Fandango’s Provocative Question (23 September 2020)

I could set my clock by Fandango’s Provocative Question (actually, I probably could, although I never tried). But Wednesay’s mean just one thing. Today, Fandango asks:

To what degree have you been able to control the course that your life has taken? Or is being in control of your life just an illusion?

The latter.

We like to kid ourselves that we are in control, but we’re only in control if the “system” is small enough. For example, there is a pizza in my freezer (spinach and ricotta, I’m looking forward to it!) which I’ll probably eat tonight. Me, on my own, I’m in control.

But broader that out. As soon as the “system” gets bigger, forget it. Multiple people? Forget it. When do we all agree on what flavour of pizza to eat? Or even, whether to eat pizza at all? Forget it.

Okay, that was a flippant example. But Trump possibly thinks he is in control of the streets, say, except that all those rioters we’ve seen in the last few months would disagree. The human race wants to feel it is in control of Mother Nature, say, but all those fires disagree. As soon as you get larger systems, forget it.

I think we have a very limited sphere of control. Anybody who ever had health problems, they’ll understand exactly how “in control” we are! Anyone who ever got pregnant, the baby’s gonna drop after nine months, whether you like it or not – that’s how much control you have.

With that particular example of reproduction in mind, this is one area where science has given us a tiny bit of control. The obvious examples are contraception and abortion, but, widening things out to medicine in general, something like blood pressure tablets will postpone that heart attack just that little bit longer (we hope).

But even then, our level of control is quite minimal, I think. We’re still going to drop dead of something, eventually.

Fandango’s Provocative Question (16 September 2020)

I could set my clock by Fandango’s Provocative Question (actually, I probably could, although I never tried). But Wednesay’s mean just one thing. Today, Fandango asks:

Having been subjected to stay at home restrictions (to one degree or another) over the past six months, would you say that the quarantine has made you a better person? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

Actually I think this is going to be quite a dull response. To answer the question, first I’d have to ask “what changed?” during lockdown. So, let’s see:

We couldn’t go shopping, of course, but then I was never a big shopper before. So, very little changed for me. For my wife, she actually ordered more, online, because she was working staggered shifts. Did that make her a better person? I bet Jeff Bezos would say “yes”, but I’m not sure anyone else will.

We started doing grocery shopping online. I suppose the environment benefitted a little, by us using less petrol, but it just meant the supermarket truck came to us instead. I suppose there was a net gain, because that truck would have visited 20 other households too. But, either way, I’m not sure that made us better people. The environment was already a pretty big issue for us. But I could certainly buy that if somebody was unaware of the environment before (was anybody unaware???), but they are because of the pandemic, then they will be better people. Probably.

One thing which changed was not having to go into my local city to do my telephone befriending. More petrol saved, but that was mainly a benefit to me, just because it cut out all that travel time. So I don’t think that made me a better person.

Possibly the one thing where I helped was the telephone befriending itself. I was doing it already. But pre-lockdown, I spoke to around 10 people per week, and during lockdown, to about 20. But did that make me better? I just did what I did, what I did before and what I’ve done since. I doubt it.

As regards the less tangible things, did the pandemic help me appreciate the value of human life? Not really, human life is valuable but in saying that, death is part of life. Did the pandemic cause me to appreciate people’s space? Undoubtedly, but you’re not saying you’re a better person because of that, surely? Did the pandemic help me to appreciate my friends more than I did before? No, not really. I appreciated them anyway.

And that echoes my overall sentiment. I doubt I’m any different. What was important to me before, is still important.

Fandango’s Provocative Question (9 September 2020)

I could set my clock by Fandango’s Provocative Question (actually, I probably could, although I never tried). But Wednesay’s mean just ont thing. Today, Fandango asks:

What has been the strangest, weirdest dream that you can remember? What do you think triggered that dream?

Okay, I’ll warn you now, I’m gonna struggle with this one. I never seem to remember my dreams.

I know they happen last-thing at night. If I lie in (I used to do that a lot) then the dreaming would happen during the lay-in and could even affect my mood for the day (good or bad). But I could never remember the details.

Since I’ve been married. my wife has sometimes said something like I had a dreamn that you divorced me, and all I could say was: don’t worry, I’m not planning on divorcing you. Not unless you keep having these bloody silly dreams.

But remembering my own dreams? Forget it. Almost. I can remember one nightmare I used to have as a child. I guess I must have had it repeatedly, probably forced to tell the story to my mum, which is why I remember it.

We lived in the same house until I was 17 years old. It was a semi-detached house in one of the suburbs of Liverpool, UK. It was nothing special, built between the wars, quite nondescript.

Outside of this nouse was a lamp-post. Let me try and find an image of something similar.

There we go. That one is close enough to make my point.

Do you see those bits sticking out to left and right? Those were its arms.

And the lamp itself? That was its head, complete with scary hat.

Now, in my nightmare, this thing would come alive, would grow legs, and would chase me down the street.

To this day, I have no memory of where it was chasing me to. Maybe to the next lamppost? Maybe they were ganging up on me? Did it ever catch me? Well, I’m still here to tell the tale.

The scary thing is that one of the TV channels here (Channel 4) hit on this idea of making their logo come to life, and to have human qualities. These little fillips freak me out.

Go figure!

