Saturday, September 29, 2007

House for sale

The Canadian Government is selling their Ambassador's residence in Dublin. The reason for the sale is, apparently, simply to cash in on the rise in the value of the property. It would seem that the Canadian Government hasn't been reading the property news here lately. Prices are falling. They should have sold the house 18 months ago. It's a great location and a nice-looking house, but still I doubt they'll get their €17m.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Slice of bacon, please

Following the Mets the past week all I've been able to think about is a quote from Mick McCarty back when he was managing the Irish national team.
Everyone has a good time watching it, but you want to try sitting in that dug-out with your backside in the bacon slicer!
Mets manager Willie Randolph may well wish it was only a slice of bacon that was on the line. I imagine many Met fans will want him skinned - dead or alive, it won't matter - if things don't turn around this weekend. The Mets are standing on the edge of history, only it's the kind of history no team ever want to be part of.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Yanks in Athenry

Great little story about an American plane that crash landed in Athenry during World War II.


If you want to hear the whole of Bruce's new album, you can here (and probably in loads of other places too).

Well, I'm not that thrilled to be honest. The music's very Bruce, which is a good thing (if you like Bruce, obviously). The lyrics are ... well, let's just say Bruce has Iraq on his mind these days. There are a number of songs that refer to the Iraq war. One of them, Devil's Arcade, is my favorite on the album.

The other over-riding theme is that Bruce is a cranky old so and so. And, the lightest song on the album, Girls In Their Summer Clothes, had me thinking, "Gee, Bruce. Aren't you a little old to be ogling young girls on the boardwalk these days"? Maybe I'm just getting old.

And, then there's I'll Work For Your Love, which has some pretty odd religious imagery:
  • And I'll watch the bones in your back like the Stations of the Cross …
  • The pages of Revelation lie open in your empty eyes of blue …
  • Well tears, they fill the rosary at your feet, my temple of bones …
Maybe I misheard those lines, but I don't think so. That first one still has me scratching my head.

Maybe Magic will grow on me; I've only had one listen (other than I'll Work For Your Love). I can't picture myself listening to this in the car singing along. Right now I'm not even sure I'll buy it, which is saying something.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Belgium's troubles

I have no insight other than what I read in the paper, but boy it does seem odd that people are openly discussing the demise of Belgium. On the one hand, it's a big "So what?", but you do have to wonder what's going on in the EU if one of the member states is possibly coming apart.

A report in today's New York Times makes it seem like the end of Belgium is still a ways off, which is good if true. I can't see anything good coming from such a separation. Maybe this is just a mood and it will pass?

I used to pay a lot of attention to the Quebec issue, which is similar, of course. I always believed that the French Canadians were less separatist than was often thought, even less separatist than how they voted. They just liked to push the English speaking part of Canada to see how far they could go, what sort of perks could get they get for themselves. They were simply the squeaky wheel.

If Quebec had actually withdrawn from Canada it would have led to all sorts of uncertainty, including whether the western provinces would want to stay in Canada and whether Ontario would want to have to deal with the isolated maritime Provinces. Canada would probably cease to exist if Quebec did leave.

This Belgium situation seems different. More vitriolic, but perhaps less consequential for the two factions. The Flemish people seem to assume (probably correctly) that an independent Flanders would be admitted to the EU. A rump Belgium and Flanders would simply be two regional governments under the EU's umbrella where before there was only one. Maybe the cost of separation is not great enough to prevent it from happening?

Every reporter and columnist rightly points out that if Flanders separates from Belgium, other regions may also demand that they be independent states inside the EU. Yet, I'm not sure the EU can do much to stop this.

Not only will this 'divorce' lead to further trouble in other member states, but it's an embarrassment for the whole EU. It might even represent a threat to the EU itself. How can this great experiment in a multinational super-state accept that a small member state could not endure as a multinational state? What if in the future a large ethnic bloc decides it wants out of the EU?

