Physical Books Make A Comeback?

I have been using my Kindle in various forms for the past two years. On the device, as a PC application and on the iPad.
Probably the two most useful for reading are the iPad and the Kindle device. My Kindle is the non-backlit model. Basic but functional. Of the three, it behaves most like a book. And of the three, I like it the most. It can be read in bright sunshine, has a battery that lasts for a month and features nothing else at all really.

By contrast, the iPad is yet another backlit device (we all have so many these days) beaming photons at your eyes and also features numerous distractions in the form of apps. And Wi-Fi. And email. I don’t really like the eReading experience that it has to offer. And it’s heavy too, especially when you add the weight of a decent cover. Which you, like, have to.

Lately, I have been drifting back towards the physical book. Why? Because I find that with  ebooks, once you have read them, that’s all there is. They have nothing left to offer.

However, when you are reading a physical book (book from now on) you are sharing that you are reading a particular book with those around you. On the beach in summer, that can mean that you could potentially strike up a conversation with like-minded people (or just people that speak the same language!). The same goes for reading a book anywhere in a public place.

When you have finished a book, you don’t get prompted to “like it” or “rate it”. It was a personal experience. You feel it. Internally. But it doesn’t end there. You will most likely pass it on to one of your friends or family members with a recommendation (try doing that with an ebook) or you may place it on your bookshelf, where it enhances the whole and becomes an addition to your furniture. I love to see stacks of books on shelves or in bookcases, don’t you? Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Books can also be gifted to people. Sometimes with an embellishment from the author. I recently got an author to sign a book as a gift for my mother. Ebooks just don’t compare. And this small act makes it unique.

So now I am thinking that while the kindle is great for the holidays and will continue to be, for everything else, I’m going back to books.

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We are stardust.

When I first met the man who was to become my first brother-in-law, I was in my mid teens. I remember him being a “quarter of a century” old back then. I thought I was being funny telling him that too. He laughed as much as I did.

He met my sister on an exotic holiday to Morocco. From their descriptions of the colourful locals with swords and knives hanging from their waists, I added it to my list of ‘avoid at all costs’ places. I was never as adventurous as my older sibling. Thankfully he was more daring than I was or they might never have met.

I knew as soon as I met him that we would get along. He had some rare qualities that only improved with age. His sense of humour, his wit, his intelligence. He was the most amiable guy I ever met. Bar none.

When they got married, I read a passage from the bible which they had picked. It referred to a ‘gong booming’. Unfortunately, by the time the reading was to be read out at the ceremony, we had already morphed that phrase to be a creature and not a thing. Trying to stifle the laughter proved incredibly difficult whilst remaining appropriately serious for the occasion.

Through the years, whenever we met, he was the same man he had always been. Quick to laugh and never ever having a bad word to say about anyone. He was great company. He had a great love of sport, which I unfortunately did not share. And, despite being tone deaf, he absolutely loved music. He had no inhibitions and both he and my sister would jump to the dance floor at any occasion that boasted music. What he lacked in musical talent, he made up for with rhythm. The boy could dance.

He had a brother who was mentally handicapped. Following the death of his parents, he immediately took over the role of carer for him. He was devoted to him and both he and my sister cared for his brother until the day he died.  After that, he continued to volunteer for the Cope charity. Giving back to the charity that helped care for his brother.

On Monday 29th September, I received a text message from my grief-stricken father. My brother-in-law was dead. Ashen faced, I left work and raced to be with my sister. Two hours later, through floods of tears, I grieved with her. She was focused on the positive things. He had not suffered. She had been with him when he passed. They did everything together. A few hours earlier, they had gone out for a cycle in the countryside. Ireland was enjoying an ‘Indian summer’ . He stopped at the side of the road to answer his mobile phone. The charity wanted to know if he was available to drive some of their patients to the swimming pool in the afternoon. He agreed, of course. My sister had stopped her bicycle in front of his, and was taking in the marvellous scenery, when she heard a crashing sound behind her. She turned to see his phone on the ground and he was keeling over.
He never regained consciousness.

All of the things I wished I had said to him would now forever remain unsaid. I hope he knew how much he was loved and respected. I miss him so much.RIP.

John was cremated.
We are stardust. We are golden.

