Thursday, February 24, 2011

Window Shopping.

Note: Old table and chairs by Craig's List
The past few weeks I've been mostly obsessing about windows.  Our 100 year old house in London was too drafty and hence costly to heat even when we lived there over 2 years ago.  So when our friend, who now rents the house from us, mentioned "slight troubles with the windows," we knew it was time to reach deep into our pockets. Ouch!  Now you probably already know how little I like spending money on anything without 'cycle' in its name... so that was tough.

Actually the UK end was sort of easy.  Our friend did the leg work, got the quotes and we suddenly realized that we really didn't care about the aesthetic anymore.  When we lived there, we could never decide what to do. Should we retrofit new wooden replicas of the original sash windows or buy plastic doesn't-really-look-a-likey versions?  When you're sure that your not returning, you just want cheap, solid and low maintenance.

Here has been trickier.  Removing two very small stained glass windows in an exposed brick wall caused lots of discussions and horrified looks.  I sat on the fence mostly.  The stained glass windows were decrepit, ugly, noisy, drafty and required unsightly bars to make them secure.  The brick wall was disgustingly dirty, dusty, salt-stained and sucked light from the room.  Hopefully, you can tell from my description that I remained open and malleable to all other viewpoints. ;-)

People love brick - it's sort of rare here, I think because the earthquakes demolish it so readily.  The day we had the first coat of primer on the wall a visitor remarked, "Aren't you just really tempted to have it shot blasted back to the bare brick?!"

And like the brick, people love stained glass windows here too.  Lynn has also fallen for them.  So now 4 tiny, buckled, rotten and bowed windows sit in our garage.  I expect they'll remain there for about at least a year or so, but if you know where I should, or just could, sell such things then please let me know where to offload them and I'll happily donate a cut to a charity of your choice.
Note: New table and chairs by Craig's List
Well I think it looks a lot better, so there!  If you disagree, then by all means drop me a comment once you've left a donation to the Cumbernauld House Trust.  Some things are worth keeping and others are just tired dusty walls with rotten windows...
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Predict the Future.

Bedford Bridge from Antiquities of England (17...Image via WikipediaI drafted this blog entry earlier this month, but didn't press publish because I felt it needed something else.

"A long time ago, in fact more than 15 years ago, I lived in Bedford, England.  It's a small town north of London known for brick works and John Bunyan who spent 12 years in Bedford Gaol (where he wrote The Pilgrims Progress).

While in Bedford, I worked for the Royal Air Force Signals Engineering Establishment at RAF Henlow and rented a room from a Mr Philip Bunnage.  Phil and I were in our mid twenties and quite often bored.  Mostly we attempted to cure the boredom with beer or motorcycles (beer and motorcycles don't mix).

If I was feeling particularly negative, I would say we wasted our time there.  However in California speak I'd say that I think we figured out what was important to each of us, and slowly made the moves which ultimately set us up for the rest of our lives... Sentences like that almost make me shiver, brrr!

Phil now lives in New Zealand and our other flat mate (room mate in US speak?) from then, Mike, now lives in Tasmania.  So Bedford may well have spurred us all on to see a bit more of the world.

Phil visited me last weekend, he was on his way back to New Zealand and so stopped over in LA for 2 nights.  He'd just crewed on a yacht from Australia to Brazil, taking nearly 6 months and spending quite a bit of the time in Africa.  He phoned me from Panama and I was blown away by how odd that seemed, and how far from Bedford we'd come.

They say that you can never predict never future, and I think I've just witnessed proof of this saying.  I know that when in Bedford, no one, not ourselves, not our critics, not our friends, would have predicted correctly where we'd be in 15 years time.  I really hope that the next 15 years are just as positive, thrilling and productive, but I won't be attempting to make any predictions. Brrr!"
Phil had mentioned how, whilst he had been sailing, there was the big earthquake in Christchurch, NZ and how weird it was to have to rely on friends to check for damage to his house and vehicles (as I said we share the obsession for motorcycles, except he has 5 and I now have none).  As it turns out, he got home just in time to inspect the damage from the last quake and then experience the full effect of the recent 6.3 magnitude quake.  Who would have predicted that?

