Thursday, February 27, 2014

Denim On Denim


About a year ago K, my youngest, gave me a denim shirt for Christmas. I don't think it was particularly expensive but I love it.

It's got that "aged" look, the one we all pay extra for because we can't be bothered to actually wait until our clothes really age. Which is only actually a few months as they're mostly made by young children in dodgy countries and cost less than the sandwich we eat for lunch.

It's been made to look as if one of its two breast pockets has been ripped off in its heavy lifetime, there are fake paint splodges in random places and it's faded like one of those old tattoos you see on proper working class fellows who had it done when they were in the Navy.

There are in fact hardly any bad things about it, though I wouldn't be in a hurry to wear it at a wedding or the like.

But, there is a problem, a fundamental one. It's denim, and for most of my life, when I'm not wearing a sarong, I'm wearing jeans. And I'm informed, by my Girls mostly, that wearing denim on denim is a no no.

It's on the same level of fashion disaster as slippers with socks or American tan tights or any number of those "new looks" I've seen Java Jones trying out on so many occasions.

So I rarely wear this shirt. It's not often I wear chinos or any other type of casual trousers and committing a fashion faux pas is something I try to avoid. And then last week I read something in a mens' mag. It was one of those deep and intellectual articles talking about denim, fashion and the latest in mens' wear and referred to the fact that to wear different denim articles of the same shade was the no no. But, by insinuation, it said that to wear denim of contrasting shades was entirely okay.

And of course that got me thinking. Can I therefore wear dark blue jeans with the lighter blue denim shirt?

Or would that still get me carted off in the fashion Police van?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

On Books, Tidying and Mindmapping


I've just signed another two year lease on my apartment and one of the things that cropped up in my mind as this was going on was the idea of a bit of a mass tidy up.

That's not to say my apartment is some sort of man's disaster area in terms of mess and dirt. Not at all, in fact I think I'm quite the new man. Just about everything has its place, there's not a vast amount of clutter and the general look is one that is fairly minimal.

But it has also become clear to me that I do have too much clutter and, in my five years in this place, have built up a bit of junk that needs sorting.

As with most of the good things in my life I started with a mindmap. I love a mindmap I do. In fact, excuse me if I've told you this before, I do a daily journal, have done for years, and for the last four or five years I've done it in the form of a daily mindmap. In the last three years I've used an app on the Ipad called iThoughts. Trust me, if you like mindmapping it's the best thing since, well, mindmapping itself.

I started a branch, or box for each room in the flat, there aren't that many, I'm not showing off here! And then I took a branch off for every tidyness issue I need to address in each room.

So, for example, off the "kitchen" box I had three more. They said "defrost freezer", "fix wood behind sink" and "go through cupboards, throw away rubbish". Cleverly this iThoughts allows me to set each of these as a task, that I can tick as I can complete which then gets greyed out.

The thing is, I don't want to sound like some kind of geek, raving to you about software, apps, tasklists and the like, that wasn't the purpose of this post. But when I did my "sitting room" box it became evident that one of the things I could do is to tidy my books.

Why, I hear you ask. For books maketh the man, women should never sleep with a fellow who has no books and all that other corny stuff.

Simply because I've built up a bit of a library, of books that fall into one of three categories:


  1. Reference ones, with nice photographs (often Sri Lankan)
  2. Fiction I've read 
  3. Fiction I haven't read yet, probably won't (for reasons I'll explain)

It's the fiction that bothers me. Truth be told I'm now a firm and dedicated ebook reader, the Kindle app on the iPad specifically. I know it doesn't smell like a book, I know one can't "feel" the pages and they don't have the whole tactile connection people talk about. I know that I run the risk of getting beaten by most authors for saying it, beaten with pencils that is, not stylii.

But goddammit it's just so easy and convenient. I carry around my whole library of books wherever I want. I can read just about anywhere, I highlight things in my work related self development and managerial books and go back to them and they're generally cheaper to buy. And, probably best of all for me, I can go on a plane without the need to carry three books and a couple of magazines. 

So I've decided to get rid of my fiction at home, with the exception of a small handful of titles. There's David Blacker's book that he gave me himself with a little message he wrote and a few that are by other Sri Lankan authors that, as far as I know, aren't out as ebooks (yet).

I'll keep the "reference" type ones, the marvellous Sansoni and SL architectural ones and a few others. The rest are going though. Of course not thrown away, I'll give them to a charity bookshop, but they're going nonetheless. 

I feel a bit bad, for emotive not rational reasons, but I'm going to live with that. You live once only as I always like to say. Or YLOO as the kids are fond of.

And once it's done it means I can tick the "Clear away books" task on that mindmap too. 

Here, can anyone tell me how to defrost a freezer?




Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Keeping Things at Arm's Length



 I've noticed something in the last couple of years. Just about everyone I know, including me, has got to that "certain" age.

It's that certain age when our near vision starts to deteriorate, when we're all in denial and battling it. Which means that only a few actually possess reading glasses.

The rest of us, when presented with a page of print or something else to read, do the thing: the thing when we act as if our arm is an accordion, but quite a big one.

I was at a band practice the other day and we had to read something. Not one of us could hold it close up, we all had to strain our eyes and try to hold the piece of paper far away enough to read. But not too far, because then it just gets lost. I figured this might be the time to either join a younger band or get some reading glasses, perhaps both.

