Thursday, August 18, 2011

Say Hello To UF2011ABF0001A (AKA Constance)

There is a lot of debate over here at the moment about infringements of personal liberty : should we introduce curfews, ban social media during times of trouble, have more or fewer surveillance cameras? - that kind of thing. The dust is still settling after the recent riots and all sorts of theories about causes and responses are doing the rounds. Personally, I have never quite understood the position whereby denying someone a job is merely the inevitable workings of the market system whilst having a video camera on a street corner is a fundamental attack on democracy. Nor have I understood why the social media can be a tool for liberation in Arab Spring countries whilst it is a nothing less than the progeny of the devil in Hackney or Birmingham.

However, I am not here to discuss the riots, freedom or whether Facebook is better than Twitter (although, for the first time in my life I did discover a use for Twitter as it warned me when to stay clear of the local ASDA which came under attack during the riots). I am here because my friend Janie told me I had a good idea the other day. I can still recall the time, many decades ago, when I would have a good idea on a regular basis - maybe one or two a month - but now they are as rare as a Daily Mail reader with a social conscience. So I thought I would share it with you.

Like many other people I use Picasa 3 to file my various images and one of the nice features of Picasa is the built-in facial recognition software. Identify a picture of your wife, your brother or your Auntie Doris once, and the software will search through your files for other similar faces using the usual approach of key facial measurements. The drawback to this approach is that you have to identify a face first and that it is restricted to just your images. My idea was to introduce a worldwide database of the unknown dead so that we could try and identify some of the unknown faces of long-dead relatives and friends. 

Go back and look at the image above. This is UF2011ABF0001A : a picture of a woman from my collection of old Victorian photographs. I haven't the foggiest who she is, but she is a very special person, a person who will go down in the annals of the twenty-first century : she is the very first entry in the worldwide database of the unknown dead (WDUD). All you need to do is to download the image and add it to your Picasa folder, do a facial recognition sweep and see if you get any suggestions. If not, simply identify it as UF2011ABF0001A and wait for the next face to come winging its way to you. If you do get a hit and it turns out to be your great-aunt Constance, let us here at WDUD HQ know (remembering to enclose a cheque for $10 for administrative expenses) and her details will be added to the database. Talk about a good idea : sometimes I think I was born before my time.

18 comments:

  1. What an astonishingly interesting post!

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  2. You do write well, Alan. I guess you know that already? I will confess that your way of writing has interested me for as long as I can remember. I need to explain that so you will understand it the way I meant it.

    For example: I can write about anything as you surely can. But it takes a period of time, sometimes, for me to come up with something that can be written about so as to be of some interest to others.

    My story, today about how we killed chickens to eat and how reluctant my kids were about being shown how to kill a chicken, sounded like something good but ended up being just a mediocre story.

    I really don't know how to explain it but I think the way I do it is the way you did it in this story about Constance. I think "rubbing sticks together" and ending up with the common match should be one of those kinds of stories that would interest a lot of people. What do you think?

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  3. Abe, you sell yourself short. I read your chicken piece earlier today and it fascinated me. I always think that a good test of a blog post is "do I see the name pop up near the top of my blog roll, feel anticipatory pleasure that it is there, and go on to read the full post?" With you the answer is always Yes, Yes.

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  4. My guess is that Constance died an old maid, just pure speculation on my part. With little chance for progeny it may reduce our chances of knowing who she is. I hope not, though. She has an interesting face.

    It really is a most excellent idea you have there, Alan.

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  5. I love the idea of the WDUD almost as much as your idea for mating long lost single socks! :)

    And I agree with Abe ~ your writing style is a gift.

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  6. Teresa : She looks a little old-maidish I suppose. Perhaps she loved and lost.
    Betsy : Glad you reminded me - I have not posted any orphan socks for ages. The Lad is back from Africa on Sunday so no doubt he will bring loads of odd socks with him.

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  7. It sounds a bit scary. Picaso will soon be able to match one of our photographs to someone in the rest of the world.

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  8. Well, my brain says I don't know UF2011ABF0001A but is it more or less reliable than Picasa? It also says she looks like one of those ladies I'd like to spend an hour or two chatting to. And btw yours is one of the blogs that always gives me that thrill of anticipatory pleasure you mentioned.

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  9. I like the idea, and I understand Abe's remarks about your writing. You write with a quiet sense of humour suggesting just a hint of the leg-pull. Whether it is by design or just your style, it makes your pieces interesting and holds one's attention.

    As for WDUD, it sounds like a good idea. I've plenty of photos of the unknown, and indeed I'm thinking of removing my name from all photos in the hope that when I depart this world, I might become numbered amongst the WDUD.

    Before I ask, where do we go now? I want to take up your point of being born before your time. In true schitzoid style, at times I feel ahead of my time and at other times I feel that my real time was when the Sepias were taken. At the moment I'm quite content to feel only just trapped in the present.

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  10. I would love to claim her as a relative. If she doesn't match up, but I pay the $10, have I purchased a relative?

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  11. Christine : For $10 I will throw in a family tree.
    Mike : Leg-pull, me? Never

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  12. Hmm almost had me. I'm not sure I want to identify half of my dead relatives, the ones that are living are hideous enough.

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  13. I'll bet Ancestry.com would love the WDUD; you may have a money-making idea there!

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  14. I'm with Jennyfreckles - seeing a new post from your blog always makes me want to read!

    Leg pulling - do you not see how lop-sided I have become?

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  15. Well, I find this to be nothing less than a stroke of genius! Now, I will be curious to see if it is a money maker Alan... ;)

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  16. Alan, this is quite a brilliant idea. I agree with the others as well. You write very, very well. Charming is the word.

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