Sunday, April 22, 2007

What have you been missing

It's been quite a while since I updated this blog. So what's been happening?

The Scottish Learning Festival progamme has just about been completed. Like most projects the first 80% of the work passed off OK but the final 20% has been nothing short of a nightmare. Between people failing to meet any number of extended deadlines, others that came out of the blue demanding some sort of slot in the programme and others still thinking they have time to get their act together, the finalisation of the programme has been a long drawn out affair. Still it's all been worth it and it's going off to print later this week.

The eLearning Alliance Scotland conference also took place on Friday. This was the first proper 'conference' that I'd organised as Think Different Events and it was really a challenge from the outset. We had a great venue in the Beardmore Hotel and Conference Centre, two good keynote speakers in John Connell and Steve Molyneux and sponsorship from Adobe, Qwizdom, Video3, eCom Scotland and support from Learning and Teaching Scotland through Glow. Special thanks to Audrey at the eLearning Alliance Scotland and both Michael and Kirsten at the Beardmore. And if it hadn't been for Joe Dorfman and the guys of Video3 it might not have been as successful as we had planned. Let's just say there were a couple of technological challenges placed in front of us on Friday and all the team pulled together to see things through.

On the office front, Laura is settling in, well she keeps turning up despite everybody we meet telling her it will never last!!! Took us an eternity to get BT to give us the telephone lines and we're still working on getting the network up and running. No website to mention at present but hopefully that will be sorted out early this week.

And finally on a personal note I entered my last year as a 40 something last week. And despite somebody's reservations about an old guy like me liking new music (see previous posts) I'm off to the Connect music festival at Inverary Castle in the first weekend of September to see some of my favourite bands including the brilliant Jesus and Mary Chain.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Keeping Fit

My old boss Nigel Paine nominated me, if that is the correct term, to divulge what I do to keep fit.

Twenty years ago, my fitness regime would have included two football training sessions each week with Westerlands football club. At least one football match at the weekend, hopefully two, a game of five-a-sides at some point during the week and then, whenever I didn't have anything else on, a thirty to forty minute run to keep the old legs ticking over. Between the ages of 18 and 35 I would say I was as fit as a fiddle but like everything else in life changes in my body's ability to continue with the above schedule came over the horizon and the training became once a week and then disappeared off the radar all together. I damaged my knee running one night so stopped that too to save me for the football at the weekend and the fives. Suddenly the fives became that bit harder, the brain knew what I wanted to do but the legs weren't there to help me out so they were jettisoned too. So at 42 all I really had was the Saturday football until disaster struck and I broke my shin bone to end 26 years of amateur football.

So now, to answer Nigel's question, what do I do now to keep me fit? Coach an under 17's football team and get a wee run out with them at the end of the each session during a game - it's amazing how quick they are to the ball, or is it just me?

Try to play golf once a week. It's not a good walk spoiled I hasten to add but the way I hit the ball it can be an awfully long way from tee to green.

I even joined a gym for the first time in my life just before the end of last year but haven't been since January so not much progress there either.

So in summary, I don't do nearly as much as I'd like and I don't have any excuse to offer. I'm a stone over my fighting weight so maybe this admission will get me back on track.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Another musical interlude

The only film I can think of which has an actual Musical Interlude as part of the main film is 'The Battle of The Bulge' starring Robert Shaw, Hendry Fonda, Robert Ryan, Charles Bronson and the usual assortment of C-list extras. When the young panzer commanders start singing you almost want them to win!!!

Anyway, over past couple of weeks I've been listening to and watching a couple of good singer songwriters and bands.

First up were the 13 Senses at the re-scheduled King Tut's gig. Their new album must be about due to hit the streets if it hasn't already and if you like easy listening rock music a la Coldplay, Embrace and Aqualung you'd like this. They had a quirky support act which for the life of me I can't remember their name but they were OK too though I wasn't rushing out to buy any of their material.

And then on Sunday past I went to see the Dykeenes support Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. The Dykeenies were immense and look set to break into the mainstream fairly shortly, while get Cape Wear Cape Fly is trying really hard to be the Billy Bragg for the new generation. Is that a bad thing? Nope it isn't. Great songs, a really strong voice and a bit of political baiting into the bargain.

