Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Chisel & the iPad

I don’t know if anybody has noticed, but at the moment, the technology-world is at a bit of a stalemate with our elderly generation. We’re stuck. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an elderly person at a computer, but if you have, you’d know that old people are basically apes when it comes to anything that requires them to be the end-user. Which is all understandable, however, what’s unfortunate about this is that whenever a corporation looks to the masses for direction when considering an upgrade, the elderly seem to be the ones calling the shots, which is bad news for technology. Basically, I’ve come to the realisation that the world, technologically, is being held back by the world’s grandmas and grandpas.

If you’re like me and you’re twenty one with parents that didn’t have you in their teens, then you most likely have a grandparent over seventy. You won’t like reading this as much as I don’t like saying it, but I’ll say it regardless, they don’t have too long to go. The reason I mention this is because the corporations are, in a way, waiting for that to happen. They know that at this point in time, any proper implementation of the available technologies could essentially mean the elimination of an entire demographic of people from their market-base, a generation whom not only are unable to use today’s technological offerings, but refuse to. But here’s the kicker, if the corporations don’t keep up with the times and just twiddle their thumbs until today’s moderately tech-savvy middle-aged generation replace our elderly tomorrow, that would mean depriving a far greater fraction of the population of cheaper and simpler modern alternatives by maintaining costly antiquated methods.

Case in point: the one problem that has always plagued McDonalds here in Australia is the fact that they don't really want to pay their employees, but unfortunately, you can't have your Big Mac and eat it too. So when they pay their employees just enough so that Fair Trading doesn’t come calling but not enough to account for the work that’s done, a trip to McDonalds is just shit; ask anybody, they’ll tell you. Much the same way that the cashiers can't put a sentence together, the cooks can’t put a burger together, all the while, disposing of any common courtesies we as civilised-human beings enjoy treating each other with. So a while back, McDonalds tried remedying this by trialing self-serve, touchscreen registers at a few stores here in Australia and, big surprise, it didn't take. Apparently, people didn't like it! I mean, what wasn't to like about them? I used one of them and I can tell you, it wasn't hung over, it didn't make a train-wreck of my order, it wasn’t impolite, nor was it coughing like a fucking mongoloid, plus it could pronounce werds and sentensez, and yet, it wasn’t good enough. I can’t act like it’s some big surprise though, especially back then with more old people being alive and all, and that was it, the reason. It wasn’t that the registers were poorly designed or that there is no demand for doing away with human cashiers, it was that it was a potential discouragement to elderly customers. How were the Olgas and Henrys of this country expected to order their Apple Pies and Cappuccinos with a touchscreen they can’t use? It took my nan ten years to come to terms with the fact that she needed a microwave in her house, and another five to learn how to use the dial.

This isn’t just tied to fast food either, it applies to any business; take Australia’s banks for instance. They have had internet/ phone banking since back in the Windows Millenium days. This is just staggering to me, especially considering the fact that today, aside from the one or two net-banking terminals in each branch and the cornucopia of ATMs on the streets, we somehow still have just as many human tellers in our banks as we did in ‘90s when a home internet-connection was for the rich. If it isn’t obvious, the staggering part is that after over a decade of more convenient and cheaper means of banking, the employment rates at our banks, by some divine miracle, have remained unscathed. And here comes the why? Because in every suburb, there happens to be a small group of people who still hop on buses to do something with their bank books that I could do in five minutes without leaving my bed. I'm not embellishing on that bank book thing either; my bank still offers them and owns the antique equipment needed to print on them, but they only offer it for one certain account, and take a wild guess what that account happens to be called, the ‘retirement access plan’, a pensioner's account for the elderly. Let’s get real, by offering bank books exclusively to an account that is primarily aimed at the well-aged, St George Bank are clearly saying that they are just on tenterhooks waiting for these people to depart, all so they can finally save the paper, trash whatever single-purpose printers they have and rid themselves of both the consumables and maintenance costs that are attached when offering something that was around in the nineteenth century (no bullshit there).

Needless to say, we’re in a bit of a chasm. We’re currently smack-bang in the guts of an awkward changeover period where companies know that it’s time to upgrade and know that there aren’t many reasons why they shouldn’t, but then of course the question of what to do with the elderly is always raised and a brick wall is hit. It’s kind of like we’re playing an adventure video game and we were going along fine through a few levels with our pencils, paper and petroleum but now we’ve gotten ourselves caught in slick mud and we are only very slowly trekking through it to get to the other side where the technological wonderland is happening. This isn’t to say I too am on the edge of my seat waiting for the elderly generations to die, I still have grandparents around. I also don’t think it’s their fault that they can’t properly assimilate into today’s technological world; they grew up in a world of the pen and the pad, and now they live in a world of the iPad. I just find it a tad irritating as a tech-lover knowing that the elderly are the only thing left clamping pre-computer methods to the way things are done – or should be done - today. I can also sense a bit of this same frustration from the corporate-world. Regardless of how inevitable the road is, they know that by taking it too prematurely now it could mean the possible death (excuse the phrasing) of a whole demographic of people in their profits. I know that the day when this generation are history, it’s going to seem like this world turned into a balls-out technology park overnight, that’s how fast the corporate-world will hop off the old band-wagon and jump onto the hovering one; mark my words.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Girl Down the Street

Small Wounds & Big Scars: I’m a firm believer in the whole-character building, lessons in life approach to the downright shitty situations. I believe that every one of them is just life setting you up for the next one (and there will be). There are a garden-variety of minor things that happened to me as a child, mostly misunderstandings and injustices, which more or less scarred me for life; these relatively small instances that I’ve never quite been able to put in the emotional trash can. These are what I attribute to my building process as a child - basically, the things that made me who I am today. They’re why I have the views I have, why I react the way I do to things, why I let some things go and not others, why I get lonely when I do and happy at other times, and even, why I write about the things I write about. Unfortunately, despite whatever positive way they contributed to my life, they’re still scars, they can still have me tossing and turning at night.

To preface this entry in the series: I was a strange kid. I was misunderstood, I was shy and I was, for a lack of a better word, a colossal pussy! But like I said, from all of these little incidents, to some degree, I’ve managed to overcome most of those things. The biggest eccentricity, I guess, is the whole thing where I pretended to be a spy, which I stopped doing as late as my first year of high school, believe it or not; I go into more detail about that here. A mother of a friend put her faux-therapist pants on and told my mother that these little things were just coping mechanisms to help with her separation from my father…I never liked her, nor did I ever ask for that stupid bitch’s elementary-level psychoanalysis (it’s just too bad that her son turned out just like her in the end). Others thought, and perhaps still think, that I am just bell-tower insane (myself included).

Whatever the reason, this is the first entry:

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The first notch on my child-size straitjacket was the girl down the street, ████ ███████. ████ was a couple of years younger than me when we met; I was seven. Even at such a young age, I knew that there was something a little off from day one with ████. Any other friend of mine at that age would be over my place, I’d be over their place, even ones in my street would ride around with me on our bikes, but when it came to ████, I only ever got to hang out with her with her front yard gate between us, I never went in and she never came out, it was sort of like I was friends with someone that was in prison…well that’s a lie, she left once to ride the new Razor scooter my folks had bought me for Christmas. I told her not to but she left anyway, and because I’d surmised that her parents were crazy about the whole front yard rule, when her father noticed that she had made a break from her prison and he was now standing near me watching her and demanding her to go into the house, I felt so scared, I had no clue what to say, I just wanted to ditch the scooter and run the fuck home. At that age, I didn’t know what to call the feeling I felt around ████, I didn’t really even know what sexual predators were, but I kind of felt like one, at least that’s the tack her folks seemed to be taking with me.

Over the years, when we would hangout, I think I may have brushed the spy stuff once or twice, but I don’t remember. I would always sing out when I wanted to play because, let’s face it, I was too scared to cross that front yard to get to the front door, even when ████ wasn’t even in it. But aside from the scooter thing, she would always just speak to me from her front yard, and I was so proper back then that I didn’t even swear, so I can’t see where I was giving out rapist signals, and that’s all the god-honest truth, plus you know, there’s that tiny detail where I WAS AN INFANT! But then there was the day where I spoke to her uncle. Story is: I was sitting on the gutter outside of her house where I stopped him as he walked passed me. I said ‘hello’ and asked him something along the lines of ‘what do you do there [at the house]?’ It was a strange question, I know, but I was more or less trying to introduce myself as a ploy to gain some trust, since I knew that for whatever reason I had none of theirs, and all I was merely trying to ask was of what relation he was to ████. Was he her cousin, uncle, family friend, math tutor, basically, the question was ‘am I introducing myself to family or not?’, but I guess I didn’t know how to word it properly, so it came out strangely, but, like I said…I WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD! Anyway, I can’t remember how he left that question, but he went into the house without answering it. This is where I assume was the tipping point, where, in the way I like to say it whenever I mess something up, this is where I fucked it!

