Tuesday, February 28, 2006
The Tuesday Twat(s)No. 54. "Mountaineering" Chavs
Here is a scenario for you to ponder. It's the school half-term. It's mid-February and the the temperature is hovering around zero. There has been rain and snow in some low-lying areas. You have three little girls, aged 2, 3 and 5 years old and you are looking for something to do to entertain them.
A) Take the kids 10 pin bowling, stopping off for a McD's on the way home before picking up a couple of Disney DVDs from Blockbuster.
B) Dress the kids in tracksuits and trainers (sneakers) and take them up the highest mountain in England and Wales (Snowdon) without so much as a torch?
If you answered B), I'm truly glad to hear that you didn't all die from hypothermia and would like to know WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING YOU BRAINLESS TWATS!
This is Mount Snowdon.
It is 1,080m (3,560ft) high and on the the day of the climb was icy, with temperatures of -5C and a 35mph windchill of -19C. The climbers, on a day trip from Liverpool, hit up on the genius idea of climbing the mountain dressed in the sort of gear you might wear on a wet afternoon shopping in Warrington, before catching the train back down. But there was a slight problem. Because only the most skilled of mountaineers would even think about climbing Snowdon in this weather (complete with crampons and ice-picks), THE TRAIN WASN'T FUCKING RUNNING! Yes, that's right, the service doesn't run in winter and won't be restarting until next month. You know, WHEN IT'S SAFE! Fortunately, the intrepid explorers met two students who donated clothes to the youngest child, who was in a black bin bag on her Dad's back for warmth. Needless to say, having not been moving, she was nearly dead from cold. Luckily she wasn't injured when Dad fell flat on his face. Eventually, they decided "Hmmm, the little one has now stopped crying - probably not a good sign, looks like we may need a little assistance here." and called Mountain Rescue - before walking another two miles away from the site they had described, just to give the rescue teams a little extra challenge.
Well, they say that God smiles on little children and fuckwit Scousers, and they were rescued in the nick of time, the two-year old now unconcious. Miraculously, they all survived after being warmed up in an unpronounceable local hospital.
In the grand scheme of human twattery, this has got to score a 9.9. It eclipses the German man who phoned the police to report his drug dealer for seling him crap cannibas; pisses on the Indian man who has spent 27 years living in a tree after a family argument; and blows away the efforts of the trainee paramedic, who despite being repeatedly told not to, used a defibrilator on his (then alive) colleague and killed her on the spot. The sad thing is, as tempted as I am to give it a full 10 out of 10 on the Twat-o-meter, I think I need to reserve that hallowed score for the future. Because somebody, somewhere is probably planning an ascent on the North Face of the Eiger, in January, wearing only a leopard-skin thong and flip-flops.
Labels: The Tuesday Twat(s)
Monday, February 27, 2006
Which Sci-Fi world do you fit in?
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Perhaps I should apply?
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The Tuesday Twat(s)No. 53. The creators of pointless paperwork.
As you have probably guessed from previous posts, I loathe repetitive and pointless paperwork. However, I am a realist. I understand that some paperwork is essential and I don't begrudge that. What annoys me is repetitve and inefficient paperwork that could be easily automated. Whilst I have railed against COSHH forms in the past (the Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health - there is one for water) and other lab necessities, the sport centre has raised this to new levels. I've already mentioned that certain people, after typing a long list of customer names in to Excel, simply hit print and don't bother to also hit save, requiring me to type the bloody things again from scratch to modify the list. Recently, I and another receptionist, spent 2 days re-typing a 50 page procedures document (complete with flowcharts) that had been "lost". All they had was a master document which they would photocopy and post to anyone requesting it. Finally, someone called the muppet responsible's bluff and demanded the original Word file so that they could ammend it for use at another sport centre. Hence us wasting hours retyping pages of desperately dull SOPs.
Another example. The education department still uses faxes to communicate with the outside world. They (ie the Education officer) don't believe in email. Just because he can't work out how to use MS Outlook properly, he assumes that the highly trained secretaries in the one hundred or so local schools also can't use email. The other night, a four page document was handed to me. "Sane, this is urgent. It needs to be faxed to every school in the vicinity tonight. Here is a list of numbers."
My first suggestion was "wouldn't it be quicker to use email, since you already created these documents in Word?".
