Sunday, June 29, 2008

The credit crunch, canaries and carbon monoxide

The older mini-W usually manages to provide an interesting take on events. She surfs property websites for houses and comments on the floor plans in a way that most eight-year-olds don't. Mrs W is to blame for this obsession and has trained her well.

Last night, mini asked me why prices were dropping and I talked to her about the credit crunch. (I didn't go into inter-bank lending rates and so on, but gave her the essence of the thing: too much lending of lots of money to people who couldn't pay it back.) When she heard that banks were not lending so readily any more, she nodded sagely and said she could see why the prices were falling, as people were no longer able to get the money to buy. No flies on her. Next week, we'll do a session on interest rates and whether the long-term trend will be upwards due to inflationary pressures in the economy.

It was actually a separate discussion about carbon monoxide though that really made me laugh. I was explaining that you couldn't smell the gas, which is why we need a detector near the boiler. She'd heard that historically miners had taken canaries down the pit to act as an early-warning system, which we agreed was tough luck on the birds. Her next logical leap was, however, quite inspired: we could all keep canaries in our homes rather than carbon monoxide detectors.

I don't know quite why this tickled me in the way that it did. I suppose it was the image of countless homes packed full of canaries, all of whom would be chirping merrily in the absence of flue blockages. Safety-conscious householders would have one on each floor and would probably all end up with pigeon lung or bird flu or something.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hats the way to do it

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about headgear recently. Find out why at www.40whitehats.co.uk

What's the worst time to get stuck in a lift?

I ask this question because my father-in-law managed it yesterday on arrival at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London. He was there for an operation to implant a cochlear device that acts as a bionic ear. It's the first time this major teaching hospital has performed the procedure on an adult and Mrs W's dad has been told he'll therefore be a bit of a celebrity. Well, a celebrity in Tooting at least.

Anyway, imagine the scenario. You're completely deaf and - for various reasons, too difficult to explain here - you're arriving at the hospital unaccompanied. You walk into the lift, which promptly gets stuck between floors. You ring the alarm bell, which connects you with the outside world. And you wait for the instructions or rescue plans to be delivered over the intercom.

There is, of course, just one small problem. You can't hear the intercom. So I think it's fair to say that this must have been a pretty scary experience all round. In a few weeks, when the cochlear implant is switched on, maybe we can start to have some sort of conversation about it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Can't talk now. I'm at the LMAP Conference. Again...

If you're sick of people emailing or instant messaging you (see previous post), one option is to fill your diary with stuff that implies you're out of the office. I was talking to someone today who says it's a common practice at his workplace. A colleague will set Outlook to show that he's at the "LMAP Conference" all day. LMAP apparently stands for "leave me alone please".

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is the world moving too fast?

Not long ago, people were talking about how email had transformed communication. Everything, they argued, had reached a relentless pace. No time for considered correspondence any more. We were forced to act NOW. Just bish bosh and send.

Since then, things have moved on. I was talking to a lady on one of my copywriting courses recently who said that her company communicated primarily by realtime instant messaging. When she wanted a break, she used email to slow things down.

So just how instant can the world become? Perhaps your company insists on realtime messaging over your mobile while you're driving? Or maybe you've been sacked via Twitter? Let me know by emailing the address above. It may be slow, but it gets to me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Those questions you never wanted answered

You'll find an awful lot of frequently asked questions on the web. But how frequently are they really asked?

I've set up a website to celebrate those rather obscure queries that are only of interest to someone else. Welcome to Phil Woodford's Infrequently Asked Questions.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My 500th post

Although this blog had an earlier incarnation (see www.philwoodford.com/philblog), Washed and Ready to Eat has officially been entertaining readers worldwide for some two years. Thanks very much for staying with the programme.

For my 500th entry, I wanted to share with you the warning message on the back of my new notebook power adaptor:

(1)
This device may not cause harmful interference

(2)
This device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undersirde (sic) operation.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sign of the times

Can't help but smile at the emails from the estate agents these days. I'm bombarded with news of properties that have been "amended" on the databases of the local firms in south-west London. (Amended is an estate agent euphemism for price slash.)

One property went yesterday from being something over half a million quid to the magical figure of £499,950, which is under a stamp duty threshold. Even better news this morning, however. The same property has been reamended. It's now £469,950. Give it a few weeks at this rate of decline and I'll be getting my credit card out.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Do what, Arfur? You ain't been checking my 'ampsteads online, 'ave yer?

Reviewing site statistics is very much part of every popular blogger's life. That's why I only do it once in a blue moon.

One interesting trend I've observed is that Washed and Ready to Eat is steadily becoming more international. There was a time when 80% of the visitors hailed from the UK, but now it's only just over half. Over 20% of WARTE fans are based in the USA (howdy-doody y'all) and even Germany clocks up a respectable 8%.

The reason I'm really interested in the stats program, however, is the function that allows you to see the search terms which have led people to your site. Recently someone typed "Dennis Waterman's teeth" into Google and ended up right here. It's hard to imagine exactly what was going through their head. But they're very welcome. And worryingly, I suspect they'll feel right at home.

Please take all your personal belongings with you when you leave the train...

The Independent on Sunday is reporting that a second batch of high-security paperwork has been discovered on a train heading for London Waterloo.

I travel on that line regularly and all I've ever seen are discarded copies of The Metro, a throng of bored commuters and a handful of disaffected hoodies. But Washed and Ready to Eat has a reputation for breaking important stories, so I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for anything marked TOP SECRET in big red letters. And you'll hear about it on these pages at least five minutes before I sell to a national.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

They don't understand

Art is weird, isn't it? People find it so confusing.

Walking through the London College of Communication today, I noticed a homemade poster featuring the lyric of Rehab by troubled songstress Amy Winehouse. The words had been transl8d into txt msg lingo. I started to chuckle, because some pedant had scrawled corrections over the text. I think they were missing the point just a little.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A stairway for doggies on their way to heaven

One step at a time: this ageing pooch needs a helping hand to get up on his master's bed. Thanks to House of Bath, there's no more paws-ing on the journey. Click to enlarge.

Spare a thought, if you will, for the faithful hound who's no longer quite as sprightly as he used to be. Once, back in 1998, you could rely on him to jump onto your bed in a single bound. Today, riddled with arthritis and only a short tug of the lead away from that ultimate celestial kennel, Rover needs a bit of extra help. House of Bath obliges with an easy-to-assemble staircase which comes with a machine-washable cover.

The alternative option is to dismantle your bed and put the mattress on the floor.

Chamorro, Chamorro, we love ya, Chamorro...

What distinguishes regular medical and psychological experts from their celebrity counterparts?

Apart from the obvious - the former group is rich, while the latter group is probably a tad richer - the main difference is in the form of address. Sleb medics and shrinks attach the title "Doctor" to their first name, whereas real quacks connect the prefix with a surname. At a local surgery, therefore, you see Dr Smith or Dr Jones. On the telly, you meet Dr Rosemary or Dr Gillian.

Big Brother's resident psychologist is Dr Tomas, a rather good-looking lecturer from Goldsmiths College in London. We'll forgive him for using his first name, as his surname - Chamorro-Premuzic - is unlikely to trip off the tongue anywhere east of Buenos Aires or west of Zagreb. His early analysis of the BB9 household suggests that he is able to slip out of the conventions of academic discourse with relative ease. Luke, for example, is described as a "geek" (which Dr Tomas admits is a "non-psychological term"). Mario is the "non-Italian stallion", while Rex is a "tough cookie".

No doubt we can expect further probing analysis as the series develops. And perhaps a paper at a symposium in Vienna? Redefining psychological paradigms through the prism of the mass media: a study in popular culture, voluntary incarceration and stuff that helps fill web pages.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

This one's for the birds

Wherever I go, people shout "Hello! Where did you get that hat?" (My answer is always House of Bath.) Click to enlarge.

I've seen some bizarre kitsch in my time, but it would have taken a real tit to come up with this idea.

If you're patient and very well behaved, I have some more House of Bath treats in the pipeline. Like the staircase that allows elderly dogs to get up on your bed. But only if you're good.


Sartorial faux pas

Picking up the older mini-W from school earlier today, I asked her whether she liked my new jeans, purchased in a central London Gap store a few hours earlier.

"No," she replied. "You still have the label on."

My panic was immediate and my reflexes were quick. The offending item was removed just a split second before a mother came up and started making conversation.

It was actually one of those transparent, sticky strips that reveals your waist and inside leg measurements. They'd hidden the b****rd thing just out of my line of sight round the back of my right thigh.