Lammergeiers are long-winged vultures known for their habit of dropping bones on to rocks to smash them open and get at the marrow.
I'll drop some bones here from time to time.
Today, I took a day off Glass to see whether I would miss it.
The answer is pretty much no (though a ten o’clock meeting with a colleague interviewed under duress for a marketing blurb would have made for amusing repeat viewing).
I certainly don’t miss people either skirting out of my way, staring at me or stopping me to ask about Glass (I don’t really mind a yak but the same conversation 8 times a day gets old). If you are using Glass in its current incarnation in earnest, you have to be comfortable with courting attention and that’s not really my bag.
However, I do have some friends who seem terribly excited by Glass, including a scientist and some media types (I dunno what they do but Channel 4 pays their bills so it must be clever and entertaining). It occurs to me that much as the iPhone was a consumer device which spread into the business realm (poor Blackberry), I should give Glass a blast in the social realm if I am to really put it through its paces. Perhaps the media types have some notion of how to put it to good use.
Tomorrow night is the perfect opportunity as songbytoad is putting a gig on. I can capture the frivolity and see whether I can easily edit it down into something even mildly amusing. In anticipation, I will connect Glass to my Facebook.
I rarely post on Facebook and have developed ambivalence towards it after initial enthusiasm. I vastly prefer Twitter and Tumblr to the uberclique of Facebook. People trolling their own ‘friends’ with crappy buzzfeed quizzes to garner likes is just a bit pathetic. However, it’s a bit like despising the BT phone book circa 1990. Facebook is now simply a necessary evil utility. Perhaps Glass will help make it fun again.
One of the questions that IT asked me to consider in testing Glass is how we should deal with people coming in to our building wearing it. Should we refuse to have them keep Glass on in order to protect our corporate and staff privacy? Is the ‘silent surveillance’ ability of Glass overstated? Is it, as many articles have alleged, the tool that perverts and voyeurs have been dreaming of?
Today, I decided to perve out. In a bid to form a view, I deliberately spent time taking pictures and video where I did not tell the people concerned. I had taped conversations, two where I was actually telling the person, ‘imagine, I could be videoing you right now and you would never know’ while filming. I went out for a walk and decided to video my trip through the shopping mall. This was aborted when I got outside and crossed the road through a group of schoolgirls in t-shirts and shorts. I immediately became uncomfortable and erased the film but thousands wouldn’t.
I went into John Lewis and deliberately ogled the backside of the woman in front of me on the escalator, taking a video and a picture (all duly and immediately erased I might add). I filmed the queue in Pret A Manger, taking a record of what people chose for lunch and casually perusing their debit and credit cards as they used the touchpad payment systems. I stood at the traffic lights filming number plates as they went past and recording the conversation of the people chatting around me.
At no point was I challenged and in no way does Glass make it particularly obvious to those who were on the receiving end of my voyeurism that they were being recorded.
I’m not at the Edward Snowden as martyr end of the libertarian spectrum. Growing up in a house with an international correspondent with a penchant for ordering Mujahadeen munitions manuals on Amazon and covering conflict zones, you kind of figured that someone in officialdom was probably taking an interest on occasion. The price of ‘free software’ is very obviously privacy and here I am on Tumblr nonetheless. The fact that the NSA or GCHQ is listening in on top is hardly a shocker. If you don’t like it, stay offline and get jiggy with serious levels of encryption.
But that type of aggregate intrusion is a different kettle of fish (or feels like it) to the individual discretionary level. As I said the other day, you could do exactly what I did today with a phone but Glass largely removes a level of friction, the possibility of easily getting caught by the subject, which simply isn’t possible with a larger piece of mass market hardware such as a phone (I am assuming the individuals apt to kit themselves with hidden surveillance gear at spy.com are a small minority).
The most obvious concern would be the facilitation of voyeurism or stalking. As this study reveals ( https://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles/169592.txt - rather old but still) stalking is neither particularly rare nor benign. As far as I can tell so far, voyeurs and stalkers would LOVE Glass. Some sort of indication that filming/recording is taking place would be a pre-requisite for me to be comfortable in an environment where Glass was common.
Industrial espionage isn’t far behind as a risk. Companies should think long and hard about whether they will allow people into their facilities with Glass, particularly where they are dealing with sensitive material. Whats the point of data protection if bank employees can easily capture screen shots of accounts (and passwords) and send them onwards?
Basic privacy is unquestionably a challenging issue for Glass. It is all very well to say that we are constantly captured on film, especially in a city centre, but that sort of systematic filming feels different to working around people who can choose to film you. The possibility of those films subsequently being edited or adulterated and shared, perhaps to fuel a grudge against a colleague can’t be ruled out. Recent horrific instances of ‘slut shaming’ illustrate the depths to which cyber bullying can sink and otherwise sensible adult individuals can suddenly behave irrationally, during stressful periods such as break-ups for example.