 

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The Syrian Conundrum

I am sure that US President Obama is a good man. He wants to do “The Right Thing”.

I take his word on that. Honestly.
Yesterday I read a quote from someone, was it John Kerry perhaps?
Basically they were saying that no one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria, the only thing disputed is who used them.
Hold on there just a minute. The “who” is everything. Have you seriously considered that you may be being suckered into supporting one side that may have used these weapons in order to cause you to take action against the side that did not use them?
Hello?

President Obama says that the world community’s reputation is at stake if they/we/someone does not take some action on this matter. Why are the options so narrow s to necessitate the use of military force? How can any more human beings deaths correct the terrible tragedy that has already occurred?

Isn’t it about time that we, the human race, grew up? 

Americans, Europeans, Arabs, Orientals, Africans. All human beings. Nothing more, nothing less. Differences in attitudes are forged in the way we are each nurtured. Start a dialogue. Let us move together in peace into a future where we can end suffering and conflict by acknowledging that we are all the same. One Earth. One people. It’s as simple as that.

 

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Boldly Going

In April 2012 I was made redundant. Let’s face it, that even sounds so ominous. Redundant! Almost like “obsolete” or “worthless”.

Generally, nobody wants to hear those words. In a recession, NOBODY wants to hear those words. And yet I heard them.
The last 12 months have been some of the scariest of my life. Finding a job proved impossible, even with skills. So many recruiters fail miserably in their treatment of job hunters. Nothing new there. But that does not mean that it is any less of an abomination.

In a few weeks time, I plan to post some of my experiences. What has kept me going through the darkness. What my experiences taught me. Hopefully, there will be something to motivate, console or inspire. I just can’t do it right now and I’ll tell you why when I publish the article.

I’ll be starting a new chapter soon. Dublin will feature prominently.Excited. Exuberant. Positively blog-able.

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The Taming of the Shrew (or how to catch a really really small rodent)

English: Pigmy shrew (Sorex minutus) Français ...

English: Pigmy shrew (Sorex minutus) Français : Musaraigne pygmée (Sorex minutus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day in autumn last year my daughter let out a ferocious scream from the end of the hallway in our house. A huge spider had just run underneath the door to her bedroom. Being the resident chief (i.e. only) spider catcher, it would be up to me to rectify the situation. That is, put it out. This was “the biggest spider I ever saw” according to the witness. But just how big could it be? I dismissed her reaction. Maybe in another part of the world but this is Ireland. No really big spiders live here, after all.

Now I should say that I am no fan of spiders. In fact I grew up in a house where my mother was routinely brought to hysterics at the sight of anything larger than a “money spider” (where did that name come from?) But I felt bad about killing something just because it invoked deep rooted and illogical fears. So, throughout most of my adult life, I had taken to catching them and putting them out. The catching part was usually done with the aid of an old glass cylinder that I had previously used for measuring chemicals for use in the development process of my slide photography many years ago. It also kept the contact with the spider a good 30 cms (12 inches) away from me.

I went to assess the size of the spider and as I walked down the corridor the “spider” darted from under her bedroom door, past my daughter then ran down towards me at high speed before disappearing underneath the door to the bathroom. My heart was in my mouth as I realised that this was no ordinary spider. In fact it was not a spider at all. It was bigger and yet small enough to run underneath doors. A tiny gap of no more than 6mm. (1/4 inch). My initial thoughts were that it was a mouse. Now this was a whole different problem.

Had there been a chair nearby, I am sure that I would have been first on board. But there wasn’t. Anyway, I was already successfully clinging to the ceiling with my fingernails. Keeping my feet up too was proving quite the challenge.

Some hours later, I returned from the local hardware store armed with 3 mousetraps. (To be sure to be sure to be sure! as Father Ted might have said). I loaded them with cheese and laid them out.

Fast forward several months and the “mouse” had not yet been caught. It was very clean. There were never any signs of droppings. At times I wondered if he had gone out again. Probably using his own set of keys. It used to disappear for several days with no sightings before eventually returning to haunt us again. However, we did have one breakthrough. We had gotten a better view of it and now had reclassified it as a pygmy shrew. A tiny rodent measuring just about 2.5 cm’s or 1 inch. We even named him Martin. Despite this, that didn’t change his “welcome” status. We wanted him gone.

