Thursday, March 30, 2023

Driving a Smart Car - by Jane Ruby

 Wanna know what pounds my cake? I’ll tell you anyway: driving a “smart car.” No, not the self-driving kind but the kind that thinks it knows more than you do, and runs your life.

You know, cars that automatically turn on headlights when it gets dark or windshield wipers when it starts to rain—like you’re too stupid to do it yourself. Ones that enable all your seat settings, mirror settings, and last radio station you listened to. How presumptuous can those little twits be?

Case in point: My husband wanted to borrow my 2012 Nissan Xterra for his annual ski trip to Lake Tahoe. He anticipated snowstorms and wanted my 4X4 SUV should conditions get tough. It made good sense since his travels involved passing through parts of the California Sierra Mountain Range, which recently got record amounts of snow.

In exchange, he loaned me his late-model Hyundai Genesis. Smooth, sleek and luxurious, the sedan would afford a quiet comfortable ride in the mild sunny Phoenix weather. I’d seen the Genesis commercials. The car beat out the options my Spartic SUV had: 4 wheels, some seats and power windows. It had no aux cords, no GPS, not even a compass. Xterra makers must’ve assumed we drivers had a brain or ought not be driving.

So, I agreed to the vehicle exchange, not realizing how unfair it was for me.

Left with his flashy smart car, I ran my weekly errands and hooked up with other family members for a lunch date. The Genesis indeed had all the bells and whistles—more than I had anticipated. When I first started the engine, it told me to straighten the steering wheel. Huh?

The seat moved back and the mirrors adjusted to my husband’s views (his being taller I couldn’t see out of any of them). The AC fan blew into my face and the radio tuned into National Public Radio, with over 100 decibels of volume! After disabling those presets, the smart screen diagrammed safe passage out of the garage. Like I couldn’t see for myself!

I hooked my purse over the gearshift lever—like I always do on my truck. But after ~15 minutes of driving, my left butt cheek started to burn. Why the left butt cheek? I put my hand under it, and shortly my hand started to burn. I pulled off the road and turned off the car. Must’ve been a short circuit in the wiring somewhere.

I called my husband and asked if he’d had any problems with left-cheek burning. After brief laughter, he told me that I must have activated the seat heater. He told me that somewhere on the gearshift console I could find a button to deactivate it. I found it alright, and it had three settings, in which I must have activated the highest one with my purse strap. Geez, who needs a seat heater—let alone three levels of it—in Phoenix?

Driving back home, I stopped at the local grocery store. I pushed the “Off” button but forgot to put the gear in “Park” first. Boy, did Mr. Smarty Car let me have it with beeps and lights. It wouldn’t let me leave the car in peace. I had to sit back down, restart the engine, engage/disengage the parking gear, and push the “Off” button before he calmed down.

So feisty! If that ever happened in my XTerra all I got was one beep and inability to pull out my ignition key. By simply reshifting to “Park,” my car let me leave and go my merry way.

I had other issues, especially with the “Lane Change” notification which not only blipped on the dashboard but also vibrated the steering wheel. My husband had given me a heads-up on that defect, so I knew to expect those notifications. Suffice it to say, when hubby finally made it back home with my SUV, I pampered it with a car wash and wax. So wonderful to have an uncomplicated and relatively brainless vehicle back!

Jane Ruby is an award-winning novelist, essayist, and short story writer. She’s also the Treasurer of the Arizona Authors Association as well as its Literary Contest Director.



Friday, March 17, 2023

Happy St. Patrick's Day

  I always was fascinated by traditions, legends, and their origins. St Patrick is known for having brought Christianity to Ireland and cast the snakes out of the island.

Legend has it that Patrick stood on an Irish hillside and delivered a sermon that drove the island’s serpents into the sea. While it’s true that the Emerald Isle is mercifully snake-free, chances are that’s been the case throughout human history. Water has surrounded Ireland since the end of the last glacial period, preventing snakes from slithering over; before that, it was blanketed in ice and too chilly for the cold-blooded creatures. Scholars believe the snake story is an allegory for St. Patrick’s eradication of pagan ideology.

Although the knights of St. Patrick wore blue, green is the color of the Emerald Isle. It's also the color of the shamrock.

As for the traditional food, I suspect it was different in the days of the saint. And the green beer is definitely a modern tradition.

But today, everyone is celebrating, and everyone is Irish. Enjoy the celebrations!


Monday, March 13, 2023

Life goes on - Another furry thing to love - by Vijaya Schartz

After the loss of my little Jasmine just after the holidays, I thought I shouldn't wait too long before adopting a new furry companion. 

Here he is, I renamed him Pasha (which is a spoiled mid-eastern king, usually fat and spoiled). Pasha is seven-years-old. He was rescued in November by Cat's World Rescue from a family where he'd been abused by children and used as target practice by mean men. The vet had to dig several BBs out of his body.

Needless to say, this little thing was spooked. He hates children and men. He couldn't be touched, even less petted. So, his case was special, and adoption would be difficult, since he couldn't be adopted by a family.

As it often happens, the right connection at the right time (I was browsing at Petsmart) put both of us on a collision course. I believe in the energy of the universe solving problems. I always keep an open mind. And as it happened, I was there, ready to adopt when he was in need of a home.

In a very short time, Pasha understood he was safe in my home. He really is the king of his domain and now lets me pet him and even pick him up. He jumps in my lap and purrs and even let me brush his tummy. 

I think this is the perfect pairing. An author needs a quiet furry companion to sleep and purr on the desk while the inspiration strikes. I believe cats help inspiration, especially for my books, where you will often find cat characters... sometimes small, sometimes very big, but always brave.

Here are some of my titles that include cats:

Happy reading!

Vijaya Schartz, award-winning author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats