Horseboy revisited

Regular readers may remember my post about when, in 1995, I emailed TV2’s late-night news programme Newsnight with a poem about Horseboy, the show’s mascot hobby horse. Marcus Lush read it out on air, making it one of the first viewer emails to be shown on New Zealand television. Or something like that.

Well, recently I had a chance to view that episode. It was pretty much how I remembered it (I’m sure I had video-recorded it and watched it a few times back in the day), and now I’ve taken a few screen shots and added it to the post.

Actually, let’s just pause for some lolz. Here’s a screen shot from that same episode of the Absolut CHOGM map – when Newsnight realised that route of the motorcade security loop in Auckland for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting looked like a wonky Absolut vodka bottle:

absolutechogm

But anyway, watching that old episode of Newsnight – and a few others from late 1995 – it was really interesting to see how they treated that crazy new “internet” thing.

In another episode, Newsnight looked at Auckland art dealers Fox Gallery who had built a website to showcase their art. The interview was filmed at the physical gallery and much of the footage was of actual art on the walls, not online. (Though there were a few crappy shots of the gallery’s website, shown on crusty old Netscape.)

At the end of the story, the URL was shown on screen for interested parties to jot down. It was – steady yourself – http://www.ecentral.co.nz/fox.gallery/fox.welcome.html

Srsly. Remember when URLs used to be like that?

I just googled Fox Gallery to see if it still existed. It doesn’t seem to, but the search results brought up heaps of other Auckland galleries. These days it’s completely unremarkable for a gallery to have a website.

Now, when Fox’s 54-character URL was up on screen, Marcus Lush realised the graphic would actually need to stay up there for a while to give people a decent chance to write it down. So he ad-libbed, saying, “They say the trouble with the internet is that no one’s ever found a use for it. There’s nothing to do.”

And, yeah, that’s almost what it was like back then. There was no Trade Me, no Facebook, no Google. I’d only been online for a few months and while I was thrilled by the obvious potential of the internet, my first website will still about 8 months away and I was still trying to figure out what to do with the internet.

So now maybe the general internet has got to the stage where it’s a bit ordinary and boring; and now if you buy a handbag on Trade Me or watch an old Flaming Lips video on YouTube, people don’t think you’re a “computer whizz” and expect you to be able to fix their PC.

Though there are still corners of the internet that haven’t wiggled into the mainstream yet. For example, as ubiquitous as Twitter may seem, it’s still really hard to explain it to people who haven’t used it; who don’t get why you’d use it, just as 15 years ago they wouldn’t have understood why an art gallery would have a webpage.

But eventually they figure it out.

Not so live any more, is it just?

It’s been over 18 months since I stopped writing stuff on my LiveJournal account, and switched back to my personal website, upgraded to the superdeluxxxe 2.0 version running WordPress.

I had imported all my LiveJournal entries into WordPress, but I kept the originals up on LJ because I hadn’t been able to import the comments. I had always planned on coming back and grabbing the comments somehow, even if that meant a manual copy and paste.

Well, I finally got around to doing it and I discovered that LJ would only let me see the 10 most recent comments made on my posts. If I paid to upgrade, I could see the 100 most recent comments. But there were far more than 100 comments in there.

This left me a bit annoyed, because I remember some really cool discussions happening. My favourite was the fiery discussion between Joe and Thomas about engagement rings, that originally followed this post.

Comments on posts are partly what makes writing online worthwhile. It’s the difference between talking in an empty room to talking to a room full of people.

I decided to sever another connection with LJ – I delete all the posts there, but I’m going to keep using LJ to stay in touch with my friends who are still using LJ to post, particularly those tantalising friends-only posts.

LiveJournal seems to be slowly dying out in some regards – Facebook provides a lot of social and community features now and WordPress is a much more flexible blogging platform. LJ is still really popular with fan fiction communities, and also for people who want a quieter corner of the interweb to do their thing.

