Thursday, April 13, 2006


Yesterday I forgot my laptop at work. I was going to take it home because I was planning to watch some DVD's in the evening, but halfway home I realised I didn't remember to pack it. I just had the empty backpack. I didn't feel like turning back, so I decided to read instead.

Well, during the night (I like to think this way, even though it was probably early this morning) someone had gone through our lab and sticked a "Pass - Electrical Safety Test" sticker to all the plugs in the room, including my laptop's. Thank you,"NS". I don't know what this test entails, but it must be a quick one, since I came here at 10.30 and already all approximately 100 or so plugs in the facility had been labelled.

Now I actually would be allowed to use the adapter in the University Library, as well. They insist that if you want to plug in your laptop to their grid you need to have the university electrician to test, approve and label your plug first. I have to say that I have so far adopted a slightly freer interpretation of this rule... as in not having any stupid checks and plugging in anyway. I'm sure one of the reasons my laptop power adapter is so big is that they needed more space for all the safety stamps and standard insignia they have printed in the bottom of it. I know, the CE stamp only says that the product has been intended for sale in the EU, and is not a proof of safety as such, just an indication that the producer is claiming they've followed the rules and standards. But still.

In my welcome pack (the material my college sent me prior to starting my studies) they said that no adapters would be allowed. Meaning adapters you buy at airports to fit your two-pin plug to a three-hole socket. All plugs for electronic devices would need to be changed and those plugs tested by the above mentioned university electrician. Again, I took what I think was a more common-sense approach. It is strange how a nation where the general building standards and house technology in particular are of a good old pleistoscene standard, electricity safety issues are made to such an artform. It could be the general obsession with stamping and labelling things, and the innate ability of English people to focus on the irrelevant nitty-gritty.

For instance, what is all this about plugs? BBC just run a feature where they were making some sort of a point by canvassing people and asking if they could wire a plug. Why? Is this a survival skill I've missed? Do people need to show they can wire a plug before they are allowed to buy a house or cash they paycheques? Are dextrous plug-wirers more attractive to the opposite sex than those who don't give a damn? In my opinion, if you are serious about electrical safety, you don't start messing around with plugs on your own in the first place, especially if they are of the moulded type that can't be changed without braking them, as the one in the picture in the BBC story.

At the same time as plugs are being an important skill that old people are excellend and the younger generations can't be arsed about, the BBC is running a series of stories about people's ideas on how to save energy. As you could guess, they are concentrating on the truly important things like the amount of water you put in your kettle or whether you could run a poster campaign or a competition on who switches off their stuff the most. The debate on the site is very typically British. One commentator said that while an inter-county competition in saving energy could drop the consumption of energy by 25% for the duration of the competition and 10% permanently, it might not be good since "for some people it would smack of "nanny knows best". Right. Why would anyone in their right minds give a dingle about such intelligent and well-founded opinions?

It's amazing how people prefer talking about these small details while the actual culprits of poor energy-economy are so glaringly obvious. Newsflash: this is not a tropical island, and never will be, no matter how much you try to globalwarm. Double-glaze your windows, insulate your houses and stop warming them to 27 degrees at day and then letting them freeze at night. Second suggestion: ban the bulb.


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