Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Of Hard Times

I don't remember reading much as a child but I guess I must have for many times now I'll pick up a book and it's very familiar. One such book is "Jane Eyre" which I've just started.
The early part of this novel is largely autobiographical based on her time at school. By any stretch of the imagination it's bleak. She tells a story of constant cold at school with her feet being so cold they swell and become difficult to fit into her shoes each morning. Sometimes at the beginning of a day she gets a wash. Sometimes she doesn't depending on whether the basin of water has frozen over or not. Food amounts to a bowl of often burnt porridge in the morning and slices of hard bread thereafter.
This is a girl who went on to become one of England's greatest writers. If school was bad for her one can't help but wonder what it must have been like for the many others in schools, institutes or work houses kicking around in the early 1800s. Scary really.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Of Day Time T.V

I was laid up in bed all yesterday with man flu. I was capable of nothing except a day watching junk T.V. I learnt only how bad day time television really is. It's dreadful. What makes it sheer torture is that if you don't like one programme you can switch channels but you're only likely to find a cheap imitation of the same programme on the other side.There's an auction programme and then about 3 versions of it on other channels. There's a house buying programme and three other versions. There's a lets-all-go-on-a-group-holiday and fall out programme and three other versions of it and so it goes on.
When the programme is beginning to flag rather than scrap it and try something completely new and adventurous they get the celebs in and run the same damn thing all over again.
I never knew life was so bad...

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Of "Solidarnosc Solidarnosc"

I attended a seminar last night delivered by my friend and  Derry Solicitor Mark Reid. I got talking to the head of the Polish Association who asked me if I had ever been to Poland. This set me off thinking about the many times I had been there and the great adventures I had had in the 1980s.
By the time of my second visit I was running banned materials from the Polish Government in exile in London both into and out of Poland. 1n 1984 I attended a rally in Gdansk headed by none other than Lech Walensa and I joined the multitude of people who held up two finders and chanted "Solidarnosc, Solidarnosc! It was revolutionary stuff and really exciting.
But it was close to the wire stuff. On one occasion at Warsaw airport I was given several sensitive documents to take to London. At passport control, to my horror, I could see ahead to customs that everyone's luggage was being searched in minute detail. I had to think quickly. The guy at passport control asked me a question in broken English and I told him I couldn't understand what he was saying. He tried again and I gave him a blank look. I called for a translator which introduced a delay of about 10 minutes. When he arrived I tried to be as awkward and as slow as possible delaying matters by another 10 minutes. The plan was to be late for my plane and it worked. The translator escorted me to customs and instructed the customs officer to let me straight through. I ran up the top of the steps to the plane and gave the Solidarnosc salute to my friends on the balcony of the airport. The translator (who I think may have been a member of the security forces) shouted at me to be watch myself. I turned directly to him and gave him the same salute before rushing onto the British Airways plane hoping he didn't follow.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Of Man Flu

I have the man flu at the moment. Everything I lift be it a razor first thing in the morning or a leg up the stairs in the office feels incredibly heavy. The cough I got shot of earlier this year is back big time as are the empty mugs of lemsip that are queuing dutifully on my desk.

Man flu always seems to strike when you need it least.
I must shoot along to Google and find out if there are any home remedies for man flu...

Monday, 23 January 2012

Of the Chinese New Year

It's the Chinese New Year today and the year of the Dragon. Apparently, lots of Chinese men are due to quit smoking and alcohol and get down the gym this year because the year of the Dragon is a very good year in which to have a baby. Though quite why a dragon is better than a pig or a snake (my year) or a rat I don't know.
I had a neighbour once who was into astrology big time . She had one child who was Scorpio and she was convinced that a second would be fine as long as it wasn't born a Gemini for those two just don't get along she assured me. It must have been my white witch of a spell that I put on her whilst pregnant for child number 2 arrived slap bang in the middle of June. Whether she now has two kids aged about 10 and 12 who have never shared a kind word between them I do not know.
I once went to a mystics fair and got sprinkled with Angel dust. The woman told me I wasn't to worry in life because I had two angels looking after me. I've never felt their presence however. Perhaps one is Scorpio and the other Gemini and they're too busy fighting each other to be helping me.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Of London Calling

