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Jan 11, 2018

See you at 2!

We'll start at 2, if there's anyone to start with. Y'all are *quiet* today.

Do you usually have a lot of pre-chat posts clamoring to ask something? I've been sitting here quietly for nearly half an hour waiting for the chat to start. (I was also knitting and web-surfing.)

I almost always do! Today, everyone is zzzzzzz.

I was looking at a FB post which referenced chamomile. I misread it as "cannibals." I think I need a vacation.

Is there any situation in which "cannibals" would be an acceptable substitution?

Just wanted to say thanks to you and the chatters. Exactly what I was looking for!

Oh, what did you end up reading?

Everyone's outside enjoying the sunshine and 60-degree weather.

Nothing like two weeks of single digit temperatures to make someone look at 40-degree rain and say, "Well, this is LOVELY."

I heard that the PDF version of this book is being shared on WhatsApp! Is that true?

I don't know, but if you want to read it, might I suggest buying it?

It's because I'm sick and have nothing but a ghostly creak of a voice left. It's nothing serious, but for some reason these mild illnesses make me even grumpier than the flu or pneumonia do. Maybe because I can't justify taking the day off work to stay in bed and quietly die with netflix in the background?

But aren't the mild illnesses exactly when you *should* take a day off? So that they don't turn into major illnesses?

You've seen this trend, right? And, I assume, screamed to the heavens in righteous fury?

Please explain.

There's such an odd trend lately of people "cutting the cord" to cable, but people increasingly have to subscribe to multiple multiple sources to get the content they want--Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, mlb.tv., etc. And do shows even wind up on DVD anymore? I'd like to see The Handmaid's Tale, for instance, but can't bring myself to subscribe to something else, and it's not like they're going to sell that so I can watch it on Netflix, and I doubt it'll pop up in a Redbox somewhere. It's frustrating.

TV critic Hank Stuever has talked a lot about this. How it's only a matter of time before people are like, it's ridiculous that I need to belong to so many services. Why don't they just make one place where I can get everything? And then...we'll be reinventing the cable model that people professed to hate.

well, the independent living part of assisted living. With that, comes thoughts about one or the other of them passing away. Mom doesn't use a computer. At all. She has promised to learn to use a smart phone once the first grandkid has one (oldest is almost 11, so it won't be that far off), but that isn't a computer. Is there any incentive that anyone has found to get a reluctant older person on-line. I'd be ecstatic if she could check a bank balance, read a newspaper, and read/reply to e-mails. Googling restaurant menus/locations would be nice, but not absolutely needed. I think her first worry is that she is going to break/delete something important and ruin the whole thing.

Can I ask a question that is not meant to be loaded at all? Isn't your mother already, one assumes, checking bank balances and reading newspapers? She just, like, checks the paper balances and reads the paper copies? I understand if you are coming from a place of, "I am tired of printing out and mailing kid photos instead of just telling Mom to check Facebook," but...can you articulate a little better what you think she, and you, will get out of her being more computer literate?

So that's the philosophical answer. The practical answer is you need to find a computer class, geared specifically to seniors, so that she can learn with other beginners in a neutral environment where she won't feel embarrassed in front of her kids if she doesn't understand something. Since she's in an assisted living community, I'm sure they have information on classes like this.

Yesterday was the first day for a week that I didn't don my down coat with the hood to walk out and get the newspapers. But I confidently expect a migraine this weekend when the temps head back down into the 20s.


Arlington library has copies of Fire and Fury in print, ebook, and audiobook. Plenty of legal options out there, folks.

I read "cannibals" as "cannabis." I do not know what this says about me, but I am now picturing cannibals with the munchies. I also do not know what THAT says about me.

Ewwwww. And hahaha.

I'm taking a vacation to Papua New Guinea. What should I look out for?

Are you...just...baiting us with the cannibal subplot that is developing here?

Spoken like a true author. It's not like this book is great literature that has to be samizdat'd because of censorship.

A lot of people don't understand how close to the margins publishing houses operate under. They need big hits -- yes, even shlocky hits like 50 Shades of Grey -- to float their smaller, more literary projects.

There has been a lot of talk about how Donald Trump becoming president has opened the door for other celebrities to consider running for president. But Ronald Reagan was an actor before he was president. Was there a surge in support for celebrities-turned-politicians after he was elected? If not, what do you think is different this time around?

