Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Original Sin - issue 0 review

The latest multiverse spanning epic is about to hit Marvels Earth 616 (geek alert) with the Original Sin story line featuring Uatu the Watcher and his (spoilers ??!?) pending demise.

I'm not a fan of massive multi issue spanning epics usually (DC's Blackest Night being a notable exception) but something about this one with its unique premise has captured my attention, probably a fondness for the Watcher presented 'What If' stories of the 70's and 80' and of course The Watchers classic intervention in Lee and Kirbys classic first Galactus story in Fantastic Four (back when it was the Worlds Greatest Comic Magazine) - Ultimate Nullifier anyone ?

So I downloaded the preview issue last week featuring the Watcher and the new Nova (a character I've liked but never really seen in any great depth). The story isn't really, on first glance, anything to do with the pending galactic detective/CIS story but rather a small (if multiverse powered super beings can ever be considered small) character driven piece focusing on the sense of loss both primary characters feel from their mutual disappointment for and on behalf of their fathers. One is a young boy learning what it is to be a hero never knowing what his father, a previous member of the Nova corps stood for or really achieved or indeed even if he is still alive. Whilst the other saw his father apparently fail in a diasterous breach ofthe Watchers original contravention of the prime directive (facile Star Trek reference - sorry). There is even a guest appearance by the aforementioned most powerful weapon in the cosmos for the uber geeks amongst us.

A small story but one with depth that drives both characters forward, fleshes out back stories for both and one with a payoff that might, just might give you a fist clench moment or even dare I say it a brief tear to the eye.

On the strength of this I will at least buy the main 8 issue series and would recommend that most fans of solid character driven comics stories might want to give this storyline a try.

Specific or general posts on Localventure

Although Localventure is nominally represented by me as my 'business blog' I seldom write about the specifics of my day to day role advising clients on medical insurance and of course working with professional advisers (IFA's, Accountants etc) to assist their clients in turn.

This is for a variety of reasons, partly time as it is sometimes difficult to capture specifics in a concise  form as my area of expertise can be quite technical there's also the consideration that private medical insurance is a regulated business and of course I don't want to have my personal blog checked for compliance every time I make a post and keeping it general is one way of avoiding this.

Looking at the stats for hits on the blog though the more technical posts tend to get the most hits.

If you would like to find out about medical insurance can I suggest that you listen to my podcast called PMICast. This is available on iTunes, Stitcher, any pod catcher you use on your smart phone or tablet and of course on-line at I've been broadcasting weekly (pretty much) since mid 2013 and there are two 20 episode seasons to catch up on and we're now up to episode 5 (click to play) of season 3.

Every episode has information about medical insurance specifics and news for my introducer contacts.

If you would like advice for your own cover or your company or if you're an adviser (as above) please feel free to contact me on the blog e-mail : or or call me on 07792 075748.

I look after medical insurance cover for hundreds of clients and am always happy to welcome and help new ones.


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

IOS to Android move

My mobile contract is due to run out in mid May and having had iPhone 4, 4S and then iPhone 5 over the last two, 24 month contracts I am seriously considering moving from IOS across to Android in the next couple of weeks.

Writing a post on this in one go is going to be possible to I'll write, train of thought and see how we go.

What are the issues that are driving me to consider a change ?

1) Bored with both IOS and the iPhone form factor.

I've had an iPhone since the launch of the 4 in 2010 (?) - as above I've had three and although had no problems I fancy a change. The interesting thing is that I originally had an 'armoured' case on my iPhone 5 to protect it and when I took it off over Christmas it was literally like having a new phone and I think that prevented me upgrading to a 5S. Similarly when IOS 7 landed it was new and different and gave the iPhone longevity for me.

I think that android and it's foibles will catch my imagination and give me a bit of a challenge to get to grips with it. IOS does everything I need so moving to a new phone and OS and having to get my entire workflow transferred is going to give me an intellectual challenge if nothing else. That said, I've used my sons Nexus 7 on a semi regular basis for 12 months so it's not as if I come in to the OS from the cold.

