Archives for category: General

I had occasion to go to Dublin for a lunch networking meeting the other day, which was nice. I was due to meet at 12 across town and the train got in around that time so I jumped in a cab.

We flew through the city, since cabs can use bus lanes and there’s plenty of them in Dublin. We got there in about 15 minutes, 12 bucks very well spent. Sometimes traffic can be snarled in Dublin, even for cabs, but at 12 noon it was surprisingly light.

After a very pleasant meeting I realised that I only had 40 minutes to get to my train. I was going to jump in another cab when a colleague mentioned that thanks to the newish LUAS extension I could now get to the station in the west of the city. I walked ten minutes to the LUAS stop and figured out my route and my fare. I got in a LUAS train in south central Dublin, went 3 stops to north central Dublin and then walked 5 minutes to another LUAS stop, which wasn’t the closest but I wanted to keep moving in the right direction.

I got on the second LUAS train at 16 minutes past the hour, and 4 stops later it deposited my at the intercity train station, at 25 minutes past the hour, giving me more than enough time to get my train at half past.

A great, fast, efficient service, at least from my experience of one data point. And all for the pauper’s sum of €2.10. A city which has a cheap, fast and efficient public transport system is a global city, in my view.

 

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I skim-read a fascinating article the other day that covered an interview with former FLOTUS Michelle Obama.

In it, Ms Obama talked about what she described as Imposter Syndrome, the feeling that sooner or later someone’s going to uncover you as someone who’s blagged their way in to position of status or seniority that’s above their station. I hadn’t heard it described that way before but I immediately latched onto it.

Who else feels that from time to time? More accurately, who hasn’t felt in a weak moment that they’re one misstep away from being exposed as a fraud, or at best under-qualified for the role they’re performing?

This is a normal reaction from time to time, normal at least for people who are pushing themselves, moving up the ladder trying new things, joining new groups, doing the one thing every day that slightly scares them. It’s a natural symptom of progress. The first time you step up there’s new things to learn and uncertainty before you get dug in. Then you have to move again before you get too dug in.

It seems too that since the article above others have identified with it and shared their stories, which you can read about here.

Tack and tact. This has a lot of people confused I think. Tack can either mean a small nail, or also a nautical term for changing direction. Probably other meaning as well, I haven’t checked.

Tact is an emotional intelligence skill you acquire with other people that manifests itself in diplomacy, language and body language. So two pretty different meanings, then, for two words that look and sound similar.

‘I think we need to take a different tact.’ I heard this the other day – for the countlessth time, from someone who sails regularly and presumably done his share of tacking. You don’t want the word tact here, you want the word tack, unless your change in strategy involves ushering in some unexpected wave of diplomacy into proceedings.

The best way to remember the difference I think is from the Faithless song Insomnia, the lyrics of which go:

‘Fundamental movement, huh, so when it’s black
This insomniac, take an original tack
Keep the beast in my nature under ceaseless attack’

The tack you want is the one that rhymes with black and attack. Unless of course your context is thoughtfulness and consideration to others, in which case some tact is required.

Was that tactfully enough put to put you on the right tack?

We live in a semi-rural area with a lot of high trees, which is to say that we’re beset by a small army of crows. As aviary species go, they’re clever suckers, knowing just what will annoy me the most, such as removing small stones from the front pebbled garden and dropping them on the tarmac driveway and stealing bread from the back garden and other foodstuffs not intended for them.

They’ve also perfected the art of hitting a small upstairs bathroom window, unreachable for cleaning from inside or outside, with slimy projectile excrement which bonds to glass and has a half life of about 40 years.

The only way to get rid of them from the garden is to go up to the window and do big crow arms. When you wave your arms about maniacally they imagine you to be a colossally impressive crow and get the heck out of dodge, apparently. Size does matter in the crow world too, by all accounts.

Her Ladyship gave me this life hack, and if I’m honest she’s furnished me with 80 to 90% of the life hacks and micro-efficiencies I carry around with me in my metaphorical tool-bag as I plot my course through life.

 

Emails are tough to manage aren’t they? You blink or go away for a couple of days and all of a sudden your inbox looks like a war-zone.

Are you an active email manager or a laissez-faire kind of a person? On the one hand you can spend a few extra moments sorting out every single email the first time you read it, deleting it or filing it, which aggregates to hundreds of hours. On the other, you file nothing, maybe delete nothing, safe in the knowledge that you can search for emails and do an emergency triage if your storage limit gets tripped.

I take a different approach to my work emails and my personal emails. With my work emails I leave everything in the inbox or sent items, searching for stuff when I need it and doing a periodic cull of large attachments to relieve storage and aid computer speed. I knew a colleague who was a very successful salesperson and religiously kept his work inbox down to a handful of emails, all the time. How he did it I’ll never know.

With my personal emails – and many of the emails I get are subscriptions to emails from businesses – I try to delete and file, keeping my inbox as clear as I can. Inevitably it mushrooms out of control and I have to spend a few hours every 6 months getting the inbox and sent items down to a reasonable level, deleting stuff I should have and filing other emails away into folders that I’ll rarely access.

The trouble is, the periods immediately preceding a seasonal wipe session are less than serene. Like now, for instance…

Today’s old-fashioned word you don’t hear too much of these days – and with good reason – is wallowing. It literally means to roll about the place, like an elephant in a mud bath, and has roots in the Indo-European proto-language, but it’s more commonly used in the metaphorical sense of indulging in an emotion.

Although it can be either kind of emotion, the good one or the bad one, I only ever hear people using the bad one, as in wallowing in self-pity, or in nostalgia, which I also consider to be an unhealthy pastime, as you can’t get back what’s gone.

