the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

Christmas, Snow and New Year

It's late January, but never too late to mark the New Year. Christmas was a nice break, we had a bit more melt-almost-immediately snow in the days after Christmas (and - apparently - a dusting this past weekend - I was in Hull where there was more than a dusting, but that doesn't count for London reckoning), and now it's 2018.

I'm not nuts about 2018. Aesthetically, it's not a nice number, I liked the look of 2017 better. Oddly, I think 1918 looks better than 1917, but there is no reason to either preference, they're numbers dammit. I may also be a little negative because I know I'll mis-type the date for probably at least another month before muscle memory corrects itself, but then I didn't mind that so much a year ago.

I think that I am also less than enthused about the new calendar year because it's 2018, and we are very close to the end of this decade (3 years away, I hasten to note, not 2, but still). Did I feel the same in 2008? I probably did. We will soon be in the Twenties again, but with worse architecture.

Also, 2018 marks a century since the end of World War 1. Another important event in the century I was born into, and which shaped me, and the world I grew up in, will have happened over a century ago. It's a reminder of mortality, I guess. The centenaries will keep coming, and then I won't be around to see them anymore.

Anyhow, enough of that. Happy 2018!

{2018.01.23 16:47} : Comments (0)

Snow Report 2017

I was remiss in January of this year and didn't blog about the snow we had. Rather late than never: we had some snow in January. And a hint more in December 2016, as I recall. Disappointing, as has become the norm: some heavy dustings, enough for a meagre snowman and nothing since.

This year, pretty much the same, without the snowmen. We had some snow yesterday - falling pretty heavily, which was really nice, but not sticking around, not the kind of stuff you trudge through thinking "I love snow", just the kind that turns to mud on the ground and leaves your jeans permanently mud-splattered and you thinking "is this it?".

I live in hope.

{2017.12.11 22:51} : Comments (0)

Getting Things Done I

For years, every January sees a (broken) resolution about doing All Of The Things. Then come November (my birthday month), when I write my 'Reflections on Turning X' (which I like to do), it invariably has a gripe about how I wish I was on top of All Of The Things.

This is November, and the gripe was weighing on me this year as much as ever. So to get on top of All Of The Things, I started using Trello and bought Getting Things Done, by David Allen. It was first recommended to me nearly 14 years ago, and I've seen it mentioned a number of times since.

I've started reading it, and so far rather like it. The book describes a process for dealing with, well, All Of The Things. The main thrust of which is that you need to 'capture' everything you need to do or are thinking about, by writing it down, getting it on paper or into an In Tray. Then you 'clarify', which boils down to making an up-front decision about what to do about something, generally a 'next action', or just filing it or throwing it out, and then you do some organising and review everything regularly and yadda yadda. The latter part of that is rather vague, but that's because I'm still in the early stages of the book.

The capturing is the bit I'm most caught up in at the moment. The book's promise (premise, too) is that by getting everything out of your head and on paper, you begin to relax more because you know you have it written down and have a system that's going to take care of it. But it has to be everything, for your mind to trust it.

I started capturing, but at first it was anything but relaxing. Instead, it was as if I'd opened up a floodgate, and allowed a zillion repressed thoughts and ideas and worries to come out and play. I had insomnia for a couple of nights - I'd wake up in wee hours and start thinking about things, and "I really should write down..." (which isn't so easy at 3 in the morning in the dark with kids who bounce out of bed ready for the day at the slightest hint of parents waking up). Within about 5 days I'd filled up 16 pages of TODOs in my little notebook.

But then a funny thing happened. Only 2 new items made it to my list today. After nearly a week since I started, I can't think of more stuff to capture. And what's more, I've probably knocked off more small tasks in the past few days than I had all month. Regardless, if it accomplishes nothing other than me being more relaxed about the things I'm not doing, then that's better than before.

{2017.11.22 21:42} : Comments (0)

Boys' Weekend

Ronwen's away for a long weekend, so it's a boys' weekend at home. Today is putting-off-doing-the-DIY and pizza and halloween chocolate mini-rolls. In other words, pretty much the same as if Mom were home but with a bit more "I want moooooommy" from time to time.

One small consolation for being at home without my dearest wife is that I get to sleep with the bedroom curtains open. On Thursday night that meant waking up during the night with heavy rain against our bedroom window.

I love the experience. It reminds me of one of my res rooms when I was university. My bed was right next to the window during what turned out to be a really wet summer, and I would regularly be woken up during storms with rain hammering against the glass right next to me.

The difference being that in the carefree days of being an idle student, I'd just go 'aaaaaaah I love rain' and roll over and go back to sleep, whereas on Thursday night I drifted off to sleep again thinking "dammit, I really need to fix the roof of the garden shed."