2) Screen size

The eternal controversy and actually a bit of a query for me (see below on phone choice). When I moved from a 4S to the 5 I found the screen real estate increase a massive boon. Over time though I've found the size of the 5 for browsing, reading comics and even sat nag just a bit small. I never watch movies or Netflix on the phone but will regularly throw on an episode of 24 onto my iPad 4.

I'm also getting a bit frustrated flicking between devices in the evening from this MacBook to finish work, to the iPhone to check e-mail but the iPad for evening e-mailing. I wonder, idly, if having a 4.7 or 5.5 inch phone might minimise this device switching and save seem time and effort.

The other thing for me to consider though is overall device size. I take my iPhone with me everywhere. It 'lives' in my left hand back jeans pocket or occasionally in the inside right pocket of a jacket. This means that any phone/phablet that didn't fit in that jeans pocketing particular kind of won't work for my use case.

3) Which phone

As an early adopter you cry, wait for the iPhone 6 later in the year. That's fine but I think I want a change. As an early adopter that means I need a top of the line Android handset. That leaves me with (in my mind) the following options :

HTC One M8
Galaxy Note 3
Galaxy S 5

I have removed the S 5 from the list because I just don't like the look of the device over much and I'm  now weighing up the pro's and cons of the M8 and the Note 3.

In the next section of this IOS to Android epic (probably sometime next week) I'll go into the choice between the phones and which network/package I'm going to go for and then in Part 3 in late May/early June I'll discuss the ramifications of the change and how I'm getting on - more to follow.

New podcasts

Not just a new episode of PMICast today - ep 5 from Season 3 - check it out on iTunes and also but also a brand new podcast : Afternoon Train - my personal podcast covering a range of topics and areas including SF, fantasy, news, business, science, skepticism, podcasting and many others.

It's designed as an occasional train of thought or rant recorded when I get time between projects at work. For the time being it will sit in the main PMICast stream along with PMICast and Where's Wilson so please try it out and see what you think.

Thanks !

Monday, 28 April 2014

Not quite as young as once I was

Trained tonight and during the warm up before I actually did anything my calf seems to have developed a bijou tear and frankly its bloody agony and annoying.

Goes to show I suppose that as a 43 year old I'm not quite as spry and nimble as I perhaps think. The annoying part was that I didn't do anything extreme, violent or sudden I just put my foot on the ground and the muscle just went from under me. Stupidly though I carried on (hopping) for another 50 minutes and have probably done more damage to the injury.

So I'll need to rest up some prior to training on Wednesday !

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Comixology changes .... Aaaarrrrgggghhhh !!!!

OK so Comixology had been bought by Amazon and we all know what a mess they made of the sale of e-books. There have been a range of humours and scare stories about this purchase culminating in the new ios app going live today.

The on-line moaning today is about the new ios app and the removal of the store front from within the app just as Amazon did with the kindle store so we now have to buy our comics from the safari comixology store and not the ios app. This is a bit of a pain to be sure but not really, especially with the gift certificate that comixology has given to everyone who has ever purchased a comic from them.

The bottom line is people don't like change. Maybe thought not having to pay the 30% to the App Store means that pricing on comics may become more flexible ?

Regardless I'm taking my $ 5.00 bribe and buying a trade ... Hahahahahahahah !

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The extremes of Linkedin

I know not everyone agrees with me but I feel that Linkedin as a business social network is a vital too in acquiring new contacts and clients and then keeping those you have. It is a way of creating a professional on-line presence, establishing credibility and a useful marketing tool. So as a result I will often reach out to fellow professionals in my various groups and ask if I can help them with my business services or to ask for their assistance in their area of expertise.

So this week I contacted several financial advisers in the UK and asked if they might be interested in working with me in the medical insurance market.

The reactions of two of them are I think interesting. One came back to me and insisted I didn't ever contact him again, where did I get his contact details and how dare I send him a message and so on. This person clearly doesn't either understand the mechanics nor the principle of Linkedin. As I often find when people react like this his profile (obviously penned by him) marked him as a forward looking business leader helping his clients with marketing and business mentoring especially in on-line sectors. I hope non of his clients ever wants to use Linkedin as part of their sales and marketing process - EPIC FAIL. He asked me to remove him from my 'mailing list'. I suggested politely that if he doesn't want to interact with people in his Linkedin groups that perhaps he might like to withdraw from the group and leave it to those of us interested in networking with each other. I will of course not be using him for any business mentoring or marketing activity in the future. More than that I will actively other people interested in looking at that kind of business service to actively avoid him.

