Nov 112010
 
Ryanair Boeing 737-800 EI-DHF
Image by wicho via Flickr

Cheap flights aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. If you’ve flown with a budget airline recently you’ll know what I mean.

Hidden costs for everything soon push the price way above the quoted rate. Airport taxes and charges, baggage charges, surreptitious insurance opt-ins, credit card charges that somehow apply “per passenger” even though you’re only making ONE transaction… the list goes on and on.

I could write an exhaustive post on it all… but it’s pretty much encapsulated in this video.. which I’m sure you’ll find much more entertaining:

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Feb 032010
 
Procrastination Meter

Image by Emilie Ogez via Flickr

As words go procrastination has to be one of the best. I like the way it rolls around on your tongue, taking, as you might expect, a little longer than necessary to get itself out. It’s a word that lingers, without really knowing why.

Putting things off is something most normal people do as a matter of course. Unless a task absolutely needs to be done now we’ll typically set it aside and do it later, focussing instead on what we feel is more immediately compelling. Psychologists, as is their wont, weave a complex tapestry of theoretical meaning around people’s very natural tendency to defer things until tomorrow. They call it procrastination, and describe it as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety of making a decision or starting any task.

But who in their right mind pays much attention to psychologists? They’re masters at taking perfectly natural human behaviour, sticking it in a box, adding a fancy label and attributing it to potentially serious underlying mental health issues. They’re so good at it because they spend an awful lot of time doing it… time they could easily allocate to more productive work, but choose not to. Sounds very like procrastination in action to me.

According to the psychologists then, procrastination stems from issues of anxiety, a low sense of self-worth, and a self-defeating mentality; too much of it, they maintain, can be a symptom of underlying mental health conditions like depression or ADHD. What a load of old cobblers!

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Jan 292010
 
Photo by Dave Bunnell of a caver traversing a ...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve never really understood the attraction of intentionally putting yourself into a damp, cold, dark place to defy death in pursuit of fun and discovery.

Call me boring, but I can get all the damp, cold and dark that I’m likely to need in a lifetime on a typical winter’s day down in West Cork. The prospect of gearing up from head-to-toe in an array of protective clobber, donning a headlamp and descending into the bowels of the earth for the privilege doesn’t exactly fill me with glee. But it does some people, evidently… like the members of the Speleological Union of Ireland (SUI), or cavers to you and me. These are people who routinely give up their weekends to go pottering about underground… voluntarily… for enjoyment.

On their very impressive website (www.caving.ie) they court potential recruits with this enticing opening gambit:

Caving is the exploration of natural underground spaces. It is an adventure sport with inherent risks; many caves are cold or wet or muddy, or all three.

Sorry, you haven’t managed to grab me there… try again.

Technically potholes are caves that include vertical drops and therefore require the use of ropes and or ladders…

Nope… sorry, still not really getting it.

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Nov 272009
 

Flood waters submerge a West Cork road during November's floods

Best wishes and condolences to everyone in West Cork, Cork City and further afield whose homes and businesses were affected by the recent flooding….

In Ireland we don’t do climatic extremes very well.

Maybe it’s the inevitable consequence of a climate that consistently under delivers. We don’t get long, baking hot droughts, we don’t get bone-chillingly cold winters with lots of snow and ice, we don’t get anything extreme on the weather front, really… just a perpetually dreary middle ground.

As a result we’re rubbish when it comes to dealing with weather-related problems. In the summer we moan about the rain, but on the (very) rare occasions when the sun does shine for more than a few days the council starts running out of water. If it has the temerity to snow the entire country grinds to a shuddering halt until things thaw out again, and anything more than a stiff breeze has us running indoors to take refuge from falling trees.

But if there was one type of weather you’d expect the Irish to cope well with it would be rain. If Ireland had an official national weather, then rain would be it! And yet here, too, we fail miserably at the faintest whiff of extremity.

Last week it rained hard for a few days, and highlighted just how flimsy our drainage systems, flood defences and coping mechanisms really are. Huge swathes of West Cork and a substantial chunk of Cork City sank beneath the rising flood waters, thousands of homes were damaged, hundreds of vehicles stranded and countless commuters failed to make it home to their families.

