Thursday, March 30, 2006

BlankPaige Radio Selection Guide - version 1.1a

Recognising that some bloggers have been influenced in their choice of radio listening by the Blankpaige, I thought it only appropriate that I provide this Radio Selection Guide for your continued listening pleasure. Part one in a six part series now follows.....

5:00 - 7:00 am
Now really if you are listening to the radio at this hour you are either an insomniac or a long distance lorry driver. The former should use this two hour slot to do their blog. The latter should not blog while driving but are strongly advised to pull in somewhere for a breakfast roll. Lorry drivers on an low GI diet should stay in their cabs and listen to the sultry Ann-Marie Kelly on Today FM. Ann-Marie does her best to cultivate a clueless girl jock persona but don’t be fooled by this. She is a broadcasting giant compared with some of the chinless wonders that grace 2FM after midday. She'll put some sauce on your breakfast roll!

7:00 - 9:00 am
You've got the first of many difficult decisions to make. A bit like how do you like your eggs in the morning?
  • Hard Boiled - Morning Ireland (RTE Radio 1)
  • Sunny Side Up - Marty Whelan (2FM),
  • Easy Over - Ian Dempsey (Today FM)
  • Unfertilised - Eamon Dunphy (Newstalk)

If you are generally depressed about the state of the country, I'd suggest that you avoid the RTE1 news heads who try desperately hard to emulate the style of their former big noise David Hanly. Earnest young men and women, they turn even the fluffiest of human interest stories into the Spanish Inquisition (Morning Ireland). If you are not a morning person, I suggest you pick up the Lyric Breakfast until the truckers have digested their heart attack in a bagette.

Those of a depressed nature must listen to Marty Whelan (2FM) to put a spring in your step. But only if you aren't allergic to cheese. You'll come away thinking that maybe your Dad isn't the most embarassing in the world. Ian Dempsey (Today FM) offers a similar low cholesterol diet. Surprisingly his selection of music is more "solid gold" than Marty's. If you've no interest in how many managers Real Madrid have had this week or what Roy Keane thinks about the European Interest rates, I'd avoid Eamon Dunphy (Newstalk).

Your best bet here is to start with RTE1 until the always excellent (since Ms Harney's redeployment) business news has been aired. This does of course force you too listen to the "What it says in the papers" slot but I find this a good time to take a shower. If I want pompous self-opinion, I'll switch instead to the Eamon Dunphy show. There isn't any point tuning into Eamo before 7:30am 'cos he won't have read the papers. I suspect he probably listens to RTE1 slot between 7:00-7:30am. Only give Dunphy half an hour (i.e. one question from Dunphy and one irrelevant answer by Lara Marlowe ; One analysis by John Giles comparing the world's leading soccer managers with some guy called Matt Busby ; A good betting story). You must be switched to Today FM by 8:00am to catch the news and Gift Grub. However, as too much sugar is bad for you, make sure you switch back to RTE1 from 8:30 until 9:00am.

Under no circumstances should you continue listening to Eamon Dunphy wrapping up his radio show. The aural equivalent of watching a car crash, it isn't a pretty sight and runs the severe risk of injury as Orla Barry comes bounding into your consciousness like a nymphomanical deer in heat. She'll just force herself on you and you'll feel violated.

The danger in such switching is that you get to hear a scrambled selection of conflicting news. Penalty points are going to be scraped, doubled or outsourced to the guys who run Dublin clamping services. Interest rates will rise by 3/4 of one percent, fall by a quarter or the European Central Bank will be closed for Thanksgiving. Steve Finnan will have an ankle injury that rules him out of contention for the next 6 days, 3 weeks, 2 years or rest of his career. Salthill Knocknacara will beat the living daylights out of some Antrim, Armagh or American club.

Listening options beyond 9 O'clock will be presented in the next installment.....

Radio Gaga

As part of my work, I spend a lot of my time on public transport. While I’m getting into the swing of mobile technology, I know my limitations. I have been able to read blogs on my mobile phone and it has brought a lot of joy to some otherwise drab Dublin Bus excursions. But I certainly haven’t been able to blog on the run like Omani, Thatgirl or Mental Meanderings. These model bloggers (and others) regularly don’t find overseas business trips an obstacle to their continued posting. One even whiled away the delays in the departures lounge at Dublin airport keeping Blog O’Sphere up to date with the impact of French traffic controller strikes on outbound flights. I can’t even master a simple telephone call from the States. I’m either stung for a fortune in extortionate hotel surcharges or I become embroiled in a battle of wits with the same AT&T operator.

One advantage of being so technologically inept is that I think listening to the radio on my mobile phone is the height of sophistication. Don’t be talking to me about mlogging or podcasts! And the best thing about the radio in Ireland is that it is generally very, very good. The trick is to know when to switch. But then they say the same thing about technology. So maybe it isn’t all beyond me!

So stand by for the all time best radio listening selection. Just as soon as I get some work done! In fact, I'll even take switching suggestions from fellow bloggers.


(To be completed)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Party Animal

I was at a house party last night that gave me cause to give a long and critical look at myself. I've certainly never been the life and soul of any soiree. Preferring to watch quietly from the shadows, I could best be described as a curious wallflower. It takes more than a little persuasion – and increasingly a lot of alcohol - to get me to boogie on down.

Because I was driving to Galway early the following morning, I was abstemiously off the gargle. It is a sad indictment that it has probably been years since I was last at a house party without some form of liquid fortification. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself.

The party theme of “Pirates & Princesses” was well observed by most of the quests. I hadn’t thought that people would bother – so I didn’t – not wishing to stand out. Arriving to a house full of Blackbeards and Princess Jasmines, I instantly regretted that decision. “God, I need at drink!”

My friends had come as Lusty Lucinda (a lesser known Scandinavian royal beauty) and Princess Dominatrix. Needless to say they couldn’t be described as wallflowers! They bopped, swung and rocked enthusiastically with Long John Silver and a guy who clearly fancied himself as Johnny Depp. Alas, he didn’t quite do it for me.

All over the room, the princesses were swooning into the arms of men known to have wrecked havoc all across the seven seas and the M50. Things almost got a bit rough when two buccaneers, Captain Morgan and Redbeard accidentally collided on the dancer floor throwing drink all over the place. Their attendant wenches however stepped in quickly like would be Keira Knightly’s to distract both men with their charms before any harm was done. No one was forced to walk the plank – not event the music guy who insisted on playing “La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin.

The usual coy moves played out throughout the night across the living room and into the quieter dining room retreat. Princesses compared the price of fabric and notes on other royal family members. Some pirates insisted on pretend wrestling (sorry, is that adjective redundant? Isn’t all wrestling pretend?) strutting their stuff like peakcocks in front of fainting princesses. But to my sober eyes it all looked like kinder garden stuff.

