Friday, December 23, 2005

Damn You Meme, Damn You to Hell

Thanks to JL Pagano and Knackered Kaz, I've been apparently tagged with something called a meme. (Help me out, what's a "meme" ; and how do you pronounce it?)

The first player of this game starts with the topic “five weird habits of yourself,” and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals. Don’t forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says “You are tagged” (assuming they take comments) and tell them to read yours.

The two things I love about blogging are (a) the easy and immediacy with which a cretinous technophobe like me can post (b) the interaction between different bloggers. I understand that this meme serves to stimulate further interaction between bloggers which can only be a good thing.

But I have to explain one thing about myself - actually it might be one of my weird habits. I loathe, despise, hate, abhor (and a host of other such verbs), chain letters, e-mails and the like. I've had the lot in my time - post this email to 10 people who you love and something good will happen within 10 days ; Take this cup of yeast, flour + milk and spread this friendship cake ; Buy 5 books and leave them on 5 tube trains with a message to the finder to do the same ; Send your business card to this child who is dying of a brain tumour and wants to be in the Guiness Book of Records for having the most business cards.

I dislike these chain things because, I think they play on people's insecurities. The fear of drawing the wrath of God on someone .... or the terror of being the spoilsport who broke the chain. I detest Mexican waves for the same reason.

They were particularly commonplace at our school. It was telling that they persisted despite the nuns' excessive punishment of any participant. The nuns used to make anyone caught say 10 decades of the rosary and tell five of our friends the error of our ways. Or maybe it was that we had to get 10 of our friends to say 5 decades of the rosary, I can't remember rightly?

I used to delight in stopping this superstituous nonsense by canvassing classmates to send me the chain. They thought that I was weird 'cos I took great delight in breaking the chain by sending the 5 letters to myself. For a time I became the Scourge of the Chain Mailers ; Part admired, part pitied. But I got a lot of letters from girls who didn't want to risk breaking the chain themselves. One girl even started a chain that had a rule expressly forbidding anyone to include me a recipient.

Cos its Christmas and I know that JL and Kaz don't mean any harm, here are my 5 things.
  1. Whenever I pass a Catholic church where there is a funeral on, I always go in so that I can hear an emotional rendition of "Tantum ergo". I imagine myself in a horror movie and sing along getting more and more frightened.
  2. Each year I start two separate diaries - a work one and a personal one. By February I end up in a right state as I never know where I am suppose to be.
  3. Every office Christmas party, I always end up snogging the one man that I hate the most. This makes the following year even more unbearable and if I stay in the same company for more that 2 years, I'm afraid that I'll end up having his babies while wanting to murder him most cruelly.
  4. As the only person in a family of 10 children without a middle name, I invent a different middle name and initial for credit cards, electoral register, etc. At College I was Paige L, my bank link has Paige M, my polling card proclaims Paige S. I signed my blogger account as Paige A Harrison. I understand that this is probably fraudulent as well as weird.
  5. I feel an overwhelming compulsion to break chain letters, email etc. I now tag the following 5 people :- Paige, Paige, Paige, Paige, Paige.
Hope you all have a brilliant Christmas and look forward to reading you all in 2006.

Live, Love & Prosper

I went to post a comment on Rinceoir's blog. I tend to think on Rinceoir as an earnest thoughtful young man who thinks a lot and is trying hard to do the right thing. Of course, I could be completely wrong. She might be a militant lesbian in denial. Anyway, I ended up with a longer comment that I had intended. And since I've not posted for a few days - posting from the queue in BT2 is technologically beyond me - I thought I'd post it here.

Rinceoir's Timid Tiny Thoughts is strangely named. His (her) thoughts are rarely timid and tend to address huge issues. I respect his honest (despise her duplicitous) posts!

Being neither a homosexual/bisexual nor a Christian, I probably am not qualified to comment. But since I know people who are excellent examples of each(and in some cases, both), I'll throw my tuppence worth in......

Question 1 : I strongly believe that it can never ever be sinful for one person to love unconditionally another.

Question 2 : I don't think anyone chooses their sexuality. Like all traits & personality characteristics, it is derived from a combination of nature + nurture.

Question 3 : If you want to claim to be a Christian, you need to do everything in your power to support equality for homosexuals as well as any minority that the herd turn on.

Most practicing Christians are just that - practising. So the gay community needs to accept that true Christians are trying their best. They (Christians) should not be condemned for failing to achieve the Christian ideal any more that gays should be condemned for not meeting a societal concept of normality.

