Exposure Notification from Apple and Google – May 25, 2020

It’s not often that Google and Apple work together. But since the pandemic, they have found common ground by adding a tracing feature to their cell phone operating systems that will work with government/health department apps being developed. When the apps are added to phones, people’s movements will be traced, and phones will record if you have been close enough to an infected person to become infected yourself.

Here’s what the information on the Apple iOS 13.5 update said:
“iOS 13.5 speeds up access to the passcode field on devices with Face ID when you are wearing a face mask and introduces the Exposure Notification API to support COVID-19 contact tracing apps from public health authorities.”

Since I have automatic updates set up, my phone had already downloaded the new version of the operating system, and said it would be installed tonight, presumably while I sleep. Frankly, I’d rather have it installed while I’m awake, so I chose the option to install it immediately. After installation was done, I went into my settings to see where this tracing app was. The first thing I noticed was that my bluetooth had been turned on during the updating, despite the fact that I keep it consistently off.

After turning the bluetooth back off, I scrolled down the settings, taking a peek in each area of the list. I got to “privacy” and took an extra-good look. Under bluetooth, I found the “COVID-19 Exposure Logging” switch. The explanation said, “When enabled, iPhone is exchanging random IDs with other devices using Bluetooth. This enables an app to notify you if you may have been exposed to COVID-19.”

When I tapped on “COVID-19 Exposure Logging”, which was off by default, it lead to a page that said you have to have an authorized app installed for Exposure Logging to work.

Tapping on “learn more”, you get to the nitty-gritty of things. If you get a government app that works with exposure logging, your bluetooth will broadcast out a number signal that is created randomly. Other phones that have exposure logging activated will also send out a signal. If you get close, each phone will record the other phone you’re close to. They say they will not divulge your identity. The metadata is recorded and stored by the government or the health department, and if someone gets infected with the coronavirus, they can see who was close enough to that person to catch it, and notify them. And as always, Apple and Google promise to respect your privacy.

Forgive me for being skeptical, but the government doesn’t exactly have a stellar record for keeping your information private and deleting it as soon as possible. They will likely store every bit of metadata indefinitely. Privacy is kind of like virginity – once you give it away, you never get it back…

A Library’s Nightmare

The public library in Midland, Michigan has been having a rough time. Like other libraries across the country, they had to close their doors back in March when the coronavirus reached the area. About a week ago, heavy spring rains prompted a flash flood warning. Then both the Edenville Dam and and the Sandford Dam burst, sending water tumbling toward the town of Midland. Thousands of residents made an emergency evacuation.

What about the town’s library? One of the library employees stayed overnight in the library to monitor the situation. By 3:30 am, other workers joined her. Water had begun to seep into the lower level of the building, where they had about 80,000 books. They tried setting up barricades to block the flow of water but it only slowed the flooding.

Grace Dow library 2(photo credit: Midland Daily News)

 

The staff moved the books on the bottom shelves to the top of bookshelves or onto book carts, realizing that this was only a temporary solution.

Grace Dow library 1(photo credit: Midland Daily News)

 

They realized that the books would need to be taken out of the basement entirely, an overwhelming task. The elevator was out of commission, as it had turned itself off for safety reasons. Then the National Guard arrived to help. They carried all 80,000 books from the lower level up to the main level, using the stairs.

Grace Dow library 3(photo credit: Midland Daily News)

 

And so it was that all but about 120 books in the Midland public library were saved! The library will have to dry out the lower level and replace the carpeting as well as shelves that were damaged, but when that is done, they will still have those wonderful books to put back on the shelves. Kudos to both the library workers and National Guard!

Grace Dow library 4(photo credit: Midland Daily News)

 

 

Piper In The Woods by Philip K. Dick (1953)

Piper In The Woods

If you have never read classic science fiction, but don’t want to tackle an entire novel, try reading one of Philip K. Dick’s short stories. Some call his stories surreal fantasy rather than science fiction. Whatever label you want to put on his work, the author has given us a wealth of both short stories and full novels, many of which have been utilized by Hollywood. Some of the movies/television based on his writings include “Total Recall”, “The Minority Report”, “The Man In The High Castle”, “Blade Runner” and “A Scanner Darkly”.

