Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Dangers Of Reading The News

The Rugby World Cup tournament ended last weekend and I’m pleased to report that the New Zealand All Blacks have won for the first time since 1987!  It’s safe to say that the whole country is pretty much in a state of euphoria.

Everyone has been predicting that one of these days, we’re all going to wake up with a giant hangover and realize that we have to get back to reality.

Today that happened to me.  Stories about the All Blacks are dropping from the front pages and now we have to contend with, well, reality.

I think I prefer the alternative.

Maybe I’m feeling indestructible because of having watched some rugby, but I just wasn’t prepared for the news stories today that talked about what a dangerous place the world has become.

For example, there’s the story about the dangers of germs on petrol (gas) pump handles.  Who knew?  And as if there is anything clean at a gas station.  In the article, there was a demand for sanitary wipes at gas pumps so users can sanitize them before they fill up.  But that is only if providing rubber gloves is deemed to not be cost effective.

I hope you don’t lose too much sleep now that you know the risky behaviour you’ve been engaging in all these years.  It might help you put things in perspective when you learn that the study that found all those nasty germs on the pump handles was commissioned by Kimberly-Clark, the company that makes Kleenex and sanitary wipes.

But when it comes to living on the edge, nothing can top the tale of a woman who was flying from Canada to Australia with her two kids, aged four and two.  When they arrived in Australia, they went to board their domestic flight home and because the two year old wasn’t wearing shoes, they weren’t allowed on the plane.

I’ve flown from LA to Australia before and I can tell you that is one of the last things you’d want to hear when you are on the last leg of your trip home.

The airline said that it was their policy, for safety reasons, that anyone who can walk must be wearing shoes to board the plane.  It’s OK to take off your shoes
once you’re aboard.

The airline people were nice enough to go to the lost and found and find a pair of shoes for the kid and they nicely rebooked the trio on the next flight.

But then.  The woman for some reason missed that flight (shopping for shoes, perhaps?) and this time the airline wasn’t so accommodating.  They made her buy tickets for another flight.  And didn’t refund the cost of the original flight.  She claims she’s out $1,200 and is outraged.

I must admit to mixed feelings about this story.  I can’t help believe that if the woman had been carrying the kid he would have gotten on the plane without a second glance.

And let’s face it.  How much more safe is a two year old on a plane when he’s wearing shoes?  I don’t know the answer to that.  But you have to wonder about the other part of the story which is that the kid’s shoes were “misplaced” on the
flight from Canada.   I’ve been on long haul flights with two year olds before.
Lots of times.  And I can easily imagine a scenario where by the time the plane landed the mother wouldn’t have even noticed, or cared, that the shoes had been “misplaced” because of the excitement the kid had created on the flight. I’m glad I wasn’t there to know the truth.

 And speaking of excitement, the Occupy Wall Street movement got a huge boost in the Southern Hemisphere the other day.

The Queen is in Australia for a Commonwealth conference and during a public appearance, a guy who claims affiliation with the Occupy movement mooned Her Majesty.  Not only that, he was “clenching” an Australian flag “between his cheeks.”

He’s been charged with public nuisance and wilful exposure.  His defence is that nowadays you even see bare butts in PG programming so it’s no big deal and that he was careful to limit his exposure:  “Not the front at all. There were loads of people there to see the Queen. I wouldn’t want all of them seeing (that).” He has pled guilty, proudly proclaiming:  “I mooned the Queen!” and is going to be sentenced on Friday.

When’s the next Rugby World Cup?

Technology Strikes Again!

Great news on the technology front!  For those of us who are insufficiently beautiful to make it into Beautiful People, there is a Plan B.

A new service, known as FakeGirlfriend allows you to pretend you have a girlfriend even if you don’t.  There are also fake boyfriend services available.

Here’s how it works. You create a contact for your “Girlfriend” on your cell phone and where you would put in a phone number for a real person, you put in the FakeGirlfriend phone number that appears on their web site.  That’s it.

Then, when you are out with your friends and for some reason decide that you want to demonstrate that you have a significant other, you send a text to your “girlfriend” and “she” sends back a loving text to you!  Or as the FakeGirlfriend web site puts it, you get a “girlfriend-esque” message.

As you know, I’m always on the lookout for new ways in which technology is improving our lives.  Admittedly, I’ve fallen behind in scouting the technosphere for new and exciting technology solutions to life’s pressing problems since Angry Birds came along.  But FakeGirlfriend demands our attention.

First of all, let’s look at the philosophy behind FakeGirlfriend.  Based on the website, this app is designed for people who have actual friends in the real world but feel like losers among those friends because they don’t have “girlfriends.”  FakeGirlfriend’s objective is to make those friends think that the user has a girlfriend.

I guess that the idea that you can maintain the fiction of a fake girlfriend by showing text messages to your friends is plausible in a social networking world of virtual relationships.  But FakeGirlfriend is designed to work in the real world and that’s where I’m confused.  What does it say about how we are supposed to interact with our friends.

Worse, if the idea behind FakeGirlfriend catches on, the underlying premise of most sitcoms and Hollywood romantic comedies will have suddenly been rendered null and void because there won’t be any more need for stories about blind dates and people looking for Mr/Ms Right.

Here’s the scenario I picture.  Everyone is out for the evening.  It may be a group of guys or mixed couples and singles.  One guy feels like a loser because he is a single person.  So he ostentatiously whips out his phone and says, “Hmmm, I wonder how my hot girlfriend is doing.”  He covertly calls FakeGirlfriend.  Moments later, his ringtone (which is probably the Star Wars theme) tells him that he has a text message.  With exaggerated coolness he studies the message and says, “Oh, isn’t that sweet.  She misses me.”  And then, presumably, he shows the text to his friends. Because otherwise they might get suspicious.  And presumably they all say, “Oh.  You are so lucky to have a girlfriend like that.”  And life is good again.

Am I missing something here?  Is it just me or is there something needy and
desperate about the whole process?

And more importantly, wouldn’t a potential user of the service say, “Who’s that supposed to fool?”  I know that excessive playing of video games can impair the development of the frontal cortex which controls executive functions and the ability to link cause and effect.  But let’s face it, everyone knows that eventually someone is going to ask, “Why didn’t your girlfriend come tonight?” Or “Why don’t you bring her tomorrow?” Or, very possibly, “If she’s so great, how come you’re hanging around with us?”

The whole idea of a fictional girlfriend sounds like way too much trouble.  Wouldn’t it be easier to put down the cell phone and find a real girlfriend rather than expend the energy to come up with excuses as to why the fake girlfriend is never around?  Not only that, maybe one of your friends has someone they want to introduce you to but they figure there’s no point because you are smitten by this woman who sends you loving text messages.  Assuming you still do have friends if you make a point of showing them “girlfriend-esque” text messages all the time.

Let’s assume that because of my general inability to “get it” when it comes to technology, there is another dimension to FakeGirlfriend that I haven’t been able to figure out.  Maybe  in the world of people who have grown up with Tamagotchis the idea doesn’t  sound so crazy.  But the next time a friend shows me a text message from his absent but excruciatingly hot girlfriend, I’m going to demand some corpus delicti.

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