Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February 25, 2015

Yesterday a friend told me that my e-mail had been hacked. I think this is the second or third time this has happened to me. Of course, I immediately changed my password. But I got to thinking, and I guess I’m naive. I don’t understand why anyone would hack emails just to send out spam—especially spam that would take you to a website where you are invited to buy something.

My confusion comes from the one question that arises in my mind as I contemplate this scenario: who the hell is stupid enough to click on a link in an email, or to buy something from a website that we’re directed to in this way?

I mean, seriously?

It’s like those emails that I used to get a couple of years back from some phoney lawyer or bank executive in some third world country, telling me that I am the beneficiary of someone I’ve never heard of, and that said recently departed heretofore unknown relation left me millions of dollars.

I used to be deeply offended by these missives, because I couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly mistake me for someone stupid enough to fall for that kind of crap. But I’ve gotten over that. I’ve come to accept, though it’s hard for me to imagine, that there really are people stupid enough to fall for this scam, and many other of the scams out there.

I’m pretty sure that spammers wouldn’t continue doing what they do if there was no profit in it at all.

I do know that identity theft is a growing problem. I understand that. The other kind of email I get from time to time looks like it comes from my bank. This email typically will tell me my online access to my account has been restricted and I need to click on a link in order to have it restored.

My response, of course, is not only to ignore their instructions, but to forward the email in its entirety to my bank. They have a special email account that begins with the word “phishing.” I know that every time I do that I’m doing the only thing I can to help fight these con artists.

I also get emails from other banks telling me that my accounts are in jeopardy – but since they are institutions with which I have no connection, I just delete those.

I’ve heard lately of a really nasty kind of scam making the rounds—that people are contacted by phone or email and threatened with law suits or jail time if they don’t pay up dollars they don’t even owe. A lot of folks are so frightened by these calls and letters they do what they are told to do, to avoid this imaginary legal action.

I really feel sorry for the people who are victimized by these criminals. I feel sorry for them because this isn’t really a matter of their being stupid. No, this is a side effect, a fringe benefit if you will, from living in a society that in the last decade or so appears to be overrun with people in positions of authority who use fear as their medium of choice.

You know who they are. They are the politicians and bureaucrats who stir up their followers by playing on their worst fears—who do their best to convince us that their opponents are evil incarnate, that their political opponents are selling us out, are our enemies...when they really are only people with a different opinion, a different point of view, or a philosophy or religion that is not the exact same as our own.

 I can hear some of you now sputtering. “Morgan, surely to goodness you don’t mean to imply that our community leaders and elected officials are in league with these con artists?”

In league, no. But sometimes we tend to forget there are such things as natural laws, and the existence of those kinds of cons are an expression of one such natural law.

Cause and effect, baby. Cause and effect.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

 February 18, 2015

I told you the story of our epic efforts to get our television repaired, back in the summer. It took about 45 days for it to happen. I thought, as bizarre as that experience was, it had to have been a fluke. Customer service wasn’t truly a thing of the past. And that’s what I believed, right up until the day, about a month after the Television caper, I went to the car dealership to have my back brakes done.

To preface, I knew both sets of brakes needed to be replaced. We did the front brakes first. When I picked the car up, I noticed the ABS and Traction lights were on. I figured they’d go off as soon as I started driving. They didn’t. But since I had an appointment for about a week later, and it was summer, and believing they had just not pushed some reset button or other, I didn’t worry about it.

Then came the day I brought the car in for the back brakes. I told them about the lights. It turned out, that when they fixed the front brakes, they somehow managed to break the do-hickey that encased the ABS controls. It needed to be replaced, and, since it was partially their fault (the part had been badly rusted they said, but they shouldn’t have broken it) they would give me a discount. The part had to be special-ordered. So they replaced my back brakes, and gave me an appointment for the following week to have this part installed.

Did I mention this was happening in the midst of their learning a new computer system and at a time when they were dealing with some of the massive recalls that GM had last year? I love my Buick, but like most car companies, apparently GM had been forced to issue a lot of recalls in 2014.

