Saturday 24 January 2015

It's Just A Phase They're Going Through ; Space travel side-effects, Long term happiness methodology & Survival food top ten

The longest flight I've ever taken and easily the most enjoyable, was the journey from the U.K. to Austrailia. I went to Brisbane, to be precise. It took two consecutive flights to make the trip and it was thrilling to say the least. Great fun at the stopover and great travelling companions and friends made it worthwhile. The total journey time, including the stopover period, was 28 hours.

At the end, once I got to the hotel, I did my usual thing of unpacking the luggage as soon as possible, showering up, and then going for a wander around the locale. Even after being awake for nearly two days by now, I still wasn't flagging physically or mentally until I got back to the hotel room and sat down. All I can remember, is turning on the television set and the next thing I knew, I woke up at about 4am brisbane time. I'd been asleep for just over 8 hours. I felt incredibly refreshed for a while and then sauntered into the bedroom, only to fall asleep for another several hours. There's such a remarkable feeling of absolute invigoration after a snooze of that length. All my cognitive functions were razor sharp after that.

Jet lag is something that isn't easily curable. In fact, other than a lengthy lie-down as already mentioned, or 'bench down' (you just lie down on the nearest bench ,and snooze it off), I don't know of any other practical cure for it. So one can only imagine what astronauts go through,at higher altitudes and under more pressurised circumstances :-

The Mysterious Mental Side Effects Of Travelling Into Space

If you're thousands of feet above the earth's surface, and have a glimpse of it from that altitude, then the feeling of being disconnected would be obvious. But the resultant feeling of  being insignificant, coupled with a sense of almost spiritual awakening, can be quite overwhelming.  Many famous astronauts have reported this, including Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and for all our wanting to live on the moon and on mars ( there are programs being developed right now to populate both, according to various articles), our natural, biological impulse is to feel connected to this planet. That's where our happiness tends to lie, and that's where the phrase 'feeling grounded' and variations of therein, make sense.

As much as we enjoy the travel aspect, wether as passengers or even flying the craft as children ( kites) or adults ( pilots of planes, etc), we need that sense of belonging to terra firma. You can touch the ground, wherever it may be, and it feels like home.

On the subject of feeling happy without feeling disconnected :-

Want Long-Term Happiness? Make Sure You’re Looking In the Right Place!

In effect, our short term thrills such as those which are found in food, shopping, sex, drugs and alcohol, won't last much longer than the time taken to participate in them. Our long term happiness is found in compassionate acts, such as charity related acts and service to others. It's all about balance and in my view , too much of one and not enough of the other can tilt your balance out which brings on a more jaded attitude and all that entails.

On a personal note, I enjoy helping charities out when I can and do it without any recourse to self promotion, which is something I feel is the way to do things. But not everyone can or will do that. Helping out in this way also shouldn't entail moving into the realms of martyrdom or similar, which is what people can frame it as. As already mentioned, unless you are particularly inclined to devote a lifetime to whatever cause it is you are pursuing for the sake of the greater good ( and history does have some trully benevolent saints, both male and female), then even a little can go a long way.

Speaking of which :-

Greatest Survival Food of All Time

Unsurprisingly, chocolate, or rather dark chocolate, comes top of the list. Some of the items on this list wouldn't be my first choice to pack in a survival kit ( lard??), but many of them would most likely survive a lengthy soujourn in a backpack in all sorts of environments. That can of tuna would keep going on land, in sea, on sand and even in the arctic.

On that note, it's time for a break . If I was in america, it would have been a coffee and a donut, preferably with a filling of some sort. For some reason, this evokes a memory of New York, which I miss dearly and reminisce about more often than not.

But I'm not in NYC, so it's a steaming cup of earl grey and a chocolate bar to give it some company. I have several to chose from; that's pre-planning for you, in the guise of a regular item on the shopping list.
And thankfully, as survival isn't an issue, I can savour it for as long as it takes to finish the tea.

Banner Ad turns 20, two most productive hours of the day and Some music for a change

After having a taste of the internet experience whilst at University in the mid 1990's , I finally took the plunge and paid for a dial up subscription to a well known service provider in 1999. It cost £9.99 per month to use and I can remember the number of drop outs when the pages had to load anything that had a lot of animated graphical content. Still, it was an exciting time for me, as I'd also begun to make a sideways move into I.T. as a career option.

