Wednesday, 19 March 2014

[Double-edged sword]

Our office went paperless a few months back. This, as far as I’m concerned, is an excellent notion for many reasons, not the least of which being that there’s a good 4 years of my life I’m never getting back after standing in front of a photocopier.

It also means that the giant files we had regarding claims, claimants, accidents, incidents, tree-related claims, and any other randomness that seems to take up a stack as thick as my arm, are now simply zipped into an ‘e-file’ online and stored in cyberland. Ah, the blissful efficiency of it! My OCD shivers with delight.

There is, of course, a downside. As with any software there are bugs, errors, organic errors (read = humans who screw things up), and a variety of other teething problems that come with a system used by over 500 people at any one time.

That is how I came to be writing a blog at 10.30am on a Wednesday instead of doing some more productive work. The system crashed yesterday for 3 hours and logged us all out. It slowed to a crawl this morning, froze and promptly died again at 9.30am this morning. At which point System Support had to restart the whole system. This takes an hour. Or so.

I’ve been checking SMH, eBay and my email for 25 minutes in the hope that something more interesting will come up. Sadly not. Which leads to blogging.

In an age of technology so efficient and effective that the intuitiveness sometimes outpaces the humans who invented it, I feel we may be getting ahead of ourselves just a little. I’ve had the thought before, but it occurs to me that we are inventing items hand over fist without checking first that they function in extreme environments, as well as mundane ones. By extreme, I don’t mean take your smartphone to the snow and bounce it off a cliff. As anyone who has had their phone, laptop, or game console accidentally bathed in a variety of substances (water, wine, chip crumbs, etc. are the most common) and then dropped on a hard surface, the durability is only as good as the casing you have to protect it.

What I mean is the highest amount of users, with the highest rate of errors at one time. I understand that if we tested for every eventuality ever, we’d all be here until Christmas and nothing would ever be released, but surely there’s a standard? It seems not. Or the standard is so baseline as to be outdated before the unit is released.

Last month I got a Nokia Lumia 1320. It’s amazing; bigger than my hand, the console has Windows Office, reasonable memory space, and the ‘desktop’ layout can be altered to suit your colour and design tastes at a whim. I will totally admit I was sucked in by the shininess of it. It’s big, bold and very high tech. It makes me look like an engineer and all the cool kids want one. Lawyer-boyfriend is also the one who talked me into it, so I can feign street-cred in my choice if he thinks it’s worthwhile as well.

That being said, the apps available are probably only about 20% compared to Apple or Android, the functionality is still upgrading, and the camera – though very high quality – is about a third as intuitive as my last phone, a HTC that started to develop a zany personality towards the end.

I do so love this phone though. It continues to be brilliant and as I haven’t quite played with all the files, documents, games and other options, every day reveals something new. However, it’s a phone. Or, as I have come to understand smartphones, it’s not; it’s a computer that has phone capability. And that the clincher I think we all need to remember.

A few years back when I moved from Apple to Android (thank gods), I realised something vital; we no longer have phones, we have computers. And we need to treat them as such. And when you use a computer, you are no longer working in a solitary environment, you are networked. All. The. Time. We need to stop thinking that we can use our technology in isolation and deal with the fact that everything is connected, and therefore the chance of things going balls-up is higher than if you worked alone.

This is a problem of our own making and we are way too far advanced in the matter to try to halt progress now. Which, in hindsight, is a shame really, as some forethought would have been good really.

Just on another quiet note, with an ongoing obsession with technology that looms over every new generation, we are all hard pressed to be so objective and consider how our smartphones, computers and other devices are ruling our lives, whilst making it easier and easier NOT to interact with each other. Technology is a human-made element, like a lot of others that we place so much faith in, and then become horribly disappointed when it fails. Perhaps if we took a step back and noted how much work we put into objects that serve us, it may provide a little perspective.

I love technology; gadgets, games, phones, computers, car accessories; I love it all. But to be brutally honest, I can’t wait to get to Bali in a few weeks and have little to no contact with the outside world due to my lack of connectivity. Nothing pulls you back to your root nature than Nature.

When was the last time you went a day without technology? A whole day. Let alone a few hours. Mine was sometime in the ‘90’s. Even then, I’m not sure it was a whole day. TV counts as tech too you know. It really is an interesting concept; have a good think and see what you come up with. I bet you’ll be surprised. And hats off to those of you who can or have done it for more than 24 hours – some of us have to work with it all the time, so we have no real choice in the matter.

I just think it would be nice if we could all remember exactly when and where we are every now and then; you are not your phone. What your facebook profile says about you does not define you. 15 minutes spent reading a BOOK, as opposed to some online gossip, will not kill you. If a system crashes, the world will not end; the earth does not grind to a halt. Hard to believe, but I swear it’s true.

It looks like the online system is back in action and I can process the 15 emails that dropped in while the software crashed. I might just check my phone quickly and see if my eBay purchase has been marked as sent yet…

Monday, 10 March 2014

[Harder. Faster. Stronger. Better.]

