Remote Shell Game

Hi. My name is Jan, and I’m not smart enough to watch television. (Of course, you could say that avoiding television is smarter than watching it, but that’s beside the point.)

To be honest, I don’t really think it’s my lack of intelligence. No, our media setup has joined the appliances and other electronics in the revolt.* I’m down 22-1, in my own end zone.

Let’s say I pick up the remote that operates the actual television set and push the power button. A menu pops up inviting me to choose what input I want.

But the various inputs are numerically coded and I can never remember which number means “television” as opposed to “Blu-ray” or whatever.

There aren’t even all that many inputs. Like, maybe four.

One day after scrambling around for several fruitless minutes, I gave up and called the AV guys who installed our system. “You want HDMI 2,” they explained.

“But when I select that, it doesn’t show our real network or cable channels. I get something that says TV but isn’t.”

Then I told them we’d recently installed a sound bar. “Ah… so, turn on the sound bar first. Select from the inputs displayed on the sound bar, not the one on the screen.”

“Ohh-kay.” (Why do they not match? I didn’t dare ask.)

“Then you can use the AT&T remote to control the television.”

“Not the television remote?”


Whatever. It worked, so… Fine.

Now, to watch Netflix, we used to turn on the actual television remote, then select “Netflix.”

Apparently, that was too easy. Over time, that method glitched once, then the next week, then every time we used it. We couldn’t access anything on Netflix.

I called AT&T for support. Several minutes of attempted troubleshooting, during which the guy clearly picked up on my level of tech-savvy. Finally he said, “Look, it’ll be simpler if you just turn on the Blu-ray disc player.”

“Use the Blu-ray? To watch Netflix? Which is via internet?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Who am I to question? I used the disc-player remote to turn on the player, which in turn triggered the television to turn on. Oh, lookie–the Blu-ray remote has its own “Netflix” button! After a few exploratory steps, none of which I can remember, I found the series I wanted. But afterward, I couldn’t figure out how to switch from Netflix to a football game on regular ol’ network TV.

I’m trapped in a house of mirrors at the intersection of “Who’s On First?” and “Rube Goldberg.”

All I know is, no matter what component you want to use, you have to start with the remote to something else.

Here, I would normally draw some insightful parallel between my media-component struggle and life in general. But with tech drama this wacky?

I got nothin’.

* If you don’t believe there’s any revolt, enter “appliances” in the search bar, upper right.

Your turn: Is anyone else confounded by too much technology? I welcome your comments in the box below. (Waaaay below.)

Thanks for reading,


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Mocha Miracle

Most mornings, I wake up pretty early. Rather than disturb Brent, I like to tippytoe upstairs to start the day in my office. First, I turn on my mug warmer and heat a bit of milk in a mug. Next stop: the wet bar, where I delve into my stash of coffee. After Mr. Coffee does his thing, I doctor a mug of the brew with the milk, some hot cocoa mix, and a little stevia.


It’s my favorite.

I’ve been wondering, though…. How is something as delicious as mocha even possible? I mean, have you ever tasted a coffee bean? Ewww. If I ever sampled one from a coffee bush, I’d probably spit it out thinking anything that bitter had to be poisonous. After all, the coffee plant and berries look a lot like Christmas holly, and that’s toxic.

And yet, someone in ages past bit into a coffee bean and thought, “Hey… this wouldn’t be half bad with some sugar on it. And maybe soak it in some boiling water.”

My favorite mocha mug.
Where’s the mocha, you ask?
Um, I already drank most of it.

And what about cocoa? Plain ol’ cocoa tastes almost as bitter as coffee. Again, who decided to sweeten it up and give it a second chance? Once burned, twice bitter, or something.

Yet here we are, with more types and roasts of coffee than we know what to do with, and cocoa that’s not only pre-sweetened, but already mixed with dehydrated milk.

So, what does this tell you?

Miracles really do happen.

As near as I can figure, if God cares about something like coffee, which we don’t actually NEED to live (no, really)–we can trust him with the bigger stuff.

