There is nothing more natural and indeed primal than watching a cat play. With the pouncing, pawing and general "attack" style of play it's a joy to watch. But I have started to notice more and more cats do something they would have done in the wild very well indeed, and that is hide! And given the fact that it is Caturday I bring you....
So I received a text from my mobile network, it’s an offer to entice me to buy a new phone. It’s the next phone up in the range from the one I have and if I was to wander down to my local network shop and buy it right now, and top up with £20 I’d get a FREE Bluetooth speaker worth £70. Seventy pounds, yes, really. The phone alone costs £79!
Immediately I thought, that’s good, tempting, I could take the old phone to Cash Converters. It’s all to easy to just go ahead and get the deal but as I do I thought, hang on is that really a good deal? Via the web I found that the phone doesn’t look as nice as the one I have, the screen is only a smidge larger, the processor only a tad faster, the memory only a whisper bigger and the version of Android only a decimal point newer.
On top of that the FREE speaker can be bought on Amazon for £30. Which is £70 less than the total cost of the new phone.
It’s easy to be caught in the headlights of a speeding special offer but it’s best to leap aside and have a good look at it as it goes by, think “do I really need this” and if not watch it recede into the distance, maybe wait for the next one. Which won’t be far behind, inevitably.
Once upon a time there was a happy, cheery workshop where everyone worked happily accompanied by the sound of their local radio station. They hummed along to the songs, occasionally danced, laughed at jokes, discussed the news, listened to the cricket. Then the man from PRS for Music came along and told the boss that he’d have to pay a fee because so many people listening to one radio counted as a public performance, especially as people outside might conceivably be able to hear it too and therefore the artists should be recompensed for this concert that they weren’t being paid to perform. So the boss told the workers to take the radio home because he wasn’t prepared to pay for them to listen to music. And from then on the workshop was quiet and sullen, less chatting, less laughing and the workers felt less happy and less motivated to work. The artists still received their royalties from the radio station but the workers lost something important. Still they worked accompanied by only the sound of machines, telephones, keyboard clatter or dripping taps, quiet drudgery occasionally punctuated by a bit of chatter.
This is the sorry tale repeated across the country. I’m a content creator, not just on this blog but my photos and other works, and as such I appreciate the importance of copyright protection, but the issue of Music Licences is ridiculous. Having a radio at work isn’t depriving artists of anything, it’s not like in the absence of a radio the workers would all go out and buy MP3 players and load them with every song ever recorded and likely to be played on local radio.
The actual rules class workplaces as “public places” as far as their interpretation of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Acts 1988 goes – in their words (this extract being “fair use”, by the way) “In UK copyright law, a person wishing to play copyright music in public will generally require the consent (or licence) of the copyright owner before doing so. ‘In public’ means, broadly speaking, to an audience outside of his/her domestic or home circle. If the person does not obtain the required licence they may risk infringing copyright.” The words “broadly speaking” are important, I feel their reach is too broad.
The rules exempt the communal areas of blocks of flats for example which could easily encompass a recreation area which could seat thirty or forty people listening to the same radio broadcast, or an album, wouldn’t that constitute more of a public performance than ten mechanics in a garage? Similarly listening to music in a car is exempted but if you open the window wouldn’t anyone outside constitute an audience – “[An Artist's] audience includes anyone listening to their music outside the domestic circle or home life.” Will PRS for Music soon have roadside patrols?
At the end of the day the radio station will still pay to broadcast the music, they pay the same whether those ten mechanics are listening at work, whether the customers can hear it or whether all of them were listening individually at home. PRS for Music may say that people are listening to music for free and not buying it, the same argument as piracy, but it’s not free, the broadcast has been paid for already and there is even the possibility that having heard a song at work that they might not hear otherwise because they don’t listen to the radio at home someone might go out and buy the album themselves. Admittedly if someone buys an album and plays it at work then that’s more in line with PRS for Music’s description of a public performance but a radio isn’t in my opinion.
Background music and chat has been shown to improve mood, improve staff interactions, it can inspire creativity and boost productivity, it makes people feel good. But like so much these days the cost of feeling good in this case is financial.
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When is pastel blue not pastel blue?
When its the colour of a pair of skinny jeans that you’re trying to sell to men and you don’t want them to sound “feminine”. The colour when applied to mens jeans is “Ice Blue” or “Ice Green”.
Ice. Green. Since when has ice been green? Yellow snow maybe.
But yes, ice is cool. Literally. Ice, Ice , Baby, c’mon. Yes, showing my age there. Anyway, I am reliably informed by the link suggestions on the side of my WordPress screen that such coloured jeans are the new trend, it’s true, see the links below. And the colours are not pastel, they’re ice.