I suppose this is focusing too much on the negatives, exactly the same functionality could be useful to police and firemen and help save lives in accident situations where technical expertise is not immediately available on site for example. A pervert is still a pervert and a thief is still a thief, Glass or no Glass. In essence, technology is a facilitator of our acts, not a cause, for good or bad.
All I know is that I deliberately set out to behave badly with Glass today and it was astonishingly easy. I’m not so comfortable with that.
I can only compare my Glass experience thus far with my spectacularly unsuccessful dating career where initial excitement invariably ended in disappointment, boredom or frustration (and often all three). My problem, then as now, was probably expecting far too much to begin with.
Glass is, in many ways, a miracle. I can gripe about how long the battery lasts but the fact that Google were able to engineer it down to a comfortable size from the time when engineers were still toting a power pack in a backback is extremely impressive. The eye screen interface is surprisingly easy to use once you get the hang of all the swiping and tapping though what turns up on menus is sometimes not what you expect (still not found the recipe app I am supposed to have) while the fact that it can, if you wish, read whole articles to you while you do something else is pretty cool. My main issue there was with the content I chose, 15 minutes of listening to the drivel that makes up Elle articles out loud is enough to convince you never to buy a women’s glossy ever again so I guess Glass will at least save me some money.
What Glass has not been, so far, is of any real use to me and that is what I am finding really frustrating. I was really excited about Glass and would love to say otherwise. I have tried to operate Opentable to book a restaurant but apparently there are none ‘nearby’ as it suggest that you investigate, while asking for some of the specific restaurants that I know are on Opentable.com yields no results. In fact, according to the Glass app, Edinburgh has no restaurants at all while statistics suggest it has one of the highest numbers per head of any city in the UK (I suspect this misses out the endless fried chicken joints which make up most outer London high streets). This could be as much to do with the app itself but if Google want Glass to be successful (and I question this in its current form, it still seems too beta. I think its primarily a data gathering exercise) then they should take a leaf out of Apple’s book and ride their developers a bit harder on quality.
Functionality is just too flaky. Its been booted more times than Imelda Marcos and bluetooth connectivity and location data are still iffy. Sure, I have managed to tweet photos (mostly of people looking aghast at having their photo taken) and send emails but the marginal value of doing this through Glass as opposed to a phone is not immediately obvious to someone who has their hands free most of the day. I concede it may be useful to, I dunno, trapeze artists and showjumpers. I’ve heard of surgeons using Glass but frankly if I thought the success of my surgery was dependent on Glass cooperating, I’d be a tad nervous.
I think I’ve gone as far as I can with just faffing and I’m going to have to take some time to research the experiences of other Glass users and try to come up with a more structured approach to testing it, possibly an app at a time. My own shortcomings are undoubtedly at play but Glass is so far from exhibiting the plug in and play approach integral to the iPhone’s success as a mass market device.
Day two of Google Glass was, if anything, more frustrating than the first. I managed to get back on wifi and then signed up to some apps such as Tumblr and a recipe site. I’ve managed to post to twitter easily but Tumblr doesn’t seem to work. Just as well really because I almost accidentally uploaded a picture of a toilet door I had taken by accident. Quick learning point, don’t go anywhere near the dunny in Glass.
The menu system still seems rather mercurial and the recipe site I’ve signed up for doesn’t seem to appear anywhere. I was looking forward to a virtual cooking lesson but it was not to be. Run Zombie Run works but I don’t want to run and if I have to run, pretending zombies are after me seems rather superfluous, there would have to be a bloody good reason anyway.
So I’m still pretty far from finding a killer app to make me use Glass on a more permanent basis but I’ve found a few reasons not to. First and foremost, Glass makes people uncomfortable. Whilst many are fascinated and curious about Glass, I have noticed as I walk around that people put as much distance between me and them as quickly as possible. Of course, I might just be a total cow and no one has seen fit to tell me yet but the awkward demeanour of someone who fears being photographed or videoed is pretty obvious. Second, Glass wearers irritate people. Sitting next to a fidgety person muttering ‘okay glass, okay glass, okay glass’ every few minutes would get on my wick too. Third, Glass is incredibly intrusive, it would be entirely possible for me to wander around all day taking photos of my colleagues and dispatching them to various online venues. Of course, I COULD already do this with my phone but even the most avid iFud is unlikely to do that. With Glass the hurdle is lower and privacy, or the expectation of such, is reduced as a consequence.
