Found Objections


Not a bot

Got it again. Twitter’s “We gotta check…are you human?” message after I’ve manhandled my username or mangled my password—or both.

Oh, yes, I am all too human, Twitter, thanks for asking, even though it’s taking me longer to prove it at online security checkpoints. Talking about the likes of you, CAPTCHA, with your twisting-fonts-from-hell word images that have to be deciphered and typed into little boxes to prove I’m not a bot.

Is it just me, human that I am, edging closer to crypt than cryptologist, or are security word images getting harder to crack?

It’s sometimes taking me two, three, even four tries to make my case for being declared human, allowed to sign in or forward an article.

Call me a pessimist, but I can tell at first glance when I will fail to get the message. I’m thinking

OhCrap

Gamely, because there is no choice, I begin typing letters into the answer box, resigned to seeing the inevitable alert that I’m wrong, awarded the consolation prize of a fresh image to read. Maybe another…and another…

You may have wondered why you didn’t get that article with the Kardashians’ tips on unzipping genomes.

NowYouKnow

Dripping sweat, sunscreen and iPod cords, I was jogging the paved trail that cuts through our neighborhood when I was stopped cold by this chalked message underfoot.

Who was sorry for what?

Harsh words? Chores undone? Lost phone? Broken promise?

Friendship rift? Lovers’ quarrel? Remorseful child? Guilt-ridden parent?

For the next 20 minutes on the trail I obsessed. Had the intended reader seen the message yet? What if the predicted “scattered showers” washed it away too soon? And what was I thinking, not packing a tarp and bullhorn for occasions like this? Attention, neighborhood…

I shifted to contemplating the simple power of this scrawled message in a world where “I’m sorry if you were offended” is supposed to pass for an apology and auto insurance cards warn drivers, Do Not Admit Fault.

Grabbing chalk at home, I tried out some culturally appropriate alternative messages.

 

No power at all. None

By late evening, I began wondering if the scrawl was merely a random act of contrition, directed not at anyone in particular, but rather to all of us on the path that day, prodding us to ponder the nature of apologies, the healing, calming effect of a heartfelt “I’m sorry.”

If so, it seemed to have worked.

Overnight, thundershowers washed away “I’m sorry” and the heart.

I’m sorry about that.

At my bank the other day, I noticed the countertop namecard for my teller included the following bonus information: where she was born (city and country, which in this case happened not to be the U.S.); how many years she’s worked for the bank; how long she’s been married; the ages of her kids; and her favorite food.

I was flabbergasted. So flabbergasted I’m using the word flabbergasted which I rarely do because I can never remember if there’s an “h,” as in flabberghastly idea, which this surely is.

Why on earth, in these security-conscious times, would an employer encourage the sharing of such personal — and irrelevant — information? My teller was friendly, helpful and competent. That’s plenty. Knowing she likes Gummy Bears doesn’t enhance my “banking experience.”

Are these Get to Know Us campaigns everywhere? When I accompanied my husband for a CT scan (he’s fine, thanks), I noticed info bits about doctors posted in the reception area, along with their headshots. To be clear, given the context, I’m talking about photos of doctors’ heads.

Undoubtedly, marketing consultants are behind this bogus bonhomie: Let’s see, what would make patients feel all positive about a clinic visit? Got it! Knowing the doctor skis and collects Hummels.

Now I’m fairly relentless when it comes to checking out my doctors. I insist on knowing where they went to med school, where they completed residencies and whether they’re board certified. In other words, info possibly relevant to their ability to keep me alive. Whether they write haiku or dance the flamenco or write haiku while dancing the flamenco — don’t care so much.

Yes, banking and healthcare interactions are inherently stressful, relating as they do to our fear of 3D — Death, Deductibles and Destitution. But the buddy-buddy stuff doesn’t help. Really, it doesn’t. You want to impress me? Save me money. Communicate with me in language I understand instead of Bankerese and Medicalish. You, bank, lose the disclosures in 2-point fonts.

As for my concerns about protecting the bank teller’s privacy, a lawyer friend suggested a nefarious take of the kind that comes naturally as breathing to attorneys. “Maybe,” he mused, “it’s not her real name and information.”

Okaaay, this had not occurred to me. “You mean, uh, like the customer service guy in the TV commercial? The one who talks in a deep voice with a Russian accent but insists his name is Peggy?”

“Exactly.”

The conversation left me stranded, as I often am lately, at the intersection of Paranoia Street and Consternation Avenue. At least he didn’t hand me “10 Fun Facts About Lawsuits.”

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In the movie “Fargo” there’s a scene that stops me cold with incredulity every time I watch it. Not the stuff-a-colleague-in-a-wood-chipper scene, which, by the way, I find entirely credible.

It’s when one of the kidnappers buries nearly a million dollars in ransom in snow drifts next to a fence along a desolate highway — and marks it with an ice scraper.

“You’re never going to find it again, idiot!” I yell at the TV screen. “What if you need that scraper before you buy a new one?”

I grew up in northeastern North Dakota, near the Canadian border, very near where the highway scenes in “Fargo” were shot because the Coens had to cross the border from Minnesota to find enough snow.

