Decluttering your life

When I came to Ireland in 1999, I was an ex-bureaucrat and I had a fairly decent fist on keeping my paperwork in order. Something has gone wrong here. I suspect part of it is linked to the lack of stability linked to having moved house several times. And part of it is the sheer volume of it I have – and this having gone digital on two key bills.

Receipts? I swim in them. Bills, letters, notifications. Things I don’t want to throw out without shredding them along with the practical difficulty of not currently owning a shredder. It is growing exponentially. I have an office which I am in the process of decluttering and it is scaring me to the extent that I will buy that shredder tomorrow and I will get some sort of control over it.

I’m just about to start another two Open University modules and one of the things I noted last year was the total absence of organisation for the last two. I don’t need that to happen again but in order to be organised about it this time, I really need to get some sort of control over all the stuff which is already disorganised. In this way I won’t go to Easons to buy A4 paper again for at least a year because guess how much of it I found buried under a pile of paper work linked to the last house move? Lots. And it’s not cheap paper either – it’s Clairefontaine which I don’t typically lose.

This isn’t me. Or,. more accurately, this did not used to be me, and I want the old me back. Maybe this is part of getting older but still…

But our lives are not really helped by the fact that the infrastructure we live in needs to be enhanced to organise all this stuff. I spent a lot of this afternoon questioning the possibility of rebooting my life, and I did, some of it. Every single digital art, Photoshop related magazine I have went to my recycling bin today. Oh I know it had to happen but listen, even having bought 5 Expedit shelving units since I arrived in this house I still don’t have enough storage. I just don’t. If I owned the house – which I don’t – I could possibly look at re-arranging thing (and buying more shelves) for more effective storage. But I can’t. I’d like to get rid of some of the furniture in this house (but I can’t).

So the alternative really was to declutter. Just get rid of stuff that I have no real emotional attachment to (like about 600E worth of digital art magazines, yes, let’s not go there) and try to avoid adding to the stuff I don’t care about so much (like digital art magazines).

I’ve a way to go before I’m finished – I’m going to bring a bunch of DVDs to the nearest charity shop (where they will need to sell them really cheaply I think to get any competition on how cheaply some of the older films are being sold for in HMV and Golden Discs these times). In the meantime, along with decluttering the physical side of my life, I’m trying to tidy up what’s going on in my head, sort out the plates I have spinning and see if I can achieve more with my time.

Tea, lovely tea

Here are some of my favourite teas.

  1. Mariages Freres – Marco Polo
  2. Barrys Gold Blend
  3. Nordvist Tiigerin Paivaumi
  4. Nordqvist Kaiserin Morsian
  5. Le Palais des Thés – No 25
  6. Le Palais des Thés – Thé des Amants
  7. La Compagnie Anglaise des Thés – Túron
  8. La Compagnie Anglaise des Thés – Fuego
  9. Mariage Freres – Wedding Imperial
  10. Nordqvist – Karibean Aurinko

I may have spelt the Finnish ones slightly wrong – sorry.

Winter is approaching and warm drinks are more and more important. For most of my life I lived off Barrys Gold Blend and I will always have a box of it to hand somewhere. But Marco Polo is just the most amazing tea going. It’s a pity that no one sensible sells Mariage Freres tea in Dublin (that I know about) because the delivery charges from France are fairly hefty. Likewise for the Nordqvist tea from Finland. And Kudos to le Palais des Thés who have a shop on Wicklow Street where if you’re really very lucky, they will also have the most amazing ginger bread for sale.

Just fantastic.

The thing is, when you grow up in Ireland, tea is almost a binary experience. Are you Barrys or Lyons? Tea is so much broader than this now and yes,. we have a few decent specialist tea shops around the country now. And there is a bigger selection of tea in the supermarkets (nod to Twining’s Lady Grey by the way – it’s almost on the list).

This is a good thing. There are more varieties of tea available in Ireland now than beer. This is something we may want to consider when wondering about the country’s alcohol problem.