So despite encouraging videos from Google, I’m unconvinced of Glass having merit in the workplace, at least in a people business. In a technical role, it might be more useful though good luck reading websites or documents on the screen. You’ll get results from Google searches just fine, but the sites are so crammed in as to be illegible or near as dammit.
To combat this, Glass will read certain things aloud to you. It does this in a mechanical voice familiar to anyone who has seen Xtranormal (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QtC_PIfaRVg). This is slightly disturbing sounding but would be effective I suppose.
I contemplated wearing Glass home on the bus to Leith but my nerve gave out. Despite the fact that even the Volunteer Arms has been gentrified, there are still enough people freely engaging in the black economy around the place to make wandering around with a video camera a source of questions. Or stab wounds.
So this is my first day trying out Google Glass. Our IT department is a bit like Q’s laboratory and as they know I like a play around they tend to let me know whenever a new toy is available to try. Unfortunately, so far no laser watches or mini-helicopters but it can only be a matter of time. Anyway, I got my sticky mitts on one of their Google Glass trial devices and am judging its viability as a business tool (aka fannying about).
Fannying about is appropriate because, and there’s no nice way to put this, you will look like a total fanny in Google Glass. So any viable business use has to exceed that hurdle which is a big ask. There are very few people who, faced with the question, ‘do you want to look like a fanny all day?’ are going to answer, ‘hell, yes!’. Of course, if you can get enough people to agree to look like fannies together, then they no longer think that they look like fannies, which any trip around hipster East London will confirm. But they still do.
As someone whose normal sense of dress is so horrendous that most of my university year thought I was an off duty stripper (I had a fake fur coat and lycra catsuit groove for a while), this is no barrier to me so I’m happy to totter about wearing Glass.
I’m not so entirely happy with interfacing with Glass though. The oft repeated mantra ‘ok glass’ to kick it into action sounds like the anxious muttering of a schizophrenic while the tapping and swiping menu navigation is far from intuitive. My Glass overheated and switched itself off twice today and its more thirsty than Oliver Reed in a gin joint when it comes to battery. It has also lost the wifi connection and stubbornly refuses to reconnect. A trip back down to Q’s lab beckons (you never see that in the Bond films, do you? CTRL ALT DELETE and reboot on the laser watch).
What did I manage to do? I managed to take photos. In fact, as I enabled the winking photo feature, I managed to take a LOT of photos as it clearly struggles with blink versus wink. Anyway, I switched that off sharpish as my wink is rather leery and I was scaring people. The combination of winking, talking to myself and weaving along looking at an indeterminate point can’t be too endearing either. Basically, a world of wink enabled Glass is going to be a lot like walking down Leith Walk past the jakey pubs, stagger stagger, mutter mutter, wink, wink.
I managed to take video too and I managed to tweet. Tweeting was awful though as you have to speak to Glass. My tweets are banal enough without being given utterance. It is the ephemeral vapidity of tweets that I like. Saying the words only reinforces their lack of value, like Toto pulling back the curtain.
At this point in the day, the wifi crapped out and my attempts to reconnect failed. The fact I didn’t immediately troop off to IT goes someway to underscoring my feelings thus far about Glass. Meh.
Bette is home, flags off, CB aerial and handset away, and silly lights capped up as well. Sigh. Rust2Rome is now truly over for another year. Must try and re-learn how to drive sensibly.
I think I am going to start a photo series called The Effortless Glamour of International Ferry Terminals.
Why do they always reek of the 70s? And desolation? And broken dreams? And Babycham? And prawn Marie Rose? And speckled carpet? And smoking indoors? And the Austin Princess? And Thatcher?
We have three fucking hours here with cans of warm Kronenbourg and school-dinner-style lasagne. Can our will to live really take it, I wonder?
Day 10 - Rust To Rome
Day 10 is the final day of Rust to Rome and assembly at the Coliseum. First, we left the campsite and assembled at a muster point outside Rome. For the first time since Queensferry, the 53 car convoy was together as one again and what an awesome sight it was.
While waiting at the petrol station, the lads discovered a vending machine which implausibly sold thong knickers. I’m trying to think of circumstances under which the immediate acquisition of a pair of teeny pants with ‘kiss’ emblazoned on them in diamanté is necessary but all such scenarios are sufficiently sordid that it would be odd that Agip would care to cater for their eventuality. Also, what about the blokes involved in said intrigues? Do they not need new pants? As I pondered these weighty questions the lads emptied the machine of just about every pair of knickers and strode about with them, striking some quite tasteless poses for the camera.
