Thursday, December 01, 2005

WHO no longer hires smokers

A spokesperson for the World Health Organisation (who has been spear-heading anti-tobacco campaigns for years) has said today that the WHO no longer recruited smokers and that this new policy was not discriminatory (since their legal department did not oppose the new dispositions).

“WHO has a smoke-free environment and does not recruit smokers or other tobacco users.” Can now be read at the bottom of every application form for any position with the WHO following the implementation of the new policy today.

Each applicant is asked if they are smokers and if they would continue smoking should the WHO offer them a position. A positive answer to both questions automatically disqualifies the applicant who will not be offered an interview according to spokesman Iain Simpson. If the new hires do not keep their promise to quit smoking, their contract will be cancelled.

Hmmm… One less organization for me to work for in the future, especially considering my new employer! I am not sure how this new policy is non-discriminatory though. It's not as if tobacco wasn't addictive or anything. Surely, if someone is at least showing signs of trying to quit this should be enough?

Source: Le Monde

Categories: World Health Organisation; smoking

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Jump In!!!!

That's it! Microsoft's brand new console was launched in the U.S. 2 days ago in the midst of much deserved media attention. One of the best events I reckon took place the day before the launch. 3,000 gamers from around the world were invited to “Zero Hour,” a 24-hour event in an airplane hangar in Mojave Desert in Palmdale, California, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. The hangar was glowing green inside and out and was filled with plasma screen TVs, hundreds of consoles and beanbags.

The console has launched in 15,000 relail outlets and already, it's a hit (Wal-Mart for instance sold 55,000 units within the first hour of their midnight opening... In New York City, the line outside the Best Buy store formed behind Peter Gonzalez’s tent. Gonzalez was the first in line there and had been waiting since 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20. He got his Xbox 360 at 12:01 a.m. Nov.22. That's 28.5 hours. In THAT weather. Fair play to you Peter, I wouldn't have done it!

Mind you, I might not have been a bad idea. Apparently, as we approach North America's busiest shopping weekend of the year the XBox360 is already sold out and are being sold on eBay for anything up to 3,000 USD. Pre-orders have been flooding in in Europe as well as the console is now officially "hard to find", 9 days ahead of its 2nd December launch...

The console comes in 2 version, the Xbox 360 Pro System and the Xbox 360 Core System. Click on the pictures below to access details.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Louis, you're such a drama queen

Are the X Factor ratings in so much trouble that they need a publicity stunt every week? After rumours of rule changes the other week, Louis Walsh has now alledgedly left the show. The glass of water Sharon Osbourne threw over his head last week was apparently... the last straw. He should have known better than to mention Ozzy's drugs. It would seem that crisis talks are being held. I guess that means that Louis will make a much-publicised comeback soon. Better 2 stunts than 1 I say!

Categories: ; ;

The KAL case

It's a long way to recognition of same-sex couples in Ireland but with people like Dr. Katherine Zappone and Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan, it might just come sooner than Mary "Ireland is not ready for gay marriage" Coughlan thought.

Some NGOs have produced or are working on Partnership Rights reports in Ireland. However, this issue is divisive, even amongst the LGBT community. Do we want marriage? Civil partnership? Isn't it conforming to norms that many members of the community want to defy? What about adoption, IVF?

Many countries already have legislation in place to recognise and protect same-sex couples in the form of civil partnerships. Other countries have gone further and recognise gay marriages, like Canada where Dr. Katherine Zappone and Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan got married in September 2003. Upon their return to Ireland, they contacted the Revenue Commissioners and seeked to claim all the advantages married couples are automatically entitled to in this country. Their claim was denied on the basis that they were not "husband" and "wife" although taxes legislation does not define the terms. Katherine and Ann Louise are challenging this interpretation and were granted leave by the High court to do so just over a year ago.

The case is now on a waiting list for hearing (hopefully within a year) and just as these proceedings take time, they also take money, regardless of how much pro bono their barristers might do and how many people volunteer their time, skills and efforts to their cause. A fund-raising lunch has been organised tomorrow in the Mansion house but other events will follow as they face the prospect of going all the way to Strasbourg to change the way same-sex couples are treated in Ireland forever.

Please support the KAL case!!! Details of how to donate, more information on the case, mailing list subscriptions etc can be found here.

Also, I've just very quickly taken a chunk of their website's banner and created a button to link back to it and will place it on my sidebar. Please do the same so that we can raise as much awareness as possible around this case!!

All you have to do is copy the following code and paste it into your blog / webpage template:

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Is Fitzmas going to be cancelled?

After the Watergate, it would seem that Bob Woodward is getting involved in Plamegate too...

Categories: Fitzmas; Washington Post; Woodward; Plamegate

Beep. It’s from Hamlet. 2B? NT2B?=???

One little step towards democratisation, one giant leap towards bastardisation of the world's great literature classics...

As an aside: How people can actually READ textlish I'll never know.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The wonders of blog surfing

I have just found what would be the funniest blog out there... if the blogger wasn't completely serious. 90% of his message is a pro-life one, post after post. I don't agree with him but that's a matter of opinion and I wouldn't slate him for being a pro-lifer. I know some. I live amongst them. My best friend is one. (Gold star to whoever chuckled at this and can tell me why).

However, apart from anti-abortion propaganda, we also owe him pearls of wisdom and metaphysical questions to ponder for the rest of our lives. These include:

On the highly controversial subject... of the Olympics:
Has no one given some consideration to the children amidst the vile abomination we've come to know as the Olympics?

Ermm... No?
The Olympics began roughly 3000 years after God created the earth...

Oh so you're one of them, huh?
Our role models have become men in tight clothes who twirl mystically on the ice; and women so masculine in all natures that their mothers would recoil in horror at the sight of them.

On the subject of prayer in school, he does wonder
why on earth would we want prayer to be either mandatory, optional, or available in schools?
it would seem that his reasons are far from the ones I would have used as he continues by wondering
Why would we allow either secular or religious teachers to bastardize prayer and use it in a deformed manner to pervert school children. Prayer should be taught and conducted by religious authorities alone.

