Monthly Archives: February 2012

Toolbox Essentials Redux

I posted my original Toolbox Essentials post last March – almost a year ago now!  I thought it was time to a little bit of an update.  So, here we go.

Macbook Pro 13″

This one still headlines and dominates the top spot.  Unsurprising really.  This is still, very much, the Apple of my eye.  See what I did there?  I am currently running the most recent version of OS X Lion, and I will update as soon as Mountain Lion is released.  The MBP I am currently using is a different machine to the one I posted about a year ago.  I got a newer model with slightly more RAM, bigger hard drive, faster processor, etc., and Cassie, my long-suffering wife got the hand-me-down.  I would suggest that the situation isn’t too bad for her either.  Same information on this as last time really.  I love the machine.  I love how multi-functional it is whilst being so light and transportable.  I take it everywhere with me.  Work, study, and home.  It is rarely further than 10 paces away from me.  Same complaint/jealously: I’d like a little more screen real-estate at times.  Those times when i’m working on what feels like 563 different documents and PDF’s it would be lovely to not have to be constantly scrolling through endless windows.  However, this is not a major complaint.  Indeed, I chose to stick with the 13″ model because I like the portability of it more than the larger models.  I have 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive.

iPhone 4S

I think really this one should be first on the list.  I love my iPhone.  It’s probably the only phone where I have yet to have a serious and almost irrepressible urge to embed it into the wall.  I could probably run the world from an iPhone if I had to.  One thing, and one thing only, is the battery life.  I think I probably use mine a little bit more than the average person in the course of a regular day, but I need to put my phone on charge during the day for an hour or so if possible, and sometimes again in the evenings – and that is with the brightness at half!  My carrier is Three and I must say they have more than impressed me time and time again.  Apart from the fact that I get unlimited data (thank-you!!) the customer service is great, the reception is better than I have ever experienced and they genuinely value your custom.  I have been with all the major carriers in the UK (Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2) and each one of them, with the exception of Vodafone has managed a screw-up of monumental proportions at some stage.  The long and short of it is, if Three continue with the levels of service I am currently experiencing they will continue to have my business.  I have 7 email accounts linked to my iPhone, 4 twitter accounts and multiple Facebook pages and the iPhone allows me to manage them on the go.

iPhone’s native calendar app could use a little bit of work in my opinion, but there are numerous workarounds, as Apple say ‘There’s an app for that’.  I won’t go into detail about apps etc at the moment.  In fact, I’ll do a separate post on that tomorrow.  But, suffice to say, the iPhone allows me to work, play, conduct business, email, consume media, listen to music and even makes phone-calls.  I have the 16GB Black iPhone 4s.  The camera on this little bad boy is amazing.  Like truly stunning.  Check out my Flickr, all the photos there were taken on either the iPhone 4 (pre-upgrade) or the iPhone 4S (post-upgrade) camera.

iPad 2

My trusty companion.  When I first got an iPad I was in awe, but I wasn’t entirely sure what I would use/need it for, now I can’t imagine not having one.  It truly is a beautiful piece of machinery.  It compensates for the lack of real estate on the MBP as I can use this as a supplement and bring docs/news/papers etc. up and read them off of this.  I consume a lot of news through the iPad and use the Twitter app quite regularly.  It is very useful for when you’re rushing out the door to a meeting or conference and don’t want to bring your laptop, or your not sure if having a laptop would be overkill.  I use my iPad everyday.  Without fail.  I have the 16GB, wi-fi only model and it serves me well.


I bought this briefcase on eBay for not a lot of money – less than £20 and I love it.  I wanted something vintage, old-school and badass and this fits the bill.  Again, like all the items in this list, I use it everyday.  It’s incredibly durable, incredibly spacious and a real lifesaver.  I’ve managed to fit in my laptop and charger, my iPad, 2 notebooks and 10 library books that took it to capacity.  So it’s incredibly helpful for transporting a lot of stuff.  This is necessary for a PhD student.


Yep.  I am a convert.  I’ve been hearing people rant and rave about Moleskins for years now, but I’ve never owned one.  I do love notebooks, I have about 4/5 different ones that I carry around with me at all times for different things/project right now.  However, someone bought me a Moleskin this Christmas and I fell in love.  It truly is a remarkably beautiful notebooks, well crafted, simple and a pleasure to use.  I think I’ll always have at least one of these in active use from now on.  I own a plain-jane, bog standard black one.


I use the standard Apple earphones that came with my iPhone.  Working in an open plan office these are a must.  Riding public transport these are a must.  Sitting in a library these are a must.  You get the picture.  I would like to get some on-ear headphones an upgrade as I don’t really like in-ear earphones.  But, they’re great for now.

Now that I have  all of my Apple devices as you can imagine Apps are a big part of my life.  Tune in tomorrow for a look at what apps I use most, what apps I recommend, and what apps I couldn’t live without.

What can you not live without?  What’s in your toolbox?


A Decade of Centenaries

I doubt this will be the only time this is addressed not only because it is a contentious issue, but also because it is an issue that relates to my PhD studies and to my work with FMPCI.  I had been thinking of posting something about this since about November last year when I started giving the subject some critical attention after attending the Inter-Irish Church Meeting in Edgehill Theological College.  However, credit where credit is due – the reason I am writing about this today is because it was brought to my mind by Peter Stitt (writer at Liberal Meritocracy) after he wrote a very nonchalant piece that mentioned the issue.

First off, let’s not be too trite.  This is a big issue.  It will be a source of contention in Northern Irish politics for the coming decade – of that there is no doubt.  What is up for grabs however is how the contention is managed.  Historically, the Northern Ireland assembly have not been too great at dealing with these sorts of things.

