Inside the echo chamber

Old hand - young-ish heart
Old hand – young-ish heart

Some might add “- juvenile mind.” Perhaps. I took this picture of my hand this morning because while we were watching CBS Sunday Morning, Cindy remarked on how old Jane Pauley’s hands looked. I said that I was older than Jane Pauley but still hand young-ish hands. Then I looked down at my hand and almost dropped my coffee cup when I took a close look. I carefully set down my cup and took out my phone to record how wrong I was. Please ignore any sobbing that you may imagine that you hear.


One of the gifts I received for Christmas this year was an Echo Dot from Amazon. It is an interesting gift. It is a voice activated “virtual assistant.” I’m not sure why “virtual assistant” is in quotation marks, but that is how it is described on the C-Net website. I’m also not sure why it is called an assistant because so far it hasn’t helped very much. A true assistant would probably ghost write an occasional blog post, but so far I’ve been doing my own writing.

Before I get too far into the meat of this post I must tell you I enjoy personalizing the various alerts on my cell phone and other devices. For instance when Cindy calls me the ring is Lyle Lovett singing “Stand By Your Man.” Email alerts have a male voice saying, “Let’s check the inbox.” By the way, Cindy hates that email alert.

I went to bed the other night with my cell phone on the bedside table. I usually sleep through email alerts, but one came in just as I was falling asleep. I barely noticed it, but then, from the other side of the room, a woman said, “Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question.” What the…! I rolled over to look, but nobody was standing there. Then I woke up enough to realize that it had been Alexa, the voice of the Echo. But no one had asked a question, and certainly no one had said, “Alexa, blather blather blather.”

Perhaps Alexa was hearing voices. Perhaps she is paranoid. I have often wondered since I plugged her in if she makes note of everything we say and reports back to her Amazon overlords. I have asked her questions along those lines but she never admits to understanding my questions.

Anyway, I composed myself to return to sleep, and was almost there when another email alert came in. And again I heard Alexa say, “Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question.” That’s when I figured out that Alexa doesn’t have the best hearing.

When she heard my phone say, “Let’s,” she thought it had said her name and looked for an answer to “check the inbox.” Since that night I have noticed that Alexa goes on alert when the bedroom TV has a Lexus commercial playing. I’m pretty sure that other things on the TV, and perhaps the radio could set her off.

I have also noticed that Alexa doesn’t know as much as I would like. She is very good about telling me the weather forecast or playing music that is stored on my cell phone. Alexa knows the laws of robotics, but doesn’t know that Isaac Asimov devised them. Finally, I can’t convince her to recite dirty limericks. She still needs some work.

Was yesterday better than today?

January 20, 2017
January 20, 2017

I took a few pictures this morning, trying to find something that matches my mood. This seemingly abandoned community center best fits the bill.


Cindy and I went out for dinner last night. We went to one of Cindy’s favorite places; and I also like it. Last night’s visit was unlike any other that we’ve had there. The restaurant is part of a chain and I shall not name it here because I’m sure that last night was an aberration. We shall return there.

I should state here that I am not a vegan or a vegetarian. If you find tales of eating meat offensive, please stop reading now. This is the space where, on a worse day, I would make a bad joke using the phrase “make no bones about it.” I’ll spare you.

Usually when we dine at this restaurant I order a chicken dish or a salad of some kind. Last night I was wanting something a bit more substantial so I ordered a steak. It was a ribeye to be exact. Ribeyes are known for their flavor and tenderness due to the marbling.

When our meals arrived, the lad who was serving us asked me to cut into the steak to see if it had been prepared properly. I skewered the meat with my fork and set about cutting the meat. I cut, and I cut, and I cut some more. I sawed on that steak and could not get the blade to penetrate beyond one eighth of a centimeter in depth. I tried to make a joke about it, but I was breathless from the exertion. I checked the knife blade to make sure it had some sort of edge. It did. I would have had more luck cutting that steak with a hammer and cold chisel, or perhaps a table saw.

Finally I move the knife to a different spot on the carcass and tried again. After some work I found success when I dislodged a small portion from the main bit. He asked if it was done enough (cooked medium in my case). “Fine,” said I the people pleaser, never looking at it but forking it into my mouth and started chewing. He smiled and left the table while I continued to chew. And I chewed and chewed and chewed some more, never reducing the size of the bite, just changing it’s somewhat malleable shape. Finally at Cindy’s urging I discretely spat the piece of steak into my napkin.

While I seldom send food back to the kitchen, I felt that I had to since the food was inedible. I cast my eyes about looking for our server. He was nowhere to be seen. But, ah, the shift manager was making the rounds of the tables, smiling and chatting with the customers. I caught her eye and beckoned her over.

“How is everything tonight?” she inquired. She probably knew that I had a complaint since I had requested her attendance at our table, but she continued to smile.

I explained my problem with the steak. She asked how I had wanted it prepared. I know that she expected me to say that I had ordered it well done. Phaw! I haven’t knowingly had a well done steak since leaving the confines of my mother’s kitchen and realizing the true worth of taste buds. For the uninitiated, a well done steak has no flavorful juices, and becomes harder to cut. No, I had ordered it medium.

