BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for October 18, 2009 - October 24, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

16:10 UK time, Friday, 23 October 2009

10_berries.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Humpback whales' mating rituals can be deadly.
More details

2. Galaxies that are 10.2 billion light-years away can be seen through telescopes.
More details

3. Wine gums have the names of alcoholic drinks on them.
More details (Daily Mail)

4. People spent £37m on cup cakes in the UK last year.
More details

5. The spread of cupcake shops has been used to map urban gentrification in the US.
More details

6. Bagged salad is photographed 4,000 times a second.
More details

7. The most available time of week for a meeting is Tuesday at 3pm.
More details

8. GPS locates the Prime Meridian 100m to the east of Greenwich Observatory.
More details

9. Sales of Asterix books number 325 million.
More details

10. The first watches appeared shortly after 1500 in Germany.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Vic Barton-Walderstadt for this week's picture of 10 berries.

Your Letters

15:47 UK time, Friday, 23 October 2009

Re 1.5m pensioners 'overpaying tax': 1.5m people paying £250m over 8-9 years works out at just over £1.50 a month. Scandalous!
Dan, Derby

Surely we're not the ONLY country on "Portuguese" time.
Dan, Cambridge

"It's not clear what caused the attack". Really? Not clear? Lord help us all.
Eric, Bristol

Surely drunk girl and drunk girl II are one and the same, just pictured at different stages of inebriation on different evenings? The only difference seems to be boots for DG and shoes for DGII.
Boots, Epsom

Martin (Thursday's letters), yes I have. That's how we roll.
Aaron Boardley, Bath (formerly of Reading), UK

In the weekly quiz I got 7/7 last week and 0/7 this week - what does this say about me?
EC, London

Oooh, all this talk of wine gums has given me a massive craving...
Liz, Belfast

Paper Monitor

12:07 UK time, Friday, 23 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Forgive Paper Monitor for not getting into the BNP-Question Time story that gets blanket coverage on the front page of today's papers. It's an emotionally charged issue, not least because Paper Monitor found itself prevented from leaving the office yesterday evening because of the demonstrations outside TV Centre.

It's not often one's workplace is "locked down" - to employ the official language of yesterday's communiqués - so readers should forgive any signs of siege mentality in the ensuing paragraphs.

OK, who's wearing the biggest poppy? (No, not a Question Time observation, although commentators concur that Baroness Warsi won that particular battle.)

With the annual poppy appeal underway, so far only two papers pin a red flower to the masthead - the Sun and the Daily Star. The Sun's - including foliage - is about the size of a 5p piece. It's dwarfed by the Star's - the leaf alone is bigger than the Sun's entire poppy. The inhabitants of Monitor Towers, having previously addressed the question of the right time to start wearing a poppy, will keep you posted as to when the rest of the papers follow suit.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has an intriguing call and response headline: "Q: How do civil servants track down missing illegal migrants? A: Hold a tug of war, of course".

But that is but a brief pause on the way to Mail columnist Jan Moir's weekly offering. Her last effort mobilised the forces of Twitter and was the subject of a question on Question Time - that Question Time - so she could hardly just witter on about X-Factor and biscuits. Well, not only X-Factor and biscuits.

"The truth about my views on the tragic death of Stephen Gately" runs the headline this week.

Moir apologises for distressing Gately's loved ones by the "insensitive timing of the column, published so close to the funeral", but defends her use of the word "sleazy" to describe his death. She also writes:

"I can't help wondering: is there a compulsion today to see bigotry and social intolerance where none exists by people who are determined to be outraged? Or was it a failure of communication on my part? Certainly, something terrible went wrong as my column ricocheted through cyberspace, unread by many who complained, yet somehow generally and gleefully accepted into folklore as a homophobic rant."

The Guardian's Media Monkey column compares and contrasts what a difference a week - and a record 25,000 complains to the press watchdog - can make to Moir's opinion:

"Last week, Stephen Gately... 'could barely carry a tune in a Louis Vuitton trunk'.... but this week he was 'a talented young man [who] died before his time'."

For the record, Moir thinks those singing twins in X-Factor are "the stuff of nightmares" but "so entertaining".

Weekly Bonus Question

09:54 UK time, Friday, 23 October 2009


Welcome to the Weekly Bonus Question.

Each week the news quiz 7 days 7 questions will offer an answer. You are invited to suggest what the question might have been.

Suggestions should be sent using the COMMENTS BOX IN THIS ENTRY. And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is IN TIMES OF JACUZZI. But what's the question?

UPDATE 1604 BST: The correct question is, Hugo Chavez has urged Venezuelans to stop singing in the bath and to only take three-minute showers to save water and energy. Why?
He said: "What kind of communism is that? We're not in times of Jacuzzi." (More details - Washington Post)

Of your wilfully and deliberately wrong questions, we liked:

  • TheRealCatherineO's When are parents most embarrassing?
  • ClockworkBanana's Reading the newspaper in the bath?
  • tengearbatbike's When should you break glass to remove emergency swimming trunks?
  • And MightyGiddyUpGal's Working title of the next Bond film?