“Piper In The Woods” takes place on an asteroid on which a garrison of soldiers have been stationed. It has air, water and plant life, making it a desirable place to occupy. There’s only one problem: a growing number of the military personnel are sitting down all day, and claim they have become plants! The company psychiatrist has to figure out what is going on, and how to get the guys moving again.

It’s a fun, quirky little story that is now in the public domain. You can download the e-book free at the Gutenberg.org, a website dedicated to keeping the older books that have lost their copyrights from becoming extinct. Here’s the link:
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/32832/32832-h/32832-h.htm

As of the date this post was published, you can download a free Kindle e-book of the story from Amazon.com:
https://www.amazon.com/Piper-Woods-Philip-K-Dick-ebook/dp/B004UJ11JQ/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=piper+in+the+woods&qid=1590237102&sr=8-1

If you want the audio version, you can go to the LibriVox website and find it in one of their science fiction short story collections. Volunteers read the stories, which are in the public domain, and offer the audiobooks for free.
https://librivox.org/short-science-fiction-collection-037/

 

Spam Calls Are Declining?

Last month I read two articles online that claimed the number of spam phone calls were going down, thanks to the coronavirus.  The articles were on websites that I would consider reputable. The first one was on USA Today:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2020/04/16/phone-ringing-less-study-says-spam-calls-down-due-coronavirus/5143916002/

The other article was posted in the Los Angeles Times:
https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-04-02/column-coronavirus-robocalls

I checked my phone. Hmmm, the number of unknown or “spam likely” calls was down. But over the next few weeks, I started being flooded with text messages that seem to be spam. Never had I received so many unsolicited messages! Here’s a few of the text messages sent to me:

“Our records detected that your scores
have gone up. Check all 3 at ________”

“You have gifts waiting from ___.
Get yours today at ____.”

“This is Ethan with Planned Parenthood in ____.
I just wanted to see how you are doing during
these uncertain times. How are you?”

“Important new changes to 2020 driving
privileges: https:___ tvvx”

“Last call: This device will lower your
electricity bill by 90% each month
http://____ ydz”

“Remember the movie Limitless. It’s now a
reality. Use 100% of your brain, using this:
http://___”

“Hi, you’ve been randomly selected to represent
____ residents in a nationwide survey of
American opinion on President Trump’s
pandemic response. https://____”

“Let ___ know what you think and select
a gift: http://___”

“Danielle here from __ Nonprofit Association
access to medical care. Fill out the census online
https://2020census.gov/ so you and your entire
family can get medical care when you need it.
This text was sent by an individual. Reply
STOP to cancel.”

We have been plagued by both live telemarketers and robocalls for decades now. The phone companies and government have supposedly been trying to get a handle on the problem, without much success. Even being on the government’s official “Do Not Call” list does not seem to help much. Most people no longer answer their phone if it’s an unknown number, because it is likely to be a spammer.

So the spammers are getting frustrated, and are switching over to text messages. That forces people to see the message, even if only for a few seconds as they are deleting it. Some days I really wonder why I bother to have a phone.

God In The ICU – by Dr. Dave Walker (2012)

God In The ICU

The concept of an Intensive Care Unit – ICU – is not actually that old in the history of hospitals. In 1950, an anesthesiologist named Peter Safer came up with the idea of keeping patients who were on ventilators and under sedation in a specialized part of the hospital where they could be given specialized care. A few years later, in 1953, an ICU unit was set up in Copenhagen, Denmark during the polio epidemic. Two years later, the United States got its first ICU unit. These special units were expanded to include care for patients with any severe condition such as heart attacks or other life-threatening illnesses that required intensive monitoring.

Dr. Dave Walker was an anesthesiologist in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa at the beginning of the use of ICU units. Back then, an anesthesiologist didn’t just stay with the patient during surgery, then turn them over to another doctor in the hospital. No, the anesthesiologist continued to care for the patient during their time in ICU, checking on them every day and writing orders for their care. Only when the patient was improved enough to transfer to a regular hospital room did the anesthesiologist hand off the daily monitoring of the person to another doctor in the hospital.

