Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Political is Personal (with apologies to Carol Hanisch*)

The Women's March in Trenton NJ. ©2017 Noreen Braman
  To answer the question heard often after this weekend’s global Women’s Marches, Why did you march? 
 For me, it was not only a sincere desire to join together with other women to peacefully make a point about recent threats to hard-fought rights, protections and programs; it was also a way for me to exorcise some of the ghosts of the past. Times when, I, or a member of my family, was treated as “less than.”  Taking the political personally? Yes, I am.  I think we all should.


Because of the priest who told my mother she was doomed to hell
for a tubal ligation after life threatening childbirths,
and almost leaving three daughters motherless. 
Because of the man who cornered me in the boathouse
attempting to remove my clothes while laughing,
knowing my adolescent self would be too ashamed to tell anyone.

Because of the knife held to my throat
at the workplace where I was the only woman on the floor,
working too fast and making the men “look bad.”
Because of the men in the office addressed as “Mr.”
while women were addressed by first names,
and paid significantly less for doing the same job.

Because those same men felt entitled to grope women in the hallway,
make job security contingent on sexual favors they demanded,
or withheld them to punish your noncompliance.

Because of the insurance providers holding the key to healthcare
denying treatment for my children and myself,
until a protracted fight was engaged.

Because women who came before me fought so hard to get here
bequeathing me a country where I can raise my voice,
continuing to demand that we don’t go backward.

Because it is too easy to get comfortable
allowing erosion to do its deadly work,
destroying the firmament under our feet.

Because the women that come after me should never suddenly find themselves
back in the dark places that exist in cultural memory,
but rather go only forward,
reaching their hands down to pull other women up,
and with them humankind as a whole.

©2017 Noreen Braman

*Carol Hanisch is the author of a paper that came to be called “The Personal is Political,” an expression that came to be used in many different ways over they years. The interpretation that I like the most is that issues in women’s personal lives, such as childcare and healthcare, were actually political issues that were being ignored.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Can Hyundai Motor Finance Solve America's Cyber Security Issues?

While I spend a lot of time on computers, and have become a power user for some software programs and operating systems, my expertise in “cyber security” doesn’t rise much beyond controlling spam and keeping stuff off the internet.  I’ve never fallen for an email about how I can share millions of dollars with an ousted despot, and I’ve no interest in foreign beauties who want to correspond with me because of my wonderful email address they just got from someone’s hacked contact list. I only laugh when something completely written in a foreign language or characters shows up in my mailbox. However, I have been disturbed to see that unnamed persons with locations in Russia have been looking at my LinkedIn profile. So, I have a healthy respect for the abilities of Russian hackers. I’ve been waiting to hear about a new system that can block them. And now, I think I’ve found it.

My radical idea is for government entities that need classified documents made really, really secure, is to give them to Hyundai Motor Finance. This is an operation whose security is so impenetrable, that even Hyundai USA cannot crack it.

Here’s how it works.

Say you have an important document, something like the title to a car. You certainly don’t want this document to fall into the wrong hands, especially if you are the lien holder for this car and you want to get paid. You give this document to Hyundai Motor Finance and they send it to a mysterious title storage company. My theory is that the document then goes into a secret underground bunker at Area 51, but I have no proof of it.

If, in the rare circumstance that you may need this document —like maybe you have actually paid off the car weeks ago—the procedure to get that document released from document prison is not rivaled by anything else, except perhaps the Nuclear Launch Codes. If you make a mistake in your request, the reaction is complete silence on their part, allowing them to move the document further down in the bunker. They know, eventually you will try to find out why the document never arrived, and here the beauty of their security system is revealed.

The secret title company cabal can only be communicated with by fax. Genius! Who is spending time trying to hack faxes these days! And not just any fax system. A system that sends the fax through a secret and circuitous route that takes 72 hours to process.  Questions about this request cannot be made directly by mere mortal consumers, but requires the assistance of a Customer Service Rep. And here, the system goes from genius to truly brilliant. First, as a matter of policy, each Customer Service Rep is given a different set of information and instructions. They cannot confirm or deny anything that another Customer Service Rep has said, even though they say they are looking at “your complete records.”  They may request you re-fax your request, but will never let you know if they got it, and if it is an acceptable offering to the Title gods.

