Saturday, 30 January 2010

For Catherine

I learned a couple of days ago that one of my school friends had passed away just before Christmas after a short illness. This made me sad. Catherine was a beautiful gentle human being. She is the first of my school friends to die from so called 'natural causes'. And that's supposed to make it 'OK' is it? Moments like this are that curious mix of knowing that such things are a common experience for us all, an inevitable part of being alive and yet such a deeply personal one too. I thought why her? why that way? who will be next how will happen? We get pretty meta-physical at times like these.

The news however brought the past vividly to life. The school disco, the sound of Procul Harum playing at the end. I can remember what I was wearing, I can even see the type of early evening summer light as we hung around outside and chatted. I haven't seen Catherine for over 20 years. For one week in 1968 she was my 'girlfriend' and then she became the childhood sweetheart of a good friend of mine, and eventually they got married.

In quiet moments I often imagine that we have a thin piece of red cotton attached to our backs and that you can follow the path through life you make on a map. I also imagine the paths of other people and see where they meet, cross over, drift apart, run parallel. The redlines of Catherine and I. The social connections of everyone we meet. A complicated red social network. Why am I writing this? why on a blog? It might be a way of bringing a section of red cotton to life. Before I've always held these things in mind. I've never really thought about what the cotton looks like at the end. When we die. A clean cut? frayed and dishevelled? Our final strands casting around trying to grab the life line of others? I have no idea.

This post wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Catherine.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Climb Evr'y Montaigne

Does Michel Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne (1533-1592)have a claim to be the Grand Father of Blogging?I learned about him for the first time listening to the BBC radio morning programme Start The Week He was a contemporary of Shakespeare who lived in France and travelled widely. It is claimed he invented the writing form we call The Essay. Montaigne has come to my attention some two years plus into my blogging expedition, and he has become a source of inspiration, even though I am yet to read his work.

His writings are ponderings, they are might be's and might nots. They aren't the stuff of a 50 ways to....blah blah, or how to re-design your blog template and integrate the latest social networking application across all your other applications. Neither is he about 'monetisation'. He is about committing his thought to 'paper' and engaging in a journey of thought inspired by journeys in the real world.

Looking back at my very first post it is far more (humbly) in the style of Montaigne than the Pro Bloggers than dominate the blogosphere in their marketing and tech-geek niches.

So...for a while back to my roots. Monataigne I play with my cat or does my cat play with me...I like that sort of pondering.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Lance Bombadier Matt Hatton

Do you live in Sheffield area? If so you might like to go to this event in memory of Lance Bombadier Matt hatton, and in support of the Help For Heroes charity. It takes place on the 12th February 2010.

Click image to reach Vicky Hatton's website.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Social Media Overload Is Making Me A Stylite

So, I switch on my Yahoo and I'm hit with a headline about the Police getting cheesed off with time wasters. Hmm I wonder, this might be relevent to me and so I click on it to reveal a story about the New Zealand Police force. This sort of typifies the deluge of news stories that intrude into our headspace minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day. New Zealand is on the other side of the planet to me and I'm getting worn down by being informed about the grief and hassles of all around the the world.

Human beings are not designed for taking on board loads of information. In fact we are designed to be the opposite. We have to act as a Cogitive Miser we have to shut out the noise otherwise we become paralysed and unable to operate in the world. Of course the stuff reported is bad, of course its bad for the people involved, but it ISN'T my problem!

My brain power and my emotional resources are there so that I can cope with the stuff life throws at me and my nearest and dearest not other people. That's not to say I won't sympathise or help out when I can, its just that being 'disaster bombed'in every news item means I have a growing sense of utter lack of of control of events in the world. Frankly its depressing. Its bad enough with the interjection of advertising messages. We really do have and 'advertised mind'

As Richard Petty said “imagine if you thought carefully about every t.v. or radio commercial you heard or advert you read…
if ever you made it out of the house …you’d probably be too mentally exhausted to do anything else”

So maybe I've reached a conclusion. I think I'm going to follow the example of The Sylites I'm going to make a conscious effort to stay apart from the news for a while. This blog is going to be 'my column' and I'll write about thoughts rather than events for a while. I wonder what will happen? Where will the inspiration of posts come from if there is not stimulus from the world? Is it really good for anyone to know about every event taking place in the world as it happens?

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Civilian Under Cover Policeman

Hello, Hello, Hello what's going off here then? Stuart Howatson (This is NOT a picture of Mr Howatson btw) has been nicked for conning his family into believing that he was London Metroploitan Police Officer in a classic tale of gullibility. This is a great example of how con artists control the situation rather than people. Simply by setting a place at his wedding for 'his boss' the London Metropolitan Police Chief he reinforced the belief in the minds of his con victims that he really was what he claimed to be.

Politeness, trust, and the desire to 'believe' are all the things a con artist preys on. If you want to avoid being gullible you need to keep a skeptical view. This doesn't mean being cynical but it does mean checking for evidence, it does mean looking after 'Me Inc.' because if you don't the con artist who really is looking after 'Me Inc.' will have you on a string.

If someone you love appears to be a Policeman and you are suspicious that they are not what they seem. Why not start thinking and acting like a Policeman yourself. The London Metropolitan Police service say they wish to recruit people who are good at:

Effective communication
Problem solving
Personal responsibility

amongst other things. I'm suprised they don't emphasise curiosity and skepticism too. Mind you looking at the 'managerilaist and HR tone' of their web site it seems that some of the fundamentals have got lost in in the wash of 'business school management speak'

They say they are looking for the core competences Well anyone who has actually read and understood Hamel and Prahalad will realise the things they are talking about are 'skills' not competences. Not only that core competences really relates to organisations not people! If you are a senior Met officer reading this don't be conned by your HR people!

Its also interesting that the skills relate to organisational behaviours rather than the delivery of value in terms of what the police officer is there to do. If I was in charge of the Met I would list the personal qualities as things that the person'does' not what they 'are':

i) Be open minded (which would encourage a respect for diversity and affect curiosity)
ii)Be an effective Social Influencer (much more profound than 'effective communication and teamworking'
iii) Be good at behavioral Pattern Spotting and Sense-Making (deeper than problem solving)
iv) Be Independent Self Driven concern for making a difference to people and communities
v)deter and prevent crime
vi)catch criminals (doh is that a bit too obvious!)