Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

February 17, 2018
by funny
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Techno-skeptic: I could’ve predicted this…

Friday: Dispatch to NextDoor readers…

Ohhhh the techno-life just gets better and better!

You may recall my whinging a few days ago about Cox’s announcement that it’s taking down the copper connection to our land-line telephones, and that if we want to continue to have a land-line-like set of phones (i.e., a phone in every room), we’ll have to get Cox’s digital phone service, which is connected through one’s computer via a second modem to clutter up your desk.

The Cox guy showed up: extremely nice man, seemed to be competent. Yes, he admitted: if the power goes down — no phone. If my computer crashes — no phone. If my computer’s modem crashes — no phone. If the extra annoying modem goes down — no phone.

Sooooo…now we have three ways from Sunday for your phone to die. And say what? you need to call 911? Well ..|.. very much!

Ohhhkayyy, well there doesn’t seem to be much choice here. I can buy an Ooma modem and pay a guy $90 or $180 to come over and help my untechie self connect it to my computer and attach my call-blocker to it. Or I can have Cox come over and install its wondrous modem for free. And continue to gouge me $35 a month for less-than-optimal phone service.

I decide to opt for Cox despite the rip-off, because it’s at least sort of a known quantity. The lash-up was installed Wednesday.

Two days into this Brave New World… A phone solicitor calls. I pick up the phone so I can cut off the call and capture the number in the call-blocker before the voicemail picks up. And what I hear when I pick up the phone is this LOUD racket that sounds like an unmuffled motorcycle engine accelerating: b-r-r-r-B-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R

I figure this is the robocaller SOBs doing a number on me. Hang up. Block the number. Pick up the phone and try to call another number, and when I do, I get the same racket. My phone has been taken over by a motorcycle on meth!

Now I walk across the street carrying one of the system’s handsets and call Cox from my neighbor’s phone. As usual, this entails a great hassle getting through the aggravating phone tree, but eventually I reach a very helpful tech guy.

He is beyond extremely nice and is anxious to help, but he has NEVER HEARD of what the phone is doing. But since my handset’s signal reaches all the way across the street and into my neighbor’s home, I dial up a phone number out of the device’s memory and get B-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R…, which of course he can hear loud and clear. He tries to manipulate the modem from his end, but it’s not working.

I go back to my house and disconnect the call blocker, which is in-line with the modem. This does not help.

He arranges for a workman to show up here tomorrow morning — because after all what DOES the little woman have to do with her day than sit around waiting for yet another workman, eh?

Meanwhile, he suggests I try unplugging the modem, letting it set for 20 or 30 minutes, and then replugging and testing. This I do, with baleful results.

The phones are now completely nonfunctional. You can sometimes(!) get a dial tone and if you do, you can dial out, but within 30 seconds the meth-headed motorcycle starts back up again.

Okay, I’m willing to allow that maybe there’s something wrong with my phones. But I doubt it. LOL! Guess I should be glad this little fiasco hasn’t taken my computers down. Yet…

* * *
Comes the Dawn…
* * *

So it is now “tomorrow”: Saturday.

Right about as scheduled, a new Cox guy shows up. Actually, this one is not “new” but grizzled and road-worn. This is a fellow who has had long experience. Let us, I reflect, hope that most of his experience has to do with the electronics of telephone systems.

The guy is flummoxed by the motorcycle on meth serenade: admits he’s never heard anything like it. He tests every piece of equipment on the line. He discovers an outmoded DSL connector, which he tosses. So far: nothing works. What, he asks, is really connected to this line, amongst the 6 handsets I say I have online???

Finally we figured out that the problem is the old Panasonic base, which for reasons unknown continued to operate after I plugged in then five-handset Uniden base with which I intended to replace it. Long as it was working, I just left it sitting there, giving me a 6th phone. Very convenient.

Upon examination, we realized the reason it was working was that it wasn’t really talking to the Uniden. It was plugged into the copper wiring, and so was ringing on its own: not as a de-facto sixth handset, but as an entirely separate unit. That thing, he theorized, could be causing a short.

