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Showing posts from 2009

Shopping

As I've been basically confined to indoors for the last 3 days due to a worsening bout of a chest cold, my siblings tell me they've never seen the local shops so desperately jammed with happy shoppers buying away to their hearts content. Is there a war on? Or a nuclear winter? The papers and radio keep telling me that things are terrible outside but after being surprised by a snowfall on top of the airport hill in Cork last Wednesday I am a little cynical about the roads - to be sure they could be either much worse or much better than I am being told by the media.

Of course, in the US, if a road becomes severely hazardous, never mind impassable, its closed immediately. While I can already hear echoes of "nanny state" you do have to wonder is this a good idea. In parts where roads are liable to snow, such as national parks on a high terrain, its actually illegal to travel without snow chains in the trunk. Although if you've got a 4x4 with tyres marked M+S the…

Marriage Equality and the new LGBT Priviligism

It was with some delight that I read Kate Bornstein's open letter to LGBT activists in the US about the push for "marriage equality." For the very few of you who don't know, the path to adequate recognition of non hetero relationships in the US was for years stymied by the DOMA (the Defence of Marriage Act), which established in the US legal code that "marriage" was a state that could exist only between two persons of the opposite biological gender, and that states were not obliged to recognise anything otherwise that had been carried out in another juristriction. A nasty, hateful, spiteful and vicious piece of legislation which has done nothing but cause pain to LGBT folk and encourage the bile of the far right in the US.

Its no irony that even in Europe, the vast, vast majority of states which now recognise what the LGBT recognise as "full equality" - which basically means that they are either regarded as having equal status in law, or permitte…

The Cork Water Crisis

As a resident of the city, I'm not unsympathetic to the unusual circumstances which have produced the worst ever flooding to the city or even the shutoff of the water services for up to a horrifying 9 days.

What I am very angry about is the misinformation and inadequacy of services supplied to people by the emergency services. For those of you who might not know, there was and is no emergency out of hours water services hotline in the city. This exists in the north county and south county areas, but not in the city. A call to the FIRE BRIGADE was required in the city area, presumably so the council workers can go home at 5pm and sleep soundly in their beds. (Similar anomalies occur for example with clamping - you can be clamped at any time up until 3.30pm on a Saturday, but the phoneline to get declamped shuts down, so you can't be declamped, unlike in Dublin where there is a 24 by 7 service and 1 hour maxmimum wait time to get unclamped again).

For example certain local cou…

Don't be dumb: get the jab

Its astonishing how many people are ignoring the sound advice to take advantage of the H1N1 vaccine currently rolling out in Ireland. While many people think there is unnecessary panic, we have a few issues in Ireland that make this more dangerous - high levels of undiagnosed diabetes and very poor levels of good management for asthmatics. The former is due to a lack of screening, and the latter is due to the obscene costs of management (easily up to 1000 euros a year for medication plus GP fees). While a lot of people scoff at the fact that asthmatics are "overtreated" I can tell you that the reality for us is that you are basically stuck on the medication - for life. Losing 5 stone, getting fit and cutting out the fags didn't cure me, it made it possible to reduce my medication by about 50% (and the annual bill is now about 400 to 500 - still utterly obscene by any standards, the equivalent of a weeks wages for many people). So a lot of people tend to take their c…

Dell: the "skilled" myth dissipates - part 1

I was quite surprised whilst reading this article about the holdup regarding the grants to Dell workers for retraining, this very surprising and very contradictory statement:

Some of the workers were very low skilled and would need more basic retraining than others so it was essential to include crafts, he said.

Read more: http://www.examiner.ie/ireland/dell-workers-to-get-euro9k-grants-for-retraining-104263.html#ixzz0V9aCUBU6


Whatever happened to the idea that huge multinationals were simply flocking to Ireland for our amazingly skilled, amazingly educated workers?

It seems that the figures don't add up. And I would suspect also, the parallel myth, that TNCs coming to Ireland pay spectacular wages and create an elite tier of workers with great pay, competitive conditions and of course, no need at all for union representation, because they are just SOOOO much better off than you poor Irish neanderthals working in Irish companies with unions and "traditional" work practices.

