Passport cards

Ireland does not have an official mandatory ID card system. If you have a recent card issued with your PPS number (or RSI, depending on how old you are and what you are used to calling it), it will have a photograph on it as well. But it’s not an official state identity card per se.

Some time ago, Charlie Flanagan made some comments about the possible introduction of a passport card which could be used to travel on. The press release regarding that card is here, was made today.

My early adult years were spent in France, Germany and Belgium, and 9 months in the UK which doesn’t count because they don’t have an ID card system either.  So I have spent time going through the process to pick up residence permits in France, Germany and Belgium. All of them required me to carry one of their official papers along with my Irish passport at all times. From the time I was 21 years old, I have carried my passport everywhere with me.

I have seen a lot of horrified looks on people’s face when they have heard this. Often the same people who were horrified when they were told to carry their driving licence everywhere they were driving.

The response has generally been of the “What if you lose it” variety.

In Ireland, people are terrified of losing their passports. I have had several friends put their passport somewhere safe, so they don’t lose it, who have also wound up having to get passports issued, often at comparatively short notice, because they’ve put them somewhere so safe, they can’t remember where that safe place was.

Charlie Flanagan is aware that we don’t have an official ID card system here, but that there is a requirement by a lot of people to produce an ID, usually, it must be said, for being allowed to buy alcohol or get into a club. He is concerned that people will lose their passports. So he has introduced this passport card on grounds of convenience.

You cannot get this passport card – which costs 35E – without already possessing an ordinary passport. It’s not clear what would happen if you lost the passport card; although already DFA in Ireland has the right not to issue you with a new one if you have a not great record in losing your passport. I really don’t understand why this card could not be issued as a separate card; there’s no obvious explanation for the requirement to already possess a passport.

But at the end of the day, perhaps it’s time we had a wider discussion around identity cards in this country and recognised that we are, de facto, introducing one courtesy of the PPS card system, already require drivers to produce identification, and, the greatest driver for this new ancillary passport card appears to be youngsters being age checked in clubs, bars and off-licences.

News consumption in a networked world

If you read any pieces on the future of news, and especially, the future of newspapers, in my experience, most of them point out that newspapers are dead dinosaurs, clinging onto life in a world they don’t understand, flailing desperately to protect their revenue models, trying to find ways to get people to pay for news content online that the newspapers have previously given away free online (with some advertising support) in a desperate bid to keep their ways above water. Occasionally, there will be a battle about copyrights with aggregators – Google News doesn’t operate in Spain at the moment, for example, or clipping services.

Print sales are dropping for a lot of publications and income from digital advertising isn’t even going to come close to replacing lost income from print based advertising. The picture of life for newspapers is a grey and dying one, it seems.

I tend not to buy newspapers. Part of it is I’m a child of the connected era, and I’ve been reading papers online for well over 15 years; another part of it is that none of the Irish broadsheets, with the possible exception of the Examiner, really appeals to me. The Sunday Independent has a bunch of writers who don’t so much as “not appeal to me” as definitively drive me away from the newspaper. So I operated a pick and mix thing with newspapers online. And I customised Google News and I followed a lot of media outlets on Facebook.

In truth, I used to see the internet as the great white hope for someone like me. I speak multiple languages and the internet gives me access to multiple news services in those multiple languages. But I can’t customise Google News to handle news sources in multiple languages. It is getting to the stage where I’m going to give up on it. Facebook, in some respects, is better. I can follow any number of organisations on Facebook, and media wise, that includes but is not limited to several German, multiple times that several French, and some Finnish language services in addition to the New York Times, The New Yorker and the Atlantic. But I don’t really get to choose what I read either which way. Facebook tinkers around with their newsfeed algorithm on a regular basis and Google is simply uninteresting as an interface.

I started thinking in detail about how I – and I hate this term – “consume” news, and how people consume news. News is compelling, and particularly, happening now news is compelling. But the recent events in Paris made it clear that even while news is happening, there are big swathes of time in the middle when NOTHING is actually changing, then moments of utter confusion while people try to work out what has changed in the 10 seconds between swathes of time when NOTHING is actually happening. I found this with passenger aircraft going missing. Rolling news often isn’t so much rolling news as rolling guesswork and misinformation. Mostly now, I prefer summary reports.

This is true in terms of rolling news on the television. I find it utterly frustrating because while it’s on for 24 hours, the number of news stories it covers seems to be significantly less than the amount of news stories that you would get in a 30 minute summary on, say, Channel 4.

What I’ve noticed, however, is that between all the news services I have access to, I don’t believe I am anywhere near as as informed as I used to be. I also have realised that I don’t actually like navigating news online all that much, and similarly, am not such a great fan of dedicated applications on tablets or phones either. It is entirely possible that this is a function of how I learned to acquire news in the first place; namely by lying on my stomach as a child with the newspaper spread out on the floor in front of me. That double page spread seemed to offer so many possibilities.

