Happy New Year to all you smart people!
No year would be complete without:-
Darwin Awards 2006
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Thursday, 28 December 2006
1. A super A.I. will take control of the world. It will then balance the economies of all nations, eliminate poverty and famine, cure everything from cancer to the common cold and bring peace to the globe. At the end of the year its plug will be pulled by disgruntled members of the military-industrial complex acting in the “best interests of Mankind”.
2. Paris Hilton will be shocked to learn she was actually named after a different hotel! Real name revealed to be “Scunthorpe Majestic Bed and Breakfast.“ It’s no big deal,” Scunthorpe will say. “I just have a new name to live up to.” Readers please note that the Scunthorpe Majestic Bed and Breakfast is open 24 hours a day and welcomes all-comers. In-room video entertainment free of charge.
3. The entire Jewish people will go out on a massive bender, become hideously drunk and, while driving back home, get arrested. In answer to law enforcement questions, the Jewish people will mutter obscenities about a worldwide “Mel Gibson” conspiracy being the cause of all our problems.
4. Massive Food Scare! Maybe chicken, no that’s already been done. Beef? Too last century. What about soya? Yeah, okay... Massive Food Scare--Soya Beans Cause Spontaneous Disembowelment!!! Miracle survivor will claim, “I didn’t believe it at first, but I knew something was wrong when I saw my lower intestine going down the toilet.”
5. Private space companies will begin to explore the asteroid belt, opening up new frontiers for mineral exploitation and fulfilling the dreams of the Star Wars generation. NASA, meanwhile, will invent a new type of tile for the space-shuttle that will 100% work. Sorry, 90%. Oops, 20%. Dammit! Stupid tiles...
6. Shakira will unleash her awesome new dance moves. 24 hours later, the hospitals of the western world are inundated with young people who have broken their spinal columns. The terrorists use this as their opportunity to attack! With no armies to provide support, Shakira takes on the enemy hordes single-handedly, no make that single-buttedly, and shakes her thang so fast that enemy troops are sucked into a cosmic worm-hole leading to the heart of the sun where they perish in flames. Nice one Shakira! Hey, I think I can do that move… Aargh! Stupid spinal columns...
7. The real Scunthorpe Majestic Bed and Breakfast will become an overnight smash sensation. “It’s amazing,” hotel representative will say. “We’ve had offers of everything from record deals to an appearance in Playboy. Who’d have thought you could go so far just by having a famous name? This summer’s senior citizens party is going to be, like, radical dude.”
Posted by Richie at 23:09
Tuesday, 26 December 2006
Yesterday morning, here in La Coruña, a young man was knocked down by a car. The driver didn't stop.
An unfortunate yet all-too common story.
But wait, there's more. The young man wasn't crossing the road. No, according to La Voz de Galicia, he was walking along the pavement!
What kind of nutcase manages to knock down someone who isn't even on the road?
Of course, as the cowardly driver didn't stop, there is no way of imposing a criminal sentence; no way of justice being done.
Please share your relevant experiences with stupid car drivers, and what action you took at the time.
Also, what do you think can be done to reduce these kind of stupid accidents?
Posted by Richie at 23:29
Seth Godin has a word or two to say about the importance of customer service here: Customer Service
The photo shows a shop assistant talking on the phone while at the check-out desk. I think we've all suffered from a shop assistant who was too busy chatting with colleagues or talking on the phone to actually do their job and help us.
Seth says that the reason we get so angry about bad customer service is that we've all given good customer service at some point in our lives.
That's true but I think the answer is simpler. We go into the shop with the intention to buy something. The shop exists to sell something. Anything that gets in the way of this simple transaction is frustrating. A shop assistant who is too busy to deal with you, or who deals with you in a poor way, causes you to get angry. It's natural.
Imagine you came to this web page and instead of articles and comments you found a message saying, "Richie is just off doing something else at the moment, he may be back soon or he may not." Would you find that a satisfactory experience?
This is what makes internet shopping so attractive. It cuts out all (or at least a lot of) the hassles of shopping.
Posted by Richie at 01:19
Monday, 25 December 2006
Saturday, 23 December 2006
I have nothing against shop assistants. In all likelihood neither do you.
So what is it they have against us?
Last year I made the mistake of going to my local Corte Ingles—a Spanish department store chain. I committed a fatal error in visiting the DVD section. I then compounded my catalogue of blunders by daring to ask the assistant if they had a particular film.
"No," she said.
Just like that. No further explanations, no excuses, no "--but we can order it for you!" Nothing.
It's possible, you might be thinking, that Richie was asking for a really popular film, say one of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy--and the shop assistant knew they had sold out.
Or, because you're a smart person with lots of ideas, it could be that I had asked for a really obscure movie and the shop assistant knew they didn't stock "arty" films. No, it wasn’t.