Reading instructions on bottles is a particular bane. I reckon they print them in tiny fonts just for a laugh. And kids rarely need medicines and stuff anyhow, so there's some kind of mad logic going on there.

Sometimes I mix with young people, like my kids, and they'll hand me something to read, presenting it to me about four or five inches away from my eyes. I have to move it away at the speed of light before the eye strain starts to hurt, causing a headache and rapid need to lie down with a warm drink.

Good God, what is wrong with you people?

Have you no idea?



Monday, February 17, 2014

The Rising Thames

The view from my apartment. The top picture shows the normal level of the Thames, though snow is a rare occurrence in these parts. The second picture shows the wate level last week. It's about four foot higher.
Thankfully it looks like it's settled a bit today and there's another four or five foot to go before it gets to the level of my floor.
But it's not great.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hair Tomorrow, Gone Today...



Yes I'm vain. As are all my family to be honest. Anyone who know us knows it would be futile for me to even attempt to deny the charge.

And I've been battling my own mind on this for a while, but I've finally admitted it to myself; I'm bothered about baldness.

For the last few years I've had a decreasing amount of hair. Or an increasing amount of lack of hair.

It doesn't make rational sense. My rational mind knows that a forty eight year old bloke going a bit bald on top is no big deal, that hard heroic fellows like Bruce Willis, Jason Statham and David Blacker are responsible for making it look good and trendy.

My all encompassing and clever rational mind even knows that it's not that aggressive for me, that it's been a slow decline over the last seven or even more years and it's unlikely I'm going to wake up next Tuesday with an overnight total loss of hair.

But my emotional mind, the one that just feels things without having a need to justify them and back them up with logic and reason, thinks differently. It's bothered.

That mind feels that it would like a nice full head of hair, even if I then decide to wear it shaved. At least I'd be able to choose to grow some flowing locks. It would like to be able to use some hair product again, perhaps a comb, a brush or run my fingers through it.

My brothers and even my Dad, at eighty, have a full head of hair. Don't tell them but I do feel a bit jealous.

There's no baldness in my family at all on either side so I'm a bit pissed off with that. Maybe it's because I got the looks and intelligence and it's nature's way of evening things out, I'm not sure.

But I'm not just moaning and telling you some woes. I've decided to investigate a hair transplant. Seriously.

I've got an appointment booked for a "consultation" with one of these clinics in a couple of weeks' time.

I know that a "consultation" will more than likely be them trying to sell to me, but I'm sure I'll look into it in some detail before I make my decision.

Cost is of course a major factor, as is the potential outcome and even whether it's feasible for me at all.

I've decided on full disclosure, hence this post. I'm going to tell anyone and everyone who matters, though not to the point of boring you silly (I hope).

I just don't want to be one of those chaps who has a couple of days off sick, or a brief holiday, then arrives back with a previously undiscovered full head of hair, causing everyone to whisper and laugh.

Oh no. If I do it then I'll blog, tell people and be quite open about it.

Watch this bald patch.

PS - Happy Valentine's day to you

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blog, Post or Blog?


I stumbled on this blog post the other day, seemingly telling us that the New Yorker deems it ok to refer to a blog post as a "blog".

"Aaaaargh" I say. It's one of my pet hates and has been for a few years. A blog is a virtual place that contains a collection of blog posts, an abbreviation of the word "weblog".

When I see fellows, usually those eternal social networking sorts, saying on Twitter that they've just written or published a blog it really winds me up. I'd even got to the stage of thinking that I need to chill out a bit. These things:

a - aren't that important

b - are not really set in stone anyhow.

So reading the aforementioned blog post made me feel a bit vindicated. It's clearly not just me, other people evidently feel the same way, though not the New Yorker.

It's a blog post when we're talking about one "article". Calling it a blog is like saying that a random page from a fellow's diary is a diary. It's not, the diary is the collection of entries.

Anyone else feel strongly about this too?

Besides, since when have the old Septics been experts on the English language anyhow?


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Consultant

So we've brought in a consultant at work in an attempt to sort out some issues we've been having and improve some other things.

By nature I'm cynical of consultants. Just the word makes me think of expense without return and people who swan around blowing hot air and theory but don't produce. I hope this chap will be different though. We've put considerable time and effort into our research and I hope we've learned from previous errors.

Perspectives and differing realities are, to me, a fascinating subject, one I've been thinking about as our consultant does his thing.

I've been observing people's reaction to him, how they behave and the impression they want to create.

Naturally they've all managed to go up a gear just because he's in the building. They're more friendly yet more serious, more hardworking and more smiley and friendly than they were a couple of days ago.

It's a recognised psychological phenomenon and I've read about it before. It's called the Hawthorne effect.

What I was thinking about specifically was that it must be the reality for these consultant types. In the same way traffic cops, if the only time they were on the road was when they were on duty, would think that most motorists abide by the rules just about all the time and always travel at about 1 mph under the speed limit.

I wonder how many of the consultants go into a company and think "what's the problem, they all seem motivated, eager and more hardworking than a Colombo 7 Domestic around the New Year."

Obviously there's a real life answer to this question. Good consultants know about psychology and good traffic cops, even bad ones actually, go out on the road when they're not on duty and know how people usually drive.

But it's bloody interesting watching people shift up a gear for no reason other than the fact they're being watched a bit.

Must rush, I can't let the fellow see me writing a blog post!