Breaking it Off With the Big G

My de-googlification project is commencing apace. As promised, today’s post will include some resources to help you de-googlify your own life.

But first, this is where I’m at: I already stopped using Chrome a long time ago because it’s such a resource hog and they did away with some of my favorite features. Since then I’ve been using Firefox, and it’s been fine, but last week the Mozilla CEO made some disturbing comments that are completely NOT fine, so now I’m trying out alternatives to Firefox. So far I’m liking Brave and Midori, but I haven’t settled on one yet.

Getting off of Gmail is the biggie. I decided to switch to Protonmail instead, and grabbing an account their was the easy part. I’ve updated the e-mail links and contact form on this site and set an auto-responder in my Gmail to automatically let people who e-mail know that they need to update their contact info. By the by, if you have and use my jmbauhaus email address, just change the gmail part to protonmail and you’ll be good to go. Also, jean@jeanmariebauhaus.com still works just fine. Eventually I’ll also move my Jeanie Nicholson and Broke Author accounts to P’mail, but they don’t get much traffic, so that’s not a priority.

This also means I’ve got to go through all of my accounts and update my logins. Since I also haven’t been using password best practices all these years, it’s also an opportunity to change everything out to stronger, unique passwords. I had to get a good password manager to keep them all straight — I don’t want to store passwords in my browser any longer, as I had been doing.

This part is going to take a good, long while. It’s helping to prioritize. I started with accounts I log into regularly, along with accounts that have been breached. One thing I like about Firefox is that it has a service that monitors your logins and lets you know if they’re connected to a website that’s been hacked, but you can also find out by entering your login email at haveibeenpwnd.com. I’m also deleting accounts with services I no longer use, and reducing my digital footprint.

Changing my login methods on accounts that login with Google or Facebook is also going to be a high priority.

Sorting through all the newsletters and subscription emails I get at Gmail, unsubbing from the ones I no longer want and updating my email with the ones I want to keep, is also going to take a while.

Anyway, if you want to go down this road, start here: Alternatives to Google Products for 2021

That article does what it says on the tin, recommending more private and secure alternatives to every Google product out there. The rest of the website also has great advice on other privacy concerns and tools, such as VPN and password management recommendations, etc.

I’ve used Google Docs for years, mainly because I can copy and paste from that to my freelance writing agency’s content management platform without a lot of extra code getting added in like it does if I past it from Word or Open Office. But with my next batch of writing assignments I’m going to give Zoho Writer a try instead. It looks pretty comparable. Zoho also has a cloud storage alternative to Google Drive that looks promising.

I probably won’t be quitting YouTube any time soon, because there are too many good content creators who haven’t yet switched to other platforms. But I disabled the app on my phone and am just watching it in my web browser. Between that and my Android phone, I won’t be able to break up with Google completely. But I can at least support their competition and stop giving them so much information about me.

Oh, and speaking of Android, this is helpful if you have one:

I hope this is helpful if you’re wanting to reduce your dependence on big tech. It’s almost impossible to avoid them completely without quitting the internet altogether — a solution that gets more attractive with each passing day — but at least it’s something.

Shaman's Portal Oklahoma

Restless Oklahoma: Shaman’s Portal

Shaman's Portal Oklahoma

Something strange is afoot in Beaver Dunes Park. Located in the panhandle of Oklahoma, the dunes are home to a legend involving the Spanish explorer Coronado, mysterious late night military excavations, Men in Black encounters, and enough mysterious disappearances to warrant the nickname “Oklahoma’s Bermuda Triangle.”

The story goes that Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, as he traversed the area on his quest to discover New World gold, ignored the warnings of his Native American guides to keep away from the dunes. The price he paid was to have three members of his expedition suddenly vanish before his eyes amidst strange flashes of green lightning–a description Coronado himself penned in his expedition diary, calling the phenomenon “the work of the Devil.”

Known by the natives as the “Shaman’s Portal,” the area has since been blamed for numerous such alleged disappearances, although none have been verified, especially in the last century or so. However, locals have claimed to witness mysterious military excavations conducted under the cover of darkness. In the Nineties, after receiving reports of unspecified “strange” findings from an Oklahoma State University archaeologist, one Dr. Mark Thatcher is said to have spent three years studying the area until he was shut down by men with military credentials who fit the description of the notorious Men in Black. It’s unclear whether Thatcher was part of another unidentified university geological team who is said to have studied the area in the mid-Nineties. This team supposedly took a number of geological samples and found strange anomalies that included ionized soil and electromagnetic interference. All of this has led some to believe that an ancient alien spacecraft lies buried beneath the dunes.

A flying saucer isn’t the only thing believed to be buried down there. Apparently, the area is also an ancient Native American burial ground. And we all know that building anything on one of those is generally a Bad Idea.

And the alien connection is only one hypothesis surrounding the area. Theories about the disappearances and the weird lights abound. Is the area a portal to another dimension? Were the missing people transported, or incinerated by the green lightning? Was this some kind of Native American magic meant to protect the tribal gold from greedy European explorers like Coronado?

As freaky–and kind of cool–as all of this is, unfortunately the only thing that exists in the way of real evidence is Coronado’s diary. Every other claim over the last five hundred years or so have been, shall we say, sketchy? Still, it seems that something happened to those lost explorers–something unnatural and extremely difficult to explain.

And that’s enough to keep me from exploring those dunes anytime soon.

 

Friday Links: Weeping Women, Horror-Writing Robots, and Ghostly Novels

I had wanted to write an actual blog post for the back half of this week, but it turns out that after a week of writing and pitching freelance articles, I just don’t have the brain power for anything too thinky. Normally when that happens I would just update you on how the book is coming along, but refer to the previous sentence re: freelance articles, which meant that not a lot of novel writing got done this week.

