1984

Eight January was both David Bowie’s and Stephen Hawking’s birthday. Bowie, who turned 65 had a hit in the 70s 1984 inspired by the George Orwell novel of the same name. An artist of many faces he remains an icon of rock and I’m happy to have quite a few of his albums in my collection. Hawking turned 70 but didn’t make it to his celebrations on account of recovering from a bout of ill-health. Hawking already is and will no doubt go down in history as one of the most remarkable minds we have been fortunate enough to have amongst us. His ability to turn the complexities of the universe into language we can all appreciate and marvel at is a gift.

Thinking about spacetime and the big bang can make you feel pretty insignificant and that’s probably correct.

Who really is out there!

It’s a strange thing being at home for a few days. I’ve discovered that people do indeed phone the home landline. Mainly looking for money but this afternoon Hector called from the “Microsoft Support Centre” – yeah right. Trying to play with Hector for a moment didn’t seem to work: “where are you based Hector? I’m wondering as you asked how I was this evening when it’s not yet evening”. “I’m from the Microsoft Support Centre, how are you this evening?” he repeated. You only get a few moments to play with Hector and his friends before they cut you loose and move on to the next potential victim. And it’s awful being hung up on so my inclination is to get the last word in then hang up.

Susan from LinkedIn has been communicating with me via email over a problem I’ve had with my contacts list. It seems I’ve invited too many people and hit some sort of scam alert – or that’s what I can deduce from the online forums – as Susan assures me that there is “no restriction at all on your account” and wishes me good cheer. But not before assuring me that the “Setting of being asked to provide an email address, while sending invitation will be disabled automatically. However, I’m unable to provide you an exact time frame for that to happen as its purely system generated.” So I enquired as to what the event or action was that had caused the system to do this to my account. Having once enquired of Google as to why my adverts had stopped running I knew the perils of asking specific questions of such an organisation.

The answer could have been straight from Winston Smith, the protagonist in 1984. Denial that anything had been altered on my account but a repeated assurance that the system would disable it. Followed by an upbeat appreciation of my being part of their network and an invitation to reply should any further assistance be required. WTF! I like LinkedIn and have got excellent value from it. I politely suggested that perhaps Susan might like to let her manager review our communications, if for no other reason than to help the organisation understand its clients better. More good cheer and an offer to complete a feedback form, declined, but still sent, curiously within an hour of one from Google! Winston is surely watching me.

It’s a new year and clearly I have too much time on my hands thinking about this stuff. Susan is sure to be a good person. Hector’s probably trying to support his family – shame he’s chosen an organisation that steals passwords and what goes with them. At least with Hector you pretty well know what you’re up for. But when it comes to large multi-nationals who spread themselves all over our little globe (think spacetime and it doesn’t feel so bad) then wouldn’t it be okay to just answer the question truthfully? Or maybe even say that they won’t answer it?

Thanking and general politeness can be patronising tools to avoid dealing with a real issue. A good lesson for all of us in leadership. How many times have you heard “I just wish they’d told me it as it is”?

That’s off my chest. If my LinkedIn disappears you’ll know why!

Stephen

Blistering Barnacles! It’s a new year

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have done a fine job with The Adventures of Tintin. Every Tintinophile including me will recognise the mixing and mingling of original stories to create this first of three movies. Some missing bits and some bits merged. The important sentiment and sense that has been Tintin for me for almost 5 decades is brought to life with fine humour and non-stop action. I’m pretty sure Herge would have been proud.

It’s day four of 2012 and there are rumblings of people back to work – you can feel it – actually you can see it in the emails being replied to after a respectable pause over the break.

That Holiday Sense for me

What is a holiday? Driving in the country today a herd of dairy cows walking in a line sharply brought back a memory of a boy-time holiday on dairy-farmer Uncle George’s farm. That was a real holiday! The surf, a barbeque, reading a new and interesting book on a new and as yet unexplored topic all mean holidays for me too. I struggle to get that sense to start with and I don’t mind admitting it hasn’t quite arrived yet, but I feel it might tomorrow. Really!

I’m back to work – or should I say off to my new work – on Monday week so that holiday sense better get here pretty bloody soon, or else. Christmas has been and gone – I enjoy the anticipation and the 26th even more! I visited my parents in Christchurch, somehow missing the worst of the recent quakes and connected with family as best as I could on a brief visit. I’ve done some work and although there will be a little more to do, the sense of the holiday is upon me.

That invisible feeling of being on holiday that means reflection, true perspective on what matters and a genuine recharge of the energy. That’s right a run tomorrow! Second of the year.

Like making the Tintin movie, you just know when you’ve got it. I hope you’ve had or are having it. Otherwise, blistering barnacles, go and see Tintin with Captain Haddock. That’s a holiday feeling definitely here, thinking about that!

Stephen

Tolerating Christmas

It’s a special time of the year especially if you’re a child or a grown-up with lovely memories of Christmas. Might be a really big stack of presents around the tree if you had a big family. Might be stories from older siblings about “hearing” noises in the night. New things. Special meal. Visiting Dad’s boss as a ritual. Everyone in a good mood it seemed!

For some, the Christmas lunch with disconnected relatives is a chore to survive. The only time the trust bank gets a chance to be exercised. That’s not everyone’s experience. Some families are filled with trust, companionship and mutual respect built on doing things – making an effort. And tolerating.

Shortly I’m off to sing carols at St Matthew-in-the-City. St Matthew’s who asked us to reflect on Mary’s discovery that she was pregnant. I only go there once a year. I love the carols and I like the tolerance. Seems to me if there is one thing that I can take from a church it’s tolerance. I’ve previously blogged about having no tolerance for intolerance.

When we sit down for Christmas Lunch that might be something worth reflecting on. Practicing tolerance to those less equipped for the rigours of an annual catch-up. While you’re at it try a little presence and make this one of the good old days!

Share your Christmas’ of the past and have a very happy Christmas day!

Stephen

Grandma’s Clock Part One

Visiting Grandma (and Grandad till he died in 1967) in Auckland in the 1960s and 70s were great times.  The memories are not complete without reference to the sound of the mantle piece clock sounding every 15 minutes. After Grandma died in 1990 I took over the clock which after 50 odd years of service had stopped functioning. It wasn’t until this century that I had it restored to it’s former glory though somehow I don’t have the same ability to sleep through the chimes every 15 minutes that Grandma seemed to, so I don’t wind up the chimes or on-the-hour bells.

It’s incredible how the sound of the clock can bring back so many memories, both in time and space and when the dear old clock stopped working a few weeks ago it was off to the Polish watchmaker in Queen Street who restored it originally for me.  Grandma was a no nonsense person who said what she thought when she thought it and didn’t go for ceremony or emotion. Watching the celebrated New Zealand pianist Michael Houston in full flight on the TV once she remarked: “Why doesn’t he keep his head still – he’s only hitting the keys, all that moving around is quite unnecessary!”

The message from the watchmaker was one Grandma would have appreciated. Listen to it here: Watchmaker message. Priceless. Just what you’d expect. It’s a full service required – $400 – but that’s a small price to pay for keeping all those memories alive.

We should look forward and live in the present. But we are made up from the past too.

Stephen