26 August 2009

Last & Best Day


Some people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I'm not sure if that is true, but it is definitely the first meal of the day.

Like all best days, today started with breakfast. Buttery pastries, chocolate and coffee - not exactly healthful, but how many times do you serve out the final day of your pre-notice period for getting fired and have the final of an inter-office kicker tournament all on the same day?

That question is rhetorical, yet does have an answer: once. Today.

I have been basking in the interest my colleagues have taken in my life, and our mutual inclination to remain on personable - even friendly - terms. I brought the sweet morning treats, and we have shared pain au chocolat, and chausson au pommes, and a few laughs.

But when I play my semi-final match in the kicker tournament, I will leave all warm regards and breakfast crumbs in the locker room, and leave the bullet-riddled tear-streaked remains of my opponents on the pitch.

And then I will exit this phase of my life with my head held high, and my trophy held aloft.

If by some conpiracy of the gods I am not victorious, I will exit with my gaze downcast and my heart heavy, forced to cling to the significant professional experience, achievements and financial remuneration I have gained in my almost three years as the Editor/Communications Manager here at CEN.

But here's hoping it won't come to that.

UPDATE: We f&%$!ng lost. Second f&%$!ng place!! Small
f&%$!ng trophy, minor f&%$!ng victory.


24 August 2009

HealthCare is bad?


Like many opponents of the proposed healthcare reform I don't understand it, but the lack of understanding is due, in my case, to inattention, rather than confused rage.

Who is this lady? Where does the idea that healthcare is a bad thing come from? That the right to pay for a medical care, and exclude those who can't pay is such a great thing worth defending? Until very recently, I hadn't really been paying attention to the 'debate'. I've been too busy living in Europe and enjoying the security, peace of mind, and relative good health afforded by healthcare benefits that are extended to everyone here to really delve into another episode of "America Eats its Brain."

But the more I hear about Nazi Death Panels, Soviet Systems, and dining room tables, the more I think about disinformation, misinformation and fabricated realities grafted onto political debate. It makes me sad.

This morning I was reading the personal stories of healthcare systems around the globe at Avaaz. Sure doesn't seem so bad. In fact it made me remember to be grateful to live somewhere where the health (and well-being, and education) of the citizen is considered a responsibility of the government. Because actually, that is kinda the point of having a government: they look after shit.


19 August 2009

The Internet is Full of Mad Men

Packing up a home involves much sifting through of possessions. This brings waves of nostalgia: for past homes and selves, and achievements or adventures. The important and loved people who populated certain eras. And of course the specific memories captured in candid photographs.

In this packing period, however, the carousel of our slide projector goes all the way back to 1960 - a time when the nostalgia was whiskey-soaked and cigarette-smoked. Yes, much of our packing time has been spent immersed in the brilliant world of Mad Men. Story, writing, acting, production design... the details and spacing are so fine that calling it 'swell' would be a huge understatement. We're revelling in torrid affairs, skinny lapels, liquid lunches and the business of persuasion. It was the golden age of advertising, populated by compelling and occasionally likeable characters.

These days, a product, such as a television show - especially one as critically acclaimed as Mad Men - finds itself all over the internet. So why not spend valuable packing hours perusing the internet infotainment offshoots of this series? That's what I'm doing.

Perhaps s jaunt over to the Mad Men homepage will scratch your itch. Then refresh yourself with a blog of footnotes? If you are so inclined, read an interview with Jon Hamm,the enigmatic Don Draper himself.

If you want to know more about the women-centric writing team you could read this (there are spoilers if you (like me) are not yet up to the end of Season 2). Also, though also with a spoiler or two, why not round of your day with a tip of your hat to the Vanity Fair article on creator Matthew Weiner?

And if you haven't already, Mad Men yourself. Did you notice me front and centre up top? A self-styled 1960s copywriter. Also: in real-life I'm a copywriter. Yes, in 2009.

In fact the Levi's F/W 09 catalog features my writing. yes, in all four collections. Check it here and here. "Freedom beyond the walls?" "Hard, smart styling?" Evocative, I know.

And yes, I'd love to do some freelancing for you. May I suggest a martini lunch meeting?


14 August 2009

Gadget Combinating for Students


I love it when stuff with different uses combine into one multifunctional object. For instance, I loved it when the mobile phone became a camera, radio, music player, handheld game console, and portable googlemap.

But I think you can trace my affinity for multifunction directly back to the Swiss Army Knife MacGyver used to carry around.

That was then, this is now. What a thing of meal-making beauty.

Sure I'm not a student yet, and yes, I will have an apartment with my wife that will have a fully functioning kitchen in which we will prepare delicious and frugal meals together. But I look at this design marvel and wonder if any kitchen could really compare to the sheer utility and sleek convenience of having this on my study desk instead of a computer.


13 August 2009

Kicker Tournament limps/roars to a close

It is not a big deal, you might argue, to have a kicker tournament (or other such opportunity for backslappery and bonhomie) at your place of employment. And I would agree; it is simply a short and pleasant diversion from the workaday drudgery we all undertake in order to ensure we don't starve to death.

But for me, diversioning, and fraternizing with colleagues 'out of the office bubble' are both my joie de vivre and raison d'etre. And so I assumed the role of Chief Organizer and President of the Pep Squad back in the breezy warmth of spring. There was fanfare and enthusiasm oozing around the office, banter ringing from all corners of the open plan in those heady first days. I even wrote a post based on an office email, about how to choose a team name for this (or any) tournament.

People rallied, players played, and everyone cheered the initiative and the goals. The tournament spreadsheet was updated daily. Things were good.

