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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Newspaper Intelligence

As I picked up my paper today, I reflected on the memories I have of my parents reading the paper. My dad would come home from work about 3 or 4, sit down and read the paper. He was the smartest man I knew, and I could ask him about any situation in the world. He would explain it to me. He read magazines, as well, with an avid interest in current events, science, and music. He had turned down a chance to go to college because he wouldn't accept "charity." It was the depression and there were no jobs to be found. Ultimately, he fought in the front lines of WWII and came home to raise a family. He opted for a truck-driving job with Dean's Milk that paid well and a home in the suburbs of Chicago.

Mom is 95 and reads the paper every day. She is equally smart, and able to point out things I may have missed because I work full-time and don't read the paper every day, except to skim. She does the crossword puzzle and reads the bridge column as well. She is another reader passionately interested in current events, music, medicine, and now, technology.

I subscribe to a paper and scan it in the morning if I have time. Sometimes the papers pile up for a week before I go through them and pull interesting articles. I have given up saving recipes (no time to cook) and reading in-depth analyses of situations. I save the articles, but get more information from public radio and TV news coverage. Still, the paper covers topics such as psychology, medicine, business, food, health, ecology and information about local places and events that would never enter my consciousness if I did not read the paper. I am a sudoku and crossword-puzzle addict as well.

I once talked to a man at the railroad station. I had always been unsure of which track the train would be on, and you have to cross the first set of tracks in our station to get to the others. He replied that the tracks had been built by a British engineer, so they are the opposite of our highway system. Tracks going into the city are on the left, coming out are on the right. I asked him how he had learned this and he replied, "I read the paper."

My children do not subscribe to newspapers. They are gifted individuals who have access to the Internet and are avid readers and learners. However, are they being exposed to the wide variety of information contained in a single newspaper? How is this going to change society? They are instantly in touch with each other and the world. They are producers of content as well as readers. But what will their world be like without papers? Without books? Or are these media just disintegrating and reorganizing into a metamorphosis that will be better able to inform the public? What will the public look like? Stay tuned for further adventures.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holidays and Family

It's that time of year - the holidays! To help you all get along better with your families, I recommend pet stories. Someone in the family must have a pet. If not, feel free to borrow one of my stories. My mom and I were laughing today about my dog Tonto. Tonto was an American Eskimo dog that was taken home by a bachelor who wasn't home much. His idea of training the dog was to let it out in the morning and then chase it all over the neighborhood because it wouldn't come when called (this would later play an important role in one of the stories). The dog was kept in the basement, where it was free to go where and when it wanted. Our neighbor asked my daughter to walk the dog for him after school each day. Tonto was a fluffy little guy and we fell in love with him. All, except my cat, Lil the Pill. When Kim brought Tonto in the house after walking him, the cat would attack and corner the poor little puppy under a chair. He didn't know he was twice her size and more powerful at 9 months than she was at 6 months. I digress.

Tonto was a bit high-strung. After we adopted him, he never outgrew his tendency to "piddle" in a submissive reflex at the least convenient moment. Once, my daughter and I laughed so hard we wet our pants trying to shave off his heavy fur on an especially hot summer. We tried taking him to a training school for pet groomers. They said to have him there by 8 AM. We were kinda concerned when we hadn't heard anything by late afternoon. Finally, my mom got the call. She had to take Kim over to the school, where she had to hold him so they could finish the job. They advised her, "He's not really a good training school dog." We all had a good laugh at what must have happened.

The kids and I moved five times in five years while I was getting divorced from their dad. When we were finally settled in our own house with a fenced-in yard, we all began to enjoy life more. I was sitting at the computer in the living room one night when I smelled skunk.
I thought, "Hm. I'd better get Tonto in. There's a skunk in the neighborhood."
I opened the back door and in came Tonto, reeking of fresh skunk spray. If you've never experienced this smell, let me just say it is more of a taste. Pretty soon, the whole house smelled of fresh skunk spray. Two of my kids were living at home at that time, and asked if they could go to their grandma's house two blocks away because of the smell. I said, "Sure." I stayed with the dog and would have been angry if he hadn't whimpered in pain all night long. I called a friend, who told me to treat the dog with tomato juice. (It's hydrogen peroxide, water and a touch of mild detergent.) I told my daughter to run to the store on the way home and pick some up. She brought home three large cans of tomato paste. We doused the dog with it all over his body. The only effect it had was to turn the dog pink. Later that day, I found out the correct treatment from the vet. Unfortunately, we ran out before we could wash the tail, so Tonto had a pink tail for a day. The house smelled like skunk for a week!