Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
- Walk away. This is obviously the logical thing to do. After all, it's why you do a business plan, so you can find out before you start whether it's going to be worth while. The down side is that you'll never get to do your cool idea. And if it was that cool, you're going to be really pissed off when someone else does it, and even more pissed off when they make money at it. I've lost count of the number of ideas I've walked away from, only to see someone else be successful at them years later. So, the answer is clearly to...
- Do it anyway and hope the rewards come later. Perhaps you screwed up your planning, perhaps it'll pay better than you think, or maybe circumstances will change. Or maybe it will lead on to something else that pays off. Think of it as an investment. Except that of course not all investments pay off. You might think your idea is cool, but nobody else does, and you're just pouring money down the drain. But that's okay, because you can...
- Do it anyway and just accept the losses. If it's fun, and you can afford it, treat it as a hobby. If it makes some money back, so much the better. Of course, if you end up spending more than you can afford, and it turns out not to be as much fun as you thought, that's a real downer, so obviously it's more sensible just to walk away. But then... yeah, we're right back where we started.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
- I love making my own stock with chicken carcasses, ham bones, and so on. It seems pointless, given how cheap and easy it is to buy the stuff, but I find it satisfying to use as much as I can from the animal. I also enjoy the bit where I pick the bones as clean as they can get.
- On a similar note, I get immense satisfaction from cooking with left-overs, odds and ends, and whatever I can find in the back of the kitchen cupboards. It feels like I'm getting something for nothing.
- I can taste a spicy dish and tell you exactly what spices are in it, but I cannot, for the life of me, identify the grape variety in a glass of wine.
- Of all coffees, I enjoy African coffees the most. And I think Hawaiian Kona is overrated.
- I really like going to the Mexican market and loading up on tomatilloes and assorted chile peppers. I think I have ten different varieties of chiles in my kitchen right now, none of which is habanero or jalapeno.
- My favourite meat is venison, preferably slow cooked in either port or brandy. Or both.
- My slow cooker is my favourite kitchen utensil. It feels good to cook while I make breakfast and then know I'll have a delicious meal on demand later that night.
- I cannot cook omelettes. I can't make scrambled eggs in a frying pan either.
- I'm lousy at cooking steak.
- I rarely eat deep fried food.
- I pride myself on being able to cook food from around the world, but my knowledge of French cuisine is practically nil. I can probably cook more Iraqi, Nigerian, or Polish dishes than French dishes.
- My favourite pizza topping is pepperoni, mushrooms, anchovies and jalapeno, with extra mozzarella. These days I prefer thin crispy pizzas to deep thick ones, and I like to eat the crusts, as long as they're properly crunchy.
- I prefer tawny to ruby port. And I'm partial to a good sherry. On the other hand, I never drink Scotch whisky.
- My favourite fruit is mango.
- I loathe raw tomatoes, except in salsa with plenty of lime and chilli.
- I almost never cook desserts or cakes, but I make a totally kick-ass baklava.
- The combination of meat and fruit is something I love experimenting with.
- I often make vegetarian meals, even though I'm not a veggie. I just like the variety and don't feel the need to include meat.
- I find cooking aubergines (eggplants) really tricky, especially the big Greek ones.
- I cannot eat seafood (but fish is OK) or tofu.
- I had a very satisfying moment a few years ago in a restaurant, when I realised that I was no longer choosing food because I hadn't tried it before; instead, I was choosing dishes which I couldn't make at home because I can't get the ingredients or I don't have the utensils. Now, I tend to choose food based on the restaurant's recommendation.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
No-one sends an idea unless:
- they get it (see below)
- they want it to spread
- they believe that spreading it will enhance their status
- the effort necessary to spread the idea is less than the benefits.No-one "gets" an idea unless:
- the first impression demands further investigation
- they understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea
- they trust the senderThat's why viral marketing and internet memes are so shallow. And, most importantly, ideas never spread because they're important to the originator.
