Category Archives: Technology

Siri-ously Monday

It was apparent pretty much from the start that today was Monday.

I got up late and everything that followed was just slightly off.

Traffic was awful.  I mean, this is DC – traffic is always awful.  But today I found myself stopped in places where I usually go.   I watched the clock tick past 9:00.  Past 9:15.

Luckily for me, though, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  When I arrive late, I stay late.  It all works out.  But still, I’d rather get there and not just hang out, stopped in traffic.

I thought I should call the office and let them know I was on my way.  Naturally, I had an ulterior motive.

Because I planned to call Yenny.

Yenny is my friend and colleague at the office.  But she has magical powers.  Because when I’m stuck in traffic and I call Yenny, traffic begins to move. It was important that I talk to Yenny or I knew I’d never make it to work.

I was at a dead stop.  My cell phone was in my pants pocket, but I put my earpiece in place and clicked that bluetooth on.  Siri, the magical creature in my iPhone sang a note to let me know that she was listening.  That she was ready to help.

In the months that I’ve had my iPhone 5C, I’ve come to rely on Siri for just these situations.  She’s great.  The Siri who lived in my iPhone 4?  An absolute idiot.  We were not friends.  We had words.   Those words rarely had more than four letters.  Siri4S would respond “what did I do to deserve that?”  Trust me.  She deserved it.

But Siri 5C?  She is a star.  She doesn’t let me down.  She helps me.  I love Siri5C.

“Call Yenny,” I instructed her politely.  I never swear at Siri5C.  In fact, she often comments on how polite I am with a casual “don’t mention it,” when I thank her.

Now this morning when I asked her to call Yenny, I realize that I didn’t say “please.”  That is because last week when I was in precisely this situation, and I said “Please call Yenny.”

“Should I call the Police?” Siri asked.  I didn’t think much of it at the time.  She may have been having a rough start to her day.  Still, I decided not to say “please” to Siri.  I always say “thank you,” though.

What did Siri say to today’s request  to “Call Yenny?”

“I don’t see that,” she said.  “Did you mean ‘conference call number’?  Or would you like to call Gastroenterology Fellow on call.”  She only heard the “call” and went from there.  This wasn’t an auspicious beginning.

“No,”  I said.  Clearly, Siri was having a rough start to the day, too.  I clicked my Bluetooth off, and clicked it on again immediately.

“Call Yenny … ” I gave Siri Yenny’s last name.  On a bad day, Siri will cooperate the second time I ask her to do something.  Much like my son.

“Do you want local businesses beginning with “call”

“No, Siri.” I said. I hung up.

Then I had an idea.  I figured I’d have Siri call my number at the office – and presto — I’d be connected!  So I clicked on again and said “Call Me-“

But I immediately remembered that “Me-Office” goes to my direct line, not the main company line.  So I’d be able to leave myself a message that I’d be late — which I already knew.  Because, well, you know.

So I interrupted myself.  Figured I’d stop before I said something stupid to Siri.  But it was too late.

Because what Siri heard was “Siri, call me … never mind.”

”OK,” Siri responded.  “From now on, I’ll call you ‘Never Mind.”

Sadly, this may be an improvement.   Before he went back to college, Jacob instructed Siri to call me “Queen,”  I couldn’t figure out how to change it.

Now I have.

Is it Friday yet?

62 Comments

Filed under Adult Traumas, Conspicuous consumption, Driving, Huh?, Humor, Mental Health, Stupidity, Technology, Wild Beasts

Freedom Industries! and why I ♥ Regulations

It’s the mantra that makes me want to grab the TV remote, smack the person who held it, and change the channel ASAP away from FOX News.

THERE’S TOO MUCH REGULATION!

Me?  I  Regulations.  I dote on them.  I support them.

I understand them and why they are there.  I even lecture about them (and not just here on Word Press – people actually pay me money to do so).*  Regulations, I always tell folks, are the IKEA instructions that accompany the bookcase.  They are the “how-tos.”

Laws are enacted in response to our understanding that a problem exists, and we need to change what we do as a country to prevent it from happening again.  At the same time, we hopefully have enough vision to see some of the related problems that might occur and try to prevent them from occurring.  A few examples:

Our current Food and Drug laws, the Food and Drug Act of 1936 and the Food and Drug Act Amendments (commonly known as the Kefauver-Harris Amendments).  The FDCA was first enacted after a manufacturer added antifreeze (without testing its effects on people, animals or using their brains very much at all) to a cough remedy to make it more palatable to the kiddies.  The then-current law didn’t actually say that they couldn’t add antifreeze.  Guess what happened!  105 people died.

