Friday, 31 October 2014

31/10/14 - Brrrr, etc

As the nights draw in and the mercury descends toward the part of the thermometer labelled ‘mittens’, we can forget about the talk of an Indian Summer and prepare ourselves for the other freakish weather phenomenon prophesied by the press: biblical snowfall. (Probably. The Express are always shitting on about that, aren’t they? Tales of ‘unseasonable coldness’ and ‘cold snaps’ that normal people just call ‘winter’.) Pack the lightweight cotton garments away and replace them with chunky cable-knits and fleecey, behooded alternatives. The long British winter is coming, and it’ll be here until, ooh, April-ish.

The natural thing for the office workers of this meteorologically unfortunate isle to do around Novembertime is to complain about how cold it is at work. (Well, this is a year-round behaviour, really. But it becomes more pronounced when the ambient temperature plummets and frequency of rain/gloom increases.) We sit at our desks shivering, shuddering, growing increasingly irritated with the air-con, making mental notes to dress more appropriately tomorrow. When, of course, we’ll all be wearing eight layers, just in time to enjoy the heating which has been switched to max in response to yesterday’s complaints.
Let me make you feel a little better about this. Let me tell you about Unit 6.

I used to work at a place called Impress Publishing in Canterbury. It’s a charity Christmas card fulfilment house, which means that it’s the central supply hub for the customers of a number of those charity catalogues you get through the post or come across in glossy magazines; Macmillan Cancer Support was the biggest one when I was there in 2003-5, and there was also Breast Cancer Care, SSAFA, the British Heart Foundation and various others. (Including the House of Lords, weirdly – one of their designs, entitled ‘Portcullis’, was exactly that: a crimson card with an embossed gold portcullis on the front. Not very Christmassy, is it?) I’ve slagged Impress off a lot over the years, perhaps rather unfairly. I mean, they did employ me for eighteen months, so they’re not all bad. OK, their draconian clocking-in/out system meant that if you were a minute late you lost 15 minutes’ pay, their attitude to employing warehouse staff was basically ‘let the Job Centre send absolutely anyone down, and when they start nicking stuff, slashing people’s tyres, or just don’t turn up, we’ll get some more of the same in’, the one staff jolly that I recall involved going to a cricket ground 500 yards from the office, but... oh, I forget the point I was making. Anyway, the reason I was working there was that I’d just graduated, I had a mate who worked there and I needed some ready cash before starting the jobhunting proper. It wasn’t Impress’s fault that I ended up working there for eighteen months. And they didn’t seem to mind having a fresh English Lit graduate running their warehouse for the princely sum of £12,000pa. (To be fair, that worked out about thirty pence an hour above the national minimum wage at the time, so I was ever-so-slightly better off than the klepto eighteen-year-olds I was managing - tiny crumb of self-respect there. Although my unfortunate habit of clocking in at 8:01am every day [due to an inexplicable quirk of Canterbury traffic, it didn’t seem to matter what time I left the house - I’d always find that I was a little over sixty seconds late when I got there] ensured that I was docked quite a lot of that.)

Now, the nature of charity Christmas card fulfilment is that, of course, it’s quite seasonal. The first catalogues would go out halfway through the year, so there’d be an initial flurry of orders from mad old biddies who wanted cards in July to avoid the rush, and then from about September onwards it steadily increased into being ridiculously busy from late October through to mid-December, at which point it’d drop off again. The early part of the year was used for preparing, ordering and organising stock and systems for the busy season. And a key part of this was sorting out Unit 6.