There are a number of issues to consider:

The Political Ramifications

The Alliance party seem to be the only ones dealing with the issue from a holistic perspective at the moment – at least realistically.  Unsurprisingly, and correctly, they want to use the coming decade as an opportunity to bolster economic and cultural development throughout Northern Ireland.  However, Alliance are not coy – they are acutely aware of how tenuous talk of this can be, and with their holding of the Justice ministry being called into question of late, their ability to affect change in a decade such as the one we are in is questionable and hangs in the balance.

There has ben posturing from Sinn Fein and the DUP, and they are making the right sorts of noises, but when push comes to shove are they really angling for a shared future, and a dignified look at the past?  If we are to look in any detail at their publication of Cohesion, Sharing and Integration document (PDF) there seems to be no inherenet plans, or agenda for how exactly they are going to achieve cohesion, sharing or integration.  It’s disappointing that this document, which could have been a signpost to a brighter future has been usurped by niceties, banalities and frivolity.

Everything for the coming decade rests on Politics.  It needs to be right here before it can be right elsewhere.  If there is a lack of clarity about the contentious celebrations (most obviously the Signing of the Ulster Covenant 1912 and the Easter Rising 1916) it could have disastrous social, cultural and future ramifications from which an emerging government like Northern Ireland could find it hard to recover.

Now, am I saying that this will make or break the devolution agreement?  Am I saying this will lead to the resuspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly?  No.  But, what I am saying is, it could add unnecessary weight and strain to a still young government.

The Social Ramifications

This decade has the potential to be commandered by extremists on both sides if it is mismanaged at the political level and it has serious ramifications for the future peace agenda in Northern Ireland if this is the case.  For this not to be the case it will require shrewd political management and innovative grassroots execution.  The Assembly must rely on ground level, community services to deliver these programs contextually and sensitively.

As a community worker myself, I have some cards in play here.  It’s important for the communities in which I work, and indeed, communities across Northern Ireland that this is done right.  An improper celebration of these events could be catastrophic on the ground where most of the tension still exists.

There is no doubt that Northern Ireland has come on leaps and bounds in the last number of years, and I for one hope to see that continue.  However, there is still a lot of ‘unknowing’ and fear on the ground.  No matter how much the Assembly and political parties have come on they simply must take the people with them, otherwise they are not leaders, they are merely innovators.  In 1971  an official Working Group on Peace Walls expressed its concern at the erection of interface barriers, that if they remained then the “abnormal becomes the normal”.  Unfortunately, this has happened.  Peace walls are normal.  Division is normal.  This is a problem for communities in Northern Ireland.  I would like to signpost at this point to a post on Slugger O’Toole highlighting the work of Dr Jonny Byrne who has written extensively and researched peace walls. He notes that division runs deeper than peace walls, indeed, from my own observations I would suggest that there is a bit of an identity crisis brewing beneath the surface in Northern Ireland.

In short, this decade needs to be managed properly at the community level.

The Futurist Ramifications

There seems to be a bit of snowball effect here.  Proper political management cascades into proper community management which will trickle down to a sense of hope and expectancy for the future.  This decade has the opportunity to secure a shared future and I hope it does.

Do you have any thoughts or opinions?

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.

  • First and foremost.  I want to give a massive plug to PandoDaily (@PandoDaily) – this is a new tech/start-up site launched by @SarahCuda (Sarah Lacy previously of TechCrunch).  It gives a fresh and innovative approach to the tech industry.  An immediate hit, I love it!  Subscribe to it, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Diggnation is over.  Sad times.  The last few episodes (heck, all episodes) are worth watching.
  • Hippie Glenn from Diggnation is now offering a new web series called Toasted Donut. It’s been pretty good so far.  It’s short format.  Never any longer than 15 minutes and it fills my Wednesday podcast fix pretty nicely.
  • My next find is an offering of PandoDaily.  Why Isn’t This News?  This is a new podcast from Sarah Lacy (@SarahCuda founder of @PandoDaily) and Paul Carr (@PaulCarr founder of NSFW Corp @NSFWHQ) and they talk about their past week as new founders of burgeoning new media behemoths!  I love it.  It’s raw, honest, and witty.  Unfortunately, there is no easy way to view all the WITN videos on the PandoDaily website through categorising, but you can view the latest episode here.
  • Seth Godin offers his new manifesto on the meaning of education.  I’ve just had a glance so far, but I look forward to seriously engaging with it.  It seems provocative and thoughtful.
  • I’m still waist deep in the throes of PhD research.  I’m currently trying to arrange interviews for my qualitative research.  I’m hoping to interview some MLA’s and Executive members in Northern Ireland about how the Program for Government advances, if it does at all, an agenda for reconciliation and integration.  Any thoughts?
  • I’m also trying to put together a few abstracts for submission to various conferences.  This is proving challenging at present.  I’ve got a pretty busy schedule at the moment and I’m trying to consider when I can even get time to write the full papers if the abstract is accepted. I guess I’ll just have to make time.
  • It is not the literal past, the ‘facts’ of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language. – Brian Friel
  • I went to see the play Uncle Vanya in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in the past week.  It was truly excellent.  I haven’t been to the theatre in quite some time and I forgot how enjoyable it was.  Need to go more often.
  • New app that I am toying around with lately: Smartr Contacts.  I don’t know if I’ll ever fully switch from Apple’s native contacts client, but I kind of like it for now.
  • I love this website.  DesireToInspire has so any great pictures of houses I drool over.

That’s it for this week.  Tune in next week for more.  Oh, and, what’s going on with you?

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