Another disaster involving a drug that was tested and tried, thalidomide, was found to cause serious birth defects in the babies born to pregnant women.  It wasn’t ever approved in the US thanks to Dr. Frances Kelsey

Dr. Frances Kelsey.   (Photo from Wikipedia article you should have already linked to and read.)

Dr. Frances Kelsey.
(Photo from Wikipedia article you should have already linked to and read.  What are you waiting for?)

Laws designed to safeguard our waters and land came about mostly in the 1970s after two hundred years of treating our country’s land and water like a sewer.  Diseases were springing up in neighborhoods where chemical companies had dumped chemicals.

Love Canal, where Hooker Chemical buried 21,000 tons of toxic waste! (Google Image)

Love Canal, where Hooker Chemical buried 21,000 tons of toxic waste!
(Google Image)

Our rivers were polluted.  If you fell into the Potomac River when I first moved here in 1979, you had to get a typhoid shot.  The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned.

Cuyahoga River Burns (June 22, 1969) (Google Image)

Cuyahoga River Burns (June 22, 1969)
(Google Image)

And so our then-FUNCTIONAL Congress (made up of folks who understood why they were elected and who believed in compromise and who believed in the need for government) passed laws to protect us and our land and our water and our air.  Now, our hazardous materials and hazardous waste are to be carefully monitored under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.  Under the Clean Water Act.  The Clean Air Act.  And a bunch of others designed to keep you and me safe and keep industry behaving itself.

But laws only say:

 We’re Gonna Fix This Problem

Regulations give us step by step instructions on

How to Fix This Problem

Regulations are very specific.  In order to comply, you must do A,B and C, according to specific instructions.  When regulations are promulgated the agency asks the regulated industry to comment on them, how to make them more manageable, workable, less expensive to follow.  But the regulations cover testing, manufacturing techniques, storage, monitoring, record-keeping, transportation, the works.  Regulations have the force of law.  If a company doesn’t follow them, they are liable for penalties and/or imprisonment.

Regulations

Regulations protect me.  They protect you.  They protect the United States of America from bad manufacturers.  They penalize the bad ones so that they don’t get away with messing up our planet.  They must be strong enough so that manufacturers fear them and therefore follow them.  Slaps on the wrist are ignored when there is money to be made by ignoring regulations. They must be strong.  (Because remember, there are idiots who would add antifreeze to cough syrup for a buck.)

Regulations are the rules that society agrees to adhere to often in spite of the fact that they are a serious pain in the ass.

Regulations, I say to those still awake in my lectures, are like the IKEA instructions.  The furniture is no good without them.  But they need to be followed.

Take this week’s Freedom Industries leak of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a heavy-duty chemical used in processing coal.  Current estimates are that this leak — from a facility brilliantly located upriver from a water purification plant — contaminated the drinking water of more than 100,000 residents of West Virginia.

Thirsty? (Photo from CNN)

Thirsty?
(Photo from CNN)

Freedom Industries has said don’t know when the spill started.  They don’t know how much spilled.  They don’t know whether the stuff that has made the entire area smell like licorice is, in fact, terribly toxic to people or if so, how toxic it is to human health.

They are supposed to know or they didn’t comply with the regulations.

They are supposed to measure the amount in the tanks.  Frequently.

They are supposed to record the amount they add or remove from the tanks.  Every single time they do this.

They are supposed to test.  Frequently.

They are supposed to monitor for leaks.  Frequently.

They are supposed to comply with the regulations.  It seems as if they did not.

They are supposed to make sure that they don’t fucking contaminate the fucking water for a hundred thousand people and possibly, probably more.

And if they didn’t they should go to jail.

I’m betting that they didn’t — that they didn’t follow the regulations.  Time will tell.

Freedom Industries  (Washington Post Image)

Freedom Industries
(Washington Post Image)

Just imagine what the rest of our country, our land, our rivers, our air, would be like if there were no regulations.  And you know, don’t you, that the Republican party is oh-so-determined to cut regulations.  To protect industry.  Not you.  Not me.  Industry.  Like Freedom Industries.

Do me a favor.  Think of Freedom Industries whenever you hear someone bitch about the loss of freedom from regulations.

Think of what we’d lose without regulation.

*   *   *

* From 1980-1989, I analyzed environmental regulations and drafted memos to folks on the steps they needed to comply with the regulations that are designed to keep our land, water and air cleaner.

For the past 10 years, I’ve examined a zillion company documents that show how they comply with their IKEA instructions.

*     *     *

Yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t be around much.  But sometimes I just can’t shut up.

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Filed under Climate Change, Conspicuous consumption, Criminal Activity, Disgustology, Elections, GOP, Health and Medicine, History, Huh?, Humor, Hypocrisy, Law, Science, Stupidity, Technology, Voting

A Sticky Wicket

Would you behave yourself better if you knew that when you didn’t you’d be found out and there’d be no mistaking that it was you who perpetrated the “crime”?  That someone could actually finger you in the misdeed?  If the crime had your face all over it?