I'm at a big legal bash this evening at the Hitlon Park Lane London. They say there's not much money about at the moment but the guest entertainment for this dinner thrown by a private law firm includes top comedian Michael McIntyre and it's paid for taxis home for everyone - including those apparently who live as far out of London as Heathrow and St Albans.
I can't bear comedians on tele for some reason but live and often I can't stop laughing. I'm attending as a guest of an old friend. She knows me as far back as when I used to drink and be potentially quite embarrassing in well chosen company so I think she might be nervous in advance of this evening. But people change. Hope I don't bore her now.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Of Time to Time Manage

I'm now on my third diary/time management system of the year. Google Calender is okay but it doesn't allow you to list or integrate tasks very well. MyEvents is good but it only allows you to list tasks in a linear fashion when I want to put them in a quadrangle and sort them in order of importance and urgency just like Stephen Covey says I should. My third and hopefully finally venture into this world is with Microsoft Office online. This is the system (right under my nose it seems) that can do everything I need and indeed everything the company needs to get really organised and super efficient. Our IT engineer is coming in today to explain the logistics of getting it working online and I'm hoping that he has only good news. Conversations that start "Well I can do it but it will cost several thousand pounds to set up..." just don't seem to work with me anymore.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Of The Four Hour Work Week

Last year I read a good number of books but it wasn't until I updated my training portfolio over the weekend that I realised just how many. I made it 15 at least one of which was a belter, War and Peace. The one that affected me most was Time Ferris's "The Four Hour Work Week". The only thing I don't like about this is its title for its quite misleading. This is a book about how to re-arranged your life, hit the re-set button when it comes to your values and goals and time manage and by that I mean really time manage. Best of all it gives you great tips on how to develop what the author calls "muses" which if done well can provide you with a regular and easy income.
Thinking about this now I guess I've become quite evangelical about this book. I've photocopied part of it for SMT at Legal-Island to read. I've bought copies for a friend I swim with, a friend I play tennis with, a neighbour and a web consultant I know well as well as an ex employee.
They don't know this yet but my plan is for us all to meet soon over dinner to brain storm on the book and see where it gets us. Emmm watch this space or ...blog as they say...

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Of Building Web Sites

I seem to be in a web building phase of my life at the moment. I'm currently helping a friend of mine build his website, Derry Law Firm, (new photo pending). I've just finished the first draft of a web site for an organisation I belong to called the "Belfast Speakers' Circle" and I made the mistake of telling a neighbour about these activities for she too has asked that I build her a site promoting her holiday apartment in Bushmills. I plan to do this because a free weekend in a really nice apartment on the North Coast of Antrim in the summer will do very nicely thank you very much.

The first web site I ever built was produced using software that came free in a floppy disk on the front of PC Magazine.It's got a lot easier since then thanks to the likes of web sites such as Weebly that can help you have something up in less than an hour.The trouble is, that it is a little bit like decorating your own house. If you go at it all at once in an attempt to get it done it is often difficult to look at it objectively and to see whether it looks great, okay or actually, truly awful.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

How Legal-Island.com Grew Up - A Journey through the Internet Age

I'm not sure we're far enough into the Internet age to be sentimental about what has gone before, or maybe we are. I wouldn't say we miss our first ever web site but we do have fond memories of it and how it came to be.

The first ever Legal-Island website made an appearance in early1999. It was pretty rough but it really didn't matter in those days because few had heard of this thing called "The Wide World Web" and fewer still used it. It was created by software that came free in a floppy disk on the front of PC Magazine claiming it could get you a web page in "just 30 minutes". Within 2 hours things were going so well that I had not one page but two linked together and something what you might even call a "web site".
The first page featured links likely to be of use to people with an employment query in Northern Ireland.The second was intended for the equivalent audience in the Republic of Ireland.By the end of the exercise I still wasn't convinced that I had something worth keeping but just in case I was wrong I saved both pages to a file on the same floppy disk. Needing a file name I thought that as both pages related to Legal material in the Island of Ireland I'd call it "Legal-Island" and yes the name kind of stuck.

You can access all of our old sites below by clicking on the year they were born although you may have to wait a few seconds for the site to load behind a test card. With a mixture of nostalgia and horror here's a quick tour :

1999 - Our first website featured our little friend on an Island plucked straight out of a free clip art disk. To this day we still have a poster of him on our office wall. He's a solitary figure. One I guess that represents quite well the plight of many starting a business. It can be a lonely existence and yes you're often that busy at the start that, like him, there's no time to get to a barber or even shave.

