Loretta Ross

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Month: April 2014

Do You Know What This Is?

When I was very small, we used one of these for a couple of years.  Who knows what it is?  (I stole this picture from an Etsy shop listing, but the item has already sold so I’m hoping they don’t care.)

 

Thingie1

I May Not Be Who I Think I Am

So, I’m having an identity crisis.

A couple of days ago I lost my debit card.  It’s possible I mailed it to my editor along with a CD copy of my author photo.  It’s possible it got stolen by Red Lektrons.  It’s possible it’s fallen through a hole in the fabric of reality.  I’ve heard something about eddies in the space-time continuum.  Maybe he’s got it.  The point is, I don’t anymore.

After searching everywhere for two days, I gave in and decided to report it missing and ask for a new one.  First, though, I wanted to update my mailing address to my new P.O. Box address, because having a debit card sitting in a locked box that only I have a key to sounded safer than having a debit card sitting in an unlocked box on a country road half a mile away and not in sight of any house.  Changing your address and then asking for a new card, though, apparently triggers special security checks, and here’s where it all went, as I understand our Brit friends to say, pear-shaped.

I understand the need for extra security.  I do.  But there’s security and then there’s SECURITY!

After logging onto the website with my user name and secret password and both parents’ middle names and my high school mascot I filled out the “lost card” form and hit send.  It gave me a security warning in big, red letters and a phone number to call to complete the report.

I called the number and got a young woman who was, I’m sure, perfectly lovely and whose grasp of English is undoubtedly much better than my grasp of whatever her native language is.  But … I couldn’t understand her!

This is a pet peeve of mine.  First, I have nothing against anyone in any country, but American businesses that want Americans to support them should not outsource jobs overseas.  Secondly, they’re outsourcing their customer service to people who do not speak the same native tongue as the majority of their customers. Also, most of the phone bank outsourcing seems to involve people whose native language is inflected.  They tend to speak English with an inflection, which makes it harder to understand.  Add in the fact that the telephone compresses and distorts sound slightly (I’m not certain of the mechanics) and it makes for a very difficult conversation.

When you are in contact with a business’ customer service department, the burden of communicating falls on the business.  If the person on the other end of the phone is unable to communicate clearly for any reason, it is the business that has fallen short.

Long story short (I know! “Too late!”) I failed my identity verification quiz.  After correctly providing my name, home address, date of birth, and social security number, I was unable to recall what color car I was driving eight years ago when I set up the account,* I didn’t (and don’t) know if my social security card was issued in the state I was born in or the state I lived in when I got it, and even after making her repeat them six or seven times, I couldn’t understand the list of addresses she was reading me to see if I could remember living at one of them more than a quarter of a century ago when I was in college.

The upshot is that they’ve closed my account and they’re going to mail me a check … at the same P.O. Box address they’re unwilling to mail a new card to.

So if it’s seemed like I’m not myself today, that may very well be the case.  I don’t know exactly who I am, but I am sure of one thing.  If I ever find that card, I’m going to salt and burn the damned thing!

*Actually, I didn’t remember what color “the Ciera” was.  I confused the Ciera with the Cavalier.  I’m not a car person and we’re talking three cars ago — four if you count the van my niece gave me that lasted about three weeks and almost got me arrested ….

Remembering The Tri-State Tornado of 1925

Yesterday, I sat through my first tornado warning of the season.  It got me thinking about tornados past.  The following is an excerpt of an arcticle I wrote for my old website.

A MassiveTornado  Image ID: wea00216, NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) Collection

A MassiveTornado
Image ID: wea00216, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection

Every year the National Weather Service records about 1,000 tornadoes in the U.S.. It’s possible that as many as 1,000 more weak tornadoes go unnoticed. Tornadoes are ranked on the Fujita Scale (or F-Scale) according to how much damage they do to manmade structures.

While a tornado can strike just about anywhere in the world, some places get hit more often than others. (Tornadoes touch down in Sedalia so often, that I once called my niece up there after a tornado and she told me, unconcerned, “Oh, it didn’t hit here. It was three streets away.”) Areas prone to a high incidence of tornadic activity, or to a high percentage of violent tornadoes, are known as “Tornado Alley”. While there is a great deal of disagreement among storm chasers as to where, exactly, “Tornado Alley” is in any given year, Missouri is often included.

At this point I’d just like to say for the record that I’ve never personally seen a tornado, in spite of walking home through a storm in Columbia one night when eight of them touched down within two hours. I’d also like to say, for the record, that I’d just as soon keep it that way!

The Tri-State Tornado of 1925

March 18, 1925. One minute past one P.M. The deadliest tornado in U.S. history touched down in southeastern Missouri, three miles north-northwest of Ellington and continued on a 219-mile long path through southern Illinois and into Indiana before finally dissipating three miles south of Petersburg at 4:30 P.M.

An F5, the strongest catagory of tornado, the Tri-State Tornado set many tragic records that day. The average tornado stays on the ground for about ten minutes. The Tri-State monster was down for three and a half hours. It travelled through three states, killing a combined total of 695 people, injuring more than 2,000 and destroying 15,000 homes. In Murphysboro, Illinois, 234 people died, a record number of deaths for a single community from a tornado. (The Great Cyclone of 1896 doesn’t meet this because the deaths were divided between two communities: St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois.)

Parrish, Illinois, and Griffin, Indiana, were completely destroyed. Seventeen children died when Longfellow School in Murphysboro, Illinois, partially collapsed. In DeSoto, Illinois, the tornado killed 33 school children. That’s the largest number of children to die in an American school from this type of disaster.

To be thorough, I should note that some historians believe the Tri-State Tornado was not actually one continuous tornado, but rather a close family of smaller tornadoes. Technically, a tornado is only a tornado when it is actually touching the ground. If it pulls up it becomes a funnel cloud and if it touches down again that is considered a separate tornado. Thus, the question becomes “did the Tri-State Tornado remain on the ground for its entire 219-mile track?” At this point, it’s probably impossible to tell. What is known is that the tornado cut a 3/4 to 1 mile wide path of destruction across three states, it held the same heading for 183 miles of that distance and nowhere along that path was spared. Eighty-five years later the National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration maintains a memorial website to commemorate that deadly day and to teach new generations about the awful power of the wind.

Ruins of the Longfellow School where 17 children were killed.  In: Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, Vol. 30, No. 9. September, 1925.   Image ID: wea00234, NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) Collection   Location: Murphysboro, Illinois  Photo Date: 1925 March 18

Ruins of the Longfellow School where 17 children were killed.
In: Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, Vol. 30, No. 9. September, 1925.
Image ID: wea00234, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection
Location: Murphysboro, Illinois
Photo Date: 1925 March 18

 

Ruins of the De Soto, Illinois, public school where 33 children were killed.  In: Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, Vol. 30, No. 9. September, 1925.   Image ID: wea00238, NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) Collection   Location: Illinois, De Soto  Photo Date: 1925 March 18

Ruins of the De Soto, Illinois, public school where 33 children were killed.
In: Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, Vol. 30, No. 9. September, 1925.
Image ID: wea00238, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection
Location: Illinois, De Soto
Photo Date: 1925 March 18

 

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