January 21, 2020

Little Geek.

Bell and Howell 16mm Movie Projector. Not my photo.

My second grade teacher was Mrs. Hayden. Situated in Room 108, Mrs. Hayden and second grade is probably the year I best remember from my elementary school years. Spelling tests included the word “deer”, when used in a sentence. We added and subtracted multiple columns of numbers. I was in the most advanced of the reading groups (there were three) and, if I’m remembering correctly, we went through two books of the Lippincott Early Reader series (maybe C and D?).

We had our desks arranged in rows and I sat in the back corner by the sink. Occasionally Mrs. Hayden would let me turn my desk sideways against the wall as I worked on my “seat work”. I wasn’t in trouble or anything, I think she just knew I needed a change of scenery once in a while. She smiled nicely and chatted with us in a way that made us feel like little adults. I remember one lunch time she told us her first name and that her husband was a barber. She lived in the next town over and drove through the snow to come to school everyday.

Mrs. Hayden knew I was a little geek; I was fascinated with the built-in vacuum system that we’d hold the blackboard erasers against on Friday afternoons to clean out the chalk dust. When the clock stopped (along with all the other clocks in the school), she let me go down to the office to turn in the attendance cards, where I watched the repairman work on the clock hanging behind Mrs. Youngs’ (the principal’s secretary) desk.

But most importantly in my second grade mind, Mrs. Hayden designated me as the person to run the Bell and Howell (or sometimes Singer) movie projector when it was time to watch 16 mm movies. At the beginning of the year she fumbled with the self-loading mechanism of the Bell and Howell projector and then I asked her if I could try loading it. I was successful and from that moment and throughout the year I ran the movie projector. I wore this as a huge badge of honor and only on one or two occasions did another person run the movie projector that year.

Perhaps my disappointment in those one or two occasions is why my desk was turned against the wall next to the sink.

Of all the teachers I had during my elementary years through the end of Grade Six, Mrs. Hayden was the one that really “got” me. I felt comfortable around her, I felt like I learned around her, and I excelled at my studies that year. She never seemed to get angry when someone was misbehaving, in fact, I don’t remember any incidents of anyone misbehaving that year.

Today our home in Chicago is situated near the old Bell and Howell factory complex where they made those movie projectors. During my walks of exercise I often walk by “Bell & Howell Lofts” and I think of Mrs. Hayden. She retired nearly 20 years ago. I found her profile on Facebook a few years ago and she is still as pretty as I remember her to be back in 1975.

I hope when she looks back on her teaching career she smiles about her experiences with all those students as much as I do when remembering how she encouraged me to be a little geek.


Anything I share anywhere online I do so knowing that any shred of this information could be made public at any time. Every document I save, every tweet I type, and of course every blog entry I write will have an infinite shelf life. When I type anything into a network connected computer it is being released to the wild. It may remain locked up on a hard drive or it could appear on the front page of some trashy website, but when I share it, that choice is no longer mine. I know this, and I’ve known this all of my technological life, ever since the first time I typed “Hi!” to my modem connected cousin in a chat room in 1985 using a Commodore 64, a modem, and GEnie (an ‘information sharing’ service from that era).

According to Reuters, Apple dropped plans for full end-to-end encryption of iPhone (and presumably other iOS-based device) backups after receiving complaints from the FBI. The FBI countered fully encrypting backups would harm any investigations.

Apple touts itself as a “privacy first” company and this news greatly disappoints me. However, I’m not completely taken by surprise by this.

Ever since 9/11, when the United States of America became fear-based, paranoid country of citizens, the government has rapidly eroded citizens’ privacy rights, all in the name of patriotism and safety. In the guise of “going after the bad guys”, government agencies, some out in the open and many behind closed doors, want to know anything and everything about every one of its citizens, whether you’re doing anything nefarious or not. Books have been published about this, television documentaries have shared this, movies have been made, there’s plenty of evidence out there. The U.S. Government feels they have a right to anything and everything you’re doing. Encryption prevents them from gathering this information. The Government is fearful of another attack akin to 9/11, not because of casualties or destruction, but rather because it would compromise the motto of “The Greatest Country in the World”. Another attack like that fateful day in 2001 would embarrass the Government and they’re going to do everything they can to prevent it from happening again.

“But I have nothing to hide!”. I hear this often when engaging others in a conversation along about this subject and my counterpoint is always two part: 1. It should be “But I have nothing to hide, yet!” and 2. Why don’t we just get rid of freedom of speech because perhaps “You have nothing to say”.

Aside from building your own cloud and your own ecosystem and your own encryption and the like, I still maintain Apple’s devices and ecosystems are still the safest option out there for Joe Schmoe and friends type users. This is why my family continues to invest in Apple products. Granted, today’s revelations are disappointing, and if it’s indicative of a trend I may consider building my own data fortress (because I can), but I still believe when it comes to privacy, Apple is still the best consumer choice in town.

And if you don’t want anyone accessing it, don’t put it on a computer to begin with.