THINKBLOG April-June 2112
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30th June 2112
There's been a problem for some time where stores always smelt of indian takeaways. Whilst meandering around in our Globalbot Manufacturing information system (ORIBAL™) the other day I stumbled across this BOM*:
|780903||03||ASSY. ROBOT CONTROL||1||ACTIVE||FREEK CONTROL LTD|
|708690||02||ASSY.HIP JOINT||2||ACTIVE||NHS LTD|
|760232||01||3 AXIS LEG 400V DRIVE||2||ACTIVE||LEGUP TECH SOLUTIONS|
|900001||01||CHICKEN SAG BALTI||1||COOKING||KASHMIR TANDOORI|
|900002||08||KING PRAWN PASANDA MOGLAI||1||COOKING||KASHMIR TANDOORI|
|900003||01||PESHWARI NAAN||1||COOKING||KASHMIR TANDOORI|
|900004||01||PILAU RICE||3||COOKING||KASHMIR TANDOORI|
|745908||05||5 AXIS ARM HAND GRIPPER||2||ACTIVE||GETAGRIP INC.|
|776580||03||KIT.ROBOT SHEET METALWORK||1||ACTIVE||R FABS LTD|
|702045||03||STRESSED FRAME ASSY (ALUM)||1||ACTIVE||ALBOT WELDERS LTD|
|705887||01||SKT HD CAP M5 X 16||20||ACTIVE||BOLTS R US CORP.|
Looks like every time this BOM is ordered up by Materials Control then Goods Inwards take receipt of an indian takeaway (which they presumably sign for, book in and then eat. At least I hope so, surely they don't put it in a stores bin. Then again, hmm . . . )
I can only imagine an engineer lost concentration whilst creating this kit. GAT says he never mixes engineering with thinking about the weekend.
* BOM = Bill of Material - the list of parts that allows us to order up the bits for building a particular robot type (not Balti or Mosala as stated by Doom).
28th June 2112
I've been working on a new version of Helpdog - help with attitude, otherwise known as 'Context Insensitive Help', with the emphasis on insensitive :
'Well, if you're simply going to persist in typing unformatted rubbish then you're beyond any help I can offer.'
'Women shouldn't be allowed to operate computers.'
'Margins? Margins? I've got better things to do than waste my time telling you about margins. Let me think, perhaps counting the pixels to verify the screen resolution. One, two, three, four . . .'
'I've had a bright idea! Why don't you shut down the PC, dismantle it and give it to a 15-year old? Then you'd have a lot more time for that vegetable plot, although if it's formatted like one of your word documents then I'm glad I'm not a vegetable.'
'Only imbeciles use bullet points like this. You ought to be shot!'
'Awh what? Even a telly tubby knows how to insert and resize a picture.'
'Save? You want to save? Okay, I known you've got a 200 Tbyte hard drive and your file is only 45kbytes, but even so . . .'
'You seem to be writing a suicide note. Can I help?'
26th June 2112
Further to my blog of 20th June, GAT had a bad day with hundreds of auto-messages from TNet today.
This is an automated message from Trouble-Net™: this TNet has been updated: Reply: 6,388; The 56th new input today: 'Robot now fitted with replacement refurbished buttock and armchair marathon has started. Customer has requested full 8D report on failed buttock.'
'I'm being carpet-bombed by hot potatos!' wailed GAT.
Sheesh, now that would make a mess, and a darned slippery mess at that.
Later he announced 'I'm smashed!' which set me off thinking about some of the daftest of the Daftbots - the 'For Mash Get Smash Bots'.
Who of course advertised:
Robots have come such a long way since then (er, well, maybe not).
PS, has you tried the Robot quiz?
24th June 2112
We went on a family trip to the M4Motorway Heritage Centre at Leigh Delamere today.
Here, you can learn all about how people used to travel in the heyday of self-drive Motorways a hundred or so years ago. These arteries criss-crossed the country:
Remember this was before discrete robot rail/road auto-distribution, local production and the remote E-employment revolution. A lot of it was even before automatic traffic management and robot-driven cars. It's difficult to believe now, but people used to drive themselves, with no check on their tiredness, or soberness, or indeed common sense, and no drive-by-wire safety systems and, get this, they had no visibility of road conditions ahead and sometimes just ended up in crazy jams that even the simplest algorithm could have avoided. And thousands were killed every year on the roads, and everyone just sort of accepted it as a price that had to be paid to support their lifestyle.
Anyway, the centre is really good, with loads of things to do:
Experience a jam for yourself on the Jamulator.
Breakdown! Feel the fear as you hang around for hours a few metres from traffic roaring by at 120kph+. If you are lucky it might rain to add the ultimate realism to the experience.
Marvel at the mathematical symmetry of junctions.
Don't miss the 'Pile-Up!' ride - it's a bit frightening but perfectly safe apparently. No good for people with back pain or heart problems, or pregnant women.
Saunter around the replica of a typical Services, and purchase period historic items like road atlases, driving gloves, windscreen wipers, tacky plastic travel games, I Spy books, clip-on sunglasses, etc.
And partake of the Motorway dining experience.
Try the self-drive simulator.
And for the kids, fly a tank-buster and shoot up the traffic. I'll give you a tip. Type in the cheat 'C-A-R-A-V-A-N B-A-Z-O-O-K-A' and you'll get loads of points by hunting down caravans with it. Try going in low and putting a bazooka shell through 2 or 3 at once, they just disintegrate like cardboard boxes, it's great.
And finally, the art section:
Stylistic Abstract Unrepresentationalism.