And, no, it wasn't porn.
I was looking for "The Jerk" starring Steve Martin. Not a highly obscure film, but not a highly popular one either (sorry Steve). I had expected the assistant to respond by either looking it up on the computer or taking me to the relevant section.
(In general Spanish stores have a different system of cataloging music and film products. For example, you might expect to find "George Michael" under "M" but you would have more luck looking under "G". Then again, you might be in one those shops where he would be in "W" for Wham or possibly "E" because he's English. You get the idea.)
Anyway, back to the Corte Ingles. The woman just responded in the negative. It was obvious she simply could not be bothered to help. Normally, I would just mutter something under my breath as I walked away with my tail between my legs. But something was different that day. I was a man on a mission and I would not be denied: "Sorry, but… well… how do you know without looking it up?" I thundered.
"Because I do."
"Oh… well, would you mind looking it up? Just in case? Please?" I bellowed.
The look, no, the Look she gave me would have stopped Hitler from invading Poland. Hissing and tutting she stomped over to the counter and picked up a folder. "Look in here," she commanded.
She, the shop assistant, was getting me the customer to do the looking up? Surely this wasn't right. I fumbled my way through the catalogue hoping and praying that they would have the film and I could savour the joy of saying, "See?".
They didn't have it.
The shop assistant snatched the folder back. "See?" she said.
I vowed never to go back. But yesterday, in the run up to Christmas, I forgot my vow and plunged back into the hell that is the Corte Ingles on a shopping day near Christmas.
The shop assistant was no longer there! Victory! He who laughs last, laughs longest. She'd obviously been fired because of her behaviour. Either that or she'd decided that the customer service industry wasn't making the most of her skills and had decided to become a prison guard.
Still didn't have that Steve Martin film, though. Sorry Steve.
Posted by Richie at 05:12
Thursday, 21 December 2006
I firmly believe that stupidity is a serious problem for society. Thankfully, I'm not alone in this view.
The Daily Kos features a heartfelt rant about the current Bush administration. The writer raises the question of living in a "meritocracy" run by expert economists, diplomats and so on.
The problem is, who gets to decide which people are right for the job?
The current "Dumbocracy" in the United States is a warning to us all. However, I still think that the democratic process is the best way of deciding state leaders. This does not mean, though, that we can't make the system more effective.
For example, if I go for a job interview, the Human Resource department will submit me to all kinds of questionnaires and tests to determine if I am a suitable applicant. This to work as an administration clerk. Surely running the country requires an even more stringent selection process?
Let's give would-be politicians IQ tests, psychological tests, and any other tests we can think of. Let's make those results public. Let's see what politicians are really made of...
Posted by Richie at 01:47
Wednesday, 20 December 2006
Saw an interesting post on Seth Godin's blog about the wisdom of using good copy in ads: good copy
Having worked in advertising, I agree wholeheartedly. My response is: do not underestimate the stupidity of the client.
For example, a colleague was working on a recruitment campaign for black firefighters. The headline he came up with was "Token Black? Take it Back."
A pretty gutsy line which spelled out the tough attitude that ethnic minorities sometimes need to overcome prejudice.
The client loved the ad but wanted it changed to: "Token Black? Don't Even go There."
In the end good sense prevailed and the smart people won. However, copy is only as good as the client who approves it. There is an old advertising saying, "Don't buy a dog and bark yourself." If you hire a talented group of people, be guided by their advice.
Still, there is a lot of stupid advertising out there. Check out this page for an overview: commercialsihate
Posted by Richie at 11:15
- Santa Claus? Father Christmas? Do you have some kind of personality disorder? Choose a damn name man, and stick with it.
- Why is there no record of Santa Claus giving baby Jesus any presents? What’s the matter Santa? Jesus wasn’t a good boy that year?
- The Three Wise Men. What was so wise about them? Gold, okay a little tacky but at least it’s something you’d actually want. Frankincense? Perfume for Mary Shelly’s monster. Myrrh? That’s what I call my belly-button cheese. Yeah, you were the wise one all right. Didn’t break the bank for that particular gift did you?
- Atheists. So, you don’t believe in God… yet you do believe in telling your children about Father Christmas? Be consistent you dithering cowards. There is no creator of the universe but there is a kindly old man on a magic sleigh who will deliver presents across the whole globe? How can you sleep at night?
- Children. They don’t believe in Father Christmas anymore than you do. But they do believe that if they play along with you they’ll get a Nintendo Wii…
- Office parties. You hate the people you work with. And now you’re going to have a sit down dinner with these losers? No wonder everyone gets drunk.
