A quick few paragraphs on a topic that came up this morning, on the correct way to address me, and what’s acceptable to me. It’s something that comes up once in a while and as with all things of this nature, I’ll think furiously about it for a bit as if I’m explaining it to someone, and then I’ll forget about it until the next time it comes up. Today it came up in a Twitter room (or channel, or group chat) and I thought, I’ll write about it. Why not, it’s a workout for writing prose of some description. And thanks to Friney for inspiring this!

My name is Kevin. If you’re here reading this, you surely know that much about me. But how you address me, that depends on how you know me, and when you first got to know me, and how you work with people’s names (which is a whole world of factors of itself). If you know me well or for a long time, I’m invariably ‘Kev’ to you. Neither you nor I think any more of it. That’s what you call me. If you’re from my family, this might even be ‘Keff’, thanks to quirks of Dutch pronunciation. If you know me from college or from certain periods of my professional life, I may be ‘KT’ to you. That’s highly specific, and I think something that evolved organically without much input from me. I’m okay with it, our social history is what it is, like growth rings in a tree.

My name is Kevin, but I identified myself to people as ‘Kev’ for a number of years. I’m not sure why but maybe I felt it was more informal, cooler, briefer; I’m not entirely sure. An effect of that is that across the Internet my user handle is still ‘kevteljeur’ as a side-effect of that, which has a knock-on effect that I’ll get to. However, some years ago I decided that I was an adult (your mileage, as they say, may vary on that point), and I should formally identify on first contact as ‘Kevin’. That’s my full and correct name, and that’s how people should learn to identify me. The informal can come later, depending on how our relationship develops and how they and I feel about it. But if know each other and I’m well-disposed to you in an informal way, ‘Kev’ is fine.

My name is Kevin, but how do we know when it’s ok to call me one or the other? I found my delimiter on the bus service from the office where I work (or did work, since I’m now entirely working from home, and in any event the bus service – run for the office, not a public service – was pushed to become uneconomical for its users as a prelude to cutting it) when one of the drivers, a man who occasionally filled in for the regular drivers, made a point of addressing users by the informal version of their name. I made a point of correcting him since I didn’t know him, and he had pointedly referred to me as ‘Kev’, in spite of what was on the list in front of him. Is that petty? I don’t think so. I’ve run into variations of this, and I think that each iteration has made me harder on this. In 2015 I had to get house insurance as part of buying a house (haha, now there’s a story that needs telling! Well, after the divorce goes through, if indeed it ever does; you’d be amazed at how long it takes a property conveyancing solicitor to write a draft divorce agreement.) and the young man at one point called me ‘Kev’, and got flustered after I corrected him, but it really should be a first principle of sales to not be informal with your customer unless either invited to do so, or if it is part of your act, in which case your brazen approach is your sales technique. And a few short years before that, a man doing door-to-door utility switching sales (it was either gas or electricity) who was very cool and dynamic, called me ‘dude’, and I had a moment, in which I realised that time had moved on, I had matured, and no-one trying to sell me anything could be so familiar with me as to call me dude, especially standing in the door of my home, with his sales materials in his messenger bag.

Side note: A few years ago I bought a Mazda 6 in the UK, in Wakefield. The salesman in the dealership referred to me (as I think he did everyone) as ‘pal’, which I thought was a regional mannerism. I accepted it. Does that make me inconsistent? Maybe. A hypocrite? Possibly. I don’t know if I would accept that now.

My name is Kevin, and these days most people use that as their starting point. However, if my handle is your starting point for knowing me,
you could assume (as many people do on social media) that ‘Kev’ is fine. And as it happens, mostly that is with people I interact with frequently,
that I feel comfortable with. And some people are given to contracting people’s names. Not just; I have a friend who is given to contracting
people’s names, and adding ‘ee’ to the end (a little like how in Australia, everyone becomes their contracted name, with ‘o’ at the end; I’m ‘Kevvo’ there, and to be honest, there it will stay). So if we’re good and comfortable with each other, and we’re relaxed and getting on well (not always easy to judge, but when you know, you know), then I’m fine with being ‘Kev’ for you. I like when people ask, and that reflects well on them and their consideration of the people around them, but often when we’re all getting along well enough to do that then we’re already there.