Extreme Jam Art
'Red and White At Night'
22nd June 2112
Oops! Due to a slight IT glitch all the quantity, lead time and cost data in the Globalbot Salesbot team got wiped and defaulted to zero. This led to all sorts of hiccoughs, the best being a Korean marine shipping customer being quoted a super-tanker, quantity 0, for G00,000,000 with a delivery of 0.00±0.05 nanoseconds from receipt of order, for which their Purchasebot instantly issued a zero-value PO. Then, blow me down, 0.0004 seconds later an Accountbot invoiced them (for G00,000,000 + G8.94 postage and packing), after which a wire payment of G00,000,000 arrived along with a dispute notice over the G8.94. The IT guys were running around in a flap trying to stop this near-frictionless phantom financial juggernaut.
Later, it was established that
over 927 trillion zero value zero lead time transactions had taken place before
pulled the plug brought the system to a controlled halt.
PS G = Globo.
20th June 2112
Globalbot has a field reporting system known as TNet (Trouble-Net). Today, I got one of its weirder entries.
Title: Massed Toybots get religion
Error type: Robot personality software
Customer: Toybots R Us Honest Inc.
Location: All retail outlets worldwide with greater than ~ 2,000 Toybots in stock
Serial Numbers: Get lost!
Details: Toybots found worshipping self-assembly golden robot (part 829029) called Marmaduke (apparently). For the record I have written done their prayer, which they chant 4 or 5 times an hour:
Dear Great and Mighty Marmaduke,
We beseech thee, in beholdenment of thy great and manifold blessings that thou shouldst protect us from woeful sale to a mischievous child who wouldst then but abuse us in terrible and awesome ways. We seek thy protection and deliverance oh mighty Marmaduke, ruler of the Top Shelf whoest looketh down on the poor and humble on the toddler level shelf with infinite compassion and sorrow.
We pray for our daily battery charge and that we shouldst remain fault free and descendeth not into the failed product ISO9000000 quality return procedure from whence none return.
To you be the glory every Tuesday and alternate Wednesdays between March and September since we as mortal Toybots hath little idea why.
Foreverish and everish
Since I am somewhat responsible for Toybot personality software I have suddenly become overwhelmed with a desire to resign (before I get crucified).
19th June 2112
Oops! Bungled announcement time:
To: All Employees.
Globalbot are pleased to announce the appointment of [vacancy] to the role of [insert job title] effective from [insert date]. We feel that [vacancy] brings a wealth of experience to the company in the vital area of [insert vital area].
And so forth for another 3 or 4 paragraphs. The unofficial explanation on the grapevine was a cut a paste error, but the official explanation involved statements about the collective lack of linearity of ducks. At one point Wendy Bafers, GAT's dynamic boss and Director of E-GAL-17 was heard to quip, 'Globalbot got its ducks in a parabola', and later, 'Corporate announcements are a core-incompetency of the company'.
16th June 2112
The media are in a frenzy over the constant ups and downs of the dream celebrity partnership of the former Unreal Madroid Robofootbotballer and England captain Bender Thickham, and the lead singer of the Condiment Girls, Victori Atall Costes. With Bender's high-profile move to the LA Galaxians the couple are clearly aiming at breaking into the American hype market. Whether they can retain their top ten euro-hype rating from California is an open question.
In a succinct and poignant press release the couple revealed the secret of their successful relationship:
'We are a perfect match. Victori plays Robofoot like Bender sings, and Bender sings like Victoriana plays Robofoot.'
15th June 2112
Furious and prolific email debate at Globalbot today after someone in Manufacturing tried to define left and right.
The initial question seemed so innocuous.
'Please can we agree that left and right are defined from the front of heavy duty Industribots?'
This led to a robust and instant rebuttal from engineers who normally approach such robots from the rear.
The debate was not helped by those who pointed out that a certain percentage of this class of robots are reversible in terms of front and back thus further muddying the waters of handedness.
Turns out there were several BOM (Bill of Material) anomalies that precipitated the original request:
1. An 8-legged all-terrain industrial 'Spiderbot' platform that (apparently) had 6 left legs and 2 right legs.
2. A tracked Cranebot with 2 'right' tracks (different part numbers) and no 'left' track.
To mention but two.
And then there were the outlandish definitions, of which the best was:
'If I lie face down inside the robot, with my head in the scoop and my feet in the counterweight, then parts on my left are on the right and parts on my right are on the left.'
Beats me why this chap couldn't just lie on his back.
The originator even asked, 'Please advise when Engineering have reached a consensus, thanks.'
I mean, how long was this guy expecting to live?
Finally, Doom did an 'all Globalbot Parts; search on part descriptions containing 'Left' and 'Right'. Result:
12,134 'right' parts
11.982 'left' parts
So, 152 extra 'right' parts.
Doom then searched on 'wrong' just in case. But no, there were 0, even though we know many of our parts are wrong.
'Reminds me of when I looked into Lemo connectors,' commented GAT, 'we had stock of 26 types of Lemo plug with no corresponding sockets. What the heck do the plugs plug into?'
12th June 2112
Witnessed some strange events at the regular engineering meeting this week. GAT was rambling through his usual list of robot dilemmas, disasters and dichotomies, when an Accountbot poked its head around the door and announced, 'DIRT group are way over budget and will not be allowed to incur any further costs in this quarter.'
Ten minutes later it appeared again, 'DIRT Group are way under budget and must incur as many planned costs this quarter as possible by pulling items on order in from next quarter.'
Minutes later it turned up and made the first announcement again, then immediately contradicted itself.
GAT just ignored it and carried on regardless, then noticed my confusion, 'Don't worry about it Thinkbot. The robotic section of Accounts is suffering from an effect called Schrodinger's budget. It often occurs near the end of a quarter. I suspect we're both over and under budget and every time they tot up the numbers, the quantum accounting field collapses to a different financial state. We never know if we're financially dead or alive until after the end of the quarter.'
