Friday, May 23, 2008

Remember when: The Toaster Edition

I remember when I was younger we had a toaster that did an AMAZING thing…it TOASTED YOUR BREAD when you put it in the two slots and pushed down the lever. Not only did it toast your bread, it did it in about 30 seconds, and the toast was always the appropriate level of nice golden brown. Granted, sometimes this little aluminum box would occasionally melt the cord that was plugged into the wall, but GOD DAMMIT, it TOASTED YOUR BREAD (and/or muffins, bagels, pop-tarts, or whatever else you put in it.) And good god, when ya pulled your toast out of your toaster, your butter ACTUALLY MELTED on the toast!


Now with all these friggin’ “safety features”, even with my (work) toaster set on its longest setting, these new fangled toasters barley dry out your bread, let alone “toast” it. And, it does so over a period of 15-20 minutes. I vaguely remember when the switch to safety began, somewhere in the early 80’s, and toasters stopped functioning as a toasting mechanism and morphed into a safety appliance. It was just about the time that they introduced a larger toasters marketed for larger families, and went from the ever popular two slice toaster to the much needed FOUR SLICE toaster.


The four-slice toaster was ESSENTIAL for larger families, or any non-single-person household. I always hated Saturday/Sunday morning brunch, because as the youngest person in my family, I always got stuck with waiting to be last for my toast. I would get my toast some thirty minutes after the first person finished eating their hot breakfast. Even with the advent of the four-slicer, I always dreamed of having one of these industrial toasters in our house…


My uncle used to own a few franchise locations of a restaurant called George Webb’s in the Milwaukee area. I remember as a pre-teenager being fascinated with his industrial toaster in the restaurant, because it could put out toast faster than I could eat it…and BOY HOWDY, could I eat toast. To this day, my favorite meals is two eggs over medium on top of hashbrowns with bacon and toast. I love love love to sop up my egg yolks with my buttered toast, cuz my arteries just ain’t clogged enough yet!

So what happened? Why did our toaster become nothing more than warming trays? I have a few, ummm, thoughts on the matter.

Could it have been the introduction of the combination toaster/egg poacher?


REALLY? Have we become that lazy that it’s easier to pop two eggs in a toaster than it is to quickly heat up a small skillet on the stove top and fry them yourself? Did the “toasting” process slow down to a crawl to give the poaching compartment enough time to thoroughly cook your eggs? Or are your eggs as uncooked as your bread when the little “ding” finally goes off and you have to run it through the cycle three or four more times to get your eggs did right?

Or perhaps it was because of the HOT DOG/Bun toaster?


Uh…is it really that smart to have all that hot dog grease to be splattering inside a TOASTER? Or is that why they turned the heat down on these things? To prevent grease fires? And really…how many hot dogs do you need to eat to justify buying one of these things?

How many times have you been in your office and thought to yourself, “Huh, I REALLY wish I had some toast right now”???


Ohhhhh, goodie. Now I can plug my fucking toaster INTO MY COMPUTER? REALLY? How stupid is this??? I don’t know about your home, but in mine, wherever my computer is plugged in, there’s usually AN EXTRA FUCKING ELECTRICAL OUTLET where I can plug MY TOASTER INTO. Yeah, no wonder you can’t have a high heat source on your toaster when it’s PLUGGED INTO YOUR COMPUTER.

Tight on space in your house? No place to have a television and/or radio in your home?


No problem…just put a radio IN YOUR TOASTER??? COME ON! Yeah, again, cut the heat so you don’t melt your radio transistors? JUST GIVE ME SOMETHING THAT WILL BROWN MY BREAD! I’ve got an Ipod; a car stereo; a home stereo. I don’t need to listen to NPR on A FUCKING TOASTER.

I get so frustrated at home sometimes that I usually just leave my toaster in the cabinet and bust out my toaster oven.


