Pyroclastic flow

By | 20th April 2010

It has been quite a week!

I have been away from the office for my daughter’s wedding and have been bemused by the news reaching me in the wilds of Norfolk.

Scientists at the National Academy of Perverse Political Information (NAPPI for short) have been bewildered by the eruption of a yellow cloud of hot air and rehashed policies which emerged from the Coronation Street studios in Manchester during last week.

Unable to make any sense of it at all, the scientists, many of whom have been working flat out until recently on stories about global warming, climate change and the fact that it is all our fault, were pulled off this important task to concentrate on the yellow/orange phenomenon which threatens the future viability of Cameron Airways and the continued existence of the already bankrupt Brown Tours.

NAPPI has already predicted that the little known yellow peril, known as the Clegg because it emanates from that part of the atmosphere below the troposphere known to occasional meteorologists as the Cantquitebelieveithashappenedtomesaysnickclegg or the Cleggosphere for short, will spread all over the United Kingdom over the next three weeks turning the burgeoning spring colours of blue and green and the fading and wrinkled red and brown to a murky orange.

Nothing like this has happened for almost 100 years and scientists are struggling to come to terms with the problem which threatens to cause major disruption to the established political system of the red and blue airlines.

Nowhere nearly in the same category, comes the volcanic eruption in Southern Iceland on the Eyjafjallajokull glacier (and the threat of a further eruption from the neighbouring volcano, Katla) and the closure of most of Europe’s airspace on account of the plume of ash and dust thrown into the air by the continual explosions.

Reflecting on last weekend’s wedding of my daughter, which took place under blue skies in gloriously warm sunshine, but which sadly was not attended by two of her bridesmaids and a page from Madrid, nor the groom’s godmother who was stuck in Milan, I was amused by the suggestion in the letters column of one of our national newspapers that Gordon Brown really should get a grip on the situation and use some of the mind boggling anti terrorist powers which he has foisted on a supine Parliament to deal with the country which firstly took our fish, then our money (remember the collapse of the Icelandic banks and the subsequent refusal of the populace in Reykjavik and beyond to allow their government to repay what is due) and who have now disrupted our airspace by their pollution.

The daughter has now gone to France for a few days instead of Vietnam and I am sure she and her new husband will have a good time not least because they will be spared the seemingly endless coverage in the press and elsewhere of the differently coloured clouds trying to win our votes and/or prevent us from enjoying ourselves by further extending our carbon footprint. I see from the papers that the authorities are now being accused of over reaction by closing most of the airspace in Northern Europe. The authorities are denying this, so far, but they would, wouldn’t they? After all they are the same people who brought you swine flu earlier in the year!

All this information, or, if some are to be believed, misinformation, led me to wonder how we all managed before the arrival of instant news backed up by the opportunity to make further news by commenting on the news in the first place.

Last weekend, the Sunday Times colour supplement, Style, carried an article by Fleur Britten called “Hold that thought”. According to a book by health writer Harriet Griffey called The Art of Concentration, office workers are interrupted every three minutes by the arrival of an email and 62% of us are addicted to email.

A recent study at the University of California calculated that we are bombarded by 34 gigabytes of information a day, including approximately 100,000 words. Phrases such as “filter failure”, “information anxiety” and “stuffocation” (being overwhelmed by years of consumption) are becoming commonplace.

Griffey says that we take, on average, 15 minutes to refocus after an interruption. Consequently attention is poor and mistakes are made. If that is true, we presumably never get started once we have been interrupted by the day’s first email!

The solution, as the article suggests, is information dieting. Now dieting is contrary to human nature and The Future Laboratory (a consultancy for forecasting future trends) predicts the rise of attention managers, deletion parties and time coaches. Big companies like IBM, Intel and Deloitte are implementing “technology quarantines” (no email days, possibly even no computer days) which are said to lead to improved relations and greater productivity.

Sitting in meetings with lawyers tearing their hair out because of the amount of potentially irrelevant information their clients or other lawyers have sent to them, is a regular part of life these days, although seeing the relief on their faces when the technology solutions assist in overcoming these difficulties makes it all worthwhile.

Perhaps all that can be said for certain is that in this world of ever increasing amounts of information which has to be checked, assimilated, read, reviewed, collated, listed or junked, Millnet’s A-Z of common terms in use in the technology industry will need updating now that all these new terms are in current use! Even then, the glossary will not tell you how to vote on May 6th, nor will it tell you how to deal with gaseous clouds which threaten our skies, but it might just assist lawyers in coming to terms with some of the information they have to deal with in today’s contentious arena. I wish there were something similar to help solve the effects of volcanic eruptions or the pyroclastic flow of political exaggeration we can expect in the next two weeks.