Coffee heat rising

How Much Time, Lord…

…is freaking wasted wrestling with computer software?

This afternoon, in one tiny household in the middle of one faceless city parked in the middle of a far-flung desert: three hours. That’s this afternoon alone.

I’ve lost track of the number of hours I’ve spent on the phone with Apple Support, to say nothing of the number of hours consumed by driving back and forth to Apple stores, by trying to figure out a problem by myself, by reconstructing lost data…ohhhh good grief.

Seriously: the Apple Support folks are a godsend. Without them, by now I would have picked up a number of expensive gadgets and thrown them across the room, to collide at a high velocity with a wall.

Which, one might speculate, would be counterproductive.

These computers we all have, all the manifold devices most of us tote around with us: they’re wonderful devices. They allow us to perform feats of data entry and calculation that would have consumed our lives had we tried to do them with a typewriter or an adding machine or a spreadsheet. This is because they do these tasks at outrageous speed, with little need for thought from the user.

So….why does riding herd on the damn things still consume our lives?

It is Saturday evening. A weekend. Remember those? Do you remember them as “free times”? I sure do: once upon a time you didn’t spend your weekends working.

Today I was on the phone with Apple from 3 in the afternoon until 6 — three hours — trying to figure out why Apple’s iCloud keeps nagging me that something is wrong. Wrong? Wrong with a password, we surmise. Between me and the two excellent gents I worked with, we changed my passwords at least three times, in three different venues. Finally we got online and got iCloud to accept the result…only to find that iCloud decided to quit sending my email to my computers.

The second of said gents, gazing upon the little mystery through a direct connection to my computer, quietly performed a bit of prestidigitation and…zap! Undid whatever was done and disappeared both the conundrum and the endlessly nagging, pointless messages.

In the course of this, I lost track of what we were doing, became hopelessly confused, thought I had lost the new passwords, discovered they were not lost after all, and then realized…waitaminit…these passwords we’re using that are now magically working? They’re the same damn passwords we started out with! And yea verily, they’re still all different.

That’s right. We spent three hours farting around and ended up right where we were at the outset. Only with the software inexplicably working.

For the nonce. We’ll see what it’s doing by the break of day.

Here’s what I think about this:

Yes. The 21st century’s astonishing technology does speed our work miraculously. Makes it easier to perform, by far. Makes our product look far more professional than most of us used to be able to produce with a typewriter and a photocopier and a calculator. BUT….no savings in work time ensues.

Vast numbers of hours may be saved in the performance of routine and mind-numbing tasks. But do we use that saved time in worthwhile pursuits like watching soap operas and shopping for underwear? Nooooo….

Hell, no! Any and all free time is devoured by learning new and unnecessary changes in the software and hardware, by trying to keep the software running, and by figuring out and fixing whateverthefuck is wrong when the damn things go down. In fact, I’d venture to say most of us spend more time working, when you add in the time required to learn, relearn, and re-relearn the endlessly morphing technology and in keeping it running, than we ever did at work with our antediluvian tools.

So confusing and baffling are these ubiquitous devices that even the experts get confused. Two of them, over the past few weeks, have told me that the reason for the mysterious nuisance messages from iCloud was that the passwords on my two Mac computers are different. The key, they felt, lay in syncing passwords. Ideally, I gathered, the same password should be used for both computers. And possibly it should be used for iCloud, too.

After all that wrestling to make this happen, after finding a gigantic glowing golden FAIL at the end of that rainbow, this evening the guy who answered the phone at Apple said…well…noooo… The computers’ passwords do not have to be the same.

Make up your minds, guys!

This one, it appears, was right. We ended up with different passwords for the MacBook, the aging iMac, and iCloud…and with the click of a couple of buttons on his ends, he magically disappeared the iCloud problem.

What the problem ultimately was, I have no clue. Nor do I want to have a clue.

THIS is not what I got a Ph.D. in English literature and history for…

You Can’t Escape from Stupid

Apparently can’t escape the neighbor’s dog, either…

😀 People are stupid. No matter which direction you look or how you look at them, people are plug-stupid.

Oneself included, of course…all too often.

Today, we have proof of both.

So…the ongoing bug is taking its toll on me. I’m effin’ exhausted. Meanwhile, the wounded hand hurt ALL. NIGHT. LONG  And was all swollen up come the dawn.

