Archives for category: General

Did you know that Dublin has the only European capital city airport without a rail link? Well, apparently it is, and this presents problems for the traveller, as you might imagine.

When I’m flying back into Ireland, I have two choices to get home in the west of Ireland. Choice 1 is to take the coach from the airport to Galway in the west, and then make my way into the countryside. I can’t do this if the coach arrives at an unsociable hour; the inter-town services are done for the day, or should I say for the night.

Choice 2 is to take a bus, run by Dublin Bus, from the airport to the 2 main train termini, Connolly which services the north, and Heuston which serves the South, South West, West and North West.

On this occasion I had opted for the rickety 747 bus service in the form of choice 2. It was my first time taking this option, since I always preferred option 1, but the timings didn’t suit. ‘Besides,’ her Ladyship said, ‘it’s a good service.’ Very good then.

Imagine my good fortune, then, as I trotted out of Dublin airport to see a 747 waiting for me. 2 minutes later we were off. The route from the airport to the city centre is about 4 miles, and another 1 or 2 miles to the west of the city for Pearse Station. As I discovered, the route is pretty circuitous. Firstly it loops around the airport’s vast one-way system to pick up people from Terminal 2 before giving all Terminal 1 travellers a sense of deja vu as we take the same route out of the airport for the second time.

The service then takes a somewhat ’round the houses’ approach into Dublin, which, during the early evening rush hour took 45 minutes. We stopped on the mighty O’Connell Street and some people got off, along with, rather controversially, the driver, who announced that this stop was a driver shift change and the next driver would be along in 2 minutes.

20 minutes later, which is a lengthy 2 minutes even by Irish standards, we were still waiting. What made this rather illuminating was that the departing driver couldn’t leave his shift until the relieving driver turned up and the remaining travellers on the bus could hear the two-way ‘walktie talkie’ conversations between the driver and the dispatcher. The new driver was somewhere near, but not answering the phone, by all accounts. Moments later the relief driver turned up, having been waiting at the wrong stop on the street…

Somewhat wisely and ultra-conservatively I had allowed 120 minutes for us to travel the 6 miles between the airport and train station for the last train west of the day. The 6-mile journey took 85 minutes. It then took me 120 more minutes to go 120 miles to my home town.

And we wonder why public transport is always both broke and broken.

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How many of us spend large amounts of time at a computer, device, smartphone or other digital device? What do we do on them? Well, principally we’re typing our part of some dialogue.

Isn’t it amazing that computers have formed the central role in our working and playing lives yet so few of us can type properly? What a bonus it would be to type as fast as we can talk, as fast as we can think even. How much more productive could we be?

Many of us continue to get by on 2-finger typing. I’ve graduated to 4-finger typing, with the occasional thumb for the space bar and the pinkie for the return key, when I don’t use the dictate function on my mac. It’s still painfully slow, but it’s progress of a kind I suppose.

I find it flabbergasting that the primary and secondary schools my kids go to don’t get typing and keyboarding lessons. Boys and girls both need it; it’s an essential skill for the modern world, even if we never type anything during our working day.

We’re all looking at the keyboard, when we should be looking at the screen. There’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or so the saying goes. There’s always some implied barter or quid pro quo implicit in the donation of a free lunch. The donor is expecting something in return – usually.

I was on Liverpool Street in London the other day. There’s usually a homeless man selling the Big Issue near the pedestrian crossing across from one of the station’s exits. He’s not a British national, as you can hear from his extremely chirpy ‘Good morning, ‘ave a good day’, accompanied by a thumbs up, to hundreds upon hundreds of passers-by during the 2 rush hours.

I was feeling particularly virtuous, or so I thought and I went up to buy a copy of the Big Issue from him. Sometimes I will give the Big Issue vendors a quid or two and not take the magazine, but on this occasion I fancied a read. I hadn’t read it for a long time.

A young chap, late 20s I would say, got there first, so I waited behind him. Except that the young chap didn’t buy a Big Issue, or slip him a quid or two. He gave him a lunch, a lunch in a paper carrier bag that he had just bought, and walked off.

What a lovely gesture it was. Thoughtful, easy to do, and for a few quid he’s made the man’s day. I’m slightly welling up as I recount the story. I felt that my own magnanimity has been seriously compromised as I profferred my cash for the magazine, and rightly so.

If we all made the young man’s gesture once every month or two, what a difference that would make.

The lunch donor didn’t look for anything in return, except perhaps his own reflected feel good factor. Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch after all.

When you’re going for a walk or driving or taking a train, a plane or a boat, you’re looking for different scenery, a different view of the world. Variety keeps the interest and adds to our bank of experiences. Too much of the same view and we get bored. It’s no use changing our location if the scenery is still the same.

It’s the same thing with work and play. You’re looking for a different scenario, a new angle, another way of looking at and experiencing things. While we love our routine, within that routine we also strive for variety. There’s no point making the effort to change if we get the same view, the same scenario. In this case the pain of change is greater than the pain of the staying the same.

We want the pain of change to be less than the pain of staying the same. This is why, if were going to improve our lot, or seize an opportunity, or fix a problem, we need to look at a different scenario.

The same scenario doesn’t work for us. We tried it already. It’s done. Time to move on. Time for a different scenario.

