Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ella and My ex-Fella

I love my iPod. And I love the woman who invented the whole 'random' thing*.

This morning as I trudged wearily into work, my iPod gave me a lovely Nina Simone / Christy Dignam / Ella Fitzgerald musical sandwich. It made my heart soar.

So much so that it didn't hurt me that much that the only reason Christy was on my iPod was because my ex- had burned the cd to my hard disc. He burned a lot more things to a lot more painful places than my hard disk, but that's a whole different story.

And I thought the Son of Finglas held his own quite nicely in such lofty company. What's more, he even spoke to me in a way that previously only Ella or Nina might have done. Well actually he seemed to speak for my ex- as he intoned "you really fucked up this head of mine, what's in your heart is just a waste of time..." If only he'd said just that instead of 'why don't we just have a break'.

Today, my heart soars when previously it was just sore. Thanks Ella, Nina, Christy, those cute Apple geeks and the lass who invented the whole shuffle thing!


*I know it must have been a woman 'cos men are such creatures of (bad) habits.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Power Drive

Blogging is pointless piffle. Blogging is for people who wish they were writers or journalists but who have neither the talent nor discipline to be either. Bloggers write about puff stuff – meaningless gibberish and selfish introspection. They blog about how they blog. They blog about how they have nothing to blog about. They create pointless games (memes) to stimulate others to read their blog. They recycle other people’s stories and jokes. They add no value to anyone’s life and represent nothing more than electronic noise or inefficiently transcribed viruses. Bloggers can’t spell, construct good grammar or move the reader.

Coimisiún na Scrúduithe Stáit
Answer only one of these questions

(a) Discuss the above in the style of a blogger. This will have the advantage that you will have something to blog about. Demonstrate with reference to blogs what you once read how your blog is so much more important. (35 marks)

(b) I’m constantly struck by the number of profound and moving blog posts. I’m humbled by the honesty, integrity, humanity, and vulnerability of so many bloggers. I’d love if we could gather in a single site, those articles which the blog community found to be moving and powerful. Only those that were truly moving - not the humorous or politically adept stuff. It would be a great repository for a casual visitor to Blogosphere to see that some Irish bloggers hit a very high standard, that blogging can have an impact and why so many of us are inspired to try to emulate these. (590 marks)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Blue Chip Allstars

Several years ago, I worked for an English blue chip company. There are many things that differentiate a blue chip company from an ordinary company. One of those is that the blue chip company makes a great play about how important its staff is to its continued success. Blue chip companies tend to be large in terms of numbers of staff and so establish exponentially increasing personnel departments. Only they call them Human Resources. The HR department produces copious policy documents and usually produces a glossy looking employee handbook that tells its staff about the joys of working there – just in case it wasn’t immediately apparent. Being a blue chip company employee, the sky is the limit. “We’ll only succeed if you succeed”, is generally the line pitched up.

In blue chip companies, most HR departments report into a Finance Director/Vice President who also has responsibility for building & estate management, IT and Audit functions. As a result, everything that is in the Employee Handbook is costed in the same manner as the decision to paint the canteen or install a new information management system. The perception is that staff developing is just another necessary evil the cost of which has to be managed.

I decided to engage with the “Find your own path” initiative that my blue chip company HR department was keen to promote. I scheduled an appointment with my personnel manager to discuss career options. A nicer, more personable individual, I could not have wished to meet and if truth were told, if I met him today, I’d probably be weighing him up as life partner potential. He was tall, lean and athletic and he had a mop of curly fair hair that seemed to be all his own. He dutifully explained how important I was to the continued success of the company. It was because of people like me, apparently, that the company had been successful.

Using all the HR best practices, he asked open, probing and reflective questions. We agreed to continue this exploration of my career paths over the course of several meetings. I noticed how we began each meeting with him holding a blank refill pad. He took copious notes and interrupted our discussions several times to “mmm” contemplatively and nod enthusiastically. Sometimes he even mmmed, nodded and note-took at the same time, which convinced me that perhaps men can afterall multitask. I noticed that he used a pencil which I thought then was quite old fashioned. I also observed the care and attention that he gave to his note taking. He occasionally erased a word and inserted a more carefully chosen phrase or expression. He finished each session with a recap of what we’d said and highlighted certain “critical actions” with a symbol that looked like an obscure musical notation. We closed each session with a scheduling of the next meeting date.

I know that on several occasions, I left these consultations with the same uplifting feeling that I had experienced as a child after my grievous and numerous sins had been absolved in confessions. I was comforted that this massive blue chip company cared enough about my career to assign a personnel manager to pathfind with me. One day, I left the HR consultation suites – you see this company recognised the value of it’s staff so well that it had designed consultation areas into the building – and realise that we had not scheduled a follow-up meeting. So I turned on my heel and went straight back into the HR manager’s office.