Thanks to all who entered.

Friday's Quote of the Day

07:56 UK time, Friday, 23 October 2009

winegums226jupiterimages.jpg"He said they had wine in them and pointed to the word wine on the packet. I was speechless" - 15-year-old told he's too young to buy wine gums as they contain wine.

Jaz Bhogal tried to buy the non-alcoholic sweets from a 99p store in Cambridgeshire, only to be refused service on the shopkeeper's mistaken belief that wine gums contain wine. They have traditionally been printed with the names of alcoholic drinks such as port, champagne and gin.
More details (Daily Mail)

Web Monitor

16:04 UK time, Thursday, 22 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: what to call a political spouse, why not to look on the bright side of life and a job the careers adivsor didn't tell you about.

Sarah Brown• It's official, Sarah Brown is the wife of the PM but she ain't no first lady. It seems she's concerned that the Great British public may be getting upset when she is referred to as such in case she gets confused with the Queen. Brown tweeted the clarification:

"I don't want to say this too often but it matters to a lot of people in the UK: HM Queen is First Lady - I am wife of PM !"

• Could positive thinking be dangerous? Barbara Ehrenreich thinks it was so dangerous it brought down the banking system. She tells the Seattle Times she started questioning the merits of positive thinking after being less than impressed by advice to visualise her recovery from breast cancer. Ehrenreich explains in Time magazine that when researching her book on the subject she was shocked that a delusional way of thinking has permeated corporate culture as well:

"Two years into the Great Recession [she means this recession], it's time to face the truth: optimism feels good, really good, but it turns out to be the methamphetamine of run-amok American capitalism. Meth induces a 'Superman syndrome'. Optimism fed into what Steve Eisman, a banking analyst who foresaw the crash, calls 'hedge-fund disease,' characterized by 'megalomania, plus narcissism, plus solipsism' and the belief that 'to think something is to make it happen.' The meth-head loses his teeth and his mind; the madcap optimists of Wall Street lost something like $10tn worth of pension funds, life savings and retirement accounts." a little more negative thinking out there please everyone.

• The idea of the north-south divide is questionable to Michael Henderson at the Spectator. And there's one term Henderson is particularly riled about:

"Professional Northerner: what on earth does it mean? The phrase has been applied to so many people down the years, usually by journalists who have little or no first-hand experience of Northern life, that it has lost any meaning it may once have had. Contrary to what you may have read, most Northerners (for the sake of argument, let's take the Trent as the border) do not live in terraced houses, or pronounce the letter U as 'oo' (it's a hard vowel), though they do eat 'dinner' at lunchtime. Nor do they hate the South, though they are entitled to nurse a few grudges about some of the folk who live there."

Your Letters

15:58 UK time, Thursday, 22 October 2009

"Postmen/women voted for a strike because Royal Mail management over years have not invested in new frontline delivery equipment" bemoans "postman" of Coventry on Have Your Say. What, like robotic hands?
Ben Merritt, Sheffield, England

"Bright yellow warning signs alert you to wayward kangaroos, wombats and even kangaroos on the way." Kangaroos, and even kangaroos, eh? Additional bonus point: referring to the someone as the 'driving force' behind the golf course's creation.
HS, Cambridge

Dr David Whitehouse, a space scientist and author: "I thought this was a way, not only to get in touch between astronauts and ordinary people, but to get down with the kids. "Down with the kids?" Oh dear lord, has anyone actually said that since the late sixties?
Martin, Bristol, UK

But, they're not blue.
Jude, Melbourne, Australia

Can I just say that whoever titled this particular article has provided me with enough poetic inspiration for the next three years? However, the story in itself was a bit disappointing.
Kailyn, Kentucky, USA

As amazing as the photo is, I was expecting something a bit more dramatic after reading the headline.
Jen, Oxford, UK

It may be boring but it's not bad for your teeth!
Ralph, Cumbria

Re: Paper Monitor. How dare they say the girl in a Cardiff street is knickerless! It can get very cold of an evening in the Welsh capital, so she has clearly decided to wear two pairs, and is in the process of changing her mind.
Rob, Not too near Cardiff

She has defected!
M. Ross, Lancaster, UK

Caption Competition

13:11 UK time, Thursday, 22 October 2009


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].


This week it's delegates at the 14th Latin American clown convention in Mexico. Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. NorfolkOnce
The MPs' bar in the Houses of Parliament - what really goes on during those long long debates.

5. Clarence_E_Pitts
118 and 118 seek alternative employment.

4. Ruthstabb
Louis Walsh has the groups again.

3. grazvalentine
The David Lynch fan club AGM.

2. eattherich
Fans remember Barbara Cartland.

