Friday, January 22, 2010

Past and future TV remotes

MARK’S ARTICLE – January 19, 2010
“The virtual remote”

Did you read in the paper where TV remotes are gonna become obsolete? Well, you need to read technological stuff like that, or life will just pass you by and you’ll have people pointing and laughing at you? It’s no fun, let me tell you.

According to some really smart people, instead of pointing a remote at the TV, you’ll just point your finger. Somehow or other a signal comes through your finger and tells the TV what to do.

I’m pretty sure it all started with that Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report.” Remember that? Cruise points to a huge glass panel, and instantly words appear and disappear with the movement of his hands.

After the movie came out, scientists must’ve gotten busy doing stuff like that. Started off with the weather. As the weatherman moves his hand over a screen, a yellow line shows up and goes wherever he points. Wouldn’t it be great to have that power?

So, in the not too distant future we’re going to be able to change channels by pointing. We’re either going to have to wear diodes on our fingertips or else the cable box is going to be reading our thoughts. I don’t know that I want a box reading my thoughts. My thoughts scare me sometimes. Sure don’t want to put the people at DISH Network on alert. – “Hey, it was just a thought! It’s gone now. No, cuffs, please!”

The new pointing technology is coming at a time when I’m already a real pro with the handheld remote. Do you know that it takes 17 clicks of the remote to get DISH to “close caption” a program? Well it does. And, I can hit the menu button, up and down and sideways buttons without looking or thinking. In fact, if I stop long enough to think, I’ll really mess up.

It’s just a reflex. Kind of like when someone walks near me with a ball. I instantly guard my privates. Dennis did that to me. Created an unconscious flinch. An embarrassing thing it is. And, I can’t get past it.

It’ll probably take me awhile to get my remote finger to work right. I’ll be pointing and waving and throwing stuff at the TV. But, I’ll catch on. Don’t know about little old ladies. I can’t see it happening. – “Sonny, will you come over and point at my TV. It won’t listen to my finger.”

I wish my Dad had been alive to see what they’ve done with remotes. He just wouldn’t believe it. You see, I was raised at time when your finger and thumb was the remote. You had to walk or scoot over to the TV and twist the dials. Whatta pain.

In our house, the remote was the closest person to the TV who wasn’t Dad. -- “Mark, put it on Channel 2.” or “Dennis, hit the volume. Mr. Ed is mumbling again.” Or “Hey, the vertical hold isn’t gonna fix itself. Move!”

Dennis and I began changing positions in the living room. We started out lying on the floor in front of the TV, and then changed to sitting on the couch. Jill and Big Al had to do adjust the TV after that.

If they had developed the finger pointing remote back in The Day, there would’ve been a lot of bloodshed in the Hayter house. I’m thinking. – “Hey, who changed the channel? Which one of you little weasels pointed at the TV?” – Yeah, Dad would’ve killed us. Or, duct taped our body parts.

Dad loved duct tape. And, I know he would’ve liked the notion of pointing to a TV and getting it to do what he wanted. That’s some serious power. Don’t know how it’s gonna play out in the hands of the masses. Carnage. I’m thinking carnage.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jill extending Elsie's path

MARK’S ARTICLE – January 11, 2010
“All New People”

ROOFTOP -- Can you believe Kay asked me just last week if she could throw this hat away? The very thought.

For those of you too cozy to climb up here with us, let me say that it’s one of those red, plaid, woolen, hunter’s caps with the earflaps. Elmer Fudd cap is what it is. We used it as a prop for Jill in one of our Rooftop episodes. I hafta say it looks so much better on me. Stunning, actually.

This is among the coldest of roofsits. Not the coldest, just among ‘em. And, on that note, let me say that there’s no way you’re getting this mug of coffee away from me. Those of you who wish to climb down and start another pot, go head. The backdoor is open, and-- Well, looks like I lost half my readership.

I really enjoy the cold. I’ve got about five jackets in my closet, and only get to wear one or two of ‘em three weeks out of the year.

When I was in high school I used to wear a lot of sweaters. Not all at once. I can’t handle sweaters anymore. I have to take ‘em off the minute I go indoors. Messes up my near-bald head. Few things goofier-looking than messed up hair on a near-bald guy. Well, that’s a lie. There are a lot of things goofier, but I’m just saying…

By the by, how many have noticed that this is the first roofsit of the year… of the decade for that matter? That’s cool, but I’m still not sharing my coffee. If we had time we could reminisce about the decade past, but that’s been done and done.

