Monday 22 December 2014

Do You Know Where You're Going To ; Ethical Entrepreneurship, George Eastman photographic evolution & Seth Godin makes a ruckus

Running a business is hard work. Make no mistake about it. But the rewards at a personal level are immensely satisfying; you are the person at the top and that can be the best feeling in the world. When the sales are made, the deals are done and the team and workforce can fullfill those orders, then it's you who gets to enjoy the fruits of those labours first. It's fantastically gratifying, and drives you onwards to do more and share more, depending on how you are geared internally.

But it's a fine, double edged sword and you need to keep your wits about you, and have a strong mind and will to run the show. In short, it's you who is ultimately responsible for your 'bottom line'. So if you haven't shipped the product, made the sale, closed the deal or delivered the goods or services, then you'll be the one to foot the blame. 

My parents, together with a business partner, ran their own business successfully for over 25 years. As a teenager, I'd help in the summers and eventually did a seven year stint there myself, post university. I wasn't sat in the office, occasionally coming out to stroke my tie and snap my braces either.

My tenure there taught me more about the world of work than any other job I've ever had. It was trully at the deep end and felt that way for a number of years. Contrary to any myth that may be perpetuated about being 'one of the family', I did the lot. From loading vans, to even sweeping the factory floor and cleaning the canteen kitchen if the cleaning lady didn't show up ( that wasn't something my father was happy about at all, but I saw it as 'it's got to be done!') as well as all the administration, and sales work. I even designed and implemented a stock & inventory flow control system for finished items, which they carried on implementing well after I'd left the business.

I'd learned many lessons in that environment, which are with me to this day. One of the most important lessons I learned, was retaining a sense of emotional perspective when dealing with all aspects and developing emotional intelligence moving onwards.

In essence,being an entrepreneur shouldn't be all about money and squeezing the last penny and nickel out of each and every deal. Whilst profit is important, it is solid morals and ethics that stand the test of time :-

Real Business Ethics and Meaningful Entrepreneurship

Making meaning as well as money, is something that a  lot of entrepreneurs are doing right now. Witness the level of 'how can I help?' rhetoricising that comes up in differing ways within mission statements. Leaving less of a carbon footprint, for example, or in the case of Toms, you have the company donating a pair for each pair you buy and also the gift of sight program they implement. This 'one for one' is something that was built into the corporate structure from the start, which is remarkable and would have been considered a risky move even 10 or 15 years ago.

My feeling is that if you can do something in a similar vein, then you have managed to give something back from the moment you have decided to crease that metaphorical leather chair. Furthermore, it doesn't appear as if you have 'bolted on' some sort of ethical halo in order to make a business appear more altruistic, which can be a backfiring tactic in these times of greater information and transparency.

On the subject of transparency, one man made it a 20 year quest to take the then cumbersome process of photography, into a portable medium :-

How George Eastman Revolutionized Photography

Kodak was a name synonymous with cameras for almost 100 years, and it's instamatic range, together with rolls of portable film are what it was best known for. It's a sign of the times that Kodak went through near bankrupcy in the last five years, to re-emerge as a digital platform based business. Clearly the brand name still has large value attached to it, and it has been involved in the development of the micro four thirds camera, which came out earlier this year. Let's hope they carry on developing and innovating in the years ahead.

Someone who never stops innovating and coming up newer with ideas to facilitate change, is Seth Godin :-

Seth Godin: Keep Making a Ruckus 

I own a number of his books and recently bought 'The Dip', which at less than 100 pages, has to be one of the slimmest tomes I've had the pleasure to own. But just like any book by the late Paul Arden , it is packed with powerful and valuable advice. That's the raison d'etre with this sort of thing. It's not there to patronise or condescend, but merely to help with pushing you towards the 'eureka moment', where it all just slots into place.

Just like in life itself, a similar conundrum can apply. You can know where you're going, but are unsure about how to navigate towards your destination. Providing you've got a map and are willing to be guided when needed, you'll get there. You may even decide en route, that it's time to go in a different direction. That's fine, as adjustment and change are part of the deal, irrespective of which road you chose.

In any event, provided that you keep yourself fuelled with enough drive, energy and compassion, both to yourself and for others along the way, you'll remember the ride for years to come.

And that's a journey worth taking time and time again.

I Am The One & Only ; Creative element takes tenacity and patience , The psychology of music & The colour thesaurus

We all have to do what we have to do. The emphasis on the second instance of have, was to signify the concept of doing something that actually feels like you're working on it.

For example, you have to clean your house or flat, in order to keep things tidy, and for your own health ( and sanity). You have to go to work ( unless you're very wealthy and/or have enough residual income to live on), in order to survive and thrive.

But there are things that on the face of it, can seem to others to be much more difficult to do, which you may be able to do, without thinking too much about it. That's what it means to be 'in your element'.

Ken Robinson, discusses this further :-

Finding Your Creative Element Takes Tenacity and Patience 

Not all of us are born knowing exactly what it is that we want to do. For instance, for years on end whilst at college, I carried on being involved at some level, in creative pursuits such as writing and music. This carried on right the way through to when I graduated at university ( with a Bsc Hons in Industrial Business Systems) and in fact bought more studio equipment a few months before I had to sit my final exams. So there was a weird sense of jekyll and hyde going on with regards to my future career choices, that were a necessity in order to survive and move forward in life.

At one point I was working nearly 16 hours in a day, just so I could do both my regular work (which for years was in I.T.), and I could 'make good' on the work where I was in my element. That's not cowardice, but pragmatism, and it's what a lot of people go through when they take a path that was once considered 'a bit offbeat', for want of an alternate phrase.

Nowadays, a whole generation has a very equal shot at being a creative person for a living. This has been greatly facilitated by the increased speed of internet access and the ease with which you can pursue your muse. Smartphones, tablets and laptops, are part of the fray that was once the sole preserve of the expensive top-end hardware and software ownership 'club', which in itself was exclusive to the pro-end market incumbents. Especially industries like music and film making.

Both music and film are all about subjectivity. What each of these mean to you, is entirely about your own interpretation, based on other experiences in your life prior or even during the first time you encounter them.
Music in particular, is something where mood and emotions can have an anchoring or residual effect even years down the line :-

The psychology of music: why mood and memory matter

Coincidentally, I was discussing this with a friend yesterday. In effect, exercising to music, cleaning the house or car to music and even working to music have a considerable mood-enhancing effect. Not only does it spur you onwards, but it compels you to finish the task at hand, too.

With regards driving, there have been various studies conducted as to what sort of music is optimal for driving. If you have a cursory peruse on the internet, you'll find access to various papers and reports on this, of which some are moving into the territory of interactive music where the speed and style of driving can affect the composition you're listening to. Volkswagen, for example, have been working on their 'play the road' app, and you can check out the results via the link.

Mood, feeling, and emotion are also words I think about when discussing colour. In the last few years, I've made more trips to paint stores than ever before as I've been redecorating. As a result, I've stood there many a time, hearing others espousing things like 'It needs to be more, less than that, more ice creamy'. At those times, I wish I'd had something like this to help me out :-

Is It 'Crimson' or 'Sangria' ? Consult The Colour Thesaurus

What a great way to get around colour charts and tones. Just print it out, and keep it on a wall or in a drawer.

Ultimately, whatever we do to make a living involves some level of creative thinking. That's when the metaphorical rulebooks we've ingested over the years in the name of education and life experiences, start to mutate into something completely different.

My way of seeing it is that creativity is a summation of all your moods, experiences and sensations to date, which then alchemically work their magic on all the more linear and logical methodologies you have also amassed in the same time period. The result is a dish or smorgasboard of ideas, which can be conceptualised and taken to fruition.

It's all food for thought. And I'm all for it.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Dave, Where's The Formula? ; Changing office design boosts productivity, Too much ambition & Evolution in the way we tweet.

Up to four days a week, I'm in an office space. This means that my surroundings will have an effect on me, wether consciously or subliminally.

