Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hate And War

The other night I watched a National Geographic documentary called The Truth About Killing. Now this show was presented by Grub Smith, a pretty low-profile presenter on Bravo (lad TV) and an ex-FHM (lad mag) writer, so I wouldn't take it too seriously. However there were some revealing moments. Apparently, officers' observations during World War II lead to a realisation that soldiers were very unwilling to shoot at their enemy. The Allies may have been fighting the evil Nazis, but Tommy was pointing his gun at a fellow human being called Fritz, or whatever, and the natural inclination to not take human life kicked in. This programme was a study of how modern armies turn their soldiers into effective killing machines.

It is believed that only 15 - 20% of Allied infantry soldiers actually fired at their enemy during WWII and that only around 2% of these 15 - 20% ever killed anyone. Of course the vast majority of casualties were caused by artillery and bombing from the air, which was also how territory was subsequently captured. Also, it's worth noting that most infantry inflicted deaths were when the army on the offensive shot at their retreating enemy; i.e. the enemy in flight, on open ground with their backs to the attacker. This is historically a feature of all battles and was again in evidence, for example, when Saddam's conscript army was annihilated fleeing Kuwait in 1991. Despite what Hollywood movies portray, it goes against all our instincts to shoot/kill someone staring us in the face, even those we have been conditioned to believe are an enemy. This is not cowardice - these soldiers risk their own lives in the face of enemy fire and would risk life or limb for a fallen comrade.

So professional armies needed to up the effective shooting rate of their troopsso that, today, soldiers are so well conditioned that killing an enemy becomes not only instinctive but virtually reflexive (hence the need to cover up or simply ignore the numbers of deaths of innocent people in today's Iraq at the hands of US troops. They're not being murdered, they're in the wrong place at the wrong time and become the victims of reflex actions from highly conditioned troops in a war zone). The problem with this "improvement" in soldiers' effectiveness is that incidences of post-combat psychiatric problems among soldiers are on the increase. Britain lost 256 soldiers during the Falklands War, yet it's suggested that a higher number of veterans have since commited suicide (conservative estimates are approx. 150 suicides).

Now it would be churlish to finger Post-Traumatic Stress (and the trauma of the memory of taking another life) as the sole cause of all these suicides, yet veterans are undoubtedly suffering more than they did before. War is not a matter of attrition the way it once was, it is more so about manoeuvre and this is a much more up close and personal method of fighting. These men, and now women, who fight today, undoubtedly are putting a huge strain on their mental well-being. Lip service is paid to the sacrifices made by soldiers. But surely it is just that - lip service. Listening to middle-Englander men in their late 40s describing the nightmares and flashbacks of hand-to-hand fighting with Argentinian conscripts in the South Atlantic less than 25 years ago was both troubling and emotionally moving...

Monday, May 30, 2005

If Music Could Talk

Have finally decided to go to the Oxegen festival this summer, but only the Saturday. I think I'll go to Electric Picnic too, if only to see the fantastic Arcade Fire. It's sure to be a more... mature event than the teeny mud-fest, but there's just too many bands playing on the Saturday of Oxegen that I want to see (except for the fucking Frames - "Despite a resolutely downbeat mood permeating the album... misnamed opener 'Happy'" if you get my drift). Add two nights at U2 and I'll be seeing a lot of music this summer.

Love Is Blindness

I know I shouldn't find this funny, but I do.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Drowning Man

This bloke is trying to give up alcohol for one year but I wonder if the doubts are starting to kick in. I linked to his blog 'cos I really admire him for trying. The Irish drinking culture is a running joke the world over, which we seem quite happy to live up to given half a chance. Our drunkenness is pretty much a badge of pride. At least the Russians get on with slamming vodka without making a song and dance about it. The History of Alcohol and Drugs blog contains a section dedicated to Ireland (and, seemingly, most other countries in the world).

I've often thought about giving up the demon drink completely. I don't drink much by any means, but I am a binge-drinker according to the accepted medical understanding (although who isn't by this measure). I certainly had more than four pints of beer on Wednesday! I actually do abstain regularly, in that I tend to give up in January (after Christmas) and for a month in the summer (before my holidays). It's strange - drink is definitely a depressant and makes me feel lethargic (I remember writing this last year), and I always feel great after being off for a while, but the truth is I have no compulsion to give the stuff up long-term. The reason? Because I'm always bored when I'm off the booze.

