Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a day back in circa 1988, when I was stranded in a small beach town, with a 10 digit phone number written on a piece of paper, that wasn’t getting through to anyone because the phone it was ringing was “out of range.”

Back then, after the stress of that day was in the past, I got a lot of mileage from retelling that story. With a story-teller’s licence, I felt free to exaggerate certain elements, and downplay others, and I seem to recall that the audience was in stitches when I retold it a few years later at my friend’s 21st.

Now that its 2014, the humour is somewhat lost – it just sounds quaint. Nowadays, the main point that story serves to reveal is my age, but also, the enormous advances in mobile phone technology that have occurred in the relatively small span of history that has passed since I was in my late teens.

True, it is possible that, with some really bad planning, one could still manage to arrive in a country area with poor telephone network coverage and not be able to get in contact with your host due to poor network coverage, but, assuming that about 90% of people carry a “smart” phone everywhere they go, a lot of other aspects of that story would be different in 2014.

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Sometimes I think that my generation (Gen X) are privileged to have a unique perspective on the ever-accelerating rate of advancements in technology, and not just because technology has advanced so much in our own lifetimes. Generationally, we are still have very close ties to a past where electronic devices of any sort were unheard of. My parents, perhaps a little older than average for my peers, were born before the Second World War, when a mechanical washing machine was still relatively new technology, and a telephone was not even yet a common household item for the average working class family.

bell telephone

Bell Telephone ad (American) from 1938. Just lift the receiver and tell the operator the 3-digit number you need to call!

Pic: Ohio University Vintage Print Advertising Archive

I don’t remember my parents talking about any outings in cars as children so I’m not sure if my mother’s parents ever drove, or even owned a car. My father grew up on a farm, where a truck was certainly used for farming activities when he was older, but I know that as a small child, he walked with his older siblings the few miles from the farm into “town,” to get to school each morning, rain, hail, snow or sun, a journey that would probably take about 12 minutes by car. Those were the days when each child was given a “slate” and a pencil to write on it with, and children who were left-handed, like my father was, had their dominant hand tied behind their back until they learned to write with their right hand.

My parents, in turn, shared with us from time to time, snippets of their own parents’ lives. These were my grandparents, only 2 generations removed from me but born in the late 19th Century, and teenagers at the outbreak of World War 1 (my mother’s father was an ambulance-bearer in the war). In those stories it was the absence of modern technology that had the greatest impact, particularly the absence of the huge advances in health care that would occur in the 20th century, increasing life expectancy, and would almost certainly have resulted in my grandfather’s brothers surviving childhood, my mother’s father, and my own father not losing parents at a very young age, and my  great-aunt not having a life-long limp due to childhood polio. (a common side-effect of polio was paralysis and subsequent distortion of a developing limb, such as having one leg shorter than the other.)

Washing Machine advert, circa. 1910

Washing Machine advert, circa. 1910. Saves Nerves.

Pic: Wikipedia

My grandparents’ lives began around the time that electric lighting first hit the streets of Melbourne, and that first flicker of yellow light seems symbolic, since the technology that electricity enabled would continue to advance – quietly for the first half of their lives, and, more noisily for the second half, when it would announce itself regularly with more and more new products that were increasingly able to be modified and priced for a domestic market. Consider the huge changes that occurred within my grandmother’s life: (1899 to 1989): her grandfather emigrated to Australia from Ireland, coming by boat, a journey of many months. When she was in her 30s, commercial flights began to operate in Australia – soon the same journey her grandfather had taken could be done in a day. When she was in her sixties, humans landed on the moon. When she was a young adult, people went to the “Pictures” to see a newsreel and a black-and-white, silent movie. When she was in her 50’s, television began mainstream broadcasting in Australia (1956), heralding the beginning of the Modern Era in Australia, ie, an era where the consumer market was dominated by electronic devices designed to make life easier, which had seemed like a futuristic vision only a few years earlier. Now you could watch the news in your own home, every night.

