HARD TIMES AND NEW DAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

Easy times are not when we create solutions to problems. I was sitting here today thinking about the 1400s.

Not everybody sits around thinking about the 1400s, but I do and fairly often. It’s part of the pleasure and burden of a deep passion for history. Right now, I’m reading a series of books about the Tudors. The early Tudors. Owen, Edmond, and Jasper. And, of course, Henry who became the seventh of the many Henrys of England.

The 1300s were a horror show for the old world.

The bubonic plague hit the continent in the 1340s, arriving on ships from (probably) Constantinople. The Black Death swept Europe.

Beginning in 1346 and continuing through 1353, the number of deaths — from war, disease, or anything — is unparalleled in human history. Ultimately, the Black Death killed more than 25 million people in Europe. And the world was much smaller, so 25-million people were the largest part of the human race.

More than half the population of Europe died in the plague and in some towns, it was as much as 100%. In other words, everybody died. The forest grew back over lands that had been sown. Murderous gangs that had formerly been remnants of disbanded armies roamed through Europe. When most of the peasants died, everyone starved because there was no one to grow new crops.

A burst of invention occurred. The peasantry, always been the least valuable members of European society, suddenly achieved importance. So few people remained who were able to grow crops, it was not unusual for peasants to go from castle to castle to see where they could get the best deal for their labor. The middle class grew too, while more than half the nobility disappeared. Between death by plague and death by war, many families slid from the bottom of nobility to the center of poverty. By the 1600s, many former nobles were tilling their own lands.

The Wars of the Roses consumed England. The printing press arrived. Europeans took to movable type with enthusiasm. The press was created sometime between 1400 and 1455. Movable type swept the scribes away.

I’m sure someone was telling everyone that this whole “printing thing” would never last. It was probably someone running a school for scribes.

The 1400s saw the invention of:

The golf ball (1400)
The piano/spinet (1400)
The trigger/matchlock (1411) The handgun arrived in 1364. Before the trigger, it was ignited with an ember or another form of portable fire.
Oil painting (1420) The paint was invented long before this in China, but oil painting techniques (Rembrandt, et al) were 15th-century.
Hoisting gear (1421)
Spectacles/eyeglasses (1450) Possibly earlier.
Printing Press (1450-55) Johannes Gutenberg
Engravings (dry) (1465)
Muzzle-loaded rifle (1475)
Parachute (1485) Leonardo Da Vinci
The copyright (1486)
Bell chimes (1487)
The map globe (1492) This is also when Leonardo was pondering flight because he had a parachute, so you ought to be able to fly, right?
Whiskey (1494)
Sometime during this same period, the moldboard plow was invented, turning agriculture on its ear. Historians are still arguing this issue.

This might not sound like a lot to you, but the invention of the printing press was a bigger deal than the mobile phone or the computer or, for that matter, electricity and diesel power. It overturned the world. Made knowledge available to the many rather than the élite few.

Back when eyeglasses were really expensive

And everybody drank the whiskey.

The point is that times were really bad in the 1300s and only nominally better in the 1400s.

These terrible old days gave the world a kick in the butt and triggered the arrival of central government among nations. It elevated the peasant and middle classes. It advanced banking and industry and art. Towns grew as guilds developed. The building industry changed and expanded. Bridges were redesigned to enable better roads. Better roads made it easier for people to take their goods to market.

Everything changed, including religion because this also was the birth of Protestantism, though it was not called that until later.

Hard times create a new world. Our two world wars were what pushed Europe into socialism and the caring world that they now (or used to) embrace. I think a lot of people forget that before the first world war, it wasn’t a caring Europe. It was a bunch of rich nobles doing whatever they felt like to anything and anyone.

The world doesn’t advance when times are easy. When all is well, we get lazy. Comfort doesn’t force change.

I’d like to think that the current awfulness is going to push us into a creative change which will ultimately improve our world. I don’t know that it will be true because I don’t think I’ll live to see the outcome of this world into the next, but I’d like to think that’s how it will go.

A MIXED MARRIAGE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love my husband but we have a mixed marriage. I’m a total Rom-Com/ Sit-Com/ Doctor/Lawyer Show kind of girl. Tom is a Super Hero / Sci-Fi / Tolkien kind of guy.

When we were first together, I’d religiously watch all his shows and movies with him. And he’d watch all of mine. After 19 years together and 15 years married, that isn’t going to happen anymore. Our relationship has reached a new level, where it can survive intact, even if we go off separately to watch our favorite guilty pleasures.

Tom won’t watch endless cooking competitions or HGTV house makeover shows anymore. I still love him. I won’t watch every superhero movie or TV show (there are a lot). He still loves me.

