21st Century Puzzles #46

23092009005-001.jpgHow much do you pay for convenience? This pre-prepared stir-fry mix is priced at £1 in Tesco. It makes for a very easy part of meal, no choosing what you’re going to put in, washing or chopping veg and there’s only as much (well not quite actually, but close) as you need. Now obviously, buying the ingredients separately is going to cost less, but just how much less?

Well, I have this little thought, (it’s one element of the mighty cognitive overhead associated with being me) pretty much every time I go to the supermarket. So yesterday I decided to work it out.

Before cooking, I sorted the individual ingredients – there were bits of mushroom, onion, cabbage, carrot, red pepper and beansprouts.

It turned out that there were the following amounts:
Mushroom 70g
Onion 25g
Cabbage 37g
Carrot 37g
Red pepper 5g (two little sticks in fact)
Beansprout 185g

So the first little fact I could see was that it’s pretty much half beansprouts, a quarter mushrooms and the other quarter a mix of stuff (note for further research: does this change much over time, do they just put whatever is cheap and to hand?)

From these measurements I could easily work out the price of each ingredient by dividing up the £1 proportionately.

Then I cooked and ate it all.

After a reasonable amount of time I was ready to do some more field research. I went back to the same Tesco’s to check the prices of the ingredients sold separately.

Mushrooms are £1 for 300g so £3.33 per kg
Onions are sold loose for 26p each. An average sized one that I picked up was 170g allowing for topping and tailing, so thats £1.53 per kg
A savoy cabbage is 78p – a whole one weighed 716g and allowing for two-thirds of it to be edible that comes in at £1.64 per kg
Carrots are sold in kilo bags at £1.22 per kg
Red Peppers are currently 62p (which is cheap for peppers) I estimated the edible part to be 150g so they’re the luxury part at £4.13 per kg
Tesco didn’t have any beansprouts, but back at home I looked them up online and saw that a 300g bag is 48p or £1.60 per kg (more expensive than carrots – who knew?!)

I could now do the crucial calculations:

Ingredient Price packaged Price separate
Mushroom 0.19 0.23
Onion 0.07 0.04
Cabbage 0.10 0.06
Carrot 0.10 0.05
Red Pepper 0.01 0.02
Beansprouts 0.51 0.30
Total 1.00 0.70

(Rounding errors mean things don’t add up exactly…)

So there we have it an extra 30p to have your veg chosen and chopped for you. But then of course you’d have to offset somehow the fact that the individual veg is, in some cases, individually wrapped and so you’re actually getting less packaging with the mix and therefore saving a little bit of your soul. Also you’re denying yourself the spontanaiety/burden of being able to go in and say “I’m going to have a bit of this that and the other tonight”. No doubt there are many other dilemmas that are becoming obvious to you too.

So say you lived on this stuff and saved that 30p every day in a year you’d have £109.50 also you might be a bit bored of stir fry and want to use that £100 to go to a decent restaurant.

Or something.

ROI on using the social web

This feels too short for a blog post, but it’s too long to tweet.

I’ve been saying something along these lines for a while to people who insist on hearing what the Return on Investment might be on social software.

I said it again today, but I can’t see that I’ve written it down anywhere.

So, this I believe:

“The ROI on using the social web is increased social capital, that’s all. The question is not how to try to measure social capital but how to most effectively convert it a more traditional form – the form that is accepted by landlords, supermarkets, ex-wives and the electricity company.”

Three mifi wifi mywifi

I was given an advance trial of Three’s MiFi unit – a pocket sized wifi router that connects to the net via the 3 mobile network. So, like a 3G dongle only separate from a computer and able to share it’s signal with up to 5 other devices/people. Or like a phone with something like joikuspot but without the ability to make calls.

OK let’s try to simplify it a bit – the ability to connect up to 5 wifi-enabled devices to the net wherever you can get a signal.

I had a few problems. The first is 3’s network coverage. Now I’m not a 3 subscriber for my handset so I was a bit surprised to find that it is seemingly quite acceptable that you can’t get a signal inside many buildings. Certainly not my flat for example, so I was disappointed that on getting home, immediately after the demonstration that we’d had in Bar Soho, I wasn’t able to get a signal. So I put it away.

I was able to get a signal in the Sun offices when I was at TEDxTuttle and therefore able to show it off to my compadres with a glowing green connection light and all, but I was rather busy what with speaking and all and I didn’t have a laptop with me so I couldn’t test/show it off fully. I could connect with my phone, but there’s something a bit weird about using a 3G signal converted to wifi to connect my 3G phone to the net.

And I was able to get a signal on the train from Wimbledon to Epsom one day – and I could get my iPod Touch to connect to the router, but I couldn’t actually get anything to load in the browser or for Tweetdeck to connect either during the 18 minute journey.

So all round disappointing in practice. It’s still an exciting idea. Yes it would be cool on long train journeys or car journeys being able to connect a variety of devices: iPod Touch (maybe plus Spotify for the super-rich!), Nintendo DS or PSP as well as a laptop, wherever you go – or else to have a team meeting in the park – or even as a wireless dongle for single use in emergencies, especially pay as you go, but it looks like it needs some of the rough edges smoothed off first.

When I spoke to other people about it, the almost universal reaction was “Why does it have to be tied to one network?” We’re really feeling this lack of choice, we understand why it’s there, but really you should be able to just connect regardless – one person said it was like the old ATM system where you had to find a machine for your bank – exactly, that seems daft now and so does this, we want to buy access to the cloud, able to pick up the best available signal not be tied to a particular carrier.

I haven’t told her…

6809-007Here’s a bit of whimsy for you. I know you like it.

I heard this on a Peter Sellers record about thirty years ago. It made my heart glow. I hope it does the same for you.

Incidentally, my father tells me that there’s a recording of him doing this somewhere – I’m going to have to raid the reel-to-reels when I’ve finished scanning transparencies…

Download mp3 (1.1MB)

It’s only a minute or so.

Talking Impro with Dougald Hine

The Jubilee JazzmenSince the beginning of this year, Dougald has moved from the periphery of my consciousness, as one of those School of Everything chappies to being an important part of my tuttle experience and a bridge to all sort of other interesting people, places and things.

When he saw me writing about the tuttle consulting work and acknowledging the importance of making it up as we go along, he pointed me to more interesting thinking about the social place of improvisation and we agreed to have a chat sometime and make a little podcast. Great idea. Didn’t happen. Until now.

Here it is:

Download mp3 (12MB)

We thought we’d talk for 10 minutes and ended up at 17. However, so much was left that still needs to be said that I’m sure we’ll do some more sometime.

Wife Beater


I saw this earlier (the copy reads: “Buy a special pack and we’ll grow a hedge in the British countryside) and muttered to myself:

“If you really want to grow a hedge in the countryside, why don’t you just go and do that, rather than making people pay for your poisonous and habit-forming liquor and then spending money trying to make them feel good about you by doing something entirely unconnected so that they’ll buy more.”

I get quite nauseously self-righteous around the middle of Sunday – it’s best to keep clear.

In the time it took to mutter (perhaps it was more of a grumble), I found myself in front of this little scene where someone had released their stomach contents, possibly as a consequence of ingesting too much of the above-mentioned liquor:

which made me think:

“No, Stella, actually, just forget the hedge shit, what I’d really like you to do is to go round personally on Saturday and Sunday mornings and clean up the puke that your product contributes to and then think a bit harder about whether printing the URL to DrinkAware on your posters is quite enough.”

I mean, really.