The shoelace knot that never comes undone

Today there was an item on the BBC news about a scientific breakthrough in understanding why shoelaces come undone – Mystery of why shoelaces come undone unravelled by science.

FinishedSecureKnotHa! I thought. My shoelaces never come undone, thanks to a discovery I made about 15 years ago. The knot is called Ian’s Secure Shoelace Knot after the inventor Ian Fieggen, now known as Professor Shoelace.

As you will discover from his website, Ian is obsessed with shoelace knots. But it is the Secure Shoelace Knot (also known as the Seaman’s Shoelace Knot) that stands out for me, as it simply never come undone. It also prevents wear on the laces giving much longer life. So it saves annoying undone laces and having to buy regular replacements.

I strongly suggest you try this wonderful life-hack, and let me know how you get on. Here is a video with Professor Ian demonstrating how to tie it.

Wrapsody has Christmas all wrapped up

Wrapsody presentYou have left it a bit late now, if you wanted to pay someone to do your Christmas wrapping. But if you really hate it that much you could always book up Wraposdy and employ one of their ‘wrapologists’ for next year.

Apart from having a great name, they also “believe that there is no gift unwrappable, no theme unworkable and no deadline too tight”. I love their sense of humour too, illustrated below.

Wrapsody text

Below is an example of the kind Christmas present wrapping they can produce.

Wrapsody presents

Like all good businesses, Wrapsody have a blog so they can share their activities with potential customers. Below you can see the team in action Christmas gift wrapping at Liberty of  London.

Wrapsody at Liberty

Wrapsody have the whole presents thing nicely ‘wrapped’ up (sorry couldn’t resist that pun). But I have found a couple of rivals elswhere in the country.

In Kent, “Wonder Wrap offer a unique and fabulous gift wrapping service for all occasions.

Your presents and gifts are beautifully wrapped and can even be grouped together to ensure you can easily present them to the lucky recipient.”

And in Wales, “Eclipse provides a professional gift wrapping service comprising high quality demonstrations, ‘hands-on’ workshops and professional gift wrapping services for businesses and individuals.”

Below Eclipse founder Alison Westwood gives some expert wrapping tips.

monkey-light-pro

How to be seen on the dark streets of London town

winter sun

Source LibreStock.com

The shortest day of the year is rapidly approaching. Winter Solstice is on 21 December to be precise. That means both my morning and evening cycle rides are in darkness or gloom.

I have taken several measures to improve my visibility to other road users, particularly car and lorry drivers, and of course those suicidal pedestrians with eyes glued to their smartphone screens.

altura-night-vision-safety-vest-cycling-giletI have recently replaced my Altura Night Vision Safety Vest Cycling Gilet, after leaving one behind on a cancelled train. And I’m confident it takes less time to be noticed than to say it’s name. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen people about to cross in front of me, stop, and do a double-take as the bright orange and yellow of my Gilet sears into their consciousness.

I have upgraded my rear visibility by adding a Blaze Burner light to the standard Brompton one. I’m still really happy with it despite some initial production problems. In fact I’m still running on my first battery charge after three months, which is pretty impressive.

 

fwe-20-lumen-front-tlight-black-ev244783-8500-2More recently I have added an additional front light which is designed for being seen, and not for showing the way ahead. In fact Evans describe the FWE 20 Lumen front light as the “definitive bright back-up safety light, taking up very little space on your bars but making sure you’re seen at night”. The 20 lumens is surprisingly bright, but the small form factor means it has run out of puff after just one week.

A couple of weeks ago I also replaced my reflective spoke clips, as the old ones were starting to lose their shine.

brompton-spokes-at-night

I think they look pretty good on my Brompton, and help when crossing T junctions.

Should I be doing more?

When I am out on the mean and dark streets of London, I wonder if I am doing enough to draw attention to myself. I have seen quite a few fellow cyclists who are outdoing my humble effort by a quite a margin.

Here are four examples:
The Lumos helmet means you carry all your lights on your head, instead of scattered around your bike. So you don’t have to worry about them being stolen or the hassle of taking them off to charge or the change the batteries. It also includes left and right indicators with a handlebar controller. Yours for just 179 US dollars.

Lumos helmet

And if you just want to let people where you are going next the the Cyndicate system is for you.

cyndicate

 

But by far the most impressive sight I have seen are Revolights.

revolights

They look pretty spectacular in the photo above, and even more so in the video below.

But when you actually see them on the road they are truly stunning. Sadly they don’t currently make a size to fit my bike, and they cost 199 US dollars. A tad more than my admittedly less awe inspiring reflector spokes above, but maybe I should start saving.