What’s your favorite little miracle?

Thanks for reading,


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Hazardous Duty, by Christy Barritt

Y’all… I finally found an author who writes in my genre! Well, almost. Christy Barritt’s “Squeaky Clean Mysteries” books are all-out mysteries that are suspenseful and sometimes macabre, while always hilarious. In fact, she’s as goofy as I am, if not more so. I’ve devoured several of her books in the last few weeks, but for now, I’ll settle on one to recommend.

Hazardous Duty, released in 2008, is the first in Barritt’s series. (Some may think that’s old, but Barritt produced fifteen stories in the series and I suggest starting with this title.) Her main character is Gabby St. Claire, whose studies in forensic science got slightly derailed into a crime-scene cleaning business. In this book, Gabby does a really thorough job at a house where the victim was shot. In fact, she finds significant evidence which the police missed. She does her best to insert herself and her observations into the investigation, annoying the detectives to no end.

Image credit:

Gabby’s friends are all sort of quirky. Come to think of it, so is she. She isn’t just a goofball, though… I developed a strong sympathy for her. Complex characters, humorous moments both slapstick and subtle, and a genuine mystery all come together to make this book a Great Weekend Read.

Find it at Barritt’s website, or on Amazon.

PS: Barritt also has multiple series of suspense novels that I’ve delved into and enjoy.

Thanks for reading,


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Appliance Agitation

Here we go again… not long ago, I was relaxing on the patio with a good novel while a load of cycling clothes and other truly gross stuff was in the wash. Everything was fine until Brent popped his head out the back door and said, “The washer is making a weird noise.” I sighed and went to check it out.

He was right. It sounded like a cross between a freight train and someone trying to start a car with a weak battery.

According to the knob, the machine was in the Spin cycle. We opened the lid to find the washed clothes just sitting there, having a spa day in the dirty water that was supposed to be draining out of the tub.

Not cool. (By the way, that damage in the center was from years earlier when I working on a sewing project. Who damages their washing machine while sewing?)

Brent suggested I should be the one to choose the new machine, since I’m the laundry guru. We’d been under “shelter in place” for a few weeks by this time, so I was happy to skitter off to Lowe’s. Brent stayed to fish the Lycra out of its sudsy hot tub. Did I mention he’s a hero?

After two hours of looking at machines/considering pros & cons, I came home to find the bikewear all rinsed and neatly hung on the pool fence. Don’t worry; those little things on the spikes aren’t shrunken heads, just our cycling socks.

I gave Brent the good news that I’d bought a Maytag. It would arrive on the next delivery date. Eleven days away.

A look of horror crossed his face. “ELEVEN DAYS??”

“You seem skeptical.”


“Sure. It’s no problem–I can hand wash whatever we need until then.”

After all, we have a sink in the laundry room. Plus enough T-shirts to last until the week before Thanksgiving. Besides, the dryer still works. I pictured swishing a few lightweight items around in the sink, giving them a good rinse under the spray faucet, and tossing them into the dryer.

Brent pictured my suggestion a little differently:

Re-enactment of an imaginary event. No rocks or laundry were harmed.

Okay, fine. The next morning, I called Lowe’s to cancel the order. Brent researched washing machines and found a local indie dealer who could deliver a Speed Queen the same day. The new machine even has some of the old-school features I like!

And so, our wardrobe maintenance hasn’t missed a beat.

But just watch the rest of the appliances talk the Speed Queen into joining the revolt.

Thanks for reading,


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Useless–Or Not

I’ll tell you, this “Shelter-in-place” thing doesn’t keep a person very busy. I mean, sure, I could clean house–but I’m not that desperate.

Anyway, I’ve done a fair amount of light reading lately. In one story, a character complained that someone else was “as useless as the ‘g’ in lasagna.” Which gave me a laugh — I’d never heard that one before.

But then I got to thinking (shelter-in-place also lends itself to thinking)… Is the ‘g’ in lasagne really useless? After all, you don’t pronounce it.