The one thing I noticed greatly in the early days when there was only internet explorer and netscape navigator to choose from, was the proliferation of advertising across the top of the screen. Sometimes it was at the bottom, and occasionally on both sides of the screen as well. You'd click on them and be taken to a completely different page. You'd then be asked to fill a form in, or interact in some way, such as buy a product and so on. They were everywhere, and you just became accustomed to them. They were (and still are), known as banner adverts :-

The banner ad turns 20 and is still going strong — but for how long?

Hard to believe it's been 20 years since their arrival. But time flies, and in the last four or five years, smartphone useage has made the life of the banner ad a little difficult. The solution is to go for a full screen advertisement, with the ubiquitous 'reject cross' in the top right of the screen.

I've seen quite a few of them already, whilst using apps ( applications) on my phone and some of them are fantastically annoying, which is a sign of our apathy and/or ingrained neurological response to reject certain styles of push marketing, due to over exposure of the medium. The heady days of 40% plus CTR ( click through rates) of yesteryear, as the article refers to, are long gone, but the upside to that is that advertising companies and departments are now pushed to be more creative in order to get the message across. That's an alchemic art in itself and a topic for another time, but my twenty pence ( or fifty cents?) worth on that would be to keep it simple and bold for maximum impact. And keep it short and sweet for the audio/visual stuff.

By the way, If anyone from advertising or an advertising department is reading this, feel free to drop me a line and ask me for music and sonics. If it's doable, then we'll work something out.

And speaking of work :-

Don’t Waste Your Two Most Productive Hours

In the last few years, after travelling more than I had in the previous decade for work and some playtime here and there, my sleep pattern had become ridiculously erratic. This year, I'd disciplined myself to get up at the same time everyday, and finish about the same time daily, in order to maintain more balance in my work and productivity. And that's what makes me agree wholeheartedly with the notion in the above article.

The first few hours are when I get the most done. That's when I can just start new things and build up a framework of something, and so on. The next four to six hours are when I'm working at finishing, solving and reframing things across the board. All meetings, social stuff and 'time out' web surfing and social media useage happens then, too.

Towards the end of my working day, no matter where I am, I always look out of a window or better still, go outside and just stand there and observe what's happening around me. If I'm already outside, then I find a less busier spot to just 'take five' and sit there or just keep still and let it all out so I can breathe some reflective air in. If I could describe it in musical terms, it'd be like this

And on that note ( or a cluster of them), time out,

Thursday 22 January 2015

Stuck On An Idea? Leave The Room

This is a short post. It's probably the shortest I've ever done. 

It's like a quick fix to something we all do or end up in. 

Essentially, what is the best, real-world workable method to help becoming unstuck when working on something, or trying to figure something out in a situation you just cannot get any further on? 

The answer? Try leaving the room you’re in for at least 5 minutes

Go and have a cup of coffee or tea. Or even a glass of water. 

If needed and available, have a snack. If possible, go for a walk. 

The key here is to temporarily distract yourself from the problem or issue at hand.  

In effect, you change your entire physiological state at the moment you decide to leave the room or location you were in. And that in itself is the trigger to change your psychological state, which helps in reframing your thought processes.   

And now that you've recalibrated your synapses, and done a temporary 'system reset', you can come back with a fresher mindset. 

Right, I'm off. I'll be back after a cup of earl grey. 

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Rat In Me Kitchen; Oddities on social networks

Recently, I've had a slew of emails from people that I haven't spoken to in years and It's not because I've become the uber flavour of the month.  All of this is spam-based 'kicking out' from some server somewhere, and it isn't the first time it's happened. In the past, I've also had my facebook account compromised somewhere along the line, which I have mentioned before in another post. Security breaches of this nature aren't an unusual a thing to happen; especially when you look at this item here :-

Londoners give up eldest children in public Wi-Fi security horror show

Apart from the oddly comical tone at the start ( a herod clause?), this highlights an oft quoted 'en garde' for people to be more vigilant when using free wi-fi. I suspect that's how I was nobbled, all those moons ago, and also suspect that the situation is far more serious than the tone in this article. I can back this up with the increased slew of spam on my email accounts, some of which goes straight into the spam basket, but gluts of which is still coming into the inbox directly.

