The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005



(Thoughts for the parents of Terri Schiavo,
March 30, 2005)

even if we cover ourselves
with sack cloth
and sit among the ashes
of our burnt offerings,

even if we face East,
fast for days,
finger our prayer beads
and cry

even if we kneel for hours,
beat our breasts,
make promises, make deals,
sacrifice whatever we have,

ask God over and over
and over and over again

sometimes the answer
is no

and all we can do
is put our arms around one another,
comfort one another,
sweep up the ashes
and accept the truth:

the answer is not what we want.
Sometimes the answer is no.

(C)Smokey Combs 2005 all rights reserved

Friday, March 11, 2005

No High Heels, Please!

My friend Joyce cannot hear. I cannot sign - at least , not very much -- in fact, very little. Still we have fun, go places together and are just -- well, friends.

Joyce had gone round and round with her computer. At one point her brother came to visit and gave her a new one. It came with a new operating system on it. I have 'heard' about it ever since. She asks if I can help her with some of the settings, if I can help her set up her e-mail, that sort of thing. I told her earlier this week I would take a look at it -- but as this week went the way it went, I don't think I can -- or if I actually get there, I don't know as though it will help her. What she really needs is to get her brother back here to set her computer where she wants it set, and give her what she wants. I don't know that he is a techie -- but he certainly broke Techie Rules for Dealing With Older Computer Users (OCU) Rules #1 and 2:

Rule #1 Thou Shalt Ascertain What it is the Older Computer User Wants

The main thing to remember is that the OCU most probably will not evolve into even a near techie. Someone provided a computer for this person (or she for herself) so she can stay in touch with her family and friends, explore the internet for fun, look up medical conditions and talk show celebrities, and play games. If she has a preferred game place, that should be respected and availability to it should be assured. She should also have available the easiest search engine and the easiest, most client friendly e-mail available. This may not be what she says, so techies are advised to ask. Then listen to the answer and go directly to

Rule #2: Thou Shalt Provide for the Older Computer User What Said User Wants, Not What Thou Thinkest Said User Wants/Needs.

This should go without saying, but it apparently needs to be said. Make sure the OCU can use the all programs on her computer that she needs, and that she can access all the sites she likes. Now, you may know that the OCU's preferred game place is a gathering place for viruses and other nasties -- but this is where she wants to play, this is one of the reasons she even has a computer, so it is better to just make sure she has access -- and also access to programs to check and clean out the viruses and nasties when she is finished with her game playing. She should be shown how to run the clean up and instructed to run it after each and every visit to such a place. You don't want to tell her she can't go there any more.

Give her the simplest e-mail available to her, and I don't care if it is on an operating system you don't like. This is her computer, not yours.

Don't give the OCU what you think she needs. LISTEN, and don't make me tell you about the woman, a victim of Tsunami, told those well intended folks who asked her what she needed, "no high heels, please!"


Bye Bye Techie Kid!

It took him nearly 4 years to come visit, and now he's gone again.

Sigh. I guess mothers never get done mothering.

Techie Kid is off at his usual break-neck speed, determined to assuage his curiosity and explore his new home. I am hoping they have postage stamps (for all the e-mail in the world, a mother still likes to get a note now and then in the actual handwriting of her kid. It's more personal. Heck, you can't blame us for sentimentality -- mothers are 85 percent sentiment.) and I am also hoping he enjoys the beauty around him -- that he will slow down long enough once in a while to look.

It was so very nice having him here -- though I wish I could have offered better accomodations. We seem to not-say a lot of things, my Techie Kid and me. Some things are unspoken and some are just unsaid. Odd for two people who are so wordy everywhere else. During his stay I had him accompany me to a therapy session. I guess I wanted him to see where I am now -- as opposed to where I had been and where I will eventually end up. I wanted to give him reason not to worry about me and depression and prescription drugs and kitchen knives -- I hope he learned enough where he thinks of me as only mildly neurotic now -- just like everyone else. For a while there even I wasn't sure I could get back to this place.

So on to his adventure he goes -- dragging his worldly posessions behind him. He will keep busy, he will keep charming the birds out of the trees and allowing butterflies to land on his fingers.

I hope it doesn't take him another 4 years to come back.


Monday, March 07, 2005

Speaking of Contamination.....

Ach! My home computer contracted something insidious, and was out of service for a time. Techie Kid has spent time he hasn't really had cleaning it up and installing for me the latest in everything, and tells me that today it will be servicable once more. (Thank you thank you thank you!) I must remember to make a small batch of peanut-butter cookies for that man.

I hadn't realized how much I value my computer and the access it affords me until it was gone - I was actually frustrated to tears. I read things that begged me to write about them. I could write, of course - I do have paper and pens and pencils around here - but I tend to do best dropping things right down in words once, editing them from that place, and sending them off on their own from that place. Like here. Of course, I write all the time -- which is what allows me to just plop down entries in seemingly short amounts of time. I've probably been writing it for days in my head.

Without a working computer I had the chance to read the entire Sunday paper from end to advertisement end, start the Super Hard Crossword Puzzle (which generally takes me until Wednesday to finish) and to pace a dent in the floor in my apartment. I actually organized a few things around my computerless place this weekend - and repotted my GruGru palm, which is cactus-like on the trunk (one-inch very sharp spines all over it!) and has a floof of strap-like leaves on the top. I used oven mitts, for all the good that did. The plant (I call him "Spike") is about 6 feet tall, and at one point it toppled over onto my right arm - extremely painful. I actually sat there on the floor a moment. I had to think of the best way to get the heavy old sharp thing off my arm and decided the best thing to do was place my left arm around behind my head and push the trunk straight off, the way it came down. Some of the spines apparently broke off under the skin, and one in particular seems to have at least grazed a vein - there is a big ol' bruise just southeast of the elbow. Ow. I just noticed it acts up as I type. Where did I leave my Tylenol?

More soon about a whole bunch of things. It was a very interesting Opinion Page in the Sunday St. Petersburg Times!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Contaminated Intuition?

Jeopardy is a long running television game show in the US. Success in this game requires the contestants answer selected questions in the form of a question (What is... or Who said... or some such) and the questions are often obscure or quite specialized.

For years I have watched this program, often with friends. We call out our answers as we watch, and often we wonder how we (or how our friends) could have possibly known the right answer. When we ask one another, the usual answer is, "I don't know how I knew that -- I just knew."

What do you call that? Years ago in a poem I cannot lay my hands on at the moment, I wrote about intuition. I said it was the quick synapse that brought together all we knew from anywhere together to create a knowledge, give us answers, render judgements. It cannot be traced back, yet it can be astoundingly accurate. In that work I raised the question of contamination. Can daydreams or fervent longings and such change that summation of past experiences, of the things we 'know' without knowing? I am halfway through reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, and I am hoping the second half will provide me with an answer to that.

I'll get back to that here when I have finished the book and let you know. Meanwhile roll it around in your head a moment, taste the ambivalence. Is it possible to contaminate our intuition with daydreams?