It's not that I don't live an active life but Ireland is just a difficult place to live if you don't want to drink. I'm not someone who can sit in a pub all night drinking mineral water because a) it's expensive, b) it's hard work nursing soft drinks the way you can nurse a pint, c) it's easy to get impatient and irritated as your mates start slurring and talking shite and d) you do lose your inhibitions with drink (singing, dancing, talking to people you don't know, saying what you feel/believe), which is very liberating at the time. Furthermore, the few tee-totallers I know never look relaxed at around midnight when all their friends are well on their way to getting plastered. Despite their protestations to the contrary, they always look like they just want to go home. How can you enjoy your weekend nights in this country without being exposed to the booze? You can only go to the Theatre or the Cinema so often. One friend of mine who gave up the booze recently (because he thought he was getting man-boobs) developed a small gambling problem!

There are two main reasons for Ireland's casual drinking problem (and it is a problem) in my opinion. One is affordability, the other is weather. Expenditure on alcohol, as a percentage of disposable income, has been stable since the '70s, which implies that, if people are drinking more (the assumption) the cost is going down in real terms (which absolutely no one believes when I tell them!). The weather is a huge factor and might explain why alcohol consumption figures for Northern Europe are always higher than Southern Europe. What the hell else could I have done yesterday evening, for example, other than go to a pub or sit in. It was windy and lashing rain and it's supposed to be summer. No moonlight walks or barbeque or out to watch a sporting event or fishing or anything.

So that's it. I drink because I can't think of anything better to do, I'm going to be stuck indoors anyway and enjoying a drink is what all my acquaintances do. The solution for the Irish? Without thinking too deeply about it, what about double the price and force us to do something else in our free time other than get rat-arsed and fall around the streets at 2am. Like any government would have the balls to do that!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Into The Heart

Mostly due to the fact I'm cooking for one and have no one to nag me, I consume more red meat and other cholesterol raising foods than I should and, therefore, my cholesterol is a bit high. To combat this I drink Benecol yoghurt drinks on the advice of my nutritionist sister. She tells me that these drinks are totally unproven for the range of claims made about them (like strengthening the immune system) but that plant sterols have indeed been shown to lower cholesterol. The thing is, though, plant sterols don't actually lower cholesterol they (essentially) replace cholesterol, which is a different thing altogether. Now there's nothing wrong with this in theory - studies have shown the intake of plant sterols to be safe. However chatting to my ex last evening (she's doing a PhD in chemistry) she told me that a colleague was finding evidence that plant sterols were indeed toxic to cells. That, if correct, is a little worrying. Plant sterols are pretty much the only cholesterol lowering mechanism we have if we want to avoid medication.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Somebody Got Murdered

Interesting, armed robbers shot by the Garda. That's pretty rare. While I'm against the death penalty in principle I have zero sympathy for these gangsters or any gangster/terrorist shot dead in the process of carrying out gun related crimes. I wonder who'll be first to try and blame the police for not trying to arrest them or accuse the police of state execution or whatever. My money is on Vinnie Browne tonight on RTE Radio 1 (state radio).

UPDATE 16:30:
Well Amnesty were quick out of the blocks. What pisses me off is that you wouldn't hear a peep from Amnesty or their ilk if it was two Garda officers that were shot dead. Are their lives cheaper than gangsters' because they're part of the state apparatus or something? Muppets in Amnesty and Greenpeace that have their moral equivalence-ometers up their ass make being a leftie very difficult...

UPDATE FRIDAY:
I'm nearly dissapointed, not a peep from Vinnie all night as far as I can tell. I did hear one woman on the radio suggesting that the Garda should have used stun guns though! Maybe they should have shot the guns out of their hands like in cowboy films!

Deny

One of Johann Hari's better articles of recent times, Science Under Siege, and the accompanying discussion, is very interesting. My own thoughts? If you think "traditional" or "alternative" science/medicine works, then prove it (and cherry picked examples, personal anecdotes or coincidences are not proof). If something is proved then it is no longer alternative, it is mainstream. It IS science.

You'll Never Walk Alone

The agony. The ecstasy.

My head is pounding this morning but I just don't care.

3-0 at half time, is there anyone who thought that match wasn't over?

Liverpool were dead and buried.

And yet...

