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When do new technologies become mainstream? From my position the answer is a simple one - when my mum uses them.
She never did really work out how to set the video, but since she mainly watches repeats of Bargain Hunt on UK Style (and it's always, but always on) that doesn't matter so much. She can send a text, although quite often leaves her 'phone at home, and happily surfs the web. As she hasn't quite got the idea of windows based computing every program is launched full screen. This is fine when you're emailing or reading a site, but not so much when I've tried to teach her instant messaging.
The first question people like my mum ask when told about a new gadget or service is "what does it do?", but they really mean "what will it do to help me?". The main barrier to mainstream acceptance isn't always ease of use, it's the obvious benefit.
VOIP was an easy one (free calls to her brother in Holland), and despite that being a little tricky it's now ingrained in her routine. I've been thinking a lot recently about how to sell ideas where the benefits are a little more abstract, in the short term at least.
RSS (people have given up and decided that it stands for Really Simple Syndication, it probably doesn't) is something that has allowed me to consume vast amounts of information incredibly quickly. It changed my reading habits, and as such my attitudes to all sorts of ideas - but that's a not the immediate gain for most, who may well think that reading more just means reading more rubbish.
Life makes me laugh. As did the advert I saw on the side of a bus yesterday in Watford:
Wanted: customer-focused bus drivers to earn ÃÂ£400 + per week.
Although I like bus drivers to be polite (and they generally are in Brum), I'd much prefer my drivers to be road-focused, or even traffic-focused.
Well done, Arriva.
For two nights running last week, BBC 1 has offered me primetime entertainment, courtesy of two old-school alpha males with dubious dress sense and even more dubious people management skills - both of whom I've found strangely compelling whilst being the most awful adverts for mankind.
The return of The Apprentice has reconfirmed that:
a) I really like running my co-owned company and am not ready to dance to someone else's tune,
b) just about anyone I've ever met in the creative sector could wipe the floor with the Sugar wannabees and
c) the show is less about finding a suitable heir for Sir Alan than providing Auntie with a slightly-more reputable middle-management, middle-class, mid-week version of Big Brother.
Hapless Nick, the floppy-haired, goatee-sporting barrister, seemed to lose the power of speech in front of the great man who said he was "no Mary Poppins". Yep, dead right Sir Alan - Mary Poppins was really scary. I loved this programme in its first series on BBC 2 when it still had teeth, but now it's been tumble-dried into something suitable for the masses. Then again, a spoonful of Sugar on a Wednesday night does make the week go down somewhat more easily.
And so on to my second hero, from Ashes to Ashes: Gene Hunt: a misogynistic, racist, homophobic copper in the Met whose core values could not be further from my own. But oh my, what most of womankind would give to be banged up by him.
Both great entertainers, albeit in different ways, but good role models for young men? I think not.
The grandchildren are fighting. Again. It's getting louder each time. Strawberry is responsible for starting this.
*To see the news story generated by this post click here.
A storm in a teacup (or perhaps a tiny mug, as will become clear), but I feel that my rather pretentious "cultural commentator" tag gives me licence to open up a bit of a debate.
Tomorrow (that's Sunday, March 30 as I write this) at the mac there's an auction of hundreds of puppets which have been hidden away in a basement for 15 years. I've previewed it in an earlier blog and the Post has done the same in good old fashioned newsprint.
During the weeklong jubilee of creation, the great Googly Moogly must have stopped for a couple of pints midweek and got his wicked cap on.
On that afternoon, he engineered some of the more irksome things on the planet: the pubic louse, the common pigeon, the traffic warden and... the ticket tout.
These scum-sucking leaches were never designed to inherit the earth, but they will flog it on for five times its face value given half a chance.
There's something obscene to me, a lifelong music fan, in seeing the dozens of Sex Pistols tickets already for sale on eBay. Prices have already topped ÃÂ£100 and they'll go much higher in the week the auctions run.
These people are not Sex Pistols fans, they're chancers out to make a fast buck from those who weren't able to get through to the ticket lines or websites.
About five years ago I mistakenly took a job at a company where I didn't have the Internet, I was desperate, and I only lasted about a month. It didn't help that the job itself was deathly-dull (writing the manuals for insurance software), but not being able to check my emails all day was the real killer. This Easter I was away in Torquay, could get my emails and surf on my iPhone, but by Saturday morning the lack of full-screen internet was bugging me that much that I went and bought a 3G modem for my laptop.
In five years the level of online communication has increased and diversified for me to the extent that only the whole interweb will do, no portals, no walled gardens, not even the global instant-messaging of twitter via my mobile is enough constant information.
So, am I addicted to the internet?
I can't imagine what it was like before the internet - well I can. I used to gorge on magazines, fanzines, the music press especially. I'd do things like cut myself shaving because I'd have the NME propped up on the sink and my eyes on the latest thoughts from Ride (site is loud, beware) or These Animal Men.
In journalism, there's such a thing as an 'editor's must'. Meaning broadly that whatever the editor tells you to do, you do - and are grateful for the privilege.
As a seasoned (or at least partly pickled) journalist, I've got used to this over time. But in a personal first, this time I've actually been ordered to go down the pub. Being ordered to do something you were going to do anyway is a gratifying, but mildly unnerving experience. It's as if you were a squaddy woken up at reveille, to find your drill sergeant bellowing at you to stay in bed and have a bit of rest.
It's all research to a writer. We savour every experience, each observation, people, places, smells, sounds. They can all be filed away for possible use in some as yet unimagined and unimaginable piece.
Like the beige ceiling up there with its slightly crooked tiles made of what looks like old fashioned pinboard surrounding the blue-tinged neon strip lighting, the screaming children, the adults with eyes mimicking those snail head feelers, the cold wet sensation across my naked shoulders from the pimply tiles which contrasts with the warm streams of dark red blood flowing down my chest to clash strangely with the scarlet stripes on my swimming shorts.
And of course, the bloke with the very hairy chest and shoulders pinning me flat on my back and preventing me from getting up like one of those ancient black and white ATV wrestling bouts with commentary by Kent Walton.
I have no desire to wish away Arch's infant years, but sometimes I find myself thinking wistfully of the days when I could curl up on the sofa and read a book.
Whenever I attempt this at the moment, Arch, who is not yet two, snatches the book from my hands and pretends to read it himself before tearing it up.
That's why my heart sank when I saw a new book called Toddling to Ten: Your Common Parenting Problems Solved had been published.
Compiled by Hollie Smith, it offers advice ranging from matters like "living with loss" (how to help a child cope with bereavement) to "job done" (how to get your kids to do the things they don't want to do.)
"Very useful," I thought, "especially the stuff on eating and sleeping and sharing, but when am I going to find time to read it?"