Unit 6 was a storage warehouse on the other side of the business park. Throughout peak season, it was necessary to nip over there every now and then with a forklift and pull back pallets of cards to the main fulfilment area. Naturally, given how busy it all was, any semblance of order in Unit 6 was quickly lost as you’d just shift things around, grab what you needed and run. So in January, in the aftermath of the festive season, Unit 6 was the big project. And it was something to dread. There would be pallets, half-pallets and random stacks of stock everywhere. The entire numbering system lay in ruins. It took weeks on end to shift everything out, re-pack it, re-label it and store it in a logical fashion on the racks.
That can’t be so hellish though, can it? It’s just a methodical ordering process, right? And isn’t it fun to operate a forklift?
Well, yeah – but this was in January. In an unheated warehouse, you may as well be outside. Every exhalation saw breath hanging in the air in a mocking mist. Fingers froze on levers operating recalcitrant, under-performing hydraulics. Icy winds whispered through myriad cracks in the walls. Minutes bled into hours at glacial pace. Bitter cold. Isolation. Desperation. Hopelessness. An ever-present dew-drop hanging from the tip of the nose.

It’s not actually so bad sitting at your desk, is it?

Ice Bike

Hurrah, a new Furze video! I really think this guy might be an actual genius.

Auntie Fee's Sweet Treats for the Kids

I'd watch more cookery shows if they were like this. Effortlessly brilliant, gloriously coarse.

BBC Genome Project

This is interesting - find out what was on TV and the radio (or, if you're that old, 'the wireless') while you were being born. Or, y'know, whenever. Click here.

Daniel RAD-cliffe

I have a lot more respect for this little wizard now.

Cameron Carpenter's Incredible Organ

OK, I had to Google who Cameron Carpenter was. And yes, he is fully deserving of this savage parody.

How bus drivers deal with bagsnatchers

Friday, 24 October 2014

24/10/14 - Life, or whatever

Life. It’s a theme that often features in JuicyPips, variously espousing the importance of your actions, or dismissing the futility of them. Depends what sort of mood I’m in, really. But it’s probably time to pull these two diametrically-opposed theses into some sort of order. Give you two clear arguments so that you can just pick one. Yeah? So let’s start with the cheery, positive perspective…


Life, it goes without saying, is something to be cherished. When you think about your existence in mathematical terms, the likelihood of you being here at all are phenomenally small. Your parents were feeling amorous on that particular night nine months prior to your birth (or were sticking to a clinical calendar of dates and cycles, whatever), and of all those sticky little swimmers, you were the one that got through and made it to the egg. And as if those numbers weren’t mind-boggling enough, their parents did the same, and their parents, and their parents… when you follow the thread all the way back through the timeline of humanity (or, if you wish to stretch it yet further, through the evolution of all multi-cellular life forms, or even right back to the Big Bang), the chances of there being one of you, right here, right now, are really very small indeed. Well done. You made it.

So, what are you doing to celebrate this tremendous good fortune? Sitting there on the sofa in your pants, eating a massive bag of Doritos and watching an episode of Not Going Out that you’ve seen three times before? C’mon, that’s not what your grandfather shot a Nazi in the face for. That’s not why that diplodocus sneezed. That’s not why that single-celled protozoa started thinking about morphing with others to form clusters. Get out there and look at the world! It’s huge, and every part of it is the product of just as many mind-boggling coincidences as you are.

Your legacy, you see, will resonate through the ages. You only get to do this once. Think about the entire lifespan of planet Earth, compared to your own really quite short life. You will never, ever get to do this again. Make the most of it! Have fun! Look at stuff! Achieve things that your great-grandchildren will be proud to tell their friends about!

You have your health (and if you don’t, hell, you’re still alive), you have access to clean water, nutritious food, medication, support networks, and you’re able to read this, which means that a) you’re sufficiently educated to be able to read, b) you have access to the technology with which to do so, and c) you have the time to waste on entertaining yourself. OK, the world’s full of war and crime and natural disasters and shit, but it could be worse.


So, part two – the other side of the coin:

Yes, it is staggeringly impressive in statistical terms that you – specifically, you – came to exist. But don’t be too impressed with yourself, it’s not like you’re the only human who managed it. You are, to paraphrase Fight Club, not a beautiful or unique snowflake. There are several billion other people who got there too, most of whom couldn’t give a shit about your enthusiasm over the probability of it all.

You are a meaningless spec in space-time. The human race will eventually die out, that’s a certainty, and the planet will boil away into oblivion. Take a step back and look at the Earth from space, slowly rotating regardless of your actions, the universe just getting on with things - you play no part in this, you’re a grain of sand in an infinite hourglass. Humanity as a species is a disease upon a rock that would be in much better shape without us.