So, there it is, I managed one poorly-written but intriguingly structured post, wherein I covered a number of topics, I had the full and earnest intention of doing another (hopefully somewhat better) post the following Friday, and of course there was no post. None more posts happened. Now, there was a surprisingly good reason for that, which is that I got my fibre broadband, which was great, and then I had to connect it to my own Synology router (I believe in accessing my Internet primarily through my own hardware, and using the supplied modem/router as just a modem), a product that I recommend at this point, it has some fantastic features. This was fine in theory, and it had worked well with the Virgin Media cable modem, but… It didn’t quite work with the fibre broadband modem/router. It was odd and unreliable, and definitely not fast (it looked like a DNS problem). So I spent last Friday trying everything, and eventually reinstalled the Synology router completely, and it worked and everything was wonderful and fast, and it was late and I was tired and I didn’t write anything. It’s not an excuse (even if it looks a lot like one), it’s a reason.

The upshot of all of this was that everything works, and this is good. However, the part that I had left out in all of this is that I need to get Ethernet cables to connect everything. I bought a new router (as mentioned), and also a new set of powerline adapters (to use the electrical circuits of the house itself as network cabling), and some Ethernet cables, fast new ones. A quick note about Ethernet cables: The older ones tend to be Cat. 5e, and newer ones, Cat. 6. The difference between them at home isn’t huge (they support Gigabit data transfer speeds) but still, it helps to get the best cable possible. A good explainer of what Ethernet cables are and the differences between them with some easy to follow history can be found here, at tomsguide.com. The entry point for the new Internet connection is in a very different place to the cable jack, so it made sense to rethink the location of the modem and router, while avoiding leaving them right beside the new fibre access point, and the answer would be to run new cables between the various points. I identified the required lengths. In fact, why not choose colours to identify them by purpose? And I would need some of it in white, to run along the skirting boards and be less intrusive.

I checked my usual sites, elara.ie and farnell.com, with Amazon as a fallback in case, and searched for Irish sites which could ship cable (I try to buy locally and avoid Amazon where possible). I found cables.ie, and it had all the cables I was looking for! All of it, and a reasonable shipping fee! Great, so after measuring a few times, a bit planning and dithering, I placed an order. And promptly realised that the basket hadn’t updated some of the amounts before I ordered, and so I got in touch with the site to ask about changing the order. Nothing. I called. A voicemail. I started to get suspicious after a few days, and did what I should have done in the first place, which was to check the likes of Trustpilot, and… Indeed, I should have checked. Not a good place to order anything. I think that I’ll have to accept that with the enthusiastic help from Bank of Ireland’s credit card department, the money is gone. It’s not a lot, I’m just annoyed that I got played. The website really does look convincing! It’s clear, well laid-out, it’s how an online cable store should look!

Ultimately, I got some of the cables I needed from Elara (a bonafide Irish site, and I do recommend them) and then I realised, that if you need something technical, where else would you get it other than Germany. And of course, there is a German site where you can get all of the cables, whatever you’re looking for, all sizes and specifications, of good and consistent quality, at very competitive prices, shipped efficiently. Of course there is, and it is reichelt.com, and they had all of the cables, and shipped them efficiently, and they were delivered promptly. So that, at least, was good. The problem is that now I’m obsessed with Ethernet cables, and of getting all the types and considering all the possibilities of these cables, and I really don’t need to. I just need to connect the boxes and the devices, get some cable ties, and label the cables. You know, it would be great to get some Cat. 6A cable though, in magenta, a colour to indicate how fast that cable is, how well-shielded. Just a bit more cable.

I wrote this last night, with the intention of posting today after a quick proof-read to intervene with my worst mistakes, and in between, cables.ie apparently shipped my cables, from Galway. I have yet to see the goods, they are not with me yet, and it’s still a shoddy, poorly-executed operation.

