Add-ons

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

It’s been a while!

Back when TF was in everyone’s mailboxes at 5am each Friday, it was usually drafted while I was on a minging, over-priced, Scotrail train on the way back from Edinburgh.  However, this edition, for the first time ever, is being written (Sierra Nevada in hand) from TF’s spiritual home: the tiny bit of coastline midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles called San Simeon.

Mr Tash Friday Senior (aka Dave-Dawg) likes to check in with me every now and again to make sure I haven’t done something stupid.  Earlier this week, he text to ask where I was and that I wasn’t dead in a ditch somewhere.  When I explained that I was in Yosemite and that I was going stargazing at Glacier Point that evening his reply was:

…you always find the great add ons…

I should first mention that if you’re ever in Yosemite overnight you must go stargazing at Glacier Point.  Glacier Point (as mentioned in previous TFs) is where John Muir (a serial Tash) persuaded Teddy Roosevelt (he of “Daring Greatly” fame and also a serial Tash) to make Yosemite a National Park.  It looked like this the other night, as the sun set and moon rose:

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It’s a long drive to get up there at sunset and it seems even longer when you’re going back down in the dark but it’s inspiring stuff: no photo can do it justice.

I hadn’t thought of the trip to Glacier Point as an add-on.  I had just thought: “I’m here – let’s do it“.  Now I think about it, I wasn’t always like that.

A few years ago, I’d have said “it’s too long a drive” or “it’s too dangerous to drive those roads at night” but I’m more inclined to have a go at things now.  I think a lot of that stems from people’s reaction to TF.  The positive reaction to TF (and Operation Zorro in particular) was a real boost at a time when I was swithering about what to do with my life.  I think that’s why my attitude to things now is to think “let’s give it a bash and see what happens“.  Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement, you know?

This week’s Tash has to be John Muir.  If it wasn’t for him, I might not have had the chance to see the Yosemite which I saw the other night.  He said in 1912, about “The Yosemite” that: “[e]verybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”  Having seen the place, I know exactly what he means.

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TF might not be as regular as it once was but the question on my mind is the same as ever:

What’s next?

Have a great weekend folks – hope you’ve got some time off coming up.

Post-script

While I’m talking about fun add-ons, I should share what I’ve found this trip:

(1) Kirby Cove – San Francisco

This is only really do-able because of the wonders of Uber.

Kirby Cove is on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge (i.e. the far side).  There are a couple of ways to get there: either get an Uber all the way there or (the more fun way) get the ferry from Pier 39 to Sausalito and then an Uber from Sausalito.  You’re then heading for the first observation point on Hawk Hill (overlooking the Bridge).  Once you’re there, there’s a path which runs down the hill to a small beach.  On the beach, there is a swing over the sea…

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It’s not a lot to look at in this photo but the views of the bridge are the best you’ll find and there’s no-one else there.

(2) Moonstone BeachSan Simeon

I’ve banged on about this before.  If you’ve never been (and, if you haven’t, you really need to take a long, hard look at your life choices), it looked like this tonight:

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I’d rather spend a day here than anywhere else in the world.

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Mark II

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

 

The Notorious

Some of you may have seen or heard about the Conor McGregor v. Jose Aldo UFC fight last weekend. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t, all you need to know is that McGregor predicted exactly how he would win and he delivered upon his prediction within 13 seconds.

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He said after the fight:

“If you can see it – and you have the courage enough to speak it – it will happen.”

On its own, that’s obviously rubbish. I could say that I’d smash one of these UFC lads in 13 seconds (indeed, I frequently do say things like that!) but that doesn’t mean it’ll happen. However, in a facebook post the next day, McGregor said this:

“To the naked eye it was 13 seconds, but to my team and my family it has been a lifetime of work to get to that 13 seconds.”

It’s a lot easier to say that you’re going to do something – and then go out and do it – if you’ve done the work before-hand. It looks like clairvoyance but it’s actually just the culmination of years of training and the execution of a well-laid plan.

Operation Zorro

Some of you might remember that this approach is one that chimes with me. In January 2014 – there’s an edition of TF to prove it – I set out my plan for Operation Zorro.

I can’t remember if I stated the three goals explicitly in TF but I did mention them to plenty of people:

  • get a job at a particular company doing a particular type of work;
  • complete the Etape Caledonia in under 4 hours; and
  • buy a flat with the other half of Tash Friday.

That was almost two years ago and the only part of Operation Zorro (Mark I) that didn’t eventually work out is that the quickest time I’ve managed for the Etape is 4 hours and 11 minutes. I’d be lying if I said that the 11 minutes doesn’t grate…

I know that plenty of you have had some exceptional experiences in 2015 which are lot more impressive than any of the Operation Zorro goals. Within this group we have folk who’ve started / are just about to start jobs which are extremely difficult to get into; backed themselves by taking roads less-travelled; started businesses; got engaged / married; moved abroad… the list goes on.

Set controls for the heart of the sun

So: what’s next?

I don’t want to stop at just one Operation Zorro: I want to see what else I can do; I want to develop Operation Zorro (Mark 2).

Pretty much my whole experience of the last two years can be summed up in one paragraph from this week’s Tash, Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve mentioned snippets of this quote before but the words “dare greatly” have been going round my head for a long time and it only seems right that I give them their proper context:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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Regardless of whether you’ve known the triumph of high achievement in 2015, or you’ve stumbled, I hope that in 2016 you back yourself to dare greatly and fulfil whatever you have in mind for your own Operation Zorro

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a photo taken during this year’s pilgrimage to TF’s spiritual home. Like McGregor said, it’s the team and family which are ultimately responsible for whatever we as individuals achieve…

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Have a great Christmas everyone!

What’s next?

8 May 2015

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

How about that election, eh? I was really disappointed/pleased that [insert name] won/lost. I voted but the campaigns were so annoying that I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I felt like saying:

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Rather than boring you with election chat, I’d like to talk briefly about something which is hopefully a bit more interesting to everyone: holidays. With spring upon us (seriously, I know it doesn’t feel like it, but it is), it’s time to start looking ahead towards summer and the prospect of some time away.

I know that one Tash Appreciator was waiting until today – 8 May 2015 (I warned you I’d remember) – to even contemplate a holiday. When we spoke about it, he claimed that he didn’t know whether he’d be able to get away and he made the whole thing sound like a bit of a chore.

At the risk of being blunt, this chap is a numpty.

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A holiday is absolutely essential – even the Daily Mail says it’s good for you! I won’t dig deeper into the benefits of a holiday – they are obvious – but I will look at the only question which I think is relevant: do you go somewhere just to get away or do you set the bar higher than that?

When the numpty was spouting his nonsense about not having time to get away, there were three of us talking about holidays: me, the numpty and a third pal. The third pal and I were reminiscing about an excellent trip that a bunch of us went on a few years ago. The numpty wasn’t reminiscing because he turned down the invite to come with us. Anyway, the third pal said: “isn’t it about time we made some new memories rather than talking about old trips?”

I couldn’t agree with him more. On that basis, the answer to the question about how high to set the bar is that you set it as high as your budget and time will possibly allow. Go somewhere far away; where there aren’t “British” pubs and you can’t get Eastenders on the telly; go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go and see the things you’ve always wanted to see.

To the numpty (and anyone else who’s swithering about getting away this summer): consider the gauntlet thrown. Get yourself online and get something booked as soon as you possibly can. When it gets to October, you’ll regret it if you haven’t been away. Hell, come with me or meet me there – I’m away from 21 July to 5 August.

As if the prospect of time off work and relaxation wasn’t enough, going on holiday gives you the opportunity to live like Tom Selleck: you too could lie on a hammock; with a terrible shirt; drinking cocktails out of a pineapple with pink flowers decorating it.

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Don’t worry ladies, you can get in on the action too. I found this delightful number on Amazon for a mere $12!

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Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Money talks

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In 2002, a man from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was given a six-month suspended sentence; two days of house arrest; and ordered to undertake 48 hours of community service following his conviction for two counts of domestic violence and one count of battery.

In 2004, he was convicted of two counts of battery against women; was given a one-year suspended sentence; counselling; and either a $1,000 fine or 100 hours of community service.

