Oh, there it is

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Months ago we lost the remote control for the television. Who doesn’t do that, who owns a television, right? It falls between the couch cushions. It gets left on the table. It gets stashed in a drawer. It happens. Usually, however, it shows up at some point.

But ours never showed up. We each took turns looking. Those couch cushions got lifted up too many times. The couch got moved so we could look beneath it. The drawer, where we so tidily and responsibly kept the remote, was turned upside down more than once. We looked and looked until we exhausted places to look. It just was nowhere to be found.

I held out for months, then did some research into getting a replacement. I mean, your old television you could get by without a remote. You got up and changed the channel or the volume and you could at least feel that you were not being lazy. But this remote had so many features that trying to adjust some things was a challenge, at the least. Enter a Netflix password without that remote? I guess we skip the movie.

So finally I broke down and ordered a new remote. It was easy to find. There were multiple options on Amazon and elsewhere. When it arrived I slid in some batteries, pointed it at the television and boom! Success. Our easy life was back.

And we lived with that new remote for months. It worked great. No complaints. It was now what we had, even if it looked different than the old one. The old one was forgotten, slipping into the past, as things do. Then Easter came.

My wife pulled the Easter baskets from up-up stairs, as we call the semi-finished third floor of the house. She sorted through the various Easter decorations. She pulled the fake grass from one of those baskets and “No way!” there was the remote. How it got into one of the Easter baskets, fully covered in that fake grass crap, we still cannot figure, but we would not have found it. There is just no way we would have looked there.

So now we have two television remotes. We can choose the one we want. How First World is that? The Easter baskets are again tucked away. In films, those who make them often now hide what they call “Easter eggs:” small jokes or references that can spotted in the background. We had our own Easter egg this year. And it came before Easter, as if risen from the grave. Fitting, no?

Get in Touch, Old School

IMG_0214My wife busted out a sewing pattern yesterday. This image was in the corner. I have been trying to figure out who designed this and when. Without some research that is not something I am going to do. So I wonder a few things about this:

1. What is the deal with the rotary phone? If you were born in the 80’s or later you likely have never used a rotary dial telephone. I do remember using one when I was a kid but my own children have never even seen one. My son was asking me the other day how the dial knew when to stop. He just didn’t understand how a rotary dial telephone works. I explained it to him and he got it. That’s some good parenting right there.

2. That computer is not going to be happening in a typical household. OK, some people may have one still but you cannot buy one that looks anything like that these days, and if you have one hanging around it probably can’t do much with the internet as it is these days. I guess you could use dial-up, and I know many people in rural areas have little choice, even today, but that computer? Outdated baby.

3. That e-mail symbol/logo/design is so 90’s. Dude. Bill and Ted might even have a hard time understanding what the heck it is supposed to mean. It relies on the premise that one seeing it understands standard postal mail. I work with students who sometimes do not know the meaning of the term “postal address” and often don’t know what theirs is. I hate to break it to the US Postal Service, but mail is for packages these days. Many people I know never get personal mail. That is a shame in my opinion; getting mail is the best. In any case, showing a few letters with a superimposed “e” is going to make a few people scratch their heads, a few other chuckle and a some just say “Huh?”

I don’t know who uses sewing patterns these days. This one was brand new, not some vintage jobber. Maybe people of a certain age tend to use patterns like this and so this little arrangement at the top works for them. Maybe this is just something that no one has cared to look at for a while, let alone update. It made me smile, that is for sure. My guess is this was added to patterns in maybe 1990, maybe earlier, and just never changed. I might try to find out but I can’t find my rotary phone right now, and Netscape Navigator is no longer loaded onto my computer. Maybe I will try to send some electronic mail. But I’m not sure I can remember my AOL username and password. If I think to get around to it, I’ll just Google it. That, however, doesn’t seem to be an option here.

More Cameras the Past Four Days

Here is an update on my attempt to watch out for surveillance and other video cameras that capture my image without my permission.

Friday

I worked at home part of the day and went into the office. I visited one elementary school. We then drove to Stowe for the weekend.

