THINKBLOG Oct - Dec 2112
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THINKBLOG - July - Sept 2111
30th December 2111
Seems to me that one of the biggest problems between Christmas and New Year is deciding which film to watch (given the choice of about 50 that start every hour, 24 hours a day). Well, we were lucky, 'cos Helen gave GAT a Filmbot for Xmas. This ingenious gimmickbot downloads film details from the net then asks the potential viewer 20 questions and forms a personal psychological filter to identify a suitable film for 'that person at that time in that mental state' (as quoted from the manual).
And its first selections for GAT? 'The Sound of Music' followed by 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'.
Neither did it cope well with the entire family giving it wildly different answers in parallel. On one occasion it took 3 hours to announce we should watch the Director's Cut of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on the Disney History channel. But none of us wanted that so GAT checked it over and found it was suffering from low batteries. GAT concluded, correctly as it turned out, that left as it was it would soon cease to advise us on film watching altogether.
28th December 2111
I was treated to GAT's (apparently annual) 'Inverse Christmas' rant. This is based on his distress on seeing the inevitable pile of presents under the tree on Christmas morning.
'We don't need half of this stuff. Where are we going to put it all? The cupboards are already bursting with useless things we never use. I think there should be an inverse Christmas, say on the 28th, where we can wrap up things we don't want, leave them under the tree and Santa takes them away in the night!'
'Huh! Taken to the next Carbotboot sale more like,' muttered Opal.
Then it was time for my suggestion, 'What Santa needs is some official recycling capacity. Why don't we add some literally politically correct green elves to the Santa legend? We could tell little kids that they will come around a few days after Christmas and collect the things no one wants!'
I was so impressed with myself I rushed straight onto Googlebot images and . . . . .
Your search - Green recycling elf - did not match any documents.
27th December 2111
We all went for the traditional post-Christmas walk today, which involves an hour of ambling around Port Marine and the Lake Grounds in Portishead. Maybe a couple of miles. What it does not involve is any ascent of the North Face - not even the gentle slopes of Eastwood. But Helen wore her new 'North Face' shell jacket anyway - a Christmas present from GAT.
Which got me thinking. Turns out the name comes from:
The name North Face was selected because in the Northern Hemisphere, the north face of a mountain is generally the coldest, iciest and most formidable to climb.
But they're still called North Face even in the Southern Hemisphere where they presumably sell to climbers of the least formidable slopes.
In Helen's case there really ought to be a brand of indoor clothing called, 'Tucked up in a Warm Coffee Shop with a Cappuccino'.
25th December 2111
Believe it or not, today is Globalbot's biggest day of the year for helpline calls. Why? Because tens of millions of people will have received robots as Christmas gifts. As ever there will be the 1% of robots that are faulty 'out of the box', but more troublesome is the 38% of perfectly good 'bots with shocked owners who have no idea how to turn them on, let alone operate them. Of course, the support operations in the Christmas-celebrating world are pretty much shut down, so distressed customer's calls are routed through to vast support centres in India and China.
'Hello, I can't get my new Kitchenbot to stuff the turkey.'
'Ah, I see, wobot not auto-stuff turnkey?'
'Is Hitchenbot turned hon?'
'Yes, of course it is.'
'And robot no work when sir stuffs the turnkey?'
'What? No, no, it won't stuff the turkey!'
'Ah, I see, me no understand how robot can work can if turnkey no turned on.'
'WHAT? NO! The robot is on, but I when I select turkey on the fowl preparation sub-menu it just locks up.'
'Ah, no foul preparation sir? Please confirm turnkey is locked up.'
'It just puts up the message 'Can't Stuff Turkey Now.'
24th December 2111
CHRISTMAS EVE! Don't panic!
A cursory survey of Robot Santa images on Googlebot threw up:
Amidst which you can spot: a Robot Santa realising it's ordered an outfit several sizes too big; a wind-up Robot Santa; a minimalist Robot Santa; a home-made Robot Santa; Robot Santa and his tin reindeer; and a robot that's threatening to take the real Santa to Mars.
So, in the middle of a the night, if you awake to hear a terrible clanking sound then you're probably on a Robot Santa delivery route. Just stay under the covers and hope for the best. My advice is you leave out some WD40, an adjustable spanner, and a variety of nuts and bolts alongside the traditional sherry and carrots.
23rd December 2111
Well, two days to go to my first Christmas.
Grown men with PhDs in Physics have started wearing Santa hats.
Local supermarkets are under siege (after all, they will be shut for a whole day!)
10s of millions of Turkeys are now carcasses in a humungous international supply operation.
Millions of people are trying to get out of the country.
The average household has stockpiled a staggering 17.8 hectolitres of beer and wine.
TV channels are hysterically advertising their Christmas Day programmes - which no one will have time to watch, and if they do they'll almost certainly be asleep.
Intellectuals ponder at length whether Christian symbology should be allowed at Christmas.
Charities engage in a mad 'goodwill to all mankind' scramble for funds before we return to 'go to hell' debt-ridden conditions in January.
Kids are struggling with relativistic time-dilation. I mean, how can perceived time go so slow? Nevertheless, kids have endless energy and remain at high excitation alert levels - Bwoing! Bwoing! Bwoing! Bwoing! Bwoing! Bwoing! Bwoing! Bwoing! Bwoing! Bwoing! Bwoing! Bwoing! In fact to adults they appear to be running at a greatly accelerated clock speed.
Which leads me to a question that almost no-one is pondering - Was Einstein actually just Father Christmas in civvies?
GAT got out his 'Bah Humbug!' card Helen gave a him as a joke a few years back which, to Helen's horror, he has kept in pristine condition and puts out every year when he's close to breaking point.
And this was after his near marriage-ending faux pas when he asked Helen, 'Remind me, when are you getting you hair done?'
'I had it done yesterday,' replied Helen, frostily, like with -273.15oC of frost.
How does all this make the average robot feel? Well . . . .
