In February, with tensions high in the sales office (heightened by a distinct lack of sales calls, the removal of temps, a visible drop in sales attributed to Brexit, the falling pound and poor high street sales), I was called to a meeting to be told that my and five other employee’s role was at risk of redundancy.
Now, I’ve been made redundant four times previously so, as you get more experienced, you start to notice the signs; Whispered meetings, lack of work, telling glances between senior managers whenever future plans are discussed. So it was no surprise that Az (my manager) laid out the company’s situation and plans in front of me. A month later, after playing all the silly redundancy games where they offer you a role clearly not suitable for you, meetings to discuss what you do and the passing over of duties to others, I was put on garden leave with a fairly nice redundancy package.
This was fine until a few days into my break from work, it became frighteningly clear that globally, something more worrying was brewing. Covid 19.
I’m now on the fourth week of my non-work period. I’m bored, feeling isolated and unwanted while still trying to stay positive, focussed and constructive. Sadly, with the whole virus thing going down, it seems that the jobs market is already starting to show signs of trouble.
The business man in me says “Why would a company hire an employee now when the likelihood is that that employee could be forced to self-isolate and stay at home?”. Furthermore, why would an employer put themselves and their employees at risk by conducting interviews with complete strangers? (Which, if you think about it, is perfectly reasonable: An office full of people already immune to each other’s coughs and sneezes probably doesn’t want an unknown token carrying untold maladies being added to the mix).
I console myself in the fact that those people I left at my former place of work will no doubt face further challenges themselves: further drops in sales, lack of product being shipped from China, inter-office infections and associated absences and had I not been released when I was, I would be undergoing the same concerns I had then now.
But now the big smelly kipper. As long term readers will know, I have suffered from coronary heart disease for nearly 20 years now. I say suffer, that’s the medical term, I feel fitter than a whole Irish pub of fiddles. But by “suffering”, this allows me the grace of a free NHS provided annual flu jab. This, in turn, means that I fall into the “at risk” category which means that I need to engage with “social distancing” and potentially self-isolation.
Practically, I have been in self-isolation for nearly 4 weeks now. Apart from my Monday night Dungeons and Dragons session, the occasional trip to the shops, library and interview, and a trip to Liverpool to see the family, my social contact has been virtually non-existent. Then Mr Johnson says “Don’t go seeing people unnecessarily” which has put the kibosh on Dungeons and Dragons and with fewer interviews coming through I’m already doing a damn fine job of keeping away from the hordes of infected zombies out there. However, next week, it seems Mrs Gnomepants v2.0 is on leave so I will have someone else other than myself to drive up the wall at least.
Such a shame I didn’t have time to continue the advent calendar thing. The run up to Christmas became far too manic for me to do anything regular and weekend after weekend just had me doing non-internetty things (like World of Warcraft). Anyway, a Christmas and birthday was had during the hiatus. Which was nice.
So today I used the birthday present that Amazing Wife of the Future bought me. It was a Hovercraft Experience at High Cross Hovercraft in Leicester. Aparently hovercrafting is much more popular than you think and there are competitions and courses all over the UK. Someone asked whether you could use a hovercraft on a canal which would be really cool if you ask me. Sadly you can only use hovercrafts on tidal waters/estuaries and privately owned bodies of water.
Anyway, here is a picture of me looking at a hovercraft with a bunch of people, because, dispite knowing that the event was today, I didn’t remember to charge my GOPRO+3 and Amazing Wife of the Future’s iPhone 5 ran out of battery as did my iPhone 4s. Such is life.
Driving (or should that be piloting) a hovercraft is a difficult thing to do really. First off you’ve got to put your weight into the turn you want to make. I suspect this didn’t matter on the old cross Channel hovercrafts that ran from Dover (if you went on that can you confirm that passengers didn’t all have to lean into the turn?) but on the smaller individual hovercrafts you have to kind of do the opposite of what you might do with riding a motorbike, that is, lean into the direction you want to go.
Following a bit of training I did two loops of a circuit in the pissing down rain which was great fun before returning to a drier but bored Zoe. A good day, a fab experience and another thing off my bucket list.
