Monday, 8 December 2014

Hirsuites you, sir

While I enjoy a little grumbling, sometimes a moment of levity is required.


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

<insert generic outrage here>

Outrage is fashionable. Taking umbrage at something anything is almost a currency to show how much we care.

There have been a few more recent examples of unacceptable behaviour in my beloved spot of football, but I'm picking a slightly older incident from April 2014. To summarise - football player was given abuse during a match and his response? He "leaned behind him and pretended to insert something in his bottom".

That's it. Without lapsing to the "that's how it's always been", there is a fair amount of precedent of football fans going to a football match, chanting abuse to the opposition player and then ... brace yourself, the opposition player responding in kind.

Now, he's clearly not the brightest fellow to let himself be provoked - and I won't condone either his stupidity in response (and choice of response) or a crowd deliberately winding him up, but it was the reaction of the offended individuals in the crowd that piqued my interest.

One gentleman managed to be both "utterly disgusted" and "clearly shocked to see a football player perform a gesture like that on a field of play" and if interviewed further would probably have been "appalled" for how out of the ordinary this must be at a football game. I suspect the grim truth is more likely he took a wrong turn on the way to see Sussex Cricket Club in action, where anything above gentle applause is considered a riot, and ended up at the wrong venue.

It was interesting he didn't feel offended by the crowd chanting "you fat bastard" at the player in question.

The speed of emotional escalation in recent years is impressive. From a gradual greyscale of non-plussed through to pure fury, society is in the midst of removing the lower end markers. No longer is anyone perturbed, frustrated, confused or uncomfortable - it now starts midway through the original spectrum and travels quicker to the upper end.

It may be a sign I'm inured to some of the unpleasant events that now occur on a regular basis in the world, but are any of us so naive to feel these are shocking, upsetting moments? A grown man pretending to insert something in his bum by way of response to a crowd baiting him, is something I feel comfortable saying isn't shocking. Stupid? Most certainly.

Can we bring a little moderation to how annoyed, shocked and upset we are about these things?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sorry

The worst invention of the 21st century ... the non-apology.

"I apologise if this offended you"
"I'm sorry you were offended"

These aren't apologies. They're simply disappointed that another individual found something unacceptable, and frankly it's borderline passive-aggressive in terms of deliberately not recognising something was wrong or even perceived as wrong; no expression of remorse or guilt.

Nothing has changed at the root with the above statements. The author may continue, safe in the knowledge their original stance has not changed or been compromised - and they've had an opportunity to add salt to the wound. Essentially this is an expansion on the traditional mindset that the fault must lie elsewhere, other than oneself.

Now this is considered an acceptable way to respond to allegations or concerns, it should be only the first step on the road of escalation for anti-recrimination. Next we will see disappointment ...

"Naturally I'm disappointed they feel this way"

... because nothing does passive-aggressive quite like disappointed. It's the perfect way to demonstrate someone has failed to achieve what was expected of them, in this case acceptance of something they disagree with. Despite it often being contrary to their belief, yet spun round to make it appear the fault is theirs.

In time, after being nurtured in bitterness and bile for several months, it will be followed by its older, meaner sibling - anger.

"I'm angry that they're offended by this"

Because nothing fuels an inner fire quite like righteous indignation. How very dare you not understand, you ignorant bastard! It cuts short the debate, provides a barrier and generates a catalyst to ignore the complainant.

This is the natural state - the urge to protect self-interest, deny that there's potentially a problem and with the thin end of the wedge in place to give people leeway it won't get better. After this, we advance to all out warfare and weaponry will be handed out to the PR teams for running battles through heavily populated DMZs within Twitter, potentially scaling up to all out nuclear assaults on Facebook pages and soundbites for the Daily Mail.

What can we do as rational individuals?

  • Discuss. Explain the rationale, and listen to the counterpoint,
  • Apologise. If we actually have been offensive, and the two sides explained well, scales should fall from our eyes.
  • Adjust. Work harder to ensure it doesn't happen again. It may, but at least you're making an effort not to be a racist/homophobe/misogynist/xenophobe/general twat.