When you think about the age of the universe, years become largely irrelevant. What’s a million years in relation to the solar system? Chicken feed. But a million years to the human race? Where will we be in a million years’ time? Nowhere, that’s where. Extinct. Cosmically speaking, we’ll be of very little consequence – as important as the ice they found on Mars, or the glimmering tail of a comet; little more than an oh-that’s-interesting diversion. Nothing you do today means a single damn thing. So what if you forgot to eat breakfast or record EastEnders, or your roof’s leaking, or you’ve got a headache? Nobody cares. In the grand scheme of humanity, none of this has any value.

The best thing you can do is just try not to be too much of a dick. Don’t kill anyone, yeah? You might as well enjoy yourself while you’re here, it’s not as if it matters, but you won’t have any fun if you’re in prison – that’s a group of people who really have a handle on the futility of existence and the disregard of consequences. Exploit your freedom whilst maintaining a keen sense of how easily it can be removed.
Fuck your pension. Fuck saving up to buy a house. Fuck eating healthily and drinking in moderation. Fuck being nervous or shy or caring what people think. IT DOESN’T MATTER.

(n.b. It’s probably best to take both of these arguments with a pinch of salt, I may not be the most stable source of lifestyle advice…)

Ayoade vs. Guru-Murthy

Richard Ayoade transcending the concept of the interview here. Marvellous.


Oh, well played, Air New Zealand. Well played.


Some pretty dark stuff here.

Bobcat parking skills

How rare is the change in your pocket?

Do you give much thought to the coins you're carrying? Maybe you should. Look.

Tinchy Stryder & The Chuckle Brothers

Yep, this is a real thing that actually happened.

Bad Lip Reading - More NFL

An oldie but a goodie.

Friday, 10 October 2014

10/10/14 - Why you can't live on Venus

JuicyPips has tackled many deep, complex and meaningful issues over the years – which religion is correct, whether exams matter, what you can learn from working in a supermarket. It’s a public service I’m offering, really. (You’d know that if you’d read this rubbish book, or this one.)
So, continuing this ineffably helpful tradition, the theme for this week’s JuicyPips is: Why You Can’t Live on Venus.
People are always banging on about Mars and how exciting it is to explore. Maybe there was water there. Maybe the invaders of myriad sixties B-movies came from there. Blah blah. But what about poor old Venus? Earth’s neighbour on the other side is roughly the same size as our own planet, and is a bit closer to the sun – so surely that’d mean we could just transplant everything from here to there, and enjoy some hotter summers and less savage winters, right?
Er, sadly, no. Whereas the average surface temperature on Earth is 14 degrees centigrade, the average on Venus is 462 degrees. That’s quite high, and you’d probably spend all your time tip-toeing about at speed and wincing, like you do on a hot beach. (No, of course you wouldn’t – you’d die immediately from the heat, all the fluids in your body would just boil away.) There are a few other good reasons why you can’t live there – I know you’re always talking about moving there, how you think you’re a maverick to be considering Venus instead of Mars, but you’re being an idiot.

It’s really hard to get there
Venus is actually a lot closer to Earth than Mars is – about half the distance, in fact. So all of the hurdles that have presented themselves around getting probes to Mars (largely around fuel – you get into a vicious cycle where for every unit of fuel you load on board, you’re carrying more weight and thus need to load on yet more fuel to carry it [although this is really only a problem for the first bit of the journey, as you’re burning fuel off all the time {it’s the launch that’s the really tricky bit}]) are diminished somewhat in terms of distance. The heat is the problem. Flying closer to the sun does dangerous, burny things. And you certainly wouldn’t be able to land - we just haven’t developed the heatproofing to allow flight within the simmering Venusian airspace. Your craft would be on fire for the entire time you were flying over the planet, which wouldn’t be very long, as it would quickly disintegrate. But you wouldn’t know about that, as you’d have died long before.

