Saturday, October 11, 2014

Packaging

When I was a kid I used to think that packaging (and other aspects of the world, but that’s a different matter...) were in a constant state of continuous improvement.  In other words manufacturers would work out what worked (for consumers I naively thought) and packaging would get easier and simpler to use as time went on.  It turns out that’s not true.

This morning I’ve half pulled a finger nail off trying to prize open a cardboard box full of Becks (more rock and roll than lawnmowers eh readers?), completely failed again to find any way of using the strip of sticky tape stuff attached to bags of ground coffee, got orange juice all over and failed to open a yoghurt.

Orange juice first.  I used to be able to open Tescos cheap orange juice – you ripped or cut the top and you were in!  You just had to be a bit careful not to squeeze too hard or to spill any.  Then they introduced their 'irony range' of packaging.  Somebody was surely having the smirk of their lives when they persuaded their Tesco bosses to call the new cartons ‘easy open, easy pour’ - because the plastic bit has to be pushed down so hard to open it orange juice always squirts out, and pouring only becomes possible without a dishcloth or kitchen roll when it’s about ½ empty. 
 
Beer – some types of beer come with semi-serrated bits on the box with a tab to pull which sometimes works (a bit like the ones that virtually never work on tissue boxes) but otherwise there just doesn’t seem to be a way of opening apart from pulling one of the end tabs with massive angry force.

Coffee – Not only is the ‘cut here’ mark always slightly higher than the place where you actually have to cut the bag to open it but there is simply no way of using the bit of tape to reseal the bag when you’ve just opened it - it’s still too full and the tape isn’t long enough or sticky enough.  When it’s mostly empty the rolled up bit of bag is too springy to be held down by tape of any sort and by then the tape has got coffee and other bits of stuff on it so as to render it stick free anyway.  There may be a sweet spot about half way down the bag but I’ve never found it.  I use clothes pegs.

And if you were wondering about that yoghurt - I stabbed it with a big knife!
 
Thing is that I'm sure package manufacturers have design people.  Presumably they either employ idiots or they ignore what they advise in favour of keeping costs down...

EyeBar!

There was a recent ‘What’s on TV’ competition to “Win Theatre Tokens with EyeBar – the first ever chocolate bar enriched with nutrients that are great for your eyes”. We have 3 first prizes of £100 theatre tokens with 10 runners up get to try EyeBar for themselves!”


So, yes…win theatre tickets with chocolate that’s good for your eyes.  It says here that “It has been shown that taking a vitamin supplement for eye health can help improve eye health by 26%. EyeBar contains all the essential vitamins and nutrients, including lutein and zeaxanthin, all in a delicious tasting dark chocolate bar…So if you find taking tablets a bit of a chore, try EyeBar – what can be better – a chocolate bar that is good for your eye health!”

Here’s an obvious question – how do you know if your eye health has been improved by 26%?  Or if it’s declined by the same amount for that matter - how can the health of any part of your body be measured in percentage terms? And what constitutes ‘health’ in this context anyway – seeing better?  I suppose that’s what’s implied but not what it says of course…

I know that everyone knows that adverts are nonsense, it’s just what’s expected from marketing twads - but this one is so clearly nonsense that I find it makes me cross!  However, I do rather enjoy the fact that someone has come up with a completely ludicrous idea and actually taken it so far as to produce an actual product – You can’t make a product like this without going through quite a complicated process – and apparently at no stage did anyone say ‘this is a bonkers idea good for a laugh down the pub but surely we’re not going to actually make this stuff’. 

Perhaps ‘Eyebar’ (or is it EyeBar?) doesn’t actually exist in real life…Maybe it’s part of some secret government gullibility test to see if anyone actually thinks that their eyes will be 26% better if they eat loads of chocolate with ‘vitamins and nutrients’ with what might well be made up names in them. 

But before I finish this post here are a few free ideas for new products…

Foot sausages – or ‘Fosages’ - sausages containing the vital vitamins and nutrients to keep your feet healthy.

Shoulder biscuits?  ‘Showcuits’ – contains the vitamins and nutrients your feet need to be 17% healthier…

Mouth cabbage? 

Spunk trifle?  We could call that one Spifle – Contains nutrients and vitamins…you know the story by now…

Ban the car!