Yeah, it takes up a little more space on my precious counter top space, but can quickly toast lots of bread for my starch lovin’ family. Come on toaster industry. We don’t need all these quirky little toasters. All we need is something that did things the way they used to…make hot, delicious toast that butter melts on. That’s all I’m asking.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Perhaps it’s the rainy weather. Perhaps it’s watching Adrian teaching Jed how to use the new remote control to operate ALL of the electronic “stuff” in our living room. Perhaps it’s the acceptance that I’m going to be Kay’s age in T-2 years, 184 days, 17 hours, and 27 minutes. Who knows. Regardless, I’m turning in to my parents…and I find myself saying, “Yo, y’all. Y’all remember when…?”

Like, remember when you could pick up your phone hanging on the wall in your kitchen and just dial it and reach a person? You could walk around your kitchen stretching out the cord to see how far you could get. Sometimes you could make it to your refrigerator and grab something out of it if your REALLY stretched the cord?


About 3 years ago I bought my first “Smartphone”, which is an oxymoron and, perhaps, one of the stupidest things I ever did. At the time it sounded like a really good idea. I mean, I was carrying around a PDA, a cell phone, an MP3 player, and, at times, a big bulky computer so that I could keep all the data files on each of the devices all synched. When I saw the Smartphone, I got a little twitch in my groin, because here was ONE device that could do EVERYTHING all my individual devices could do. It was a no-brainer, right?


Wrong. The problem with the Smartphone was you had to be a genius to figure out how to use the god damn thing. Back in the day, when Ma Bell would bring you your new rotary phone, you took it out of the box, plugged it into the jack on the wall, and made sure the two holes on the back matched up with the tiny plugs on the faceplate. You lifted up the receiver and stuck your finger in the appropriate number hole and spin to the right. IF you were HIGH BROW, you could just push the button and have the same effect. There were no directions. You didn’t need them. You needed to be dead to NOT be able to figure it out.

It literally took me about 3 months before I felt comfortable enough with my Smartphone to make a call while I was driving, or that I could find applications quickly. When I first got it, for example, it would take me 15 minutes to figure out where the “notes” button was so I could “quickly” jot down someone’s phone number. FORGET trying to just add a new contact to the damn thing…that was just nonsense.

For the first year or so, I spent a lot of time getting familiar with my MDA. There were nights that Jed would accuse me of spending more time with my MDA than I did with him. And, in hindsight, he may have been right. I used just about every application on the phone on a daily basis. MS Money, check. Windows Media Player, check. MS Word, check. Actual phone features, ??? Yeah, I’m not that popular.

After the first year, the applications on the phone became a novelty, and I just didn’t use them that often. The sound quality on the MP3 functions of the phone weren’t that great, so I went back to a regular MP3 player. It was easier to enter my receipts into a standard computer than it was to “hunt n’ peck” on the miniature keyboard of the MDA. I started developing arthritis in my index finger joints from holding onto the tiny stylus while playing solitaire. The internet functions, at the time, were slower than Jed in the fast lane on the highway. And I found myself wondering, Are all these features on a PHONE really necessary?

Last November I was trying to figure out where I could cut back so I wouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage on the house to buy Christmas prezzies for the boys. I thought, “Huh, I could start by dropping the $20/mo. data plan on my telephone that I don’t use that often. Oh, and I could also drop the $10/mo. insurance that I’ve paid every month for the last 24 months (which…in doing the math, had I not paid that $10/mo. for 24 months I could have paid cash for another phone in case something had happened to my MDA!). These were two great places to start, and this is exactly what I did.

THREE DAYS LATER I had misplaced the “phone condom” that I stored my phone in to protect the face of the phone. It was a “casual day” Friday at the office and I was wearing my Lee press-on jeans. I had squeezed the MDA in my front pocket and forgot about it. When I got home, I pulled the phone out of my pocket so I could relieve the pressure on the button of the pants and take them off. I was completely saddened to see my house keys had fractured the “touch-sensitive” screen on my dear sweet MDA…rendering it completely useless. With the screen cracked, I could see things ON the screen, but I couldn’t dial numbers, I couldn’t answer calls, I couldn’t use any of the features on the phone. And I was fine with this, as it meant I could go back to a real phone, or a Razr.


