Monthly Archives: March 2011

MA Dissertation Begins

As of yesterday I have a dissertation supervisor in the form of Prof. Stefan Wolff as well as a working title to play around with and work towards.

My dissertation is about governance structures and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and my dissertation has the working title:

Consociationalism and Polarisation: The Viability of Peace in Northern Ireland.

The core of this thesis is essentially threefold. Firstly, to analyse the efficacy of government consociations as a regulator of ethnic conflict and explore possible ramifications of national self-determination under the wider banner of peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction. Secondly, to analyse the theoretical and practical framework of consociationalism in Northern Ireland. Thirdly, to address recent developments in the Northern Ireland community towards depolarisation, cohesion and integration.I’m really happy to have Prof. Wolff supervising me for this dissertation as he is a pretty big fish in terms of security studies, peace building and consociational governance.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the supervisory relationship develops over the course of the dissertation but I imagine I will learn a lot.

I will be tracking the progress of my dissertation with a fancy tool that Alex Pryce has used in the past.  I will also be adding a page specifically devoted to collecting together posts related to my dissertation and how it is going.

It’s been a great start to the week and hopefully I can keep the momentum going to close out my last week of classes on a high note.


The Monday Retrospect

What is ‘The Monday Retrospect’?

This is a weekly collection of things that have caught my attention and imagination over the last week. It is a chance to put into words what I have been doing, thoughts I have been processing, things that are happening. It’s a bit of a mind dump really.

  • Loving the Foundation Podcast by KevinRose.
  • I’ve been working pretty solidly for the last week or so on a presentation looking at foreign intervention in Afghanistan.  I will finally deliver the presentation on Wednesday.  Wednesday is also the last teaching day of the Master’s course that I’m on.  Just 2 essays and the dissertation to tackle.
  • “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” – Anne Frank
  • I love the Freedom App.  This little application allows you to disconnect fromt he internet for a predetermined period of time.  It allows razor-sharp focussed productivity.  Beat procrastination and time-wasting.
  • I have it on good authority that the videos from TEDx event in Belfast will be on their website soon.  They will be well worth watching.  Especially look out for Mark Dowds (@markdowds) and his talk on workplace democracy.  If you’re interested Alan in Belfast had a quick interview with the speakers which are brilliant.  Check them out here.
  • “Your behaviour changes your thoughts, not the other way around.” – AJ Jacobs.
  • Is justice essential for peace? – That’s a question that I am currently doing some research on for an essay – fascinating subject.  What do you think?

That’s it for this week.  What’s going on with you?

The Impact of Northern Ireland

As begin to finalise parts of my PhD proposal I have become very reflective on my educational and personal journey.  I have been questioning what has brought me to the place where I want to do a PhD and what passions are driving this desire for further study.

The more I think about it, the more I love Northern Ireland.  I am hoping to concentrate my PhD on analyising the effects of consociationalism on creating peace, exploring whether or not it has been an effective regulator of conflict or simply a means of promoting toleration.

Northern Ireland clearly has this weird way of gripping her people.  Not everyone; but certainly a great many.  For example I know of two other friends who are actively engaged in cutting edge research regarding Northern Ireland, and I’m sure there are many more. (1, 2)

What is it about this place?

The Monday Retrospect

What is ‘The Monday Retrospect’?

This is a weekly collection of things that have caught my attention and imagination over the last week.  It is a chance to put into words what I have been doing, thoughts I have been processing, things that are happening.  It’s a bit of a mind dump really.

  • The last week has been spent fine tuning my PhD proposal.  I think I am semi-happy with it.  It is now in the hands of several lecturers, professors and colleagues who are in the process of reviewing it and suggesting changes.
  • Nathan Erskine wrote a great post recently entitled ‘Politics and Community Work – A Convergence on the Horizon?‘.  In this post he is discussing the controversial Community Partnership Northern Ireland and calling into question the challenge of local democracy and local enfranchisement.  Jump over to join the discussion.
  • I am entering the last 2 weeks of teaching for my Master’s course.  It’s been an incredible journey.
  • This week I have been struck very often with the great privilege it is to be going through education.
  • I’ve also been reflecting (again) on where my educational journey has taken me, and, more importantly, where it’s going…
  • “Violence is simply not radical enough” – Walter Wink.
  • Get yourself an empty seat next to you on the plane.  More room for spreading out.
  • Ever wish you were younger?  Missed out on chasing your dreams?  Don’t be silly!
  • I’ve increased my hours at work recently.  So this week has been a coffee fuelled haze as I adapt to a new schedule.
  • It’s getting to that time when I need to start thinking about flights…

That’s it for this week.  What’s going on with you?


Toolbox Essentials

MacBook Pro 13″

Of course, I’m going to start with the most important ingredient.  I would be lost without this little gem.  I’ve had it about a year and a half now and it is still as brilliant and awe-inspiring to use as the day and hour I bought it.  It is small enough to lug to and from various coffee shops, and to and from university on a daily basis.  Beautifully crafted little machine, incredibly reliable.  And, even if anything does go wrong you’ve got Apple‘s world class customer care to fall back on.  One thing I do wish I had is a big monitor to connect to whilst doing work at home.  Sometimes it’s just nice to have a little bit more real estate for your ideas…you know?  Irrespective of that I wouldn’t trade from the 13″ model for anything.

