Chapter 61: COVID Chronicles

May 28, 2020

By Karen

Day78

Am I Showing Signs of Addiction?

Max has been hanging out with me today and now it’s his turn to say hi…

I’ve been proofreading like mad since early this morning an unexpected large project from a client who needed it “yesterday” and whose work always tempts me to put my fist through a wall. It’s as specific as I can get about that. I’m thankful I finally got it out of here, but I feel like I should soak my eyeballs in bleach. Or maybe vodka.

Consequently, nothing else has been happening today. But I’ve been meaning to share how the pandemic has forged this new bond between me and my smartphone.

In the “before” days, I’d sit here three feet from my landline and people knew to call that number because my smartphone was in my purse, off. It could go for weeks untouched and I didn’t miss it. I’d pull it out occasionally to see if it needed a charge. It existed solely for me to make a call in a pinch, not to make me available 24/7 to anyone wanting to interrupt whatever I was doing. You know, like the twits who take calls in Target or at the Food Lion checkout because they’re SO important.

And I’d use the phone occasionally if I was stuck in a waiting room with lousy magazines because I could continue reading a book from my iPad. I have an original iPhone SE, which is small, and I don’t think Apple considered it much of a success.

But now Apple sells a new phone they also call an SE. Why recycle that model name? Did they run out of alphabet? Or creativity?

But I digress. Since I’ve been cooped up, this phone is on and with me in the house every waking moment. Mainly to catch pics of the cats being cute, but I also use it to text my yard guy and handyman because that’s how they roll. Lugging it up and down stairs takes conscious effort because few of my clothes have good pockets.

Come to think of it, the only time I’m not staring at a screen now is when I’m in the kitchen cooking, in the bathroom doing whatever, or sleeping.

I read newspapers first thing on the laptop. I work all day at a desktop. At night I watch TV, that’s another screen, while looking stuff up and ordering cat food on the iPad Mini. Now my phone is attached to me like a fifth limb.

WHAT HAVE I BECOME??!!

BONUS: Turns out MSNBC Last Word host Lawrence O’Donnell is a fan boy of Sarah Cooper’s Donald Trump lip-syncs. Last night he showed several of her clips when he interviewed her. This is the first time I’ve ever heard her real voice…

DOUBLE BONUS: I hope you can make out this fantasy New York Times front page. You only need to read the headlines; the articles are fake. It gives us something to aspire to come January 2021…


Chapter 49: COVID Chronicles

May 16, 2020

By Karen

Day 66

Trump’s Competing to Kill More Graduates Than Obama

Since it’s in the mid-80s today, we’re getting some air with windows open and fans going, which Max says makes for a “Happy Caturday!”…

The chives have lots of new roots. They’ve all got at least two shoots. Even the late bloomer on Day 6 is sprouting what feels like hay, but we’ll see…

I’m about six episodes into a new Amazon Prime series called Upload. Gamespot has an excellent synopsis of the premise, summing it up as, “The Good Place if it were run by Google.”

Upload has comedy, sci-fi, romance, drama, suspense and mystery. I’m enjoying it, although it took me an episode or two to engage.

In Upload’s future, when you die, your consciousness can be uploaded until mankind figures out how to reunite you with a body. The various “clouds” where uploaded people reside are advertised to the living like timeshares, based on what you can afford. They’re run like hotels, with charges for everything.

Uploaded people can stay in touch with loved ones, and it’s even possible for them to mingle with the living if the live one wears a virtual reality suit.

It’s all very high-tech.

Our hero, Nathan Brown, dies suddenly due to an apparent technical glitch in his self-driving car. He gets uploaded by his wealthy, narcissistic girlfriend into the poshest cloud because that’s where her family goes. Since she’s footing the bill for his upkeep, he could be stuck in the relationship eternally.

He has a customer service rep named Nora (living) who can pop by virtually whenever he needs her. Of course, they’re developing feelings for each other.

No spoilers, but if you liked The Good Place, you’ll find this version of the afterlife worth checking out.

Tonight at 8 p.m. (ET) Obama delivers a commencement address to high school seniors on all the major TV networks. When schools closed, graduation ceremonies were canceled. These kids were first graders when Obama was elected in 2008, so he was the only president they knew until they were freshmen.