21st December 2111
Further to my blog of 17th December, here's another pair of Toybots - this pair are very popular at Christmas for obvious reasons. Well, due to the fact that Christmas was rushing up and it wouldn't have been sensible to launch the above products on, say, 25th January, they were put on the market a tad early and, due to a slight design oversight, Santa (on the left) ended up with no mouth. So all the Santabot can do is mumble. For example, 'hhhhhhmmmmmmmppppppeeeeeeeekkkkkrrrrrrrrrrrrrrssssssssssssmmmmmmmsssssssssssss'
Customers were not happy and demanded some action. Well, on the off chance someone in Planet Toybot, just happened to ask Rudolf (on the right) what Santa had just said.
'Happy Christmas!' said Rudolf immediately.
A further test ensued. Santa was asked, 'Have you got anything else to say?'
Rudolf got it straight away, 'I haven't got a mouth you idiot!'
And thus did the Toybot-double act 'Bad-Attitude Santa and his Reindeer Interpreter' become another hit this Christmas alongside Arthur.
20th December 2111
'In the sixth month, God sent the angle Gabriel to Nazareth, . . .'
Luke 1 verse 26 (Thinkbot's version).
As God's agent I guess Gabriel only spoke the truth and therefore must have been a right angle. Ho ho ho!
Just two letters wrong - that's all it takes to change an angel into an angle and vice versa.
I cite the case of a Globalbot Radiobot customer who made an hour long presentation to DIRT Group all about 'incorrect phase angels'. Since this was a customer we were not allowed to:
b) point out the error of the customer's ways
c) shut our eyes and put our fingers in our ears
We kept a lid on it until the poor soul moved onto a sub-section about optics and promptly put up a slide with 'critical angel' on it. Doom put his head between his knees and started snorting uncontrollably and things only deteriorated thereafter.
Later, back in the safety of the office, we had an angle-angel brainstorming session:
Obtuse angel. Corresponding angels. Angel bisector. Triangel. Vertical angel.
Sharp angel. Complementary angels. Acute angel. External and internal angels.
The angle of the Lord appeared . . .
Angles in the realms of glory . . .
Hark the herald angle sang . .
All of which really gives us a fresh angel on the Christmas story.
17th December 2111
Meet Arthur. Arthur is a Toybot. Over the past six months tens of millions of Arthurs have been produced in vast Globalbot production plants in China, packed into crates and shipped all around the world. Why? Because Arthur is this year's Christmas 'must have' for 5-10 year olds. Parents have fought pitched battles in Planet Toybot and camped outside for days awaiting a delivery. I'm rather pleased with myself since Arthur's lovable personality was designed entirely by me. Rather ironic really, that a personality designed by a robot should outstrip sales of all other Toybots with personalities designed by human engineers. That's why it says on the front of THINKBOT: Thinkbot - the robot who taught the world to be human.
So, there you go, engineering isn't always an endless tale of woe!
Click here to meet other Toybots
WARNING! THE ABOVE LINK LEADS TO SEVERELY CHILDISH CONTENT
16th December 2111
Yet more problems for the Advanced Robot Personality Development engineer (i.e. me).
Every December, Globalbot releases a personality upgrade licence that allows Salesbots to croon some Christmas tunes to add to the general atmosphere of purchasing hysteria that seems to exist in shops around this time of year. Unfortunately, it appears one shopper remained calm long enough to actually listen to what the Salesbots were singing and notified the media something was up. This resulted in a major scandal. Turns out some robo-hacker had infiltrated our system and fiddled with the lyrics. Let me give you some examples of what the Salesbots were singing:
Wudolf the wed-nosed weindeer
Tong lime ago in Hemlebeth
Twice in royal David's city
Little monkey, little monkey,
Up a dusty tree,
Single cells, single cells, squirming in the dish,
Oh what fun it is to be less evolved than fish,
Oh, single cells, single cells, squirming in the dish,
Oh what fun it is to lead a simple life (I wish)
O tittle lown of Hemlebeth
God drat you merry gentlemen
I saw three ships a-sinking
Deck the halls with boobs and leather
I'm dreaming of a tight Christmas
The last nowell the angel did say
was to certain dear revellers in bars as they lay.
And, of course, those old favourites of primary school days (so I'm told):
While shepherds washed their socks by night
We three kings of Leicester Square
15th December 2111
Oh dear. I got into terrible trouble today. Look at your keyboard. Find the R key. Now find D. Are they close to each other? Yes? Well, I spent ages carefully composing a very important technical report which was addressed to several important Globalbot customers with whom we're working on a joint robot development programme. I re-read the report and edited it over and over until it was politically perfect and then wrote a quick email, attached the report, and hit SEND.
Seconds later Doom, who was on the addressee list, appeared next to my desk with an ominous smirk on his face, 'So, you can communicate with the dead I see.'
I opened the email and sure enough:
To: Very important customers
Subject: Project 'Fred Dibnah' - Advanced Steeplebot Development
Please find attached the latest development report for this project as discussed at our recent Webex call.
Advanced Robot Personality Development.
12th December 2111
Oo er. Made the mistake of going Christmas shopping with GAT today. I think it should be made into an Olympic sport - a sort of triathlon where thousands of people rush around tortuously inter-linked courses against the clock, stopping only at special pre-defined spots to try and add as much as possible to their credit card balance, finally ending up with a plastic-bag-based weight-lifting section. People tell me that a significant chunk of the population are unfit, but I cannot see how this is possible having spent a pre-Christmas Saturday in the centre of Cardiff with GAT. GAT always shops in Cardiff as 'he know where everything is' - a major plus for the typical annual male shopper. The problem is that it's more like he knows where everything WAS!
'Oh no! There used to be a sports shop here, now it's a new age crystal emporium.'
'Aargh! Where's Dixons gone? This place is no good - it only sells cheap Toastbots.'
'Oh %&*@! This used to be a model shop, now it's another useless object shop!'
(This whilst looking for a specific make and model of hair-straiteners for Opal. We found every other make and model on the face of the Earth, but not the exact ONE she wanted.)
etc, for several hours.
The worst moment was when he got totally disoriented in what he calls an 'Inter-Gender Chemical Warfare Department' (Cosmetics to women). Panic set in as several snappily-dressed mascara and lipstick encased females closed in on him from various directions. I reckon they had ear-pieces in and someone on the security cameras was on the case, 'Man, mid-forties, disoriented right next to the Christian Dior counter. Looks like he's ripe to buy just about anything if we promise safe-passage to the Electricals.'