Which was probably just as well. Because the would be Pirate of the Caribbean was only 5 years of age. Princess Jasmine hadn’t started school yet and the strongest drink consumed at Sinead's 4th birthday party was ribena black current juice. They all had so much fun especially my little niece, Sinead, the Queen of the princesses. Blackbeard (known to his mum as Oisin) who’d asked me to dance said that I was the best dancer at the party. Princess Belle, who herself looked stunning, told me that my dress was beautiful. I’d so much fun at this party. I’m glad I didn’t spend it like Lucy & Dominique in the kitchen drinking with the mums & dads!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

My post of Wednesday last week has elicited all sorts of e-mail requests for further editions of the “Corporate Finance for Dummies” series.  Anonymous queries from people obtusely describing themselves as “an economist with Friend’s First”, “a director of the central bank”, and a “pig farmer from Co. Sligo” make a strong case for me to continue to the précis of major financing and re-financing events of corporate Ireland.  

This creates something of a dilemma for me.  Firstly, it starts to draw me away from my goal of becoming “the thinking man’s Anne-Marie Hourihan”.  Secondly, it starts to impact upon my ambition to write a one woman play about living in deepest, darkest Dundrum with Orla Barry.  (Sorry, of course I mean, write with Orla Barry a one woman play…. not a play about a woman living with Ms Barry!)  But perhaps most pertinently, it would mean that my job title would almost certainly have to change to “Financial Consultant”.  And regular readers of Blankpaige know how I feel about that.

So what should I do?  This is a bigger problem than my bloggers block?  Of course, I believe that it is all a conspiracy by Fiona Looney to see off any rival to her crown as wittering female writer.    

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Who's That Girl?

In what we hope will be one of just many interviews with Irish Bloggers, Thatgirl, author of Thinking Out Loud, talks to Blankpaige about the psychology of blogging, curated spaces and cybersex.

A veteran blogger, Thatgirl has built an impressive canon of sharply observed and thought-provoking posts that do a lot more than just think out loud.

The full interview can be found here.

Who's That Girl - Interview

Thatgirl in conversation with Blank Paige

You've been blogging since August 2003, what was it that attracted you in the first place? I’d read blogs from time to time prior to 2003 and I’d always had a hankering to “write” but hadn’t a clue what that actually meant, where to start or what to write about. A lot of my work at the time involved formal report writing and I was also studying and writing from an academic perspective. As a child I kept diaries and was an obsessive letter writer - to this day I still maintain contact with an Australian pen friend with whom I began corresponding when I was 14. I started blogging for myself to do as it says on the tin – think out loud. I’m an extroverted thinker so sitting in front of a blank screen to write anything is torturous for me. I need to have conversations in order to figure out what I’m thinking. A lot of my reading would be epistolary in nature too. So the thing that attracted me to blogging was the conversational and informal nature of it, the fact that I could talk about anything I wanted and to complete strangers and also the possibility that it might just strike a chord with one of them and we might have a conversation. When I started blogging I hardly knew anyone from my off line life who even knew what a blog was.

Talking to strangers is a theme that runs through my work and personal life also – I’m a therapist and a management consultant (a dangerous profession in your company!) – in both cases, I’m the stranger to whom people confide their (sometimes) very personal stories. I completely understand the power of saying something to someone with whom you have no personal relationship and many times the level of self revelation is vastly greater in “anonymous” spaces than it is in familiar ones. I also know the responsibility that the hearing of those stories brings and I’ve written a bit about this in my work life.

How would you compare Blogosphere with other media?
I’m not sure how my corner of cyberspace stacks up against “other media” at all – I genuinely have never considered myself part of the media per se. I think the blog world is not a homogenous one and while the physical medium might be similar the way in which it is used is as varied as the conversations people have on their phones every day. I am really excited about the potential power of blogs to keep an eye on “official” Ireland and in particular, Rip Off Ireland. Several Irish bloggers including Gavin and Potato are doing that admirably right now and naturally the election is going to provide a powerful platform for Irish Bloggers to become real spheres of real influence

On a personal level blogging is a useful way for me to keep in touch with friends who are spread all over the world as well as maintaining personal correspondences and developing new relationships (on and off line). I’ve learned more about blogging from the generosity of other bloggers than I could ever have from reading a book or trawling through a web site. I hope that the Bloggers’ Academy (when it kicks off) can do the same for people who want to jump in and start blogging as well as helping people like me understand what all those three letter acronyms mean!

Was blogging just an excuse not to write up your theses?
Well when I started blogging I was mid way through doing an MSc and there were definitely times that I used blogging as an “excuse” for not writing. I had several “Adaptation” moments where I went off into post-modernist waffle about writing about not writing etc. I’ve just embarked on a PhD so it’s yet to be determined whether blogging becomes a way of avoiding writing that (ask me in 4 years). But the fact that I was able to write for the blog assuaged my guilt about the mounting stack of blank pages (no pun intended) in front of me.

You've initiated several collaborative writing projects (47 hours). Is this something that you'd recommend to other bloggers? Did any aspect of this exercise surprise you?
47 hours (first time round) was an avoidance exercise on my part due to writers’ block – both the writers’ block I was suffering as part of my dissertation process and also that age old bloggers’ block condition. I’d seen a similar project over at Troubled Diva and it struck me as a good way to avoid writing while still having content! As it turned out, it was also a great way to make contact with people whose blogs I was reading but with whom I had no “real” connection. I also wanted to include some readers who didn’t have blogs and some of them have gone on to start their own blogs (and I’m not taking any credit whatsoever for that). As I began to find my way around the blog world with a bit more ease I decided to embark on 47 hours part deux and this time asked people that I’d come to know online – and I also threw out an invitation to anyone who wanted to, to participate.

I’d thoroughly recommend it – and I guess on one level, this exercise is a variation of that idea (nice one Damien!). Lots of things surprised me about it. The first of course was how quickly people came back and said “yes”, nobody declined an invitation (what a generous bunch bloggers are!). I was also surprised at how the story was carried, changed and re-directed by each of the writers and how some of those writers stuck with their familiar blog style and others used it as an opportunity to tinker about with a new style. Some chose non fiction, others went straight for fiction and there was a serious sci-fi theme running around for a while which for someone like me, who knows as much about sci-fi as I do about html, was challenging to say the least. The nicest surprise was that 47 hours part deux won the best fictional piece in a blog category at the awards so it was a lovely honour for everyone who participated

If your blogroll could only contain 5 bloggers who would they be and why?
Oh dear… I had hoped you might say which “sites” would you link to and I could cleverly say Planet of the Blogs and Irish If I absolutely had to choose 5 bloggers right this minute (and if you asked me in another 10 minutes it might be different) it would be:

Twenty Major
I started reading Twenty right at the start and I’m flabbergasted at the quality and quantity of his output and the stark originality of the “voice”. He pisses me off, offends me, makes me laugh harder than any other blogger and that can only be a good thing. He’s also a lovely fella as we all know from his appearance at the bloggers’ Christmas drinks in December ;)

The Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor writes a really insightful blog on all things cultural. I find his take on the politics of arts management fascinating and thought provoking and I’ve used a lot of his insights in my day job.

