SOMETHING NEW? ALWAYS RISKY!

There’s always something new to complain about. If it isn’t low slung pants, it’s piercings, complicated television, Bluetooth ear pieces, and clothing that fits too tight. I get a lot of posts about stuff that was common when we oldies were kids. Reminding me about all the stuff we don’t see anymore.

Like rabbit-ear antennas for televisions. Which I am really happy to be without. They never worked and the quality of transmissions is so much improved, there’s almost no comparison between then and now. What we had “back then” was almost-television.

Does anyone really want to go back to snow-covered black & white televisions with rolling and squiggling and sound that was barely audible? Of course you don’t.

Still, we seem to yearn for 45 RPM record players. Scratchy vinyl records. Tape recorders that used real tape. Dial telephones — which often were better. Galoshes. Roller skates that fitted your shoes and needed keys to adjust and on which I could fall but never skate. No remote controls.

My son’s generation gets this one:

remember

I’m sure my granddaughter’s generation will be the last to remember connecting to the Internet with a modem … if she even remembers. By the time she is a grandmother, who knows what technology will look like?

We still see anything “new” as inherently “risky.”

Life is risky.

The thing is, my mother’s generation was born when seeing a horse and carriage was more common than seeing a car. Not everyone had electricity. Telephones were luxuries. Yet she lived to see men walk on the moon, something no one in my granddaughter or son’s generation has seen because we abandoned our manned space program and never revived it.

Every generation sees the end of something and the beginning of something else. The 1300s, 1400s and 1500s saw monumental technological advances. The 1600s saw the industrial revolution which changed not only technology, but the way everyone lived. Talk about revolutionary changes, the world went from an agrarian economy to a city-based industrial economy. It was also the beginning of urban poverty and crime.

The world is always changing. What is more interesting is not what has disappeared, but what has remained. Living in the country, we still see cows munching on grass and cooling off on hot summer days by wading in streams.

We buy vegetables sometimes, when a farm has extra produce to sell, at stands that work on the honor system. Weigh the veggies and put the money in the can. Many people don’t lock their doors. A fair number don’t know where the keys are and couldn’t lock them if they wanted to.

Some of the old ways linger long in the country. But everyone has WiFi and cable or satellite. Everyone has a cell phone and all the shops take plastic. They will still accept cash, so far, anyway.

Risky? It’s not remarkable if things change. It’s remarkable when they don’t.

CIRCLING WINDOWS 10

CIRCLES WITHIN CIRCLES

I cannot blame Windows. It was me, or rather … me and a dysfunctional Malwarebytes plus two “disconnected” (but not really) hard drives … and being told I must become the administrator when I am the administrator.


What?


I got a message from Malwarebytes of a new update. Free. Just install it.

So I installed it and it deleted itself. Completely disappeared off my hard drive leaving a blank. It even removed its short-cut symbol on the desktop. I sighed. I have had trouble with this application before. Malwarebytes fixed it, but it took a week of back-and-forthing with the technical squad and I didn’t feel like it. Just not in the mood.

I tried backing up to see if I could recover the previous version, and I did, but it didn’t restore the broken application. It restored pieces of it, and it didn’t work. It just sat there. I tried one more restore, but that errored out. One of the more annoying problems with Windows operating systems is they never tell you why they are malfunctioning. They throw an error and leave you sitting there, staring at the screen saying WHAT? What was THAT?

So today, I tried to check the weather and all I got were ads that wouldn’t even let the program upload. I deleted what I could and realized … I needed Malwarebytes. That’s why I bought the program in the first place, to prevent this type of crap from happening. It isn’t viruses. It’s just garbage from advertisers.

I decided to restore Malwarebytes from scratch since I have the original receipt and key. This should have worked, but it told me it couldn’t complete, some kind of error. I could “continue and ignore” the error, but I got one of the Windows warnings that if I did that, terrible things might happen to my operating system. And I got another message telling me that the computer couldn’t find its hard drives.