Cruzer 2GB memory stick

Seriously.  Love.  It.  Most reliable memory stick I’ve ever owned.  Easy to increase security.  Handy way to transport tonnes of pages worth of documents in my pocket.  This is a must for any postgraduate.  Could not recommend this little beauty any more highly.

iPod Touch 2nd Gen

Another little beauty from Apple.  These days you’ll rarely catch me away from the house without my iPod.  I must admit I don’t listen to as much music on it as I should because I find it kind of weird listening to music in public – such a surreal feeling to me – it makes me feel like I’m living in a movie for some reason.  but I love listening to Podcasts (favourites are TED and The Moth), and I love iTunes’ new iTunes University feature – I can access a host of amazing lectures and talks to listen to on the go.

Blackberry Curve

The trusty phone.  I’ve had this phone for 19 months now, which is the longest I’ve ever had one phone for.  That should be a testament to the durability and usability of this little thing.  I have managed to resist all urges to embed it into a wall.  I enjoy this phone – although it is a little bit mundane and the internet is terrible.  But, as usual, BlackBerry is miles ahead in terms of email.  I have 5 accounts linked to my Blackberry and I love how it gives me instant access to all of them, all of the time.  And, of course, BlackBerry Messenger is brilliant.  Especially as my wife is a BlackBerry user.

Starbucks Card

Unusual little addition here at the end.  The Starbucks Rewards Card.  Whilst I don’t always have money on it (I wish) this little badboy is useful because I can access Starbucks’ Wi-Fi for free because my card is registered with them.  Insanely useful for working effectively on the go.

The Monday Retrospect

What is ‘The Monday Retrospect’?

This is a weekly collection of things that have caught my attention and imagination over the last week.  It is a chance to put into words what I have been doing, thoughts I have been processing, things that are happening.  It’s a bit of a mind dump really.

  • In the last week I have completed another PhD application.  I have applied to Queen’s University Belfast – department of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy.  Again, I am staring down the barrel of a long wait to find out if my application has been successful.
  • That’s two applications done.  Another 3 (maybe 4) to go.
  • As I have already mentioned during the week, I was devastated to hear that new peace walls have been approved for construction in (London)Derry, Northern Ireland.  This is a disappointing piece of news to hear so long after the supposed end to ‘The Troubles’.  I wonder what impact this will have on (London)Derry’s year as UK City of Culture?
  • I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours” – Henry David Thoreau.
  • I’m selling a lot of books through my shop on Amazon.  They are, excuse the pun, flying off the shelves.
  • The guys over at TOWARD Ltd. have launched their new website and it’s beautiful, but further than that, they have some awesome content on there including a great video!  They offer some amazing services to build resilience through behavioural change to both individuals and organisations.  Check ’em out.
  • TED is coming to Belfast in the form of TEDx.  My friend Mark Dowds is one of the speakers.  Mark is the founder of Brainpark, an endurance athlete and general nutter.  Originally hailing from Belfast he nows resides in California (I can’t see the attraction myself).  He is all about democracy in the workplace and will no doubt share some hilarious/fascinating insights.  Follow him on Twitter @markdowdsBuy tickets and massage his ego.

PhD proposals and Peace Walls

Peace Walls in Northern Ireland

I am in the midst of finalising my PhD proposal.  I am proposing research into post conflict governance in Northern Ireland, analysing their chosen system of consociationalism in light of sustainability as a regulator of ethnic and religious conflict.  I will be exploring the viability of the peace process and whether or not the post-conflict management has simply promoted a culture of toleration (a la John Locke) or whether or not it has quelled conflict and promoted national self-determination.

Today, after catching up with some blogs this morning I am greeted with the reality that I will have to update my proposal with some information that, whilst it will undoubtedly strengthen the necessity and originality of my proposal, is saddening.

More peace walls have been proposed and approved for construction in (London)Derry.  I’m in full agreement with Slugger O’Toole‘s writer Turgon (Original Article from Slugger) who has noted that ‘The fact that these peace lines are needed so long after the supposed end of The Troubles is of course a bit depressing.‘  Turgon goes on to say that they are, nonetheless, needed.  Ethnic and religious conflict has not quelled, it has not stopped, and it is, in fact as strong and entrenched as ever.  I’m not sure I would go as far as that – but the fact that this is a sad yet necessary event remains the same.

Constant innovation.

Apple has recently announced the iPad 2.  But, I guess you already knew that unless you’ve been living under a rock.  It truly is a thing of beauty.  Sleek, cool, ingenius and updated.  All this just 9 months after Apple revolutionised the post-PC market with the original iPad.

Apple always seem to do this.  They bring out a great, ground breaking product and a few months later there’s an updated version that you just have to have.  Some people have classified this as arrogant, and on my worst day I would tend to agree.  But on my best days I like to think of Apple as the model business.  Always innovating, always adapting and always perfecting.

I love(d) the iPad, I love the iPad 2 and I love Apple.  They are constantly pushing the barriers of convention, design and performance with great success.  And, whilst I may not always have the capital to be an early (or late!) adopter of their products, I love them and I will continue to be a fan and consumer of Apple products for as long as they keep pushing the boundaries.

So, what say you?  Do Apple innovate too regularly and are they arrogant as a result?  Or, do they innovate to push the boundaries and bring out ground breaking products that people love?

%d bloggers like this: