DOSBox: Bringing Back Fond Memories

If you’re like me, you’ve been using computers for many years. My first computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000 and I think I may have been about 10 at the time it was handed down to me.

Here’s a link to someone showing one off on Youtube.

It had a whopping 2k of memory, which could be expanded to a “massive” 16k by plugging in this expansion pack at the back of it. All of the software came on cassette tape (this was pre-diskette) and because the tapes had to be “played” by the connected cassette player, it took about 5-10 minutes on average to load one application.

A few years later came my very first “real computer”, a Tandy 1000 EX. It had about 256k of memory, a RGB display and what was considered then to be amazing sound quality. It used 5 1/4″ floppy diskettes, many of which I still have to this day. Sadly, the computer itself it nowhere to be found.

This was just before high school, I believe, and I admit that when all the homework was done, I would spend many hours playing games on this awesome little computer. I loved it.

As an operating system, the Tandy 1000 EX used MS-DOS, which was entirely command line based. In other words, this was pre-Windows and therefore there was no mouse; no “Windows interface” or Icons to click. If you wanted it done, you had damn well better learn the commands and type them in.

Now, fast forward many years to present day – skipping through the experiences of Windows 3.1, Windows 95 (which was AWESOME when it was released), Windows ME (GARBAGE!), WindowsXP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Furthermore, imagine that I’ve since given up on ALL things Microsoft and become a more enlightened Apple “fanboy”, sporting the latest version of OS X on a Macbook Pro.

A few days ago, I came across an application called DOSBox which runs on OS X and which absolutely put a smile on my face.

DOSBox is an application that not only emulates MS-DOS which I used on the old Tandy computer back in the day, but, it also runs all of the old DOS-based software.

Needless to say, this brought back so many fond memories of my childhood that I simply had to share it with the rest of you. Here’s a quick video that I did to demonstrate DOSBox. I hope you enjoy.

 

Download DOSbox at www.dosbox.com
Download DOS Games at www.dosgames.com

Viewzi.com

This one will be short and sweet. I came across another search engine the other day which kinda blew me away. I know, I know… you’re going to remind me that I posted something on search engines recently, but this one rocks! It’s not google… but in many respects it’s actually waaaaaaay (inhale) waaaaaay better. It’s all visual… no more boring links resulting in the typical, click, go back, click again, go back, click again……. experience.

I don’t have the time to get into all of the details right now, but, here’s a demo that’s well worth looking at:

http://www.viewzi.tv/

Then, to actually give it a shot, check out:

http://www.viewzi.com/

See.. Short and sweet. Enjoy.

My Gas-Saving Techniques

The price of gas has been taking a hell of a toll on me recently. I know I’m not alone, as we are all facing almost daily increases at the pumps.

I simply have had to change my habits, and I think we all should really. I’ve not been great at it, but I have seen some very good results. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing.

Driving Slower

This first one seems like a definite no-brainer, but I’m surprised that so many people are still speeding (and in many cases killing themselves) on our roads.

Old habits I guess – like flying up to the red light (sudden braking), then, flooring the gas pedal to race to the next traffic light before everyone else — die hard.

The fact is though, that having a ‘lead foot’, just burns a lot more gas! The bigger your engine, the more gas you waste by speeding, and more so perhaps by rapid acceleration.

I have been moving off slowly from traffic lights and, well, really just generally. I’ve also cut out revving the engine… ever. While driving, I’ve been typically keeping my RPM down to below 2000, and my speed at or below 50km/h. So far, so good!

Removed excess weight

The heavier a vehicle is, the more fuel it needs to move off, then to move about. Another no-brainer. Years ago, I drove a little Suzuki Fronte, which had a 0.7L engine – yes POINT SEVEN! I do miss that little car so much these days – only for the fuel efficiency (when it didn’t have a fuel leak that I wasn’t aware of… another story).

These days however, the reality is that I have a bigger, and MUCH heavier vehicle with a 2.4L engine.

I took a look around inside and found lots of things that I was driving around with that I didn’t really need – including the two rear seats! I drive an estate car (eg. Space Wagon) and 99% of the time, I’m the only person in it. So, since the two rear seats are rarely used, and could be removed, still allowing me to carry three passengers, I figured I would just yank them out and leave them at home. That’s exactly what I did!

You know something? The seats were very heavy! The vehicle drives better without them, and again, I’ve seen an improvement in my mileage.

Keeping my tires properly inflated

Some long time ago, I wrote a post about how difficult it was to find working air pumps in Kingston. Unfortunately, the problem still exists, but whenever I am able to find a working pump, I do try to keep my tires properly inflated. I typically check them once per week.

So far, these and other measures have been working really well for me. I’d love to hear from you as to what you are doing to save some money at the pumps. Drop me a line!

The bad client, don’t be one of them.

I conducted some interviews recently, and one of candidates asked me a series of questions regarding the local design industry; my thoughts on the quality of the work being produced and, of the general state of the industry. I offered my honest opinion then, and may post my thoughts here at a later date. Following that conversation however, I started to think about my clients, and of the difficulties that I have had with some of them over the years.

It is an aspect of the creative industry, and really, of business in general, especially in Jamaica, that I don’t think we all as entrepreneurs raise often enough.

Let me preface my comments, by stating clearly that I have had a great relationship with MOST of my clients over the years. I appreciate every single one of them, and am grateful that they all have entrusted me, my team and my company with their creative needs.

However, and truth be told, there have been some clients that have made this already difficult and very stressful job even more taxing than it needed to have been. Here are just a few:

The “I don’t know anything about web design, but…” guy

This is the one that hires us to do a job, then spends all their time instructing us, exactly how they want every single tiny minute detail done — then after going through that process, slowly and methodically, they change their minds and have us start all….over….again.

(Chris rolls his eyes here and shakes his head before sighing deeply)

Now, don’t get me wrong. All clients are expected to have some idea of what they want us to produce. Some clients want to take a very hands-on approach to the design process, and others want us to “just run with it”. Both of these scenarios are fine with me and can be handled with ease. However, when “hands on” becomes out of hand, then its a recipe for potential trouble.

The fact is that when you become the client of a design firm, or agency, you really need to let go somewhat and trust that the professionals that you have hired, will do as you have hired them to do. Nitpicking every tiny detail only drags the project out, and ultimately hinders the creativity of the firm hired.

Failure to do that, can result in the product being of a standard that is less than the firm was capable of, or of the quality which is less than the client expected (even after they explained exactly what they wanted and you gave them what they asked for).

The Perpetual Procrastinator

This is the most annoying of clients. This is the client that comes with an “it’s urgent, and we must have it now” attitude. However, what usually happens is that THEY end up dragging the project out indefinitely. For example, by taking months to review design concepts or provide feedback or approval. At the end of the day, a project that was to take 6 months for example, ends up taking a year… two years or even more!

There is no excuse for this kind of disrespectful behaviour – and if you are the client of a designer or development firm, and you doing this, then you seriously need to look at your own operations.

I should also state, that in many cases, the very client who drags out projects with their developers, are also the same people who will complain, not to the developer (because they have no grounds to) but publicly when asked “why is your project taking so long?”. They protect themselves by unfairly blaming the developers! It’s unreasonable, but it happens. Such is the nature of this business and industry.

The “Cash Flow Problem” guy

Oh, this one…. this is the client that you can always find when the project is being worked on. He/She responds to emails within a minute or two; jokes around that you’ve been keeping his/her blackberry busy with constant updates; and, the one that you can always get on the phone.

This is, of course, just until the job is finished and you submit your bill. “Mr. or Ms. Always-Available” suddenly morphs, seemingly overnight, into the President of the freekin’ United States; always too busy for the likes of you, or just not available to address any issues relating to payment.

Eventually, if or when you are able to reach them, after weeks of trying, you are given the common “we have been having cash flow issues” story. A small business, you are forced to “hug it up”, until they feel good and ready to pay you what they owe. This can take months.

