MEMORIAL HALLS – Marilyn Armstrong

Every night, I fill up my glass with juice, grab my bag of medications, pet the puppies, and hike the hallway to the bedroom at the other end of the house.

After arriving, I put the bag where it belongs. Adjust the bed to its TV viewing angle. Turn on the television. He watches with headphones while I read or listen to an audiobook. I fire up my blue-tooth speaker. I put my medications into a cup which is actually the lid from a medicine bottle. Convenient and keeps little round pills from rolling off the table.

I never remember everything. Typically, I forget to turn off the fans or the lights. Or something. I sit on the edge of the bed trying to remember what I should have done but didn’t.

“Ah,” I think. “Didn’t change the dogs’ water.” I go back to the living room. Wash the pot, refill it with clean water. Pet the dogs. Assure them they are not getting another biscuit no matter how cute they are.

Back down the hall. Brush teeth. Sit on the edge of the bed. Oh, right. Need to refill the antihistamine bottle. It’s empty. Back to the kitchen where the big bottle is stored. Fending off the dogs, I stroll back to the bedroom with the nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something else.

Ah, that’s right. I didn’t turn off the living room lights. Back to the living room where I turn off a couple of lights. Pet dogs and go back to the bedroom. Garry shows up, having done whatever it is he does for however long he does it in the bathroom. He settles into watching highlights of the whatever sport is being played, followed by a movie or three. I turn on my audiobook.

Forty-five minutes later, I’ve got a headache. I’m not sleepy. Everything hurts. Why are my medications not working? There’s nothing more I can take. Panic sets in.

72-scotties-073016_034

Which is when I realize all my pills are in the cup where I put them. With all the walking up and down the hallway, I never got around to taking them. Which probably explains why they aren’t working.

I laugh. Continue laughing. Garry takes off his headphones long enough for me to explain why I’m laughing. I got to the punchline, he looks at me and says: “You hadn’t taken them?” He smiled. Nodded. Put the headphones back.

As our memory — collectively and individually — gets less dependable, we have substituted routines and calendars. If we do everything the same way at the same time every day, we’re less likely to forget. Alternatively, we may not be able to remember if we did it today, yesterday, or the day before.

Duke’s glorious tail – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

The other evening, we were watching a show that included a dog. Garry assumes I know every dog breed at a glance. He’s right, usually. I know the breeds, but these days, I may not remember its name. I will usually remember the group — guarding, herding, hunting, hound, terrier, non-sporting (“other”), toy.

The Duke

If I remember that, I can go to the AKC site, find the group, scroll the list and find the dog. But they’ve changed the AKC website, so it’s not as easy as it used to be. I wish they’d stop fixing stuff that isn’t broken.

 

I knew the dog that Garry was asking about was the same as the dog Frasier had on his show. The dog’s name was Eddy. I remembered that. No problem. The breed name was on the edge of my brain, but not coming into focus. I gave up and Googled it.

Search for: “Breed of dog on Frasier TV show.”

Except I couldn’t remember the name of the TV show, either. So I first had to find the name of the show.

Search for: “long-running comedy on TV about a psychiatrist.”

Up popped Frasier. Phew. I could have also found it by looking up that other long-running comedy, “Cheers,” in which Frasier first appeared, but I couldn’t remember its name, either.

One of these days, I’m going to have to Google my own name. I hope I find it.

SPYING

So I’m looking through my news feeds again — there are so many these days — and I come upon Daily KOS. I like them. They are pretty accurate and mostly, they write well. Of course they are always out for donations, but everyone is. And there’s the headline:


Marilyn, on Thursday the House voted to reauthorize section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is a “backdoor” to allow the U.S. government to spy on citizens. This section is the basis for the NSA’s largest domestic surveillance programs, which serve as an end run around the Fourth amendments prohibitions on unreasonable search and seizure of citizens.

We don’t have much time. The House has already passed this bill. The Senate vote is scheduled for January 16, right before the current FISA authorization sunsets on January 19. If you care about protecting your rights to privacy–free from government interception– please use the link below to contact your Senators immediately. 


I’m walking around laughing. This is just the most recent invasion of our privacy. This month, the government. Next month? Cable news? Google? Windows? I don’t know who it will be, but it will be someone. They are all spying on us.

But our government spies on us more than anyone else and they are never going to stop. You knew that, right?

Last night, when we were tucked into the most comfortable bed in the world, I said to Garry, “Can you think of any government anywhere, or any time in the history of humankind, during which governments have not spied on their citizens or subjects?”

He honored me with a thoughtful few seconds before answering (or maybe he was just twiddling with the remote control). “Nope.”