Requests to speak directly with the Title gods are denied, as there is no incoming or outgoing direct spoken communication allowed, not even by the Customer Service Rep. It is possible that, in an attempt to pacify a caller and hold them off for another day, they will pretend to speak with the Title gods, come back on the line and tell you that your request will be expedited. They may even have a little joke on you, saying that if you send another fax by close of business, your document will be sent out by overnight delivery, THAT VERY DAY.

Take my word for this. Do not explain that you are not at work, where there is a fax, because your car is untitled, unregistered and illegal to drive. Do not say that you will attempt to find a fax machine somewhere nearby. Do not run across town to said fax machine to meet the end of day deadline.  If you do, you will fall on your face in the middle of the street, and drag yourself to the fax machine location, all for naught. A call to the Customer Service rep (#8 you have spoken to) will reveal the truth about the process, the absolute impossibility for ANYTHING to be expedited, and the chances of you getting the title to your car anytime soon being less than zero. Besides, even if they COULD do it, the overnight delivery company has already been there and gone.

Also, don’t fall for being told to call the Hyundai Consumer Affairs team. (Which, strangely enough, shows up on the internet as being located right here in New Jersey, but whose phones are answered in Arizona). Even this special team of problem solvers is nothing but another call center that will tell you to call back Hyundai Motor Finance Customer Service, because they “cannot intervene” in finance company matters. Even their own finance company.

So, how can anyone hack this system, when Hyundai corporate has set up a system in which they can’t even talk to their own finance company? I suggest that they run to the CIA TODAY, and offer up their security system for the protection of classified government documents. Then, turn the care of their own documents over to someone who knows what they are doing.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Universe Reacts to My Word for 2017

Ok, Universe. I've packed my Captain's bag. You're on!
 My Life

Juggling flaming chainsaws 
while riding a unicycle
on a tightrope.

©Noreen Braman

Yesterday, after lots of deliberation, I settled on the word "Renewal" as my theme word for 2017. It has nothing to do with magazine subscriptions, but rather, about going back along some of the life paths I abandoned to see what I might have dropped along the way.

I thought it was a great word for me, representing a commitment to burn some new neural pathways to keep bad brain things away (I can't even say the "D" word) and go back and find some of the things that I used to think defined me. Things such as, writing, playing music, exploring new places, and spending time with friends and family that I may have had too little contact with over the years.

Not to make excuses, but there are really good reasons that I dropped some of these crumbs along the path; taking care of others while juggling all the glass balls of life being pretty high on the list. And of course, dealing with the fact that the Universe often had other things scheduled for me. Some were supernovas that could not be ignored, some were black holes that threatened to swallow me, others were just passing comets and meteors who blazed through the sky and then moved on.

So I am not surprised that the Universe has a different definition of "Renewal" than I do. What did surprise me was the speed at which the cosmic storm arrived. First the new medical vocabulary word, "osteoarthritis" and its incompatibility with freezing weather. I may need to invest in a George Jetson-style bed that can just pop me up in the morning, as the regular way of getting out of bed isn't working so well.

Then came today's adventures with going back along previous trodden paths that I really didn't want to go back on. First, was the Oh-My-God-will-the-screw-ups-with-the-end-of-my-car-lease-never-end-path. The path I cannot drive on, because the car has yet to be properly re-titled which prevents registration, which ends up with me being without transportation. Not the time of year to see if I can walk/run the 10 miles to work, although it would be great training for the 5K race I want to enter in May. Thanks, Universe, I had a less drastic training regimen in mind.

