I’m Switching to Contacts

Glasses, of the sort that rest upon one’s nose, possess certain failings.  They’re worn on the face, making them susceptible to the slings, arrows, and schoolyard bullies of outrageous fortune.  They make the use of other types of eye covering – swim goggles, paintball masks, and welding helmets – awkward at best and bloody well impossible at worst.  And, perhaps most damning, they seem to be a sort of societal status symbol for, “Hey, I can fix your computer.”

You used to shove me in a locker and take my lunch money. Now, I know your browsing history and where you work. It would seem the balance of power has shifted.

Let us address the last point.  Yes, I can fix your computer.  Despite the fact that your desktop is populated by more icons than an eastern church, your internet browser is a veritable hive of scum and villainy, and your boot time is now measured in increments reserved for interstellar travel, I can undo the damage.  You have no system CDs, no support documentation, and no clue, but none of that will stop me.  Like the Bill Clinton of tech support, I feel your pain.

Never mind, of course, that your pain is entirely self-inflicted.  I had thought that, ’round about the same time we stopped flinging our poo at each other for sport, we also concluded that downloading and installing Smiley Central would not be in our best interest.  Apparently, I was wrong.  Likewise, based on where your internet browser keeps pointing me, I’ve concluded you are also unsatisfied with the dimensions of your…you know what, never mind.  Furthermore, I feel I have to comment about the three hundred gigs apparently devoted to various MP3s…mostly disco.  And while I must confess to being curious as to what dark force you bargained with to find three hundred gigs worth of disco, I’m going to content myself with sending it to the recycle bin so we can…I don’t know…have more than six kilobytes of free space to work with here.

I did not know BitTorrent had a “download all” option.

I think this also might be a good time to address your apparent goal of clicking everything on the internet.  I would like you to stop.  Immediately.  I don’t care if the banner ad says you’ve won an iPod, a million dollars, or adoption into the royal family.  Odds are it’s lying, and if you click it you, or at the very least I, am going to regret it.  The same goes for offers of academic degrees, Rolex watches, or any product that claims to increase your chances with the fairer sex.  Admittedly, you need all the help you can get on that last part, but let’s confine this discussion to your computer.

Which, ironically, brings us to the fundamental problem we’re facing.  This is your computer.  Once I get done working my particular form of triage, I am going to give this back to you, and you are going to screw it up again.  Thus, while I can treat the symptoms, it seems I cannot cure the disease without being tried for homicide.  However, don’t think that I haven’t thought about it – or about how many times I have to uninstall the BonziBuddy before murder is not simply justified but encouraged.

See this purple gorilla? Contrary to what he wants you to believe, he is not your friend. He’s a communist spy sent to steal your data and transmit it to unsavory sorts from Eastern Bloc nations.

If you need further proof of that, let it be known there reaches a point where not even a jury of my peers would convict me.  I submit the following:  You have lost all your system CDs, you have no support documentation, and somehow a Dorito – cool ranch by the looks of it – found its way inside the CD-ROM tray.  In the future, will you be able to remember the CD-ROM is not, in fact, a coaster, or do I need to acquire a Dymo labeler and apply a sticker to that effect?

I’d let you make the label, but based on what I’m seeing with your computer, I’m concerned that if I gave you a number 2 pencil, you’d try to eat it.

But here we are.  Done and done.  The computer functions, more or less, as it was originally intended.  And I hope you don’t mind, but I converted your snack drawer back into a CD-ROM.  I’d tell you to be more careful in the future, but that would be somewhat akin to asking Ozzy Osbourne to speak coherently.  As for me, I’ve learned one important lesson from your computer: I’m switching to contacts.

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Bushwhacked

If the price of oil, the ambient temperature of the planet, and Donald Trump’s hair were not in and of themselves enough to worry about, our ever diligent and easily startled media is aspiring to add voicemail to the long list of things that should keep us cowering under our beds at night.  The impeccable logic behind this is that people who, in general, could be classified as “way more important than you” have had their mailboxes “hacked.”  Hacked, in this case, means they probably had passwords like “1111” or “1234” in what is the cellular equivalent of setting one’s computer password to “password.”

Now, just to make this abundantly clear, for those of us who have not run for public office or married a member of a significant royal family (sorry, Luxembourg), the odds that anyone cares enough about what we’re doing to “hack” our cell phones is, as they say in the scientific community, statistically insignificant.

