August 24, 2009

Ashes to Ashes, Memories to Dust

So we won the Ashes. Yay. Awesome. Etc.

Can’t help but wonder how many people actually saw it happen though. There were several thousand in the stadium, but the best that the bulk of the country could do was hope to catch it on the radio.

Given how much press the series has generated on both back and front covers, isn’t it a bit wrong that so few had the opportunity to see it happen? Isn’t it time to move the Ashes – home and away – to the protected list of events that have to be on terrestrial?


July 01, 2009

Watching black and white paint dry…

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_div_1/8124105.stm

No. This is not fair.

The BBC have a grand total of ten Championship matches last season. That’s ten between a league of 24 teams, so already four teams won’t be making an appearance. So in the interests of fairness… they give Newcastle the first two games.

How can this be fair to the myriad of quality sides in the division that some team, who at the back-end of last season played some pathetically soulless football, can be guaranteed two appearances on terrestrial television when unfashionable sides like Doncaster who play a decent hard-working probably won’t be shown at all? Would it really have been that difficult for the BBC to, if unable to at least pick up a couple more games, structure things so only four clubs miss out rather than immediately focus on a club which claims to be big yet continues to achieve nothing?

Oh wait, I forgot – Newcastle are going to be the Man Utd/Chelsea/Liverpool/Arsenal of the Championship, getting far more TV exposure than the rest of their division. Difference is, in Newcastle’s case I think it’s going to be 1 from 24 rather than 4 from 20.


June 16, 2009

Don't tax my phone line

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8102756.stm

So the latest great completely stupid idea of the government is for all of us with phone lines to pay £6 a year to make Britain “the digital capital of the world”.

Wonderful. By 2017, our internet speed will have caught up with where Japan and South Korea are… um… well, where they are in 2009.

Something doesn’t seem quite right with this deal…


May 04, 2009

What if…

Last week, Britain’s only world champion boxer (Carl Froch) beat American Jermian Taylor in the final round with seconds remaining. Of course, nobody in this country could watch it, as due to the senselessness of boxing politics no TV channel would screen it. So of course, it was off to YouTube if you want to see any coverage of any of the fight.

Once you remove the anti-American/British/English/Welsh/disestablishmenterialism rubbish, you are left with two strong opinions:

  1. If you disagree with me, you are gay. In fact, the only place where you are more likely to be gay is Xbox Live. Not even Gay Pride has as many people who are gay, if the comments are to be believed.
  1. Taylor “deserved” to win because he was winning most/all the earlier rounds.

Of course, the latter was largely the thoughts of bitter Americans and/or Taylor fans who couldn’t accept their man had lost, let alone the circumstances. Their case was that Taylor had been so dominant in the fight, that he was clearly the superior fighter. Moreover, because Froch was just a punchbag until the end, the fact that Froch had fought so well in the 12th and forced the referee to end the contest in his favour was irrelevant, as Taylor was ahead on the scorecards.

So let’s put this logic into other sports…

  • Pretty much any team sport on the planet, but let’s stick with football: Man Utd go 4-1 on Liverpool. Liverpool score 4 in the last six minutes. However, Man Utd were better for the first 84 minutes, so they should win the fight.
  • Golf: Tiger Woods leads by six shots with two par 4 holes to go. He finishes bogey-double bogey, Ernie Els finishes eagle-eagle and takes one shot less for the competition. But Tiger was better for 16 holes, therefore he deserves to win.
  • Motor Racing: Jenson Button is six laps clear of Lewis Hamilton in second place, before his engine blows up and he stops at the last corner. Hamilton crosses the line first, but because Button led until the last corner he should be the winner.
  • Rowing: Oxford have rowed ten lengths clear of Cambridge with metres to go before the end of the race, but the stroke violently sneezes and tips the crew into the water. Cambridge row past and cross the line in first place, but Oxford led for all that way so they should be the winners.
  • Diving: Tom Daley executes a whole series brilliant dives to leave him miles ahead of Blake Aldridge. Unfortunately, on his last dive Daley gets it wrong, smacks his head on the diving board, the crowd watches his brains splatter across the pool, and he scores nothing. Aldridge dives into the pool, avoiding the bits of broken skull, and does enough to make up the deficit on the final dive. However, Daley was better before that dive, so he should win.

These farcical examples should go a long way to proving three things. Firstly, that the winner is the one who is in front at the end of the competition, not some arbitrary point in the middle. Secondly, that the internet gives a very powerful voice to very stupid people. And thirdly, I am supposed to call your sexual orientation into question if you do not agree with this entry. According to YouTube, anyway.

As an aside, Ricky Hatton got beaten by Manny Pacquiao, and said that the winner deserved it. Just like Jermain Taylor did, as a matter fact. Wonder how long it is before Mancunians claim Filipinos are homosexual?


April 10, 2009

Oranges and lemons…

So I had to do a bit of emergency shopping due to the fact that there was next to no food in the house, and I found something very interesting in the dairy aisle…

That’s right, a new limited edition Onken. And so I grabbed it. Om nom nom.

