Something about Halloween · 31 October 2017

I know there are people who go crazy for Halloween. And there are those who hate Halloween. I am not at either extreme, but there is something special about Halloween for me.

I am not one of those crazy people who love Halloween (sorry if I just called you crazy). I do not plan out decorations or haunted houses or crazy getups to wear. I do not even dress up to answer the door for trick-or-treaters. But I do like Jack.

I have no idea where Jack o’Lantern came from, but I like the whole thought of carving pumpkins. Maybe it is just the artist in me trying to get out. Or the act of carving brings back great memories. I am not completely sure. However, I do know that I love to carve pumpkins with my kids.

We used to make wonderful creations. At least they were wonderful for us. I would always pause to take pictures of the process and of course, we would pose the final creations for pictures. Sometimes with the artists. I was sad when those days passed. When the boys were too big to carve pumpkins with their dear ole dad.

Actually, I think our oldest would come over to carve with me, but he is so busy now. And I am not completely sure, but our youngest probably just put up with the tradition when he was little. So last year, when he was the only one of the kids in the house (our middle one liked to carve, but it was never a great passion), we did not carve any pumpkins. None. Nada. Nil. And Halloween was not quite the same.

Oh sure, the trick-or-treaters came. Many of them held out their bags expecting a treat without so much as a single word. But we made them chant the words, “Trick or treat!” before they got said treat. Then, their parents make them say, “Thank you.” Or they just say it automatically. It was fun as always to see the different kids and parents in the costumes.

Still, I missed the Jack o’Lantern tradition. I missed carving those gourds with my boys last year.

Well, I got a pumpkin for Halloween this year. And I carved it a week before Halloween. I even took pictures of it lit up on the counter like we always did before. I did not pose next to my creation, but I did post a picture of it on Instagram. Oh how the times have changed.

Truth be told, I enjoyed carving my pumpkin even if none of my boys carved with me. One of them was on the couch keeping his mother company watching their TV show while the other two were off living their lives away from us. Growing up stinks. But there is still hope. They might have little ones someday, who like to carve pumpkins too.

Like I said before, I am not exactly sure why I like carving pumpkins. I am sure we carved pumpkins when I was young, but I do not remember that as much as I remember a big birthday party. It was a costume party because my birthday is so near to Halloween. We played pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs. My mom made such a big production of the whole thing. It was so fantastic that I remember it all these years later.

But I do not think that my birthday or that one birthday party are why I like Halloween and carving pumpkins. When it comes right down to it, I think I just like carving pumpkins. I realized that as I carved one this year without my kids. Oh sure, I would rather have the experience with my boys, but I still had fun without them.

I am not one of the Halloween fanatics, but I like seeing other people’s costumes and decorations. But whether I ever have any more trick-or-treaters come to my door, I hope that I always have Jack on my patio. After all, Jack o’Lanterns with funny faces are why I like Halloween.

© 2017 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Somebody Else Is Always Watching · 28 October 2017

I know that Big Brother and Big Business are always watching me, but there are others who always watch me too. My children.

If you have kids, you know that they may or may not listen to you. Ever. And yet, they end up just like you whether you want them to or not. That is because, while it may not seem like they are listening, they are. And more importantly, they are watching.

Like Sting sang with The Police:

Every breath you take.
Every move you make.
Every bond you break.
Every step you take.

Those darn kids are watching you. Watching you. Watching you.

(Thankfully, the kids watching is not quite as creepy as the old song by The Police.)

People have always talked about other watching. Besides books and music about watching, I remember that old anti-smoking commercial from the seventies. The kid follows the dad around doing everything he does. Skipping rocks on the pond, doing jumping jacks, playing video games, and lighting up a cigarette at the end. (I do not remember anything they did except skipping rocks at the beginning and lighting up at the end, but that is the point anyway. Right?) The kid does not really light up, but pretends to. The commercial just had some cheesy music until the end when the narrator says, “It’s a matter of life and breath. Think about it.” Or something like that. Like I said, I remember the punch line. And so does every parent or kid who watched that commercial.

That commercial or public service announcement or whatever it was called back then was only one reason I do not smoke cigarettes or cigars or anything of the kind (the other reasons are many, but that is another story), but it was a factor. Rather, the point was the factor. I was watching my dad and mom and other important adults in my life. Just like my kids are watching me and my wife and other important adults in their lives. I wanted to do some of the things they did, I did not want to do other things.

When it comes right down to it, I am not sure which is a scarier thought. That Big Brother and Big Business are watching me or that my kids are watching me. Actually, it is not even close. While I do not like the fact that those two Big entities are always watching me, I am terrified by the fact that my kids are always watching me. Even though they are not always around me anymore, I know they are watching. They are just waiting for my actions to be contrary to my words. They are waiting for me to slip up. When they were little, they just watched and copied me. They saw my priorities and loyalties. They heard my words even when it appeared they were not listening. The trouble is that even now they still see. They still watch. They still hear. And I wonder what bad habits of mine they will take up or have already taken up.

