the portion of a shoe that cuts across your foot at the front which allegedly gives your legs a slimmer look, even as it cuts off circulation to your toes.  A high vamp shoe comes up the foot and possibly up to the ankle.  (Do Orthofeet lace-up walking shoes count?)

 (9) “Mask problem areas with dark colors and highlight assets with bright colors.”  Not a bad concept, but what if your whole body is a problem area? Do you wear all black?

(10) “Wear all black.”  You were probably waiting for me to shoot this one down just like I did the first nine but this one I could (mostly) get behind.  OK, I don’t wear ALL black which seems a tad funereal. But I’m really big on the slenderizing effect of black slacks.   When my young granddaughter was visiting one weekend, she queried, “Mormor, why do you always wear the same thing?”  As I explained to her it only looks like the same thing.  Mormor actually has eight pairs of those black slacks (and at least as many white tops the combination of which I admit make me look like a server at a trendy trattoria).  It is my personal opinion that black slacks best minimize years of abuses of chocolate and chardonnay.  I wear them with colorful tops and sweaters even if they bring attention to areas that No. (9) suggests I shouldn’t be highlighting.  But tough luck. I like color.

Unlike my college years when I wore miniskirts to sub-zero college football games (can you say “bronchitis”?), I am no longer willing to suffer for fashion. And I would also aver that all the camouflaging tricks in the world won’t help chubby folks like me look good in anything that’s tight.  Sorry, listiclist lady. That’s the word from the trenches.


 

 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

I Ate The Dog's Cupcake

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 7, 2021] ©2021

Over the twelve years I’ve been writing this column, chocolate has been a frequent topic, most recently as a health food, which, by the way, it has finally been determined to be.  I was definitely born too soon.

Of course, I recognized the health properties of chocolate long before science figured it out.  Some years ago, I discovered that, unknown to any but the most dedicated wrapper-reading chocoholics, one can supply ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of one’s daily calcium, riboflavin, protein AND fiber requirements (never mind a whopping 50% of your daily iron) with only twenty-five vending machine-size packages of M&Ms – all with no trans-fats and staying WELL within your daily sodium and cholesterol allotments.  

Not surprisingly, chocolate lovers tend to gravitate toward each other, partners in cocoa-buttered crime.  I have a wonderful neighbor named Jill who is always up for a field trip to what we call the The Cupcake Place. Annoying construction delays and impossible parking have never deterred us. Where there’s a cupcake, there’s a way. 

During the pandemic, Jill discovered that with a minimum order of $25, Cupcake Place will deliver. I’m kind of sorry she told me. But Jill’s deliveries usually translate into more cupcakes than even she wants to eat in one sitting, so she often brings two over, allegedly for Olof and me. 

She knows, of course, that Olof will never eat his cupcake, partly because he just isn’t a sweets kind of guy. But mostly because I always eat his first, the non-chocolate one, just in case that changes. While my preferred flavor is chocolate, anything with two inches of gooey frosting has my vote. 

Cupcake Place understands that cupcakes are a vehicle food.  Hotdogs, for examples are vehicles for mustard. Cupcakes are vehicles for frosting.  The cake part (or the hotdog) are mere delivery mechanisms.  Alas, most cupcakes are all-too-frequently mostly cake and not much frosting, missing the point entirely. 

When Jill made her most recent drug drop, er, delivery, I wasn’t home so she handed them off to Olof.  This included two regular-size cupcakes (chocolate and red velvet) plus a cute little sample one with white icing. The next day, I texted Jill with my thanks.

“Great cupcakes! You are the best friend ever!”

She replied, “So Lily liked hers too?”

Pause.

Me: “Lily?”

Jill: “Yes, the little one was a dog cupcake.”

Inga: “Ha ha!” What a kidder, that Jill.

Jill: “Seriously. I told Olof.” 

Inga: “Oy. I thought it was just a sample.  But it was great!” 

Or was it? I tried to think back: Did it have an under taste of kibble? And was that why the dog was glaring at me the whole time I was eating it?  Should the little orange dog bone on the top been a clue? Hey, the orange thing could have been a bow tie. And who was paying attention anyway? It was a cupcake!

Sorry, Lily. Next time. 

Cupcake Place describes their canine confections on their website as “a sugar-free cupcake with yogurt ‘frosting’.” Hmmm, why the quotes?  And no further ingredient list.  This made me the teeniest bit concerned.

After all, I recently wrote a column about why some dogs (that would be ours) like to roll in their own poop.  Research indicated that dogs are primally attracted to odors that humans find repugnant. There is also the evolutionary theory that smelling bad would help protect them from predators even though dogs have been domesticated for, like, 40,000 years.   