Addendum: The cables arrived, apparently having come from Germany, Chinese-made, and packed on Monday. I can’t fault them, they’re exactly what I originally wanted, but via a terrible, broken service. It is an almost entirely automated and slow service, which is actually worse than no service at all.

My order, still in progress, even as it sits at the bottom of my stairs in a box.

I said that I would write something, and that is what I didn’t do. The circumstances were a little complicated, and it wasn’t as easy as it might seem at first, but I tried and I got there. Now, if you’ve been following this blog, or my efforts at writing, you’ll know that this is something I’ve struggled with, but dearly want to devote time and energy to, writing and playing with words. I read little, not nearly enough, and that would help me learn about the art of writing. You’re never too old to learn from observation and practice, and I’m never too old for anything. I did not write last week.

I said that I would write an email, and that is what I did. The circumstances were a little complicated, and it wasn’t as straightforward as it might seem at first, but I tried and I got there. Now, if you know the story about why I needed to write an email and what it was for, then this won’t be a very interesting story, because you’ll know the bones of it and that’s really all there is to the story. I wrote an email, and in my hubris I thought that it was a good one, but hubris blinds you like staring into the sun, and that is exactly what happened to me. No amount of flowery language or exposition or context can ever hold a candle to getting to the point, especially if, as I quickly discovered, your audience doesn’t appreciate it nearly as much as you do.

I was writing to the GAA club where my kid does training once a week, and the context was that I was in my car with my child, waiting to leave in the queue of cars, and the man organising the timely and efficient departure of everyone was standing by our car screaming at me, while I was trying to explain that I didn’t want to run over the woman trying to cross in front of my car on the pedestrian crossing. He continued to scream after that because I didn’t try to ram into back of a reversing SUV a minute later. He was screaming at everyone else too, so I didn’t feel singled out; it was democratic, at least. And there it is. I needed to speak to manager of volatile screaming carpark grandad. I think the lesson there is that brevity isn’t just the soul of wit, brevity is just more brief generally and people appreciate that. tl;dr: get to the point. The email did not hit home.

I said that I would get my fibre broadband, and that is what I did. The circumstances were a little complicated, and it wasn’t as easy as it might seem at first, but I tried and I got there. Now, if you know about me and my efforts at getting broadband, it’s not much of a story, but it has certainly dragged on for a while. Last year I decided that I should get fibre instead of cable broadband, the reports about fibre performance were good but the details were a little murky, and as it transpired, switching broadband provider (from Virgin Media) is not the same protected process as switching any other utility (and as it should be). I ordered new broadband, and after an interminable wait on the line got into a fight with the ‘saver’ who did everything he could to discourage me, primarily by being obnoxious. It worked, I abandoned my switch to try and figure out a new plan, and time slid by.

I came back to it recently due to the decreasing performance of Virgin Media, and the discovery that you can end your service in writing, so I ordered fibre from Pure Telecom, which looked like a better bet than the Big Three (and so far, I am finding that it was a good bet). In fact, I discovered accidentally that Virgin Media had a web form for disconnecting, which they took down immediately after I used it. An interesting approach. I then had to follow it up on Twitter to make sure that they weren’t going to ignore it. In the meantime, I proceeded to not get fibre broadband, until I had made a number of calls to explain why it had not been installed on the first attempt which eventually resulted in the fibre connection being installed. I was interested in how it was done (it is true ‘fibre to the home’) and who was doing it (a private consortium), and the mechanics of it, not being a ‘hardware person’, and knowing only a bit about networking technology. I have to say, it is astonishingly fast. It did not disappoint.

I said that I would get divorced, and that is what I did not do. The circumstances are a little complicated, and it isn’t as easy as it might seem at first, but I continue to try and I will surely get there. Now, if you know about the story of me trying to get divorced, it hasn’t been very dramatic lately, but it has certainly been in the background almost all of the time. I can’t write what I’d like to write about it because it’s an ongoing process with real and serious consequences for making mistakes (including writing about it), and if I thought that I get get off the leash on this topic I’d write and write and write, but there it is, a divorce is a serious business, and by the look of it, it’s going to continue being serious well into next year, and possibly the year after. Never have three pages of short words proven so difficult to get agreement on. I can only surmise that not everyone is in as much of a hurry to move on as they were a year ago. It’s not something that I understand.

