Friday, August 24, 2012

The butter tart photos. And others.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Semi-blissed out from the massage.

Swam Thursday, and chatted with Katie again. Worked on some 100 m intervals on 2.5 minutes, trying to be about 100 seconds. Did the last nearly all out for 94 seconds. Cool down and water running after.

I've been going to bed early this week. I think that's a good thing, but I'm perking up for the weekend. Linda was out shopping today and brought home goodies.

First up is Bankers Hall. I was trying to get the Canadian flag all visible but the wind was not cooperating. You can see the swing stage for the window cleaners.

Here's the promised butter tart pics! They are quite deep, which is hard to tell from the first photo. That's a regular dinner plate they're sitting on, and I put the berries there for scale. And for nibbling. Blackberries are just about the best thing ever. Especially this time of the year.

Linda bought only one to share, in case we didn't like it. As if. It was pretty yummy. Some butter tarts have an overwhelming sweetness to them which I don't like, but these didn't. The pastry wasn't quite as flaky as it looked, but was quite serviceable. At least it isn't the store bought shells.

Shortly after I got home a big storm rolled through, with the worst of it going to the south of us. This is what the trailing edge of it looked like. I was hoping for a rainbow, but no such luck.

Once upon a time almost 20 years ago I worked with one particular person for a little while. Then we each went our separate ways. About a week ago I thought I saw him again on the street, but I didn't get a good look, and didn't think anything more of it. Then a few days later I saw him in the +15 going from Banker's Hall to Gulf Canada, and got a good look at him. It was almost more the way he walks than seeing his face.

I almost burst out saying "Hey, I know you", but I didn't have his name to tongue. It's been almost 20 years, after all. I had a chance to think about it, and checked with a buddy I had worked with way back then to confirm his name. At that point I was confident I'd never see him again. Yet I did, and this time I got his attention by saying his name. He clearly did not remember me, but that's ok. We chatted a minute and moved on. He had retired, and was back to work for a project. That's a pretty common thing in Calgary.

It got me thinking about memory and recognizing people. I like going out for a walk at lunch. You never know who you're going to run into. Sometimes it's easy, you see someone you know quite well, and know you'll see again soon, so you just wave or nod and smile, and carry on. Or you'll see someone you know or have known fairly well, but don't see regularly anymore. That's worth stopping and chatting for a minute.

Then there is the more complicated cases, where you're positive you know them, but can't remember the circumstances or their name. That's a bit tricky. It happened to me at Talisman once. Saw a guy several times, and it took us a minute to figure out where we knew each other from. The longer it is, the harder it is. The associations fade, and people change. Then there was once a couple years ago. I was having lunch with my buddy Alan R at a now closed coffee shop. (All mourn Primal Grounds on 37 St.) A woman and her male companion walked to a table just past us, with a dog. I knew instantly I'd seen her before, and yet could not remember where or when. The dog tickled my memory too, but I'm not a dog person so that didn't mean anything. I thought about it all lunch, and it's only at the end her name came to me. In fact, I'd never met her in person before, I'd merely seen photos of her on her blog. We chatted briefly and we both went on with our lives.

The people changing part usually isn't too bad half the time. The half that's the problem is the female half. Give it a few years, and almost everything about a woman's appearance could have changed. Hair colour, style, and length. Eye colour from contacts. Her glasses. She might have lost or gained some weight. Some go and have boob jobs, some to increase, some to decrease breast size. Her height could change by several inches either way depending on her shoes, which also affects how she walks and holds herself. She could be pregnant, or have been pregnant when we met and now isn't. What she is wearing could be radically different, anything from a swimsuit or workout gear, to a formal suit, or a fancy party dress. Let's not even talk about accessories and hats. For me, an important part of remembering people is their voices and how they speak, which typically doesn't happen in a street or +15 encounter.

In short, a lot can change and our own memories and brains can betray us. We don't remember everything about a person; we do some mental shorthand, and that's why eyewitness accounts can be so unreliable. We remember the unusual and it distracts us from the ordinary. Or we remember what is important for whatever reason, and miss the unusual. There's a video of some basketball players passing some balls around and the task is to remember how many passes. Then they ask if you notice something that you'd ordinarily notice right off. And you didn't.

With another guy, it's not so bad to say, "Bill Billson, how are you?" and if it's not him, it's no big deal. It's a bit trickier for a woman. She has every reason to be a bit cautious or suspicious, wondering if she is being hit on.

How do we do this? Think of me walking up Stephen Ave at lunch time. There are dozens of people walking past me in the other direction every minute. I might be looking for people I recognize, or I might not be looking at people at all. I'm certainly not comparing each face to the great many faces that I know. Then out of all those people, something about their face, or how they walk or dress or carry themselves rings a bell in our minds. We think, "Is that Bill Billson?" or we'll know and then we decide how to react. Sometimes it's just someone that looks like a person we know.

Keep in mind the first case I mentioned. I hadn't seen him or even thought about him in 18 years or so, yet I knew right off. A random person on the street, and we'll know if we know them or not, and often we can bring their name to mind. Now think about the thousands upon thousands of other faces that go past us, and all the minor variations that are possible. How do we do that? One of the things that is fascinating about children is watching them learn out to do that and many more things besides.

I've met many people over the years by working in a variety of jobs and having a variety of interests. There are probably several hundred people I could reasonably expect to meet her in town, and maybe 1000 people or more that I've met over the years.  I've no idea really, and I'm not even a particularly impressive case. There are recruiters that carry around thousands of people in their heads. Remembering a name, some key skills, and a bit of background information is their bread and butter.

Now lets think about privacy. Most of the time we are delighted when someone recognizes us and stops to say hello. People who are being stalked are probably less pleased, and criminals are going to be very unhappy about being recognized in public. Computer scientists have been trying to teach computers to recognize faces, and they're getting better at it.

We don't mind people walking by looking at our face. (Half of us very much want the other half of us to be look at faces rather than other portions of anatomy.) Even having a cop stand there watching us go by isn't a problem, though the criminal might try to take some unobtrusive evasive action or just brazen it out. After all, the human cop is fallible. But what about a camera? A camera hooked to a computer with facial recognition software that can process many people every second. Possibly erroneously, fingering you for the bad guy. If the cops come to believe the software is always right, they might not accept a normal explanation or proof. They might dig a little deeper, push a little harder, and be delighted if they come up with something else. Who of us does not have that "something else" in their background?

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" has been going through my mind a lot lately. There is no shortage of evidence that cops can't be trusted anymore. They will lie for each other and cover up evidence or create it as necessary. They will repress anyone trying to video them at work, and the only possible reason is that they fear oversight. Our politicians are just as bad or worse. I mind the expense account scandals in UK, where moat cleaning and other expenses were charged to the tax payer. Bev Oda's orange juice and Merali's lavish meals are only a couple of more examples.

One of the promises of the internet is that it was supposed to open up a new world of information. We were supposed to be able to see what our government was doing, and take part. Well, Harper has made it just about impossible to find out what his (our) government is doing. He is essentially a dictator. As for sharing information, it's out there, but it's drowning in funny cat videos or celebrity boobs. Those are all very well in their place, but there's more serious work at hand. Somehow we have to get on top of this internet thing to learn how to share the things we want to share, and not rape our privacy while we're at it.

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