My Technophobe

Paspartout is a technophobe. She doesn’t just fear/avoid new technology (or what she refers to as all things ”touchy-swipey”), she’s a borderline Luddite – the Satnav sits in her lap (with the sound off and instructions relayed to me as I drive, with constant references to the oversized paper roadmap), my MacBook is viewed as unnecessary, Cloud Computing off-worldly, and the iPhone is her personal shuttle loom (getting her to answer it for me whilst we’re in the car is met with something akin to “aagh, don’t let the carrots touch the peas!”). Her own phone is still an old QWERTY Nokia – in fact, I recently bought her a new Nokia 3310 just so she could have some colour in her life! So, as you can probably imagine, getting her to embrace new technology is a somewhat Sisyphean struggle. Of course, by contrast, she’s a regular Facebook and email user, but enough of her contradictions.

The way I see it I have two choices – education or divorce (penal transportation has recently fallen out of favour, from what I hear). And isn’t that true of a lot of technology? We humans seem to have an almost bi-polar relationship with it. At one end of the spectrum there are those that embrace it just “because” (“gadget freak” gets bandied about in our house, though I prefer the term “early adopter”), and at the other we have the afore-mentioned Luddites. As for myself, I’d like to think I sit somewhere in between. In the interest of fence preservation, you understand.

So what is this resistance to change? I’m often faced with questions like “what’s the point?” and “why do I need to?” And you know, sometimes I’m not sure I have an answer. Well, OK, that’s not strictly true. You see, the bigger picture is actually pretty obvious to me: the more we experiment with technology, the better and more useful it will eventually become – the more able we are to address those issues previously left … well, unaddressed. Ultimately, it’s about improving our lot.

I think I understand where my Luddite is coming from, though. In the last couple of years I’ve seen a number of emerging technologies that frankly I struggle to see a valid, mainstream, purpose in (some wearables, for example, such as the Fin, Logbar’s Ring, etc.), but at the same time, I also see their development as absolutely necessary. Invention and imagination are both key in moving us forward from the future’s very own dark ages. And hopefully, there will be elements of those technologies that fall out into others that become more mainstream. At the same time, though, educating the market as to the need and/or benefit is as important as the experimentation itself. There has to be either uptake of that particular technology, or an ability to transfer portions of it directly into others, in order to move it forward.

Although, convincing people who aren’t natural early adopters, to take up new technology “just because” is a different matter. This is where my “but it’s cool” isn’t enough – you need a strategy. You need an answer to “why?” Whenever anyone asks me about that, I often reply with only one word – Velcro. What the invention of Velcro has proved is that a lot of other stuff – perhaps with a more easily understood application – falls out of the larger stuff. Thank you, NASA. Whilst the larger stuff might not have an obvious tangible benefit to most of us, there are benefits that affect the more mundane. Stuff like Velcro.

Although I sometimes think that divorce would be the less painful of the choices available to me, I’ve become rather attached to my Paspartout over the years, and so it looks as though my Sisyphean struggle is set to continue for the foreseeable future. If I’m honest, I don’t at all mind – just don’t tell the missus that.


Piffle, drivel, bollocks and shite
Four eloquences with which to write.
When I touch my artist’s pen to scroll
I nearly almost use them all.

Each stanza, line, and paragraph
Displays my elegance (in draft).
My mind, just like a rapier poised,
More oft to drift, as radio noise.

But with my lowly sang-froid self
My folio sits unread a’shelf.
I ponder on where reader went
But find my august wonder spent.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria (Miller)…

It’s rare that I’m moved to write to an MP, as I generally find that they’re odious creatures, oozing self-importance, and with whom contact will only result in the overwhelming and immediate need for a shower. However, yesterday I sent an email to Maria Miller. She’s the Member for Parliament for Basingstoke, and has mis-claimed over £45,000 in expenses, but only required by her peers to pay back £5,800 of it and give a formal apology to the house (which she duly did – it was in front of an almost notional level of attendees, and lasted 32 seconds).

Dear Maria

Can I call you Maria? I do hope so – I’d like us to be friends, and hopefully I can kick-start that friendship by asking for some advice.

How do you manage to not get arrested, prosecuted, and then incarcerated for stealing £45,000? I’m amazed that you’re still “at large” (as they would probably say on Crimewatch), never mind still employed. If I’d stolen £45,000 from my employer, I wouldn’t be sat here now wasting my time writing you an email that, no doubt, one of your minions will protect you from, no – I’d be ‘banged up good and proper’ with my fellow criminals. And you’d probably agree that I should be there, and quite rightly too.

Your audacity is a wonder to behold, and I applaud you for it. By that, I mean I wish you all the very worst that life can throw at you. You have betrayed the public of this nation with your deceit and hubris.

Shame on you.

Warmest regards

PS: Do please get in touch, I really do see a future in this relationship – I’d love to come and visit you. By the way, what is the nearest women’s prison to Basingstoke?

