Month: November 2010

Getting into the groove

This blog is starting to feel like just that, a personal blog, again.

That’s good, in that I seem to be getting some sort of writing routine back (even if it’s still somewhat sporadic) and bad in that I seem to be treating it more like a diary.

Anyway, it’s my blog, I can do what I want.

One thing that I definitely need to focus on is getting into a routine. Tonight, finally, I have an induction at a gym. I deliberately chose one close to work, that opens at 7am, to force myself to get up and hit the gym in the morning (with the fallback of going in the evening). It’s not that far from my flat, about 15-20 minute drive, but as my weekends are looking busy already then I’ll likely, mostly, be going during the week anyway.

That’s the plan at least.

I’m also considering buying a Wii, and Wii Fit, as I did enjoy using it and it was definitely helping with my flexibility (cardio stuff is better at the gym), although I do need to buy a new camera as I’m going to be signing up for a photography class which starts in January…

Hmmmmm, I think I need a new credit card.

Habit

He hurries in from the cold,shakes his overcoat from his shoulders and hangs it, then his hat, on the bentwood coat stand.

He warms his hands on the radiator, crosses the living room to the hi-fi. Bending down he flick-flacks quickly through the LPs, and in practised movement slides an album from its sleeve and onto the deck. The familiar static clunk as he drops the needle.

To the kitchen now. A glug of deep red wine, a solid slab of cheese, a torn chunk of bread and back to his chair. He uses the plate to clear space on the low table at his side, glasses and dishes from previous evenings clink as they slide across the grain. A trumpet burbles mournfully in the background.

He lifts the glass to his mouth and slowly he savours the first mouthful, leaning back, eyes half-closed. He sits that way for a moment, letting the music wash over him as the headlights from the road slide across the walls, people making their own ways to whatever they call home. He pushes away memories of a time long gone, the noise and fear of his childhood. He wonders which passersby will end the evening beaten, which will resume their comatosed state, so accepting of their lives, habitual and routine, no matter how obscure it may be to others.

He takes his time eating, more wine to wash it down. Repeat until sated. Or at least until no longer hungry. Or at the very least until you’ve lined the stomach, he thinks.

His glass empty, he returns to the kitchen picks up the bottle of wine and returns to his chair. He moves with a slow grace now, but soon he will be just another stumbling, lurching fool. The smile of such forethought is quickly banished from his face by those all too familiar guilts. He is better than this, he is more than this, yet this is all he knows.

He slumps down into the chair once more, takes another thirsty mouthful of wine and thinks of tomorrow. He has plans, he always has plans. The when and where, the how and why, are already mapped out in his head in fine detail. The t of the what has been crossed, the ifs i dotted.

The record jumps.

Snapped from his thoughts he sits up, glaring at the record player.

The record jumps again.

In one fluid and sober movement he is up from his seat, the glass is placed to one side and he delicately plucks the needle from the vinyl. He looks down, horrified, at the deep dark scratch on the surface. He studies it closely, as if he can stare it out of existence, render the vinyl back to its previous, perfect, form. He crouches down to observe the light bouncing of the surface, he puzzles over how this has happened. Has someone been here? No, more likely the drunken fumblings of a previous night. With a resigned shake of his head he stands, picks up the glass and toasts the fallen soldier, all the while hoping Sam will have a good copy stored away somewhere in the back of his shop.

With a sigh he lifts the vinyl from the platter, a broken relic, useless to him now. He slides it back into its sleeve and casts it aside before realising he isn’t sure what to do next. He is out of his routine.

It is from such a small moment that endless possibilities bloom. He looks around at his threadbare furniture, the marked and pitted floorboards, the dull light through grimed windows. How did it get to this? Why didn’t he notice?

He stands in contemplation of what to do next.

ISTC website

My plan for the early part of next week is to start making updates to content on the ISTC website.

However, like all plans, it’s already had a curveball thrown at it in that the website was built using DreamWeaver a tool I am neither familiar with, nor fond of. Regardless, I’ll muddle through.

It’s an odd thing, taking over something that someone else has worked on for so long and I’m treading carefully at the moment. Thankfully there are several people who’ve said they’ll help out and, as we roll into 2011, I’m hoping the website will be in a much better place, serving both members and new visitors alike.

