We're barely out of January and 2020 is already looking seriously dodgy.
There I was feeling sorry for myself nursing a dose of man flu after a dumb dawn dip on Women's Little Christmas, and suddenly the world eclipses my petty purgatory by going to hell in a hand basket. Bad enough we're feeling the breakup collywobbles from Brexit and having barely sufficient bobs to tap and go a scone and coffee, when out of nowhere comes the coronavirus - and suddenly the globe has become a very small place as we grapple with a reality far more scary than the latest Netflix horror binge. A high-powered techie mate, whose pay cheque could probably tap and go him a Jag SUV every month, is sure a vaccine will soon be discovered, similar to halting the Ebola epidemic six years ago.
"But its not the only badass contagion out there, you know," he said, with raised eyebrow. "What spreads faster than any virus, crosses borders in a wink, contaminates entire cities in a blink and leaves millions affected in its wake?" I wanted to reply Gangnam Style K-pop, but the guy doesn't really have a sense of humour.
"Cybercrime, the world's biggest plague, and if it hasn't touched you yet, chances are it will soon," he whispered, like Clint Eastwood in 'Pale Rider'. A virus gone wild across the globe, this computer larceny is fast becoming more profitable than the global drugs trade. Hacker attacks occur every 39 seconds according to a study by the University of Maryland, often through back-door entry due to peoples' poor choice of password.
I know somebody whose bank password is 4321 - seriously. As they say in Silicon Valley: "Passwords are like underwear: don't let people see it, change it often, and don't share it with strangers." But it's not just the money in our bank accounts these modern robber barons are after - information is the treasured oxygen of this electronic age. Everything we do from the supermarket to the shops to the pharmacy is the legal tender of these Roaring Twenties, a world where every heart flutter of our lives is mined, quarried and extracted to feed the voracious appetite of those monolithic media giants. In a click-bait universe where data can scale the highest wall and perforate the strongest safe, is it any wonder we can't tell the fake news from the false memes and propaganda porkies? It's surely a strange old world when that gadget in all our pockets enables us FaceTime with the rellies in Perth, buy a Picasso online or book a Virgin premium economy to the moon.
But it's also the yoke that witnesses every shuffle and shimmy of our lives, painstakingly documenting every detail and particular, both public and private. "Cybercriminals are coming after everything you've got, from ATM cash to hospital records, every scrap of information has a price," warns my tech buddy. "It's cybergeddon out there, and nobody is prepared."
Honestly, it's all too depressing to contemplate. Think I'll just crawl back under the duvet. Somebody wake me up on May 1.
Dying for a ding-dong
With only a few days to go, is there any chance of igniting a decent tiff, barney or bust-up out there on the hustings? It's been an election of such careful control and delicate presentation, the word 'yawnfest' seems the only apt description.
I mean, in the miserable depths of winter, could these over-paid public servants not summon up some engaging theatre to entertain us - a bout of bad tempered bolshie belligerence to get Joe Duffy's hotline in meltdown? Where's the Charlie/Garret truculence, John Kelly's snarky put downs or those delicious Joe Higgins barbs?
I'm with Mark Twain on the whole flat-footed circus: "Politicians and diapers should be changed regularly - and for the same reason."