2017 Goals and Aims

I have spoken at some length in a previous post (see http://www.markkeating.me.uk/2016/11/11/the-me-me-goal/ ) about one side of goals, which i called the ‘me goal’ a form of internal embiggening[1] yourself. Today i am going to speak about my goals for 2017.

Well not all of them.

And this is not a continuation of the previous post just I thought I’d mention it so that you could go and look and I could make some mild link that has no value because the kittens have knitted a jumper.

…anyway…

This year I have set myself a number of challenges to do with personal, professional and family life. I have also accepted a challenge from Leigh (www.leighkeating.me).

I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Personal: Been feeling fat and unhealthy and my lifestyle in regards to food and drink has got out of hand. So I have decided to lose weight, exercise more and drink less. I started on the 5th January. I am 2 stone lighter, I am eating better and drinking less. It is a hard regime, I am not massively overdoing it, but I am being firm with myself. So that’s going well, but I need to see if i can mange a year.

Leigh: Leigh asked me to publish a book, I did do one last year and you can find it for free (or make a small donation) on The Dog Ate My Bookshop website. The last book I published was a series of Haiku’s from 2015. this time around it will be a novel of some sort.

Family: Well I have kids and a wife that is devoted to me. I have resolved this year to make the most out of that and to sort out some better way of being a better husband and father. This is not to say I am crap, just that I know I can do better and I know they deserve the best version of me.

Professional: This is a hard one as I am pretty dedicated to my professional work. But this year I am trying to extend the notice that I give to what I, and my work colleagues, do.

We spend a lot of time working with communities in groups both in meat-space and elsewhere. I want to make sure that we get the acknowledgement (this is not respect, recognition or promotion but simply awareness) of what we do. So I have been focusing o making sure I put news on the company website (go take a look if you like) and trying to blog more about the company and the people.

That’s some of the goals I have for the year.

I don’t call them resolutions and I don’t conceive of a fully structured plan. These are changes I want to make or think I need to make and as such they have few requirements or definitive aims.

The weight loss has a general goal, as does the fitness. the challenge from Leigh has an aim but I am not bound to it. And in family and company these are desires to see a change that will benefit a group not an individual-only need.

Hopefully I will report back to you later in the year on how I am doing.

[1] yeah I stole it from The Simpsons

 

Write A Day

Back in December Leigh published the following blog all about the diary challenge that she had recently completed and how you could do the same.

It was a call to action to all of us who want to write and sometimes have an issue in finding the time or the motivation.

The basic story is that a few years ago Leigh decided to fill a page of a diary each day with writing for a single year. Life, of course, didn’t make things easy and it took her more than the one year to finish the diary. The important part is that she finished the diary. The really important part is that in doing so she not only achieved a goal but she built up good habits about just writing.

Writing isn’t easy and it isn’t natural and people who say that it is are generally not telling a whole truth. It can become more practiced but it is not easy, and I am not so sure it should be. In order to write you need a lot of motivation, you need to make time and you have to be prepared to keep at it. Like any skill it generally improves with practice. Sure, there are some people who find it easier than others, some natural advantages from evolution, upbringing and attitude perhaps, but even they say probably don’t say it is easy.

I have had some issues with my motivation. I haven’t been writing fiction or even wanting to write. I haven’t felt like even writing my diary entries. All of that was not making me happy.

I did motivate Leigh to publish her call to action to inspire people and I know it has done so as they responded and I have spoken to some about their efforts (keep at it guys, if you miss days don’t stress). If you missed the 1st January don’t worry. I would say that you can start anytime in the year and now is likely a good time to start as you can pick up a diary for less cost.

As for me. I don’t generally use my diary except for work appointments and the formal tasks that I live my life by. I don’t really find the format of a diary condusive to writing for me. It reminds me too much of my structured work and community life.

I like note books.

I like journals.

I like mixed media.

I like the book I bought to try and write every day this year.

I have done so every day this year.

