Friday, July 8, 2016

Healthy habits

IMG_20160703_224844It’s not just jet lag.

Long-haul travel has a lot of detrimental effects, from sleep deprivation to junk diet, sitting too long in one place and accommodating cultural shifts.  I know that my feet swell and my dreams intensify with every air mile.  My blood pressure and heart rate had crept up when the dentist too a quick measure, perhaps from the half-stone that I’ve put on beyond my target weight.

Returning, there’s always the resolution to ‘get back on the wagon’.

Easier promised than done.  Returning to Rossmore, it’s genuinely hard to confront the exercise bike again.  I know that I’ve got ground to reclaim, intensity and duration; I know I need to just get on with it.  But after a long day’s work, the saddle just isn’t appealing.  I needed something different.


I used to go four times a week with friends: we were renowned for choreographed spins and precision finesse. 

This would be easy.

Today in the UK, group floor exercise is Body-something.  BodyBalance, BodyAttack, BodyCombat…  I thumbed the undifferentiated list and reserved a spot in a neutral alternative: BodyPump.  Arriving, I introduced myself to the instructor: ‘coming off of PT but I used to do the routines.  I made some step-motions.

“A bit old-school,” she sniffed.'

Only 20 years ago: We’ll see.

It’s not a bad class: the step is only used for sit-ups, not for actual  aerobics.  But it’s otherwise a full hour of weights and extensions, not too taxing and a good complement to the bike’s cardio fitness.

But I needed more.

imageHIIT training (30 minutes).  I’ve been doing High Intensity Intervals on the bike (10 reps, 30 sec on, 60 sec off) during the past six months when I feel conditioned.  Doing it free-standing would be like cross training, right?


This was likely the most high intensity intervals I’ve ever tried.  Jumps, squats, sit-ups, rolls, presses.  ‘Out of breath ten minutes in, I started doing the push-ups on my knees and finessing the lunges.  The pace was double what I was used to, and I don’t have (yet) the lateral ankle strength to easily tumble up and down quickly.

‘good adaptations, the instructor yelled, flashing a thumb’s up.

I could only hope.

I liberally ached in places that I hadn’t in years for two full days afterwards.  Nonetheless, I told myself:  This is a step along the road to ‘better.

‘three days a week, minimum, for the next month, then report back to these pages.


DSC02382I also read a good NYT  article about the progressive effects of alcohol.  The two things that I took away were 1)  How easy it is for two to become three, and 2) the need to give the body a periodic rest. 

It’s the 5:2 regime again, and it made sense to couple diet and vice.

I was surprisingly (gratifyingly) easy to go cold turkey for a week, and to keep conscious moderation (one glass wine vs. two) thereafter.  My counselor suggests that it may have the added benefit of quieting the intensity of dreaming: I’m keeping a log for comparison.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Poole Bay Sunset

‘took a break from the office this evening to wander down and watch the sun set over the Harbour.  A nice, changing rehearsal space to see what might be composed from light, reflections, and colour.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Building professionalism

DSC02151 (2)One of my objectives for the coming months is to hand off executive authority for running the in-market businesses to folks who have the experience and connections to do it well.  I have never run a sales force or a marketing campaign, and, while I’’;m sure that i could learn, the inevitable mistakes would cost time and confidence.  It’s better to focus on what I do best, bridging innovative product to clinical customers.

DSC02533 (1300x867)I’ve been fortunate to bring good operations people on-board, and I’m trying to support their working style.  We need to become a more professional company, and successful funding rounds finally give us the resources.  So, we’re implementing core offices, IT services with electronic calendars and shared addresses, improved purchasing systems, inbound marketing in web site upgrades, and employee contracts with pensions and share schemes.

It’s more to coordinate, so communication tools beyond emails and skype are being considered.  I traditionally work from paper notes, consolidated into to-do lists, and cocktail-napkin sketches of project plans.  TDSC02534 (1300x867)hey are idiosyncratic notes to myself, and there are calls to be more standard and transparent in making time and budget commitments, and more accountable for slippages .

I bristle a bit at the implied judgement of ‘overrun’ or ‘slippage’: we work hard and take good decisions.  The wise choice can be to invest in people, time, or tooling that ensures better outcomes.  I’m not going to pad schedules and budgets to give myself  cover,  But am learning how to talk positively about deviations while biting my lip over the language used.

One executive requests plans in the form of to-do lists, with dates and names next to each item.  To-doI think it’s an awful way to communicate process and progress.  At a daily level, items are too numerous and dynamic to spend time updating, reporting, and defending.  At a monthly level, they amount to a disconnected wish list of idealized targets.  There are milestones, but they are few and fit within project narratives.

I prefer simple Gantt charts, laying a half-dozen streams of activity in parallel with dependencies defining the milestones.  If work stops when raw material runs out, then getting replenishment budgeted and shipped is a key event to monitor.  ganttIf submission of a regulatory file starts a clock to market introduction, it focuses people on bringing together the component tasks and parts.

Moving all of this from Excel into a formal tool like Project has been difficult. The structure falls apart as we move bits, and the output doesn’t fit neatly onto A4 paper.  Another executive has advocated a ‘Slippage chart’ showing deviations instead of plans: it proved counter-intuitiveGantt Diff and folks have requested a simple project chart.

It’s all growing pains as we adopt professional standards and tools.   We’ll settle into methods that work for us.  A simple Gantt chart, clearly communicated in meetings and updates, with dependencies driving milestones and to-do lists, seems to work best at present.

DSC02535 (1300x866)Now if I could just make peace with my electronic calendar over my paper diary.

Monday, July 4, 2016


IMG_20160703_2024571972 seems a long time ago.  But, Sunday night. in Hyde Park,  it was only yesterday.

1972: 44 years ago.  I was a late-night DJ in the south tower of Neely Auditorium, taking requests on the graveyard shift, midnight to two.  Requests would come in, sad people wanting plaintive songs.  Tapestry: Will you still love me, You’ve got a friend, So far away.

2016: Carole King played to over 55,000 people in Hyde Park last evening, the first time she’d ever done ‘Tapestry’ live.  We were off to her right, half-way back.  It was a lovely show, she had enthusiasm for the work and affection for the crowd.  The evening was warm and the shifting hues of the sunset mirrored the crowd, who sang along with every track.

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I used to wonder where the boomers would find their role models as they grew older, those who kept purpose and dignity.  Unexpectedly, it seems to be among the singers, who retain their voices, their poise, their humor, their relevance well into their 70s.  

Among reviews, the FT, ironically, captured her best: ‘bouncing up and down on the piano stool, hair flying’, ‘“Up On the Roof” made the most of a summer night, and a final reworking of “You’ve Got a Friend” included the line “I love you, England”, at a time when England needs all the friends it can get.

Yes, delightfully.

imageIt was all mellow gin and tonic, delight at watching the crowd follow her, singing along with the best of the album, remembering a distant time made present.  It was a thoroughly charming and happy evening together.