Archives for category: General

Often a simple ‘thank you’ is all people need for the acknowledgement of their work. Someone remembering or taking time out to tell them that their efforts are appreciated.

So it is with ‘please’, the mannerly corollary to thank you. Simple, thoughtful manners go a long way to getting what we need, and sometimes what we want too. It makes the person we’re asking feel better about donating their time too. I always try to say please when I’m asking for something, no matter how insignificant the ask is. It’s a basic human courtesy.

In my view, we should be demanding that voice activation technologies like Siri and Alexa be reprogrammed to only comply with our commands when we say please. ‘Alexa, can you play Ten Story Love Song by the Stone Roses on Spotify, please?’ How hard is that?

Much more importantly, especially with youngsters, what great behaviours would those engrained manners encourage for interacting with other human beings?

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I write this blog post as very much a non-connoisseur of the operatic genre. In fact, I’m not really a connoisseur of any musical genre. I like pretty much all types, with a tendency towards the mainstream, non-fringe, anodyne even.

Like most people in their mid-twenties when the Italia ’90 World Cup was on, I had never heard Nessun Dorma. My Dad was fluent in Italian, lived there, and would occasionally regale us with the first couple of lines from Verdi’s La Donna è Mobile. That was about the extent of my exposure to opera, except for a couple of very long evenings in the company of the English or Welsh National Opera for performances without a single song of note or recall.

The BBC chose Nessun Dorma as their theme tune for the event and catapulted Mr Pavarotti from serious fame to truly global renown. It may have helped the rise to prominence of the The Three Tenors, and countless other countries’ versions, but I’m not sure of the causality of that. Every time I come across his version of Puccini’s masterpiece on youtube or social media, I know that I will lose an ill-defined number of minutes watching various different recordings, all of them still spine-tinglingly good.

Other opera stars have sung this top 5 all-time favourite song of mine, but even to my untutored ear they don’t come close to the richness and depth of Signor Pav. You feel yourself lift off the chair as he moves to the massive tidal wave crescendo of Vincerò! So much charisma, so much presence, so memorable, even down to the obligatory white towel.

Don’t take my word for it, here’s one of the better recordings of the great man at work. I feel sure it will lift your spirits, at least for a while.

I’ve more or less banished paper from my work practices. I rarely keep information sheets that people give me in meetings, and take all my meeting notes in a notepad or text editor and arrange them in company or customer folders.

It’s a more organised way of carrying on I think, especially if your job is very mobile. No files or folders to remember to put in your bag, just your laptop and a power cable – happy days.

With one exception though. When I’m working in the home office I make to do lists as I go or as the thought comes to me: things I need to do, buy or ask. Once they’re done there’s no need to revisit the list or save it for digital posterity. And it’s great to take the scribbled list and shove it in your back pocket so you don’t forget any of the half dozen items or errands you need to complete while you’re in motion.

I have a tower of different coloured paper notes on my desk. They sit in a Jenga-like plastic dispenser, so there’s no need to buy ones with adhesive which either sticks them to a spine or to the sheet below and then to the laptop or wall once you’ve removed them from the block.

There’s also something cathartic about crossing stuff off a scribbled list and then recycling the paper note, that you don’t quite get by deleting an item off your digital TDL – that’s one of my most used TLAs – for ‘to do list’.

I blogged about January earlier this month, about how it’s a ‘kiss me arse’ month. I wrote about January, however, in mid-December or so, since if you blog regularly you tend to have a stock of posts scheduled at any one time.

How did January turn out? Well, you’re reading this at nearly the end of the month, so for you it’s my January retrospective, but I’m writing this with the guts of 10 days to go. I can give you pretty clear steer on it though.

I came back from a great break in the UK with dose of ‘man flu’, which I hardly ever get. It took me a week to get rid of, by which time it had migrated to a chesty, flegmy cough that warranted a trip to the doc’s and the parting of €63 for the visit and the accompanying anti-biotics. About the same time I also re-tweaked my troublesome left calf playing my first game of table tennis for a few weeks, before turning over in bed a few mornings later and precipitating a sore trapezius-back-of-the-shoulder-blade thingy which subsequently reminded me how often I unwittingly engage it in every-day movement.

This is all my own fault of course. I always view January as the necessary evil we all have to get through, the hangover from the party period of the previous month. I had it coming, in that self-fulfillingly prophetic way.

I’m going to take a leaf out of my mate Gaz’s book next year though. He’s always glad when Crimbo is out of the way and looks forward to January. A clean slate, get some things started, that new year, new you kind of a thing.

So I’m looking forward to an awesome January 2020. A new decade, and the world’s my oyster. Bring it on, except not just yet. I have 11 stellar months to enjoy first.

I’m sure I’ve written before about US strip malls and the fact that staff park their cars in the furthest away spots to allow their paying customers to take the most adjacent spots. It simple, thoughtful and common sense practice.

You don’t see so much of it in Europe in my experience. Staff seem to get priority. That cosy consultant’s parking space at the front of the hospital. How come they get that? Surely it should be for the nurses or the midwives who do most of the bloody work, no pun intended. Or perhaps, revolutionary thought, the patients, who have to pay to park in the next parish.