Troubled Diva
Mike’s live (and very camp) blogging of the Eurovision in 2004 was hysterical and converted me into a loyal reader. He has a sharp wit, an even sharper take on life and his inventive ways of engaging with his readers are a joy to behold.

The Sigla Blog
Although Sinéad blogs quite a bit about arts and culture, she’s written some personal stuff that has resonated very loudly with me. I love the ebb and flow of her choice of topics and the way she moves between the journalist, blogger and personal voices with such ease.

Ubik Central
I started to read Chris’s blog at a time when he was writing about the break up of his marriage. He was one of the first men I’d come across who wrote from the gut about how this experience affected him and he commanded a huge respect from me for that – I don’t find too many male bloggers who are willing to go there. During December 2004 I had the pleasure of meeting him and a number of other New York bloggers on one of trips to Manhattan.

My humble apologies to everyone who was left out of this list because Paige made me pick…

What grabs my attention is always the “voice” first and content second and each of these bloggers has that distinctive voice that speaks to me.

Are there any things that Thatgirl just won't blog about?
Oh there are lots of things I wouldn’t blog about. I won’t blog about material that is personal to people I know if it will identify them in any way and I don’t post photographs of people - and there are ways in which I won’t talk about the stuff that I do blog about. I really believe that the context that I create to talk about what’s on my mind is important and goes some way to shaping how that information is received and related to.

I think there’s a myth out there if you write a “personal” blog that your entire life is up on the screen for people to trawl through and nothing could be further from the truth. While my blog is “personal” I make very clear decisions about what I will talk about and what I won’t. At the end of the day I have to be personally engaged with something in order to write about it. I guess my starting point is “life lessons” i.e. what’s the learning in this for me? And is there a way I can impart that on the blog that might be useful or interesting for someone else to read?

If there was one Irish person who you'd love to see blog, who would that be?
Oh, good question…only one? I can think of at least 10 people off the top of my head so I’m going to cheat and say three - Michael O’Leary, Nuala O’Faolain and John McGahern.

Has blogging impacted on your career - positively or negatively?
Up until the awards last week it hadn’t impacted at all on my consulting career. But subsequent to being “outed” (voluntarily of course) I have had several clients contact me to say they are now reading the blog and enjoying it and that has prompted me to get moving on establishing a business blog. I have gone through periods of paranoia about how clients might respond to what I’ve written and when I was practising as a therapist I had to maintain a very clear boundary around how much of myself I would, could and should reveal online even though I blogged under a nickname. Blogging (for me) has thrown a spotlight on this whole issue of identity and how that is formed and reformed in the spaces between the writer and the reader.

As winner of two Irish Blog 2005 Awards, what is the secret to your success?
Well, in the absence of knowing what the criteria for winning were…it’s hard to tell. I was genuinely surprised and very grateful to win in both categories as I was up against significant competition…If I had to make a stab at it I would say that I write about myself and my experiences most of the time and I genuinely believe that what is personal is also global – I thinks sometimes when I’m on form I manage to strike a chord with readers (if that’s not too grandiose). That’s not to say that I don’t have opinions on politics, technology etc..I do…I just choose not to talk about that stuff a lot of the time because I can’t quite find my personal position in relation to some of it. At the end of the day, the only thing I feel fairly confident about knowing anything about is myself. That’s the double edged sword of writing a “personal” blog. Interestingly, at the precise moment at which I was writing this response to your question I got an email from a reader about this post.

“It hit home with me in so many different ways. I wouldn't be capable of articulating these things. Indeed, even if I could I don't think I'd have the balls to do so. Thanks for writing something I can identify with.”

I get mail like that from time to time from people who prefer not to post in public in the comments section and it’s very humbling not to mention flattering. If my assumption is right then this is probably a question best directed at the people who voted for me and those who come back to read what I write. In terms of the “best fictional piece in a blog” award I can only say that knowing some good writers was a definite advantage!

Do you have a long term blogging ambition?
I don’t currently have a strategic vision or a plan (maybe I need a consultant?). I regularly decide to quit, usually when I have bloggers’ block or when I can’t find anything I want to “think out loud” about and I don’t currently have aspirations for a book deal (but if Roisín Ingle ever decides to hang up her typewriter I might just be available to take a call from the Features Editor at the Irish Times).

On a more serious note I’m hoping to continue writing Thinking Out Loud and the fabulous Caitriona has generously created a photoblog for me which has just gone live so I’m hoping to take some more photos as well which may help with the dreaded bloggers’ block! And if that isn’t enough to keep me busy, I’ll be launching my business blog in the next couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to drawing on the expertise of bloggers in the Irish community who are already doing this.

Tell me something about your blog habits - are you a 'read and feed' girl, how long do you spend reading/writing? Are you a disciplined blogger?
I speed read my blogroll each day and I try and follow various conversations and contribute as best I can to the ones that pique my interest. I also try and follow links from people’s blogrolls to widen out my reading habit – it can get very cosy sometimes just reading what’s familiar. I also have made a conscious decision to read more blogs by people whose views are diametrically opposed to my own.

In terms of time available – it depends entirely on what’s going on with work/social life. I’m not one of those people who lives her life online, while at the same time I’ve developed a great social network (on and off line) from my time in front of the screen.

Checking out blogs is now part and parcel of my daily morning routine as well as email, snail mail and the newspapers. As for discipline…does guilt count? I don’t have a set time or a set number of posts I need to adhere to at all…I tend to hit the keyboard when something strikes me.

You describe yourself as an "extrovert thinker". Is the Myers-Briggs classification something that you would frequently use in your professional work?
You know I’ve never formally undertaken the Myers Briggs Assessment although a friend of mine keeps threatening me with it! I don’t use psychometrics in my professional life and I wrote about this in my Masters’ dissertation in relation to emotion in organisations and business. I think psychometrics can be a “safe” way of starting a conversation about what’s perceived to be “personal” – however it’s the interpretation of the results where the real insight comes. Also, I often wonder about whether that kind of testing is really a way of cognitising and controlling emotion out of a view that to be “emotional” is to be “irrational” (I won’t labour the point here but if anyone is interested I may do some more work on this on my work blog in the future). There are also ethical considerations here with many organisations demanding access not only to what is conscious but also what may be unconscious.

Do you think all MBTI's are represented in blogosphere? Would a mass blogger assessment exercise help understand the 'Sphere?
I’m sure all “types” are out there in the blog sphere – if you look at how some people are very open about who they are, others blog anonymously, some focus on areas of expertise, some use blogs strategically, others organically and then there’s the whole issue of abusive posting/commenting which I’ll talk about a bit further on. I don’t think a mass blogger assessment exercise would necessarily help (who?) understand the sphere…but there’s tons of research on how people use the internet and online community building. The psychology of the internet is an area I’m hugely interested in (see below) and when I was practising as a therapist I regularly came across relationship difficulties emanating from excessive use of online communities, not to mention cybersex, emotional infidelity and porn and was interested in the gender differences in how men and women use those spaces differently.

