Monday, December 22, 2014

A Christmas gift to entrepreneurs

I like to think that among my strengths are creativity, an understanding of people (and customers) and a passion for delivering outstanding service where possible.

In business, I am also a believer in remaining focused and true to a vision, so among many ideas  I have, one of the reasons I can't pursue them is a lack of capacity. That could be time or technical resource or access to the right markets, but often the commercial viability of an idea may not work out … or certainly may not prove to be scalable or sustainable.

But there has been one idea I’ve had that I am convinced has a market, is sustainable and scalable and currently lacks any serious direct competition. Unfortunately, I don't have the technical know how or the time to execute it, but like many great ideas and businesses, it is born from my personal needs as a consumer … and so many people like me.

So in a now time honoured tradition of some great men before me, I plan to put my idea out in the open for free. To see if it is grabbed and exploited to create a new industry that can serve consumers in need and see the development of some very successful businesses.

My only request, if anyone takes it, acknowledge where the idea came from and provide me a lifetime supply of the end product!

So here is the story …

We all know it is customary behaviour in hotels to pack the cute packaged toiletries provided. On the last day of a trip I was on recently with my wife, she over zealously packed all the shampoo a little too early. I found myself in the shower on our last morning with soap, shower gel, conditioner and creams … but no shampoo. When I asked my wife if she had packed all the shampoo, her casual answer was “yes, why do you need it?”. For those of you who have seen me in real life, my exposed scalp may cause you to wonder the same, but I do in fact, despite my minimal hair, shampoo every day.

Stolen hotel toiletries!

Maybe it has no impact or maybe it is force of habit, but I do not feel a shower is complete if I haven't shampooed. So this sparked an interesting debate at home and to prove my point we asked some friends, who share my hairstyle, if they shampoo or not. It was a unanimous yes ...on a daily basis!

In this metro-sexual age where the "men's grooming" industry has exploded, there are different creams and potions specifically designed for each and every different part of your body, this got me thinking about the scalp. That day, in the absence of shampoo, why didn't I just grab the shower gel and wash my head with that? I’ll tell you why... Because shower gel is for the body and shampoo is for the head.

Metro-Sexual retailing
So this led me to think about this further. We have hand creams and face creams and body creams. There are foot creams and eye creams and I am sure many other sorts of creams … but nothing for the male scalp!

Whether men wear no hair by nature or by design, there is a large exposed surface area of skin that needs to be looked after, and why should we men be forced to use non specific cream on our scalps? That is indeed my solution today, and I am sure it is not doing any harm (in fact I am sure it is still a much better option than not putting anything at all), but in a day and age where more and more men are becoming aware and caring about their appearance and well-being and where more and more men are choosing “bald” as an option, it has struck me as a gaping hole in the market that this has not been addressed.

My bald brethren
I’ve looked across skin care brands across the world and have not yet seen one specifically designed scalp cream. I profess that there is a market for this along with a range of complimentary products and accessories as well. If anyone agrees and has the know how, time and desire to run with this, please do. I wish you good luck and good fortune, it's going to be the next "big thing"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A trek in Tibet

One of my great passions is writing (hence this blog) and one morning a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a idyllic location sitting at a desk in a “writers room”.

All set up at the writers desk

I owed it to myself and my gracious host to compose something whilst there and not squander an amazing opportunity.

Surrounded by so much beauty, this should have been an easy task, but I had to first tackle the exhaustion from my journey. It was proving a challenge to make the altitude adjustment. As I sat at the desk, I found myself panting after climbing just one short flight of steps!

I am in one of the many research centers of CERS (the China Exploration and Research Society), and my host is How Man Wong, the extraordinary founder and President of this incredible organisation.

How Man in the central building on the CERS site

It was a Wednesday morning when I ventured out of Dubai with my son, and 36 hours later, late on Thursday evening, we arrived ... to Shangri-La. 3,200 meters above sea level near the Tibetan Plateau!

It was dark upon our arrival and we were exhausted. We were provided with a wholesome meal (Yak meat spaghetti bolognese as I recall) before going straight to bed.

We were warned that headaches and shortness of breath were normal on the first day and night and should be expected. I consider myself to be reasonably fit, so dismissed this as a warning for the weak, but sure enough I had restless night. I woke up a number of times gasping for breath,  totally dehydrated and with a splitting headache! 

My reason for this trip was to drop off my son who was going to be doing a 2 week internship with CERS, but I also relished the opportunity to come out and visit a place so far off the beaten track.

As morning arrived, I opened my curtains to catch my first glimpse of our surroundings. I was not disappointed. By and large, a totally unspoilt landscape of an ancient village. The only mar on this impressive vista ... a massive new highway under construction. Chinese infrastructure development stretches even as far as this remotest locations.

I was accommodated in a simple but comfortable 2 storey cottage with a bedroom and bathroom downstairs and a desk and sitting area upstairs. The floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the trees, streams, pastures and wetlands below. Admiring the view and layout of this top floor, It was clear why this room was naming this “the writers room”. It was truly inspiring.

The living room of the Writers Room - inspiring!

Following breakfast that first day, I spent my time wandering aimlessly. Enjoying the nature and clean fresh air, but it was also an opportunity to clear my head and tackle some long pending projects. Free thinking time that I never seem to get in "the real world".


In this lightning fast paced life we all live, it can be certainly be sensible, even necessary, to stop, pause and look around once in a while.

As I left my son at CERS to get on with their professional exploring, I ventured out for the next 2 days on my own. Armed just with my camera, I wanted to try and capture just some of the wondrous surroundings I was witnessing. Perhaps a chance to capture it now, before it has a chance to develop too far. 


It was a thoroughly enjoyable, and productive, experience.

Thank you CERS and How Man.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Microsoft Surface 3 ... All things to all people ?

Microsoft has a knack of getting things right on their 3rd iteration.

Windows 3, Pocket PC and now the Surface 3!


I was a fan of the original Surface when it was launched. An excellent and innovative form factor with superb build quality, but the poor battery life and my fear of Windows 8 (at the time) kept me away from buying one (and many millions of others as well it appears, as Microsoft had to discount them heavily to clear their stocks).

I was braver when they launched the Surface 2. I opted for the Surface 2 RT as the battery life was improved to 10 hours and it was a significantly lighter machine than the “Pro”. I could mostly manage with the limitations of RT, but Microsoft dropped pen support on this model, and that was a frustration for me.

But fast forward less than 12 months and the announcement of the 3rd iteration of Surface a few weeks ago got me all excited. From the announced spec, they seemed to have nailed it!

Improving the already excellent form factor by making the kick stand more flexible, the full Windows version shed significant weight, gained the 10 hour battery and pen support was back … all this and an increased screen size to 12” made this a must have for me.


So the timing of my trip to Boston was perfect as it coincided with the launch date and I put myself on the waiting list.

3 weeks later and my impressions are all that I could have hoped for. This machine functions as a large tablet, a writing pad and a full size laptop all in one … as near as perfect as you can get.

The Holy Grail? People will knock this for 2 main reasons. First, because it is a Microsoft product, and its just “not cool” to have one of those, and the second will be the lack of apps.

As for the coolness of Microsoft … those sheep followers of Apple will ignore this at their own cost. Everything about this product beats the Macbook Air and the iPad, and this is ONE product. It’s also superior to the large Galaxy Note tablets, simply because of its sheer power and ability as a full fledged computer. Windows 8, with some practice is also an easy to use and versatile operating system (on a touch screen). While it is lacking in a number of entertainment apps that you will find on iOS and Android,  there are enough work and productivity solutions to do everything you need (and the fun stuff keeps coming online as well, albeit slowly).

The pen support on this device is a real treat. A well designed pen … something that looks and feels like a real world pen (Samsung, please note!) makes this device really usable as a writing pad in meetings. I hate taking notes on a keyboard. I find it somewhat impersonal when talking to someone and at the same time typing. Writing is, of course, so much more natural and in my previous life I would have pages and pages of my own handwritten notes, but no way to properly file them so I had them with me always (the best I managed was photographing them and putting them in Evernote, but this was a clunky solution).