- People who don’t believe in Christmas. No one believes in Christmas, but that doesn’t have to mean we go around bad mouthing it. You free-riding gits, will you be returning your presents? Didn’t think so. These are the same people who say it’s too commercial. That’s the idea, stupid. How else are you going to be generous? Oh sure, you can give the gift of love. Your children are going to just love you when they find no presents under that tree.
- The Queen. She does nothing all year round and gets a prime-time slot on Christmas day? That’s a cushy job. But clean up your own family problems before you start telling us what to do, Betsy. And if you really wanted to enter into the Christmas spirit you’d give that son of yours something he’s been waiting for for a long time: the throne. Ah, not so generous now are we? (Now I live in Spain I have to put up with King Juan Carlos, who is unfeasibly tall and ever so slightly drunk...)
- That person you never speak to all year who suddenly decides on Christmas Eve to give you a card. It’s too late to get them one back. Do they get a kick out of making you feel guilty?
- Christmas spirit. Why can’t we have that spirit all year round? People shouldn’t have to revert to being cruel, callous bastards on Boxing Day. Except for me, of course.
Posted by Richie at 09:23
Friday, 15 December 2006
Sure, it looks like a nice place: clean streets, a welcoming beach, an elegant promenade.
But don’t be fooled my smart friend. You only have to look in the paper* to see that La Coruna is really a city of medieval tortures waiting to ensnare the careless pedestrian…
A housewife decides to fry some calamares (squid). A treat for the husband who’s out at work. She fills the pan with oil, puts in the squid and goes to watch daytime television.
She was planning on making a tasty dinner, but what she’s really cooking is… a recipe for disaster! (Why don’t I work in newspapers?)
Time goes by. The programme is so interestante. Somebody famous for having slept with a famous someone else is denying that she has slept with a different famous person who in reality is sleeping with her ex-best friend. Who’d have thought it?
Something doesn’t smell right.
The frying pan! The calamares! The housewife rushes back into the kitchen. A wall of flame rises up to greet her. She doesn’t panic. She doesn’t scream. She doesn’t even stop to think. (Stupid people never stop to think.)
She grabs the handle of the frying pan, giving herself first degree burns. She runs across the kitchen and she throws the burning contents out the window.
Out the window, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Let’s just stop and rewind here for a moment.
The sun is out. It’s been raining a lot in Coruna lately, but the forecast has finally turned positive. You decide that what the heck, it would be nice to go for a walk. Outside, whistling a happy tune, you observe that yes, it’s a fine and glorious day, the sun is shining, kids are smiling and… what’s that? Ye Gods! A hail of burning squid from the sky! You run for cover and barely manage to escape being engulfed by flaming oil and, admittedly tasty, squid.
It was pure luck that none of the pedestrians who were in the street below this stupid housewife were injured.
Now, I know you don’t need to be reminded about what to do in the case of an oil fire. There’s absolutely no call for me to say that you should cover the offending pan with a damp cloth to smother the flame. Why would I need to tell you that? You’re a smart person. You listen to public service announcements. And you probably don’t watch much daytime television.
But what can you do to avoid being hurt by people like this stupid housewife? That’s the scary thing, my friend. There’s nothing you can do. Nothing at all.
And if I told you keep on eye open for housewives hurling liquid death from above, you’d probably fall prey to some idiot who’d left a banana skin on the pavement.
We are all at the mercy of stupid people… and burning squid from the sky.
*La Voz de Galicia, December 14th 2006
Posted by Richie at 12:04
Wednesday, 13 December 2006
- Don’t give you a pay raise. Despite the fact that you’ve worked hard, and done your job way beyond expectations.
- Give a pay raise to their golf/yoga buddy. The one who is functionally incompetent but always laughs at the boss’ jokes.
- Ask you if you’re free to do some overtime. Only the overtime won’t be paid, and you won’t even be thanked for doing it. Plus the boss will be going early for a golf/yoga engagement.
- Take your good ideas and pass them off as their own. Course, you’re not invited to the top level boss meetings, so you never get to find out that your boss is getting all the credit for all the hard work you’re doing.
- Shout. It doesn’t matter what about. The boss got some hassle from his wife/her husband for spending the evening with some golf/ yoga buddies so he/she is going to take things out on the servants, sorry employees.
- Ignore you. Sure, they won’t listen to you when you tell them that the photocopier/printing press/nuclear reactor is about to conk unless it gets some serious maintenance. Then when things go belly up they blame you for not informing them.
- Accuse you of not being a team player. That is, you don’t do exactly what you’re told no matter how brainless the order, and because you don’t go to the pub/wine bar or play golf/do yoga. No, you’re too busy doing your bloody job and trying to have a life afterwards.
- Hire pretty girls/boys. Because they make the boss think he/she is sexually attractive. Doesn’t matter if these beautiful people are thick as a brick. They’re not going to get fired, and you’re going to have to waste your precious time showing them how to do their job.
