Friday, 21 December 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

Wednesday  19th December will be a day I will always remember – it was the day me and our Martha moved me Mum  into permanent care  at a specialist  dementia  care unit.

For me the day was only made possible by the support of friends and family and the kindness of strangers.

My sister and I had to make my Mum’s room as homely as possible which meant two things . First,  putting up pictures of me Dad,  her 3 children, 7 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren -  Mum has difficulty knowing  who we all are nervertheless the pictures' presence comforts Mum so, they needed to be in her room.

The second was having  her African Grey  parrot – Jacko – in the room. Jacko was brought in 2004 as replacement for Joey the family African Grey  who had  been in the family since I can remember and sadly died in 2004.

Jacko’s move  presented a number of challenges. He needed a new, smaller  cage as Mum’s new home  was much smaller and he and his new cage needed taking to the home on the day in time for Mum’s arrival at 3pm- all this when my Sister and I only had permission for Jacko from the home on the morning of Mum’s transfer day.

I rung around the pet shops of Liverpool eventually  found a cage at Lister Drive Pets .We drove over there. Drove past it twice as it doesn’t look like any  pet stuff warehouse I know or expected – as it’s a converted public baths.  One of the two pools is still used to stock fish. Most times I would have enjoyed the building but ‘time wasn’t my friend’ as old friend of mine says.

We almost immediately found the cage we wanted. The problem was how to get it and Jacko into the room before Mum. Phil the manager at Lister Drive Pets was simply brilliant. As I explained  what  I needed  to be done and  why :

My Mum’s moving from a temporary assessment care home to a permanent home Mum needs to take her parrot with her but I need to buy a new parrot cage as the current cage is too big for Mum’s new home I need the cage to be delivered to Mum’s old home the parrot transferred to the new cage then the parrot with its new cage to be delivered to Mum’s new home .this all needs to be done now before me Mum arrives in her new home this afternoon....

There were several pauses for deep breaths and tears held back as I explained. Phil listened. Said "Give me 15 minute and I’ll do it." More tears.

Phil and his young assistant were just great they did exactly what I wanted – there and then – and all in the price of the cage no extra!

Mum’s initial reaction to the home – "It smells nice here." equally Mum's response to  her  room , her pictures and Jacko  were all positive and accepting, as we have feared the worse that Mum might reject and react to everything, but that wasn’t the case. She even managed to smile a couple of times.

All in all a very difficult day for all concerned but with a very comforting outcome, only made possible for me thru the support of friends and family and the kindness of strangers

Especially Phil and his young assistant at Lister Drive Pets they helped with such good grace and helpfulness, extraordinary  customer service and the kindness of strangers made manifest.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Respect to Microsoft

I was delighted to have received a tweeted apology from a product manager at Microsoft  in response to my blog post about  Microsoft closing my SkyDrive account,  behaving like the Parisian police did in 1917.

I also received a personal email outlining Microsoft’s policy and how they had mistakenly applied it in my case.

I had further  correspondence with the product manager  on the subject of what Microsoft calls ‘established’ works of art. In which he described the ‘delicate balance’ Microsoft needs to take in dealing with 140+ countries on exactly what is and what is not obscene content – they are ‘constantly learning’ and, in  my case they had ‘made a mistake.’

I do have some empathy as I recall when providing SMS subscription services for a UK mobile operator, in 2000.  I was castigated by the operator’s  product manager for allowing a joke to go out to several thousand subscribers which  had the word 'school' spelt as 'skool'. Corporate monoliths such as Microsoft, mobile operators and others have to maintain ‘standards’, however these standards must reflect the times, if they are not to lose touch with their users.

What’s so refreshing with my case is the speed and candor with which Microsoft handled the situation, the tweet and subsequent correspondence clearly indicate that a monolith can have a human face, so respect to Microsoft they evidently want to keep in touch with the times and their users.

BTW My SkyDrive is open now and I am using it freely. At the risk of being accused of being a sycophant it is great value: 25GB on line  plus 5GB sync making 30GB  for free.  With Google you ‘only’ have 9GB  free – I have to pay  5$/yr for my extra 20GB 

Further Google’s memory usage calculation across its services Gmail, Docs, and Picasa is complex,  Microsoft's approach is much simpler so, for me Microsoft's SkyDrive tops Google’s Docs

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Microsoft (2012) , The Parisian Police (1917) and A Nude: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Having only just begun to enjoy the many features of Microsoft's SkyDrive has over Google Docs I was shocked, confused and latterly angry to find Microsoft  had unilaterally and without notice closed my SkyDrive account.

