Archive for the ‘ireland’ Category
It’s happening again: every year, the town of Tralee (co. Kerry) holds its annual Rose Of Tralee festival. Before I say anything else about it, I first want to quote what the official website I just linked to has to say about the festival:
The Rose of Tralee International Festival celebrates modern young women in terms of their aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage.
The official application form gives the following as one of the eligibility criteria:
Be born in Ireland or of Irish origin by virtue of one of her ancestors having been born in Ireland.
Am I the only person in Ireland who finds this just a little disturbing?
Reading between the lines, I see a claim of racial superiority: to be of ethnic Irish origin is something to be proud of, and celebrated. I had a hopeful suspicion that I might be wrong about this, and in previous years there may have been more ethnic diversity, but looking at this year’s International Roses was not reassuring. Each girl’s blurb details her county or counties of origin, and explains her surname when it is not obviously Irish. The hair colours were varied, but that was about all. They all just love Irish dancing, of course – at least the ones I looked at.
This is not some obscure provincial festival: for the next week or so the Rose of Tralee festival gets prime time coverage on RTÉ1, the main channel of the state broadcaster. (This is the same broadcaster who charges a license fee and shows advertising.)
In case it wasn’t obvious: I live in Ireland, but I’m not Irish. I’m Scottish, and knowing a bit of Scots history, that means there’s a fair chance that I have some “Irish blood” in me. I would not be concerned about that, however, mainly because I know there’s no such thing as “Irish blood”: Ireland was but one stop on a longer Celtic ancestral trail that goes back to Africa, possibly via ancient Egypt. “Irish origin” is, to be blunt, a transient delusion in historical terms.
More importantly, I don’t place much stock in one’s ethnic origin, not in this world of mass emigration and immigration. I’ve written before about my Scots heritage, which I identify as more of an attitude, or a way of viewing the world. It is the attitude that produced the Scottish Enlightenment, and I do not know or care whether David Hume, Adam Smith, Robert Burns or James Watt were of “Scots origin”. I know that William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), was born in Ulster, but he made his home in Glasgow.
Why is it so laudable to be Irish? Wikipedia carries lists of Irish-Americans, created by its users. Everyone knows that John F Kennedy was of Irish Catholic stock – his father Joe made sure everyone knew – and the Irish papers are quick to latch on to any hint of Irishness in a celebrity. (It’s highly selective, naturally: legendary comedian Spike Milligan, and delinquent rock “star” Pete Doherty, were known as English with Irish parents, but which do you think has the Irish label attached in news reports?)
By way of contrast, how many Americans know that the steel magnate & philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, whose generosity established Carnegie Hall and Carnegie-Mellon University, was Scottish by birth? Heck, even fans of the TV show Dallas – a Scots name, just like Houston and Austin – failed to notice the Scots ancestry of the Ewing family, despite the fact that the family patriarch was nicknamed “Jock”.
I don’t see what the Irish have to be so smug about: the shadow of Tammany Hall still darkens the mayorship of New York, and when director Martin Scorsese shifted his focus to Boston, in The Departed, he found stories of Irish organized crime to rival the worst Mafia excesses.
I can understand the need to celebrate Irish culture. It’s this celebration of Irish ethnicity, of Celtic racial purity, that offends me, by what it is, and by the way it is seen as harmless. In my view it is representative of the Irish government’s institutional racism, which reflects a superiority complex that the Irish have exported to all corners of the globe. I simply don’t see what they are doing to justify it.
No, I’m not moving: the scenery is being moved for me. This is a Bank Holiday weekend in Ireland, which means that they can close the DART line. Why do they need to close the DART line? Because the west stand of the Lansdowne Road Stadium
is was built hanging over the DART line.
It meant an all-nighter: these photos were taken long after 2AM, with a tripod in my kitchen, which was an interesting challenge.Some came out really well, with interesting colours, and I may post one or two in my main photo gallery. It helped that I have a camera (Pentax *ist DS) with good sensitivity (ISO 3200), and a fast Sigma 70-200mm lens.
By this morning the stand was mostly gone, leaving nothing between me and the coast but a few low houses. I don’t quite have a sea view, because at that angle the coast is not that close. There are trees, which suits me just fine.