Writing directly onto the screen (something the Galaxy Notes do very as well, albeit with a toothpick size pen) and having all your notes with you all the time, is a real boone! But that leads to my biggest criticism (and where the Samsung toothpick wins over). Microsoft has not figured out how to attach the pen to the Surface! There is a magnetic edge which can hold the pen, but its no way strong enough to manage even light travel. It’ll hold there neatly during a meeting, or within an office environment moving from room to room, but try throwing that in a bag and you will certainly lose the pen. And that’s linked to problem number 2, which is that there are no cases readily available for this lovely device. Credit where credit is due … no Apple device is launched today without a whole suite of accessories being available for it on day 1. A nice folio to hold my Surface 3 with a good pen holder would have been a treat, and without that, I am making do with a compromise solution and no secure place to put my pen (which means I have found myself in situations where I need to take notes, but cant!).


But I have to say, apart from this relatively minor (albeit frustrating) issues, this is an excellent product. I’m loving it my Surface 3. I’ve had the time to test it thoroughly in a wide host of situations and scenarios and It really does appear to be a single product that can be all things to all people.

Well done Microsoft!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Parents shouldn't need "apps" to parent

By my own admission, I am not the most disciplinarian of parents, but I do think I know where lines need to be drawn.

The phrase "today's kids" is one that is bandied about quite freely, almost as an excuse in some cases for misbehavior or ill discipline, and while the world has certainly changed since I was in shorts, certain home truths should remain constant (like listening to parents).

I started writing this blog entry when I came across a new iPhone app called "DinnerTime". I'm an avid tech follower and am game to learn about and try new apps, but this one really irked me .. in fact, it made me quite angry!

The function of the app? You program into your child's phone meal times and it prevents them using the phone at such times.

The app co-founder wrote: I’ve noticed that my children find technology to be addictive at times, playing games or watching videos on their tablets or phones, and are easily distracted by their devices at dinner time and bed time. This gave me the idea for DinnerTime, as I wanted to create something that could help my children focus on other activities, and we could enjoy quality time together.

Now I confess that my kids love their screens. I don't particularly have an issue with that, but like everything, they should be used in moderation and they should understand and respect parental rules that are set. For us, a certain amount of screen time is allowed on weekdays and a certain amount on weekends. Phones are charged at night time in the family room (not in the bedrooms) and they are not allowed to be used in the car on short journeys and absolutely never at the dinner table.

The way we implement these rules at home is the old fashioned way ... using words.

I find it simply abhorrent that any parent would need an app to forcefully shut down their child's phone at the dinner table because they cannot do it with words.

I think its "today's parents" that are different ... taking an easy route like this keeps a future generation on a downward societal trend with an inability to look up and engage with other people.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Coincidence?

I watched a great series last month ... The Men Who Built America.


Learning about a handful of American industrialists who revolutionised their country and the world was fascinating. A mixture of good fortune, timing and no shortage of courage and ability built the basis for an economy that would dominate the world for more than a century, but would also create some fortunes that are unmatched to this day.

While watching these programmes, one set of developments, or perhaps coincidences, was more striking than any other.
 
In the late 1800's, John D Rockefeller took control of the early railroads in America. This was necessitated by his need for a delivery system for the product his Standard Oil company produced. It was in an era before cross country pipelines existed.

With Standard Oil company,  Rockefeller controlled the nations source of artificial light, Kerosene, and this was put under severe threat by the invention of electricity. As Thomas Edison invented the light bulb and powered it by Direct Current (DC), his apprentice, Nicola Tesla was concerned about the safety of DC and went on to develop Alternating Current (AC) electricity generators and grids, which is what we still use today.


Nicola Tesla
Tesla's AC changed the world and posed a serious threat to Standard Oil's kerosene business. Never one to give up without a fight,  Rockefeller looked at ways to combat this threat. While not a direct solution, Rockefellers search within an industry he already controlled led him to find a practical use for gasoline, previously a discarded waste product from oil refining. He found that it's highly flammable and unstable constitution proved to be its forte, and with this fuel, the internal combustion engine was born.

Originally used in heavy machinery to power engines,  it's demand reached insatiable levels when applied to the horseless carriage,  or "car"!

A century or so later, we live in an age where the automobile has changed our world, but we are at a stage where the environmental damage being caused by internally combusted cars is demanding a "cleaner" solution. Queue Elon Musk,  founder of the most revolutionary electric car company on the planet (My Tesla review).

Rockefeller versus Tesla all over again!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Michael McIntyre: Not just a funny man!

I had a rather depressing morning!

