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Opinion: Bill Walton, The Games We Play

Hey, Oldtimers – remember the games we played without using our thumbs?
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Hide and Seek

I thought I was past the age of playing hide and seek, a childhood favourite game where you and your playmates hid in the most unimaginable places, and the person who was ‘it’ counted to a preordained number before opening their eyes and searching for you. Once ‘found’, a footrace ensued to the home base. It was great fun as evening shadows fell.

Then I bought a new computer. This one is going to last a lifetime – a salesperson’s claim I believed because of my rapidly advancing years.

My old former computer had developed some weird ideas of how a keyboard ought to function (the built-in mouse pad died but I use the old-fashioned wireless mouse so that was a minor problem) but something was amiss with qwerty: the salesperson asked if I had ever spilled coffee on the keyboard as this was apparently a common problem, but I assured him that was not the case.

I did not mention that I had accidentally dripped a little rum and Pepsi on the keypad once and all that happened was a short ‘bizzit!’ but the hair dryer took care of that. I thought.

The real problem was that the old version of Microsoft Word was acting very strange. Ah, yes, the salesperson said, that happens. You should get the new Microsoft Office 365. It has all the bells and whistles. Thinking why not treat myself to the newest technology, I said, load her up! (forgetting the pronoun thing).

He assured me that I could simply transfer all my files, folders, directories, photographs, and formatted books, as well as my BayToday articles, and the new 365 would take care of this for me. Oh, and he said reassuringly, 365 comes with 5 GB of free Cloud storage for backing up your files. Remembering back to the days of yore when we stored the whole of the City’s accounting system on 300 megabytes of hard disk in a refrigerated room, I was in momentary awe.

I should have read the instructions, but there were no printed notes for me – apparently, they were stored electronically on a Cloud that I could access once I had my new computer hooked up and running wirelessly on the internet hub sitting in the other room beside the TV. My idea of what a cloud is like ‘Doesn’t that one look like a sheep?’

Do not agree to use the ‘default’. De fault will come back to haunt you. Slick as apple jelly on a peanut butter sandwich, my files zipped from the old computer to the new one.

A couple of days later, while working on my novel, a cryptic message appeared saying my Cloud was full and I must buy more space. Resistance is futile. One cannot change one’s mind about the default to the ‘save to the Cloud’ question in midstream. I do not know if Microsoft got this ransom idea from hackers or if they got it from Microsoft, but I paid up. The problem is I am now playing hide and seek to look for my files – some on the Cloud that looks like a sheep, some hiding in plain sight on my hard drive that resides just below the keyboard on my new laptop. I closed my eyes and counted to 25. Maybe I ought to have taken a photo of my screen so I could find my files. Is that allowed? One cannot just point and click anywhere nowadays.

20 Questions

I am a bit of a news junkie, especially for political panels, and skilled investigative commentators. When we were younger, we often played the game of 20 Questions. The person who had the name of a person or thing in mind would answer your questions truthfully, but evasively: you had to solve the riddle within 20 questions. Extra applause if you did it in under 10 questions. It was a good game, even educational if the hidden topic was something secretive, scientific, or political.

But here is the rub: so many of our current crop of politicians have played the game. They have scripted (are they called answering prompts?) replies for any questions the interlocutor (usually a news reporter with a microphone) might pose. If no script prepared by the spinners is at hand, the politician will make up his or her version of the question asked and answer that question. Then Vassy (CBC reporter) will say, ‘With all due respect, Minister, you did not answer my question…’ and once more, evasion follows.

This, of course, prevents the Minister from being chastised in caucus by the PM or Premier, and they may even be applauded for toeing the line. Deferring the question to another minister is an option, but one can dig a hole doing that as retribution from said minister may follow. Admitting that you do not know the answer, but will seek clarification, seldom works because the reporter may already know the answer to the question posed. They are like lawyers in that regard, and they do hold a smoking microphone.

Then there is the danger of a panel of experts analyzing your answer after you have given up an opinion or factoid to the reporter. These panelists are usually people experienced in government or public service who know the ropes: some are retired generals, politicians who have almost reformed, learned professors, and other dangerous people. With all due respect, one does not want to be discussed in these forums. Let the leaders of the party take the heat.

Fortunately, this does not happen very often at the municipal level of government.

This may be because our mayor and councillors know what is happening in their bailiwick. They do not use prompt sheets because they remember the facts. They know exactly why the proposed ice rink was designated to go to Omischl park; they know how much the greening of the rink cost taxpayers; they know they can finance it using Casino revenue (although, people you must bet more); they know the Treasurer must have some Reserve funds somewhere on the books; and they know their personal upset limit on the millions of dollars they are willing to have us cough up.

There will be no need for our local TV, internet, and newspaper reporters to say, ‘With all due respect, councillor, you did not answer my question’, nor will the Clerk have to say to the presenter, using City Hall’s notwithstanding procedural rules,  ’your 20 questions and time are up. Next.’

There was another game we played as children. It was called “Truth or . . . .” Sorry, that word has disappeared from our lexicon. It is sort of like the games they play at the Courthouse . . . Just saying.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

Retired from City of North Bay in 2000. Writer, poet, columnist
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