JUST ANOTHER MEANINGLESS XMAS ZOMBIE EVENT – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Xmas Zombies

So I was going to check into my bank and see if a particular payment had gone out. Instead of getting my account, it asked me how I wanted to get my access code.

Access code?

Yes, access code. Do I want as a text or a phone call? I selected a phone call.

I don’t do text. In fact, the last time (a few days ago) I tried to text. I couldn’t remember how.

Pathetic? Absolutely, but there it is. I don’t text and I don’t remember how to text and I have never felt that my failure to text disenfranchises me from citizenship. However, Bank of America seems to feel that anyone who doesn’t have a smartphone isn’t American and shouldn’t be allowed to use their own bank account. Because they called me on the phone and their calling robot told me I had to text the data back.

Did I mention that I don’t text?

I tried to enter the access code in the field and it told me it was the wrong number, probably because I had typed it on the computer and did not text it using a smartphone.

I breathed slowly. Then, I called the number they give you if you are having trouble with your access code. They said ON THE SCREEN, “When you get to the menu, ask for an agent.” Which I did.

After which the robot wanted my bank card number, my social security number, my account number, and the name of my best friend. All of which I supplied and none of which they recognized. Probably because I didn’t type the information on a smartphone.

You see, I DID have an iPhone. When I was working. And I needed one. But I’m not working now and it’s just a big expense that I use once in a blue moon when we are lost on the road to someone’s house! If they want to give me the phone and PAY for it, then I’ll have one. Until that time, stop jerking me around.

Eventually, I got a person by declaring that I had “lost everything” including my checkbook, bank card, and social security number. The human had no idea why they even wanted all this information because there was no problem with my account. She assumed BOA was helpfully making my account “less hackable.”

They’ve been hacked twice. I keep track of this stuff.

She gave me a new access number after which I tried to enter my PIN, but the field blanked out when I typed there. So she asked for my driver’s license number and I pointed out, to the best of my knowledge, they don’t have that number. She said: “Just the one you had when you signed up with the bank.”

“That was more than 10 years ago,” I pointed out. “Massachusetts has since issued entirely new cards with different numbers. Did you think that in all this time we’d still be carrying THE SAME DRIVER’S LICENSE?”

By now I’m shouting at the phone. I have lost it.

Garry finally asked me, “What’s going on?”

“NOTHING IS GOING ON,” I yelled.

Literally. Nothing was going on. The bank was helping me avoid future hackers by making it impossible for me to use our account. Which is where all our money is. And through which I pay all our bills.

The lady to whom I was speaking said she had no idea what was going on or why, but assured me she was going to escalate the issue. I said I wasn’t interested in her work problems. I wanted to be able to use my account right now, not tomorrow or the day after. How long did she think the credit card people were going to wait to get paid before I’m considered in default? Like … a minute maybe?

She reminded me that this was an attempt by BOA to improve their security.

It certainly made it impossible for ME to use the account. No idea if hackers would be daunted, but I was dying. She explained — again — that there was no problem with my account.

I said that just because I don’t use a smartphone doesn’t mean I’m not an American. As far as I know, using a smartphone is voluntary, not a legal requirement. Making it impossible to use my account without a smartphone probably IS illegal and I was getting really angry and if this wasn’t resolved right now, I was going to do something I’ve been avoiding for years.

Change banks.

It’s not that I love BOA. They are just your basic evil representative of billionaires oppressing the working class, but they are located right next to the grocery. The bank I’d rather use doesn’t have a location in Uxbridge or any other nearby town. The nearest bank is more than 20 miles away. Back to Bank of America.

So the kind lady gave me an access code.

I entered the code in the field. Then it asked for my PIN, but when I entered it, the field stayed blank. It refused to let me enter the PIN number because — are you ready? It only accepts that information if you type it on a telephone. A smartphone. ONLY a smartphone.

By now, it’s nearly an hour later and I am seething.

Eventually, their server decided my knowing my best friend’s name was enough to get me into my bank account. It stopped asking me for my PIN but did require my bank card number. It also required my birthdate. And the name of the first car I bought with my own money. And its color.

I was really glad it stopped before asking about the upholstery because I don’t remember it. It was 1977. It’s possible I intentionally forgot because I have a vague memory of it being seriously ugly. Green plaid? Something like that.

