Presentation Porn

Ever read 43 Folders? Right up there on the front page it says “43 Folders is Merlin Mann’s site about personal productivity” and it carries lots of tips to make you better at stuff. Not better at the high jump or getting to the next level on Donkey Kong but better at stuff like remembering to cancel the papers when you are going on holiday and dealing with the 75,000 emails generated at work over a weekend while you’re sleeping. 43 folders can help you get over procrastination and clear your clutter (like Dawna Walter but without the Crusher). If I was pretending to be down with the kids then I’d say it’s cool which would only go to prove that I never was ‘down with the kids’. But it is a great site.

I digress.

I was sat at work last week, feeling tired one lunch break after ploughing through however many hundred emails were in my inbox that morning thinking that, like Nat West, there must be another way (see reference to free stuff here) when I weave my wandering web way to 43 Folder’s inbox zero pages. I think the uber cool refer to it as izero (or is it i-zero?) but we’ve established I am not uber anything.

Now, I know what you’re thinking and it proves you are a smart cookie who can jump ahead in a story like this one. You’re thinking that I read inbox zero and got my inbox to zero right then and there while eating a Coronation Chicken bap and a caramel square. Admit it, that’s what you were thinking was next. And I don’t want to spoil your opinion of yourself so, yeah, I did that (and I was eating that). It’s neat (see, down with the kids) but anybody can do it if you hit delete and pretend the server must have crashed on that important email from your boss.

It’s not the point. The point is also not that I sat and hit the delete key several hundred times while watching Merlin’s Inbox Zero presentation (yeah, right, like I don’t know about shift-delete) and felt good about myself. If you want to achieve the Zen like state of inbox zero (sorry, izero) then watch the video. Merlin is presenting to, what I imagine to be, some brainy people at Googleplex and I am not sure if they are taking it in or not. I imagined the really brainy folks would have asked more questions than they did. Not sure what that says about them. Probably says there were eating a Coronation Chicken bap and a caramel square (which, I gather, are free at the ‘plex).

And now to the key point some 460 or so words into this little piece (don’t count the words, I edited a bit and so that number, while once real, now resembles something I made up). Merlin’s presentation is great. Really good. But it’s not just good because it helps you get to an i0 state (i0, I just thought of that). No, I mean it’s a really good presentation.

I should write about my presentations. I think I will. But not now because I am talking about Merlin’s presentation (if I use only his first name it’s like we hang together, right? I’m way cool). It’s a done properly (his presentation, not the hanging). The slides are illustrations and there are more pictures than words (pictures are good for recall, apparently). He doesn’t use the slides as a safety net in case something is forgotten. No, they illuminate and reinforce his points. They are there as visual support. I mean that his slides are not his presentation. What he says is the presentation. The slides are, if you will, the side slide show. Useful, entertaining but not the star attraction.

This really shouldn’t be such a revelation but it’s an almighty, lightening strike of a revelation. I’ve sat through hundreds of presentations. Hell, I’ve given hundreds of presentations and few, so very few, are like this. By which I mean most are rubbish (including some, although not all, of mine). It jumped off the screen at me.

I got so wrapped up in it that I had people standing around wondering what I was watching and how I could be so attentive and engaged by a video on the web. So, go watch it. It’s presentation porn, if you will (although you’ll learn more and there’s much less grunting).

On this day…

2005: Memories Of The Walkman
2004: Digital Download Chart
2003: Silly Pop Stars
2003: Beep Beep To Profit
2002: When Love Comes To Town

Better In Just 14 Days

Today must be like a good dose of Bifidus Digestivum for my database. You know the tellybox ad that tells us that digestive discomfort affects 56% of women, or some such statistic, and then tells us to eat a pro-something yoghurt type thing and in two weeks we won’t feel like we want to fart so much?

