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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in The Grumpy Muppet's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
10:09 pm
Black Monday
Well, the obituary writers must be suffering from the a touch of writers cramp today, with the popping four pairs of high profile clogs in the space of a day, the death poor old Joseph Lester "Jody" Powell, Jr, former press secretary to Jimmy Carter might probably won't be getting much coverage in the international media, what with the death of a certain Mr Swayze, which given the widespread coverage of his illness over the past year and a bit can have come as a surprise to no one. Can't say as Patrick Swayze's work was ever anything I was fond of, or even more than peripherally aware of, so y'know, not much to say there. Although I do think his attitude when faced with death was top notch, positive outlook a-go-go, and for someone who at the apex of his career was declared "the sexiest man alive" to maintain a 34 year hollywood marriage is equally admirable. It would appear that the loss is not of a great artist by any measure, but certainly of a pretty decent human being, which is sadder in all respects which really matter.

Far murkier is the apparent suicide of Darren Sutherland in his London Flat, stories are sure to emerge in the red topped tabloids over the coming days, and some of those might even be true. I expect it'll be stories of the alienation of success, anxiety at separation from friends and family and the pressure of competing in the cut-throat world of professional boxing, with the expectations of world domination sitting heavy on your shoulders. Maybe a bogeyman figure will emerge, a pushy promoter or trainer perhaps, someone will certainly speculate that there was a drug and/or alcohol problem, and in assorted sordid attempts to smear or to sanctify, the central issues of mental health, depression and suicide will be glossed over all in the name of paper sales. But given this event, and Ken Egan's widely publicized breakdown earlier on in the year, questions must be asked of the boxing community, and for once, they aren't questions of safety inside the ring.

Finally, yesterday saw the demise of one of the worlds true originals, a dyed in the wool eccentric who re-invented TV cookery, in the days when cooking was all studio based Fanny Craddockery, Keith Floyd was out and about, wine glass in hand, with boundless enthusiasm and buckets of personality. Now you can't turn on a TV without seeing Jamie Oliver cooking in his garden or Rick Stein borrowing a restaurant kitchen in the south of France to whip up a bowl of cassoulet or whatever. That all started with Floyd, the Hunter S. Thompson of TV chefs.
Floyd's haphazard presenting style seems to have stemmed from a rather haphazard life, he joined the British Army after watching the movie Zulu, then on leaving took assorted low level kitchen jobs, before rising to restaurant ownership, his restaurant happened to be close to a TV studio, and from that somehow he landed a cooking programme. 4 Marriages all ended in divorce, and at one point he was forced to declare bankruptcy, reportedly arising from financial trouble which started when he accepted a check for a £36,000 drinks bill which later bounced.

A politician, An actor, A boxer and a TV chef all arrive at the pearly gates...

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Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
7:42 pm
Random Thoughts For The Week
Two australian girls aged 10 and 12 got trapped in a storm drain, but thinking fast the two girls whipped out their mobile phones, and, um updated their Facebook stati (is stati the plural of status, if not, it effing well should be say I). story on abc news

Strange that someone actually did call emergency services, I know if I saw something like "Halp ! Am stuk in Strom Drain, :-(" pop up on facebook, I'd most likely just click on the thumbs-up icon and go back to playing Mafia Wars or whatever. Actually, I wonder how many people have today updated Facebook with those exact words, bet it's more than one.

Course maybe they didn't go straight to Facebook, they might have googled thier predicament to see if they could find a similar situation and if any practical advice was to be found. Has anyone asked if Sting has checked his e-mail recently, I know that's who I'd be getting on to if I was stuck in a well, pit or storm drain with a net connection.

Since it's Australia perhaps after a bit of youtubing of old clips from Skippy they may have tried to attract the attention of a passing Kangaroo, in the hope that it would relay a message by means of indecipherable tuts and clicks.

Of course if you want to be a conspiracy nut, you could make a case that it wasn't a storm-drain at all, the girls were bait in a paedophile trap which went off unexpectedly trapping them instead of the local dodgy scout master or priest or whoever, obvious really, all you have to do is look at the name of the street they were on, "Honeypot Road", seriously, who calls a street "Honeypot Road", was it built by a silly old bear and his little piggy friend ?

Perhaps they read about 999 day in the UK which is an effort to discourage spurious 999 calls, for example people calling to say they've left their coat on a bus, or that the neighbour's car is blocking the road. I remember reading a similar story a few months back, where a priest dialled 999 and asked for Police when the staff at WH Smiths refused to let him use the toilet, or the woman who dialled 999 to report to police that the voting line for Strictly Come Dancing was busy (I seriously wish I was making this up).

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Renowned Troll Mortiis.

Also in the news this week Nicolas "1 inch shorter than Napoleon" Sarkozy (to give him his full and newly bestowed, by me, title) makes the headlines for having staff pick people shorter than him to stand beside him in photographs. Listen to me Shorty, with that hatchet for a face I don't think anyone will notice, to be honest the only difference being taller would make to you would be in the dark you'd look more like a troll than a goblin. Oh and we all know you're wife is taller than you, and tottering about on Cuban heels while she wears flats is convincing no one.

Nicolas "1 inch shorter than Napoleon" Sarkozy.



