Ask a Stupid Question….

Get a stupid Answer.   Or maybe not today (September 28th) as today is ‘Ask a Stupid Question Day’.  According to wikipedia "the roots of this special day go back to the 1980s. At the time, there was a movement by teachers to try to get kids to ask more questions in the classroom. The kids would then ask stupid questions to make the teachers happy."

I think this is a brilliant idea designed to get people thinking about crazy problems and perhaps finding a solution, and it should be encouraged. In fact, according to various newspapers, schools are starting to embrace the day and get pupils to think outside the box, perhaps escaping from the conscripted nature of the National Curriculum. 

The telegraph has an excellent list of questions reproduced here.

Q: What’s the opposite of a camel?
A: The opposite of a camel is a soap dish: it has dimples instead of humps and lives in a mostly moist area.

Q: How long would it take to roast a fully grown Indian elephant?
A: An Indian elephant, average weight 5000kg, would take 2916 hours and 40 minutes to roast to perfection (based on 35 minutes a kilogram). You would need an extremely large serving dish.

Q: In Mars Bars, how much taller is Jeremy Clarkson than Tom Cruise?
A: A Mars bar is four inches long. Jeremy Clarkson measures 19.25 Mars Bars (six feet five), while Tom Cruise is 16.75 Mars bars high (five feet seven). That’s a 2.5 Mars bar difference.

Q: How long would it take a snail to slide around the world?
A: 34,519 days at 0.7 miles a day or 0.03 miles per hour, the average speed for a garden snail.

Q: What’s the funniest word in the world?
A: The funniest word in the English language is fartlek (an athletic training regime); other funny words include furphy, pratfall, parp and firkin.

Q: What is the best type of biscuit to make a mattress from?
A: The best type of biscuits to make a mattress from would be fig rolls or strawberry Newtons. They would be soft, but still provide some back support.

Q: I want to write a film script which makes me millions: what should it be about?
A: Based on the top-grossing films, your script should be about a young wizard and a robot looking for a ring on a pirate ship which sinks. Good luck.

Q: In an average lifetime, how much gas will a human expel?
A: The average adult has 14 occurrences of flatulence per day. Total expulsion is about 538ml, making approximately 14,727 litres of gas expelled in a life time.

Q: How long is a piece of string?
A: A piece of string is twice as long as half its length. It is usually shorter than the amount you need to wrap a parcel, but always long enough to tangle.

Q: When will I die?
A: You will die in a freak parachuting accident aged 98. Your memorial service, attended by more than 1,000 of your closest friends, will be at Wembley.

Brilliant!  Have you got any daft questions, or have you been asked any recently?  Why not leave them in the comments below.

SysAdmin Day

Today is the 10th annual system administrator day, where you give thanks for the service and assistance provided by your IT Engineer’s, head geeks and tech guru’s.  Celebrated every year on the last Friday in July, it is a day where we accept gifts, praise, cards and food in return for a years hard work.

From the official website, here is a description of what a sysadmin does…

What is a system administrator? Well, look at the title. Administrator of systems. A system administrator takes care of systems.

Now, most people read "system" to mean an individual computer, and think that all a sysadmin does is clean viruses off your computer and replace your monitor. That’s not wrong — but it is only one page of the whole story.

A real computing system is larger. Very few computers work just on their own anymore; when you use the web, play a game online, share files with a friend, or send email, you’re using a complex and intricate collection of computers, networks and software that come together to do the job you’re asking.

A sysadmin manages these systems — they figure out how to bring storage from one server, processing from another, backups from a third and networking from a fourth computer all together, working seamlessly. For you.

It’s not an easy task. Your sysadmins need to understand in depth computing protocols. They often have to know something about programming, something about hardware, a lot about software — and even more about the people using their system.