(Was former goalkeeper John Paul II on the line with fellow-Pole Jerzy Dudek?)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I'm So Bored With The USA

Newsweek used an unreliable source to claim that American interrogators desecrated the Koran in front of Muslim detainees. First of all you don't have to know much about the media to know that this was careless in the extreme. Second of all, considering what we now know, it doesn't change much - Muslim detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba and wherever else have been mistreated, tortured and some have been murdered. Yet America's right-wingers, continuing to turn a blind-eye (at best) to abuses that erode any moral high ground the US might feel it is on, seized on Newsweek's cock-up and have been on the attack since, taking White House spokesman Scott McLellan's quote “People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged.” as their cue.

So what has, for example, Instapundit got to say about the US military lying to former NFL star Pat Tillman's family about the circumstances of his death. Nothing yet, it seems, but Newsweek is still getting bashed today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Deny

People reading this a while may have noticed that I work in the Drug Industry. They may also have noticed that I believe in Scientific method - research, theorise, experiment, analyse, prove or disprove. They may also have noticed that I have absolutely no truck with alternative medicine and the like. Well, today one of the shift-workers was telling me about his two-year-old son who's suffering from diabetes and how it breaks his heart to have to inject the child with insulin as he thinks his son will view his father as a man who causes him pain. Then he told me about how one of the chemical analysts working on his shift in our plant told him to bring his son to some bloke "who heals with bio-energy" to make his son "feel better". I blurted out that I was sorry and that this stuff is just bollox and a waste of money that he'd be better off spending bringing his son to a circus or a playground or something. When I said it he looked a little crushed, as if I'd just snatched away a small nugget that was making him feel better. I felt bad, but what really bothers me (again) is that there are people with scientific educations still capable of separating their training from their intellect like this. It's pathetic. Does nobody bother to try to understand the implications of what they learn?...

RIP

How sad, how pointless. Yet more victims of crap Irish driving on crap Irish roads. Dying on your way home from school, never seeing it coming, not being able to do a thing about it. Tragic.



"Attention is also expected to focus on the issue of the safety of school buses after it was confirmed by Bus √Čireann that the vehicle was not fitted with seatbelts". I'm not sure I've ever seen a seat-belt on a bus in my life in any country. Good luck trying to get 50 school kids to wear them, even after this tragedy.

Some Days Are Better Than Others

Not being a Barstool Republican I find the whole Celtic love-in in this country rather nauseating. A Celtic shirt is virtually the uniform of choice for numbskulls in this country to express their Oirishness - more so, even, than the national team's shirt. If I could believe for a second that Celtic fans "love" their club for purely footballing or even heritage reasons like, say, a fan of Liverpool or Manchester Utd does then I wouldn't mind. But the truth is that being a Celtic fan is part of a pseudo-republican image rooted in sectarianism along with other "rebel" shite like listening to The Wolfe Tones and buying An Phoblacht.

These people never watch League of Ireland football, of course. "No", they'll say, "because it's shite". Well I can accept that from people supporting teams from one of the big money leagues (at which point in time it's no longer either/or, considering the gulf in class) but not from anyone who follows the ridiculous duopoly bore-fest that is Scottish football, which, as anyone who actually watches it knows, is also shite.

Anyway, in keeping with standard practice, there were riots in Belfast following Celtic's dramatic choke in handing the title to Rangers. All the police's fault of course...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Safe European Home

Have I missed something or are Conor Lenihan's remarks getting far more press and public comment than the plight of the Turkish workers, as raised by Joe Higgins, did in the first place? Which is the bigger crime? A TD making a fool of himself or immigrant workers being denied the same rights as the rest of us?

Dermot should have scolded him a bit, though, and stolen some of Joe Higgins' thunder in order to reclaim some credibility for the government on the plight of migrant workers in this country (they have zero in my book). Of course, sadly, despite the one-day outcry, there's no votes for anyone on this issue - so all the more respect to Joe for highlighting it.

However this is the same Joe Higgins that went to prison for his belief that the rest of us should subsidise the people of Dublin to generate as much waste as they like (bad), but urged a no vote on the citizenship referendum (good). Is it me that's odd or the Socialists?...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Decemberists

As a regular downloader of music from 3hive, may I recommend The Soldiering Life (free and perfectly legal mp3) by The Decemberists to anyone who might read this. I want to get the album but it's not on Play, it's sold out on Amazon and I couldn't find it in HMV. I could get it off iTunes, but I only like buying odd songs there; I like to hold whole albums. Anyway it's CLASS - thank me later.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Dirty Day

Although you wouldn't realise from An Taisce's badly updated site, Dundalk came second to Carlow in a list of Ireland's anti-litter league. Considering it's about three times the size and ten times as busy (no, I can't prove those figures but they're a conservative guess!) Dundalk is the de facto winner in my book. Cork, on the other hand, managed to go backwards to 37th or so and achieve a "Serious Litter Problem" rating. Very impressive during the city of culture year folks...

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

I'm like a boy with a new toy this morning. Eerily accurate if blatantly general personality tests...









Your Political Profile



Overall: 40% Conservative, 60% Liberal

Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal














The Keys to Your Heart



You are attracted to obedience and warmth.

In love, you feel the most alive when things are straight-forward, and you're told that you're loved.

You'd like to your lover to think you are loyal and faithful... that you'll never change.

You would be forced to break up with someone who was emotional, moody, and difficult to please.

Your ideal relationship is open. Both of you can talk about everything... no secrets.

Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.

You think of marriage as something precious. You'll treasure marriage and treat it as sacred.

In this moment, you think of love as something you don't need. You just feel like flirting around and playing right now.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Until the End of he World

When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low, the resentment rides high...

I knew I was in for a shitty week - 61 hours and counting.

Anyway, Gregory Djerejian (how the hell is that pronounced?...) of Belgravia Dispatch is always an interesting read. A recent article of his, Bush In (Early) Autumn, assesses US foreign policy over the last five years of Bush's presidency. It's, sort of, in three sections - the pre 9/11 section is interesting, if not (everything being relative) all that important and a lot of the post-9/11 stuff speculates on whether or not a Gore presidency would have reacted with sufficient determination to that attack on America. He speculates, for example that a Democrat administration may have treated 9/11 as a purely criminal matter, rather than an act of war. I know that many peaceniks on this side of the pond would say that that is how it should have been. Personally I don't believe the reaction to 9/11 had to be either/or. A two pronged response with precision military strikes on terrorist/paramilitary structures, together with criminal prosecutions on the support structures, would seem to be the correct approach for a nation state trying to deal with an intractable terrorist foe.

BD states that "...Al Gore would not have gone into Iraq. Ah you say, damn straight! And how better off we'd all be. We would have 1,600 more of our country-men still with us; 15,000 or so unmaimed; seemingly countless Iraqis not killed in collateral damage and daily suicide bombings; none of the painful transatlantic discord of the past years; US $ 200BB and counting still in the Treasury, and so on. How better off we'd be! Except that we wouldn't be." He then goes on to explain why Saddam had to be toppled, but that is not the same as a full scale invasion and occupation and it is hardly surprising that this administration is dodging the question of Iraqi withdrawal. One wonders if they ever intend leaving.

An interesting revisionist approach has taken place since the decision to go to war with Iraq. Back in January, Instapundit (he of the "real the whole thing" links to opinions he likes) tried to claim that the war in Iraq "was about remaking the Middle East, helping to establish a democracy in a vital spot" and that "[the suggestion that] the war was all about weapons of mass destruction is a bit dishonest". Well, reading this, I believe that it is his assertion that is a bit dishonest. Either the war was all about WMD or WMD was being used as an excuse to promote another agenda. Either way someone lied and he and other American right-wingers have been shifting the goalposts on Iraq since it became clear by the end of 2001 that an invasion of that country was on the cards.

That letter proves to me that, quite simply, 9/11 was the excuse needed for the Republican administration to do what they had always wanted to do - invade Iraq. In order to sell a war to the American people they had to be persuaded that Iraq was a threat to the US. This was impossible before 9/11 and still took a leap of faith afterwards. Nevertheless 9/11 and the subsequent threat of Iraqi WMD were the excuses the American administration used to make that leap of faith. Conventional wisdom now has it that everybody thought Iraqi WMD were a threat - well they didn't.

The joke that was Powell's presentation to the UN and the claims of former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who has been disgustingly smeared relentlessly by the right-wingers, even after being proven right, convinced many that lies about WMD were being pushed to persuade the masses that war was necessary. But the decision to go to war had been made. The revisionists now even claim that the reason for the strength of the insurgency in Iraq today is the delay caused by trying to go the "UN route" as a sop to the British. Now I've said that Instapundit was being dishonest, but he wasn't totally. I'm not sure about sowing the seeds of democracy but one does wonder why, in response to an attack by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists it was necessary to attack a secular fascist regime that was the enemy of all the other states in the region (those that more obviously harboured terrorists).

