Dozer, the Bulldog

Dozer, the Bulldog
Feeling the "Bern"

Ellie Mae

Ellie Mae
No time for gates...

Ollie Mac

Ollie Mac
My cooking assistant

Ollie and Annie

Ollie and Annie
Azorean grandmother

Spring

Spring
38 years on this mountain, come May 31st...

Flowers

Flowers
Daisies

Papa and Ollie Mac

Papa and Ollie Mac
Priorities, Baby

Beauty

Beauty
Annie, my Sweetest of Apple Blossoms

My first portrait

My first portrait
"Mr. Farmer"

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Fool on the Hill


The gods must still be chortling with pure delight, at the way they had maneuvered the ping-pong ball in this particular match. I occupied one side of the table, while Mark Vader, resident computer hacker, occupied the other, which was clearly the driver’s side. I never knew ping-pong tables had driver’s sides.

Fool on the mountain
We went back and forth trying to figure out a way that I, fool on the hill, could pay ransom-oops-Microsoft Technician fees, in order to free up the controls of poor Suzy Puente in the amount of $695.00 bones. I was under the delusion that the man on the phone was out to help me-not rob me.

Forlornly I had explained about the lost wallet, with driver’s license, credit card(s), VA ID, et all, being missing in action. I had no bank withdrawal card, and whereas I could probably have borrowed the money, I was not about to get into my Subi and venture off the mountain for anything. 

If the thought of a hot-fudge sundae, with extra fudge, nuts and whipped cream, is not going to get me off the mountain, nothing is. What can I say? 

Not enough to get me off the hill...
Gluten-Free Mama was over in the Valley, and incommunicado, which rendered her credit cards and bank withdrawal card, moot. On the other hand, had I been able to get ahold of her, she would have warned me that I was making a bigger fool out of myself than usual, and that I should contact Joe, local tech guru extraordinaire, before I lost the house. 

My tormentor, even if I still thought of him as my savior, must have felt the desperation of defeat, when I informed him, sadly, that we were SOL. Restraining his panic at the thought of me wriggling off the hook, he asked me why, specifically, I could not drive to get a money order.

“I live on a mountain, Dude. It’s not as though there is a Seven-Eleven up here on this dirt road.” I waited for the “not a problem, Sir, not a problem,” but I waited in vain. Not only had Mark stumbled, he had collapsed. Even he could not think of a way to get blood from this turnip. 

He didn’t actually refer to me as a turnip but I could read between the lines. When he realized that the dangling turnip so close to his grasp, was not going to materialize, he went for the next best thing. After all, he had well over an hour invested in this call already. Why not?

“When will your wife be back? I have the ability to keep these hackers out of your computer for short periods of time.” 

I knew this guy was good! He’s going to keep these creeps at bay for me. How cool is that?

Why I continued to delude myself that this guy had my best interests on hand, instead of his hand on my best interests, defies explanation. 

I was desperate to not have to bug Gluten-Free Mama, and thought about how epic it would be if I, the least likely candidate imaginable, could wrestle my identity back from the bad, the very bad hacker dude. And for only $695.00!

We agreed that he would call back on Saturday, and I would have a credit card handy to hook him up with, and then parted ways. My blender-brain had things pretty well stirred up as I hung up the phone, but my logic was that I had five days to get some loot together. Five days was a long time and who knew what might develop? 

For one thing it would give me adequate time to track down Joe, my resident knight in shining armor, and just make sure that he did not see anything that I was missing. I mean, was there any reason why I should not shell out this loot to Mark?

I messaged Joe and he called me almost immediately. In answer to my question, he said there were 695 reasons why I should not send any loot to Mark.

“It’s a scam,” he said flatly. “You’re being had. Just shut down your computer until I can get up there and take a look at it. Can you do without it for a couple of days?”

To save $695.00? 

Yes.








Thursday, March 21, 2019

[Cyber]Space Invader


Had I set out to stymie my [Cyber]Space Invader, I could not have orchestrated and executed a more effective-and confounding-plan, had my actual life depended upon it, rather than [just] my cyber-life. With irony thick enough to slow down a charging elephant, even though I wanted desperately to wrestle back my computer by paying $695.00 in ransom, I could not hook the invader up: I had already lost my actual identity. 

