How to Be a Better You

9 Feb

Let’s face it, you suck. Or at least that’s what a lot of people out there in the self-improvement industry would like you to think. Here’s my look at the latest diets, exercises and other fads that promise to help you be all you can be.

MINDFULNESS

You might have heard of Mindfulness. It’s already popular with a lot of famous celebs. And Goldie Hawn.
A key principle is to focus on the task at hand and stop worrying about the future. It is the kind of Buddhism you can practise without other people sniggering at you for being a hippy. There are two sides to Mindfulness. The first is the mindful person, who takes eight self-obsessed hours to wash the dishes. The other side is his family and friends, who have to pick up the pieces because Mr Mindful forgot to pay the gas bill. As the Buddha himself might have said “Someone has to do the worrying. Just make sure it isn’t you.”
Another key principle is to avoid being judgmental. You can see how this might be popular with people who offer Mindfulness courses. Particularly because in some cases they are charging people hundreds of euro and then essentially telling them to chill out. You don’t want people rushing to judgment on that one. At least until you are well out of the hotel and back on the motorway towards your big gold house.
There is a never ending stream of people who will pay good money to hear they are doing it all wrong. Here’s your choice. You can be one of the 20 people sitting in the audience in your local hotel. Or you can be the woman they’re listening to. If you have chosen the former, then our agents are standing by to take your credit card details. If it’s the latter, well done. You understand what Mindfulness really has to offer. The only drawback is that it has been around now for a few years. A true guru will need to give it an upgrade. We recommend Double Mindfulness. It’s where you are truly present in two places at the one time. If nothing else it should be popular with parents of young kids.

SUPERFOODS

You’re never going to make it without superfoods. Let’s start with a definition. A superfood is anything eaten by someone who thinks they are better than you. There is no need to ask what these foods are. The superfood devotee will list them out while talking down to you for eating cabbage. You loser. How can you live with yourself without eating a walnut, spinach, sweet potato and kelp salad with some kind of legume from Peru? (Peru is very now on the whole superfood front.)

A lot of people make the mistake of eating some superfoods. That’s all a bit 2013. The trick now is to eat all the superfoods. This brings us to aisle-rakers. If you see someone wincing and farting furiously while standing on one leg, that’s an aisle-raker. They have picked up every known superfood in the veg aisle at the supermarket and blended them into a smoothie. Who knows, the aisle-raker might have stumbled on the secret of eternal youth. But who wants to live forever when it means you can never be more than 30 seconds from the jacks. The kale and the ginger – together they were dynamite.
You want to be more choosy than the aisle-raker. The hottest super food right now is the acai berry. It has been shown to destroy cancer cells in laboratory conditions. So, some great news there if you live in a test tube.
Acai is pronounced a-sigh-ee, as against och-aye. Except in Scotland. The berry comes from South America and people who take it become incredibly confident about their future protect. So it has a lot in common with cocaine.
Still, with an impressive list of health benefits, eating acai berries is the ideal way to stuff it to blueberry fans. That crowd have had things their way for far too long.

BARRE

And there were you thinking that ballet is for emotionally fragile Russians. This pilates-meets-ballet workout is the new thing. The barre here is the horizontal bar used in dance studios by ballet dancers. You lean on it while doing your workout. There is just one problem. Barre is pronounced bar. That’s grand for Americans, who don’t see anything wrong with telling people they plan to lose weight by leaning up against a bar. Unfortunately in Ireland people will reply “sure Jesus isn’t that how you put it on in the first place.” Likewise there isn’t much to be gained from telling people you are installing a barre in your house. Unless you want them to think you are a modern day Jack Duckworth. Which you don’t.
You could always try and pronounce it bar-ray in a bad French accent. If you want people to think you are about as sophisticated as an old bottle of Cinzano Bianco. Just pronounce it bar and get on with it. The ballet association will give you a bit of je ne sais quoi anyway. We Irish think ballet is sophisticated because we haven’t got a clue what’s going on and it’s popular with the French. The problem is doing it in public. You go along to your first class thinking I’m going to be all Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Until a quick look in the mirror confirms you are more Mister Blobby in a Tutu.
This might be a good enough reason to install a barre at home. If you want to save some money you could always re-purpose that thing you installed in the study to practise your pole dancing. All you ever got from that was a pulled hamstring and really creepy looks from your husband’s friend, Eric. You’re still trying to get over that.

MEDITERRANEAN DIET

Let’s be clear about one thing. A Mediterranean diet is not necessarily the food you eat while sitting next to the Mediterranean. There are no known health benefits attached to chicken and chips washed down with 18 pints of lager in Rinty McGinty’s bar on the Costa del Sol. Or as some Irish people call it, breakfast. A proper Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruit, nuts, olive oil and fish. It often features moderate amounts of alcohol consumed on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean a small glass of wine every half an hour. Ok? It doesn’t.
Now some hard truths. We’re always being told that the Mediterranean diet can add years to your life. A quick look at the latest Eurostat figures shows that an Irish woman can expect to live between one or two years less than her counterparts on the Med. That said, a lot of your Mediterranean mamas shrink away to nothing in later life. We’re not saying this is because of their diet. But do you really want to take the risk?
Irish men can expect to live about twelve months less than their pals down south. Fair enough. But is it really worth eating sheep’s genitals once a week just so you can have an extra year at the end of your life? Sitting around with a dodgy looking puddle by your ankles? You might want to think about that.
Here’s another thing. Your Mediterranean types probably get to enjoy that year sitting out in a warm breeze. Donal and Nuala will spend half of it in semi-darkness watching re-runs of Judge Judy. Is that any kind of reward for a lifetime of sardines? We doubt it very much. Here is our recommendation, plain and simple. There is only one way to enjoy the Mediterranean diet. And that’s sitting by the Mediterranean.