Now, a pygmy shrew is a protected species in Ireland but before we had identified him, he had successfully eaten the cheese and meat “bait” from the jaws of the mousetraps without setting them off. So I procured a “live trap“. This is a clever device that tempts the critter in to dine heartily then closes behind him. Catching him alive and unharmed and facilitating his release to the wild. Great.

A Better Mousetrap

Only that didn’t catch him either. But he does like cheese. Perhaps I should have left some wine for him too.

Some further research on PS’s identified the problem. The little critter weighs no more than a 10 cent coin. And that’s in Summer when they are almost twice their winter weight. So I had to “build a better mousetrap“. OK. Pygmy Shrew trap. Whatever.

As you can see from the picture, I worked on changing the weighting balance to make the trap spring closed with a tiny change in weight. With a AAA battery stuck on one end with Blu Tack and the other end kept open with two coins (both were needed) I placed the trap back in his usual haunts and waited.

Within two hours there was success!

Martin was relocated some 2000 or so “mouse miles”/kilometres away in open countryside, having enjoyed his first, albeit restricted, trip in a car. He was obviously still enjoying the cheese as he was somewhat reluctant to leave the trap when opened and had to be coaxed out before scurrying away to follow his own adventures elsewhere.

I do hope that he is enjoying his new found freedom. I can’t quite say that I’ll miss him though.

I hope that this proves useful information to anyone else trying to catch a pygmy shrew. It was quite a challenge.

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eReaders versus physical books

I have been using the Kindle for the past year and I am generally quite happy with it. At the same time as I got the Kindle I also received a gift of the Steve Jobs biography in book form. If ever there was a good reason for an e-reader, surely this book was it. But I got the physical book and I am almost finished it, having read the Kindle for the most part of the year.

Perhaps it’s something to do with Steve Jobs but I have realised that I don’t love the Kindle. It’s great for the holidays and all but physical books still have that certain something. Maybe it’s because you can instantly see how far you have gone through the book or perhaps it’s that it never needs to be charged up. But more importantly, I realised that there is a bond established with a book. There is the look and feel. Even a smell.. And the weight. All physical properties that add to the overall experience. And of course, it exists – taking up real space. It can be seen and shared.

All of a sudden, I am not so taken with eReaders anymore. I wonder if this will be a permanent feeling.

What are your views on eReaders folks?

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Planned Powercuts

I love planned powercuts.

Last week I received a postcard from the electricity supply company to announce that today, the power would be disconnected between 9:30am and 4:30pm.

So i sit here, having showered and shaved, drinking a lovely warm cappuccino, eating a delightful low-calorie chocolate bar made by Atkins called “Indulge”. And it is dee-lish-us! Who’d have thought?

I have two hours or so of battery life on my laptop and about the same on my UPS for the ADSL connection but I also have a webinar to attend at 11am. So, I’ll be shutting down the ADSL to conserve the battery and I’ll be “off the grid” for a while.

With nothing to do but read and write.

My idea of heaven.

I love planned powercuts. And there it goes.

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Something’s Gotta Give (FFS)

Chancelor of the Federal Republic of Germany D...

Chancelor of the Federal Republic of Germany Dr. Angela Merkel on the open door day at the Bundeskanzleramt in Berlin, Germany Français : Dr Angela Merkel, chancelière de la République Fédérale d’Allemagne, lors de la journée portes ouvertes de la Bundeskanzleramt à Berlin, en Allemagne. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When does a recession become a depression? Well, one answer to that is “when it is YOU that loses the job”.
So I am officially in a depression then.
But I am not one to give up without a fight.Oh no.
Not me.
Not now.
No way.

Settle down. make yourself a cup of coffee. This is a longish one.

I tried looking for a job and all but gave up after a couple of months due to the lack of replies. Of course I also took into account that not only am I at the wrong side of forty but I am also at the wrong side of fifty. And with so many of our graduates also unemployed, what hope is there for me? I can understand that.

So I decided to set up my own business. After all, there are bills to be paid. But hold on fella, this is a recession. Remember? So it is. But. ‘If you can make it in a recession, you will be truly successful when the inevitable upturn comes’. Isn’t that the sage advice?

