Tuesday, February 4, 2014
You have probably already deleted “Angry Birds” from your cellphones. After reading a recent news article about the National Security Agency using the game to collect data on users, I was pretty tempted to delete the game app too.
According to the news article I read, the NSA can pull all sorts of information from “Angry Birds” and other phone apps. Information about your age, location, whether you prefer boxers or briefs.
After some consideration, however, I had second thoughts about removing the game from my phone. First, this NSA spying thing is already way out of hand. I have no doubt that NSA agents have pretty much infiltrated every aspect of our electronic lives. Has anyone else wondered why they really phased out incandescent light bulbs?
Right. In that light, I’m not sure there’s much point in deleting an enjoyable game from my phone. Especially since I mostly use “Angry Birds” to keep my 4-year-old son occupied on long car rides, like when we go to the grocery store. If the NSA can pull any usable data from that, they’re welcome to it.
NSA Agent #1: “Looks like we’ve got a live one!”
NSA Agent #2: “Yeah? What’s up?”
NSA Agent #1: “Wait, that’s odd. It looks like we’ve got an elderly chimpanzee with a Nerds addiction who collects “Rocky and Bullwinkle” merchandise sold in Canada between 1960 and 1963.”
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not in favor of electronic spying by our government, or anyone else. Far from it. But it’s here, and Mom always taught me to look on the bright side.
In this case the NSA spying scandal has given me a lot of leverage to write about my family, something that my wife, Liv, is always a little nervous about.
“You can’t write about this,” she will say to me after an embarrassing episode in our lives.
In the past I had to wait until the narrative statute of limitations had run out, but not anymore.
“The NSA probably already knows about this Liv,” I tell my wife when she objects to the fact that I just whipped out a notebook.
One recent evening over dinner, for example, my wife said, “Oh, my medication arrived today.”
“Oh,” I said. “Well, that’s good.”
We are expecting our second child, and Liv’s doctor had prescribed a regimen of injections. Like many men, I assumed the medical professionals would be handling the job.
“After we put our son to bed, you can give me my shot,” my wife said casually as we ate.
Liv has confidence in my ability to figure out a wide range of problems, then fix them. I love this confidence, no matter how misguided.
“Why do I have to give you a shot?” I asked, suddenly losing my appetite.
“Why not? You’ve done it before, right?”
The answer is: sort of. As a farm kid I had to doctor farm animals from time to time. Mostly this consisted of surgical attitude adjustments for the male livestock, but occasionally I had to administer medication.
Giving shots was my least favorite job. I hate needles. A lot. And so do most livestock, as it turns out.
As a youth, I learned the best way to to administer a shot was to give the horse or cow a few gentle raps with my hand, then stick the needle in quickly and jump back to avoid the animal’s enthusiastic protests.
As I was considering the problem of giving shots, Liv handed me a syringe and needle.
“Is this the right needle?” I asked in disbelief. “This thing is huge.”
“It’s the one they included in the package,” she told me.
“But it’s huge. It’s like the needles I used to give shots to cows with.”
Liv objected to this comment.
“Fine, I’ll just do it myself,” she said, grabbing the syringe back from me.
Her effort was valiant, but ineffective. After a brief but intense conversation, I was back on the hook, so to speak.
“Are there any instructions in the box?” I asked.
“Just give me the shot!”
At this point my farmyard training took over. Using the thumb and middle finger of my right hand, I gave a sharp “thwap” to the portion of my wife’s anatomy exposed for the needle.
“What is wrong with you!” my wife lovingly said.
Things went rapidly downhill from there. Several attempts and intense discussions later, we still hadn’t successfully administered the medication.
My wife looked like she had been assaulted by a determined and very aggressive hummingbird. I looked like a husband that knows he is serious trouble for a long time.
It was then decided (as the politicians say) that we would go to the doctor’s office.
After we explained what happened, the nurse took out the syringe and needle.
“See, that’s the needle,” I said pointing out the cruise missile.
“Right. This is the needle we use to draw the serum into the syringe,” the nurse said. “Wait. You didn’t try to give your wife a shot with this did you?”
I might have said “Aha!” Accounts differ.
The nurse continued, “This is an 18-gauge needle. This is what they use on livestock!”
The good news (even better than the fact that I was right all along) is that the nurse showed us there were two different packages of needles in the box, and how to properly administer the medication.
The point is, I wouldn’t be allowed to write about this story if it weren’t for the NSA spy program. My wife would have put her foot down. Once I brought up the NSA, however, Liv realized that between government surveillance and being married to a writer, there really is no privacy left in the world.
On the bright side, now it’s easier than ever to pretend you are a movie star. Just imagine all the electronics in your home are paparazzi. On another bright note, I think I’m going to buy a phone for our dog, just in case that would be helpful for the NSA.
Luke Hegdal can be reached at 509-526-8326 or firstname.lastname@example.org.