Monday, 31 December 2012

Looking back and moving forward

The end of the world didn't happen, but we are at the end of another year. It really is ridiculous how quickly the year has flown by though, and no doubt that will continue in 2013 where the year will somehow feel like it has been compressed into just a handful of months.

At the end of last year, I wrote myself a letter and hid it away in the depths of my hard drive to not be opened until these last few days. I've read it back, and I'd like to think that pretty much everything in my letter worked out as well as could be.

Like everyone, there have been plenty of ups and downs. I've had a 12 months of relatively good productivity in life and with a bit of luck and some hard work, the next 12 months can be even better. The good times have been pretty good and the bad times...well, when you think about them, they weren't really that bad. 

I got my dream work placement working for a motorsport media group doing translation work for the ADAC Masters weekend, and was lucky enough to spend several race weekends translating a string of articles for the GT Masters. As a little side job while at uni and as preparation for the year abroad, it was near perfect. Looking at the long term future of what I'd love to do when I get out of uni and I'm thrown into the real world, it was could open a door to get a job working in the industry, especially in the world of sportscar racing where I'm more interested than I've ever been.

Then that job fell through at the eleventh hour. There's a blog dedicated to that earlier in the year, so you can read all about that there if you haven't already or want to remind yourself of that wonderful time. It struck me hard, it really hurt and for a while I didn't have a clue what the year abroad had in store for me. Thankfully, there was the great supporting network to pick me back off my slightly shaky feet, brush me down and help me out. Hessie, for being crazy enough to answer her phone to me at almost midnight when I got the news and needed someone to talk to. She was there as someone to talk to, she sat with me for several hours, reassured me and we knew that things would be ok. Giles, who despite getting knocked a bit for not always being very quick to reply to emails, was there for me straight away when I told him and helped me to find something else for the year. 

That something else, of course, was a job at euroShell. Four months into that job, and I'm very happy that I'm there. Obviously, I wish I could have taken the job in Austria with motorsport but the placement I have has allowed me to meet some really great people. I'm in a work environment where I'm allowed to push myself and find out just what I'm capable of. I've been given plenty of brand new situations to deal with, and I would like to think that I've dealt with them in a more than suitable manner. These are skills that I can continue to develop in the next eight months of my time in Hamburg, and no doubt I'll learn more skills and tricks along the way that can stand me in good stead when I graduate and start looking for jobs.

Aside from that, life has been pretty good. I was able to get back into playing cricket again this summer and despite not setting the world on fire, I had fun. We may not have won a game when I played, but if I can get enough practice in during Spring 2014, when summer rolls around (and if the weather holds off), I might be able to score a couple of runs and grab a wicket or two. 

I've made some good decisions with my personal life and I've made some not so clever decisions, but I don't think I regret a single thing I did with my year. Everything happens for a reason and sometimes we have no control as to whether things work out. 

2013 should be a good year. I've got plans and goals on where I want to take my life over the next 12 months. I've got plans to see friends, tickets for gigs and events (such as 16 Carat in March and Iron Maiden in June) and if things go well, I'll be making my first ventures into the world of sportscar racing by attending a couple of races. I might try and make it to an F1 race as well, but the main priorities in terms of motorsport are the 24 Hours of Nurburgring and going to Le Mans.

I said in the last entry that I'd be looking at starting a podcast too, which will be happening...usually with Rachel as my trusty sidekick and maybe once or twice with other people if I venture out and try to bring other people in to share their story. 

It might be overused, it might be cliche...but as Bill Hicks said so brilliantly, life is just a ride. Strap in, let's see what the year throws at us and make the most of each opportunity.

See you in 2013!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Power of the Podcast

I have to admit that I pretty much gave up on listening to the radio a couple of years ago. Local radio stations didn’t seem quite as good as I remembered them being from my youth and I would either feel that the presenters weren’t quite as energetic as they used to be, or I started to find parts of their act a bit tedious. My feelings on modern chart/radio-friendly music are pretty strong where I couldn’t tell you what is currently in the charts and the bits of chart music that I have heard (admittedly not through my own choice), don’t exactly capture my imagination. Then again, these songs and artists don’t have me as their target audience. They target a slightly younger audience who will buy their posters, t-shirts, other bits of merchandise and think that One Direction and Twilight are the great artistic works of this century.

There are exceptions, such as Radio 4 for their interesting array of programmes on a variety of areas (and the Shipping Forecast, even though I don’t have a clue what they’re on about most of the time), Radio 2 for music that is slightly more up my street and presenters I actually know and other niche markets and programmes like Test Match Special and Radio Le Mans for all of my motorsport news and commentaries.
Then, I stumbled across the world of podcasts. I think The Joe Rogan Experience was my first podcast, which makes sense since I can stretch back to as early as episode 10 when it was still him and Redban sitting in their “studio” goofing around with snowflake effects. I don’t even know how I found Rogan’s show, but it’s probably around the same time that I found out he wasn’t just a UFC commentator and that guy who used to present Fear Factor, but he was also a pretty good comedian.

