1 month down, 11 to go

Thirty-one days later, and I’m still in the game for the 365: the 2011 edition on Flickr.

Today, I painted a pot of pink flowers with light. I like the idea of still life, but they can be quite boring. I tried to make it more interesting, by using a long exposure, a dark room and light from my rape alarm. What do you think?

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For those interested:

30 sec

ISO 200

F/5.0

It has been an interesting month trying to fit in the running, this blog and my daily photos. The hardest part is trying to think of ideas of what to photograph. Sometimes it needs a bit of planning. For example, for tonight’s photo I had an idea of a still life painting in my mind which I wanted to emulate in a photo. There was the set up (see above gallery), I had to think of the direction of light, the height of the camera etc. The background was a black soft-shell suitcase as I didn’t want a shiny background and didn’t have any black material.

Some of my photos on my Flickr stream are just quick snaps and others, I hope to develop  in to a series.

One month down, 11 months to go.

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Too much tea and cake leads to running

Only eight weeks to go until the Hastings Half Marathon and I’m two week’s into The Training. I’m wondering how I’m going to keep this up. Having started running once a week before Christmas, which went up to two a week (up until two weeks ago) I have managed to get to a level of fitness where I can now run for half an hour without stopping. That, for me, is an achievement in itself.

I’ve never been a lover of running, and here I am running along the same stretch of seafront which I hated at school. The wrong side of 25 and the right side of 30 (but only just) I knew that if I didn’t start exercising regularly then the cellulite and weight will catch up with me. Working in an office means I’m sitting down for long periods of time, eating cake and drinking copious amounts of tea.

I don’t weigh myself, but I know when I’ve put on weight when my trousers start to feel tight. That’s when I know I must do something about it. And yes, I have bent down and split a pair before. The other reason for running is my wish to climb to Everest Base Camp. Although I can’t do anything about the altitude sickness, I can do something with my fitness level. I want to give myself the best chance of climbing to Base Camp.

Feeling tired tonight I managed to run for 52 minuets and covered a distance of 4.63 miles. This is my second run of the week and clocking up the miles. I measure my runs in time and not distance. The thinking behind this is if you think of distance, it is human to try and beat your previous distance in a quicker time. Marathons are not about speed, but endurance. It’s amazing how much distance you can cover in an extra five minuets.

I’ve now started to drink rooibos or redbush tea in the afternoon, because it doesn’t have any caffeine. But, I do love my builders cuppa. The cake eating hasn’t diminished though. I don’t think it ever will.

Catching marshmallows in Mongolia – my RTW photos

After posting my faux fish rant post (I promise I will write it),  my blogging buddy My English Thoughts asked me to share some of my round-the-world adventure photos. As it took me a year, I won’t post all of them… Today I present my Russia to Mongolia pictures.

Enjoy!

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I also kept a blog up on myspace. I won’t subject you to all the posts, but here’s two from Mongolia.

4 July 2006

Don’t try and catch a marshmallow that has just been freshly toasted. Especially when you’re up a mountain with no river to be seen and you’re a days hiking away from civilisation, where you have to scramble down several rock fields, jumping from one precarious rock edge to another.

11 July 2006

Today was the unveiling of the great Chingis Khaan statute that was only finished yesterday. You may know Chingis as Genigis Khan, a blood thirsty murderer who conquered half of the world.

However to Mongolians, he is a national hero who, 800 years ago, united warring tribes and named the country as it is known as today. They have this a long time coming and the date set. The national press and the world were invited and were watching, even the Duke of York arrived yesterday celebrate this tiny, landlocked nation and to watch the festival of Nadaam.

The ceremony took place in the main square called Shukhbaatar Square against the back drop of the unfinished parliament building, which was supposed to have been completed for today. The scaffold was still up and every so often the wind blew building dust across the delegates and press, blurring the vision of many.

There was an impressive start with a marching band, music and the nine horsehair banners called Sulde that Chingis rode with made their appearance. However, the ceremony then stopped for about half and hour and nothing seemed to happen. Not exactly running smooth.

The preceding resumed with a round of speeches, and then for the moment that everyone was waiting for, the unveiling of Chingis himself.  Except, this is Mongolia. The blue fabric wound not come off, part of the taupe that hid the scaffold fell down and the piece d’ressistance, one of the blokes from the media fell down the side of the stairs and broke one of the slates. Health and safety in this country is not a big priority here.

