Monday, 30 August 2010

The future has arrived.

Admittedly it’s arrived 20 minutes late and is closely followed by two other futures, but what else would you expect from a bus?

Beijing’s most recent traffic jam stretched for an impressive 100km. Converting this to temporal units, that’s the equivalent of nine days! That’s 216 hours! That’s almost as long as it takes to get served at the Post Office!

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the Chinese government is seeking innovative solutions to its transit troubles. The latest suggestion – a bus on stilts - which sits astride the traffic-ridden lanes is not only a triumph of lateral thinking, but genuinely futuristic1.

As a student of geography, I'm aware that certain dating techniques (particularly radiometrics) require a fixed timescale for calibration. The most widely-used, “Years Before Present”, designates the 1st of January 1950 as ‘the present’.

Using this scale, we're living 60 years after present.
So, in a way, the future arrived six decades ago.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Ways to waste time (#1)

ways to waste time 200px

Do you find yourself with a few minutes going spare?
Have you exhausted all your usual time dissipation techniques?
I have a suggestion.

Try watching ‘Cash4Gold’ adverts and transposing ‘child’ for ‘valuable, inert metal’.




“With the price of toddlers, adolescents and children at their highest value in decades, Cash4Kids is able to give you a great deal for your unwanted offspring.”

Monday, 2 August 2010

Three cheers for silence

This post addresses a personal FAQ:
‘Why are you so quiet?’

There are two main reasons for my veneer of silence. The first is a matter of principle; volume implies conviction. If I don’t know the answer to a question, then I can’t justify a verbal response. This isn’t limited to an academic context; if I don’t know where you left the car keys, I won’t reply. Sooner or later the architect of the question will check down the back of the sofa. They’ll find the missing car keys, £2.19 in small change and three different breeds of paperclip.

The second reason is more straightforward. My attempts at casual conversation elicit a slow-motion descent into failure usually reserved for attempts to make Gordon Brown smile ‘naturally’.

I get off to a sound start.

How are you? Lovely weather. I like your shoes.

The conversation stalls. It’s my turn to speak. All the safe topics have been covered. I need to venture further offshore, to say something interesting.

It’s legal to duel to the death in Paraguay, provided both parties are registered blood donors.

They stare at me. Head slowly tilts to one side, expression a mixture of contempt and confusion.

“Excuse me?”

A lifeline! An ‘Operation Top Kill’ to my Deepwater Horizon, they’ve given me a chance at retribution. Think. What do people normally talk about? The weather? Already covered it. Politics! That’s always relevant, isn’t it? I’ll ask them a question, let them guide the conversation.

Do you think Boris Johnson or Nick Clegg would fetch a higher price at ransom?

I look up at them hopefully. They sigh. My attempt to seal the breach has failed. Embarrassment is rushing into the room at the rate of 5000 barrels per day. I’ve accidentally marinated the pelicans of convention.

Like Tony Hayward, I decide it would be best to leave the scene of the crime. I walk away, my shoulders heavy under the weight of an over-extended metaphor.