The One Where You Realize Your Mom Is Darth Sidious

My son texted me from college today and told me he had gotten a couple oddly specific text messages from numbers he didn’t recognize. The messages both made reference to his location at college, as well as his first and last name. He was a little weirded out by them, which is understandable because this had never happened to him before. I told him they were likely from someone he knows who is messing with him. He doubted my assessment. I asked for both numbers and told him I would do some sleuthing.

I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. My plan after I earned my bachelor’s degree was to become a research librarian. And I might have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids. Okay. Okay. You’re right, Scooby Doo. It wasn’t meddling kids that kept me from my research dream; it was the exorbitant cost of graduate school for a young woman who was already in debt after putting herself through college. But while my husband was in graduate school a few years later, I got a job at his school putting together information packets about the companies recruiting on campus. I knew my way around a library and around the burgeoning Internet. I love gathering information. I have all the necessary skills. With a BA in English Literature and an MS in Writing, I have spent an overabundance of time doing research for academic papers. Beyond that, I am deeply curious about all manner of subjects. And I am determined and undaunted like a border collie going after sheep. Just get out of my way and let me go to work.

So, I did. With the numbers he gave me, my first stop was a reverse phone look up on beenverified.com. The first number came right up. I took a screen shot and sent it to my son. It was someone he had traveled with in high school. The second number did not have immediate results, so it was likely unlisted. Knowing the result of the first search, however, I consulted the directory for his high school to see if there were any numbers listed from that area code. There weren’t. So, I did what I had to. I blocked my number and called the second number. A kid answered my blocked call, said “Hey, baby,” and then promptly hung up. Nothing to see here. Case closed. I told my son he should reply to the first message with the kid’s name and his home address (which I had gotten from the directory). He said I was evil. I sent him a GIF of Darth Sidious from Star Wars because, well, Sidious and I have some things in common beyond our wrinkles. He mentioned again that I’m terrifying and that he really doesn’t trust the Internet. I told him he shouldn’t, but the thing is it works both ways. Someone can dig around and find information about you, and you can often do the same about them. Everyone leaves a trail, some are just easier to follow.

My son has referred to me as a “stalker” because of my gift for unearthing information. He came to this conclusion earlier this summer. He had stayed with a friend outside of Seattle and wanted to send her a gift as a thank you, but didn’t know her address. She does not have the same last name as her mother or step father, so he couldn’t just look it up in a phone book. He also didn’t want to ask her for it because he was hoping to surprise her. I told him I could help him out if he told me what info he was starting with. He knew the street her mother lived on but not the house number. After a quick Facebook search, a Google Map view of the street for reference, and then an online phone book search later, I handed him the address. It put the fear of god into him. He knows he has no secret I could not unearth if I felt so compelled. Luckily for him, I respect his privacy. And, while I am a good detective, as a die-hard introvert, I am not nosey. I don’t care about most people enough for that.

Still, it’s important your children know your powers. You don’t want to mess with your mother when you know she and Darth Sidious share an evil genius and a penchant for getting what they want.

The Curse Of Everything Being On The Internet

Tonight I had to fill out of a form online for an upcoming dermatology appointment. It’s my first time using this particular medical portal, so I first had to create a username and password to add to the literal gazillion user names and passwords currently in existence for me. I couldn’t even hazard a guess how many online accounts I have like this one. I can tell you, however, that if my stored logins and passwords ever disappear, I suspect I too will disappear from existence. I don’t know a single one of my myriad logins and passwords by heart. Not a one. So, I imagine that should my laptop every decide it is sick of storing whole my damn life, I will simply cease to exist. Isn’t that how it works these days? Anyhoo, after that first screen, there were nine others covering a range of information, from my medical history to my family’s medical history to surgeries I’ve had to medications I take to my next of kin and on and on. As I sat there laboriously working through this online document, I thought about how much time and money this must save doctor’s offices and how they probably have been able to reduce staff by at least a person or two because no one has to complete data entry from paper forms. It’s a more streamlined system.

I left my laptop momentarily to verify the dosage on a medication I take, and when I returned I noticed the screen had reset to the login page. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Goddammit. NO! I logged in again, praying the information had saved. Alas, it had not. Forty minutes of my life gone in an instant with zero to show for my efforts. I cursed Al Gore for his role in paving the way for the Internet. In the olden days, I would have had a hand cramp that lasted for days after filling out those printed pages with ballpoint pen, but those pages would still be in existence on my counter when I returned and not lost to the ether because of some random software glitch.