What? WHAT?

So I diddled around and eventually, everything found everything else. Voila. No idea when they decided to disconnect, but I had a sneaking feeling that underneath all these other errors was that I needed to run the “network” function and connect everything to itself. Mind you, the computer was running fine, except for Malwarebytes, which wasn’t running at all.

I decided to delete Malwarebytes because it was listed as a program, but it wasn’t really and it didn’t work. It wouldn’t let me. It said I need to be an administrator. I am the administrator. I am the ONLY administrator. It is my computer. No one else has ever used it and when I look at my account, it clearly shows me as The Administrator.

I rebooted. I still couldn’t delete Malwarebytes because I needed to be an administrator. Eventually, it wouldn’t let me administrate and it wouldn’t let me out of the loop because I had to be an administrator before I could escape.

I rebooted.

At this point, I realized I could not become the administrator because I am, so it was asking me to do something I could not do because I am that thing and I was …

(Drum roll and trumpets, please …)

In a loop. The ultimate circle of hell for computer users. You can’t do it, whatever it is because you aren’t an administrator, but since you really are the administrator, you can’t become one because all those boxes are checked. Sometime around this point I discovered a previously broken piece of the application has been fixed. When I got this computer, the restore system would only let you restore the “C” drive. The “D” drive — which is huge and contains all my documents and pictures which is pretty much what lives on this computer — had to be backed up separately. Which I do anyway, so I didn’t care. But now, you can. So I added the “D” drive to the restore function and things began to roll along. Suddenly, I could create a restore point for both drives, something I haven’t been able to do since I got the computer.

I created one. Astonished that this event had occurred and being suspicious by nature, I did it a couple of times more, calling each restore point “testing 1” “testing 2” “testing 3” until I was finally convinced … it worked. Damn! Was it because I had done the networking thing and the computer finally knew it really has two hard drives?

I then tried to delete Malwarebytes again and it didn’t work. Again. It still wanted me to be an administrator, but by now, I realized this really wasn’t a Windows problem. It was a broken application.

Back to installing a new copy of Malwarebytes. When I got to the place where it told me if I clicked “Continue,” terrible, awful, dreadful and dire things would occur. Possibly making my computer stop working entirely. 

OH NO, NOT THAT!

“Screw it” I said … and clicked the (potentially) fatal link. The application rolled merrily along and installed itself flawlessly. It then scanned the drive, fixed everything, and set up a new — FUNCTIONAL — short-cut. I could have done all that stuff in the first place. But to be fair, I would not have known I needed to network the computer to explain to it that it really does have two hard drives. Nor would I have realized — miracle of miracles — I could set a restore point for both drives.

I suppose I ended up on the winning side of today’s “loop warfare.” You want to know about circles? Computers. Looping their digital lives through the circularity of binary heaven. If anyone wants to know why I haven’t been online today, I was in a circle. Me and my computer, doing the little loopy dance. But I won … I think.

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP – KAFKA AND DIRECT TV – BY TOM CURLEY

The following story is true. The names have not been changed because I didn’t really get any of them anyway.

I’ve had Optimum cable as my TV, telephone and internet service for years. My cell phone provider was Verizon. I had no complaints. They all worked great.  Life was fine.

Then Ellin and I decided we should try to cut down some of our expenses. A friend who works for AT&T as a store sales representative told us to switch to AT&T and get Direct TV.

It would be great and we’d save money. I didn’t think we’d save that much but I’d had a Direct TV account for years. I only used it on my boat for six months each year. Spending the extra money for that account and Optimum was costing too much money, so I closed it.  I figured that now, if we had DirectTV for the whole house, I could also go back to getting it on the boat. That would be a plus

So, we did it. They said they would cover any cost for switching phones. Except they didn’t. They paid some. But not all. But okay, fine.

