THINKBLOG March - June 2111
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30th June 2111
renowned robot developer, GAT often gets to go and give lectures at Universities
and conferences. The leading robot lab in Britain is Bristol Robotics
Laboratory. Set up over 100 years ago as a joint venture between the two
Universities in the city, it now employs over 500 researchers and is one of the
leading robot research centres in Europa, if not the the world. However it still
has that delightful eccentric under-funded British feel about it as evidenced
during a recent visit GAT paid them:
BRL Director: 'Have you ever considered a change in your career?'
GAT: 'Er, yes, I have. Industry is a bit wearing at times.'
BRL Director: 'Well, you'd always be welcome here.'
GAT: 'Why, thanks, I'll seriously consider that. I guess it'd be a bit of a salary cut, but maybe I just have to live with that.'
BRL Director, looking perplexed: 'Well, yes, I guess so. It'd be a BYOS post anyway.'
The BRL Director gave GAT the most quizzical look and was clearly trying to make his mind up about whether GAT was serious or winding him up.
GAT: 'Sorry, what's BYOS?' (Jolly good. Keep on digging GAT!)
BRL Director: 'Er, you really don't know? BYOS means bring your own salary.'
GAT: 'Ah, I see, er, I have to fund myself then?'
BRL Director: 'Of course you do, this is a university research lab not a charity.'
GAT is still working at Globalbot.
28th June 2111
UK at a standstill for Wimbledon, which seems to combine the hopelessless of British tennis with the hopefulness of smiling British tennis spectators doggedly hanging around in the rain.
But now everyone's talking about the 'Bwoing' controversy that flared up yesterday on centre-court.
The Sunday papers have had a field day. Sales have rocketed!
What's the 'Bwoing' controversy?
Well, it's all to do with tennis grunting. Yesterday, reigning women's champion Shaliy Mopherova was leading Doreen Hinges in a third round tie 6-3, 5-3 and serving for the match. Then the umpire's gruntometer registered a grunt of 101.2 decibels from Mopherova as she hit a forehand winner. Hinges complained and the umpire, who politely asked Mopherova to 'tone it down a bit.'
(Other players have often complained about Mopherova's grunting in the past, saying it puts them off their game.)
But on the next point Mopherova grunted at 97 decibels again as she served, so Hinges shouted 'BWOING' at 100.5 decibels as she hit a winning return. For a few points we were treated to tennis like no one has ever heard it before: 'GRRRUHH! BWOING! AAURGH! BWOING! AYYGREEEPH! BWOING!'
And thus did Hinges broke Mopherova's serve, whereupon Mopherova started complaining seriously to the perplexed and sweaty umpire.
Mopherova: 'She's not allowed to shout bwoing!'
Hinges: 'It's not against the rules.'
Umpire: 'Please desist from shouting bwoing'
Hinges: 'Only if she stops grunting.'
Mopherova: 'Grunting is part of my game.'
Hinges: 'And bwoing's part of mine.'
Mopherova (high-pitched whining): 'Don't be ridiculous. You've never shouted bwoing before.'
Hinges: 'Well I'm always looking to improve my game .'
Mopherova (losing it and turning bright red, screaming): '$%&@! You $£%^*& COW! $%^&*" BWOING! #@?$&*% BWOING!!!'
Hinges (impressively pressing home her verbal court positioning advantage at the net): 'BWOING BWOING BWOING BWOING BWOING!'
(All this going out live on the BBC of course . . )
The argument rumbled on for 20 minutes and the crowd, although highly entertained/offended at first, eventually started slow hand-clapping and the referee was called. After much debate it was decreed that for every shot where Mopherova grunted, Hinges was allowed to shout BWOING!
And thus, amidst intermittent scenes of silent and grunting bwoinging play, did Hinges beat Mopherova for the first time ever.
Some papers ran stats on how many times Hinges shouted BWOING when Mopherova hadn't grunted and vice versa. The poor umpire didn't stand a chance.
There were no handshakes at the end as a fuming Mopherova stormed of the court yelling 'I am going to carry on grunting.'
Hinges replied, 'Introducing bwoing proved to be the turning point in the match, it's not my business to control what people think.'
26th June 2111
When will someone design software with some common sense?
I have been running a project at Globabot to develop a robotic hand capable of peeling a banana without simultaneously mashing it. The project timings are all done on a Gantt chart.
(A Gantt chart is a popular type of bar chart, that aims to show the timing of tasks or activities as they occur over time. Although the Gantt chart did not initially indicate the relationships between activities this has become more common in current usage as both timing and interdependencies between tasks can be identified.
The initial format of the chart was developed by Henry L. Gantt (1861-1919) in 1910 (see "Work, Wages and Profit" by H. L. Gantt, published by The Engineering Magazine, NY, 1910).) Thanks Wikipedia!
Well, I was chasing up where the parts were for my non-mashing banana robohand, as they were due for delivery this week, only to find none of them had even been ordered! I checked the Gantt chart and, low and behold, the timings for ordering and delivery of the parts were in error by 1000 years. i.e. 'Order Parts' on 10 May 2111 and deliver by 24 June 2111 had, due to a teeny-weeny little typo, actually been scheduled in for 10 May 3111 and 24 June 3111. This is truly software with faith! Faith that the planet will still be here 1000 years hence; faith that bananas have not gone extinct or been eaten by aliens; and, most of all, faith that the project manager could be exhumed from the grave or summoned up from the 'other side' to advise how the prototype was to be constructed and tested. And to cap it all the system popped up the helpful message: 'All parts scheduled for delivery on 24 June 3111 are currently on time.' Phew, well that's a relief!
We have the spell-checker and the grammar-checker, so why can't we have an absurdity checker?
25th June 2111
When I got home from Globalbot this evening I can across a sweaty Mike, aged 5 and who, in spite of the most advanced primary school teaching, can still only talk in capital letters.
'What have you been up to?' I asked.
(Alarm bells should go off at this point. Only the most advanced Primary School physical education programmes get this far by age 5)
'Ah, right, really, are you trying to get get fit?'
'Ah, I see. Well. Why are you sweating then?'
'I'VE BEEN EXERCISING.'
' I know that. But not to get fit?'
'Right, er, so why have you been exercising then?'
'TO RELEASE DOLPHINS.'
As ever with conversations with Mike I was suspicious that I hadn't lost the plot - it had simply never been found in the first place, 'To release dolphins?'
'Er. okay. How did you figure that out?'
'BLUE PETER. SAID SO'
Later I checked with Opal, 'What? Mike's exercising to release dolphins?'
'Yeah,' I confirmed.
'Where did he hear that?'
'Blue Peter,' I replied, at which point Opal had a fit of the hysterics.
'Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!'
I waited patiently for several minutes until this subsided, 'Well?' I asked, somewhat impatiently.
'Blue Peter did a thing about exercise releasing endorphins.'
Later I looked this up on Wikipediabot:
Endorphins are endogenous opioid biochemical compounds. They are peptides produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates, and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a sense of well-being. In other words, they might work as "natural pain killers." Using drugs may increase the effects of the endorphins.
Nothing about dolphins.
22nd June 2111
Paintbot type Om201-2 (often mistaken for a robotic orange pelican)
Mysterious, spontaneous and inexplicable R9.7PAINT4e.4.3907 mural
I hate Mondays. The thing I hate most is the Monday-morning hysterical email from Globalbot Technical Support in the Far East. This is because they are eight hours ahead. So by the time I get into work they've already been fretting for 8 hours trying to unravel whatever has gone amiss over the weekend, usually to to avail. Here is an example:
PRIORITY = INCANDESCENT!!!!! Hot enough to melt the Sun.
FROM: GLOBALBOT INDUSTRIBOT TECHNICAL SUPPORT TAIWAN
cc: GAT, Wendy Bafers
SUBJECT: Paintbot model Om201-2 in a corner again.
In spite of installing your latest software patch R9.7PAINT4e.4.3907, we have had yet another incident of a Paintbot painting itself into a corner at a customer site. Luckily, on this occasion, it did not walk across the wet paint and out through the office area and write-off all the customer carpets, BUT IT DID PAINT A ROBOT MURAL ON A RECENTLY PAINTED WHITE WALL (see attached picture). The customer is extremely unhappy. The Paintbot (serial MM0099000) now appears to have completely locked up and we have spent all day trying to figure out how to connect up a diagnostic cable whilst it is 15m away across a wet painted floor. Our on-site support engineer Lo Hung ended up falling face down on the painted floor. It took over an hour to unstick him and he is now recovering in hospital. The floor will now have to be stripped and repainted as the front of his cleanroom suit is still glued to the floor, and we have no chemical Stripbot available until end next week. Please note that Paintbot MM0099000 was booked to paint a roof elsewhere today so we upset this customer as well by cancelling the job; now their whole new multi-billion globodollar factory project is on hold.
Seems to me, one way or another, we'll definitely end up in court over this one.
Please supply your recovery plan ASAP.
Tech Support Taiwan
Globalbot - Supplier of Incredible Industribots for Today's Toughest Tasks
Then 30 seconds later.
FROM: Wendy Bafers
BafersTO: THINKBOT, GAT
SUBJECT: Paintbot model Om201-2 in a corner again.
My office, NOW!
Wendy Bafers BSc, MRob, PhD, MIRE
General Manager, DIRT,
Filton, Bristol, Europa.
The urge to resign at this point is almost irresistible.
21st June 2111
Had to cope with a minor domestic fracas today. Look I'm a tin robot, yeah, so why do I get involved? Dunno. Guess it's because I'm too human.
It's just that I can see the trouble brewing like a thunderstorm over a Bristol on a sultry August afternoon.
Helen has a dress.
Helen has a polka dot dress.
Helen loves her polka dot dress.
GAT does not love Helen's polka dot dress; you can see it etched all over his face whenever it appears.
And Helen can see it etched all over his face, but will never say anything. Ohhh no . . brooding in silence is the default female response. That and picking the right moment to wear said polka dot dress.
Anyway, GAT and Helen have been invited to Sunday lunch elsewhere.
Helen decides to wear her polka dot dress.
She places herself provocatively in front of GAT, 'How do I look?'
Silence. Every piece of silicon in my body is screaming don't, for all our sakes, DON'T!
But his resolve cracks and he does, 'Awh, you're not wearing that spotty thing are you?'
Oh dear. I should and run at this point, but no I stood transfixed.
'What's wrong with it? You're horrid GAT! It's really nice, isn't it Thinkbot?'
'I, er, well . . .it's great, really great. GAT, you . . er, ought to . . um . .'
Helen starts sounding like she might start crying, 'Oh Thinkbot! Don't tell me you don't like it either.'
GAT attempted a blame transfer, 'Thinkbot, now you've upset Helen. And I was relying on you to be polite.'
Oh, give me a break! In fact give me a few robots with artificial emotions - at least they can be turned off.
20th June 2111
Yippee! Saturday! A day for sitting in the garden, reading, watching football, X-Playbox, wandering down the High Street, gardening, sunbathing, watching the tide come in, hanging about in front of the Esso station, or whatever takes your fancy. Unless, of course, you are school-age and get homework. Opal (GAT's 12-year old daughter) had been given a food survey to do as part of biology coursework. This involved tracking what people ate for a week then discussing it with them and writing it up with some 'analysis'. For the amusement of us all Opal decided to discuss it with GAT at the dinner table in front of one and all.
'Dad, here's what you ate last Thursday according to your personal Datalogbot:
7:05 Another banana
7:12 2 digestive biscuits
9:30 2 bits of VERY buttery toast
13:06 Kit Kat (4-finger version)
18:39 38 raisins
18:45 1 jelly baby (Lime flavour)
19:47 24 peanuts
23:59 Mandarin yoghurt.
GAT visibly slumped under Helen's intensifying stare as Opal read this out.
'Honestly GAT! What sort of a diet is that? You ought to be ashamed of yourself. It's no wonder you get stomach ache and . . and . . your late-night wind problems. You really need to eat properly. Anyone would think I didn't feed you properly.'
Mercifully Helen went off in a huff.
'Comments Dad?' persisted Opal, fingers poised over her palmtop.
'Er, well, I had the second banana because I forgot I'd had the first one. I always need digestives with a cup of tea to deal with the uncontrollable belching. The buttery toast is an island of hope I allow myself to have to get through the first hour and a half at Globalbot every day. I had a Kit Kat for lunch as a cock-up with the Sandwichbot in the canteen meant they only had sweet and sour corned-beef rolls, 270 of them, and the Vendbot was in bits with a service-engineer's backside poking out of it, again. I was putting things away in the kitchen and just fancied the raisins then Mike turned up and offered me the jelly baby.'
'Yeah, I had a lime one too, he won't eat anything green,' interjected Gerald.
'THAT'S BECAUSE THE GREEN ONES ARE SPROUT FLAVOUR. WAYNE TOLD ME THE LIME IS A COVER STORY TO MAKE US EAT GREENS.'
'Shut up Mike.'
Meanwhile, GAT was ploughing on in a tone of resigned determination, 'Then I came across the peanuts in a bowl under the newspapers - they must have left out since last Sunday and were rather damp. And the mandarin yoghurt was going out of date at midnight. I found it when I opened the fridge to put some beer in and it started flashing its labels and demanded to be eaten - PLEASE EAT ME. I GO PAST MY EAT-BY DATE IN 0 DAYS 0 HOURS 2 MINUTES. PLEASE EAT ME. I GO PAST MY EAT-BY DATE IN 0 DAYS 0 HOURS 1 MINUTE 50 SECONDS. PLEASE EAT . . '
'Okay okay Dad! I've got the picture.'
19th June 2111
A puzzle for you. Try and work out the product:
- Lower cost
- Elimination of trail and error design
- Higher throughput
- On-board diagnostics
- First class technical support
- Faster time to market
- Free bottle of whiskey every Christmas
- Reduced lead time
- Easy to use, virtually no training required.
- Enhanced reliability
- Smaller footprint
- Ergonomically designed
- CE compliant
Got it? No?
Well it's ANYTHING™, and is usually accompanied by comments like:
'ANYTHING™ is simply a better solution,' commented XXXXX, VP of Marketing, 'it just makes the customer's life a whole lot easier.'