Monkey Light Pro Wheels

I haven’t actually seen any Monkey Light Pro wheels from Monkeylectric on my rides, but they do take attention seeking to the next level.

monkey-light-pro

Have you seen anything brighter on your travels?

Pen and ink and paper for high impact marketing

penI just love the way that old ways of doing things can survive the onslaught of new technologies. I previously wrote about how Books are back up – and so are vinyl records. And now I see that letter writing is coming back too.

Scribble is a handwritten letter service which helps businesses send a personal message, in a human way.

Here is their ‘blurb‘:

Each letter is handwritten in real ink, by a real person and in your preferred style. Simply send us your text and we create thoughtful messages that help you stand out.

You can customise your letter by using luxury paper, supplying us with your logo or including business cards & gifts. We can supply branded boxes (your logo) to hold your letter & promotional merchandise.

All letters are handwritten on high-quality paper and sent with a First Class stamp as standard. To ensure the utmost quality all letters are photographed and certified prior to being posted.

WHO ARE SCRIBBLE?

Scribble is operated by a team of creative, sales & marketing professionals that have a combined experience of over 40 years. We enjoy finding new ways to help our clients win customers and opening post that’s not bills.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY…

  • What’s not to love? 50x return per letter sent and fantastic feedback from my clients.
  • Scribble have been a joy to work with; I now use them for all of my written correspondence with prospects & clients.

letter-writing

Maybe I need to add a slide to my Social Media workshop on letter writing as a high effort, but high response marketing approach. Although I have to admit I am so out of practice in writing, I often can’t read something I wrote earlier. Maybe it’s time to sign up for a calligraphy course.

Images from librestock.com

The Internet in Real Time

social-media-logosSocial media is such an amazing development. Who knew it would have such an impact on our lives? I really enjoy talking about the benefits it can bring to start-up business in my monthly workshop at the Library.

The sheer numbers involved are mind boggling. With over 2.2 billion users across the many platforms.

The current leader-board (in millions of users) looks likes this:

social-media-usage

Source https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/

But I find the slide that makes the most impact in my workshop is The Internet in Real-Time. Just click on the image below and spend a few seconds watching the various counters as they race upwards. I find it truly astonishing just how much content is being generated every single minute of the day.

The Internet In Real Time

From Visually.

My new Blazing Saddle ignited by my Burner light

Blaze logoI have been watching the Crowdfunding scene for quite a few years now. It has now grown into a important source of money for many start-ups. It is also a great way to test the market for new ideas. Following the Lean start-up approach we advocate in the Business & IP Centre.

I’ve seen lots of new exciting new products over the years, and I’ve been tempted in invest in quite a few. But it wasn’t until I saw the impressive Kickstarter campaign for the Blaze Burner rear bicycle light that I committed. The aim was to create the ultimate back light for cyclists. With 100 lumens of brightness to help make the rider visible to even the most distracted of London drivers.

blaze-bus-02-sAlso, it came from the Blaze company founded by Emily Brooke and Philip Ellisby. They had previously used crowdfunding to launch their revolutionary front safety light for cycles. The original Blaze light combines a very bright white light with a green laser, which projects a symbol of a bike onto the road several meters ahead. The idea is to make bikes more visible to cars and particularly large vehicles turning left at junctions. A high proportion of cycle accidents are caused by drivers being unaware of a rider coming-up on the inside.

The Blaze has been a spectacular success, and is about to be installed across the London Cycle Hire network – officially called Santander Cycles, but more popularly known as Boris Bikes, (despite being introduced by Ken Livingston the previous Mayor of London).

So when I saw the very professionally produced video announcing the Kickstarter campaign for the Burner, I signed up the next day. By then it was already fully funded (in just one day). And went on to raise £153,636 from 2,208 backers, instead of the initial goal of £35,000.

blaze-burner-rear-light-1Since the campaign closed, the team have been on something of a roller-coaster ride. With quite a few technical and supplier problems along the way. This meant the original production date of April slipped by several months. The team kept the backers updated with the issues and delays. So it was with great delight that I finally got to open the package above this week. Just in time for use during the dark evening rides home.

Hopefully you can see from my photos, the light is a very high quality product. Which is one of the reasons the company delayed distribution. It is innovative, in that it shows you the level of battery charge each time you turn it on. It also has a setting to turn the light on automatically when the ambient light level is low, such as in a tunnel or tree-lined route.

blaze-burner-rear-light-4It is early days in terms of usage, but so far I am very happy with the light and the quality of its components, such as the flexible mounting bracket and powerful magnetic attachment.

