I’ve written before about how the Irish language has some quite unwieldy versions of some of the most common words and phrases you’ll ever need, like hello, hello back and thank you.

It also has no words for yes and no, incredibly.

Instead, it makes do with a much more engaging and involving set of answers, that has exact parallel in English and which I use a lot myself.

‘Did you finish your lunch?’ ‘I did.’

‘Have you done that report?’ ‘I haven’t.’

‘Will you come with me to the meeting?’ ‘I will’

‘Can you commit to the end of this month for the order?’ ‘We can.’

‘Are you in charge?’ ‘I am.’

It’s an altogether more accommodating language, reversing the questioner’s word order and creating a kind of subconscious closeness and empathy. Nothing less than you’d expect from a very friendly people.

Do I like it? I do.

 

 

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I’ve written a few times before about tackling large projects and biting off small digestible or achievable chunks to eat away at the project and make it doable.

One thing I find useful when tackling a large project – though not too large or else the parameters may change and you have to start again – is to do the fiddly stuff first. If you’re writing a document, get the contents right before you move on to fill in the big gaps. If you’re working on a large deck, do the cover slide and the end slide first and get the title and content conventions down before you do your slides. If you’re working on a spreadsheet, to the tidying up and formatting of cells before you put the main body of numbers in.

You have to do the important parts, the major bits, so getting the fiddly stuff out of the way means they won’t get forgotten about or underserved at the end when you’re flagging. Yes, you run the risk of not getting the big, important part finished, but you have to get it done so you’ll get it done, and if there’s a time deadline, then your focus, your productivity and your output will increase accordingly.

If you do the fiddly stuff first, you know you’ll finish. If you leave the fiddly stuff til last, you run the risk of wanting a break after finishing the big stuff and not finishing the whole thing.

I’ve had it with avocados. I’m done with them.

Yes, I know they’re good for me. They’re rich in those omega-thingies and they taste nice too. You just never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes they’re too hard, like cheese, but you’ve opened them now, so you have to eat them. You can leave the other half in the fridge, even with the stone still it, and they take about 5 mins to go off.

Sometimes they’re too soft, and have gone mostly black and bruised, not appealing to look at or taste, so they’re wasted. Even with the health benefits they’re a bit of a lottery.

And then there’s the process of how they’re made, and the vast distances they need to come to service the needs of a consumer in the north west of Europe. Take a look at this video (it’s 12 minutes long, but worth a quick look). An awful lot of the environment goes into creating one of those capricious little suckers, and the ramifications are pretty far-reaching, as you’ll see.

No, much as I like them, I think I’m done with avocados.

Work, play. Day, night. Fun, no fun. These are pretty binary concepts, aren’t they?

I’ve always said we should find a job we enjoy, since it’s going to be occupying such a large amount of our healthy, active years, but enjoyment is hardly a binary concept.

No, it’s more of a spectrum. There are bits of our work that we enjoy more than others. The creative bits are generally more enjoyable than the humdrum bits. There are degrees of enjoyment. The most enjoyable parts of our job are not as enjoyable as our time off.Then again, being on holiday is often better than simply having time off.

If we play sport, then going to the gym is not as enjoyable as a game of footie or tennis.

I was out for an evening of 6-a-side soccer the other day, in the driving rain, and one of my pals joined the warm-up looking a bit glum. ‘Come on,’ I said, ‘you could be working. Playing soccer in terrible weather is always better than working. Are you telling me you’d rather be plastering right now?’

‘Yes’, he said, ‘I would.’ Like I said, degrees of enjoyment, just on a different part of the spectrum to me.

Solitude is great for concentration, great for getting things done.

As someone who does a lot of writing from home, I find that solitude and silence are the most productive drivers. I tend not to listen to music, or even have the radio on in the background. It’s just me and my thoughts, with no distractions. I do sing to myself, out loud, on the breaks though, as one does.

Of course, it’s horses for courses. A mate of mine who also writes for a living always has the radio on in the background, usually something high-brow like BBC Radio 3, which might explain his encyclopaedic knowledge of music.

It’s what you’re used to, and it goes in waves. There was a time when I listened to music when I wrote and the mood the particular music inspires can influence the writing, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the subject matter and the tone.

After too much, though, the solitude and quiet gets to you, and mild cabin fever sets in. Then, for me, it’s time, not for music, but some old fashioned dialogue and some human interaction. A good home-working balance seems to be a mix of thinking, writing time in solitude and collaborative, team time in the office.

Well, bloody hell, 800 blog posts out the door! At a total elapsed average time from idea to creation, to fine-tuning, to scheduling of half an hour per post, that’s 400 hundred hours of blogging.

