LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
29 July 2015
The Silly Season Continues

Ah, the City of Brotherly Love. Best not to take that label too seriously - more
‘nom de guerre’ - particularly if you are a friendly friend-seeking robot.
The size of a 6-year-old child, robot hitchBOT was created by researchers at
Ryerson University in Toronto. Cute and totally unthreatening, cobbled together
from about $1,000 household bits and pieces, it set out on an adventure of a
lifetime. Its gap year?

HitchBOT relied on the kindness of strangers to travel from place to place.
Sporting yellow marigold gloves — one with its thumb extended to show it was a
hitch hiking robot and wanted a lift. HitchBot wanted to “experience the
American dream”. Clue: dead since 1952.

HitchBOT had a GPS tracker, a cellular chip and a camera. It could hold basic
conversations, answer trivia questions, offer charming jests and reciting random
facts and snap photos. Really. Charming jests. Is that a collective ‘ahhhhh’?
Hitchbot relied on solar charging and cigarette lighters in cars. The darling robot
was able to tell the driver when it was tired and in need of recharging. Really.
Ahhhhh.

HitchBOT had hitchhiked without ill will last summer across thousands of miles in
Canada, parts of Europe as well. But when it had travelled 300 miles from
Boston to Philadelphia on its way to California, its destiny changed forever.
HitchBOT experienced trauma and premature death. The wellies-wearing robot
was decapitated and left for dead by the side of a road after being battered,
smashed, maimed and dismembered. Not by luddites I might add. Just City of
Brotherly Love vile yobs. Curious why they didn’t simply riddle his little robot
body with bullets – the normal method of murder in the US.

HitchBOT sent back a gruesome photo showing that it had been destroyed.  “Oh
dear, my body was damaged,” poor dismantled hitchBOT wrote on its website
over the weekend. “I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots! My
trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade. Thank
you to all my friends.” Well, surely it should.

At least hitchBOT has a few lovely memories; a baseball game, its experience of
the sea, sight-seeing and possibly a bit of fun bantering. Its creators can
certainly delete the images of its vicious execution.

The parents of hitchBOT told hitchBOT followers on their website www.hitchBot.
me.: “What can be learned from this and explore future adventures for robots
and humans?...We wish to remember the good times, and we encourage
hitchBOT’s friends and fans to do the same.”

Professors Frauke Zeller and David Harris Smith designed the robot to learn
about how people interact with technology and ask the question, “Can robots
trust human beings?” Now we know the answer without sitting through endless
episodes of
Humans.


Breakfast Treats

You might be put off your breakfast if you read this, but then shouldn’t you be
eating healthier anyway – oh say – porridge, quinoa, muesli?

Those yellow-coloured flakes floating in your cereal bowl were not invented for
your health per se. Now you know you are surprised at that after decades of
hype beginning in the late 19th Century.

To begin: American physician John Harvey Kellogg viewed humanity as
shamefully lustful. He viewed it as his moral duty to stop the downward spiral to
utter licentiousness. Goodness (I know). Cornflakes and sex? Chalk and cheese
surely.

Sexual desire - and the utterly unmentionable masturbation? Blimey! Not that!
Kellogg was certain that the latter would bring diseases. How exactly he didn’t
seem to say.

The married Mr Kellogg is thought to have never consummated the marriage,
instead he spent his time writing anti-sex books. Are we wondering about his
wife here?

In his book, Plain Facts for Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and
Hygiene of Organic Life, he explained: "If illicit commerce of the sexes is a
heinous sin, self-pollution is a crime doubly abominable." Hmmm. A popular read
with such a seductive title?

Kellogg claimed that symptoms of sex would include: general infirmity, defective
development, mood swings, fickleness, bashfulness, boldness, bad posture, stiff
joints, acne, palpitations, epilepsy and a fondness for spicy foods. OK. It’s the
last symptom that causes you to doubt his theories, right?

Working with his brother Will (not another prophet of doom?) at the Battle Creek
Sanatorium in Michigan, they came upon a solution to the evils of the flesh:
cornflakes of course.

