21 Dog Years: Doing Time At Amazon.Com

Daisey’s book is flagged as a comic tale but it takes a while for the comedy to warm-up. In fact, it’s only towards the end that I felt there were some laugh-out-loud moments but don’t let that put you off. ’21 Dogs Years’ in well written and compelling.

It’s quite easy to get sucked into Mike Daisey’s ‘21 Dog Years: Doing Time At Amazon.Com‘ as he moves from dilettante to corporate business development guy. On the journey we learn he is one of the (mythological?) freaks that Amazon initially wanted to help launch and then staff its growing customer service division. We learn about the training, the call-time targets, the lack of windows, the Chicken Orzo Salad and Jeff obsessions.

Unlike Robert Spector’s ‘Amazon.Com: Get Big Fast‘ this is a tale from the inside but how much is exaggerated for comic effect is unclear. For sure, life in an under-staffed call centre – where if you don’t work all hours you’re seen as letting the team down – is not the glamorous side of any business and the world of fast growing online books sellers can be no exception. The dreams that all would be multi-millionaires on the back of huge stock rises are also not unusual to any tale of this era. Perhaps the thought of sending the free books to customers on the database isn’t typical of the dot-com boom but the frenzied ‘1-click Christmas’ period will be familiar to many in a start-up venture.

Daisey’s book is flagged as a comic tale but it takes a while for the comedy to warm-up. In fact, it’s only towards the end that I felt there were some laugh-out-loud moments but don’t let that put you off. ’21 Dogs Years’ in well written and compelling. You really do want to know what Mike’s going to do at the end. Don’t look for an insight into business strategies of that time but you will get a view of the craziness of life in the trenches of rapidly growing business.

BBC4 Should Broaden Its Appeal

You dream of something good and I dream of BBC Television idents. I also remember children’s TV and want to impact the US elections. It’s an odd train of thought today.

According to The Independent [Source: BBC’s digital channels are ‘poor value’] ‘BBC4 makes too many programmes which “virtually no one watches”‘. I would say that’s a shame but I have hardly ever watched it. The only reason it is relevant is that last night I dreamt about all the BBC channel identities – those boxes with ‘BBC One’ etc. written in them – I have no idea why but in my dream they were all yellow and none of them had that annoying BBC Three character.

In a tenuous link, the BBC will, of course, be reporting the run-up and the outcome of the American elections next month. It may seem that we are somewhat powerless to do anything about it but The Guardian is giving everybody a chance to say something. The idea is that Guardian readers are matched to an American voter thus allowing them the chance to communicate on a personal basis and tell a real-life voter what the rest of the world thinks. I think it’s quite an interesting idea. What the voters of Clark County, Ohio may think when they get letters from us Brits is another things altogether. More at The Guardian.

Looking at my Flickr photo collection, I see that the first picture is of the water cooler in the office. This takes me back to the warm, balmy days of summer when it was so hot we thought we would melt in the office. Today, I am sitting here thinking I may have to buy a t-shirt in my lunch break to wear under my shirt as I am cold and it’s pouring with rain. Last week I wrote about autumn. I am beginning to think we skipped straight to winter.

Speaking of photos (and linked to the BBC – so it makes sense to write it here) – memories of children’s television and this date seem to be linked. This day in 2002 I was talking about the show Rainbow and today Tom has posted a picture of Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub. Somewttimes, it would be nice to be eight years old again!

Finally for now, today’s phone lust: Orange SPV C500. Come on Palm – get your act together – I want a more compact ‘phone that the Treo by the time I am allowed to upgrade again.

Big Match Update

Quick reality TV update – as if you nedeed one.

jonathan wilkesI spoke last Sunday about Sky One’s programme The Match. Now I haven’t watched any of it apart from that first episode at the actual game tonight. The celebrities were better than I thought they would be and I thought it was a shame that they lost (2-1). Jonathan Wilkes turned out to be something of a star really and scored the goal for the celebs. Poor old Gary Lucy didn’t do very well – apparently, they kept putting him on the bench all week and was up for the public vote several times. He did, however, survive to play part of the game. Perhaps it was one of the better reality TV shows. [Sky Showbiz Report: Celebs Narrowly Beaten In The Match]

Cybill Disobedience

The experience of watching your slightly pissed auntie making an exhibition of herself at a wedding

Earlier tonight we went to see Cybill Shepherd at The Soho Theatre. It’s her so-called Cybill Disobedience tour where she performs jazz, her own songs and tells stories from her life – if you didn’t know, she once dated Elvis. Well, I think I should have learnt my lesson from seeing her last year. This show wasn’t that different but it’s a little like watching a car crash (or at least aliens trying to fix a car at the side of the road). It’s billed as comedy and was amusing (although not laugh out loud funny) but, really, you couldn’t keep yours eyes off her. Was she drunk (no, I suspect that was pretend) but she was certainly a little odd. Stephanie Merrit in last week’s Observer likened it to “the experience of watching your slightly pissed auntie making an exhibition of herself at a wedding” [source] which I think sums it up.