I believe that Iraq was actually seen as the softest touch in the region and of strategic interest to the US. Not "all about oil", but partly that, and partly to have a friendly buffer state between Iran and Israel, and partly to get out of the mess that is the alliance with Saudi Arabia (which was a significant root cause for 9/11 in the first place). The ferocity of the insurgency has surely shocked the Americans but, albeit with the benefit of hindsight, it is not totally unsurprising. Instead of having to attack a country two whole oceans away, the United States managed to bring a theatre of war to the jihadists doorstep.

So was the war worth it? I wasn't anti-war, personally, I found myself being glad that Saddam was being taken out, yet, at the same time, I was angry about the obvious lies being told and the way the American people were being lead by lies and propaganda into supporting it. However the biggest disappointment for me about what has happened is the damage done to "just war theory". Having seen Rwanda and Bosnia (not so much Kosovo however) in my own lifetime I do believe that there is a moral onus on western democracies to intervene to help oppressed peoples suffering across the world and Iraq was a prime example of this. Sanctions only hurt the poor whereas regime change should really only hurt the brutal. Iraq should have been the easiest of regime changes yet it hasn't turned out that way. Similarly Somalia in '93.

Basically I'm afraid that the Iraqi experience might prevent future interventions where they are needed and that saddens me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Deny

Re-printing this because it's just so damn impressive:

I know a place where the Sun never sets.

It’s a mountain, and it’s on the Moon. It sticks up so high that even as the Moon spins, it’s in perpetual daylight. Radiation from the Sun pours down on there day and night, 24 hours a day—well, the Moon’s day is actually about 4 weeks long, so the sunlight pours down there 708 hours a day.


I know a place where the Sun never shines. It’s at the bottom of the ocean. A crack in the crust there exudes nasty chemicals and heats the water to the boiling point. This would kill a human instantly, but there are creatures there, bacteria, that thrive. They eat the sulfur from the vent, and excrete sulfuric acid.

I know a place where the temperature is 15 million degrees, and the pressure would crush you to a microscopic dot. That place is the core of the Sun.

I know a place where the magnetic fields would rip you apart, atom by atom: the surface of a neutron star, a magnetar.

I know a place where life began billions of years ago. That place is here, the Earth.

I know these places because I’m a scientist.

Science is a way of finding things out. It’s a way of testing what’s real. It’s what Richard Feynman called “A way of not fooling ourselves.”

No astrologer ever predicted the existence of Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto. No modern astrologer had a clue about Sedna, a ball of ice half the size of Pluto that orbits even farther out. No astrologer predicted the more than 150 planets now known to orbit other suns.

But scientists did.

No psychic, despite their claims, has ever helped the police solve a crime. But forensic scientists have, all the time.

It wasn’t someone who practices homeopathy who found a cure for smallpox, or polio. Scientists did, medical scientists.

No creationist ever cracked the genetic code. Chemists did. Molecular biologists did.
They used physics. They used math. They used chemistry, biology, astronomy, engineering.


They used science.

These are all the things you discovered doing your projects. All the things that brought you here today. Computers? Cell phones? Rockets to Saturn, probes to the ocean floor, PSP, gamecubes, gameboys, X-boxes? All by scientists.

Those places I talked about before—you can get to know them too. You can experience the wonder of seeing them for the first time, the thrill of discovery, the incredible, visceral feeling of doing something no one has ever done before, seen things no one has seen before, know something no one else has ever known.

No crystal balls, no tarot cards, no horoscopes. Just you, your brain, and your ability to think.

Welcome to science. You’re gonna like it here.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

You'll Never Walk Alone

Never actually thought it would work out this way but it has. I make the prediction now so that I can return in August and say "I told you so"; Everton will go out in the Champions' League qualifying round.

Just have to go to Istanpool and beat AC Milan so.

The Championship is the be all and end all of Gaelic Games. From May 'til September, every year, the country's finest amateur sportsmen will do battle with nothing but the pride of their own counties at stake. Then Kilkenny win the hurling. Gaelic Football is a lot more competitive and harder to call than the stick-ball game but there's one thing that isn't too hard to predict - how long Louth will last. The answer is usually the second week of May and so it's come to pass. It's no wonder that, when the muck-savages are going nuts in the Autumn, I fail to be enthused.

