Thursday, 25 April 2013

It Must Be Thursday: Peaks And Troughs List O Fives

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?

 Any one who has ever held a job for any length of time will know the gut-wrenching feeling of depression that comes with looking at your watch and knowing that there are still three hours until hometime.

Sure: there are days when our jobs whiz along like the proverbial bullet from a gun, but then there are the days when no one else is about, the systems are slow and you have that thing that you are doing in the evening and the day just can't go fast enough.

Much like the above picture of a bra in the road (or possibly two eggs on toast) there are peaks and troughs in a day.  For instance: it seems impossible to get from 2pm to 5pm and then finally once you get to 3 or 4pm you get into the downhill section where you can take your weary feet off the pedals and allow gravity to do the work as you slide down the bannister of your office stairs and leap like a gazelle into your waiting car.

So for old time's sake and because its been a while - here's a list of 5 things you can do to pass the time

#1: Tea Tennis
Find an unsuspecting member of staff - someone who will sometimes say yes to a proffered cup of tea, but will sometimes say no. Then, and without telling them what you are doing, take it in turns to offer a lovely brew.  If they say yes then you score a point, if they say no then your opponent scores the point - NB: this game only works until the victim realizes what you are up to at which point (assuming you haven't finished a match) whoever is in the lead wins

#2: Radio Bingo
If you are allowed to have a radio on in your office tune it to a local radio station.  Local radio stations, at least in the UK, seem to come off a production line and are identical.  The set up is: A male (main) presenter who is about 5% as funny as he thinks he is, accompanied by a female (support) presenter who is 95% more intelligent than she pretends to be on air (but has to play the idiot for the job)

The play lists of these stations vary little from day to day - so the trick is to write a list of artists that you think will be played on a specific day - and the first to tick them all off wins

#3: Imaginary Shot Drinking
I don't drink alcohol very often - I've had a bottle of wine open for nearly two months now and its not finished yet and I certainly wouldn't advocate drinking at work, but I have a colleague who has a habit of saying the same phrase quite frequently and so I recently tried to imagine downing a shot every time they used the verbal crutch.  Just as well I didn't do it for real as I would have been inebriated in under ten minutes and dead within twenty

#4: Lunctime Walk Bingo
I actually went as far as to create some rules for this one before realizing that I see the same things far too often.  For instance:
* a single abandoned shopping trolley would gain 5 points because just seeing one alone is so rare, whereas for every additional trolley you see would cost you a point
* A freshly broken window would get you a point, but you can only count it again if it hasn't been mended after 3 months
* A speeding car that fails to indicate would be minus points as its so frequent

#5: Scanning Cricket
A bit out of date this one as scanning documents is so rare now - the rules were that you gained runs until the scanner malfunctioned and then were "out" - you could probably devise a modern equivalent that counts emails with attachments against without

#6: Word Of The Day
This one is courtesy of Argent who was once challenged to try and get the phrase/word "Babycakes" into a meeting with a client.  The rules, then, are clear - pick an obscure or made up word and challenge your fellow workers to work it into a conversation or meeting without anyone questioning it.

The prize in each of the above is a cup of lovely tea (or possibly coffee if you're that way inclined)

Thursday, 18 April 2013

It Must Be Thursday: Mother Of Invention

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?

It's easy to laugh about the mistakes of the past isn't it?  We look back at the surgeons who snubbed the idea of germs, the explorers who expected to fall off the edge of the world and anyone who ever thought Frankie Goes To Hollywood were a good band - but often its only with hindsight that we realize how little we knew

Take Thomas Midgley Jr.  A worker at General Motors who was one of the key figures looking at creating a solution for the knocking of engines in cars and came up with tetraethyllead (leaded petrol) 

Of course the difference in his case was that it seems from the wikipedia entry that General Motors knew full well the impact of lead in petrol: their factory workers experienced hallucinations, depression and a high suicide rate - none of which stopped Midgley from pouring the petrol on his arm at a press conference and inhaling it to prove there would be no ill effects (he had to have 12 months medical treatment as a result, which didn't make the papers)

Despite the closure of the factory amongst health concerns leaded petrol continued to be sold until just before the end of the 20th century, polluting the streets and causing unknown levels of illness and damage and Midgley kept his job, moving to the fridgidare section of the company

It was here that he worked on and helped develop Freons - the first of the CFCs.  

Apparently not content with polluting the streets he had inadvertantly helped destroy the ozone layer and added towards global warming.

But hang on a minute before you condem him - as i said at the start: we don't always know when we're wrong.  

