Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Of A Very Beautiful Lady

My MG is back on the road and life feels great again. There's something about driving that car which is sheer magic. I think it's because the grand old lady really tickles your senses. There's the sound of a grumpy battery right at the start followed but the beautiful chant of its engine. There's the smell of leather seats and fumes of oil and petrol out the back of the car. There's the feel of the old wooden steering wheel in your had in a cockpit that vibrates and shakes it's way along its journey. But best of all there's the sheer excitement of the unknown. Are you going to make it to your destination or not? Modern day cars are reliable but they've taken the excitement out of driving. MG welcome back on the road. Lets have some fun!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Of The Olympics

Apparently the Olympic flame will travel just a discus's throw away from my house next week on its scenic journey to London. Happily we all seemed to have forgotten that the tradition of the torch relay was started by the Nazis in 1936 so I might even call out to see it go by making sure of course not to do anything that might resemble a salute.
I was one of the few that was lucky enough to get Olympic tickets. I'm attending the women's weightlifting on 28th July and the volleyball on 5th August. I must say I'm already getting quite excited about it. No doubt I'll return feeling that I missed out on life and that as a youngster I should have devoted myself to one obscure sport that might have slipped into the Olympics a few years back. Pole vaulting must be a case in point. How many would think to make a career leaping over a high bar and how many would have the facilities to practice it? And now Sergey Bubka is an old man with a proper stick your medal prospects must be at least good. Damn always too late with my great ideas.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Of Up Down Up Down Up Down

I swam half a mile today before coming to work. That's 32 lengths of the Antrim pool. I've been doing this every day now for the best part of six weeks and I must say I'm feeling the benefits of it. Upper body strength is good and the waistline though, by no means sporting a washboard, is happy enough too. The next big thing is to try to enjoy the experience rather than just enjoy the consequences. That, I fear, will take a little more time.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Of Northern Ireland Mediator - new website

I'm working hard on a new website today for anyone wanting a mediator in Northern Ireland.
It's a lot easier doing a website now than when I first did one for Legal-Island in 1998.
Way back then you had to worry about the size of flies you were uploading to the site. If they were more than half a megabyte they took ages to upload. Worse still, they slowed the download speed of the website for the viewer to the point they just weren't bothering with. It you were really clever you'd be able to drop in a counter to the site to see how many visited in and get quite upset when you realised no-one really ever did.
Emmmm I wonder how much has changed.....

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Of Lincoln the Unknown

Currently, I'm reading "Lincoln the Unknown". This is one of the greatest books I've ever read which just so happens to be about one of the greatest men that ever lived. Its author, Dale Carnegie, has a marvelous ability to juxtapose the early life of Lincoln which was desperately poor and tragic and in plentiful amounts with his success as a President and leader of some of the most able but difficult men at one of the most challenging times in American history. Take a look at this passage, for example. It's gold. Pure gold.
"While the oxen were pulling the Lincolns across the prairies Congress was debating with deep and ominous emotion the question of whether or not a Sates had a right to withdraw from the Union; and during that debate Daniel Webster arose in the United States Senate and, in his deep, golden, bell-like voice, delivered a speech which Lincoln afterward regarded "as the greatest specimen of American oratory". It is known as "Webster's Reply to Hayne" and ends with the memorable words which Lincoln later adopted as his own political religion :"Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"
This cyclonic issue of secession was to be settled a third of a century later, not by the mighty Webster, the gifted Clay, or the famous Calhoun, but by an awkward, penniless, obscure driver of oxen who was now heading for Illinois, wearing a coonskin cap and bucksin trousers, and singing with ribald gusto :

                          "Hail Columbia, happy land, if you aint drunk, then I'll be damned"

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Of Britain's Got Talent

There's a superb programme that finished over the weekend. It's called Britain's Got Talent. The great thing about this programme is that it is a true, simple, meritocracy. You go on stage and, if you're good, you get through. If you're not, you don't. It's nothing to do with who you know or how much money you have behind you. It's simply about delivering a fabulous performance and the rest will happen for you. You can be plucked from total obscurity and suddenly find yourself on the end of a standing ovation delivered by thousands in front of you with millions of others talking about you too.
Simon Cowell is much maligned in the press, particularly recently. There's something about us British that we like to give successful people a good kicking whenever we can.
Let us not forgot however, that this man has created something that has given us 3 of the most outstanding pieces of television and entertainment this millennium at least. They are :

1. Paul Potts
2. Susan Boyle
3. Jonathan and Charlotte

Guess it's a shame that a dog won it this year....
Meanwhile us lesser mortals continue with the day job. For me it's working on the next Workplace Mediation course.