I arrived on the appointed day, and went to the service desk only to discover that....the service rep I had dealt with the week before had forgotten to enter my appointment into the computer. They were too busy to work on my car, I was told. I was annoyed. They apologized and made another appointment for me to come in the following week.

I went in, they had me listed this time, and I settled into their waiting area, to wait. Twenty minutes later, the service rep came to me to inform me, that they couldn’t find the part they’d special-ordered for my car. Which meant another wasted trip into the city. Rather than have me wait a week, they gave me an appointment for Saturday. They only do special jobs on Saturday, the rep said. I accepted the appointment without feeling particularly special at all.

Saturday came, I arrived on time. But after about fifteen minutes of waiting in the nicely appointed waiting area, the service rep came to me and said that while I had arrived on time, the part had not.

He promised me that it would be there on Tuesday, and that they would do this repair on Tuesday, and at a considerable discount to me. The fourth time was the charm, and my car was fixed.

On January 29th, just a couple of weeks ago, I approached my car, as I had a doctor’s appointment, and discovered that overnight, somebody had side swiped my Buick—the only thing damaged was the driver’s side mirror. I jerry rigged the darn thing with elastics since the plastic casing was broken, but the mirror was not, and was still attached to its wires.

I got home, called the dealership, and arranged to bring the car in to them February 4th at 1 p.m. Having learned from my previous experience, on the morning of the appointment I called, and asked, was everything a go? Good call on my part. The good news was the part had arrived; the bad news was it hadn’t been sent out to be painted to match the car.

My friends, I can’t make this stuff up. My editors would shoot it back to me, with an edit note stating it exceeded the believability factor.

The receptionist transferred me over to a service rep who promised to see it was done, and he told me to come in on Monday, the 9th. Again, that morning dawned, and I called to check on the part, only to learn that I had no appointment in their system [and yes, sadly, it was the same rep]. So I made one for yesterday.

I called them yesterday morning to make sure they had my appointment showing and that the part was in. Yes to the first and they wanted to call me back once they found out just exactly where that part was.

Friday morning—two days from today—I’ll be going in to the dealership, maybe, to get my new mirror put on, I hope. Of course, I will call them first. And yes, I would go to another GM dealership, if there was one in the area for me to go to. But at least I haven’t made any unnecessary treks out into the cold and snow this time.

The telephone really is my friend.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

February 11, 2015

I used to hate it when older folks would say, “back in my day...” And yet, I seem to have, well, if not those exact words falling from my lips on a regular basis, at least the sentiment they engender surrounding me a lot.

My daughter is the youngest of my kids, thirty-six at her last birthday. She herself has one son, and he and his fiancĂ© and their two babies live with her. She works in the community as a PSW—personal support worker. I believe in the U. S. the same position is called Nurse’s Aid.

Now, I will grant that some of her work days are stretched out—once in a while she may start as early as 5:30 and not finish until 8 at night. But on those days, most usually, she has three or four hours free in the middle of the day, and those hours are generally spent napping.

And yet, all I hear from her is how tired she is. And she says that nearly every single day.

My second daughter is also tired all the time. Of course she’s older than her sister by a whole year. My question is, whatever happened to stamina?

When I was 36, I was a mom with two kids at home, aged 13 and 12 (my oldest had already left the nest). I worked outside the home at a full time job, and while the kids weren’t small, they were still work. Whether it was dealing with those kids and homework and trying to get them to do their chores, or the cooking, the laundry, and house cleaning, it was pretty much all on me. And yeah, I had days when I would have loved some extra sleep, but I didn’t feel even half as tired as the generation behind me seems to feel.

My beloved said it’s the same way where he works. The young bucks, as he calls them, come dragging into work some mornings, groaning with the horror of it all. They are all so tired all the time—and none of them feel the least bit shy about telling you how tired they are, all the time.

