I Heart Technology

February Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

Valentine’s Day is difficult for those who’ve lost—or are losing—someone they love. And it’s harder when that person is far away, like my close relative who’s recently been diagnosed with a life-shortening disease.

For now we are connecting through technology, which is a blessing except for the texts I was receiving. The first time she punctuated a text with a black heart my own heart squeezed in empathy and sorrow: she’s grieving the loss of her future, the black heart must signal the bleakness and dread she’s feeling.

Afraid she was giving up hope, I texted back loving and supportive messages loaded with colourful hearts. Red, purple, blue, gold, green and of course the many pink ones. I’d stack them together like a sentence until they looked like a chain of candy. I hoped the dose of colour would lift her spirits, however briefly. And maybe they would nudge her toward replacing the black one.

But not so. They kept coming. Within a couple of weeks I developed a Pavlovian response. Seeing one would literally make me feel nauseous. But I censored myself from saying anything. How much time does she have left? How could I object to anything she was choosing to do?

Finally I texted a mutual friend and asked if she was also receiving black hearts. No, she wasn’t, just the coloured ones. That made me feel worse. Did she have unspoken grievances, had I failed her too many times over these many years? I needed to ask but didn’t; she was dealing with so much, my insecurity was irrelevant and selfish. Then I thought, maybe she only sends me the black heart because she believes I’m strong enough to handle her darker feelings.

Which is accurate, usually I am that strong person. But that isn’t so right now. I just had to say something. That night I got little sleep as I tossed and turned and wrestled with the decision. In the morning she sent another text and there were no words, just one black heart.

So I sent the text. Is there a reason that I’m receiving the black hearts, I asked, they are like little black darts and I’m worried enough already. I waited for her reply. The minutes that passed were very long and very silent.

Her text was stitched with exclamation marks. She was so sorry I’d been feeling bad! She would never ever do that to me! The hearts were supposed to be gold, red, or purple!!

Some of my worry lifted. Then I cast around for the right explanation and soon realized that the problem had to be with my cell phone, which has been doing strange things for a while and at six-plus-years old is dinosaur technology compared to her brand new iPhone. My cell sends out colourful hearts just fine, but incoming hearts that should be full of colour and love were all defaulted to black. And that’s already further into the symbolic than I ever wanted to go.

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Migrants & Melania

Thus far in the global migrant crisis Canada’s border has been quiet, mostly due to our geography/isolation. But now that the U.S. is closing in on itself and relegating immigration to a zone of fear and instability, we have seen a threefold spike in the number of refugees/migrants coming across.

You know people are desperate when they trudge north through waist-deep snow and brutal winds in the deepest, darkest winter for 10 hours to the border, losing fingers and toes to frostbite in the process. Now that spring is whispering in the wings and soon the weather will be warm, this trickle could very well turn into a torrent. The New Yorker reported on an underground railroad poised to launch the migrants they are currently housing and protecting. Soon we may see our nation’s claim of racial tolerance tested.

On another note, Melania Trump has been on my mind for a long while; I’m not alone in wondering what kind of man Rump is in private and what she must endure. In one of the protest rallies outside the NYC Rump Tower someone held up a sign that read: Melania, blink twice if you need to be rescued.

This week, 22 Minutes, Canada’s troupe of irreverent comics who riff on current political topics, put out their latest video: “Mrs. Trump, this is the third time this week.”

So I’m posting it here, because we’re all holding our breath and it’s Funny Bone Friday, Episode #12

 

Technocreep ~ with security tips and how we’ll order pizza in the future

Technocreep, The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy, published 2014

by Thomas P. Keenan —  technologist, professor, computer security expert and government advisor

“The first step in formulating an intelligent response to growing technocreepiness is to understand who is after your information and why they want it…”

Somebody recently said about the internet, these days it’s a sign of mental illness if you’re not a little bit paranoid. In that spirit, this book is a must-read with chapters titled Intelligence Creep, Camera Creep, Bio Creep, Deception Creep and Anti-Creep. You’ll learn the fun new term glasshole, and the not-so-fun terms wireheading, swarm intelligence and the cyber trickery known as dark patterns.

“There are things you can do to throw people off your cyberscent and retain as much privacy and freedom as possible, but you need to start taking action now…”

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