OFF BY A FEW DEGREES

December 31, 2012

It was a TV interview. Some bloke complaining that he had graduated from university but couldn’t get a job despite having a hard-won degree. He had to accept work stacking shelves in the freezer of his local butcher.

I must say, my heart went out to him. Years of work, study and application – and it all came to zero… Well, several degrees below zero.

Had he stopped there, I would have been writing this column with a different slant. But he didn’t stop. Instead, he went on to reveal that his degree was in Art History.

What? At school, a chum of mine took Highers in Art and Mathematics. The only job I could see suited to these qualifications was one that involved painting computers.

But a degree in Art History? Only useful if you’re applying for the post of curator in an art gallery.

I mean, did he really think a pointless degree like that entitled him to a top job and a top salary? It would seem he did.

And he’s not the only one. There are thousands of them out there.

Wealthy teenagers taking courses that have no bearing on real life, and then complaining  they can’t land a job suited to their intellectual and academic capacity. Poor lambs.

A little bit of research reveals that there is a plethora of next-to-worthless degrees. Ask yourself: who is going to employ you just because you have a degree in philosophy. Or psychology. Or – wait for this – David Beckham Studies, from Staffordshire University. I kid you not.

You can even take a Madonna studies module as part of the Gender Course at Harvard. Or Oprah Winfrey studies at Illinois.

There are degree courses in parapsychology at Edinburgh and Liverpool, among others. Very handy if you want to join the Ghostbuster team. However, it’s unlikely to impress a REAL employer who is offering a REAL job.

The first thing youngsters should learn in life is that you must always give the customer what they want. And when the customer is your potential employer, he certainly doesn’t want you waving an archaeology degree in his face.

Unless, of course, you want a job stacking shelves in the local butcher shop. In that case, your degree will do just fine – for swatting flies. Oh, and beating off the bailiffs when they come to collect your student loan.

Drew McAdam


TURNING UP THE HEAT – EVENTUALLY

December 24, 2012

The following story is true; I promise you. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

A West Lothian gentleman – let’s call him Mr Frustrated –discovered that the double radiator in the sitting room wasn’t heating up. So he called the local specialists… And that’s when it all started.

Friday: Mr Frustrated took the day off work. Plumber Number One turned up and checks the radiator with an impressive laser heat-measuring piece of techno-wizardry that involved pointing it at the offending radiator and declaring “It’s not heating up”. His diagnosis was that the radiator was filled with sludge.

The solution was a full flush; a job that would take at least half a day.

Monday: Mr Frustrated takes another day off work. Plumber Number Two turns up. He, too, declares “It’s not heating up”. However, his diagnosis is that it would be simpler replace the offending radiator, rather than flush the whole system.

Tuesday: Mr Frustrated takes another day off work. Plumber Number Two phones to say that, despite their best planning, the replacement radiator has not arrived from the supplier. It will now be tomorrow.

Wednesday: Mr Frustrated takes another day off work. Plumber Number Three turns up. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the radiator with him. It’s still at the depot… He will be back after lunch. Later that day there is a phone call; actually, the radiator still hasn’t arrived. However, it will definitely have arrived in the next couple of days. So that Mr Frustrated doesn’t have to take the day off work, they will fit it on the Saturday.

Saturday: Plumber Number Four turns up – without the radiator. It seems that the radiator is somehow damaged; scraped right down to the metalwork. No worries though; they’ll get another one, and somebody will phone next week to arrange a day and time to fit it…

So, there you go. Almost two weeks from the initial appointment being set up, four plumbers, and four days – count them, four days – lost work for Mister Frustrated. Yet despite all this activity the old, non-functional radiator is still there. And still cold.

How can such an inept firm remain in business? With that level of incompetence and inefficiency you would think they would be bankrupt, defunct, and their army of plumbers on the dole.

But no. And do you know why? Because the local firm of specialists is none other than West Lothian Council. The reason they aren’t out of business is because people like you and me are paying to keep them in business through our taxes and rates.

No wonder West Lothian Council is in trouble. All this activity, lost time from work, expense – just to replace one radiator. Or NOT replace it, as it happens.

According to their own Repairs Information Leaflet, Mr Frustration’s situation is treated as a “Priority Repair”. Makes you wonder what this Clown College would do it if WASN’T a priority.

That said, WLC eventually apologised, and said it shouldn’t have happened. Once they got their act together, everything was sorted. Eventually.

That said, over a fortnight to change a radiator? They should hang their heads in shame.

Drew McAdam


IS THERE ANYBODY THERE?

December 16, 2012

 

Planet Earth has been around for over 4 billion years, but it’s all supposed to come to a messy end on the 21st of this month.

It’s true, I tell you. I know, because I read it on the Internet.

An internet group has carried out research and discovered that an invisible planetary object called Nibiru is heading straight for us. Okay, the collision was originally predicted for May 2003, but as you may have noticed, that didn’t happen.

Not to be discouraged, they made some new tin foil hats, and recalculated the original; figures. They worked out – by some astonishing coincidence – that the new date for the end of the world falls on the same date that the Mayan calendar runs out. The 21st of December.