So off I went. Playing to my strength’s, I set up an IT support and Web development company. Offering a good quality value-for-money service, I identified a sector that was in need of my talents. But then I discovered that they are broke in that sector. Almost all of them. A disastrous season has left them licking their wounds. And if they don’t absolutely positively HAVE to have it, they won’t pay for it. In fact many are closing down for the winter months. They might or might not reopen in March/April 2013. So back to the drawing board. Or should that be torture rack?  Now I am expanding the service offering again and spreading the net wider. Even internationally. (You would be forgiven for thinking that the state must be showering me with information on how to grow my business. But no. I did receive an offer of some mentoring and I took that up. But that’s it. The silence has been and remains deafening. Do I expect them to come to me? No but surely more could be done to foster business? Or maybe that’s just me grumbling. The fact is that the government/country is broke.)

Not only am I offering the above services to a wider, albeit destitute,  market place but I am now also promoting my photography skills. Having been a keen amateur photographer for the past thirty years, I learned the trade taking and developing slide film. Some of you may not even have ever heard of slide film before. However, if you can get it right with 35mm slides, you are more than half way there. I embraced digital photography when it was in its’ infancy and now I am the proud owner of some decent digital Canon kit, remote triggers, remote flash triggers, lighting stands, tripod, filters, lenses and my gadget bag is way too small to hold it all. I love it though. Through and through. You can see some of my work on http://www.flickr.com/photos/donkearns/ if you are really interested.

This morning, the immediate future for me looks like this:

a) Spend three days a week trying to generate business on the phone.(Must stop writing and get to it!)
b) Spend two days a week looking for jobs (it’s a time-consuming and desperately frustrating process).
c) Spend Two days a week writing. Who knows? Lee Child did it after being rendered redundant.My novel is taking a bit longer than anticipated as I struggle with trying to make a living. Sorry for the delay!

But I am not out of ideas yet either. I have reached out to people I know abroad. Specifically the USA and Canada. With some 80,000+ people leaving Ireland annually, perhaps now is just “our turn” to go. More on this anon as something could be stirring.

Whilst our politicians play softly softly with the EU (although it seems that the Angela Merkel IS the EU these days, however that happened) the reality of how hard life is here in Ireland now is constantly being downplayed/hidden.If you have a job, you are OK. But so many people turn up for work on any given day only to be told that that’s it. The game is up and the jobs are gone. It’s terribly sad but true. How far is anyone from poverty when their wages/salary is taken away? Work out your own position.Would you spend in this environment?

Some say that we need a war. Imagine that anyone could even contemplate that! War is NEVER the answer. Perhaps we should blow up all the bridges though. Now that would create employment. But seriously, something has to give. It is inevitable. What options does Ireland have if this burden of debt is not lifted? Normal trade is not taking place, retail is almost annihilated. You can’t be an entrepreneur if there is no market. No trade equals no tax equals no way out! As I see it, these are some options:

1) Leave the Euro and regain some control over our currency again. This will allow exports to boom as our prices become as cheap as china’s, creating jobs in the process.

2) Default on the country’s debts. Iceland is still there isn’t it? And that’s what they did.

3) Or we could lobby to become part of another bloc. Perhaps another state attached to the USA. Or Britain (voluntarily this time). Or Russia, China or anywhere that could stand to gain from a strategic relationship.

One thing is clear though. We desperately need a plan B, because the guy’s and gal’s in EU-land couldn’t organise a p**s up in a brewery. At least not while the party is still on.

But the people of Ireland are not revolting, I hear you say. Yes indeed. That is a charge that has been levied. I suppose that we are a nation that is seething at the moment. And make no mistake. We are seething. And the time will come when it will spill out. I believe that that time is almost upon us. Our government politicians keep telling us that the EU will look after us. A deal is tantalizingly close, they add. We all know that we can’t continue like this. Our society is being held together by the thinnest of threads. Every time Frau Merkel pronounces that any aid will not be applied retrospectively to troubled countries, our rulers hastily contrive a follow up clarification statement with her which is usually of the ethereal kind,;lacking in substance, buying time, staving off the revolution.

