Weird Times

This seems to be a time of weirdness for me, though if things come in threes as the saying goes, then by tomorrow, my life should be back to normal. Assuming, of course, there is a normal anymore.

First, there was the issue with someone trying to change my Facebook password. By itself, it’s not that weird, but at the same time, I was unable to get into the email associated with my website, and two concurrent anomalies do make for weirdness.

Second, there was the issue with Flagstar Bank and their security breach. Again, by itself, it’s not that weird, but their having my identity information is inexplicable. And yet, as someone pointed out, I will get two years of free credit and identity monitoring out of it, though it does seem a bit much since I have no credit to ruin.

Third, well, this third thing isn’t at all in the same category as the first two, but weird nevertheless. I purchased a plant starter at the local hardware store. The planting instructions mention that the plant will grow so densely that in two or three years, it will need to be divided. The instructions also included the caveat that propagation is strictly prohibited. In other words, I will have to propagate the plant by dividing it, but I am not allowed to do so.

That falls more in the category of irony, I think, than true weirdness, but it’s noteworthy all the same. Not that anything will happen to me if I do propagate the plant since here are no propagation police wandering around with magnifying glasses checking out people’s gardens to look for propagation violations. The warning is more for those who sell plants commercially, which, of course, I don’t do. I’m on the other end of the commercial spectrum where I shell out money for plants rather than raking it in.

And anyway, I should be so lucky as to have to propagate the plant. So far, the only plant that’s done well enough to need to be divided are my New England asters. Last fall I divided my single clump of asters and ended up with seven or eight clumps. Each of those clumps look as if they will yield another four or five plants, so I will have to figure out what I want to do with all of them. Right now, the asters are edging part of the swath of grass that sweeps from the side of my house to the back yard, and I’m thinking of continuing to edge the grass with the asters. Luckily, I have several months to decide what to do — I certainly wouldn’t want to jinx the poor plants by counting on their doing well right now when the weird times are in full swing.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Complications

I’m having a hard time adjusting to the new season, or maybe just to the cooler, damper weather. Whichever, I’m tired and cranky and not much interested in dealing with complications, but that’s life, right? Dealing with complications, I mean.

As wonderful as the internet is — a place to bank, blog, play games, learn, research, hang out with friends — it can also be . . . well, complicated.

Yesterday I had to deal with someone trying to change my Facebook password. I also had to deal with non-connecting issues concerning my website email.

Today I have another complication to deal with. I received a letter (an actual, physical, delivered-to-me-at-my-house communication) from Flagstar Bank telling me that they had experienced a cyber incident that involved unauthorized access to their network, and that one or more of the impacted files contained my social security number, account number, loan number, name, address, phone number, date of birth, or driver’s license number, and my financial institution’s name.

I had to read that several times, not just because of my seasonal adjustment issues, but because it made no sense. I have no idea what Flagstar Bank is, have never had an account there, and as far as I’ve been able to establish, neither of the banks I’ve dealt with in the past thirty years have any connection to Flagstar. (I’ve only had two banks in all that time, and both were privately and locally owned.)

I checked with a financial expert, who said that banks do exchange information. (So much for the banks much vaunted guarantee that financial information is secure!) They also suggested I follow with Flagstar’s offer of a two-year account with an identity monitoring service. So I did. I only had three opportunities to give the service the correct information proving I am who I said I was, which was a bit nerve-wracking. One of the questions listed several banks and asked which bank carried my home equity loan, which was confusing because they seemed to think I had such a loan, and I don’t. Another question listed several phone numbers and asked which, if any, of them was a previous phone number. How am I supposed to know that? I’ve had the same phone number now for fifteen years, and haven’t a clue what any previous phone number was, or even how to find it. Another question was where I applied for my social security card, and that at least I knew.

Luckily, I passed the identity portion of the sign-up process on the first try, but then I had to fill in all sorts of information such as social security number, phone number, address, etc. It seemed weird that to protect myself from a breach, I have to give up the very information that was breached in the first place, but I did it, and now I am (sort of) protected, even though I don’t have any credit to breach!

See? Complications.

