August 11, 2007
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Diary Of A Middle Aged Man

It’s been a heck of a year for this particular middle-aged baby boomer.  I awake each morning and feel confused. What have I been? What am I now? What should I be now? What do I want to be after today? Why do politicians look so young ? …well, compared to me.

Sometimes I want to be 5 years old again. So much, that it physically hurts.

Then I remember that I hated every day of school. I seem to have been worrying about what I should be just about every day of my life – and yet looking back again, realizing that it really didn’t matter.

So now I’m 61 years old. Fairly successful by most reasonable standards. But that’s not what it’s about – is it?

We ‘boomers’ really are the butt of most jokes – check out these  wisecracks:

"These days, I’m build for comfort not speed"

"I’m now upside down – my nose runs and my feet smell"

Younger ladies. "My mind is writing checks that my body can’t cash"

"I even ache in places that I didn’t have when I was younger"

"I still get excited – but I can’t remember why"

"That’s not a beer-belly – that’s a fuel tank for a sex machine" (yeah, I wish!!)

And why the heck am I losing hair off my arms and legs, yet growing a forest out of my nose and ears. If we are creatures of evolution – then what’s all that about?!!

Okay let’s get serious. I was inspired to write this after reading a beautifully written article by Peter Aspden in the Financial Times today (don’t get impressed – I’m holed up in a hotel and the FT came free with  breakfast). It struck a chord though. 

The Who Rock Band came to mind (are we boomers allowed to like that stuff – my dad did wood carvings in old age….)

Young Man Blues – "it’s the Old Man who has all the money"

My Generation – "….hope I die before I get old…"

Stuff you Mr Townsend – my definition of a middle-aged baby boomer is that I wanna live a little. Anyway, the article went on to explain that we baby boomers can’t do a thing right. The world likes to laugh at us. If we fall in love – it’s absurd. If we buy a sports car – it’s really a penis extension. Wearing jeans shows you’re childish. The list is endless.

Apparently, middle-aged men run the world. And the more powerful you are – the more amusing your plight when you suffer a set back. The article quotes Bill Clinton and Monica….

My Dad passed away last year. Since then, I have often quietly sat and considered his life. And for his many positive ways, I realised that he NEVER admitted being wrong. He would turn around any criticism with uncanny skill – time and again. On reflection, he must have had some terrible demon going back to some childhood event. I think fear of failure does continue in each generation. But I’m getting off track.

The FT article closed so many loops for me. My Fathers generation fought in a terrible war – I have never served. They grew old wearing suits and acted very conservative as it seemed to me.

I was doomed to become like my Grandfather, or so I thought. Staying indoors for the most part, falling asleep in front of the TV, reading the newspaper – and believing everything in it. Drinking countless hot beverages. And taking a quick walk everyday to the local shop for some mints. That was it. Life in retirement as he knew it.

We cannot rely on the way our fathers acted their age, for we are fundamentally different from them. A quote from the FT:

"Today, a 64 year-old rock star still sings that he cannot find any girlie action and we wryly appreciate the irony, not because he is no longer capable of it but because he arguably suffers from a surfeit of it."

So that’s it then. I’m no different to you if you’re a baby boomer, and it’s okay for me to live and feel different to how I thought 60+ should be.

So what is the characteristics of a middle aged baby boomer? I would say that a fundamental trait is that we dare to be different. The last generation – probably due to the two world wars, were trained to conform.

So It’s okay that I’m now self employed. Okay that I live in another country half-way up a mountain. Work for me is many cities and hotels on an as-needed basis. I don’t read newspapers (unless they’re free), I don’t watch the news channels, I don’t vote, I hate politicians and their parties, I stay away from organized religion.

I teach project management. I write books. I do stuff I want. And I pay my own way in society.

And my birthday present to myself? A $3000 guitar. My grandad would have asked for slippers. Self-centered you say? Yeah, so I’m feeding my Ego, enjoy the challenge of learning new songs and licks. I feel young again and vibrant – even though I know I’m not.