Finally, if you hadn't read this 3 years ago when it was first published, go read it now, the liquid bomb plot is back making headlines with a parade of "experts" explaining how close to the deaths of thousands we all came. Reading the Science behind the plot suggests that the terrorists could possibly have caused havoc, and probably killed a few people, but there would not have been dozens of full plane loads of people plunging into the atlantic as the scare-mongers would have you believe. The summary is that you cannot dump a container of liquid X into a container of liquid Y and blow up a plane just like that, and even if you could re-create laboratory conditions in the bog of a 747 halfway across the Atlantic, the reaction you'd get would make a load bang, kill you and most likely do little else, if you got lucky you might blow out a window and a few people might die from the sudden de-pressurization, but it'd be almost impossible to cripple the aircraft.

Quote of the week, from my boss, talking about the myriad of anti swinf-flu precautions my employers are taking, in particular hand sanitizing gel issued to all staff with a company car.

"This is Y2K all over again"

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Friday, August 28th, 2009
10:44 pm
Bumper Friday, 3 Fish and Plant for the price of one
Finally started carrying a notebook to keep track of ideas, resulting in these 3

Sequels.


Punk Rock.


Screw.

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Thursday, August 27th, 2009
12:10 am
To Ka-Zap or Not to Ka-Zap
Couple of days ago I got to reading about this being proposed for deployment to police in the UK. Basically Taser have developed an electro shock shotgun cartridge which can be loaded and fired either from a standard 12-gauge shotgun, or from a specially modified Taser shotgun, which is a 12-gauge modified not to fire more-lethal rounds. In case, as the blurb goes, an end user might make a mistake in a high stress situation, to prevent for example the following sentence ever being used "Sorry guv, I only meant to disable the hoodie wearing yobbo by giving him nice non-lethal dose of electricity, but in the heat of the moment I seem to have painted his brains all over class 2b who were out on their school trip at the time.

Less lethal ammunition all sounds well and good, especially when as the good folks at Taser are keen to point out, the only alternative from that range (30m) is a live round. I'm no expert, but I know enough to know that from long range a shotgun round produces an area effect, as the shot from the cartridge spreads out from the barrel. I have my doubts on the pin-point accuracy of flinging a lighter than usual round [1] from a weapon that is by design inaccurate, when you consider then that this weapon is designed to be used when the target is outside the range of wired Tasers, that would place the target at or moving towards the outside edge of said firearm's effective range (assuming most yobbos and hoodies would choose to be running away from the police officer with the yellow shotgun).

Ultimately then, there is no telling where such a round might impact, and I'm pretty sure getting something like this to the eye, ear, temple or throat would spell no end of bad news. We all know the damage that "rubber bullets" can do if they hit a sensitive part of the body, I would imagine that the impact of a barbed round and the subsequent delivery of an electric shock can only result in fatalities and serious permanent injuries.

But this particular piece of, *ahem* technology aside, there is a much wider and greater question to be asked about the ethical nature of electro-shock weapons. Is it ever ok to ka-zap someone with a high voltage weapon ? I'm not so sure that it is. I can understand why it is better for police to have electro-shock devices rather than guns, and I understand that we live in a world where sometimes, you have to hurt or kill someone to stop them hurting or killing someone else. I get it.

But when you introduce a non-lethal weapon, you don't just replace a portion of your "use of lethal force" statistic with "use of non-lethal force" you also have a number of incidents with would have been resolved without the assistance of a weapon being resolved with so called less-lethal devices.

Taser International helpfully provide some reports on their website prepared by various police departments outlining the impact of Taser deployment, usually in glowing terms, but let's have a look at the numbers.

In Green Bay Wisconsin, a city of 100,353 people (according to a 2006 census), where in the 152 years since the establishment of the Green Bay Police Department only one officer has been killed in the line of duty (Patrolman George Antone-Motquin was run over by a drunk driver in 1951), so not exactly a huge population, and not a place where police are often killed on duty. In fact, in 2005, there were a total of 495 violent crimes reported (5 Murders, 58 Rapes, 72 Robberies and 360 Assaults) stats from hellogreenbay.com, quite low compared to other US cities, for example two years after these results, in 2007, after subsequent years of falling crime statistics across the US, New York had 614 violent crimes per 100,000 of population, Los Angeles reported 718 in the same year and St. Louis, a fairly small city of 348,197 people, reported 2198 violent crimes per 100,000 people that year. Green Bay then, is a relatively quiet place, with not much serious crime, therefore, the statistics for Taser usage in Green Bay should give a good picture of how often and in what circumstances these weapons are used by your average cop on the street.

The GBPD made 41 Tasers available to officers, their report says that 2 Tasers are in use by a SWAT team, but it does not make clear whether or not these 2 are additional to the 41, or if use of these 2 devices are included in the reported statistics. Nevertheless, in the 18 months from June 2004 to December 2005, there were 86 reports of these weapons being used, the youngest suspect involved was a seven year old child who was running amok and had threatened to bite his mother was "distracted by a test arch" while another officer arrested him, in another case a sixteen year old male was subdued with the aid of the Taser having threatened the police officers with a long 2X4 board. The eldest person to be subjected to a tasering by police was a 74 year old obese man, who having been stopped for drunk driving, had adopted a "pre-attack" stance.

Call me old fashioned but I'd be happier if police could safely and competently contain impudent children, floorboard wielding adolescents, and fat old drunks without resorting to weaponry.

So, a total of 86 incidents, 3 of which were related to use against violent or dangerous dogs, leaving 83 people subjected to a tasering, which doesn't seem to be that many when viewed in isolation, but ultimately what these numbers reveal is that over an 18 month period 1 out of every 1209 members of the population of Green Bay was tasered by a member of the Police Department, it also suggests that in a relatively law abiding environment, every Taser deployed to a the police force was used on a person 2.02 times in an 18 month period even though officers were not required to carry the device, but rather had it offered to them as an optional piece of extra equipment.