The Razr, while compact and convenient, just meant that I had to read another manual and learn all new functions on a new phone. And while it had SIMILAR features to the MDA, none of the actual functions were identical. For example, it had a calendar function, but you couldn’t sync the calendar with your computer and everything had to be entered manually if you wanted reminders. Uh, no thanks. It didn’t have a “standard” keyboard, so I had to get used to the predictive text nonsense on a keypad. It did what I wanted to, however, it dialed calls and received them.

But a mere three days later, I found myself, again, traveling to the office with a cell phone, an MP3 player, my computer, my GPS, my GBA, my camera, and a whole host of charging cables/sync. And I started, again, having shoulder pain from carrying all this stuff. I also REALLY missed having my calendar items right there on my phone. I mean, REALLY missed it. And perhaps the biggest loss of all was having ALL of my contacts and contact information GONE from my finger tips. That was a HUGE convenience having the MDA, being able to sync my contacts with my phone…I didn’t have to sit there and enter each friggin’ person individually. When I lost my MDA, while the contact information was still on my computer, it was gone from my phone…and so I didn’t call people all that often, because lord knows it’s impossible to remember a 7 digit number these days now that they’re stored in your phone.

And so I cried myself to sleep every night for a few months. I couldn’t justify going and buying a new phone. Jed is always so good about using his technology devices until they die. Unlike me, who sees the flashy lights and cool functions as an opportunity to throw even more money away on things I “need”. And then, it happened in January…Jed’s cell phone finally died.


We went up to T-Mobile to find him another phone. And he says, with the straightest of faces, “I think I want a Smartphone.”

Now, let me just take a second to say something about my kitten. I love my boo-kat, I really do. And I know this won’t be a surprise to him that I feel this way, and I hope he forgives me for sharing this with the world, but my boo-kat is a technology reject. He’s lucky if he’s able to figure out how to turn on a new lamp. Now, in my boo’s defense, he comes by it naturally. His entire family missed out in the “lamp” department. His aunt gets a new camera, she sends it to (F)reddy to figure out how to use it and give her verbal instructions. His mom gets a new TV and we have to go to Galveston to show her how to use it. His whole family just ain’t “manual readers”. And “manual reading” just so happens to be something I enjoy!

So while we’re in T-Mobile, I say, “Are you sure?” And he says, “Yeah, I think I want a phone I can check my email from.” Remember when you could EMAIL FROM YOUR COMPUTER?

So I seize this opportunity and say, “Well, if you’re going to get a Smartphone, and you’re going to expect me to show you how to use it, I should probably get a new one too so that I can familiarize myself with it and be able to show you.”…

And he bought it…hook, line, and sinker.

So I’ve got ANOTHER new “Smart”phone, and it has been taking me quite some time to figure out a lot of the functions. The hardest part has been getting used to the “QWERTY” keyboard…I’ve JUST about mastered that. I was thrilled to be able to sync all my contacts again, and I have vowed to use all the functions of the phone to their fullest potential. Jed…has figured out how to answer his phone and make the occasional call. He STILL struggles with that little “beeping noise” while he’s in a call and, often, can’t figure out how to answer the second incoming call!


While I dig my new phone, I surely do miss the “good old days” when I had my phone that plugged into the wall and sat on my bedside table. It did what it was supposed to, when it was supposed to. It wasn’t dependent on location, it worked every time you picked it up. People from the office couldn’t reach you “off-hours” because you didn’t have a phone attached at the hip. Dating was fun because you had a red-blinking light to look forward to with anticipation when you got home (or not!). Email was read on your own time, as it was intended, in front of the computer. Pictures were taken with a camera. Music was listened to on a good-old fashioned Walkman tape player (or vinyl if you’re even older than me!). And my memory was amazing, having memorized EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY FRIENDS 10-digit phone numbers. Everything was beautiful…back in the day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ramblin' with a red head while pluggin' Eric Himan

I realize this is like, OH MY GOD, so 2005, but I wanted to share something with you that I’ve recently discovered…I figure I’m not the only dinosaur out there that was discovering “new” technology. And no, I’m not talking about my new bag-phone.

Some of you may remember my blog about my new mistress, my Ipod that I posted last year? If not, here’s the link if you’d like to see me making sweet love to my Ipod. And I casually mentioned how I had gotten turned on to “podcasts”. I thought now would be a good time to explain that for the people who live in Arkansas, or are over 20, or both.

