Archive for June 2007
Sometimes, or so it seems to me, I can be a bit slow on the uptake. I blame my job: troubleshooting computers and storage systems is a job for a literal-minded pedant, whose day can revolve around the tiniest of details that make or break a customer’s installation. The procedures for doing things tend to be linear, with individual steps that you must complete successfully before moving on to the next one. I don’t like what this job has done to me, to be blunt, and while some of my bloody-mindedness may be MS-related, I think I have a need for some mental liberation.
A domestic vignette should give you some idea of the current state of affairs. At work, this afternoon, while in the middle of something else, I hit on a solution to a nagging domestic problem; the lack of a desk. I don’t want to buy one, because I may have to move some day, and every item I have is an item that needs moving. There’s also the problem of quality; the cheapest desks are tiny and not very well-built, so I would need to spend more than I want to, just to be happy with my purchase.
Here at home I have four plastic crates, filled with various bits and pieces, cables, books and CDs. I’ve tried laying my dart board cabinet over the top and using that, but it’s too narrow, and has a knee-skewering screw sticking out its back. (The dart board is just one of the odd items I’ve had handed-down from the various housemates I’ve had here in Dublin, but it’ll be staying behind when I eventually leave this place.)
I needed a long and narrow board to lay on top of the crates; could I buy one, or find one in someone’s shed? The answer was simpler: ten minutes with a screwdriver, this evening, and I had one of my bedroom closet doors off, and over the crates. The noisy desktop PC is to one side, but my 5-year-old Compaq laptop (running Ubuntu Linux) is fine for writing work. As for ergonomics: my “director’s chair” is almost the right height, and I have the old & heavy keyboard out, which suits my heavy typing. A wrist rest, maybe a cushion on the chair, and many words will be written here.
Just as long as I don’t need to get anything out any of the crates, that is…
(Image courtesy of Mingle2‘s Blog Rating Tool.)
Why? They’re doing some keyword matching, and the reason given was:
- bomb (4x)
- dangerous (2x)
- drugs (1x)
All the “bomb” references must be those in my recent post slagging off the bombers, which was about another plot to bomb London, after the July 2005 bombings. Indeed, the front page (today) has two uses of the word “dangerous”: the first examining the risks of capture that terrorists expose themselves to, in their drive to publicise their acts; the other was regarding the religious indoctrination of children.
The drugs? Well, if I’ve passed all the tests, I will be engaged in a trial of a new Multiple Sclerosis therapy, FTY720 (fingolimod). I also have some other plans in the pipeline, but (like the trial) it’s too soon to talk about them here.
The trial is an unnecessary risk, strictly speaking, as are my other plans; way to live dangerously, dude! I don’t believe I say anything here that is unsuitable for kids, but then I wasn’t brought up in the USA, where kids would grow up totally unprepared for the real world, if their parents had their way. (Not that they always do – YouTube has many examples of failures of parental control.)
No, I’m British, from a previous generation, and all is not lost there, either. This year, the winner of the prestigious Galaxy Book Of The Year Prize was The Dangerous Book for Boys; designed to get them out from behind their computer games and out in to the world, climbing trees, fighting battles, falling into streams, and generally acting like healthy boys should. The book has just been released in the USA, with some modifications: baseball instead of cricket, General Grant instead of Lord Nelson, etcetera.
Can you tie a Reef knot? I can, but that’s about all I remember about knots. A Bowline was about as far as I got, and (I recall) the Sheepshank defeated me utterly. Granny knots, on the other hand, are not a problem.
OK, it’s a pretty easy quiz, but still fun: can you identify 16 guitar solos? They’re all famous, but I had to guess at a couple. I have no idea if Neil Young has a signature sound, or Jane’s Addiction, but one is new and one is old, so a guess was good enough.
‘Ello, ‘ello? Look what the cat dragged in…
It’s… the Smashing Pumpkins, reassembled. The song is Tarantula, from their forthcoming album Zeitgeist.
I heard about this a while ago, and didn’t think I’d be interested, because I still think they were right to call it quits when they did. Tarantula, however, has piqued my interest, sounding fresher than I had any right to expect. Billy Corgan’s voice is sounding particularly good; higher and clearer than before.
I’d like to hear more, but this is a good start. The setlist looks good – including personal faves Thirty-Three, Cherub Rock and Tonight, Tonight, so if they come this way, I better just jump at it.
Speak to me in a language I can hear,
Humour me before I have to go…
An informative Project Syndicate article, here, delves into the reasons behind the current surge in interest in Scottish Independence, emphasising the independent institutions already in place. Its conclusion is surprising, but well thought-out: Scotland is in an unusual situation for a country seeking independence, with general approval of the status quo, despite the surge in voting for the Scottish National Party.
The article, for an American publication, does not look into the reasons behind this SNP surge: general dissatisfaction with the ruling Labour Party in Westminster, with the Conservative Party seen as English and foreign. After the elections earlier this year, the SNP is the largest party in the Scottish Parliament, and is set to lead a majority coalition, with negotiations in progress at time of writing. It is their stated aim, after this, to start negotiations to repeal the Acts of Union (1706-7) and hold a referendum on independence.
Following independence, what is the next step for Scotland? At the risk of stating the obvious, we can look forward to closer ties with Europe including adoption of the single currency, and an increase in trade with other European neighbours. Having seen the generally positive results of this in Ireland, I have no problem with any of that, though the article does pour cold water on any hopes for the level of Brussels largesse that Ireland has enjoyed.
Nevertheless, Scottish Independence is now firmly on the political agenda, and an exemplary continuation of the Scots realpolitik we read in the history books. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a Scotland that had made its peace with an imperial England was pioneering Enlightenment thinking and the Industrial Revolution. Instead of kicking England out of Scotland, they took Edinburgh to Westminster, to the extent that Scots have been in charge of the ruling Labour party for last 15 years. When John Smith died in 1994 he handed over the reins to Tony Blair (who was originally from Edinburgh); Blair became Prime Minister in 1997, and is soon to retire in favour of Gordon Brown (from Glasgow). Having a Caledonian in Number 10 will surely weigh heavily on the Scottish Independence process.
With the hard work done and less remaining to fight over, with an awareness of British Imperial history, and an emphasis on political structures and cultural identity, the kind of “struggle” that went on in Ireland looks like a collossal waste, counter-productive and unnecessary in the Scottish context. My nation of skinflints knows that there are cheaper ways of getting the job done!