On a much less complicated note . . . the first daylily of the season bloomed!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Happy Summer

The first day of summer? Really? It feels as if summer has been here for the past couple of months, with temperatures into the nineties and hundreds. Today, oddly, is a cool, misty day, with fallen leaves sprinkled about. Maybe someone is playing a joke on us, and it’s really the beginning of fall.

More probably, the joke is that we still have three months of heat ahead of us, and today was just a bad connection, where the weather couldn’t log in to the proper season.

I’m just being silly about the incorrect log in — and grateful for the cool day. What made me think of the bad connection analogy was that I couldn’t log into my website email, the one I opted to pay for. (Too many people and businesses and sites have that address for me, and it was too complicated to change. The good news is I don’t have to deal with any ads.)

I called my website provider, and after going through a series of verifications, a real person answered. A real American-English speaking person. It was such a delight talking to someone who understood what I was saying, and moreover, one who had patience with my inability to think of simple words. (Like address bar. Why would that have slipped from my brain?) They didn’t really do anything except take up enough time that the problem fixed itself, but at least the issue is on record, and if there is ever another instance of the same thing happening, I know where to send the screenshot of the very, very, very, very long 500 error code that basically said there was a problem connecting to the server but no one knew what it was.

I’m always leery when two weird computer-related things happen around the same time. I had just received an email from Facebook telling me that someone tried to change my FB password, and if it wasn’t me, to click on the link, which I did. (The link took me to a message that basically just said the problem was reported.) It seemed legitimate, a real Facebook notification, but since my website email address is my backup email for FB, I wondered if whoever had tried to change my FB password had somehow done something to my website email. The real person said the two weirdnesses weren’t related. They also looked up the email address on the FB email, and said that, as I had surmised, it was legitimate. So, whew!

But that’s not what this post was supposed to be about. I’d intended to talk about having summer before it was summer. I’ve spent the past couple of days cleaning up spent larkspur (because of the heat, the plants gone through their cycle and were finished for the year) and planting seeds in the cleared garden areas. When this happens later in the summer, I just let it go, but it seemed a shame to spend the entire summer with an empty garden patch, especially since summer just started today.

And oh! It’s not my imagination — my brown grass is greening up. I think it helped that the lightbulb finally went on, and I sprinkled the dead areas with mulched grass clippings to keep the heat and wind off the grass. (I’ve been moving the mulch around a bit so that the clippings don’t mat down and block air flow to the grass.) And it seems to have helped. Since this appears to be a problem area, I will continue with this light mulching until the cooler weather. If I had any doubts, I now know this is a cool season grass that does not like our summer heat, so I’m sure the grass is enjoying this lovely cool day as much as I am.

Happy summer!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Reflection of What Goes on in My Life

When I blog every day, as I have for the past 1000 days, it’s hard to come up with blog topics, so if I think of something I might want to write about, I jot it down. One such topic on my very short list is “metaverse.” Apparently, the metaverse is like a three-dimensional internet experience where you can go into the virtual world and do things you do in the real world, like go to school or work, browse store shelves and shop, play games as if you were really there, and all sorts of other real life and virtual life experiences. There’s no such thing as a metaverse yet — so far, it only exists in science fiction movies — but all the big internet and computer and game moguls are working on it. (Which is why Facebook changed its name to Meta — it wanted a head start on the whole metaverse thing.)

I’m not really interested in such a concept. I have a hard enough time with the physical universe (to the extent that it’s physical, that is), and my internet usage is basic — blogging, researching, ordering things I need — so I doubt I’d ever be interested, especially if Facebook/Meta is involved. There are still blocking my blog, so I have to reblog it onto another blog and then post that link, but I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be doing that. Although I have a lot of friends on Facebook, I really do not like that FB is trying to control the narrative of our lives and our world and now, apparently, the universe.

Another item on my blog topic list was a quote from Thomas Browne: Life is a pure flame and we live by an invisible sun within us. I like the quote but never quite figured out how to use it as a blog topic.