I write a page each day, probably less than 200 words so fairly light. Sometimes I write a little more, sometimes a couple of pages. I write poems and draw sketches in there as well. I have wrote every day so far. Sometimes I have written more than once a day.

On the one day I missed, I wrote twice on the following day to catch up. That was once, I don’t feel it was a fail, but I made sure to think about what I would write before going to sleep even though I was too tired (and a little drunk) to write, and then wrote it the next morning. If I don’t have my journal with me I write in any A6 book I can find and then tear the pages out and put them in the journal later (yes I am bloody odd, thanks for asking).

I was inspired, you see by these words:

“If the diary challenge has taught me anything it’s how to get over that fear of the blank page.”

I am not really scared of a blank page I got over that, but I am for sure tired of never filling one of them. I got tired of looking at a blank page and just not caring if I wrote on it. I wanted to kill my de-motivation. Also, I kinda liked the idea of somethign as crazy mad as this:

“It would be difficult for me to give a break down of exactly what is in the damn thing. At least 1 complete script, 50,000 words of a novel, and many many many short stories, flash fiction, ideas, characters, bits of novels, plots and poems. There are zombies, pirates, aliens, apocalypses, angels and demons, bond villains, parallel universes and a lot of weird Christmas stories. Sounds like the best book ever, right? Well it wasn’t all fun. There’s at least one page describing my fishtank, some shockingly bad poetry, and some filler days that are just my RPG characters having arguments with each other, just to mention a few of the pages I’m less proud of. But it’s done.”

So I want to thank my beautiful, and slightly bat-sugar-insane, wife for inspiring me. I am one sixth into this crazy challenge and I am two thirds through my first A6-ish mixed page journal. For the curious types I use these journals for writing and sketching in, love them.

 

 

Oops!

You know that time when you’re driving, and two people driving different cars are being stupid at a junction and you say out loud what’s in your head. For me it was the phrase, ‘make a decision you pair of dozy arseholes’ and then a small voice behind me said ‘daddy, what are dozy harse hools?’

Yeah, that. Forgot that everyone else was in the car with me while in busy traffic.

Oops.

Chicago Hates Me

1st June 2013
Over the Atlantic near Canada

This morning I awoke at four forty to start the long day of travel that would see me arrive at Austin, Texas for this years YEt Another Perl Conference, North America. The journey would be a drive to the airport, Manchester, an eight hour flight to Chicago, a three hour stop over, and then a three hour flight to Austin.

Things started so well. The drive was clear as it was six in the morning, the weather was fair and roads empty.

I got to the airport and it took almost two hours to get past the check in desks and baggage drop off due to the seemingly non working luggage conveyors. Though I overheard a conversation which indicated they did in fact work and someone had just turned them off for some reason.

Anyway security was mostly empty as everyone was stuck at check in and baggage drop so the day seemed to get better again. But, I was elated too soon.

You see Chicago hates me.

Last year flying back from Chicago after YAPC we hit storms, the flight was cancelled, we had a ten hour wait at Chicago, then slept over in Chicago then flew the next day to Dallas and then flew to the UK that evening and arrived home two days late.

I am on the plane writing this. We are not flying directly to Chicago as planned. We are flying to Bangor first so we will have enough fuel to circle around Chicago as the are storms at Chicago.

Once again I am getting delays and I have no idea how this affects my connecting flights…because…Chicago hates me…

…or maybe it loves me and this is a way of getting me to spend more time there.

1st June 2013
At the airport lounge

Arrived in Chicago eighty minutes late, thankfully there was a four hour window between my flights as the immigration – customs – baggage – change terminal – TSA and security dance was again too much fun.

But it looks as if my connecting flight is on time so I have a good thirty minutes to relax before moving on to the next stage of the long haul to Texas.

Travel Times

I am traveling a lot during August and it is taking an inevitable toll on my life, and probably a little on my sanity. My issues are that if I travel without my wife and kids I miss them and often have very disturbed sleep because of that. I have got very used to sleeping next to someone, as aside from a period of a few months six years ago I have slept in the same bed as someone for more than two decades.