Traffic cameras: 7
Office building cameras: 3
Parking garage cameras: 3
School cameras: 2
Additional interstate traffic cameras: 2

Total cameras: 17

Saturday

I was a Trapp Family Lodge for the weekend with my family. I saw no security cameras there. We did go to a restaurant in town.

Restaurant cameras: 4

Total cameras: 4

Sunday

We drove home from Stowe without any stops.

Traffic cameras: 3
Additional interstate traffic cameras: 2

Total cameras: 5

Monday

I went to a school for my work with students. I made no other stops.

Traffic cameras: 10
School camera: 9

Total cameras: 19

This is a total of 45 cameras I noticed over four days. Add that to the 100 cameras I noticed the four days before and that totals 145 times I have been on camera over eight days. Again, I am sure I missed a few. They are not easy to notice. I am getting better at both remembering to look and at noticing. I will at least look through the rest of this week to see what I can see in terms of what sees me.

Looking Out for Cameras

I posted last week about how I have been interested in finding security and surveillance cameras in my community. My question has been this: how often are images of me taken without my permission or even my knowledge? I have been trying to pay attention to these stealthy cameras around me this week and I feel like I have done a pretty good job. Below is an update. To clarify a few things, I am only looking for cameras that might see me. Any that I know about that are nearby but not close enough to capture an image of me do not count. I also only count each camera once. If I pass by the same camera again the same day I don’t count it again. I do count separate cameras on their own, however. For example, I count each camera at an intersection when I get captured; if I head out and then back I count cameras pointed in both directions.

Monday

I worked at home most of the day but went into town to get some groceries. I made only one stop.

Traffic cameras: 6
Grocery store cameras: 15

Total cameras: 21

Tuesday

I went into the office, which is monitored by security cameras. I parked in a parking garage, also monitored. I stopped to get gas and did not go inside.

Traffic cameras: 9
Office building cameras: 7
Parking garage cameras: 3
Gas station cameras: 2

Total cameras: 21

Wednesday

I had a meeting a good distance away, at Jay Peak Resort. I stopped at a gas station to use the restroom.

Traffic cameras: 10
Gas station cameras: 7
Jay Peak Resort cameras: 15
Additional interstate traffic cameras: 4

Total cameras: 36

Thursday

I went to a school for my work with students. I stopped for a cup of coffee at a convenience store.

Traffic cameras: 14
School camera: 1
Convenience store cameras: 7

Total cameras: 22

Now some of these are duplicated on multiple days. I take the same route two days in a row, for example, so the traffic cameras are ones I might have passed the day before, but this tallies up to at least 100 times I have been on camera in the past four days, not including cameras I may have walked past more than once. I will keep my eye out the rest of the week, as well as next week. I have a pretty varied schedule over those days and will be in many different places, so it could be interesting.

More Cameras Out and About

It is really hard to start thinking about something I have been ignoring for so long. I knew that if I wanted to be aware of all the cameras in my world it would take some practice, but I keep forgetting to look. I keep forgetting to try to be aware. Security and monitoring cameras are typically positioned so that they are unobtrusive, sure. They are visible but not noticeable on purpose.

Over the past couple of days I noticed a few cameras taking my picture. Yesterday I noticed three at a local market but I forgot to look when I was at the register area. I was checking out, paying and so on, so I tried to pay attention to the person helping me. I tried to be friendly and to make sure I appreciated what she did. That meant I did not look up to see the cameras around me, but I am sure there was at least one near the registers.

Yesterday I also went into a computer store to get a replacement back-up hard drive. I paid attention to the people around me and to what I sought, but I forgot to look for cameras. I am sure they were there but again, they are not meant to be seen, so I did not see them.

Today I noticed another camera at our local grocery store. There may have been more, but once again I stopped looking. It is really hard to pay attention all the time to looking for cameras when I have been not doing so for so many years. Part of my interest in seeing them is that I want to be more aware, not just of the fact that I am being spied on, but also of my environment, whatever it may look like. I want to practice paying attention. There is far too much in my world that I do not see. That makes sense–there is too much around to notice it all–that would simply be overwhelming. But still, I want to see more of what is around me.