Mango Mussolini must be bouncing off the walls because he wasn’t even considered for a national commencement. After Trump sees how Obama captivates and uplifts the country, as only Obama can, Trump’s head may explode.

Tit for tat, Trump is forcing West Point to let him deliver a commencement address on June 13. A thousand cadets will be forced to return to campus (in upstate New York) by the end of May. It’s expected that 60% may be carriers, and they’ll be on planes and public transportation.

The cadets — infected and healthy — will live separately for two weeks. Trump has said he won’t like seeing the grads social distancing. He’d rather they be packed “nice and tight” like his campaign rallies. I assume he’ll forbid masks at the ceremony.

What’s guaranteed is that Trump speech will be an incoherent litany of boasts, lies, exaggerations, and paranoid delusions, interspersed with prepared text delivered in a halting monotone like a three-year-old learning to read.

Obama’s commencement speech won’t kill anybody, but time will tell how many of this year’s crop of the army’s new second lieutenants will become human sacrifices on the altar of Trump’s narcissism.


Chapter 38: COVID Chronicles

May 5, 2020

By Karen

Day 55

Texting and TV Don’t Mix & Roc Demonstrates MMA

Last night I caught up on Outlander (Yay! Briana and Roger are gone. But you know it can’t last.) But next week is the damn season finale. Never fails. Just as I get into it again, it’s gone for another YEAR. It might as well be called Brigadoon.

So then I binged on three episodes of a new HBO “black comedy” called RUN because it stars some favorites: Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie), with appearances by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) and Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife).

It’s another example of how the bar for “comedy” has dropped very, very low, unless irony is passing for humor these days. Not to say that the show is bad. It’s just not funny.

They’re not calling RUN a “limited series,” but I don’t see how it can last past six episodes. The premise is, after 17 years with no contact, two former college sweethearts follow through on a pact they made that if they ever text each other the word “RUN,” they will abandon their lives and meet in Grand Central Station to travel around the country together.

So, Harry Meets Sally and they remake The Fugitive.

This show is full of my biggest pet peeve about TV — aside from being sick of watching people talk at their computer screens.

Too much of RUN’s crucial plot points lazily rely on smartphones. Talking, checking, hacking, glimpsing and, most infuriating, TEXTING.

I don’t know how people (like my parents) watch TV without DVR capabilities. Almost every time there’s a fucking text — always flashed too small and too quickly to read — I have to back it up, freeze it, and walk over to the TV to see it.

Yes, I know that’s life these days, but you can see people on smartphones everywhere. It has zero entertainment value.

Meanwhile (to borrow Stephen Colbert’s schtick), I’ve been forced to abandon midway the Julian Fellowes series Belgravia. Turns out, I DON’T get Epix because Verizon cut me off on April 30.

Get this: Verizon made this grand gesture of opening to everyone 80+ channels for April. I found out when they emailed about it on April 22. That’s right. “Verizon is proud to announce you had ALL these free extra channels since April 1. Enjoy the last nine days, Sucka!”

Meanwile, even the kitties seem to be seeking fresh ways to amuse themselves. Tony stepped on a tiny ant he caught marching toward his bowls. After I got rid of it, he staked out the area, poised to pounce, to make sure none of its buddies showed up (they didn’t)…

And Roc came meowing from the bedroom carrying that bird toy. I don’t know what it’s done to piss off Roc, but he gave it another thrashing for about 10 minutes while Tony studied his moves. Here’s a small clip…

When it comes to Roc venting his pent-up aggression, I say better the bird than poor Max.


Chapter 33: COVID Chronicles

April 30, 2020

By Karen

Day 50

Tony v. Wicker & the Kentucky Derby Is On

Last night I introduced Tony to a large wicker ball that no previous cat has ever showed the slightest interest in. He LOVED it and immediately deconstructed it…

For the first time in 20 years, our departed diva Adele won’t be here to watch the Triple Crown races she loved. The Kentucky Derby is postponed to September 5, but this Saturday, on its original date, NBC is airing a “virtual” Kentucky Derby (5:45 ET) that’s running all 13 past Triple Crown winners, dating all the way back to 1919.