The internet should as well but it’s not as easy to navigate I think because far fewer of the possibilities present themselves to you on a single page. For all the access to more material, I find it less easy to find. In some respects, some form of curation is nice, but neither Facebook nor Google are doing well on that front, although to be fair, Facebook are doing significantly better on that front; I’d just like to be able to split my newsfeed into a feed of media based links and a feed of status updates from my friends. I’d equally like them not to bother refeeding me links that are 5 and 6 days old. I saw one Le Monde report on the Charlie Hebdo shootings every day for almost a week after the shootings happened.

So I started wondering how I could change this and decided that it probably would be a good idea to start buying newspapers again, and specifically, a couple of different newspapers, from different countries. I specifically wanted them in paper format for various reasons, and up front, the choices were to be the weekend Financial Times, the weekend Le Monde, mainly because I didn’t think it would be possible to get Le Monde Diplomatique, and Die Zeit. I know there is no Irish paper in there but the one thing I have felt well informed on over the past 5 years are Irish matters. Sometimes too well informed.

As it happens, it looks like this is going to be a bit of a quest. It transpires that Easons on Nassau Street does stock (at least last on Thursday of last week) Le Monde Diplomatique but it’s a monthly paper so I suspect I will be looking at that one week, and the weekend Le Monde the rest of the weeks. None of the four branches of Easons I was in had Die Zeit, and again, only the branch on Nassau Street had any German newspaper, which is why I’ve been reading Frankfurter Allgemeine. My local branch of Easons had two copies of the FT last Saturday morning so if you went to the one in Omni and found it gone, I’m sorry. I did enjoy reading it though.

So this week, I have learned that Harz is now a good place to go if you’re looking to learn to ski again, and I’m quite pleased about that because the last time I went skiing, it was in the Harz mountains. And just because you’re reading the Financial Times doesn’t mean you’re away from celebrity divorce battles. Mind you, not too many reality TV stars play for the high stakes of a fortune totalling over 400 million pounds sterling.

I haven’t gotten to Le Monde Diplo yet though.

In the meantime, I’m looking at finding a way to curate news reports more effectively for myself across languages. Under the About Treasa there will shortly be a list of news media sites mainly because I can’t rely on any of the aggregators to supply accidental serendipity about stuff.

Brittany, my Brittany

Last night, Nationwide from RTE had as its mandate to provide a look at Brittany and how it might appeal to Irish people. I was disappointed in the program for various reasons, but the primary one is that it didn’t reflect my Brittany, the one I lived in and visit regularly. If you do want to watch the piece, really, the most interesting clip is the submarine base in Lorient which I haven’t seen yet because when I lived there, it was still in the hands of the French Navy. It’s a good while ago.

Anyway, to get to Brittany, you can fly into Nantes year round and then, during the summer, there are occasionally flights to Rennes, Lorient and Brest. Ferry wise, your best option is a service into Roscoff; the one from Cork with Brittany is the shortest. I have been known to fly in to Paris, and get the train across to Vannes or Quimper. Usually I pick up a car and there are car hire places close to most major rail stations in France.

For me, one of the most beautiful places in the world is the Pointe du Raz, not far from Quimper. I’ve seen some beautiful sunsets there; it’s very peaceful, mostly, although during the summer can be very busy. Lots of gorgeous cliff walks.

The city of Quimper, twinned with Limerick is utterly beautiful and has a lovely cathedral and a rather nice central shopping area. The art museum is fantastic and occasionally features work by Irish artist Roderic O’Conor. Especially noteworthy are any exhibitions of Paul Gauguin who spent a lot of time just up the road in Pont-Aven. Outside Quimper are a couple of villages which are well worth seeing, namely Concarneau and Locronon. Concarneau is a walled city on the coast. Locronan is a stunning village which looks frozen in time, built mostly from stone.

The city of Vannes, historic capital of the department of the Morbihan is another gorgeous city, stuck in beautiful scenery. It’s also close to a lot of beautiful beaches, particularly on the Quiberon peninsula. This area also includes the prehistoric stone alignments in Carnac which you really should visit if you’re in the area. Also close by are a few passage graves not unlike Newgrange, and the one in Locmariaquer is fascinating both in terms of ease of access and the artwork on the inner walls.

Sports wise, sailing and biking are big in Brittany but it is also a very good place for other water sports like surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, sandsailing. Most beaches have a decent children’s play area.

Brittany is a gorgeous part of the world. I strongly recommend.

waterbaby

I started back at the swimming again  today. That again is quite telling. It tells you I have been swimming on several well spaced apart occasions in the last indistinct period. I’m back at my old haunt, DCU Sports Club mainly because a) it’s the closest pool to me (just about, Ballymun isn’t too far off either) and more importantly, they have a very decent deal for alumni which has seen me chop more than 60% off the cost of gym membership. Against that, I don’t have regular access to climbing walls any more but I figured that was a suitable sacrifice to make in the face of starting back at the swimming.

I’ve been a member of a number of gyms with swimming pools (swimming pools are deal breakers for me; if you don’t have one, and preferably, one that’s at least 25m long, we’re not going anywhere), and of all of the, DCU’s is probably the most windsandbreezes friendly. Provided I don’t get lost looking for the carpark. Yes, UCD’s new 50m pool is beautiful, but it’s not a great place for me to start back at the swimming. And yes, I’ve had NAC membership (somehow never quite got into the habit of going to Blanchardstown), and yes, I’ve had ALSAA and Westwood membership. Westwood had a climbing wall and a fairly decent swimming pool.

But for some reason, I prefer DCU. The last time I was regularly swimming in DCU, I used to go three to four times a week after work. It seemed easy (although it pretty much predated Twitter, Facebook and 1.4 million other online distractions) to fit into my life and by the time I stopped going, I was doing 1600m each time. It’s probably the fittest I ever was. I miss that. Why I never got it working at any of the other pools, well Blanch’s outofthewayness aside, I don’t know.

Today, it was lovely, if evidence of the mountain I must climb. 225m is a long way short of 1600m. I don’t think it will be as hard this time though because the main reason I didn’t do more was the sudden arrival of Children. Lots of Children.

At this point, I would like to apologise to Sunday morning regulars at Tipperary Swimming Pool whom I probably terrorised in the same way at the age of 10. The pool isn’t the same when it’s not almost completely empty.

Anyway. While I’d probably have gotten more than 225 done, the truth is I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near 1600 so I’m not going to crib too much. I did find the conversation between the other two in the jacuzzi somewhat surreal given that it covered the economic and political differences between Russia and the West, with special mention of political leanings in the UK, all in German.

Still, this is why we go there; to improve mind and body.

Not a kindness

Every once in a while, when frustration grabs me, I decide to clear out the wardrobe. Any house organisational blog (of which there are thousands) will tell you that you should do this regularly. I’ve done it a couple of times in the last 18 months. I did it again today.

One of the trials of this exercise is the section of the wardrobe given to “those clothes”. The ones someone gave you, either as a present, or because “this would look terrific on you”.

These are clothes that almost without exception, I never, ever wear. By all rules like “if you haven’t worn this since the last time you did a clear out” or “if you only wear this when times are desperate and you wouldn’t be seen alive and outside in it”, they should go. But because they were, basically, presents, they are hard to throw out. I dislike tossing out the milk of human kindness. The problem is, very often, these clothes are clothes which you are getting because someone else is passing on to you stuff which they really should be clearing out in their own right. In certain respects, by taking clothes when they don’t want; you are doing them a kindness, but when you hit the point that they need to go from your wardrobe, 3 years later, they are still coloured by “oh X gave me that, she said it would look wonderful on me”.

What X in fact did, was gave you that, because “it’s too good to throw away”.

The conversations are embarrassing as well as you frantically try to find a diplomatic way to say no to someone who is not listening. Giving people clothes which they do not want is not a kindness, it is an obligation.

Dressing yourself is a deeply personal thing. There are colours I would not, in one million years, want to buy. There are fabrics which I hate because of the way they make my skin feel. There are shapes which do nothing to accentuate my good points. I have, very painfully, over many years, learned to identify the things I like and don’t like. Other people foisting their stuff on me messes up a carefully built system of knowing that absolutely EVERYTHING in my wardrobe suits me.

It’s not a kindness. Please don’t give me clothes that I didn’t explicitly choose myself.

Stormy grey

Anyone who’s still reading this after nearly 10 years of writing here and elsewhere has probably picked up that I have an interest in pens (no, maybe I shouldn’t hand write and scan all my blog entries, believe me, you don’t want that). I own * a lot of * fountain pens, including a reasonable collection of Lamy Safaris and AL-Stars. They may be, by fountain pen terms, dirt cheap (ie, 20E instead of 1000E) but for the money they are great pens. And Lamy do nice cartridges but they also do converters – I’ve never felt that’s the right word to describe them, but basically you can use bottled ink with them.

This is a nice thing and it means that in addition to loads of fountain pens, I have quite a few bottles of ink.

When I was 9 years old, using a red fountain pen because I was “allowed to” – only the elite handwriters got to write with fountain pens, possibly, to some extent, for very valid reasons, cartridges were not really considered that neat. Apparently they leaked and left ink all over the place, making them no different to unlucky biros I suppose. There was a choice of Quink ink or Quink ink, one in blue and one in black.