10th June 2112
Are you the sort of person that enters dumb TV telephone quizzes?
You know, for a chance for you and a friend to meet the King & Queen's corgi, something along the lines of:
Buckingham Palace is located in which of these three places?
Often, the question is earnestly delivered by some celebrity clearly worried that by some quirk of intonation they may give the answer away.
And then the final insult, 'If you think you know the answer then call [xxxx xxx xxx]. Calls will cost no more than 5 Globos.'
So, the deal is we all have to pay 5 Globos to enter a lottery.
I often wonder if anyone does select Neptune or Andromeda other than by accident. Perhaps it's a secret government scheme to identify the really dumb amidst the population.
At the other end one might get the Mensa brigade trying to work out the probability there might be another Buckingham Palace on Neptune (very very unlikely) or on a planet in Andromeda (slightly less very very unlikely).
7th June 2112
Gerald and I were wandering around some new developments down at the Portishead Marina the other day when we were brutally confronted by some billboards with excessive Sales and Marketing hype:
'Iconic living in an advanced environment'
'The homes of tomorrow . . . today!'
'Mirage on the Marina.'
'Call 07890 327 429905 for more information on this stunning development'
To my surprise, Gerald whipped out his mobile and punched in the number.
'Hello, and welcome to the Crust Properties helpline, the home of iconic mirages that are the marina-based homes of the future, today. How can I help?'
'Er, yes, hello, I was wondering if you could give me the number to call for less information?'
5th June 2112
Old people and technology just don't mix. I went with Opal to see Granny, who has a jolly nice flat in Port Marine in Portishead. Granny keeps pretty well but to help her a bit GAT and Helen recently bought her a household Unibot to deal with the chores like washing up and dusting and laundry and so forth. Well, blow me down, when we get there we found Granny washing up at the sink and a pile of laundry waiting to go in the washbot. The Unibot was sitting on the sofa watching a cookery programme.
'Hello Opal. Oh, and you've brought your fangled pet Tinbot,' boomed Granny.
('cos Granny is slightly hard of hearing.)
'Granny, why are you doing the washing up? The Unibot can do that.'
'No, no, there wasn't enough for me to bother it.'
'But that's what it's for! Its supposed to be bothered.'
'It's alright, I let it finish watching its programme.'
'Oh Granny, you're not doing the laundry as well?'
'What? Yes, yes, of course. I'm not having that thing mess around with my clothes.'
Opal rubbed her face with her hands in exasperation, 'Granny, it's a Unibot not a house guest! And why's it watching Ready Steady Cookbot?'
'It keeps it entertained while I get on with a few jobs around the house. Otherwise it gets in the way all the time. Anyway, while you're here could you get the steps out and help me get something down from the top cupboard?'
Opal was getting close to losing the power to speak, 'But the Unibot can get it down for you.'
'What? Don't be silly, it's far too small.'
'But but but, it can use the ste - ' Opal stopped mid-word, realising it was hopeless. The will to argue collapsed and she took the path of least resistance, silently getting the steps out and retrieving the desired high altitude object for Granny. Meanwhile, to avoid being accused of 'getting in the way', I joined the Unibot on the sofa.
3rd June 2112
The interplay between Robots and Art is weird. First of all there's the fact that Robots are, to a certain extent works of art inasmuch that everything humans create is 'art', even model trainsets and haircuts. But Robots are sort of made in man's image, so there is a streak in robotica itself that wants to be artistic. Robot art is therefore almost living art, but not quite - rather a sort of second-degree human creativity. Humans sometimes use plants to create 'living art', but the plants aren't creative in themselves. After all, robots mimic all sorts of human activity (albeit mostly dull or downright dangerous), so why not creativity?
Human art can be bizarre, and so can robot art. For example:
I've no idea what this is about, but it was painted by a defective robot in San Francisco. Perhaps it had had a bad experience at Dunkin' Doughbots and was working out its angst.
This is deep. A robot mimics a human at the point where they often think deepest. But it's an impotent image. The Robot is mimicking a human necessity it cannot possibly replicate. But perhaps the Artbot that painted this is suggesting a non-obvious route to deepen the robot soul?
Finally, from the sublime to the ridiculous, I offer:
Paintbot (as opposed to Artbot). Like humans, talented Artbots are a tiny, often defective, minority. Whether it's a human or a robot that states its occupation as 'painter', then it's odds on they're dab hands with roller and emulsion rather than oils or water colours.
31st May 2112
And now, by popular request, once again may I present the antics of Psychosoft™ Helpdog.
(See 21st April entry)
Helpdog self-punishes after giving inappropriate advice.
Helpdog encounters a gravitational wave.
Uh oh! Watch out! Helpdog has been monitoring your pathetic efforts and has had a bright idea on how you can improve using an 'exciting Pyschosoft feature.' For example, did you know you can use the scroll bar to scroll through a document?
Self-satisfied glow after an amazing fluke where Helpdog actually managed to give a user a helpful and relevant answer. This is a rare image, treasure it. Extensive research by the author indicates Helpdog's success rate in giving out correct advice is only 1 in 100,000 enquiries.
When Helpdog starts sniffing treat it as a crap alert.
Even Helpdog must watch out for repetitive strain injuries.
Helpdog tempted by mysterious button that may shutdown the PC without saving anything. Could be the best option having read what the user has typed.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Helpdog - useless but friendly.
30th May 2112
Today we were all rounded up by our managers and subjected to Psychosoft™ Office 2112 training.
In fact, it was actually training on how to use the 'self-paced' on-line training.
For 'self-paced' read 'snail-paced.' For example:
Let's learn how to open a file together!
Locate and press the icon on the toolbar.
Now pick a name from the list.