I found this video which makes me think how Phil would react to an earthquake... except replace the glass of wine with a beer and the TV for his beloved motorcycles... I'm so glad he's ok.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Something wrong with the picture.

Even cloudy weather can have an effect here.
I had a great night on Friday.

First I was given a wake up call by a friend - Not the kind you get when you stay in a hotel, more the "Mate, what were you thinking?" kind of thing.  I know that doesn't sound lovely, but it was.  I think if someone cares enough to say you're making a mistake, when it would've been easier to just agree, then you should sit up and listen.

I was thinking I should start setting up a simple business to help small companies start to use social media.  When in actual fact I was merely falling into that trap that grabs us all from time to time.  Just because you can, doesn't mean you should and just because there's money to be made, doesn't mean your life would be made any better.  For example, I quite like maths and I can understand double entry accounting, and accountants can make good money...  Not that there's anything at all wrong with being an accountant just, if I'm honest with myself, I'd be miserable.

I was having a drink with my friend, in order to remove him from his home whilst his partner readied a surprise birthday party.  It was a tough job drinking great beer, in the company of a good friend, in a lovely warm bar on a rainy Friday night.  Keeping the party secret was surprisingly easy and the effect on my friend was suitably impressive.  He was still babbling and confused at the number of friends in his home by the time I left at 11:30'ish.

Now for a piece of advice if you're ever in Los Angeles in the winter time.  Avoid driving in the rain if you can.  Especially at night and particularly on a Friday / Saturday night.  It doesn't matter how good a driver you are, you will soon see so many accidents that it becomes obvious that an incident free journey is totally outside your area of control.

I drove 10 miles and luckily only saw 3 accidents.  One minor shunt before I got to the 405 freeway, one spinner temporarily closing the opposite carriageway and then just after I joined the 101 freeway all the cars around me suddenly slowed.  I couldn't see anything wrong, but slowed too.  I was looking for debris or just something that would have caused the sudden caution, but I saw nothing.

Then I realized that the car leaving by the Van Nuys Blvd exit didn't look right.  As I stared at it I thought, why are it's lights white?  That'll be because it's reversing.  Then I thought, why are there so many sparks?  That'll be because a lot of the car has been smashed off and is being dragged along the pavement.  The car was now distinctly second-hand and was reversing at about 40mph down the exit ramp.  Somehow the driver seemed to be more in control in reverse and so the car hadn't initially looked out of place...

So I had a great night.  There was fun and then I got home without anyone crashing their car into mine.
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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Social Medium

I did a fun thing yesterday.  Perhaps not everybody's cup of tea, but fun for me.  It was a fun day for Lynn too, as she spent the day being the stay at home Mom again... and she loved it.

I went to a seminar on Social Media run by CBS radio and I had a ball.  It wasn't the best event ever, but it was informative and at points there were even a few laughs.  I loved it because it was like dipping my toe back into the world of work and business and communicating with adults and management and jargon and buzz words and.... and it just made me happy.

One of the best bits was the understanding.  I understood what all of the speakers were talking about, indeed I'd wished they'd gone in a bit deeper.  As with most business seminars, there were too many lists of important cliches, like "it's important to be authentic." I'm not sure why there seems to be an assumption that it used to be a successful strategy in business to lie.  The saying, "you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time" is as old as time itself.  Though I suppose it's more relevant when you're broadcasting over twitter to everyone, and that just one person can expose a lie with crushing effectiveness.

My favorite part of the experience was when I followed our host's instructions and asked a question of the panel by tweeting with the hash tag #cbssoc.  The panel were somewhat lost in a love-in about the beautiful effect that an influential blogger can have when they mention your product favorably.  I'd recently read an article about how bloggers reviewing movies seem to be pretty much in line with the reviews that the traditional media are publishing.  Further, universal critical acclaim by bloggers and the traditional media wasn't having much effect on audience figures.  It's thought that we are actually persuaded more by our facebook friends' status on which movies to see and that the reviews have little sway whatsoever.

