Sunday Seven

No Friday Five this week, so we’ll have a Sunday Seven instead. My Sunday Seven is easier as it is seven answers to one question rather than having to wrote something about five questions.

Seven things I will not do …

  1. Wear evening dress
  2. Wear a tie or jacket on holiday
  3. Play golf
  4. Ballroom dancing
  5. Role play
  6. Eat anything that’s still alive
  7. Plumbing


I just love weird instructions for appliances so here’s another piece from Feedback in this week’s New Scientist, which I have slightly shortened:

… [X] does not tell us how he came to be in possession of a Fibre Optic Musical Animated Fairy “of unknown provenance”, but he does tell us that, despite being a retired professor of modern languages, he is baffled by the instructions that came with it for changing its bulb. …

“Operating Synopsis. If the bulb not brightness, make use of the reserve bulb elucidate as follows: 1. Turn off electrical source. 2. Fetch out the lampholder. 3. Troll the broken bulb, fetch out of it. 4. Setting in reserve bulb, troll the bulb without a reel or stagger. 5. Revert the lampholder.”

Alien Postcards (2)

This week New Scientist printed some of the runner-up entries in their New Year Competition. The challenge was to compose a text message of no more than 160 characters, sent home by an alien who has just arrived on our planet. Of this batch I especially liked:

Too late. Another one overrun by Starbucks.

Humans are not conscious beings but remote-controlled by little boxes pressed to the head or wires plugged into their ears.

This planet, mostly harmless, is chiefly remarkable for providing the best evidence so far that the limit of 160 characters on SMS messages is a universal const

Natives wonderful. Send ketchup.

Full article here. Enjoy!

Friday Five: Birthdays

1. When is your birthday?

2. How old will you be?
I was 56. Probably a good average. Body feels more like 76 and brain about like 26.

3. Do you prefer to throw a party or attend a party?
I’m a grumpy old git so I don’t often do parties. Guess it’s partly because I didn’t get into the habit as a kid. Giving parties is stressful. And as I don’t give parties no-one invites me to theirs. Easy really!

4. Presents: take’em or leave’em?
As my birthday doesn’t worry me particularly (see a couple of posts below), neither do presents. It’s nice to get them, but it isn’t essential. I’m just as happy for someone to say “happy birthday” and buy me a beer.

5. Best birthday so far?
Not a clue. I’ve had a lot and not many have been sparkling — just the way my birthdays are. Had a couple of good ones as a post-grad student with friends lining up more gin & tonics on the bar than I could (un)reasonably drink!

[Brought to you courtesy of Friday Fiver]

Senior Bosses Want to Sack 5% of Employees

BBC News reports that according to a recent survey almost a half of UK senior bosses would like to sack 5% of their employees to improve competitiveness and efficiency. The report makes this sound like the old Roman Legion’s trick of decimation: eliminate one in ten to encourage the others. However 75% of bosses said they wouldn’t bring in such a policy because they are afraid of creating a “climate of fear”.

Well I hate to tell them something … there already is a climate of fear, because this is exactly what many employees think their employers do actually do.

Indeed I have heard HR people openly and seriously saying that they give managers an annual target of having 5-10% of employees in the lowest “unsatisfactory” level of annual appraisal. Such a rating leads to a programme of “corrective action” which if performance doesn’t improve results in dismissal. If these people are not replaced (which generally they aren’t: “they weren’t doing anything useful so we can live without them”) then this automatically raises the performance bar for everyone next year when the manager has to find another 5-10% of unsatisfactory employees.

Hands up all those who think their employer doesn’t do this? …

Yes, I thought so. Now, senior managers, why is morale amongst your staff so low?

Happy Birthday to Me

Yes, today is my birthday. No it isn’t a special one; just an ordinary run-of-the-mill “I’m getting older” birthday. I’m not one to make a fuss about my birthday, well not since I was a kid anyway. I remember eagerly anticipating my birthday as a child and then finding it was an anti-climax — in part because it was always a handful of days into the school term after Christmas. Boo! Hiss! So now it’s just another day, tho’ in recent years I’ve tried to take the day off work; sadly not this year, but I’m having a day off next week.

Do other people find that, as they have lots more birthdays, they get less interesting and fun? Or am I just a grumpy old git after racking up 56 of them?


The BBC are apparently broadcasting a programme next week which asks some alleged celebrities the eternal question: “Why are we here?” Paul Ross on LBC Radio was asking his listeners the question this evening. I didn’t call in but thought about the question, as I have many times before, and still the only answer I can come up with is “Because.”

Second Life Ecology

According to a post at Treehugger an avatar in Second Life uses as much electricity as the average Brazilian. To arive at this conclusion Nicholas Carr recently has done a back-of-envelope calculation comparing the impact of actual humans and Second Life avatars. You can follow the math that leads to this conclusion here but be warned, as always with these things Carr has caused a tirade of critical comment. Now whether Carr is right or not I don’t know, but the even if he’s out by a factor 10 or 100 it does beg a number of questions: Is Second Life ecologically sustainable? Should Second Life have to trade carbon offsets in the real world? And even: Should Second Life be banned by the world powers as a way of reducing CO2 emissions?

Alien Postcards

This week New Scientist printed the winning entries in their New Year Competition. The challenge was to compose a text message of no more than 160 characters, sent home by an alien who has just arrived on our planet. I particularly liked:

Arr. Earth. Dominant species “car”. Colourful exoskeleton and bizarre reproduction via slave biped species. Aggressive but predictable. Intelligence uncertain.

We followed the wormhole, and have now discovered the source of the wet socks (of the singular kind) which are spontaneously materialising on our planet.

Parallel evolution of intelligent life. One carbon based, one silicon based. Carbon form domesticated by silicon form to feed it with all its needs.

OMG you have to see how they procreate.

Full results here. Enjoy!