Yet I’m not a hermit. I love socialising. And I love my quiet times. I sit on my own sometimes, but I am not lonely. I get drunk sometimes. I laugh a lot. I get mysteriously angry and don’t know why. But it soon passes. I look at others who are rich and famous, and I get jealous (If only I’d……). But then I remember I see the sun set each evening and the stars, and a valley view, and….

I have a loving wife. She is my third wife. I’m not proud of that, but it must be a trend of the way we live today, and the different standards we expect as humans on this planet. Not better. Not Worse. Just Different.

And You? Probably totally different to my list above. Feel comfortable with that. Only conform if you really, really, wanna.

It is impossible to Grow Old Disgracefully. Why? because you’d have to define disraceful to whose standards? I skinny-dip in my pool and take Jack Daniels with my morning coffee (when not working). I’m fat and ugly – compared to Brad Pitt. I wear jeans and funky T shirts. I play loud country rock at 2 in the morning (no-one lives next door). And these are only my conservative traits!

Going back to the start of this article. When I arise from bed each day, my head is buzzing. I certainly do a lot more of self-talk these days. Yes I get a little confused, and need some quiet time to sit down and collect my thoughts. But I am more excited when I get up these days, than at any other time in my life.

I am able to draw upon a wealth of living experience, knowledge, and learnt skills.

I see the world in sharper focus. I see it for what it really is. I can steer a shrewder path through the hype and control the need of others to exert their power over me.

But best of all I am more optimistic. I know what I don’t know, and this blog is a proclamation of my new future. One that will enable me to lead a fulfilled life into my seventies and beyond.

My fate, like all of us, is to eventually turn back into stardust, but until then, I’ll enjoy each waking day – even though my feet ache, my back hurts, and my chest now occupies my upper waste-line!

Check out Peters’  full article – I dare you to read it without a smile:


July 29, 2007

Easy To make Homemade Musical Instruments

As I play my very expensive PRS Johnny Hiland – I found myself thinking about the first musical instrument I ever owned – a guitar. I made it myself. Back then, parts for guitars were hard to find, so I had to be very creative.

It was certainly an easy to make homemade musical instrument – but it took many weeks of my time. All it needed was care and attention to detail – any home hobbyist would easily have the skills to do what I did…

The body was made from an old scrap post-war kitchen table. I copied the shape from an early Fender catalog of the Stratocater model, and scaled it up using graph paper. I cut it out very slowly using a fret saw (I broke many blades!).

The neck was a real challenge. Even back then, I knew all about bowing – and needed a very mature and stable piece of lumber… Lucky for me, the kitchen table legs were square mahogany – so I cut one in half lengthwise from top to bottom, and using my dad’s set of chisels, carved an approximate shape.

Several trips to my local music shop with a hidden tape measure gave me some basic dimensions.

I knew that the fret relationship was logarithmic, and with careful measurements and a metal two foot ruler the job was done. Boosey and Hawkes ordered me some fret wire – and I was on my way!

At the time I had started my training as an apprentice electronic engineer – so the electrics were fairly easy to fabricate. I bought a strip of 1/8th metal bar and magnetised it with an old and large magnet I had as a young boy. I made a plastic bobbin and glued the magnetic pole pieces into place with araldite.

I seem to remember I made the body of the pickups with plastic strip glued together. The scratch-plate was white plastic, with the controls (1 meg taper for the volume, and 500K linear for the tone control with a suitable capacitor for the top cut tone control.

The bridge was made filing and drilling out  from a brass block, along with the string bridge pieces. The tuners I bought, and I sprayed the body using a pinky-red colour. I must have used 4 or 5 car spray cans.

I remember making music on that old lump of wood, and the first tune I learnt was Apache and Peter Gun.

I sure wish I still had that guitar today….