- People don’t buy what they need. They buy what they want.
- You’re not in charge. And your prospects don’t care about you.
- Good marketers tell a story.
- Effective stories match the worldview of the people you are telling the story to.
- Choose your customers. Fire the ones that hurt your ability to deliver the right story to the others.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
As you probably know, I'm a bit of a book lover. I've had a book in my hand since I was two years old, and can't imagine life without reading. Last month, however, I finally succumbed to the lure of the e-book, and got myself a Kindle 3G with wi-fi. I'll admit, I've been hugely prejudiced against them, and only got one because I needed it for work. After all, what can compare with the touch, smell, visual appeal, and convenience of a proper paper book? I hate reading books on computer screens, and can't imagine myself ever preferring an e-book over the real thing.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
- Vision: a leader looks beyond the immediate situation and gives people something to aim at. Not just a wishy-washy "things will be better," but a definite, achievable set of goals. Like putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade, or achieving a society in which black and white people are treated equally.
- Affirming values: a leader stands for something that people want to believe in. He is a living example of what people should be. What he's trying to do reflects what's important to that society.
- Inspiring trust: people follow a leader because they believe in him. They are prepared to let him take the tough decisions, and they will back him, because they trust him to do the right thing.
- Accountability: as part and parcel of being trusted, the leader accepts that he is accountable to his followers. The buck stops with him. If he screws up, he will admit it and let people judge him on his record.
- Motivation: a leader makes people want to achieve. When he speaks, people act. They don't just go back to their normal lives, or grumble to their friends. They do something.
- Managing: a good leader doesn't act alone. He has to get others to do what needs to be done. He has to deal with crises, manage budgets, and delegate work. A good manager isn't always a good leader, but a good leader has to be a good manager.
- Achieving unity: leadership is often about building consensus and achieving compromise. You can't lead half a country. Well, you can, but then you get either civil war or the political stalemate we've had in Britain and America for the last few decades.
- Knowing the system: you can't manage or achieve unless you know the ways of politics. (Just watch Yes, Prime Minister.)
- Decisiveness: leaders don't um and aah. They don't have time. They cut through the crap and get on with the job.
- Explaining: people need to understand what's happening, especially if their leader is going to take them through a difficult time. A leader needs to be able to explain what he's doing, and why. It's not the same if it comes from a subordinate.
- Being a symbol: the leader is the person people look up to. Once he takes that office, he's not just himself. He's something more.
- Representing the group: the leader is an ambassador, and other people's perception of the whole society is coloured by that. Look at how Europeans treated Americans under George W. Bush, and how they now treat Americans under Obama. Same people, different leader.
- Supporting their followers: one of the key qualities of a leader is to make his followers believe that he is doing his best for them. He is working on their behalf. He is enabling them to do what they want. Even if it's a tough path, he has to convince people that he is acting for their benefit, not his own.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Lunch-time conversation with colleagues turned to the idiosyncracies of the Mac App-store's guidelines on acceptable content - and how to work round them. Apparently depictions of violence against animals or people are out; but no mention of plants. Nor are your enemies allowed to be any identifiable real-world cultural group; but apparently nothing prevents *your* side from being one. So we concluded that you might be allowed a hyper-violent video game in which the enemy is a force of triffids and ents defending the forests from evil loggers who've hired you as a mercenary to fend off the mobile plants while the loggers go to work raping the rain-forests. Since it's common "knowledge" that the nazis all ran away to hide out in South America, *our* side can safely be jack-booted thugs with hakkenkreutz insignia. We just have to be careful not to have any of them being killed horribly; so the ents and triffids must be killing humanely, thereby further driving home the "you are on the side of evil" message. Make it sufficiently over the top, I suspect it could actually be very popular, just for subverting all the silly censoriousness (not just Apple's) about violent video games. Remembering that some on this list have contacts in the gaming industry, I hereby dedicate this silliness to the public domain. As to this mail's subject: despite its similarity to the word "tree-hugger", especially when pronounced, it'd be more faithfully translated as lumberjack - or "tree-hacker". Eddy.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Collect a quantity of the finest wood-lice to be found, and drop them into boiling water, which will kill them instantly, but not turn them red, as might be expected. At the same time put into a saucepan a quarter of a pound of fresh butter, a teaspoonful of flour, a small glass of water, a little milk, some pepper and salt, and place it on the stove. As soon as the sauce is thick, take it off and put in the wood-lice. This is an excellent sauce for fish.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
socmed comms r often poor way 2 get yr meaning across? twitter/fb/txt FAIL :)
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
I don’t know what it is, but these days I find it almost impossible to watch an entire movie without – quite literally - falling asleep. Whether I’m in the cinema or at home, I can’t make it all the way through. Sometimes I can’t even get through a single episode of a TV show. It’s becoming really annoying.