Communication and social interaction is obviously something that you thrive on. Is there sufficient interactions between bloggers? Is face-to-face interaction essential?
In one way there is as much social interaction as you are willing to initiate yourself, whether that’s contributing to comments, inviting feedback, meeting off line, cross posting etc. There is also a danger here that it becomes cosy and that may be off putting for people who are observing from the sides and wondering how to jump in. I don’t necessarily see face to face interaction as essential and it may not be practical if the conversation you are having online is between geographically disparate people - but I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities that have been presented to meet socially in Ireland and when I’ve been in New York. When it comes to learning that’s a different matter and I am one of those people who needs someone to show and tell rather than reading a website or a book.

Interestingly, I haven’t participated in too many conversations off line that relate to posts online, the interaction has been primarily social. Bloggers who are involved in the more technical areas seem to be great at community building whereas those of us who write “non-technical” blogs tend to keep those discussions online. This is one of the reasons why I suggested a blogging workshop where technical issues and key themes/concerns could be articulated more immediately – not necessarily to obtain any kind of consensus, more to fully expand on the ideas that naturally get truncated sometimes because of the nature of blogging and also to help people with the very real desire to learn more about the technical aspects of blogging.

How do you “visualise” Blogosphere?
I’m a firm believer in this idea of blogs as curated spaces…I keep meaning to write more about that, but essentially what I’m trying to get at is the notion that the collection of items we put out there tells a story about each of us who blog regardless of what “category” we blog in. When you walk into a gallery space for example you can choose to look at the individual works on their own and/or you can look at the way in which the collection is put together – what’s the statement that’s being made by this collection? What’s left out? Why did the curator choose to place those two pieces beside each other? etc. Blogs are no different in my view so it makes reading archives and following commenter’s threads fascinating for me.

I'm interested in the idea of blogosphere as a series of curated spaces. In our urge to compose new material, do you think we show enough respect to the body of work already produced?
This is a really interesting one for me…Overall I think most bloggers are fantastic at “crediting” their sources, it’s as though plagiarism has been well and truly put to rest and it’s an indicator of the culture of blogging that this kind of attribution is “built in” so to speak. However we all migrate from blog to blog and it’s an immediate medium so I think you’re right that a view can be established among readers very quickly about where a particular blogger is coming from from one post and also because of the “type” of blog they write.

Blogosphere promolgates the notion of being as good as your last post. But what about having the capacity to periodically showcase the "best of works"? Or for you, is each post an moment in time that once written need never be revisited?
As a blogger, I have some idea of regular readers from the comments that are left, but I have no idea how many transient readers I have. I move between key “themes” that occupy me and then the more immediate stuff that’s going on today, thoughts prompted by what I’m reading elsewhere and lastly some “meta” issues that I think about from time to time and then post. I think some bloggers have sections with their favourite posts and categories and these are interesting in terms of capturing a snapshot of what occupies a particular blogger (I’ve never managed to successfully do the categories thing on my blog). I rarely revisit individual posts in terms of rewriting, but I certainly come back to themes from time to time.

The Blogosphere community is very generous in its encouragement of novice bloggers. However, I've notice many "conversations" tend to quickly escalate into heated debate - and often with ridiculous insults thrown. Although robust exchange is no bad thing, doesn't the immediacy of response work against the tentative blogger and those who work out their opinions by "thinking out loud"?
There’s a whole body of psychology devoted to the psychology of cyberspace that’s researching this area and there are people vastly more qualified than I to talk about this. But here’s my limited take on the situation.

Spatial metaphors abound when talking about the internet – rooms, space etc (My Space for example) and I view blogs and the internet as the “space between” people. As such, it is rife for fantasy, projection and transference. You have reduced information and social cues on which to base an opinion of the person behind the words (and as we know body language is the greatest factor in communication), the internet encourages dis-inhibition and I read an interesting book called Psychology and the Internet – Intrapersonal, Interpersonal and Transpersonal Implications which is an interesting collection of papers on how people use, interact with and form identities online.

If you look at it from a cultural perspective for a moment we’re living in a culture of complaint and aggression is becoming more prevalent – incidents of road rage, poor service, contempt for customers (take a bow Ryanair) are all rapidly becoming the norm. Add into that the increasing incidence of litigation and we’ve arrived at a point where once upon a time we could say “sorry I screwed up” and mean it and we moved on; then we moved to a phase of abdicating all responsibility for everything because it was always someone else’s fault. The tribunals and the discovery of institutionalised abuse has resulted in the phenomenon of “the qualified apology” with everyone holding their hands up apologising “if” some offence has been caused – enough to be seen to address something but not enough to take any kind of real responsibility. I think much of the blog world is at phase two of that but if there are no “terms of reference” and everyone is an advocate of “freedom of speech” then why should anyone take any responsibility at all for what they say or how they say it online? It’s also off putting for people we could be inviting into the blogging world and for bloggers who take the time to think about what they want to post – who wants to voice an opinion and risk the possibility of being personally abused?

I see a lot of bad behaviour on blogs – both in posts that are written and the comments that are left. I think robust discussion is one of the fantastic things about blogging, but I’ve no real respect for people who make a career out of being personally disrespectful of others. It’s also interesting to see how strategic people can be with their comments. A favourite one of mine is – framing a deliberately offensive remark with a smiley at the end of it then blaming someone who reads it as (correctly) offensive for having “no sense of humour” when the remark is consciously structured to contain a double message. Someone said to me recently that this kind of blogging and commenting is the equivalent of putting stocks in the middle of a village green and watching people throw rotten fruit – not much in the way of intelligent debate going on there!

But to return to the curated space idea for a moment – it applies equally to commenters. Tracking a commenter’s contribution to a series of blogs can be remarkably insightful and I’m a firm advocate of the idea of projection (the “if you can spot it you’ve got it” phenomenon – it’s easier to blame someone else for being “stupid” than to recognise and deal with our own stupidity) and transference (we transfer emotion to one person that belongs to another – like responding to someone who reminds us unconsciously of an abusive person in our past etc).

It always amuses me that those who flame and are abusive will be the first in the queue to stand up for their “freedom of speech” until of course, someone else uses their freedom of speech to disagree…the irony is never lost on me. But I think this issue is only going to become more pertinent – see this
piece via Damien as an example. With examples of cyber and text bullying on the increase it’s only a matter of time before this issue really explodes. As an aside, one of the reasons I have had to think through the privacy issue (particularly in relation to photographs) is that I have had two stalking incidents in the past 5 years (which I referenced on the blog to qualify my position) one of which I had to report to the police.