But then I noticed something… it seems to be a bit lighter, a slightly smaller pot. I checked it next to a Strawberry Biopot, and look at it’s weight. 450g. It is smaller. A full 50g less of Onken.

I felt a sense of annoyance. What are you doing to me Dr Oetker? Are you trying to cut down my prescription of one of the things that gets me through each week without mentally disintegrating? How could you? I felt a little sad, then a blog entry formed in my mind…

For the record, it tastes awesome. I’m one of those strange people who prefers their orange juice with bits, and this Onken has lots of little bits of orangey goodness. It’s there’s just enough lemon in there to give it a kick without tasting of citric acid. It’s awesome.

Just wish they’d give me the full 500g of it… :(


March 02, 2009

Brain Training Deluxe

In the absence of me having anything interesting to write about, have another video of Tomonori-san. Good visual comedy works in any language. :)


February 20, 2009

Kaizen: ur doin it rong!

In an attempt to try to write relevant things that people might want to actually read*, I go back to the world of GCSE Business Studies and forward to the end of the Apocalypse Recession.

The philosophy of work in Japanese business is very different to that in Western workplaces. Particularly prevalent throughout the recovery from WWII was a philosophy known as kaizen, in which the company focuses on the continuous improvement of its processes.

Let us look at the example as applied to an early pioneer of the system: Toyota:

  1. A series of processes are in place for the production of cars.
  2. An employee, at any level, identifies an inefficiency.
  3. The process is removed as soon as possible.
  4. The process is restarted and the system is more efficient.
  5. ....
  6. PROFIT!!!
  7. Kill any member of staff who makes clichéd South Park references.
  8. Goto 1.

This worked very well, as it meant that not only were all employees were involved but also the incremental improvements often cost very little to implement. It helped Japanese firm stay competitive against American competitors, whose big investments were often targeted at putting them ahead but by the time they were finished found themselves still behind and at a greater cost.

However, kaizen isn’t itself perfect, as it only works under certain conditions…

The process must be right in the first place

Suppose you have a process which, by design, is inefficient in some way. It may not be possible to remove this inefficiency by incremental improvements to the existing process, because there is something fundamentally wrong with it in the first place.

As an example, suppose you have to send a task to an area that does a lot of duplicate work, but to remove that duplicate work would require a big change in several other areas. It may not be possible to remove that duplication incrementally, and so a new process will be needed instead.

The input of each member of the process must be given equal value

Kaizen was designed to involve everyone, from the people at the very bottom of the pile to the big suits upstairs via the consultants, the canteen and the lab rats. If the lowest-ranked employee spots something, it must be considered with equal value as a suggestion coming from the CEO. They will have two different viewpoints and two different perceptions.

Kaizen cannot and does not work if employee suggestions are dismissed without consideration on the basis on their rank. This leads into…

Change must not be resisted

Suppose somebody comes up with an idea that somebody above them doesn’t like. It might be suggesting that breaks are longer, to give employees time to recover from manual labour before the next shift. It might be suggesting somebody does work allocated to somebody else. It might mean creating a new job for somebody. It might mean doing something that is just generally unpopular.

Change scares people, not just in a business sense but in life generally. Remember poll tax? That scared people, and now we have the monstrosity that is council tax instead. You try and stick wind turbines up and most people are all for it unless it’s within 2000 miles of their back garden.

Kaizen is all about change, and it has to be embraced as a good thing (otherwise it wouldn’t be happening, which isn’t generally true of life) otherwise the fundamental idea of continuous improvement cannot work if people are avoiding a change.

Change must be fast

Kaizen is not about reinventing the wheel, but making it turn a bit quicker. Given the number of middle managers and consultants in the UK, actually getting it work is difficult because of the layers of bureaucracy that exist. Going through committees and then subcommittees and then working committees and taking-time-off committees and having-a-think-about-it committees and phone-a-friend committees… by the time the idea actually gets approved, it may be too late, or it may need a number of changes.

This links into the above, in that bureaucracy is there because of a fear of change. Additionally, a key idea of kaizen is that the problem is discussed when it is found, not days or weeks later, because in that time the inefficiency still exists. Again to link, this may be that the lowest-scale employees are not trusted to come up with ideas and they therefore have to be vetted by senior management, essentially devaluing the opinion.

I hope this entry has not been useful, because it’s mostly complete rubbish. I just had time over the course of a few days to kill.


February 16, 2009

Interlude

Onward, Oetker’s soldiers, marching as to war,
with the mousse of chocolate going on before.
Wholegrain Peach Biopots lead against the foe;
forward into battle see their banners go!
Onward, Oetker’s soldiers, marching as to war,
with the mousse of chocolate going on before.

I should point out that the makers of Onken didn’t ask me to write that, nor did they pay me to. Mind you, even if they did ask me to destroy a 19th century English hymn using their brands, I bet they still wouldn’t pay me for that rubbish. Still, those who matter know etc etc.


January 28, 2009

The future's dull… the future's a con

Writing about web page http://www.orange.co.uk/fund/

So I got a text off Orange yesterday, saying that they were going to give me funds towards a new phone. Well that sounds quite good, as my phone was an older model when I got it (a Nokia 3220 to be precise) and I’ve had it nearly 3½ years already. Then, like most things, you read the small print and realise this is all a bit of a con.

When VAT was reduced to 15%, Orange decided to pass this on to customers in a rather unorthodox way. They gave customers 25p for every £10 you top up to cover the change in VAT. Now in principle, this was actually a good idea.

A text message on Orange PAYG will rip you off 10p a time (assuming you have no offers running etc). This previously comprised 8.51p of cost and 1.49p of tax. Come December, the tax portion would have gone down to 1.28p, which would make the cost of a text 9.79p… or 10p. The VAT change is just too small to reflect on these prices, and so to actually pass on the cost to the consumer they gave extra credit to the phone instead.

The effect of this was actually that things got slightly cheaper. £10.25 of credit at 17.5% VAT would have comprised £8.72 of credit and £1.53 of tax. Cut that to 15%, and the tax falls to £1.31, making your £10 top up worth… £10.03. That’s right, consumers were up a whole three pence in the tenner. This clearly wouldn’t do.

And so Orange are getting rid of this. Instead, what they propose is that you have this fund which accumulate money when you top up, which you can then use to buy a brand new Orange phone. The cheapest of these phones is the Samsung B130, the specifications of which aren’t actually much of an upgrade (if at all) from my current brick. This phone is £9.50, but of course you couldn’t buy a phone without any credit, so you’ll have to shell out another £10 for the credit. So the least you can get away with paying is £19.50, which to cover entirely requires £190 of top-ups over the course of the year to fund (over £15 a month) plus fifty pennies on top.

For people who are looking for a budget phone, they almost certainly won’t be looking for something new – refurbished, second hand maybe, but not brand spanking new. If you can only afford extend your budget to £10 for a new mobile phone, then you are the sort of person who could probably do with getting a very cheap with minimal tacky extras for under a fiver. And if you want something swanky, then you’ll either go on a contract and get it for keeps with lots of call time, or the money you make towards it isn’t really going to sway you anyway.

Did I mention that you must use any bonus within a year? Or that they have this ridiculous upper limit of £200? (That’s £2000 of credit, if somebody is paying that much on PAYG they really need to think about their finances as a whole.) And that Orange can end this promotion at 30 days notice and then force you to use the bonus within 2 months?

Of course, for those who do get a few odd quid off a phone, it’s a little bit of help. For the 98% of those who don’t, it’s Orange yet again treating their customers with the usual contempt as merely people to line the pockets of the directors with gold. How many more reasons do they want to make me hate them? (And yet for “political” reasons I’m tied to them… :( )

Wish I’d never left Virgin or O2.


January 19, 2009

Title will be updated in the event of a non–clichéd Murray mint joke being discovered

And so it’s the first tennis grand slam of the calendar year, the Aussie Open. Bookies have Andy Murray, he with the “love” of the English people, has been favourite or joint-favourite with several bookies. Ladbrokes have him at 3/1 (Federer favourite at 5/2) with William Hill offering 5/2 (Federer at 9/4). Point is, he’s fourth seed, due to meet the world #1 in the semis, and yes only the world #2 – a man who Murray holds a 5-2 record over – has shorter odds.

A lot of this is due to Murray’s form – he is the the tour’s form man. If we go back to after the Olympics, where he was embarrassed by Yen-Hsun Lu (who?), his tour record is 29-3 – and that doesn’t include two Davis Cup wins and another three when winning some random invitational thing in Qatar sponsored by Donald Duck or somebody. The only person who is close to that happens to be the world #1, who Murray has beaten twice in that period.

As an aside, Lu won his first match at Melbourne.

And of course, we all remember what happened last year, when Murray disappeared into the abyss against a “nobody” in Jo-Willi Tsonga. I say “nobody”, because I considered Tsonga to be one of the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw. The same “nobody” went on to lose in the final to Djokovic, took a Masters Series title and is seeded 5th this year.

This year, he faces Andrei Pavel. Given he played five matches last calendar year and hasn’t won a match since mid-November 2007, Pavel’s only made the draw because he’s an old man with a dodgy back. (There is more to it than that, but it’s hard to make the intricacies of protected rankings sound interesting) Yet despite being an old man with a dodgy back, he’s a wily old man with a dodgy back.

With all the hype about Murray being the first British man to win a singles Grand Slam title since about 1655, it would be a bit of an anti-climax for him to bow out at the same stage he did last year. And of course, should he beat Pavel – which, frankly, he should – he’s up on last year’s result and picks up more ranking points. Which would be a good thing, in case you didn’t know.

The draw works kindly for Murray. Pavel will be a test, but Murray should be more than equal to it. Given his section of the draw, after a relatively easy second round match the opponents will get steadily more taxing before the likes of James Blake or Tsonga await in the quarters. Just the best time to start hitting the big boys.

With Murray no longer scared of anyone and in the form of his life, it’s as good a chance as he’s had to win a Slam so far – but only if he appreciates the threat of an old man with a dodgy back first.


January 14, 2009

Thought for the suitably substantial time period

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, post YouTube comments claiming they can do better than those who do.


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