Archive for the ‘K J Foxhall Blog’ Category

For further information, please go to the new website:

https://kjfoxhall.co.uk/blogposts/2018/04/reach-for-the-stars-what-would-be-your-message-in-a-bottle

Message in a small bottle

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For further information, please go to the new blog site:

https://kjfoxhall.co.uk/blogposts/2018/04/mega-blok-castles-in-the-sky

I remember years ago coordinating an article for Lotus Magma about unusual job titles. If I had a quirky LinkedIn job title, I think it would definitely be the above. When I think of time travel, I think Dr Who, hence the cover picture, which was taken at the Dr Who Experience in Cardiff by Neil Thompson. Ideally, I would have sketched something for this blog, but didn’t have the time, so on the to-do list it goes.

Like most people, I bend time, like Beckham bends footballs. It is imperative for my job, as well as my personal life that the ducks stay in a row, the balls say up in the air and any other choice phrases one think of. It has been more than once that I have managed to compress 20 hours of work into 7, and then go home and deal with a highly energetic toddler. But this is something that most working parents have to do, though I don’t know how many have been at a self service check-out, looked away for a second, only to find their toddler is up on the scanner trying to put themselves through as an item.
I often think about what we can fit into the limited time we have available. For example, what you can do in 20 minutes.

In 20 minutes I can easily walk from one end of the square mile to the other, I can swim three-quarters of a mile, write and publish an article, play with the Monster and thoroughly wear them out and much more.
In the most recent installment of The Dragon Realm Chronicles, I detailed that one of the characters was working on a campaign to extend our day to 30 hours. It does sound very unlikely that such a change would happen in our lifetime, but never say never. I will be covering more in book 5, which will hopefully be released this year.

While I believe that increasing a day to 30 hours is unrealistic, a 28-hour day might just work. We live longer, we would get more done, granted our retirement years would be shorter but some people can spend decades retired. That topic alone I feel would be the most contentious, take the non-work years away from your future, to get more done in the day now, who can honestly be appointed to determine that? Our government? Oh dear.

A few months ago, after work, in 20 minutes I had collected shopping, went to Starbucks to wait for a friend, and penned (well on the laptop) another chapter of book four. I then wondered how many performances have been written in Starbucks.

Interestingly, as I proofed and wrote, and rewrote sections of the final scenes of book 4, a woman next to me had just finished writing a script, all she had to do was write the lyrics (so I overheard as she spoke on her mobile). She was in yesterdays clothes and the final scenes had really taken it out of her, but she and I were clearly sharing a kindred few moments. Writing takes over you, not the other way around. This is also common with artists, it is like it tears you apart if you do not finish what you started, and sometimes it can take years to finish a piece.

Apparently J K Rowling went through the same thing when she finished Harry Potter. She was in a hotel room and she had just finished the final scenes, it was complete and ready for proofing and she burst into tears. That was her joy and relief moment, her journey for many years had reached an end. Well, a pause, we all know that more followed after.

I often hear music when I finish a piece of writing, or finish some artwork. that’s how I know it is truly finished.

I often look at Monster and wonder if they will experience the same thing as they grow up, they certainly have the temperament and the belligerence that follow the Fox bloodline, but I think their creativity will flow more analytically than visually.

Time travel is always something that has fascinated me, I am working on a new book at present which details my take on the subject. It is fiction again, but as with all of my books, they interlink with one another and there is always some element of truth behind the fantasy, based on research and developments either from historical scientific accounts or modern day developments.

Watch this space.

It has been a slow Christmas and New Year for me on the productivity front. Mainly due to this little outbreak:

Also, I am still trying to get used to the new tablet, which I think I have bought every accessory on the planet for, just to make it user-friendly (keyboard, hardback stand, laptop stand, wireless mouse and so on).

I had a laptop before (a lovely lightweight Lenovo), which if you read my previous post you will see that I gave it to my mother as a Christmas present, and I was continuously battling Android’s system of trying to do the impossible, and amend a document offline. Well that is still an ongoing battle, and as a result, not only do I have insufficient hands, but said operating system is providing to be just as useful as my nerve-damaged, physically scared extremities.

The issue with the hands is simply severe dermatitis which has gone untreated for so many years. Thank you NHS. It is now so bad that not only does it look horrific, but my nerves are affected making typing painful, and just doing anything with my hands a chore. I don’t have fingerprints, creams, potions, prescriptions don’t do anything, I just have to grin and bear it.

As for the issue with Android, I can only assume the functionality was created by a frustrated Apple fan (or perhaps a cunning Apple moonlighter), who was never going to use Android.

The good thing about Monster growing up is that Christmas is becoming more and more interesting again. I feel you reach that point in adulthood where Christmas just isn’t magical anymore, not like when you were a child anyway and so the blessing is that when you have a child you see everything through their eyes again like it was the first time.