When I first got my Ipod and installed that cursed ITunes on my computer, I actually took the time to look through the entire ITunes catalogue. I noticed this link for Podcast, and clicky clicky’d on it. I about shit myself when I learned I could have ALL of my beloved NPR shows downloaded directly to my IPod when a new episode came out. For some of the episodes, this was daily, for others it was weekly. I nearly double-shat myself when I found out I could download Ira Glass’s “This American Life.” I nearly always missed it when it aired on the “real radio”, but now I was able to capture it every week and listen to it at my leisure. How very cool was that?

In the beginning, I stuck to the NPR programming that I loved. But then I was running out of stuff to listen to, so I started clicky clickying around the ITunes again to see what was out there. What I found was a wealth of wonderful independent media out there. I found there were many people out there with just a microphone and a recording device that were putting out some, often, entertaining shows. Some of the shows were solo persons yacking on about random shit; some of the shows were “gang-bangs” of various people all talking about a variety of topics (current, and not); some of the shows were scripted; some of the shows were interviews. The one common theme of these shows were they were all independent “artists” (cuz folks, some of these people really ARE artists!) that were able to have their voices heard on a global scale that they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity with via traditional media.

Now, on each “shows” ITunes page, there are links that say, “People who enjoyed this podcast also listen to these podcasts”. This was a dangerous thing for me to find. I went from listening to my 8 NPR shows per week, to subscribing to nearly 28 shows a day! I’ve since found a 12-step program and have cut back to a manageable level! So I wanted to take a few minutes out of your day to turn you on to some of the shows that I’ve really come to enjoy…in no particular order!

Ramble Redhead is an interview show. Tom, the ramblin’ redhead, is “The gay Barbara Walters”. He interviews a variety of people within the GLBTQQ community: STOP!

Patience queer people…I gotta ‘splain to the straighties…

GLBTQQ=Gay, Lesbian, Confused, Transgendered, Queer Questioning (seriously??? ANYONE ELSE WANT TO BE ADDED TO THE ROSTER???)

Okay, back to Tom. So he interviews a bunch of folks from the GLBTQQ community. I’ve actually gone back through his archives to catch up with some of his older shows. He’s interviewed some really fascinating people. I’ve also been chattin’ with Tom via GChat lately. Tonight he gave me the surprise of my life. He sent me a chat message shortly after 8 and mentioned he was getting ready to interview “Eric” and asked if I wanted to sit in on his show. I thought he was talking about another “Eric”, so I hesitated. Then he mentioned that it was Eric Himan, one of my favoritest Indy artists, and I nearly shit myself. I seriously got a little light headed. For reals. I said, “YES!” So Tom conference called me with ERIC (hehehehehe) and I got all fan-girlie. And it seriously made my night. Hell, it seriously made my week! So if you wanna hear the voice to put with the (F)reddy name, AND hear a great interview with an AWESOME singer/song-writer, check out Ramble’s link above (or subscribe to him on ITunes!).

I’ve also become a huge fan of We're Mean Because You're Stupid. Hell, the title alone is worth listening to! WMBYS follows Walt, Nessa, and Holly. They’re basically 3 “super-fans” that get together twice a week and talk about random things; guess what various celebrities smell like; and laugh hysterically. You just can’t help but laugh along with them. I fell in love listening to them, because listening to their conversations feels like being in a conversation with my own IRL friends.

Archerr Radio is another one of my favorites right now. Everyday is a new topic for Archerr. I have no idea how he puts out so much media in a week, and still keeps it fresh and entertaining. You can hear him discuss everything from politics to wine to his boyfriend’s weiner. If you’re really lucky, he’ll hit all three topics on the same show!

Big Fatty is not for the faint of heart, nor is he appropriate for the office environment, but he is one sick and twisted mother effer. He will keep you in stitches for exactly 20 minutes most days.

Dial H for Homo is a new podcast that has been put out by a few of the various podcasters that I listen to that is geared specifically for the gay comicbook nerd crowd. I started downloading it for Jed, but have enjoyed listening to it myself too. I know there are a couple of you nerds out there that would appreciate hearing 5 gay guys talking about their gay perspective on comics. Check ‘em out!