A sysadmin is a professional, with complex skills, ethical challenges, and a daunting job. Many, if not most, people find computers difficult to use, and sometimes they’re unreliable. Being a sysadmin doesn’t absolve someone of dealing with unreliable computers. Oh, one can dream of such a day, but the opposite is true; no one sees more dead computers in a day than a sysadmin. No one sees them doing truly baffling things, and no one has more stories of computers failing, acting possessed, or even catching on fire.

The challenge of a sysadmin is making a computing system — a whole network of resources and servers and software — work together, work right, work even when parts of it fail — and work for you.

That’s the most important job of the sysadmin: to work for you. To take the staggering array of technologies, acronyms, protocols, networks, vendors, budgets, limited time, competing products, and threats to the computing network, assemble them all together in a working system. Their job is not only to be the geek in the corner who types all day. What they’re doing is bringing these diverse pieces of technology into order, and fitting them together to fill your needs at work and home; to translate the world of computing into human terms.

This is a daunting task and we’re still at the cutting edge; we’re not perfect, and the field is still figuring itself out. Being a sysadmin takes a certain boldness, to be one of the first people to take on the challenge of turning difficult computers into easy to use systems. But hundreds of thousands of people are working in that field now, from the entry level help desk tech to the corporate CIOs and everyone in between.

So when you think of a sysadmin, think of the people who run the servers that help you clean it off, the people who run your backups to make sure your data is safe, the people who bring you the network, the people who monitor it for security — and yes, the person who cleans the virus off your computer and replaces your monitor.

And here is a list of ways to utilise your sys admin (in this instance called Ted) to obtain the best value…