Let’s see….Modes of transport I have done:-
Sit on lawnmower
Facebook are enforcing their real names policy like jackbooted fascists. Pressurising members to use their real legal names rather than any assumed, stage or preferred nom-de-plume. Please see my previous post for their reasons why – Facebook Real Names Policy – Intro.
This is the second post of this series.
People ask why I use the name Stegzy Gnomepants. I usually say “Mind your own business”. Sometimes, however, I’m not so rude about it; the reason I use the name Stegzy Gnomepants is because people know me by that name.
I started using the internet in 1986, but back then the internet was bobbins and was more like Ceefax than the internet we know and love today. Back then I used the handle Stegzy and remained using that name until about a month later when my parents got their telephone bill and the internet was taken away from me.
Tardis yourself forward in time to 1998 when I bought my first PC. It was a Pentium 266. It cost me £1000 or there abouts. Top of the range. Fast modem (56kpbs). A whopping lump of RAM (something like 16Mb). A cavernous hard drive (approx 512Mb). I connected to the internet and restarted my online life as Stegzy.
Internet fashions came and went. AOL IM, CompuServe, that weird virtual world that Demon Internet had for a few years, Usenet newsgroups – all using the name stegzy. The Gnomepants bit came shortly after, when, as more and more people began using the internet, names were getting quickly claimed by other users. Yes, another Stegzy started to appear. I had to distinguish. Someone I knew then affectionately used to call me Gnomepants, I adopted that name as my online personalities surname.
This was the early 2000s. Then came Freeserve chat. I used the name stegzy there as well as evilgnome. Sometimes, for anonymity, I would use the name gnomepants. It helped separate my real life from my online life. It kept people from my work, past and those I didn’t want to communicate with, out of my online adventures where, if they found out about my activities, they would have ruined it. Ripping me away from my special place. My escape. My hide away. Where I was safe from those that would interfere. A place I could be myself without fear of judgement or prejudice.
Next came Livejournal. You can find me there using the name Stegzy too and all entries from there have been preserved here on WordPress too. That is when the real Stegzy Gnomepants blossomed. 2004 came and went. Sometime during this period a bloke called Zuckerberg created a service called Facebook…you might have heard of it.
So lets look at this again….1986 I begin using the name Stegzy. Stegzy Gnomepants circa 1998. People I meet on line know me as Stegzy Gnomepants. I spend the majority of the period 1998-2004 online as….Stegzy Gnomepants. Then some bloke comes along and creates a website called Facebook which nobody had heard of.
Ok, let’s carry on…Myspace – Stegzy Gnomepants. Hotmail – stegzy gnomepants. Google! What name shall I use? Oh I know, I’ll use my real name…Nobody knows me…ok I’ll use my assumed name….Everyone knows me! Stegzy Gnomepants.
2006ish. Good online friend Dan4th (Hi Dan if you still read!) tells me about some website where American kids hang out. Fascist books or Fuctbook or something. Oh yes…Facebook…I’ll sign up. Stegzy Gnomepants.
Blogspot arose – Stegzy Gnomepants; WordPress – Stegzy Gnomepants; Hell, I’m Stegzy Gnomepants on the BBC, Ebay, everywhere. Search google. You’ll see me using that everywhere and I have been for a very very long time.
Once more lets step back and look –
Me – Known online as Stegzy Gnomepants since 1998
Zuckerberg – Known online as Facebook since 2004.
Think that makes me win.
2014. Facebook decide that I must use my real name. A name nobody on the internet knows me by.
I teach Social Media for Business during the day. In my lessons I advise that to be successful online you need to remain consistent across all platforms. Use the same username where possible. The same avatar. The same contact details. Thats how people know who you are.
Mr Zuckerberg, if I’m to change my name just for your silly little empire, then my influence will have no weight. Businesses will not use me as an influencer. I cannot be a potential brand ambassador for your clients. I am the celebrity. I am the authority. I am the connector, the expert, the agitator. I am the journalist and the activist. I am the personal brand personified. That means my identity is nothing to you.
