Rules? For Fools.

As lockdown eases here in the Eastern-Med, I finally fell foul of the rules.

I have been sent to a large supermarket, ten minutes or so further away than our usual store. The reason? Pasta. The larger shop has better brands of pasta. One of the small prices that one pays for marrying an Italian, is that pasta quality is non-negotiable.

Aware of my reluctance to travel, shop or even interact with people, Mrs L said,

“Go early. It will be quiet, fast and easy.”

And it would be, if I were over 60.

“Come back at 10 am.”

As I trudged back to the car, muttering darkly, I noted that MacDonalds was open. Surely a Sausage and Egg McMuffin would slip right in to my healthy eating plan?

Tray in hand, I walked out onto the seating terrace. There are fourteen tables, three of which are occupied. I chose an empty table distant from the other guests, mindful of my social distancing obligations. As I sat, I noticed a sticker on the middle of the table.

Rules? For fools.

Whoops.

I moved to the next table, unstickered.

“Impressive compliance to the rules,” I thought, chewing on the textureless mush from our friend Ronald.

My attention turned to my co-breakfasters. All three groups were sitting at stickered tables. Social distancing was being observed, enforced by 100% non-compliance, at least until I had bumbled along with my British-rule-following stupidity.

This makes me smile. It’s archetypically Cypriot. The object of the regulation has been achieved, but at no point has anyone complied to any rules.

Driving is the same. You learn to anticipate.

“The stupidest possible thing for that car to do would be…oh. THAT. He did it.”

As you know it’s going to happen, you prepare for it, accept it and nobody crashes. The only way to maintain your clean sheet, is to lean into 100% non-compliance. The worse you drive, the more predictable you are and everyone will be taking the right evasive action.

This isn’t chaos theory, as it relies on constant, consistent, non-compliance.

It’s awesome.

Wait long enough and a business theorist will write a book on it and herald the new thing to make you 71.8% more productive by never, ever complying.

Right, I have to go, I can’t type and take this exit. Not without spilling my beer, anyway.

My writing is supported by people like you. Become a patron.

Working Tools 35. The Domino Effect

I wrote only last week about breaking stuff.

Turned out that my migration of the Lime website wasn’t quite as successful as I’d hoped. The theme wasn’t responsive, and activating the menu on a tablet or smart phone, overlaid the menu choices on the current page text. It looked horrible.

I have activated another theme – which whilst still not perfect, is holding the fort, as it were.

Updating the site, I stumbled on a process that is inefficient. As part of my iPad first, streamlined workflow, ambitions, I set to fixing it.

Trigger

Something happens in sphere of anti money laundering that I wish to alert my clients about and to comment on publicly. The first is achieved by sending a briefing note and the second by posting on the website.

Current Process

I write the web piece in Ulysses and upload it to the WordPress Editor, as per this site. I also export the text to form the basis of the briefing note. Typically, I export it as a Word document (Docx). Then, I edit it, copy it, and paste it onto a corporate template. Finally, I e-mail it to the clients with a covering note.

Opportunity

Aha – I thought. Perhaps I can export it straight to a PDF template from Ulysses. Apparently not. Or at least not without building a bespoke “style” over on Mac, using skills beyond my know-how. Even then, the logo might be an issue.

Hmmm…what about some sort of shortcuts / automation on IOS? Nope. Not that I can divine.

How about one of those swish PDF apps? Apparently not.

A little Google-fu convinces me that it might be possible to conjure something on the Mac but that on IOS, I will struggle.

Simplicity

The simplest way is to compose the briefing note on a briefing note template in either Word or Pages and send it from there. Who knew? I will probably compose the text in Ulysses with no formatting, then copy & paste to Word/Pages. That done, I’ll format for web in Ulysses and export to the site, before returning to Word/Pages and manually formatting the briefing note.

Or – of course, somebody will point out to me that I’m missing something painfully obvious.

Content

Schedule

In June – I’m changing things up a bit.

Monday – I’ll link to the 1857 Podcast release.
Tuesday – I’ll link to my article at Lime
Wednesday – I’ll publish the Members-Only post
Thursday – I’ll publish the regular post (like this one)
Friday – I’ll link to my article at Nero’s

The weekend, I’ll take off, though there may be some “downtime” posts too.

Membership

I’m going to change the Membership program too. Offering more content to members in more forms. I will also be increasing the price. Now – people who became members before June 1st 2020 will retain their legacy pricing. If you do want that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from supporting a writer as he gets going, it will cost less if you do it before June 1st. Become a Member.

1857 – Lockdown Cooking

Every week, I record a podcast with my friend TJ Cosgrove.

Find it wherever you get your podcasts by searching 1857, or listen through your browser with the link below.

Episode 121: Cooking in Lockdown: Fad or Rad?