I kind of miss the old days of LJ. The NZ Idol community in 2004 and 2005 was so much fun. But what’s happening is what seems to happen with the internet – new websites pop up and people move on to other things that suit their needs better.

Black, gold

I have a new cellphone. It is one of those newfangled cellphones that has an extra piece of string or a special carrier pigeon that connects it to the interwebs (I do not understand modern technology). Vodafone now has some decent pricing plans for cellphone interwebs, so I have no excuse not to use it. But this has been both a bonus and a burden.

For example, if I’m walking down Courtenay Place and I think, “Wot was that line from Clue that Mrs White says about the flames?”, I can just whip out my phone and google it and quickly find the answer.

However, it also means that having the net at my fingertips sucks me out of the now and focuses my attention on the little black rectangle in my hand. It’s like the monolith from “2001”, but instead of evolving me to a new plane of enlightenment, it tells me trivia facts about Romania (Romania’s parliament building is the largest building in Europe!)

I was thinking about how cellphones are used these days. I rarely use mine for voice calls any more. In fact, my cellphone rang for a first time a few days ago and I didn’t know which button to press to answer it so I missed the call. Oh, such a modern dilemma!

But I would like to note that when my cellphone rings,it rings.

BONUS FEATURE: The Rugby

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Isn’t it awesome that the Wellington Lions won the Ranfurly Shield after a 26-year dry spell, mate!” Well, um, prior to a couple of days ago, I didn’t even know that there was a sports team called the Wellington Lions.

So with this in mind, I have wisely left the commentary on this topic to my mum, who filed this report from Wellington airport, the day after the win:

We got to the airport quite early and had just settled down to wait for the plane when there was an announcement, “I am proud to announce that the Air New Zealand flight from Auckland will be arriving shortly.” (Proud, I thought, that’s a bit odd)

Then there was a lot of yahoo-ing and yelling from a group of middle-aged Koru Club ladies up the other end of the room who were watching the plane come in. Of course the plane had the victorious Lions on board.

On the tarmac there were two fire trucks in position and when the plane taxied to the terminal it was generously sprayed with water, most of which was blown the other way anyway. Also there were a lot of workers in yellow vests on the tarmac waving flags and yellow and black scarves. Oh, how I wished I’d kept my old school scarf!

We didn’t go down to join in the rabble. We heard some kids doing a haka and there was a lot of cheering and clapping. The Koro Club ladies (and their cellphone cameras) had disappeared to join in the fun. It was all on the TV news last night, anyway.

Spamorama

The new email program I’m using has such excellent spam filtering that hardly any spam gets through. I was taking a look through my folder of filtered spam and I realised how little of it is actually relevant to me. Maybe if I were an overweight American man suffering from sexual dysfunction, but with a liking for farm girls, and who had major financial problems and a desire to work from home, maybe then it’d be more interesting to read.

Badly written (Why use one full-stop when using three just has that much more impact?), yet enthusiastic emails show up trying to get me really excited about various fabulous opportunities. But they all get it so, so wrong.

Are you drowning in too much high interest monthly debt?

No, as it happens I’m not. Like that Bros song, “I owe you nothing, oo-er, nothing at all.”

Would you like to lose weight while you sleep!
Sexual Potency 75% improvement.
Emotional Stability 67% improvement.

Losing weight while you sleep is no big claim, but to be 75% more sexually potent and 67% more emotionally stable is pretty impressive. It’s like if you took advantage of this spam you’d be able to engage in a cracker of a one night stand and not get all obsessive the next day.

Mortgage companies make you wait…
They Demand to Interview you…
They Intimidate you…
They Humiliate you…

We Turn the Tables on Them…
Now, You’re In Charge

Cool, so does this mean that I get to interview, intimidate and humiliate mortgage companies? Not that anyone would loan me money, but it’s a nice thought anyway.

Are you paying too much for: CREDIT CARD BILLS? MEDICAL BILLS? COLLECTION ACCOUNTS?

No! No! No!

Dear Windows User

Ha ha, suckers. I use a Mac.

