If you have to copy an idea that’s done millions of times before

…it’s probably not that romantic.

One of the panels on the Pont des Arts in Paris collapsed recently under the weight of all the love locks attached to it. Possibly the first couple who did the writing their names on a lock and locking it to a bridge and tossing the key into the waters before were being romantic (as opposed to litterbugs) but when thousands of people do it, it’s not romantic any more, it’s formulaic.

In the same way as getting engaged at the top of the Eiffel tower is unlikely to be romantic and more likely to be kitsch, that is.

The Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin is wrecked with the wretched things as well. Throwing metal into the river isn’t exactly ecologically sound either. I don’t know why people get a warm fuzzy feel about this.

Romance really isn’t something that grows from copying stuff a million other couples have done before you. Feb 14 is not romantic. And the amount of money involved is not a KPI for romance either (so the value of your engagement ring doesn’t count either).

Romance is a feeling. Not an action. Not a price tag. And not the destruction of a communal area.


Maven is my girlfriend

Have a read of this.

Today one of our engineers delivered a presentation that contained inappropriate content at our AtlasCamp developer conference in Berlin, Germany.

The inappropriate content was:

Maven is my girlfriend

  • Looks beautiful
  • Complains a lot
  • Demands my attention
  • Interrupts me when I’m working
  • Doesn’t play well with my other friends.

Maven is a software deployment management tool. I’ve looked at it and didn’t like it but likewise, have not had cause to use it.

Apparently the slide was sort of okay because people at said conference didn’t object. Until it wasn’t okay because the slide reached twitter.

Then it mattered. You’ll note the Atlassian “Dude it’s not cool” post is highly vague on the inappropriate content and the comments are closed.

Quelle surprise.


Reality and fiction

One of the very few works of chicklit – for want of a better word – that I have returned to time and time again is The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy. Maeve Binchy has never, per se, been my favourite writer but that book spoke to me for several reasons; I felt greater empathy with most of the characters, they seemed to come far better to life to me.

There is one jarring scene in the book though, where Kit McMahon’s father is meeting his friend Peter for a drink. Peter has left the house in a temper because his wife is fighting with his two daughters for whatever trivial reason. He doesn’t want to deal with it because triviality is not what he is about at that point in time. Peter is the local doctor and that day, Peter has attended the death of a baby in one of the more rural locations around Lough Glass, the town where much of the book is set. The family of the mother have let him know that it is for the best that the child has died for he didn’t have any father, you see. The book is set in 1950s Ireland. Peter rails against this because the child could have lived, could have grown up happily in the care of his mother in the hills. There was no need for this child to die.

This baby, its mother, its family are tangential to the primary plot of the novel, almost unimportant in certain respects. Binchy could have chosen any sort of a bad day for Peter to have. He is a doctor in 1950s Ireland. TB kills people. Farm accidents kill people. Road accidents kill people. Polio is still a problem in the country. Instead, very deftly, Binchy includes a fatherless child of an unmarried mother, abandoned, if you like, by the father of that child. And the death of the child is preferable to his survival because he didn’t have a father. We know nothing about them; we don’t even know their names. They occupy at most a few lines in a novel of around, oh, seven hundred pages as far as I remember.

But the baby is not tangential to life in 1950s Ireland. He is a searing commentary on social attitudes in Ireland during that time. And, in certain respects, the mother of the child, no doubt a young woman, and almost certainly somewhat naive, had a lucky escape. She did not wind up where a lot of poor young women wound up. I don’t use the word poor in its sense as unfortunate (although it does fit), but in its sense as less well of economically. It is not the unmarried mothers from the well of families who wound up in the Mother and Baby Homes or the Magdalene Laundries for extended. £100 bought you out of staying in at least one of the Mother and Child homes for a year to work your costs off. And the healthy babies were adopted or fostered anyway.

I’ve always found that tableau of Peter, going for a drink with his friend to try and work through the idea that a child might be better off dead than loved by his mother and not finding the relief of talking it over because that just isn’t the night for it to be particularly jarring.

