This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 16, 2011 - when electrons revolt

When I was growing up, there was a guy in the neighborhood whose family made him go into the garage every time there was a storm. He attracted lightning.

You've probably known people who can't wear watches. The watches start running backwards, or stop and start unpredictably.

I've never been one of those people. Until recently. Lately, electricity and I don't seem to get along.

I remember looking at old catalogs from the early 1900s. You could buy all kinds of household appliances that had their own motors. Later, they had attachments so you could hook up a motor to them. Finally, appliances just came with power cords, because by then, there was an electric grid. Electricity had gone from fad to utility.

I suppose that's kind of like the Internet today, with wireless processors embedded in everything.

The two trends together are dangerous.

It all started for me when I got notified (via email) that someone had contacted my credit card company and succeeded in changing the account's email and billing address. It wasn't me, so I spent a morning on the phone as they walked me through new security settings. Then I got a call from someone claiming to be from the credit card company who wanted to know if I changed the settings ok, and to what, and suddenly asking a lot of questions without answering any of mine. Finally, I said I'd better call THEM back -- and they hung up. When I did phone the company's fraud department, they said they knew nothing about that call.

Then, on the way to the airport, my wife's mobile phone cut out. She asked me to plug it into the cigarette lighter. It not only didn't charge the phone, it short-circuited the car's air conditioning.

Then the library was moving its servers from the somewhat dicey power in downtown Castle Rock to a big server farm in Denver (co-located in Phoenix). But naturally, that meant that our catalog and other databases went wonky for a few days, to the great confusion of many of our patrons.

When I got back from my trip, I then tried to cancel that credit card (which I'd kept restricted but active in case I got stranded). No problem, they said, but fax in a bunch of stuff to prove you are who you say you are. Fine, I said.

But could I get a fax machine to work? After repeating the same steps 6 times, then watching the machine dial all by itself, chortling at me I swear, yes.

Then my home Internet went down. I'd reboot everything, and it would work, kind of, for whole seconds at a time. Then stagger into partial screen draws.

I've really gotten used to immediate Internet access. My daughter depends on it for her job (giving international English lessons).

When I called my provider to troubleshoot, the handset died halfway through the session. Dead battery.

When I got the home network up and running again, my computer's keyboard would suddenly go mute every now and then, requiring me to un- and re-plug it.

Don't even get me started about flight attendants who tell you to turn off your book, which then won't turn on again.

I totally believe in the myth of Atlantis. How could a whole, advanced civilization just disappear one day, you ask?

Simple. They got everything they needed to do, everything they needed to know, scrunched into a single, wafer-thin, electric-powered gizmo. And somebody dropped it, or it went on the fritz, or, I don't know, it got hit by lightning.

I'll be in the garage.

LaRue's Views are his own.

No comments:

Post a Comment