Thursday 27 May 2010

Junior Apprentice: Week 3

Week 3, and our little friends seem to have had enough.  The phone in the Nice Townhouse rings for a good 30 seconds before anyone gets up the inclination to answer it.  And when someone does, that someone is Tim.  When Tim is the most enthusiastic member of any group, we have reached a significant juncture.

Anyway, they're off to a posh crystal shop, because today they're selling cupcakes.

LordShugah has mixed up the teams again, so that we now have:

Team 1: Tim (he who owns and shears sheep), Kirsty (the wee Scottish one, who gives the impression she could just erupt all over the place some day), Rhys (who, I discovered, is called Rhys Rosser.  I sincerely hope his middle name is Rass.) and Hannah (who, despite being a project manager last week, has yet to make any impact on the show whatsoever).  Team names are now irrelevant, so, although they are technically called something, we'll refer to this lot as Team Meh, for reasons which we'll come to.

Team 2: Arjun (maths whizz, and kind of snarky; I quite like Arjun), Zoe (DUN-DUN-DUN!), Adam (who is now ill) and Emma (you remember.... no?  never mind). Any team featuring Zoe is always Team Zoe, so we'll go with that.

The task is as follows: decide on a theme for cupcakes; order appropriate number of cupcakes, decorations etc.; decorate cupcakes; sell cupcakes.

Team Meh basically can't be bothered.  Even choosing a team leader seems beyond them, except that Tim is adamant it won't be him.  Eventually they force Rhys into it, on the basis that he used to work in a kitchen.  For their cupcake theme, they are equally devoid of ideas, and eventually settle on fashion.  Because that's fashionable, or something.

On the other team, there's a bit of passive-aggressive snarking between Zoe and Emma, who try to outdo each other in the 'How much we bake stakes'.  Emma: 'I bake a lot'; Zoe: 'I love baking!'; Emma: 'I really love baking'; Zoe: 'I REALLY love baking'; Emma has now said more words in a minute than she has thus far in the series, and the well seems to be dry.  Zoe triumphantly seizes the prize, and everyone dislikes her a little bit more.  She decides on a theme of hearts, and everyone nods silently, including the viewers at home.

They then go to a Proper Person to learn how to decorate cupcakes, and mostly make a pig's ear out of it, but, y'know, they try.

Next up is the decision about how many cupcakes to order.  Arjun and Zoe have teamed up as a 'Brains and Beauty' combo, and beat Emma and Adam (who's gradually getting paler and paler) into submission when the latter suggest ordering 97 jillion cupcakes, which Arjun quickly works out will have to be decorated at the rate of 58 million per second for 20 days, or something.  They settle on a more realistic figure, and we then watch Adam spend 5 minutes trying to ice a cupcake.

Over at Team Meh, Rhys is being laughed at by everyone else, which seems slightly unfair, but is partly provoked by his attempts to motivate them all by saying 'We can do it' repeatedly.

Day 2, and it's time to set up stall.

Team Zoe have aquired a giant cupcake costume, which Zoe transforms into the most intimidating baked good ever.  By lunchtime, they've sold 9 cupcakes, and are not helped by failing to realise that if you're going to take orders over a walkie-talkie, it might be a idea to have a pen handy to jot things down.  Happily, Zoe is now forcing people to buy cupcakes, but unhappily, she hasn't bothered to ask how long it takes to decorate them, meaning they end up with a massive backlog.  Quite why Emma and Adam didn't get a wriggle on and do a bit of icing during the morning part remains a mystery.  They are also customising the cupcakes for free, which is nice, but not very businessy.  They're also not that great at icing the cakes, so you do wonder why on earth anyone's going near them.  We get a brief glimpse of Arjun telling a customer off for not specifying their order properly.

Team Meh are taking things more sedately.  Kirsty and Rhys are half-heartedly trying to lure passers-by, while Tim and Hannah laugh at Rhys.  They eventually set him up as cake-carrier, and laugh at him because he can't carry cakes properly, because of his little tiny arms.  They don't offer to help.  Rhys is also using 'We're only here for one day!' as his unique selling point, seemingly oblivious to the looks of relief.  Finally, they realise they have loads of cupcakes left, and Rhys suggests they 'Sell em'.

And so to the boardroom, where Adam is unexpectedly sent home for being sick.  At this point he looks like a walking corpse, and doesn't even bother to protest.  Next, we learn that Team Zoe made £15, and Team Meh would have done better if they'd not bothered buying any cupcakes, and just taken themselves out for a nice lunch; they've lost £85.

For reasons unclear, the winners are sent to have tea with Richard Branson, who's all teeth and hair and hi-fives, and grins inanely at Arjun telling him about being dressed as a cupcake.  Zoe attempts to make grown-up conversation; Emma is still over her daily word-limit, and can only dance her eyebrows about.

The losers go to the Losers Caff and fight a bit, and then go back to the boardroom, and all gang up on Rhys, who says it wasn't fair because they all ganged up on him.  He lets Kirsty go, and drags Tim and Hannah back in to face LordShugah.  LordShugah, for reasons unknown, starts into a thing about Hannah's resume, which he pronounces 'ray-zoO-me'.  Then he tells Tim he needs to stick his beardy neck out a bit more, and Tim promises he will. Then he fires Rhys, but not before telling him he's a very special person, and he should always remember that.  It's like being forced to watch a bad break-up.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Jamie and the Magic Torch Moments

When I was about 22, I had a conversation with my sister and my cousin about programmes we used to watch on TV.  You know the ones: Rugrats, Raggy Dolls, Kissyfur, Pigeon Street etc.  All was well until my sister and cousin started discussing 'Jamie and the Magic Torch'.  What is this?  I thought.  I have not heard of this programme.

So it turned out that the two of them used to watch Jamie and the Magic Torch, and I did not.  I have no idea why I did not watch; it is possible I was at an after-school thing or something (though I can't imagine what, as I didn't go to much that my sister didn't go to).  But what bothered me was that I didn't even know that they did this.  I had never heard of this programme.  I didn't recognise it when I saw pictures.  Nothing about this programme, or the fact that they watched it every week without me, had ever reached my ears.

I was outraged.

I feel like this on Facebook sometimes.  You know when you see a 'People You May Know' thing, and it says 'Peter Smith. 27 mutual friends'.  And you think Huh?  27 mutual friends?  And I've never heard of this guy?  How can 27 of my friends know someone, and not one of them has ever mentioned his name in my presence?  I call this a 'Jamie and the Magic Torch' moment.

But if you think about it too much, it makes you paranoid.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Facebook Privacy

Now I'm not one to worry overly much about online privacy.  Partly this is due to me not ever really telling the internet anything much about myself, but mostly it's because I'm reasonably certain that no one could maintain interest in my personal details long enough to make any use out of them.

Anyway.  We all know Facebook's a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to looking after our personal data, right?  But I found this thing online, and it scans your settings and tells you if, like, bogey men can find out stuff about you from Facebook.  You should try it.

Saturday 22 May 2010

Junior Apprentice: Week 2

And so to week 2 of our young friends trying to suck up to Lorsugah, and this week they've to create an item of camping equipment, which requires them to wear wellies.  Adam volunteers to head a team, because he's been camping 'like, loads', and also because he sells camping stuff on de inernet.  Blonde girl who mysteriously appeared at the end of last week's show (Hannah, possibly) also volunteers herself, because she has a brilliant invention that she can't tell us about.  Then Lorshugah swaps them round, so Adam is in charge of the girls and Hannah is in charge of the boys.  Fear fills Adam's eyes; not 3 minutes before, he has confidently declared that 'men are better in business than women. They're just more suited to it, like, because of their, like, physical attributes'.

So they begin coming up with ideas.  With Hannah and the lads, things are going well (relatively speaking, of course - this is The Apprentice), and they have neatly sidestepped her idea of making 'a table in a bag' and gone on to invent a kind of sled thing, with optional wheels, which you can pull your stuff around on at festivals.  Adam and the girls are having a more difficult time deciding between a games table, a shoe rack and a storage thing.  Adam is also having difficulty in stringing together any useful combination of syllables, which isn't helping.

And so to market research.  Generally, no one hates the sled, which is about as much as you can hope for; the games table/shoe rack/storage thing is going down less well, until Zoe beats some hapless campers into agreeing that one, all, or any combination of those facilities is the only thing standing between them and camping nirvana.  Adam decides they should put them all in, especially the shoe rack, because you always have wet shoes when you're camping, and there's only so much a Tesco bag can do.

Then they go to the designers to talk things through.  What should these items be made of?  Well, the sled has to be waterproof, and big enough for your stuff, right?  Surprisingly perhaps, the boys actually think of that, and go along with it, and the final result is really not bad.  Probably completely impractical of course, but the kind of thing you might buy to try it.

The girls and Adam, on the other hand, when determining a suitable material for their shoe-rack-to-store-muddy-shoes-in, choose cardboard (this is suggested by Emma, who, according to the caption 'sells sweets and eggs').  Well, at least it has the advantage that it folds up, yes?  No.  We're not doing fold-up.  And so, on the morning of the second day, they are presented with their prototype: a large, white cardboard box, with smaller cardboard boxes inside, and a games table on top, with snakes and ladders, and backgammon.  I challenge you now: guess where this is going.

Next, they have to photograph their things, make publicity, and convince people to buy them.  The boys send Tim and Arjun off to take photos, while Hannah and Rhys stay behind and don't come up with a pitch, which Tim and Arjun will do when they get back.  This is the more successful morning's work.  The girls have dispatched Hibah and Adam to take photos, and Adam has lined up a tent and models and that.  He goes camping, like, twice a year, and yet cannot construct a tent.  He admits that he goes camping, like, twice a year last year, and prior to that, had never been camping.

And at last, they're off to the shops to try to get a few orders.  Arjun is pitching for the boys.  He fluffs the first one a bit, but then gets into his stride, and by pitch 3 he's flying.  Not that anyone seems overly keen to 'slide stuff', but by pitch 3 you're not embarrased for him.

Not so the girls, who are lumbered both with a huge cardboard box and Adam's incessant optimism ('I'd, like, totally sell that product on my website.  I fink that'd be, like, really popular').  They are asked how durable the box is. 'I'd say, like, you'd get 4 or 5 uses out of that', says Adam, winningly, or not so much.  When someone points out it's made of cardboard, Zoe nearly eats her.  It is, apparently, reinforced cardboard.

And so to the boardroom, where the box sags unhappily in a corner, while the sled bathes the room in gentle fluorescent green light.  Needless to say, the boys and Hannah have won by a mile, mainly due to Argos ordering 3000 sleds, despite not being mad keen on them as a concept.  This, I believe, tells us all we need to know about Argos.  The box, on the other hand, has achieved precisely no orders, and the girls and Adam are packed off to the Losers' Caff, where they listen to him stuttering and claiming he'd sell it on his website and it'd be dead popular.

Back in the boardroom, and Adam appears to be in a last-ditch attempt to sell the thing to LorShugah.  When this fails, he points out that he set up his business with his life's savings, as if a man who started a company with £23.40 cannot be wrong.  Emma gets some rap for suggesting making the thing out of cardboard, though in all honesty that is clearly the best material for it, being biodegradeable within a very short space of time.  Bizarrely, Adam brings Zoe back into the boardroom, along with Hibah.  He then proceeds to spout an incoherent, but passionate, self-defense, and somehow, Lorshugah loves him again.  Hibah, on the other hand, is way to nice for this business, and is sent packing.

Monday 17 May 2010

Because Sometimes You Just Need Cheering Up

I like this site: New Math

They should teach maths like this.  If I was a maths teacher, I would show my class one of these every day.  It'd be great.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Junior Apprentice: Week 1

I wasn't at all sure what to expect from Junior Apprentice.  We have grown well used to the egos and ranting and childishness of the Grown-up version, but is it ok to think that a 16-year-old is an egomaniacal, stuck-up, egotistical prat?  Or, to put it another way, aren't pretty much all 16 years olds egomaniacal, stuck-up, egotistical prats?  Not the ones I know, of course, but the ones who go on TV.  It is hard to see how much Life Experience they've had, and that is the vital ingredient which would turn them into the so-poorly-rounded individuals we love to mock in the adult world of SralinLordShugah.

Mercifully, it seems that egos are born, not bred, and the contestants in Junior Apprentice are at least as good viewing as the ones in The, y'know, Regular Apprentice.

I haven't got to grips with the names so far, but here's what I can remember:

1. Zoe.  Zoe is blonde, with funny hair and a big ego.  Zoe and I would not have got on at school, AT ALL.  Quote of the episode: 'No one wants to do a deal with an ugly person'.

2. Jordan.  A chap with a Dublin accent and a big ego.  Nicely over-confident; it is clear we'll get viewing pleasure from his eventual downfall.

3. A little guy who looks like he's of Indian descent (am I allowed to say that?), and is proud of loving maths.  And has a big ego.  And is a senior prefect in school, and so good at it that he even manages to be nice to people he doesn't like, which surely indicates a bright future.

4. A wee lad who can't be more than 12, and looks worried all the time.

5. A scruffy looking chap who owns his own sheep, looks like he can't much be bothered, and is bound to be the cause of a major 'incident' at some point soon, but is currently my favourite to win.

6. Some others.  It's possible that one of them is called Kirsty.

Before they do anything else, they are read the riot act by SiralanLordShugah, and banned from having Facebook parties in the house.  I think this is mainly so SiralanLordShugah can show how cool he is, knowing about Facebook and parties and all.  They run shrieking round the apartment, shouting odd things like 'Dibs dibs dibs!' and other things that English people say.

Anyway, now they have to make up team names and appoint a leader.  The girls start with the not-appropriate-on-any-level 'Brotherhood', then pass through 'Enterprize wiv a zed', 'Revolution', 'Synergy' and 'Catalyst' before finally going back to 'Revolution'.  After a polite conversation in which they all want to allow someone else to be in charge, and do not want to put themselves forward, Hibah is appointed.  She wants to open a plastic surgery clinic (not right now, obviously).

The boys quickly come up wtih 'Instinct', despite young boy saying it sounds like a deodorant.  Jordan (wearing a suit which looks like the love child of R2D2 and Mr Sheen) is put in charge, and is looking forward to his treat. *sigh*.  We can see where this is going.

So Day 1, and they're flogging cheese.  £500 of cheese.  The girls spend most of the morning taking the cheese out of boxes and saying things like "there's bloody loads of 'em".  Nick looks nervous.  The boys just fling it all in the van and head off.

They eventually all get to the markets (after a fashion) and proceed to mostly not sell cheese, due to it being windy, and people not wanting to buy cheese, and them not knowing what type of cheese it is, and various other reasons too numerous to mention, but most of which boil down to them doing stupid things in loud, annoying voices.

Nick, with delightfully restrained understatement, describes Zoe as having 'a commanding presence'.  The others are starting to despise her.

With a lot of leftover cheese, both teams fall back on the tried and tested Apprentice fallback of trying to flog it to someone who wants to be on tv.  Zoe has the nous to try to sell to someone who sells wine. Which is clever.  Because wine and cheese is a good combo.  But then she makes the other wee girl cry, so we dislike her even more.  Meanwhile, the boys are working their magic on a florist, and, as should be painfully obvious, failing.

And so to the important question: who has made the most money? Back to SiralanLordShugah, who gets a lecture from Zoe on how brilliant she is.  A blonde girl seems to have appeared on the girls' team, by the way.  Don't know where she came from.  The boys talk a bit about wind.  The girls have made £143.88, the boys have lost £210.01.  The girls go off to a restaurant belonging to some fancy person, who's, like, one of Zoe's favourite chefs.  I am reminded that at that age I would never have had a favourite chef.

The boys go to the losers' caff, and Young Guy points out some obvious things, like that it's their fault they didn't sell more cheese.  I like Young Guy.  Then they go back to SiralanLordShugah, and try to blame Young Boy for making them go to the market they all agreed to go to.  Scruffy Boy describes wind as his least favourite weather type, which pleases me, but not so much SiralanLordShugah.  They all try too hard to use big words like 'revenue'.

There is much debate when Jordan, Scruff Boy and Young Kiddo are back in the board room.  They all look a bit nervous, apart from Kiddo, who looks like he's wetting himself; but eventually Jordan is the one to go.  The others say manly things like 'Keep in touch' and 'You'll do well'.

Thankfully, none of this seems to have dented Jordan's ego, and he declares that he'll be bigger than SiralanLordShugah in 5 years' time.

We can only wait.

Saturday 8 May 2010

An Incongruity In The Price Of Bran Flakes

Now, I was in Tesco during the week, and noticed a Thing about the Bran Flakes.

Here are the 750g packs of Bran Flakes:

And here are the 500g packs of Bran Flakes:

I apologise for the less than awesome quality of the photos, but you can't be too conspicuous when you're hanging round taking photos in Tesco.

The thing to note is this:
750g pack = 98p
500g pack = £1.84

So 750g = 0.13p per gram
while 500g = 0.37p per gram, which is almost 3 times as much.

Note: Other brands of Bran Flakes are available, although they may be called something else, such as 'Breakfast Flakes'

Friday 7 May 2010

On The Election Results

Well, the election is over, and if there are two things I've learned, it's that:

1. I don't really understand UK politics
2. I can't find my passport

We now have what is known as a 'Hung Parliament'.  Most of the country do not understand what this means, but the concensus seems to be in favour of it being a Bad Thing.  There is also talk that we will now have to have another General Election in 6 weeks' time, which would be on my birthday, so I hope we don't.  Until then, I think all three of the people we weren't that mad on are in charge, and also the Queen actually gets to have a bit of a say, which is nice, because for a while there I was worried she didn't really do much.

My main question is this: who gets to live in 10 Downing Street?  Because I think I have a way to avoid another election, and if anyone of influence is reading this, I would like you to consider it, please.  In fact, someone once told me that if you mention Che Guevara in an email, someone in government reads it, so hopefully that applies to blogs and I have their attention now.

Anyway, here's my idea: put them all in 10 Downing Street, and then do it like Big Brother.  Make them do contest things, and look after chickens, and budget for their meals (this last one being particularly useful for the viewing public to watch).  Have a diary room with the Queen as Big Brother.  After a couple of weeks, we vote one of them out.  Then the following week, we vote another one out, and whoever is left in, gets to be Prime Minister (or we could let other party leaders as well, and get the summer out of it).

I have other ideas too:
  • Throw all the names in a hat, and just pick out however many it is that you need to make a government.
  • Make it like Krypton Factor.  Test them on Mental Agility (that one where they have to put bits of plastic in the shape of an elephant), Quick Thinking (a straightforward quiz would work, but for a laugh they could do the Citizenship Test), Calmness Under Pressure (with the aeroplane landing thing, but don't tell them it's a simulation), and Physical Agility (for the sheer joy of watching them do the aerial slide).
Of course, a fundamental issue is that the democratic process in the UK is such that we can all not vote for someone, and they can still end up in charge.  Much has been made of the fact that Labour got 258 seats with 29.0% of the vote (so that's 8.89 seats for each percent), while the Lib Dems got 57 seats with 23.0% of the vote (2.48 seats for each percent).  Even better, the Alliance party got 1 seat with 0.1%, which is 10 seats for each percent.

Also, as far as I can tell, these are percentages of people who actually voted, so if you take them as percentages of the total population, they are smaller.  But, frankly, if people aren't going to bother to vote, then don't come whining to me in 6 weeks' time when you realise you don't like what's going on.

Another interesting point is that in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, a candidate won by 4 votes, which is a majority of, like, 0.00000001% or something.  But I suppose you have to give it to someone.

Thursday 6 May 2010

An Election Highlight

From the BBCs live election blog thingy:

2133: How are the leaders whiling away these nervous hours? Well, according to the Press Association, Gordon and Sarah Brown had lamb stew for dinner before the prime minister went off for a nap at about 8.30pm. David Cameron, meanwhile, spent two hours chopping logs.


Tuesday 4 May 2010

Exploring Our Matrix: Why Anti-Evolutionism Is Evil

This post encapsulates many reasons why Creationism is a Bad Thing.

In particular:

Christians have a strong sense that they are supposed to be going against the flow, that they need to dare to be different, that they need to stand up for their faith even if it means ridicule or persecution. What Ken Ham and others like him have done is to give Christians a way that they can feel that they are in fact doing this, standing up for their faith, by standing up for pseudoscience, instead of taking a stand for the things that really ought to distinguish a Christian: love for enemies, concern for justice, bringing together those whom society divides along lines of race, gender, status, and much else.

And if I get one more person inviting me to the Facebook group 'I bet we can find 1000000 people who don't beleive in evolution before June', I may also fail to do things which ought to distinguish a Christian.

In fact, please stop inviting me to Facebook groups, unless you are really VERY sure.

Sunday 2 May 2010

On The Election

And so to the election, which we have thus far avoided speaking of, but which will have to be faced up to this week, and upon which we should therefore decide.

The is the most interesting election for many years, they tell us.  Essentially this is because there is no good or bad outcome; regardless of who we choose, we're still in debt, we're still governed by a bunch of rogues, we're still, in other words, basically fecked.

So the choice comes down to this: not who will do a good job, but who will leave us alone to get on with it.  It's hard to say, because at the moment they all like to say a lot of things about doing a lot of things, and though experience teaches us that, once elected, they will do none of these things, the tendency is to believe them a little bit and live in dread.

The current encumbent, of course, seems to have the least chance of winning, mainly due to an impressive campaign of idiocy, and also to being the one who got us into this mess in the first place (which, of course, he didn't, he just happened to be at the helm when it all went arse-about-face).  And also, we've never really got over the fact that we didn't get to elect him; we wanted Tony Blair (our reasons for which are lost to history, which is probably a good thing, because the gist of it is that we're all insane) and suddenly we get Gordon, and although it wasn't like it could get much worse, we at least liked it better when we felt we'd had our say.  We're fickle like that.

Then we have David Cameron, who tries a little bit too hard to make us all like him, like the kid in school who has nothing going for him and kind of knows it, but tries to buy off the weak ones with sweeties  Essentially the main obstacle to his election is, of course, that the last time we went for the Conservatives, we ended up with Margaret Thatcher (apart from that other time when we got John Major, but I think that episode can safely be forgotten about, although there is a possibility he still has fond memories of the occasion).

And then there is Nick Clegg, who seems to be winning on the basis that he can't be any worse than the other two, and a change is as good as a rest.

Not that it makes any difference to those of us in Northern Ireland, where we get to choose from an assorted selection of crooks, nutters and general creeps, none of whom do anything much except go to England and make us look like lunatics.  Apart from Alliance, who I quite like.

Also, they seem to keep changing the rules.  One election, you're putting an X in a box.  Then next time, you're doing 1,2,3 in as many boxes as you like.  Then you're back to the X.  Unless you get to the polling station and someone has stolen your vote, which happens a lot in Belfast.  And then they also change the prize.  Sometimes you're voting to get people in Westminster; sometimes Stormont; sometimes on the local Council; and from time to time, you get to send someone to Europe.  It's hard to keep up.

Anyway, the important thing is to vote, because of the Suffragettes and so on.