For me the brightest setting is actually too bright, so I am using it on the normal steady mode, which is claimed lasts 60 hours per charge via the handy USB cable.

So I am feeling triply happy with myself. I own an innovative high quality product. I got a discount for being an early backer. And I am supporting a fledgling UK company, making a great UK designed and assembled product.

Update

I’m still happy with my Burner light, but perhaps if I’d had a bit more nerve I might have gone for Bike Balls instead.

bike-balls

I think they describe the product far better than I could:

In a world filled with disgruntled drivers who hate sharing the road, you need some pretty serious balls to ride a bicycle these days. The morning commute is crying out for a little humour to diffuse the tension, and as a cyclist you need to be noticed! It’s in this spirit that Bike Balls were created.

Bike Balls are a raunchy rear bike light designed to be mounted beneath your bicycle saddle – they dangle off the seat rail and playfully bob-around as you ride. The simple mounting system is secure enough to stay on during bumpy rides whilst remaining easy to attach and take off.

Made from waterproof silicone, this durable scrotum houses a powerful red LED to alert drivers to your presence. Just give them a gentle squeeze to turn them on (just like the real thing) and to switch between the various light modes. They’re as functional as they are hilarious.

Grab yourself a pair today.

More info
Product Features:
The World’s most over confident bike light
Turn them off and on (and switch modes) with a gentle a squeeze
High-grade silicone body with integrated strap and switch
Water/splash resistant construction, built to last
Super efficient red LED
Three light modes – solid light / slow flashing / fast flashing
Powered by 2xCR2032 replaceable batteries
Battery lasts for ~100 hours (solid light mode) or ~190 hours (flashing mode)
Includes 2 zip-ties for semi-permanent installation
Funded within 3 days on Kickstarter

 

 

 

Goody goody GumDrop – Recycle your gum here

gumdrop-logoAlmost every day at work I hear new names for new businesses. And sad to say, many of them would not be allowed by the UKIPO as they are too descriptive, or already registered as trade marks.

The company name may not qualify as a trade mark because, for example:

  • It is not considered distinctive
  • It is a descriptive word or term
  • It may indicate geographical origin
  • It may already be registered in someone else’s name

The following examples of company names would not be accepted as trade marks: Reliable Builders – Cheap Car Insurance Company

The important point for me, is that a name is allowed and distinctive, rather than descriptive. But I love it when I see a name that manages to capture the essence of the product in a fun way.

A great example is Gumdrop, a recycling point for chewing gum. I noticed the catchy sign outside work and snapped the photo below. I love the bright colours and the reminder of  the chewy sweet Gumdrops from my childhood. It is also a reminder that you can have the same name as someone else as long as you are not competing in the same sector.

gumdrops

Even better, they are recycling chewing gum into useful plastic products, making themselves a social enterprise.

gumdrop

On National Biscuit Day – to dunk or not to dunk – that is the question

Source Paul Bailey Flickr

Source Paul Bailey Flickr

I’m not generally a fan of National Days, for instance Trivia Day and National Dress Up Your Pet Day. But I am prepared to make an exception for National Biscuit Day which occurs this Sunday 29 May.

For me, biscuits will always be associated with drinking tea. Because, as that memorable slogan from 1978 for Rich Tea biscuits put it, “A drink’s too wet without one”.

And some might say that biscuits are too dry without tea. Although that didn’t stop my brother munching his way through whole packets at a time as a teenager.

If you want to explore tea, biscuits and cake in more detail, have a look at the quintessential British blog nicecupofteaandasitdown. Their mission statement reads; “Well I think we should all sit down and have a nice cup of tea, and some biscuits, nice ones mind you. Oh and some cake would be nice as well. Lovely.”

cup-339864_640Thanks to last year’s Daily Mirror quiz, we know that the UK’s favourite biscuit is the Chocolate digestive.

According to Amy Lloyd, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, “The ritualistic nature of eating biscuits with a hot drink appeals to consumers, demonstrating how ingrained this occasion is within British culture but emphasising the need for the biscuit category to expand beyond the tea-drinking audience.” Biscuit sales soar as recession drives people to ‘comfort food’. And this is certainly true for my regular visits to my elderly parents.

So that leads me nicely into the whole topic of dunking biscuits. To dunk or not to dunk, that is the question (to badly misquote Shakespeare).

This is a controversial topic that has seen many articles on either side of the the debate. One was triggered by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal announcing that scientifically, biscuits taste better dunked in tea.

food-1338148_640

Who can resist a chocolate finger?

For the pro-dunkers, expert advice can be found at biscuit.org. Key advice includes avoiding dunking embarrassment by ensuring your biscuit will fit inside the diameter of your tea cup.