Interestingly, the copper wiring has been disconnected and none of the outlets work anymore. Yet…wait…that phone does have a dial tone. Wot the hell?! We unplug it, and damned it that doesn’t work!

So now the phone system is working. I’m down one handset in a location close to the floor, where I might reach it if I fall and hurt myself. Fortunately, one of the Uniden handsets was in a location where I rarely go, and so I just moved it into the family room, where…yea verily, I can crawl to it if I fall in the kitchen, dining room, or family room. I hope.

Once again, then, all is well in the Brave New World. For the nonce…

February 17, 2018
by funny
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Getting Rid of Siri

Lordie, but I hate the new MacBook’s frikkin’ “touchbar.”

It comes with an icon to turn on annoying “Siri,” a talkbot that in addition to responding to voice commands and various such bullshit also reports everything you say back to Apple. I want it turned off and left off. That’s OFF. As in off, off, OFF, goddammit!

The problem is, the Siri icon defaults to appear on the far right-hand side of the annoying and cumbersome touch bar…right above the “Delete” key. This becomes a problem because the new MacBook keyboard is sized just slightly differently from the old MacBook’s. The keys are wider. So if you’re a fast typist and you’re used to typing on the old Mac’s keyboard, your fingers keep hitting two keys at once. If I try to type an “h” at speed, for example, I’m going to hit hg or hj or hy. Typing the word “I” with quote marks gets you :”I” — and the “word” and “I” just now came out worfd and “IU:  This means you are CONSTANTLY whacking angrily at the “Delete” key — and every third time you hit “Delete” you accidentally tap the effing Siri button and call up a message nagging you to turn Siri back on.

As it develops, there’s a way to remove the Siri icon from the damned touchbar. The instructions are a little arcane — by “drag it to the trash” the author means  a trash icon that magically appears on the annoying touchbar when you get into System Preferences > Keyboard > Customize toolbar.

You end up with the “mute sound” icon positioned over the all-important Delete key. But since sound-OFF is the default mode for cruising the internet, by way of defanging the autoplay videos and aggravating background jingles, that’s much less of a problem than the constant Siri pestering.

This keyboard business is really a PITA. In fact, it’s enough of a problem to impinge seriously on your productivity. I find myself having to backspace, delete, and retype with every sentence — had to do so four times (!!!) to type the first 12 words of this sentence. Even after the endless backing and fixing, you still end up with copy sprinkled with typos. Yet another time-consuming nuisance…

The MacBook has a lot of things going for it — it’s an amazing piece of machinery. But “user-friendliness” ain’t one of them. I’m still thinking I should go down to Costco and pick up an inexpensive PC so as to begin re-learning to navigate the Windows environment.

Since it’s beginning to look like I’m going to have to buy a smartphone whether I want one or not, and since I surely can’t afford an iPhone, I’m going to have to get back into Windows anyway.

Please, Apple: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

February 14, 2018
by funny
4 Comments

Oranges and Rain

At last it’s raining here, and raining steadily. Has been all day. The plants thank the gods, the ground thanks the gods, the fishes in the streams (whatever those are) thank the gods.

And especially the citrus thanks the gods.

Citrus trees are high-water plants: short them on water, and even an old and established tree will shrivel up and die. And you don’t want them to do that….

Interestingly, too, citrus trees can tell the difference between rainwater and irrigation water. They much prefer water that falls out of the heavens. You can pour the irrigation to the things, but if it doesn’t rain at least a few times during a year, they will yellow out, drop leaves, produce pathetic fruit. And…no, you don’t want them to do that.

One of the best things I did when I moved into this house lo! these many years ago — maybe the best thing — was to plant oranges, lemons, and a lime. An Arizona Sweet orange is possibly the greatest joy that a human can experience. These oranges are so sweet they’re like candy. Incredibly juicy, delicious candy.

And this is orange season. Every day I’ve been scarfing down four or five oranges at breakfast. If I happen to wander out in the yard during the day, I’ll grab another. Even a single orange tree produces so much fruit, I’d have a hard time eating all of it. Two produce twice that many.

