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The World Turns…..

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Everyone knows that there are 7 days in a week, an average of 30 days in a month and 365 days in the year.   These are not random numbers but are calculated on how long it takes the earth to make a single full rotation (a day and night)  the moon to circle the earth (a month) and the earth to rotate around the sun (365 days). 

These numbers are slightly oversimplified – for example the earth’s rotation round the sun actually takes around 365 ¼ days but that would be extremely inconvenient in terms of carving up our calendar so every 4 years we have a Leap Year where we tag an extra day onto the month of February to even things up.  

What all these astronomical calculations and physical facts mean to us as human beings is that over the years we have adapted our circadian rhythms to conform to these planetary movements.  Most of us wake with the sun and work during daylight hours and sleep when the moon is out and the earth is dark.  This in itself is problematical.  The length of a day and night are not uniform throughout the year, with longer nights in winter and longer hours of daylight in summer. 

Living as we do in southern Africa, this does not affect us too much since the difference between the two for us is very small – only around an hour and a half – but in other parts of the world this can differ hugely, making  seasonal adjustments very difficult; indeed in northern Europe in mid-summer there are places where there is virtually no period of darkness at all which common sense says must play havoc with physical and mental health. 

There are also countries –  specifically the UK and the United States – where they further muddy the waters by adjusting the clock in spring and summer, a means of capturing the maximum productive daylight hours, even though that’s clearly a physical impossibility; in this country an alternative methodology is in place whereby government departments adjust their working hours in summer and winter, though with our near-even annual spread of daylight and night, this can scarcely make a jot of difference!  And of course, there are many service professions, from emergency service workers to transport providers to utility maintenance contractors, who are obliged to work in shifts covering the entire 24-hour day, workers forced to change from night owls to larks as their work schedule dictates.

It’s not ideal.  In our age of fast, global transportation we are now aware of the effects of what is referred to as ‘jet lag’, that body-clock confusion that occurs when we rapidly travel east or west and cross several time zones too fast for our bodies to keep up either physically or mentally.  For this reason, major airlines insist on a lengthy stopover for their pilots before they are permitted to make the return journey as passenger safety would obviously be severely compromised if they were not fully re-adjusted.

And last but not least, everyone has their own particular sleep patterns, some needing more hours of sleep than others, some described as ‘morning people’, bouncing out of bed and greeting the new day almost instantly, others taking much longer to reach their awake-ness and mental alertness peak; yet this is not a factor taken into account when we join a workforce – the hours the business trades are the hours we work.

What all this tells us is that the human body is amazingly adaptable but also that we are not all the same and over the centuries philosophers and scientists have made innumerable studies on the factors that contribute to our cyclical rhythms, though the definitive body clock has never been completely accurately calculated,

In the early 70s, for example, there was a revival of the 19th Century Biorhythm theory which held that three different biorhythm cycles influenced three different general aspects of human behaviours.  The theory purported that there was a 23-day cycle which influenced physical aspects of behaviour, a 28-day cycle influencing emotions and a 33-day cycle influencing intellectual functions. 

These three cycles started at birth and progressed on a mathematical curve, throughout life , completely uninfluenced by environmental or physiological factors.  The Japanese even produced a biorhythm watch to aid with personal, biorhythmic calculations.  This theory has now largely fallen out of favour but no doubt it will be revived again at some point.

And now a new book has come out which purports to identify the best times of the day and best times in our lives to carry out certain tasks.  The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink is based partly on his own research and partly on a compilation of the most complete and credible academic studies.  It is unsurprisingly attracting attention and controversy and here is a sample of some of its conclusions:

The best time to exercise: If you want to lose weight, then morning is best. When we wake, our blood sugar is low, so morning exercise uses stored fat as energy. But if we exercise after eating, we use energy from the food we’ve just consumed. This means that early activity can burn 20 per cent more fat. Morning exercise is also best for weight-training, as levels of the hormone testosterone, which helps to build muscle, peak during the early part of the day. However, there are some benefits to exercising later.

It can help avoid injury — our muscles are more elastic when they are warmed up. Lung function is also highest in the late afternoon, so the circulation system can distribute more oxygen and nutrients. This leads to a disproportionate number of Olympic records, especially in running and swimming, being set in the late afternoon and early evening.

The best time for our first cup of coffee. As soon as we wake, our body starts producing cortisol, a stress hormone that helps kick-start our day. But caffeine interrupts this process, meaning that a cup of coffee first thing barely boosts our wakefulness at all. It’s best to have your first coffee an hour to 90 minutes later, once the cortisol production has peaked. If you’re looking for an afternoon boost, then a coffee between 2pm and 4pm, when cortisol levels begin to dip again, is ideal.

Best time to eat.  Science tells us the opposite: lunch is for high performers. A 2016 study showed that those who don’t eat at their workplace had higher levels of energy and concentration and a greater ability to deal with stress. The ingredients for a successful lunch-break are detachment (leaving the office) and autonomy (you choosing when to take your midday break).

Best time to begin or leave a job. The timing when you begin a new job can have a long-lasting effect on our earnings and career path, according to research by Professor Lisa Kahn at Yale University. She found that people who entered the job market at a time when the economy is weak earned less than those who began in strong economies. Of course, that’s purely common sense. But, interestingly, this advantage persisted for 20 years.

Indeed, the cost of starting in a sluggish period equates to nearly £100,000 (P1.5m) of lost earnings. After three years, you’ve had time to become really good at a job, and if you hand in your notice at that point, your boss is most likely to ask you to stay and offer you a pay rise.  This advice stays true until you’ve been in the job for five years. Leave it any longer, though, and it’s much harder to start in a new role with a different employer.

Best time to strike a deal. Scientists analysing Twitter in 2011 found that people’s moods rose during the morning, plummeted in the afternoon, then climbed again in the evening. Similar findings came in a review of 2,100 public companies, which discovered that when financial results were presented to investors and analysts in the morning, people reacted positively. Conversely, when results were presented in the afternoon, they were more negative. The conclusion is that ‘critical managerial decisions and negotiations should be conducted earlier in the day’.

And lastly, a quirky fact about the best time in your life to run a marathon.  A fascinating 2014 study found that people whose ages end with the number nine (19, 29, 39, etc) are over-represented among first-time marathon runners by 48 per cent. Twenty-nine-year-olds were twice as likely to run a marathon as 28-year-olds or 30-year-olds. For some unexplained reason, nearing the end of a decade seems to quicken a runner’s pace. Twenty-nine-year-olds who had run multiple marathons recorded faster times than they had achieved two years before or after.

Timing, as they say, is everything!

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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