My horizons are expanding…

Having too many interests is my downfall and my strength.  It has resulted in my blog being slightly fragmented in nature.  There are so many things that have happened in the past few months which I have not shared with my readership, but I will when I feel the urgency to express myself.

I cannot honestly say that I have “a dream or some great ambition”.   I actually have too many dreams to focus my efforts on one thing.  In the past few months alone, I have persuaded myself that learning Mandarin would be an interesting pursuit worthy of my time.  Uncharacteristically I’ve also decided that I can get good at hip-hop dancing.  I’ve started swimming again and going to the gym, where I am able to practice some of my dancing and workout in solitude.  The people in the gym keep saying “OOOHHHH, Michael Jackson” (I’m nowhere near that level yet, so it’s probably a big joke).

The reality of my current situation is that I’m getting to the stage in my life where I need to actually need to make some concrete decisions about my future.  I’ve never really had the idea of a dream job.  I wanted to become a newpaper editor in my early years, but since my childhood, I have come no close to my bread and butter.  My basic ambition is to do something valuable, exciting and cranially challenging.    Recently I’ve been thinking about pursuing a career in marketing.  It strikes me as the kind of career that requires a mind that can handle a wide range of information.  I’m not sure how talented I would be at marketing.  My plan is to take on some work experience or  internships that will allow me a chance to understand my place in the world.

Regarding the topic of further education, I am undecided.  I know that I want to learn more, but taking a Master’s degree requires one to have a burning interest in a particular subject.  I know that I can always try to get a job in London and work hard at both my career and education at the same time (part time Masters route), but perhaps I should just do a full time masters and concentrate on trying to get a distinction.  Well, I suppose this was a bit boring to read because it was entirely egocentric, but I am in an egotistical frame of mine…

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Exciting electronic devices this year

I’m just going to list some of the devices that have intrigued me in 2012:

1) The new iPad/iPhone 5

I don’t speak in Apple.  In fact, the only Apple device I have ever owned is an iPod classic, but I think that the new iPad with the inclusion of 4G connectivity, is an exciting first step into the next stage of the mobile era.  By setting a high benchmark for the rest of the market, Apple has made the  The new Iphone also sports a larger screen which makes a lot more sense to me…

2) The Samsung Galaxy Note 2/Note 1

Although the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 absolutely blows the Note 1 out of the water, the principle of a phone that measures 15.11cm x 8.5 is the real attraction behind buying a Note 1 or 2.  It makes me wonder at the weird evolution of mobiles.  They started out large, then it was fashionable for them to be small, then they needed to have keyboards, then touchscreens.  As a result, we needed larger phones again…

3) The Google Nexus 7 tablet

Premium everything for £200.  So good that I bought one.  Enough said.

4) Asus… everything they do…

Asus are a fantastic company.  Not as revolutionary as Microsoft or Apple, but I think currently producing some of the most exciting and varied products (and probably the greatest number).  For instance the Transformer Prime Asus EE Pad is, I think, the closest competitor to the iPad.  I’m being completely serious.  The Google Nexus 7 is the best tablet for your money, but the Transformer Prime Asus EE Pad is the high end luxury market competitor that I think offers the competition that the iPad needs, with high-end quad core graphics to boot.  Asus have even developed a tablet with a slide-out keyboard called the Asus Eee Pad Slider.  Asus also was entrusted with the making of Google’s first tablet; a powerful indicator of the big-player status Asus are building-up in the world of tablets.   Aesthetically, I think Asus succeeds where companies like Samsung tend to fail.  Keep watching this company!

5) Windows Surface

Finally, Windows has taken a bold leap into hardware and I couldn’t be more excited.  I think the gesture rich metro interface is fantastic (I would go so far to say that it is the best user interface for tablets) and the fact it won’t be held back by another hardware developers bloatware – though the desktop interface is included that reveals that the device has an inbuilt identity crisis (is it a netbook or a tablet?).  I like the tablet’s aesthetic features and think that it is a good start to Microsofts foray into the tablet and hardware market.  App wise they are way way way behind their competition.  Lacking 4G/3G  connectivity I’d say is a bad move for a company wishing to compete with Apple/ultrabooks.  However, I still think it is an impressive catch-up job by Microsoft.