The myth of "safe" drunken driving

2 dead, 2 badly injured. 1 man fleeing the scene. A 3am crash on a bank holiday weekend marked out by a drinking festival masquerading itself as a music festival. And lots and lots of extraordinarily dumb people, including the dumbest public representatives in Ireland, coming out with bullshit such as a suggestion that a couple of drinks "help" "nervous" drivers according to one knuckle dragger in Tipp, who to be honest, should simply be passed to his nearest psychiatric unit, and left there until he can distinguish between reality and the fantasy world in which he lives.

We just cannot afford to pretend that there is no relationship between consuming alcohol late at night and horrific crashes that occur late at night and at weekends. It simply is no coincidence. We know this because in each and every other country - which by now means most of the civillised world, which parts of Cork especially seem unwilling to want to join, instead to remain in their fantasy…

Why MakeRoom are Wrong on rent subsidy cuts

It was interesting to hear the "news" about a number of different housing NGOs creating a "new" coalition called MakeRoom. Actually it transpires that this has been quietly going for a while. One thing I have consistently foud problematic about NGOs such as Threshold, is while they largely emphasize services for the homeless community, who in Ireland make up a figure of anything between 4500 and far more. In reality the true figure isn't really known, and it doesn't include a massive community of people "at risk" or in genuinely substandard housing (which probably includes the vast majority of people living in Victorian conversions, which are especially notorious for extraordinarily low housing standards). This figure I think runs into tens of thousands. Then the proportion of people on low incomes paying more than 30% of their after tax income in rent. And finally, a large group, currently managing ok, who would not qualify for rent subsidy…

How shameless can you get?

It was in reading this account from RTE of the funeral of Stephen Gately. Aside from the obvious strangeness of a traditional catholic ceremony for a chap who was living in a state of what the church describes as an "intrinsic disorder" and a "moral evil." Does the church really need the "business" that badly and are those around the late singer so unwilling to stand up to the powers of "tradition" and provide an end more appropriate for somebody who in all honestly, is hugely unlikely to have had much of a "catholic" life. (Before you get on your moral high horse, I've seen some wonderful non-theist send-offs for people who did not force a catholic or christian or other format onto the late persons life, one of the best being a gentle and completely non-religious ceremony for a TCD lecturer of whom nobody actually knew what his beliefs were - this is true dignity).

But it was the last line that really made me want to vomit:
450 i…

Who is Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno and why should you care?

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is a rather successful Malaysian model. In December 2007 she did what many westerners would take for granted, and started to enjoy a beer in a hotel lobby. But under Malaysian two-tier legal code, which prescribes one set of laws for non-muslims and another based on their local interpretation of Sharia law for Muslims, she broke the law.

Now beer and other forms of alcohol are widely avaiable in Malaysia, though prohibitively expensive - your average beer costs the same as it does in Ireland, even though wages about 1/3 of what they are here. And Irish drink prices are a legendary rip off to start with. Most drinkers are either foreigners, Hindus or Chinese. Malaysia, like its next door neighbour Singapore, is hugely multicultural. Except when it comes to the legal code.

While many people assume Malaysia is a "moderate" muslim state, quite severe laws exist. Now we know all about this in Ireland. Not enforcing hugely discriminatory laws is no…

Quote of the week from Guardian comments

Some years ago, there was a dramatization of some awful Edwardian-period novel in which the woman who played Duckface in Four Weddings and a Funeral pleasured her downstairs maid with what looked like a leather truncheon.
Reviewing this bilge, I recall the Guardian's TV reviewer writing "it isn't ever day one sees a leather-clad dildo on the BBC. Unless it's Jeremy Clarkson."
Priceless.

From here.

Cork "GuinessFest" continues to take the piss out of jazz fans

Today the line up for the annual alcoholicfest which masquerades as a "jazz" festival announced its line up, many of which it says are "including many who fall outside the “jazz” remit". No way! There is a "jazz" remit in the Guiness festival? Incredulous when you consider the steady denigration of the Guiness Festival into a drunken folk and soft rock fest.

