The Assumption Of Social Media

It happened again today. I sat down in my lounge room with a friend and had a conversation. The computer was off and I made no typographical errors. Both he and I seemed to be making intelligent statements and not once did we break out into a political meme or a picture of a cat. And neither of us invited the other person to play a brightly-coloured game. I’m a little creeped out at present.

Is this the start of an actual thing – this business of talking face to face and not using emojis? ( I will admit to making several emoji faces, but my friend just asked whether I had swallowed a teaspoon.

It all came about by him deciding that Facebook was eating up too much of his spare time, and by analysing the bulk of the posts and conversations…and then deciding that many of them were not as attractive or as helpful as a blank screen. And he’s not the only one – I have a regular weekly meeting with another friend ( at least I’m regular, but then fibre biscuits will do that for you ) where we do much the same thing. The topics are far-ranging and there are no advertisements to endure. So far neither of us has put the other one on time-out for a month.

Social media assumes that we want to see all that we do see. It tries by means of computer logging and recording to find out exactly what we want to look at, with no responsibility save that of the shill to provide anything else. It is the snoop and the sneak at the edges of our conversations with others – always piping up with what it hopes is a catchy phrase or picture. The click-bait scams are, quite frankly, just a form of intellectual pornography.

It assumes we are more foolish and venal than we really are. That we can be cozened into doing small useless things and that we will be willing to set these things onto other people in a chain of folly. This may seem to be annoying and insulting, but really is a valuable thing. It enables you to see who within your circle of acquaintance is gullible enough to borrow money from. Though I should be quick – by the time the click-bait advertisers get to them, they may have spent it already on lemon peelers and facelift hooks.

Like the moon landings, this experience of actual human interaction is one small step for mankind. Who knows whether it may ultimately lead to turning Facebook off altogether. Only time will tell.

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The Practical Use Of Cats

This may be a short post. We have a cat and I have been trying to think why.

Oh, I know why the cat is here – for the food and warm bed, plus the opportunity to squall until it is attended to – but I am trying to list what actual use he is.

a. Mouse catching. Having watched a mouse scamper out of the pantry and run under the new stove and reflecting that said mouse has been there for months, I do not think the cat has any serious ability as a vermin exterminator. Either that, or he has a territorial agreement with the mouse.

b. Roach catching. Summer is coming and so are the big cockroaches. Oh, we bomb ’em and bait ’em and we might as well set out cocktails and little sun beds for them, for all the good the poisons do. The cat has never, to my knowledge, ever caught one.

c. Bird catching. Well, here we have a different story – you want to look carefully at the welcome mat of a morning before you step out or you may be wiping your shoe for a while. The birds are always the innocent doves. We have plenty of crows and magpies in the neighbourhood but they have big beaks and determined looks and I think the cat is a coward.

d. Hood ornament. Well, here the cat is actually good at something. Curling up on a bonnet or the back roof of a parked car. Sometimes you have to drive halfway down to the street before he deigns to get off.

e. There is no e. That is all the cat ever does.

I do not expect miracles. No thought of the cat suddenly cleaning the gutters or doing our taxes. No need asking him to read Hemingway or sail a boat. I just expect the occasional cat-like task accomplished. I would even settle for a purr and lap warming now and again, but apart from losing half my bed space to him, this doesn’t seem likely.

We may have a faulty cat. It’s not working.

The Tube Of Toothpaste

If you would like to increase the happiness in your life, get a tube of toothpaste. Or of strawberry jam, haemorrhoid cream, or any other semi-solid commodity. The actual contents are not important – it is the delivery system.

Take the top off and squeeze a little – and a little useful product comes out. Whether you spread it on your teeth, toast, or tush is up to you, but observe that after you squeeze, the tube gets a little smaller and a little wrinkled. Continue squeezing and eventually it is all out.

And at this point the company that sold you that tube is not required under any law of the universe to refill it at their expense. You go buy another tube.