They set up our house for Direct TV.  I asked if they could switch the box on my boat that I had actually bought and owned for years  to our new account.  They said no, they can’t do that. Those boxes don’t work anymore.

“But”, I said, “it works just fine”. They said  it doesn’t matter.

“OK, can you send me a new box? It has to be Standard definition not an HD box because my antenna on the boat only gets SD channels.”

“No”, they said.  They don’t carry DirectTV standard boxes. THEIR OWN BOXES. I would have to buy one from a third-party. I said, “OK, where do I get one?” They said they had no idea. So I bought one from Amazon. Except that apparently, the company Amazon gets them from is either out of business or just doesn’t have any. So, now, my only option is to install a Dish Network box that does work that I do own. and pay extra money for six months every year. Just like I was doing before. Totally negating the reason I did all this to begin with.  These are “”first world problems” to be sure. But come on!

There goes the “saving a few bucks.”

At this point, I have spent about two hundred dollars more than I would have by switching  the phone carriers and I’m gaining nothing by switching to DirectTV.  I could just go back to the way things were. But I can’t. If I do I have to pay three or four hundred dollars in “Early Termination Fees”.

OK, fine. Live and learn. But I haven’t gotten to the good part . To quote Al Jolson. “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.”

eli.com

I recently got a 4K TV. It’s amazing. After having it a few weeks I noticed that DirectTV had some 4K channels.

Cool. So I went to one and the TV said, “You don’t have a 4K TV”.

I said ” I most certainly do!” The TV ignored me. Even though it has some kind of voice activation feature, it’s not a very good listener. After doing a little research I found out that I need a “special 4K DirectTV box.”

The service is free. Or at least that’s what they say on their website. So, what the hell. I call them up, I order one and last Monday a technician came out and set it up. Fine. But then we started to notice that the audio kept cutting out. Just for a second. It did it every four minutes. It did it on every channel,  HD channels, 4K channel, recorded programs. Everywhere. And only on that box.

I did a quick Google search and found literally hundreds of thousands of complaints that the DirectTV 4K box is defective. The audio cuts out.

Notice where it says about 108,000 results

Many people also complained that it sometimes turns their TV off on its own and frequently just locks up and doesn’t work at all.

I didn’t have that problem. Until two days later when my TV would turn off and lock up about every five minutes. And every person complaining pointed out that no matter how many times they had their box switched out for a new one, none of them worked.

Did I mention the fact that for the privilege of getting the “FREE” 4K service, I was charged 160 dollars in fees? 99 dollars of that was to apparently buy the box that I would then have to pay a monthly fee to lease!

So, I called DirectTV back. Spending the half hour necessary to finally talk to a human. I was very calm. I explained that this box is defective. I wanted it removed and my old box replaced. I wanted my money refunded. I wanted any extensions on my contract removed. They said sure. They apologized profusely. It took about an hour but they told my money was refunded and my contract was not being extended.  They set up an appointment to have a technician come out Monday. Exactly one week later and switch out the boxes.

I haven’t gotten to the good part yet.

I get an automated call from DirectTV telling me the service tech is on his way! And the visit will take one hour and 15 minutes.  I chuckled. All he had to do was to plug to the box into the wall and into the TV.  Easy! Five minutes tops.

A nice man comes to the door. I hand him the 4K box and tell him where to put the new one.

But he can’t do it. The order was put in wrong. This is supposed to be a service call. I need an upgrade!

“It’s not an upgrade” I say. “I’m trading a 4K box for an HD box. If anything it’s a downgrade.

So he calls it in to get it changed. Did you know that DirectTV technicians have to go through the same voicemail automated hell that we all do to talk to one of their own supervisors?  You’d think they’d have a back door number or something to help those poor guys out.

When he finally  got a hold of someone and explained what was going on, he was informed that they could only make the exchange if I paid a 120 dollar fee for the “Upgrade”to replace the equipment. That until a week ago I ALREADY HAD!