It's also worth noting that 9 times a taser was used to prevent a suicide. I'll give you a second to let that sink in. I'm sure there are cases where someone perhaps out of their mind on drugs or otherwise emotionally disturbed makes an attempt on their own life which is tragic and of course any means to prevent such is justified, but a Taser ? Really ? 9 Times in 18 Months ?

Ah yes, but that's the United States where police all carry a side arm anyway, so resorting to Taser rather than pistol is much better is it not ? Well it is, better be shocked and probably not die, than be shot and probably die.

But, if we're talking about 0.8% of the population getting stunned by police each year, that's probably OK, if everyone getting shocked is healthy and in good physical condition, but as we all know, they aren't. 32.1% of all Americans over 20 suffer from hypertension or are on medication to treat hypertension and in 2007 37% of adults reported having two or more of the six risk factors for heart disease and stroke stats from cdc.gov, which suggests that of the 83 people in Green Bay who were stunned din the 18 month period, 30.71 of them were likely to be at risk of heart disease, given that they were likely to be agitated and stressed already, I'm pretty sure the extra pressure put on the system by an electric shock cannot be good.

Rounding off the numbers to 20 people at risk per year shocked for every 100,000 of population means that if that statistic was expanded across the US, then 60,000 people with a real danger of heart disease would be subjected to the additional stress of a jolt of 50,000 volts. That is to say nothing of the number of people with increased heart rates due to drug use, and those who might have over exerted themselves in an attempt to flee police. Or people who are just unlucky as in the case of Ryan Wilson, who died after being tasered by police in Arizona, death was as a result of an unusually small artery in the heart, in that case the coroner did not rule on whether or not the shock of running a half mile from police, or being shocked by a pursuing officer caused death alternet.org.

But say you, surely the point is that those people would otherwise be shot, and killed by police, not so, in the UK, the Metropolitan Police have used Tasers 700 times since 2004 from the guardian, in the same period 9 people were shot and killed by the same force, so, if Tasers reduce fatal shootings, then there should be a significantly higher number of shootings in the years prior to 2004, no, unsurprisingly not, in fact in the 14 years between 1990 and 2004 just 10 people were shot and killed by the Metdata from Inquest.

Pretty clear, Tasers don't reduce the incidents of live fire police shootings, they do kill people (admittedly not many people, but one is still too many), but worst of all, they are used by police in situations that might better be resolved without using a weapon. So increasing the ease and range from which police can deploy a Taser, is to my way of thinking an unmitigated bad idea.

All of that without mentioning a single in-custody brutality incident, and yes, those do happen, people have been sodomized by electro shock weapons and other such horrible stories, but that is in itself not necessarily relevant to my argument above, basically if Taser's weren't available the sort of scumbag that abuses prisoners in custody would use something else.

[1](Taser XREP has a total round weight of 25gtaser.com, Standard 12 Gauge Round seems to range from approx 35g - 40glg-outdoors.com.

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Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
12:12 am
Writers Block
Trying to write something tonight, not getting very far,

Nothing in the news really suggests comment, and I'm imposing a moratorium on rants against the government and banking system and recession talk, because that always leads to soap box preaching about how the current crisis is systematic of a broken system, and, there we go, off again.

I'm also really, really trying not to sound like this guy. Yahoo news is pretty diabolical as a new source so it's not unusual for there to be some thrashy content and lazy journalism. But this got right up my nose.

What got to me was the squawking on and on about how Media Studies as an academic discipline is as valid as English Literature, an arguement which may or may not have some weight, but the orignal point being made was that a subject like physics be weighted higher than a subject like Media Studies when calculating school league tables.

To take the exact wording of the proposal as quoted in the Telegraph was
Giving more points in school league tables for A-levels achieved in "hard" subjects, such as maths and physics, and fewer points for so-called "soft" subjects such as media studies. from the Daily Telegraph.

The telegraph article goes on to say
Current league tables have been heavily criticised because practical qualifications, such as cake decoration, pottery and flower arranging, are given equivalent value to A-levels. It emerged earlier this year that a course in "tanning treatments" was worth 45 points in school league table scores, the same as an A grade in one of the four units that make up an A-level.

Now, I'm no fan of the Conservative party, and although I enjoy the Crossword, Pub Quiz and James May's column of a Saturday, I don't exactly fit the profile of your usual Telegraph reader either. But I do think that it's shabby journalism on behalf of Yahoo's Mr Dunt to report this story as if it was a direct attack on Media Studies directly, and to counter by hoisting Media Studies up alongside English Literature, a subject which could only ever be classified as "soft" is clearly a pointless arguement.

If I were a politician or spin doctor I'd make a sensible point now about how "hard" and "scientific" subjects are the subjects which will make the backbone of a knowledge economy the much vaunted best hope for economic recovery, and if I was a cruel minded person I'd say that soft and squidgy qualifications in Media and/or Literature are important and valid, but they require a solid economy in which to operate, and if that means playing second fiddle to more emperical disciplines, then so be it. But that would mean spin doctoring for the Conservative Party and treading very close to violating my own moratorium.

Mr Dunt goes on to suggest that Media is the new Church, and therefore it is vital that someone studies it, of course, the three pillars of modern scientific thinking, and the subjects that can best be fitted into the "hard" catagory are Maths, Physics and Theology. Clearly this knee-jerk artist has misunderstood the difference between classifying subjects "hard" and "soft" and classifying them "hard" and "easy", or "important" and "trivial".