Having spent a large portion of my working life in all kinds of working environments, I have a preference for well lit, more airier spaces. I'm not a small, cubicle-type person, which is an environment I've seen in many large corporations over the years. Thankfully, that style of working is being phased out, with a more natural or even homely ambience encouraged in the environment.

Ultimately, it's all in the name of getting the best out of the working day, from a morale and productivity perspective :-

The perfect workspace: How to design an office that boosts productivity

I'm all for a splash of colour, and a comfortable seat. I also like to have a window to the world and people to have the odd chinwag get the idea.

In effect, a warm, well lit room with provisions for seating and some form of technological connectivity are enough these days to create an office environment. I'm leaving out essentials such as ventilation provision and restroom ( toilet) facilities, as these are de rigeur. Having a kitchenette or breakout area is also a boon, and can provide that NLP ( neuro linguistic programming) flavoured 'stop-break', to walk into , away from the confined feeling of frustration your natural environment can bring, when feeling stuck with a problem. Even going for a walk can help you break away from the issue, as you've changed your physiological state as well as your surroundings. But more of that, at a later date.

Having a great office is conducive to helping you reach your goals, wether they be projects that need starting / finishing or even launching into a new business plan.

But sometimes our own ambitions can get in the way of attaining success :-

Is Your Ambition Holding You Back?

The irony of all this isn't lost on me. I've always been ambitious, but I was relentlessly ambitious for a decade, if not more. A few years ago, I made a decision to pull back and do less, which wasn't easy for someone who was so driven. But as this article states, I was too driven and the resultant feeling was one of 'not doing enough', even when I was working 14 hours a day. Sometimes it was even more than that. Not the best state of affairs; especially when it goes beyond a handful of months.

Everyone is different, but my own barometer for overkill, was that work was becoming everything in my life; both metaphorically and literally speaking. All my successes and failiures were hinged on results, so even a night out or a short break away were an ( I'm embarrased to admit this) unwelcome distraction from my goals and ambitions.  As already mentioned, I made changes, which were mostly lifestyle based and thankfully the transition went smoothly over a period of a few years.

If you're in a similar boat, with all the usual signs of perpetual tiredness, irritability and so on always within a few inches of your psyche, I'd recommend a 'time-out' short break at the very least. There really is no point hammering yourself into oblivion, and ending up with the blues even when you've done more than you should have. It takes courage to step back and stop when in the thick of it, but it can save your sanity, your health and ultimately your life. Especially if you then decide to make the changes necessary for better work/life balance.

With regards to change, social media useage has increased dramatically in the last five years. That's about a year less than I've been on twitter :-

Twitter changes: 20 hits and misses from the social network's history 

Looking at all the changes since 2009, twitter has made leaps and bounds in popularity as a networking platform. When I first opened an account on there in 2008, I was an avid ( and heavy) user of facebook. How times change, and it's to twitter's credit that it not only hung in there, but became an easier and smoother social media experience over time. At least for me, but then I prefer the quicker ( quirkier?) and shorter communicative style that it propagates. Hashtags, favourites and retweets are all part of the fun.

More importantly, It's allowed me to reach more people than I would have via some of the other networking platforms for these posts.This has allowed me to come into contact with helpful, vibey and intelligent people, who are on the same wavelength. The rest of it is, as already mentioned, a load of fun.

And it's fun that is the keyword when I think of work. From the general recounting of stories from days gone by, our parents' generation had a more sobering experience in the world of work. In essence then, we should be grateful that we can do anything from switching our chairs around, to a complete 'make it homely as possible' makeover in our working environments. That level of flexibility is there not just to make us work harder, but also to help us work smarter.

After all, if you're having a better time than before, whilst figuring out a multitude of problems and delivering the goods ( or services), then you're more likely to offer some added value to the solution(s), and the end product.

Think about it.

Monday 15 December 2014

Being on the internet is a journey; it's not the destination.

Most days, my eyes are open at 6:00 am. Then I get up anywhere from 6:30 onwards and spend 5 to 10 minutes outside just looking at the scenery (there's lots of trees, bushes and flora to take in) , breathing in the air and quietly observing the silence. This is then followed by 90 minutes of quiet yoga/meditation, after which it's the usual; Clean up and a shower, then I'm on with the day.

Like most people, a portion of my working day (sometimes, it's even the weekends) consists of a robust amount of internet activity. Some of it is creative work, which includes writing articles, reports, and conceptualisation/research for projects. The rest of it is a combination of social media, ad-hoc emails, the odd purchase/window shopping, and a smidgeon of what I call 'aimless /mindless surfing'. 

A dose of aimless / mindless surfing  is a good idea in my opinion; especially to break the boggle-eyed concentration that can result when you're focusing extremely hard on heavy-duty internet activity. But it's the fact that we need to distract ourselves, ironically whilst using the internet, which says to me that we're losing the idea of its original remit. We're treating it as the solution to everything on every level; it's akin to it becoming the only destination for all our needs or a 'one stop shop'. Just think about that for a moment.

Distraction is all too easy nowadays. Our consumption of social media and 'net based interaction is (at a well placed 'guesstimate'), at least  30% of our waking hours. This has well documented knock-on effects to our cognitive abilities on numerous levels, including our ability to relax or de-stress after prolonged useage. I've mentioned this before in another post here, which touches on the concept of 'net based burnout and faitgue . I'm fortunate that because of the yoga first thing, I don't feel so drained or 'shredded' anymore after about  3 continuous hours of useage. But something my father recently said, made me think a little more about the implications of this.

He basically iterated that the mass consumption of all this technology and gadgetry is taking over our lives. Now whilst I rightly argued that it's useage is necessary to a degree, he replied with :- 

'what exactly is everybody doing on there all the time?'. 

Make no mistake, my father isn't a 'tech illiterate' and uses email and surfs the internet himself, albeit sparingly. I think he follows this idea of being taken over, because he's observed a lot of people just hunched down as they're walking along, constantly swiping phones and so on, looking as if they're disconnected to the world around them. 

On a personal note, I do agree with some of his sentiment. For instance, I've first hand used a plethora of online dating sites, and I've found them to be fascinating at first. But after a while on there, I felt there was a bit of 'grass is always greener elsewhere' going on. This means you're constantly searching for something better, and sometimes you don't even know what that is. Just the plethora of options alone is enough to convince you to keep going, regardless of the outcome.

In essence, because of the swathe of faces and names available to click on, you tend not to ( or at least I haven't) go for the first option or stick to it, beyond a couple of dates; or even a first date, if you're not really 'feeling the love' for want of a better phrase. That's not conducive to long term stability with regards relationships and relating to each other in general. I'm exaggerating a little here, but you can see the side effects of having too much choice in this scenario. Consequently some of my friends are militantly anti-internet with regards to their personal lives. They hence tend to stay away from the 'net based dating experience, because the results from all kinds of search options when using them, are literally too overwhelming and confusing for them to deal with.

The other issue which has been bought up countless times, is the issue of digital privacy. We're all supposedly leaving this huge digital trail here, there and everywhere, which cannot easily (if it all), be removed from the web ecosystem. So where is all this data going? There are all sorts of theories on that front too, which go from government based indexing and monitoring, all the way to using that data to manufacture a slew of false identites. This goes into the further realms of fraud and hacker gangs and terrorist based data manipulation. It's almost enough to keep you away and put you off for life, if you think about it for too long.

In effect, this line of thinking just becomes a huge maze of what-ifs, which the further into it you go, becomes ever more obtuse and far fetched. With regards to the issue of information dissemination, the positives are that this leads to far greater transparency when dealing with people at many levels. Again, with regards fake identites and so on, a little bit of dilligence in that respect is easy to follow; if you don't know the person, then use a search engine. If you're still in doubt, check up with other people that you know may have a mutual connection. After that, it's your own discernment and judgement that makes the decisions.

