Archives for category: General

‘Age is just a number.’ Don’t you hate it when the gym instructor says that, as you bemoan your general state of feebleness and fragility after a lung bursting effort following the latest ‘here’s a great new exercise for you to try, you’ll love it!’? Or coming from someone looking insufferably youthful?  Yup, I know. Your age is just a number, an inexorably increasing one, until it stops, obviously. Despite the fact we’d love to turn the clock back, almost all the time we’d rather ours went up than stopped, I imagine.

I get that our approach to ageing is often a reflection of our state of mind. It’s a perception thing too, the messages we send out and the way people interpret them.

There is still the raw number itself, however, our actual passport- or birth cert-verified age. When it comes to that, I prefer the odd numbers to the even. Of course 29 is better than 30, but what about 31? Counter-intuitive, no? I think it sounds better, feels better.

I’m not sure why I prefer the odd numbers. It’s illogical and irrational, I know. I just do.

Advertisements

People often say that you have to look back in order to look forward. This can apply on both personal and work contexts, but obviously has certain limitations.

Past performance, as we’re reminded by companies looking to separate us from some of our money, is no guarantee of nor indeed guide to future performance. It can provide a pattern that might be useful in our future endeavours, but it can’t predict things. Economics, after all, is very handy for explaining what happened and how it happened, but not so great for saying what will happen. Look too at consumer polls over the last few years, and their record with the last US Presidential election and UK referendum; 2016 – the annus horribilis for the polling industry.

I’m not a huge fan of looking back, personally speaking, and in a personal context. I’m not one for nostalgia. I’m happy to reminisce about certain episodes in my past, but I don’t look back on it with fondness or envy. I think I’m afraid to. It’s done, it can’t be changed. What’s the point of going back to a time when we were younger. We’re the age we are right now and there’s nothing else we can influence except the present and future – unless we’re crazed historical revisionists of some crackpot empire.

The other day her Ladyship lent me a novel to read called ‘A Started for 10‘. I hadn’t heard of it, and I later discovered it was made into a film, which I have never seen. It was set in 1980’s university, and revolved around growing up and answering quiz questions. I thought I would love it.

I read it quite quickly, as it’s a well told story, but after a very enjoyable first third I only enjoyed it a little. It was really well observed, but too close to the bone, reminding me of a time when I knew so little about anything, far less than the modest amount of knowledge I have amassed some 30 years later. It was so accurate, and I didn’t want to revisit that level of detail from that time.

I understand that if we don’t look back, we can sometimes take a headlong accelerated journey into what’s around the next corner, and risk wishing away the present. But, looking back for any amount of time, and to any depth, well that’s not for me. I’m not sure it works in work either, as the set of circumstances and factors we deal with changes all the time.

‘A problem shared is a problem halved’, or so they say. Not a problem solved, necessarily, but less of a problem, and less of a mountain to climb to fix it.

I find also that a problem emailed is a problem halved. It is, of course, the digital equivalent of talking something out with someone. If we’ve got a work or non-work problem that we’re not sure how to address, the act of putting it down on paper, organising your thoughts and explaining it, goes a long way towards better understanding the problem and maybe solving it yourself.

When you share the problem with someone else it becomes their problem too, hence the phrase problem halved – if they’re prepared to shoulder it for you. They might also be able to solve it for you too, especially if you picked them for their subject matter expertise as well as their willingness to listen and help.

How many times have you taken time to articulate a problem, its origins and its causes, and the possible options to fix it, before the answer crystallised for you? Many times, if you’re like me. Often we don’t need the other person to do anything, just to listen and nod. The act of them simply being there and of forcing us to think about something in a way someone else can understand is enough. Same with email.

I was reminded of the hidden cost of bureaucracy the other day. Hidden, because it goes largely unreported, and the personal cost to me.

About 6 weeks previously, I had required to send off my passport as part of an application process. The process stated that if you needed your passport back by a certain date that you should detail this. Which I did, since I needed to fly to the UK for a week, building in 2 days buffer in the process. 2 days? I know, ludicrous in hindsight. In fact not even in 2 days. I was flying on a Monday, but told them the Saturday before and that I needed the passport by the Thursday.

The passport hadn’t arrived by the Tuesday. I needed it to fly with Ryanair, whose flights I had booked ages before. The government office dealing with my application had 4 telephone hours per week, yes 4, during which time the phone line was permanently busy. I couldn’t turn up in person and demand my passport back, so I sent an email into the info@ customer service email abyss.

Friday, the last day for postal deliveries before the weekend, and nothing. I had a sliver of hope, in that I was flying late on Monday so it might come that day. On the Friday I called in a favour and someone knew someone who worked in the department of the minister responsible. Nothing, until 4:30pm when an email responding to my info@ enquiry came back with a ‘When did you send your application? When did we receive it? What was the postal tracking number?’ I replied back with the information at about 5pm, and that was that.

In the meantime I had made enquiries with the chat facility of Ryanair, who said they couldn’t help, since the passport was mandatory for travel with them. Why? Who knows. Fortunately, I discovered that if you fly with Aer Lingus from the UK to Ireland, and vice versa, and you’re a citizen of either, you can use a driver’s license for ID. Happy days. I booked the outbound flight for the Monday with them, at short notice prices, hoping that the passport might still come in time for me either to fly out with Ryanair or at least back with them if my family could post the passport out to me.

