Season’s greetings from renaissance chambara

Season's greetings from renaissance chambara

Have a happy and peaceful holiday season and start to the new year

Christmas speech by President Mary McAleese


Thanks to the Irish Emmigrant for the Christmas message from President Mary McAleese in both Gaelic and English.

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Beannachtai na Nollag on Uachtaran Maire Mhic Ghiolla Iosa

Guim Nollaig mhor mhaith agus athbhliain faoi mhaise ar gach duine.

Agus me ag tosu amach ar threimhse ur mar Uachtaran is mor an phibhleid dom beannachtai na Nollag agus na bliana nua a ghui ar theaghlach na nGael agus ar chairde na hEireann sa bhaile agus thar saile.

Bliain ar leith i saol na hEireann a bhi ann anuraidh, nuair a bhi se d’onoir againn failte a fhearadh roimh deich ballstat ura in Aontas meadaithe na hEorpa. Anois ta cuig stat is fiche againn ag taisteal le cheile ar bhealach na siochana agus an ratha. Le blianta beaga anuas ta cur amach nios mo ag muintir na hEireann ar shiochain agus ar rath na mar a bhi riamh roimhe seo. Naisiun faoi mhaise agus faoi bhlath ata againn, idir eacnamaiocht agus chultur; naisiun og ata ag forbairt go trean, il-chulturtha agus lan dochais. Is e an bhunchloch a bhfuil ar sochai chasmhar togtha air na na grupai pobail deonacha ata fuinniuil agus briomhar ar fud na tire. Is daoine muid a bhfuil an comhbha agus an tuiscint doibh siud ar an ghannchuid go smior ionainn.

Ag an am seo den bhliain, agus cuid mhor againn ag baint tairbhe as an rath agus an raidhse, cuimhnimid orthu siud a bhfuil an lamh chuidithe de dhith orthu le dul i ngleic leis an saol mar is ceart, agus tugaimid an cuidiu agus an cairdeas sin doibh.

Ta muid go mor faoi chomaoin acu siud ata ag obair ar son na siochana ar an oilean seo, agus a bhfuil moran bainte amach acu cheana fein. Siochain agus dea-thoil ata i dteachtaireacht na Nollag le dha mhile bliain. Is e mo ghui go ndeanfar beart de reir an bhriathair sin, go hairithe ag an staid chruogach seo de Phroiseas na Siochana. Go raibh se d’achmhainn againn teacht ar an mhuinin agus ar an chreideamh ata riachtanach chun an cneasu agus an athmhuintearas a thabhairt i gcrich.

Guim dea-chroi ar gach aon duine agaibh agus gra le tabhairt agus le glacadh. Oraibhse ata thios ag am seo na Nollag guim sos on bhroid, misneach agus tacaiocht cairde. Ta me cinnte go mbeidh Santa Claus fial flaithiuil lenar gcuid daoine oga, agus go mbeidh siad sin fial flaithiuil lena cheile chomh maith. Nach e sin croilar na Feile seo, go simpli – a bheith go maith da cheile agus an mor-chroi a chur in ait na feinspeise. Bhi clu agus cail riamh ar mhuintir na hEireann as croi na feile. Coinnimid an traidisiun sin beo um Nollaig, agus cuirimid siochain bhuan agus dea-thoil i reim – lochrann geal dochais i lar an leatroim.

Maire Mhic Ghiolla Iosa

Uachtaran na hEireann

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Christmas Greetings from President Mary McAleese

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all.

As I begin a new term of office, it is my special privilege to extend heartfelt Christmas and New Year greetings to the great Irish family at home and abroad and to all Ireland’s friends.

The past year was an exceptional one in Ireland when history placed us at the centre of the enlargement of the European Union, as hosts of that wonderful Day of Welcomes for the ten new member states. Now the citizens of the twenty-five partner states set out on a shared journey to a peaceful and prosperous future. And we in Ireland know more about peace and prosperity today than at any time in our past. This is a successful and achieving nation with a thriving economy and a vibrant culture. It is a growing nation, young, multicultural, a place of opportunity and real hope. The backbone of our strong civic society is and has always been a unique tradition of robust, energetic, caring communities built and sustained by voluntary effort. We are a people whose innate decency has inspired us always to look out for one another and to work to make sure no-one is left out or left behind.

This Christmas as many of us enjoy the benefits of our remarkable progress let us renew our commitment to one another and especially to those who are still struggling and for whom a helping hand could make the difference between enduring life and enjoying life in all its fullness. We owe a lot to those who continue to build peace on this island and whose efforts have transformed hearts and minds. The central message of Christmas has for two thousand years been a message of peace and goodwill to all humankind and so it is my fervent prayer that reflecting deeply on that message at this crucial time in the Peace Process, we may find the trust and the faith to complete this journey of healing and reconciliation.

I wish for each one of you a season of hospitality and of love both given and received. For those carrying burdens that threaten to overwhelm the joy of this season I hope that with courage and the support of friends you will find a space to let happiness in. I have no doubt that Santa Claus will be good to our marvellous children and that they in turn will be good to each other. And isn’t that the simple essence of this great Feast, the exhortation to be good to one another, to fill the world with generosity instead of greed. The Irish have a legendary capacity for generosity – may each of us wherever we are honour that tradition this Christmastide and make it a time of lasting peace and goodwill, a beacon of hope in a very unequal world.

