I have a new phone, I call it Roger. I find it endlessly diverting whenever I go to use my phone to say, I’ll ‘Roger that’. Roger goes everywhere with me, a habit I developed with my previous phone. This eventually brought about that phone’s demise when it slipped off a hand basin and fell into the loo. No amount of dried rice was going to bring Dory back; ‘Over and out’ you could say. This won’t happen with Roger – he’s waterproof.

I purchased Roger from a store where the salespeople looked as if going outside was something weird people do and were young enough to think a landline was a geo-political thing. I’m so technologically challenged that two salespeople were assigned to me; they tagged in and out at regular intervals. I didn’t mind, I found them so similar and their talk so incomprehensible that they were interchangeable. I called them ‘Thing One’ and ‘Thing Two’; not to their faces of course. I’d like to have, but the chance of interrupting their torrent of tech talk to say anything was zero. Thing One spoke eloquently of the advantages (or was it virtues?) of each phone until I was so bamboozled that I chose Roger because I liked his colour. Thing Two then banged on and on about security, especially the need to upgrade my passwords. It appears the 123456789 that I regularly use has been cracked by hackers. ‘But I can barely remember that!’ I protested. ‘How can I be expected to remember, fjr843jrAD55HJUb4’? ‘Furthermore’, I remonstrated, ‘I’ll have to pass on the security changes to all the people I share my passwords and accounts with’. At last there was silence; they were speechless. Apparently, I was doing it all wrong, and unless I wanted to see my details, my contacts’ details and all my money disappear off to Eastern Europe I needed to get serious about security.

A biometric method of accessing your phone is the most secure, more so than a PIN or pattern. I tried facial recognition, which should be super-secure as no-one’s face looks like the recorded one on my phone, including my own face if Roger’s success at recognising me is anything to go by. His success rate is lowest first thing in the morning. I know I can look a little rough first thing, but all the other Rogers that I have woken up to (never you mind how many) recognised me the next morning. While they might have considered it they didn’t have the brutality to deny knowing me before slipping back into sleep mode.

I have passwords for Africa, which is a good thing because I’ve been contacted by an uncle I never knew I had who lives there and who is after some of them. Passwords are the bane of my life. Rather than unlocking worlds they bar me from entering everything from Adobe to Zoom – I hate them! I have scraps of paper with every possible variation of my first pet’s name, mother’s maiden name and favourite sport written on it. These scraps of paper have been heavily over-inked with additional numbers and special characters until they look like they were written by someone experimenting with cryptology and LSD. I have no idea which websites these relate to. Passwords, I hate them!

Then I discovered a password manager, and the sun shone and lambs came out to play. Now I need only remember one password, but it must be a good one! The conundrum is to develop a password that is impossible to guess yet easy to remember. I was advised to think of a memorable sentence that only I knew, then take the first letter of each word to form an apparent random collection of letters. To be topical and positive I tried the sentence, ‘Cecily Loves Information Technology’, which while memorable does not strike the tone I was looking for. I had more luck with my second choice, however due to security reasons I am unable to tell you what it is. You see I am learning.

However I do like to share, so if you’d like we can meet up for coffee and I’ll tell you then. That’s what I told my Uncle in Africa, but I haven’t heard back from him yet.

Spammers Beware

The world of technology is a bit like Pandora’s box. Although when Pandora lifted the lid only evil escaped. Technology, on the other hand, has released much good into the world. For example, the world wide web can aid learning, it brings people together (whoever knew they had so many wealthy relatives in Nigeria?) and it allows 24/7 shopping for necessities such as Cecily calendars.
Today my beef is with spam. Which is odd because spam, the tinned meat, is made from pork and ham then cunningly disguised to look like spleen. Electronic spam takes its name from a Monty Python skit set in a restaurant where a table of Vikings – oh come on it’s not that unusual – sit in a corner loudly singing, ‘Spam, Spam, Wonderful Spam’, thus drowning out the real conversation with their unwanted message.
Electronic spam too is disguised, only not as spleen. Those Nigerian relatives, fake invoices and requests to confirm account details, etc. hide everything from brazen requests for your money through to links that will rob you of your bank details, money and faith in humanity.
What can we do I hear you ask plaintively? Traditional advice has been to delete any suspicious emails without opening them. All very sage, but not very satisfying. Firstly, this will protect you, but not others. Then secondly, and most infuriatingly, it doesn’t hurt the spammer. And let’s face it, what we really want is to do is have them beaten to a pulp or made to copy out Donald Trump’s autobiography 100 times.
However, now there is a way we can fight back. The New Zealand Government internet watchdog, Netsafe, has invented an artificially intelligent chat-bot that engages with the spammer and continues an indefinite conversation, thus sending the spammer on a fool’s errand, wasting their time and resources. All you have to do is forward any spam that you receive to The chat-bot at Netsafe will strip off any identifying information to do with you, and then spend some quality time with the spammer. This software acts like a human, making both spellng mistakes and jokes, and can engage an infinite number of spammers at once. There is a God! And now her eye is on those pasty-faced highwaymen of the internet. You don’t have to be a New Zealander to do this, but if you are from elsewhere just remember that it’s my taxes that brought you this divine retribution, so please, no more sheep jokes.
If you feel so inclined Netsafe will send you a link so that you can follow their conversation with the spammer. While infuriating a spammer is not as satisfying as having them publicly flogged there is a certain poetry in turning the tables on these people that waste our time and cost the world’s economy an estimated US$50 billion each year. Imagine what a wonderful world it would be if that money and internet traffic were involved in education, reuniting old friends or on-line purchases of Cecily calendars.