You didn't ask the question : Is there a biological purpose for homosexuality? Clearly from an anthropological perspective, the human race wouldn't survive long if everyone was gay. But then again, the human race wouldn't survive very long if everyone had fair skin. We'd all die of skin cancer. But we don't asked the questions :-

Is having fair skin a sin?
Is having fair skin a choice?
If having fair skin is a sin, how far should Christians support equal rights for people with fair skin?

I actually know a couple of people who are Christian and have fair skin!!

Live and Let live ; Love and let love.

Monday, December 19, 2005

And God so loved the world...

that he gave us the ability to laugh and share, to need and be needed, to love and cherish.
He also gave us the ability to hate and despise, to condemn and insult, to scorn and offend.

Today Grainne & Shannon got "married' in Belfast. As with any wedding ceremony, I'm sure that there were pre-marital nerves and a bit of anxiety. No doubt a lot of effort went into the preparations. It wasn't done lightly. It's never easy standing up in front of the world and making this solmen pledge. But it can't have been any easier with a bunch of Free Presbyterians bigots heckling their disgust.

The Levee Breaks puts it so much better than I could. So check out their excellent post.

It is clear to me who has used the capacity to love and who has natured the ability to hate. Every best wish to Grainne & Shannon and to every other couple who stands up to small minded prejudice.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Imagine That!

Maybe its my parent’s fault. Perhaps I should blame my convent school education. Or even the legal training which has knocked out all semblance of individuality out of me. Either way, it has become clear that I’ve a major socio-psychological problem. I can’t fantasize. This imagination deficit has become starkly evident in two separate recent incidents.

The first was earlier this week while stuck on a train to Westport. Due to engineering works, I found myself trapped in an antiquated carriage in the rural wilderness somewhere between Roscommon and Castlerea. We were motionless for about 20 minutes with only the occasional sound of a metal spanner clanking optimistically on some piece of high technology 1950’s engineering disturbing absolution silence. The carriage was empty but for myself and a thirteen year old girl who was engrossed in the latest Harry Potter – “Harry Potter and the Interminable Franchise”, I think it was called. This earnest young lady turned pages at a frightening rate, her eyes darting left and right as she devoured the prose. She became almost breathless with excitement and let out an almost orgasmic groan as she came to the end of her book. Being a polite young lady, she apologised for her subconscious outburst but explained how JK had really taken her places. We got into a discussion about the eponymous hero and I quickly realised that she does the lot – Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. I wanted to know her fascination with this pulp fiction. I’ve never been able to suspend my disbelief long enough to get into any of this stuff. She gave a cogent argument that would have done justice to any high brow arts discussion how the exploration of good and evil was an important aspect to the maturing personality. She extolled the importance of being able to escape the hear & now and, without saying it, left me in no doubt that I’m an incomplete person for not having acquired this faculty.

Tony and I have had several alcohol-fuelled discussions about the state of our relationship recently. We both agree that a certain level of complacency has created into our hitherto dynamic relationship. We seem to know each other too well and make subconscious compromises in our choice of movie, socialising, holidays, etc. Badly articulating one particular point, I remarked that the surprise, no excitement - the intrigue had gone from our courtship. One of the things I love most about Tony is that he makes an effort. Most times he doesn't know why, but he knows that he must. So I shouldn’t have been too surprised when he came home last night with some costumes and a book on role playing in a valiant attempt to spice up our love life. Tentatively, I tried to respond to his initiative. But no matter how hard I tried or how many glass of vino I consummed, I couldn't see him as a manly Roman centurion guard. Instead I could only think of him as the guy from Ranelagh that took me bowling on our first date. As for the skimpy nurse uniform, I was concerned that anyone attempting to administer modern healthcare in that get up had a lot more than MRSA to worry about! A woman who wanted to wear such a revealing outfit would, I reasoned, be unlikely want to empty chamber pots for incontinent A&E victims.

You see, I need to believe something is credible before I immerse myself in it. Quite simply I can’t fantasise! And I do try. Take this latest Roy Keane saga for example. Sometimes I want to grab him by his oversized necktie knot, throw him on the bed, rip off his shirt to reveal his chiselled six pack, tie his arms and legs to the bed posts and then … go off to the sitting room and watch Dublin v Meath in the company of Ger Canning. Please don't hate me because of my social dysfunction.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Economics for Dummies

Now that the dispute has been resolved, it might be worth thinking about the underlying issue that never really got discussed during the heat of the Irish Ferries dispute.

