The Great iPhone Project…

So my son kindly gave me a brand-new iPhone for my birthday! Can you imagine!!??? <3

I never could learn how to operate the Android system. For the requisite cell phones we’re all pretty much required to drag around with us everywhere we go, I use a couple of cheapo flip phones powered by Tracfone minutes, one for the car and one to drop in a pocket when I walk the dog…if I remember. It’s been obvious for quite some time that I need to get a smartphone and learn to use it, but the truth is…I’m all learning-curved out.

True that: I just flat do not want to have to learn any new techno-tricks. But alas…I’m resigned.

That settled, this is really a cool little machine. It’s an iPhone SE, Apple’s attempt at making its phones more or less kinda affordable. And we’re told that the iPhone is a lot easier for the aging brain to grasp than are android devices.

We shall see. In the meantime… Apple does not provide a manual for its iPhone! I couldn’t even figure out how turn the damn thing on! My son demonstrated and…well…then what?

I have noooo idea.

So eventually it dawned on me that of course YouTube must have tutorials on how to work the thing, if I could figure out which video goes with this model. And yea verily: I found one that’s close enough. Thing is…well…it runs an hour and 46 minutes!

If these things are so damn complicated that it requires an hour and 46 minutes to explain how to operate one, why the HELL doesn’t Apple provide some instructions?

At any rate, yesterday I sat through about half of it. Pretty enlightening…at least I’ve got a fair idea of how to turn it on and what it’s supposed to do. Today I loafed, and lazily failed to glue myself to a computer. But did realize that probably Amazon sells manuals for the iPhone… and yea, again: there they are. Most of them self-published DIY affairs full of typos and bêtises, but at least they’re available. For…uh huh: 25 bucks!

So I ordered one from the “For Dummies” series, which usually are fairly clear and at least are edited by real editors.

These, I figure, will obviate my having to take endless notes on the YouTube guy’s video. I couldn’t write longhand fast enough to keep up with him and at the same time figure out what he was trying to say. Which tells you more about how long it’s been since I’ve written even a few words in longhand than about how fast he talks.

You can connect this phone to your wireless, which will provide enough functionality for me to try some of the tricks described in the video and the book. Once I’ve figured out how to turn it on and what to do with it, then I’ll buy it some minutes. There are several plans on various carriers, but I figure I might as well stay with Tracfone, since I have no complaints with them.

Tracfone has a one-year plan that provides 1500 minutes of yak-fest plus 1500 texts for $125, a far cry from Cox’s gouge for a VoIP “land line” (which it’s not, anymore). I doubt if I’m likely to spend 1500 minutes on the phone for the rest of my entire life! And since I’ve never texted anyone in my life nor do I feel any great need to, chances that I will indulge in 1500 of them are about nil. With this package, you also get “1.5 GB of Data at 4G LTE Speed,” whatever that means.

I like Tracfone because you’re not nailed into any kind of contract with them. You pay, and you’re done.

But not quite, exactly. These minutes they sell carry over. The little clamshell phones now have tens of thousands of minutes accumulated on them. If that occurs with the year-long plan, too, presumably over time I’ll have so much paid-for time I can gossip with everyone in the city.

Anyway, first things first. And the first thing is to connect it to the wireless (somehow…) and then figure out the basics of how to use it. THEN feed minutes into it.

I Are a English Major…

…I are not a accountant! Gaaaahhhhhh!!!!!

Ugh. And Yuch! At the end of last year (that would be about four weeks ago, no?), after I downloaded and itemized an entire year’s worth of data from three credit-union accounts (each of which had several sub-accounts) and two American Express accounts, then itemized the tax-related entries, a halcyon idea fluttered into my by-then dangerously fevered little brain:

If I were to download this garbage once each month, the task would be a LOT less annoying, less exhausting, and less frustrating. Then  come next January 3 or so, the job would be done! I wouldn’t have to sit here for hour after hour after un-fuckingENDING hour struggling with that brainbanging tedious job.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Even, we might say, sensible.

Yes?

Well.

No.

This morning I sat down to whip out the January transactions.

Three hours later…

Y’know…this stuff shouldn’t be that hard. But it is. It is, because anything that is touched by computer technology is fucked up.

