Blow

I’ve been thinking.  Yes, it is a dangerous activity bordering on the edge of serious contemplation.   Blame the weather, daylight savings time, or over-engineered technology.  Or, just blame the candle man from Toledo.  We had an interesting conversation about simplifying life last summer at the YSU Festival of the Arts.   I thought about that conversation when I debated about giving up the microwave and it has been on my mind while debating about giving this computer.

Yes, I am seriously considering being done with this machine.  I am tired of fighting with it.  At first, it was all the new stuff… Windows 8 took awhile to learn how to use it.  Then there was the thing with the camera and trying to figure out how to do this or that… stupid things like controlling speaker volume (the easy buttons are on the keyboard, duh… but I didn’t know that) so I get it down pat and something else comes up, a tech problem with a software that refuses to work right.  I click the help and it takes me to their website where I can scroll through common problems to find the solution and of course, what I need help with is not there.  Oh, help is available for $19.95 one shot deal or $89.95 for so much time.  BUMP THAT.  Even my ISP has pay for help nonsense… it’s their software that is screwed up so why should I pay for them to fix their own stuff?  Is this planned?  Do they make it so it won’t work right just to get more money out of people?

I’m also fairly convinced that computer viruses are written by or for companies that sell anti-virus software and THAT is one of the software that I am having problems with.  My ISP included a “free” version with my service.  It keeps shutting itself off.  I turn it back on and it shuts itself off again.  I did manage to talk to a techie from the software company (after jumping through hoops to get a phone number and an access code to let me talk to them) only to be told that I need to talk to the ISP because their contract is with them, not me, and they have their own dedicated staff to deal with any problems.  So, I hit the ISP website and oh… pay to play… do I want to upgrade from the free version?  Only so much money… BUMP THAT.  The ISP is getting enough out of me and they lied… told them straight up, cut me a bundle deal for under $100 a month.  It is $105 plus change.  And, in the bill today was a rate increase list effective next month.  Since I have a special deal, mine won’t go up YET… but when it does, it will jack up at least fifty.  BUMP THAT.  I am fighting with this machine and is it WORTH the money?  NO.

I am also getting extremely very paranoid.

Okay, I know it is GIGO… garbage in equals garbage out, machines don’t lie but people do and sometimes, it is just a typo (which I have used to my advantage at times, like when the BMV accidentally dropped my married name off my driver’s license years ago and would NOT put it back on without NEW documentation, which helped me take my name back without having to ask a judge permission to use my own name – I had kept my maiden name when I married, just added his on the end until the BMV took it off.)   Well, you know… computers don’t lie.  It’s just GIGO.

I ran into GIGO yesterday.  Our government requires verifying your identity to activate prepaid throw away debit cards, supposedly as a measure to prevent money laundering.   Yeah, as if the mafia is going to launder millions by throwing five hundred dollar (max allowed) chunks onto prepaid Walmart debit cards.  How laughably stupid can that law be?  So okay, to prove I am really me, I’m on the phone answering stupid questions.  Which of these streets did I previously live on?  Computerized voice rattles three choice and press 4 for none of the above.  Those type of questions.  Then it asked me:  “What month was [my ex-husband’s NEXT ex-wife’s child to her previous husband – they just called her by name] born in?”  Like, HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT?  I know that question is from a GIGO from years ago when a collection agency wanted ME to pay for that kid’s medical bills.  Some computer thinks I’m that kid’s mother.  Yeah, and somewhere in a computer database, it will say that I enjoy world traveling (even though I don’t have a passport) and I have a pet giraffe.

Here’s my pet.  Yes, somewhere in this photo between the toys is Mr. Marsberry.

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Mars is an old black cat.  He loves to lay on dark surfaces so he can blend in, hide in plain sight.

They asked for my address. Or rather, they started to ask for my address. “What is your house number?”  I typed in “25” and the computerized voice said “Do you live at” and rattled off my entire street address and apartment number.  I had called on a prepaid, disposable, no contract, throw away cell phone with the GPS turned OFF.   So much for sliding under the radar.

There are some things I don’t like about this “new” computer.  The manufacturer wants my “computer use” data.  I have to type in my email password to turn the machine on.  I cannot play solitaire on this computer unless the internet is enabled.  It wants to store my photos and documents in a “cloud” somewhere on the internet.  Sometimes, I think I am saving things ON my computer and later discover that it landed up there on that cloud.   I did not buy WORD yet… my half baked novel (all 68,000 words) is saved on a flash drive and I cannot open the file unless I buy WORD again.

I’m tired of buying WORD.  With every new machine, you have to buy it all over again.   I am seriously considering buying a typewriter.  I don’t want my unfinished words on a computer.  I certainly do not want them in a cloud.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing lately.  I’ve been half scared to use this machine, imagine it is gathering viruses every time I go online (can’t even see the icon showing me that it shut itself off, if it does, unless I exit out and go to desktop) and I feel like it is only a matter of time before it slows down or locks up or does something rendering it completely useless.  I don’t dare do “online banking” or buy anything unless I use a disposable prepaid card.  And I am paying money for all these problems.  THAT’s where my thinking is going… time to simplify, trim back, scale down, turn it off.  I can go online via cell phone, blog by phone, get email by phone.   Between the lease payment and the ISP bill, that is $187 a month that I could free up for something else.  Like yarn or art supplies.

