Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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A Creation Myth

Growing up I was familiar with both the two creation myths of the Bible and of several variations of creation as told by the Māori of Aotearoa New Zealand. I don’t recall either the Biblical or Māori version as being any more “true” than the other. Neither were thought of as being real events, but as a vehicle for conveying an understanding of the human condition. In this, the oldest of the creation myths, which found in the second chapter of the Genesis, is the only one that sets out to blame the “sins” of the world on humankind.

Interestingly the three versions are strikingly at odds as to the order in which man and woman are created.

Genesis 1: Man and woman are created equal on the 6th day.
Genesis 2: Man is the first living creature, while woman is the last creature created, and from a rib of the man.
Māori mythology: Humankind was not created until an indefinite time after the separation of sky and earth. The first two of humankind are both female.

Here is one variant of the Māori creation myth:

It was from this myth that I was taught that personal desires can have consequences that may be harmful to others, and so one must be mindful not just of ourselves but of others as well. I notice that within Māori mythology, there is no attempt to explain the nature of “good” and “evil”. Instead they seem to tell us that actions have consequences: some desirable, some undesirable.

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(Not) Windows Support Desk

[Ring ring. Ring ring]
ME: G’day. This is Barry
CALLER: Hello this is Windows support. I’m calling regarding a problem with your computer.
ME: Oh? what kind of problem?
CALLER: Do you realise that your computer is generating a lot of Internet traffic that is related to viruses and malware?
ME: No. Is that bad?
CALLER: Very bad. You can get into a lot of trouble if you let it continue.
ME: Bugger! So what should I do?
CALLER: That is why I am calling sir. So we can repair your computer and make it safe. Just follow what I tell you to do. Do you understand?
ME: yes
CALLER: OK. Please turn your computer on.
ME: It’s already on
CALLER: Ok. Hold down the Windows key, press the “R” key and release the Windows key.
ME: What’s the Windows key?
CALLER: Do you see the key at the front left of the keyboard? It should have the letters CTRL in it.
ME: Yes
CALLER: Well the to its right should be the Windows key.
ME: Oh you mean the one with a kind of wriggly 4-paned window one it?
CALLER: That’s the one. Hold it down and then press the “R” key then release both keys. Got That?
ME: Yes. [pause] Done it.
CALLER: Ok. Now type in E V E N [unrecognisable] [unrecognisable] W R
ME: Sorry my hearing’s not the best. Can you spell it out again please?
CALLER: E for echo, V for victory, E for echo, N for November, T for tango, V for victory, W for whisky, R for Romeo.
ME: [pause] Ok. Now what?
CALLER: Click Ok.
ME: I don’t see an Ok button. Should I just press Enter
CALLER: What? Ah, yes, just press Enter. Then tell me what you see.
ME: Nothing
CALLER: Huh? What do you mean nothing? Can you describe exactly what you see on your screen.
ME: well, I mean Nothing happened. The box that I typed E V E N T V W R into is still sitting in the middle of the screen.
CALLER: Do you have any other programs running?
ME: Yes, I have my email program, a web browser, a word processor,and a [Caller interupts]
CALLER: [cross tone] You must close all programs completely. Do you understand? I want just the desktop like when you first start your computer. Am I clear?
ME: No need to be so short. If you wanted a clean screen you should have said so at the beginning. Now, when you say “Like when you first start your computer”, do you mean before I log in or afterwards?
CALLER: [sounding flustered] Before. No, I mean Afterwards.
ME: [sounding doubtful] Ok. Hang on a mo.
[long pause]
CALLER: Hello? Hello, are you there sir?
ME: Yes. I was just closing down everything. I’m ready now.
CALLER: [speaking slowly and deliberately] Ok. Hold down the Windows key, and while holding it down, press the “R” key. Then release the “R” key and then the Windows key.
ME: [short pause] Ok, Done.
CALLER: Has a box appeared?
ME: Yes
CALLER: Type E V E N T V W R into the box and then read out what you have entered.
[slow typing can be heard]
ME: Done. I’ve typed in E for echo, V for victory, E for echo, N for November, T for tango, V for victory, W for whisky, R for Romeo
CALLER: Very good! Now click the Ok button.
ME: Like I said before, there’s no Ok button.
CALLER: [pause] What buttons to you see?
ME: There are 3 buttons: “Preferences”, “Close”, and one that is greyed out with the label “Launch”.
CALLER: Does the box have a title at the top?
ME: Yes.
[silence]
CALLER: Well?
ME: Well what?
CALLER: [exasperated] What it the title?
ME: Oh sorry. “Application Finder”
CALLER: And you got there when you pressed the Windows key and the R Key – are you Sure?
ME: If you mean the R key between the E key and the T key and below the 4 key and the 5 key and above the D key and the F key, then, yes, I am sure. If there’s another R key somewhere else, you’ll need to direct me to it.