  • Make sure to save all your MP3 files on your network drive. No sense in wasting valuable space on your local drive! Plus, Ted loves browsing through 100+ GB of music files while he backs up the servers.
  • Play with all the wires you can find. If you can’t find enough, open something up to expose them. After you have finished, and nothing works anymore, put it all back together and call Ted. Deny that you touched anything and that it was working perfectly only five minutes ago. Ted just loves a good mystery. For added effect you can keep looking over his shoulder and ask what each wire is for.
  • Never write down error messages. Just click OK, or restart your computer. Ted likes to guess what the error message was.
  • When talking about your computer, use terms like "Thingy" and "Big Connector."
  • If you get an EXE file in an email attachment, open it immediately. Ted likes to make sure the anti-virus software is working properly.
  • When Ted says he coming right over, log out and go for coffee. It’s no problem for him to remember your password.
  • When you call Ted to have your computer moved, be sure to leave it buried under a year-old pile of postcards, baby pictures, stuffed animals, dried flowers, unpaid bills, bowling trophies and Popsicle sticks. Ted doesn’t have a life, and he finds it deeply moving to catch a glimpse of yours.
  • When Ted sends you an email marked as "Highly Important" or "Action Required", delete it at once. He’s probably just testing some new-fangled email software.
  • When Ted’s eating lunch at his desk or in the lunchroom, walk right in, grab a few of his fries, then spill your guts and expect him to respond immediately. Ted lives to serve, and he’s always ready to think about fixing computers, especially yours.
  • When Ted’s at the water cooler or outside taking a breath of fresh air, find him and ask him a computer question. The only reason he takes breaks at all is to ferret out all those employees who don’t have email or a telephone.
  • Send urgent email ALL IN UPPERCASE. The mail server picks it up and flags it as a rush delivery.
  • When the photocopier doesn’t work, call Ted. There’s electronics in it, so it should be right up his alley.
  • When you’re getting a NO DIAL TONE message at your home computer, call Ted. He enjoys fixing telephone problems from remote locations. Especially on weekends.
  • When something goes wrong with your home PC, dump it on Ted’s chair the next morning with no name, no phone number, and no description of the problem. Ted just loves a good mystery.
  • When you have Ted on the phone walking you through changing a setting on your PC, read the newspaper. Ted doesn’t actually mean for you to DO anything. He just loves to hear himself talk.
  • When your company offers training on an upcoming OS upgrade, don’t bother to sign up. Ted will be there to hold your hand when the time comes.
  • When the printer won’t print, re-send the job 20 times in rapid succession. That should do the trick.
  • When the printer still won’t print after 20 tries, send the job to all the printers in the office. One of them is bound to work.
  • Don’t use online help. Online help is for wimps.
  • Don’t read the operator’s manual. Manuals are for wussies.
  • If you’re taking night classes in computer science, feel free to demonstrate your fledgling expertise by updating the network drivers for you and all your co-workers. Ted will be grateful for the overtime when he has to stay until 2:30am fixing all of them.
  • When Ted’s fixing your computer at a quarter past one, eat your Whopper with cheese in his face. He functions better when he’s slightly dizzy from hunger.
  • When Ted asks you whether you’ve installed any new software on your computer, LIE. It’s no one else’s business what you’ve got on your computer.
  • If the mouse cable keeps knocking down the framed picture of your dog, lift the monitor and stuff the cable under it. Those skinny Mouse cables were designed to have 55 lbs. of computer monitor crushing them.
  • If the space bar on your keyboard doesn’t work, blame Ted for not upgrading it sooner. Hell, it’s not your fault there’s a half pound of pizza crust crumbs, nail clippings, and big sticky drops of Mountain Dew under the keys.
  • When you get the message saying "Are you sure?", click the "Yes" button as fast as you can. Hell, if you weren’t sure, you wouldn’t be doing it, would you?
  • Feel perfectly free to say things like "I don’t know nothing about that boneheaded computer crap." It never bothers Ted to hear his area of professional expertise referred to as boneheaded crap.
  • Don’t even think of breaking large print jobs down into smaller chunks. God forbid somebody else should sneak a one-page job in between your 500-page Word document.
  • When you send that 500-page document to the printer, don’t bother to check if the printer has enough paper. That’s Ted’s job.
  • When Ted calls you 30 minutes later and tells you that the printer printed 24 pages of your 500-page document before it ran out of paper, and there are now nine other jobs in the queue behind yours, ask him why he didn’t bother to add more paper.
  • When you receive a 130 MB movie file, send it to everyone as a high-priority mail attachment. Ted’s provided plenty of disk space and processor capacity on the new mail server for just those kinds of important things.
  • When you bump into Ted in the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon, ask him computer questions. He works 24/7, and is always thinking about computers, even when he’s at super-market buying toilet paper and doggie treats.
  • If your son is a student in computer science, have him come in on the weekends and do his projects on your office computer. Ted will be there for you when your son’s illegal copy of Visual Basic 6.0 makes the Access database keel over and die.
  • When you bring Ted your own "no-name" brand PC to repair for free at the office, tell him how urgently he needs to fix it so you can get back to playing EverQuest. He’ll get on it right away, because everyone knows he doesn’t do anything all day except surf the Internet.
  • Don’t ever thank Ted. He loves fixing everything AND getting paid for it!

So, give thanks for all that IT has bestowed on you, and feel free to pass unto your engineer one of these many gift ideas… 

