IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING: COMPUTERS AND GLITCHES – Marilyn Armstrong

A computer can be the simplest way to do things and it can also be insanely  complicated. For some reason, my computer — after the last Windows download which might have something to do with it (or not) — has slowed down to a slow crawl. A couple of other things might have something to do with it too, like a lot of temp files from installations, logs dumped by various application, lots of download for installed applications — files which are typically rather huge. You can keep install files, but you don’t need to save them. They use a lot of disk space.

Having last night finally found the last piece of grammarly and removed it, I discovered that all my desktop shortcuts had lost their icons. They worked fine, but the little pictures we use to identify them were missing.

I rebooted, figuring that was the problem. And it didn’t work. I refreshed the screen. That brought back two icons.

It was late. I was tired. So, I opened properties and looked for the little “change icon” hook. Missing. I rebooted again. Now, about half the shortcuts had a “change icon” function, but they didn’t have the icons that came with the particular applications.

Another reboot. Suddenly, the correct icons began to appear. All I had to do is click change icon, then click the icon that was already there (so why wasn’t it appearing on the desktop?) and I was home free.

By then, it was two in the morning and as I got up to get something to drink then go to bed, both dogs were standing next to me in the kitchen. How did they know I was going to the kitchen? Both of them were asleep in the bedroom. They have an otherworldly sense of when a cookie might be coming their way.

It didn’t occur to me until today that maybe I should make sure all these shortcuts go to the correct applications.

Now, I’m trying to reinstall missing applications and filters. I’m reaching my “too tired to care” moment. Of course, our beloved Charter Communications is rewiring this entire region because the poles are very old and lopsided, so they been glitching on and off for the past few days. I don’t suppose THAT could be the problem?

BAD WEEK, GOOD WEEK, BAD APPLICATION – Marilyn Armstrong

It was a bad week in a lot of ways. Non-deliveries, late deliveries, missing parts, and a lot of increasingly aggravating conversations with Amazon. I spent more time on the telephone with Amazon’s customer service than I have writing posts or taking pictures. I was beginning to feel like that was my new profession — arguing with customer service.

Today, things suddenly looked better. Although the delivery of shampoo and conditioner to my friend didn’t happen, she did call the post office and they said they would straighten it out. Apparently, it didn’t go to their PO Box because it was delivered to the wrong post office, a problem they have had before. So she should get the package tomorrow. And I refinanced a very bad loan with a much better loan that will leave us a bit of money to repair the back door, put a storm door on the front and back — and if we are very lucky, repair (I’d rather replace, but that’s not in the cards) the deck. If we can salvage the steps and the substructure and just put in a new deck and rail. The steps are the most expensive part.

To top it all off, we got an actual apology from Amazon, saying that they are not in the business of making life difficult for customers and gave me a private number to call should I need to discuss anything with anybody. I never expected that — which made this a pretty good day.

We also managed to swing a loan in less than four hours, It replaces a very bad loan i should never have signed and am very grateful to be free of it.

That made me wonder whatever happened to the application I put in for the loan for a new boiler. I hadn’t even gotten a note for the application I sent to them and it had been a week since I sent it.

So I went into  National Grid to look for a copy of the sent document. There was no document. No copy. On stuff like this, I always CC myself. I finally managed to dig through my gazillion emails and found … are you ready?


GRAMMARLY HAD SENT IT TO DRAFTS BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T LIKE MY GRAMMAR.


Seriously. Even now, they asked if I really wanted to send a note that had a variety of grammatical errors and vague sentence structures. Did I want to send it? it was a loan application and they hadn’t even sent a note telling me that rather than sending it, they had dumped it into drafts. Is that legal? I’m glad I suddenly realized that I hadn’t heard from National Grid!

How dare they do that! I deleted Grammarly — and you should too.  It’s like a worm and gets into every piece of your computer where there is any text, including picture captions.

The amount of harm they could have done me — and I hope have not yet done — is ugly. I was one of the people that years ago Grammarly selected to “test drive” the application when they were planning to charge everyone $12/month, but I could have it for free for three months. I turned them down, said that was much more money than anyone writing a free blog would ever pay and that frankly, I didn’t like a lot of their writing rules either. It was inappropriate for a casual writer or any fiction writer. Or anyone using a local dialect or using words of which Grammarly doesn’t approve.

Until WordPress decided we didn’t need a spell checker anymore — and recommended the free version of Grammarly — I never expected to encounter them again. Lately, they have become very aggressive. They are at the beginning of every YouTube video. and they turn themselves off when they please, on when they feel like it. Undependable at best, but this was way over the top. How dare they?

