Thursday, September 6, 2012

Privacy, please

The other day, I was perusing items in my Google Reader, when, suddenly, items would no longer load.  So, I went to Gmail to see if there was a problem with Google.  Instead of being able to log in, I was directed to another page.  On that page, they notified me that my account had been locked due to suspicious activity.  They noted that, usually, suspicious activity consisted of some sort of Terms of Service violation.  I'm not sure how I violated Terms of Service by clicking on a blog link to like something on Facebook, but that's another story.  Then they requested my phone number so they could give me a call or send me a text to unlock my account.  Now, I don't know if you've noticed, but Google frequently requests your phone number in order to be able to contact you if you've forgotten your password or if there's a problem with your account.  I always refuse.  I'm sure they are aware that I access my Gmail and Google Reader and Google Maps on my phone, so I'm sure that they already have my phone number.  But I haven't given them permission to use it for anything, so they can't do anything with that information.  Because I am suspicious by nature, and I enjoy making up completely ridiculous yet believable conspiracy theories, I assume that the account lockdown was just a ploy to get me to give up my phone number.

I prefer to communicate by email, so I sent one complaint and 2 requests to unlock my account.  It took Google approximately 43 hours to complete the task. [Mel actually noticed that there was a problem - that surprises me.  I am so anti-social sometimes that I used to think I could disappear for more than a week before anyone noticed. (Now I have an almost 6 year old little cling-on, so that wouldn't happen).]  Apparently, had I been willing to give up my phone number, I would have received faster service.  But, as I told Google, if I had to give up my Reader and Gmail...well, I'd have a lot more time on my hands for other things like reading and knitting. 

I don't know why I find it so irritating that everyone asks for my phone number.  Maybe it's because I hate talking on the phone.  Maybe it's because I have a constant stream of voice mail messages from the school district now that my girl has started kindergarten.  Maybe it's because I find the phone so intrusive.  Maybe it's because when I answer my work phone, it generally turns out to be bad news.  Maybe it's because I don't have a landline, so every incoming call has an associated cost.  (I am pretty cheap, after all.)

More likely, though, it's because I know that every company is trying to accumulate data on me in order to market to me more effectively.  I was stunned last night when, after watching Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention and commenting about it on Facebook, Clinton and Obama ads immediately popped up in my sidebar.  It is beginning to make me slightly uncomfortable to watch that tracking happen.  So, Google, no thank you.  I will not give you my phone number.  It's one of the few pieces of information over which I have a bit of control, and I'm keeping that control. 

(I will, however, be exporting my address book, so that if I do get kicked off Google again, I will be able to send out a message to let people know that I haven't disappeared into thin air.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012


St. Elsewhere and I were emailing about siblings and when my response got long and involved, it occurred to me that maybe I had a blogging topic for a change!

My daughter LOVES to ask for a brother or sister.  She used to do it daily, but has slowed down to once or twice a week lately.  Today she was playing with her cousin, and there was much yelling.  I told her that now she knew what it would be like to have a brother.  My mother suggested that I adopt an older brother for her...

My mother is the queen of family planning.  Her philosophy was that each child should have a companion, and so she has two sets of children.  My two oldest sisters are a year apart.  My next oldest sister and I are a year apart.  There are 6 years between the sets.  My grandfather referred to all of us as Pete and Repeat (or Re-Pete, if you will).

It's nice that my mother was able to have a plan and execute it.  Even for her, though, it didn't exactly work out as she intended.  I think she actually wanted to maybe stop at 2...but then 2nd oldest sister started asking for a little sister.  She didn't want to be the baby any more.  Then 3rd oldest sister came along...and 2nd decided that life had been pretty good before 3rd turned up and she would like to go back to that.  44 years later, I believe that's still her philosophy.

The other downsides to my mother's plan are mostly relevant to me.  First, 3rd and I are sometimes still referred to as "the babies."   That's a little annoying when you get to be 20-something and downright absurd when you're in your 40s.  Second, my name was chosen by 1st sister.  2nd and 3rd share the same first initial, and she felt left out.  So, while my mother was in the hospital having me, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd were at my aunt's house.  1st sent my parents a letter with a list of name selections all starting with A, so things would be even.  I'm not a huge fan of my name - I don't really feel like it fits me well.  Everyone else I meet who shares my name is pretty perky and bubbly.  I tend more towards awkward and sarcastic. But I have a story behind my name.  I suppose that's something.

Finally, and most importantly, my companion and I do not get along.  Things were fine until 3rd went to school.  In my opinion, she abandoned me in her quest to fit in with the other kids - her younger sister who had been her best friend suddenly became a major annoyance.  Unfortunately, due to her personality and probably some mental illness, she never quite fit in...and, after multiple betrayals (that stick with me even though they happened when I was 8 years old!), I was not willing to take her into my circle of friends.  We had some knock-down, drag-out physical fights...up until we were well into our 20s.  Now that she lives 1000 miles away and we see each other every other year or so, we get along just fine.  But as companions, it did not work at all. 