'Adopting ANYTHING™ is a win-win scenario for both new and existing customers,' added YYYYY CEO.
ZZZZZ, VP of Global Sales assured investors, 'ANYTHING™ is a natural successor to our previous generation of successful ANYTHING™ products which we will continue to offer under an exciting new initiative CLASSIC® ANYTHING™'.
Safe Harbor statement: Everything in the above press release may be total balderdash.
Well, there you go then, ANYTHING is a clear winner, except that it's probably still being designed, or half-built on the shop floor awaiting non-existent first-off parts promised by a desperate supplier who sub-contracted them to a man and his dog in Bogmania, or the prototype has just blown up in the test lab. All these scenarios are possible if Globalbot's anything to go by. In the worst case the product launch press release may well be the first the design group has heard about it.
And for a bonus point, which one in the above list is the odd one out?
Yes, the whiskey of course. Why? Well, apart from the outrageous implication that vital corporate purchasing decisions are swung by yuletide bottles (certainly not true at Globalbot), the whiskey 'product feature' is the only firm quantifiable objective statement in the whole list.
18th June 2111
(Picture of mother-in-law (MIL) is for illustration only. Never, even for the fleetest of moments, would I suggest anyone's MIL looks like this, least of all GAT's.)
It was the Portishead Carnival last weekend. GAT was flummoxed to receive the message : 'Your mother-in-law will be singing in the carnival beer tent at 1pm on Sunday.'
This statement certainly has some comic angles.
'I wonder what she'll be singing?' GAT asked incredulously of no one in particular.
'And will she be dancing on the tables I wonder?' muttered Gerald.
'I doubt it, not after breaking her leg last year. They'd need a winch to get her onto the table, especially after a few pints.'
14th June 2111
The local news Points West ran a report on a 'second world war 2 bomb' found in the old docks area in the centre of Bristol. This totally confused me. Were there 1 or 2 bombs? What happened to the 'first world war 2 bomb'? Did they have world war 2 bombs in the first world war?
This reminded me of a drawing I came across of a development Unibot control circuit. The overall drawing was entitled BRAIN 12. But here's the oddity - no one knows what happened to BRAINs 1-11. I dread to think.
And talking of brains - I found out that Cardiff is the only place in the world it's normal to go into a bar and ask for a pint of brains.
12th June 2111
Apparently GAT was at a school governor's meeting where the budgets of individual departments were under discussion. The drama department was a bit overspent so when the Headmaster said, perfectly seriously, 'I think I need to tell the drama department to get their act together,' everybody laughed. But he looked totally bewildered.
9th June 2111
Halfhour had a long moan about the terrible telephone support we get from one of our key suppliers. 'They're absolutely useless. They always put you on hold and leave you listening to awful music for ages, or you are are diverted straight to an automated voicemail labyrinth, and sometimes they even hang up, but a couple of years ago they were really good, but now . . . what's up GAT?'
Halfhour was staring at GAT who was not only paying attention (rare in itself when Halfhour was droning on) he was looking a bit sheepish.
'Er, yes, um, well . . . I'll forward you am email I got from them.'
Dear Valued Customer Globabot,
This email is to remind you that you opted not to renew your maintenance support contract which expired on 20th June 2109. Since that date Goblatbol engineers have persisted in calling the support line. May we remind you that:
- Any calls that reach our support staff will be placed on indefinite hold.
- Any persistent callers where numbers are identified will be automatically diverted onto an unmaintained automatic messaging system
- Your calls are important to us so we will continue to supply complimentary music
GAT sucked a bit of air between his teeth and rubbed his chin, 'I think this may be relevant, what do you think?'
For once, Halfhour was speechless.
7th June 2111
Sunday - a day of rest, when families relax at home and . . . . argue with each other.
I witnessed the most perstent futile and pedantic argument between Gerald (13) and Opal (12) today.
Gerald, arriving last in the kitchen, asked, 'Anyone had any toast today?'
'No' his family answered in unison.
Gerald tried to put some bread in the toastbot but suddenly flung it across the room, 'Ow, the toastbot's HOT.'
'Yeah, I had a hot pita bread for breakfast,' announces a smug Opal revelling in Gerald's embarrassment.
'Well duh, thanks for lying to me.'
'Did, you said you hadn't done any toast today.'
'Pita bread's not toast.'
'It is if you toast it.'
'Isn't. If you put cardboard in the toaster it wouldn't make it toast.'
'Is, toast is a verb - You TOASTED the pita bread.'
'Isn't, toast is a noun. You ATE your toast.'
etc, for several hours on and off throughout the day.
5th June 2111
Never ask a group of engineers a mystical (or even semi-mystical) question. For example GAT was munching lunch in the Globalbot canteen today reading the paper, when he absent-mindedly asked the assembled company, 'Anyone know anything about the Bermuda triangle?'
The ripostes were instant:
'It's got three sides.'
'It's somewhere near Bermuda.'
'It's got three sides and it's somewhere near Bermuda.'
'It's somewhere near Bermuda and it's got three sides.'
'It's not a triangle, because a triangle only has two dimensions and all the ships and planes that go missing are three dimensional. It's actually a very thin triangular prism. That's a prism composed of two triangular bases and three rectangular sides. It's really a heptahedron.'
'It's got five sides and and it's somewhere near Bermuda.'
On another note some sycophant sales rep mistakenly said to Doom (our dour Russian mechanical designer), 'You stand like a Colossus over modern robotics!'
To which Doom instantly replied dead pan, 'Are you saying I'm overweight?'
3rd June 2111
I was browsing through Gerald's on-line history of Football/Footbot and noticed in the search list something about a robot dance long before Footbots (robot footballers) were ever involved in the game (see What is Robofoot). I looked it up and found this entry:
Crouch, the lanky 6ft 7in England striker who looks like the result of an assignation between Rodney Trotter and an underfed giraffe, is amusing crowd and team-mates alike with his now trademark robot dance.
A lanky crouch? Are you kidding me? And who is Rodney Trotter? 'Ask Jeevesbot' threw up:
Now I'm totally bamboozled. A cross between a toddling pet pig and an underfed giraffe doing a 'robot dance'?
Why isn't he concentrating on playing football. Surely the opposition have long since scored at the other end while all this was going on.
And what's all this '6ft 7in' nonsense. 6 fathoms tall? 1 fathom = 1.83 metres so this half-pig-half-giraffe football creature was over 11m tall. No wonder he had to crouch a lot.
How did he get down the tunnel? I guess he must have got changed at home and climbed over one of the stands to get in.
The guy in the #5 shirt must be pretty tall as well, unless he's on stilts. But how can you play football on stilts?
2nd June 2111
Gerald was in a brass band competition today in Weston-Super-Mare and I went to watch. He did not win but the journey home was worth the trip because we were taken by Gerald's grandad and grandma. We parked in a multi-storey car park that, I realised later, required you to pay for the ticket before you tried to leave. I suppose the
HAVE YOU PAID THE PARKBOT?
sign was a big clue, but I didn't think about it. Anyway, we got in the car and we went round and round the car park looking for the exit. On lap 9 the car asked politely, 'Are you lost?'