Interesting question. In part, Reagan didn't leap straight for the presidency. He was governor first. And before that, he was the president of the Screen Actors Guild, which is it's own type of elected, political thing. In short, he believed there were preparatory ladder rungs that one should take. It's different than say, The Rock, being like, "People like me, I'll run for president." 


So that's the first thought that comes to mind. I'd welcome others. 

https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/displaying-books-backwards-trend-252595 Displaying books on shelves with the page edges facing out, no spines or covers showing.

Oh, yeah. That's dumb.

I went to bed at 6pm last night and would've called out today if I didn't feel better than I did yesterday. It's just that no one told my vocal chords we were on the mend, so they did call out for the day. Hopefully not longer. I want soup. And a blanket. Are soup blankets a thing? I think I just invented the flavored hot tub. Gross.


Exactly. It took quite a while for my boss to realize that if I dragged myself in with the beginnings of a cold, I'd be out for two weeks with a secondary infection.

And by that point, you would have taken down half of your coworkers too.

Thank you. What I see here is the poster wanting Mom to get on line for the poster's convenience. Pestering Mom to "do what I do and everyone else my age does" is disrespectful and counterproductive. Sure, there are advantages to Mom being on line, but not necessarily for Mom, in Mom's view.

Well, this response is pretty much why I prefaced my own with saying I wasn't asking a loaded question. I don't think it's fair to assume that the OP's motives are selfish; I wast just trying to say that the question, as it was written, wasn't quite clear enough on the motives.

Why are they endless repositories of crazy? Like, everywhere I've lived, every single one I've joined has been hilarious backbiting insanity where people rip one another to shreds over trash can lids and preferred grass height. My current (fairly small) town's group has drama galore. I mean, yes, people are more obnoxious over the Internet than they are in person. But if your name and photo are there, wouldn't it occur to you at some point to say, "I'm not going to be insane towards someone who might be in line behind me at Dollar General tomorrow"?

I do not have a full answer for why so many of them are buckets of crazy...but man, are they entertaining.

Newspapers and magazines, too. I hate it when someone pops up in a WashPost chat whining that they're reached their free article limit and isn't there some way they can get all the content without, you know, PAYING for it/

The Post, in the past, has made its website free when there's big news of national importance, i.e. massive flood coverage or an inauguration. But in general, yes -- you might feel like information wants to be free, but those of us who make a living reporting and writing it can't really work for free.

Maybe suggest YouTube as a gateway. It's relatively intuitive for someone used to television, and there are channels out there for almost every interest. It's a pretty passive experience and might get her more comfortable using the computer. Also, a tablet might be a good starting point. There really aren't that many things that can't be done on an iPad, especially if the user doesn't have a bunch of preconceived notions on how a computer is "supposed" to work.

I'll post a few suggestions as they come in.

It kept him away from a lot of scams. As long as bills are being paid on time, don't fix it.

the problem is that her life is completely computer dependent. My dad shows her photos on facebook. He checks the bank and investment balances. He reads her e-mail to her. He places the facetime calls to the grandkids (they are my brother's kids, not mine). BUT, if he were to end up in the hospital for a week or two, she would be cut off from all that. And she is a total worrier so not being able to check would drive her nuts. She already took a computer class for older adults. Still won't touch things. Neither my brother nor I have any of his passwords, so we wouldn't be able to take over.

Okay, this is really helpful. It's not that she doesn't care about stuff on the computer, it's that she does, but she won't teach herself how to use it. That's harder. And -- though I'd love to hear other suggestions -- the solution for that might be tough love. As in, make sure there are clear instructions for basic things, printed out and easily accessible, like, "Here's how you turn the computer on. Here's how you go to Gmail." But then, just...let her do it, or not. But after one or two times, don't do it for her.

I'm thinking of my grandmother, who had never even pumped her own gasoline until my grandfather died. She claimed she couldn't. Then, guess what, she figured it out. Because she had to. 

As someone who has assisted my parents, relatives, and in-laws to the online world, I've found that the iPad is the best device for it. It's relatively durable, easy to use, and virus-free. Things that I learned: 1. They are much more capable than you think. 2. Be patient, and be prepared to answer the same questions over and over. 3. Write down (or better yet, take pictures on your phone) of their usernames, passwords, account info. They will loose it or not remember it. 4. Accept that you will be their primary IT tech. Be prepared to diagnose/update their devices and apps. 5. Write down simple, easy-to-follow steps to do basic things like turning on/off the iPad, connecting WiFi, accessing banking apps, etc.

