Nothing is sacred, not even a Mac

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Here’s my Mac during  the computer doctor’s operation to rid it of malware. Kinda reminds me of those bedside monitors you see in TV shows. I haven’t flatlined, but I came dangerously close. (You may notice that I use an HP monitor with my Mac Mini. HP was having a deal I couldn’t refuse.)

 

I’ve worn out the punch line I use when someone has a computer problem, especially a hacking problem.

Two or three others will be talking about the sad state of cyber affairs. I’ll jump in and say I have the solution in one word.

“Apple.”

I’ll follow up with something like, “If only you had an Apple computer instead of a PC.

“Crooks just don’t hack Macs,” I say with some degree of pride.

That line was never funny to the victim of a hack attack.

Beginning now, that line isn’t funny to me, either.

Beginning now, we Apple elitists had better get our act together.

‘Cause beginning now, Apple computers are sitting ducks all lined up with the PC crowd.

Coincidentally, I’ve paid more attention to cyber protection of late. I purchased the new Core router from Norton. It’s supposed to be stronger, smarter, safer than any boogie bears out there. It came with a one-year subscription to Norton’s highly respected security app.

I got the Norton Core installed about a week or 10 days ago. Little did I know at the time that my troubles had begun about a week earlier.

A few days before the Norton installation, someone grabbed hold of my computer and was preparing my total ruination.

They had absolute total access to all my files. Banks. Credit cards. Credit line. Passwords. They had my life.

I lucked out before I was wiped out.

I had given Ouida a new Kindle for her birthday, and we needed Amazon’s help in getting it set up properly on her Amazon account instead of mine. Probably because I was the one to make the purchase, the Kindle was automatically registered under my name. As it turned out, that was a fortuitous error.

In helping me through the de-registration and re-registration, the techie at Amazon noticed from afar that my computer – my beloved Apple Mac desktop computer – was badly infected. Someone had their hands all over my computer, every file and app. Retirement funds. Bank accounts. Credit cards. The whole shootin’ match.

The Amazon techie put me in touch with a known and respected computer security outfit that fixed my problem.

The haunting question: If someone had wide-open access to all my life, why hadn’t they already drained my accounts of my life’s savings?

That’s anybody’s guess. My guess is that about two weeks ago, someone in Florida tried to purchase a new iPhone with my credit card number. The issuing bank denied the purchase because they knew I was in the opposite corner of America at the time; I was in Seattle.

Perhaps, just perhaps, after that denial the crooks figured they’d be more profitable tinkering with someone else’s life.

I lucked out. Big time.

I learned a valuable lesson on the cheap: Apple computers are just as vulnerable as PC’s.

The deed is done

GraceWorksGraceWorks employees John and Staffon did the heavy lifting as we contributed 500 music CD’s in the final step of converting my entire music library to the world of the cloud.

On August, 9 I wrote about converting my music CD library to digital. The process was completed today with a donation of 500 CD albums to GraceWorks Ministries, a non-profit here in Franklin.

You’ll remember that in last week’s blog, I bemoaned the fact that used-record stores weren’t all that excited about my 600-CD collection. But one reader emailed and said they’d like to buy a few as a birthday present.  They ended up selecting 100 CD’s in exchange for a donation to the youth ministries at our church. “Our” church indeed; both she and we are founding members of Christ United Methodist Church here in Franklin.

If you’d like a shot as some mighty fine music, call GraceWorks at 615-794-9055. It’ll probably take them a few days to get all the albums processed and priced.

Oh, and one other thing. If you’re needing a few empty CD holders, don’t buy them new at Staples or wherever. The donation to GraceWorks also included about 100 empty jewel boxes.

Best lobster is where the locals go

neptuneRitchie Gamboli gives dining advice to Ouida Greer and her sister, Glenda Linton, holding Elise, as Elise’s father, Dan Bureau, looks gazes into a restaurant on Salem Street in Boston.

We just returned from a week or so in New England, celebrating first our granddaughter’s third birthday and then my wife’s … ummm, third birthday plus a few.

One of the things I noticed while making our way through Boston was how terrible the drivers are there. I’ve never seen so many drivers waiting for someone else to take the initiative at a four-way stop.