If you are using Grammarly, be very careful. I have been saying for a while that I’ve been losing emails. Having them vanish and apparently, Grammarly is why. If you are running it, maybe you don’t want to use it after all. If they decide you aren’t using the right wording, important business documents can and possibly already have, disappeared.

So it was a bad week, a good week, a better week — and a really bad application that has (I hope) finally been expelled. It wasn’t easy getting rid of it. I found that it had embedded in every possible part of the computer.

I deleted it from my hard drive, deleted it from Chrome, but it was still in there and I had to expel it from WordPress using their special code. There were versions of it all over my computer, like a worm or trojan virus.

It’s a devious and intrusive — and potentially DANGEROUS application. Be careful.

THREE IN THE MORNING AND THE PAGE NUMBERS WON’T WORK – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

I was up until very late last night because Garry got a new computer. Setting it up was easy because these days, everything is automated. And he didn’t have a lot of documents or photographs to move. They are all on my computer.

He has decided he’s going to try writing a book … and his Google book or iPad weren’t going to do the job. I did all the basic setup and downloaded Apache Open Office, which is free (but they will gladly take donations). It has everything (and more) than MS Office. It works on any computer. It really is free.

I have been using it on all my personal computers for the past 15-years. To be fair, I haven’t done any serious work on it. I wrote my book using Framemaker, which was Adobe’s anti-intuitive documentation software which I just happened to own at the time. But when I finished my book, I never renewed it. I’m not sure Adobe makes it anymore.

It was the software for non-fiction authors. If you were working on a doctorate or any material that needs glossaries, appendices, indexes, et al, Framemaker was the software. Expensive, but everything Adobe makes is pricey. I got Framemaker and Photoshop as goodbye gifts from my last job. It was great for designing my book, but for normal every day writing it was overkill.

Meanwhile, they kept charging more and more for MSOffice and it wasn’t worth it. It was so over-automated that it did what it wanted, but almost never what YOU wanted. OpenOffice is much less automated — and free.

But, as I said, I never used it for serious writing. While I haven’t been using it, the application has changed — for the better. If Garry is going to use it, I will have to teach him to use it. How can I teach him to use it if I don’t know how it works? So, after Garry went off to watch old Western movies in the bedroom, I created a small file. No problem with setting up fonts and formats.

Then I figured Garry was going to need page numbers. So hey, I’m a class act with software, right? I set up a footer then went to look for the page numbers. Two hours later, I still couldn’t figure out how to put in a simple page number in the middle of the footer. It would set it up left-right for a book, but I just wanted a simple number, middle of the page in the footer.

As the night began to turn into morning I found something that looked like it might work, but I think you can only see the numbers if you print the document. I was ready for bed, not printing. Oddly enough, I didn’t print it today either. Maybe tomorrow. Or Sunday.

I think I need to go back to Apache and watch some of their videos and read some of the documentation. During 20 years of retirement, I might have lost my touch! It was a humbling experience.

THE COMING OF THE iPhone – Marilyn Armstrong

My son talked me into it. It was the best deal I was ever going to get. My cousin’s son and my best friends’ sons did the same for them — all at the same time. It’s probably the quarantine that did it. They said that we were seriously in need of good telephones and, it was time they did something about it.

I guess we’ve reached the point when our kids are in the lead which is great. I needed a break!

I also needed to learn to text. Owen didn’t care so much about the rest of it, but he needed me to text because whenever I called him at work, even if the rest of the day had been boring and nothing happened, the moment I called there would be ten people lined up waiting for him. One of Murphy’s Laws.

So now I have an iPhone 11. That’s the small one (I don’t need a giant phone — at that point, I might as well get an iPad and I don’t like them, either, but Garry has one and he does like it so maybe I’m just not a Mac person.

I also got a new set of regular phones for our regular number. I will happily give my cell number to people I want to hear from, but I’d be just as happy to not have everyone calling me all the time.

I don’t understand most of how it works, but I can, reluctantly text. He’d buy and pay for the phone and the monthly “rent” if I would learn to text.

As far as cameras go, it’s a pain in the butt to transfer pictures from the phone to the PC. I don’t know if it would be easier to transfer them to the Mac, but my Mac has no decent photo software and I don’t have the money to buy it right now.

To use the pictures, I have to mail them to myself. Since I take a lot of pictures at a time, I usually have at least a few dozen to download. The photographs are physically large but only 72 pixels — which I find odd. For all that, they are sharp. I wonder who makes the lenses?

For unknown reasons, the camera doesn’t recognize the difference between a short movie and a photo. When you press “photo,” you get whatever it feels like giving you. It’s an existential photographic implement. It probably was raised in France.