Exactly what does a cyberspace invader look like?
I can’t make this shit up…

Les incompetents might have been the term applied, were it not for the fact that one act of [apparent] carelessness, actually produced the startling effect of saving me $695.00. Make no mistake: I was palpably eager to lay out a huge sum of money to recover my computer/identity. 

I know. Delusional is as delusional does.

In that vein I opened up the negotiations with Mark Vader by asking, “So, what’s next? How can I help get my identity restored? Obviously, you have me over a barrel.” Yeah, well, maybe “negotiations” might be overstating matters slightly.

Great success! Am I The Man, or what, gettin’ ‘er done in a timely manner? Achtung, Chucko! You’ll separate that shoulder, patting yourself on the back.

For the third time Mark verbally stumbled, obviously not accustomed to having his lunch not only delivered, but on a silver platter. “How can you help… ah, yes, Sir, I see, Sir, not a problem Sir, not a problem.” And here came the magic words, “Do you have a credit card, Sir?”

“Oh, rats,” and if you think that is the  expression I employed, you are at the same level as me on the gullible-meter. “I don’t. I lost my wallet a couple of months ago with all of my credit cards, my driver’s license and everything else I had in it.” 

I saw no valid reason why Mr. Vader needed to know that “all” of my credit cards consisted of one B of A card, obtained somewhere around 1982, with enough money on it currently, to get me into Who’s Who for a very dubious reason.

The last time I actually had my wallet in my hands was at Safeway, in Willits, sometime in early-mid January. I know because that was the last stop before getting into the Subi and heading back up on the mountain. I didn’t even discover it was missing until a few weeks later, upon the occasion of my leaving the mountain once again. Otherwise, why would I need to consult my wallet?

And yes, the astute reader has gleaned
that this is a photo of the author of
Mark's Work, which explains much...
I dutifully-if not immediately-gave the nice folks at Safeway a call, and inquired whether some kind soul had turned in a wallet at the Lost and Found. After the nice lady had regained control of herself (I didn’t think it was that funny), I described it as black with a prominent orange SF on it, a gift from a sweet woman once seeing SmallBoy, and a fellow fan of the Giants.

Right, Bro. Someone found your wallet with a wad of cash, and then raced to turn it in to the Lost and Found. Hold off on that bong for a minute or so; you’re good to go.

Lest you think it is awfully PollyAnna-ish of me to think that someone might have turned in a wallet with loot in it, I can only say simply enough, that had I found a comparable item, I would have turned it in. I could no more have kept it-and the money-than I could have donned wings and flown around above Oracle Park, no matter how high I get off of the Sour Strawberry I have been hammering all morning.

Sadly, no such item had been turned in, leaving me to surmise that I had dropped it in the parking lot, a most fortuitous turn of events for some transient. I can at least say I did my part to help out those in need this winter, regardless of the circumstances leading up to my generosity. 

Luckily, in light of subsequent events, I can now think of the loss of my wallet as a well-timed investment in my own needy status. Rather than losing three hun from my wallet, I was gaining $695.00, putting me clearly in the black.

Presently, however, I was close to getting seasick from the carnival ride Mark Vader had me on, following his dizzy cursor, while performing tech tasks that defied explanation. At least, at that moment, they defied explanation. I would find out the sad truth a little later on from Joe, my DH, or Designated Hero. 

Meanwhile, Mark had me open Safari, not my normal mode of transportation, and then directed me to perform a series of tasks that conveniently locked him into the driver’s seat, even more solidly than ever. I was merely a tool in his hands, the paint brush with which he used to create his corrupt canvas. 

I should have taken my Dramamine…

“You have no credit cards, Sir? Not a problem, not a problem, Sir. Do you have a bank-withdrawal card, Sir?”

Ha, ha. Are you out of your fucking mind? Ha, ha…

“I don’t. Dang.” I did not go into the sordid history of why I did not have a bank card; whose business was it, anyway? Besides, I still maintain that none of that mess was not my fault-well, not completely, anyway. And even if it was my fault, and I’m not admitting anything, it was none of Darth Mark Vader’s business. 

Mark pressed on, valiantly, “Not a problem, not a problem,” he assured me, obviously unaware of exactly whom it was that was on the other end of the phone. His assurances sounded sincere, especially to my naive ears. Luckily, once again, I saved him face by informing him that my wife had a credit card, and that moreover, she had a bank withdrawal card too. 

