Edinburgh

 

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Last week, I spent a couple of days in the magnificent city of Edinburgh.

The picture above of Edinburgh castle was taken from the breakfast room of the hotel that we stayed in.

I may be a little biased in that my Dad comes from that neck of the woods, but Edinburgh is a fantastic place to visit.

Every August the city and its environs host the Edinburgh International Festival and its unruly, less high brow, younger brother, the Fringe.

The Fringe has comedy, pop art, kids shows – pretty much anything goes.

Every theatre, gallery, library, book shop, pub, cafe and broom cupboard becomes a venue.

The Fringe is now the biggest festival of its kind in the world.

Also during August, Edinburgh is host to the Military Tattoo, which is what I go to see.

I will post about the tattoo separately, but it is an event that should be on every bucket list, in my opinion. Simply awesome.

The city itself positively throbs with visitors from near and far.

Bars, restaurants and cafes are full to overflowing from mid morning until long after dark.

For my trip, the sun was out, the winds were down and Edinburgh could have been a southern European city.  The party spilled out from the hostelries onto outdoor terraces and decks. It was gorgeous.

With one exception, the businesses of Edinburgh welcomed us with open arms.

August is, I’m sure a bonanza for the hospitality industry.

Everybody is excited, having fun and looking to have a good time. We ate, we drank and most of all we laughed.

Stuart LennonI was travelling with my wife, her cousin and her husband. (We are in the picture right) We met up with my cousin and her man. (That’s them below on their trusty steed)

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We laughed until our sides ached.

Where is your favourite city?

Email. Friend or Foe?

MailboxLogo+Wordmark_Vertical_BLUEEmail. It’s all about making things easier and more efficient.

Isn’t it?

Incidentally, I am talking with some smart people. They will redesign this blog to separate the various flavours of nonsense that I write.

More on that another time, but if you have no interest in productivity or IT, stop reading now.

I have posted, well, whinged about Email clients in a couple of other posts. Here and here.

The essence is this: I want to have an email client that sits on my Mac, my iPad and my iPhone and that plays nice with my Gmail and syncs perfectly.

Why?

Over the last 10 years, far from making me more efficient, email has become the biggest single drag on my time and productivity.

Email has become a barbarian horde. Honestly. It has.

Go away to a desert island for a week.

Come back and turn your computer on; instantly there are hundreds, thousands even, of emails waiting for your attention.

How I am trying to manage this, I am going to put into a separate post, as this one is getting longer and longer.

I have tried a lot of different clients and come across some brilliant apps. There are literally thousands of email clients. Many of them however are designed for specific devices.

Handle for example is a cracking wee app for the iPhone. However, it doesn’t have a big brother for the Mac and it wants to be in charge of the calendar, which is a whole new kettle of fish.

Inbox by Google is great on iPhone and iPad. Again, there is no version for the Mac.

I thought that I had found the answer with Mail Pilot, but alas the apps were not syncing; so mails kept reappearing. The exact opposite of what I am trying to achieve.

I wrote here before that Mail Pilot had not responded to my anguished request for help. I was hasty. I received this;

Hi Stuart,

Sorry for the delayed reply. Sometimes after initially installing, the apps can take some time to synchronize. Has this issue resolved?
Thanks!
-Josh

Co-founder + COO

I have gone back explaining that it got resolved after three days by my not using it anymore – but as yet, no further reply.

I have now settled on a mail client that I had used for a while a year ago. Mailbox

The app on the iPad and iPhone is simply brilliant.

The one for the Mac is strictly speaking still a ‘Beta’ which is a version in testing. It is pretty good too, if a little prone to the occasional ‘moment’ or crash, as I believe a ‘moment’ should properly be called.

Firstly, I should point out that if you want to manage email from work; that probably comes off an Exchange server and Mailbox is not for you (at the moment). Exchange is not supported.