"No. Nobody checks their email" (Translation - email scares me).
My second suggestion, after calculating how long it would take to send these four pages by hand, then reading the fax machine's instruction manual, was
"Can I programme these numbers into the fax machine's memory and do an automated broadcast?"
"No - I don't want you messing up the fax machine"
Moral of the story - better to ask forgiveness than ask permission.
After 2 hours of solid faxing, it was 6 pm. I had gotten as far as the letter G, when I started getting dial tones. For reasons known only to themselves, it seems that the last thing school secretaries do before leaving the office at home-time is unplug the fax machine...
Result - less than a third of the local schools got their "urgent" fax.
Another example doesn't concern me directly but adds to the workload of our over-stretched sports coaches. Before each coaching session, each coach is required to fill-in, sign and date, an A4 questionnaire about health and safety. Even if they have been on that badminton court all day without a break, they have to fill in a form confirming that the court is safe with no obstacles and that they are licensed and also that (named) first-aiders are present. Since all coaches are, by default, first-aiders, they simply have to write their own name (again). Furthermore, the forms are entirely generic. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever drowned on a badminton court. Last week, I filed over 1,000 of these identical reports for the preceding couple of months.
I understand why they are done, and why they are kept - it's just to cover our arses in case someone has an attack of the clumsies and tries to sue - but they are incredibly innefficient. So last week, I put my money where my mouth is so to speak, and made a master copy for each coach, with all of their unchaninging personal details and the generic crap like the sport centre's address etc filled in already. I decided not to remove the irrelevant questions, such as the need for a lifeguard on the basketball courts, to avoid messing up the format, but wrote n/a in the boxes. At least half of the form is now filled in already. I distributed blank copies to everyone and the response was tremendous. I may only be saving the coaches 30 seconds or so each time, but that is 30 seconds that the coach can spend talking to pupils or parents or gulping down a cup of coffee before going back on court.
It took me about 30 minutes, but has earned me the promise of half a dozen pints next time we all go out. For my next trick, I will be setting up distribution lists in Outlook for every school in the region, and showing the education officer how to use the fucking thing... I can hardly wait.
So to all those pen-pusher's too lazy to use the simple tools at their disposal to save them and their workmates time and effort - I award this week's Tuesday Twat. Now, instead of displaying it prominently on a shelf or emailing colleagues to tell them about it, why not lock it in a filing cabinet, and ring and invite people over, one at a time, to come and see it.
Labels: The Tuesday Twat(s)
Monday, February 20, 2006
Cheeky bastard!Today, was laundry day. One of the plusses of living in my current apartment block is that the building managers over-estimated how many washers and driers we'd need. Consequently, I have never seen the place more than half full. Today, I decided it was time for a big load - bedding, winter coat and loads of clothes. A problem with one of the washers (my clothes came out drier than they went in - I'll be claiming £1.60 back tomorrow) meant that everything was still in the drier when my parents arrived to take me to lunch. As I have done countless times before over the past 2 years, I simply left my clothes drying.
I returned after lunch to find the place in turmoil. Some bastard had took it upon themselves to empty my driers and someone elses - and dump the whole sodding lot in one big pile in the middle of the room. In a pile of wet congealed soap powder. Fortunately, the other poor victim was a young woman, and she had mostly sorted out her clothes from the pile. Not only that, the cheeky fucker had made off with my laundry bag.
We'll know how successful our sorting operation was if, come monday morning, I'm wearing knickers and a bra and she is wearing jeans about 8 sizes too big. I'm just glad that I tend to shop at Primark rather than Harvey Nicks - no expensive clobber to get stolen.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Second Time lucky?Well, what a funny old world!
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am curently "under-employed" - i.e. I am a PhD-trained biologist currently putting my hard-earned skills to use in my local sport centre.
Anyhoo, I have been plodding away sending applications and cover letters to all an sundry since finishing my last research post. To no avail. I've had 4 job interviews since June. I've done well in all of them - but been pipped to the post by candidates more experienced in that particular job.
Yesterday, I received my latest rejection letter (still awaiting feedback and expenses Grrr). Not at all unexpected, to be honest. Nevertheless, I was a little down in the mouth. But 24 hours later, the birds are singing again. I have been urged to apply to another job, by the lab head who liked my CV and thought that my last project sounded relevant to her job. So that application was off (and has been received). I'm just waiting to hear back to see if I have been short-listed.