The tech then told his boss. “I don’t think that’s going to happen”.  I spent the next ten minutes explaining the situation. I told the boss that on Friday, when I cancelled the service, I was ASSURED that everything was taken care of and that I would have no problems at all.  So of course, I got transferred to her supervisor.

someecards.com

I went  through the entire story AGAIN.

She transferred me to her supervisor.

And we did the dance again. This one said she could take care of me but for some reason it took her about 25 minutes to find this out. The “upgrade fee” would be waived. But to do that I had to pay 22 dollars from a credit card that would then be refunded to my DirectTV account.

At this point I was beaten. Sure, fine. Do it. Make the “upgrade.”

memegen

Another ten minutes go by. She keeps telling  me she’s almost there.

Almost there.

Almost there.

I just have to put in these two things and…..

I’m on hold. I’m hearing that horrible “on hold” Musak.  “Hello? Hello? You still there? Hello?” And this is what I hear. “Your call is important to us. Please stand by for the next available representative.”

The tech goes,” You gotta be kidding me.”

“Well all righty then” spectrumculture.com

So we wait.

For almost 30 minutes.

And we finally get a person. AND WE GO THROUGH THE WHOLE DANCE ALL OVER AGAIN.  After another 15 minutes of silence she says that they have to DROP SHIP A NEW BOX TO MY HOUSE!  It will take at least five days. And then a tech will have to come out and install it!!!!

But, I say, “He’s already here!!!! He is holding the box in his hand!!!!!”

“Sorry. That’s the only way we can do it.”

At this point I told them to forget the whole thing. I’ll keep the box. The tech and I shook hands and he left.

To sum up, in order to “save a few bucks” I now have no DirectTV on my boat and a 4K UHD receiver plugged into an old analog TV in my guest room that doesn’t even get HD. And I think I’m paying extra each month for the privilege of owning what is basically a paper weight.

My audio theater group performs a very funny piece called Till Death Do Us Not Part.”  You can click here to hear it. It’s about a guy calling the cable company to cancel his dead father’s cable account.  We tried to make it as absurd as possible. This real-life experience exposed levels of absurdity that even my twisted brain could not in a million years, ever conceive.  The shear incompetence and insanity of the DirectTV bureaucracy rivals that of the current President and his administration.

Franz Kafka is going. “Wow, they are seriously fucked up.”

jobsanger.blogspot.com

What have I learned from all of this?

When things are working just fine, leave them the hell alone. You are never ever ever going to save money by switching your cable or your phone company.

And when you want to “save a few bucks”? Just cut out a few coffees at Starbucks.

will-blog-for-food.com

 

 

READY TO LAUNCH?

LAUNCH THE SHUTTLECRAFT!


“Captain,” as Tuvok stood tall and saluted Janeway. The tips of his pointy ears twitched slightly, one of the few tells of how intense his feelings were at this moment in time.

“Are the rest of the crew ready?” she asked him. She was asking him again, probably the dozenth time in the past hour, part of the reason Tuvok was getting … twitchy.

“Everyone is ready,” he assured her and wondered if she was really listening. He could see that she was more than a little excited. Her breathing was irregular and he could swear she was sweating right through her Starfleet uniform.

“I spoke to Paris and Tuvok. They think we can launch the shuttle craft and be on the surface in …” and she looked at her watch … “Under an hour.”

Chakotay had approached while they spoke and nodded his agreement. “I had Neelix pack special Voyager lunch packs for everyone. We added one of those purple “People Eater” drinks … with umbrellas. Let’s make this a real celebration.”

The planet below was big and blue and so earth-like as to bring tears to the eyes of many of the long-stranded crew. Not that any of them were willing to give up their endless trek through the Delta Quadrant to read Earth … but what could be the harm of a month … maybe two … on the rich surface of this beautiful planet. The air was right. It was bigger than earth, though the gravity wasn’t much different. Maybe a little bit, but no one cared.