These Mayan Indians were amazing. Some 1300 years ago they carved a calendar into a stone at La Corona, in Guatemala. That calendar comes to an end on the 21st of this month; therefore the world is going to come to an end.

Mind you, it seems odd that this ancient civilization foresaw the end of the world, but didn’t see the Spanish coming.

Be that as it may, with the planet Niburu heading this way, the end of the Mayan Calendar, and a really weird planetary alignment of the Universe, (of which NASA and astronomers know nothing) it’s unlikely that this column will ever see the light of day.

I have to admit, I’m rather counting on the Mayans and the Internet doomsday groups being right. You see, I haven’t sent any Christmas cards or bought any Festive gifts. Neither have I completed my tax return or paid my credit card bills. I’m counting on the Mayans being right.

So, if you are reading this, then Armageddon didn’t happen. And if we’re all still here – including the Inland Revenue – then I’m in a whole heap of trouble. It may not be the end of the world, but it’s certainly the end for me.

Despite all that, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year.

Drew McAdam


GET OFF YOUR BIKE

December 9, 2012

According to the newspapers, and the No Win No Fee ambulance chaser websites, the Council in Edinburgh will pay out some £1million to cyclists who fall off their bikes on account of hitting a tram line.

One of the fundamentalist, radicalised cycling lobby groups has stated that it was “crucial that signs were put up.”

Of course, that’s what we need: even more signage and street furniture. Any suggestions for the wording? How about “Hey! Idiot on the bike! Watch out for tram lines / drains / pavements / pedestrians etc etc.”

Mind you, it’s odd that in Amsterdam, which has around 130 miles of tram track and a couple of hundred thousand bicycles, the cyclists seem able to avoid the lines.

Maybe it’s just me, but I would think that clambering onto a flimsy metal frame then perching and balancing on a wee seat while spinning your legs in circles while whizzing along the road, is a slightly loopy and perilous activity. It really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if you come a cropper.

I’ll bet that if bicycles were invented today the Health and Safety Executive would ban them on the grounds that they are inherently dangerous, prone to cause the person perched upon it to regularly lose their balance at speed, leading to pain, injury and an ambulance race to the hospital. That such contraptions exist to the detriment of rider, pedestrians, wildlife and shrubbery.

A solution might be ripping up all the tram tracks. Personally, I’ve always thought that a network of cable cars would be simpler, cheaper and a darn sight more fun way of getting to work in the morning.

Another suggestion is that we could fill in the tracks with concrete and fit rubber tyres to the trams so they could use any road. Sort of like a bus.

So, while we are travelling by bus – or cable car – rogue cyclists could continue happily ignoring traffic lights, carrying friends on the back of their bikes, riding on pavements, cycling in the dark with no lights, and chatting on mobile phones as they tear down hills.

Alternatively, they could study the Go Amstersdam website where cyclists are encouraged to use hand signals when changing direction. Keep pace with fellow bikers. Ride two abreast, as long as doing so doesn’t hold up traffic… Oh, and the website’s last piece of advice: keep your wheels out of the tram tracks by approaching them at right angles.

That way, the rest of us won’t have to subsidise your foolhardiness to the tune of a million quid.

Drew McAdam


ALL ABOARD THE GRAVY TRAIN

December 2, 2012

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I considered what the best job in the world might be, and decided that being in the employ of a James Bond villain would be number one on the list.

Well, I’ve changed my mind.

I’d like to be a consultant at NHS Lothian, please.

If you or I had finished a good 12 hour shift, then we could go home satisfied at a job well done, and happy to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

However, you may have recently read that a good shift for a consultant looking after children and newborn infants means a great night’s sleep, and a cheque for £1800 at the end of it. (No, that’s not a misprint.)

Sounds good to me; a twelve hour shift and you’re paid the equivalent of a nurse’s monthly wage. I’d like some of that, please.

And to make it even more galling, this payment is on top of average earnings of £90,000 each year… Oh, plus bonuses.

And before the consultants start moaning that their job is highly technical, takes years of study and training, and that I couldn’t do their job…

Well, they couldn’t do my job, either. I doubt very much that they could stand on stage, or before a television camera, and keep an audience interested for an hour. But that’s neither an excuse for me being paid an exorbitant amount of money – which I’m not. Nor is it a reason for being paid a huge bundle of cash when wards are closing and patients are being treated like third class citizens.

And they couldn’t do the job of, let’s say, a bomb disposal expert who daily puts his life on the line in Afghanistan to protect the lives of the locals and his colleagues.

Also, I would expect these consultants to fail miserably if they were trying to do the job of a firefighter; running into a house fire or chemical spill while everybody else is sprinting in the opposite direction.

So income is not directly proportional to expertise. No, these outrageous payments have been approved so that the consultants can plug gaps in a rota, even though they are over-qualified. According to the report, the same work could be carried out by a mid-grade doctor.

Dr Jean Turner, a former MSP and director of the Scotland Patients Association, described the consultants’ employment as a “jolly good job”.

No, it’s more than that. It’s a gold-plated gravy train; that’s what it is.

Drew McAdam