Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 2/7/2012 | 0 Comments

I spend much of my day on the web.  So I consider myself mildly tech savvy. I’m also the handy one in our family having married to a true legal genius who will stand in front of an open refrigerator staring at a quart of milk and yell, “Where’s the milk honey”.  Most importantly I have far more patience than my beloved mate.  He is the brightest guy I know but will not spend a nanosecond working through a technical issue.  This is human nature. After all, if you can delegate the task, why not?  I call my son, another family genius, whenever I am technically challenged. I use the one hour of frustration rule of thumb before picking up the phone,  He confided in me recently that whenever I call, he simply Googles my issue then conveys the solution proposed.  I now do the same and trouble him far less.  Our son sent this blog posting last week and asked if it sounded familiar.  Our equipment is better but the cord tangles the same.  Recognize anyone?.

The website is and the blog is titled:   


“But, Lo, in the twilight days of the second year of the second decade of the third millennium did a great darkness descend over the wireless internet connectivity of the people of 276 Ferndale Street in the North-Central lands of Iowa. For many years, the gentlefolk of these lands basked in a wireless network overflowing with speed and ample internet, flowing like a river into their Compaq Presario. Many happy days did the people spend checking Hotmail and reading

But then one gray morning did Internet Explorer 6 no longer load The Google. Refresh was clicked, again and again, but still did Internet Explorer 6 not load The Google. Perhaps The Google was broken, the people thought, but then The Yahoo too did not load. Nor did Hotmail. Nor The land was thrown into panic. Internet Explorer 6 was minimized then maximized. The Compaq Presario was unplugged then plugged back in. The old mouse was brought out and plugged in beside the new mouse. Still, The Google did not load.

Some in the kingdom thought the cause of the darkness must be the Router. Little was known of the Router, legend told it had been installed behind the recliner long ago by a shadowy organization known as Comcast. Others in the kingdom believed it was brought by a distant cousin many feasts ago. Concluding the trouble must lie deep within the microchips, the people of 276 Fernadale Street did despair and resign themselves to defeat.

But with the dawn of the feast of Christmas did a beacon of hope manifest itself upon the inky horizon. Riding in upon a teal Ford Focus came a great warrior, a suitor of the gentlefolks’ granddaughter. Word had spread through the kingdom that this warrior worked with computers and perhaps even knew the true nature of the Router.

The people did beseech the warrior to aid them. They were a simple people, capable only of rewarding him with gratitude and a larger-than-normal serving of Jell-O salad. The warrior considered the possible battles before him. While others may have shirked the duties, forcing the good people of Ferndale Street to prostrate themselves before the tyrants of Comcast, Linksys, and Geek Squad, the warrior could not chill his heart to these depths. He accepted the quest and strode bravely across the beige shag carpet of the living room.

Deep, deep behind the recliner did the warrior crawl, over great mountains of National Geographic magazines and deep chasms of TV Guides. At last he reached a gnarled thicket of cords, a terrifying knot of gray and white and black and blue threatening to ensnare all who ventured further. The warrior charged ahead. Weaker men would have lost their minds in the madness: telephone cords plugged into Ethernet jacks, AC adapters plugged into phone jacks, a lone VGA cable wrapped in a firm knot around an Ethernet cord. But the warrior bested the thicket, ripping away the vestigial cords and swiftly untangling the deadly trap.

And at last the warrior arrived at the Router. It was a dusty black box with an array of shimmering green lights, blinking on and off, as if to taunt him to come any further. The warrior swiftly maneuvered to the rear of the router and verified what he had feared, what he had heard whispered in his ear from spirits beyond: all the cords were securely in place.

The warrior closed his eyes, summoning the power of his ancestors, long departed but watchful still. And then with the echoing beep of his digital watch, he moved with deadly speed, wrapping his battle-hardened hands around the power cord at the back of the Router. 

Gripping it tightly, he pulled with all his force, dislodging the cord from the Router. The heavens roared. The earth wailed. The green lights turned off. Silently the warrior counted. One. Two. Three. And just as swiftly, the warrior plugged the cord back into the router. Great crashes of blood-red lightning boomed overhead. Murders of crows blackened the skies. The Power light came on solid green. The seas rolled. The WLAN light blinked on. The forests ignited. A dark fog rolled over the land and suddenly all was silent. The warrior stared at the Internet light, waiting, waiting. And then, as the world around him seemed all but dead, the Internet light began to blink.

