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THE AGREEMENT BOX


THE AGREEMENT BOX

Updates ready to install, my computer said to me like it does every single day in the upper right hand corner of my tiny screen on my laptop. Later, I choose, like I do every single day. Then in its infinite wisdom, a few choices are given, try in an hour, try tonight, turn on automatic updates. Once again I choose try tonight, but I have chosen all of them over time. Then the next message follows, your computer must be connected to a power source. It is not at this time, but it is every single night where I am thinking that the updates are automatically happening. They are not. My computer is not hooked up to a power source when I write because my power source for writing is outside, in the fresh air with the birds and the morning sounds of the beginning of the day. So is it too much to ask my fancy thousand dollar mac laptop to remember the choice I continue to make every single day so when I plug my said laptop in, the updates can happen then? When I am sleeping?

I went to my phone yesterday while I was doing my paperwork to turn on my stereo, (is it still called a stereo?), to turn on Sonos, which is another fancy word for another thousand dollar piece of equipment that has made me a slave to technology. Updates ready to install, my Sonos app said to me. Didn’t I just do this update last week? How many updates are necessary to make the On button Play and make a song or two come belt out songs while I whittle away at my paperwork?

Then there are the perpetual privacy statements now coming in to all of the apps and through the old school mail from my credit card statements. Yesterday I went to pay my American Express bill and I noticed that the bill was eight pages. I perused past the first two pages listing all of the charges and when I got to page three and beyond, it was all about their new privacy rules and regs. Six pages. Do they actually think people will take the time to read this? When we check off the I agree box in the unending parade, (or rather charade), of agreements we are asked to sign in order for any app, or website to work for us, what are we really agreeing to? And why are do we so easily check off the box with barely a scan of the documents we are asked to sign?

Trust is one reason. For some God forsaken reason, we or at least I trust that the agreement is not selling my soul to the devil. Trust is what makes me live peacefully in my world. Trust. It is a big golden beautiful word founded on the notion that there is an unwritten exchange between parties and people that we are not going to screw each other. It is the proverbial handshake, a look in the eye that makes my world go round. But the fact of the matter is that when I check off the box I am endlessly asked to check off OR ELSE I CAN’T USE THE APP or proceed with my form of payment, there is no handshake or a look in the eye.

I was struck the other day by the BITMOJI app which I am now humorously addicted to. Bitmoji cleverly (or rather sinnerstly if that is a word) asks for control of your keyboard on your phone. It even gives instructions to go to Settings and make the switch to BITMOJI keyboard. I eagerly forged ahead as I am sure every single friend and their children have likely done because every text now must include my new supercute looks just like me Bitmoji, like a dress up Barbie, I am transported back in time to my childhood with my wardrobe box of Barbie clothes and shoes. I go through the motions required to ensure my new keyboard will indeed make it easier to blast off an endless variety of Bitmojis dressed in splashy quotes and attire. Then just when I am ready to hit the Yes button, I notice a short two sentence easy to overlook.

“THIRD PARTY KEYBOARDS

When using one of these keyboards, (Google included here), the keyboard can access all the data you type.”

What? All of the data I type? This is significant. Beyond the obvious that it can be accessed, what is it being used for? Who is reading it? Where is it going? I felt like I was being watched by a stalker for a brief moment and then I considered how many of our kids young and grown just change their keyboards because Bitmoji said to because we are all so damn trusting.

No. I choose NO. I am not an alarmist and I appreciate them letting me know in a simple two line statement, but I must draw a line somewhere in the digital pavement. We all must. As I sit here writing this morning, I am concerned more than ever about how many boxes I have agreed to and what did I actually agree to? What have our children who now all have a cell phone as a body part agreed to? How is it possible to monitor all of this and where have we headed? I love my new Bitmoji, I love my Sonos, my iphone and my laptop and the ease of digital everything, but, well just but.

Who knows who is reading what I am writing and saying these days and likely no one really cares. But I do. I think. This is why I am kind of into old school typewriters now, no digital. Just me and the machine. A really peaceful, (well not really peaceful, those old gal keys are noisy, but in an old fashioned vintage black and white movie sort of way) and trusting relationship because there are no agreement buttons to check. Just a roll of a paper turn and a few punches of keys and I am off to the old world of yesteryear with a real manuscript. So if a real cup of coffee spills on it, it has to be retyped, not reprinted. The only thing missing besides the superfluous agreement box is an exclamation mark symbol, and of course my new Bitmoji.