I said that I would stop going to football, and that is what I did. The circumstances were a little complicated, and it wasn’t as straightforward as it might seem at first, but I put my shoulder to it and ended my participation. Now, if you’re familiar with me and my going to football, you’ll know that it’s something that’s been a while time coming. Friday Night Football (ostensibly a game of five-a-side in Ringsend, Dublin) has been a constant fixture in my life for almost two decades now, with a number of the same people involved for most of that time, until the past two years when, thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we stopped for periods of time as the sports complex was closed. I’ve had breaks inbetween caused by my now ex-wife demanding that I clean the house thoroughly on Friday nights after coming home from work, no matter what time I came back at, so I couldn’t go to football on Friday night, and then I had to make excuses for why I couldn’t make it and then eventually bail out altogether (thankfully, I got no sympathy, so if you think normalising spousal control at home is a problem only for women, think again! Men can be all alone in this too.). Luckily the relationship broke down in 2015 and I was able to start going to football again.

The Pandemic did make me reassess all sorts of things, however, and particularly the time I spend around other people, and my tolerance not so much for other people, but how other people made me feel; because the interactions we have with other people and what we take away from those experiences are what matters, not with who or what other people are. Friday Night Football was in some ways a complex dynamic; a group of people from which between eight and twelve would turn up to play, organised with furious energy over WhatsApp and with a Google Sheets spreadsheet every week, a renewal every quarter year, various personalities and to some degree varying personal objectives or views on how things should work. And the game itself, which I described last week as “as a having a hobby where I spend forty five minutes driving out to somewhere where I’ll be stuffed into a barrel and rolled down a bumpy hill for fifty minutes while intermittently getting kicked”, which is uncharitable and also frequently entirely accurate. I’m not very good at football, nor will I ever be. It can be both joyous and intensely frustrating, both a wonderful way to get exercise and physically risky with the potential for injury, but there’s always the chance for being involved in a great set-piece or a good move that delivers the emotional high. It also has the same pitfall as gambling, that you chase the good feelings of success, and you will tolerate a lot of the other, more frequent, negative feelings to get that high again.

Ultimately, if it stops being about the people (because that was always an element) then it has to be about the experience on the pitch, and if that doesn’t hold up, then what’s the physical pain, the frustration, the eighty minutes or so of driving on a Friday evening really about? That’s up to forty five minutes to get in from the outskirts of the city, usually less (rarely more) of driving in maddeningly slow peak time city traffic, which can be hard going (especially if it is wet; that attracts snails, slugs, and terrible drivers), and requires leaving the house at the right time. The pain the next morning from impacts, bruises, and the aches of age. It really has to be worth it. For me, it has been decreasingly less worth it in recent years, and I only really stuck out the last quarter season because the organisation process had dropped from three weeks notice for renewal to three days, and having decided to swallow that cost to avoid causing trouble, I wanted to get my money’s worth. But even that grace period has run its course. I will not be joining again soon.

I said that tonight, I would write something. Anything. I would overcome the writer’s block from the past… how long? I don’t know. A few months? No, more. Many months? Oh no, much more. A year and a half, like a Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate bar made of time, regret, missed opportunities, and the bitter but exciting cacao of mild adventure. I want to make this the new habit, an hour every Friday night of writing. Now, I did thwart myself somewhat this evening by promptly going to the shops and spending several hours buying an awful lot of food that I don’t really need. I needed tissues, cheese, and some ‘yellow food’, which is to say food that spends most of its existence in a freezer, and which a nutritionist would describe as ‘out of scope of their area of interest’.