The scenery is changing in my office, too: on Friday I handed in my notice, kicking off a process that will occupy much of the next four weeks. I’ve already been heavily occupied in “knowledge transfer”, mostly informal “mentoring” so far, but I’ll be giving a presentation to colleagues on a particularly thorny product range.
I was going to say something about University, but the U key on my new keyboard is intermittent, so I’ll need to take a look at that, tomorrow. I was drilling holes in one of my guitars the other day, brass dust went everywhere…
Since I moved to Ireland, just in time for the Millennium celebrations, I haven’t quite settled here. I’ve considered my move temporary, one that might be reversed at any time. I have even kept a couple of UK credit card accounts open, with small credit balances costing me nothing, in case I moved back there.
I must write and close those accounts: this year, for the first time since moving to Ireland, I’m making a commitment of sorts to living here. More than one commitment, actually: at the beginning of September I will be starting a three-year university course, but this week I start a two-year drug trial. Neither of these commitments are irrevocably tied to Ireland, strictly speaking, since they could be continued in another country, but such a move is not in my plans.
The FTY720 (fingolimod) drug trial is a go; the drug company (Novartis) thinks I’m a match, but asked me back for an additional MRI last Friday, since they thought too much time had elapsed since the last one. That takes my tally of spins in Tesla’s tumble-dryer up to four. This time I asked for extra padding behind my head, which made the experience much less painful than before.
The first dose of the drug (real or placebo) will be this coming Thursday: a day of mostly sitting around, so I’ll have the Tablet PC with me. If there’s an Internet connection, I may be able to get some office work done: if not, I have offline writing I can do more on, and I’ll carry a book or two.
I’ve been warned that there’s a small chance that I will be admitted to hospital as a patient, so I can be observed overnight: I suppose that depends on how many beds are free, in one of the biggest and busiest hospitals in Ireland. The chances of this happening will be increased for the same reason I’ve experienced delays and repeat tests: in this current study I am patient number one, the one they are testing all the procedures on.
If I survive that I have a detailed two-year schedule to follow, currently on paper with dates that I need to enter in to my work computer. From there it will be synchronised to my phone, so that I’ll be reminded. Twelve medical examinations will include six eye scans (OCTs), six lung tests (PFTs), and three more MRI scans.
Hey, it could be worse… I could be paying for all this.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve not had as much sleep as I should. There’s nothing in particular keeping me awake; I was simply not getting tired until after 1am, despite getting up at 7am every weekday. Even on weekends, when I could sleep as long as I could wish, I’ve been awake around 8am. It’s probably related to Daylight Savings time, since it’s still bright at 11pm, at this time of year.
After that happened again on Saturday, I decided to take some drastic action to mark the middle of the year. I’ve been up for 34 hours now, with the help of coffee, and took a very-early-morning trip in to Dublin with my camera. Two cameras, actually: I’ve got my old film Pentax going again, though if I get anything off the three-year-old roll of black-and-white currently in there, it might be somewhat avant-garde.
I walked through the Grand Canal Docks area, snapping buildings when it wasn’t raining; there was so little colour in the shots that it wasn’t worth keeping. The first picture above is of a low tunnel under the DART line, with some flash to bring out the texture of the spiralling bricks; the other is a new apartment block under construction. This building is so narrow and skeletal that I would not want to live in it, even if I could afford the extortionate price tag.
On my first-ever visit to Dublin in 1999, I had an “encounter” with a foul-mouthed six-year-old, who followed me down a street cursing and threatening to get his brother. Though Grand Canal Docks is a very upmarket area, it is close to some very downmarket areas, and I “met” two local teenagers this morning. One of them might well have been that same kid from 1999, eight years older: the two of them were drunk or stoned, barking incomprehensible vitriol in my general direction. As a parting shot, as a security patrol came in to view, they finished by throwing a couple of aerosol cans at me. They appeared to be cans of shaving gel, leading me to wonder if they were the latest trend in solvent abuse. Ah, the kids of today – aren’t they precious? Wankers.
