Monday, December 24, 2007

… sing in exultation

The only time I sing at Mass is Christmas. I can't help myself and let loose even though I know I'm no where near being in tune or even in time. I was a little more restrained tonight, but, still, sorry to those who were sitting in front of me.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

No lights at Wal-mart

I won't be able to buy my incandescent bulbs at Wal-mart for long after they're banned here. I see in this morning's NY Times that incandescent bulbs are to be outlawed in America from 2012.

I just don't understand why incandescent bulbs have to banned? If fluorescent bulbs are a better buy, then all you have to do is convince the consumer and he'll respond accordingly. There's no need for the law to get involved unless this is not actually true.

One other thing that interests me is whether I'll be able to find bulbs for those fixtures that require something a little different than the standard shaped light bulb. I'm not unwilling to give the low energy bulbs a go, but I'd like to be sure I'm not going to be left without a choice - especially if low energy replacements are not available for all fixtures by 2009.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Live from Newgrange

I'm not sure how exciting this is, but I'll probably take some time to watch the web cast of the solstice from Newgrange this morning (starts at 8:30). The forecast is good for both today and tomorrow, when you can catch the 'light show' again.

UPDATE 8:20: Now it looks like the Heritage Ireland web site is down. Too much demand for their site even though the good stuff doesn't start for another 10 minutes?

UPDATE 8:37: Okay, I have the stream running now. So far, not bad.

UPDATE 9:55: Well I have to say it was better than I expected. The weather was perfect and the sun rise spectacular (allowing for web cast quality). The commentary was a little livelier than I anticipated and not excessively gushy.

Some of the discussion on the change in the Earth's tilt over the past 5,000 years was good. And the periods of silence were welcome too. Overall, it was more distracting than was probably good for my productivity.

Near the end of the commentary they said that the video would be archived and available on the web site for the next year. You can also catch it again tomorrow, live, from 8:30GMT.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

George won't like this

I'm not much of a fashion watcher, but I've noticed that there are a few more Boston Red Sox caps around Dublin lately and fewer Yankee caps.

I don't think this is a direct result of the Red Sox success this decade when compared with the Yankees, but possibly an indication that certain Hollywood or pop music types are more frequently seen in the Red Sox B than in the Yankees' NY.

I just hope that this little tidbit will find its way into George Steinbrenner's Christmas stocking.

Playground ahead - you're not welcome

I don't like this decision one bit. Nope, this one stinks.

According to today's Irish Independent, lone adults will not be allowed into children's play areas. Barring lone adults from playgrounds is so severe and draconian that I can't imagine how such a regulation came about in the first place. It takes no account of any possible motives for going into a playground other than those that are malign.

The other day I brought my son to school. As I was looking around the schoolyard I was thinking to myself that everyone should take time to spend a few minutes in a schoolyard before school. So much mayhem, so much noise, so much life. I just love being there.

I often stop for a minute when I'm walking by a playground just to watch the fun. What's not to like? And, I'd like to think that when my children are too old for such places that I could still go and watch the fun for a few minutes. Now that seems unlikely.

Now every lonely grandfather or childless woman who'd like to sit in the playground for a few minutes is a potential pedophile or child abductor. They're banned and to be viewed suspiciously. This is heartless and only further stigmatizes people – "Know your place old man".

What sort of society are we building?

Fast forward to the end

I don't even know if the post I wrote about the water charges issue was before or after the Taoiseach hit the fast forward button and announced the cave in, but at least sense prevailed before this got any more (mostly unwarranted) attention.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The EU's Water Framework Directive

Why is the EU involved in Ireland's water usage anyway? This goes back to the EU Water Framework Directive, which mostly deals with water pollution. Even if I concede the EU has a role in tackling water pollution in Ireland (and I don't, really), what business is it of the EU's whether Ireland wastes drinking water or not? What business is it of the EU's if local individuals, businesses, government bodies, schools, whatever have to pay for water or not?

The Water Framework Directive does have a section that deals with droughts and water scarcity. Now, this may be an issue in some areas of the EU, but it's not an issue here. We have water to burn, so to speak.

It may or may not be in Ireland's interest to meter water usage and charge accordingly, but why should the EU have any role in this discussion? Is the EU planning to pipe Irish drinking water to Spain or other parched regions of the EU?

This is one of the primary reasons I'm not keen on further European integration. What integration really means is increasing attempts at the centralization of control over aspects of our lives that should be local or national.

What if they don't pay?

I can't take this whole water charges thing seriously. I mean, what we're talking about is one part of the centrally funded state - local authorities - getting paid by another part of the centrally funded state - schools. Ultimately, the payer and the payee are one and the same.

What would happen if the schools simply said they weren't going to pay? I'm sure the dispute could go along a number of alternate routes, but eventually we'd end up with closed schools and then what? Then you have VERY ANGRY parents and a protesting teacher's union or two and right after that you have a government cave-in. So, why don't we just fast forward to the end right now.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The (new) Mitchell Report

George Mitchell (yes, that same George Mitchell) released his long, long, long awaited report on "the Illegal Use of
steroids and other Performance Enhancing Substances" in baseball yesterday. It's a pretty big story in America and there are some big names in the report.

