Tag, you’re it!

Sunday, June 28, 2015 0


Last time out I wrote about how my team shirt, adorned with sponsors really made me think for possibly the first time ever, about those brands that I freely advertise about my person whilst at the same time I pay top prices for the privilege.  This time around I want to write about a similar theme and the way that it makes me feel.

As we established the last time out, I’m a bit of an F1 fanatic, I’ve followed the sport from around 1996 and whilst I’ve always enjoyed the “sport” and the skill of a F1 pilot, driving with impressive accuracy lap after lap, there is another side of the sport that is probably more in your face than anything else; advertising and big business.  Sponsors pay millions for the opportunity to have their name plastered either on the cars, on the clothing and even around the track itself – and I can see why they do it, the worldwide TV coverage is unquestionably high and the perception around F1 is always about the “best of the best”, whether that be the latest in luxury yachts, exotic and powerful cars and even watches.

The prominent watch manufacturer throughout my time watching F1 has been Tag Heuer, they were the official sponsors for all of the F1 timing right up until only very recently, when they were replaced by Rolex, another name that conjures up accuracy to the second – but I’m starting to get off topic.  My want for a Tag watch has been deeply entered into my psyche – to join the elite of the world and wear the same, perfectly crafted, 10th of a second accuracy and eye-catching wrist accessory.

After 18 years and two times where I came extremely close, last year, shortly after I got married, as a gift to myself I got to finally join the perceived elite and buy my first Tag Heuer watch, a “Formula One” no less, with all of the beautifully made expertise you would expect from such a luxury item.  Before I proceed, I should point out that the watch I chose to buy was from their relatively cheaper offerings and also came with a rather attractive discounted price – but none the less, a magical timepiece that I cherish and often gaze at knowing that it is mine, paid by my honest and hard work

Throughout this last 9 months of owning this watch though, it hasn’t been quite as I thought it would be.  The watch brand that I coveted for so long has been worn maybe half a dozen times and for the rest of the time it lives inside of its box away from the eyes of the world; and the reason is because, like most people, I go to work Monday to Friday and at the weekends, spend my time in cinemas, at home or on the move in places where a Tag watch is not the kind of jewellery is called for.  Instead, I wear a Microsoft Band seven days a week, a device that cost a fraction of the price of the Tag and tells me, marginally a lot more about myself (ok, a lot more on physical level, but less so spiritually).

The Tag has not made me happy; it has fulfilled my dream of ownership, but the experience has left me a long way short.  In some respects I would have been better off giving the money way to charity and knowing that it had all gone to a good cause, rather into the hands of a luxury watch manufacturer, who had too much money to start with given their longstanding involvement in a sport as rich as F1.  Would I get rid of my Tag now?  No.  Do I regret buying it?  No, I do not, only earlier today did I walk past a Tag retailer with a large photo of Ayrton Senna on display to demonstrate the long history and associated passions their brand has with the F1 elite – and if spiritual Aryton, from the slums - of Brazil had no issue wearing such extravagant watches, then neither do I.  But would I buy another luxury watch – Tag or perhaps another brand?  Definitely not, these luxury watches are for looking at online and admiring from a manufacturing point of view, but they are not for purchase – by anyone, regardless of how much money they have, they ultimately do not provide any fulfilment or deep spiritual enjoyment.

Starting with the Man in the Mirror

Sunday, June 21, 2015 0

Today is Sunday and more significantly for me, its Grand Prix Sunday which means that I get to follow my passion, chill out and switch off the rest of the world for around three hours and watch Formula One and shout at the TV, willing my beloved Ferrari team towards some sort of victory (or in this period of Ferrari history, some sort of half-decent result).

This also means that I'm wearing my 2015, bright red, Ferrari polo shirt – complete with all of the sponsors that have paid vast amounts of money to appear on the famous red car. The annual season polo shirt is something that I treat myself to every year; I don't follow football so I justify the purchase of the £50+ polo shirt as a sort of compromise in comparison to those football fans who buy a replica shirt every year and attend a handful of matches throughout a season. The polo makes me feel connected to the team and that I'm able to display my passion and supports for the scarlet racers to the rest of the world.

There is a problem though – as much as I love wearing my team shirt, the sponsors on the shirt haven't paid me a penny. In fact it's the reverse, I've paid an extremely inflated price for a shirt with all of their logos splashed all over it and I wear it in public as if some sort of free advertisement. Today I also wore a "Twins" hoodie jacket, made by Nike with their logo proudly on display and a pair of Puma trainers with a bright yellow symbol of their leaping puma logo – I'm a walking advertisement for these brands and what do any of them mean to me? Actually, very little. I don't bank with Santander or send parcels by UPS, I don't put Shell fuel in my car, nor do I "just do it" with Nike….apart from the Ferrari logo (a car which I can only dream of driving, never mind owning), my clothing is all about these companies rather than about just wearing something to make me feel happy; and I paid, in some cases, quite a bit for the privilege.