If the 13 Senses gig was 6 out of 10 then the Dykeenies and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly was a definite 8.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

How a big corporation can really screw you up

The advertising slogan for BT once read

"It's good to talk."

Well you need a telephone line to make that slogan come true and four weeks after entering my new office I'm still waiting on BT to send out an engineer to switch on the lines for me. Four weeks, twenty working days. I know Dalmarnock isn't the centre of the universe but this has gone beyond a joke. I'm told they're coming next Tuesday but I won't hold my breath.
First of all I failed their initial credit check because I hadn't been in business for long enough. Well very sorry for being a new business mate. I also failed the second credit check on my home address, because funnily enough, that address has me down as the user of the line not Think Different Events, well there's a friggin surprise. So then I get a form sent to me to fill in. Guess what? I had to fax it back to them!! Well if I had a telephone line I might be able to do that but as I haven't........ Who's being stupid here. Me or a company that's making millions out of people like you and me?
OK maybe not the end of the world you think as there are also mobile phones that people can contact me and Laura on and vice versa. But what about Internet access, networking etc. Fortunately one of the other tenants in the business centre has an unsecured wifi network and I've been able to park onto that. But Laura and I have had to use a memory stick to transfer information to each other rather than resort to sending everything by email.
A foresee a letter of complaint winging its way to BT, but only after I get the lines up and running. But what good will it really do? Does BT really give a monkeys about a two person organisation which isn't even going to use its broadband service? I think not.
I spoke with a guy today who used to work with BT and he claimed that the business group within BT are a shambles with the sales guys getting huge bonuses signed off by their bosses, read pals, on a regular basis. I'm sure I can't be alone in this so why do we have to put up with it?
Two things I've learn since the start of the new year. Don't change bank to Lloyds TSB and don't rely on BT. If you're reading this please pass this advice on to ten other people and ask them to pass it on to ten others too. Maybe that way someone in one or other of these organisations will finally take the hint about what customer service really means.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

You can't beat a good old one

Driving over the Kingston Bridge the other day I heard the title track from Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here album on XFM. A really great track from a great album. But was it better than Dark Side of the Moon?

Don't think so, and that would probably go for most of the guys I was going around with around the time both albums were released. From what I can remember, and I'm sure Dek will correct me if I'm wrong, these were two of the albums that were played to death every weekend when we were out and about at someone's house, plus Yes albums if you happened to be in John McLaughlin's of a night. While the title track for me was the highlight on Wish You Were Here, the best song by a distance on the Dark Side of the Moon album is The Great Gig in the Sky. I'm sure I read somewhere that Clare Torry, the lead vocalist on the track, only got a few hundred quid at the time of the recording and it was only years later that Pink Floyd decided she deserved a good bit more for her 'singing' on that track.

I also got an email from an old boss and friend of mine, Nigel Paine who is probably instrumental in getting me to where I am today. He gave me a chance to move onwards and upwards when he was chief executive at SCET and I owe him a great deal for all the help and faith he had in me at that time.

Anyway, keeping to the music theme of this blog he tells me he is currently listenting to
the Cowboy Junkies; Red Hot Chillies (sad but true - Nigel's words); the Killers, the Strokes and the Skids (well into the Valley actually). Nothing much wrong with that selection big man. Anyway for all Nigel's old workforce and any others who know him, check out his blog and find out what he's been up to.

It's been a funny old week....

Sometimes you have weeks when you just think - 'yeah that was a good week. I'll have more of this please.' The beginning of the week saw me in the Optima with Learning and Teaching Scotland and a few meetings where we continued developing some of the ideas that will form the basis of the Scottish Learning Festival. The programme is starting to take a bit more shape, though as ever, some people just like to stretch the elastic a bit when it comes to meeting deadlines. No names mentioned but another raft of emails were duly sent with more than gentle reminders.

