Monday, September 26, 2016

Another of my neurotic problems

"Another neurosis. How does this guy cope?" you ask. Well, my wife and I have been binge watching Sherlock (with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) and Sherlock Holmes describes himself as a high-functioning sociopath. So, I guess I could describe myself as a somewhat-functioning neurotic. I get by with a lot of help from God, my family and friends.

Anyway, the neurosis I'll talk about here is my fear of using the telephone. It's not the phone itself that bothers me. It's the act of talking on the phone.

The worst thing is having to call someone. I know I'm bothering them - even if I'm calling them with good news. I am absolutely certain they are about to leave for a long anticipated vacation or they are in the middle of a conversation with someone else or they just don't want to talk to talk with me. No matter how they answer the phone, I am convinced I've interrupted them. Yes, you may say that they always have the option of just not answering the phone but my neurosis has an answer for that. They've probably been waiting for an important call and feel they must answer the phone. Lots of people have Caller ID but how many people really look at it? And how much can you tell by the short, cryptic characters that you can barely see in that little display? No, I'm bothering them.

The other problem is being called by someone. That covers all the bases doesn't it? For all the reasons I don't want to call anyone, I don't want to be called by anyone, either. I have yet to get a call saying, "You've just won a million dollars!" If I did, I wouldn't believe them anyway.

The final problem I have with the telephone covers both being called and calling. The problem is having to come up with things to say without time to think about it first. They always ask me a question that I might be able answer if I had time to consider all the possibilities. The worst kind of call is the argument. I never know what to say. Not that I want to argue with people but I can't think of the right thing to say to diffuse the situation. I can't even come up with a good apology without some time to think. And if you're talking with someone face to face, you may not have time to consider all of your answers but at least you have some body language to go by. You can see their face and know if they are mad or happy. And I'm a terrible conversationalist anyway. I think I'm working myself into another neurosis about talking with people.

I much prefer email. If I receive an email, I can handle it when I have time. I can think about my answers. When I send an email, the other person doesn't have to respond right away. Or they can just not respond at all.

I vividly remember the first time I had trouble with the phone (I've written about this before here). I was just a kid and I was going to call a friend. I had called relatives before but for the first time, after looking my friend's number up in the phone book, a saw a phone number with a zero in it. Well, one of the first things I learned about the phone was that if you needed the Operator, you dialed zero. I dialed the first part of the number and got to the zero. I paused. What do you do? If I dial the zero, the Operator would come on and I'd have to talk with her! I dialed the zero and, probably because I'd paused so long, something clicked on the line and I panicked and hung up. I tried to dial again but gave up when I got to the zero. I don't remember how this ended up but it's been downhill ever since.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Misheard phrases

I've talked about misheard lyrics in the past (at this link) and about the site Am I Right and it's section on Misheard Lyrics. But in the past few days, my son and I have had a two instances of misheard phrases from the news (my son) and from a commercial (me).

There was a tragedy in Boston recently where the driver of an SUV (sport-utility vehicle) lost control of his vehicle and drove into a restaurant killing two people. My son was just waking up and was not quite in the TV room room when he heard, what he thought was, the announcer saying, "An SOB drove into the restaurant." I'm afraid to say that for as sad as the story was, we had to laugh. In a way it was true. It turns out that the driver, the SOB, is being charged with vehicular homicide.

My misheard phrase came from a commercial for a bank. The announcer says that their bank offers "hassle-free" loans. I was busy in the kitchen making noise and I was sure he said, "ass-hole free" loans. No one else thought he said that, though, so I guess it really is hassle-free loans.

A long time ago, I also misheard a commercial about a hospital for children in Boston associated with the Tufts Medical Center. They were touting their Floating Hospital for Children but the way the announcer said it made it sound, to me, that they were talking about their Exploding Hospital for Children. I know kids like exciting things and enjoy going to action movies but this seemed to be taking it a bit far. I was wrong, of course, but you try saying, "Tuft's Medical Center and it's Floating Hospital for Children" and see if it does sound a little bit like, "Tufts Medical Center and Exploding Hospital for Children." See what I mean?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

How an automobile differential works

You probably already know all about this but I just learned. I've always been interested in how the differential of an automobile's rear axle works. It seems like magic and, surely, it must be very complex. Just look at the picture on the right!

I happened to be looking up another mystery (to me) - What's the difference between All Wheel Drive and Four Wheel Drive? The site I found explaining that had this video from Chevrolet. It was made back in 1937, it's not in color and it starts with a precision motorcycle team and you wonder, "How is this going to explain a differential for four wheel vehicles?" Well, just watch. It's very well done and makes it seem so simple.

In case you have trouble playing the video, here is the link to the original.

By the way, the original article I was looking for, explaining the difference between AWD and 4WD, is found at this link. It's really good, too.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

I'm not sure if this is good or bad

 I enjoy playing FreeCell on Windows. It is similar to a game on the Macintosh called Seahaven Towers. The reason I first liked these games is that the game play is a lot like programming a computer in a low level language. The four open 'cells' in the upper left, the Free Cells, are like the registers of the processor. Building the stacks of cards in the main playing area are like last-in-first-out stacks we're used to using in programming, too. The four cells in the upper right are the results of the program. So, in order to get the cards separated into suits (hearts, clubs, spades, diamonds) and in order (start with Aces and end with Kings) in the final cells in the upper right, you have to manipulate the cards through the "registers" and the "stacks" like you would in a computer program.

OK, that's fair enough but it has gotten to the point where I play this game too much. If I have any free time or I am waiting for something on my computer, I start a game. As you can see in the pictures here, I've played 2,487 games of FreeCell. That's a lot of time spent manipulating registers and stacks! I need to cut down on this but I'm having a hard time. Unlike Solitaire (one of the other games you get for free), someone has proven that every game of FreeCell can be solved! So, I can't just give up and say, "This is impossible!" It is possible and I'm just not patient enough or smart enough to figure it out.

Another problem is my competitive spirit. I've worked my way up from winning only occasionally to having won 85% of the time. And also, as of now, I am working on a winning streak of 41 games. Those make it hard to just stop. By the way, there are ways to cheat and throw away a game you can't solve so that it doesn't go into the lost column - but I don't do that. I use only the Undo method that the games allows.

So, it's not a terrible habit but it is a habit, of sorts, that takes time away from other things I could be doing. I'm going to try weaning myself off of FreeCell. We'll see how well I do.