The saddest day in Irish history

This day in 1922, The Dáil (the Irish parliament) voted in favour of the treaty Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith signed in London 32 days earlier. That treaty gave 26 counties of Ireland independence, but crucially left six still part of the United Kingdom.

With parallels to the UK’s Brexit vote, the result was not clear cut. 64 Dáil members voted in favour, and 57 against. The result was to signal the start of a Civil War, with Irishmen who’d fought with each other against the British in the Irish War of Independence, now take sides against their former comrades.

As if to emphasise the emotion and gravitas of the debate, the official Dáil record has the following quotes from the major figures:

Eamon de Valera when he realised he had lost the vote:

“I would like my last word here to be this. We have had a glorious record for four years. It has been four years of magnificent discipline in our nation. The world is looking at us now…”

He broke down with emotion before he’d managed to complete what he wanted to say.

Following a vitriolic debate where each side accused the other of bad faith, Michael Collins wrote:

“I have signed my death warrant.”

He knew he was a significant target for both personal and physical attacks from the anti-treaty side, and would be killed in an ambush just eight months later.

Anti-treatyite, Cathal Brugha commented:

“While the war was in progress, I could not praise too highly the work done by the Head Quarters’ Staff. The Chief of Staff and each of the leaders of the subsections were the best men we could get for the positions. Each of them carried out efficiently, so far as I know, the work that was entrusted to him they worked conscientiously and patriotically for Ireland without seeking any notoriety, with one exception. Whether he is responsible or not for the notoriety I am not going to say (cries of “Shame” and “Get on with the Treaty”). There is little more for me to say. One member was specially selected by the Press and the people to put him into a position which he never held; he was made a romantic figure, a mystical character such as this person certainly is not; the gentleman I refer to is Mr. Michael Collins.”

Strong stuff. A civil war is the worst type of conflict. It’s ugly and often leaves scars for generations.

Those scars may be nearly 100 years old, but they still exist. To most in Ireland the Irish Civil War is just part of it’s history. It’s part of it’s struggle for self-determination. To a minority, it’s a reminder that self-determination was never fully achieved.

The legacy of the civil war though is still felt throughout the 32 counties of Ireland. If the treaty had been voted down, would the troubles of the 60s, 70, and 80s have happened in Northern Ireland? Would the IRA and UDA have become the organisation that killed and maimed thousands both in Ireland and UK? The biggest question of all, would Britain have stood back and let Ireland reject the treaty?

Hypothetical questions, yes. But that’s what makes history interesting.

Todoist: Focus on tasks based on your location

My Todoist workflow

It’s the start of a new year, and I’ve taken a few days leave. So what better time to evaluate my Todoist workflows. Todoist is my go to productivity tool. It keeps me productive, by reminding me of exactly what I should be doing at a particular part of the day.

However one of the issues I had with the way I’d set it up, was my need to perform tasks relating to both work and home life. The real problem though is that life is never as neat and tidy as you may want. For example, if I need to arrange a plumber to come and fix a dripping tap at home, I have to do this during office hours.

So how do I focus on work or home tasks in Todoist without making it a cluttered mess?

The key for me is the use of labels and filters. All my tasks use a label called “home” or “work”, and have a due date. Using these I’ve setup filters to focus to tasks due to be performed today, but also focusing on each label. This allows me to focus on work tasks when at work, and home tasks when at home. However I can also use the default “Today” view if I need to view all tasks side by side. Handy for calling that plumber.

What does £134k mean to AFC Wimbledon?

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Today League One AFC Wimbledon beat fellow League One club Fleetwood Town in the FA Cup third round. It meant they take home £134,000 prize money. They’ll get slightly more as the gate receipts are shared between the two clubs, but as Fleetwood have one of the lowest home attendances in the League, it won’t make a massive difference.

But what difference will the prize money make?

Let’s start with the secretive world of player salaries. AFC Wimbledon have been punching above their financial weight for some years now. They’ve been favourites for relegation so many times, largely because of their low playing budget, yet have so far flattered to deceive.

The average salary of a League One player is around £70,000 per annum. So winning £134,000 nearly pays for two players salary. With a squad of (say) 28 players, a team getting a windfall of that amount, gets a return of approximately 15% of their playing budget.

As mentioned above, things don’t stop there. There is 50% of the gate receipts, after expenses have been deducted. Then if you’re lucky to have your game screened live on TV, there’s anything up to £100k added on top.

So for clubs like AFC Wimbledon, this is a massive amount. The club is currently sitting at the bottom of League One. They’ve put together some useful results of late, only losing one of their last five matches, but are in need of some fresh talent in the transfer window.