You can’t take it with you

‘You can’t take it with you when you go’. This gem was part of a treasure trove of sage advice passed down to us from an older and wiser generation. If only it had been accompanied with, ‘Practice what you preach’. Because as baby boomers and generation X sort through the family home, now the parents have moved on, they are finding the previous generation did not walk the talk. Left in our hands is the fate of everything from their art and furniture through to their memorabilia and dry-cleaning receipts dating back to 1973.

It’s been said our parents’ behaviour is the product of growing up in the great depression; they are unable to throw anything away, even if its had it. I’m not convinced. The depression theory would explain some additional work clothes, sensible shoes and emergency food rations. However, it doesn’t cut the mustard (five opened and expired jars of it) in explaining why anyone needs 102 pairs of pantihose or 45 hotel shower caps. I don’t believe the great depression was withstood by staying in hotels and stealing shower caps.

There are a range of reasons why we collect stuff. One is financial – some collections can be worth millions. However, most are not worth anything at all. The items in these collections have a sentimental value, they help to keep the past alive. Historically collections of photographs have done this well. This won’t work in the future if all you photograph are your pets and your food.

Hoarding on the other hand is pathological.  Paradoxically it is linked to perfectionism and the fear of making the wrong decision; hence the inability to know what to acquire, keep or discard. Predictably Freud believed it was due to unresolved issues around toilet training, and who better to explain a pile of crap than Freud.

Baby boomers and generation X had better beware though, because an inability on their part to discern what to keep or what to discard will see what’s left over from their parent’s home assimilated into their own. Then you can look forward to your home becoming a monument to the indecision of two generations.

What may ultimately come to our rescue is the fact our houses have grown bigger by over 50% since the 1970s. Consequently, you need not make too many tough decisions, just take the stuff and leave it for your kids to sort out. After all another useful gem from the past is, ‘Like mother, like daughter.’

Imminent Birthday

My birthday is fast approaching, and as it gets closer my thoughts focus increaasingly on some of the big questions: what have I done with my life in the past year, what does the year ahead hold, and finally, how old will I be anyway? The first question is easily answered by looking at last year’s diary; sadly the second is probably answered by looking at a 2013 diary that I have, as yet, no need for.

Like most people I do not particularly relish growing old; those lapses of memory, increased visits to the doctors, changes of shape etc. are not something that I look forward too.  However the alternative to aging is even less attractive, and let’s not forget there are benefits to growing old too. Accepting yourself for who you are and a sense of identity both seem to increase with age, as does your ability to push to the front of a queue and then pretend that you can’t hear the protests from behind. Also let’s not forget the advantage of no longer feeling embarrassed about a little bit of flatulence in public.

Lately I seem to have come across a lot of magazine articles about how to live longer. Perhaps I’ve been spending too much time in doctor’s waiting rooms. The advice is varied; oh there is the usual drink less, stop smoking, eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, and lose weight.  All very sage I’m sure, but not particularly inspiring. However there were some notable longevity pointers that were new to me. They included that I should be more optimistic, relaxed, wealthy, marry happily, and have more sex – I’m done for! Unless I meet a slightly younger, athletic, “relationship ready” and well off man. However it is hard to be optimistic as this has not happened in the however many years it is that I’ve been searching! I’ve long since abandoned ‘The Rules’ approach to trapping a man – they proved far more canny and elusive than that method suggested. I guess that I’ll just have to get myself in shape and keep getting out there. So in the next 12 months I’m going to eat well, drink less and exercise more. Maybe then I’ll meet my soul mate, or failing that, at least have some good sex. If neither of these happens you had better not get in front of me in the supermarket, or stand immediately behind me for that matter either.

It’s About Time!

It’s About Time!
Here is the latest Cecily musing, and it’s about time – seriously, it is about time. You know that non-spatial continuum in which events occur in irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future? That definition from ‘The Free On-line Dictionary’ is really useful when you’re apologising for being late. Just insert this instead of “time” in your explanation. It might go something like this, “Sorry, the present segment of my non-spatial continuum in which events occur in irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future is over-crowded with events that when dealt to will see an enhancement in performance in future segments of the aforementioned non-spatial continuum”. That should do the trick.The problem with this, and other definitions, of time is that it makes time appear so orderly, yet our experience of time is anything but orderly; instead it is chaotic. We run to catch the bus, hurry home for dinner, arrive breathlessly at a date and worry about the ticking of our biological clock. Although we are loath to admit it we like it like this. Imagine a life as ordered as time; perfectly planned with predictable leap days and leap seconds to account for any irregularities. If my life were this ordered the leap I would plan would be off a tall building.Humans have dreamed of time travel for ages. In the future time travel may become the perfect way to spend your vacation. Thinking of the Iberian Peninsula? Instead of the Costa del Sol, how about taking that well earned break in the Spanish Inquisition? Alternatively if art is your thing, then skip the Louvre and take in the caves at Lascaux 17,000 years ago instead!Like all travel, travelling in time has its restrictions. Firstly your about-to-expire air points will probably only get you to the middle of last week. Another thing is you won’t be able to undo the past. Upgrading the location of your first sexual experience to a suite in a Parisian hotel from the back of a Mark 2 Zephyr is just not possible. I’m sorry, but what’s in your past is in your past. If you really want to travel back in time just stay at home and watch one of the endless sitcom re-runs on TV.Travelling into the future on the other hand is something we are already doing; at the rate of one second per second. Any faster and we risk discovering our future. This might eliminate our uncertainty as to which job to take, or man to date; but along with uncertainty we would also eliminate hope. If I were to find out how my story ends I’d probably just put the book down now.

I’m hoping that my good old friend Ecclesiastes got it right when he said, “There is a right time for everything: A time to be born; A time to die…”. Hopefully in between there is enough non-spatial continuum to enjoy work, play, family and friends; with some time left over to smile at the thought of Mark 2 Zephyrs past and future Parisian hotels.