“No. I don’t know what they do, nor do I care. If I thought I was going to live another fifty years I might take the time to explore their arcane secrets.”

“Never. They’re a mystery to me.”

“No, I’m askeered to.”

“I haven’t a clue why they’re there. Can you enlighten me?”

“To be honest I’ve never even noticed they are there!”

 By now you are doubtless wondering, “What in the world was the question?”

The question was: “Do you know what the F keys on your computer are for and do you use them?”

I’ve been a computer owner since 1995. If I’ve acquired a new one every five years, which is about average, a conservative estimate says that I’ve had five personal keyboards under my fingertips. But I have never, not even once, used any of the F keys above the numbers row. I’ve paid for them but I have never had any idea what they do nor have I taken the time to find out.

You wouldn’t think it would take me this long to start wondering about them, but here I am, twenty-two years into computer ownership Googling “What is the purpose of those F keys?”

I conducted an email survey among some of my correspondents and the replies above demonstrate that, as I suspected, I have plenty of company.

I have always assumed that the F keys – function keys – perform shortcuts, and that is indeed what they do. But I feel as if I know all the shortcuts I need and that getting tangled up with the F keys at this point would only slow me down. Point and click is the shortest cut I need. Even if I were to discover that some of these shortcuts are nifty, I wouldn’t be able to remember most of them, some of which require using two hands to press three keys at once, a degree of dexterity I’d rather reserve for a Steinway.

And speaking of musical keyboards, deciding which F keys to use in combination with other keys reminds me of playing a pipe organ on which one must decide which stops, which pistons, and which combinations to use. Pistons, by the way, are those little buttons under the keyboards that allow the player to set combinations of stops so that he can control all the keyboards and the pedals with the flick of a single button. There are stops that I would never use, combinations that wouldn’t occur to me that have been set by some previous organist, which I can change to suit myself.

And that’s true with the F keys. The only friend who answered my survey who knows much about F keys – he’s been a programmer – wrote, “I’ve often made use of the F keys to the extent of customizing them to my own needs. This is called creating a ‘macro’ and can be useful.” I’m sure it can, but I can’t imagine twisting my brain around a macro any time soon.

Of the many F key functions that I’ve learned during my little study, there are only three that I plan to add to my repertoire, F2, F3 and F7.

Control + F2 – Shows the Print Preview and is absolutely easier than doing it with the mouse. Doing it twice opens and closes the Print Preview.

Shift + F3 – Too often I look at the screen to find that I have inadvertently pressed the Shift key resulting in AN ENTIRE PARAGRAPH OF CAPITAL LETTERS! But by highlighting those caps and pressing Shift + F3 – poof! – the caps are changed to lower case. Press those keys again, the first letter of each word becomes capitalized; press them again you get all lower case. What a boon!

Shift + F7 – Third, and quite handy, this one gets you quickly to the Thesaurus. Highlight a word, say pusillanimous, press Shift + F7 and the Thesaurus opens, bingo! There you will find every synonym for pusillanimous from “timid” and “nervous” to “faint-hearted” and “lily-livered.”

Except for Control+Alt+Delete, which opens the Task Manager and is useful when all else fails, when the computer is acting up and you need to close programs that might be gumming up the works, I doubt if I will otherwise be using three keys at a time when I could just as easily point and click.

One other shortcut that you might find useful is Control + z that undoes your last move. That easy one is a timesaver if you’ve hit something by accident or done something stupid.

And now, if you haven’t yet nodded into your soup, there is a list below of F key functions that you might want to fiddle around with. I’ve included only those for PCs. I have no idea if they perform the same functions on a Mac or if the Mac even has F keys.

Also, I’ve deleted a few that sound a little too abstruse to consider even investigating such as the following, which describes what F12 will do: “Accesses the list of bootable devices on computer at startup, allowing you to select a different device to boot from (hard drive, CD or DVD drive, floppy drive, USB drive, and network.”) Hunh?


                                FUNCTIONS OF THE F- KEYS


• Almost always used as the help key, almost every program opens a help screen when this key is pressed.

• Windows Key + F1 would open the Microsoft Windows help and support center.

• Open the Task Pane.


• In Windows renames a highlighted icon, file, or folder in all versions of Windows.

• Alt + Ctrl + F2 opens document window in Microsoft Word.

• Ctrl + F2 displays the print preview window in Microsoft Word.

• Quickly rename a selected file or folder.


• Often opens a search feature for many programs including Microsoft Windows when at the Windows     Desktop.

• Shift + F3 will change the text in Microsoft Word from upper to lower case or a capital letter at the   beginning of every word.