In some ways, I feel badly that my daughter will be an only child.  Having a sister has its moments.  But here are the things I know that make me comfortable with what is:

1)  My daughter does like children younger than her...until they can talk back.  Then, not so much.
2)  I'm too old and tired to keep trying, and the added stress would be detrimental to the rest of my life.
3)  When I die, there will be no one to fight with over my stuff...and she will be able to save it or throw it away without having to consult with anyone else.
4)  You never really know what you're going to get.
5)  I'm lucky to be where I am.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

First Captcha, now Wordpress

It would appear that there is a giant conspiracy on the internet these days.  First, it was the infamous Captcha, which annoys commenters everywhere.  Speaking of which, why do those letters have to be all squished and stretched, anyway?  Is there some sort of spambot reading machine that can read the letters if you don't skew them?  NOBODY can read them and we can't all be robots...

And now wordpress tells me that there is a wordpress account associated with my email address.  Yes, I know.  But, wordpress, you never let me log in to that account.  You tell me the username is bad.  You tell me the password is incorrect.  And never before has it prevented me from leaving a comment.

I'm seeing a trend...the internet does not want anyone leaving comments anymore!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Everything evens out eventually...

After that nonsense from last week, a fellow alumnus from my high school helped my mood with this:

I feel better now.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Suddenly I see

Normally, I don't get too excited about what happens on the internet.  But today, either I am extremely irritable (most likely) or the internet is losing its luster.  I saw two posts on Facebook today that almost spurred me to making some really obnoxious comments.  First, there was this from a random relative of my husband's:

"Today someone got a life changing phone call that they have a terminal illness. Today a hero's famliy was notified that their soldier made the ultimate sacrifice. Today a lot of people will hear horrible news, so lets be reminded, we DO NOT have the right to complain about our life or our crummy day. Things are far worse for many. So stop complaining, we have it good. These "bad" days for us, others would die to have."

Um, yeah.  Right now, I'm not terribly pleased with my in-laws anyway.  This little blurb almost made me want to respond that I hope she never has a bad thing happen to her, because my response will be "well, you don't have a terminal illness" or if she does, it will be "well, you didn't make the ultimate sacrifice" followed by "quit your bitchin'."  Really?  Yes, perspective is good.  But we all have the right to complain, because venting is a useful stress reliever.  If you don't want to listen, then get some friends who don't whine about every little twinge or slight misfortune.

The second one came from a friend's stepbrother, and is political.  Now, I belong to a political discussion group on Facebook, and sometimes people say some really outrageously biased stuff.  I don't really know the people in the discussion group - except for a couple people from my high school - so I don't take it personally.  But I grew up with my friend, her sister, and her stepbrother.  We came from a middle class neighborhood in a city full of liberals.  So, I find it incredibly confusing that for some reason they all became raging conservatives.  I feel that middle class Americans who espouse the so-called conservative point of view are acting in direct contrast to their own best interests.  But, whatever.  Everyone's entitled to their beliefs, and I agree that smaller government is good.  I don't want to restrict gun ownership either.  The bad guys always find guns if they want them - the rest of us might as well have the same access.  However, when you share information that is patently untrue, it irks me.

Hate to tell you, Mr. Conservative Obama Hater, but Obama really has no control over the gas prices.  It's the market that controls the gas prices.  Pick on the speculators, instead of the legislators.  Also, maybe I should hook you up with the aforementioned relative - you oughta stop whining about gas prices, as prices in Europe have been in excess of $5/gallon for over 15 years. 

Yep, I'm probably just irritable.  Or maybe it's time to take a break and become a Luddite for a while.  Maybe I should reinstate the baked goods and candy that I gave up for Lent and turn off the computer instead.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Free Advice Day

Mel suggested that the best way to protest the SOPA/PIPA bills would be to show Congress what they might be missing if they passed those bills.

Here's my free advice, worth more than you're paying for it:

Bad things happen frequently on Thursdays. Prepare yourself.

When you say what you mean, in a clear and direct manner, you are less likely to make people angry.

When you agree to something to avoid confrontation, and then get other people to protest what you agreed to, you're going to get confrontation anyway. (Related: Don't promise something if you're not already planning it out in your head. Disappointment and unrealized expectations are the quickest route to anger.)

General contractors are generally untrustworthy.

Censorship is a bad idea. There are better ways to protect your original content.

But there anything original anymore? Do you have the right to an idea that you essentially ripped right out of Shakespeare? Sorry, not advice...just a question.

Since all of that is more of an indication of my frame of mind, rather than advice, I will share the following. It's fantastic, and actual good, beneficial, useful information.

And finally, for your entertainment, some of the web's best protest content can be found here (Oops - just noticed there's a pregnancy reference in there. Fair warning.)

Oh, one more thing. If you're having trouble accessing Blogger blogs...try a different browser. Several sites won't respond in Internet Explorer - but they're fine in Google Chrome. Coincidence? I think not.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

All right, enough of this depressing shit...

Look at me! 3 posts in a month! Apparently, all I require for more posting is...oh, never mind.