As a child growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I have vague memories of  large black-and-white TVs, and the excitement with which we kids greeted the very first colour TV that entered our home, but by the time we finally got a “computer” (a monitor screen for an Atari computer game), I was studying for Year 12 and spent my free time at friend’s houses, so I was barely aware that this existed, and a video player never entered the house while I lived at home.

Another thing about being a Generation X-er, or perhaps more specifically, through a combination of bad timing, and parents who were “old-fashioned” for the time, it seems that a Generation X-er like myself, who left home at the age of 18, was able to sneak through my teenage years and early twenties, barely encountering the technology that was finally, and gradually, becoming more widely used.

As a student, I wrote all my essays through high school and my first university course with a pen and paper, which was still the accepted mode as recently as the early 1990s. Back up copy? No such thing. My only significant encounter with a computer in that time was when I took an optional, half-year subject in Year 10, imaginatively called “Computers”. This comprised of learning to turn a computer on and run through a basic typing course, in a pre-Windows environment of course, where we typed commands at the top of the black screen where a cursor flashed on and off. No wonder I wasn’t excited by the possibilities that computers had to offer.

I seem to recall that some people my age had video players in their family homes by the time I was about 18, but we weren’t one of those families, and I left home before my parents finally relented on that front. Living for the next 9 years or so as a poor student in various rented share-houses, myself and my house-mates generally considered ourselves lucky to have a TV, (always donated by someone’s family), and I was probably about 27 before I ever had a video player in my home – just around the time that video was becoming old technology!

Another way that my personal past is linked to the technology-laden present and future, is because popular culture in the 1970s was very obsessed with science fiction and a utopian future. There was a plethora of television shows screened in family-viewing time in the 1970s that were full of, or even based on, futuristic devices. From the videophone used by The Jetsons, to the talking computers and teleportation devices featured on Star Trek, to the robots that featured in everything from Star Wars to Get Smart, to the thrill of watching Rick Deckard (in a dystopian, early 80’s vision of the future) zoom in on a detail in a photograph in Blade Runner, as viewers we were excited by futuristic devices that seemed, to our eyes, to be creations straight out of the minds of screen writers with fantastic imaginations. In hindsight now, it seems that many of these writers were, if not actually aware of what would be possible in the future, at least riding on the Zeitgiest, creatively in tune with the potential that technology offered.

An early prototype for Skype.

An early prototype for Skype.

Pic: The Smithsonian

Nowadays, just like Jane Jetson, (perhaps less glamorously) I can call my sister in Ireland and see her face on a screen while we chat. Like Rick Deckard, I can look at a photograph and zoom in to scrutinise a detail. I don’t have a robot, but I believe Godfrey’s have a sale on them this weekend for $89. And, as Andy Warhol probably could have predicted, I can write a piece of “creative non-fiction” and in a matter of seconds I can publish it online where the entire online world could read it if they wanted to.

Nana, you’d be amazed.

My mum's mother, holding me, c 1970. (Color film not yet common!)

My mum’s mother, holding me, c 1970. (Color film not yet common!)

I say, you say, weren’t you listening?

One summer, when I was 18, and feeling awfully adult, I took a train, and then a bus, to a small beach town where a friend of mine was staying with her family, expecting that, as we’d arranged, she would meet me when I got off the bus in town.

Porpoise Spit. An exquisite little beach town somewhere in Australia.

Porpoise Spit. An exquisite little beach town somewhere in Australia.

Pic: Some Space To Breathe

To my surprise, she was not there. I didn’t panic, at first. I waited around the bus stop, thinking that she must be running late, then waited a bit longer, thinking perhaps she had the time wrong.

After maybe an hour or more, I started to feel worried, so I went to a phone box. (For those playing at home, a phone box was a large receptacle that one could step into, and, by means of dropping coins into a large clunky telephone, and dialling or pressing buttons, make phone calls on a landline. They were also sometimes used by superheroes as handy, if not exactly private, places to change into their superhero costume).

