Chris Croft's Personal Blog

December 27, 2010

We might live for ever

Filed under: Happiness, News and Politics, Time Management — chriscroft @ 11:21 am

There are two main ways that we might live for ever, or at least for a lot longer than any previous generations

(Do we WANT to live for ever? Will we go mad if we do? What about over population etc? Would death be even more scary if it was optional rather than inevitable? These are important questions but not my subject here)

1 – Genetic Advances

Recently there has been a mouse in the news that has not only been made to live longer
but has actually had its age REDUCED from human equivalent 80 to 40 years old. If they can get that in humans I’d be delighted to be reduced from 80 back to 40, when I reach 80! In fact, right now 50 to 25 sounds pretty good…

Did you now that none of your cells are the same ones that you had in your body a year ago? They are constantly replaced, and so there is no real reason why you have to age at all, and it’s only recently that biologists have been finding out why we do age. It’s not the accumulation of small copying errors, but seems to be a built in (genetic) limit to the number of times the cells are allowed to renew. What if this limit was switched off by a cunning gene therapy process…?

2 – Backing up your brain

This is a bit further into the future, but very interesting. The idea is that you back up the contents of your brain before setting off to work, (maybe not every day!) and then if you have an accident and get killed you simply restore the contents of your brain into another body.

The body could even be a clone of yours, grown in a lab.

Or it could be the body of a 20 year old, or of the type that you wish you’d had first time around. In fact, why not do it even if you don’t get killed? Maybe check that the new one is working and then switch off the old one…?

Would it really be you? Well if you feel that the real you is in your head, as I do, then yes.

You’d need a trusted friend to do the restoring if you had an accident and got killed, but that could be arranged I suppose.

So in summary, with either of the above, we don’t have to die, at least not when we’re 80 or 90. I find that quite encouraging!


December 18, 2010

Happy Christmas – but how?

Filed under: Assertiveness, Gadgets, Happiness, Lists — chriscroft @ 10:43 am

Everyone says it, but many people seem to not achieve it. So I’ve been thinking, and plundering my little happiness book, and here are ten things you can do to have a happier Christmas – I hope they work for you!

1. Reduce stress during the lead-up by having one jobs to do list of everything.

2. Focus on the good things rather than the annoying, both in the future (look forward rather than dread), the present (find things to savour, focus on the tiny pleasures of each day, find a way to enjoy even the chores), and the past (after each day think of three good things to give thanks for. Let the bad things go, they are in the past).

3. Make the most of your relatives – the kids are what make Christmas magical and the old ones may not be around many more years, so make the most of the time you have, maybe ask them about their lives, maybe they have incredible stories to tell

4. Get outside in the fresh air, even if it’s snowing. As the Norwegians say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!

5. Get some exercise – it releases stress, makes you sleep better, and gives you a feeling of achievement.

6. Make someone else happy – is there a lonely person in your street, or someone you can help with something? You’ll reap what you sow, one way or another.

7. Do one or two unpleasant things that you have been putting off. Use some of the time to do something like clear out the shed, so you get a feeling of achievement rather than a feeling of having wasted the time.

8. De-clutter: can you throw away more stuff than you are going to receive for Christmas? This would give you a feeling of achievement and avoid that feeling of one’s house gradually filling up…

9. Make a list of things that you like doing but haven’t had time to do during the year but will do during the break, and maybe even schedule them into your diary. For example, I’m going to restart meditation for 20 minutes a day, investigate and learn about Goldmine, finish off my job to do iPhone app, (it’s nearly ready!), work on my perpetual calendar idea (yes, that IS my idea of fun!), maybe try Tai-Chi, and write/record some songs on my 8-track Tascam. Your list may well be different!

10. Take stock – rather than think of a couple of short term resolutions for the new year like “Watch less TV” have a proper think about what was good in 2010 that you’d like to continue or do more of, what was less good that you want to change in 2011, and what new things would you like to start doing.