50 Fun things to do in a lift

I’ve been reminded of this I received some years back…

1. Make race car noises when anyone gets on or off.
2. Blow your nose and offer to show the contents of your tissue to other passengers.
3. Grimace painfully while smacking your forehead and muttering, "Shut up, dammit, all of you just shut UP!"
4. Whistle the first seven notes of "It’s a Small World" incessantly.
5. Sell Girl Scout cookies.
6. On a long ride, crash from side to side as if you”re on rough seas.
7. Shave. (Especially if you’re a woman.)
8. Crack open your briefcase or purse, and while peering inside, ask: "Got enough air in there?"
9. Offer name tags to everyone getting on the elevator. Wear yours upside-down.
10. Stand silent and motionless in the corner, facing the wall, without getting off.
11. When arriving at your floor, grunt and strain to yank the doors open, then act embarrassed when they open by themselves.
12. Lean over to another passenger and whisper: "Noogie patrol coming!"
13. Greet everyone getting on the elevator with a warm handshake and ask them to call you, "Admiral".
14. One word: Flatulence!
15. On the highest floor, hold the door open and demand that it stay open until you hear the penny you dropped down the shaft go "plink" at the bottom.
16. Do Tai Chi exercises.
17. Stare, grinning, at another passenger for a while, and then announce, "I’ve got new socks on!"
18. When at least 8 people have boarded, moan from the back, "Oh, not now. Damn motion sickness!"
19. Give religious literature to each passenger.
20. Meow occasionally.
21. Bet the other passengers you can fit a twenty-pence in your nose.
22. Frown and mutter "Gotta go, gotta go," then sigh and say, "oops!"
23. Show other passengers a wound and ask if it looks infected.
24. Sing, "Mary Had a Little Lamb" while continually pushing buttons.
25. Shout, "Bombs away!" whenever the elevator descends.
26. Walk on with a cooler that says "human head" on the side.
27. Stare at another passenger for a while, then announce, "You’re one of THEM!" and move to the far corner of the lift.
28. Burp, and then say "Mmmm…tasty!"
29. Leave a box between the doors.
30. Ask each passenger getting on if you can push the button for them.
31. Wear a puppet on your hand and make it talk to the other passengers.
32. Start a sing-along.
33. When the lift is silent, look around and ask, "Is that your phone?"
34. Play the harmonica.
35. Shadow box.
36. Say, "Ding!" at each floor.
37. Lean against the button panel.
38. Say, "I wonder what all these do" and push the red buttons.
39. Listen to the elevator walls with a stethoscope.
40. Draw a little square on the floor with chalk and announce to the other passengers that this is your "personal space".
41. Bring a chair along.
42. Take a bite of a sandwich and ask another passenger: "Wanna see wha in muh mouf?"
43. Blow spit bubbles.
44. Pull your gum out of your mouth in long strings.
45. Announce in a demonic voice: "I must find a more suitable host body."
46. Carry a blanket and clutch it protectively.
47. Make explosion noises when anyone presses a button.
48. Wear "X-Ray Specs" and leer suggestively at other passengers.
49. Stare at your thumb and say, "I think it’s getting larger."
50. If anyone brushes against you, recoil and holler, "Bad touch!"

Some mid-week humor.

I’ve happened upon these during my voyages on the choppy waters of the Internet and they made me smile, so I thought Id bring them to you too.

First Up, from GraphJam…


For those of you who haven’t experienced GraphJam yet – its a site where people can submit graphs representing information in a humorous way, such as the above.

Secondly, I have discovered the quotes of the great ‘Gene Spafford’, A professor of computer science at Purdue University, and a leading computer security expert.  Wikipedia has a great article on him here.

Anyway, he has some excellent quotes related to the Internet (but perhaps not suitable for Iris’s Quote of the Day, so I dispense them here:-

  • Axiom #1: "The Usenet is not the real world. The Usenet usually does not even resemble the real world."[2]

    • Corollary #1: "Attempts to change the real world by altering the structure of the Usenet is an attempt to work sympathetic magic — electronic voodoo."[2]
    • Corollary #2: "Arguing about the significance of newsgroup names and their relation to the way people really think is equivalent to arguing whether it is better to read tea leaves or chicken entrails to divine the future."[2]
  • Axiom #2: "Ability to type on a computer terminal is no guarantee of sanity, intelligence, or common sense."[2]
    • Corollary #3: "An infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of keyboards could produce something like Usenet."[2]
    • Corollary #4: "They could do a better job of it."[2]
  • Axiom #3: "Sturgeon’s Law (90% of everything is crap) applies to Usenet."[2]
    • Corollary #5: "In an unmoderated newsgroup, no one can agree on what constitutes the 10%."[2]
    • Corollary #6: "Nothing guarantees that the 10% isn’t crap, too."[2]
  • "Usenet is like a herd of performing elephants with diarrhoea — massive, difficult to redirect, awe-inspiring, entertaining, and a source of mind-boggling amounts of excrement when you least expect it."[2]
  • "Don’t sweat it — it’s not real life. It’s only ones and zeroes."[2]
  • "The only truly secure system is one that is powered off, cast in a block of concrete and sealed in a lead-lined room with armed guards – and even then I have my doubts."[3]
  • "Securing an environment of Windows platforms from abuse – external or internal – is akin to trying to install sprinklers in a fireworks factory where smoking on the job is permitted."[4]

