Me Tarzan You Jane

Tarzan

Today is the birthday of Edgar Rice Burroughs who never saw himself as a literary man.

He said:  “if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines

And so he did.  In the process he created the character of John Carter in the Barzoom novels and Tarzan of the Apes.  Tarzan has become one of the stock remake stalwarts of Hollywood and is re-created for every generation.  I grew up with the black and white Johnny Weissmuller movies and the 1960’s colour TV series starring Ron Ely.  I was in college when “Greystoke” was released in 1984 with Christopher Lambert in the lead role.  I brought my kids to the Disney version released in 1999.

The poem I chose for today is Helpline.  It is a bizarre journey beautifully rendered.  At first it will bring to mind the suffering of disaster victims and the heroism of the support service workers like those in Texas, Mumbai and Bangladesh today.

Then it segues into the pressure cooker environment of the modern day call center, environments described as the “dark satanic mills” of the 21st century.

Finally it resolves into the personal relationship of a daughter with her ageing lonely mother for whom her missing dog does seem like the end of the world.

Helpline; by Suzannah Evans

In the call centre at the end of the world
everyone is wearing the rags
of the clothes they came to work in two weeks ago.

From floor ten we count fires in the distance
the smoking remains of suburbs.

Tea breaks are strictly monitored
and the internet is still there
but we are getting tired of news.

We sleep where we’re comfortable –
stairwells, carpet, canteen chairs.

Lateness for shifts is not tolerated
although at this stage few of us
have homes to go to.
Demand for the service is high.

I don’t know why I’ve stayed so long in this job
when the world in which I could spend its ample wage
has disintegrated –
politicians in hiding
supermarkets forced open on burst streets

perhaps it’s because they all tell me
that my voice could be the last one they hear

perhaps it’s because almost every worried caller
reminds me of my worried mother

or because we talk about wallflowers,
the hunger, the smell of burned paint
reminisce about summer in the park.

Her dog went out two days ago and hasn’t come back
If I’d died he could have eaten me
she says
it sounds like a regret.

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Happy Birthday Jerry Hourihane Clancy

21 years ago on this day Jerry was born in Holles Street Hospital at lunchtime.

That morning I asked Louise if I should go to work or not.  We went for a short walk up the road and back and then she told me to go ahead into work.  So off I went.  In the office I got a phone call asking if I would donate blood that day.  I rang home at about 10:30 and asked Louise how she was.  She said nothing was happening (liar).  So I agreed to go to Pelican House to donate.

I was just about finished with the donation when a call came in from the office telling me that Louise needed me straight away.  So they strapped up my arm, called me a plonker and threw me into a taxi home.

I was preparing for the long haul.  You’ve all seen it on TV.  Hours pacing the corridors as nothing happens.  So I made some sandwiches to take with me.  There was the remains of a half leg of lamb which makes some great sandwiches, especially if you have a nice chutney.

Then into the car and off to the hospital.  We parked up the car and walked over to registration.  Louise told the receptionist that she was going to have the baby straight away.  The eye rolling from the receptionist was clearly a practiced move born of many such situations.  Louise couldn’t walk any more, so I got a wheelchair to take her to the delivery ward.

They told me to go t o the waiting room and that I would be there for some considerable time.  I was so glad that I brought the book I was reading.  Unfortunately I never got to read the book, or eat the sandwiches.  Jerry was born about 40 minutes after we reached the hospital.

Once Louise and Jerry were settled I nipped home in the car to make some calls (pre-mobile phone days) and feed the dog etc.  In the car this song came on, and I cried.  Still do.

 

 

Dublin 1029

TECallcard

Back in 1988 when life was miserable and Ireland languished in recession the government was looking for any reason for a celebration.  A historian uncovered a document indicating that the Norse King of Dublin, Glúniairn, recognized Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill as High King of Ireland and agreed to pay tribute/taxes to him in the year 988.

He was not the first Viking King of Dublin.  Dublin was probably established by the Vikings in 839.  Using 988 as a “foundation” date is somewhat strange.  It is more properly the date on which the Irish Gaels established nominal control over the city.  But such niceties were lost on the downtrodden miserable debt ridden Dubliners of 1988.  When the government of the day offered to stump up for a party the population were happy to pretend that it was a millennial celebration.  1,000 years of taxes, hurray!