As my continued love for audio books grows, I have taken to the genre of comedy. My latest download being the auto biography of Michael McIntyre, "Life and Laughing".


Certainly one of my favorite comedians today, I was delighted when I started listening to the book, that it was in fact also narrated by the funny man himself.

The opening chapters have been amusing and the story of Michael's life is tremendously well told and filled, as you would expect, with numerous and humorous anecdotes.

I have listened to this book while walking on the street (being conscious of literally laughing out loud and how that looks to passers by) and also while driving to work and back. My desire to hear more of this story each day has prolonged my commute as I have deliberately slowed down my driving.

I jumped in the car this morning and the wonders of Bluetooth, Samsung and Jaguar all worked together to start Michael talking automatically. "Chapter 13" were the first words I heard. "What tales would Michael have collected for this unlucky number" I thought to myself. Until now, the book had been tremendously successful in recounting a host of self deprecating stories of Michael's life to the age of 17. Each day I have left my car with a spring in my step and a broad smile on my face as I took pleasure at poor Michael's challenges as a youth.

As I set off on the road to work, I settled down in the slow lane and listened intently. The chapter focused on Michael's relationship with his father. They had lived apart for many years following a divorce and Michael's father was living far away in the USA. The tone of this chapter took a turn from the others. It was emotional and heartfelt and took on a seriousness the previous pages did not have. You could feel Michael's pain in being apart from his father for extended periods, and as the chapter moves on, it culminates in the sudden death of his father while in the United States and away from the children he adored. For me, listening, it became a struggle to concentrate on the road. The re-telling of these events from Michael was heart wrenching. There was a somber tone and as I held myself together, I was expecting Michael to break down while telling his story. He didn't! He remained composed and serious and conveyed an amazing amount of emotion and feeling.

I stepped out of the car feeling somber and quite shaken, but also tremendously moved by what I had just heard. It was the same as it would have been if a close friend had shared a very private story with me ... but then, after all, it was just me and Michael in the car.

The chapters' telling has affected my entire day ... which is why I feel compelled to write this blog entry this afternoon, as I have to get this heaviness off my shoulders.

I also mean this to be a testimony and compliment to Michael McIntyre. I have admired him as a stand up comedian. As I have been going through his book, I was beginning to admire him as an author and an excellent narrator, but he deserves astonishing credit for what he has achieved in chapter 13. He has stepped away from his comfort zone, dug deep, shared and given us readers (or listeners) a profound look into a very personal and private part of his life. He moved from being just a funny man to being an eloquent writer who can move peoples emotions with words on a page. A rare talent!

My congratulations to you Michael and my condolences to you on the loss of your father,. My thanks to you for making me laugh and cry and providing me with so much joy in whatever form you perform.


I can't wait to go home today and listen to chapter 14!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls

 
It has been quite a depressing few weeks on the news.
 
Flight MH370, the Korean ferry disaster, civil war in South Sudan and of course the ongoing troubles in Ukraine.
 
With all of this and a number of other tragic and depressing stories we are bombarded with every day, I am overwhelmed by the plight of several hundred innocent schoolgirls. A news story that overshadows all others.
 
 
Boko Haram has been terrorising Nigeria for a number of years now. There has been much talk and little visible action against them. hundreds have died in cowardly attacks on civilian targets and this information typically passes through the international news within about 24 hours.
 
But about 4 weeks ago, Boko Haram carried out their most unforgivable crime yet. A pathetic and unbelievably cowardly act of kidnapping 200 school girls in northern Nigeria.
 
Terrorism, in any form, is a low down despicable act in any case, but this action is unforgivable beyond compare. How does anyone consider this an act that carried any form of justification? The people involved have to be callous beyond belief and have no place to live within humane society.
 
The leader of Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for this heinous crime and made a feeble attempt to justify it by saying that women should not be educated ... so the answer? Kidnap innocent girls from loving families and sell them off as slaves! These sick animals (who don't deserve to be referenced as "human beings") themselves do not deserve a place among any society.
 
These criminals dress in military garb and try to portray themselves as a hard line organisation choose to pick on perhaps the weakest and most vulnerable target imaginable. This is nothing less than weak and cowardly.
 
