Month: February 2010

Darkness unbeing

It’s an itch, and urge, a pulling, scratching, gouging force churning away inside him. His chest is tight, knotted, formulate and plotting. Despising and demonic he plots revenge, he charts the motions and savours the instant. Brutal and vicious, he is animal.
A deep breath.
It refuses to move. Tensed, he is ready to pounce, his actions are driven by constriction, a rope taut around him, pulling him this way and that yet leaving him bound and motionless. Rooted here he spins it round again, and again the vitriol stirs.
Where is the saviour?
Is it pain, is it destruction and violation that will wreck this feeling, lay it to waste, hammerblows to his head?
It spins again, fuelling itself by feeding him more of what he doesn’t need and doesn’t want. He hates it, will not succumb to it and the fight burns on.
His violence scares him, the snarling beast within rips and claws to be set loose, his ribs containt it and it roars behind the bars. He used to let it out, he used to let it roam but never too far. Bruised knuckles and dented metal, macho posturing hiding the truth.
Rage.
It flows within him, consuming him. The constant unerring swing of the pendulum blade, the gentle tick, metronomic, insistent, unforgiving, unrelenting.

ISTC Newsletter

Time flies, particularly when a deadline looms and so it was last night when, due to this silly, short, month (which has flown by) I had to rattle out my monthly column to go in the ISTC Newsletter, InfoPlus+, toute de suite.

I mentioned this on Twitter and was promptly asked where it was published. I’ve mentioned the newsletter in passing here but realise that I’ve covered it in any more detail.

First things first, you don’t have to be a member to receive the newsletter, anyone can sign up and anyone can view the archives.

Having checked back I actually started my contributions to the newsletter in April 2008, almost two years ago, which took me by surprise. Since then I’ve been monitoring a large number of related blogs, and offering my take on the best posts from that month. I actually started doing that here but the newsletter took the focus.

The newsletter is fun, and offers me a chance to look back at some posts I’ve read but perhaps not fully digested properly and it feels good to be spreading the word about the great content that is available. There are a lot of smart people out there, and it’s good to get a chance to direct some traffic their way.

Harsh Beauty

The snow has turned to slush, that most dreaded of underfoot conditions. Yet there are small patches of white clinging to the bushes and peppering the fields.

The morning light is cold and thin, leaving everything dull and flat.

Yet there is still a stark beauty at play, a clean harshness that I find attractive. It’s similar to those magazine shots of a white room, minimally decorated. It speaks of open places, clean slates, blank canvases.

It is a bit of a bugger to drive in though.

The need for speed

How fast do you drive? At present I have a powerful car, which I admit I drive too fast. I like to think I’m pretty careful, I’m not doing 60mph past schools or anything, but if the road is clear, and conditions are good my right foot does tend to get quite heavy.

And I’m really not all that sorry about it. Irresponsible? Occasionally. Human? Undoubtedly. It’s not something I’m proud to admit but there you have it.

Part of the attraction is the thrill. There is a feeling of being alive that can be obtained which is similar to (but not as intense as) riding a rollercoaster, and isn’t that one of the things that defines us? Our drive towards emotion? It’s why people throw themselves down icy mountains on flimsy pieces of moulded glass fibre, or disappear into uncharted territories full of nasty beasties and big scary monsters, it’s all done in the name of emotion and that wonderful adrenalin rush that comes from pushing things to the edge of your control.

God, I sound like some hopped-up loony, driving at 100mph every chance I get. I’m not, honest. I top out about 90…

In all seriousness, being a responsible adult (stop laughing at the back!) means that there is a constant battle when these situations arise. The emotion-driven part of me strives for more, faster, higher, closer to the edge, the rational part of me senses the danger and the safety mechanisms kick in. Partly fear, partly self-preservation, it rails against adrenalin, and endorphin.

I know I’m not alone in this respect, that with middle-age approaching and the tendency for life to start to slow down kicking in, driving a car is sometimes the only place where such vicarious thrills can be saught. Perhaps I should’ve gotten into more outdoor based sports like caneoing which I enjoyed, I’m sure I would get a similar thrill, blasting down a fast flowing river. Man versus nature and all that.

Alas we all live in a society and as such need to obey the rules, which means being sensible, colouring between the lines, and following a set of principles.

Or you could bend the rules a little, occasionally let the urge to be silly take over, and slap bright dabs of your favourite colour wherever you damn well like.

After all, life is about living.