It is just a matter of time before they are like me in some ways. Oh the horror.

Well, if you were not paranoid after thinking about Big Brother and Big Business watching you, maybe you will be now. Those kids you have wandering around the house (or who are even out of the house) are watching your every move. And one day, when they do something annoying and you lash out at them, they will just point back to you and say, “But you do…” whatever annoying thing it is that you do. And all you will be able to do is take the backlash. All you will be able to do is curse the writers and singers who told you to beware.

Because you know. Every move you make. Every breath you take. Somebody is always watching. And now you know who.

© 2017 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Somebody Is Always Watching · 21 October 2017

Rockwell with Michael Jackson and George Orwell were right. Somebody (maybe Big Brother) is watching me. Always.

I wonder at computers these days. There are so many things going on behind the scenes. Not only that, there are surely entities watching (maybe even Big Brother). It is creepy.

If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know about our internet woes. It is most likely just that we have too many machines using the internet all the time. Computers, phones, iPad, Roku, AppleTV, and of course, the video game systems all use the internet. Sometimes without us even knowing it. The poor performance that brings is the cause of much grief and disappointment. But it can also be an opportunity.

We have looked into what could be causing the internet grief. One of the things that I already did was to turn off the automatic updates for windows. It is not too tough to do as there are multiple posts on the interweb to tell you that this is not necessarily what you want running in the background all the time. But one thing I did not know was that there is such a thing as automatic updating of applications too.

There is a strange and annoying thing in Windows 10. The store. It is there checking to make sure all your applications are up to date all the time. Unless you tell it not to do so. One of my sons told me about this annoyance and he showed me how to fix it. You just go to the store (that paper bag icon on the bottom of the screen), press those three dots on the right side, go to settings, then tell it not to update all the apps. I was actually amazed that there were apps there that had been updated that I have never even used. I was incensed that my internet usage was being hogged by something I did not even know was using my bandwidth.

I found another possible bandwidth hog culprit as I dug farther into the matter.

There is a service called Background Intelligent Transfer Service. Apparently, it is part of the whole update scheme. And like the update scheme, it is not necessary to be running all the time. So I turned it off. (Run MSConfig. Go to services and turn it off. Restart.) I have no idea what it does and have not had it off long enough to know if it being off will help the interweb situation, but I suppose time will tell.

The scary thing about computers though is not that there are these strange monsters hogging the internet (and other computer resources) without our knowledge. The scary thing is actually on the web itself.

Believe it or not, there is always somebody watching you surf the web. Big Brother (if you do not know who that is, read 1984 by George Orwell) is undoubtedly keeping the world safe from cyberterrorists and electronic goblins. But seriously, Big Brother is watching and listening. With eyes in the sky and ears on the interweb. You just cannot get away from the watching.

Not to be paranoid, but there are other people watching too. Marketers.

I am not sure which is scarier. Knowing that Big Brother is watching (and listening) or knowing that there are marketers stalking us. No matter where you go on the internet, you can see those marketers hiding in the bushes. They are putting ads on your social media. They are targeting your kids on YouTube. These ads are much more directed than the ads pushed out on traditional media like TV. Everybody sees those when they watch broadcast or cable or satellite television. But when you watch stuff on the internet, you get ads just for you.

If you doubt the veracity of this statement, think about the last time you were on Facebook. What ads did you see? Probably ads for the last thing you shopped for. Did you see that ad for shoes? That was because you were on Amazon looking for shoes. And just think. The ads you saw were not just for any shoes but for the exact shoes you were looking at. I do not begrudge Facebook or Amazon their sources of revenue, but I do think it is creepy. Nowadays, anybody who is singing Rockwell’s song, Somebody’s Watching Me, is not paranoid. He or she is just surfing the internet.

But the craziest thing about marketers watching us is that we are even encouraged to invite said marketers into our homes to listen to us twenty-four seven.

“Hey Alexa, why don’t you tell Amazon what ads to put on the websites I go to based on the conversations you listened to all day yesterday? Maybe you can even tell me what I ought to buy today based on the things I said over the course of the week? Or even better, just order stuff based on what you heard over the last month. Can you do that Alexa?”

Ah well, marketing and spying are probably one and the same when it comes down to it. Big Brother and Big Business are probably sharing secrets on how to see all your secrets. I am sure Big Business is instructing Big Brother in some ways and Big Brother is instructing Big Business in other ways. In reality, they both do the same thing. They just gather data by listening. To everything.

It is a strange world we live in. Computers are dependent on the internet and arcane processes that access it without our knowledge. Some of those processes can be maddening in the unintended (or maybe intended) havoc they wreak on our systems. Regardless, computers and the internet are a wonder. And they are part of the spy systems we have put into all of our homes.

I know it is not really funny, but it is at least amusing to think that Rockwell with Michael Jackson and George Orwell were right. Somebody is always watching.

© 2017 Michael T. Miyoshi

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