Almost. One of the trees is suffering. I think it’s because the hateful paloverde beetles have made their way over to it — last summer I saw an emergence hole inside its dripline. The rain will help it, but whether it will revive as the days grow longer, I do not know.

The lime tree also is at risk. Luis damaged it when he hacked out a whole limb, apparently misunderstanding what I meant when I said I wanted to be able to walk around it freely. This exposed the interior branches and trunk to the blast of the summer sun. Though I tried to protect them by wrapping them in strips of shade cloth, it doesn’t seem to have done the trick.

So it was already suffering when the house had to be painted. The other side of the tree had grown over the roof, so a lot of its canopy needed to be cut back. That gave the tree a serious shock, from which I doubt it will recover.

Citrus trees do not like to be pruned. Contrary to what the roof-rat fearers will tell you, you should NOT cut their limbs up away from the ground. You shouldn’t prune them at all, except to clear out any branches that are truly dead. So I’m pretty sure the lime is a goner — we’ll know, I expect, by this time next year.

Should have fertilized them before this wonderful rain came along, but was too lazy and hurting too much from the weird hip thing to get to the Depot and haul a 40-pound sack of citrus food home. After the rain clears, I will go and do that…a day late and a dollah short, as usual.

Expect another thing I could do for those two trees is spray them with Miracle-Gro. They do absorb nutrients through their leaves, and Miracle-Gro is plant nutrients on steroids. If part of the trees’ problem is that they’re not getting enough water falling on their canopies, dousing them with water & fertilizer should help them. I hope.

The pained hip is mostly recovered…but now I can’t go walking or biking because of the rain. Nevertheless have lost weight by dint of starving myself: not eating after about 2:00 p.m. does cause the poundage to drop. It would work better if you could burn off a few calories, but on its own it will peel off a few ounces a day.

Oh well.

Since I gave up the fight and succumbed to taking the blood pressure pills, the threatening numbers have hovered pretty much in the normal range. And amazingly, this is happening without benefit of dizzy spells and disorientation!

We shall see how long this lasts: I’ve gone several days at a time before with numbers in the low one-twenties and teens. It looks like the spikes into the 140s — and, hevvin help us, the other day into the 160s — happen about once every four or five days. The headache that I thought was a migraine and then decided was maybe a sinus thing seems to have mostly cleared up. I suspect it had something to do with the 165/105 spike…but which was causative of which, I could not say.

Nor, one might add, do I wish to say.

At any rate, I’m going to choir in a couple of hours, having fled between rehearsal and the Sunday morning service, and having missed the Sunday evensong. Better to err on the side of caution when it comes to driving with these dizzying headaches: once I was flying up 7th Avenue full-out at 50 mph when suddenly I realized I could not see the street signs. Fortunately I was almost home, fortunately I was in a part of town I know so well I don’t really need to see it to navigate it, and fortunately the effect passed quickly. But it was damn scary.

Try to stay out from behind the steering wheel when you think you’re having a migraine. 😉

February 12, 2018
by funny
7 Comments

{moan} Life in the Land of Old Age..

So….yesterday along came what appeared to be another migraine. This, during rehearsal for Sunday’s service; in addition to that, I was also looking forward to singing along at last night’s Evensong service.

Better get on the road while I can still drive without picking off any of my fellow homicidal drivers, think I. That thought thunk, I excuse myself from the service and slink away.

Back at the Funny Farm…holy ESS AITCH AI! The damn tattling Omron informs me that I’ve spiked a blood pressure reading of 165/105!!

Obviously, I soon will be leaping off the edge of this hole in the ground here and pulling the dirt in after me.

Now I’m wondering…is this really a migraine? Or am I having a stroke? Or…WTF?

Last major spike — which was nowhere near that high on either side of the slash mark — came when I was having a fine hot flash. (Can you imagine? Damn near 73 years old and having hot goddamn flashes again?)

After some recourse to the Hypochondriac’s Treasure Chest, I discover that a headache can be associated with high blood pressure. But such headaches are not migraines. Elevated BP, interestingly, is not associated with true migraine.

Uh huh. Are you saying, dear Google, that I am having a stroke?

