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August 6th, 2017

Where in Hell Has FOSS Force Been?

We promise you that FOSS Force hasn’t deserted you. We’ve just been making a few adjustments.

blindfold blind FOSS Force

You might have noticed that we’ve pretty much been missing in action since the first of May. Roblimo’s been here, when he can. So has the “Mr. Rogers of open source” — that would be Phil Shapiro — who never takes a negative viewpoint when there’s a positive to be found. But me? I’ve been completely out-of-the-loop. The last time I wrote anything for FOSS Force was back on May 11.

What the heck happened? A couple of things, starting with blindness.

I’d been suffering from worsening cataracts for years. In 2015 they got so bad I had to quit driving at night, and early this year I had to make the decision to take myself off the road altogether. For about a year, I had to blow-up web pages just to read them with squinty eyes placed just inches from the screen. By May, I was zooming websites to 200 percent or higher. Also in May, shortly after I wrote my last article for FOSS Force, I had to give up writing altogether. I could no longer see to read whatsoever, no matter how large I made the fonts on the screen.

I could still see well enough to find my way around the house without walking into walls, could with difficulty make a pot of coffee and even put a sandwich together if I didn’t worry about the fact that the bread and cheese might be covered with mold I couldn’t see — but that was about it.

This is where I might go into a rant about the medical system as it works in the US — but I’ll spare you that. Suffice it to say, despite spending multiple hundreds of dollars monthly for medical insurance I couldn’t afford under the Affordable Care Act, vision — like dental — isn’t covered. It wouldn’t have mattered if it were. The multiple hundreds bought me a “cheap” policy with a $6,000 deductible, which would’ve still put cataract surgery out of my price range.

Nice country, this United States of America. The streets are paved with gold.

Lucky for me, not long before I became so blind that I could no longer write, I turned 65, which auto-enlisted me for Medicare — which, for those of you from outside the United States is our medical-care-for-old-farts policy that was instituted back in the 1960s, back when our government still cared about its citizens. Also lucky for me, when I became so blind I could no longer earn a living — meaning I couldn’t write — cataract surgery for my right eye had already been scheduled for the end of May.

I had the surgery on my left eye a couple of weeks back, so now I have a matching set. I can now drive day or night without glasses. Everything’s good. Happy ending.

The other reason you haven’t seen me here on FOSS Force is because I’ve had to take a day job.

Since I was dismissed without warning after 17 years from the library at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in December 2015, I’d been trying to live on a meager monthly Social Security retirement income, which dropped when I became Medicare age to just a little over $400 monthly (when you turn 65, premiums of about $120 per month for Medicare Part B start being automatically taken out of your Social Security check if you’re receiving one). Although I live in a state with a relatively low cost of living, it ain’t that cheap and I was in danger of becoming homeless.

About a year ago I began doing some freelance work for another tech site, which put my income up to a level where I could live somewhat comfortably — but still had to worry about what I’d do when when the gig went away. Being over 65 with no money in the bank isn’t a good place to be. I needed to get some money saved for the inevitable rainy day.

The good news is that the same outfit eventually offered a full time gig with a rate-of-pay I consider to be more than reasonable. They’re good people to work with and I’m still covering tech, so I’m happy.

The bad news — well, it’s not actually bad news, it’s just the way it is — they get 40 hours of my time each and every week. That means less time to do things like cover free and open source software here.

There’s still time in my life for FOSS Force, however.

Since I started the new gig I’ve been adjusting to the new schedule. Now that I’ve gotten in the groove with the new job, I can start finding time for FOSS Force. Maybe not as much as I did before, but at least enough time to pen — type, actually (although I do still own a pen) — an article or two a week. Add to that the work that Roblimo and Shapiro will continue to do for the site, and we’re back in the groove.

We’re also looking for some FOSS lovers with writing skills who would like to do a little — okay, a lot — of volunteer writing for our site. If you think that might be you, give me a ping.

Oh, and if a couple of articles a week isn’t enough, you can always follow me on Twitter. I usually send about twenty or so tweets a day.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

14 comments to Where in Hell Has FOSS Force Been?

  • UncleEd

    Welcome back, Christine. Been worried about you. Yes on all the fun getting medical stuff covered and living on SS. Think of Cadillac surgery as non-life threatening. Well, unless you’re going to starve to death living in a cardboard box. Nice to be visionary again.

    And I’m glad you got a “real” job to keep you going. Would really be nice if they covered your Medicare Supplement, but jobs like that are quite few and far between.

  • @UncleEd Thanks. As for the job, they’re treating me very well financially as well as with benefits. I can more than afford to pay my own Medicare supplement.

  • Paul Sams

    Christine, it’s good to see you back on FOSS FORCE. I am thankful for Medicare, but sorry about the pay cut. No one get’s rich on Social Security. That said, I am thankful for it. Well, glad you are back, and thrilled you have your eyesight back. I wish you all the best.

  • @Paul Sams No pay cut. My new bosses are taking care of me just fine.

  • tracyanne

    Good to see you back Chrissy. The place has been a little quiet. I’m afraid the only articles I could submit these days are about renovating our motor home.

  • Mister Goldiloxx

    I found LXer when I switched to Linux Mint (from W7) during the last week of 12/2015. They linked to a lot of articles here, so I noticed when the only articles of yours that I saw there were on other sites (two by my count). Sorry to hear you were going through a tough time, but I am glad to hear that your vision is okay again and about your new job.

  • trentfox

    Christine, glad to hear that your eyesight has recovered and that you are working again. I look forward to reading your Foss Force articles again soon.

  • Philip Webb

    Lots of sympathy with your plight, amazing to a Canadian. Yet again, it shows how badly mistaken were the revolutionaries 241 years ago. The loyalists, who fled north and founded Ontario, got it right : here, your cataract surgery would have been covered by the single-payer healthcare system, you would have been treated promptly & successfully and none of your horrors would have happened.

  • Yikes.

    Glad to hear the story has a happy ending, but sorry it’s been such a rough go. Man, healthcare in this country…

  • Mike

    …could be a lot worse.

    We just barely avoided dumping healthcare entirely in the toilet a few weeks ago.

    Glad you’re feeling better Christine.

  • Of course.

    But it could be a lot better, too.

  • I’m glad you are back Christine.

    Whatever happened to that fellow from Austin, TX who was funding disability accessibility?

  • tracyanne

    Yes I would like to know what happened to him too. I’ve tried emailing him, but get no reply either on the personal one I have, or the site contact form, although he, or someone, still appears to be posting under his name.

  • That would be Ken Starks. He’s still around but has been laying low recently. Occasionally he posts on his Blog of Helios.

    http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/