Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Career Opportunities

Would you believe I got in trouble for this...


I know it's not *that* funny, but I laughed.

I was applying for remote access to the company servers for when I'm in the States and you'd think I was applying for nuclear secrets with all the rubbish online questions I had to fill out. Well I got accused of not taking corporate security seriously; to which I responded it was the only question I could think of that no one could guess my answer to.

I was told to change it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Price Of Gasoline

Unbeknownst to most football fans, Chelski may have just sewn up all of football's honours for the next decade. Roman Abramovich is on the verge of cashing in his oil wealth in a deal that could earn him at least $5 billion, probably $8 billion and anything up to $11 - $12 billion, staggering sums that are pretty much incomrehensible.

The report comes from Sunday's Observer. Interestingly the point is made that Abramovich will be the first of Russia's oligarchs to cash in his chips, most of the assumed wealth being asset based. The piece also contains this fantastic quote from William Browder, chief executive of the Moscow fund Hermitage Capital Management: 'If you take away the morality of the thing, it's a good deal on all sides'.

It's worth reading the whole piece. It's also worth reading just how Roman ended up being so rich in the first place. Within a decade Russia could virtually control Europe's energy supplies. If I had spare cash I know where I'd like it invested...

Monday, September 26, 2005

Guns On The Roof

Genuinely this seems to be a historic day. Eleven years (and more) of an interminably dragged out peace process have probably dulled people's senses into not appreciating the implications of the IRA's move.

Now I don't have any time for Shinners at all, but I can't help but feel that the Unionists are reacting in exactly the depressing way any fool could predict. Amazingly it suits both Unionists and Republicans to paint the peace process as a victory for the Republican "cause" when any sober analysis shows the opposite to be the truth.

The Union is stronger than it was in 1969 and the Southern state is as benign an "enemy" as one could hope to have. Yet, since the foundation of their state, the Northern Unionists have always needed a combination of the Southern Papist enemy and the Provo bogeyman to feed their insatiable siege mentality.

Every time republicanism takes a step towards normality, the Unionists attempt to shore up their defenses with more roadblocks. They've obviously been planning how to deal with the terrible news that their state's number 1 enemy has disarmed for a while, so we'll have to wait and see what the new precondition is. But I imagine some combination of accusing the IRA of lying and focusing on criminality will be the main route.

I have some sympathy for them, but not a lot. Unionist politics is even more tribal than the Shinners' and is failing their community spectacularly. The Shinners want power and a United Ireland (in that order) but they don't *hate* Protestants. If anything they have a bigger problem with the sceptical, educated middle classes in the South that regard them with contempt.

In reality Northern Ireland is further down the menu for the Shinners' right now. Power in the South is the first priority while the Unionists bluster and blather away. Interesting times ahead.

UPDATE: Just listening to Ian Paisley Junior on Today FM - "It's up to the IRA to convince us, they have not" and "They have to demonstrate that they have dismantled their criminal empire". Pretty predictable stuff. Now how, exactly, do you demonstrate that an organisation no longer exists?...

ANOTHER UPDATE: I saw Ruairí O' Brádaigh, president of Republican Sinn Féin (basically the looney fringe of the Republican movement that views the armed struggle in almost romantic terms) on BBC's Spotlight last night. He considers the IRA move to be "treachery". So that's both Republican Sinn Féin and the DUP that are hacked off with disarmament!

A Sort Of Homecoming

I love Dublin. Heresy down here, but I do. I'm sure I've read somewhere that there are two Irelands but personally I think there's about five (if you want to make generalisations, and I do). There's cosmopolitan middle-class Dublin (great social scene, it might be over-priced but then do they really deserve their wealth? Maybe just a bit snobbish and pretentious for good measure and tend to like egg-chasing); there's socially deprived Dublin (the drugs, the chavs, the genuinely sound Dubs - depending on which papers you read and your politics); there's Norn Iron (less-said the better, such a beautiful place but inhabited by gits); there's ultra-rural Ireland (lovely people, great craic and skiddly-idle-doodle-didle whooping and hollering that masks the over-reliance on subsidies and limited horizons); and urban Ireland (the growing small cities and county towns that exhibit the dual characteristics of Dublin in microcosms).

The Dublin I see is the former. I have good friends there from when I was in college and love my visits to the capital. So, because last weekend was (supposed to be) my last before I head to Connecticut, I went to Dublin for a Friday night out. We started in the Market Bar, which I'm very fond of, and, later, we were in The Village, which is great for gigs but I couldn't be arsed with the music at the weekends. However I would love trips to Dublin anyway if I wasn't visiting my mates. I must be the luckiest traveller in Ireland because I literally never have (and never really have had) any trouble with public transport. The trains always take me where I want to go at the times I want to go as do the buses. Maybe if I was a commuter... I don't know.