In 2010, he was again found guilty of domestic violence. This time, he was sentenced to 90 days in prison; 100 hours of community service; and a $2,500 fine

Tomorrow, the same man will make a minimum of $180m for a maximum of 36 minutes’ work.

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Disturbingly, it seems that all of Floyd Mayweather Jnr’s illegal acts of violence against women are nought compared to the 47 times he’s entered a professional boxing ring and left victorious. I’m sure this appalling turn of events has everything to do with television companies supporting the rehabilitation of convicted criminals rather than it being purely about the vast amounts of money which people will pay to watch the fight.

Apart from his character as a man, I also question Mayweather’s claim that he’s the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time. His argument seems to be that he is the greatest because he’s won all 47 of his professional fights.

Boxing is strange in that way: it’s basically one massive game of “winner stays on”. Mayweather is the boxing equivalent of a 38-year-old student (who’s been a student since they were 17) in the Uni Union who claims to be a world-class pool player just because they’ve beaten every punter that’s had the audacity to play them. You know the guy I mean, he brings his own cue and refuses to let you play against your pals.

Mayweather has avoided Manny Pacquiao (his opponent on Saturday) for so long that you have to assume he’s only fighting him now because he’s sure he’ll win.

Speaking of Pacquiao – who’s this week’s Tash, by the way – apart from an issue about not paying his taxes, he’s much more my type of guy: he’s fought everyone (he’s had 57 fights compared to Mayweather’s 47); has lost five times; come back from each defeat; and even been elected twice to the Philippine House of Representatives.

I really hope that Mayweather catches a glimpse of the following image a split second before finding himself flat on his back looking up at the lights in the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

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As it happens, the big fight in Vegas isn’t the only Battle Royale taking place this weekend. I’m due to enjoy a “sociable” bike ride up some stupidly unpleasant stretches of road in horrible weather on Saturday. The trash talk for this race has been raging for weeks and we’ll see who comes out on top. I suspect no-one will leave with their dignity intact. Perhaps more about that next week.

Anyway, whether you’re staying up until 4am on Sunday morning to watch Mayweather get clobbered, or just taking it easy, have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Aged 30…

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

A couple of nights ago, I suddenly had a hankering to hear a song that I hadn’t thought about for years: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” by U2. I can hear the hipsters tutting already but, like T. Swift says: haters gonna hate hate hate.

It’s normal for TF to be written during the course of a commute but that’s traditionally been on trains. This week is slightly different in that I’m typing away while sitting in a cramped window seat on a Bombardier Q400, somewhere over the Irish Sea. It’s a clear spring evening outside and the sun is just dipping below the horizon.

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After take off – when I was allowed to put my earphones back in – I put my new tune on. I’ve listened to it a couple of times now and I’ve reached the conclusion that Bono isn’t looking for something which can be found just by looking for it (like a set of keys). I think the lines about “climbing the highest mountains” and “scaling city walls” are about looking for something intangible.

I know what he means – as I’m sure many of you do. We spend a lot of our time looking for things which, no matter how hard we look, we may never find – things that have to find us, so to speak. That can be religion, a career, the ideal home – anything.

At the moment, I am looking for a home. Not that I don’t have a home, you understand; I’m just looking for a new one. I’ve been telling people that there’s nothing out there and I’ve jokingly said I’m giving up the search. However, watching the sea, sunset and blue sky outside I’m reminded that there is a place out there which feels like home but which cannot be found in Scotland. Maybe I found what I was looking for a long time ago and that’s why nothing I’m seeing now seems quite right.

So where does that leave me? Because the captain has just said it’s 10 minutes until we land and I need to wrap this up before I’m told to put my phone away.

I’m reminded of a line I heard recently when I was watching a documentary about a media mogul who’s empire was at its height in the 1930s – William Randolph Hearst. The film starts with William’s father (George) working away on a small mine, trying to make his fortune.  Ultimately, George decides to  gather his possessions and leave the place of his birth. The narrator says: “aged 30, he went to California.”