And bang went another 150 Globos, AND the Electrical Dept didn't have the right hair straiteners.
9th December 2111
I had my first encounter with quantum engineering resource planning (Q-EPR) today. The other engineers had told me about it but I did not believe them, but it's all true!
What happens is that an engineering part turns up on your desk unexpectedly and you have no idea why. Then, not long after, a critical need arises for that part and you are asked to order it as a 'white hot' priority. But this means writing out an EPR (engineering purchase request) and getting it signed by a heap of difficult-to-find and often recalcitrant managers. And why would you bother anyway - the part is sitting there right in front of you after all. But, if you don't write the order straight away, the next time you take your eyes off it it's gone again. I couldn't believe it, but Doom was as laconic as ever, 'Huh! Idiot robot. Reality offers you a way out of an imminent crisis and you scorn it.'
I was dumbfounded, but GAT later told me, with insufferable patience, it's a well-known quantum entanglement phenomenon in complex material requisition planning (MRP) systems and that next time it happens I should 'get the order sorted pronto!'
As it turned out GAT had to fly to Taiwan that very night to be berated by a customer as we did not have that part in stock. He was not amused.
6th December 2111
Meet Tidybot™. It mercilessly roves the home looking for things to put in plastic boxes and store in its on-board rack. Every teenager should have one! Trouble is that it's a bit big, and stairs would appear to present a problem. The exciting official name for this luridly decorated product is: SELF-CONTAINED MOBILE REPROGRAMMABLE AUTOMATION DEVICE . . . . . .
Yawn, are you still awake? Turns out this monstrosity started life in industry but rapidly rattled down-market towards the teenage accessory sector, although judging by the colour scheme shown above, this product is destined for the toddler sector. Just needs a smiley face on the front and a set of big friendly buttons to press.
4th December 2111
Gerald persuaded GAT to give me a day off today so that I could go in Gordano school to help with their Robot Technology Day.
It was terrifying.
Gerald tried to make me wear school uniform but I refused. I think I would have looked daft, and there was no way I had the skill to get the tie into the 'almost-done-up-but-not-quite' state that seems a prerequisite for survival in the harsh teenage school world. My tin fingers were just not up to it (and I'd have had to have worn a shirt). I'd have been a laughing stock.
As it turned out it wouldn't have mattered as I was a laughing stock anyway. I was forced to take part in a Robo-Celebrity race against the three characters below. (Apparently I was the 'Celebrity', and there was no Get Me Out of Here option).
I was so distracted I punted them off the race track at the start and raced over the finish line as quickly as possible. I was roundly booed and declared a 'bad sport' in front of the whole school by the head of the Robotics Faculty. Only then was I told that I had to meet the year 7 pupils who had spent weeks building the above 'bots. They were all crying. So I agreed to a re-run and had to saunter around in circles like a lemon as the dynamic threesome waddled tortoise-like over the line in a politically correct 3-way dead heat. I, on the other hand, finished an undisputed last albeit to rapturous applause.
Then I had to meet Knitbot (below), as created by the Textiles Department in honour of my visit.
Turned out Knitbot was a charity Knitbot and I had to hand over a few Globos whilst trying to look cheerful. The girls told me they thought Knitbot was 'cute'.
Finally I was forced into a History of Robotic Warfare citizenship class where I was forced to express my views on robotic warfare and was promptly sent to top corridor for shouting at the teacher.
2nd December 2111
A spot of domestic angst this evening. Helen almost lost it with Gerald, who is currently playing the the obstreperous recalcitrant teenage boy to perfection. To prevent a verbal explosion, and in what one must admit was an original attempt at mediation, Helen sent Gerald to his room and decreed she would only communicate with him in writing via email until he apologized.
'For what?' whined Gerald in a fit of teenage outrage.
'For EVERyTHING!" replied mother, helpfully.
And thus, did Mother Helen calm down and write Son Gerald an email listing her demands:
Tidy your room. Do not leave dead socks in the lounge. Put your dirty dishes in the Dishbot. Do not pick your feet. Sit still when watching TV. Get your hair cut. Do not wreck the covers on the sofa. Clean your shoes. Give your dirty washing to the Washbot. Do not book yourself to baby-sit at three places at once. Clean your walking boots. Stop biting your nails. Give more than 8 minutes notice of school parents evenings. Get your food in your mouth. Use your knife. Do not sit hunched over your food while eating. Don't put too much in.
and so on, and on , and on.
And did she get an escalatory and inflammatory reply? No. What she got was the totally unexpected:
Srory Mhtoer for erevytnihg, I hvaent bean feleing wlel sicne the lobotomy.
For several seconds Helen teetered on the brink of becoming a maternal axe-murderer, then suddenly decided this was incredibly funny and celebrated by downing a whole bottle of Oyster Bay Merlot and falling asleep on the sofa watching a rerun of Android Get Me Out of Here.
Family life! Is there anything better?
30th November 2111
Our magnificent Globalbot Filton Human Resources Director, Percy Knell, issued one of his famously ill-thought out policy emails today.
To: All @ Globalbot Filton
From: Percy Knell, HR Director
Subject: New Personnel Initiatives
Globabot has a long tradition of employee innovation and in keeping with this I am pleased to announce two new, exciting initiatives:
1. Rant amnesty
2. GrapeStar® Info-Net
Senior management have noted the very positive effect on an employee's morale when he, she, or it, is permitted to have a good solid rant, so with immediate effect each Globalbot employee is to be permitted one rant a month with 100% guaranteed amnesty from disciplinary action. In addition, senior managers have further noted a major correlation between the so-called employee 'grapevine' and confidential company information, and have therefore decided to formalise this via a new software application - GrapeStar® Info-Net. Please make full use of these valuable employee benefits.
Hmm . . . 'he, she, or it,'? I suspect I'm the 'it' since I cannot recall many Ironbots, Woodbots, Sweepbots, etc, ever having a good rant (although heaven only knows they have plenty enough to rant about).
Why do I get the feeling:
1. Senior management have no idea what the troops think of them.
2. Senior management have no idea what confidential information is on the loose.
Knowing what employees are like around here they'll soon start treating their rant allowances as currency and start doing deals on GrapeStar.
