All the best ideas are simple – and the real game-changers always seem obvious – in retrospect.
This week the Ed came across just such an idea. No doubt my tech-savvy readers (hi there Richard/Steve/Will ….) have been familiar with it for ages, but it’s worth sharing in the hopes that there may be one or two others of you out there who haven’t heard of it.
First, the problem –
1) (at the 21st-Century-problem-urban-dweller level) how do you identify the right place for a delivery driver to go?
2) (for those who are a bit more adventurous) you’re on a Scottish mountainside and one of your party has broken a leg – or you’re off the coast and your yacht is dismasted — how do you identify your position for the good guys at the Mountain Rescue/RNLI to find you?
3) (for H Sapiens in general) assuming you haven’t got an address (and lots of people haven’t – would you, dear reader, like to estimate how many of the world’s 7 billion people don’t have a formal address? Answer at the end of the post), how do you tell the doctor/police/whatever where you are?
For 1), the flip answer is the postcode – but that can be just vague enough to be really frustrating (in the Ed’s case, it directs the driver to a busy main road 100 yards or so from the front door of the Editorial mansion, rather than the drive (round the back).
For 2), a detailed grid reference might work – though one mistyped numeral would be disastrous.
And for 3)?
A native of deepest Hertfordshire (who knows what it’s like to stand out in a country lane in the pouring rain for hours waiting for the delivery driver) has produced a brilliant solution – step forward Mr Chris Sheldrick. Mr S has worked with two childhood friends (Mr Mohan Ganesalingham, a maths fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, and Mr Jack Waley-Cohen, a “full-time quiz obsessive”, who is a question-setter for Only Connect) to produce an app called what3words.
Mr S and his friends worked out that to cover the entire globe with squares 3 metres by 3 metres (shame he didn’t use yards – Ed) would take 57 trillion squares. Using a combination of three words from a base of 40,000 recognizable (and translatable) words gives 64 trillion possibilities – shimples! Add an error-correction algorithm (to make sure similar sounding combinations are a long way apart) and six months whizzy programming, and you’ve got a (free!) app which might just change your life (and will definitely save lots of lives in developing countries – and others). It’s already been incorporated by Mercedes in their next generation of satnav, and UPS are using it.
Some of the word combinations are pretty cool, too. The Editorial property contains twenty something squares, and some of the names are rather spooky …. these include explains.smothered.elders (are they expecting Mr & Mrs Ed’s lifeless bodies to be found any time soon?), occupiers.goat.respect (very Good Life), fiery.embraced.broccoli (don’t go there), cups.builders.employees (a foretaste of building work to come?), snores.scanty.agency (sounds dodgy to me – Ed), miss.careful.seeing (ditto), pointed.argued.erupt (a consequence of the previous two?), and manliness.washrooom.puzzle (no comment – flattered Ed). The square which definitely indicates Mr S’s psychic powers, though (unless he is a covert reader of the Bluffington Post?) is texts.suitably.ranted ….
Being a member of a TAB Board will probably not assist you to come up with stellar ideas like this one – but your fellow Board members can definitely help in developing the concept of them (and, just as importantly, in weeding out the duds). After all, where else can you get the honest opinion of seven other experienced business owners with no axe to grind, and no hesitation in telling you what they really think? If this sounds attractive, you know where to come!
Moving on to the odds and sods in this week’s news –
• lots of variation on “Phew! What A Scorcher!” stories this week – the Thames estuary is apparently “teeming” with seals ….
