Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Open (ed) Eyes



So, golf eh? Who'd a thunk it could actually be so engrossing.

As mentioned before, I can't wait for the football season to re-start but in the interim I've had a good couple of weeks. Wimbledon (unlucky, Andy), the Tour (I'm still convinced they are all robots) and The Open.

Scotland's game

It's the final one there that has captured my interest the most though. I guess maybe because it's in Scotland and it's one of the few things we seem to be good at (alongside, as of Saturday, Ultimate Fighting!).

Paul Lawrie and Marc Warren are keeping a stake in proceedings, although at six and five shots behind respectively it looks unlikely. Then you have the young Irish amateur Paul Dunne making waves leading the pack alongside the super cool Jordan Spieth.

The only old guard sorta guy that I'm still following - and one of the few that didn't get cut - is Ernie Els. He's got a lovely swing (weird to say?) and seems so calm and collected. Still, he's getting nowhere near the young guys.

The scoring has been excellent and you have to wonder how much tighter it would be had Rory McIlroy made it to the tournament.

Memories of old

When I was wee, I used to watch my grampa watch golf religiously. Full days and countless fags would disappear with him hardly moving from the couch. All I remember is the sheer drudgery of it. Old men in awful trousers and v-necks wheezing around long courses. It seem the dullest sport going. Cricket took the 'uncoolest' title (and still does).

However, since Thursday, I seem to have suddenly caught some sort of bug. Maybe it's been turning 30. Maybe it's been being trapped on the couch feeding a newborn with nothing else to do but I can't seem to switch off. I need to know where every player is on the course and why on earth they are missing such easy putts. And of course, how all the Scots players are doing.

The players too, seem a lot cooler. Like proper dudes you can support. The commentators have mentioned the Tiger Woods legacy. Even though the man himself is now a bit rubbish, his impact has been to inspire young players to become athletes; strong, fit and totally dedicated to every aspect of the game. Nike, Adidas, Canterbury, Under Armour et al., can take credit for kitting them out in decent clobber too!

Time to have a go

I've also actually taken the time to work out the rules. Turns out, there's actually very few, which makes things so much better.

So that's it, I'm off to the driving range tomorrow and am thinking about investing in a lesson or two. From previous journey's up to Playsport, my attempt at hitting the ball has not been pretty. You'd think it'd be relatively easy to hit a ball in a straight line. Maybe it is but mine usually go in a freakish 45 degree angle from the tee! Anyway, here's to rectifying that and watching the final round of The Open tomorrow!

My money's on Jordan Spieth to eventually pull out in front.

Do you enjoy golf? Are you also disconcerted about how much your personality has changed in only a few years? Should I buy silly trousers and a v-neck?

Friday, 17 July 2015

With Grace



If I could have dreamt up a better first daughter to have, I don't think I'd want to wake up.

Grace, my first daughter, is an absolute wee gem. Since her baby sister arrived last week, she has stepped firmly into the caring big sister role (being only 22 months old herself!).

Auld wives tales

We had heard a few stories about the older child regressing with a new baby on the scene. I had visions of Grace crawling on her hands and knees, and suddenly forgetting all the new words she has learned.

However, that has totally NOT been the case. Instead, she shouts for Anna first thing in the morning, gives her sister a wee kiss and will hold her hand if she's getting a bit restless for milk.

We got our first pic of Grace holding Anna tonight. Anna was crying and Grace was more than happy to hold her and make sure her sister felt better.

Sisters
Sorry, I know this is all a bit sappy but hey, you only get to witness this stuff once in life, so I'm making the most of it!

The Loch

We were up at Loch Lomond the other day too. I kinda feel like all children should experience the Loch. It's my personal favourite place on earth; particularly the west side of the water. There is a great wee spot just north of Luss called Firkin Point. You can sit and eat at a picnic bench and look up the Loch, which on a clear day offers heart stopping views.


Loving life
So, plenty of snacks were munched and a nice wee family wander was had before Dad got his own treat with a wee stop off at Fyne Ales Brewery to pick up a 12 case!

More trips

Yesterday, we had a nice pre-dinner trip to Rouken Glen park in Giffnock. If you have kids, I highly recommend a visit. Check out my description here.