Anyway, I was waiting in the car park for my 9 o’clock doctor’s appointment the other day to rid myself of a pesky chesty cough that I didn’t want advancing to a chesty infection. I was 8 minutes early and so people watched from the comfort of my car. By 8:58, the car park was full, since staff had used up both the car park and the spaces behind the surgery which are supposed to be for staff only. There simply aren’t anywhere near enough spaces for both staff and paying patients.

Who has to to park on the curb? The paying patient of course, who in this country funds the vast majority of the salary of the attending staff.

Madness, I tell you. If I ruled the world, or at least administered some of it…

Automation exists to make our lives easier, or sometimes to make our supplier’s life easier. We adapt our traditional manual behaviour to new behaviours on the basis that the new behaviour, thanks to the automation, is easier or less effort, or both, for us.

A few months ago I was in a gallery in Dublin and went to use the facilities on the way out. never waste a chance to use the facilities of the facility you’re in – no double pun intended – especially when you’re in a big city.

After completing my task and washing my hands, I moved across to the automatic hand dryer and hovered my hands under it and waited for the sensor to pick up my presence and whizz my hands into a dried frenzy.

Nothing doing, damn thing was broken I concluded, after several experimental variations of hand position.

Turns out I had mistaken an empty paper napkin dispenser for an automatic hand dryer. Learned behaviour, on auto-pilot, had let me down. Back to the drawing board, or rather another dispenser with a napkin or two in it.

The vast majority of bowls are round. It’s simply the right shape to polish off as much of the contents as possible. Sure, square or rectangular bowls are more efficient for storage and look different, but that’s about the extent of the pros list.

My mother’s had these square bowls for ages. Well, they’re not actually square in the sense of an equal-sided quadrilateral. They’re rectangular, or oblong if you prefer the sillier-sounding version. They’re part of that range of everything for the home designed by the ‘George’ bloke who made his name at Next and after that with Asda. Every time I eat my cereal out of them, it reminds me why I dislike them.

Firstly, you can’t add the right amount of milk because the cereal is differently distributed compared to in the circular bowl you’re used to. Usually you end up putting too much in. I don’t like too much milk with my cereal.

Then you can’t get the smaller bits of the cereal out of the corners. The spoon’s too rounded to make it an easy job.

Finally, you can’t drain your bowl like you can with a round one. It kind of pools in areas rather than being drawn effortlessly into the centre under control of the force of gravity.

No, they’ll never go mainstream, those square bowls, square wheels never did. They can’t, surely.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a such a thing as a nano-nap? Not a 20-minute power nap, but an actual split-second recharge? Now that would be worth something. What a time-saver that would be.

I’ve never been one for day-time naps, they’re just not my thing. I’d much prefer to keep going during the day and head to bed knowing I’m in for some serious deep sleep. My brothers, on the other hand, have been known to curl up under the desk at the drop of a hat.

I thought I had coined the term when I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. I liked the consonance and flow of it. Turns out, according to the old google, it exisits already in the form of a short nap of between 1 and 10 minutes.

Not quite a split-second, one-blink-and-you’re-back kind of thing though, a proper nano-nap.

One of the things my Dad used to say to me when he was coaching me on how to take a good exam was this: read the rubric. He was the only person I know who regularly used the term.

It pays to read the rubric, or the instructions on how to do something, even if you think you know what you’re doing. If the exam tells you to answer any 4 of the following 10 questions, and they’re all worth the same points, then be sure to answer 4 of them and spend about a quarter on each one before moving onto the next. If it says you must answer all questions, answer them all if you can. If one question is more points than others, make sure it gets the right amount of time allocated to it.

Sometimes the rubric or instructions are simply too long to bother reading, like a car manual’s. This is why a lot of good companies also now produce a quick start guide, a much shorter document that gets you up and running and gives you the really key stuff.

Read the rubric. It gets you in the right frame of mind for the task ahead. Unless you’re absolutely sure what you’re doing, a quick double check never hurts.

On the 4th of January 2009 I started a food diary. Actually it was kind of an everything diary. Weight, health and fitness activities, the weather, and a quick scribbled account of what I got up to that day. It detailed exactly what I had for breakfast, lunch, dinner and other snacks, how much water I drank, and how much alcohol. When I look back, I would say that, arbitrarily, it’s 90% accurate. Oh, and there was a two week summer holiday where I recorded the information on my phone and accidentally deleted it before it got to my laptop…

Today marks over 10 years of my food diary. If I want to know – I doubt you will – exactly what I ate, drank and filled my day with on any one of the last three-and-a-half thousand days, I can find out in a couple of clicks.

I blogged some time ago about the benefits of keeping a food diary. It keeps you honest, and that helps with health and weight management. For example, I’m about 2 pounds/1 kilo lighter now than I was a decade ago. I’ve probably lost a bit of muscle tone and maybe 2 centimetres of height, but for someone who during that time moved from his fifth decade into his sixth, I think that’s a pretty decent achievement.

The collected data from 2009 to now must be of some value to someone, I would have thought? If you think so, do let me know.

As you may know, I like round numbers and I like doing things for a set amount of time before I call it a day. I’ve mentioned more than once how I may stop at 1,000 blog posts.

Maybe today will be my last food diary entry. Then again, I was going to retire at 30, 40 and 50…