Archives for category: General

I was in a meeting a good few years ago. It could have been any meeting over the last 5 decades, or any meeting you’ve had. It was fairly typical. Some progress, but also frustrations and miscommunications.

People were not listening to each other, they weren’t answering the question that had just been made. They wanted to make their own point. As a consequence, there were some frustrations, raised voices at times, and frayed tempers. One particular person was asked what they made of the meeting, while we were still in session.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ve heard a lot of heat, but not much light.’

And that is the essence of a good meeting, isn’t it? You want the light, you don’t want the heat. One of them illuminates, the other makes you hot and bothered. One of them makes a meeting worthwhile and a good use of the considerable resources in the room, and the other doesn’t.

Since then, I’ve tried whenever I can in meetings to provide light and not heat. After all, it’s all about productivity, forward momentum, direction, speed and group harmony. Light helps with all of those, whereas heat almost never helps with any of them.

 

Some final thoughts in this short series on the recently finished Rugby World Cup in Japan.

In the final we were comprehensively overwhelmed, out-thought and out-muscled by South Africa, who were on a mission, in more ways than one. It was real rabbit in the headlights stuff from the lads in white. Nothing worked when a mere week ago everything worked. They were a shadow of their semi-final selves. That’s not form; it serves as a further reminder of how it’s all in the mind.

Losing Kyle Sinckler in the third minute was a hammer blow, since he usually does at least 50 minutes. The game is won from the set piece, and England never recovered from that. I kept waiting for someone to step up for England and take the game to the RSA, but it was not to be.

I’ve saved a small bit of sour grapes for the end of the final post in the series. I’ve always maintained that an England victory is worth more than anyone else’s victory because everyone hates us. Everyone supports whoever England are playing, and you see this sub-consciously manifested in the decisions from the 4 officials. I can’t remember the last time we got a break from a French referee. No decisions went our way in the final. Interestingly, no decisions went our way in the semi-final either, especially from the South African TMO Marius Jonker. We lost almost every 50-50 call. Nigel Owens had a stinker and the current best ref in the world Wayne Barnes was obviously barred from the final. It’s just that we were so good in the semi that the inequality wasn’t as obvious and it didn’t matter as much. I still remember the refereeing of the scrums in 2003 final…

On balance, a great tournament. Many congrats to South Africa, the first team to win the whole thing having lost a group game. I think England fans would have taken a silver it was offered to them in the summer.

Behaviourally, I’m still adjusting to what I’m supposed to do with my time on early weekend days…

Here’s part 2 of my short series of reflections on the most important sporting event in our household for a while.

I’m just about over England’s disappointment in the bitterly frustrating final. I had been nervous all week in the lead up to the show piece, and didn’t sleep well the night before. With the games being on in the morning, you’re basically waking up to get right into the event, so there’s precious little build-up to match time.

The main reasons for my nerves during the week were that I felt England had not yet been tested. They hadn’t had a tight game. They weren’t match tight. I thought they were a little undercooked having not played France, and I touched on the weather in my previous post, because that would have been a tight game. The All Blacks were almost perfect against Ireland, but also looked undercooked against England in the semi, having not played Italy in the weekend when Typhoon Hagibis was wreaking havoc. England, by contrast, were almost perfect against the All Black and came into the final supremely high on confidence but woefully short on ‘squeaky bum’ experience, to quote Sir Alex Ferguson.

By contrast, the South Africans had a tough group opener against the All Blacks where they were out of the blocks very quickly but were then outplayed. From there they grew with every match. They also had a date with destiny, national destiny, and they rode that wave beautifully on the 2nd November 2019.

The Rugby World Cup is still fresh – a bit raw, actually, if I’m honest, so I thought I would pen a few words on my impressions of it. Firstly, the host country and the coverage.

Like the vast majority of fans, I didn’t go. Too far, too busy a time of year to be jetting off. I might go to the Lions tour of South Africa in 2021, and the World Cup in France in 2023, but Japan was a bridge too far. So television it was then, which is all anyone seems to use it for these days: live sport and live news.

I thought on balance that it was a great tournament. Obviously the weather and the unseasonably late and ferocious typhoons were a major issue. I mean, 88 people lost their lives! If that had been in the UK there would have been much hand-wringing about whether the tournament should continue at all. But, it’s down to the stoicism and resilience of the Japanese that they picked themselves up and put on a great series of events.

I had the misfortune of watching the final on Irish television, in a holiday home with access only to the Irish channels. All the other matches I saw were on the UK ITV station. OK, so the ads are a maddening but necessary part of the business model to all TV stations but the BBC, but the commentary and the punditry on ITV was outstanding I thought. The pundits were very insightful, and the ads were at their most intrusive during half time when you were really looking for more time for the experts to break down the first half and tee up the second.

I loved the little vignettes of Japanese phrases and philosophy as the stations went to the commercial breaks. A very nice touch.

I saw a young lady with a see through handbag the other day. I’m not talking about one of those recently fashionable items that has an opaque handbag inside another transparent handbag. I mean one of those handbags where you can see the contents of the bag.

