Saturday, November 10, 2018

Mexico City: Digital Prey, Part 2

My Little Red.

I had it all figured out, didn´t I?

So the universe had other plans.

To wit:

A day or two before I left for Mexico City, my plan was to arm my back-up phone with a cheap data plan from the US just to get a phone number and run a new Google voice number.

Oho, said the universe. Remember "too smart for your own good"?

First: It did not appear easy peasy to get a sim card for a phone that didn´t already have a phone number attached. By that, I mean a cheap pay-as-you-go plan.

Second: While I perused the options at the big box store, I pulled out my backup phone to see if it was compliant with a card that might work, I pressed the power button, and ....... nada. It was dead. Dead dead.

Thus, new plan. Make my life a lot simpler by just taking my main phone. A relief, really.

Now about my Little Red. I tested her two days before I left, the day before I left, and all good.

But now I´m in Mexico City. And what.the.fuck. I switch her on and get a blue screen with the demand that some bullshit bitlocker thing is being prepared. I need to find a bitlocker password for an app that I had never turned on.

I spent a day in Mexico City trying to crack this problem, to no avail. I´m locked out of my laptop.

Damn Microsoft. The very reason I don´t mess with a microsoft email account is that microsoft locks you out of your email at the drop of a hat and there is no way to get anyone´s attention to get back in. Bitlocker is supposed to be a security thing to protect users, but instead it is keeping me out of my own house, using an app I never signed on for.

The guesthouse where I´m staying has three computers I can use, but there are refugees from the caravan here, and my need for a computer does NOT outweigh theirs, so I have found an internet cafe around the corner to use.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ferguson: Moving Day

Moving day, October 2018. Missouri.

Relocation #5

And so now I know.

There will always be an unpleasant surprise - or two - on moving day.

It´s just the way it is. The natural order of things, thus no reason to blame oneself.

The goal, then, in the future, is to do what one can to prevent the knowable mishaps and to accept there will be the unknowables.

The two mishaps on yesterday´s moving day were stupid but exasperating ones:
  1. The gosh-darn cable would not unscrew from the modem! I´d already packed everything in the car, so no tools. After pulling away precious skin from my finger trying to wrench the cable end loose, I called the Spectrum customer service number, and they told me I could just cut the cable from the wall. Arghh! Where was I to find a knife or scisssors, already packed or loaded! I stomped downstairs, swearing in futile, childish rage to the universe, all three flights of stairs down to the garage, into the depths of my car, and back up three flights of stairs with a knife. I sawed at the cable until it halved. Now I was ready to take it to the Spectrum office. 
  2. Which brings me to mishap #2. Google maps is great most of the time, but sometimes it is a spectacular fail. This was one of those sometimes. After circling an area like vulture looking for the road that Google insisted was right there, I again called Spectrum´s customer service. After a little more childish behavior on my part, I finallly settled down and the CSR helped get me to my destination. It was not one of my finer moments. 

Sidebar: This is the same company that entered my first name (a common one, with only one spelling, not only in English, but in a multidude of languages) with two letters interposed AND entered my surname with the name of my street! When I contacted the company with the error, the helpful CSR informed me that I would have to go to a Spectrum office with PROOF of my legal name!!!!! 

Sheesh. Instead, I just lived with the wrong name on my account and paid with a credit card with my real name. They didn´t care. 

Anyway, in due time, I was on my way, with the paper receipt that proved a woman with a misspelled first name and her street name as her surname had properly returned the modem.

All was OK.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Travel Security: Digital Prey

My brick phone in Caucasus Georgia, June 2012.

After leaving Ferguson at the end of October, I've got an international trip planned. Ooo, yeah.

Since my last sojourn out of the country (well, other than walking over to Juarez from El Paso), an ugly law enforcement practice that's spread across our national body like a case of poison ivy: Border officials demanding to see communications and other data in travelers' phones and laptops without good cause. Putting travelers in untenable positions if they protest the exposure of their devices' contents to border officials.

Am I likely to be singled out for such attention? Probably not. But I object to abuses of power on principle.

So on my trip, I'll take with me:
  • An old phone that is stripped of everything personal except the barest essentials I might need for travel; and
  • Little Red, my sweet, childlike laptop with a toddler's memory. 

There's another advantage to the above decision. Although my complexion, dress, and accent might not trip the typecasting alarms of border officials, my gender, age, and solo traveling status might juice up the salivary glands of tourist hunters on the other side.

Hopefully, a penetrating gaze that suggests I can kick your ass, despite appearances to the contrary, will ward off attempts to cull me from the herd. But in case that fails, well,  I might get my phone or Little Red ripped off, and that would suck.

But they are my expendable Star Trek extras, and my lead actors will be safe at home.

My brick phone in Caucasus Georgia, June 2012.

A useful article about digital security: The traveler's guide to keeping electronic devices secure during international travel, published in Travel and Transport, February 2017

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Stuff: That bucket

Although a minimalist, I am not immune to shiny things.

Years ago, a folding bucket - or its pretty sister, that folding sink - called to me. I wanted one. It took effort to walk away.

But recently, I walked into my neighborhood Aldi's and saw something similar to this:

I brought her home.

