Sunday, April 27, 2008

I've Never Been Convinced About That Pink Wall, Though

I was starting to make scones earlier when I was struck by the aesthetically pleasing arrangement of the stuff I was putting on the table, so I took a photo:

NB The orchid was a present from the lovely Tabby Rabbit, rather than a scone ingredient.

Bonus Picture: A cat, nominally mine, demonstrating that the sun really does shine out of her arse:

UPDATE: In other (completely unrelated) news, it's looking like my hunch about the Guardian letters pages was correct...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Like A Challenge

When I tell people I work in marketing, it probably conjures up images in their minds of exposed brickwork and glamorous product launches and handsome men in black polo-necks designing impossibly cool viral campaigns on their Macbook Airs.

In reality, I spend most of my time writing the blurb for those bits of paper that fall out of magazines, and which you immediately curse and throw in the bin without ever looking at them.

And as I work in B2B, rather than consumer, it's likely that you don't even look at the magazine itself, which is probably called something like Purchasing Manager Monthly, and you get sent eighteen shrink-wrapped copies of it every month despite the fact that you never asked for it and you don't even work in purchasing.

(I'm not bitter: I reconciled myself long ago to the profound and fundamental pointlessness of my chosen career. The money helps.)

Today, though, there must be something in the air, because two separate clients seem simultaneously to have decided that it's time to be a bit more 'creative'. The resulting tidal wave of conceptual free-association washed into my world as follows:

Phone rings.

Me: Hello?

Client: Ooh hello Patroclus, I need you to do this thing, it's urgent.

Me: No problem. What is it?

Client: We're doing a postcard, an invitation to [some government computing show]. We're giving away free smoothies on the stand. I need you to come up with a headline that ties in the concept of a smoothie with the concept of government departments moving to a shared service operating model.

Me (trying not to giggle): Central or local government?

Client: Doesn't matter.

Me: Can I use the brand name of the smoothie?

Client: No.


An email arrives. It reads:


I have found a picture of some peas. Can you come up with a tagline that ties it in with the need to upgrade your call center infrastructure to include multimedia contact channels? This is urgent.



(He did sign off in capitals, as well. I suspect he accidentally hit caps lock in a frenzy of unadulterated creative excitement.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Things I Miss About London

1. The almond pains au chocolat in Caffe Nero.

2. M&S mini super-wholefood salad*.

3. Er...that's it.

Dr Johnson is no doubt turning in his ample coffin.

In other news, is 'Run' by Gnarls Barkley this year's 'Brimful of Asha'? Decide for yourselves!

AND FINALLY... I'm so adamant about this not becoming a pregnancy blog that I've practically gone into denial, but should you be remotely interested, you may find some news here, among all the other good stuff...

* I have now located a stash of mini super-wholefood salads in M&S in Truro, hurrah! It's just the buns, then...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Guardian/Observer Letters Blog

For anyone who's interested, I've now given the Guardian/Observer letters project its own blog: Guardian/Observer Letters.

I'll post each day's chart there, along with any other useful info that anyone sends me (on which note, thanks to Miss-Cellany for that News & Observer article, and to Valerie for an apposite post from the Daily Kos).

Monday, April 21, 2008

'Quality' And Inequality, Part 2

Thanks to all of you for your great comments and suggestions on the last post. Here are some answers in a bit more depth:

My dad said: 'Why stop there, apart from small considerations like work? The same exercise applied to the The Times and Daily Telegraph, not to mention the Sun and The Sunday Post, would throw up grist to all sorts of mills.'

I have no doubt that it would - the only reason I chose the Guardian/Observer is that we get the paper every day and so it's no big hardship to do a bit of counting on the letters page. Plus, these are the papers where I would least expect to see a gender bias, but I'm pretty sure there is one, and that's what I'm aiming to find out. Heaven forbid that anyone should mistake this for a scientific survey, incidentally - as we established in the last thread, there are just too many unknowns for that to be possible. But if someone did a proper scientific study across all the papers, I'd be very interested to read it.

Dave said: 'Of course, now you've alerted them, they'll change their policy (or the genders of the names they chose to append to the letters [which as we all know, they make up for themselves anyway]). What you should do is go through last year's back copies'.