It’s normally been a little swollen, but this was beyond the pale. Bound an ice pack to it and wrapped it up in elastic bandage.

No…proverbial…dice.

But meanwhile, after two months of coughing and gagging and fever and misery, the bronchitis I picked up (probably at the Mayo’s ER) healed up…only to be followed a couple days later by a new epizootic — this one apparently just a garden-variety cold.

I don’t do very well with garden-variety colds. For me there’s no such thing as “just a cold.” These things make me effin’ miserable, and they go on and on and freaking on. Like, for weeks. So now I’m coughing up gunk and sneezing and snorking and struggling for air through a blocked nose…and on and on. Yes. Always on and on.

Annoyed — this means still more time off choir, more time feeling awful, more time low on food because I can’t face the thought of doing battle with Christmas crowds to buy basic groceries, more…whatEVER — I start treating the stuff as per usual: generic Afrin to clear up the nose, and generic Robitussin to stifle the frantic coughing. This is working okay.

Meanwhile, the Mayo gets on the phone to discuss upcoming X-rays and wtf is the matter with my busted-up hand. Their nurse practitioner now catches wind of this new ailment. She is not pleased and starts asking the usual questions, to which I respond with the usual answers. I mention the antibiotic I was given for the UTI, which is known to cause lung problems — some of them life-threatening — in older women. She allows as to how it might be a good idea to add a chest X-ray to the upcoming paw X-rays. “Had any chest pain?” asks she. “Uhhh….no,” say I, with some degree of honesty.

Fine. Now I spend the next few hours mostly loafing and reading, after consuming a breakfast (coffee, fruit, rye bread, nuts, cheese) so outrageously late that it qualifies as lunch. I medicate myself so as to be able to breathe and not to be able to cough my lungs out.

While I’m reading a particularly interesting new book, suddenly I get a sharp little pain in the middle of the chest. Sometimes this is scar pain. But I think…no…probably gas. And in fact, a burp or two come up. But this subtle jab recurs. And recurs again.

Holy sh!t i must be having a heart attack! This is IT, dear Lord!

Should I call 911? What’ll I do with the dog? Should I try to drive the 15 miles to the Mayo? What if I don’t make it…who will I kill on the road? Am I doooomed?

Well…after a moment it becomes apparent that I’m not dying. Maybe I’m having some sort of heart thing. Maybe not. It passes.

I get up, go in the other room, and take my blood pressure. Elevated. But not extremely so. As I take and average the usual four or five measurements that comprise an effort to get an accurate reading, the numbers drop by 15 points. Looks this is one more thing that’s not going to kill me.

Realize I’ve gotten exactly zero exercise all day long. Decide to do a short, calming yoga routine. After a few easy poses, I try the blood pressure routine again: first reading is down 22 points off the previous set’s initial reading.

And it’s off to the Internet — aka The Hypochondriac’s Treasure Chest — whereinat we learn that Afrin (nose spray) can raise one’s blood pressure, and Robitussin can cause “dangerously high blood pressure” and chest pain.

Uh huh. Name a drug, any drug, List its side effects. And invariably I will have the weirdest, most far-fetched, and most alarming manifestation possible.

So there’s stupid stuff No. 1. I probably should have called the doctors, but out of stupid orneriness I did not and am not going to because I have bloody well had enough of doctors, and because this little flap now looks not very alarming.

Moving on… While I’m not getting any exercise, Ruby the Corgi is not getting any exercise. I haven’t taken the poor little pooch out all day. And the skies are clabbering up. It’s supposed to rain off and on tonight and tomorrow, and then pour all day on Christmas.

Decide to take her for a Doggy Walk. So, along about 3:30, we set out.

It’s a nice afternoon, under gray skies. We socialize with various wandering neighbors, children, dogs. Marching through Lower Richistan toward Upper Richistan, by golly, what do we encounter but those astonishingly stupid people with the dog that keeps trying to plunge through their front picture window. The old man is outside standing around the sidewalk, with this dog once again wandering around off the lead.