There are some areas of crossover. I genuinely like some of the early superhero movies, like the original Superman and Spiderman. I loved Wonderwoman and Black Panther. I’m a real fan of time travel shows too.

Tom truly loves “When Harry Met Sally”, my favorite movie, and others of its genre. So he gets a couple of free passes for that. He also likes some of my favorite TV shows, like “Grey’s Anatomy”, “The Good Wife”, “NCIS”, “This is Us”, etc.

We both were addicted to the on-demand series like “Grace and Frankie”, “Outlander,” and “The Crown”.

So there is common ground. But there’s one other thing we’re not going to be doing together any time soon.

Video games. I cannot share any of Tom’s enthusiasm for video games. Even though I don’t participate, I’m still subjected to the incessant noise of gun battles blaring through the house at all hours. Some of these games go for realism in the form of adding the sounds of dying and wounded humans, animals, and mythical creatures. I find it very disconcerting.

I’ve reached my saturation point with the new virtual reality play station games, complete with magic goggles and wands. I appreciate the amazingly advanced technology. But the glasses make me dizzy and disoriented. I like to be able to see my own hands and feet. I like to be sure where I am in my house, not stumbling around in some weird fantasy-scape.

I just can’t cross that Rubicon with Tom into the virtual reality hologram world of tomorrow.

I’m not the only one freaked out by the new technology. As soon as Tom put on the headset with the glowing lights, one of our dogs went berserk. She would not stop barking at him as long as he had his gear on. I had to take her out of the room.

If howling did anything for me, I’d be right there with her.

At least this newest toy comes with headphones so I don’t have to listen along at top volume. Meanwhile, Tom looks hilarious in his sci-fi get up! That’s worth a few laughs.

Maybe watching him play games in an imaginary universe and listening to the dog go nuts could be a new form of entertainment for me too!

SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED – Marilyn Armstrong

We are shaken, but not stirred

I read all the James Bond books before they made it into the movies. I loved the books and for me, the movies were more like parodies than anything to do with Ian Fleming’s writing. The whole martini thing about “Shaken, not stirred,” always struck me as weird.

Why would it make a difference? Not being a drinker of any kind, much less a martini drinker, I’m probably the wrong one to ask.

Nonetheless, we are personally shaken even if not fully stirred.

Garry at the Police station in Uxbridge

In the course of a month and a half, we’ve been the victim of an intended more than $7000 in credit card theft. Yesterday, I realized for the first time (I can be a little slow on the uptake) that this started at least three weeks before I realized anything was happening and continued after I was sure it was fixed.

I think it’s fixed now. I hope so because I have done absolutely everything I was supposed to do. We are lucky we didn’t lose any of our so-called money. The credit card companies are less lucky and have spanked us thoroughly on our credit ratings. Not that I can blame them. They’ve taken the entire hit leaving us shaken and fearful. Feeling incredibly vulnerable. But no poorer than we were before.

Main street in late June

I didn’t know how bad it was until I looked at my monthly credit report. Credit Karma is free. They track your credit, the amounts you’ve spent, suggest cheaper cards or loans … and they are really free. If you are not a member, I suggest you sign up. If I hadn’t looked at the report, I would not have known what was happening.

One card leaped off the screen at me, a card on which I knew I had used less than $1000 in credit and suddenly, a $5000 bill was staring at me. I called the company. Because the card had already been declared as damaged — involved in a fraud attempt — it was closed. I couldn’t actually get to any information online and had no idea about how much money had been taken. It looked like much more than I had thought.

Back to the post office to file the reports. Round two. Hopefully the final round.

The guy at the bank gave me a list — down to the penny — of all the hits. I felt sick. Until I saw that report, I had no idea something had been going on. There were no flare guns, no strange packages, nothing to alert me. It had been going on since the beginning of May, more than 3 weeks before I knew there was a problem. A week more before I realized the extent of the problem. The day before yesterday, I got it.

“This is considered identity theft, ” the bank manager said. This was confirmed by the guy at the police station because we had to go back with all this additional information. Previously, all I knew about attempted thefts. This was the real deal. The took the money and laughed all the way to the shops where they bought stuff.

Truck parts. Lots of truck parts. I didn’t know truck parts could cost so much money, but I suppose when you steal them for free, whatever you get for them on the market is “free money” for you. Not for me or the bank, but a hop, skip, plus a little jump, made some thief happy.

A quick trip to the grocery. Frozen pizza for dinner. I was in no mood for cooking.

I assume big parts of our own private military hackers are on top of this stuff. Even though nothing is reported in the press, I would imagine this doesn’t get a lot of press coverage. All it would do is warn the targets.

The brightest — and funniest — moment of the day is when Garry called me from the police station and when I looked at the phone, it said “Interview Room 3.” It was a very NCIS moment.

