From smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve

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Breaking News…

In blah, life, news on February 16, 2008 at 12:15 pm

If you’re a red-blooded inhabitant of a capitalist-with-the-odd-but-inconvenient-attempt- at-being-a-socialist state, the television or the idiot box as it is popularly mis-referred to holds pride of place in your life (i mean, a match-box is not called that because all the matches are on the outside staring at it, is it?). Whether it is an oversized cube of glass and plastic with one of those guns that fire beams of electrons at blinding speed or one of those thin slivers of liquefied gases barely thicker than a…you guessed it…matchbox, this gets your attention most of your waking hours at home.

You thrust the helpful end of the electric toothbrush and push the button to get ever closer to being classified as a vegetable, while padding over to the living room couch to reach for that the other brilliant piece of technology, the remote control to comfortingly drown out the…if you’re lucky…sounds of the chirps of birds with the odd muffled airhorn of a truck…if you’re not…the noises of your neighbour yelling down at the watchman asking why the water in her bathroom taps is brown while another two are engaged in a yell-athon to resolve a dispute over a contentious parking space.

Your window to the world lights up with the flashing ‘LIVE’ at the top left corner. The screen vertically split to show a sequence of rivetting interest on the left and a suitably sombre-faced official on the right. The bottom fourth of the screen shows two ticker tapes, the bigger, slower moving strip shows ‘LIVE’..just in case you have an affliction that prevents you from looking at the top-left of your screen..the smaller, faster-moving strip shows the all the gripping happenings of the world while you were snuggled up in bed, dribbling over your pillow. Considering, the screen looked suspiciously similar when you flicked it off the night before, except with a completely different list of gripping happenings, haven’t you ever wondered how do they do it?

Contrary to popular belief, the average news-channel manager (ncm) does not get by with 4 hours of sleep every night. He or she (here’s a time when not being sexist pays off) is usually selected before birth (by despot Media Moghuls) when their pregnant mothers’ wombs are injected with a potent mix consisting in 1:16 parts caffeine. This means they only take a break once every fortnight, for 15 minutes, to get rid of red film before their eyes. A typical day-in-the-life of an ncm then goes something like:

6.00am: final news byte of previous day done, checks calendar for pre-announced happenings for today. grunts with satisfaction as he sees 3 promising entries; filmstar to be released from jail for the 89th time, the new guy on indian cricket team will be calling a retired cricketer for a 7 min conversation for valuable advice, the finance minister will be announcing the new fiscal policy. its a no-brainer. calls his camera teams to cover the first two. people can read about the deficit in the newspapers. calls his sports reporter to discuss list of ex-cricketers and current club rejects to call for expert opinions on the nature of conversation. Decides to add the channel’s technology segment anchor to discuss the cricketer’s choice of cell phone.

7.15am: checks email for updates from various political party media representatives. Two emails. One party will be asking for a ban on the internet citing its culpability in corrupting the youth of the nation and also leading to closure of two local video-stores specializing in porn. As a peaceful mark of protest, they would be burning a dozen routers, ethernet cables and destroying keyboards. The second email is about another party protesting against the protest. They would do the usual bus-burning, windshield-smashing and pelting of stones. ncm grins…this was going to be an easy one. commissions a team for live coverage, reminds them to take a few crates of bottled water lest the protestors flag in the heat.

12.00pm: Calls his newspaper readers (not newsreaders) for an update. They’ve read every daily newspaper and tabloid from cover and cover and identified 52 potential inflammatory statements made by public figures ranging from the ex-ambassador from newfoundland to the child actor from the latest movie. He decides on the foreign author who makes a reference to brown bread as being a part of his diet in his interview to ‘Culinary Delights’. Calls his most vocal reporter and packs off a team to camp outside his hotel to ask him why he called for the economic ruin of all white-bread makers in the nation.

3.15pm: the protest stories are losing steam. calls his bank to arrange a wire-transfer to a remote village in a far corner where the recipient walks to the playground to surreptitiously nudge a 7 year old girl (to be named princess) down a drain-hole. The nearby elite army troops swing into action in the ‘Save the Princess’ campaign. ncm’s camera team is already there.

5.10pm: on being questioned the author retorted that “white bread is unhealthy”. hallelujah! mob goes on a rampage, trashing the lobby of the hotel. emails flood in from several political parties that they will demand a retraction of the statement or the city will burn to protest the exploitation of white bread-makers. Another party rep email states the concept of bread is against our culture and plans protests to protect the interests of roti-makers. ncm sighs with relief…

6.05pm: princess starts climbing out of the drain. the camera man quietly nudges her back in. Still 2 hours to go for primetime…

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Maximizing productivity

In blah, work on February 7, 2008 at 5:19 pm

What is it about cafeterias that invokes the worst in every human discipline? Assuming of course that the only human disciplines are planning and designing. Flimsy albeit that assumption may be, its worthwhile to consider the aspects of that area meant to satisfy one of the basic needs of humanity. The purpose of this post is not to petition for work areas to allow for satisfaction of other, more primal needs.

A look at the plan for any office building would clearly show that the design of an office cafeteria has to be a separate subject in itself, called something like ‘Working Drone Nutrition Area Design’, a hybrid science combining the science of architecture with psychology. This must involve complex algorithms to ensure that the area is at 125% utilization irrespective of your attempt to delay your lunch hour till the point your bodily functions start to recede into something resembling a comatose cabbage. It turns out that the excess 25% are usually people who have entered a zombie-like state while waiting for tables to become available. No one has seen what happens to them but it wouldn’t be impossible to believe that the cafeteria staff moonlight as suppliers of crash test dummies.

It’d be too easy if all it took to get a table was for the planets to line up to spell ‘BURP’. It would take more like a political party that does not rely on divisive groupism to make itself heard. Heck, nothing’s that impossible. Having sufficiently exulted over the capture of your very own slab of formica-topped plywood, one surveys the options.

Nowhere is the disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ as prominent as on the cafeteria table. The haves = ‘Has stay-at-home-wife-who-wakes-up-to-cook-for-me’ shamelessly parades his assorted array that boasts nutrition, taste and the odd dollop of love. The have-nots = ‘Have-no-chance-of-living-past-35-coz-of-the-cafeteria-food’ meanwhile look through the menu that has all of 4 options (counting ‘extra ketchup’) and know by rote anyway before picking what they do everyday.

The effect is that the average lunch thus lasts about 11 minutes, 8 of which the haves spend screwing the lids on their stay-warm tiffins and the have-nots spending suspiciously poking at their food to check for unwarranted movement and looking at when they can back to their microsoft office document. Productivity soars! If that’s not brilliant use of psychology, I don’t know what is.

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