Normally, the purpose of each letter letter in the alphabet is to represent one (or more) sounds in speech. But not always! In Italian words like ‘lasagne,’ the ‘g’ tells you to pronounce the ‘n’ differently: ‘n-e’ is pronounced ‘nyeh’ instead of ‘neh.’ The ‘gn’ is like the ‘ñ’ in Spanish.

We need silent letters in English, too. They let us distinguish between ‘pane’ and ‘pan’; ‘dime’ and ‘dim.’

Then I got to thinking (on about the third cup of coffee) about other things that seem useless because they don’t serve what we think of as their normal function. Or because we don’t like them.

Say your car breaks down [or in my case, more likely an appliance] and needs repair. This huge inconvenience might just keep you off the road long enough to avoid a serious traffic accident. Or the repair process could even bring some important contact or relationship into your life.

And what about the student with some physical handicap that keeps him from excelling at a sport he loves? I’m sure we have all heard stories about that one kid who serves on the support / equipment / water boy squad. Rather than look down on him for his lack of athletic talent, the jocks come to love and appreciate him. He elevates the whole team by inspiring their understanding, humility, and compassion.

Setbacks and frustrations may seem useless–just a waste of time and energy. But I have it on excellent authority that nothing can thwart God’s good purpose for you.

As near as I can figure, since God wastes nothing, we shouldn’t dismiss any experience as “useless.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have this sudden urge to go make lasagne.

Thanks for reading,


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Curb Your Enthusiasm!

Late last summer, our second Italy bicycle tour was closing in fast. Time to start hitting some hills! So one Saturday, I hopped on Sully and took off for a hilly climbers’ playground neighborhood near Joe Pool Lake.

After an hour or so of climbs, I was feeling strong and working up a sweat. Soon I’d start home. But first… a quick rest break at the nearby fire station. There’s a little lobby with a water fountain and restroom. I pulled into the wide fire-engine drive and aimed my weary self toward the shade at the opposite end of the building.

Both bike and brain coasted along. Until the raised sidewalk separating the garage drive from the parking lot appeared just in front of my wheel. I grabbed the brakes but it was too late. Sully jarred into the curb and I went over onto my right side.

A quick inventory revealed that all limbs were still present and functional… though one knee, sporting a patch of road rash, was going to be stiff. Sully was a different story. I tried rolling him to the fire station porch, but his back wheel wouldn’t budge.

Fine. I carried him.

No point in calling Brent–he was out on his bike somewhere. Maybe someone could give me a ride home? So I started scrolling through my phone contact list.

Some of these people I haven’t talked to in years. Others, I don’t even remember who they are. Some friends are inconsiderately located out of state.

I sat on a bench, tapping my phone against my chin and trying to decide what to do next.

A cyclist rode by. I sort of grudged that this guy wasn’t having any mechanical issu–wait–

That’s Brent!

I was gonna yell and chase him down, but he was turning in to the station anyway.

He was glad to see me… until he got a good look at my bike. Dripping with sweat, he managed to yank my rear derailleur out of the spokes where it had been jammed. I could pedal but not change gears.

I made the ten miles home without too much trouble. The next thing was to have the rear derailleur replaced.

One slight problem. My 10-speed derailleur was obsolete–no replacements. I’d have to switch to a new 12-speed one. No biggie, right?


The 12-speed required a 12-cog freewheel (cassette). Fine. Only the wider arrangement required a new wider-range front derailleur…

It was like a really expensive version of “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie.”

We ended up replacing every single bit of the drive train. I was thankful we could at least keep Sully’s frame and handlebar.

I’m also thankful that I now have some seriously killer gears. Somehow those 13-percent grades don’t seem as steep as they used to.

Oh, and the tour?

It was fabulous.

Your Turn: Did you ever have an event coming up, and the preparations turned out to be waaaay more trouble and expense than the event itself? Let’s commiserate in the “Comments Welcome Here” box below.

Thanks for reading,

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