There is a lot that I gain when I travel alone, or with my usual companion Matt, to conferences and events and that is the freedom to write as I can spend periods of time with my own head. Of course I usually discover that I am still a bit of a whinging adolescent, but that’s not too bad.

Timezones can be a bit awkward, you wouldn’t think they would affect much, but if you travel at odd hours and switch an hour or two back and forth either gaining in the day or losing in a very short period the body feels jolted and cannot often function in the way you would like. I see no real cure for this, you can fake it with sleep or strong lights but for me I just take the weariness hit and once more add to my whine.

My schedule this year is a little more mental than usual:

Friday 28th July – Travel
29th July – 3rd August – Brighton and mostly caring for the kids* while wife at Summer School.
3rd August – 5th August – Drive to Paris
5th August – 7th August – Disneyland, work in the mornings for me
8th August – travel to Cluj, early flight so awake overnight so as not to disturb kids by leaving and having alarm clocks
9th August – work at Evozon and then present in the evenings, two keynotes and a lightning talk
10th August – travel home
17th August – travel to Luxembourg – leave at 3 a.m.
19th August – travel to Frankfurt
23rd August – travel home again

So I am/have been away for 3 out of 4 weeks and during those times will only get bits of work done so will incur a massive backlog.

The plus is still that I love to travel and to meet people and go to new places. I love having the time to write and I am still enough of a kid/geek that trains, planes and car journeys are exciting and wondrous to me.

Still, a bit mental…

* With grandparents assistance

Train Woes

Okay so once again the train is delayed and this means I will miss a connection, I get really dis-chuffed when that occurs. Then I will blame privatisation. But this isn’t a random blame.

Privatisation was supposed to bring us:

Lower Fares. It didn’t.
More trains. It didn’t.
Better service. Debateable, more customer service bollocks that’s for sure.
Increased efficiency – well let’s look at that.

How do we measure efficiency. Ask the operators and they may say number of people to destnation – in shortest time – on time. Ask the travellers and they would add a qualifier, they would put comfort while traveling as part of that.

Let’s face it, 150 mph in a boxcar with us jammed in like sardines would be efficient.

So comfort is a part of efficiency to the customer. Not just speed and on time, but do I get a seat, is there enough baggage space, etc.

Baggage Space, well that’s a joke, most trains have inadequate space and they now have no baggage car so there is luggage everywhere, especially airport trains which should have a baggage car, but that means an extra car, an extra person to manage it, loss of profit from fuel and personnel and time and oh gods that affects efficiency, so that’s a no go.

Seats. Even on regular routes with no issues there is often overcrowding and distressed persons, and this is compounded when there are delays that push extra people onto the trains. The solution is extra cars even if the figures do not justify it, but again this increases costs and yada yada yada.

So comfort is pandered to with a smiling smartly dressed staff member, who has no real power to alter anything, can only point at alternate routes, offer a form to make a complaint or request compensation or say sorry. There is no real method for change.

But this situation -could- be the same even if they weren’t private, I hear you cry…

Preston Station
Preston Station, so depressing not even a brightly coloured filter cheers it up.

Not the point, if they are making a profit at the massive expense of their customers there is an issue, and since we have no alternative that effectively is a monopoly, so I will complain and state that privatisation of the train industry was a joke that has led to nothing but a failure of promises.

There is an issue when we measure efficiency as a means test for quality, it isn’t. Efficiency is a test of just that. It never means quality of service, this thinking is applied to health, education and other large systems with the same failure. We want quality, we achieve that by measuring satisfaction of service, not by quantifiable metrics.

What a difference having power and a seat on a train makes to the mood of the weary traveller…so my argument about quality of service and amenities starts to gain more credence as my rage is ameliorated by the comfort i have found. I do however pity my fellow passengers who got on at Chorley and Bolton and are doomed to stand for the remainder of their journey, I doubt the delays and inconvenience are changing their moods at this present time.

Some of the trains are nicer though, so glad that we helped to pay for them with public funds!