Mostly Harmless

The title above is from Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

 

About five years ago i was on my way back from Palmdale one Saturday evening when my Prius began behaving strangely; and then, after i’d decided that nothing really serious was wrong and and for damn sure i didn’t want to be stuck in Fresno on Sunday, i pressed on.  Alas, as i approached Altamont Pass the electric motor failed, leaving me with such limited hill climbing power that i just barely made it home on the engine alone.

Monday morning, i started it up with the intention of limping into Luscious Garage, only to find that a day’s rest had left it once again operating perfectly.  But i took it in anyhow and left it for them to diagnose.  Went back that afternoon and learned that they had thoroughly examined it and could not duplicate the problem.

I inquired into their analysis and discovered that they’d looked into the Prius’ computer and could see that i’d been driving at a steady 73 MPH up highway 99, had stopped briefly at Fresno and then continued at a slightly lower speed until i hit the grade at the Altamont Pass, where my speed plunged to near zero and then fluctuated wildly as i went up and down hills the rest of the way home.

Shocked and feeling a bit violated, i inquired whether it had recorded what i’d ordered for dinner at that drive-in in Fresno, but since then i’ve adjusted to the idea that my car is spying on me.

And then last spring friends prevailed upon me to get a smart phone.  Oh, yes, i knew all about how smart phones spy on you, but hey, by that time i’d figured out i was already so totally compromised that a bit more spying didn’t matter.

After all, in my misspent youth in the Army Security Agency i was the NSA’s bitch although that was back when the NSA’s mission was to spy on the electronic transmissions of foreign entities.  Then, in the aftermath of 9/11, the NSA took advantage of the national paranoia and unilaterally changed its mission to spying on everybody, everywhere.  The NSA director at that time was famously quoted as saying, “Collect it all.”

So at that point i became a vociferous critic of the NSA, so much so that i’d be very surprised if i were not by now on at least the Potentially Troublesome list.  Not that i care, since i’m old and sick, so it doesn’t matter that every syllable i utter, every character i type, every website i access is being recorded and filed away on the NSA servers in Utah in case they want to dig it out and use it against me.

So like my vehicle’s spying, the NSA’s surveillance is merely an annoyance rather than a source of worry.

But then, this morning, another outrage revealed itself.  No no, not my toaster.  I’m aware that all the new smart appliances that you connect to your computer are all spying on you, so i don’t own any of them.  Oh no, it was much more intimate.

My hearing aids.

See, the left one had been acting cranky, intermittently turning itself off.  So i took it into the delightful father and son team (Bill and Bill Diles) at Petaluma’s Kenwood Hearing Center where i’d bought it, and the son gave it a good cleaning and ran the diagnostics.

Well, he said, i see you’ve been using it only a couple of hours a day on average, which was true because i don’t wear ’em around the house.  And then, while i sat there slackjawed at this revelation, he went on to show me a chart revealing that i had spent declining percentages of my wearing time in the following environments:  Quiet, Conversation in Small Group, Conversation in Crowd, Conversation in Noise, Noise, and Conversation in Quiet.

I didn’t ask him for transcripts of the conversations.

Meanwhile, speaking of the security state, a downtown Petaluma scene.

La Migra in downtown Petaluma

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