Of a Class Divided

I attended a Diversity Management workshop delivered by Tanya Kennedy last week at Legal-Island's training centre and took from it the following five key learning points :
 ·         Jane Elliot’s “A Class divided” is a superb video that shows just how easily people can fall into prejudice and the ugly consequences. See here
·         Zappos has some great core values worth examining including :

Deliver WOW Through Service
Embrace and Drive Change
Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
Pursue Growth and Learning
Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
Do More With Less
Be Passionate and Determined
Be Humble

 ·         Pret a Manager have simple core values  : passionate about food; passionate about people; passionate about success
·         No-one is born prejudiced. It’s a learnt process. We can unlearn it.
·         Are we all age obsessed? I think we are…

Today I'm working on our mediation services for Mediator Northern Ireland

Monday, 7 May 2012

Of Two Barrys and a Canoe

Wow! I'm recovering today from a three day trip canoeing up the River Bann. My arms ache. My shoulders ache and my 3 blisters are sore, really sore. But it was huge fun and I'm so glad I did it. On the first night we camped and the temperature dropped to minus 1. My canoe buddy, (also called Barry) and I slept side-by-side in a really cramped two man tent which left us with no room to turn but did leave us soaking it wet as the morning dew dripped in through the fly sheet. So well done to for organising the venture, the 30 or so who made it back and to the two Barrys for getting to the finish line still the best of mates, despite the tent, each other's food and an awful lot of fatigue.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Of The Bull and Cow and Such a Row

I was in London last week and ended up having a pointless row with a taxi driver over a fare.
The issue was that I owed him £8 and I gave him a tenner (or a Paul McKenna as the Cockneys might say). No ordinary tenner that is for I gave him an pristine Ulster Bank ten pound note. The look of disquiet on his face told me that this transaction wasn't going to be easy. "Is that all you have? Don't you have any proper notes?" I explained I didn't but that he shouldn't worry because being sterling and Bank of Ulster it was legal tender it. "Listen my friend that's not legal tender here and I'm not obliged to take it". I politely replied that it was and he was. He promptly explained that it was in his rule book that he wasn't obliged to take it and I shouldn't try to tell him his job". Impolitely, I asked him to produce this great fount of all knowledge which he failed to do although he did threaten to produce the police (no doubt by getting on the "dog n bone").
After alighting I googled furiously to find out who was right but my research was inconclusive. Can anyone help me solve this mystery I wonder? Who was right? The cabbie or the customer?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Of Opera and Ann

I was at the Royal Opera House on Friday for to see "La Fille Du Regiment". The lady in front was complaining that she had neck ache being in one of the cheaper seats and having to look to her left throughout the performance. Try standing throughout in the gallery I thought. She complained too about the lack of ushers and that she had to keep going to shut a door that was causing a draft that was compounding her neck ache or at least compounding her ability to complain.
She moaned as well about the performance of Ann Widdicombe the former Tory MP and Strictly dancer who, she said, can't act either. Now there she had a point. Widdicombe played the Duchess of Crackentorp - happily a non singing role. But it was wooden and featured corny references to Cornish pasties, Strictly and the London Olympics which seem to cost the opera a lot of credibility with little return in the way of laughs.
Strangely, however, I found myself on the side of Widdicombe. As Sibelius once said "They never made a statute out of a critic" and give me a woman who gives something a go even where failure is likely anytime over one with neck ache and a fistful of complaints.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Of Brain Rules

Brain Rules - Principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and school. John Medina

1. Physical exercise boosts brain power. To be smarter incorporate some physical movements in your meetings and work schedule. Applicaton: One-to-one meetings on two exercise bikes? We move half way through a meeting?

2. Human beings are the smartest species not the strongest. To prosper form good relationships with others. Application: good HR structures critical. Test for stress. Devise welfare at work programme

3. Vision is the most powerful sense by a long way. Incorporate more pictures into what you're/learning teaching.
Application: Powerpoint slides go for pictures in preference to bullet points or mix both

4. Emotions always get our attention - if you want to keep people's attention interject some elements that will engage the emotions. This may be story telling or something.
Application: Introductions to our seminars in the TC start off with story or anecdote?

5. The best way to get a point across is to provide context or key idea first then the detail. Application: Introducing new item into company. Start with context. Then follow with details

Meanwhile we're all busy getting ready for our big conference in June : Data Protection Conference Northern Ireland