Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

2017: My year of marketing

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 | Life

In my book Technical Anxiety I write about the important of life-long learning. Continued education and self-improvement is an essential part of keeping the mind healthy. Well, let it not be said that I do not practice what I preach. I am declaring 2017 my year of learning about marketing.

Why marketing? Because it is a skill I really lack, and could really use.

Take the Leeds Restaurant Guide for example. Sales have been underwhelming. Why is that? It could be because the quality of the book is poor. I do not accept that. It took us 18 months to put together, we went round over 250 restaurants, painstakingly reviewing them, and everyone has a high-quality photo taken by me.

Assuming it is a good product then, the next likely explanation is that the marketing of the book has been poor. This is probably true. It was not that I did not try. I set up a lovely website. I ran Facebook ads. I made certificates for every four and five-star restaurant in Leeds and hand delivered them. A few of them went up in windows. I contacted prominent Leeds foodie bloggers. I sent copies out for review.

Despite al of this, it did not end up as a Yorkshire Evening Post best seller (I assume they have a list, to compete with the New York Times).

You could also argue that maybe I just made a product nobody wanted. This could also be true. Maybe people are happy with the quality of the reviews on Trip Advisor (for reference, here is why you should not be). But in this case, too, the problem is marketing. After all, product design is one of the four Ps of marketing (product, price, place, promotion).

So this year I am throwing myself into learning about marketing. I said 2017 to give the post a punchier title, but I have already begun. Luckily, marketers, being in the business of marketing, make it easy for you to find them and offer some great content, often for free. My reading list is stacked high once again and I have enrolled on a course too.

I might blog more about different things I am reading, but for now, here is a list of cool stuff to check out:

Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins. This is the bible of internet marketing. All of the big marketers talk about it. But here is the craziest thing: it was written in 1923! Nearly 100 years later, the rules Hopkins laid down for marketing are still incredibly applicable today. Technology may change but human psychology does not.

The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza. Sean is the best teacher I have found so far. He is a lovely guy (also a big foodie, which is perhaps why I like him), gives loads of stuff away for free, and answers all of his emails personally. He as a website, PsychoTactics, and a podcast, Three Month Vacation. The best way to get a feeling of how popular he is is to read these reviews of rival marketing school Zero to Launch.

Podcasts: I am really enjoying Digital Marketer which gives you some great advice on Facebook advertising, and Self Made Man by Mike Dillard.

Finnish Christmas Carols 2016

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 | Life

Finnish Christmas Carols are held in Leeds every year, on the last Saturday in November. Lutheranism is the main brand of Christianity in Finland so appropriately, it is held in St. Luke’s Lutheran church in Headingley. The same venue as the Finnish [language] Saturday school takes place.

This is the first year that we took Venla (obviously). Did she enjoy it? Who knows, because she slept through the entire thing.

finnish-christmas-carols-2016

Despite the fact that she was sleeping for most of it, she did dance along to the children’s song. I was not going to let her miss that, unconscious or not.

There is always a bring-and-share supper after the service. We brought cake. This year it featured a lot of people looking at our baby and saying things like “that is a nice baby”. Or, commonly, “that is a very calm baby you have there.” Because, like all babies, she is remarkably calm when other people are around, saving all the crying up for when she gets home.

Unfortunately, I was from singing along for the same reason as last year: my Finnish is not good enough, nor is my knowledge of English carols.

30th birthday

Monday, November 14th, 2016 | Life

miller-and-carter-platter

Given that Venla was due to arrive a few weeks before, I knew my 30th birthday was probably going to be a busy one. We started by going to register Venla so she could be a real human being, officially.

For lunch, we dropped by Miller & Carter. They have a starter platter containing fish, chicken and duck, then we had steak, with a bacon and honey mustard salad. I think that makes five animals. Finally we finished off with my parents for dinner and seeing family. Not a bad way to spend a day.

Finnish picnic 2016

Monday, September 5th, 2016 | Life

finnish-picnic

In July we went to Temple Newsam for the annual Finnish picnic. The rain almost held off: it started raining at one point. However, the advantage of having plenty of Finnish men around is that you can jut pick up the wooden picnic table and move it under a tree.

I tried some of the sandwich cake, again. It was still a sandwich cake.

molkky

I picked up a silver medal in the mölkky tournament (there was no actual medal). It was very disappointing as the front-runner, Martin, missed his final shot and I threw for the win, but went over and had to start again. Still, Jessica Ennis-Hill only managed silver as well, so to be on her level doesn’t seem too bad.

Hell’s itch

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 | Life

In my post about the weather I shared this photo of my sunburn:

sunburn

It looks worse in the photo than it actually was. It was noticeably red, but it wasn’t that burnt. It was a little sore but some after sun that we found at 1011 (an Icelandic supermarket chain) did the trick. You have to give the store credit: they really do have “everything you need and more…”.

This happened on Monday, and it started looking better the next day, and continued to improve the day after. By this point we’re on Wednesday and heading home. Then, on the Wednesday afternoon, it started itching.

Oh my did it itch!

It was horrendous. It wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t sleep because I was involuntarily twitching every twenty seconds. Every hour, on the hour I would go to bed and spend 15 minutes twitching, before getting up, watching some TV and repeating the cycle.