So – have a good one!

onwards and upwards


The perceived pay-offs of negative emotions

Filed under: Assertiveness, Happiness — chriscroft @ 10:40 am

A while ago went to a really interesting talk on happiness, given by Shane Mulhall of The School of Economic Science.

The main thrust was that we cover up our problems with things like drinking, shopping, comparing and competing, striving for power and control, belittling others, etc, and that rather than cover up our problems we should confront them and remove them.

So the first step is to stop covering up – stop things like the above (which fall into physical pursuits and mental strategies, both of which lead nowhere because they can never be satisfied, and even if you could satisfy them you’d then only be bored!) and think about what it is that really makes you unhappy, deep down. Maybe it’s feeling inferior, maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s not knowing where you’re going, maybe it’s the person you live with, whatever it might be.

The next thing they said was that you can’t force there to be more happiness, you have to remove the unhappiness, like removing storm clouds and letting the sun through. The happiness is there all the time, it’s just covered up by unhappiness, which doesn’t have to be there all the time. Interesting!

So, once you’ve identified what’s making you unhappy, you have to let it go. Apparently we hold on to things that make us unhappy because we think there is some happiness to be gained from them (and in the short term there might be). Once you realise that it’s only going to bring you pain it’s much easier to get rid of something.

For example, think of grieving over a pet that has died. What happiness does this bring us? Why do we do it? Assuming we do choose to do it, which is of course a big question! But according to Shane Mulhall we do choose it, because we get some sort of pay off, maybe to show ourselves that we did really love the pet? Maybe also the consolation we get from others? But once we realise that these are unconstructive and that it’s pretty much a negative emotion we can maybe reduce it or remove it completely. By the way I’m not trying to belittle bereavement of people or pets in any way, but this might help a person to cope with it without it affecting their lives too adversely.

It would have been easier to take negative emotions like worry, regret, anger or jealousy – you can those yourself – but it’s interesting that even something like grief can be examined from the point of view of why we cling on to it when it makes us unhappy.

Linked to this, they said that there is no unhappiness (or fear) in the present, only in the past and the future. There’s looking back with sadness, and there’s fearing the future, but if you can live in the present then you can beat these negative emotions.

These are pretty deep subjects, but I thought you might find them thought provoking and helpful, so there they are. By the way, you can get a CD of the talk I went to for £8 from I think it’s a bargain.

December 16, 2010

Enjoying your job

Filed under: Careers, Customer Care, Happiness, Managing People — chriscroft @ 7:10 pm

I thought I’d be a bit controversial and say that if you don’t enjoy your job at least some of the time it’s going to show in terms of the service you give to your customers (internal as well as external), and it’s not good for you, the company, the customers, anyone really. You have to CARE about your job. If not, something’s got to change! So let’s examine…. Enjoying your job

Is it reasonable to say that anyone can enjoy their work, and that everyone should be doing do, if not they must make changes in their life? What about the boring jobs that just have to be done, and the people that can’t, for whatever reason, do their dream job?

There is a person for every job; there is always someone who’ll enjoy a particular job. Maggot farming, toilet cleaning, coal mining, whatever job some people would hate to do, there are others who love it. I love doing talks to groups of people every day – many people would regard this as hell! Of course you aren’t going to find something that’s100% brilliant 100% of the time, but “pretty good most of the time” is surely achievable.

There’s a job for every person:
if you can only find it, if you only knew what it was, there is a job out there that you would enjoy, and which you are capable of (though might need a bit of training first, there’s no problem with that). It’s your duty, maybe even your life purpose, to find it!

A plan for you:

1 – Make your job into your ideal job. This can sometimes be done, by negotiating with your boss. The appraisal process can help, if there is one. It may require a series of small steps rather than one big one. The idea is to move towards doing more of the things you like, and are good at. Many bosses would welcome someone saying “I’d like to get more into doing X because that’s what interests me”.

