Review: Unsolicited Study Annotations

hand written notes

pictured: notes on the text, on the text

What’s on test: The merits of the handwritten notes commonly found scribbled in the margins of communal-use study texts, often in pencil, usually by an individual studying the same subject or field as the new reader.

What we found:

Pros: Our testers approached this review assuming that anyone who actually physically writes in a book (especially when removable stationary aides are easy to buy or make) doesn’t necessarily possess much in the way of intelligence. This assumption is almost always subsequently borne out in the quality of the scribbled observations.

The evidencing of this was found to be positive in many ways. Primarily, our testers felt a kind of reassurance that his or her own observations were of a higher quality than at least one other person, albeit someone who physically writes on books. The scribbler’s writings also provided ready-made dummy ‘contrary’ arguments i.e. the kind that the writer introduces with “Some may argue…” or “Others have noted…” before flamboyantly dismissing with evidence and academic bon mots.  Indeed, many of our testers felt more ‘academic’ after reading the notes in question.

In fact, some of our testers even felt that the standard of the notes often helped the reader appreciate the quality of the source text all the more. That said, it was also suggested that the notes were of some use to the reader, as many of them were found to be informed directly from cues in teacher’s guides, and as such at least pointed to what would ultimately be worth marks.

Cons:  Many of our testers felt that, unless they immediately highlighted the existence of the 3rd party notes to the owner or guardian of the book, then they themselves would be implicated in the crime, causing unwelcome stress in an already stressful situation.

This also resulted in a degree of bad feeling towards the note-writer, and some of our testers  found it difficult not to slip into one-sided fantasy debates with those individuals, whose approach and conviction in those daydream arguments were usually as brief and under-developed as the notes themselves. Our testers often wasted several hours involved in these strange internal parades. In fact, one of our testers even suggested that the notes could have been deliberately placed by a scholar of the same subject or course, in order to trigger this kind of time wasting, or even throw the reader off the ‘correct’ interpretation (ironically by suggesting that very interpretation). Conversely, one of our testers felt that the notes could be perceived by the reader as a message for someone else, like a secret code or treasure map.  This disturbing misinterpretation was found to be alarmingly common during all-night cramming sessions or last minute essay deadlines.

Finally, it was noted that there did exist the potential for the points within the notes to be better or more obscure than anything the reader had previously considered, giving rise to a situation where the reader may question their own abilities, even going so far as to consider cheating. Our testers found this prospect distinctly unsettling, given that there also existed the possibility that the notes could be for an entirely different book (re. the intelligence of an individual who writes books).

Verdict:  On balance, we found that unsolicited study notes were largely unhelpful, not just because they rarely provided any observations worth assimilating, but also because they presented a future stumbling block for more naive students. As such, almost all of our testers felt compelled to not so much remove the offending notes as update them with correct observations, as much for the benefit of those who may have read the previous inaccuracies as for those as yet unaware of them. Our testers were largely of the opinion that when an individual attempts to impose their understanding of something onto someone, they generally don’t understand that something, or understand that someone, and it was therefore important to avoid that happening, even if it meant writing over the old notes in biro.


Review: An Unsuccessful Door Knock


brass door knocker

note: a single knock requires no rhythm, but could be disturbing. Rhythm aides are available.

What’s on test: Failing to affect a stylistic rhythm of any kind when manually vibrating the door of an apartment or house with the hand or knuckles in order to announce one’s presence to the occupant.

What we found:

Pros:  Our testers found that an individual’s apparent inability to knock a door properly could be as a result of that individual over-thinking both the knock itself as well as the impact that that knock will have on whoever happens to be behind the door. An overly stylistic knock could insinuate a disproportionate degree of excitement on the part of the knocker, one which the occupant may be unprepared for. Similarly, an over-confident knock could be misconstrued as an attempt to assert some authority over the occupant, easily leading to an air of defensiveness and embattlement on the part of the latter. Thus, a botched knock, deliberate or otherwise, could be seen as the most diplomatic way to announce oneself with one’s fist.

We also felt that being unprepared for the knock suggested that one had not factored in any kind of instance where a formal greeting or announcement would be necessary, insinuating a presumption that the unsuccessful knocker’s relationship with the occupant was fluid and relaxed (though one which still had some call for physically closed doors, for safety etc.) This lack of preparation could equally suggest that the performer was comfortable enough to be able to dispense with affected or fancy contemporary knocks, and balanced enough not to resort to screaming through the door.

Finally, it was generally agreed that knowing how to knock a door was a fairly simple thing to learn, and as such was usually worked through and accomplished early in life. A few of our testers felt that being demonstrably unable to knock a door could imply that the unsuccessful knocker may have skipped many relatively easy early lessons for more complicated and challenging obstacles, suggesting hidden and potentially untapped depths of intelligence – a source of some encouragement for someone who may not be considered intelligent enough to knock a door properly.

Cons:  Despite all of the potential positives, it could still be said that an individual’s inability to affect the standard three-note or even two-note knock without getting it wrong wasn’t, on the face of things, very encouraging, in the same way that someone being surprised by a the door could be equally disappointing. It was also felt that an individual not yet confident in manipulating comparative knuckle/door-material tolerances at an advanced stage could be seen as having had an easy or sheltered life, though one thankfully not undermined by a penchant for fist-based violence.

Our testers also felt that, while good for not intimidating whoever happens to be on the other side of the door, botching a knock puts the knocker at a disadvantage, with the door’s owner having precedent to question the individual’s intelligence and assertiveness. They may even be less inclined to the knocker’s company, as the prospect of an undemanding audience equally means un-stimulating company. This situation is only worsened if the knocker is attempting to gain access to a party.

Finally, we felt that a strong, assertive (though not necessarily tuneful) knock was an important asset for delivery people, mobile individuals-of-authority and physical cold-callers. Botching the knock at the doorstep could be disastrous for the reputation of the caller, and as such we would advise at least basic doorstep training for any such professionals.

Verdict:  On balance, we found that the front door of any building represents a formalised moment of consideration and a physical spur to judge the level at which the relationship between the knocker and the owner of the door operates at. The subsequent knock performed is the indicator of that level. A poorly performed knock is done so largely because the performer hasn’t decided what kind of knock would be appropriate, and as such hasn’t decided on what ground the relationship lies, or where it should be heading. Our testers therefore concluded that an unsuccessful door-knock was incredibly useful (more useful even than a successful door-knock) both as an indication of a relationship that requires a degree of reassessment, and as the sign of a household that requires a doorbell.

Review: The Re-emergent Childhood Dream of Living in a Luxury Shed

big cabin

pictured: a child’s ideal of luxury shed life


What’s on test: The latent desire, relegated to the subconscious since adolescence, to make a home of, and subsist permanently in, a deluxe outdoor MDF cabin.

What we found:

Pros:  We found that the rediscovery of the youthful desire to live in a shed had many unexpected positives, beyond adhering to the superficial contemporary notion of ‘not giving up on your dreams’ and ‘being true to yourself’.

Our testers felt that finding ‘extremely-budget’ or even ‘perilous’ permanent accommodation attractive spoke well of the individual, suggesting that they valued a sense of adventure and the pioneer spirit over superficial displays of wealth and sense. We found that the possession of youthful wonder in simple living was a gift without value, a sum roughly relative to what an individual looking to sleep in a shed could reasonably afford.

It was also felt that even a temporary full-habitation of a garden shed or cabin had some positives, uppermost being that the experience would prepare the individual for dramatic local estrangements from spouses, covert relationships with other people’s local spouses, and other unfortunate relationship scenarios. The wooden-box-in-the-wind is also one of the projected retirement care-home scenarios of the next 50 years, so a reasonable expectation of what this will consist of could also be considered a positive.

Cons:  While the mobility and easy transport of the shed-home was initially viewed as a positive, our testers decided that the ease with which the individual shed-home owner could find themselves relieved of their shed-home, either by thieves or by the elements, was ultimately not something in the lifestyle’s favour. We also found that this was chiefly responsible for sheds not ‘holding their value’, making them a reasonably unsound investment.