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INTO THE VORTEX

INTO THE VORTEX

Fifteen chicks, at least twelve bottles of wine and two large pizzas from Leos later, we had a great party outside on the sidewalk of my humble abode and business. Too many of us for the front porch and we didn’t want to go around to sit on the spacious back deck despite its beauty in the garden because after all, it is the infamous “4th” in Bristol, RI. Street front was where the energy and action was.

Fifteen or so superchicks, no children, no husbands, or pets to care for, and all of the other parts of our lives that are part of our lives left at home exchanged for a night out with each other before the climatic conclusion we call “the parade.” This was the calm between the storm of night after night of concerts, great food, walking the streets and engaging with just about everyone. Bristol’s 4th is like a family reunion except it is the entire town coming together and rejoicing, partying and shirking all responsibilities until after the 4th. There is nothing like living near all of it and since June 21st when the first concert began, we haven’t stopped.

Last night was the pause, albeit a partying one, but nonetheless it was nice to not walk to a concert and just stay put all evening. Laughing our female asses off as we talked about medical marijuana, walking in the parade, post menopausal dryness, vodka, the new pasta place that opened in Warren that of course my partner in crime, Karen and I are headed to pronto today because God forbid we don’t have enough food for after the parade and bitmojis. Another piece of cell phone technology I am in the dark about. For good reason too because as soon as the topic came up the entire tribe of chieftresses took it upon themselves to school me in the world of the bitmoji.

My phone was taken prisoner and passed around as each woman tried to get the bitmoji to match me or me to match it, not sure. It was like those old fun plastic peel off dolls that you could change their outfits on, what were those called again? I loved those and I quickly became that five year old girl as we all tried to make it match me. The only problem was that there were no Wonder Woman outfits which was kind of a bummer, so I made do with a crown, then a flower, then a Red sox cap and next thing you know, it was like forty minutes later. Sucked into the vortex. Heads down, each woman texting me their own personal bitmojis, but laughing our drunken asses off along the way. Sometimes technology is a good thing, oddly it connected us on a different plane and we were all the better for it simply because of the amount of laughter it caused among a group of women who laugh easily with each other anyway.

I woke up in a haze this morning afraid to look at the clock for fear it would read three am. It didn’t, it was 5:15, thank God. I remembered the evening with a warmth in my heart appreciating the amount of females who said Yes, I’ll be there and can I bring someone or something instead of No, I have too much to do to get ready for the 4th. We are always too busy and I worship the yesses from my female friends who decide on many alayne occasions to throw cares to the wind and have the fun I intend.

Then I remembered the Bitmoji. Let me just take a quick peek and play around with the hair, the outfit, the eyes, the lipstick, the blush color, the brow shape…all of a sudden it was 6:45 and a full hour and thirty minutes had mysteriously disappeared. Why doesn’t ninety minutes go by that fast at the gym? We would all be in way better shape, surely. I leaned into the vortex and laughed knowing that every single time I use one of these bizarre characters, the image of all of us women drinking and eating pizza on the sidewalk from 5:30–10pm two nights before the 4th will be the start of a yearly tradition for all the July 4ths years to come. God Bless America.


the first group, the first bottle of wine early in the evening before the pizza, the added chairs.. before bitmoji.
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GETTING FREAKED OUT

GETTING FREAKED OUT

Watching Black Mirror last night, I noted that the last three episodes have had this creepy theme of consciousness transfer. The show uses this small round button like gadget that is inserted into the character’s temple and this is how the mind shift happens. Kind of like the mind meld from the original Star Trek episodes, but scarier and incredibly realistic. The brilliance of Black Mirror is its ability to drag you into its vortex like you are actually in the show. There is this uncanny realism to this series and like a train wreck I am finding it hard to look away. Unsettling for sure and I am surprised that I find myself wanting to watch another one because I generally like more zen happy tv or more often, no tv.