Think of junk comments (15,481 of them) and junk trackbacks (3,598 of them) as well as the undetected junk comments & trackbacks (about 7,000 in total) as that bloated feeling and the delete button as a daily helping of tasty Activia from Danone (this blog accepts freebies if you want to contact me). In fact, to help my database get over the discomfort I thought about buying it a blanket and some cushions but it said another Rhubarb Fruit Yoghurt or a tasty Prune Fruit Layer would be better.

So there we go, scientific proof that fewer comments makes you less gassy. So, I turned them off.

On this day…

2005: By Ek
2004: Save A Pop Idol
2004: Open House 2004
2004: Back Ache Update
2003: Oh Canada II
2002: Don't Call Me Stupid
2002: Don’t Call Me Stupid

Read The Manual

I am configuring my new ATMT Network Hard Drive (and, according to the box it’s a Samba Server & FTP Server too). I plugged it in and it was seen straight away on my network. Lovely job.

I am using it as a network drive to store music, photos, documents etc. and share it to all the PCs on my network without ever having to have any one particular machine switched on. Great for sharing my iTunes library with my work laptop when I bring it home and stuff like that.

So, there it is, on the network and I start copying files to it. They all appear and all my machines can see them. Very nice.

But I didn’t think of the file structure on the new server. For example, would it be easy to map parts of the system as different network drives? Of course it wasn’t. I have to set the different shares up in advance through the browser-based GUI on the drive. Which is why I am now copying all my music from one partition to another and will have to let it run for the next few hours.

Aggghh. Now I wish I’d read the manual.

On this day…

2005: My Idea Changed
2004: Administrative Apologies
2003: Buffalo Soldiers
2003: Another Russian Birthday
2003: Not Another Teen Movie
2002: How do you say Happy Birthday in Russian?
2002: Marry Me

Anything You Can Do

I haven’t written much here for a while. I don’t really know why but I haven’t gone away – perhaps I am just spending all my time moving my Windows Media library across to iTunes. Yes, after all these entries about music players, I gave up and switched to an iPod Nano. And, after all those trials and tribulations with other music players, I am very happy. I even bought the Nike+ kit so that I can track how far I have run at the gym. Seriously, I’ve tried many of the music players and they just don’t have the ease of use and integration that the iTunes has. It’s the seamless interaction that makes it all work so well.

Still, that’s not why I picked up the keyboard today. Earlier I watched the European Formula One Grand Prix; and boy what a race that was. But I don’t really want to talk about the race itself (I am sure you can read all about it here) but I did want to talk about one of the best pieces of advertising that I have seen a long while.

Even if you are not a petrolhead follower of Formula One – and especially if you are British – you can’t have failed to have read some piece about the Championship scrap between Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso.

The latest advertisement from Mercedes (which is of course the team they both drive for) plays on this rivalry beautifully. Anything you can do, I can do better:

I just think the whole thing is really well pitched and they seem to have had some fun making it.

On this day…

2002: Fix My Car
2002: Running Shoes
2002: Oh Canada

Naught, Naughty Patrick

According to Media Guardian, on Comic Relief Does Fame Academy, Patrick Kielty called Colin Murray a “big gayer” after he finished his song. There was a national outcry at the homophobic comments (well, a dozen or so people bothered to complain) and the BBC chose to “reminded Patrick to be more careful during the remaining live shows”.

Careful during live shows? Is the BBC suggesting the comments would have been OK had he made it off air?

How about ‘reminding’ Patrick that more than 60,000 gay and lesbian school pupils are victims of homophobic abuse that includes serious physical and sexual assaults [source] and that calling somebody a ‘gayer’ is not big nor clever and we really expected more of him,

On this day…

No other posts on this day.

I’m Silent. You Are Not.

Photo by dog007 at Flickr

Photo by dog007 at Flickr

I’ve just been through the backlog of comments that have been building up on the Man of the Moment section. Even though there has been no new content since April 2006, it seems people have been happy to keep the interactive comment section ticking over.

The Take That reunion seems to have sparked a renewed interest with Mark Owen fans. Dancing On Ice did the same for Stephen Gately.