It was a puzzle that no one lived on its surface. For any human-type species, it was ideal. Forests and oceans and mountains — and a sky as blue as a Robin’s Egg.

And thus, nearly the entire crew of voyager boarded their Shuttlecraft, lightly dressed in Starfleet’s casual best. They hit the surface with a quiet hissing sound and the party began. They spread their tepees in a spiral circle and built a fire at the heart. Twenty-fourth century technology made bathrooms and laundry facilities simple and efficient and these were located conveniently out of the way, but near enough in case too many people were drinking an over-abundance of tall purple drinks. With umbrellas.

They didn’t know about the radiation.

It wasn’t the type of radiation their sensors could ever register being half magical. Indeed, it was an ancient form of wizard technology, an effective version of pre-modern total destruction which had sunk Atlantis long before Earth’s modern “technical” revolution would again nearly accomplish the same task.

Humans are nothing if not inventive.

It would take more than a month before the crew realized that they had found their final resting place. But first, they were going to have one Hell of a party.

“Ready to launch?” asked Janeway.

“Ready!” announced Tuvok.

“Ready!” said Chakotay.

“Ready,” said they all announced with merriment they sailed forth to meet their doom.

With umbrella drinks.

BORN ON THE BLACKSTONE

America: Born Bankrupt


America was born bankrupt. We won the revolution, but lost everything else. Our economy was dependent on Great Britain. We produced raw material, but Great Britain turned those materials into goods for the world’s markets.

Battle of Lexington and Concord revolution

Not merely did we depend on the British to supply us with finished goods we could not produce ourselves, we depended on British banks, British shipping, and British trade routes.

Everything has a price and we had no money. We had hoped we could reach an agreement with England short of war and had there been a less intransigent monarch on the throne at the time, we might have been able to do so. Despite the Massachusetts “Sam Adams faction” who were hellbent for battle, most colonists felt at least some allegiance to England.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We had no “American identity” because there was no America with which to identify. Nor was the yearning to breathe free burning in every heart. What the colonists of North America wanted was simple. They wanted the rights of free Englishmen. We wanted seats in British Parliament. We wanted the right to vote on taxes and other policies that affected colonial life. A deal should have been reached, but George III was not a sensible, reasonable or judicious king.

The result was war, the staggering loss to England of their wealthiest colonies and birth of a new nation.

That we won the war was astonishing. We had little in the way of arms and no navy. We were sparsely populated. Existing militias were untrained, undisciplined, little better than rabble. That George Washington was able to turn this into an army was no mean feat. No wonder they wanted him to be the first President.

French military support enabled us to beat the British. It was a loan, not a gift. We agreed to pay it back, so the French revolution was an unexpected and deeply gratifying development. It was like having the bank that holds your mortgage disappear taking your mortgage with it. It vastly improved our debt to income ratio. When Napoleon came to power and suggested we repay our war debt, we said “What debt?”

Our shipping industry was in its infancy. We had few ships or sailors, minimal access to world trade. The British ruled the seas and being soreheads, refused to share it with us. It would take many years before we could challenge their ascendancy on the seas.

What Did We Have?


Slaves and land. Sugar and rum.

If you who think slavery was an entirely southern institution, you’re wrong. Although slaves lived mostly in the southern colonies, they were brought to these shores by New England sea captains, held in New York, Boston, and other northern cities, sold to slavers at markets in the north, then sent south to be sold again to individual owners. The entire economy of the nascent country was based on slaves and their labor. The institution of slavery could not have persisted had it not been supported by business interests in the north.

The new-born United States had, for all practical purposes, no economy. We were pre-industrial when European countries were well into the modern industrial period. We had no factories. We had no national bank, currency, credit, courts, laws or central government. Our only thriving industries were rum and slaves.

Although there was an abolitionist movement, it was tiny, more sentimental than real.