I know a few of these should make my colleagues smile.  I particularly like the last one.
For those of you who don’t know what Usenet and Newsgroups are, they’re an early piece of internet technology still going strong, but out of the limelight of the general populous and they’re basically message boards accessible to all to post and reply to – an early form of forums.

Observances on Driving Technique.

I’ve noticed that round here, people seem to follow a very different highway code, that might perhaps confuse and scare the outsider, so here are some tips for those passing through the English Midlands this Bank Holiday Weekend.

1) When traversing a roundabout taking a right hand exit, be sure to position yourself in the left hand lane when entering the roundabout.

2) When driving be sure to drive up the middle so that you traverse the white dividing line.  This avoids the many potholes and will extend the life of your suspension. This also allows any unexpected bus to undertake you.

3) Indicator usage is frowned upon.  Their usage merely ruins the aesthetics of the vehicle. A crisp packet on the rear parcel shelf is an effective signal of your intentions.

4) When driving at night, be sure to use only your foglights.  If your vehicle does not permit you to use foglights without some other forward lighting, be sure to only use sidelights.

5) If you do not have foglights, kick out one headlamp (preferably on the drivers side) to give the impression to other motorists that you are a motorcycle who is staying within the lane. This will help keep the other driver alert when he approaches and realises that you are both on a collision course.

6) When turning right into a T-Junction, be sure to cross into the lane of any waiting traffic. This encourages other drivers to stay back from the white line and prevent them nosing out into traffic.

7) Queuing is for wimps. Be sure to cut in at the last second!

8) Posted speed limits are minimum targets.  If you fail to exceed this speed in the shortest possible time, you will be signaled by the neighbourhood traffic watch to get out of the way. 

9) Ensure that you do not give way to vehicles on your right when entering a roundabout.  Even if they’re on the roundabout.

10) Petrol Stations are starting to invest in ‘Pay at Pump’ technology.  This device allows outsiders to pay for fuel using pins and chips. You have no purpose being there – queue for your fuel using the other two pumps such that you may pay the attendant using paper money.  If this blocks the road, then so be it!  Also ensure that you use the pump on the opposite side to your vehicles fuel tank such that you spray unused fuel all over the floor.

Inappropriate Religious Harassment?

Is it inappropriate for me to put a sign on my door that read’s "Bugger Off God Squad"?  The reason I ask is that they regularly feel the need to come a knocking trying to sell their wares to me, unannounced and uninvited.   Why, when even double glazing salesmen have stopped this aspect of their trade (at least round here) do the various religions feel that because I’m not in church, I must have missed out on what they’re offering, such that they must come and reedumacate me.

Well, let me tell you this!  This country teaches its children about religion, and I have been exposed to ‘Christian Value’s for the last 27 years, so I’ve kind of got an idea of what its all about.  And in my humble opinion, its all a load of tosh.  That’s just what I (and many others in this country) believe, but you don’t ever hear atheists tapping people up to ask if they don’t believe in a god.  I’m perfectly happy with people wishing to worship whatever deity, god or gods they may choose,  but don’t try and enforce your value’s on me.   So keep your prayers, thoughts and worship to your temples, homes and the occasional hour on the telly.  At least then I’ve got the opportunity to not participate in your beliefs if I choose not to.