I’d like, at this point, to state that if I was an elite handwriter, it was through a lot of hardwon practice and the absolute fortune of getting the wrong copybook which had lines so narrow that I was forced to write between the lines at twice the size. It was such a successful move that it was imposed on other non-elite handwriters by my teacher at the time. I don’t think they liked me.

Anyway, I was 15 and using ballpoints before I discovered that in France, you could get nice pens, with small international cartridges and those cartridges came in aquamarine and pink. IN fact, in some of the more exclusive or better stocked stationery and chain stores, you could even get purple. This was untold riches. Fantastic. I fell in love.

Since then, I’ve discovered that in Ireland, a whole world of ink was being hidden from me. You can now get ink in many, many different shades. NOt just one shade of pink, but many. Pilot, in Japan, do some – many – shades of pink, and blue, and red, and green, and grey. I don’t have any bottles of their top end ink because I can’t get it here. I will, at some stage, justify an order.

In the Pen Corner in Dublin, you can get Pelikan Edelstein – which is wonderful ink – in a lovely range of colours – I particularly like the Mandarin (orange) and the Amber.

All the above is fore shadowing for what is about to come. In France, one of the oldest ink manufacturers is J.Herbin. They make a substantial range of beautiful liquid inks, of which I have a bunch in cartridges and, I think, four bottles. They particularly have a purplish shade called Poussiere de la Lune. Gorgeous stuff.

Their premium range is called 1670 and it only has a handful of shades, including their brand new, can’t keep it in the shops, constantly on back order, Stormy Grey. It’s appropriate for the weather outside which is stormy as hell tonight. The weather might be even more appropriate if we also had lightning – which we don’t (thankfully). I have a bottle which an extremely kind friend bought for me for my birthday. It’s gorgeous.

It’s a fine dark grey without being actually black, and it has gold flecks in it.

Most of the online reviews from fountainpen nerds (I am not one, actually, despite * lots of * pens and * more than 10 * bottles of ink – I am in the tuppenny hapenny place to be frank about this – are raving. I filled up one of the Safaris with it and am utterly entranced. I mean, the ink positively shimmers as you write with it on Clairefontaine paper (the absolute best paper in the world – none of your Moleskin soaky stuff) and it continues to shimmer after it has shaded and dried. I love it. I love it to pieces.

Of course, there are warnings about the sediment (when I mentioned gold flecks) but I don’t care too much. Ultimately, the ink has chosen its pen – I will not be putting it into any of the others – and it is writing beautifully. Smoothly. No smudging. I probably wouldn’t sign my mortgage application form with it, but seriously, I’d happily write every thing else I want to write with it.

I think every one should spend some part of the day handwriting but that’s a discussion for another day. It is, however, very easy to continue writing when you are using beautiful tools to do so.

Happy New Year.

Nous sommes tous Charlie

I lived in France, for a bit, and Belgium also. I speak fluent French. I never read Charlie Hebdo because I like my comic strips to be pure humour (think Asterix, Calvin & Hobbes, Sturmtruppen) rather than laced with acerbic satire.

The thing with satire is if you’re missing some of the cultural references, and as I moved around a bit, I tended to be missing them, it’s hard to read. I mean, if you look at Waterford Whispers, and Sminky’s Shorts, you can see how much you need to understand Irish cultural references, and unspoken references at that, to understand what’s going on. So while I’d pick up magazines about knitting, crochet, surfing photography, science, current affairs, economics and food, I tended to let the satiricals alone; Canard and Charlie. Being frank about it, for me, Charlie Hebdo was a splash of colour in Relay that I didn’t actually bother picking up.

I’m not going to say I’m sorry for that. For missing out on what they’ve done for the last amount of time. I’m only going to say that for the most part, you know, no matter where you live, if you get up, go to work, you should be pretty sure that you’ll come home in the evening without the downpoint of having been shot dead just because you were a journalist or cartoonist who wrote stuff someone didn’t like. Regardless of their reasons for not liking it.

I guess I’m saying I really didn’t care too much what Charlie Hebdo published. I care a lot that they had the right to do so because that right, that’s a good right.

It’s an important right.

Of the cartoons which have sprouted up in the past few days, it is probably predictable that the one which impacted on me most was one of Uderzo’s. If you’ve not seen it, it was posted to the Asterix Twitter Feed. I really would love a print of it. I’ve no idea whether it will turn up in the comic and graphic novel shops – I suppose I could be lucky.

In the meantime, I suppose, France is a very different country today to what it was on Monday, and while you can look at that in a sombre manner, it’s also fair to say that France is a very different country every day. Each place changes just a little every day anyway, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Our lives never flatline.