Another contact came back to me this morning with a lovely, polite message saying that they do not contract out their medical insurance services for a variety of reasons. He outlined those reasons and wished me well for the future. I replied to him by return, thanking him for his time and letting him know that although we wouldn't be working together, if he ever had any queries or questions on medical insurance I would be happy to help him - for free.

Nice guy, understand and respect his position and happy to abide by it.

You see, to me networking on Linkedin is as much about what you put in as what you get out - thats the fundamental point missed by the first contact I mention in this post.

I am always happy to help people out even when there is nothing in it 'financially' for me. I have always found that what goes around comes around and people you help now are for more likely to come back to you for assistance (that might result in income) later - plus it only takes a few minutes out of my day to be polite and answer a quick question when they arise.

Enjoy the weekend, be kind but don't suffer fools too gladly.

Sermon over.


Thursday, 24 April 2014

Being Jack Bauer in business

No, no, no you must not torture rivals to obtain classified business information or disobey key laws.

Rather, I've been catching up on '24' on Netflix (I'm currently halfway through season 5) my way of getting through menial admin tasks.

It occurs to me that Jack Bauer has it hard. No sooner has he captured a key suspect than he is called away to defuse a poison gas cannister. The countdown gets to zero then he discovers that there is a mole in CTU, whilst he's tracing the mole (small furry animal?) he is betrayed by his best friend and has to fight his way into a terrorist compound to rescue the President who will shortly order Jack to be handed over to the Chinese government for treason.

Phew and that's all in less than 24 hours.

In this way the eponymous Jack is very similar to the average small business person. Not in terms of the violence but certainly in that we have to do everything - sales, admin, PR, client segmentation, networking and so forth  - so maybe we don't need Jack's ruthlessness but a bit of his focus and commitment clearly helps succeed.

So next time you only have four minutes to complete a client proposal, whilst the phone is ringing off the hook and you have to go out on an important appointment remember - you are the hero, the only hero of your own episode of '24'.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Long but productive day yesterday

Had a long but generally positive day yesterday.

Managed to resolve a new business case with a client that has been going since December 2013 and has taken until yesterday to resolve all the issues around moving them to a new insurer, sorting out the product and price proposition and assisting the client with achieving their goals in the medium term. Not a massively lucrative case for me but very satisfying when I'm able to resolve all the issues and successfully set up the right cover for the client and their family.

In addition I heard formally yesterday evening that I have been promoted at my karate club to 'Assistant Club Intrutor'. Although I have been teaching regularly since Christmas the promotion has now formalised my position and at the Yeadon club I will be taking the class more regularly (as the senior instructor is expanding the Halton side of the club and will not be able to come over to Leeds as often. Really enjoying the training at the moment and the new instructor role harks back to my previous club where I was the second most senior dan grade.

Also managed to get the marketing work kicked back up to speed yesterday and prep for todays marketing too. Had to work until after 10.00pm but preppie for another busy day - hence trying to get this post up first thing this morning.

Back to blogging

Over the Easter period I have sat down several times to put a new blog post up and haven't frankly has the inspiration to do so. Unusually I haven't done too much work over the Easter fortnight (is it me or are holidays getting longer and longer?) with the kids being off and Easter being so late I have got tied up with a number of family issues, visits, outings and so forth and tended to just do the minimum of client support and e-mails answering first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Now the Easter hols are over I think we're getting back to a more usual work pattern. Certainly work is pretty busy at the moment with lots of client and introducer things happening. I have a new episode of PMICast (number 4 from season 4) to upload with lots of good stuff included - please check it out on iTunes or at and check it out on your phone pod catcher of choice too - make sure you subscribe.

You can also check out my other podcast, also in the PMICast stream, called 'Where's Wilson'. This is my occasional SF and Fantasy podcast (a lot more lighthearted than PMICast) that I host with my kids.

