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‘The problem with quotes on the internet is that you never know which ones are real.’ Abraham Lincoln.

pinocchiI laughed when I read that statement.  It seemed entirely appropriate, considering we pretty much find ourselves in the position now of not knowing whether anything we read these days (on-line or off) is actually true.

And then I stopped.  Why am I laughing?  It’s really not all that funny . . .newsman

I used to think that there was the ‘news’ and the ‘not news’.  The reputable newspapers or the nightly TV news bulletins were for the real news.  You got honest, unbiased reporting on what was happening locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.  Sources were cited and stories substantiated and verified.  Journalists and their agencies could even be sued if they got their facts wrong!

mag1Then there was the ‘not news’—the lightweight, fluffy, entertaining stuff—opinion pieces, TV shows, tabloids, magazines etc—some of whom did indeed market themselves as news-worthy but were, shall we say . . . a little less vigilant in their fact-checking.  But that was okay, because these entities were in the business of selling stories, and we knew it.  We could tell the difference.

celebrity1I am not knocking the not-news by the way—I love my trashy magazines.  I look at the pictures of the rich and (in)famous, scoff at their style choices (really, all her money and she is wearing that!); read about their trials and tribulations (I had no idea how hard is was to get a diamond-studded collar for your cat these days) and marvel at how celebrities manage to spend so much time ‘hooking up’ with each other in between jetting between continents, special appearances, award shows and the occasional making of a blockbuster movie.

(I see Brad Pitt has been a very busy boy over the last couple of weeks.  Not only was he seen getting very flirty with Courtney Cox but he also seems to be in a hot and heavy relationship (and expecting a baby) with Kate Hudson—all the while fending of the ‘I’m sorry I made a mistake’ advances of Angelina Jolie!  No wonder he is looking a little weary these days . . . )

newspapersBut now we also have ‘fake news’ to contend with (ooops, sorry—I believe the expression is now ‘alternative facts‘)  and the problem is we can no longer easily differentiate between legitimate reporting and something that has been totally fabricated.  Fake news is not like not-news.  Fake news is deliberately manufactured to look like credible journalism and then used to manipulate the public.  Now, I am not entirely naive. It’s not like we (the public) have never been manipulated before, I’m pretty sure it happens a lot, but previously the purpetrators at least had the decency to look somewhat embarrassed when they were caught out, instead of just trying to feed us more crap.1984

It pisses me off (in case you hadn’t already guessed . . . ) and I am pleased to see that it seems to piss a lot of other people off too.  Of course being pissed off about it doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.  The very last thing we can afford to do is be complacent, or we might indeed one day be faced with our very own Orwellian future.

crankyAnyway, I’ve had my little vent and so I’ll stop now.  Mostly because there are plenty of other people out there already venting on exactly the same subject—but also because I have a day off today and I don’t particularly want to work myself up into a really bad temper this early in the day.

You really wouldn’t like me when I’m in a really bad temper . . . 

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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“What’s Plan B?’ ‘We all die now.’ ‘What’s Plan C?” Joss Whedon.

Earlier this week at the college we had all sorts of dramas processing Credit Card payments.  In the first instance a lady came in to pay her course fees and the dreaded response from the Credit Card machine came back—’Declined. Contact Issuer.’

empty purse flyingTwo hours later the same thing happened with another student, and again a little later on.  By this time we had realised that the problem was at the bank rather than with the students’ cards, but knowing that didn’t really help those people who were unable to pay their fees—or do anything else that required a credit card or bank transaction for the rest of the outage. (One student only had a few dollars in her purse and still needed to go and get groceries for that night’s dinner.  Without access to her any of her money that was a somewhat difficult proposition.)

broken-computerAnyone who works in business . . . or in an office . . . or a school . . . or a supermarket . . . or for the government . . . or, well, anywhere else at all really, will be well aware of the frustration that occurs when the computer, phone, printer, scanner, or ‘whatever’ isn’t working properly—or even at all.  I know that when the technology goes down at the college (or the power goes off altogether as it has done several times lately) I might as well just pack up and go home for the day (or sit outside the office in the sun and read the paper which is what I did last time it happened.) 

Now I have nothing against technology.  Technology has made my own life safer, healthier, and easier to manage.  And, in my working life, although the newer technologies can bring with them their own set of frustrations (and they do, they really do) there is no way I would want to go back to ‘the way we were’.

Gestetner

Gestetner

(I have vivid memories of retyping whole letters or documents several times a day (on a cranky old typewriter) because my boss had decided, just as I finished, to re-write the last paragraph . . . or using messy carbon papers for duplicate or triplicate copies . . . or worse, stencils for (hand-cranked) gestetners or . . . OMG . . .  that godawful flouro-pink-stencil-correcter that used to make your eyes water and bring on a searing headache.  Okay, showing my age here, but I bet there are a few of you out there that know exactly what I am talking about . . . )

Although I have no inclination to return to those earlier (dawn of man) days, it does concern me slightly at how much we take it all for so very much for granted.  It seems that it is only when all the whizz-bang technology stops working that we realise how powerful our technology is, and how very much we depend on it.

plan-b‘They’ (the ubiquitous ‘they’) say it could never happen, and they are probably right (although the sci-fi geek within me definitely screams otherwise)—but what ifjust what if one day all our technology comes crashing down . . . and never comes up again?
What then?  What do we do then?  Is there a Plan B?  Do you have a Plan B?

It’s worth thinking about.

And for those readers-of-a-certain-age (and friends who may now be reminiscing over long-ago experiences with telex machines and ‘ticker’ tape) here’s a little poem I found that you might find amusing . . .

Remember When

A computer was something on TV
From a sci fi show of note.
A window was something you hated to clean
And ram was the cousin of goat.

Meg was the name of my girlfriend
And gig was a job for the nights.
Now they all mean different things
And that really mega bytes.

An application was for employment.
A program was a TV show.
A curser used profanity.
A keyboard was a piano.

Memory was something that you lost with age.
A CD was a bank account.
And if you had a 3 1/2″ floppy
You hoped nobody found out.

Compress was something you did to the garbage
Not something you did to a file.
And if you unzipped anything in public
You’d be in jail for a while.

Log on was adding wood to the fire.
Hard drive was a long trip on the road.
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived.
And a backup happened to your commode.

Cut you did with a pocket knife.
Paste you did with glue.
A web was a spider’s home.
And a virus was the flu

I guess I’ll stick to my pad and paper
And the memory in my head.
I hear nobody’s been killed in a computer crash,
But when it happens they wish they were dead.

James S. Huggins.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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