Sunday, May 28, 2023

It Was Not Amazing

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published May 29, 2023] ©2023

 When you think of all the amazing gains in technology, one can only wonder why one of them isn't inventing stickers that are easy to remove from glassware. I mean, we've put a vehicle on Mars.  So you wouldn't think the sticker situation would be that big a problem. 

Believe me, it is.  I'm talking about a company I'll call Glassware Guys. 

Don't get me wrong. Probably 90% of the glassware and acrylicware in my home comes from them.  Great selection. Good prices. Attractive. Durable. 

Frankly, I haven't bought much in the way of beverage ware all that recently since we're in the downsizing rather than accumulating mode of our lives.  But the acrylic glasses are perfect for taking an adult beverage down to watch the sunset in glass-prohibited areas.  Which is pretty much everywhere along the coast, even on cliffs.  Our acrylicware was suffering from Chardonnay fatigue.

Fortunately, the type we like was still in stock.  But my happiness was short lived when both the sides and bottoms had stickers on them that appeared to have been baked into the plastic itself. 

Now, I’m no virgin where it comes to sticker removal.  Over the years, I’ve used hair dryers, nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, Goo-Be-Gone, pre-wash spray, 409, baby oil, peanut butter, corn meal, talcum powder, and plain old hot water.

But these suckers, er, stickers, especially the ones on the bottoms, weren’t budging. Especially the sticky residue underneath. 

One has to ask oneself: is there a reason they need to use industrial-strength super glue on glass or plastic ware to attach a sticker that has a 100% probability of needing to be removed?  It’s not like these stickers need to be able to stay stuck into the next millennium for purposes of post-apocalyptic identification. 

So, I decided to see what the “Glassware Guys” themselves might recommend.  In fact, I was sure that when I searched “How to remove stickers from glassware” on their site, the link would pop right up.  But it didn’t.  So, I decided to try Chat.

Here’s a partial transcript of this 30+ minute conversation:

Glassware Guys: Tell us in your own words [who else’s words were they thinking of?] how we can best help you.

7:12 p.m. Inga:  I just got my acrylicware and can’t get the stickers off the sides and bottom. Help?

(7:15) Hi, my name is Jeffrey H., thank you for contacting Glassware Guys! I’ll be happy to assist you! 

(7:16) Inga:  I just received my 15-ounce acrylic glassware and love it but am having trouble removing stickers from both sides and bottom of glasses.  Don’t want to scratch it.

(7:20) Jeffrey H: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that you are having trouble with your amazing glassware.


(7:25) Jeffrey H:  Oh, I’m sorry about this situation. 

(7:27) Jeffrey H: Let me check if I can find useful information for your issue.

(7:27) Inga [getting impatient and surly.  Why is each non-helpful reply taking 4-5 minutes?  Is he playing Fortnite between replies?]  I can’t believe you don’t get this question 100 times per day! 

(7:28) Jeffrey H: Just to confirm, is for the amazing Acrylic Drinkware, correct? 

(7:28) Inga: YES!!!

(7:34) Jeffrey H: I just sent you an email with all the details we have for this amazing item 

(7:34) [Email has full description of the acrylicware, including its construction and dimensions. But nothing about stickers.]

(7:38) Inga:  Just got your email with absolutely no information about how to remove stickers.  Officially giving up.

(7:39) Jeffrey H:  I’m truly and genuine [sic] sorry for this situation. 

(7:40) Jeffrey H: If you want to know how to get sticker residue off plastic, wood, or glass, rubbing alcohol is an effective solvent that’s safe for most surfaces.

(7:40) Inga: That’s what I was asking a half hour ago!  And yes, I’ve tried that!  

(7:41) Jeffrey H: Thanks for chatting, Inga! If you have more questions, please chat again to pick up where we left off.  

(7:45) Inga: Why on God's green earth would I do that?????  Goodnight! Gaaaaahhhhh! 

It was clear to me that “Jeffrey H.” was a bot whose developer had failed AI 101.  So, imagine my surprise to get an email shortly thereafter from Glassware Guys with a smiling photo of Jeffrey H. and his dog.  “Jeffrey is proud to be a part of the Glassware Guys family.  His goal is to always provide a seamless and excellent experience. How satisfied are you with the service you received from Jeffrey H. today?”