But it's when he starts in on the classics, and makes his play to put his own field in line with what he has decided is the epitome of academic excellence.

In terms of social importance, it [the media] puts William Shakespeare in the shade. Personally, I quite like Shakespeare. I don't exactly read it on my day off, but when I'm dragged to see a play of his, I usually end up thinking: 'Fair enough. You're a clever bugger.'

Dragged to see a play ? A clever bugger ? To be honest Mr Dunt, I somehow doubt your claim that you "quite like" Shakespeare, and your arguement that it's more academically valid to study TV and Ads than Shakespeare because they're more common and more likely to impact the lives of students is akin to saying that the tat on your granny's coffee table is more important the exhibits in the Louvre.

I'm also bristling at the implication that "The Wire" is as good as an Artur Miller play, but I've not seen the Wire and I love Arthur Miller so it'd be completely unfair for me to comment on this.

So to Mr Dunt, I would say, next time you sit down to write an article, do fifteen minutes research, read the statement to which you're providing counterpoint, and realise that English Literature and Theology are not the same as Maths and Physics.

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Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
12:14 am
Productive
Every few months, I get a little burst of motivation, which tends to fade as soon as it arrives. So it's time perhaps to start setting targets.

1) Proper once a week update to LJ of at least 200 words on some topic or other.

2) Write down some of those ideas that keep rattling around, maybe produce a couple of short stories, perhaps even a proper treatment for a never to be completed novel.

3) More Fish and Plant, once a week.

4) Put together a website as a favour for someone, maybe think about some more web projects.

5) Put in some hard hours on the bass, improve, more technical exercises.

I make and ignore these lists all the time, so we'll see how this goes.
Step one is a decent LJ post, I have an idea or two, stay tuned.

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Thursday, August 6th, 2009
10:55 pm
Blackpool Trip
A post, describing a weekend in Blackpool, feel free to yawn now....

Saturday began early, 6am early. Waking up before the baby for the first time in a long time, getting dressed, hurriedly assembling luggage and other travel equipment before waking the little man himself. For anyone older than 14 months there was a cup of tea, while the sleepy one year old bemusedly tucked in to an early breakfast. Bags, buggy, travel cot, toys, and assorted other baby supplies loaded into the car, along with the little man himself and his Grandparents, who had insanely gotten up at 4am to ensure time for a fried breakfast before setting off. The Kia had surprised us, with the rearmost seats up the otherwise cavernous bootspace always seemed quite small but it could easily accomodate travel-cot, buggy, mattress, spare shoes and coats. The Back two seats held the baby in his car seat and the bags with comfortable ease including a buffer space to stop little fingers pulling at the luggage, the middle row of seats provided grandparent accomodations, while navigator and driver occupied the front seats.

A short spin later and we were checked in and queueing for the Ulysses. on board by 7:30 for an 8:05 sailing and tucking into breakfast of bacon and hash-brown baguette. Tiernan enjoyed the boat trip, plenty of room for him to wander about although, it's a bit mean trick putting a child who is only starting to take his first few experimental unaided steps into an environment where the floor undulates somewhat unpredictably. Not to be disuaded however he grabbed a hold of the nearest available adult and led them off on a stumbling adventure up and down the ship.

It didn't seem like too long before we were all loaded back up and rumbling off the ship onto the open roads of North Wales, or so we thought, we were in fact rumbling off the ship and onto the congested exit of Holyhead port, after 40 minutes of waiting and queueing and crawling, we were out of the Port, and onto Dual Carriageway in glorious sunshine, heading towards the Britainia bridge. Holyhead is the end of the world, a mass of grim concrete and wire fencing, but once outside, it's all rolling hills and greeny pleasantness. The roads too seem to get better, the drive from Holyhead to Chester, which is the nearest access point for England's Motorway system used to be a largely one lane trundle through towns and villages and the attendant traffic chaos, now it's Dual Carriageways with 70mph limits almost the whole way apart from a couple of roundabouts at Conwy. Once past the traffic choke point that was the Britaina Bridge we were once again whooshing up along the North Wales coast at a reassuring speed overlooking the pretty vistas of Conwy and then Colwyn Bay all of which made for a most agreeable afternoon.

Nearing Chester and looking for the M56 to bring us to the M6 and on North to Blackpool there was a navigational snafu, caused in part by inadequate signage and in part by the sabbateur that lives in the borrowed Garmin that sat on the dashboard who had decided that we should take the M53 and go straight through Liverpool city centre. It was a go with the flow kind of day, and it was much easier to go forward than back so we ploughed on, underneath the river Mersey by way of a tunnel (the only toll of the day, a princely £1.40), in Liverpool, we abandoned Madame Garmin's advice and followed signs for the M6, hoping to avoid navigating city centre traffic on a sunny saturday afternoon. Only a little bit lost we pulled in for Lunch at about 2:30.

