Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Hi All,

I'm back after a prolongued absence (sorry about that) marked only by my repeated exclamations of "what the fcuk!!". I have changed jobs and while I am immensly pleased with move I have to say that my new place of work must be the most difficlut I have experienced in terms of coming to an understanding of how the place actually works! Everything is so densly layerd in shrouds of ambiguity, that coming to know the end to end process of any business stream is a near impossibility and to the newbie like me, very intimidating. Hence, I have been a little distracted from my Blog.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense. Over the next while I intend to set my mind to updating this blog and adding a few new articles. One of immense interest to me at the moment is the Cannes winning "Wind that Shakes the Barley" , that fine "British" film. Don't you just love that prior to the win the Brits were giving out about how one-sided and oh-so-inaccurate about the nature of British rule the film is (I mean the Tans? Are they completely in denial?). Now however, they are proud to announce the Britishness of the film.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Get your own back....on Telemarketers!!

This is so fantastic. It’s directly related to my current (soon to be former) employer’s activities and I urge you all to adopt this practice.

From the Irish Indo :

IRATE victims of cold callers are turning the tables by asking them a
tirade of questions about their personal hygiene.
Instead of letting the credit card salesman or telephone rep do all the talking, they are asking questions and keeping them on the line.
By quizzing them about things such as "Is it important to have good teeth in your job?" consumers are distracting them from selling their product.
Regulations introduced last year by the telecoms regulator, ComReg, means customers can register their preference not to receive calls from companies without their prior permission. Companies who breach these rules can face fines of up to €3,000 per call, but many Irish people are unaware of the service.
Call centre staff often have a prepared speech or script that they must stick to - but now so do victims, thanks to a Dutch conceptual artist.
Martijn Engelbregt's guide has become an internet phenomenon, with thousands of irate people copying it from a website to use when the nuisance cold callers come on the line.
It offers a set of questions to ask the salespeople and put them off their sales pitch - and cut their firms' profits by taking up their time. The counterscript begins by asking the cold callers to spell their name and continues with questions about their life and work. It eventually leads to talk of dental hygiene and ends
with the question: "Which toothpaste would you recommend?" If the cold
caller is still on the line after all that, the householder is advised to end
the call by asking: "Would you mind giving me your phone number in case I need
more information?" The idea came to Mr Engelbregt when a chat with one
salesman "got very personal and the guy told me he didn't like his job.
"I talked to him for more than an hour, asking him questions," he said. He said
the reaction to his guide has been huge, and he has been hearing from both
delighted consumers and irate salesmen. "I have had salespeople saying I am
stealing their jobs and threatening to call me 10 times a day in revenge," he
said. Cold calling has mushroomed in recent years thanks to advances in
technology and the use of cheap Asian call centres.
However, more than 80,000 Irish telecom customers have signed up for the service to make sure they don't receive unsolicited calls. To opt out, consumers must call their telephone provider and leave a recorded message of their preference to ban firms from contacting them.

To download Mr Englebregt’s counterscript, go here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Great Escape

I know that posting has been light of late, but I have been a little preoccupied with things like, eh, building a house on my own and by myself. Well there are architects and builders involved – but you get my gist.

Oh and then there was the whole landing a new job thing.

I am so out of here. My new job is lined up – signed, sealed and start date agreed. And it’s not in some outsourcing group either. No siree!

I have handed in my notice and now play the waiting game, which is proving to be a very weird experience. Much weirder than the last time I left a company.
The head of our channel is giving me the silent treatment - a very mature response indeed. I actually have no work to do and there is absolutely no point in my being here today. I mean none. At all. I am writing this as I wait to meet for my exit interview. I can’t wait. I will be reasoned and honest and try at least to avoid breaking into a wildly celebratory dance as I scream “fuck you all” at the top of my lungs. I hope I succeed as I don’t think it would portray a favourably professional image were I to do so.

I think that I ended up in this kip for a reason though. I hope that the horrendous experience I have had being a yellow packer will help me to appreciate my new role (if I don’t fail miserably at it – nerves are getting me).

I am going to endeavour not to whinge quite so much about work in this new place. Unless it is terrible - then there’ll be whinging aplenty!

On the house front - I am having a hard time choosing between knobs.
How interior design can reflect every day life!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Medical exams. Why?

