Daily Prompt: Do Not Disturb — Through A Prism

Author John Scalzi in his blog Whatever posted what I think is a sane, intelligent answer to the uproar and outrage over “discovering” that the government is spying on us. The article is titled Hey Scalzi, Don’t You Have Anything Angry to Say About That PRISM Thing? He points out that we all know the government is spying on us. We certainly have to know that Google and Facebook are spying on us. Microsoft has been spying on us for years as has Apple and Amazon. Depending on the security level of your home network, your entire neighborhood could by spying on you. There’s nothing new about this and if you had for some weird reason assumed your government which has been ramping up surveillance activities for more than a decade is not spying on all of us, it leaves only one question: How naïve are you?

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Living where I live and doing what I do, I recognized long ago there is no “off the grid” for me. Unless we were to go live in a cave in the far northern reaches of somewhere or other — if you know Garry and I,  that’s about as unlikely a scenario as anyone could create — I’m no cave dweller. The idea of living anywhere without a high-speed Internet connection gives me the willies.

That the government is using its capabilities to keep an ear and an eye on our transmissions, just in case something sounds suspicious and/or terroristic not only doesn’t surprise me, it would surprise me if they weren’t doing it. Land’s End monitors my purchases and browsing to create advertisements likely to lure me to buy from them. So does L.L. Bean, Dell, Amazon and everyone else from whom I shop. Google probably knows what color underwear I put on this morning. They’ve got my email and every photograph I’ve ever posted. Moreover, like most of the rest of you, I have a blog. Everything I write, every picture I publish goes off into cyberspace where it lives forever. If I Google myself, I find that like a mosquito captured in amber, my previous identities are still floating around out there, unchanged by time.

Years ago I accepted reality. If I want to belong to the world, I’m will be exposed to and by it. If you think otherwise, you are in denial.

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All of those agreements we sign because if we don’t, we can’t use the software or that website, explicitly say we are granting permission to collect information, read our posts, access our applications and mine our data. I am mindful of what I post on the Internet. I write a lot, but I never post anything online that would embarrass me if someone announced it from the pulpit in church. If I have secrets, they stay secrets by the simple, primitive expedient of keeping my mouth shut.

Living out here in the middle of nowhere, we are less invaded by cameras and spy satellites than more heavily populated areas. It’s not because we aren’t as likely as anywhere else to be engaged in some kind of nefarious activity. It’s simply a matter of using available resources. There are only so many cameras and people to monitor them. We just aren’t worth the effort. Besides, if you want to know everything that is going on in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, drop by. Hang around the grocery store for a couple of hours. You’ll know everything and everybody in very short order.

The truth is that I don’t have much to hide. There’s stuff I did in my past that could potentially embarrass me, but it wouldn’t land me in jail. Probably my husband knows more interesting stuff than I do, but he was a reporter for a long time. And he isn’t talking. Not to me, not to anyone. He subscribes to the belief that a secret is something you don’t tell anybody. I’ve been trying to worm information out of him for more than 40 years. He just smiles and keeps watching whatever show is on TV. You have no idea how frustrating I find it, but comforting too. Because he’s not telling anyone my secrets either.

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...

The government isn’t looking for me. I’m not buying guns, building bombs or selling drugs. I’m not traveling anywhere much, unless you count the occasional friend and doctor’s appointment. You could monitor my telephone traffic 24/7 and learn absolutely nothing because I don’t spend any time on the phone except when arguing with customer service reps, usually the cable company. And while it might be entertaining, it isn’t likely to be particularly exciting or enlightening. It certainly has nothing to do with anybody’s security, not even mine.

Spying? I’m more worried about Facebook and Google, WordPress and Amazon. They really do want to know what I’m doing so they can sell me stuff. They are very good at doing it, too. If the government were to question them, I guess the entire U.S. Government infrastructure would know my shoe size, what software I use to edit photographs and write, and that I still dress in essentially the same styles I was wearing 40 years ago. They’d know what dogs I’ve got, what food they eat. What food we eat, for that matter and probably what medications we take. I cannot imagine what use they might find this information. It doesn’t even interest me much.