Also, let’s face it… I like to call a spade, a spade and not beat around the bush. The companies that practice this, are usually, based on my almost eight years of experience, the very same companies that can afford to pay; the ones that record record profits each year for example.

This is extremely counter productive, and frankly harmful to the operations of any small to mid-sized enterprise. As a result of this sort of practice for example, I have been forced on occasion, to withhold payments to my suppliers because I have been unable to collect. It all rolls down hill…. and we all know what else rolls down hill, don’t we?

The “So, what can you do for me?” guy

Maybe it’s just a “Jamaican thing” but some people make a habit of always asking for a discount, or, “bawling down” prices. What gives? The fact is, that most people have no clue how much it costs to develop a professional website. Just because your nephew can do it from home on a weekend while you watch, does not make it professional end product!!

This is not to say that discounts are not sometimes suitable, but when you ask for a discount on every single job, especially your very first job, and worse, combine that request for a discount with a promise of additional work to come — which we all know never does come, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of any professional service provider.

The “So, what’s so difficult about that?” guy

I remember once, sitting in the boardroom of one of my clients, while making a presentation to their website development committee of the latest iteration of their website development project. One director of something-another, interrupted me to ask a valid question, “how long did it take to design this?”. Confident that what I was presenting took two designers about a full work day to produce, I was also equally sensing where the discussion would then be heading, I answered quickly, “about 5 hours”.

This prompted from said, “director of something-another” a stunned and rather perplexed look, followed by the rhetorical, “This took 5hrs?? I could have done this in a few minutes”.

I bit my tongue as he continued to debate this fact, in front of his committee members while also standing firm on my 5hrs – and attempting to explain all the steps that went into the work that was being presented (photoshop, php, ajax, mysql database etc). Of course, he had now striking idea what those things were, but, continued to insist that he could have done it in less time.

Mind you, he was not complaining about the look, or implying that the design was by any means second rate. He was just… how do I put it… um…. diplomatically…. just being an ass! Essentially trying to justify his existence within the organisation to his committee members, at my expense.

Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often, but I hate it when people bring me into their internal corporate politics and power struggles. I’m there to do a job, do it well, then go… and don’t need or want the distractions.

Oh, one more thing before I leave this subject. There are some who seem to believe that website design is something that computers do automatically. That is, they seem to believe, in all sincerity, that the designer simply clicks a button and most of the work is done for him/her, instantly and automatically. Most people appreciate the time, effort, creativity and skill required to get the job done right, but… sadly, some people are still not up to speed on how things really work. Maybe this is our fault though, as we may have to do more to educate the public as to what really has to go into the work that we do.

The “Let’s have a meeting to discuss” guy

Look, the cost of gas alone is through the roof! If it can be discussed on the phone, or handled quickly via a few emails, why insist on a meeting?

Some people just cannot seem to function unless everything is done face-to-face. Now, once again, I’m going to get some flack for saying this, so let me preface my comments by stating that meetings are sometimes totally essential to the success of a project. However, in many instances (maybe 50% of the time) they are a grand waste of time.

If a meeting can be avoided, by an email or a phone call, then why not just do that? We would all be far more productive as a nation I believe, if we cut out 50% of the meetings we all insist on having.

Conclusion

If you find yourself working with a development/design firm or agency, please remember that there has to be mutual respect between yourself and the designer/developer/agency if your project is to be a success. Try not to be the client from hell. In most cases, your designers/design firm may not complain, because of their respect for you as clients, and appreciation for your business – but, they will think it.

Here ends my rant for tonight.

Searching the Depths of the ‘Net

Here’s a useful post for a change.

How many times have you been searching for something on the internet, but couldn’t find exactly what you were looking for? It happens to all of us eventually. However, the fact really is that most internet users just expect or assume that by searching for something in a search engine (such as the almighty Google), that all possible results will be returned. In other words, we assume that if we cannot find it by Google-ing it, then chances are, what we are looking for simply does not exist.

