Blame It On Minute Rice

I blame it all on Minute Rice.

I realized that as a guy in a pickup truck broke the sound barrier passing me on the right shoulder while I dawdled along at 63 mph in a 55 zone.

Not to point fingers, but what was Ataullah Ozai-Durrani thinking when he brought a rice cooker to the offices of General Foods, served up the very first batch of minute rice, and forever distorted time?

Now, 4G isn”t fast enough. We need the newest 5G ultra high-fast technology, in spite of the fact that almost NOTHING is equipped to handle it yet. But, just wait a few nano-seconds, and every company under the sun will be enticing us to upgrade our phones because, why settle for s-l-o-w service.

Slow. Remember dial-up? Adds perspective, doesn’t it?

Do microwave dinners take too long? Is your car self-starting to avoid waiting for a cold one to warm up? Does Alexa control your gadgets, saving you the time to flick switches yourself? You may have fallen victim to the Minute Rice Race!

Why, Minute Rice has even influenced language. “Please wait a minute,” became  “Please wait a moment,” and now “Hang on a sec.”  Whoever thought we’d need to abbreviate the word “second?”

The faster things move, the more time-starved we are. Find yourself cramming more into every day? That makes as much sense as getting ready to pack for a trip, looking at the enormous pile of clothing you plan to take and thinking, “Oh, I better get a smaller suitcase.” Then doubling the amount you take!

Yup, it all started with Minute Rice.

When I think about all those drivers that pass on a double-solid line or the shoulder because I’m driving too slowly?  I take subtle pleasure in thinking how it must drive them bonkers each spring when they lose a whole hour of time, and they can’t do a darn thing about it!

As we approach that day when we have to reset the clocks, I just have to point out how ironic it is that with Daylight Saving Time, we lose an hour.

Oh well, I guess we get it back every fourth Leap Year.

Originally published in the April 18 issue of Beyond the Nest’s newsletter.

Forever in Stamps

My friend Elaine is like many of us…she loves to get a good deal. So when her daughter Renee alerted her that the price of stamps was increasing on January 27, she did what any budget-conscious American who thought of it would do: she went online to the USPS site to order Forever stamps before the price went up.

She was amazed by the selection… a veritable smorgasbord of stamps! Why, there were John Lennon, Scooby Doo, Birds in Winter, STEM Education, Sally Ride, Art of Magic, Flowers from the Garden, and even round Ball stamps featuring different sports!

So, she happily clicked away, rejoicing in how much she’d be saving.

While proudly fanning her newly-acquired bouquet of stamps, she related the conversation she’d had with her husband and son upon their arrival.

Elaine: Honey, Renee reminded me the price of stamps is going up, so I bought some Forever stamps.

Husband (barely paying attention): Good idea.

Elaine: They were all so pretty, and I couldn’t decide which to choose, and they were at the forever price of only $.50 instead of $.55…so I bought $142 worth.

Husband (Now, definitely paying attention): You spent $142 on stamps?!!

Elaine: Well, yeah. I mean, Renee pointed out how smart it is to stock up now before the price goes up. And she spent $100.

Husband: But she mails notes and cards out almost every day! How many did you mail last month?

Elaine: Ummmm….Maybe none.

Son: Mom, do you realize you just spent $142 to save $1 per book of stamps?”

It’s a good thing those stamps will be valid forever, because that’s how long they’re gonna last!

P.S. Elaine’s motto is “I’d rather be absolutely ridiculous than boring,” so as “an angel who takes herself lightly,” she gave me permission to share this anecdote.

Originally published in Beyond the Nest’s free weekly newsletter of Arts, Culture and Recreation in Greater Rochester and Beyond. Click here to sign up for your free newsletter .

Valentine’s Art

This box is filled with Valentines.

They remind me of your smile,

As you worked with crayon, and ribbon, and lace,

Humming quietly all the while.

 

As I shuffle through the years of cards,

Sweet memories come unraveled,

Spooling loving thoughts around me —

My child, how very far you’ve traveled.

