Friday, September 29, 2006

Foghlaim Dé hAoine

If Blogger will co-operate, I will be able to get this week's installment of Foghlaim Dé hAoine out.

This one comes with a caveat – it's something I looked up on a fairly decent dictionary site, which means it might be technically accurate but sound ridiculous to anyone who actually knows Irish since it mightn't be what people actually say. But that's a chance I am willing to take.

Breithlá shona duit!

Today is my “little” brother Shane's birthday. (You remember Shane – the genius who redesigned my blog.) I won't embarrass him any further by revealing his age or anything. Have a good one, Shaney!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Listen to Your Body

Should you ever decide to take up the honourable practice of long-distance running, one of the first pieces of advice you will hear is composed four simple words. Listen to your body.

What does that mean? Exercise-induced endorphins are great, but they're not going to cause you to start hearing voices. Listening to your body is about monitoring how you feel and adjusting your training schedule accordingly. If your knee is screaming in pain after five miles, you need to stop and give it a rest. If your muscles are a bit whingy when you start, perhaps you're going out too fast and would benefit from slowing down and including stretching in your routine. If you're running out of steam near the end of the run, maybe you need more carbs before you run.

Listening to your body is about tuning into what you need and following through on it. I wasn't great at listening to my body. Probably because from 1990 to 1998, all my body ever told me was "More chocolate!" and "Sure, the Super-size Meal is better value." and "I'm hungry! Yes, again." I didn't trust my body at all. My body was the enemy and my job was to drag that enemy out of bed every morning and wrestle into shape.

This worked to some extent, but the thing I had to learn is that pain is not the same as hunger or salt/chocolate cravings. Pain means something is wrong and needs attention. I wasn't great at accepting that pain meant something was wrong. I was a fat girl training for a marathon - a fat, stubborn girl who didn't care that my poor knees were taking 10 times my body weight with every step. My knees, and my fat by extension, would be conquered.

I nearly ended up not making it to the start line for my first marathon. Had it not been for Peter's oversight and the help of an excellent sports medicine physician, I might have ground my knees into powdery lumps.

I'm older now, thinner, and a tiny smidge wiser. I've taken the last week off of my training regimen and am working on redesigning my plan to do my tough training in the pool, where my knees aren't bearing the brunt of the abuse. I've had a bit of swelling in my knee - it's an old rollerblading injury and it flairs up around this time, when the weather changes. It'll be fine - I just have to give it a break. This was a momentous decision for me. I think it was probably the first time that I unilaterally decided a rest period was needed. Usually, Peter has to help me out. I usen't to be able to tell myself to take it easy, but I would (grudgingly) follow such advice from Peter.

What does this mean? Am I getting soft and lazy? Or have I am I finally making peace with my body? I'm afraid there will always be a tiny part of me who is terrified that, if left to my own devices, I will become fat and unfit again. There will always be part of me who wants to push through the pain and get the exercise done. That's the part who gets edgy and impatient during these rest breaks. That's the part of me that says "Oh, sure, one rest day a week is more than enough!"

But maybe there's another part of me that is finding her voice - a part that realises that caretaking is as important as achieving goals, that it's illogical that the price of fitness would be injury and discomfort.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Please Tell Me This is Just a Bad Joke


Michael Jackson's latest business plan reportedly revolves around building a leprechaun theme park on the Emerald Isle. "He loves the whole idea of leprechauns and the magic and myths of Ireland," a source tells the Irish Daily Mirror. "He's always wanted to open his own theme park and he thinks Ireland is the perfect place and it will all be built around the leprechaun theme."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Foghlaim Dé hAoine

I'm going to cheat a little this week and take something from a website that my brother found amusing last week. Daltaí na Gaeilge. Besides having word lists, phrases, grammar, and games, the site also has sound files so you can actually hear how the words are meant to sound.

I was particularly interested in the proverbs section and I found one that I want to integrate into my personal philosophy.

Bíonn gach duine go lách go dtéann bó ina gharraí.

I get a fantastic visual of a cow standing in the middle of my garden, with a flower plant on her head. Broken pottery is strewn around behind her and she's left a large hole in my whitewashed wall. But then what - do I laugh or cry or throw jagged pottery pieces at the offending bovine? That's what the proverb is all about - your true nature is revealed when you face adversity.

You can listen to someone who knows how to say it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Eye of the Beholder

Ever since I was aware of their existence, I've loved horses. Trail rides, taking lessons, even just going to the races – being around horses makes me happy. Leaving Wheaton meant leaving Danada Equestrian Center, which has put a dent in my horse time. I've had a few treks on my holidays, but I don't have any regular horse activities.