Later on in the week we had another productive meeting to discuss the eLearning Alliance Scotland Conference which takes place on 20 April. Anybody interested in elearning from across all sectors - education, local authority, health, business, etc. should consider coming along and joining the debate about how Scotland can take advantage of the tools and resources available.

Friday saw me heading across to Edinburgh to meet with Kenny Kinnear and Andrew Watt with a view to supporting the eLive event which runs annually for teachers mainly in Edinburgh and which this year will take place at Murrayfield on 22 and 23 May.

Also visited the Scottish Arts Council to have a brief chat with Joan Parr, this time to discuss how we can work together at the Scottish Learning Festival.

And then on Saturday I started moving stuff into the new office. Thankfully Bronagh and Laura decided they didn't mind giving up a few hours to lend their support - well taking boxes and the like from the cars up a couple of flights of stairs and park them ready for tomorrow. Still got a couple of car loads of material to take down with me but hopefully by the end of the week I'll have transferred almost all I need to the new place. Get the furniture in place, the systems setup and by this time next week we should be all systems go.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The next step

Finally managed to get my hands on the keys to the new office. Not sure whether it was a matter of the cheque finally clearing or the letting staff finally getting fed up with my early morning calls to see when I could come down to the office and take them. So the new headquarters is now

Office Suite 35
Strathclyde Business Centre
120 Carstairs Street

G40 4JD

Telephone number(s) to follow.

So they keys to the office led me around the corner to the Office Furniture Centre to get the desks, chairs and tables I need to make it look like I'm making a serious attempt at this business. Another costly expense to chalk up as start-up costs. And then a trip to Comet for a kettle, table top fridge and a small microwave. Finally to the local Somerfield to buy in some tea, coffee and biscuits. Forgot to get sugar and sweetners but no doubt that will come to, and I don't even drink any of that stuff!!

On the work front, the eLearning Alliance Scotland
conference is finally coming together as is the Scottish Learning Festival programme though with over 150 sessions to cater for its just a bit more complex.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

More bank problems

Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse with the bank I've recently joined, what happens at the weekend?

A couple of the clients I'm working with were due to pay me by this weekend and I thought I'd go online and see if there had been any payments into the account, especially important this week as I need as much cash as I can to furnish the office and get the various systems setup for Laura starting a week on Monday.

Anyway, goes online, have the user name and password to hand and guess what, I get locked out after a couple attempts. Caps lock off, Numbers lock off, everything OK on the computer but of course it's the customer's fault as I found out when I called the helpline. To cut a very long story short, I can't access the online account until next Friday at the earliest. So if you're thinking of changing banks don't even think about Lloyds TSB. They're rank. Oh and they made £4.25 billion profits in 2006.

Oldies but Goldies

Decided to raid the music archives this week for my music pleasure.

First up was Billy Bragg and
Workers Playtime. Being ever so slightly left of centre, some of Billy's songs which he recorded around the time of the evil witch were always good for singing along to while the country around us was falling to pieces, the so called UK government only concerned with the white middle and upper classes of southern England. Everybody above the Watford line had a heavy dose of industrial closures, unemployment, poll tax and all sorts of other disincentives to while their lives away. Twenty years on and what's changed the evil witch has been replaced by the smug wee liar.

Favourite song on the album has to be Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, though Rotting on Remand runs it pretty close.

And then a further trip down memory lane for one of Scotland's favourite sons, Alex Harvey, lead singer and tormentor of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. It's one of my big musical regrets that I never made the effort to see Alex at his legendary, and regular, gigs at the Apollo in Glasgow. Some pals at school went to see him a couple of times and raved about the manic concerts.

My favourite album of the band is Next, probably because some of the lyrics and song titles were a bit dodgy for a 16 year old growing up in a house where the old dear and old man listened to David Jacobs on radio 2 and Val Doonigan and Perry Como on the record player.

Even remember a holiday with some mates in Arran where the DJ played Delilah but also Giddy Up A Ding Dong from the Next album. If that doesn't send the toes tapping then I suggest you see a doctor because you're probably in a coma. Still the highlight of Next is The Faith Healer. (Maybe something the smug wee liar should go and visit)