I had no idea if my friend was staying in a house, caravan, or tent, and all the information I had was, on a scrap of paper, a phone number that my friend had given me. It was a strange looking phone number, as, at that time, local numbers had 6 digits in country areas or 7 in the city, and an area code that started with a “0” was only required if you were calling from outside a specific zone. This number had 10 digits, and started with a 0.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I dialled, but it certainly wasn’t to be greeted with an automated voice recording saying that the number I had called was “out of range,” and to try again later. I had never heard that terminology before, and did not know what it meant. My slight worry suddenly became panic, as it dawned on me that the phone number I was carrying was incorrect, or at least unreliable, and I had no other details about where my friend was staying.

That was the beginning of a very long and tiring day. I spent that entire afternoon, from about midday until 6pm, utilising every detective skill I could muster to try and locate my friend’s family. I visited the post office, and checked through phone books to look for listings under their last name. I scrutinised maps of the town to work out where those addresses were, drew myself a copy of the streets as best I could, marked off where those residences were, and then traipsed across town to locate them, only to be disappointed each time. I visited real estate agents to ask for holiday listings, to no avail.

During these investigations, I interacted with adults who were kind enough to attempt to help me. A sympathetic real estate agent took pity on my predicament and said if I hadn’t located my friend’s family by nightfall I could stay with her.  I explained to someone at the post office that the number I was dialling was “out of range”, hoping she might know what that meant, and she asked to see the number. When I gave it to her, she was as perplexed as me, and said “I think that’s the area code for Queensland.”

04 IS the area code to call Queensland from another state in Australia, but as it happens, 04 is also the standard two numbers at the beginning of the standard 10 digits that make up mobile phone numbers in Australia. But this story took place back in 1988, and mobile phones were still advanced technology, probably only utilised by people who worked in the industry, such as my friend’s father, who was a salesman of telecommunications products, for Telecom, the National (and only) phone line and service provider. Clearly when it came to the layperson, at least 2 people – myself and the helpful person at the post office – had never come across the concept of a mobile phone before, aside from Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone.

Hello, 99...Hello? Damn this shoe phone - it's out of range!

Hello, 99…Hello? Damn shoe phone – it’s out of range!

Pic: The Examiner

I didn’t know what being “out of range” meant back then, and all I could do was cling to the hope that at some stage during the day the phone would be “within range”. Throughout the entire day, as I criss-crossed town in my attempt to locate my friend’s holiday residence, I stopped at every phone box I came to and tried the number, only to have my heart sink each time when I heard the same Out Of Range message start up again.

Finally, at around 6pm, I was back in the centre of town again and figuring that I would have to go back and see my new friend the real estate agent before she closed up. I thought I would try phoning one last time. To my astonishment, this time my friend’s mother answered the phone.

I can still remember the uncharacteristic haste with which I bypassed the usual polite niceties and just blurted out who I was and where I was. I guessed there was a possibility that the phone could go “out of range” at any moment, and I needed the crucial details to be conveyed before that happened. My friend’s mother, in turn, was outraged that I’d been left to wander around town all afternoon with no-one knowing I was there, and sent family members on a rescue mission immediately. Soon after I was sitting in comfort, in their caravan at the caravan park.

At the closing of this saga, let it be noted that I was not even annoyed at my friend (who was always a sweet but slightly vague girl, who had simply got the day of our arrangement wrong) because I was so utterly relieved to finally be settled for the evening. Mostly, I think I was intrigued to meet the creature that had caused me such angst.

A mobile phone in 1988

A mobile phone in 1988

Pic: Talk Talk

It looked something like the one I’ve located in the picture above:  the battery component was about the size of a small suitcase, or a large hard-drive, with a phone attachment on top. It charged in the car, but was used in the caravan – on the odd occasion when it was in range. In 1988, mobile networks were not what they are today.

