Getting older? Here’s an App.

•July 18, 2016 • 3 Comments

These days I feel like my body has become a foreign entity which does whatever it wants. I’ve almost given up trying to keep control. Bits and pieces, parts and systems go awry without advance notice and seemingly without cause. So I have decided to relinquish my futile attempts at managing these processes. But if I’m no longer going to pretend to be in charge, something has to take over. Hence, the new app. This app is called, “Today’s Body Part.”

After download and installation on your mobile device, the app will run itself beautifully.  Each morning a cheerful message will appear on screen to inform you which of your body parts or systems is going to go wrong.

For example, “Good Morning. This is your lumbar spine and I’m excited to tell you I’m going to be your Body Part of the Day! For more details just watch your finger press the icon and read on. (Since you have allowed us our autonomy there’s no need for you to lift a finger, as the saying goes, hah hah.) Thanks for checking in, see ya Soon.” For extra fun, download the Deluxe app which will allow you to view the message through your cellphone camera as an animated cartoon superimposed on your current location.

Today’s Body Part app will alleviate all the anxiety that comes from trying to keep the aging process at bay. Download Today!

Mickey is the author of two mystery novels published by Indigo Sea Press LLC. Visit her website: www.mickeyhoffman.com

 

 

When did my concern become your hate?

•February 27, 2016 • 2 Comments

Well, I learned my lesson. I had to remove a post from my Facebook author page. The post mostly was a link to a NY Times article. Apparently, my error was that the headline of the article had the name TRUMP in it.

The article referred directly to the HB type visas that were the inspiration for “Deadly Traffic.” The article does not say Trump or his companies are doing anything wrong, but it correctly says that the workers who have those visas are rather trapped because they are here legally only as long as they have the job listed on the visa. If they lose that job or quit that job, they can’t stay in the country legally.

Although my book is a mystery novel, it details some of the abuses in the visa program, mainly how foreign workers are recruited to come here and then exploited by unscrupulous bosses. My book isn’t political and it’s certainly not about any candidates for office.

In the past I’ve linked to other articles or books that deal with problems with this visa program and never got replies of any kind before. In fact, you can hear the crickets chirp on that Facebook page. I usually don’t get even a “like.” But within hours of my posting the above-mentioned link, I received a number of vitriolic responses, the first of which was, “No one wants to read your book, it’s trash.” I suppose I should feel gratified the writer knew how to use the apostrophe in it’s.

Anyway, the angry responses were from supporters of Donald Trump who assumed I only posted the article for political purposes. The NY Times has posted several articles lately about US visa programs and their problems and this was just the latest.I did get one long response from someone who wanted to bash Trump, which was equally problematic because my post had no political intent.

I have now removed my apparently outrageous post. So beware, folks, how you relate one of your novels to reality. The world might not forgive you.

If you’re interested, here is a link to the NY Times article. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/us/politics/donald-trump-taps-foreign-work-force-for-his-florida-club.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Taxi Distractie

•October 24, 2015 • 1 Comment

Everyone knows about distracted drivers. We all see people using their phones on the road. In the good old days, putting on makeup or eating behind the wheel were the worst things. Then came the cell phone. As if this didn’t provide anough distraction, the phones soon got GPS apps. Then came little GPS screens that could sit on the dashboard, and now, cars are coming with tablet sized monitors right in the dashboard.

If you’ve ever been in a taxi in a big city, you know to wear a seat belt and brace yourself for potholes, lane swerving and unexpected accelerations. Even the most sedate cab ride can be a challenge if your hand encounters a suspicious sticky spot on the seat, or you notice, after boarding, that your driver looks like he hasn’t slept in a month and when he did, he most likely slept in the taxi.

Taxi drivers used to leave their communication radios turned up and passengers had the pleasure of hearing the calls and static. Then the drivers got cell phones, so they yakked to their families while driving. Now they have better phones and the phones have screens. They take business calls, they talk to their friends, and if they think about it, they might glance at the road from time to time.