On the subject of homosexuality, at the beginning of a post called "Helping Homosexuals Through Prayer" where the author claims that prayer can cure us:

There are several admitted homosexuals in my congregation. Most churches forbid homosexuals to worship, but we worked out a deal with the four men and two women who engage in homosexual acts. They are deathly afraid of the hellfire that awaits them in the next life so we arranged to have them sit behind a curtain while the church is in session. Some of the older people are not comfortable, so the homosexuals must leave though the back of the church.

People DO that???

One lesbian there has apparently not had sexual intercourse with another woman in 2 years thanks to the prayers of this congregation. Out of the 6 "out" gays in the Parish (sometimes, I bet they wished they could find that closet door again), she's the only one "Doctor Life" talks about. However, this woman's "progress" is good enough for him as he now suggests that "churches embrace homosexuals like we do and help them overcome their disability."
Who needs friends, huh?

One the subject of rape
When a woman is raped, no matter how horrible that particular act might be, one must question the reason for the occurance. Was it an act of man out of control - insighting violence from within his own sinful being? Or is it an agent of God acting to punish that particular woman for her sins? An interesting question. God acts in mysterious ways.

Didn't think there was anything "interesting" about this question.

And if you ever wonder if there is even ONE reason why you shouldn't chain your wife to the kitchen sink, remind yourself that you would be saving the world by doing so as Feminism is the beginning of the end, ladies and gentlemen:
Feminism has been a disaster for wentern nations in the past century. Since women pushed to be recognized as "people" under the law, several catastrophic things have happened which have, I believe, led to the systematic breakdown of the historical strengths that the west was founded upon. By granting women the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to live automomous to men, the right to equal pay, the establishment essentially allowed for a complete uprooting of tradition values.

...Feminism, therefore, has meant an absurdly rapid shift from the strong Christian-based societies that existed prior to WWI to a sick, twisted, pornographic, homosexual, broken culture. Divorce rates, abortion rates, murder, infidelity, secularization, crime, filth...all of these things can in some way be connected with the stupidity of feminism and the granting of equal rights to women under the law.

And did you know there was a link between homosexuality and abortion? I certainly didn't. I would explain to you what it is if I could make sense of his post. Something about the queers expropriating the Civil Rights Movement, turning "Martin Luther King into a spokesman for the evilest of buggery" and something about women (again) wanting control of their own bodies and defending their rights to abortion. Don't see it? Neither do I.

Dubya more dangerous than bin Laden

Not only do 73% of Canadians dislike George Bush, 38% consider him more dangerous than public enemy number 1 Osama bin Laden himself. Interesting...

Full results of survey carried out by the by Innovative Research Group were published in Saturday's National Post.


If you've been following this blog for a while, you will be aware of my fondness for tennis and for the last few years French tenniswomen (well, we haven't had really good ones in a while). I have already talked about Pierce's fantastic year and pondered the eternal question for every French tennis fan: "can Mauresmo finally win a major title?" here. We expected her in Flushing Meadow but yet again, she was unable to deliver and Mary Pierce reached the final.

It all changed last night in Los Angeles as Mauresmo won the Masters title. It's not a Grand Slam title but it's just as good. Yes, it took her 3 hours 6 minutes of intense battle but the opposition was tough: fellow country woman Mary "could I possibly have a better year than this" Pierce. Final score: 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4. To be honest, I'm delighted for Amelie. It was about time she made it happen for herself. I'm also delighted (and a bit disappointed) for Pierce (who beat Mauresmo in the group stages) as she has been so consistent this year (reached the finals of the French and US Opens as well as the QF in Wimbledon): maybe on the overall performance of the year, she would have deserved to win.

As of today, Mauresmo is back to number 3 in the world while Mary is still number 5. Two Frenchies in the top 5 of anything? Two Frenchies in the final of a major tournament? Bring out the champers!

Categories: Sports; Tennis; Mauresmo;Pierce; Masters

Thursday, November 10, 2005

"A dangerous amalgamation between immigration and violence"

(Rough) translation of a interview with Mouloud Aounit, secrétaire général du Mouvement contre le racisme et pour le rapprochement entre les peuples (MRAP) (Movement Against Racism and for Friendship of People) given to the French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur. Full texte in French here.


According to you, what is Nicolas Sarkozy’s aim when he calls for the expulsion of 120 youths arrested during the riots, including those who are legals in France?

Let’s be clear: for the last few months, Sarkozy has been giving in to the Front National, When he talks about ethnic cleansing, rabble and expulsions, he first and foremost gives them a testimony in view of the electoral campaign. When he advocates curfews, he sends a double message. First to the FN by satisfying their requests and secondly to these teenagers by saying: “we crushed your parents during the Algerian War, we will crush you in the same fashion” If you wanted to quench a fire with a container of petrol you wouldn’t do it any other way.

As for the double punishment, Nicolas Sarkozy’s words reveal this government’s autism, the fact that it understands none of the message these truly desperate cries coming from the suburbs carry. Of course, I condemn these violences and their consequences but what they mean is that this probleme cannot be solved without justice and without law. By implementing this double sentencing, Sarkozy shows the depth of his lie. He creates a very dangerous amalgamation between violence and immigration. Moreover, it does not solve anything. All it does is evacuating franco-french problems abroad: the failure of immigrations and integration policies.

At a time when the government calls for peace and order, will these words not inflame the resentment of the suburbs’ inhabitants?

Absolutely! Nicolas Sarkozy failed to understand that the violence shown in the last few days comes from the relegation, the marginalization these populations feel. This is where the discourse becomes demagogic since these youths are no foreigners, they are 4th generation French. However, we still fail to consider these populations for what they really are, i.e. French.

We consistently try to ethnicise the problems this violence highlighted. That is how we maintain a false problem to which the answer will never be found. It is nothing but fuel for hatred and violence.