I will keep trying to pay attention. I remember sometimes, after all. If I keep trying I will remember to look most of the time. I guess that is the best I might hope for, at least for now. Once I do really notice them I want to be aware enough that I wave to every one. Why not be friendly? Even to strangers trying to spy on me? Can’t hurt, right?

On Camera Again

Recently I was listening to fairly new podcast from National Public Radio, Invisibilia, which I highly recommend if you like good storytelling and thinking of things in new ways. The episode, Our Computers, Ourselves, examined how computers affect human behavior, for good or bad. One of the themes was the ubiquity of computers in our lives. They did not dwell on this as part of the show, but as I drove through the snow on my way to work, my own thoughts kept curling around the idea. I looked up and saw a video camera on a light pole, and I wondered, how many times does a camera take an image of me each day? I don’t live in a city but I also don’t live in the most rural part of Vermont. So, in the largest city in Vermont, a very small city by the standards of most other states, how ubiquitous are cameras?

Since then I have been thinking I should count them. Could I be aware enough to see the cameras that watch us but that we have forgotten are there? I knew that I would have to pay attention, that I would have to start noticing things I no longer see. I figured I would try it out today, knowing that it would be an imperfect experiment to start.

On the way to my destination for the day I passed at least two traffic camera intersections where I assume my image crossed a screen. I tried to pay attention but got lost in whatever I was listening to and didn’t look for cameras once I exited the interstate. I did go to a school this morning, which meant a camera aimed itself at me as I buzzed the front desk. I am guessing I missed some cameras but that is at least three, all of which carried my image twice. So at least six times today I was filmed (I’ll have to work on being careful with that word as there was no actual film involved) and none of those instances were of my own choosing.

I plan to try to keep an eye out for cameras around here as I drive and work and shop and play. I am guessing I will find some in unusual places. At some point I will try to count them all in a period of time (one day? one week?). If nothing else it will be good practice noticing, paying attention, being aware. I may find that there are fewer cameras than I imagine; I may find there are more. Either way, the question–how often am I camera?–is worth asking.

No Television

Recently we got a new television. We hadn’t gotten a new television in over a decade, so we were a little behind on the technology situation. The one we got, from a store right nearby, has Blue Ray built right in and is internet ready. We plugged it in and could watch Netflix movies streamed wirelessly right on our television. With the setup we have now, we can also rent movies online and watch them without ever leaving the house. And we can so some internet browsing as well. We can, of course, also watch video from a DVD or Blue Ray disc. But we can’t watch regular old television.

We have no antenna hooked up, although we did for our old television. We can’t get cable (too far out there) and I refuse to pay $30-$50 per month for satellite television service so I can have 150 channels I don’t want. We can watch a lot of stuff as it is and, when it comes to television programs, we are happy to wait until the season is long over to watch it. What I want is an a la carte satellite television service–I pick what I want and pay for only that. I would also take a service that offers pay as you go television–the more I watch the more I pay. I don’t need all those channels, some of which are in languages I don’t understand, to see programs I don’t need to see. That just seems like a waste. An all you can eat buffet is a great deal if you eat a lot all the time. I just don’t eat a lot.

So we have no television, really. This is a bummer at certain times. The Super Bowl is coming up. I would like to watch that. It would be fun. But I’m not sure that is an option here at home, unless I can find a way to stream it via the internet. And not having the option to watch the Olympics (don’t even get me started on how poor the standard television coverage is) feels like we are just missing out. Since the free over-the-air television reception just isn’t great where we are, we have to pay to make it work well. But I’m not paying for that crap.

Despite this, I feel like we are on the cusp of getting what we need. How long can it be before someone figures out how to stream television? I would pay for that if the offer were reasonable, if I could pick my meals as it were.  We can watch some things, just not everything, and most things not live. But the shift has to happen soon. When it does we will be ready. After all, we won’t be getting another television for a while. Until then, we can make do somehow. Those Glee episodes will just have to get a little old before they come to our house.