It is useful to have something that is small, light and can take respectable pictures, but if you really want art, you need a camera. Focusing on an iPhone is slow compared to a camera. I suspect most people just take the picture and edit later (if they bother to edit). Most snapshooters don’t edit and all they are going to do with the picture is mail it to friends or family. That’s easy. Anything else is klutzy and ponderous.

Still, having something in your bag with which you can take pictures is useful, especially when you are someplace you weren’t planning to take pictures. But LOOK! There’s the most handsome squirrel or duck you’ve ever seen giving you his or her “good side” from a nearby branch. Assuming you can get the camera set up in time, you’ll get a clear, sharp photograph. For me, it will always be a way to shoot when I wasn’t planning to take pictures. I can see how for people who don’t post photographs online or on a blog, it is the “Brownie camera” with a far better lens and some cumbersome wide-angle and telephoto capabilities.

That is always the problem with something that does everything. It never does one thing perfectly but does many things pretty well (if you are lucky).

I took pictures at the dam the day before yesterday. I didn’t take my camera because it’s so heavy, but the day was beautiful and we were actually outside in The Big World.

The pictures are surprisingly good. It also took me the better part of the afternoon emailing them to myself. You can email them individually or as a compressed file, but one way or another, there’s a good deal of work you will need to do from the computer end of the process.

I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to hold the phone without my thumb in the middle of the shot. I still haven’t fully downloaded all the pictures. I probably never will. It’s too much like work.

I can text — slowly — and as a telephone, it’s loud enough for Garry to hear comfortably and that’s a big plus for him. It’s the first time he’s had a cell loud enough to hear clearly since we owned our first Blackberries. Those were classy phones! No photographs, but great sound, a clear signal, plus a usable keyboard. A great portable “office” to carry with you wherever you went. Lacking bells and whistles, but a fine working unit.

So, in summary, for a cell phone, it’s a good camera for grabbing a snapshot on the go.

ENDINGS – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry had a get-together with a bunch of retired media guys. They meet every few weeks, but for obvious reasons, it hasn’t happened recently. So a while ago, someone came up with the idea of doing a Zoom meeting. Despite that all these men worked on television for many years, most (but not all) had issues making Zoom work.

It’s amazing how quickly we forget things we used to know … and how suddenly we realize we never learned it because it wasn’t what we were doing professionally. For me, computers were my business, so despite what I’ve forgotten, I remember them quickly when reminded.


From The New York Times:

“When will the Covid-19 pandemic end? And how?

According to historians, pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes.

“When people ask, ‘When will this end?,’ they are asking about the social ending,” said Dr. Jeremy Greene, a historian of medicine at Johns Hopkins.

In other words, an end can occur not because a disease has been vanquished but because people grow tired of panic mode and learn to live with a disease. Allan Brandt, a Harvard historian, said something similar was happening with Covid-19: “As we have seen in the debate about opening the economy, many questions about the so-called end are determined not by medical and public health data but by sociopolitical processes.

Endings “are very, very messy,” said Dora Vargha, a historian at the University of Exeter. “Looking back, we have a weak narrative. For whom does the epidemic end, and who gets to say?”

A Sicilian fresco from 1445. In the previous century, the Black Death killed at least a third of Europe’s population. Credit: Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Once everyone started talking, the subject came up. The one about which so many of we retired people have been thinking, but afraid to even ask because it might be a jinx.  What happens to us? We are the most vulnerable and a lot of people in this country think we lived long enough and would be perfectly happy to let us all die off.


What will the world be “when this is over.” That brought up the real question: “Will this ever be over? Can they make a vaccine soon enough (or at all) so that we can think about traveling? Would any of us willingly get back on an airplane? How about a simple local vacation? What is safe? Where is the danger


There was a universal “no” on flying. I used to get sick every time I flew long before the epidemic. All that recycled air. One person sneezes and by the time I got off the flight, I was already sick.

This is pretty disheartening. I always thought as a nation, as a people, we were a lot smarter than we seem. But, maybe all this dumbness is not true stupidity but denial. Many people REALLY REALLY REALLY don’t want to know what’s going on. When they are told the truth, they angrily reject it. The truth is unacceptable. The truth hurts. The truth is ugly.

They are desperately afraid of the new reality in which they are living and for many people, in which they were already living, even before Coronavirus arrived to make it overwhelmingly worse.

Sometimes, when everything is gone, when there’s no money, no work, and virtually no hope, denial is your best weapon. It might be your only weapon.

