I should really publish my annual blog review report from JetPack each year, so you can see the most popular posts and comments on my blog. The overall summary is that after a poor six months, the second half of the year I kicked off and started to blog as often as I had when at the peak of my powers back in 2006/7.
Let me take you back just over three years, my first Christmas at Microsoft, I had booked off extended time over the holidays. My last day coincided with the Christmas night out in Reading, Thursday 15th December. It had just panned out that way with the Operations Team going out for a few drinks and exchanging Secret Santa gifts in Yates on Friar Street. It felt good to be working for a team that took these annual traditions seriously, even though I would have preferred the exchange to have taken place in the office. (Who wants to carry around a Christmas gift all night). In any case, it was a double celebration for me as I would not be back in the office until Monday 2nd January 2012. More than two weeks off, I was going to make the most of my time away, including New Year celebrations across the border in Edinburgh.
While trying not to give away too much information about my personal hygiene regime, I tend to shave Monday to Thursday mornings only. Allowing for a more casual rugged looked on Fridays, the dress down day in most modern offices. However, with the extended time off, I decided to stop shaving and for the first time in my life, grow a beard. The results were mixed to say the least. Some people loved it, others (including my dearest wife) not so much).
As if a long weekend break to the Scottish capital was not enough, a few days later I was off on a ski trip to Austria. I have to let you know the response received once I appeared to meet up with the extended group of friends at Gatwick Airport on the Saturday afternoon of our flight. (I had given a lift to Geoff and Foxy). Emily’s direct question to Geoff was, “Who is this tramp you have brought along with you?”. Now I can understand the reason for this negative feedback, their beard was hardly maintained to any satisfactory standard, either by myself or a barber. It had been a spontaneous decision, born out of the fact that I had no need to keep a professional appearance, I would not be at work for over two weeks. I wanted to see what it would be like to have a beard, particularly as my Dad has had a beard of varied length over the years. (Quite the fashion statement in the 1970s with his signature long hair, not sure if he was modelling himself on Des O’Connor or somebody else).
The response when back in the office on 16th January was again mixed, with many of my colleagues unable to recognise me under the hairy forest. Some people said it suited me, others were not too sure, preferring the clean smooth Andrew they had grown used to for the past four months. The experiment did not last that long, after five working days in the office, the beard was removed on Sunday 22nd January and in the process, I took five years off my life. The only evidence of the beard was on my train photo pass (which I have kept as a momento) and the photographs taken by my friends on the ski trip in Mayrhofen.
On Thursday last week, as it was the day of our Christmas Lunch at CA, I decided to not shave again and after seven days growth, thought it be good to take before and after photographs and let the blog reading public decide. Should not be hard, as I have about three readers in total.
About two days ago, I had reached the itchy phase and was constantly scratching my face, which is not a great habit to get into, trust me. My ex-MS colleague, Harps had recommended a barbers down Wexham Road that he uses, which would be the best place to go to keep my beard trimmed and tidy. We shall see. I may decide to grow the hair again, later in the year. Although feedback has been mixed, some colleagues love it, other colleagues, friends and even my dearest wife, believe I look much better rocking the clean shaven look. Plus it does make me look younger. Having said that on Friday evening, I was requested ID by the door staff at Browns in Windsor. Now, I know I have baby face features but there is no way I look less than twenty-one, even with the stubble.
In our modern fast pace lives, most people will confess to lacking one finite resource – time. I too, can get caught up in the rat race world of chasing the corporate dollar. However, I do believe that at times it is important to unplug, step back and ignore the shameless marketing that feeds constant and consistent consumerism. A case in point is my mobile phone, the embarrassment, which I refuse to even display on my desk in the office, as heavy as the burden has now become. It was not like this over four years ago on Friday 3rd October 2010 when I eagerly awaited the arrival of not just my first proper smartphone but my first mobile phone not made by Finnish manufacturer – Nokia.
Probably six months into the ownership cycle, I realized that without rooting the device, I was extremely limited on what I would be able to achieve. While at first this was rather disappointing, considering I had placed so much faith into not just a new phone but a new company, they did not live up to my expectations. However I was willing to wait, in an ideal world I would purchase a phone unlocked SIM free and use this on my Vodafone SIM Only Contract, as I would be out of contract by December 2012. I removed all apps from my phone and left it has a mere shell to use for emergency web use (checking football scores via web based BBC Portal) and of course, calls and texts. Without forgetting that it had become the defacto alarm clock. (Who in 2014 uses an alarm clock other than their mobile?). To be frank, I hardly do much of that in any case. People who know me, will testify that I text more than speak on the telephone. I am not a big user of my mobile phone, as usage reports using the Ofcom backed Bill Monitor portal prove, I probably would be better off with a pay as you go option. Most people would have just upgraded to the next available phone when their contract date was up but I decided to wait. I always knew the moment I purchased a phone, either offline or as part of an upgrade, I would be disappointed that I had not waited a little longer for the next model that would be announced literally days later. (As irony has it, the initial specs of the HTC M9 was leaked the following day)
It was probably when the four year old ProPorta shell started to break apart off my HTC Desire, was it time to finally consider an upgrade. That was my mission for the weekend, to get not just a good upgrade but an excellent deal on my next smartphone. I first checked online to see what deals were available, including purchasing the old HTC One M7 in blue on eBay priced around £200. I visited Expansys, which I have tended to religiously visit on an almost a weekly basis to check prices on a range of smartphones. First stop mid morning while in Slough was the Vodafone store, with their Black Friday deals. There was a deal to be had, but I wanted a second opinion. While in Uxbridge, before a trip to the cinema I went to the Vodafone store in intu (formerly Chimes) shopping centre. They had the HTC One M8 in store in grey but were unwilling to offer me the additional employee discount (20%) on top of the Black Friday deal (50%). Even with a request to speak to the manager (only the assistant manager was available) and even when he got off the telephone in the back office, all he did was show a long list of terms from Newbury HQ which basically meant no additional discounts could be applied on top of the Black Friday discount. I left the store disappointed but willing to fight another day back in my home town of Slough.