How many of today's must-have gadgets and ways of life may in time prove to be harmful?  There has long been some feeling that mobile phones and power lines can be bad for the health - what if one day we discover that we have, all along, been destroying the planet?

The one thing we can say about today is that we now know beyond any reasonable doubt that the earth has finite resources and that at the rate we are using them we will surely exhaust them sooner rather than later: and yet how many of us would go without our gadgets?  Even if we would - with third world countries rapidly coming on line is there anything we can realistically do?

Over the course of his career Midgley was granted over 100 patents - does that mitigate for the harm of a few?  The harm that CFCs were doing was not discovered until decades after his death

His story does not end well, I'm afraid - in later life Thomas Midgley suffered from poliomyelitis and struggled to move around.  He actually went so far as to invent an intricate system of pulleys and wires to get him out of bed - which he got trapped in and strangled to death

Now that really is an example of an invention gone wrong

Monday, 15 April 2013

Magpie Tales: Sawad Daze

ROGER:  Ew Evangeline
ROGER:  Ew Evangeline
ROGER: Evangeline...I have a tewwible, tewwible secwet
EVANGELINE: Is it the eating disorder?
ROGER: What eating disorder?
EVANGELINE: The wone where you take the food and shove it...
ROGER: No No: that's pewfectly undwer control as long as I take the tablets
EVANGELINE; Is it the skin condition?
ROGER: No, no - as long as I cover myself in goosberries for half an hour a day it's fine
EVANGELINE: Ew Woger, don't tell me its the job?  Don't tell me you're weally a politician
ROGER: No: I really am a coal miner
EVANEGLINE: So wot is it Woger?
ROGER: Well, the thing is...the truth is...well...
EVANGELINE: Well?  Spwit it owt Woger!
ROGER: Well: the thing is you see - I'm not really a man.  I'm really a woman
EVANGELINE: Oh is that all!
ROGER: What do you mean, is that all?
EVANGELINE: Well...I it turns out I'm weally a man

Thursday, 11 April 2013

It Must Be Thursday: Politik

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?

The last time I went to vote at an election I really had to ask myself the question "Why am I bothering?"

Let's be honest here for a second and say that this is a regular feeling that I have.  I live in what is considered to be a safe-seat area where the local candidates don't bother to come knocking door to door to try and get my vote, my opinion or my interest.  As such my little tick in a box might as well go to the Monster Raving Looney Party - if we actually fielded a candidate.

Add to this the fact that Tony Blair effectively turned the Labor Party into the Conservative Party to get elected, that Nick Clegg jumped into bed with the Tories so quickly after the last election that as a nation we're still surprised he doesn't just advertise his phone number in telephone boxes and on adult only websites and we find a generation of politicians that have no real-life experience, are all treading on each others toes as they try desperately to hog the middle ground, are afraid to make a policy decision in case they lose vital votes (the current government, for instance, have U-turned on unpopular decisions so often that we could attach David Cameron to a Dynamo and power South Wales - "Pastie Tax" anyone?)

And yet this week one woman has got us all saying quite a bit about the subject of Politics.  Admittedly there has been a certain amount of speculation that Munchkins might start dancing through the streets, singing songs with the refrain "ding dong" as a result of the death of Margaret Thatcher and that her pointy hat will be put in a special case on display at Hogwarts, but for the first time in maybe 15-20 years people are passionate about Politics

For those of us who survived the Thatcher Administration the best description of opinion on her legacy is "deeply polarized".  She was the Marmite of political office - if you were a city type child of the 80s making money in the city you probably loved her, if you lived in a mining village then she was the devil incarnate.  So, in the interests of fairness here's a few facts:

#1: She was important enough to be parodied by Monty Python's Flying Circus whilst she was still a back bencher (in a shot where they showed her brain as being in her knee)

#2: She definately withdrew free milk from schools - saying that it was a parents job to provide food and her job to provide schools - the decision was, like many of her policies, deeply controversial and earned her the moniker "Thatcher The Milk Snatcher"

#3: Thanks to satirical puppet show Spitting Image Maggie and her cabinet have never been more well known - an entire generation could name the Tory Cabinet of the 80s, whereas I would struggle to name more than the top two or three today.

#4: Though largely blamed for the demise of British Industry it is probably more fair to say that Coal, Steel and the Motor industry were already dying due to decades of striking, shrinking resources and the fact that British Cars were famously rubbish.  Certainly her no-nonsense approach, lack of concern and failure to see the community impact behind the political power struggle did nothing to help and have left bitter trenches in those communities.  However: it can be said that her commitment to privatization and decision to sell British Telecom did directly lead to the demise of the General Electric Company - who had put too much focus on one project only to have BT take their business elsewhere within seconds of having the option to do so.

