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.

SPENDING TIME WITH TELEVISION FRIENDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve found that I like watching weekly series on TV because of the people, not the plots. The storylines are an important part of the overall picture. But the reason I’m drawn back, week after week, is because I love hanging out with the series regulars.

Some series have an amazing ensemble of characters and actors. There’s magical chemistry between the fictional characters as well as between the actors who play them. I enjoy watching how my TV friends deal with each week’s crises and plot twists. I wait for the tidbits we’re thrown regularly that enrich our understanding of the characters’ psyches and the relationships between the characters.

One of my long time favorite crime shows is “NCIS”. The original one. It involves a team of Naval crime fighters in Washington, D.C. The team banters and sleuths its way through each episode’s case. The relationships are complex between the people on the team. The layers have layers after all these years. And over each season, you learn more and more about the personal lives of all of the main players.

Long running shows like “NCIS” have stayed successful all this time — despite cast turnovers –because they keep the group dynamics constant. You hate to see your favorite actors leave, but the replacements manage to integrate into the show seamlessly. Crimes are still solved the same way. The teasing, joking and office gossiping go on, uninterrupted.

Two of my other favorite shows revolve around extended families. “Life In Pieces” is a half hour comedy and “This Is Us” is a one hour drama. These shows have amazing character development and deep, rich, interrelationships.

“Life In Pieces” is incredibly well-written! It deals with three generations of a close-knit family – older parents, three grown siblings, their significant others and their children. Much of the humor is based on character. The family members are quirky and over-the-top enough to be funny, but they’re also believable. So are the jokes and situations.

I love these weird and wonderful people! I can’t wait to see what they’re going to be up to each week. I used to feel this way about “Modern Family” but for me, it has crossed the line into caricature these days.

“This Is Us” is a drama about a set of triplets and their parents. The story is divided into two timelines, an interesting device. There is the present when the triplets are in their thirties, and the past which follows their parents through courtship, marriage and parenthood, into the kids’ teen years.

Again, superior writing and character development. The timelines are woven together subtly and cleverly. The time I spend with these people flies by and I’m always shocked when the hour is up so soon. There are some mysteries about the past which are revealed slowly, of course. Still, the main reason the show was a big hit in its first season, was because of the interesting, real, multi-level people who populate the show.

More and more I turn on the television to spend time with my old TV friends. Like the gang on “The Big Bang Theory”, the bickering partners on “Hawaii 5-0” who go to couples counseling, and the present day Sherlock Holmes and female Dr. Watson on “Elementary”.

I miss these people when their shows go on hiatus. I’m excited to see them again when the shows return. The murders, mysteries, plots, and punch lines are great fun. But I’m in it for the characters. They are all part of my life now.

APOLOGIES ARE A SIGN OF WEAKNESS

No Apologies – What’s the one guilty pleasure you have that’s so good, you no longer feel guilty about it?


That’s what Gibbs says. And that’s what The Duke always said. It turns out, in reality, most of us do a great deal of apologizing for all kinds of stuff. But never because things we love are currently out of popular favor.

casablanca movie-movie

This brings me to guilty pleasures via the back door. In our household, that phrase has a very specific meaning. It means movies or television shows we love and watch no matter what anyone else thinks of them. Into this category fit all kinds of stuff — from movies we loved when we were teenagers to reruns of TV shows about vampire cops in Canada.

forever_knight_2009

When I was young, it was “A Summer Place” the music of Percy Faith and hunky Troy Donahue. I was only 14, so what do you want to make of it?

To balance the ledger, much later in life, I was so addicted to “Law and Order” I couldn’t go a day without at least one viewing. Fortunately it is always playing somewhere. Cable is good that way.

For Garry, it’s old TV cowboy movies and TV shows replayed on the many oldie channels. One year, we got the entire run of “Have Gun, Will Travel” and sang along with the theme song. It was swell.

And now we come to the “guilty” and “apologies” section. We are too old to apologize. If you don’t like our choices, feel free to not partake, to do your own thing.

Do you have a “thing?”

VAMPIRES IN TORONTO — CANADA’S DARK UNDERBELLY

If I could have a sequel, this show would be a great candidate. I know — not a movie — but it was a great little show that ended too soon.