Retreating south after Christmas, I pulled my Flip camera out, documenting for you that the distinguishing feature of the winter landscape in this area is that there are no distinguishing features. You can be riding along in a car and doze off — ideally as a passenger as I swear I was — with a scene like this out your window.

When you wake up, you will see this.

I exaggerate. Sometimes it will look like this.

I keep three ice scrapers in my car. You just never know.

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The largest number of cargo ships I have unloaded in one "shift" was 42. That was in my first week and I haven't come anywhere close to that number again. My average is 12. That's right, 12.

“Are you a natural leader? Do you take charge with a steady hand and an eagle eye? You should be a Harbor Master!”

Actually, no, I should not. Given my low skill level playing this addictive app, I shouldn’t even be a drunken deckhand, which makes it even more amazing to me that I play Harbor Master almost every day. By nature, I’m  just not a keep-trying-at-stuff-you’re-really-bad-at kinda gal.

The object of the game is simple enough — guiding cargo ships through a harbor to a dock where they can unload their cargo, then getting them safely out of the harbor again. No time limit, but the minute you let two ships collide, the game’s over. Really. One crash.

The game demands finesse I lack big-time. I think I’m being extra cautious, alert to the presence and path of every vessel on the entire screen, when out of nowhere comes a dinky boat that rams a big, slow-moving cargo ship I’d thought was on a safe course. Talk about a life lesson.

How bad am I at Harbor Master? I say “oops”— surely a fave expression with real-life harbor masters —  so often and so loudly that it stuns the soundtrack of seagulls into silence. Sometimes the app turns off the jaunty theme music in desperation, as if absolute quiet will help. It doesn’t.

Yet, back I go to the app each day, eager to hear the music and the gulls, ready to try again. It feels good to embark on an adventure with a hopeful heart, even when the adventure is a game app for which we have no aptitude.

I play Harbor Master Lite, a k a the freebie version. The upgrade promises pirates, monsters and cyclones. Inexplicably, I think I’m ready.

Maybe there’s a nap for that.

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Five years ago, a magazine cover touting “7 Tips for Landing a Jumbo Jet If You’re the Only One Left Conscious on the Plane (Really, You Can!)”  might have flown. Today it would have to be 77 tips, if not 777.

I’ve been tracking a creep at magazine racks. More accurately, less sensationally, I slump over my grocery cart at the checkout counter and scan the ballyhooed features, awed at the new normal in tip counts.

The marketing strategy is obvious. Consumers today need to be reassured we’re getting our money’s worth, right down to the number of tips we expect a magazine to deliver. A paltry six home-improvement or skin-care tips? Do we look like chumps?

Operating on tip steroids, the April issue of Men’s Health promises the “1,078 Best Health, Fashion, Nutrition & Sex Tips — Ever!” I especially like the “Ever!” from a magazine that in March offered 1,742 Ways to Get Better at Everything.” In other words, guys, don’t embarrass yourselves by continuing to use tips that are so last month.

Also at a magazine rack near you: “203 Cute Outfit Ideas for Spring” and “164 Steals Under $50 (InStyle); “65 Ways to Go Green and Save Green” (Good Housekeeping); “358 Recipes, Tips & Tricks” (Every Day with Rachael Ray); “450+ Dresses, Shoes and Bags at Every Price” (Elle); and “586+ Style Ideas” (Inside Weddings).

What’s with the plus signs? Did somebody lose count on deadline and say screw it? And I’m intrigued by the use of non-round numbers. Why did Harper’s Bazaar stop at “549 New Fashion Ideas”? They couldn’t come up with one more idea to make it an even 550? It’s that scientific?

This surge in tip numbers runs the gamut of magazines. The April issue of PC World offers “112 Apps and Services You Shouldn’t Live Without.” Now that’s putting it to us. Not to be left out, Quilter’s Home weighs in with “55 Rad Blogs.” (I’ll leave to your imagination what a rad blog for quilters might be.)

Discover magazine has Albert Einstein as its cover boy with the feature “3 Radical Theories Challenge His Ideas of Space and Time.” Okay, maybe 3 doesn’t seem like a big number, but look at it this way: how many could you come up with? It’s all relative.

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Today, February 22, is George Washington’s actual birthday, not to be confused with Presidents Day, celebrated last week across retail land as Presidents’ Day or President’s Day. Nothing honors the father of a country like inconsistent apostrophization followed by the word “sale.”

Every year on this date I lament all over again that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are now forced to share a holiday, not only with each other but with every Tom (Jefferson), Dick (Nixon) and Harry (Truman) who ever became president of the U.S.

Among my vivid childhood memories is sitting in an overheated classroom, crafting silhouette portraits of George out of construction paper. Some years we went upscale, fashioning him a wig out of cotton balls.

Now we have this generic Presidents Day holiday that floats across the calendar, landing anywhere from February 15 to  February 21, celebrating, bet your wooden teeth, that “all you presidents are winners!”

So by George, here’s George, here’s to George — and only George.

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