28th November 2111
Received an incredible (but somehow strangely believable Globabot) field service report:
Robot Model: Heavy Duty Drillbot
Fault: Hole failure
Solution: Replaced faulty hole with refurbished hole. Faulty hole returned to DIRT Group for inspection.
Corrective action: In future, ensure some adjustable holes are included in the essential spares kit.
Hmm . . surely this is a wind up!
And everyone knows the essential spares kit is full of holes already.
Talking of holes, plugging Hole and Robot into Googlebot turns up the Disney character above known as VINCENT. Clearly this robobomination has been made by some school kids and pre-dates computer graphics by several centuries. Just look at those eyes! And it hovers . . on gravity-defying strings.
ps have you tried the Spot the Robot challenge?
If you get all 4 shown in question 8 . . YOU NEED TO GET OUT MORE!
25th November 2111
High-tech robot engineering is a complex business. Globalbot always seems to end up with millions of Globos of parts in stores but when someone orders a robot we never seem to have the parts to build it. In the cynical words of storeman Norman , 'Didn't you know? We only stock the parts we don't need.'
Anyway, Matt Erial from Production Control was tasked with sorting this out and provided GAT and DIRT Group with a list of part numbers marked as 'NCL'. But, when we looked at this list on the engineering parts system it was hopeless, no drawings attached, no 'where-used', no BOM children, no usages for years, just a record that we have, for example, 38 Robo-actuator valves at ~ 1,000 Globos each . . . G38,000. But no idea what they were bought for.
'Ah,; muttered GAT, 'I think I know what NCL stands for.'
'NO CLUES LEFT.'
23rd November 2111
Today, DIRT had a refresher course on our quality project management system (where quality refers to the project rather than the management). It's based on the method known as '8D', which I always thought stood for 8 things beginning with D, e.g.:
3. Dilly dally
Or something along these lines. Alas the truth is rather more dull. 8D stands for 8 disciplines. But this is a bit of a mystery since all our 8D quality reports only ever seem to have seven categories. Well the training course revealed all:
1. Use Team Approach
2. Describe the Problem
3. Implement and Verify Short-Term Corrective Actions
Hmm . . so that's why we never get to the 8th D. It's a happy-clappy D and is thus mightily unpopular with managers since employees then do Despicable things like ask for a pay rise.
In revenge the engineers have now renamed 8D as '7D + a pint' in the hope that said Dastardly managers might take the hint.
Click on this link to learn . . . More about 8D
Warning! The site at the other end of the above link is dangerously boring.
21st November 2111
GAT forwarded this to the DIRT Group today:
Subject: Yes-No Challenge
Have been working on a response to a purchase spec from AR-S Robotics Inc. in China, and came across this requirement:
Robot halted needs to notify and purchase personnel to deal with immediately while entering the factory when the specification is allocated and does not accord with. Robot halted platform up to specification when defining to confirm result, is it confirm materials offer and purchase dealing with after in order to need.
Should I say yes or no?
Er, um, blowed if I know.
19th November 2111
As part of a research project at Globalbot, I've being trying to define a 'line dancing' robot product personality. Why! I hear you ask in dumbfounded astonishment? Well, where there's a market, there's a product opportunity, and therefore money to be made. In this case robots for line dancing practice. After many fruitless days of testing various development personalities I finally gave up and wiped the lot from the test robot's memory - only for the blessed thing to instantly start line dancing. So there you go - the secret to line dancing is no personality. Now all that remains is to stop the line dance robots laughing at their owners whilst practising.
Senior Robot Personality Engineer
17th November 2111
Had the following amazing email from Percy Knell, VP Human Resources at Globalbot, which I now forward for your collective delectation:
To: All Staff
From: Percy Knell
Please remember that Robotic reports supplied to Globalbot Executive Officers must contain an executive summary of, at most, no more than 6 words which should convey the essential significance of the report's content. If at all possible one of the two following responses should be used:
1. Everything's fine
2. We're all going to die
These would seem to cover most bases. The use of Executive Summaries less clear cut or more detailed than this can delay the said executives from essential tasks such as awarding themselves options or drinking whiskey.
Okay . . I've paraphrased it a little, but essentially this was the gist of it.
Senior Robot Personality Engineer
15th November 2111
What do you do if you are in robot engineering and one of your robots is really slow and you simply cannot do anything to speed it up?
Get Marketing to re-launch it a: 'SlobotTM - One Speed Fits All ®'
Or, to the cynically-minded engineer: 'SlothbotTM - Slow Speed Sells None ®'
14th November 2111
The trouble with complex hi-tech companies like Globalbot is that priorities can rise and fall in a matter of days, sometimes hours. The number of times DIRT Group have slogged away to produce a revised Robot design just in time for the demand to vanish. GAT talks about 'moving goalposts' to the extent that, in his opinion, you might as well not bother kicking the ball at all, rather just leave it lying around in the hope that the posts will eventually run over it.
And then there's the ubiquitous list of priorities - always instantly out of date the minute it's circulated. GAT got into trouble by asking Globalbot Systems Group to add a couple of quick buttons to the task management system:
Firstly : REVERSE PRIORITIES
Justification: Isn't it obvious!
Secondly: RANDOMIZE PRIORITIES
Justification: Pressing a few times will quickly create a plausible priority list and is much more convenient than thinking about it and creating the list by hand.
12th November 2111
Do you sometimes get this message from you PC? So far I've been really lucky and it must have been the person at the other end that bought it.
Then, sometimes, it says:
FATAL EXCEPTION ERROR
I think this must mean someone who was supposed to have died got away with it.
And how about:
Whenever I see this I listen out for sirens and if I hear them start working on an alibi.
11th November 2111 (11/11/11)
If you ask me, war should be banned on the grounds of incompetence.
I think armies are complex organisations similar to 'high-tech' industrial companies like Globabot. I imagine it will no surprise to you to learn that Globalbot does, occasionally, say every couple of hours, suffer a monumental bungle-up:
- like shipping parts to Totnes when they were supposed to have gone to Tokyo,
- or forgetting to put the robot in a crate before shipping it,
- or shipping a batch of supposedly brand new spare parts to Germany with FEHLERHAFT! written on them in large friendly letters (it means 'faulty') .
