Apple’s Win Would be Terrorists’ Gain

February 23, 2016

By Karen

Apple’s refusal to help the FBI access San Bernadino mass-murderer Syed Farook’s iPhone is a joke. The world leader in creating innovative devices and software devised this super-tricky password feature that wipes an iPhone clean after 10 failed attempts to get in, and they want us to believe they don’t have the code to bypass it.

Well, I think they do — they just don’t want their customers to know it.

It’s like KFC claiming Colonel Sanders deleted ingredients from his secret formula for delicious fried chicken when he retired from the company, and they’re OK with that.

Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an open letter to customers to justify Apple’s disingenuous stance. The implication is that Apple employs no one trustworthy enough not to steal the code and use it with evil intent, or sell it to the highest-bidding hacker. It’s just human nature.

It also implies that Apple itself can’t be trusted. Cook writes: “And while the government may argue that its (the code’s) use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

Apple’s been given permission to write their code in a closet, slip the results to the FBI through a crack under the door, and then immediately destroy the code.

But Apple thinks it will somehow become a “master key” out in the public domain that anyone may use to hack into any iPhone at any time.

Who could possibly be responsible for that happening except Apple?

It’s the old slippery slope tactic. You know, “If we let gays marry, people will be marrying their dogs next.”

Cook also claims: “The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

Does he really think none of this happens now? My iPad Mini tries to track my location every day.

There’s a supreme irony in Apple fighting to maintain the purity of the very devices its customers use to splash the illustrated minutiae of their lives all over the Internet.

And the government already has access to whatever crumbs are left. Let’s not kid ourselves. The TSA can even fondle your boobs and stick its hands down your pants.

If Tim Cook is allowed to obstruct justice and spit in the faces of the San Bernadino victims’ families, he’ll certainly gain a lock on the terrorist smartphone market. ISIS can rely on Apple’s protection, no matter how many slaughters are coordinated on iPhones.

But if one more dead terrorist turns up with another inviolable iPhone after another domestic massacre, I don’t think it would be remiss for the feds to charge Mr. Cook with aiding terrorists and being an accessory to murder before and after the fact.


Royally Scammed by Progressive Insurance Snapshot

March 26, 2014

By Karen

Lesson: Scratch the surface of any insurance company and you’ll find a thief whose raison d’être is to take your money and provide as little as possible — or, optimally, nothing — in return.

Shopping for a better deal on car insurance, I foolishly ordered Progressive Insurance’s Snapshot monitoring device and chauffeured it around for 30 days to see if I could earn a discount, which Progressive claims could be as much as 30%.

First, let me set the scene: I’m one step above little old lady who only drives to church on Sundays. I work at home, with no rush-hour commutes. I drive 3-4 times a week on errands on suburban roads, 99% during the day, and mostly within a 10-mile radius. I’ve put 80,000 miles on my car in 14 years (that’s 5,714 miles/year).

I figured I’d be a shoo-in for big savings. Here’s how Progressive explains it:

This video is untrue because Progressive also monitors acceleration (and turns — keep reading), and gives no feedback on time of day.

My driving during this time has been uneventful, yet Progressive projected me as behaving badly per 100 miles from the outset, a lead foot who stomps the brake every 7 miles. When I actually traveled 100 miles, the braking was lower, yet still considered “opportunity” for improvement (i.e., if you ever have to stop, you’re driving poorly):


Progressive averaged my infrequent trips to 6.5 miles per day — placing me on the road and vulnerable to accidents — 7 days a week. In truth, it’s less than half that.


And here’s the unexplained “rapid acceleration” graph…


Knowing how I drove, it would seem that what Progressive’s underwriters consider “hard” braking and “rapid” acceleration are what the rest of us call “driving.”

As for turning, the Snapshot occasionally beeped like a panicked backseat driver when I was making perfectly reasonable 90-degree turns.

The 30 days were up today, and Progressive offered me 6% savings.


But they still wanted to know more, like my marital status, level of education, home ownership, and Social Security number (which I withheld).

The result was that I qualified for NO DISCOUNT. ZERO.


I never got a premium figure, so I’ll never know how Progressive stacks up to my current insurer. But Progressive can take their Snapshot device and…

CAUTION: If your driving ever involves making the car move, your chances of getting a discount from Progressive are probably slim to none, so keep them out of your business. Otherwise, for the rest of your freaking life you’re going to see Flo’s garish face popping up in ads on nearly every screen on the Net.


And I’d be willing to bet Progressive will ultimately profit from my gullibility by selling the tidy trove of personal information they’ve collected.

All I can say is, shame on me.

Are MH370 Searchers on Squirrel Hunts?

March 23, 2014

By Cole

This week we learned that Malaysia Flight 370 flew more than 6 hours after it stopped communicating, performing maneuvers that required consciousness and skill. So all suspicion shifted to the 2 pilots.

That’s because China quickly declared its 152 citizens onboard couldn’t possibly be terrorists, and we know China’s word on security matters is golden. Michelle Obama and the girls are over there now to prove how much we love and trust China.