In tonight’s news, catastrophe was narrowly avoided when a rampaging German tour bus took a wrong turn and made an unauthorized border crossing into Luxembourg. […] The German parliament has since apologized for the incident, noting that with all the problems with Greece and Spain of late, they had simply forgotten there was a sovereign nation there. […] Chancellor Merkel was quoted as saying, “I guess we should put up a sign or something.”

What is considerably more likely is that the term “hacked” is now being used in tech-related discussions as a substitute for “incompetence.”  Thus: “My computer/phone/fax isn’t working.  I was incompetent.” Is replaced with: “My computer/phone/fax isn’t working.  I was hacked.”  This fictitiously implies, of course, the individual in question has a level of technical ability that would allow them to do something more significant than select a ring tone from a list in under three tries.

The most commonly hacked brand of phone. Source: your grandmother

The above being stated, it seemed somewhat surprising when public radio opted to shoulder its way to a seat on the fear-mongering bandwagon.  They did so by running an hour long show on how one could prevent their voicemail from being maliciously stolen.  Never mind that most of us are already taking appreciable preventive measures in the form of “not being famous” or, to put it bluntly, “not having anything in our voicemail worth hearing.”

Of course, no public radio program would be complete without an expert of some sort – thus, they recruited a security specialist who sounded like a cross between Droopy the Dog and the guy who wanted his Red Swingline back in Office Space.  Now, in his defense, he sounded mildly baffled as to why they were having this discussion at all, given that the average Joe’s cell phone is not a target of opportunity to international terrorists.  As a result, he tried to limit himself to offering advice to the effect of “1234 is not a strong password,” and to paraphrase, “For the love of god, don’t use the last four digits of your phone number as your voicemail password.  In fact, stop using a phone entirely.  You’re clearly too stupid.  I’d suggest you stick to smoke signals and carrier pigeons were it not for the fact you’d probably use the former to barbecue the latter.”

Ogg only have one bar. Think 4G overrated.

Yet eventually they came, as all public radio broadcasts come, to the point in the show where they “encourage” listener participation and, as a direct consequence, cause a not inconsiderable portion of their listening audience to reconsider their views on eugenics.  In today’s show, the callers could be neatly divided into three groups: sheep, goats, and Cletus.

The sheep and goats are, as one might imagine, the individuals who think they are/could be hacked and the people who claim to have done/could do the hacking respectively.  There isn’t a lot to be done for the sheep, as most of them are still laboring under the assumption that, by checking the box labeled “remember my log-in,” all their personal information, including their fourth grade report card, is being beamed into the minds of the Chinese leadership.  As for the goats, they’re a special lot, as one has to wonder about the sort of person who would willingly agree to broadcast their confession that they either had hacked, or were capable of hacking, the computers/cell phones/toaster ovens of the greater US.  It seems a little like calling NPR, informing them you’ve set up a crack house, providing the address, and then acting confused when the fuzz shows up.

But ultimately, who cares about the herd animals when we have Cletus?  While the following is certainly not a word-for-word transcription, it is mighty close – though the parenthetical commentary is an addition.  Rather than attempt to define him further, we’ll just close this out by letting Cletus speak for himself:

It took a lot o’ extension cords, but I finally got the NPR on the John Deere.

Cletus: “Hi, my name’s Cletus from Alabamy – my then there phone was hacked recently.”

Droopy the Security Specialist: “Oh?  How do you know that?”

Cletus: “Well….” (Sound of something ricocheting off a spittoon in the background) “Everyone knows the gov’ment’s hackin’ our phones all the time ‘n they record all our conversations…”

Droopy: “I’m…not sure about that.”  (Translation: How’s that tinfoil hat workin’ for you, Cletus?)

Cletus: “See here… I just reformatted my phone the other week…”

(…Why?  So you could upgrade to Windows 7?)

Cletus (cont.): “…’cause I was gettin’ some weird messages.  And, you know, since I’m an IT guy…”

(Presumably for his Farmall tractor.)

Public Radio Host: “Let’s…  Let’s have Droopy weigh in here.”  (Frantic gestures to cut Cletus off.)

Droopy: “…Sure…”  (Frantic gestures to host, roughly translating to, “He’s a !@#$in’ wingnut.  What do you expect me to say?”)

