The Ruminator

Come on up and grab yourself a beer.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Computing for Dummies

When it comes to computers, my attitude is essentially that of Socrates – the only thing I know is that I know nothing.

Actually that is not quite true. I know a little bit, but I am very aware of my own ignorance. I’m good at figuring out the simple processes, and can find my way around those programs designed for people with basic computer literacy, but no real training. Bet you can tell that by looking at my blog.

I know how to fiddle around with programs until I figure things out. I also know when to leave things the hell alone and call in the experts, thus preventing me from pulling any spectacular FUBARs on my own equipment. I also know the value of a backup disk.

Still, despite my extremely elementary level of computing skills, I have somehow become the office ‘expert’ because of how much more I know than the other staff (although admittedly there are only 9 or 10 of them). And this is really quite frightening. I once thought that this was because of my age (see previous post on this subject), but even the young staff members have been coming up with some astonishing questions lately.

Below is a sample of the problems which have been brought to me just in the past week. My internal monologue is in italics (actually some of this I said out loud too), and the age of the person is given in brackets, because surely some of these people should know better.

SM (32): Marissa, I think this floppy disk you gave me is broken. It won’t save. Look – it just keeps saying ‘disk is write-protected’. What the hell does that mean?
M: Hmmmmm, well, let’s look at Mr Disk shall we? See this little black plastic tab? [Click] write-protect off [click] write-protect on [click] write-protect off . . . Magic!

SM (36) Marissa, can you install this program for me? I don’t know how.
M: Take installation disk. Put in computer. When installation program boots up, keep hitting the thing which says ‘Next’ until it isn’t there any more, which means it is time to click the thing which says ‘Finish’ instead.

SM (36) Marissa, I thought you said you saved those photos on the network drive for me. But my computer won’t open them, see?
M: Well, not if you try opening a jpg file with Microsoft Word, no. [What IS it with these people who think Word opens everything!]

SM (23) Marissa, can you open this Acrobat file for me? You have a much more updated version of Acrobat than I do.
M: Yes. Now, see this little picture on your screen which says ‘Download Adobe Acrobat’ . . .

I won’t even go into the night (approximately 7pm) I had to spend 30 minutes trying to explain how to use a scanner (Put document face-down on scanner. Press big, glowing button . . .). And all of these inane questions are happening while I’m busy trying to do my actual job – the one they pay me for. Sometimes I just really want to scream.

Of course, it is also possible that I am an impatient, unsympathetic, patronising bitch.

Nah, I didn’t think so either.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Pick a woman, any woman

I have a confession to make.

Last night, for the first time in my life, I watched The Bachelor. Actually The Bachelor II – the first of a new series. There are so many things wrong with this program that I have no hope of doing the subject justice here, but I would like to make a couple of observations.

The first thing that struck me was the fact that everyone on the show was instantly recognisable as an American. And this is kind of strange when you think about it. There is no such thing as an ‘ethnic American’. Yet put any of these people with a group of others of the same ethnic background but different nationality, and you would instantly be able to pick the Americans. Whether it is all that cosmetic dental work, the hair, the body language, or some other indefinable element, something is instantly recognisable. Perhaps I should say they were instantly recognisable as a certain type of American – I realize that not all Americans look like that. Specifically I mean larger than life, huge toothy grins, and a certain plastic quality. Even the token Black and Asian girls looked, on some strange subconscious level, exactly like all the others. How The Bachelor in question (a pilot who looked like he was produced by Mattel) managed to tell them apart long enough to pick 15 from the initial 25 is a mystery to me.

The women were also all of another particular ‘type’. I used to think there were a lot of stereotypes of women that were just that – stereotypes. Surely there weren’t really people like that out there, or at least not more than a handful. Like the ‘Bridget Jones’ type, who actually knows the calorie content of every single thing she consumes. Or the woman who seriously believes in ‘The Rules’ - man ALWAYS pursues woman; only respond to one out of his four messages; "you must be a creature unlike any other" (What, a bizarre genetic mutation? And how can you be "unlike any other" if you are doing exactly the same thing as a bunch of other people reading this shit?). Or in this case, the ‘Muriel’ stereotype. The woman (or girl) who has been dreaming of her wedding day since she was 8 years old, and has a scrapbook full of dress designs, and cakes, and napkins, and has never thought of what happens the day after the wedding when you wake up next to some guy you have just vowed to (theoretically) spend the rest of your life with. Apparently all these types of women actually exist. Actually, judging from The Bachelor, there are a lot of women who are all those stereotypes at once.

There was the woman who said “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be a wife, a mother, a lover. Whatever it takes.” You could almost hear the unspoken “Oh dear lord, pick me, pick me, PICK ME GOD DAMN IT!”

There was the woman who said “I’ve pretty much done everything I wanted to do. I’ve settled into my career. I have all my friends. Now I think it’s time for me to share my life with someone”. She was twenty-four. Anyone who has done everything they wanted to do with their life by the time they are twenty-four has neither imagination nor ambition.

I think some of these women would benefit from being allowed to just go out and blow thousands of dollars on a dress, a cake, and a big mother of a party. To have the world revolve around them for the day - that’s all they really seem to want from marriage.

Failing that a good smack in the face would work wonders.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Polyester Girls (and Boys)

Interesting vignette in The Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend about the use of Botox injections by movie stars. Botox is popular with actors and models because it reduces the appearance of wrinkles. It does this by paralysing facial muscles. The casting director quoted in this article estimated that one-third of the actors he saw had used Botox. The idea of deliberately freezing your facial muscles in a desperate attempt to look younger is quite a frightening, reality-removed act, although not as bad as having a couple of ribs removed so you have a more dramatic waistline. Or the ability to give yourself a blowjob apparently. Anyway I was rather amused to read that directors and casting agents are weeding out actors who have had Botox injections. Why? Well funnily enough if you have just had all the muscles in your face paralysed, you tend to lose a lot of facial expression. And unless you are churning out B-grade skin flicks, having actors who have more than one facial expression tends to be a necessity. Presumably this is not an issue for models.

Speaking of people with plastic faces, another interesting SMH article today was on why it is that reality television has destroyed Michael Jackson’s reputation, but boosted Ozzy Osbourne’s. This is, after all, a man once famous for biting the head off a bat.

The bottom line seems to be that The Osbournes showed a family on one level deeply weird, but on another level very familiar and accessible. Whereas Living with Michael Jackson just proved how far off the planet we had always suspected him to be.

The Osbournes have problems that normal people don’t – sibling rivalry over Kelly’s musical career, Jack’s obsession with weapons, Ozzy’s shambling reign as the Prince of Darkness. But at the end of the day they aren’t that different to normal people. They shout at each other a lot, but also love each other to death. Ozzy’s very human reaction to his problems is to dive right into the chemical substances, be they alcoholic or prescribed anti-depressants.

On the other hand, Michael Jackson’s reaction to his inner turmoil is to completely rebuild his face into something from a Tim Burton movie, lock himself permanently in a theme park, and sleep with small children.

One of these approaches will win you sympathy, affection, and a certain amount of amused admiration. The other generates the sort of horrified fascination of a car crash, followed by a nasty taste in the mouth and the sudden urge to have a shower.