In my more megalomaniacal moments I do like to imagine that the entire editorial staff of all the quality national dailies read this blog, but in reality I think the chances of Nigel Willmott and his oppo on the Observer dropping by are fairly remote. And even if he/they did, they probably wouldn't take any notice, because I am a) a scummy blogger and b) a WOMAN hur hur hur oh get me and my biting invective, etc. I do agree re. the back copies, though, so this morning I rifled meticulously through the recycling bag and salvaged ten or so recent copies of the Guardian and the Observer...results coming soon (I can exclusively reveal that things are already looking significantly less dubious for the Observer than the Graun, though).

Semaphore, Tim Footman, OPC and James all said something about: 'But how do you know that equal numbers of men and women write the letters in the first place?'

For me this is the most important point - if 75% of letters to the Guardian are written by men, I shouldn't expect there to be a near-50:50 balance in the ones selected for publication. Tim suggests I send a polite email to N. Willmott to find out, which I intend to do very soon...stay tuned for updates. Having said that, it's already looking like the Observer has more of a balance than the Guardian, which might be significant.

Collected Voices said: 'If women's letters don't get published in newspapers (I've sent a few the Guardian's way with no success), then maybe the women stop bothering to try (I certainly have).'

And this is what I am hoping, eventually, to find out. Personally, I've had successes and failures in sending letters to editors, and it must be difficult to choose just 15 or so out of a daily mailbag of 300. I'm interested to know if women are being (thinkingly or unthinkingly) filtered out of that selection process - and if so, how the papers in question can still claim to be providing a service to their readership, which is fairly equally split in terms of gender (Guardian 57:43 male-to-female ratio, Observer 54:46).

And lastly, Boz provides some words of wisdom for all would-be letter-writers: 'Everyone is entitled to an opinion. If you are going to enforce that opinion on others please make it interesting'.

And to that point, thank you and hurrah to all of you lot, who all have interesting things to say, despite this being the uncontrolled no-mans-land of the blogosphere where only lunatics, obsessives and harrumphers are thought to roam.

Anyway, apparently I have to do some work now, in order to earn money and stuff, so I will leave you with today's tally:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

'Quality' And Inequality

Despite the fact that blogging has been around for 11 years now, it seems that some journalists are no closer to coming to terms with the fact that *anyone* can now publish their opinions to the world.

I read an article in the Guardian recently about how the letters pages of newspapers have a superior 'quality of debate' compared with comments threads appended to articles. The reason the quality of debate is superior, says the article, is that newspaper letters pages are subject to editorial control.

'Online services, who thought they could do without editors, are now seeing their merits again. Our job on the letters pages is to do the work for our busy readers,' the Guardian's letters editor Nigel Willmott is quoted as saying.

But I'm wondering if Nigel isn't actually doing his readership a huge disservice. In the free-for-all of the blogosphere, there's almost equal representation between men and women. The Pew Internet survey of American bloggers in 2006 discovered that 46% were women, for example. And when I did a mini-survey of the UK blogosphere earlier this year for my old company, I discovered that of 100 blogs selected at random, 39 were written by women and 38 by men (with the others it was too difficult to tell).

Given that men and women make up just about equal proportions of the population, and given that men and women are more or less equally inclined towards expressing their views publicly, it should follow that the Guardian's letters pages should reflect that kind of near-equality.

But I don't think they do, and now I want to prove it. So, armed with my trusty copy of Microsoft Excel, I'm planning to record the division of representation between men and women in the Guardian's - and the Observer's - letters pages, every day from now on, until either I get bored or the entire Guardian Media Group folds under the AWFUL PRESSURE of my AUDACIOUS citizen journalism.

(Obviously I'm going to be deciding a correspondent's gender mainly from their name, so there are going to be margins of error, and some people only give their initials, in which case I'll just put them down as 'indeterminate'. Bear in mind too that the Guardian, by its own admission, receives 300 letters, faxes and emails every day, so it's not like they've only got a small sample to choose from.)

Come with me then, ladies and gentlemen, on a journey into the psyche of the Guardian's and Observer's letters editors, as they exercise their superior editorial judgment over whose opinion merits publication and whose doesn't:

(With thanks to my brother for showing me how to save an Excel chart as a JPEG.)

NNB Of course, if I'm wrong about my hunch, rest assured I will bake an enormous humble pie and eat it LIVE on this blog.

Friday, April 18, 2008

First And And Always

I have now forgiven for selling out to an EVIL MEDIA CORPORATION and rejoined it.

If you are also on, please make friends with me! You can find me (and my 'enigmatic' profile picture) here.