Overall, I tend to look at the other positive aspects of internet useage instead; as a useful barometer, connector and decision making tool. For example, we're now equipped to find the best deal on something, the best fit, best colour and get things more or less exactly as we wanted them or dreamed them up, without leaving our chairs or sofas. That was unheard of twenty years ago.

This then leads on to a saving in time, money and energy, on a personal and even industrial level. Okay, so there has been a loss of manpower in certain old work environments as a result, with the most noticeable effect on  manual labour intensive workers ( eg :- robotic automation in the car industry), but this has had already been going on for 40 years or more.  To wit, I've not seen an influx of unemployed people litter the streets in the british provinces, let alone the capital, as a result of even more automation.  If anything, that's been down to poor strategic thinking and mismanagement along the line, coupled with other related market forces. So unless an environment is completely automated, then there's always going to be a need for a human element in the workflow chain, beyond sweeping a floor. There's still some way to go from having a robotic barista making your coffee, to having an entirely android workforce in a building whirring and sliding around in a perpetual ballet of perfection.  

Everyone now has a near inexhaustable level of access to words, pictures, video, sound and graphics, so they can be their own master or hero of disciplines, which twenty years ago would have been unheard of. Going through all of this information piecemeal would be impossible, due to the size, scope and complexity of it. But you can create ( and follow) your own journey through the world wide web, depending on whichever path you choose. And even that isn't necessarily linear. All roads on there will eventually lead to everywhere and somewhere, which can ironically be the one place you wanted to get to in the first instance.  

Like the unfurling, sprawling  nature of the world wide web, using the internet is a journey without a fixed destination or ending. But you can still decide how long and for which 'checkpoint' or destination you want to surf on it, thereby giving you the option (and the ability) to hop on and off, as and when required.

Wether you're using it for research, leisure or plesure, it is a valuable toolkit with a level of interactivity that has created a huge change in society. Ultimately however, it's the user who is always in charge of the whole experience, and has been for almost twenty five years.   Let's keep it that way, as much (and for as long) as possible. 

Only When I Laugh ; No degree doesn't mean you won't be happy, Keeping too busy & Money for old silicon rope

When you add up the number of years in education, what comes to mind? Is it a single figure? In which case I'll hazard a guess that you're still young enough to be a millenial. For most, a decade plus is likely the norm.

I've done the whole primary school, secondary, college, university journey, and gone beyond it in the name of work and also interests. Even as far back as the late 1990's when I graduated, having a university degree really meant something, in terms of leverage in the job market. But in the last decade or so, that's not as relevant anymore.

The rising cost of education, particularly in the UK, has put paid to the slew of pre-grads rushing to get entry into the university system every summer. And in some ways, that's not a bad thing. From my own memories of the initial foray into the job market, experience counts more than anything. More importantly these days, it appears that the younger contingent in the job market tend to be more mobile, not just in terms of location but also in terms of career switching and choices made.

For a generation, it could be argued that there is more of an emphasis placed on being happier at work :-

The 10 Happiest Jobs That Don't Require A College Degree. 

Looking at all these jobs also reminds me that none of these were obvious titles in job advertisements when I was fresh out of university. More importantly, there was a slight sense of overwhelming bewliderment when you graduated and walked into your first job. From then on in, you had to make real world choices, and not just rely on the memory of some analytical paradigms and theories to carry you though to the next year.

With our lives now seemingly becoming increasingly more packed in with activities that don't consitute what is known as 'downtime', there seems to be a different sort of overwhelm that occasionally comes upon us. Or maybe it's all in the mind? :-

The Cold, Hard Truth: You're Overwhelmed Because You Want to Be

It makes for pretty sobering reading in places, and I can confess to being quite obsessed with work at times. However, I think that everyone's idea of downtime is different. Although it can be seen of as passing the buck a little, we're all too engrossed with our smartphones, tablets and laptops, to really notice what we're missing. For example, I make it a rule to break my day up into chunks and have at least one day in the week where I'm NOT using interactive technologies as much, or even at all.

As an aside, I think we have become more unsociable in the physical sense, due to some subliminal level of dissatisfaction somewhere. That's because we're not getting the fuller 'reality based nourishment' from actual human interaction. I've talked about this at length before on here and in other places, so I won't recap in full. But it's safe to say that I chose to spend my off peak or 'downtime' time with other people actually talking to and engaging with them, rather than perpetually checking everything on a smartphone as often as possible. And ultimately it's good for the mind, body and soul.

Keeping grounded in the midst of all this technological maelstrom, is an essential act of survival these days. But in the past, the technology itself was sometimes buried deep into the ground, because it was felt to be the only way to dispose of it quickly and cheaply. Especially when the item in question, was a big mistake to make :-

You Can Buy a Buried E.T. Atari Cartridge for a Few Hundred Bucks

I'm too young to remember the sociological impact of the video game crash of 1983 . But I can remember that in the years afterwards a lot of gaming systems of the time (consoles) were reduced to silly amounts of money for retail. And E.T. on the atari 2600, was supposed to be the one game that broke the camel's back.

I've not had the pleasure ( or pain) of playing it , which isn't surprising considering how many copies Atari had buried into landfills, thereby preventing them reaching the shops. But there are a number of videos of the game on YouTube, which you can view at your own pleasure (or pain).

Speaking of pleasure and pain, I'm off to the gym later. That's all about a lot of effort, for a lot of reward, both over the short and long term.

Or is it the other way round?

Sunday 7 December 2014

Doing It Again / Keeping On ; The Edge Of Possibility, Bouncing Back From Failiure & 1000 poses in 360 degrees

Here's a confession and a half. I failed A Level Chemistry. Well, I didn't get a U (for ungraded), but I'm pretty certain that I got an E..or was it an F?

That's the thing about the past. Your memory of it tends to be quite skewed. 

The irony is, I can remember I'd started dating someone during my A level exams and I can even remember a jacket she used to wear when we'd meet. I can also remember my own style, with my hair coming down past my shoulders..and so on. Strange how the human mind works isn't it? All in all, I passed all my other exams, and it was a great summer.

Getting it wrong can prove costly, but without getting it wrong, we don't necessarily learn as much in life. To prove my point, I've improved at things where I've got it wrong, and had the courage to do it again ( dating, writing, music, cooking, exams etc).

And ironically I've had to learn more later, in the instances where I got it right the first time. My driving test was something I got right the first time, and then had to learn much more than I thought, as I started to drive on the roads. I'd say it took me another six or so months to become more confident as a driver after that.

Failing is therefore an essential part of our development :-

Facing The Edge Of Possibility

It takes a tremendous amount of self-belief, knowledge, hard work and courage to go off and start up your own venture. Wether it's starting life afresh or a initiating a new business, in a world where it seems fear and anxiety can be an overriding emotion (witness some of  the news channels for a dose of this any time of the day), having intiative and moving onwards and upwards can come with a number of strugglles to work through.

But as more people are rising to the challenge, we're seeing a greater number of entrepreneurs and self-starters than ever before.That in itself, no matter what the eventual outcome, is always a good thing.

Older and wiser, Richard Branson also has a few words to say about failiure. Especially about moving on from it. :-

Richard Branson on Bouncing Back From Failure

Branson is the archetypal self-starter. He's gone from being 16 and setting up his own magazine, to setting up a highly lucrative and successive business empire, which was founded on the backbone of virgin records. A man who has made the most of his luck and opportunities, he has also recently offered Led Zeppelin a very large sum of money to reform.

All in all, he's remarkably resilient and not averse to taking risks, which is something that I've always felt is key to succeeding in life. Sometimes you just have to take a bigger leap of faith than you normally would, in order to get further ahead. That is something that depends on your own internal make-up, drives and aspirations.

Luck, karma and/or blessings does play a part in this, but it could be argued that you attract these things as you move towards your goal. I've found that when I'm moving in the right direction in terms of a project or goal, wether it's personal or professional ( are both are intertwined? discuss), then everything just seems easier to do and flows more smoothly and dymanically.

