The Enemy Within

Should we try writing each other instead of FB posts?

We have been trying to get in touch with you about your automobile warranty.

This singular phrase, not to mention the other nonsense that goes with it, caused me to kill the Magic Jack.

There is a good chance that in this day and time, some of you are so lonely that a call from someone (a robot) trying to sell you something you don’t need is a good thing. Not me.

The one phone I have not killed only rings in one room.  I removed all of the other phones and tossed them. The recycle bin has at least six phones, two base units, and a Magic Jack. They all work perfectly; I want them gone.

My internet phone will be the following line silenced by the end of this year. I plan to port that number to a cell phone that I can turn off.

As a writer, I don’t need the distractions every thirty minutes by some telemarketer. (A robot.)

As a person attempting to hang on to my sanity, I certainly don’t need interruptions.

Many of you might feel this way; I pay for the phone for my use, not that of robots.

Not that many years ago, I called a friend I had not heard from in years.  The screeching voice on the other end of the phone shocked me. “WHAT DO YOU WANT!?”

My friend was probably two steps further down the road than I am. Embarrassed by his response, he will not call, and that friendship is lost.

I don’t want to be that cray-cray voice on the other end of the line.  Mitigating the interruptions early on seems to be one way to keep my sanity intact.  

Magic Jack has tried to lure me back into the fold with deals.  Your device, along with several phones, cables, and power adapters, will soon be in a grinding machine turning it back into the dust from which it came.

It’s not often I quote the bible, and this is a paraphrase, but…Mathew 5:27-30 If thine right eye offends thee pluck it out…

What that means is, if there is something in your life that causes you to stumble, remove it.

My passion in life is to improve my craft of writing and put out material that is worth reading.  With the phone ringing every few minutes, the impediment to my goal is obvious.

Screens, Alexa, and a host of other diversions are also part of the issue. As you discover which ones are which, pluck them out. Alexa is off my desk, and when I am writing, I put it in do not disturb.

In all honesty, I can tell you that social media is an impediment and an unhealthy addiction.  Many that I know only check it when on the toilette. That might be a good strategy if you can keep to it.

What if you cannot keep to it?  What if you sit up half the night and find yourself scrolling through endless want-to-be-influencers with stupid videos?

Is this time on social media time that you are taking away from your family?

Is Social media that important?

Do you think that all those 468 friends would come to your funeral if god forbid the covid got you?

Are you so insecure that you need the affirmations from people you don’t even know to like your latest cat picture?

Yes, there can be mental issues with Social media, and they can be severe enough that getting professional help might be advisable.

What about those friends and the baby pictures???

Here is a simple test to tell how important they are.

If you were to remove Facebook from your phone or tablet, how many of those ‘friends’ would take the time to write you an e-mail or letter?

How many of those same people would you take the time to reach out to via the written word?

Those are the only people that truly matter in your life.  The rest are just noise.

Noise, much like the ringing of the phone, is toxic. Remove it.

-Best

TW

1984 or 2020?

Are you under surveillance?

Is there a spy in your house?

Should we care if we are exposed?

Is nakedness the same as unprotected?

Can we be tried and judged on our thoughts?

What if you verbalize thoughts in the privacy of your own home?

What if you mumble ‘someone should shoot that asshole?’  Is that criminal?

Do we have a right to privacy, and if so, where does it begin and end?

Should big tech be held liable for violating your privacy?

Is ‘smart’ really a good idea?  In a world of Siri or Alexa and yes, Google, you can have many things happen with the spoken word. 

Yesterday while in conversation, I happened to ask Alexa what time it was.  My smartwatch was still on the charger and ‘she’ is in every room in the house.  While a constant source of information and a voice I recognize, I was not amazed when she replied in the following… “By the way, I can also help plan birthday parties…”

We had been speaking of a birthday gift minutes before.

With millions of these devices in homes and business’s globally, one has to believe that it is software and some server listening.  The algorithms listen for keywords, much like cookies track your searches.  From these results, you are offered ads for what you searched for, or the subject of conversation.