And those 2 Iranians traveling on stolen passports with one-way tickets bought with cash were also dismissed immediately. Nope, nothing suspicious about them.

So two pilots whose personal lives, by all accounts, seemed normal and on track just up and decided to kill themselves and 237 people after taking one last extended joy ride.

NBC correspondent Robert Hager doesn’t buy it. And neither do I.

In this post-9/11 era, where government spies supposedly know everything about everybody, and we have satellites that spotted Osama bin Laden walking around his compound, we’re supposed to believe that a jet liner can make itself disappear in thin air and fly for thousands of miles without ANYBODY noticing.

I still believe the plane took the northern route and flew over a bunch of dicey countries who are playing it close to the chest because they’re involved OR they’re too ashamed to admit they let this huge mysterious aircraft fly over and didn’t bat an eye. Would YOU blab to the world you got caught with your pants self-defenses down?

Personally, I think many countries (including the U.S.) know a LOT more, and the truth is so damning, they’re willing to lie and play this elaborate charade to keep the media distracted with “something” while they figure out what to do about who’s got the plane.

Just today, the French took their turn throwing the stick for the media to fetch. “Deploy the fleet. There’s a wooden pallet in the water!”

It’s simply too loony to believe that ANYBODY, either a deranged pilot or terrorists, would choose to “make a statement” by ditching a plane where nobody could ever find it or determine who caused it to crash.

Plenty of countries in that part of the world would love to get their paws on a fully-functioning aircraft they could load up with bombs and use to launch a more spectacular attack than 9/11 — and do it while our backs are turned looking for squirrels in the Indian Ocean.

Taking the Smartphone Plunge

April 30, 2013

By Karen

Call me old-fashioned, but I think anybody who goes around with a phone stuck upside their head because they’ve lost the ability to function without third-party feedback are the worst kind of stupid.

If you ever eavesdrop (it’s usually hard not to), they’re usually describing their location…

“I’m in Food Lion. At the checkout.”

They never give the full story, which is, “Slowly unloading my groceries with one hand, backing up the line, and ignoring the cashier so I can babble about nothing on my phone.”

I had a sweet little blue Samsung cellphone with a slide-out keyboard — that was never on. It was for when I needed to make a call, not to make myself available to interruption 24/7.

But for just the occasional call, without texting or data, I was paying Verizon $45 a month under a 2-year sentence contract. They said texts were 10 cents each, but every month I’d get a 20-cent charge for some useless text they’d sent me. So apparently, it was 10 cents to receive, and another 10 cents to read.

A few months ago they dangled a Samsung smartphone at me, real cheap. But to take that bait started a NEW 2-year sentence and raised my bill to $80+.

So last week I went to Sears to check out Consumer Cellular. It’s AARP’s preferred cellphone provider and runs on AT&T’s network.

For $150, I bought a Huawei (pronounced Wah-way) 8800 smartphone. It only runs Android 2.2 (aka “Froyo,” for “frozen yogurt”), which isn’t the latest version. But who needs frills when you don’t even know how to use the damn phone?

I have no long-term contract, and 150 voice minutes, 1,000 texts, and 100 MB of data (WAY more than I’ll ever use unless I develop an addiction) is $25 + tax a month. If I need more or less, I can change the plan any time.

The biggest snag I hit was with Google. You need Google email to access apps. When I entered my Google address, it sucked over 600+ email addresses from my AOL business account onto my smartphone, when all I wanted was a short list of personal phone numbers from my old Verizon phone.

(BTW, nothing from a Verizon phone is transferrable to CC because Verizon phones don’t have the interchangeable SIM card other carriers use. Way to put one last screw to your customers, Verizon!)

My Huawei’s relatively primitive capabilities should lessen the learning curve, but I had to call CC twice for help the first day. The reps were rather condescending, with one telling me I should LOVE having hundreds of junk email addresses on my new phone because it’s supposed to be the repository of my LIFE.

This whole endeavor boiled down to 1) Reducing some bills since Anthem hiked my health insurance another $50 a month, 2) Having text/data capability if I ever need/want it, and 3) Breaking out of Verizon’s yoke.

So far, so good with the Huawei, although my first game download (Bingo Blast) was too big for the screen and I couldn’t figure out how to play it. And I couldn’t buy a cute case anywhere (it’s an iPhone and Galaxy world), but I did order one from Amazon.

I don’t feel compelled to use the smartphone any more than my old one, and I don’t keep it on all the time. Why smartphones are an American obsession is still a mystery to me — but now I have one.


Microsoft’s Next-Gen Doorstop – Surface

June 19, 2012

By Karen

Yesterday Microsoft introduced a tablet computer to beat Apple’s iPad. They call it Surface, and it comes with a thin keyboard that doubles as a cover.

Why isn’t it named Wall, to go with Windows?

I wish my iPad had a keyboard, though. On-screen typing stinks, so when I need a keyboard, I use my netbook.

I do love my iPad for being always “on” so I can play games, watch videos, and surf the ‘Net on the fly. It’s also my e-reader because my Nook’s e-ink display is too dark indoors.