This is the odd thing about clothing manufacturers, who do they ask when they’re conducting market research, it certainly isn’t me. Take outdoor clothing, when it comes to mens’ garments the colour choice is boring to say the least – bright red, bright blue, green, navy blue and black typically. You see the occasional bright green jacket and sometimes orange ones that just look like safety jackets or yellow ones that make you look like the Jolly Fisherman. You see a purple one, a turquoise or teal one, a tasteful green or a red other than signal red and it turns out to be a womans’ jacket. The only exceptions tend to be very expensive which is perhaps the crux of the matter and returns us to the fashion jeans – the only companies willing to take the risk on something different and individual in mens clothes are the ones with the highest price tags and exclusivity as a feature.
Update: since writing this I have found a lovely almost teal blue winter jacket from Trespass at Winfields at Garforth near Leeds which was a bargain, sometimes you just have to be patient and travel to find what you want.
I have a ridiculously bad memory which is a problem in an age where we are bombarded with information that we have to remember for work or at home. This is why I’m writing this on a notepad in the bath, before I forget it.
My poor short-term recall is one of the main reasons I’m single. I am pathologically terrified of small-talk or rather my inability to spontaneously make it.
My last few relationships have been generally been with confident and, most importantly, talkative women as I am a good listener. I have however a limited list of subjects to start or continue a conversation with in those rosy early days of a relationship because I can’t remember what I’ve been previously told and can’t remember subjects to make conversations about such as things happening in the news or in a magazine I’ve read, or gossip about friends.
My problem is in my brain’s ability to tag memories as important, most things just enter and go straight to long term memory without being registered as being sufficiently important to remember a few hours or a day or so down the line. I can remember taking a photo of a scene when I’m in the same spot again or an obscure fact if I’m reminded of it but just picking out a random fact is just impossible.
My memory requires a prompt to recall anything and even then sometimes it takes a while to drag the relevant facts to the front, and if the event that I need to remember happened while I was very busy then recalling it becomes extremely difficult unless I’ve made some effort to definitely remember it.
It’s bad enough trying to remember what I’ve read in a magazine as the first article has been forgotten as I’ve read the second but the volume of information available via the internet makes it even worse and trying to remember facts to write into blog posts is a nightmare. The anxiety of not being able to remember what I want to say is part of why I put off writing and instead employ decoy habits to distract me from what I want to do which is write. Some say the internet will cause us to stop remembering facts and rely on Google instead but that’s a different problem, what if you don’t even remember what you wanted to find?
There are techniques to alleviate the problem, from focussing more on the information being received, thinking about it before moving onto the next thing, associating the information with an image in the mind, writing things down, and more that I, to be honest, can’t remember. I have notebooks, both paper and Evernote- based, filled with disjointed information which I can, one day pull together into something interesting and useful but the first step is overcoming the fear of not knowing what to say. Eating more healthily, exercise and getting enough sleep are also meant to be beneficial and I keep telling myself that my memory is getting better as with so many mind related issues often believing you can do something is half the battle.
Those of us who own cell phones should know when it is appropriate to have our handsets ring aloud.
For example: if we are at the theatre, cinema, opera, church, a lecture, or the library, we should see to it that we either place them on silent or vibrate mode; the purpose for this is so that we don't rudely interrupt those who are in the same vicinity with us.
The phrase “it just works” is one of Apple’s key marketing ideas and it encompasses the concept that users should be able to pick up an iPhone, iPad and use it, without any instructions and if they want to connect it to their Macbook, their Airplay speakers or to another iDevice then that will all Just Work too. They achieve this by having a limited range of products and by using mostly proprietary standards – like Airplay – and because of these two things the technology doesn’t have to deal with the massive variations of hardware encountered by other devices; one Apple device knows what another one is called and how it talks, so to speak, already.
The thing is this illusion, that this is as a result of their products being better designed, is a half-truth – competing technologies only tend to require a couple of clicks to work together, like getting my Sony phone to play music via my bluetooth headset adaptor or hi-fi adaptor – all I need to do is press a button on the adaptor and select the output source on the phone, or my tablet, or laptop even. The thing is that there is an increasing expectation that you shouldn’t need to do anything yourself to make it work, even if it is just pressing a button.