Speaking of speed, these days most of us tend to either quickly smile or just keep as motionless as possible, if we're photographed ad hoc by a smartphone camera or similar. You point, click, have a look-see, send it to the incumbents if necessary ( i.e. if they've asked for a copy), and you're off.

Of course, the whole 'selfie' concept has now been taken to mindblowing extremes with all sorts of memes and 'duck face' lampoons and imitative comedy going viral on the internet. But what if you were asked to pose in as many different ways as possible, over a much longer and continuous period of time? :- 

Supermodel Coco Rocha Strikes 1,000 Poses In 360 Degrees In This Encyclopedia Of Posing

Rocha has already done a variation on this in a video where she posed 50 times in 30 seconds . Not an easy feat , and I'd probably start corpsing ( laughing), after about the third or fourth pose. So the challenge of keeping a straight face and performing to demonstrate 1000 different masquerades of expressivity, isn't for the unitiated.

Come to think of it, I probably pull about four different expressions as I'm getting dressed. Maybe I could get to about 20 if I include chosing the footwear and socks. Then of course, there's all the unintentional posturing one goes through when eating, not to mention time spent with friends, family, dating and..

time out.

Put Your Hand In A Passing Wave ; New film soundtrack on cassette, Consumerism & Lego used to recreate movie scenes

From my early teens to about my late 20's, I used to regularly buy a brand of cassette tape for backups of my vinyl albums and cd's. This was done to facilitate playback on my various Walkman's, and then later for the stereo cassette player in whichever car I had at the time.

There was a weird sort of payoff when you did this, as in your mind you knew you were degrading the quality of the signal, but you got a level of portability that neither vinyl nor cd could give you; car cd autochangers had a few more years to arrive yet. Of course by 2001, that became a thing of the past as mp3's and the variety of  digital music codecs became widespread within a few years.

However, there's always room for a (sort of) revival :-

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack will be released on cassette tape

Best get those walkman's and cassette/ radio players at the ready for this. From a technical perspective, I'm curious as to what type of tape they've used. I wonder if it's Chrome, Metal Oxide or..? 

Buying into a dream or the premise of a better existence, is a part of our lives en masse. We all look to see what we can get out of our existing array of clothes, shoes, gadgets and so on. More importantly, we're all wanting and needing things that we don't always have time to use.

I used to see friends of mine just buy up the latest gadgets and designer jackets and jeans all the time, then hardly every use them; they'd even leave the price tags/tickets on the apparel, as they loitered in their wardrobes, for months on end. I'd laugh at this, until I realised I'd started to do this myself. Then I knew it was time to start scaling back and I also went on a 'get rid of it' spree, which entails selling on ebay and giving things away to charity shops.

Consumerism is the name given to the constant need to buy, spend and amass more of everything :-

Thought-Provoking Video Explains How Consumerism Has Taken Over Our Lives

A sobering and thought provoking issue here, is that there are record levels of debt in the UK due to our penchant for 'the latest, the shiniest and the sleekest'. Exact figures vary, but the proliferation of 'fast loan' companies in the last few years is the greatest indicator of spending gone out of control. Some of the quoted APR rates by these firms, are close to 2000%.  That's both extraordinary and shocking.

It's easy to lay the blame for increased costs of living on the escalating prices of fuel and food, but that's an incomplete picture when looked at it more logically. Technology and marketing have both come a long way in the last 15 years, and they're almost bedfellows in how they're harnessing each other, in order to reach wider audiences.

Furthermore, the internet is faster than ever and continues to grow in speed and reliability across all manner of devices. This means more opportunities to 'push market' and 'direct sell' even whilst you're about to send that text, email or phone call on your smartphone. The obvious solution would be to switch all advertising off on your browser and phone applications, but it's not as readily available as a drop down menu option.

The other solution, is to use paid versions of applications for an ad free experience and also to switch out the advertising options each time you see them, if they're an unwelcome distraction. Ultimately, the decision is a personal one as to wether you are or can be affected by all this to the level that you just have to buy whatever it is you see, due to the visual bombardment of the item via an ad campaign. Exercising self- restraint and selectivity can do a lot for your bank balance and credit score in the long run. That's something my parents' generation were far better at doing than a lot of us currently are.

My father certainly wasn't a fan of being in debt for too long, and he still remains that way to this day. As he still iterates, survival and building a nest were the most  important for him back then. Coming from a foreign country with hardly anything in his pocket and just a lot of love and well-wishes from friends and family, he knew no one would bail him out if he'd fiscally fallen into a hole. Furthermore, the lack of easily available goods/services on instant credit terms, are what saved them from the currently mentioned cycles (and traps) of deep debt.

In essence, there's a lot to be said for drive, determination and prudence. Buying something that feels like it's more of a treat, rather than regularly being 'in the red' to satiate a momentary feeling, has more of a longer term satisfactory feeling built into the experience in my opinion.

Something that we don't see too much of these days, is children beyond a certain age playing with lego. I had a set when I was 6 years old, and it was my pride and joy until I was about 9 or 10. Then electronic games took over, which lead to my interest in computing and technology. Yet the days of lego are still fondest and warmest in my childhood memories :-

An Adorable Stop-Motion LEGO Animation Featuring 13 Recreated Movie Scenes

It's refreshing to see the level of work that has gone into this, and it reminds me of the local library play areas which are stocked up with lego bricks. Kids love lego, and rightly so. It's one of the best hand/eye coordination toy sets available in my opinion, and also encourages them to use their imagination to the fullest. I can remember it being more of a boy's toy experience in retrospect, but times have changed and there is a more fuller range of add-on bits and packages etc, which may be more appealing to both sexes.

It's fascinating to see how even though time has marched onwards, the pace of life seems quicker by comparison. Wether that's due to the full on effect of  the 'infotainment age' as I like to call it, with our perpetual need to be connected to the internet in some way or just a feeling that everything is running faster overall, is debatable. It just seems that more things are happening all of the time, whereas even a decade ago, 'stuff' was going on, but there wasn't such a constant buzz of activity en masse.

Looked at from a macro perspective, the internet and our connectivity to it is responsible to some extent. We're always communicating or on the verge of communicating. It's as if by not saying something, we'll be missing out. That needs to be worked on, and in the same way that it's good to go back to what happened before, with a view to being inspired by retrospect, it's also as good, if not greater, to stop and just smell the roses now and then. Cassette tapes needed to be wound forward and backward, which takes up time. And lego still takes a handful of minutes to set up, before you can be building and creating something with it.

In effect, you wouldn't have any way of filling that time, other than with silence. Unless of course, the t.v. or radio were on as a background accompaniment.  It was mostly a quiet period of construction, contemplation and innovation. That's when you'd get things done. And it'd be the same with board games, or getting a sketch or notepad out. You wouldn't have any distractions or more specifically, you wouldn't allow yourself to be distracted. Even if others were in the room, it'd be an unobtrusive ambience at best.

That's pretty close to how I still get more things done to this day. Once the noise levels are reduced to soft background musing or even silence, it's remarkable how much the mind just zones in to concentrate. Even if it's just for an hour, you can just forge ahead in some strange cosmic 'flow'.

It's almost like being in a meditative yet highly productive state. And that's the best place to be for any kind of work.

Sunday 30 November 2014

May The Force Be Around You ; Snakes and Ladders to recycle, NYC Subway car as a living space & Three dimensional audio for blind people.

In our neighbourhood, we're given multiple dustbins ( refuse bins) for all our waste. There's a green one for foliage and grass clippings, a blue topped one with dividing inserts for recyclables and a standardised, black topped bin for everything else.

All of the aforementioned are 'wheelie bins' ( two wheels on the base, for you to lift and manoeuvre), and are collected by the city waste contractors in a weekly arrangement; blue and green one week and the black the next. Whilst it wasn't an easy thing to initially adapt to after years of an 'all in one' bin system, it's now part of a regular and unobtrusive routine. More importantly, it helps contribute to the environment by means of easier separation at the rubbish dumps/ tips. 