Mary McAleese

President of Ireland

Feeding a customer a line – the use of numbers to deceive in technology marketing

When you buy a PC there is often a list of numbers, with clock speed (number of cycles per second of the processor) displayed prominently. Many people followed this slavishly, when what really matters is real world performance. Because different chips work in different ways you could have the same performance out of a different chip running at half the speed of the latest Intel chip. The numbers are often meaningless, but provide salespeople and the amateur hour ‘expert’ of the neighbourhood with a reassuring pattter.

As technology has become more pervasive so has the spread of ‘technical’ specifications in product marketing. The New York Times has a great article about a man going out ot purchase a new television set here which shows the uselessness of ‘speeds and feeds’. Note: the article cites the example of the Pentium 4 as specmanship, but chip speed had been used in error for years to claim a performance advantage of PCs over Macs.

As marketers, while technology companies stick to speeds and feeds they are forcing themselves into a commodity business. Does Proctor & Gamble publish washes whiter figures? No, despite some cleaner messages in their ads and marketing material it is emotional values, such as if you use Persil – you’re a good Mum.If you want to buy electronic goods I thought that the following advice would be good:

  • Write down what you need and stick to it
  • Do your home work, you don’t have to subscribe to Which? now. Have a look at customer reviews on Amazon, epinions etc
  • When you find a product name and model number, search for it on Google groups to read feedback
  • Accept that as soon as you purchase your product a newer and better model will come out
  • Don’t be too afraid of own brands, most consumer electtronics are made for well known brands by anonymous companies in Asia with the key components made by only a few suppliers. This has been going on for years.

Putting the faith back into the mailman and a Japanese retail gem

The other day I had to go to the Royal Mail sorting office around the corner from my house to pick up a package. I showed my credit card as proof of signature and identity. I then went about my business, later that day before meeting some friends for a spot of networking. I realised my wallet was missing, having watched all the consumer watchdog programmes I immediately realised that some organised crime syndicate could be siphoning my coffers and running up my credit card bill. I immediately cancelled my cards, but thankfully no activity had taken place. I was more worried about getting my wallet back, as it was a limited edition black leather sports wallet by Stussy, which also had considerable sentimental value.

I retraced my steps but to no avail. I gott back home to find a package posted through my door: my wallet with all the cash and the now void cards. We see so much criticism of the Royal Mail, if you read some of the quality tabloids you would think it was staffed by the Cosa Nostra. I thought that I would write this positive story up for a change, nice one Bow sorting office!

Being a media-type I frequent Brewer Street in Soho a fair bit, I recently found a bit of a retail gem there. Arigato is a Japanese grocery store at 48-50 Brewer Street which has a fantastic selection of sushi, Miso soup pastes and sauces; all with too-cool-for-school packaging design. Here is a map.

Pirate Christmas party part four

Pirate Christmas party part four

Picture courtesy of Alex Crawshaw

Ged Carroll and Kate Bonner desperately try and ignore the high-speed
rhinestone tassles of the belly dancer whizzing past the back of their
heads, in the vain hope that she will not ask them up to dance as the
circulation below their knees had disappeared. You have no idea how
interesting a chick pea casserole can become.

Pirate Christmas party part three

Pirate Christmas party part three

Managing director David Pincott, ignores the actions of the Christ
action figure and tries to banish his flu with the hookah.

Pirate Christmas party part two

Pirate Christmas party part two

Picture courtesy of Alex Crawshaw

Not content with the miracle of converting the previously heathen Alex
Crawshaw to the true way, the Christ action figure surprised veteran
pirate Kate Bonner by combating the evil habit of hookah smoking in a
battle royale that Godzilla would have been proud of. All allegations
that Ed Parkin had laced the smoking coal with Moroccan black is
strongly denied.

Pirate Christmas party part one

Pirate Christmas party part one

Pictures courtesy of Alex Crawshaw

After a hard day in the office, Pirate descended on Souk the Moroccan
restaurant in Litchfield Street for their Christmas party. This picture
features Alex Crawshaw after he got a Christ action figure in his life.
The contents of the pipe did NOT contribute to his new-found religious
zeal. A flu-ridden proprietor looks on in awe at the apparent change.

When The Last Sword Is Drawn

When The Last Sword Is Drawn

I was too hasty in drawing up my top ten of 2004, for I had not seen this film yet. When The Last Sword Is Drawn is a classic chambara (samurai sword-play) movie. It tells the complex story of a samurai, who unable to support his family on his meagre income as a school teacher and fencing master, turns his back on his clan and leaves to find work in Kyoto. Once in Kyoto he becomes embroiled in the battle between the declining Takagawa Shogunate and the Imperial Royal Family during the 19th century. Whilst the film does contain a lot of violence, it is used as a backdrop to the humanity of the main character and battles he faces between providing for his family and doing the honorable thing.