This isn't heart surgery - which is a complex, finessed operation - this is day-to-day interaction with humans, which we've all been practising for a few years now. It shouldn't be that hard to remain civil, recognise our faults and be better people.

Sorry.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Dearth by Words

I love the English language, and hope to never completely understand all the workings of it. Half the fun in discovering a new or forgotten word is how best to use it - or not, depending on the case, as evidenced by my mediocre but enthusiastic writing style.

However, there appears to be a new breed of hireling within companies capable of good written words without anything in them. Not simply marketing drones of yore with dull, vacuous statements presented to senior management, before people nod politely and usher them toward the exit. No, earnest recommendations, strategic proposals, press releases, voxpops and entire paid-for presentations containing nothing - like the bastard children of Gus Hedges have spread into the workplace and are facilitating and engaging at every opportunity.

Worse is watching them accepted at face value. It's a little depressing to see one of two things occuring:
  • Emperor's new clothes. The audience don't dare to argue the point for fear of being isolated and left looking like they're the only one in the meeting who doesn't understand the point (not) being made. Thereby the speaker gains in confidence and can continue to issue nonsense under the guise of wisdom imparted.
  • I'm behind the times. Perhaps language has moved from simply telling us what should happen, to being a box of letters thrown together in a heap, like a sad, shaken-up travel Scrabble set and left for the audience to cherry pick what meaning they wish to derive from the words produced.
Part of me would like it to be the latter, but most of me believes it to be the former.

I'm reminded of a short passage from Asimov's Foundation when their fledgling society of Terminus is visited by a representative of the Empire, Lord Dorwin.

Hardin threw himself back in the chair. “You know, that's the most interesting part of the whole business. I admit that I thought his Lordship a most consummate donkey when I first met him – but it turned out that he is an accomplished diplomat and a most clever man. I took the liberty of recording all his statements.”

[...]

Lundin Crast asked, “And where is the analysis?”

“That,” replied Hardin, “is the interesting thing. The analysis was the most difficult of the three by all odds. When Houk, after two days of steady work, succeeded in eliminating meaningless statements, vague gibberish, useless qualifications—in short all the goo and dribble—he found he had nothing left. Everything canceled out. Lord Dorwin, gentlemen, in five days of discussion didn't say one @$#%^ thing, and said it so that you never noticed. There are the assurances you had from your precious Empire.”

When saying anything, it must boil down to something underpinning it. Using all the words available in the language is fine, but there must be a message in there.  The above is an example of someone at their finest (or worst) using the language to manipulate a version and understanding, but leaving the listener with nothing.

So our key takeaway from this coming together, is we should leverage our holistic view to combine human insights and next-gen technology to craft a reciprocal relationship to power meaningful connections that drive tangible results going forward. Sounds good news hounds? You bet.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Not That Amazing

Whenever I see someone post up statements like "I have the most amazing daughters anyone could have ever asked for" it does make me wonder how they define amazing.

Amazing would be children who can fly, speak four languages fluently by the time they're a year old ... or perhaps reshape the very landscape we walk through.

I say this as the Dad of what are obviously the most amazing daughters anyone could ask for.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Fitness for our Future

Finally took the plunge into wearable tech, and picked up a Fitbit Flex as I’m keen to monitor better my general fitness levels (currently set to “poor”) and utilise better data to track it.

When you pick up new toys, the first thing that comes to mind is all the other things you could potentially do with it.

For example, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the band changed colour, perhaps moving from white to red as a notification over time as the time grew since my last active exercise (i.e. running rather than simply walking). It would practically be a public badge of shame that I hadn’t done anything recently – and surely it would incentivise me into getting it being “back in the white” as it were.

Had a nagging sensation I’d seen this technology already out there, but couldn’t find anything.

Then the penny dropped.

We’re halfway toward Logan’s Run.

Funny how the introduction of technology gives us a slow creep toward the inevitability of having everything in our life measured and monitored.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

unBeautiful Game

Football, I love you - but you're a dickhead.