I became a pedestrian again recently.  This reminded me of several things…

1.    For the most part drivers can’t be arsed indicating, particularly when exiting a roundabout – most seem to think they’re ‘going straight on’ as if their particular car has been the centre of the pedestrian’s attention for the last few minutes

2.    Drivers often don’t indicate for left turns – and many just don’t bother to indicate at all

3.    Pedestrians are invisible to car drivers

4.    Car drivers don’t indicate for other road users only other cars or vehicles bigger than themselves

5.    All the schemes in the world to encourage people to ride bikes will fail until bike lanes have curbs that stop chumps driving in them

6.    Car drivers have no idea what the hatched yellow lines in the middle of a junction might be for

7.    Car drivers find it OK to park not only near the end of a road but right round the corner of it

8.    Car drivers open their doors onto the pavement without looking to see if anyone is using the footpath

9.    Cars park on grass verges

10. Cars park on footpaths

11. Cars park in bike lanes, especially near schools

12. Drivers like to wave you across roads into the path of traffic they haven’t noticed

13. Very many pedestrian crossings wait until all the pedestrians have eventually got across the road before the lights change

14. Car drivers still think it’s OK to drive through red lights so long as they accelerate through the pedestrian crossing and / or they’re one of the first 4 cars through

15. No-one car shares

16. There are far too many people driving cars
 
There are far too many other problems for me to bother listing them here - see previous posts!

Revive Chuck!


I’d like to tentatively (and perhaps optimistically) suggest that a rock and roll revival may be along soon.  On what to I base this?  Well, there have been a couple of rock and roll (by which I mean proper 1950s rock and roll) records on 6 Music recently.  OK, that’s not a lot of evidence…Though the reason I’ve noticed this is that I’ve been listening to a pile of mainly Chuck Berry songs recently – but also Buddy Holly (though not strictly rock and roll in the way I mean it I guess) and I re-discovered what an absolutely fabulous record (with a fabulous sound) Rock Around the Clock is.  And every few months I have to play my 7 inch of Jungle Rock, try to dispel images of Pan’s People (or ‘Legs & Co’ possibly) on Top of the Pops and just well, get blown away at how great it sounds – and how simple.  It also reminds me that great lyrics are not always necessary in the making of a truly great record.

But Chuck Berry is the man for me…everything rock and roll is in Chuck Berry and in many ways he did everything first and everything best – until the Beatles also did everything first and everything best!  OK, I exaggerate slightly.  Oddly, after my comments about Jungle Rock Chuck Berry’s lyrics are mostly fab – clever and knowing and real and arch – with clever little twists and ways of saying things without it being obvious.  See ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ as a euphemism for black for example and suddenly the politics is clear.    And ‘No Money Down’ features a list of features for a car (a ‘jet off take’ anyone?) demanded by a woman.  In the 1950s!  I could go on, I’m sure there’s loads of stuff on-line about the man.

So, yes, in tweet style…there should be a rock and roll revival and Chuck Berry is great!

For the scandal minded I checked out what I could find online about that whole video cameras in the country club toilets thing from a few years back - Nothing in particular to report...But of course I'm not one of those people that think only virtuous people can make great records anyway.  But it does seem that a few people have been out to get him for being black and successful over the years... 

Oh and while I'm on, check out the Hollies version of 'Too Much Monkey Business' - a great version of a great song!  There are loads of great Chuck Berry songs and you can get CD compilations of piles of originals for next to nothing.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Must write a stiff letter...

I read a copy of the Telegraph this weekend (didn't buy it you understand...)  I knew that newspapers were in trouble but I hadn’t quite realised how thin the content actually was these days .  Half of the articles in the various sections of the paper seemed to be sponsored by or perhaps ‘in association with’ which seems to be the preferred name for adverts masquerading as news or articles. 

I’ve never been a big fan of the Telegraph and I always found the anti-European stuff completely bonkers for a start (was it Freddie Forsyth they had in, all foaming at the eyes with imaginary stories about ‘Brussels’ etc?) but it all seemed a bit desperate - and sad really. 

There were a few proper news stories I guess but by pages 2 / 3 we had this...
  • Virtually a half page feature on a missing cat
  • A piece about a snake eating cats (possibly)
  • A story about molehills (making a page 3 news story out of a molehill I guess)
  • A piece about the maternal instincts of women extending to pets
and my favourite –
  • a ‘news’ story that explaining that Jeremy Paxman “has hit out at ‘morons’ for leaving bags full of dog mess at a beach he was visiting”
This story was in Waitrose Weekend magazine apparently – I bet the editor of the Telegraph was spitting blood on discovering they’d missed that particular doggie poop scoop.  Helpfully they also explained who Jeremy Paxman was, who he used to wrok for, when he retired etc.  I’d read in Private Eye that the Telegraph had sacked most of its journalists but if you don’t experience things for a while you really notice how they’ve changed.  I thought the Metro was shoddy because it was put together by students (and is at least free) – but the Telegraph?! – Blimey.  Must write a stiff letter to Waitrose Weekend magazine…

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pass the spliff Alumni man!