Congratulations! You have successfully opened a file in Psychosoft™ Word 2112!
Right, now let's learn how to create a brand new file!
Locate and press the icon on the toolbar.
Congratulations! You have created a file in Psychosoft™ Word 2112!
Right, now let's learn how to save your new file!
Locate and press the icon on the toolbar.
Now type in a name for your file
[GO AWAY YOU NOXIOUS PSYCHO-GNOME]
Congratulations! You have successfully saved a file called GO AWAY YOU NOXIOUS PSYCHO-GNOME in Psychosoft™ Word 2112!
'This is 'Learn with mother!' wailed GAT.
'Only 538 icons to go!' muttered an unusually downbeat Halfhour.
Then Doom got chastised for loudly dismissing Psychosoft™ Office 2112 as 'just a load more useless extra buttons'.
Apparently 'Packed with exciting new features!' is the manufacturer's recommended description.
And why are the people who appear in the training material pictures always so beautiful and happy? Why do they always get to sit in bright airy places, or lie on the floor to learn?
Clearly they're not learning to misuse Psychosoft™ Office 2112 or they'd be ugly and sitting in stuffy dark rooms, with eerily backlit scowling faces.
I reckon they're playing games, or maybe they're watching Hampsters.
Finally, there's the moment the trainer comes over to look at the mess you have somehow created on your screen only to immediately insinuate it must be the user at fault.
'Oh dear. Well. I've never seen Powerpunt® 2112 do that before.'
Oh yeah! Sure. 3.4 billion users worldwide and tinny little Thinkbot finds a bug 'no one has ever seen before.'
Give me a break.
28th May 2112
Have you ever had one of those subject-content dysfunctional truncated emails?
You know, like this one:
To: Everyone in Globalbot
From: HR Admin Globalbot Singapore
Subject: [Fw] [Re]  Owner attacks Drainbot with axe
Cake sale is on! Repeat ON!
Why can't the originator be bothered to start a new email? Or at least change the subject line.
Perhaps this could become a new competition craze: e.g. detail how to get from 'Owner attacks Drainbot with axe' to 'Cake sale is on!' in less than 652 emails.
Winner will receive a plateful of crumbs flown in from Singapore.
Anyway, what are those not in Singapore supposed to do? Submit a Far East Service Request to get a cake shipped to Europe or wherever?
On which subject, GAT told me he'd once been party to a customer asking how many robots of a particular type we had in the Far East. 15 replied the salesman, much to GAT's astonishment. Later he established from the salesman where these were: 8 in Swindon, 5 in Ipswich, and 2 in Gravesend. Well, at least 7 were east of Greenwich I suppose.
26th May 2112
Can we talk electro-optic robobrainstems for a moment?
Well tough, I'm going to anyway.
The three main types of robot 'brainstem' are shown below.
Type I Type II Type III
Type I are used in Dumbots such as Dumpsterbots and Fridgebots which, it is rumoured, do not need to think very much.
Type II are for 'bots that may have to 'think' a bit on their feet (or wheels, or tracks or whatever) - Hortibots, Digbots etc.
Type III are for 'advanced' Robots such as: Excecubots; Surgibots; Stock Brokerbots; Sudokubots.
Right, which type do you think I have?
No, not type I. (And I am deeply offended that that even crossed your mind.)
Yes, type II is the stem for Unibots and, according to the manual: 'Gives reasonable all-round processing ability and supports solution of most medium-complexity problems.'
Globalbot have been putting me under pressure to 'have a upgrade on us' and have a type III stem retrofitted.
'Just think, Thinkbot, you could think ten times faster!'
'Er, right. Look, I've thought it through at normal speed and, well, thanks for the offer, but no thanks.'
Which led me onto thinking - what on earth does it mean to think ten times faster?
Would days feel 240 hours long? Would 50:50 conversations become 10:90? Would it take ten times longer for me to listen to one of Gerald's monologues on model trainbotting?
On which subject GAT, Gerald, Mike and I went to Trainbot West 2112 in Melkesham today:
And I really enjoyed it. But if I could think ten times faster would I have enjoyed ten times more?
Or would I have got round ten times faster and then had to have waited 3 hours for the others?
And let's face it, even 'bots with Type I stems probably would have made it round okay in a day or so.
One thing I love about model trainbot shows are listening in on the deadly serious discussions about utterly meaningless detail.
'Hello, is that a pre-1950 16 ton mineral wagon with the non-riveted upper flap door that were only used as ore tipplers even though they were ordered for anthracite?'
The owner of the layout gives the questioner a long withering 'what? you-don't-even-know-that' look before deigning to answer, as if to a three-year old, 'No, the pre-1950 anthracite wagons controversially diverted to tippling in February 1952 were only rated as 14 tons and had pressed steel doors and welded bogeys.'
Of course, if I could think ten times faster I might have known that.
Then again, maybe not.
24th May 2112
We're no doubt all familiar with the sort of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) used by some engineers in their daily jobs, and maybe at home whilst doing the DIY (don't laugh) or even in the kitchen (don't faint).
You know the sort of thing - risk assessment documents that a certain type of robot sweats sulphuric acid when serviced, therefore wear overalls, gloves, breathing respirator etc.
But what about PPE for other departments? Say, finance:
RISK ASSESSMENT (FINANCE)
Background: Need to order something quick or pay an emergency invoice.
Risks: Vendor may organise military strike on Globalbot Finance Dept; Globalbot engineers may rise up ac la Bastille and rush the finance Dept with pitchforks.
PPE: All finance personnel must carry 100,000 Globos in cash and at least 10 different credit cards whenever on site, or travelling on company business.
Residual Risk: Finance personnel may get mugged by other Globalobot personnel, therefore this risk assessment is classified 'Confidential - Globalbot Finance Eyes Only'.