Just about 30 years ago when I was so very sick with colitis-that-was-really-Crohn’s, I was also very poor.  I had some big bills that had materialized as the result of the fact that I would buy stereo equipment and televisions when I got depressed.  Oh, and there were hospital and doctor bills.  And rent and food.  Maybe you’ve had your share?

It was the last day of the month, and I had to go across the street to the bank to check my bank balance to see if my rent check would clear.  On occasion it, ummmm, didn’t.  (It was my landlady’s fault though – the money was always in the bank when I wrote the check.  She should have cashed it right away, right?  You’re with me on that one, right?)

Anyway, when I got to the bank machine, it looked like this:

Would You Like To Make Another Transaction?

Would You Like To Make Another Transaction?

The previous customer, whom I didn’t see, had left their card behind.  Their pin number was still registered with the machine.  All I had to do was press “Yes” and I could have made another transaction.  Helped myself to some bonus bucks.

Now I am basically an honest person.  I have in my lifetime told a few lies – OK, so some were whoppers.  But I don’t do that anymore.

And when I was a kid I did steal a troll doll.  I still don’t know how I didn’t get caught – I stuck it under my shirt and was the only pregnant 8-year-old in the store.  I haven’t stolen a troll since.  I haven’t been pregnant either, but that’s a different story.

I will not, however, fess up to having maimed or murdered anyone, unless you count doing so with my razor-sharp wit.  Still, I am not perfect.

Anyway, when I saw that screen in the bank, when I actually knew that my rent check was likely to bounce, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to buy food, well, I was tempted.  I stood and stared at it for the longest time.  I felt my heart race.  I felt sweat on the back of my neck.  I heard that damn devil on my left shoulder talking to me.

What's a poor girl like me to do?

What’s a poor girl like me to do?

I reached towards the buttons and pressed:

Return Card

And I walked into the bank and handed the person’s ATM card to the nearest teller.

Of course it was the right thing to do.  And, frankly, I was especially proud of myself because I really was broke.  I could have used a windfall at that moment.

It would have been great!

It would have been great!

Of course, had I succumbed to temptation, I would have gotten an altogether different card.

The way my luck was goin' anyway.

The way my luck was goin’ anyway.

That was when they were just starting to put cameras at ATMs, and the branch I was at had one. I didn’t know that, though.  So I felt honest, sanctimonious and lucky all at the same time.  And when you’re broke and sick, well, honest, sanctimonious and lucky are as good as life gets.

I don’t think stealing money is something that people (even me) should be able to get away with.  But there are many lesser crimes that, well, maybe aren’t so bad.  That maybe, we should let slide.  That perhaps, the faces of the perpetrators of these lesser crimes are ones we don’t really need to see.

One of the little crimes that drives me crazy is people who throw chewed chewing gum on the ground.  It’s unsanitary.  It’s sticky.  Worst of all, it’s gonna end up on my shoe.

I don’t want to know whose mouth that wad came from.  Because it would be hard to not slap them for being so gross.  And Mom taught me not to hit.

But now, thanks to modern DNA technology, we can now see the faces of the culprits who transformed that gum from a dry, powdery stick into a piece of ABC gum, spit it out and let me step on it.  (For those of you without siblings, that’s ‘Already Been Chewed’ gum.)

Huh?

Yes, courtesy of the New York Times, I have this minty morsel to share with you:

While staring at the wall of her therapist’s office, the artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg noticed a strand of hair stuck in a hanging print. Walking home, she noticed that the subways and sidewalks were littered with genetic material on things like chewing gum and cigarette butts, some still moist with saliva. Curious about what she could learn, Ms. Dewey-Hagborg began to extract and sequence DNA from these discarded materials. Then — and here it gets a little eerie — she began to make computer models of their owners’ faces, using genetic clues to print 3-D masks that she concedes “might look more like a possible cousin than a spitting image.” Hanging these portraits along with the original samples, she says, is “a provocation designed to spur a cultural dialogue about genetic surveillance.”

Ewwww.  Click on the links, it gets ewwww-ier.  Here’s one perp:

Now this is just speculation on my part, but perhaps picking up wet ABC gum and cigarette butts is what Ms. Dewey-Hagborg should be talking to her therapist about.  Personally, I would make it a priority.

I was tempted to skip posting about this, but then I try not to give in to temptation.

These are all Google images. Except the last one.  That’s the artist’s rendition from her website, Stranger Visions.

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Filed under Childhood Traumas, Conspicuous consumption, Criminal Activity, Family, Humor, Law, Mental Health, Stupidity, Technology

Modern Conveniences

Modern marketing really scares me.  And I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse.

