People joked that Gerald Ford couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. I don’t know whether that in itself, if true, should have disqualified him from office in the White House. I know I was very proud of my childhood dedication to doing only one thing at a time, for some things. I listened to music. I didn’t listen to music and mow the lawn; I listened to music. And the more I heard the music, music that is that I chose to hear, then I concentrated all the harder on it: Goodman”s Sing Sing Sing, Brubeck’s Balcony Rock … Bach’s Wachet Auf. (Note below.)
I well (and painfully) remember the days when computers could do only one task at a time: in one task they were smarter and faster than you by a light year; at something else they were slow and stupid as mud.
One pk story tells of what a great cook I was as a kid. I well remember the secret: my mother told me to pay attention to what I was doing: I did: there was no possibility that every last molecule of butter hadn’t been thoroughly folded with the sugar … That pk still exists in fewer and fewer areas. These days I get up, put the big iron pan onto the lowest flame I can starve my propane stove to, lay in a few half-slices of bacon, go to the table and deal myself a hand of free cell. After I’ve won it, maybe I’ll think to get up and turn the bacon. Boy, is it easy to cook great bacon if you can just cook it slowly enough. But still you have to remember it sometime before a difficult free cell leaves you overcome by smoke: from a pan fire. (Note below)
“Go to the garage and get me the rake,” my father said. I went to the garage, I entered the garage, I stood there, in a stupor. I knew I was supposed to get something, but what? “Where is it?” my father would call. “Wha do you want?” I’d screech, genuinely not knowing. “The rake!” my father would answer, a fury beginning to simmer. I still didn’t know what a “rake” was! The rake could be right in front of me! In those days I couldn’t always single task, let alone multi-task.
How’s this for an example: of single-task inadequacy?
Hilary’s mom bought a cottage in the Catskills: just when I skied for the first time the previous spring. Hilary and I started using the cottage as a ski lodge. Everybody else had thought of it just as a summer cottage: it had no foundation, it wasn’t insulated, the chimney didn’t draw … But Hilary and I survived it, and skied. Next thing you know other relatives, extended relatives, were clamoring for a turn at the cottage. One summer my mother-in-law loaned the whole shebang to some French diplomat from the UN, her employer: for the whole summer. Finally autumn came, finally Hilary and I were back in the mountains for a few days. I saw Irma Bombeck’s I Hate to Cook Book, paper back, bristling with place markers. I opened a place at random, and read. Irma had written something to the effect of, “Put the chicken in the pot, light the burner, light a cigarette, and stare sullenly at the sink until …”
Very funny, a non-cook humiliating herself, and making money, before all: a rich and famous clown. But the cottage guest didn’t seem to be marking the humor: she’d penciled translations next to words. Some French was smudged in next to “sullen.” She was using Irma Bombeck to teach herself English!
Bombeck can’t cook, she can’t concentrate. (The TV generation, can’t follow anything longer than the fifteen-second bit of a commercial.) Frenchie can’t get the joke, she’s busy with something irrelevant! (Or, maybe she did get the joke, and was teaching herself English anyway.)
My Macs of the last couple of decades multi-task amazingly. Trouble is the operating systems are so crammed with robots and servos, automatic this and that, that not only do you not ask them to do half of what they do, you don’t know half of what they’re doing: and, you can’t stop them! Except by bailing out of the whole thing.
Still, someone else then will be letting them run amok.
You know, sometime somewhere someone was the first person to let a bureaucrat do something for him, and the next thing you know …
(Well, of course the bureaucrat wasn’t a bureaucrat until someone let him do something for them …)
Like reading: the first time I read King Lear it took a few hours, a little longer than it would have taken to see the play in a theater. The second time I read it, it took thirty or forty hours. The third time I read it, it took about seventy-two hours.
The fourth time I read it… Well, I’m still reading it the fourth time.
The third time, it would have taken several additional hours just to list the perceptions I had about it that I wanted to write papers on and that I’ll bet were “original.” (No way to tell, I’ve never succeeded in communicating my perceptions about Shakespeare, or much else, to anyone, least of all to professional academics!