Adventure number two started as I sat down with the Love of My Life to a nice dinner I had been able to prepare because of being stuck in the house with achy joints and no car.  I dropped my napkin under the table and it immediately became soaking wet. In fact, the whole side of the kitchen was awash in cold water. Cold water that led across the kitchen to the washing machine. The washing machine that was just fixed in October. The washing machine in the kitchen for which three new cabinets have just been delivered in preparation for a new pantry/coffee station to replace a plastic garage storage cabinet. The project I scheduled because finally finishing the kitchen re-do was a good "renewal" path. 

Obviously, the Universe wanted me to go back down the here-we-go-again-with-the-washing-machine-even-though-the-dishwasher-has-been-jockeying-for-a-turn-at-being-repaired path. This is a parallel path to the drop-everything-because-you-need-a-new-furnace-and-a-roof path of 2016. A path that intersected with the time-to-save-your-teeth-before-your-gums-turn-to-mush path.

This is not what I meant by "renewal," Universe. Your interpretation is way down on the list. (see below)

So, the battle begins. Good thing that's the kind of path I know pretty well.

Definition of renew

  1. :  to make like new :  restore to freshness, vigor, or perfection <as we renew our strength in sleep>
  2. :  to make new spiritually :  regenerate
  3.  a :  to restore to existence :  revive  
    b :  to make extensive changes in :  rebuild
  4. :  to do again :  repeat
  5. :  to begin again :  resume

*"Renew." Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 9 Jan. 2017.

PS, Universe: Taking my favorite, life-saving doctor out of my insurance plan as of February 1 was just downright mean. I really don't want to go down the find-an-endrocinologist-who-isn't-crazy path again.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Word for 2017

Let's travel the path together.
On Facebook, a number of friends have posted variations of the same request. Pick a word to define the New Year. Some want a word that starts with the first letter of your name, or the third letter of your name, or maybe a word you pick by opening a nearby book, closing your eyes and pointing.

For purposes of example, I grabbed the book on the couch next to me, picked a page at random and pointed to a word. Ok, first try, I pointed to a blank spot on a new chapter page. Second try, I hit on the word "slept."

No, seriously. I randomly hit the word "slept." Could sleeping be my theme for 2017? Sleep has truly been a dominant theme in the past for me. I've suffered from a sleep disorder which led to fibromyalgia, and have taken some heavy duty meds because of it. During various illnesses I have slept in such a coma-like fashion that my son and his wife were so concerned that I hadn't moved in 13 hours they debated about putting a mirror under my nose to see if I was breathing. I've also been known to be so sensitive to sound that I've jumped up in bed, heart racing and gasping. Most recently, a haywire thyroid raised my anxiety level so high that I was barely sleeping, and would wake up to sweating and nameless fear coursing through me. But that was 2015. 2016 was my year of getting healthy and I've been successful. The only focus on sleep for 2017 is going to be sleeping in on weekends and having breakfast in bed.

My real word for 2017 is "Renewal." Originally, I considered "reinvention" but that is a road I have traveled several times, and in my mind, it implies new paths. This year, I want to go back down roads where I have already been. Not to go backward, not to indulge in nostalgia (although "Nostalgia" IS a tempting theme for someone whose name starts with "N").

What I want to do is find those paths where I left behind parts of myself that were too heavy or inconvenient to carry along with me. Interests I set aside while raising children, working numerous jobs and treading water to survive. Things such as unfinished or even unstarted personal, creative and artistic work. Activities that once defined me as a person. The joy of sharing discoveries.

It does, at first, sound a bit self-centered. All about me. Reading this, my loved ones may feel that I might be considering abandoning them for a narcissistic romp of self-indulgence. What they should remember is that they traveled with me along many of these paths. They may have noticed when certain things were set aside. What they may not realize is that some of the paths were abandoned so that I could continue traveling with them. And I don't intend to leave them behind now. I want them to see that by being my authentic self, I can be there for my children, my grandchildren, my extended family, my friends, and the Love of my Life in new and exciting ways.

So, come along with me, loved ones. Let's explore the path of renewal together. It leads right to the Smile Side of Life. You may even find some things you dropped along the way.