And I said “I think the way it works like this. We invent heads of state. Kings, presidents, emperors, whatever. Then they invent a special police force to keep an eye on us. The only thing that changes is technology. And the quality of the dungeons.”

“Yup.”

“I think it’s a mistake to try and monitor all those emails and phone calls. I mean, they are just going to be buried under data. Lots of jabbering kids yakking with friends, people arguing with customer support, and boring conversations by people like us. We never say anything interesting on the phone. We hardly talk on the phone at all. Our email is pretty dull too.

“Yup.”

Traffic cameras in Brookline

Americans have an ongoing need to be outraged. It’s our thing.  We require a constant level of civic hysteria. Scandal keeps ratings up and gives talk show hosts something to joke about. It gives liberals and conservatives something to accuse each other of doing, even though every administration has done pretty much the same stuff and always will.

Spying never gets old.

Possibly the only traffic camera in our town. At least the only one I could find.

Nothing will change. Governments spy on citizens. Citizens are outraged. The outrage is ignored. Everyone moves on, until it comes up again.

I remember Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover. I know there are traffic cameras tracking me everywhere, even out here in the country. If anyone is looking for me — or you — I’m sure they’ll have no trouble finding us. My government spies on me. Corporations spy on me. Everyone collects my personal data and uses it without my permission.

Fedex truck on Aldrich Street
No cameras here. No streetlights, either. That’s how you know you are in the country!

It’s the price I pay for being connected and computerized. I suppose I could go live in a cave where no one would find me (is there such a place?), but what fun would that be?

Spying on citizens is as old as government. It will never end. You knew that too, right?

MEMORIAL HALLWAYS

Every night, I fill up my cup, grab my bag o’ medications, pet the puppies, and hike the hallway to the bedroom at the other end of the house.

After arriving, I put the bag where it belongs. Adjust the bed to its TV viewing angle. Turn on the television for Garry. He watches with headphones while I read or listen to an audiobook. I fire up my blue-tooth speaker. I put my medications into a cup which is actually the lid from a medicine bottle. Convenient and keeps little round pills from rolling off the table.

I never remember everything. Typically, I forget to turn off the fans in the living room. I sit on the edge of the bed trying to remember what I should have done but didn’t.

“Ah,” I think. “Fans.” I go back to the living room. Turn off the fans. Pet the dogs. Assure them they are not getting another biscuit no matter how cute they are.

Back down the hall. Brush teeth. Sit on the edge of the bed. Oh, right. Need to refill antihistamine bottle. It’s empty. Back to the kitchen where the big bottle is stored. Fending off the dogs, I amble back to the bedroom. And get the nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something else.

Ah, that’s right. I didn’t close the kitchen door. It’s a dutch door and we leave the top open during the day to catch the breeze. Tonight, it’s supposed to rain so I should close it. Up the hall to the kitchen. Close door. Pet dogs. Back to bedroom. Garry shows up, having done whatever it is he does for however long he does it in the bathroom. He settles into watching highlights of the Sox game, followed by a movie or three. I turn on my audiobook.

Forty-five minutes later, I’ve got a headache. I’m not sleepy. Everything hurts. Why are my medications not working? There’s nothing more I can take. Panic sets in.

72-scotties-073016_034

Which is when I realize all the pills are in the cup. What with all the walking up and down the hallway, I never quite got around to taking them. Which probably explains why they aren’t working.

I laugh. Continue laughing. Garry takes off his headphones long enough for me to explain why. I got to the punchline, he looks at me and says: “You hadn’t taken them?” He smiled. Nodded. Put the headphones back.

As our memory — collectively and individually — gets less dependable, we have substituted routines and calendars. If we do everything the same way at the same time every day, we’re less likely to forget. Or not remember if we did it today, or yesterday.

The other evening, we were watching a show that included a dog. Garry assumes I know every dog breed at a glance. He’s right, usually. I know the breeds, but these days, I may not remember its name. I will usually remember the group — guarding, herding, hunting, hound, terrier, non-sporting (“other”), toy. If I remember that, I can go to the AKC site, find the group, scroll the list and find the dog. But they’ve changed the AKC website, so it’s not as easy as it used to be. I wish they’d stop fixing stuff that isn’t broken.

I knew the dog that Garry was asking about was the same as the dog Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) had on his show. The dog’s name was Eddy. I remembered that. No problem. The breed name was on the edge of my brain, but not coming into focus. I gave up and Googled it.

Search for: “Breed of dog on Frasier TV show.”

Except I couldn’t remember the name of the TV show, either. So I first had to find the name of the show.