1. Magnum Carter
Some felt La Roux's styling had now gone a little beyond nostalgic.

Paper Monitor

11:54 UK time, Thursday, 22 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's not every day a star is born, but today is one of those days. She's in most of the papers. In fact, it's hard to avoid the almost full-page pictures of her in the Sun and the Daily Mail.

But will she be opening the newspapers this morning with smile on her face. Erm, probably not. Forget Cheryl Cole being the new face of L'Oreal or Lily Allen the new face of Chanel, this young woman has just become the latest pin up for female binge drinking.

Arms aloft, short dress on and knickers round her ankles, the young women is dancing in the street after a night out in Cardiff.

The Sun and the Daily Mail are equally outraged by her antics. "Safe drinking levels for women? KNICKERS TO THAT!" is the headline in the Sun and "The streets of no shame" is what the Mail uses. It continues with:

Maybe she thinks it's the drink that is preventing her from putting one foot in front of the other. Or perhaps she knows the vulgar truth and is merely trying to impress her friends. Either way, the sight is certainly not an edifying one. This shrieking ladette was photographed staggering through Cardiff city centre late on Friday night.

If she thought she had a headache when she woke up the next day, boy, has she got an even bigger one now. For years to come her picture will probably accompany every story about the fall of civilised society as we know it.

Dedicated Monitor letter readers will know this was the fate of the girl known only as Drunk Girl. Just look at the Indepedent website today. But maybe she can now rest easy, as of today she is so five minutes ago. Drunk Girl II has arrived.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:54 UK time, Thursday, 22 October 2009

"We're bored to tears of it" - UB40's Robin Campbell on their hit Red, Red Wine

Some music fans may wonder why it has taken the Birmingham band so long to tire of their 80s' hit, but followers of the group shouldn't worry. The song, which was originally written and recorded by Neil Diamond, will feature in the band's upcoming live shows.
More details

Web Monitor

17:47 UK time, Wednesday, 21 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.
Today on Web Monitor: the power of television and why we surf the net when we're meant to be getting on with work. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending your links via the letterbox to the right of this page.

Melanie Chisholm• Melanie Chisholm aka Mel C aka Sporty Spice was candid on Radio 4's Woman's Hour about her eating disorders saying that the pressure of seeing herself in the media led to over-exercising and under-eating followed by a binge eating disorder. With the benefit of her own experience of eating disorders, she felt able to insist ex-bandmate Victoria Beckham is not suffering the same:

"Victoria has been thin for a long time now and I've spent time with her and I've seen she does eat well, she's very healthy. She has a very strict diet but she does eat so now I tend to be less concerned about her. There was a time when I didn't spend a lot of time with her and I thought, 'wow what is going on' but I've spent time with her now and she is a healthy woman just every disciplined, very thin, but very disciplined."

• If you feel the boss glance over at your screen while you're reading Web Monitor then here's the perfect defence from Clive Thompson at Wired magazine. He says day-dreaming is necessary for our brains to have time to store data and to think up new ideas. But we can't just sit there glancing into space so instead we surf the web:

"Most scientists think that if you really want to let your mind roam, you need to engage in a non-demanding task, like going for a three-hour walk.

Most jobs don't allow that, of course. That's why I've begun to think that the 'social' internet has become a rough substitute. If your boss is trying to force you to focus on PowerPoint and Word documents, you might gravitate to mentally discursive, floaty experiences - the idle surfing of Facebook updates, Wikipedia entries, YouTube videos, casual games like Bejeweled. Maybe these things aren't so much time sucks as desperate attempts by our brains to decouple from the go-go-go machine and head off on its own."

• Development economist Charles Kenny in Foreign Policy magazine says despite the rise of social networking, television is still king across the world and it's not a bad thing. When it comes to changing the world he cites TV's ability to reduce drug taking, make us more cosmopolitan and in the case of Afghan Star - a talent show in Afghanistan where a woman reached the final five last year - empower women:

"In the not-too-distant future, it is quite possible that the world will be watching 24 billion hours of TV a day - an average of close to four hours for each person in the world. Some of those hours could surely be better spent - planting trees, helping old ladies cross the road, or playing cricket, perhaps. But watching TV exposes people to new ideas and different people. With that will come greater opportunity, growing equality, a better understanding of the world, and a new appreciation of the complexities of life for a wannabe Afghan woman pop star."