Mailbox allows me to defer mails, so that they disappear from my inbox and return at appointed times. It allows me to archive or delete instantly, or to add a mail to a ‘list’.

The app syncs across my devices seamlessly. It is a joy to use, on touch screens in particular. Swipe here, swipe there – all done.

It is a really intuitive piece of kit, that for now at least, lives on all of my machines.

The company behind Mailbox was snapped up by DropBox before the app was on the market.

Online support is thus far excellent and I have had no crash problems.

As this post sat in my drafts folder awaiting my approval, the developers issued new releases of the Mac client. Three in quick succession.

Crashes left, right and centre.

However, it is encouraging to see the app improving and becoming more stable.

I am hopeful that it will soon be a full blown version. Check it out here.

Wow! Google listened.

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Only a few short weeks ago, I implored the IT Giants to Grow UP and suddenly Google is setting up a new top company.

What power I now wield.

Alas, I suspect that my little rant went unnoticed as Google was planning its next stage of global conquest.

Even though Google have been busy with other things, here, my quest for efficiency and productivity has continued.

I seek an email client that works across all of my devices, in the same fashion, so that I can seamlessly transition from one device to another and thereby be truly mobile.

Productive – checking email, even while trying to avoid my nose being pressed into the raised armpit of the man next to me by the crush of a rush-hour tube. Geek Nirvana.

Since my last update – I have been through several more configurations trying to get Apple and Google to play nice.

I won’t bore you with all of the permutations that I tried – suffice it to say that I probably funded the legal costs of Google’s latest move through the purchase of apps.

One particularly exciting setup was with a little thing called Mail Pilot.

There it was – an email client that is G-mail-friendly (YES!), that would work on a Mac, on an iPad and on an iPhone (YES! YES!), that would seamlessly sync (YES! YES! YES!) and was designed to operate an Inbox zero approach. (YES! YES! YES! I daresay that you get the idea)

I installed the app on the Mac – and played around with it. Encouraging.

I put it onto the iPad and iPhone. All right. Pretty good too.

After a couple of days, I became more convinced that mails that I had dealt with on the phone or iPad were reappearing on the computer.

In the tried and tested method held sacred by all IT folk – I uninstalled everything, turned all the hardware off, had a cup of tea, turned the hardware back on again, reinstalled the software and had another look. The only thing that I did not do, was send myself a hefty invoice.

Despite the employment of high powered IT consultancy as described above, the applications were not synchronising correctly. Not good news.

I decided to bring out the big guns. I looked for written instructions.

Shocking.

I know.

But still no progress.

Time for the nuclear option.

I contacted the developer.

Yes. I can confirm. I am a male and I did ask for directions.

Humbling and humiliating.

However, to my immense satisfaction – I can report that I was right all along. There is never any point in asking for directions.

The slimy little toe-rags have not replied.

So, I am doing the IT equivalent of driving around and around until I fall upon the required destination through a process of dogged determination.

No Dickheads

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I posted last week about a Golf Day that I attended – BattleBack versus Rugby’s Golf Club.

Once the golf had finished, we repaired to Tedworth House, a Help 4 Heroes Recovery Centre, for a spot of dinner and a charity auction.

I bought the print above. The original (complete with signatures of many famous sports and media folk) was presented to Welsh Rugby legend Cliff Morgan on the occasion of his retirement.

One hundred prints were countersigned by the man himself to be used for charitable purposes.

Now I have one in my house. This makes me feel inordinately pleased with myself. My wife is, for the moment, reserving judgement.

Rugby’s Golf Club relates to the game of Rugby, not the place. It binds people with interests in Rugby, Golf and doing good. Jason Leonard is the club President.

After dinner – one of our number stood up and spoke about The Rugby Business Network. His name was Colm Hannon.

Colm, like me, played prop. Unlike me, he was good at it.

Colm played professional rugby in Ireland, England and South Africa. I daresay that he made a pretty decent living.