6) The new Kindle Paperwhite

An E-ink Kindle that actually looks good…

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People of Wanstead vs. Dalco Developments Ltd

whttp://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/9987602.WANSTEAD__Developer_could_turn_loved_green_space_into__vegetable_patch_/?action=complain&cid=10865243 - click the link for more information.

The one thing that anyone who lives in Wanstead should cherish is the greenery.  There are a few local cafes, an antique shop, some charity shops, an art shop, a few newsagents, the George, an excellent local library, a Starbucks, Wanstead house (a place where you can see local dramatic productions) and the fabulous Naman (a restaurant that serves up Vietnamese food).  However, the real beauty of the place, is reflected by the green open spaces, which are well maintained and protected.  The people who live here/there should take Mr Sanger’s statements as motivation to action:

Sanger says; “The field is fenced off and isn’t benefiting anyone and hasn’t done for 15 years. It is a waste of land and we are trying to bring it back to the community.

What I say: It’s protected land… It doesn’t matter if it’s fenced off.  It doesn’t stop it looking beautiful.

Sanger says: “The council needs to rethink what they are talking about. There is no common sense in leaving it empty.  It is like leaving a broken down car in the street without removing it.”

What I say: This is a false analogy.  First of all, a broken down car does not make a place look nice, unlike a green space.  A broken down car in the street would also block the way for pedestrians, unlike a green space.  Comparing it to a broken down car, also makes light of the issue at hand; at least say that it is a valuable vintage car, with a huge value and heritage attached to it, which the local people would be sad to see go.

Sanger says: “What we are saying is lets get our head together and work something out”.

What I say: Okay.

Sanger says: “If they don’t want what we propose when we put in our application, we will go to appeal.

What I say: You don’t really want to please the community do you?  You basically said that you’d present your project to us and if we don’t like it, you’ll try and do it anyway.

Sanger says: “If worse comes to worse we will grow our own vegetables there. There are so many things that we can do there which will be an eyesore to local people.”

What I say: Are you threatening us or something?  Should we trust someone who is obviously unreasonable with green-belt land?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t develop the land, but we should try to preserve the green space.  Maybe have community beehives and plant lots of flowers?  That’s the kind of project that I think would fit well with Wanstead’s image and benefit the environment.  I don’t think arguments from people who dislike bees and have an irrational fear about the timid European honey bee attacking their pets and children, would mount a strong argument against this idea.  The cost is an issue, but I’m sure that the money can be found to fund it.

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Education and training – A ramble…

All of this nonsense about exams not being hard enough is really annoying me.  It is something that governments constantly latch onto and try to remedy, when it is not a problem at all.  In fact, all these statistics that are provided in league tables and the emphasis on upping the average is a political game played in order to present the UK as a competitor to other foreign markets; it doesn’t help the children. I am not a teacher.  In fact, I live far away from the “real world” realities that many families face.  I probably am far away from being as well-off as Osborne/Cameron/ others in politics, but I think I have been pretty lucky in life.  However, the one thing that I have done is charity.  Charity has allowed me to see the issues that some children face.  I have come to realise that so many of them don’t enjoy school.  They certainly don’t enjoy exams and they regard learning only as a facilitator for the passing of exams.

Last year, I took up a Japanese course at SOAS university.  I am really fascinated by the language and culture and have always wanted to holiday there.  I found that I was a far more effective language learner than I have ever been before.  I studied German at GCSEs and French before that and I can quite honestly say that I was fairly dismal at both.  What then made the difference?  It was obviously maturity, the cost of the course (I felt I had to try more in order to get my money’s worth), being put through the rigours of degree level study etc.  However, the  most important factor was that I understood the potential use of the language and had plenty of practice speaking it in class.  There was an exam at the end of each term, but these didn’t require devoting hours of study.  They were to indicate if anyone was getting left behind and was ready for the next term of work.  I remember in GCSE German, we had oral exams that involved spieling off a one minute speech and answering questions on set topics.  People would prepare their answers word for word and the exam would involve reciting what they had learnt to the examiner.  I naturally rebelled (everyone says I am an idiot for doing this), didn’t learn set answers, bombed in the exam (got a C), when all my other papers were A/A* grade and got 1 mark away from an A overall.  However, in Germany, I found that I was at least able to muddle through some conversations with locals (my German has degraded terribly since this time), whilst others would have struggled with free flowing speech.  In French, I remember learning from uninspiring textbooks and sending a letter to an imaginary friend called Claude how I wanted to go on the TGV in three tenses.  I didn’t build up an exciting picture of French culture (aside from finding out that there was something called chocolate bread) and as a result, I doomed myself to mediocrity in French.