Looking around at other professional organisation websites, there are many examples and ideas we can look at and take inspiration from, and one key aim will be to allow people to update content quickly and easily and, once that is in place, we can look to integrate some of the community aspects that have been discussed previously (a year ago, how time flies!).

It won’t be a quick job, but I’m setting myself fairly aggressive targets to get the work done. Updated content by the end of the month, and an updated back-end to the website by the end of January.

Random thought of the day

I was at the Skunk Anansie gig last night and there were a lot of tattoos on display. A lot of them on women including one full lower arm piece. It got me thinking.

To have a large piece of ink on display, pretty much all the time, takes an attitude and lifestyle but which came first?

Was the “I don’t care what anyone thinks” attitude always there? Or was the tattoo part of gaining that attitude? Doubtless it was somewhere in-between but is there something there about being able to develop a mindset that maybe is sometimes hidden? A way of making a bold decision to make (force?) a change in your personality?

I think that it can take big events for some people to re-focus on themselves and take a step closer to who they want to be, and whilst it wasn’t the original reason behind my first tattoo, it’s certainly a lot closer tied to my thinking this time around.

Or maybe I’m just too old to care anymore.

Don’t answer that.

Upcoming

Just been checking my calendar.

    12th Nov – Tonight, out for food and drinks.

    13th Nov – Tomorrow, hand in registration form at new doctor, go discuss idea for next tattoo with artist.

    14th Nov – Sunday, early start at IKEA, then the building of various pieces of furniture whilst watching F1.

    15th Nov – Monday evening, Skunk Anansie at the O2 Academy.

    16th Nov – Tuesday evening, Kele at the Arches.

    17th Nov – Wednesday evening, start work for website design for client.

    18th Nov – Thursday evening, gym induction (tbc).

    19th Nov – Friday evening, pizza and movie night (the first, of many?).

    20th Nov – Saturday, out for lunch/drinks/munchies.

    21st Nov – Sunday evening, Caribou, Four Tet, Nathan Fake, James Holden at the ABC.

In other words, whilst I am pretty busy next week, I’m not going to short of things to blog about.

You have been warned.

Do you do PR?

Chattering teeth

I’m writing this whilst it is still fairly fresh (and only addled by a couple, ok ok, three pints of Guinness)…

At the ISTC West of Scotland Area Group meeting last night talk turned to the fairly common topic of “no-one knows what we do”. There was some chat about the value we can bring but, frequently, documentation is still seen as a “tick in the box”, a necessary evil or, even worse, an apathetic acceptance even though no-one else in the company quite knows why we exist other than the fact that we do.

I had made a point earlier about selling ourselves, marketing our services and capabilities and once again it seems obvious that, and I acknowledge that I’m no better than anyone else in this respect, we must do a better job of raising our profiles as professionals within our organisation, and of the profession itself.

Talk of past redundancies confirms this, documentation can easily be seen as an expensive cost, something which, surely, could be cheaper to create or be created by cheaper individuals or perhaps be done away with altogether? After all, no-one reads the documentation and everyone can write, how hard could it be?

But how?

Alas we didn’t get to that during our discussions, but I have a few ideas. For starters, we need to:

  • Identify champions, people within our organisation who understand the value we add to the product, and ask them for help.
  • Confirm our main customers are getting what they need from us (what they really need, not just the tick-the-box documents they’ve always received).
  • Communicate with our areas of the company more regularly so they know what we do

Nothing startlingly original there but one thing we all agreed on last night was that it was very easy to get into ‘head down’ mode, when you come into the office and work hard at to produce documentation, help systems, training guides, whitepapers, instructional videos, and more.

We need to, as a profession and as individuals, try to break out of those habits.

Yes, it’s hard, very hard in some situations, but most companies should be receptive to ideas which help make things better. It may be that your first port of call is to your boss to discuss why it would be a good idea to spend more time talking to the customers of your documentation, or it may be that another department is struggling and would welcome some helpful tips and a bit of direction.

We are professionals, and have much more to offer an organisation than information products alone. It’s just that sometimes we need to remind people of that, including ourselves.

