Monday, April 30, 2007

Career Opportunities

I started work here in Cork exactly six years ago today - Monday, 30th April, 2001. Time flies...

A Sort Of Homecoming

Apparently the Irish American community are outraged by the portrayal of Ireland in this Family Guy episode...



And the ubiquitous Shlebyvillain Niall O'Dowd can be heard giving RTE his two cents worth here. Worth listening to to see how seriously the presenter Sean O'Rourke takes it all.

To be honest it's not the funniest episode I've ever seen, but that's not the point. We're great at giving it loads to other people (particularly the Americans as it happens) yet we're way more sensitive than we care to admit. Ireland - always up for the craic as long as the craic isn't at our expense...

The Fool

Fintan O'Toole in today's Irish Times:

'We might... be given a chance to choose what kind of country we want to live in...

Ireland can't afford mere complacent continuity. We can't afford it economically because the trends are not positive. The economy has been losing competitiveness since 2002. Growth in GNP per capita is set to decline from 3.7 per cent last year to 2.2 per cent in 2008. Exports are growing more slowly than world trade as a whole, so Ireland is losing market share in the global economy. Unemployment, though incomparably less serious than it was 20 years ago, is beginning to rise. The growth in Government revenues is due to slow down quite significantly, from almost 10 per cent this year to 6.6 per cent in 2008. And, from the social and environmental points of view, we can't afford complacency either...

Tackling these problems demands more than just an argument about which set of potential ministers is likely to be more competent. Voters will certainly focus on the question of delivery and the quality of individual leadership is certainly an issue. But there needs to be a much larger debate about the nature of governance in Ireland...

Both the main political parties and the social partners agreed on a rough division of labour between the economy and the State. The economy produces the wealth, the State takes some and uses it to address social problems and inequalities. The argument is about how much the State takes and what it does, not about the basic process. It is a model that has, up to a point, served us well. But it is no longer adequate to the challenges facing us over the next 10 years. In the last phase of Ireland's development, social policy emerged on the back of economic success. In the next phase, economic development depends crucially on social policy...

Whoever can articulate the challenge with most clarity over the coming weeks will best convince the electorate that they have what it takes to meet it.'


Massive election poster I passed this morning on the way to work:

'Vote Local! Vote McGrath!'

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A joke

A man enters a bar and sits down. He orders a drink off the bartender, and settles down on his stool. At this point the bartender notices, much to his surprise, that the figure appears to have a large orange for a head.

The bartender, like all good practitioners of the trade, engages the man in some witty small talk, until the conversation steers naturally to the strange scenario of the man’s head.

“I'm sorry, I know you must get this all the time, but I can't help noticing you have an orange for a head. How on Earth did that happen?”

“Oh” said the man “it’s a pretty long story.”

“Please tell me the tale, I can't help but be intrigued by this.”

So the man sets out on his bizarre tale.

"Three years ago, I moved into a strange old house. All of the furniture was still in there, and I loved the house, with its old style and antique furnishings, so I gradually settled in and made it my own. I read daily in the library, absorbing the writings of great men. But one day, when I was tired of this, I noticed the attic. I quickly realised I had never ventured up there, so I went downstairs and got the ladder, went up to the trap door, and slowly lifted up, a small shower of dust and loft insulation covering my shoulders. I climbed through the small opening and into this darkened world…”

“So how did you end up with an orange for a head?”

“I’m coming to that. So up there I found many strange things. I saw a drinks cabinet shaped like a globe, a coat of armour that bore the Heraldic seal of the Duke of Northumberland and several old paintings, some of which were the long lost works of Raphael. However my attention was devoted to a strange old Arabian lamp. Its dull glimmer was covered by a large amount of dust, so I gave it a quick wipe in order to look at its golden countenance.

What occurred next was both shocking, yet also strangely predictable, as we all know that Genies live in these lamps. Anyway, with a loud pop, and a certain amount of smoke, a genie emerged through the spout of the lamp. He wore only trousers and a turban, and seemed thoroughly stereotypical.

’Cheers mate’ said the genie ‘I've been stuck in this lamp for many years now, and it was getting a bit boring. In the terms of my service, I will give you three wishes. I can only grant you three, and a wish for more wishes voids this contract. Can I help you now with anything now?’

’Oh yes’ I said, as I was motivated by greed, ‘I would dearly love eternal riches.’

‘Granted’ said the genie, and filled my bank account with more money than I could ever imagine. With it I bought cars and women, I bought a small island state in the Caribbean. I bought power in the UN, and cancelled the Third World Debt. I was a philanthropist to end all philanthropists, beating Bill Gates' records and putting Bob Geldof to shame.”

“So how did you end up with an orange for a head?”

“I’m coming to that. So I soon realised that I was growing older by the second, and that all of my science labs could cure diseases and symptoms, but never death. So, I rubbed my lamp to ask the genie my second wish.

‘Genie’ I stated, ‘for my second wish I would dearly love to be immortal and unharmable, set for ever at this virile age of 27.’

‘Granted’ he said, and disappeared back into the lamp. In order to test my new found power, I went immediately to the main road and stepped off the kerb. I was almost immediately hit by a truck, but got up unscathed. "This is great" I thought, and tested my new immortality by starting numerous extreme sports as a hobby. I canoed over the Niagara Falls, went base jumping without a parachute and did some snake wrestling in the Andes.

“So how did you end up with an orange for a head?”

“I’m coming to that. So everything was all brilliant but now I had to think about how best to use my last wish. What did I want that could not be bought with unlimited riches or earned with eternal youth…?”

“So what did you wish for?” said the bartender, desperate for the end of this bizarre tale.

“Well I wished for an orange for a head, obviously.”

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In A Lifetime

Richard Curran's programme Future Shock can be seen on the RTE website at that link. It was fantastic TV and, yes, 'worst case scenario' to an extent it was both compelling and convincing.

But there is one salient point to make. Just about any financial expert that is not hitched to the property industry (i.e. not working for the banks, auctioneers and so on) that I have heard predicts a crash of some degree.

My attitude to Irish property is the story of Joe Kennedy saving millions by bailing out of Wall St when 'the shoe-shine boy tries to give you stock tips'.

There was a fantastic review of the show on The Last Word on Tuesday (last half hour or so of link). Wait 'til you hear the property guy say 'Ireland's case is unique'. Then you'll know the truth!

Dreadlock Holiday

Well the odyssey is over, and you'd have to question Irish cricket's ability to kick on from here and earn a place at the next World Cup, but for now - despite two absolute maulings at the hands of probably the two best teams in the competition - Trent the Legend and his boys in green can be immensely proud of what they achieved. I had tears in my eyes when we beat the Bangles on Sunday. Knighthoods all round...

With the cricket finishing early I watched a bit of Spanish footie. This bit of diego-esque brilliance from Lionel Messi is, without question, European goal of the season...


Comparativa gol de Messi y Maradona


Cristiano Ronaldo my hole...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Complete Control

In every way that I can't stand the Sunday Independent for being an utter rag of a paper, devoid of any integrity whatsoever, I can't stand the Irish Examiner for the depths of inanity it seems to consistently plumb.

Where do you even begin when you see a headline and intro like this: "Irish students ‘should still come to US’. AN Irish student who lost one of his best friends in the Virginia Tech shootings has said it must not discourage Irish students from going to America for an education."

Honestly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Man And A Woman



Now that this Kate Middleton one has split up from Prince Billy can she stop dressing like a 45-year old?...

Further evidence...


Monday, April 16, 2007

Somebody Got Murdered

You see a headline like this: At least 20 dead in campus rampage - police and you know, you just know, that they're talking about the US...

'Guns don't kill, people do, etc...'

In A Lifetime

I will be watching this tonight.

I expect to be further validated in my refusal to spend about 100-times my monthly take home pay on a cardboard box in the middle of nowhere.