• Windows Key + F3 opens the Advanced find window in Microsoft Outlook.


• Open find window in Windows 95 to XP.

• Open the address bar in Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer.

• Repeat the last action performed (Word 2000+).

• Alt + F4 closes the program window currently active in Microsoft Windows.

• Ctrl + F4 closes the open window within the current active window in Microsoft Windows.


• In all modern Internet browsers, pressing F5 will refresh or reload the page or document window.

• Ctrl + F5 forces a complete refresh of the web page, clearing the cache and downloading all contents of the page again

• Refresh the list of contents in a folder.

• Open the find, replace, and go to window in Microsoft Word.


• Move the cursor to the address bar in Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and most other Internet browsers.

• Ctrl + Shift + F6 opens to another open Microsoft Word document.


• Commonly used to spell check and grammar check a document in Microsoft programs such as Microsoft Word, Outlook, etc.

• Shift + F7 runs a Thesaurus check on the word highlighted.


• Function key used to enter the Windows startup menu, commonly used to access Windows Safe Mode.


• Refresh document in Microsoft Word.

• Send and receive e-mail in Microsoft Outlook.


• In Microsoft Windows activates the menu bar of an open application.

• Shift + F10 is the same as right-clicking on a highlighted icon, file, or Internet link.


Enter and exit fullscreen mode in all modern Internet browsers.


Open the Save as window in Microsoft Word.

Ctrl + F12 opens a document In Word.

Shift + F12 saves the Microsoft Word document (like Ctrl + S).

Ctrl + Shift + F12 prints a document in Microsoft Word.

Access the list of bootable devices on a computer at startup, allowing you to select a different device to boot from (hard drive, CD or DVD drive, floppy drive, USB drive, and network).


Source: Computer Hope

Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 7:47AM by Registered CommenterPatricia P. Jennings | CommentsPost a Comment | References2 References


I recently stumbled upon a book by novelist-historian Kevin Baker titled America the Ingenious: How a Nation of Dreamers, Immigrants, and Tinkerers Changed the World. Baker tells the stories of a stunning variety of American visionaries without whose genius our lives would be much the poorer.

Consider what the skylines of the world’s cities would look like were it not for Elisha Graves Otis’s invention of the Safety Elevator. “Safety” is the operative word. Passenger and freight elevators had existed long before his, but the perception was that they were dangerous. However, in 1854 a dramatic demonstration of the safety of his elevator, at P. T. Barnum’s world’s fair in New York, secured Otis’s place in history. At the end of an astonishing free-fall performance Mr. Otis proclaimed, “All safe, ladies and gentleman, all safe!” And with that, orders began to pour in. Otis's custom-built elevators were installed in stores and other multi-story buildings in Manhattan and beyond, and it wasn’t long before Otis became a household name around the world.

Incredible inventions and achievements from the massive to the minuscule have enhanced our lives, from the building of large-scale projects – the Erie Canal, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge – to a plethora of smaller-scale developments such as dry cleaning, air conditioning, the dishwasher and even the lowly safety pin, which have enhanced our lives in ways that we have long taken for granted.

As I began to read America the Ingenious, I wondered if any African Americans would be included. So I was heartened to read, not too far along in the book, the following advisory: “You will find among our inventors a relatively small proportion of women and people of color. This is because both were prevented, for many years, from filing patents, by law, and then by social custom and persecution.”

Because of the enormous success of the film “Hidden Figures” I thought I would bring to your attention a somewhat hidden figure who is still very much with us. Patricia Era Bath, born in 1942, is a pioneer in the field of ophthalmology. Her name was unknown to me until I read about her in America the Ingenious although she is probably behind the success of the cataract surgeries many of you have had performed and that will be on my schedule in the not too distant future.

Baker writes: 

Patricia Era Bath grew up in an almost unimaginably different world from ours today and is a living embodiment of how far African Americans have managed to push past the barriers imposed by the old Jim Crow system. She would overcome them all and invent a revolutionary new procedure and device for removing cataracts with lasers.

“Her parents instilled in her the idea that she could do anything she put her mind to. When she was still a sixteen-year-old high school student, she took part in a summer cancer research project run by Yeshiva University and the Harlem Hospital Center. While there she developed a mathematical equation to predict the rate of growth of a cancer – work that so impressed one of the doctors running the program that he included it in a paper he presented at a conference in Washington, D.C.

“She achieved a long list of prestigious firsts, all while completing a fellowship in corneal transplantation and keraprosthesis at Columbia University. But her most resounding contribution was her invention of the Laserphaco Probe for cataract removal.