Or, we could make predictions. I used to make predictions each New Year. I quit when I realized that I hate reading the corny predictions of others. Just about every prediction I made involved running someone down. I’m not above criticizing people or institutions, but I hate to dig to come up with stuff. It’s attitude wrecking. Hate to start a New Year with a wrecked attitude.

So, no predicting. No matter how much silly prognosticating we do it all means absolutely nothing. Good or bad, stuff is headed our way. We’ll deal with it… however we deal with it. Laugh, dance, worry, fuss… Then a hundred years from now it’s all new people.

I used to say “A hundred years from now it’s not gonna matter.” We all did. It didn’t stick long, but we thought it a time or two. On one of the episodes of the new Ray Romano series, “Men of a Certain Age”, one of the characters told Ramono, “A hundred years from now there will be all new people.” Point being: Don’t get too bogged down with stuff.

I thought that line sounded so much more profound than “In 100 years it won’t make any difference.” Regardless, the “new people” notion shouldn’t make us want to give up on stuff. Should make us more aware of leaving some kind of footprint in life. Just a little something that changed for the better because of our being here.

Jill told me about being near the end of a line at a checkout. Seems there was an elderly lady up front holding everything up. She was fumbling nervously through her purse for change, while the people in the area were acting a bit putout. Jill said the lady reminded her of Mom.

My kid sister walked to the front of the line and asked the lady if she could help. “Oh, thank you, Sweetheart. I’m just all thumbs, today,” the lady said. Jill found the change and helped the lady load her cart. Jill rushed to the parking lot after checking out, but the old the lady was nowhere to be found.

Doesn’t matter. Jill left a footprint at the end of a trail that Mom began. The print may stop right there. Who can know? Regardless, wouldn’t Elsie be proud?

Makes me feel guilty about not sharing my coffee. Oops. The guilt just passed. No worry. The year is young. Plenty of time for footprints. Besides, I don’t think giving up my coffee is a good place to make a footprint. I’ll try to find something better. Pick a time when we’re not freezing on the roof. Like maybe next time.


Friday, January 8, 2010

'nother birthday trip

MARK’S ARTICLE – January 7, 2009
“Virginia’s birthday trip”

Last week we took Virginia on her birthday trip. It came a month late, because of scheduling problems. If she hadn’t kept reminding us, I would’ve forgotten she had a birthday.

I can see we have some first-time readers out there, so I’d best explain the birthday trip. For reasons long since forgotten, the Plilers and the Hayters have a birthday tradition whereby we celebrate each special day with a day trip to a place designated by the birthday person. The birthdayed.

We eat breakfast out; drive to who knows where; eat lunch out; and try to make it home by suppertime. It’s an outing where you go around looking at stuff between meals. Does it get any better than that?

Of course, one of Virginia’s outings turned into an overnighter. We ended up passing right by the Tepee Motel near Wharton. Virginia decided she wanted to sleep in a wigwam in a town where there was nothing to do but look for a place to eat. So we did. We did it all for Sleeps in Wigwam Woman. She was so happy.

That was a couple of years back. On this year’s trip, Virginia started off bad by choosing the wrong breakfast place. Sleeps in Wigwam made me drive right past the place where they leave the coffeepot on your table. Right past it. We ended up at the Magnolia Diner just east of Montgomery.

I like the Magnolia Diner. Good food, great atmosphere, and the best music on the planet. However, their meals don’t have interesting names. Instead of the “Hot ‘N Tooty, Fresh ‘N Fruity” breakfast, you get the “Two Eggs and Meat” breakfast. You can’t even sing that!

But the worst is that the waitress doesn’t leave the coffeepot. Doesn’t trust me. During my meal, she came by once to refill. The next time I had to wave at someone in the kitchen. They were as apologetic as all get out, but, hey, I had to wave.

Brad Meyer, the Montgomery County restaurant review guy, would think a coffeepot not much of an issue. He’s more concerned about the temperature of the bacon and the texture of the toast. Hey, I’ve eaten out with the guy. I wouldn’t have him over to my house for anything. We’d end up in a punchfest. But, at least I’d have a coffeepot close by to swing at him.

Virginia didn’t care about my coffee issues. She wanted country hash browns. In the country, people don’t shred their potatoes. They cut ‘em in chunks. That’s what Virginia wanted. Chunks. It’s always about Sleeps in Wigwam.

