Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Inexorable Advance of Efficiency

I don't trust technology.

Having said that, I'm a human being, so I like that technology which is so intrinsic to us it practically defines us as a species, such as the lever, fire and the wheel. And the Samsung E900 mobile phone with 5 megapixel camera, it would seem.

Of course, there's quite a difference between liking and trusting. I like my mate Klepto Tony, but I don't trust him. He nicks things, does Klepto Tony, can't help himself. He tells a good anecdote or two, so whilst you'd meet up for a pint and a chat, you wouldn't let him in your house, or even go shopping with him. Actually, if he didn't give me such great birthday presents, I probably wouldn't meet up with him at all. Must spend a fortune.

I like my penis, but I don't trust it not to cloud my judgement and send me off into a reverie of tumescent reflection for no apparent reason. Usually on the bus. I like beer, but I trust that like I'd trust a man named Louis who offered to tarmac my drive on the cheap. A lot of people like cigarettes, although trusting those is like trusting Harold Shipman to make you a cocktail. Actually, kids do start smoking because they trust ciggies to make them look cool, and smoking is an individualistic, rebellious thing to do, which they know because all their friends do it.

So, there's a difference between liking things and trusting things, and this is no more evident than technology.

I like helicopters, but I don't trust them. I don't trust anything that copies a sycamore seed for it's flying abilities. They're supposed to fall, for chuff's sake! I like computer games, but I don't trust them. You think you're having a harmless bit of fun, then suddenly it's 4 o'clock in the morning and you're dehydrated and pleased you've managed to move pixels around a screen to "achieve" a higher enumerative value than last time you did it.

If something is technology, it almost certainly will go wrong at some point, which is why it makes sense not to trust it. A chap in the UK is currently facing charges of driving without due care and attention, because he followed his satnav's instructions even though it sent him down a footpath so his car ended up hanging over a cliff. And he's blaming the satnav. What amazes me is that someone with that level of intelligence had the nouse to pass a driving test in the first place.

In some ways, technology is getting better in all the right ways. I had a CT scan a few years ago to tell me why I was weeing blood and whether I would die from it (kidney stones, still alive, yay!). It was a fantastic (and often graphically revealing) multiple set of slices through my lower abdomen, and would have been impossible just a few short years previously. Bill Gates pointed out to General Motors that, if cars had advanced at the same rate as computers, today we'd be driving $25 cars that do 1000 mpg. Of course, GM replied that they would also crash twice a day for no reason, amongst other putdowns.

And sometimes, efficiency has increased and I'm sort of disappointed about it. The things that spring to mind are, of course, weapons and spatulas.

There is currently research into fully electronic guns that can fire bullets at a rate of one million rounds per minute, throwing what has been termed a 'laser of lead' at the target. Putting aside for a moment how big your magazine would have to be, and what exactly the point of an almost solid stream of lead travelling at supersonic speed is, could we trust an electronic gun not to go wrong? Possibly not. And then you'd look silly in front of your enemies, who are the worst people to look silly in front of.

Anyway, apart from bows and catapults, I don't like projectile weapons, let alone trust them, so let us move on to the second terrible increase in efficiency - spatulas.

Remember when your mum used a spoon for stirring the cake mix? It was a big spoon, admittedly, but it was still a spoon. Well, now, the domestic goddess has moved on. The spoon has limitations because of it's inherently concave (or convex, depending on which side you're looking at it) shape, and the new-fangled rubber-ended spatula is the tool of choice for its improved mixing abilities:

Now, this is all fine and dandy, and being the food aficionado that I am (read overweight), I am all in favour of any advances in technology which lead to a better cake. Cake is good. Cake is our friend. But there is a down side.

After the cake had been clumsily spooned into a baking receptacle, the opportunity arises to "lick the bowl". This is not a euphemism, but is actually an exercise of licking the bowl of its remaining cake mix, complete with sugar, cocoa, chocolate, raw egg and, presumably, salmonella. The relative inefficiency of the spoon at doing its job meant that there was usually a good amount of raw cake left in the bowl, all of which would be classified as tasty treat, and thus consumed with the gay abandon and peerless tongue-action of a pangolin on an anthill.

But now, this tiny oasis of gluttony has been swamped by the sandy advance of the dunes of efficiency, as the spatula makes short work of cleaning the bowl down to the last tiny dregs of cake mix. Behold the devastation:

There's nothing left to lick.

Sad face.


  1. Hi Jules,

    As Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) said in the movie Pulp Fiction as he explained the realities of life to Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis), "Fuck Technology!" (or was it pride?).

    Well perhaps a better analogy would be the movie Treasure of Sierra Madre, when Fred Hobbs (Humphrey Bogart) was told by Gold Hat, "Technology? We ain't got no technology. We don't need no technology. I don't have to show you any stinking technology!" (or maybe the word is badges, I can't remember).

    Go back to the spoon bro, leave the technology behind when baking cake.


  2. There's always something left to lick. Just go where your tongue leads you.

  3. The U - I think you may be right, although I don't have much say in it, as a simple scavenger living on the peripheries, opportunistically diving in for a quick lick.

    Mr Bananas - Wise words, and suitable for almost every occasion.

  4. a reverie of tumescent reflection

    You are my new wordsmith idol.

    Damn the Fancy Spatula.

  5. funny you should mention technology this morning as I just took a look at this:

  6. In the States, is it known as a 'spitula'?

  7. Jules - I too bemoan the absence of bowl licking opportunities. It was my major source of sustenance as a child. These new fangled ways wil deprive many a child of nourishment.

  8. Neo - Humans can do that, easy!

    Bro Tobias - Ew.

    Mdme DeF - They'll always have the goodness of microchips and blue pop to fall back on.

  9. people make cakes and bake the batter?????

    i don't have a toaster, a vacuum, or a spatula! i guess that makes me a little behind the times.


  10. I was deciding whether to comment on doubting one's penis, spatulas, or blood in the pee, when I read "wtf, omg, bbq" on the sidebar, and now I'm all giggly.

    I like that hidden funny.

  11. Miss A - Or ahead of them, maybe? One day, none of us will have those things.

    Steamy - Glad you like it. I'm not serious on my profile page, either.

  12. Jules, speaking as a cook, further qualified by the fact I have grandchildren, the use of a spatula is nothing short of criminal, spoons were meant to be licked! And, in my house they are, not only spoons, but eggbeaters too, somehow the full flavour of whipped cream with just a hint of vanilla, can only be appreciated by the almost tongue cutting adventure of licking the tynes of an eggbeater.

    Jules, you have been awarded an award, please call over to The Tomus Arcanum to pick it up.


    ps. I don't know why your link decided to choose its own colour, my choice wasn't good enough obviously.

  13. But the knack with the silicone spatula is to leave some mix ON PURPOSE. That way you can be sure of getting enough delicious raw cake mix without baking an inefficient cake mix.

    Well, that's what I do on the two occasions per year that I make cake (and yet I still have Advanced Cake Technology. The world's gone mad!).

    Nice blog BTW.


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