I have alerted the police, all three credit monitoring agencies, filed reports with everyone. Deleted embedded copies of my credit cards from anywhere I knew they existed. Each time I use a shop, I will have to replace the card numbers then and as soon as the transaction is complete, delete it.

No matter what anyone says, if they are keeping your credit card information, your data is NOT secure.

These days, I’m not sure what secure even means.

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.

HOW DID THAT HACK HAPPEN? – Marilyn Armstrong

A friend asked me how a hack could happen.

You can find plenty of information about this in the news almost every night. Multiple attempts by many governments to locate these guys and take them down are always underway. The problem is, there are a lot of them. Many are funded by the Russians and for all know, other hostile governments.

Does everyone think these guys hacked our election, then quit hacking?

They’ve hacked (that I know of): Equifax, Bank of America, Adobe, Lands End, Amazon, Facebook … and probably a lot more than that, but these I know about because they have all been in touch with me to warn me.

Forget about the dozens of television series that deal with this issue. If you read a newspaper or watch the news, the information is not exactly secret. The busting of these hacker rings has been major news for at least three years and probably longer, so if you’ve missed it … you should catch up. Hackers thrive on people who don’t understand what’s going on. That’s why they pick on the elderly so often.

Essentially, it all happened in one afternoon. Anyone whose identity has been stolen can understand how quickly your financial life can fall apart. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to me. I lost no money, although I had to spend $90 on a new router. I also spent a lot of time rebuilding my computer, but since I did it myself, it didn’t cost me anything.

Should credit card companies be more on the alert? Absolutely. They are pretty sharp even now. Far more alert than our so-called government who seem collectively helpless to fix this. I think they don’t want to fix it, but what do I know, right?

Anyone can call Experion, Equifax, or TransUnion and ask that they put your credit on alert. You can do this automatically on the phone and you only have to call one company who will alert the other two. If one of you has been hacked or think you might be in danger, you don’t have to wait until they have hacked your accounts before you deal with it.

Once you’ve set up an alert, all credit companies must contact you directly before granting credit in your name or changing your address, telephone number, email address, or password. I can’t even count the number of people who’ve been hacked on Facebook — had their accounts stolen. I think someone stole my Twitter account, but since I never used it, I didn’t know about it for weeks.

If you think you are safe because nothing like this has ever happened to you, you are naïve. It can — does — happen to everyone. Anyone. Young. Old. Retired. Poor. Rich. It hurts more when you are poor, but it won’t stop the hackers. If you’ve got any money, they’ll take it and leave you with nothing.

These are not people with a conscience or a sense of right and wrong. They don’t care what happens to you. They do not care if they kill you in the process, either.

So, here’s the timeline:

1.  Facebook gave my personal data to Cambridge Analytica. For a fee, I’m sure. I know this because Facebook told me they did it. They didn’t seem upset about and felt I shouldn’t be either. Right.

2.  Cambridge Analytica sold my data to hackers, most of whom are supported by the Russians.

3.  They got more information by hacking my home router. This had already happened in Europe, but no one mentioned it on our news, so we didn’t know. By the time they did mention it, it was 24 hours too late for me.

4.  They pretended to be a different company and had sufficient data to make me think they might be real. When they demanded money to protect my computer, I instantly knew they were hackers.

5.  They attempted to take money from a bank who controlled 3 credit separate cards, two of which I knew about. I stopped the transfers and they never got anything. The final one I only discovered today, but again, I’m covered, so no loss to me.

6.  They locked my computer and demanded $1000 to “protect” it. Talk about a mobster move! Not a snowball’s chance in hell. There’s no guarantee if you give them money they will release your computer anyway and I’ll bet they don’t. Not exactly trustworthy guys.

7.  To get my computer back, I had to rebuild it. From scratch. Which was not so bad — boring but not difficult. Because I back up my files, I was able to restore everything. In all, I lost one document, but I can live with it.

8.  I had to buy a new router with a protective patch.

Does this mean they can’t get me — or you — again? Of course not. These hackers are gigantic organizations heavily funded by Russian money. if they can hack Equifax, they can bypass my protection on a whim. And the places they operate are glad to have them. They hire people. They are a big business.

At the bottom of my personal mess is Facebook. They casually took my personal data and sold it to hackers.

It’s so simple …

Facebook made this happen. Our government helped them by refusing to go after the hackers. If you think Trump is a good guy, remember he and his team have protected these guys from the get-go. They have allowed the hacking, encouraged it, and supported it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are also getting paid off.

You could be next. They may already have your number.

FOWC – IT’S SO VERY SIMPLE – Marilyn Armstrong

It couldn’t be more simple …

Owen called. He asked me if I could print a return label for him as this is his official Amazon address.