Back together, we headed into Rome and wended our way through the streets, past the Vatican and onwards to the Coliseum where we found one of the access roads blocked and had to divert round another way. This blockage turned out to be a godsend as there was clearly a large event on and the coppers were too busy to move on 130 British fuckwits who were leaping around on their cars at the Coliseum. We all got some good photos, exchanged hugs and well dones and went onwards to the campsite for a meal and a final piss up.
It was of course the evening of the Brazil - Germany World Cup semi final and we assembled at an outdoor screen surrounded by German campers toting flags and wearing football shirts. As it became obvious that the match was a total walkover, the assembled Germans became more and more rowdy and were hitting the bar as hard as the Rust To Rome crew. Which was good because who’s to say which lot of pissed up campers later nicked the campsite street sweeper (oddly enough, made in Falkirk) and went joyriding around the campsite at 3am?
My own evening ended somewhat earlier when my version of the beer scooter kicked in. This involved me finding my husband and bleating at him to be taken home, my high heels swinging in his hand as I padded along slowly behind, my rally adventure over for another year.
Day 9 - Rust to Rome
Day 9 was also a shorter days drive to Assisi where we would spent the night before the final assault on Rome.
The day was as hot as hell and we pulled into Assisi, took a few photos at the fort and headed into town in search of a cool drink and shade. My genetic origins have ill prepared me for hot weather and when I get overheated I essentially turn into a (not very) large toddler. Matthew knows from long experience to direct me to shade and a suitable sleeping spot as soon as my lip starts to curl and before I start stamping my foot and whining.
We fetched up at a restaurant and ordered lunch. When in the UK, I rarely order from the set menu whereas in Europe, I virtually always do. In France in particular, places are known for the value for money demonstrated by their ‘menu’. A very tasty spaghetti arrived followed by grilled lamb. Anticipating a siesta at the campsite, I tucked in with enthusiasm despite the heat.
It’s not all tent camping on Rust To Rome, in Assisi we were staying in one of the campsite’s mobile cabins. The occasional respite from hefting the tent around is most welcome as is not having to trot to the toilet block for a shower of a morning. However, it’s not a trip for the faint of heart and more luxurious accommodation is of little use if you are changing a clutch till late or spending your downtime scouring local garages and scrappies yards for parts as some of our fellow participants were doing.
Given that Matthew and I have the collective mechanical acumen of a dairy cow, we are fantastically fortunate in our choice of car. So fortunate in fact that he is angling for an 850 T5R, an estate car that can outrun a Porsche from 0-60 and represented the pinnacle of Volvo’s output before their gradual demise under Ford. Now estate cars are known as ‘touring cars’ and many go like shit off a shovel but this brute of a car was pretty novel back in the day and a big track success in the British Touring Cars (most of which are not ‘touring cars’ confusingly) series. Given that our previous car was a 1971 Volvo 164, it is just possible that we are developing something of a Volvo fetish.
Lunch finished, we made our way back to the campsite pausing to buy some local wine and enjoy the spectacularly tacky souvenirs on sale which included a rather intriguing monks robe which you could dress your bottle of wine in. You know, for all those occasions when you really need Franciscan monk garbed wine. However this failed to top the St Francis statue spotted by a fellow rallyer, featuring St Francis in a Formula One car. Now that is the grade of utter crap I would happily give bag room to.
Day 8 - Rust to Rome
Day 8 was a sedate days driving through the Tuscan countryside to Volterra. The temperature took a noticeable ascent up the thermometer and conditions in Bette were somewhat toasty given a lack of air con. Thankfully, at speed with an open sunroof and feet dangling out of the window, it’s just about tolerable but I was glad when we arrived at a sylvan campsite in time for a brief repast under the trees and a nap.
My ability to sleep just about anywhere at the drop of a hat is a boon on Rust To Rome where evenings are generally marked by significant alcohol consumption, banter and late night larks. A few of the lads are just out of the army and in need of letting off some steam and waking up to find a table duct taped to your car isn’t the worst thing in the world after all. The Peugeot team that happened to gamely decided that the table would go all the way to Rome and it eventually did, minus a leg.
Rested and refreshed, we prepared for the trip into town to eat at an excellent pizzeria. Volterra is by now used to Rust to Rome participants appearing in the streets clinging to and sitting on cars for the short ride up from the campsite but with 130 of us, the cavalcade was quite long and the cars well laden. We passed through the streets beeping to good natured cheers and high fives.
Following a very tasty stone baked pizza, we went for gelato (and yet more red wine) before trotting back to the campsite, well refreshed and sleepy. I know I’m going to have to pay for this holiday in treadmill time but while the going is good, I’m chowing and quaffing with the best of them and there’s no better place to do so than Italy.