But I also love the choice, the bars - themed, over-priced and pretentious on one extreme, old-style and pretty much inexpensive, *normal* drinking dens on the other. Same with the shops, the restaurants, the theatres and venues, the leisure facilities and parks. I have a fairly active life here in Cork so I know I'd never be bored in the Big Smoke - after all it was great when I was a student, a little broke and doing odd bar jobs for extra cash. But of course I'm talking about the centre and the South City suburbs. I'm not so sure I'd feel the same way if I lived in Lucan, Lusk or somewhere not on a DART line...

Complete Control

I missed this in last Thursday's Guardian...

"They handcuff me, hands behind my back, and take my rucksack out of my sight. They explain that this is for my safety, and that they are acting under the authority of the Terrorism Act. I am told that I am being stopped and searched because:
· they found my behaviour suspicious from direct observation and then from watching me on the CCTV system;
· I went into the station without looking at the police officers at the entrance or by the gates;
· two other men entered the station at about the same time as me;
· I am wearing a jacket "too warm for the season";
· I am carrying a bulky rucksack, and kept my rucksack with me at all times;
· I looked at people coming on the platform;
· I played with my phone and then took a paper from inside my jacket.

(After being released and charges dropped) On September 8 I talk to my solicitor about ensuring the police return all my possessions, giving us all the inquiry documents (which they may or may not do) and expunging police records (apparently unlikely to happen). The solicitor sends a letter to the officer in charge of my case conveying to him how upset I am.

(further down) Under current laws the police are not only entitled to keep my fingerprints and DNA samples, but according to my solicitor, they are also entitled to hold on to what they gather during their investigation: notepads of arresting officers, photographs, interviewing tapes and any other documents they entered in the police national computer (PNC). So even though the police consider me innocent there will remain some mention (what exactly?) in the PNC and, if they fully share their information with Interpol, in other police databases around the world as well."

All of which is exactly the problem when people say that if you've done nothing wrong you've nothing to worry about when the state tries to increase police powers in response to terrorism.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bandit Country

The El Paso Times blog has a piece about how a former Irish Army officer is now claiming that there were a number of IRA moles in the Garda units stationed in Dundalk and the border area while he was deployed in Aiken Barracks in Dundalk. He also claims that a Garda Superintendent in Dundalk told him that they had identified republican sympathisers within the Garda. These allegations are nothing new, of course, but (if true) he would be a new and credible witness at any future tribunal into alleged Garda-IRA collusion.

In 1989 senior RUC officers, Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, were ambushed and murdered by the South Armagh IRA on the border as they were returning north from a meeting with their counterparts in the Dundalk Garda station. Many people believe that the provos were told the details of the meeting (i.e. times and routes the men would be travelling) by a particular Dundalk Guard, leading to their murder. There was a clamour for an inquiry from unionists, especially after inquiries into Bloody Sunday and the murder of catholic solicitor Pat Finucane, were set up.

The Gardai have always maintained that there were only two or three routes north the men could have taken, that they had not made much effort to avoid surveillance and could have been watched/followed the whole way south and back again. Guards, particularly those stationed near the border, tend to be virulently anti-Republican, which makes the conspiracy theory hard to believe. A friend of mine's father is a retired Special Branch sergeant and he scoffs at the notion that his colleague (name is well known, but...) would dare be an IRA mole within the Garda, but then maybe he would say that.

However a lot of the claims with regard to the killings have been made by a Kevin Fulton. Kevin Fulton is the pseudonym of a man (Peter Keeley, apparently) that has claimed to be a British agent that had infiltrated the IRA. In fact the forthcoming tribunal was established solely as a sop to unionists based on Fulton's claims, as all other claims can be dismissed as hearsay. Both Garda and Republican sources have attempted to dismiss the man as a common criminal not even trusted by the RUC, but who was still being steered by perfidious Albion.

This Irish Times reproduction of an RUC submission to the Northern Irish police Ombudsman (sub required) also details doubts that the RUC had as to Fulton's reliability. You see it is also Fulton that claims he warned the police in advance about the planned Omagh bombing, which claimed 29 lives (a claim both the Garda and PSNI deny). The RUC state that RUC Special Branch had cut ties with Fulton in 1994, four years before Omagh, and that he is, basically, a fantasist. Whatever the real truth, his testimony seemed to be the only real evidence against the Dundalk Gard in question, until now of course - if this soldier is credible.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Stories For Boys

Slugger has a collection of famous cricket-sledging moments. However he decided to leave one of the most famous out on the grounds of decency. I, on the other hand, have no such qualms. In fact, when I had a pretty impressive beer 'n'pizza gut a few years back, I got to use it myself on occasion - which was nice.