I could feel Mark’s bonhomie bounce back, and rejoiced for all of two seconds, until he asked, “Can you get your wife’s credit card?”

“Dude, sorry! She’s not here.”

“Not a problem, Sir, not a problem. Can you call her and get the number?”

“I can’t; she’s in the hospital over in Sacramento. There is no way I can get ahold of her until tonight,” I explained, starting to worry that I was going to drop the ball. 

“I see, Sir, I see. Not a problem. You have no license, no credit cards, no bank withdrawal card and your wife is not available.”

“That about sums it up,” I agreed.

“Can you borrow the money?”

“Well, sure I can borrow the money. What then? I still don’t have a way to get the money to you.” What did this guy want me to do, drive an hour to Willits?” Laugh the fuck out loud.

“You could get in your car and drive to get a money order.” 

SAY WHAT, MOTHER-FUCKER?

“Dude, that is never going to happen. I do not do cars. But I know we can make this happen-we have to!”

We just have to think. That, and maybe pack the bong with a little Ogre Berry, for inspiration-I mean, of course, for clarity’s sake.


Next: The Designated Hero

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride


Like the child in the candy shop, my eyes remained wide open as the computer “technician” led me by my metaphorical hand on a tour of the inner workings of my hacked computer. Never, never in a million years did it occur to me that I was being had. I can’t emphasize this enough. Desperation was the motivation for my gambol through the world of telephones, overseas-sounding operatives and most importantly, patience. Listening to the sound track of most on-hold venues to which I have been subjected, is generally enough to do the trick.
Exit, stage left.

What then? With Suzy Puente firmly in the grip of the hack-meister, and my identity apparently at stake, what other choice do I have? We’re talking about my I.D. being compromised. It’s not as though I didn’t recently lose my wallet, containing my driver’s license, VA card, credit cards and three hundred bones.  

Of course, there was a different choice, one that occurred to me the instant my hour-and-fifteen-minute phone conversation ended, but for the time being, I was gripping my seat and hanging on for dear life, on a white-water rafting trip not of my making. To add insult to injury, had Gluten-Free Mama been here, she would have sounded the alarm. 

“Don’t you remember?” she asked, when I caught up with her later.
“Not much,” I returned.

“Oh, come on,” she went on. “That time we had to go up to Eureka and go to Kiah’s dad’s shop so he could fix my computer?”

Oh, that time. It was a carbon-copy so to speak, and I did remember the trip to Eureka. I just hadn't remembered the fine print, so “Mark” had me by the-no, not those-just my metaphorical hand. 

I feel like I’m on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland, with all of the sites we are flitting by. This guy knows his shit.

“Do you see that many of these sites are marked ‘sleeping?’” Mark asked me.

That awkward moment. wtf? All I see is a screen with a thousand lines of computer script, a virtual maze of symbols, words and columns. None of it computed, if you will excuse the pun. Hold the phone! I do see a column with “sleeping” duly noted. He’s right. 

Excitedly I burst out, “Yes, I see them! What does that mean?” There is something comical about knowing nothing, and asking questions to which the answers would also be meaningless. 

“Great question,” Mark assured me. “These are security components of your computer system that have been compromised. In each of these instances, problems could develop, which they obviously did. “Do you see that Chicago has come up several times here?” 

Sure enough, his cursor was jumping from point to point, spotlighting the Windy City. “Now, I doubt you have friends in Chicago, so this could be the source of your problem.”

“Whoa, Dude. I do have friends in Chicago, relating to my appearing on a radio show for a couple of years. I have been talking to Daniel regularly.”

Mark stumbled, verbally. “What? You do? Oh, well, that explains that,” he went on flawlessly.

What? Can you share? What, exactly, explains what?

The screen was jumping around like a farm frog, but it suddenly paused, once again presenting a sea of uncertainty for my grasping eyes. 

Triumphantly Mark exclaimed, “There. I am seeing international compromises too. It’s possible because you visited ad-ver-tease-ments.” 

Advertisements? The old hippie who despises commercials, ads or any form of attempt to inflict Corporate ‘Merica upon him, is clicking on ads on the internet?

“No way, Holmes,” I said flatly.

Again, Mark seemed to stagger verbally. “Well, Sir, what sites do you visit most frequently?”

“How about sfgiants.com?” I asked.