 

iOS 6 – argghh

I don’t usually bother upgrading the OS on my phone the day it comes out because usually I am too busy. I don’t, however, usually avoid doing it for long but on this occasion, I am going to have to.

Apple have replaced Google Maps with some homefried application of its own. It’s fair to say that according to most of the comments about it yesterday, it probably isn’t very useful.

My most frequently used applications on my phone are the browser, the phone, text messaging and maps. On my iPad it is probably the browser, Chilltrax, Bejewelled and the maps. In real terms, I can’t actually do without the maps. They find me when I am lost. They cover me for everywhere I have tended to need maps. I have been standing lost in the middle of Helsinki finding my way to my hotel using maps on my phone. I have used maps on my iPad to plan journeys in France and check out areas where I dream of buying houses. They regularly help me locate myself in the banditland that is anywhere south of the Liffey. Last night they helped me find Dunsink Observatory.

But it doesn’t sound like I can rely on the same accuracy from the current incarnation of Apple’s maps product so for now, no iOS6.0.

We the people and open data

When I told my mother that the Oireachtas website had stopped serving XML the other day, she wasn’t very pleased on two counts. She wasn’t pleased that this was not reported on her main news service and she wasn’t pleased that it happens.

I might never go to Kildarestreet.com but I absolutely value the concept of open data and believe that our ability to crowd source and mash data is massively important and it is a coming skill, not just in government matters but in most matters relating to the collection of data on which decisions rest. We the tax payers pay for this data and I don’t think it’s unrealistic to make it easy for us the tax payers to gain access to it. Saying “It’s on the Oireachtas website” is not really adequate if the Oireachtas website is not all that perfect from an accessibility or search point of view which in fact, it was prone not to be.

In a country where there is massive attachment to smart economies, computer science, and we have business people talking about datascience being the coming thing, and we have an official policy on open data, the decision to stop releasing XML was a retrograde step. I know that there is some effort being made to rectify this and hopefully next week Kildarestreet.com will be back functional. But it does suggest that there is occasionally a tendency to make short decisions without looking at the wider ramifications and what it is we talk about wanting to achieve and what we are doing to achieve this.

I will be writing to my local TD today – whom I viscerated on my doorstep last week for various reasons relating to pensions and poor job creation plans – and I will include this as evidence of the lack of consistency between words and actions on the part of our government at this time. It may be a small thing – it’s not like Kildarestreet.com or god knows the Oireachtas’s own website – get anything like the same amount of traffic as Facebook for example – but it is evidence of an ethos, a desire on how to do things, which matters for the future.

Culture Night – Dunsink Observatory

I’m never really quite prepared for Culture Night – I love the whole idea of it but there seems to be an overwhelming amount of stuff to do so I fear to tread anywhere near Dublin City Centre. I found out by accident yesterday, however, that Dunsink Observatory were doing a few bits and pieces so I ventured out there.

I met a friend there too, family in tow and the overwhelming assessment was that this was fantastic.

Dunsink Observatory is in the grounds of what was William Rowan Hamilton’s house. Its South Telescope is an example of a Grubbs telescope and when your local politician is on to you about knowledge economies, know that in the early 20th century, the world’s leading manufacturer of telescopes was based in Dublin. We have powered the science of the world. In fact, we also had the biggest telescope in the world for a while over in Birr but that’s a different story.

Anyway, Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies who own the site were on hand with someone giving a talk about the telescope every 30 minutes, with someone on hand to talk about ICHEC’s work with heavy duty dataprocessing and demonstrating their 3D visualising software. I was absolutely mesmerised by this and took information home because I want to know more. There were people pointing telescopes up and the sky and when I left, one of the telescope operators was about to start looking for what my memory tells me was the Crab Nebula.

The sky was mostly very clear.

The staff were overwhelmed by the turn out – it seems to have far exceeded their expectations and there were a lot of children there which I think is some evidence that here, at least, interest is turning in the direction of science and what it can do for the world. Things like this are inspiring – I know I was fascinated by the Birr telescope when I was a teenager, that here was something that we were best at in the world. That there are no limits.