 

Those barely glued-on images,

And words scribbled in a scrawl,

Those imaginary characters,

All drawn when you were small.

 

Although no longer made by hand,

Your cards still touch my heart.

Embroidered with such loving words,

All the richer, now we’re miles apart.

Here’s to the Mother of the American Valentine

Ever think about the origins of Valentine’s cards?

While the origin of this romantic holiday is a bit mysterious, we do know that a savvy business woman named Esther Howland was responsible for popularizing the giving of Valentine’s cards in the U.S.

After receiving a Valentine’s card created in Europe – which most Americans could not afford  –  the 19-year-old graduate of Mount Holyoke came up with an idea, and persuaded her father to purchase supplies for her from NYC and Europe.

She initially made a dozen samples and sent them out with her brother on his sales mission as he represented their father’s book and stationery company. She targeted $200 in sales (about $6100 in today’s value), but was likely delighted as well as overwhelmed when her brother returned with $5000 in orders (valued at over $150,000 today).

She set about creating a cottage industry production line, offering women the opportunity to earn wages in exchange for their work assembling her designs out of images, ribbons and lace. She also set about developing production boxes so the cards could be constructed by women in their homes and shipped back a week later. Always careful about quality control, she inspected each finished card.

Many of her innovations, such as the layering of lace, the lift-up card, three-dimensional accordion effects, and images that move to reveal a verse, are still in use today.

Before she sold her company in 1880, it was grossing over $100,000 per year, or close to $2.5 million annually in current value.

So here’s to Esther Howland, a business pioneer, and the Mother of the American Valentine.

Wishing you a lovely and memorable Valentine’s Day!

All above images of Esther Howland’s cards used by Creative Commons License  via Wikimedia Commons

Originally published in Beyond the Nest’s newsletter. Click here to sign up to receive Beyond the Nest’s free weekly newsletter of Arts, Culture & Recreation in Greater Rochester and Beyond.

My Own Brand of Resistence

Every week, I write an editorial for a newsletter of which I am Editor. I focus on writing informative or inspirational posts. I also occasionally add my own brand of humor.  I choose to repost some of them here six months to a year later after they’re written.

I rarely write controversial or political posts.  I occasionally wonder if I’m a coward for that. I’ve thought about it long and hard.

The other morning on social media, I read an important article in the Atlantic titled “The Billion Dollar Disinformation Campaign,” in which journalist McKay Coppins did an experiment. He signed up on social media with a pseudonym and obscured photo, then followed multiple right-wing facebook pages, and more were suggested to him.  The articles and information he was served up contained the polar opposite of those articles and posts he normally sees.

He notes that what it caused was not a stronger swaying of his opinion one way or the other, but a loss of his center of gravity. Instead of believing either set of information, it caused him to distrust both.

I have experienced that same phenomenon.

Because of many aspects of my background, I consider myself a savvy media consumer. Yet I have found myself wondering, on more than one occasion, “What is the truth here?”

Mark Twain once famously quipped, “lies, damned lies and statistics” to express his disgust that statistics were seemingly being used to prove or disprove anything. These days, the media seems to function in that same role.

Once upon a time, media was used to get to the bottom of truth. Journalists did not use comparative or inflammatory language. They delivered cold, hard facts from solid investigation. While there are certainly legitimate media outlets doing just that, there are also rogue media outlets bent on delivering a particular narrative rather than the truth.  If Mark Twain were alive right now, he might well replace the word “statistics” with “media.”

Just this week, one friend posted an article from The Guardian titled “The great dismantling of America’s national parks is under way.” In the same post, a connection of that person  posted a counter article pointing out how this administration had just signed a bill on public lands conservation. (Note: After more than 45 minutes of searching facebook and the internet, I was unable to find that original link to share here, or I would have).

So what does one believe? Which are the legitimate sources? The one thing we can all do before reposting is to check the dates of the piece in order to confirm what we’re sharing is current.

And it is disturbing how downright nasty the online world has become. In one friend’s post protesting the naming of Rush Limbaugh as Presidential Medal of Freedom winner because of Limbaugh’s “anti-other” rhetoric and belief system, another poster wrote, “You need to die.”