Whenever I'm on a train or any other place where free wi-fi is offered ( cafe's, bars, etc), I have to remind myself to switch the wi-fi setting OFF on my phone, and rely on my mobile network's service provider to deliver the goods. I use an android handset with an anti-virus program for in-useage protection, which doesn't mention having a firewall, but to my knowledge I've not been 'hacked' yet, which is a good thing. In all fairness I'm not sure wether one is needed on a small handheld device with fewer computational 'rooms' for want of a better phrase, to section off. However, just to be on the safe side I don't engage in online banking or even shopping using my phone, and marvel at those who do it on the move. Unless I'm mistaken, I don't think any network provider will cover you for fraudulent activity if it occours, so you'll have to fall back on any financial services provider and their clauses, in the event of something untoward happening. Having personally dealt with oddities of a 'mysterious credit card spend' nature in the past which was related to the internet, I can vouch for them in that respect. Or at least one of them.

Coming back to the issue of social networks, the one thing I have learnt whilst going from being a heavy user to a light user ( it makes me sound like someone quitting a bad habit, but there you go), is that dilligence and prudence is essential. On facebook for example, once it become very apparent to me that my account had been compromised by the virtue of a lot of names and people being part of my friends list that I had no memory whatsoever of adding in, I started to remove them, but then ended up removing hundreds of other people on the list, too. I actually sat down, fired the laptop up, and started to scroll down the list piecemeal. It took a considerable amount of time to do this; the entire process took well over eight hours and two 'sessions', so to speak.  Like a lot of people, I'd just casually accepted a load of friend requests over the years, and as a result of the above, it rapidly dawned on me that :-

a) I didn't know who a lot of these people actually were, because..

b) I'd not had any form of communication, either online or off, with a large number of them since adding them into the friends list. This in some cases was over 4 years prior to my noticing them being there, beyond being another 'name and face' on the list .  Facebook has a facility that allows you see the nature of the friendship, which includes interactivity and ' known since when', etc. A very handy facility to have, in my opinion.

And so..

c) =  a) plus b) which in itself  = why were they still there and/or why were they there in the first place? I guess they did the same thing I had, and just added someone as a connection ( eg:- friend of a friend) , based on a profile picture, and so on.

I saw the funny side and soldiered on, but as already mentioned, I removed hundreds of names from my account; this was more than 80% of people from the friends list in total. Leading on from this, in the last year or so I've also had myself and other friends who use facebook, have 'odd conversations' with others on there, via the messenger app, both before and after it became a seperate entity. Some of these people we know in the physical world, which made it really odd, because they've since denied it happening. As a result I've uninstalled messenger from my handset, as the aforementioned experience raised a red warning light for me. It could just be people creating spam bot style accounts in order to harvest information and use it to create a false identity, which again isn't uncommon from what I've read and heard. I think facebook now have a policy where you're not allowed to use aliases and create doppleganagers, but just like the internet itself, there must be thousands if not MILLIONS of abandoned accounts on there, which may potentially be utilised for unsound means.  In any event, as memorable as all this was, it was all too weird for me to be genuinely scared about it. I still have an account on there, and interact with people on there occasionally.

By comparison, twitter and linked-in seem to have a more cleaner or at least a more linear interactive environment. It must be said that there are a lot of cleverly created and maintained spam-bot style accounts on twitter too ( I've been followed and unfollowed by hundreds of them over the years), as clearly there is some sort of trade off in having a twitter ident; tweeting back links to a page laden with adverts for example,  in the hope that you'll click one of them at some point, and add to the pool of revenue, and and so on. But even so, it's harder to convince others of this over the long term, because of the limitations of the platform. And with linked-in, there is no point in being any sort of 'odd one out' so to speak, because the nature of the platform is geared towards professionals and industrial useage; intending to create a manufactured identity to cause or wreck havoc on there, is about as pointless as a broken can opener.

In effect, all of these and any other social networking sites just require you to remember to be your own 'dilligence officer', in order to manage the content you put up there and to effectively utilise the time you spend on them. Basic common sense is what it's all about, but we can all ( myself included)  sway into a scenario of spending an extra hour 'here and there' at times, because it feels so justifyable to keep checking what's going on. In other words, it just feels good to carouse and browse all the activity, a bit like being a voyeur in a huge common room. The only trouble is, you can lose valuable time spent doing work in the process.

