Wednesday, 26 March 2008

A Case Of The Schrodingers

Last night i was awoken by a cat that i was convinced i had put outside - a cat that isn't even mine...and this got me thinking...

A recent survey of cat owners suggested that there are four times more cat owners than there are cats: it also stated that only approximately 25% of cats were purchased by their current owner, whilst the remaining 75% had just spontaneously arrived.

Clearly something strange is going on here, and those who have studied any science at all and are aware of the theoretical experiments of Schrodinger may already suspect why.

Schrodinger, in an attempt to explain Quantum Physics, postulated that if you stick a cat in a box with a radioactive isotope and a bottle of poison and close the lid then the cat now exists only in a state of quantum flux – it could have died from radiation exposure, it could have died from the poison or it could be sitting there, really annoyed and waiting to sink its claws into the laboratory technician.

The point of the experiment is that we don’t know what is happening until we open the box and that the very act of observing something changes it. Clearly Schrodinger never meant for his experiment to be actually carried out, but one suspects that if it ever were then the box would be opened to find no cat there. After a hurried search of the office it would then be found under the table with a nice saucer of milk.

This is because all cats contain 5% Schrodinger and 15% Houdini in their DNA. How else can you explain the fact that each evening you throw them out – on occasions physically padlocking them in the shed – only to find them at the foot of your bed in the morning?

Cats are perfectly able to communicate with, and control, humans – though they prefer to stick to the simple things we can understand. Like reminding us where the fridge is, stopping us from inventing time travel by sitting in front of the computer screen at vital moments and generally using our laps as somewhere warm and comfy to fall asleep.

Some Cats have worked out that they can get fed when it suits them by sitting on human chests when we are trying to sleep, whilst others are apparently too lazy or stupid to saunter through to the kitchen and find that, in fact, food had been laid out on their behalf in the first place.

The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats – so it must be a bit of a come-down for the modern moggie, having to squeeze through a cat flap and into suburban life.

To get our own back on cats monopolising our time humans have devised a bizarre method of feeding the animals – you can get beef flavoured cat food and pork flavoured cat-food, but realistically when in the wild would your cat chase and kill a cow for sustenance?

Why can’t you buy mouse flavoured cat-food? Or frog? Or small bird cat-food?

Meanwhile the cat that has secretly adopted me and my home is probably sitting on the sofa right now, having a good old-fashioned sleep

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Conspiracy Theory #2 – The Annoyance Chip

Why does a printer run out of toner just when you have an urgent print job?

Why does your internet server suddenly fail to connect when you’re waiting for an urgent email?

Why does your laptop take ½ hour to load when it knows full well that you have a bus to catch in five minutes?

The simple explanation to all of the above is that all technology – from your electric can-opener to your air-conditioning – has an in-built “annoyance” chip that is programmed to measure your levels of stress and break down accordingly.

Some photocopiers have in-built scanners that can detect movement two buildings away, assess the likelihood of photocopying being required, count the number of pages marked “urgent” and use this information to calculate the Maximum Impact Moment (or MIM) to cause a paper jam.

Many software packages have an additional stess-ono-meter to detect the urgency of your document. Don’t even bother to save your document as you go if one of these is installed on your computer, as you will return from work to find that your annual training budget has been replaced with a detailed review of flower-arranging in the gobi dessert, or something equally irrelevant.

This is by no means accidental and some computers are programmed to move all your files to new locations as part of their basic start-up procedure. No one is quite sure why this is.

Perhaps computers are intrinsically annoying? Perhaps we are all part of some global anti-Microsoft conspiracy. We may never know.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Who's Afraid...

Another thing that amuses me, asides from random collective nouns, is obscure phobias.

If you ever get a dull day at work, or the rain is pouring down outside checkout which has a list of every phobia you can think of, and a few you'd rather not.

I mean - the person who suffers from Arachibutyrophobia (Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.) has a relatively easy life - just don't eat Peanut Butter, as does the sufferer of Coulrophobia (Fear of clowns), but how does the person who suffers from Barophobia (Fear of gravity.) cope, short of spending 10 years training as an astronaut?

More importantly - how does one discover that one has a fear of otters (Lutraphobia) - i mean, one doesn't exactly see them walking down the street on a daily basis.

Also - what is there, precisely, to fear about chopsticks (Consecotaleophobia)? When was the last time you, or any of your friends, was attacked by a rampaging mob of chopsticks. Finally - how can the person with Amnesiphobia (Fear of amnesia) be sure they haven't already got amnesia

That one must keep them awake at nights!

OK, so it's neither right or fair to laugh at these poor sods - but it makes you realise what a strange world we live in

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

What a waste

I'm slightly unnerved to learn that, purely by having a shower and flushing the loo this morning i've used up over a third of the water that an average etheopian has to survive on daily

20 litres a day is the recommended minimum water a human can survive on, yet i wasted 7 just by using the toilet.