So having extra cash in the bank, and the attraction of a fourth round cup tie later in the month, could just tip the balance to getting a player to sign a contract. As an AFC Wimbledon fan myself, I certainly hope so.

Guildford: Improving the shopping experience

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how to regenerate the UK high street shopping experience. Several large retailers have gone under in the last year alone, leaving gaps in streets up and down the country. Throw in our love for online shopping, and the foot fall in our shopping locations has decreased dramatically in recent.

How do you solve this? The general consensus is to offer what we the consumer want. This includes making shopping more of a social experience. For example, having a good mixture of cafes and restaurants, as well as more non-retail businesses like cinemas. But it also means retailers offering what their customers want.

Yesterday my wife and I went shopping in Guildford, Surrey. We don’t normally head down that way, but we fancied going somewhere different. It’s a lovely historic market town about 30 miles south of London, with atmospheric alley ways full of independent retailers as well as your well known high street brands. There’s even a Norman castle a few minutes walk away.

Whilst walking around we found some interesting items. Some we bought. Others weren’t for sale. Try these for size…

Will they park as neatly as this when they’re ground up?

It’s not uncommon these days for shopping malls to offer transportation for the younger population when out with their parents, but these cars stood out. For a start, they were bigger than normal, and they had a handy shopping bag at the rear. But what made them stand out for me, was the parking bays. Cute.

But cats are more intelligent than dogs!

Elsewhere we found this sign outside a shop. According to the PDSA charity, there are almost nine million dogs in the UK. Guildford is one of those places where there’s more than average. It has something to do with its rural location with stunning scenery, and a plethora of well marked walking routes. So it makes sense to welcome our canine friends with their owners.

Guildford was a pleasant shopping experience. OK a lot of this has to do with its location and wealthy demographic, but it also seems to have started to react to buck the general trend. That is the answer to any problem. The only constant is change. In business, if you don’t change, you’ll eventually go under.

Business and Human Rights: An oxymoron?

Can businesses be truly responsible? Large multinational businesses can easily fall foul of internationally recognised environmental and human right standards. Take criticism of Google for providing Dragonfly, a censored version of its search engine in China. Or how about Netflix pulling some of its shows from Saudi Arabia after legal challenges from the Saudi authorities.

This begs the question what multinationals can do to balance the need for profit, as well as respecting human rights in the territories in which they operate. The solution appears to be, work with the authorities to change the status quo. The problem comes where the authorities aren’t willing to change.

What then? Businesses have to decide whether the pressure for profit trumps the need for respect for the local population. But does it need to be that way?

I’ve been a member of Amnesty International for over 25 years, and active in the UK section for most of that time. Back in the 1990s, a business group was created here to lobby companies to consider human rights. It worked to ensure companies considered accountability with all there business dealings, including contracts with suppliers.

An ideal maybe, but an achievable one if there’s leadership from the top. The status quo proves that it is unworkable if change is to be effective. It will only come if someone is brave enough to say they won’t operate in a particular territory.

Who’ll blink first?

Down and out? Not likely!

They say, “Start as you mean to go on.” So how about getting out on New Year’s Day and go for a run? Well I’m a runner, and I’ve an aim to achieve. Having recovered from a serious injury last year, I’m aiming to run a 10km race in May and hopefully a half marathon by the autumn. So hey, let’s get going.

At the moment it not about speed particularly, just building the distance and stamina. For the last few months high impact exercising was a no-no. Something to do with a higher than average risk of issues later on in life. But I’ve been participating in regular spinning classes to keep fit, as well as doing some weights. It’s really helped, as I feel as strong as I have for a long time.

So how did I do? See for yourself.

Run - 1 Jan 2019
An “air the cobwebs” run

OK it’s not a earth shattering time, but at around six minutes per kilometer it’s a respectable base to build from. I’ll get faster. Last year saw my best 10km time of 56 minutes, and I’ve my eye on a sub-55 minute finish this year.

It’s nowhere near my best 10km time, but that was almost 30 years ago! Come on, give a oldie a break.

Thanks 2018, but I won’t miss you

As today is the start of another year, it is customary to look back at the previous twelve months. It is supposed to help you focus on what went well, and what you should do to change things that didn’t go so well. That is what new year resolutions are normally about right? Putting things right.

In my case, 2018 was a pretty poor year. Back in March, I fell heavily whilst out running and fractured my pelvis. Whilst I was still on crutches, my Mother was admitted to hospital with a bladder infection. Whilst she did recover from that, the whole episode was the start of a downward spiral that resulted in her death in June.