After our scrumptious breakfast, sans coffeepot, we left the diner and headed to I-knew-not where. That’s another thing about the birthday outing. The birthday person doesn’t hafta tell the rest of us where we’re going. I was driving, so I just turned where I was told

We ended up touring every little crossroad town south and west of Harris County. Virginia wanted to see some small towns. The big problem with that has to do with the fact that the birthday person gets $15 to spend on something non-edible, non-essential, and unthought of prior to the trip. Something you wouldn’t normally get yourself.

If you stop in places like Frydek, Orchard and Burleigh, you’re definitely gonna find stuff you hadn’t thought of, but you’re not gonna to fork over $15 for any of it. – “How ‘bout a rice pruner?”

Obviously, Virginia didn’t find anything she wanted to spend her birthday money on. The rules say that if you don’t spend the $15 on the trip, you forfeit it. Hey, it’s a rule. But, just tell that to Sleeps in Wigwam.

I eventually gave in and let her keep the money. The rules aren’t worth the grief. She’d have me driving around till after supper. And, let me tell you, a couple of times we got way too close to Wharton. I couldn’t risk accidentally driving past those tepees. Sits With Coffeepot no want stop at wigwams. Bad medson.

But we did kill off another birthday. The next trip will be of Freeman’s choosing. Fortunately, Married to Sleeps in Wigwam is sensible as all get out. I might be able to talk him into Hot ‘N Tooty with a coffeepot on the table. No waving.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A spectacle on ice

MARK’S ARTICLE – January 5, 2009
“Ice follies”

Big Al and I shot a “From the Rooftop” episode last week at The Woodlands Ice Rink. In a week or two you oughtta be able to see it on My Metropolis Television Network. (

My MTV Network is the only place that airs all of the Montgomery County happenings that you care to see. And, some you’d just as soon not. -- Hey, I think I just came up with their slogan. It’ll probably get me summoned to the Producer’s office. Mr. Tyler Forner. The man’s a bear.

In fact, he’s the one who ordered us onto the ice. Al and I figured we’d just go the rink and interview people. Little kids, medium-sized kids and wanna-be kids all skating along like they had good sense. Great episode.

But, noooo. The big guy wants Big Al and me in skates. Tight-fitting, ankle twisting, balance hampering footwear. Mr. Forner wants to see us out on the ice having fun. He wants me dead is what he wants. A shot of me dying on ice would be great for the ratings. That’s the way the man thinks.

Big Al? Not worried at all… at first. Then he put on the skates. Grace was nowhere under the tent. Al managed to hold half an interview before he fell on his rear and had to be helped up. Took about three of us. Al was worried for about three minutes. Then he was all over the place. He’s an athlete. I’m so tired of hearing that.

Me? I was worried from the get go. I had been ice-skating once many years ago and came home with my pants soaked. Some of the water came from the constant landing on the ice.

Fortunately, people at the ice rink couldn’t have been nicer. We had a great interview with Jim, the manager, and with Victor, The Spectrum manager who set up the whole operation.

Victor yelled at Al when he tried to turn off all 100,000 lights around the complex by unscrewing a single bulb. Al is such a goober. After that, I thought the ice rink manager would be mean to us, but Jim was a peach. He even agreed to provide us with an instructor. I think I kissed the guy.

Yeah, but get this; Jim’s complementary instructor turned out to be a five-year old girl named Addison. The kid explained how we were supposed to move our feet and how to stop and how not to fall. Then she carried her tiny walker onto the ice and scooted along. I would’ve been really ticked off at Jim, had li’l Addie not been so cute. A doll she was.

Long story less long, Al and I skidded and tripped and double faulted all over the ice. I never fell, ‘cause I married the railing. Al fell once. Took him about two minutes to eventually hit the ice. People were applauding.

Yes, the skating part was shaky as all get out, but it happened inside a giant tent full of fun. There are some people in this county, people of all ages, who really have some graceful moves. And, those with less graceful moves have twice the fortitude I do. Hey, had I been Columbus, the Santa Maria would’ve turned back at Gibraltar.

Yes, we did a lot of laughing and clowning at the rink, which, incidentally will be open through January 18. Take grandma and the kids with you. Watch grandma pretty close.

The important thing is, I didn’t get hurt. Humiliated big time, but not hurt. And, Kay missed it. That’s another good thing.

Unfortunately, she’ll see it when it comes out on My Metropolis Television Network. Maybe in a week or two. The network is in its infancy. When it’s in full swing, you’re gonna see some serious stuff. And, some not so. Al and I are the not so.

Of course, if Forner, the big boss man, doesn’t tone himself down, I’m gonna get super serious on one of his fists. The man’s a bear I tell you!