For your viewing pleasure: the singed trees that my husband created with his unusual spring clean up methods

2/3 of a tree - it used to look like the ones on the left

I grew these two trees from little sticks

What? You don't see a second tree? Look by the blue bird.

Here's what's left

Trees are very resilient...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 is NOT starting off well...

Maybe it can only improve from here. My FIL died last month. So far this month, my husband's grandmother (his father's mother) died, and yesterday, my aunt died. For all of them, I would considered it a blessing, but still...

I hope I've completed my death trifecta and we're done for the year (or longer!).

In other news, my husband has returned to work (out of state, of course) and I am quite displeased with his family.

I'm taking the week off of work. Maybe that will help.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Only one post last month...I guess I was lacking inspiration However, today, when following links from Stephanie, I came across the story of a staff Christmas party gone awry. This inspired me to recount some of my favorite fire stories. Sorry I can't illustrate them...

Once upon a time, I went to college in Colorado. A group of us loaded up into three cars one night to take a ride up into the mountains. We made it to the foothills, where we went off the road a bit and lit a fire. It was a beautiful night, we were having a great time drinking our 3.2 beer (it was legal for 18 year olds to drink 3.2 beer and wine coolers! So we did!) around the fire. After a while, we noticed some flashing lights coming up the mountain road. They kept getting closer, so, like any rational 18 year olds (HA!), we poured our beer on the fire and took off into the trees. We stayed out there for a period of time, until the firemen got on the loudspeaker and asked for the owners of the cars to please come up to the road. We determined that they were not going to leave, so we sheepishly made our way back up to the road. Since we were mostly a bunch of urban kids from the much more humid East and Midwest, we were idiots who knew nothing about fires and forest fires and dryness ratings. The firemen lectured us for about 20 minutes regarding fires and forest fires and dryness ratings and how would we like to pay the $5000 it cost for them to come up from the bottom of the mountain to deal with our idiocy? We would not like it. They ended up giving a $50 ticket to each of the cars, and we pooled our money to pay for it. All the people on my floor at school were big fans of the
Grateful Dead, but Fire on the Mountain has special meaning for a few of us...

Shortly thereafter, it was the fall break, where we got a 3 day weekend. That was as good an excuse as any for a road trip, so we decided to drive the 1000 miles from Denver to Chicago. My roommate, our next door neighbor, our RA, and I drove to my house and surprised my mother. It was a surprise all around because they hadn't told me that my father was in the hospital again. (He had heart disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis - he was in and out of the hospital quite a bit through my teenage years). Here's a tip - do not try to spare the feelings and worry of your out-of-state family member by not telling them about someone's illness. It will just make them angry. Anyway, while we were there, my RA took us to a Greek restaurant in Lincoln Park. Because my RA was Greek, she knew the owners, and we were therefore treated to some shots of flaming Ouzo. In case you're unfamiliar, Ouzo is a licorice-flavored, gut-burning liquor that produces a lovely blue flame when lit. The typical response to a shotglass of flaming Ouzo is to clink your glass, blow out your flame, and down that baby. Instead, the next door neighbor knocked her shotglass over and set the tablecloth on fire. It was a beautiful sight - pristine white tablecloth with perfect blue flames...

However, my favorite fire story was several years later. I think I was in my late 20s. My second oldest sister was home for Christmas, and we accompanied my mother to Christmas Eve Mass. The church had extra decorations in place and it was pretty full. As we sat there watching the people line up in the aisle to go up for Communion, my sister and I were doing our most dramatic renditions of the Christmas carols that were playing. Now, as it is, I'm not very well-behaved in church. It's probably pretty amusing to sit next to me, but you might not get a whole lot of spirituality. So, I do a lot of people watching in order to fuel my conversational topics. As I was watching the lines of people going up to communion, I noticed a woman in one of those parkas with the faux fur lined hood standing in front of us. She moved up a little and was standing next to a large candle. Since this was the first of the Christmas masses, the candle was much higher than the glass protector that would make it safer for the next several masses. They should have cut the candle, or burned it down a little, because as the woman moved back a little to let someone out of the pew, her faux fur lined hood went directly into the candle flame and lit up (like a Christmas tree - haha). Fortunately, there are many good and helpful people to be found in church, and the guy behind her started patting the flames out immediately. She hardly even knew what had happened.

Now I'm married to a part-time arsonist who likes to deal with yard waste by setting it afire. Last spring he had the brilliant idea (from his mom's crazy neighbor) to get rid of (i.e. cut back) the ornamental grasses by lighting them on fire. Unfortunately, he forgot that all of our ornamental grasses are quite closely placed near our pine trees. He got through a couple clumps of grass before he figured out that he needed to water down the trees before he lit anything on fire. So, one of our pine trees was scalded and seared along one side. The tree was probably 8 feet tall and beautiful - it was our nicest tree. Now, it's been cut down to about 4 feet and is totally bald on one side...but it perseveres.

Now, my toes are kind of cold, so I think I'll turn on the fireplace...