Tag Archives: trusty

An eternal stare

20110419 Kenwood Mixer Face 150x150 An eternal stare

I love interaction from readers, as it alleviates writer’s block and sets the random train of thought in motion.

Martin from London sent in another picture, this time of his trusty Kenwood 250 mixer.  He writes:

In a rare outing, the Kenwood 250 looks wistfully out to the other side of the kitchen. Thinking outside the box he contemplates his future whilst still enjoying the moment. He thinks of the comrades that have fallen before him after battle. The Breville that got squashed at Cheddar and the future not being so bright for the orange juicer. He remembers the other theatres of conflict away from where he is. The Rexel paper shredder will cut no more. RIP… And the cocky Flymos. “God’s speed boys”…. He will have one last night with the kettle. Let off some steam then take solace in Missy Toaster. He knows where his bread’s buttered.

Those of you who read my article yesterday would have seen a profound piece about a picnic basket followed by a less profound article about baskets in general.  The above seems to be about household items biting the dust.  It is obliquely and independently related to a sentiment that is a recurring theme in previous articles.  I once (probably twice) remarked that “they don’t make ‘em like they used to”.  But what happens to items of kitchen equipment when they go to appliance heaven?

A life story

I went on a 6.5 mile walk around the Harbourside in Bristol the other day – and why not?  It was a beautifully sunny day and I was able to wear just a T-shirt (and trousers and shoes) for the first time this year.  Somewhere towards the end of my journey I came across a handheld blender, tossed into the shrubbery like an unwanted toy.  Litter is a nuisance yet it is ubiquitous.  Look anywhere and I guarantee you’ll find an empty crisp packet or chocolate bar wrapper in the bushes, fluttering in the wind.  Sometimes you will find discarded household appliances and it amazes and bemuses me in equal measure.  I call it bemazement.  How did it get there and what is its story?  Who did it belong to and was it wilfully discarded or lost?  Did it accidentally fall out of one of the last unsealed boxes from the kitchen in a house move, carelessly thrown into a crammed hatchback?  Did it fall out of an open bin bag?  If it was lost, is the owner looking for it?  Personal artefacts have personal stories and whilst I detest waste and litter, I find the personal story one of intrigue.  We will never know the answers to these questions.

A second life

Some unwanted objects may find a second life, either in their present form, or they may be cannibalised for parts or alternatively used for an entirely different purpose.  My parents used to have a big glass bowl, which they used to use for noodles and salad.  This bowl was no ordinary bowl.  It was in fact the glass from a washing machine door.  I believe it was given to my parents by a friend of the family who used to work for Philips.  As I understand it, said window was a spare part and had never actually been used for its intended purpose.  But it made for a fantastic bowl.

When I moved into my current flat I bought a second hand table with four chairs.  A few days ago one of the steel cross bars fell off the back of on of the chairs.  On inspection it was a classic brittle failure of the weld and there was nothing I could do to fix it.  The chair functions perfectly well without it, so what to do with the steel bar?  It is about 12mm in diameter and it turns out it works well as a foot massager, albeit a little too thin.  I put it on the floor and roll my foot over it at a certain angle.  It’s a tad awkward but it does the job satisfactorily and so it has a second life – for now.  I shall probably get rid of it though, in favour of a golf ball I used to play golf (funnily enough) once – and once only.  It was probably the most boring thing I had ever done, including that time I watched paint dry…

An eternal stare 

All objects and people have a life span or life expectancy and whilst that of people seems to get longer with each subsequent generation, the life of household objects seems to get shorter as they are made less robust and out of inferior materials.  This seems to lead to an acceleration in consumption, which seems to be fuelling today’s economy.  In this climate the economy could do with a boost, but this is certainly not sustainable.  Kenwood 250 knows this but it is many way it is not his problem.  His wry plastic smile will never fade, his face will never decay.

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A thousand words unspoken

20110331 Tear here box 150x150 A thousand words unspokenWords are interesting and they have the power to convey thoughts.  They are, however, a double-edged sword and can be used for good and bad.  A lot of fun can be had with them, too.

Words:  I love them, but what are they?  Initially I found it difficult to come up with a definition.  This is because, as a man of pragmatism, I was thinking in terms of tangible concepts.  For instance, the written word teapot and the spoken equivalent are physically two very different things, neither of which resembles a teapot, but both nonetheless convey the same meaning through different senses.  I nearly grabbed my trusty Collins dictionary (Millennium Edition) in an attempt to solve the conundrum and then it struck me that the essence of a word is a name or label for an idea, a concept or object.  There you go!  It just goes to show I am no wordsmith – perhaps a wordjones at best.