Recently, I got in a taxi at night at an airport. A minute after the driver pulled away, he received a call on his cellphone. He answered, “AIRPORT TAXI.” Then, apparently, someone started to give him an address. He reached for a small notebook and pencil and proceeded to write this down while simultaneously navigating a cloverleaf on ramp at high speed. From my seat in the back, I couldn’t tell–did he have either hand on the steering wheel? Fortunately, he ended the call when he had to merge on to the freeway. Just when I got my breath back, his phone rang again. This time he answered, “CITY CAB”. He had a brief conversation, then made a call on a different phone and assigned someone to a pickup. Yes, it could have been a comedy skit, but after 13 hours on airplanes I wasn’t in the mood to laugh. He continued to take calls the whole way. I was more than usually happy to reach my home! Yes, he is a very enterprising young driver, but I doubt he will live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor. In any case, I won’t be calling either of those taxi companies any time soon.

There are alternatives to taxis, but they’re not necessarily safer. I recently rode a Super Shuttle where the driver had three large monitors arranged around the driver’s seat. We were hurtling down a highway at 70 mph and he seldom bothered to view the road ahead.

Sometimes, yes, I say something like, “Maybe you should watch the road.” One driver agreed with me and seemed to be embarrassed. Most of them ignore it or blame their supervisors for making them work too hard. How much do you tip someone who almost gets you killed?

Mickey Hoffman is the author of two mystery novels. Visit www.mickeyhoffman.com for details.

Set in “Stone” : The Neighborhood Divide

•July 25, 2015 • 2 Comments

If you haven’t been following this blog you missed my rant about the concrete work in my city. It’s here for future reference:

https://mickeyhoffman.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/a-mystery-in-concrete/

The city government is obsessed with what they refer to as traffic calming dividers. These are blobs of pavement that jut out from corners or divide traffic lanes. In my opinion, someone important or influential owns a concrete company because the money the city spends on this stuff could be used elsewhere.

Anyway, about a year ago the powers that be decided to place a street divider in front of my house. This was to slow down the cars. The city hasn’t done anything about slowing down the skateboarders who zoom from the top of a hill in a nearby alley and roll right into passing traffic which is way more dangerous. Or, they could have made the intersection a four-way stop sign like many, many others. But instead, the concrete men came and constructed an ovoid island of concrete and then covered it with river rock. It was lovely when new and now it’s even more beautiful. I will give you a moment to admire it. Notice the accompanying cracked pavement and weed growth.

mystreetdivider

Ignore the dry grass on the other side of the street. We are in a drought and aren’t supposed to water the grass. It’s not a reflection on the “quality” of the residents.

If you travel one mile south, to the neighborhood where some of our city council members reside, you will find quite a different scene. Here’s the street divider those folks got.

landparkdivider

Note they got a two-tiered island which even has a small tree growing in it. There’s also a bird bath but it’s hard to see due to all the greenery. This neighborhood has an average income higher than my neighborhood and very few apartment houses. I guess those people a mile down the road just appreciate foliage more. Right.

Do these dividers slow down traffic? Not that I’ve noticed on my street. They do make it harder to park. Perhaps the drought will sooner or later nullify these esthetic differences. The whole city might look like the Sahara soon. With concrete.

Visit my website, www.mickeyhoffman.com

Are Fish Cute? Yes!

•April 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

There are many animals that are popular for their looks or behaviors. Most people agree that pandas and penguins are adorable. Dogs and cats are much loved, at least in the United States. Fish, however, are usually just praised for their colors, almost as if they are interchangeable with a vase of flowers. “Oh look at that one, it’s gorgeous.”

Fish have very interesting behavior and some of them become quite tame and friendly. Most people don’t know this. I can’t show that in a blog, but I can post a few photos that might change your mind if you’re not agreeable with the premise of this blog. All of the fish shown below are marine animals from tropical waters.

Meridia   This Wrasse lives in an aquarium in my house. She is about one inch long (2.5 cm) and is found in the Pacific Ocean, Micronesia and Indo Pacific.

RanbowClosePIC2    This is a Rainbow Parrotfish. I photographed it off the coast of Bonaire. This fish is about 4 feet long, or just over one meter for those of you on the metric system.

ErasmusOne   This is an Anchor Tusk fish. See the teeth? They grow back if they break off. The fish uses them while hunting for food, to pick up rocks to look for what’s hiding underneath. This fish grows to about 10 inches or about 26 cm.

butterflyfish   A mated pair of Butterfly fish. Below them is a cleaner wrasse. I took this photo in the Philippines. These fish poke their long noses into the tiny crevices of the coral reef. They would be cute even if they didn’t do that, but like a puppy doing a trick, they get cuter on the move.