Our testers also felt that, while it was nice to ‘reconnect’ with an emotion from one’s early formative years, there was a degree of sadness on the realisation that a sense of wonder in, say, books or science would have been of significantly more value than an interest in shed life. There was also the notion that this newly rediscovered interest could pose some problems, most notably in the potential resurfacing of other latent childhood intentions, like sleeping under the bathmat and eating lots of sugar for lunch. One of our testers even suggested that the re-emergence of this desire was an early sign of one’s childhood self attempting to assert authority over one’s contemporary self, a interesting notion that was immediately dismissed and kept us very much awake at night.

Verdict: On balance, we found that the dream of properly living in a shed must be practically tested by each individual taken with the notion in order to ascertain whether it could ever represent a feasible way of life for that individual. We felt that the contemporary fixation with the lingering ‘dream’ as a positive make this almost brutal validation a necessity, as positive notions left unverified can often undermine the positive realities we may really experience. Fortunately, many garden centre and home improvement chains already have fully habitable display sheds, which our testers found, with a degree of stealth, were ideally suited to such testing.

Review: A Cobbler’s Dummy

cobbler dummy robot doll

pictured: an automatic shoesmith


What’s on test: The use of the shop-window cobbler automaton as visual shorthand for the practice and profession of making and mending footwear.

What we found:

Pros:  We found that the cobblers dummy, as representative of the exterior life of the professional shoesmith, had some positives, not least that his largely satisfied demeanour and indefatigable commitment to cobbling helps to bolster the assumption that cobblers are an internally confident, positive people.

It was accepted that this perception of positivity could also serve as a reminder to potential cobblers, as well as the public in general, that it remains acceptable to dedicate your life to a useful profession, and that employment in a transient or superficial sector, like broadcast entertainment or mass market cabaret, isn’t necessarily the only choice for the individual looking to achieve a sense of validation and self-worth through work.

Our testers also felt that the cobbler-robo affords cobblers a degree of advantage in personal conflict with practitioners of other professions, as the penetrating stare, indefatigable resolve and access to improvised weaponry serves to warn potential aggressors that shoemakers are not to be messed with.

Cons:  While we did find that the cobbler dummy advertises many of the positives of the profession, we felt that it conveniently avoided addressing its challenges. Bad posture, the unrealistic expectations of an increasingly impatient clientele and the slow development of a total aversion to shoes are just some of the difficulties shoemakers ‘n’ menders encounter. The cobbler’s dummy, as visual shorthand for the profession, could be accused of romanticising the career to an unhelpful degree, glossing over such problems in such a way that a disproportionate amount of young cobblers commit to the career without knowing the potential pitfalls of the profession.

Our testers also noted that the industry-standard cobbler automaton is of a certain age, and usually depicts an older man. This could be a problem, not in only as it could present the profession as one exclusive to the older gentleman, but it could also insinuate that the development tree or career path of the professional shoemender is limited to ‘shoemender’. This perception could act as a disincentive for the Next Generation of cobblers and, coupled with the sartorial ineptitude of the standard cobbler-robo, a deterrent for anyone wishing to date and settle a cobbler.

Verdict: Our testers found that, on balance, a profession lucrative and self-confident enough to encourage idealised robotic effigies of its practitioners was one in rude health. While the visual shorthand employed by these effigies could be problematic in warping the expectations of the future cobbler, we felt that it was refreshing to see a profession not daunted by the superficiality and materialism that has come to typify society. The shoesmith-robo serves as a reminder of the unquestionable spirit of pure labour, a lighthouse of ‘the real’ of combining developed physicality with inherited grassroots specialisation.  We would therefore encourage the continued use of cobbler’s doll by cobblers and the profession of cobbling, despite not ever really being able to deliberately look it in the face without looking away again really quickly.

Review: A Chocolate Based Savings Plan


Cadburys chocolate savings machine

pictured: house-bank on test at chocolate incentive scale

What’s on test: The merits of a savings plan that utilizes a coin-operated chocolate bar dispenser as a means of collecting capital.

What we found:  

Pros:  We found that harnessing the power of an (admittedly minor) vice was an extremely effective way of building our savings. As with any vice once taken root, we could be relied upon to consistently let ourselves down which, in doing so, would be guaranteed to boost our savings. Saving money with a return in miniature chocolates also currently represents a sounder investment strategy than developing a share portfolio.