People expected positive messages which would enable each and everyone to live in dignity and respect. Instead these populations have been submitted to more and more repressive policies for months. To this, you can add the humiliation brought on by Sarkozy’s little jibes and now a double humiliation brought on by the declaration of state of emergency which bring them back to a painful past.

I am of those who believe that this is a deliberate strategic political move. We know that one of the pillars of racism is the omnipresent colonial past. Racism is maintained by cultivating images of a shameful past one wishes to be over.

Jean-Marie Le Pen et le UMP Member of Parliament Jean-Paul Garraud call for some of the rioter to be stripped of their French nationality. How do you analyse this narrowing gap between a racist political movement and some members of the political majority?

We find ourselves today in a sort of escalation, overbidding that never seems to end. Sarkozy, through his provocations and logics, legitimised certain political movements advocating ethnical cleansing. We are slipping towards fascist practices being implemented in our society. It is a completely irresponsible attitude.

If you believe that you will be able to build something on a basis of peace by entertaining hatred, you are talking about the lack of responsibility of this political class that does not understand anything about the needs of the population expressing this violence. Yes, it is likely that following the recent steps taken by the government we will manage to restore public order but the embers now burn and with this kind of speech, they will be rekindled tomorrow, in a week, in a year and it will be far worse. The way the government is handling this problem is based on a very dangerous short-sighed logic.

Categories: France; News; Paris riots; Sarkozy; MRAP; Mouloud Aounit;

Monday, November 07, 2005

Working 8.15 to 5 (but not on Fridays)

Well, I just got myself a new job, the perks are great (half day Friday being one of them), career prospects are promising, job itself sounds challenging and the department rather dynamic. 4 weeks notice has been given... Bye bye evil multinational number 1 and bring on even more evil multinational number 2! :-)

Best birthday present so far. (For those who don't know... it's tomorrow.)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Kaiser Chiefs were right to predict a riot...

It’s not getting any better fast… For the seventh night in a row, the Seine-Saint-Denis has been set ablaze by rioters and although violence seemed to have abated after 4 nights, the last two have been tension-filled and certainly have kept the police, CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité) and firemen busy.


Thursday 27 October

It all begun in Clichy-sous-bois where violence started after firemen were called to rescue 3 young men who had taken refuge in an electricity sub-station. Locals claimed they were being chased by the police after the 3 (along with 3 others who were arrested and subsequently released) attempted to break into a construction site. The air inside the 9 sqm substation was filled with electricity and as 2 of the boys entered deeper into the building, they were electrocuted and killed. The third victim is currently in hospital and has not mentioned being chased by the police and admitted being aware of the dangers of climbing over the double protection walls of the substation. Damages: 15 cars burnt.

Friday 28 October

In the Chêne-Pointu area of Clichy, 400 young men face 250 to 300 policemen. A bullet is shot towards a police van but does not injure anyone. Damages: 7 policemen are slightly injured, 30 cars and 10 bins are burnt, 13 youngster including 1 minor spent the night at the local police station.

Saturday 29 October

Morning: 500 people (friends, families, neighbours, members of the local council) take part in a silent march in Clichy to ay their respects to the 2 dead teenagers. On the front line, 15 people wearing white T-shirts bearing the name of the victims and the words: “Morts pour rien” (died for nothing).

The night is relatively quiet, firemen only report 17 cars and bins fires, there is no violence on the streets.

Sunday 30 October

In a “news at 8” (for further details on the importance of the news at 8pm in France, see previous post here), Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on TF1 advocates “zero tolerance” towards urban violence. While re-iterating that the 2 victims were not pursued by police, he announces that he has requested 17 CRS companies (the riot police) and 7 mobile police squadrons to backup the local police in Clichy-sous-bois. On the 2nd biggest TV channel (France 2), aforementioned Sarkozy comes under criticism from his own government as Azouz Begag, Minister for the promotion of equality of chances says that “people should not be told they are scum”. Sarkozy had been heard uttering the word “scum” 5 days before in Argenteuil.

A fourth night of violence follows in the quartier de la Forestière this time. A tear gas grenade is thrown inside the local mosque. Funnily enough, it is the same type the CRS uses. They deny throwing it, 6 policemen are slightly injured, 11 people send the night at the station.

Monday 31 October

Sarkozy is at it again. Although he admits that that tear gas grenade thrown the previous night was of standard CRS issue, “it doesn’t not mean that it was thrown by a policeman”. In the meantime, Siyakah Traore, one of the victims’ brother refuses to meet with Sarkozy under any circumstances as he is incompetent. They want to go straight to the Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Police arrest 12 people in Clichy where cars and bins continue to burn. According to the police, the night is quieter than the previous one although rioters in Clichy seemed to have set an example and riots spread to Sevran, Neuilly-sur-Marne et Bondy.

Tuesday 1 November

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin meets the victims families and assures them that light will be thrown on the circumstances of the accident. He highlights the necessity to return to calm.

Violence spread to 3 other departements: Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines and Val-d'Oise. However, there does not seem to be any direct confrontation between rioters and police officers.

Wedenesday 2 November

Jacques Chirac calls for a return to calm and respect of the law. Azouz Begag in an interview with newspaper Sud-Ouest regrets never being consulted by Sarkozy on equality of chances issues. He says that he is “being told when Sarkozy makes an announcement but never consulted. I am united with my government colleagues. Nicolas Sarkozy is just 1 minister out of 31”.

Violences and arrests (15) continue in Seine-Saint-Denis. During the afternoon, a section of the Bobigny 2 shopping centre is vandalised by about 40 people. During the night, a police station (closed a night for security reasons) is set on fire and in La Courneuve, CRS avoid 4 bullets. Several fires are reported in Seine-et-Marne and Hauts-de-Seine. 177 cars are burnt and in Aulnay-sous-bois, 3 France 2 journalists are forced to abandon their car as tens of teenagers wearing balaclavas threaten them according to AFP. A few moments later, their car is on fire as are the nearby car dealership and local primary school. Violences are now reported in Bobigny, Bondy, Aulnay, le Bourget, Noisy-le-Sec, Villepinte, la Courneuve, Clichy, Sevran, Antony, Villeparisis, Mantes-la-Jolie. In Clichy-sous-bois however, things seemed to have calmed down.