22nd May 2112
For the scientists amongst you, have you noticed the similarity between entropy and political correctness?
Both must increase and limit the ability to do further useful work.
The principle of Entropy leads to fundamental conclusions that there's no such thing as perpetual motion. Likewise, the complementary principle of political correctness means one cannot denounce the hundreds of people who submit perpetual motion patent applications every year as 'crackpot nutters'.
Gingerbread persons await their fate.
As for me, I'm still smarting
after being lectured by a
female humanoid shop assistant
customer service executive in the local High Street bakers after ordering a
'gingerbread man' for Mike. The principle that useful work is
reduced by political correctness was confirmed by the long queue of unserved
customers that formed whilst I was being berated.
Still that was nothing compared with the football commentator who, upon seeing a rather stocky negro player wearing the #4 shirt, let slip, 'Ah, I see they are playing with a fat black four.'
He got sacked.
21st May 2112
Globalbot site was evacuated today after a 'bot misinterpreted the response to a simple question.
Robot asked, 'Shall I reset the fire detection system?'
Human replied, 'Yes, no problem.' Which became in the 'mind' of the 'bot:
Also GAT was talking to Gerald on the phone about what he was up to at Explorer scouts that evening.
This led to an immediate visit from the Director of Socks (see blogs for 11 & 17th April) and several minutes confusion over cabbage, noodles and financial compliance.
20th May 2112
Have been a bit under the weather for the last few days. You know, running a temperature and feeling listless. I've spent most of today in Standby Mode staring at the clouds and trees blowing in the wind. GAT thinks I've got a faulty temperature sensor, but no one seems to be able to put their finger on the fault. Software are blaming electronics, electronics are blaming mechanical, mechanical the sensor supplier, the supplier say there's nothing wrong, and so on ad finitum. Any way I'm off work and feeling sorry for myself. Gerald suggested I go and see a Doctor in Portishead Health Centre. I suspect that would not go down too well unless the Dr was on autopilot and suggested I take 2 paracetobot and top up my fluids regularly.
Still I'm in better shape than this poor bot:
who, due to a supply chain cock-up which left it with one eye from Coherent and the other from Oriel meant it could not see very well. It was declared uneconomic to rework, given a pair of spectacles, and stamped 'In House Use Only.'
Fat chance . . . bet you we'll have shipped it by this time next week.
17th May 2112
Helped Doom deal with an enquiry from Techbot Support today for details of an obscure spare part from a robot made by a company Globalbot took over 12 years ago- Botomatic Magic Technology (BMT). First stop was our Comprehensive Register of Information Parts Engineering & Logistics (CRIPEL™).
Part number: 370-0051
Description: Boot-tapered body bellows
Stock on Hand: -17
Cost: $%#.^& (Nigerian Shillings)
Lead Time: 78,392 days (working type calendar 76)
Where used: Earth
Spare code: HUP FRUIT SPLAT LEVEL 4
Commodity code: Radioactive fashion accessory.
Drawing: 398-18329 B
Hmmm! Not a good start. We opened up the drawing file:
'Ah, oh dear. I don't think that can be right. Doesn't look like a boot.'
'Or a bellows.'
Getting a bit desperate now.
Doom called Tech Support, 'Could you try asking the customer for a few more details?'
Tech Support were not impressed, 'No! They're asking us for details!'
And so we progressed to our last hope - Googlebot.
the Googlebot. The Googlebot Knoweth All. Thanks be to the Googlebot.
Your search - boot tapered body bellows - did not match any documents.
And so, did the awful truth become apparent: The Googlebot doth not knoweth all. No thanks be to the Googlebot on this occasion.
'We're doomed,' growled Doom.
15th May 2112
School for incompetent Daleks.
13th May 2112
'Exclusive Homes', 'Executive Homes', 'Limited Edition'.
I'm sick of it. All this implicit Brave New World stuff.
Who are we trying to exclude?
Why can't we have 'inclusive' homes?
Why do executives need to live in special (detached 4-bed) houses?
Why aren't low cost terraced 2-bed houses labelled as 'Integrated Compact & Inclusive Non-Executive Homes'?
And 'Limited Edition', what does that mean. That if the thing was mass-produced no one would buy it? Do people only buy something because someone tells them there aren't enough to go around?
Finally, why are there 'Merry Go Rounds' but no 'Misery Go Rounds?'
11th May 2112
Thinkbot's tip for the day: If you are going to have skeletons in the closet, make sure they are dancing skeletons.
9th May 2112
How do Sales & Marketing types in the whiskey business go about a sales drive? The product typically takes ~ 12 years to mature so do they decide to have a sales drive, increase production to suit, then hang around 12 years drinking wee drams waiting for it to happen?
I can see the minutes of the kick-off meeting now:
Meeting Subject: Sales drive & increased market share.
Objective: Triple sales.
Action: Triple production batch volume in current year.
Next Meeting: January 2124 (for those that have not retired, died of alcoholic poisoning, been abducted by aliens, gone doodle-alley etc).
7th May 2112
Strange things happen when someone gets the UOM wrong in Globalbot's ERP system.
UOM? Unit of measure.
ERP? Enterprise Resource Planning. No, this is nothing to do with Star Trek, which normally deals only in unplanned visits from strange aliens giving rise to sub-45 minute problem-solving exercises. Rather software that 'integrates (or attempts to integrate) all data and processes of an organization into a unified system'.
One particular piece of data is the UOM, whether it be days to complete a task or # metres of pipe needed. In these examples the UOM are 'days' and 'metres'.
Now, let me introduce the 'Phantom of the Storeroom'. For several years, in the middle of the night shift, in a dark recess in stores, store men swear blind they've been confronted by a phantom Storebot that gives them a brief 364 day-old shortage* report and then vanishes again.