A lot of the best life lessons are learned the hard way. It took me the better part of 20 years to figure that out. Even today, I still whine a little when things get tough. And then, I harden the fuck up and get on with it.

This is probably going to be somewhere between a rant and a pep talk. That's usually how it goes for me; I rail against the injustices and challenges, then start psyching myself up to smash them. I don't know about you, but I've always found something enormously satisfying about getting through the hard part of an ordeal, then completely blasting the last quarter of it. It just makes it seem even more worthwhile somehow.

I found out some rubbish stuff recently, stuff I can allude to, but not necessarily name directly due to the sensitive nature of it. This blog isn't about having a place to bitch about home, work or relationships, it's about making myself a better, more educated individual by using the goddess-given skills I was born with and putting them to good use. So, in saying that, I'll try not to be too obscure and hope you get the point.

Some people I get along very well with and some people I work with, and still others who I am very close to, have all recently decided, subconsciously I'm sure, to get together and be right idiots. Between them, they have managed to completely unnerve me, bewilder me, and downright distress me. In some ways, I have to give them points for that. A single person is generally unable to deliver that sort of all-encompassing blow, so I'm a little impressed by their unknowing unity in this arena.

As I get older and hopefully wiser, I'm baffled by the choices the people around me make. Perhaps when I was younger I didn't care as much, or maybe I was making the same choices so it didn't seem so odd.

The first equation involves one thing being said in believably good faith, but with obviously no thought behind it.

When someone comes to me with an idea or a plan, I try to take some time to consider it, even if my gut says it's crap. And so, if you tell me something out of the blue that directly affects my life, without having consulted me or obviously made an effort to warn me, I am, sadly, likely to go lose my cool. Usually in a most violent and/or unattractive fashion. Crying, yelling, sarcasm, and consumption of copious amounts of sugar are par for the course. Your best option in this instant is retreat. Quickly and for a reasonable amount of time.

I like to think I recover from such 'surprises' with a certain amount of equanimity, but that can depend on you. Do take this time to adjust your thinking, discuss options with me, and generally try to make this a group effort. Survival is far more likely if you do, and as a bonus, you may find I have a better idea, that doesn't leave you looking immature, as opposed to just absent-minded.

Equation two is trickier; people who genuinely think they are doing you a favour with their words and actions. To use a polite acronym; FFS. Please do not tell me you are doing this for my benefit, that you thought this was a cohesive way to move forward, that 'if this is what you want' when clearly it isn't, and any other appalling buzz words and phrases that happen to come to mind when you are smilingly screwing me over.

Even better (sarcasm, marvelous stuff); people who tell other people, especially peers and management, how much they are doing for you. I'm not quite sure how I made it to the point where I'm in a position where I have to be grateful for something I'm not sure I wanted to do in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to be looked after, but let's not do the dog-and-pony show of how hard you are fighting for me, how much you care. Because, let's be honest here; I either got to where I am 90% on my own, or you've all spent the last few years negotiating above my head. With all due respect, the latter option is very un-fucking-likely. Even with my foul mouth.

And last, but by no means least, the inner circle sting. This one involves people very close to you being more selfish, horrible, tunnel-visioned or generally insensitive than you even remember them being. In ages. And it doesn't even have to be towards you; these prize examples of humanity can behave like complete trolls to others, and then one night, boom. You just happen to witness it. Properly see it for what it is. Isn't it hateful?

This one makes my heart die, just a wee bit. Even more so than the two above. At least with them you can honestly believe that they meant well.

This lot give me the creeps. And also make me see red. I think you get to a certain age where selfishness should be confined to time spent alone, buying yourself those sexy heels, or occasionally making sure you get your point across in difficult situations.

Selfishness comes in all shapes and forms, slippery thing that it is. It can be sulking at public events, it can be 'forgetting' things that don't involve you, it can be making it all about you. The more of these combined, the more my heart dies.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised if I've seen this behaviour before, that it all combines at one point, right? Not so much. Deep down, I'm a romantic. I'm a peaceful person. I like hugs and giggles and silly stories. It still comes as a bit of a shock when people can't make it about others for half an hour. It really does. Especially people I know really well. Or thought I did. And when I've stopped being all teary and sooky, I get absolutely, really mad. And then I get cold. And a bit clever.

Quite a few years back, this is where my mantra phrase came in; Harder. Faster. Stronger. Better.

Because with every challenge, with every fake friend or ally, with every selfish act perpetrated with indifference, I get harder. My skin grows a little thicker. My reactions become a little faster; I'm not so quick to believe the old bullshit.  

My soul gets a little stronger, it retains all those memories and weaves a tougher suit of armor to protect me. I become better.  Just better.

Not every day is a battlefield. Some days it can be the quiet challenges that give you the most grief. But remember, all of them, down to a single one, make you...

Harder. Faster. Stronger. Better.

***Get through Mondays with babes looking badass, two of my favourite things***