I offset this slightly, however, by cycling the 7 miles to work - thus meaning that fewer trees in the rainforest will be cut down on my behalf. But i'm luckier than most because my work place has on site showers and safe parking for my bike. However, if i want to avoid dairy products, thus being kind to animals, then the rainforests will be cut down anyway to make way for soya plants. Hmmm...

The thing is - like most people i care about the world in a slightly bemused way. Every report tells you something different, and who do you believe? I don't own a car, because i can't afford one - but would happily add to congestion if i could because the alternative - public transport systems - aren't a realistic alternative.

Let's put it this way: It takes me 35 minutes to cycle to work, between 20-30 minutes to drive when i have a car, 1 hour 30 minutes to walk the distance and between 1 hour and 2 hours depending on connections to catch the bus. When a bus does arrive it's late, over-crowded and dirty. Given these statistics who, in our increasingly frantic get-it-done-yesterday world, is going to leave their car at home?

Our governments promise us answers, but only based on how if affects their business interests. We talk about widening the roads as if this is the solution, but history shows that human junk expands to fill the space provided.

Maybe it's time to let the ants take over!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Bench Tapping Man

This is a true story that actually happened to me. I currently work in the middle of nowhere, but used to work in a town centre and get an hours lunch. This may sound great, but trust me - after a while you get bored of standing in WH Smiths wondering why you're looking at "What Car" magazine for the fifth time that week. Eventually I got bored of trawling round the shops every day with no cash to spend and would sit on the bench in the shopping centre reading a book.

There were four benches upstairs in this shopping centre and two downstairs - all had backs on in those days, but these have been removed since to force people into the shops to spend money.

One day I was sitting on a particular seat when this bloke sat down to my right, extending his arm across the back so it was almost touching me - pretty unnerving as it was. He started tapping the bench. Repeatedly. For a whole hour. It was really, really irritating and eventually i got up and left because i couldn't read my book.

A few days later he was back again - same bench, same position - same tapping. I christened him Bench Tapping Man.

Over the next couple of weeks i noticed that he was always hanging about the centre near to that one bench. If there was no space available he would sit on the next bench up, anxiously watching his preferred bench until it was free and he could return to tap away. It got to the point where i didn't want to go in to the centre incase i ended up sat next to him. Instead I started sitting across the hallway on the other set of benches where he never went.

It was then that i noticed Umbrella Tapping Man.

True - this chap would walk in every lunch time and sit diagonally opposite Bench Tapping Man - tapping the floor with his umbrella and whistling "What a friend we have in Jesus"

I became convinced that there was some secret espionage going on between the two. Possibly they were selling state secrets in morse code??

I will never know - as, sadly, about a week or two after Umbrella Tapping Man appeared on the scene Bench Tapping Man vanished and was never seen again. Possibly U.T.M. had won their secret war - but we will never know.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Can we talk about it?

Meetings - the practical alternative to work.

The higher up the food chain you get in business, the less actual time you spend doing anything as opposed to talking about doing things.

If meetings had been about when the wheel was invented we'd still be at the design stage now, wondering what colour it should be, what demographic it would attract, how to market it, whose department would have to pay for it and generally living in subservience to the Ants.

If you are invited to a particularly boring and pointless meeting there are games you can play to pass the time.

1) Pass the buck - see if you can get through the whole process looking like you've been highly pro-active, but without actually getting any work put in your direction. Doing a hard-day's work only annoys other people and is best avoided. It's always the slackers and the loudmouths who get the attention and the promotion. Lean forward purposfully whilst someone is in full-flow, point out how wrong their proposition is and sit back as they spend the next 6 months fuming in an attempt to put it right. You'll get all the glory - they'll get all the work

2) Most likely to - you can set your own categories for this one. Most be fired before the next meeting, Most get an undeserved payrise etc.

3) Effective doodling - take in a big book, make every appearance of making intensive notes - but in actuality spend your whole time playing hangman with the attractive man/woman sitting next to you. The main thing is to look busy, without actually being so.

At the end of most meetings you will notice a recurring pattern - you and your colleagues will feel that you have made progress without actually having decided a thing. The world will keep on turning, your job will still be rubbish - only now you have an extra spreadsheet to complete everyday that no one ever reads.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

An observance

There is something fundamentally wrong with a universe that can provide a collective noun for hermits.

That most solitary of people, who abandon their homes and hearths to live alone in a cave, surrounded only by sheep and the wilderness - yet we have a collective noun for them. Why??

Do they secretly get together when no one's there and compare loincloths? Do they hold a Hermit Convention where they have a Who's Wattle Is It Anyway competition?


When exactly is this collective noun used? When was the last time you saw some hermits walking down the road together and felt the urge to say, 'Oh look, an observance of hermits?'

We have two choices - Option One - this weekend we should all go out into the forrest, look under the berries and mushrooms and gather the hermits together so we can get use of the term or Option Two - get on with our lives as per usual and just accept there is no sense in anything.

Although Option One sounds attractive we feel that, like climbing every mountain and fording every stream, whilst it may look a good idea on paper the National Rivers Authority would probably have something to say against it. As such we suggest watching Ben Fogle on Countryfile instead.