POUND WORKOUT

POUND is a workout you do with special drumsticks. And no, we’re not talking about Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sorry for getting your hopes up. The people behind it say you can burn off 600 calories by doing a pilates-style workout for 45 minutes, while drumming on the ground with specially-weighted, neon green sticks. If you think it is possible to do this and maintain your dignity, you probably need to look at some POUND videos on YouTube. The Americans are going mad for this workout right now. No surprise there. When did they ever care about looking foolish in public?
That said, you must give POUND a try. Why? Because self-esteem is a zero sum game. If a friend or relations feels bad about themselves, then your situation has improved without doing a thing. Telling someone you are all over a fad that’s hot in America will make them feel terrible about themselves. (Particularly since they thought they were cool for taking up Zumba.) Look at you there, self-improving like a boss.
First up, you need the drumsticks. You might as well buy the official ones, known as Ripstix. If you think these are very cheap because the founders of POUND are only interested in your health, we will probably never stop laughing at you. Let’s just say you won’t find them in a pound shop. Once you have the sticks, look out for POUND sessions here in Ireland or else buy the DVDs and do it at home.
The final thing to work on is your Eejit Drummer Face. Here is our 2-Step Guide. 1: Empty your mind completely. 2: Smile. 3: That’s it. Now you look like a proper drummer.

CROSSFIT

No, Crossfit is not the name given to a muscle-man with a short fuse because of all the steroids. But we’ve all met a few of them. Crossfit is in fact a rigorous type of bootcamp exercise regime that involves lots of jumping around, weights and lifting yourself up on bars. It’s popular with celebs like Cameron Diaz and Jessica Biel.
A large corner of the internet is now given over to Crossfit and its off-shoots. It’s the opposite of Fight Club. The first rule of Crossfit is you must always talk about Crossfit.
There are already a good few Crossfit gyms across the country. They’re tougher than your standard gym. You know the ones where 70% of the ‘fitness freaks’ turn up at 6:30 pm for a gentle treadmill jog while they watch Home and Away. (It’s a perfect show to watch with the sound down. You know the hot new teacher is hiding a shady past; Alf would like to get angry with a few idle teenagers but he’s too busy organising a search party; nothing good ever happens in ‘the city.’)
The membership at these places is about 100 euro a month. That’s pricy. But apparently Crossfit gyms are popular with police forces, so you might make some of that back on cancelled penalty points and fines. It never hurts to ask.
You might prefer to try Crossfit at home. The key accessory here is a pull-up bar which you place across a bedroom door. (They will be familiar to anyone who has scored with a well-toned culchie.) You might have noticed on your travels that pull-up bars are freely available in public spaces in cities like Barcelona and Sydney . There are no plans to install them here. Let’s face it, the only time they would get used is by people coming home from the pub. We’ve enough problems with A&E as it is.

BULLETPROOF DIET

Ever get the feeling your morning coffee would be better with a spoon of butter? Then this diet is for you. The guy behind it also says that training is stressful and should be kept to a minimum. See, now you’re all interested.
The Bulletproof diet is hot in the States right now. It is, according to its website, an abrupt departure from what is known as The Standard American Diet. This is a good thing, given what we know about the standard American. (Particularly after we sat next to one on a plane. Or under him, to be more precise.)
A key feature of the diet is you add something called Brain Octane oil and butter to your morning coffee. The diet also involves giving up all forms of bread, cereal, pasta and sugar. So you will definitely need to leave Ireland. It also proscribes a lot of grass-fed meat and wild-caught seafood. So you might want to win the lotto before you go.
Here’s the best bit. You’re not just watching what you eat when you sign up for Bulletproof. You are also becoming a biohacker. This is the good kind of hacker – not the kind who steals photos of celebs in their knickers. It’s a growing trend in America, where people get together to experiment with biology. With the Bulletproof Diet, you are effectively biohacking yourself. Amateur biologists experimenting on themselves. What could possibly go wrong? One theory is that this is the start of the path towards eternal life. Others worry that you could end up with seven noses. The choice is yours.
One other thing worth noting. The diet doesn’t just claim to make you thin. The science behind it also claims to make you smart. On the website www.bulletproofexec.com, the founder claims he has improved his IQ by 20 points through bulletproof and other biohacking techniques. Maybe it will work for you. Although some might say that 20 points is a 100 pc jump for anyone who puts butter in their coffee. But there’s no need to be so cynical.

FORIA OIL

As in, for ya pleasure. Yes ladies, we’re talking about sex. This oil is all the rage across the Atlantic. Particularly since they tested it on a group of female volunteers in San Francisco who gave it a big Yes, Yes, Oh Jesus, Yes!
The idea is that you apply it around the genital area and wait 30 minutes before engaging in mind-blowing sex. (The 30 minutes wait is the key reason it’s not so popular with men.) Why can you only get it in California? Well, here’s the rub, so to speak. It contains cannabis. And is therefore only available to women with a letter from their doctor recommending the use of medical marijuana. (There really is no telling what the Americans will come up with next.)
It also contains coconut oil. We’re not sure yet if you can get the same affect using a joint and a Bounty Bar. We’ll get back to you on that one.
Obviously you are not reading anymore, because you are already googling “where can I get foria oil in south Tipperary.” Sorry, but it looks like you genuinely can only get the oil in California. It makes you wonder what was the point of inventing the internet if you can’t get your hands on dodgy sex aids from half way round the world.
Reviewers of the product have made two points. One is that they didn’t actually get high, but their vagina did. We’re not sure what they mean by that. But we are stuck with the image of giggling lady-bits. It’s difficult to shift. Says you.
The other point is the price. $88 per bottle. Sorry, if that’s an anti-climax. You might have to make do with Ireland’s current favourite sex aid. In fairness, there’s great value in a €6.99 bottle of wine.