Somewhere between 3-4am I gave up on making it into work the next day and sent a message in to say I would not be in. At 6am I finally managed to drift off: only to be woken up by Elina’s alarm at 6:10am. I spent some more time trying to sleep, then set off for Boots to clean them out of itch cream.

creams

Nothing worked. I tried after sun, anti-itch cream, even antihistamines. But none of it provided relief.

Luckily, by this point it was starting to subside. The itching continued for several days, but it didn’t stop me going to work on Friday, nor sleeping on the Friday night.

When I looked it up on the internet (which was a mistake) they talked about “hell’s itch” or “hell itch”, with people telling stories about it causing sleep deprivation, depression and torture. I don’t think what I went though is was as bad as being tortured, but I can see why people would make big claims about it. It was not a pleasant experience.

Duck racing

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 | Life

duck-racing

Yeah, duck racing. It’s a thing.

We used Easter Sunday to visit my parents, who were holidaying in Pateley Bridge. The camp site was running a duck racing competition, so they had bought us a duck each. The concept is that they tip all the ducks in at the one end of the stream and the first to make it down to the next bridge is the winner.

It was so popular this year that they had to have six heats, with the top handful going through to the final. Sadly none of our ducks were fast enough to qualify. It’s a shame, as the grand prize was a respectable £50.

However, at least Elina can now say she has been to a real English duck race.

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Spring is in the air

Monday, April 4th, 2016 | Life

49ers-hats

The temperature is getting warmer, the days are getting lighter and flowers are sprining up everywhere. Mostly importantly though, to mark the changing of the season I am putting away my wooly hat and bringing my cap out of the wardrobe. It’s time to enjoy some warmer rain.

Family Mother’s Day

Friday, March 11th, 2016 | Life

diane-family-mothers-day

How did my mum spend Mother’s Day this year? Mostly in the kitchen, cooking.

What can I say, she is a Worfolk, you can’t make her relax. We had family visiting from Canada, so a family party was in order. We did our best to help: my sister made breakfast and a pavlova, and I contributed a cheesecake and a tray of cup cakes, but there is only so much cooking we were allowed to do!

After the food we got together for a group photo.

Leeds Dock bridges

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016 | Life

Last week was Elina’s birthday. I took her out for lunch. After, I hurried back to the office. However, something got in my way.

leeds-dock-bridge

Hypothetically of course, we all know the bridges could open. However, I always thought there was a general understanding that they wouldn’t. People have to use those bridges. Because of this, I had to walk an extra 50 metres round the dock! No doubt you are now staring at the screen, open mouthed, in shock. Somehow though, I found the strength to carry on.

Worst of all, there was not even a boat going through it. It looked like it might be maintenance. At least a boat would have been mildly exciting.

Fatboy Christopher

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 | Life

I’m concerned about my weight piling on as I approach 30 so I bought us a set of scales for the bathroom. When they arrived I climbed on – and received a nasty shock. Admittedly I have not been on the scales for quite a long time, but I have put on 9kg since I did.

This takes my BMI from a just healthy 24.9 to an officially overweight 26.1. I never really doubted BMI as a measurement, mostly because I was in the healthy zone. I accepted it doesn’t work at the edges (short people and tall people), but it seemed like an accurate measurement for me. Now, I am thinking about joining the angry club of deniers.

I have recently been looking up the NHS recommendations for diet and exercise. Here is how it compares:

What the NHS recommends What I do
“at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week” At least four and a half hours (270 minutes) per week. I walk to work every day, 25 minutes each way, and walk to lots of other locations in town too, including running up and down the stairs from my apartment on the 4th floor. It’s not concentrated exercise, but it is quite a lot.
or “75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of singles tennis every week” Two hours of vigorous aerobic exercise per week, on average. I spend 30 minutes doing the Parkrun on Saturday morning and three hours training with Leeds Samurai. I don’t always make both events, and sometimes there is standing around at training, but overall it averages to more than 75 minutes a week.

I consider my diet quite good as well. I eat fruit every day, home-cook most nights, always with a range of vegetables, and sometimes without meat. We limit out intake of junk food and processed meat and I try to take healthier snacks to work, though with limited success. Just one area strikes me as a problem: we have a pudding every night.

I won’t claim my diet is perfect but it has given me pause for thought. If I can apply so many good behaviours to my life, like walking to work, like exercising every week, like eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, like avoiding junk food, which is all hard and takes a lot of self-control on my part, and still put on weight, how hard is it to stay thin? For some people, who put on weight easier than I do, it must be almost impossible.

I’ve heard people advocating that obesity is entirely the fault of the individual and they should just eat less. To me, this seems like a gross over-simplification of a complex problem. Even to practice some of these positive behaviours requires significant lifestyle changes: much of my time is structured around planning my diet and my exercise, and actually doing them, and I’m not even winning. If someone says to you “right, you need to find an extra hour per day to fit in exercise and planning and preparing healthy meals” where would you find that time? How would you motivate yourself to carry through on that, every day, for the rest of your life?

Many of us have found that time of course. But probably not overnight. Chances are we were raised with some of those behaviours also. If you are a regular person, who hasn’t had that benefit, and has a lot to deal with in their lives, it is a difficult problem to solve.

And that’s the story of how I tried to turn my weight gain into a social justice issue.

fat-chris
A recent photo of me