There are even more articles on the search of the perfect dunking biscuit. According to teadunking, the plain digestive biscuit is the favourite. Whereas TV chef Jamie Oliver’s top three are Hobnobs (plain and chocolate) and Ginger Nuts. But according to scientific research reported in the Daily Mirror, Rich Tea is the King of the dunkers.

Then again, a survey of 3,000 dunkers in the Daily Telegraph ‘proved’ that Chocolate digestive is nation’s favourite dunking biscuit.

As with so many things in life, you have to make up your own mind. And I’m going with the Ginger Nut for the perfect combination flavour and firmness after being dunked.

cookies-1264263_640

Chocolate cookies run Ginger Nuts a close second in my book

Photos from Flickr and Pixabay

Books are back up – and so are vinyl records

Books from PixabayI know librarians are supposed to be book fanatics, but I have to confess that I never have been. Maybe it’s my background in computers from an early age. Or perhaps a rebellion against parents who read Proust in the original French.

Despite my enthusiasm for technology, I did not welcome the arrival of digital books and their associated e-readers. I tried a few, but always found the experience ergonomically inferior to the traditional bound printed paper form.

So, I was pleased to hear on the radio today, a report from the Daily Telegraph newspaper that book sales have risen, in contrast to ebooks sales, which have declined. Books are back: Printed book sales rise for first time in four years as ebooks suffer decline

It will be interesting to see if hard-copy continues to make a come-back, or this is a temporary blip in the relentless march of new technology.

Purple Cow coverI am reminded of a conference speech many years ago by Seth Godin, marketing guru and author of the Purple Cow, He said that his biggest selling book was in fact the one he also gave away as a free PDF. He explained that after having read the electronic version, people wanted to have a ‘souvenir’ copy to put onto their shelves. Just imagine having friends round, and as the conversation turns to marketing – you say, “Have you seen Godin’s book?”.

Scenario one would be, “Ok, let’s just walk over to my computer, turn it on, and see if I can find the PDF file for you to look at”. The second would be, “Ok, let’s just have a look on my bookshelf and show you what I am talking about. You could even borrow it, if you promise to bring it back ;-)”.

I know which of these scenarios would be more appealing to me.

Crosley Cruiser BlackAnd it’s not just books that are enjoying a resurgence. Sales of vinyl records are up this year by more than 60%, and are set to reach levels not seen since the late 1980s, according to the BBC. But, although record players such as the Crosley Cruiser (currently available from the British Library shop as part of our Punk exhibition), are selling well. It turns out almost half the people who buy a vinyl record will never actually listen to it. Silent vinyl: Buying records without a record player

So, is this another case of the souvenir copy to impress friends and family? If so, it tells us that the digital world still has a lot to learn in terms of what gives human consumers retail satisfaction.

Kutsuwa

In search of the perfect pencil sharpener

Pixabay.comThe pencils only rule at the British Library means I have become closely acquainted with the ancient art of pencil sharpening.

Having tried many different types over the years and found them all wanting, I finally splashed out on a Kutsuwa RS015BK.

The previous designs were either too blunt or too flimsy to produce a properly sharp nib. Or they broke off the end of the pencil lead just as it was on the point of being ready to use.

Kutsuwa Co., Ltd. was founded in 1910 as a stationery wholesaler in Osaka, Japan. In 1965, they started to design and manufacturer its own branded products. The model I chose came in a range of vibrant colours as one might expect from a Japanese manufacturer, but I went for the boring black model.

Kutsuwa

It is still early days, but so far I am very happy with the way this machine produces wonderfully sharp pencils, easily and quickly, as well as collecting the messy cuttings in a waste box.

So the lesson learnt here, once again, is if you want a good pencil sharpener you need to pay that bit extra.

Perhaps I should have researched this topic more thoroughly before spending my money. The Pencil Revolution contains many reviews of sharpeners. Or I could have read The art of sharpening pencils on Mathew James Taylor’s blog. Where I would learnt about the standard point, the chisel point, the needle point, or the bullet point. Although I definitely wouldn’t have chosen his favourite rather disturbing sharpener below.

living-dead-dolls-sadie-pencil-sharpener

I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover the ultimate sharpeners on the Manufactum website, as they specialise in goods made with traditional manufacturing methods and materials. They include the beautifully simple Dux Dual Pencil Sharpener Aluminium and the outrageously expensive but indestructible Caran d’Ache Steel Pencil Sharpening Machine.

Dux Dual Pencil Sharpener Aluminium

Dux Dual Pencil Sharpener Aluminium

Caran d’Ache Steel Pencil Sharpening Machine

Caran d’Ache Steel