I have a medical today as part of the rigmarole I have to go through to get a new job with an Uber Corporation. I can only assume that one of the main reasons behind medicals is that they are an ass-covering excercise, whereby I can't come along in 6 months and sue Corporation X for RSI if I am already showing signs of it now. The other of course is that they get to see if I am using drugs or drinking too much. Oops.

So, can you fail a medical, does anyone know? What happens then? Do they withdraw the offer of employment?

I really want this job! In fact, if they just gave me the benefits and percs, and left out the basic, it would probably still be worth my while getting this job. How's that for corporate whoredom!

EDIT: Well, I have a pulse, according to the test. Now I wish they would just send me the damn contract so I can thoroughly enjoy telling the current crew (employers/slave runners) where to shove it. In a diplomatic way, of course....

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Graffiti - Irish style

Amongst all the polls and analysis that have been discussed ad nauseum in recent blogs and news paper articles regarding the effects of immigration on Irish society, and what the populace makes of it, one thing has been glaringly absent from discussion and that is this: Since this new wave of immigration began back in the mid nineties, the quality of graffiti on offer on walls the length and breadth of the country has increased proportionately.

This struck me as I drove into work this morning, along a route that takes in a direct line from south County Dublin to the city centre. Wall after wall was adorned with an array of scrawls, which thankfully served to alleviate the boredom of staring at yet another D registration crawling along in front of me.

This got me thinking. I knew all along that "Johnno hearts Na’alie", as I have been told numerous times. Johnno used to be very fond of urban bus shelters, retail loading bays, post boxes, and lampposts as media through which to extol the womanly virtues of Na’alie. I have learned for instance that she is in fact a “ride”, sometimes so much so as to be termed a “slag”. This latter must be true as I have seen her moniker scribbled alongside those of “Anto” and “Tommo” on more than one occasion. The prodigiously untalented Johnno was also in favour of the irretrievably dull “black-marker-running-out-of-ink” school of graffiti, as many eminent art critics don’t call it. All of which, while interesting in a general way, is wholly unedifying.

Some people see this rise in graffiti as vandalism of the worst sort, and actively campaign for the practitioners to be punished accordingly. Johnno’s lazy brand is of particular offence. It is hard not to agree.

However, having only a vague awareness of the cultural theory behind modern graffiti, I do know that it belongs to an ancient human tradition that has precedents in both the Old World and the New. I know also that Graffiti surges in importance during times of great political upheaval and changes in a society – In ancient Rome for instance, at the height of empire and as the rot set in, it was prevalent in the streets of the capital. Modern “street” graffiti surged in usage in the USA during the seismic nineteen-sixties. It has been long used by political agitators – John Trudell named a whole album after the practice. I know that it has been used a method of territory marking from Ogham stones to gang lands today. Northern Irish murals must be products of the same impulse.

I have been searching the web (well Flickr anyway) for decent examples of Irish “street” graffiti, but there does not really seem to be much attention paid to it, which leads me to believe that the upsurge is due to immigration. So given that we are all agreed that Ireland is undergoing huge socio-economic changes, do our new exponents of graffiti have anything to actually say?

Here are some random samples I found.
Capture Capture
Iced Coffee

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The yellow-packing continues…

So, Oberstfuhrer McDowell wants to introduce a Garda reserves force who will (and I love this quote from today’s Examiner) “have powers of arrest, search and detention broadly similar to powers enjoyed by Gardaí.”

Powers enjoyed by the Gardaí! Oh, where do I begin?

What’re ye up the weekend, lads?”, queries Ordinary Punter.
“Well”, reply Garda Liam and Reservist Paidí in unison, “we thought we’d go out and enjoy a bit of auld arrestin’, some unwarranted searchin’, slap a few fines on unsuspectin’ motorists using our new random breath testin’ technique, and generally lark about. What about yerself?”
“Eh….I think I’ll just stay in if that’s the case.”

The problems with this reserve force have been well covered in the meeja and rightly so. I am absolutely against this for a number of reasons.