Here on Listen to Musak it appears the 2007 Formula One season export for Outlook calendars seems to have been a hit. The data was pulled from a preliminary calendar and, as such, need updating. Perhaps I’ll get to that before the season starts for real.

On this day…

2004: Defining Your Own Space
2004: Similarities At BBC Radio
2003: Freddie, Will and George
2003: And The Years Pass

Our Masks

Last Friday night I saw The Scissor Sisters play Wembley Arena; a venue that had been cleaned up considerably since I was last there. Even if you didn’t feel like dancin’ you probably were at the end of the evening. I wish I had Jake’s boundless energy but sadly I am sitting here thinking about sleep.

Ana Matronic came across as a much more dynamic force than she does when listening to the music or watching their television appearances. Apart from the constant repetition of ‘we’re your Scissor Sisters’ she made the links between the music much more interesting than many artists I’ve been to see over the years. Truthfully, I like it when they talk a little bit. I think that makes me old. Why can’t they just turn the music down and talk? Anyway, Ms Matronic encouraged the audience to remove the metaphorical masks we wear. She wanted us to dance.

This got me thinking about masks and not in a Jim Carrey/Stanley Ipkiss kind of way. Just the masks we wear each day in everything we do. What we say and who we are is often nothing but a show for the people we are with. The rules of our social groups mean that our mask may not be uncommon but is it who we really are? As Ana told Lynn Barber in last weekend’s Observer newspaper, ‘Even in everyday life, people use clothing to express something about themselves’ and that’s just part of the mask. Are the socks you pull from the drawer in the dark mornings you or how you want to be represented?

It was with these thoughts of masks that I read Dave’s post, ‘You Want Honesty‘, yesterday evening. Interestingly, I referenced his original discussion of what to (and what not to) blog last Friday – the very day Ana was encouraging me to throw of the masks.

What frustrated me most was the very thought that ‘You Want Honesty’ had to be written. We are all mask wearers. We all present a part of ourselves to other people each day. We are rarely the same person with everybody we know. I don’t see the problem with any of this. A personal site like this is nothing more than a snapshot of my world just as Soliloqueer is another view of the world.

But even if you don’t believe in the sock/mask metaphor that I am using there is another aspect to ‘You Want Honesty‘ that got me thinking: why does nobody value privacy any more? We all want to know everything about each other. We want to know what Brad & Angelina are doing all day. Why? I think Soliloqueer should be allowed a little privacy don’t you? Wanting a little bit of privacy does not make you a self-loathing closet case, does it?

Remember, everything is really smoke and mirrors.

On this day…

2005: All Change At Capital
2005: Civil Partnetship: Update From Scotland
2004: Oh the fun I'm having…
2004: Oh the fun I’m having…
2004: Gary Lucy's Birthday
2004: Gary Lucy’s Birthday
2003: Pop TV
2003: Linguistic Sensitivity

A Blog Is Like Concrete Shoes

On Monday I blew some of the cobwebs off the site and actually posted something of length that wasn’t a link to another site. I blamed the urge to write on reading The Guardian on my flight to Finland and that might be relevant but I suspect it’s also something to do with the current state of the blogs I read.

At various times on this site I have tried to avoid the term ‘blog’. I don’t really like it. Some people don’t like the word ‘moist’. It makes them feel a bit, well, ikky (is that a word?). The term ‘blog’ does the same for me but I shall have to seek therapy because these days everybody from the afore mentioned Guardian to the BBC via The Telegraph and The Economist seems to have a blog of some description. I am now embracing the word from this point on. Bloggety blog blog (see, cured).

Anyway, at last count (about 5 seconds ago) Bloglines had a feed of 124 subscriptions for my account (not all of them public). Take off the 15 I read for work (well, I subscribe then delete all the items when they get to about 100) and that’s still well over 100 things I am ‘watching’. But only a few of them are things I read. I listed some of them in 2002, although that list is dated with a good number of dead links. But few people are writing any more and those that are penning words are doing at such a rate that I have a scary back catalogue of entries to read: Steve, that includes you. So, either I have too much to read that I’m scared to wade in or I have reams of other people’s links that I don’t want to follow.