Part of the problem is having too many interests and obligations and not enough time to go around. The other part of the problem is that Peter is not as keen on horses as I am. He always says that he prefers his transportation not to have a mind of its own. He's more than willing to wait in the car while I go off on a horsey adventure, but that puts a dent in everyone's fun.

This week, I thought I'd found the answer to my holiday horse activities problem. While researching accommodation for a long weekend in Wexford, I found a place that offers horse-drawn caravan holidays. You get instruction in the care, feeding and harnessing of the horse. You also learn how to drive the caravan. Then, the proprietors help you map out a route and off you go for a week of exploring the countryside with a 2-ton draft horse. Fantastic!

I was so excited, I was already looking at a calendar for 2007. I figured Peter would feel better about driving a wagon instead of actually sitting on the back of the horse. He'd have a greater feeling of control and few feelings of vulnerability. I'd get my horse time and I'd get to care for the horse. Plus, this place would give you an extra riding horse for less than 200 euro for the week. I could trot along ahead of the caravan on a frisky little pony while Peter and the draft horse happily plodded on.

I sent the link to Peter and couldn't wait for his response, which, since he is so indulgent of my whims, was sure to be yes. Right?

Wrong. But we'll get into that in a minute. First, look at this picture from the Irish Horse Drawn Caravans' website and tell me the first thoughts that pop into your head:

It makes me think of the Wild West, pioneers, and Little House on the Prairie. It also makes me think of Pinnochio – of the traveling circus where he's forced to sing “I have no strings to hold me down, to make me sad, to make me frown. I have no strings, as you can see, there are no strings on me.” The two images combine to make me imagine driving the horse, singing the song, in my very own Little House on the Bog.

Peter looks at the same website, the same image, and his associations are less wholesome and cheery. He thinks of the tinkers in the movie “The Field”, of travelers in general, of the knackers' ponies. Where I see a harmless adventure, he sees something that would be twee if you didn't know any better and completely wrong if you did.

Suggesting to Peter that we do this would be like telling your teenage son to put on his dad's plaid golf pants and stupid sun visor and go shopping for golf clubs in the centre of town. Everyone will see him and know that he's either a stupid twit pretending that being an old man is cool or that he's so terminally uncool that he is beyond all hope.

I haven't entirely given up on the idea. Peter won't go, but maybe my brothers would be willing. Of course, the problem here is that Peter's sort of tainted the idea. He's given me a glimpse of how other people might see me, which is impinging on my happy little fantasy. There's part of me who doesn't want passersby to think “There's a whole load of American idiots, pretending to get in touch with their Irish heritage.”

Not to worry, I do have a Plan B up my sleeve. (An expensive and logistically difficult Plan B, but a girl has to have goals.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Doing Battle

I don't typically have a problem with spiders. That's not to say that I would be thrilled to lie down in a box full of them, or eat a handful, or have one as a pet. But unless one lands unexpectedly on my person, they don't frighten me.

It's my job to kill any spiders that need killing. My first rule of spider capital punishment is that it's only in effect inside the house. Outside, that's spider murder. Inside, it's a just punishment for trespassing. However, not all spiders are subject to the harsh rule of my shoe. Just the really freaking creepy ones or the unusually large ones or the ones who look like biters.

The spiders who survive my arachnid-pogrom are the ones who are non-threatening looking or who have the good sense to stay out of the house. I never kill the very cool spiders that are thin, non-threatening, and tend to set up shop in corners where they flex their legs and drop their bodies down in a configuration that reminds me of a Japanese lantern. (Sadly, I don't know what they are called.) Then we have some gnarly ones that hang out in the garden, but since they don't come in the house, they're cool with me.

This morning, I was trudging around the kitchen, getting my lunch ready. I put a bag of peppers in the sink and turned on the water to get ready to wash them. Before starting, I turned around and got a knife and a towel so I'd be ready to dry and cut the peppers as well. As I went to take a pepper out of the bag, I saw a flash of movement from behind the bag.

It was the biggest, ugliest spider I've ever seen. The body was as big as my pinky. Including his leg span, he was at least the size of my palm. The worst thing about him, besides the size, was that he looked like he was covered in felt.

He was similar to the spiders we sometimes get in the hallway, usually in the net curtains. My suspicion is that they live in the Wisteria bush and come in through the mail slot. But the guy who was hanging out in the sink, ruining my day, was twice as big as the ones I've seen before. He gave me the willies and I didn't know how best to kill him.

When I catch one of these bad boys in the net curtains, it's a two step process. I use my hurl to sweep them off the curtain and then stomp on them with my jackboot of oppression. OK, I don't really have jackboots. I just crush them with my well-worn runners.