#5: She had at least held a real job prior to going into politics - not like the former Eaton boy/career politician we have in charge today

#6: Since the end of the Thatcher Administration the numbers of people going to vote have drastically diminished - at the last election we achieved approximately 40% turn-out and the vote on proportional representation that Nick Clegg sold his soul to gain got around 20-30%

So was she a devil or just a strong woman?  Was her impact on England for the good, the bad or the ugly? I guess that debate will go on for a long time.

As I say: I survived the 80s and, as a result, I have quite strong opinions which do tend to veer towards the idea that Satan may be facing a power struggle right about now - but maybe I'm being unfair.  Maybe the very fact that as a nation we are still discussing her despite the decades of faceless politicians that have followed is the greatest legacy she could have hoped for.

Anyway - enough of the serious stuff.  Here's a song about an entirely different Maggie.  Watch out for DJ John Peel miming the Mandolin extremely badly

Thursday, 4 April 2013

It Must Be Thursday: A Touch Of Class?

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?

Even after all these years and despite our best attempts to show you otherwise I'd be willing to bet that most people in the world think of the English, when they think of us at all, as belonging to one of two groups:

Posh, well-spoken BBC announcer types with bowler hats and umbrellas, constantly drinking tea and calling on nanny to replace the cricket stumps of our lives

Cor-blimey Guv'nor, rough and ready cockneys, wheeling and dealing, our hands covered in dirt and a song in our heart (preferably with the refrain "have a banana")

But according to a new report published on the BBC website there are no longer three classes in Britain (always thought of as Upper, Middle and Working), but seven:

The site says:
We devised a new way of measuring class, which doesn't define class just by the job that you do, but by the different kinds of economic, cultural and social resources or 'capitals' that people possess.
We asked people about their income, the value of their home and savings, which together is known as 'economic capital', their cultural interests and activities, known as 'cultural capital' and the number and status of people they know, which is called 'social capital'.
  • Elite: This is the most privileged class in Great Britain who have high levels of all three capitals. Their high amount of economic capital sets them apart from everyone else.
  • Established Middle Class: Members of this class have high levels of all three capitals although not as high as the Elite. They are a gregarious and culturally engaged class.
  • Technical Middle Class: This is a new, small class with high economic capital but seem less culturally engaged. They have relatively few social contacts and so are less socially engaged.
  • New Affluent Workers: This class has medium levels of economic capital and higher levels of cultural and social capital. They are a young and active group.
  • Emergent Service Workers: This new class has low economic capital but has high levels of 'emerging' cultural capital and high social capital. This group are young and often found in urban areas.
  • Traditional Working Class: This class scores low on all forms of the three capitals although they are not the poorest group. The average age of this class is older than the others.
  • Precariat: This is the most deprived class of all with low levels of economic, cultural and social capital. The everyday lives of members of this class are precarious.
From the descriptions above it seems that these classes are not cast in stone and that you can move between one and another - after all a New Affluent Worker is described as "young", whereas "traditional working class" is an older group

First of all the test asks you about your income: what do you own, how much you have saved

Secondly it asks you about the kind of people you hang out with: is it cleaners or company directors, teachers or lorry drivers

Third it asks for some of your interests: do you go to the opera, use facebook, listen to jazz, do arts and crafts, listen to hip-hop...

But the upshot is a lot of assumptions about what your interests say about you:

For instance i would probably go to stately homes if i could afford to take the trip, I occasionally listen to classical music but would argue that knowing a call centre worker is no different from knowing a company director (after all: it could be any size company)

And what if Prince Charles is a secret fan of Snoop Dogg?  Does that lower him from being Elite class?

And now that I am no longer described as "young man" by even the most kindly of pensioners does this mean that I cannot belong to any of the groups mainly inhabited by the young?

Personally I don't think this new classing thing will take off - its too complicated for people to really get their heads around

And besides: if they do catch on then how are we going to award next year's Upper Class Twit Of The Year?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Home made Paneer (Indian Cheese)

(take plenty of milk, put it into a saucepan and bring to the boil - this was about 1 pint and still only made a small amount- add in a couple of spoons of yoghurt and be patient - the yoghurt will cause the milk to split into curds and whey.  Once its separated pour into some stretched muslin over a sieve and let the whey drain.  Once drained put under heavy weight for an hour or so.  Use within a day or so as it contains no preservatives - excellent in curry)