2000 - Our hairy friend had disappeared by the following year. Just one figure meant only one gender could be represented so the search was on for an image with better gender balance. I asked a guy who was a graphics designer if he had an image of a lady we could drop on the Island for balance and to keep our solitary man company. But the only one he could find was far too down the other end of the scale from the professional image we needed. Whilst guaranteed to put a smile on our lonely friend's face she also risked alienating a good number of web browsers.What appeared instead was a gender neutral figure. It looked like it had been moulded out of plasticine but it was suitable for all PCs. Very PC.

2001 By the following year we were already on our third version of the site and one that to this day I remain quite fond of. For a "homer" job it wasn't too bad and the colours really worked for me.This site was to last us almost four years - a lifetime and more for a web site. Don't forget this was still the early 2000s and some time BG ("before Google") when it was difficult to find what you were looking for on the web so link sites or directories were still very much the vogue.

2005 By the mid naughties we were having our first ever venture with a commercial web building firm.  I remember the conception of this site being a load of fun but the production an awful lot of pain. By 2005 search engines were beginning to get really good and people began to search their way round the Internet using Altavista, Dogpile and this new kid on the block called Google.

2009 As we prepared to leave the decade so we got ready for a new look and a brand new web site designed by Tibus in Holywood. This has served us well but I have a feeling that Legal-Island.com VI wont be long in coming. Maybe our solitary friend will make a return guest appearance. We've a lot to tell him.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Of Saving Time Online

I'm in a time saving moment at the moment and I have two ideas that could save me a working day each week if I get it right. The first is Internet Shopping. The second is better diary management.
So yesterday I gave Tesco Online a go for the first time calculating that if I don't have to do a twice weekly shop in Tesco this year it will save me some four hours each week. I've ordered delivery to my works address so I don't have to worry about being at home when the gear arrives. Shopping by clicking is a strange feeling. But I think I'm more confident that my buying decisions online are better than they are in the real world. For they are made in an environment free of screaming kids and people who just don't know how to push a shopping trolley properly.
The diary management is a little more complex and involves my Ipod synching with my online calender which me and my PA should be able to access.I'm still not convinced about the online diary software I'm using which is google calender. Yes it does synch with my Iphone but the tasks management bar just doesn't seem to work for me. I've looked at other systems such as Dont Forget the Milk and Evernote but it's all a bit confusing. Think I might put out a request on Twitter to see what the Twitterati think.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Of Ferris n Fetishes

I seem to have developed something of a book fetish at the moment. Over the festive break I read five books each one of them a belter. The problem is that I made the mistake of glancing at the recommended further reading at the back of each textbook and ordering them straight from Amazon. That's why this last short while the books have been snowing into the office.
I started this run of reading with Ferris's "The Four Hour Working Week" which is an astonishing book. This led me on to Gerber's "The E-Myth" which took me to Koch's "The 80/20 rule" and there's now a queue of books behind his awaiting my attention. In fact, come to think of it, there are books in my car, books on my work desk and piles of books all over the house. Maybe I should get to the car book sale this Saturday to get rid of a few although in this state of mind there's a danger that I'll come back with as many as I take.
The irony of it all is that the author, Tim Ferris, who seems to have started this fetish for me advises strongly not to waste time reading books.
Strange world innit?

Monday, 2 January 2012

Of Being High on a Happy New Year

So here we are back into another year. I spent New Year's Eve queuing for almost four hours for a good view of the fireworks over the Thames in front of the London Eye. I'll never do it again but it was worth it. Some of the time was passed chatting, listening on my Ipod to music or podcasts and indeed arguing with a guy who claimed I was on a bit of ground he had reserved for his camera tripod. We eye balled each other for several minutes each of us refusing to back down. I think my eyes may have looked away first. I figured that maybe I'm not as scary as I first thought. A cheerful thought to take into the New Year.
New Year's Day and I was back in a queue. This time for the New Year's parade along Horseguards Parade. For me this day belongs to the Americans and their ra ra marching parade bands and cheer leaders. Some of their lighter members were lifted aloft high into the air as they wished everyone "Happy New Year" with a beaming American self confident smile. Great stuff!