Sasha4April24    A bit blurred because these Bird Wrasses don’t settle down often. I had one years ago that used to park himself on the bottom with his long nose on a rock and watch TV. He seemed to prefer talk shows. Not my preference but I’d leave the TV on for him. He was turquoise blue because he was a male. This photo shows my female Bird Wrasse. She could turn into a male, but I like her this way so I’m happy she’s stayed female over the years.

I hope you are now convinced that fish can be loveable. Since I found this out I have had to remove most of them from my diet. Like Alice in “Through the Looking Glass,” once introduced, it doesn’t go on a platter…

Dangerous or Amusing?

•October 17, 2014 • 2 Comments

With all the recent panic in the USA about possible dangers coming at us, it occurred to me that not every culture seeks to wall off the same threats. Some cultures seem to be downright fearful of exposure to things we view as totally benign like disco music. When traveling to another country, these fears can be somewhat perplexing. Some of these I also find amusing. I am going to show you three items from China and let you rate them on your own personal scale of danger/threat.

Here’s a scan of a customs form handed to me in China around 1990. I certainly understand why a few of the items listed are dangerous like arms, ammo, narcotics, poisonous drugs (planning to poison someone?), but in the 21st century to adhere to the radio transmitter and receiver they’d have to confiscate everyone’s cell phone. Of course, they try to block certain transmissions, so I’m sure they don’t even bother to ask you these days. You can’t bring plants or seeds into this country either, so I get that too. What really makes me laugh, though is that they ask you to declare your arms and drugs.

I see that in the USA at the airports, too. The TSA has a poster telling you not to bring explosives on the flight…But I digress.

formONE

Next are documents from hotels. Both were placed in the hotel rooms so you don’t see the rules until you get to your room. The first one’s from a hotel in Shanghai. This place is so very polite. Rule one is common sense. Don’t smoke in bed. Then we get to rule number 2: “Please refrain from gambling or engaging in indecent or immoral in the hotel.” So no poker games, casino activity and no immoral. What activities does that encompass? And number 4: “Please do not bring with you the following articles into the hotel: Pets, Malodorous articles, Explosive, volative or flammable materials, Unlicensed firearms or swords, Radioactive or other items or articles which may threaten the safety of other hotel guests.” SWORDS? Wow. And radioactive? What could that mean? They’re requesting cooperation of someone who’s carrying around radioactive material?

formTWO1994

The final document is from a hotel in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province.

formTHREE1988The form starts out with Chinese numbers, but after 5, it suddenly reverts to “western” numbers. I have no explanation for this. My favorite is number one. “Wild drinking, Disturbance, Gambling, Drug-taking, Lecherous acts, Prostitutions, Obscene and superstitious painting, Calligraphy and videotape recordings disseminating and projecting are strictly forbidden.” Superstitious painting? What’s wrong with calligraphy? I’m completely stumped here. I’m also very fond of number 6: “Burning substance, setting of fire-crackers, piling up flammable items and the washing of objects with flammable liquid are prohibited in the main buildings.” Oh, so I can step outside and set off a five minute coil of fireworks? YAY.  And not shown, because I was too lazy to scan the back of the page, is glorious number 7: “Raising birds, poultry and livestock is forbidden within the room.” Remember, this hotel is located in a very large city. They’re either very paranoid or they’ve had some interesting guests.

Now that you’ve seen the safety measures in place in another country, my fellow Americans, you can perhaps adjust your perception and relax. I hope, at least, I’ve made you smile and forget the evil world that’s probably not coming to get you.

Mickey Hoffman is a printmaker and the author of two mystery novels, Deadly Traffic and School of Lies. Visit the website to see etchings and check out the novels at www.mickeyhoffman.com

Trashed: or How I Tried Not to Pill Anyone

•August 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Always call first. I know this is good advice, especially when you’re depending on a website for directions, hours of operation, etc. The consequences of not calling might lead to a long wait for the place to open up, or there’s a furniture outlet where the computer store used to be. These are indeed frustrating experiences, but I have now really learned my lesson.