I first discovered Forever Knight when it was in reruns on the Sci Fi channel. It was showing around 2 in the morning. Garry was working the dawn patrol and had already left for work by the time the show came on. I was working from home, allowing me to sometimes see my husband before he was off to work … and indulge my taste for weird TV shows you can only see in the middle of the night.

forever_knight_2009

I became an addict. I needed my knightly fix. They were showing season two when I found the show. I didn’t see the first season until I bought the DVDs (used) on Amazon. We watched them last winter when the ice and snow locked us into the house. It proved a good antidote to cabin fever.

How cool can a cop show be? This one is extremely cool. A vampire, repenting of his formerly evil ways, joins the Toronto police department. How does he get around the whole “vampires can’t be in the sun” business? Not to mention they “only drink blood” thing?

He has this big old American car with a huge trunk in which he can hide in a “sun” emergency. Drinks cow’s blood. Works the night shift. Invents a massive allergy to the sun to explain his inability to work days.

Nick Knight is more than 800 years old. A vampire working homicide. He is trying (with the help of Natalie, a lovely young coroner) to regain his humanity. Knight is not his name, of course. He was an actual knight in the 13th century when he became a vampire.

forever-knight-season1-cast1

The show ran from 1992 to 1996, though the pilot ran in 1989. The DVDs divide into three seasons and no, I don’t understand how they count seasons. There are 22 shows in the first season, 26 in the second, 22 in the third for a total of 70 episodes.

The original broadcast channel in North America was CBS — May 5,1992 to May 17, 1996. The show also ran in Germany, England and Australia (I don’t know if it was ever shown in Canada). It has been rerun in several places since including the Sci Fi channel here. The DVD sets originated in the US and Germany. The sets are different in length, and how they were edited. The German versions are longer and sexier. Mine came in boxes that say made in USA, but the DVDs were pressed in Germany. This link (in Wikipedia) gives a full list of episodes.

A cop show with a vampire as the lead detective? It isn’t just a guilty pleasure. It’s a good show and ahead of its time. And last, but not least, it’s witty and clever.

Geraint Wyn Davies plays Detective Nick Knight. He also co-wrote and directed many of the shows. Nigel Bennett is Lucien LaCroix, Knight’s maker and the weirdest overnight DJ in radio history. Deborah Duchêne plays Janette DuCharme, Nick’s sexy vampire “sister” and sometimes lover. Catherine Disher is Natalie Lambert, the police coroner and Nick’s sort-of love interest.

foreverknight3_nick

The acting is good. The scripts are coherent, thematic, often with a moral twist and some interesting philosophical speculations. And who would have guessed Toronto was crawling with vampires? Fortunately most of the show’s undead are surprisingly circumspect showing far more restraint than they have shown in their pasts, which are seen in flashback.

During the show’s final season, when the producers, director and cast knew they were not being renewed, they methodically kill off the entire cast. That third season is memorable. Fascinating. Unavailable.

Forever Knight Season 1 and Forever Knight Season 2 can be downloaded from Amazon Instant Video. Season 3 is available only on DVD (used), sometimes as a single season, but also as a set of all three seasons. I own the set, though I bought each season separately which saved me about $50. It also took two years to finally find a copy of that elusive third season.

As Garry and I binge-watched our way through the series, I think it may have been a bargain after all. It’s a lot of entertainment … a lot of bang for the bucks.

Forever_Knight__Nick_x_Janette_by_Lioncourt87

It’s fun. Well-written. Original, Unique. Sexy. Creative. It won’t gross you out with gallons of blood and gore but I love it when Nick’s eyes glow orange or green, depending on circumstance. I like the music and Toronto is a lovely city.

I recommend Forever Knight, though I’m not sure what you will do about season three. You might have to come to my house and watch it with us.

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG WITH THAT?

When I lived in Israel, there was a story in the news about a family who sold their house and used the proceeds to buy lottery tickets. They figured they had to win. Win big. After which they would buy a new house. It didn’t work out as planned. They ended up with a giant pile of worthless lottery tickets and no house. A perfect example of “what could possibly go wrong?”