Second biggest purchase

our new civic

That’s my car. An ’06 plate, Honda Civic 2.2TDi ES model. It’s a wonderful car to drive, with a very good engine and a good level of equipment. The reason I have a diesel is because of the high mileage we do, about 380 miles a week, and it was supposed to be cheaper in the long run and, well, it might’ve been but for one thing.

Being the ‘first’ of the new model Civic, it’s fair to say that the car has been plagued by a lot of small niggles. On average it’s been back at the garage about once every two months and whilst a lot of the work was carried out under warranty (and some was, I admit, my own fault as it’s the most powerful car I’ve ever owned and I did… er… ‘over’ drive it on occasion) it’s not out of warranty and the niggles keep on coming.

Time for a change then, but what?

I’m tempted to get a newer Civic, with the presumption that the niggles have been ironed out. Honda have a good reputation for build quality because they do change production to take account of these things, so it’s a reasonable bet that if I did get another Civic, it wouldn’t give me half as many problems as the current car has.

But with fuel prices continuing to bubble upwards, perhaps now is a good time to look at some of the ‘Eco’ cars. The VW Golf BlueMotion gets a good write up (better than the Prius or Focus) but is still quite pricey. The Honda Insight is a proper Hybrid (the BlueMotion is a diesel with ‘smart’ technology to help boost MPG), which again makes it pricey and by GOD it’s ugly!

So I started looking at smaller cars. The Fiat 500 to begin with, which is super cute but just too small for the amount of travelling I do, I need something comfy. The Fiesta gets good reviews all over the place, and it’s looking like that might be the best option.

Ultimately, it’s about money. The monthly cost of ownership is key, and I’d like to lower my monthly payments as well as get a car that will help minimise ‘running costs’. Which brings me to the Kia Cee’d, which gets reasonable reviews, has a good level of equipment and has a seven year warranty. Seven years!

It’s a bloody minefield though and I’m still searching and comparing all sorts, with a reference copy of AutoExpress at my side. Perhaps that Skoda Octavia is the best bet after all?

And stretch…

Chatting to one of the instructors at the gym last night, I mentioned that I had thought about signing up for a Yoga class as I really need to improve my flexibility.

He advised me not to until I’d reached a reasonable level on my own, and at that he turned his attentions to the young blonde girl that had just walked on. Can’t really blame him for that but it did leave me wondering.

What is a “reasonable level”?

I’ll ask for more information when I’m next at the gym, but for now I think I’m gonna go with the Yoga section/exercises available in Wii Fit Plus.

Spending as much time as I do sitting at a desk I’m starting to feel my age, not only in my lack of flexibility but my eye-sight. I do have glasses, but they are for distance, or at least they were the last time I got my eyes checked, some 6 years ago? 7?

Time and tide and all that I guess. I don’t mind getting older at all, I’m just learning how to adapt my lifestyle to cope. One thing I definitely can’t do anymore is go drinking two nights in a row.

But I can always make exceptions, say, on the 8th and 9th of March…

What do you not do?



When was the last time you looked at the things you don’t do?

The reason I ask is that this very question is occupying my mind at the moment as I try to pull together both a content audit of what we have and a plan to create the things we don’t have. Which isn’t as easy as it may sound.

There are three or four different departments involved in the audit, and from each I’ve asked the same two things:

  1. A list of all the content you currently have
  2. A list of all the content you would like to have

With both lists in place, and understanding that some items in the first list may also need some rework or ongoing maintenance, we should all have a good view of what everyone else is doing and be able to plan a smarter way to produce more of the items in list two.

Whilst this is nothing radical it should help us by making people step back to see the big picture and allow us to move forward in one direction. Once this phase of the content audit is complete, the next stage, planning how to fill some of the “would like to have” gaps, will begin and once we start producing this content, regular catchups will help keep everyone up-to-speed and make sure we all focussed towards the same goals.

The tricky bit will be populating the second list. Asking your audience or colleagues for input will lead to one thing, a very big long list of “hey, do you know what would be REALLY good…” style requests. I’m more than happy to field those and they are, for the most part, good to have noted down.

Where it starts to get tricky is in the prioritisation of these things, and for that you’ll need to get some of the interested parties together to help. I’ve already covered how I do that but to make that process a bit slicker (it’s very ad-hoc at the moment) I’ll be setting up a common “Information Planning” meeting. That way we can involve the pertinent stakeholders in the decision process, and it will help communicate the ongoing plans around the Information Strategy.