However, as far as I'm concerned it's all a bit of a damp squib. There aren't that many surprises here. There's no name that shouts out at me or had me saying, "Wow! Him too"? Mitchell admits that this is by no means a complete list, but it's what he has to offer today.

I actually don't think there's a whole lotta value in this list, but if it gets baseball to move to an even higher level in its efforts to root out this sort of cheating then at least it will have been beneficial. That Commissioner Bud Selig seems energized by the report is positive. If he had been mostly defensive that would have meant that nothing was really going to change.
On Thursday, the man who sought that outside investigation against the advice of his confidants appeared saddened, proud and perhaps most strangely, invigorated.

… It was as if the kindly old relative we all knew for decades stood up during Thanksgiving dinner and announced that he never did like turkey and was leading a revolt to cook a ham next year. Selig would not even refer to the day as disappointing.
I think it's a good thing that Selig is more interested in the future than the past. There's nothing to be gained by worrying about what's gone before. Just fix it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Road to Bali

How am I supposed to take seriously that the government - especially our Minister for the Environment - wants us to curtail our use of carbon when he and 13 others from his office and the Dáil have flown all the way to Bali for the big climate change shindig. Oh, but they're buying offsets.

So, not only do they waste the taxpayers money to attend this nonsense, but they also then waste more of OUR money assuaging THEIR guilt. Why Bali? Why couldn't they have had a conference in Brussels with teleconferencing facilities so that people wouldn't have to fly half way around the world to attend?

And, if carbon offsets are acceptable, why can't I plant a few trees in Borneo (or wherever) and go on using my incandescent bulbs?

Demand for bibles

The world's biggest producer of bibles has to move to a new home in order to expand production to meet rising demand, most of it in the home market. The company is Amity Printing and the new home is in Nanjing in China where demand for the bible is "soaring".
A country where the Communist ideology has lost much credibility is seeing an upsurge in conversions to Christianity. Li Baiguang, a prominent lawyer and Christian activist who was received by President Bush at the White House last year, said: "Rising wealth means that more and more people have been able to meet their material needs, the need for food and clothing.

"Then they are finding that they need to satisfy their spiritual needs, to look for happiness for the soul. In addition, they are seeing a breakdown in the moral order as money takes over. Thus, more and more people are turning to Christianity."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Stopping climate chaos

This is a protest I can support. The organizers of today's march call themselves Stop Climate Chaos. If they can stop the sort of chaotic weather we're having today, I'm all in favor.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Time to stock pile light bulbs?

The Minister for the Environment announced that he plans to ban incandescent light bulbs starting January 1, 2009. First of all, this is what we get with our Green Party Minister. He even went beyond what Greenpeace wanted. They were looking for a ban starting in 2010, but Minister Gormley decided that the Irish people want to be 40 shades of green greener than Greenpeace.

If you come here often enough you know I hate this. My initial reaction was, "Will it be illegal to sell such bulbs or to use them"? In other words, can I bring back incandescent bulbs by the trunk-load every time I head north or even fly to America? Also, Minister, don't try and tell me how much money I'm going to save on my electric bill when we all KNOW that the low energy bulbs cost a fortune.

And, beyond the price issue, my impression of the light they produce is not good. Maybe the technology has improved, but if we're basically going to be stuck with fluorescent lighting then I'm definitely going to look for a way around this ban. Also, aren't there a lot of light fixtures for which there are no low energy alternatives?

What I don't understand is why the Minister is banning incandescent bulbs because they use too much energy, but not other energy hogs. Why not ban hair dryers or clothes dryers or irons or dishwashers (could at least ban dishwashers' dryer cycles). Each of those appliances has a low energy replacement (basically they are air, air, wrinkles and elbow grease).

I hate this because it stinks of old style, Stalinist, command-economy government. I'd prefer to wear wrinkled shirts than read in poor light. I want to choose, but the Minister has decided that the people are the enemy and they must be brought to heel.

Retail therapy

Recently I had to, HAD TO, go shopping for clothes. I absolutely loathe shopping. I dread the prospect and detest the reality. It is by no means "therapeutic".

So, when the young guy handling my purchase asked me if I was "enjoying a little retail therapy" I was dumbfounded. Couldn't he see I had a face like thunder? Did he really think I was enjoying myself? Do men ever "enjoy retail therapy" in a clothes store? And, mostly, even if the answer to the previous question is "Yes" is it the type of thing you say to another man?

It was one of those moments when I realize that I'm really out of touch.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Divorce, separation and kidnapping

It was just a small note in an article in last week's London Times, but still I was kind of surprised. The article was about the increasing frequency of 'international' marriages breaking down and one spouse taking the children 'home' (or not, but to another country).

Obviously, the article was mostly about the experiences of Britons in these cases.
As travel becomes easier and cheaper, as employees move around the world with multinational companies, the number of international marriages – and divorces – grows. The influx of Polish workers coming to work in Britain has also helped to fuel the number of abduction cases here. When one partner wants to return home to Poland and takes the children, the matter often ends up before a judge. The highest level of child abduction/return is between the US and Ireland, because of the number of marriages between Irish and American people. The problem is so pronounced that the two countries have a child abduction pact.
Can it possibly be true that there are that many marriages where one spouse is Irish and one American? I don't think so. There's something else going on if the "highest level of child abduction/return" is really between Ireland and America.