Our testers also found that fostering positive associations with the coin-operated mechanism was an effective way of boosting an individual’s confidence in using and being surrounded by other coin-operated mechanisms, like lockers and vending machines. In fact, some of testers particularly enjoyed the act of inserting a metal coin into a slot of roughly equal diameter, citing it as a pleasingly ‘real’ experience in an age where chocolate consumables are increasingly bought electronically, with credit cards or on the internet.

Finally, we found that a savings plan that offers only one kind of chocolate as a like for like exchange incentive was an effective way of destroying one’s predilection for that brand of chocolate. We found this destruction to be a positive as, if all other chocolate brands could be adapted for dispensation, then the adopter of the savings plan could go off chocolate entirely, with scope for moving on to savings plans utilising pulses or nuts or alcohol.

Cons: Our testers found the ‘buy-in’ for this kind of savings plan to be relatively considerable, with the cost of the dispenser alone representing a major outlay (£10.99 approx). It could be argued that any savings plan that can only be effective by first losing a large amount of money isn’t really a savings plan. We found that, for the plan to recoup this loss and be ultimately effective, the mark-up on the dispensed chocolate would have to be considerable, which then makes buying instead from a larger retail vending machine look a much more attractive alternative. We found that investing in this kind of vending unit would in turn represent even more expense, and while it could carry a wider variety of stock at more competitive savings prices, it would also involve a greater degree of expense and effort to keep sufficiently stocked and maintained, with visits to cash ‘n’ carrys and service engineers a distinct and expensive likelihood. Again, our concern would be that none of this would remotely resemble a savings plan.

Finally, we felt that manipulating a potentially crippling chocolate habit in order to fool ourselves into saving some money could result in a kind of personal meltdown, with us not being able to trust ourselves or be sure that we were taking our problems seriously.

 Verdict:  While we did find the savings plan on test to be an effective and reliable method of stockpiling currency, especially in the current investment climate, we also felt that the adoption of a savings plan that revolves around tricking ourselves into being responsible could be construed as a warning signal of sorts. Similarly, our testers also felt that if the objects or goals towards which we were saving were not enough of a lure for us to save without an extra immediate consumable incentive, then perhaps we should reconsider our savings priorities, or hand control of our finances over to a responsible individual, adult or organisation. For those reasons, we would certainly recommend a chocolate based savings plan to anyone who had ever seriously considered it.

Review: An Out of Date Safeways Loyalty Card

safeway loyalty card

Pictured: a plastic card with a 90’s style colour scheme, at an exciting angle

What’s being tested:  The discovery of a now-defunct ‘ABC’ points-for-purchases savings card, the kind used to incentivise continued shopping at the aforementioned supermarket chain.

What we found:

Pros:  Our testers found that there were many positives to be taken from discovering the long out-of-use loyalty card. Primarily, we felt that not having formed a strong enough bond with the now-dead supermarket was a very positive thing, in that it implied that we had not bought into the relationship enough to consider it ‘a relationship’. Having not actively identified with the core Safeway principles and having not ultimately come to consider ourselves part of ‘the Safeway family’ was encouraging, as it indicated that we sought to create more lasting and substantial relationships than those formed with mid-price grocery stores. Our testers found that this detachment had left us in a far stronger position to weather the occasion of the chain’s demise, and as such did not oblige us to mourn in any way, which would in have been an incredibly ineffectual use of our time. This also boded well for the future passing of other famous brands.

Many of our testers also enjoyed finding the card itself, as it was found to be a source of some powerful nostalgia. While the act of gravitating to a Safeway store to produce the card when shopping was required had never become so deeply embedded as to become automatic (something many of testers also found to be a good thing), the card itself still deliberately carried enough of the brand identity for it to act as a tangible link to an otherwise forgotten relic from the country’s collective commercial heritage. A few of our testers also mentioned that they remembered their mums going to Safeway for the shopping and using the card, which was also important.

Finally, we found that removing the card from our active purse wallet felt like progress, as we then had space for other more exciting contemporary reward cards. Some of our testers even suggested that we must have loads going on in our lives if we hadn’t ever been bored enough to clean out our wallet until now, which was true, and as such felt profoundly positive.