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Nov 102009
 
Carbon dioxide

Image via Wikipedia

Global warming… or climate change as I prefer to call it (given that there’s been scant evidence of any actual "warming" going on in Ireland over the last few summers), is a serious issue for sure. But am I the only one worried by a recent spate of publicity that’s painting carbon dioxide (CO2) as a noxious chemical we need to eradicate?

One TV ad that targets children and parents is particularly disturbing, not because it deals with the sobering subject of climate change… but because it’s built around misinformation and blatant scaremongering. The ad I’m talking about shows a father reading a bedtime story to a little girl… a dreadful story about how the nasty CO2 monster, growing ever larger, is wreaking havoc with the climate and killing the planet. If you haven’t seen it you’ll find it below.

 

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Oct 212009
 
A herd of savanna elephants in Western Africa

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes we humans use expressions that, while they seem plausible enough on the surface, actually have no bearing on life in the real world.

We do this all the time, without ever questioning the validity of what we’re saying, and we perpetuate these misconceptions by using the same expressions with our children. They in turn will pass on these falsehoods to their children and so it will go on unless someone makes a stand and sets things straight.

Anyone who’s ever had mice in the house will know that the old adage "as quiet as a mouse" is a complete fallacy. Mice can, in truth, make an unbelievable racket for their size as they scurry around under floors and behind skirting boards; chittering, squeeking and scraping as they forage for stray crumbs. The pitter-patter of their tiny feet is surprisingly audible in the dead of night, and the conclusive snap of a mouse-trap is enough to wake anyone from their slumber. I’ve taken to using a different version… one that’s far more accurate than the rodent equivalent. I tell the girls they should try to be "as quiet as a pineapple". When was the last time you heard fruit make a sound?

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Aug 062009
 
MEXICO CITY - APRIL 29:  People sit in the wai...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Some things in life are too dreary for words… but I’m going to give it my best shot, so prepare to be completely overwhelmed by mindless tedium.

First my own particular pet hate on the "boring things to do" front: painting. Not the artistic rendition of a scene in watercolour or oil, more the "slap it on the walls" kind of painting. Painting in the interior-decorating sense of the word is one of those agonising jobs that demands just the right level of concentration to prevent you thinking about other things, but not quite enough to keep you actively engaged in what your doing. I find the combination is agonizing.

Another one that’s bound to be high on anyone’s list of tedious pastimes has to be sitting in traffic. Yes, you have the radio to keep you company, but that can be as much a curse as it is a blessing… particularly when a cheery "eye-in-the-sky" presenter informs you, rather helpfully, to avoid the tailback you’re already sitting in. Of course, depending on the particular backlog of traffic you’re stuck in, you may have time to turn your mind to other, more productive things. But when I’m behind the wheel I can never really disengage; driving demands concentration… even if you’re crawling along at six-inches per hour. You never know when you might need to react to the unexpected.

Never, is the rather obvious answer… but the point is you have to be ready. I’ll drive for hours on the open road… but fifteen minutes in stop-start traffic has me tearing what little hair I have left out.

What, you may be asking, has inspired me to share this mind-numbing tirade with you? Possibly the biggest waste of our limited time and resources that exists on this or any other planet, that’s what.

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Jun 232009
 
WASHINGTON - APRIL 17:  Pope Benedict XVI spea...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

So the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has said "it is no longer tenable" for the Catholic Church to manage 92% of all primary schools. What a revelation! And it’s taken the Church until now to work that out?

Dr Martin, of course, is furiously back-peddling, squirming to try and salvage some form of "face" in the wake of the damning Ryan Report into what it described as "endemic" child abuse by clerical institutions in Ireland, and the public backlash that has ensued both here and abroad. But there’s no face to be saved… the Church’s reputation is in tatters. Any parent worth their salt will tell you that its involvement in even 1% of our primary schools should be more than "untenable"… it should be absolutely criminal!

Those are emotive words because, quite frankly, when it comes to the safety and security of my children I am emotional!

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Apr 212009
 

BOO and HISS to UTV and Cork’s 96 & 103 FM!

West Cork Today... GONE!