Example: It should be simple — right? — to download a month’s worth of data from the credit union into a boring Excel spreadsheet, the avatar of simplicity.

And it is…if you like your data bass-ackwards. For reasons utterly incomprehensible to the 20th-century mind, the credit union insists on presenting transactions in reverse chronological order. There’s no way to make the things appear in a sane order online. So you have to download all that crap into an Excel spreadsheet and then have Excel flip the order.

Not very hard. Annoying, but not hard. EXCEPT…when you’re dealing with half a dozen accounts. Then you have six times the annoyance factor, and that does present a problem.

American Express, which used to present data in normal chronological order, as I recall, has decided it must do the same.: bass-ackward So…there, too: an extra layer of hassle. Extra layer x 2, for two accounts.

The last time I did the annual tax-prep task, I had no trouble downloading data from the AMEX site. Today…no chance. I could NOT see a simple way to download the current statement to disk. Asked their customer service bot or whatever she/he/it is. Got an endless, brain-banging series of ditzy instructions. Told it that I thought life would be much easier if I simply typed the data from the printed statements into Excel. Which is exactly what I did.

Took about 10 or 15 minutes, less than the amount of time I spent grinding my teeth and wrestling with AMEX’s inscrutable website.

Unstuck in time, is what we are. Sorry, young pups: but this 21st-century world you’ve inherited is some precinct of Hell.

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…

One Damnfool Thing after Another

It’s 9 a..m. sharp. Cox’s internet (and consquently its phone service) has been down since 10 p.m. That’s right: last night.

Uh huh. If you’ve got business to do or calls to make, f’get it!

At 1 a.m., I woke up with pain in…something. Chest? Belly? Whaaa? Did I need to go to the Mayo’s effing ER again??? Decided maybe I was going to be forced to take those blood pressure meds the last ER doc prescribed. But when you read the package insert, you find they say you must proceed with caution if you have a sulfa allergy.

Allergy? Are they kidding? As a toddler I had a monster reaction when my mother’s cat scratched my face and a doctor gave me a sulfa drug to fight off “cat fever,” whateverthehell that was supposed to be. At the intensive care ward, a doctor told my mother I would not live through the night.

So…ohhhkay…. Tried to get online to check out the sulfa connection: nope. Picked up the phone to check for a dial tone: busy signal. Reset the modem: nope.

The same holds forth just now.

Luckily, I seem not to have died of a heart attack. At 7:30 in the morning, I neurotically take my blood pressure: 117/79. Whatever ails me, apparently it’s not a near-death experience.

Morning having dawned with Cox’s internet system still not working, I figure I’ll have to drive to The Little Guy’s coffee shop and buy some token product so as to get online. But right at 10 a.m., the service (and phone) came back on.

In the phone department, I’m slowly getting used to the new Panasonic landline. It’s really a pretty nice production, as those things go. To my astonishment, its built-in call blocker works – only three or four calls have gotten through since I installed it. That is at least as good as the CPR V5000’s performance; possibly better. My attempt to block “Name Unavailable” calls failed, but otherwise it apparently detects and blocks most robocalls.

Far as I know, nothing like that exists for cell phones. Which is one of several reasons I do not want to go out and blow a jillion bucks on an iPhone.

We’re told, though, that Apple is about to promulgate a low-rent iPhone. When that happens, I may get one. In that case, will discontinue Cox’s overpriced VoIP service. Since I got the phone at Costco, I can take it back if I decide to get rid of the fake landline.

At 9:30, I figure I’d better start to fly, so as to get dressed and start batting from pillar to post.

Before the outage, Costco did get through to report the repaired glasses were ready to pick up, so willy-nilly I had to schlep across the city to retrieve those.

Stopped by the Home Depot on the way.  I’ve let the side yard go wayyy too long, so want to pick up some plants to replace a number of very tired critters that did not survive the period over the summer when the watering system quit working (it only takes a day or two without water to kill a potted plant here).

Looks like those dwarf bougainvillea I put in front are going to croak over. Annoying. It may be that they’re just suffering from the cold…but it hasn’t been that cold. We haven’t had a hard frost this winter. I’m thinking I may pull them out and replace them with roses, which I know do well in that exposure. But it frosts my cookies…speaking of frost.

