ICT Procrastinationitis pt 2

Once upon a time (and a very good time it was) there was a girl who loved watching Star Trek. She was embarassingly in love with Captain Kirk, quite fancied Mr Spock and spent most of the time she should have been doing her homework reading her way through her father\’s massive stash of science fiction, including early Analogs and Astounding Science Fiction magazines going back to the Fifties.
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This meant she was very excited when the school announced it was going to spend the requisite vast amount of money and get a computer, one of the first computers in schools ever.
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When the thing arrived she snuck into the classroom where it was kept and sat down in front of it. \”Computer!\” she said to it, commandingly.
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It said nothing. Later the maths teacher explained that if you wanted to get it to do anything you had to write a programme for it. In fact programming it to do long division was extremely difficult and slow and involved flow-diagrams and binary coding and something monstrous called hexadecimal.
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The girl was bitterly disappointed. She carried on turning her large maths textbook sideways and opening it so that she could pretend the lefthand page in front of her was a screen and the righthand page was really a keyboard. She called her new invention the compubook and was quite annoyed when somebody else invented it again many years later and called it a laptop.
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Yes, folks. I invented the laptop-concept.
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I did try to learn how to program the computer, but found it too frustrating and incomprehensible. You clearly needed to be able to Do Maths, which I couldn\’t because of the evil School Maths Project (whose textbook had formed the prototype laptop). So I went back to drooling over film actors (I\’d moved on a bit from Star Trek) and pretending I was piloting spaceships past dangerous black holes and dealing with computers that, when addressed, responded briskly \”Working!\”
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I\’m still waiting for that.

ICT Procrastinationitis

I\’m extremely cross with the Financial Hack at the moment – he\’s been taking the piss out of me because I promised to learn how to use WordPress properly and Paypal and all that some time ago. He alleges it was around July 2011. And although I\’ve slowly done a few things – hello, Paypal button! Hello extra pages! – these in fact amount to diddleysquat (ie more than F.A. but definitely less than a hill of beans).
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What makes me particularly annoyed with him is that he\’s right. I have been utterly wet about it. Last year I actually made a New Year\’s resolution to get better at and comfortable with ICT. I did a brilliant course at Link into Learning at my local library which was pretty much tailor-made for evening-out the large gaps between the bits of computing I was familiar with (email, word processing) and the bits I wasn\’t – (websites, research and buying stuff online). However.
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It wasn\’t enough. Now I have to get really good at doing it because I can\’t bear to hand over large wads of cash to other people to do things just because they know more than I do.
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Yes, I\’m fully aware that this post is actually more procrastination. OK, all right. I\’m doing it now. I am. Honest.
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Tomorrow (or whenever) I will explain why ICT is so hard for me.