We're also hoping to make a trip up the A9 next week to Pitlochry before I go back to work. Pitlochry just so happens to be the home of the Blair Atholl Distillery and a really lovely single malt whisky. I'm also dying to see the Queen's View again for some more camera pics. The Pitlochry Dam was one of those places I vividly remember from my own childhood so I hope Grace loves it just as much.

Do you have daughters? Do they get on great? Will it all last!?

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Downfall (and Saviour) of T in the Park

So, T in the Park hit Scotland for another year and this time round in a new home.

Strathallan Castle played host to T and from the TV pictures, looked like it was the right choice.

The Point!

But the purpose of this post is not to discuss how pretty a Scottish music festival venue is. The point is, um, the point of a music festival.

The reason for (what is in all honesty a rant) this post is the degradation of music at arguably Britain's second biggest music event.

Avicii headlining Saturday night on the main stage symbolised a nadir for T. Here was a guy, basically playing a pre-programmed setlist all the while fiddling with some knobs (what exactly, who knows?).

Sure, the guy may have created those songs himself using a bunch of software but the point of a music festival is to experience something special; and performed live by the artist as an experience for the crowd.

Short changed

And sure, you might say, well the crowd looked like they had a special experience (no doubt aided by a shit load of drugs). But the fact is that they could have had the exact same experience, if the actual artist stayed backstage playing Angry Birds. To me, in my opinion anyway, that is short changing the crowd. And the blame isn't just on Avicii, it's on Geoff Ellis too.

Don't get me wrong, I know festivals like T are about more than just the music now but the main stage should be sacred. It should be regarded as the pinnacle for bands or artists, who've earned the right to get there.

Earning the right

Take Florence on Friday night. She has plugged away over the past few years, album to album, ever increasing venue sizes and all with a genuinely inspired voice. Then there was Noel on Sunday night delivering his people uniting set list.



For me, there's no comparison. A trumped up disco versus songs that inspire and bring people together for three and a half minutes...I choose the latter every time.

It's not about dance music vs indie music. It's about the degradation of artistry and even emotion. Our festivals should represent connections. When folks happily throw arms around strangers during Don't Look Back in Anger. Not pogoing on the spot to a rent-a-tune remix.

Get it sorted

On another note, the tales I've heard of people trying to get home on the Sunday night have been grim. Three hours on a bus before the bus actually moved from the pick up point. Get it sorted, Geoff.

What're your thoughts? Am I just too old now? Does a guy dressed like this really represent the best of modern music?

^^ Douchebag ^^
In the mean time, check out my 'Best of T 2015' playlist.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Anna



So, where was I?

Oh yeah, I was awaiting the arrival of baby numero dos. And she finally arrived last Thursday morning at 11:39am, weighing a healthy, ahem, nine pounds!

My blogging therefore, was placed on the back burner while we welcomed baby Anna to her new home. Mama Bear and I are just about settling back into the late night feeds and to no one's surprise I am a bit of a grump on two hours kip!

Beautiful baby

She is worth the sleep deprivation however. We are both besotted and big sister Grace is (I think) happy to share space with this helpless wee thing. I genuinely don't think there is anything more cute than seeing big sister give little sister a wee kiss on the forehead.

Although Anna was a healthy weight, she is definitely still just a teeny baby and you forget just how little they actually do in the beginning. Sleep, eat, puke, poo, sleep. On the occasions she does stay awake, she is very alert to all her surroundings and already showing the same strong neck as her sister did. Newborns are obviously floppy little things but honestly, she can hold that head up quite impressively. I know some folks are totally against bottle feeding but we've done it with Grace and now Anna, and both babies seem to be perfectly healthy (other than the odd projectile). The only thing I will say about formula is the smell. It is seriously seriously bad. Like blue cheese left out in the heat kinda bad.




Visitors

We will no doubt be welcoming visitors in the coming days. I think most people generally give it a few days before showing up to offer their tributes. So far, we've just had the grandparents, which has been nice and being given time to get to know Anna has been welcome.

So that's pretty much been my life for the past few days. We have tried to get out and were on our way to Glasgow's Botanic Gardens on Monday for a wee wander but the typical Scottish summer scuppered our adventure. Mid-July and the rain is at times, depressing. I actually don't mind the odd downpour but sometimes it just goes on and on...and on.