I was back home shortly after 7am, so additional anti-sleep measures were necessary: cola, a couple of hours of Guild Wars in the morning, and in the afternoon, a movie on TV that I’d never seen before, but fit the “stay awake” bill very nicely. Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is, when you get down to it, a two-hour-long music video. Spotting the bloopers was part of the fun: I mean, could three women really throw themselves ten feet into the air, through glass windows? One of them was carrying a full-grown man, who must have weighed the same as her plus half as much again.
My last cup of coffee was after 3pm, and should have worn off by 9pm, meaning that I can look forward to 8-10 solid hours of sleep tonight. If that means I’m getting up earlier, it will be only temporary unless I set my alarm; without a regular wake-up time, I’ll be up later every day.
Today’s big music news is the Princess Diana Memorial Concert, which did not sound at all promising, but passing through the channels now there was one pleasant surprise: Roger Hodgson, by himself, has got the whole of Wembley Stadium singing Supertramp songs. “Well, this is cosy, innt?” 8)
all fools’ day, the belated spring
twitched his moist nose over the crest
of the brown earth bordering the hole
in which he had overslept
the winter that had held him unconscious
beyond his regularly scheduled waking
what it lacked in depth it offered as length
not as bluntly cold as years before, but sullenly
clinging to the clammy walls of his emerald den
far from the sun behind high cloud
in shades of monochromatic grey
stretches its legs
shakes out the knots in its sinews
and pauses in consternation
is it safe to stay outside, today?
It’s over! Finally!
For the last couple of months, Ireland has been in the grip of the kind of sports-related madness that doesn’t happen here too often. Every second commercial on TV has had a golfing-related theme, most commonly when the product in question has had little or nothing to do with golf. I’m referring, of course, to the Ryder Cup, which just finished with a victory for Europe.
I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid most of the consequences, such as the rise in costs of many services for visitors. There was talk of people renting out their normal houses at €10,000 for a week, hotel rooms oversubscribed, and exorbitant prices for everything from golf balls to Guinness. Dublin’s taxi drivers threatened to go on strike, because the government brought in regulations to cut back on their exorbitant charges, though they unsurprisingly decided to deal with the additional money brought in by the tourists.
As for me, the “phony war” is still going great guns. Nothing medical to report, no news on the job front, not even any confirmation that I’m needed to go to India to deliver training, never mind a timeline for “workforce reduction” (WFR) or how I might be affected by it.
Never mind. I have patience.
In the absence of any real incident, how about a little “traditional blogging”; what I did on my Saturday:
- Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head… nah. My hair’s too short to need a comb;
- Hung around the flat all morning; I have the place to myself for about two weeks, my flatmate having departed for British Columbia early this morning;
- Wrote a bit about Rush for MuseWiki, to replace the one-liner. Black Holes and Revelations is still sounding great.
- Headed in to Dublin city centre: first stop the opticians, to pick up my new specs. They’re a more conventional shape than I’m used to, since the optician advised me to go for smaller lenses. Having such bad eyes means that I’ve never been able to take advantage of any special offers, because of high refractive index lenses, never mind the light-sensitive and anti-reflective coatings. There is some good news: my suspicions were correct, and my eyes have improved since the last test, my left eye by a whole diopter.
- Bought more cheap trousers, but left shoes for another day. I walk 32 kilometres (20 miles) in an average week, not including weekends, and it takes its toll on clothes. Thank goodness for outlet stores.
- Tonight I’m watching a “greatest movies” countdown on Channel 4, noting that I have yet to see most of them; the VCR will be recording one that should be on the list but probably isn’t: Being There.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been peripherally involved in a discussion on the position of the Irish language in Irish society. Peripherally, because I’m not Irish and am therefore not qualified to discuss Irish, apparently. I didn’t buy the Sunday Times today, so I missed an editorial by Sarah Carey, one of those involved in the discussions. I didn’t even know her work had that kind of exposure, but the editorial is now online.
I find myself in total agreement with Sarah here. She makes an important point about the separation of business and culture, and like me questions the need to equate a country’s language with its culture. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t doubt the importance of culture, and the way language mirrors it, but language differences are a barrier to effective communication in a global business market. Quote:
The purpose of language is straightforward, allowing us to communicate with one another. Languages develop in isolation, but once people move around the language spreads.