There are noticeably more cycle lanes in our vicinity, too and although I don't own a bicycle, I can still ride one. It's odd how you never forget how to ride and control a bike once you've learned how to do so and it's a marvel of our design as human beings that we can contain this in our memories at a subconscious level. 

It's also a healthier way of getting around, with plenty of physical benefits from the action required to keep moving. Particularly so in warmer and sunnier climes, where the ( hopefully) fresher outdoor air is also doing you a world of good. And of course, parks and recreational areas have designated cycle tracks and lanes for you to savour and take along family and friends with you as well.

So it's only inevitable that someone somewhere would come up with a way to champion the cause of pedal power :-

Clever New Version of Chutes and Ladders Helps Cities Promote Cycling

If you click on the board image and have a detailed look , there's a lot of detailed factoids, which arent  getting into the realms of becoming sanctimonious and dogmatic. All in all, a fun way to get a valuable message across. 

Other than bikes, the alternatives to the car are trams and trains. Subway systems are prevalent in many of the larger cities, and they help deal with a lot of pedestrian traffic that would normally be logjammed into a near-chaotic system of overground traffic.That is, taxi's and relatively slow moving vehicles, such as buses. 

In new york, the subway system is quick and easy to use. The amount of footfall that passes through each train and subway car can be phenomenal, with some stops being absolutely jam packed with commuters getting on and off. So it was a surprise to see that someone managed to pull of a feat like this, without anyone documenting the set up stage :- 

Cardboard furniture turns NYC subway car into an apartment, sorta 

Note the cigar and ashtray as part of the set up. It's almost enough to let you feel, even if only momentarily, that you can pull up the chair and take a quick nap. Cosy, is an apt word to describe it. 

Getting around a large city, or indeed any city environment can be challenging, as already discussed. But imagine having to do all that, and be partially sighted as well. The constant changes, such as footpath repairs, roadworks and so on, can make even regular trips haphazard and cumbersome. But one company has put their thinking cap on, to alleviate a problem that no one else has attempted to tackle and kudos to them for this :- 

Microsoft pilots 3D audio technology to help blind people navigate 

This has trully made my week, and I sincerely hope that they refine and perfect the technology to a very affordable price point for it's potential user base. It might even be an idea for microsoft to run workshops and trial runs of it, when it's in full beta. That's not as obvious as it sounds, as the workshops can be for others to attend, such as friends and carers, in order to get a better understanding of how this great piece of innovative technology is helping others to help themselves. 

That's where effectively, all of our thoughts and processes carry the most benefit. Helping ourselves and helping others in the process is a real win-win situation. Productivity and systems thinking and technologies are heading in that direction, with more time and energy available to us all.

But we have to be more willing to think more globally and ecologically, even if at a smaller local level, for this to bear long term fruit. I think we can do it, cause a little bit here and there, can and does go a long way. 

Sunday 23 November 2014

Living By Numbers ; Ive has a secret to tell you, Subscribe to skip adverts & Drink shots/ Make faces

When you work on something, be it an article, a job spec / costing, a piece of music, a painting or even a sculpture of your vision of the future, how long do you give yourself to start and end the project? And what factors do you consider when working? For example, does  time spent = money invested in the project for you?

A lot of people, myself included, mostly work to a deliverables vs time/cost basis. Either or both of these in some malleable combination are worked out with the client(s), to deliver maximum value and feel strengthened by the value given and received on your hard work. 

There are, however, a lucky cluster of people who don't have to worry about 'the bottom line' as much as the rest :-

Jony Ive Is So Focused On Design He Doesn’t Know Apple’s Key Financial Numbers

Ive's design nous is currently unparalleled, so it's not too surprising that he's not having to bean count his way around his conceptualisations. Apple's products and their success speak for themselves, and whilst I'm not their biggest fan in the world for a number of reasons ( except the laptops and desktop range, but more about that at a later date), you can't argue with the look and feel of the product line.

It'll be interesting to see what they come up with next, as the watch doesn't seem to have lit as much of a fire as the original ipod and iphone did, which can be down to future ennui ( or technology fatigue). More importantly, the competition in that sector of the market is now much greater than it was even five years ago, so will they continue to innovate and spearhead or..? Wait and see.

Hanging around and occasionally waiting for things to happen, is something you get used to when watching a lot of video related content on the internet. But it doesn't have to be like that :-

To Keep Its Stars Happy, YouTube May Let You Pay to Skip Ads

This has, to my knowledge, been mooted and talked about for quite some time. Either that or the eating and drinking places I frequent on my travels, are full of frustrated creatives and techies who want more of a slice of the action. In any case, at this stage of the game, it would be a brave move to roll this out en masse.

We're all very used to watching and hearing great ( and not so great) content on youtube for nothing, so to convince people (even if it's a fanbase, for instance) to start paying up for the latest video of a song, or the making of an album or vlog etc, will require some exquisite marketing nous. Who knows, maybe they will pull it off.

But the current state of play with the online entertainment industries and their extension of traditional formats such as t.v. and video in order to monetise, sings a different tune. Thankfully, times are changing and rightly so, otherwise the entertainment media sector will be running in ever decreasing circles, keeping out an even bigger majority of musicians and artists than ever before.

We clearly need more people within the industry, rather than on the fringes of it, so hopefully the labels and even the artists themselves (U2 are mooted to be working on something with apple, in order to add value to content, according to various scribes on the internet), will bring their A-games to the table, and soon.

On the subject of  fun and games :-

These Are The Gnarly Faces You Make When Drinking Shots

This is why ( thankfully), I'm glad no one I go out with for an evening, takes pics of any of us whilst imbibing alcohol.

Actually that's not true. There's a handful of pics on my phone, and I know that at least three others have pictures of me, getting quite inebriated, on their phones.


Time out.

Can you Dig it? ; How you process logos, How you look Vs how you think you look & Your very own anti-zombie log cabin

In an age where we're almost ritualistically bombarded with messages and iconography of all types, it's a wonder we sometimes still manage to make sense out of what is trully going on at micro and macro levels. For instance, if you use your smartphone first thing to check your emails and social media accounts (before you've even thought about making any phonecalls or returning them), then you've already entered into the realms of sensory uplift and even overload. 

In effect, your brain is having to recompute and recalibrate to a load of kinaesthetic and auditory information presented to you in a form of shorthand, such as links to other sites; online videos are a perfect example of this. You just know what you're seeing and hearing, without getting the full picture (pardon the pun). 

Now think about how easily you can identify a t.v. show, film, band, and ultimately a brand, just from short glimpses  :-

How Your Brain Processes Logos

How many of these we all know about and/or have identified easily, is subjective. What matters is that we just know what they are, which is all about clever and effective exposure at so many levels. 

The right colours, the right slogans, the synergy between the product and the message and so on, all contribute to this. Some of it could be put down to instinctive or intuitive processes, but ultimately it's all about collating and presenting a 'best fit' for the purpose ( i.e. representing a brand or corporation) at hand. Then you have to leave it to the audience, plus lady luck / the lap of the gods and hope for the best.

Wishful thinking is all about optimism and hoping for the best. It ultimately lies around concerns and issues about our perception of self; in other words, what the reality is and what we want it to be :-

These Photos, And A Bit Of Science, Show What People Wished They Looked Like

It's fair to say that many of us aren't happy about looking less than our best. More importantly, we all believe at some level that we're better looking than we actually perceive ourselves to be. Notice I didn't say 'to others', as this whole scenario was demonstrating a self perception analysis. In any event, the photographer responsible for this fascinating study, Scott Chasserot , has to be lauded, as do the participants who allowed themselves to be reproduced for this.

On the subject of being wide-eyed :-

Zombie-proof log cabin has 10-year anti-zombie guarantee

Flame throwers, water cannons and an XBox. What more can you want in the event of a zombie apocalypse? A tin of Spam, perhaps. They haven't mentioned any alternative for vegetarians, so I'm assuming they'll somehow cater for themselves.