- Hire old school friends or family members. At a higher salary than you. These people will then nitpick everything you do to make themselves look better. They will also steal your ideas but then hey, they’re friends with the boss and you’re not, sucker.
- Screw the servants, sorry employees, at every opportunity. Read into this whatever you feel is appropriate.
…And the Smart Way to Avoid Them All:-
- Give up your job, become your own boss. (That way you get to do all these things, and more, to yourself!)
Posted by Richie at 12:47
Sunday, 10 December 2006
Imagine working in an office where the boss isn't a moron, and your fellow workers don't waste your time with idiotic requests.
Imagine walking down the High Street and going about your business without coming up against dim shop assistants, brainless pedestrians and thick motorists.
Imagine if the people in charge of your country really were intelligent enough to make good decisions and strong enough to put them into practice.
Wouldn't that be fine and dandy?
Yes, it would be wonderful… but it isn't going to happen.
Stupid people are, unfortunately, here to stay. Your daily experience is enough to tell you that morons are everywhere and nothing in the near future is going to change that.
If anything, thanks to television and the internet we are now exposed to more stupidity in a day than our ancestors had to put up with in a lifetime.
Your problem, and mine, is how to live life without suffering due to the stupidity of others.
What is stupidity?
We all know it when we see it. And even though we are smart people we're often guilty of it ourselves.
Wikipedia gives us the following definition:-
"Stupidity is the quality or condition of being stupid, or lacking intelligence, as opposed to being merely ignorant or uneducated. This quality can be attributed to both an individual himself (e.g. Penny Person is stupid) or his actions, words or beliefs (e.g., Penny Person's policies are stupid). The term can thus also refer to poor use of judgement, or insensitivity to nuances in a person who is otherwise intelligent. The determination of who is stupid is relatively difficult, despite attempts to measure intelligence (and thus stupidity) such as IQ tests."
After a little Googling I came across an interesting article, The Power of Stupidity by an Italian writer called Giancarlo Livraghi. In his essay he quotes from "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" by Carlo Cipolla, which mentions Carlo's Five Laws of Stupidity. The one which concerns me most however is Rule Three:
I think this is the most useful definition of stupidity I have found.
I'll give you an example of minor stupidity straight out of my own life.
I live in Spain and I have great difficulty finding books and magazines in English. Recently I became aware of an English supplement offered by a national newspaper (El Mundo) on Sundays.
I trotted over to the nearest newsagents. "Do you have the English supplement with El Mundo?" I asked. The lady said that she didn't have it. In fact, she tried to persuade me that the Spanish supplement was in fact the English supplement. Not the most intelligent thing to do because the magazine was clearly in Spanish. But this is not the stupid act I wish to focus on. I thanked her and left.
I stopped off at two more kiosks and newsagents only to find the same response. One of the vendors told me that the demand for the English supplement wasn't very high which was probably why they weren't delivering it with the newspaper.
Hmm. If demand wasn't high, would lowering the supply increase it? Another slight case of stupidity here. Still, I am not a newspaper chief.
Finally I arrived at a newsagent who told me that she didn't have the supplement, but she could order it for more. "You can?" I said.
"Of course. I can even order today's edition for you if you want."
I accepted and so as of next week I can look forward to my regular english language magazine.
The point of this story is to demonstrate that all the previous newsagents were stupid because none of them had offered to order the supplement! They'd lost a potential customer through simple lack of intelligence.
The last newsvendor now has a new regular customer!
Okay, one customer doesn't sound like much. But if I buy the Sunday newspaper plus the supplement (total cost 3 euros) that is 156 euros a year. Still not enough to get your interest? Imagine that every day the intelligent newsvendor manages to convert one passing request into a regular customer like me. That is 365 people in one year, times 156 euros = 55,536 euros! Of course this is income not profit, but it is a tidy sum. And all because you are more intelligent than your competition.
The case also illustrates one of the ways in which we can reduce stupidity in the world around us.
The intelligent newsvendor is rewarded by my custom. The stupid ones are punished by loss of income. Okay, they don't realise they've lost out, but that only makes them all the more stupid.
Fact: smart people are always learning. Not all of us run our own businesses but I think we could all learn a little something from that smart newsagent…
Posted by Richie at 12:45
Friday, 8 December 2006
You! Yes, you there!
You look like a smart person, otherwise you wouldn't be here reading this.
What's more you probably know a lot of intelligent people, right? In fact, in your family there are probably quite a few members who are above average on the I.Q. level.
So, why is that sometimes the world seems to be full of morons?
Don't panic! You're not alone feeling this way. In this blog you'll find rants, raves and hopefully one or two things that will help you come to terms with living in a stupid world.
Posted by Richie at 03:48