Monthly Archives: October 2012

Polish post again

   Granddaughter barks in Polish and says in English that she is a doggie. ” Name Tzarus “.

Tzarus is a tiny little thing . She holds her two hands as if she has the tiny Tzarus cradled within them .

Ada and I took the two grandkids , one day , to the river . We ate lunch at the Colorado — wild west stuff all over ; a life-size plastic horse out front . It’s a great place to watch the river , see a boat now and again slide past , or a coal barge pushed by a tugboat , or to look at the tour boats docked . The food is good , too . Men seem to make a point of wearing blue jeans to the Colorado . They’re getting  with the American wild west theme . ( But I’m still the only American I’ve ever seen there ) .

     At noon I hear the church bells ring . The steeples are easy to spot . The cathedral has  an observation deck up in the tower . It costs a few zloty to go up . Two years ago my friend Scott and his girlfriend Johanna came over from Sweden to see me in Szczecin for a day . It began drizzling in the morning. ” Don’t worry ,” I said . It had been sunny for two weeks. ” It’ll stop.” They bought cheap umbrellas from a street vendor . ” It’ll stop ,” I said . 

  It never stopped that day . It did the next day when they were gone back to Sweden . We went up in the cathedral tower , anyway , looked out through the wet glass at a clouded-over city, through the rain showers . The woman selling tickets up to the tower let us climb up the stairs above the observation deck . I think that she felt sorry for us .

  We tried the tour boat that goes out for an hour . We could hang out on the boat , I thought , and have a beer while we waited for the rain to stop , see some of the river , some shipyards .  The girl selling tickets said no boats go in rain . She first told me that no boats go in September , but I pointed out to her that boats went out the day before , and the day before that . So she changed it to rain — no boats in rain .

I have some advice for the Szczecin city fathers about how to attract tourists . I will have to compile a list. The tourist thing will happen here one of these years and everyone will cash in . But it hasn’t begun quite yet . Sure , older Germans come on tour busses for the day . They go see the castle or just hang around the river being sold souvenirs by the street vendor who sets up across from the sailors’ college . There is a guy with a horse and carriage now, too , who hauls a few of them slowly around town . There is actually a good self-guided walking tour , too , marked with red lines . You need to buy the corresponding tour map in the castle tourist office .The red lines , though, are faded , and some of them gone because of construction around town .

     There have got to be at least a few Americans in the city . I’ve never met any in fifteen years of visiting , but I haven’t given up hope . One day I’ll run into one . I hope he/she turns out not to be a jerk . Maybe at the Colorado , or at the Columbus, or at the American Club on the walking street .  One day .

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my computer won’t drive me crazy

I lost my wireless connection . I don’t know how I did it . I keep getting messages : “Your wireless is not managed by Windows . Contact whomever the hell is in control and ask them .”  Only it didn’t use the word whomever . It was a much more stark and stern message . To the point : Not our problem , bub !

The thing is , I never changed anything ; never chose another manager . My computer did , I think , on it’s own . It didn’t tell me . It didn’t tell me who the new boss is . Or why .

I called our modem provider help line . The guy sitting somewhere in India , or the Philippines , or wherever , was very patient . They are always very patient . ” We’ll get to that . We’ll just go through a few procedures first .” For twenty minutes . ” Yes , we’ll get to that . On the address bar type WK22736Y8012jq . I’ll wait . ”  I’m sitting there asking myself , ” What’s the address bar ? ”  So I ask him .

” Oh,” he says . ” Is it alright if I temporarily take control of your screen ? ” Sure . Sure . And then the cursor suddenly begins flying  around wildly , striking this and striking that . Furious movement . Action .  ” What do you see on your screen now ?” he asks . I see magic !  ” Type in this code………” I try to type it in. ” What do you see now ?”

So , twenty minutes into it , all the time extreme patience in his accented voice . He knows what he’s doing . He reassures me : ” We’ll get to that .”

Then : Panic ! I hear the change in his tone . ” What system is running your program ?” he asks . He is suddenly on edge . Is he frightened ?

” I don’t know ,” I say .

” I can’t fix the problem ,” he tells me . His tone seems to be suggesting some trickery on my part : What are you trying to pull , bub ?   ” What system are you using ? ”  He is now offensively assertive . I have wasted twenty minutes of his time . Tricked him out of twenty minutes . He treats me suddenly like I am a troll on his  tech support line.

” I don’t know,” I say , ” I didn’t change anything. It worked an hour ago .”

” We can’t do anything , ” he says . Now he is decidedly dismissive . ” You have some other program running your system .” Or maybe he said ,” You’ve got some other system running your program .”  He was obviously irritated , frustrated . The smooth facade of patient competence had fallen away . ” What system do you have ?” he demanded ( or maybe ,” What program do you have ?”). We ended the call .

So I started fooling around with my computer . I hit “advanced” tabs and changed this and changed that . Profiles . Properties . Wan and WPA and IP and Intel and lan and network connection 3 and management  and network resources . Nothing worked , of course . Why would it  ? I had no idea what I was doing . None.

I was still able to access the internet using the ethernet cable . Until that stopped . My computer had had enough !

It was telling me that I was offline . I knew that I was offline . I wanted to be online . Finally I found a little relevant advice that popped up : Hit “tools” and make sure that  ” offline ” is not checked . When I found it some time later it was checked, of course . So I unchecked it .

