Tag Archives: Andrew

Time to trade up?

I was just getting over a cough that had persisted for more than a month when a virus hit ─ our PC. It took over a week, all of Andrew’s non-working hours, input from our network of connections on Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere, and consultation with an uber-geek before the virus was banished. (Excuse me for a moment while I throw salt over my shoulder, knock wood and spit three times; I’m leaving nothing to chance.)

The virus hijacked our search returns and redirected them to ad sites. This made searching a royal pain, but it didn’t shut us down. The applications we use daily, like Word and Outlook, soldiered on, seemingly unaffected. Seemingly, for there was no way to know what we didn’t know about what else the virus might be doing. Fortunately, we have several computers, so I switched to the Mac while the infected PC was quarantined and coaxed back to health.

In our household we have over fifty years of combined high tech employment experience. Many of our friends work in high tech, and a number of relatives. If there’s a problem we can’t solve, we can reach out for help. What do other people do? Home computers are ubiquitous, but that does not mean that every home has someone who knows what a dll is, or what the registry is for. How do families without built-in IT departments (technically-savvy computer-literate spouses) handle these situations?

Getting rid of the search hijack virus wasn’t easy. We (by which I mean Andrew) installed and ran multiple anti-virus programs, including some that specialized in rootkits, those hidden problems that even anti-virus software can’t find. Some scans took minutes, some hours, some had to run overnight. The temptation to reformat the hard drive got stronger with each one. Every scan report beckons you down a different rat hole, unearths things that might be harmful, but they can’t be sure, brings you closer to the edge of despair. Finally, you hit the right combination of software, run in the right order, and magically, the problem goes away.

If you did not spend most of your career in high tech, and you know you don’t know what to do, you might purchase high end software to remedy the problem. Or, you might sign up for a maintenance contract with a company that provides IT services for home computers. Or you might decide that the iPhone does all you need after all and simply walk away.

But could you walk away? What about the things stored on your hard drive; photos, taxes, your unfinished novel? Are those things backed up? What? You don’t know how to do that? My friend, you need to get your priorities in order. If your partner can’t maintain your computer, it’s time to get a new one; partner or computer, you decide.


Teach your children well

I always thought of myself as a generous person. I have a list of charities that I donate to annually, and I respond to all kinds of stray petitions throughout the year. Then I got laid off and discovered that what I really am, is a fair-weather contributor. Last year, I cut several of my annual contributions in half, sponsored only one friend in the Pan-Mass Challenge instead of two, and hardened my heart against the General Israel Orphans Home. Rather than feel good about what I gave, I feel ashamed about what I didn’t give.

While my loss of salary doesn’t create a financial hardship for my family per se, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it does substantially reduce our combined income; hard for me, anyway, not my better half. He continues to donate to his chosen charities generously. He doesn’t think we give enough; cutting back on my giving is not something he encourages.

Some of the wealthiest Americans, like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, have signed ‘The Giving Pledge.’ They’ve agreed to give away half their wealth. That’s mighty impressive. Of course, most of their wealth is ‘on paper,’ and not the kind you spend at the supermarket. If Andrew and I gave away half of our wealth, it could jeopardize our ability to eat during retirement, or buy the dentures we’ll need to do it. Given that medical expenses are the single biggest cause of personal bankruptcies, how can you even know how much you’ll need to retire? Who’s to say that near the end I won’t be tin-cupping outside the General Israel Orphans Home to pay my medical bills?

I’m not trying to make excuses for my recent charitable parsimony, I’m trying to understand it. Apparently financial well-being is as much a state of mind as a reality. I’m confident that when my mind catches up to my reality, I’ll loosen the purse strings again.

In the meantime, our daughter’s allowance is provided with the following caveats: twenty-five percent has to go into long term savings, and twenty-five percent has to go to charity. She puts the money aside and makes her charitable donation at the end of the year. This past year, she had enough to buy a pig through Heifer International. (Pigs provide, “…a valuable source of protein, income from the sale of offspring and manure to nourish crops and soil and increase crop yields.”) Our hope is that charitable giving becomes a habit for her, even if some years all she can afford is a flock of chicks.