North and south, slaves made their owners rich. North and south, fortunes were made selling human beings, then profiting from their labor. When it came time to write the Constitution and transform a bunch of individual colonies into one country, the Devil’s compromise was needed. Abolishing slavery would doom any attempt to pass the constitution … so slavery became law. The groundwork was laid for the bloodiest war America would ever fight.

It would twist and distort American history, shape our politics, society, culture, and social alignments. Its legacy remains with us today and probably always will.

So How Come We Didn’t Find a Better Way?


Question: If our Founding Fathers were so smart, how come they didn’t see that slavery would come back to bite us in the ass?

Answer: They knew it was wrong and knew that it would result in civil war. In other words, they did knew it would bite us in the ass. They could keep slavery and form a strong nation — or eliminate slavery and end up with two weak countries, one slave, one free. They chose what they thought was the lesser of the two evils.

Was it the lesser evil? Hard to say and it’s a bit late to second guess the past. It was clear from the get-go there was no way we were going to form a nation if slavery was made illegal. From private writings by members of the continental congress, it’s clear they knew the issue of slavery would eventually be resolved by war. Long before 1776, slavery was the polarizing issue in the colonies. So “The Great Compromise” was put into place, the Constitution was approved and a later generation fought the war.

The Right Thing went head-to-head with The Bottom Line. The Right Thing lost. Imagine that!

Eighty years later, 630,000 lives (more or less) would be the butcher’s bill for the compromises made in 1789. An ocean of blood would be the cost of ending America’s traffic in human lives. Many more years would pass before this country’s non-white population would see anything remotely resembling justice, much less equality.

When you dine with the Devil, bring a long spoon.

So About Those Mills …


Slaves, rum, and sugar — the triangle of trade that kept America’s economy alive — was profitable for plantation owners, sea captains, and other slave traders, but it didn’t generate a whole lot of entry-level job opportunities for average working people. A lot of people needed work, even more needed trade goods and dependable sources of income.

Most people didn’t own ships and if they did, were disinclined to take up slaving. It was never a profession for “nice folks” and a fair number of people found it distasteful. Decent people might live off the labor of slaves, but the actual process of buying and selling human beings was more than they could stomach.

So as great political and legal minds gathered in Philadelphia to draft a document to build a nation, other great minds were seeking ways to make money. It’s the American way.

Renovated into elderly and affordable housing, the old Crown and Eagle mill in Uxbridge is beautiful today.

The Crown and Eagle Mill today, renovated into elderly, affordable housing.

In one of the stranger coincidences of history, the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 while simultaneously, the American Industrial Revolution took shape on the banks of the Blackstone River.

Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combined with its narrowness and meandering path give it much more energy than a river of this size would normally generate.

It invited development. The question was how.

Through 1789, as the Constitution was gaining approval throughout the former British colonies, Brown wrangled the river, trying to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at the falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but as the end of the 1789 approached, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.

America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed more people and especially people with industrial skills. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcomed. This turned out to be a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.

Slaterville Mill -- oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

Slaterville Mill — oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

In December 1789, Samuel Slater — a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater had spent years working at an English textile mill. He recognized that Brown’s machinery was never going to work. Slater had fine engineering skills. In under a year, he’d redesigned and built a working mill on the Blackstone River.

By 1790, Slater’s Mill was up and running, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Slater’s Mill proved you could make money in New England doing something other than whaling, fishing, or running rum and slaves. Entrepreneurs hopped on the idea like fleas on a dog. Mills were an immediate success. New England was inhospitable to agriculture, but fertile for factories.

Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.

The Blackstone Canal


On the Blackstone, mill owners urgently sought a better way to move their goods.

The features that made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it useless for shipping. The only other choice — horse-drawn wagons — was slow and expensive. the trip took 2 to 3 days over dirt roads from the northern part of the valley to Providence.

Slow moving water in the canal …

When the weather turned bad, the trip was impossible. All of which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Meant as a long-term solution, it actually turned out to be no more than a short-term temporary fix … but it was an impressive undertaking.

