Archives for category: General

What is the rule when it comes to using numbers in content? Should we use numeric symbols or spell them out? I don’t definitively know, but that won’t stop me offering some standards around which how I like to operate.

First things first: I think dates and big numbers should always be represented numerically. They’re simply too tiresome to spell out, unless for some quirky or emphatic reason. What I’m really talking about is the instances where we want to use smaller numbers.

1 example to start. It looks awkward if you begin a sentence with a number, unless it’s a bulleted or numbered list.

The key is consistency I think. If you’re going to use a small number a small number of times, spell the small number out. It can be quite emphatic and also easy on the eye. If you’re set on numerals, be consistent, but try not to begin sentences with a number. Here’s an example of a post I wrote where I spell out the numbers consistently and refer to dates numerically. Spoiler alert: you can’t click on that post until after January 1st 2020. I’ve never ever published a link to a document available in the future before, it feels slightly odd.

Where do you stop the bigger the numbers get, and how do you punctuate? I’m OK with seventeen. I’m also OK with twenty-three, if the context is right and there aren’t too many numbers in the content. What about one hundred and thirty-eight? It’a bit unwieldy isn’t it, and did I get the hyphen right? The higher the number, the more unwieldy, unless it’s a round number, naturally.

So, spelling out numbers depends on the 3 C’s: consistency, context and common sense. And would you believe it, according to this source you only need to hyphenate the numbers between 21 and 99, or twenty-one and ninety-nine. Technically, then, we’d write thirty-two million, seven hundred and ninety-eight thousand, four hundred and fifty-six, though why we wouldn’t put 32,793,456 is lost on me.

I saw an article on the BBC website the day, about polymaths: people who are great at more than one thing, and how they can help the wider community solve bigger problems.

I didn’t read the whole article, obviously, because it was too damn long. But it roused in me a feeling that I’ve felt for a long time. There are no polymaths; it’s a myth to think there are.

At least as far as regular people like me are concerned, that is. A genuine polymath is one in a million, so why would the other 999,999 of us see this as something to aspire to, something we can achieve?

Maybe, back in the days of the Renaissance, there were genuine renaissance men and women who led their field in a bunch of fields. But back then, there were far fewer people with the access to some of those fields, never mind the time or ability to excel at them. The competitive pool was so much smaller. I don’t think some the examples in the article are genuine polymaths either. Just because a Nobel prize winner can play a few musical instruments or paint a bit, it doesn’t make her or him a polymath. It makes them something else, someone who draws on modest abilities in other fields to feed their main specialism.

This idea, that today the polymath is to all intents and purposes a myth, and possibly an unhelpful one, is one of several topics I touch on in a book I’ve written over the course of the last few years, and which is currently being designed and laid out by a proper professional.

The article’s worth having a look at. And hopefully, the book too.

 

A good start to the day is important, especially the working day.

If I’m working from home, and I get a good start to the working day, on time and with no distractions from my desk, it tends to make the whole day productive. I feel like I’m providing good value for money.

If I get a poor start to the day, distracted by domestic chores, a call I wasn’t expecting, an extra errand I need to run, a desk that needs sorting out, or a priority list for the day needed doing first, or maybe some or all of these things, then I find it really hard to get going. My productivity kicks into gear late and sub-optimally. The value is not 100%. The start of the session is really important to me. It almost guarantees a good session.

Yes, you gotta get a good start to the working day, otherwise your mindset isn’t right. The good start starts the day before, with a bit of prep.

 

 

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.