Anyway it went as follows:

Glenn McGrath of Australia was bowling to Eddo Brandes, the Zimbabwe number 11 - who couldn't hit snow off a rope but was still in after a few fresh airs at McGrath deliveries. McGrath, getting increasingly pissed, wanders up after one delivery and goes: "Oi, chicken farmer, why are you so fucking fat?" Quick as a flash, Brandes replies: "'Cos every time I fuck your wife, she gives me a biscuit." Even the rest of the Aussies started pissing themselves.

Legend.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Drug Stabbing Time

Twenty takes on new-age alternative bollox merchants today. And he's dead right. I didn't realise a whole pile of these guff-peddlers were on The Late Late Show on Friday night. Thankfully I have a social life at the weekends and will mark the day I spend a Friday night at home, watching chat-shows on TV, as the day I am officially old. Unfortunately the people who are susceptible to believing such shite (hypochondriacs in general, the elderly and, I'm sorry to say, way too many women) do watch programmes like the Late Late. Hopefully the medical doctors on the show managed to convince viewers that it really, really, is a load of bull.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Some Days Are Better Than Others

Ah titties, the World Cup is more than likely out the window now. We look like being seeded fourth for the Euro 2008 qualifiers and there's no sign of any good players coming through in the U-21s. I keep saying it - our gene pool needs some major dilution and we need a whole pile of immigrants living in poverty to have any hope of having a decent football team in a few years time. A dark age for Irish football beckons methinks...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hate And War

Those fuckers up north just get worse and worse:

Belfast's most senior PSNI officer Duncan McCausland said: "I have clear indications that if I move against women and children, paramilitaries or other organisations in the community may come out against me and my officers. Now that's just wrong on so many levels.

Unionist members of the Belfast District Policing Partnership have withdrawn in protest at the police handling of recent violence in loyalist areas. Yes, how dare you big brutish police-people attempt to protect people and property from marauding gangs of utter scum.

The Ulster Unionist leader, Sir Reg Empey, has said everyone should accept responsibility for the recent loyalist violence in Northern Ireland. Reg, go and fucking shite.

Robert McCartney's sister Paula also said republicans were using the distraction of recent loyalist violence to step up their attempts to drive them out. On Tuesday night, a crowd picketed the home where Robert McCartney's partner Bridgeen Hagans and her children live. The family are blaming republicans. Picketing a widow's house!? Nothing on TV that night? Oh of course Celtic aren't in the Champions' League so they couldn't think of anything else to do other than drag their knuckles 'round there for the evening.

Security guards have been put on duty at hospitals in Omagh and Enniskillen following an increasing number of attacks on doctors and nurses.

What a cuntry.

Exit



"I think I need a bathroom break?" as in he's not sure if it's a fart or not!? Or maybe he's already turtle-headed...

If Music Could Talk

*shudder*

Possibly the most scary album release of all time?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Egg-Chasing Time

It wasn't me, I swear!

A Sort Of Homecoming

I haven't bought a house yet and I'm often asked why. Well I've done some sums to justify my decision to myself, so I'll share them.

If I went to AIB, for example, and said I wanted to buy a €250,000 house I would have to find the first €20K of that and borrow the other €230K. That mortgage over 30 years at the current Standard Variable interest rate (3.3%) works out at a repayment of €1,006 per month. For the sake of a simplified argument, assuming that I stay in that house for 30 years, don't change my repayments and the interest rate never rises, then I will pay a total of €362,160 back to the bank and €382,160 in total for the house - a 53% increase on the purchase price.

Now that means the bank will make a profit of €132,160 over thirty years in interest payments, if the interest rate never rises (a fall from 3.3% is simply not going to happen unless we end up in a recession, which would result in falling house prices anyway thus rendering this argument meaningless). That equates to a bank profit of €367 per month. I pay rent of €425 per month.

Now I have only mentioned the cost of buying the building. Furnishing the house is a whole other matter. There are different opinions on the cost of this. Some people are so anxious to own the house that they'll scrimp on the furnishings, take other people's unwanted shit etc. Others believe that, if the place is going to be your home, you should make it yours as much as possible. I would be in the latter camp and believe I would do well to get change out of €20K - €30K. Assuming I make my SSIA my €20K deposit and, assuming I want to keep my share portfolio (my only other savings) for a rainy day, I would have to borrow this as well.

I'm not sure how this bit works, can you get a bigger mortgage to cover furnishing the house or is it a separate (higher interest) loan? I think you can top-up mortgages to help, so to make it easy I'll lump it with the mortgage and assume I now have to borrow €257K. The respective figures become €1,127 per month repayment, total expenditure on house €428,120, €405,720 for the bank or €411 profit to the bank per month. In other words the equivalent of my rent; and I don't pay any maintenance, rates or bin charges.