Categories: France; News; Paris riots

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cute Klux Klan

I was blog surfing yesterday when I came across this white supremacist blog (that’s the unfortunate thing about clicking “next blog”, you never know what you’re going to get. And if I come across the Fear Factor couple’s blog one more time I’ll scream) spewing hatred and contempt and everything else one has come to expect.

Despite my best judgment (it’s a morbid fascination I need to work on, I know) I let myself be drawn into an entry about Lamb and Lynx. They are 13 year old girls, blonde, cute, Californian and have been singing since the age of 9… Their pop duo is called Prussian Blue are by all accounts the new Olsen twins, only not as clean-living and cheerful and light-hearted. They are very popular too. Especially with the Ku Klux Klan to whom they endeared themselves by making Sieg Heil salutes, singing at rallies, dedicating songs to Rudolf Hess and generally being complete racists.

"We are proud of being white. We want our people to stay white we don't want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race."
Such comments have secured them a record deal with the white supremacist label Resistance Records who also has bands with names such as Angry Aryans under contract. Charming.

To give you an idea of what we’re talking about here, their DVD is called “PRUSSIAN BLUE - Blonde Hair Blue Eyes”, links on their website include Women for Aryan Unity and here is a sample of song titles on their album: The Road to Valhalla (they are so proud of their Aryan ancestry that they can't even spell it properly) and Aryan Man Awake. For inspiring lyrics, you can go here. Oh, and they write some of their own songs. Mummy must be so proud.

For more on this, read this ABC News article

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Halloween pumpkin: the new piñata?

It would seem that the manifestations of social and political unrest are forever changing and being adapted to the season. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's security services have had to tackle new threats in the last couple of weeks...

First came the scores of cardboard skeletons with anti-Chávez messages hanging from bridges and lampposts in Caracas. The police are hot on the trail of the culprits who (using their highly deductive powers) they believe to be student and probably middle-class students at that. I'll say. A group calling themselves Cambio (Change in Spanish) have claimed responsibility for this act and denied any intention to harm anybody. Nonetheless, police approached the cardboard cut-outs wearing protective gear, just in case.

And then came the pumpkins, carrying messages of rebellion.

(REUTERS) Local media showed heavily armed police and bomb experts surrounding one orange squash with a Halloween face and covered with stickers; others sprouted cables and wires making authorities wary they could be home-made explosives.

"We took preventative measures, as this could have been someone with another intention or an artifact that could have harmed someone," Investigative police division commissioner Jesus Gonzalez told local radio.

The pumpkins were found outside the state petrochemical company Pequiven and the offices of Chávez's political party with references to a constitutional article about civil resistance, local media reported. Chávez opponents often refer to Article 350 when calling for support of street protests.

Police described them as a "Machiavellian" attempt to cause unrest.

Machiavellian indeed. Maybe President Chávez who has apparently already cut his coffee intake from 26 espressos a day to 16 need to chill a bit more. A military court has already sentenced three Venezuelan former military officers and 27 Colombians today. Prison terms are ranging from 2 to 9 years for an alleged plot to kill the President.

As an aside, it looks like the "revolutionary doll" is going to be a must this Christmas in Caracas. Eek.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

New toy

11 days before Ages of Empire III hits the shops, I can't wait!!!
The graphics are FANTASTIC...

Categories: ; ;

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The B in LGBT - part 2

As I have received some interesting comments to my previous post on the issue of bisexuality (both on this blog and outside), I have decided to dig into it a bit more and to maybe give my perspective on some of the comments.

First of all, EWI said it reminded him of the disapproval of “going outside of the community”. I am not exactly sure what he means by this but my interpretation of it would be, going outside of the community would mean that you would still belong to the community but seek or just happen to find a partner who does not belong to this community, regardless of what the community is based on (religion, sexual orientation, race etc.) In that sense, I am not sure this is what happens to bisexuals who enter opposite-sex relationships. There is a stigma attached to it, a sense of disappointment on the part of the community, a sense of betrayal even sometimes, a sense that the prodigal son / daughter might actually not come back and is denying his or her true self and is selling out to a certain extent.

Secondly, he asks whether there is such a fear or hatred of heterosexuals amongst gay people. Some fear, yes of course. Gays die every day for their “crimes” in certain societies, they get beaten up outside pubs here in Ireland and the trend is growing. When a queer comes out, he or she has to be prepared for any kind of response, from a hug to a fist in the face.

As to whether there is hatred, I don’t think so. What is not liked is people who identify as bi-curious, bisexuals (because quite often the difference between the two is not clear in people’s minds) because there is that impression that they do not know to which side they belong. Most people are proud to be gay and would not change their sexuality for anything because it has become such a huge part of their self-identity. However, maybe there is some tension towards bisexuals who (should they "choose" to), can demarginalise themselves and enter “normal society”? I don't know, not being either a lesbian or a gay man myself... Of course, this would be easy if matters of the heart weren’t so complicated. For bisexuals, gender or sex is not an issue, the attraction is elsewhere and most people fail to understand that.

Categories: ;

Friday, October 21, 2005

CIE and economics

Maman Poulet has bravely attempted to show "the misconceptions that rail travel in Ireland is expensive", quoting comparisons of fares on a cost per kn basis published by Irish Rail. Quite rightly, she expects cynisism on my part.

First of all, as mentioned, the survey's being published by Irish Rail. One thing I have learnt about statistics is that who commissioned the survey and who is publishing it and the expected result are as important as the numerical outcome itself. My faith in an Irish Rail survey is minimal.