Listen in your browser here

Members 73. Covid Reset

Thirteen weeks ago today, Mags and I returned from Rome, just ahead of this thing, known as Covid 19.

She went to bed and has been there ever since, I added nursing to my daily task list and Covid 19 went from “some virus in China, and maybe Italy” to a pandemic.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Working Tools 34. Breaking stuff

Limeconsulting.com is the website for my company Lime Training and Consultancy Ltd. It’s website was awful. Unloved, unmaintained and creaking under the weight of updates not completed. It had been designed, by someone else, using a plugin, that I don’t understand. Changing a phone number on the site was a fraught process, that took hours and generated volleys of ungentlemanly language.

Eventually, I bit the bullet and built a new site. Now – by build, I don’t mean code. I have a Hosted WordPress package with 5 sites included in the price. I chose a theme and drafted new text into the existing boxes. I followed the instructions, and ported my domain to the new site. The SSL certificate even moved on its own.

Done. Satisfying.

I opened my email, and deleted the usual notes from the host confirming every keystroke of the last hour. I may even have displayed a certain jaunty aspect. Then, one email caught my eye. “stuartlennon.com is down.”

“But…but…I didn’t touch that one.” Perhaps not a wail, nor were any toys ejected from a perambulator, but it was a close-run thing.

I spent an hour in the host’s dashboard. This confirmed to me that the dashboard is designed to provoke frustration, bordering on the murderous. The bloody thing may as well be in Serbo-Croat. I dialled the number of shame. (Or Support, as they call it.)

On the plus side, I was able to cook supper, water the plants, feed the dog and lock the house down for the night, while waiting to get through to the relentlessly chipper Jennifer. We spent a few minutes agreeing that my work on limeconsulting.com inevitably angered the SSL Certificate on stuartlennon.com. I mean, Duh!

Jennifer promised to have her team rekey the SSL within 24 hours and wished me a wonderful rest of the day. In fairness, the site was up and running within the hour.

The next day, refreshed, I resolved to “streamline my workflow”. Going IOS only, does require some adaptation to be efficient. Truth be told, much of what I do could do with streamlining. I’m forever making notes about how I must learn to do x or y. I then ignore the note, and get the task done with whatever Heath-Robinson process that I discovered back when God was a child.

I write in Ulysses. Because it’s awesome. Also, because the WordPress interface is, well, not very nice. The opposite of awesome, if you will. In Ulysses, I upload the finished post, complete with Markdown formatting and images, to the site’s WordPress admin. I could simply publish directly to the web – but I like to have a final check before unleashing anything onto the reader.

Cleverly, WordPress understands Markdown. Where I use “##”, it knows that I mean “Heading 2”. Inexplicably, it does not convert the syntax in the editor screen – only in the published post. Why? I have no idea. If the people at WordPress know, they’re not telling. I asked.

What this means, is that a very swish plugin called Yoast, doesn’t work. Yoast reads posts, scores them and then makes suggestions. It looks at SEO (yeah, whatever) and more importantly, at readability. The SEO reports says things like “you have only used the keyword 3 times, rather than the 4 times recommended for a post this length.” Sure. OK. The readability test though, is useful. It makes suggestions about sentence length, passive verbs, and conjunctions. Unfortunately, it does this from a reading of the editor screen. This means that it sees “##” as two hashes. It understands links as weird combinations of brackets.

Having got the digital version of a shrug from Automattic, the people behind WordPress, I asked Yoast. They suggested that I might want to write directly into WordPress.

Harumph.

End result? I binned Yoast.

Just this morning, I have spent an hour in mortal combat with my wi-fi network, but that’s another post.

Sometimes, I just break stuff.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Members 72. Reading

With one thing and another, I had not taken the Sunday paper for a while, but I organised to get myself to the shop last week. To my absolute delight, the paper is running a promotion, gifting a Penguin Classic each week.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Living the Dream 84. – Lockdown Gardening

If there were a school report on my gardening, it might read:

“B-plus. Stuart is easily enthused and throws himself into new projects. At times his enthusiasm outstrips his abilities.”

The mountain hideaway is set on a decent-sized chunk of land. My Mum worked hard on the garden, nurturing fruit trees and colourful flowers. As time went on, she guided the garden towards low maintenance, laying a weed suppressant and gravel around the trees.

Once a week, Mick, mechanic, pool-man, and gardener, comes, gives the pool a proper clean and wrestles the trees and shrubs. A Sisyphean task leaving no room for development of the garden.

This week, I decided to throw myself into gardening as exercise, stress-relief and aesthetic endeavour. I’m a aiming for Mrs L to be delighted by flowers when we can get her up and about and onto the balcony.