“At the start of the 1980s, cataracts could still be extracted only through a difficult and extended surgical procedure that basically involved grinding them down – if they could be removed at all. Dr. Bath conceived of doing the job faster, more easily, and more safely with lasers.

“Performing the most basic research proved difficult because most laser technology in the United States was reserved for military research. Dr. Bath went to Berlin in 1981 to find an available laser.

“After five years of work she developed the Laserphaco, a sort of ‘three-in-one’ instrument consisting of ‘an optical laser fiber, surrounded by irrigation and aspiration tubes’. The laser probe is inserted into a one-millimeter incision in the eye, where it vaporizes – ‘phacoblates’ – the cataract and the lens matter, almost painlessly, and in just a few minutes. What remains of the cataract lens is then washed and sucked out of the eye by the irrigation and aspiration tubes, leaving it clean to insert a new lens.

“By 1988, Dr. Bath had earned three patents on the device, making her the first African American doctor to earn medical patents. Today her invention is used around the world.“

I would be surprised if anyone reading this has heard of Dr. Patricia Era Bath. Except for athletes and politicians, the media tends to overlook the many individuals such as Dr. Bath who have made significant contributions in a variety of fields.

It is a miracle, considering the enormous forces needed to get a motion picure made by a major studio, that the film “Hidden Figures” has become a reality. And despite the naysayers who dismiss the story as fiction, the film is enjoying extraordinary success in this age of razzle-dazzle special effects, animated fluff, and “50 Shades” dreck. It has picked up Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Perhaps you have not needed cataract surgery. But if and when you do it is possible that a figure not quite so hidden, Dr. Patricia Era Bath, will have been responsible for the fact that the removal of your cataracts, rather than being a painful ordeal, was a safe, speedy and essentially painless procedure.

Posted on Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 5:03PM by Registered CommenterPatricia P. Jennings | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference


Why is it that hindsight is always 20/20? Why does it take us so long to recognize things that seem so obvious in retrospect?

My husband and I recently watched the Netflix series “The Crown” that begins before the death of Britain’s King George VI, in 1952, and follows the events surrounding the accession to the throne of his daughter, the current queen, Elizabeth II.

Episode 1 begins, jarringly, with the king coughing up blood in the bathroom sink. We soon learn that he has lung cancer. Yet despite that terrifying diagnosis, he is seen smoking in every scene. And even after one of his lungs has been removed, he carries on smoking while indulging his love of hunting and boating, wheezing and choking until the bitter end.

And he is not the only smoker in the royal family. The queen’s grandmother, Mary, is seen puffing away every time she’s onscreen, even on her death bed, near which an ashtray is overflowing with cigarette butts. 

(Elizabeth II has never smoked, which may account in part for her longevity, although it is said that the Queen Mother, who lived to be over a hundred, smoked into her eighties.)

Humans have been smoking for thousands of years. Wouldn’t you think that common sense might have told us, before Surgeon General C. Everett Koop decided to do so in 1984, that setting dried leaves on fire and inhaling their smoke into the lungs might be doing us bodily harm?

Yet it was several hundred years before scientists decided to examine the situation. For the first several decades of my life cigarettes were everywhere – in restaurants, on airplanes, in offices  just about everywhere except church sanctuaries and public school classrooms. No sophisticated actor in a movie was seen without a cigarette, often in a sleek, metal holder. Television doctors proclaimed the health benefits of one brand of cigarette over another. When we see old videos of those commercials now we find them laughable but also pathetic in their naiveté.

I was one of the millions who got sucked into the joys of smoking myth. At the age of fourteen I stood in front of a mirror in my cabin at Deerwood Music Camp determined to teach myself to blow smoke rings. Smoking was cool, but blowing smoke rings was really cool, a further degree of sophistication. And there was a fellow camper, from New York City of course, who smoked unfiltered cigarettes and used her pinky finger nail to remove a particle of tobacco from the tip of her tongue before exuding a thin column of smoke. Her style was to be emulated. She was probably all of fifteen.

We smokers did crazy things in order to satisfy our cravings. For the thirty-plus years that I was a church organist, I would sneak down to the ladies room during the Sunday sermon to have a smoke. And on Good Friday, when there was a sermon for each of the Seven Last Words, I got more than the usual amount of exercise running up and down from the choir loft.

Early in Episode 3 of “The Crown,” the name Donora is mentioned. I wonder, Donora? Is there another Donora besides our Donora? One of the characters had said, “Donora, Pennsylvania, somewhere near Philadelphia.”A second character corrected him: “No, Pittsburgh.”

They were indeed referring to our Donora. But why?