What I'm getting at is that rent gets called "money down the toilet" but what's bank interest? OK, this has all been highly simplified - for example I have a flatmate covering the other half of the rent. But every argument for has a valid argument against. For example I've been told being a tenant is insecure, but what is home ownership if there's negative equity or you lose your job? Also you're entitled to tax relief on a mortgage but I haven't included solicitor's fees or life assurane costs.

I currently live in a new 850 sq ft. apartment in the middle of what is one of the more favoured Cork suburbs. If you type €250K into a search engine like myhome.ie the districts in Cork thrown up are not to the same standard (and I'm being kind there) and you're looking at either an old terraced-job needing a lot of money spent on it, or a crappily built semi-D in an estate with nothing going for it, or way out in the sticks.

What I'm trying to say is why would I deliberately disimprove my lifestyle by moving to a crappier location just to own property? Look at it this way, imagine you moved to a place for the first time and decided you wouldn't like to rent in a certain area. Why would you then make the so-much-bigger commitment to buy there? Would you ever decide to marry someone that you wouldn't consider dating?!

A final consideration is inflation. To maintain it's real value the house that I've spent €250,000 buying would need to be worth €453,000 in 2035, assuming that inflation never tops 2%. That, of course, negates the fact that I've actually paid far more than that in interest repayments, maintenance, furnishings etc. But how much I've actually paid for it is important.

Bare with me while I do a final sum - I might get this wrong but... the easy thing to do here is to say that my 250K house actually costs 382K after 30 years and that to break even in 30 years time it would have to be worth €690K to account for inflation. But that's not right because I have assumed that the value of my repayment is unaffected by inflation while the value of my house is. So I think this is correct; assume interest stays at 3.3% for 30 years and inflation at 2% for the same length of time. I can then say that the real interest rate is only 1.3% as money loses its value over time. Then the real total cost of my house, when it has been paid off, at today's price is €297,880. Therefore, the house would have to be worth €539,000 in 30 years just to break even, factoring in the fall in value of money. That requires a 115% house price increase in that time.

Now I've left out one very, very imprtant point. If I was ever to have a partner and children all of that goes out the window, you have responsibilities then that matter more than pure economics. But, until then, the galloping house prices don't phase me. There are three reasons for the current, crazy prices - people buying to let as investments; the ridiculously cheap price of credit and the banks allowing people to borrow far more than the historical three times annual salary limit; and a population bubble of young adults born between the mid '70s and early '80s (which caused a primary school crisis in the mid '80s, a college places / student rental crisis in the mid '90s and the first-time buyer crisis of the last few years).

Despite being surprised at how long the bubble has lasted to date, none of those three factors can exist forever - people buying as investments implies a perpetual increase in the number of people looking to rent. Already we know that's not the case. Eventually those houses bought in less rent-convenient areas will go back on the market precipitating a price-drop. Also the steady supply of young people looking to buy will also begin to drop as the population matures. And both of these will happen regardless of whether the interest rates rise, which they must at some point as surely as night follows day.

Simply put my accomodation expenditure is a third of what it would be if I was a homeowner and cleverer investments than buying my own home (as opposed to investment property) means I have more money for my future and that buying that house will be relatively cheaper when that time comes. So until I have that sprog...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dreadlock Holiday*

Number Crunching
'Police estimate that 25,000 fans packed Trafalgar Square as the England cricket team brought home the Ashes' - Sky Sports News.

'They kept the party going yesterday as more than 100,000 packed Trafalgar Square to hail the bleary-eyed stars' - The Sun.

'The tired and emotional England cricket team received an ecstatic welcome in Trafalgar Square yesterday where 250,000 people celebrated the long-awaited return of the Ashes' - The Daily Telegraph.

'Coach Duncan Fletcher last night admitted he was blown away by England's "passion" for beating the Aussies after half a million fans turned out to salute his Ashes heroes' - The Daily Mirror.

Non-Football Quote Of The Day
"I’m ugly, I’m overweight - but I'm happy. What's most exciting about winning the Ashes is it means I will get the freedom of Preston, my home town. That means I can drive a flock of sheep through the town centre, drink for free in no less than 64 pubs and get a lift home with the police when I become inebriated. What more could you want?" - The greatest living Englishman, Freddie Flintoff.

All knicked from football365.