Over a tasty feed maps were consulted, Garmin was poked, prodded, sworn at and eventually persuaded to see things our way and direct us to the nearest motorway. Baby changed and smokers sufficiently re-ennicotined we were back on the road at 3:40, M6 was nearer than we thought and from there it was a simple matter of counting Junctions till 32, and then taking the M55 right into Blackpool where we were met by Lisa's Uncle Chris. I like Uncle Chris, he's a nice man, utterly mental, but a nice man. He had kindly offered to meet us at the edge of town and show us "the quick way" through the one way system to our hotel, the quick way involved several illegal turns and a quick spin up a street that was painted red, with big white letters saying "Busses and Taxis Only". Still we were soon checked in, and round at Chris' house for Tea, Pork Pies and Cake. Heading back for the night, car parked in a nearby multi-storey, we had to navigate our way through some early drunks, including a horrendous hen party clad in a motley uniform of day-glo tutus, which just defies further description, sadly day-glo outfits and tutus seemto be somewhat de rigeur attire for the self disrespecting hen partier in Blackpool. In the room Tiernan was dressed for bed, read a story and put in his cot, then we had to crouch in the tiny travelodge bathroom reading until he had dropped off to sleep, which he did mercifully quickly.

A good night sleep later and we were all up and ready to go again, breakfasted and out along the so called "Golden Mile", which, if I was feeling mean, I might point out is only golden in the same way as a golden shower is golden. Old crumbly facades, which were probably quite hastily erected 30 or more years ago and poorly maintained. Shops selling hilarious T-shirts and novelty items rarely found outside of a number of select vendors in resorts on the Canary Islands. Vendors floggig the ubiquitious sticks of rock and candy floss, alongside tacky minitures of the famous tower. The tower itself a relic of the victorian age, a sort of Eiffel Tower tribute band, suggests a time when this was the holiday destination of choice in those pre-package holiday days when the term low-fares airline was still oxymoronic, but it stands arising out of the tacky looking Tower Ballroom, a nice late 19th century building, with early 21st century posters draped on it, and dirty back alleys to either side and surrounded by the crumbling remnants of a dying resort, a museum piece without a museum, way too impressive for it's surroundings, but not impressive enough to be worth the trip on it's own. Still, among the grot and the rust and the cheap plastic signs there are some good points. Work to stop flooding of the seafront has provided a pleasant place to walk along by the beach, and the tramway has been well maintained with the old shiny trams ting-tinging past.

The Pleasure Beach, is now a proper theme park, with all the queues and costs that you expect, but the rides were of a fairly decent standard, although space seems to have been an issue and the rides do seem a bit close together, but we had a spin on a roller coaster and a Ghost Train (twee) and took photographs of Lisa taking Tiernan on one of the smaller whirlygigs, a pirate themed whirlygig I believe, so that made for a pleasant few hours. Then it was time for a spin on an open top tram all the way back along the seafront for lunch in a nearby hostelry, Tiernan got very excited on the tram, although his fun was spoiled somewhat when we refused to let him clamber over the side while hurtling along, still the trip was mostly accompanied by delighted giggling.

After a spot of lunch, a roast beef wrap, a crazy meal of roast beef wrapped in a giant yorkshire pudding, with gravy and assorted veg. It was off to the Sea Life aquarium, the much smaller Dublin Sea Life is one of Tiernan's favourite Sunday afternoon destinations, and he was not disappointed, urgling and gurgling at the fish and excitedly pointed at anything shiny in a tank that moved. The highlight was the sharks, well over a metre long, flitting about in a huge tank which could be viewed both from the side or from a dome at the bottom of the tank itself. Alas, fast moving sharks in low light are difficult to photograph, especially with a curious child grabbing at the camera, so no good pictures to be had.

Had a bit of a to-do paying for parking for Sunday, I had paid for 24 hours on Saturday as we arrived so I had to return to deposit a further £13.00 for the next 24 hours, and I made the crucial mistake of stopping in to an amusement arcade to get change for the parking machine, so thought I, I'll just pop this £20 note into the change machine and then toddle around to the parking complex with a pocket full of pound coins. Alas, twas not to be, and I left the arcade with a plastic tub containing 200 shiny ten pence pieces, my ears ringing with the sound of coin on coin, which the parking machine refused to take, balking after the first 30 coins had been deposited, with a cheeky "transaction aborted" followed by a disdainful glunking sound as my 30 ten pences chundered into the reject slot, so off I trudged back to the arcade to queue up at the change desk and ask that my tub of ten pences be exchanged for a lighter tub of pound coins, each step begging the question, "Why didn't I do this in the first place ?". On the upside, Tiernan had been hugely entertained by the sight and sound of 200 shiny tokens being disgorged from the change machine, and grabbing handfuls of change and dropping it all over the floor while I tried to direct the deluge of silver from the coin outlet into my plastic tub provided further entertainment.

Spun out the rest of the day taking it easy wandering back along by the sea, put the kid to bed, and after hiding in the bathroom till he was asleep, chilled out with some Kentucy Fried Dinner.

Early start on Monday, car loaded and on the road by 08:30, headed back out towards the motorway, and made sure to give any and all exits marked "Liverpool" a wide berth. Hit a Motorway service area for breakfast couple of hours later the motorways ran out and the North Welsh Dual carriageways hove into view, both the Britainia Bridge and Holyhead were refreshingly traffic free, so rolled up to the Terminal 2 hours before sailing, delighted that we would be nice and early and at the top of the queue, except, we weren't, the Swift ferry sailing had been cancelled (they didn't say why, I think the deck was wet or something) and all of the passengers from that sailing would be on our ship, and were already queueing. To be honest I wasn't not surprised, it wasn't a particularly rough day, and the sea didn't seem too bad, but I have come to suspect that the Swift is something of a mythical ship that ceases to exist at random intervals, perhaps at the whim of a demonic cuckoo clock on the bridge, or a transdimensional imp with a slide whistle who lives in the engine room, who knows, but clearly there is more than meterological causes behind the regular cancellations of the Catamaran crossings. Whatever the reason the sailing back to Dublin was uncomfortably cramped and marked by queues at all the shops, restaurants and toilets, and too many people, including a loudly snoring bald man whose lolling head flopped about inches from my shoulder. Unloading the cars took almost an hour, and fighting the resulting traffic all the way down the quays also took a hell of a long time, in fact it took half as long to get from the ship to Ballyfermot, as it had taken to get from Blackpool to the ship.