Here we go:
YolanDa Brown - jazz
Pharaoh Sanders - jazz
Imelda May - not jazz
Fish Go Deep - not jazz
These Charming Men - not jazz
The Stone Roses Experience - very definitely not jazz
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - jazz
The Fun Loving Criminals - not jazz
Jack DeJohnette - jazz
The Coronas - very definitely not jazz
Don Baker - blues (sort of jazz)
Sun Ra Arkestra - jazz (without a doubt - class act too)
Director - VERY definitely not jazz
The Alain Bédard Auguste Quartet - jazz
Gilard Atzmon Jazz Quartet - obviously jazz
Francois Bourassa Quartet - jazz

So there we go - 16 acts, of whom only 6 are jazz acts. So that…

Misplaced Spending: Community Platforms

Back in the 1980s, the now notorious Fás came up with an ingenious idea, based on similar programmes based in Thatcher's UK from around 1982. Instead of simply paying people on the dole, and at the same time paying for essential community services such as street cleaners etc, why not shove some of the then ever-lengthening dole queues into roles previously carried out by full time, permanent, and in those days, reasonably rewarded workers. Community schemes, as they were called, was the politically expedient way to try to stem the political impact of both sky-rocketing welfare stats and vanishing public services.

In Ireland they called it the CES scheme, and some were not bad. "I've a job scare," said a friend of my Mum's, recently laid off, who was appointed a supervisor on one of these schemes. I cannot remember exactly what it was, but those who were hired were considered to be "trainees" as most were effectively unemployable. Back then, there wa…

Cork Guiness Festival shows its true colours

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Very amused by the sponsorship row over Cork's own Oktoberfest, which masquerades as a music festival. (Oh yes, did I mention I'm quite a jazz fan?) For years now most years (bar maybe one or two) I've looked in bemusement over the line ups for the so-called "jazz" fesitval, which in reality is just the Cork Guiness Festival, nothing more than a drinking festival, wondering where the jazz is (folk and rock and roll seems to be the only music for most of this festival, in contrast to the really good Choral Festival every May, where the emphasis really is on choral music and not simply on filling pubs and balladeers pretending to play "jazz").

This year, the Examiner tells us, there is no "headline" act at the opera house, due to a dispute over Murphy's sponsorship of said house. Like the "jazz" festival that has little jazz, Cork "opera" house is an "opera" house with very little opera. In fact, no opera at …

Stereotypes!

I really enjoyed some posts about Tom of Finland (since I have to admit to being a bit of an unconventional fan) and the transition away from this kind of stereotyping to more heteronormative models of masculinity in gay male identity post HIV from Trevorade and Queer Today.

I would strongly agree with the notion that endorsing stereotypes is bad stuff, but partly because I do feel from my own experience, in practice, that this can lead to cultural exclusions against ourselves. For example dyke unease against a perceived "invasion" of gay "spaces" by "fag hags" [i.e. straight women who socialise extensively with gay men] in a world where the stereotypying of gay women has broken down considerably, has in the past and still does lead to conscious exclusion of non-stereotypical gay women inside the womens community, as well as passing uncalled for and inappropriate judgements against straight (and not so straight) women who choose to socialise on the gay sc…

NAMA: we all live in negative equity

Two things caught my eye this week, the obvious, the second of which was NAMA, and the valuations of the loans involved (and most interestingly, the proportion of bank loans to which weach institution contributes). The interesting thing for me is that indeed, what we were told appears to have been almost true in some cases - construction WAS the economy. But nobody seems to have pointed out the obvious in the case of PTSB, and even to some extent AIB and others - for the more "mainstream" banks, development loans were NOT and are not the bulk of their lending. Indeed, PTSB is not involved with NAMA at present - interesting considering that the entire basis of PTSB was largely based on residential lending - was there a policy of not engaging in the commercial side of this business? Rather interesting, if this is the case. PTSB I would guess would still have a large portfolio of delinquent residential loans, none of which will come under NAMA as it stands, and would surel…

Fresh from Midleton

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I spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon in Midleton at the annual Food Festival, which happens every September. The nice thing about the food festival is that it extends the normal Saturday market to being a full day, rather than its usual end at 2pm. At least its a weekend market, a lot of markets are inaccessible to those folks like me who work regular office hours (with the sole exception of the little market in East Village in Douglas, which is near enough to drop into for lunch).

There were a few special mentions worth making. On Friday I spotted a tweet on twitter from Dee of Dee's Wholefoods who does both the Midleton annual and the weekly in Douglas. I had a grand chat with the lady herself on Friday - she makes her own veggie burgers from organic ingredients, and they really are lovely. She also does rather nice soups. Its great to see somebody making something for themselves. Amongst other places, many Supervalu stores in the Cork region now stock her burgers, as wel…

Free ticket for Munster v Glasgow

Anybody interested in a free ticket for Munster versus Glasgow on Friday? I can't make it to Limerick in time for kick off. Mail me if interested.