What I did on New Year\’s Day…

It involved a lost dog… These things happen to me regularly, probably because I have a big neon sign in Dog on my forehead saying something like \”Softie – try her with the cute melting eyes…\”
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I have something similar in Cat which says, simply, \”Sucker.\”
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For reasons I won\’t go into, I happened to be stone cold sober on New Year\’s Eve, enjoying the Truro fireworks and the drunkenly friendly atmosphere. Then I met two ladies holding a very nice-looking brown and white wiry terrier mix with a belt rather than a lead.
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They were at their wits\’ end. They\’d found the dog panicking and running up and down the road where they live, and caught hold of him before he caused an accident. They\’d tried their best to find out where he lived and failed. There was no tag on the collar and no chip. Then they found that there is NOWHERE for lost dogs to go in Truro on a bank holiday. The police will no longer deal with them, the vets are shut, the RSPCA tell you to contact the local dog warden (a very nice man called Wayne whom I happen to know thanks to my own dog\’s adventurous habits).
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The only problem with contacting the local dog warden on New Year\’s Eve is that he does office hours only.
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The ladies couldn\’t take the dog home, despite his good behaviour now he wasn\’t scared, because they had three very anti-dog cats at home. Being under the paw myself, I understood this, but I thought my cat Maisie could cope with another Big Stupid in the house for a night. So as I couldn\’t go home immediately, I rousted #1 son out of bed to come and collect the lost dog, which he did with very good grace, considering.
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Maisie the cat was fine about it and so was the lost dog. It was Holly the daft black labrador who disgraced herself, veering from being overfriendly and wanting to play, to hysterical barking which wound up my sons who wanted to sleep (one\’s too young to drink and the other doesn\’t like the taste of alcohol so New Year\’s Eve is wasted on them both).
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In the end our guest dog went to sleep on a towel under the kitchen table, my son slept on the sofa to keep him company and I went into my son\’s bed (the only double bed in the house) and calmed Holly down so I could sleep for an hour with her curled up and snoring next to me.
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Then I got up and hit every local website I could, and also called BBC Radio Cornwall who promised to put the details out.
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And then I took the lost dog for a walk – he led me on a very nice long route round all the most interesting bits until he got to the road where he\’d been found. Maybe in the daylight he could find his way home?
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\”Home, boy!\” I said, \”Go home! Make like Lassie!\”
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After a bit he went firmly up a garden path and whined at a dark blue door in the clearest way imaginable. I looked for a doorbell. There were eight of them.
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I\’m English. It\’s bad enough ringing random doorbells asking about dogs at the best of time – but at nine o\’clock on New Year\’s Day? No. Sorry. No can do, old chap.
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So I walked the dog up the road to the local Sainsbury\’s where I bought a salad for breakfast (thank you, Sainsburys for being open) which the dog thought he\’d like but didn\’t. A lady walking her own pooch asked if he was the dog on Radio Cornwall, so I knew the BBC had done their bit.
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On the way back, I got a call from the BBC – they\’d found the guy who\’d lost a dog called Harry.
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We met halfway down the road and Harry spotted him right away and was delighted. Harry\’s master was so overcome at finding his dog again, at one point I was seriously worried he might be having a heart attack. Yes, Harry had been frightened by the fireworks and run out the door when a friend came to say Happy New Year.
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We want for a cup of tea to celebrate at Harry\’s master\’s flat. It was nowhere near the door Harry had whined at and looked nothing like it. Thank God I hadn\’t rung all those bells! So much for Lassie.
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I went home feeling very happy and zonked out for the rest of the day.
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And the moral of this story is: make sure your dog is microchipped!
And donate to The Dog\’s Trust so they can open a home in Cornwall where we really need one!

Random predictions for 2012

Unfortunately, I didn\’t have a chimp and a dartboard, but I thought I\’d make some predictions for 2012 anyway. I used a much more traditional system which I will reveal in its full glory next December when all these predictions will have been proven correct.
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1. How will the global economy do in 2012?
It will continue to struggle along wearily, with dishonest financiers and self-deluding investors learning nothing from the past, and the idiots at the top continuing to swipe money from their shareholders and employees, because they can. There will be delays in business projects and no real effective help for anybody in the 99%.

2. What about the British economy?
It will be rattling out of control with too many very rapid internal changes and being pulled between the Eurozone and the Dollar. Cameron will be in trouble and George Osborne will lose his position because of some very unwelcome news about the economy.

3. Will Barack Obama win the Presidential election?
He\’ll seem trapped and confused at first, showing weakly, but the financial problems will ease at the end of the year and he\’ll end with a comfortable win that will make him more secure.

4. Will the Eurozone recover or fall apart?
It will be wobbling back and forth to begin with and a new financial leader might appear, promising to sort it all out. However really it\’s time to cut losses and get out – though the real smash won\’t happen this year.

5. So what\’s the best investment?
Who knows? Something totally unexpected – contrarian investing will do best. Internet shares are a good bet with some exciting new concepts coming to market, but avoid media shares.

