Learning in the Air tonight

We have all learned many things that are hard during this crisis.

We have learned that we can handle isolation, we have learned that we can deal with social distancing, and we have learned that our television news teams can devote 17 hours a day to reporting on the coronavirus and yet pass on nothing new or useful.

The hardest thing I have learned, however, is how to use a MacBook Air.

MacBook Airs, like all Apple technology, are specifically designed to be impossible for anyone not a designated and qualified computer geek to operate. It is no accident either; it is the revenge of the geek. Remember how you ran rings around them on the netball court and lapped them at the swimming carnival? Well, it’s payback time.

This is why only Steve Jobs ever demonstrated iPhones and the like; he did not want you to realise that he alone on Earth could use them until all of your money – and any you might earn in the future – was safely in his pocket.

That uselessness is achieved by putting things in a place where nobody with an ounce of sanity would ever put them; if computer geeks designed houses, your toilet would be in your kitchen and the carport on the roof.


I found all this out when it transpired that I had to do a Facebook live from my own home, and that because the cameras on our work laptops – having sensed a crisis on Earth – went into geek revenge mode and became even more difficult to use.

I had to find and enable the camera on the MacBook, and of course it isn’t under Settings, Photos, Videos or in fact anywhere else; I never found it. That is part of the geek revenge plan – you have to ring them to find these things, and then they make you do something stupid until they feel like fixing it – and we of course do it.

If they told us that installing a new browser involved us hopping backwards around the kitchen table singing Star-Spangled Banner, the air would be filed with the sounds of the US national anthem, interrupted by screams of pain as people tripped over the chairs, and geeks howling with laughter.

Thankfully I had two secret weapons – a 13-year-old daughter and a lady I work with named Lexi. My daughter has that teenage superpower of being able to make tech work, and Lexi has the incredible superpower of being able to explain it to me. No offence, but this is far more impressive than developing the Theory of General Relativity or turning water into wine.

In fact, I suspect that there is a long career for Lexi in explaining difficult concepts to simple creatures. There is at least five years’ work for her getting Donald Trump to understand climate change, for starters.

In any event, despite the best efforts of Jobs and his band of geeks, I was able to download and install a new browser without all the hopping, make the camera work and even be seen and heard during the Facebook Live event.


All in all I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, until the comment popped up that basically said I was an unprofessional git for doing the video looking like I just got out of bed. In a way the comment represented social progress of sorts, in that a woman felt confident in shaming a man for his appearance, but I still thought that it was something of a cheap shot.

I suspect the problem was really with my hair (it could not have been my natty official QLS polo shirt, which is suitable for all occasions including weddings, dinner parties and being knighted by the Queen, and which coincidentally is for sale in the QLS shop). As regular readers know, I have been sporting the ‘wolverine’ hairstyle long before Hugh Jackman started doing it – Hollywood stars are constantly copying my style, as you would imagine – because my hair grows faster than some people (usually those wearing hats) drive on the highway.

I think that the problem is I am genetically meant to be about six feet tall, but for some reason – probably the effect of the powerful preservatives in the bubble gum that came with KISS cards, which I consumed in copious amounts in order to collect them all1 – my growth was stunted.

My hair doesn’t know this, and programmed by genetics it continues to grow to the point where it would be if I were six feet tall. It cannot be tamed by a mere brush at this length, and tends to do what it likes.

Back in the day, I could control it, partly because I had a flat-top haircut, and partly because I had access to my then-girlfriend’s hairspray; I believe it was called Silhouette (the hairspray, not the girlfriend). This was powerful stuff – my girlfriend had a Debbie Harry hairstyle, which after the application of a can or two of spray, would have kept its shape in a cyclone; my flat-top under the influence of the same stuff could deflect bullets.

However, I very much doubt that manufacturers are still allowed to use those chemicals in hairsprays, or for that matter in bioweapons, so my hair remains unruly. Combined with my rugged, Harrison Ford-type good looks (people often mistake us for the same person; granted those people are usually on the International Space Station, but still) it is easy to think that I have just got out of bed.


That is the mistake the commenter – whose identity I will disguise, for her privacy, via the pseudonym ‘Judgey Judy’ – has made. I can assure her that on the day of my video I had been up early for a run, walked the dog, showered, shaved and brushed both teeth and hair; but for good or ill, this is how I look.

Judgey Judy need not worry however, because I do not blame her. It isn’t her fault that I look like Harrison Ford but with more hair, and it didn’t bother me one bit that after I had spent hours researching and preparing a session to hopefully help people get through a global crisis, I wasted it all by being insufficiently attractive.

I have taken her advice on board and have attempted to be more professional, and I assure her that if she does come down with chronic incurable dandruff, it certainly wasn’t me who wished for that on a shooting star a couple of nights ago…2

1You bet I still have them.
2Of course, the shooting star might well have been the International Space Station looking for me and Harrison Ford, but I am sure it will be just as effective.

This story was originally published in Proctor June 2020.

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