To more of my delight, it appears my 21 month old monster is properly following their parents and is a petrol head, or a little speed freak. We have now learnt that four wheels are so last year! This was validated one day when Monster decided to disembark and abandon their Paw Patrol ride-on in the park and run after another child for their two-wheeler ride-on.

When my father-in-law asked what Monster wanted for Christmas, I recanted the story and said ‘something on two wheels’, to which he and his partner bought a balance bike.

It fits Monster perfectly, and surprisingly Monster wears the mandatory bought helmet to go with it, which is amazing considering we can never get Monster to wear a hat, or put up their hood.

Monster is also becoming accustomed to many vehicles on the road, they love buses, cars, lorries and Monster trucks. We even took Monster to watch lorry racing at Brands Hatch a few months ago, and around the same time, when we went to ‘spec up’ a new van, Monster loved running up and down the inside of a long-wheeled based VW Crafter. Fingers crossed it won’t be long before we can call the guys at Lucky 6/Outland Adventure Vans to give them the go ahead with our van. We just have to get over the cost of the kitchen being refurbished due to builders behaving badly. Long story, bad building work means spending thousands in remedial work. Watch this space.

Hopefully when the Crafter is done it will mean us revisiting our traveling days, and exploring once again. Jack and I both loved to explore prior to the VW Transporter issues in Italy a few years back on Rogue Run. Only this time, we will be plus one, which again will be great seeing how the world through Monster’s eyes. Sure enough the vehicle will not be made for speed, which means that Monster will more than likely not raise their arms in glee shouting ‘weeee’ at the top of the voice when one accelerates, but they will be in a high up, comfortable position and will gain a better understanding of camping in a van, and the great outdoors.

So this year has started on a few low notes, but nothing major by any means. There has been a lot of illness in our household, low productivity as mentioned above, a disastrous kitchen in desperate need of work which will set us back by thousands, but on the upside we have our health, our work and our family, and this coming year will no doubt be full of more achievements, more developments, more commiserations, more happiness, and hopefully, and this is really hopefully, much more travelling.

Ending on a funny note, many know that Monster is full of belligerence and has absolutely no fear whatsoever. They also have a way with words and actions, even at such a young age. I thought it would be nice to give Monster a piggy bank containing a panda which pops out the top and takes the money, when it is placed on a sensor. You may have seen the ads for them on Facebook. Well Monster did not see the funny side, because every time the panda popped out, rather than letting it take the money, Monster felt the need to press the sensor to make the panda pop out and then hit it on the head.

You try and do something nice and, well…

Kelly’s aims / releases for 2018:

1. Continue to achieve and be happy at work and at home
2. Release fifth installment of The Dragon Realm Chronicles

3. Release the book The Perfect Brownie

4. No Food limits

5. SwimFor3k

6. Lotus Magma

7. Some digitally crafted characters

If I didn’t rely on technology then my work wouldn’t get done. I wouldn’t know what work was waiting for me before getting into the office, I also would not be able to plan my day and pre-empt any work arising. Granted I also use tech for leisure, for example, I listen to Radio X in the morning on the way to the train station, I have the app on my phone and so when I park the car, and switch the engine off, I switch my Bluetooth headset on and pick up where I left off. This makes my half mile walk to the train station stress free (I park that far away because it is free).

The unfortunate thing is that Blackberry appears to be in decline (this I actually find quite upsetting), and as per my last post I had to change phones recently due to an unforeseen incident at Oktoberfest concerning beer. I thought this was an opportune time to bite the bullet (so to speak), and move over to a Samsung Galaxy Edge 7, knowing that I could use a clip on keyboard, which was purchased shortly afterwards, so my productivity wouldn’t also decline. See further details about the clip-on keyboard below.

I am one of those types that walks around the office emailing so I need to be mobile. Given the other ventures I am involved in, technology is a crucial part of making everything work for me. Having said that, sometimes it hinders me beyond belief, for example the latest saga is using my new Samsung tablet (an early Christmas present). Why can I not just access documents stored on the device, why do I have to save them in a completely different location, mark them as offline and then save a copy to another location, just to access and input some text. Normally I am an advocate of Microsoft products, but now I have to ensure that I either have Wi-Fi or my phone tethered, just to access any document. I have tried downloading other apps to bypass this, but the outcome is the same. I bet the Apple Gods are laughing now, considering I have been declaring their devices are counter-productive for years.

What really rubs salt in the wound is that I gave my perfectly good Lenovo laptop to my mother as her early Christmas present, and it has taken two weeks to find out how to access documents offline, that are not actually offline when accessed. Don’t get me started on the Bluetooth keyboard that goes with it. Random disconnections are the reason why I have not posted in nearly a month (and even then I had to upload this post using a PC).