200% return could have been achieved in less than 30 days!

Example: A $5,000 Investment in the Euro vs the dollar, “properly positioned”, on 7/17/01 could possibly have returned $12,500 on 08/10/01.

Y’know, that actually works out to be an increase of only 150%.

Must be 21 years of age.

Dammit, I’m 27.

What do you Really Know about your Employee?
What do you Really Know about your Lover?
What do you Really Know about your Baby Sitter?
What do you Really Know about your Business Associate?

I know my employee isn’t showing up to work, which is good because it means I don’t have to pay him/her. My lover is never around and I don’t even know his name. My baby sitter never seems to show up when I want to go out. Actually, the baby never seems to be around either. As for my business associate, when was the last time I saw him?

Want to join our free sex party? Your Neighbour, Your Girlfriend, Your Boss! They’re all on.

Free sex party! Woohoo, oh but look who’s going to be there. I’ll finally get to meet that old lady who lives next door, I can meet this girlfriend person, and I can ask my boss what company it is that I work for and why I’m not getting paid.

FEEL 10 YEARS YOUNGER WITH ORAL SPRAY HGH.

Turn back your body’s Biological Time Clock 10 – 20 years.

Twenty years ago I was seven and I don’t think I’d want to feel like a seven-year-old. Ten years ago I was 17 and arse to going through my final year of high school again.

Many Americans only get to see their loved ones and friends two or three times a year.

How would you like to see them daily for a fraction of the cost of phoning them?

What? They are giving me the opportunity to see the friends and loved ones of Americans on a daily basis? “Hey, it’s Tony and Sharon! Hi guys! Good to see you again. Ok, bye.”

If you are not the manager at your restaurant, please ignore this message.

Done.

Is your spouse cheating online? Are your kids talking to dangerous people on instant messenger?

Statistically speaking, I am more likely to be the person your spouse cheats with online or that dangerous instant messaging stranger.

I am a financially independent wealth-builder, who finds great pleasure in mentoring.

Kill the Rat! Get out of the Rat Race!

This one is a bit disturbing. The metaphor of the rat race is that you are one of the rats. To kill the rat is to kill yourself. But perhaps this wealth-builder will show you how to do it metaphorically.

Hot Girls And Wild Horses!

God bless the internet.

This message has been sent to you as a subscriber of the “Gambler’s Update Report”

There are periods of time I can’t account for where I seem to be subscribing to all these mailing lists. I can’t think why I joined this one; I don’t gamble often. Perhaps I was planning to build some wealth then gamble it away?

As a rule, I delete all unsolicited “junk” e-mail and use my account primarily for business. I received what I assumed was this same e-mail countless times and deleted it each time.

Hey, same here. Except for the business part.

CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES – PRISON MINISTRIES – Since you will be a Certified Minister, you can visit others in need. Preach the Word of God to those who have strayed from the flock, who are ready to CHANGE their lives – You can play a major part in that decision!

I like this idea – becoming a minister on the internet, then getting to visit prisons and try and lead the incarcerated back to the path of righteousness. Hallelujah!

European style fat removal system has helped thousands to look and feel better!

Ivan and Sven will come and haul all your fat away.

A practical, low cost, safe alternative that is COMPLETELY NATURAL – Certified Natural Bust Capsules!

Oh man, that’s one thing I so don’t need. Although, if they really worked you could spike some guy’s drink and have manbreasts a go-go.

BURNS AND SMOKES EASIER!
TOKES DEEPER!
TASTES SWEETER!
LASTS LONGER!

Shroo hoo hoo!

So power-smokin potent is our new formulation, that much to our delight and actually even to our amazement, we have even be able to establish a very happy clientele within the hard core stoner market.

Of all the claims made by various spams, I think this one is the most impressive. They managed to crack the hard core stoner market! Do you realise how hard this is to do? Good on them!

Computers

I’ve already established that I’m not a web designer. There was a brief period where I thought I’d have to declare that I was not a web developer, but fortunately people stopped calling me that. But then I realised that there are many folks who think that I am a computer geek.

