Monday, 31 May 2010

The automated post.

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Just a couple of simple options now. Okay, Ready? Press one to lose the will to live. Two to see the candle of your existence flicker precariously in the wind. Three to build up a rage inside that burns at your very soul and four to shout a very, very rude word very, very loudly.

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Thursday, 27 May 2010

The conference call.

The first light bulb was invented by Humphry Davy in 1809. The invention of the first motorcar is generally attributed to Karl Benz, the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, television by Philo Farnsworth and the PC by IBM.

Any one of these names is open to debate and opinions vary, but that is not my point. My point is, what bloody idiot invented the conference call? Surely this is one of the most annoying, soul destroying and humiliating inventions ever. Why did they do it? What possessed them? There are few things in life worse than shouting into a small plastic object whilst gathered around a table. People talk over you, you talk over people. You react to things you disagree with by rolling your eyes and making obscene gestures to the little hateful plastic box in front of you, and in another room, miles away someone else returns the favour.

Almost worse than these conference call traits though is the silence. That terrible, interminable, yawning chasm of time when you’ve finished screaming across the boardroom table into the little box of misery and nothing happens. Everyone on your side of the call looks at each other awkwardly until some brave soul breaks the silence. Of course what’s happening is that a thousand miles away a group of faceless people are whispering to each other while you uncomfortably wheel your chair back and forth and look longingly at the plate of biscuits in the middle of the table. Eventually someone has to crack and it’s usually you who pipes up ‘Um, uh, comments?’ Then, a voice from afar squawks back with the question they’ve collectively constructed in their quiet time. Now you leave your own silence whilst you consider who is best qualified to answer, who knows the answer, who hasn’t spoken yet and who doesn’t have their mouth full of Jaffa cakes. Somewhere far away a room full of people are wheeling their chairs back and forth uncomfortably whilst looking longingly at the plate of M&Ms in the middle of their own table.

There will be those that argue that it saves time and money. You no longer have to leave the office, or travel to a meeting. All in all it has been hugely successful in further de-humanising business. I can’t argue with the fact that thousands of air miles, man-hours and carbon emissions are saved by steering clear of aeroplanes, motorways and overcrowded train carriages. And by confining ourselves to our desks or meeting rooms we are helping save our time, money and the planet. But the fact remains that the conference call is one of the most unpleasant tasks known to man. Right up there with hair waxing and attending children’s birthday parties.

Perhaps the only way to get through them in future is to introduce a little entertainment into proceedings. Maybe a game of musical chairs mid call? Whoever is without a chair when the music stops has to shout something controversial into the box. Can you introduce a surreptitious swearword into the call? “Let’s schedule a face-to-face and meet for coffee. Bob, you up for coffeee? I said Fuck offy. How about you Pam, you up fuck offy?” There’s always the old favourite ‘Bullshit bingo’. Anyone who can get more than six pointless buzzwords into the conversation gets first choice at the chocolate nut cluster.

If all else fails there’s always the fire alarm.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The root of all evil

It’s not, as commonly thought, money. No, the root of all evil, in my humble opinion is the business management tool SAP. Has there ever been a more time stealing, soul destroying, life-erasing entity of rancid, bowels of hell stinking pointlessness? Answers on a post card please, although I suspect not. There are almost limitless ways this foul, pernicious company can make the average workers life more difficult and stop them getting any work done.

I recently attended a training course on how to use their expenses program. It took about an hour of my time and a quarter of my soul to realise that never in a million years would any one of us present in that room be able to use this tool in an efficient and time productive way.

In the bad old days before technology optimized our skill set and we realised we needed an enterprise wide initiative to realign our personal fiscal state of operations (or claim back the £2.50 we spent on a coffee whilst heading to a client meeting) life was much simpler. You simply filled in a pink sheet of paper, stapled your receipts to the back, got a signature and took it to an old lady who sat down the bottom of the corridor and smelled of lavender and cats. And then, as if by magic, three weeks later the £2.50 would appear back in your bank balance. But with the dawn of a bright new technological era we have streamlined the process and made the whole thing so complicated that even Professor Stephen Hawkins would shrug his shoulders and say in his inimitable mechanical way ‘I’ll be fucked if I know.’ Now you have to fill in endless ‘fields’ in endless pages requiring endless numbers and authentification codes to be sent to endless people who will ignore it before you chase them up and then check endless different pages in the hope that somebody somewhere will give you back your own money you have spent on the company’s behalf.

Obviously you will not get your money back immediately because you will, without question fill the form in wrongly. Then a little man who sits in a darkened room with a bad haircut, comfortable shoes, Primark suit and delusions of adequacy will reject it. This will then become a never-ending task to rectify. Hours of your billable time that you should be spending producing work for your company or their clients will be spent in front of the computer screen dying slowly inside.

I simply do not understand how anybody can justify changing a system that is straightforward and effective to one that requires hundreds of people and untold thousands of pounds to set up and results in an entire workforce grinding to a halt for large chunks of their day. A more cynical man than I might think they were making the whole process this difficult so that nobody would bother claiming their own money back, saving the company the expense of repaying them. But I am clearly not cynical by nature so can only presume that they know best. Perhaps it is a government scheme to create employment for would be accountants. There are probably thousands of people across the country with no social skills and greasy hair who like sitting in stale smelling rooms with ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps’ posters on the walls who need a purpose. For this reason we have no choice but to welcome this pointless program into our lives in the knowledge that it is creating employment for a whole swathe of people who would otherwise be watching Jeremy Kyle and experimenting with biscuits.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The unwritten letter

I’m sure we all have at least one if not hundreds of latent unwritten letters inside us. I mean those letters that you want to write, plan to write, mentally write but never quite get round to writing. Often this is a good thing, as the best letters are the ones that you would probably write in the heat of the moment and result in instant dismissal or a lawsuit.

The one where your 23 year old bank manager patronises you, makes an idiotic comment or generally annoys you to the level where you would like to take your fingers to the keyboard and write ‘Dear XXXXX, you seem to have the mental stability of a lactating gypsy woman on steroids who has just found out her husband has been fornicating with Geraldine the one eyed goat. Please could you explain how, in your current mental state, you consider yourself fit to pass judgement on a decision that is far too complicated for your shrunken brain to understand?’

Of course there’s the letter to the shop manager about their rude sales assistant where you might be tempted to ask ‘…where this cretinous individual was found? When he came for the interview was there no concern about his lack of eye contact, speech or any form of reasonable thought pattern? If he were to develop into a half-wit he would be twice as intelligent as he is now, yet you saw fit to put him in a position where he can talk to your customers like they are shit on his shoe.’

You might be tempted to write to the local municipal office and inform them of a worrying experience you had at the local tip. ‘Dear XXXX, it was whilst trying to throw the cardboard box of my son’s new Battlestar Galactica toy space ship into container number twelve that I was approached by a strange, unknown being, the like of which cannot possibly be human. It’s spiky, bleached blonde fur, strange misspelt markings on its forearms and aggressive behaviour are surely that of a previously undiscovered species. I was somewhat taken aback when it uttered a terrible groaning sound that sounded something like ‘oi, wha tha? Ah it ot any olystyrene innit? Eh? Ah it? Tak it art.’ I think you might like to consider informing the army and try and capture it for medical science.’

How about the letter to the local train company asking where exactly the money goes that they reap from their preposterous train fares? ‘…as the money clearly doesn’t get spent on improving the trains, tracks, service or personnel training am I to consider that the money is possibly being used for the benefit of the board and stakeholders? Is it possible that rather than putting more trains on the tracks, there are people somewhere putting money in their back pocket, white powder up their nose and their tiny peckers in small Indonesian boys whilst on a ‘fact-finding mission?’

Then there’s the letter to the owner of the call centre that rings you of an evening with the unmissable offer of a state of the art conservatory, bank loan or double-glazing. ‘Dear Sir/madam. Die. Yours sincerely Mr XXXX’

Let me know if you have any you’d love to write?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The emasculation of modern man…

…Which is basically a poncy way of saying I’m sick to the back teeth of doing the fucking washing up. And the laundry, and the hoovering, polishing, bathroom cleaning and all the other jobs my forbearers would have laughed at seeing another man do. In their day they would have strode out amongst the wild plains, hunted down a stag for dinner, drank large quantities of ale, ravished a fair maiden and returned to their perfectly maintained dwelling for a large feast around the fire, prepared lovingly by their wives. Even in my parent’s day the boundaries seemed much clearer. Dads across the land would go out to work at nine, and come home to dinner at half past five. They might then pop out to the Red Lion for a quick eight pints of Whitbread’s best bitter before returning home to fall asleep in front of Angela Rippon.

Now clearly I accept that times change and life moves on. It’s not as if I have a great hankering to spend my spare time bear baiting or bare knuckle fighting. I don’t really wish to rebuild a Triumph Dolomite from spare parts or join a tug of war team. I just think that to come home from work and spend all my time as some kind of Mr Mop indicates that something, somewhere has gone terribly wrong. I generally return of an evening to find a house full of people that I have either married or sired wandering around littering, eating and generally creating work for me like it’s some kind of family duty. My wife leading the children on their merry-mess-making way like a latter day Pied Piper, leaving discarded banana skins, dirty clothes and unwashed plates in their wake. I’m sure I heard my daughter say the other day ‘Please Mummy, I don’t want to make any more mess today.’ To which my wife fierily replied ‘Dammit, it’s not about what you want. It’s about what’s right. If we don’t create a never-ending mess for your father to clear up then he could be tempted to start juggling chain saws or pursue a career on the oil rigs, now drop that Goddamn crisp packet on the floor.’

The problem is that years of housework and domesticity have rendered me useless in the ways of men from a bygone era. Any kind of building work is out. My attempt at fitting a humble cat flap has taught me my shortcomings there. Anything more complicated than filling the car up with petrol is generally beyond me, so engineering is looking doubtful. I guess I could chop down a tree and start a fire, but the local council are sticklers for that kind of thing.

It would appear that I am rather stuck with my lot. Whilst I would rather be building a fully self-sufficient outhouse from reclaimed wood, or fine tuning the engine of my six cylinder two-seater sports car, it seems that I’m stuck marvelling at the benefits of washing clothes at 30 degrees or the new five, yes five in one thunderball, sparkle guarantee, performance enhanced, lemon zest dishwasher tablet. Lucky me.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Politics & Cheating

In keeping with recent events and largely down to my persisting Ranter’s block there seemed no better time to remember the wit and wisdom of Mr. Malcolm Tucker.
(The Politics)
As the saying goes ‘Those who can, do: those who can’t, copy and paste.’
(The Cheating)

“He’s as useless as a marzipan dildo”
“He’s a fat guy with a tiny little dick the size of a bookie’s biro”
“Cliff fucking Lawton. Hey, was the Cillit Bang guy not available?”
“You were like a sweaty octopus trying to unhook a bra! It was like watching John Leslie at work…”
“We’re gonna get this tosser… Don’t you worry – he’ll be at The Sport photo-shopping the tits of ‘Hollyoaks’ extras by the end of the month.”
“You’re gonna be spread out there in front of them like a trollope in the stocks…”
“Julius Nicholson, right, blue sky thinker, ex-business guru, dog rapist… He’s been a nuisance to me; he also has got plans to squeeze this department so hard that you’ll be lucky if you’re left with one bollock between the three of you…”
“Did you ever travel 100mph head first through a tunnel filled with pig shit because that’s what’s going to happen to you tonight…”
“I will personally fucking eviscerate you, right? …And I mean, I don’t have your education, I don’t know what it means, but I will start by ripping your cock off and I’ll busk it from there, ok…?”
“What happens if he does stand a chance, eh? He’ll fuck you harder than Ron Jeremy. And with less warmth…”
“If you don’t go and get me some cheese, I’m gonna rip your head off and give you a spinedectomy…”
“Stop fucking blinking! Or I will take your optic nerve and strangle you with it…”
“There’s nothing you know that I don’t know, I’m Doctor fucking know…”

Hopefully before long there will be a new post, or at the very least a new government.