I’ve a very simplistic view of economics.  I believe that left to its own devices economies find their natural equilibrium.  The influx of migrant workers from EU accession states and beyond has the potential to bid down wages beyond the point where Irish people would be willing to work.  So as a society, we have decided to establish a minimum wage to protect workers in Ireland from such circumstances.  By forcing a minimum wage, we pay the price that some jobs disappear because employers are unwilling to employ or find it uneconomical to pay staff at this “going rate”.  We are happy because at least those who do work have some semblance of a safety net.  We presume our social welfare policy will protect those who are unable to gain employment.  This simple view of economics works for a market where there is free movement of human and investment capital as there is supposed to be across Europe.

Despite minimum wage protections in both Ireland and France, we (or at least Irish Ferries) somehow believe that international maritime law should apply to crews on boats ferrying between both countries.  I don’t buy the argument that minimum wage protections shouldn’t apply on the waters that connect both EU countries.  Or that Philippine workers should be allowed to bid wages down to below the point that we believe to be socially acceptable.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy enough for Philippine workers to crew Irish Ferry boats.  I just happen to believe that they should also be afforded minimum wage protections.

Irish Ferries compete with low cost airlines in the carriage of passengers between Ireland, UK and France.  It is self evident that all things being equal most people will prefer a 55 minute flight to an airport 45 minutes from the capital city of their choice rather than a protracted rail/bus and ferry epic journey.  The travel economics of container freight is less stacked in favour of budget airlines.  Container freight doesn’t really value time & convenience over cost.  Hence Irish Ferries should face up to the economic realities that it has long since lost the foot passenger market.

As a small island economy that exports 95% of what it produces, too many Irish people’s jobs depend on the efficient dispatch of software, pharmaceuticals, beef, ceramics, etc to rely on the incompetent managers within Irish Ferries.  There is a strong case to be made for Ireland building, buying or leasing container ships and creating a strategically important nationalised shipping service.

(Don’t get me started on the Unions who are not entirely blameless in this whole debacle.)

Monday, December 12, 2005


Several of my dinky (Dual Income No Kids Yet) friends have recently announced that they have found themselves to be in the family way. Yeh, like this state of pregnancy has come as a complete surprise. One close friend of mine – who I’d generally credit as being streetwise – announced without irony that she didn’t quite expect it to happen so soon. I couldn’t quite reconcile this amazement with the three-times-a-night-with-new-German-boyfriend situation that she’d confided only 2 months previously. This got me thinking ……

3 times/night x 7 nights/week = 21 times per week

Assuming exaggeration factor of approximately 60%
= 13 times per week

13 times per week x 4 weeks per month = 52 times per month

If 1 ejaculation contains 300 million sperm, they’ve both been highly alcohol-fuelled and he’s German, that leaves a conservative estimate of

Chances of conceiving = 300 million x 45% = 135 million sperm

At one egg per month (we girls are nothing if not biologically economical), that’s 135 million chances per egg per month. How in the name of the sweet lord was she surprised it only took 2 months?

So this leaves me with just two dilemmas.

  1. How do I stay friends with someone who is so biologically altered?
  2. What is a good statement of congratulations that I should use for this and other similar situations?

I was thinking “I hope baby gets your looks and his brains and not the other way around.” Is that too cruel?

Thursday, December 08, 2005


A few years ago, I spent several years working in England. While I thoroughly enjoyed this period of my life (and I found the English to be a most hospitable race), the tabloid culture really depressed me. Everthing was viewed through the prism of a red top. Some of the most intelligent people I have ever met seemed to take their cue from what the Sun, Star or Mirror Editor wrote. The more misguided of the populace bought the Torygraph thinking they were somehow more discerning. The more xenophobic among them bought the Mail and never wondered why they came to detest the Irish. The feeding frenzy around a suspect politician or a fallen pop idol would turn your stomach. Get this, one professional footballer was even condemned for buying the Guardian. This choice of newspaper, his third level education and an interest in antiques, it seemed, was a sure sign that he was gay. And being gay was the worst insult. Well actually being an Irish gay was probably worse but they knew that this was impossible "what with it being against the Cafflick church and all".

It was always a pleasure coming back to Ireland and being able to read a decent newspaper. But now it seems that we've raced to the same bottom as the English tabloids

In recent weeks, several high profile individuals have been caught in the cross hairs of the meeja.