No, no, no! It simply isn’t true!

1.
One Christmas in the early ’80s, my parents got my brother and I a Commodore Vic20 computer. I learned the basics of BASIC and made my name scroll down the screen. There was a text-based adventure game that displayed “CHICKEN SHIT!” if the player chose a wussy option. I thought this was really mean and rude, so I changed it to read “Oh well you played well but you’ll have to start again”. I liked playing with my Barbies better. Later we got a Commodre 64 and I liked “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiago.”

2.
At high school, a really popular subject to take for Sixth Form Certificate was Computer Skills. Everyone agreed that it was a really useful subject to take because you’d learn all the basics about computers and it would give you valuable skills that potential employers would look for. One day all the Computer Skills classes went on a field trip to Waikato University’s computer department. In the whole of the sixth form it seemed that the only people who didn’t go were all the really smart people – the ones who now are working on their PhDs – and me. I wasn’t going to waste my school days studying computers.

3.
I was at Waikato University experimenting with tertiary education. I was in the computer department. I was sitting at a computer doing practical work for a paper called “The Computing Experience.” I only took it because it seemed like an easy credit. It hated it so much. Every vein in my body was filled with self-loathing whenever I stepped into the computer lab. It was so, so uncool. All I can remember is that on the first day one of the lecturers rambled on and on about RSI, about some guy who lost the use of his hands from overuse, had to use his head, but ended up getting RSI in his neck. Like that’d ever happen to anyone taking that course. I also remember that I finished the practical work (“Task 1: Print out sample1.doc”) in half a semester and I got an A.

4.
I ended up working on the helpdesk of an ISP. I didn’t know much about internet connectivity, but I didn’t need to because most of the work involved logging calls. However, about ten minutes before the helpdesk closed every night, we had to “take ’em as they come,” i.e. give out help on the phone, then and there. Most of the time I just told people to call back the next day. The helpdesk supervisor changed and the new supervisor was somehow under the impression that not only did I know how to do tech support, but that I had previously done it. Fortunately after a month on the helpdesk I moved to the accounts department where my only real challenge was figuring out which was debit and which was credit.

5.
I got another job working as an HTML editor on large web site. For the most part it was OK, but I’d find myself in meetings with programmers having discussions about stuff and not really be able to understand what was going on. I also didn’t know anything other than HTML. I had no knowledge of things such as JavaScript that are useful, if not essential for any good website creator. HTML is easy but everything else makes my brain hurt. Since I left the job my HTML skills have atrophied. I’ve not done any major HTML work for over a year, and I doubt I’d be skilled enough to go back to a similar job.

6.
I was moving flats. The moving guys came and started hauling away furniture. I’d refered to one of the pieces of furniture “the computer desk.” One of the guys said, “so, you’re a bit of a computer whiz, eh?” Er, no. Owning a computer doesn’t make me a computer whiz, just as owning a car doesn’t make me an expert driver.

7.
I’m not sure how it happened. One moment I was just hanging out at the station to see what happens behind the scenes on talkback radio, the next minute I was sitting in the studio, headphones on, rockin’ the mike as a sidekick on a computer-themed talkback show. There was the host, who kept things going and made sure that things didn’t get too geeky, the expert geek who tackled all the callers questions, and there was me. I’m not sure what I did, other than engage in witty banter. I think once when the geek had a coughing fit and left the studio, I had a wild stab at answering someone’s question about a scanner problem. But most of the time the question “any ideas, Robyn?” was met with, “uh, no.” The most fun had was the time we snuck into the classic hits station and raided their prize cupboard. I left the country, left the show.