However, she makes a very good point and I would agree with her that public subvention is at the core of the debate and that subventions here are not in par with other European countries. I made a quick comparison between France and Ireland and here are the results. The numbers speak for themselves.

Another given is that costs of running trains are going up. However, I am sure that all trains currently "traveling" the length and breadth of the country and purchased eons ago have now been paid for twice over. Any company makes provisions and amortisations, especially ones whose assets need replacing every so often. I would assume CIE did because otherwise th3y would be the biggest tits on earth and then ask: where did the money go? Where are the new trains? The new engines? Maintaining the existing fleet is probably what is killing them. It's time to cut their losses. They seem to be so committed to the "Learn more about Iarnród Éireann's investment plans" page on their website that is down.

As for the price increase being justified by the rising petrol prices. Well, there's some saving to be done by changing the trains there too. Technological advances mean that engines are getting more performant, less polluting etc etc... they'd use less petrol for a start.

My last question I guess would be to ask... Price increase for the customer? Fine. But is it going to be matched by an increase in public subventions or are we going to have to bear the brunt of it? It's bad enough that we have to use the bloody thing.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Run Warren, Run!

Speculation is mounting in California and bets are taken on whether we are going to witness a Celebrity Death Match. The Terminator vs Girlie-Man. (Girlie-men is the ever affectionate nickname Arnie gives his opponents). Now that sounds like something straight out of the WWE.

Even since Schwartzy became Republican governor of mainly Democrat California, his popularity has gone down the drain. I put it to you that this is a result of putting forward a centre-right political agenda prior to elections and moving more towards the right with each passing issue and the clincher has been the special interests he has since decided to take on:

- Proposition 74 would extend from two to five years the time teachers must work to receive tenure;
- Proposition 75 would require public employee unions to seek written permission from members before using their dues for political purpose;
- Proposition 76 would enact a state spending cap;
- Proposition 77 would strip lawmakers of the power to draw political boundaries.

These, needless to say, are less then popular amongst the Democrat ranks.
One of the most vocal and vociferous adversaries of the Governator and his curtailment of union power, state spending and teacher rights in a November 8 special election is none other than Warren Beatty, 68 year old ladies man (well, before he married Annette Bening) and Hollywood star. A fierce liberal, he has never made a mystery of his political allegiance to the Democrat Party and has been entertaining for years ideas of political battle and glory. And although he has declared he would not be a candidate (they all say that at first, don’t they?), his candidacy for the 2006 elections is a popular idea amongst Democrat who start to think that the best way to fight celebrity… is with celebrity.

Categories: ; ;

CIE taking the piss (again)

I heard on the radio the other day (and was reminded about this issue by Mental Meanderings) that Irish Rail are actually looking for a 10% increase in fares. Cause you know what? Upgrading the network costs money. No shit.

But haven't you had time to save money in the last 20 years when you have done nothing to the network, the trains or anything else?

Luckily enough, it sounds like Irish Rail are unlikely to get their 10% increase. Maybe cause it's unjustifiable? So they'll get 7.5% instead or something to that effect.

Meanwhile, I receive regular e-mails from SNCF (the French national railway company) reminding me that I can now book my train ticket 3 months in advance, that I can do so online, that I can choose my seat, the air conditioning and the toilets will be working, we will not have to change the engine en route and there will be tea, coffee and sandwiches served in the restaurant.

I will travel in a train that looks this and that a trip from Paris to Nantes for instance will last 2 hours and 8 minutes to cover 400 kilometres and that it will cost me EUR20 one way.

That's when I want to cry.

Categories: ; ;

Monday, October 17, 2005

Rome - Day One

Friday 14th

It almost didn’t start at all. After having spent a very rushed evening finishing up at work, going down to my Spanish classes and packing / tidying the house up, it was rather late (or shall I say early) before we got a chance to go to bed. Me being the “once-I’ve-hit-the-hay-good-luck-with-getting-me-up” type of girl, I never heard the alarms go off and hadn’t it been for F, would have missed the flight. I am told that she almost didn’t get up either so whoever was in charge of Fate that night… thank you. Thankfully, Dublin is actually rather pleasant to drive through at 5am and we got to the airport in no time.

I am very pleased that the dreaded repeat of the hundreds of meters long queues did not occur and everything there went very smoothly. Flight was eventless, slept for a good chunk of it only to wake up after the food and above the Alps, basked in the early morning light… Switched on the iPod, listened to some music together, one earpiece each cause of course we had forgotten the splitter; meaningful looks were exchanged along with the feeling that this was going to be a great weekend.

This of course was not to last. Arrived in Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport, got our first (of many) taste of Italian fast-food (plastic-y focaccia) while waiting for the train to take us into town to Termini Station (if you ever go to Rome and need to make the same trip, there’s a nice little summary here, got Metro tickets, got into the metro to reach the B&B on the other side of town (when we actually realized where the B&B was located, we gathered that traveling in and out was going to take forever), found the street, found the black gate on the left of the Chinese Pizzeria (yeah… I know) and then nothing. No mention of the name of the B&B on the intercom. No plaque, nothing. So we called. No answer. Called the second number. That’s when we’re told they have no booking. Not even asking our name or anything. But he said he was going to come down after we insisted that yes... he had.

Five minutes later and nobody’s come down, or at least not for us. People living in the building and exiting it are looking at us funny. So I decide to go for a recon. I mean, maybe there’s another black gate on the other side of the Chinese Pizzeria and the guy’s waiting for us there. No signs of a B&B there either. Just an Internet Café that will later save our sanity and a dirty courtyard. So I went back. Guy calls back, says he can't find our booking. We don't have the name of the guy we talked to twice to confirm the booking. The B&B is full, no room at the inn. turns out the guy is in Naples and we're calling his mobile. How he was going to come down and get us is slightly bewildering but that's the least of our problem. We've just wasted 2 hours between travelling to the place and talking to the obnoxious owner and here we are, stranded in Rome with no accomodation in the middle of the busy touristic period. At this stage, F is on the verge of a meltdown, oscillating between anger and despair.