Barry McSweeney lost his job as the Government's Chief Science Advisor
Liam Lawlor died in a car crash and the media printed a inaccurate prostitute connection
Frank Connolly is accused of being a FARC training provo
Ivor Callely is hounded out of office by a concerted media campaign

Now don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of any of these individuals. But while we congratulate ourselves on a series of jobs well done consider the following.

McSweeney's appointment was political in the first place and everyone knew the quality of his PhD when he was appointed. He was "exposed" by academics disgruntled at his plans for university reform. No-one has really asked why he got the job in the first place and why it became so important that he have a credible PhD. The Irish Independent (and others) knew that a dead man can't be defamed, so they stuck the boot in causing considerable pain to a grieving Lawlor family. Perhaps we should ask why this newspaper was so full of vitriol? Connolly may be a FARC trainer par excellence but has Mr McDowell not heard of something called due process? And if he know this man has committed a crime why has he not called the guards in? Ivor seems to be a hardworking politician - a self-serving hard-working politician perhaps but I can't help wonder why the sudden frenzy to "take him out" at all costs?

Do we really have to dumb everything down?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What's my line?

The thought-provoking and ever encouraging JL has suggested that I drop the "virgin" reference in my strap line. After 2 months of blogging, I think I'm ready to take the next step. The problem is thinking up a suitable alternative to "Paige is a veritable blog virgin so go easy on her!"

Perhaps those who browse this blog occasionally could suggest an alternative tag line that tells folk what this blog is about?

Complete in no more than 10 words .......

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On Being Funny

Those who know me, know that I worship the one true god – Dilbert. After spending too many years than is good for me in cubicle-ville, I know he understands my pain and more importantly knows what it’s like to work in an organisation guided by management consultants. I like cartoonist Scott Adam’s sense of humour which is pointed and cutting whilst at the same time gentle and …. well I suppose constructively funny. In the search for a good audience reaction, many comics go for the cheap shot. There is a very fine line between being provocative and being gratuitously offensive.

I was somewhat bemused to read an article by Mr Adams on the Dilbert blog about a formula for humour. He notes that for something to be funny it has to have 2 out of 6 possible elements. The more of these elements the cartoon has, the funnier it is. Adams self-deprecatingly claims that he builds up cartoons to have as many of these elements as possible leaving his work by definition funny.

Of course in the real corporate world, such a rule as 2-of-6 would not stand up to scrutiny. Any management consultant worth his/her salt will tell you that for a rule to gain acceptance, it has to be capable of being summarised into a catchy acronym (e.g. F.U.N.N.I.E – Farcical, Unbelievable, Nonsensical, Naughty, Incredible, Eventful). Alternatively, a more classical approach favoured by legal and scientific disciplines is the Seven C’s (Cute, Coquettish, Crazy, Clever, Credible, Cruel)(*).

Scott has to get a firm of external consultants in, pay them a barrowful of money to take his grain of truth message and wrap it up in a self-serving framework that people will recall without remembering the underlying message. And I know the very firm, we’ve just sacked them! I’m off to run the 2-of-6 rule over Twenty Major who at times is side-splittingly funny (his First Pint story had elements of Cute, Clever & Credible) but then at other times is contrived, rude, attention-seeking and puerile!

(*) Scientists and engineers are known to be too intelligent to be able to count!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Continental Breakfast

Our Office is an increasingly sophisticated place when it comes to food and beverages.  We’ve long since migrated from a Barry’s teabag dunked in a chipped mug to something a lot more elegant.  The change in our communal refreshments has been gradual but no less premeditated for this evolution.

When it comes to tea – we have “regular” (Barry’s Gold Blend for the nostalgic over 40’s), “Green” and “white”.  We boast options including English Breakfast, Early Grey, Oolong, and Lapsung Souchong.  For the macho men on the third floor, needless to say we’ve gunpowder tea.  Our coffee’s come as americano, espresso, and mocha.  Cappuccino is currently not an option but we have our fingers crossed and a chocolate duster poised hoping someone will get an unwanted christmas present.

Accompanying this extensive array of beverages, we regularly scoff croissants (although we agree these are so 1990’s), corn muffins, danish pastries, pican plaits and pan au chocolat.  We’ve been through countless artisan and delicatessen suppliers until we are all agreed that we’ve the best eleven’s this side of Raffles Hotel, Singapore.

Indeed we view this daily morning coffee break as the most important ritual of the day.  We did try scheduling an office update for the same time to assuage our guilt but common sense prevailed.  Now we let no pretence of work interfer with our collective food-induced orgasims.