While the primary plot of the book focuses on a girl who does not actually wind up pregnant at any stage during the novel, the question of pregnancy before marriage is very much otherwise present in the book, and touched on in different ways. The town has the memory of a girl who reputedly drowned herself because she was pregnant. The primary character’s mother is believed by Peter to have drowned herself because she was pregnant also. When his own daughter winds up pregnant, he is only glad that things have changed enough that she does not drown herself. And it is not the only book in which Maeve Binchy deals with the question of pregnancy. Circle of Friends focuses on the issue too with respect to the fate of Nan. Pregnant. Father of child abandoning her. The edge of respectability such that her mother will not take on the child and pretend it is hers, a wonderful miracle and late pregnancy, wasn’t God so good to them to grant them another child with Nan already so grown up. In the book, Nan reviews her options dispassionately to the extent that she knows none of them are options at all in 1950s Ireland.

We need to make sure we don’t go back to that way of seeing things.

I’m mindful that much of what I have written here lately is less than uplifting. I want it to be different and I have some personal projects to deal with which might, if I am lucky, be more uplifting.

in the morning

I came across an article a few weeks ago (which I did not bother book marking because I have 11000 favourites bookmarked in twitter and who knows how many bookmarks in Chrome and what I’ve noticed is a tendency to save and forget which strikes me as non-optimal…) on the subject of not telling people to be morning people.

All over the place, there are articles about being morning people, early birds, and how easy it is to get up 10 minutes earlier and build up to gradually being a morning person. This is absolute rubbish. It’s easy to be a morning, if, and only if, you can structure the rest of your day to fit into being a morning person. I used to get up to go to work at 7.30 for a while in my last job and while it paid untold dividends in terms of what I got done between 7.30 and about 9.30, the corresponding exit time, which was 3.30, was something I never managed. Everyone around me working around 8 hours a day. I was working nearer 9 and a half. Presentee-ism is a bit of a killer. I never got out at 3.30 with hearing remarks about only working half days.

The thing is – I had very good reasons for doing the 7.30 thing – so I’m not going to bash it. What I am going to say is that there are benefits to being a morning person, even if you don’t rush out the door to work. On summer mornings, getting up at 6.30 can be a thing of absolute beauty. This morning, the sunlight at 6.30 was just gorgeous. It’s a good time to water the plants if you have any. There’s a feeling of untold peace around the place, unless you’ve got the greater spotted urban house alarm to deal with. Small things get done so much more quickly. You can relax over breakfast. If – like me – you’re the type with a taste in slowly cooked coffee on a very low heat, you have the time to do it.

And you can do it any day of the week.

Being a morning person comes with a price and that price may be more or less high depending on your view in life. You have to go to bed early. Being a morning person is not a recipe for burning down the amount of sleep you get. If I am waking at 5.30 – which I often am during the summer – I am falling asleep at 9.30, 10pm. I cannot burn the candle at both ends. And having your sleep disrupted at any stage messes things up.

But I find it worth the effort mostly when I’m not getting night disruptions. I feel a lot more alive; I get a lot more done. It fits in with the way my brain works.

I’m not in the business of telling people they should be morning people to get more money or get ahead. I’m more in the business of suggesting that if you feel better for it, there’s a lot to be said for it.

The wearing of the hairshirt and we are all complicit

Here’s a thing.

This morning, via twitter, an assertion that we are all complicit; we all knew what was going on.

I am sick to the teeth of sentences the key objective of which is to suggest that everything that happened is all our faults. IT IS NOT. In many cases, it cannot possibly be. The Children’s Home in Tuam closed years before I was born.

Collective responsibility is a way of ensuring individual responsibility goes ignored. When Michael Noonan or some other politician pops up and says we all partied we did not. I’m not sitting in an undervalued negative equity apartment I can’t quite afford to pay for because I did not party. Saying we all partied is only a comfort to those who did; it is absolutely no help to those who did not.

When a story like Tuam pops up, there is nothing to be gained by suggesting We Are All Complicit. Maybe half the population wasn’t even alive. How can they be complicit? Oh, let’s conflate it with some other social attrocity – “we permit it to happen”.

This is wrong. This is so wrong, and dishonest. Until we stop this nonsense of forcing collective responsibility, we will never stop things like this happening. Collective responsibility and the hairshirt allows the genuinely responsible to hide behind “We all knew about it, we all tacitly agreed to it”.

