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Thursday, 19 January 2012

What the Romans did not invent

Now, it is well known to any Monty Python fan that the Romans invented everything, but sitting, as I am, listening to a training session using the medium of conference call, I am prepared to bet my bottom dollar that the Romans took one look at conference calls and thought "let's leave that for the Scots".  I am trying to find an analogy that gets even close to the buttock-clenching pointlessness of such an experience, but am struggling.  The idea of emptying the ocean with a teacup would kind of work were it not for the fact that, whilst slow, you would actually make some semblance of progress.  Perhaps the sound of one hand clapping would work, except you might just miss and strike you right hand with your left.

So, bereft of suitable analogies, I will instead try to explain IN PLAIN ENGLISH what the speaker on the call singularly failed to do.  Now, I should explain, English was not his first language, that would be either German or Dutch, but that was not the problem; his English was flawless and considerably better than both my German and my Dutch, in fact probably better than my English.  If I am honest, you do need to concentrate slightly harder when the speaker has English as a second language, but in a way, just like watching films with subtitles, the very act of concentrating a bit harder does enable you to get more out of the content.  However, the things he was telling me, things I sensed I should really understand, were not going in.  A quick instant chat with a colleague confirmed that at a minimum, the people on the call that did not understand what the devil was going on numbered at least two.

So, tell me, I hear you cry, before I lose the will to live, what was this conference call like?  Well, you know how people who know a subject very well sometimes forget the little things the rest of us do not yet know, so their descriptions start half way up, whereas, to grasp the meaning they need to start at the bottom and explain the easy stuff first.

It was a bit like that.

You know when you sit next to someone on the train, and some incident throws you together and he starts talking to you, but the stuff he is talking about is of no interest to you, Warcraft, Morris Dancing, constipation in wildfowl, something like that, and you realise that there are many many things, most of which will cause you great discomfort, that you would rather be doing than continue listening to him.

It was a bit like that.

You know when you are in a room and someone makes a joke and everyone laughs except you because you do not get it, and really most of the others don't get it either but they are assuming everyone else does so are laughing just in case.

It was a bit like that.

The call has ended now, and I can confidently and categorically confirm two things:

  • that is one and a half hours of my life that I will never get back
  • I do not have even one atom's worth of additional knowledge now it is over.  Indeed, in the US there is a microscope so powerful that it can see an individual atom, and yet that is still not powerful enough to see the learning I have just received*
I hope that your day is going better than mine.  I SAID, I HOPE YOUR DAY IS GOING BETTER THAN MINE.

* Apologies to Frasier for that particular plagiarism

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