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I’m beginning to think that Operation Zorro needs to look further than one year ahead. Unlike Bono, I might have found that intangible thing which has sparked something in my soul. Maybe that’s why I spend an inordinate amount of time watching  planes flying west and wondering whether they’re going to San Francisco. Maybe one day…

It’s not really a Tash but a big dream deserves a large amount of facial hair. Thanks for the inspiration, George Hearst:

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Have a great weekend folks.

As ever, I ask you: what’s next?

Cops and Robbers

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

I hope you all had a good break over the Easter weekend.

While most of us spent the weekend relaxing / nursing hangovers, others had to work hard. In particular, a group of burglars were working hard smashing through concrete walls; drilling through 18-inch-thick metal doors; and abseiling down lift shafts in order to ransack 70 safety deposit boxes in the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit building.

The papers claim that the burglars got away with up to £200m of jewels – like it was an Ocean’s 11-esque heist…

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but I’ve seen enough episodes of Storage Wars to know that the majority of those boxes were probably stuffed with old towels and Christmas decorations.

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Such a cinematic sounding crime got me thinking about who the robbers might be and what made them turn to their life of crime. However, rather than thinking about the social circumstances which led them to take their criminal path, I started to think more about what they would look like. It was then that I started to worry. If popular culture is to be believed, at least one of these villains was bound to have a moustache – and that’s bad for business. Just take these ruffians and baddies as proof that “the media” discriminates against the Tash by portraying it as the facial hair of choice for all villains:

Ming the Merciless

Ming the Merciless

Danny Trejo - the man who's been type-cast as the must-have baddie in any film involving Mexicans.

Danny Trejo – the man who’s been type-cast as the must-have baddie in any film involving Mexicans.

White Goodman - the evilest man in Dodgeball.

White Goodman – the evilest man in Dodgeball.

Dick Dastardly - with a name like that, he was never likely to race by the rules.

Dick Dastardly – with a name like that, he was never likely to race by the rules.

Thankfully, though, I remembered that the position of the Tash as a symbol of truth and justice has been somewhat saved by two of the greatest crime-fighting minds ever:

Hercule Poirot

Hercule Poirot

and

Jacques Clouseau

Jacques Clouseau

Thankfully, these righteous men protect the reputation of the Tash and go to show that the moustache is really the most democratic and fair of facial hair: it looks equally good on the robber as it does on the person tasked with putting the robber behind bars.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Rocket Man

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

As we head to work today, most of us will be looking forward to the end of the week and a couple of days off. It might even be a non-uniform day at work because it’s the last Friday of the month. However, for one chap in particular, this definitely isn’t a “dress-down” day and he definitely isn’t looking forward to a nice weekend at home.

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This morning, Scott Kelly woke up in the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and won’t go to bed on Earth again for a whole year. That’s because Captain Kelly is going to spend a year on this:

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The point of spending a year in space is to find out how the body changes in zero-gravity conditions over a long period of time. That’s going to be useful information to have before folk start heading off to Mars in the not too distant future. The guys at NASA are apparently concerned that long periods of time without gravity could lead to eyeballs changing shape; muscles (including the heart) weakening to the extent that they don’t function properly when back on Earth (or Mars); and bones losing minerals like calcium and weakening.

Of course, in any experiment about the effects of a particular type of situation on the human body it’s useful to have a control subject. Luckily for NASA, Captain Kelly has a twin brother – Mark. Mark Kelly was also an astronaut and you may recall that he’s married to Gabrielle Giffords, the former Congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt.

Mark Kelly isn’t just a control subject though – he’ll be key to his brother dealing with a whole year away from not just his home and family but his planet. As Elton John predicted: “it’s lonely out in space”. to Scott, the feeling of helplessness while he’s away with absolutely no way of getting home is likely to be the hardest part – he’s been in space for long periods before and he doesn’t seem all that concerned about the physical side of things.

Mark will be the person at the other end of the phone who’ll keep Scott’s spirits up and makes sure everything is OK at home. I guess it’s really true that no man is an island; even when he’s 229 miles above the Earth, going at 17,500 mph.

I almost forgot the Tash. You’ll never guess what Mark Kelly likes to rock…

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He’s grown his Tash out a bit since his days in space ended – no doubt that will be some comfort to his brother.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?