The above conversation is the beginning of a 31 minute 17 second session I had with a guy that was trying to “help” me fix a “serious problem” on my computer. After several more unsuccessful attempts to run Event Viewer, he tried another approach:

CALLER: I want you to click on the Start Button.
ME: Where do I find the Start Button?
CALLER: At the bottom left hand corner of the screen
ME: There’s no button there
CALLER: [sounds like he’s talking with clenched teeth] There is a bar that runs along the bottom of the screen. On the left side there is a button that says “Start” or it has the Windows logo on it. I want you to click on it.
ME: Look mate, I’m telling you there’s no bar along the bottom of the screen and there’s no button with Start or the logo on it. I’d tell you if there was. Are you sure you’re qualified to be doing this?
CALLER: You little sh*t! Do you know how much trouble you can get into by messing around with Windows Security Office? You don’t want to f*ck with us.

Usually these types of calls end abruptly when I question the qualification of the caller, but this was a new approach. He clearly thought I was a young person trying to be smart. He then went on to explain how I could be banned from the Internet for life for knowingly distributing malware; that my telephone would be monitored, and as distributing viruses and ransomware was regarded as terrorism by the authorities, I’d be put on the terror watch list and the No Fly list, and so would my parents. He then threatened to set the wheels in motion unless I cooperated fully, and asked me again to click the Start button.

I gently explained that I was in fact 69 years old, and as I have autism I often take instructions too literally, and rather than assuming my screen looked exactly like his, he should ask questions that would lead him to understand how my computer is different. I then gave the example of Instead of being rude when I said I didn’t have a Start button, he could have enquired what I do to start up a program.

This seemed to calm him down and we spent another 20 minutes or so as he fruitlessly tried to lead me through installing a remote desktop, a key logger and backdoor, and finally an attempt to install TeamViewer. If only he had bothered to ascertain what operating system was installed on my computer, he would have had a much easier time. My home has been Microsoft Windows free for almost 15 years. Our 2 desktops, a laptop and our media and backup server all run variants of Linux.

Eventually it dawned on him that I might be leading him on and he directly asked if I was wasting his time. So I told the first porky of the evening. I mentioned that New Zealand was a member of the Five Eyes Spy network and I had been using delaying tactics so that his precise location could be identified. It was just a matter of deciding whether to use the local law enforcement agency to arrest him, or the Internet Rendition Unit to whisk him to a jurisdiction where Internet crime is better dealt with. The decision would be made within 24 hours. At that point he hung up. I have no idea if he believed any of the lie, but I hope he sweats for a few hours at least.

I don’t like lying and on the rare occasions I do, I always feel physically uncomfortable afterwards. But on this occasion I actually feel good.


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Census “Night”

Once every five years, on a Tuesday evening in March, everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand completes a personal census form, and one person in each household completes a dwelling census form. This year Census night was the 6th of March, but unlike previous censuses, this one is being conducted online. Already this has caused widespread concern.

While there is an option to complete a paper based census form, you have to request that the forms be posted to your home address. Unlike previous censuses, there is not an army of thousands of enumerators armed with forms roaming the countryside to ensure every resident, tourist, freedom camper, homeless person etc receives and returns the census forms. The fact that a household pass-code was mailed only to dwellings with known addresses means that many more people than in previous years will miss out.

And as in many cases the letter containing the pass-code arrived only a few days before census night, those that are unable or unwilling to go online will not have enough time to request and have delivered paper forms in time for census night.