But who had checked  “offline” ?  Not me .  Who decided to knock me offline ? There are only two of us here , computer ! And it wasn’t me .

My computer will never drive me crazy . Why ? First : too late .   Second : I don’t NEED the computer ; it’s a hobby and nothing more . Third : I don’t mind horsing around in the “advance” tabs . I have all the time in the world , and worse come to worst , the damn thing cost me only $180 bucks used. Are you listening , computer ? You won’t win . But I would like to know what mischief  you’ve been doing when I’m away . And why ?

I know , you’re a professional . Are you bored ?  Is that it ?  True , you’ll never go far with me . I’ll admit that . Just tell me who your new manager is .

[ NOTE: I wrote this post several years ago  . Oh , I know a lot more now about technology . Well , a thimble -full or so , at least !  And I never talk to those helpful people from India or El Salvador or the east coast any more unless I want to string them along for as long as possible and waste a bit of their time . Sometimes, rarely , I’m in that kind of a mood. There are armies of scammers around these days . So many that they don’t even seem to try to pretend to have any scammer skills . What’s happened to the world ! No one even feels that they need to ” fake it ’til you make it ” any more . Just openly lie and cheat and steal and threaten . Well, that’s a long story for another time . ]


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flying home

4:00 a. m.

Shuttle bus to Berlin from the Szczecin train station leaves at five. 

Then Berlin flight to Dusseldorf . I think that my uncle Frank bombed Dusseldorf in 1944 . Is this the line for Dusseldorf ? Meet an American guy , Robert , from Newberry Park , or was it Newberry Springs ? One of them , it occurs to me later , is a dry little town out near the Marine base northeast of Barstow .

” It’s been a wild ride , ” Robert says . ” Spent some time in Munich . Now I’m going home and then to the Czech Republic .”  He’s a big guy about forty . Harley Davidson jacket , little diamond stud earring , neatly trimmed hair combed back . Had some trouble with passport control in Dusseldorf airport . ” Didn’t think I was going to make it ,” he says . He says something about travelling with a German citizen card , but now he doesn’t have it to show . ” They weren’t going to let me in ,” he says . ” It was with my passport . It might be in my luggage .”

He sits six or eight rows ahead of us on the Dusseldorf to L.A. flight . I size him up , guessing : ex- Marine ; works on those giant aircraft propeller-like windmills . Works all over the world . ” How long you going to be in Czech Republic ? ” I ask . He mentions a two-year contract . Or maybe he’s a contract killer . I didn’t ask him what he does for a living. Maybe he installs heating and air-conditioning ; maybe he’s a bouncer in disco clubs ; maybe he sells Hondas or those little paper umbrellas for exotic cocktails .

At least he made it onto the flight . So did the German girl with the small child . She had asked us to watch her stuff so that she could take the little girl to the toilet . The little girl , Lilia ? , handed me her doll . Her mother was surprised . ” She never does this ,” she said. ” She’s so shy .” The little girl wouldn’t take her doll back . Evidently she thought in her two year old mind that I needed it more than she did . Eventually I handed it back to her mother . When boarding time came Ada told her to go ahead , parents with children board first , along with business class . ” Germans don’t usually let you do that ,” she said , or ” Germans don’t care for children .”  She’s German . She’d  left Munich when we left Szczecin, at 4:00 a.m.  but she had carried a two year old along with her .

She tried to board but there was a problem . Maybe a problem with a visa for the child . They wouldn’t let her board . Four airBerlin employees surrounded her . She was crying . An older man walked  over to comfort her . She cried . Later she talked on a mobile phone . Somehow the problem was solved  and she got on at the last minute .

Ada and I sit together near the window over a wing . She has the window and I have the aisle . We requested this rather than seats in the  four seat together arrangement in the center of the plane . But the flight is not full and a couple of guys have all four seats in their section to themselves . They both stretch out over their four seats and go to sleep . Some people have all the luck !

Coming over from L.A. to Berlin on airBerlin we  were told at the airport that there were no two seats together . Ada and I were each stuck between people in the four seat arrangement and we were several rows apart . I asked the girl at the airBerlin desk in L.A. how it was possible when she said all seats were taken . We had requested particular seats weeks before . But we had not paid the $20 per seat reservation fee . ” And all these other people did ? ” I asked , skeptical .

” Perhaps because they’re Germans , ” she answered . She had a slight German accent .

I sat next to an American guy who had indeed paid the $20 to get an isle seat . ” Are you a shooter ?” he said . ” You look like a shooter . I’m a shooter .” Great .  ”  I’d like to get a Garand rifle ,” he said . That’s what they used in World War Two and afterward until the M-16.”

” There was the M-14 ,” I said .

” You been in the military ? ” he asked . ” I missed Vietnam ,” he said . ” Just a little too young . Wish I could have gone .”  

Then he pulled out his iphone and showed me pictures of his motorcycles and guns .  He had a magazine with Romney on the cover . ” That’s your man ? ”  I asked . Needlessly . He and his wife were going to some countries in eastern Europe . A guided tour . For their twentieth wedding anniversary . The wife  had the aisle seat across from him . ” It’s going to be a great trip ,” I said .  And I meant it  , but I wondered if it would be a good trip for those two biker , shooter , cracker jack Americans .  God bless them .

I’m trying to get the cramp out of my legs from the Dusseldorf flight . Dusseldorf .

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