The clothing makes me feel good, a connection with the team in the case of the polo or comfort in the case of the shoes, but neither really make me all that happy deep down. I know for example that if Ferrari switch their sponsorship deal from Santander to HSBC or RBS or one of the other many banks out there, I wouldn't give it a second thought that a different brand is adorning my shirt. Nor does it mean that I would switch my bank account (not that I bank with Santander currently either).

So, why, after over ten years of buying Ferrari polo shirts am I suddenly questioning the free choice that I have in purchasing and then wearing fortnight after fortnight a polo shirt that I don't particularly agree with? Putting aside that I'm a Ferrari fan and the t-shirt makes me feel connected to my team (after all, football club fans proudly wear their replica shirts with the same advertising across the chest without giving it even a second though), there is no other reason – and this has become a problem for me, as I don't think that my shirt really speaks for me.

Getting to the Point

There is a reason I'm starting to question what might be a non-issue for most people, but there has been an awakening in my life. I've recently purchased and read the book "Revolution" by Russell Brand. For those unfamiliar, the book is Russell's explanation of how he feels that the world is greatly misbalanced and his call for action for "revolution" that he doesn't necessarily want to lead, but wants to awaken within all of us and get us to all chose a better way. After reading the book I've become a follower of Russell's "The Trews" YouTube videos and also purchase and watched the accompanying documentary "The Emperor's New Clothes", largely focused on the 2008 bailouts of the banks.

In the book and the documentary, Russell points out that wealth is incorrectly distributed throughout the world; 1 percent of the population have a large proportion of all of the world's wealth – and the approach that the rich take is to simply accumulate more of this wealth for themselves, rather than having that wealth trickle down to those that need it most. They lobby governments to change or keep the rules skewed towards their own self-interests and keep them rich; rarely would any rich individual or company want to agree to something which would hurt their bottom lines or worse impact their shareholders. So, whilst the interests of shareholders are the top priority, those on the lowest pay grades are exploited, underappreciated and seemingly unable to change things – even at a Government level, the very people who should be looking out for "us", we the people.

Huh?

Your probably thinking what this has to do with my choice of polo shirt – and rightly so. The connection is that Ferrari are big enough to put these sponsors onto their shirts and have millions of fans buy their polo shirts at a jacked up price based on the loyalty and passion of their fans. But, once again, putting my Ferrari following to one side, I stood in front of a mirror today and wondered why I have Santander emblazed on my chest; do I support Santander and their business practices?

What if it wasn't Santander? What if the sponsor was a less reputable firm – for example, a small loans company? A company that doesn't pay fair taxes? Or one that does not pay taxes in the country they doing business in at all? Would I still be happy to wear the Ferrari polo shirt?

The answer is probably still 'Yes. Yes I would', but that might not always be the case. I've been awoken by Mr Brand to start to look at the messages behind the news, who really profits and what I should be doing about it. As we've already established, whilst I'm not quite prepared to give up my Ferrari shirt, Microsoft products or Starbucks coffee – I'm already starting to think about what I would be willing to change for the better.

In my local town, there is a market every week and they sell the usual fresh fruit and veg – and I always think that it looks great and as someone who likes to cook, I'd like to buy local and support local business, but never do. Why not? I don't know, the convenience of the national supermarket perhaps, but it is a really simple change I can make – and if others were to make the same simple changes, perhaps we can start to help our local businesses again – the ones that don't have surplus money to spend sponsoring Formula 1 or Football teams whilst their employees are living on the poverty line.

As Michael Jackson once sang…."I'm going to make a change", and "I'm starting with the man in the mirror". I may not be ready for full scale revolution yet, but I'm becoming interested and whilst I know Russell Brand is not everyone's cup of tea and most wouldn't pick up a copy of anything he's written or stared in, but I urge you to read "Revolution" or watch "The Emperor's New Clothes" and start to ask yourself the exact same questions that I'm starting to ask myself.

It's been a long time since I last blogged; I've not made the time to sit down, write and do something that I actually quite enjoy doing. Part of this is down to not having anything to say and partly down to the fact that my previously writings were all based around technology. Whilst tech is a passion, I wanted my blogging to be something more that than and so I bored myself into making the time to do it. I hope that this post marks my return to more regular blogging and onto more wide ranging subjects.

Imagine

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 0

Imagine. What would you do with no barriers?
 

Work like a Network

Monday, March 3, 2014 0

I've been watching this video all evening. 