Microsoft might have a winner with Surface if it didn’t run Windows — Windows RT (ReTweet?) — apparently a watered-down version of the unreleased Windows 8, which you will be able to get on pricier, heavier Surfaces.

After torturing users forever with the “Blue Screen of Death,” unintelligible messages that all mean, “Your software crashed and we have no clue why,” and the nonstop torrent of updates and security patches, if we’ve learned anything, I hope it’s that Microsoft sucks at running computers.

And since the Surface will be entirely a Microsoft product, instead of their typical strategy of ruining some third-party manufacturer’s decent hardware with their crappy software, this venture seems to have “Fiasco” written all over its…surface.

Microsoft’s playing coy on pricing, and interestingly made no mention of battery life — sidestepping two basic user deal-breakers.

When I bought my tablet last year, I passed on Android models and paid nearly triple for the gold standard — iPad. But it’s been as close to brilliant as these things get.

I’m still trying to shake Microsoft’s brainwashing to fully embrace my iPad’s ease of use, but I can say it’s never driven me to the utter frustration and despair Windows has — in nearly every version back to MS-DOS.

Surfaces are supposed to go on sale this fall, which in Microsoft-speak means probably sometime in 2014. While a Surface won’t have the heft to prop a door open, once it craps out inexplicably and often enough to make itself useless, you can probably wedge it UNDER a door.

Here’s a review from CNET.

Solyndra Makes the Stomach Turn

September 26, 2011

By Cole

How does a solar panel company in sunny California manage to go bust, even with a huge infusion of government cash? That’s what a congressional committee wanted to know when they summoned Solyndra’s CEO Brian Harrison and CFO Bill Stover to ‘splain the company’s recent bankruptcy filing.

The men asked for a postponement to prepare themselves, and it was granted.

And when they finally got to Washington last week, they both took the 5th and didn’t tell anybody a damn thing.

Hey, when you’re between jobs and hoping another company will hire you to run it into a ditch, you don’t spout off on C-SPAN and confirm how dumb you really are. Somebody in HR might be watching.

If Congress wants to know where our $528-535 million (it varies) went, why not check the bank balances of Solyndra’s top dogs? That’s usually where you find a big chunk of it.

They were happy to throw millions at lobbying efforts, so you know they weren’t paying themselves minimum wage.

Meanwhile, the government’s kneejerk reaction was to heap more red tape on other solar companies so it would be harder for them to succeed.

So not only did Solyndra royally screw American taxpayers, they’ve dealt solar technology a setback and played Obama for a fool in making them his green jobs poster child.

Even worse, their failure gave ammunition to right-wing crazies who think sucking fossil fuels out of the earth until it caves like a hollow chocolate Easter bunny, and then burning that “black gold” until there’s not a lungful of clean air left is a brilliant energy strategy.

These are the very same crazies Solyndra spent millions lobbying against.

Apparently, Solyndra was a money-sucking rathole long before it bought duped Obama’s administration. Bush knew it and turned down their first loan request.

It’s probably too much to hope that Solyndra’s management will go to jail, since Congress let Wall St. bankers off the hook after much worse.

But instead of saying, “I respectfully decline to answer any questions,” let’s hope Harrison and Stover end up doomed to repeat a question for the rest of their careers…

“Do you want fries with that?”

How Do Cats Drink?

November 19, 2010

By Cole

Scientists think they have figured out how cats drink. Guess what? Our lapping style is different from dogs’.

Well, DUH!

Dogs use their big, fat, sloppy tongues like ladles. We move the tip of our tongue with lightning speed to create a steady stream of water we suck in, sort of like a human at a drinking fountain.

Here’s the much more scientific description from the abstract in Science magazine…

A combined experimental and theoretical analysis reveals that Felis catus exploits fluid inertia to defeat gravity and pull liquid into the mouth.

I’ll tell you, this amazing “breakthrough” in human knowledge was greeted with a “Ho, Hum” in the Felis catus world. Every kitten knows how to defy gravity without giving it a second thought. Don’t those bozos know any cats?

One scientist said our lapping strikes “a balance between the inertia that makes the liquid rise into the cat’s mouth… and the gravity that makes the liquid fall,” and marvels that we have figured out all this complex science.

The heck with inertia and gravity. We call it thirst.

Cats supposedly lap about 4 times per second, but I may contact Guinness because I think I’m faster. I usually wet my face so, obviously, my gravity-defying skill is so superior, it shoots water right past my mouth.

Roman Stacker, an MIT engineering professor and the goofball who initiated this study after watching his cat Cutta Cutta drink, admits the research has no immediate practical application, but justifies it on the grounds that it may contain “evolutionary lessons” about why cats and dogs drink differently.

He thinks cats want to keep their whiskers dry and dogs don’t care about appearances.

Maybe he should look at the bigger picture and notice that a cat’s tongue goes with the rest of the cat. We’re lithe and agile inside and out so we can make dogs look like clumsy oafs.

That’s the real evolutionary lesson.

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