After the music stopped playing, everyone rushed to touch the Khaan and to photograph the Sulde. It will be interesting at the opening ceremony of Nadaam.

PS – RTW= round the world. (In case you didn’t know).

Customer Service

I’m currently watching Mary Portas’ Secret Shopper programme on Channel 4. I am astounded that Chris, owner of Pilot doesn’t invest in customer service. If you’re in retail, how do you not know your shoppers?

I’ve come to realise that the attitude of a company reflects the attitude of the boss at the top. If they are money-grabbing, fat cats who don’t really understand their staff, their motivation and well-being, then this will reflect on the shop floor. After all, if your employer doesn’t care about you, why should you care about your job. You’re just taking the money and running, right?

I’ve always believed that if you treat your employees right, then customer service should not be too far behind. After all, it’s hard to hide a happy person, and it’s always nice to meet someone who loves their job. Their enthusiasm will naturally ooze through. Employers will also gain employee loyalty, which means less staff turnover and low recruitment fees. Win, win for all.

In retail, customer service should be king. That’s not to say that the customer is always right. I’ve spent around seven years working in retail and have seen the best and worst in people. I’ve customer service drilled into me and in turn, drilled it into my staff. All you need is a smile and an acknowledgement that the customer is welcome and not an annoyance. So, seeing a boss like Chris has dismayed me. Is his staff not worth investing in? Doesn’t his customers deserve more than a stroppy sale assistant with a face like a slapped arse?

I don’t know about you, but if I have a helpful, knowledgeable assistant helping me, I tend to spend more. If I can return my face cream which as given me spots and exchange for another product, I’ll come back. If somethings works for me, I will come back.

Here’s another way of looking at it – if you’ve had good customer service, you’ll tell five people. If you’ve had bad customer service, you’ll tell 10 people. Now, I’m no brain surgeon, but who wants to be known for something bad?

Do you return to a shop if you know you’ll get a smile out of the shop assistant? Or is it all about the price and to hell with customer service?

Email etiquette – how do you write yours?

The days of letter writing is dead. Email, however is much more modern. Facebook (from what I can gather) is trying to kill of the humble email, but considering 90 trillion – yes, I said trillion – emails was sent in 2010, I think Facebook may have a fight on their hands. That averaged to 247 billion messages being sent per day. No wonder we’ve got a short attention span with all those messages we’re trying to read. Despite these trillions of emails, we don’t have a correct way for salutations and sign-offs. A debate on Radio 4 got me thinking – why do we not have a standard email etiquette?

With letters, you know where you stand. If you don’t know the name of the person, you write:

Dear Sir/Madam

And end with Yours faithfully.

If you know the person’s name, you end the letter with Yours sincerely. If you’re on a computer or typewriter (remember those?), you must press return six times, then type your name and sign in the space.

Writing emails is somewhat of a minefield. If it’s someone you don’t know, do you use ‘dear’ or ‘hello’ or even ‘hey’? I tend to use ‘dear’ however a friend finds that old-fashioned. She tends to use ‘hello’, which I don’t like. After making the initial contact, I tend to use ‘hi xxx’ as a greeting. If you applied the rules of letter writing to an email, most people would think you were rather odd, old or haven’t got to grips with technology.

You open up an email and read:

Sarah,

Did you scan in that ad?

Jane.

What’s your reaction? Or:

Did you scan that ad?

Or

Hi Sarah,

Did you scan that ad?

I’m not a fan of using just a name as I find that blunt and shocks my system when I open it. My immediate thought is that I’ve done something wrong or I’ve annoyed them! But I do prefer that to not having my name at all. For me using ‘hi’ is has a much more friendlier tone to it. After you’ve established a conversation, then I think it’s alright to lose the name.

So, what about the sign-off? The Radio 4 debate mentioned bw to end an email. I’ve never come across that before. To me that could be band wagon, barn wars, better weather… but it means best wishes to those in the know. My favourites are kind regards, kindest regards, regards, many thanks or thanks. With certain people, I even use cheers, which got the panel a bit hot and bothered.

The correct salutations and sign-off seems to be a personal preference and the meaning that you attach to them. So the question is – how do you write yours?