The last item was something I just added recently “Reflection of what goes on in my life.” Huh? What the heck was I referring to? I doubt it was the tarot because it certainly doesn’t reflect what goes on in my life. The refection of what goes on in my life doesn’t refer to the books I’m reading, filled as they are with violence, murder, mysterious happenings, weird phenomenon, and sometimes a bit of romance. Considering that my yard, lawn, and garden are what I am currently focusing on, I suppose I could have meant those, especially my lawn, but I have no idea why I thought any of those things reflected my life. If I remember what I meant, I’ll be sure to mention it, but since there’s nothing else on my blog topic list, I’m tossing out the list, so chances are I won’t even remember that I wanted to write about something that’s a reflection of what goes on in my life.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Turning a Spotlight on Spotlight

I came online a while back to post a blog, but the faint thunder and lightning with a few raindrops suddenly turned into a massive storm. It soon passed by, due, I’m sure, to the high winds we’ve been having lately, but I don’t feel comfortable being on the computer in a lightning storm, especially since there’s been problems neither my go-to tech person nor I have been able to solve.

The problems are minor and have nothing to do with how the computer runs, but the effects of entropy (or whatever it’s called when an electronic system slowly builds up errors) niggle at me.

One of the problems is only indirectly involved with my computer. A couple of months ago, I stopped getting notifications on my phone when I get an email from an account I reserve for family matters, and since the app on my computer stopped, too, I missed an email that needed a fairly quick response.

We tried various things on the phone, trying to get the notifications to show, but had no luck. Next we tried to fix the email app on the computer, which always shows that I have two new emails even when I get a new one and even when all are read. Somewhere along the line I got lazy and stopped manually checking that email, presuming erroneously that I’d be notified. We couldn’t find a way to fix the app, either, but it’s not a problem since I don’t like the app anyway. I prefer going directly to the email to check it. (When I remember, of course.) I removed the app from my tool bar and startup, and that’s all I’m going to do. I always see that “2” on my lock screen when I start my computer, but I can ignore it.

That lock screen is the other problem. The Spotlight locked and so I always saw the same picture. I didn’t mind the image, but since I thought the “2” and the lock screen were somehow connected, we tried to fix the spotlight problem, following the very detailed instructions we found on a tech website. But the spotlight still didn’t work. More research told us that it’s a bug in the Windows 10 system, and after a while, almost everyone deals with the same problem. The only way to fix it is to reinstall Windows.

Um . . . no. That’s not going to happen.

This computer is already three-and-a-half-years old, so chances are the machine has reached its half-life. In another three-and-a-half years, I’ll probably need to get a new computer anyway.

Besides, I never did like Spotlight, even though I got used to it. So now I use one of my own photos for the screen, and when I get bored looking at it, I’ll change it. The photo below is today’s screen. I always did like the image of leaves and shadows, so now I’ll get to enjoy it for a few days until I get bored with it.

In a strange quirk, today I started getting notifications on my phone again from the family email account.

Electronics. Hmmph. Can’t live with it. Can’t live without it.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Leaping Into the Breach

A couple of years after I signed up with my current internet provider, I discovered that a subscription to a virus protection program came with the service. As it turns out, it is the very same protection plan that came loaded on my new computer. After a year of free service through the computer seller, I’d received a good deal on a renewal of that plan because I signed up for two years (though obviously it’s not as good a deal as it would have been if I’d signed up for the protection plan with my internet provider). Even after learning about this benefit from the internet provider, I kept the original program for a while. I didn’t want to lose the money I’d already paid, of course, though it really wouldn’t have mattered since either way, I wouldn’t have to pay any extra and would have still had the same service, but even more than that, I didn’t want to have to download the new program because there are always problems.

I had it marked on my calendar to cancel the original plan this month, but that company decided to auto-renew early via PayPal. I don’t know how that was possible because I didn’t have any money in the bank account associated with PayPal, but it still created an aggravating morning as I got all that straightened out.

Meantime, I’ve had a note by my computer for a couple of weeks now to switch protection plans, but I simply didn’t want the hassle. I also needed to make sure I had a big chunk of free time to get it done so I could solve any problems that might show up. Well, yesterday, I finally girded my loins, faced the music, bit the bullet, sucked it up, leapt into the breach, crossed the Rubicon and seized the opportunity. All those idiomatic expressions are to emphasize the great trepidation I experienced when I finally hit the download button on the internet provider’s website.