Bostonians on the road, from what I can tell, are slow on the throttle and exhibit lots of patience. Except for that crazy Lexus driver who almost clipped us when changing lanes on Mass Pike. I want to stress that there is absolutely no proof that the driver was a transplant from Nashville.

And speaking of “from Nashville,” I think we met a true Southerner at heart on Salem Street in the North End Waterfront area of Boston.

Ritchie Gamboli — he had to have an Italian mafia-sounding name, didn’t he? — saved the day Saturday when we ran into a stone wall for our dining plans.

“You simply MUST go to Neptune Oyster House,” Tennessee friends said.

It fit in nicely for lunch Saturday. Enough time to thoroughly examine Boston Public Garden and arrive at nearby Neptune for a 12:30 lunch of oysters on the half shell. (Not me; I can’t stand oysters. It’s lobster all the way for me.)

But the hostess told us it would be a wait of some 2 hours. The place was packed, always a good sign of quality. And some folks were indeed waiting. We were uncertain.

We decided to stick with our schedule, eat somewhere else, and come back for dinner, maybe an early dinner so as to assure quick seating.

We came back at 5 and learned that the wait time had grown to four hours. Four hours!

That’s where Ritchie came in.

Ritchie, his Boston accent straight out of The Godfather, and a friend were sitting at a sidewalk table taking care of Boston’s finest ale and overheard our predicament. He jumped in like a wise uncle with connections. So well connected, in fact, that he first came across as rather bombastic.

The longer he talked, though, the more we believed him. What did we have to lose? It wasn’t like he was trying to sell us a percentage stake in the Celtics.

What he was trying to sell us on was another restaurant.

Neptune was nothing special, he said. Their reputation is the product of “all the Chinese money poured into it.” I didn’t understand the Chinese connection, and I didn’t ask.

But the real deal, according to Ritchie, was Rabia’s Seafood & Italian restaurant just two doors down.

After much cogitation, we took Ritchie’s advice and enjoyed perhaps our best meal of the week. The only regret was that, when we left, Ritchie and his friend were gone. We didn’t get to tell him he was right.

But then, he already knew that.

Post script: We had a ton of lobster rolls while in Boston, New Hampshire and Maine. You need to know that lobster rolls in New England are the equivalent of pulled pork barbecue in the South. You won’t find it at a lot of the nicer restaurants. But it’s a staple at the casual restaurants and fast-food outlets.

Three things about a lobster roll: the lobster, the dressing and the bun. And it’s all a matter of preference.

The lobster can be chunks only, or it can be chunks and shredded. The dressing can be butter based or mayonnaise based. And finally, the bun. It resembles a hotdog bun, only better, much better. And the bun is best when toasted or grilled to provide a perfect home for the lobster.

Our group of five adult tourists preferred shredded with chunks, mayonnaise-based on a grilled bun.

And the best we had, hands down, was at The Beach Plum, a fast-food restaurant in Portsmouth, NH.

‘about as raggedy as that Beatles White Album’

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Today’s cogitation-inducing photo is contributed by Dale Williams of Jackson, TN. It was shot at Perdido Key, Fla., July 2008. If you have a cogitatin’ photo you’d like us to use, email a copy to bill@billgreer.net.

 

A few moons ago – too many to count, I’m afraid – I chunked all my LP’s in favor of CD’s, the emerging technology.

Let me explain.

My family knew I was having a hard time shedding my vinyl albums. Who in their right mind would cast aside The Beatles’ White Album or Sgt. Pepper? Or the complete works of Glen Campbell?

My eclectic collection ranged from Boston Pops to Janis Joplin, from Blood Sweat & Tears to Flatt & Scruggs. Even though I didn’t listen to vinyl albums anymore, how could I banish them? Wouldn’t that be akin to burning books?

Our daughter had the answer. For Christmas one year, Amanda gave me a recording turntable. It took a few months, but eventually I converted the most beloved of my LP’s into MP3 files. What once stretched 10-12 feet standing neatly in a row was now in the palm of my hand. Almost.

My first-generation iPod didn’t have enough space for the 6,000 or so songs I had on vinyl. So, I burned compact discs, alternating between recording and burning until the most precious paeans were captured on CD.

Straight from vinyl to CD, skipping the audiotape years of eight-track and cassette. Did you really think tape was a viable next generation, or just an interlude? Tapes were cumbersome to produce. Eight-track had that bothersome clunk when changing tracks. With both eight-track and cassette, time management was of utmost importance. Who’d want a clumsy clunk or the end of Side A interrupting, say, Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence?