Annoyed, I make a quick about-face and head back toward the ‘Hood. At Feeder Street N.S., I realize that this guy’s house is a half-block east of Richistan Way, so that if we take the next neighborhood lane to the north of him, we can circumvent him and his pooch and get where we want to go. So that’s what we do: head west on the next little street. Get about two-thirds of the way to Upper Richistan, and there the jerk is! Standing there with his massive dog.

Yes. He has walked east to Richistan Drive, north to this little road, and west a half-block in our direction, where he’s now standing around waiting for us to confront his fuckin’ dog.

Well, that’s probably not how his train of thought, such as it is, actually goes. But it’s the upshot. He simply does not grasp the possibility that his dog has been living and breathing for the opportunity to take out my annoying little corgi.

So now I have to do another about-face and walk back into the ‘Hood, curtailing our walk significantly.

The last time this idiot and his pea-brained wife saw me coming and noticed me turning in another direction, they called after me in their best ninny voices, Ohhhhh don’t worry! He won’t hurt anybody!

That’s fine, but how’s about you obey the leash laws, you morons? And how’s about we don’t tempt fate?

This is the dog that takes up a position on a shelf or table that these two have installed in their front picture window. It dozes all day in this window. Every time the critter sees me and Ruby walk by the house, it flies into a freaking berserker RAGE. It roars and barks and growls and, more to the point. throws itself against the window over and over, banging the window so hard it rattles and groans.

Eventually that window is going to break. When it does, the dog will come flying out through piles of glass shards and, if it doesn’t disable itself by getting mortally slashed, will come right straight after me and my pipsqueak dog.

These people are retirees, so it’s hard to believe the fools don’t notice their 90-pound beast is bashing itself full-force against a plate glass window. They couldn’t possibly miss it. That means they’re simply too fuckin’ stupid to surmise the obvious consequences.

They’re the folks who feed the coyotes.

Yeah. That’s why that street and the alley up behind their house are home to Coyote and all his wives, pups, and cousins. At night they put out two or three dishes of food for the feral cats (which they love dearly), thereby calling the coyotes to their driveway to consume the food. Being Belaganas, they’re none too bright about Coyote and appear not to understand that a fed coyote is a dead coyote. Or rather: incapable of understanding that concept. They have been told and asked and told again and asked again not to leave food out for stray animals, time and time and time again. But these idiots seem to think common sense doesn’t apply to them.

Stupid: it’s an epidemic.

Stay or Fly: The Busted Paw, the Peeper, and the Doc

Sooo… After the little jig I did yesterday to deflect the turkey who was transparently casing my house, I had to cancel out of choir. This provided the opportunity to move the 2:00 p.m. appointment at the urgent care unit next door to the neighborhood Albertson’s forward to noon. This turned out to be a good thing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I diddled away two hours there. If I’d gone in at two, that caper would have consumed the entire afternoon.

They decided the pained paw probably has no fracture in any of the complicated set of bones that make up a human hand. But nevertheless, they sent the X-rays to a radiologist for assessment, later in the week. So that was mildly reassuring.

So I ended up chatting at length with a PA, these groups’ answer to an MD. What a doll! He fessed up that he was 53 — dayum! Born 20 years too late. He was an Indian gent — India Indian, I mean. Two daughters, wife, nice career. And even warier than I am of Life in the Big American City. I mentioned to him that when I fell I was walking Ruby the Corgi, and in passing remarked that I used to have German shepherds but at my age feel I’m past the time in life that I can effectively handle a large, high-drive dog.

Now get this: the clinic is right on Conduit of Blight, the border between the ‘Hood and a meth-ridden slum. And he says — apparently PC is not a Thing in New Delhi — that given some of the people he’s seen in that practice, he strongly recommended that I get another German shepherd, for my safety. But not just any German shepherd. “Spend the money, raid your life savings, to get a fully trained German shepherd.”

Yipes!

I said, “Well, it’ll have to wait until the corgi passes on, another five to seven years.”

He said, “No, don’t wait. If you have a trained German shepherd (by that, he clearly meant protection training), you will get another ten years of independent living. Otherwise, you won’t be safe and you’ll have to move on before then.”

Holy mackerel!

That was quite the exchange, because…well…we’re talkin’ about a guy who deals all the time, day in and day out, with the denizens of Meth Central. He remarked, too, that social problems in this country have become exponentially worse. And no amount of education or social service seems to be helping. He had, he said, seen young men with master’s degrees in fields like business and science, “melting away” (his phrase) as drug addicts.