It evoked in my mind so many different feelings that you could ascribe to the wearer and the viewer that I’m going to list some of them, four for and four against:

  • I can find everything I need quickly with this handbag
  • Using this handbag will mean I only carry what I really need
  • I don’t care that you can see what I carry in my handbag
  • I don’t care that you can see the condition of what I keep in my handbag
  • My handbag carries a multitude of sins and there’s no way I’m going to advertise them to other people
  • You have no privacy with that handbag
  • I don’t feel like my belongings are secure when others can see what they are and where they are
  • I carry a lot of stuff in my handbag and I still wouldn’t find what I need quickly

I thought the handbag was cool, but it was a little odd seeing the mobile phone, tissues, lipstick and make-up case of a total stranger. I think, on further reflection, that it would also remove a great deal of the taboo around topics like hygiene if one happened to see other items in there.

Where do you draw the line with the public display of things considered private in most societies, like underwear? Is it OK in the US for me to carry my pistol, for which I have a license, in my see through manbag?

 

I subscribe to a once-a-week post from Tim Ferriss, famed author of The 4-Hour Work Week and other 4-hour derivative publications for self-help and lifestyle improvement. The post is called 5-bullet Friday, and it’s just that: “Here is your weekly dose of “5-Bullet Friday,” a list of what I’m enjoying or pondering.

I almost never click on anything, but I do once in a while. Recently, this movie was the first of his bullets. It was a Sunday evening when I got to his Friday email. I was planing on watching a TV movie. The first bullet sounded fascinating, and I clicked on the movie. I watched it all the way through, abandoning my entertainment plan A.

From Tim’s precis: It is beautiful, jolting, heart-melting, and brutal… all at once. The footage and stories blend into a powerful visual journey that evoked nearly every imaginable emotion in me. Here’s part of the description: “What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery? Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand (@yannarthusbertrand) spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. Working with a dedicated team of translators, journalists and cameramen, Yann captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all….”

It’s bloody fantastic, you must watch it. It’s high def drone footage of some of the most incredible shots of our planet and people I have ever seen, interspersed with head and shoulders clips that will break your heart and remind you how lucky most of us reading this post are, how fleeting life is, and how you absolutely must cherish the day.

I’m going to watch Volume 2 the next free evening I have.

 

I came across The Skimm completely by accident. I wasn’t looking for it. Something came up in my Twitter stream when I happened to be looking at Twitter and I clicked through.

The Skimm, as the name suggests, gives you the skinny on the major news stories globally in the form of a week-daily email. This way you can stay up to date in a couple of minutes, without getting bogged down in longer stories or avoiding the news altogether. The content is very well written. It’s been very handy for following the Brexit kerfuffle. It also drops in lots of links to other topics like entertainment and various offers.

That said, it’s quite US-focused and also seems to be geared in the main to women, judging by the advertisers, promotions and list of ‘Skimm’rs’ who subscribe and refer other readers.

I don’t read it every day, but I read it about half the time. It’s a great time-saver for those who want both to stay current and stay focused on the day job.

And finally, my third of 3 selections in this second series of best entries in Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English, a desk calendar featuring an ancient or obscure word for each day of the year.

This word is the fabulous ‘williewaught’. No, it’s not relating to a part of the male anatomy. It means a large amount of alcoholic drink. As in, he’s had an absolute williewaught full, although they probably never used that kind of phrasing back in 1895. It apparently comes from the Scots word quaich, and before that the Gaelic word cuach, meaning drinking cup, but I’m struggling to see that.

This particular page of the calendar also offers a delightful bit of history around Oktoberfest. People heading to Oktoberfest sometimes say they’re going ‘to the meadow’, and apparent reference to the original site of the festivities.

And finally, on the subject of drinking to excess, to ‘come home by the villages’ meant to be drunk in the early twentieth century, since hostelries were in the villages. To come home by the fields, conversely, where there were no pubs, meant to be sober. Fabulous stuff.

Here’s my second choice in the second 3-part series of cool words from Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English, which is one of those page-a-day desk calendars currently adorning my home office.

My choice today is the glorious ‘beastle’, which apparently means to befoul or make filthy. Perhaps it gives rise to the adjective beastly, which we still use these days, though that’s more than likely a variant of the noun beast.

As with part IV, this entry also sticks in the mind for the accompanying ‘on this day in history’ narrative, being the anniversary of the death in 2001 of James ‘The Fox’ Phillips, who was by all accounts one of the earliest eco-saboteurs.

He was a biology teacher who got sick of industrial polluters and from the late 1960s covertly sabotaged – or ‘made filthy’ – factories and terrorised company CEOs in his locality. He seems to be have been the forerunner and perhaps inspiration for organisations like Greenpeace.

Earlier in the year I featured 3 of my favourite instances of Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English calendar, a daily rip-off page devoted to ancient and obscure words. I thought it a good time to revisit them with another 3-part series.

Today’s choice is from 1st October: a come-off

It means an escape or evasion, and I can’t say I’ve ever heard it used that way. It dates from early twentieth century American English.

The calendar not only features a word or phrase, it also ties it to something historical that happened on this day. A Jewish chap called Niels Bohr was helped away on the 1st of October 1943 from Denmark to Sweden and the plan was supposed to be that he would then go to America to help the atomic weapons effort. He dug his heels in since Sweden wouldn’t take Jewish refugees, until the country relented.

As a rather touching postscript, when Sweden’s refugees returned to Copenhagen after the war, they found that their neighbours had looked after their homes. And the rest is history, specifically atomic history in Herr Bohr’s case.