Entertaining but scary. Strange and a little unerving.

Oh, and the picture is from her remarkable promotional appearance on GMTV sometime last week. She may just be a great promoter but I think she needs to think a little more!

Autumn Again

It’s still my favourite season even if it was cold this morning.

Autumn
Every year I talk about how nice autumn is (see, I did it here in 2003) and how much I like the season. If you have any doubts as to why I like the season then just go look at Flick’s autumn tag – it’s stunningly beautiful. Every autumn in the same with lots of work and me craving a holiday (see, I did that in 2002). This year is no different. But I have to admit – it was very cold this morning.

The Timewarp Times

The past is coming back – really. It’s the Eighties again: not to be outdone on the list front The Sun lists predictions for top toys this Christmas.

Timewarp one – every year we hear the same things: there’s a lot of serious stuff in the news right now – still, The Guardian’s put together a list of Conservative leader Michael Howard’s favourite words in order of the frequency with which he used them in today’s speech: Howard’s buzzwords.

Timewarp two – like it’s the Eighties again: not to be outdone on the list front The Sun lists predictions for top toys this Christmas and they report that Cabbage Patch Kids are making a comeback – and are expected to be among the best-selling children’s toys this Christmas. Oh and they have a list too

And if that’s not bad enough, timwarp three – space hoppers are back: 20 space hopper riders are to hop up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh this weekend according to The Scotsman.

A Mighty Wind

IMDB Says, “Mockumentary captures the reunion of 1960s folk trio the Folksmen as they prepare for a show at The Town Hall to memorialize a recently deceased concert promoter.

A Mighty WindSo the set-up of the DVD we watched last night was a television reunion of a few old folk singers who had hits in the sixties. Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind isn’t as good as Best In Show or This Is Spinal Tap but it’s a passable and amusing way to spend an evening. It seemed less realistic than other spoof-documentaries and I found some of the deleted scenes on the DVD to be funnier than the movie itself. However, there are some good performances and interesting soundtrack and it does make you smile.

Worth taking a chance on.

The Match

A reality TV show where the stars are hot!

picture of gary lucypicture of philip olivierReally, it’s too good to be true. Tonight Sky One starts a reality TV show called the match where a series of hot young male celebrities become footballers. I think many of those signed up for The Match have a footballing interest/past which means they should be pretty good. Next week they get to take on a team of British footballing legends but in the meantime they are all stuck in a house 24/7 with cameras watching them only to escape for training sessions. Tonight’s proved it was the real deal as ex-England coach Graham Taylor took the team through their paces. Gary Lucy and Philip Olivier (both pictured) are on the bench tonight and subject to the public vote. Somehow I think they will both survive. And while we are on the subject of Phil Olivier, how did I miss his Doctor Who appearances?

Today In London

Today was busy but I really wish I hadn’t had to go into work.

Picture179_01Oct04.jpgOn the upside, last night’s visit to The Borderline was great. On the downside PY has his mobile phone stolen from his pocked in a branch of Starbucks. And what does that say about us? Instead of standing at the bar waiting for the gig we went to Starbucks for coffee. Today, I had the morning off work as we’d bought PY’s mum a trip on the Orient Express from Victoria. The carriage was very impressive and it sounds like they had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, I had to go back to work in the afternoon.

And tonight’s Evening Standard headline managed to get Iraq of the front cover for once.

Why Do We Love Our Mobile Phones?

Why are we always looking for the next new ‘phone? I know I’ve been looking.

Picture of a Palm Treo 600Occasionally I have noted my use of a Palm powered Treo on Orange in the UK. It’s an OK ‘phone and an OK organiser (and an OK MP3 player and a poor camera) but as one, pocket-sized device it more-or-less rocks. Sometimes I wish it was smaller and sometimes I wish it was bigger. Sometimes I wish I’d spent the cash on the keyboard accessory and then, sometimes, I don’t.

Last month Engadget carried what they said were ‘actual pics of the new Treo Ace/Treo 650‘ which is the next version of the device and – of course – carries some neat improvements. At the start of next year I will be 12 months into the contract for the ‘phone and able to change it. The thing is – although I love all the features and I love the whole Palm experience – I can’t help thinking that I need to get a simpler machine that is just a telephone.

Ah, the dilemmas of the gadget obsessed.

Madonna

I went to see Madonna at Earls Court.

my ticket to see madonna at earl's courtSo I went to see Madonna at Earls Court.

That statement does not make me a huge Madonna fan – although I am partial to many of her hits and, unlike some of my friends, I think American Life is a great album (then again I also like some of Blue’s material so who am I to judge musical tastes?) and she is most certainly a performer.