The 1948 Donora Smog was an air inversion that created a wall of smog that killed 20 people and sickened 7,000 more. It was referenced in “The Crown” because a similar but much deadlier smog was bearing down on London.

The Great Smog of London, among the deadliest environmental disasters in recorded history, occurred between Friday, December 5 and Tuesday, December 9, 1952. “Four thousand people died as a direct result of the smog and 100,000 more were sickened by its effects.

The Smog was the result of “a period of cold weather, combined with anticyclone and windless conditions and collected airborne pollutants – mostly arising from the use of coal – that formed a thick layer of smog over the city.

 “During the day on December 5, the fog was not especially dense and generally possessed a dry, smoky character. But when nightfall came, the fog thickened. Visibility dropped to a few meters.

“The following day, the sun was too low in the sky to burn the fog away. That night and on the Sunday and Monday nights, the fog again thickened. In many parts of London, it was impossible for pedestrians to find their way at night because the fog was so thick people could not see their feet.

 “The weather changed on December 9 as wind swept in unexpectedly, and the killer smog vanished as quickly as it had arrived.”*

In England a series of laws, including the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968, were enacted to avoid a repeat of the disaster. These acts banned emissions of black smoke and decreed that residents of urban areas and operators of factories must convert to smokeless fuels.

The Donora incident is credited with triggering environmental safeguards in the United States, including the Clean Air Act of 1970.

It took a while longer for the public and the medical community finally to acknowledge that inhaling smoke from cigarettes was taking a toll on our lives.

It is difficult for us to imagine today how pervasive cigarette smoking was in everyday life until relatively recently. I was a pack a day smoker, thought nothing of it and had plenty of company.

I am lucky to have reached this point, unscathed so far, after polluting my lungs for more than thirty years with the poisons emitted by cigarettes. I finally saw the light in 1978.

It’s too bad the members of the British royal family during the reign of King George were not able to benefit from the enlightenment that was to arrive a few decades later.


*All quoted material is taken directly from Wikipedia.

Posted on Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 3:38PM by Registered CommenterPatricia P. Jennings | CommentsPost a Comment | References5 References


I did not watch Barack Obama’s farewell speech on the night he delivered it. The mere mention of it brought tears to the brim. I was afraid that if I watched in real time as he and his family arrived for his swan song, amid the tumultuous cheers of a loving crowd, I might be sent keening and wailing into the night.

A few days later I listened to the speech on my iPad, in bed, early in the morning. And I watched the last few minutes, my electronic tablet perched on my lap.  Being at a remove from the proceedings, via YouTube, diluted the immediacy, the terrible reality of the occasion.

I’m not much of a weeper. I’ve never wept while reading a book, nor have I been brought to tears during a movie – except for one, “The Trip to Bountiful,” starring Geraldine Page. My strong reaction to the film was unexpected. The tears erupted and lasted a while. It must have been that the sad plight of Page’s character reminded me of things that had happened in my mother’s life. Charlie was so startled by my outburst he later quipped that he was worried he might have to douse me with a bucket of ice water.

My reaction, was, I believe, the mourning in advance of my mother’s death. When her time finally came, many years later, after a long and stressful decline, there were no tears. I was prepared. And although I had been terrified all my life at the prospect of her demise, when the time finally came, relief was what I felt, for her and for myself.

An occasion on which I unexpectedly erupted into tears was when I addressed the orchestra to bid them adieu upon my retirement. I’m sure my colleagues were shocked to see this person they probably thought of as a cold fish burst into tears, helplessly blubbering thanks for four decades of friendship and music-making. Although I had made the choice to retire, I knew that my life would never be the same. And that has proven to be true.

My reaction to Obama’s valedictory might not have been so extreme if he were being replaced by a normal person. But he’s leaving us to a mean child who, by contrast, has never learned how to be a decent human being. Even those who despise Obama must, at some level, agree that he is a fine gentleman who has borne his challenges with dignity. If they were expecting an angry black man in the White House they must have been sorely disappointed. Did we make a pact with the devil? And is this the price we now pay?

Our country is about to be handed over to a perverse and ignorant man who knows little and feels no need to learn. And he has no interest in the effects of his behavior on his targets as he oozes contempt for the best, and for the weakest among us.

I am bereaved, I am disconsolate, I am sorrowful for what we are losing. And I will keen and wail into the night until, on some distant day, my tears are finally spent.

Posted on Monday, January 16, 2017 at 5:53PM by Registered CommenterPatricia P. Jennings | CommentsPost a Comment

MEAL KITS, Part 2: Fresh in: 30

Meal kits have become a multi-million dollar industry in a few short years. The target audience are millennials who either don’t have time to shop and cook, or who don’t know how to cook because their parents never learned to cook. They must hark back to their grandparents generation to pick up their family’s culinary tradition.

I’m not in the target group, far from it. But I like the idea of trying foods and combinations that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. I recently finished my third set of Blue Apron meals. (See “Ponderings" October 12.)

Not wanting to be left out of the act, and in an effort to compete with Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Terra’s Kitchen, Marley’s Spoon, Peach Dish, Home Bistro, and many others, the Giant Eagle, specifically the Market District, has jumped on the meal kit bandwagon. Their Fresh in: 30 line can be found in the Market District stores and at a few Giant Eagles such as McIntyre Square, where I first noticed them.

The meals offered at the moment include (in alphabetical order):

  • Falafel with Tabbouleh and Tatziki: Garbanzo beans, fresh Mediterranean vegetables, bulgur wheat, Greek yogurt, panko bread crumbs, diced cucumbers, fresh dill and lemon.
  • Pork Piccata with Fresh Pappardelle Florentine: All-natural pork tenderloin medallions, piccata sauce, chicken stock, fresh pappardelle pasta, spinach, cherry tomatoes and capers.
  • Sirloin with Parmesan Risotto: All-natural sirloin steaks, Brussels sprouts, diced onions, diced butternut squash, Arborio rice, chicken stock, Parmesan cheese and beef gravy.
  • Spicy Thai Curry Noodle Bowl with Chicken: Marinated chicken breast, Asian vegetable medley, bamboo shoots, Asian Thai spicy curry sauce, rice noodles and fresh cilantro.
  • Sun-Dried Tomato Panko-Crusted Salmon: Salmon fillets, sun-dried tomato panko bread crumbs, jasmine rice, squash and tomato medley and marinara sauce.
  • Vegetarian Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms: Portabella mushrooms, vegetable stuffing, goat cheese, sun-dried tomato panko bread crumbs, arugula, roasted tomatoes and fresh lemon.

Two additional Fresh in :30 offerings, Chicken Alfredo and Garlic Shrimp Linguini seem to have fallen by the wayside.

The available selections won't be found in every store. The placement of meals must be determined by demographics. I’ve seen the Falafel only at the Waterworks.

I have tried three Fresh in: 30 meals, two of which I’d give a B-minus rating, one a C-minus. The ingredients provided, for the most part, weren’t terrible. But, in my opinion, the meals were unexciting, a little too cautions. Certainly the foods described were in the boxes, but there wasn’t much in there that I couldn’t have easily purchased myself, nor was there anything I hadn’t prepared in my kitchen over the years other than fresh pappardelle.

Our first Fresh in: 30 dinner, Pork Piccata with Fresh Pappardelle Florentine, was the most interesting only because of the fresh pasta. The box also included six little squares of pork to be pounded thin, a bag of baby spinach, a bag of lemony piccata liquid, a tiny bag of capers, and a small bottle of broth. The meal was flavorful but offered nothing new to us other than the pasta, and there was an awful lot of liquid left in the skillet at the end of the meal to be poured down the drain. Not sure why. Maybe I misunderstood the directions.

Whoever dreamed up the Sun-Dried Tomato Panko-Crusted Salmon must have thought that tomatoes three ways would be a good idea. Can’t have too much of a good thing, right?. Wrong.

When I plan a menu I try to be careful about redundancy, that is, not to serve the same ingredient in more than one element of the mail. Here, the tomatoes three ways included barely detectable sun-dried tomatoes in the Panko (I had to check the list of ingredients to reassure myself that they were in there); small plum tomatoes to sauté with the zucchini and yellow squash that looked like it had seen better days; and marinara sauce on which to place the salmon. There must be more interesting yet cost-effective ways to present a salmon filet.

A personal preference with which you may disagree: I don’t think that pink salmon on a bed of red sauce is a particularly attractive combination. And why was Jasmine rice chosen as an accompaniment to fish with marinara sauce?

The Sirloin with Parmesan Risotto was promising. The vegetables and risotto were quite good. But the meat was so chewy that on the second night I struggled through the second piece of sirloin and broiled my husband a hamburger. (We’re small eaters, so the dinner for two was enough for us for two nights.)

I’m guessing that when you consider the price charged for these meals for two, around $16, the company isn't about to include better quality beef.

The Market District would do well to give its customers credit for having more adventurous palates than the meals they’ve put together so far.

With Blue Apron and a hundred other meal kit companies breathing down their neck, the Market District would do well to perk up its Fresh in: 30 program, or abandon it.

Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 11:31PM by Registered CommenterPatricia P. Jennings | CommentsPost a Comment
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