I know Adele would have picked Virginia-born Secretariat to win and he is the favorite (7-2 odds), and he drew post position 3.

This is Tony’s first Derby. He likes watching TV, so I’ll be interested to see if the sight of horses tearing around a track gets him hooked on the sport.

Since movies became a significant investment — if you want refreshments, too — I keep a running list of movies I know I won’t fork over $20+ to see. Months later, I scout around TV to see if they’ve hit the small screen yet.

Last night I randomly checked on Judy, starring Renée Zellweger, and Verizon was offering a FREE rental. So I went for it.

I remember Judy Garland in the ‘60s. On talk shows she’d seem drunk and slur her words. By June 1968 my family must have started the process of being transferred from Ohio to New Jersey, because I vividly remember hearing about Judy collapsing on stage at the Garden State Arts Center, which had just opened.

The reason I didn’t go to see Judy at the cinema was because I thought it would be too depressing.

Big mistake.

We need a new word for “amazing” to describe Renée Zellweger’s performance. From her first minute on screen singing “By Myself,” I never saw her. She was Judy. The movie was set shortly after the Garden State debacle, when Judy was hired for a series of appearances in London.

A surprise bonus was that Rufus Sewell played her ex-husband, Sid Luft. He only had a few scenes, but Rufus improves any screen he’s on.

My favorite scenes were the performances. It was delightful to see Judy singing her trademark numbers from the Great American Songbook. Although Zellweger doesn’t quite have the pipes, she pulled off the moves, facial expressions and moods and made you believe you were watching the real deal.

Even though the credits said Judy died six months later, seeing her “come alive” again for a few hours was so worthwhile. I highly recommend it.


Chapter 30: COVID Chronicles

April 27, 2020

By Karen

Day 47

IRS Plays Dumb RE: Stimulus & Roc the Supermodel

I’ve been expecting to see $1,200 appear in my checking account because the IRS has had access to it for years.

When my sister Keri recently reported receiving her stimulus, I got suspicious. So today I checked the IRS site. They had no record of my checking account, even though on March 18 they withdrew $86 that I owed on my 2019 taxes.

Good old Steve Mnuchin’s got it all under control — NOT.

I reentered my information and we’ll see how it goes. I won’t starve, but since they offered it…

The CDC added new symptoms to the original three (fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing). Now, be on the lookout for:

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills or chills with shaking
  • Loss or taste or smell

Who hasn’t had a headache since this started? Are we all infected? Who knows? Rotsa ruck finding out. Can you tell I’m feeling a little testy today? It’s Monday.

If you’ve paid attention to current events at all, you’ve probably noticed a second insidious virus COVID-19 has spawned. It’s called narcissism and Trump is the vector. He’s convinced his cult that coronavirus is a hoax and the economic shutdown is their real problem.

They’re infected with Trump’s insistence that their right to move freely through society and become potential COVID carriers takes precedence over all our lives.

Businesses should open and expose employees to sickness and death so Trump’s cult won’t get bored or be inconvenienced.

If you believe coronavirus is real and deadly, you must bolt your doors while Trump and some idiot governors egg on the cult to rampage openly, spreading the virus and prolonging its existence.

Once science catches up with treatment and a vaccine, the next crisis will be stamping out the plague of ignorance and entitlement Trump has unleashed. It will be difficult, but the first step will be to neutralize the source of infection — Trump himself.

Now, on a lighter note, this morning Roc snagged a prime sunny spot on the blue perch. Then he saw me with the camera…

And went into his routine…

This is the suave, Charles Boyer “come-hither” look he usually reserves for his “Sweet Tater”…

Then he channeled Melania writhing naked on a bear-skin rug…

That got a little out of hand…

I didn’t see what was coming up behind me when Roc abruptly shut down the photo-op…

I should have known. No sunny spot in this house goes unchallenged…

But by now, it had moved down the perch and Tony wasted no time claiming it…


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-brakes

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.

Progressive-mileage

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

Progressive-Acceleration

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.

Progressive

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.

Progressive-NoSavings

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.

Progressive-Ad

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.


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