In a bid for fitness, my mother would go on powerwalks, and because she still wasn’t too comfortable with leaving me at home by myself for anything more than two seconds, she would always encourage me to come with her on my bike. This particular day, not too long after my botched introduction, we did just that, however, half way down the street I must’ve decided to just ride around the street and leave mum to exercise by herself instead. Mum walked off out of eyeshot and as I was nearing ████’s house, I spotted the man who at that point I didn’t know was ████’s uncle in the distance, but I wasn’t bothered, that is of course until he passed ████’s house and began to jog toward me! I was eight years old and a person that knew the family that doesn’t like me and a person who I had only recently asked a strange question was now running toward me, so naturally, I went into a panic – I threw the gear on my handlebar into six and bolted back home like the guy was spraying machine-gun bullets into the air or something. The gates on my driveway were open so I was able to just speed down, drop my bike and quickly hide in my backyard. As I poked my head around the corner, I could see him out the front of my house. I wasn’t too scared to look because I figured even if he saw me, this was my backyard, I was in safe-territory, plus I thought that he would extend the same courtesy to me that I had extended to ████ for the last two years by not entering their front yard, so when he spotted me and started walking down toward me, I was thinking ‘what the fuck are you doing, this is my safe-territory, mate???’. I guess I also thought that whatever he had to say to me would give me the opportunity to clear things up, but it…it didn’t. The way he spoke to me that day…I don’t know, that was the first time anybody had ever spoken to me like that, and even today, I don’t get spoken to like that. The only specific thing I remember him saying amongst the spray of profanity coming from his lips was the threat ‘go near my niece again and I’ll [call the cops or something a tad more violent, I don’t remember well enough to land on a quote]’. After he got through every curse-word ever coined, he left; I never asked what I had done wrong, all I got from the conversation was emotional-scarring…and that he was ████’s uncle. What needs to be mentioned is that, up until high school, I lived on a strict ‘respect your elders’ policy, administered by my parents and then drilled into me by my catholic primary school, so the mixture of fear and the fact that this guy was my elder was what stopped me from sticking up for myself and, basically, it’s what had me convinced that I had actually done something wrong.

I never did anything wrong, and I think that’s where I’m scarred - being too weak to know what I’d done and what I hadn’t and not actually opening my mouth to say that he had no right. The whole respect your elders thing is absolute bullshit. Respecting my elders got me nowhere, not just here, but anywhere when I was kid. All it did was get me into fucked up situations because I couldn’t speak up for myself. I was what medical professionals call a pussy! A major-pushover and scape-goat, but I’ll save that for a rainier day. Kids should be a taught a ‘don’t take shit from nobody’ policy.

My street’s not a long street, in fact, at number - - ’s house – it is only houses away from mine, and after that day for the next few years, that end of the street was a no-go zone for me. I felt like if I ever accidentally made eye-contact with any of them again that I would just shrivel up and die right there. I couldn’t do it, I was eight years old. I was so scared, I didn’t even tell my mother for years, which was a mistake, because she could’ve done something about it. ████ still lives in that house. In fact I see her, I’ve shared buses with her, shared footpaths, I served her at work once, I see her at her work all the time, I see her in the street, at the bus stop, sometimes when I’m setting her house on fire (only kidding), I even hung out with her once when I was fifteen. It was strange; I didn’t say a real lot to her. What do you say to someone who quite possibly lied to her parents about an assault? They always advise alleged sexual offenders not to approach their accusers since actual rapists and murderers tend to be pretty volatile and angry, and an angry altercation can incriminate you, or at least that’s what I’d advise my client if I were a lawyer anyway. I did end up asking her what happened with the whole thing, I think I asked a few times before she acted dumb (well, I think it was acting) and said that she didn’t know…but she did. I could just tell; it was written all over her face. I figured the only way that she was ever going to spill any details was if things got to some sort of boiling point, and that just wasn’t an option, so I refrained.

This is probably the toughest pill to swallow, the reason why the scar that has been left is so big. The fact that I didn’t stick up for myself back when I was eight, and the fact that, in a way, I still can’t due to the possible repercussions of a screaming confrontation. I guess I feel like the cowardly eight year old is forced back out of me whenever she’s around. Then there are the unanswered questions that leave their own mark. For instance, how old did they think I am? Did they know that I was seven? Because they were treating me like I was the age I am now fourteen years later. And what fucked up rape shit happened in their family in the past in order for them to make an infant feel like a predator? And, most importantly, what fucking lies did that little bitch tell them?

████ is the first person I ever hated, and seeing her everywhere is a constant-reminder of that. It’s also quite possibly the reason why my impending change of address sounds so very sweet. Ah, look at me, running away from my problems; ignore that, it’s just eight year old-Ryan talking again.

Fuck ████ !

(2/3/12) I got a threat of legal action for this, so just in case the law-man comes a’knockin’, I removed the picture and put these yummy, little chocolate bars everywhere in a bid for bribery. Happy eating!

(13/6/12) Gah! My blog has a bit of a rat problem and those little fuckers ate all of my chocolates. Now my beautiful words are all filthy from the excess. Speaking of, because ████ threatens legal-action for re-uploading pictures that she uploaded herself, here are a handful of directly hot linked pictures that will, by the miracle of the internetz, disappear the moment she spends less time blaming me and more time being smart about her fucking privacy settings!

(22/1/13) Alright, so the law-man buzzed me and told me to put the chocolates back. Myum-myum!