Posts in "Other"

They Call Him King of the Golden Nuggets

In my apartment we have a cat. King of the Golden Nuggets is his name. A fearless predator, an alert hunter, a father to half the local feline population, stalking through the night for his next victim, he answers to no man…unless of course you have some delicious curd to give him. The relationship between the apartment dwellers and Golden Nuggets is thus: you feed him whenever he’s hungry and in return he’ll guard the steps of the apartment against any trespassers and ne’er-do-wells*.


* Provided the trespassers scurry on four legs, go squeak and come at a convenient time when he’s not sleeping.

Technology Fail

It’s strange how we don’t notice technology until it fails us. In India we have to put up with daily power cuts that can last up to two hours and sometimes even the whole day. Even though we know the cuts are coming it still seems to catch us off guard by coming at a really inconvenient time.

Today I had the option of leaving the office fairly early, I just had to get some paperwork printed and photocopied. Of course, technology failed me as the office bought a new super whiz printer with wifi but the computer stubbonly refused to talk to the printer regardless of whether it was connected by USB, ethernet or wifi. I exhausted my entire arsenal of ninja Google search skills looking for a solution but all in vain. The printer was a Canon by the way, just incase you were thinking of buying one. In the end the computer gave up and said “you know what, good luck on that one because there ain’t no printer around here”.*

Then this evening I was supposed to be involved with a pretty exciting call to a PR company in America. The way it works is you fund your Skype account with some money and you can call a number in the US to be patched in to the confernce. The moment I funded my account the Internet died on me so I couldn’t connect. I knew it was fairly important so I called in from my pre-paid Indian number (calling to a US number, youch!) which lasted all of 5 minutes before it burned through all the credit.

10 minutes later my Internet came back so I quickly connected to the conference again via Skype but that lasted barely 3 minutes before the Internet conked out again. I’ve had Internet installed for 8 months and it has never gone down, the one time I really need it and it fails me.

Today was just one big fat technology fail.

* Actually the printer didn’t say that exactly, I was just giving it a bit of anthropomorphic personification. What it actually said was “Runtime error X00111XXX01100. Please try again” which basically means the same thing.

Adobe, where are you?

I now know why Adobe has such a huge problem with piracy in India and contrary to popular opinion I don’t think it’s because it’s too expensive. It’s far more basic than that: You can’t buy the flipping software anywhere! People are forced to get the cracks and pirated versions because you can’t buy the software from a website, you can’t walk in to a computer store; it’s simply not available.

I’ve been looking to buy one of Adobe’s Creative Suites, it’s not cheap and I could easily get a pirated copy, but I want a legitimate license. You’d have more success getting blood from a stone than finding somewhere to buy Adobe’s software in Chennai. If a person in India goes to the Adobe website they are referred to a number of “resellers” who either don’t have a website, don’t have working cell numbers or if they do have a website it was last updated in 1998 when Photoshop 2 was released.

Extremely frustrating. Adobe, if you are reading this: Your product distribution system in India is hopeless.

Getting The Grammar Right

My New Year’s resolution called for me to improve my grammar over the course of the year and to take a little bit of extra thought about what I’m writing. It’s not going to happen overnight and will be a long process, I’ve almost trained myself out of writing things like “Dell have launched a new laptop” and “Google are the number one search engine” and will catch myself (most of the time!) if I make this mistake. I came across this grammar Nazi blog post that[1] I think I need to print out and read daily.

20 Common Grammar Mistakes That (Almost) Everyone Makes | LitReactor

20 Common Grammar Mistakes That (Almost) Everyone Makes | LitReactor are 20 common grammar mistakes I see routinely, not only in editorial queries and submissions, but in print: in HR manuals, blogs, magazines, newspapers, trade journals,…

1Please let me have got this one right! It’s restrictive, right?

Chimps Have Better Recall Than Humans?

Just watched the video in the link below where a chimpanzee can see a series of numbers flashed on to a computer screen quicker than it takes a human eye to register what it’s seeing and then proceed to recall the exact position where the sequence of numbers appeared. I don’t think even the Rain Man can compete with that! I certainly could have done with some chimp memory back when I was applying for my air force scholarship, apparently my own number recall ability was beyond useless!