'No!' (Gerald's Grandpa does not trust the car to drive itself).
'Oh, let it drive,' whined grandma.
Eventually, we found the exit and put the ticket into the machine. It rejected it and refused to put up the barrier. So Grandpa tried again. No go. Then someone else pulled up at the other barrier, put their ticket in and, with a cheerful 'bing', the barrier went up and, whooosh, off they went.
'I think our machine is broken.'
So we reversed out and into the other lane, but stopped too far away to reach. So Grandpa had to struggle out of the car to insert the ticket.
It rejected the ticket too.
At this point a disembodied voice boomed out, 'Are you alright?' We looked around and eventually spotted a Parkbot looking at us from an office window overhead.
Grandpa shook his fist at the Parkbot and shouted, 'Your blasted machines are broken!'
'Calm down dear, it's only a Parkbot, and it's trying to help us.'
'Put the ticket on top of the machine,' commanded the Parkbot.
'I don't see how this is going to work,' blustered Grandpa as he slapped the ticket on top of the machine.
'The Parkbot is going to let us out dear, can't you see?'
Sure enough, up went the barrier and off we went. Gerald was in stitches. Grandma was embarrassed, and Grandpa was in a foul mood.
It was only later it occurred to me they hadn't paid . . . .
31st May 2111
A normal family Sunday, whatever 'normal' is.
For example, is it normal for a wife to talk incoherent nonsense to her husband as if he is a complete idiot?
For example Helen made the following statement to GAT today:
'For goodness sake:
we keep cake in the breadbox;
we keep crisps in the breadbin;
we keep the bread in the freezer.'
Of course, it's all so obvious now. How could anyone have been so confused?
GAT got his own back later by leaving Helen with a crosshead screwdriver and a slotted screw.
Then there's the cooking and DIY reciprocal gender bashing.
GAT, trying to cook something, 'How much shall I put it?'
Helen, 'Enough so that it looks about right.'
GAT, angst-ridden, 'How am I supposed know that?'
Helen, 'Oh, it's obvious.'
GAT, 'How do I know when it's cooked properly?'
Helen, 'When it looks done.'
GAT' 'I'm an engineer, I can't cope with this!'
3 hours later, Helen is mixing Polyfilla for the first time ever.
Helen, 'How much should I put it?'
GAT, 'Enough so that it looks about right.'
Helen, 'How long should I mix it for?'
GAT, 'Until it's ready.'
(etc. etc. I think you can see where this is heading)
Helen, 'I thought you were an engineer? I can't cope with this. How I am I supposed to have faith in our future DIY projects?'
GAT, 'Well, I feel rather the same about your cooking.'
Helen, offended, 'And what, pray, is wrong with my cooking?'
So, my conclusions?
1. Normality continues to be normal unless acted on by an external absurdity
2. The relationship between a person's opinion and the likelihood of changing their mind is equal to F, where F is an indefinite constant.
3. Every ignorance is opposed by an equal and opposite lack of knowledge.
(Are you still reading this ? If yes, why?)
29th May 2111
What can possibly link the above objects? No idea? Well, the answer is the dreadful sewing skills of GAT and his son Gerald.
First, the tale of the teenager trying to patch his jeans. Since this operation was all about fashion and not function Gerald's mother Helen refused to have anything to do with it, "What?! Patch a perfectly good pair of jeans just so they look 'cool'? Sort it out yourself Gerald - there's the Sewbot!"
As so, the invincible teenage technical know-it-all took on the Sewbot . . . and lost. Too proud to admit to his mother that he couldn't programme a simple Sewbot, Gerald embarked on some manual stitching . . . and sewed his jeans to the arm of the sofa. Then, after covertly unpicking this mess, he sewed them to the leg of the trousers he was wearing. Oops. This time Helen noticed when Gerald had to go the the toilet and both pairs of trousers had to go with him, "Honestly, you're as bad as your father."
This was a reference to the tale of the coins and the custard. GAT uses a leather coin pouch but the stitching is forever coming undone. He tries repairing it but his sewing skills are no better than Gerald and when he offered it up to the Sewbot the thing said quite politely, "You must be joking," which I consider a fantastic bit of anticipatory programming by the original Sewbot design team. So, GAT always ended up stitching it back together himself, with variable results. The most variable result occurred in the Globalbot canteen one day when he flicked open the pouch only for the coins to slither through a poorly stitched section and straight into the vat of custard. Plop, phelp, plop, they sank without trace. This left GAT with a plate full of roast dinner and no money and he tried going backwards down the line putting all the constituents back into the serving trays. The trouble is that the canteen Cashbot tots up the cost as you go along and, apparently, had no sub-routine for coping with people going through the serving procedure backwards. (Incidentally, it didn't seem to have any problem whatsoever with GAT throwing all his coins into the custard which it just observed dead-pan as if it happened every day - I doubt the Cashbot design team had 'Object to customer throwing coins into custard'' in the robot's design brief.) Anyway the whole Filton Globalbot robo-canteen system crashed and did not come up again until breakfast 3 days later despite round the clock attention from service engineers from RoboCanteen Inc. motto - 'Your Canteen is our Crusade'.
GAT got dragged in front of senior management but managed to cover up what had happened, but afterwards he got dragged in front of the test technicians who, of course, quickly established exactly what had happened.
Not one of GAT's better moments. Like father like son . . . ?
27th May 2111
At the regular post-breakfast Wednesday engineering meeting GAT announced that there would be a fact-finding mission by a new Globalbot American Senior Manager (a VP apparently, whatever that is . . Virtually Priceless? Very Pretentious? Verified Prat? Voracious Predator? Verily, the Possibilities are endless.)
"Ha, don't make me laugh!" gasped our dour, heavily bearded Russian mechanical design engineer - who goes by the name of Doom.
"What's your problem Doom?" asked GAT acidly.
Doom rubbed his beard and puffed out his cheeks, then sucked air in through his teeth and finally drawled, "Well, um, you see, it's like this, I've worked at Globaltbot over twenty years and I've yet to locate a single fact."
Mirth all round, except GAT, who was not amused.
25th May 2111
People really say some stupid things about me, like I'm only artificially half-alive because I cannot enjoy many of the things 'real' humans enjoy - eating, drinking a beer, having a massage, or sex, or having a good workout, or a lie-in. Also that I do not feel pain - this is not true as some of you know. I really hurt fingers in Thinkbot and, believe me, I understand pain! Returning to the subject of 'not being really alive' I contend that are millions of humans that enjoy their 'life' less than me. I rarely get down - life is just too thrilling. And I do have the advantage of access to spare parts if anything goes wrong with me (although getting them fitted can be a bit painful). I don't have to shave, or go to the dentist, or become incontinent or, it appears, get old. I often worry about this. Am I destined to live forever and become like Marvin the manically depressed robot from Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Or will my circuits grow old. Will I grow old in spirit? Who knows, and it's best not to worry too much or one loses the joy of the here and now.