I watch the HR manager screw up the carefully prepared aide memoir of our conversation into a ball and pitch it across his office to the wastepaper basket in the far corner. He pumped his forearm in a Tiger Woods-esque clench and exclaimed “Yeeesss! Go on you good thing!”

It probably doesn’t say this in the HR Manager Handbook but it really should. Basketball slam dunk practice sessions are not advisable immediate after pathfinding staff appraisal interviews. If such activities must be scheduled in close proximity, it is advisable to at least close your office door, least anyone mistake this important results-focused physical activity as a commentary on the value of the Staff Pathfinder Programme.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Rules of Engagement

The much admired Fiona of Mental Meanderings fame has posted a nice topic for discussion.
She develops an interesting article on "breaking the rules" in the context of international relations. I'm a firm believer that all external relationships begin with your own "relationship with oneself", so with that in mind (and because she starred at a blank page (blankpaige?) for 1/2 an hour, I thought I'd add my tuppence worth......

Fiona says.....

I’ve spent the last half hour staring at a blank page and thinking about what I should write. There are so many things playing on my mind at the moment – world cup politics, Charles Haughey, Big Brother, an historic parades agreement in Northern Ireland but still the page remained blank because what I really want to talk about is this: why have we decided that rules are made to be broken? The theme, of course, runs through all of those issues – world cup referees are being extra-vigilant for unsporting behaviour, Charlie was a rule breaking rogue who many secretly loved in typical ‘fair play you boy’ Irish style, the Big Brother house is full of more back stabbing, bitching, rule breaking vindictiveness than the Dáil bar and does anyone really believe that all the rules historically made in Northern Ireland will ever be adhered to? The culture of rule breaking is one thing when it comes to individuals or (relatively) small-time rule breaking of this nature. The thing that worries me is how rule breaking is becoming a pervasive pattern in international relations.

Lovely post Fiona. And if i can take it back to your original point about why we think that rules are there to be broken. I'm a great woman for the sweeping generalisation. So with that warning in mind, I believe that our national psyche is to disrespect and subvert rules where possible.

We love a rogue (CJ), we want to beat the system (e.g. filling coin operated machines in Germany with Irish shrapnel many years ago) and we hate being constrained. Maybe its for historical reasons, maybe its a sign of our immaturity as a nation.

Whatever the reason, we generally don't value order and certainty. we laugh at people who queue, we invent Irish solutions to Irish problems and appreciate those other nations who are spontaneous like us. We allow isuses to become "business critical" before we act. DIRT, Statutory rape, Speeding......

Interestingly, you wouldn't expect such a nation such as ours to compose a constitution. Our rule-obsessed neighbours don't have a written constitution and so constantly re-appraise their position on many items.

But perhaps as we mature we realise the value and limit of value that rules provide. We are a nation that believes paedophilia is morally wrong but can't impeach our judge save on some technicality. Today, a District Judge can dismiss serious drink driving cases on the basis of a strict interpretation of rules.

Maybe the issue is one of what do we want rules to be - General guiding principles or rigid absolutes?

He is gone

We'll never see his like again. A controversial statesman is gone. A man who tore the country in two. One half loved him ; The other loathed him. He embodied everything that is characteristically Irish – for good and for bad. Brilliant potential, not always delivered. Born of humble stock, he was an enigma. Even his place of birth is disputed. A Dub who came from the West.

A republican in the old style tradition, he saw himself as a monarch. Staunchly conservative yet strangely liberal. He established the status of Irish woman in our constitution. He stood up against our bully neighbour. His stance and stature so unmistakable. A man of the people, he was aloof and distant. His anger was legendary. He suffered for his support of the armed struggle. The most gifted and able of his party left him to set up a rival political force. He lived too long for history to judge him kindly.

And why should it, for he stole for us with impunity. He stole our trust and then he stole our money. He led his people to believe that he was working for the public good when all the while he was feathering his own nest. A man of culture, we peasants couldn’t expect to understand his class.

But that’s enough about de Valera, today our focus is on Charles J Haughey. I wonder how he compares.

I'm not a failure

Failing to win does not equal failure!
Paige A Harrison
I can't decide if he is being ironic. It's hard to know with JL. But one thing is certain. If I get quoted by Fence and then Fence syndicates his quotes, then I might just end up in an anthology of motivational phrases along side Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde and Anthony Burgess. (Please God, don't let it be a Brentism)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Its all in the Name

Travelling on the 46A this morning along the Stillorgan dual carriageway, I noticed a convoy of Outside Broadcast trucks heading no doubt to a Northside Dublin mortuary church. The livery on one series of vehicles - the catering support trucks - caught my eye. It wasn't because of my rumbling tummy, I swear!