What Does This Have To Do With Slavery?


Mills brought employment to the north. It created a real industrial base that would give the north the ability to fight the civil war … and win. It started with a river, continued with a canal, expanded with the railroads. Which is why the Blackstone Valley is a National Historic Corridor and known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become a top dog on the international scene.

Building the Canal


The Blackstone Canal took 4 years to build, from 1824 to 1828. The main canal runs alongside the Blackstone. In some places, the canal and the river are one. There is an extensive network of small canals, many on tributary rivers like the Mumford. The main canal was designed to handle large barges. It travels in a relatively straight line from Worcester to Providence.

The smaller canals allowed mills to move goods to places not immediately on the Blackstone. Small barges could move cargo between towns and mills.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Big barges were faster and cheaper than horse-drawn wagons. A single barge could haul as much as 35 tons of cargo and only needed two horses going downstream.

The canal system remains largely intact. Trails along the canals where horses towed barges have become walking paths. The barges are gone, but small boats can enjoy the open stretches of canal and river.

Railroads


Ultimately, railroads were the game-changer. As soon as rails from Worcester to Boston, and Worcester to Providence were built, the canals were abandoned. Business boomed.

The Blackstone River was lined with mills and factories at the end of the 1800s. The Blackstone supplied the hydro power and in return, the river was used to dispose of industrial waste and sewage.

75-Train-NK-014a

Photo: Owen Kraus

By the early 1900s, the Blackstone River in Massachusetts was grossly polluted. Fortunately for the river, though not necessarily for the valley’s residents, this was also the beginning of the end of the textile industry in the northeast.

As of 1923, the majority of nation’s cotton was grown, spun and woven down south. Without its mills and factories, the valley’s population began to shrink.

Pollution


In 1971, the Blackstone River was labeled “one of America’s most polluted rivers” by Audubon magazine. It was a low point for the region. It was time to clean up the mess.

We’re still cleaning up. Although not as polluted as it was, the watershed has a long way to go. The river’s tributaries are less polluted than the Blackstone itself because against all logic and reason, waste-water is still being discharged from a sewage treatment plant in Millbury. It’s hard to fathom what reasoning, if any, those who favor pouring sewage into our river are using. The fight never ends.

72-Heron_145

Good news? The birds and fish are back.

American eagles nest in my woods. Herons and egrets wade in the shallows to catch fish that breed there. The river is alive despite man’s best efforts to kill it.

HACKING YOUR HEARTBEAT

You thought this was a creepy, personal fantasy.
It turns out to be real. I told’ya, didn’t I?


FDA recalls close to half-a-million pacemakers over hacking fears


Turns out former Vice President (and erratic shooter) Dick Cheney was right all along: Your heart can be hacked. At least if you have a pacemaker, that is. On Tuesday, the FDA recalled 465,000 of the medical devices — the ones that help control your heart beat — citing security vulnerabilities. The pacemakers, which come from health company Abbott (formerly St. Jude Medical), require a firmware update. Fortunately, it can be installed by a health care provider in just three minutes. The models affected include the Accent, Anthem, Accent MRI, Accent ST, Assurity, and Allure.


EPISODE: NCIS – NEED TO KNOW (2012)


Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade information he has — which he claims involves national security and Agah Bayar, the arms dealer.

Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.

Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked it and raised his heart rate up to more than 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.

What does this have to do with me?

Well, I’m glad you asked. This particular episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston where a group of surgeons wanted to see if it COULD be done. Can you “attack” a pacemaker by remote control? One of the people that performed this experiment was my surgeon.

They did it, though my surgeon pointed out you had to be no more than a couple of feet from the pacemaker to do it. But you could do it. So, they contacted the manufacturer who changed the programming to protect it from potential attack. Cool, yes?