The plot is told through the recollections of others and finishes with the samurai’s youngest daughter getting ready to leave Japan with her husband and set up a doctor’s surgery in Manchuria (China).

Well worth a watch, the film is currently on limited release at the cinema, I saw it at the Odeon on Wardour Street.

How to win pitches and influence people

Pete Gill of The Survey Shop sent through part four of their research into the market for PR agency services in the UK called Winners metrics and how to win more pitches.

Interesting take-outs include:The five important elements to ensure that an agency is long listed for consideration were:

 

  • Reputation
  • Relevant previous experience
  • Getting to meet or know someone on the clientside
  • Being local
  • Having an understanding of the clients particular requirements

Getting shortlisted boiled down to:

 

  • Having impressive and well presented credentials
  • Relevant sector experience
  • Expertise
  • Proven track record
  • Being local
  • Contrary to popular wisdom in agency, when an incumbent is asked to repitch, the clients think that they have a fighting chance of retaining the business
  • Almost 80 per cent of winning agencies had at least one pre-pitch meeting with the client
  • A winning pitch team almost always had between two and four people in it, though this would not be full account team
  • Over 70 per cent of winning teams wheeled in the managing director or CEO to the pitch
  • Over 60 per cent of winning teams did not improve on the clients brief to them

Winning pitches had the following common elements:

 

  • Confidence in their ideas
  • Conveying that winning the account was of personal importance to them
  • Conveying the impression that their would be an efficient team to work with
  • Strategic thinking
  • Quality of the ideas presented
  • Developing a rapport
  • Responding to questions
  • Filling the detail on how they would acheive success
  • Asking questions
  • Previous sector expertise

The most important attributes to get across are confidence, commitment and efficiency. The traditional PR preconceptions of them being nice people or fun to do business with did not have a marked part of their responses, or maybe marketers just would not admit that wanting to be seen as professionals.

 

Money talks kind of: winning agencies fees were average for the shortlist rather than the cheapest.

 

I am looking forward to the next two parts of the research Client Perceptions, ROI, Evaluation and Achieving Satisfaction: Inhouse, Outsourced or Both?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond EyeToy


EyeToy is Sony Computer Entertainment’s highly successfully camera based gaming. A web cam-type device hooks into your PlayStaton and the software in compatible games monitors your movements in front of the camera and responds to them. Gaming has been opened up to the rest of us with so-so eye-joystick coordination.

Wild Devine have taken the concept of user interaction one step further, using biofeedback sensors on the fingers to control their game Journey to Wild Devine. So if you can meditate, you can play. If you can’t, practice with the game will help you learn hw to meditate. Sounds very new age and would have been a big hit in the chillout rooms at raves in the early 1990s, but I think Wild Devine has the potential to take off. There is a Quicktime advert here that explains it all.

Phantom of the opera


I was fortunate to get a free ticket to see the Phantom of the opera at the Odeon Leicester Square. It is not the usual kind of film that I would go to see, which made the whole process that much more interesting. The film itself was visually stunning, beautifully shot with rich sets, costumes and visual trickery. The plot was held together by the flashbacks of a decrepid hero to his youth, rather than telling the story straight; and wasn’t any better for it. It was refreshing to see soap starlet Jennifer Ellison with her clothes on for a change.

Webber’s score doesn’t weather the years that well, parts of it sounding like listening to Queen as their most pompous whilst tripping your box off on some bad acid. I managed to to catch the old MGM standard Seven Brides for Seven Brothers whilst on the treadmill at the gym, which proved to be a useful comparison during that dead slot in TV scheduling.

With Phantom almost all the dialogue was song, the old MGM musicals kept the music interspersed with dialogue, but not our Andrew. When I left the cinema they were filming audience testamonials of the film, so expect a big marketing push and the film lingering at the multiplex for quite some time.

Overall it was a worthwhile experience, more so if you could turn the sound down, but if I had only 20GBP and had to chose between Phantom and the Layer Cake on DVD, the Phantom is going down.

Chatterbox

Chatterbox

Picture courtesy of Motorola

The San Jose Mercury has an interesting article on the ‘new’ addition of mobile chat for young people facilitated by the Motorola A630 phone pictured. This provides a mini keyboard and phone all in one. Despite initial appearances the phone does not have anyway near as much features as a Treo or Symbian smartphone such as calendar or data organisation.The information about the price plan is also interesting, by using even a cheap but well designed phone, the cellular service provider can increase the revenue spend of the customer by an extra 240USD per year. In Europe, young mobile users have adopted these technologies already without being ‘spoon fed’ with a QWERTY keyboard, partily due to the longer term popularity of SMS.

T-Mobile charges 4.99USD a month for unlimited access to e-mail and WAP browsing. There’s a separate plan for short text messages and IM: 2.99USD a month for 20 messages, or 6.99USD a month for 100 messages, with each IM sent and received counting as one message. There’s also an option for unlimited e-mail, WAP and text/IM messaging at 20USD a month. Any of these plans come on top of whatever voice plan you select.

Top Ten Films of 2k4

In homage to my friend Jonny’s blog here’s my top ten films of 2004 in no particular order:

You may think that there were better films in 2004, but I didn’t see them so they can’t be.