Think again, you must, young Jedi…

The fact is that there is a vast amount of information out there and, surprise, surprise…. Google only shows us a tiny amount of what is really lurking under the surface. By the way, this is not limited to just Google. All the other search engines have their limitations as well.

So, you ask young Jedi, “Master, how can I find the things hidden deep in the dark recesses of the world-wide-web?”. Younglings you must gather, and show you I will (O.K…enough of the Yoda references):

Dogpile (www.dogpile.com)
I’ve been recommending this search engine for years. What this site does, is search the four major search engines (Google, MSN, Yahoo and Ask) all at once. So rather than try Google, then MSN, then Yahoo, etc., you can simply search them all using Dogpile and chances are you will get better results. Pretty nifty… I know. :)

As for the other search engines out there, it hardly makes any sense using them, as they all tend to index these “big four” search engines anyway… so you’re getting the same results. With the exception of AltaVista, which I will get to next.

Clusty! (www.clusty.com)
Clusty is a more, shall we call it, comprehensive search. It looks in all the deep crevasses that all those other search engines really ignore. This does not mean that it’s perfect, because the big-four search engines ignore a lot of stuff deliberately. Using Clusty will return more junk and you may have to sift through a lot of garbage to find what you’re looking for. However, if you’re really looking for something and having no success with Google or Dogpile, I’d suggest Clusty as the next step. Also, do any of you remember AltaVista? Yes, it’s still around. It got a licking after Google came out and took over the world, but it too will provide similar results to Clusty. Check them out.

Wayback Machine (www.archive.org)
Maybe what you’re looking for no longer exists, because the page no longer exists? That’s OK, the Wayback Machine should have an index of it. I personally love this site. The only snag here is, you have to give it an exact website address (URL). Once you have that URL, you can find the entire history for the domain – sometimes through several owners!

Other specialised search engines

USA Library of Congress – For my American brothers and sisters, this is a great site for finding research materials for scholarly interests. If any of you can suggest sites for Jamaica/CARICOM, please let me know!
Nelson Search – If you’re looking for a journalistic piece, you can’t beat the self-proclaimed search engine for journalists. If there was a news story on it, it’s here.

Intute – Intute is the only search engine which uses only web pages quality-checked by human researchers – guaranteeing that you’ll never get a spam hit!

Bloglines – A search engine just for finding blogs. Anything that’s a blog is here, and these days the web is mostly blogs anyway!

Important note: This deeper darker side to the internet is really mostly comprised of crap. For example: (a) spam sites that were rejected by other search engines for quality (b) personal home pages or bulletin board archives, and other stuff that is usually of no interest to the general public (c) academia, which exists in its own world (d) government, which we all know exists in a world of its own and lastly, (e) criminal and underground sites that aren’t in too great a hurry to be found in the first place. Be careful when using the techniques and sites mentioned above.

WebbAlert :)

Yeah yeah, I’ve been gone for a while…. been dealing with some serious personal issues which I won’t get into here. I am glad to be back though, following a stint in Canada.

Anyway, on to today’s post.

I don’t know how many of you remember TechTV. It was a really well put together cable station dedicated to “all things technology”. They had some outstanding programming, and really outstanding hosts (Chris Pirillo, Leo Laporte and others come to mind). I won’t even mention the mega-beautiful Sumi Das who along with some guy, hosted Fresh Gear every Saturday morning.

TechTV was then acquired by G4 (some cable station dedicated to gaming as far as I know). What resulted was a hybrid called G4TechTV (they seem to have now dropped the Tech all together… see their website) and it wasn’t my cup of tea really. Perhaps because I’m not a gamer, and because I felt as though the quality TechTV programming had been watered down… overpowered by aliens, pixels and talk about 3D rendering…

One of the people from TechTV who did manage to make a good transition over to the G4TechTV hybrid however was Morgan Webb (real name, but with two b’s). By the way, I just came across some image results… wasn’t expecting that.