All in all a pretty agreeable weekend, in what might be described as a rather disagreeable looking town. To get the most out of Blackpool you have to just give in to the Kitchiness of it, laugh at the tackiness of it all, snigger at the rude t-shirts and just switch off the culture seeking part of the brain. It's impossible though not to pick up on a sense of desperation, the Hotels that seem to be clinging on, special offers everywhere, the only business left to them is the Stag and Hen parties and the Families who've come to visit the Pleasure Beach, even on a pleasant weekend in August there's no sign of swimmers, sunbathers, or any activity on the beach itself, it's sad, you can actually see the history of the decline of the indiginous tourist trade, in much the same way as you can see the demise of the coal mining industry in other towns. You have to wonder if recession will mean life or death for the British (and I suppose Irish) Sea-side resorts, has Ryanair killed them compeletly or will people seek entertainment closer to home now that money is that much scarcer ? Who knows, all I know is that if Blackpool wants to be a viable weekend break destination for the 21st century, then it has a lot of cleaning up to do.

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Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
11:50 pm

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Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
11:42 pm
17th March
Enjoy the last 17 minutes of St Patrick's day.

The day that let's us know that it's OK to enslave Welsh people as long as we don't mind them coming back with new religions.

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Friday, March 13th, 2009
10:59 pm

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Thursday, March 12th, 2009
11:09 pm
Fish and Plant Return


The Come back no one was waiting for !

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Monday, March 9th, 2009
11:36 pm
Yeah, so 15 albums meme,

Really hard to know where to start with this one, so here we go, in no particular order, and utterly disregarding the 15 minute rule.

More behind the cutCollapse )

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Saturday, March 7th, 2009
11:06 pm
Sigh
This has been a pretty damn tough week.

Two members of my three member team were out for most of the week, and all three were gone on Friday meaning much more work for me than usual.

Also, Tiernan refused to sleep for hours at a time in the Early hours of Thursday and Friday, resulting in much lost sleep for all of us. Although, the night time crying has now yielded a third tooth, with more on the way.

Brought the little feller swimming this morning, which was fun, and despite some nervousness on his part, and some tears when his face got splashed or accidentally ducked, he eventually got the hang of it and started kicking his legs and splashing around.

Also this week read The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway which is awesome, if you haven't read it you should, it's what Paulo Coelho wishes he could write, if he (Coelho) could get over the whole supernatural spiritualism hocus pocus.

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Thursday, February 26th, 2009
10:05 pm
Another one of those days
Today was a pretty awful sort of a day, utterly busy with many and varied interuptions.

Generally speaking these are not the sort of days that I enjoy.

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Wednesday, February 25th, 2009
10:33 pm
Return of the 'muppet
After several months, I finally return to Livejournal. Recently joined facebook, and have been spending a chunk of Internet time on that, with the result that I have effectively declared LJ friends-page bankruptcy. But now I've returned.

In the intervening months I have continued to work at Siemens, which is mostly good, economic downturn and 2nd hand teutonic collywobbles aside. The fire alarm business is at least a change from working in outsourced call centres.

In the wider world, Tiernan is growing so fast you can almost see it, is attempting to stand up, and is making the gurgly attempts at words, grabbing at things and picking them up, best of all he has for the past couple of months been sleeping through the night, with the exception of the night before last when we had a screaming session from 2am till 4.

I will be coping with the current economic situations by listening to George Hook on Newstalk and swearing at the radio, although I do like George, his guests get my goat, Kevin Myers especially, also coping by harbouring murderous intent towards bankers, politicians generally and Leo Varadkar in particular (after some particularly noxious and contoversialist comment on the radio yesterday).


Normal LJ service resumes.

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Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
12:28 am
An update
Been a busy few months as you might imagine, but in summary.

New job is good, keeps me busy, getting to grips with the ins and outs of the fire alarm business and all that it entails, a bit of a departure from my previous job, but I'm glad of the change. Although the firewall in work does prevent visiting here very often. Hence the lack of regular updates.

Things also go well music wise, regular practice has led to regular gigs, and Dermot has finally completed his album, which was recorded before I joined the band and then re-recorded while I was busy with new born baby things, so the recording does not feature any of my bass-work, and is probably better for it. Working on new material and will be gigging hopefully once or twice a month for the foreseeable future.

Of course the main focus of the past 4 months has been the whole looking after the baby thing, Tiernan is doing well, and is now tucking into semi-solid food twice a day, sleep patterns are starting to settle down, but the early onset of teething throws something of a curveball every couple of days, but generally manage to get 5 uninterrupted hours most nights, which compared to the very early days is something of a luxury.

Here is the little feller in his halloween costume, taken on a camera phone, hence the poor quality.

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Thursday, June 26th, 2008
2:12 pm
Baby is here,
So at about 06:30 on Saturday Morning, Lisa went into labour, at 12:00, we headed to the hospital, only to be sent home to wait for a while.

At 19:00, back to the hospital, things were moving along, but quite slowly, nothing to worry about, just needed to wait and see. By 21:00, I was sent home, while she was kept on a ward to await developments, (a policy that impressed neither of us, leaving a woman in labour with her first child alone and without the support of a familiar face seemed horribly cruel).