All work, no play

OK, let me just get this out of the road up front. I enjoy my Work. I enjoy the Work part of it, I enjoy the people (mostly), I enjoy the challenges, the thinking processes, the bigger picture planning and the day to day detail that I need to attend to.

I get frustrated from time to time, who doesn’t, but ultimately my week is very much focussed on Work.

I also enjoy my work, as there is a large crossover between that and my Work.

Apologies, I’m presuming that you’ve read this post about a presentation given by Clay Shirky that I have, which offers the following quote:

“(Capital-W) Work is what we have considered for years: your boss tells you to do something, you do it, and you get paid. By contrast, (little-w) work is motivated by inherent interest and generally unpaid. Think of the difference between an Encyclopedia Britannica editor doing Work, and a Wikipedia editor doing work during spare hours. Big Work drives the economy; little work drives the Internet. Big Work builds skyscrapers; little work generates a half million fanfiction stories about Harry Potter.”

I’m in a slightly different position when it comes to (Capital-W) Work as I head up a team so don’t really have anyone telling me what to do on a daily basis (that said, I pretty much leave the team to their own ends for the most part).

Lowercase work is largely focussed on the internet, be it creating websites, or, ummmm, creating websites. And again that is something I really enjoy, the challenges, the thought processes and the sense of achievement.

That’s not to say that I don’t like to play, I do, it’s just for the most part of the week it’s more about Work, or work. It seems to be the way I’m wired.

Cue Mother and a comment about “just like his Dad”.

Ohhh which reminds me, I’ll be “out to play” in London soon (early March), and whilst it’ll be a school night I’m sure I can tempt some of you lovely people out for a small beverage or three. More details on that soon!

Drink!

I had an appointment with the nurse this morning, to get my blood pressure checked. Currently at 147/71 which I’m quite happy with. The second number is the important one, it’s down from 86 at the previous reading, and as I started with 196/122 (eek!) then it seems the pills and exercise and trying to be more careful about salt in my diet is helping.

After the nurse had taken the reading she asked me a few questions about my drinking habits, part of a new health push she said. Do I consume more than 8 units of alcohol in one go? Weekly? Fornightly, Monthly?

To which my answer was, no.

If I’m on a night out then yes, I will consume more than 8 units of alcohol but as they are less than monthly what else could I say? She agreed it was a bit of a nonsense and is more aimed at people who regularly consume more than the recommended units.

One interesting question was whether I’d ever failed to meet my duties the day after consuming alcohol. To which I asked “What? Like not cutting the grass?”.

So yes, I’m a binge drinker. I drink to ‘excess’ on a night out. Yet I don’t see that as a problem as, like most of my friends and acquaintances will know, I rarely lose control and only twice in my life have I ever woke up and had a few moments of discombobulation (aka, where the FUCK am I??).

In fact my next night out will be in London, at the Groucho Club, no less, although having checked the price list, this Scottish drinker is already considering a tee-total night!

OK. Not really.

Weekender

Ohh not done one of these for ages.

And the thing is, I really don’t want to revisit one part of the weekend as it’s still very painful. Yes, I’m talking about the rugby.

I’m sure if you are a ‘neutral’ it was a thrilling game, but I’m not neutral, I’m Scottish and given how well we played in the first half, well… I guess I should’ve known better. I vented a little on Twitter after the final whistle and even now, many hours later, I’m still a bit wound up and pissed off about the whole thing. Stupid game.

Speaking of games, the Winter Olympics are fun, aren’t they. They feature all sorts of wacky sports like ‘sliding down a huge slope on tiny bits of bendy wood’, ‘hurtling down a frozen ice track with nothing buy lycra to protect you’, and other such nonsense ideas.

I’ve never done any of the sports that are included in the Winter Olympics, and whilst snowboarding looks fun, the whole ‘ice’ thing just isn’t me. It hurts when you fall, why would I want to do that? At least snow is soft.

That said, I have great admiration for anyone who can dedicate themselves to such sports, particularly the dangerous ones.

Elsewhere this weekend I’ve been to the gym, not celebrated that ‘please pay huge amounts more than normal for a card and flowers’ day, and even managed to get some work done on my current client website.

I’ve also cooked a little (ok, maybe stretching a bit there), and caught up with some recorded TV.

Pretty much what a weekend is for, right?

Minus the rugby bit, of course… grrrrrrr