I don’t know

Following the events in Manchester yesterday, I am at a loss for words. I’m not sure if, as a parent, I can’t help but get a snippet of what the parents of the victims must be feeling. I’m not sure if it was because it was an attack taken out on my home country. I’m not sure of a lot of things.

I felt myself recalling a song that reflected the truth that I can’t do anything, but I can trust God. I’m not belittling the work that anyone has done in the wake of this event and I’m certainly not trying to make myself seem like a victim here – but rather – sending my prayers to those who were involved. Since that is just about all I can do. I certainly cannot begin to reason or explain why things like this happen.

I looked for a lyric video to the song that my insides sang, but I sadly couldn’t find one. So, as that’s something I could produce – that’s what I did do. But, as perhaps expected, Youtube blocked it due to copyright infringement. So Instead, here’s a few images and a link to listen to the song for yourselves.

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Farewell, hotmail. You were my first email.

Why I have to leave hotmail. A not so simple explanation.

The simple explanation
Don’t worry, this isn’t on political, religious or charitable reasons. The reason is quite simple, I’m blown away at the volume of emails that aren’t getting through to me. Not getting redirected to junk, but literally thrown aside at Microsoft’s’ discretion at any given time without notice given to the server or the (non)recipient. What follows is a long and detailed account of how I came to realise this issue existed, as well as my ultimately futile exploits to resolve the matter. There’s no need to read them all, unless you feel compelled, but I do urge you as one email user to another – if you use hotmail: change supplier for your own sake as well as people trying to contact you.

I have been a hotmail user for as long as I’ve had an email address – and to this day still use the first ever email address as my primary source of web mail – and its a hotmail address. So it genuinely pains me to change things up, but I have completely exhausted all other options. This post is a means to try and explain the problem, my multiple attempts at fixing the issue and Microsoft’s belligerent and arrogant responses to my heart-felt desperation to fix the problem.

I would urge anyone using hotmail addresses (this includes any emails containing the following; @hotmail, @live, @msn, @Microsoft, @outlook or @Skype) to seriously consider moving services across to another provider. Generally speaking, the much better alternative is Google Mail(Gmail) anyway.

The not so simple explanation
The problem of not receiving emails had been present for a very long time. But naturally, as a user of one of the world’s most well-established Webmail softwares, the obvious culprit to missed emails that never arrived was clear – sender error. So over the years that had been my most common assumption towards such occasions…

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Rise

I realise that this blog lacks a certain level consistency. I’ll start a theme and leave it open-ended. I’ll talk about heart-felt inner battles and follow that up with a sarcastic review of my latest cinematic experience. Like I say. Inconsistent. But perhaps it is, always, honest and it is in keeping up with my life. Perhaps equally inconsistent. Perhaps not.

But as we enter into the Easter Bank Holiday, it’s something I really wanted to talk about. My past inconsistencies and failed attempts at success. I make no apology for drawing parallels to the Easter message of Jesus. The true meaning of Easter probably needs no further elaboration for you to complete the analogy. While Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his brutal crucifixion three days prior, I think so too, our past dreams and failings can rise. And I think that Jesus’s supernatural return, could actual be part of the catalyst to bring our dreams back into play.

Jesus will have about as much an impact of your life as you’ll let Him have. And while there are countless claims to ultimate success and ultimate peace out there, I really don’t think any of them can actually compare than that of what Jesus can do. And so easy as it is to put Jesus into pictorial, historical and theoretical scenarios logically, there is one arena that Jesus branded out of place. And that’s today. Society says Jesus is historical. Jesus says “I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. His friendship, his resurrection skills and ultimately his eternal ticket out of h-e-double hockey-sticks.

While I am a Jesus follower, I’m also a self-confessed chocoholic who is not even mildly offended at the introduction of giant chocolate bars in the shape of eggs. Frankly, I even think the Easter bunny is cute. And if I’m really honest, I don’t even really think of Easter as a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection anymore. There. I said it. But I don’t. And that’s simply because Easter may be a tasty reminder of Jesus’ actions, but when you apply Him to actual daily life – that same reminder is in everything. And the need for Easter to be a once-a-year reminder becomes obsolete…

That all being said, I think it’s a useful catalyst for posts, messages and thoughts – just like this one. Truth is that in order to fully appreciate anything I write here, you are going to need to get past the first hurdle of assuming that Jesus was and is who He said He was. And that day three of death, instead of rot setting in, the reverse took hold and life returned to Jesus’ body.

And while desperately trying to avoid cliche’s, I remind myself that there is so much concentrated poetic and literal potential in one man’s return to life. There is no doubt that, in me at least, I am feeling a breath of life that is lighting ideas and dreams that I’d long-since given up on. I don’t think that there is a limit to what we can achieve when we put our minds to something, but coupled with the restorative superpower of Jesus’ resurrection – I believe our minds can’t quite grasp what could be accomplished.

…but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9. The Bible, NASV

And it’s with that desperate attempt to grasp that which is beyond my natural imagination that I will rise. I gladly grab my Cadbury eggs and use them as fuel to prepare for the next challenge and the next mountain. I’m own no super-human gifts but I do belong to the one who does have the power to rise all things. Failed and fixed. Future and ancient. Deep or surface. I trust Him to rise.

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Business Growing Pains: The Money Bin

Eight years and nearly eight successful self-assessment tax returns. I’ll admit, it was a bit of a learning curve to start with. The terminology alone used by the HMRC is a hurdle the size of Everest. The text may as well have been hieroglyphics to any self-respecting new self-employed individual. Gradually, with the help of Google and business friends, over time this got easier to understand. Eventually I had a system in place where each years’ tax return was a doddle. So-to-speak. Paying back the tax, not so much, but at least I knew where I stood with the strange terms coined by the HMRC.

Enter 2017. This year, things needed to change due to the nature, gradual growing success and time availability for my business. I needed to open a business bank account, I needed to register for VAT, go on as a Limited Company and I needed to move my websites to a dedicated server. Lots to do in a short space of time. As it happened, I concluded that all-at-once was impossible – so I staggered the processes to ensure successful implementation.

But these hurdles, and more, have brought some serious drags in my time and energy as a business owner. Things that should be easier and things that are complicated immensely by big-dog-companies (who should have a responsibility to make easier for younger businesses). Sadly, its the aforementioned big-dog-compamnies that maintain and add-to stresses and obstacles for the underdogs. But if I can share my experiences to help others that may suffer the same obstacles – then perhaps this is all a little more worthwhile. And I’m starting with the biggest dog of all. The bank.

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Business Growing Pains Prologue

There’s no doubt in my mind that starting my own business was the right move for me after an eight-year stint selling asparagus to upper-class Sainsbury’s customers. I loved my time there, but it just didn’t utilise my skillset. In fact it leaned quite heavily upon putting me in a directly customer-facing environment. Somewhere I can’t say I thrive. That being said, let me strongly reiterate that I think jobs like this are highly respectable and even an essential part of life. I have far greater respect for people working in jobs like these, than those who wait around on the Income Support for the ‘perfect job’ to fall into their laps. I digress.

Customer one-to-one was the pain of my life back then. In my current line of work, there is very little face-to-face customer interaction. It’s beautifully suited to me. And usually, if there is customer face-to-face, they are genuinely nice people. Yup, the customer pains are long-since a thing of the past. But running a business brings new pains. And this month has been no exception. In fact, a combination of things led me to feel like a polar bear in a desert sand storm. Or, as Delboy once put it, like a turkey who just caught Bernard Matthews grinning at him.

I was amazed at how little down-to-earth advice was out there for Joe Sole Trader. And that’s why I’m writing a few posts about just some of the struggles I have had to battle. I’ve got a few lined up at the moment, each looking at one of the most frustrating times I’ve had in small business. Maybe there’ll be even more in the future. It’s a record for me. And perhaps, someone somewhere, won’t have to go through the slaughterhouse in quite the same manner I have.

As I draw towards the closing of a relatively profitable financial year for the business, I find myself straining to walk through a metaphorical swamp of jargon, fob-offs, technicalities and antiquated systems that can only be navigated by the ancient politicians who invented them (or folk who have been forced to waste far too long learning the language). It’s reminiscent of the pains I felt all those years ago of those frustrating snobs who didn’t want their Lemongrass sourced from Spain on political grounds.

I cannot believe how antiquated the business world is. We are living well into the second millennium and we are still at the mercy of a system built by people in the first one. I hope that these stories may help anyone that reaches the same stage I am now at. Warnings, really. What to expect. And how to avoid them.

So, on then, with my Business growing pains.

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McDonalds Monopoly Winning the WIN WIN

Without further ado – here’s the quick way to check if you have a winning ticket at this years’ McDonalds Monopoly.

  • Brown – Old Kent Road
  • Light Blue – Euston Road
  • Pink – Northumberland Avenue
  • Orange – Marlborough Street
  • Red – Strand
  • Yellow – Coventry Street
  • Green – Bond Street
  • Dark Blue – Mayfair (obviously)
  • Stations – Liverpool Street

Also, this year, save 10 of any stickers to get yourself a NOW TV pass. That’s just good sense.

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Finally, a Nintendo to Switch to

Excuse the pun. It was just to irresistible. But, you will have no doubt deduced that this blog post is in relation to Nintendo’s latest console release: the Nintendo Switch.

I indeed caved to the pressure to purchase one of these consoles. Primarily upon the news that there was a new Zelda game accompanying this launch, but also various other traits of the console that I though Nintendo had long-abandoned. This is my first Nintendo in 8 console generations and over ten years, and I wanted to share my first thoughts and predictions for the console as well as my overall comparison to previous Nintendo consoles as well as its bearings on other mainstream competitors.

Without getting to technical or detailed, here is an overview of the new Nintendo Switch – in case you weren’t already aware. Unlike most other consoles to date, there are quite a few ‘moving’ components to the console rather than simply a main unit and game controllers. The Switch offers the ability to play on a main TV screen, but also the ability to separate out an internal portable screen too. Essentially bridging the gap between home theatre gaming and portable gaming. The clever mechanism of the hand-pieces mean that there is an independent left and right side which, depending on the game, can even be used by two different players as competitors. For more involved games (such as the 2017 Zelda release) requires both sides of the controller, mounted in the classic arrangement. For portable play, to either side of the portable screen, or for TV gaming to a central controller unit that unites the two halves.

It sounds more complicated than it is. And a careful look at any promotional shot is explanation enough to how the console works. Perhaps that is why the ‘original’ Switch comes with alternate colour controllers for each side – to fully illustrate the gaming potential without too much explanation.

So let’s get into the good (and bad) stuff…

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Desktop Activity

Working for myself has its advantages, but one of (arguably lesser) disadvantages is the fact no-one gets to see how cool my desk-toys are.

I’ve worked in two communal offices in my work career, both of which has limited appreciation for my desk toys – which is perhaps why I value them so much now. I’d say my office is about 75% toys and 25% other stuff. And although I work with LEGO, I’d say there is a significant portion of it that is personal collection rather than stock. Kinda.

But the truth is that if I don’t have things to occupy my procrastination sessions then, well, I might just get too much work done. My latest obsession, LEGO aside, is Disney Tsum Tsums. Which are essentially all manor of Disney characters from various films and shows all re-shaped into pill-type rubber miniatures. What started as my daughters’ interest has become a bit of a hobby for me too. And while she is happy to have just about any of the characters from anywhere (although Frozen ones do top the list), I have a shopping list of Tsum Tsums that I intend to scatter around my desk. As you can see from the photo for this post – I’m starting with Disney’s Inside Out Characters. But I digress.

A lot of serious stuff that happens in business. A lot. And it would be very easy to remove all the fun from it and leave all the functionality. But that’s just not the way I see my work, my business or my anything ever going. The cool, fun, nerdy stuff that makes me, me needs to be evident. Otherwise I’d find myself just being a hypocrite. And if that fun side of me presents itself in the form of cool desktop toys today. Then today will be all about desktop toys.

Aren’t you amazed that this post barely mentions LEGO? Truth is, that is the ultimate desktop toy. But I could write about that forever, so I have spared your reading time that one.

And so concludes week 5 of 52.

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