At 03:55 on Sunday morning I was called back in, after a long day, with much heroics from Lisa (Epidural was only put in after 31 hours when it became clear that the baby's position was making delivery nigh-impossible, and an extra hormone would need to be given to her to increase the strength of contractions), at about 17:00 a doctor came in and stated that the baby had been in the canal too long and was becoming distressed, if he was not delivered within a few minutes, he would have to resort to using the suction pump to get him out.

A final effort from Lisa delivered baby Tiernan Ciaran McCormack at 17:07 on Sunday June 22nd, without assistance from the suction gizmo. Baby weighed in at 7lb2.

Delivery was a bit of a mess, epidural wore off in the last minutes, and a certain degree of cutting was required. Amazingly, Lisa was not howling in pain, choosing instead to hold the air in her lungs to help with the pushing. Unbelieveable, even the midwives were impressed, not only that she managed 31 hours without epidural (if baby had been correctly positioned he would have been born hours earlier), but also that after 35 hours she was very calm and focused on the task at hand.



All home now, very tired but very happy.
(some more photos on Flickr)

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Friday, June 20th, 2008
8:46 am
How many times do we have to say it, No means No.
I've spent much of the last week thinking about the Lisbon treaty rejection, and the reaction to our rejection of it.

When I cast my vote, a no, I expected the result to be a lot closer than it was, and it was a pleasant surprise to see how emphatic the response was. But with the referendum complete and the treaty defeated, it was clear that there are some pretty big issues.

The newspapers and radio are making big out of the reaction in Europe, and the pressure that is being brought to bear on Irish politicians to call another referendum. The notion that the Irish electorate has been duped or misled by the no campaign, and that concerns raised were irrelevant to the treaty are nothing less than insulting.

It was suggested by some in the No campaign that despite assurances that a yes vote would not be a step towards a common defence policy for Europe, that France was drafting a White Paper on Defence which would outline plans to at least move towards an integrated approach on Defence. It was also suggested that this "White Paper" was being held back until after the Irish Referendum, lest it sour the vote.

Within a week, that same paper has been released, calling for massive restructuring and reinvestment of the French Defence Forces, which is not something I would be happy about, but ultimately that is a decision for the French Government. However, the second part, which President Sarkozy discussed in a speech to 3,000 French Officers, involves a France re-joining NATO and the closer co-operation of EU military commands.

In his speech, Mr Sarkozy made it plain that France's return will take place only in parallel with progress on European defence—and that France will retain its independent nuclear force de frappe. One obstacle to more joint European defence—American objections to a potential rival to NATO—has been removed. Mr Sarkozy said this week that, despite the uncertainty after the Irish no to the Lisbon treaty, he wants to press ahead on defence during the six-month French presidency of the European Union, which starts on July 1st. from the economist

Certainly not the European Army, or the return to national service that some in the No camp had predicted, but for my money, this step alone is reason enough to vote no. People may argue that this is a decision that could be taken with or without Lisbon, and that the military spending provisions proposed by Lisbon don't relate directly to Sarkozy's plans for France. However, I would put it to the yes camp, that any treaty that makes any military provision is bound to be compatible with the military objectives of those that drafted it, therefore the EU influence on military spending is a bureaucratic step that will facilitate the separate military planning structure that the French are looking for.

Up to 60,000 troops may be put into operation for a year, not as a European Army, but as a "pooled resource", not a standing force, but a force to be assembled on an ad-hoc basis. No doubt this is intended as a counter terrorism measure to be sold to leaders of European States using "KFOR" rhetoric rather than "Coalition of the Willing" rhetoric.

This of course could threaten the special relationship that exists between the US and the UK. Whether or not you choose to believe the rumours that Libertas was funded by the CIA, or other members of the US Intelligence community, it is a fact Washington was absolutely opposed to Lisbon for that reason.

US intelligence and security officials have been able to circumvent EU institutions in many cases so far by relying extensively on formal and informal arrangements with the individual member governments. In addition, Washington has felt confident that its European allies would use their powers to veto unwelcome EU-wide proposals in areas related to security and defence. If adopted, the Lisbon treaty could threaten many of these arrangements. From Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor.

Regardless, the idea that an EU force could be used to lend ligitimacy to the settling of French scores in Algeria, or to help the UK supress it's own Islamic demons is repugnant, particularly when you add the neo-colonialist stink that is rising from France's plans to gain a foothold in the middle east with a new Military base in Abu Dhabi and the retention of it's base in Djibouti. To say nothing of the influence of a certain large French company in a certain troubled nation in South East Asia.

Beyond that, the notion that the treaty proposed a more "democratic" Europe, with a fairer deal for small nations, and that Ireland would hold a veto on issues of crucial import to the Irish people has been shattered. A clear majority of the Irish people have rejected this treaty, and yet, the leaders of the European Union still see fit to call for a second referendum, to ignore the clear will of one of its member states (and the only member state who has been given the opportunity to vote openly on the issue).

The rest of Europe looks set to move forward with ratification and Brian Cowen has essentially been told that he has a year to get his house in order, that little or no concessions will be made and that re-negotiation of the treaty is not an option at the moment, either Ireland ratifies the treaty or it opts out of the EU. Clearly, this threatens to create a 2 tier Europe, with Ireland on Tier 2, an idea which flies in the face of existing EU treaties and seems like little more than a bullying tactic, the treaty of Lisbon cannot be passed without unanimity, and the Irish people have rejected it, so the treaty as it now stands cannot be ratified.