You never know

One winter evening, a couple of years ago, we were driving home along the access road next to Route 2 in Arlington, when we spied something lying at the side of the road. As we went past I gasped, “It’s a person!”

Andrew slammed on the brakes and backed up until we were several car lengths beyond the person. He got out of the car and ran forward calling, “Are you alright? Are you hurt?”

I, on the other hand, stood behind the safety of my open car door, yelling, “Do you need help? Are you drunk?”

Somehow we had the presence of mind to call 911, my husband having visually determined that the guy was breathing. What we didn’t do was touch him. And when I say ‘we,’ I mean Andrew. I never got much further than a few steps away from the car, while begging Andrew to come away from the guy.

When the policeman arrived he determined that the guy was as drunk as the proverbial skunk, and poured him into the back of his cruiser to deposit at the police station. The policeman told us that by stopping we probably saved the guy’s life because he was in a great spot to be run over.

That was cold comfort for me. Don’t misunderstand; I’m glad he wasn’t run over. But while our presence may have kept a car from flattening him, it wouldn’t have done him any good had he been: bleeding, choking on his own vomit, having a seizure, a heart attack, an aneurism, etc., etc., etc.

I’m not proud of the way I reacted.

As part of the generation of Jews born on the heels of the Holocaust, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time mulling over what I would have done had I been a non-Jew in a Nazi-occupied territory. I always thought that I would have hidden Jews in my attic, or worked with the underground to sabotage the enemy. I believed that I’d have risked myself rather than imply complicity by silence. Now I’m not so sure.

When I saw that man on the ground I didn’t think, ‘I must rush to help him!’ I thought, ‘What if has a gun?’ I completely forgot that I was in a nice, upper-class suburb where guns rarely, if ever, intrude. My fear was completely unfounded, and thoroughly paralyzing.

I’m much more forgiving in general now. I know that while people may not always behave the way we’d like them to, that doesn’t mean that they don’t wish they could.

Everybody’s a critic

Last night my husband, Andrew, and I saw Prelude to a Kiss, at the Huntington Theater. The play debuted in the late ‘80s, and was subsequently made into a movie starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan, none of which I knew when we sat down in the theater. Andrew, it turned out, was familiar with the movie, but was kind enough to keep what he knew to himself so as not to spoil the experience for me.

The first act was wonderful. I was totally engaged and spent intermission happily speculating about what would happen next. The second act was a little bumpy, but I was riveted nonetheless. When it was over I was fully satisfied, satiated; the way I feel after a holiday meal of my mother’s brisket, and a good bottle of wine. As we made our way slowly up the aisle, a disembodied voice reminded the audience that we were welcome to stay for a post-show conversation with a staff member from the theater.

Andrew and I sat in the lobby and watched the rest of the audience file out while we toyed with the idea of staying. We decided to give it a shot and when the stream of people leaving petered out we went back in and claimed seats in the orchestra. Roughly fifty others joined us, the majority of them old enough to be our parents, if not grandparents.

What ensued was as entertaining as the play itself. The representative from the theater solicited feedback from his small audience and they pulled no punches. A pompous, bald man in the front row criticized the lead actress for having a voice that grated. Someone suggested that the playwright had missed the mark entirely. An elderly woman asked mournfully, “Can you give me a synopsis of the play? I don’t know what was going on.” And one elderly gentleman, who had chosen to sit several rows further back than everyone else, complained peevishly, and often, that he couldn’t hear the conversation.

I don’t want to spoil the play for you in case you decide to go see it, but I will tell you that it requires that you suspend disbelief in order to fully appreciate it. Similarly, it proved more entertaining to view the post-show conversation as a unique third act to our evening than a serious discussion of the play.

I highly recommend that you go see Prelude to a Kiss; however, I suggest you see the traditional two act version and skip the third.