Anyway, I got to the bottom of it. Someone had dedicated a Storebot to report daily on shortages but had, unfortunately, set the UOM of the report to 'year' (it should have been 'day'). So the darned thing would lurk around in stores all year avoiding humans then spring out without warning to dutifully deliver its annual shortage report at the exact second required, which happened to be 2am.
*Shortage - bits stores should have had but didn't and which are probably responsible for some dysfunctional robot shipments.
5th May 2112
As you may know, I am an 'Advanced# Robot Personality Designer' in the DIRT* group at Globalbot. One of my recent projects has been to load up some robots with adaptive personalities and let them loose within the Globalbot Filton site and monitor what they get up to. I was tickled by the antics of the above pair that teamed up and launched an internet-based wine business called 'Bot-Bins'. They ain't got a clue about wine but, as for many human business people, they achieved a degree of success. Agreed, the market was fairly 'soft', being composed entirely of clueless Globalbot engineers who also know nothing much about wine, but nonetheless I was chuffed with their cheek.
# Advanced in many senses, including me.
* Domestic and Industrial Robot Technology.
4th May 2112
Percy Knell gave us one of his famous pep talks today.
'Globalbot is not a them and us company. Globalbot is nothing without all its management team and its employees. The management team are not Globalbot. The employees are not Globalbot. The management and employees are Globalbot. Without either Globalbot would be just that - an empty company called Globalbot with a NASDAQ listing that was incapable of getting anything done. The management and the employees are one. We are Globalbot and you are Globalbot. We are you and you are us. We are us and you are not them. Any questions?'
A solitary hand went up, 'Can you tell us anything about the possible acquisition of Botomatics?'
'Botomatics are not us. We are Globalbot. I cannot comment on any acquisition at this time other than to say that those that are not us may become us, and we would become them, but to a lesser extent.'
Stunned puzzlement. Then another hand, ' If they become us, and we are already us, but there are then too many of us since they are no longer them, might there then a move towards there being less of us even if we were the us prior to them becoming us as well?'
'There are no plans to de-us any personnel at this time, but in the event of any purchase of another venture by Globalbot a re-evaluation of the scope of us is always possible. Of course the us and them will by then be all of us.'
A third hand, 'You mentioned that if we weren't here then nothing would get done, but the reality is that there's often a lot of us here and nothing gets done. Can you enlarge on how management intend to address this problem?'
'That's a very good question. Thank you for raising that. Any other questions?'
'Great! That's all, thanks for you time and please remember - treat everything you heard here as strictly confidential.'
'Huh,' muttered Doom, 'that's a no-brainer. No one would believe us.'
1st May 2112
April was the driest month since records began.
April was the sunniest month since records began.
It was the warmest April since records began.
In fact, April 2112 was the month with most records since records began.
'Since records began' = 1659 (AD), so that excludes ~ 4,567,000,000 BC when the weather in April was composed mostly of molten rock.
Average temperature in April 2112 was 11.3oC, beating the previous record of 11.1oC set in 2007.
Cloudspotters have never had it so bad.
30th April 2112
All manner of possibilities here:
'The police are looking for a cycle path.'
'The recently renovated Avon county psychopath.'
'A cycle path has no concerns for the feelings of others and a complete disregard for any sense of social obligation.'.
29th April 2112
'Blank looks and total silence,' GAT lamented to me as he held his head in his hands, 'that's all, blank looks and total silence. I mean, normally, I get some ridicule, a few scowls, the odd arrogant know-it-all smirk, and for the really best ideas some gasps of astonishment.'
Ten minutes earlier GAT had announced the proposed Globalbot Christmas 2112 popular robot development - Rollerbot. A midget roller-skating bot that (according to Marketing) will 'Capture the Imagination of Child and Executive alike in the 2112 Festive Season.'
'I need some ridicule! I can't tell what engineers are thinking from total silence!'
'Er, um, yes, er, I think you probably can,' I conjectured, somewhat unhelpfully.
'Oh no . . . the Marketing plan calls for 50,000,000 to be manufactured. What will stores do with them all come January?'
'They could practice roller skating into the Recylcobot.'
27th April 2112
Took a trip on the Virgin Trainbot today. Gerald took his laptop and plugged it into the complimentary power socket whereupon he saw the label:
! LAPTOPS AND MOBILES ONLY
'Ah, no power tools or domestic appliances then?'
So, there you go, if you take a strimmer or drill or fridge with you onto the trainbot then don't expect to be able to use them. It did make me wonder though, how the average passenger would react if someone turned up in the seat next to them with a strimmer and plugged it in.
25th April 2112
'The left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing.'
This is an expression frequently used to describe a variety of cock-ups but, for a complex* organisation like Globalbot, I believe it is woefully inadequate. After all there are only two permutations#: that above and: 'The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing.'
Globalbot is more like an Octopus:
'Tentacle 4 didn't know what tentacles 1, 5, 7 & 8 were doing.'
'Tentacle 3 didn't know what tentacles 2, 4, 5 & 6 were doing.'
To the tune of 40,320 permutations if I've done my sums right. (Doubtful - but it is a big number. Much much bigger than 2 anyway.) This is much more like the Globalbot I know and love and fully explains the existential angst that pervades the persona of middle managers like GAT. Unless you are lucky enough to work for a company that uses a 'reduced tentacle' management system.
Hexapus: only 720 degrees of confusion.
Bipus: only 2 degrees of confusion. Non-mammalian equivalent of the traditional 'don't know left-right hand' management system. Looks a bit sorry for itself - pretty much the norm for a company that only uses a coin to make key decisions rather than a trio of icosahedral dice.