24th May 2111
This planet is truly beautiful. One of the oddities of being a robot is that I don't really need to sleep although I often put myself into standby at night as I find it a bit lonely otherwise. It was after one of these sessions that I discovered that I felt much better when I 'woke up'. So, don't laugh, it might be true - your computer might get tired after all! Anyway I still like to 'get up' early on Sundays in the summer as the garden is spectacular. I took the pictures below in just fives minutes without having to move more than a few metres. They're just everyday flowers in an everyday garden looked after by an ordinary tin Unibot with metal fingers. Luckily the beauty is deeply embedded into this living planet.
(Click on picture to enlarge).
For crying out loud - slow down and look. Put down the Playstation 10 controller, turn off the TV and look all around you. The chances you are here to see all this are billions and billions to 1. You win the lottery every day when you open your eyes.
22nd May 2111
Met someone in the corridor at Globalbot who said he was from 'Plant Maintenance' looking for the site facilities office. The image that leapt into my mind was
but then I saw he was carrying a
then it dawned on me he really was from
Maintenance . . . . .
21st May 2111
Went to a presentation by the Globalbot Modelling Depratment (SIC, Ed.). No, this is not a group of hairy engineers in bikinis, nor rows of silent anoraks building a 5 metre replica of the Titanic out of matchsticks, rather it's people who use complex mathematics to describe, and hopefully solve, engineering problems. Like, for example, why the left knee joint on version 3.0 Unibots often suffers from premature stress cracking - a subject very close to my tin heart given I AM A V3.0 UNIBOT! The head modeller, who goes by the unfortunate name of Ian Ferment, also has a strong interest in me since he has spent months modelling possible mechanisms that underlie how it is that a tinny Unibot like me can think like a human. From his extensive deliberations thus far he has concluded with 100% certainty that I cannot exist, so whenever I turn up at one of his lectures he always ends up getting a migraine. In the early days, before he realised I am a miracle, he used to invite me to his office and we got to know each other quite well. It was during one of these sessions I realised that high I.Q. and common sense don't always coincide. Turns out he's into an obscure branch of mathematics that only 3 people alive today understand, including him, 'I wrote a book about it, but it only sold two copies.' I thought he was winding me up, but he was serious. Later I modelled this system and emailed him the controlling equation:
3 - 1 = 2
On reflection, this was the point at which he produced his first 'definitive proof' that I cannot exist.
20th May 2111
Today we had the comedy of Gerald getting ready for his school ball (a dinner jacket and bow tie affair at the Webbingbot Hotel). The main entertainment was the ironing of his best white shirt. For reasons best left uninvestigated neither of his parents were prepared to sort this out for him other than give periodic remote verbal instructions on how to use the Ironbot from elsewhere in the house. The Ironbot is a sore point with Helen since GAT had acquired it from Globalbot at a knock-down price. The trouble is that it was an Industrial ATI TM ('All-Terrain Ironbot') and was not really suited to the domestic environment. For a start it was painted a bright industrial orange, a colour Helen loathed, and even the fitting of a non-standard turquoise blue cover does not really alleviate the Ironbot's assault on the beholder's optical systems. Anyway, it took over 10 minutes for Gerald to coax the ungainly thing out of its cupboard and manoeuvre it into the front room (an achievement in itself). Gerald had to get a stepladder to fill the water reservoir, and then the blessed thing refused to lower its ironing board and kept displaying the message 'WARNING! CAN'T IRON NOW'.
'Why not!' yelled Gerald leading to a series of remote parental instructions to 'calm down dear, it's only an Ironbot'. Luckily I noticed its leg safety clips had not been undone (one might have thought the software designer might have given a slightly more helpful fault message) so eventually the thing got going and was soon cheerfully puffing steam out of it's ironarm. Gerald brought in a pile of ironing and started throwing clothes up in the air looking for his shirt. Much to our amazement the Ironbot deftly caught a green shirt and a purple pair of trousers out of mid-air and ironed and folded them perfectly. Gerald then threw his white shirt at it but it just let it drop on the floor. After a few minutes total frustration we did get it to grab the shirt but it then started furiously ironing its own arm, presumably due to a software bug. Finally, after a rapid reboot it got the job done. It had taken 45 minutes for Gerald to get his shirt ironed; GAT would have got it done it less than 2 minutes. Maybe the boy will appreciate those who oversee the juxtaposition of the Ironbot with the weekly mountain of ironing a bit more now, but I doubt it. He didn't endear himself to the rest of the family by leaving the Ironbot on in the lounge with the windows and doors shut. When Helen came down later on she was confronted by a room full of steam.
17th May 2111
Was tickled when I came across a website today that was having 'Technical Fiddiculties' and another that said 'Wesbite Udner Costrunction'. Says it all really. And have you noticed that whenever you put a silly typo into Googlebot it always comes up with a hit! Often on the subject you are interested in 'cos the creator has mistyped the word in the metatag.
16th May 2111
GAT was in a foul mood. He'd stayed late at Globalbot on Friday trapped in a tedious senior management meeting about robot sales priorities. There were 17 robo-sales on the forecast and they were all ranked as 'High Priority' - but there was really only enough engineers to do 5. So the meeting decided to pick the top 5. But after 3 hours there were incredibly 21 (yes twenty-one) high priority sales to work on as well as 5 medium and 6 low. This was because Mark Eting kept remembering sales that had been forgotten or his pager bleeped to say there was another one to think about. Then, to add to the angst, Mark Eting mentioned he'd promised to demonstrate a new robot feature to a customer in 3 weeks, only for GAT to yell 'BUT THE PARTS WILL TAKE 7 WEEKS! and stomp out . . . only to collide with one of his key engineers waiting to hand in his notice to inform GAT he was leaving and would be gone in 4 weeks.
Oh dear . . all in a day's work I guess.
15th May 2111
Friday again - how the weeks fly by! I quite like Friday evenings as there's a programme called 'Grumpy Old Robots.' They're angst-ridden and cynical and morose, and they moan about Christmas, TV programmes, their unreliable obsolete parts and how difficult it is to get spares, the weather, their dodgy joints and speculate wildly on the mental stability of their designers. I know they're only robots with human voice-overs (unlike me), but they really make me laugh.
13th May 2111Vote Basil for King! Gimme that crown - boom boom! Har har har har haaar!
Looking at the state of the half-wits otherwise known as the royal family I'm a firm republican. Except that constitutional monarchy seems like a jolly good system of government and everyone loves the pageantry and it brings a load of money into the UK even now it's a member of Europa. So my proposal is to have a Constitutional Celebrity Monarchy and I'd cast my vote for Basil Brush. The advantages of selecting a Toybot to be king are manifold - easily replaced, greatly reduced security costs, great for kids, multiple Toybot King Basils can fulfil royal engagements in parallel all round the world. And he's so entertaining! Trouble is that I fear that the half-wit UK public might actually vote in a dumb celebrity with <<<50% wits, i.e. even denser than the current in-bred hereditary incumbents. Oh well, back to the constitutional drawing board I guess.