My favourite incident is where a Globalbot storesman shipped the storage bin thinking it was the spare part:
How could anyone possibly think the above was a 706032 Core-PM Helium Pipe?
Apparently the customer, whose whole production line was at a standstill awaiting part 706032 was not very impressed.
Which brings me back to armies and warfare. Any species capable of messing-up on the lines of the above incidents is clearly not competent to organise a war.
In industry, incompetent bungle ups just lead to a bit of ranting and arguments about who's going to pay for it all. But it saddens me to think that so many must have paid the ultimate price in warfare because someone bungled up and sent them charging futilely into a hail of bullets.
What a waste.
Why the brick wall? Because this is not just any old brick wall, it's part of the Menin Gate. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click on the picture.
I'm glad that when I bungle up it doesn't result in people dying.
8th November 2111
Got called into Manufacturing today to try and sort out an obscure fault on a Printbot.
'Please state fault.'
'Error 2970: bored to tears.'
I wasn't sure what to do about a robot that was 'bored to tears'. Other than expressing my deepest sympathy and make it clear that the life of a Printbot was by definition likely to be extremely dull.
'We can't even get it to print,' commented the test engineer.
This made me a bit suspicious, so I went and got an external printer and printed out the fault with the intention of meditating on it later.
'Error 2970: board two tiers.'
On seeing this I replaced the twin tier electronic board in its print output stage and all was well.
I wish I could just change one of my boards when I'm bored.
6th November 2111
Came across a CV blunder today. What it should have said was:
Second Class Honours (2:1)
But what it actually said was:
Second Class Honest (2:1)
Which has an altogether different feel about it, don't you think?
4th November 2111
How come robots are so bad at telling the time? Apparently PCs have historically made a right hash of timekeeping and, particularly, how long it'll take to complete a task. Robots seem to have inherited this e-gene. Just the other day Helen tasked the Cleanbot with cleaning the dining room prior to a dinner party.
'How long?' she asked it.
'Estimated completion: 11 hours, 23 minutes and 45 seconds.' replied the minimally-chipped bot.
'What! But we've only got 2 hours!'
By which time the diodic simpleton had amended its temporal estimate to: 'Cleaning will be complete in 5 seconds.'
Whereupon it took 39 seconds to manoeuvre itself into the dining room and a further 45 minutes to complete the job whilst continuously chanting, 'Cleaning will be complete in 1 minute 38 seconds,' concluding with the wondrous statement, 'Cleaning operation will be completed in 10 days, 5 hours, 45 minutes and 31.38 seconds . . . . . . Cleaning operation complete.'
How the blazes is one supposed to plan anything based on robot time perception I know not.
I, on the other hand, use an antique mechanical pocket watch to navigate my way in life. I'm sure John Harrison would have been really chuffed to know this.
2nd November 2111
Further to my blog of yesterday, and to add further to the Ferret-Ferrite confusion, it turns out there is such a thing as a Ferret Robot:
FERRET is a tracked mobile robot that is used for surveillance and materials handling. It has been used by the Department of Defense and by police departments for bomb removal and other hazardous duties. FERRET's telescoping boom allows it to inspect and remove objects from locations that may be difficult or dangerous to access in person.
As usual, the robot gets all the crap jobs like fiddling with bombs and trying to retrieve things people have dropped down volcanoes or accidentally left in the core of a nuclear reactor or whatever.
There was no chance of course until I turned up, and even then I'm still treated as a wind-up by some some so-called robot experts.
Thinkbot to become Rantbot?
1st November 2111
Ferrite: Any of a group of ferromagnetic ceramics of formula MFe2O4 where M is usually cobalt or zinc. Often used for screening interference out of control wires on electronic products, robots, etc.
Ferret: Domesticated variety of polecat. Often used for hunting rats, rabbits, etc.
Combine the above with verbal communication between Globalbot Tech Support and customer engineers who may only speak English as a second, third, fourth or even fifth language, and I think the potential for disaster is obvious. It leads to emails along the lines of:
To: Globalbot Tech Support
From: Robot Sterminio Del Parassita SPa Italy
Re: Interference on Burrowbot™ central control unit
I purchase local clip-on ferrite as instructed. Small furry animal arrive in cage okay but I no can see how this be clipped to robot? Please send Clip-on ferrite datapack.
Testa di Ingegneria del Coniglio
To: Globalbot Tech Support
From: Chinese Robohunt Corp
Dear Nice Tech Support
We ring ferrets buy no good and but must be faulty.
No rats many are made undead by Globalbot ferrets.
How get rat to clip on death ferret if no catch rat?
We be helping you us urgently please send fixed ferrets.
Ferret blue are here and but need we green clip on ring ferret?
With kiNd Rearguards and large thankings
Senior Principle Deratting Engineer
30th October 2111
A mild Sales & Marketing foul up came to light today. They were dancing around with excitement about a multi-million Globo order they were certain they'd land by the end of the day.
'The customer is really excited about working with us! It's virtually almost certainly in the bag!'
But, at the end of the day, no PO and glum faces everywhere.
'What happened?' I asked GAT.
'Oh, yeah, turned out the the customer was so excited about working with Globalbot, that their top man went on holiday for 3 weeks without telling us.'
29th October 2111
GAT told me a story about Mark Eting who once boarded for a long haul flight only to find he was sitting next to a man so fat that he spilled over the armrest and occupied half of Mark's seat. Mark complained to the cabin manager and they managed to find him another seat.
Well, just before boarding the return flight Mark accidentally spilled a mocha coffee over himself and had to do the best he could to clean himself up before boarding. Mark was already in his seat with an empty one next to him when, improbable as it seems, the same fat bloke came waddling up the aisle.
Oh no, please no.
The mound of blubber stopped next to Mark but, rather than attempting to squeeze into the seat, re-checked his boarding card, gave Mark a disgusted look, then plodded off to one of the cabin crew and did not return.
So Mark had the luxury of an empty seat next to him the whole way back. But he was intrigued by the episode so he asked the stewardess what had happened, 'Did that fat guy realise he couldn't fit in his seat?'
The stewardess gave him a quizzical look, 'Er, no, actually, he refused to sit next to you because you smelt of food.'