I love me some Internet. I really do. I love that the Internet allows me to keep in touch with people without necessarily having to see them in person all the time. I love that the Internet enables me to research a topic in real time while I am having a discussion with someone. I love that I hardly ever have to go into a bank anymore. I love that if I am feeling super unmotivated, I can have the exact groceries I want delivered to my door through it. I love that I can shop for clothes without having to go into a store and pick them out and then stand semi-nude in front of a full length mirror in horrific lighting wanting to gouge my eyes out for my trouble. I love that I can use it to download a book or read a newspaper or watch a film. I am grateful I am able to use the Internet to complete tasks from home in my pajamas. All of this is good. If we can figure out a way for the Internet to make wine appear at my house instantaneously, it will be nearly perfect and I can go back to praising Al Gore for his foresight.

But until we can get a system whereby my medical history doesn’t suddenly go missing after a disturbance in the force resets an almost finished online form because some programmer somewhere forgot to put in an automatic save function, I would like some paper back in my life. Just a little. Not a lot. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for saving trees and the planet and all that jazz. I just like knowing that there is a paper trail once in a while. If you give me my paper medical forms back, I promise I will stop complaining about the hand cramps.

Sometimes My Tech Support Needs Tech Support

My previous web site is now just one big fat user error.

At the end of 2010, I had this brilliant idea. At least it seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. I would create my own web site and begin writing again via a blog. How hard could it be, right? I mean, hundreds of dozens of people write blogs every day, and judging from the content, grammar, and spelling on some of those sites, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or an English major, apparently) to publish a blog. So, following hubby’s advice, I opened up iWeb on my MacBook, did a simple page layout, registered a domain name (Moms Into Adventure), and put myself out on the web in an official way. I had forgotten, though, what a headache web publishing can be.

Back in 1998, when I was a graduate student studying professional writing at Illinois State University, I took a class called Hypertext. The course objective was to gain an understanding of how writing for the Internet is different than writing for hard copy publication. Words on the Internet are mutable. With a mouse click, one word can springboard you into an entire new realm of thought or investigation. An Internet writer would be able to share multiple concepts succinctly simply by adding links within their work. One of our graded projects involved fabricating our very own web page that in some way defined our identity. It would be my first web page ever. To do this project, I purchased some 1998-simple, Adobe PageMill web software and learned (kid you not) some actual HTML. My identity project for this class is STILL on the Internet today, rife with dorky animated gifs and appallingly unfriendly web site mapping, which only proves how your current Internet activity, no matter how innocuous it seems, will haunt and embarrass you in the future. Wait and see.

At any rate, it had been a long time since I had designed information for the web. Because our web sites were created for a class and hosted by the university, we weren’t allowed to upload them directly. Instead, we saved our sites to floppy disks so our professor could review and upload our information to the web via FTP. It was all so late 1990s. So, you can imagine how I struggled trying to negotiate new Internet publishing programs after what I learned a million years ago when I was 30. The new web site I created last year came with an enormous learning curve, a lot of cursing, and much consternation and head scratching. Still, once I got the hang of it, I persevered and managed to publish nearly 100 posts last year, which was the most writing I had done in nearly a decade. I was proud of my small piece of the web.

Then, yesterday, I went to revisit something on my old site only to realize that, exactly as promised, Apple had eliminated MobileMe, the space where my blog had been peacefully residing. The entire blog was no longer on the Internet. Even though hubby had mentioned that MobileMe was going away, I don’t think it truly ever registered. Truth is that I only listen to him about half the time, so I must have missed the half where he mentioned I would have to put my information elsewhere or lose it forever. Oops.

Consequently, I have spent the better part of the afternoon creating a new site on which to house my 2011 blog articles. I’ve had to undo the previous forward so that it no longer sends users to the defunct MobileMe page. I’ve learned about Nameservers and spent more time with Go Daddy than Danica Patrick. I had to remember passwords I haven’t touched in 18 months, and you have to know the amount of effort that went into that because I can’t even remember what I had for lunch yesterday. At one point, I manually had to uncross my own eyes. It’s been a mind-numbing, excruciating process, and I’ve only managed to upload 5 of my 100 previous posts so far. Happy. Happy. Joy. Joy. I really need to look into getting my tech support some tech support because I’m about ready to fire her…I mean, me.

The Internet in all its insanity, though, is merely a metaphor for life. The things you wish you could delete will stay with you a lifetime, while the things that mean something to you can be gone in an instant. The only constant is change. If you stop to blink, you will miss something vastly important. Some associations can be easily repaired while others can be lost forever. And, no matter how much you learn, there’s always more you will never know. As hard as it is to keep up with the way of the future, when you decide to quit adapting to the technology of the present you become a fossil. So, to avoid going the way of the dinosaurs I will keep up with this crazy Internet publishing nonsense…at least until the next better thing comes along.