She was an all around techie with interests it seems in both general technology, the internet AND gaming, as she hosted their weekend gaming programme XPlay even before the merger. I think she still hosts it, but since my cable provider has dropped the channel I have no way of knowing.
On to my point…

Morgan Webb has recently launched her own VBlog which I must admit, I really like the layout of. Her site www.WebbAlert.com, features Mon-Thurs internet and tech news round-ups. She is, and always has been a well liked and intelligent presenter (although initially, I didn’t like her very much…. see abovementioned preference for Sumi Das :) ). This particular project of hers though looks promising and is really just getting off the ground, but it seems to have a lot of potential, and her material is well produced. Check it out at WebbAlert.com.

Designers, Stop Devaluing Your Work!

As a graphic artist and website developer by profession, I often receive requests from potential clients to submit an estimate/proposal for the production of a piece of artwork (logo, billboard, annual report, website etc).

However, and although I am always appreciative of the opportunities afforded to us, there is a growing trend in the industry that stands to do nothing less than even further devalue an already under appreciated profession.

Namely, the request by “potential clients” for designers/developers to submit “design concepts” along with our estimates.

Speculative work, as it is referred to, is just such a request. It is usually done without a contract and as such it removes any representation of rights to the artwork between the client and the designer. As a result, some clients seem to believe that they can pick and choose from the ideas the designer has presented and then, either do the project themselves (using the ever popular internal marketing department or in-house graphic artist that couldn’t come up with a decent concept in the first place), or, take the ideas to another, cheaper designer.

In either case, this sounds like highway robbery to me and we as designers/developers set ourselves up when responding to these requests, to be taken advantage of. From a strictly legal standpoint, the designer has no legal leg to stand on in the event that the client takes the design concept presented as part of a “bid” and uses it – because there was no contract. No cash changed hands, and no agreement was signed.

Clients I believe, should think before making such requests, and as designers we should turn them down when requested (especially those of us with established track records, and extensive supporting portfolios). Furthermore, although as designers/developers we are for the most part reluctant to say it out loud – clients making requests like this come across to us in the industry at times as not having a clue as to what they really want in the first place. It’s asking the creative professional to take a creative “shot in the dark”, while projecting to the developer that you, the client, are taking a “I’ll know what I want when I see it” approach. Sorry, but that does come across as unprofessional, especially to an experienced designer that has heard it all before.

However, if you are a client, before dropping that “design concept required as part of your initial submission” mumbo jumbo in your RFP, consider asking why you really expect that a professional designer should or would take on a spec project in the first place. If they take it on, are they in fact really as professional as they claim to be? Do they have the experience and abilities to do creative justice to the project and help the client achieve its strategic marketing objectives? To answer these questions, you can usually, and rather simply, review the portfolio and track record of the designer or design firm, rather than request a “concept” of new work, without compensation. Also, consider this: If the potential designer has so much free time on their hands that they’re willing to work for free on speculative work, why is this the case?

Your Time is Money

Graphic Artists, Website Developers, Illustrators and other visual communications specialists, sell two things – their ideas and their time. Speculative work requests, require a designer to invest both their ideas and time without a guarantee of compensation. Furthermore, if you could give it away for free yesterday, as part of a bid, why then should you charge what you know you should charge when it comes time for billing? Shouldn’t a discount (in the mind of the client) be in order. Get where I’m going with this? Your product now values less, and therefore should cost less, in the mind of the client.

Unprofessional / Inexperienced

I admit, when I just started out, and for perhaps the first couple of years, I jumped at every speculative bid I could get my hands on. My thinking at the time was simply, “if this is what I have to do to get the job or prove myself, then I’ll get it done”. However, I look at that approach now and seriously wonder if it was the best approach to have taken. I certainly lost thousands of dollars in productive time that could have been spent on billable projects – and also lost out to some clients who, as mentioned earlier, just took my ideas and ran with them — to other designers!