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Regular readers may be aware that often, though not always, the titles of my posts are titles, or lyrics, from songs. Sometimes I use titles, or lyrics, from Australian songs, and I realise these may not be more widely known, which may hinder some readers from gleaning that there is any ongoing “game” to the titles of my posts. So I just thought I’d clue you in that the title of this post is a lyric from a 1980’s big-hair band called Pseudo Echo. This song sounds a lot like something by Blancmange, if you happen to remember them!

 

And I’m sorry, but I’m not home

So, this post is about the slightly weird synchronicity that happened  when I was “researching” for my previous post (by research I mean, Googling the lyrics to “Hello, this is Joanie”)

There are a lot of handy Lyrics websites out there, but this time I googled the song and happened to select a personal website that had posted the lyrics. (I’m not going to name it here and you’ll see why in just a moment.)

When I landed on the website, I was focused on the song, so I read over the lyrics. They really confirmed in my mind that the inspiration for the song was the newness of the answering machine at that time. As I mentioned in my last post, I know the technology that made recording voices possible had been around for yonks (or possibly even longer),  but it was still a fairly new and strange event to encounter a recorded message when you rang someone.

This was the period when the average person was unused to recording messages and therefore terribly self conscious about it. As a phone rang, you hoped NOT to get an answering machine. When you did, you were disconcerted. Suddenly you had to try and formulate whatever you had been planning to say, into a quick, succinct and clearly enunciated message that would capture all the salient points – hampered all the while by feeling completely self-conscious about the fact that you were talking into a telephone and there was no human at the other end. (At the time, this felt quite strange!) You knew that however stiff and self-conscious your message was, the machine would capture its every nuance and your friend would be able to play it back at high volume, listening as you rambled with barely any coherence, “Ah…ummmm….hi Mildred…..umm…..(cough)….err….I just….ummmm…when are you…..I mean, ummm……can you call me back? ummm….you can get me on……(Beep!).

Naturally these days we speak to machines so frequently that no-one has any self consciousness about it any more, with the exception of my father.

It’s such a mundane thing, isn’t it, a casual, cheery, recorded greeting on an answering machine? Paul Edwards,  the writer of Hello This Is Joanie, realised that it was exactly the mundane and cheery, casual nature of the answering machine message that gave it the potential for some dramatic irony in the imagined situation where someone dies, and their recorded phone greeting is still accessible over and over again by someone who loved them. In the vein of the best black dramas or tragedies, the song’s tragedy is that the message is not a final and heartfelt goodbye, left by someone who knew they were going to die, but a casually recorded “Hi! You’ve rung Joe Bloggs. Leave a message and I’ll call you back”, recorded by a person who was blissfully unaware that their answering machine message would outlive them.

It was perfect material for a song of it’s era, with a tragic twist. If Shakespeare had lived in the 1970’s I’m sure that a similar scenario would have popped up in one of his tragedies.

After I’d pondered all of that, I wondered if the person who’d posted the lyrics on their website had any other interesting music, so I refocused my attention on the rest of their website. It was then that I discovered at the top of the page, a note to say that the owner of the page had passed away in 2010, and that the website was now a memorial to him!

That is what struck me immediately as weird synchronicity. I went looking for a song that’s essentially about a new (at the time) technology allowing someone to listen over and over again to the voice of someone they loved after the person has died. I found the song on a website that is now a memorial to  someone who had recently died.

It struck me that all the blogs, tweets and facebook posts out there now fulfil the role that journals and diaries always had,  the role of capturing and memorialising the every day moments of people’s lives after they have died. By way of example, a local paper, The Herald Sun, reporting on the last known movements of each of the victims of the earthquakes in New Zealand, reported that one young girl, who had just finished exams,  updated her facebook status to say “hoping for a happier future”, then headed into the city and was killed in the earthquake. Probably before most of her friends had read her latest update.

Hello, this is Joanie, and I’m sorry, but I’m not home.

Hello, this is Joanie

A while ago I wrote a post about some songs I would be happy to never hear again. That was because those songs really encapsulated, for me, all that was negative in my childhood and teenage years growing up in a small country town.

