Since I moved house last year, it has repeatedly surprised me how many entities knew my new address without me telling them. Every catalog I ever ordered from sent me a Christmas issue to the new address, unasked. When I ran interference for my mother in setting up her 2010 retiree health benefits, the telephone customer rep verified my identity by checking the Post Office rolls online and found my new address listed there.
I was on the phone one day to my mortgage company’s IT department, asking for their help with setting up an online account. They verified my identity in part by asking me which of three cars I’d ever owned – they said the information was culled from “publicly available databases.” Sure enough one of the makes and models was a car I used to own.
Now the FAA has sent me a reminder that I haven’t replaced my old paper pilot’s license with the required new plastic one. True – I had to go inactive in my soaring club a couple of years ago and am just now seeing my way clear to resume recreational flying, so I hadn’t worried about the license. The FAA sent the reminder straight to my correct new address. In the old days you had to make darn exacting sure to inform them you’d moved.
A new metaphor for the Internet is CLOUD, especially in the sense of the Internet teeming with resources that we don’t know the exact location of. Cloud computing may be the next big thing, but already it’s startling what all is out there having to do with everything and everyone and how common it is to pull some detail about somebody out of the flux for some reason. Case in point my car owning history and all the instances of my changed address being so handy to every entity under the sun. With one exception. My mortgage company started leaving off the unit number when they mailed me the coupons intended to be mailed in with the monthy check. It took me having two fruitless discussions with customer service on the phone followed by talking to the IT people, followed by setting up my online profile, for them to get my mailing address right. Honestly. You’d think the mortgage company would be perfectly clear on the address of a mortgaged property!
I had lunch yesterday with my writer friend Bridget and we got onto the topic of BP’s broken oil well bleeding into the ocean. I mentioned that of the major oil companies, BP is the one that insiders say has a history of putting profits ahead of safety. I heard that from somebody who retired from Exxon-Mobil management.
Bridget retorted, “Say Exxon, and people think Valdez!” She went on to say, “Every time the subject of government regulation comes up, the big oil companies say they can regulate themselves and it works better if it’s voluntary. Well, then, they ought to volunteer right out into the Gulf of Mexico and not just leave it to BP. They have thousands of smart engineers and billions of dollars. Let every one of those oil companies get out there and help do something about that oil spill. That’s the only way they’ll come out of this with any credibility left.”
She’s got a point. This one looks so bad. And so unnecessary. The newspaper’s had plenty of reporting about blowout preventers having failed before, just not catastrophically. This one is public knowledge to an incredible degree, too. My boss’ two-year-old grandson in Seattle asked his mom if he was too young to go help clean the birds and beaches!
Kevin Winn is a professional potter, ceramics teacher, and artist in Salt Lake City, Utah. Here’s the work of art he named Death of Music. He created the skeleton out of old piano keys and other derelict pieces of musical instruments.
The skeleton’s lair is an antique, sin-ugly bass violin case. It was found in the storage shed when Kevin and Valerie bought their house in SLC’s old Sugar House neighborhood.
Valerie’s sister is my writer friend Bev Hale. I met the creepy bass violin case a couple of summers ago, when Bev and I went and stayed with Valerie and Kevin for a few days after the World Science Fiction Convention in Denver. I wrote the bass violin case into a dark western fantasy short story. The short story became the first chapter of a novel that I’m revising now. I think Death of Music will make a guest appearance in the book’s climax when demons assail Salt Lake City in 1880!
Novels of science fiction with wonder, hope and love