Missing the Mark

I hate to do design concepts for websites having only received a request for proposal. Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) are usually prepared by IT/MIS Departments, with little or no input from the Marketing representatives within the client’s organisation. That being said, effective design requires an investment in time to appropriately research the client’s company, its competition, target audience for the website and so on. Since many speculative projects are run on a tight deadline, and without the necessary creative brief, the designer/developer simply does not have the opportunity to do the best possible job. An attractive design, based on no strategic objectives or clearly defined marketing brief, is simply pointless. What’s worse is the fact that the design ‘concept’ usually produced without the client even providing the necessary branding guidelines, even further devalues the investment the company and their previous creative efforts.

Reduces value

In addition to devaluing the creative effort, speculative jobs also significantly dilute the value of the client/designer relationship. One could argue, that there may in fact be no relationship!

Undervalues the entire profession and industry

I don’t believe that designers should participate in speculative bids at all. Consider for a moment that designers that do participate in speculative work are undervaluing our shared profession. In fact, they are encouraging the behavior by allowing clients to dangle the carrot in our faces, backed by promises of more work “down the line” or payment “if the client likes the work done”. Usually, the “additional work” never materializes and, certainly within the Jamaican context, nor does payment!

So when is it OK to do Speculative work?

I wish I could say never, but that’s really not realistic. Certainly if the request for proposal makes mention of compensation (with a specific dollar amount) for time spent on coming up with the creative concept – then knock yourself out. Outside of that – I suggest that designers should be more professional in their approach to this aspect of their business.

How to spot a “scam”…

If asked to produce speculative work, the first thing I always ask myself is why does this client making this request in the first place. Is it due to a lack of understanding of the industry? Perhaps there isn’t enough money in their budget? Do they understand marketing? Will they be a difficult client to work with in the long term?

NOTE: It is important to note that advertising agencies often participate in speculative bids, however when you consider that they do so in an effort to not only showcase their creativity, but also back that creativity with an entire marketing plan for their potential client in the process, all with a view to obtaining rather large contract (usually all marketing work for a particular client or campaign), that approach is perfectly fine. However, for a freelancer or a small design firm to take the same approach, and for just a brochure, book cover, logo design or website home page, is pointless, and counter productive.

Back online

So recently, wordpress, the gizmo that I use to run this little blog of mine, kicked me out of my own website. You see, I forgot my password, and it, wordpress, refused to send it to me via the ‘forgot my password’ system.

I knew how to resolve the issue (technical mumbojumbo ahead), that is by signing into my server, running over to PHPMyAdmin, opening up the MySQL database and changing the email address manually in the appropriate table, (end technospeak), but with all my various obligations, i’ve really just not had the time – that is, until now.

For the first weekend in months, I did really very little by way of work. I was able to take my dog for a walk, go walk through the hardware store in search of weed killer for my lawn (the didn’t have any). Later tonight, in anticipation of the ever so stressful week that I know awaits me as of tomorrow, Monday morning – I’ll have a drink, watch a rented movie and possibly get a good night’s sleep for the first time in a long time.

Other than that, it’s good to be back online.

Got Air?

This morning, after about a week or more of driving around with soft tires, I decided to bite the bullet and take the time before rolling into work to get my tires pumped, check the oil, get some gas… that wonderful stuff. Getting the gas was easy enough but after doing that, I literally wasted time going from one gas station to the next in search of what seems to be an endangered species… a working air pump complete with hose!

Gas station after gas station… this was what I came across:

Got Air?

On my second stop, and out of total curiosity, I asked one of the more helpful than usual gas station attendants to shed some light on the air hoses, or the wide reaching shortage thereof. Explaination?

Are you ready for it…

Sure?? Are you sitting down?

Ok… she said the ‘cokeheads’ take them at nights, and regularly. “Wi ti’ad fi change dem faada” was the exact phrase used (translation for my non-Jamaican friends : “We are rather frustrated with the frequency with which we must change the hoses here Sir.”)

Apparently, ‘coke heads’ use the hoses to ‘tie off’ their arms, or something like that. Although, that sounds more like a heroin addict to me, but whatever… the point remains the same… there’s no air to be had in much of the corporate area.