The EU has to find a way to prevent this from coming to pass.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thanks all the way from Gilbert

The Mayor of Gilbert, AZ just had to come.
"It was extremely important for me to thank them for support of the war on terror," Berman said of his visit with First Minister Ian Paisley.
I love small towns (okay, cities) like this. The Mayor had to come all the way from Arizona to offer his thanks for support in the war on terror. Obviously a simple 'thank you' card wouldn't suffice. And, aren't thanks for support in wars something usually conveyed by someone a little closer to the role of Commander-in-Chief than the Mayor of Gilbert, Arizona?

And, one more thing, you ever notice that these ever-so-vital trips never seem to occur in January?

{By the way, can anyone shed any light on Ian Paisley's or the DUP's stance on the war on terror? I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone in the party speak out one way or the other.}

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Not for one minute do I believe that limiting the number of competitors seeking my custom will be to my benefit (or any consumer's), but the so-called Competition Authority (is it supposed to to attempt to prevent competition?) prefers that solution to local garbage collection.

The Competition Authority
said it is in favour of single operators if the arrangement was more economical in an area.
It said competition should take place at the tendering stage when operators would offer their services at competitive rates, before an operator was chosen.
In other words, every consumer should be treated as identical. Well, you know what? We aren't. I've worked hard to reduce the amount of garbage produced in my house. And, I shopped around to find the best deal among the waste collectors operating in my area.

My annual bill is probably less than a third of most people who live near me. I know it would cost me big to go back to the situation we had when we had only one waste collection company, whose only concern was catching the eye of some local councillors. No thank you. Keep the competition.

To all Met fans and Met fans only

Is everybody okay in here? Anyone need any help?

No, that wasn't a bomb. It was just the sky falling on us. What? Cut on my head? I must have blacked out. I didn't know I was hurt.

I don't remember much, just the sound of an explosion. What was that? That was Raphael Belliard crushing the ball? Isn't he on Washington? Aren't they in last place? Okay, fourth place. WHATEVER! - they're a long way back.

How long do you think the lights will be out? Sheesh. My head really hurts.

Free again

The New York Times has - for the second time - abandoned an online subscription model. All their columns and opinion pieces are free again as is the archive going back to 1987.

Another victory for the cheap at heart.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The "Ambassador is a humorous man"

That's how the German embassy replied when questioned about their Ambassador's recent remarks to a gathering of German industrialists in Dublin. I have trouble imagining any Ambassador as humorous, but for some reason the idea that the German ambassador is humorous is itself somewhat amusing.

Anyway, today it seems that not only was he joking, but his jokes were mistranslated.Or at least, his speech was mistranslated, which might help explain why fellow speaker and Irishman Gay Mitchell was offended. Mitchell thought the Ambassador "did a number on Ireland and the Irish".

I can't see that describing Irish history as even sadder than Poland's is all that offensive. Maybe he was offended by the remark that Irish people seem pretty keen on new cars? I don't know. I haven't been able to find a copy of the actual speech.

One Irish Independent columnist (Kevin Myers, I'm guessing) is not offended, but is professing his admiration for the Ambassador in a funny open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Petraeus & Newstalk

I like Karen Coleman, as I've said before. I don't get the chance to listen to her program as often as I used to when it was on Saturday mornings, but I doubt it's changed much.

On Sunday Coleman was discussing General Petraeus's testimony before Congress last week. She had a guest - just one - to provide the meat of the discussion. I missed the first couple of minutes of her interview with her guest Ray McGovern (a name I didn't know). I don't know how she introduced him, but within a couple of minutes I knew we were not going to get anything like a balanced report on what Petraeus had to say or how it was received.

What we got instead was that Petraeus lied to Congress and is willing to sacrifice the lives of his men in pursuit of his Presidential ambitions. That's pretty strong stuff and it occurred to me that it might even be libelous under Irish law (much stricter than US law). Coleman never even tried to say, "Oh come on. That's a pretty strong accusation. You don't really believe that, do you?"

Instead, she let him go on in that vein for the rest of the interview. Only he and his colleagues at Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (can't find a web site) really know what's going on. He even damned Petraeus by claiming his 1974 marriage was merely a way of promoting himself to a military superior.

