Monday 5 May 2014

Well that's what you get for calling tech support!

I was watching Futurama the other night when I was amused by the consequences of calling tech support at Mom's friendly robot company.
Bender, the robot in the show, worries he is defective, and so calls Mom's to get some help with his wiring.
Mom, the viciously autocratic matriarch of the corporation, incensed by this temerity, calls down a missile strike on the phone booth from which Bender is calling.
A different explosion, but part of the same show.
Hermes walks out of the smoke and
flames. Bender watching on.
It lands, and blows Bender out of the booth and he comes to a rolling, smoking halt at the feet of his friend Hermes, who is helping him with his campaign to find out if he is defective.
The smoke and flames clear and Hermes says to Bender, "Who'd you call dial-a-bomb?"
I mention all that because I have no doubt most of you who are reading this have at one time or another been humiliated beyond belief by the 14-year-old who answers the phone in the tech support section when you call to get help with your computer.
Quite frankly, I think dial-a-bomb is a bloody good idea, and I'd like it to be "other-end-of-the-phone-call" capable.
"I don't know if I've got service pack four, you f$%^ing arseholes!"
So when the 14-year-old says, "Is your computer a 5-Omicron-Xe?", and you don't know and he clicks his tongue in exasperation at your ignorance, you can hit the missile symbol on your phone pad and have an inbound strike take out the source of your exasperation at the other end of the line.
So I thought it would be an opportune time to mention the two most famous stories from tech support, and one of my own, from my days teaching computers.
The best known is about the coffee cup holder.
The story goes that someone rings up tech support and says, "I wonder if you can help me? I can't get my coffee cup holder to come out."
The guy at tech support then goes bemusedly through things with the caller until he eventually realizes that the caller is talking about his CD-ROM drive.
This comes out of a slot when you press the button on the front of the computer.
Apparently the caller would press the button and then rest his coffee on it.
However, I am certain this is an urban myth, I certainly haven't been able to find any reliable attestation to it, but it's a good story.
The reason I'm sure it's untrue is that if you are silly enough to do this, your coffee cup will fall off due to the inadequate support for such a weight.
Do not put your coffee cup here!

The next one is a guy rings tech support, and asks for help as he can't get his computer to turn on.
The tech support staffer then asks a range of questions, he says. "have you integrated your power supply at source? [This is computer speak for "is it plugged in?"]
The caller says "yes".
Then the staffer asks more questions, "is the green light on the front of the computer glowing?" and the caller says. "no".
So they move on trying various things.
Eventually the tech support staffer asks the caller to check the cords at the back of the computer to make sure they haven't been knocked out, or are in any other way out of kilter, to which the caller replies, "I can't really check that, it's real dark back there, because currently my building is blacked out."
Then (apparently) the tech support staffer says, "O--o--kayy".
"What you need to do is get your computer and pack it back in the box it came in and send it back to the manufacturer."
The caller then says, "Oh, will they be able to fix it?"
And the tech support staffer says, "no, but if you're so fucking stupid that you tried to turn it on during a blackout then you don't deserve to have one."
Again, I'm not sure if this is true, but it's so unlikely, that there's every chance.

And so to my time teaching computers.
When back in the IT world I took a job teaching this subject in Sydney's west.
They were one-off classes to help people with no knowledge get started.
To say these people were terrified barely hints at the scale of their fear.
Most like this think they are going to break the computer, or do something piffling that leads to catastrophic consequences when they call the fourteen-year-old at tech support.
Anyway, in one of my classes was an older Polish lady.
She wanted to learn to use email so she could keep in touch with her family back in Europe.
She definitely fitted the "I've-got-no-knowledge" category.
So I began and I leaned over the computer and said, "Okay, what I'd like you to do is bring your mouse over this email icon".
I pointed to the icon on the screen.
So she picked up her mouse off the desk and placed it on the screen, as I've demonstrated in the picture.
Immediately I realized two things: firstly, she had done absolutely what I'd asked her, no question.
My student had done exactly as instructed!
And second, I was in for a long day.
However, I'd like to think that I have a great empathy for people who are terrified, as I've mentioned ad nauseum, I spent the first fifteen years of my life in terror.
So I went to work with her, and by the end of the class, we had got her to the point where she sent her first email to a grandchild back in Poland.
She went away from the class with a list of instructions as long as her arm, and I'd like to think she enjoyed much eCommunication from then on.