But even better is the job I found on jobs.ac.uk today. Back in July, I went for a job daan sarf , only to be pipped to the post by someone with more experience.
However, when I rang up for feedback, the interviewer couldn't have been more positive and glowing. He may not have been able to offer me the job, but I'd happily share a pint with him at a conference.
Maybe that opportunity is nearer than I think... he's advertising another position! I have emailed him reminding him who I am and asking what it's about and if I should apply for it.
So, fingers crossed... hopefully, within the next week, I will have an idea if I am to be short-listed for interview for 2 jobs. Ever the optimist, I have already decided which customers will get both barrells on my final evening at the sport centre...
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
The Tuesday Twat(s)No. 52. The Chip and PIN Doomsayers
Chaos! Catastrophe! Hordes of desperate people forming mile-long queues as the British economy falters under the onslaught and the FTSE 100 slumps.
If you have been watching the news or reading the newspaper headlines over the past week, you may be forgiven that something monumental was about to happen regarding February 14th's compulsary switch to Chip and PIN. For those of you from overseas (who probably started using a PIN number to sign for goods at the shop till 10 years ago), the British press has been working iteslf into a right old lather regarding this.
Well, as I write this in the early hours of the 15th (my WiFi has crashed and I can't be arsed to reconfigure it yet again), there have been no reports of massive queues or Till Rage.
And why the fuck would there be? We've had the bloody things for 2 years. Anybody who has shopped in a major supermarket or bought petrol in the past 12 months (so basically 99% of the population) will have been offered a small electronic keypad and asked to enter their PIN number. Posters are plastered all over till points, the date chosen was deliberately memorable (Valentine's day for fuck's sake) and the press has been reminding everyone.
Not only that, most people's daily transactions will involve their debit card that also doubles as a cash card - so unless they are in the habit of getting cash over the bank counter rather than using an ATM, they simply use their regular PIN number. Contingencies exist for those who are unable to use a PIN number, they can use a special signature only card. Sure, every so often somebody will use their credit card, for which they don't know the number, but for the past 2 years they have been allowed to sign and then reminded to phone their bank for a new number. Frankly, if you need telling more than once you're a twat and deserve the embarassment of a whole queue tutting as you look for another card.
Basically, the whole thing has been a media fabrication. Yesterday, the BBC managed to find a wide-range of folks concerned about the impact that this would have on society. Interestingly, all of them seemed to know their PIN numbers - yet also seemed to assume that no one else would. One woman claimed it would be as disruptive as going decimal. WTF? That involved the overnight switching of a monetary system based on 240 pennies or 20 shillings to the pound, to a decimilised system involving 100 pennies, not to mention the scrapping of several different types of currency.
So to all of those Doomsayers - a Tuesday Twat Award. Please check the amount and enter your PIN here.
Labels: The Tuesday Twat(s)
Monday, February 13, 2006
Random musingsA few days ago, I had the great pleasure of catching the train. Regular readers of this blog will know just how much I adore this form of transport. Funnily enough, the journey went pretty well. OK there was a minor derailment on the preceding train, and I actually spent more time on the bus than the train, but when looked at in the wider context of my worst train journeys, this wasn't too bad.
However, I got to thinking whilst at the station. My travel plans had been necessarily vague, and so I had to buy an open return. Therefore, I didn't actually have any idea when the next (and quickest) train home was. I turned up at the station and found that the printed timetable was no use (I was hoping to travel to the tiny local station near me to avoid paying a large taxi fare from the central station, and it wasn't listed). I also knew that I had to avoid London (restricted ticket) and that I would have to make at least 3 changes.
The queue to the ticket booth was about 20 people long, and I am loathe to queue unless I have to. What to do? Suddenly, I had a brainwave! The station had automated ticket machines. Brilliant! They were (apparently) powered by thetrainline.com, so I could just pretend I am going to buy a ticket, choose the route etc, then cancel before I have to hand over my credit card. But.... they don't have routing information! You just have to buy the standard fare ticket.
This seemed weird to me. After all, if it is powered by the trainline.com and is (presumably) connected to the internet, why not save customer's time and allow them full access. Hell, they could even make money by flogging Columbus travel insurance, or recommending hotels and car hire etc, like they do on their internet site. And presumably, the development costs would be cheaper if they simply use the existing website for the basic infrastructure?
