Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Things I didn't need to know

The internet is full of statistics and information. Not all of it is true. Not all of it is useful. And some of it is downright irrelevant.

Consider, which offers "Facts and Stats about your Name." Just plug in your name and discover all kinds of things you really didn't need to know.

Here's the lowdown on my name, according to the website. Most people named Amy are born on a Tuesday and die on a Friday. Most people with the surname Binder are born on a Friday and die on a Monday.

Truth is, I was born on a Wednesday. As for dying, I don't know whether to fear a Monday or a Friday--or any day in between or after.

Beyond mortality statistics, I learned:
  • There are about 37 people named Amy Binder in the U.S.  
  • The average age for all those named Amy Binder is 36. (Ahh, sure, I'll take it.)
  • As a baby name, Amy was most popular between 1970 and 1980, reaching peak popularity as the 2nd most common newborn name in 1977. (Might that have something to do with Amy Carter, whose father was the 39th president from 1977-1981?)  
  • There are roughly 24 Amy Binders on Facebook--and none are me. 
  • Maine is the state with the most people named Amy per capita. (I've only visited.)

OK. So you get the idea. Data mining makes a lot of assumptions possible. Some are almost interesting. Some are dead wrong. And too many are used in target marketing. (Today's mail brought a no-cost offer for a burial or cremation space at the local cemetery...and it's not even my presumed dying day.)

If you have some time to waste, try and see what trivia interests you. Or if you really want to waste time, check out the Top 51 Free Time Waster Sites. It's all there waiting for you on the internet.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When the internet goes down

Live by the internet, die by the internet. Well, maybe that’s too dramatic a paraphrase of “live by the sword, die by the sword.” Still, when the internet goes down—as it does from extreme weather, service interruptions, or other unexplained reasons—life comes to a deadly standstill.

At least I have 4G, so my iPhone works even when I can’t. I see emails coming in, but can’t fully address the requests if they require desktop work. Sure, I can camp out with my laptop at a coffee shop, but that's often more trouble than it's worth.

I’ve learned to deal with the forced mini-vacations, but now there’s another level of anxiety to internet outages. My mother resides in a senior-living community, and my brother and I keep testing new internet-based services to keep an eye on things. 
  • One service, Nest Cam, allows a real-time look-see with streaming video.
  • Another, Alzcom, is a remotely managed calendar with interactive reminders that display on a tablet in her kitchen. This free and awesome technology answers the perennial question for people with memory issues: “What’s on my calendar today?”

  • We’ve also tried Alexa to help answer a broader range of questions, such as “What’s today’s date?” and “What time is it?” and “What’s the weather?” But Alexa isn’t always perfect, as this SNL skit so aptly demonstrates: Amazon Echo Silver.
When everything works, it’s a wonderful thing. But March nor'easters have knocked out my mom’s internet, and it will be a while before we can get it up and running again. In the meantime, there’s no streaming video, Alzcom reminders are stuck on the last date of service, and Alexa speaks unbidden to complain about being disconnected.

The suggested course of action, offered by everyone from the cable company to Nest to Alexa, is to go online and search their help pages for a fix. See the problem? Without internet, it’s kind of hard to get on the internet. While I do have access through my iPhone, navigation is both cumbersome and useless for trying to resolve a remote issue in my mom’s apartment. 

After the current nor’easter clears, I will go visit and shift into troubleshooting mode. And I will pester the service provider until everything is fixed.

The irony is that as much as I have come to rely on the internet for any and all services, I need it now more than ever for my mom, who doesn’t own a smartphone or computer. And she doesn’t have to. All these tech-heavy and interconnected services are transparent to her—that is, they are when the internet is up and running.