The screen blinked and there we were. I have to say, his internet speed was ten times mine. 

“Any of these ad-ver-tease-ments could cause issues with your security system,” he went on.

“They probably could,” I went on, “if I ever clicked on them.”

I’m starting to get more confused than usual here.

“Not a problem, not a problem. It’s impossible to know how the hacker gained access,” Mark continued smoothly.

Stupid me contributed this, “Well, I think I might know. I accepted a friend request on face/book from someone who had been hacked.”

Mark pounced on that piece of information, declaring, “Ah ha! You should not have done that!”

No shit, Sherlock. 

That’s how hackers steal your identity,” Mark concluded.

In frustration I asked, “Can you fix it? Can you get rid of this hacker?”

“Not a problem, not a problem, but it’s going to cost.”

“Well, I understand that. I know this stuff costs. How much are we talking?” 

Come on, how bad can the damage be? Worst case, a couple of hun?

The computer screen did another tilt-a-whirl, slowed to a stop and Mark asked, “Do you see it?”

“What?”

“The cursor,” he responded, and then I did see it.

Blinking benignly, as if not a part of this farce, the cursor was placed in front of the figure, $695.00.

$695.00?!? Fuck me running. One-third the cost of Suzy Puente. Do I really have a choice?



Next: Who is being conned?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Hacked!


There's one born every minute...

For all the bells and whistles going off on Suzy Puente, my computer, you’d have thought I hit the jackpot at Circus, Circus. What I had actually done was google gluten-free pumpkin bread, and hit the return key to check the list of ingredients for future consideration, the future being about ten minutes from then.

What happened instead was that Suzy Puente had gone off with a screeching alarm, and a blinking, blue, rectangular box had imposed itself upon the screen, making access to the coveted recipe, impossible. Maybe Suzy objected to gluten-free?

Across the screen read the following message:

“Your computer has been compromised-you may be dealing with identity theft. Call 1-888-730-4460. Do not try to regain control of your computer by shutting it down and restarting it; that will do you no good. Call 1-888-730-4460 and let our systems technicians handle your problem. Call  1-888-730-4460 NOW!”

WTF? I’ve been hacked? My identity has been stolen? I have no control of Suzy Puente? Worst of all, I have to make a phone call to some techie in India? Where’s my sword? I sense a fall coming on…

What did I do first? I shut Suzy down and restarted her. Not only did the alarm return and the blue box, also, but it had a distinctively mocking tone to it. 

I cringe at the thought of telephones under the best of circumstances. I have exactly three contact numbers on my phone: Gluten-Free Mama and two of my three sons, the two that live up here on the mountain. I simply do not do phones. Mostly it’s because I can’t process information through my ears very well, one of the more benign symptoms of being bipolar. So trying to have a conversation is difficult enough, without throwing technology into the mix.

Talk about taking a direct hit to the head, and unfortunately, not the kind of hit to which I am accustomed. With Gluten-Free Mama over in the Valley, I am isolated enough as it is, let alone ending up without my computer. When the DISH Network system went down the Friday before the Super Bowl recently, GF Mama did the phone call, and I was eternally grateful for at least a week. 

Hey, Ellie Mae! well, never mind.
This time, barring Ellie Mae stepping up at the last minute, I would have to make the call myself. Metaphorically donning my big-boy pants and chaining my attitude at the door-in triplicate-I dialed the number and waited until the techie answered on the first ring, which should have tipped me off at the get-go.

“Technical support, Mark speaking, how may I help you?”  

This sounds like every tech-support person I have ever talked to, except he can’t be all bad-his name is Mark!

“Hey there! I’m calling this number because my computer has alerted me to the fact that my identity has possibly been stolen. Can you help me out?” 

This guy had no way of knowing it but he had a live one on the line: the most gullible 66-year-old man alive. I may have an IQ of 141, but in terms of common sense, I barely made it out of pre-school. The only thing that granted me kindergarten status is that of all the stuff that he asked, and all the places we went in the inner regions of my computer, he never asked for my social security number. Had he done so, even I would have recognized it for the scam it was. 

Not a problem,” he assured me. “Not a problem. That’s what I am here for. Now tell me, Sir, what does it say on your computer screen?”

I read the warning to him and he repeated, “Not a problem, Sir. Not a problem. Now tell me, what site were you at when you got this warning?”