From my own experience, the key issues to manage using social media technologies, are data integrity, security and productivity. In other words :-

 who are you communicating with

what are you sharing out?

how much is it a part of your day?


is that time part of your working hours or recreational/ downtime?

On that note, it's time for a late lunch. Time to switch the ringer off on my phone, for at least 20 minutes.

Sunday 18 January 2015

I'm Only Human, You Know ;Man walks again after brain cell treatment, Older is wiser & Seeking critical thinking.

There's a lot to be said for having the ability to just get up and go somewhere. Think of how easy it is to just leave your chair or sofa, and walk ( or run) to anywhere you like. It's something most of us take for granted. So for someone to end up losing this ability and then be given it back, is a miraculous achievement indeed :-

Paralyzed Man Walks Again After Brain Cells Are Injected into His Spine

Amazing stuff. And I'm glad there's such hopeful progress with regards science and biological progress moving into the future.

Going briefly into the past, can you remember what you were like a decade ago? If you're older than 30, can you remember what you were like two decades ago? :-

What You Learn in Your 40s

I'm 41 and a lot of this resonated with me. It really is true what they do get much wiser as you get older. The trick is to ameliorate this wisdom without becoming too cynical, and carry on in life with a sense of gratitude. It's also important to never lose your sense of adventure and fun, too.

As we get older, we realise the importance of so many other things. The most important of which, is analysis and introspection; in other words, thinking things through a bit more, before acting and reacting to them. Just like sifting through a swathe of mayhem, to get to the crux of the matter :-

Bosses Seek ‘Critical Thinking,’ but What Is That?

One of the definitions given here, was by the youngest person interviewed in the article. Twenty one year old Brittany Holloway, a University of New York  graduate, defined it as 'forming your own opinion from a variety of different sources'. That's the easiest and most succinct definition I've read, to date.

In fact, that's effectively what the crux of this post is about. It's also the ethos behind my posts on my blog site.  And more importantly, it's all done to allow you, the reader, to have food for thought.

Speaking of which, it's time for lunch.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Replicants Are A Machine; Keeping those statistics quiet, The tree of our languages & Aphex twin interview

The last few years have seen a slew of revelations that have confounded, confused and alarmed in equal measure. From Edward Snowden, to the recent hacking and file/photo sharing scenarios of film stars and studio email exchanges, it's been one cannonball after the other. In effect, the bigger lesson is to ensure that your communication is as transparent as possible. Either that, or make sure you have a good reason why it isn't.

You can't keep people in the dark for too long anymore. That's down to the speed at which information is now disseminating. Furthermore,  We're all connected much more to each other than ever before , due to the power of the internet. Smartphones are now almost de rigeur, and that speeds the spread of information at an even faster rate. So when something tried and tested has changed in some way, then the headscratching happens a little earlier on in the process :-

What Apple isn't telling us anymore

When you're no longer trumpeting your own successes so loudly, then it's natural that there are two assumptions to be made. The first is that you're on the downslide and the second, less obvious one, is that you no longer want to give your competitors any metrics on your sales, in order for them to assess any target figures and work out any way to gain a competitive advantage. Both reasons are plausible, but one can hold more weight than the other, depending on the language and contextual arguements presented. In effect, how much wood can you see for the trees (and vice versa), is entirely up to you when iterating the rhetoric.

Our understanding of language and the way it is used, has a lot to do with our background. Not just socially, but culutrally too :- 

Feast Your Eyes on This Beautiful Linguistic Family Tree

A marvellous picture. And a great, quick way to brush up on some history, during a coffee or lunch break.

Richard D james has been on a long break since his last album. Actually, that's not true. He released the ANALORD series of tracks about a decade ago and has been involved in a slew of other projects, including an orchestra he conducted using his laptop and some custom software. Then of course, there's the (alleged) slabs of music he releases under pseudonyms, and there's.. :-

A Conversation With Aphex Twin

I've been a fan of his material for years, and own a few of his albums. The aforementioned ANALORD series are my all time favourites, for a number of  reasons; some of which, he has discussed here. And just like the man himself, the interview is laid out in a slightly cryptic manner. I'm curious as to what he does next, and hopefully it won't take another decade ( or more) to see the light of day.