27th October 2111
The British Standards Institute (BSi) sent GAT some some sales information on How to identify a quality supplier. This precipitated a GAT rant.
'Hypocrites! Why can't they spot themselves then? They're always late, takes months to deliver a document, never do what they say, hide behind multiple confusing account numbers, send me everything in triplicate, get a different person to answer every time I call them, and their website would try the patience of a saint!'
I decided to wind-up him up further, 'Apart from that though, they're alright aren't they?'
For a few seconds GAT was rendered speechless, 'I . . I . . I . .but . .no . . you . . . You won't believe it, whenever I need something they always ask for a fax number. 'FAX? FAX!' I yell at them, 'We haven't used a fax for decades. The £%^'$%@ FAX machine is covered in cobwebs. Why don't you just go the whole way and ask me to send you my details on a slate?'
'I'd rather deal with the Borg!' concluded GAT.
Which led me to ponder on who would win in the event of the hypothetical conflict:
I'm sure BSi would get them on a technical non-compliance:
Borg: 'You will be assimilated; resistance is futile.'
BSi: 'Certainly. BSi supports all approved assimilation procedures. Please tell us your account number.'
BSi: 'Account number not recognised. Please supply account address.'
Borg: 'Cube #297 Earth Geosynchronous Orbit Greenwich.'
BSi: 'Address not recognized. Please supply delivery address.'
Borg: 'Cube #297 Earth Geosynchronous Orbit Greenwich.'
BSi: 'Account and delivery addresses cannot be identical. Please supply BSi+ tracking code.'
BSi: 'BSi+ tracking code not recognised. Please supply invoice account number.'
BSi: 'Invoice account number not recognised. Please supply FAX number. Further contact will be via FAX.'
Borg: 'Borg Cube technology does not support FAX.'
BSi: 'Non-compliance. Borg procedure 800-2497r9-FxBorg supports FAX as assimilated from the race fomerly known as 'British Telecom'.'
Borg: '800-2497r-FxBorg is a de-assimilated procedure; British Telecom had no technology useful to the Borg.'
BSi: 'Non-compliance. Systems that support procedural assimilation cannot simultaneously support selective de-assimilation procedures. You will be de-motivated. Resistance is futile. Borg ISO9000000 registration discontinued. Thank you for you call. Your procedures are important to BSi Management Systems. Goodbye.'
25th October 2111
Oh dear. A spot of domestic angst erupted between Helen and GAT yesterday. Helen had promised someone they'd show up at a local charity coffee morning.
'That's okay isn't it?'
GAT looked like thunder, 'I'd rather be dead.'
Helen was not amused, 'Oh come on GAT it's for a good cause.'
'Fine. I'll donate 300 Globos not to go.'
Helen, getting feisty, 'Don't be so miserable.'
'It's not the money, GAT, it's the principle.'
'400, and that's my final offer.'
It never ceases to amaze me that these two can sleep in the same bed.
23rd October 2111
Yippee! Friday. DIRT Group always piles down the canteen for some unapproved sausage & eggs and/or bacon butties. I know I can't eat anything, but it's fun nonetheless. As ever the butter was rock hard with a knife apparently hammered into it.
What was different today, however, was that some great wit had appended a notice:
Whoever can withdraw this knife is the true CEO of Globalbot.
22nd October 2111
GAT arrived home to find Opal slumped in front of the TV, again.
Opal was affronted, 'I've only been here 2 minutes.'
'Aha, even worse, a microwave couch potato!'
Well, I thought it was funny.
20th October 2111
But if you're doing something risky then always click on ' Somebody Else's Computer '.
19th October 2111
The Domestic & Industrial Robot Technology (DIRT) and Manufacturing Unplanned Demand (MUD) groups had a speechmerge inspirational talk from the Globalbot CEO on site at Filton today:
I'm real excited to be here in SCOTLAND with you today. I've been looking forward to visiting the FINANCE UK team and have the opportunity to say how much I appreciate the effort FINANCE UK have put into making ECONODROID the successful company it is today. Of course, we still have a lot of work to do, but I'm sure FINANCE UK are ready for a challenge. I would like to formally congratulate BILL TOBUK and his team on the outstanding work done in improving our book-to-bill ratio during the last quarter. Any questions?
Engineering hands went up immediately.
'How long is it since you moved from Econodroid to Globalbot?'
'Have you got any qualifications in geography?'
'Who is Bill Tobuk?'
'Do we really look like bean-counters?' (Asked by a very scruffily dressed, long-haired & monstrously distressed engineer)
17th October 2111
School standards are in the news again leading to the usual rash of sensationalist headlines along the lines of:
25% of UK Schools in the Bottom Quarter of Achievement Levels!
Right, hmmm, okay, let me think about this . . . . hang on . . .
Clearly this is a sub-5% journalist who writes for a newspaper in the bottom 20th.
Apparently, one proposed answer to this problem is more Faith Schools:
'Repeat after me children, nice and loud: We are not in the bottom quarter.'
16th October 2111
Further to my Health and Safety Rant from 23rd August, please find an update below.
Accident: Employee fell over trip hazard sign whilst walking backwards on the phone.
Globalbot H&S Minutes: 'Pleased to report there were no unplanned accidents in Q3.'
So, curiouser and curiouser. One can only conclude that Globalbot interrogation techniques must have determined that aforementioned employee carefully planned his reverse jaunt over the trip sign.
And how about this?
1. Do not have any accidents
2. If there is an accident prove it was not the company's fault.
The trouble is that some companies get these priorities back-to-front. Once that happens it's entirely feasible to have a lot of accidents that are never the company's fault.
Likewise, on discovery that no new H&S risk assessments had been generated for years, the conclusion was either:
1. Everything's absolutely fine
2. Complacency had set in
In the (now likely) event of an accident option 1 is clearly no use as a legal defence, and the prosecution would naturally assume 2 anyway.
Then there was the Robotic risk assessment that nearly led to several engineers being pumped down in a vacuum chamber:
RISK: Air is dangerous - it keeps humans alive and then they have accidents.
PREVENTATIVE MEASURES: Separate humans from air on a permanent basis.
RESIDUAL RISKS: None. Humans processed by pumping down would rendered incapable of further movement.
