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Work in the media? Struggle with statistics? Stan's irreverent (and often irrelevant) review of the latest media reports, news and gossip may not help at all... Stan the Statistician

Stan # 27: Microsoft cars and pet hates 9 September 1999

I have dished out a number of 'smart arse' awards to correspondents who claim that the only unrhymable word in the English language is, 'orange' and Steve P who thought it was, 'blancmange' I thought it was, 'pint'. Do we have any budding Andrew Motions (the Poet Laureate) out there who can find a word to rhyme with any of these words? Have a bash. It's better than working. Anything's better than working.

From the Miscellaneous Sales section of the Basingstoke Gazette (England): "Clearance of quality conservatives. Bargains galore. Various sizes."

Five people have been killed and 52 injured by bursting beer bottles in China, the China Daily reported. Bursting beer bottles tops the list of complaints to the Country's consumer association. No indication was given if these people were all killed in one accident, 57 accidents or something in between. There was also no indication of how many complaints the consumer association received. My guess is maybe half a dozen brave souls who are now being used to test the burst resistance of new designs of beer bottles.

Most of you will have seen the Bill Gates quote about how if car manufacturers had made as much progress as the computer industry over the last 30 years, we would all be driving $25 dollar cars that do 1,000 miles to the gallon and go at 18,000 miles per hour etc. - and how you could fit 25 of them on the head of a pin no doubt, but you may not have seen the reply from General Motors:

"If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

  1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.

  2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car.

  3. Occasionally, your car would die on the motorway (freeway) for no reason and you would accept this and drive on.

  4. Occasionally, executing a manoeuvre such as a left turn, would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

  5. Only one person at a time could use the car unless you bought Car95 or CarNT. Then you would have to buy more seats.

  6. Apple would make a car that was powered by the Sun, was more reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive, but would only run on five per cent of the roads.

  7. The oil, water, temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single 'general car fault' warning light.

  8. New seats would force everyone to have the same butt size.

  9. The airbag system would say, 'are you sure' before releasing.

  10. Occasionally, for no reason, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the antenna.

  11. In addition, GM would require all car buyers to purchase a deluxe set of Rand McNally road maps (now a GM subsidiary), even though they neither need them nor want them. Attempting to delete this option would immediately cause the car's performance to diminish by 50 per cent or more.

  12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

  13. You'd press the 'Start' button to shut off the engine."

Of course, if any of this really did come from Microsoft or GM, it would have been released by Deep Throat. Did you find yourself nodding in agreement as you read it? Been there, done that, got the scars and refuse to wear the T-shirt?

Radio 4 (UK) asked listeners to telephone in their pet hates. The top ten were:

  1. Automated telephone systems

  2. Mobile phones on trains and buses

  3. Noise from traffic and neighbours

  4. Politicians who don't answer the question

  5. Cold-calling salesmen

  6. Stickers on fruit

  7. Messy binmen (garbage removal)

  8. Background Musak

  9. The powder at the bottom of cereal packets

  10. Other people's driving

I'm not sure if these answers are a reflection on Radio 4 listeners, people who like to telephone radio programmes to complain, a combination of the two or people in the UK. However, did you feel yourself agreeing with at least some of them? Perhaps in an idle moment, you could draw up your own list or survey your friends and let me have your suggestions for publication. You don't have to have ten; one will be fine as long as it's not statisticians.

Check in again at my desk soon!

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