Thank god the international press did not let this incident pass as easily as those in the past and the world has been forced to sit up and take notice. Stronger powers have decided not to sit back, but are now sending in assistance to Nigeria to help the country deal with the despicable Boko Haram and hopefully find and free these small girls.
 
One can only wonder and fear how these girls must be feeling in their forced captivity, and I dread to think how they are being treated all these past days (we just hope they are still alive).
 
I only hope that the unbelievably low depths to which Boko Haram has now sunk will prove to be their undoing. Their insanity driving them to a point which is too far for anyone to accept and now serious and permanent action will be taken.

While I fear the chance is remote, let's hope that their downfall can also see the schoolgirls recovered without any serious harm and a permanent end to terrorism in the country.
 
My thoughts go out to all those girls and their parents back at home. To give them the strength to get through this unimaginable ordeal.
 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The survey that never was!

Unbelievable!

I just received a call from one of my banks asking if they could conduct a customer satisfaction survey. My normal response to such a call would be a straight “no”, but apart from the fact I was happy to take a break from what I was doing, this is a bank I am not happy with, so I was ready to take the time and give them the “constructive” feedback they deserved!

The man on the phone introduced himself and his bank and the purpose of the call. As per good practice, he verified who I was and asked if I had the time to take this short survey.

His opening gambit was perfect for me. “Do you know your relationship manager?”. In fact it was what instantly came to my mind when this guy called, as no one from the bank has ever made contact with me and this was my perfect chance to register that as a complaint.

“No” came back my immediate response and it was followed by silence.

“Oh!”, a pause, “Thank you very much then sir”, and he hung up!

I was gobsmacked! Surely a customer service survey should enable the bank (or any company) to improve itself, but these guys just worsened their credibility! What a perfect opportunity they had to rectify a wrong and steer me into satisfied customer territory, but all they ended up doing was highlighting even more that they just didn’t care! I was left reeling in disappointment, not least because the introduction to the call took longer than the entire 5 seconds that the “interview” lasted!

If this bank didn’t have such a good air miles programme on their credit card, I’d have ditched them long ago!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Younger Next Year

Following my last blog entry, I am voraciously ingesting audio books. The next two I selected were on lifestyle improvements. Books I had heard about and been recommended, but could never muster the interest to read … but to have them read to me? That's another story!
 
After reading Allen Carr's book on losing weight (read here), my life changed dramatically. I lost about 15kg in a matter of weeks (and went from over weight to ideal weight) and felt so much better inside that I got encouraged to lead a generally fitter and healthier lifestyle.
 
Where I would previously have devoured a family size pack of crisps (“chips” to my American brethren), I now look upon the smallest serving with disdain and horror. What used to be a once or twice or more frequent serving of junk food per week, a stop at McDonald's is now reserved for real emergencies only.
 
Don't get me wrong. When I do dip into a helping of Cheese and Onion Lays that my kids have tempted me with, I reminisce of “the good old days” with that flavour and texture crunching in my mouth, and a bite of a juicy Quarter Pounded with Cheese in that soft white bun is heaven revisited, but I then remind myself of how hard I have worked to get where I am today and get somewhat fearful (actually petrified) of slipping back to my old pudgy self, and that is what keeps me on the straight and narrow.
 
So to get additional help in staying fit and trim is always welcome!
 
I had recently been reading a lot about the 5-2 diet, or “Fast diet”. A notion of being able to eat what you want as long as it is only 5 days a week. The other 2 days should be fasting days. The idea sounding appealing, but immensely hard. As I had learned and experienced through my reading of Alan Carr, no “diet” is going to work if it can't become a complete lifestyle changer. Following an eating plan for a few days, weeks or even months will not have a long term effect unless your life completely changes (forever) to support this.
 
That is what concerned me about the Fast Diet. How long could I keep on fasting 2 days a week?
 
So, with ease and speed, I listened to the book. The theory behind it is backed up with clinical testing and proves to be convincing in its promise, and best of all, by understanding the full story, the Fast Diet is not that difficult to follow.
 
Its main principle lies behind the premise of weight loss (or gain) as a simple formula of calories in minus calories out! The Fast Diet fast days actually allow you to eat 25% of your normal calorie intake (about 600 calories for men and 500 for women). Following my Allen Carr experience, I was often doing this anyway as that book (like the Fast Diet) encourages you to eat only when truly hungry and not otherwise … and on some days I just am not.
 