To this ends we see products like a set of £1200 speakers which, instead of connecting via bluetooth, require a dongle to be plugged into the bottom of your phone or tablet like some kind of digital limpet, making your device more cumbersome but meaning that all you have to do is plug it in. A case of making it easy taking precedence over the handling of the technology. And then there’s another side to all this – the ecosystem. Apple in particular make all these add-ons, or licence the technology to other companies to make docks etc, that all work seamlessly together but the same limitation to Apple hardware that makes it possible for it to all work together means it’d be awfully expensive to switch brands later.
The situation in the Android/PC camp though is improving though. Near Field Communication (NFC) tech is allowing speakers and more that connect using bluetooth via a simple tap of the phone on the top of the peripheral, the proximity allowing the two devices to know that they’re compatible and meant to be together, like silicon blind-date, if you like. I have a smart BluRay player that has a companion Android app that automatically found and connected to the player via the WiFi network and on a similar vein modern WiFi routers can even connect to devices automatically using Wireless Protected Setup – although the latter still needs some user input, after all it’s not practical to carry your desktop PC and tap it on the router. Another example is the WiFi printer that only requires a single button press to connect to your PC the first time it’s installed.
The dream of smart appliances all talking to each other via wireless networks is starting to come true but for it to be truly universal manufacturers need to use open standards and as users we need to accept that sometimes we’ll need to read the manual, or on-screen instructions, and push some buttons to help them along.
In magazines you see “features” which are in fact adverts, you can tell what they are because they will say “advertisement feature” somewhere, yet on the internet some advertisers seem to be able to get away with insidious tactics.
Download pages are often a minefield of big colourful buttons marked “download” only one of which will be the actual thing you want to download, the others being adverts for security scanners, toolbars and other such extraneous stuff that end up clogging up the computer at best and costing the unsuspecting user cash at worst. I have noticed that these stealth ads have leaked out onto other parts of the web, I saw one that was designed to look exactly like the placeholder box you see when a browser plug-in has crashed, complete with worrying words like “your computer needs an upgrade”. Being an old hand at this computing malarkey I recognised it for what it was and ignored it but someone less knowledgable might click on it and download the scanning tool or whatever it was, again often paying for it too – even if it was simply by it being ad-supported, thinking that it was essential.
This is the same tactic used by virus writers, using authentic looking error messages to panic un-knowledgable users into a download. This rarely works in the real world, if you saw in a magazine a box that said “your heating has failed, you need to upgrade it now or your house will explode” you’d know instantly it was absolute bull, the tactics in that world are to plant seeds of doubt “has your boiler been serviced recently? Could it be a potential killer? Bwah ha ha ha ha.” But the immediacy of computers and the internet, combined with the still mysterious nature of how they work to some people makes getting the sale that much simpler.
The message is clear; be careful what you click on. Unless ad-funded toolbars are your thing, of course.
Disclaimer – I know not what adverts appear below this post as I have no control over them but it would be supremely ironic if there’s a box down there, right now urging you to click it to fix errors with your pc…
Before digital music you’d select your evening’s musical entertainment based on your mood, selecting an appropriate album or maybe even a mixtape. If you’re unfamiliar with what a mixtape is ask a grown-up, and by the way you’re making me feel old.
Anyway, for the last decade we’ve been increasingly able to digitally store our hundreds of albums in one place and play them at our convenience without once having to get up and change the disc though up until very recently the devices that could store literally everything you have were expensive. Now though things have changed, personally I have my entire 6,300 track collection taking up one-third of my Google Play Music store even if it did take a couple of weeks, on-and-off to upload.
Modern MP3 players now have decent, large displays, and of course phones and tablets have music player apps so you can idly scroll though lists of albums and tracks and then feel the unbridled joy of seeing a track you haven’t heard for ages and instantly enjoying it. Having your entire collection there at your fingertips can rekindle your love of the music and bring back, Proust-like, memories of summers listening endlessly to a favourite album.
Then, if you’re brave, there’s the ability to not just shuffle tracks on an album or a playlist or the limited selection on a device, a selection carefully, er, selected for a particular mood or whatever stage in your life you’re at, but your entire musical history. It has been said that MP3 players have a mystical ability to choose appropriate music for your situation, my car stereo has done that to me many times – played a song that has reminded me of lost love or given me hope when I’m down, and when it has thousands of tracks, all personal to you, to choose from anything can happen.
You sit down to listen to some tunes, your device plays some great songs, many you’d forgotten about, you feel fantastic. Then it happens, the first bars of a song play and before you can hit “skip” you’ve got tears pouring down your face as the song so intimately linked to a person or event, to feelings of loss and grief come flooding back. I’ll be honest it happens to me, “My Immortal” by Evanescence does it to me every time. Sometimes though even this can be cathartic, reminding you of the good times too.