She didn't even react when McGovern referred to President Bush as the "self-proclaimed Commander in Chief". Hardly "self-proclaimed" seeing as the Constitution says:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States …
Even that bit of nonsense went unchallenged.

This is how I remember Coleman's shows. Well researched, well produced, but far too often completely lacking in any semblance of balance.

Plumbing the depths of despair

My arms are aching after spending a lot of time this past weekend and last night trying to resolve a not-so-major plumbing issue. Uggh. It wasn't hard to see what the problem was, but finding the right pieces to fix it and then making them fit - aaaaahhhhh.

My arms and back are killing me after spending so much time trying to twist myself beneath and around the tub, toilet and various pipes. And, to top it off, I'm not so sure my repair is going to last all that long.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

English lessons for immigrants

The Immigrant Council of Ireland believes immigrants need English lessons otherwise immigrants will face "social isolation and marginalisation"; immigrants will have trouble getting access to "basic services such as the health system, education and housing". That sounds reasonable to me. Immigrants should learn English and a few hours a week in a classroom will help them on their way. Good idea.

However, it's wrong for the government to fund (or even worse, provide) such classes. Anyone who has come here to work has come of their own free will and if they feel they need English classes to enhance the quality of their life here, then they should pay for such classes themselves.

The taxpayer should not be expected to pay for such classes, otherwise why shouldn't all adult education be funded by the taxpayer. What makes an English class for an immigrant engineer more important than an engineering class for a native? There are all sorts of benefits with regards to health, housing and education available to those who have studied various subjects, not just English.

Also, the immigrant will benefit because he will be in class with others equally determined to learn and he will have the leverage to demand an excellent service. Such leverage is non-existent when the state gets involved. When the state provides, you takes what you gets.

And, what about this little twist? I came to this country already knowing English, but maybe now I feel a need learn the native tongue. I can't help my kids with their homework, can't avail of the state-funded television and radio services in Irish, etc. I can't join the Guards, be a teacher or become a barrister. Why shouldn't the state provide for me to learn the Irish language? What would be the constitutional position of funding only lessons in the second language of the nation? Just a thought.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I doubt September 11 will ever be just another day on the calendar. Still, it doesn't mean I have anything to say about it, as I've realized today. Again, I'm surprised at how many programs on the t.v. are about the attacks six years ago. And, yes, I'm watching them, but I don't think I've heard anything that I didn't already know.

Osama's video

Other than those in the news media, is anyone taking this thing seriously? Oh, I'm sure it'll hit MTV's top 20, but really, when are they going to do an episode of Cribs with him?

If I were to offer Osama any advice at all, it would be to cut it back to about 3 minutes. It's always hard to get airplay for a 25 minute video. And, talking about the housing market is a big mistake.

Sure everyone's interested in the value of their property, but eyes glaze over when you don't keep it local or make it exotic. I would suggest he show a few choice properties that might interest the viewer. You know, a large villa with a thousand acres for less than $750 somewhere northeast of Khandahar. It should have a nice view of the Arghandab River.

Another idea might be to release a series of text messages. Imagine the fun trying to decipher the meaning when he's using Arabic txtspk.

Some of the highlights for me were:
  • bin Laden talks about how America has been "bled dry" economically. Now, maybe there have been a few economic issues, but there is no single town in the US that is as bad off as any town in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. "Bled dry" means different things to different people, I suppose.
  • He cites his pro-Jewish credentials, but then stirs the pot of anti-semitism by noting how the Koran portrays Mary favorably, "in contrast to the fabrications of the Jews against her"
  • Osama hates America because America won't sign the Kyoto Protocols
  • Osama believes in low taxes, as is appropriate given his millionaire status
I have to admit, I thought this was pretty funny.

Kaplinsky's family

This weekend's Sunday Times had an article about John Hurt finding out he wasn't Irish as part of the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? series. This might sound a little harsh, but I really don't care whether Hurt is Irish or not. No, I only brought this up because that article reminded me of the episode I saw about a week ago.