I am from the generation who read the required reading of George Orwell’s 1984 before 1984. I was in high school between 1979–1983 so the clear memories of waiting for the themes of 1984 to happen were joked about often among my peers. When I was in high school Intro to Computers was brand new and the glossy Windows program was nowhere in site. The theme was computer programming that taught the old school Dos program, a lackluster and colorless behind the scenes I don’t think it even exists anymore program. The class was filled with the stereotypical nerdy boys and even if it had been something I was interested in, this was discouraged because it wasn’t “for girls.” This wasn’t something that was said aloud, but there was an undercurrent of silent understanding of knowing our place in the choosing of classes we mostly white middle class girls should be taking. Like shop, wood working and mechanics, all available in the curriculum in North Kingstown High School in the late seventies, we understood that those programs were for the kids (aka boys) who needed skill sets other than the automatic track to college most of us were on. Vocational programs and skill set training were available, but not really encouraged unless we wanted to take Home Economics, (yes that was available) and yes it was filled with mostly girls. The only boys that took the class were the ones who cleverly understood there would be cooking which equaled free food coupled with lots of girls. They didn’t realize there would also be lessons on sewing, child rearing and diaper changing, but the food and girl theme was enough to have them overlook the other “girl duties being taught to us.”

It doesn’t seem like much has changed as my son is majoring in computer science and cyber security in his second year of college and everyone’s eyes light up when I reply to their question, “what is your son majoring in?” He told me that the classes are mostly boys still. And he is likely in on the early stages of where cyber security is really headed as we find our worlds and its privacy aligning itself more and more with the Orwelian plot of 1984. I used to shrug my shoulders at “all of the talk on privacy” when George Bush’s polices post 911 were rapidly changing to give the government more and more control over ours.

“I have nothing to hide, so why is all of this even a topic,” I would find myself saying in conversations. “They (being the government as my reference at this naïve filled time) are looking for terrorists, not me.” The privacy alarmists back then were screaming from the rooftops and my simple brain wasn’t hearing or listening as I continued to buy Apple product after Apple product choosing Google as my go to search engine and Firefox as my preferred web browser. Taking photo after photo, video after video, getting excited when every social media site linked with one another so I could save time for my business when I made a post never thinking about the I Agree box I was forced to check each time to proceed. After all who reads the sixty five page document, I have work to do, photos to take, tweets to make and questions to ask Google, my new best friend.

Little did I realize that while all of the privacy advocates were screaming about government interference, the people who were really controlling our privacy were silently commanding our attention and our wallets with app after app. And they were doing it under the banners of the greatest places to work as we got to sneak peaks at their enviable work environments filled with workout rooms, free food at their self contained on site organic restaurants, game rooms filled with pool tables and vintage pacmen machines and lunchtime basketball courts.

“My Brita filter needs to be changed,” my partner, Michael happily told me as he got up from the couch this morning and immediately headed to the kitchen to change the filter. “I love it when they let me know,” he said so matter of factly. He had just sat down on the couch to read the paper and when the text came in to remind him, like Pavlov’s dog, he and his just seconds ago unplanned behavior responded promptly. “How do they know?” I asked. “You have to set it up on the Brita page,” he responded. This is what is happening; we are feeding the companies all of our information and they are making our lives ‘easier,’ ‘more convenient,’ and we keep feeding more and more into the cyber machine. What an appropriate segue into the privacy topic. I sound like I am turning into a conspiracy theorist, more like an awarist, and I am fully aware this is not a word… yet. Maybe if I write it in the Google search bar, Google will make it so in their online dictionary. And while I am at that, let me get sidetracked on the Oscar awards so they know where I click and it can be recorded for future sidetracks. No wonder no one has any time anymore.

This past year I began noticing how much automatic linking is happening in all of my devices. I began getting the summaries of my life in the friendversaries that Facebook coordinates to remind me of the “good times,” and I just started getting these summaries from Iphoto too. I didn’t ask for this. Face and location recognition in the photos I take are a great tracking device for not only where I am, where I was, but how I spend. (and where our children are and what they are spending because ultimately “they” don’t really care about 53 year old alayne, they care about the up and coming 12–20 year olds). This is the brilliance of technology. It is all happening because we are feeding it our information because “we are not doing anything wrong.”