It really asks lot of questions about where business and services are heading, towards how we all can participate in building better products, providing a faster, more efficient service or working smarter in new collaborative and informed ways using the data and knowledge that we, 'the collective' already possess.

It's sparked a number of ideas for me and I hope it does the same for you too;


Juice, Juice, Juice!

Sunday, January 5, 2014 0

Prior to Christmas, searching for the perfect gifts, I stumbled upon a story that I’d not heard of before but instantly hooked me.  The story was that of a guy called Joe Cross, who was "sick, fat and nearly dead"….and determined to do something about it.
 
Joe travelled to America, bought a juicer and hooked it up to a power supply in the back of his car and drove across America to film a documentary centred on how he would lose weight and regain his health, turning his life around.
 
Before I’d even managed to watch the documentary, which is available freely on YouTube, I’d decided that even if I wasn’t about to embark on a juice diet, a juicer would be the perfect gift this Christmas and a great way to replace those sugar filled cartons of supermarket juice I’ve always bought.
 
A couple of weeks later, I’d done my research and decided to buy the Sage Juicer I’d found online as a gift for my girlfriend Katie; who I knew would appreciate the health benefits of having fresh juice and generally enjoy having more fresh fruits and veg around the house.  Not that we never had any fruit and veg around the place to being with – we’ve always been careful about what we eat and prefer to cook from fresh anyway.
 
In the run up to Christmas, having gifted the juicer early, we experimented with a couple of different made-up fruity concoctions with mainly satisfying results. 
 
Having indulged over Christmas (who didn’t?), the New Year has brought with it the predictable resolutions of losing weight and bettering ones-self.  Whilst I’m not one for making resolutions (I see little point in setting “resolution goals” at the start of the year, when you can set goals and objectives at any time), we had already decided post New Year, having watched Joe’s documentary to partake in a 10 day juice cleanse at the start of January.
 
Today, is day one of the cleanse, and we’ve already created our “Good Morning Glow” juice for this morning and our fridge is full of fresh fruit and veg.  The Sage Juicer is about to be thoroughly tested and put through its paces.
 
The next 10 days are going to be interesting for sure….I just hope that we can survive on juice alone!
 
 
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, in full for an inspiring watch; 
 

Xbox One: PC in Disguise

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 0


The new Xbox Onecontinues to intrigue me as both a device and as a concept in where the future lies for Microsoft.  The humble ‘games console’ from 2001 has morphed into a full on “Entertainment PC” (and I use the term “PC” entirely on purpose), combining movies, music, apps and communication in the form of Skype messaging.
Despite a lot of the ‘futuristic’, forward thinking items being stripped from the device due early feedback from those who like to make a lot of noise and fuss – my initial reaction was to cancel my pre-order (which I did), but more recently, now that the device has actually landed, albeit momentarily, in stores I have place a new order and can’t wait to see what it can do.
The reasoning behind this post however, is more around the crossover of services that appear within the Xbox One and the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem.
SkyDrive
Just like the Xbox 360, the Xbox One has a SkyDrive application which allows users to display their cloud stored photo and video content – which is great, as it totally complies with the vision of being able to access all of your data, everywhere, with whatever device you happen to be using at that time.
SmartGlass
SmartGlass technology continues to play an important part in the Xbox experience; already movies, games and music content are tightly integrated together into a full media eco-system that spans across PC, Tablets and phones.
This tech has recently made its way into the Office application through a new feature that allows Windows Phone to “RemoteOffice” and control documents on screen.  This is a powerful feature that should extend to other Microsoft services and be refined further over time.
Hyper-V
As I already talked about in a previous post, the under lying operating system of the Xbox One fascinates me as it really pushes the Hyper-V hypervisor, virtualisation software into new territory.  I can already envisage desktop PCs with similar multi-OS, fast switching layers – combined with “snap” functionality.
Live Television
The live television interaction is clearly something that is going to be ‘work-in-progress’ over the next few years as Microsoft refine their system and find their way in the myriad of different television protocols and systems from country to country. 
Kinect
Recently, Apple acquired the company that developed the prototype Kinect (or should that be Natal), movement controller, which suggests that others are increasingly becoming more interested in the movement and augmented reality worlds that Kinect is able to manage in today’s version of the device.
All of these services are great in their own right and they go some way to demonstrate Microsoft’s reach across devices and services.  But the one element that I particularly wanted to focus on today was Skype.
Skype
With the acquisition of Skype and the introduction of the Xbox One it emerged on the Skype blog that the whole integration was re-worked for the console version to allow some unique features such as person tracking which permits the camera to zoom and follow the user(s), around the room.
The example on the demonstration shows two developers in an office/meeting room conversing with the presenter in another room.  The camera pans, tracks and tilts accordingly and the demo is a huge success.