I actually like cricket and have done since I was sick in bed one summer as a kid back when RTE didn't come on air until the mid afternoon and the choice was either the cricket or black and white movies. I learned all the rules and got to know the players. Inexplicably, Steve Waugh of Australia became my favourite player right up until he retired last year after I watched him smack 177 not-out against England in one particular match (up 'til then it had been Merv Hughes with his crazy 19th Century 'tache and his brilliantly named "leg-break" delivery).

I prefer World Cup cricket to Test matches but in the latter four of the five tests the final days have been really tense affairs. Gut wrenching tension for hours on end - it really had to be watched to be fully experienced. Watching Shane Warne drag Australia to a draw in the 3rd Test with the bat, when England seemingly had it in the bag, was amazing stuff. As a result of this summer's series, for the first time ever, I don't get ridiculed (as badly) for admitting I like the game.

*10cc's Dreadlock Holiday - "I don't like cricket, oh no, I love it..."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Egg-Chasing Time

The Sindo's Rugby correspondant, Brendan Fanning, took it upon himself to point out the blatantly obvious on Sunday - that Rugby has become an ugly and brutal sport. There are two things in life I don't like (actually there's loads, but these two stand out at the moment); one is bandwagons of all descriptions (sport, NIMBYism, TV shows, new-age shite, whatever) and the other is the glorification of violence; not cartoony violence of course - I'm not a complete spanner - but the sight of people taking satisfaction in or enjoying the infliction of pain.

When I was growing up I enjoyed the Ireland 5-Nations games. There was a sort of comedy haphazardness to the whole thing and, though I found the games themselves a bit boring (I don't recall a single incident from any game from the mid-80s to the mid-90s - bar a Trevor Ringland charge-down and try against England in Dublin and a Simon Geoghegan try in *Twickers* - from those ten years or so), the atmosphere around them made them a part of the sporting calendar to look forward to.

However, the start of my present aversion to Rugby coincided with the change to professionalism. I have nothing against professionalism as such, it just happened to be around the time I started college in Dublin and was first exposed to the Rugby crowd, specifically the Dublin rugby-playing private-school graduates and their associated hangers on. Such a bunch of tossers I don't think I ever came across in my life to that point.

Watching the rugger buggers 'n' huggers made me realise that, for many of them, the sport was more about being part of a social grouping - and not in a good way - than supporting a team. It was a Middle Class elitism, a way of being seen and being in with a particularly snobbish crowd that populated certain pubs and certain clubs.

Now there is a new breed of fans that have sprung up on the back of relative European Cup success. Munster rugby fans aren't as dislikeable as the Dublin rugger crowd, but the same herd/sheep mentality is at work. A bit like the Boys In Green, they fully believe their own hype that they are the "best fans in the world" because they can afford to go watch one of the biggest matches of the season in the south of France in the early Summer or because they pack out tiny-Thomond in Limerick three or four times a year (at least the boys in green turn-up to the more meaningless games and will actually travel to some dump like Tirana or Tbilisi). However, even by the admission of those who follow Munster but actually know what's going on, Munster play the most base of clinical styles of rugby.

As professionalism has taken hold in the game, the style of play has changed. Rugby was, to me anyway, a simple game, where a man picks up a ball and runs while trying to avoid being hauled down. Now it has become a game of attrition where every yard is fought over tooth and nail until one side or the other is penalised, allowing some punter to launch the ball over the bar, totally unimpeded, a mile from the actual try line. The only variation on this theme is to fight for a few yards until the point is reached that the same punter can kick the ball out of play in the corner so that there are now fewer yards to conquer. A sport that rewards booting the ball out of play, because it gives you an attacking advantage, is just ridiculous.

Worse, however, is the fact that the increasingly physical nature of the game (it was always a contact sport but, for me, it's now a collision sport) does not seem to put anyone off. I find the sight of two big men colliding at speed and turning their internal organs to mush pretty unattractive. To quote from Fanning's article: "Because we have developed rugby players into athletes, they get about the place faster. And because they are bigger we want to use that bulk. Combined with the narrow focus, it has made rugby a collision sport which often is not only difficult to watch - well, for some us - but unproductive for the team, and traumatic for the individual. Currently there is a morbid fascination with the force of the impact, and its results. It provides talking points, which in fact are selling points" (my italics). And that's my second point; instead of turning people off; people, men and women, seem to enjoy the spectacle of men getting pole-axed. They actually seem to get off on it.

Well I don't and, until the passing, expansive, tackle avoidance game is introduced I never will. And all of the above is nothing to do with the fact that I'm a League of Ireland fan and have a chip on my shoulder!...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hate And War

What has been happening in the North is a disgrace. Words just cannot describe the contempt that I feel for these people. In the North it is *always* someone elses fault, anybody elses fault. Over at Slugger O'Toole people can analyse the hows and whys of what's happening. How there's a right to freedom of assembly but not if it's by people you don't like, how there's a necessity for dialogue but not with people you don't like, how it's somebody elses fault if some scumbag puts petrol in a bottle, walks out into the middle of a riot, lights it and chucks it at the police; and all the rest of that utter bollox.