There are so many controls on our phones that we could turn off if we wanted to spend about a day trying to find the buttons beneath the layers. Who has the time when we are so busy taking photos of our most recent breakfast and sharing it with the world? And as we do this, these companies are happily and easily getting our information because we tell it every single day in our Iclouds our entire thought processes so they can remind us to change the Brita filter when we had no intention to do so five seconds before.

I have loved technology in some moments. Certainly as I type away on my thousand dollar mac laptop and upload this piece into the Medium site that brilliantly collects writings from aspiring writers allowing us a space to self publish for free (allowing them to have their site with all of the free writing they could ever dream of). All of our words are being fed into the machine, I am guessing and thought patterns are being analyzed, studied and regurgitated back to us in the ads to buy the brands and the items we just texted or emailed or spoke of. Right?

I mean this can’t all be coincidental that I had just been literally thinking about a turquoise kitchen aid mixer that I have coveted since I spotted one right after I had purchased my pink one. Even me who loves turquoise couldn’t justify two kitchen aid mixers, but when my pink one broke I contemplated buying the turquoise one instead of repairing the pink one. It seemed like in a nanosecond, I started seeing ads on Wayfair that actually had the turquoise kitchen aid mixer in them, custom algorythym ad campaigning in its truest form or pure coincidence? I don’t know. (By the way, I repaired old school style the pink one so fuck Wayfair, you didn’t get me this time.)

Technology has been a mixed bag of love and disgust among my peer of women as we have tried to maintain some semblance of order in our lives and our families by keeping the cell phones away from the dinner tables. Sometimes it feels like the world is spinning out of control, but this didn’t start with technology really. It started with the invention of the printing press (hold on, let me check with Google to find out the date for accuracy because everything you search for is the truth, right, especially medical informationJ) Ironically as I typed in my question “npr interview with a guy who wrote about the invention of the printing press.” Because I heard a fabulous interview with an author going back in time to explain how this simple invention we take for granted changed the course of history. Instead what came up was an interview with the writer and creator of Black Mirror. Mmmm is this a coincidence or a mind meld?

https://www.npr.org/2016/10/20/498683379/black-mirror-creator-dramatizes-our-worst-nightmares-about-technology

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NO PHOTOS PLEASE

NO PHOTOS PLEASE

The day started off as a rainy damp Wednesday. After spending a good portion of it inside the house not feeling myself, a walk in some fresh air was calling my name. My old high school friend dying as quickly as she did has awakened my pragmatic outlook on mortality and I am not even her family, her closest of friends, her husband. The need to honor my heart this week was a certainty and I went with it yesterday as my lovely team rallied to take care of my business and my schedule to allow me some time. I parked myself on the couch after completing a few errands to get a nice dinner ready for Valentines Day prepared to eat popcorn and watch sappy movies all day. As the sun peaked its pretty face taunting my decision to partake in a sorrow fest in the curtain drawn living room, my brother’s face actually appeared before me as he lay in his hospital bed not being able to go outside. I remember like it was yesterday him saying to me that he just wished for one more ride around the block on his bicycle, one more breath of fresh air. These words have become both a simultaneous lift and a burden as I struggle with the permission to give myself a day of lying around on a couch on a day that started rainy and became sunny.

More often this is the privilege of health and these decisions are not a struggle for the masses. For me though, unexpected sunny beautiful February days becoming a cross to bear is as annoying to me as it is likely annoying for anyone reading this, but nonetheless here I am. Full exposure of my brain. I made my way off the couch after a few hours of watching a depressing movie called Revolutionary Road. I thought this diversion was going to be a love story between Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio. Instead it was more like the movie War of the Roses drudging up relationship disappointments of yesteryear, not a great theme on a day of love and an already sad sack of heart.

A walk would do me a good turn so I took a warm shower to get the grayness of the day off me to brighten my spirit, layered on the clothes and stepped off the porch into the light. As I began the walk towards the pond that overlooks Newport’s First Beach, I had to control my decision to leave my phone behind. The conflict of shutting the texting and the phone down and the desire to capture the light with the built in camera was nagging at me once I walked into the literal light of the scenery.

As I marched forth, the light took my breath away. The peninsula-esque Tuckerman Ave neighborhood filled with converted summer homes built before anyone considered the ramifications of zero zoning rules, captured the light of the soon to be five pm setting sun. The homes looked like they were simmering on a low fire with the warm pink glow that could have been Menorca, Spain in the middle of a hot August summer. And I didn’t have my phone that contained my camera.

And I liked it.

I liked it because there was no distraction of having to reach for it, having to put my thumb on the button to have my phone magically read my print that seldom works for me. Of course, I often try again like when I am vacuuming and a piece of something doesn’t get sucked up so instead of picking it up, I go over it five more times thinking the hose will get it at some point. I liked it because there was no need for me to end up having to type my no longer four digit but six digit ID that Apple made me change at my last forced upgrade that I didn’t ask for. There was no distraction of trying to take a photo to capture what I observed with my two eyes on the clearest of Valentines days, taking the picture then looking at it to prove or disprove its worthiness of what I was seeing shaving precious minutes from a setting sun. I walked and breathed and prayed. I smelled and felt. I witnessed the moment I had taken for myself. I walked towards the beach surrounded by water and geese and pinkness of sky feeling my heart beat. I felt the brisk salty air on my skin with my thoughts stirring with ideas and peace that only an outdoor walk alone gives me.

The only moment captured was the actual moment by my eyes not my phone. I reflected on just a short time ago when the world was not captured second by second, minute by minute by every single person because we all did not have a phone with a built in camera. Are we better off or worse for it all? I don’t know, but what I do know is that without the camera and the distraction of its presence in my pocket, the choice to be with my own thoughts rather than with the direction of the phone was a good choice for that moment. We all have choices on our movement through our days. Looking down, looking out or looking up. Phones and their bells and whistles have become a force in our lives like nothing we have seen in previous generations. I know for me and my need to ground myself, the phone is not helpful for my need to center and I have to consciously choose or not choose it as my companion. The beauty of the walk reminded me why these decisions have become more important in my own life as I navigate nature with technology. I am guilty of over photoing as my partner will attest, as my son will attest. Food, moments on mountains, beach, life. I have actually been taking less photos but what is less? Photos and videos have become a routine in our lives posting for my business and intermixing it all with my life. Digital footprints as they are called. I am not sure where all of this leads, but what I am sure about is that as I move closer towards the midpoint of my fifties, I am happy that I am not of the generation born now as a parent who has to try to control its invasion in my young child’s life. Years from now, what will the studies be? Will our children have any privacy? Even if we consciously choose to stop the madness, it does not control the need for others to take photos and videos of us when we are not looking. The social implications are for the researchers, for me now in my world, I am happy I get to make the choice.

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EYESIGHT AND HOT FLASHES AND PASSWORDS

EYESIGHT AND HOT FLASHES AND PASSWORDS

Is it me or has the entire world of all things needing to be read getting smaller by the minute? It surely can’t be my eyes, can it? Doesn’t it seem like everything that is targeted to my fifty something self- workout equipment, bottoms of lipstick tubes, the ingredients on my $100 jar of skin serum, directions to any piece of equipment is shrinking at a rate that takes my breath away. I find myself squinting constantly and I WEAR GLASSES! Don’t ‘they’ know that we, these bad ass fifty year old superchicks are the ones with the income who are buying all this fancy shit? And by the way if we are not buying it for ourselves we are buying it for our kids, just in case they didn’t get that memo. This is just a metaphor for everything these days that has just gotten so complicated. I always thought it would have been nice when VCR’S (remember those?) started coming out fancier with more bells and whistles if the MANufacturers (caps of the word MAN on purpose because surely if women had come out with the VCRS back in the day, they would have made them so much easier) there would have been two choices. Option A would have been all the nonsense I never used, never gave a shit about yet paid for it because I had no choice. Option B would have been on and off, forward, rewind, pause. Done.

Fast forward, no pun intended, to this crazy world and just as I get used to using my seventh generation iphone, I realize they already have an iphone 10. Did I miss the eight and nine? Is it just me or is my relatively new iphone 7 acting wonkier, losing battery life faster? Has Apple become the Evil Empire? I can’t keep up with this. And will Apple please stop reminding me to update to the newest and latest system? Didn’t I just do that like last week? (and by the way this coincidentally it seems that is when my battery started going rogue. If I skip the reminder twenty five times, shouldn’t smart Apple know that I am not interested and just free me? I mean they know when I get in my car and where I am going when I get in there, surely they must have the ability to know by my personal algorithm that I choose not to upgrade so that my life can be easier because some 25 year old in Cupertino California wants me to. And by the way, Apple, while I am at it, why don’t you just make a phone that doesn’t need an upgrade every other week, just saying.