Lastly I am toying with moving from IOS to Android when my phone becomes due for a change in the next couple of weeks. Shouldn't affect my number (PAC system notwithstanding) but I'll probably blog about the process and my thoughts in coming blog posts too.

Welcome to the blog post Easter - keep busy !

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Bienvenu and Wilkommen to Localventure

Been a hectic few days in Chez Localventure.

I took a few days off over the start of the Easter break and came back to work 'full power' today with a backlog of queries, client reports and e-mails to resolve and am slowly getting back on track.

As I projected, no chance of a PMICast this week but I'm prepping next weeks so we should be back to the normal weekly schedule. I am however also working on a new podcast idea due to launch shortly in the PMICast stream so watch this space.


Over the last few weeks I've seen several movies including : Captain America : The Winter Soldier (aka muscly guys in masks kicking the c#*p out of each other for the benefit of fan-boys) and Divergent (Hunger Games Lite) - although to be fair Divergent is actually a better movie than THG as it has a plot, characters who progress as people and an end. Looking forward to Amazing Spiderman 2 although I suspect my view will be - see comments for Captain America.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Royals Masters of War by Vertigo Comics issues 1 to 3 - review

This is a six issue mini-series from DC's Vertigo imprint art by Simon Coleby written by Rob Williams with variant covers by Brian Bolland.

The basic premise of the story is that in the build up to world war two the main royal families of the world are different. Not just in terms of social standing but in that they have superpowers. The purer the royal bloodline the more powerful the royal family member.

There is however a treaty in place that prevents the royals from intervening in armed military conflicts for fear or unbalancing them. So the war is progressing pretty much as we know in out history. In other words in the early days of the war it isn't going so well for the allies.

Seeing the disastrous consequences of the London Blitz, younger royal prince : Henry (who has a slightly dubious relationship with his psychic younger sister Rose and awful sibling rivalry with his debauched and more powerful older brother Arthur) can no longer restrain himself or his powers and launches into an attack on the German Luftwaffe effectively 'winning' the Battle of Britain in the process.

The six issues will follow wartime events and so far by issue three we are at the Battle of Midway as Harry and Arthur have been seconded to the Pacific theatre of the war by Winston Churchill and are tracking the Japanese flagship around Midway. There's a problem here though - remember that I said the purer the royal bloodline, the more powerful the royal - well the Japanese royal family have the purest line of all and this means that Emperor Jimmu of Japan is about to create a very bloody conflict.

The books, so far are doing an excellent job of creating believable characters and a situation that whilst not realistic doesn't denigrate the historical era or those who gave their lives fighting. In fact the theme of the books seems to be to highlight the sometimes peripheral role that some of the royals, like Arthur are having. Further, their involvement is almost exclusively negative - look at (spoilers) the hideous murder that Arthur commits when his choice of bed partner is questioned by one of the non-powered American 'super team' : the Allies.

One character quips there will have to be consequences for Arthurs actions ..  "but not yet" as they suit up to go off on their next mission. One gets the feeling that there will be quite nasty consequences for some of the super royals as the book draws to the end of its run.

So an excellent rounded book with characterisation, drama, suspense and a goodly dose of massive powered action (sic the smashing of a Destroyer into the allied Aircraft Carrier by Jimmu at the end of issue 3). Brilliantly drawn with an easy comic book style that never descends into sub Michael Bay transformers images. Reminds me in some ways of the classic Zenith strip from 2000AD drawn by Steve Yeowell.

Defintely worth a download, especially when it comes to trade at the end of its run in Autumn.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

New episode of PMICast today plus a minor correction

I have uploaded episode 3 of the new season of PMICast this morning.

Now I seldom if ever listen back to my 'casts but this evening I listened to the new ep by chance and discovered that the intro that I put at the start of each episode refers to season 2 not the new season 3 - will try and get this changed but of course it doesn't affect the content, simply sounds a bit dense - sorry for not checking sooner and I will correct when I get the chance to record a new intro.

Rip off Britain .... or not

When I left BCWA Healthcare (now part of Simply Health) in 2002 and moved to Standard Life Healthcare (now part of PruHealth) I had in amongst the detritus one gathers when you work at home a box of Staples staples (see below)

Staples Staples circa 2002
Obviously I would never advocate 'stealing' office stationery but the box was almost full in 2002 and sat on my in tray and it never occurred to me to give it back to the employer I was leaving. So for the last 12 years I have been refilling my stapler from this supply of 5,000 or so staples.

So as you might gather I don't do a massive amount of stapling - on average around 1.14 stapling events per day.

Over the years I have become sentimentally attached to this red box - I've had it longer than my youngest child for example (sorry Ryan). Yesterday, terror of terrors I filled up my trusty stapler with the last of the red box supply and had to go out this morning and purchase a new box of staplers.

Two things about this process surprised me. Firstly 1,000 new staples only cost 25 pence (Morrisons value) - so now I do not feel as guilty about stealing from Simply Health - even allowing for inflation and interest I probably owe them less than £ 2. More importantly I cannot bring myself to bin the red box. So, sad but true the new Morrisons staples are sitting in the old red box on my in tray.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Fighting Fantasy Gamesbooks - House of Hell

As a callow youth I was heavily into RPG's (role playing games) like Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller Call of Cthulhu and several others. An interesting side genre to the main RPG scene was the Fighting Fantasy games books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, published by Penguin books from the early 1980's onwards.

I bought (and still own in a box in my loft) the first 30 or so of these game books and whilst idly surfing on the App store last week discovered that a developer, working with the FF books current publisher now has an app version of some of these books.

The one that caught my eye was called 'House of Hell' one of my favourites from the series and a 'horror survival' story a la Silent Hill or Resident Evil.

Here's the Amazon pic of the original cover from the 1980's

The basic premise of the books and now the app is that the player (controlling the story) after reading a passage then chooses their next action and turns to one of several numbered sections so for example :

"You find yourself standing in a darkened room and hear a rustling over to the left by the large window. Do you :

Go and investigate the rustling sound - turn to page 234

Move over to the opposite wall and wait to see what happens - turn to 456

Run out of the room and back the way you can - go to 18

and so on ...

In addition to this multi-action premise the FF games books also had an element of fighting opponents within the story using pre-generated life and health statistics and using dice - just like more traditional multiplayer RPG's. so it was perfectly possible (if you didn't cheat usually like me) to get two thirds of the way through the story, have your character die and need to start again from the beginning. I can't honestly think anyone played properly without 'fixing' the negative dice rolls !

As a child and teenager I found FF and similar books endlessly enthralling and must have bought and read dozens, nay hundreds of the damn things over the years covering fantasy, SF, crime and of course lots of branded licensed versions for DC Heroes and other franchises in addition to Fighting Fantasy itself which become kind of the 'gold standard'.

So coming across this app last week I got quite excited and decided to indulge in a bit of 'nostalgia'.

Having bought the app (£ 3.99 on IOS app store) I opened it up, rolled my character and began to play - bit of a damp squib to be honest - there's clearly a reason why I stopped reading these as an adult - they're not the best written pieces of literature and frankly the limits of the multi-ending book genre become really apparent, really quickly. If I died once I must have been killed 4 or 5 times and felt compelled not to cheat and had to start again and re-read the same sections over and over. To be fair there is a book marking system in the app version that enables you to save progress but you still need to go back and re-read endlessly.

So the unopened packages of FF books in my loft will remain so and I can't see me spending any more time or money on the app's I'm afraid.

Maybe sometimes childhood nostalgia really should stay as just that. Dungeons and Dragons anyone ?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

No PMICast this week ... so far

I managed to lose a full day this week.

On Tuesday morning I realised at the last minute I had an all day meeting on Wednesday and that has (as you might imagine) totally buggered my week. Especially given that I'm super busy at the moment anyway.

I have this weeks episode of PMICast prepped and ready to go but I just haven't found the time to get it recorded. I made an abortive attempt to record in the car during the lunch session of my meeting yesterday. Unfortunately the less than ideal recording conditions and the vagaries of Garageband on iPad meant that didn't work too well. So the plan is still to record the episode and try and get it up for you tomorrow.

I was keen to record this week as I wanted to cover off one particular NHS news story this week if I can't get to it I will blog on the topic next week.

Watch out on iTunes and tomorrow - all being well !