THE BIGGEST GLITCH – Marilyn Armstrong

Little things defeat me. An electrical blip — so brief as to go otherwise unnoticed — knocked out the time and date on the clocks and telephones in my house. It was so brief I didn’t realize it had happened until I went to bed and everything was blinking. Don’t you hate when that happens?

75-ModemAndRouter-37

All our computers are laptops, so we didn’t notice. They all just switched to batteries, so when the glitch ended, everything seemed fine.

Until I got to the bedroom and everything was blinking, each in its own color. Resetting the clock radio was easy, but then there was a telephone. They are all linked, so I only have to set one and all three should automatically reset. It should have been no big deal. But it was.

I was defeated by an AT&T multi-handset system I installed in our home a few years ago. Never had it lost its time, even during a much longer outage. This time, it lost everything including all its settings and sub-settings. All blown away.

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Every time something minuscule defeats me, I am reminded how helpless I am — we all are — in the face of our technology. Even those of us who are technologically savvy have limits. All of us have technical Waterloos. If anything goes awry with any major system in my house, not only am I helpless, so is everyone else who lives here. Three generations of people who use technology constantly and depend on it. If we were without power for 24 hours our world would collapse.

It’s the huge, soft, pink, underbelly of our modern world. The aliens will not have to defeat us in battle. They just have to knock out our communication satellites and blow up a few power plants. Human civilization goes down like a row of dominoes.

The only survivors will be those who don’t depend on technology. Or maybe the survivalists in their compounds. Their lives will go on as before. Not me, though. Probably not you either.

Given what’s been going on these past few months, I think a long power outage might finish me off. I’m already derailed, but one more hit and I’m over the cliff.

IT’S ALL CONNECTED – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s the little things that trigger epiphanies. Those tiny moments of recognition that make me say “Oh! I see!”

A few days ago, I took my Panasonic out of my shoulder bag where it lives. I’m very careful with my cameras. When I’m shooting, I’m so focused that unless I adhere to a strict routine, I lose stuff. As I’ve gotten older, I lose stuff anyway and I don’t want to lose any cameras, so I follow my checklist to make sure that no camera or accessory gets left behind. I pull the camera out of my bag, stuff its sleeve in my pocket, take my pictures, and put it all back. When I get home, I pop the SD card out, plug it into the computer, download the pictures, put away that card and put a new one in the camera.

Back into my bag it goes. I know if I keep to the program, I will always have a camera where I need it. For some reason, the last time I used it, I didn’t put it away and left it somewhere. I’m sure I had a reason, though I can’t recall what it was. I forgot it until last night when I picked my bag and noticed how light it felt. What was missing? Ah, the camera.

“Hmm,” I said. “I didn’t realize that little camera weighed that much.”

Camera and mouse

It was late. I was on my way to bed but stopped in my office grab an extra battery which was when I noticed the camera lying on the desk. I must have put it there when I put the battery in its charger. I picked up the camera and thought “Gee, I should swap the battery and charge this one. I’ve been using it a lot.”

I have quite a few spare batteries. There is nothing that will ruin a shoot more completely than having a battery die in the middle of a shoot and realizing that’s it. No more juice.

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I popped the battery out and went to put it in the charger. I looked at my power strip. Six chargers. Impressive for a strip that only has 6 plugs.

This being a Panasonic battery, I tried putting it in the first Panasonic charger on the strip. It didn’t fit. I tried the next one, but it didn’t fit there either, which shouldn’t have surprised me because it was Olympus charger and this was a Panasonic battery, but who can read black lettering on a black charger in dim light anyhow?

There was one charger in the strip I hadn’t tried. Unsurprisingly, the battery popped right into place. I looked around and realized I have two extra Olympus chargers nearby and an off-brand charger whose purpose I do not recall. The chargers in this group each attach to one arm of an octopus splitter. With a wrinkle of concern, I realized I had no room for another charger and sure as the sun will rise, I am sure to need one. I wondered where I could possibly put it.

Epiphany.  Bong. Whack.

Where the cameras live

I have a lot of cameras, computers, tablets, readers, telephones, printers, transmitters, routers, modems, Roku, DVD players, etc. I don’t even know how many there are. I don’t even know where I’ve put them all. Or if they work. They have accumulated. There are the old ones I used until I got newer ones. Then there are the backups I never use, but have in case a piece of equipment fails. Spare telephones, extra cameras. Even a couple of miscellaneous computers.

Everything uses batteries including items that plug into a socket somewhere and most things seem to need a WiFi feed. No room is exempt, from kitchen to bedroom. We have electronic toothbrushes in our bathrooms. After even the briefest power outage, my entire house starts blinking.