COERCIVE TECH

You know what your problem is? You don’t have a machine to tell you what to do. Don’t worry, the nerds have you covered. They are designing a range of gadgets to boss you around in every aspect of your life. (And not just so the wife can have a week off.)
People who aren’t very good at making up names have christened this new phenomenon Coercive Tech. Maybe they should have called it Mildly Annoying Gadgets. Because it turns out our dystopian future is not like something out of a movie called When Good Robots Go Bad. (An army of cheeky robots are struck by lightning and turn out to be a right shower of bastards.) No, the future is actually getting a small electric shock from a wristwatch because you skipped the gym. That’s what’s on offer from the makers of the Pavlok fitness band. You’d wonder if they have nothing better to do with their time.
Another device — Darma — will nag you if you slouch at your desk all day. There is apparently no truth to the rumour that they have 15,000 advance orders from our civil service. Still, someone should probably look into that. Darma will also monitor your heartbeat and warn you when your stress levels are dangerously high. Think about that one for a while. You are stuck in a traffic jam, dying for the jacks because you had a kale and ginger smoothie, when the car in front of you breaks down. Suddenly, an app on your phone says “Your stress levels are dangerously high” in a voice that sounds a lot like Kirstie Allsopp. There’s the future. Loads of us in cars roaring “tell me something I don’t fucking know, Kirstie.”

DIET SUPPLEMENTS

Say hello to Garcinia Cambogia. No, it’s not a woman involved in one of Silvio Berlusconi’s bunga-bunga parties. Although we can see why you might think that. It is in fact a tropical fruit grown in Indonesia which might help you to lose weight. There is a real buzz around it right now. Although not the buzz people usually associate with diet pills. (Where you lost two stone because you went raving eight nights on the trot.)
It is rumoured to be popular with celebs like Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian. And who wouldn’t want to be like them? It’s not so popular with some scientific buzz-wreckers. They reckon there is no basis for the weight loss claims and there are certain side effects. For example, one report found that high doses caused testicular shrinkage in mice. This could put off a lot of men. On the other hand it could encourage anyone who suspects they have heavy balls. You never know with men.
Tea is a very trendy fat burner these days. Plain old Barry’s or Lyons still works for a lot of Irish people. You’d be amazed the amount of weight you’d lose when you sit down for a chin-wag. Chi Ya tea is a global sensation. We’re not sure of its weight loss credentials. But given that it’s quoted at one euro a tea bag on the internet, we’re pretty sure it will lighten your wallet.
Another option is pu-erh tea. Rumour has it that Victoria Beckham likes this. Rumour also has it that it tastes like poo. So maybe that’s why we never see her smiling.
Of course you could always just go for good old green tea. You’ll often see people order a pot of it in a Chinese restaurant after polishing off an 8000 calorie meal. It’s fair to say that particular green tea has its work cut out.

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Get Nerdy – The Spoofers Guide

5 Dec

We live in the Age of the Geek. If you want to get ahead these days, you need to watch Doctor Who, claim that Michael Collins shared your taste for craft stout and know how to turn a Coke bottle into a chandelier. Relax, there’s no need to be an actual nerd.  My 10 Step Guide will show you how to fake it.

 

Get Obsessed

First things first. You’ll need an obsession.  A broad philosophy and general knowledge is so Last Year; it’s like ringing someone other than your mother on the landline. It’s a signal that you are the kind of saddo who watches back episodes of Who Wants to Be  a Millionaire on the Challenge Channel. That’s game over these days. You’re much more about the specialised subject in Mastermind.

Some reckon our new-found obsession with obsession is an attempt to replace the void left by religion. This notion lasts until your first time at mass in 15 years for the cousin’s wedding. That’s when you realise the church might not hold the answer to that large hole where your soul used to be. And not just because the priest tried to sneak in a second collection. Although mainly because of that. (Seriously Father, the church roof looks just fine to us.)

There should be no obvious ulterior motive when choosing your obsession. It is not enough to feign interest in the hope of meeting someone for meaningless sex. So that rules out samba dancing classes and tag rugby. Not to mention politics.

There is no point in faking an obsession if nobody knows about it. Facebook is your friend here, allowing you to share a link to pages with names like I Love Extreme Knitting. Now everyone knows you are a person of substance.  That said, under no circumstances should you become a Facebook friend with anyone on I Love Extreme Knitting. Unless you want to get closer to an emotionally fragile woman called Liz who has a t-shirt saying “I’ll have you in stitches.”

A word of warning. There is a good chance your parents will be alarmed at your new obsession. Mammy might even say “you’re turning into some kind of queerhawk.” That’s a clear sign you are doing something right.

 

Get Crafty

There was a time when the most ridiculed people in the world were members of CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale.) They were generally middle-aged, plump men from England who were easy to outrun. We know they were easy to outrun, because most people who met a member ended up making a run for it. Then the hipsters came along and called it Craft Beer instead of Real Ale. And now it’s the coolest obsession in town.

The most important thing about craft beer is not the taste. It’s actually the provenance. That’s the hipster word for history. So don’t be put off by a craft stout just because it tastes like rusty bananas and makes you fart like a prop forward. If you can say “apparently this is what Michael Collins drank five minutes before he was shot”, then that beer will make you look incredibly exotic. (As long as you can muffle the farts.) Here’s another thing – a lot of craft beers have outrageous names like the Archbishop’s Mickey. It is very uncool to laugh at such names. Nobody has ever laughed at the Archbishop’s Mickey. (Except his housekeeper, says you.)