These antics proceed through an irritable, headachey, cranky day. I do, however, get through the current Chinese math paper by about 9 p.m., which is…something. I guess. My head still hurts, which, one imagines, could be caused either by detailed discussion of F-tests and p-functions as they apply comparatively to the evolution of state-owned and privately-owned corporate boards or…by an impending stroke.

Stroke. Definitely a stroke.

Meditating this thought, of course, is not conducive to sleep. Not only does the headache proceed, I’m enjoying palpitations and vertigo, too….just like the ones that initially drove me to the cardiodocs.

At 1 in the morning, I get up and go back into the office and lash myself back up in the damn Omron. Still spiking at a mere 146/93 on the initial reading. This figure falls to 123/89 in the course of the full testing maneuver (which entails wasting about 15 minutes with repeated measures between resting periods — it really is an amazingly annoying procedure). But 146 is still not at all a good systolic reading. And 93 on the diastolic side? Pushing 90 at the lowest ebb? Remarkably not good.

So finally I throw in the towel and decide to swallow the first of the blood pressure pills dispensed by cardiodoc.

Here’s the problem with that. See these here?

Those are pretty typical figures over the past week. Every number in blue is a figure in the “safe” range.  Black: not great, but not life-threatening, either.

If average blood pressure is in the low 120s or the the mid-teens, then a medication that pushes it down still further will cause severe, dangerous vertigo. That’s dizziness of the fall-down-and-break-your-hip variety. Dizziness of the you-dare-not-drive-your-car variety.

This, we already experienced with the previous cardiodoc: the stuff he gave me made me nonfunctional. And believe me: with all my heart (heh!), I do not want to do that again!

New Cardiodoc was concerned enough about the occasional spikes — which usually go into the 140s but can go as high as 155 or so — that he pressed a new variety of pill on me. I’ve been resisting, because when I’m not in his office and not surrounded by strangers prodding me and yakking at me and making me take my clothes off, my average BP over the course of a typical week is about 128/83 — and that includes the spikes. Over the past week, though, as I’ve lost weight the blood pressure has lost elevation. Even with the batsh!t 165/105 spike and a couple other spikes in the 140s, this week’s average has been 125.4/84.2.

Push that down very far, and I’m gonna be falling down every time I try to stand up from a chair or the toilet.

Reassured by the Mayo’s PA, who had the common sense to observe that I’m not required to stay on these pills, and if they have an untoward side effect, I can just…well…you know: stop taking it, I decided I’d better try the damn stuff. Despite the lovely low figures of late, these spikes are damn scary, especially so because we do not know what is causing them.

The figures are routinely low in the morning — though you can see that over the past few days (except for yesterday…) they’ve been surprisingly low in the evenings, too. Normally, the BP rises late in the day. So what would make sense, if anything in this makes sense at all, would be to take the daily dose around 4 or 5 p.m., when I won’t be driving anywhere (except for Wednesdays…)

As for the headache:

Well, it’s still in the offing, and as we scribble the morning’s average BP is 121/84. Higher than it has been over the past few days, but still: not suicidal. Whether the pill pushed the figures down or whether the pressure just dropped on its own, as it always does in the morning, is now unknown.

But whatever: it is surely NOT high enough to cause my head to hurt. Which it decidedly still does.

This suggests some other headache etiology, hm?

Well, you’ll recall the fine respiratory flap that started last March and went all the way to the end of October before it cleared up?

Yes, that may have been a cold or flu (and that is why I’m trying with all my wiliness to avoid the flu this spring). But between Cardiodoc 2 and the young Mayo doc, we suspect the issue was not an infection — or at least, not one that lasted the entire 8 months — but probably allergies. Or allergies complicated by an infection. That theory advanced, Mayo Doc recommended that I double up on the 10-mg doses of plain, unadulterated Claritin (hold the pseudoephedrine), gulping down one pill in the morning and one at night.

And damned if this didn’t work! Within a few days, the head congestion started to clear up, and within a month it was gone.

Also gone? The dizzy spells and palpitations!