The manager offered to substitute a different cut of meat or another ribeye. I chose another ribeye. What could go wrong?

They whisked away the offending steak, and in a few minutes the new steak arrived at our table. The manager, who had personally delivered the new steak asked me to cut into it. With some effort I cut into the meat and exclaimed, “Much better.” I was still a people pleaser.

As she left the table, still smiling, I forked a piece of steak into my mouth and commenced chewing. I chewed and I chewed and I chewed, and somewhat irritated I less discretely spat the meat onto the edge of the plate. I tried a second piece, and a third with no better result. I had wanted to make a joke about horse meat, but upon reflection believed it was really a horse’s saddle.

Cindy asked to try a piece of the steak in order to judge if my teeth were somehow blunted, but she had the same chewing experience. Rather than have me send another steak back to the kitchen, she asked me to get it in a to-go box and take it home. She promises me that she can get it tender enough to be edible. We’ll see.

We asked our server to bring us a to-go box. As we waited for him to return, the manager passed our table, smiled at me, and gave me a thumbs-up. I smiled back. Even in defeat I am a people pleaser.

As I said earlier, we will return to this restaurant, scene of many good meals. We have both vowed, however, to never order their ribeye steak again.

Striking Matches – A Frictional Account

The furniture in question
The furniture in question

One of my favorite gifts this past Christmas (confession: they are all my favorites) is a simple set of various incense aromas with a holder/burner. It came in a wooden box with a clear glass, or plastic (I haven’t checked yet) cover. It is very nice and fits on top of a new piece of furniture that holds most of my jazz and pop vocal CDs, as well as all of my DVDs of musical performances. If I sound proud of that piece of furniture it is because I put it together without attaching any of the shelves upside down. I think it was a first for me.

I don’t know about you, but when lighting incense I often wish that I had a functioning third hand. No, I don’t have a non-functioning third hand. When I light incense I need one hand to hold the incense. But I also need a hand to hold the matchbook and a third hand to strike the match. I suppose that I could light a candle that is in a holder and then use it as the flame for the incense, but that seems like a step too many.

I don’t remember when I burned my first stick or cone of incense. It was probably when I was in college, but it might have been when I was in the army. Often when I burn incense and play a jazz album I think of our barracks when I was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany.That may be a false memory, but it seems. real to me.

I’ve written about false memories over the years. The first time was early in the life of Classical Gasbag. I don’t think about it often, but now as I look back at my younger days, I sometimes wonder if I’m remembering a truth or what I wish were the truth. How much have I blurred my mental line between fact and hopeful fiction?

I would be perfectly happy if some of my memories, the ones of which I am ashamed, were a fiction. But then, if they were a fiction, why in the world would I be making up such dreadful things and blushing at the thought of them? I makes me believe that I actually did say and/or do those things.

Are you thoroughly confused yet? I’m going to stop before I confuse myself.

If you have any memories that you know are false, or suspect are false, feel free to share them. You can either leave a comment or fill in the form below and submit it.

Christmas gifts to warm the heart

Taking in the view
Taking in the view

This is a picture that I took on the day of the most recent N-N-1 back in October. But I took it earlier than the appointed time, so I couldn’t use it. Seconds before I took this picture, there were another four turtles on the rock, but they all slipped into the water before I could aim, zoom and take the picture. This stalwart stayed.


I love to receive gift cards for anyplace where I can buy books. What could be more fun than aimless wandering through a bookstore, picking up books, reading the flyleaves, and choosing an item or two for which somebody else is footing the bill. I know. I get a warm glow just thinking about it. It is almost as good as a nerdy high school student daydreaming about being seduced by the uapproachable cheerleader. It is exhilarating. But in the case of the gift card, dreams do come true; and it is less embarrassing is someone else finds out.

I’ll bet you have guessed one of the things that I got for Christmas. No. It wasn’t a cheerleader. I gave up on that daydream decades ago. It was gift cards. But Amazon and Barnes & Noble gift cards warmed my heart and sped up my pulse. I have been to the Amazon web site and have ordered books. And I have been to Barnes & Noble, searching the aisles for books to read for my reading challenge.

While in the B&N store I always start with the books that are on sale. I am always looking for a deal. I was looking through the books in a section where everything was marked down 50%. There between a book on cooking with beer and something Star Trek-ish, or perhaps Star Wars-ish, I noticed a book titled “iPhones Made Easy.”  That seemed like an interesting title. I picked up the book and flipped it open. It was around 250 pages in length. Really? Two hundred and fifty pages for the easy stuff? Can you imagine the size of the book that wasn’t easy? I’ll stick to my android, thank you.

I left the sale area, having found nothing that interested me, and went back to the fiction area. There was so much to choose from. There were so many authors whom I enjoy reading. But part of having a reading challenge is to force myself to read authors that I haven’t tried before. It usually works out that around 1/3 to 1/2 of the books I read each year are by new (to me) authors. So on this trip I wanted to pick something new. I chose a book, limiting myself to one so that I would have a balance left on the card, and came home.

I’ll be finishing that book when I finish this post. You’ll read about it when I post my first update three books from now. I hope that you come back to read it. Until then, let me know what you are reading, either through a comment or by using the form below which will remain confidential. I’m always looking for suggestions.