50 thoughts on turning 50: #16 Arguing with idiots

railing at idiots

Once upon a time, I thought that the best way to handle a disagreement with someone was to argue my side of the issue. Prove my point. Give the facts. Share my opinion. Make my case.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there is a difference between an intelligent discussion and arguing with idiots. The first leaves you both a bit more enlightened about the other’s views; the latter just leaves you exhausted.

Arguing with people who like to argue only leads to one thing: an argument. And it’s one you can never win, because there are some people who make it their mission in life to argue, regardless of the issue or even if they have an opinion on the issue. They ignore the facts, they disregard the truth, they change their stance in order to continue the argument. They just want to engage in verbal combat, whether it’s politics, religion or the proper way to inflate the tires on your car.

It’s easy to get sucked in, to get frustrated, and to feed the conflict. Instead, I’ve mastered the art of disengaging. I smile, take a deep breath, and walk away. Even when I know I’m right. Even when I have the facts on my side. Even if walking away means I may look weak for not making my case.

Because I’ve learned this important truth: in the end, the idiot will always be revealed as the idiot he is, and it’s better not to even be on that stage when the curtain rises.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

My June column in Refreshed Magazine

Refreshed June 2014 with borderFor my June column in the San Diego-based Refreshed Magazine, I mused on my 50th birthday – a few weeks before I even turned 50. Since I hadn’t yet experienced the joy of reaching a half century, I turned to friends for some thoughts. You can read the column online here.

50 thoughts on turning 50: #15 Greetings from your alternate reality

sheldon and penny big bang dancing alternate universe

Bandit and I went for a walk this week with my new friend Beth.  I met her a few years ago when I interviewed her for a pet magazine, and although we’ve kept in touch on Facebook, I confess that when she asked if Bandit and I wanted to go for a walk with her, I was afraid she’d find me boring in person. I suggested we go to Mt. Hope Cemetery, where I knew Bandit could meander about on a long leash and we’d have a nice walk.

I also knew that I’d have something to talk about, seeing as how I’m obsessed with a few of the residents at Mt. Hope and have been researching their histories. If I wasn’t interesting, maybe they would be. (You remember Emma Moore and Sarah Bardwell?)

Yes, I babbled.

But fortunately, Beth not only enjoyed the stories, she had a few of her own. And they were more interesting than mine, by a mile. Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: #14 We are not alone

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This one harkens back to one of my first posts, “We’re just frosting on the cake“, where I talked about the vastness of the universe and the impossibility of man to know what’s beyond our own universe, making the case for God.

I’ve learned over the years that questioning other life in space is just part of believing in an infinite eternity. If you can believe a Supreme Being – God – spoke the world into being, then it only makes sense that there’s more out there than we can observe or even contemplate. Life on other planets? Why not? Maybe, as someone once said to me, there’s a planet where they got this whole thing right.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

50 thoughts on turning 50: #13 How to store celery

Wrapping your celery in aluminum foil keeps it fresh and crispy for a long time.

Wrapping your celery in aluminum foil keeps it fresh and crispy for a long time.

If you’re like me, cooking and other things that happen in a kitchen often turn into material for blog posts. And not in a good way. So when I find something that works, I like to share it.

Case in point? Storing your celery.

I can’t tell you how many times I’m making chicken salad or some other quick meal and I reach into the fridge for some celery, and all I find are soft, rubbery stalks of blech.

Dammit.

I could have bought celery when I was just at the store, but I knew I had just bought celery the week before and only used one stalk. Theoretically, I should have lots of fresh celery in the fridge. But no. So now I can have chicken salad with either no celery or rubber celery. Neither are very appetizing.

Happened to you? Well, I have a solution: aluminum foil.

Just wrap the celery completely in foil, and it'll stay fresh for a long time.

Just wrap the celery completely in foil, and it’ll stay fresh for a long time.

Yup. Just wrap the celery in aluminum foil. Get it all closed in, ends and all, and it’ll stay fresh in the fridge for … well, a really long time. Long enough that someone like me, who is useless in the kitchen and uses celery really quite sparingly, always has fresh, crunchy celery on hand.

What, you thought that everything I was going to share in my “50 thoughts on turning 50″ was going to be deep and philosophical?

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

 

50 thoughts on turning 50: #12 Technology doesn’t always win

A visit to my local used bookstore netted me a few titles to keep me busy. For a little while, anyway.

A recent visit to my local used bookstore netted me a few titles to keep me busy. For a little while, anyway.

I heard a happy statistic a few weeks ago that while sales of adult ebook sales were up 4.8% through August of 2013 to $647.7 million, sales of hardcover books over the same period were up 11.5% to $778.6 million over the same period.

I’m not a fan of ebooks. I like real books. I like smelling the paper and reading at the beach. I like pulling out a book I read years ago and finding pencil marks in the margins and fingerprints on the pages. I just can’t seem to fall in love with an electronic device; there’s romance in books. My whole life – 50 years now – I’ve been reading books, and lots of them.