8.
I saw comedian Rita Rudner perform once. She joked that if you ask a man what kind of car he’s got he’ll tell you all the specs, everything that’s under the hood. If you ask a woman what kind of car she has, she’ll say, “a blue one” – or whatever colour it is. I’m like that with computers. I have no idea what goes on inside. I’m sure if I’d taken Computer Skills I’d have a better idea, but I’m reasonably clueless as to what goes on under the hood. I used to have a beige computer. It was running Windows-something (probably 2000). I don’t know how big the hard drive was, or how fast the processor was or whatever else is measured. But I got sick of it because it was big and beige and boring. So I sold it and got an iBook. I’d had minimal experience with Macs before, but I’d never owned one before. It was lovely. Everything worked so smoothly and easily. There was very little bullshit to contend with. The best thing, though, was that it was really pretty. The new iBooks are cool, white and silver. Yes, that’s right: I like my computer because it’s pretty.

9.
I’m not a computer geek. Some people assume that I am. They tell me that I must because I own a computer/have a web page/had a job involving a computer. But I’m not.

A woman I used to work with used to often say, “I’m not technical,” whenever someone tried to engage her in geek talk. Well hey, I’m not technical either. I know a few things and I once knew what TCP/IP stood for, but mostly I’m not technical and I have no idea what most of the stuff in a computer shop is.

And I like that. I like the fact that if I watch a movie like “AntiTrust”, it’s not really obvious to me that there’s stuff being done that can’t really happen with real computers. I like that I don’t really know what’s going on behind the silver and white case of my iBook. I’m going to concentrate on what I like doing, what I’m good at. I shall leave the technical stuff to those who like that stuff. I use a computer, but I don’t care about computers.

Flat and Warm

“You’re just jealous cos you never got one.”

Oh yeah. That’s right. I want a Soda, that’s why I have an “I want a Soda” badge on my page. In fact, that’s why this page is up in the first place. I am hoping that Rus and Dave will look at it and think to themselves, “Goodness! She is “saying” some rather “unfresh” things about “us”. Let’s give her an award!!!!”

Yeah. Yeah, I can see it working out that way.

And anyway, they claim to have run out of ideas so they stopped doing it.

There’s this 5-times-a-week New Zealand page awards site called Soda. It’s dodgy.

I was having a perv through its archive and found one week’s theme was “grrls”. Not grrrls, not girls, but the curious hybrid “grrls”.

Monday’s winner was Princess Diana, because she’d just died the day before. Soda describe Princess Diana as “possibly the most famous “girl” of them all.”

I’m thinking maybe she was actually a “woman” rather than a “girl”.

Tuesday’s winner was Xtra’s “Stuff for Chicks”. An Xtra site gets a Soda. Gee. How rare. As a testament to Soda’s savvy for picking winners, the “Stuff for Chicks” site is no longer up.

The winner on Wednesday is Girls’ Brigade. Not Grrls Brigade. Their site behaves like a good Soda site should and is very non-threatening. Soda claims that it “contains many of the subtle tricks that we have been promoting through SODA.” Right-o, lads.

On Thursday the winner was “Jacqui’s Journey”. About a woman who rode the length of a country on a horse. Enough said, I think.

And finally Friday’s winner was “Webgrrls Aotearoa”. Excuse me while I hammer a sign to my forehead that says “Look at me! I’m a female!” Soda says, “We’d like to see the membership increase and the site become an even greater resource – why not drop in and have a look yourself… ” Damn. It didn’t happen.

Anyway, I happened to mention this all on the Aardvark forums, and I received an e-mail from Rus, one of the two Soda guys, that included this:

Oh – actually – maybe you can name five sites for a “decent” SODA theme about wimmin in NZ?

Just let us know….

Dripping with sarcasm. Challenging me. Like if he, the editor of a daily awards site can’t pick five decent sites, then what hope do I have? And what the hell is he on about with “wimmin”? Is that like “grrls”? And why put the word decent in quotes?

So I gave him eleven sites. They weren’t all classy. I kind of threw in a few sucky ones as a quality control measure.

Then about a month later it was “Attitude” week on Soda. Attitude week? I’ve given up trying to understand what that means.

But anyway, all five sites were from my list. Wow. I really can pick ’em.