So, I skipped tape and went straight from vinyl to CD. And now, today’s technology eliminates the necessity of CD’s. Not only do computers and iPods hold more music, but cloud storage provides backup to an endless stream of … everything.

Pictures? On a cloud. I have pictures of our daughter when she was a baby. I even have pictures of myself going back about 65 years. Our wills and other such legal fare are on another cloud. And music? My entire library, which has grown to over 14,000 songs, is on a cloud as backup to our computer files.

In preparation for some manner of disposal, I just last week finished an inventory of the CD’s, all 600 of them in six milk crates.

Back when I cleaned house of the LP’s, I never dreamed they’d be worth much money. But methinks I got about $300 for the lot. Or maybe it was $600. My memory is about as raggedy as that Beatles White Album; the album cover was worn out and some of the grooves were, too.

So, this time, with much more product, I was hoping to cash in for a down payment on a new iPad.

Times have changed.

After contacting all three used-music stores in Nashville, I’ve about decided to just give all the CD’s to the charity Graceworks … if they’ll have ’em.

Nobody wants my music. At least, not in CD form. They especially don’t want the country music. They’re interested only in rock. Trouble is, rock represents less than 5% of my CD library. Why, I’ve got as much Cajun/zydeco music as rock. Likewise for gospel music. Country, on the other hand, accounts for 57%. Apparently, country music CD’s are as plentiful around here as wide-eyed Oklahoma kids getting off the Greyhound with a guitar strapped on their back.

Who knows what the next generation will be? Or are digital files here to stay? History would say no.

One more voice speaking softly into eternity

Used080217StJoeSept2011A2This cogitation-inducing photo was taken in September 2011 in Port St. Joe, Fla.

 

Today begins my series of irregular blogs, or perhaps that should be my irregular series of blogs. Probably both.

As I begin, I am reminded of Malcolm and Glessie Jones. They ran the Sweetwater (TN) Valley Times some 35 years ago when I was managing editor of The Daily Post-Athenian in nearby Athens, TN.

We got to know each other primarily because one family owned both newspapers, as well as others strung between Chattanooga and Tri-Cities. The weekly Times was printed at The DPA, so I got to see Malcolm and Glessie at least once a week.

I enjoyed reading Malcolm’s column, Just a-Cogitatin’. The name was spot-on. Not just because it was what Malcolm was thinking about that week, but because it was what the community was thinking about as well.

Not that everyone had the same opinion. Au contraire. But cogitating on a topic is more fruitful if everyone’s opinion is heard. Malcolm was all about providing the community megaphone.

So here, for Malcolm and Glessie, is Just a-Cogitatin’ reborn.

You probably know I’m a retired journalist. Been out of the game for eight years now. By 2009, the Internet had taught the masses they don’t have to pay for news. The masses didn’t care that rectitude was flushed down the same toilet as their weekly circulation bills.

The first casualty was the editorial department. (In newspaper parlance, “editorial” encompasses all non-advertising pages, from city council coverage to football to weddings and, yes, to the opinion pages.)

To trim costs, jobs have been sacrificed, lives overturned. When it was my time to go, my staff of about a dozen copy editors was in the throes of not just reduction, but elimination. Few newspapers today can afford the luxury of copy editors.

And the disaster is not over. Only this week, The Tennessean announced elimination of 88 more jobs in the editorial department.

As readership declines, newspaper staffs have suffered, first the editorial, then the advertising. The cuts are necessitated by advertising revenue. Meny of the advertising dollars are staying in the advertisers’ pockets. Internet advertising, its efficacy not yet known, is cheaper than print — if it exists at all. CraigsList was a razor to the jugular for print media; how do you compete with free? In the old days – only 20 years ago – classified advertising was the bottomless pit of money. Now it’s just an empty pit.

Perhaps this blog is a scratch on the writing itch that has not died with the newspapers.

Could be. I realized the itch last January when I was asked to write a piece for my college fraternity’s national e-zine. I’ll admit that during the interview and writing, I felt the same old urges. And when it was published, I got the same sense of accomplishment that every writer feels when a piece is published.

Not sure this blog will satisfy the itch, but here goes.