That sound you hear was probably my knee jerking. My MIL is now in the independent part of her assisted living community and she is less and less comfortable with the computer she used to use all the time. My husband keeps trying to suggest new devices that would be more convenient for her but they all involve a learning curve that she is not up for. Sorry about that.

No problem, all have jerky knees sometimes.

Question for you and the chatters? Do you and your significant other have screen time limits for each other while spending time together? I find that we're spending more of our time together being apart on separate screens. We've started implementing limits on screen time (only during commercials), every other night is screen-free during bedtime, etc. Are we the only ones?

I'm sure you're not, but I'd love to hear tales from other relationships!

Well, newspapers do have other means of funding that books do not. Unless you are prepared to have printed advertisements inside your books these days.

Oh, I wouldn't mind at all. I can't imagine any ad companies would find it effective, though.

I pretty much sit at my computer any time I talk to her to make sure I can. And I don't use social media myself, so I am not angry that she doesn't already have the pictures of whatever, or know about plans to do the other. But it kind of makes me sad that they are planning to move to a place and she was really interested in knowing if there was a Dairy Queen nearby and it didn't even occur to her that there is an easy way to find out. As in, 40 seconds on Google maps way to find out. Maybe it would be enough if she just knew what was possible to find out with a computer so she would ask us without feeling guilty that asking was wanting us to take on a three hour research task.

I'm stuck on the fact that I've found another human for whom "proximity to Dairy Queen" is an important calculation. Tell your mother to ask me; I always know.

I tried to save all my mom's passwords and usernames when I helped her setup her computer. Only to have her change them a few months later when she forgot them and then forgot what she changed them to, too.

Well, that's just the story of being alive.

This is why we didn't join NextDoor.com when we got an invitation. Our neighborhood already has a healthy community association with a newsletter and a Facebook group, plus the invitation came from the most contentious person in the neighborhood, who we figured had started the NextDoor group because she wasn't being allowed to dominate the community ass'n any more.

Didn't you kind of want to join, and bring popcorn.

As an elder who is semi-invalid and mostly house-bound, my computer is my major access to the world, since going out is a physical hassle. It even enables me to have a career in my (specialized) field of writing.

But that's you, speaking for yourself (and articulating good reasons). It's harder to make the case for why someone else should want something they don't appear to want.

Decades ago I read an article praising the entertaining style of society hostess Brooke Hayward Duchin (daughter of Margaret Sullavan and Leland Hayward, then wife of society pianist Peter Duchin). Among her "clever" decorating styles was using open books as placemats at the dinner table (no longer recall how she kept them flat; maybe only used sections of them). The letter-to-the-editor blowback was phenomenal.

Maybe she just ripped out a few pages? I have to admit, I'd probably love to sit down at a table where my book was a placement. Especially if my dinner companions had the rest of it, and we were trying to figure out how it fit together.

In the past year or so, I've begun to tell the Lord of the Rings story to my 4 year old (started when he was 3). We started talking about Bilbo Baggins finding the ring of power, and he loved the name so much, he refers to them as "Bilbo Baggins Stories". I've told (and made up) various Bilbo Baggins stories during our daily drive to the preschool, as well as before bedtime. I try to transition him to the fact that Frodo is the one that goes on the quest to destroy the One Ring, but since he liked the name Bilbo Baggins so much, I ran along with it, so it's Bilbo who's going one the quest to destroy the Ring. All the other names: Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Samwise, etc., are true to the canon. So my question: do I continue this relative harmless (?) falsehood, or fake news, or do need to somehow transition to Frodo Baggins? How do I do that? At some point, I hope, he'll see the movies and read the books. Will I CRUSH his childhood memories?!?

This is delightful. Just keep doing it. Brains are resilient, his won't melt too much when it's time for the truth.

Hi Monica. You and I are friends on FB, but not in real life (although I'm POSITIVE we'd be best friends should we meet). I saw your back-and-forth with a commenter about your cold story (at least, I think it was that story). I was super impressed with how you responded to him. I hope I would be so kind in the same situation. I got the sense that you didn't know him in real life, so I'm wondering if after something like that happens, do you un-friend them?

Thanks. I know the commenter you're talking about, and no, I don't know him -- I think he came to the post via a friend of friend of friend thing.

It's maddening, but there's just never any good that comes from being rude back to someone online. It might feel good in the moment, but all you've done is reinforced someone's negative impression. Half of the time, when I get nasty emails and write back politely, the response I get in return is a sheepish, "Oh, I didn't expect you to write back."