Until that happens, I’m going to get some quotes from a sign company.

Blue Sky thinking from the LGA

Council leaders have compiled a banned list of the 200 worst uses of jargon, with "predictors of beaconicity" and "taxonomy" among the worst horrors.  The Local Government Association says such words and phrases must be avoided for staff to "communicate effectively".  The LGA’s list includes suggested translations of some terms, such as "measuring" for the civil servant’s favourite "benchmarking", "idea" for "seedbed", "delay" for "slippage" and "buy" for "procure".   For most, though, no explanation is forthcoming or, perhaps, possible.  The LGA spokesperson Ms Eaton said: "Why do we have to have ‘coterminous, stakeholder engagement’ when we could just ‘talk to people’ instead?

This isn’t exactly ‘outside the box’ thinking from the LGA.  People have been discussing this for years, and I’ve attending meetings to numerous to count where I’ve been able to complete my buzzword bingo scorecard within about 5 minutes, due to the presenter really going ‘above and beyond’ with their use of jargon.   Often when this happens, more time is spent trying to stifle a chuckle and decipher the lingo than is spent trying to understand and follow the content of the presentation. 

I’ve listed all 200 words below, some are worse than others, but most of them I consider idioms – words for which the meanings are untranslatable between one language (jargobabble) and another (English), and really should be avoided wherever possible.  However, just as some words and expressions fade into the texts of history,  new and exciting language appears, and we should embrace the best of the modern best, rather than making pariahs out of every single new word that appears.

Area based
Area focused
Best Practice
Blue sky thinking
Can do culture
Capacity building
Cautiously welcome
Citizen empowerment
Cohesive communities
Community engagement
Core developments
Core Message
Core principles
Core Value
Democratic legitimacy
Democratic mandate
Direction of travel
Distorts spending priorities
Double devolution
Early Win
Engaging users
Evidence Base
External challenge
Flexibilities and Freedoms
Funding streams
Gateway review
Going forward
Good practice
Holistic governance
Horizon scanning
Improvement levers
Income streams
Innovative capacity
Joined up
Joint working
Level playing field
Management capacity
Meaningful consultation
Meaningful dialogue
Menu of Options

Network model
Partnership working
Peer challenge
Performance Network
Place shaping
Pooled budgets
Pooled resources
Pooled risk
Predictors of Beaconicity
Preventative services
Process driven
Provider vehicles
Quick hit
Quick win
Resource allocation
Revenue Streams
Risk based
Sector wise
Service users
Shared priority
Shell developments
Single conversations
Single point of contact
Social contracts
Social exclusion
Step change
Strategic priorities
Sustainable communities
Tested for Soundness
Thinking outside of the box
Third sector
Upward trend

A little comic relief…

OK, so its Comic Relief/Red Nose day today, but I’m not doing anything.


No, in reality  my hair isn’t usually rouge, but as its do something funny for money day,  I’m adopting the Tesco line ‘every little helps’.  If you laugh at the above picture, text ‘climb’ to 88808* or ‘Yes’ to 66609*.  You must NOT use your work mobile for this however.  Or phone up this evening and pledge some cash!!!  I’ve also changed the theme of my site for the day to comic relief colours.

And now for some silly jokes:-

  • I went to the local video shop and said, ‘Can I borrow Batman Forever?’ The owner said, ‘No, you’ll have to bring it back tomorrow.’
  • I met the bloke who invented crosswords. Can’t remember his name, it’s P something T something R.
  • A bird in the hand is always safer than one overhead.
  • How do they make cheese on toast in the Jungle?    Put it under a Gorilla.

Feel free to add your others in the comments box below.


* texts to climb 88808 cost £1 plus your standard network operator rate,  texts to 66609 cost £5 plus your standard network rate.  Do not use your work mobile.   Ask the bill payers permission.