Monday, 30 November 2015

An Important Update

The computer whirs into life. A warning beep sounds, drawing the user cautiously to the screen.

YOU MUST PERFORM AN IMMEDIATE UPDATE. CLICK TO PROCEED.

The user, compelled by the immediacy of the message clicks, curious and even hopeful at the wonders this new update could bring.

THIS DOWNLOAD MAY TAKE UP TO 20 MINS TO COMPLETE

Two hours later the user suspects that perhaps the computer’s clock is faulty, or has an inability to differentiate between minutes and hours. He waits a further two hours – ever the optimist – but it’s nearing midnight and the download bar hasn’t moved. He switched the machine off, but the button will not engage so he’s forced to remove the battery, a list of important documents already running through his mind as he faces the prospect that this could be it.

The computer reboots…

THERE WAS A PROBLEM WITH YOUR RECENT UPDATE. WINDOWS IS RESETTING TO THE LAST SAVED SETTINGS.

The user frowns. “Your recent update?” Sitting back in his chair the user blames himself, clearly the download available was not for his computer – has he stolen someone else’s? Has he cause irrevocable damage to his computer? Will he have to take it to the tech guys? He swallows. If he takes it to the tech guys will they discover his browser history?

Suddenly his start page kicks open. Everything is there. Everything is safe. It’s four in the morning but at least he can sleep easy now. Then a small window pops up in the right hand corner of his screen.

YOU MUST PERFORM AN IMMEDIATE UPDATE. CLICK TO PROCEED.

His mouse hovers over the curser.


I love computers in the same way that I love butter – there’s a lot wrong with butter but my bread just couldn’t do without it. The same thing with computers. I can’t do any of the things that I enjoy – writing, streaming, watching cats fall into bins – as well without my trusty laptop. But despite this love, me and the old laptop (and it is an old laptop because I get quite attached to these things) are starting to hit a few disagreements.

Actually that’s not really fair. The laptop that sits on my chair arm most days, risking regular assault from children and animals, is still my old faithful. But unfortunately it’s succumbing to the perpetual insistence from Microsoft to update Windows 8.1 and join the dark side.

My issues with this are very straightforward. Firstly – if Microsoft 98 was still compatible with the world I’d still be using it. Secondly – while bleary eyed one night I accidentally downloaded Windows 8.1 (I now appreciate how easy it must therefore be to download all kinds of illicit material unknowingly on your computer). This download commandeered and then crashed my computer. Not only that but I was only to discover this catastrophe ten minutes before I was supposed to attend an online book event (I infinitely prefer online events because attending in them in my PJ’s raises less eyebrows). It took a night of watching the computer struggle through restore, hoping that something of my unfinished novels remain. And then afterwards, when all was righted (and I had paid a ridiculous sum to put Microsoft Word back on my computer) the bloody download was offered again.

Given that my computer can select adverts based on my browser history, given that it can remember my passwords, user names and postcodes so I never have to use my brain again, why it can’t remember the two hour long stream of profanity I shouted at it while it failed to reboot? Not only does it forget but it continues to offer me this update, full of the implication that I am not only missing out but need to perform this update before the world surely ends and takes all historical programming with it.

Well no. I’d be so strong as to say fuck you Microsoft. You’ve removed my drop down menus, you’ve removed my print icons and you have tried, but failed, to remove my start button (that’s right I’ve got that sucker back!). You will not transform this computer into a beacon of online entertainment for my convenience. If you have to do something to make my life better then work out a way to hook this baby up to a coffee machine and a remote control car so I can have uninterrupted feeds of cats falling into bins. Until you can do that, piss off and mind your own business. If I need you I’ll call you and likely pay a fortune for the privilege.



Monday, 23 November 2015

Back to Blog

I’ve attempted this blogging thing several times over the past few years and I’ve often found an initial flurry of ideas before suddenly there’s an abrupt, almost permanent drought. The difficulty for me is, although ruthlessly opinionated and sometimes controversial in my views, I am incredibly aware of the power of the internet and how committing myself to an idea online could be tantamount to signing my own death warrant. The other thing, despite ruthless opinions etc. is I’m also very open to new ideas. It’s great to have an idea set in stone, but if you’re not open to other opinions and ideas you’re liable to become very stagnant very quickly. And life’s too short to be stuck in the mud.

Twelve years ago I would have happily waved the flag screaming “meat is murder.” Now, bacon sandwich in hand, I’m still an active follower of animal rights but I have a wider understanding of how one can do that while tucking into Bernard (FYI I ethically source all of my meat – hence Bernard – and in doing so can actively help good farming standards in the UK). My opinion modified and will hopefully continue to do so, encouraging me to widen my horizons beyond the here and now.

That’s just one example and I’m the first to admit that me today is likely to be different to me on Friday and hopefully will be very different to me in five years’ time. So committing ones thoughts down so openly and without the benefit of hindsight is a bit scary. After all I’m a writer, I don’t publish a sentence without meticulous checking and editing… and even then I often don’t go back and read it in case it is wrong.

But blogging is in real time. It’s happening now and perhaps what I say today will no longer be relevant tomorrow. Does that mean it shouldn’t be said? Should we all just keep quiet until we’re lying on our death beds and are finally ready to pass on a lifetime of knowledge? Of course not… or at least not all of us should.

I like to think of thoughts and opinions like language. For me language is like a river bed, existing in a landscape for centuries, but ever changing under the surrounding environment. A lot of people tend to moan at the introduction of new nouns or verbs as though at some point we reached an epistle perfection and that was it. Full stop. (Excuse the pun). Selfie, lol, twerking… odd that those are the ones that immediately speak to mind but they highlight how our language morphs to fit our current lifestyle, and so should our thoughts and opinions. You may not like selfies, but they still exist as a concept and it’s a damn sight easier than referring to them as taking a picture of oneself all the time. Lol.

So the idea of blogging is very much like studying language, or anthropology. It’s a caption in history, immediately accessible by everyone – something which is a concept we take massively for granted nowadays. In fact, thinking about the whole evolution of opinion, a hundred years ago for me to present a piece of writing to you I would need to grow a pretty dapper mustache to be even considered worthy of an opinion. Actually coming from a working class Northern background, the likelihood would be that I wouldn’t even have the skills to write my opinion down anyway and obviously my mustache would be wasted!

As exposing and nerve wracking the concept of blogging may be, it’s still a very interesting possibility for humanity and especially for me as a writer. A possibility (you see my deliberate non-committal choice of words) that I will endeavor to try again. Of course we could fast forward to November 2016 and find that I gave it up after three months and went to pursue an interest in tapestry. But that’s the fun of it isn’t it? We don’t know where it will lead us or how we will evolve. Interesting to find out though.