I don't think there's any zombie danger in my area, although the looks on some of the faces I saw in the supermarket earlier, might prove me wrong. 

Time out. 

Sunday 2 November 2014

Timing, Reason, Understanding ; Using a chart to change someone's mind, Letting someone else decide and Emotional shopping

Over the countless dinners, brunches, lunches and drinks I've had recently, once the how are you's and hugs are out of the way, there usually tends to be some topic of debate thrown in to the mix. I like a bit of heavy duty banter over dessert, or even midway during the chompathon, so to speak. It gives the phrase 'food for thought' a new meaning, and it very rarely descends into petty squabbling and feather-ruffled madness.

What tends to happen, is that some newsworthy item of the day or week is brought up to dissect and 'yay or nay' over, as I like to call it. At some point during the conversation, someone will throw in some quoted facts and figures, almost like a rhetorical graph or histogram.

The validity of using this as a construct for putting your point across with conviction, is age old, and hence this caught my eyes immediately :- 

Want to Change Someone's Mind? Just Show Them a Random Chart

I loved reading this and found the correlatory theories hilarious because I could relate to the whole thing on a personal level. Ironically, I'm loathe to quote figures such as percentages myself, cause they tend to sway and vary a great deal from source to source. Unless I'm pretty sure the quoted figures and graphology implemented are from a trusted source, then I tend to go on the rest of the information presented, as a whole.

Otherwise re-iterating information that itself is easily questioned, can make you look like a self indulgent nitwit, which isn't a good idea at any time of the day. Who want's to look bad, over dinner and drinks? Or lunch?

Speaking of bad :-

Forced to be bad: Consumers happier when someone else decides they can indulge

It could be argued that this is hardly surprising, and that a whole slew of things could be wrapped around this premise. As the article states, children tend to use this sort of scenario a lot , to get out of punishment, but the general concept is pretty solid. So does this mean that man ( in the generic sense), is ultimately a naughty child who has to be trained to do the right thing? Of course not. It's an opinion ( although carefully measured and thought out) formulated on analysing and assessing a set of data, which has been interpolated by a collective or team of human beings.

Just like :-

Feeling guilty or ashamed? Think about your emotions before you shop

I admit being occasionally burdened by one or the other; on a very rare moment, even both. I can exemplify via a recent slew of online purchases, where I bought some designer branded shirts and t shirts. It was complete coincidence that during  one of my usual brief ad-hoc browsing sessions online, I suddenly remembered the brand in question and noticed on their site that they had a sale on. Having not bought anything from there in a very long time, I took the plunge. And took it again. And again. And finally one more time. I don't think the last one was really necessary in hindsight, but I'll know for sure when the final batch of stuff arrives.

In my mind, there is no perfect condition when shopping or even browsing. It boils down to brand loyalty, which is a complex cornucopia of things including happiness, value and utlity. Then of course, there's marginal utility, when each successive purchase beyond a point of satisfaction can mean you start to enjoy the experience less than you would have before the tipping point. 

And it's that particular point which everyone strives for, wether it's buying goods, services, or even reading an article online ( like this one), or a book. That's what the alchemy of marketing and advertising is all about, to a greater extent. As far as I can see, it's cyclical, too. Which brings us into the realms of 'the product life cycle', but that's for another time.

And right now, I can also see that it's time to hit the road. The leaves have fallen all around, and it's.. hang on, this isn't a led zeppelin song?

Time out.

Message Received Loud & Clear ; Think before you respond to an email, The Terminator is 30 & Visualised thoughts and feelings.

I recieve anything between 100 to 200 emails a day. Those are the ones I see in my inboxes, across various email accounts. It used to be twice that, but I had a good spring clean about four years ago. There's probably about half that, which go into the spam/junk folders, and of course out of the aforementioned figure, some of those are just cold call type sales related mail.

Then of course, new friends, client/business emails occasionally end up in the junk trough, and I go through the junk folder ad-hoc and occasionally catch them. I've no idea what algorithms are used to sort the wheat from the chaff, so I do my own dilligence as already mentioned  All in all, it's a lot of information to plough through on a regular basis. That's why this, caught my eyes :-

Before You Respond to that Email, Pause

I've already talked about procrastination here,  and that's not the scenario in this situation. This is more about thinking things through, which although sounds obvious, is food for thought. 

Years ago, when I studied to be an I.T. systems guy, part of the syllabus track I took involved the learning of nettiquette ( or internet ettiquette), which sounds a bit comical now, but consider how rapidly we mostly respond to any sort of interactivity on the internet these days. If you're a social media user, it's very fast indeed. Again, I've gone into this at various lengths in other articles and posts ( such as here, for instance), so I won't go into it all over again at depth. But I will say that counting to three or even ten, and re-reading the content before sending out any sort of response is a very good idea indeed.

Speaking of counting, it's now 30 years since a particular cyborg landed on our screens, and turned a world champion bodybuilder into a hollywood superstar :-

'The Terminator' turns 30: Time to revisit the sci-fi classic

It's ironic now, looking back, that even those involved in the film never thought it'd be as successful as it was. Maybe the odds were stacked against it on paper, but I think it captured the zeitgeist in a different way. Or rather, it captured the darker side of the 'what if?' scenario that may well have loomed in so many people's minds, with the advent of rapid technological progression from the late 1970's onwards.

The video game market had exploded and permeated into everything, thereby facilitating a growth in silicon chip based technology investement, all across the board. Ironically, although the first video game crash had already happened by the time the film was released ( and another is being mooted about now, if the write ups are to be believed), the tech explosion was here to stay, and home computers were becoming more powerful. Apple and the PC revolution were still some years away, but the paranoia that a fully automated world could create, was obviously generating questions in many minds.

James Cameron went on to make three others and a fifth one is in production as we speak, but for my money, nothing captured the vibe so exquisitely as the original. I can still remember watching it on VHS tape and being stunned, shocked and confused at the ending. It was like nothing else at the time; great visually and with a synthesizer/electronic based soundtrack.

Speaking of great visuals and what they can represent, here's a slab of goodness to end on :-

35 Visually Expressed Thoughts and Feelings by Carlos Lang

Beautiful. If each of these were a postcard or set of cards, I'd buy them. 

And on that note, it's time to empty my pockets a little for a new blazer ( or Sports Jacket).

Maybe a herringbone finish. Black I think, as I already have a blue one. Actually I have two blue blazers. And then there's the other 14 or so jackets which are more for..

Time out. 

Thursday 30 October 2014

Pop Will Eat Itself; Pretend office roleplay, Deep tissue failiure recovery & Making $500,000 a year on twitter.

When you work for yourself, you tend to make your workspace in a number of places. Primarily, you have some sort of base somewhere, such as a room in your residence, which is your home office.

You may also have another office somewhere else, which is in a more commercial vein, and replete with a sign on the door and so on. Of course, the aforementioned can be switched around, with your domestic place of work being the secondary one, and so on.

Then there is the 'laptop, charger and bag' scenario. Basically, it's anywhere on the move, with or without a wi-fi internet connection. The coffee shop in a motorway service station, the lounge at the airport, the tabled seating on a train and even the seat of your car; all these are ideal examples of the modern 'on the move' working individual. And it's a way of life, which I've embraced quite happily. It adds variety, colour, and the opportunity to make some fantastic connections along the way.

But what I've never done, is this :-

Office Role-Play? Meet The People Who Pretend To Work At An Office Together

This is in turns, surprising, funny, ironic and ultimately refreshingly daft and absurd. I'll try to remember BLARPING ( Business Live Action Role Play) for the future, but in all honesty I've been fortunate enough to not come across some of what has been mentioned here, in person. The biggest irony, is how it all ends up not quite going to plan; now that is very funny indeed.