Here are annotated excerpts from the week’s reviews.

Design is “fresh” – that’s “design of the site” not a reflection on the contributors.

Again, what is happening with all these quotation marks? Is “fresh” in quotes so we don’t mistakenly think he means a web site that’s been recently harvested from a garden?

I really dislike having to turn my head to read a line of text running across the entire screen width.

And they say the Internet causes people to be less physically active.

Having voyeuristic tendencies will probably increase the enjoyment factor.

And having masochistic tendencies will definitely increase the enjoyment factor of viewing Soda.

Graphics are – um – interesting to look at – and do load in your browser.

Graphics that load in your browser? And this would be opposed to graphics that load in your microwave oven or in your washing machine?

I could go on. I’d really like to, but I feel that Soda’s really gone and dug its own hole way better than I ever could.

A fitting conclusion to attitude week.

Help Desk Action

I’d heard stories. Stories about really dumb people ringing up helpdesks. Then I found myself on a helpdesk. I was a little skeptical. I had hope in intelligence of other people. Oh, but I was wrong.

www.duh.co.nz

This woman rings up and asks if there is something wrong with New Zealand web pages because she can’t get any to load. It turns out that she thinks that if you type in www.(any word).co.nz it will go to a page on that subject.

Cut Off

This person of indeterminate gender calls and complains that I cut him/her off in the middle of a download. Oh, like I am sitting there and I cut that person off because… um… I explained that it could have been a problem with the analogue telephone system. The response: “But it’s not fair….” Oh boo hoo.

And then…

This angry sounding chick calls the helpdesk. She’s got a new account, has managed to get connected… but, “um, where’s the internet”. Using my supreme technical skills I was able to solve the problem by getting her to run Internet Explorer.

@

A woman rang wanting to know where the key that looked like an a with a circle around it was. After telling her that the @ was called “at”, I told her that it could be found by pressing shift+2. For some reason, that key wasn’t on her keyboard.

Secret Code

A really confused sounding woman asked, “The password is the secret letters thing, isn’t it?” But by that she meant her user name. Top secret.

Porno Guy I

A guy rang up. He gave his log-in name as the ISP’s homepage. Then he said that he’d heard that there was lots of pornography on the internet. I told him to use search engines, but if I’d been thinking, I would have referred him to www.hotwetsluts.com.

Illegal!

And the cool chick who got an error message saying “illegal operation” and wanted to know if that meant her account would get closed or if the police would know about it.

Name

“Could I have your name?”
“The name of what?”
“Yourself.”

Garth Brooks

This guy calls up and starts rambling about country music and various shite. I managed to get what he wanted, which was a friend of his had written a country song and wanted to give it to Garth Brooks, “It would be a big hit for him”. He had heard about how there are all these celebrities on this “internet” thing and he wanted to contact Garth. I told him I had no idea how to contact Garth Brooks. He sounded somewhat disappointed.

Porno Guy II

A pervy old man type person calls up and said he’s heard that “they” were cracking down on people who were “downloading files”. What he mean was pornos. I assured him that it was only illegal pornos, not the lovely ladies he was into. He sounded quite relieved.

Pronunciation

Somehow Eudora becomes pronounced as “Endora” and Trumpet Winsock becomes “Winstock”. Another neat trick, “Open Eudora.” “Open my door?”

S For…?

I was having trouble hearing a person spelling their user name, so I was going through the letters with the alpha-bravo-charlie-delta alphabet. I said, “is it s for sierra”? The guy goes “No, that’s wrong. It’s S for Smith”.

Wrong Number

A guy rang up needing help installing a start-up CD for another ISP. And then a woman rang wanting to pay her phone bill. Then a guy called wanting to order a some computer games.

After about six weeks of this I finally got out and into a job in the accounts department. I was on the verge of turning into a egomaniacal helpdesk bitch, with nothing but contempt with everyone who called. But I’m ok now.

I should also mention that there were some pretty cool people who called and I only got majorly yelled at a couple of times.

It’s fun.