Being an artist is essentially something all of us do everyday. Wether it's sitting at a desk, writing a report, or typing an article, or painting and making music, you are conjuring up something out of nothing. Or so it seems. What we're all doing is essentially distilling everything we have inside of us up until that moment of time. So whatever we're creating, is a snapshot of our thoughts and feelings, in those hours, minutes and days we spend on it.

Our art is a replication of ourselves. And unlike us, it can stick around forever. Having said that, we're then by proxy, also around for eternity. Wether you believe in the concept of god and souls or not, technology has allowed us to keep snapshots and facsmilies of our lives around for as long as we can keep on replicating the data. We're backing up our backups on a regular basis, in case we need them in the future.

And sometimes this goes on verbatim, for years ( even decades), worth of data. Imagine a lengthy chain of babushka dolls within each other, and you'll get the picture.

A little filtering out, now and then, is a good thing in my opinion. It prevents you from being burdened with too much information, as you move forward.

After all, you can't take everything with you, no matter where it is that you're going, for whatever reason that you're going there.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Rock Me Gently ; Bedside fatigue and sleep tracking, Mythbusting copyright disclaimers on facebook & ..Even more facebook for you.

The big thing these days, is artificial intelligence. In short, your technological devices can help you to live easier lives by assisting you in your day to day living, based on data they gather during the course of a 'regular' slew of days or weeks. From our smartphones, to television sets, with our kitchen appliances and heating systems sitting in between, the data being harvested is kept and stored on cloud servers (and elsewhere?), to make minor suggestions on our behalf.

For example, you could be driving home from work and via your phone, tell your heating system, coffee machine and main television set to all be activited in advance of you walking through the front door. So you walk in with a freshly brewed expresso waiting, the house feeling warm and cosy and the television on your favourite channel. All just for you. Now imagine that, but with more complex permutations and combinations; that is, more people in the house, different rooms, lighting systems, food, music, and so on. It's a lot to take in.

The future is certainly here to a large degree, and the future is also now. Nintendo think so, too :-

Nintendo Building Bedside Fatigue And Sleep-Tracking Device

I must admit to being a bit disturbed and creeped out by all of this excessive 'electronic nannying', as it's creating a situation that doesn't really exist. Apart from baby monitors, which have been around for decades, the whole idea of various databases gathering and collating huge archives of information on me, without me knowing what's in them, isn't my idea of fun.  More importantly, it raises issues of ethics and privacy of data control; that is, how much of this data is being used without your consent, and where is it ultimately going.

But how secure is the connection over which all this takes place? The latter is a growing concern as there are increasing numbers of valid reports across the interwebs, as well as the traditional media channels, of devices being hacked into, with a view to just spy on the owners for 'kicks' and/or potential theft and fraudulent activities.

To give this some more context,  lets say you have a room with a digital t.v. which has a small built-in camera on the front panel. The same room, also has a music playing device with microphones to pick up commands and automatically adjust the sound projection quality according to the number of people in the room, and location etc. Finally, you have a heating and lighting system that has been programmed by your smartphone or even voice command ( or both), to alter at your will, with an ability for both to make automatic adjustments based on the number of people in the room, etc. All these devices will be connected to the internet, for ease of access to both user(s) and manufacturers, in the event of needing servicing, fault finding and fixing.

Now imagine what would happen if someone hacks into your home wi-fi network. The results could potentially be terrifying. And on the other side of this coin, the manufacturers have the data, but who else are they passing it on to? It's food for thought.

I must stress at this stage, that I'm not a paranoid type at all, yet having spent years in tech and i.t., I've always been aware of the need for better encryption moving forward in the years ahead. Once that is conquered and implementable en masse, it will drastically reduce the security breach issue which is still prevalent, and more so in some countries and areas. The only other issue to then tackle, would be how much you decide as an individual to remain connected to these devices and the implementation of a true manual override style option.