BBC Nature - Ape versus machine: Do primates enjoy computer games?

BBC Nature – Ape versus machine: Do primates enjoy computer games? chimp genius can complete a computer memory test in less time than it takes the average person to blink – and much faster than any human rival. But do the world’s…

My New Year’s Resolution

I forgot to publish a New Year’s Resolution, I hope I’m not too late! I’m going to keep it simple this year, so here we go:

1. Learn English proper, like. I’ve been told by many people that I have a wonderful writing style (Naaw, thanks guys!), but I’ve also been told by an equal number of people that my grammar sucks, my girlfriend even told me that a little piece of her dies every time I use an errant “are” instead of “is”. To rectify this (and to save my girlfriend) by the end of 2012, amongst others, I will have finally mastered the common apostrophe, know the exact times when to use the semi-colon, the colon and of course the hyphen and be the foremost expert on the tricky difference between “which” and “that”.

2. Lose another 4kg. It doesn’t sound like much, it doesn’t need to be much, I just need to be lighter at the end of the year than I am now.

3. Turn 29. Well, I need to have at least one resolution that I’ll be able to stick to! I’ve now successfully turned 29

4. Go to bed early. If I’m going to turn 29 this year then I need to stop going to bed at 1am and stop writing blog posts at 12:30am like this one, even if it is a Saturday tomorrow.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, it should be good enough, I’ll see you in 2013 to see how we all got on.

The Battle of The Bulge

Weight loss. Fat loss. Dieting. Whatever you want to call it, it’s something that I’m sure most of us would like to do at some point but that carrot cake and latte from Costa Coffee is so much more enticing than pounding the treadmill for 30 minutes solid. Every year I know people make a resolution to lose some weight, or at least not put on any more weight, but we all know what happens by the end of January!

Exactly this time last year I was dragged kicking and screaming danced and skipped merrily to my nearest gym and excitedly signed up for a year of pain and torture. So it was on this day one year ago I was hoisted up on the industrial cattle scales and found to weigh an unsightly 73.9kg which put my BMI at approximately 26 which means I wasn’t quite in the same league as say a fridge but I wasn’t a sprightly cheetah either.

I’ll be honest with you here. Losing the pounds was hard. Very hard. Over the weeks I had to be content with small victories like losing 0.2kg in a week and not to mention face the teasing from the office staff who found it hilarious that I was working out at the gym almost daily with no visible results to show for it.

Fortunately though, I did get a lot of support from the online community and friends in general and received several messages of support via Twitter which gave me the motivation to carry on!

At one point, not long after joining the gym I even started gaining weight which was quite alarming, going up to 74.5kg but then after that it started to come down very, very, very slowly. I restricted myself to weighing in just once a week so that I wouldn’t become obsessed with the daily fluctuations. Some weeks there wasn’t any change, other weeks I could lose as much as 0.5kg and then there were weeks where I put weight back on. It was tough!

Now I didn’t change my diet too much, I’ve mentioned before how little meat I eat nowadays and my alcohol intake is insignificant, meaning that my tolerance is now so low that I would be a very cheap date for anyone! I don’t consider my diet to be too unhealthy although my girlfriend respectfully disagrees. I don’t pig out on sweets, chocolate and soft drinks, infact I don’t eat/drink any of that stuff, but then I don’t consciously avoid foods either so I’ll happily order a dessert if I go out somewhere to eat. Could I improve my diet? Yes, definitely, but I refuse to eat carrot or celery sticks as a “delicious snack”.

The real killer for me was going back to England, once in April for a week and then in October for 2 weeks. I’m not sure if it was the British food, home cooking, drinking more beer, the paninis, carrot cake and extra large lattes from Costa Coffee or just the fact that I ate more while back in England but it all contributed to piling on the pounds and arriving back in India heavier than when I left.

In August I joined a new gym and the trainers designed a whole work out regime for me which consisted of weight lifting, cardio and core exercises (think yoga stuff). Apart from the blip in October the training schedule has done its job and slowly the weight came off. Breaking past 70kg proved to be very elusive though and I stagnated for several weeks which was pretty annoying!

