Tube Junkie


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For as long as I can remember I have been a sucker for electronic gadgets. I was about nine when the transistor was invented. Before then, everything used tubes. The local dime store had a tube testing machine, and I found that I could collect old radio and televisions from the neighbors that no longer worked and find out which tubes were burnt out. Even though I couldn’t buy the replacement tubes, I could tell someone else how to fix the set.

We also had an X ray machine at the local shoe store that allowed you to see the bones in your feet. The salesmen would chase me away when they found me playing with it.

In the sixties, everything electronic began to change rapidly. Printed circuit boards containing semi-conductors don’t have the same panache that wires and tubes had. I began to lose interest. The more I learned…

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Inspiration or Compulsion?


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Do nothing. Be sure to rest afterwards.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is nothing at all. It’s often more difficult to sit still than to run around in a flurry of activity. If you do manage to stop all activity, a loud voice will enter your head and chastise you for being lazy, a loser, a washout. If you can resist that voice, then you might surprise yourself with inner peace and an occasional unanticipated inspiration.

I’ve considered myself a writer for almost fifty years now, and in the times I’ve lived with women, especially when there were small children around, I’ve never been able to convince a woman that sitting in front of a keyboard and staring off into space is “writing.” To them, writing was pecking away at the keys.

A typewriter made a lot more noise than a computer keyboard, and so the act of writing…

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The Bully in the Schoolyard


Endure and thrive

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When you have a group of five thirteen-year old boys, they have a collective mental age of about eight. The larger the group, the lower the mental age. They have the same ability to discern right from wrong, appropriate from inappropriate as someone five years younger than their physical age.

I was just watching a group of such boys playing at the swimming pool and they kept getting into my lane, but I realized that none of them could be reasoned with, because they didn’t know why they were doing what they were doing. They were simply following the group. When a group of boys lights a homeless person on fire, and you ask them individually why they did it, they will say “because Joe said it was a good idea.” And if you then ask “why didn’t you object?” they’ll say, “I don’t know. Seemed like a good idea…

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Nowhere to Go and Nothing to Do


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We didn’t hear or see any explosions. Our first clue was when the Internet went down. A few minutes later we noticed no cell phone service. There was no reason to panic, it might have been a storm. When we checked the TV, some stations were still on the air. They were playing movies and game shows. But no news.

They say that people ninety miles from the big cities could hear the booms. People in Rockford, Illinois could hear the bombs explode in Chicago. They were deep. prolonged booms, but not terribly loud at that distance. Those who had been looking in that direction saw flashes, but not everybody was looking that way. Most people were indoors.

It turns out that it wasn’t a big attack, like the one we had all learned to expect from Russia. Only four cities were targeted. LA, New York, Chicago and Washington. Only a few bombs per city. No one knew who was behind it, or whether President Trump was still alive. Many people hoped he wasn’t.

It took a week before regular radio and television broadcasting resumed. Light entertainment predominated. News was a somber affair. White men wearing jacket and tie intoned facts and figures like funeral directors. There was still no report on the status of the President, nor most members of government. By now, cellphone service had resumed in many places, but not all. The Internet was still down.

At night, bands of orange light flickered overhead like the northern lights. There was a smell like burning wires. It became very hot for about a week, then smoke filled the sky and the temperature plummeted. Even though it was mid-summer, we had to wear jackets during the day. The plants that had survived the hot spell, soon withered and died in the cold gloom. Farmers threw in the towel.

We who lived in rural America paid the price for having let our towns decline. Now there was no getting away to the city. Gas prices went up by a factor of twenty, and there were road blocks on most major highways, so there was no where to go and nothing to do in town.

Those towns big enough to have a Wal Mart didn’t suffer much for the first month, but after that the shelves had been picked clean. Since everything Wal-Mart sells was made in China anyway, and because the prices of those items had doubled during the trade war, people were already used to getting by with less. Now they were going to have to get even more resourceful.

The hunger came on more quickly than anyone realized. After only six weeks there were food shortages. After eight weeks, people were starting to die. At first it was the young, old, and infirm who succumbed, but after three months, mornings found bodies stacked during the night on almost every street corner.

Nobody was ever certain who had attacked us, and why. The theory most people accepted was that it had started with a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, and then somehow had spread to Israel, Iran, North Korea, and finally to us. Since no missiles had been fired at us, it was thought that the bombs had already been in place, on the ground, waiting to be detonated at a later date. But as to who put them there or pressed the trigger, no one knew for certain.

After a year, things started to get better. It turns out that almost no on in Washington survived. Leaders from others states were brought in. There was a lot of talk of retaliation, but nothing was ever done because we didn’t know who to invade or bomb. You can’t just bomb everyone. We’ve tried that in the past, and it doesn’t work. Or maybe it gets you where we are today.