Specifications

Specs can dominate your life if you let them. What chip is in your smartphone? What resolution is the song you are listening to? How big is your car’s engine? Newer, smarter, better. It’s a game that can drag you down a rabbit hole.

The biggest problems of chasing the specs as I see it:

  1. There is always a newer gadget coming up around the corner. This means your claims and feelings of superiority are always going to leave you empty when the new gadget is released.
  2. The FUNCTION of the gadget often gets totally lost in the spec wars. I was describing the problem of being an audiophile to a grounded friend of mine. I told him how the marketing leads us to believe that the newer amplifiers and DACs and speakers can reflect a truer sound than the old. He dismissed the whole thing in one simple question: “What is the point of listening to music? It’s to enjoy the music, right? You don’t sound like you’re enjoying the music much when you talk about the specs”. Music players are there to serve us music, not to make us feel like we are lacking something.
  3. Specs are corrupting in the most real sense. If two different specs matter, but they are contradictory – it can corrupt the human spirit. Take VW emissions standards as an example (link). The tension between on the one hand, environmental responsibility and the customers’ perception of the company doing the right thing, and on the other hand, customers need a high performance vehicle that is zippy and meeting speed and power specs – this dichotomy led to false information being manufactured and published. Possibly 20 years in jail??! Hectic punishment all to meet a specs expectation.

As someone prone to chasing specs, I am learning that making do with something that is GOOD ENOUGH for the job it is intended – this is the secret to a lot of contentment and productivity.

Where is the art coming from?

Art as a consumable product. When we experience a piece of art, it is tempting to think that there could only ever be one version in the world. The song you’re listening to could surely only have sounded like this, could only ever have this tempo, could only be sung in this key. The picture you are looking at must have arrived fully formed – divine intervention flowed through the painter’s brush to the canvas in a single instant of inspiration. There was no practice involved and no research.

Art as a process. Of course the opposite is most often true – artists above all are experts at curiosity and playing with ideas. The curiosity and the playing results in countless versions of an idea until one day a version feels right (or is chosen by a company executive) to represent the artist’s vision.

Examples are everywhere – look at Bob Dylan’s countless versions of his most famous songs. Director’s cuts often differ wildly from the original film release. Look at Picasso’s obsessive research into the minotaur leading up to Guernica.

Curiosity and playfulness are where the real magic is. I think that this is important to remember, both as customers and as artists. These processes are not instantly gratifying, and can often be frustrating. But they are processes that we have to go through and we have to acknowledge to get the most from any piece of art.

Otherwise, there is a danger of art becoming a pre-packaged commodity. No back story. Nothing more to see.

 

Waiting on a mic

I got my old Fostex MR16 multi-track recorder out the other day. There were a bunch of recordings on there from my music playing days. Some were ok, most were rubbish. All of them brought back amazing memories of creative times. It’s strange to hear yourself ten years ago singing songs and talking into the microphone.

The encounter with my previous self inspired me to order a microphone online and do some more recording.

Waiting on a mic.

The first 1000

I would like to get to 1000 daily blog posts. Imagine all the words I will have written.

At the low points – the dips in mood and confidence – the idea of writing my own blog seems narcissistic, presumptuous, annoying and laughable.

But at the high points, a blog seems like a valuable resource. It is a daily mantra, a way to make sense of the world around me. It is a creative outlet and a personal asset to cherish.

I have gone in waves with this blog of posting and then dropping off. Part of that is laziness, but part of it is also just the fact that I run a company, have 2 kids, 2 dogs, 2 fish and a whole life away from the computer.

However, consider this to be hopefully the first of a thousand successive blog posts. Imagine the words I will have written.

Security

It’s a strange existence sometimes in Africa.

We’re on our last night of a two week holiday. I just took out a plate of food for the guard who’s been patrolling our holiday house at night time. He’s a young Zulu chap. He smiled and thanked me for the bryani. Then I got a call from the security company at home telling me our home alarm system has triggered – Is everything ok? Shall we come and assist?

We’re hundreds of miles away I tell them, but sure please go and have a look. Be nice to my dogs.

They found nothing except my grumpy dogs. We never actually put the alarm on. I think it was a power cut causing all the commotion. Guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

It is so easy to cause havoc if you really want to, but we still try to control the risk. Some countries don’t have this issue.

But they also don’t have whales and zebras and sunshine and snakes and zip lines and beaches like I experienced this holiday.

Pros and cons. The grass is always greener.

Microsoft

I just downloaded edge browser for my phone.

I am also moving all my mail and calendar stuff to outlook.

Excel Word and PowerPoint are all work mainstays on my computer.

I am going to Microsoft because I pay for it. The idea is that I will be the customer rather than the product.

Hardware is probably next. Liking the look of windows surface and laptops.