And then I realised why. Because if they did that, customers might inadvertently buy a cheaper ticket - and we can't have that can we?
Is the small team of pixies that maintain the Electronic Programme Guide for Freeview digital TV on strike? Today (the 12th), I wanted to record a programme this afternoon on Channel 4. The next programme listed on the EPG was for the 15th. WTF? This is not unusual. Often whole chunks of daily schedules are missing, or the dates are all muddled up. It is not uncommon for there to be no programme information at all on any channel (yet the next week's schedules are there, so there isn't a problem with the data channel on the TV signal).
Weird. And just a teensie weensie bit annoying. A bit like June Sarpong.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
The Tuesday Twat(s)No. 51. QVC
Looking through the list of 40+ digital TV channels that I can pick up, I count 5 dedicated shopping channels. After midnight ITV2, 3 and 4 also get in on the act, as do several other channels. Perusing SKY over the christmas break, I found at least another dozen. Including the Playboy shopping channel. QVC is, of course, the daddy of them all, hence it being the nominee.
Please, don't be shy - has anyone who reads this blog ever actually bought anything off these channels? You get extra points if you have bought the inspirational christian rock album plugged by the Kenny G/George Lucas look-a-like on ITV3.
Asuming the answer is no - can I just ask "Who the fuck actually watches these channels?" (Playboy shopping channel aside of course). Take a look at the cheap tat that they sell on these channels. If, like me, you have ever wandered past the cheap crockery in the pound shop to the poorly lit back shelves and wondered who in their right mind would buy an electric screwdriver for a pound (or more to the point, who would be insane enough/brave enough to plug it into the mains supply to charge), then you must also wonder who is dumb enough to buy the same shite for 10 times the price (plus postage and packing) off the telly?
Oh I'm sure that buried amongst the strange kitchen implements that look as though they would snap on their second use (and probably remove chunks of flesh as the gleaming blade is suddenly exposed when the guard falls off), there may be some genuine bargains - but really, who has the time to watch out for them? And whose credit card do they borrow to buy them - I didn't think they gave credit cards to the long-term unemployed? Or perhaps they are more organised than that. Maybe QVC has a TV schedule and afficianados only tune in at certain times. Perhaps there are underground, invitation only chatrooms where addicts swap tips and rumours.
Psst - I hear that ITV2 is advertising a large squishy ball guaranteed to make you as fit as an Olympian with only 2 minutes mild exercise a week.
I have visions of a dedicated band of watchers with a wall of muted TVs all showing different channels - a bit like one imagines the Press Office at number 10 to be. But for shopping obviously, rather than world news. Or gay porn, should the Lib Dems ever get in.
But somebody must buy this stuff - after all, the channels wouldn't run unless they made a profit. Is it a coincidence that they all run after the pubs have closed? I think not. Personally, I don't think that I could ever be drunk enough to turn on BidTV and buy something - but maybe some people have woken up with a pounding head, dim memories of snogging a bouncer and a nagging feeling that they might be getting a titanium and bakelite potato peeler in the post sometime in the next 28 days.
I suspect that there is a certain secton of the population that have a weakness for cheap shite, as long as it is advertised by someone with a fake smile and a politician's charm. They probably have shelves covered in china dogs and limited edition plates of Charles and Camilla's wedding bought from the backpage of the Sunday Times magazine, paid for in 36 monthly installments. The government recently redrafted the gaming laws to stop people spiralling into debt from online gambling - should they have taken a look at TV shopping channels at the same time?
So to QVC, for starting the ball rolling, I present this week's Tuesday Twat Award (made out of high-quality baking foil, toilet rolls and smarties lids)*.
(*) Please allow 28 days for delivery. Postage and packing £3.50. No refunds are available. Sanescientist reserves the right to substitute the item for another one of a similar value without prior notice. You have no statutory rights.
Labels: The Tuesday Twat(s)
Saturday, February 04, 2006
A friendly suggestion to my colleagues at the sports centreAfter typing a list of over 100 customer names, addresses and telephone numbers - why not press SAVE before printing so that I don't have to type the WHOLE FUCKING THING AGAIN just to add 2 more names and update 3 telephone numbers a month later.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Thought for the dayThe Winter Olympics - who gives a shit?
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