Anyway, in need of something better I decided that I should start writing once again. I once said that I only did this for my own amusement (and when I used to look at Listen To Musak’s logs I would have said that was very true) so I’ve decided to add a few more entries and see how we go but, and I bet I’ve said this before but I can’t be bothered to check, this time it will be different.

When I started this (for my own amusement, remember) I enjoyed the act of sitting down and writing. Truthfully, I am not sure I ever wrote a word that was very interesting to others (although Happy Birthday in Russian seems to keep bringing people to the site – twice) but it’s a record of my life that isn’t captured anywhere else. There’s a reason the ‘on this day’ links are at the end of very entry. I click. I find it interesting to place myself back a few years. Last Monday’s entry had four back years for that day and I was fascinated to see that I made references to Blur, traffic congestion, spam and Big Brother in the preceding years; I guess they are still topics of conversation now. And you don’t really get that sense of personal history from a list of links to other things (which become dead links by the time your nostalgic enough to check them).

After a while, however, a blog becomes like a pair of concrete shoes. It weighs you down and you begin to sink. I don’t blog about work, family or my boyfriend (hey, Dave, you’re not the only one) and sometimes I ask what am I doing it for? I wonder if you can get treatment for some kind of non-blogging depression? That’s what happened here. I wanted to post daily. I wanted to build that sense of personal history. But I couldn’t. It was too much so it faded.

And now I’m starting again. Less concerned about tracking life and probably with not much more to say but with a heightened sense of why I am doing it.

I wanted to end with a triumphant ‘read on’ but you can’t do that until I write the next piece. And who knows when that will be?

On this day…

2005: Manchester United Legend Is Close To Death
2005: Change Your Coffee Shop Now
2004: Regent Street, London
2003: Bye Bye Bush Baby

My Name’s Not Bond

I really like the new James Bond film. I think what Daniel Craig has done with the role is excellent. I prefer the back-to-basic approach over the movies that relied on gadgets and digital effects. It’s more Jason Bourne and, for me, that can only be a good thing. This, however, isn’t a review as I am certain you can find plenty of decent ones if you Google.

I saw Casino Royale last Saturday. On the way home I mentioned – in passing – that I had always wanted to be a secret agent. I have always assumed that every kid wanted to be a secret agent at some point. Isn’t this is a perfectly normal thing to say? PY, however, couldn’t stop laughing. It was the kind of amusment that was induced as soon as he set eyes on me. His mouth would curl up and his shoulders start that laughter quiver; he had to look away. I was a little dumstruck. I take it for granted that I don’t look like a spy but isn’t that what being undercover is all about?

Sadly, however, I have to agree that I am not very spy-like. For starters I am not sure I could, Bourne-like, blow a house up with a toaster and a rolled up newspaper. I couldn’t leap building cranes with anything approaching a Bond-like skill. The final proof that I couldn’t cut the MI6 mustard is that I’m useless in foreign restaurants.

You may have gathered from Monday’s post that I am in Finland. I am on business but I am not with any colleagues. Sometimes I must eat on my own in a foreign city. I paced Helsinki the other night looking for a restaurant. I had forgotten my book which, as any solo traveller will tell you is the key to eating alone in restaurants. Have a good book and hide behind it. You eat slower that way and can hide from the local’s stares as they wonder why you have no friends and must resort to dining alone.

Had I been a Bond/Bourne spy I would have walked into the finest dining room in the city, ordered drink in fluent Finnish, had the maître d’ find me a decent table and have struck up an interesting conversation before they put the olive on the stick. Whereas I sulked in a corner and tried to not to lose my scarf.

