Category Archives: Friday Fun

Spell checker FAIL

It’s awesome that this got out onto the shelves;  it’s beyond awesome that it was still there and photographable three weeks after I first saw it.

Makes it hard not to worry about Sainbury’s attention to detail in other things, though.

Sainsbury's Paw Ridge

Sainsbury's Paw Ridge

How many spells can a spell checker check if a spell checker can’t spell cheques?

UPDATE:  This is actually a Brand Awareness FAIL on my part.  Turns out that “Paw Ridge” is a children’s brand from Quaker.  Who knew?  Not me, obviously.

Sign design

If you go into the loo today, you’re in for a big surprise…

This elegant and witty pastiche is in the Lighthouse in Glasgow.  Makes me feel the need to go just by looking at it.

This second one from Espresso Mondo in Edinburgh is more worrying: the arrow means I find it hard not to read it as a process diagram.

I’m glad they explained this

Operating Instructions.  To turn on the heater - please press the white button.

So glad they explained this

Sign in a ticket office in a Scottish railway station.   It’s beyond comment, really.

Valley girl

Oracle, Redwood Shores

Oracle, Redwood Shores

That’s not just an Oracle campus.  That’s THE Oracle campus.  I’m not a fan-girl of the database company, but I still squeaked with excitement every morning when we stopped at the lights on our way from our hotel in Redwood to the office.

Redwood Shores.

Menlo Park.

Palo Alto.

Santa Clara.

Cupertino.

These are the birth-paces of our modern age, as important as Athens, Rome or Sumeria and, to my geeky mind, as breath-takingly exciting. Yes, if you visit California, then it makes much more sense to hang out in San Francisco than to do a tour of the business parks.  But… but… these are the earthly homes of cyberspace. Giants walk here.

Apple moved out of the garage and into Cupertino.  Electronic Arts and Oracle are at Redwood Shores.  Santa Clara has Intel inside, not to mention the Googleplex and Stanford University.

Stanford would matter if it’s only contribution had been Google and Yahoo. But it helped to give us the very Internet itself: one of the four original internet nodes was at Stanford, back in the day when the internet was ARPANET and years before the Stanford University Network was incorporated as SUN Microsystems.

And then there’s Palo Alto.

It’s hard to over-estimate just how many innovations that shape our daily lives started in Palo Alto as scribbles on an engineer’s blackboard. It’s no surprise that Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center – Xerox PARC – brought us laser printing. It’s more of a surprise to discover that WISIWYG text editors and windows-based interfaces were first thought of here.  When Xerox made the decision to focus on hardware, Apple and Microsoft took their ideas about software and ran away with them.  And the tech-savvy might be interested to know that object-orientated programming and ethernet also came out of PARC.

So there I was, San Francisco smiling at my inner tourist and Silicon Valley whispering to my inner geek.  I’m civilised.  I didn’t even try to persuade my colleague that we should do a tour of the local business parks.  We went into San Francisco to watch the Giants play baseball, and we ate seafood and drank Californian wine on Fishermans’ Wharf.

Sucks to be me.

Different strokes for different folks

Head shot

Head shot

The chap in the badge on the right is my husband.  Don’t worry, he’s fine. He’s researching strokes and dementia; if you stand still long enough near a research MRI scanner you’ll be cajoled into lying still in it while the radiographers calibrate some particular sequence of scanning.

So of course I got hold of the scan and of course I got those nice folks at Zazzle to make it into a badge.

What’s been fascinating is the range of reactions I get when I tell people what it is.

  • Colleague – female – late 20s – “Euch – no, sorry, that’s gross”
  • Artist – male – mid 20s – “Do you have a larger copy of the image?”
  • Career counsellor – female – early 50s – “… how… interesting … “
  • Accountant – female – early 30s – “But why can’t you see his teeth?”
  • Neuroscientist – male – late 20s – “Where did you get the badge made?”
  • Cousin – female – early 70s – “Hmmm. Why did you do that?”

Me, I think it’s cool.  And at least I didn’t get it made up into a t-shirt.

