“There is nothing informative or educational in this week’s column.”
Yep today’s column is pure whimsy. One of the benefits of having your own column is that you can write about anything that strikes your fancy. This week I’m fondly remembering our old friend Kent Ballard. Kent was a gifted writer and a frequent feature writer for The Paper. Some of his articles like “Last Flight” and “Blind Curve” were classics. There was a lovable quirkiness about Kent. He never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like, was a leader in the movement to find Bigfoot, was highly distrustful of Governments and protective of his privacy to the point of paranoia. Kent and I often communicated by phone and Email or through “keyboard and stylus,” an internet based writers group. Kent was well known within the “group” for his vivid imagination and outlandish sense of humor.
Early this year we built and shipped, for Kent, two identical Windows7 desktop PC systems. Kent gave one to his wife, Tess, and then proceeded to customize the other for himself. He dumped Windows, loaded a Linux Operating system and joined the Linux user’s cult to begin the process of making himself and his Internet browsing activities untraceable.
Kent died in mid-summer, only a couple of weeks after being diagnosed with stage four cancer A few weeks before his death Kent and I had the following email conversation. I started it with my tongue in cheek post chiding Kent about his efforts to hide from the cyber snoops.
“I’ve bad news for you Kent As it turns out, all the effort and expense spent learning Linux in order to eliminate your cyberspace footprints have been in vain. Julian Asage determined that our government (and presumable all the other important ones) no longer use “the cloud” to spy on citizens. Government’s use of the Internet for spying on individuals has gone the way of the buggy whip, it’s obsolete. For the CIA, ICE, FBI and NSA and the rest of our government’s alphabet soup, the Internet is nothing more than a convenient way to divert public attention from the real tools of espionage. They now ply their trade using a sophisticated network of common everyday household devices to mine your personal data.
The intelligence community now has an army of snitches that track your every move and it doesn’t cost them a dime. You pay for their espionage equipment, provide a secure vantage point for it and even pay the electric bill to run it. Is this a great country or what?
Kent, I’ll bet you have at least a dozen Government snitches in your own house. They are your microwave, refrigerator, electric tooth brush, TV, space heater, dishwasher, toilet, motion sensors and light bulbs, whether on or off. All of these devices are constantly watching and listening to you. While you sleep your bedroom CO2 alarm collects the alpha and beta waves that tell them what you are dreaming. All of this data is chemically stored in the sewer (in your case the septic tank) and uploaded to a polar orbiting satellite every ninety minutes.
If I were you, I would think seriously about getting a tin foil roof.”
Kent wrote back.
“I think you may be right about the futility of trying to hide. Imagine one day, when you think you are all alone in your own home, you decide to enjoy a ripping good fart. SIRI or Amazon Echo hears it and orders gas pills to be droned to your door. Your bank card is charged, your doctors records are updated. Local restaurants will be informed in case they wish to cut down on the spices in their food, making meals less pleasant for everyone. Your employer will be alerted to your possible health problems so that he can alter your insurance coverage or terminate you as a “high risk” employee. Your grocer will delete flatulence prone food and condiments from your grocery order and your browser will be bombarded with bland food recipes. Your Face book, Snap chat and Twitter friends will be alerted that you might be sensitive to fart jokes. Your dating site date will be annotated with the warning “this guy farts like a horse.” Advertisers and government agencies will flood your browser and mailbox with helpful information and your family will be encouraged to organize an intervention. Airlines, busses Uber drivers and other public transportation providers will be warned that your patronage might be problematic. And all of this will happen at the speed of light.”
God we miss you Kent.