Words unspoken

The beauty of language, especially the English language with its particularly rich vocabulary, is that you can communicate in nuances.  Sometimes you don’t even have to say something explicitly to convey an idea; you can read between the lines.

I am not always straightforward in my communication, particularly when it comes to expressing feelings.  This may have something to do with being a man (oops, the sexism alarm has just gone off – back in a tick), but I don’t always find it easy to express myself directly.  I wrote en email recently and found myself writing the “gaps between the lines” in places in the first draft, sort of hoping the lines themselves would be understood.  The final version was more direct but still wishy washy in areas but it was all meant in a positive way and judging by the response, taken in that way.

In a way this is like the language equivalent of shadows or negative space.  You might call it unguage – sentences that skirt around the issue so closely as to convey the intended thought without saying it explicitly.  It is also useful in the politics of Project Management where the insertion of a simple phrase like “I understand from our telephone conversation that…” can soften a statement that might otherwise read as a blatant accusation, even if it is meant as such.

Etymology and perspectives

I find etymologies interesting and these are often closely related to cultural thinking.  They say eyes are the window to the soul, but much about a country’s culture can be gleaned from the language.  Take telling the time as an example.  In Dutch (and similarly in German) 4:30 would be “half five”.  Perhaps it is because both the Dutch and Germans are very punctual, hard-working and progressive and look forwards in time.  In Britain we are very proud of our heritage and of the great figures of history with their origins in this country: Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, James Watt.  The Industrial Revolution started here and it was the birthplace of railways among many other things.  We look to our past and call it “half past four” or “half four” for short.

Language of the soul

Back to the tangible, there is nothing intrinsically special about the sounds coming from my mouth or the symbols you see on your computer screen or in print.  To a non-human both are simply background noise and it requires another human mind to make sense of them.  After all, language is in essence the transfer of thought from one brain to another and it is truly remarkable.

Remarkable though the brain is, its thoughts are capable of both good and bad and so the brains projection onto others through words has the potential for good and bad too.  Words are not only beautiful and remarkable, but powerful and potent.  The wrong words at the wrong time can cause misunderstandings, rows and even wars.  Powerful though they are, words alone, it seems, don’t convey thoughts perfectly and body language plays a key part.  It is reckoned you lose the majority of the meaning when talking over the phone, simply because of missed body language cues.  An even smaller percentage of the original meaning is left in written communication, as both the body language and tone are stripped away.  Text messages (SMS) are notorious for that.

A comedy of sorts

Words can be used to make people happy, either intentionally through nice messages and jokes, or accidentally.  Some words are simply great because of their sound alone: Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Moussa Koussa, floccinaucinihilipilification…

Autocorrect features in word processors or the iPhone can produce some funny but sometimes disturbing and unsavoury results.  Do a Google search for “iPhone autocorrect” (if you’re over the age of majority), but not until you’ve finished reading and sharing this article with all your friends! 😉  I used to do a lot of report writing, because I did a lot of Project Management type work in Defence a few years ago.  This would require input from various disciplines, including Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.  As one of the client’s primary contacts I had the dubious honour of collating everybody’s text and would have to proof-read other people’s input and would come across some funny sentences.

The word luminaires isn’t recognised by Microsoft Word’s default spell checker and is automatically “corrected” to luminaries, which can make for interesting reading.

Technology can’t always be blamed though and some of the best spelling mistakes are a result of human error.  A sign on the door of a convenience store once read “Mined the step”.  Whoa!  Get the bomb squad in!  In a risk assessment I once read the phrase “avian bird flue”, presumably referring to H5N1.  However this conjured up images of a vertical pipe conveying birds – birds of the avian variety, no less… whatever they are.

But my all-time favourite came from a condition survey report an old colleague wrote for an old Victorian workhouse that had been converted into offices.  The original building was symmetrical and had two entrances side-by-side, two staircases to sleeping quarters and so on.  This was intended to segregate the different workers, male and female.  One line in the report read, “…a separate door for different sex workers…” and with the stroke of a virtual pen he had changed the historic use of the house to a brothel.

Double Entendre

The picture shows a box I found in the yoghurt aisle at Asda today.  Yes, there is such a thing as the yoghurt aisle at Asda Bedminster, I kid you not.  The box has openings in it, making it look like a face.  The text “tear here” instructs the user to rip away the front panel as indicated by the arrows.  But look at the positioning of the arrows and they look like a schematic representation of floods of tears streaming from the eyes.  It is a double entendre of sorts, where crying and ripping and tearing are combined into a single object.  One picture, a thousand words.

