Friday, May 31, 2013

A bit of advice

There's something about groups of three. Triplets, trinities and triptychs strike a chord at the very deepest level of thought. (Also troikas and tricycles, but that would make a list of five, which doesn't work nearly so well. Though you should never forget the rule of five.)

Having briefly covered reading, writing and 'rithmetic in the previous post I thought I'd start this one off with another popular triple: fear, uncertainty and doubt.

When you are uncertain how to handle a situation and doubt your ability to succeed in it, it is only natural to fear and avoid the situation itself. For example...

I have been afraid of fitting curtain rails for more than thirty years. I read the do-it yourself guides and the instructions are clear. You mark your target and drill into the concrete lintel using a hammer drill and masonry bit. Perhaps there's something wrong with my masonry bit. Whenever I try, I make no impression at all on the lintel. Though I make a tremendous impression on the (usually ageing) plaster, shaking it to dust for about an inch all round the drill. My curtains are, at best, precarious.

So it was more in sorrow than in anger that I heard the Beloved cry out in alarm from the bedroom window. Like a disreputable politician draped in the Flag, I found her draped in the curtain. So there was nothing for it but to hie me to B&Q, acquire the fixings and a new curtain pole and follow Henry V once more into the breach.

More in desperate hope than expectation, I tried something a little different this time. And, just for once, it worked. Like a charm. So here is my bit (geddit?) of advice:
If you are getting nowhere with a masonry bit, try a High Speed Steel bit. (And switch off the hammer action.)
I don't seriously believe that my houses have all had RSJs over their windows. But they have all been over 100 years old, and perhaps in that time the concrete has hardened to a texture more like steel than brick.

It only took me something over 30 years to find this out.

There are plenty of other things I have been putting off because my tools and methods don't seem to work. I feel inspired: where to begin?

Early education: striking the balance

Too much reading

Or at least, browsing. Time to cut back on Facebook and Google+. (I'm not giving up "Bring Up the Bodies". So there.)

Not enough writing

Made a start. 'Nuff said.

Not enough 'rithmetic

Time for a cold look at the numbers. It's always wise to keep an eye on them, before they go scampering off somewhere naughty. Those little scampering scamps.

Clutching at money

It's the little things that get you...

I have loved a succession of Jimi wallets. These neat plastic cases hold five credit cards and four folded notes (three if you're American). Not just a wallet, but a minimalist philosophy of life.

BUT... folding notes takes just a little too long. It takes one more hand than I have conveniently available. It distracts me just a little too much from the transaction. On the other hand, the nice little snap-open plastic wallet often piques the interest of a bored sales assistant, starting a conversation and shining just a little light into a humdrum day.

My latest Jimi has come to the end of its life. They only last a couple of years. What to do? Replace it with another? Grow up and get a standard bloated leather wallet just like everyone else's?


When the Dutch aren't officiously sailing up the Medway and burning our fleet, they occasionally get quite creative. One thinks of the great master painters... the "good morning" mug... Schiphol airport... serious hydro engineering. And now, the secrid card holder/ wallet.

This ticks all the boxes: quirky, minimalist and takes notes without folding. And for bonus points, it prevents unwanted interference with your RFID cards. A tin-foil hat for your credit cards. Costs rather less than an expensive wallet but a lot more than a cheap one.

It arrived yesterday. I'm eagerly awaiting an excuse to take it shopping.

Now, about those Martians...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Not Waving But Rolling

Marketing guru and general brain box Seth Godin did two pieces a month or so ago on the subject of "picking yourself". The point being that it is an increasingly risky strategy to try and get someone else to pick you for a key job. Your pitch is drowned out by millions of others, and the key people actually have less power now to help you. Good stuff, and well worth a read.

But he finished off with the snide jibe: "the Grateful Dead or the Bay City Rollers?".

Let me add my small voice to the avalanche of outrage at your sneer at Scotland's premier boy band.
Especially as they actually illustrate your advice rather well. They picked themselves and spent five years building up their local following before they were ever seen by Tam Paton. And if they hadn't been picked, there is no reason to believe that they wouldn't have carried on as semi pro musicians entertaining the locals for many years. Which I would consider a success.
Of course, the phenomenon of Rollermania was more about clever marketing than music. And that was very actively planned and executed. And had very little to do with the band.
Or was that your point: that when you're picked you become someone else's product?

If so, I apologise for being dense.
Will Ross
It's always as well to check your facts before you enter the fray. My intensive researches on Wikipedia confirmed my memory of seeing Bay City Rollers  on the walls of the South Side of Edinburgh well before they shot to fame on Top of the Pops with their tartan accoutrements and general Scottishness. Imagine my delight when I also discovered that the Longmuir brothers started out in 1966 as Saxon. Having suffered throughout my school years as a Sassenach I feel a Mystic Bond.

The name apparently came from Bay City, known for its rolling waves, or Bay City Rollers. And indeed, the wave of pop history rolled on leaving the boys high and dry.

The last word must of course go to Godin. He summed up the aching pointlessness of getting picked for a ride in the locomotive of someone else's gravy train:

Seth Godin May 1
to: me
alas, you were the only one