Bear in mind that craft beers taste nothing like your average lager. The difference being they have an actual taste. That’s great if you want to enjoy them with some food. But not so good when you are trying to skelp ten of them into you, one after the other. Or as it’s known in some quarters, Saturday night. Don’t worry — the hipsters have you covered. The important word here is sessionable. That’s hipster-speak for a milder craft beer that you can skelp in to you. So here’s what to say when you wake up on the early-morning ferry to Fishguard, inexplicably dressed as a slutty nun.  “Enjoyed a fabulous new craft pilsner last night. Very sessionable.” Look at you all du jour and everything.

 

Get Foody

If we were writing this five years ago, we would have advised you to keep tabs on the foodies. That was when you could still have garnered maximum Nerd Points for your views on the clarity of olive oil from the south-facing hills around the Italian port city of Bari. (You might also have lost a few friends.) But it is now clear that the whole foody thing has disappeared up its own cupcake. Why? Pulled pork.

Pulled pork has been dominating menus for a couple of years now. That’s surprising given that it sounds like the name of sex act.  What makes it even more surprising is that pulled-pork tastes like, let’s see, nothing until you cover it with some kind of barbeque sauce. It doesn’t help that it looks and smells a bit like cat-food. Let’s face it — if pulled-pork is the best they can come up with, then it’s fair to say that the foody thing is done and dusted (with organic cocoa).

What happens next is what happens when any trend comes screeching to a halt. Irony. In other words, everyone heads back to the 1970s. So get ahead of the curve. Put on a cheese-cloth shirt with a pair of Dingos and start brushing up on your beef stroganoff. (Chances are the hipsters are already practising this in a disused warehouse off the M50.)

Remember, the language is all going to change. There’s no need for a commentary on the provenance of the Marie Rose sauce when you’re horsing down a prawn cocktail. A simple “Jesus lads, that fills the gap” will do the trick, as you wash it down with a few pints of Carling Black Label. (Or maybe a Satzenbrau for the lovely lady.)

 

Get Upcycling

If you think upcycling involves a bike and a hill then we’ve got some work to do. Upcycling is the process of turning discarded garbage into something new and hopefully beautiful. If you think it’s just a new word for recycling without the hippy connotations, then you are probably on to something. If you think it sounds like a trendy label the noveau poor middle-class are putting on Make-and-Do, you are definitely on to something.

As with all the obsessions here, you need to advertise that you are an upcycling nerd. No problem — there are plenty events around the country where you join fellow upcyclists. Under no circumstances should you refer to one of these events as a car-boot sale. A car-boot sale is a place where people off-load their garbage without any pretence they are some kind of artist. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Upcycling is a great obsession for anyone who is good with their hands. Don’t worry if you’re not. It’s trendy enough right now that it’s also suitable for someone with ten thumbs. Roll an old wire hanger into a dodgy looking necklace these days and your friends will say  that you remind them of a young Salvador Dali. (Particularly if you know Louis Walsh.)

Therein lies the problem. Upcycling enthusiasts are very supportive of each other, because let’s just say a lot of them are delicate creatures who wouldn’t be a fan of the truth. So don’t get carried away with praise for your creations. Or else you’ll end up on Dragon’s Den trying to convince Duncan Bannatyne that your business making chandeliers out of old Coca Cola bottles is worth 40 million quid. “I’m out” says Duncan, before you open your mouth.

 

Get Fit

How do you mean you’re not preparing for a half-marathon? The world is dividing into two camps — miserable fitness freaks and contented couch potatoes. Unfortunately you need to sign-up for the first camp if you want to be a winner in the Age of the Nerd. Don’t worry, the endorphin rush will take some of the edge off your misery.

Fitness is no longer about losing weight or looking good. They have surgery for that. The new fitness is all about numbers. (That makes it as attractive to nerds as snapping a selfie with a cast member from the Big Bang Theory. Almost.) The most important number is the number of kilometres you ran before breakfast. That’s why you will often hear the following discussion between fitness nerds. “How you doing?” “15.7.” “Cool.”

Here’s the problem. As a nerd, you own a number of wearable devices connected to the internet. This is because you have fallen for Big I.T.’s business model, which is to make everyone buy the same thing three times. The default setting on these devices is “Tell all your Facebook friends everything about you do all the time.” Try that for a week and the only Facebook friend will be your mother, because she’s worried that you’re becoming a queerhawk.  Here’s a top tip. Your friends are not interested in your morning jog, unless you manage to take a selfie with Bradley Cooper. So change the setting on your smartwatch and smartphone app to “Stop bugging my friends.”

Here’s another tip. Make a video of the steps required to change this setting and post it up on YouTube. When it comes to nerdy points, that’s up there with knowing the name of Spock’s renegade half-brother. Off with you to Google his name now. Unless you know it. In which case you need help.

 

Get the Right Telly

Life was so much simpler in the past. You’d be having a nice conversation with someone when they’d casually mention that they like Star Trek. You’d leave. Not any more. Nerdy TV is so popular now that there probably wouldn’t be much resistance if Klingon was introduced for the Leaving Cert. If you doubt this, try walking down Grafton Street with a t-shirt that says “I Can’t F**king Stand Dr Who.” You’ll be surrounded by a gang of angry nerds in no time. And not just because you said Dr rather than Doctor. They’ll politely take a few photos and put them up on twitter with the message “Like, seriously. WTF.” That’s a shit-kicking in their world.

Sorry, but it you want to stay relevant, you’ll need to feign an interest in Doctor Who. That means watching every single episode aired since 1963 in case someone asks an awkward question. (You don’t want to be caught by the Daleks.) It will be worth it if you manage to you hook up with a nerd who was a job in IT. We hear some of them even get pay rises. Sexy.