I am only human, Lord.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ferguson: Winding Down

Stuff of times past, Jefferson City, Missouri. 2009.

It's mid-September and my year in Ferguson will end on October 31. Time to wind down.

In my annual winding-down times, these are my thoughts:
  • What have I accomplished? What am I proud of?
  • What haven't I accomplished? What do I regret?
  • How was the year different from what I thought it would be? In which ways better? In which ways disappointing? In which ways surprising; neither better nor disappointing?
  • What do I want to do before I leave? 

I inventory my stuff. Make preliminary decisions about what to with it before I leave:
  • Consume?
  • Return to the person who lent it to me?
  • Give it away?
  • Toss?
  • Sell?
  • Take with me, at least for the next leg of my annual relocation?

In my inventory check thus far, I know that one of my tasks will be to organize my electronics paraphernalia. For example, do I really need all six ethernet cables that skulked into my space like feral cats? Isn't it time to let go of that years-old, European-currency router? And that peaceful, Caribbean Sea-colored, turquoise Otter phone case (that cost me a pretty penny!) that fit my old smart phone, which is of a size no longer being made? Time to just let it go, let it go, right? And, yes, it's time to say good-bye to my geriatric HP laptop that I actually replaced two years ago.

Stuff of times past, Jefferson City, Missouri. 2009.


Some past inventory experiences

Monday, September 10, 2018

Missouri: Of Wooly Worms, Vultures, and Trance Music

Wooly caterpillar crossing Highway 94, Missouri. September 2018.

Highway 94 is one of Missouri's gems, unbeknownst to most cross-country drivers who zoom through Missouri along Interstate 70, dismissing the state as a boring four-and-some hours they must endure before entering another snoreful passage in Kansas or Illinois, depending on which way they're headed.

But for much of its length, Highway 94 is the Missouri River's playful younger sister. The roadway zips through flood plains, corn and soybean fields. She sidles alongside river bluffs. She chuckles up and down and around hilly woodlands and bosomy pastures.

Wineries dot Highway 94, as do riverine villages. The Katy Trail is a fellow traveler; it is the longest developed rails-to-trails pathway in the country.

I took a Sunday drive the other day, following Highway 94 from Jefferson City to up north of St. Charles. Come join me for a bit of this drive. Put your seat belt on, sha, and listen to Tinariwen's trance-inducing music while you look out the window.

In September, before the leaves begin to turn, the wooly worms dart and scuttle across the road.

Wooly caterpillar crossing Highway 94, Missouri. September 2018.

They move faster than you might imagine, sniffing to the right and left like puppies.

There were so many wooly caterpillars crossing Highway 94, it reminded me of several experiences in New Mexico, also about this time of year:

Wooly caterpillar crossing Highway 94, Missouri. September 2018.

But what were these wooly caterpillars so busy about on this Sunday in September on Highway 94? I'm not always the sharpest crayon in the box, but I was pretty sure caterpillars didn't engage in sex, so I didn't think they were looking for love. So what was the deal?

  • Here is an annoying non-answer. 
  • Still no answer here, but the writer may be a kindred spirit of mine. 
  • This offers an explanation I've read other places, but September seems awfully early for house-hunting in Missouri, so I don't know. 

But there is consensus about how fast these critters move!

On my drive, I also saw a vulture who had to get out of my way during its snack. Normally, I don't think I would have taken this video of a vulture, but earlier in the day, I interrupted a hawk or other bird of prey while it dined, and I regretted not having filmed that. So the vulture shot was likely a compensatory thing. Here it is, accompanied by Tinariwen:

Friday, August 31, 2018

Ferguson: Movie: BlackkKlansman

OK, no, BlacKkKlansman isn't about Ferguson. But, of course, it is, too. So I'm putting it into my Ferguson group.

Many members of the Ferguson Readings on Race Book Club went to see the movie together or within several days of each other.

The movie trailer below:

As entertainment, the movie is a winner. It kept my attention throughout; the two-plus hours flew by. A mix of humor, action, sadness, romance, fear, anger, injustice, justice - all of the things that make up a life were there.

I also appreciated how the movie pressed some buttons on how we, as individuals, have so many intersections of being-ness, and how these sections can conflict. Two examples from the movie:
  1. Being a cop and a person of color
  2. Being a cultural member of a religion often discriminated against versus being a practicing member of that religion 
Two other angles that Mr. Lee finessed well:
  • The devaluation of women as co-actors by white supremacist groups; and
  • How particularly insidious racism is when the person who carries the disease is "nice," such as the wife of one of the KKK members

There was a big ol' Fuck You out loud to David Duke, arching back to the 1970s and into the present. This felt satisfying.

With all that I liked about the movie, there was a fluffiness to it that didn't set right. For example, the happy outcome regarding the bad cop was Disneyesque in its sugar-coated superficiality.

This doesn't take away from my strong recommendation to watch the movie.

Boots Riley (screenwriter and director of the movie Sorry to Bother You) wrote a critique of BlacKkKlansman via Twitter. Fortunately for our eyes, Monthly Review Online laid out the full text nicely for us here. I encourage you to read it; the essay is an appropriate companion for the movie, either before or after you watch it.

The trailer for Mr. Riley's movie: