Monday, January 31, 2011

Looking for an expert in isotope ratio determination? Try the Job Centre.

The people at Job Centre Plus take a full page ad in my local rag showing the range of vacancies they have on offer. Amid the kind of opportunities you'd expect - for Care Workers, Drivers and the odd Butcher's Assistant - one job stands out from the crowd. To apply for the advertised Science Leader Inorganic & IRMS role, all that's required is a PhD in a 'relevant scientific field', knowledge of high accuracy quantification and a passing familiarity with laser ablation.

I'm not sure which amazes me more: the idea of the employer thinking they'll find their mass spectrometrist down at the local labour exchange or the civil servants finding it appropriate to promote the vacancy. Even if we accept there are a number of middle-class professionals who have lost their jobs in the recession and that the Job Centre probably wants to demonstrate it doesn't just deal in cooks and bottle-washers, I think it's safe to say that the number of locals fitting the Science Leader profile will be a little on the low side. In fact, if anyone does have the necessary qualifications locally, they'll already be working for the employer that's advertising.

Eventually, I suspect, the scientists may be forced to take radical measures. Like paying for an ad in a scientific publication or maybe listing their job on a website read by spectrometrists looking for work. In the meantime, I can only imagine the conversations:

"Yes, Mr Jones, I can see from your application that you're very interested in isotope ratio determination. But how exactly did your career in retail management prepare you for it?"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

France will never look the same again

STOP PRESS... A full-page ad in The Sunday Express tells me about a sale of long range, 24x magnification binoculars. So precious is this cargo that sales were embargoed until midnight last night. Did you manage to secure your pair at the unbelievable price of £29.95 + p&p?

The copy tells me that if I were on the cliffs of Dover, France would 'appear to be just ONE MILE AWAY!!!'

Why, that's practically close enough to see the snails frying in the pan and Frenchmen shrugging their shoulders as they exchange onions.

Later on, we're told that we 'can see the expression of the jockeys' faces as they race towards the winning post'. Are these French jockeys, do you think?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Who better?

Coming up at the London School of Economics in February: 'A Celebration of the Work of Professor Christopher Pissarides'.

The speaker at the event?

Errr... Professor Christopher Pissarides.

Presumably there was no one better qualified.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Airport measured at zero decibels

Booking an airline ticket online today, I received a message warning me that London City is a 'silent' airport. This apparently means that no announcements are made about arrivals and departures. You're on your own. Just you and the departure boards.

What exactly is the motivation for the silence, do you think? Perhaps the airport is a well-known stop-off point for Trappist monks en route to their Norman monasteries? Or it serves as a major transit hub for people travelling to librarians' conventions?

I very much hope the silence extends to the planes.

"This is your captain not speaking..."

Saturday, January 01, 2011

After 60 years, it be time to say goodbye

In one of the promos the BBC has been running for the 60th anniversary of The Archers, a lady talks about how a particular scene in the yokel radio drama moved her to tears. I must be a lot more sentimental, as I find that I'm crying as soon as the theme tune starts. In fact, the only thing that can stop the pain is reaching for the 'off' button after the first couple of bars.

How can it be that taxpayers' money is still, in 2011, being spent on producing this utter drivel? Radio 4 seems to bumble along in an extraordinary timewarp. As I've noted before, its excruciating dramas, twee parlour games and philosophical university seminars would not pass for acceptable radio output in any other country in the world.

People will no doubt defend shows such as The Archers and Start the Week as being quintessentially British. But this is a vision of Britain drenched in sepia and packaged up in cotton wool. The BBC is expecting a generation brought up on the broadcasting equivalent of takewaways and convenience stores to feast at a formally laid table, complete with fussy fish knives and wine-pouring flunkies.

If you fancy staying up after Midnight, what a treat you have in store. Book of the Week. A couple of shipping forecasts. Highlights from the BBC World Service. By 5.45 am, my Prayer of the Day would be for a heavy dose of barbiturates. Through my drug-induced stupor, I might imagine I heard someone milking cows in a farmyard, taking a walking tour of Tasmania or profiling Prince William.

One day, it will all come to an end. Someone - probably motivated by the need to save public pennies - will pull the plug. And Sandy Toksvig, Arthur Smith, Nicholas Parsons, Harriet Cass and all the rest will go spiralling down the hole with the antedeluvian formats they help to preserve. There would be an outcry, of course, from a vocal group of Radio Fournatics, but I doubt they actually number much more than the population of Ambridge.