The Clash

It's 30-years since the release of The Clash and the BBC's excellent 6music is running a celebration of that album on Wednesday. Should be good...

Depending on what list I want to go by, the Number 1 single the day I was born was either Dreams by Fleetwood Mac, Lucille by Kenny Rogers (Ugh...) or God Save The Queen by, of course, the Sex Pistols. GSTQ was either Number 2 or deliberately kept off top spot given that it was the week of the Queen's silver jubilee. The Number 1 album was The Beatles' Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

Dreadlock Holiday


Well after what can only be described as a total ass-pounding from the convicts of HMP Australia on Friday, Trent and the Legends did brilliantly to bounce back and take another scalp - this time Bangladesh (or East Pakistan, we must have a hex on these boys!). That'll be it now, though. The main reason we didn't beat anyone else is that our batsmen can't handle spin bowlers - and the Sri Lankys (our last opponents) have some of the best in the business.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Leader

I have a theory about the election - Fianna Fáil want to lose it.

Obviously individual TDs and aspiring TDs don't want to lose in their constituencies, but I think the strategists want to lose. The PDs are already campaigning because they fear being wiped off the map and, although I have a sneaking regard for them, it can't be good that a party that gets so few votes seems to wield so much power.

So FF are happy to lose their coalition majority in order to be shot of the PDs and to allow another rainbow coalition to take the reins.

Why though? Because there's a recession coming. And this recession will be coupled with some major public service unrest. The nurses thing is the tip of the iceberg - the ambulance drivers and firemen will go next if the nurses get a deal. The teachers, having all that time on their hands, are due another bout of whinging too. Public sector spending will continue to spiral while our construction driven economy slows to a crawl and more multi-nationals bail out.

FF don't want to be in power for all that. They want the rainbow coalition to take power, get the blame for everything going tits-up and, in about four years time, they get to swan back in - hopefully (from their point of view) with a majority.

Just a theory.

Meanwhile here's hoping the convicts don't hockey us in the cricket today

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Exchavaganza

In what could easily become a regular feature, may I present the first Cork Chav of the Week award to the owner of this natty little runabout, that spent all day Saturday roaring around Cork city centre in a demonstration of... I don't know what, exactly...



Spot the boom box in the boot?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Deny

As may be obvious to anyone that has read this more than a few times, I work for a drug company. Now drug companies are guilty of a lot of things - selling 'treatments' rather than cures; exaggerating the effects of minor (or invented ailments); scaring the impressionable into demanding prescriptions that they don't need from doctors; focusing research on treating 'profitable' ailments; barely improving existing medications simply to extend patent-life...

However there is one thing we can't be accused of - engaging in bad science. The research lasts years and the subsequent clinical trials are as foolproof as it is possible to get. Despite conventional wisdom, if there is any genuine hint of a danger to patients a drug will be pulled at a moment's notice, flushing billions of dollars in investment down the drain. Efficacy has to be proven and the American Food and Drug Administration, FDA, are as strict, dilligent and efficient as you could hope to get from a government agency. In fact the FDA would be the first example I'd throw in the face of any Yank moaning about 'big government'.

So, having said that, you'd think we'd be a bastion of good science in my pharmaceutical factory in Cork. You would think that no one here would get taken in by quackery about 'faith healing' or 'alternative medicine' or any of the rest of that shite. Well, of course, you would be wrong.

Like all good multinationals we have an in-house publication extolling the virues of the company and its employees... sorry, colleagues. And in the current issue there is a full page dedicated to one of our colleagues, who just happens to be a practitioner of Reiki! My colleague explains that '[she] act[s] as a channel to bring negative energy to the surface, draw it out and then replace the negative with positive healing energy.' Now I could just take the piss out of such ludicrous rubbish ('lets just suspend the laws of physics for a moment til we get the reiki going...') but I won't.