Your Letters

16:24 UK time, Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Oh no! Someone has made an ent into a door!
Ralph, Cumbria

We've had Drunk Girl, but what about Facebook Eye, used wherever social networking is mentioned?
PB, London

More nanny state madness. So now they're expecting us to eat *cheese*? With *wine*?
Sue, London

UB40 'bored' of Red Red Wine song. Now they know how most music fans feel.
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

Escalator etiquette - Woe betide any brave soul or misguided tourist who stands on the left on an escalator in the Munich U-bahn system. A Teutonic bark along the lines of "rechts stehen, links gehen" normally ensues.
Owain Williams, Regensburg

Oh come on - with their resources they must be able to afford a whole Porsche.
JennyT, NY Brit

Facebook posting of the day: The reason we drive on the left but stand on the right of Tube escalators dates back to the times when people carried swords. In the Middle Ages you kept to the left for the simple reason that you wanted to make sure that a stranger passed on the right so you could go for your sword in case he proved unfriendly. Therefore, people stand on the right of the Tube escalators to keep out of the way of all these crazed beweaponed gentlepeople wielding pointy swords. I'm sure I had a point to make but I've confused myself.
Keira Vallejo

Paper Monitor

11:42 UK time, Wednesday, 21 October 2009


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Aptly, the Sun dives in for a second serving of the story of the 70-stone Ipswich man.

Yesterday it called him "THE WORLD'S FATTEST BLOKE" (see Tuesday's Paper Monitor). It's back-pedalled since then, and today reports that it's long been his ambition to be the fattest man in the world.

The front page is dominated by a photo of a fish supper and his lunch menu as a headline: "4 large cod, 2 pies, 4 battered sausages, 6 large chips, mushy peas, curry sauce". Inside there's more from a "health care insider" who treated him in hospital three years ago:

"'He was often seen going through the McDonald's drive-thru section for cars in his special wheelchair. No one could stop him eating.'
In his bid to become a record-breaker, [he] scoffed whole boxes of Sugar Puffs in one go."

For readers for whom even the most personal of details is not too much information, there is even an annotated photo of his home, explaining a day in the life:

  • "Water tank: To keep him hydrated. He is banned from all fizzy drinks as they could expand his stomach still further"
  • "Hoist: This lifts [his] bed up so he can change the position of his head and see the television clearly"
  • "S.A.D. lightbox: Helps to combat depression and seasonal affective disorder caused by lack of sun"

Meanwhile, News in Briefs addresses the question of positive discrimination. On David Cameron's plans to use all-women shortlists to pick prospective MPs, Poppy, 18, from Somerset, says: "It's only right that women should be represented properly in Parliament."

Is the Sun having yet another dig at anti-Page Three Girl Harriet Harman?

Meanwhile, the Times addresses one of those questions that you never knew you wanted an answer to until seeing it in print: "Ever wondered why we drive on the left but stand on the right?" (Online the headline is revised to "Mystery over Tube escalator etiquette cleared up by restored film".)

After missing the story about hoax showbiz stories thrown up by the very film festival that it sponsors (Thursday's Paper Monitor), the Times gets a full page article out of a restored silent film showing at the festival.

"Escalator etiquette in most countries tends to match the rules of the road... So why do passengers on the London Underground stand on the right-hand side of escalators when the rules of the road dictate that we drive on the left? A visual joke in [the film] Underground... shows how the design of early escalators meant that it was important to step off with the right foot. Unlike modern 'comb' escalators, where the end of the moving stairway is at right angles to the direction of travel, older 'shunt' escalators ended with a diagonal so that the stairway finished sooner for the right foot than for the left."

So does escalator etiquette match the rules of the road where you live?

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:20 UK time, Wednesday, 21 October 2009

"I was only heading to the toilet and found God... mind you, you need a little divine intervention to get out of here sometimes" - Ikea shopper who spotted a bearded face on the door to the gents' loo.

During a comfort stop at the Glasgow branch of the flat-pack 'n' meatballs emporium, a customer noticed a distinctive pattern in the wooden door - a face with long hair and a flowing beard. He, and others, reckon it's an image of Jesus. His wife says Gandalf. An Ikea spokeswoman says it's Swedish pop legend Benny "Abba" Anderson.
More details (The Sun)

Web Monitor

17:39 UK time, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: stealing your identity just to be more boring than you, the end of hip-hop and self-service politics. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending your links via the letterbox to the right of the page.

Kirstie Allsopp• Identity theft can empty your bank account, but for the celebrity, it can divert vital followers from their Twitter presence. Followers miss out on their whereabouts or in the case of Fake Steve Jobs, can find out interesting, albeit fake, insights. Worst of all, the faker can do nothing at all. Now property enthusiast Kirstie Allsopp is speaking out against Twitter theft. Allsopp tweeted on her real account:

"I really want to get @KirstieAllsopp, she's still never tweeted & follows no-one & I am the only Kirstie Allsopp!"

Sasha Frere-Jones in the New York Times is tentative in his prediction of 2009 being hip-hop's last year. Unsurprising, maybe, given that the rapper Nas made the same mistake in 2006 by naming his album The End of Hip-Hop. Nevertheless, the prediction is made and Frere-Jones judges the killer will be hip-hop's mutant form gangsta rap, rather fittingly:

"After years of bloated expansion and leveraging of fantasies, "gangsta rap" has largely become a meaningless term. Unvarnished reporting delivered with a panache that balanced the pain - this was gangsta rap's first achievement, not unlike the cry of mid-seventies reggae artists like Culture and Bob Marley. Somewhere along the way, the struggle to escape became a love of accumulation, and underdogs ended up sounding as smug as the authorities they once battled."