Surprise: I’m not a fan of technology.

In fact, when people assure me that this or that technological advance is going to eliminate something – like ebooks putting bookstores out of business and making paper book printing obsolete – I only laugh.

I’m 50 years old now, people. I know a thing or two about technology and life.

Back in the 80s I was The World’s Worst Bank Teller. This was before I went on to become The World’s Worst Promotions Specialist, The World’s Worst Small Business Owner, The World’s Worst Mother, and The World’s Worst Veterinary Office Receptionist (just to name a few of my career choices).

It was also, believe it or not, before  ATMs were as prevalent as they are today.

ATMs were predicted to do away with human bank tellers.

ATMs were predicted to do away with human bank tellers.

The Automated Teller Machine was developed in the 1960s and started being used around the world in the 1970s. But it was in the late 1980s, when I was a teller, that the push was really on to replace actual bank tellers with machines.

I remember each of us taking turns standing in the lobby, offering to help customers make deposits and withdrawals using this high tech cash dispenser. There was a learning curve, but before long people were bypassing the long lines to conduct simple transactions, like getting cash or depositing their paycheck.

The future, the financial prognosticators spoke with certainty, would soon find people doing all of their banking by machine. Human tellers and employees, we were assured, would become a thing of the past, or at the most relegated to a few select hours of branch availability a week to accept mortgage applications, process loan papers and make sure the machines were working.

I left banking only after a few years – it was gently suggested I find a career path that didn’t involve adding numbers – but I never forgot those dire predictions. Because, as it turns out, they were wrong. In fact, quite the opposite happened.

While ATM use is daily use for most Americans, banking didn’t go completely “humanless”. Banks actually found people using their services more. They kept or extended office hours. They relegated the mundane tasks of depositing and withdrawing to the money machines, but found other ways to connect with their customers, in person, in the office, on the phone, and online.

Human bank tellers and other employees didn’t go away after all.

It was the same dire prediction when the Video Cassette Recorder debuted for mass consumer use. The motion picture industry predicted doom as consumers took their viewing choices to their homes. No one would ever go to the movies again, they wailed. Speaking before Congressional hearings in 1982, then Motion Picture Association of America head Jack Valenti said, “I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.”

In other words, death to the movies.

But instead, there was a rise in people going to the movie theater. Hollywood produced more movies. In 1985, there were 470 movies released with a gross box office of about $3.7 million dollars. In 2013, there were 686 movies released, with a gross box office of about $10.9 million.  Add in DVD sales, Netflix and other streaming sites and the reality is that the motion picture industry benefitted from this new technology.

Trivia sidebar: The #1 movie at the box office in 1985? “Back To The Future”. In 2013? “Catching Fire”. Interesting, isn’t it, how our views on the future have gone from rosy technology to post-apocalyptic doom? But I digress.

Yes, technology makes things easier, but it never replaces humans. It might change the way we interact with each other, but in the end, people like people. They like doing their banking with a human. They like going to a theater with other people to share a theatrical experience.

And they like books. And bookstores. While big chain stores are struggling and going under, there’s a backlash rise in independent stores. The indie bookseller has adapted to the marketplace, and small stores have become havens for book lovers, complete with cafes, gift shops and other things that draw those of us who love a good mystery, a cozy chair and a cat wandering amongst the stacks of hardcovers and paperbacks.

Technology changes the world, but we adapt with it to maintain our personal connections.

My prediction? With the rise in social media and the electronic clutter that overwhelms us on a daily basis, we’ll start sending each other letters and cards again. You know, get out a pen and a piece of paper and write a letter. Put a stamp on it. Give it to the mailman. Go to the mailbox and take out envelopes and open them up and think, “How nice! Aunt Gloria sent me  birthday card!” Check back with me on my 100th birthday and see if I was right.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

 

50 thoughts on turning 50: #11 An elephant for a dime

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Here’s the thing about money that I’ve learned over the years: you can live with a lot less of it than you think you can, if you learn the difference between a want and a need.

A need is something you’ll die without – or at least be unhealthy without. A roof over your head, or at least adequate shelter. Food, and I mean real food, not convenience food or food-like substances. Medical treatment, and that includes preventing illness as much as treating it.

Don’t get caught up in the myth that you can have everything your heart desires and pay for it later. Buy a house you can afford, not one that’ll impress your family, friends and coworkers. So the kids have to share a bedroom; generations of Americans grew up sharing space and were better for it. Drive a car that gets you where you need to get, even if it’s not new, cool, or can double as your mobile “sanctuary.”

If you don’t have the money to pay for it, then don’t buy it. And just because it’s a good deal, doesn’t mean you have to take advantage of it. An elephant for a dime is only a deal if you have a dime - and you need an elephant.

It’s a lesson that took me decades to learn, but once I did? Life got a lot less complicated and I was a lot more satisfied.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.