It's been great being at home for the weekend. I'll be leaving to head to Cork at 4am. I'll have the road to myself so should be in work for about 7:45. I'm in for another pretty shitty week I think.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Anarchy In The UK

What are Sinn Fein's policies? What are the DUP's? How do they intend bringing investment into Northern Ireland? How are they going to increase the tax take and what will they spend the money on? What is the purpose of the Education system? What sort of people do they want their children to grow up to be? Should the Health Service be so heavily subsidised or is an American model preferable? Is decentralisation from Belfast a good idea? How should Northern Ireland's waste problem be managed? How are ethnic minorities treated? Should immigration be encouraged or prevented? What role does Northern Ireland play in the EU.

Does anyone, anywhere know the answer to any of these questions and all the others I could have posed? No, because the North is a fucked up, diseased little shithole of a place. Never mind the 800 years of oppression or the 50 years of discrimination or the 25 years of troubles or the 10 years of peace. Right now, what have Northerners actually voted for? They haven't a bloody clue. I've asked some and they really don't know. All they know is that, if they think they're loyal Brits, they vote DUP and if they're patriotic, Celtic-loving, GAAaaahh watching Oirishmen they vote for the Shinners. The highest turnouts anywhere in the UK yet politics, as anyone else in the civilised world would understand it, simply doesn't exist - Socialism? Capitalism? Left-wing? Right-wing? Libertarian? Social Justice? Big government? Small government? Middle class? Working Class?... Politics? You're having a laugh.

Look at that map, complete with a small island of green in Belfast surrounded by a sea of brown. Post-war Germany couldn't have been carved up any neater. Well they've chosen it themselves so they deserve everything that's coming to them. They could have voted for their shared interests as a country or even their local, parochial interests like we do in the South (which I despise myself but at least it's real politics) but no, they vote on tribal lines so they get tribal mouthpieces. Really, it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of fuckwits.

A Sort Of Homecoming

Going home today, first time since Easter. I'm pretty homesick because I don't normally leave it this long. I'm taking a half day but I worked from 8:30 am til 11:45pm yesterday to try and get enough done to get away early today. I hope I don't fall asleep on the road. It's unlikely, though, because crap Irish driving will likely have my blood boiling the whole way to the Balbriggan exit of the M1 (some 180 miles into my journey from Cork to Dundalk). I don't think I'm a great driver but I'm NEVER guilty of any of the following, which makes me better than the vast majority (particular kudos to Cork people on all of the following):

  1. I stay on my side of the road; I don't lane float, wander over the white line on bends or cut the corner on junctions.
  2. I don't drive up peoples' holes.
  3. I don't think my hazard lights automatically give me permission to abandon my car anywhere I like.
  4. On dual carriageways, climbing lanes and motorways I stay in the left lane unless I actually intend passing someone (at a reasonable speed) - the overtaking lane is NOT a lifestyle choice and the inner lane is NOT just for trucks and tractors.
  5. I actually use my indicators when they're meant to be used. That includes NOT using them going around bends and using them CORRECTLY on roundabouts.
  6. I stay in the lane I'm SUPPOSED to be in to take the correct exit off roundabouts.
  7. I don't enter box junctions or roundabouts unless I can exit them.
  8. I don't dawdle away from traffic lights.
  9. If someone travelling faster than me is approaching on a straight road with a hard shoulder, I'll move over to allow him safely pass. I won't wander over to the white line and block him. It's none of my business if he decides to break the speed limit, more reason to get out of his way and avoid trouble.

That's enough for now. Looking forward to a couple of pints tonight and a round of golf with the lads in the morning.

Todays playlist:

  1. The Killers
  2. Razorlight
  3. The Arcade Fire
  4. Hot Hot Heat
  5. The Futureheads
  6. U2

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

You'll Never Walk Alone

C'MON THE 'POOL!

Football has been kicking me in the teeth for years. First Liverpool's descent into mediocrity, then Dundalk's descent into near oblivion and, latterly, Ireland's regular implosions when push comes to shove. One of the best days of my life (in football terms at least) was when Dundalk won the FAI Cup in 2002. Being from virtually a non-GAA county this was the closest thing to real local success and universal civic pride I'd ever experienced and it was like a drug.

Sure, I'm not from Liverpool, but if they can take Chelsea tonight the feelings will be something similar. I love football and there's just something so compelling about the thoughts of a family-owned (non PLC) club from the working class North of England with decades of history to their name, but currently unable to compete with the (rich) elite, defeating the nouveau riche boys from West London and their Russian billionaire owner who got rich by screwing a nation on its knees.