Public Radio Host: “On second thought.  Let’s break for news…”  (And a hit from Droopy’s flask.)

You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine

If the major news outlets are to be believed – and in my experience, they rarely are, but we won’t let that stop us – temperatures across the United States are trending…warmish.  Downright hot, even.  So hot one finds oneself wondering if an elected official neglected to close the portal to hell after his/her last conversation with the party boss.

My 6-6-6 tax plan will herald a new era of growth and prosperity.

Regardless, if the ambient temperatures for the last week have taught me one thing, it has taught me that scientists, parents, and pediatricians the world over have no idea what they’re talking about.  Contrary to their recommendations, playing outside is not an activity that lends itself to a long and healthy life.  And at the risk of putting too fine a point on it, I believe it’s safe to say that the fault here rests entirely with the sun.

There are numerous problems with the sun that someone really should look into.  It’s too hot, too bright, and will someday grow to a hundred times its present size, swallow the Earth, and abruptly herald the doom of the human race.  These are not the sort of traits one generally wants in a neighbor, cosmic or otherwise.

Aw, heck – the neighbor’s causin’ a galactic cataclysm again.

Oh, it also causes cancer.

Speaking of, and from a more immediate perspective, there is also the slight issue that the sun puts out enough ultraviolet radiation to cook a twenty pound turkey, or your average Wal-Mart shopper, in less than twenty minutes.  Catch some rays, you say?  No, given the preponderance of the evidence to the contrary, I think I’m going to do everything in my power to avoid them.

Ostensibly, there are a couple lines of products that exist and attest to the fact that we are in orbit around a colossal, ornery ball of harmful radiation.  There are sun block lotions, which exist to thwart the sun, as much as a celestial body devouring four million tons of matter per second can be thwarted.  And there are suntan lotions, which allow applicable members of the human race to fulfill their fantasy of being reincarnated as a half rack of ribs.

On the subject of suntan lotions and ribs, there is a name for substances like suntan lotion in cooking, and I believe it is “marinades.”  These are substances applied to food items, generally meat, immediately prior to exposure of said food items to vast levels of heat or radiation.  The idea, more often than not, is to discourage the food item in question from bleating or bleeding – hopefully both.  Suntan lotion yields much the same result.  The only difference is, due to the upper atmosphere, it just takes thirty or forty years at eighty degrees as opposed to twenty minutes at four-hundred-fifty.

Of course, this process can be accelerated through the use of an indoor tanning bed, which, if another digression into the cooking world can be forgiven, can be accurately compared in form and function to a mutant combination of a human-sized microwave and a George Foreman grill.  Lector should buy stock.  However, I will refrain from a discourse on the questionable ideas associated with tanning.  To be honest, it’s quite easy to be somewhat jealous of the industry as a whole – there is an actual market for bombarding people with harmful radiation.  Worse, I, being both introvert and misanthrope, didn’t think of it first.

Remove the cranberries, and this is what your typical tanning booth patron will look like in twenty or thirty years.

But to end the digression and return to chemical ways to slow the onslaught of our closest star, the theory is that suntan lotion is better than nothing.  Heck, both it and sun block even come in a spray-on form.  You know – for those of us uncomfortable asking strangers for help covering regions evolution has left us unable to reach without the aid of a long stick.  This is all well and good, but it increases the hazards associated with going outside.  Seventy-some-odd percent of the compounds in pressurized cans in my home exist for the sole purpose of killing things that look like this.

Thank you, Nature, for finding it in your greater plan to bestow upon Planet Earth a creature capable of biting us with both ends. I am in awe of your majesty.

I am not comfortable in my ability to distinguish, at least when in a hurry, the difference between sun block and Raid.  Give me a week, and the earwigs will have a lovely tan, and I’ll be lying on the floor with my legs up and my arms crossed.  Worse, I don’t know where my wife is going to find a paper towel big enough to get me to the trash can.

Needless to say, it seems that the best course of action, at least in regards to the sun, is to simply avoid that wretched burning sphere all together.  So ignore your parents and stop listening to your doctor.  Don’t head outside for exercise or play or to interfere in the mint patch’s desire to run wild and free into your neighbor’s yard.  You probably never liked them anyway.  Sit down in front of that television, open up another can of Pringles, and be secure in this little nugget of truth: no one ever got cancer from a liquid crystal display.  Because if they did, there would be a spray-on lotion to stop it.