Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Facing a brave new world ...computer illiteracy !

Put a skirt on this guy and it could be me trying to figure out my new computer !!!

The PC that I have been using since 2007 was close to crashing and I saw that Best Buy was having a "Black Friday" sale so I decided to take advantage of that. For a little over $300 I was able to get one and the next step was to bring it home and just get started ...HAH ...easier said than done.

My first clue should have been when it took forever to have all the apps put on the screen. If my son Mark had not alerted me to that I would have given up then and there. As it was I was able to click on the thingy that got me to a picture I'd saved of my son Matt's back lawn and I hastily sent it to my desktop. It was, and is, very soothing to see it there.

But where in the heck was the nice menu that I've used for years ...you know, the one that pops up on the bottom left of the computer that makes it easy to get to my emails and the very important Microsoft free Games !! Once again my oldest son came to my rescue and had me right click on the little icon with 4 boxes . OK...similar but no games etc., etc.

It is just Day two as I write this and you can tell how frustrated I am. I figure it's time to get some Geek training at Best Buy and I hope to do that this week. As my daughter Jody's husband says "It's like eating an elephant ... you do it one bite at a time". (or should that be spelled byte ?)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

More about incubators …

I recently wrote about the amazing doctor who started using incubators in the late 1800’s to save premature babies … long before they were the norm in hospitals. Now I see that it takes another person “thinking out of the box” to take it a step further.

James Roberts, 23, a recent college graduate in England was declared the International Winner of the James Dyson Award for inventing an inflatable baby incubator. He got the idea after watching a documentary about Syria and saw that many infants were dying there because of the lack of medical resources.

Roberts initial incentive was to “design a product that solves a problem” and he certainly fulfilled that requirement. He actually became obsessed with making his idea work and he even sold his car to fund his research and his incubator prototype. After nine months of non-stop effort and thought he produced his working machine that he named the MOM incubator. 

Roberts incubator has humidity and temperature controls and can be blown up manually. The article that I read reported that “MOM is an inflatable incubator for the developing world. It has the same performance as a £30,000 modern incubation system, but costs just £250 to manufacture, test and transport. It can be collapsed for transportation and its battery lasts 24 hours.”

His invention has the potential to save thousands of lives and I’m sure he will fulfill his wildest dream, which, in his words is “meeting someone in 10 years who was a kid and was in my incubator and survived.”

Wow ! It’s the James Roberts of the world that give us hope.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cry, The Beloved Country

I was in my teens when I first read this amazing book by Alan Paton. Now, 65 years later, I have re-read it and find it just as compelling. There have been tremendous changes in South Africa since he wrote this novel. Apartheid (which came into existence just a year after his book was published) has been abolished and the past 20 years, or so, have brought new hope and many changes to that land.

I wish I could say the same for these United States. Although the blacks have many less restrictions now there is still a vicious hatred against them that smolders just beneath the surface and it is killing our nation. It is almost miraculous that we were able to elect a black President and re-elect him ! However, that may have exacerbated the fear that so many whites seem to feel.

In Cry, The Beloved Country Paton gives an account of the inhumanity of the whites against the blacks of South Africa. He speaks of how the love of gold and power corrupt a country and he is most often remembered by this quote: “But there is only one thing that has power completely, and this is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power.”

That is a memorable statement but the one that pierced my heart was at the very end of the novel when the black priest, Theophilus Msimangu “who had no hate for any man” said “I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they turn to loving they will find that we are turned to hating.”

An awfully good description of what is happening in our nation right now ... and it is, indeed, fearful.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Another amazing StoryCorps story …

If you have never listened to NPR’s Morning Edition you’ve missed the wonderful segment where they feature conversations taped by “ordinary” people in America. This is a StoryCorp project, a non-profit organization that records these stories, airs them and then archives them at the American Folk-life Center at the Library of Congress.. It gives credence to the fact that our country is eclectic, to say the least.

The man that you see here holding one of “his” babies is Dr. Martin Couney. He was a pioneer in the field of incubators but the medical establishment scoffed at the idea. So Dr. Couney took the matter into his own hands and every summer for 40 years (from 1896 to the 1940’s) he funded his work by displaying premature infants (kept alive in incubators) at a Coney Island side show, charging 25 cents per person per viewing.

The parents of the babies didn’t have to pay for medical care and many of the children survived. One of the survivors is a 94 year old woman named Lucille Horn and it is she who Story-Corp interviewed and recorded along with her daughter. She was born in 1920 and was so tiny that her parents were told there was no hope of her surviving. Her father didn’t let it go at that … he wrapped her in a blanket and took her to Coney Island and to Dr. Couney’s infant exhibit where she lived for the next 6 months.

"How do you feel knowing that people paid to see you?" her daughter asks in the interview and her mother says it is OK because she is alive today because of it. She also tells about going back to the show many years later and watching the good doctor still saving babies. When she told him who she was he turned to a young man standing in front of one of the incubators and told him that “this is how your baby will grow up”.

Dr. Couney died in 1950, shortly after incubators like his were introduced to most hospitals. It makes you wonder how many other children would have survived if those in the medical field had not turned a blind eye to his project.










Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Cosell and Ali …

Watching the 2001 film “Ali” recently brought back so many wonderful memories of my years in New York City in the late 50’s.

I did not know Muhammed Ali but I was definitely aware of the colorful sportscaster Howard Cosell. I had to laugh when (in the film) Ali asks for his support and Howard, working at WABC radio, tells him it would be difficult “because my bosses care only about Nielsen ratings.” I knew that feeling well since I worked there too writing promotional material and I had learned to interpret reams of facts and figures to always make our network Number One !

Howard was an acquaintance who, along with others, would share a cab with me to the East side…he to Grand Central Station and me to my apartment in Tudor City. The thing I remember most about Howard Cosell was his quiet and compelling voice. The nasal sound was there but I never heard the excited and almost-manic quality that were to become his particular trademark. I had no reason to believe that he would become one of the most controversial figures in the world of sports reporting.

Howard was the first sportscaster to call the heavyweight champion, originally known as Cassius Clay, by his new name Muhammed Ali. It was actually considered scandalous to many Americans. I left WABC in 1959 when my first child was born but it was a treat to follow Howard’s career and, especially, his very particular friendship with Ali.

Howard is many things to many people...but to me he will always be the gentleman who insisted on paying the cab-fare.

Friday, July 03, 2015

A chip off the old block …

Here’s my dad in 1948. He’s working on his favorite Sunday event...first reading The New York Times from cover to cover and then attacking the Puzzle. I recall many times when we would hold up our usual 4 PM Sunday dinner until he was finished.

I’m definitely a chip off the old block when it comes to this. For many years I’ve worked a crossword puzzle every night in the hope that it will stave off Alzheimer’s disease or, at the very least, help to keep me halfway alert in my old age ! 

Many of my contemporaries have done the same thing but we all seem to agree that it’s no longer as much fun as it used to be. It seems that the puzzles now are filled with current TV or Hollywood names and, since they hold little or no interest to me, the only way I could get the answer would be to look them up on the internet. Even the clues seem to have gone from “hard to solve but interesting” to “Oh, well. Another trip to the Computer”.

This all became very clear to me last night when I was stuck on a five letter space starting with the letter “P”. The clue was: “Unmilled rice in the Philippines”. Really??? For you die-hards out there the answer is PALAY but for me it was almost the last straw.

I still have Dad’s dictionary on display so I decided to look up that word. Of course it was not there. The closest word was PALAVER …definition “folderol” and that seems to say it all for me !