The huge rubber plant in a vast pot on the side deck is dying. Why, I do not know, but it’s just as well because those things do tend to get out of control. I figure a ficus or a scheffleria (sp?) would do well in that spot. A bunch of smaller pots need new plants. Plus I’m determined to get the coveted rose food.

****

But alas. The Depot has neither a ficus benjamina nor Bayer rose food.

Apparently ficus has gone out of style as a house plant.

I mean…really???

I guess it’s obvious to normal humans: of course there are styles in houseplants, evolving tastes, even a strong non-taste for plants that have to be watered couple days or even just a couple times a week. But…dayum! Ficus????

As for the rose food, apparently the product or the company has been acquired. The maker is now called “Bio.” Same blue bottle. Same size bottle. Same shape bottle. Except instead of Bayer Rose and Flower Care, now it’s Bio Rose and Flower Care. The Home Depot dude was…nonplussed. He looked it up on his smartphone and found that yea verily: Bayer has been taken over by something called “Bio.”

WhatEVER. Grab!

From there it was on to Lowe’s, a straight shot across T-Bird, in search of a ficus plant.

Not without, however, having grabbed some spectacularly gorgeous orange poppies (ostentatiously labeled with a cancer warning, for those of you who hope to distill them into something…ahem…usable).

Lowe’s had three, count’em, three little Ficus benjamina. Two were ratty and tatty. One was in OK shape. Grab!

By now I’ve driven miles and miles and fuckin miles to pick up three, count’em, three items.

Back at the Funny Farm, the MacMail is still out of whack.

{sigh}

This means a call to Apple Support.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Apple’s support staff. They are wonderful. They are endlessly patient, and they are freakin’ geniuses. They can solve problems that God Herself could not figure out (or would prefer not to expend Her infinity on). But ohhhh…God in Hevvin….

Two hours later We have MacMail operating, and we have finally figured out why I get nuisance pop-up after nuisance pop-up after nuisance pop-up, all day long and all night long, informing me that my iCloud sign-in is…well, out of whack.

These annoying messages are stimulated by a fuckup among Apple Geniuses. Last time I dragged the MacBook to Scottsdale to be fixed, some moron…uhm. sorry, Genius took it upon him/herself to change the iCloud password for the MacBook. It did not register with this person that I own another Mac computer…but then, forgodsake, why should it.

Well, it develops that if one personoid ends up with two Apple ID, havoc is sown. And that explains the puzzling panoply of hassles.

Both computers have to have the same iCloud password, quoth this young(-sounding) fella. The way to do this is to arrange something arcane that I do not understand no matter how clearly he explains it (and the guy is a master of clarity). All I understand is that I will get a phone call that will announce a four-hour window in which I have to be available and ready to rise to this challenge.

Don’t call them. They’ll call me.

I explain that I have…you know…a life.

He explains that the life will need to be adjusted accordingly.

Holy ess aitch ai.

At any rate, he seems to have the mail program running adequately for the nonce. But experience shows that with Apple, “for the nonce” most decidedly does not mean “forever and ever, amen.”

Ohhh dear God.

***

Now, right along in here, after I get off the phone from this worthy, somehow it crosses my mind that I do not have the old pair of glasses that the new swell pair of glasses replace. Where TF are they?

Well, the optical department folk gave them to me in a strange little three-dimensional case, which one of them tossed in the bottom of the cart I was pushing around. From the optical dept I made my way through the store to pick up four or five items on my list. Then rolled the cart out to the parking lot and packed the debris into the back of the Venza.

Was the glasses case amongst the debris?

I do not remember.

Ohhhh cripes. That was a $400 pair of glasses, which I planned to use as a back-up for the new $150 pair of (not as stylish but functionally better…) Costco glasses.

Where TF were those elegantly, expensively stylish old glasses?

Gone, that’s where they were.

Now I call the Paradise Valley Costco and ask if they’ve been turned in to Lost & Found. And lo! They have. The guy says it looks like the case was run over by a cart, but the glasses themselves are fine.

Holy ess aitch ai, indeed!