I just want to record for myself, for future reference, just how much utter revulsion I have for Northern Irish society right now. It's a fucked-up, diseased little shithole of a place. If they're not actively engaged in acting like the scum of the earth then they're busy justifying it or maybe condemning but with qualifiers about "themmuns" and "whatabout...".

People feeling the need to celebrate battles from hundreds of years ago, knowing that in doing so they are antagonising their neighbours, and that they are deliberately doing so to reaffirm their cultural identity, is pathetic. People, whose lives must be that easy or that boring that all they have to worry about is a bunch of sad old men and knuckle dragging neanderthals walking the streets of inbred shitehole backwaters, getting worked up into a violent shrill frenzy, is pathetic. That politicians, so-called public representatives, can make statements that both incite violence and simultaneously wash their hands of it, and be let get away with it by the brain-dead who seemingly make-up about 80% of the Northern electorate, is pathetic.

Scumbags the lot of them. A fucking hurricane would sort that place out. Where's God when you need him?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Bottoms

There was an ad in last weeks Observer, a quarter page picture of a girl's ass in a pair of yellow knickers. A fine ass it was too, so obviously the ad worked by grabbing my attention. Then I saw the cartoon of a monkey holding its nose on the seat of the pants and looked to see that the product being advertised was Andrex Moist Toilet Tissue with the slogan "Could you be cleaner?" (or something like that).

Now, apart from ruining the picture of a nice ass with a mental image of a stink of shit, it occured to me then that adland seems to be constantly pushing the boat out further, ever so slowly, when it comes to personal hygiene. Ads for womens' sanitary towels and tampons are an obvious example, reaching the nadir of the tampon ad where a girl is shown to have no trouble in the dark because of the new easy-applicator (or whatever it was called). These ads now seem to be a strange mix of life affirmation, crossed with nappy-style confidence, for women.

The bog roll ads have only recently progressed from soft, strong etc. A puppy running away with bog roll does not conjure an image of the vital role performed by toilet paper (particularly after a night on the pints and a curry). So in a short space of time we've moved from the puppy to the Charmin bears looking for a bit of comfort when on the throne (amazingly Proctor and Gamble commissioned a kids' book about the bog bears); to Kandoo, the bog roll that's supposed to toilet train children. How exactly moistening the paper and putting it in a purple and green plastic box trains children to use the toilet is a bit beyond me.

Anyway, following the Kandoo ads, the marketing men have realised that moistened paper in a plastic box that isn't purple and green may appeal to adults. However adults, being toilet trained (and, having just typed that, I recall just how many destroyed bogs I've had to clean in pubs when working as a barman - some people are fucking disgusting), need another shtick (to be beaten with). Hence we're told that, by wiping our asses with ordinary dry paper after taking a dump, we risk stinking... or at least we do to cartoon monkeys having a sniff around our buttholes.

Incredibly, when googling for a picture of the ad I came across this webpage. What kind of muttonhead buys a new type of bogroll and decides to review it on the net? The reviews include this gem: "Remember the old joke about the best (thickest) toilet paper was 007, then there was 006, 005, 004 down to Goldfinger! Safe rates at about 006, which suits me just fine when I realise that we are not cutting down Australian old growth forests to make it, but using recycled office paper which would otherwise be landfill and make the poor old earth suffer a bit more." from a woman who cites the main disadvantage as being "not enough pretty patterns."!

Anyway she's wrong. British Gas have bought Dyno Rod, the can-be-seen-from-outer-space-due-to-ridiculous-illuminous-orange-vans plumbing specialists. They released a report claiming that all these technological advances in arse-wiping are causing problems for Britain's drains, with both Kandoo and the Moist Wipes (essentially the same thing) taking longer than 5 days to disintegrate. Andrex wouldn't comment.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

If God Will Send His Angels

Divine Retribution has struck America in the form of the hurricane and its calamitous aftermath.

According to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef "[Bush] was behind the (expulsion of) Gush Katif. He encouraged Sharon to expel Gush Katif…we had 15,000 people expelled here, and there (New Orleans) 150,000 (were expelled). It was God’s retribution. God does not short-change anyone.
“He (Bush) perpetrated the expulsion. Now everyone is mad at him…this is his punishment for what he did to Gush Katif, and everyone else who did as he told them, their time will come, too. Where can evil escape to from God? Its time will come and it will be slapped on the head."