I received an automated reply, which was more than I’d bargained for, it has to be said. The thing that really made me chuckle (it happens) was that, the instant I sent it, I received an email regarding a petition on demanding her resignation (or a return of the £45k). I signed it. Obviously. Of course, subsequent searches for “Maria Miller” on now return pages of petitions in which she’s mentioned, a half-dozen of which call for her resignation/arrest.

I’m off to watch my sing-along copy of “The Sound of Music”. No points for guessing which part gets the most noise complaints from the neighbours…


by Terry Bisson

“They’re made out of meat.”


“Meat. They’re made out of meat.”


“There’s no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.”

“That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?”

“They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don’t come from them. The signals come from machines.”

“So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.”

“They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.”

“That’s ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat.”

“I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they’re made out of meat.”

“Maybe they’re like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage.”

“Nope. They’re born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn’t take long. Do you have any idea what’s the life span of meat?”

“Spare me. Okay, maybe they’re only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside.”

“Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They’re meat all the way through.”

“No brain?”

“Oh, there’s a brain all right. It’s just that the brain is made out of meat! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

“So … what does the thinking?”

“You’re not understanding, are you? You’re refusing to deal with what I’m telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat.”

“Thinking meat! You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat!”

“Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?”

“Omigod. You’re serious then. They’re made out of meat.”

“Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they’ve been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years.”

“Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?”

“First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual.”

“We’re supposed to talk to meat.”

“That’s the idea. That’s the message they’re sending out by radio. ‘Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.’ That sort of thing.”

“They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?”
“Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat.”

“I thought you just told me they used radio.”

“They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat.”

“Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?”

“Officially or unofficially?”


“Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing.”

“I was hoping you would say that.”

“It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?”

“I agree one hundred percent. What’s there to say? ‘Hello, meat. How’s it going?’ But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?”

“Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can’t live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact.”

“So we just pretend there’s no one home in the Universe.”

“That’s it.”

“Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You’re sure they won’t remember?”

“They’ll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we’re just a dream to them.”

“A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat’s dream.”

“And we marked the entire sector unoccupied.”

“Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?”

“Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again.”

“They always come around.”

“And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone …”

Surely No-One Likes Tech Support

I’ve been filling in for our support guy this week, as he’s been off ill, and for reasons that may or may not become clear (this is just a rant, after all), no-one else really seems that interested in manning the support line (oh, and it just so happens that my extension number is next in the hunt group – funny that).

I have to say that some of our customers are absolute fucktards – there, I said it. They really are, though. In a normal world, most people will just ‘google’ something (apparently, it’s a new verb – to google, meaning to spend as little time as possible whilst at work, actually doing work, but instead using up valuable internet electrons to discover who’s tupping the currently most popular Kardashian – whatever one of those is). In this case, however, they’d rather spend time in a telephone queue, listening to a mediocre at best impression of Stephen Hawking telling them how important their call is to us, or emailing in their foetid whinings, then (presumably) going back to Kardashian Watch (I’ve heard it’s a bit like Spring Watch, but with bigger tits).

The drivel that comes through – “what’s a vendor?“, “I don’t know if we’re getting email or not“, “do I have to tell anyone, or can I just restart the server?” – each of which can be answered simply: dictionary, I think you do, and yes you can.

If you don’t know what a vendor is, you probably shouldn’t be working anywhere in the supply stream, and let’s face it – we ALL work somewhere in the supply stream, no matter what we do for a living. Go home early, you’re really not contributing in the constructive manner expected of you.

Not sure if you’re getting mail or not? Really? Shall we visit that uncertainty using a not so gentle example of parallelism? If you’re not sure whether you’re being punched in the face by a rabid Alpaca wearing spandex and a cape, odds on you’ve either been punched so much/hard that it’s a wonder you’re still in a fit state to even postulate such a thing, or you’re not. It’s quite simple. Or, if this helps: check your server queues, internet connection, or – heaven forfend – your fucking inbox!

Do you have to tell anyone? This is a tricky one, and I suppose the answer depends on any number of things – your love of grammatical construction, how long you wish to remain in your current employ, and the observational skills of those in a position to terminate said employ, to mention but a few. Think about the position you’re in, as a system admin. You’re responsible for a server that a large number of individuals connect to throughout the working day, and which hosts a system that itself is responsible for recording and progressing the IT Change Management process for your entire organisation. Now think carefully about your question, just one more time.

Sweet Christ in a wok – I ask you!

Some of them even start with “Bob did tell me before, but I can’t remember“, or “which one’s the help key? I pressed what I thought it was but just got sent to a web site“. Yes, that was the ON-LINE HELP, you twat!!

“F1 motherfucker! Learn for yourself – it’s YOUR JOB!!” is what I want to shout at them, but I don’t. Instead, I just simply hang my head, in homage to Eyore, and pray for the speedy arrival of 5 o’clock. Or death. Today, I have a preference, and yes, it’s probably death.

Oh wait, it’s 5 o’clock.