In 1988 I worked for the Irish national telephone company, Telecom Eireann.  It was previously the Government Department of Posts and Telegraphs.  This was split in 1984 into An Post and Telecom Eireann.  The latter no longer exists.  It was broken up and sold in the interests of competition, better services for consumers, lower prices etc.  This is why I don’t have decent broadband in my home.  So much for the better services.

The Mobile phone arm of the company, Eircell, was sold to Vodafone in the 1990’s.  In 1996 Denis O’Brien won a second Mobile phone operating licence for ESAT Telecom.  The Minister for Telecommunications at the time was a Tipperary politician called Michael Lowry.  There were rumours of dodgy dealings which were eventually investigated by the Moriarty Tribunal.   The Moriarty Tribunal found in 2008 that the awarding of the licence was influenced by payments made by O’Brien to Michael Lowry.

In the last general election in Ireland Michael Lowry topped the poll yet again in the Tipperary constituency, which says everything you need to know about Irish voter attitudes to probity in public office.  Denis O’Brien lives as a tax exile, but still has unrivalled access to business opportunities under government control, such as the recent award to provide water meters.  Given the findings of the Moriarty tribunal one would seriously question why any politician would have dealings with such a businessman, unless they aim to profit as Lowry did.

One of the hot new services we pioneered in the 1980s was the Call Card.  Instead of using pesky money to make your phone call in the public payphone you could buy an all new singing and dancing call card.  The photo above shows the millennium celebration limited edition Telecom Eireann call card from 1988.

Today you would be lucky to find a public payphone, let alone find one that works.

If my career in Telecomms taught me anything it taught me this; there are some things that should not be privatized.  Never privatize a network, that applies to road, rail, power, water, communications, information.  Keep them public, let them serve the common good.

That’s my rant over for today.  Happy Birthday Dublin, 1029 years old today…… or 1178 years old, depending on the government of the day.

Milkbottle

Dublin Milkbottle: Another thing we have no more.

Spam

Spam_can

July 5th 1937 saw the launch of a new product, a long lasting tinned pork and ham product called SPAM.  SPAM has sold billions of tins.  It is everywhere (apart from the Middle East/ North African Muslim countries).

The pervasive nature of SPAM was parodied in a 1970 sketch by Monty Python.

The word “Spam” began to be used by certain abusive users of early chatrooms in the 1980s to scroll other users off the screen by repeating the word “Spam” hundreds of times.  They then moved to insert large blocks of text from Monty Python sketches to disrupt chats.  They became known as “spammers”.

Spam and Eggs are used as metasyntactic variables in the Python programming language, released in 1991, which is named after Monty Python.

By 1993 the term Spamming was used to describe the multiple reposting of the same message, often for marketing purposes.  In the days of dial-up connections and painfully slow load speeds such “flaming logo” posts prevented access to chatrooms and caused widespread frustration.

By 1998 the word Spam had entered the Oxford dictionary to describe unsolicited marketing messages.

Since 2000 spam messages have been responsible for infecting computer systems with virus software, bugs, worms, Trojans and ransomware.  2017 has become the year of ransomware with large scale attacks on older Microsoft systems running with out of date protection or unsupported software.

 

 

Happy Birthday Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash

Born in 1936 on this day Kris Kristofferson is well known as an actor and singer.  He was also a song writer and a pretty good lyricist.  I am not a big fan of Country & Western music but when it’s good it’s good.

I remember a few years back when Maurice Pratt was head honcho in Super Crazy Prices, the supermarket chain that evolved from Quinnsworth and was subsequently taken over by Tesco in Ireland.  Maurice did an interview on radio about his career in marketing that always stuck with me.  When he was asked what his favourite song was he nominated “Sunday Morning Sidewalk”.  Made famous by Johnny Cash, the “Man in Black” the song was penned by Kristofferson.  Reading the lyrics you may wonder what kind of life Maurice Pratt was living.

But Maurice said it was not the words themselves that he loved, but the sentiment.  Working in the Supermarket industry he was a busy man 6 days a week and an early riser.  His Sunday mornings were the times he could chill for a while and they were precious to him.  For Maurice “Sunday Morning Sidewalk” is not about the booze and cigarettes of the night before.  It is all about the Sunday Morning vibe, not having to go out onto those “Sleeping City Sidewalks” unless it’s for your Sunday Paper.

