Press "Enter" to skip to content

Tuesday ramble: Computers, apples, computers, tomatoes

Last Saturday I thought I might gather some links for you. I’d been using the library’s computers all week, but mostly visiting “friendly” sites. I hadn’t done any general surfing.

And OMG, when I ventured into the nooz world, I had to flee after a few minutes.

The library keeps its computers muted by default, but apparently they have no defenses anywhere.

Pop-ups pop, and pop again, sometimes four or five times on a site. Banners wave and zoom and flip and flash, and change color and generally demand more attention than a petulant two-year-old. Videos play by themselves as if driven by black magic. Nothing is still anywhere. Cookies cook. Trackers track. Scripts … do whatever scripts do, sometimes 15 or 20 of them at a time.

My normal trek around the ‘Net is done with minimal scripts, no autoplays, no pop-ups, few ads, trackers blocked, and other safety measures in place. It’s reasonably sedate.

Surfing via the library computers was like being teleported from a small town into the heart of a North Beach night in the heyday of Carol Doda, with barkers calling from the doorway of dives. Tawdry, attention-jolting, and anti-thought.

How does anyone stand this? Why does anyone stand this when free tools and browser settings are right there to tame the surfing experience? (But no, I didn’t stick around to see what I could do with the library’s browser settings; hopefully I’ll never have to.)

Is it possible people actually like that seizure-inducing visual (and auditory, outside the library) noise? Or do they tolerate the assault because they don’t even realize they can minimize the mess? How do people’s minds deal with it? Tune it out so they can focus? Adjust their brains to take input from 10 sources at once? Surrender, go blank, and passively receive messages ala They Live?

No wonder the crazy lady who always sits over there at library terminal three whines, groans, and sometimes cries the whole time she’s online.

And how much worse is it that every flashing doodad is also the vehicle and the front for a global network data gathering, eerie analysis, selling-selling-selling, and 30-year-olds making fortunes off something whose implications they cannot understand?

Please pardon me for not doing that links post.


Instead, I went back to apple processing. Ah, sanity.

Too much freakin’ hard labor, but of such a pleasant, calming sort.

Last week I made apple butter (a little runny, but nicely spicey and smooth).

Saturday I tackled one of my most and least favorite cannable* items: chutney. Specifically I made apple-apricot chutney of my own recipe. I love that pungent relish. I don’t so much like the hours spent on my feet. Or dirtying so many pots, measuring cups, blenders, countertops, the apple peeler-corer-slicer thingy, the floor, the stove, and the universe. The vinegar reek isn’t so great, either.

Still, the chaos produces chutney. And chutney is heavenly.

Sunday I did something more simple, less messy, and the very opposite of stinky: Drying apple slices. As I write this (Sunday evening), the house is warm with the fragrance of cinnamon-sugar soaked apples. The rings and pieces are still hours from being properly chewy-crispy, but I can’t help tasting them frequently. You know, solely for evaluation purposes. They’re so succulent now I wish I didn’t have to dry them further.

Sometime this week, when I’m not chanting incantations and rattling gourds over ailing computers, I’ll see if I can make apple cider in the blender.

I’m tired. Funny, 10 gallons of apples didn’t look like that much when I took them home.


I have to say that the NORPRO Apple Mate 3 is one of the greatest inventions of personkind. It should be heralded right up there with the wheel, electric light, the microwave oven, and privacy tools for browsers.

Lay a paper towel or newspaper down to catch the streamers of debris, and the Apple Mate peels, slices, and/or cores apples in a few rapid turns of a crank.

Second only to the NORPRO Apple Mate is the Victorio food strainer, which separates the good parts of fruit from peels, seeds, and miscellaneous dross. I used that for the apple butter.

The hours upon hours those two things saved! The grubby work they’ve spared weary canners who (I can tell you from my minimal personal experience) labor too laboriously already. How many person-hours have such simple, mechanical devices saved how many people over the decades?

Years ago readers bought me these tools, back when I had my Amazon wish list online. I blush to admit now that I don’t recall who the givers were. But I bless those tools and the people who gave them to me.


Speaking of the Amazon wish list, now that they’ve so warmly and with such sincere regards kicked me out of the Associates program, I can make my list public again without fear of losing commissions. Should I? I don’t know.

I’m bitter about Amazon, but for a (you’ll pardon the expression) consumer in a small town, Amazon is a fact of life.


Yesterday the first helpful bits for rescuing and rebuilding my computer arrived. Unfortunately the salvage effort didn’t go well. The day was mostly aggravating from start to finish, but I learned a lot, had good counsel (thank you, M and J), and the tools for Rescue Phase II are on their way, courtesy of the usual help from my friends.

Whether or not the rescue of the old system ever succeeds, my next job is to set up a new system AND a full working back-up to it. This will put me into unknown territory. If I’m behind on current back-up technology, I’m in the stone age when it comes to system synching tech.