The non-accessibility issue seems to be a pet peeve to quite a few, so I have listed my solution below. If anyone has any better suggestions/experiences, please also share them here, for the greater good and in the spirit of helping your fellow frustrated writer/reviewer.

Accessing files offline – that are not really offline

First things first, if you are tearing your hair out trying to use your Samsung tablet to access and edit documents offline, here is a trick, piggy back off of your phone. I agree one should not have to accommodate these over subscribed conglomerates, we all should be able to access our documents quickly and efficiently, but in the spirit of not throwing your device in a corner to collect dust, here is what you do:

Try Google Drive, there is a function to keep documents offline, but that is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, or it works well if your device is optimised to install Google Docs, which mine of course is not. I have yet to be able to access a document offline, it just doesn’t work. You can mark the document as offline, but just try opening Microsoft Word without internet access.

Piggy back off of your phone – if you have a Samsung phone, you can pair the device for long periods of time to access and edit your documents. Sure enough, we all know the security dangers using Bluetooth for extended timeframes, but I doubt that has gone through the though processes of the manufacturers here.

Samsung Galaxy Edge keyboard

On the flip side, it is not all doom and gloom. The clip on keyboard I purchased from Amazon for my phone, is brilliant! To the relief and somewhat joy of my friends, family and colleagues, it works! In my last post I mentioned, well heavily detailed to be more precise about my hatred of touchscreens. To assist in my touchscreen trials, I purchased the clip on keyboard and stylus which can be used for electronic drawing.

If you need a clip-on keyboard for your Samsung phone, then I highly recommend the one I am using. It is great if you are walking around and messaging, great for those of us with dermatitis and cannot use touch screens, it clips on (it adjusts the screen for you) and is ready to use. The only drawback is that it does not light up the keys. This means that when your little monster wakes you up in the middle of the night and you want to know what time it is, to unlock your phone you will have to remove the keyboard and reapply once you have gained access, but from there it is plain sailing.

Aside from this little flaw, well worth the money.

As always, let’s end with some frivolity with the below video of Michael Mcintyre’s Big Show Series 3 Episode 2 – the opening is about reliance on technology.

I still consider myself to be one of the fortunate few from a generation before technology was integrated into everyday life, and one who remembers what the world was like before mobile phones and the internet.At the same time, considering how far we have come in such a short time, it does surprise people when they find out how old I am (I have good genes), and that as I am one of the first to bask in the mobile phone trend, it is often surprising that I am also one of ‘those’ who gets frustrated by the speed of technology. By utilising my touch typing skills this leads to a very productive but also frustrating life.

As book 4 will be released very soon, I will be posting extracts of the first three books as a reminder of the journey so far beginning with the first novel which was released in 2007: The Dragon Realm Chronicles ‘Stefan Lowe’ The Devil, the Angel and the Carpenter’s Son. Please visit the Books and Art page to purchase the entire book.

Chapter 5 (partial chapter)

That evening on the walk home Stefan engrossed himself in a magazine article about a Van Gogh painting which had recently been purchased for $100m. “That has got to be nice!” he muttered.
He reached the steps of St John’s Tower and pulled the door towards him, quickly glancing up to see if someone was walking through. However the glance was not long enough as if it had been, then he would have seen the young lady on the other side of the glass that was doing exactly the same. They unavoidably collided, but there was no collision of heads or loss of contents from a dropped bag, which often happened in such situations. The young lady had also been reading an article which, after their impact, had dropped onto a bronze dragon statue sat at the entrance of the tower’s doorway.  They both stood staring at each other then Stefan remembered his manners and stood to one side to let her pass. She smiled and thanked him but then paused in the doorway giving him an interrogatory stare. Stefan realised that she was the woman he had seen the night before in the tower opposite his. It was clear she was thinking the same as he. 

“You live in this building, don’t you, opposite my flat?” she asked.

“Err…yes” he replied. He felt hesitant wondering what she was thinking of him, how could he convince her that he hadn’t intentionally been staring at her the evening before, they were just there at the same time. 

“My name is Sarah,” she said confidently holding out her hand.

“Stefan,” he said taking it to complete the gesture.

“Pleased to meet you Stefan,” the instant their hands touched it was like trepidation of force pulling him back. Stefan felt like he was descending at great velocity and when it slowed his mind was filled with inexplicable images. In that split second Stefan was shown visions of a man being dragged away by two others dressed in some sort of armour or battle uniform. Their uniforms and swords displayed a red cross. Their capture was yelling, trying to resist their vigour by dropping to his knees. Stefan could feel the man’s terror and anguish.  

His apparition was broken when Sarah uncomfortably took her hand away. She paused for a moment assessing his reaction, but then interrupted. Stefan was slightly arched over trying to catch his breath.