Every time a player gets flaged for a foul or offside, and they do that dickhead thing of shouting at the linesman or wagging a finger ... I'd like them to review each and every decision after the match then apologise to the guy - or make a charitable donation of 1% of their gross salary each time the linesman gets it right.

The referee and linesmen don't sit there wagging a finger when the players shank wide off a simple scoring opportunity. If the match officials are able to maintain their professionalism throughout the 90 minute period, I see no reason the players shouldn't be able to reciprocate. It's hard to comprehend this being acceptable, let alone it being the norm in any other sport.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Shower of Bastards

So, after many blissful years of peace at home, we've finally been the victims of a break-in. I've learned the worst thing about having your house broken into isn't what they take, it's what they leave behind. There's a void where things were.

In physical terms, we've lost all the wife's jewellery. While there's not a huge cost associated with it, we aren't exactly family Fauntleroy, there are items that can't be replaced. Hand-me-down pieces from the wife's mother and her mother's mother; necklaces earmarked to be passed to our daughters when they enter adulthood. Other pieces with huge sentimental value, reminders of loved lost ones.

In mental terms, it's security and confidence lost. You feel you've got your house to the point of being your own safe space - an inviolable castle, the family fortress - and some nasty, mean-spirited, malicious bastard takes that away from you with a single crowbar.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Dear Vodafone

Mail from Vodafone reads ...

 "For the price of an ice cream, you can use your UK minutes, texts and data in Europe like you would back home. It's just an extra £3 a day."

 ... they're buying their ice-cream in the wrong place.

You can get four mint choc chip cornettos for a quid from most shops. That's 25p per cornetto. In real money that means I could buy twelve cornettos for every one that Vodafone buys.

I think we know who's the real winner here. It's me. That £3 I'm saying every day can go on ice cream instead, and I never have to leave the house. I'll grow enormous through continually eating nothing but cornettos, but financially it will still be a saving over the inflated prices they want to charge me for using the phone services already paid for.

It could be called ... economnomics.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Pet hate for 2014 - Quotes

Quotes - you can be inspirational and a source of wonderment. Some of the time we like you, and sometimes ... we dislike you.

Already my pet hate for the year is beginning to crystalise.

Those quotes which get trotted out by people who've found them and then look to bend and adapt the words to fit a recent event. Or the inane quotation which simply doesn't make sense no matter what angle you look at it from.

Bad quotes. Used by good people, badly.

Already the Monroe-isms are creeping into the year ...

"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best."
- Marilyn Monroe

If people don't know what your best is or haven't seen it, why on earth should they suffer the worst in the hope things may improve? The saving grace of Miss Monroe for being quoted on this was she was an international icon and pin-up which isn't something we can all achieve, and perhaps if you want to make headway with people there would be merit in showing us the beautiful person who doesn't need a disclaimer to excuse their behaviour.

The above sounds more akin to the manifesto of an egocentric bipolar person in need of assistance. Not exactly inspiring as an outlook for oneself or even from the viewpoint of others.

The misquoted quotation ...

"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have."
- pick your author

So far I've found JRR Tolkien and Bob Marley as authors for those. There's also due consideration to be given here to author context, potential for whether this is wisdom dispensed or experienced shared. One was a bicycle hugging, Beowulf loving, Oxford professor with a penchant for writing in code ... the other was a spiritual man who confessed to killing a local law enforcement representative (but not his subordinate), oh and occasionally a musician. Or even if it's attributable to either.

That's without a comparison to similar quotes with the same intention, such as "Even a cornered rat will fight" (unknown), or my own favourite of"When the going gets tough, the tough get going" (Billy Ocean). At least you knew both of those could happily be applied to Danny DeVito in Jewel of the Nile.

To summarise ...

"The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity."
- Abraham Lincoln

Don't pick the quote and retrofit a sentiment to it, and then enjoy a celebratory chin stroke. It's the linguistic equivalent of a Chinese symbol tattoo and explaining to the family it's the real you they've never gotten to know. Quotes can serve a purpose, but let's ensure there's a relevant context.