When they are spoken by small groups of people, in evolutionary terms they have outlived their usefulness and get subsumed by others and die. A marginal language becomes a cultural appendix.
Theoretically, having as many people as possible speak the same language should be welcomed. Like the euro, it’s so handy. You’d think we’d be relieved of the burden of having to learn and translate other languages into one we can understand.
The problem is that in the 19th century, when colonialism was in full swing, people became more conscious of their nationality. When the colonists arrived, language was one of the first targets. Hating the invader’s language and clinging to your own became a weapon of resistance.
The link between invasion and the annihilation of language was forged and this negative connotation is what prevents us from letting go. The fact that people and language can move in both a peaceful and highly productive manner has been lost. Letting go of Irish doesn’t mean letting go of being Irish.
My study of Japanese has much more to do with the culture than business; the possibility of going there to live and work was secondary to that, and not something I had my heart set on – unlike a colleague of mine who I was studying Japanese with, and who is moving there at the end of September to work.
I don’t do much business travel, but I have visited Germany, Portugal, Denmark and France in the last two years. I work in a department with people from seven different European countries: I have joked to a few people that I wished there was a language called “European”. Why? An English-speaking business visitor to Europe can cross multiple borders in a matter of hours, and could not be expected to settle on a single European language to learn, even if he or she was prepared to learn one. The example given by Sarah, of the outrage caused by a European employer’a group deciding to use English, is instructive, but a taste of things to come as the world gets smaller.
Where does this leave Irish? I have had zero interest in learning it, from the minute I landed here. It offers me no tanglible benefits, since I am not a scholar of Irish culture who needs to “read in the original”. It might look charming to tourists to see it on road signs, but that quickly gets old.
Canada is another odd case, with French an official language, some Québécois would call it the only official language. What if I was go there, to and live and work? Watch this space…
Schmap have an interesting business model: they take publicly-available material and fashion it in to travel guides, and use this in the marketing process. I only heard of them because they borrowed a photo of mine from Flickr, one that I had marked as available for commercial use under the Creative Commons license, and used it in their Dublin guide. This is something like what I had in mind, so no complaints on that score, as long as they provide proper attribution (which they have). So, grab a copy of the Dublin guide, and see some more of my work.That’s all – enjoy!
Saturday night, and there’s probably nothing on TV. I say “probably” because I haven’t checked; too busy reading, and enjoying a free concert. The Eagles are well in to their second set at Lansdowne Road, about 200 metres from my window. Right now I can hear Joe Walsh soloing on Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry, the third of his solo tracks they’ve played tonight, along with at least one of Joe’s and one of Glenn Frey’s (I think).
An interesting post tonight, from the Radical Mutual-Improvement blog, asks: What are your beliefs about money? It has a list of questions I’ll try to answer:
Do you believe more money will make you happier?
To a point. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy off the causes of unhappiness, after which you have no-one to blame but yourself.
Do you spend money as soon as you get it?
No – I’ve been in “saving & investment” mode for at least 5 years now, eventually I’d like to buy a place to live. The house price situation in Dublin makes this impossible for the forseeable future.
Do you have enough money?
For my current needs, yes, but the future is uncertain.
Where does money come from?
It’s an expression or relative value: it’s a number that specifies how people see the values of various things at various times.
Does making money require hard work?
I think there’s enough evidence to suggest that the easiest way to make money is to have money.
Does money corrupt?
No. If a person is corrupt, money is just the vehicle that carries them across that burning bridge.
What can money buy?
Anything acquired or created by people. Including people.
Is there a shortage of money in the world?
See “Where does money come from”, and Economics 101 about what happens when governments try to print money with no value behind it.
Do you want to be rich?
Do you deserve to be rich?
Depends on how you define “rich”. In some ways, I feel that I am already rich, but it’s not reflected in my bank balance.
How much money does it take to be rich?
If you don’t have to worry about money, you’re rich. There are people who don’t have to worry, but still do, which is missing some important point.
The concert is almost over; a single encore (Hotel California) isn’t enough, they’re doing a Joe Walsh number, possibly Rocky Mountain Way. Half the taxis in Dublin are tailgating outside my door, cruising round the block, as the first crowds hit the street. That extended voice-box solo would clear any venue, which must be why it’s at at the very end of the show.