On the subject of control, with the usual regularity that is fast becoming some sort of 'pseudo-update crusade', Facebook comes into the fray :-

Facebook Mythbusting: Copyright Disclaimers

In short, if you're not sure of where or how your content on there is going with regards to it's useage and so on, then delete it. To really simplify something I've touched upon in earlier posts and articles, if you wouldn't be so comfortable saying it in the real world, then ask yourself why you're putting it up online.

How much Facebook and other social media networking tools are ultimately responsible for your online activity, is entiirely dependant upon how much you use it. Simple and idiotproof, right? But what if..

How Facebook Could End Up Controlling Everything You Watch and Read Online

At an intelligent guess, I cannot see facebook existing for another decade. There are logical and business reasons for this, which revolve around the competition not wanting to be swallowed up whole and making a more concerted effort to keep ahead of the game. This is different from keeping up with a market leader which will mean your resources will be exhausted at some point, as you cannot continue to flourish by just maintaining state at the dictates of another system; this in itself may force you to alter your core values and operational functioning, at the impediment and eventual cost of your business being able to run successfully.

Also, there's still another 6 billion users or so that  haven't yet adopted facebook as their 'go to' social media platform. Those users are ripe for other existing networks ( twitter, bebo, etc al) and of course newer social networking media platforms such as ello, which is still running in an 'ad free' state.

Whilst I love technology, which makes life not only easier, but more interesting through the ability to reach out to anyone who is literally on the other side of the world in seconds , I'm always of the mindset that the individual's right to retain control and privacy of their own data should be maintained. This paradox has become more apparent in the last few years, not just because of various spying related allegations in the media in the last 18 or so months, but also because more hacking, and more junk data is being thrown around the larger ecosystem. I've had increasing numbers of unscrupulous phonecalls asking for bank and other details in the aforementioned period, and a regular slew of SMS text messages informing me about money owed to me, which is non existant. I've checked all of it up and it's fraudulent nonsense.

The paradoxical part is that we share so much information without thinking about it, in just using the internet on a casual browsing basis. There are things you can do, like switch off cookies and clear cache, not to mention use other browsers to prevent storage of these 'digital bread crumb trails'. But that's not what's concerning me. It's the more deeper levels of data mining which occour, when using input heavy software and devices ( i.e. our browsers and gaming software), that track, trace and then offer suggestive inputs of their own. In my view, this should be allowed to be fully user customisable.

Currently to my knowledge, especially using smartphone applications ( or 'apps'), you don't have much choice but to accept all the things that are prechecked when you install the software. That means the user is not only feeding but growing the perpetual loop of information that is swirling around about them, on the internet. It isn't strictly necessary and some form of ratification and legal adjudication in the favour of the consumer, should be put into place sooner rather than later. That will require some thinking and organising on a global to local level, in order to implement successfully without it seeming like another way to covertly 'spy' on people, but I'm confident it will be done. Not just cause of the internet and a handful of dissenters, but more because everyone should have the right and the option to share as much or as little as they'd like to.

In effect, we all take what we need from the internet, everytime we're on there. Even when we're just sending an email, there's a whole smorgasboard of data we're also giving up and out, on many levels. And this increases in volume and intensity when we start surfing and browsing everything else. The choices to switch to private browsing, are there in the menu system.

But ultimately, even with good antivirus and firewall software, your own judicious approach and common sense are what will determine how much or how little data you decide to give away, together with how comfortable you are with this aspect of the web user interactive experience in this hyper connected age.

You Retain My Interest ; Building rapport, Using a mood board & A $260 bar of chocolate

When you walk into a place, wether it be a friend's house, a new workplace, or even a restaurant, do you get what I call a 'yes or no' feeling? In effect, it's literally a 'vibe' of the situation or scenario you're entering into. Now if you're very sensitive, you can even pick up on the mood of the people in and around the place, which has a lot of advantages and a few disadvantages too.

But I digress. What I'm refering to, is the ability to walk into a situation where the people and sometimes even the location are completely new, and be able to acclimatize yourself and get comfortable. As obvious as this sounds, it's an essential life skill for all kinds of situations. Especially in a business related context :-

How to Build Rapport and Embrace Differences

I've occasionally found myself in particularly challenging situations with people within various organisations, which in themselves aren't deal breakers as that's a part and parcel of business, per se. However,  dealing with people in the physical world isn't what I'm refering to, but more to do on the internet and particularly on social media.