A few years ago John and I needed to replace broken toilet that had a built-in shelf above the tank top.  (Not the kind of tank top you wear, but the kind with all the parts of a toilet that break.)

We needed a special size and type.

Toilet with shelf 2

Naturally, I looked online to find the best price.  Then off-to Home Depot John and I went expecting to flush away a wad of money.

As we were trying to choose between two models, the salesman tried to help us make the decision:

“You can flush an entire bucket of golf balls down this American Standard toilet and it won’t clog,” he said.

John tilted his head, dog like, and looked at the salesman trying to figure out if he was joking.  He wasn’t.

I looked at John and then at the salesman.  Somehow I maintained an interested customer demeanor.  “Why would we want to do that?” I asked.  “We don’t golf.”

“I’m just sayin’ that you could,” said the salesman.  “I mean, if you did golf.”

“We probably wouldn’t be golfing in the bathroom,” John said, thoughtfully.  “I mean, if we did golf, we wouldn’t golf there.  We’d probably do it outside.

“And if we take up golf, I think I’d rather keep the golf balls in the garage,” I added.

“Plus we have a septic system.  I don’t know if it is designed for golf balls.”

“It might be hard to explain to the guys when they pump it out.”

We had to leave or we would have wet our pants in the toilet aisle of Home Depot.  In spite of the fact that it would be expensive, we opted to replace the innards of our own non-golfing toilet instead of spending – I kid you not – more than $1,000 on a toilet that would fit the spot and accept golf balls.

Since then, though, I have been getting ads for toilets.  But not just any old toilet.  Strangely shaped toilets.  Apparently, to the marketers of America, I not only like to flush strange hard things down my toilets, but I like my toilets to look like anything but.  Or butt.

Toilet 2Toilet 1Toilet 3

So imagine my dismay when I read this article that explains where modern advertising is heading.

They’re going to mine our DNA

to figure out how to market stuff to us.

The article gives the example of someone who is lactose intolerant getting special coupons for lactose-free stuff.

Oh joy.

I wonder if my DNA will tell folks that I’m not interested in what they’re selling.

Which gene says "NO SOLICITING"?

Which gene says
“NO SOLICITING”?

 

All the pictures are from Google Images.  I can’t wait to see what they try to sell me next!

81 Comments

Filed under Conspicuous consumption, Gizmos, Health and Medicine, Humor, Technology

Marriage Strains?

There’s nothing like the sound of young love.

Well, except when I try to eavesdrop on my son and his girlfriend.  Then the sound of young love – “dub step” — is, well, not “moon/June/spoon”- inducing.

Back when John and I fell in love, well, things were different.  Music was wonderful, made to share.  And so I did.

About three months after John and I started dating, I made him a tape.  (For the youngin’s amongst us, it’s like a portable playlist that can be played on any appropriate device available in the prehistoric period in which your parents were, ummm, young.)  Yes, I made my love a cassette tape of my very favorite songs from that and every era.  It contained, among other songs, the following:

Juice Newton, The Sweetest Thing

Joni Mitchell, A Case of You

Bonnie Raitt:  Home

Linda Ronstadt:  Blue Bayou

It was too late when I learned that not only did John not love the songs I loved, he hated them.  Every single one of them.  Over the years, he has solidified his position.  For example, John has threatened to divorce me should I sing Blue Bayou within range of his supersonic ears, an approximate 5 square mile range.

Let me tell you this:  It is not an ideal situation for a critically acclaimed former singer to be banned from singing her favorite songs.  Especially when the ban includes those rare times when I am actually doing housework.  It has been a rather sticky issue for 26 years now.

I try to be accommodating because I am wonderful.  And because I have a huge repertoire of first verses of songs that will get stuck in John’s head for when he really pisses me off.  John has been accommodating by vacating the house immediately when I begin singing/playing/thinking about any of these songs.  Generally he is in search of a divorce lawyer.

But you know what?  Payback is hell.

You see, in the past, I’ve often told John that he needs to outlive me, because I don’t want to have to deal with all our financial issues.  Seriously —  I haven’t balanced a checkbook since we got married, and I don’t intend to start.

But now, after reading an article in today’s Reuters.com, I’m reconsidering my position on who gets to “go” first.  You see, I read that there is:

No rest for the dead with surround-sound coffin

Because now I can get John a specialty coffin complete with seriously impressive stereo speakers, hooked up to the latest iPod/music technology.  And I will get to choose the playlist.

I wonder if I can find that cassette.

Coffin speakers

I promise I will only need one.

Payback is, literally, hell.

89 Comments

Filed under Family, Health and Medicine, Humor, Mental Health, Music, Technology