Dr. Walker practiced anesthesiology in South Africa for 22 years, then spent six years in the United Arab Emirates before returning to South Africa, where he still lives. What really made Dr. Walker unique was his discovery of God, which lead to intensive prayer for each of his patients in the surgery room and ICU. The book covers his start in the medical field, the early days of the ICU, individual patients that he prayed intensely for, and his wife’s battle with cancer. It is a very intimate look at the life of a doctor.

Dr. Walker officially retired in 2009. He went on to self-publish this book, followed by “Prayer, Medicine And Miracles” and “Listen To The Music”. If you enjoy audiobooks, “God In The ICU” is available in audio format, read by Dr. Walker himself. He has a good voice for reading, but I noticed that there were many spots in the recording that the audio suddenly became loud and tinny, then returned to normal about five seconds later. This is a very fine book, and deserves to have a better audio-recording. Aside from the issue of inferior recording, “God In The ICU” is a fantastic book to read or listen to.

 

The Devil In Pew Number Seven – by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo with Bob DeMoss (2010)

Devil In Pew Number Seven

Bookstores and public libraries in our state have been closed for two months now due to the pandemic. I have been re-reading some of the books around the house, and this book was an excellent one to pull out again.

“The Devil In Pew Number Seven” is the true story of the terror that the author’s family experienced when she was a young child. Rebecca’s father was a minister who got on the wrong side of a man in his church in North Carolina. Actually, the man wasn’t even officially a member of the church. He just attended there, always sat in pew number 7, and exerted a tremendous amount of control over the congregation. Most people were intimidated enough by the guy to just do whatever he suggested, but Rebecca’s father refused to be bullied.

When you challenge a bully, one of two things can happen: 1, the bully backs off and finds someone else to pick on, or 2, the bully becomes enraged and becomes even more threatening. Unfortunately, the man in pew 7 became obsessed with terrorizing the family, hoping to run them out of town. But he didn’t know how determined the preacher was to stand his ground.

The story was almost unbelievable, but has been well documented by the authorities. I cannot imagine living in those kind of conditions.

 

Excerpt from the book:

After the service, borrowing a tractor to fill the crater in our front yard, Daddy had to wonder whether this was the end of the terror or just the beginning of a more aggressive campaign against his family. In spite of what he had said publicly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he privately wondered whether the cost of serving Christ in Sellerstown was a price too high to pay.

He had the welfare of his pregnant wife to consider. And the well-being of his young daughter. Soon there’d be a baby.

And yet Daddy was hopelessly in love with the Word of God captured within the pages of his well-worn Bible. As was his habit, he’d recite Isaiah 54:17 out loud: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.”

pages 68-69

Is It Hoarding Or Is It Saving?

Americans Create New Economic Threat With Savings

(photo credit: https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/12/investing/jobs-coronavirus-consumer-spending-debt/index.html)

Today an opinion article was posted on CNN’s home page that claimed that Americans are creating an economic threat by saving their money instead of spending it. I read the article. Because of the uncertainty of the times, many people have sharply curtailed their credit card usage, and are making a concerted effort to clear off the debt they already have. Our nation’s credit card charging has dropped off to a level not seen since the beginning of 1989. In addition, they are socking away savings when they can, based on the worry that their jobs and income may not return to pre-pandemic levels. The rate of savings has jumped to a level last seen in 1981, when Ronald Reagan was president.

The author of the opinion article actually referred to the act of saving money as “hoarding cash”. He made it sound as if anyone who was socking away money was some sort of social misfit. The use of the word “hoarding” conjures up negative mental images of people who hang on to needless junk, and are the sort to squirrel away money all over the house.

I’m no economic expert, but it seems to me that anytime you can get folks to take a close look at their finances and become more responsible with their spending, that should be applauded. Why would we want people to continue their reckless buying habits without a thought as to how they will pay their bills?

Overspending ruins lives. It leads to repossessed cars and houses, people having to work extra jobs, bad credit ratings, heart attacks, family stress, and other problems. It is far better to live with less possessions and fewer luxuries like vacationing and dining out. The frugal lifestyle is so much better for physical and mental health.

To those of you who have have been careful with your spending habits even before the coronavirus crisis, keep doing what you’ve been doing! And to those who are just now exploring the frugal lifestyle, dive in and discover the joy of controlling your money.