Category Archives: Technology

Decades of Reality

When I was a kid, wrestling was a big thing in my house. We all gathered ’round the television to see who was going to beat who up and who was gonna finally agree to that cage match that everyone wanted to see. The adults encouraged the kids to imitate their favorite wrestler and the kids practiced their pile drivers in the back yard with no mats or pads. We all thought it was real. These guys loved and hated one another and the drama was so intense that we just couldn’t miss a single chance to see what would happen next. Then it all came crashing down. I was too young to remember exactly what happened to expose the whole thing, but it was scripted. Imagine that! Wrestling was scripted! At that point, the whole thing began to move down on my family’s priority list when we turned on the television. Over the years we each individually stopped watching it all together. It was fake…and we just couldn’t be bothered with a bunch of fake stuff.

Nearly three decades later, I find myself glued to reality TV…but it’s different now. Looking back, it’s absolutely amazing to me that technology has gone so far that once the Big Brother or Survivor or Amazing Race season is finished, I can get on Twitter or Facebook and actually talk to the people I watched for months. I can have real conversations with them and get some insight into how they go about moving on with their lives after their show. A large majority of them really are ‘real’ people and do have an appreciation of their fans. Many of these people are given opportunities for new careers and travel after their time in the spotlight and some choose to go back to their normal lives. In most cases, they keep some type of contact with ‘their people’ in varying degrees.

It’s particularly interesting to find someone who is a few years out from the experience and has moved on with a somewhat normal life. One example is Natalie Cunial from Season 9 of Big Brother. Keep in mind that for three months, I watched her brush her teeth every morning, strategize in bed every night and everything in between. So, even though I didn’t find her until a few years after the show had aired, it was like I knew her. It was like finding a friend on Facebook that you thought you’d never see again. The strange thing was, she didn’t know I existed…and I’m just another ‘friend’ on her massive list of people who took an interest in her life. Natalie is an amazing artist and has just given birth to her first baby. She and I have spoken a few times about pregnancy and being a new Mom. I’m sure she’s spoken to thousands of people just like me but that’s the thing that draws me to these shows. She is real. Even though I realize that Big Brother is at least partially scripted, Natalie is a real person and somehow felt enough of a connection to her fans, who she had never seen, that she has kept in touch and continues to let us care about her and her life.

There are others active on Facebook and Twitter, who have a show currently airing. Speaking to them is just a little different. They won’t generally tell you that they are under contract to keep certain secrets until they hit prime time, but you just know by the way they clam up when you ask certain questions. CBS is currently airing the 26th season of Survivor and among the castaways, you’ll find a few Facebook junkies. My favorites, John Cochran and Dawn Meehan are both actively speaking to a few thousand of their closest friends on a regular basis as we all learn a little more about their fate in the game each week. Phillip Sheppard, Malcolm Freberg and Brandon Hantz are also on my ‘friends’ list and I have spoken to each of them very briefly.

Even though I know that scripts do come into play with these shows, I also know that after the show life goes on for these people…unscripted life. Just like everyone else, they have good and bad times…joy and sadness. They are real and many of them don’t hide their ‘realness.’ I can’t imagine what it must be like to get online everyday and speak to a few thousand of your closest friends but I’m sure it’s a great comfort in the hard times to have a few thousand people send their well wishes. We all want someone to care…and that’s something that hardcore reality fans just do. We care.


Fun With Spam

Who doesn’t get a ton of spam in their inbox? I don’t know of anyone! Every morning I grab a cup of coffee and sit down in my office to go through the email that has flooded my inbox overnight and it’s always the same story…247 incoming and not one REAL email from someone I know or someone who has legitimate business with me. It gets old. It gets real old, but since I’m trying to be more positive these days, I thought I should take these lemons and try to make some lemonade.

I started with the email from George. George says he can teach me “another language” in 10 days! Yes, that’s right, 10 days! So after digging a little bit, I figured out how to email George directly. Turns out, George isn’t George at all! I know, shocker! George signed “his” first reply to me as “Juliana.” So, I expressed my interest to Juliana in learning another language. She replied to confirm that English was in fact my language of choice. I responded that it is not my language of choice, it’s just what my parents taught me as a child and that I already know English so there’s no point in wasting 10 days beating a dead horse. Portuguese is actually my language of choice but I don’t know how to speak it and I thought maybe she could help me out with that. She proceeded to explain to me that she doesn’t know Portuguese but she does know Spanish and if that were to be my language of choice, she would be glad to teach me for a fee. So, I explained that just as she had mistaken my language of choice for English, others could mistake it for Spanish if I learn Spanish and then where would I be? I would still be without my language of choice which is Portuguese! She then, agreed to teach me Portuguese. I was very confused by this! How can she teach me Portuguese if she doesn’t know Portuguese? I was then expected to believe that if I paid my fee 10 days in advance, she would use that money to compensate her own tutor and learn Portuguese in 10 days. Then in turn she would teach it to me. Awesome!! I asked who her tutor would be, so I could just cut out the “middle man” and pay them to teach me, so as not to waste any more of her time. She never replied…darn it! (Come back, Juliana….come back!!)

I sifted through a few more emails that lead me to websites (and probably a few viruses that I’ll have to deal with later) and finally found another from which I could gain actual human contact. I was greeted by someone named John. John didn’t spell very well and it was extremely hard to decipher the code to gain knowledge concerning his elite group through which “Senior People Meet.” John directed me to a website but I told him I was having some problems with my computer and could only email right now. (I’m such a liar!) I just wanted to get some general information from him so I could check out the website later. John assured me that this was a respectable group of “older” adults looking for companionship. I asked the age of the oldest available man and I asked him to provide me with some information on his background…just so I could get a general idea of his interests and such. He told me about Dan, who was 88 years old and had been a “shopkeeper” before his retirement. I asked if he actually owned the “shop” or if he just kept it for someone else and if it could have possibly been a federal shop of some sort, or a jewelry shop….. It turned out to be a very small town grocery “shop.” So I asked John, who else he had for me, adding the older the better! I was then told about Thomas, 86, who had dealt junk auto parts in his younger years. I asked if he still had grease under his fingernails, ’cause that could be a real downer. John then asked my age so I explained that I’m 40 and though I’m not quite a “senior” yet, I’m very mature for my age. I’ve been through a lot in my life and I’m ready to find the oldest, richest man I can find to support me into my golden years. I never heard from John again….

The last one was short and sweet. I was offered a FREE power-chair! Who wouldn’t want one of those? So I did as the email suggested, and asked how “I can get my free power-chair.” The reply I received was a form to apply for one. It was full of blanks for very sensitive private information such as social security number, address, how many people live in the home, are you able to drive, where are you able to go and how often? So I immediately looked for the “contact us” link, and sent another email claiming that I couldn’t figure out how to fill in those blanks with the computer but I do know how to email if someone could help me. I also asked if they intended to steal my identity and rob me while I was out driving to the same places at the same time each week. Needless to say, I didn’t receive a reply on that one. They must be really busy.

It was a fun morning! Spam is your friend, people! Spam is your friend!

How I May Have Won The Cell Phone War…….well, for now anyway…

(Note: I won’t be using any company names here because I don’t want to just out and out bad mouth anyone or hand out free advertising for that matter. ItMy Awesome Cell Phone shouldn’t be too hard for anyone to figure out who I’m talking about from the photo.)

For the last few years, I’ve been stuck in a cell phone plan that could easily be the very worst out there right now. I was paying over $100 each month for 450 minutes, unlimited text, picture and video messaging…that’s all! No internet, no email, no bells or whistles. Just the bare basics on a four year old analog phone. It seemed like the more I cut the plan to lower the bill, the more “fees” were added. If making a change didn’t cost money, it would add a couple of years to my contract. I’d had enough!!

So, I started investigating other carriers, plans and phones. I was sticking to the big name carriers because I live in a rural area and there really aren’t many options. I quickly found that all three of the big carriers that are dominant in my area, essentially cost the same. I was frustrated and ready to give up when I heard about those prepaid phones from the big box stores. I had decided that with my tiny package of minutes and texting on that old analog phone, I really wouldn’t be cutting myself short on services as long as the signal was strong enough. I thought I may be able to save at least a little money each month.

So, I started reading anything I could find concerning signal strength particularly in my area. One article lead to another and one subject lead to another and I was amazed to find that I could get a prepaid android smartphone, complete with unlimited minutes and texting as well as internet, email and more apps than I could ever figure out while more than cutting my bill in half!! (It turned out to be about $75.00 less each month) With NO contract and the signal strength is exactly the same as with my big carrier!!

I spent the next two months looking at phones. It wasn’t hard to settle on which phone I needed. By this time, I was furious with this big name cell company who had raped my pocket book for so long and I was determined to find a phone that used their towers for a lot less money. I wanted to stick it to ’em!

After I had researched the phone and read all the reviews, both good and bad, I decided the next step would be to call my current cell company and find out how much it would cost to buy my way out of my contract. It turns out, I had 13 months left on the contract and  after one more month, the “buy out” cost would drop significantly. From there, I formed a plan!

I would buy the new phone and set it up with a new phone number and just try it for a month. If I didn’t like it, I’d send it back and keep my old phone while doing more research on my next move. The new phone used the same towers so the signal should be the same but the new cell company said that this particular phone would not work in my area. They wouldn’t even ship it to my home address because they said it wouldn’t work. So, I had it shipped to my office in the next town and tried it anyway.

I spent the next month, driving around to all the areas that I normally travel through. I’d watch the signal bars on both phones to see what the difference was. I made calls from these areas on both phones, sent text messages and used the internet on the new phone all over town. The signal was identical! Not once did I look at the signal strength and see any difference between the two phones. It even worked at my house where the new carrier said it wouldn’t!

Woo Hoo!!! I rock!!

After a month, I transferred my phone number to the new phone, closed the old account and began trying to figure out the wonderful world of apps and clouds and streaming music using wi-fi instead of 3G. (Because we live in the sticks and don’t have 4G here) I’m 4 months into my new setup and I am still THRILLED with my phone and just as happy with the bill. I’m even happier that I’m essentially getting a signal off that big cell company at a fraction of the price!

I wonder how long they will let that go on….


UPDATE: I’m 6 months into the new phone and new plan and still Thrilled!!! Woo Hoo!!!  If you want to know more, send me a message and I’ll spill the company names to you privately!



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