The atmosphere is full of sulphuric acid
Shit, yeah – that’s a tricky one. Sulphuric acid is highly corrosive, and happily carves its way through flesh, metal and rock like a hot knife through, er, burning flesh. If you had a thick wetsuit and airtight breathing apparatus then you could probably float around a bit, provided that you somehow stayed about 35 miles above the surface, but that’d soon all melt away and the acid would blind you and eat your skin. But again, that might not be your biggest problem, given that you’d be on fire.

The surface is constantly plagued by hurricane-force winds
Let’s say you somehow managed to make it onto the surface of Venus and tried to walk about a bit. You’d have a really hard time. The howling, swirling gales wouldn’t just have you bent double, they’d be lifting you off the ground, slamming you back down, choking the air from your lungs…

…oh yeah, and there’s no oxygen
Humans have evolved to breathe oxygen. You know this. It works on Earth because there are plenty of happily photosynthesising green things strewn about the place, sucking in carbon dioxide and pumping out oodles of delicious oxygen.
How many Earth-y plants do you think there are growing on Venus?
That’s right, fuck all.
The atmosphere is extremely dense, and composed largely of carbon dioxide - if you want to breathe on Venus, you’d better bring a shitload of trees with you. And find some way to stop them catching fire.

It’d cost a bloody fortune
Imagine trying to explain it to your bank manager. ‘Sorry, you want to go where…?’

What would you eat?
You really haven’t thought this through. There’s no way you can grow any kind of crops on Venus, and it’s not like you can get fucking Ocado to pop round. What are you going to do, carry a lifetime’s supply of Pot Noodles on your spacecraft? You haven’t got enough fuel to carry it, you fucking chump.
Also, there’s nothing to drink – fluids immediately boil, and the planet has no magnetic field so all the hydrogen molecules get swept away into interplanetary space by solar winds, so the steam won’t even fall back down as rain. You can’t make water, even if you had some way to stop it disappearing. It’s hopeless.

The crushing loneliness would destroy you
There aren’t any humans on Venus, and nobody would be stupid enough to go with you. Some fairly simple calculations about radio waves, the speed of sound/light, how transmissions travel in a vacuum and what-have-you suggest that you’d have no contact whatsoever with Earth, unless you can convince NASA to divert their entire budget to your madcap removals project. (Or, y’know, try to fund it with Kickstarter or something.)
You’d have no access to the mass media, although arguably you might not be that interested in what the Kardashians are up to if you’re being whipped about by boiling winds and choking on corrosive acid. And when you take your phone out to tweet ‘I’m starting to regret this, it’s really inhospitable here #itburns’, it’d immediately catch fire before you got to type anything. And you wouldn’t have any signal.
Let’s pretend that you were somehow able to make yourself immortal: you’d go totally insane. Think of the Buddhist hell of Arbuda - a frozen plain swept by blizzards, in which one must exist naked and alone for the amount of time it would take to empty a barrel of sesame seeds if you were to remove a single seed every hundred years. Swap ‘frozen’ and ‘blizzards’ for ‘really fucking hot and windy’. Sounds ghastly. Or consider this quote from Hendrik Willem van Loon’s Story of Mankind: ‘High in the north in a land called Svithjod there is a mountain. It is a hundred miles long and a hundred miles high, and once every thousand years a little bird comes to this mountain to sharpen its beak. When the mountain has thus been worn away, a single day of eternity will have passed.’
Spending all that time with just the voice in your head for company? That doesn’t sound like any fun at all.

Seriously, Venus is really nasty. You don’t want to live there, give it up.


This is probably the most beautiful video about making bookcases you’ll see today.

Childhood books of yesteryear

Just wonderful on so many levels. Click here.

Cameron's Conference Rap

Retro Argos

Feeling nostalgic for the Argos catalogues of yore? Yeah, me too. Click here...

Kangaroo streetfight

This video is so Australian. Look, there's even a ute.

Flowers that look like other things

Oh, nature. You're so clever.

Breaking into Thorpe Park

Genuinely terrifying.

Thorne Travel 2014

Wow. Just... wow.

See, this is why you shouldn't make your own adverts.