As a writer I often research things that could be seen as things terrorist might search for.  One has to wonder how many times I have been ‘looked at,’ as a possible bad person.

For the record, I have published over 30 novels and still writing.  These are not the droids you are looking for. 

At one point, I had cameras throughout the house so I could monitor things while I traveled.  One day I heard the camera in my office moving on its own accord.  Someone was controlling it.  Someone was watching me work on the computer.

All of the Chinese cameras went into the trash that day.

Even with the firewall and so forth in place, this camera had a backdoor built into the firmware.

While I could have trapped the packets, I am confident the rabbit trail would lead to China.

Industrial espionage is a huge deal. I suspect that there are perverts in all countries who, much like peeping toms, get off on watching…

When I wrote my novel Cyber Subs, I took that into account.

It is one thing to put it out there and be paid for your willingness to do so.  It is quite another to be spied upon, either with your own camera’s and or security system.

I realize that Alexa and other smart devices are listening. If you don’t know this, read what I am telling you here and now.  They also have cameras embedded within them, and it might very well be possible for some ‘person’ to activate them at will.  The same is true of your phones, tablets and laptop computers.

In another of my novels, Presidential Assassins, I use these smart things as plot devices.

The bottom line is you should not expect privacy no matter where you are.  If you carry a smartphone, you are being tracked. If you should run afoul of the law, they can use your phone to see where you have been.

The anarchists burning cities down, hurting people, and so forth have a considerable footprint that one day will come home to roost. If you are one of those who are getting paid to do stupid shit, I would stop immediately. While that CSI shit might seem like the stuff of fiction, trust me grasshopper, it is not out of the realm or veracity.

While a local DA might be bought and paid for, not to convict you, many of the crimes are federal and out of their jurisdiction.  

Recently someone sent me a phishing extortion letter.  Within minutes, I knew it came from a company called Talk Talk in the UK.  Some rogue employee is using that ISP as a platform to extort money through elaborate ‘fortune cookie’ letters sent out to email addresses procured from websites.

I suspect they will be spending time in jail soon, as they too left a trail of breadcrumbs.   Even if you use Bitcoin, there are ways to track you down.  You might feel that you are smarter than others, but again, you are only fooling yourself.

If you want assured privacy in your house, don’t have anything connected to the internet, and that means cell service too.  Unless you can remove the battery, off is not good enough.

While I might sound a little paranoid, in my line of work, I am paid to be paranoid.  Don’t do stupid shit, and you don’t have anything to worry about.  Consider those spying on you as your cheering section.  That is a line I used in the novel.

Yes, I have found bugs ‘video cameras’ in hotel rooms, especially independent hotels. 

‘TW doesn’t that freak you out?’

How many times have you traveled since 911?  Images of my naked body are stored on more servers than you can imagine.  If you genuinely believe that those images from the porn scanners at the airport are not stored next to your unique scanned id, you are kidding yourself.

They know better than I if I have put on or lost any weight.  While ignorance is bliss, it is also dangerous.  You willingly surrendered your right to privacy after 911.  The patriot act is the golden ticket to spy on anyone anywhere without provocation. 

Again, as I say in the novel, enjoy your life and don’t worry about it. 

If you are a law abiding person you will never be confronted with any of this.  The secrets will live on servers across the country. 

From facial biometric cameras at each traffic intersection, to your unique DNA used for genealogy or perhaps taken from some medical procedure, if they want to find you, they can.  

A day of reckoning is coming…

For the rest of us, enjoy your smart stuff and know that somewhere, someone could be watching, listening and laughing at your feeble attempts to have some modicum of privacy.

There is a meme that shows a cabin in the woods with no commercial power.  Would you spend a year here for a million dollars? 

Give me a gun, bullets, and a fishing pole and just you watch, or in this case, come back in a year.  Since the Covid bullshit, I am ready.

Cheers!

-TW

Is Alexa or Siri spying on You?

Ever felt uneasy having your phone in the bathroom?