I’ve never synced two e-devices, and given the association my mind makes between syncing and various eeeeevil corporations that merely want the excuse to keep all our data in their monumentally untrustworthy hands, I’ve been inclined to avoid it.

Any syncing I do will hopefully be by actual wires, no corporate clouds or other efancyness so helpfully and manipulatively provided by Amazon, Apple, Google, or the Borg (but I repeat myself).

Of course I’m speaking from my position of Total Know-Nothingness. Gods forbid, I might end up with all my data chopped up into little colored microcubes like in the movies and beamed into outer space for visiting aliens to examine.

I know so little about what I’m doing that if I were a medieval mapmaker, I’d write “Here Be Dragons.”

And people keep mentioning the term “solid state drive,” which frankly sounds to me like something from a bad 1960s sci-fi series — something Robbie the Robot would be powered by.

Well, we shall see how it all goes.


One thing that’s gone remarkably well this year has been growing things. Normally, I have the blackest of black thumbs. Plants see me coming and commit preemptive suicide to avoid long, painful death at my hands.

Not so this year. Everything I planted in the new rock wall took off like mad. Herbs, grasses, vegetables, and mosses thrived in big containers. Most impressively, the raggedy tomato plant I bought on clearance not only kept growing, but when deer came by and snacked on its single fruit and multiple buds, it promptly grew a new crop of buds and ended up producing about 20 late-season tomatoes.

This is just a few of them, ripening in the south-facing (unfinished) greenhouse window.

I know some of you have the gift for growing, but to me this is nothing short of a miracle. It gives me hope.

And I wish you all good hopes as you harvest the last of your crops and hunker down for what looks like yet another tricky winter.


*That’s cannable, not cannibal — although Lord Dunsany did once write a story involving a chutney-type relish and cannibalism, for which I have just spoiled the punchline.


Like what you read here?


  1. R R Schoettker
    R R Schoettker October 22, 2019 11:37 am

    I for one, will be interested in hearing how your apple cider production is done. This drink used to be one of my favorite things about my favorite season. I especially liked how it would get a slight fizz and a pleasant hint of sharpness in the jug after a few days. All that ended when the beneficent (sic) State outlawed the sale of fresh cider a decade ago or so to ‘protect’ the population from a ‘threat’ that to the best of my knowledge was non-existent. Henceforth I could only buy pasteurized or UV treated “processed apple juice” at retail but no longer, fresh apple cider; which meant that I no longer bought it at all. Even the loophole of allowed sales from the site of pressing turned out to an empty promise as these people did not want to have two different products to deal with and treated everything. Of course, the State still allows an exception for labelling that is a clear and obvious deceit in calling the processed juice ‘fresh apple cider’. My research into home preparation options led me to fruit grinders and presses from the Pleasant Hill Grain Co. but at a scale and expense that (so far) I have not been able to justify.

  2. larryarnold
    larryarnold October 22, 2019 1:07 pm

    I left the ranks of “consumers” some time back. I returned to being a customer, purchasing what I want, when I could afford it, regardless of trends or fashions or offers, no matter how “special.”

    Claire, I suspect you have long been so.

  3. Pat
    Pat October 22, 2019 1:31 pm

    Claire, what kind of apples do you have?

    This is time to go up in the hills and buy some cider. The closest thing to it I’ve found around here (the coast) is that “processed juice ‘fresh apple cider’” that R.R. Schoettker refers to. And he’s right — it’s not worth buying.

    Glad to hear your thumb is turning green. Can you give us pictures of the finished front yard and property across the street?

    Sounds like being off the computer has been most productive. I’ve noticed that situation often occurs, and it should tell us something about how we live — and how we should be living.

  4. Comrade X
    Comrade X October 22, 2019 3:55 pm

    Apple-apricot chutney and Cinnamon-sugar soaked apples wow oh wow! Home grown tomatoes;

    Claire, young lady you are living a very good life!

  5. deLaune
    deLaune October 23, 2019 4:12 am

    I just got back from a church weekend in North Carolina (about 120 people). The youngsters were put in charge of making apple cider with a hand press. I had almost forgotten how good fresh cider is. And how quickly hundreds of pounds of apples can disappear.

    This weekend I’l be starting my vegetable garden — it’s finally getting cool enough. Very few veggies grow well (or at all) during the South Florida summer. Hopefully, I’ll have fresh broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower for New Years Day. It may depend on how much cottontail stew I eat during November.

  6. Zendo Deb
    Zendo Deb October 23, 2019 8:07 am

    Not sure how technical you are or were, but Steve Gibson recently did a deep dive into syncing multiple computers. He’s a security guy, of the “Trust No One” camp (TNO) so the solutions had to be secure, and private.

    The video is 2 hours but he goes through everything. Though you could maybe skip the first 30 minutes or so… I can’t remember how many preliminaries there are.

    The show notes for the episode are also complete. And there are a couple of options discussed based on Windows vs Mac. Do you need iOS, or Android access, etc. Good Luck.