Web Monitor mentioned before the suggestion of online reviewer Rob Horning to stop writing reviews for fear they are just making money for other people.

Now in Where We Are Now sociologist Andrew Ross wades in saying, online work is part of a trend of customers sleepwalking into doing manufacturers' work for them:

"Manufacturers and service providers have succeeded in transferring work from the producer to the consumer... we have more or less accepted the massive amount of time we are asked to devote to researching and assembling consumer products, not to mention the input that is considered mandatory for customer services of all sorts."

Your Letters

16:01 UK time, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

I take it I missed the meeting then?
AndyS, Blackpool
Monitor note: Not to worry, you can catch up here.

Out of Office AutoReply: Strategy Proposals for identifying optimum timings for workplace symposia.
I am out of the office now until 7:30am 21st October 2009.
For any urgent enquiries, please leave a message on the letters page.
Thank You.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

I gather that the Canadian government tried to drag back the "work-life balance" by instituting, under normal working conditions, the 4-5-6 system. No major meetings after 4pm; most staff to have left at 5pm; all staff to have left by 6pm (allowing for crises and so on). Enquiries of friends and colleagues as to whether this works has brought very un-Canadian harrumphing to the fore.
Phil McCarty, London, UK

Ha ha! Keith Harris and Overell. Do I win a prize?
Graeme, Dundee, Scotland

Nice to see the headline writers giving their honest opinion of this story.
Suzy, Portsmouth

Big TV screens? Along with leather sofas and plate glassing the back of the house... all useful clues to a way of life one might want to avoid.
Mary Woodward, St Albans

You speak absolute tosh, Mr Tomlinson (Tuesday's Quote of the Day) some of the best funerals I have attended were totally atheist in character. Might I suggest that you decline to attend funerals where the deceased was not a believer and point the grieving relatives in the direction of a humanist celebrant.
Alan Addison, Glasgow, UK

Facebook comment of the day: Presumably Mr Tomlinson's there because he was asked to be. As far as I know vicars don't randomly turn up to funerals but are asked to take them by funeral directors and/or families. The problem may be with finding people who aren't ministers of religion to conduct secular services, leading to a problem of the leader and the participants having different ideas about what a funeral is for.
Mel Eyeons

If Paper Monitor always feels as though he/she/it has the best job in the world... is that not starting to get a little "samey"?
Basil Long, Nottingham

My entry for this week's Caption Competition will be "No, I said TWO sugars". Can you make sure the photo fits this time? Thanks.
Lee Pike, Auckland, New Zealand

Live meeting invite

12:30 UK time, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

livemeetinginvite2_595.gifTO: All Magazine readers

SUBJECT: Strategy proposals for identifying optimum timings for workplace symposia

PLACE: Here, on the Magazine Monitor

DATE: 1500 BST, Tuesday 20 October 2009

A new study says the best time to call a meeting is 3pm on a Tuesday. As today is Tuesday, Monitor readers are invited to a special live meeting to discuss whether this is indeed the best time to hold a meeting. Between 1500 and 1520 BST today, the Monitor will be hosting a constantly updated conversation in which everyone is welcome to pitch in with their t'penneth worth, using the letters form on the right of this page. (We've tried this before at our fifth birthday party.) And when it's finished, let's adjourn for BYO tea and biscuits.

---POSTED AT 1604 BST---

Err, sorry, to disturb. Had a meeting in here earlier - has anyone seen my coat?
Lester Mak, London, UK

---POSTED AT 1534 BST---

Excuse me - I'm sorry - are you going to be much longer? I've got this room booked from half three...
Simon, London

MONITOR: All done. Biscuit, Simon? And can someone nudge Adam awake?

Love one. Got any custard creams?
Simon, London

---POSTED AT 1531 BST---

Best time to hold most of the meeting is before the meeting. Reports, etc, all available beforehand, so the meeting is just acknowledging receipt, quick discussion on points of difference, and agreeing the actions. Online capabilities make this a reality.
Balfour, Perth, UK

I'd go along with Caroline, but move the upper limit to 16:00.
RayB, London, UK

I'm all for meetings at 11. It's early enough that people's brains are still working and as everyone wants to get to lunch afterwards there is no fear that "AOB" will overrun for hours on end. I also find that come 2pm, people are suffering from the lunchtime lull, and when 3pm comes about, people are tired and are winding down for home time (or procrastinating online...)
Adrian, Cambridge

Thanks for this meeting. Think we decided about as much as most meetings decide. I shall file my action points accordingly.
Mike A, Derby

Am I late? Sorry - in a lunch meeting which overran. I'm starving!
Joanna, London

MONITOR: We're just wrapping up. Right, who *has* been taking minutes?