• …. and there are dire warnings that Blighty might run out of beer, due to the shortage of CO2 (though it might serve ‘em right – not a problem if you drink proper – i.e. hand-pulled – beer – Ed). Bookers (the country’s biggest wholesaler) have started rationing buyers to ten cases of beer each (should see people through to the semifinals, though)
• apparently there’s some of kind of footy tournament taking place – the Times subbies warned of a “Viking invasion in Balham” (an Icelander went to the Bedford pub to watch his team play)
• Boeing is working on a hypersonic plane to travel at almost five times the speed of sound, getting you to New York in two hours – not for 20 or 30 years yet, though
• boffins are predicting that “if you live to 105 you might live for ever” (only way the Ed might see Boeing’s hypersonic plane)
• a rather slower (but mean) flyer has gone walkabout (or rather, flyabout) – Nikita, Warwick Castle’s Steller’s sea eagle, gave her handlers the slip during a demonstration, and is believed to be “resting in the countryside nearby” (shouldn’t be hard to spot – Nikita has a seven foot wing span (gulp), is brown and white, and has a striking yellow beak (just hope it isn’t striking at me – Ed))
• (more) boffins have succeeded in making a cloaking device that can make an object fully invisible (though how will they see where it is? — Ed) (maybe Nikita has nicked a prototype)
• the pen is (as any fule kno) mightier than the sword, but could be on the way out (not while I’m alive it ain’t – Ed) – a survey by Cunard found that 26% of people have not sent or received a hand-written letter in the past decade, and 65% of 25- to 34-year-olds “hardly ever pick up a pen”. Even worse, more than 75% of young people said they had become reliant on the autocorrect function on their smartphone to make shure there speling is OK
• summer wouldn’t be complete without a neighbour spat – Mr Nigel Jacklin and his wife Sheila, who live in Bexhill-on-Sea, in East Sussex, objected when Mr Stephane Duckett and his partner, Norinne (ugh! – Ed) moved in next door, complaining about (amongst other things) the conversion to their house – things have now reached such a pitch that Mr and Mrs J have been issued with a community protection order forbidding them to look into their neighbours’ garden (thus rivalling Mr Peter Trigger (60), who was banned from dressing as a schoolgirl (though only on school days), and Ms Caroline Bishop (39), who was given an ASBO in 2007 to stop her singing Gary Glitter songs in the bath) (quite right – Ed) ….
• …. and Asboy (the grandson of Asbo, the swan who was moved 60 miles from the Cam in 2012 after attacking rowers), who was also notorious for attacking river users, has “disappeared” (hope he’s OK – Ed)
• if you’re fed up with the broadband speed on offer, why not take a leaf out of the book of the 300 residents of Michaelston-y-Fedw (which is, not surprisingly, in Wales), who clubbed together and dug their own trench to allow a fibre optic cable to be laid
• Surrey (not to be outdone by other parts of the UK – see recent issues of the Bluffington Post) suffered its own earthquake on Wednesday, prompting one man to tweet “anyone else in Dorking feel an earthquake just now? Whole flat shook. Could’ve been someone moving a sofa though”. Another resident was less impressed, tweeting “bit annoyed that finally something happens in Dorking and I don’t notice a thing of it”
• Professor Anurag Agarwal (of the Uni of Cambridge) was fed up by being kept awake by a dripping tap, so did some research, concluding that he could silence the “plink” by putting a squirt of washing up liquid under the tap
• and another boffin, Mr John Davie (who is a lecturer in classics at Oxford Uni), has started a nice little earner writing Latin verse for grieving pet owners – sample – “Flete meos casus, canem si quis deligebat. Fuit enim Russell, larum delicate” (which means “Weep for my misfortune, all dog-lovers – Russell has died, darling of our home”) (but you knew that)
On to Columbo Corner, and the North/South divide –
1) Mr Mark Tewdwr-Jones, from Newcastle Uni, sparked uproar when he said (on Radio 4, no less) that he divided the country between North and South based on London’s influence, and on this basis Manchester, Leeds, and York are all in the South (this is inappropriate on at least two levels – a) Mr T-J is clearly Welsh (and therefore not entitled to an opinion on such an important topic – or indeed, on anything much), and is abusing the hospitality of his Geordie hosts b) what has London got to do with it? – Ed) ….
2) …. prompting Mr Paul Cloutman to write a letter to the Times pointing out that the true definition revolves around fish and chips – in the South, you are given cod by default (and have to ask for haddock), while in the North, you get haddock, and must ask for cod, giving a demarcation line of “a little north of Lincoln” (sounds about right to me – Ed)
Have a great weekend – and keep a careful eye open for Nikita and Asboy ….
Cheers for now
There are 7 billion people in the world, and it’s estimated that more than 4 billion of them don’t have an address
I presently run three Boards –
Dark Blue (for people who run large businesses) – one spare seat
Light Blue (for people who run large businesses) — two spare seats
White Board (for people who run fast-growing businesses) — two spare seats
(on overhearing a remark that “Herbert Morrison is his own worst enemy”) “Not while I’m alive he ain’t” (Ernie Bevin)
“There are no earthquakes in East Acton” (Bluebottle, in The Goon Show)
“Earthquake — a truly shattering experience” (advert for the film Earthquake, modified by some wit by turning the E into an F and deleting the h)
By Tom Morton, TAB Harrogate