Yes I know you say I can create a PAGE but with a page I cannot interact with people as a person. Like things as a person. Interact, engage and amplify as a person online. Especially with products, services or similar which anyone can see me liking, make a judgement on my character. My beliefs. My choices. People that judge. People who I have no wish to share my identity with.
Someone said about my last post on this matter “If you don’t want to adhere to the Facebook’s terms and conditions don’t use it”. Something I am considering. Very hard. Perhaps over to Google+, who realised a very long time ago, forcing your “product” to use something in a way they don’t want to leads to failure. Isn’t that right Google Wave?
So when the call comes I will depart from Facebook. I will leave it never to return. You can continue to read my exploits here on WordPress or follow me on Twitter (@stegzy). Facebook postings will decline. I’m sorry if you, like Zuckerberg, no longer want, care or give a stuff about what I say, like or want to share with you. I’m sorry if you no longer want to fuel our social media narcissism together. But if that’s the way you want to play, I’ll let you take your ball home by yourself. Just mind you don’t trip over those toys you claim I threw out of my pram.
Recently Facebook began enforcing their so-called “Real Names Policy”. You might remember this making the news back in September when Facebook began closing or suspending the accounts of transgendered people and drag artists who were not using their “real names” on their profiles.
After the wails of protests became too loud for the Facebook PR machine to quash, an agreement was made and some of the users affected were permitted to keep their chosen Facebook names. (http://bit.ly/14YEmTy) However, even after the apology, the Facistbook Facebook name policy police continued to crawl the site looking for suspicious names. No doubt using some hair brained algorithm which looks for commonly suspicious names.
Often on Facebook, people create accounts for their pets and one of the more common Facebook profiles of yesteryear was Facebook profiles for cats. Profiles with names like Kitty Whiskers, Charlie Puss and other feline similes would be common place. Similarly Doggy Woofwoof, Rover Dog and other animals were common too. Facebook started to prevent such accounts being made but recently, two members of the Facebook community I know of who both have names with cat themes had their accounts suspended. So it seems likely that Facebook’s algorithm is working through its cat thesaurus.
Facebook’s terms of service state that people must use the same name “as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s license or student ID.” Which is great. Except I know plenty of Mikes whose name on their driving licence says “Michael”, Jims whose passports say their name is James. Indeed, I know lots of people who don’t actually use their full name on social media because of safety, privacy and historical reasons.
For as long as I have been on the internet, I have used the internet name “Stegzy Gnomepants”. Why? Because my real name is, quite rightly, none-of-your-fucking-business. I have been on the internet since 1998 using that very same name. Look for me on google, you’ll find my accounts everywhere. Stegzy Gnomepants. Occasionally Stegzonopolis Gnomicpantalon. Rarely some other variation. It is my distinct expression of my personality. My expression of creativity. How I wish to be known on the internet.
I also use the name because I realised long ago, the only reason people need your name is so they can compile data about you. Attribute demographic and personal information to form a picture about your personality and psyche. Your political beliefs. Your sexual preferences. Your needs. Not just for marketing purposes. But for sinister reasons. As dear old Edward Snowden pointed out.
There is no need to create a state like the DDR in former East Germany. Not when people freely give every aspect of their waking life to those who want it but don’t ask for it. That is the world now. There is no need to worry about people communicating anonymously when they are forced to use their real name on services they have tied to one identity. We’re being shepherded back into a society that thousands died to prevent 100 years ago. Technology designed to promote democracy is being used to control us. Prevent uprisings. Quash political unrest and difference of opinion. Exactly how Egypt and parts of the Middle East failed to do.
Anonymity causes people to misbehave. Anonymity allows people to do bad things. Anonymity allows people to abuse children. This is what those whipping up the pre-constructed moral panic are saying.
However, it’s the opposite. It’s anonymity that protects us from surveillance. Anonymity prevents abuse. Anonymity saves lives. Anonymity is a right. A way of life.
So, the axe is about to fall. The sword of Damocles may drop at any moment and over ten years of Facebook usage is about to come to an end. I will lose contact with friends I have made long before Facebook because that is how they communicate. I will lose memories. Fond and painful. Over the next few days I am intending to write about this situation. Discuss alternatives. Express distaste and moot alternatives.