We didn’t. But some people made decisions, key operational decisions that are not the result of collective responsibility. Some organisations, likewise. These are the people who need to be taking responsibility; we do not need to be shoving hairshirts onto the population as a whole.

Living the life

The Journal wrote a piece the other day or today or something on a piece of property in Dublin, for sale, asking price, 12 million euro.

Let’s just clear up one minor detail and it’s this: if I had 12 million euro, I would not be buying that house.

Now, I don’t actually have 12 million euro which is of secondary importance here but fine. If I did have 12 million euro, I’d be sitting down with a lifestyle shopping list. And I’d be buying this. I could then, more than likely, live off the interest of the remaining, oh, six million euro change I’d get. Windsurfing in Maui every winter. Access to decent waves.

Way to go.

List yada

Sharpy pointed me at a list of 20 things that made men feel confident which he felt was somewhat lacking. He noted that the corresponding list for women was even less credible so he sent me that too. I threatened to do my own list.

He suggested in very short words that this might well be a very good thing to do.

So here we are.

  1. Finding someone friendly to help you zip you into your wetsuit.
  2. Chatting to friends
  3. Finding shoes that are both comfortable and pretty.
  4. Tea.
  5. Catching a really neat wave when you’re a lousy surfer. I’m still a lousy surfer but I assume that catching a really neat wave when you’re a good surfer works too.
  6. A decent breakfast of whatever turns you on. Sometimes it’s Weetabix, some days it’s fruit salad
  7. Not chipping your nail polish on coat 4.
  8. Not being physically sick going into an interview
  9. The right dress being available in the right size at the right time (not always guaranteed)
  10. Ignoring people who tell you that you shouldn’t like pink things (you will prise my pink calculator out of my cold dead hands).
  11. Getting a photo published somewhere.
  12. Waking on the first morning of a holiday
  13. Successfully communicating with someone in a foreign language without them needing to show off their English prowess
  14. Hugs and snuggles
  15. Passing your driving test (it’s been 15 years but I rock, man)
  16. Not burning toast and therefore not setting off the badly positioned smoke alarm
  17. Remembering to make ice for those lovely sunny summer days
  18. Asking someone attractive for their phone number, getting it, ringing them and moving swiftly onwards…
  19. Winning something unexpectedly
  20. Did I say tea?

That’s my list and I am sticking to it.


A directly elected mayor for Dublin

Fingal County Council recently voted against the holding of a plebiscite for the possibility of a directly elected mayor for Dublin and campaigners who have been fighting for such a referendum (ie, let’s vote to see if we want one, and then vote for one) were roundly furious with them. The reason for that is that Phil Hogan, a politician who is on the list of politicians I’m glad I never have to make a decision about, told them that they could have a referendum only if all of the councils agreed. Fingal was the only council to reject a motion to have said referendum.

The city of Dublin has a lord mayor, and the council and various incumbants could probably do a lot more with the role than they do already.

I have problems with this campaign. If you read the twitter feed for the campaign, it very much operates on the city being the focus of any mayoralty. The city needs a voice for this, the city needs a voice for that. The twitter feed for the campaign is here.

The problem is that Dublin isn’t just the city. It is the county as well, and when you see a city focussed campaign being run, and you’re expected to take on board this mayor that the campaign wants for Dublin, then if you’re in Fingal, which the largest population of the three non-city municipal localities (Census, 2011, via CSO), you’re probably right to be very concerned that this person will get elected, but not really care that much about the non-city areas.

This is the tweet that caught my attention this morning:

 Emotive debate on homelessness is missing a voice for the city, on behalf of the city- a touchstone for Dublin.

If you look at some of the comments by some of the people that this account retweets (the account is letdublinvote by the way), it’s not something I can get around:

Catherine Heaney, for example.

Fingal needs to be part of the City region

When you look at it in that context, it’s perfectly understandable that Fingal authorities would want nothing to do with this.

I live in the Dublin city area at the moment. I have also lived in the Fingal County area as well. I honestly don’t believe that a mayor directly elected would be able to serve the interests of both areas to the best benefit for both areas, not when so much of the support for a direct mayor focuses on the benefits to the city.

Dublin is much more than a city. Campaigns like this seem to forget this when they focus so much on the city.