So we go to the internet cafe down the road and start surfing. A lot of hotels are full, the cheap(er) ones are gorgeous but way out of town, the ones in town are rather expensive. We make a few phone calls (by that, I mean about 10) and bastard owner calls back, saying he found us somewhere. Gives us a phone number that doesn't work and much more cursing of his name ensues. We finally find a room at the Hotel Le Petit off Via Nazionale but only for one night, they're full on Saturday. The search continues and we eventually find another hotel (hotel Giolli) that has vacancies, on Via Nazionale, about 5 minutes walk from the first one. Neither of them are cheap in absolute terms and even in relative terms compared to the B&B but hey... can't afford to be choosy.

So here we are, trekking back into town to check in to the first hotel, drop down to the second hotel since they wouldn't take our booking over the phone, even with a credit card number. Italians are obsessed with faxes and that's one thing we didn't carry with us.. Damn.

So there we are. It's past 5pm, we've been up for 12 hours are we are finally ready to start the holidays.


Categories ; ; ;

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Dublin sunsets

Encouraged by Eole's kind words and acknowledging the fact that I need to "practice", I got the camera out tonight and snapped away. There are not quite sunsets but it's impossible to get "proper sunsets" in town since the horizon is... well.. nowhere to be seen. Hope you enjoy!

Roma here we come!!!

1 day 17 hours and 43 minutes before we land in Rome...

Weather forecast isn't that bad (better than it was a few days ago anyway), travel guide has been bought if not studied, flight details are printed off, B&B booked and passports are... well... somewhere.

Let's hope that this time Dublin Airport doesn't turn into the same fiasco...

I'm even going to try and take nice pictures I will post here when we get back, just for Eole who takes some really cool pictures like these I'm rather jealous of!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Why put the B in LGBT?

I am sick and tired of biphobia. It’s bad enough that bisexuals’ partners are more often than not insecure in both themselves and their relationship to constantly fear that their other half is going to run away with someone of the same / opposite sex and that there’s nothing they can do about it because they don’t have the right body parts. A lot of people, both straight and gay, would refuse to go out / date a bisexual (wo)man because of the stigma that is attached to it. Unfortunately, that’s the way it often goes, the lines between bisexuality and monogamy happily blurred or erased by the ones it serves the less to do so. Newsflash: it IS possible to be bisexual, live your identity to its fullest, be in a relationship with either a man or a woman and not wanting to be intimate with anyone else. So get over it.

Unfortunately, this is not the only issue we have to contend with.

We are getting pounded on by our own community on a regular basis. LGBT(Q) is a marvelous concept. Inclusion, communitarism, political activism… For those of you who might not know it, LGBT(Q) stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, (Queer) and I guess the order of the letters is less than innocuous. Gays and Lesbians DO come first, bisexuals and transgendered people were “added” to the list and (more often than not badly) included in the LGBT community.

The problem is that bisexuals don’t have a community per se. Unlike gay men or lesbians, we do not have a community. We belong to both the "straight world" and the "gay world" or as perceived this way. We are tolerated in both worlds as long as we do not express whatever part of our desires and identity belong to the “other” world. Heterosexuals want to hear as much about same sex relationships as homosexuals want to hear about opposite sex relationships. As a result, a bisexual (wo)man’s identity is not defined by his own personality but by the intimate bonds (s)he forms, by his / her relationship. It makes it easier for everyone, I guess. If you’re in a same sex relationship, join the ranks of the oppressed and go with the queers, if you’re not, go with the breeders and enjoy the fact that you can blend in and whatever status or societal acceptance that gives you. Go on, take the easy road. Easier for everyone but bisexuals.

The worst biphobia I have experienced came from my own ranks, the community I live most of my life in due to my personal relationships: from lesbians. An argument has unfolded on an Irish forum a couple of days ago. This forum is purely made of female members, some lesbian and some bi but all having in common the fact that they love women. A long standing member of this forum and of the international lesbian community at large has recently had her sexuality challenged by what must be the best man on the planet… having lived as an “out” lesbian for decades and finding honesty the best policy, this member shared the news on a forum where I assume she expected support and encouragement from her chosen family.

The backlash didn’t start until a few days after. It has been suggested by people this woman would have until a few days ago called friends, that she WAS taking the easy way out, and I am sure that the fact that she’s currently going the long adoption road to have a baby has entered some heads as one of the reasons why she would do such a thing as degrade herself to pursue a man. In the lesbian community, if you’re not a hardcore lesbian, you’re next to nothing. It’s sleeping with the enemy, giving in to patriarchy. Lesbians who sleep with men can discuss it because it’s sex, they were horny and the poor guy was there. As long as we use them, it’s alright. But actually looking for a romantic relationship with one? It’s obviously denying who you are. Obviously.

(continued here)...

Categories: ;

Thursday, October 06, 2005

1918 Spanish flu: latest addition to list of WMD?

It would seem that American researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta have managed to recreate and revive the 1918 Spanish flu virus in hope that discovering what triggered its virulence will contribute to fighting a potential avian flu pandemic.

The results of their study published today in Science and Nature provide useful information. Information they had to dig up a female victim of the Spanish Flu in Alaska for, mind you. Her frozen lung tissue were used to recreate the virus’ genetic code. Their analysis suggest that the 1918 virus (H1N1) was originally avian but later adapted to humans. Interestingly enough, the virus currently propagating amongst birds is an adaptation on this virus: H5N1.

Using reversed genetics or positional cloning, Terrence Tumpey of CDC and his team recreate the virus and conducted a series of experiments to understand its virulence. When you know that the 1918 Spanish flu affected over 500 million people and killed between 20 and 50 million of those according to most estimates, the results are rather worrying:
- 50 times as many virus particles are released from human lung cells a day after infection with the 1918 virus as are released after exposure to a contemporary strain called the Texas virus,
- 13% of body weight is lost by mice 2 days after infection with 1918 flu; weight loss is only transient in mice infected with the Texas strain.
- 39,000 times more virus particles are found in mouse lung tissue 4 days after infection with 1918 flu than are found with the Texas virus.
- All mice died within 6 days of infection with 1918 flu; none died from the Texas strain.