The expressiveness spectrum is harder to assimilate on a faster paced style of abbreviated communication system, such as twitter for example, where everyone is hurtling along at a rapid pace. The one thing I have learned with regards using social media is that you have to slow yourself down to a pace where you're comfortable with the information presented. That requires dedication, focus and persistance. In effect, you must know quickly what, whom, and why you are there.

It does pay off, though. More so when whatever it is that you are communicating is honest, and less prone to sidewinding or 'waffling'. After all, if everyone else is 'pedal to the metal' on the internet, then you have to be pretty punchy and memorable, in order to make your point. That takes practice as it involves listening, observing and tenacity, together with refining your communication style to a tee without losing your voice.

It's a lifelong skill and I'm up for the challenge; in fact I always have been. You have to be humble enough to accept the good and the not so good, in terms of feedback, without dwelling on the less vibrant responses and becoming too forlorn or downwardly moody.

All things said, there's little chance of becoming (or feeling) melancholic, when doing this :-

How (and when) to design a mood board

It's been a while since I've participated in making a mood board. It was in new york and it started with some very large sheets of paper on the floor, cut out bits from magazines, coloured pens, and bits of string. Red string at that, along with an assortment of blue-tac and drawing pins. There was myself and two others doing it , one of whom was an illustrator and the other person was a marketing maverick.

Mood boards are fun and this was in fact done with a hypothetical remit to tackle, during a creative workshop. I came away from the whole thing feeling a lot more fired up and ready for others challenges, which in itself was an absolute reward.

There is something about the process that fires off the synapses like nothing else , bar full-on and more intense creativity such as writing, music, painting etc. There are plenty of positives and if you can make a mood board with a bunch of other people, whilst enjoying yourself in the process, you'll have a team of sorts assembled there for future use too, if you so wish.

If you're stuck in a moment and unable to move forward with a concept or project, I'd wholeheartedly recommend the process. It can be time consuming, but it takes you out of yourself, which is what can be sorely needed when your creative impetus is running dry.

Here's a man (and his girlfriend), who did something completely different, in order to solve an age old problem :-

This Chocolate Bar Costs $260. Here’s Why Anybody Would Pay That Much

Now that takes a lot of self-belief, tenacity and just the courage to 'go for it'. Chocolate, whilst having various tiers and niches in price and quality, with the swiss made brands arguably presented as being the best all round, is something where there is a ceiling of sorts, due to it's readily availble nature.

In the U.K. we have Cadbury's, whom in my opinion make some of the finest chocolate in the world. The beauty being that nearly every one of their products to my knowledge, are available at street price level. So it's not about the price being the premium indicator, but the percieved quality and value you feel it brings you, when consuming. That's a beautiful blend of the alchemic art of product placement and the marketing strategies used. The blue velvet colour of the wrapper of a bar of Dairy Milk, for example, signifies a feeling of royalty and imbues a special experience BEFORE you've opened the wrapper and had a taste of the contents.

I'd love a taste of this bar of toak chocolate, which I'm hopeful someone will give me as a present.

Or I'll eventually just buy a bar, when I'm in the right place mentally and emotionally to do so. It looks special and so I'm assuming it will taste exceptional too.

The next time you're out and about, have a look into the nearest shop window and see if you can spot something that makes you feel 'warm and fuzzy'. What is it about the object that brings on that vibe? Because the team behind it has already gathered that you'd feel that way, and quite rapidly to boot.

What's changed is that the consumer has now become harder to convert from a lead to a sale. And that's what generating, sustaining and retaining the interest is all about. We're all now consuming, advertising and marketing, so the game has become more exciting and challenging.

So here's to innovation, change, growth and ultimately, invention and the new.

Thursday 1 January 2015

Are You Experienced? ; Ten reasons not to like the internet, Blinding past experiences & Double exposures

Paradoxically, my father isn't a great fan of the internet. The paradox being that he uses it at least an hour a day to watch documentaries on youtube, and window shop. Actually it's at least two hours a day. But his lack of 'internet love' is due to what he calls the 'zombified side effect' of it.