But I don’t want to leave y’all totally bereft of content (because, as we all know, it falls entirely upon ME to entertain you. What on earth would you do with yourselves if I didn’t serve up content on the regular? Rest of the Internet, you say? What? Pffft!), I’m falling back on that good old standby, aka what blogs were invented for in the first place: the link post.

Like probably a lot of people, I first learned about La Llorona, the Mexican version of the Woman in White ghost legend, from Supernatural. Since this type of ghost features prominently in Bound Spirits, I’ve been brushing up on them. Here are 13 things to know about the legend of La Llorona.

I was going to do a thinky deep dive on Woman in White legends but then I thought why do that when I can just link you to the Wikipedia Page on White Lady ghosts?

Child ghosts are probably the only thing more ubiquitous than Women in White, which brings to mind the ongoing saga of Dear David. Is it real? The Ghost in My Machine examines the veracity of the latest unsettling turn of events.

Do you prefer your spooky stories to be firmly and unquestioningly fictional? Then let Shelley, the world’s first AI horror writer, spin you a story.

And if you missed the prequel chapter from Dominion of the Damned that I sent to my newsletter subscribers last weekend, you can head here to read it (and then head here to subscribe so you don’t miss that sort of thing again!).

This band fueled a lot of the writing of Kindred Spirits, and they’re continuing to help me power through Bound Spirits. I particularly love this album.

I’ve been trying to make up for lost time on Goodreads, reviewing some of my recent favorites. Here’s what I thought of Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, and here’s my review of Brimstone by Cherie Priest.

Currently reading: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey.

And finally, a list post wouldn’t be complete without a little self-promotion, so here’s a friendly reminder that my haunted amusement park novella Eucha Falls is still free. Here’s the Kindle link, but it’s also available just about everywhere ebooks are sold.

 

Restless Oklahoma: What is Going on in Dewey Public Schools?

 

Gross-Tinz, Germany, 1892: a ten-year-old girl develops a tremor in her right hand, which quickly escalates to full-body seizures. Soon after, 19 other students are similarly afflicted. Doctors are stumped as to the cause.

Montreal, 1894: at a ladies’ seminary, sixty students suffer mysterious seizures with no known medical cause.

Bellevue, Louisiana, 1939: a girl develops a twitch in her leg while at a high school dance. Soon after, all of her friends are similarly afflicted. Again, health professionals are confounded.

Blackburn, England, 1965: 85 students at a girls’ school are overcome with fainting spells. No illnesses were discovered and no pollutants or toxins were found in their food or the environment.

North Carolina, 2002: Ten girls–mostly cheerleaders–attending a rural high school experience seizures and other inexplicable symptoms lasting for five months.

LeRoy, New York, 2011-2012: 12 high school girls suddenly develop ticks and other symptoms similar to Tourette’s. Investigations are carried out, and even Erin Brochovich’s team is called in to test the ground water and other possible environmental causes. Once again, no physical explanation can be found. The girls are all diagnosed with conversion disorder, a mental disorder in which stress and anxiety manifests as symptoms of a physiological illness.

What do all of these things have in common, apart from having similar symptoms with no known cause? Each of them is considered a classic example of mass hysteria. While examples of mass hysteria date back to the middle ages and at one time were thought to be the result of witchcraft, and is even blamed for the infamous Salem Witch Trials, it seems that in modern times, these cases more often than not occur amongst populations of young women and teenage girls, usually in some type of school setting.

Such incidents served as the basis for the film The Falling, which is a fictional account of mass hysteria spreading through an English girls’ school in the 1960s, inspired primarily by the Blackburn case of 1965. The more recent case in New York was covered in the documentary, The Town that Caught Tourette’s.

The more current and politically correct term for this type of event is “mass psychogenic illness.” According to Time article covering the New York case, such an illness is ” thought to be triggered by stress or emotional distress, in response, for example, to reports of a chemical exposure, toxin or virus.” Symptoms can vary, and have included not only those described above but also uncontrollable dancing or laughter, and even fits of meowing like a cat. They’re believed to be spread “by way of humans’ often unconscious social mimicry of one another’s behavior,” according to Time.

That certainly fits in with the Blackburn incident, which is thought to have been triggered by the combination of anxiety over a recent polio outbreak and an incident from the day before it all started in which 20 people fainted from exhaustion during a three-hour long parade through the town.

All of which brings us to…

Dewey, Oklahoma, 2017: a “rash of student health issues” among middle school and high school students have been reported from the beginning of the fall semester. Although school officials aren’t identifying specific students or releasing information as to the specific symptoms of the illness, one concerned mother allowed the local news to film her teenage daughter, who has been experiencing mysterious seizures and trouble walking and talking, and other students are said to be experiencing similar symptoms. Investigations into the cause of the symptoms are ongoing, but so far officials haven’t been able to identify either a contagion or toxins to which the students could have been exposed. The school recently released an official statement saying that several of the students have been officially diagnosed with conversion disorder, but many of the parents involved are not having it.

Here is a recent story on the case from KOTV News in Tulsa, complete with video of the above mentioned girl and her mysterious symptoms. It’s worth noting that the comments are full of theories ranging from mold to the flu vaccine to Gardasil, with no one willing to accept the diagnosis of conversion disorder.

So what in the world is going on with this little Northeastern Oklahoma town? Is this another case of mass psychogenic illness? It certainly appears that way. But if so, then what could have triggered it? Is this just the culmination of anxiety from the onslaught of terrible things that have been in the news over the last few months? Goodness knows these kids have plenty to be stressed out about. Of course, many of the parents aren’t accepting the conversion disorder diagnosis and are consulting medical professionals to get to the bottom of this. So maybe a medical or environmental cause will eventually turn up. But considering the similarities between this case and prior incidents cited above… I’m not going to hold my breath.