Now, I can use my account. Until the next time, when they decide to foil hackers by making me yell at a telephone robot for an hour or two.

Merry Christmas. We’ve foiled the hackers. I’m sure of it.

SOMETHING ALWAYS HAPPENS – Marilyn Armstrong

When Garry came into the bedroom, I was staring at the radio. Garry takes his hearing aids off at night, so we have bedtime conversations at high volume. Shouting, really.

“Why are you staring at the radio?”

“I’m trying to figure out if it’s on. Oh, it just started to make noise. It’s on.”

“But why are you staring at it?”

“I thought if I stared at it for a while, it would start to play. Or not. One way or the other, I would find out what the red light means.”

“What red light, and why are you staring at it? How will staring at it help?”

“That’s how I figure things out. It didn’t come with instructions.”

Pause. “Have you taken any drugs?”

“No. See, there’s the red light. I didn’t if know the red light means the CD player is on or off. I had to wait to see if it started playing. I was pretty sure a blinking red light means pause, but I wasn’t sure what a steady red light means. I waited when there was no light. Nothing happened. So I tried it the other way. Now it’s making noise. Therefore, the red light means it’s on. It’s slow getting started.”

I wasn’t trying to be funny, but Garry started to laugh and couldn’t stop. “That’s the sort of thing I would do,” he said,

“Well, how else would I know what the red light means?”

He laughed some more.

Garry thinks I know a lot of stuff I don’t really know, especially about technical issues. I push buttons. If staring (and waiting) doesn’t fix what’s broken, I push another button. Or push the same button again. Or hold the button for a couple of seconds and see if it does something different.

While I’m waiting, I watch. Intently. Maybe I’ll get a message. Isn’t this how everyone fixes stuff? I used to look things up in the manual, but since no one supplies a manual anymore, it’s more art than science.

My husband finds this hilarious.

I spend a lot of time staring at computers, waiting for something — anything — to happen. Hoping an idea will occur to me or for the system to reboot. To see if a blue screen will recur, or the diagnostic will tell me there’s no problem, even though I’m sure there is.

I am waiting for a message.

I must be doing something right. Beethoven is playing on the CD player/radio. And most of the time, the computers work.

TECHNO-ADDICT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I didn’t realize how dependent we are on technology, or more precisely, our household machines. Then our Keurig coffee maker had a glitch and wouldn’t work.

How were we going to make coffee??

!!XX??

We’ve always had a French Press and a regular drip coffee maker in the house. So I dug them out from the back of a bottom shelf in the pantry cabinet.

The only problem was, we had no real coffee to go into the real coffee makers. We only had Keurig pods. I used to always keep fresh ground coffee on hand. When we actually used it. But that hasn’t been for two years — since we got our Keurig.

We’re obviously not coffee aficionados. We buy our coffee, even our real coffee, at the supermarket. Not a gourmet store or a coffee specialty shop. We don’t know the difference (or care) between coffee from different countries, or different blends from the same country. We don’t need notes of fruits or nuts or wood or chicory in our coffee.

We know we like light roast, not medium or dark. That’s our only requirement.

I used to like flavored coffees and I tried endless different ones. I landed on a few that I liked. But after a while, I stopped liking them. Now I like plain coffee, with my own home flavoring. I add vanilla extract, cinnamon and/or nutmeg, or some combination of these flavors to my regular coffee. I like it much better than the artificial tasting flavored coffees.

Sometimes I’ll add orange extract to black coffee. Or if I want to go wild, I’ll throw in some flavored, sweet liqueur, like Kahlua,  Amaretto, or hazelnut.

I panicked when the Keurig wouldn’t make my morning cup of coffee. Tom stayed calm. He’s dealt with a lot of finicky machines in his life. He knows what to do. He had read the manual. He ran a mixture of vinegar and water through the system. He poked a toothpick into the part of the machinery that might be clogged. He puttered around while I paced and asked if it was fixed every five minutes.

Finally, it was working again!

Victory! Crisis averted!

Thank you, Tom!

Our hour without coffee-making capabilities reminded us that we are too dependent on our machines. Like when the power goes out and we lose phone and internet service.

But that’s another blog!