Just when you thought Kellogg was simply suffering from fear of sex, it all turns
quite gruesome. He had a treatment for ‘notions of self-love’. He insisted for
boys a silver wire should be threaded through the foreskin to stop erections and
irritate. Ouch! For girls, he was known to apply carbolic acid to the clitoris to
burn it and discourage touching. Ouch, ouch, ouch! Where was Freud when
they needed him?

Sorry to spoil your breakfast, but really, how much nutritional nourishment are
you consuming anyway....


Rants and Raves or I’m Losing the Will to Live:

Small Change
  
I wanted to write about Chancellor Boy-George, Georgie-Boy, whatever, and his
latest gift to his banker/hedge fund friends – you know the one where he has
sold off RBS shares for £2.1bn having bought them for £3.1bn - that one. The
one leaving us with pocket change and £1bn poorer. But it is so predictable it
borders on boring.

B-G/G-B was naturally ‘advised’ by the Rothschild bank with contracts going to –
surely you can give it a guess: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Rather
than burdening you with the duplicitous details...better to see what gift the
chancellor-with-the-boy’s-hair-cut has for us next week. It can only get better.


Freezing Them Out

‘Male metabolic’....so fascinating. Right? Well, if you’re a woman sharing office
space with men not so much. Men in suits – yes fully dressed – women ‘dressed
for success’ – ha – stilettos, tight dresses which inhibit natural breathing while
cramped toes are freezing as are legs, arms, fingers, face. Not fun. Apparently
the office temperature was originally set by men for men – surprise, surprise –
who prefer a colder climate.

When out of the office, even short trips to the market can leave you nearly frost-
bitten. For the last few or more summers, supermarkets have set the interior
temperatures low enough to freeze a cat. If a woman, you have possibly less
than 10 minutes before your lips turn blue and your teeth begin to chatter. So
ecologically sensitive on the part of Tesco, Sainsbury, M&S, Waitrose....

From popping out for a Tesco triple chicken caesar wrap, back to the office,
fake fur wrap (oh dear, I just couldn’t stop) and small under the desk heater
turned on high. Outside temperature? 21c. Well it is summer. It could be 18c
couldn’t it.

Researchers in the Netherlands say air conditioning systems are designed using
a 1960s formula when an office worker was a 40-year-old 154 pound man. Can’t
you just picture rows of 40-year-old men in grey suits...but then, would you
really want to.

According to Boris Kingma of the Maastricht University Medical Centre, men in
general, well western men we’re assuming, have higher metabolic rates than
women, and as the collective voices of reason they argue, the AC needs to be
reset to reflect the true office population and stop driving climate change. But
when did logic ever enter the office?

Women prefer about 77 degrees, men prefer 72 degrees. "We argue that
indoor climate standards should accurately represent the thermal demand of all
occupants."  Ha, ha, ha. Right. You know that will never happen. So woolly
mittens, socks and scarves to hand. It’s freezing nine to five.


Scenes from a Marriage

Stop the presses! Breaking News! Jen is finally hitched! Oh thank God! No more
sleepless nights tossing, turning, teeth-grinding. After three years of will-they-
won’t-they Justin Theroux has finally decided to tie the knot with the Brad-
rejected-personality (sorry, I simply can’t say ‘actress’). Surely you have been
equally obsessed, concerned, anxious angst-ridden.

Jen kept the wedding a totally ‘top secret’. Her ‘best pals’ included Chelsea
Handler and Howard Stern. Ew, really?

Do we now live in false hope that she can suppress her need to keep us
constantly updated on her every thought (oh dear...I’m trying not to comment
here), mood change (from defensive to aggressive that is), activity (in her
mansions and outside of)? What a relief for all of us.

No doubt we’ll be properly informed with Scenes from a Marriage. There is a bit
of irony (or perfect timing) here. Brad and Angelina have announced they are
working on a film – together – as a married couple; By the Sea.

Holding bated breath for massive media coverage of ‘poor childless Jen’...yawn.