People create characters online and identities that may bear no resemblance to what they are like off line. That has been part and parcel of internet culture since its inception – the blog world is no different. When it works well (say, in the case of twenty major for example) it’s hilarious, but when it’s used as a way of being aggressive and abusive then it’s something else entirely. The therapist in me has a whole range of theories about this which I won’t go into here but I’m sure you have heard of the “empty vessel theory”? My suspicion is that most of the people who are abusive online wouldn’t be able to maintain that position off line if they were faced with “real” people and a genuine context for a discussion.

The integrity with which you balance your blogging and professional life is an inspiration to novices like me. What other advice would you give to new bloggers in particular?
Just do it. Seriously, start a blog, start writing. If you aren’t confident about having people read it at the start then try it out for a while before you launch yourself or else just let people that you feel confident about showing your work to see it. Do it for yourself and ask people for help and advice. The chances are, if someone has a blog, they have a moderate interest in talking about themselves or what they know! Start reading blogs and following links from blogs you enjoy and step in and comment on topics that interest you.

It took me quite a while to find my “voice” on the blog and I know that will change as time goes on too. I do think at some point you have to start asking yourself the kinds of questions you are asking me and begin to reflect on the purpose and worth of it all – What’s it about for me? What am I (even if I think I’m not) revealing of myself? What won’t I blog about and why? What happens in 5 years time if something I write today on my own blog or in someone else’s comment stream is discovered by a potential client or employer – will I be happy with the picture that’s being created of me online? How can I contribute to interesting conversations in a way that respects the integrity of other people? And if I don’t want to do that how do I justify that for myself? They are certainly the questions I ask myself and if they are useful for other people then that’s great. On another level I’m asking myself what kind of contribution I can give back and if people have ideas or want to contact me about that then I’d be really interested in having a chat about it either as part of a post or privately. I have very, very limited technical expertise and am only online through the total generosity of a number of bloggers with time on their hands and a charitable remit! So as I can’t give back that way…I’d like to even up the stakes a bit and I think where I can make some kind of contribution is around the “whys” of blogging as distinct from the “hows”?

Blankpaige would like to thank Thatgirl for thinking out loud and for taking the time to answer my half-baked questions. Miriam O'Callaghan can rest easy. Thatgirl also generously provide all the links and references. She is the best! Thanks to Damien who initiated the idea and commissioned me to interview someone. Now it is Thatgirl's turn.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Corporate Finance for Dummies

I'll come clean at the outset. I'm no corporate finance whizz kid. I wouldn't know a leveraged buyout from a mezzanine-funded IPO. The height of my financial management track record was recognising that the Eircom floatation was a pup and that McCreevy's SSIA offer was a 4-for-1 gift horse too good to miss. Those of you with property investments in Bratislava, a section 23 pad in Drumshambo and a 7-series on hire purchase, can choose to ignore the rest of this blog. The rest of you pay attention.

Aer Lingus is a state asset. Assets have value which rises and falls. Like any asset, you need to maintain it, use it or you are better off losing it. Aer Lingus needs an injection of cash to purchase new aircraft. Otherwise it will soon be a worthless asset. Our agents, the Government, have a choice. They can either invest in new stock themselves or they sell the asset off to someone who will sweat it properly (i.e. sell it's Heathrow landing slots and close down the provincal airline). Holding assets that you don't use is a cost to the owners. Assets can only be sold once. So if you sell an asset, you should use the funds raised for capital investment not to fund recurrent expenditure.

Choosing to hold or to sell is a strategic decision which has to be made on the balance of the options. (I can offer advice here although you might have to beg for it!) (By the way, I don't buy either the 'strategic importance' of the National Carrier or the 'market will decide' philosophies of either side.

The one option that makes no sense (and hence the most likely outcome) is to sell a bit of Aer Lingus. (This satisfies the Unions who see it as a way to protect their comfortable jobs. Look at the US Airline industry to see the long term consequences of such myopia.) No-one will pay for a part of an airline that they can't control. And the amount of money raised will hardly buy a tailfin let alone a new fleet. This is a stupid option.

Financial Consultant to the Stars

Image :

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Performance through People

Our section has recently undergone a re-organisation.  The team of external consultants who were brought in to sort us out had their work cut out.  It seems that our traditional structure didn’t effectively meet the challenges of the modern era.  That we’d employed this structure with success for the last 50 years only added to the problems.  We’d become institutionalised with everyone stuck in their silos.  Trans-organisational flexibility wasn’t our strength, it seemed.  Although in truth, few of us know what that particular skill is, and why it is so important.  Because our traditional values had become engrained in our business process, changes to our value structure would also require a fundamental overhaul of our operating norms.  Or was it the other way around, I can never remember.

But if you are going to go through such radical surgery, it is comforting to have at hand a consultancy firm with the experience that our “partners in change” clearly have.  Six different individuals each with their own unique experience and expertise took charge of the military operation.  High level strategic goals were defined, agreed, reshaped and re-affirmed.  A working party was established to collect performance metric that could be cascaded across the organisation as we communicated details of the new look organisation.  We adopted the phrase “Performance through People” as a summarising slogan of how we were going to get to where we were going.

Although there were no losers in this Win-Win situation, one of the senior managers in the group found his hitherto sphere of control realigned somewhat when two of his direct reports were promoted to an interstitial project management role.  As a functional leader, he would be expected to contract with these two individuals to resource and support them to deliver their project deliverables.  But of course the most important thing was not personal gain but the overall company benefit accruing from individual tolerance of ambiguity and that people got over having staff promoted above them.

It is probably only fair to say that both newly advanced project leaders were ill equipped to deal with their sudden elevation.  God knows (apparently), even in that most traditional of hierarchies, the Catholic Church, Bishops go through a ‘TR001 – Becoming a Cardinal’ training course before they are let near a conclave.  However our organisation has had to reprioritise personal development plans, training curricula etc because the entire HR section is fully immersed in managing/containing/undermining the business process realignment project.  

The now eclipsed Section Head has taken his relative demotion badly.  He refuses to acknowledge publicly the obvious slight that he has suffered.  He will not speak with either of the two project leaders which must make the whole “contracting with for services” negotiations interesting.  He has sat silently at client meetings watching one of the new managers floundering.  He refuses to respond to queries, requests and begging emails.  Uncomfortable with the atmosphere, the second project manager has just tendered her resignation.  Her telling comments – “one of the reasons that there aren’t more women in the board room is because we realise that life is too short to endure such shit”.

But it is comforting to know that our organisation is focused on “Performance through People”.


Return of the Statesman

What is it with our politicians? Did someone buy them all a copy of the "Last Days of the Third Reich" for Christmas? It seems that no-one can get into a good political exchange without resorting to likening their opponent to a Nazi.

Latest example being our erstwhile Minister for Justice - a man who sometimes gives the impression that he'd prefer to be living under a right wing dictator - who likened the harmless Richard Bruton to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda boy.

So many phrases spin around in my head that I can't decipher if "People in Glass Houses shouldn't call kettles black" or if it is just gobbel-de-guick. So I'll just resort to calling the Minister a Nazi. Then I'll apologise. No harm done. My reputation as an intelligent, articulate and erudite individual is intact. Or so Sam Smyth tells me.