When has this kind of behavior become acceptable? I believe in the first amendment, but this kind of commentary is not discussion and it is not free speech. It is the craven corruption of our language. And it is becoming increasingly “normal.” Social media, at its worst, is a form of verbal pornography from which we just cannot look away.

So if I write  informative, inspirational and humor editorials and posts as respite from the divisive, angry, inflammatory and retaliatory posts, articles and commentary so often found today, it’s because I see a need for it. I also recognize that, even if I were to post controversial or political pieces, it would likely change no one’s mind: I do not have the clout or goal to manipulate my readers.

And so, maybe I am a coward… but sometimes, we just need a break, and that is my form of resistance against the environment in which we find ourselves.

Photo by Klimkin, used through creative commons license.

 

Celebrating New York’s Suffragist Legacy

I’m involved in an interesting initiative to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, and I’d like to invite you to join in too!

We’re working to recognize and document the many suffragists who fought for equality, the right of women to vote, and who have contributed to this state’s suffragist legacy. We especially want to capture lesser-known folks who were often left out of history books.

Do you know of a suffragist — perhaps in your family or community — who should be included? You can add information about that individual by visiting Women and the Vote NYS, a mobile-friendly website that will include suffragists, with an interactive map of their grave sites.

We’ll also be holding “Suffragist Search Parties,” in which volunteers will  populate the website through researching, fact checking, and entering confirmed suffragist submissions. Rochester-based party dates include:

  • Saturday, February 22 from 10 am to 1 pm at the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House Carriage House, 17 Madison St, Rochester, NY
  • Saturday, March 14 from 10 am to 1 pm at the 1872 Café, 431 W Main St, Rochester, NY
  • Friday, March 27 from 9 am to 12 noon at the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation River Campus Libraries. University of Rochester
  • Saturday, April 4 from 10 am to 1 pm at the 1872 Café
  • Friday April 24 from 9 am to 12 noon at the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation
 Space is limited, so if you’re interested in volunteering, please send an email noting date(s) available to info@womenandthevotenys.com. Volunteers will need to bring their own laptops.

The final phase of this initiative will take place on Election Day 2020, when filmmakers from across the state will interview visitors placing “I Voted” stickers at suffragist grave sites. The footage will be used in a compelling and concise documentary about this historic day to promote civic engagement… because the work of women’s suffrage never ends!

The Rage of Aquarius

I was born in late January which means I’m an Aquarian.  Whether or not you believe in all the Aquarian attributes, I can assure you that water is definitely my “sign.” Since having had to be fished out of the YWCA pool when I was five after accidentally venturing into the deep end, the Water Bearer and I have had an ambivalent relationship.

Take, for example, when I first began dating my, now, husband. After a lovely dinner, music and romance, we went to bed. Sometime during the night, I awoke thinking “boy the rain’s loud outside.”

As I started dosing back to sleep, a little voice shouted, “That’s not outside, that’s inside!”

I jumped up, ran to the kitchen, and flicked the switch. Sparks illuminated the dancing waters of Bellagio’s fountain cascading from my kitchen light and the roaring waters of the Niagara gushing from between the cabinets. Who knew tourist attractions could come so close to home?!

Moments later, the firemen showed up with their axes at the ready: “Miss, do you have a leak?”

“No, I have a flood!”

Next morning, as I was cleaning up the lake caused by the burst pipe, I went to put on music to mop by. That CD from the night before of Handel’s Water Music made a great frisbee.

Over the years, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” has become my theme song.

As I write this, I’m waiting for the HVAC repair folks to show up. The cat pan is among the paraphernalia currently floating in the pond downstairs, thanks to a hot water heater gone rogue, encouraged no doubt, by Aquarius herself.

I really thought I’d managed to develop an uneasy truce with the Water Bearer. Apparently the rage of Aquarius has not yet been mollified. I guess I should just consider myself fortunate not to have been born under the sign of… oh, say… a fire sign.

 

Editorial originally published in the February 7 issue of Beyond the Nest.