Here’s an odd thing. The word ‘WC’, developed from the delightfully old fashioned words ‘water closet’ to disguise with true Victorian values exactly what it’s really for, is not really used in English anymore. Indeed, its prim origins remind me of the American ‘restroom’. You’re hardly going to say ‘give me a couple of minutes, I’m just going for a quick rest’, are you?

I was recently using the facilities of a French campsite and there were instructions in 4 languages about what you could not put down the toilet. Pretty standard stuff, both in terms of what you couldn’t put down the privy and in the language used. Except that, in the English sentence the word ‘toilet’ was used, and in the French, Dutch and German the word ‘WC’ was used.

I thought this was hilarious. Here’s a case of foreign languages adopting the initials of olde English words – initials that don’t mean anything in their native language – and staying with them, long after the English had abandoned their use.

Now that I think about it, there are so many slang words for toilet, at least in English.

These are the sorts of things that I pick up on, to ponder over, on a regular basis. And you thought you had problems.

‘Try the fruit scones Miriam, they’re to die for.’

‘Do you see that dress in the window, it’s to die for.’

‘That woman’s figure, the one off the telly, oh it’s to die for.’

What an odd, extreme phrase that it is. To die for, really?

It seems a bit self-defeating that you would die for something that you wouldn’t be able to experience, because you would be dead…

The phrase strikes me, and I’m generalising here, as one more often used by the female gender. The more male version is of course more violent.

To kill for.

‘He’d kill his granny for a fiver, that lad.’

At least in the ‘kill’ scenario you’d have a chance of experiencing that which you covet, albeit briefly.

 

 

As you get older, your eyesight weakens and your focal point lengthens, meaning you need glasses to see the detail.

For many people, this means a short trip to the local pharmacist to pick up a standard strength of reading glasses for a few bucks.

Unfortunately, I use my eyes for close up work a lot. I’m in front of my computer most of the day so I need decent glasses to protect my eyesight for the long term. I started out with some prescription reading glasses, and that was all I needed them for; reading a book and working on the computer. Two years later I needed stronger reading glasses and started to have to bring them with me wherever I went, or face squinting at menus, price tags and parking meters like an octogenarian.

Pretty soon they were not sufficient either. Believe it or not, I now use 3 separate pairs of glasses, each costing a few hundred bucks, to get by:

  • A pair of ‘professional’ tinted lenses that have 3 distances, to take the glare off close-up screen work, mid-range stuff and 3-metre range for watching the TV
  • A pair of varifocals for driving and general inside wandering around stuff. The professional lenses don’t have the long range view for driving – and you can’t fit them in the lens since it already has 3 ranges – and I can no longer read the dashboard numbers unaided
  • A pair of varifocal sunglasses for driving and general outside wandering around stuff

It’s an expensive business. I hope I get some longevity out of them, otherwise I’m looking at 3 replacements.

Is the term ‘the gentleman’s family’ recognised in England? I have only ever heard it in Ireland, and only after I had become the co-creator of the gentleman’s family myself. Apparently, it’s having one child of each gender, of which the elder is a boy, and stopping there.

There’s seems to be a bit more etymology behind the term as well, judging by this chap’s blog post when he heard about the term and asked about its origin too.

I had no idea that the term had historical and religious connections. Other than the fast that the term is sexist and outdated, for me, it was about the idea that we’re having fewer kids these days, and if you produce one of each then you’re pretty much done.

Except that, I would imagine the son and daughter of a gentleman’s family would have liked a brother or sister respectively. As one of 3 boys, who’s married to a lady with a sister, I can attest to the merits of same sex ‘siblingness’.

Anyway, ’tis a moot point now.

Ever had food poisoning before? The kind where you wonder if you’ll ever get out of this black hole? It feels like someone is drilling you a new eye socket, while at the same time hitting your stomach with a baseball bat. Meanwhile the rest of your body has gone to defcon 3 and is ejecting whatever is inside you from both ends?

Ever had a brutal hangover? The symptoms for me are the same. You can’t control an episode of food poisoning, even if you’re careful, but you can a hangover, so I avoid them wherever possible.

Ever had a migraine? A proper one? Guess what, the symptoms for me are the same. Unfortunately, apart from avoiding certain foods like chocolate and cheese, you can’t really control them either. Besides, who wants to live in a world completely bereft of chocolate and cheese?

The cure for all three aliments is the same. It’s not medication. I’s not really hydration, though that helps somewhat. It is sleep. If. I. Can. Just. Get. To. Sleep. I’ll. Be. OK. It’s really hard to do it with all the pain and the upheaval, but if I can finally get to sleep, I can sleep it off and emerge the other side.

So, in case you didn’t know, you do now. Food poisoning, hangovers, migraines. Same symptoms, same cure.

Time flies when you’re having fun. It drags horribly if you’re bored.

Sometimes you need more time and it seems to slip away quickly. Paradoxically, I’ve found that the harder you work, the slower the time seems to go past. Let me offer an analogy.

When you’re running on a treadmill, and you’re jogging or running more slowly – perhaps in your recovery phase – the time seems to gallop past. When you run faster and really work on the treadmill, the time seems to crawl past.

When I’m up against a deadline I find that if I work harder it has the effect of slowing down the time. Now, of course, you could argue that the harder you work the more you can get done in the same time – just as you can cover more distance in the same time on the treadmill – but the point is you feel more in control of the time rather than it being in control of you. This approach also works if you’re bored.

So there you go, work harder to slow down time if you’re busy, and work harder to speed up time if you’re bored. You heard it here first. Or maybe you knew it already.