But for how much longer.

Some say (OK, it was Merkel) that Ireland’s problems were created by ourselves. So much for not generalising. Our banks loaned lots of money to lots of people. But where did the Irish banks get the money? From the German/French/USA banks, amongst others. Where was the “due diligence” there? Applying the same logic then, those countries also created the problem. Yet the entire population of Ireland has been left alone to carry the burden. And what did the Irish people do with the money? They had the temerity to believe that they could enjoy a good lifestyle. Perhaps buy a place in the sun. (Someone should make a TV programme…oh wait.) In short, we thought that we were as good as anyone else in the developed world. And we were. We were.Until the crushing debt of the state being told that they MUST take on the debts of the failed banks, transforming private debt (for banks) into sovereign debt and thereby crushing both the state and the people. All to protect the Euro and the states who had loaned to Irish banks. To protect the pension funds of Europe.
This is not austerity. Call it what it is. This is madness! The Irish government has already raided the pension funds of the Irish people. Are they buying time or postponing the inevitable? So long as it affects someone else, it appears to be OK in certain parts of Europe.

And don’t mention the war. The Germans have paid for that already, haven’t they?  It’s a thing of the past and we must move on. Yet Germany was rebuilt and would not be the so-called “powerhouse” of Europe today but for that. And the whole concept of a European Economic Community was an attempt to avoid a recurrence of the wars that ravaged us all during the early 20th century by bringing us all together. I see a distinct lack of any sense of “community” at present. A lack of “we’re in this together”.Where is the vision of the future now? Utopia has become Dystopia.
And while factions in Greece and Spain have already turned to violent demonstration, I believe that when timid Ireland does likewise, the game is up.

A lot is at stake and not just for Ireland. I sincerely hope that we make it. Hope. The maddening thing is that this whole mess is man-made. The world is still spinning. The seasons come and go. It’s our perspective that has changed.

I am not done yet. Not by a long shot. I am not (listed as) unemployed as I am self-employed.
But I thought that I would play my part in letting the world know what life in Ireland is really like now. Please excuse the rant and my wordiness. I have forms to fill out.

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Croke Park Hotel

Back in September, I had a very nice experience on the way to the Photovision photography exhibition in the Croke Park conference centre in Dublin.
I meant to write about it immediately but just didn’t. Life. Bah!

Having driven for two hours, I arrived outside the centre to find no obvious place to park. I pulled in to the very small forecourt outside the Croke Park Hotel and surveyed the scene. A man in a business suit appeared at the entrance to the hotel foyer. Perhaps it was the lack of baggage but something told me that this was a man that worked there. I eased forward in first, lowering the passenger side window. I asked if he could help with directions. I told him where I was headed. He informed me that I was at the wrong side of the conference centre for parking. He appeared to be considering what directions to give but instead he said that I should just proceed into the hotel car park, which was underground just ahead and left of my position. He told me to present the car park ticket at reception when the conference was over and they would “look after it”. In Ireland, that’s how we say it’s a freeby.
I was touched by his unhesitant generosity and kindness to a fellow human being.

Well done sir. And thank you.

 

 

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Seasoning

April came and went and the promise of summer was eagerly anticipated by all. Farmers studied the skies, pointedly looking west around sundown for any sign of the elusive ” shepherds delight”.
The monthly hope gradually morphed into a weekly fascination with the long-range forecast. TV presenters regularly carried the bad news. No change yet. By the middle of July, the frustration of the populace was palpable. It couldn’t be another year without a summer, could it? ‘What about the dolphins?,’ said one. ‘Didn’t your man say that the dolphins had arrived early into Dingle, signifying a good summer?’ Clearly no one had told the dolphin’s about their role.
Another said ‘Wasn’t there that New Zealand expert who said that the weather would pick up in mid-June? Whatever happened to his super-accurate sure fire guaranteed, scientifically-backed statistical prediction thing?’
Indeed.
Each year brings a new omen. Steeped in mythology, bad science or a mixture of both.
But year after year after year, one thing remains consistent.
No matter what happens during the so-called summer months.
Come September, autumn gets a grip. Not just some hint at what is to come. Oh no. Without fail, The cold seasons arrive bang on time.

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