“My landlord said I should pass these documents to you. I was just coming from your office,” she held out a large brown envelope. Stefan regained composure and took the papers. “Also here is six weeks rent money. I am hoping to be moving on after that.” She passed him a smaller envelope.

“Thanks.” He felt unexpectedly disappointed, happy that he was being paid but sad that she would not be staying longer. 

“I’m new to this area, I was wondering if you could tell me what’s good here?”

“I could show you around if you like?”

“Yes, if it’s not too much trouble?”

“It is no trouble at all…in fact it would be my pleasure,” he slightly smiled.

“Brilliant, is tomorrow night too soon?”

“No…not at all, shall we meet out here say 8 o’clock?”

“Ok see you then.” She started to walk towards her building when Stefan noticed her magazine still draped over the head of the dragon statue. 

“Sarah, you dropped this,” he picked it up and noticed the article she had been reading was about modern dream studies. He flipped the front page over to see it was a psychology magazine. She quickly took it from him. 

“Thanks…interesting statue,” she said gesturing to the dragon.

“Yes, it used to be on top of this building; there were three more as well one for each building.”

“Were they all dragons?”

“No, one was a serpent; another was Christ on the cross; and one was a variation of the devil, I think.” “Interesting, where are they now?”

“My mother distributed them to museums and auction houses when I was very young. I always liked the dragon so she kept it.” Sarah smiled and then looked at her watch. 

“Oh is that the time, I’m sorry Stefan I have to be at work in half an hour. I will see you tomorrow. Have a good evening.” 

“You too. Bye.” She briskly walked back to her apartment tower glancing over her shoulder to wave goodbye. He reciprocated until he saw his reflection in the glass of the door, he tutted and rolled his eyes at himself. 

“Look at me, acting like some bloody high school geek who just got his first date…” he muttered.

A mixed bag post this time. In the office, October was security awareness month. Even though the processes and procedures should be practiced on a daily basis, it is always good to remind ourselves why we do this. Of course when you are trying to gain access to your phone quickly, and you have a 2-step passcode set up, I wont lie, it becomes very frustrating!

My issue is not with the complexity or elongated process of inputting the password, it is using a touchscreen to do it with. I may have said this once or twice, but I hate touchscreens! They are so unbelievably counter-productive. I need to be sending quick email responses in seconds, not minutes and the differences between a hard keyboard and a touchscreen when typing are severe in comparison. With a hard keyboard my proofing tome is minimal. A few years ago, some colleagues and I worked out when they changed our phones from Blackberry to iPhone, it took six times longer to respond to emails Six times! This is significant when we receive 50+ plus emails per hour that have to be actioned. Decreasing productivity, means the tool is inefficient.

Well it was inevitable, but I recently had to change from Blackberry to a Samsung S7 Edge. This is my morning commute:

Device: ‘Incorrect password’ 

Me: “poxy phone”

Device: ‘Incorrect password’ 

Me: “ffs”

Device: ‘Incorrect password’ 

Me: “I hate you, you stupid phone”.

If I’m really annoyed then I launch the phone across the room. Needless to say that by the time I get to work, I’m really in a pleasant mood. Therefore, I have reached the conclusion that touchscreens were not made for productivity, or those with severe dermatitis, because I can’t set up the fingerprint recognition to access my phone either.

Next stop is a clip on keyboard for the phone. Watch this space.

But I digress. 

Back to security, I have been subject to Hello Kitty desktop backgrounds before, normally without my authorisation, due to leaving my computer unlocked in my professional work environment. Many times my colleagues of the past have had emails sent on their behalf, when they have left their screens open, but in all of the gest, it does send a clear message, we need to keep our data private especially as many firms have chosen to go paperless. If a fraudster was trying to obtain details, their only option is to go for electronic devices.

On the topic of electronic devices, it is worth knowing your company procedures and what you should do in the event of your mobile devices being stolen or lost. This is not just the case with work data, but also personal. Everyone is at risk. If you need to do work on the move, make sure you use privacy screens and make sure your passwords are not set to briefly show as you type. With touchscreens (as – elegantly listed above), it can take several attempts to type in a password. If the characters are on preview while typing, someone only has to be standing over your shoulder paying attention on the train.

Also, while most office doors are card key locked, you can still get tailgaters and how many of us are really happy about shouting “stranger danger”, not many I’m guessing.

The GDPR (General Data Protection Rules) will be coming into place soon, and while many are not expected to know them off by heart, unless that is your job of course, a good understanding of data protection in general is good to know particularly if you are sharing every post and every picture you take online. Find out how accessible you are, keep your data safe as that can be used in identity left, and be careful of wi-fi devices and webcams as these can be used in reverse.