8/12/2018 – TODAY IS NATIONAL MIDDLE CHILD DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

I was a middle child. I’m not anymore because my older brother died and my younger sister got addicted to everything and disappeared. I’m assuming she is alive since no one has told me otherwise, but I have no actual evidence to that effect.

1963

Middle children have an interesting place in family life. If the family is big, there are lots of middle children so you can have quite a heap of middle children, but in the three-child family, middle children are often communicators. We take messages to the other warring family members.

Mom tells you to tell dad whatever, which you do, then he tells you to tell her something else. You brother confides in you because you are “The One Who Talks.”

It’s a weird role for a kid. It makes you feel important. Everyone counts on you to take and deliver messages. But it’s a fake importance. What you are really doing is helping your dysfunctional family not communicate with each other.

That was the final reason I went to Israel. My marriage was tired and not doing well … and my family had gone from dysfunctional to dangerously dysfunctional. Frighteningly dysfunctional with potentially lethal results. I felt — and I’m sure I was right — that if I didn’t go far away, I would never break the chain of recriminations, threats, lies, prevarications, fear … the whole ugly wrapper.

Not all families are equally dysfunctional, but mine was way beyond standard. Matthew and I survived. I survived better than he did, though he lived a good — if sadly short — life.

He had a great wife and an amazing relationship with her. I’m pretty sure she saved his life. Although I had one really awful marriage, Jeff and I got along well. As a marriage, it faltered, but it was a strong friendship. We were supportive of one another until finally, he died. Even after we divorced, we stayed friends.

I was right. My time in Israel broke that chain of me as the family communicator. Unfortunately, my mother died … and then, there was only my brother, and then Jeff and Matthew died — both much too young.

2012

But then there were new friends. There was the internet.

I communicate again. I don’t see your faces, but I feel you. I worry about you, want to know you are okay. You matter to me. I am not good at virtual relationships. To me, you are real. Distant, I admit, but real.

Stay real. Stay well. Stay safe.

CONTACT FROM TWITTER – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #70 – CONTACT


You might want to read this.

No, the prez didn’t put me on his list. Not the contact list or the “kill her before she writes something else” list. I’m not sure there really IS such a list, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Instead, I got this note from Twitter. So now, if you want your stuff to show up on Facebook, it’s going to be entirely cut and paste. Mind you, that’s not all that difficult or time-consuming. It’s the way I did it for at least four years of blogging. It’s just one more thing to bug me.

It has been a very buggy sort of week and keeping my mind right has not been easy. I feel like the world — the entire corporate entity we call the world — is out to get me on some level or other.

Maybe I should reconsider Instagram.


Twitter
Posting Tweets to Facebook
A recent update to the Facebook Platform Policies ended the ability to automatically post Tweets to your Facebook profile or page, so your Tweets will no longer show up there. For more details, take a look at our Help Center.

Thanks,
Twitter


So there you have it.

I’m not really sure what the point of all of this is unless it’s yet another outcome of how much the various social media outlets dislike each other and don’t give a fig about us.

These corporations are always telling us how much we matter, but I’ve never seen anything which proves that they care about us at all, one way or the other. All they want is money. More and more of it. And, apparently, it doesn’t matter how much because there’s no limit to how much they will try and squeeze out of us.

If I could think of any other way to publicize the blog, I’d do it. Unfortunately, I can’t.

Twitter made contact.

Golly, what a pleasure to hear from them!

FOWC — CONTROL? WHAT CONTROL? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Control

If I thought that maybe I had finally gotten my online life under control, I was wrong. Again. It’s just getting worse and worse and there is no end in sight.

I just got this message.


Dear Marilyn,
As one of our registered users, we bring to your attention that on June 4, 2018, at 1pm EST we became aware of a data breach involving 92.3 million email addresses of MyHeritage users, and their hashed passwords (these are not actual passwords).
We learned about the breach when MyHeritage’s Chief Information Security Officer received a message from a security researcher that he had found a file named MyHeritage containing email addresses and hashed passwords, on a private server outside of MyHeritage. Our Information Security Team received the file from the security researcher, reviewed it, and confirmed that its contents originated from MyHeritage and included all the email addresses of users who signed up to MyHeritage up to October 26, 2017, and their hashed passwords. We made a public announcement about the breach within 8 hours of learning about it.
Your email address was one of the accounts in the data breach.
Immediately upon receipt of the file, MyHeritage’s Information Security Team analyzed the file and began an investigation to determine how its contents were obtained and to identify any potential exploitation of the MyHeritage system. We determined that the file was legitimate and included the email addresses and hashed passwords of 92,283,889 users who had signed up to MyHeritage up to and including Oct 26, 2017 which is the date of the breach. MyHeritage does not store user passwords, but rather a one-way hash of each password, in which the hash key differs for each customer. This means that anyone gaining access to the hashed passwords does not have the actual passwords.

That is more than 92 MILLION PEOPLE whose email addresses — at the least — have been breached. There is more to this information including that they are sure no one really got passwords. I’d like to believe them, but since this hack was way back last October and I’m only hearing about it NOW, I don’t know what to believe. At least they don’t store credit card numbers. I suppose I should be grateful at least for that … but do they now have my DNA results? They say not, but they could. AND my husband’s.

You want to know how we get hacked? This is it. Companies get hacked. Half the time, they don’t know they’ve been hacked until months later, after which they do everything in their power to cover it up.

Hackers don’t need to breach our personal computers. All they need is information they get from hacking the companies with whom we work. I’m beginning to wonder who has NOT been hacked. Which company I use has thus far been spared.

Has any large company been spared?

Anything that sounds too good to be true isn’t true. Anyone giving you something for free is lying. Calls from Microsoft or the make of your computer (Dell, for example, or Mac for another)?

It’s a hack.

I got a call from “Dell Customer Service” this morning. Although Dell hasn’t announced a breach, I’m guessing there has been one yet to be announced because hackers have my computers basic serial numbers– which unlike a password, are embedded in the computer. As are numbers for every computer made. That’s how we can identify where the information came from and to whence it is going.

teravivos.com

There IS no safety as far as I can tell. Don’t talk to anyone on the phone if you have no reason to expect the call. If you have not contacted them and asked for a return call and given them a code word so you know it is actually the real people calling, HANG UP. No conversation. Don’t be cute. Don’t play mind games. Hang up. Immediately.

On another — yet somehow parallel concept — Donald Trump, our erstwhile national leader, seems to think he can trust Kim Jun On to “do the right thing” vis-à-vis nuclear arms. Right.

It’s another hack. Our NATIONAL hack.

I WANT AN AUTONOMOUS HOUSE! Marilyn Armstrong

Autonomous house, autonomous life!

The self-driving vehicle is on the way. It’s on the news and in the news. A few accidents. One death. But considering the number of accidents just backing out of a driveway in suburbia, that’s pretty good.

I can actually see a day coming when Robert Heinlein’s vision will have arrived. Not exactly as he predicted, but close enough for folk music.

We could definitely use a self-driving car because neither one of us wants to drive anywhere, but we are driving a not-yet-paid-for second-hand 2012 Jeep Patriot, so a self-driving car doesn’t look likely to appear for us.

Autonomous cars would be great. Finally, we could blame everything on computers. Nothing would be anyone’s fault. The manufacturer’s of colliding cars could duke it out in court and all we’d have to do is recover from being slammed by a 40-foot moving van. Anyway, by then, medicine will be free. I know this because we are all moving in the direction of more freedom for all Americans.

We aren’t? Did I mis-hear the news again?

However much an autonomous self-driving vehicle would solve many issues, an autonomous, self-repairing, self-cleaning house would really do the job! If a tile on the roof gets damaged, the technology will grow another in its place. You’ll never know it happened. The furnace, will operate on hydrogen drawn from well-water and will never need filling. Rugs will be permanently free of dog hair, grit, pollen, and mud.

Pipes would never clog.

Of course, this presumes that we continue to get rain and have wells and aquifers. And we don’t turn into a charred desert or return to the Cretaceous period and have to live in trees.

Mostly, I want the autonomous house where everything gets fixed and I don’t have to figure out how to pay for it or even know I have a problem.

This whole “take care of your house” and “please don’t back into anything” is getting old.

I don’t think ANY of us should be driving. We are too distracted. Overly busy with phones, not to mention worries, conversations, and work. There are too many cars. Everywhere. Even where there aren’t a lot of people, there are still too many cars.

MAKE IT ALL AUTONOMOUS.

Anything you can run without needing me to do it, I’m a BIG yes. Please do not send me a bill.

Why is it always about MONEY?