The warrior darted out back over the mountains of National Geographic magazines and made haste to the Compaq Presario. He woke up Windows XP from sleep mode and deftly defeated twelve notifications to update Norton AntiVirus. With a resounding click he opened Internet Explorer 6 and gazed deep into its depths, past the Yahoo toolbar, the MSN toolbar, the toolbar, and the AOL toolbar. And then did he see, at long last, that The Google did load.

And so the good people of the kingdom were delighted and did heap laurels and Jell-O salad at the warrior’s feet, for now again they could have their Hotmail as the wireless internet did flow freely to their Compaq Presario. The warrior ate his Jell-O salad, thanked the gentlefolk, and then went to the basement because the TiVo was doing something weird with the VCR.”


Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 10/23/2011 | 0 Comments

I read an interesting newspaper article yesterday about a growing franchise for health clubs with a 50-plus target market.  Finally, I will be able to lift my 10-pound weights, slowly trudge through a 45-minute treadmill routine and grunt repeatedly during a recumbent bike session without having to stare jealously at the size-two chiseled bodies for which Spandex was designed.   What a relief! 

Today, a second article repeatedly quoted one of the Doctors Kane from the University of Minnesota about how different current grandparents are from their own.  It seems that the advances in medical science that cure or relieve many maladies, the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year, the Baby Boomer- initiated exercise and fitness focus begun in the 80s, and the passion to remain young have allowed today’s grandparents to play with, rather than just “watch” their grandchildren. 

I have four children.  I’m a proud Boomer and a grateful grandmother, but I was recently stung by a couple of remarks made by my youngest son that suggested I was getting old.  I can’t even remember what he said--only that I bristled at it. 

I joke about aging on my own terms.  I kid my mother about how awful it must be to have children this old.  But I do not welcome old age.  I haven’t yet come to terms with it.  I love hearing that 60 is the new 40.  That seems about right to me.  I wonder when the time will come that I’ll admit to being old.  

My undergraduate degree is in anthropology and much of our curriculum was in sociology.  Many other cultures revere the older generations, who are considered wise.  Their opinions matter.  I taught a class in South Korea a couple of years ago and I was struck by the power of the oldest student.  I only needed to convince him of the importance of my words for the rest of the class to follow. 

Not so in our country.  We need only look at the way we treat many of our elders to recognize why the Boomers in line behind them aren’t anxious to take their place.  I will fight to always be able to do for myself.  I don’t like having others do for me; never have.  But fighting nature and the aging process is a formidable battle.  Muscles atrophy, skin thins, joints thicken and the multiple bad choices we’ve made in our youth finally blossom in a miasma of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, blocked arteries, worn joints and insomnia.  

But we are a hopeful generation.  We believe that it is never too late.  If we simply create and execute a workable exercise plan, lose a bit of weight and eat healthily going forward, surely medical science will cure death before it hits us. 

We don’t like being old, being called old or being considered old.  We don’t like words like “senior,” “elder,” or “aged.”   Words dictate beliefs.   We are a bright group.  Surely we can find a word thatdescribes us that doesn’t hurt our feelings.  Maybe we should just stick to “Boomer.”  Actions matter, too.  I’m thinking about training for the Chicago Marathon next year.  That will show my kid I’m not old.  But thinking about it is as far as I’ve gotten--or will likely go.

A couple of months ago I wrote to President Obama and asked that he appoint me to be the U. S. Volunteer Czar.  I wanted the job because I’m so confident that volunteers could fix pretty much everything that’s wrong with this country.  Instead of the appointment, I got a lousy form letter that thanked me for my concern, but never mentioned anything about my thoroughly researched and thoughtfully written letter.

But I’ve come up with an even better idea.  What we need more than a Volunteer Czar is a Shopping Czar.  This occurred to me yesterday when one of the news channels reported that a cruise missile costs $160,000,000.   In the past I have ignored reports that my government pays $125 for an ordinary hammer and just under a hundred bucks to feed lunch to one of our soldiers.  But A HUNDRED AND SIXTY MIL FOR A MISSILE?  That’s insane!