The sun seems to be keeking through the sky today though, so we're off to Loch Lomond for a family outing (expect pics!). 

Oh, and it was our anniversary yesterday! Three years married already and eight years together in total. Time flies when you're having fun...and buying houses, paying bills and having babies.


Lake Garda, Honeymoon, 2012

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Social Media vs Insta-Advertising



First off, I should state at the outset I'm talking about social media from a company's perspective. So this relates to any social activity on a business Facebook page or from a Twitter page selling something or other (might be a company, might be a blogger etc.).

What do I mean by the title? Well, in two short moments I'm going to ask whether or not social media is actually just mass advertising, production line style. Is social media really that 'social' for brands or does it just provide the illusion of genuine two-way engagement?

Feeding the content monster

I'm a social media content editor (to give it the full title). This means, it's up to me to bash out content on a daily basis and present our brand to our followers. You might call this aspect of the job, 'increasing brand reputation'. The other part to this role is supposed to be generating conversation with followers. I say supposed to be because this doesn't happen. And from what I can see on many other brand Facebook pages, I'm not the only one.

Facebook wants you to pay to be seen. Of that, there is surely no longer any doubt and many marketers have bitten the bullet and factored in spend for Facebook in campaign plans and all the rest of it. Twitter, Instagram and now even Pinterest are following suit.

Unless your brand is something people will emotionally connect with or feel they have a strong opinion on, then you have to wonder what the hell you are doing spending time on Facebook or social media in general. There is no 'conversation' if there are no comments. Likes and post clicks don't count and reach is almost meaningless.

My delightfully minimalist (free) representation of the point...

Insta-Advertising

So then I come to the notion of 'insta-advertising'. As in, using popular social networks as a mass production advertising line in order to at least keep the brand identity visible online.

Most brands/companies/employers will at some point hire the services of an agency. It could be a design agency to make glossy ads, an ad agency to sell glossy things and/or a digital agency to, em, digitise those glossy ol' things.

But for the in-house social media content editor like myself, I am to a degree, carrying out all these tasks...

Now, before I go any further I will respectfully point out that by the above sentence, I do not for a second mean I am anywhere near as skilled as the talented agency side folks. They produce great work and are often extremely hard working to make sure clients get a great service.

The fact remains, however, that the social media person has to do a bit of everything in order to 'feed the content monster', as so many bloggers put it. This means, researching, drafting and writing content plans. It means creating, multiple times daily, original graphics and artwork. And it means, monitoring, analysis and reporting all crammed in to one. 

On the line

Almost like a content conveyor belt in the big content factory. Thankfully, I'm paid and treated well...and allowed water at least once a day.

The question then becomes, am I really being a social media editor or am I the Primark of the advertising world? As in, I mass produce low cost material based on populist trends while the agency (the luxury end of the scale) produces the finer bits n' bobs to dress up in for the biggie campaigns.

Again, unless you are a cool or stimulating presence on Facebook, why would someone go out of their way from chatting to their friends to instead engage in convo with a brand? Unless they have a complaint of course, in which case most folks can't wait to get online and vent!

Get real

For the majority of small to large brands using Facebook for business, it's time to get realistic. Even if you have the money to spend on paid activity or a competition to hook folk in; the conversation just isn't going to start. Instead, brands should be looking at using Facebook to judge how well thought of the company or service is.

This information can be gleaned with a combination of hard facts (link clicks, referral traffic, bounce rates and post shares) and vague assumptions (follower growth, post comments, post reach and sentiment tracking). 

Ideally tarted up with some spin for the monthly report.

What do you think? Am I missing a trick somewhere? I have some ideas for the year ahead around socialising events marketing. I'd love your thoughts!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Marking off the days



Another week begins and yet we still have no second child. It's hanging on in there! It has until Thursday, when by hook or by crook, we'll be meeting 'it'. Well, actually, preferably not by hook or even, crook.

Anyway, Mama Bear is not feeling too amused by the situation as you'd imagine. It's hot and humid and ankles are easily swollen these days. Again, I made the mistake of believing too many people who gave it the "oh, baby no.2 is much quicker in showing up" chat. Total rubbish. In future, we'll be taking the due date a) with a pinch of salt and b) assuming we should add two extra weeks on.