It is a manifestation of the worst kind of role downgrading that seems to be the modus operandi of the entire economy, public and private sectors both, right now. And where have we seen this before? That’s right: the teachers underwent a similar undermining of their role in society with the introduction of class room assistants back in 2000. It really is a cheap and nasty way of meeting election promises without actually spending any money. On paper, that is. In practice, according to Ivana Bacik (she’s likely to know more than me on this one!), it will actually increase the number of cases taken against the state for unlawful arrest, abuse of powers etc, and may also jeopardize the successful closure of many prosecutions, on which the “real” Gardaí have expended time and resources at public expense.

Regarding the case of teachers, class room assistants ended up being paid for providing the same service that teachers had actually done for free, such as after-school supervision etc. This created all sorts of tension in the staff-rooms of schools up and down the country, and probably did very little to improve the general quality of second level education, other than reducing it to “crowd control”.

The tax payer will have to cough up in some way or other for this reserve force scheme, too. Who will benefit from this scenario? Probably those lawyer friends of McDowell, as they receive case after case on their books. This could work out, in reality, to be a method of using voluntary labour to create private wealth for a coterie of lawyers, without affecting the Dept. of Justice budgets, and blinding the public into thinking that “justice is being served” and election promises met. Not that I’m paranoid in any way, you understand, but it is genius, you have to admit.

In essence, this type of scheme is akin to the rampant outsourcing going on in private companies all the time – it looks great on paper for the company concerned, while the wider tax-paying community picks up the tab. This is what is happening with the pension scenario at the moment, and all that hoopla over the impending pensions crisis requiring an SSIA type remedy to be introduced by the Irish Government. The companies get off having to supply pensions and benefit packages to Irish employees, this reduces cost per employee, while the tax payer pays at the other end. Tax payers, many of whom, are outsourced to begin with! Very creative.
In the case of the public sector, tax-payer pays any way. The trick here is not to know what we are paying for at any particular point in time - it looks great when you can say you have a budget surplus today, as politicians don't get elected on the basis of long term effects unless the policy is obvious at the time.

If those who enlist in the reserves do so on a voluntary basis, without pay, what type of person will apply? There are bound to be some who are well meaning, but my money is on those who have a grudge against neighbours or severe personality issues surrounding a need to exercise power over fellow citizens. According to coverage on Newstalk this morning they will also “enjoy” their powers of arrest when off duty, just as a rank and file Garda would. This is open to all sorts of abuse. Apparently a weekend’s training will suffice for these reservists? You can’t learn how to adequately use MS excel in a weekend, let alone understand the application of the finer points of Garda powers!

Maurice Pratt has a lot to answer for….

EDIT: See The Dossing Times for more on this reserve Gardaí conundrum.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Fore! Women, Work, and the Golfing Fraternity

This morning I attended a departmental strategy meeting.
Out of 8 senior managers in attendance, I was the only woman.
This meeting took place in a hotel renowned for its proximity to a golf course.
When the meeting was over my colleagues retired to the golf course while I returned to the office.

It is an old business axiom that real meetings take place outside the meeting room – either on the way to or the way from. Protract that exit from the meeting room by adding the circuitous route of an 18-hole golf course, and you should deduce that this is where the real meeting takes place.

I bring this golf fixation of mine up again as a result of a response left on one of my previous posts, in which I discussed the impending EU legislation seeking to ban single gender organisations. Auds asks a number of questions (rhetorical I assume) about my position on this in her message.

She asks, for instance, with regard to women’s exclusion from single gender golf clubs whether this could “tangibly affect their career?”

My answer here would have to be yes.

Yes - In a very real way. If decisions, business plans, and key appointments are discussed over the tee off, then business women who have a direct interest in said plans or appointments are at a disadvantage. Women are excluded from some of these clubs entirely, and in those clubs which allow for women members, they cannot play with the men anyway.

When business discussions are eventually brought into the board room from the golf course, the full picture, or nuance of the political backdrop against which the decisions are made, is not available to the person who has not attended these "meetings".

She may appear unprepared, not in full possession of the facts, or even as if she is playing to a different tune. If she has valid reasons to posit a different point of view to the rest of a male dominated board (these things are usually, not always, male dominated) she may not have the political backup to drive her opinions through.