I don’t think it’s just tiredness, though that certainly doesn’t help. I find myself dozing off in matinees or when watching something late afternoon or early evening. It’s certainly not boredom – I end up dozing through the end of films I’m really enjoying. It’s not that I can’t concentrate for two straight hours – I can read a book or play a game all day without dropping off, but half an hour after a movie starts, I start to feel sleep creeping up on me.
I thought for a while it was a reaction to darkness. Dave & Darien both prefer to watch movies with the lights off, so I tried insisting that we leave the lights up. That certainly made things better, and now I can usually get most of the way through a movie or into the second episode of TV before drifting away. I tried changing my posture, and that makes a difference too. If I’m lazing on a couch with my feet up, I tend to crash out fairly rapidly. Sitting upright in an armchair or sitting on the floor helps. However, neither of those is sufficient.
I was fascinated to read in Wired this week how using the Internet is changing the way our brains process information. We’re becoming more and more adept at skimming, at multi-tasking, and at dealing with rapidly changing data sources. After working in machinima for seven years, I now find myself thinking of a ten-minute movie as a long piece, and am getting more and more used to two-minute movies. Watching a full-length feature is rather like trying to listen to an opera or a symphony after being immersed in a culture of three-minute pop songs and advertising jingles.
There was a time when I would sit in a chair or lie on the floor and just listen to an hour-long symphony. Nowadays I’d want something else to do with my hands and eyes while I was listening, and would probably be getting restless after the first movement. When I listen to music now, I’m usually cooking, reading, web-surfing, chatting online, working, or doing housework. (Or, more likely, several of these at once.) I’d probably stay awake through movies if I treated them as background in the same way.
Part of the problem, I suppose, is that watching a movie is completely passive and non-interactive. With a book, at least I’m turning the pages, I control the pace at which I read, I can easily skip back a few pages, and I can get up, make coffee, and read anywhere. I'm imagining the scene, turning words into mental images and sounds. With a movie, I’m completely captive. It demands my attention, but requires that I do absolutely nothing else and gives me everything I need to see and hear. As a result, when I watch a movie, it’s as if my brain is saying to me as soon as I relax, “nope, nothing to do here, Matt, might as well go into stand-by mode”.
Strangely, I can sit by the shore of a lake, in a forest clearing, on a beach, or on top of a hill, and just sit, silently, thinking or meditating for hours without going to sleep. By contrast, I can lie in bed in the darkness for hours, and my brain races insanely, no matter how tired I am. My preferred insomnia cure is to get up, put on a movie, and fall asleep on the couch.
It's perplexing. And, as I said, annoying.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
This is a fascinating documentary about the American movie ratings process that anyone interested in either film or censorship should watch.
As a European, I have to admit I found several aspects of the movie completely baffling.