The Vodafone store in Slough High Street was extremely busy for Sunday lunchtime. Once again I was served by Manpreet. She was patient once again and confirmed the same deal was on offer and even upsold me onto a 4G plan for a few extra pounds a month. I had to take the deal but they only had the HTC One M8 in silver, my heart was set on grey. Probably rather strange for readers to understand, particularly as I will be putting my phone (as I have with all my mobile phones) into a case. The deal was done, the order was processed and I would receive at my office by Tuesday lunchtime.
Deal done, I headed over to the HTC office, which happens be behind the Queensmere and Observatory Shopping Centre. I took a few photos, declaring to HTC and Philip Blair, head of the EMEA business that he and his company have one more chance. If they could call on Iron Man last year to try and rescue their brand, maybe they are worth another roll of the dice. What will probably shock most of you, is that I will probably leave the device boxed up for several days until I get around to unlocking and loading Cyanogenmod with the help of a colleague in the office. If you have waited over 1460.97 days for a brand new phone, what difference will a few more make? Here’s To Change…
Office moves or desks moves, at my current employer, I have moved one floor down and desks now three times. My current desk is situated in an extremely open plan office. We have had the partitions lowered to a bear minimum, which will make calls very interesting in the future. The objective to increase collaboration between all members of the Operations team and make us as a department approachable for all sections of the business we support.
A regular occurrence almost four years ago, was being the victim of multiple office pranks by dearest colleague while working at Intel Corporation in Swindon. I tried my best to document each event, to ensure evidence could be provided to HR in time for performance reviews. We have a variety of attempts to disrupt my working day, all of which I took on the chin, in the vain they were attempted. Just a quick recap Eco Warrior was Back In The Office Read(ing) All About It and taking the Action Required. I have also now gone back and added the tag – office prank to better catalog all attempts to sabotage my working space.
You can imagine my surprise to return back to my desk from a meeting to find this – my monitor, keyboard, telephone, mouse mat and phone charger covered in Post-It Notes.
Driving home from Wycombe to Slough on Thursday 23rd October, around 9pm, the night sky was lit up with fireworks for Diwali. Travelling down the A404 (M), I was listening to Capital FM and a female caller, requested Wait On Me by Rixton. Having not heard this before, I thought it best to at least give the song a chance. Being outside the age bracket for contemporary popular music, I had never heard of this band before but had heard their other main hit – Me & My Broken Heart. (Although at the time I did not know who they were). Young people of today, will be shocked to discover that even up to the late 90s, you could call up a radio station to request a song, only for them to play something completely different. I can recall DJ’s actually saying, “We do not have song X, but we can play song Y, will you please introduce…” This practice obviously would not work in this well connected, YouTube, instant gratification world. Plus, how many young people wait for a song to be played on the radio. The prestige of such a premiere no-longer works in a multichannel multimedia world. A song can be available for many months on-line before you hear it on the radio, although to be fair to the radio networks, they have got better in recent years. Then again, who under 30 still listens to the radio?
Ed Sheeran is going to dance in his next music video was the filler chat from a DJ one weekend a few weeks ago, as I made my way out and about. I thought little more of this idle chatter until I went to watch the music video on YouTube via our television set a few nights later. Ed is dancing for sure, but it is little more than window dressing by his fabulous performance parter, from So You Think You Can Dance – Brittany Cherry. Reading about the choreographers of the dance, I was taken to some of their note worthy performances from the US dance competition. Unsure of a duo calling themselves Nappytabs (The concatenated name of married couple and working partners Napoleon & Tabitha). There was a comment from Jordin Sparks regarding her song “No Air” but I did not get a chance to watch the video until Friday evening, when I got to search for the video on YouTube on the TV. We had been viewing various clips, from Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer, to funny clips from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Watching the clip, took my breath away. YouTube with it’s file limits and heavy compression does not do the dance justice. I actually need to hunt down the full HD version but for now, this is all we have. How did I miss this from six years ago?
I have probably watched the clip about a dozen times now. I love every second, particularly the part when Joshua is brought back up from the floor by Katee. The ending with the exchange of the jacket is pure poetry. I wonder if Sparks or even Brown for that matter would have thought their song would ever been performed while a couple performed Lyrical Hip-Hop. While American has a long standing history of dance and dance shows, here in the UK, aside from BGT, most of the dance shows (Strictly Come Dancing aside) have flopped because there is not the appetite for this type of performance, cloaked with the candy of reality television presented by one of our own, Brummie Cat Deeley.