And just before we leave the world of computers, I think you can see from the above story why people like my Polish elderly lady student are so vulnerable to internet scams.
Those of us who are vastly experienced in the area can spot the scam, but for people like my student, it seems all to plausible.
When the email arrives from Nigeria asking for help to get ten million dollars out of the country, we can spot it, but people who are new to the world of the net, particularly the elderly, can be easily taken in.
And not just the elderly.
I saw on the British investigative journalism show, Mackintyre undercover, a heart rending story about an English couple in the early forties, who were taken in by these slick Nigerians to the tune of ₤60,000!
They agreed to be interviewed for the Mackintyre show, and told the camera, "It was just so slick and so plausible. First they asked for small amounts, ₤500 to buy a new computer, ₤1,000 to get net access to the bank. all things they needed to get things moving, our finder's fee of ₤1,000,000 for helping them was always just a week away."
"We just kept thinking it has to happen soon, but in the end we had to face the horrible truth that we had been scammed, done like a dinner."
So we all have to be on watch, the rule of thumb from the cyber-police fraud squad is, "If it seems to good to be true, then it almost certainly is."
Also, the story above about the tech support staffer who said "send back your computer, 'cause you're too fucking stupid to have one", reminded me, sort of, of a story told to me by my friend Sean when living back in Canada.
Sean's younger brother Todd, aged 16, was working at their local McDonald's in Toronto.
One Saturday he and another 16-year-old, Sam, were on lock down shift.
This meant that they waited for all the customers to leave, midnight was the closing time, and then put all the food away, cleaned up, then locked the doors and left.
Well one Saturday things were as normal, they had sent the last customers out, locked the doors and then turned to face the cleaning job.
At this point something clicked in Sam's head and he went nuts.
He just couldn't face another Saturday night cleaning up, so instead, he went bezerk and got all the food and began hurling it with vicious intent all around the restaurant.
Fries, burgers, buns, muffins, oil from the fry cookers, it all went in a kaleidoscopic spray around the place.
He squirted the shakes out of the dispenser into cups and then threw them everywhere.
Within minutes the place, said Sean, relating Todd's story, looked like a machine gun had been packed with food and then fired at the walls, floor and roof.
Then, Sam, spent, stopped, and turned a wild-eyed look at Todd and then ran off into the night divesting himself of his McDonald's uniform as he went.
So now Todd was alone in a trashed restaurant at just past midnight on a Saturday.
This Maccas is clean compared with the one Sam trashed.
He took a few minutes to contemplate the vista, then began to think "what to do?"
After a bit of thought he decided he better ring the boss.
So he called up the franchisee and said, "Hey Rob, Sam just went mad and trashed the place. He's thrown food everywhere, there's shit on the walls, on the floors and on the ceiling, it's every-f$%^king-where."
It's not known what Rob, the franchisee said when he took this call, presumably in his bed, but before he got a chance to utter, Todd realized something else.
The most likely outcome of this call would be that Rob would ask him to clean it all up, with or without overtime, and with or without Rob's help.
So then Todd added, "Oh yeah, and I quit".
Then he put down the phone and ran off into the night as Sam had done before him.

Now that's a guy who can make an instant decision.

Mad Checker's Disease.