This is the world we have chosen, designed and bought into. We have GPS units that broadcast our location to anyone who wants to find us. Virtually all of us have cell phones that are easily tapped and tracked. All of our bank transactions can be accessed by Lord knows how many people. If we are on Social Security and Medicare, the entire government is aware of our income, medical issues and who knows how much more. That would be assuming they are actually interested enough to look, which frankly, I doubt.

My office by window light

My government is not hunting for me. If they were, all they have to do is give me a call or drop by the house. They know where to find me. They know where to find you, too. That they can collect mountains of data is one thing. I very much doubt they have sufficient personnel to sift through more than an infinitesimal percentage of it. And if they are as efficient at mining data as they are at everything else, your guilty secrets are safer with the government than with your best friend.

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Daily Prompt: Do Not Disturb – A Private Place

A private place

 

Listeria – Western Actors Edition

Great choices!

SBI: A Thinning Crowd

I know that this edition of Listeria is coming along soon after the last edition of Listeria, but I went overboard on my last trip to the magazine stand. Besides, this one covers one of my favorite subjects – Western movies. I grew up watching them with my dad, and that experience played a role in my interest in the history of the West.

American Cowboy published a special issue called “Legends of Western Cinema” and listed the 20 greatest Western actors. However, there is one problem that needs to be addressed before I begin. When people think about Westerns, or the history of the West, they think about cowboys first. Some of the greatest Westerns don’t involve cowboys at all. They involve mountain men, Native Americans, cavalry and all sorts of characters. In the real West, not everyone were cowboys. A good way to see this? If there are…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting – Cartwheels

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Rain Rain Go Away

We were supposed to be in New York for the weekend. Seeing old friends. Doing stuff with the college radio station where Garry and I met. Instead, we got weathered. Tropical storm Andrea, or her remnants, are meandering up the coast dropping tons of rain. We couldn’t face the 500 mile round trip drive in heavy rain.

Saguaro Storm 06

So the day didn’t get off to a very good start. I expected to be on vacation, but find myself at home. It makes me grumpy.

This was not one of my best days. A stupid day. I had a snippy fight with the bagger kid in the grocery store and the dogs did things in the house they should have done outside because they don’t like rain. Through all this, my body kept reminding me that like the dogs, it doesn’t much it like the rain. The argument with the dogs and ongoing disagreements with my body were both pretty much one-sided, but the kid in the supermarket actually mumbled in what I believe was English.

The issue was pizza. I wanted my frozen pizza laid flat, not shoved into the bag sideways so all the toppings fall off. The young bagger was baffled. I suggested — perhaps a bit testily — if he would lay the bag on its side and insert the pizza, voilà, you get a flat pizza. Then I could transport the pizza and it would be ever so much more attractive when it became a future dinner.

He said I didn’t need to give him so much attitude. And me, a white-haired senior citizen.

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I prefer to think the lad was giving me an unintended backhanded compliment. He finally worked out what I mean about putting pizza into the bag, but then he put another 5 pounds of groceries in the bag on top of the pizza, including a half-gallon of milk, totally defeating the entire point. Some days you really can’t win. I shudder to think what that pizza will look like when we want to eat it, but I could not argue any further. My head was beginning to hurt. I wanted to go home and sulk.

Putting the groceries away reminded me how much prices have gone up without an equivalent rise in our so-called income. It is hard to believe how little stuff $100 buys these days.

My current goal is to restore my sense of humor. I think I’m about ready to forgive the bagger and the rain has eased off enough so the dogs are going back outside. It’s going to rain tomorrow and Sunday too, or so the weather gurus are saying. These long drenching rainy periods puts all our systems to the test.

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We don’t get out much any more. So many friends are gone. Many have moved far away and more are planning moves to the left coast or someplace in the southwest. It’s entirely possible I will never see many of them again. If they move to the other coast, there will be no more spontaneous gatherings. Probably ever. It’s tough to deal with. The world is supposedly getting smaller and indeed, our personal world is shrinking, but the distances between people seems to be ever-widening.

I’ll feel better when the sun comes out.