Session Timed Out

I’ve a real issue with time. I’ve run out…so where did it go wrong what did I do today?

22:30 to 22:15 make MrsA some tea and take the dog out.

22:15 to 21:15 watched ‘World on Fire’.

21:15 to 20:30 shaved, showered made tea.

20:30 to 19:30 cleaned up, put rubbish in skip, tools in drawer and wheely bins out.

19:30 to 18:45 painted Peter and carefully removed masking tape and touched up as needed.

18:45 to 18:30 washed up.

18:30 to 18:00 found and booked a hotel in Gutersloh. Text Hans-Gerd.

18:00 to 17:45 ate.

17:45 to 17:00 prepared evening meal. Spoke to Amy.

17:00 to 13:30 painting which after multiple coats on the ceiling a flaw in the plaster needed flatten revealing a patch called Peter. Caught up on work email and diary.

13:30 to 12:15 took Amy to station. Called mum as brother in hospital.

12:15 to 12:00 ate lunch. Checked in for tomorrow’s flight.

12:00 to 11:00 painting.

11:00 to 10:00 shopping at Aldi.

10:00 to 9:15 painting.

9:15 to 8:15 breakfast and proof read Amy’s report. Fed dog and washed up.

8:15 to 7:15 watched ‘Life on Mars’.

7:15 to 07:00 got up late and made a brew.

Hardly the most exciting blog but who cares? It’s made me feel better!

Running out of time…

Seems to be I have an issue with time. The plan for today’s blog was going to be a lengthy one about our relationship with time and the limitations of the human brain to properly grasp it. But here I am at the end spending a day prepping and painting the bathroom completely out of the stuff!

Tomorrow will be busy as I need to finish it off, catch up on work email and get ready for heading to Germany on Monday.

Tick…tock!

Prized Possessions

We live in an age of unbridled consumerism where products have built in obsolescence and we are encouraged to dispose of them through the tempting offers of shiny and new. I think this is because we live in a world of “More is Good” and if you want to get an appreciation of this, I highly recommend reading the Boatman, a fantastic novel by Sarah Beth Hunt.

Last years purchase of a new iPhone left me underwhelmed and I paused for thought and considered is there anything I have that I would be really sorry to lose? And when I mean lose I mean miss.

So I whittled it down to few things that I get pleasure from: Bikes, Watches, Devices (computer/tablet/phone) and Music (radios/CD players).

Bikes. If any of you follow me on Twitter you might know I’ve four of them. My favourite is my mountain bike. Why? because it’s taken me all over the county in all weathers, I have ridden it with Tom when he was younger where we did the Roman Challenge a few times together. It’s not a fancy brand indeed it’s Halfords home brand. I have twice attempted to ride a 100miles on Solstice 100 and failed twice! It’s dog eared, gets punctures like would not believe and has a dodgy back brake from when I fell off. But I love it.

Watches. I have a couple of dress watches and a couple of out door watches. I’m not into wearable tech so they’re all perfectly dumb. But my favourite is my Casio G Shock. I wear it come rain or shine, it beeps gently at 5:35 each morning and when I go overseas I can set the local time in a jiffy. Most of all I like is that it takes some figuring to master all the features – it’s got Japanese engineer written all over it.

Devices. Modern life demands we’ve a tablet and a smart phone. In fact I’m typing this on my iPad in Prague using a hotspot from my iPhone. These are completely fantastic but in fact I think I would miss my desktop computer, it’s an iMac and being 9 years old positively geriatric! But it looks so damn cool sat on my desk in the grey aluminium with a sleek mouse and compact keyboard.

Music. Okay I’m generation X. I grew up on cassette tapes had a Sony Walkman and was wowed when CDs first appeared. These days I have my old ghetto blaster that lives in the garage, a DAB radio that lives in the kitchen and a buggered radio alarm that can also charge Apple gadgets with the old big 40 pin connector. But my favourite is actually my HiFi separates, it’s an old basic Cambridge amp, a CD player with a buzzy transformer and a set of Gale speakers in period wood grain (I’m not sure which period or if it ever was ‘in’).

My favourites all have one thing in common. I did not buy them brand new. They have all had previous owners.

While they’re not perfect I have had memorable times putting them to use and still use them extensively. These days I am thoughtful about any new purchases carefully weighing things up and determining if I really need them.

So what are your prized possessions and why?

Life as an Engineer

Okays folks, todays blog is much later than planned and will be brief.

I trained as an engineer and some 27 years later engineering still runs through my veins. Part of our the global engineering brethren is a common language found in food and drink along with tech conversation. So despite my best endeavours to have a tame evening it fell apart because I enjoyed the company of Jiri and Libor who are, like me, at heart engineers and more importantly I am in the Czech Republic so it would be rude not to share in the local brew.

So what make us special? I guess the fact we like figuring solutions to problems when we describe the problems we end up speaking the same language. In fact if I would hazard a guess the world we be a better place if it was run by engineers although decisions would be taken even more slowly as we are notoriously risk averse!

The Romance of Autumn

I am writing this blog entry while travelling. Actually I am at 37,000 feet just south of Cologne heading to Prague. When I travel I find I am at my most reflective, and it’s a great opportunity to ponder and gather my thoughts – ‘house keeping of the brain’ so to speak.

So what prompted this was a stroll in the park a few days ago with my wife, Gail. I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid especially enjoyed the chill mornings and warm days of autumn with the unique pungent smells and colours the season brings.

My childhood memories also included elements of foraging for apples, blackberries, elderberries and even mushrooms. Our first holiday as a couple was a cottage in the Lake District in October and the days we spent in a magical corner of England was blessed with glorious weather showing off the hills and valleys beautifully.

