Thursday, 24 January 2019

Digital Mysteries

Every now and again a flood of so-called comments arrives from Anonymous, usually about one particular post, often one that was written ages ago. The comments show absolutely no sign that the writers - (who/which are probably robots [and how long will it be before it will be considered as offensive to mention that difference as it is currently to mention that there is a difference between a woman and a transgender woman; rights for robots, AI can cry etc]) - have read a word of the piece in question.

These are typical of the genre:

Everything is very open with a really clear description of the challenges. It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful. Thank you for sharing”

Yeah bookmaking thios wasn't a speculative decision outstanding post!“

"I absolutely love your blog and find the majority of your posts to be just what I’m lookin for. Do you offer guest writers to write content for yourself? I wouldn’t mund creating a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome web log!”

What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious know-how about unpredicted emotions”

Incredible points. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the good work”

There is some kind of scam going on here, obviously, but what is it? Can anyone explain (ideally not Mr Anonymous, thanks all the same).

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Signs and Portents

On the way up  Mount Ainslie in Canberra, near where my house is, there is a gum tree that someone cut down several years ago. Its beheaded log lies beside the path, not far from the summit, and every time I see it, I think of the time when my brother fell mortally ill.

When the doctors first suggested my brother’s life might be much more limited than we had hoped it would be, I showed him a photograph of that tree trunk. What makes it noticeable is the fact that, although it is supposed to be defeated and appears to have been ripped from its roots and left to die, it has somehow managed to sprout a row of saplings out of its side and they are growing fairly quickly into full sized trees.

“Signs and portents”, my brother said when he looked at my picture.

I remembered that moment the other day, as I was coming down the mountain, having passed that tree - or trunk or set of saplings, depending on your perspective - again. A little while after, I ran into someone I often meet up there. We don't know each other, except in that context and, if we are in a hurry, we have to try to avoid each other as, each time we meet, we fall into long and interesting conversations for which we do not always have time.

That day I was not in a hurry, and I trust that she wasn't either, because, as usual, we talked and talked. She told me that, like me, she had recently lost a sibling - in her case, a sister. She said that she and her sister, together with a third sister, had all been going to classes to learn sign language before the sister who is now dead fell ill.

Following the sister's death, once they had pulled themselves together, the two remaining sisters went back to those classes. And my friend from the mountain said that at that first lesson back they were asked to describe their families using sign language. She described how she watched her remaining sister sign that she had only one sister and was shocked, thinking that her sister had made a mistake. "You've got two sisters", she signed in response, and it was only at that moment that it came to her that she didn't. Each of them only had one sister now. She finally understood.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Getting a Bucketing & Early Morning Calls

This morning someone I know on Twitter responded to new year greetings with a yawn or two, as he had been kept awake by people in his neighbourhood - yahoos, as he called them, and hadn’t slept a wink. I said that sometimes on our street in Budapest we suddenly get woken by crowds of Spanish holiday makers who for some reason decide to take a stroll  down our street at anywhere between 2 & 4.30 in the morning, singing & shouting & shrieking. I keep meaning to have a bucket on the balcony, I explained, filled with compost or such like, ready to chuck at them, but I’m never well enough  organised & anyway I’m much  too scared.

At the mention of buckets, another Twitter friend joined the conversation  She had been reminded of a summer holiday she’d spent in a peaceful old house in Maine, on the water, with some friends, a couple of whom had two boys aged about 10-12.  This was her story:

“The boys,  liked to yell and scream and kick balls around the quiet waterfront lawn constantly - boys will be boys - but one sunny day they were out of control outside and would not move or stop when I repeatedly - and sweetly! - asked them to.  So finally I got a big bucket, filled it with water, and walked calmly over to them when they were -unusually - standing still, and tipped it all over both of them.  (I was younger and stronger then). They were stunned and amazed & outraged.  As were their parents.  (I was pretty shocked myself!) I told them, it’s only water.  It won’t hurt you.  You’ll soon be dry.  And I reminded them that I had tried several times to ask them nicely.  Etc.  After that their parents kept a closer eye on them, they became more considerate, and we all had a happy holiday together.  However....not sure tipping water from above on strangers below would yield such satisfactory results.  (And no, it wasn’t on my ‘bucket list’.  (groan) I don’t have one.  And they didn’t exist back in those more innocent days.) 💦”

This led me to remember a night years ago we spent in an old hotel in France, near the sea. In the late afternoon, a couple of flash cars with folded down convertible roofs arrived, crowded with the kind of young creatures that I had read about & at last had the chance to see in the wild - a bunch of the jeunesse dorée (you can see similar types any day, swishing about near Five Ways, Paddington, Sydney). They piled into the pretty house across the road & proceeded to make an ever increasing racket, going on right through the night until 5.45 am. Even our children, never known to go willingly to bed, were weeping & asking us to get the neighbours to stop the party by 3 am.

But the neighbours wouldn’t. We went over several times but each time they told us to rack off. The hotel owner said they came every year & were the local gentry, so there was nothing that could be done (hang on, I thought you French had a revolution). We were stumped.

But we got our revenge, which was something.

Leaving the next morning, we first stopped our car outside the house of the offenders & leaned on the horn, continuing until every last occupant of the cars that had arrived the afternoon before had emerged onto verandas or balconies, moaning, clutching their hungover heads & begging us to stop.

What is the moral of these stories, I wonder? Become a hermit perhaps, or think of others, especially after dark.

A very happy new year.