Instead there's this bit 'It's very good to relieve stress, arthritis, migraine... The recipient lies on a couch and relaxes... A full treatment takes about an hour... The treatment room is set up with lights dimmed, relaxing background music and candles...' I would seriously hope that those few lines make it obvious that the 'laying of the hands' aspect of Reiki is the most incidental part of the whole experience.

Why does it matter? Well wouldn't you be in a far better place in your life if you could turn the lights down in your own gaff, throw on some tunes, lie back on the couch for an hour and spill your worries to a friend that's a good listener?...

Still, she works in IT, which explains it all really.

If God Will Send His Angels


"This being Easter, Jesus was with me every step. I felt him. It was awesome."

It's one thing believing that the Universe and everything in it is so wondrous and so incomprehensible that it could not have happened by chance, that it is all the creation of God.

It is quite another to believe that such a God could be arsed influencing the result of a golf competition (or any sporting event, or any human endeavour at all).

Maybe I'm wrong, though. I mean, knowing God, maybe He was impressed by Zach's shades...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Drug-Stabbing Time

Things aren't looking good for the industry in Ireland right now. Big pharma is the one industry that is typically entirely immune to economic cycles - i.e. people will always get sick.

At the same time, however, to achieve consistent growth you need to convince more and more people of the need to take drugs. On top of that, as patents slip on treatments developed in the '80s for more common ailments, the drug companies need to develop drugs that either significantly improve on existing medications or treat medical conditions that were previosuly untreatable. On top of all that such drugs have to be extremely profitable, which is a round about way of saying that they have to treat 'ailments' suffered by people in the first world.

Therefore it's probably not surprising that the pipelines are drying up and that the classical organic chemistry approach to drug development is providing fewer and fewer blockbusters.

The recent assumption has been that biopharma is the way of the future and the lumbering giants of Big Pharma seem to be trying to diversify accordingly. However today's news is more bad news for the industry in Ireland. Amgen, the great white hope, are postponing work on their plant for a couple of years (so they say now). This is on top of other job losses already announced, most notably by Pfizer. In both cases this is quite simply because of poor pipelines. Biopharma, at the moment, seems to be all mouth and no trousers.

On the flipside Eli Lilly, GSK and Merck have all announced that they're taking some people on here. So maybe it's not so bad? But if you look at those linked stock-charts you'll see that, despite record gains over the last two years for world stock markets, only Merck's value has been appreciating and that is actually misleading as it's a recovery from a savage drop in late 2004. That's not a refelection of profitability or sales, it's because the investors aren't all that impressed by these companies' pipelines, which is bad news for our continued employment in Cork in the medium term. You should remember that Ireland is a manufacturing centre for these companies (corpo tax), not a research centre. No pipeline equals no manufacturing equals over-capacity equals job losses.

Another indicator of the health of the Big pharma companies is in this report about lobbying in the States (the make or break market for all new drugs). If they're lobbying it's usually because they're trying to increase sales by propping up the patents or making the drug avaialable for wider distribution. Both are signs that they're worried about the pipelines.

Overpowered By Funk

The Electric Picnic line-up is out and more acts have been announced for Oxegen. I have a Sunday ticket for Oxegen although, on balance (i.e. Interpol and Kings of Leon), I'd much rather go on the Saturday, but that's not an option this year.

In terms of festival experience, however, Electric Picnic beats Oxegen hands down from my point of view and I'd love to go this year (having missed last year's to go to the Germany v Ireland match). Unfortunately I just can't bring myself to shell out 236 notes for that line-up.

So there I have it. I'd much prefer to go to one festival, yet want to see the bands at the other festival. Lowlands gets more attractive by the minute...

EP stuff I'm arsed seeing (over three days):
Jarvis Cocker, LCD Soundsystem, The Good, The Bad and The Queen, !!!, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah...

Oxegen Sunday stuff I'm arsed seeing:
Killers, Arcade Fire (natch), Daft Punk, Kooks, Bloc Party, CSS, Klaxons, The Hold Steady, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com Irish Blogs