Then for a long time I lost touch with nature and over the last few years since taking up cycling I’m discovering it again. This time from a different perspective, observing the contrast of what the seasons bring and also how they affect me. Summer brings long days, sleepless nights and an overactive mind dragging me down as the nights grow longer in the run up to Autumn I sleep better, think more clearly and I feel more alive. As a result, I feel more relaxed, easy going and I feel I become more truer to myself. I also feel I get on top of my tasks and procrastinate less at work.

I read ‘Home’ by Francis Pryor, a retired archaeologist, and in his book he perfectly explains the circle of life and how our ancestors were deeply connected to the coming & going of seasons and the years. The penny dropped, as deep within my brain that is wired to modern life, it is still Mother Nature that has the over riding say.

So for me autumn brings more than the notional romance of the season, it brings relief and is a big part of my personal circle of life.

So, dear reader, how much are you in touch with the seasons of the year? And what effect do they have on you?

Transient Friendship

Well I’ve nearly failed on the BlogPals19 challenge on day two, because I’m not writing what I had planned for the day and it’s late.

So what do I mean by ‘Transient Friendship’?

Well I guess it’s the sort of person I am, I have never made long lasting friendships and quite frankly do not have deep enough friendships that stand the test of time. I’ve periodically thought about why I am this way especially when I see other people enjoying the company of close friends.

So this afternoon, we had a surprise visit from my old college friend, Jools. We were close drinking buddies, skinned our knuckles keeping our old bangers on the road and went on holiday together. He was the best man at my wedding. The last the we saw each other was back in 2008. Over ten years ago but the effort has been largely made by him to keep in touch. Needless to say we caught up quickly about our lives to date, ate a meal and then talked a little about old times with Jools reminding me of many things I had forgotten.

It’s not that I don’t want to have separation but I don’t feel the need to keep a friendship going. I am actually happy to talk to strangers, learn a bit and leave at that. As a result I have literally no friends I see regularly.

The question is am alone in this? Comments below, please!

Working with Americans

The company I work for is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. In the early days, in my thirties, I was actually daunted to be in touch with folk from the U S of A and this was because I had a deep imprint on my mind of America more so than any other country.
It was grim up North!
Needless to say this was being immersed in American TV, film and music. Bearing mind for a young boy growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in a city with a lot of poverty and losing the industries it had grown on, American TV fed an imaginative young mind of a massive country, where anything is possible. This was validated with my childhood obsession of aeroplanes where books were filled with a bounty of American excitement, chief of which was the Lockheed Blackbird (you can’t take the boy out of the man!)

Perfect Smiles and Teeth!

So my expectation was wow, these guys are from a great country, they’re the leaders of the free world and have an inane ability to get everything right and be successful. All with perfect smiles and cool cars!
Leaders of the Free World leading the Federation!
The first experience was when our CEO came to the UK and despite being incredibly successful he told us we were crap at our jobs and our attitude stunk, if we didn’t knuckle down and improve our margins he would close us down. That was back in 2001 and I though typical American hard nosed boss just like off Dallas. My first visit to the US was to help out a trade show in Las Vegas. After arriving at the hotel at about 10:30 one Saturday night in February it was just like the movies and TV shows I had seen! The next day I met my colleagues – actually a decent bunch and as we had to assemble our stand (or booth) we all pitched in. So the first thing that struck me is the middle managers in the team knuckled down with the regular guys and without any real effort they figured who would do what and quickly.
Further visits involved seeing customers and working with colleagues. It struck me how much more straightforward problem solving was (I am an engineer) in that barriers to get the job done we not as high. I also picked up on a general can do attitude which chimed with me and as I reflected I noticed that Americans quickly grasp the problem and then appear to have a natural ability to ‘fall in line’ – knowing each skill they can offer to help progress the solution.
In Kindergarten Cop there’s a scene were the kids have to stand up explain who their daddy is and what does he do. When I was watching it again for the umpteenth time it hit me – there was something in schooling that was very different to the UK. In that kids are encouraged to get up and speak to class, report out and this makes for people who are better able to voice their opinion.
During subsequent visits I got to learn a little about what makes up for some of the attitudes. One colleague is very ‘liberal’, living a University town he is someone who I readily relate to. Another colleague is deeply ‘conservative’ and it would very easy in a sneering British way to mock his deeply held religious beliefs. Now in fairness he has never promoted these at work but I recall a road trip with him on a cold winters day in remote rural Tennessee and I got it completely. Of course you needed to be self sufficient, carving out your life without undue interference from others and in that as well as holding down his day job, he reared cattle on his ranch, played in a blue grass band, a leader in his Church and homeschooled his kids. He is one of the most honest, hardworking, yet easy going people I have ever met.
These days boss is American and I work very closely with the HQ team. In fact I have had three American bosses.
But it’s not all perfect. For sure the UK and US are two cultures separated by a common language which can make for some amusing moments. The problem comes about in identifying the goal and the strategy to achieve it. The American way is often obstinate at this point and embark on a course of action using a combination of optimism and brute force. For a Brit it translates as a refusal to see sense.
So when we can work so closely together how does this come about? I think there are two reasons, one is the attitude of a young, resource rich nation with an entrepreneurial attitude that does not mock failure and the other is the mature, make do and mend attitude that has the legacy of hierarchy and a shame of failure. I guess this makes the British quicker to concede (in the eyes of Americans) and the Americans obstinate (in the eyes of the British).
So what makes the perfect recipe? Well that’s easy – an American firm with a British boss!