But according to Michael Marcavage of Repent America, an evangelical Christian group, "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge."

Yet the Islamists, al-Zarqawi's crowd in Iraq, said "Congratulations to the Islamic nation, to our sheikh Osama abu Abdullah (Osama bin Laden) and to sheikh Ayman Zawahiri (bin Laden's deputy) for the destruction of America, which is at the forefront of evil. It is the start of its collapse."

And an anti-abortionist, Steve Lefemine, said "In my belief, God judged New Orleans for the sin of shedding innocent blood through abortion. Providence punishes national sins by national calamities. Greater divine judgment is coming upon America unless we repent of the national sin of abortion."

A Kuwaiti, Muhammad Yousef Al-Mlaifi, stated "It is almost certain that this is a wind of torment and evil that Allah has sent to this American empire."

Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute said, however, "It's a very risky business ascribing divine intent to natural disasters. Nobody but God really knows why these things occur."

That last statement is nearly the most stupid of the lot. The BBC has an animation sequence (which could be titled "Hurricanes for Dummies" for Mr Knight). Idiots like those above, so convinced that they *know* God and so insisting that God acts with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer in defense of their narrow agenda makes atheism seem so much more attractive.

Some Days Are Better Than Others

Further proof, then, that our gene pool needs some major dilution and that we need a whole pile of immigrants living in poverty to have any hope of having a decent football team in twenty years time. I said I had a bad feeling about it, I didn't think we'd get a result in that game but, having competed so well, I was still gutted. It was pretty obvious we weren't going to get a goal once France sorted out the mistakes they were making but then they didn't look like getting a goal either. Roy Keane bossed Zidane out of it and the defence hadn't given Terry Henry a look in all evening or at least they hadn't until... .

Coming back on the train this morning with one mofo of a hangover I wondered if it had been worth it. Well, as I said, watching football down here is difficult because of the way Cork people turn on the team if things aren't going our way. It's as if they think we're Brazil, all other teams are brutal and they're going to stand to one side and let us waltz right through them. Anyhoo I was hardly in the door 5 minutes when the first thing the first first person I met said was "they're shite" (not "we" - don't want to be associating with losers after all). Cnuts.

Speaking of the hangover, I'm starting to get a bit worried about the drinking. No matter what I drink, how much food I take on, how much water I remember to have, I'm still waking up feeling like death warmed up. It's now impossible for me to drink on a work night and be in any way effective the next day. Basically any more than 3 pints now and I'm fucked the next day. Not good. When I'm transferred to the States I think I'll give it up. If I do I'll be knocking the drunken Irishman stereotype people are going to have on the head. Being a contrary bastard I'll enjoy that.

And speaking of work I got an email when I came in that says "As you may be aware, you will be presented with a service award in March to commemorate completion of 5 years service with the company". Where the feck have the last four and a half years of my life gone? It feels like I've only lived here for two. *shudder*.

One good thing about my transfer (to Connecticut for October, November, December) is that I won't be around for this. No word of a lie; if those gits and their pseudo-emotional, depressing bilge were playing in my back garden I'd close the curtains, shut the windows and go out for a walk.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys

Allez les hommes en verts! (No idea if that's right) Heading to Dublin for the match. I don't have a ticket but there's no way I'm watching it in Cork. I'm nervous as hell and have a bad feeling about this one, especially after the Israel debacles. However you can't overlook the ability of French teams to chuck in the towel when things aren't going their way. If they throw a strop we might get a result but if they score early we're screwed. Cork people only support winning teams and have a bad habit of turning on a team that's not doing well. I watched our World Cup games here and hated it. We went a goal down in 3 of the 4 games and it was just moan and groan "they're shite" and all that. If we get the ball and it's not in the opposition box within approximately 0.23 of a second they start cribbing as well. Wrong sport you gobshites!

A little anecdote: during the World Cup match against Spain Damian Duff, our one creative player, was switched to the right wing. This was because the Spanish right-back Carlos Puyol had him in his pocket whereas the Spanish left-back, Juanfran, was having a 'mare. So the Corkies started slagging the manager (Mick McCarthy, after Keano and Saipan, don't go there) about playing our left-winger on the right until I pointed out the obvious at which point I was told that Duff should be marking Puyol!!! Wrong sport you gobshites! Duff then won a penalty off Juanfran... So up to Dublin then to watch the game with proper football fans.