The night is lit by the soft glow of red, blue, and green LEDs. It’s never fully dark or entirely silent. Everything flickers, whirrs, buzzes, clicks, beeps, and dings. The telephones variously whoop, bong, or play obnoxious music. Even my wallpaper (the stuff on the computer, not the walls in the kitchen) makes splashing sounds as my virtual dolphins leap in an electronic sea.

My universe collapses in the face of a power outage. Nothing works if the power’s down. I am slavishly devoted to technology and the thought of having no electricity for even a brief period makes me shiver with dread.

Everyone these days seems to have a vast quantity of electronic gadgetry, no matter what they say because nothing is simple anymore. The microwave, the refrigerator, the range, and the oven are computerized. Those are merely the basics.

I had to reboot my bed the other day.

I may not, in theory, need so much stuff, but I can’t imagine giving anything up.  I love it all. I even love the things I don’t use, cell phones that served me well and obsolete computers or cameras which have been replaced by newer models. They are my Hall of Fame collection.

Accumulation will never stop. Garry’s new computer is on the way and who knows how many peripheral items it will spawn.

I swear this has all crept up on me, slipped into my life a gadget at a time — a computer, a modem, a router, a laptop, another computer another and another. New cameras replaced old ones and they were themselves replaced by even newer gear. New gadgets were invented and became indispensable. As technology continues to evolve, each piece of equipment will be replaced eventually by newer versions. Like virtual seasons in an endless cycle of beeping, flashing and whirring change.

Excuse me. My oven is beeping. Dinner must be ready.

REMEMBER WHEN PHONE CALLS WERE FUN? – Marilyn Armstrong

Rolling slowly out of bed, I tried to remember what I’d been dreaming about. Something about cats made of smoke and a clothesline that was part of a computer game. And a shrink who offered to scratch my back, but couldn’t find the right spot.

I took a couple of Tylenol, a muscle relaxant and rearranged the bed. I tucked myself in for a few more hours of sleep.


The phone rang.

I looked at the caller ID. It showed a local number. It was not a local call. Scamming technology shows local numbers on my Caller ID including my own number. I’m pretty sure I’m not calling myself. I answered the phone in what has become my typical surly morning greeting: “Who are you and what do you want?”

There was no response. A bit of crackle on the line, but no voice. Not even a recording. I hung up. More accurately, pressed the OFF key.

It has been a long time since I expected a ringing telephone to herald a call from a friend. I don’t even expect it to be a return call from someone with whom I do business. I expect all calls to be spam, scams, surveys, or sales pitches.

All the calls are recorded messages so I don’t even have the luxury of insulting the caller and his or her company. That used to be the only positive side of the endless from anonymous calls. Add to that the fear that somehow, they are going to find a way to steal you identification.

I’m also shocked when I call a friend and they actually answer the call. Personally. Although these days, everyone is home. It’s the upside of everyone isolating. These days, we are grateful for a call. It breaks up the quiet.

I have utterly abandoned good telephone manners. Telephones are not a way to communicate unless I’m making the call. Otherwise, it’s annoying and intrusive — another attempt to steal personal data so someone can hack our accounts, steal our identity, or scam us in some other way.

I can’t make them stop calling because they never call from the same number twice and the number that shows on the Caller ID is fake. There’s nothing to report. NOMOROBO dot com has considerably limited the volume of calls, but nothing eliminates them. Somehow, they get your number. When I ask how they got it — assuming there’s someone to ask — they tell me they got my telephone number from a form I filled out “online.” And all of them have an accent that is definitely not from anywhere in North America … so have I been filling out those Pakistani forms again?

I do not fill in forms online. Nor do I fill out anything which requires I include a phone number. I tell everyone I don’t have a mobile phone.

I actually do have a smartphone. I just don’t use it. Part of the reason I don’t use it is that we have really poor cell service here and getting a usable signal isn’t easy. The other reason is I get enough scammers and spammers on my landline. I don’t need to give the rest of the world another entree into my world.

As part of the day’s epiphanies, I realized how technology steals pieces of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with the technology. It is neither good nor bad; it is what it is. It’s what people do with it that’s can be life-stealing. Those People have ruined telephones for me, probably forever.

Unwanted telephone calls may seem a minor thing especially in view of the many awful things we are trying to survive, but I can remember waiting for the pleasant anticipation of the phone ringing and knowing I was going to hear from a friend. It wasn’t that long ago.

Or was it?

SKYPING FOR IDIOTS – Marilyn Armstrong

I admit it, I never learned to use Skype. I have tried it. At least twice a year some friend or family member wants to see if we can make it work. I’ve never made it work.