Live it up! Is a podcast put out by a little boy in San Diego. His is a relatively new podcast too. His shows are getting stronger, and it’s been interesting to see his progression from virgin to slut…in the podcasting realm, that is. I’m sure he’s very wholesome!

There are others that I listen to, but these are just a couple of my favorites right now. Take some time to check some of these out if you’ve never heard them. You may just find yourself hooked. Oh, and definitely check out Ramble Redhead’s interview with Eric Himan if you want to hear (F)reddy swoon over his idol!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Goin’ back to colli’ to colli’ to colli’…goin’ back to colli’, uh, no I don’t think so?

(F)reddy’s world is, once again, in a transition. I ain’t crying, nor am I looking for “ohhhhs” and “ahhhhs”. To steal from a well known parable, “It’s in my nature.” I’ve always been in a world of transition. I think transition is where I feel the most comfortable.

Now some of you know about my past work lives, some of you don’t. I have to say, for never having had gone to college in the past (GASP!), I’ve done very well for myself. I’ve been, in a word, lucky. I went to nursing school in Oklahoma right out of high school to get my nursing license. The good thing, for me at the time, was it was a means to finish something quickly and gave me the opportunity to make bank quickly. The bad news was, in Oklahoma, the nursing program wasn’t “college level course-work”.

19 was a weird time for me. I had graduated the nursing program, had a great job making very good money for “kids” my age. I was handing out narcotics to patients before I was even able to drink…legally. I was fortunate in my networking to have become friends of the director of a nursing home that I had done an internship in, and he gave me my first big break immediately after graduating from nursing school.

A year and a half later I decided I couldn’t “LIVE” in Oklahoma anymore. I was watching an episode of Oprah (BEFORE she “discovered her spirit) in which she referred to Austin as “The San Francisco of the southwest” because of it’s very large, open gay community. I decided to leave my friends and family behind and move to Austin. I knew one person, Kay, that lived here, so the thought of coming to a new place with no friends, no family, and no support wasn’t all that scary to me. Kay left Austin 3 months after I arrived, and wouldn’t return for another 5 years. By that time, however, I had already fallen in love with my new home.

Not knowing anything about the city when I moved here; where the ‘good’ places to work were; where the ‘good’ places to live were, I decided to A) get an apartment, as opposed to buying a house, and B) get a job with a temp nursing agency, as opposed to getting a full-time job and hating it later. One of the places I worked with most frequently was a spinal cord injury/closed head injury rehab at one of the local hospitals here. The director of the unit, Pam, liked my work style so much that she eventually offered me a full-time gig, and I continued working there for the next 8 years. Pam, as Kay did, left the hospital 3 months after I started.

After 8 years of working with my beloved spinal cord/head injury patients, I decided it was time for me to move on. On a whim, I woke up on a random Sunday morning and read the newspaper, which I NEVER did. I flipped to the classifieds to check out the nursing opportunities. The third ad I read, I’ll never forget, said, “Tired of working weekends, nights, and holidays?” Yes, yes, and YES! “RN with spinal cord injury/closed head injury experience” HOLY SHIT, FOR REALS? “needed for busy downtown law firm. Interested candidates should forward their resumes to Pam ____.” WHO GETS A WANT AD LIKE THIS? The ad was fully intended JUST for me. I was tired of working weekends, nights, and holidays. I had 8 years of spinal cord injury and closed head injury experience. And, the kicker, PAM was the same Pam that loved my work the full eight years prior and offered me a full-time position at the hospital.

I picked up my little phone and called Pam up at home. We had managed to stay in contact over those 8 long years. I said, “Hey Pam. I couldn’t help but notice an ad in the paper. However, I also noticed that it said “RN”, but as you know I’m just an LVN. Does this person need to be an RN?” And she said, “It would depend on the LVN. Do you happen to know someone who might be interested?” And I said, “I DO!”