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Junk food for thought

20110323 Thinking bin 150x150 Junk food for thought

Looking at my laptop keys I’ve noticed a sheen appearing on the most frequently used keys (all keys, actually), where the rough textured surface has worn off.  A distinct smooth patch has appeared on the track pad, a bit like the beginnings of androgenic alopecia, or pattern baldness to you and me.  My hair isn’t as thick as it used to be and I have recently opted for a short crop on top to avoid the comb-over look, having tried various styles over the years, including wax.  The latter, I never really understood: you have a shower in the morning to wash your hair and then you proceed to put grease back in… [shrugs]

I have only had this laptop since August or so and I must have done a lot of typing since then.  On reflection, I have written a fair number of reports and articles on here and this entire website was hand-coded on it.  Wear and tear happens to everything and I noticed it on my washing up sponge in the kitchen and my trusty Casio pocket calculator, which I have had since 1999.  The latter has seen me through a number of exams and served me well in my working life and continues to do so.  The text has worn off all the number and function keys but I can still use it without any problems – but only efficiently with my left hand.  I am right-handed but taught myself to use my calculator with my left hand so I could perform calculations without having to put my pen down.  This was never a conscious decision but merely something that developed and it saved valuable seconds in exams and at work, where pressures can be even greater.

Looking at the mechanics of worn out surfaces, there is never any physical evidence or remnants of the part of the surface that has been removed.  It is totally unlike breaking the handle off a tea cup where you are left with two distinct parts (largely – there will still be secondary particles scattered about).  So where have the tops of my laptop and calculator keys gone?  Where are the top fibres of my washing up sponge?  Where does all this stuff end up?  Clearly it ends up as millions upon millions of tiny particles of polymers, which are inert and take years to break down.  Initially they stick to my finger tips and eventually get airborne and are ingested, inhaled or end up down the sewer.  I find this interesting from a physical point of view but also in terms of the impact on the environment and health.

Every mechanical process involves surfaces rubbing against one another.  The stress can be relieved by use of lubricants or bearings but only with limited success – it is a physical force that cannot be prevented entirely.  In biology cells repair themselves and bits that have fallen off, like dead skin become other organisms’ food and are disassembled and reassembled into other things.  In some natural physical processes small particles recombine to form larger solids, an example being the formation of silicious sandstone.  But plastics and other inorganic particles linger and pollute the environment and end up in the food chain.  Inevitably a lot of things end up in the sea and due to ocean currents there are higher concentrations of rubbish in certain parts of certain oceans than others.  A couple of years ago I was watching QI with Stephen Fry and learnt about a huge gyre of marine litter called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which I find completely bonkers.  Do a Google search if you want to find out more – but finish reading this article and others first! 😉

On Monday, as I was walking along the River Avon in Bristol, there was an unusually high tide and the water level came to about 30cm (11.8 inches – yuck, what an awful combination metric and imperial – thanks Google) below street level and the water was flowing “in reverse”, upstream.  By the early evening the flow had returned to its natural flow (i.e. downhill, towards the sea) and the water level had dropped significantly to reveal all manner of junk stuck in the mud.  I spotted no fewer than three supermarket trolleys, remnants of bicycles and what appeared to be the liner tray of the rear of a pickup truck, though it could have been anything (except a banana, a pound coin, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, an armchair and so the list goes on…).  Whatever it was, it is still stuck in the mud and will remain there for a long time to come.

The object in the picture is a bin near The Shakespeare Tavern on Prince Street in Bristol.  The handle forms a mouth and two screws the eyes.  It is full of rubbish and it appears to be in deep thought.  Thinking, perhaps, about a better tomorrow when it will be replaced with one of the new recycle bins that have been popping up across the city centre.  Junk food for thought…

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Introducing Victor Suckerbag

20100926 Vacuum Cleaner 300x225 Introducing Victor Suckerbag

Drilling into MDF creates dust and I believe it’s not the most healthy of things to inhale. Fixing my mirror resulted in only minute quantities of dust but enough to warrant getting my vacuum cleaner out of hibernation. Well, he seemed delighted, if a little shocked! Good ol’ trusty Vic with his bug eyes, and gormless open mouth. I bought him from Argos several years ago and he’s still going strong. Also notice my slippers. I think they were given to me as a a birthday present a few years ago… Oh the joy. I don’t feel old enough to be getting slippers for my birthday. Saying that, I’m beginning to go thin on top. It happens to the best of us, I’m told. Hey-ho.

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