Let’s get this one out of the way first. It’s a well-known issue that Europeans are reasonably tolerant of sex in movies, but tend to shy away from extreme violence, whereas Americans will accept almost any degree of violence, but are comparatively puritanical when it comes to sex or bad language (despite having the world’s largest porn industry). As a result, the criteria by which films are rated are completely different to what I’m used to. Movies I think of as suitable only for adults are kids’ movies here, and movies I’ve watched with my kids are deemed shocking and unacceptable because there’s a hint of boobage or some bad language. However, that’s not what struck me this time.
The whole basis of US ratings seems to me to be useless. When we watch movies at home, we usually end up looking at the European ratings to find out whether they’re suitable for our 12 and 15 year old kids.
For the benefit of my fellow non-Americans, the US ratings system goes like this:
- G: kids of any age can watch this movie
- PG: kids of any age can watch this movie (but it may contain material some parents may consider inappropriate for pre-teens)
- PG-13: kids of any age can watch this movie (but some parents may think it’s inappropriate for pre-teens)
- R: kids of any age can watch this movie (but the cinema may require them to have their parents with them)
- NC-17: for over-18s only (and probably won’t actually get released or broadcast because the studios and distributors won’t touch it)
In other words, anyone can watch anything unless it’s NC-17. The PG-13 category is so broad that some movies are fine for 10-year olds, others – in my opinion – aren’t really suitable for a 15 year old, and would probably be classified 18 in the UK. Kids change hugely between 11 and 18 as they go from pre-puberty to adulthood, and there’s absolutely no indication in the rating of where on that scale a PG-13 fits.
The thing that feels truly weird is that Americans simply don’t have mass market movies for grown-ups or older kids. In the UK, we’re quite comfortable with the idea of having major movies that you have be to 15 or 18 to see. In America, if the theaters can’t get the 14-16 year olds into the cinema and sell them popcorn, they simply won’t show the movie. As a result, an NC-17 rating is basically the kiss of death for a movie. It relegates it to the status of a porn flick.
The strange side-effect of this is that when film directors are arguing for an R rating rather than an NC-17 rating, what they’re actually demanding is that scenes that we would think are suitable only for adults are actually fine for teenagers or even younger kids. In other words, they’re saying that young kids should be able to watch people being tortured and dismembered in graphic close-up, anally raped, having a drug-fuelled orgy with crucifix-shaped dildos, screwing donkeys, or whatever else they want to include in their story.
They’re not actually saying that, of course. They’re just trying to work with this broken ratings system.
What they’re actually asking for is two different things. First, they want the artistic freedom to make the movie they want to make. Well, they already have that freedom. They can make the movie any way they want, and they have the option of releasing it as NC-17 or unrated. Nobody's stopping them making the movie, as long as they can get the funding for it. That puts them in the exact same position as every other artist.
More importantly, though, they’re fighting for a commercial opportunity for that movie, and that’s where they have the problem. There is no commercial market for NC-17 movies in the US. That’s down to the decision by the studios, distributors and exhibitors not to show NC-17s. Wal-Mart and Blockbuster won’t touch them either. As a result, they have to get that R rating from the MPAA one way or another, or the movie is pretty much dead. So either they have to cut the adult scenes the MPAA doesn't like, or they have to argue that the adult scenes are acceptable to kids.
What the US needs, as far as I can see, is to accept that some movies really aren’t suitable for kids, and that there is a place for adults-only movie entertainment that isn’t porn. It’s perfectly accepted in other areas of the entertainment business. Nobody has a problem with putting on a burlesque show and saying over 18s only. Some art exhibitions, theatrical performances, variety acts and gigs don’t allow minors in. Kids can’t get into bars. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and most Americans are quite comfortable with that policy.
So why do the distributors and exhibitors have such a problem with movies that are unsuitable for minors? An NC-17 movie should be no different to any other form of 18+ entertainment. If they were happy to show NC-17s, there would be less pressure to include increasingly hardcore adult material in R-rated movies, and that, surely, would be more in keeping with their mission to protect kids from unwholesome movies.