After about two more stops, and with my day already off to a late start due to this unexpected quest, I was able to find sweet relief however.

My relief came in the form of a rather snazzy air pump, almost hidden between two parked vehicles a the Matilda’s Corner Texaco. (By the way, who was Matilda, and why is their a corner named after her?) See below:

Hot air baby!

This beauty was a joy to use. No crank up dial that looked like something circa 1962… nope, this one was all digital baby!! Whoohoo!! At first, when I connected it up to the tire, I expected the usual ‘psssst…. ting ting ting ting….’, but nope… this baby was quiet at first, then she got kickin! :D

The large LCD display told me clearly what the PSI in the tire was, while it pumped, and then when it was all finished a nice clear beep could be heard each and every time.

Needless to say, although I ‘thought’ I had only one soft tire, all four turned out to need air and I was delighted to hear it beep each and every time.

The hose, by the way, for all ye coke heads that may be in need of your next fix, seems to be a different sort of reinforced coil looking thing… similar to something you’d see in the pit stop at a nascar race.

Well done!!

2005, in review

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. Certainly I could say that I’ve been busy, which could to some extent be true. However, the honest truth really is that I’ve not been motivated to spend any time online in recent weeks, or months.

Truth be told, I spend maybe 80% of my waking hours in front of, or, doing business related to the computer, or more specifically, the internet. This grand plan of mine therefore, to create and maintain a blog really isn’t working as intended I’m afraid.

Yes, I wanted an outlet for some of my thoughts, but having them online, really makes it feel more like work sometimes.. However, since I’m not one that likes to start something and not finish it (my ill-fated treadmill purchase and short-lived exercise programme aside), I’ll try to stick to the plan.

Another reason for my absence from my blog over the past few months, other than an obvious lack of interest, has really been stress, both in my personal and professional life.

Personally, and especially during December things were very rough. I, well, we (the family) really, lost a dear friend shortly after Christmas from gastro-intestinal cancer. It was for us all, a very sad, although expected loss, as Theresa Yap, or Terry as we all called her, was a very vibrant person that would just light up a room when she came in. Humble, and unassuming, and never one to say a bad word about anyone, or anything for that matter – she was really a sweetheart, and we all miss her a great deal.

Theresa Yap

I guess also, with her passing away at such a young age (only 42), I couldn’t help but think about my own life and what I want to accomplish with it, and how short it could possibly be. Additionally, I couldn’t help but feel it deeply for her mother and children, nor could I prevent my mind at times from drifting away to various ‘dark places’ that we all, I’m sure, venture to from time to time, but try our best not to, or at least forget. Needless to say, it was a very emotional time for us all, but we believe that now, Terry is really in a better place without the pain and suffering she endured for almost a year.

On the business side of my life, the last year was particularly stressful – perhaps the single most stressful year since I started my business back in 2001. In January 05, I had to, despite many financial setbacks, begin the unexpected process of having to relocate the business. Ultimately, the move we made was good, as the new location we now have is far more comfortable. Later in the year, we focused on getting our operations streamlined to cope with the increase in demand for our creative services. I replaced some of the ‘dead wood’ that I had either planted in the first place, or allowed to grow for too long and now, I’m actually very optimistic about 2006 as far as the business is concerned. I’m sincerely looking forward to the challenges that this year will bring. Needless to say, that what I’ve mentioned above doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the hardships that I and my company faced during 05, but, I’m determined to make this year better than the last, and have, most importantly, a positive long term outlook on things, no matter how dismal they may seem in the short term. I’m going to try, as Terry did too, to stop ever so often to enjoy the more simple things in life, and simply not allow work to overwhelm me as I have been one to do in the past. That’s not to say that I won’t continue to work hard to ensure that the future of my company is secure, and indeed those of my employees (who I really admire on different levels and look out for), but, I’m going to also try to sleep at nights and not make my work stress haunt my slumber.

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