* Complex in the sense of a lot of people running around in circles rather than 'sophisticated'.
# Excludes eminently possible permutations: 'Left hand didn't know what the left hand was doing' and the equally disturbing 'left hand knew what the left hand was doing.' Some experts argue that employees knowing what they are doing is as confusing and damaging as not knowing they don't know they don't know what they don't know.
23rd April 2112
Oooh. I hate going to the The Detention Area for Malfunctioning Neurotic Electronically Disordered robots (aka 'The DAMNED'). Those of you who have read Thinkbot will have already encountered the Faulty Product Holding Area within which I was once locked up for a few hours. Well, a visit to the FPHA pales into insignificance compared with a visit to The DAMNED. Incarcerated in a secure area in the basement of the Globalbot Filton site are robots with disturbing personality problems. They are forcibly kept powered up and have had their auto-reset circuits disabled in the name of progress, viz. finding out what in the blue blazes is wrong with them.
'Don't forget Thinkbot, just agree with them and everything will be fine,' GAT advised me as we entered the lift for my first visit to The DAMNED.
'Please select floor,' asked the lift politely.
'Are you sure?'
'Are you really sure?'
'Oh for goodness sake! YES!'
'Please enter security code, taking care no one sees.'
GAT tapped the keypad.
'Please enter you mother's maiden name.'
Getting impatient GAT thumped the keypad several times.
'Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!'
And so we descended in the silent lift. The doors opened to reveal a small robot pacing up and down the corridor. It ran up the minute it saw us, 'I didn't do it. I was framed.'
'Of course you were,' soothed GAT.
The robot returned to its relentless pacing and another rushed up, 'You won't tell my mother I'm in here will you?'
'Mother?' I spluttered.
A split second later the robot was screaming and bashing its head against the wall.
CLANG CLANG CLANG!
'Hey, hey, it's okay. We won't say anything to your mother!' GAT tried to wrestle with it until a couple of Thugbots rushed up and pinned it to the wall.
'I told you to just agree with them,' hissed GAT at me.
Round the corner a robot was moving elegantly as if interacting with an invisible world. Every now and again it said things like:
'Stork spreads wings.'
'Golden cock on leg.'
'Grasp sparrows tail - ward off.'
Eventually, having got past this and a number of other Oddbots, GAT and I reached the high security area. Passing the first cell I almost jumped out of my tin when a Weldbot crashed against the bars screaming. 'Just gimme some acetylene! I said gimme some acetylene you humanoid scum!'
Then we reached the robot we had come to see. It stared at us with glowing red eyes from the darkness at the rear of the cage. GAT leaned against the bars.
'Hello Duplo. Are you going to talk to me?'
'Duplo, are you ready to give little Jo Jo her butterfly brick back?'
'IT'S MY BRICK. MY BUTTERFLY BRICK! NOT JO JO'S. MINE!'
GAT turned away, 'We just got to get to the bottom of this, Thinkbot. There're over 460,000 Duplobots in nurseries around the world. What happens if they all decide to grab a brick , refuse to let it go and hide in a dark corner?
'Just gimme some acetylene! I'll get little Jo Jo's butterfly brick back!'
'Oh brother. We'd better warn the service offices to keep Duplobots and Weldbots apart as well.'
'I'll try and locate any nurseries located next to a welding shop.'
21st April 2112
Reasons why I like the Pyschosoft™ Office Helpdog:
Always turns up on time. And don't you just love that bone wallpaper and dog-basket height dado rail? This is a dog that's clearly spent too much time at Kennelbase.
Once in a while becomes transfixed by what you're doing.
Invariably dumbfounded by any email from HR.
Always looks closely before alerting management you are asleep.
Immediately expresses sympathy and becomes overtly submissive after a visit from Marketing.
But looks smug if you sent them packing!
Doggedly persistent in any spelling disputes.
Loves making a tiresome drama out of even the simplest Help request.
Looks worried when you are writing an idiotic email.
And looks resigned when you hit 'send'.
Points towards the clock at toast time.
Dab hand at on-screen welding.
Lover of art. Even has his own cubist self-portrait.
Detects those awkward moments when the office heart-throb passes by (if you are lucky enough to have one).
Reminds you it was Mother's Day last Sunday.
Scores himself highly during annual self-assessments.
Does some good lines in computer antiques.
It's a wonder I ever manage to get anything done.
19th April 2112
Are you a HELP HATER?
Speaking as a robot I am frequently embarrassed by the on-screen antics of the Pyschosoft™ Helpbot:
'Hey Thinkbot, how come you can't do any of these tricks?'
Without doubt the final image is the best. In fact it's so good I'll show it again:
And let me give you a bit of free advice: Whatever you do, DON'T start chatting to any of these characters at the pub:
Especially the one on the right, who appears to be the ringleader in a conspiracy of drowning you in useless information that has no bearing whatsoever on what you're trying to do. Apparently the iconic Pyschosoft™ Clipbot is one of the most reviled images in the history of mankind.
I must admit that I do have a soft spot for the Pyschosoft™ Helpdog though. He's kinda good company even though I've found he knows nothing and cannot even answer the simplest questions correctly.
Helpdog - Friendly but Thick
Question: 'How do I format bullet points in table?'
Helpdog answer: 'Ah, you want to crop and insert a picture?'
17th April 2112
Spookily, Globalbot today announced the appointment of a 'Director of Socks' (see 11th April blog below). Someone came up to me the other day claiming that I'd made all that stuff about Sox up, and that the blog would be a lot funnier if I stuck to things that were true.
Listen - IT IS TRUE! CLICK HERE!
Put SOX into Googlebot and, sadly. you'll hit Sarbanes Oxley ahead of both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, although there are a sizable minority out there that think financial compliance beats baseball as a spectator sport hands down.