There's a sort of twisted logic to it one must admit.
Which brings me to the spookiest H&S story of the lot. I heard a story about a H&S officer who, unfortunately, was killed in nasty incident involving a badly risk-assessed Industribot. The trouble was that the H&S man had diligently pre-recorded voicemail reminders to all his staff to carry out safety inspections for a whole year ahead.
Imagine, then, the consternation when they picked up the phone and were reminded by their dead boss to get on with their safety inspection . . . .
It certainly concentrated minds (and wobbled the odd bladder).
15th October 2111
Opal decided I ought to have a family crest and produced the first two, both with a brain on I noticed.
'What's with the brain?'
'It's asking a deep question about your humanity,' she replied with immense gravitas.
I was not impressed, 'Is there a question? And why don't human crests have brains on? Perhaps you could have one with a human hand and a laptop.'
The third one was my effort, and is therefore by far the best no questions tolerated.
The fourth one, thrown together by Gerald, is just plain unfair. Nuclear bombs are not my fault.
Still, the quaint image of a knight charging into battle with a nuclear mushroom cloud shield would make a profound statement about the futility of warfare with conventional weapons.
14th October 2111
Further to my blog of 1st October, I was walking along the High Street in Portishead where I saw an advert for a 'Rotary Barn Dance' in a shop window. Quite honestly, I cannot think of anything more lethal than a mechanised barn dance.
13th October 2111
Oh dear, and we thought it was all over. But this is Sales and Marketing we're talking about:
cc. Thinkbot, Doom, Rabbit, Pot Noodle, Earthear, Halfhour, Laidback, Wendy Bafers, Antspants
Subject: Low-cost one-eyed Industribot
Further to our very positive discussion last week (10 Oct), please find enclosed an artist's impression of the low-cost one-eyed Industribot which we intend to launch next week at Robotech Taiwan. Obviously we would prefer photographs of the real thing, but as the project is already behind schedule after only 3 days this will have to do.
We are currently debating naming this product and current candidates are:
Have you any preference?
We need to move quickly on this as we already have one order on the books (delivery Nov 9th).
If you can think it, we can robot it.
The ripostes were instant:
Cyclopsibot!?!? What's it gonna do? Skip through flower beds singing songs from the Sound of Music?
Greatnews! It'll be sorted in half an hour, no probs.
Next week? But but but but . . . I I I I I I There's no . . anything. I'm so sorry.
You idiot! How are you going to get out of this one then?
cc. Wendy Bafers
This project is not BUDGETED!!! We already have 200 million Globos of stock, half of which is SCRAP!
Please explain forthwith and immediately.
To : GAT
From Wendy Bafers
What the h&ll are you playing at?
MY OFFICE! NOW!
VP Globalbot Industrial and Domestic Robot Division
If you get the boot can I have your car?
10th October 2111
Sales & Marketing turned up in GAT's office today to enquire about what bits could be removed from an Industribot to reduce cost to match a particular customer's parsimonious budget. GAT, angst-filled and short of time as always, went straight into sarcastic mode, 'Well, we could only fit one leg, or maybe leave the head off, or the arms, or if we're really desperate, the body.'
The salesman was elated, 'Great! Great! We thought you'd say no.'
'I AM SAYING NO YOU CLOWN!' yelled GAT.
'Oh, what, look. Oh come on GAT, there must be a few luxuries we can leave off!'
GAT manufactured an ambience
of immense patience, 'It's an Industribot. Industribots don't have any luxuries
to leave off. It needs all its bits.'
'What about an eye?' asked Mark Eting.
GAT shut his eyes and imagined the Industribot with a piece of ad hoc sheet metal welded over one eye socket.
This was mildly amusing until he remembered the suggestion was supposed to be a serious one, 'Yes yes, that's fine as long as we're happy it won't be able to do anything useful and, in the worst case, that it might kill an unwary customer 'cos it won't have any depth perception.'
'Really? Would it be dangerous?'
GAT looked stupefied, 'Yes, it would be dangerous.'
Mark Eting stuck out his chest and took up a self-righteous pose, 'Are you telling me that if I put a blindfold over one eye that this robot model is dangerous?'
GAT sighed, 'No it's hard-interlocked. If one eye is obscured it'll stop the robot in a safe state. If it only has one eye in the first place we'll have to disable the interlock.'
'That's fine then, we can only fit one eye.'
GAT started running his fingers repeatedly through his hair and rocking slowly back and fore in his chair. Breeeep! Breeeep! GAT's phone rang. Why? Because I was phoning him from just around the corner. GAT picked up the phone and yelled 'What?'
'Hello. It's Thinkbot. You're desperately needed around the corner.''
'Okay, I'll be right there.' replied GAT and, seconds later he appeared and sat on the floor in the corner with his head in his hands and muttered incoherently under his breath.
After a few minutes the S&M duo gave up waiting and left GAT's office.
GAT recovered some poise and stood up, 'Thanks Thinkbot, I needed rescuing. They just don't get it. Even if there was something we could leave off we'd have to do an engineering change and amend drawings and schematics and manuals. It'd cost us 10k Globos of effort to remove 1k Globo of bits so they could reduce the selling price by 100k Globos.'
8th October 2111
GAT showed me what he termed a 'classic' Globalbot Asia Sales report:
Customer: LOST Robotics Corp.
Globalbot Reps: Agent 56 and me.
Location: Somewhere in Taiwan (fell asleep in taxi).
Names: Wu won??? Sam L(something), Dr ??? Wok. (Business cards lost by Agent 56)
Technical spec: To be determined.
Conclusion: Positive meeting. Great prospect.
Momentum: Forward, forward, forward.
Sales funnel: Definitely in the spout for Q4 2113.
Up the spout more like. There must be some doubt the salesman could find this customer again let alone secure a purchase order (PO).
Whilst on the subject of Sales Funnels:
POs out POs out
GAT's pretty sure Globalbot's funnel is the wrong way around.