Went to see Editors in Cork last night. They were really good and the album is well worth a listen - sort of Interpol moved to Northern England and speeded up a bit and, in some places, like very early U2. Sure, it won't win prizes for originality but it's good stuff.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

In God's Country

I'm glad we're offering some degree of assistance to the people of the US Gulf Coast following the hurricane. If our soldiers can help 500 people then that's great. Even if it's token, a needle in a haystack, those 500 would not view it that way. However giving money seems just a bit daft and makes it easier for paddywhacks to indulge in some more anti-Americanism ("They spend 600 gazillion dollars on photon death rays each year, why are we... etc." - although I'd actually be sympathetic to that point of view in this case). Money is surely not an issue, men and supplies must be, so shouldn't we concentrate on helping with that?...

At times like this you learn a lot about the US; and realise that there's so much more you don't realise. We think we understand the place but, really, we have no clue. All those levels of government, one of only two political parties in charge at each level, different localities and States competing for federal funds and investment. Sherriffs, Mayors, Governors, Congressmen and Senators. Overlapping government departments at federal level that overlap again at State level. CIA, FBI, NSA, Secret Service, State Troopers and local Law Enforcement. All that bureaucracy and jockeying for money, power and recognition. All that then coupled with racial fault lines and an obvious example of poverty being the difference between life and death.

1 in 4 black people (African Americans) live below the poverty line in the States. 42 per cent of all Americans believe that God created the world as described by Genesis and that life has existed in exactly that fashion since, for less than 10,000 years. Out of a population of just under 300 million (218 million adults) a staggering 7 million are in some form of "correctional supervision" and 2.2 million people are imprisoned (including nearly 10% of all black males that are the same age as me).

Americans despise big government. Most Americans believe that the federal government should do a few things that no one else can do - defense, decent public education, police, law and order among the most obvious - and leave the rest to individuals and the private sector. The protection of individual freedom is a cherished right, hence the utter fascination with the right to arm bears. The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats would like to tax just a wee bit more to redistribute wealth ever so slightly or carry out just a touch of social engineering (in other words they're a big bunch of pinky, lefty, liberal communists).

And yet, oddly, a nation that prides itself on individual freedoms allows one man to completely run the show for four full years with only death or indictment for crime being able to stop him. He can pick his own cabinet of unelected officials and can mould the judiciary, thus allowing the constitution to be interpreted in a manner that suits his own beliefs. He can also tell a mate of a mate (that's supposed to be heading a federal emergency agency) that he's "doing one heck of a job" while people are dying of dehydration in front of TV cameras five days after a hurricane in the (by far) richest country on the planet.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Poweroutage Breakfast

I'm still fried, even though I only went to the Picnic on Saturday. I'm glad I got the recommendation for The Matthew Herbert Big Band from Sinéad - they set the day up nicely. I pottered around after that for a while, the weather was grand, there were stalls selling all kinds of culinary delights and for reasonable prices too. Mr Pie Minister, their English pies and their flaggons of cheap Somerset cider, kept me going nicely in the afternoon.

There were middle-class hippies all over the shop, so much so that I briefly considered an Eric Cartman style assault on the Amnesty International recruitment tent. Maybe I'll hear differently in the news but the cops could see people skinning-up and chose to ignore it, which was kind of cool. They seemed to decide that the atmosphere was so relaxed and good natured that they could keep a low profile.

Anyway, after wandering in and out of tents for a while I settled in to see Goldfrapp and then The Arcade Fire (the main reason I'd bought a ticket in the first place). Goldfrapp were very good but, to be honest, I'd forgotten their set by the time The Arcade Fire had finished. They were FANTASTIC, an incredible act to see live. They started with a pounding Wake Up - a song now known to U2 fans all over the globe - and finished with Neighbourhood #3 run into Lies. I don't remember ever being at such an intimate, exhilerating performance at a festival in my life. Everybody seemed to love it.

After that I had to duck out of the tent and went to Doves. I enjoyed them but there was something a little flat about their gig. It was nothing like when I saw them in February. Then I took a break, my mate Goodser and me wandered off and sort of watched the start of the Flaming Lips for a couple of minutes from distance while getting some more food in. Then I went down for Kraftwerk, which would never have occured to me but, like I say, I was getting good advice and I have to say I really enjoyed the set. It was so odd not seeing a bunch of punters bounding around the stage clapping at their fans. They were just so... precise. Then everyone headed to Fatboy Slim who put on a pretty decent show (complete with '50s style 3-D glasses that let you see smily faces floating in mid-air onstage) 'til 2am.

I slept in the car for a while and got back to Cork at around 7am - hence the still fried - but God it was worth it!..

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Drug Stabbing Time

The Assistant Commissioner for Women's Health and Director of the FDA Office of Women's Health, Susan F. Wood, has resigned over the FDA's hot-snot-drop I outlined the other day....

White Riot

Compare and contrast these two photos and their associated captions...


Fair enough, and...Fantastic.

Update: Salon.com discusses the fallout from the reporting of these pictures.

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