You get the picture. What we have here sitting in an American laboratory is probably the most effective bioweapon known to man.
So of course, they are protecting it the best they can… Or are they?

An enhanced biosafety level-3 lab (upper body suits and respirators required) was used for the work. All good, unless you know that a level 4 exists where for instance full body suits are required and unless you also know that in 2003 a SARS virus escaped accidentally from a level-3 lab in Singapore, and in 2004 two further escapes occurred from such labs in Beijing. Hmmm…

I mean, it’s not as if the US had enemies, either individuals or States, who would love to get their hands on it for instance. Theft by a disgruntled, disturbed or extremist laboratory employee is hardly out of the question too. The re-creation of the full genome sequence of the virus and its mandatory publication on the GenBank database are also rather worrying: anyone can apparently order DNA to be made to a certain sequence and that there are currently no governmental controls on what sequences can be used. The technology is available and the only barrier anyone would face would be the screening of DNA orders by DNA synthesis companies for pathogenic sequences…

I would appear however that even if it did escape, it wouldn’t have the same consequences as it did in 1918 as most people now have some immunity to the 1918 virus because subsequent human flu viruses are in part derived from it. We might not face a Twelve Monkeys scenario just yet, then…

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tuesday Feeling

Oh I hate when that Monday feeling carries on to Tuesday...

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Monday, October 03, 2005

Yet another political test

One finds the strangest tests in the strangest places these days... A political orientation test at OK Cupid?? Huh?
So in the spirit of the Political Compass, I bring you yet another test... Just to see if you're consistent, like. I know I am!

Maybe one day when I have time I'll give a more substanciated answer than Strongly agree / Agree / Disagree / Strongly Disagree...

You are a

Social Liberal
(63% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(21% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test

Florida Sunsets

Thought I would share a few pictures I took when we were in Florida last June, taken with my (then) brand new Pentax Optio MX4. God how I love this camera!!!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tough Interview Questions

Having recently gone through a few job interviews, and still feeling slightly traumatized, I have come to realize that the interview themselves are ok, the anticipation and sand-bagging is the worse. Going through book after book on interview techniques or reading through material sent to you by a recruitment agency, you will always find the same questions…

- Tell me about yourself
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What can you do for us that someone else can't? / Why should we hire YOU?
- Why are you leaving your present job?
- How would you evaluate your present organization / boss?
- If I spoke with your previous boss / your best friend / your colleague, what would he or she say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- How do you resolve conflict?
- What are your strong / weak points?
- Some stuff about team management etc…
Or even sometimes, you are told you can expect something like this:

Those questions are the worse and I find are usually asked by the HR person, not the hiring manager. The hiring manager wants to know that you’re clever enough for the job, enthusiastic and not afraid to get your hands dirty, not trying to psycho-analyse you by asking you what your favourite book was. Cause of course in interview situations, your real favourite book is not your favourite book…

Anyway, I guess my point is that most people in fact do NOT ask you those kinds of questions. And it’s probably due to the fact that it has become very rehearsed and therefore fake. The applicant prepares those questions in advance and since he or she knows what to say and is regurgitating rather than giving an honest answer, what’s the point? Your real weakness is that you can’t help it, you can’t get up in the morning? Well, that’s not going to get you the job, is it? Now, your weakness is that you love getting involved and love a challenge, which some people might consider barging in but you like a job well done, you’re a perfectionist. That’s it… your weakness is that you’re a perfectionist. Only during interviews does this make any sense...

The key, I guess, is to have those answers ready just in case HR (wo)man is there but I have decided to no longer fret about those questions, relax, drink plenty of water and not forget to go to the bathroom before the interview and all will be fine!

PS: If you wanna check out Hans Bjordahl's newly launched website where is is showing some of his cartoons, please visit Beware: geek humour!! LOL

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Brown receives new Village Idiot award

Looks like the Americans got themselves a new village idiot. Move over W! Here comes Michael Brown!!!

The former FEMA director is currently under fire from the special congressional panel investigating the US government's handling of Hurricane Katrina. Here is a sample of his best answers.

- When accused to not have been experienced enough for the job: "I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it."

- He said he made “specific mistakes” in responding to Hurricane Katrina. Which mistakes would that be, Mike?

- "It is inherently impractical, totally impractical, for the federal government to respond to every disaster of whatever size in every community across the country," Brown said. "It breaks my heart to think about the disasters we respond to as FEMA and to think about the disasters that we also don't respond to," he added. Maybe so, Mike. But that one was a pretty big one, don’t you think? But maybe poor Black people dying because you didn’t lift a fucking finger’s not considered a disaster where you come from…

- "FEMA is a coordinating agency, we are not a law enforcement agency," he said, also suggesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was criticized because many people incorrectly believe it serves as something of a federal rapid-response force. So now, "Federal" doesn’t mean "federal" and "emergency" is no longer synonym to "rapid response"? Jeez, maybe I should buy that new dictionary you’ve got yourself there, Mike.

The congressional memo goes on even further… It would transpire that:

- Brown admitted he should have called the cavalry (i.e. the Pentagon) sooner and regretted “that he did not start screaming" for the military's involvement. I guess 5 days IS a long time, isn’t it?

- Brown did not take any official notes during conference calls he ran with state and federal authorities and "just assumed that agencies would follow up on taskings resulting from the calls." Well, isn’t that what secretaries are for?

- Brown said a federal takeover of emergency management responsibilities would be a "crutch" for local and state governments and could lead to future lapses in preparedness. Yeah… God forbid FEMA did ANYTHING to help anyone… What are they, God? “Help yourself and the Lord will help you” type of reasoning has never been the panacea of survival, has it?