{2017.10.21 11:57} : Comments (0)


I went to Budapest this past weekend. It's a beautiful city.

That is only sort of tangentially what this post is about.

Architecturally, Budapest is not London, but shopping-wise, it boasts many of the same retailers. And so you get that strange experience of the familiar with the unfamiliar.

The thing that tickled me the most, though, was that the hotel restaurant had Rama margarine, same logo and everything. What had hitherto felt like a quintessentially South African thing actually turns out to have been just another Unilever brand, kicking around in Germany for nearly a century, and available in over 96 countries.

At least we have Ouma.

{2017.09.15 22:16} : Comments (0)

John Wick: A review in one line

They killed his dog and stole his car, so he shot them all in the face. Entertaining.

{2017.08.26 22:03} : Comments (0)


Trump is something the nation did not know it needed:

Fastidious people who worry that the president's West Virginia and Ohio performances - the alpha male as crybaby - diminished the presidency are missing the point, which is: For now, worse is better. Diminution drains this office of the sacerdotal pomposities that have encrusted it. There will be 42 more months of this president's increasingly hilarious-beyond-satire apotheosis of himself, leavened by his incessant whining about his tribulations...

People forget that all the power they want their team to have to get things done, doesn't stay with their team forever.

{2017.07.29 22:49} : Comments (0)

Fly Tipping

This was all over the papers today: Travellers leave bath tubs, fridges and mattresses behind among 250 tonnes of waste after being evicted from field .

We've been following the story for the past few weeks. The field is just down the road from where we used to live, and my cycle route to and from work still takes me past it. With the recent heat, the area is starting to smell decidedly fruity, and I can't imagine the people in the expensive houses across the road are enjoying life very much at the moment.

A few years ago (when we still lived close by), plans were put forward to build flats on this field, and we got letters in our post boxes and petitions trying to prevent the development. Density and traffic and character of the neighbourhood etc etc. NIMBYism must've won, because nothing happened with the field. So when we first saw mention of the rubbish, I had chuckled and thought the owners would probably be saying "serves you right, enjoy the stench".

Reading this article though, the field is apparently co-owned by a group of local owners. Perhaps they bought up the land after the last episode? Were these the owners who were trying to develop the land?

Imaginations in the M-P household are running riot. Is there more to this than meets the eye? 250 tonnes of waste in 2 weeks, including bath tubs and fridges? That's industrial scale "doing stuff", but what? Nefrarious plots and schemes to reduce the value of the land before some developer swoops in to buy it and sling up flats, with local residents saying "fine, anything but more Travellers"? I wonder.

{2017.07.24 21:38} : Comments (0)

Somerdale to Skarbimierz

A long but interesting article in the London Review of Books: Somerdale to Skarbimierz: James Meek follows Cadbury to Poland (via).

It covers the moving of one of Cadbury's factories from the UK to Poland, Cadbury's takeover by Kraft, how Poland has grown post-communism, helped by EU funding, the general migration of jobs to Eastern Europe, but without the kind of economic security which wealthy Western countries had previously enjoyed. All that, tied into Brexit and the effect on UK communities as well as Poland's current right-wing, increasingly authoritarian political landscape.

Overall I disagree with Meek's conclusions about the economics of it all, but there's enough reality in the article to challenge whichever political viewpoint one might hold. One can't ignore the social cost and injustices highlighted in the article, yet neither can one ignore the extent to which regulation and lots of state money results in perverse incentives and corporate capture.

My favourite line of the article is this:

These countries, until recently, were totally indifferent; they didn't pay attention to even more painful processes going on in Eastern Europe. The only advice they had for us back then was for us to work harder. We took it as good advice.

{2017.07.05 23:15} : Comments (0)

That Turned Out Well

UK elections are over. Can the divisions now heal, the nation asks? I think not, if my Facebook feed is anything to go by. Everybody still hates everybody else.


  • Theresa May: hubris, meet nemesis.

  • Jeremy Corbyn: meet the opposition benches. Again.

  • Everybody else: soz.

{2017.06.13 22:09} : Comments (0)

Being offline

Technology is great but I don't like the idea of voice-activated personal assistance devices, thank you, especially ones with an internet connection and which connect to the mothership.

At the same time, it's a given I think that they're going to become ubiquitous.

This xkcd hits the nail on the head. How will society deal with this 'intrusion' into our privacy? Do we get to the point where you go to visit someone and have to politely ask them what devices they have, and to unplug them from the wall? What about smart mobile phones?

{2017.04.17 22:59} : Comments (0)

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