Search for: “long-running comedy on TV about psychiatrist.”

Up popped Frasier. Phew. I could have also found it by looking up that other long-running comedy, “Cheers,” in which Frasier first appeared, but I couldn’t remember its name, either. One of these days, I’m going to have to Google my own name. I hope I find it.

MEMORIES AND WHERE THE HELL ARE MY KEYS? – TOM CURLEY

First off, this isn’t a blog about “Senior Moments”. You know, like when you get up and go into another room and the second you enter the other room you can’t for the life of you remember why you’re there.

drz.org
drz.org

The annoying part is that the only way to remember why you went in there is to go back to the room you started in. As soon as you do, you immediately remember why you got up in the first place.

“Oh right. I really have to pee.”

No, this blog is about memory and memories. Why does my brain work the way it does? Why do I remember some things and not others?

Let me explain.

I went to college. I was a biology major and pre-med. I took lots and lots of science courses; biology, physics, math, and chemistry. I got good grades. All A’s or B’s.

I learned lots of stuff. I knew calculus. I knew what a derivative was. No, not the financial thingies that caused the global crash of 2008. But equations that started with dy/dx, or something like that.

Notice the past tense in these last sentences? I “knew” all these things. Today, all that information is gone! Vanished, like I never took any of those courses. Actually, I do remember that there was something called the “Krebs Cycle.” It had to do with respiration or metabolism. I know it’s something we all do that’s very important. If we don’t do it, we die. But that’s all I remember.

Yet, with no effort at all, I can recite all the words to the theme song to the 1960’s TV show Mr. Ed!!!

mr ed
Youtube.com

“A horse is a horse of course of course, and nobody can talk to a horse of course. That is of course, unless the horse, is the famous Mr. Ed.” I could go on to the second verse.

But I won’t.

Hell, I can even recite the words to “Car 54 Where Are You?” And I didn’t really watch the show that often!

Youtube.com
Youtube.com

“There’s a hold up in the Bronx,
Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.
There’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights.
There’s a scout troop short a child.
Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild.
Car 54 where are you?”

I swear I wrote those from memory. They flowed effortlessly from my brain, like crap through a goose. I didn’t Google them.

Which brings me to my next point.

We live in an amazing age. We have all the knowledge of the world literally at our fingertips. Any question you could possibly think of can be googled. It’s gotten so easy that you can type the most rambling of questions and still get the right answer.

For example, a while ago I got into a conversation about time travel and it reminded me of a movie I’d seen a long time ago. It was about an aircraft carrier that went back in time to just before Pearl Harbor. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name so I typed the following sentence into Google:

“There was this movie a long time ago about an aircraft carrier that goes back in time to just before Pearl Harbor and ….”

google-search-screen

At this point Google popped up “The Final Countdown.” It listed the cast, the plot, and where I could buy it. All before I could finish typing a full sentence! Wow!

imdb.com
imdb.com

It made me realize something. I could use the internet to bring back all that science knowledge I once had!

But I don’t.

I use it for far more important stuff. Mostly, finding out the name of the actor my wife and I are currently watching on TV. We know we’ve seen him or her on some other show. But we can’t for the life of us remember either his/her name or the show’s name. Google it! Go to IMDB!

“Oh, right! She was the head doctor on that show we used to watch back in the 90’s!”

“Right! She was married to … what’s his name?  He was on … what was the name of that show?”

Back to Google.

So in the end, I still don’t know why my brain works the way it does. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the Kreb’s Cycle.

en.wikipedia.org
en.wikipedia.org

When I started reading it, I actually remembered most of it. Although I gotta admit. It was pretty dull. Mr. Ed was a lot more fun.

Hmm, maybe I do know why my brain works the way it does.

COMPUTERS, SOFTWARE, GUNS, AND US: NOT A RANT, JUST A RAMBLE

Yesterday, I tried to download a book from my Audible.com library and got a message telling me I didn’t have adequate permission.

I’ve been an Audible member since 2002 and I’m pretty sure I have more than adequate permissions. I tried what I thought I knew, then gave up and called Audible. Which is not as horrific as, for example, having to call Dell. I think I’d rather have a root canal than have to deal with Dell service people. The folks at Audible are nice. Helpful. Mostly knowledgeable. Pleasant and patient. Which is good because when my computer is playing up, I transform into a very cranky old person. I depend on my computer. I expect it to just do its job, without complaint. Without hesitation and without any special massaging. I don’t burn incense to it as I used to with some of my more persnickety machines through the years.

