Monday, 25 June 2007

"Keep The Change Ya Filthy Animal"

“Ever wondered why the gap between the rich and poor nations is so great, or why it’s so difficult to get a foot on the property ladder, or why you can’t buy a decent second-hand car? This book offers the hidden story behind these and other forces that shape our day-to-day lives, often without our knowing it.” – Tim Harford

The latest book I want to bring your attention to is ‘The Undercover Economist’ by Tim Harford.

I was attracted to the book because I read a similar one last year called ‘Freakonomics’ which grabbed my attention with it’s snazzy cover and interesting topics of discussion. I picked up The Undercover Economist hoping for more of the same.

Freakonomics is a hard act to follow; authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner dug in deep, their project included chapters such as:

- What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?
- Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms?
- Where Have All The Criminals Gone?

Sounds fun right? It was. Not only did they ‘have a laugh’ with Freakonomics, they also broke down a lot of theory and indirectly showed readers how to apply it.

The Undercover Economist is as interesting, but not as fun. Harford seems a lot more rigid and practical. A lot of his arguments and theories are sensible, logical and pretty much air tight. He covers each subject from a variety of angles and indirectly gives you the tools you need to go out there and start challenging your own world of microeconomics. Great stuff . . . if you can be bothered that is.

You’ll learn some economical jargon along the way and start paying more attention to your pennies. You’ll begin to notice a lot of the options society makes indirectly available, and you’ll know why people complain about things they have power over.

Tim Harford’s effort is original in the sense that it not only explores economical loop holes and faults, but also offers solutions as to how economics can make the world a better place for everyone . . . sounds like something an eight years old girl would waste a wish on if she found a magic lamp. His solutions to everyday problems however are well thought out, realistic, and also feasible. Keep reading his book and you’ll also know why they are not implemented.

Economics is not as simple as ‘supply and demand’. Economics tells us who gets what, and more importantly why they get it.

Want to know why we pay so much for confectionaries when we go to the cinema? Might not seem so important because we can evidently ‘afford’ to be overcharged . . . so why is it that we (London citizens) complain continuously about outlandish public transport prices?

I’d argue that we are all to an extent Undercover Economists because we have reasoning and understanding where our finances are concerned. We can tell you why we chose one product over another, our definitions of a bargain and we know when we are being ripped off.

Tim delves a lot deeper, at times you’ll be pointing the accusing finger at yourself, but be reassured, you’ll get to wave it at others as well.

A to the . . .

Friday, 22 June 2007

Maybe I Should Start On My Book Now

There isn’t too much holding me back. I have three solid book ideas. One of which I’m sure could definitely be published and win some sort of award . . . heck, I’d be happy if it was short listed. I told a few people one of the plots and was surprised by how excited they were, they not only wanted to read the book, but they typically had their own ideas of how to make it better (I didn’t take their advice of course). After I noticed that it was actually a GREAT plot with a mass of potential I tightened my lips and stopped revealing the idea to people.

Fortunately you can tell a few people your book ideas because even if they wanted to steal it they would have to go through a lot of trouble trying to get it published. I don’t think many people who don’t already have their foot in a publisher’s door have the time for that. So it’s still mine.

Why Haven’t I Started On It Already?

That’s a good question, and one I wouldn’t pose to myself unless I had an answer.
The truth is that I did start on one of my ideas . . . I got half way through the first chapter, re-read it and realised that my writing style left a lot to be desired. You know there is serious problem when you aren’t even impressed by your own writing, why seek a second opinion?

So the plan was to read a lot more books (which I’ve done) and set up a blog site where I could begin to exercise writing techniques and find my individual style (which I’m in the process of).

I don’t think I’m developed enough to write a full novel yet, but what’s the harm in attempting a short novel?

Short Novel

‘They’ recommend that when writing, it makes sense to write about what you know and what you are passionate about. Follow me as I generate a plot off the top of my head.

We’ve got:

- Girls
- Money
- London City
- Football (Soccer B***h)
- Church
- Food

That’s a nice little platform to jump off of . . .

I’ll be the protagonist, we’ll change my name to . . . Andy . . . Andy Thornton. No relation to Randy Orton, but why would there be? Continue . . .

OK, here is what I’ve got . . .