This company Observe (or in actual fact OB SERVE) was described as Outside Broadcast Support.

This is probably one of the cleverist company names that I've seen in a while and so it deserves a shout out. Any others catch your eye?

Friday, June 09, 2006


For a boy in a small rural town in the west of Ireland, going "up town" is as important a part of the Community School curriculum as is metalwork, geography and english. That this particular school perched impressively high above the town didn't make much difference. The local boys still went "up town" at lunchtime for the craic and some devilment. The boarders were confined to barracks for the lunch from hell.

Some of the local lads had parent-prepared packed lunches which they'd try to sell to the always ravenous boarders. But this was an uncertain economy. A lad could get stung with a bag full of Flaherty’s pan loaf and a Dunne Stores pack of easi-singles cheese if a competitor arrived in with his Auntie Mary’s cheesecake. All it took was a particularly large wake in recent days, to see whole sides of ham and chocolate biscuits become the plat du jour. I’m sorry for your troubles and all that but any chance you’d have a few smokes?

One particularly entrepreneurial guy knew that he’d have to diversify his product offering. He’d need to become the middleman in a lucrative transaction and shift the stock-holding risk onto some local shopkeeper. Manage his working capital better. It is no coincidence that Finian O’Rourke was son of the local auctioneer.

Dolan’s Sweet shop in the town was one of the old style. Lots of jars of boiled sweets carefully dispensed by Eagle-eyed Eddie Dolan. Eddie had no need for any of that CCTV or magic mirrors nonsense. No-one shoplifted in Eddie’s no matter how the local kids tried to distract him.

Finian had noticed the colourful supply of gobstoppers and immediately saw the commercial potential. Priced at €1.25 per quarter, he could resell these large but not too heavy sweets at 20 cent each and make close on 400% profit. And so the trade began. Finian started small for he was a cautious business man and everyone knew that it wasn’t a smart move to advertise too loudly for fear of attracting new entrants into the market. He requested 10 such gobstoppers which Eagle-eyed Eddie carefully counted out and bagged. They went down a treat with the lads. The next day the order was for 20. The day after that, and despite the death of Angie McBride’s elderly uncle, he was able to shift 30 units.

By the following Monday, Finian had graduated to a whole quarter. An easier fiver he’d never made. By the end of the next week he was shifting two full quarters. This surge in sales did raise a minor supplier/trader dispute as Finian didn’t trust the ½ lb weight on Eddie’s antiquated scales. It seemed to be lighter than the 2 quarter weights which both men eventually agreed to use. Finian diversified into other sweets (cola bottles, candy teeth and oyster shells) but he knew that gobstoppers were where his biggest profit margin was.

It was all going swimmingly until Eagle-eyed Eddie noticed that the next Bill Cullen wanted his goods dispensed into a series of small bags. By now, Finian had struck up a partnership with his cousin Alice who still attended the National School. It would seem that there was no end to the disposable income of the pre-teen scholars.

When Eddie hiked the price of gobstoppers citing market forces, the bottom fell out of Finian’s sweet trade. Finian had been selling below cost to the Fifth year boarders in the hope that he’d get first refusal on a Robbie Williams ticket. He was now financially exposed. 100’s of children addicted to these sugary delights had to revert to Calvita slices and wholegrain bread and were none too happy. And it took Eddie a whole year to shift the bulk order than he had bought.

Which just goes to show you that even in a perfect economy, there is always some greedy bastard who’ll ruin it for everyone.

Story courtesy of my brilliant cousin Andy. I encourage him to use this anecdote in his forthcoming junior cert exam.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Men, huh!

Apart from being able to multitask, walk in high heels and wear clothes made by a contortionist, weomen are more sensitive & perceptive and less self-centred & impulsive than our male counterparts. That's the accepted wisdom.

The more sensitive and perceptive of my blog readers have detected that Blankpaige hasn't been herself for a few weeks. But then I have tended to let it show of late. I've found blogging a brilliant release. The sort of joy, I used to get from confessions before I realise that Fr Morrison had a serious drink problem. (I don't hold myself responsible for this, I hasten to add!) And I'm sorry if I've been dumping on Blogosphere. It's just that, unlike my real life girlfriends, you are such a good listener.

My pals and I pride ourselves in our feminine intuition and we believe that we know when each other are in trouble even before we do. Perhaps it's because I've blogged it out of my system, but none of my close friends have spotted Blankpaige's emotional meltdown.