Have you successfully conquered this? Do you indulge in PR and Marketing of your services, or the services of the team you are in? What has worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this one.

Alright me Babber

I was in Brizzle on Friday, I mean Bristol. It was a bit damp, but that didn’t matter as I was there for the wedding of a wonderful woman called Ann and a rather charming man called Karl.

I had some time to myself during the day, and wandered round the harbour area, avoiding the drizzle as best I could. It’s a nice place, from what I saw of it, and the people are really friendly. I’m sure it’s even nicer in the sunshine!

The wedding itself was one of the better weddings I’ve attended, not least for the company, many of whom were bloggers, more of whom were Twitterers (Twittees?), and all of whom were friendly, funny and most certainly game for a laugh. The bride looked stunning, the groom dashing, and I even got to wear a kilt for the evening which is always good.

Several highlights spring to mind, not least watching the bride pogo to Smells Like Teen Spirit. Meeting several people I’ve known online (some of which for almost ten years) for the first time is always fun, although we never did figure out quite who all the other people on Twitter were (hashtag for the evening was #pixnups, yes, it was a geek wedding!). There was beer, cameras, knitting, good chat, shoe porn, laughter, toy cars, and even a spot of dancing. Fun fun fun!

Mind you the getting up at 5.45 the next morning for the flight back, not so much fun!

Nor was locking myself out of my flat when I left on Friday morning, which meant I had to go pick up the spare set from the letting agency rather than just crawl into bed, whimpering.

The rest of the weekend was pretty quiet, but all added up to being a very good weekend indeed.

Come back soon for the next thrilling installment when I’ll be blogging about buying and constructing bookcases from IKEA, and plans for my next tattoo. The fun never ends!

One for my Dad

Apparently I’ve not been blogging much. My Dad commented on this last night when I phoned so I thought I’d post a wee update for all my tens of avid readers.

Not much is happening.

I’m working.

I have no internets. I will not have internets until November 23rd. In a royal cock up between O2 (with whom I’d like to have both my home phone and broadband services) and BT OpenReach (the engineer part of BT, the only people allowed to touch the exchange, apparently), I managed to have my new home phone number wrongly allocated to someone else (by BT).

That bit was funny actually. I got a txt from O2 to say my phone line was now connected and “here is your new phone number”. I thought I’d test it by phoning my landline from my mobile. It’s a weird thing to be staring at a phone, as you dial the number that should make it ring, for it not only to not make a sound but for someone to pick up and say “hello?”. Freaked me out that did!

Upon reporting that error, O2 said (after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing) that they’d have to cancel the order and set up a new one (which is where the 23rd November date comes in). I was supposed to have an engineer out today but O2 said, no, it’s cancelled now.

So when a BT engineer phoned today to say he was on his way … I was a bit perturbed. Nevertheless I went home, he fixed the line and got the phone number allocated to me. I happily phoned O2 to tell them this, presuming that as it had been sorted then they could just turn things back on at their end (or whatever it is they actually do) only to be told that as the order had been cancelled yesterday there wasn’t anything they could do and that they would, yes really, have to disconnect that number and issue me a new one (and a second wireless router for the broadband connection too. Yes, really).

Which all seems a bit fucked up and which will be the subject of a detailed complaint to O2 wherein I will ask for compensation as I have websites to fix/design/build and I’m losing money all the time I’m not doing those things!

OK, so strictly speaking I will have internet access via a USB dongle which O2 issued to me but it’s not quite the same!

Aside from that, nothing much is happening. The flat is slowly taking shape (the purchase of some new furniture will help), and I’m reasonably settled into my new routine although I’ve yet to add “going to the gym cos I’m a fat bastard” to that yet so we will see how that goes.

Ohh yeah, and I’m off to Bristol on Friday for a wedding. I fly down Friday morning and, thanks to EasyJet who only do one flight back on a Saturday, I’ll be getting up at 6.15am on Saturday. The day after a wedding. Where they will be serving alcohol. This strikes me as “not fair”. On the other hand I am getting to meet a lot of blogger-type people who I’ve never met before and that’s ALWAYS fun.