Turns out that in old bats Eustachian tube and sinus congestion can cause both dizziness (this is pretty common) and presyncope. In other words: I wasn’t enjoying near-fainting spells and crazy world-spinning because of the blood pressure. Those must have been caused by head congestion…which went away when the Claritin kicked in.

Past couple of weeks, I’ve been forgetting to swallow a daily Claritin. The pill-a-day lifestyle, really, is not for me. And in the absence of the antihistamine, my head has slowly been gooping up again. It is almost March again: right when the head thing started last year. Right when things start to grow in the low desert.

And so…very likely what feels like a sinus headache is a sinus headache. And it, along with the vertigo, is coming back because I quit treating it. 😮

Imagine that.

 

February 10, 2018
by funny
6 Comments

Cox vs Ooma: Erring(?) on the Side of Caution

So I sent the Cox tech away while I thought about the options presented by the coming exit from copper land lines on the part of Our Honored Communications Provider. It seemed to me that what the guy proposed to do was not one helluva lot different from switching the land line to VoIP. Big difference: Ooma, a prominent VoIP provider, costs about five bucks a month. Cox, having purchased a few Arizona corporation commissioners, soaks its customers for $35.

Find a guy who will babysit me through connecting VoIP, a chore that I do not feel technologically competent enough to engage. So, it’s off to the Ooma website to order up the device needed to connect through their…network, platform, or whatever it is.

Well.

Since last I reviewed this service, Ooma has added a lot of new features. In the process, they’ve added to their website. One of the additions is a certain brain-banging opacity. Nowhere, far as I could tell, can you find a page that says “Buy this, Get this, Pay this per month.” They babble on about a “smart phone for your home” (I don’t want a smart phone, dammit! I can’t figure out how to use those things), but it’s unclear whether you have to buy their phone sets to connect through their service, or whether your existing handsets will work.

Call a sales rep and get…what? Yes: a person who simply has no fuckin’ clue! No joke. So small is the clue this chickadee has that she cannot even understand the question I’m asking!

Yes. So alien is the concept that a person might have actual phones in different rooms in her house that she is incapable of grasping that I’m not talking about cell phones.

I think…fukkit. These are hoops I am just flat not gonna jump through. At least when I call Cox, I get a human being right away, and that human being usually has at least a FEW measurable IQ points between the ears. That, I suppose, is worth $35 a month.

I guess.

So now I have another Cox dude slated to come over next week and convert the damn phone system.

Do I WANT this conversion? Shit, no. My feeling is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You know and I know this is going to create some kind of PITA, driving up the blood pressure, creating vast inconvenience, and eventually eliciting yet another hummingbird-like rage.

In a few days, we will have telephones that go down every time the electricity is out (that will be once or twice a year), every time Cox’s cables are down (that will be every goddamn time a drop of rain falls and every time the City digs up the roads, an ongoing endeavor whose sole purpose apparently is to keep their employees busy), every time the WiFi modem disconnects itself (not so frequent as before, but still unpredictably often), and…hey! EVERY TIME I NEED A PHONE URGENTLY.

February 8, 2018
by funny
2 Comments

Siri, RESET!

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! A junket to the Mayo Clinic, halfway to Payson from my house, has reset the computer where the blood pressure neurosis is concerned.

In fact I went in to discuss a different issue, which by the time today’s appointment rolled around had resolved itself. However, I decided to traipse out there anyway, because there were other things to chat about. Because I’d made the appointment on short notice, it was with a physician’s assistant and a nurse-practitioner (yahoo! two of ’em) rather than my regular doctor, who having just returned from maternity leave is maxed.

Number one headache (and today that was a literal term) had to do with the blood pressure conundrum. Took the pills out there and explained why I do not want to take the damn things, but also fessed up that yesterday I enjoyed yet another spike in numbers, into the 140s. In fact, the NP got a first reading of 159 over somegawdawful thing, though that came down considerably.

I hate doctor’s offices and I hate medical facilities and I hate having to explain myself to doctors and I’m not there unless stress and pain push me there, so of course whenever I get into one of those places, my blood pressure hovers near the ceiling.