The most accessible nerdy show is of course Game of Thrones. At least they throw in a bit of porn to ease the pain. Make sure to say that you have read all the books. If you can say that in the Dothraki language spoken by the self-righteous blonde one they call Khaleesi, you’ll be inducted straight into the upper echelons of Nerdish society.

There is another nerd-friendly TV show you might enjoy.  Getaways. That’s the travel show on RTE where Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain goes to some gorgeous sun-soaked resort and talks about the local history rather than the best places to get two free mojitos with your full-Irish breakfast. The nerds love that kind of a holiday. Almost as much as they love watching Aoibhinn in her bikini.

 

Get Genealogical

Genealogy is big for two reasons now. The first is the TV show, Who Do You Think You Are? That’s the one where celebrities say “oh my God” and pretend not to be ashamed that their loser ancestors never did anything to become famous. (Seriously, some of them didn’t even have their own game-show.)

The second thing boosting genealogy is of course our old friend, the internet. The problem with tracing your family tree 20 years ago is that it meant leaving your house. And then heading into the records office, where the nice old lady behind the counter was probably slap bang in the middle of a work-to-rule.  But now that he 1901 and 1911 census records are available on-line, you can stalk your ancestors without getting out of bed.

Be careful how you go. We’re all interested in our own families. Particularly when it comes to figuring out how much we might get in the will. But we’re even less interested in other people’s ancestors than we are in their kids. At least until they mention that their great grand-aunt was the first woman in Mallow to drive a car. Now you’re drawn into the new craze – Competitive Ancestors.

There is one trump card that beats all comers  — an ancestor in the Old IRA. Nothing is more exotic than someone who shot someone else for auld Ireland. Ideally you should be looking for an ancestor who was involved in the Easter Rising. That shouldn’t be too hard, given that half the country was involved by all accounts. Or you could always just say you found hard evidence your great-grand father was in the GPO in 1916. There’s no need to mention that he popped in during January to buy a stamp.

 

Get a  Side Project

The Age of the Nerd demands that it’s not enough to have a job. You also need a side-project where you get to pursue your passion. Make sure to tell everyone about your passion and insist it is not about making loads of money. Be prepared for them to reply “that’s just as well.”

The Side-Project is big now for a generation of disappointed nerds. They grew up with dreams of being the next Steve Jobs. They ended up working in technical support, trying not to say “it’s above the number 4 you dozy gobshite” to some guy in Iowa who can’t find the dollar sign on his keyboard. That’s disappointment for you.

Obviously the best side-project is an app. This involves a lot of dreaming of becoming the next Steve Jobs, with very little work. In fact, you don’t need to do any work at all. Just say “I’m working on an app right now with some American nerds, but I’ve signed a confidentiality agreement so I’m afraid can’t talk about it.” Excellent. One other thing. If anyone asks about your revenue model, say you haven’t got one. Because if it makes any money, then it isn’t really an app.

The other side project is to self-publish a book. Seriously, who needs some snotty intern in publishing house to tell you there is no market for an erotic thriller about two penguins that is full of typos? Being Irish you might feel an incredible urge to write a gritty story about unrequited love in 1950s rural Ireland. Fair enough, it’s your passion after all. But this is the Age of the Nerd. So don’t forget to add in a couple of gorgeous teenage vampires who are friends with benefits. And maybe a dog with super-powers. Nerds love super-powers. If only they had a few themselves, they would ask Katy Perry to marry them.

 

Get Current

Some bad news. Politics is back in vogue. There was a time when shows like Tonight with Vincent Browne were for angry old men (and we’re not just talking about the host). Younger people were attracted by more substantial shows like Celebrity Love Island and The Real World. Not any more.

In fact, there is disturbing evidence on twitter that large numbers of young people are watching current affairs programmes when they should be out trying to get off with absolutely everyone. After a brief fun period, it looks like the swots are firmly back in control. That’s what happens when you tell your children you won’t love them if they fall short in the Leaving Cert.

This wouldn’t matter any other time, but it looks like these political nerds will shortly be our masters. They might seem ridiculous but you don’t want to get on the wrong side of the Nerdisentia either. So here is a quick guide on how to fake being a political nerd.

If someone says “we are at a watershed moment in Irish political life” you must agree. That’s the consensus and you’d be a fool to argue with it. Even if we haven’t seen an original thought in Irish public life since someone said “did you ever consider going in to the auld politics” to Brian Boru.

The other key to staying on-side with the Nerdisentia is to remain in a state of Extreme Outrage at the treatment of women. You don’t really have to do anything — just retweet the odd Guardian article about the shortage of female CEOs and say “this makes me sob of into my Fairtrade coffee.” You’ve hit a few right-on sweet spots there.

 

Get Sporty

There was a time when nerds had no interest in sport.  That’s understandable, given the nightmares they still have about Sports Day at school. But sport isn’t just about playing or watching any more. It’s also about numbers. Here come the nerds!

What do you see on screen when a player is substituted in the English Premiership (other than his tattoos)? You see the distance he ran, the passes completed and a bunch of other meaningless numbers that make you long for the good old days, when someone would just say “the lad done good.” You might also see some pundit say, in all seriousness, that Christian Ronaldo is only 75% fit. You might feel like asking where that figure came from. Don’t bother — you’re just raging against the tide.

The Yanks have had this obsession with sports stats for a while. We’re not suggesting this stat frenzy has led to a nation of super-sized, couch bound spectators— but have you ever tried to fit next to an American on a plane?

Unfortunately you’ll need a few sports stats if you are going to thrive these days.  Here are three for starters. 90% of people who can tell you Seamus Coleman’s pass-completed average know the price of everything and the value of nothing. 97% of nerds dream of taking over the body of Paul O’Connell and wreaking revenge on Fatty Callaghan for picking on them at school.  100% of people who make snide mathematical remarks when a manager says he demands 110% effort have never played sport at any level.