Yeh as we punctuate our coffee and snacks at 11 o’clock with freshly squeezed cranberry juice (orange is also so last century), we’re a pretty sophisticated bunch even if we say so ourselves.  But I have a secret confession that I’m too scared to share with my work colleagues.  Sometimes I’d just love a breakfast bap from the greasy spoon on Macken Street or a Cuisine de France (Cuisine de Neilstown most probably) floury scone as supplied by those fine people at Spar.  All washed down with a nice cup of Barry’s in my now chipped Dilbert mug.

Friday, December 02, 2005

In this Valley of Tears

I know that some couples seem to get off on it, but Tony and I never argue. We moved in together and negotiated our personal foibles (toothpaste, toilet seat, etc) without major incident. I handled Tony's obsessive mother and her less than subtle digs that I'm not feeding her son ; He maneouvered my overprotective Dad. Tony doesn't particularly like my friends and I suppose he tolerates them as much as I do his mates. Neither one of us likes confrontation. We both have hectic work schedules and things can get a bit stressful but we've always managed to help the other unwind without provoking any personal crisis.

So our little incident this morning over breakfast has come as something of a shock. In fact 4 hours later and I'm still not the better of it. It all started with something trivial ; I tried to laugh it off ; He thought I was being dismissive. I didn't like his tone ; He didn't appreciate my attitude. Why are you getting defensive ; Why are you so being so aggressive? Things combusted very quickly - I suppose with our lack of quarrelling experience, we never saw the tell-tale signs. Suffice to say that before I realised it we were in the midst of a blazing hurtful row.

I didn't wait for the lift to the train station - didn't want to be in the same car as him. He continued on without stopping. That man can be so stubborn. Not prepared for the weather, I was soaked before I got to the end of the road. Miss the 07:51 to Pearse and by 08:00 the platform was heaving. Trying to board, I got man-handled out of the way by Ms Mutton-dressed-as-lamb with the fake Prada handbag. The carriage was unbearably sticky standing and moreso in the armpit of Metal Mike and his tinnitus-causing MP3 player.

It just wasn't fair. It's not suppose to be like this.

A kindly 40-something gent lifted his head from his suduko and saw my plight. He did his mother proud by swiftly pouncing to his feet and in a gentle, understated way proffered me his seat. Mumbling my appreciation, I tumbled into it. And that's when it happened. I burst into a flood of tears. I don't mean a quiet discreet sob. No we're talking the whole dramatic nine yards complete with the sporadic breathless choke. Mr Suduko looked stunned and at the same time embarrassed. The young Italian-looking guy sitting opposite me, quickly "ciao-ed" into his mobile and fled the carriage and this hormonally challenged mad woman. The young one sitting beside him never flinched and didn't even look up. My hankie, soaked through from the elements, was next to useless. I remembered that my mascara wasn't waterproof and that I'd a 9:00am meeting.

Mr Suduko hunkered down beside me and asked that dangerous rhetorical question. Now he could have asked so many other less damaging questions. "Do you have a hankie?" ; "Would you mind not dripping on my Dubes, I've a 9:00 o'clock too you know?" ; "Is that the thanks I get for giving you my seat you ungrateful bitch?" But no, he gently enquired "Are you okay?". Cue more tears, more chokes and more tears.

A lesser man would have followed Milan Boy off at Lansdowne Road and taken the next dart the rest of the way. But he put an arm around me, told me that sometimes a good cry was the best medicine and not to be letting anyone upset me. He'd a clean, dry hankerchief which he insisted that I keep along with his Metro. Then he did a mini-Hugh Grant comedy routine, telling me not to worry 'cos he'd gotten them both free at the train station. Quickly correcting himself that it was the Metro & the Herald AM that had been freely distributed. The hankerchief was a gift from an ex-girlfriend which he thought was an ironic statement on the state of their relationship!

Good God, Mrs Suduko, you did some job with this one. He kept talking, quietly drawing attention way from my hysteria long enough for me to regain some measure of composure. The strange thing is, that I've seen this guy numerous times on the platform before. I've never spoken to him. I don't pay him too much attention. I think I caught him once checking out my cleavage as he stood over me on the train. But thanks to a level of calm sensitivity that I never thought I'd see in a Irish man, he transformed himself in my eyes from being a nerdy creep to being Rock Hudson and Carry Grant incarnate.

To avoid embarrassment, I'll have to change my choice of trains in the mornings now. But thank you Mr Suduko for being so sweet and I'm sorry for being such a handful.