Post Rugby – he identified a need for something like The Rugby Business Network and went out and set it up. Good on him.

He presented to us what it is and what it is for.

I may get a word or two wrong, but I’m sure that he will forgive me;

“Essentially there is one criterion for membership. Officially we say that at any RBN event you must say “How can I help you?” – but unofficially, it is much simpler.”

“No Dickheads.”

If you played Rugby, then I suspect that you understand the nuance.

Certainly many in the room nodded their understanding, although of course, this may have just been people nodding off as the wine took effect.

I have a feeling that Jason Leonard knows exactly what it means and I am sure that Cliff Morgan would have too.

No Dickheads means team first.

Your teammates come before all else. No ego. No bullshit – not on the field, not off the field.

If there is anything that anyone takes away from the game of rugby – then it is this. (And a lot of very imaginative and graphic song lyrics)

In many ways, it is a good maxim to live by – in business, in sport, in everything.

 

Perspective

Battleback

“More Golf?”

Now, now, dear reader. Relax.

You sound like the wife.

This post is only tangentially about golf.

Yesterday I took part in a golf day at my home club Tidworth Garrison Golf Club.

It was a match between BattleBack Golf and Rugby’s Golf Club. I slipped in with a few other club members to even out the numbers.

Please do check out the links above, a great golf club and two superb sports initiatives. All the links will open in separate pages.

Back with me? Good.

I was playing with the two people in the picture. They were playing for the BattleBack team.  – That makes them injured service people.

On the left we have Fiona, who was injured while training and has had and continues to have multiple operations on her shoulder and knee. On the right is Jimmy who managed to get himself shot five times in the leg on Operations.

Both people that might have some justification in feeling a bit hard done by as well as not a little bit sore.

Not a bit of it. They were both bundles of energy, out to have fun. Out to get recovered.

It’s all a matter of perspective apparently.

Jimmy has not yet got a handicap, and was predictably a bit erratic. When he got it going the right way, you can take my word for it, that ball stayed hit. As his leg recovery continues, and he continues to play (he has just started) he will comfortably pass me in golfing prowess.

Fiona is an accomplished golfer. To demonstrate the point, she knocked in a hole in one on the thirteenth. (That is the green that you can see on the left of this page.) A beautiful shot and her first hole in one.

FionaGrayHIO

The purists will of course need to know that Yes, poor Fiona was hit for a very large round of drinks!

Quite apart from sharing in the delight of that rare thing, the hole in one, the whole day was brilliant.

Dinner was hosted at Tedworth House.

Here food was eaten, some jokes were told, some wine was drunk and there was even a little auction action.

A gentleman called Mark was asked to say a few words about Help 4 Heroes and what it had meant and continues to mean for him.

I cannot recreate what he said or how he said it. I am not sure that I can adequately express how much sincerity weighed down each and every one of his words.

I can write that BattleBack and Help 4 Heroes are important. Like life and death important.

Days like this are about perspective, and understanding what things really matter in life.

My perspective? How lucky am I to have the chance to write what I want, do what I want – because brave Men and Women go out and serve.

 

WAKE UP! Appeasement doesn’t work.

Chamberlain-Peace-in-our-Time-1938

The picture above is of Neville Chamberlain, a very nice chap, who is perhaps unfairly remembered almost entirely for his utterance “Peace in our time”.

He had met up with a little chap called Hitler and they had agreed that young Adolf was not going to do anything that might upset the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

So that’s all right then.

Chamberlain was far from alone in recommending that we avoid war at all costs. The vast majority of the USA was of the same mind, for example. Frankly, the young Nazi chap was clearing Europe up a bit. A little close to the line perhaps, particularly if you were Czech for example – but ultimately, better to let him get on with it, than risk war.

Appeasement they called it.

As a policy, it didn’t go terribly well.

Recently, a key issue in the parliamentary election in the UK has been Immigration.

Even more recently, we have been gripped in the new soap opera called ‘Grexit’.

There has been an enormous amount of focus on the harrowing and difficult conflict in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, there have been some other bits and pieces of news. It is these bits and pieces that I wish to bring to your attention.

The UK military has been known to refer to the island of Cyprus as ‘our permanent aircraft carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean’.

More recently, the European Union made an example of Cyprus – forcing it to impose a levy on all bank accounts or drop out of the euro. In plain talk, savers in some Cyprus banks made an involuntary donation to the public purse. That showed them.

Completely coincidentally, Russian investment in Cyprus increased. While the rest of the world was running for cover, Russia was investing in Cyprus. In March of 2014, they even sent an aircraft carrier to pop in.

The Cypriot government has granted Russia access to a deepwater port and airfield you see. How very neighbourly.

Then there was a little fracas in the Crimea. All a bit difficult to follow for us Western folk – but it’s okay, that nice chap in Moscow sorted it out.

Something about a deep water port down there too. Still you have to admire the consistency.

I know that it is difficult to believe, but this Vladimir chap has also found the time to help out in Ukraine. Apparently there are a whole load of people in the Ukraine who really want to be best friends with Russia.

In fact, rather than move to Russia, these people have decided that they must take up arms to defend themselves from their own government. Thankfully Vlad has it all under control.

Meanwhile – The European Union is taking no prisoners in Greece. Time to make an example of them. Quietly, Vlad has offered to help out his comrades in Athens if they can’t make up with their European buddies. How nice of him.

What is amazing, is that this caring, community chap used to be a cold war warrior. He spent his life in learning subversion techniques – Hearts and Minds, I think that we call it.

After Mr Chamberlain waved his bit of paper and declared “Peace in Our Time”, well..

There wasn’t.

Writing Again

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Patient things, characters.

Three months I had been away, charging about doing this and that.

Doing anything but writing.

I return to my manuscript and there he is, just where I left him.

I refer to the hero of my novel, Sean.

Given that I had left him in a bar chatting up a very attractive girl, its not really surprising that he was in no rush to move on.

I have posted elsewhere that I simply was busy and that this is why I was neglecting young Sean and not writing. It is true, there has been a lot on.

However, as Sean moved us forward on Monday, I came to realise that I might be a bit shy.

No, seriously.

You see, things in the bar were going well. Sean was ‘in’. All things being equal, Sean was going to get some bedroom action with Natalia.

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The Hard Rock Cafe Budapest – Photo Courtesy of Edith Medcalf.

I wrote a post on writing sex before.

I did, in fact, leave Sean and Natalia to it. He seemed pretty confident that he knew what he was doing. They went off to his room, I went off to mine and we all got together in the morning and moved on.

How very grown up of us.

Once again, life is throwing things at me, but this time, I am reluctant to leave Sean. I am anxious to learn where we are off to next, what we are going to get up to, what new people we are going to meet.

I am enjoying this writing lark.

IT Giants. Grow Up!

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(Image taken from MacWorld)

I love IT. I love technology. I love gadgets.

The problem is, that generally I only have a vague idea of how to use any of them.

To my wife’s constant annoyance, the house is littered with IT kit that is rarely or poorly used.

We have thousands of TV channels in multiple languages, On Demand, and a very swish Blueray player. All completely unnecessary to watch the BBC News.

I am writing this post on my IPad mini. Later, I might revisit it on my MacBook Air, or possibly on my IMac. Should any of you call me, I will answer on my IPhone 6.

Really.

I need to find a support group.

It turns out that there is one. There are more of us. IT ‘early adopters’ with the technical know-how of a turnip.

We are the main readership of several prominent blogs like LifeHacker, T3 and Imore to name a few of my favourites.

We voraciously consume post after post on how to be more efficient, or on what fantastic new app is going to revolutionise our workflow (whatever a workflow might be).

We read in awe as proper ‘techies’ exchange views on the relative merits of IFTTT versus Pushbullet.