The problem this morning is that the spider was in the sink and I couldn't very well stomp my foot into the sink. Plus, I was in my socks and I didn't want to turn my back on him for a second. The water and the steep sides of the sink was keeping him pretty well contained, but he looked like he could be a jumper.

I watched him as he puzzled out his options for escape, his long legs carrying him sideways around the sink. I was transfixed by his sheer creepiness. He was so big – I didn't want to come any closer to him than absolutely necessary. Plus, since he'd come from behind the bag of peppers, I was wondering if he'd hitched a ride from the grocery store and was some sort of exotic world-traveling spider. In the interest of science, should I capture him alive and get him identified?

In the end, I decided to forget about science and just get that intruder out of the sink as expeditiously as possible. I steeled myself, wadded up a paper towel and pounced on him, crushing his scary body. I pressed down on him the way you'd press down on a serious wound to stop the bleeding. I crushed and pressed and moved around to make sure I was really getting him. It was like crushing a mouse – I could feel his body under the paper towel and I was so not happy to have only a few folds of two-ply paper product between me and him.

In the end, I emerged victorious, if a little mentally and emotionally scarred. No one wants to start the morning doing battle with a messenger of Satan. My mood did not improve when I passed a dead rat on the way to the bus stop. Luckily, I rallied at work, sharing the story of my brave fight.

This evening, we were doing a bit of grocery shopping and we found an odd product. It was an apple tart and it was labeled as “Halloween Spooky Apple Tart.” The only difference between the “Spooky” and the bog-standard apple tart was that the Spooky was covered in sugar.

Me: “So, what makes this tart spooky then?”
Peter: “Well, it's covered in sugar. If you gave this to kids, it could get scary.”
Me: “Yeah, but there's a difference between spooky and scary. Ghosts are spooky. Spiders are scary.”
Peter: “What about a ghost spider?”
Me: “That would just be plain evil.”

Now, it's time for me to go to bed and I sincerely hope that I am not haunted by the ghost of my vanquished foe.

PS – I just did a bit of searching and it seems like these spiders are very common, especially as home invaders at this time of year. And my reaction to them also seems to be quite common/

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Taking the Metrosexual Thing Too Far

Dear Metrosexual Encountered in Dun Laoghaire Today:

First, let me say that I'm writing you this letter to spare you future heartbreak. It's not that I'm jealous of your naturally blonde and curly hair. Or your flawless skin. Okay, so it's not just that I am jealous.

I am also concerned about you. I think you've taken the David Beckham "Metrosexual is the New Man" thing way too far.

It boils down to one simple fact: You can wear the pink sweater. Or you can wear the headband. But you can't wear both.

I'd say your hair is your best asset, so go with the headband. But it's your choice.

Self-Appointed Common-Sense Fashion Police
Our Motto: I don't care if it's in Vogue or GQ, if it looks stupid, don't wear it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Foghlaim Dé hAoine

Goodness, is it Friday again already? As you can see, the week sort of got away from me. It's been a blur of work, camogie, home improvement, and deep blissful sleep.

I might have to think up a couple of other weekly features to make me a more responsible blogger. Like all writers, I do much better with a deadline.

On to the learning...

Tá an aimsir go hálainn agus tá an saol go hiontach.

I can see out the window that it's gorgeous today. Of course, I will be sitting in the middle of a cubicle all day so that doesn't help me much at all. Hopefully, the weather will hold for the weekend.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Foghlaim Dé hAoine

I'm going to go with an easy one tonight...

Ar mhaith leat deoch?

My response to that question would be

Beidh uisce beatha agam.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What I Know About Wikis

Even though I recently started a wiki to track my training progress, I am still skeptical of their usefulness in organisations. As a free web site hosting service, sites like PBWiki and WikiWorld are great. As an integral part of information management inside a business, I have my doubts about wikis.

Until I started my current job, I thought that the name for Wikipedia had something to do with Wiccans. I don't know why exactly. There's certainly nothing pagan in the collection of knowledge and the spelling isn't even the same. I guess it had something to do with the similarity of sounds.

Then I started my job and my co-workers kept directing me to the wiki. Need the latest project plan? Go to the wiki. Need a reference doc? Get it from the wiki. What are the standards for comma usage? Find the style guide on the wiki. I was getting a little sick of hearing about this wiki thing.

I just don't like the word. The last syllable is far too harsh for my delicate little ears and it sounds like a made-up word. Plus, the pronunciation can vary. If I don't like wick-ee, I really don't like wee-kee. (After all, it rhymes with tiki and we all know what happened in the Brady Bunch episode with the tiki.)