With the Fast Diet, the underlying premise is that you eat 25% of your normal calories on 2 non consecutive days per week, and then eat how you would normally eat all other days. The authors have researched that the days following a fast day are not glutinous feasts where people gorge themselves silly to make up for all that was lost the previous day. In fact, the most that gets consumed the following day is 125% of the normal calorie intake (and in many cases no extra and in some cases, mine included, even less than the usual intake). So in the worst case, over the course of the week, you will not consume the amount of calories you would normally have consumed for one full day. So assuming you do everything as you previously did, you are sure to lose weight!
 
That sounds pretty good, pretty realistic and pretty doable!
 
Anything wrong with this? The authors profess that with this diet, you need to make NO CHANGE to your existing lifestyle (apart from the 2 days of fasting) and you will lose weight. That's right! It's the dream solution. A couple of days of light eating and the rest of the time eat and drink what you want and don't make any lifestyle change and you will lose weight and become more healthy … but I take issue with that. I don't argue that it wont work, but I personally feel it is such a waste to go through that to achieve dramatic weight loss results and not use the opportunity to improve your body and fitness levels at the same time.
 
So along came the next audio book. A book recommended to me a while ago and I have had the copy sitting at home for well over a year, but each time I wanted to start it, I would pick up a piece of fiction instead. I'm a slow enough reader as it is, and even a riveting novel is enough to send me to sleep when I read last thing at night, so a book on “wellness” was not proving appealing to me, until now …
 
“Younger Next Year” was “sold” to me as another life changing book. I didn't know what it was about and assumed it would be another set of useful pointers on keeping my weight down. From the moment it started playing it in my car, I understood this was something different. It's brilliantly read and keeps you hooked, and it's written in such a hard hitting way … it literally holds no punches in its advice!
 
I am 44 years old, and although the book is aimed at those in their 50's and over, its proving to be immensely powerful to me knowing those days are right around the corner for me.
 
Younger Next Year talks about living life TO THE FULL until you are 90 (or the day you drop dead}! It questions why people need to become frail and fragile in their most senior years, and it doesn't talk about diet AT ALL! This is not a book about losing weight or getting healthier now. It is a book about how your body will naturally and surely steadily decay as you age unless you choose to do something about it.
 
This book adds the missing link for me. This book talks about exercise. The authors are 100% open in professing that there is NO SHORTCUT to being healthy and living long. A good diet is no bad thing, but exercise is the key! How much exercise? 6 days a week of at least 45 minutes ... for the rest of your life!
 
That took and takes a lot of digesting. That's a hell of a commitment … especially considering this has to be a lifestyle change and you have to do it for the rest of your life! But it's explained in such a way that it makes total sense, and more importantly, explained in a way (that for me, at least) makes it quite achievable.
 
3-4 days a week of hard aerobic exercise and 2-3 days a week of weight or strength training. Now, for me, I play football every Sunday and sometimes Tuesdays and go fencing some Wednesday. All I need to do is commit to the Tuesday football and Wednesday fencing and then add in an activity on the weekends with the kids and I am there. As the book advocates, vary it up and try rowing, it's a great workout! We are fortunate to live on the beach and have a couple of kayaks parked out back .. they are there begging to be used.
 
So all I have to do is mix in some weight training (something I have never done before and need to push myself to do) and I hope to be, as the book promises, younger next year!
 
It's a lot to do and will take a mental shift. As I think of the effort involved …it wont be easy. It’s going to take time and a lot of energy and I'm intrinsically telling myself (at 44) that I'm too old for a big change like this! But guess what? I’M NOT! It's all in the head. It may be a cliché, but its true to say that you are only as old as you feel! Sometimes I find myself in a football game and slowing down, but it just takes one move and one mental shift and I am back in the game with full vigour … and it feels great.
 
I'm not too old. I'll put in the effort along with my improved eating habits and change my mental gear to ensure that I will not only be and feel younger next year, but hope to feel better, healthier and fitter in my life than I have ever done before.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Driving to work with Sir Alex Ferguson

Reading and writing are among my biggest passions, but sadly, I don't find enough time to do either. This blog often only manages to get a monthly entry, and books, apart from long hours on planes, usually only get the last 10 minutes of my attention at night just as my eyelids are dropping ... but I frequently yearn for a time when I can just get away from it all and get myself engrossed in a good book.