Monday, March 20, 2006


What are we like?  We are probably the only nation who could lecture the most powerful country about it’s immigration policy whilst our own is a shambles.


You see the problem with Blog O’Sphere is that, like email, it is just so easy to be taken out of context. You can say something that is meant to be droll or humorous but unless you are a master at the “Smileys” someone is bound to take you up the wrong way. And sometimes, that ain’t funny! The problem is bad enough when you lash off a quick blog post, it is ten times worse when you are commenting. At least with your own post, it’s your own words that get misinterpreted. And probably no one even reads them. With comments, however, the original poster recognises that the premeditated exchange gives him/her ample reason to take umbrage.

I battle daily with the no-time-to-blog-properly-so-should-I-not-blog-atall dilemma. The particular problem being that if I waited until I had the time to blog properly, I’d never blog. But of course all those spelling mistakes must drive folk wild. A wise and quite aggressive (is there any other type?) man once said, “Fail to Prepare ; Prepare to Fail ;-)”. I know that is what he meant to say because Mr Keane was born with his tongue in his cheek. However Tom Humphries is clearly no master of the smilies either. Or perhaps it just got lost in translation as this pearl of wisdom was communicated by telephone from Saipan. No doubt the much softer line “Agh, sure Michael mo chroí, sure you aren’t even Irish ;-)” was cruelly twisted by a subeditor in the Irish Daily Mirror to that which had devastating consequences for Irish soccer. On three occasions during the England v Ireland rugby match this weekend, the fourth official laced his line “Of course it was a try” with several ironic smilies but none of them managed to make it to make it to the referee.

Who knows what other lines have been distorted by the lack of a good Smiley? :-)

Photo : Wikipedia.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Legend of...

By accident I stumbled across an RTE television programme on Liam Clancy the other night. I know precious little about 'come-all-ye' ballads. Aran sweeters have always caused me to come out in hives. I absolutely detest those Brian Friel plays about how sad the young fella is, and how his father never understands him. I have never spent a night drinking in the snug in Doheny & Nesbitts with a fiddle player and a man with an accordian. Grown men who feel obliged to wear oil skins in Carnegie Hall unnerve me.

But I was blown away by Alan Gilsenan's programme. The honesty and humanity of the subject shone through with some power. I was transfixed by the glint in Liam's eye that was at times caused by devilment, othertimes by a tear drop. The voice has a quality that Liam Og Gallagher will never ever achieve. If he rocks long and hard into his fifties, Robbie Williams will never be as worldly wise. And James Blunt should be ashamed of himself for describing himself as a singer on his passport.

Those of us who saw the programme will realise how much those of you who didn't have missed.

Photo :

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Jenny Alert!

Looks like the difficult second blog phase has past. Welcome back to the new kid on the block, Jenny.

Boys Don’t Cry

This blog is brought to you after extensive interviews with my best Tony and my Brother. Their serious engagement with the subject matter and their candid disclosure is a testament to their sensitivity. The two bottles of Chianti that I plied us with also helped (and explains the typos and the sweeping generalisations).

The great Blog+Gender debate started off by Fiona has been some fun. I still don’t think I ever fully articulated my view. A female caucus is a good idea and should be encouraged. Unfortunately due to pressures of time – so much to read so little time – I’d have to be honest and say I probably would n’t be participating a whole lot. I don’t read enough so when I do I deliberately don’t concentrate only on a narrow exposition of “women’s issues”. For this reason, and because I honestly believe that no amount of Cosmo quizzes are ever going to get me to that multiple orgasm nirvana, I don’t as a rule read “women’s magazines”. Thanks to the suffrage of generations before me, I sit fully convinced that that which separates my success from that achieved by my male partners is luck and my own endeavour.

I am interested in why people can’t see that Men and Women are not equal and shouldn’t be expected to be equal. After all Men and Men aren’t equal and neither are Women and Women. It is this diversity that creates life’s rich tapestry. But I’d like to be less airy-fairy and a little more incisive.

From what my interviewees tell me, men are constructed differently. They are hormonally driven to be the show off strutting their stuff. They need to win, they need to be seen to be winning and they are programmed to want to vanquish totally their opponents. Macho, bold and decisive, they are required to fight for, control and dictate. As a rule most dictators have been male and the few female dictators have been very masculine.

Women by design are less driven by the need to succeed in these male terms. They are hormonally driven to be less showy, to protect and guard. They are happy to pass up the appearance of winning for longer term, less heralded success. As a rule, they dislike confrontation and begin most counter arguments with “well that’s right, I agree… before proceeding to disagree!” Women are irrational, complex, and erratic and not easily understood individuals

But please don’t agree or disagree with any of the above. The above paragraphs are deliberately contentious. Instead if you are a woman, explain to the male blogger why it is okay to show emotion and how it can be so mature to cry. Tell them how we women love sensitivity . Explain how we will stop the oppression of men by demanding that they are tall dark and silent. Give them some way to get themselves out of the corners that their male egos constantly paint themselves into. Do anything that will turn the tide of suicide that is so particularly prevalent amongst our young men. If you are a man, forgive us for discriminating against you and try to understand that we are the ones with the issues not you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Going : Soft to Good

Given that it is Cheltenham week, the entire country seems to be fixated with the firmness or otherwise of the ground. I am pleased to report that Blog O’Sphere is no less concerned. The excellent Fiona de Londras over at Mental Meanderings kick started a debate entitled “Women Bloggers”. At first sight this seemed to be a ‘simple’ calling of the sisterhood to unite and face our minority status together. Fiona’s post generated some excellent comments. Some of them, I found more revealing that perhaps the author had intended. The debate which ensued broke down, not surprisingly, into several lines (a) Male v Female (b) Bloggers v Non-bloggers (c) Hard v Soft subject matters…etc.

Update : Arguments have now extended to Legalising Prostitution, Demeaning of women in chocolate ads, naked George Clooney, exploitation of migant labour, judging on merit.... ogh. look, why don't you just go and visit Fiona's site! It would be much easier!

Before posting, I thought I’d go back and re-read Fiona’s original post. Her blog was predicated on the belief that more men than women blog. This set me thinking. I’ve never consciously stopped to think about the gender of the bloggers that I read. I looked at the 30 or so blogs that I regularly check out (*). Four of the bloggers give no indication of their gender. The remaining 26 are split male – 12, female – 14. If my stats lecturer is to be believed I don’t have a sufficiently large ‘n’ number to reject the null hypothesis that more men than women blog. But I’m willing to accept that on the face of it, there isn’t a huge disparity. Of course, the self-selection of like minded bloggers could be a factor.