---POSTED AT 1529 BST---

I'd love it if we could have a 3pm only meeting rule. Rather than meetings at all other times but 3. I feel particularly perky so I'd say 3pm meetings are a great idea.
Alexina, London

Let's use this meeting to its fully managerial potential and just use it to decide when to hold a meeting that actually makes a decision. What the subject of that decision is will have to be discussed in another meeting at some point between this meeting and the meeting where we make the decision. I suggest next Tuesday... say 2:59pm?
Adam, Reading

I'm not sure we're going to reach a conclusion today. Maybe Ray could circulate some options and we could meet at the same time next week to go through them?
Stephen Turner, Cambridge, England

---POSTED AT 1527 BST---

Thought I shall just chip in whilst waiting for the tea to cool down. My office has flexitime, so I religiously work 8-4. Often, however, an e-mail for a meeting at 4 the next day will go out at 4 the day before meaning a) I wont get it until the day of the meeting and b) won't have adjusted my arrival time to account for the extra hour spent in a meeting after 4.
Not that I ever have anything to add to meetings anyway. Except this one.
Si, Leeds

Sorry I'm late - schedule conflict.
Meetings for me are best at 10am and ideally should have no chairs, no drinks, stand up coffee bar type tables only and take less rather than more time. Oh yes - and if a slide show is planned - no more than three slides.
Robin, Aberdeen, Scotland

Who is doing the minutes?
Emma, Lincoln

---POSTED AT 1525 BST---

Lunch meetings are the work of the devil. Horrid limp sandwiches made with steamed white bread and unidentifiable fillings. Plus I get really mardy if not fed adequately. When I rule the world there'll be no meetings before 10, between 12 and 2, or after 5pm.
Caroline Mersey, London, UK

Is this meeting going to over-run?
Basil Long, Nottingham

MONITOR: Yes, we'll push on til 3.30. Some people were late.

---POSTED AT 1522 BST---

Best time for a meeting is around 10 or 11am; you've been in the office for a while and ready for a change of scenery from your PC.
Jo, London

Are we here to dicuss the meeting about setting up the meeting or the past meeting we had about the meeting? I'll have coffee please to stay awake.
Mike, Guildford

Who's up for some Office Jargon bingo in this meeting...?
Boris Vonstrapon, Vonstraponsville, Bulgaria

Sorry I'm late... only just got this teleconference thing working... have I missed much?
David, Frankfurt

---POSTED AT 1520 BST---

Keith of When Is Good here - thanks to the Magazine for covering our study. Of course, now that everyone knows the right time to do everything is 3pm on a Tuesday, no one needs to use our service any more. That's us off to the pub then.
Keith Harris, Bedford, UK

---POSTED AT 1517 BST---

If the idea that this is a good time for a meeting really takes off, won't it actually cease to be a good time for a meeting as we'll all be already busy?
Saffron Garey, Farnborough, Hants

Don't worry Elliot, I've brought some chocolate digestives with me. Now, can anyone get the OHP working?
Laura, Cardiff

Problem with 3pm on *any* day is it's when the mid-afternoon lethargy kicks in... the carbs from your pasta & chocolate lunch conspire to make you sluggish and sleepy. I think a meeting at this time would make
Adam, Kingston

MONITOR: Adam, wake up. Don't think I won't notice, your seat is right in my line of sight.

Where can I leave my coat?
Lester Mak, London, UK

Who made the coffee? It's like tar.
Flora, London, UK

---POSTED AT 1512 BST---

I seem to remember years ago some scientist telling us that the human body starts to "wind down" for sleep at around 3pm in the afternoon. So is 3pm really the right time?
Steve, Stoke

I have a collegue who has a habit of booking meetings at impractical times, such as right over the lunch period, or late in the evening (I get in early so that I can leave early, my brain doesn't work past 4). Her lastest meeting is booked for 3-4pm this Friday, and I just know it's going to over-run. Plus, I'm sure come Monday I won't be able to decipher my notes for the minutes.
Maggie Bob, London

Sorry I'm late...
Ben Groom, London

Typical. The meeting's only just started and there are no chocolate biscuits left.
Pa, Edinburgh

---POSTED AT 1509 BST---

MONITOR: Right, who'll kick things off?

In my experience of local government meetings I would completely agree with the idea of 2pm being preferable. When 3.30pm comes, people start thinking about home time and the evening ahead. Lunch time meetings can be popular if lunch is provided. How about 8.30am on any day but Monday, it gets an early start when you are fresh and before the days distractions?
John, Morpeth, England

Anyone for coffee?
Claire, Nottingham

MONITOR: Yes please, Claire. Milk, no sugar.

---POSTED AT 1506 BST---

Sorry I'm a couple of minutes late. My last meeting overran because someone set the fire alarm off. We've got to finish on time as I've got another meeting to go to at 3:30 (I've not prepared for that yet, so please don't look too closely at the notes I'm making).
Ray Lashley, Colchester, UK

---POSTED AT 1502 BST---

Everyone present and correct?
Richard, Bristol

MONITOR: Basil's off getting a tea, and Fiona's on the school run. But otherwise, we're good to go.