According to Dunsink’s website, they run public evenings from the observatory a couple of times a week during the winter. My friend and I are definitely, definitely up for that this winter.

 

AND…dammit…I left before the meteor shower. That’s a pity. Still….next time.

 

How to avoid a 386 situation.

  1. Identify the site in question
  2. install a plug in such as Leechblock or StayFocused.
  3. Allow yourself 20 minutes on that site a day.
  4. You get thrown out.

Plus points of this are:

  1. Your mind gets focussed on what’s really important about your interaction on that site.
  2. You have more time to play Bejewelled
  3. You realise there is more to life than online fora.
  4. Your stress levels and blood pressure tend to be a bit healthier.

Worth doing. 386ing yourself is not good. People being wrong in bars gets limited by barmen asking if you have no homes to be going to. You need an equivalent for the internet.

Beautiful things – Fiskars scissors

I own quite a lot of stuff – many books, much stuff in the kitchen and a lot of hobby related items. One of the more utilitarian things I own is a Fiskars scissors, with the trademark orange handles. It was given to me by a girl called Ulla, from Finland, very proud of how good Finnish things are. I still have the scissors. It is unquestionably the best scissors I own. Fiskars scissors are not cheap; in addition to the household scissors which I have used to cut every sort of things from paper to chicken breasts, I own a couple of smaller craft scissors for cutting thread; one in my knitting tool box and one in my crochet tool box. They are always comfortable to use and in fact, I believe Fiskars were the first company to produce scissors to suit lefthanded people. I think this is brilliant, even allowing for the fact that I am right handed.

I was in Finland last week, after the whole OLympics trip, and while I was in Stockmann, Helsinki’s biggest department store, I made a bad-for-my-credit card discovery. I discovered that you could get Fiskars scissors with lovely designs on the handle. They are utterly beautiful.

This is a scissors. You don’t usually apply the word “beautiful” to it. They are not beautiful. They are usually plane; the Fiskars for years had the orange handles I mentioned above, most of them come with plain coloured handles if they are not 100% metal with a few dots of rust. Some of them have red swival dots but they are not beautiful. They are sharp, or blunt, or lousy or useless.

The first one I saw had a scene from the Finn Family Moomin on it. I had to have it. Then I discovered other ones from the Inspiration range. Beside me I have a Gloria scissors. How can you not love something? And because it’s a Fiskars, I feel confident that it will work and last me. After all, the one I mentioned above, my general orange handled household scissors I have had since 1998.

One day in London

I used to live in London what seems several lifetimes ago. I was lucky. I lived a 10 minute walk from Oxford Street and I had a decently well paying part time job. I may have had lectures for 30 hours a week and work for 20 plus extraneous studying and being stuck in underground trains and all that, but it wasn’t as hard as it can be for, e.g., anyone trying to exist in London on minimum wage. I got to go to the theatre now and again and I fell in love with the British Museum. But not with London. It always struck me as a city with too little time and too little care for the people in it. Also a bit fragmented.

I don’t often go there now. But I was there about 10 days ago to go to an Olympic final. I have some issues with the Olympics as big business but I did also feel that to go to an Olympic final would be a bucket list kind of thing and when I discovered I could get my hands on a ticket for the canoe C1 final, I decided to ignore the issues I have with Olympic Business and go and deal with Olympic Sport. London was a revelation. My London was a revelation because needless to mention, not everyone has the same experience. I found it a city transformed.

My hero of the Olympics wasn’t a sports star. He was a London Underground employee at Paddington Rail Station who provided useful advice on how to get to Liverpool Street Station after the ticket machines at the Hammersmith & City Underground Station decided they didn’t want my money without me having to walk the length of Paddington Rail Station between the two Paddington Underground stations more than once. This makes a difference really because London involves one thing and that’s walking.