Not had enough? A Don Henley number, All She Wants To Do Is Dance. Already Gone? Or staying for the closer, Desperado? The thousands who have already left probably didn’t know that was coming, and so what if they went past the 11PM watershed? Good Night, Dublin.
Though I’m based in Dublin, Ireland, I’m not an “Irish Blogger”. The fact that I’m not Irish is only the half of it: I seem to have a completely different attitude to the “local” bloggers, starting with the concept of “local”.
For starters, I place very little importance on location and/or nationality. Of course these factors will be relevant to what I write, because they’re interesting details, but I could be in the UK, Europe, USA or Canada, for all the fundamental difference it makes to me. There are countries where location is a major influence – countries with reduced internet or press freedom – but Ireland is not one of those.
This is partly why I find the upcoming Web2Ireland conference amusing, but not terribly interesting. It’s got an Irish slant to it. It’s organised by an Irish government body, Enterprise Ireland. I’m not in the target market, as the blurb says:
Web2Ireland is for entrepreneurs, investors, software developers and for those in academia, politics and public policy.
Finally, and most importantly, my views on Web 2.0 would be completely out of place. I wrote a bit about this last week, but I would summarize my position as seeing Web 2.0 as an attitude that informs what you do and how you do it. It’s not a product, or a technology, or a standard, or anything else that can be neatly packaged in a form fit for sale to anyone.
While government is all about centralisation of power and resources, the web is about decentralisation, disintermediation, the removal of barriers between people and information. I see no need for any national government, Irish or otherwise, to try to “shape the agenda” or “help our country catch up”. It’s already here, because it’s already everywhere, it does not respect borders any more than Web 1.0 does.
Besides, how Web 2.0 is it to have a registration process that involves downloading and filling in a Microsoft Word document? Web 2.0 is as Web 2.0 does, people. This sends the message that your parochial little conference will be all talk, and no action. No thanks; I can wait for reboot at the beginning of June, my flights and hotel are already booked.
Last week a report was released by the AIB, one of Ireland’s major banks, on the property market here. While noting that the prices would increase by about 20% over this year and next, the salaries earned by people would not increase by half that.
The official inflation rate here is about 2%: this figure is used by the government in calculating its obligations to the European Union, and by employers when calculating salaries. This figure obviously does not include any consideration of house prices.
To put some perspective on the situation: the benchmark I’m familiar with is the multiple of your salary that you should expect to pay for a house. When I first investigated mortgages, years ago in South Africa, the general advice I received was that a mortgage should be no more than 3-4 times your salary; similar advice was used here, I read today, and banks used to limit mortgages to 3-4 times salary. Even today, an Irish online mortgage broker gave me several estimates, all around 4x my salary, yet this does not correspond with the incredible increase in mortgage amounts, and lengthening of mortage terms (up to 40 years!), in effect today.
In 1998 the average house price was 7x individual salary: in 2006 the figure is 11x. As a single person, My requirements are below-average, and once I factor in the deposit (from savings), home ownership was a possibility in 1998, the year before I arrived here. It’s not even remotely within reach today. My chances of owning a home in the Dublin area, already slim, are not going to improve.
I have serious objections with the concept of a property ladder – once I figured out what people meant by that, I was properly horrified. It assumes that it is natural to want bigger and bigger homes, as one gets older, which is not unreasonable; but it also assumes that the value of your current house will increase, by itself, and continue to do so. If there is ever a time when this ceases to be true, there will be a rush to get out of the housing market, further depression of prices.
The same AIB report talks, eupmemistically, about “reduced likelihood of a soft landing” for housing investors; in other words, there is the possibility of a crash. I would welcome this, both for my own sake, and as a salutary lesson for anyone silly enough to buy in to a bubble, which is what this is today. However, there are huge amounts of money floating around, with the maturity of government-backed savings schemes (SSIAs), I don’t see this to be likely. There is still a general perception of property as most reliable investment available, better than pension schemes; in my view it is short-sighted to invest all your equity in a single market.
With that, I should now spend some time on my current rented residence: it’s Spring, so we shall have Cleaning, starting now. I probably won’t finish today; why should I rush or exert myself unduly? I’m on holiday for the next two weeks.