12th May 2111
What's the matter with the human race? They've either got money and no time, or time and no money! I've never met anyone yet who seems to have time and money. All this rushing around. One would have thought that in the age of robots the need for humans to get all stressed over work out might have diminished. But if anything it seems to be worse - the more automated things become the faster everything seems to happen, except for the poor old human who's probably no faster that he/she was millions of years ago, probably slower. And everything's getting cheaper all the time, and less reliable. So engineers have to rush around even more, making less money, creating even less reliable replacements. Duh! If there's one thing worse than the Protestant Work Ethic, it's the the Protestant Work Ethic with Low Profit Margins. If they weren't all so busy they could stage a protest. As it happens I know a robot called Luther, perhaps I could persuade it to nail my 95 theses on 'how to get a life' to the front door of Globalbot Corporate HQ in Germany.
11th May 2111
Was horrified to receive a detailed Science revision guide from Gordano School. It appears that, due to some monumental administrative cock-up I've been entered for triple science. Apparently it's a 2-year modular course and I've missed all the modulars so I could be heading for an 'F' and a dishonourable discharge. Oh no! I think I replied 'to all' and included this blog address . . which means . . any number of students who should be revising may well be reading this. WHATEVER YOU DO - DON'T READ ON. GO AND DO SOME REVISION NOW! Drat and triple drat, not only will I be blamed for getting the only triple F ( or is it FFF, or F3) I'll also be blamed for dragging the whole class down a grade and then I'll get dragged before the Headmaster and . . and . . .HANG ON A DARN MINUTE! I'm not even at school. I'm a highly renumerated professional robot designer holding down the position of 'Senior Robot Personality R&D Engineer' at Globalbot Filton. GCSEs? Bah! Take a hike . . .
9th May 2111
Yippee! Saturday! Watched the RA Cup final (RA = Robofoot Association) between Robotorangers and Arsebot. See my match report. If you have no idea what Robofoot is see What is Robofoot? Finally, if you are really bored and cannot think of anything else to entertain you and you are really really desperate or cannot locate any growing grass or wet paint, see my encyclopaedia of results.
8th May 2111
An Eastern European mathematician called C F Dinamikz, (more usually known as 'CFD') from the Globabot modelling department turned up today dancing around in excitement. He'd been modelling a gas-processing Industribot and found that having an array of 140 holes each with a different diameter gave a fantastic gas-pressure profile. GAT and Doom listened patiently while he garbled on and on about smashing Globalbot's competitors to pieces. Eventually CFD ran out of puff whereupon Doom asked GAT drily, 'Would you like me to write out an order for 140 non-standard drill bits?'
CFD's face fell a mile as he realised the significance of this - I mean what sort manufacturing outfit would tolerate having a Drillbot with capacity for (at least) 140 non-standard drill bits, assuming such a ghastly robo-monster even existed. Poor CFD - back to the modelling board for him.
6th May 2111
GAT got into trouble at work today when preparing for a vital conference call with a major customer in Finland. GAT said, 'You have to watch out when talking with their Technical Director, his English is awful and I'm sure he doesn't understand half of what we say.'
To which the salesman replied, 'But he's not Finnish, he's American.'
'Well, quite!' spat GAT acidly, not realising the all-American CEO of Globalbot was standing right behind him. Oops. There followed a 'closed door clear the air' session from which GAT emerged suitably chastened. The salesman thought all this was great fun until, in a moment of pure horror, he realised that due to this diversion he'd totally forgotten to call the Finnish customer at the appointed hour. Oops II. Bang goes another Scandinavian Multi-Robot order I guess.
3rd May 2111
Watched a programme on Las Vegas. It consumes Gigawatts of power! Why? To keep all those casino lights on so that moth-like gamblers will be attracted in to spend their precious globo-dollars. The human race is just so good at getting things backwards - using precious energy to attract piles of useless money. Bah!
1st May 2111
Yesterday, GAT took Gerald, Mike and me to the:
143rd ANNUAL BRISTOL MODEL RAILWAY EXHIBITION 2111
at Thornbury leisure centre. The whole place was packed with model railbot layouts and stands, so I can only imagine the residents of Thornbury were totally deprived of any leisure for the whole weekend. The stands were selling anything and everything to do with models and trains: downloads of black and white footage of long lost steam engines; digital station plans from the 19th century; books full of train numbers (why? I dunno, apparently people go around trying to see all the engines listed); complete self-assemble and self-running model trainbot sets - 'Guaranteed to Self-Assemble and Install a Stunning Layout in any Shaped Home'. (I Rather think it should have said - 'Guaranteed to Self-Assemble a Stunning Layout Whilst Being Shouted at and Impeded by any Disapprovingly Shaped Female Armed with a Mallet.') And, best of all, literally millions of O, OO and N gauge millibots dressed up as passengers, drivers and trackworkers, all milling around (excuse the pun) in boxes hoping to be bought, or driving around model vehicles and even tending to millibot horses pulling various carts around. It was amazing, although I did witness a few nasty incidents. At one stand a box of several thousand N millibot passengers fell off and many got trodden on as they desperately dodged around people's feet. And a derailment on one of the OO layouts sent a 1990's Virgin HST ploughing into a gaggle of trackside millibots dressed up in orange jackets pretending to be on (what was actually a permanent) tea-break. Still the fully-automated within-model emergency response drew a big crowd. People heard the midget sirens and the crowd was five deep as the mini-emergency services stretchered and helicoptered-off the 'injured' from both trackside and within the train, followed by cranebots recovering the carriages. Luckily these mini-model robots only cost about a penny each, so GAT's cynical comment about a the layout owner causing a deliberate accident to draw a big crowd may have some truth in it.
As ever I found the exhibitors at least as interesting as their exhibits: dreadful dress sense; awful haircuts (or even no hair); mostly overweight; all looking as the future of the planet depended on their model layouts. Radio headsets and huge touchscreen displays, furrowed brows and endless jargon - 'The up goods is crossing the down double slip on warning!' Duh? What?
And then there's the stand operated by one exhibitor who knows the layout intimately, and another who clearly does not have a clue. On one layout the dumb guy must have hit the emergency off button since the whole thing stopped - all the millibot humans and animals in the fields just keeled over as the lights went out and the trains squealed to a shuddering stop piling their inert occupants inside into neat piles at the end of each carriage. One train jumped rails, burst open, and scattered a 100 floppy little pigs all over the 4-way mainline. I thought the master-operator was going to blow a fuse! Apparently there was some sort of exhibition trophy for the layout that ran with the least faults all weekend - and I concluded from the language used that powering the layout down without warning in the middle of the day was probably not conducive to winning that particular trophy.
(Clickety-click on a picture to see a bigger version)
Spent the week in Vancouver Canada at the 'Robotech 2111' conference. MY LIFE! IT WAS SO BORING! Endless papers about the obscurities and details of robot design and manufacture. I was the main invited speaker so it was a bit nerve-wracking, however my little speech seemed to go down alright although it was met initially by a stunned silence. Many of them still do not believe I exist, and that I'm not such sort of Globalbot marketing gimmick. Fortunately I managed to escape. I took a trip on a paddle boat (the best bit being the paddle of course), and wandered around Stanley Park, and looked at the multitude of water features in the city (apparently it gets a lot of rain but there were blue skies for my visit), went up grouse mountain in the dark and ran into a grizzly bear and then took some squiggly images of the city. Finally, and best of all, I found that Vancouver Art Gallery was right next to the conference venue!