One of the wonderful things about writing this column is the things I’ve learned from readers.  And right after that column, a reader sent me an article about the difficulties pet food makers have in making pet foods that smell disgusting enough to appeal to dogs but not so bad that it will repel their owners.  Among the “palatants” added to dog food can be such colorless flavorings as “putrescine” and “cadaverine.”  Yum-mo.

Let me say right here that I am not suggesting in any way that Cupcake Place adds either of these to their doggie treats. But you do have to wonder what they did put in it to make it attractive to dogs. And given that I ate it, I am at least mildly curious. Thus far, no one has accused me of having doggie breath.

But another advantage of writing this column is that people don’t only send me links to interesting articles.  For the first time ever in the 12 years I’ve been writing, someone replied to my recent column on chocolate as a health food by sending me actual chocolate. And no, not M&Ms!  It’s called Volo and let me tell you, this stuff really is insanely good. And yes, healthy! One of the types even has chunks of candied orange peel which in Inga Land technically makes it a fruit, and no one can argue that Vitamin C isn’t good for you.

But from now on, I’m going to let Lily have the cupcakes with the little orange bones on them.

 


 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

In Memoriam: Post-It Note Inventor

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 31, 2021] ©2021

I was genuinely dismayed to read recently in the New York Times of the death of a man who has had a profound impact on my life.  He was Spencer Silver, inventor of the glue that makes Post-it Notes stick. 

I would have gone to the memorial if I’d known.  

Anyone who has spent any time at all in my home knows that from the instant I first encountered a Post-it Note in 1980, my entire mental organization has centered around them.

Truly, I think Uber and yellow sticky notes are the greatest innovations of modern times.  I’m not sure what I did without either.

In 1968, the aforementioned Mr. Silver, was a scientist at 3M working on “pressure-sensitive adhesives.”  When I hear stories like this, I always wonder: did his high school guidance counselor bring him in and say “Your Myers Briggs test indicates that you would be ideally suited to a career in the glue industry”? 

Actually, Mr. Silver was attempting to create a pressure-sensitive glue strong enough to be used in aircraft construction when he inadvertently created one most definitely not suited for that use. You do not want to be able to pull the wings off the aircraft, even if you could quickly reattach them. 

But what to do with this amazing new product, this “solution without a problem.” It was another ten years before a potential application was found. The story, which sounds suspiciously apocryphal, alleges that one of the scientist’s colleagues discovered that the adhesive helped him to anchor his bookmarks in his hymnal. If you say so.

Post-it Notes are now produced in multiple sizes and colors, different strengths of adhesion for non-smooth surfaces, and even with lines on them.  We purists, however, only use the original canary yellow.

Personally, I’m only willing to try to keep so much information in my head at once.  This is why my computer monitor is ringed with sticky notes reminding me of all manner of info such as short cuts I use during word processing, passwords I use frequently but not quite often enough to remember them, what sequence of commands to use when my computer freezes up, and how to stop print jobs when I accidentally specified 100 pages instead of 10.

 

Sticky notes on my bathroom mirror remind me of the day’s appointments now that I am a senior.

 

There is no machine in our home that is not adorned with sticky notes advising me of its operational requirements. Some current and former residents of this house still need to be reminded to push the dial of the washing machine IN before turning it. 


At one point, my older son Rory sent me a birthday card depicting an old person holding a remote up to her ear and waiting for a dial tone. Rory noted: “Mom - I’m sure there is a sticky note in your house that addresses this.”  

Post-it Notes on the fridge remind me to thaw chicken or put the lasagna in the oven at 6:00.

I just have a Post-it note mind. Or, as it has been suggested by mean-spirited persons in my family whom I will not personally name, a mind not sufficiently memory-capable to avoid needing Post-it Notes. Take my Post-it Notes away and you’d have to put me in a Home.


A few times my Post-it note habit has had unintended consequences.  In 2009, during a weekend visit, my prankster older son Rory appropriated my 14-digit library card number sticky-noted to my computer and ordered me up a long list of books including The Book of the Penis (it came with an 8-inch ruler along the binding); The whole lesbian sex book: a passionate guide for all of us; Coping with Your Colitis, Hemorrhoids and Related Disorders; and The Rear View: A Brief and Elegant History of Bottoms Through the Ages.  He was aided and abetted by the public library website’s then-policy of announcing “your password is the last four digits of your phone number,” a policy now changed, presumably at the behest of other mothers with creatively-minded sons.

It’s comforting to know that after I’m gone, I’ll live on through Post-it Notes.