Now, either everyone in this current generation of 20 to 40 year olds is suffering from a severe lack of iron, or they’re just not making people the way they used to. Then again, there might be one other factor at play: their misuse of subconscious minds could be at fault.

One rule for self-conduct I’m most fond of is the one that says you should never trash talk yourself in any way. And the reason you shouldn’t has to do with your subconscious mind. I’ve heard it said and believe it to be true that your subconscious doesn’t differentiate between the truth and a lie, it just works at making your words reality. So if you say you’re a loser, your subconscious mind works at making you one. If you say you’re a winner, guess what? Same thing, it works at making you one.

I know this is true, because there were times in the past when I focused on the discomfort I was in every day. Anyone who has it knows arthritis is a very harsh task master. But I have learned not to talk about the pain, and for the most part, not even to think about it. Because when I don’t, then it’s better.

So I wonder if it could be that these young people focus so much on how tired they are, that all they feel is even more tired. I asked my beloved if he thought it could be so, and he agreed it was not only possible, but probable.

I also know what else he thinks, and it can be summed up like this: You’re tired? So what? We’re all tired. Get on with it. Life’s hard? Yeah, funny how that works. Get on with it. A man of simple beliefs is my husband. And we tend to agree on most things—and nothing more than this.

Everything in life—especially how you feel—is a decision.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February 4, 2015

So much for the anticipation of Groundhog Day. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If we’re silly enough to put any hope on the prophesies of a prognosticating rodent, we deserve whatever disappointment we get.

Winter, in the form of fairly deep snow, has finally landed in my neck of the woods this past weekend. We were treated to a good snow storm on Sunday night. The windows in my bedroom are fairly low. Lying in bed, I can see out—the ground, the street light, and on this occasion, the blizzard-like storm as it was happening.

My beloved had already made the decision that he was going to give work a miss on Monday. Most times, even though where he works is only 35 miles away from where we live, there’s either usually more snow there than here, or vice versa. It’s rarely the same amount. Here, we’re about forty minutes from Lake Erie. There, he’s about forty minutes from Lake Ontario.

 To stay home was a wise decision, as it turns out. If he hadn’t done just that, he would have received a call on his cell phone when he was about half way there, telling him not to come in. There was enough of the white stuff on the ground, in fact, that for the first time in a long time, they closed the quarry gates and sent everyone home.

It was snowing again last night, but the forecast only called for a few centimeters, and that was all we got.

Winter is a real pain for me. First, it’s a pain because it’s cold, and the cold—in the form of drafts—is absolutely not good for my arthritis. I’ve learned to keep my ankles covered, either by my tall slippers, or by wearing socks with my short ones. Regardless, I also have to have a blanket on my legs. The funny (or maybe not) thing is that when my ankles are cold, they don’t feel cold. They just ache—like a really bad toothache.

 Second, winter is a pain because it’s difficult for me to get out at any given time. My steps and walkway have to be salted on a daily basis. There is also a little “dip” in the street right where I usually step off the curb to get to my car. The dip is new, caused a year ago when the crew finished repairing the street and deposited a bit of “left over” asphalt in a way that created a tiny little pond when it’s rainy and a miniature skating rink when it’s frozen.

At least now I have an ice claw on the bottom of my cane, and that helps a great deal. But still, moving about, running errands, and making it to appointments is a lot more difficult at this time of year.

And I do have a fair number of appointments lately as I await a date for gall bladder surgery. This latest challenge is something that needs to be done, and the sooner the better in my opinion. I know that this particular kind of surgery is not nearly as invasive as once it was, but I did have a triple heart by-pass twelve years ago, so that makes me a bit more of a risk than the average patient would be. To say the doctors are approaching this project with an abundance of caution would be about right.

However, with this latest small hurdle I have to clear, it has occurred to me that I finally understand the meaning of the phrase, “middle age”. It means that you’re in the middle of—almost constantly in the middle or in between—medical appointments and health alerts and challenges.

At least that is how it seems to me. But the good news is that I’m still on top of the grass.