Archive for September 23rd, 2007

September 23, 2007

The Digital Divide

I was off today and worked really hard not to pop into the office because that always results in me spending the rest of the day there. I will admit I called..but only once. ieTV is completely addictive when I am there I love it but I yearn for a day off sometimes, and yet, when I am not there I want to be in the thick of things and I usually wander in just to check. Today I ended up sleeping in and having wonderful dreams, including several about work, and doing a lot of chores I don’t normally have time to do like cleaning. I fired my maid several months ago after realizing she wasn’t cleaning to my satisfaction and was spending most of her time hiding my most used things in strange places. I reached my nadir with her when she decided my razor was best placed under the kitchen sink.

Anyhow, to the topic at hand, I am frequently amazed that most of the world is so dim when it comes to the technology that runs their lives. When I say most of the world I mean people I know..but then again…perhaps I only know people of a certain age. It seems all of my friends and family are technology challenged. I seem to be the help desk for most of the hemisphere. I know I have been accused of being less than empathetic but I truly don’t understand why people I know don’t understand the basics of technology. Many, many. many years ago I got my first computer ( an Apple IIc) and saw the future unfold in front of my eyes. I fell on my knees in front of the Gods of Wozniak and Jobs ( more Woz). I remember, with a few tears, my first BBS experiences and the realization I could chat with other people from my computer. I was, at the time, at the University of Toronto and learning the many intricacies of this new concept. I learnt PL1, FORTRAN, BASIC, COBOL and APL and probably a few other programming languages. In those days there were punch cards involved which is a bit disturbing. I kept up and have never stopped learning languages that help me understand computers and what they can do. My hardware experience is much more limited but I make the effort.

At this stage in my life I am puzzled by the fact most of the people I know have no clue about computers or software or, for that matter, the difference between them.Am I the only person over 30 in my group that understands the basics of computing and the internet? Apparently so. I spent this evening installing a new printer on my dear friend Robin’s iBook. Robin has never, ever ,seen an electrically powered device he understands. I convinced him to buy a Mac after his previous Dell that confused him too much and he was happy until his printer died. The concept of adding hardware is alien to Rob and thus Vern must come in.I also had to explain to him that 7 years is a ripe old age for a printer and he should not be cursing the good people at HP. I should mention his first Mac died as a result of a power surge but God bless him he said he wanted another we got him an (ick ick ick..vomit) Intel MacBook. Rob does not know the difference between a CPU and a screen and I fear he is typical of my friends.

To end this tiring discussion I present my list of things not to ask in your questions to Vern:

  1. If you are looking at my iMac and I ask you to turn it not reach under the desk….the screen is the computer. There is no block under the desk.

  2. Telling me “It is freaking out” is not a helpful statement.

  3. I don’t do Windoze so don’t ask me why you are getting an error message.

  4. Macs can surf the internet, open MS Word documents ( Office was on Macs before Windows), and not blow up doing normal things so don’t ask me stupid questions about this.

  5. The “Finder” I  agree is a stupid idea. The “start” button is clever…even for MS.

  6. If your computer is smoking I can’t help you.

And my secret to a great Thai mussel soup: Kaffir lime leaves, sea salt, Thai fish sauce, grated ginger, fresh habanero pepper, chopped culantro, coconut milk and lime juice squeezed as it is served. Obviously the mussels must be tossed in after the stuff comes to a boil and it also helps to toss in some chopped culantro ( or cilantro) when you are ready to serve it.

More tomorrow.


September 23, 2007

Mondo Mondeo

Another Sunday in the newsroom today but a fair selection of stories so that was a relief. I would almost say thank God for politics and the imminent elections…but that would be disingenuous.

I am not ashamed to admit I drive a Ford Mondeo Ghia estate wagon  – that car universally recognized as the very epitome of middle class dullness. I have christened her Beulah and she serves me admirably even though she is invariably referred to by my friends and colleagues as “The Hearse”.It is true my car is long and dark blue but I always thought the reference was rather unkind. I hardly ever carry cadavers in the back though they do fit rather nicely. I am very happy with the car as it possesses a few qualities I value highly in a vehicle; It is unfailing reliable, very stable on the road, has poise when moving and is big enough that I am not afraid of having an SUV drive over me. My satisfaction with my Mondeo seems to have altered my tastes because, even though I have no intention of changing it anytime soon, I was admiring another car I saw recently until I realized it actually was a hearse.

People say all kinds of things about Fords ( the local favourite being Fix Or Repair Daily) but I sense this may be based on Ford years ago or on American or British made models. Mine was made in Belgium ( that bastion of blandness) and the engine is German ( need I say more) and to say it is reliable is an understatement. I am no mechanic so when it was taking a bit longer to start than usual I had it checked by a colleague who asked me “when was the last time you put water in it?” to which my only response was “is it thirsty?”. Who knew batteries, like geraniums or chia pets™ needed water? It turns out there was none in the battery and rather a miracle it was starting at all.  I recently sent her out for a bit of a touch-up and two days later found that she had a terrible bucking problem and was losing power but she still got me home and back to work the next day. I called Ford and my guy there told me he would pass a bit later and check on the problem. In the meantime one of my colleagues ( God bless them for being so clever with things mechanical) opened up the bonnet peered inside and called me over. I peered into the little hole things and asked if everything was normal? To which he replied that it really wasn’t usual to have two inches of water in the place where the spark plugs are located and that it was as astoundingly amazing as the Virgin Mary descending at a cocktail party in Ealing or G.W.B saying something intelligent that the car had moved at all. It seems my body shop guy had decided to try his hand at engine washing. But as you see, like me, she keeps plodding on regardless of all logic.

There are a few problems with the Vernmobile however. It isn’t her fault but she is something of a dent magnet. I park in a lot and it seems people have a compulsion to open their door into it or rap it gently with their bumper. The rear bumper was crushed in the car park at work in January and not too long afterwards someone smashed into the tailgate while I was at a complete stop.  I have been driving her with her new paint job for a week now and I think this is a record for not getting dinged, dented or rammed. This annoys me. What annoys me even more is the fact that any part for the Mondeo seems to have a price normally reserved for complex medical procedures. Being unabashedly anal I must, of course, only buy original Ford parts including windshield wipers ( a tidy $350 TT or $50 US). Her other problem is she doesn’t shut up. When I apply brakes she beeps, when I indicate she beeps, when I reverse she beeps, when I leave the lights on she beeps and my least favourite thing – when traction control engages – she talks. It is all a bit much when I simply want quiet solitude. The final thing is, and Ford –  I am talking to you, why would a car that is the most expensive car ever designed ( $6 billion US) not have proper cup holders in the front and a light for passengers in the back? Are back passengers relegated to forever sitting in stygian gloom because  of your thoughtlessness? Also, I must admit getting the old girl into a parking spot is a bit like negotiating the Queen Mary into a small berth in Pago Pago.Still, for all her miscellaneous foibles, she is a good car and has earned my trust.

I toyed with the idea of upgrading to the new Mondeo ( as seen in James Bond for 2 seconds) but it lacks the look of mine; the curving bonnet, the elongated oval grille. It also looks far too much like a bigger and fancier Focus and that simply will not do. I will stick with my Mondeo and her paltry 60,000 km ( I was going to say mileage but should that now be kilometerage?). As they say in Trinidad ,when referring to relationships, “ a good wukking ole ting better den a new ting” meaning, of course, “ a good working old thing is better than a new thing”.

And adding to an earlier blog that referred to bizarre drug warnings I can now add one I heard for a new non-addictive sleeping pill “ side effects may include drowsiness”. I would certainly hope so.

Happy Sunday!