Banality 1822-style

I was standing in a pub the other day, reading the writing on the wall, when I discovered that newspapers 200 years ago were just as banal as newspapers now. The pub in question (The Royal Mile Tavern) has a copy of the Edinburgh Advertiser from March 26th 1822 pasted up conveniently near some bar-stools. It seems editors then recycled trivia from other local papers in the same way editors now recycle it from wire stories.

For your amusement and delight, banality 1822-style:

Bees swarm

Bees Swarm

Bees Swarm

Prisoners want to escape

Prisoners want to escape

Prisoners want to escape

Prisoners don’t escape

Prisoners don't escape

Prisoners don't escape

Student nicks paper

Student nicks paper

Student nicks paper

Thief nearly gets away

Thief nearly gets away

Thief nearly gets away

Thief does get away

Thief does get away

Thief does get away

Men get drunk

Men get drunk

Men get drunk

Man gets wet

Man gets wet

Man gets wet

Lads attack policeman

Lads attack policeman

Lads attack policeman

And the cute one right at the end:

Cows on ships

Cows on ships

Cows on ships

So it seems that lazy, unimaginative and gossipy news reporting is not new. But when it’s almost 200 years old it does become fun.

Ben’s top tips

Paddy’s created a meme and since it is basically “give advice” I decided to take him up on it. Rude not to. His actual wording is:

Three things which make my life easier that everybody else should also do but they just won’t no matter how much I bang on about it.

1 – Hang things on pin-boards

I’ve only just started hanging my beads and necklaces on a pin-board, and it is worrying how much difference it’s made. I knew years ago that this was the way but ignored my own good advice. No more tangles, I can find them when I want them, and I know immediately if something’s missing.

Sorted and Lean

Sorted and Lean

Likewise: if a hitch-hiker always knows where their towel is, a householder should always know where their torch is. Mine hangs from the handle of the door nearest the fuse box.  (Sorry about the poor quality photo – dark room, dull day).

2 – Buy fresh flowers

There’s an ancient Chinese fable about a poor man who found two pennies in the mud. With one he bought rice and with the other he bought a lily. When his wife remonstrated with him, he said that the rice would feed their bodies, but the lily fed their souls.

Soul food

Soul food

If you find a good florist then spend a fiver each week on three perfect blooms. But the sunflowers and pretty blue things in these photos were two or three quid from Tescos. Flowers are cheap, but they uplift the spirit.

3 – Use the camera on your phone to take notes

Timetables in a railway station, small ads in supermarkets, shopping lists, workshop notes.  You’ve a camera in your phone.  Use it.  It’s quick and easy and you keep it with you.  It always amazes me how few people do this.

Use the camera on your phone to take notes

Use the camera on your phone to take notes

So, how about you?  What do you do that makes your life easier that everybody else should also do but they just won’t no matter how much you bang on about it?

Fashion 2.0

I have just spent far, Far, FAR too much time footling around designing dresses at http://www.styleshake.com. It’s a site where you can design a dress, choose the fabric, and have it made up to your exact measurements give or take a centimeter. And all for ludicrously reasonable prices and delivery in 10 days1.

Style Shake

Style Shake

Let’s get the business-related observations done with before we lose the people who don’t like the eau de œstrogen wafting around this post.

First of all, what a bloody genius use of the internet; the perfect example of something that simply could not be done without the web. Even better: the site works well, which is more than can be said for most design-your-own-whatsit sites.  I do hope business model pays: I’m a bit of a seamstress myself and it’s hard to see how they could get the things cut and sewn for UK wages. I really want to see their production line. (I am such a process geek). I’m also intrigued by their design software which presumably drives their pattern-cutting software in a reverse of the wire-frame-to-rendering process used by the computer graphics and special effects industry.

I am fascinated by just how varied the end results can be given a limited range of design elements (fabric colour, shape of the neckline, length of the skirt, etc).

Style Shake: Bold Bodycon Style Shake: Darling Daywear Style Shake: Office Edge Style Shake: Star Sensation Style Shake: Style Noir Style Shake: 1940s Allure Style Shake: Three in One

I guess it’s like lego, the real limit is your skill and imagination.  And boy have people done some interesting things with their limited pallet, as you can see from scrolling through their photographs and favourite designs.  Be careful though, there’s  some eye-watering fugliness in there too.