Listening to the reaction, threats and heated exchanges from politicians at home and in Europe, it seems to me that Europe is not the fair and democratic place that was painted by the yes campaign, and the negative reaction and scaremongering that has gone on has only served to prove the No campaign right in many ways.

Ultimately, time will tell, I don't think the government can expect to reverse this decision with another referendum, unless significant amendments can be made, and any suggestion to the contrary would be by definition undemocratic.

Worrying, but not really surprising that there is such a gulf between people and their elected representatives, after all, how can a referendum, supported and endorsed by parties who between them gathered 81.7% of the popular vote at the last election (41.6% FF, 27.3% FG, 10.1% Lab, 2.7% PD) rte news carry just 46.6%.

What now for Ireland and Europe? It's an interesting time ahead I think, the No vote drew in disparate elements from both left and right each with radically different agendas, appeasing both of them is going to be almost impossible, particularly with Europe's largely centrist agenda.

To be honest I don't know what the next move is, but I do know that giving in to the scare tactics, and ratifying the treaty because everyone else is, and we might get left behind would demonstrate an ideological weakness, and such an about-turn would only show the more powerful nations of the EU that they can get what they want by leaning on the smaller members. No matter how you stack the numbers 26 out of 27 is never unanimous.

One idea that I would sign up to, would be for future treaties to be ratified by EU wide referendum, I would happily amend our constitution to allow Ireland to sign any treaty which had the approval of a majority of the entire EU population, (on a straight yes / no count, none of your electoral college nonsense). On that basis and on that basis alone will I accept the argument that 862,415 people voting no should not make a decision for 495.5 million. Surely, if we want a populist and "democratic" EU as the yes vote claims this is a valid way to proceed?

That way would lead to faster integration as Yes and No campaigns co-ordinate across the union, ideologically compatible groups across the union could establish links, giving greater strength to things like the trade union movement and pro-choice organizations. Of course the governments might not be so happy about a common-protest policy, or the idea that mis-treatment of say, nursing staff in one member state could spill over into another. There is also the point that groups I disagree with, like the Pro-Life brigade would also unite, but that's how democracy works, they get everyone who agrees with them on their side, we get everyone who agrees with us on our side and whoever has the most people wins, it is clear that these issues cross borders, so why not let the activism cross the borders too.

Course, this is all just wild speculation. But it's a nice idea.

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Wednesday, June 18th, 2008
9:49 am
Oil Rant.
Interesting, McCain is calling for a lifting on the US ban on offshore Oil drilling, seems to me that of all the ways of extracting oil, offshore is probably one of the best, in terms of overall environmental impact, seems that in the US Coastal states they are all afraid of oil spills and damage to the tourist industry.

It is my opinion that oil dependency is a very bad thing, but it is also true that we are going to need as much of the stuff as we can get over the next few years while alternatives are worked out, Saudi Arabia's commitment to produce more has helped bring down the price of crude in the past couple of days, but that's just going to accelerate the depleting of the Arabian Oilfield, the US has reserves of about 20 billion barrels, which would supply the world for about 8 months at the current consumption rate, or at 2004 levels supply the US for about 2 years and 9 months.

Clearly, further oil reserves are going to be needed, and I'd much rather it be oil from US coastal waters (which less face it will have less of a footprint than oil extracted from the middle east and shipped to the US), than oil extracted from war-torn Iraq or from the Alaskan Wilderness.

Then of course there is the neo-colonial exploration going on in West Africa, from the likes of Irish Oil Exploration company Tullow Oil, who have been disposing of assets elsewhere to focus on a exploration in Ghana and Uganda, they also have fingers in pies in Gabon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, Congo, Tanzania, Madagascar, Namibia and Angola. There is a naïve part of me that thinks that discovery of massive oil reserves in Africa could be the salvation of that troubled continent, if they held the keys to untapped reserves that were for example similar in volume to what the Arabians had 100 years ago, the global economy could just shift in their favour overnight, massive amounts of money would flow into Africa, and massive amounts of influence would flow out.
The problem of course is that from a socio-political point of view Africa is a complete mess, and the money and influence is likely to be captured by European and American corporations, with any benefits being swallowed up by corrupt governments. Also, Africa is not the same as the Middle East, whereas the middle east was largely desert with little or no population, (which means that places like Saudi Arabia and the UAE can afford to support their populations without needing to charge income tax) African populations are much larger, and I suspect, oil reserves much lower. It would take a huge surge in African Nationalism to make the most of their oil income (if indeed such income could be realised), and re-investment in social schemes (HIV projects, literacy programs, healthcare, education) and intense diplomatic efforts to resolve the tribal / national conflicts that still drag on 150 years after Europeans sat down to draw lines on a map. Man, imagine, "Fair Trade" oil.
With oil being hauled out of the ground everywhere it can be found, I think I have to agree with McCain on this one, sure, oil exploration is a bad thing, but for the US to tear the world apart to drill for oil it is completely inequitable for them to sit on their own potential reserves without at least looking to see what is there. Agreeing with a Republican is not something I'm used to, but since Gov. Schwartzeneger is opposed to the idea, I think it balances out.

Focus should be on new sources of energy, but if oil reserves can be stretched to give us an extra 10 - 20 years to develop those new energy sources, then clearly that's a perfectly defensible action, after all, when oil shortages start to hit the worlds food supplies, it's not people in the US and Europe who will be the first to starve.

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Wednesday, June 11th, 2008
2:56 pm

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