It’s now 4 p.m.

I’ve had nothing to eat since 6 in the morning. It’s been one hassle and one frustration after another. But I need those damn glasses.

Soooo… back into the car and off to the East Side.

Well. Sort of east. Closer to Richistan than the ‘Hood, anyway.

Bat my way through the rush-hour traffic.

Yes. They do have the honored vintage glasses. They are undamaged. Collect these and head back to the Funny Farm through now even thicker rush-hour traffic.

This is a sixteen-mile round trip. Times 2? That would be 32 miles of junketing back and forth between the Funny Farm and the Paradise Valley Costco.

Running low on gas, but cannot contemplate either paying a premium to refill in a rapacious gas station nearer my house or schlepping to the mid-town (lowest prices in the city!) Costco and standing in line there until the Northern Star traverses its nightly path.

Make into the ‘Hood. Ghosting across the neighborhood lane that leads toward the Funny Farm, I come across a gaggle of young children playing on the sidewalks, in the front yards, riding bicycles and assorted contraptions.

Thank the Good Goddess and All Her Minions that I slow down — a lot — to enjoy the sight of these beautiful young creatures playing. Because…

One of them, a lovely, heedless little girl, decides to veer into the street and then make a U-turn on her bike…right in front of my car.

Hm. Well, we now can say something good about the hated Venza: its brakes work.

At least, they work very well, indeed, at excruciatingly slow speeds.

The beast managed to stop just as the child swerved straight out in front of me.

omigod omigod omigod

The child appeared not even to register how close she came to ending her life at about the age of seven.

But you may be quite sure the Fatlady registered it. Holeee shit!

What. A. Day!

 

Life and Death in Dystopia

A friend remarked on the dystopic nature of our lives as they are affected by the ubiquity and inescapability of computers, whose presence has expanded to fill every cubic centimeter of existence. And how, brother!

Sometimes I wonder if the digitization of day-to-day life creates stresses and psychological disjuncts may be responsible for the madness we see around us — specifically, for the ever-increasing number of shootings by crazies. Life was frustrating back in the day…and scary, too — remember those air-raid drills? Everyone had at least one gun in the house — or at any rate, that was true of the blue-collar class in which I grew up.

But no one went out and shot up public spaces.

The mindset has changed, and I think that has happened because of the deluge of passive stimulation, of violent games and TV and movies and music and “entertainment” and hostile speech accessible 24/7, and because of the constant background demand that you respond to negative stimulation through social media, gaming, and incoming images and narratives. We’re blitzed with constant aural and psychological noise, much of it hostile and violent.

And there’s no viable escape from it. Remember when a little kid could sit outside and watch the clouds float by? Imagine a kid doing that today…right!

I mean…when I was a kid, I hated school. I deeply loathed my classmates, the obnoxious little twits who made my life miserable for years on end. I hated my fifth- & sixth-grade teacher (same bitch….she “passed” into the 6th grade along with us, to my horror!). But forgodsake, it never entered my fevered little brain to kill them. Though I would have been pleased if they’d all been dispatched to the other world, making that a DIY project was not even remotely imaginable.

Now we have the lovely situation in which we find ourselves. Today it not only is imaginable, it’s becoming commonplace. And a nutty, disaffected kid like me can find instruction and encouragement on a machine that brings the world to her bedroom.

Result: an ordinary neighborhood church has an armed security team(!!!) who must leap into action to save the lives of what could have been scores of parishioners. Look at this video of the latest outrage (if you don’t mind having your hair stand on end): the guy had some kind of long gun. You can’t see it clearly in this video, but it looks like it’s probably a semi-automatic.

The most striking thing here is that these guys were prepared. The one who shot the sh!thead was a former FBI agent. It wasn’t that a few parishioners happened to pack heat into church: the church had an organized, armed security team

WTF!! We’re in an era where churches and synagogues need armed security guards. Sorta like schools do. And movie theaters. And nightclubs.