I've seen one or two episodes of this program before, but this one will stay with me. The focus was on the family of the BBC's Natasha Kaplinsky.

Kaplinksy's father grew up in S. Africa and he was part of the anti-Apartheid student movement there in the 1960s. Yet, it was this man's parents, uncles and grandparents that were the truly riveting part of the program.

Kaplinsky's grandparents left for S. Africa from Poland before WWII. So, Natasha traveled to what is today Belarus to investigate this aspect of her family. She went with her cousin, who nowadays lives in Australia.

And, although I've heard the statistics and other similar stories a million times, I was really struck by the horrors that her Jewish family endured during the Nazi occupation. Her great grandparents were burned alive along with many others when the Nazis burned the local synagogue. Her great uncle committed suicide after his two-year-old daughter was killed. {The local historian explained to Kaplinsky that the Nazis didn't waste bullets on children, but killed them with their bare hands.}

Her other great uncle and his wife - parents of the cousin she traveled with - survived with many other Jews living in an underground hovel in the woods for 3 years. He was part of the local resistance movement. Yet, they only survived to that point because he was a doctor and was spared when 2500 other local Jews were executed in a forest.

It was an amazing few minutes of television and I was really glad that my children were watching. It was worth far more as a lesson on Nazism than anything they might get out of any Junior or Leaving Cert history book or, I fear, classroom lesson.


Is there anything more exciting, more invigorating, more ... smile-making than having your car pass the NCT first time? Such a thrill, but the waiting is such tension.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wall to wall McCanns

You know, nothing else has happened the past few days other than the McCanns and the Rugby World Cup. Now I love a sporting event as much as anyone, so I'm not really going to complain about the coverage that the Rugby World Cup got. (Although, even serious fans have to recognize that there are too many really bad teams and bad games in this tournament. Too many games where one team has ZERO chance of winning).

But the McCanns? Ugghhh. It is the ONLY news story. I don't always get much chance to read newspapers during the week, but on Sunday I read a couple (whichever ones fall into my lap). Anyway, I was looking forward to reading all the coverage about what's going on in Germany with those arrests, etc., but the only story covered in any detail was the McCanns.

I can understand this to an extent, but surely it's not really that important a story, right? Okay, the tabloids & Sky News are all over this, but why are the broadsheets so caught up in the McCanns?

Maybe it's just me, but really I see this as total overkill.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Labour's leader

Eamon Gilmore is the new leader of the Labour Party. This is unsurprising given how all the other 'names' were falling over each other ruling themselves out of the position.

I find it kind of interesting that the former DL folks seem so dominant in the Labour Party. Makes me think that after Dick Spring, Ruari Quinn and Brendan Howlin the rest of the old Labour Party had absolutely nothing - or at least not many ambitious people.

I don't know enough to say I'm surprised that Gilmore's the new leader, but I have the vague idea that this will mean a shift to the left for the Labour Party. They've clearly decided that it's more important to knock out the minnows to their left than engage in any real tussle with the big boys (FF & FG). I suppose being third's not so bad when being fourth or fifth is staring you in the face.

Again, I don't know enough about the party to talk about the internal politics, but Joan Burton is one member who at least gave me the impression that she would be responsible with the public purse, which is not the view I have of Gilmore. I also think Gilmore is more anti-American, but maybe he's just more outspoken.

Burton does have a serious charisma deficit, however, which rules her out of the leader's role.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Radio Nowhere

I should have posted this earlier, but I only found out about it over the weekend and didn't have a chance to post an update here. Bruce Springsteen has a new album coming out and he's made the first song on the album free to download. However, the song was supposed to be available for one week and I think that the week has elapsed now.

If you want to try to download it, you can try where I got it. And, you don't have to have (insert Yosemite Sam mutterings here) iTunes, which you need if you try to get it via Bruce's own site.

As for the song, well it's all right. I love the way it sounds. The lyrics? Ehh. A little too bland, a little too message-y, too Bono-like.