Today I was reminded of 2 other songs that I was subjected to over and over again when I was a kid, in this case, by my neighbours. These 2 songs didn’t make my other list because they weren’t “easy listening” soft rock hits, the kind that were played daily in nostalgic rememberance for the “good ol’ days” for over a decade on country radio station 3BA. Hearing them again would be ok, and in fact I did listen to them today on Youtube while writing this post. These songs were contemporary (an important difference!) at the time that our neighbours must have lashed out and bought them on singles, and then proceeded to subject the entire local neighbourhood to them non-stop every day from morning until night.

These particular neighbours were a young, unemployed couple with a baby, who had moved in next door, to rent a tiny flat that had been built as a granny flat for the neighbours’ Grandma. It might have been made of cardboard, judging by the sound levels that carried out of the flat and into the street when they played their records. It couldn’t have been any louder inside the flat. They must have had only the 2 singles, because they played them over and over. and over. and over. and over. and over.

The 2 songs were “Hello, this is Joanie”, released in 1978 by Paul Evans, and “Goosebumps”, released in 1979 by Christie Allen. Goosebumps was a big hit for Christie Allen, and Christie was apparently the darling of Countdown because she lived in Australia and brought a bit of much-needed Aussie female repertoire to the show.  I’d never heard of Paul Evans until I googled “Hello this is Joanie” – and the song itself seems to have dropped right off our collective memories of popular music. Looking it up today, I discovered that it is also known as “Hello This is Joanie – The Telephone Answering Machine Song” . Hmmm……that could be why it didn’t linger in our memories.

For some reason the “hello this is Joanie” clip won’t show up – who knows why? – but you can view it if you copy and paste this address:

Kids: that object in the clip is a telephone with a dial. These were popular in 1978 (there wasn’t any choice), and presumably that enormous thing it’s sitting on must be what an answering machine looked like in 1978!!

I’ve included the lyrics here in case you couldn’t be bothered watching the clip. Warning: it’s a bit of a downer:

Hello, this is Joanie
I'm sorry that I'm not home
But if you leave me your name and number
I promise soon as I get in I'll call

Joanie came over to my house last night
Drank a little too much red and we got into a fight
She said "I'm leaving" and I let her go alone
I felt so damn bad this morning I reached right for the phone
I called her right away
To beg her to forgive
The phone rang once, the phone rang twice
And then I heard her say

Hello, this is Joanie
I'm sorry that I'm not home
But if you leave me your name and number
I promise soon as I get in I'll call

"Joanie I'm sorry and I'm feeling oh so small"
That was the message I left and I waited for her call
I waited with a sinking feeling in my heart
Not knowing if she forgive me was tearing me apart
I couldn't go on this way
I had to call again
The phone rang once, the phone rang twice
And then I heard her say

Hello, this is Joanie
  Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
I'm sorry that I'm not home
But if you leave me your name and number
  Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
I promise soon as I get in I'll call

My phone rang and my heart sang my baby's called at last
Instead it was a friend who said that Joanie's car had crashed
I never should have let her drive alone angry from my place
I'd never hold her again and kiss that funny face
But still there was a way to hear her voice
The phone rang once, the phone rang twice
And then I heard her say

Hello, this is Joanie
I'm sorry that I'm not home
  I'm so sorry for me
If you leave me your name and number
I promise soon as I get in I'll call
  Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh

Hello, this is Joanie
  Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
I'm sorry that I'm not home
But if you leave me your name and number
  Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
I promise soon as I get in I'll call

This reminded me of how far  technology has come since those summer evenings in the late 70’s when I was sipping orange cordial and listening to the neighbours crank up that song on their record player for the 100th time. At the time, answering machine technology was relatively new (I don’t recall seeing one, or  leaving answering machine messages for people, until the late 80’s, so I assume most people didn’t have them until then). It struck me that, at the time, it must have seemed really strange that you could hear someone’s voice saying hi and asking you to leave a message, when they had passed away. Of course the technology that made it possible to record voices had been around for a long time, but it was a new experience to have a recording of someone’s voice giving a casual, cheery greeting, on an answering machine that could cruelly be accessed and replayed every time you rang their phone number.