I’m particularly interested in the “soft” versus “hard” analysis. As I understand it, “soft” blogging addresses largely non-political stuff. Disparagingly referred to as “kids, clothes and husbands”. Firm (only a man would call it hard) blogs address political issues social justice, republicanism, economic policy, civil rights, war on terror. I always recoil at any attempt to pigeon-hole, but I have to accept that I am on the soft side of good when it comes to blogging subject matter. If I had either a child, a wardrobe that I’m proud of, or a husband that I could wear, I’d probably be in a soft to mushy classification. That said, if Blog O’Sphere were only earnest young men and women blogging about the war in Iraq, I doubt that I’d hang around too long. I love reading these ‘firm’ blogs but I never feel well enough informed to offer a definitive position. I’ve only followed current affairs for the past 18 years, unlike the opinionated transition year crew, I’m not sufficiently qualified to comment.
I love the outrageously funny blogs. I cry at the poignant self-effacing one. I indulge myself in the lyrical prose of some writers and am awestruck by the economical style of others. I admire the principled position of sincere scribblers who provoke me to think about a subject. I am enveloped by the positive encouragement of so many of the community. I don’t dismiss the importance of women’s rights. I just happen to think that as a woman I have the same rights as everyone else. I am judged on my blog output not on the presence or absence of a Y-chromosome. (Of course I recognise that this freedom to think as I do, is as a result of my emancipated mother and her generation. I also recognise that some women feel the need to support and nurture each other. We can’t help it - we are women!)

Well done to Fiona for a brilliant piece and thank you Blog O’Sphere for being soft in places, firm to hard in others. Now if you could pass me a few dead certs for the Gold cup, I’d be very, very impressed!

(*) Apologies to those that I have not yet added to my blogroll. Being only a girlie, I haven’t managed to master this technical feat.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Irish Blog Awards

Congratulations to all nominees and winners of the Irish Blog Awards. I know that these awards mean alot to you, that you are humbled more than we will ever know and that you'd all like to thank God, your mother and that cruel bitch from 1st year med who broke your heart.

But while you bask in the glory, give it up for the real hero of Blog O'Sphere, Damien Mulley.

Congratulations Damien on a brilliant achievement,
Sorry Clark that I can't be there to share the fun,
Sweet Afton

Too much alcohol

Some sad, chinless wonder of a Fianna Fail TD, with no doubt one eye to Easter and to emphasising his Republican roots, was on the radio during the week wondering why Gary Doherty, Brian Kennedy and David Gray didn't know the words of the national anthem. This should be rammed down our kids throats at school was his general contention. There is just no respect for the anthem.

Even the C&W bands in Edenderry on a cold Wednesday night have stopped playing Peadar Kearney's ditty as a cheap way of clearing the pub. And it is a great pity, he argued, given that it is such an easy song to sing and a lovely, lovely air. Mr Chinless confessed to being a bit musical himself. A man who loves a good sing song. In an attempt to capture the "Proddie" vote, he even claimed that he regularly enjoys a good blast of "The Sash", another powerful tune.

This set me thinking. I don't as a rule sing the National Anthem. The temporary English supply teacher that I had in Scoil Muire didn't really have much command herself of the song, so we stuck with "Danny Boy" and "Greensleeves". I don't sing it, not because I object to 'Le gunna screech'-ing or anything. I'm just not a good singer. No that's not exactly true. I am a bad singer but also I don't really think that its sentiment does much for me. The odd line makes reference to overthrowing tyrants, but there is a little bit too much fighting for my liking. The tune is excellent, I'll grant you. But then so too is 'La Marseillaise' and 'Das Lied der Deutschen'.

I tend to stand to attention when our anthem is being played because I think it is important to respect those who have gone before even if you don't always agree with their actions. I take the opportunity of think about the events and times that the tune has been played. And it is quite humbling. I listen to the crowd, for once in harmony, and I think that for a brief moment all is well. Then I cringe at the thought of Ireland's Call. (Could we not have gotten Louis Walsh to write us a wee tune?). I understand the importance of national identity even it only because for many lonely years in England, that's all I had. I wonder how lonely are the overseas nationals, now resident in Ireland.

Looking back at my blogs, I see that I've now designed a new flag, proposed a new
constitution and renamed our country (Ire-land!). You'd never have guessed that I'm proud of the country, it's people and our history. I love how we don't always get it right, often shoot ourselves in the foot and desperately want to be loved by everyone.

AMHRAN NA BHFIANN Peadar Kearney (1907)
Sinne Fianna Fáil
Atá faoi gheall ag Éirinn,
Buíon dár slua
Thar toinn do ráinig chugainn
Faoi mhóid bheith saor,
Sean-tír ár sinsear feasta
Ní fhágfar faoin tíoran ná faoin tráill.
Anocht a théam sa bhearna baoil
Le gean ar Ghaeil chun báis nó saoil
Le gunna screech faoi lámhach na bpiléar,
Seo libh canaig amhrán na bhFiann.

Soldiers are we
whose lives are pledged to Ireland;
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave.
Sworn to be free,
No more our ancient sire land
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the gap of danger
In Erin's cause, come woe or weal
'Mid cannons' roar and rifles peal,
We'll chant a soldier's song

(Of course, this is just the chorus, it is easy to google the entire song if required. Perhaps someone with the correct blas might give us the phonetic version also known as the Brian Kennedy version. )

Kilted Scotsmen are gathering in Dublin tonight and tomorrow they will regale us all with perhaps the most beautiful anthem known to man. It too is all about overthrowing the tyrant. Funny how far of struggles seem much more romantic. I know that many bloggers will be at Lansdowne Road and many more will be in the Alexander later. Let's hope that the Irish Blog Awards ends with a rousing song about throwing off the shackles of dial-up connections.

Bloggers are we,
Whose lives are pledge to blogosphere
Some have blogged
before they had broadband.
Many more were screwed
by Eircom and Mammy O'Rouke
But still we have our voice and so we're free
We love our land with a passion
Which is why we rant and rave so much
We want to improve, to become the best
So why don't you blog some too!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Caution - Embarrassment Ahead

What with the infamous Mr Suduko encounter and the embarrassing incident with a coffee cup and a schoolboy’s homework(*), some of my best moments have been on the Dart. Prepare for the latest episode in the series.

I was under a bit of time pressure this morning and the rain brought even more commuter cars out than normal. Tony, bless his cotton socks, knew that I would be late for my early morning meeting so he dropped me as close to the station door as possible. Alas, South Dublin is populated with many such chivalrous partners and so I still had to dash through the automobile obstacle course in the rain. My friend in the ticket office knew from the way that I hitched up my skirt and vaulted one of those Smart cars that I was determined to catch the dart on the platform. He quickly threw me a return ticket and kindly insisted that I could settle up with him tomorrow morning. I legged it through the turnstile just as the beep, beep, beeps heralded the carriage doors closing.

It’s at times like this that I am pleased to have been a gold medal winning athlete in my time. Of course the pinnacle of my running career was in a particularly poor under-12 relay race at sports day in Muire Gan Smal and Catherine Parker’s team had been disqualified for two false starts. But I digress.