Gee, pk, that must mean that your perceptions are no good! No wonder they ganged up on you, fired you illegally, blackballed you …
You see what I do: I make a ball: familiar but strange. Then I make another ball, of seemingly no relation. Then I start to juggle them. While juggling them, I make a third ball, and maybe a fourth. You’ve never seen anybody juggle strangeness the way I do: and you’ve likely nver seen me do it either, because the whole world has ganged together not to see it: as the world always gangs together to pretend that the Christians are the good guys, never burned libraries, never falsified evidence … the Americans … us: good guys, innocents, treading on ten thousand years worth of dead species, strangled opportunities …
But, especially in a first day’s draft, I won’t necessarily complete ball one, let alone ball two, may forget one of the tricks I intended with the first two balls by the time I’ve added balls N … I was telling how I put my bacon on the stove yesterday, dealth myself a free cell hand, or two, or three … earning a pan fire. Well, what actually happened was as bad as that, as inattentive, as deserved, and worse. I’d decided to make one of my variations of pasta carbonara for breakfast. I don’t cook sliced bacon, I gently saute chopped bacon, to get crumbled bacon. That is, I do, if I’m paying attention, if I’m my good cook self. What I did yesterday, I peeled off three half slices from my package, the package the result of my taking the store’s pound and cutting the whole in half: half slices are easier to cook, fit the pan better, cook more evenly … I chopped the bacon and put it in the wok … and went and dealt myself my freecell. I never turned the flame to low-low-low, I never stirred the original lump of fused chopped bacon. I played my stupid free cell, winning a hand, then another, till I noticed I couldn’t see the cards! The area was too smoke-filled!
The bacon was burned to a crisp on the bottom, and still refrigerator chilled, raw, on the top!
Well, that would be bad enough, but I’d warmed the left over farfalle mixed with egg noodles that Jan had given me in the microwave, then I dumped that into the bowl in which I’d mixed my egg and grated cheese: in pasta carbonara it’s the cooked pasta that cooks the egg-cheese mix. But Jan had stored her pasta in a little water, something she does, I don’t. So I’d dumped an unwelcome deluge of water into my dish!
So I had to drain my pasta cheese egg concoction, losing much of the fabuous flavored oil. Meantime, the bacon lump broke up and cooked to some extent once back in the wok, once I was paying at least partial attention again …
And what was distracting me in the second place if not in the first? Dream writing this post. Dream editing others.
How can the author of pKnatz blog possibly do anything else?
Of course once all that was happening I was lucky to create any balls to juggle. And of course I have no idea today how many more balls I’d intended to manufacture and toss into the display. More: I promise.
Note further: I did something similar this morning, back home from a wonderful night and morning with Jan, I’ll make myself a second breakfast. I’ll make another pasta carbonara with my linguine from a couple of evenings ago: I’m due for a good one after a disastrous one. But I used the last of my onions in yesterday’s abortion. And I have no green pepper. Ah, but I do have celery!
So I’ll make a pk-Italian breakfast into a pk-Creole breakfast!
If it’s got no celery, it ain’t Creole; if it has celery, it’s like Creole!
So I made bacon crumbles, cooked in some chopped celery and added it to any almost correct combo of egg-cheese-hot linguini: and make do without the peppers and onion: and no heavy cream. That goes in my evening pasta carbonara’s: which I always make perfectly, from scratch: no solitaire playing, no kitchen fires.
2012 04 30 Relevant news: “Do you ever walk into a room with some purpose in mind — to get something, perhaps? — only to completely forget what that purpose was? Turns out, doors themselves are to blame for these strange memory lapses.
“Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame have discovered that passing through a doorway triggers what’s known as an “event boundary” in the mind, separating one set of thoughts and memories from the next, just as exiting through a doorway signals the end of a scene in a movie. Your brain files away the thoughts you had in the previous room, and prepares a blank slate for the new locale. Mental event boundaries usually help us organize our thoughts and memories as we move through the continuous and dynamic world, but when we’re trying to remember that thing we came in here to do… or get… or maybe find… they can be frustrating indeed.”
2012 05 02 I’ve learned something from that! Now as I pass through a doorway, on my way to get something, I redeicate myself to the target as I pass the threshhold. By golly, I feel my mind rededicating itself: I do not forget, at least not so easily.
And the older we get …