There are a lot of reasons. One is that this computer has two sets of video and sound cards. It’s a gaming computer and for reasons best known to Dell (or more accurately, Alienware), they decided to do everything twice.

All well and good but getting Skype to run, you have to figure out which microphone it can use and which video card it needs and you have to use either the two high def ones or the two low def one. Not one of each. That merely confuses the system which is often confused without any help.


Then there’s Charter (Spectrum) which has a habit of dropping you for a few seconds here and there, usually when you are trying to save something. Most of the time, it comes back on its own, but sometimes you have to reboot the router et al. Sometimes, it doesn’t come back. Then you are glad you have a rarely used mobile device so you can call Charter and explain there’s no signal. Which they will deny has anything to do with them.

Last night, my friend Cherrie sent me an email and said: “Let’s try Skype … oh and by the way, I’ve never done this before.” I answered saying I’d never done it either — not entirely true … I’d been walked through it once before. I wasn’t sure I could make it work, but I’d give it a whack. What the hell. It turns out her son was urging her to use it.

“Why?” she asked.

“You could talk to your family.”

“I never talk to my family. Why would I start now?” But luckily, I’m not a family member, so she’ll talk to me. In theory.

This is a simplified version of Skype. It doesn’t look all that simple to me.

First, I did all the stuff to set it up. It told me I didn’t have a camera. I managed to turn on the camera. Then it told me that I couldn’t use that email (which is my only email) because I’d used it before and did I want to create a new email.

I did NOT want to create a new email. I gave in. I took out my cell phone and used that number. After which,  my computer started to ring, but when Cherrie tried to answer it, she couldn’t get it to connect. Our dialogue consisted of me asking “Are you there?” (text) and her computer saying “You missed your call” (more text).

When it’s set up, it looks like this. It does NOT mean you will really connect, but it’s the thought that counts.

I gave up. I picked up my (non-mobile) telephone and called her. I could see a frozen picture of her on my screen, but she couldn’t see or hear me. I figured we could forget the whole microphone thing have a nice chat. But she was determined.

“We used to be good at this,” she said. “What happened?” I declined to point out that we got old and hadn’t even tried to keep up with current technology. I have always been good at software, but there are things I can’t do. I can’t run my printer or change the ink in it. I hate copy machines and they hate me right back. Since we were already on the phone, she figured she might as well give it one more try. This was the start of a lot of clanging while both our computers started ringing like mad. Still no pictures.

And suddenly, she could hear me and I could after a while, I could hear her. We laughed a lot and figured we should make this a good conversation because we doubted we would ever make it function again.

Somtimes it works.

This morning I asked Owen if he knows how to use Skype. After all the explanations of what’s wrong with the technology, how they’ve oversimplified it so you have no control over anything, the answer was “No.” Meanwhile, Garry wants me — ME! — to set up Zoom for him for tomorrow. Does anyone think this is going to happen? I certainly don’t.

I find this process so utterly baffling I don’t know why it didn’t work and I don’t know why, eventually, it did work.

The telephone works fine for me because I am the idiot.

“BAD” IS THE NEW “GOOD” IN TECH SUPPORT – Marilyn Armstrong

Bad customer and technical support is the new good. You only think it’s bad. The problem is your attitude. Or so they’d have you think.

YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE

All the big technology companies are working hard to save a few bucks. Competition is fierce. Every penny counts. Since executives won’t accept lower pay nor will stockholders accept lower returns, it’s customers who fill the cost-cutting gap.

Death cust serv
In the race to be the cheapest, tech companies stopped including chargers with devices. No manuals. No system software. No reinstallation software. Short power cords that don’t go from an outlet to a desktop. No connector for printers, speakers or whatever. Everything you need to finish setting up costs extra.

Customer service was the first thing to go. They hired people who don’t know anything, don’t understand or speak English. For all I know, they don’t understand or speak Spanish either. They aren’t trained, don’t know the products. And since manufacturers no longer include documentation, you don’t have the option of taking care of it yourself.

No company — not cameras, computers or software — includes documentation. I became obsolete years ago when the industry decided no one reads the manuals. So they fired the tech writers, put some generated information in an online PDF. They figured customer service techs would handle the fallout. But they don’t. Many of us would be happy to fix minor glitches but have no alternative to spending our time on the phone, frustrated and angry.