21st April 2111
Why are people so taken with technology? Let me tell you friends, all the technology in the world is not worth one close friendship. I'm off for a few days now. Will update you all next weekend on my latest thoughts (or the crazy antics of my family or fellow robots).
21st April 2111
People often ask me if I mind being a tinny freak. I find this quite hurtful although I suppose it's inherent in human nature to think like that. I have to clamp my tinny lip and stop myself asking them what it's like to be an organic nobody. Why don't they ask me what it's like to be unique? Or what it's like to be a one-off. People have such a poor grasp of probability. The truth is that everyone is a unique freak statistically. Neither science nor society deal well with the unique. Take the fact we're here at all, or a claim like Jesus rising from the dead. How can science cope with that? It's a one off. But that does not mean it is a freak, or evil, or did not happen, or is not even possible. If the claim of science is that everything must be repeatable or be classifiable into things that are identical (rather than just similar) then listen to a silly tin robot! It cannot be so. The universe is 100% unique. Although, hang-on, things are apparently identical at the sub-microscopic scale, you know atoms and molecules etc, so where does it become so complex that everything becomes unique? Is uniqueness just an illusion? Sorry about the philosophy but I'm feeling a bit down. Luckily I am loved. Or is this just an illusion? It certainly does not feel like one, thank goodness! That must be the worst of all - to be not loved.
19th April 2111
Helen, GAT, Gerald and Opal embarrassed themselves at a family quiz when the question 'Where does Rupert the Bear live?' They answered Knutsford - which is of course a place in Cheshire known to most folks for its M6 motorway service station. The quizmaster wound them up good and proper by playing along - 'Yes, of course, that's who it was! You know, I was in the Burger King at Knutsford the other day and I was looking at this bear in the red top with matching yellow check scarf and trousers frying burgers round the back, but I just couldn't place him.' (P.S. the real answer is Nutwood).
18th April 2111
GAT got all frustrated with the car. For some time the windscreen wipers squeal in such a manner that, one day, Gerald remarked that it sounded like they were being operated by a terrified hamster shouting 'heave'. This mental image only added to the distress already felt by passengers so GAT decided to fix it. However after much fiddling around all he achieved was a state of affairs where the bonnet would not go down without jamming the windscreen wipers. After much colourful language we managed to unjam everything only to discover that now the hamster said 'Ooooooooaaaarggh-phrerrrph!' for each swipe instead of the former, and much more succinct, 'heave.' 'Well done Dad! Now the wipers are operated by constipated hamster!' yelled Gerald from a safe distance. Opal sneaked up and put them on ultra-fast - OoargphrerpOoargphrerpOoargphrerpOoargphrerpOoargphrerpOoargphrerpOoargphrerp. The imaginary 2Hz mega-farting windscreen-wiper hamster had arrived!
GAT retired with a splitting headache. He was almost as distraught as the time he'd been proudly wearing his new size 12 converse all-stars only for a small child to innocently ask him, 'Why are you wearing clowns shoes?'
17th April 2111
There's nothing worse than a ruined Friday! Arrived home ready for a relaxing evening only to find GAT''s mother (AKA Grandma) and her latest husband William III were visiting. Grandma and I do not get on well. I mean Grandma has enough trouble with 'normal' technology let alone thinking human-like robots such as me. For a start she always calls me Thinkabot no matter how many times Gerald, Opal (and especially) MIKE yell 'His name is Thinkbot!' at her. 'Who?' she says looking around and totally ignoring me, 'there's no one else here.' Then she starts rambling on about how the world is going to the dogs and the kids look bored and roll their eyes at Helen when she blasts them silently with the deafening mental message - no you may not leave - if I've got to be here then others must suffer too . . . No, Helen does not get on 100% with Grandma either. Ironically GAT avoids the problem of not being able to leave by not turning up in the first place. This irritates Helen to heck, and everyone knows that once Grandma and William III have gone a frosty atmosphere will descend for the rest of the evening. Trouble is that Grandma has strong but insecure opinions so that she expects everyone to agree with her about what a valuable and true insight she has on the the world at large. And she's always on about 'how awful everything is', 'it's a shame' and so on. Then, to cap it all, when at last she says she's leaving, she announces that her Ironbot is broken and can she borrow 'that Unibot you left lying around in the lounge all evening doing nothing' (i.e. ME!!). And I'd been the only one politely agreeing with her crazy observations on the world as well. Honestly! Luckily Helen said, 'No, Thinkbot and I are going to watch a BBC 4 drama together with a bottle of Chilean Merlot.' This was also news to me as I'd been planning on playing Rambot on the X-Playbox all evening. It's not as if I can drink wine either is it? So, I ended watching Helen gurgle her way Jabba-the-hut-like through a whole bottle of wine and fall asleep before the end, just as the main character announced he was a gay trans-racial cross-dressing reformed Hungarian erotibot (as if that explained anything).
13th April 2111
Yuk! Monday. Globabot is a drag on Mondays. However an email from sales cheered me up a bit:
It is imperative we implement a direct strategy for defocused sales coverage using a strong value proposition coupled with a winning plan for developing a market-position scoped from local to global platforms on a going forward basis.
Hmm . . if you have any idea what this means, by all means, please email me: email@example.com
I'd also appreciate any insights into why the person who wrote the above is paid 3x what I am. Perhaps I write too clearly?
11th April 2111
GAT took us all for a ride on the West Somerset Railway. It was the first time I'd ever seen a steam engine and I found myself staring at it like non-tin human might be transfixed by a live dinosaur. What amazed me was that when it got going it really did make a sound like 'CHUFF CHUFF CHUFF CHUFF CHUFF' - it made it so clearly I could have sworn it was someone behind me impersonating a steam engine through a microphone and loud speakers (except for the smoke and steam - very difficult to produce smoke and steam using a microphone, although most boys can replicate the sulphurous smells). Gerald and I parked ourselves with our heads out of the carriage windows right behind the engine as it struggled up the hill to Crowcombe Heathfield. It was a damp cloudy day and on the way down GAT had said to me, 'It's a great day for steam Thinkbot!' with a beaming smile on his face (there was a long-suffering one on Helen's). He was right! The steam swirled around the branches of the trees and floated away across the fields like cotton wool and billowed way up into the sky above my head. Then, suddenly a loud noise and a damp warm gritty greyout enveloped my face! I yelped with surprise and fell backwards into the carriage. Gerald was laughing somewhere in the smokey cloud 'Ha ha, you gotta watch out for bridges Thinkbot!' I got up and, as the smoke cleared, I noticed the NO SMOKING sign . . . .
Arriving at Stogumber I wondered how anyone could admit to coming from Stogumber:
'Where'd you live?'
'Stogumber - S-t-o-g-u-m-b-e-r'
Endure blank disbelieving looks . . .
But later in the trip we arrived at a place 'Dumpster';it even had a castle on a hill - Dumpster Castle, I ask you! Why would anyone want to attack it? (Except maybe to surreptitiously dump an old Fridgebot.)
This made me think Stogumber wasn't so bad after all.
And the primroses! The railway banks were covered with them. Clumps and clumps and clumps. There must have been thousands, mixed in with daffodils (and the odd wisp of steam). GAT tells me they were almost exterminated at one time because people used to pick them and sell them in the towns. Incredible.