As I see it, the poorer sections of the community and also the elderly are more likely to not have a means of completing an online form. Within both groups, the odds of not having access to an internet connection or a smart phone are much higher than for other groups, yet these are the very people that are most likely to benefit from services and support that is funded according to population counts. For example, health districts are funded by central government based on the population within the district.

Even with a paper based census, some health districts have been underfunded as those in the lower socio-economic groups are more likely to fail to complete a census. And as these are the very people that place the most load on the resources of health districts, some district health authorities are struggling to remain solvent. The new method of collecting census data is only going to exacerbate the problem.

I appreciate that collecting census data on line results in a considerable cost saving, but if it results in inadequate or inaccurate data, what’s the point? I do hope that more thought goes into how data is gathered by the time the next census roll around in 2023.

Census Questions

The range of question asked were very similar to those of previous years, but I was pleased to see that some were more open ended than previously.

Damp Homes

Until the 1990s, newly built homes were poorly insulated and a great many NZ homes suffer from dampness, mildew and mould. Then around the start of the millennium, many homes built in the 1990s began to display what is now termed “Leaky Home Syndrome“. This is likely to be a financial burden on home owners, local authorities and central government for some time.

I don’t recall seeing questions about damp homes in previous census, but this time there were two questions specifically about damp homes: “Is this dwelling damp?” and:
Can you see mould
I have a sneaky feeling that if the previous government had not lost the November elections, this question would not have been included.

Religion

In previous censuses, this question was usually multi-choice and asked for your religious affiliation, with the major religions and denominations, “no religion” and “object to answering” listed, plus an option of “other” with a small space for writing a name of an unlisted religion. This year, the question is more open ended and did not ask for affiliation, but one’s actual religion.

I thought quite a bit how I should respond to this question. In previous years, I’ve either selected  “other” and written “Religious Society of Friends”, or selected “none” as I’m not a believer in the supernatural. I’ve never been completely happy with either choice as Quakers are included in “Christian, other” for statistical purposes, and I don’t usually consider myself Christian. On the other hand, although I don’t believe in a supreme being or any other supernatural manifestations, I consider myself religious and take the tenets of Quakerism seriously. I finally settled on “Non-theist Quakerism”, and I’ll leave to the statisticians to decide what that means.
What_is_your_religion
At the last census, 42% claimed no religious affiliation, while 49% claimed a Christian affiliation. It’ll be interesting to see if “no religion” outnumbers all the Christian factions/denominations combined.

Ethnicity

For the third census in a row, the question on ethnicity has annoyed me. The term Pākehā has been dropped from the multi-choice answer in favour of “New Zealand European”. I don’t identify as European, and prefer to use Pākehā. So once again I selected my ethnicity as “other” and wrote in “Pākehā”.

Health

There seemed to be more questions about difficulties one experiences due to health issues. These included:

  • Do you have difficulty seeing, even if wearing glasses?
  • Do you have difficulty hearing, even if using a hearing aid?
  • Do you have difficulty walking or climbing steps?
  • Do you have difficulty remembering or concentrating?
  • Do you have difficulty washing all over  or dressing?
  • Do you have difficulty communicating using your usual language, for example understanding or being understood by others.

I don’t recall a similar series of questions in previous censuses, but perhaps the questions have more significance now that I’m in my late 60s, and I found myself answering some of them in the affirmative.

Other questions such as sex, income, voluntary work, employment status, education levels etc. were similar to those in previous censuses. I made a mental note that my income 20 years ago was more than seven times larger than it is today, and when inflation is taken into account it was more than 10 times greater. Such is life. Yet we don’t feel any worse off than we did back then. We’ve been on three ocean cruises in the last five years and generally have spent more on leisure activities over the last decade than we ever did when both of us had full-time professional careers. In hindsight, perhaps we didn’t have our work/life balance quite right.

In past years Census Night was a family affair, all sitting around the table completing our forms. That feeling just wasn’t there tonight. Sitting in front of the computer screen doesn’t compare. Will I ask for printed forms next time round? Definitely not. I will miss the “good old days”, but completing the census online was quick and effortless, not to mention that mistakes were easier to correct!

Why are our censuses always conducted on a Tuesday in March? Statistically, these are the days when the least number of people are in transit within Aotearoa New Zealand.

Now we just need to wait until the early results of the number crunching starts to trickle out in a month or two.