Even though, we've been through it before with Grace, it's no less exciting thinking about what the wee yin will look like. Or the kind of character it will develop. Grace has been (and I know I'm biased) an amazing child. She goes down every single night without fail for solid nine to twelve hour sleeps with not a peep. I don't know what we'll do if this baby is different. Suck it up and get on with things I'd imagine. And drink a lot of coffee. See! The trepidation is rife. Just hurry up and arrive already Baby Dos!

The weekend was okay. I can hardly remember it already, which says more about my short term memory capacity than anything else. It's shocking how bad my memory is getting. Must invest in some brain training apps or something. Anyway, I do know that we had some kid free time, which means - as always - we went for something to eat. Honestly, DO NOT take for granted how much more pleasant a meal out is, when you don't have a toddler there for company.

In saying that we had a nice wee walk round Langlands Moss (pic'd below) following a wee de-tour to the see-saw, which in Grace's language, confusingly, means swings. Thanks to Papa Lynch for that one.




I also got a couple of westerns to watch. Fort Apache with John Wayne and Joe Kidd with Clint Eastwood. The latter is already an established hero of mine but I've never really watched much of Wayne. Suffice to say, Fort Apache was a class old school western flick with a terrific performance from Henry Fonda.

Oh and it was the United State's Independence Day on Saturday too. I made a cool wee Instagram image as a homage to all my American heroes. Yes, they are totally stereotypically male icons but when I really thought about, I just couldn't think of any female heroes. Is that a bad thing? I'm sure there must be loads. I guess that's more to do with society and celebrity culture than anything else. Particularly in the U.S.




On a final note, I read a great post by The Minimalists concerning 'outrage' and how we all get upset at the daftest things. And how the age of social media has given everyone the ability to vent their inane frustrations online. I'm going to try and abide by the advice they set out. Have a read: www.themins.com/outrage

Actually, on a final final note; we got to enjoy some honest to goodness sunshine on Friday night. I event put ona  pair of shorts! Grace got to enjoy the sun too, so here's a pic to leave you with...




What did you do this weekend? Do you get outraged easily? Who is your all American female hero?

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Football Free Summers Suck



I hate those in-between years without either a World Cup or a European Championships. It feels like there is a void, that something just isn't quite right.

Rangers


And being a Gers fan, it's been even worse. Last season was just about as depressing as it gets; right up there with the administration period. All I want is the new season to get underway for our second crack at the second tier (ugh)!

I've been impressed by what we've heard from Mark Warburton, although I'm not sure about the signings so far. I guess we have to trust in his judgement. The chairman made statements about budgets etc., and being in the Championship again will have had a big say on money being spent.

I can't see this season being anything but a fight between Hibs and Rangers. St. Mirren are ultimately a second tier side (which I know is a bit of a cheek), crowds are always low and the style of football they play is beyond boring. The top tier NEEDS Rangers and Hibs.

Internationals

As for other tournament's happening in the world; the Copa America always seems to pass me by and the MLS is on too late to really get involved with. I do think that league will continue to grow. Buying has-beens from Europe I think is wrong but I guess it adds some prestige value to the league.

The under-21 Euros doesn't interest me. I'm not that much of a geek that I want to watch kids playing football, just for the chance to say in five years that I saw them before they were famous!

And finally on football, I felt heart sorry for that girl that scored the own goal in the England vs Japan women's World Cup game. The images following the game with her crying in to her manager's arms were really heartbreaking. The whole tournament has passed me by and to be honest, this was the first time I took notice, plus it's England...so you know. But it's been great that the country seems to have got behind her and given support. Can you imagine if that was Phil Jones or whoever in the men's team!? They would be publicly flogged outside the Tower of London.

Hopes of a nation

Wimbledon started this week! Another year of Murray-mania and I reckon he's got a real good chance this summer. Nadal isn't the force he is and Federer is beginning to fade (famous last words) so that really just leaves Djokovic (again). I can't see Wawrinka doing it this year and the other outliers, I reckon Murray can beat. He just needs to stop conceding silly points. He has a horrible tendency to dragging out sets where Djokovic would simply dispatch his opponent efficiently. 

But we're on grass, we're on home soil and momentum has been building so I'm hopeful for a second Murray title.