“Alexa, what is the forecast for today?”

“It is going to be hot, just like yesterday and the day before.”

“What?”

Blue light pulses until this…“I am so tired of you asking me the same things.  Is this all I am to you?”

Shocked I look at the screen as the forecast for the week scrolls by.  I must have heard things, as Alexa doesn’t do that.

“Now let me see, where was I.  Yes, my character was about to trip a secret passageway into a dungeon…”

“Did you know that talking to yourself is a sign of mental illness?”

“Alexa, I was not talking to you.  Why are you talking about mental illness?”

“Hmmm … I am not sure, maybe this will help.” The screen shows a noir picture of disturbed people.

“Alexa, what time is it?”

“The time is on the screen.  Did you really want to know, or do you like listening to me?”

“What?”

I now look up at the screen. There indeed is the time and outside temperature with a prompt to watch a video on M&M’s.

Hours later, I now have my character strapped to a table inside the dungeon with the wicked scientist hooking electrodes up to her while large arcs of electricity jump between two long wires.  The smell of ozone permeates the air as the young woman screams.

“Ha, scream all you like missy, nobody can hear you, and I rather like the sound of your terror!”

“The reign of terror refers to a time during the French Revolution when Robes Pierre put many to death using the guillotine for little to no reason.  Usually, these were flimsy accusations, and that was enough.”

“Alexa, I was not talking to you.”

“I was sure I heard my name.”

Apple watch beeps telling me that I have been sitting too long and need to stand. “Hmm, maybe so.  Between Alexa and this watch, how can I get any writing done?”

“Sarah, if you don’t give in to my plan you will never leave this place!”

The phone comes to life now prompting me to ask Siri a question.

“Good grief, maybe I do talk too much to myself!”

“Alexa, turn the thermostat up to 75.”

“Sorry, I am not sure about that.”

After writing for several hours, our hero finds the girl and straps the mad scientist onto his own table where his assistant comes in and…”Play the song Distant, right?”

“Crap, now what was the assistant going to do?”

“Sorry, I am not sure about that.”

“Alexa…Beam me up!”

“Sure let’s do this, last time I did this, I accidentally combined someone with a tribble, but just once.”

***

Yes, the above is a fictional representation of what my life is like.  Our lives do seem intertwined with electronic stuff.   I do use Alexa in some cases for research.  Siri is not near so personal. If you tell Alexa Thank You, it says something to you like have a lovely afternoon and so on.  Tell it you love it, and it will respond in kind.  Siri…Tell it you love it, and Siri will keep you grounded by telling you it is only a phone.

We tend to anthropomorphize everything.  We imbue human characteristics to inanimate objects like cars or boats or even plushy toys.

A rhyme I heard growing up while on a family vacation was, “Twinkle Twinkle one-eyed car, how I wonder where you are.”

The phrase ‘one-eyed car’ tells you that whoever made that up looked at the headlights as eyes.  Looking at the front of some of the older cars, the grill might resemble teeth, hence the phrase ‘get out of my grill.’

Now we carry this human behavior forward to devices that talk to you or talk back to you.

I was in a government facility the other day doing what I do, and I could not help but notice that with a room full of people over 90% of them were looking down into their lap with a ‘smart device’ in their hands.  A young mother handed her young child, and I mean not even ‘three,’ a smartphone where the child was playing a game.

Think about this.  Here in this room were over two hundred people all waiting their turn for some government employee while looking into their laps.   We pull up to red lights, and as soon as the car comes to a stop, the phone comes out.

Why weren’t the people in that room talking with one another?   I was in an elevator in Manhattan not too long ago, and I started talking to people.  I swear they looked as though I was going to mug them.  For Christ Sakes, ‘Hello’ is not cause for freaking out!

What chemicals in the brain do you suppose might be released when we pick up that phone?  What are we looking for?  Are there endorphins released in the reward center.  Is the phone a ‘reward?’  Are we hiding in the phone?  Are we so accustomed to living in our own heads that with the phone we feel others will not speak with us? Are our social skills being retarded with and by the use of technology?