So I tweeted, "Do bloggers really matter, most seem to review similarly to traditional media journalists? #cbssoc."  Mine was the first question of the panel and the host introduced it with the statement, "I don't think he was intending to be insulting..."

Hmm.  I was a little nervous.  I hadn't meant to insult and so it appeared I'd just demonstrated what I'd call, "the law of unintended consequences" and others what called something different and added to their lists of important things to always consider...  I so hate those lists, almost as much as I hate the phrase "it's just common sense."  Common sense isn't common, experience is individual and so common experience is as rare as common conclusions.  It's often said that if 10 people witness an accident they'll give 10 different views, so where's this common sense then?  Sorry, I'm ranting and off topic.  I was lucky and had not insulted the panel.  In fact their response was wonderful, as they gave real life examples as to how blogs had directly helped their brands, businesses and clients.

And later when I got home, I started to get some responses to my tweet.  The first was from @tdhurst saying, "I'm a writer who blogs. I matter."  So back to that list of important things to consider... your digital footprint doesn't go away, even and especially if, you try to ignore it.

Over time I've become convinced that I learn far more by doing, than by reading books - especially if those books are full of lists of important things you should always consider.  So this one day seminar has taught me quite a lot really.

I think the day could have been better though.  It would have been nice if they had tried to create an online community of the audience or just used social media more innovatively throughout the day.  However it's all too easy to give advice in hindsight and I didn't stay till the end, so my review loses some credibility as I missed the last speaker.  My excuse is that I finally left because the thermostat was set to ABERDEEN-SCOTLAND and although I tweeted about that too, I think they only reset it to FALKIRK-SCOTLAND.  As I remember it, on many of the lists of important things to consider, were strategies to respond to negative criticism or comments.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Just an idea.

So Lynn had this idea.  It started a while back and it still hasn't gone away.  It scares me.  Actually it scares me quite a bit.

So here's the idea, as best I can explain it.  Lynn is writing a play for an English actor.  It's for the "Biographies In A Bag" series, but there's a specific challenge to conquer.  The actor is pretty much confined to his bedroom as he fights MS.  So he can't tread the boards of the stage, but he could appear projected on a screen on stage...  And his projected image could act alongside another actor... And we could stream this performance back to our friend in his bed, so that he can witness his own performance.

One of the nicest pieces of feedback from our live stream of Rachel Ogilvy's performance was from a lady, who thanked us as she enjoyed watching great theatre without having to plan her evening around wheelchair access.  So clearly we must continue, and to continue we must push some more boundaries.

Our actor is known for his fantastic improv work and his performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  So how about he has his Hollywood debut streamed to a theatre in Edinburgh as part of the festival?  And how about we stream him live to both theatres?  And how about we live stream Elvis watching the live stream of both theatres?

With technology there are few limits, only budgets and timescales and risks, though I'm not sure how interested Elvis is in theatre anymore.

24 hours.

I thought I could write this post in the Jack Bauer, 24 style.  Starting 20:10hrs : Arrived Soho House.  But the style got in the way of the story.  The point of it was that in 24 hours I went from feeling fantastic at a great Burns Night party in an exclusive private club, to being at the pits of sleep deprived paranoia caring for my sickly children.

We arrived at Soho House at the same time as a very famous actress.  She got to the desk first, but because we were expected, we found ourselves away in the elevator before her.  I took this as a sign that this was going to be a fun night and I wasn't wrong.

A Burns Night can be a tricky thing to get right.  Robert Burn's poetry can be great fun, but it's still poetry and how many great poetry-based evenings have you gone to exactly?  From the moment the piper arrived and we made our way to our dining room, this felt special.  Macallan's whisky sponsored the event, hosted by Duncan Quinn, so we experienced both taste and style.  Oh and the chef from the restaurant, 'The Gorbals' made the most amazing haggis.  Like the food, the poetry readings were well chosen and suitable sized.