RTE's Nauseating new radio schedule

I decided to have a quick flick through RTE's "wonderful" new schedule since I live in a world of radio and 4 channel land tv. So I don't exactly have a huge amount of choice, though I do feel, sufficient for a few hours of amusement once or twice a week. My 180 euro licence fee is almost breakable down per hours of watching time - I think right now its probably equivalent to the amount of time I spend per year actually viewing, since there is so much unwatchable tripe on the terrestrial domestic stations.

So its was with sheer disgust and horror that I discover that the highly entertaining and well informed Liz Nolan (who I know from her Kodaly Society days) is being replaced with the utterly repulsive and classical ignoramus 80s style RTE2 creep Marty Whelan. Why doesn't somebody shoot this idiot? He was horrible and housewifey enough on 2FM, never mind a modern classical station that needs to sell itself to a broad church, and not just the kind of people wh…

Equality Progress

I've noted with interest two moves of note over the weekend. Firstly there has been a really interesting publication on the GLEN website containing a professionally produced interpretation of the Civil Partnership legal changes. I cannot stress how important it is to be fully aware of the actual contents of the original 120 page borefest before you even look at this, since a lot of the queens screaming about inequality haven't actually read what it contains, have a limited or second hand notion about its contents and the issues it attempts or doesn't attempt to address. My main issue with GLEN is their tendency to drift into enormously long and boring documentations rather than handling issues in a way likely to put you to sleep. But well worth looking through the documents on their website.

The document however, is most enlightening since ultimately, neither government deputy nor individual gay/bi person is going to be doing the interpretation but the legal industry. …

Complaint emailed to Urbus about poor customer service

To Whom it may concern:

Yesterday I went to catch your morning bus at 7.40 am from the Rathbeale Rd in Swords as i was delighted to discover last time I stayed in Dublin that this bus goes directly to the airport terminal. I caught it last time at the same time on the last stop on the Rathbeale Road at the same scheduled time.

However I was extremely angry as instead of stopping for me the driver did not stop and aggravated the situation by wagging his finger sanctimoniously at me. As a result I was left stranded and it must have been obvious to the driver that I was not a regular user of the service and so would not have known which stops service this route and which don't. Instead he chose to deny me a service, was contemptuous of me as a customer and truly arrogant. As I was stranded without any other bus to take me to the airport in time for my flight as there are no other airport bound services for the next 45 minutes: I was forced to take a taxi.

This is an appalling way to…

Midleton Rail service opens today

Was bemused to read in paper today about the "opening" of the Midleton rail line. What of course, you are not informed of, is this is something similar to the split of the DART services in Dublin at Howth junction, so trains could serve as far north as Malahide. Very nice, but effectively the service was split in two between services serving Howth and service going on to Malahide. So the first question I would have is how many trains each way per day, and to what extent has this been done at the expense of existing Cobh-bound rail users?

From 4th August there will be a full service of 21 trains per day, on 30 minute intervals from 6.15 from the city (a HUGE improvement on the appalling "service" which I had no choice but to endure when working in Little Island around 2003, where in order to be at work for 07:00 I had to get a train at 5.45!!) Trains from Midleton start at 6.45 - good for city bound commuters who start at 8am, but no use to anybody starting at 7a…

Cocktails in the rain

One of the biggest new things I discovered this year whilst traipsing California was the Margarita cocktail. You'd be quite surprised to discover that this hasn't got a massive fanbase here - Irish people seem to prefer the sickly sweet cocktails like Moscow mules (which was rather popular when Smirnoff bottled it for a while in the mid 1990s), Pina Colda (oh all that cream!) and Mojitos. There is a legend, probably true, that the mojitos in the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin 4 cost 20 lids a serving, though I must admit my source for this is the Ross O Carroll-Kelly spoof guidebook. I did try checking on their website, but in the best possible taste of a high star chain, they hadn't the poor taste to do something as low brow as publish the prices of their cocktails online!

But alas, there is no margarita to be had on the normal menu!

Captain Amercias in Cork doesn't do it, however, their Dublin branch does!

However there seems to be several schools of thought on the mak…

Stitch Wars

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Stitch Wars
Originally uploaded by Bear and Bird I just couldn't resist this. Aside from Jabba the Hut with a bunny rabbit, the Darth Vader on a sewing machine is just too good to resist.