 


NOTES:

I had all that heart surgery in March 2014, not 2013 (how soon we forget) — which I now know was 2014 because I have implant cards to tell people what spare parts are in my body. Unfortunately, none of them indicates which part is which — which ones are implanted heart valves and which one is the pacemaker. Just trying to find out if my pacemaker is being recalled. I mean, my car is being recalled, so why not my pacemaker?

I also had one transplant card for each breast, but that one seems to have gone missing. Oh well … I believe that number is imprinted on the silicon baggies, so I’m sure they will find it as needed.


In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker because the surgeons fixed it back in 2012. I am safe from remote terrorists. Which is good, because worrying about it was keeping me up at night.

I find it oddly comforting. Garry finds it disturbing. I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek and can detach from it on a personal level and get into the coolness of the electronics.

It is  kind of creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart beat on its own, I wouldn’t need the pacemaker.

Every time I go for a pacemaker checkup, they use a little machine and briefly stop the pacemaker to see if my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is an icky feeling. Anyone with a pacemaker knows what I mean.

The blue tooth remote functions work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a remote tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It’s in the hollow by my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. It’s impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.

THE LONGEST RUNNING TV SHOW

For 31 years, there was a series on Channel 7 in Boston. It was my favorite show. I watched it any day I could get home from work in time. It was on several times a day, five days a week. The first performance often aired during the pre-dawn hours, while the final day’s episode might air long after most people had finished dinner and many had gone to bed.

It was “good stuff.” Garry Armstrong was a smart, thorough reporter who cared about Boston and its people. He knew everyone and they knew him. He makes jokes about being trusted … but he was trusted because he had proved he could be. He had sources. He checked with them. He knew when the a story wasn’t “right” and he was cynical about politicians and big money.

Watching Garry kept me informed about events taking place in my neighborhood, the city, and the region. I also got follow-up and background information over dinner — sometimes quite different than what had been aired. There was stuff you could broadcast, and there was stuff that he and other reporters “knew,” but couldn’t prove.

It was sometimes difficult to reconcile the star of the TV show with the tired, crabby guy who came home expecting dinner, a newspaper, and when we were lucky, a baseball game. I always knew how the star’s day had gone. I taped his pieces so he could see them when he got home. Although he covered stories, wrote them, and performed, he didn’t see them as finished pieces unless I taped them.

I watched the news as I also watched him deal with violence and the calamities that are a constant in every reporter’s life. He never got used to it. Garry was, in a regional way — a celebrity. I was the celebrity’s wife — a very different role. My job was often to be there and smile. Television “people” don’t pay much attention to anyone who isn’t part of their habitat. At a good event, I got fed too.  I even got to wear ball gowns occasionally and I met some people I would never have normally encountered in my life.

Garry covered, or was involved with, virtually every major event in New England for his run of 31 years. From the great to the tragic, he was there.

Garry and I at President Clinton's party on Martha's Vineyard

Garry and I at President Clinton’s party on Martha’s Vineyard

We have one of Garry’s three Emmy awards on a shelf behind the TV, but virtually no tape of anything that happened. I don’t remember who found the piece below, but it’s a rare viewing of him doing normal work on a normal day in the news biz. Garry’s segment appears at about 1 minute and 30 seconds into the noon news. You can fast forward and skip the intro or choose to watch from the top of the show.

That was a “live shot.”

Time passes. It’s good to have something tangible to remember. Lucky me, I still have the star himself.

On September 12, 2013, Garry Armstrong was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

We keep the plaque on the mantel. His one remaining Emmy (Channel 7 lost the other two) is on a shelf that Owen built, along with his Kauff award and one other big one, the name of which I have forgotten. Amazing the things you forget even though at some point in your life, you couldn’t imagine ever forgetting something that important. His “Silver Circle” Lifetime Emmy hangs on the wall, too and there are other awards here and there in the house.

What is important changes over time. As time marches along, life and day-to-day events become more important than whatever career you had — except on days when the guys get together to remember.

That more or less wraps it up. I think it’s going to rain today.