Watching television gives one many opportunities to ponder “what could possibly go wrong?” Last night, on CSI, a show whose time has come and probably also gone, what’s-his-name played by Ted Danson is using his lovely daughter as bait for a serial killer. Really.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

It took all the creativity of a team of writers to come up with an unbelievable happy ending. Unbelievable in the sense that I didn’t believe it. Garry didn’t believe it. I bet even the guys who wrote it didn’t believe it.

I try not to take this sort of thing personally. It can’t be that the people who write scripts for television shows think we are that stupid, do they? When I worked at Doubleday, many long years go, we wrote about books because, you know, Doubleday is a publisher. There were very few rules about how we were to write. We were allowed a great deal of creative freedom, one of the many pluses of the job.

The one warning we got was to never, ever, write down to our readers. Because you never know who is reading that book. As the editor in charge of the Doubleday Romance Library, I got to read the surveys on who actually reads romance novels, an oft-maligned genre of literature.

CSI-danson

These light, fluffy stories — all pretty much the same plot — always sold extremely well. It seemed that fans of the genre could not get enough of them. Yet survey after survey showed that the readers of romance novels were, of all of our reader groups, the best educated.

How could that be? Well, it turns out that many people in high-pressure professions don’t want to read serious books. They want to be gently entertained. They like books with no ugly deaths, no tortured souls. They appreciate knowing there will be a happy ending and if they forget to finish the book, it doesn’t matter.

Whoever is in charge of the story lines and scripts for many current television series, seem to have forgotten about not talking down to us. They obviously think we are stupid. The result? I stop watching their shows. When the stories get ridiculous, when the “what could possibly go wrong with that?” factor outweighs its entertainment value, we move on.

For me to accept a story, to suspend my disbelief, you need to give me a hook. Something that lets me accept whatever is happening as “possible.” Like, there you are on planet Alphabetazoid in the far away galaxy of ZYX900042 and everyone speaks colloquial 21st century American English. You want me to believe it? Tell me they are using their “Universal Translator.” Or have babel fish in their ears. I want to believe, but you need to offer me a little help.

Of course, that’s useless when confronted by the vast sea of true-life human stupidity. People who really do sell their homes to buy lottery tickets and other “What could possibly go wrong with that” scenarios. I will need to continue to deal with the depth and breadth of human stupidity as best I can.

At least on television and in the movies, though, give me a break. Help me believe. Because I am not stupid. Really. I’m not. I just like stupid television shows.

PORTRAIT OF A HAPPY NCIS FAN

In case you haven’t doped this one out, Garry is a passionate fan of NCIS. In the course of events, he has his acquired an NCIS cap, rain jacket, carry bag, tee shirts in various configurations. And a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood. I too have a sweatshirt and a tee-shirt, but mine is the Abby forensics sweatshirt with a hood and embroidered skull. Which suits me.

Although I enjoy watching the show — okay, I love the show — I am not quite as wholly committed as Garry. As Christmas started rolling into town this year, I asked Garry, as I do every year, what he would like for Christmas.

“An NCIS sweatshirt,” he said. “But not the hoodie. A regular crew neck sweatshirt.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As it turns out, there is no such thing, at least not a good one from the CBS store. There are fake ones, but the reviews speak poorly of their quality and their tendency to shrink grotesquely in the wash. Carefully watching the show, I realize that Gibbs himself wears a hoodie. I pointed this out to Garry who still does not want a hoodie. He does not like all that stuff around his neck.

So with the clock ticking down, I ordered the 16-month official NCIS calendar.

I feared Garry might not like it, but I worried for nothing. He likes it. Today, he actually requested I take his picture with the calendar so he can post it on Facebook. He is past serious fan and has moved into fanatic.

Note for fellow fans: There’s a strong rumor that Cote de Pablo (Ziva David) will be back! Soon!

Recently, Garry has developed a passion for Star Trek: Next Generation. Given his propensity for full commitment to the fan experience, I expect him to start learning Klingon in weeks to come. I am eternally grateful to Netflix for having the entire series available. Seven full seasons to watch and we are just finishing the first!

Happy New Year, friends and fellow fans!

