Monday, 5 March 2012

Memo to self : don't take up smoking

So the men at Madison Avenue must be proud. It is now clear that the allure of a cowboy leaning on a fence, breathing in fresh clean air, albeit through 1 mg of nicotine and 10 mg Tar is considerably more compelling than big bold black letters saying SMOKING KILLS. Too subtle that, as is DIE YOUNGER and HARMS YOUR BABY.

Australia has now banned labels on cigarette packets. In a year, the most exciting image that will be permitted on a plain olive pack is one of a twisted liver or a piece of charred lung, though apparently there's no requirement for the model to actually be dead first.  And Scotland is following suit shortly.

The cigarette companies are objecting bitterly, now there's a surprise. They are claiming violation of their right to intellectual property or genocide or something like that. Their marketeers are crap, the labels are irrelevant, changing them will have no impact on a twelve year old.  But the authorities are standing firm. This is very serious, they feel. Obviously they could ban it completely but this way only those with low IQs will kill themselves so fair enough. Unless smoking also reduces your intelligence, hmmm, let's add on a picture of a shrinking brain.

Me, I'm not sure this goes far enough. I think smokers will continue to congregate in their little pariah colonies outside buildings and restaurants and snigger at the photographs saying that's nothing, you should have seen the liver of my uncle who used to drink, now that's a real vice, I keep it in a jar on the fireplace to remind me to keep away from the alcohol. Or they will discuss the man who smoked 50 cigarettes a day, still does and has never done a day's exercise while living till 101. Of course we all know that they are talking about the same person, whose brain is kept alive in a jar with wires sticking out of in a little known hospital in Shanghai, courtesy Philip Morris.

Simple technological solutions like changing the colour of the smoke to red, or letting out a piercing whistle every time a cigarette is lit would be a waste of time too. My solution - modify the shape of each cigarette to look like a penis. That'll fix the cowboys.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Survival Words of the Day - Schadenfreude & Rationalisierung....

February 27, 2012

The Germans have given some great things to the world. BMW cars. Sausages. Soul describing compound words. And, er, anyway.

Schadenfreude is our parachute, our bail out, our lifeboat. Joy in adversity of others. My life isn't a complete mess because others are worse off.

Hey I got a month to hang out looking for internal assignments. That other guy, he joined with me and was strip searched on the way out.

Things could have been worse. Our company could have folded. It happened to this person I know and now he's busking with his daughter's xylophone sticks and a couple of upside down marmite bottles.

Poor whatshisface. At least I'm not whatshername. I haven't lost a knighthood. Yep, let's go out and celebrate. House wine please.

The other crutch is justification through rationalisation. Rationalisierung. The top 5 regrets of the dying ( is pinned up on my refrigerator, my study, my computer and mirror. I even carry a laminated clipping around with me in my wallet, now that there's a little more space there.

The thing is, our most precious commodity is Time. And it is running out with a relentless, precise, German (aha) certainty.

And it's the one we treat the most casually and callously. An hour on the tube, zoned out. A meeting with two words spoken while pressing blackberry keys under the table. Listening into a results update while surfing the net (and trying not to get arrested by the IT police). Got to win it back, and I have.

Yes, I am gliding happily along the twin rails of Schadenfreude & Rationalisierung. There is no other option to survival.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Serious Advice # - keep notes

Keep a record of everything. It'll come in handy.

It's amazing how quickly memories get mixed up. And paper gets shredded. And loyalties change.

You need to keep a record of every personal occurrence in the workplace. Congratulatory emails. Celebratory performance appraisals. Unreasonable asides. Snide remarks. Whatever.

It's not for legalistic purposes.  It's to make sure your own thoughts remain clear, your conversations are genuine and if push does (hopefully not, but you never know) come to shove, you have credibility in stating your point of view.

Ranting and raving about how everything is unfair is useful with Friday evening alchohol. Remembering that your recent launch was appreciated with an award on a very specific day, or you sent an email expressing concerns with a situation to a particular distribution list is useful with Monday morning coffee.

I downloaded Awesome Notes ( and Toodledo ( apps on my phone and got in the habit of keying in bullet points reminder of the day on the long and enthralling tube rides home. That turned out more useful than the hours I had previously spent killing our  pointlessly suicidal, irrelevantly pissed off feathered friends.