However, many people put in their New Years resolutions that they want to lose weight, and even though I only lost about 4.5kg, I still count it as a small victory – I still weigh less now than I did this time last year. The physical difference is that I’m a whole lot stronger, a whole lot fitter and on the road to losing the famous Claridge double chin!

That said, even at 69.2kg I wouldn’t say I am at a healthy weight, but, and I might be tempting fate here, I can almost feel the skinny man fighting to get out.

The most annoying part of losing weight is when you hear how other people are melting away the pounds with seemingly no effort at all. I know of one 47 year old man who is around my height and weighed over 89kg. He decided that it was time to do something about it earlier this year and by changing his diet and going for walks in the morning he lost 20kg in about 5 months!

Anyway, I hope to build on what I’ve done so far, I know 4.5kg sounds like something you can lose in a month but as I said, I’m not going to starve or deny myself anything. Hopefully by the end of 2012 I’ll be 65kg which is a far healthier weight for my height. I also hope this provides some comfort or reassurance to anyone trying to lose weight but finding it very difficult! Keep up with the gym, if nothing else it’s good for your heart!

Update: No, the picture of the fat belly is not me! It’s a stock photo!

The Fastest Foreigner In Chennai

For the last 12 months I’ve been beating up my body on a near daily basis at the local gym and the results have been nothing short of spectacular. I can now do 8 1/2 press ups without pausing for breath and given enough time to recover I can go on to do another 6. I’m really getting my money’s worth out of it.

Every month the gym does challenges; a few months back it was the grand bake off and unsurprisingly the only entrants were the female members. Last month it was an Iron Core challenge which tests you inner core strength by seeing how long you can hold a position for before your body gives up. Core strength isn’t my forte, I’m more of the explosive push ups guy as mentioned above, so didn’t even try entering this challenge which is a good job because the winner lasted for over 6 minutes and I last about 30 seconds on a good day (which is actually an improvement from when I started).

Anyway, this months challenge was the 1KM run and when the details went up on the notice board I knew I’d kill it. You see, while I’m rather mocked on in the body building area of the gym, I kick ass in the cardio section.

I know this because the machines have very big touchscreens which displays all the important info and I’ve noticed that most people who go to my gym think they can shed weight by setting the resistance to level 0 and spending 10 minutes free wheeling, burning approximately 5 calories in the process. Even on the treadmill, people see it as an opportunity to catch up with the gossip on their mobile phones than a chance to get your sweat on. I’m honestly not exaggerating when I say that a sizable minority of gym goers spend 20 minutes on the treadmill doing nothing quicker than a brisk walk while chatting on the phone.

Since this was my competition I knew that the 1KM run challenge would be mine to own. When I do a cardio workout I go for maximum sweat and take the view that if you have the breath to talk you aren’t working hard enough. Sounds pretty hardcore, right? No dilly dallying on the phone, tough resistance on the machines – I’m there to lose weight.

“So Pete, are you going to do the 1KM challenge today” the instructor asked, “You bet your ironic pot belly I am, Mr Instructor” I replied, brimming with confidence of a challenge I already knew was mine. “What speed are you going to go at then?” “I’m going to open up full tilt and set it to 12 km/s” I said, waiting to see their look of shock and awe. Except it didn’t quite have the same effect I was hoping, “Oh, only 12 km/s, Peter? I thought foreigners are supposed to be fast.” Huh?! “The fastest person so far has run at 15 km/s” the instructor continued, my self assured cockiness was proving to be rather misplaced, “Umm, well, maybe we’ll start on 12 and see if we can go faster.” I said.

Since I was going to be running like a bat out of hell the instructor had to be there for supervision and I even had to use the safety clip so that if I tripped and went shooting off the back of the treadmill at least it wouldn’t keep going with no one on it.

The challenge started. The belt began to roll and it climbed up to my target speed of 12 km/h which is actually the fastest I’ve ever had it. “Shall we try for 13?” the instructor asked after 30 seconds, I nodded my head, so far it wasn’t too bad. After 60 seconds the instructor asked if I wanted to go to 13.5, I nodded in agreement. Another 30 seconds and he asked if I wanted to go to 14. I hesitated. The instructor took this as a yes and increased the speed, I was now 2 minutes in to the challenge and beads of sweat started to form down the side of my head. According to the computer I’d done a little under 400m. I could feel my heart banging away inside me.