There were Gamesmakers everywhere. You fell over them at all the railway stations, telling you where to go and how to get there. You fell over them at the venues. Unfailingly they smiled, and unfailingly, they were happy to be there, happy to be a part of the Olympics. Happy to show their city off the world. This is London we are talking. London is already a world city in the way that Dublin, for example, will never be. This is London whose position in the world has been assured for 200 years or more. And this is London who wanted you to see its heart, the people that make it, and not the people in the newspapers. I had a long haul from Heathrow Airport to Lee Valley White Water Centre which is way on the other side of the city, to the northeast so I met quite a lot of Gamesmakers on my way. Every single one of them made my day a little brighter, a little happier and I was already in a good mood anyway.

The world would be so much a better place if everyone was like that all the time.

Lee Valley White Water Centre was custom built for the Olympics I believe. I wasn’t aware that people built centres like this (because most of the white water sports I see/have participated in involve rivers and real rocks and stuff) but they’ve done a superb job. The British Army were handling security. They were fast, efficient and friendly and without exception, smiling. I can’t fault them. I didn’t spend much time in a queue at any stage.

The atmosphere was fantastic. I was there for the C1 Mens final and the weather stayed dry from the slalom which was very, very exciting to watch even if you don’t know a whole lot about it. There were a lot of Slovakians there, and especially a lot of French; I guess because those two nations are right up there with the slalom racing. We don’t hear much about it here although we are good enough in that sport to send people to some of the disciplines in it. Sometimes I wish our media would lose its narrowmindedness in terms of how it covers sports.

Tony Estanguet won the gold medal for France. It was pretty obvious on his second run that he was going to – he was noticeably more confident around the gates and down the river than his closest rivals. The place erupted for him – like I said, a lot of French. It poured rain for fifteen minutes while we waited for the Olympic medal ceremony I can’t see myself going to Rio in 4 years’ time, so if this is the last chance I get to see one, I don’t think I’ll shelter from the rain.

So I didn’t.

Higgs’ Boson and during the week

I’m not a physicist. I will freely admit that. I did quite a lot of chemistry in my younger days because chemical equations, for some bizarre reason, appealed to me, and now, I’m back studying maths.

There wasn’t any major doubt in my mind that they’d found something in CERN when they lined up for their announcements during the week, and given that they’d been looking for something in particular, there’s not any major surprise for me that they’ve probably found it. It’ll be interesting to see how, from a purely physics point of view, said particle behaves.

I’m more interested in how they found it. Over at Significance Magazine’s website, you can find a whole lot about this. Basically they looked at a whole lot of data and analysed it statistically. We’re talking a lot of data. It’s the sort of thing that makes me think that statistics can be really fascinating.

It’s just, we don’t sell it very well sometimes.

If you’ve any interest at all in statistics, I recommend a look at Significance’s website, and if you have an iPad, their magazines can be downloaded for a handful of euro each. And a few of them are free at the moment. Well worth a look and in particular, it’s fairly accessible as a stats publication goes.

I’d be very, very rich if…

I came to the conclusion yesterday that I’d be very rich if I got a euro for every time someone said to me this year that the summer was over. It’s the start of July. We can have amazing weather right up to September.

Yes, I know that June was the wettest on record. Today, on the other hand, stunning day.

Cut the grass. Sat in the garden most of the afternoon. Felt great to be alive. On a Saturday of a week when I’d definitely have made a tenner on a euro for every time I heard the summer is over.

There are times I don’t understand Irish people. I know I’m one but frankly, we can be incomprehensible. A week of rain doesn’t segue us straight into the middle eight of autumn, you know.

Yes, the weather may be brutal today (couple of days during the week may definitely count, and, if you live in Cork, quite a lot of the week before) but that doesn’t mean that’s it, the sun ain’t going to shine any more.

It just means that today it’s raining and it might tomorrow.

We have another 3 months to go before you could justifiably sure that the summer is gone back south.

So…just please…think about it. If you’re going to say the summer is gone; that’s it for our summer, and assume it’s funny; it’s not. It’s an old joke, it’s a worn out joke and it’s bordering on pathetic at this stage.

waves and numbers and stuff