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Heavy Plant

Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tasteless bathroom


Wow! That's bad.

Virgin Blue: Huge Thanks!

I am normally on the complaining side of the equation when it comes to customer service and I am rarely impressed by the way companies deal with me which makes it particularly noteworthy when they do it well. On Friday I was not just pleasantly surprised but utterly blown away by the lengths to which the check-in staff of Virgin Blue at Sydney Airport went to help us.

Our online check-in failed to work but we had run out of time and had to get to the airport as quickly as possible. It was raining, hard. The traffic ground to halt a not even a kilometre up the road. We got to the airport and the transfer bus from long-term parking failed to arrive and then got stuck in a traffic jam of taxis. We missed the flight and would have had to buy a ticket for a different flight and not use our tickets for the Australian Open that night.

The ground crew not only didn’t make us buy another flight, they moved heaven and earth to get us on any of the next three flights out of Sydney and they did it despite the fact that we were both, frustrated, angry and upset (I was rude too, but Emily kept her head!). Thanks to them we missed only the first set of the women’s singles match that night – the first of three – and saw all 5 sets of the men’s.

We would probably have gone straight home and not gone to Melbourne at all had it not been for the people that helped us. Instead we had a fantastic weekend away, saw a day and a half of top class tennis. I can’t thank them enough.

Friday, January 04, 2008

On Browsing: Herbivorous consumption

Browsing is an activity where concentration and attention span as well as a deeper qualitative appreciation are hostile to the activity itself. It also means that people are more sensitive to negative forces, browsing has both push and pull forces and the push is instant and final and the pull is creeping and fickle.

"I'm a selective consumer me."

It's probably a bit unseemly to quote yourself but when I wrote this I started thinking more about browsing as it seems to be an increasingly important part of everyday experience.

Dictionary definitions aren't much good when you are looking to describe and understand something as prevalent and widely applied as the concept of browsing. At best you will be left with an awkwardly narrow definition and at worst discover that the term you are looking up has several different uses that vary only slightly in a semantic sense but when used as a basis for thinking about the thing it describes in a real world context produce a multitude of obfuscating subtleties (try saying that with a mouthful of jelly!). The definition I have come up with is:

Browsing is the act of continual selection and sampling dictating what will be consumed and what will be discarded.

This feels like a capital economic description but is derived from natural history's description of the eating habits of herbivores and I've pinched this as a metaphor for thinking about the process. The very fact that to me this sounds like something that might come up in a marketing seminar points to what is important about browsing; it is a choice mechanism based on sampling. The actual item or experience to be consumed must be part consumed or experienced in the act of making a choice. Choice only occurs when there is more than one option to consume and browsing is how we appear to cope with an enormous variety of choice offered: too many options actually inhibit a quick and clear decision, sampling and acceptance or rejecion have become the norm. We have been turned into herbivorous consumers by the overwhelming quantity of options available.

Browsing also seems to be an effective means of avoiding a definitive choice. With a little of this and a little of that you can browse all day without settling on a single option. It could lead to overconsumption, particularly if you continue with the idea that you are looking for a single perfect thing or simply get lost in the habit of sampling and moving on. Apathy and inertia are an unhealthy combinaton.

The act of browsing seems to have become an activity in itself; window shopping, channel surfing and web browsing for fun. What becomes of a choice mechanism when the final objective is removed? The activity seems a kind of aimless meandering, a feckless self absorption and commitmentless waste of time. Without an aim continuous browsing will probably lead down roads marked out by the most basic and instinctual drives, the lowest common denominator. I'm wondering if this is why there is so much sex on the internet - a medium where you have to open a 'browser' just to be able to access most of the content.

There is another name for herbivores in natural history: prey species. It is only by herding together in vast numbers and/or reaching a really enormous size that they manage not to be devoured!

More thought needed.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

To do list

Unlike 90% of the rest of the world I return to work on 7 January. My beloved does not and today has nose firmly pressed to grindstone. This has precipitated the dreaded To Do List.

I am not the most reliable person on earth so a to do list outside of work is more of a vague indication of possible activity rather than a strict list of tasks to be accomplished. My other half is not so lackadaisical and the stern looks and telling off I will most likely receive in the almost inevitable event of my failing to complete everything on it will be unpleasant in the extreme. There's no point begging for mercy, she'll be at work all day and I'll be at home watching the tennis and guzzling sausages.

It's not that the list is particularly onerous - it has only 10 items - the problem is that I've not been at work since Christmas Eve and the majority of tasks to be completed in that time have been the same:

  1. Drive somewhere
  2. Eat something
  3. Drink something
  4. Sleep

How am I to deal with 10 tasks that are all different and have sub-tasks that require actual thought? Plus the fact that one of these tasks is 'Ironing', that isn't a task, it's a sentance (and no time off for good behaviour either)!