TOTALLY UNRELATED UPDATE: Congratulations to Nuttycow and Andrew Smith for both making it to the front page of the Guardian today - it's a small world!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lying On My Bed With Nothing In My Head

Well, I didn't come back from Wokingham with any blogging inspiration, although I did come back with bleeding feet and a potentially enormous work project (although experience dictates that potentially enormous work projects tend to have a way of dematerialising shortly after coming into being, like fragile soap bubbles of money pricked into non-existence by the capricious fairies of transatlantic office politics).

So while I'm still suffering from blogger's block, here are some things that aren't YouTube videos:

1. A photograph of my lair:

In this photo you may notice some or all of the following:

- A to-do list that is dated 24th December 2007.

- A calendar that is still set to March.

- A to-do pad with nothing written on it.

- A broken pencil.

- A map of the recently redefined Schengen area.

- An image of the Blue Kitten doing an impression of a frozen king prawn.

- Some iPod earphones engaged in a complicated mating dance.

2. A photograph of some cherry blossom in my dad's garden...

...which I rather pretentiously fancy to be the organic cousin of this other photo I took last year of some wrought iron:

3. A rather splendid squelchy acid dance number by a band with the rather splendid name of Holy Fuck, featuring some rather splendid drumming into the bargain:

Holy Fuck - Royal Gregory (m4a)

Right, I'm off back to the chaise longue to wallow in the continued ennui.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Samarkand Of The Home Counties

I seem to have been struck down with the dreaded blogging ennui that everyone else has had already.

There's only one thing for it - I'm off to Wokingham in search of inspiration. Back Thursday. Or earlier, if Wokingham does its job.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Day Before Tomorrow

The three most recent status updates on my Facebook homepage:

Patroclus is not sure how it can be warm and sunny and snowing, but it is.

Sally has had sunshine, snow and sunshine....bizarre day!!!!

Kim thinks there is something a bit strange when I can build a snowman in the morning, and sit in the sunshine with a cup of tea in the afternoon.

Later, wolves roam the deserted streets devouring the frozen corpses of the fallen, while ice-choked RAF helicopters fail to rescue Prince Philip from the snowbound hospital.

Followed by a nice barbecue on the beach.

Friday, April 04, 2008

More Great PR For Christianity, Well Done Tony

Autocratic leader gets out of hand in Iraq, tortures countrymen: Prime Minister Blair chooses to invade illegally, kill more Iraqis, British soldiers.

Autocratic leader gets out of hand in Zimbabwe, starves countrymen: Prime Minister Brown chooses to donate £1bn a year to restart economy.

I think I know whose morals I prefer, and it isn't the one with Jesus* on his side.

* And History, let's not forget.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

'Intelligent Glass'


MR BC and PATROCLUS are in bed (not in that way).

ME: I think they've over-engineered that bathroom door.

MR BC: Hmm?

ME: Well, earlier it was opaque. Now it's see-through.

MR BC: -

ME: It must have some kind of special sensor. So it knows when someone's in there.

MR BC: -

ME: Like the bins they've got in my client's toilets, which sense when you're approaching, and open automatically.

MR BC: -

ME: I always thought that was a total waste of money. I mean, who can't open a bin?

MR BC: Mm.

ME: Their paper towel dispensers do the same - they sense your hand going up to them, and they dispense a paper towel. Ridiculous.

MR BC: -

ME: You'd have thought Radisson would have better things to spend its money on than 'intelligent glass'. Bigger rooms, for a start. This one's tiny.

MR BC: Patroclus.

ME: Mmm?

MR BC: The door's open.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Please Remain Calm

We interrupt this programme to inform you that West London's foremost blogging ninja and his awesome pecs are back in the blogosphere at last!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

De Terroribus Naturae

WARNING: Not Suitable for Vegetarians

The Meat Butterfly (vanessa buffetensis) is a little-known species of lepidoptera indigenous to the Languedoc region of the south of France.

First identified in 1769 by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffet, whence it derives its Latin name, the meat butterfly is rarely seen in the wild, probably because of its propensity to be instantly devoured by predators. However, it can sometimes be seen flexing its colourful meaty wings in its natural habitat: a rural wedding celebration.

These photographs afford some rare glimpses of vanessa buffetensis in its progressive stages of development:

Fig 1: Larva

Fig 2: Chrysalis

Fig. 3: Adult (rampant)

Fig. 4: Adult (couchant)

Vanessa buffetensis has been hunted almost to extinction by French wedding guests, who value it as a rare gastronomic delicacy. Appeals for the French government to declare it an endangered species have to date sadly been ignored.