Um, needs a new occupation?

Honestly, if I were Glassware Guys, I’d be selling my own brand of sticker removal prominently on the website.  Or I’d be contacting 3M whose amazing but now-deceased chemist Spencer Silver created Post-it Notes (my column June 2, 2021).  These folks know glue. Because no one should have to work that hard to remove stickers from glassware or anything else.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Reversing Roles

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 15, 2023] ©2023

Communication styles are the subject of endless magazine articles and MSN relationship quizzes.  This is a topic that has long fascinated me given that Olof and I have observed that our roles in our first marriages changed dramatically in our second.  Some 180 degrees.

You wouldn’t think this was possible.  It definitely takes some resetting of your self-view to find that your second spouse sees your strengths and weaknesses completely differently from the first one 

For example, Olof’s one misgiving about his first wife was that she came from a background where communication was never done directly.  Trying to figure out what she wanted always felt like a jigsaw puzzle to which he seemed to be perpetually missing the edge pieces, and the big flower piece in the middle as well.  Over time, he learned to read cues, pick up on nuances, and fine tune his intuitive skills. But it was hard work.

After they divorced, he told himself that if he ever married again, it would be with someone with more direct communication skills.

Come back wife with poor communication skills. All is forgiven.

Olof, who is never ever mean, has occasionally suggested in the nicest possible way that he has not a single teeny weeny doubt about how I ever feel about anything, including and especially about him.

As far as Olof is concerned, my TMI filter was broken at birth.  But actually, it just runs in completely different directions than his.  An engineer and a former Air Force pilot, most of his areas of TMI tend to exist in the murky underworld of “feelings.”  A sentence that starts with “I feel” is not ever going to come out of this man’s mouth.

Now, keep in mind that Olof is hardly a curmudgeonly undemonstrative kind of guy.  He’s out-going, universally liked (which I find very annoying), incredibly kind, and has a great sense of humor.  

In Olof’s and my marriage, ironically, I’m usually the one trying to figure what Olof is thinking.  Olof’s view of communication is that couples should be able to talk to each other about anything. So long, he adds, as you never actually do it. 

He will never offer an opinion about anything personal unless asked.  Nay, begged.  No, implored.  Actions, he maintains, speak louder than words.

OK, but as I’ve pointed out to him on more than a few occasions, sometimes words would come in really handy.

At this point in our lives, the only on-going issue we have is about the dishwasher, a topic I’ve addressed several times.  Olof graciously took over the dishes after he retired, although I think it might have been self-defense.  I’m not the worst housekeeper in the world although it has been suggested I’m a contender. (Was he a single working carpooling Cub Scout-leading parent for 12 years??? I think not. 

Housekeeping is definitely a role that has changed 180 degrees for me. Olof says that it is too frightening to imagine that I was considered the neat one in my former marriage.  My ex was, by his own admission, a total slob, although he preferred the word “casual.”  I wrote a column about him packing up three weeks of unwashed dishes when he was moving out of his medical school apartment and storing them for the summer in my parents’ damp New Jersey basement. The smell lingered for a decade.

Olof, the communicative one in his first marriage, confesses he has a hard time seeing himself now as the less communicative one in ours. 

I think from his viewpoint, offering solicited or unsolicited opinions about any aspect of a wife is a mine field to be avoided at all costs.  He can visualize the grenades imploding on the serenity of his personal life, the conflagration of hard-earned husband points. But as for me being the “neat” one in my former marriage, he says if he’d been our cleaning lady, he would have shot himself.

And yet, in spite of numerous conversations, we still can’t agree about the dishwasher.  I won’t belabor my previous columns on this subject, but he runs the dishwasher practically empty.  It makes me nuts.

 “Inga,” I have to say to myself.  “Step AWAY from the dishwasher!  The man is DOING THE DISHES.  If he wants to run it with two friggin’ forks, let him!” 

Those aforementioned self-help articles on MSN recommend using “I” instatements instead of “you” statements to resolve conflict, such as: “I need you to put more than three plates and a coffee cup into the dishwasher before you run it because it annoys the hell out of me.”  Rather than: “Are you aware that our last dishwasher – loaded totally by me – lasted 18 years?  That’s because it actually was full of dishes when I ran it. Do you understand?”

