Slave to the machine

Last night I was working at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole and had been booked into another hotel nearby. When the event finished one of the crew offered me a lift back to the hotel. Getting into his car he got his sat nav out of the glove compartment and said “I don’t know what I’d do without this” – a comment he would come to regret!

He punched in the postcode we had been given and off we went. The Sat Nav directed us to turn left onto the A45 and then onto the M42 before sending us onto the M6. At this point we became concerned that something was amiss! Anyway we ended up in Birmingham City Centre before it directed us back onto a road which headed back towards the NEC. After a while it announced that we had reached our destination just as we arrived at the road ahead closed sign – but there was still no sign of a hotel!

I got my phone out of my pocket and punched in the name of the hotel and it revealed we were now 7 miles from the hotel so we followed the directions and ended up at the Arden hotel which turned out to be next to the NEC and if we had turned right (instead of left) onto the A45 would have found it in minutes!

I can’t be too smug though as the reason I had accepted the lift was that when I punched in the details of the hotel and asked for walking directions my phone told me initially 2hrs and then 1hr and directed me in a circular route. However as I found out this morning the hotel was a 5 minute walk from Birmingham International which itself is only a 10 minute walk from the Metropole. So I could have walked there in 15 to 20 minutes instead of the half hour we spent doing a round trip via spaghetti junction!

Bring back maps!

Hair Raising Experience

The DJ on the radio this morning was asking people to ring in with experiences that happened while they were at school that have passed into legend. Unfortunately I heard it 5 minutes from the end of the show or I would have called in with this story:

When I was at school, many years ago, in Sunderland we had a physics teacher who had the classic Bobby Charlton comb over hair style obviously in a vain attempt to hide his baldness. One day while we were learning about electricity he decided to demonstrate the Van der Graaff generator. In case you don’t know the idea of the machine is that a constantly rotating belt builds up a static electric charge on the hollow metal sphere that surrounds one end of it. This will then discharge when a second metal sphere is brought into close proximity to it – the discharge is seen as a spark between the two spheres.

Anyway that’s how the experiment is supposed to work but there are other more fun ways of discharging the static charge. One such way is that if somebody stands on some insulated material like a block of polystyrene then touches the large dome the static will travel through them and be discharged to the first point it can find to earth itself – rather like getting a static shock when you touch a metal doorknob. So the teacher stands on the block and places one hand on the VDGG and then points to a Bunsen burner which has been turned on. The static charge leaps from the end of his finger and lights the Bunsen flame ta-da!!

Now as we all know there is another trick with static electricity – this is best demonstrated by rubbing a balloon against a jumper and holding it near to someone’s hair. The Van der Graaff had the same effect and his Bobby Charlton comb over started to stand on end. The whole class was in absolute hysterics as he fought to try and keep it down! However the demonstration needed both his hands to work so it was even more hysterical as he tried to continue! Happy Days!

I suspect that this couldn’t happen any more as the thought of someone putting himself up as a human lightning conductor would probably give the School’s Health & Safety person a even bigger shock than if he was to get on the end of the teachers electrically charged finger!