If Post-it Notes are to be my legacy, I think it would only be appropriate that when I die, the assorted assemblage should be issued with pads of sticky notes on which they could write farewell messages and stick them to my coffin. This could be in lieu of flowers. It would be especially appropriate since yellow is my favorite color.  The messages could run the gamut of, “I’m sorry I never returned your blender!” Or: “I hope those chocolates won’t melt where you’re going, ha ha!  Or even: “Inga – you really should have had that checked.”

But somewhere in the program, there should be an important announcement: Given Inga’s demise, go short on your 3M stock.

 

 Some members of my family continue to need reminding

Could not operate computer without sticky notes

Monday, May 17, 2021

'Prevailing Medical Advice" Doesn't Seem To Prevail Very Long

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 19, 2021] ©2021

The jig is up, medical science.  I don’t believe a word you say anymore. 

The one thing about being in 70 is that I have had the opportunity to watch “prevailing medical advice” (the ultimate oxymoron, in my view), flip flop back and forth multiple times. 

When my sons were infants, babies had to sleep on their stomachs to avoid crib death; now they have to be on their backs.  Our friends with ulcers who spent 30 years avoiding spicy foods are now being treated for a bacterial infection.  People with diverticulosis were once relegated to soft diets; now they’re filling up on roughage.  Olof and I have dutifully switched back and forth from butter to margarine several times in the last 30 years (but frankly preferred the butter years). The New York Times recently reported that even 50 years ago, exercise used to be considered dangerous for people over 40, and for heart disease, bed rest was prescribed. In my youth, teenage acne was treated with radiation.   I spent twenty years limiting myself to two eggs a week and then suddenly eggs were OK again.  (I demand a cholesterol refund!) 

Remember Sam-E, chondroitin, tryptophan, and Airborn?  Actually, probably not. They were the miracle cures of their time.  Now even the current darling – Vitamin D - is getting bad press.  Medicare just denied a lab test for Olof’s Vitamin D level saying that no longer think testing for it is “routinely medically necessary.”

People in my advanced age group are really having a hard time embracing the  now-popularity of foods like coconut oil, its 14 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon always considered a fast track to premature death.  Now it’s a health food.  I decided to add a jar to my supermarket basket but only got five steps before the chest pains started and I put it back.  It’s like Mao waking up one morning and exhorting the Chinese to embrace democracy. 

And don’t even get me going on hormone replacement. Or calcium supplements, for decades the sacred cow of medical advice for women, now thought to cause heart disease in supplemental form. (You’re supposed to get it from your diet.)  If that’s true, what took medical research so long to figure it out?  I’ve been taking supplemental calcium for at least 40 years.  Aside from a big fat refund, I also want an extended warranty on my heart from you guys. 

Ambiguity fatigue has taken its toll on me.  In my heart of hearts, I’ve begun to think of medical researchers as the Enron executives of health care.  What happened to all those studies, for example, showing HRT was good?  If those studies were all flawed, how do we know the new ones aren’t too?  Before I completely change my life again, they’re going to have to convince me. And I’m going to be a really hard sell.

When one reads about medical treatments through the ages, one is frequently horrified at the amount of suffering that was inflicted upon people by what passed for the gold standard of medical science in their day.  (Before long, I predict they will be saying that about colonoscopies.) Of course, you say to yourself, they didn’t know what we do now. 

C’mon, admit it: Is “now” just as flawed as it was 50 – or 100 - years ago?

All you can really do, I’ve decided, is go with what feels right, knowing that whatever you’re doing is bound to come back into favor again at some point. It’s kind of like riding out a down market.  In fact, I like to think of it in terms of medical research ``futures”:  I personally plan to go short on Lipitor (my pick as the next pariah of health care) and go long – very long – on chocolate. A person, after all, has to live.

Sorry, medical science. It's over between us. You've lied to me one too many times. No, the constant volte faces are a level of perfidy that cannot be countenanced.  I'm done with you changing the rules! 

And speaking of which, there is nothing that irritates Olof and me more than finally hitting the cholesterol and blood pressure targets our doctors have set only to have them announce that new research has found that these numbers should be yet lower.  We’re in a loop of perpetual medical fail. Is this a plot?

I’ve concluded that my husband, Olof, is right:  Since medical science doesn’t really have clue, that you can pick what you want  to die from.  Neither of us are willing to die from tofu since we don’t like tofu.  But I’m willing to die from chocolate.  He’s willing to die from single malt Scotch. 

Fortunately for me, there are plenty of opportunities with chocolate to get enough calcium from one’s diet.  As a first step, I’m going to drastically up my intake of chocolate mint chip ice cream.  Strictly medicinal.