So there you have it. Anyone who says “I enjoyed that game” now will be dismissed as some kind of vague dreamer. You’re nobody these days unless you can rattle off the numbers. That’s the way things work in the Age of the Nerd. (96% of the time.)

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End your Sales Lull – a 3 Step guide

24 Oct

Don’t take my word for it. I asked Catherine Ryan-Howard (AKA The Knower of All Things Self-Publishing) how she would tackle a sales-lull in a self-published book. See what you think of her answer. If you like it, you really should buy Version 3 of her (and my) self-pub bible, Self-Printed: The Sane Persons Guide to Self-Publishing. It’s out on Amazon today. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Anyway, to the question.

Me: C’mere Catherine (that’s how we get attention in Cork) what are the top 3 things you would do to boost a book suffering a lull in sales?

 Catherine: Hmm…

  1. If the book is in the KDP Select programme (and so exclusive to Amazon), I’d do my five days as free promotional period. Although the benefits of this are NOT what they used to be, if you can make people aware of the promotion – perhaps run a giveaway or something on Twitter at the same time – then you still do get something of a boost.

  1. Turn to Goodreads. I recently wrote a post about how these days I do Goodreads giveaways completely differently from what I used to. You can read it here. In fact, if you did this BEFORE you did #1, the boost in reviews might help boost the free downloads, which in turn boost the after-effects. Yep: THE TREBLE BOOST.

  1. Write another book. How many authors, both self-published and traditionally so, have hit the big time with their third, sixth or even tenth book? Even John Green, who now may as well have a permanent structure built on the bestseller lists so he can get comfortable there, had written several books before The Fault in Our Stars. Gone Girl was Gillian Flynn’s third book. Successful self-publishers will tell you that things didn’t really get rolling until they had several titles out there. So: get scribbling.

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Catherine Ryan Howard is a writer, self-publisher and caffeine enthusiast from Cork, Ireland. SELF-PRINTED: THE SANE PERSON’S GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING (3rd edition) is out now in paperback and e-book and available from Amazon. Follow the #selfprintedsplash on Twitter today (Friday 24th) and/or visit www.catherineryanhoward.com for chance to win an amazing prize that will get your self-publishing adventure started!

“SELF-PRINTED is my self-publishing bible. It taught me how to format, create and upload my e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. It showed me practical things such as how to build a website/blog and how to promote my books. More importantly, it taught me how to compete with the professionals. Just look at the results – The Estate Series has sold nearly 100,000 copies and following that I got a traditional book deal with Thomas & Mercer too, so I’m now a hybrid author. Jam-packed full of hints and tips all in one place, I’m always referring back to it. In a word, it’s priceless.” – Mel Sherratt, author of The Estate Series and DS Allie Shenton Series  

 

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It’s a Giveaway

19 Sep

Keep Away from those Ferraris is free for a few days on Smashwords. So now you can enjoy it on your favourite e-reader. Just click on the image and use coupon ZB39L when checking out. Enjoy the read!dfw-pf-kaftf-cover-3d-nologo

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It’s Not a Bubble. OK? Not a bubble.

12 Sep

House prices are going a little bit mental again. People are queuing to buy off the plans. Here is my guide on how to survive our latest ride on the property roller-coaster.

 

1: Repeat after Me

First things first. We’re all in this together. If we’re going to inflate this baby back up to boom prices, it’s vital that everyone stays on message. And here is that message:   This is not a bubble.  Practise this mantra at home until you are sure you can get through it without wetting your pants from the laughing. That might take a while.

The Taoiseach has taken the lead on this matter, coming out in late July and declaring with some certainty that we are not looking at a bubble in the Dublin property market. Don’t dwell on the fact that Enda isn’t qualified to spot an asset bubble.  He has advisers on very high salaries to analyse these things on his behalf. Neither should you dwell on the fact that highly paid advisers failed to spot the last bubble. Actually, you’re better off not thinking about it at all. Just repeat the mantra and you’ll be fine.

There is a strong likelihood you will be approached by agitated foreigners asking for your opinion on the property market. There is a strong likelihood they are from the troika. We hear they are back in town to investigate wild rumours that we are gone mad for the property again. So don’t say “a house on my road just sold for eighty grand over the asking price and now I want to buy a Range Rover.” That just drives them nuts.

There is some useful bullshit you can use when talking to agitated looking foreigners.  Such as “it’s just a temporary shortage in the Dublin market” and “how could it be a bubble if the banks aren’t lending.” (If the foreigners are French or Italian, you should also compliment them on their clothes.) If the foreigners keep probing, try and blame the whole thing on Chinese investors.  Unless they are in fact from China. In that case you should definitely try and sell them your house. We hear they’re loaded.

 

2: How to Sell Your House

There was no shortage of crazy house-selling tips during the last boom. The daftest one was fill your house with the smell of freshly baked bread when it is being shown to potential buyers. This was based on the notion that, deep down, most Irish people would like to live in a bakery.

Filling your house with the smell of freshly baked bread is just another way of saying “I’m finally getting some use out of that shagging bread maker I bought in Aldi.” The best way to make your house attractive to buyers depends on where you live. Here is what you need to do if you live in Dublin. Nothing. People are so panicked at this stage that they would buy a place with a chalk body-outline at the front door. (Sure look it was probably just someone killed in the stampede when the house went on-sale.)

Outside the capital, it’s just a matter of waiting for the non-bubble wave of optimism to reach your area. In the meantime you will attract hordes of people who have nothing better to do at the weekend than nose around your house. (That’s the problem with not living near an Ikea – culchies’ options are limited when it starts to rain.)  The usual rules apply here. Don’t bother painting the place. First time-buyers always bring their mothers with them to see a house. And Mammy always says “they obviously have something to hide” at the slightest whiff of paint.