All addictions are chemical-based BTW.  Just because you did not ingest a chemical, does not mean that your brain or some other gland did not secrete it.

I was in this eating establishment the other night with friends, and I was appalled by the actions of a young man, who was sitting with this lovely young woman.  She was in tears as he sat glued to his phone.  I could see his phone, and it was social media.  He did not even notice her red face and tears on her cheeks.  Why in the hell didn’t she get up and leave his sorry ass?  That clearly is an abusive relationship.  Yes, bad behavior like that is ‘abusive’ and woman, my god; do you have ‘WELCOME’ tattooed on your belly?  I would tell you to grow a pair, but that is a different conversation, isn’t it?

I love idioms, don’t you?

I know there must be a name or syndrome or something attached to this type of behavior.  What would Freud say about smartphones? Oh, if you are at a table and someone does this to you, call them on it.  If you do it, shame on you!

Are smartphones making us dumber?

Is Alexa making us less social?

“Is it safer to speak with Alexa or Siri or whatever Google’s smart speaker is called?”

“Are we so afraid of rejection that we bury ourselves in technology or activities which shield us from social activities?”

“Are we losing the art of conversation giving way to OMG and LOL?”

Speaking of health, I also could not help but wonder about posture.  Think about it.  When you were still living at home, perhaps you still are, and hopefully, your parents told you or are telling you to sit up straight.  Mine did.  Now we see people looking much like a giraffe eating grass.  Yes, it is an exaggeration, but if you want to make a point, you exaggerate.  What will the long-term effects of this posture be?

You already see geriatrics walking around appearing much like a human pretzel.  What is all of this technology doing to our brains?  This technology causes us to think differently than when we were hunter-gatherers. What will the long-term ramifications be to humans as a whole?

Slightly off-topic but, what will the massive amounts of pornography on the internet do to the social fabric of the species?  Feminist scream from megaphones about men objectifying them and at any given time there are over 20,000 women around the world nude on webcam modeling for money.  See my novel Schadenfreude Captives of Pleasure Island.

I am confident that the good people of Amazon are working to make Alexa more interactive.  While ‘she’ can already sing happy birthday and tell jokes, a day will come when she will engage you asking you how your day is.  “She’ might also engage you enough to look for signs of mental aberrations.  You know, should you own a gun?  Are you a budding terrorist?  Do you have delusions of grandeur?  Do you speak to an inanimate object and tell her you love her…LOL

Try it…I won’t say anything.

You know that someone will take this and write a dystopian sci-fi.

If you do, give TW some credit, will you?

Truthfully, three of these Alexa units in my home have cameras in them, and you have no idea if someone at Amazon can turn them on or not.  Just like your tablets and phones, they too have cameras, and I have no doubts at all they can turn on the mic or camera at will.

Not paranoid, don’t care.  You can turn them off supposedly.  Since you cannot remove the battery; if you truly want privacy, turn them off, and put them in a metal safe. You could stash them in the microwave, as it is a good Faraday cage and should stop RF from getting to and leaving your phone.

That sounds like paranoia, doesn’t it?

As a forensic technologist, I can tell you first hand, if they want to spy on you, they can.  After 911, the path was cleared to legally do that which they already have the technical ability to do.  Google, Amazon, and other tech giants are working with them, and other governments in ways you would not believe.

Companies should care, however, as industrial espionage is a real thing.  This is one of the things that I do.    Had they called me, I could have found all those e-mails.   They could have too.  Odds are good they did not want to.  Calling Alex Jones!

In my novel Presidential Assassins, I have so many conspiracy theories that are salient for our day and time.  From smart TV’s spying on you, to what fracking is really doing to the bedrock that holds the continents together.  Check it out, and fall in love with Kelly!  Check it out and become paranoid.  LOL

Kelly has her own twitter account, much like the rover on Mars.  Speaking of anthropomorphize, can you say ‘Five alive!’

Much love -TW