Andy Thornton is a young and successful business entrepreneur, at least that’s what he tells all the ladies. In reality he is a gambling master mind, he knows how to play the odds and gets rich placing strategic bets on football matches. He lives in a luxurious apartment in the heart of London City and is well known across several clubs and bars as a womanising spendaholic.

Everything is about to change direction when he meets the girl of his dreams, Alana . . . A pastors daughter who wants one last bad streak before she hands her life over to Christ.

Andy is about to be sucked into a world he has never experienced before. A world where the numbers don’t add up like they are supposed to . . . place your bets.

Forgive me for the rushed blurb and absent title, but you get the jist right?

Hey . . . I might actually write this though . . . and forget about the food option, can’t squeeze that into the plot.

A to the . . .

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Ask A Former McDonalds Employee

It’s not something I keep a secret, nothing I’m proud of either. But I did indeed work for McDonalds for twenty-three months . . . yes it’s true.

This was my first official job and they trapped me for twenty-three months. I experienced a lot there; good and bad times were shared with my crew members. I well and truly learnt the value of a single pound coin (you’ve seen the 99p menu right?) and swallowed my pride on several occasions.

‘Can I take your order please?’ - Ugh, that brings back memories. Considering that you wanted the food more than I wanted to serve you I don’t get why I was forced to ask this question . . . with smile . . . and wearing a tie! What was the tie about? Were we supposed to look like executives?

‘Excuse me sir, would you like to upgrade that to a large meal for just 30p extra? Trust me, I’m wearing a tie sir’ – No shame, no damn shame.

At one point I did actually like the job . . . REALLY . . . there was a point where I liked working there. It was a fifteen minute walk from my house, they paid me every two weeks and I had quite a few work mates there. McDonalds funded my PS2, Sony Mini-Disc player, two week trip to Tenerife, countless nights out and so much more. I’m watching the Sky News on the TV they funded right now.

*** When I say they funded it I mean that I worked for the money and they paid me on time ***

So I’m opening up the forum almost five years after I waked out and told them that I was moving on to bigger and better things . . . Marks and Spencer’s.

Feel free to ‘Ask A Former McDonalds Employee’ whatever you want. It’s been a while but I remember it like it was yesterday . . . I really do, a lot went down. Leave you’re questions in the comments sections and I’ll do a write up with replies.

Clock In, Clock Out.

A to the . . .

Saturday, 16 June 2007

The Autobiography Of A Non-Smoker Who Kind Of Smoked . . . Part Three

Cigars Are For The Bigger Boys

Where am I now?

Hmmm . . . yup, we’re still in early 2003 (I was eighteen years old). Not only was I getting free cigs from my mates, I also got hooked up with two cigars. They were individually wrapped up; never came in packets like cigarettes.

I took both of the cigars with me for a night out with my co-workers. The plan was to get drunk as usual, but this time I was going to pull out a chunky cigar and pose like I was the top dog. It would have worked a treat if I wasn’t dating one of my co-workers at the time. She never smoked, so anytime I went out with her and started drinking I wasn’t allowed to grab cigs and light them up. She’d get on my case about it and always threatened to dump me if she caught me smoking . . . in fact she threatened to dump me over a lot of things.

A whole bunch of colleagues went to a bar and I got a little bit drunk. My girl (not the same girl from the part two) was around somewhere, doing something which didn’t concern me. I wasn’t exactly protective of her. I found a sweet spot, chilled on a stool and got a cig from a girl who had a crush on me at the time. She had never seen me smoke before, so when she gave me the cigarette she wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it.

I wasn’t a smoker remember.

Her eyes lit up when I put the cig between my lips, sparked the lighter and inhaled. She turned to one of her friends and yelled “He’s smoking!” They made an unnecessary scene out of it; I had to keep my cool whilst keeping an eye out for my girl.

I drank some more and chilled with the girls for a little bit while flirting, a few more people joined us and I took on the role of the funny guy . . . I was now ready to pull out the cigar.

. . . Then just as I did my girl tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a stern look . . . ‘I heard you were smoking. If you smoke that nasty cigar then I’m going to break up with you.’ She looked serious when she said it. However, I was fed up with her continuous threats . . . I knew I could have had my cake and ate it . . . but I decided to put the cigar back in my pocket. Just to keep the peace of course . . . I wasn’t scared of her!