72-alien-two-blue-tools-10212016_07

We went through every menu and fixed permissions. Edited the registry. Nope, permission still denied. Which was when I realized that the application denying permission was actually Chrome, not Windows or my operating system. Good news? I wouldn’t need to call Dell. Bad news? What are the odds of actually getting a person to talk to at Google?

But my new friend at Audible had a secret weapon. He gave me the tech support direct line for Google! How cool is that? I was dubious, but I finally womaned up and called them.

Two dogs and a computer
Two dogs and a computer

They answered. It was human, not a robot. We got it fixed. Something had corrupted between when I signed off last night — well after midnight — and when I arose in the late hours of the day and signed on. This confirms my belief that our dogs secretly have opposable thumbs. They do stuff on the computers while we sleep. How else can a perfectly good browser go bad while nothing is happening? It’s got to be the dogs. J’accuse!


One of the many conversations Garry and I had yesterday had to do with weapons and shooting people to protect ourselves or others. He said he might not be able to kill anyone unless they threatened me. Then, all bets were off. I said I was afraid, unfamiliar as I am with guns except for the 22 mm target rifle I used to slay paper plates almost 50 years ago. On vacation in Maine. Even then, I didn’t load the rifle or clean it. Someone just handed it to me, loaded and cocked, said “Hold it this way” and I shot the crap out of that paper plate. It never stood a chance against my wrath.

That same long ago day in Maine, as my friends and I were passing the rifle around, shooting those paper plates (which we had tacked to an understanding pine tree) … a pheasant wandered by, and decided to hang around awhile. He wasn’t impressed with our fire power. He just stood there, in front of the tree, looking at us.

pheasant

An argument broke out. Who would shoot the pheasant? What if we shot him, but he didn’t die? Who was going to shoot him again? Who would pull out the feathers and what else did you need to do to make that pheasant into a meal? Eventually, we just shooed him away. Mighty hunters we were not.

Given that little piece of history, I have no reason to believe in my ability to kill anything. For any reason. If I started to think, by the time my brain registered the need for haste, I’d be dead. Unless that other part of me kicked in, that “emergency response unit” that seems to pop up only on an “as needed” basis. At which point all my thought processes stop and I just do whatever I need to do to survive. That could happen, right? But I wouldn’t count on it.

Garry has at least had the benefit of having gone through basic training in the Marine Corps. Once, a long time ago, he could take his weapon apart and put it back together with his eyes closed. Not that we have such a weapon, but at least he has — somewhere in memory — a fundamental familiarity with a weapon.

Lucky that we’ve never been tested, eh?

THEY’RE SPYING ON US … DOES IT MATTER?

THEY ARE ALL OUT TO GET YOU. OR TRYING, ANYHOW.

Google is spying on you. So is the government. And Amazon, and almost every single website you visit … even if you don’t actually visit it but just pass briefly through a photo that’s linked to the site. Every bit of raw data is collected by some database (search engine). Usually more than one. I know this because I helped build these databases. No kidding, I really did.

So unlike most civilians who didn’t think all this data mining would get personal, I figured it would inevitably spread to pretty much everything.

google-search-screenGoogle was the winner in the search engine war because it was, from the beginning, better than its competition. It still is. No one has created a better search or data mining engine, though this doesn’t preclude future competition. Technology never stops trying to build a better whatever.

Google built an empire on their engine. The best, fastest, most complete database in the world. Knowledge is power, so it is said. Google has continued to add to that base and use it in many profitable ways. Mostly, by making advertising personal.

ABOUT THOSE UGLY SPYING RUMORS THAT AREN’T RUMORS

Does Google spy on us? You betcha. ALL the Databases everywhere are collecting information about everyone around the world. Don’t think for a moment it’s just an American phenomenon. Not hardly. Google does it better and more thoroughly and more openly, but spying via computer has become the way the world turns.

 

google is watching you

Information gathering is a million times (or more?) faster than it was in the early years. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. But does that translate to everyone knowing your secrets?

EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYONE, RIGHT?

Not really. Your buying habits are public even if you don’t shop online. Those discount cards and other store ID cards track every purchase you make using any kind of plastic, including your debit card. This information is mined by a parent company, sliced and diced and sold to other companies. Data mining a huge industry and you are both a product and a target. (Think about that for a while.)

But as for the rest of our lives …

Just because we can accumulate information at warp speed doesn’t mean we have the ability to do much with the raw data. The ability to collect information has far exceeded anyone’s — Google’s or the government’s — ability to analyze and make sense of it. Piles of raw data are accumulating on servers, but it isn’t doing anything.

I laugh at the idea that the government is tracking each of us. Personally. They are so buried in their own data, they are barely keeping their collective and individual heads above water. By trying to monitor everything, they effectively wind up monitoring nothing. The amount of data collected by satellites alone is overwhelming.