The European Elections


I am utterly sick of people thinking I am completely stupid. They may not think that they think I am completely stupid but.

Paul Murphy is fighting his European campaign on water charges. You can see this all over his poster campaign.

Water charges – at most – are a Dail issue. In the grand scheme of things, Irish Water aside, they should almost even be a municipal issue. What they are not is an issue for the European Parliament. Almost every other country in Europe has arrangements for water payments and to be frank, I want my local MEP standing up matters at a European level and not water charges which is a local to Ireland issue right now.

Today, Mary Fitzpatrick of Fianna Fail’s campaign dropped a leaflet in my door.

As an MEP, Mary will continue to campaign against unfair taxes such as the anti-Dublin property tax which takes no account of the ability to pay.

Against budgets that target the old and the young alike

Against a universal health scheme that will cost every family more

For an adequate water supply for the capital before water charges are imposed.

Lyn Boylan, Sinn Fein. More or less the same. A pile of policies that are essentially local issues and the business of the Dail and not the European Parliament. She’s also against the Poolbeg Incinerator, and in favour of protecting Liffey Valley. They are interesting objectives, laudable but local council issues and not European Parliament problems.

Brid Smith is against, variously, water charges, privatisation and in favour of writing off the Irish national debt. These are again, to a great extent, matters for the Dail.

Not only that, she points out that the EU is large undemocratic and removed from the public. Campaigning for a seat on what is effectively a Dail campaign really isn’t helping there.

This is my big absolute bugbear. The absence of Brian Hayes and Eamon Ryan does not mean I’m going to vote for them either – I have different issues with elements of their campaign.

When I see documentation for European parliament candidates coming in, I do not want them to suggest to me that they are angling to distance the country from Europe. As a woman, it is thanks to the European Economic Community that I have the right to equal pay for equal work. If they want to work against the interests of integration, then it is hypocritical to be seeking election to a European level forum.

Likewise, when I see documentation for European parliament candidates coming in, I want to know that they understand the question of subsidiarity and why the European Parliament is not the place to be fighting Irish Water and the introduction of direct charges.

I’ve looked at all the candidates in my constituency for the European Parliament. I do not want to vote for any of them.

Not one candidate has provided me with any evidence that they should represent my interests at a European level.

Here are the issues I want to see them addressing up front:

  • Data protection
  • Energy resourcing
  • Transnational environmental issues
  • Foreign policy issues particularly, for example, in the face of issues of disagreement
  • Pan European food supply
  • Pan European trade for individuals. I cannot order stuff from the Apple iTunes stores in any other European country and I have similar issues with Amazon’s Kindle publications. Given Free Movement of Goods, how on earth can this be allowed to happen?
  • Greater contact and integration internally to the European Union.
  • Limiting the damage that national governments can inflict on things like, oh workers’ rights and support for the poorer in society (We may not live in the UK but you can be sure that some of our politicians would like to try some of the Tory Party’s policies on social welfare). Focus heavily on the Acquis Communautaire.

These are issues that are the business of a European representative where water and property taxes in Dublin are not.

Not one of the candidates in Dublin has given me any indication that they have any interest in pan-European matters and Ireland’s position within pan-European matters.

This mortgage plan for first time buyers

I want it gone.

I’m a first time buyer and what I want are houses and apartments which do not have a high capital cost. Giving me a cheap special sort of mortgage with reduced need for a deposit is not going to do this.

I’m aware that people are claiming we don’t have a bubble because you know what, cash, not borrowing, fundamentals blah blah. We don’t even have to argue that point. What we have now is an economy which the government thinks it can run on low incomes and what are relatively high rental and purchase prices for property.

How do we fix that? Well we find out how many properties are unoccupied and if they are in areas like Dublin, for example, we start making it attractive to get them occupied and fast. The government is very fast with the sticks when it comes to water charges, not so much when it comes to getting property occupied. Quintuple the property tax on unoccupied property in Dublin and you’ll find property turning up on both markets quick enough. Oh sure, a glut of supply will see housing costs come down, but fine, that’s what’s actually needed to uhem, improve competitivity.

I know Michael Noonan doesn’t like this whole idea of low accommodation prices but actually, tough.