Action

Fortune favours the brave, so I strode into the local flower shop / nursery and whimpered,

“Help me, please.” I even gave my best puppy-dog eyes. Fifteen minutes later I was loading bedding soil and plants into the back of the car.

I suspect I may not be the first with limited gardening ability, to throw myself on the mercy of the florist. We’re starting with flowers in pots and herbs in a built-in bed on the terrace.

Petunias (Petuniae?) love a bit of sun, and don’t mind doing without water for a bit, apparently. That’s a gentle way of saying that I really have to neglect them to kill them. Likewise, a busy-lizzy is a tough character, prepared to put up some abuse too.

Herbs

I love where we are situated. Unfortunately, mosquitos love it too. the only thing that the location lacked, from a mozzy point of view, was a plentiful supply of sweet blood. Then I moved in. They’re hardy wee souls, and rapidly adapt to whatever means we employ to deter, or indeed eliminate them. They are not great fans of strong smells, so planting some herbs is a double win, discouraging them and adding a nice flavour to my cooking on the BBQ.

So – meet my herb garden. Basil, Mint, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint and Thyme. I planted them in alphabetical order, because…well, I’m like that. I envisage having to marshall these, as from memory, herbs are the megalomaniacs of the plant world and will attempt to eliminate each other and take over the entire bed. Perhaps I shall propagate some separate pots if I detect a degree of success in my war with the mozzies.

I have more pots – so assuming that these first experiments survive, there will be more flora to come. Maybe, I’ll even try my hand at some vegetable gardening.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Members 71. Time Span

An accidental stoic. I became one with no conscious knowledge of the philosophy. I surely absorbed some of the many of the tenets that have been assimilated into our culture that are stoic in origin.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Working Tools 33. iPad Pro – Fight!

An iPad is not a laptop. Yes, it is. No, it isn’t. YES, IT IS! NO, IT ISN’T!

People do like to get tribal. The internet is getting all shouty about the latest must-have accessory from Apple.

The tech colossus has released a software update that greatly enhances the efficacy of using a mouse or a trackpad with the tablet. Additionally, they have released a new keyboard attachment for the iPad Pro, that includes a trackpad.

Taking these two things together, an iPad Pro can now look and function in a very similar fashion to a laptop.

The internet is awash with videos, podcasts and articles positing that this configuration is truly the laptop replacement. Some are delighted, some horrified and others incredulous of everyone else’s opinion.

Diplomat that I am – I will steer clear of that debate.

Everyone’s wrong. (Alright, not entirely clear of the debate.)

My view

The iPad Pro flutters its eyelids and in a gravelly, seductive whisper says “What do you want me to be, baby?”

The new keyboard, infuriatingly named the same as the keyboard that accompanies the desktop iMac (Magic Keyboard) does indeed give the tablet a similar form factor to a laptop. Macbook killer. Allegedly.

The software update makes the tablet a desktop. The iMac killer, if you will. It sits on a stand, and is controlled by the the old magic keyboard and trackpad. A stripped-down desktop, unsullied by cables.

The Road Warrior sticks to the smart folio keyboard, (no magic there apparently), which allows for typing but preserves the lightweight portability of the tablet. Essential in the old days when she shuttled around the world making deals, kicking ass and taking names.

When the day is done, the user dons a turtleneck, retires to the couch and reads something impressive and intellectual on the naked tablet.

There are more modes – think Apple Pencil, external displays – but you get the picture.

The iPad is all about flexibility of environment and working practice. By happy accident or prescient design, it’s on the way to becoming the device for everyone – or at least most of everyone.

Apple’s view

Apple is a business, and will have no trouble selling us desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, accessories and services as long as we buy them. Arguments between Apple fans about which hunk of metal is best, bother it not a jot. Apple wants to capture all those people who don’t “compute” on Apple devices. Apple wants the young “future-consumers” to get aboard. These markets aren’t going to be buying huge desktops or $3,000 laptops, at least not many of them.

The iPad is the best tablet on the market, and it’s a pretty damned good desktop and laptop too.

My Usage

I’m writing from my dining room table, where I have setup a temporary workstation while my wife recovers from surgery. I’m in mini-desktop mode.

It’s too hot for a turtleneck, but I do subscribe to magazines and newspapers which I read on the couch through my magic slab of glass.

Eventually, we will be allowed to move again, and I can see myself outside a beach bar, or jammed into a airline seat, tapping away on a folio cover keyboard.(Sand can’t get under the fabric.)

The laptop form? Not for me. I suspect it’s much more stable than the folio if you type on your lap – but I don’t, and if I’m at a table, I find the desktop setup more ergonomic.

These things are always subject to change, but I can’t see myself buying a desktop Mac or Macbook again. Others may buy more of these things – and I’ll be honest, I’m not bothered.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.