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Happy halloween

I’m not really one for making a fuss about halloween but since my daughter has me wrapped around her little finger that doesn’t stop me from spending an hour and a half carving relatively advanced pumpkin designs for her.

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Virgin America flight safety video

This Virgin America flight safety video is entertaining in itself but it’s also a lovely example of a brand sprinkling its personality on top of something that’s a legal requirement. (This is the kind of thing I’d be posting up on a work blog if I had one running right now.)

Last time I flew with Thomson, they had a safety video with kids doing the acting and speaking. It certainly got my attention, more so than the other approach some airlines take when they get the pilot to say, “We realise lots of you have flown many times before but please do give the safety announcement your full attention.” It’s not bad in itself but it’s kind of lazy, as if someone hadn’t bothered questioning why the legal advice had to be presented in such a boring manner.

For every chapter, a thousand memories…

Sitting on your arse all day for two days at a conference is surprisingly tiring work. I’m cream-crackered, despite having had what I thought was two good nights’ sleep in posh hotels. Having said that, last night I looked in the mirror while brushing my teeth and wondered where the enormous bags under my eyes had come from.

The conference this week was the first one I’ve ever attended and taken contemporaneous electronic notes. In the past, I’ve always felt like it would be better to take notes by hand as I felt more able to write down one point while still listening and catching any other points made. But my handwriting is awful at the best of times and trying to write quickly while not really looking at the page meant that more often than not I ended up with notes that were illegible, certainly if I looked them more than a couple of days after writing them.

My typing, on the other hand, is half-decent. While I would never make a living taking dictation, my typing is much better than my handwriting and, even with some typos, it’s easier to work out what I was trying to type than trying to interpret a manual scrawl. To an extent, autocorrect has helped in that regard, even if that function does get some deserved flak on occasion.

The main reason I switched to electronic note taking this time was the fact that I had my MacBook Air with me with the app Day One running on it. Day One’s a journalling app and I mainly use it for work, although I’m trying to get more into the habit of using it to record other stuff (eg calls to useless telecoms suppliers who fail to turn up to appointments). The thing about Day One is that there’s also iOS versions for it so you can update and access your daily journal pretty easily. As it happens, I took my notes in Day One mainly on my laptop but with a few updates going in via my phone, especially when the battery on my laptop ran out.

Apart from a nice journalling app that keeps notes in an organised (by date) manner, Day One also uses Markdown for its formatting. Markdown is in essence a shorthand formatting convention that is readable as just plain text but appears nicely formatted if the file’s read in a compatible app. This makes it great for note-taking because I can easily denote various levels of headings by using the appropriate number of #s, for instance, and numbered lists are as simple as typing 1, 2, 3 at the beginning of lines. Looking back at that last sentence, it sounds really stupid that that’s considered a special language but the magic is in the automatic formatting you get from it when used in the right place.

I’m still trying to turn Day One into more of a habit than it is, but it’s getting there and with every update I feel like it becomes more the kind of app I want. High on my wishlist is the ability to embed tweets nicely and some sort of magic auto-import of tweets and Facebook statuses and when that happens, I’ll probably feel more like Day One is a true journal of my life rather than simply a work log with some more personal bits sprinkled in.

Post title lyric taken from The Beautiful South – My Book

In hotel cells listening to dial tones, remote controls and cable moans…

I’m staying in a hotel in central London right now, as I’m attending a conference. I was only planning on staying tonight but ended up travelling up last night instead due to public transport round my way shutting down for the morning while the St Jude storm passed over. I have to admit, I’m quite enjoying it.

When I first started work after graduating, I spent far too much of my life in hotels and either being bored/lonely or having to socialise with people I’d rather not. It was the itinerant nature of management consultancy life that made me leave it. Well, that and the whole culture of management consultancy but I won’t go further for fear of descending into a massive rant. Staying in decent business hotels wasn’t too shabby a life, of course, and when you’re young and living in not-so-nice shared flats in London, it can be great to live in a private room with an en-suite with no need to clean.

I reached a clear watershed in my attitude to hotels when we moved to our current home. It was the first time I lived somewhere where I felt that even a good hotel wasn’t as nice as my own home. I’m talking about the usual 4 star business hotels I stayed in when on business. Obviously somewhere like a suite at Claridge’s is pretty special, still. Add to that the desire not to be away from family for too long, since A came along, and business travel definitely became something, if not to dread, then at least not to want to do too often.

But it’s been so long since I’ve had to travel seriously on business, staying in a hotel has regained its novelty value for me. And while it was something of a pain to have to move hotels (I wasn’t able to extend my booking on the hotel I’m staying at tonight so stayed at a different one last night), I think being in a different room tonight has contributed to me not getting cabin fever. That and the fact that I’m very close to St Paul’s cathedral and so quite pleasant to have an early evening walk before dinner.

Dining alone tonight wasn’t really too much of a chore. When I first started working, there weren’t any iPhones, iPads or Kindles to keep you occupied while eating alone. It was really very much a case of reading newspapers or physical books, which were a pain to fold or keep open while eating at the same time, especially on a small restaurant table. Tonight: I had a quick check of Facebook and Twitter on the iPhone before carrying on with a book on my Kindle. And nowadays, I’m beyond being self-conscious about sitting in a restaurant on my own, especially in a restaurant in the City, which has its fair share of solo travellers.

Post title lyrics taken from Blur – Best Days

RIP Lou Reed

I don’t generally do the whole public RIP thing when famous people die but Walk on the Wild Side will forever be ingrained in my brain, being one of the songs, like David Bowie’s Space Oddity, on my mum’s car mix tape that I remember listening to, ooh, hundreds of times (I really don’t think I’m exaggerating) when I was growing up.