Sunday Morning Sidewalk; by Kris Kristofferson

 

Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad so I had one more for dessert
Then I fumbled in my closet for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt
And I washed my face and combed my hair And stumbled down the stair to meet the day

I’d smoked my head the night before with cigarettes and songs I’d been pickin’
But I lit my first and watched the small kid playin’ with a can that he was kickin’
Then I crossed the empty street and caught The Sunday smell of someone’s fryin’ chicken
And it took me back to somethin’ that I’d lost somewhere somehow along the way.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk I’m wishing Lord that I was stoned
Cause there’s somethin’ in a Sunday makes the body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’ half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down

In the park I saw a daddy with the laughing little girl that he was swinging
And I stopped beside a Sunday school and listened to the songs they were singing
Then I headed up the street and somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing
And it echoed through the canyons like the disappearing dreams of yesterday

On a Sunday morning sidewalk I’m wishing Lord that I was stoned
Cause there’s somethin’ in a Sunday makes the body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’ half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down

 

Ancient Greeks developed techniques for computer coding

Socrates-Quotes-1

We tend to think of computer coding as something very new, dating from the 1960’s and later. Basic launched in 1963 and many think of it as the first language because it underpins much of modern SQL.

FORTRAN was developed by IBM in the 1950’s

More knowledgeable historians will refer me back to ENIAC in 1946, or project Ultra in 1941.

Even better historians will take me back to 1804 and the punch card programming system used on the Jacquard Loom to weave patterns in silk.

I think we can go even further and wind the clock back to 500BC because coding has a far older history. Today, when we design classes in education we could learn from the ancient Greek method of the Trivium (3 ways).

The trivium was a system of education taught in Greece and Rome to master the art of oration, which is the foundation of all courtroom trials, most business presentations and almost all political speeches and debates.

It involves 3 disciplines, Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.

  • Grammar: definition of terms, language, limits, data etc.
  • Logic: how to arrange your data, build arguments, test them, link them and test them again.
  • Rhetoric: how to deliver the final output in a succinct, engaging and compelling way.

To any experienced coder the schema above looks eerily familiar:

Input – Process – Output

Does it sound preposterous that the Greeks worked out early forms of programming?  Remember these are the people who gave us much of our mathematics.  By 100 BC they were building clockwork computers such as the Antikythera mechanism.  This level of sophistication was not achieved again in Europe until the 14th century.

antikythera-title

 

Fight against Educatism!

People have the right to reject argument and scientific proof as Educatism.

Educatism is discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their educational attainment level.

Today, the use of the term “educatism” does not easily fall under a single definition.

The ideology underlying educatist practices often includes the idea that humans can be subdivided into distinct groups that are different in their social behavior and innate capacities and that can be ranked as inferior or superior.
While the concepts of education and intelligence are considered to be separate in contemporary social science, the two terms have a long history of equivalence in both popular usage and older social science literature.

‘Innate’ or ‘Natural’ Intelligence” is often used in a sense close to one traditionally attributed to ‘race’.
The division of human groups based on qualities assumed to be essential or innate to the group.
Races with a long history of institutional work, involving reading, writing, mathematics, accounting and meetings have evolved higher IQ levels.
Those races who are more suited to heavy outdoor labour and subject to pain and deprivation have generally less need of intelligence. They are genetically disposed to being pretty dumb.
IQ tests are employed to isolate these individuals and discriminate against them.  Goverments also use complex form filling for activities such as voter registration, claiming social benefits and health insurance.
‘Cultural Intelligence’ is used in a sense to describe embedded practices of certain races to practice forms of education.
Some races prefer recitation over reading, and avoid printed matter.  Races that favour trading and money dealing will stress mathematics over literature.
Some members of these races may demonstrate an animal cunning, which enables them to negotiate IQ tests and form filling.
More subtle tools are used by governments to identify and isolate these populations.  These include racial profiling, religion, language, hair styles, fashion choices and so on.

According to a United Nations convention on educatism, there is no distinction between the terms “natural” and “cultural” discrimination.
The UN convention further concludes that superiority based on educational differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and there is no justification for educational discrimination, anywhere, in theory or in practice.

People who avoid reasoned argument are unlikely to read this far, will believe the headline, and think this is a true thing.
Some of you will have seen the satire already, and now the penny drops for the rest.

Educatism