In a sense, when things go wrong, even with the best of intentions and planning, there is a need to take stock before we can move on. But we all want to move on as fast as possible.

For example, I can think of a number of times where I've thought that something has gone missing and I'm furtively trying to find it or even replace it, or a hard drive has failed and I cannot execute a system restore fast enough and so on. Failiure isn't something we are taught to dwell on, and I can see a lot of merit in that; after all, who wants to keep turning the same fiasco over and over in their minds. That's a surefire route to miserablism and even depression.

But this next item, reframes that paradigm :-

Recover from Failure with a Deep-Tissue Post-Mortem

Which reminds me, that I must book myself in for some actual deep tissue massage, as I've got a bit of knotting in my shoulders. I blame the slight hunching that happens when you're using a laptop in some odd environments, mixed in with hard ad-hoc workouts at the gym.

I could always get into the whole 'correct posture' scenarios, for example when typing things out at a desk, but nah..I'll live. I'm not able to sit back and watch the coins fly in, so to speak, so the show must go on.

Speaking of making enough and sitting back, here's a very innovative way to bring the bacon in, with extra coffee, metaphorically speaking. All using twitter, too, which makes me smile and give it an extra thumbs up :-

How To Make $500,000 A Year On Twitter

At first I couldn't get my head around this. The simplicity of it was just blowing my mind. 23 year old former dancer Kris Sanchez has just taken something so obvious, brilliant and simple, and cashed in on it. His application, UberFacts, which  churns out “unimportant things you’ll never need to know”, as the article and indeed the application's twitter page itself announces, is monetizing for him, like no tomorrow. He's not a man to rest on his laurels, as the article suggests, and..have a 'look-see', and get the vibe, if you can.

And on that note, I'm getting a vibe of my own. My main laptop is overheating a fair amount these days, due to a combination of age and useage. Now I have another laptop which I don't use as much, because I haven't replicated everything that's on my main laptop, on to there. That's my 'travel machine'.

I think it's time I did something about the old machine, and fast. After all, I don't think a deep tissue failiure recovery will work on the hardware.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

I Need To Drink, More Than You Seem To Think ; The bottle without water, the world's most expensive bottled water & It's time for academic tea

I love a glass or two of wine now and then. Actually, I'd love a glass or two of wine everyday, but unless it's a night out, then I stick to a no alcohol policy during the official working weekdays. I could talk about other spirits I enjoy imbibing, and how beer ( or lager) is something I hardly ever drink now, but guiness is still great, especially in Dublin.

But that's not what this is about. It's all about the other component that makes up an alcoholic drink, and is 70% ( or thereabouts) of our bodily contents. It's about  H2O, or water as it's more commonly known. 

I buy bottled water in 50cl bottles in bulk, to throw in my kit bag when I go to the gym. I could buy one of those reusable bottles, which are quite voluminous in size - they look like more aerodynamically advanced versions of ye olde racing bike drinking bottles - but the cost to me isn't as much of a deal breaker, as the aforementioned unwieldiness. Which is why I found the next item fascinating :-

Meet the Bottled Water Company That Will Happily Sell You the Bottle Minus the Water

That really shows some chuztpah and smarts. More so because the company who is marketing the bottle, are ironically also supplying bottled water themselves. On the face of it, it could be argued that they're shooting themselves in the foot.

But no, they're very cleverly diverging into covering a base of the market, that not a lot of people within the sector have or are doing. The cost can be an issue, but the pricepoint here looks just right enough to give this a welcome shot in the market, as opposed to a shot in the dark.

The next item, on the other hand, is most certainly NOT in the dark :-

The World's Most Expensive Bottled Water

There is actually a link to this item in the aforementioned article, but I put this up just in case it slipped you by. The shocktastic value is mindblowing, but on another note, this is consumerism at it's absolute zenith. Not only is the cost of the top level product quite earth shattering, but even the bottom tier product isn't something you'd want to haphazardly misplace or lose somewhere. At least, I wouldn't want to. That is of course assuming someone would give me the product, which I'd probably be too bamboozled to want to open and least to begin with.

Ultimately It can be looked at as some sort of object d'art filled with drinkable water. Or, it can be looked at as an example of hubris run riot, but with a pragmatic twist.

Speaking of pragmatic, I'll end with this, which is all about making a cup of tea :- 

How to make a cup of tea for an academic

I'm not as exacting when it comes to my own methodology. As long as I can get a splash of milk in there, and the mug is clean, then I'm a happy man. Earl grey and yorkshire tea are my current favoruties. And no sugar required, which is a hangover from when I gave up smoking over six years ago.

See, I started to stuff my face with lots of sugary, fatty cakes and biscuits soon after, and ended up putting on weight fast. To lost that weight, I started to do more cardio and then I had to..

Time out.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Come On, Take The Money And Run ; Social media networking changes beyond a swipe, tap and click.

 I can still remember being a newbie ( or NOOB, as the slang goes) at the whole social media malarky. It was back in early 2007, and facebook was my weapon of first choice.

Actually, that's not true. I have to account for MySpace ( rest in peace), for which I'd signed up to in 2003 or 2004. And if that wasn't the first, then there may have been some other chatroom, probably to do with music technology or I.T. related stuff, where you could interact with each other.

You know the drill. You'd pick a username, maybe chose a graphic for your online avatar ( or presence) and you'd just type your rhetoric in. Whether you were starting a topic, or issuing a response, it was all good stuff. Unless of course, you ended up in a 'flame war', with a hostile user(s), also now better known as trolls.

The journey from those times, all the way to twitter, seems like a lifetime ago :-

Game Changer? Imagine A Twitter Where You Followed Interests Rather Than User Accounts 

I love twitter. The level of instant response, plus the speed of it and the compactness of it's implementation, leave little margin for error. It also leaves little room for the kind of flame wars described already, and the other issue of what I call 'rabbit hole syndrome'. In effect, this is a debate that just goes on forever, which although illuminating and at times invigorating, is ultimately of no real consequence or value to anyone involved. Other than a temporary feelgood whilst it's going on, or the opposite feeling of being defeated, with anxiety, dread and so on becoming amplified the longer it goes on, it's best left to those who have the time, energy and drive to carry on ploughing through. Having been in one in the past at some point ( it may have been facebook or prior..i honestly cannot remember any specifics, which proves my point somewhat), I'm happy to NOT engage in rabbit hole syndrome, due to the aforementioned drain on time and energy, which becomes completely counter-productive.

It's Facebook where I've seen and participated in many a debate ( and rant) over the years. However, there may be other things on Facebook HQ's minds :-

So Facebook controls the way millions of people get their news. What should we do about it?

This isn't strictly news ( pardon the pun ) anymore. Facebook's plans for world domination, with its sights on all kinds of wonderful data, has been in the pipeline for a long time. In effect, they want all content publishers with their own sites to come and 'live within' the facebook ecosystem. This would then be monetized via their existing structural modes and the publishers would have a share of the profits.

I have reservations about this on a number of levels. Firstly, I suspect it will be facebook that controls the feed(s) and flow of the content and not the publisher anymore, because they need to maximise returns on investment. So effectively, they are now also the curator AND pseudo editors of this once-independent content.

If this does go ahead as intended, then there most definitely should be a lot of discussions as to the merits and consequences of this system, on both sides of the table, as to retain a level of valid independence and identity in the published writing. Otherwise for me, it'll make the concept of journalism, and 'the free voice' an eventual obsolesence from the existing network. This in turn would mean even more people doing more of their own reportage, with crowdfunded (or otherwise) groups gathering together for different rationales and voice, outside the mainstream. 

Ultimately, all social media useage is about effective communication. This encompasses networking at all levels. From raw socialising ( jokes, debates, etc) to the more business and work oriented linking, it's all part of the same construct. Furthermore, there's a wide variety and style of communicating interface available on the internet, for everyone. It's akin to walking into your favourite giant shopping store or mall, and finding every kind of item you want and need, at your fingertips.