After a rocky start (I couldn’t open the downloader and my computer shut itself off out of frustration), things went smoothly. Unbelievable! Even more unbelievable is that after a year of having this whole thing hang over me, it’s finished. Well, finished as long as the internet provider continues to provide the virus protection plan.

Still, it makes me feel good that’s it done. It makes me feel even better that I didn’t have to pay the extortion rate the protection plan company wanted to charge me.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Facebook Troubles

I don’t believe in ill-wishing anyone or anything, but if I were that sort of person, FB is the one entity I would ill-wish for all the trouble they’ve caused me. Luckily, if the rumor is true, they are doing it to themselves without any help from me. (What I heard is that they are having financial troubles.) I don’t care enough to check on the rumor to see if it’s true, but it makes sense. They have a terrible business sense, embracing those who do harm and all but destroying some who are totally innocuous. Like me.

First they banned my blog. They have labeled it spam, which is totally unfounded as well as totally nuts, and there is absolutely no recourse. Next, they banned any URL stemming from my blog. For a while, I let it go, just stayed away from FB altogether, but several friends I’m connected to only on FB told me how much they miss seeing my blog in their feed. And besides, my absence from FB killed all book sales. (That was the only platform that worked for me to sell books.) So I got around their stupid block by reblogging my blog onto another blog, and then posting that link. It wasn’t a total workaround, because very few people saw it, and of those who saw it, very few people bothered to click on both links (the link to the reblog and then to the original blog). Some people did comment on the photo, so at least that was good.

I have the reblog blog set to post automatically to FB, but now, FB won’t accept the automatic post. I have to reblog, then manually cut and paste the reblog intro onto FB (can’t post the whole thing because of the aforementioned URL is included) along with the reblog URL. Then I have to change profiles from my author page profile to my personal profile so I can share the blank space with the URL to an URL.

If you’re confused by now, I don’t blame you. I know what I’m doing, and it confuses the heck out of me! And that wasn’t the end of it.

The photo that from the original blog post stopped showing up on FB because of that devilish URL of mine. I’d post the photo separately for a while, and so did a friend, but that got to be a pain. So now what shows up on FB is a post with a big blank space where the photo should be.

To add insult to their injury, FB keeps sending me notifications of what other authors are doing on their FB pages, and asking why aren’t I? Sheesh.

So, views to my blog are down, limited now to those who go to my blog directly. And book sales never picked up again, and in fact are non-existent.

So, do I care that FB is having problems? A resounding NO!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Interesting Days

This is another of those interesting days where a problem looms that takes a lot of time on the phone to resolve. Yesterday it was my water bill — apparently, 19,000 gallons of water have disappeared on my side of the meter. After talking to six people yesterday, I finally found someone who will probe for the leak. The problem is that if they can’t resolve this today, it will continue for the next week or so because a major storm is coming through here tonight and tomorrow, with subzero temperatures and six inches of snow.

Today, I got a message that PayPal had paid my virus protection renewal bill even though it doesn’t come up for renewal for another thirty-five days. I also don’t have money in the bank account associated with the PayPal account to pay for it (I always keep that account almost empty in case of such problems), so that’s another issue to deal with. The virus people were supposed to email me before they renewed, but didn’t, so I didn’t get a chance to stop the auto-renewal. Normally it wouldn’t matter, but after I signed up for the services, I found out I got the same service free through my internet provider, and I certainly don’t want to continue paying for something I don’t have to. I would have stopped the auto-renewal months ago, but they made it sound as if they would immediately cancel all services, and I didn’t want to take a chance. Instead, they decided not to take a chance on me and renewed early.

I called the virus protection people to have them issue a refund, and because of a language problem, they didn’t understand what I wanted. Finally, the word “refund” got through. Now I only have to wait for a few days to make sure that if/when PayPal takes money from my account, it will be refunded, though perhaps there won’t be a problem because the refund went through before the money was debited from my bank.

When all that is taken care of, I will have to contact my internet provider to set up the new protection plan (which actually is the very same one I just discontinued). I don’t want to get started on that until I have a lot of time at my disposal because nothing to do with the computer is ever easy. It should be, but it isn’t. There always seems to be a problem.