Here's hoping...

Update next moning:

Unbelievable! I was shaking like a leaf for the last twenty minutes. Eidur Gudjohnsen had Chelsea's best chance of the match 5 1/2 minutes into injury time and fluffed it. Karma? He's the man who "engineered" the suspension of Liverpool's playmaker, Xabi Alonso, after all.

Bring on Milan (more than likely) and see you in Istanbul... actually there's no way I can afford to go. Still, Igor Biscan 1 European Cup Final, Roy Keane 0 - imagine that. Oh, and Mourinho being such a gracious loser (not a single shot on target from open play in 180 minutes of football, José) is just the icing on the cake.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Deny

An article in yesterday's Observer announced "proof" that acupuncture works or (to quote the ridiculous headline) "It's Official: Acupuncture Really Works" Dear oh dear, where to begin? Well with "It's Official" for a start. Really? Say's who? Who is in a position to declare what's "official" and what isn't. Of course the unquestioning masses who will have read the article, will automatically assume that, indeed, "acupuncture really works". Quackery 1, Reason 0 (and that's without even evaluating the term "really works", which is totally unquantifiable.

The article states that Acupuncture relies on a different language and different tools from Western medicine, which is a neat way of saying that the central theories of the practice (developed during ancient times when, remember, the basic benefits of good hygiene weren't known and when human anatomy and physiology were a complete mystery to mankind) are completely at odds with scientific knowledge and discovery. By the way it's important to note the use of the word "treat" and not the use of the word "cure" throughout.

Apparently "a new study reveals for the first time that it provokes a specific response in the brain, shedding light on how it might affect the body's pain pathways. This helps to explain why both patients and health professionals trained in Western medicine are increasingly turning to this ancient form of Chinese healing". Well, for proof, that's pretty ambiguous stuff - "shed light... might... helps explain... increasingly...". According to the article, scientists working on the study say that patients involved in the trial showed brain activity in a region that "appears to be involved in pain modulation". All these qualifications - a classic example of the Fallacy of the Crucial Experiment. Note, however, that there is no mention of which, if any, groups displayed a universal improvement in their symptoms. Kind of important information being witheld, wouldn't you think?

The next section is what actually "sheds light" on how acupuncture might, ehh, work... "with acupuncture you're treating the whole person - the root of the problems, not just the symptoms. I can spend an hour or more with a patient. In the NHS you never get that time..." Later we're told that "To treat an illness, practitioners take a full view of the patient, asking how their body functions, about their character and even their childhood..." Some of the illnesses being treated include "...depression, migraines, chronic pain, rheumatism, eczema, multiple sclerosis and high blood pressure..."

Five out of seven of these illnesses are well known symptoms of stress, so what's really doing the treating? Stainless steel needles stuck in your arse or the one hour chat about your character and childhood? "Yet a growing number of patients have it simply because they say that acupuncture makes them feel happier and more fulfilled". Hmmm, funny that. Note, by the way, that rheumatism is a catch-all term for pain suffered by the elderly (i.e. potentially stress induced also) and MS, obviously, isn't treated by acupuncture... but the associated depression is.

The rest of the piece cherry picks studies indicating the efficacy of acupuncture. It doesn't, however, mention that many, many more have shown acupuncture to be nothing more than a placebo induced sense of temporary well being. This might sound harmless but, considering the complexity of the human vascular (blood) and nervous systems, some clown who doesn't know what they're doing could cause some real damage skewering people with stainless steel. The human body is not designed to be, and does not like being, punctured. Although, in fairness, complications are probably rare. Still though, you wouldn't like to think that genuinely effective medication was being rejected in favour of acupuncture. If it's complimentary and being practised safely then let people chuck their money away for a sense of well being if they want.

For anyone interested this, detailed, examination of acupuncture (and associated links) should dispel any residual notions of acupunture's genuine effectiveness.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Safe European Home

How to get depressed on a Sunday. Apparently "...only 3 out of 10 said they would not want their son or daughter to marry a foreigner". Well that's alright then.

"77% of respondents agreed that Irish people living illegally in the US should be allowed to legally stay there, but there is less support, 66%, for allowing non nationals waiting for decisions on their Irish residence applications to stay in Ireland." What a bunch of hypocrites we are.

Does anyone in the world actually believe our "built America" propaganda more than we seem to ourselves?
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