2 – If you really can’t change anything, make the best of what you have. Maybe it’s possible to find a way to enjoy what you do at the moment, it’s just a state of mind. Meditation, patience, focussing on the customers, or on the small stuff, or on the good bits, or on the team you work with, or on making the world better, may help. Trying to be the best at whatever it is you do. Getting some training so you can gradually move up through into more interesting parts of the work may be another way. If there really is no way to do this, then…

3 – You CAN leave your current job if you don’t like it. If you feel trapped by mortgage, pension etc then think creatively about ways to live on less money, work on your dream in our spare time until it’s ready to take off, etc. Take your time to find out your true vocation. Consider paying for a personality profile or talk to a specialist. You only get one life! But make sure you have fully explored option 1 before you go to this one, as option 1 might offer much more than you realise.

Onwards and upwards!


December 8, 2010

Winter Tyres – worth it for the UK?

Filed under: Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 9:23 pm

Here is a summary of the comments I’ve had sent in

(note – we’re not talking studded tyres, just the ones with the rubber that stays softer in cold weather, and has a better tread pattern for snow and ice)

Reasons in favour

– they could save your life!
– they are great in snow, and pretty good though not a magic solution to ice
– the cost of the tyres is almost zero since you are not wearing out your other tyres

Arguments against

– they perform worse in warmer weather – which we do get a lot of in this country even in winter
– the hassle of storing them in the summer and swapping them over. Either you have to have the tyres changed over, or you need a set of five extra wheels, probably steel ones, and get them changed. Some garages store them for you, if you have a friendly local one. Changing five wheels yourself at home would indeed be a total hassle, and even transporting them to the garage would be quite a pain.
– insurance may be invalidated by anything non-standard, including winter tyres (in Germany they are the law, but int he UK they are still regarded as not normal)
– they still won’t protect you from other drivers sliding into you while you are stopped (I have had this!) and from getting trapped in traffic that is stopped
– after three years when you change your car you are stuck with five wheels which may not fit your next car
– will the steel rims look awful? If one has a lovely A5, for example, this may be a factor. Or will the steel rims look kind of cool in a rough tough winter sort of a way? But remember the winter tyres and wheels might be narrower than your normal low profiilers, so they will bite into the snow better but will look thin.
– if the winter turns out to be mild you’ll be really irritated that you went through all the hassle!

Hmm, overall I’m thinking it’s not worth it….

December 1, 2010

My iPad day

Filed under: Gadgets, Happiness, Time Management — chriscroft @ 8:45 pm

I struggled to justify buying this beautiful but expensive thing, but I now find it indispensable. The following is not an exaggeration, it really is a typical day. I hope it helps my readers justify entering the lovely iPad world!

Woken by alarm – on iPad
Listen to music while in bathroom and shower (iPad playing through its built in speaker)
Breakfast, instead of newspaper a quick browse of BBC website using free news app, marmalade on iPad wipes off.

Drive to work – traffic! Use google maps to see which roads are blocked and replan route. Large screen and pinch zoom invaluable for this.

Arrive a bit early, check emails. Instant on is much better than my laptop, and screen keypad fine for even quite long replies.
Work – might use mind map, or calculator.
Check emails briefly in the breaks.

Customer wants to book another date, “do you have a Wednesday free in February?”, using google diary and Calengoo app to view month at a time, works really well, my paper Filofax has finally bitten the dust, sad, but this is backed up and viewable by Sally back at home

Lunch time – check jobs to do, using google tasks, can view on phone but iPad is easier to see

Need to phone Fred, list of contacts is on iPad if number not in phone memory
After work, drive to next city, now in hotel, want to find curry, google map search on iPad, maybe street view to check it’s correct
Google curry reviews to find best one, iPad great for Internet
Walk to Balti World, use google maps to see length of route (is it worth driving?) and view progress along the way (was it left or straight on at the park?)

Waiting for curry, look at Facebook and chat with friends, more sociable than phone in restaurant

Back at hotel, mark an assignment using Word on Office2HD and update their progress on the google spreadsheet
What’s on TV? – free iPad app for that is great
Nothing decent on though, so watch something on iPlayer instead, free via BBC website, works really well with iPad on knees in warm bed
Phone wife – can’t use iPad for that, though could in theory view photos of her while on phone….
Set alarm,
Goodnight all!

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