You never know who will nose around your house. So makes sure to leave a note at the top of your knicker-drawer saying “get away out of that you dirty pervert.” Unless things aren’t going well in your marriage. In that case, just leave a note with your phone number. I’ll give you something to do on a wet weekend, says you.

 

3: Myhome? You must be Daft.

People take it for granted you need to advertise your house on one of the two main property websites. That is so Last Bubble. (Not that this is a bubble. We can’t stress that enough.)

This Not-a-Bubble will be driven by news apps and smartphones. You can be pretty sure that a brainbox seven year old is already writing an app that will notify people instantly when a house goes up for sale nearby. It will be a dating app like Tinder — you’ll still be trying to meet someone so you can screw them. The difference here is that you will be trying to screw them out of a couple of grand.

The app will probably be called Bubblr. That way the hipsters can use it ironically, which is the only way they can cope with using anything. It will be ideal for people trading up, who want to flog their house quickly and buy that place in Dundrum before some arsehole with a trust fund pushes up the price by 50 grand. The seven year old brainbox will of course design the app so that the buyer and seller can exchange contracts by just waving their smartphones at each other. The app will make him a billionaire and wreck the lives of millions of people who currently earn a crust selling property.  21st century capitalism baby, you gotta love it.

Of course there is another low-tech approach to selling a house (particularly if it is in Dublin.) 1: Wait for someone on your street to put their house up for sale. 2: Watch the queues snake past your house. 3: Walk out of your house with a megaphone and tell them that your house is for sale. 4: Sold.

 

4: Holiday Home

At some point in the next year most of us will blurt out the following sentence. “I’ve been thinking, and I reckon there has never been a better time to buy a holiday home in Ireland.” The one thing you haven’t been doing is thinking. A short moment of reflection is all it takes to conclude that your idea is insane. Or maybe a quick look back at your holiday photos from that fortnight in Kerry in 2012. At least no one could see you sobbing in the rain.

It probably still won’t undermine your plan to buy a holiday home. The following two summers of mild sunstroke and sleepless nights have seen to that. The Irish brain is programmed to forget two things:  property disasters and shite summers. Hence the renewed demand for holiday homes.

The question now is where to buy. People didn’t just move daft distances from Dublin during the last boom; they also bought holiday homes in places that might best be described as ‘you must be kidding me’. It’s one thing to buy a cottage on the Beara peninsula. It’s another to convince yourself you want to spend every summer for the rest of your life in a duplex outside Roscrea. Here’s the deal. Ireland has a coastline of almost 1500 km. There’s no need to spend two weeks every summer next to a freezing lake in midlands, being eaten alive by a band of furious midges. Buy a place near the coast.  Somewhere nice, within driving distance of a beach. That way you can sit in the car in the pissing rain and argue with each other over why anyone would buy a holiday home in Ireland. Forgetfulness, that’s why. Sure we’d be lost without it.  (By the way, the next time someone mentions our folk memory of the Famine, tell them to cop themselves on. The Irish folk memory can hardly remember what we did last week.)

 

5: The International Dimension

Sometime in the next five years there will be no more property available to buy here in Ireland. By then, someone in government might even have released this statement: “We checked the figures there again; we forgot to carry the one. It turns out this is a bubble alright. A right big hoor of a one at that.” Not that anyone will notice. We’ll be all-in at that stage. This kind of frenzy resulted in Paddy and friends buying up large chunks of Bulgaria the last time around. Paddy later found he had a lot in common with the locals. A lot of them don’t like living in Bulgaria either.

So where should we buy this time out? London is out. Their property bubble is so big that you almost can see it from the top of the Wicklow Mountains. Of course you could always try somewhere like Manchester. The danger there is you could end up with a place in Manchester. Jaysus. Google maps is your friend if you are looking for somewhere nice on the Med. Zoom right in to street view.  See that tattooed guy in the cut-off Celtic away jersey carrying two overflowing bags of Der CheapenLager up from Lidl. He’s your new neighbour. So try somewhere else.

One thing is clear. We need to show a bit more savvy this time round. European property sellers clearly jacked up their prices when they spotted us arriving in droves during the Celtic Tiger. So this time, let’s try and sneak in under the radar.  That’s tricky because nothing is harder to conceal than a group of Irish people in an airport. Sunburn and sheepishness. You’d recognise us anywhere.

 

6: Room to Improve

Not everyone gets to ride this latest property rollercoaster.  Spare a thought for those in negative equity. They get to sit this one out.  Lucky them you might say, if you weren’t too busy applying for a mortgage to snap up a ghost estate in Roscommon.

A lot of negative equiteers will transfer their property lust into an extension. This adds value to your house in pretty much same the way that a new car keeps its value when you drive it off the forecourt. Anyway, expect a lot of blatant bullshit in credit unions up and down the country. (“So Mr O’ Mahoney, I see here that you would like 25 grand to buy something nice for your mother-in-law.”)

This extension boom still has legs.  RTE should meet this demand with nightly episodes of Room To Improve. They could put it in the Nationwide slot, keeping Mary Kennedy on as a roving MC.  We join her walking along under a tree somewhere saying “Dermot went to meet a nice couple in Cashel, who ended up with a glass box in their back garden whether they wanted it or not.”

There’s more good news for architects. (They could do with it.) Having someone you can refer to “your architect” is a must these days for the social-climbing classes. They’re right up there with Mindfulness Consultants, but a lot less expensive. This fantastic value won’t last now that they are back in demand. So make sure to hire one quickly while they are still feeling a bit hungry. And remember this. The glass box they design for you will never go out of fashion. And you’ll never again go out of the house — you’ll be stuck in every weekend washing two square miles of glass.