I thought that wikis might be some weird fringe thing, but when a preliminary Google search returned about 684,000,000 pages, I knew the wiki was here to stay. I had to rethink my wiki-Wiccans connection and research the origin of the word. I'd heard a couple of different origins (the Hawiaan word for knowledge or an acronym for What I Know Is). But according to Wikipedia (and you have to figure that they would know), the creator of the first wiki, Ward Cunningham, named it after the Hawaiian word for quick.

The chief benefit of a wiki is the ease in which users can quickly and efficiently share and grow information. For companies, a wiki is seen as a great way to share information between teams or departments. Because a true wiki lets anyone edit and add pages, wikis can become a community where users assist each other in achieving common goals.

From this point of view, I can see the value of the wiki (even though I am still not sold on the word itself). However, I think wikis have a deep flaw. Typically, since wikis are a grass-roots type of information-sharing service, they do not have an organised structure. If a wiki doesn't have a good search, it can be nearly impossible to find what you're looking for. On Meatball Wiki, someone (possibly Sunir Shah – I had a hard time ascertaining authorship of the wiki page) talked about the problem in finding information and used a vivid analogy.
“To the novice reader, they are a big ball of meatball spaghetti (hence MeatballWiki), with meaty bits lost in a tangle of slimy links.”

I have a deep distrust of things that are not structured or organised. I hate jazz and I am developing a love-hate relationship with wikis. I love the democratisation of learning and information development, but it feels like having to work in a messy room. I want to impose a structure. I want to sort the entries into categories. I want to create a site map. I have a hard time letting go and letting the information grow.

But the theory behind wikis is that they require individuals to post and edit material in as easy a manner of possible. Trying to determine where a page fits in the overall structure of the wiki is often deemed too restrictive and burdensome. It is felt that the free market theory can apply to information. Useful information will be used, expanded, and prominently accesible. Less useful topics will slide by the wayside.

I don't know how much I really trust free market information management. In the short term, roll on good search engines. But, in the longer term, maybe automatic indexing or extracted categorisation will be the way of the future.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

In Training

Last weekend, my first camogie season came to an end after a rough quarter-final match up the northside. Although we played much better in the second half, we were still beaten.

There's nothing fun about losing and it's especially frustrating when you know that you could have played better. I was fortunte enough to play 20 minutes in the second half. Although I put good pressure on the goalie, I wasn't able to capitalise on it.

I had a writing teacher who taught me a lot about goal setting. Her philosophy was that it was all well and good to have results goals (like getting published) but you needed to have production goals (like writing two hours a day or sending out your manuscript to 3 editors a week) in order to achieve your goals. Results goals are what you want to achieve and the production goals are how you make those achievements.

I have about seven months before matches start in the next season. I want to improve both my fitness level and my skills. I want to win a starting spot on the team. I want to play well, score goals regularly, and help my team win. These are all result goals.

So what are my production goals? How am I going to make these achievements? I'm so glad you asked. Project LCF is my master plan. It's where I outline what I want to achieve and how I'm going to achieve it. Expect regular updates and progress reports there.

If I stick to the plan and fulfill my production goals, then next April, I hope to be wearing number 15 and playing left-corner forward for my camogie team.

Thanks to my Brother, the Graphics Genius

At my job, I am often asked to take screenshots for manuals or improve the layout of a page or do some other sort of graphic-design-type task. My answer is always the same - I'll give it my best shot, but my brother Shane got all the graphic design ability.

This year, as a special birthday present, Shane undertook a project to help me redesign my blog. The centrepiece, as you can see, is the header graphic. Shane did a great job meeting the design criteria of a very fussy (and bossy) client.

Good on you, Shane. Thanks for sharing your graphics genius with me.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Foghlaim Dé hAoine

I had a lesson last night and learned the following phrase that I think could become one of my favourites.

Tá mo chroí istigh ann!

Yeah, that "ch" is a bit challenging. It's not ch-like-church. It's more ch-like-chutzpah.

So, if someone were to say to me:

An dtaitníonn camogie leat?
I would defintely have to answer Tá mo chroí istigh ann!

Awhile back, I wrote a book report and was correct on the correct spelling of scríobh in the past tense. I went with shcrioíbh because my little brain was stuck on the séimhú rule. (Basically, it seems like when it doubt in Irish, cram an h in there.) I was corrected by John and Fence, but no one was sure why the h did not belong.

I promised to ask my teacher, which I did, but I've never had my notebook next to my computer and have always been too lazy to hunt it down and let you all know. But now, a convergence of circumstances has me at the laptop with the notebook. I can with great authority say that the letter "S" doesn't always take the séimhú, namely in the following letter combinations:

  • Sc

  • Sl

  • Sn

  • St

The handy rule my teacher gave me is a common-sense idea - if it looks too hard to say, there's no séimhú.

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