11 March 2013
Wanderings
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This week I visited the Fire and Police Museum in Sheffield.

The museum is run entirely by volunteers and I have to say, it provided a fabulous afternoon outing. Housed in an old Victorian police and fire station, the museum has a special atmosphere all of its own. The exhibits are varied and interesting, with lots of hands-on opportunities. Many of the vehicles are open for visitors to sit inside. If you are lucky, for a small donation you may get a ride around Sheffield in an old fire engine too.


As with all things it's the people that make something magic and the fire and police museum is no exception. All the volunteer staff were pleasant, helpful and enthusiastic. The admission prices are more than reasonable at £4.00 for adults and £3.00 for children over three. Family tickets are also available.

The atmosphere of the place is tangible, and it is no surprise that it is supposed to be haunted. The staff all have stories to tell. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, you will understand why there are regular late night ghost hunts.


Cut and paste these coordinates into Google maps or Google Earth to visit the location: 53.385524, -1.470816

Click the links below to visit the museum's website, or to look at a gallery of photographs.
Fire and Police Museum Gallery
Rec Room Rant
Did You Know?
11 March 2013
Is it any wonder that the one aspect of modern life people find most irritating is self serve checkouts? I fall just short of proclaiming these electro-mechanical monstrosities an abomination; only good for melting down and turning into paperweights.

It is easy to see why supermarket chains are eager to introduce these things. They promise reduced staffing levels, lower overheads and greater profits. Not surprisingly, these are not the reasons given for their introduction however. The emphasis is usually placed on convenience and reduced queuing.

Is this true I wonder? Do these machines really reduce queues? Is it quicker and more convenient for me to unload, scan, bag up and process payment on my own, without the assistance of a checkout operator?

I am no Luddite. When technology can be used to make things easier and replace manual labour I am all for it. Give me a motorised trolley that will obediently follow me around a shop while I pick out the things I want and chuck them in. Give me a trolley that will add up the cost of all the items I have chosen and process my card payment, before wheeling itself to my car for me to unload.

The problem is that self serve checkouts aren’t labour saving at all. Instead, the labour is just taken away from a paid employee and transferred to an unpaid, gullible customer. Do we ever get offered a discount for using a self serve checkout?

Something that annoys me even more, are the tactics used by one prominent hardware/DIY chain. It forces its customers to use self serve checkouts by reducing the number of manned checkouts to just one, two, or even none at quiet times. Even when we stoically join the long queues at the manned till, we are plagued by some enthusiastic, soon to be out of a job operative, telling us there are free places at the self serve checkouts. Are they so stupid that they can’t see what’s coming to them, or that the queue is a form of silent protest?

So what is it like using one of these wonders of modern technology? I have given it a go, just to see. From my experience, a chimpanzee could design a better user interface than the ones I have come across. Sometimes it seems the intention is to annoy and frustrate at all costs. Many machines will not work unless shopping is placed item by item into one of those pernicious plastic bags that poison our environment. Wannabe eco warriors don’t get a look in when they turn up with their hessian, reusable bags.

My under cover research has revealed that it is common for self serve checkouts to be used for the purchase of embarrassing items like condoms and lubricating gel. If you engage in this practice, imagine:- With your illicit purchases hidden beneath a pack of tortilla wraps, you approach the self serve area. A side to side glance and then you make for the most isolated station. First, get the Tortillas through; then the condoms. Beads of sweat break out on your forehead as the lubricating gel goes into the bag. All of a sudden the machine bleeps and those dreaded words appear on the screen. “Unexpected item in bagging area”. Lights begin to flash, and an assistant runs over to help. She takes your gel out of the bag, holds it up in the air and shouts across the store:

“Mavis, what’s the code for tingle-time lube?"


Joking aside, I am not prepared to put someone out of a job by doing their work for free. Only stupid, gullible people do that. Only stupid, gullible people use self serve checkouts.
Fertilized duck eggs are kept in baskets and warmed in the sun. After nine days, the eggs are held to a light to check the embryo inside. Approximately eight days later the balut are boiled alive in the shell. Street traders sell cooked balut from buckets of warm sand accompanied by small packets of salt.

The age of balut before cooking tends to be a matter of local preference. In the Philippines, balut is usually 17 days old and is said to be ‘balut sa puti’ (wrapped in white). The chick inside is not old enough to have a beak, feathers or claws, and the bones are largely undeveloped. The Vietnamese often prefer their balut more mature at between 19 and 21 days. By this time the chick is old enough to be recognizable as a baby duck and has matured to the point that its bones are formed and its feathers are beginning to grow.

If you have any good ideas for bush tucker trials let me know. I will happily post the gruesome details on here.
Weapons of Mass Frustration
Delicious Duckeggs
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Fire and Police Museum, Sheffield
11 March 2013
11 March 2013
Fire and Police Museum, sheffield
Galleries:
Kenilworth Castle
Coventry War Memorial Park
RAF Museum Cosford
Hawkesbury Junction
Thanks go to Mike, the Rec Room’s expert in emerging technologies, for his contribution to this one.
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If you have ever watched the reality TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me out of Here’, you will be familiar with the bush tucker trials the participants undergo. They have to consume vile looking delicacies such as live grubs or kangaroo testicles in order to earn food for the camp.

I think it would be fair to say that a particular delicacy called balut would make a perfect offering for one of these bush tucker trials. Balut, is commonly eaten in South East Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia. Here are the details:
Balut Egg, Marshall Astor
Fire and Police Museum
Sheffield
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Museum Website
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