So later that night I was walking home alone. The sky was dark but clear, and the fresh night air was helping me to sober up. It was time to puff a fat cigar. I reached into my inside pocket and felt the cold chill of disappoint run through my face. My hands were rubbing tobacco . . . there was only one cigar in my pocket and it had split in half.

The pace of my walking slowed down as I focused on a shattered dream (overly dramatic I know, but I was genuinely disappointed). I had hid this cigar in my room for about month and now it was split in two. I shrugged it off, threw the useless half across the street and lit up the good half with the butt on it.

Another worthless smoking experience, the cigar lasted quite a few puffs but I had no audience. What was the point?

Now that smoking is on the verge being banned from public places I felt like I had to write this memorial. Smoking never gripped me; that was never my intention. I’m glad that I flirted with the idea and absconded my curiosities at a ‘mature’ age . . . not liking cigarettes also kept me in check.

All you’ve read is pretty much all I smoked; minus the odd cigarette here and there. They are a group of isolated incidents which I’m in no rush to repeat or forget so I writ them down as a reminder to myself . . .

July 1st 2007 - UK Public Smoking Ban

A to the . . .

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Nothing But Pure Laziness

Laziness . . . nothing but pure laziness. That’s why I haven’t posted up on for a while. Yeah, I went to Texas, but I’ve been back for over a week now. I won’t make any excuses about it . . . BUT I have realised that blogging is hard work! Seriously, it takes a lot of effort to consistent update a blog site with fresh, original material. Who has the time for it?

Me apparently.

And don’t look at me with those disappointed eyes please . . . I just needed a few weeks off. To be honest I would have been quite happy to take another week off of blogging but I’m forcing myself to return to this seedy business.

Thanks for sticking around people. I’m guessing that some of you checked here a few times expecting updates and fresh posts . . . my bad. And I’m guessing that some of you are a little pissed that I haven’t posted up ‘The Autobiography Of A Non-Smoker Who Kind Of Smoked . . . Part Three’. Yeah, I let you down . . . my bad.

Well I’m back now . . . prepare for the darkest shade of black.

To keep you all entertained while I touch up on Part 3 (which I actually finished long before I even went on holiday) here is a list of things I got in trouble for before I turned into a teenager.

- Smoking
Those of you who read ‘The Autobiography Of A Non-Smoker Who Kind Of Smoked . . . Part One’ will know that I caught a beating for this foolish act when I was about seven years old.

- Sugar Sandwiches
This happened before the smoking incident. My cousin saw me making a sugar sandwich and snitched on me . . . when my mum caught me the obvious punishment was a beating.

Ingredients for a sugar sandwich – Bread, butter and sugar. Distribute accordingly.

- Breaking Crockery
I started washing dishes when I was about six years old . . . this is normal in a Nigerian home. Most people wouldn’t be surprised if a six year old dropped a plate or two . . . but I got a beating each time I was caught.

- Laughing At My Aunt
This was inevitable. When your aunt is watching a Nigerian movie and shouting at the TV, the story is only going to end one way. I laughed at her . . . she gave me a beating.

- Getting Lost
Yes, I managed to get lost in a crowded market. I was looking a toy car . . . turned around and my mum was gone. Naturally I started crying . . . I was only five years old don’t laugh at me. A stanger put me on his shoulders so I could look through the crowd to try and find my mum. She came and got me . . . and brought a beating with her as if it was my fault.

- Coming Home Late
Coming home late from school or staying out past my curfew (which was 6pm) resulted in a beating. This happened frequently . . . I never even used to own a watch. “I didn’t know what the time was” that was an excuse that rarely flew.

- Drawing Boobies ( . )( . )
People were always snitching on me when I was younger . . . so much for friendship. In primary school I drew a few pictures of boobs in my text book. I thought this was hilarious of course . . . my friend did too. So why did he snitch? He told the teacher, the teacher called my mum in for a meeting; I got home and got beats.

- Moving My Hand
OK, I didn’t get beats every time I moved my hand . . . that would be extreme. When my dad used to dish out a beating he’d ask for my hand and whack it with a belt or slipper. For each time he swung and I moved my hand to evade he’d say ‘That’s two more!’ Five whacks usually turned into a drawn out ten.

As you can imagine, it was pretty hard for me not to get beats. I wasn’t a troublesome kid . . . and I usually learned my lesson each time. But as a child I regularly found new things that I wasn’t allowed to do.

A to the . . .