Awesome notes has nice graphics and good colours. Toodledo has the advantage of syncing across devices and is easy, even if ugly.  (As an aside, I should mention that neither of them are paying me for this endorsement, more's the pity. In fact no one has ever paid me to endorse anything but that's a whole different story)

So, download some apps, and keep your notes current. Hopefully you'll never need to refer to them again.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Suddenly you are undead

December 17, 2011

You walk around the corridors for the month that you are permitted to stay in the company

But nobody seems to see you.

Your blackberry doesn't vibrate and you get no emails (other than the ones from justgiving). Even the spammers seem to think you no longer need more hair  or viagra.

The 150 emails a day have disappeared.

You don't need to switch your mobile phone on silent. It's not going to ring unless you call it yourself. I try that a few times to look busy but it's a bit difficult to talk on your landline while listening on your mobile. I think people were starting to notice.

Nobody seems to talk to you. Well, not other than platitudes most of which focus on why this is the best thing that could have happened to you and how your life will change for the better. Inside you can see them leaping up and down,  pumping their fists and saying 'Yessss that was a bullet dodged for me'

The whole environment is a bit like a crunch hole in a golf game and you hit your drive out of bounds. No matter how poker faced your playing partner's 'Hard Luck' is, you know that his heart is turning cartwheels.

Yes, suddenly you are undead. You consume space, air, and coffee, but do you really exist in the office ?

No more afternoon naps

December 15th 10 am.

No I'm not. Well, not yet anyway.

The meeting yesterday wasn't quite that bad. After I got the tears out of the way and finished blowing into a brown paper bag, I walked across with my envelope to the desk.

Five years of my life were in that piece of paper.

Sitting at my desk it was clear that a thousand eyes were on me. Bad idea.  I went instead to the corner stall in the refuge for the weary. The Sanctum Sanctorum called 'Gents'.

It was a bit of a comfort area for me. On particularly tiring days (basically Mondays through Thursday, unless it was a busy Friday) I used to choose that stall to take my afternoon nap. I read somewhere that it would increase my lifespan by 5 years. Crap. That meant 5 more years of unfunded retirement.

So I sat there, slit open the envelope and read a bunch of platitudes, a number that would pay my mobile bill for a couple months and an access to a counsellor should I need one.

I wonder if the counsellor fees could be monetised ? One to ask. I made a mental note.

So what was I going to do when the money ran out ?

My plan of action was very clear.

I had to stop this flirtation with longevity.

No more afternoon naps. Take up smoking and bacon.

Friday, 16 December 2011

First day of the rest of my life

December 15th 9 pm.

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life. I am liberated. I am free.

No more life by powerpoint, death by politics.

I'm going to learn a new skill.

I'm going to take up singing.

I'm going to lose 5 kilos.

I'm going to launch a technology startup.

December 16th 4 am.

I'm going to commit suicide.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Top 10 warning signs of the soon to be undead

10. Your colleague who was about to walk past you in the corridor takes a sudden detour to the men's room.

9. There's an HR intern hovering around nervously in the distance, watching you closely while pretending to examine some blank papers in her hand.

8. A man in a security guard uniform is fixing the perfectly good photocopying machine and if you look really closely you can see an earpiece.

7. Are they really boarding up the windows ?

6 You walk in to your boss's office for a meeting and the HR person is sitting there with him.

5. The overweight son of a bitch actually gets up to greet you for the first time in his life.

4. He's suddenly your best friend and knows your personal life. Last week he asked about your girlfriend (you're been married forever, same as the previous meeting), your three kids (last of whom is not even conceived of being conceived) and your pet cat (a dog, actually but hey, an animal is an animal). Now he even knows their names and what they are doing and that your labrador is recently neutered. Like you are about to be.

3. There's a white envelope lying on the table in front of him while he's talking. And a brown paper bag.

2. He finally puts on a steely look and starts a sentence with  ''Can I be frank with you", so you know he's about to start lying through his teeth.

1. He talks and talks but all you hear is 'Yadda Yadda Yadda'