Cons:  We found that, while correctly not valuing the slightly unsettling calls for loyalty from a commercial body, the fact that the loyalty card had fallen out of use still suggested a degree of disloyalty, and as such meant that we had been disloyal. We found that this, and the fact that we had not ultimately been reimbursed on the points we had accumulated for what little loyalty we had shown, was a slight negative, and also a stain on our character.

In addition to this, we felt that the discovery of the card reminded us of all the things that we had been saving up for (9 Piece Royal Doulton Tea Sets, 1-Way P&O Car Ferry tickets etc.)  and were perhaps still to be acquired. Some of our testers believed that, while the passing of the points system suggested progress, the prevalence of the mystique surrounding its rewards did not.

 Verdict: On balance, we found that not having become so attached to using the Safeway loyalty card as to have noticed and felt short-changed by its passing was an almost entirely positive thing. One of our testers did suggest that the continued existence of the loyalty card, though, was an indication that, in a lot of ways, Safeway had in fact moved on from us. Rather than us having avoided forming an ultimately superficial relationship with a shop, the shop had ultimately not provided a degree of relationship which we would have wished for. As when one enjoys an unsuccessful drama franchise too much, the exchange of emotions and ideas that we might have wished for wasn’t found to be commercially viable, and as such was never brought into being. After all, our possession of the loyalty card suggests that we had wanted something, and that something evidently wasn’t just a DeLonghi Kettle/Toaster Set. Ultimately, though, we decided that that sounded a bit weird, that we were ultimately right, and binned the thing.

Review: Not Knowing What That ‘Running’ 50 Pence Piece is Supposed to be About

50 pence coin Mark Brady

pictured: the celebration of thighs before clocks or something.

What’s being tested?

The potential misinterpretation of the limited-issue fifty pence piece commemorating something to do with a pair of running legs and a giant stopwatch.

What we found

Pros: Our testers found that not knowing what that ‘Running’ 50p is all about helped lend an air of mystique to what was generally considered to be a dull and uncomfortable pursuit. While the benefits of a regime of regular exercise, with either running or jogging being part of that regime, are well documented, it was generally agreed that it would not warrant commemorating on any of the Queen’s silver, and certainly not with precedence over other sports like fast-walking, horsing or showboating.

We also found that the confusion surrounding the image helped stoke a degree of interest in both the history of running and in the technological advances made in the sport. The satisfaction felt on discovering a temporary and superficial interest in something was only bolstered on realising how limited the history of running was, and how few technological advances have actually been made in the sport.

Finally, it was found that the most common misinterpretation of the image was that the act of running somewhere had only been discovered in the last 50 years. We felt this misinterpretation could help fool more transient individuals into taking up the sport with that characteristic degree of reckless over-enthusiasm. This could in turn serve to put their physical wellbeing in jeopardy, as they put their bodies under unexpected stress, running to unfamiliar places they can’t get back from.

Cons: We felt that the easily misinterpreted fifty pence was a dangerous thing to have in circulation, what with it still considered a legitimate pocket-money value by older sections of the populace. Exposing young children to the aberration could cause them to call into question the exact process of running, with many coming to believe that the arms are an unnecessary part of the act. We found that not knowing what your arms do while you run not only makes it harder to run, it also makes you look unusual and disturbing.

The image could also prove dangerous to younger intellects as the exact nature of the message is largely unclear, save for the idea that the event depicted is a cause for celebration. This could lead to a generation of individuals inclined to celebrate abstract concepts, like timed shorts, the time of a long thigh, or a clock within a clock. While some of our testers felt that a few extra holidays would be no bad thing, the majority did not welcome the prospect of having to buy their relatives cards for a celebration of timed thighs.

Verdict: Ultimately, our testers found that, if they thought about it, they could probably think of a few plausible interpretations for the celebratory coin. However, the general consensus remains that discovering the exact nature of the message would be an act, like so many, deferred ‘to Google’, exacerbating our reliance on easy information and powers-beyond-our-control by another small, almost intangible step. This was found by most to a price worth paying, as it’s really quite sunny outside, and our testers don’t want to spend all day inside thinking about a bloody coin.