What I have learnt from my experience is that people in governments and the media, is that they (as people who generally faced either no real difficulties in their own educations or have forgotten what it was like to learn as a child) are addressing the problems of easy exams, when the real blight upon the education of young people is a lack of direction or the only direction seeming to come from a desire to pass exams (which might motivate some people to excel, but not nearly enough).  I don’t think the solutions are inexpensive either and they extend from the toddlers years (our primary system needs a complete makeover, yet why is it always the secondary education that gets lambasted by the media?), right up to the post-graduate years (there are plenty of graduates who are willing to go through more training, yet are finding costs prohibitive and there aren’t enough businesses who offer training).

I understand that some jobs require a huge financial investment by a company in order to fully train  a member of staff (think of competitive internships in IT and some apprenticeships that can run into the tens of thousands of pounds for training), but for lower skill jobs, I think it is ridiculous for a company not to give training for an “unskilled” employee.  I sometimes train people to cash-up and use the till and it takes so little of my time.  The “unskilled” employee is sometimes only a few steps away from being “skilled” and saying that young people haven’t got enough “experience” is rubbish.  First, they aren’t meant to have experience, as is held to be self-evident, within the very definition of the term “young people” and experience, is not an indication of aptitude; many people thought that Fred Goodwin was experienced enough to become the CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland and yet what we came to discover was that “experience” can lead to arrogance and complete ineptitude.  All I’ve learnt from experience, is that in this ever changing world of ours, experience allows us to mostly avoid old mistakes and make new ones.

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Recommended read for those interested in publishing

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/oct/12/ten-ways-to-save-publishing-industry?newsfeed=true  Just an article…   I think I agree with most of the points, though this point,

“2. Publish more selectively. In a recent open letter to Amazon customers touting Kindle Direct Publishing (through which authors sell their books directly to readers), founder Jeff Bezos claimed that the programme produced “a more diverse book culture” with “no expert gatekeepers saying, ‘Sorry but that will never work.’” Bezos evidently regards the function of publisher as obsolete. Publishers will flourish when they are seen as discriminating arbiters of their customers’ tastes. Limiting the number of books published will assist in emphasising this vital role of gate-keeper. Publishing successive books by the same author, or books grouped tightly by type or subject, will underscore the publisher’s authority as a curator”,

I agree with in principle, but I think it will ultimately undermine the future of the industry.  In the long term, it could potentially damage the willingness for exciting new prospects in the writing world for even bothering to submit manuscripts or find agents.  It would have to be a combination of publishing well known authors and scouting for new talent that will have to be the strategy undertaken by mainstream publishers.

And this point also makes little sense,

“4. Hold no stock. Print-on-demand remains significantly more expensive than conventional printing. But it means the end of misjudgments about how many books to print. Further savings will be achieved by foregoing warehouse costs and not tying up capital in stock. And, of course, in this new, more efficient system, the environment benefits alongside the publisher’s bottom line”.

I say it makes no sense, because it is something that a mainstream publisher should be able to anticipate.  I think that the general public wants books to cost less.  I should know; I work in a bookshop in a well-off neighbourhood.   Even when people have money, there is a general feeling that books should be a relatively low cost form of entertainment.

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The thick of it

Currently airing on the BBC, is the political satire “the Thick of It”.  I certainly recommended anybody reading to watch it.  The show is so realistic, that real life policies and behaviour exhibited in politics imitates it.  Go to this BBC link to find out more http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19908366 (they’ve even got a nice little video).

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Fifa 13

So I bought Fifa 13 for xbox (sorry Pro – although I think Pro requires more skill)… This was certainly a bad decision…  I have heard of writers suffering from addiction, but it’s usually stuff like alcohol, heroin, sex, literature, sights of the sublime and long walks.  Football game addiction I think might be a new one for the literary minded.  At the moment I am controlling Arsenal.  Definite tips are to buy Marcelo as a left back in for Gibbs, Sergio Ramos vice captain of Real Madrid (you can buy him cheap) or perhaps Lewandowski as a striker if you don’t like Giroud (completely underrated player on Fifa).  By the way, the soundtrack for the game is terrible, definitely put on your own music…

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