THE PLAN IN ACTION

You can’t say they didn’t have a plan. Corporation had a really terrible plan. It was such a bad plan that everyone adopted it. Of course, these days any plan is a big deal being as we live in a nation that hasn’t had a viable plan for anything in more than three years. And now, we have a plague. How cool is that?Customer Service waiting It’s not a Microsoft issue or a Dell thing. It’s not a plan that anyone can claim as their own. It’s a cross-industry problem, affecting virtually every tech corporation in this country.

Bad has become the official new good. Really and truly good is remarkable and so rare.

WOULD IT KILL THEM TO INCLUDE A MANUAL?

In every industry, business, service — service support stinks. It doesn’t matter where you go. You’ll get the same lousy service. It’s the great leveler.

CustServCartoon

Sometimes, you get lucky. The guy or gal you connect with knows the product and you think “Wow, that wasn’t bad! Maybe it’s improving.” The next time, it’s the same old, same old. Mostly you spend hours online listening to the worst music ever written and every once in awhile they point out how important you are and the next time anyone can take your call, they will.

Okay then. I think it’s possible I’m still on hold.

THERE IS NO TRUTH IN THE SMALL PRINT – Marilyn Armstrong

The biggest lie we tell all the time is that when we check the box at the bottom we are agreeing to an interminable list of conditions that basically say whatever they say. What we know is if we do not sign, we can’t use the product.

It’s not a choice. It’s a mandate. So we pretend we read the legal shmaltz because we need to use the application or product and there’s no other way to do it.

But we don’t read it. No one reads it. Why bother? Check the box. You have to check it anyway.

I think once I made an effort to read the small print, but it was years ago when I thought there was a choice.

Now? I just check the box, like everyone else. Have you read those terms and conditions? Ever?

THE WONDER OF THE WEENIE – By Tom Curley

There was an interesting article in the news concerning a porn site called xhamster.com. I don’t know why it’s called that and I really don’t want to know. They’re in the news because they closed off their website to anybody living in the state of North Carolina.

Why? Because of the harsh, horrible anti-LGBT law they passed. If you log onto their website from anywhere in that state, you would get a blank screen.

blank screen
Blank screen for you!

The tone of all the news reports and nightly talk shows was that this was a funny but useless protest. There are thousands of other porn sites where North Carolinians can … well, you know. As usual, the mainstream media and the nightly talk shows missed the real story. I am not offering an opinion on the virtues or evils of porn.

There is a larger truth. It is widely known but rarely talked about regarding the porn industry. Porn is not just dirty pictures. Porn has been a major driver, financial backer, and early adopter of technological innovation since the beginning of our technological revolution. That is to say, forever.

When mankind started drawing on cave walls, I guarantee you some of the first things depicted were people getting some Neanderthal Nookie.

thestar.com.my
thestar.com.my

Porn was very popular in the Middle Ages. Moreover, it utilized some of the earliest encryption technologies. I saw an exhibit in a museum once that showcased one of them. The exhibit consisted of huge tapestries painted with very strange distorted images. You couldn’t tell what they were.

What were they? Porn. The artist would draw the original naughty painting on a regular canvas. He would then look at the painting’s reflection in a cylindrical mirror. The image in the mirror would be distorted. He would then paint that distorted image onto the tapestry so if you looked at the tapestry, the painting made no sense.

anamorphic art
arthit.ru

But. If you looked at the tapestry’s reflection in the same cylindrical mirror the artist used, the image would be reconstructed back to its original form. — “Naughty Knights 5.”

When photography was invented in the 1800s one of the earliest subjects was, of course, naked women. Having sex. When the telegraph was invented, telegraph operators were known to spend their off-hours “telegraph sexting”.

I didn’t believe it either.

blog.kaspersky.com
blog.kaspersky.com

OPERATOR ONE: Who you talking to?

OPERATOR TWO: I don’t know, but she sure can dit my dot!

The VCR became popular because porn producers started switching to videotape, abandoning film. Finally, you didn’t have to go to a movie theater for porn. You could “bring it home.”

VHS beat out Betamax because the porn industry chose VHS. Really. No kidding. That’s the way it really happened.

alf.image.com
alf.image.com

Porn money propelled other technologies, too. Online payments, DVDs, streaming video, and two-way internet chat rooms. Virtual Reality headsets were only been available for a few months before there was Virtual Reality Porn.

truvisionvr.com
truvisionvr.com

(I wouldn’t know this personally, but I read a lot).

So here’s the real story that everybody has missed.  One porn site blocked off an entire state. It has been viewed as a symbolic, but mostly useless protest.