The terrorist they caught the other day wasn’t on the radar and probably, neither will be serious future threats. There’s so much information it has effectively become no information. Huge heaps of raw data is the same as no data. To make that data useful, an army of analysts would have to start working on it yesterday. No government is hiring an army of analysts, which means the data will grow old and meaningless without anyone having so much as skimmed it.

drone spy

Solving crimes and dealing with terrorism will continue as it always has. Live agents, police, the military — aka people — will use the same forensic methods “as seen on TV” to get the job done. They will rely on informants and citizens to report suspicious activity. They will follow clues, leads, and try to find people who are doing dangerous stuff. Let’s hope they are successful.

Relax. They are tracking your shopping, but they don’t give a hoot about the rest. If there’s information about you out there? Odds are no one will ever see it or be able to find it. You would have to do something to bring yourself to their attention — which I highly recommend you not do.

Meanwhile, all the information gathering engines are busily gathering everything.

Everything is, practically speaking, identical to nothing. Your secrets are safe from everyone except companies who want to sell you stuff. They can always find you.

MEMORY, MEMORIES AND WHERE THE HELL ARE MY KEYS? – by TOM CURLEY

First off, this isn’t a blog about “Senior Moments”. You know, like when you get up and go into another room and the second you enter the other room you can’t for the life of you remember why you’re there.

drz.org
drz.org

The annoying part is that the only way to remember why you went in there is to go back to the room you started in. As soon as you do, you immediately remember why you got up in the first place.

“Oh right. I really have to pee.”

No, this blog is about memory and memories. Why does my brain work the way it does? Why do I remember some things and not others?

Let me explain.

I went to college. I was a biology major and pre-med. I took lots and lots of science courses; biology, physics, math, and chemistry. I got good grades. All A’s or B’s.

I learned lots of stuff. I knew calculus. I knew what a derivative was. No, not the financial thingies that caused the global crash of 2008. But equations that started with dy/dx, or something like that.

Notice the past tense in these last sentences? I “knew” all these things. Today, all that information is gone! Vanished, like I never took any of those courses. Actually, I do remember that there was something called the “Krebs Cycle.” It had to do with respiration or metabolism. I know it’s something we all do that’s very important. If we don’t do it, we die. But that’s all I remember.

Yet, with no effort at all, I can recite all the words to the theme song to the 1960’s TV show Mr. Ed!!!

mr ed
Youtube.com

“A horse is a horse of course of course, and nobody can talk to a horse of course. That is of course, unless the horse, is the famous Mr. Ed.” I could go on to the second verse.

But I won’t.

Hell, I can even recite the words to “Car 54 Where Are You?” And I didn’t really watch the show that often!

Youtube.com
Youtube.com

“There’s a hold up in the Bronx,

Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.

There’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights.

There’s a scout troop short a child.

Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild.

Car 54 where are you?”

72-Mr-Goose-cropped_09

I swear I wrote those from memory. They flowed effortlessly from my brain, like crap through a goose. I didn’t Google them.

Which brings me to my next point.

We live in an amazing age. We have all the knowledge of the world literally at our fingertips. Any question you could possibly think of can be googled. It’s gotten so easy that you can type the most rambling of questions and still get the right answer.

For example, a while ago I got into a conversation about time travel and it reminded me of a movie I’d seen a long time ago. It was about an aircraft carrier that went back in time to just before Pearl Harbor. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name so I typed the following sentence into Google:

“There was this movie a long time ago about an aircraft carrier that goes back in time to just before Pearl Harbor and ….”

google-search-screen

At this point Google popped up “The Final Countdown.” It listed the cast, the plot, and where I could buy it. All before I could finish typing a full sentence! Wow!

imdb.com
imdb.com

It made me realize something. I could use the internet to bring back all that science knowledge I once had!

But I don’t.

I use it for far more important stuff. Mostly, finding out the name of the actor my wife and I are currently watching on TV. We know we’ve seen him or her on some other show. But we can’t for the life of us remember either his/her name or the show’s name. Google it! Go to IMDB!

“Oh, right! She was the head doctor on that show we used to watch back in the 90’s!”

“Right! She was married to … what’s his name?  He was on … what was the name of that show?”

Back to Google.

So in the end, I still don’t know why my brain works the way it does. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the Kreb’s Cycle.

en.wikipedia.org
en.wikipedia.org

When I started reading it, I actually remembered most of it. Although I gotta admit. It was pretty dull. Mr. Ed was a lot more fun.

Hmm, maybe I do know why my brain works the way it does.