FOREVER KNIGHT – A VAMPIRE COP IN TORONTO

I discovered Forever Knight when it was in reruns on the Sci Fi channel. It was showing around 2 in the morning. Garry was working the dawn patrol and had already left for work by the time the show came on. I was working from home, allowing me to sometimes see my husband before he was off to work … and indulge my taste for weird TV shows you can only see in the middle of the night.

forever_knight_2009

I became an addict. I needed my knightly fix. They were showing season two when I found the show. I didn’t see the first season until I bought the DVDs (used) on Amazon. We watched them last winter when the ice and snow locked us into the house. It proved a good antidote to cabin fever.

How cool can a cop show be? This one is extremely cool. A vampire, repenting of his formerly evil ways, joins the Toronto police department. How does he get around the whole “vampires can’t be in the sun” business? Not to mention they “only drink blood” thing?

He has this big old American car with a huge trunk in which he can hide in a “sun” emergency. Drinks cow’s blood. Works the night shift. Invents a massive allergy to the sun to explain his inability to work days.

Nick Knight is more than 800 years old. A vampire working homicide. He is trying (with the help of Natalie, a lovely young coroner) to regain his humanity. Knight is not his name, of course. He was an actual knight in the 13th century when he became a vampire.

forever-knight-season1-cast1

The show ran from 1992 to 1996, though the pilot ran in 1989. The DVDs divide into three seasons and no, I don’t understand how they count seasons. There are 22 shows in the first season, 26 in the second, 22 in the third for a total of 70 episodes.

The original broadcast channel in North America was CBS — May 5,1992 to May 17, 1996. The show also ran in Germany, England and Australia (I don’t know if it was ever shown in Canada). It has been rerun in several places since including the Sci Fi channel here. The DVD sets originated in the US and Germany. The sets are different in length, and how they were edited. The German versions are longer and sexier. Mine came in boxes that say made in USA, but the DVDs were pressed in Germany. This link (in Wikipedia) gives a full list of episodes.

A cop show with a vampire as the lead detective? It isn’t just a guilty pleasure. It’s a good show and ahead of its time. And last, but not least, it’s witty and clever.

Geraint Wyn Davies plays Detective Nick Knight. He also co-wrote and directed many of the shows. Nigel Bennett is Lucien LaCroix, Knight’s maker and the weirdest overnight DJ in radio history. Deborah Duchêne plays Janette DuCharme, Nick’s sexy vampire “sister” and sometimes lover. Catherine Disher is Natalie Lambert, the police coroner and Nick’s sort-of love interest.

foreverknight3_nick

The acting is good. The scripts are coherent, thematic, often with a moral twist and some interesting philosophical speculations. And who would have guessed Toronto was crawling with vampires? Fortunately most of the show’s undead are surprisingly circumspect showing far more restraint than they have shown in their pasts, which are seen in flashback.

During the show’s final season, when the producers, director and cast knew they were not being renewed, they methodically kill off the entire cast. That third season is memorable. Fascinating. Unavailable.

Forever Knight Season 1 and Forever Knight Season 2 can be purchased via Amazon Instant Video. Season 3 is not — for the moment — available anywhere I know of. Netflix has some part of it on DVD, but I don’t have a DVD plan and they won’t let me search to find out which seasons they’ve got. I’m betting they rent it DVD by DVD. There are 5 or 6 DVDs per season with 5 or 6 episodes on each disc. I suspect they don’t have all three seasons.

They may have to call me to get the final season because I own all three seasons, having bought the last known copy of season three. It was used and I’d been looking for it for years. I thought it was too expensive and was reluctant to pay the money but eventually realized it was now or never. When there’s only one of something, you don’t have a lot of bargaining power.

As Garry and I have been watching our way through the series, I think it may have been a bargain after all. It’s a lot of entertainment … a lot of bang for the bucks.

Forever_Knight__Nick_x_Janette_by_Lioncourt87

It’s fun. Well-written. Original, Unique. Sexy. Creative. It won’t gross you out with gallons of blood and gore but I love it when Nick’s eyes glow orange or green, depending on circumstance. I like the music and Toronto is a lovely city.

I recommend Forever Knight, though I’m not sure what you can do about season three. You might have to come to my house and watch it with us.