Normally on a Friday I would have other things to do, and generally that’s a single thing, a thing that I would describe as a having a hobby where I spend forty five minutes driving out to somewhere where I’ll be stuffed into a barrel and rolled down a bumpy hill for fifty minutes while intermittently getting kicked. If you’re not sold on that idea, then there’s something wrong with you, because I’ve been doing this for years and apart from often promising myself to stop doing it forever, I’ve kept at it because the buzz of when it does work out is really quite acceptable. Gambling hours of my Friday night on the chance of an Endorphin hit.

So there it is, that’s why I’m writing again. I got straight into it, I didn’t first redesign the website first for several days like I usually do, I got straight into articulating excuses and burning my bridges. So that’s a welcome bit of growth over the past couple of years. Hopefully I’ll follow up with some searing commentary about my divorce, or getting up early, or life in a post-pandemic world.

Big Sunday Expedition

Big three hour hike down the Tolka, into Finglas (technically) and then back again. It’s an amazing mucky, hidden treasure, although not without its perils. At this point we ran into some scrambler riders, determined to blast across the stream. They did not. The first one got halfway across, got stuck, and fell over into […]

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I was going to tweet this nugget of meta, but I realised that, somewhat recursively, it would make something to write about in itself. I’ve actually written quite a bit this year compared to previously, driven I think mainly by photos with added narrative. If you’re kicking off blogging or getting back to it, it’s something to keep in mind – writing what you’d otherwise consign to a ‘Story’, using the photos to inspire narrative. I have something to write about that, the ‘Stories’, in my head, but that’s for another day.

If you’re reading this then you’re at least somewhat aware of my blog, the site that you’re reading this on right now, and you know that I after many years of hardly writing anything I suddenly came back to this playpen and set about two massive posts about dating and dating apps, and a whole pile of small waffly bits and photos. I wonder sometimes if those pieces (and an earlier one which was about autism, or not) have intimidated me into not attempting another of that scale, or if it’s just the effort involved and perhaps I’m lazy. I’m not shy of ideas (well, for topics; writing something interesting, witty, and amusing is a whole other problem. But I think it would come to me with my usual process.).

Anyway, that’s my meta. I should start chipping away again and deliver something that people would like to read that isn’t about bread or clamped lampposts.

Last Friday, which feels like… Well, I was going to write ‘a week ago’ and that’s pretty close to being true, but actually it feels like much more. Every week that passes feels both like more and less at the same time right now.

Anyway, the morning walks are still a highlight (no, it’s not always like that; this morning, for example, it was grey, wet, and miserable, but without the commitment to truly bad weather), no matter what the weather. If the current situation of having to stay at home is a lot for you, I can recommend a morning walk, not for the exercise, but just for the routine of getting out. It’s good to get out for yourself, if even a little bit.

I know, another sunrise. We take the vistas where and when we can get them. The second image is a tree full of Long-tailed Tits, although I don’t know if you can make them out. They’re tiny. They move from tree to tree in a cloud of endless excitable chirping and twittering, it’s amazing and very joyful to hear. This is only the second time that I’ve ever seen them, and there’s every chance that it’s the same flock as before.

I’m still getting the hang of this new bird photography technique; my problem at the moment is getting the shutter speed, depth of field and angle right. Obviously, since it is by remote, I have to plan it ahead. Birds being birds, they’re never quite where you want them to be for a photo, and some – but not all – species get frightened by the shutter, so they scarper as soon as they hear something.

A Chaffinch
A Robin

So that’s why the remote images are not so sharp. I had this suspicion that perhaps my lens needs calibrating, but other things are sharp, so it probably means that my shutter speed is too low for the rapid movements of birds, or the point of focus isn’t quite where it needs to be in any given photo relative to the subject (the bird in the photo).

I got a new remote for my camera, so that I can operate it from a distance, from any angle. It also means that I can get the camera right up to the birds, and from interesting angles. I’m still figuring out what works; for example, the shutter noise bothers some birds. Magpies don’t like that the camera is there at all (no bad thing – they’ll probably try to steal it).

At last, a photo of a Dunnock. Next up, I’ll try and get a photo of squabbling Goldfinches.

The cheap remote. It sits on top of the camera.