The new project is a go

I have been quiet on the blogging front recently, largely due to a new project. A wise man once said that you shouldn’t make life changing decisions at times of stress. The bloody minded Northerner in both of us has meant that we have ignored the advice recently. Having decided to leave the wacky world of corporate IT just before Christmas we are now about to move house.

We originally came to live in the city centre to avoid the hour (at least) commute. We could both walk to work (healthier) and we only needed one car (financially healthier). However, within three months of moving Ruth’s job moved to Manchester. We should have seen it coming as she ran the project to move it!

The global downturn (or a useless estate agent) meant that we never sold the apartment in Apperley Bridge. When showing perspective new tenants around we both realised that we actually missed living there. With no offer on the table we thought that with a lick of paint we could happily move back in and rent out our city pad. However, in true project style, that lick of paint turned into a major project. Comments such as: “It always annoyed me that the grill was at waist level”; or “that shower cubicle is too small, they shouldn’t have squeezed it into that corner” ; and “that laminate floor is all scratched” – took us to the point we are at now. We are tackling a full scale refurbishment with new kitchen, bathroom, flooring, colour scheme, furniture and outdoor seating area. I seem to have convinced the finance committee that we don’t want all of those unsightly cables either so wireless speakers are the way to go.

We picked a budget by licking a finger and holding it in the air. This is known in IT as a SWAG – Scientific Wild Arsed Guess. This is arrived at without knowing what the customer wants, when they want it or how the hell you are going to achieve it. The downside is that there is always a row when the more refined estimate is exactly double the SWAG. This is basically what happened but, being the customer as well as PM we avoided the row. The finance committee did however issue a cost challenge. This will send a shudder down the spines of my former colleagues. The format is the same the world over. The people who are too busy in the first place spend several days justifying the increase in the budget. Then there is a row, the requirements change and the cost goes up again. Guess what? No row but the requirements changed and we added 20% to the budget (the granite work surfaces in the kitchen are essential).

 

New project - no turning back
New project – no turning back

Several weeks of planning and choosing designs led us to the point where the floors were stripped and the decorator was making a start on the top floor where there were no structural changes. In true project management style, I then buggered off on holiday for a week and left him to it.

Then the phone calls started. Can we deliver the bathroom this week? Erm -No I’m in Tenerife. The day after – The fitters will start on Monday as agreed. Erm – No, Tuesday as agreed. We can deliver on Tuesday – Fine, that’s when the fitters are there. You can see a pattern here. Anyway, we settled in and had a lovely week in Tenerife (despite a flurry of emails about kitchen appliances and door handles).

The fitters arrived bright and early Tuesday morning and started knocking down walls, ripping out showers etc.

New project - one wall gone
New project – one wall gone

I found it all a bit disturbing and set off on a mission to find the new spotlights to be fitted in the hall which the electrician is fitting as I type this. The major crisis now concerns the tiles. The idea was to rescue tiles from the walls that were being demolished and use them on walls that were being built. I had been warned that this was a risk and, true to form, they are proving difficult to separate from the plaster board. Unlike the plaster board that separated from the walls quite easily – more plastering to do! So, tomorrow is a mad search to find tiles that either perfectly match the existing one (million to one as nearly ten years old) or get some that contrast so that we make a feature of them (scary). I am trying to focus on the vision of what it will be like to move in at the end of June but this retirement lark is not quite as easy as it looks!

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Social media – friend or foe?

Social media – friend or foe?

Are social media sites a valuable part of modern life or do they simply expand to take up the time available. With Meerkat and Periscope entering an already crowded market, will they succeed or do we simply not have enough hours in a day to keep up to date with them all? For what it is worth I offer my views on a few of them.

Facebook

The chances are that you are reading this you followed a link from Facebook or Twitter.

In February, Facebook celebrated its 10th birthday. In those 10 years, the ubiquitous site has gathered 1230m users. That’s roughly 20 times the population of the UK. Whilst some people doggedly refuse to get on board, that number is a big one and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg can be quietly pleased that he has succeeded. Actually, with a personal wealth estimated at around 20 billion dollars it must be quite difficult not to wet himself laughing all the time. The rest of us constantly check our timeline for that little red circle in case we miss the fact that it is raining somewhere.

I appear to be below average in that I have 134 friends on Facebook, ranging from close friends of many years standing to people I met briefly and now seem to have melted away. Apparently around half of Facebook users have more than 200 friends whilst 18-24 year olds have more than 500. What does this say about the quality of such friendships? Is there a competitive element among some groups? I have 500 friends therefore I am more popular than you?