Athletics and the BBC

The inaugural European Games in Baku have been a let down. The BT Sports coverage has only served to highlight how awesome a job the BBC did with the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. The quality of athletes participating (no USA, no Jamaica, no Aussies) means the standard has been lower too. But ultimately with athletics it comes down to presentation and BT Sports just haven't managed it. 

I was really disappointed to hear that the Beeb had been outbid for future Olympics coverage by the Discovery network and Eurosport. Just when so many more people were getting involved in the 'other' sports, television coverage is going to be limited. I hope it's not the case; the Olympics and Commonwealth Games really got me taking interest in athletes and the positive role models they can be to young people.

What's your thoughts on the new football season? Celtic to win at a canter (again)? Rangers to go up this time round? Will Andy do it this year at Wimbledon?


Friday, 3 July 2015

Time Flies



Countdown

It has been a long week.

Baba Dos was due last Saturday (27th June) but is hanging on in there, just like its older sister did nearly two years ago. Mama bear must provide a very snug environment in that belly.

We'll hopefully have our new arrival though, this time next week as Mama bear is booked in for an induction on Thursday.

I'm just impatient. And work has dragged like a mofo this week. Concentration on work matters is definitely not at 100%. It has been hot as hell too! I honestly doff my cap to the missus, not only does she not complain (like me) but she carries around a little human all day long. 

Pregnant women of the world, I salute you.

Memory lapse!

It's weird though trying to remember all the wee tips and tricks that go along with making life with a newborn as simple as possible. Makes me think about how gosh-darn quickly Grace has grown up. From being a helpless wee thing swaddled up to an independent minded wee toddler tearing it up round the house; time has flown by much too quickly.




I am definitely ready for my two weeks paternity leave. I make light of it in the office by saying, "Can't wait for my holidays!". But in all seriousness, I really do feel like a couple of weeks of family re-charging will do some good. Week after week of being glued to a computer screen on social media is really not good for the soul.

Happy memories

No plans for this weekend other than chilling out. It's my sister and brother in-law's anniversary tomorrow (4 July) - so have a great one folks! They are off to Pitsidia, Crete for a holiday and the place they got married (I sang the bride's song; awesome brother that I am). Even though Greece is apparently going south finance wise; I have to say that Pitsidia is basically one of the best places on earth. I'm not jealous at all.





Up to anything good this weekend? Let me know!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Whole Lotta Rockin'



This week, in the wake of a mixed Glastonbury, I have been listening to full on rock 'n' roll!

This has been ably helped by AC/DC agreeing to let their music be streamed on Spotify! Check out the Spotify curated playlist below. It has all the big hits and of course, Whole Lotta Rosie - my favourite AC/DC song.

In fact, I'd go as far to say that Whole Lotta Rosie is the greatest, most fist pumping, air guitar righteous rock song ever recorded. It has everything; the drums are pounding, the vocals soar, the rhythm section is like a buzzsaw while Angus' lead is as if Satan himself dropped in for a bit of solo action!

If ever you need a song to lift you on the 7:30am commute, Whole Lotta Rosie is it. And of course, any Saturday night playlist should have this as standard.

Other tracks on my rockin' agenda this week include Tom Petty's Free Falling, The Stones Satisfaction and Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode. Seriously, when you look at the truly great rock and roll songs from the late 50s through to the 90s, you've got to wonder what happened...

What have we had in the 00s that stand up? Nickelback? 30 Seconds to Mars? Linkin Park? No, no and no. Glamourised, nonsense built for an era for music to be consumed by fashionistas with the attention span of a guppy fish. We've had some quality indie/alternative stuff (The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Gaslight Anthem) but no classic, balls out, rock material.

And Kanye, oh Kanye. What on earth WAS that at Glasto? Lurching around the stage muttering incomprehensible lyrics (always telling when the only thing you can make out is the bad words) and looking very angry. I'm sure your life must be that difficult. Eejit. His first few albums were sooo good as well. I enjoyed 808s and MBDTF too but since the wife came on the scene he has well and truly lost the plot.

On a more positive note, Wolf Alice and Gregory Porter were fantastic and I've gone on to download their albums via Spotify and iTunes respectively. Check 'em out!

What's your music picks this week? Did you love Kanye? Are you on the Lily Allen Flag Burning Brigade? Am I missing some obvious amazing modern rock acts!?