I was invited to re-apply to have my  SkyDrive  reactivated, which I did immediately. There followed an anxious wait for their response which came 24 hours later from  “Kyla” at Windows Live SkyDrive Customer Support.

Kyla gave me 48hours to remove all images which violate Microsoft’s SkyDrive Code of Conduct ,  Helpfully telling me:
Here’s an example of what needs to be removed :
LiveFolders/Trip2London/From the iPhone/IMG_0311.JPG

Reclining Nude, 1917, Amedeo Modigliani , Oil on canvas
On My SkyDrive as LiveFolders/Trip2London/From the iPhone/IMG_0311.JPG

My shock  turned to  confusion  as this reply was of no help at all in understanding exactly what images Kyla wanted me to remove. It was an 'example' indicating there were others that violated the Code of Conduct.

The Code of Conduct is so openly worded I was left to consider each and every picture of myself, partner  and friends on a Greek beach in swimming costumes –  were they partial nudity as defined in Microsoft's Code of Conduct?
You will not upload, post, transmit, transfer, distribute or facilitate distribution of any content (including text, images, sound, video, data, information or software) or otherwise use the service in a way that:
  • depicts nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga.

Confusion moved onto anger as the image right next to Reclining Nude was Mattise’s demonic-like naked Dance :

Dance,1910, Henri Matisse, Oil On Canvas

Had Kayla missed this image ? Was this image  approved by The Code of Conduct ? I looked a little harder at the other 400 plus pictures in the same folder – friends, family, art work, net images and so on - to my surprise one image that of the Warren Cup introduced to me by Neil McGregor  as object no 36  in A History of the World in 100 Objects was also not singled out for removal - the Warren Cup depicts two pairs of male lovers in a coital like embrace.

It seems ironic what Kayla and Microsoft have done, today, in 2012 was a almost an exact repetition of what happened when Amedeo Modigliani first exhibited his now acclaimed nudes in 1917, according to  Modigliani's  Wikipedia entry

On December 3, 1917, Modigliani's first one-man exhibition opened at the Berthe Weill Gallery. The chief of the Paris police was scandalized by Modigliani's nudes and forced him to close the exhibition within a few hours after its opening.
Now,to paraphrase Wikipedia

On January 8, 2012  Modigliani's Reclining Nude, 1917 was uploaded by me to my  SkyDrive. Microsoft was scandalized by Modigliani's nude  and forced me to delete the file within 48  hours.
Microsoft’s Code of Conduct policy confuses naked with nude.  The word nude came into art critic vocabulary in the early 18th Century to differentiate artistic images of the human body from other types of images. Kenneth Clark in the opening of The Nude described the naked as ‘huddled and defenseless’ in contrast to the nude which is ‘balanced, prosperous and confident’. This consideration moved some images of the naked human body into becoming nudes - images of artistic merit and integrity - not to be confused with the exploitation that can be found in many naked images. Microsoft’s Code of Conduct needs to reflect that difference. So rather than prohibiting images which:
Depicts nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga.
The Code of Conduct should be more explicit,  prohibiting images which:
Depicts nakedness of any sort including full or partial human nakedness or nakedness in non-human forms as cartoons, fantasy art or manga
 I was torn as to what to do next? Leave the image there and be denied access to SkyDrive ,delete it and continue albeit prudently to use SkyDrive.

I capitulated, gave in and  reluctantly deleted that one image but left all my  other 2,300 plus  images in folders on SkyDrive intact including the Warren Cup and Matisse Dance images . I replaced  Modigliani 's Nude with this image:
Replacement image for LiveFolders/Trip2London/From the iPhone/IMG_0311.JPG
(Reclining Nude, 1917, Amedeo Modigliani , Oil on canvas)

To conclude, I can fully understand Microsoft desire to control what images are uploaded but the image was benign, this was a nude image not a naked image,  it is an acknowledged work of art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the file was private shared only with people I allowed. In 2012 Microsoft behaving just like the Parisian police almost a century earlier is totally outrageous on one hand but on the other plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

BTW all the images for this post are to be found in my Google Docs folder until Google becomes as paranoid aka as Philistine as Microsoft........