Perhaps fatefully, or just by mere coincidence, two friends recently mentioned audio books to me. Something I had obviously heard of, but just dismissed as no substitute for reading a real book. One of those friends told me he used an audio book to accompany him on one of his marathons ... something I am not likely to emulate anytime soon, but the other mentioned that he just listened to them in the car during his daily commute ... a more appealing scenario to me.


The coincidences continued as, shortly after, Amazon sent me an offer of a free trial for any book on Audible, their audio book app and service. I opted for the Alex Ferguson biography. Downloaded on to my phone in seconds and hooked up to my car audio with bluetooth, I was listening away on my way to work.



In this particular book, the forward is read out by Sir Alex himself, and the rest of the book by a Scottish "actor". This certainly keeps the authenticity alive, and I have to congratulate the reader on his interpretation. He brought the story to life with terrific intonations and even voice impersonations where necessary. Where I had imagined a dull text book style rendition of the pages, this story telling had me riveted. Listening to how SAF looked down upon David Beckham's extra curricular activities but cherished his class of '92 team mates, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. How he respects and (now) likes Arsene Wenger and Jose Morinho but doesn't really care for Rafa Benitez and his management style. How he grew his teams with a blend of nurturing young apprentices and buying big stars, and how he masterfully managed a football club to record success again and again and again.

The story, which had in any case intrigued me, nevertheless brought to mind the words of my friend who recommended audio books for a commute ... "you will look forward to your drive to work just to get back into the story". And that sums it up perfectly! I would get in the car and enter Ferguson's world. Often, upon arriving at my destination, I would remain in my parked car, not wanting to leave until the end of a chapter.

What a great find and a big thanks to those who suggested this to me. While I am still reading ebooks at bed time (at a snails pace), I am searching for my next audio book to download. Who knows, it might encourage me to run a marathon!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Unreasonable expectations!

I am writing while on a flight from Dubai to LA. It's a quick 17 hour flight aboard a state of the art Airbus A380.

The most beautiful aircraft to grace the skies!

It's incredible what we take for granted these days.

I board with my tablet, that I painstakingly updated yesterday to ensure I have enough Media loaded to keep me busy for this enormous journey, but apart from writing this blog., I don't even use it! Why? Because Emirates provides it's passengers with literally hundreds of hours of entertainment. Entire box sets of the latest series, be they drama or comedy, from the USA, UK or any number of countries in Asia. The latest Hollywood and Bollywood hits and movie classics from the ages.

Sitting in supreme comfort ...for 17 hours
In between my provided for entertainment, I am served 3 meals, numerous snacks, offered a selection of fine wines (I opted for a Malbec) and even an on board shower service... so you can step off a flight this long and go straight into a meeting looking and feeling fresh.

As this is working day and I am spending it's entirety in the air, I'm concerned to be out of touch that long, but on this marvel of technology, there is a full WiFi and mobile phone service on board. I can be in touch with the ground, my office and friends and family. It's incredible!

So what's the point of this blog... What's my "beef" with all of this? I'm not one to jump on the camp of shutting off all connections on board for the want of a last bastion of privacy where mobile phones don't invade our lives. I welcome the connectivity. I'm glad there are multiple power sockets at my seat, so I can not only use my technology., but have it unlimited.... and that's where the problem is!

All the connectivity you could wish for!

Despite being able to fly to the other side of the world, non stop, in a little over half a day in supreme comfort, I am most bothered that we took 3 hours to fly over the North Pole and the communications system on the plane didn't work during that period.

Shock and horror! Mobile phone services not available!

Ignore the fact that there is a live GPS tracker aboard so I did in fact know we were above the North Pole. Indeed, ignore the fact that we were in fact flying above and over the North Pole at all and that I was feasting in front of a 21" touch screen TV with video on demand playing while it was happening.

In fact, ignore that there was nothing even pressing or remotely life threatening that I had to deal with during that microcosm of time, but it highlights what we take for granted with technology these days, and when it is taken away from us, what a challenge we find it to survive.

I'd like to say the I yearn for a day where we will not be so attached to technology, but the fact is we are only going to get more and more integrated with it....

... and I, for one, love it!