Well. However. He is not a guy who deals with German shepherds all the time. In my experience with them (about 20 years’ worth), a good GerShep does not need protection training or any other kind of training other than basic obedience work to do the job for you. This fella, for example, would no doubt prove himself useful in an emergency…

The problem with a Gershep, provided you know what you’re doing and you’re lucky in your choice of companion, is not training but expense. These are very costly dogs to care for throughout a nine- to twelve-year lifetime. They can develop some spectacularly pricey ailments, not the least of them pannus, osteoarthritis, dysplasia of several varieties, thyroid failure…and on and on. So, in retirement the problem is not so much the dog’s strength and need to have you be incontrovertibly Alpha; it’s that you can’t afford the health risks when you’re living on Social Security.

At any rate, such speculation does nothing to address the issue of a sh!thead casing my house, just as we come up on the High Burgling Season that is Christmas gift-exchange time.

The plan: I happen to have an old stereo sitting in the family room. Believe it or not, the thing still works. So the strategy is to turn it to an NPR yakathon, turn up the volume, crack the solid-core door into the garage open, and lock up the dog in the back bedroom. That way, anyone who approaches the front of the house will hear the blabbity-blabbity through the tinfoil garage door. We are told this strategy — leave a radio or TV set on — is pretty effective against prowlers, because they can’t be sure no one is in the house.

Ruby sleeps in her nest under the toilet all the time I’m gone. If I just close the bedroom door, she won’t be able to race outside through the garage and head for Yuma when I come home. The radio will be plainly audible through the garage to anyone who approaches the front of the house, and of course it blats right through the glass doors and windows in back. Its racket doesn’t carry through that solid-core door; hence, I’ll need to crack it open a bit.

HOW, you may ask reasonably, did I instantly size up our passer-by as a would-be burglar?

By his dogs.

His dogs were  behaving as though they wanted to be nowhere near the guy. While he was ogling my house from in front of WonderAccount’s place, they were hunkered on the ground behind him, as far away as they could get at the end of their leashes.

That is not normal doggy-walk behavior. Dogs do not huddle behind you when you take them on a doggy-walk. They drag you down the street.

Plus…after innumerable daily doggywalks of my own, I know all the dogs in our neighborhood. His are not among them. By extension, I know most of the neighbors by sight…never saw this dude before.

The dogs’ strange behavior drew attention to the guy’s strange behavior. And the guy’s strange behavior was…strange.

But THEN…heh heh heh!

When I pretended to drive out but in fact circumambulated the block and showed up back in the driveway about 40 seconds later and found him ACROSS THE STREET AND LURKING NEXT TO MY HOUSE on the east side, where he was studying the front entrance and the front patio, well…he did himself in with that stunt.

Seriously: it could not have taken more than 40 seconds to get back to my driveway. The next street north was empty — nary a soul out in front — so I gave that six-banger a mighty hit of gasoline and JETTED up the road. I would be surprised if it took much more than 30 seconds for me to re-coalesce in front of the Funny Farm. And lo! there he was, upping the ante on the casing job.

German shepherd. Hm. Pit bull, maybe?

Burglar Hacks: How to discourage prowlers

Occasionally when I chat with folks — especially strangers — I’m reminded that living in a central-city neighborhood poses certain risks that those in middle-class suburbs escape. Truth to tell, most of the time I don’t dwell on the dangers presented by the meth colonies directly to the north and to the west of us. My house is secured, I have a barking dog, and I’m armed to the teeth, so…well…make my day. 😀

Today, though, in response to a Quora query, I was led to articulate the steps I’ve taken to secure my home. These are strategies most of us can use and, with the exception of the security doors and the drill-resistant deadbolts, modestly priced. And none of them include owning a shotgun or a baseball bat…