“I think you can go to 14.5” the instructor said, I glanced at the instructor and tried to communicate that I was more likely to juggle snowballs on a cold day in hell before I could get to 14.5, I think he is telepathic because he moved his finger away from the speed button.

3 minutes completed. By now the beads of sweat had become well established gushing rivers and my heart was pounding like crazy. I could feel my knees losing their strength and felt that they could buckle at any time. I checked the distance, 700m, still another 300m to go.

My breathing was now short and heavy. A sickly feeling was growing in my stomach. My chest started to have a prickly pain. I felt sure my knees would buckle under me at any moment. 100 metres to go. I was gasping for breath. My ankle faltered and I nearly tripped. And then…

The instructor hit the stop button, I had done my 1 KM run. I thought I would kill it, but it ended up nearly killing me. I fought for some breath and looked at the time, 4 minutes 26 seconds. Not flipping bad I thought, or probably thought because mostly I was thinking about the sick feeling in my stomach and the weakness in my knees.

“Well done, Pete!” The instructor said, “Great job, give me five!”, I didn’t have the energy to raise my hand, “Am I the fastest so far?” I asked between shallow, rasping breaths. “No, Pete, the fastest so far is 3 minutes 50 seconds.” My face must have looked crestfallen so he added “But don’t worry we’ll add a new section to the competition and you can be the fastest foreigner”.

It’s Kinetic Typography

In the last few weeks I’ve found myself getting increasingly addicted to which is having a negative impact on my social life, bank balance and relationships. If I don’t get my daily Fiverr fix then I turn in to a grumpy old man and start writing blog rants about the state of the world and how we’re all doomed (so smile and get on with it). OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, I was a grumpy old man well before Fiverr came along, but anyway it does mean I’ve been introduced to loads of incredible concepts like this one I’ve just found.

It’s called kinetic typography which is basically a fancy way to say the text moves…yeah, it must be an Americanism. The video below is the best example ever of kinetic typography and the song is very nearly as awesome as the video itself. Give your eyes and ears a three and half minute treat, check this out…

(awesomeness, eh?!)

The Winner

Yesterday I won a competition for a free privileged entry to an international social media seminar that is taking place in Chennai this week with the lead speaker from the famous SEOmoz company (which I’m really excited about!). You know, a lot of people say they never win anything and I am certainly one of them. My girlfriend asked me what the last thing I won was, I racked my brains and the best I could come up with was winning the Most Polite award at the annual Cub Scout (Great Bowden Cub Pack) summer camp when I was 9 years old. Apparently I always remembered to say my “please and thank yous” to Akela and Brown Owl. But I hardly mention that any more and might even take it off my CV under “Achievements”.

Good Job, Dave

Well done, Dave, you have come out victor in another conflict started without consent of the British public and at an estimated cost of £1bn give or take a few hundred million pounds. And I thought Britain was broke and we all (that is, the public at large) had to take it stoically on the chin. £1bn? That’s 5 new schools for you right there.

And now, the evil, but slightly comical goatee-bearded villain is dead. No more long rambling rhetorical speeches for journalists to be smugly condescending about and how comforting it is to know that the unelected Libyan transitional Head of State (who, not forgetting, was this time last year the Justice Minister in the aforesaid villain’s showpiece government) has publicly said that the bastions of humanity will not be forgotten when it comes to handing out those lucrative contracts to rebuild the bombed out country. A score for your party donators British business.

Now, Dave, how about this for an idea? Before we go gallivanting as the knight in shining armour in to yet another conflict with an oil rich state in the name of humanity (while of course neatly side-stepping the inconvenient issues present in non-oil rich failed states), why not ask the public if they want to send our (I’m searching for a better word here) defense forces in to a war zone thousands of miles away by conducting a democratic referendum?

Dave, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I would rather see the hospitals, schools and council services be better funded rather than spending another £250,000 to send a plane to drop a bomb on Johnny Foreigner, no matter how much oil the country has humanity the people need.