---POSTED AT 1458 BST---

I wish I could take part in your "special live meeting" but unfortunately, I'm in another meeting.
Sarah, London

Hi, I'm a bit early. Where are the biscuits then?
Elliot, Cardiff

MONITOR: That's a shame, Sarah. And Elliot, you're in luck, there's one chocolate digestive left.

Paper Monitor

12:11 UK time, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It can be hard doing the same job day in and day out. Things can get a little samey. But then there are days when it's obvious that one has the best job in the world. Well people, today Paper Monitor feels the latter (as always) and it's all thanks to one paper - the Sun.

It's vintage stuff from the off, with a front page consisting of a tale of the fattest man in the world, a large picture of a scantily-clad woman and a smaller one of Winston Churchill giving a rather different V sign than he's normally associated with.

"WORLD'S FATTEST BLOKE LIVES IN IPSWICH" screams the headline in capitals. Ah, it makes one proud to be British. It's a headline that's so big it barely leaves room for the all-important picture of 70-stone Paul Mason. Of course, enough space has been spared on page one for a large picture of Jenson Button's lingerie-model girlfriend in her - erm - lingerie. Winston and his gesture are squeezed into the bottom left.

On page five the story of the world's fattest man is pretty much told in the headline, which encompasses the three facts its readers need to know - he eats 20,000 calories a day, has been stuck in bed for eight years and costs the taxpayer £100,000 a year. There's a bigger picture of him in his special 3ft-wide wheelchair and a map showing his journey to hospital in a specially-built five ton ambulance. He's lucky to be alive, says the Sun GP Dr Carol Cooper. Bish bosh. Job done.

Turn the page and the next big front page question is answered. Jenson Button will be having sex with his girlfriend on Friday, everyone. Jenson is "still not in pole position" - as the paper puts it - because Jessica Michibata is currently modelling in Japan. But she's back in three days so drama over.

Turn the page again and the third big question is answered. Who is on the receiving end of Churchill's V sign? It's the BNP. And it's a doctored picture, which reverses his V for Victory into, you know, the other one. The paper says Army chiefs are giving the BNP the "two fingers" for using Britian's proud military history for propoganda.

But the real Sun magic comes on page 22. Bananas are good for you and very cheap at the moment, so how do you make that into an interesting story? Make a journalist live on them, and nothing else, for a week. We get a day-by-day diary from Nick Francis, who ate 109 bananas in all and spent just £6.54 for his week's food. Just in case you can't quite picture how many bananas that is, the article is bordered with 109 banana photos.

The piece also responsibly has medical advice from Dr Cooper - busy day for her - just in case any readers are tempted to try this at home. Her conclusion? This diet will give you wind and could lead to impotence and infertility, so don't do the diet "if you want to impress in the sack".

Jensen Button, take note.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:05 UK time, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

"The best our secularist friends can hope for is a poem from nan combined with a saccharine message from a pop star before being popped in the oven with no hope of resurrection" - Vicar Ed Tomlinson bemoans the decline of genuinely Christian funerals.

Mr Tomlinson has had enough of feeling like a "lemon" at funerals where he is clearly only a token presence. The telltale signs are Tina Turner playing at the beginning and only a grudging allusion to Christianity.
More details (The St Barnabas blog)

Web Monitor

16:33 UK time, Monday, 19 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: Stephen Fry says he's got a big mouth, a missed celebration and why you got that promotion. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending your links via the letterbox to the right of this.

Stephen FryIn his blog Stephen Fry has surprisingly shown sympathy towards Jan Moir.

The Daily Mail columnist wrote a much complained about article where she said Stephen Gately's death "strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships". But later said it "is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones".

Fry said he knows the feeling of not knowing when to keep your mouth shut:

"The reason I feel sorry for her is not that she is a journalist, or that she writes for the Daily Mail, I am quite sure she can do without my pompous, patronising sympathy. I feel sorry for her because I know just what it is like to make a monumental ass of oneself and how hard it is to find the road back. I know all too well what it is like to be inebriated, as Disraeli put it, by the exuberance of my own verbosity."

Surprising words given the he was previously urging his followers on Twitter to complain about her article, saying:

"I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper noone with any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathesome and inhumane."

• Formula One Driver Jenson Button won the 2009 world drivers' championship in Brazil yesterday. But Grand Prix writer Joe Saward says the really illuminating performance was after the race at his lonesome celebration:

"Button appeared in a post-race press conference and was overjoyed to repeat over and over 'I am World Champion'. Sadly, a large number of the F1 press corps was on very tight deadline, because of the time difference between Brazil and Europe - and were not able to attend the conference."