Assuming you live in a place you own, as opposed to a rental…

  1. Install motion-sensitive light fixtures outside all the doors.
  2. Also install, motion-sensitive floodlights that will light up each of the exterior walls. Place these up under the eaves, where a prowler can’t easily reach them to unscrew the bulbs.
  3. Install good-quality steel security doors on all exterior doors, and equip these with tamper-resistant, drill-resistant locks such as Schlage or Medeco.
  4. Equip exterior doors and windows with “screamer” alarms that you can set to squeal if the door or window is opened (this assumes you’re not fond of whole-house burglar alarm systems).
  5. Or, if you don’t mind the expense and nuisance, call a burglar alarm company and sign up to have them alarm every entrance and send you a bill once a month.
  6. Attach timers to a few lights and a radio inside your home. Set these to go on and off at various times (for example, to make it look like you have moved from the living room to a bedroom or family room). Leave the radio playing just loud enough to be heard through a closed window…but put it on a timer, too, because most burglars are smart enough to know you don’t have the radio blatting 24/7.
  7. Get a dog with a gawdawful bark, if you’ll be around enough to take care of it. If you’re unable to care for a dog adequately or don’t want the expense, then try this sort of thing: The 5 Best Barking Dog Alarms Reviews for 2019 (Expert Advice)

Some of these, such as #4, #6, and #7’s barking dog alarm gadget, apply to rentals, too. Also, you can get motion-sensitive light-bulbs, so if your apartment has porch lights, in theory you could replace the regular bulbs with these — I’ve found they don’t work very well, so personally would not spend the money on them. But nothing ventured…

Block-a-Rama

So I amused myself half the afternoon with learning how to block fake phone numbers used by the bastard phone solicitors’ bastard spoofing software. It’s an exercise in futility, of course, because their machines simply generate fake numbers ad infinitum.

Not altogether futile, though. Because I’m fortunate enough to have an extremely limited social life, I found myself in the convenient position of feeling free to block a pile of area codes and a pile of exchanges from which no legitimate human on this planet is ever likely to call me.

Area code 213, for example. Very popular with scam software for scam callers. I no longer know a soul who lives in Southern California, leastwise not any who want to chat with me. Blocked every phone number  that starts with 1-213.

Nor do I now anyone who lives in Tucson. Or Yuma. Or Flagstaff. Or southeastern Massachusetts. Or Macau. Or…waypoints.

Blocked 25 fake numbers from nuisance callers, as recorded by the phone’s Caller ID before it filled right up. Got at least a dozen nuisance calls today.

And now am seriously thinking that if this current effort doesn’t stem the tide, it will be time to simply cancel Cox’s phone line. And have no incoming telephone number at all. If anyone wants to talk with me, they’ll have to email me. Otherwise: unreachable. I can use a cell phone to call people I wish to speak with. Otherwise: don’t call me….I’ll call you.

It’s a shame. The telephone is a fantastic and wonderful invention. And an instrument of torture. If phone providers refuse to control the use of their service as a device to pester and scam their customers, then all that is left for their customers is…to become former customers: to cancel phone service. Find some other way to keep in touch with family and friends.

Impractical Subjects…

Here’s a classic stupid question from Quora:

Why do schools not teach us about tax and laws, but teach us about stuff we don’t need?

And the answer…

Define “don’t need.” Some Americans think that subjects such as history, literature, rhetoric, and language come under that heading.

Failing to teach history* and civics (closely related subjects) has brought us the mess we have in Washington today. Ignorance begets ignorance.

Failing to teach rhetoric has meant that voters and consumers do not recognize when they’re being hoodwinked by fast talkers. That lack of basic savvy is aided by our failure to teach logical thinking skills, which come about from studying history, civics, literature, math, and science.

Failing to teach literature has begotten ignorance of human nature, naïveté, insularity, and inability to understand the implications of human behavior on the national and local scenes. That failing also has contributed to the mess our country is in right now.

Failing to teach language has created a lamentable insularity and provincialism among voters, consumers, and leaders alike — making our people vulnerable to the deception and scheming of our enemies and cutting us off from real ability to appreciate the cultures of other nations.

And while we’re at it, failure to teach basic, solid science has brought us the wacky and dangerous anti-vaxxer movement. To say nothing of all the other woo-woo around us.

{sigh} Is there any question as to why one in ten of the drivers in the oncoming lanes is a moron, and one in ten in the lanes going in your direction is a moron? And how we got a moron in the White House?

* You think I exaggerate? One day I asked a classroom of university juniors and seniors what were the most significant events of the 19th century in America. Not a single one of them came up with “emancipation of the slaves.”