Over recent weeks I have been mentioning my checking disorder, particularly in this particular post, Stuttering badly, but thinking of Hank, and since then, in conversations I have realized that the problem is far more widespread than I thought.
Mad Checker's Disease, or perhaps less derisively, Multiple Checking Disorder is most manifest for me when leaving the house in the morning.
I check that my appliances are switched off and no taps are running, sometimes forty of fifty times.
A clear symptom of disorder.
We seem to have reached a consensus that five checks is okay.
A bit over the top, but in the non-nutty range.
Anything more than that and we are talking debilitating.
Anyway, Paula the Wonder Horse, sent me a youtube link to a psychiatrist called Schwartz.
In this Schwartz outlines the problem and comes up with the solution of meditating.
Now I was sceptical (to say the least), it all sounded like a bunch of tree-loving hippy crap to me.
However I was in no position to argue, and so decided to give it a try.
So each night now when I am relaxed, I sit for a few moments and rehearse my checks for the next day.
And in my head, I only do the check once, then get in the car and drive away.
It does seem to be working, and Paula tells me that I am creating neuro-plasticity in my brain, and rewiring it away from the constant short-circuiting that goes on with MCD.
Saturday, I was able to wrench myself away from the front door after only ten minutes of checking, which is a great victory, as half an hour or 45 minutes was common for me.
However, here are some other people's fears/checks.
I have a friend who particularly fears when he is going away on holidays.
He checks that everything is switched off and the house is locked multiple times.
Then it takes him half an hour of driving before those insidious fears stop creeping into his mind, saying, "Have you really locked the house?"
Another friend lives down a longish driveway, he was saying that when he wants to come down to the coffee shop, he sometimes has to return from halfway down the driveway three or four times before he can bring focus, and confirm to himself that the door is locked.
Two female friends both have issues with the iron.
Even though the iron has a light to show if it's on, both of these friends have to, like me, unplug  the thing before they can get enough peace of mind to leave the house.
Of course, the obvious solution to that is to stop ironing your clothes and walk around like a badly dressed scarecrow, but that only seems to work for males.
One of the above also has an issue with candles, she does like the soft gentle light of the candle at night, but that peace is transferred to stress the next morning when she has to frantically check they're all out before she can even get the iron check, then leave the house.
A friend of pharmacist Fleur has the "checking the door is locked" thing, and the list goes on.
It does seem to be age related.
No one I've met under forty has MCD to debilitating levels.
So if you have this, the only thing I can suggest is try the meditation, any meditation.
With the ongoing lowering of general levels of anxiety that meditation brings, it may help you check less and live more.

"He certainly wasn't gruntled about it."

And finally, since we mentioned dressing, well and badly above, it reminds me of another topic that came up during the past week: words that only have the negative variant still extant.
Probably the most famous occurrence of these, for those of a literary bent, is in P.G. Wodehouse.
One evening Bertie is saying:
"I could tell by the soupy way Jeeves said 'well, sir', that he wasn't happy about this. I'm not sure if I would go so far to say he was disgruntled, but he certainly wasn't gruntled about it."
Like most I thought 'gruntled' wasn't a word, and this was just an amusing word play by Wodehouse, however to my considerable surprise I discovered that 'gruntled' IS a word.
It's a diminutive of grunt.

As for dressing, we commonly hear of people who are 'dishevelled', but rarely do we see a guy in a three-piece suit described as 'shevelled'.
And so below, with thanks to Carl R Brush, is a list of words in which only the negative is still with us.

Reckless (Ever done something “reck?”)

Feckless (Who ever acts “Feckly”?)

Inept (I have read of a person having some ept, but not on a daily basis.)

Inebriated (Why do we say “sober” instead of “ebriated”?)
insipid inevitable

ruthless - ruth is a word, but most commonly known to scholars of older English. It exists most commonly these days as a female name.
unkempt - likewise 'kempt' has rare usage, mostly to do with gardens, as in a well-kempt lawn.

uncouth -yes, you can say someone is 'couth'.

Simon Marnie on the Weekend show on ABC local has started using the word 'coolth', which also belongs here as we commonly use the word 'warmth', yet 'coolth', seems to have never existed.

Also, 'nonplussed', a witty female wordsmith on the radio said "my husband was plussed".

So there you go another load of fertilizer from me, see you next week for another go round of garbage.
I'll finish with some shots of the Bay, hoping that it inspires more of you to come visit.


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