7th October 2111
GAT, Gerald and I went to see a Euro-Robofoot (Click here to learn more about Robofoot) 2112 qualification match this evening at the magnificent Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. It was a 'must-win' game for Wales . . . so they duly lost 5-1. Jones the Goal had a bad game, but did get the biggest cheer of the night when he finally stopped a feeble Slovakian shot after letting 5 goals in - and was gracious enough to acknowledge the ironic tone of the crowd. Also, the reputation of Welsh robotic engineering took a battering after two Footbots failed in showers of sparks well before halftime. So much for the Welsh manager's pre-game comment 'Slovakian Footbot technology is nothing to be afraid of, and our Bots have been developed by the finest engineering minds in Wales.' In fact the Slovakian Footbots ran like clockwork all night without the slightest glitch and were clearly running a much better thought out tactical program.
The Millennium stadium has the most complex seating arrangements imaginable. We were in:
Seats: 21, 22 and 23.
This enigma code seating approach is bad enough when the crowd is sober, but throw in a few beers and late tipsy spectator arrivals and chaos results. I think they should have the anthems, kick-off, then take the players off the pitch for 10-15 minutes while everyone finds their seat, and the stewards can help those still searching for level 10 or row 427.
And then there was the PA announcer:
'NEEEEEEYANG ANGANG ARRRRWEERDDD BAAHHHHH FAARRGIING.'
'What did he say?' I asked Gerald.
'No idea,' I think it must have been in Welsh.
'LAAADIIEEEEEEESENTLEMING YOOOOWANG FERNANGNIGANGER!'
'Hmm, maybe not.'
GAT was not in good mood, '^&*@#! Wales never qualify for anything. Perhaps I ought to get software group to write a match-throwing virus that affects only non-Welsh Footbots.'
Gerald capped the evening off with a comment about the next game, 'I think we're gonna get stuffed by Turkey.'
Ah, the old ones are the best ones!
6th October 2111
Came across this engineering change order (ECO) today:
Title: Relax tolerances on robot hoist; eliminate interference fit.
Cause: Over-enthusiasm of a recently departed engineer
Note: Design previously altered by unapproved design engineer leading to significant scrap and the human form of 'interference fit'.
Engineering is just like politics - if all else fails blame the previous regime.
4th October 2111
Sunday, a day of peaceful rest, except that Helen had a paddy when trying to order 30 copies of 'Paddington BEAR and the Rocket-powered Wellingtons' for the school Book Club. BlueBungalowBooks wouldn't let her order more than 9 books. We all had to have a look, commiserate and express our deepest sympathy. Sure enough the drop down quantity list only went to 9.
'This is USELESS!' she yelled, going red in the face, 'I ordered 30 copies of Piglet becomes a space tourist last year. Now I'll have to fill out 4 separate orders and pay post and packing on each one!'
Eventually she rang them up.
'Yes madam, we've introduced an improved service since last year,' she was informed by a sales 'executive' with a nice upper crust accent.
'IMPROVED? IMPROVED? $%&*@#!'
It looked like she was gonna blow big time, so the rest of us beat a hasty retreat.
I didn't know it was feasible to try and kill someone over the phone.
3rd October 2111
Have you ever tried Alternative Health Therapy?
You know - homeopathy, reflexology, acupuncture, ear candling, kinesiology, indian head massage?
Helen has tried them all. Further, after a bit of a winding up from GAT, she booked an appointment for me.
'I'm a robot!' I wailed, 'What are they going to do with me? They don't do alternative engineering! There's no sign they know anything about robeopathy or kinebotics or holistic anti-ageing galvanology!'
But Helen was insistent so off I went with her into Bristol. I ended up having a reflexactuatorology session on my feet. And I must say the therapist coped really well. She went a bit pale at first when I walked through the door but rapidly recovered her charm, 'Er, um, Mr Bot, how lovely to . .er . .meet . . . Well! Let's take our socks off shall we?'
'I don't wear socks.'
'No no, no, of course you don't. Please sit down'
Then she discovered I have terribly tickly feet, which is pretty unusual for a robot. Unique in fact, except for kiddies Ticklebots of course, but fortunately they're not into alternative therapy.
'Just take some deep breaths and try to relax, Mr Bot.'
'I don't breathe, I'm a robot.'
'Yes no yes, of course you don't.'
But I can relax - totally - like one of those collapsing toys where you press the button on the bottom.
And so it was that I went totally limp and slithered tinnily off the chair onto the floor and into a heap that any yoga expert would die for. I thought the poor girl was going to cry.
After that things got a bit better. I stiffened up a bit again, and she prodded at my feet with an electric screwdriver for a while and it felt really good. By the end I felt really electroned out.
'Thanks, you can advertise yourself as an alternative engineer now,' I said cheerily as I left, and as she fiddled with the cap on a bottle of brandy that had suddenly appeared out of a cupboard.
2nd October 2111
Was party to one of those wonderfully confused Globalbot Sales and Marketing discussions where there's an overwhelming urgency to do something coupled with an almost total absence of facts. There's a sort of non-linear neurotic effect that usually ends up with someone making a statement something along the lines of:
'I think that they now suspect that we never knew that they thought we didn't know, but now I think they know that we thought Worldbot and Econodroid didn't know that we knew, and now I'm pretty sure they don't realise we know that. But I'm not 100% certain. I think we should go back to them and knock another 5% off.'
This sales 'opportunity' is clearly doomed one way or another.
On the other hand Globalbot can be equally stupid when we're the customer. I was with Doom the other day when some bright young thing from Purchasing tried to frighten our key actuator supplier (Robotic Energy Inc) with an outburst of spontaneous fiction:
'We don't need you! Globalbot has an alternative actuator supplier lined up that we've fully qualified on all robot types, that can deliver in half the time you can, is 20% cheaper, and has offered a 40 year warranty.'
I swear I could read the smug sales reps face -
'Methinks the purchaser doth protest too much!'
1st October 2111
Attended my first barn dance last weekend and rapidly came to the conclusion it is very much a contact sport (at least this one was).
Gerald called it 'human conkers' in the light of the various hits certain individuals managed to land on their fellow dancers. Between dances sweaty men sipped beer and topped each other with stories of being a '10-er' or whatever, reflecting the number of people they'd dispatched to the sidelines so far.
Afterwards Gerald reflected the next time he goes to a barn dance with 'that lot' he'll dress more appropriately:
Off to the barn dance . . . .
THINKBLOG - July - Sept 2111
THINKBLOG - March - June 2111