It's up to YOU to then decide which of them to give your time and energy to. Having a strategy at hand, helps enormously. Having fun, whatever you're doing on there, is mandatory. And sometimes work and play can be integrated together. That's what effective social media network useage is all about.

She / He's Just Hanging Around ; Procrastination top 5, Superpower knowledge & stuff you really need and want

Some days I just don't want to do anything beyond the morning yoga, eat, surf the net and hang out with friends and family. But it doesn't happen. Not cause my workaholic tendancies haven't been fully expunged ( whisper it..they have) , but because I enjoy doing things that involve some form of interactivity. It took me a while to figure out what that actually meant, because I used to get this all the time :-

"Shekhar, you can't just sit there and do nothing, can you?"

The short answer to that question is..well, yes I can. Sort of.

The irony is, for someone who likes to have some sort of activity going on, which can amount to reading a book, whilst having the t.v. on, or watching/listening to the keiser report at some point/ the news/ some imported t.v. show, whilst eating ( that's not a lot really, is it?), I'm still prone to putting things off.

The words for this, used to be..well, the ones I'm more familiar with are unmentionable here. But ultimately it's all about procrastination :-

 Your 5 Procrastination Excuses, Debunked

And there we have it. All the best stuff, distilled and ready to ingest in there for you, you and you in the back, scratching their left shoulder noisily. At least, I think it's your shoulder.

On a more serious note, this nails it with panache, and I confess to falling into one or two of those excuses listed. I wont' say which ones, for obvious reasons. But in my humble opinion, most of us are heroes and heroines in the making, as we're all having to juggle more and more on a daily basis, than our parents' (and beyond) generation ever did.

That's not saying that they had it any easier; after all, there was a lot more labour intensive activity going on daily even 30 years ago, with a lot of tasks still requiring a large degree of human effort and activity. Remember there was no internet, so that meant.. well, the list is as long as both of my arms and legs.

So if we're always seemingly battling something ( or someone) somewhere, just to get through our day, because everyone else is also in a similar hyper communicated yet over-laden-with-tasks boat, how do we get to what we really want in life? I am, of course, refering to our working lives, although this could be applied across the board :-

Know Your Superpower? 5 Steps To Reaching Your Creative Destiny

I'll stand by Einstein's 52% quote in the article, because 'the happy accident theory' as I also know it, really is the panacea to a lot of creative unblocking. Of course, you have to be able to shape, chisel and polish that golden nugget of inspiration and then hope for the best, but I'll vouch for those moments when it all just falls together, and you have to run with it.

And speaking of feet, I liked the first item here in the picture on the left :-

Essential Objects: For Commuters & Those Stuck Indoors

I like the neck cushion at the end too. But then I would, as there are days in the week, when I feel like I need a snooze.

And on that note, it's time to kick back for a while. With a book. And my smartphone will have something running on it as well..

Actually, no, I think I'll watch it on the tablet..well, Ill be listening to it, whilst I read the book. 

I'm just hanging around. 

Friday 24 October 2014

Put pen to paper; Hand Letterings, RCA Studio A & Finding Your Purpose/Doing What You Love

Here's a question. When was the last time you picked up a pen and paper and actually wrote anything beyond a post it note worth of scribble? Do you keep a jotter or project note style pad and write reams of stuff on it?

Ok, that's two questions. And that's why I'm starting with this :-

Brilliant Hand-Letterings Designed To Reflect The Meanings Of The Words

I just loved the fact that in our tech saturated world, someone went to all the effort to do this. And yes, I'm still part of the contingent that uses a pen, a jotter pad and a project book ( or books), to formulate ideas, and concepts.

It's strange in a way, cause even when getting things down on paper, I end up asterisking things and/or bullet pointing stuff, which is a by-product of years of using word processing software. So there's a basic example of the analog implementation of a way of doing something, being influenced by the digital world.

It's great, cause it's made my notebooks a lot neater for me to follow and refer back to, when required. I write slower, too, which may or may not be a by product of seeing such a neat, crisp iteration of rhetoric for 20 plus years, in using computing technology on screen. So subconsciously, I want the same or as close as, replicated on paper. Man to machine..and back again.

And on the subject of preserving some traditions and even institutions, the following link came into my orbit via my twitter feed, and immediately struck a chord with me  :-

It's too costly to save Music Row's RCA Studio A, new owner says

I was quite thrown by this, as the musician part of my brain doesn't ever want to this sort of thing happening en masse.

In short, RCA studios (both A and B, which is also supposedly up for demoiltion as well), are the home of some of the greatest classic rock ( and other genre) recordings from the inception of rock ' n roll ( and beyond), which can happily be now put around to almost 60 years. In other words, was it when Elvis first recorded his first album?  or was it the sun sessions in 1954, or.. you get the picture.

In any event, it's definitely a very special place and like EMI'S Abbey Road studios in the UK, where The Beatles recorded their first album, and subsequent recordings, which set off a trailblaze for all the other artists to follow.

'The magic' as it can be called, is something all musicians chase at some point. Wether it's a favourite guitar, synthesizer ( I have one of those here ), drum kit, microphone or even the actual studio itself that can help to create or instil that feeling, it's all part of facilitating a level of expression of the feelings within, so they can be more effectively interpolated, with minimal effort and strain.

In writing the last bit of rhetoric,  you have no idea how I winced a little at having to try and conceptualise something that has been going on for a very long time, and is just something you 'do', because you just 'have to do it'. It really is that simple. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that any creative activity, wether for work or for play, that involves you getting into it beyond a casual dip into the pool, is because there's some innate desire to share it with someone, if not the world at large. That in itself is another topic in waiting to explore, but I sincerely hope that RCA studios isn't demolished so fast. I hope someone somewhere has the means and the magic to help them to keep it open as it is for just a little while longer. After all, it's a place of work, even if it's now just waiting in slight vain to be worked in and (renovations considered), upon.

Speaking of work, doing something you want to do and trying to find your true calling, is covered here  :-

How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love

There are a lot of this style of article and book around on the internet and in the physical world, with one of the oldest being Dale Carnegie's "how to win friends and influence people", even if it obviously wasn't touted as such at the time.  This stuck out as it contains a really well delivered TED talk by the author & philosopher Alain de Botton, halfway down. In short, there's no right or wrong way to do this and some of us are probably finding that we're really good at lots of things, and in our current, slightly socioeconomically edgier times, are perhaps spreading ourselves a bit thinly as a result. Ultimately,however, there usually are a handful of things you're so good at, you feel very 'pumped' to use an expression, when doing them, and these things can be performed, sometimes with some tweaking or just off the bat, in the name of work.

Ultimately what might be right for you, may not be right for your best friend of 20 years who has walked many of those life miles with you, for example, which in a way contradicts some of what is in the article, but that in itself assumes that everything else is in some sort of constant state as well, which it sometimes isn't and can't be; change affects all variables around it, even at a small level.

Finding your calling is a very complex issue and it's all about change and how you embrace change, and the challenges it can present. It's also about luck and making your luck and/or embracing your luck, which is a harder concept to grasp at times. Ive had a number of career switches in the last fifteen years alone, and some of them were forced upon me. Im lucky/blessed that most of them we're just honouring a 'hunch' or gut feeling style situation, but none of them were an overnight situation.

As the age old saying goes, you don't get too far in life without a lot of hard graft ( work), so having the nous to get your head down, and roll those sleeves up and pitch in is half the battle. The rest of it is about what drives you at your core.And that in itself, can change over time.

Speaking of drive, I've got to hit the road to meet up with an old friend. Actually, this person feels like an old friend but I haven't known them as long as some of the other people in my life.  There's that familiar affirming feeling with good friends, similar to when I pick up a pen and paper, and can just doodle or write a load of waffle on it, which will make sense to me at some point quite soon on in. And when I look back it at, it will raise a smile.

Sometimes the things that make the least sense, can make the most sense in hindsight. The journey from A to B is always more colourful, than it appears to be.