Y’know, I can’t even count how many times I’ve sat in that choir loft and thought how easy it would be for a crazy to get a gun into the sanctuary below us. At this time of year, when it’s cold, everyone is wearing jackets…making it easy to hide a pistol.  There are four entrances to that place, not counting the two stairwells that lead to the organ loft. Anyone could carry in a pistol, take a seat, and bide his time. When he was good and ready, he’d have a large roomful of sitting ducks. If he could get into the choir loft (to which there are two entrances), he could shoot at people from above, though choir members would probably interfere with him. Or he could shoot us all in a matter of seconds.

What a world we live in!

Cox the Feeble…America the Disconnected?

Live-Blogging in the Disconnect Mode…

Along about 6 p.m., a little rain started to sprinkle. I’m playing with the computer, my usual pastime, thinking I should get up and turn on the PBS Gnus by way of catching up with the day’s antics in Washington. In passing, as the drizzle begins, the lights blink almost off and back on, so fast and so subtly it’s barely noticeable.

This is the second time it’s happened in the past few days. Nothing much ensued the other day, but it’s something I take note of because the house has aluminum wiring. Anything electrical that’s even faintly unusual makes one itch.

But as before, nothing bursts into flames. Yet.

LOL! You think I exaggerate? One of DX-H’s law partners and his wife went out to dinner and a movie one night. After a pleasant evening they came home…to a slab and a pile of ashes.

No joke! The house had burned completely, altogether to the ground.

So electrical glitches elicit some interesting imaginative scenarios.

The laptop has developed a few glitches of its own, of late. So when its Internet connection suddenly went down, just as I was about to pack it in and go turn on the big iMac for the purpose of “television” viewing, I didn’t think much about it. Rebooted. Still offline. Ohhh wellll…I needed to call the Apple Service people for something else, anyhow.

Haul out of the easy chair and away to the office. Fire up the iMac and…yup. DEAD. It, too, is offline.

Clearly, what we have here is another goddamn Cox thing.

Call the Cox 24-hour service that I subscribe to expensively…or try to, anyway. When I pick up the phone, instead of a dial tone I get buzz buzz buzz buzz… Busy signal???! Whaaaa!

Fortunately I happen to have quite a few minutes available on my cell phone. Dial up Cox’s expensive service, from whom, after a couple of transfers, I learn there’s an outage in our area. They expect to have the service back up around 8:00 p.m.

Ducky.

This is classic Cox. Every time it rains, Cox goes down. And it’s not even raining very hard. It’s barely sprinkling out there.

We have only two residential Internet choices here: Cox and CenturyLink, the ghost of the late not-much-lamented Qwest. CenturyLink has a reputation for being even worse than Cox – in fact, by comparison Cox looks good.

 So…if you live in Maricopa County and you imagine that someday you may need to dial 911, you’d bloody well better have a cell phone.

I now have two of the damn things, neither one of which I know how to work. Managed to figure out how to dial a phone number on the new Walmart purchase and got through to Cox’s alleged service department. That would be where the 8 p.m. estimate came from.

To make the present event even more infuriating, the Macs are showing, with their little “radio” icon, that the wi-fi is on. But it ain’t.

Or…lo! Maybe it is!

Yes. It is on. For the nonce.

Knowing Cox’s fine reputation for reliability though, it probably won’t be for long.

😀

Oooohkayyyy…. Yes, the connection is reestablished. But now the iMac WON’T ACCEPT MY PASSWORD to sign back on. God DAMN IT but I hate loathe and despise the techno-dystopia that we live in. Now I’ve got to try to call up Apple on a phone line that may or may not keep working and try to get my computer to come back on.

….

Lo! It’s up. And now we’re watching Hari Sreenivasan holding forth about the Pensacola shooting, reporting in awe that the Saudis who shot up the naval base…oooohhh! watched a shooting video before going on their rampage. Imagine that!

Y’know, Hari’s cute. No: handsome. He emanates smarts. He’s probably the best thing on PBS News. But…really…wouldntcha like to have Walter Cronkite back? David Brinkley? Chet Huntley?

PBS seems to me to be the best news show that’s out there, on the air or in the stream. But dayum! Truth is, the wackshit conservatives are right. It’s politically correct to the point of doctrinaire. It’s surely better than anything else we have these days. But it’s NOT objective. It doesn’t even try to report the news objectively.

{sigh} We live in hopeless times…