July 25, 2007
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Adult Swimming

What a Great Day! My wife just learned to swim. In her late 30’s and from the Philippines, she never had the opportunity to swim as a child. When we married a handful of years ago, I was determined she should learn.

Twelve months ago we moved to Monte Pego in Spain, and when not on business trips, I got busy helping her to gain confidence in our pool.

Now let’s get this straight, I was a guitar geek in my youth, and never learned to swim until I was 22 years old. But that was my advantage. See, I know how it feels to be nervous of water. Although a mediocre swimmer, I can jump in and swim a breast-stroke, float, and swim under water.

Looking back I can see that learning to swim is a mental challenge – not a physical one. The trick for me was getting the brain to acknowledge you can float. Going back millions of years, I guess there must be something hard-wired in our brain – that once in the water, some form of swimming stroke kicks in. Doggy paddle or whatever…

But I’d like to share with you some ideas that seemed to work in getting Jude swimming…

1. Buy a pair of goggles – the ones that also cover your nose. Sit your pupil in the shallow end and get them to dip their head underwater – get used to submerging their face.

2. Hold onto the edge of the pool and submerge their face – encourage them to feel how naturally buoyant the human body is.

3. If possible, get them down onto all fours – then in their own time try to spread-eagle themselves (and thus float). In shallow water they will have more confidence to try to let themselves go. I found that the more I tried to ‘teach’ Jude the less she did. So let them ‘play around’ with some of these ideas.

4. I still remember my unorthodox way of learning to swim. I got into water up to my shoulders – and did mini jumps bring my legs and feet up under me. They were only jumps in the sense of bringing my feet under my rear – I didn’t raise my self out of the water. After a few I tried to start a pedaling movement with my feet and arms – so I then started to feel the buoyancy of my body. Soon I began to ‘tread water’ – I was swimming!

5. Yes, get some arm bands or a small polystyrene float, and encourage them to use their legs to get around – all the usual ideas. She them how to use their arms and feet for a simple breast stroke.

Well, I could go on, but this is not a blog to learn to swim – just some simple ideas to get a novice started

Good Luck My Friends!

July 24, 2007
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Nick The Nephew – My New Guru

I’ve just had set up my new Content Management System – courtesy of my clever dick nephew – Nick Litten.

Now me, I’m computer illiterate. Okay so I know all about project management, but I still think Java is coffee. Get my drift?

Put it this way, if you had toothache, would you get a book on it, get a pair of pliers out and start extracting??  No, you would go to the dentist – an Expert. So why would I want to become an expert in IT stuff?  Best use my valuable time doing what I do best.

And let Nick do what he excels at. Check him out soon. Real Soon.

I went from a one web page painful newbie to a fully configured operational professional. Nick set it up so my newbie interface does fantastic complicated stuff – without me having to know or care how.

My Project Management Training Systems are now streaming at The Projex Academy Talk about painless and perfect… it really is the dogs.

Now all I actually need to do is focus on building my online business.

Four Thumbs Up Nick!

July 24, 2007
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I just got my Johnny Hiland PRS with a 10 top!

Hi Folks,

Yeah, I know – so what’s a PRS. Only the best godarn guitar in the business….

I’ve been playing guitar since the early sixties, and have owned many top-of-the-line guitars. They would call ’em vintage these days.

I’ve got a great heavily modified  ’78 Fender Stratocaster, a 60’s Telecaster re-issue, a cheap Squire (for clearing snow off the drive – just kidd’in!).

And now this baby…

For you guitar buffs out there it’s in vintage yellow.

I would normally need to spend the next few years getting it worn in, but I was lucky enough to meet up with the UK distributor Headline Music, and their Head of Sales Jez. Boy! were they helpful.

Good news is that Johnny is doing a UK tour sponsored by headline – check out this link:

Before I had it shipped out here to Spain, they did a perfect setup job – and it plays like a dream – straight out of the box!

I’m putting it through my Fender Blues De Luxe, and it sounds like tonal heaven.

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