So, when commenting on a Madonna concert what should you say? Earls Court is a huge venue. For those of you who haven’t been you should be aware that it’s very stadium-like. We sat in the back left corner so it was like she was at the opposite goal post. And it’s in that context that you will understand why I didn’t think it was that good.

Madonna can put on a show. She is the undisputed queen of showmanship. And therein lies the problem. She performs a West End show of the variety that you need to be able to see. And she performs them at West End prices but to stadium-sized audiences. The audio is show-like and you doubt that she’s singing live the whole time – although I suspect a lot of it is live. It’s just very well produced and sounds like her CDs and, for me, that isn’t the point of going to see live music: somehow you need to believe that they are performing live. Add to that the fact that you can’t see the spectacular and you have a fun but, ultimately, a disappointing evening.

Digital Download Chart

Is the new digital download chart a good thing?

A year ago I wrote about ringtones and the large amounts of money to be made from them (as well as one of the current boyband stars of the time) and asked when we would see the first ringtone only hit? Well, maybe not ringtones but the music download industry in the UK is taking a step towards being able to produce download only hits when Radio 1 introduces the download chart from the start of next month. I think this is fantastic news and I will be interested to see how the record companies react.

Also about a year ago, I wrote about my first experiences with downloading music from the MSN Music Club. Well, I can tell you that a year on I have bought, perhaps, ten tracks – mainly the odd chart hit jumps out at me. I’ve tried several services and find them all a little frustrating in one way or another.

Many download services don’t let you have the latest singles from an artist until they are falling down the regular charts. I assume to this is to ensure that those fans who want the track will actually buy it and contribute to a chart position before the downloads (which don’t contribute to a proper chart position). So, although I do think this chart is a superb step forward, digital music will only be legitimised when it’s included with the full chart.

Maybe in twelve months I’ll be writing about that.

Formula One Comes To Regent Street

London-based fans of Formula 1 racing are in for a treat today as the Regent Street F1 parade takes to the streets at 6pm.

regent street prepares for the f1 paradehsbc as an f1 sponsor gets in on the regent street f1 eventmore preparations for f1 on regent street london

eddie jordan being interview on regent street
eddie jordan being interview on regent street

There is a real sense of excitement in the air around central London today. My office is at Piccadilly Circus and today is the day that Formula 1 comes to town! F1 cars will be parading (as there really is no racing) around the area (basically Regent Street and Lower Regent Street) from 6pm tonight. As I went to buy my lunch there were already people taking up their positions. The roads are being closed, the barriers put in place and the inevitable advertising signs going up. Jensen Button and David Coulthard are among the current F1 drivers taking part. Nigel Mansell is driving for Jordan and I saw team boss, Eddie Jordan, being interviewed (left) on Lower Regent Street while out walking. I just need to decide what time I am leaving to get a view.

Olympic Dreams

Went to see Jonathan Edwards and the Olmpic torch today

jonathan edwards and the olympic torch in wandsworth 26 june 2004This morning PY and I went into Wandsworth to watch the Olympic torch make its way across our part of south London. It had started the day at the Wimbledon tennis tournament with Tim Henman and Sir Roger Bannister. By the time it made its way to us, Jonathan Edwards was the bearer. The whole thing was actually over in a moment and it was somewhat sad to see that although there were plenty of people braving the rain to see the torch they were somewhat outnumbered by officials, police and media people – which made me think the whole thing was not really for the people but for the sponsors and the coverage. The torch itself made its was off by taxi (it seems to be being transported by all forms of London transport today – including the tube) but Jonathan Edwards stayed around to talk to people. Although the moment was brief, the weather damp and the steel band hidden under-cover it was still a great moment to see this part of the chain.

A couple more pictures from the day. Jonathan Edwards CBE stays around to talk to fans, the Olympic Torch relay is a fully sponsored media event and then the torch left by taxi for the next stop on the route to The Mall where a concert was held in the evening.

jonathan edwards cbe in wandsworth 26 june 2004the olympic torch comes to london 26 june 2004the olympic torch left wandsworth in a black cab

Personal Information Management

A little rant about data synchronisation is brewing. This isn’t it.

I have such a long post ‘brewing’ about data that we all need to transport around with us regularly. I have Microsoft Outlook at work; a palm-powered Treo ‘phone and a Palm desktop/Mozilla combination at home. I occasionally back all my data up to Yahoo’s organiser (calendar, address, memo). There is no reliable synchronisation tool which can handle everything well for me and this is one of the things that truly frustrates people who are trying to utilise all this technology. It was one of the reasons I switched to a Palm-powered Treo rather than my old Nokia favourites (at least a good part of the synchronisation works). There are some immovables in the equation: Outlook is in use in my office and I can’t change that and I am attached to Windows-based computers. Although I have heard some reports that Apple’s i-sync isn’t as great as it’s claimed it is – at least – an option for Mac users. I notice another satisfied user today: Jase and his Sony Ericsson T610. Maybe that post will eventually see the light of day!