“No problem,” I said. I forgot that last week I did a completely new installation of my computer, an upgrade to the latest weirdest version of Windows 10, and bought a new router. We installed the router and once I got it set up, everything has been working fine, except for the things I haven’t gotten around to rebooting, like my mini iPad which I haven’t used at all, much less rebooted.

It’s so simple …

iPads for me are things you own and never figure out why you own one. I have a friend who has three of them and he hasn’t figured out what to do with them either.

“So why,” I asked, “Do you have three?”

“I keep updating them,” he said.

Garry actually uses his. I figured he would. It’s a lot like the Blackberry he had, the only mobile phone he loved. Instead of opening up the Big Computer, if he just wants to check email, it works great. Mine, on the other hand, has no real purpose in my scheme of things. It’s just there. In case.

I had totally forgotten about the printer. I haven’t printed anything and I don’t print often. Mostly, I print directions on how to get somewhere because I do not trust the GPS — with good reason. And return labels.

I realized I didn’t see any sign of a printer on this computer. I went into the other room and turned it on. Always a good start. But it still wasn’t there. Ran lots of software that was supposed to find it, but it didn’t. I eventually realized my ethernet connection wasn’t working because the cable wasn’t connected. You don’t need to connect it to the computer, but it does need to be plugged into the wall and the router. Or so they kept telling me.

Eureka! Installed!

Having accomplished that, I still didn’t have a printer. So I did what those of us with real strength of character do. I located the original installation DVD, hooked it up in the DVD player, and undertook the reinstallation of the printer.

I hate hooking up printers. I’m very savvy about computers and software, but printers are largely a complete mystery to me. Also, copy machines. I think it’s personal. They don’t like me and I don’t like them back.

The printer is in my old office down the hall and I was not there. It became quickly obvious that I was going to have to take the computer to the printer because it wasn’t going to work the other way. Can’t haul the printer. Too big.

Garry graciously offered to open the door so I could drag me and the computer in there. Up came the instructions and I found the itty bitty tiny print that told me: “When nothing else works, do this.”

Just ONE more thing …

I had to press one button until it blinked twice, then pull my hands away and wait for it to start blinking furiously. Then I had to press another button and wait, followed by the third button and more waiting. Do something on the computer. Wait. A paper began printing and eventually, lo and behold, the printer appeared on the screen.

Fifteen minutes later, during which time I took a few pictures since there wasn’t much else to do, the printer was almost working. Just a few settings to change … and I printed Owen’s stupid return label. Since he had just bought the SAME router, he didn’t have printing either.

So much for plug-and-play.

It was so simple. It only took me an hour or two, although almost all that time was spent trying to convince my computer to find it by itself, which it clearly was NOT going to do.

It really was simple, if you could figure out what the instructions were trying to tell you. That was the hard part — along with hauling my computer around. It weighs like two cinder blocks.

CEE’S SHARE YOUR WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World

If you were to pack a basket for picnic lunch, what would be in your basket?

First of all, I’m not an enthusiastic outside eater, not matter how nice the weather is. At the beach, there is sand and everywhere else there are ants and flies. We used to cook on the back deck at the Vineyard. One day, a seagull swooped down and stole the steak directly from the grill. Hot coals and all. Now that is definitely chutzpah.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Did I mention the wind? On a perfect day without a trace of wind, the moment you put down that paper table-cloth, there will be a wind and the rest of the meal will be trying to keep the paper plates, cloth, even your plastic forks and spoons in place.

Georges Seurat

I love old paintings of elegant picnics, but the picnics in my life have not been elegant. Mostly, they have involved swatting bugs, finding stones to put on everything to keep it on the table — if you have a table — and generally eating as fast as possible to get it over with. Maybe there were fewer insects in The Old Days? Or maybe … they just ate the bugs.

Please enjoy your picnic. Take pictures, too. I’ll love the photographs, I promise.

On a vacation what you would require in any place that you sleep?

Cleanliness. Working bathrooms. A non-sagging bed with a mattress that was replaced this decade.

And a convenient place to park so we don’t have to haul all our stuff up stairs and elevators while walking to a third story unit.

There are many motels that do not “get” the whole “handicapped” thing.

If you were to buy a new house/apartment what is the top three items on your wish list?

No stairs. A flat backyard. Easy to clean. Two garages — one for the car, the other for everything else. And lots of really BIG closets. Oh, did I mention an eat-in kitchen?

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  

This was one hell of a week. I’m really glad that Garry will get his ear fixed and give him hearing for the first time in his life. I hated getting hacked and have spent the rest of the week replacing everything on my computer. So there was the good part — Garry will hear! And the not so good part — I have had to completely rebuild my computer.

Long term, Garry’s hearing is definitely the better part! By next week, I’ll have beaten back the last of the hacking, but once repaired, Garry will hear forever.

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