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Speaking of yarn, the boots came out shorter with the cuffs sewed on.  I used a loom to make a hat to match, then tried knitting on a nice pair of chopsticks (watching tension as my chopsticks are tapered) before shopping for real knitting needles and some cotton yarn.  Now I’m making fingerless mittens.  I don’t have a pattern, don’t really need one… they are like tube socks with thumb holes.  I had to make 3 of the purple ones to get two to match and they are not perfect, one is wider than the other as I made it two stitches wider.  I went even wider for the cotton pair, 30 stitches on 5mm needles, and trying out variations.  From what I understand, there are only two stitches, knit and purl.  Everything else is just variations in sequence.  I don’t think I am casting on/off correctly but oh well… I’m learning.

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Knit and think… knitting is good for thinking. Although I do think that I have made up my mind.

GIGO!

I have been quietly rebelling against the so-called Information Age since the last day I rented a movie on video tape to view on a VCR. I had accidentally left my movie rental card at home. The clerk said, “no problem” and asked for my driver’s license. I thought he just wanted to verify my identity, prove that I was who I said I was before renting me the movie. No, he slid my driver’s license through the card scanner and a list of every movie that I ever rented there popped up on his screen. Whoa… one word popped into my head: linked.

Yes, I was suddenly aware of the possibility of all those databases out there linking up. Back then, grocery stores were just starting to issue what I call “discounts for data” cards and receipts everywhere were becoming much more detailed, listing exactly what was purchased instead of general departments (Ex. “red leaf lettuce” instead of just “produce”). It seemed like more and more information was being collected every day as everything was migrating onto computer systems. If all those store databases linked up with other databases documenting everything from credit card purchases, automobile services, gasoline gallons and locations of fills, use of home utilities and telephone records, pharmacy and medical records, and this and that and everything else… whoa, if all these databases ever link up, they (whoever “they” were) could know everything about everybody. They could create highly detailed personal profiles on individuals right down to the scent of their soap and what brand of toilet paper hangs on the roll.

I brought this up in a conversation with Dr. Terence Heltzel, Ph.D., at the Howland branch of PsyCare. He told me to quit being so paranoid. WHY would anyone WANT to link up databases and create personal profiles on people?

We had that conversation BEFORE 9/11.

And I was not paranoid about it… just realistically aware of the possibility. Welcome to the Information Age, baby. It’s us against the machines, our human rights of privacy against the constant gathering and storage of our personal information.

There is only ONE way to rebel: GIGO!!!

Yes, GIGO. Garbage In = Garbage Out, lie to the machines. One bit of erroneous data invalidates the rest, or at the least, creates doubt. One obvious error raises the possibility of other errors.

Somewhere in all those databases, it says that I have a pet giraffe and I enjoy world traveling, even though I’ve never had a passport. I have been lying to machines for years, swapped “discounts for data” cards with other people so our documented purchases include items we don’t use, and quietly rebelling in various other ways.

The best GIGOs are computer generated and/or false data entered into computers by other people. Like the map on my cell phone gps is not accurate. I have the opportunity to correct it, to drag the arrow over a couple blocks to my precise location, but why should I? Does it need to know exactly where I am at all times? Hell no… most of the time, it is turned off anyway. (Although I think it still works when it is off because otherwise, why would a google search with the gps off list things by distance from my phone?) I let a lot of errors slide, laughed when I saw so many obvious mistakes on my background check. Yes, I did one on myself. I was curious… who am I?

I’ve been quietly rebelling against the Information Age and trying to maintain a little privacy for so long that it has become a habit, rarely crosses my mind so obviously, I am NOT paranoid. I also don’t think that I am the only one quietly rebelling against the deterioration of personal privacy. I see too many other people saying “no” when asked for personal information. Since when does a dress shop or a bookstore need your postal zipcode or telephone number, especially when you are paying cash?

The reason I decided to write about this today is because I recently encountered a new GIGO, an amusing little typo entered into a business computer by someone else, thus making it impossible for me to access my online statement so I can pay my bill. (They quit mailing paper statements.) After several failed attempts to use their computerized phone service, I was finally able to speak to a real person. He tried to fix the problem, but he can’t change the data… so until I mail proof of who I am along with documentation of my birth to a special address so their techies can verify MY real data is correct and their GIGO data is false, I am eleven years younger than I thought I was.

Should I provide the documentation to prove that I was indeed born in 1960 instead of 1971? Or just use the false data to access my statement?

That one might come back to bite me as data in one computer has a way of migrating to another.

Thanks for reading today!