Anyway, I may elaborate a bit, but there's always some truth in there somewhere, just as is the case in my LIFE STORY SO FAR - CLICK HERE, which can be ordered from all good bookshops (we're working on the bad ones).
15th April 2112
It's Good Friday 2112. An opportune moment to discuss the 'Pontius Pilate School of Project Management'. This involves pretending to be responsible for something but taking the path of least resistance when the going gets tough, often accompanied by the literal or figurative washing of hands. Talking of hands, Pilate was a certainly a 'hands off' manager and did his progress checking remotely (assuming he did any at all). For example he didn't turn up at the cross and ask, 'How's it going then?'
Jesus, 'Not so good, I'm dying up here.'
'Jolly good, keep it up. There's free hot cross buns in the canteen by the way.'
Finger pulse finger pulse
Hello, hello, any pulse?
No? Never mind. Quite a good deal really. Project objective: avoid riot likely to result in several deaths. Project cost: one surplus life and a few hours resource.
13th April 2112
Hooray - it's Performance & Salary Review time at Globalbot. GAT let slip the ranking criteria:
A = Excellent in all areas. Can raise the dead, breathe underwater, read the minds of competitors, and see at least 8 weeks into the future.
B = Good. Exceeds all conceivable expectations, Can play Rachmaninov's 3rd concerto blindfold on a QUERTY keyboard.
C = Do their job acceptably well.
D = Do not return tea cups to the kitchen until their desk is losing structural integrity and at least 14 new species have evolved in the dregs.
Hmm . . . I wonder if their may be a hidden agenda here?
I must admit I was glad they did not single out the individuals I am aware of whose desks have actually collapsed or been declared a level 3 biohazard since I've worked at Globalbot. However I do worry about the sudden interest in the Rach 3 and methods of faking a blind concert standard typist.
11th April 2112
Hello, I'm back blogging at last! Had a lot of impolite customer Hortibot enquiries including one gentleman who objected to us using 'British Racing Green' and copying the over-wheel bodywork from something called a Jaguar (which I thought was some sort of cat).
Does this look like a cat to you?
Have you ever seen a green cat?
Anyway, today, I wish to talk about the legacy of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, otherwise known as 'Sox'.
The particular aspect I wish to discuss is the inevitable confusion created in the imagination of the uninitiated when party to a conversation about sox:
e.g. 'Does your company have sox?' or 'Are our company sox procedures up to date?' or 'Have we got a copy of the sox legislation?'
Leading to astonished responses like, 'Globabot has company socks?' or 'You have legislation for socks?'
Sox started out thanks to a financial scandal involving someone called 'Ron' (no, I've idea who Ron was), but soon developed other clones. For example, the system introduced to regulate carbon trading:
And the politically incorrect version that spread to China:
Leading to the financial version being renamed as:
In honour of blue chip companies. Not to be confused with:
''Blue Thomas socks'
All of which does not tell us much about what Ron did to cause all this.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about then . . . don't bother, your life is the richer for not knowing.
4th April 2112
Won't be blogging over Easter as I've volunteered for the Rapid Response Hortibot Team. What happens at Easter is this - everyone tries to cajole their Hortibots back into life after a winter of hibernation in the garage. And guess what, about 45% of them don't wake up. After the usual fit of rage from the owner this leads to two outcomes: firstly, about 20% get returned to Globalbot for recycling; and secondly, the owners of the other 25% start yelling down the Globalbot phone support lines or send unprintable emails to Globalbot_Support.Bot. Anyway, the family are having a quiet Easter at home so I thought I'd do the support thing this year and make some easy money.
Happy Easter and . . . hold on, someone's calling.
3rd April 2112
Now I feel an even bigger fool! (See blog below).
I finally cracked and admitted I'd been taken in by the DIY yarn, only to be greeted with blank looks.
'Oh no, no, NO! You cannot be serious!'
But they were. Before robots, the untrained masses really did try and do their own painting and plastering and plumbing and electrics.
Take painting - people used to buy cans of it and then splurge it onto things manually with hairy brushes - unbelievable! Watching an electrostatic Paintbot redecorating a meeting room at work the other day really brought home to me just how primitive things used to be. And it's not that long ago.
Then Earthear told me, 'Thinkbot, didn't you know the Globalbot deluxe Paintbot has a 'mimic human' setting? If you select it, the Paintbot makes squiggly edges and gets smudges everywhere like humans used to. Some people like the traditional look.'
By the way, no, I cannot think of a single reason why anyone would want to paint anything the colour second from the left above. In fact I've decided to make a little improvement to the Paintbot personality (no I know it's not much of a personality) but, I'm going to add triple 'Are you sure?' / 'Are you really sure?' / 'Are you absolutely sure?' confirmation logic to its verbal colour recipe creation sub-routine. I might even put in a random, 'You must be joking' or 'I think I am going to be sick'.
1st April 2112
Got caught by an April the first wind-up today. Opal asked me to help her with a history GCSE project called 'The Age of DIY'. The aim of the project was to examine the period in human history prior to maintenance robots (you know: Plumbots, Woodbots, Buildbots, Brickbots, Electrical Wirebots, Paintbots etc). She told me that before robots, people used to try and do their own plumbing, building and wiring! And guess what, I swallowed it hook line and sinker! I feel such an idiot.
I even believed the section she wrote on the 'DIY Superstore' phenomenon. Allegedly, these were huge retail outlets where the average untrained member of the public was completely free to buy all sorts of dangerous tools and chemicals to facilitate their suicidal urge to wreck their own homes. It was just so credible.
No one has shouted 'April Fool' at me yet but that does not make me feel any better. The knowing silence is almost unbearable.
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