I try and avoid wallowing whenever I can, and try to stay upbeat and positive. Sometimes, however, you have a bad day where you’re stuck and you can’t see your way out of it. I don’t have them often but when I do I always think of those people for whom depression and anxiety are constant companions. After all, it’s really hard to escape from your own mind, and if you try to do it using alcohol or recreational drugs then you’re simply putting off the part you eventually have to get through.

My occasional bouts of wallowing often stem from uncertainty as to future outcomes, but manifest themselves in unhelpful comparisons with the situations of other people whose grass appears greener than mine. The best way out of it I think, as the experts say, is to talk it out, bring your nearest and dearest close to you and talk to them, over the phone if you can’t do it in person.

There’s a low in wallowing, literally, but springing from it is a win too.

Like many bloggers, especially the phenomenal ones who commit to daily posts, I usually have a couple of weeks’ worth of posts stored up, so they get published about half a month after I’ve created them. Then again, from time to time I like to slot them in as I write them. This is such an occasion, while the thoughts are fresh.

I went to a high school reunion a couple of days ago. I’d never been to one before. They’re an institution in places like the US, and Grosse Pointe Blank is one of my favourite films, so I was expecting something not quite as surreal and a lot less violent.

I hadn’t seen most of the attendees for over 30 years, and hadn’t talked to anyone from my class year this century, so it was odd yet hugely gratifying to reacquaint myself with people who had either changed remarkably little or who had changed out of all recognition.

Once I had triangulated my memory with name and face, It was very easy to slip back into a relaxed conversation with folks, as though a few weeks – rather than a few decades – had elapsed since we had last caught up.

Some had done well and were retired, some were doing well and still at it, and most were in the lifelong experience of parenting. There was good news and sad news, but it was an unfailingly pleasant night. Some of us promised to keep in touch with each other, so we’ll see what the passage of time does to these easy pledges.

There was no violence, apart from one unfortunate soul who slipped and banged her head, and it was completely, utterly surreal. I scored 50% there, which I think is a pass at school, right?

We have friends, and then we have ‘good’ friends. Clearly there are degrees of friendship, and a good friend is better than simply a friend. There must be a spectrum from contact to acquaintance, to friend, to good friend, to best friend, presumably.

We don’t have bad friends though. ‘I’d like to thank my bad friend John for his support.’ Surely a bad friend gets relegated to an acquaintance or worse. The only place where this works is in some sections of American society where bad means good, as in your bad self, that song/movie/game was bad, and so on.

In the context of my good friend, then, good really means close or dear. We use the phrase ‘my good friend’ to add emphasis and kudos to our friendship, to compliment them as a friend and by extension to express gratitude for the friendship, I think.

How many good friends do you have? And can you only have one best friend, by definition? And one last question, does it depend on the context of the conversation – a private word or public speaking – as to how many ‘my good friends’ you have?

I suppose everyone has a shortlist of favourite songs that have stayed with them over the years, to become not just their top 5 songs in a specific category, but of all time. Songs that can be relied upon to lift them, tug at the heart strings, and get them in the right frame of mind, when they feel they can accomplish just about anything.

I decided to write this post so that I could finally commit to memory its composer, since I’ve never heard the original in full, only its most famous part. Adagio for Strings was written by Samual Barber in 1936, and has featured in many other reproductions since. For instance, who could forget the scene involving Willem Dafoe’s character left on the ground by departing helicopters in the 1986 film Platoon. Some of its bars are among the most famous in classical music, achingly beautiful and haunting at the same time.

Where I’m most familiar with the piece is as a sample of a dance song of the same name by the Dutch DJ Tiësto. The video is in a club holding what looks like about 50,000 rapt attendees – oh, to have been there. I’m listening to it as I write this post. It starts with super fast beats that make you feel you’re invincible and then the adagio sample cuts in to make you stop, remember and yearn for those that are no longer with you. The song then lifts off again, reworking the handful of notes from the sample to a mesmerising close.

It’s magic stuff, giving off a huge, non-chemically induced high. I shall never tire of it I think. Probably my number 2 song of all time.

 

I introduced the notion relatively recently that I might stop blogging on this page after 1,000 blog posts. I produce 3 blog posts a week, always on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and that cadence works for me, so 1,000 posts will take me a fraction over 333 weeks, the guts of 7 years.

And then I read Seth Godin’s post yesterday, which talks about the first 1,000 blog posts being the most difficult…Mr Godin’s blog is one of the inspirations for me starting my own back in 2013, but then again he writes a daily blog post, and we aren’t talking weekdays only. That’s over twice my input. That cadence obviously works for him.

His first para reads: “For years, I’ve been explaining to people that daily blogging is an extraordinarily useful habit. Even if no one reads your blog, the act of writing it is clarifying, motivating and (eventually) fun.” I could have written those words myself, except substitute ‘thrice weekly’ for the daily bit, because the sentiment is spot on.

Some of Mr Godin’s posts are very short indeed, and then some of them are quite involved, whereas I try and stick to a 4-to-5 para, 250-or-so words, couple-minutes-to-read kind of a thing. That said, his output is prodigious, helped no doubt by an enviable book-publishing remit that allows him to kill two birds with one stone.

Interestingly, Mr G sees a trend where people get the bit between their teeth after 200 posts or so, which is a little over 6 months. Maybe the time in the saddle is more important than the cadence, since 200 posts take me 15 months, which is a different proposition altogether. Or maybe it’s the cadence that counts…

As for the first 1000 posts thing, for me it could well be the only 1000 posts, and I think the daily discipline would become a daily drag, perhaps for you too, as the ‘customer’.