How about when I go on to my computer and it starts telling me all kinds of things I need to do to update it. How about I DON’T WANT TO FUCKING UPDATE ANYTHING! How about a button for that. I want there to be an Option B. for everything. I want to have the option of staying put in my little technological comfort zone and make no changes. I don’t want to upgrade Microsoft Word, I don’t want to change my password. I don’t want to have to create some security question and answer to protect myself from whatever crazy people are out there. I get it. We all live under the illusion that we are in control. Not being able to see the fine print these days and there is lots of it, (you know that I AGREE button we all hit after not reading the ten page contract with said Apple and all of the others we sign?) is an opportunity to stop looking. I don’t really mean this. When I am sprinting on the treadmill in Kathy Martin’s crazy class at ELEVATE in Middletown, RI, I probably want to see my time, my speed, my pace, my incline, but all of this passwording and relearning of technology that I am perfectly comfortable in its existing form is enough to make me want to go back to bed. My serious fantasy is to relinquish all of it. Yes Facebook, email, cell phones, all of it. But then I realize how would I communicate all these writings that have given me such a sense of daily peace? The irony!

If there is a higher power out there watching this great experiment called HUMAN BEINGS, that said higher power must be laughing her or his general neutral head off as we type in yet another password that gets rejected because we forgot to capitalize something or add a number in the middle of the word. I can barely see the computer screen these days! I don’t want any more passwords. I don’t want my apple homescreen to download on my car screen, actually I don’t want technology in my car at all anymore. It is way too distracting. I just want to go back to a radio, maybe a cd player with an on and off button. Bluelight has taken over for sunlight. I don’t want to read a recipe online or a book on a kindle. I want paper, I want butter smears on the pages. I want the page to smell like the vanilla I accidentally spilled while mixing the ingredients together on a rainy day. I pulled out my piles of recipes this morning to locate some Hanukkah old faithfuls. The textures and stains combined with my notations and initials of the people who gave them to me brought me to the power of the present moment that no recipe on my too small screen phone could ever give to me. I want to read the daily newspaper and have to wash my hands afterwards to get the smudges of ink off them. I want to take my pile of real life magazines and peruse them with abandon because I can. The sound of the pages turning and the articles I rip out on travel that I place in a real folder in a real filing cabinet always surpass the folder on my desktop.

I do love to type my stories, but there is something about pulling out my old notebook and a sharp pencil to bring my thoughts to light as I sit comfortably on my couch bundled up in my grandmother’s silly lighthouse sweatshirt. There is something about going out into my garden and forgetting what a plant is named and actually going to a garden book and looking it up rather than “googling” it, or even better, just living comfortably knowing I don’t know. Seeing a bird and pulling out my binoculars and staring at it for a few quiet moments, hearing its song, appreciating its cause for pause.

In all of this trying to connect, I don’t know about you, but I feel more and more disconnected these days. I have 5 pages of passwords. (For those of you who don’t have your passwords in a safe place neatly written, please make that a new year’s resolution and let someone know, you can’t believe how much easier this will make someone’s life if said Higher Power decides your time is up). I want to turn on my old fashioned music and surround myself with the sounds of Ruthie Foster stunning voice belting, When It Don’t Come Easy, as I quietly contemplate my existence in candle light instead of bluelight. I want to be able to go to bed and actually sleep for an entire night without a hot flash to wake me up with a power surge that gets me out of bed. Is it too much to ask the companies that we have allowed to manipulate our souls to stop for just a minute and let us catch our breath? And while they are at it, maybe they could make the font just a little bigger. Is this too much to ask?



my luscious old school recipe cabinet, my pile of books i can’t wait to get to and a lovely collection of my favorite old and modern real cookbooks in my very real pantry along with my prized pink very used and worn kitchen aid. who knew cookbooks may hold a place in the category of vintage.