Going forward. You can always find me elsewhere. Follow my comings and goings on WordPress (stegzy.wordpress.com). Tweet me on Twitter (@stegzy). Analyse my mind on LiveJournal (stegzy.livejournal.com). Say “Hello” on Ello (@stegzy). Flick me on Flickr (stegzy). Hell, if I’m on it, I’m on it as Stegzy. But as for Facebook. How long I am there is dependent on how quickly their police come for me. Enjoy my last days there. Because when they say stop. I will. By taking myself elsewhere.
I watched the last remaining survivors clinging to the life raft. They had been adrift for some time allowing the cold north easterly wind carry them through the mist. The waters were uncannily still and they observed little wavelets lapping at the shore of two distant islands.
I love BBC Breakfast. Much more now that the awful strumpet Suzanna Reid has moved on to channels I never watch.
Bill Turnbull is like some calming midweek Uncle, regaling the viewers with tales of bad news from around the UK and the rest of the world. Steph McGovern is like a big sister with a sensible job and all the knowledge and advice about what you can do with your pocket money. Carol Kirkwood is like an intoxicated teetotal Auntie that forces you into your raincoat when it’s baking hot sun outside only for the skies to open later on and drown those foolhardy enough to go without.
I think I am much better qualified, experienced and knowledgeable than 98% of the “experts” on the BBC. I know about all manner of topics: Children, fruit, cake, fatty foods, computers, robots, worms, nose picking, pigeons, awful people, legs, BBC Breakfast experts, Children, bacon, little bags of toffee, dirty spoons, children, violence, games, snakes, light bulbs, social media, children, eggs, toy badgers….the list is endless.
Please BBC. Please have me on your show. I can talk about anything you like. I sound just as convincing and as knowledgeable as your usual selection of gobshites. Or maybe you don’t want any more gobshites? Instead, why not employ me to do the job of Charlie Stayt, Naga Muncheti or the other nameless and soulless presenters? I have much more personality.
Or how about if I did your research for you on slow news days? I too can research stories without any sound backing like DONKEYS GIVE YOU CANCER or ALLOWING CHILDREN TO BREATHE EVENTUALLY CAUSES DEATH or BBC BREAKFAST EXPERTS TALK 100% SHITE?
Way back in the noughties I had the misfortune to work in a sixth form college. Regular readers will recall this was in the post industrial landscape that is Yorkshire. Cameron’s recent moral panic calls to mind the overbearing system of “safe guarding” that was in place at the college.
I must provide some back story. The IT manager could quite easily have been diagnosed with Aspergers had he been twenty years younger. He didn’t like change. Not one bit. Dingleberry, as I will refer to him, was one of those people who insisted on particular ways. Deviation from which would bring calamity, disaster and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
For example, one hot sunny day in May he insisted that the units, switches, servers and tape machines in the server cabinet be taken out and arranged in numerical, colour and size order. Why? No reason was given other than aesthetics.
Every piece of software had to be installed with default settings. “Out of the box”. Same with hardware. I dread to think of the security issues that he made with such a work ethic. Indeed, such was the “DO NOT TOUCH” attitude, the Active Directory contained accounts of people that had left the college over 5 years ago. That is the level of finickiness he operated on.
One day a whole class got into trouble for not submitting their history homework on time. The students were required to email their work to the teacher who would then assess the work and send it back. Only the teacher didnt recieve any work.
The teacher was a bit shit to be fair. She, like several other teachers I’ve met over the years, seemed to suffer from paranoia probably brought on by inadequacies, stress and plain stupidity. This particular teacher was convinced that this particular class had a grudge and were out to get her.
Sadly this was not the case.
However what happened was much more convoluted than any of her minor conspiracies.
The class were insistent that work had been emailed from home. The teacher became convinced that the class were telling fibs. Eventually she came to the helpdesk door to see me.
She told me that there was a problem with email.
Not so. I told her, demonstrating how I was able to send emails from an external account to my work account with ease.
The problem morphed into one to do with attachements.
Not so. Again, I demonstrated me sending emails with attachments with no issue whatsoever.
Don’t be stupid. But I’ll investigate further.