My week in the UK came and went. The passport arrived in my home town on the Friday, and I was due to fly back home on the Monday, first thing. I therefore booked a short-notice-price return flight and came home.

As I said to the info@ people to confirm I had got the passport back, it’s no use offering a process if you can’t then follow it. The fallout affects your customer. Not that there’s too much of a concept of the customer at a government level. I speculate that my application was unopened until my info@ email came in, or more likely the prod from a friend of a friend.

The cost of bureaucracy to me? The cost of bureaucratic failings? Why are they so often set up to fail, to frustrate? 2 additional flights with Aer Lingus at a cost of €150. I know, coulda been much worse.

This post, according to the admin screen of WordPress, is blog post 900. That’s exactly 300 weeks of writing and publishing 3 blog posts a week. You see, a mathematics education has not been a waste.

When I first started this blog, in September 2013, I wanted get into the habit of writing regularly. I also wanted to write a book, in my spare time. The act of writing the blog, in short punchy posts that the reader can get through in a minute or two, has guided the shape of the book. I started the book in 2015 and finished it in 2018. It was a long process. Now I’ve finished sourcing the imagery for the book. All I gotta do now is get it designed, laid out, proofed and published.

I’ve started making noises about stopping this blog at exactly blog post 1,000. That’s in a little over 33 weeks’ time, at my current level of productivity. Again, it’s amazing what the human mind can compute. I should really get the book out there before blog post 1,000, so that’s a rather nice milestone for me to aim for. Then this blog would have topped and tailed the book project, formed a temporal ring around it if you like.

Which feels like a good thing to do. Onwards and upwards! Thanks for reading at least 1 of the 900 posts so far.

I came across a great website the other day. It was referenced in a BBC article on the best countries to live in. It’s called The Good Country.

Want to know how your country ranks globally across a range of different criteria? Maybe you’re thinking of relocating or going on an extended break somewhere and want to check out your new host nation? The Good Country is just what you need.

The Good Country measures each country’s global contribution along a bunch of general axes:

  • Science & Technology
  • Culture
  • International Peace & Security
  • World Order
  • Planet & Climate
  • Prosperity & Equality
  • Health & Wellbeing

Within each axis it then subdivides into sub-criteria. For example, under Planet & Climate they score you according your performance in these areas:

  • Ecological footprint
  • Environmental agreements compliance
  • Hazardous pesticides exports
  • Renewable energy share
  • Ozone

Each country is ranked on each axis, which rolls up to an overall rank. Spoiler alert – Finland is top.

The Good Country is a fascinating resource if you like those macro indicators and trends.

I used the phrase ‘between you and I’ in an email the other day, thinking this was the correct version of the second pronoun in that colloquial clause. Fortunately, the subjective and objective pronouns for the second person – you – are the same.

Not so the first person singular – or plural for that matter – where we have to go with either I or me, or we or us. I thought that between you and I was slightly over-formal, but correct.

Wrong! Apparently it’s between you and me, because the you and me are objects of between, if you get the grammar there. Making this mistake appears to have vexed a lot of people, if you google the incorrect version of the phrase…

I guess I could argue that email is a hybrid form of spoken English and written English and, therefore, I can get away with it. Maybe I’m clutching at straws. Far better to do what one of my American bosses used to do a few years ago. ‘Between us girls’ he would say, even if there were no people of the female persuasion in the conversation.

Or is it between we girls? Argh! Same mistake as between you and ! :-).

And so we conclude this short burst of 3 of my favourite examples from Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English calendar, a daily dip into ancient and obscure words. If you want to see more of them, you’ll have to make a purchase, unless a showcase a few more towards the end of the year.

My last choice is:

Blatteration. Glorious! Defined in Samuel Johnson’s famous mid-eighteenth-century dictionary as a senseless roar, from the Latin blatteratio, which I’d never heard in my years of classical study. It’s also related to blatent (sic), as in bellowing.

It might not be related to blatant, as in screamingly obvious, which is a pity…

I can’t see this word finding its way into everyday twenty-first-century conversation, can you?

Today I’m continuing this week’s 3-part series of my favourite days from Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English page-a-day calendar, which sits proudly on my desk.

My second selection is this:

Puckersnatch.

A glorious word, not least because it comes up on my birthday. It’s a great word to enunciate as loudly as possible, giving one a relaxing sense of release.

It means a difficult or complicated situation, and originates in Southern Vermont where presumably these kids of quandaries were regular enough to coin a word for them.

I haven’t a clue as to the etymology of the word, and neither does anyone else from a quick trawl of the ‘net, but I love it all the same.

This week my three posts will be my favourite examples from a 2019 page-a-day calendar, a rather nice gift that I received for Christmas. I have a soft spot for linguistics and language, so this daily nugget is right up my street.

Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English is a delightful daily combination of a defined ‘olde’ word or phrase and a short celebration of something or someone notable. The word and the celebration are often connected.

Here’s my first choice:

For All Waters

This feeds right into my generalist leanings. If you’re for all waters it means that you can turn yourself to any job, rather like one of those fish that can thrive in either the sea or rivers, lakes and ponds. Apparently it’s from Bill Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which is nice.

I’m going to try and fit into conversation without sounding pompous.