Among all this drama, I caught shingles, probably as a result of the stress I was under. It took me a couple of months to fully recover, only to come down with thrombosis. Having initially put my shortness of breath down to some sort of summer allergy, it was only when I was unable to walk more than a few hundred yards without sitting down that I sought medical help. To cut a long story short, I was admitted to hospital for six days with a clot in both lungs and one in my left leg. All of this was probably a result of the pelvis injury.

Elsewhere my beloved AFC Wimbledon were having a frustrating time. Having just survived relegation to League Two in May, the manager had a clear out of the old guard in the summer. The trouble was, how do you replace players of the same quality with one of the lowest budgets in the league? In our case, you don’t. Watching us play was a fairly soul destroying experience at times. It was never going to end well, and it didn’t.

There were positives in 2018, it is just they fade into insignificance when compared to the above. So forgive me if I don’t look back for too long at the last year. After all, it is not as if anything I could have done would have prevented that stuff from happening.

So I’ll raise a glass to 2019, and wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Writing useful release notes

Writing about technical subject matter isn’t as easy as you may think. Writing to users about changes in a technical product, with the aim of informing them about exactly what has changed and how it affects them, is downright difficult.

Take the following example:

“Synchronisation has been improved. “

This only goes part way to telling users what has changed in the product, but leaves so many questions unanswered. Like:

  • Exactly what has been improved? Is there a better response time? If so, what is it now?
  • Has a bug been fixed? If so, what is it, and what has been changed to fix it?
  • Has new functionality been added? If so, where is it located, and where is more information on it?

The example above was from a set of release notes I recently came across, and clearly wasn’t written or proof read by a Technical Writer. If it was, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Better examples would be something like:

Synchronisation performance has been improved by up to 20%, after changing the FILENAME.JAR file to make less API calls.

File names containing a ? character no longer cause synchronisation to fail. See support ticket 123456 for further details.

Support has been added to synchronize with Product X. See the “Synchronising with Product X” page in the online help file for further details.

Armed with the above information, users can:

  • Decide whether to upgrade to the latest version, if it’s not automatically deployed.
  • Identify the risk to their organisation of deploying the change.
  • Develop a test plan before deploying across their organisation.

Boxing Day 1963 Football Results

Football matches are a traditional way to spend a Boxing Day afternoon. But on this day in 1963, pretty much every football fan who attended a match, saw something special. Take a look at these scores…

Tottenham Hotspur44West Bromwich Albion
Burnley61Manchester United
Fulham101Ipswich Town
Liverpool61Stoke City
Nottingham Forest33Sheffield United
Sheffield Wednesday30Bolton
West Ham United28Blackburn Rovers
Wolverhamton Wanderers33Aston Villa

66 goals with an average of over 6.5 per game. As someone said to me today at a game, “That was in the day when they used to drink on Christmas Day.” Maybe that explains the leaky defences.

Was José Mourinho’s right to live away from his family?

A couple of weeks ago news broke of José Mourinho’s sacking as manager of Manchester United. It was hardly surprising. The team had been under performing, but more damaging was their style of play. The continuous defensive nature of their displays, combined with his negative demeanour, didn’t go down well with fans.

When news broke of his departure, a lot was made in the media of his payout. Rumoured to be £20m, it seems like a lot for being a failure. It comes with the territory though. His contract was for a set period, so some compensation was necessary for an early termination.

What wasn’t widely reported was Jose’s domestic arrangements. He’d lived in an apartment at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester since being appointed two and a half years ago. He’d chosen to live there, whilst his family remained at their London home. He is reported to have been happy with the arrangements, but it can’t have been easy.

José is quoted as saying, “The most important thing is my family and being a good father.” So the decision to work away from what is important to him and his wife, must have added additional strain to what was an already stressful job. OK Manchester isn’t a million miles away from London, but coming home to an empty apartment / house is never the same.

Anyone who’s experienced bereavement or coming home when their partner is away, can testify that it can be a very lonely experience. Even the strongest person can suffer over time as a result. I’m not saying that Jose did, but it could have been a factor.

In his mind, there were very good reasons for keeping his family in London. He’s very protective of them, and maybe the extra pressure of managing one of the world’s biggest clubs was something he wanted to protect them from. When you move your family, it is more than just houses that need finding. You’re taking children away from their school and friends, your wife away from her support network, and everyone away from what they’re used to.

I wouldn’t say that being away from those you love makes you worse at your job, but it doesn’t help when things aren’t going well. José Mourinho was widely criticised for his negative demeanour running up to his departure. Could this be partly because his domestic arrangements were finally getting on top of him? Only he will know.