My husband and I wrote up little "in case something happens" notes with all of our passwords and whatnot, then each hid them in a book in the library. We know each title. So, say, if I die/go missing/get eaten by cannibals on cannabis, my husband knows to look inside my Death Book for what he needs. Maybe OP's parents could try something similar? Also, it's mad fun to select your Death Book.


(you mean your own personal library, right? Or is someone at your public library going to check out  their copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and be like, "what?")

How do I mention to a guy that I am going to a show he is in? We've just started reconnecting again and I decided I wanted to see his acting. I didn't plan on mentioning it at all because it's not like he's gonna see me in the audience, but some people have pointed out that like, what if I run into him anyway, then it's even weirder. Added challenge: show is closer to my mom's than my place and runs late so I asked her if I could sleep at her house and now she decided she wanted to come too. Ugh. How do I say this? I feel so lame.

Why can't you just send him a message saying, "Hey, your show sounded cool--I'm going to come on Thursday. Any tips for where my mom and I could grab a cup of coffee after?" Or something like that. Phrasing it that way will make it clear that you don't expect him to babysit you afterward.


I mean, presumably he wants people to come to his shows. Presumably actors actually like when someone is in the audience. 

The great Calvin Trillin wrote, years ago, about certain restaurants that he thought should be rated on a pretentiousness scale, such as the one where the bill was presented to him in a hollowed-out book. His wife (an English professor) remarked that it was odd and the waiter sneered, "What, are you a librarian?"

Uh, people used to use the phone book to find out such info, both White Pages and Yellow Pages. Imagine, books!

Well, true, but when you're very first moving to an area, reading that the DQ is on Jefferson Street isn't helpful if you don't know where Jefferson Street is.

Or if, like me, you move to Washington, don't have Internet access yet, want to visit a Barnes and Noble, don't realize how long 11th street is, and end up walking two and a half miles, thinking it must be coming up any minute now.

Can that poster be my dad?

Everyone's dad.

MAKE HER LEARN. My FIL just passed away completely unexpectedly, and my MIL can't even log into her email account. FIL did all the "computer things" and now he is gone. I cannot stress enough how important it is for your dad to write down/give your mom or you ALL HIS PASSWORDS for his online accounts.

Yes, make sure passwords and instructions are written down. But you physically cannot make someone learn. The poster has tried. That's why OP wrote to begin with.

You  can only make sure that the passwords and instructions are readily available for when they have to learn.

Personal library. Though now I'm picturing someone cracking open "Under the Banner of Heaven" or whatever to find out that someone in their town is 5'1 and has an appendectomy scar, in case she ever went missing.

Under the Banner of Heaven: good death book. 

If someone dies, and you're in charge of the estate, you get the charge of everything. Just pay the bills as they come in.

Oh, sweetie. I can't remember the last time I got a paper bill. It's all automatic bill pay online, and I check in every few months to make sure things are smooth. If I kicked the bucket, bills would not "come in," ever, and I know I'm not alone.

This isn't a question at all, but I bought your book for my husband for Christmas and he loved it. It probably ended up being the best gift I've gotten him in a while.

Oh, thanks so much!

Regardless of whether your mother learns to use the computer, and even if your father is in great health, have him write down the passwords and account numbers for everything and lock them up with other important documents for safekeeping. My dear friend's father was the sole computer user in the family as her mother had no interest. All was well and good until he suddenly became ill, was belligerent while being treated and so refused to give up any information, and passed away suddenly. NIGHTMARE. Also, there are plenty of stories out there about money languishing in accounts that no one knows about or has access to because the account holder left no information for others. If writing the passwords down feels unsafe, use an easy code where possible, like "mom's dog's name" or "Joseph's family nickname" or whatever.

long enough so that she might want to do things like this for herself. Not that I want my father to pass away soon or first or anything like that. But my brother and sister-in-law and I have been worried about her physical safety. Now they are moving someplace where dad will have back up taking care of her, I would love to see her think about how to deal with the stuff that isn't impaired by her physical limitations. She is a clever person and not at all impaired mentally. And I know physical pain intrudes on mental acuity all by itself, but I'd love to see her want to be able to deal with the things that she could do if she was willing to learn.

I love this. Because what started out as a questions about computer literacy is actually, of course, a question about love, and concern, and how to live a good life. I think that's a good question to end on, don't you? See you next week, same time and place.

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Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

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