6. Global politics? Natural disasters? Celebs?
Jan – celebrations and important positive news from the Middle East
Feb – problems with debt cause wobbles in the Eurozone
Mar – self-delusion and a sweetheart deal between France and Germany
April – over considerable opposition, a solution will be cobbled together, but there\’s no fundamental change because everyone is too stuck in old habits. Possible flu epidemic.
May – plenty of new enterprises will be springing up, but an old con artist will be in big trouble – Berlusconi perhaps?
June – more problems in the money markets due to debt and insufficient confidence – recession threatens to turn into depression again.
July – it\’s a losing battle against sovereign debt; one nation finds a solution, cuts its losses and gets out of the Euro.
Aug – some very important revelations affect the Queen\’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Sept – Yet more indecision and general stasis, however an ambitious young man gets his chance.
Oct – a new beginning in the financial world, and some difficult choices need to be made.
Nov – downfall of a major ruler, probably Putin in Russia, due to treachery.
Dec – everything is great at the end of the year and there\’s a new intellectual beginning with a stunning scientific discovery based on observations of a star or black hole originally made in March.

7. Will there be a terrorist strike in the UK.
A plot will be discovered aimed at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations which will be a bit muted as a result.

8. Will the world end on 21/12/2012
Probably not. Except perhaps in a neatly metaphorical way that will make it possible for all the prophets of doom to claim they were right all along.

Why I procrastinate update – #Paypal did good!

Update – after a bit of security stuff and the usual Bluff-Northern-Bloke computerised switchboard nonsense, I got through to the helpdesk. And actually talked to a very helpful lady from Paypal called Sam from Newcastle who explained the blindingly obvious in words of one syllable (a unit is one penny and NOT A PENNY MORE). This is exactly what I need. She talked me through it to the victory of \”You have successfully updated your postage preferences.\”
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Hooray! I\’m going to bed now. My nerves are wrung out.

Why I\’ve been procrastinating about that #Paypalbutton…

OK. I\’ve researched it, I have a list of things to do culled from lots of different \”helpful\” videos on the WordPress tips-and-tricks site, I have a New Year\’s resolution about it and…
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All I wanted to do was put postage amounts on the Paypal payment page. So people could order one copy of  The Poetry Diet and the postage would be added automatically to the total. If they wanted to order two copies of it, then the extra postage would be added automatically. Etc. Routine. Simple. In fact, Seeemples!
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Not.
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I carefully got to the correct page in my Paypal Business account, started entering the prices of the books – for one book £5.99 it still costs £2.00 for postage because the Royal Mail are madly trying to make a profit. I did this five times and hit save and…
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Blooey. My page had expired. Nothing had saved.
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Did all the calculations in advance. Went back through Paypal, tried again. Hit save.
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Blooey. I needed to put my password in again. Gone.
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Start again. Did it faster this time. Hit save.
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Blooey. Somewhere I\’d put three decimal places after the point. Gone again.
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Start again. Faster. Checked for bad naughty three decimal places twice. Hit save.
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Blooey. Something was wrong with the range values. I reread the error message four times, trying to work out what it meant. Thought I\’d got it. All gone.
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Start again. Faster. No bad naughty three decimal places. Each range carefully one pound bigger than the one before. Everything perfect. Postage amounts correct. Hit save.
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Blooey. Something still wrong with the range values. This is the error message:
\”The lower value in each range must be one unit greater than the higher value of the previous range, and each value must be greater than the previous value.\”
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I\’ve now read this twenty times and I still have no idea what\’s wrong. Is it that my amounts aren\’t right? Fr\’instance, is a unit a penny, ten pennies, a pound, a guinea? No idea. The postage doesn\’t go up enough? Or too little? Or what? No clue. Just blooey, all gone, nada, computer SAYS NO. Two hours of struggle, still I haven\’t got it right according to PayPal.
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And people like the Financial Hack wonder why I don\’t want to do this stuff? I haven\’t even got near actually trying to put the bloody PayPal button on my website yet and I\’m already stymied.
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I\’ve just emailed the little dears at Paypal. I don\’t expect much from them even if they do email me back so if anyone out there knows what I should be doing with the bloody range values (apart from something anatomically improbable) do please let me know IN NORMAL NON-COMPUTERESE ENGLISH.
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Thank you and good night.