I guess it only goes to prove that StyleShake’s rather awesome software doesn’t make you Christian Dior any more than MS Project makes you a Project Manager or PowerPoint makes you good at communicating.

Have a go – you know you want to.


1 – Mind you, I’ve not had the chance to use the site yet – my first instinct was to blog, but come next payday … Back to post

Change for change’s sake

It’s all too easy to forget that light is a wave when you spend all day thinking about it as a particle.

Just a quick thought on  business fads and fashions.

You’ve noticed how one year’s wisdom is the next year’s folly?  Of course you have. This applies to language as well as passing management fads:  Problems became Opportunities became Challenges, and so on. A lot of the time we are right to be cynical about these attempts to change how we think, but I surprised myself on Wednesday with the idea that there is real merit in these shifts of language.

Yes, these these changes in terminology are trite: Workers and  Staff become Resources who become Colleagues who become Associates. And so on.  But to some extent this crude rather Orwellian approach to shaping our thinking is effective, for a while at least.

The real benefit doesn’t come from framing a particular concept or relationship in a specific way; I think the real benefit comes from the time when both concepts are in use.  It comes from the  act of changing the language.

I’ve been  on a Lean course this week, and this thought came to me when we were discussing adding value for the customer.

It the unsophisticated past, say the 1970s, ‘the customer’ was the person who paid over their own good money for your product or service.  It was a contradiction in terms for Public sector organisations to have  customers. The Revenue had tax-payers, Railways had passengers, Local Councils had rate-payers, Dentists had patients, and so on.  How quaint that all seems now.

In the mercantile 1980s when ‘public service’ were dirty words these relationships were reframed by asking the question:

Who is your customer?

Suddenly the public sector had customers.  And so did those people deep in the heart of corporates, like IT or HR or Facilities or Planning. If you didn’t deal with actual customers, you treated other departments as ‘internal customers’ and spread enterprise throughout the enterprise.

It worked. It shifted the nature of those relationships and changed how people thought about them.  But in the process, it made it easy for those internal departments to ignore the harsh reality of who actually pays everyone’s wages.  The baby went out with the bathwater. We were so busy thinking of light as a wave we forgot it also behaves like a particle.

So then Lean came along and said:

No, no. The customer is the punter who buys your product or service.  No matter how far back you are in the organisation, everything you do should add value to the external paying customer.

This draws everyone’s attention back to the original rather old-fashioned idea that the organisation exists for one purpose only: to sell things at a profit.

But…

… both views have merit.  And both enable good behaviours as well as fostering bad ones.

The time when an organisation is deliberately changing its language is the time when both views are in the open and being discussed. Once the language settles, the nuances of both terms disappear. So I think there is merit in change for change’s sake, once in a while at least.

As I said, I surprised myself with that conclusion.

And because it’s Friday and this post is about manipulating corporate bullshit, here’s some fun with bullshit and jargon: http://startupista.com/corporate-bullshit-generator/

Hourglass

I know I should blog.  I have posts in draft waiting to be proof-read and posted. I have other posts in draft waiting for me to finish the activities they are reporting on.  I have posts in my head, waiting to be drafted.  I have drafts in my head waiting to be blown away.

I’ve been busy. 2010 is going to be a year of change.  First of all, my husband has got an unmissable career opportunity which involves us moving to Edinburgh, and since I am a remote worker in a team that’s based in Edinburgh it’s pretty peachy for me too. However, moving in my case involves selling my house, and selling my house involves tarting it up. So I spent most of Christmas stripping wallpaper and painting and decorating, and I have a parade of workmen scheduled for January (ha ha) and February. In the gaps between contemplating paint colours, I am thinking vague thoughts about my dissertation.

Oh, and it’s snowed a bit which has slowed things down.  Had you noticed?

Have a pretty picture of the garden and the view.

Cold Snap in the Garden

Cold Snap in the Garden

Thank goodness for VPNs and NetMeeting.

I’ll finish one of the drafts over the weekend and bang it up on Monday. In the meantime, please imagine an hourglass hovering over this blog and a susurration from the hard drive.