Anyway, after I’d read the lyrics, and thought about the historical significance of the answering machine in the late 70’s, I began to check out the website that I found the lyrics on, and realised that a kind of spooky synchronicity had occurred. I’m going to write about that in another post because this one is so long already, so stay tuned!

The Google Bot and the Wiki Troll…a modern fairytale

Sometimes it only takes a little comment to stimulate an idea that tantalises me with its possibilities for silliness! Thank you to Fish of Gold for mentioning a wiki troll in your comment on the previous post! With my shocking lack of technological savvy, I don’t recall hearing this term before, but I like it! I enjoy picturing the wiki troll looking a lot like an endearing monster from Where The Wild Things Are. This adds to the visual encyclopedia of I.T. terminology  that exists in my brain, where a Google Bot already resided, looking like some kind of retro robot. Here is my vision……..

A Google Bot in 1982. She later retired and became a vacuum cleaner.

Pic by Ms President

Back in 1982, one of the earliest Google Bots became fed up with trawling the internet. “This is so tedious” she thought, “trawl, trawl, trawl, 24/7, and it’s all stocks and shares, politics, religious fanatics, or posts about what Britney Spears ate for breakfast. Boooooring!” It wasn’t only boring, it was crazy as well, since Britney Spears was only 1 year old back then and her breakfast usually consisted of a bowl of cornflakes or whatever is the equivalent cereal in the U.S. Regardless of this, the bot was sick of reading about it, and if she could have yawned, she would have, but she didn’t have a mouth, so she had to make do with rolling her electronic eyeballs to express her frustration.

The Bot didn’t have many friends where she worked. All the other Google Bots were boring, unimaginative types who were quite happy to chat about what Britney Spears had eaten, and she had pretty much given up trying to converse about anything more interesting with them.

The Bot decided to make a run for it. She made sure her power source was charged up, which meant fiddling with the buttons on her chest. Luckily her neck was springy and extendable, so that she was able to bring her head right down to her chest for a close view. Power seemed fine. She searched her stored files and found an mp3 file of “Born To Be Wild“, which felt appropriate. She had never felt so wild!  (She did not understand irony, or she might have noted that she was not actually born, nor was her purpose to be wild. She was built to follow programmed commands without question. The only reason she even had wheels that would enable her to move anywhere at all was to accommodate the idiotic direction this story seems to be taking.)

So with a thrill of excitement, she hit the play button, and accompanied by the sounds of Steppenwolf, she took off for the exit! She trundled along at 5kmph, across the large factory floor where all the Google Bots lived and worked.

Well dear reader, hours passed, and 376,000 new articles were posted on the internet about Britney Spears, and at last the Bot reached the exit of the factory!  It was an exciting moment. If she could have squealed with excitement, she would have. But she couldn’t, so instead she had to make do with a computerised bleep, to indicate just how thrilled she felt.

The door opened and she felt the cool breeze on her plastic casing. Well, that is, she would have, but she had no tactile sense. Oh well. Instead she had to make do with consulting her information bank, which told her that the air surrounding her was composed of a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen with traces of carbon dioxide, argon, water vapor and other minute components. Mmmm, how exciting!

Just at that exhilarating moment, however, her nerve failed her. Suddenly she was filled with doubts about her own ability to do anything beyond what she already knew in life, which was to stay in one place and trawl the internet. She felt doubtful of her chances of making any new friends, and scared of leaving behind the other Google Bots with whom she shared so much in common. (They didn’t just share a lot in common, they were in fact identical in every way.) She knew the other Google Bots would be completely shocked and disapproving of her behaviour, and she started to worry about what they might say about her, and whether they would ever allow her to come back and visit.  She suddenly realised, too, that she had not prepared any means of charging up her power supply. Ooops! Her power was draining and she only had enough power to get back to her place in the hangar. So she turned around and trundled back in again. She took up her spot on the internet trawling production line, and felt very depressed.