You hear that travel broadens the mind (it’s like an exercise for the brain, apparently) but I don’t agree. I am sure a certain type of travel expands horizons but my kind only serves to expand the waistline (dining alone you comfort eat for a party of five). I’ve done the airport-taxi-hotel-office-taxi-airport run enough times to make almost every European city appear identical. This week’s arrival in Finland reinforced the feeling that I want to be here on holiday but not on business; I want to see something new.

The day was damp and cold when we landed and it was already getting dark at 3.30pm. I had hoped for snow but there wasn’t any so I got taken straight to my hotel. We passed the outdoor ice-hokey game which, I guess, must be everywhere in winter. I wanted to watch but I have no idea how to get to them. I worked in my hotel room. I didn’t sleep on the first night (I never sleep well on the first night in a hotel). I went to meetings. I drank too much coffee (do secret agents rely on caffeine too?).

It is a perfectly normal business trip. Sure, I hear you. Go out, mix with the locals, live a little. That, though, is a little too Bond-like for me. I guess Bond would have had a hidden revolver to get himself out of any local difficulties. I wouldn’t have made it through the airport with one and so, I comfort myself, that I don’t look good in black and, truthfully, Judi Dench scares me a little.

On this day…

2005: From The Sky Newsdesk

Children In Need Is Britain’s version of Thanksgiving

Children In Need is Britain’s version of Thanksgiving. It comes around every November and it changes the television schedules (not always for the better). And that’s about where the similarities end but they say you start a piece of writing with a punchy statement to hook your audience. So, there you go. Thank me later.

I am fairly sure that the good folks in America have their very own Terry Wogan (the American version may also be a genial Irishman given the number of people from the Emerald Isle who shipped across the water) but I have no idea and can’t pretend I care for there really is nobody to rival Sir Terry (he is a Sir, Wikipedia told me so and – therefore – must be true).

Children In Need, of course, was last Friday night. You might have tuned in for Jonathan Ross but you got Kim and Aggie trying to clean a Status Quo dressing room. I imagine you’re over the trauma now. It’s Monday and I am whittering on about it purely because The Guardian – free on Finair flights from London Heathrow – has an item on a week in the life of a Pudsey (well, the bloke in the costume, Leeds version). As one of Wogan’s listeners would no doubt email his show, ‘what is the world coming to when Pudsey is attacked by scallies in Bradford’? Seriously, I’m turning all Daily Mail indignant about it.

It’s this sudden surge of middle-Englandness that has prompted me to pick up the Listen To Musak quill once more. For it’s not only hoodies attacking Pudsey that got me all stirred up while reading the paper but the very notion that Dame Shirley Bassey is singing about an night on ecstasy in the current Christmas Marks and Spencer television commercial. I imagine, if I wear a legal type, I should add that Dame Shirls probably didn’t know what Pink’s ‘Get The Party Started’ was all about. And why should she? If truth be known, nor did I until I read it in, guess, today’s Guardian (really, there was nothing else to do on the plane).

Should you ever admit to liking a television commercial? I am not sure that you should but I do like the M&S ad. If you don’t know Marks and Spencer – and their place in British life – then you probably won’t get it and you could skip to the last paragraph. But it’s smart, plays nicely on the current James Bond mania and, let’s face it, must have cost a fortune (which I think is a good thing in tv advertising).

In fact, I love it so much I YouTube’d it (isn’t that what all the kids are doing these days?) Go view it. But then I found a rendition of Goldfinger by the very same Dame Shirley Bassey which is also fantastic (and is, if you believe Saturday night’s Channel Four countdown show, the most popular Bond theme of all time). Then I found Sheena Easton’s For Your Eyes Only. You know that one. Sheena was a nice girl-next-door type who sang about being a Modern Girl but then went glam singing the Bond title sequence and gazing into your eyes as you gazed at her in the cinemas of 1981. Oh, You Tube has Modern Girl too.

So, before I get hooked, I better go.

On this day…

2005: Modern Life Is Rubbish
2004: Another Grid Lock
2003: Movable Type Pro, Soon?
2002: I Want A Career (And I Want It Now)