I think it’s all pretty clear.

How Olof runs the dishwasher

How Inga runs the dishwasher



Saturday, May 6, 2023

The Sliderule Rules

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 8, 2023] ©2023 

Amazingly enough, Olof and his six fellow-physics-major college roommates have managed almost yearly reunions for six decades.  Some year’s reunions were related to weddings or milestone birthdays, others for no reason other than the pleasure of getting together.  Who could have predicted the long-term bonding behind force = mass x acceleration?

The pandemic put a bit of a crimp on things so to make for lost time, we hosted a reunion in La Jolla in April. 

Part of our appeal was that the other six couples were coming off cold winters in Boston, Toronto, Minneapolis, Seattle, Eugene, and the Bay area. They were looking for sunshine and warmth. 

On the day that they arrived, it was warmer in every one of those places than La Jolla.  In fact, the couple coming from Woodbury, Minnesota noted that they left a 76-degree day to come to a city with a high of 57 and drizzle. 

Of the four days, we did get one day of sunshine, but the temperature never broke 60.  The day before the four-day reunion was to begin, I emailed everyone to bring jackets.  As in warm ones.

OK, for most of them “warm ones” were anoraks. And they hardly considered a high of 57 to be sub-Arctic.  And was “drizzle” even considered weather? 

But for us Southern Californians, this is unacceptable weather for April.  Especially precipitation in any form.  Plans had to be altered.

Given the circumstances, we decided it behooved us to ramp up the adult beverage selection to a full bar.  That way people might not realize it was actually raining (ok drizzling) outside 

This being a group of physics majors who have all gone on to successful geeky careers, I brought out the slide rule that I gave Olof for Christmas a few years ago which, as you might imagine, brought back a wave of nostalgia as the group giddily relived the calculation of such functions as exponents, roots, logarithms, and whatever else slide rules did.  Good Scotch and a slide rule: do we know how to entertain or what?

A few times over the years, the guys have gone on geek fests by themselves.

One of Olof’s roommates formerly lived in eastern Washington state, and as it turns out, there is no lack of tech-y, physics-y stuff to do there.  Fearing glassy-eyed spouses whining “Is it lunch time yet?” they opted that year to re-une without us.

Up first for the guys was a trip to Hanford for a tour of Reactor B where plutonium was first manufactured as part of the Manhattan Project followed by a day at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) which is a large-scale physics laboratory aimed at directly detecting gravitational waves.  For people with Olof's background, life doesn't get more exciting than this. 

Then it was a drive back across the state to Everett, Washington for a tour of the Boeing factory where airplanes are manufactured. I hear they got misty-eyed. 

En route, a brief somewhat sentimental side trip was taken to visit the nearby potato farm that was one of the roommate's long-ago first investment. In fact, he had tried to entice Olof to move up there to manage a processing plant that would convert all those potatoes into frozen potato products.  Olof's vision for himself at the time didn't include being a spud farmer in eastern Washington. 

"Just think, Olof," I said upon hearing this, "if you'd taken this path, imagine all the life experiences you would have missed, like four years in Riyadh, a year in Dayton, 18 months at the Dallas airport, all those trips to Biloxi, and more than a million miles on an airplane.  You could have just had a quiet life in Yakima churning out French fries!"

Whenever Olof and I have traveled over the years, Olof was always immediately attracted to the technical aspects of whatever we were doing.  When we lived in Sweden and were considering a trip up above the Arctic Circle to Kiruna, friends said, “Why would you go there?  There is nothing there but a huge iron ore mine.”  Olof lit up like a Christmas tree. “There’s a mine?”  (As an engineer, Olof’s heart beats faster at the thought of excavation.)  When he learned that one could take a three-hour mine tour, this trip was sealed in steel.

Another time, we took a large passenger ferry across the Baltic. As soon as the boat started moving, I was clicking away at the scenery and Olof was hanging precariously over the rail studying the ships steering capability and babbling excitedly about vector thrusters.  Engineers are very big on thrusters. (Or is it vectors? 

Well, the weather could have been better for this year’s reunion (in Olof’s and my opinion, at least) but a good time was had by all. And that 2019 eBay-purchased slide rule saw more action than it had in its entire life.