West Cork Today... GONE

West Cork Today is a great Talk Radio show on Cork’s C103 that addresses the issues that are important to local communities, and provides a forum for discussion, interaction and debate. Walk into any kitchen in any household around West Cork on a weekday morning, and more often than not it’s the voice of David Young on the West Cork Today programme that rises from the wireless to greet you.

Or at least it was :-(. The popular show was inexplicably axed by C103/UTV a weeks ago.

All of this transpired while I was away on holiday. I came home to an e-mail from Mick Regan of Diaspora.ie asking West Cork bloggers to highlight the issue. I was stunned!

This came from Mick on 14/04

UTV/C103 did the dirty deed this morning and changed the schedule without any explanation to their audience!
West Cork gagged!

It’s a bit of a shock to the system when a stalwart of life in the community you call home is rudely stripped away. Ann Donnelly talks about it on her own blog, saying:

When I first moved to West Cork, there were two resources that were necessary to find out about what is going on in the area: The Southern Star weekly paper and West Cork Today, the local radio show that is on air mornings Monday to Friday. West Cork Today provides helpful and entertaining information ranging from the weekly Garda file to interviews with local experts and event organisers. I was actually a guest a couple of times as West Cork’s ‘web expert’.

I was also on talking to David a couple of times in my capacity as PRO with the Reenascreena Community Action Group — discussing issues with an unacceptable local water supply for residents and the proposed construction of a sludge reprocessing plant smack bang in the middle of our peaceful rural community. Both times the exposure we got on West Cork Today was instrumental in helping us get a better result for local residents.

The blurb from the C103 website describes the show thus:

If West Cork wants to be informed and entertained, then this is where people tune to; a show owned by its audience; and sought by interviewees. From backyard matters to bigger picture issues, the expectations are met daily. The show gives everyone their say and a fair hearing; from texter to Taoiseach, anyone can feature, and does. Eclectic and specialised, argumentative and compassionate; while Laura Hallissey produces, David Young presents a spontaneous show that is essential listening.

Essential listening indeed — only now it’s been unceremoniously silenced. (Note to C103 — when you  update your schedule, it might be an idea to update your website!) :-(

Ann Donnelly, who’s the webmaster of Skibbereen.ie, has set up a “Petition for the Return of C103’s West Cork Today Programme” on behalf of the Skibbereen and Region Economic Network (SAREN). SAREN is asking the people of West Cork to have their voices heard again, and plan to submit the completed petition to UTV Media demanding the return of David Young and West Cork Today on C103. Please sign it and add your voice to the protest (NB. you don’t have to proceed with the “paypal donate” step at the end of the petition for your vote to register — simply ignore it).

If we make enough noise maybe they’ll consider bringing the show back… but even if not, we can at least make sure they’re aware of West Cork’s discontent! You can read more about the debacle on former Green Party candidate Quentin Gargan’s blog, over on Conor O’Neill’s blog, in the Southern Star and no doubt lots of other places online.

It may well be “West Cork Today: RIP” now — but with management decisions like that you have to question how long it will be before we’re all blogging C103’s demise!

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Feb 172009
 

Reduce, reuse, recycle.
 
The venerable three Rs of sustainable waste management. We’ve heard the mantra time and again: the powers-that-be urging all of us to be front runners in the race against waste. It’s a laudable goal, one that we’ve wholeheartedly embraced, and that we have tried to instil in the girls from day one. But while central and local government are pushing the green message, their record on the ground leaves a lot to be desired.

Human nature dictates that people only change their behaviour when there’s a compelling reason to do so. While a few conscientious souls will go to extraordinary lengths to reduce consumption, re-use materials and recycle as much as possible, the vast majority of the population are quite comfortable leaving things the way they are. Convenience and value are the order of the day. If local authorities are serious about the mass adoption of sustainable waste-management practices they need to make it easier and cheaper than the alternative.

So what do the “geniuses” at Cork County Council do? They implement a blanket €3 levy on people bringing their recycling to the local Civic Amenity site.

Clonakilty Civic Amenity Site levying an entry charge

It’s completely bonkers! First they cut back on the recycling facilities at local village “bring sites” across the county, forcing tens of thousands of households (or at least those who are willing) to drive their recycling to a central Civic Amenity site, and now they introduce yet more inconvenience. You’d swear they were trying to put people off! Continue reading »