Dressed for Success

The Fun Bits

Vanity Fair magazine has chosen Sam Cam as the best dressed - "Conservative
charm"... hahahahahahhahahahahaha...Rihanna was sixth. Still laughing.


Teaching Old Dog Owners New Tricks

Hero of Leiston, Suffolk, Andrew Hawes, is not easy to find. He’s usually found
under a bush, hiding, not lurking. It’s not what you think. Armed with a video
camera he covers himself in camouflage gear and records offenders who have
intentionally not picked up after their dogs.

The surreptitious shrub says: “We spent weeks cleaning up the neighbourhood
and removing buckets of dog poo (blocking out that picture). Within seven days
it was all back (blocking out again). We want to raise awareness and make
people think twice about what they’re doing because it’s not nice for families with
kids...I’m very discreet.”

Having won loads of praise from across the UK, with even Hugh Grant tweeted
“My hero”. What’s not to love? Certainly not all that poo.


Odds or Evens?

Perhaps not so fun after all, but the answer is evens. If you are burgled and
your house number is an odd number, don’t expect a visit from Leicestershire
Police. They have chosen your neighbours over you. Huh? Surely you wonder.
You should know that while standing in the middle of a mess, hoping your laptop
is under it all (you know it isn’t), your mother’s wedding ring, your guinea pig
Fiona – oh there it is - you and Fiona are part of an experiment. Huh? you’re
wondering surely.

The police are trying an ‘experiment’ to save money. Leicestershire Police said
the three-month pilot scheme of only sending forensic teams to half of all
potential crime scenes had "no noticeable impact on victim satisfaction". No.
Really. Unaffected satisfaction? Doesn’t engender much confidence does it?
Really.


The police conceded that if the victim was deemed vulnerable (by whom
exactly?) or the suspected burglary was part of a series of crimes (on odd
numbered houses?), the property would be visited by officers regardless of
house number. How comforting.

“The pilot suggests that we may need to reconsider how best to deploy crime
scene investigators, especially if we are currently sending them automatically to
scenes where, despite their professionalism and expertise, there is no evidence
for them to retrieve." And how do they know that exactly? Odd houses never
have evidence? Not inspired to take up residency in Leicestershire any time
soon then....

Or Merseyside where the “police discretion framework” introduced last year was
described as a “common sense approach” to allow frontline officers to drop
investigations which are “not in the public interest”. And that would be?
Hampshire police view many “hit and run” crashes in which drivers flee after
causing damage to other vehicles are also exempt from investigation providing
noone has been injured. What exactly do they do then?

Other forces suggest you take forensic photos and email them in. Clearly you
have a finger-print kit – unless it was stolen.

Speaking of break-ins...as we were...no one has mentioned the locked door.
You know Cilla’s son had to break into her bedroom only to find her dead on the
balcony. Whom exactly was she locking out? Just asking - since no one else is.
Guessing isn’t very effective here is it?

If you want to totally destroy all your devotion to Cilla’s memory, read Popbitch
this week. Previous bits have been expanded. Oh dear. Be warned; they use the
‘c’ word and it isn’t ‘Cilla’. Oh dear. Oh dear. You might be taking down your ‘I
love Cilla’ posters, if indeed they exist. But you get the point.


Oldies but Goodies

And now for the laugh-out-loud fun bit. If you are one of Cara’s (do we really
need her surname? OK. If you’re having a senior moment here – Delevinge) 17
million Instagram followers, you know about Peter White. Mr White sent a letter
to the magazine, Oldies. You realise the readership then.

He sent it via snail mail: “I haven’t got a computer, but I was told about Facebook
and Twitter and trying to make friends outside Facebook and Twitter while
applying the same principles.

“Every day I walk down the street and tell passers-by what I have eaten, how I
feel, what I have done the night before and what I will do for the rest of the day, I
give them pictures of my wife, my daughter, my dog and me gardening and on
holiday, spending time by the pool...And it works. I already have four people
following me; two police officers, a social worker and a psychiatrist.” LOL?
Surely LOLROTF!
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