Sunday, November 27, 2005

Computer Center Posted by Picasa


Words can hurt. A friend once called me "a goof" and I don't remember whether I heard it directly from him or whether somebody told me he said it of me. But I do remember that "goof" hurt peculiarly so. It got patched-up with my friend basically saying to me, "Consider the source."

"An incompetent, foolish, or stupid person." There's more truth to that epithet than I'd wish to acknowledge, so it hurt. That incident came to mind today as I was reading the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette where increasingly the opinion pieces have degenerated to name calling. As an "anti-war type" and "moonbat" I feel insulted.

Just where did the term moonbat come from? These days it seems answers are never a click away. It turns out that moonbat and wingnut are the two sides of the political coin. I had thought perhaps that moonbat was derrived from the old insult, mooncalf, which means, well, a goof. Actually it was apparently coined on a Libertarian Web site Samzidata. The minter of the term Perry de Haviland says a moonbat is, "someone on the extreme edge of whatever their -ism happens to be." And apparently it was a play on George Monbiot's name. Monbiot is a columnist for The Guardian newspaper and all around pesky intellectual. Somehow I don't feel so bad now.

Over at The Poor Man The Editors respond to a reader's query:
Every week you give out a “Weekly Wanker” award for the biggest wanker of the week. But the trophy for the Weekly Wanker is the “Golden Winger”, which implies that it’s really an award for wingnuttery. So I’m confused. Is it an award for wanking, or wingnuttery?
They answer the question with a very thoughtful post, The Wanker-Wingnut contiuum. There is a very informative graph presented with the concepts of wingnuttery and wankery represented on x and y axes. Imagining where I might fit on such a graph, I supect I'm rather low on the wingnuttery scale and rather higher on the wankery scale than I previously thought.

Neither wingnut nor moonbat is considered profane, but wanker is. The Wikipedia entry suggest that wanker is much like "jerk" or "jerk off," so I wonder how "jag off" fits? I have done a bit of research of one of the more colorful expressions in Pittsburghese. The research was conducted in advance of President Bush's appearence on Neville Island a few years ago. We were constructing signage and a clever sign was constructed to be unfolded and turned:
Hey Bush
We scoff
Yunz A
From interviews with native speakers of Pittsburghese I was able to ascertain that a "jag off" is not merely incompentent, foolish, and stupid, but cruel as well.

My trouble is that I want very much to like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette but I can't stand the insults their jag offs hurl. There maybe hope for the paper yet, but I'm not holding my breathe. I was pleased to discover an idea wihch gives me a glimmer of hope for newspapers in general. Via Susan Mernit (sorry couldn't find a permalink for the post) I discovered that The Washington Post following in the steps of the BBC is allowing remixes and mashups of their site feeds. This example called News Cloud seems really cool. Note: one of the tags is Pittsburgh.

Today when I opened mail in my various email boxes I saw a note from a Tanzanian I've recently begun correspondence with. As luck would have it he'd almost completed a message to me when the electricity went dead so he lost the whole thing. His time was over so his note told me he'd write again another time. It's a reminder of the realities of using a computer in Africa. In Uganda and I suspect Tanzania the household current is 220 volts and in both countries interruptions are quite common.

The picture is of Nathan in the "Tele Center" of the Igana Secondary School. He's at work but not during class time. The school first got five used computers to set up the computer center. Over the time I've known Nathan the school has been down to a single working computer for the whole school of about 1100 students.

I've gotten a little feedback about the idea of getting Nathan a computer. Opinions vary, and because I'm not very computer savvy I welcome the sugestions. There is much to be said for Mac versus PCs with MS or Linux. My own opinion leans towards a Windows-based PC mostly from the convience resulting from inertia. As always the decision will be made trying to do the best with resources we are able to muster.

I would like anyone who has opinions about which computer for Nathan to be sure to share them with me. If you are so inclined it would be great if you would check out the M-Box. The M-Box makes a computer a mini sound studio. It's something that has some commercial potential for Nathan, for example recording local music. But our interest has primarily been for it's use to produce educational radio spots. Radio has a great potential for dissemination of useful information. Unfortunately Uganda has many press restrictions and is arbitrary in the application of the law. That's a discussion for another time. What's relevant here is to check the specifications of computers compatable with the M-Box as it may provide a baseline for a computer suitable for our high expectations of use.

Finally, and it's not fun at all, is a story in The LA Times which made me very sad. I'm very critical of much of our present political leadership, but distressed by what we've become. This story of the suicide of Army Col. Ted Westhusing is heart breaking.


Anonymous said...


I had forgotten about the M-Box, the software for mixing the sounds as well as making advertisement which may lead to more income generation. Very many people here who are still computer illiterates, they need assistance. Most old people find it difficult to copy up with the new generation of ICT. People like surfing the internet but when they don’t how to use the key board, they want some one attending to them type for them.

I have seen many but the moment you tell them to come for training it becomes calamity. You can tell some one to learn how to drive than learning to use a computer, people are still backward these services needs to be extend up to villages, but its being left for a few who stay in rural areas where they have access to electricity.

I like my friend John, has been so instrumental through out my computer trainings. Whenever I could use a computer and get stuck I used to send him an email. I thank Microsoft for simplifying the communication technology. I promise to be with at heart when celebrating Johns’ fiftieth birth day.



pingting said...

Hi Nathan,


Our dear friend John has brought us together by invisible wires & visible hearts.
Surely, your presence will be felt at John's 50th birthday celebration.

And the connection you two have made is connecting others and connecting & connecting & connecting & connecting &
connecting & connecting & connecting & connecting & connecting & connecting & connecting & connecting........