These “interesting days” will be continuing, not just because of the switchover for the virus protection plan, and not just because of the water issue, but because of the winter weather advisory and all of the problems that will arise from the storm, such as shoveling the walks and getting safely to and from my job.

But it will all work out, one way or another.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Little Things Amuse Little Minds

On the entrance to the library, there is a sign that says “Possession of dangerous weapons is prohibited on these premises.” I always have to laugh at that, wondering why a library would ban sharp minds, because truly, there is no weapon so dangerous as that. They let me in, so perhaps I’m not as sharp — or as humorous — as I once thought I was.

I’ve been seeing all sorts of “boycott Kellogs” notes online, and I have to laugh at that, too. Even if I wanted to find out why I should boycott (I am still on my news fast, eschewing all news), and even if I did find out and want to boycott, I couldn’t. I don’t buy any of their products. Not one. So who would know if I boycotted or not? I also find it ironic that Kellogs — the company that manufactures such delicacies as Pop Tarts, Pringles, and Froot Loops — started out as a health resort. Dr. Kellogs’ invention, cornflakes, was one of the early health foods. (Graham crackers and the first cereal called “granula” predated cornflakes.)

I am also amused by all the return address labels I get. What century do those people live in? Haven’t they ever heard of texting? Email? Not that I want them to spam me — I certainly don’t them sending me emails or texts. I’m merely pointing out that hardly anyone uses return labels any more. I use maybe one or two a month. It used to be I didn’t use any until the appearance of The Bob temporarily closed the office where I paid my utility bill, and I got into the habit of mailing it. (Silly, really, because it’s only three blocks away. Luckily, the local mail stays in town, so it gets there quickly. When I lived on the western slope, my local mail went first to Grand Junction, the next county over, then back to the town where I lived, which sometimes took a week.)

Because of all the begging mail I get, I would have to live ten lifetimes to use up those address labels. And perhaps by then, even texting will be passe. We might all have implants that let us transfer information to one another instantly without resorting to such unwieldy tools as phones and computers.

I hadn’t realized so many things have been amusing me lately, but apparently, I amuse easily.

This reminds me of my eight grade teacher who would stand in front of the class and reprimand us for playing around at our desks. As she was warning us that “Little things amuse little minds,” she’d be fiddling with a pen, which always made me want to laugh.

I started out talking about smart minds and end up with little minds. I better quit before I start talking about things I never mind.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Fair Game

Although I am trying to change passwords on sites and accounts that have personal information, for the most part, I tend to think that no matter what you do to protect yourself, if it’s on the internet, it’s fair game.

This was brought home to me last night when I tried to place an order from a company that had a couple of clever gifts I wanted to get for people who are hard to shop for. Generally, I don’t do a lot of gift-giving, but these people were especially kind to me this year, and I wanted to show my appreciation. Hence, the gifts.

I tried to put in the order online, but there was no place to enter the two different addresses, so I called their customer service line. They asked for my account number, which I didn’t think I had, but she said the account number was on the catalog even though I didn’t tell her I had a catalog. I found the number and gave it to her, and it turns out they already had all my information. Apparently, they set up an account when they sent the catalog.

I ended up having to pay the shipping costs on each item rather than only once if I’d done it online, but that was okay. The real issue is she told me that they would send me the tracking code when the orders were shipped, but she never asked for an email address. When I queried her about that, she rattled off my email address. Huh? Where did she get it? Now that I think about it, it was probably on the mailing list they bought for sending out their catalogs.

When I said she rattled off the address, that wasn’t exactly true. She very laboriously read it off to me. Considering her thick accent and her inability to understand me, there is a chance that these people will get the gifts I ordered, their names will be spelled right, and the brief message accurate. On the other hand, who knows what will happen. Your guess is as good as mine.

Normally when things are this difficult, especially if it’s something for me, I just forget it. It’s not worth it. But I did say these people were hard to shop for, right? So I stuck with the process and am keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be okay.

But yikes. Here I am trying to streamline my presence online, and it turns out there are all sorts of accounts in my name that I didn’t even know about. Yep, if it’s on the internet, the information truly is fair game whether we want it to be or not.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.