I get another annoying communication from the Leeds University Alumni Office.  Seems they want to know where I work as 'Leeds students would love to know what you're up to'.  They want to know my 'position' and my 'industry'.  If they get the info it seems that 'when the next generation of students are looking at universities, they can see just where a Leeds education might lead them'.  Blimey! 

I feel I'm not really what they're looking for...They do have a question on their card that reads "Tell us more about you role" (my italics, their spelling).  Perhaps not from the English department then?

I won't be bothering telling them that I don't have the lucrative middle-class profession they clearly think their ex-students have and their next generation craves - but I do rather like the fact that the Alumni office is based in the Stoner Building - far out man!

Having said all that Leeds Poly is changing (or has changed) it's name again so at least the University of Leeds isn't going down that particular road - Leeds Met is now called the University of Buckets or something.  Leeds Metropolitan University clearly wasn't a good enough name.  Now I have no idea but what are the chances they got a new Vice Chancellor and had a reorganisation combined with the name change?  Maybe the business studies or psychology departments are doing a study in the effects of pointless activity undertaken by institutions from which they never learn? 

A postscript - I Googled Leeds Metropolitan University or 'the Buckets' as I really hope they're now known.  They're 'opening minds' and 'opening doors' apparently.  Our back door is a bit stiff if they could send somebody round? - Or perhaps they're just really polite...

Swinging back again (see what I did there!?) Leeds University's website has a link on its home page to a free online business course 'delivered in partnership with Marks and Spencer'.  Ah well, the student led revoltion may not be happening just yet...

Damn you Mister Motivator!

Oops, I forgot to post this and it's getting a bit old now...

Darn it, feeling slightly cheated. I checked out the list of celebs appearing in 'Tumble' the  BBC One Saturday night 'entertainment' show - AND I'VE HEARD OF ONE OF THEM! An improvement on the 2 (or sometimes even 3) I usually get for these things but disappointing nonetheless. Damn you Mister Motivator!  For the most of you that won't have heard of him he was something to do with jumping about on daytime TV back in the 80s or 90s...
 
I await the day when 100% of celebrity contestants are people no-one has heard of.  And I'm still waiting for the 10 blade razor...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Spambots

Just wanted to say I'm sick of spam comments on this blog - you won't see them much because they're generally on really old posts.  But it does mean I can't tell who reads this blog because of the spambots from France and the USA. 

I wonder if life would carry on if I abandoned the internet completely and sent blog posts via letter...

That's enough MSN

I got an advert in my Hotmail inbox today.  Here’s what it says…

“Introducing the entirely new MSN – bringing you the content you love – from the sources you trust – with a new modern design.  We’ve also added personalisation features to help you customize to make it your own.”

Here are my objections:

‘Entirely new’ – sorry, but I don’t’ believe you.  And I’m not really interested in ‘new’ for its own sake anyway.

‘Bringing you the content you love’ – you have no idea what ‘content’ I love.  I don’t like the word ‘content’ disconnected from any meaning either.  Do you mean news or adverts or what?  I don’t ‘love’ any of it, so please don’t pretend you know stuff about me.

‘From the sources you trust’ – OK Microsoft, remind me exactly what those sources are if you wouldn’t mind…

‘New modern design’ – please see point one above.

‘Personalisation features’ – design your own damn webby site adverty stuff, I haven’t got time to change stuff, I’m just not interested enough in MSN.

That’s enough MSN

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Fields

Pretty chuffed that BBC Leeds played the whole of 'The Fields' the other night, my World War One song - all 6 minutes 50 of it - it's a story song so it wouldn't work that well to only tell part of the story - but I didn't really expect them to be able to play it all (just because it's nearly 7 mins long, that's all).  You can find the programme here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p022s914

I recorded it on a Monday, uploaded it to the BBC uploader on the same Monday and they put their programme together on the Tuesday - and it went out the following Saturday (26th July) - So a five day turn around from recording to public broadcast.  I think that's pretty goo!  You can listen to it for the next few days.  It's now also free to download on bandcamp  http://johnparkes.bandcamp.com/ 

Bit of an experiment for me - a song from the perspective of someone else...And I think I'm right in saying it's also the first song I've 'released' that has finger picking on the geetar - it is pretty much just an accompaniment though...Anyway, have a listen if you would...