As it happened, however, her employer had expanded the business. The very next day, a group of Wiki Trolls joined the team to ease the pressure on the bots by taking over the trawling of Wikis, a job which had really increased the work load in the last few years. The other Google Bots were adamantly against their boss bringing these “foreigners” into the factory, fearing that as organic, non-computerised creatures, they could not possibly be as thorough and correct as the bots were, and that they would also be prone to such things as emotions and hunger, which could cause them to behave in a distracting fashion.

The only known likeness of a Wiki Troll

Scott Woods-Fehr

At first the trolls looked a bit scary, as they had a habit of roaring their terrible roars and gnashing their terrible teeth, but it became apparent very quickly that they were actually lovable and eager to be friends, and couldn’t help their formidable appearance. They loved a bit of fun, and had a much more easy going attitude to work than the bots. Some bots disapproved of the trolls and thought them lazy, but our little Google Bot was happy to have their company. It brightened up her day to listen to them chatting, and she was very pleased when they included her in their conversation. They seemed to have boundless energy and would sometimes stop work to hold what they called a “wild rumpus” which seemed to consist of a lot of stomping, jumping, and roaring until they wore themselves out, when they would fall all over each other and just immediately go to sleep, snoring loudly and incurring further contempt from most of the Google Bots.

But the little Google Bot found it completely thrilling to work with these creatures. She enjoyed her job again, because of the social interaction with the Wiki Trolls. They had a sense of fun that they imbued their jobs with, despite the fact that trawling Wikis could also be very tedious work. They were generous about including her despite her reserved nature (which was, of course, programmed) and her differences to them. They made her life happy again.

Ahoy there matey! How to text like a pirate. Or is it a poet?

So, those cultural theorist types write entire books about how our access to so much knowledge via the internet, and our ability to communicate instantly with one another via email and texting, does not necessarily  increase the quality of our knowledge OR our communications. Apparently it’s more likely that we all just communicate in a much more superficial way , have lost our ability to really engage meaningfully with each other, measure our own worth by how many “friends” we have on facebook, and are unable to concentrate on anything for more than 10 seconds. Did I say 10 seconds??? Get real. Make that 6 seconds. I feel distracted already.

Anyway, I gather that’s the gist of the argument. I haven’t really followed it,  since I’m too busy checking my email and texting a friend while writing a post on my blog at the same time.

But wait a minute. I know that texting can be a good thing for communications. What is my proof? My brother’s texts.

Maybe for most people, texting does reduce communication – and thought – to a simplified message with little room for flamboyant individual style. But not my brother. Since he got a mobile phone, not only do we communicate more often via texting than we ever did previously via phone, but also, I have a whole new appreciation for his entire sensibility, which seems to be something like an Elizabethan pirate, most likely hailing from Northern England or Ireland. Or sometimes like a mixture of Blackbeard, Shakespeare, and Jack Kerouac all rolled into one. And he is not a student of literature. He does not live in the highlands of Scotland, as some of his turns of phrase might suggest, but Ballarat, Victoria. He works as a welder, has a lot of tatoos, plays in a death metal band, and obviously has a poetic bent when it comes to texting.

Here are some examples of his little pieces of poetic text:

Me: I sent u a pic of J but it won’t go thru! Might see u on weekend.

Shakespeare/Blackbeard:

I canee know why ur pic of J wont send. Tis a strange brew indeed. I mite join ye at ma n pa’s for a wee chinwag.

*

Me: How u going?

Blackbeard/Kerouac: Not too shabby me old mucka. Just ad rhubarb and apple pie for pud. Nummy. Nummy. Num.

*

Jack Kerouac: (on being released from hospital after a “mystery” illness)

Hi dee doodie! I got d aok from d rmh. Said I ave improved remarkably. Feelin groovy. Hope yr feelin groovy. Hope j is tickety boo boop dee do

*

and lastly, just yesterday:

Me: (in relation to Christmas presents) Is The Fellowship Of the Rings the one where Frodo gets that pesky ring in the first place?

