EVERY YEAR in Ireland, the run-up to the Christmas holiday season is reflected in the page count of the Sunday broadsheets. The number of pages normally decrease and the papers start to boost their cover price by five cents right around the start of the new year. I despise Sunday talk shows around this time because they are increasingly vacuous, reflecting the lack of substance in most parts of the mainstream media. That downturn merely reflects the readership has started its exit from the country for the end of December. Just look at the parking situation at Dublin Airport--you cannot get multi-story car parking in the blocks nearest the airport. Traffic wardens permit cars to perch on kerbs and to cozy up alongside each other on double yellow lines at this time of year, leading many visitors to believe the yellow stripes mark the places for overflow parking. So when I flick through the Sunday papers in late December, I do it to find things I really should consider if I want to live a more productive life next year. Here are some of my considerations.
1. Plan to increase private health insurance coverage. The Irish public health service silently observed its heyday of personalised care sometime in the 90s. I have seen that already while visiting St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny, a place I believe provides high-quality service to those in need of care. The sheer number of patients at Luke's--especially those cretins with self-inflicted party night injuries--have stretched the system. I've seen how to jump around the system and it's through the door of private health insurance. I'm moving up a notch with my coverage, mainly because I believe the government does neither the resources nor the will to curb spending by focusing priorities.
2. Proud to be a thrifty Mexican. We need to make more frequent trips to family in County Louth because every time we sniff within 50 miles of the border, we discover items that are 10%-30% less expensive than what we buy in County Tipperary. When we cross into Northern Ireland, we're known as Mexicans. We have time off between Christmas and the New Year, so we're planning our first expedition around Stephen's Day. The best value is alcohol, chocolates and biscuits. We're expecting exceptional savings in baby clothing as well.
3. Give back some skills. After seven years of delivering third level modules in creative multimedia development, I realise I have some legacy material that would suit the needs of people who are trying to improve their employment opportunities through skills training. So I'm slicing away some time each week to develop learning materials for people in the local area who want to return to jobs or return to education. In my case, there's no additional money to fund this kind of activity but I'm gifted with an academic's workload, which means I have enjoy days awash with social coffee breaks that could be reprogrammed into course development time. Community schools and Youthreach are the most likely benefactors.
4. Go to the moon. Walking the Burren is like being on the moon. "Out there around New Year's Eve is like being on the moon," says Brian Hogan from Kila.
5. Bail out of Facebook. I really don't like being poked, bitten or hugged online. I do not notch up hundreds of friends in a counting contest. I've chopped and changed friendships enough in life to recognise the shallow veneer of Facebook so once I'm finished with assessing a fourth year creative multimedia essay assignment, I'm purging myself from Facebook.
Five tight resolutions are enough to track because I've a dozen more essential things that have to fold into 2008.
1. Kevin Rafter -- "Cowen criticises Harney on €225m health overspend" on the front page of the Sunday Tribune, 16 December 2007.
2. Carissa Casey and Sarah O'Sullivan -- "Shops brace for a wave of Mexicans" in The Sunday Times, 16 December 2007.
3. Emma Kennedy -- "Ireland to get €901m in EU money" in the Sunday Business Post, 16 December 2007.
4. Donal Gorman -- "Don't quote me" in The Guide inside Sunday Business Post Agenda magazine, 16 December 2007.
5. Christina Odone -- "Why faces are better than Facebook" in Comment & Debate, The Observer, 16 December 2007.
5b. Suw Charman -- "Are social networks in business a white elephant or is Gartner's report a red herring" in Strange Attractor, 15 December 2007.