What if they all did it?  What if all the porn sites got together and said to North Carolina: “NO PORN FOR YOU!”

no porn for you

I’ll bet you that anti-LGBT law would be overturned in about an hour and a half! Maybe less. Then, the porn industry would realize it’s true power! Imagine, Lysistrata on a national, even a global, scale!

dykiegirl.wordpress.com
dykiegirl.wordpress.com

“You won’t do what we want? NO PORN FOR YOU!” All the porn industry needs to do is come together. Organize.

Organize into a cartel.

A conglomerate

 A Ring.

lotr.wiki.com
lotr.wiki.com

“One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them.

One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.”

Pray they use their power for good.

TECH-ADDICTED – 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!

SORRY, WRONG NUMBER – By GARRY ARMSTRONG

People of a certain age will recall the title from a popular radio drama that became a film noir classic with Barbara Stanwyck as the damsel/wife in distress and Burt Lancaster as the spouse with mayhem on his mind.  You can also dial “M For Murder” with the same theme: the telephone as a nefarious device and weapon.

A friend just wrote a piece, extolling the virtues of the telephone as a personal link in the impersonal age of social media. Good point. You need to be able to talk, hold an intelligent and coherent conversation on the phone.  Social media doesn’t require those basic skills.  Courtesy is also another trait required on a phone conversation even when you’re dealing with unpleasant matters.

My wife, Marilyn, rises to heroic stature dealing with insufferable customer service, health care reps, local business people who lose the check and fail to show up. Credit card hackers who’d love a little personal information and the idiots who’ve dialed the wrong number but keep redialing anyway.

I hate the telephone!  It stems from all the years of unwanted calls from the TV station that employed me for 31 years. Three o’clock in the morning calls demanding I grab my gear and immediately report to the scene of a grisly crime, awful weather, deadly fires, criminals running amok, traffic accidents with myriad, mangled bodies and the latest gangland or drive-by shooting with multiple victims.  All breathlessly awaiting my presence to round up the usual suspects for eye-witness accounts and/or to go banging on doors asking parents “how they feel” about the recent death of a loved one.

Hey, how do you feel, Pilgrim?  All of this hurled at me in fleeting minutes once I picked up the phone and heard a familiar voice with the phony excuse of waking me up out of my warm bed.  I usually cursed myself if I answered the phone.

Marilyn normally took the calls because of my hearing problems.  I couldn’t blame her. Nor could I hurl expletives at the person calling.  You can’t shoot the messenger in the TV news biz.  Being called into work goes with the territory.

Instead, I blamed the inanimate object.  The telephone. Outraged, I yelled obscenities at it.  Meanwhile, the telephone sat there quietly,  probably mocking me. After all, the phone was just doing its job. Nothing personal.

Statehouse on Beacon Hill

During my bachelor years when I had to take these calls, I frequently hurled the phone across the room during my tirades against the telephone company, its employees, executives, and Alexander Graham Bell who I imagined as Don Ameche from the old biofilm.

Why did they seemingly always call me?  Why was someone always picking on me?  Frequently, I’d envision conspiracies to target me. Racism? Envy because I was on the tube every day, outshining other folks? Political target?  I had an ‘attitude’ with some local pols. It was me against the giant telephone conglomerate.  I was riffing Dwight Eisenhower’s warning.

Truth time.  Early on in my Boston TV news career, I let it be known I was ‘always available’ for major, breaking news stories.   I envisioned the scoop on that major story that would shoot me to stardom and a mega-contract.  I put myself on the spot that assignment editors love. An eager-beaver young reporter with stars in his eyes and experience not yet absorbed.

Veteran reporters scoffed at my enthusiasm even as I sauntered around the newsroom full of myself at landing big stories that had me prominently featured on every newscast of the day from sunrise to midnight.

In my glee over the big stories I always forgot how it began.  Always the damn phone call.  During my saner moments, I knew I was my own worst enemy. That logic didn’t sit well with me.

During long lunches as everyone congratulated me with my face and story on all the monitors, I realized I was in a catch 22 scenario.  Hero of the hour absorbing lots of congratulations while my brain kept reminding me that it was that early phone call that made all of this possible. I continued blaming the phone for interrupting my sleep. I would go on shooting the messenger for years.

One time I lived up to my vow to avert the phone call-to-arms.  I answered the call. Heard the voice and slowly said, “Sorry, wrong number.”  I grinned to myself, returning for a good night’s sleep.

I was still smiling as I awoke and turned on the radio in the morning.  The all-news station was frantically blaring out details about a massive fire, building collapse and the loss of many lives.  It was such a big story that the networks were in on coverage.

My smile turned to a scowl. The potential ‘story of a lifetime’ had been lost to my erstwhile, “Sorry, Wrong Number.”

Oops.