Fortunately, a pair of the Chinese academics sent a new paper to edit yesterday, so I took the laptop with me so I could read copy while cooling my heels in the waiting room. That meant…lo! I also had my whole neurotic log of daily blood pressure readings, complete with weekly averages, an overall average, and a percentage breakdown of figures by high, medium, and low ranges.

I expected this elaborate spreadsheet would just confirm that I’m crazy, so hesitated to show it to her. But to the contrary: she was delighted to get the data. A-n-n-d…she was not at all fazed by the occasional spikes into the 140s. She said it’s the average that matters, and that under 130 is not very threatening, although one would like to keep it as low as possible to protect the kidneys and heart from potential damage.

I pointed out that the American Heart Association (which is partially funded by Big Pharma…) insists that ONE reading in the 140s or above is enough to put you on pills. (The British Health Service, in contrast, states that a consistent pattern of 140+ readings over time is the criterion.) I also pointed out that AHA guidelines recently changed; what used to be designated “moderately elevated” (readings in the 130s) is now considered to be “prehypertension” that must be treated, that readings in the 120s are now the “moderately elevated” range, and that the desired range is now in the 110s. She shrugged that off: clearly not impressed.

She said with an overall average of 128.4/83.3, she probably would not prescribe medication at all. However, she did agree that some of the startling spikes were a concern. And she also agreed that the drug Cardiodoc prescribed (or any of them, for that matter) had the potential to cause some serious dizziness since my BP is often in the low 120s…and even, of late, in the teens. On the other hand, she thought there was a good chance the very small dose would have no side effects at all. She suggested that I simply try the drug on a day that I don’t have to drive anywhere and see what happens. In fact, she proposed that I try it during a time when the numbers are spiking.

I said I’d been told it takes two weeks to take effect. Not so, said she: it’s a 24-hour pill, and if it’s gonna work, it will work within that period. She said it isn’t necessary to get “on” it for any length of time to see what it will do. And if we don’t like the results, the obvious response is simply to…well…stop taking it.

Wow!

So relieved was I that I decided to stop in my favorite mega-supermarket, which is on the way home from the Mayo, buy a bottle of Cabernet, and take a flying leap off the back end of the wagon. Then, go to bed and sleep away the remaining half the afternoon.

Last night was pretty terrible: after coming home around 10:30 from a choir shindig in a restaurant (nothing like a club soda instead of a glass of wine to make you the life of the party…), the evening BP readings were in the stratosphere. Then — perhaps consequently — I slept badly, woke up at 5 with a hot flash, and found readings that were still elevated by the light of dawn.

Well, the Mayo Lady pointed out that scarfing down a basket of salty French fries after having had nothing to eat since about 2 in the afternoon would tend to jack up one’s blood pressure numbers. I thought that was a long-term effect, not a one-off sort of thing, but apparently restaurant food will do the job on your BP readings right now. Yes, I do know better than to eat that kind of junk, but by 9:30 last night I was too hungry to care.

So I fly in the house, grill a lamb chop and some asparagus and serve those up with some leftover polenta and a tomato and a couple glasses of cheap red wine. Yes!!

Then I stagger into the back of the house, fall into the bed, and sleep for a good two hours. Phone rings; chat with friend; fall back to sleep.

Roll out of the sack along about 5:30. Feed the dogs, pick up the kitchen. Break out the Omron. And this is what happened:

Holy mackerel! And think o’ that: 108/74? 110/72?!!?

Clearly what is missing from my life is red wine…

Seriously: at 10:30 last night the average of six figures was 144/85.8. Less than 24 hours later, all but one of a similar set of figures is under 120.

You can guess what would happen if I took a blood pressure drug when the underlying blood pressure was in that range. I wouldn’t even be able to stand upright.

Do I have a conclusion to draw from this?

Well, yeah: One conclusion is that obsessing over the blood pressure is probably driving my blood pressure up.

The other is, I need to go to the Mayo, not to a doctor in the wild. Mayo Clinic physicians are salaried employees: they have no incentive to overprescribe treatments and medications. Not to be driven crazy or bullied into unnecessary treatment is worth the endless drive through the homicidal traffic.

And finally, what is needed is an occasional glass of wine.

Prosit!