What got me thinking more though was if this is the power of the Kinect and Skype coming together on Xbox One, what would stop companies buying an Xbox One and using it as a fancy presentation device?  They’d be able to use the Kinect camera and Skype for presentations, SmartGlass/RemoteOffice combined with Skype and an Office Viewer to display content and use the “snap” features of the virtualised Hyper-V OS to split the screen between the ‘apps’ required.
The more I thought about this, the more it seemed to make sense to create a Xbox-like device that strips out the gaming element to create a high-end presentation room device that fits seamlessly into the Microsoft ecosystem and is controllable from multiple devices (Microsoft/Android/Apple tablets/phones/other devices).
Other Devices
The example I gave above, is obviously very focused on a particular presentation room scenario and would attract a very limited market in my opinion – which is why I ponder the question of businesses buying into the Xbox One rather than a separate, stand-alone device. 
With this though in mind, the Xbox One isn’t a games console any more, it really does become another “PC Device” in a supposedly “post-PC” world that could be applied to other locations and purposes outside of the living room.
I’ve been reading recently forums that ponder the question of Microsoft building TVs with Xbox One type elements built directly into them.  Whilst I think that is some way off just yet, it could become a reality – especially if they are able to build the Kinect directly into the screen.  Another element worth considering here is the acquisition of PixelSense by Redmond; 50-inch plus touch screen technology combined with the possibilities described above may well just be what business are missing from their board rooms, reception areas, lobbies, factories or elsewhere.
Testing the Waters
Make no mistake about it, Microsoft are becoming that “Services and Devices” company that they claim to be and the Xbox One is not only a tactical device to sneak Microsoft into your living room as your entertainment PC, but it is also a device that sits under your TV in disguise as platform for devices in the future. 
Much like the iPad targeted the home consumer and those devices transitioned (albeit unofficially in most cases, starting the BYOD movement), into business and enterprise arenas, the Xbox One similarly tests the waters within the home consumer of this multi-layered approach to its own services that will come full circle back into Enterprise Technology.
Like the Surface tablets, there is clearly more than meets the eye of the Xbox One - a PC device working in a “post-PC” world.

Hugh Laurie: Didn't the Passion Rain

Monday, June 24, 2013 0


Being the ‘House M.D.’ fan I am, I have a tendency to admire the acting talents belonging to the leading man Mr Hugh Laurie.  But it’s not only his skills in pretending to be someone else that I have been envious of in the past though – it’s also his work within the  music scene that grabs my attention in a big way.

Throughout his career Laurie has been able to show flashes of his musical talents in his previous comedy shows (“A Bit of Fry and Laurie”), in “House” itself and even with his former band made up of acting celebrities, who go by the hilariously named “Banned from TV”.

After the final series of House wrapped though, Laurie’s attention turned to his love of American Jazz and Blues music and released his first album “Let Them Talk” to huge success.  The story of how his love of this New Orleans’ inspired music was accompanied with a documentary charting the history behind the music and his progress in producing the album.

This year Hugh has returned with a new album entitled “Didn’t It Rain”, along with another documentary, briefly featuring a sarcastic Stephen Fry, showing how he travelled back to America’s south to explain how his love of this music came to be and to track down his new band “The Copper Bottom Blues” in order to play gig on the “Queen Mary”.

After a long wait, last night I finally got the opportunity to see Hugh and his band play live.  Sat right on the front row, the gig was outstanding and the music certainly flowed with ease; every track sounding key perfect and full of life.  But whilst Hugh Laurie was the big name to attract the audiences to the show, make no mistake, this show was all about a big band playing together rather than one man’s obsession with “old music” as he referred to it throughout the night.

Performances by gospel and soul singer Sister Jean McClain (who really took a shine to pointing and waving to me and few others in the audience throughout the night), and the pitch perfect Gaby Moreno (who performed an outstanding version of “The Weed Smoker’s Dream” that I could listen to forever), were weaved throughout the show, interspersed by Laurie himself who played piano throughout. 

Despite the singers taking front of stage though, it was clear that this was a band performance; the singers taking every opportunity to throw the limelight onto the superb band, who played just about every instrument you could possibly think of through the show.  It was clear to all that this was all about entertainment through song and music than it was about Laurie or the characters in the band itself.

The celebration of the music was enjoyed by all in the audience for sure, but watching Hugh as the band played and the singers did their thing, his eyes clamped shut as he played, intensely listening to every last note, you simply knew that this was his moment and he was loving every last minute of it.  The passion for the music, from the band, flowing through him and directly into the pores of the audience members who clapped, danced and sang along, feeding from that positive energy.

It was a show that I hope I will forever remember and I one day hope to have the same level of passion for the music that Hugh clearly possesses….and if I never really achieve that, I will claim I did anyway, because, after all – everybody lies.

 






 

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