    And once the dust settles, look at a password manager. Steve (and Leo, also in the video) use LastPass. I use KeePass, but it is opensource, and a bit more roll-your-own, especially when it comes to backups.

  7. Zendo Deb
    Zendo Deb October 23, 2019 8:16 am

    As for the Amazon question, I canceled my associates membership because they are becoming completely insane.

    And of all places, Walmart has (almost) everything Amazon has, they don’t charge me 120 bucks a year. If I really need something, I can brave a trip to the store (just bought a replacement Oral B electric toothbrush – cheaper than the options at Amazon). If you don’t pay Amazon a 120 bucks a year, they sit on your orders for 3 days, to remind you that you are a second-class citizen. WM will at least ship everything right away.

    For computer hardware, either Newegg or Microcenter will often be as cheap or cheaper than Amazon. (As a friend of mine learned the hard way, buying “open box” can be a crap shoot.)

    Amazon has become my source of last resort. I will even pay a LITTLE more somewhere else. They are beyond annoying.

  8. Tom
    Tom October 23, 2019 9:46 am

    In 20 years Amazon will be like Walmart, past its prime waiting for the next big thing to kill it off. However right now, it really is by far the best option. Most everything is delivered to your door in two days for less than what Walmart charges (and way less than what other retailers charge).

    I don’t know if it is better to save money, buy from Amazon, and use the savings to make a better world, or if it is better to spend the money on more expensive sellers, not support big evil corporation in any way, but not have any left over to make the world better.

  9. John
    John October 23, 2019 3:56 pm

    About the only thing amazon beats in price are some groceries with prime.Wally can and often does beat them by ordering online,as does ebay.

    I hate wally’s stores,their delivery is the cats meow.1-3 day delivery and wally has really stepped up their game on next day delivery.

    Their grocery thing when you order online and drive to the store and they load your car is super,dont even have to get out of car.A no wally store shopping experience and if you get 35 dollars of groceries there is no charge.PLUS,if an item is out and you approve substitutions they will give you an upgraded item for same price as out of stock item

    Car parts? I got a Denso OEM 02 sensor 40% cheaper than anywhere else on the net at wally’s site.

    Wally has just about anything Amazon does.

    Nobody can beat wally for laundry and soap products and that heavy box is delivered to your porch,FREE. Dog food,TP,why drive the car, push a POS cart 36 miles thru store filled with freaks,stand in line,unload at checker,load in car,unload car….. when wally delivers to your door for free?

    Wally is eating Amazons lunch except when you truly need overnight. Prime can usually do it,but it comes at a premium price for Prime.And wally is doing free overnight night too,just need 35 dollars in order,they are really competing and IMO beating Amazon overall now,especially on price and no membership costs.

  10. John
    John October 23, 2019 7:20 pm

    After what Amazon did to you,why dont you put up your wish list with Ebay,Walmart and Amazon if you must links?

  11. E. Garrett Perry
    E. Garrett Perry October 23, 2019 10:02 pm

    One of the things I love most about my adopted home in the Czech Republic is the simple quiet. My senses aren’t constantly being assaulted by the flashing, pinging, pop-up seizure machine that is America. Our two return trips so far have been extremely overstimulating and deeply unpleasant.

    Vaclav Havel Int’l Airport is a good case study in the contrasts. Quiet, unhurried, uncrowded. The PA comes on about every 6-8 minutes, in a voice you can understand. The billboards (what few there are) don’t flash or jump or shout at you. A few cops in dress uniforms strolling casually about with their hands jammed into their pockets or pistol belts. No “Charlie Brown’s teacher” on the PA, no TSA, no Mysorian crowds or flashing lights or blasting music. A bar directly outside of Customs, even. It’s downright civilized.

    Now, central Prague is a somewhat different story. There the neon and flash are on full display, as they should be in any self-respecting city whose whores, pickpockets, and bartenders chase their daily bread from tourists and middle managers. But walk 100 meters, and you’re in a quiet neighborhood, with signs on the lampposts reminding late drinkers to keep the noise down and not disturb the pensioners, schoolkids, and dogs.

    TV commercials come every 20-30 minutes and usually “watch” like a film-school short movie. The break lasts 10mins, so you can ignore the adverts in peace while you run to the head or grab a refill and a nosh.

    The frenetic, unending sound and fury of the US is a downright assaultive experience. I don’t know of anyone who actually likes it, and I -do- know an awful lot of people who’d like to get away from it. Trouble is, either they don’t know how or they think it can’t be done, that this noise and light is normal and universal. The few others have either moved to the boonies to escape or are actively planning their escapes. One fellow I know who like me sometimes enjoys the mad baccanale of New Orleans, expresses his desire to move to South America so that he can get his crazy on for festivals while enjoying peace and quiet the rest of the time. Every trip I take into the Anglosphere reminds me of Screwtape’s statsment that Noise was invented in, and originates from, Hell. Loud parties are one thing: the US has become something altogether more vexing and sinister.

Leave a Reply