Compounding this problem for women is that when kudos for jobs well done are discussed and the back slapping ensues, men (and I have been involved in a case just like this) can claim their female counterparts’ achievements as their own in the club house over a few friendly pints, while the female employee will not be present to contest this. First impression counts and the opportunity to correct this false claim will not present itself back in the office. If the slighted employee, whose hard work has just been hijacked by her colleague on the golf course, raises it as an issue she will appear petty. She cannot win.

In the professions such as law or medicine this may not prove to be much of an impediment to women’s advancement in the workplace. I don’t know. Lord knows those guys have their own little club going. However I do know that in the private commercial sectors such as Finance, FMCG, Telcos etc., being noticed for your achievements and remaining on the radar of those in power count very much towards your promotional prospects in your company. If those in power are attending single gender clubs with their young male only acolytes, leaving equally talented and hard working females in the office, how do those women retain the attention of their seniors? They have to go out of their way to do so and thereby lose the advantage of the chummy subtlety fostered in the club house. They either have to work harder or get a shorter skirt.

But don’t believe me. Here is what was quoted in a syndicated Washington Post artcicle:

In 2003, the women’s research organization Catalyst surveyed 705 women in Fortune 1000 companies about what they thought was holding them back at work. More than 40 percent said “exclusion from informal networks.” One of the most mentioned informal networks was golf.

The same American study is covered in more detail here.

Auds goes on to ask:

Would a Pioneer woman not suffer the same discrimination for not getting drunk with the lads?

In the past maybe, but not in Corporate Ireland today as far as my experience tells me. Either way there is no pub I know of today that has a rule excluding women or pioneers from entry. There is free admittance and no-body is forcing the pioneer to drink. If business is on the table, as it were, the pioneer can attend and have a Club Orange. I had a pioneer colleague who made a point of attending the office outings just to be seen to take part. Not a problem. I don’t remember any business being done at these sessions, though, other than over the counter trading of Vodka and peanuts.

The issue with single gender golf clubs is that they are actively excluding women from a place where decisions are being made on a daily basis by a group of men, who are probably often of the same organisational ranking as many of the excluded women, and that these decisions can often have a direct effect on women’s careers and working life.

Auds continues:

I welcome Portmarnock's male only policy the same way I'm glad Curves only has women in it or the ICA has a female only membership.

When Curves becomes a place where careers are forged to the exclusion of men, where brown envelopes are shoved around indiscriminately, and where women claim their male colleagues’ achievements without challenge, I promise I will take up the cudgels of any ensuing campaign and post about it here.

Curves was co-founded by a man who I am sure has made enough money out of it to soften any blow he may feel about gender imbalance. That it is marketed for women may be the ultimate exploitation of women. Curves purports to be for women only because of physiology.

Of course it is nice to have women only clubs and male only clubs. In theory. In practice you will find that the majority of business deals are forged in one and not the other. That it seems to be peculiar to Golf may be a bit of a chicken/ egg scenario. Did golf clubs become the boardroom because there are no women present, or do I find it objectionable that there are no women present because the club house has become the board room? Perhaps the solution is to ban business from the golf course. Have fun working out the legal points for that one!

Regarding the ICA, which was set up in order to redress a gender imbalance and inequality in rural Ireland, I too am glad that it exists if only for that very reason. If there was no inequality it would not exist to this day. It was reaction to clubs like Portmarnock, and its rural equivalents that brought about the ICA’s existence in the first place.

I quote from their website:

The Society of United Irishwomen was founded in 1910 as the women's arm of the co-operative movement. The first branch was formed in Bree, Co. Wexford by Annita Lett.At that time there was no outlet for women. Most lived a life of drudgery - their main function being housekeeping and childbearing.They were chattels of their husbands the law was changed as a result of lobbing by ICA.

Portmarnock, its ilk, and their place in modern Ireland, is complicated by not only a gender bias, but a post-Colonial hangover, and the two may be linked. Membership is intended to say something about position and societal rights that, I feel, is borne out of what may ultimately be the same sense of inferiority that brought about the notion of the Shoneen, or the pseudo-Anglo “horsey-set” of today (covered by the Sunday indo recently).

AUDS: Our freedom to associate with like minded people is so basic and natural to the human condition that legislation not just destroys that freedom but cheapens the idea of free human relationships and equality.

Or legislation can protect it. Freedom to associate is one thing. Freedom to willfully exclude, quite another.