Blackbeard/Kerouac: That’s the one. okeekokee, no worries. i’ll give ya a ring this week n ave a yarn. rock on me ol mucker

*

His texts are colorful and as full of character  as he is himself, and it’s always a laugh to receive one. There is the value of modern technology right there.

R, me ♥eez! WTF – WTP!



Looking Inside My Own Eyeball

Last week I saw inside my own eyeball. What I saw was… veins.  No, I wasn’t high (although my pupils were dilated, it was with special drops the optometrist put in for that purpose).

Nor was I the guinea pig in some kind of futuristic science experiment that involved removal of the subject’s eyeball for close examination by the subject (using their remaining eyeball). I simply went for an eye test.

I booked the eye test because I have a tiny speck in my eye that I initially thought was dust. After about 6 months, I realised that it was still there in the same place, and it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be removed with a finger or even via eye drops. The eye test began ordinarily enough with me reading through the usual small letters on a chart about a kilometre away. I felt pretty smug to be able to read the bottom line, and  read out the letters briskly and confidently,  until the optometrist told me to change eyes and when I did, I realised I’d read a “U” as a “V” (or the other way around.)

Suddenly my smugness changed to humility and a sense of failure as I realised I wasn’t someone with perfect 20/20 vision anymore. I realised that I’d deluded myself into thinking all these years that I had 20/20 vision, when in fact my vision was deteriorating so rapidly that I was lucky to be able to see the optometrist, let alone her chart. I realised that from an optometrist’s perspective, I was just another, almost-blind customer, stumbling around trying to pretend she can still see, in order to avoid wearing glasses.

Having realised this, I decided that while I still had my eyes – and could see out of them – I would make good use of them, by attempting to surreptitiously read what prognosis she had tapped into her computer. Alas! My deteriorating vision couldn’t make out what she’d typed on the computer screen only metres from where I was sitting! (I suspected it was probably something along the lines of “suffers from a psychological condition known as phantom vision – she thinks she can see, but it’s all just her imagination” or, “complete removal of both eyes required immediately – Taxi required for trip home.”)

www.boingboing.net

Don’t worry, this one is prosthetic and not mine.

Then the test became more like a sci-fi experiment, as I had to put my  head in a clamp and have light shone into my eyes while I looked at a white spot. I suspected she was doing more than just checking my eyeball out, and perhaps she had access to more than just a view of my retinas. I thought it might be possible that I emerge from the optometrist’s office with my memory modified – or totally eradicated –  or with the decision to blow up the Reserve Bank planted in my brain.

As she whizzed and whirred away with lenses, lights, lasers and other gizmos, I was also distracted by the fact that I could see,  in the corners of my eyes, the veins in the back of my eyeball. It was quite surreal, seeing into the back of my own eyes!

Anyway, for anyone wondering, it turns out that the little speck of dust in my eye is called a “floater” and is not a speck of dust but part of my eye -a bit that came loose, or something.  Eww! Apparently it’s nothing to worry about – unless I also see flashing lights, in which case  I should worry a lot as it could indicate that the retina is detatching! (Ewww again!) Apparently a “floater” is quite common and rarely indicates anything more serious, and should just sort of “dissolve” after a while.

BTW, The picture above is from Boing Boing. Apparently this woman has a prosthetic eye and is hoping to have a camera installed inside it. Sounds kinda cool! But when googling for images of “eyeballs” I had to cover my own eyes! I can’t look at people doing icky things to their eyes! (Even when I know it’s a tatoo or computer generated trickery)

PS.  Writing this post I realised that a theme is emerging, as this is now the third post I’ve written about eyes. (see Rhino with boiled egg eyes, Girl with avocado eyes) I might have anticipated it would be writing, or music, (which I’ve barely mentioned) or art, that might become themes on this blog, but no, so far it has been moustaches and now eyes. There you go.

Maybe that dream about a rhino with boiled egg eyes was telling me something back in October. That I needed to have an eye test.

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