• The Peter Principle - a theory that people in big organisations are promoted to their level of incompetence has been superseded in the eyes of Venkat of the Ribbon Farm blog. His proof? The comedy series The Office, from which he assembled The Gervais Principle:

"Sociopaths, in their own best interests, knowingly promote over-performing losers into middle-management, groom under-performing losers into sociopaths, and leave the average bare-minimum-effort losers to fend for themselves.
The Gervais principle differs from the Peter Principle, which it superficially resembles. The Peter Principle states that all people are promoted to the level of their incompetence. It is based on the assumption that future promotions are based on past performance. The Peter Principle is wrong for the simple reason that executives aren't that stupid, and because there isn't that much room in an upward-narrowing pyramid."

Your Letters

15:17 UK time, Monday, 19 October 2009

Robyn (Friday letters), she hasn't gone missing, she was just hungover and unavailable after this on Thursday.
Bas, London

Robyn, that girl isn't drunk yet, but she is preparing for the role ever since the other one got fired for NOT drinking on the job.
Martin Hollywood, Luxembourg

I was going to write a long and very complicated reply to Steve in Sheffield's letter (Friday letters) regarding the forward slash discussion, but then realised I'd only be boring everyone, including myself. Besides, he's right.
PB, London

Re "[Network Rail] said its policy of managing vegetation by tracks means the issue of fallen leaves is no longer a news story." So why is BBC News reporting on something that is not a news story?
Lester Mak, London, UK

If we are to have a law banning people from "picking on" fat people will there be similar laws to protect those with ginger hair, those with glasses, those with large noses etc? If not I don't see this is particularly fair, do you?
Lucy P, Ashford, Kent

Somebody called Gordon trying to save the world from extreme weather conditions - I'm sure I've come across this story somewhere before...

Jim, Crowborough

Has nominative determinism become so passe among Magazine letter writers that it was overlooked in Emma's letter about the Queen, the Balloon Boy and the castle?
David, Jerusalem

Facebook comment of the day: John Henderson - You can already get pdf books using any given torrent site. Although the legal versions have a natural edge - ever tried to read a long book as a pdf? It's not nice.

Paper Monitor

11:06 UK time, Monday, 19 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Laydees and gentlemen, welcome to the main event. It the red corner, weighing in with "There's nothing natural about Stephen Gately's death" (a headline later amended to "A strange, lonely and troubling death...") is Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir. And in the blue corner, fighting fit and champing at the bit, Janet "I found Stephen Gately delightful" Street Porter. Also in the Mail.

On Friday, Moir claimed that the Boyzone singer's death "strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships". She wrote:

"The sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again."*

Today - after a weekend in which the Mail and the Press Complaints Commission have been blitzed with complaints, and the offending article no longer crops up in searches on the Mail site - it's Street Porter's turn.

"What exactly was bothering Jan? The fact Stephen was gay, the fact he was in a civil partnership, or the fact that he or his partner might have enjoyed sex with someone they had just met?"

The Guardian's media editor likens the public online response to the Trafigura super-injunction:

"Moir, or her editors, or both, misjudged the speed and breadth of the real-time web and social media in their power to highlight and pressurise at speed and with force. To see the Daily Mail taught a lesson about public outrage in the electronic age would no doubt have raised a weak, battered smile at the BBC."

*There's no "weak, battered" smile from on-off BBC man Charlie Brooker in his own Guardian column as he takes issue with Moir's contention that there must have been something in Gately's lifestyle that led to his death:

"I dare to challenge the renowned international forensic pathologist Jan Moir, because I personally know of two other men (one in his 20s, one in his early 30s), who died in precisely this way. According to the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (, 'Twelve apparently fit and healthy young people die in the UK from undiagnosed heart conditions' every single week."

Meanwhile, on to another matter entirely.

Remember SamCam's spotty dress that spoke a thousand words (Paper Monitor, 9 Oct)? More than one commentator wondered how she'd got her hands on a dress that sold out within days of going on sale back in spring.

Well, the Mail has not let it rest. "How SamCam pulled strings with M&S boss to achieve her 'off-the-peg' look" runs its headline.

"Sir Stuart [Rose], who bumped into David Cameron's wife at a social event, was only too pleased to oblige and ordered his staff to comb the company's 600 stores to find the dress... After some days of searching, a sample size was located in a size 14 - two sizes too big for Mrs Cameron. So one of the store's dressmakers was enlisted to tailor it."

Erm, Sir Stuart, Paper Monitor has an M&S swimsuit that doesn't fit quite right. Fetch that seamstress, there's a good chap.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:38 UK time, Monday, 19 October 2009

"He may be nutty, but he's not a professor" - Sheriff casts doubt on "balloon dad" Richard Heene's claimed scientific credentials.

Last Thursday, the Heene family of Colorado claimed their youngest boy had floated off in a run-away weather balloon. TV schedules were cleared and hearts stopped in mouths. But it turned out he'd been hiding in the attic - and told one of his many interviewers that his father said "it was for a show". Local sheriff Jim Alderton re-interviewed the family and told reporters it was a publicity stunt.
More details (Times)

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