We embarrassingly created a massive queue at the buffet when we ordered 5 Cornish pasties which had to be heated one at a time by a lovely, but painstakingly slow, elderly gentleman who looked on the brink of falling over everytime the carriage lurched.
We went in the shop at Minehead and I was stunned by the amount of train merchandise. Helen went off in a huff when GAT bought a train noises CD and a 1000 piece jigsaw of St Pancreas station.
When we got back to the car I was told off something rotten because I was covered in soot and I didn't notice. Now there's a sooty outline of a Unibot's backside on one of the seats. Oops.
All in all a fun day! Beats working. I want to build a coal-steam-powered robot now (but somehow I have to keep it a secret from Helen!)
6th April 2111
Well, what a day! Had a bad beserkbot incident. An underwater Weldbot took several engineers hostage and demanded information on one of it's o-rings. Apparently it had been paging the Globalbot support line for days with a request but for various reasons the calls were forwarded into oblivion. It just kept demanding 'Please supply part number for o-ring'' 'Which o-ring?' asked Doom. 'The o-ring! Please supply part number for o-ring.' Unfortunately there are 1000's of o-rings on underwater bots so we had no idea which one it was on about. After a few hours it accepted 4 free annual spares kits and a 3 month engineering support secondment and released its hostages. Apparently the plan is power it down at the start of the secondment and then scrap it (arrrgh! I shouldn't have told you that!)
3rd April 2111
GAT had a rant while we were watching Dr Who humiliate yet another breed of psychopathic aliens. 'Why doesn't he do something really useful like go back in time and make the whole world standardize on a single voltage or one type of mains plug or even use the same size paper or agree globally the number of holes a hole punch should have? And why not get everyone to drive on the same side of the road!! ' Etc etc, until the rest of us went to watch in the loft and left him to it.
1st April 2111
Got caught by the old Loof Lirpa gag. I was told someone famous called Loof Lirpa desperately wanted to meet me and write up a load of stuff in a national newspaper. I hung around in reception for ages while engineers wandered through making sympathetic noises when they heard I was still waiting for Loof Lirpa. Others did a good line in being (sarcastically) stunned - 'Loof Lirpa? Coming here! Wow! Really?' I began to get suspicious when one engineer could not stop sniggering and muttered 'I thought you were a bright bot, but now I think you're a bit backward. HA HA HA! A bit backwards, got it thinkety Thinkbot? And I thought it was only blue LEDs that were a bit dim.' 'Backwards' was the BIG CLUE - Loof Lirpa backwards spells . . . well I was mortified. It was almost as bad as the time GAT sent me to the DIY superstore to buy a skirting ladder, or being sent to stores for a long weight . . . boy am I stupid or what?
31st March 2111
Got called down to Manufacturing today to deal with a so-say Unibot 'personality' problem. When asked for its serial number the thing would simply reply 'Snodgrass', and this fault was repeatable. And if several people asked at the same time it would nearly hang up 'Sn-Sn-Sn-Sn-Sn-Sn-Sn--Sn-Sn-Sn-odd-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-grrrrrrrrrrrrrrra-as-as-as-as-as-as-as-as-as-as-as-as-as-as'. It was really quite painful, not to mention spooky. Anyway I linked it up to the 'RobowrongTM' diagnostic system whereupon it announced in a clear voice, 'monkeys ran off with my luggage.' (the Unibot, not the Robowrong). Everyone was getting a bit worried by now so we decided to shove it into the faulty products area and leave a note for the night shift. One test guy muttered something about it being an April the 1st robot come a day early only to be subjected to incredulous disbelief and back of the ear wetness inspections from another, 'A day early? At Globalbot? More like an April the 1st 2110 robot 364 days late.'
27th March 2111
Good Friday although it beats me why. After all it commemorates someone dying, apparently on a green hill far away. Why this means I get the day off work is a mystery.
26th March 2111
Proved the principle of 'Pavlov's Engineer' beyond all reasonable doubt today. The regular weekly fire alarm test at 10am precipitated the usual unseemly rush for toast in the canteen. Then, unusually, it was announced that a second test was required at 10:30am due to some fault or other with the first test. This presented too good an opportunity to miss. I legged it down to the canteen just as the second test was carried out. Sure enough within minutes engineers once again piled through the doors and started grabbing toast. The sad thing was that I could see the confusion in their faces, i.e. 'Good grief, it hardly feels like any time has passed since yesterday' and 'How come my hands are all buttery before I got to the toast counter'. A conservative estimate indicated toast consumption was up by 60% and that most engineers never did figure out why they weren't as hungry as usual at lunchtime.
25th March 2111
Really bad day at work today. The trouble started when Pot Noodle got his hand trapped in the Vendbot's delivery slot. A few moments investigation revealed a minor 'anomaly' in the recently released Vendbot R9.7.SP1.3.vbot software. Turned out that if a customer purchased something from the outside slot on the third row between 2 and 3pm local time on every third Tuesday then the Vendbot would activate the anti-theft clamp when the poor customer put their hand in. GAT got called into a meeting with senior management of immense FLAPPERATION. This consisted of much muffled yelling followed by the sounds of things being thrown around the room. Apparently the installed base of this Vendbot type is 387,426 worldwide! I definitely heard someone shouting 'ARE YOU TELLING ME THERE ARE NEARLY FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND VENDBOTS OUT THERE JUST WAITING TO TO CHOMP PEOPLE'S HANDS?' As it happens the Factory Support guy turned up with a load of 'live data' showing that, worldwide, 8,374 people currently had their hands stuck in Vendbots including, somewhat embarrassingly, the CEO of Globalbot. GAT erupted out of the meeting and tried to track down the only software engineer who knew how to fix the problem quickly but he'd taken the afternoon off and was at the Mall - but he couldn't come in straightaway and fix the problem as his hand was stuck in a Vendbot . . . . The solution involved despatching Doom to the Mall with an angle-grinder. I leave the rest to you imagination but suffice it to say it was a sad end for the Vendbot.
24th March 2111 - Made to Look Like an Idiot
It was Gerald's birthday a couple of weeks ago. I got a present ok but forgot about wrapping paper. I rushed home from Globalbot and went into Morgan Westley in the High Street in Portishead just before it closed at 5:30pm. I passed Mr Westley the IVth at the door @ 5:29pm (he looked worried) yelling 'I need some wrapping paper!' There were two teenage boy assistants in the shop. One followed me to the wrapping paper section and was really, like really really helpful. I thought he was just worried I was going to be slow and stop the shop closing. I dilly-dallied around a bit while he showed me a few rolls of wrapping paper he liked and especially a lurid green one that he thought was 'really cool'. I thought to myself, okay, he's being helpful - 'I'll take one of those,' I said. I went back into the main shop with the helpful boy carrying the paper. When we reached the till the boy waved the lurid green paper in the other boy's face and said triumphantly 'Sold it!' The second boy looked really sick and gave me a foul look - I can only guess he'd lost a bet. I just felt like a silly tin fool. As for the helpful boy I think he must now believe in God - after all how often does a gullible robot turn up 1 minute before closing time and buy a grotty product the said boy was on the brink of losing a bet on.
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