Fandango’s Provocative Question (2 September 2020)

Wednesday. Fandango’s Provocative Question once again. A long one this week, but ultimately rewarding. Fandango asks:

Have you ever had to make what turned out to be a life changing decision? If so, do you ever wish that you could go back in time and make a different decision? What decision was that and how do you think your life would have changed if you’d made a different one?

With hindsight, there were a few life-changing decisions. I guess we all have them. I’ll pick out a couple:

I remember the time I spent working in the USA. I was sitting on a job offer, with a visa in my hand, and ultimately decided to return to the UK. That was certainly a life-changing decision. With hindsight, I think the company thought “this guy will do anything to work in the US” (and some other employees certainly thought that), so they made what was a pretty crappy offer. I always had my eye on the level of employment I would go for in the UK (which I went on to achieve), so I thought of this crappy offer as, well, a crappy offer.

Within that time in the US, there would have been other life-changing decisions.

When I first went over, I was based in some offices in the ‘burbs, outside Washington, DC. Frankly, the experience left me with no desire ever to go back. I think it was the ‘burbs rather than DC. I hated having to get into a car just to go out anywhere. Even the roadways didn’t have any sidewalk.

But go back I did, to Tampa, Fl. We were deep in talks with Chase Manhattan, who had a big campus there. I went over for a few weeks of workshops, decided I liked the place, so we set the wheels in motion.

Last of all, Chase changed the goalposts and said they wanted us in Manhattan. As it happened, I loved NYC. I would have been more than happy to work there instead of Fl, but NYC was mega-expensive. The offer which was acceptable in Fl was a pittance in NYC.

The point is, three totally different places, any of which I might have ended up if I had gone over. Any of which might be considered “life changing”, compared to any other.

So, one decision I got right.

Then there was meeting my wife. If anything, I remember that largely because the big decisions like marriage and children were so easy. Remember, I wouldn’t have met her at all if I’d stayed in the USA. But I did have a wobble right at the very start, when we first met. Did I want to commit to this fish, or did I want to go looking for all the others in the sea? (I’m sure I’ll be in trouble for comparing her to a fish!) But seriously, whenever I met a girlfriend, there were always other people – do I want to be with her or should I keep looking just in case something happens?

I reckon I got that one right.

I suppose I could look at my job, too. Although technically I worked for myself, I had clients. I was my own boss, but not really my own boss. One client, I knew for 10 years. When you imagine, you normally have a client for 3 or 6 months, 10 years is a long time. During that time, they asked me three times if I would join their team permanently. The last time, they made it known… by the way, we’re also planning on getting rid of all contractors. I figured I could find other clients, which was indeed the case, when it happened.

But after that, I wasn’t aware that there would have been this blip with my health. I never knew I’d have a stroke. I might be earning a decent salary still, or maybe living on their pension, rather than trying to eke out a living on my own.

Was that the right call? Well, sure, if we’re talking about keeping my sanity. One thing with this client was that they were so disorganised, it would have driven me crazy. But maybe financially, they would have been the right call?

I don’t know. I don’t really think we can go through life with regrets, but maybe just a few teeny ones?

Fandango’s Provocative Question (19 August 2020)

Wednesday. Fandango’s Provocative Question once again. I looked in my reader and what should I see? This week, Fandango asks:

Do we control technology or is technology controlling us?

It depends who “us” is. If you’re a pawn, then yes, you are controlled. For example, when I order my repeat meds, I have to log on to a web site. I have to behave in a certain way just to place the order. In that way, the technology controls me – I have to interact with it in a particular way, otherwise I don’t get my meds.

But some human(s) will have designed that site. The site will function exactly how they decide. So in that sense, we (i.e. some humans) are very much in control.

Fandango uses the example of his current woes with WordPress, so let’s think about that.

There is a free, open-source content management product called WordPress, available from wp.org. I can download it for free and run it on my own web server, if I could be bothered. Plugins, themes, the lot.

There is also a company, wp.com, who maintain servers which run this product. They sell hosting to Fandango and I, and probably you. That’s not what they call it, but that’s what it is. They sell disk space on a web server.

I don’t understand how wp.org and wp.com are related. I feel that they must be related somehow, and wp.com support staff have been happy to create feature requests for me. But what I heard – some wp.org founder walked and founded wp.com seems too simple.

It is wp.org who are pushing Gutenberg. wp.com are taking all the flak from users, but this is coming from wp.org. So, the humans at wp.org are most definitely in control of the technology, although Fandango is not.

My supposition is that wp.org decided to “grow” their product. One way to grow it was to adopt the new editor. Most probably financial. Maybe they wants easier things like shopping carts to attract businesses?

But standard users like Fandango will have been lower down the pecking order. Exactly how it has turned out.

Once you decide new-over-old, it makes sense just to support one, although I’ve been surprised at how quickly this has happened. You double your support costs otherwise. Maybe that’s the bottom line? Maybe the plan is to fire half the support team?

There are other blogging platforms, and it is only a year ago that I moved here from Blogger. The Blogger editor had far more in common with the Classic Editor than with Gutenberg. But Blogger has none of the community. Have a look. Try finding blogs about such-and-such. The only way is through Google Search – there is no hub, no reader.

I blogged for about 2 years on Blogger, and had almost no readers. Not surprising. Maybe anyone who met me pre-wp.com can remember how difficult it was to interact with me? Things we take for granted – following, liking, commenting, even pingbacks, more difficult, for the most part impossible. Blogger has not been built to interact.