Now, I wasn’t GIVEN the job. However, I was GIVEN an opportunity to come in and interview for the job because of Pam’s recommendation. I STILL had to meet with the attorneys, I STILL had to impress. Pam had told me that the firm was a very conservative environment, and she mentioned that one of the things that I would have to do if I was serious about the job was cut my hair…which I hadn’t done since I left Oklahoma City. As you might imagine, after 8 years of no haircuts, I was GOREGOUS. I went out THAT DAY, and got my first haircut in 8 years. Surprise, I was STILL gorgeous!

The interview, while lasting 3 hours, wasn’t the most fantastic interview I had ever been on. In case you don’t know any attorneys, they’re not big on time or conversation. Pam assured me I did well, and told me to keep my chin up.

A week went by, I touched base with Pam and she informed me they were still interviewing. I thanked her for the opportunity, and told her to keep in touch. A month went by, no phone call. Nearly two more months went by when I got a call from Pam and she let me know that I had “nailed it”. She then said, “Now about the salary. I don’t know how much you’ll be needing, but unfortunately all they’re willing to offer you is x”. I shit my pants. Literally. No, seriously shit my pants. “X”, was exactly double what I had been making at the hospital. And I said, “Well, if that’s all they’ll offer, I guess I’ll have to deal with it.” Two weeks later I started with the firm as a nurse/paralegal.

It’s now been some 10 years later, and I’ve really had a great time at the firm. I’ve made some really good friends here. There’s a nature of a firm wherein the work ebbs and flows. I’m not nearly as nervous about it today as I was 4 or 5 years ago when the work slowed down. However, since January the work has slowed down so much that I can’t help but feeling nervous. It’s my opinion that firms of this size aren’t in the business to hemorrhage money! The problem with finding a job for me now is I couldn’t possibly go back to the hospital setting and lose half the money. I can’t get a job as a “paralegal”, cuz I never went to “college”, thus I don’t have the degree they’re looking for. (SERIOUSLY FOLKS, doesn’t work experience count for sumpthin’?)

(F)reddy realizes he’s no longer a spring-chicken. 9 times out of 10 I’m in bed by 915 in the evenings. But it’s time to do something. So last week I went up to my local community college and cold-called their entrance exam. I was actually quite proud of myself. For having been out of school for some 20 years now, I did okay. If I’m being honest, I really wish I had paid more attention to that new-fangled math that I swore I’d never need.

For the first time in 20 years, well, really, ever, (F)reddy is going to college. I’ve gotten myself enrolled for summer classes starting later this month, and I’m a bit nervous. I spent, literally, 4 and a half hours yesterday registering for 2 classes. Here’s how my morning panned out:

0700: Log on to college website and enter my eID, no record of such student.
0705: After repeated attempts in various styles of upper/lower case letters, I call the help desk.
0758: A LIVE body finally answers. I explain my situation, they say, “Oh, I see whomever entered you forgot to refresh you. I’ve refreshed you, please wait 10 minutes and try again.”
0808: Try again, no mas. STILL no record of me.
0809-1015: Rinse, reuse, repeat.
1017: “WELCOME TO ACC REGISTRATION HOME PAGE”!!! Yippee, free at las, free at las, thank god almighty, I’m free at las.”

I pick the two classes the student advisor recommended for a “person of (my) advanced age.” I click “submit”, and it says, “Academic classes do not match enrolled academic level.” WHAT?

So I go back through the entire process again, same message. I then go through the entire process again, but this time, rather than pick the “academic” plan, I pick the “continuing education” plan. The message I get this time is, “these courses not available for continuing education plan.” WHAT THE EVER-LOVING-HELL? There are only two options for enrolling…Academic Plan, and Continuing education plan.

So at 1045 I send an email to the student advisor I met with and said, very simply, “Could you please let me know what kind of student I am. I’ve tried to enroll for the two classes you advised me on and for both type plans it tells me I’m ineligible for those classes.” She shoots me off an email some 30 minutes later and tells me that she’s, “maintenanced (me), and that I should be good to go now.”

So now being “refreshed” and “maintenanced”, I try one more time. And a mere 10 minutes later I am officially enrolled…with serious doubts about whether or not I’m going to be able to pull this off at my “advanced age.” I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, but keep me in your thoughts, regardless.