From there, everything sort of snowballs. I would listen to podcasts with Rogan’s friends and from there, I started finding out more about these people. I got to know more about Doug Stanhope, listen to his back catalogue of work and I’ve now seen him two or three times where he’s probably one of my favourite comedians. I found out about their crazy friend called Joey “Coco” Diaz who has a life story crazier than that of the most over-the-top Hollywood film script. The great thing about these shows is that because Rogan can do two or three podcasts in a week, you get to know him over time, you know Redban and you get to know their crew of friends.

 I was on board with the Deathsquad network from an early stage too and have come to find out about personalities like Ari Shaffir, Brody Stevens, Esther Povitsky, Tom Segura, Christina Pazitsky and numerous others. Through their shows, you get to know about those people too and after a couple of shows, it just feels as though you’re listening to friends having a conversation. I don’t recommend talking back to the podcast since that’ll seem a bit weird, but you can certainly converse with these people on Twitter and send them emails.

It just keeps on growing though. I started to find other fans of Deathsquad on Twitter and get to know that online community of people from all over the world. I both follow and have followers from across the USA, Canada and parts of the UK and in some situations I’ve seen the power and effect that this community has on people. It brings people who would otherwise be complete strangers together to form friendships and perhaps most importantly of all, everyone gets inspiration from somewhere. Some like me, take the inspiration to stay creative and keep writing blogs as well as other side projects, some have started to chase dreams and taken to the stage to try their hand at stand up comedy and some have their own podcasts.

I’ll take Mick Guzman (@postalpoet on Twitter) as an example, since I was listening to his podcasts last night and we shared some thoughts online. Mick is someone that I don’t know personally, but I’ve been following him on Twitter for over a year now and we’ve shared some interesting thoughts. He started his own podcast called ‘Ask My Boss’ and over the last 8 months or so, he’s taken his creative process in a couple of really interesting directions with Keep Making Noise, Going Postal, his podcasts with “Pastor Joe” and more recently, he’s embarked on a creative journey looking back at his education going from his beginnings to where he is today in life. As I say, these latest episodes are something a bit different to what I listen to in podcasts these days, but they’re really interesting. I’m learning a lot, not just about education but also about Mick. I plan on being onboard for the rest of the journey to see where we finally end up.

Podcasts really are a powerful thing these days, and for me they’ve all but replaced radio for day-to-day listening. They serve as a fantastic way of getting to learn about other things in life, getting to know people you wouldn’t ever meet otherwise and as a platform for finding like-minded people in the world. I still listen to my music from time to time, but my iPod these days is heavily dominated by podcasts and comedy album. I always say I want to get my own podcast started and get another way of expressing my ideas and thoughts into the world, as well as getting to share some stories with friends. 

Maybe 2013 is the year I finally do it...

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Winter is here

Though I doubt you needed me to point that out to you.

Let's face it, we're all intelligent people could probably figure out that it's winter. Unless you're in the southern which case, it's summer. Sweet! Go the beach, enjoy the nice weather and laugh where appropriate.

In the last few days, it has felt as though everywhere else in Germany besides Hamburg was seeing snow. The weather forecast has had lovely snowflakes scattered across the map and for a fair few days, people have been talking about snow. Some people have had lots of it, some just a dusting. According to Sam, there was snow on the other side of Hamburg on Sunday morning but I saw nothing. I was awake thanks to my neighbour having seemingly turned nocturnal and having their TV on throughout most of the night with the volume up pretty loud. There's a plus side to this though where since I'm waking up early enough, I've found myself watching cartoons during the early morning. Most of them are the standard cartoons that you'd find pretty much anywhere in the world so they're not the most difficult thing to follow, but it's something stupid and keeps me amused for a bit.

I was stopped on my way to lunch today by someone I didn't know. She looked at me and said (I'm translating here), "Short sleeves? But it's cold outside!" I looked at her, smiled and said that it wasn't REALLY that cold, but she was pretty insistent that I was mad to want to venture across the car park to lunch without at least a jacket. Fair enough...or so I thought. Then when I decided to walk home from work, I had three or four people look at me while we were waiting to cross roads and question my sanity for not wearing a hat, scarf, gloves and have my coat zipped up tight. Instead, I was still wearing the short sleeved shirt, had my coat open and was nodding my head along quite happily to Fozzy's latest album which, if you haven't heard it, is totally froot and well worth checking out. In the highly unlikely event that Jericho or any other member of Fozzy reads this, I'm trying to get 'froot' back into circulation. You're welcome.

Maybe when it actually gets cold I'll think about zipping my coat up. Or when I get ill...which ever comes first.

Of course, just as I got back into the flat after the walk home, it started to snow. By no means is it a blizzard or heavy snow, but it looks as though it's settled after being dry for most of the day so hopefully that dusting will still be there by tomorrow. It's just nice to look at really and just points out that winter is here. I'm expecting there to be more snow before I fly home for Christmas in a couple of weeks...

That's a slightly scary thought. I'm home in about two weeks and I do only have 10 working days left (you can probably work out when I'm home based on that). Then Christmas is less than three weeks away. Where has the year gone?

I should probably get cracking on the Christmas shopping...if I have to go out into Liverpool a few days before Christmas, I might find myself killing some poor fool who, like me, has left it far too late to buy presents. That's what Amazon is for these days, right?