In the tech world, there are three IT Giants that control pretty much everything. Apple, Google and Microsoft.

In a gross over-simplification, Apple make amazing hardware, Google is king of the Internet and Microsoft keeps big business running.

About five years ago, I became an Apple ‘Fanboi’. The IPhone was my gateway hardware, and apart from a brief dalliance with a Dell – I have been an Apple junkie ever since.

Then I discovered that for email – the real deal comes from the mighty Google. I can get all of the amazing functionality of G-mail but in my own imaginatively named domain (stuartlennon.com).

gmail

The drawback of Gmail is that really smart people at Google cannot, for the life of them, work out why I would want to keep my email anywhere, other than on their servers.

So, Gmail doesn’t play nice with email clients that look to organise email on your own machine. Clients like Outlook for example.

Microsoft have done OK with software.

There’s a thing called Windows that has kind of done OK and their office suite (including Outlook) is almost universal.

MS Outlook Logo

So, right now – my dream team would be G-mail integrated with Outlook on Apple Hardware.

Microsoft have now released a Microsoft Outlook that plays nice with Apple.

Hurrah!

But Microsoft and Google?

No. We are not playing nice with them on computers. On tablets, Yes. On phones, Yes.

But on computers?

No.

Outlook won’t play nice with Gmail on a Mac and I want something that works across all my devices.

I still can’t have it.

The IT company that comes out on top is not going to be the smartest or the most aggressive.

It is going to be the one that listens to consumers.

 

 

 

Ben Adams. Living the Dream – Writing

 

An Author’s Life

The link above will take you to the blog of Ben Adams, a very dear friend of mine.

Well actually, not a very dear friend. We have never actually met.

Ben Adams

Dashingly handsome though isn’t he?

I stole the picture from his website – so he is doubtless lining up a cohort of solicitors to take me for every penny I’ve got.

We might have swapped the odd blog comment, or even twatted each other – sorry, I think that should read “tweeted each other” – but Ben is fast becoming a mentor to me.

He has done it, you see. He has written a book and published it. I know he has actually sold some, because I bought one. Counting his Mum and the ones he bought himself, he must be in double figures now at least.

Don’t tell anyone – but it is actually pretty good. Buy the Kindle version here

A couple of months ago, Ben took the huge step of resigning a perfectly good job to focus on being a writer.

Nutter.

He is soon to publish another novel! That will put him ahead of Harper Lee in terms of output at least.

How envious am I?

He’s living the dream. He is writing. He has all the time in the world to sit there and write – to immerse himself in his characters, writing darlings, WRITING!

Whereas I, I, …. I, …oh wait a minute….I’m not working much either am I?

What he is doing, is knuckling down, eliminating excuses and making time to do what he wants to do – Writing.

He has established a routine and got on with it.

Hmmm…

Must dash – I have a novel to write!

I’m Back

Stuart Lennon. Abbots Ann, Hampshire. April 21st 2015. Copyright Warren James Palmer. www.wjpphoto.co.uk 044 1264 848 056
Stuart Lennon. Abbots Ann, Hampshire. April 21st 2015. Copyright Warren James Palmer. www.wjpphoto.co.uk 044 1264 848 056

Me again! Hello there. How have you all been? Or perhaps that should read how have you both been? I’m back.

I have been a busy busy boy. My Mum is now living around the corner, which is great; and I have access to a lovely place in Cyprus.

I have played a fair amount of golf – burned some meat in the name of the British summer and even kept the garden quite tidy.

Life is good.

On the corporate front, I’m looking after a couple of clients AML and CTF needs, which is keeping my hand in and provides a welcome trickle of revenue.

I even have appointments set up to review acquisition opportunities with my business partner. Look out World of Commerce – we’re on our way back.

What I have not been doing, is very much writing or communicating on social media.

Procrastination? One of those things?

A bit of both, I suspect.

But now…I’m back.