I asked the IT Manager if there was any issue with emails.
None that he could see.
I asked the IT Technician if there was any issue with emails.
Only an issue with the space between the chair and the keyboard.
I asked the Server Troll if there was any issue with emails.
No but there was an issue with his latest game of Dungeons and Dragons.
I asked the head of IT.
None that he knew of. However, I should check the newly installed spam filters.
I checked the spam filters. Therein there was over a hundred thousand emails. This was going to take me a long time to investigate.
Turned out that the spam filters contained “Out of the box” keywords. A whole lexicon or rude words, curses, inappropriateness and the like. Included were words such as: Pharmacy, penis, length, cock, schlong, kiddies, nazi, hate, escort, kill, death, murder, hitler, vagina, gash, flange, white power, drugs and much much more.
So you’ll probably now have guessed. The out of the box filtering had picked up that the emails sent to the history teacher with the assignment on the Second World War contained foul language such as hitler, nazi, gas chamber, antisemitism. The very same settings that Dingleberry refused to allow me to change.
So I changed it anyway and released the history homework (Nazi, Hitler etc), the chemistry homework (pharmacy, drugs etc) and the biology homework. I released the personal messages sent from divorce approaching husbands regarding them picking up the “kiddies” in the Escort after work to their end of the line with you wives.
I added a keyword.
I won’t say what.
But let’s just say that Dingleberry no longer received emails. Certain…important emails.
I notice that you are increasing the regularity of the appearance of people who seem to be experts on everything and have opinions on everything which, for some reason, you think reflects society at large.
I would like to offer my services as a gobshite. I too have strong opinions on everything from David Cameron’s underwear to the cost of prawns in the Middle East during the Byzantium Empire. I am an expert on everything and nothing. I have several years experience of spouting utter crap to backup people’s clandestine agendas and I am happy to cast aspersions and morals to the wind without forethought for the wider consequences.
I suppose my first job was as a paper boy for D Browns in Woolton Village. Browns is still there. D Brown, is not.
Browns is a traditional newsagent. It’s still going purely because it is the first shop on the way to the bus stop from a girls secondary school. Indeed, when half past three comes and you’re lucky to get a penny dip or your copy of the Liverpool Echo as the swarm of teenage girls outside prevents access to any but the determined.
The other curious thing about Browns is, they did not sell cigarettes. They didn’t have to. In fact, if they only opened at 8am to 9am and 3.30pm to 4.30pm, the owners of Browns could quite easily carry on trading for many years to come.
When I was a paper boy there, Browns was run by Tommy. Tommy was one of those people who was well known throughout Woolton village. A semi-dignitary.
My round was an evening round. I would hurry home from school as fast as I could, jump on my bike and head into the village. I’d then collect my 39 copies of the Liverpool Echo; count them and head out into the evening to deliver across the village.
First port of call was the Coffee House. A rough drinking hole, so rough, the chairs had bouncers and the windows were so thickly coated in nicotine the local tramps would lick the outside of them to get their fix.
Next would be Dewhursts the butchers (now a charity shop) where the butcher would joke and tease about how he used to keep an eye on me in my pram when my mum was out shopping.
A quick jaunt up to the village club before heading down to the village cinema and then out round the far end of the village estates.
It was quite a mixed bag of housing. From low income pensioners to upper class toffs in big manses complete with security systems and complex access to letter boxes. I maintain to this day that I had the best round of all 8 rounds at Browns. Why?
Well three things really.
1) Christmas tips were amazing (one year I took home over £100 in Christmas tips)
2) There were more conker trees on the route than anywhere else in Woolton
3) The last delivery was my mum and dad.
Three isn’t the limit. Other things that made the round enjoyable include:
– Bags of sweets bought before departure from the shop
– Only 2 dogs
– It was mostly down hill
– Magazines to read (Including Just 17, More and Cosmopolitan: all of which helped me, as a teenager, understand girls slightly better)
– £4.50 a week wage.
£4.50 a week. Not a lot is it? These days most paperboys wont even pick up a newspaper for less than £4.50 an hour. I didn’t care though. The wealth came from the “manly thighs” I have and the exercise I gained.