Aristotle, who hasn’t bothered with Facebook, reckoned that people qualify as friends if you have shared food with them. That would cut the list down a fair bit! There is a theory that we can cope with around 5 really close friends. This number allows us to spend time and invest in these friendships. We will then have a series of expanding groups that we spend less time with. In total, our group of friends will be no greater than 100. Beyond that, we simply can’t invest the time to keep those friendships relevant. (For a full article on the subject see the BBC News magazine – read more)

So what is going on with Facebook? Is it a force for good in that it allows us to keep friendships going by hitting a Like button every now and again and sending birthday messages without the pain of buying a card and posting it. Alternatively, is it a time thief that gives the impression of being socially included even if you are sitting alone in a bedsit and eating cat food? Having avoided joining for several years I now admit to being in favour. It may be superficial but I like that feeling of being in touch with a large group of people, even if some of them are over enthusiastic when hitting Like on certain sites!

Twitter

Social media - screen shot
Twitter screen shot

After a bit of a false start  a couple of years ago, I confess to becoming a regular Twitter user (@royburgess40). I can see how, in the right hands, it can become a very powerful tool for business and social use. You want to know when your favourite band are doing a warm up gig at a small venue? Follow them on Twitter to find out. Fancy a night at a trendy pop-up restaurant – Twitter again. I think the key is to be choosy in who or what you follow. Too many means you will be swamped and unable to keep up with the tidal wave of tweets that come your way. (Too few and nothing happens!) I have to admit I don’t understand the drive to attract followers at all costs. If a follower is not actively engaged there is no point. Having said that, some of the “grab followers” sites can be quite entertaining. My bio on Twitter lists me as ex IT manager, currently getting away with reviewing my options. Blogger, photographer, rugby league and music fan, fine wine taster and part time super model. As a result,   I have been added to one company list as a preferred photographer and model. No work yet but I think it justifies ticking model on any form asking for my occupation.

Instagram

Don’t get it. I registered and have followers but haven’t posted anything. Maybe I am missing something but isn’t it just Twitter without text?

Periscope

The new kid on the block but a classic case of not being able to figure out why. It allows online streaming of anything (no nudity!). I suppose it is a case of build the technology and they will come. One to watch maybe. The current fad seems to be showing what is in your fridge!! Better than some TV channels but will give it a miss at the moment.

This is my jam

This one intrigues me. The premise is simple. Pick your favourite song at  the moment and post it – this is your jam. It stays your jam for a maximum of seven days then it is time to pick another. The system recommends other jams based on your choices. You can follow others, swapping comments etc. I have found it an interesting way to discover new music and an easy way to lose half an hour! http://www.thisismyjam.com Find me on there as royb40 (see what I did there?)

365 Project

Wine With Lunch
Wine

Another site with a simple idea that becomes all consuming. Upload a picture each day for a year (hence 365). I saw this as a great way to ensure my shiny new camera didn’t just sit on the shelf.  I signed up last summer and I’m now 67% of the way through my first year. It is quite a challenge to come up with something each day. Mine range from photos I am quite proud of that were composed and processed to within an inch of their lives to drunken snaps with my phone. At the end of the year you have a visual diary online. Again, there is a very supportive community that offer comments and likes, you can build up followers and follow others. You get the picture (literally). This does get addictive. There are some individuals into a third or fourth year. Have a look at http://365project.org/royb40/profile

500 Px

2014 in pictures
Hay making in the Lake District

This is another photographic site. I limit this to shots I am quite pleased with. Again, photos are liked, followed follow etc. Interest in each picture is expressed as a score. There is a real buzz about a shot securing a lot of activity and seeing the score climb towards the ultimate 99.9 (I assume). Beware, there are some extremely good photographers on this site. I try to take them as inspiration rather than getting depressed at how feeble some of my attempt look!  In theory you can sell your work on the site but, so far, the magazines haven’t come calling.

https://500px.com/RoyBurgess

flashfictiononline.com 

This is one I have been meaning to sign up to but not got around to it. It is a community for giving and receiving feedback on written fiction (as the name suggests). I would love to hear if anybody out there has tried this – do you recommend it?

The is just a small selection of the increasing number of sites. Is there something that you have found that I should know about? Should I just get out more? Social Media is like most things – good for you in moderation.

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