The photo that I put with it on Bandcamp isn't the best ever but it's the only pic I had that seemed remotely appropriate - taken by me - anyone know where?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More free music coming up - and a Radio Programme you should listen to

Oh that's not one of my better blog post titles is it?  Still, never mind...

On occasion the modern world is quite good, actually - I recorded and mixed a new song yesterday (well, Neil the recording man and me anyway), uploaded it to the BBC website thingie ('the Uploader') - and it's going to be broadcast on on t'BBC on Saturday evening (27th July) - So it'll have gone from a lyric sheet and some chords in my head to public broadcast in 5 days. Not a record (no, it's an MP3!) but well. y'know...pretty good.

So...a big thumbs up to the Beeb. It's nearly 7 minutes long (though I doubt they'll be able to play all of it) and is my First World War song - 9 verses sung from the perspective of a mother. I even did a bit of reading before writing it...It's a bit depressing and has a political message and is a bit picky and folky music-wise so a bit of a new thing for me.

So...even though 'local music' is not the same as 'good music' (though they do pick the best of course!) let's have a cheer for Alan Raw and the BBC Radio Leeds Introducing thang - and not just because they're playing me...Or maybe a little bit because they're playing me...

Also...I'll be giving away the song on Bandcamp very soon (see the 'shop' button which should take you there where you should be able to download it for free in a few days - that's not the download time, that's an idea as to when it might be available).  I could put it on here but to be honest it's easier to re-direct you to bandcamp.  So there.

It's called 'The Fields' by the way...Catchy title next time hopefully...

Back on board!

Deary me...Have been locked out of the old blog for a few days due to some jiggery pokery that Google keep saying about having 'conflicting accounts' - looks like a ruse to get people to open a Gmail account to me.  But what a load of old pony really...Perhaps there really are technical reasons but they could make it easier...But I'm back in by the looks of it. 

Hurray for me and a thumbs down for Google for making me read really boring weasily stuff that I didn't understand - there was no 'just let me into my Blog dammit!' button to hit...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Fun World Cup game!

Hey folks...I just tried this - the Doritos 'Score and Win' game aka the Doritos Penalty Shootout.

Here's how it works...Now don't forget the code on the packet - the one that's not printed correctly?  OK, can't use that packet, let's try the other one...

Here we go...this'll be fun.  Enter your code number in the box.  Wonder why nothing has happened.  Try it again.  And again.  Squint at packet to check you have this right.  Think of giving up.  Take ages to read the 'what's this' advice associated with the code number box.  So...take the middle number in the 'best before panel.  Take the letter off the end of that number.  Go to the next line and take just the first four digits of the number there - don't forget to ignore the colon...Add these 4 digits to the end of the first number (see above).  That's your code.  Unless your packet is one of those printed in another format in which case scroll through by clicking the arrow to tell you how to decipher your alternative code.  Now, add your email address twice, tick the 'terms and conditions' box and sign up for exciting news about Doritos. 

Now, to prove you're a person, try to read the unfathomable jumble in the box that might be letters.  Enter something random into the box hoping to get another set of letters that might re readable this time.  Try this around a dozen times until a jumble comes up that you can half read - if you're lucky you might be right.  You can then play 'the game' by dragging a football across your computer screen.  1 in 5 chance of winning a free pack, 1 in 7 chance of winning a tenner and 1 in 12 chance of winning £100.  That'll be 1 in 420 chance of winning £100 then I think, not 1 in 12.

Then, travel to Doritos head office.  Ask to be directed to their marketing department.  Ask for the person responsible for the 'score and win' promotion.  Bend them over their desk and insert packet of Doritos up their backside.  Then ask for their email address so you can hassle them again in future.  Tell them their 'game' is rubbish and that England have not been involved in any penalty shootouts in this world cup.  Tell them that any world cup themed adverts are counter-productive. 

Go and buy some Tescos 'everyday value' tortilla chips.  Note the differences in quantity and price compared to Doritos.  

Moral of this story 1: Don't ignore the colon.  Moral of this story 2:  Adding 4 digits should do it...