It’s also 10 solid weeks of nothing but blog posting over the last 5 years, 1 month, 1 week and change. There has to be a book in it somewhere. That doesn’t mean it’s a book worth publishing or buying, and if it’s not bought is it really a book? If a tree falls in a forest and no-one hears it does it make a sound? If I signal to turn left and no-one seems my signal, has it been received, to make it a signal to someone?

When I published my 750th blog post I talked about the possibility of packing it in at post number 1,000. That’s in 200 blog posts’ time, just over 15 months away, roughly the dawn of 2020. That seems as good a time as any, like when Forest Gump had run thousands of miles and then simply stopped, because for him the time was right. Maybe I’ll keep on going after the 1000th blog post, having become institutionalised to commit my musings to digital paper.

For me the act of blogging has always been a self-centred thing, something I do for the discipline and flow of regular writing. I’ve never actively promoted the blog and the size of the readership and followership is not important to me.

For now, though, the next thought is blog post number 801. Thanks for reading!

Barcodes are amazing things, aren’t they? They’re the kind of things I’ll never take for granted.

Barcodes have been around for a long time, ever since we’ve had the technology to point a device at a code – or point the code-bearing item at a device – and have it translated into a specific inventory record in a company’s supply chain or retail computer system.

The fact that all the billions of things out there can each have their own unique sequence of numbers and bars makes business flow at the pace it does. You can have a code for one item, another code for a box of them, another for a case of boxes, and for all I know another code for an entire pallet of thousands of them. They enable the entire supply chain and retailer to keep a electronic record of the physical movement of an item, from creation to distribution, to consumption.

Owning the code conventions and selling the codes is, of course, big business. But they’re worth every penny or cent, in my view.

Do you set PAGs for yourself – personal annual goals? Perhaps it sounds a bit too organised, a bit too much like work. Maybe you like to go with the flow and see where you’re at the end of the year. Maybe you don’t think of your life like that and go through it savouring every moment.

If you do like to achieve things, and see an improvement in your life and the lives of those closest to you, then PAGs are a good way of doing that. They stop time running away from you. We know from experience that plans very rarely survive the first incursion into reality, but having some high level objectives keeps us on track and focused on the here and now I think.

I know a guy who sets himself PAGs. They might be things like ‘sell house for x, clearing y profit’, ‘change car’, and ‘earn z before taxes’, those kind of things. He really values them and he’s flying through them at the moment.

I think they work well for achievable or binary things that you have control over, like selling your house for a certain amount. Where they work less well is with big hairy arse goals, or BHAGs as the business folk call them, like get your first book published – not self-published – or getting a child into a highly oversubscribed school. These have a low probably rate of success, yet they’re still binary.

Personal Annual Goals are great ways of stopping time from running away from you, that most precious of resources that you can’t ever get back. In that sense, further chopping your PAGS into half-yearly, quarterly and even personal monthly goals, PMGs, is not a bad idea either.

What do you want your epitaph to be? What would you choose?

Epitaph is an interesting word, as it means a short summary of one’s life but actually comes from the Greek words epi and taphos, meaning ‘on a (tomb)stone’. So it’s the ‘here lies etc’ that we read when we wander around cemeteries.

Most epitaphs give a name, birth and death date, while a few have a choice quotation, but you don’t see many of them around these days, which is a pity I think. It’s nice to get a snapshot of a person you don’t know, something they chose to sum up their live in a handful of words. You tend to find them in obituaries, which is another fascinating word because it derives from the latin word meaning to come up against something, as in to meet one’s end.

I don’t think I’ll be bothering with a tombstone or a grave, as I’d prefer to rot away environmentally, but I think I’d like something like ‘Occasionally aspired to greatness, but humdrum most of the time.’ Never hitting greatness, but aiming for it, is, I think, a reasonable goal.

 

It is the sense of community, with a small c, that makes and binds a Community with a big C, I think. The idea that the sum of all of us, its constituent elements, is greater than the whole, the place we live or work in.

One of the paradoxes of modern life for me is that at a macro level communities, towns, cities and councils seem to get in their own way, in a one step forward, two steps back fashion, whereas at a micro, person-to-person level, the opposite happens. Sorry, that’s a long sentence, a bit tortuous, but I didn’t want a full stop to break the flow.

I’m frequently reminded of this in provincial Ireland where the community is always helping itself out in tiny ways. I had a an email dialogue with someone the other day, and I needed to get an envelope containing important information to her sooner rather than later. ‘That’s OK, she said, you don’t need to drop it out to me, just leave it at the local shop and I’ll pick it up on my way from work.’ Genius. I left it behind the counter with the chap, and it seemed the most natural thing to do.

One company I work with needs parcels to be collected and sent out on a regular basis. If the local courier can’t get to them before the end of the day on a Friday, we leave them at the local petrol station and he picks them up from there on the Saturday morning.

We may get frustrated and befuddled by the bureaucracy and process of big business and big government, but we make up for it with the small kindnesses of community.