However a big hug is due to the three fabulous male bloggers who recently took the time to sent me an email with a few words of encouragement. And to my sweetest cousin, Andy, who despite facing into his junior cert, took the time to give his big cousin a really big hug and made me laugh a lot. Some young one is going to land on her feet when she lands him.

Gentlemen, your perceptiveness and sensitivity does you and your gender credit. Might I suggest you take the rest of June off and enjoy the World Cup. You guys deserve it!


Wednesday, June 07, 2006


I’ve tried to introduce a policy of composing a post, leaving it to cook for a couple of days and then re-editing it before it is published. This policy goes against my natural tendency to blurt everything out but it has stopped me from looking even dafter than I usually do. The down side is, of course, that events move on and you get scooped by another brilliant post by a fellow blogger. But I suppose a good idea is still a good idea even if I wasn’t the first to articulate it! I wrote a masterful piece a few days ago. Then I read two of Thatgirl's posts (one here on our Anti-intellectual Society and one here that includes an article by John Waters). It seems they said everything I wanted to say, and more. And they did it with some style. So I've been forced to can my carefully crafted post and blurt out the following....

The events of last week – Statutory Rape, Rattlebag/Mystery Train, Partnership Talks and Wayne Rooney’s Metatarsal – all seem strangely connected.

Now that the furore has died down and Mr A is back in jail, perhaps it is time to reflect. Did we seriously expect any of our politicians to put their head above the parapet and introduce six months ago new improved statutory rape legislation? Had someone been brave enough, would we have ever re-elected him/her? Would the opposition parties have done anything other than accuse the Govt of being on the side of child rapists? So, paralysed by fear of public reaction, our politicians quite reasonably did nothing – until they had to.
We’ve lost an unconstitutional law and replaced it with ‘emergency’ legislation that is (a) unconstitutional (b) contrary to most human rights conventions and (c) discriminates on the basis of gender. The Public gets what the public wants.

Ana Leddy sent an unmistakable message to any brave broadcaster or producer within RTE. Edgy and different is wrong, give the smucks what the smucks want. More rabble rousing rubbish (Liveline), less informed, intelligent arts & culture (Rattlebag). More safe playlist tosh (almost all RTE music save Lyric FM), less innovative and different music (Mystery Train). The Public gets what the public wants.

Another day, another partnership epic. Having spent the past 10 years in cahoots, the social partners were never going to do anything but agree a new programme. The only thing that remained to be decided was the colour of the glossy briefing brochure and the tagline name by which this agreement would be known. But the public demand rigorous debate and delicate negotiations. It just wouldn’t look right if the negotiations were concluded in 10 minutes over a coffee in Café Java. No we want brinkmanship and through the night negotiations. The Public gets what the public wants.

A footballer from a foreign country might miss the World Cup due to an injury sustained during a football match. Is this really newsworthy? I know nothing about football but know that injuries happen. At least 20 other players have suffered similar fates. However, our newspapers, radio and feel compelled to show us reruns of the ‘incident’, breaking news reports on the lack of deviation from a well established recuperation process, colour pieces on the wider societal impacts and details of how it affects our neighbour’s chances of winning the competition. Who cares? Clearly the Public gets what the public wants.

Do we want our society to enact laws because there is a ragtag rabble crew brandishing white flowers outside of Dail Eireann under the command of General Joe Duffy and not because it is the right thing to do? Are we happy that as a society, we want to punish child rapists and then hound them for the rest of their days in a show of extreme public vengeance? Do both the simplest and the complex issues of the day have to be reduced to a catchy tabloid headline before we will engage with it? Does the lowest common denominator have to set the bar for our aspirations? Are we really happy with the fact that we sleep deprive IBEC and ICTU delegates for several days before they make the biggest economic decision for the next 3 years? But more importantly let’s talk about Wayne’s foot…..

Friday, June 02, 2006

Important Research Project

I'm planning to apply to the Health Research Board for funding to conduct a study into increased levels of amnesia among elected politicians. It seems that this group may be prone to all sorts of neurological dysfunction and may be more susceptible to 'Transient Alzheimer-like Episodes' (TEA) than are the general public.

Obviously I'll explore the possible causes for such a malady, the extent of the problem and if it is contagious. Clearly if a TD has TEA then he may also suffer from an apparent lack of control over his own law-making (ALCOHOL). It is bad enough if our politicians have TEA and ALCOHOL problems? But what if they suffer from SEX addiction (Stirs up Extreme Xenophobia). Or COCAINE or ENVELOPE syndromes. (I'll leave you to work out what the latter illnesses are!)

All I need is access to the patient subject group (any TD's willing to submit to a rigorous clinical assessment?) and a few doctors to conduct the rigorous assessment.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

She's back!!!

Attention all bloggers.

She's back!