So it is with employers, acquaintances, friends, and relations. They can squeeze you like that tube – and out comes money, work, possessions, attention, praise, and any other useful thing that you might contain. And just like the toothpaste tube, one day they will squish the last drop of whatever out of you.

And you’re not required by law to instantly refill yourself for them.

If you’re a wise toothpaste tube you’ll have noticed what was going on long before this point – and you might decide that you don’t want to be flat and empty. That’s the time to clog your nozzle. Then you can preserve some of your self-esteem for yourself. And the user can go out looking for another toothpaste tube.

And at that point you are entitled to insist that they put the cap back on.

How Good Are Leftovers?

As a child I hated leftovers…I accused my mother of buying them fresh frozen so that she could serve them every night. There I was…complaining about being fed so well that there was enough food for the next night as well…Yes, you can snort in derision.

Now I treasure them – as much for the time-saving of having a good meal that is 5 minutes away from hot on the table – as for the taste. The taste that in most cases gets better for a night in the fridge. I am talking spaghetti Bolognese, Texican beans, home-made Eternity soup*, casseroles, etc. I’ve even evolved a means for heating and serving day-old fish and chips that makes them good.

And I appreciate the savings of the thing. Part of my brain knows that I have paid for it all, but part of me pretends that the second night is free food. It is certainly better economics than if it were scraped into the recycling bin after the first meal.

I’m a bin. Scrape it into me.

I do not appreciate this approach when out for a commercial dinner or at some resort or conference. I’ve seen the recycling caterers at work at a big Eastern States do and learned not to approach the canapé tray after the first night – indeed not to approach the scrambled eggs on the breakfast buffet. If you want an egg, get it poached fresh.

But here at home, we do not let our food go over the ” Best By ” date by over 6 months. I regularly scrape and wash the cheese to get the green off. Also the bread. The old trick of calling it ” Dad’s fairy bread ” stopped working after the kids started vomiting.

I have been accused in turn by my daughter of overcatering in some things…oh, the irony. But I notice the L/O lasagna, spaghetti, beans, and Chinese food seems to disappear on a regular basis. So I am still going to play the kitchen by my own rules.

*  No soup ever really finishes or starts – there are elements of the things that have carried over several years – in and out of the freezer. No-one has died from soup yet.

 

Going Thump In The Night

I often wonder about the societies that still believe in ghosts, spirits, demons, angels, and local council politicians. Do they sit in fear in the dark whenever the trees rustle or the roof timbers contract? Are they scattering talismans around their beds to keep the monsters at bay? If that’s the case, what sort of talismans would sell best, and can we get them wholesale from China?

For that matter, are the Chinese sitting up in bed clutching the covers, and staring into the darkness?

I have my moments, but most of them are related to where the darned cat is at any one time – ready to jump on my middle parts or already on the bed with its bum an inch from my face? I have taken to keeping a small torch by the bedside. If I see the bum one more time I am going poke it with the torch…

For the most part the house is quiet after midnight, except on late soccer nights. Then I trust in the football fans to keep the demons away from the door. If they could do it at a lower volume I would appreciate it, but one of them is Italian and there is no lower volume  on an Italian football fan. I have come to accept this and will hope for increased deafness in old age.

There are few external disturbances in the neighbourhood – we’re a middle-class suburb and have learned not to leave loose change visible in the consoles of our cars. I leave overdue bills there, hoping that if someone breaks in they’ll rush away with them and pay them for me.

T’was not always thus, as we had several years of mad motorcar chases in our suburb when we first moved here in the 1980’s. These seem to have died down – the miscreants growing up to be about 50 now and younger ones not replacing them. It may have been the hoon laws that stopped this – laws that confiscate and crush cars used by dangerous drivers. Or maybe it has moved out to wilder outer suburbs. We still get overflights to our local light plane airport at all hours, but these are mercy flights by the Royal Flying Doctor aircraft and are really a matter of civic pride.

We’re in the middle of time as far as our houses go – too early to have holes in the eaves that would let possums or rats in and too late to have much native fauna about. The cat doesn’t count as native or fauna.