The situation arose from a family member having accumulated a large supply of unused prescription medication during a serious, but short term illness. Disposing of left over controlled substances presents both moral and environmental problems. If you dump the pills in the trash, especially in our area where homeless people go through garbage cans, the meds could wind up in someone’s stomach with disastrous results. If they’re not removed and ingested, they will go to a landfill and eventually leach into the soil and the water supply, also an undesirable outcome. The solution is to be a good citizen and take medical waste to a designated drop-off.

Searching the city’s website (and they don’t make it easy), I found three locations where pills are accepted for proper disposal. The closest was a pharmacy unfortunately located on a street a former student of mine cited as the name of a street gang she liked. But this really was the closest location. The website gave directions on how to repackage the pills: remove them from the bottles and place them together in a ziplock bag. For safety, remove the labels from the pill bottles, black out the writing on the labels and throw out in your own trash. Simple enough. I followed the directions and we headed out for the drop-off.

I realized from the address and my former student’s declarations that we’d be traveling to a sleazy area, but it was a weekend morning and the pharmacy’s address was on a main business street. The street is lined with strip malls and newer chain stores at major intersections. Busy and safe enough. However, driving slowly by, we didn’t see a pharmacy. The strip malls lack signage and are set way back from the street. Cars and trucks blocked the view. Also, showing a street number on stores is apparently superfluous in our town. We pulled into several lovely malls. You can BUY AND SELL GOLD. You can get a PAYDAY LOAN. You can get lots of fast food. The odd thing is I couldn’t figure out what most of the businesses were.  The shops had innocuous names and their windows were covered with so many posters and signs it was impossible to see inside. This made us feel extra lost.

Having no other recourse than to use the street numbers on corner street signs to navigate, we found we’d already gone too far south and would have to turn around. Easy? No. The intersection was a block from a freeway entrance and jammed with cars. Another feature of our city is the penchant for NO U TURN signs paired with concrete meridian strips in case you were thinking of avoiding the law. After several infuriating detours, we found ourselves approaching the right block once again. Unfortunately, by the time we saw the sign above the pharmacy (the name was painted in faded green on a yellow background) we’d passed the entrance to the parking lot. My friend, who was driving, wasn’t willing to do another big drive around, so he abruptly pulled into the next available parking area. There were only three cars in the large lot.

Behind us sat a hulking dark warehouse. I pulled the pills, packed in a gallon size, ziplock bag from the glove compartment and opened the car door. My friend jumped out the other side, more than ready to finish this errand. As I turned to exit the car, my eyes rested on a line of lettering above the door of the building behind us. POLICE SERVICES. I immediately dropped the bag, realizing I was about to walk through a police lot holding a large, transparent bag of pills with no documentation linking them to legality. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a handbag with me we didn’t have a way to hide them.

I pointed this out to my friend, hoping he had a solution, but he was in an irritable mood after driving around in circles for half an hour.

“Let’s go!” he said. So I leaned into the car and feeling like a criminal, lifted up my shirt and stuffed the bag of pills under the waistband of my jeans. I then flipped my shirt down and exited the car, all the while sweating there might be surveillance cameras taping my every move.

We quickly headed to the little mall, passing a taco place, an massive insurance company, and several small bodegas. Having a rather odd looking lump on my stomach, I was glad we didn’t pass anyone on the walkway. We entered the pharmacy. There was just one customer sitting in a chair waiting while the pharmacist worked in his cage.

A woman stepped from behind a counter to greet us. I pulled out the bag of pills and told her we’d come to drop them off.

“We don’t take them anymore,” she said.

“Huh? WHAT?” I sputtered. “You’re listed on the city website as a disposal place.”

“We don’t take them. I think you have to take them to the sheriff.”

Sheriff? Maybe I should just stroll into that POLICE building. But no, not without documentation!

The woman didn’t have any information about the new location, which I found annoying. Defeated, and angry at myself for not checking before making the trip, I stuffed the pills under my shirt again and we left the store. The expression on my friend’s face I will leave to your imagination.

What to do??? The “good citizen” thing to do would have been to take the pills back home, do more research, and take them to the, ahem, designated disposal site.

Guess what we did with the pills. What would you have done?

P.S.  The city has updated their website. They now list only one disposal location, which is quite a distance from my house.

Mickey Hoffman is the author of two mystery novels, Deadly Traffic and School of Lies, published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. For more information visit www.mickeyhoffman.com

 

 

 

 
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