In short, he's refering to the addictive and potentially all consuming nature of internet useage. More specifically, it's when he sees people walking around just hunched into their smartphones, tapping away whilst trying to respond to or intitate a conversation somewhere in the electronic ether. He finds that disturbing and dangerous for all the logical reasons you can think of ( e.g. being on the move and not paying attention to the surroundings, the aforementioned addiction, and potential brain damaging effects, etc) .

There has been an internet backlash ever since I can remember using it, so it's nothing new. But I have noticed that it's been on the increase in the last five years or so. My father's rationale is mild and laden with common sense. There are others out there, who are more brusque in their disdain :-

10 reasons why the internet is not the answer

This is pretty devastating stuff. Not because it's quite scathing, but more because it's so succinct in it's reading of the scenarios that have lead to this point. I can exemplify this myself in the form of writing and maintaining a blog such as this. You are effectively giving a lot of time and energy away for potentially zero return. Or as my father iterates 'you're putting all that effort in for nothing!'. But I don't see it that way.

We while away hours and even days in meeting rooms, bars and pubs talking about everything under the sun, which is done for pleasure. A blog is also inherantly done for the love of the art of doing it and engaging in the process. The parallel options are using social networks for lengthier self-expression.

People spend hours on facebook daily, for example, and this is all done with no real return other than a bunch of 'like's' and maybe a few 'pat on the back' style thank you comments.But there is the potential for some extended human warmth, if the conversation leads over into the real world. That's worth it's weight in gold.

Ultimately, you have choices when using the internet for self-expression. As in life, you can decide how far or how little you wish to spread yourself and how much you intend to communicate. More importantly, as the proliferation of both people and traffic has now reached billions at any given moment, the road to monetization means keeping a level of discretion combined with a paradoxical drip feeding of information to entice the customer into remaining interested ( and staying)  with your concept. That's a combination of luck, skill, and talent. Good karma helps, too.

Our past is what brings us to the present. Karma has a part to play in that. At it's basic level, it's about the law of cause and effect. Another way to look at it is 'you always reap what you sow'. But what if everything you've already done, no matter how great or good, is stifling your moves into the future? :-

Your past experiences are blinding you

It's hard to let go of a lot of concepts and processes the way they have been described here. Our personalities aren't naturally geared for the sort of regeneration that entails coming out of a chrysalis and turning into a butterfly. However, that sort of thing can be achieved without going through the potential trauma of using mind altering substances which can bring on a complete breakdown.

But it entails patience and practice. I'm not sure it can be achieved so easily by taking a weekend or even fortnightly retreat away from it all, although that does help. It's more about sustained and gradual practice, a la going to the gym, running and so on. More specifically, yoga and similar inner balancing practices can help enormously. All of this takes time and courage. But the results are something I can vouch for myself.

It's ironic that in a cultural landscape where we're all using the internet to self promote like never before, we've become reticent ( at least on the surface), to tend to our inner-self. But that's on the increase as the energy consumed and dissipated in using a non-physical medium to communicate, is far greater than many people have realised. Balance and going back to our roots, is what is needed and people are doing this more than before. And that's a very good thing. 

Blending oursleves into nature is something at a core level, we all want to do . The levels of desire to do this obviously differs from person to person, but the feel and smell of country air, or even a garden with grass and plants is embedded in us at some deep rooted, biological level. That concept can be reiterated and blended into an artform :-

Dramatic double exposures that blend portraiture and nature photography

To see that level of synergy used so effectively in a visual medium, is nothing short of wonderful. The first picture was so strikingly beautiful, that I just kept looking at it for ages. That's when the 'magic' happens. You end up getting a blend of two very seperate parts that create a much bigger whole.

And that's what the creative process is all about. Taking seemingly disparate elements and throwing them together, can make a masterpiece. It can also make a mess, but that's a part of the process, too.

The magic of creativity is all about that 'extra factor'. It's an 'indefinable something', that becomes the glue to bind everything together; almost like some form of cosmic and spiritual alchemy, that cannot be logically explained with ease.  But I trust it implicitly. Just like the internet, it's part of a journey.

And like the internet, it in itself encourages you to let go of something at a particular moment. For all art is ultimately left unfinished. That's what gives it it's character, meaning and value. It then takes on a life of it's own, beyond the life of it's creator and then it's curator(s).

Hopefully just like life itself, it will ultimately be rediscovered and recycled. Both consciously and subconsciously.