At least we don’t have the same lives as Mr Lucien – the Moldavian cray fisherman I met some 30 years ago. He was working in Australia to get money for his family back home and before he returned he got me to make up dentistry kits so that they could get their teeth repaired. He also took back drums of Arlec electrical cable, weatherproof work lights, and motion-detecting sensors that turned them on at night.

When I asked about them he said it was to protect the family’s fish farm ponds. When thieves were trying to break in, the lights would illuminate them. I asked what happened then…

” We shoot them with Kalashnikov. Is good and work every time…”

He was completely serious…

 

 

Home Six – Bed

I live at home.

And for eight hours a day I live horizontal next to a wife and a cat. We have a big bed, and if we are decent about it we need not impinge upon each other’s territory. The cat developed the habit of getting into bed by coming to my side of it and jumping up onto my bits, but I countered this by doing the hockey protector pose when I heard him enter the room and the worst that happens now is a bounce and a thud. On occasion he has tried to lie starfished onto my entire side of the bed but I pick up the blanket and sheet and roll him off.

We have also discovered that you can get a marvelous pad for the top of the mattress that means Mrs. I want to roll around like a pig in a fit can do so without disturbing Mr. for God’s sake lie still until I go to sleep. It has prevented divorce, suicide, homicide, and worse.

The only down side to a very large bed is very large fitted sheets. They cost a lot, and sometimes do not fit as well as the makers would have you think. Oh, the top bit always covers something but putting on the bottom stretchy bit is like fighting a giant squid in a diving suit. And you’re not allowed to use a knife.

Bed is often taken as euphemism for sex. Fine. That’s always a good thing, provided everyone agrees. But also consider that a bed is also a bed. It can be a great comfort even if there is no-one jumping on your bits other than the cat.

Take One Spoon From Bowl A And One From Bowl B…

The family are out tonight.

I am not. Therefore it is incumbent upon me to feed myself without reference to their needs or desires. I can let myself go. And I am letting myself go to the refrigerator and looking to see what’s in the Tupperware. It’s Leftover Night. I couldn’t be happier.

We accumulate plastic bowls of stuff. Potatoes, beans, pasta, Chinese food, casseroles. Nearly everything that is made fresh has an echo. While we do police the shelves to discard stuff that is too old to define, the rest is fair game for the big stir-fry lottery. I am happy to say that I have very rarely managed to make leftovers inedible.

Some tastes do not mix. Milk pudding and fish cakes is a mistake. Taco Bell is never improved by being asked to become Taco Baklava. And nothing that was ever intended for the cat should be diverted to the dinner table.

But everything else is fair game. Ooh…I wish we did have some game. Rabbit, pheasant, moose…Hard to get moose in an Australian suburb – even the Canadian specialty shops make excuses and say they’re sorry they can’t supply it. Well, they would say ” sorry “…they’re Canadians. But what I wouldn’t give for a big ‘ol can of whole moose in gravy.

You can also play the leftover game with desserts. Sweet is sweet, no matter how it is produced, and the meat/milk decisions you might have to make in the main course are swept away for the afters. The problem is that generally there are fewer leftover desserts than other portions of the meals. One solves this by making fresh desserts – it doesn’t pay to be discouraged. I was trifling with the idea of putting cake, sherry, custard, and fruit into a bowl but decided that it would never work.

A note to cooks who put things in Tupperware. TW takes up a surprisingly large volume of space in a fridge. You think it’s all jolly colours and a flexible lid, but the engineers at the Tupperware factory have a secret plan to take over the kitchens of the world. Every container is bigger than you need and the lid makes it bigger still. The clever ones that nest into each other are apt to squeeze everything else out of the appliance – but they are so cute that no-one can resist getting the whole range.

My solution is not to get twee about the food. It will all go into and out of the same holes anyway, so it might as well all be lumped into one big pot in the refrigerator and be done with it. You never can tell – no matter what you throw in there it becomes brown and you may end up for a brief period of time with a Brillat-Savarin winner.