We met some amazing people and within about an hour, I persuaded Lynn to become my designated driver... Soon after, a character known only as the Red Baron - supposedly with some links to the German aristocracy, was found searching under the table.  Apparently he'd lost his wedding ring and though clearly perturbed at the loss, he managed to retain his good humor and effortless smile.  The next piece of poetry was about love and the young couple who read it, were in the midst of planning their wedding.  Somehow, this discovery led to an instant wedding "pre-enactment" where the Red Baron married the beautiful couple and thus 'saved' them the expense of a more normal ceremony.  It was a truly moving experience, after all we even had the man with the bag pipes for the walk down the aisle.

You may note from this experience that not everyone was sober.  I felt fine but was glad Lynn was driving when we departed at about 12:30am.

After such a fun evening, things really changed at 2am.  I awoke to hear my youngest coughing.  He was still sleeping but he was wheezing quite badly.  He wasn't hot, but he didn't sound good.  As he was sleeping, I hoped he'd just sleep it off.  At 4am, he awoke needing water, he was aware and lucid and immediately went back to sleep.  I couldn't sleep, the wheezing worried me and so I just lay there, waiting in case he needed me.  My tension woke Lynn at 4:30am and we agreed to let him continue to sleep and then get him to the doctors in the morning.  We were all up at just after 6am.

Once up, it became apparent that my eldest also was suffering with a slightly milder cold /flu.  So I now had both my boys off school and had to get both of them to the first available doctors appointment at 10:25am.

My youngest wheezed so badly, he couldn't walk from the car to the doctors' surgery.  The doctor wanted to use a nebulizer, however my baby had other ideas, kicking her and the nurse as hard as he could.  In end, I banished all health professionals from the room after they tried unsuccessfully to pin down my child and hold the mask to his face.

Previously the same doctor had unsuccessfully tried the same pin down technique to try to remove his ear wax.  That experience resulted in my little guy saying, "We're NOT going to the Doctors!"every time he saw a tall building.  Only through a white lie about Buzz Lightyear going to the doctor, had we diminished this doctor phobia...but that's another story.

My son is willful.  He is smart and he is resourceful.  It took me about 15 minutes to persuade him to try the nebulizer.  It seemed a very long 15 minutes, but there was none of the screaming and violence that had preceded.  He eventually accepted that we weren't leaving till he did it.  He understood that the doctor and I just wanted him to get better.  So, in his own time, he tried the demon machine.  The first attempt was just 5 seconds and I stopped it the moment he shouted "STOP!"  Eventually, he took 2 full doses, his wheezing ceased and this blood oxygen levels returned to normal.  In the end we were at the doctors' surgery for 2 full hours.  (That's $6 for the parking right there!)

Armed with 4 prescriptions, I left the doctor and headed for the pharmacy and it's associated labyrinth of nonsense.  I don't know why there's always a problem every time I go to to the pharmacy, there just is.  I've tried different pharmacies, but it doesn't make a difference.  This time the problem was the nebulizer.  "This is Medical Supplies," said the pharmacist.  When I said that I didn't know what she meant, she ignored me and checked she had all the drugs for the other prescriptions.  It was only when I pointed out to her that in my humble opinion, pharmacies are stocked almost entirely with "medical supplies" that even she attempted to explain.

I took my boys home for lunch and immediately after my youngest napped.  So I used this time to investigate "medical supplies."

Apparently, machines like nebulizers are sold by the special stores that also sell wheelchairs and those Rascal mobility scooters.  The next challenge was to find a store that takes our WGA health insurance... Pharmacists classify nebulizers medical supplies, insurers as I discovered categorize them "Durable Medical Equipment (DME)."  In the end, I just bought one, signed a form and fully expect to hear nothing more about being recompensed.

By the time Lynn was home from work, I was exhausted.  My boy, at least, was feeling much better.  He'd had his medicine, he'd used his new machine and now he was using his new energy to torment his older brother.

Lynn was spent too.  We fought over who should make dinner.  It's my job, but I was tardy in the execution of my duties.  To cut a long story short, this grown man cried.  I was finished, all my fight was gone.  I had fought sleep deprivation, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical insurers and medical supplies stores and I had nothing left.

Apparently some men think their stay at home wives are weak and emotional, I think those men need to stay home more.
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