I landed in the carriage on the ‘p’ of the final beep and the doors slammed behind me. The Dart was one of those new trains with few seats and lots of standing room. Surprisingly it was quite empty which is just as well. My excuse is that my shoes were particular slippy, my heels higher than I normally wear and the floor treacherous with rainwater dripping from assorted umbrellas. Suffice to say my legs went in opposite directions and I started scrambling like a cross between a newborn giraffe and Lisa Minnelli on speed. For an eternity, I bravely battled the forces of gravity as I flailed like a woman possessed. The two iPod-clad lads reading the metro looked up stunned by the sudden arrival of this crazy woman in a light pink business suit. So stunned in fact that neither could react in time to rescue me from my plight. Still I scrambled determined not to hit the deck and ruin my new Vero Moda outfit.

I managed to grab hold of one of those yellow vertical handrails. Half way to safety! I clung on for dear life but my legs had by now grown accustomed to their bambi like existence and were determined to continue the dance of the drowning flamingo. But I’m nothing if not determined. Recalling those great World War II escape movies that I used to watch with my Dad, I summoned up unknown upper body strength and began pulling myself upright. Hand over Hand like the most hardened POW camp escapee. I finally got myself into a more lady-like stance and took a sharp intake of breadth.

I’d just about convinced myself that I’d dodge another embarrassing incident when iPod Man 1 whipped off his headphones and urgently enquired if I was alright. Seconds later iPod Man 2 was also shook from his trance. Unfortunately iPod Man 2 didn’t take off his headphones and I suppose the loudness of the Nirvana track could be offered as mitigation. Nevertheless, his theatrically loud whisper – “Just as well, love, you took those pole dancing lessons!” echoed through the carriage. I had to exit at Booterstown with embarrassment!


(*) somethings are too embarrassing to blog about!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Getting it off my chest

I’ve spent the last few days on a training course. Normally I love these things. I love the “Who are you & Where do you come from” introductions. I love the “contracting” with the trainer on our expectations of the course. I even love filling out the course review forms at the end. But I love these training courses because I am away from my office, and hence my e-mail and my telephone. No interruptions and a lot of time for reflection allow me to think. (And should, if I’m lucky, help me work through the creativity problem that I’m currently wrestling.)

This particular course however also brought up the one thing that I hate about training courses – the smug, arrogant and ignorant trainer. In my experience, most trainers are absolutely awe-inspiring. Alas, there tends to be a small number of quite offensive individuals also. And at the risk of sounding sexist, they are always male!

During our second day, each of the participants had to “report back” from our working groups on the main “learnings”. Standing up in front of a group of strangers and translating a rambling conversation into a series of flip chart bullet points isn’t easy. It is not easy for those of us not comfortable with public speaking. The trainer’s ease at talking off the cuff on any subject, only added to our sense of gauche. As he introduced the last reportee, he announced “…Last but by no means least, we have Sharon who takes it up the rear … oops … sorry about that Sharon”. Needless to say, the room that was hitherto full of mature adults, rapidly transformed into a group of puerile young men. A casual slip of the tongue that perhaps was more revealing about the tutor than the now red-faced reportee. Well I happen to have previous experience of this trainer and on the basis of two similar “deliberate gaffs” realise that he is now an ignorant pig. We’ve had the “I don’t smoke, back women or ride horses”, gratuitous picture of Scarlet Johansson and the random slide of the female nude accompanied by the “oops, one of the holiday snaps”. This lowlife even deliberately mishears a comment by one of the female that gets a round of applause and then makes reference to the “woman who got the clap”. The “George Bush as a monkey” and the “George Bush reading a book upside down are regular features of their presentations.
It’s just as well that we get to do a course assessment, so that I can tell him that his racist, misogynistic, homophobic and xenophobic gags are offensive. Now I can blog about him too!

Paige Blank

The two people who regularly check out my blog will realise that I’ve hit a bit of a mental block. All creativity has dried up. I can’t think of any subject matter that I’d like to blog on. And so, of late, I have adopted a “read and comment” mode of existence. I’m a failure – I’ll never be able to have that best seller book or even get my own syndicated column in the Bray Gazette. This realisation has come as a major shock as it highlights in the most dramatic of manner how uninteresting I am!

Now before you kind people start protesting, I’m not looking for comments of encouragement. I’m not fishing for compliments. You guys are the very best. But in many ways that only adds to the pressure. When I started blogging, I blogged for myself and to see if I could sustain 6 months of regular posts. Several public spirited individuals have told me to keep it up. I even won a “Shaggy” award! The good people of Blog O’Sphere told me that they enjoyed my posts. Now I’ve a small expectant audience.

There are loads of subjects worth blogging on. However, as I start to write, I realise that I perhaps don’t know the subject matter well enough. This forces me to go and read more – no bad thing – but this reduces further my prospects of blogging. It’s a vicious circle that I need to break.

So I decided to stop looking at my “problem” (*), from my perspective. The fundamentalist religious zealot would probably tell me that I need to pray harder for inspiration. The political intelligentsia might suggest that I’m a debased culturally-deficient product of a failed socio-economic system that prizes widget makers over widget designers. The techno-heads would probably advise that there is a useful freeware patch and html RSS code that I can install on my blog to counteract the low productivity output. The G&L&B liberals would probably nod knowingly and secretly take comfort in the fact that while they may be ‘queer’ at least they aren’t boring. The independent blog consultants would probably be quick to offer some blog life coaching. The sweet photo-bloggers would probably offer an interesting snap taken from the 9:47 am luas that captures in one shutter movement the essence of post-Celtic tiger Ireland. Empathetic bloggers would probably advise a duvet, a packet of hobnob, the sofa and to hell with the Weight Watcher points.

You are all right of course, this is just a passing phase. A typical moment of crisis that comes after the first flush of enthusiasm fades. So don’t feel obliged to comment. Just keep posting your brilliant stuff cos if I can’t blog, at least I can read.

(*) I realise that in the grand scheme of things, there are a lot bigger problems that this minor irritation.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Ultimate Encyclopaedia

A wise man once told me that there was little point in researching because everything you need to know in the whole wide world is known by somebody already. This sage believes that all research efforts should be invested in developing an internationally acceptable communications system that would ensure that we find the person who can answer our question.

Sounds to me like Blog O'Sphere could be the very thing!

Omani posted an excellent article on the Dr Neary scandal and drew a parallel with the "Instittutional Racism" blamed for not fully investigating the Stephen Lawrence killing in London several years ago. It's a really excellent blog article and I thoroughly recommend you check it out. I concur with most of what Paul wrote except I think more discussion should go into the Individual v Institution role.

Omani's excellent title "Institutional Contraception" didn't quite capture all aspects of the case. But reading Sarah Carey's GUBU blog gave me the inspiration.

All you need to know to understand the Our Lady of Lourde/Neary scandal is the diagnosis of "Institutional Munchausen by Proxy". You should also check out the long time blogger Sarah even if only to comment that no self respecting female blogger has such perfect hair!

Always dumbing it down,

Photo : Ex Wikipedia