 

7:  Investment

Property is the worst kind of investment in the world. Except for all the other ones. If you doubt this then start putting money into a private pension. The projected annual income for your retirement is more disappointing than a son who got the points for medicine but decided to become a social worker instead. (The little prick.) Or else you could become a day trader and play the stock market. That involves following a tipster on Twitter called @WhisperingJoe and watching Bloomberg TV, where men roar their opinions at each other in a way that suggests they have unusually small genitals. It also involves losing all your money. First slowly and then very, very quickly.

Here’s our advice. Cash in all your investments and buy an apartment in Dublin. It is now clear that every hipster in the world is moving to the capital, carrying all their belongings in a battered looking leather suitcase from the 1950s. They will need an apartment each because hipsters are allergic to sharing. They need the headspace to figure out if wearing two hats at the same time would be ironic or just plain stupid. They certainly don’t want to live in a house. Imagine if someone saw them cutting the grass. That kind of suburban carry on is kryptonite for your hipster.

A word of warning. Property investment is still considered a form of witchcraft in Ireland. It might have something to do with our difficult relationship down the years with absentee landlords. Or because we hate anyone with a few bob. Answer two looks the more likely lad there. Anyway, the upshot is that investors are the first against the wall if things turn south. Just look at the way the banks enjoy shafting buy-to-let investors with eye-popping interest rates. The trick here is to pretend that an investment property is actually a primary residence for you or one of your many fictitious wives. Don’t worry, half the country is at it these days so they can hold on to their trackers.

 

8: How Far Will You Go?

The big question in this latest non-bubble is how far the Dublin commuter belt will stretch. It got ridiculous by the end of the last boom.  Of course the capital’s catchment area shrunk a bit after the crash. People got sick of the daily commute from the Azores.

Property prices are starting to push people out of the capital again. This is forcing Dublin families to face up to some of life’s toughest questions. How long is too long in the car? Is it worth it for a slight improvement in my quality of life?  What’s the point of Offaly?

As we know it isn’t just lower prices that attract young families down the motorway corridors. It’s also those precious extra hours away from their screaming kids. That guy at work who is always on about how guilty he feels about not seeing the kids in the evening? He’s guilty because he’s enjoying it so much. Better still are the long drives back to Dublin at the weekend so the kids can see their grandparents. Tie up your kids anywhere else and the cops will be all over you before you can say “there should be a law against toddlers.” Tie them into a car-seat and you can keep going until the batteries run out on the portable DVD player. Everyone’s a winner there.

There is one question that keeps Dubs awake at night: Will I still love my kids if they have a Monaghan accent?  (It can be a shock when your five year old suddenly starts calling you ‘horse.’) This could drive some families south, all the way down the M8 to the outskirts of Cork. The question then becomes will I still love my kids if I can’t understand a word they are saying? Yes, particularly if they are teenagers.

 

 

9: The New Cromwell

Times change. About five years ago the most despicable bastard in the Irish property ecosystem was someone with a tracker mortgage. There they were coasting along at one percent above the ECB rate, while bankers used actual shovels to shovel actual shite on people with variable mortgages.

There is a new despicable bastard on the scene. They are known as the cash buyer.  They are the modern absentee landlord, preventing young couples getting on the property ladder with their evil cash. You may well be one of these yourself. Obviously you can’t admit to being a cash buyer — you might as well walk down the Falls Road wearing a t-shirt that says I Love Oliver Cromwell. So here is how you should pretend you got a mortgage from the bank.

The first thing is to make sure you name a bank that is still active in the Irish marketplace. That’s tricky, given that about 40,000 banks have limped out of the Irish market, muttering darkly about the dangers of getting involved with a nation of gambling addicts. (Don’t worry, they’ll be back any day now.) Don’t hold back when you’re describing the mortgage application process. We’ve been led to believe the banks are stricter now, so that we can pretend it’s not a bubble. So say something like “they did such a thorough examination of our circumstances that at one stage I thought your man was going to put on a pair of rubber gloves.”  People find rubber gloves very persuasive.

Finally, if you are telling someone about your mortgage application, they will probably ask what income multiplier the bank used. That’s just a sly way of trying to figure out what you earn. Not that earnings matter to a fat-cat cash buyer like yourself. You bastard.

 

10: Gentrification me Arse

Here’s the problem with Location, Location, Location. (Other than Kirstie’s mad looking hair.) Irish people watch the show in the hope of getting insights about our own property market. They draw the wrong conclusion when an awkward hipster couple joins a load of other awkward hipster couples in an area of London formerly known as the Old Slaughterhouse and Whoring District. That’s fine in London, where new areas get gentrified all the time.

It doesn’t work over here. Stoneybatter was the only place in the country to get gentrified in the whole of the last boom; and that was only because some Dubs saw a chance to pawn off their tiny houses on some wannabe culchie hipsters fresh off the train at Heuston Station. Outside of that, middle-Ireland tended to stay in middle-class area. Why? Well, why does anything happen in middle-Ireland? Because of Mammy.

You see Mammy didn’t put you through college so you could move into an area where people say things like “I do be frozen.” How is she supposed to show her face in the bridge club when it emerges that her eldest son now lives on a road named after someone who died for Ireland in 1916? (It doesn’t get more working class that that.)  This wouldn’t matter if said son could get a mortgage and let Mammy rot in bridge club hell. Unfortunately he needs 50 grand off her so he can compete with those bastards, the cash buyers. So there goes any chance of that terraced house on Sean Mac Brits Out Road.

Of course Daddy might surprise everyone and give you the cash. But the last time he was allowed to make a decision was back in 1974. And he made a balls of that by all accounts.

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