That was a long, long, time ago. Since those funtastic first few weeks, enthusiasm has leaked from the tournament like a punctured bicycle tube hissing a morose swansong. Four months on and we're only in the second round. The tournament has gone flat, on life support since June.

I have composed emails upon emails cajoling, warning, threatening, and demanding compliance. I've held emergency strategy meetings with fellow committee members, in lunch rooms, coffee corners, and at desks. In short, I've done all I can. Even to the point of alienating myself from my office peer group. This is my sacrifice to the Gaming Gods. Alas, it seemed the fizzle had fuzzled, and time is ticking down days until my permanent departure. Hope was lost.

But today things took a turn for the sunny-side, and at long last we may be nearing a positive conclusion. The only person as keen on this tournament as I is James 'Pele' Buchanan. Absent for some weeks, today he returned from holidays, and we plotted a last-gasp assault on Mt. Lethargy, of the Officeapathy Range.

As of this afternoon, the ennui-crushed teams have been unceremoniously purged from the proceedings, the remaining line-ups have been shuffled, and we are finally moving forward, clinging to the remaining scraps of our once-enthusiasm-powered vessel, and clinging also to the shreds of legitimacy unceremonious-tossings call into question. Heads bloody, but unbowed.

This tournament will get finished, because I am not just the President of the Organizing Committee, I am also odds-on favorite (along with my partner), to claim the trophy.

If that sounds like a conflict of interest, then consider yourself unceremoniously purged from the tournament.


10 August 2009

HP Tech Support gets a paltry 8 out of 10


My laptop gets hot. Not burn-your-hand hot, but uncomfortable-to-the-touch hot. Definitely too-hot-to-to-put-your-laptop-on-your-lap hot.

I'm pretty sure this is a bad thing. So I called the customer service helpline. After going through some 'hold & transfer' tango, I ended up with a customer service rep in Canada.

We spent about 45 minutes on the phone. Together we downloaded a thing to do a thing to the hot part that would make it less hot. He seemed pleasant and patient.

Our conversation often lapsed into semi-awkward silence. Such as while as we waited for the download, and for my computer to cool. In the end the problem didn't seem entirely fixed, but the underside did seem a little cooler after we upgraded the... whatever it was.

After asking if there was anything else he could for me, he provided me with a service ticket number, and transfered me to his supervisor. To check my satisfaction, he explained. Despite having already been on the phone for three-quarters of an hour, I acquiesced.

His supervisor greeted me by name, then launched into some questions. She very quickly arrived at the crux of the survey.

"How would you rate the service you received out of 10?" she asked, before clarifying, "With 10 being the highest."

"An 8," I decided; appropriately high marks for Derek's commitment to quality service.

"Is there anything I can do to make it a 9? Or even a perfect 10?" She asked brightly.

I thought for a moment. "No."

"Oh." Her deep disappointment at the failure of Derek to get a 10, and her own failure to raise the grade, were conveyed in this one syllable. "Can I ask why?"

"Well, I was very happy with the service, which is why I gave it such a high mark," I explained reasonably. "However, I couldn't give it a perfect grade because I have nothing to compare it to. It wouldn't be fair for me to give Derek a perfect 10, only to have some other operator exceed my expectations. This is the only way to keep my customer service grading consistent and within the parameters."

"I respect your decision, sir, but I must say this is not a very good mark." Her tone clearly implied she in no way respected my decision.

"Wait. An 8 isn't a very good mark?"

"It would be much better if it were a 9 or a 10."

"Naturally." She had a point.

"Are you sure you don't want to change your mark?" She demanded, with an edge of desperation creeping into her voice.

This was surprising. Techie Derek had led me to believe dignity and professionalism ruled in the HP Support Office. But apparently not. I tried another route.

"I was very happy with Derek's service. The missing marks are nothing personal. But my laptop is still a little hot. My problem is only partly solved, so that's why I scored the service an 8."

"But," she insisted, "it's not a very good mark."

I couldn't believe the conversation we were having. Fortunately, she cut it short.

"OK. I respect your decision, sir." She obviously still did not respect my decision, but seemed to grudgingly accept that my grade was final. "Thank you for calling HP and have a nice day." Her tone made it clear she wished my laptop would explode in my face.

How had things ended so badly? What, as they say, the fuck?

After working through my problem with Derek I felt quite positive about the service - despite the fact the solution was only partially successful. But the customer satisfaction survey kinda spoiled everything. Partially because it was conducted by a hysterical grade-grubber.

And partially because I fear for Derek. That guy did nothing but his best, but I now worry my 8 may be a black stain forever blighting his service record.

Derek, I'm sorry I only gave you an 8. Thanks again for your help.


06 August 2009

London's Beautiful Losers


London has a lot of stuff going for it. I realized that when we were there on the weekend. As a small example: Beautiful Losers is screening at the ICA this month. It opens tonight. Clickthrough for the trailer.

It's not a new film, but it is an independent one about street artists so it combines my love of: DIY, independence, street art, misfits, film, and beauty with my rapidly developing appreciation of the plethora of opportunities London holds those who want access to all of the above.

Beautiful Losers film trailer from beautifullosersfilm on Vimeo.

Details are this: Beautiful Losers will run from on 6 - 18, 20, 22 - 24 August. £8 / £7 concessions / £6 ICA members. Opening night: Thursday 6 August, 7.30pm - SCREENING + Q&A +DJs SLAM CITY SKATES CRYSTAL VISION

I learned about it from RJ at Vandalog, who has his finger on the street art pulse.