For the record I pride myself in being a great shopper.  I NEVER pay retail.  A sign reading “80% off” doubles my heart rate.  I’m one of many friends who I consider skilled at this trade.  All of us clip coupons, scout sales and can recite from memory the best place that’s web-based or within 200 miles to buy anything.

I’ll bet I could have gotten us that missile at least half-off.  Maybe we could have found some that were just past their expiration date, or were last-year’s model or perhaps something slightly used or with a couple of scratches or dents.  Once they explode, who would know?

I know I can do a lovely homemade lunch for under eight bucks (maybe ten, with packaging and shipping) and I found perfectly good hammers at Home Depot for under $15, and there were a couple in the clearance bin on sale for  $7.  Some of my friends are positively addicted to shopping and would likely volunteer a few hours for free.  Forget the paid position; I could get hundreds of folks lathered up about shopping for cheap missiles. 

I know exactly how our government makes purchases.  They use a thorough and complicated bidding process.  But their contracts lock them in for as many as 50 years.  That’s craziness.  I sincerely believe that if the contracts were shorter and more flexible, AND if our contractors guaranteed the lowest price in the marketplace, both our national debt and budget would shrink considerably.  With our purchasing power you’d think we could get a volume discount at something close to cost.  Instead we appear to be paying a healthy “sucker” premium. 
Please send me your thoughts.

Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 3/7/2011 | 0 Comments

Those of you who follow my blog know that I frequently share stories about my mother.  She joined a group called Alive and Kickin’ last year and it has changed her life.  The group consists of 18 individuals aged 62-93.  Cal is the eldest member.  One would guess his age at 20 years younger.  He is absolutely adorable both inside and out.   He has a lovely voice, a great personality, and a terrific sense of humor.  Cal constantly makes up lyrics about everyday activities. I swear if we were single and I was 30 years older, I’d stalk him like a cheetah.  This is a story about Cal. A
Alive and Kickin’ gets what they term “gigs.”  They’ve become quite popular.  A couple of weeks ago they were scheduled to sing at a convention of Baby Boomers in the ballroom of a major downtown hotel.  They had to be there at 7:30 a.m.  This created major anxiety over transportation, rush hour traffic and downtown parking.   A rather complicated carpooling and caravan system was devised where several members were to drive to Cal’s home and he would then drive or lead them to the hotel.  As my 86-year old mother was nervous about the event, my sister Sandy stayed the night to insure mother arose at 4:30 and drove her to Cal’s at 6:15.  When he hadn’t emerged by 6:30 they called and woke him.  He apologized profusely, saying that he had overslept and promised he’d be down in a few minutes.  One group left but my mom remained and within 15 minutes, Cal came rushing out with another apology.  Seems he’d fallen in the tub or he would have been down sooner. 

 Once they’d parked and located the ballroom, they climbed several steps to the stage, warmed up for about 45 minutes and then the ballroom doors opened to 1,500 attendees.  When everyone had settled in their seats they were treated to Let it Be, Celebration, We Are the Champions, Stand by Me, We Are The World and ten additional contemporary pieces.  They received a standing ovation.
Now, if you are 86 or 93 you may understand that climbing stairs or even standing for extended periods of time can be taxing, especially after getting little sleep the night before.  When the event concluded some of the group went to breakfast but Cal asked my mom if she minded if they just went home, which they did.

As my mom left the car she reached over to thank Cal for his kindness and noticed that his arm felt wet.  This troubled her; so later in the day she called Cal to check in on him.  His wife answered and said that Cal wasn’t home.  He had gone to the emergency room.  It seems that when he fell in the tub he got a rather nasty gash in the upper portion of his arm.  The group dresses in red, white and black.  Cal’s sport coat is a darker shade of red, which effectively camouflaged the effects of several hours of bleeding.  He finally agreed to get nine stitches after losing a substantial amount of blood. 

 Aside from his comment about a fall in the tub, Cal mentioned this to no one.  He didn’t whine and he showed up to do his part with a serous injury.  What ever happened to that belief system?  Maybe that’s why they are called “The Greatest Generation.”    
I've attached a video of one of their rehearsals in hopes it will make you smile and cheer.

Alive & Kickin' - We Will Rock You

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