Gluten-free...
I told him about the pumpkin bread recipe but omitted the part about gluten-free. I hoped it would not factor into the equation and it appeared I was right.

He asked me to go to this site again, and when I did, I suddenly realized that this clever techie had actually taken over the controls of my computer.

Still operating from La La Land, I thought to myself, ‘How cool is that? This guy can check out my computer from top to bottom, and find out what he needs to fix the problem.’

Sigh.

Yes, I am that gullible.

Next: The Price of Poker 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Being Papi


Grandparents come in all shapes and sizes, the better to fit within the confines of their grandchildren’s lives. When I have the opportunity to spend time with my grandson, Ollie Mac, I offer this child my undivided attention. 

Being still a few scant weeks shy of one year of age, Ollie Mac seems pretty far away when I am standing right next to him, so I get down to his level. I’m not talking about all fours, I’m talking about being sprawled out on the floor on my side so that my head, when slightly raised, is about level with his.

I find it the most direct route to Ollie Mac.

I’m not there to twiddle my thumbs on electrical devices, though I very well may have some reggae/classical/rock music going softly on Pandora in the background. I’m not there to watch TV or scroll on face/book. I'm not even there to babysit, as though I were once again being paid fifty cents an hour to watch tv, while kids slept and their parents went out for the evening.

I am there to accompany Ollie Mac on his rounds, and to provide possible avenues of entertainment such as his xylophone, bongo drums or things with jingly bells, or his books, balls, blocks or animals that suddenly talk when I have them in my hands.

We had a first class block party last week, with those different shaped blocks, and there are balls of all sizes, praise be. In fact it was that giant one which was instrumental in helping Ollie Mac get his walking shoes on-just like that. One visit he was hanging on to anything and making moves; the next he was walking like the pro from Dover.

That’s one of the main reasons why I don’t try to do anything else when I am with Ollie. I want him to know that he is tops on my list when I am there or he is visiting us here. He needs to know that he does not come in second place in my world, when we spend time together.

That way, when I talk to him of things that matter, he will know that these things deserve his undivided attention. If I went about this business in a lackadaisical manner, then he would be justified doing the same. However, turn about is fair play; if I give him my attention, I believe he will give me his.

There are many folks out in this world who have not received proper (or maybe adequate) education in things that matter most. There is integrity, honor, reverence for life and respect, to name a few. There is respect for women, for the earth, for oneself and believe it or not, children need guidance and direct instruction in these matters, as well as having it modeled for them.

Kids need boundaries that are reasonable and enforced, and kids need to know that the adults in their lives have the time and inclination to discipline them properly. I would never presume to tell my sons and daughters-in-law, how to discipline their kids, but I would also never dare inflict any sort of discipline on Ollie Mac that involved anything other than words, time-outs and attention, to address inappropriate behavior.

GlutenFreeMama and I did not resort to spanking when we were raising three sons because there were too many other more appropriate means of guiding them, and we used many of them. Hauling, stacking and bringing in firewood fit the bill quite well, as did sweeping and mopping floors and weeding in the tomato garden.

There are too many tools of this nature for country lads to stray too far off the path of harmony. To create dissension within the ranks, so to speak, was to create your own immediate destiny, as to how you spent your free time.

When it comes to the really important things in life, like the Giants, you don’t even have to teach that stuff; you just have to live, breathe and exist, for the love of the Orange and Black to become imbued within the soul of an impressionable young boy.

What you can do is teach him that winning is not the point of following baseball; enjoying the game and its players is the point. When the Giants win, Ollie Mac will find that it’s OK to be as giddy as a schoolboy, to quote Dickens, and when they lose, why should he care? He’s going to have to get up and go to school or to work in the morning one way or the other.

It’s a teachable concept.

One thing I was always good at is answering questions. Go ahead, Kid, ask me a question, but be careful. I will give you a straight answer. I will not evade your questions because they might be embarrassing; I will not brush aside your question as being too nosy, until I at least explain what is OK and what is not OK to ask anyone. How is he supposed to know, otherwise?

If my view on something is different from Ollie Mac’s parents, I will be careful to explain that not all adults are going to agree on some issues. Furthermore, all of us must have respect for what the rules of the household are, and the rules of the household are not set in place by grandparents. I must follow them too.

All I can do is be Papi.
Gluten-Free Mama and Ollie Mac