Now what you have to understand is that this is the guy who now has a two-week "transition period" remaining at FEMA, time during which he will advise the department on "some of his views on his experience with Katrina," Homeland security spokesman Russ Knocke said.

Oh and incidentally… he is receiving full pay.

Pandora’s blogs

Are traditional medias threatened by blogs, those personal websites that are multiplying all over the Web at exponential speed? The European Parliament recently showed its rising interest in the blogosphere at the launch of its new website ( with a series of round table talks on the information society, the first of which was about ethical questions arising from the emergence of millions of weblogs.

The discussion, entitled "Weblogs - competition, challenge or chance? Who's afraid to open Pandora's blogs?" took place on 12 September 2005 and was chaired by Guido Baumhauer, the editor-in-chief of Deutsche Welle's online service. Guido Baumhauer noted that there were currently 31 million blogs online and that 80,000 were created every day, many of which aim at providing additional or contradictory information to the traditional media’s.

At the round table, Labour MEP Richard Corbett (who was the first Member of the Parliament to launch a blog) said that he first started his blog as an online dairy, illustrating what an MEP's life was like. He has however now switched to a more topical approach, reaching out to voters and rebutting eurosceptics. Some of the journalists attending admitted that they had been known to use blogs to gather information, especially in occasions when official information was not available like during the tsunami last December.

Of course, this is not to say that traditional media like the BBC or CNN will become obsolete in years to come as people will always want credible and trustworthy information, which is where most blogs fail as many mix information and advertising or do not reference their sources.

This issue is fast becoming even more complicated as many journalists start blogging themselves, editing news that do not get published by their employers. Do they then become a threat to them? Aidan White, Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists, himself regularly updates his blog. For him, blogging is a positive development, as long as this additional information is of the same standards as the one found in standard media. According to him, the problem with blogs is that they do not operate within any ethical framework, a statement that Karlin Lillington from the Irish Times agrees with, adding that bloggers could behave like cowboys in the Far West blogosphere ,especially when it comes to ethical issues and defamation.

Personally, I am acutely aware that whatever I read on blogs out there is a personal take on an event, that it is by definition tainted with personal beliefs and opinions and that’s one of the reasons why I read them. For entertainment purposes and yes, I admit, additional information sometimes like during hurricane Katrina. I do take them with a pinch of salt as they are what they are: a space for individuals to express their views freely with no constraints or consequences (unless, of course, you bitch about your employer and they find out)… It does raise, however, the issue of the right to a private life for the “victims” too…

Monday, September 26, 2005

Ô joie, ô désespoir...

A few of my friends went to San Francisco for their holidays a couple of weeks ago. The chancer that I am asked whether a complete season 1 DVD set could be purchased on my behalf whilst over there because well... one episode a week just ain't cutting it any longer. I could have purchased it myself on the net but that way, I figured I wouldn't have to pay taxes. I could also wait for the release of the FIRST half of the series on Region 2 DVD (which of course would happen after all the episodes included were broadcasted on TV which quite frankly defeats the purpose)

My trusted friend C indeed purchased the DVD. The DVD was placed in her suitcase, the suitcase on the plane and at that stage, I was already salivating profusely and was ready to kiss aforementioned friend’s feet, dirty socks and all. But of course, her luggage got lost (oh, the irony) and when recovered, several items were missing. Including my DVDs. I blame Homeland Security and the fact that you travelers are not allowed to lock their luggage prior to check-in in the States because of course they might want to search it on top of having scanned it, and sniffed it. You never know…

Unfortunately, this leaves the poor traveler open to robbery at any stage of luggage handling. On a San Fran to Dublin via London trip, that’s a lot of people, especially if you consider the fact that the luggage was missing for 2 days. A lot of people who have the potential to steal anything from anyone without any worry of being caught. Who’s to say where and when it happened? Who’s even to say what you claim has disappeared was indeed there in the first place? I mean, is there no respect for people’s property anymore? Or maybe they were considered potentially harmful and swiftly removed so as not to endanger the innocent passengers… Yeah, that must be it…

Anyway, after spewing a string of invectives at X and reassuring C that it was OK, that it was not her fault and that I was sorry lots of her stuff went missing, I relented and bought the DVD set on eBay today (I’m big on the tax evasion thing). I just hope it’s not the one that was stolen from C in the first place cause I’d be quite pissed off.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


I wasn't quite sure whether to share the story of the Polish 18-month-old who ran over 3 family members in a car or the one below... As you can see, I made my choice in the end...

Iran plans to weave world's largest carpet
Saturday September 24, 01:24 PM

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran is seeking to revive its carpet industry by weaving the world's biggest rug, weighing in at 35 tonnes. The mammoth rug from the spiritual homeland of Persian carpets will cover almost 6,000 square metres and will fetch some $8.2 million, its makers told Reuters on Saturday.

"We will have two working shifts of 1,000 weavers working for 14 months non-stop to deliver the carpet on time," said Karam Reza Haseli, a deputy manager at the state-supported Iranian carpet company. Work is due to start in three months.

The carpet has been ordered by the Sheikh Zayed mosque that is being built in Abu Dhabi, after Iran scoured its Gulf neighbours for contracts that might help revive business for local wool merchants, dye makers and weavers.

Although hand-woven carpets are normally Iran's top non-oil export, the industry has been hit by cheaper Pakistani, Chinese and Indian copies of traditional Iranian patterns.

Iran is hoping to break its own record for Gargantuan carpets, which it says is currently held by the 4,400 square metre carpet woven for the Sultan Qaboos mosque in Muscat.

Haseli said the quality of the workmanship would be maintained by paying some of the master craftsmen up to $7 a shift, far more than the $1 going-rate in areas near the Afghan border. "We intend to monopolise the market with expensive delicate carpets and leave the cheap fake carpets market for others to fight for," Haseli said.

Now if only this could distract them long enough to abandon their nuclear programme, that'd be great...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Inspiring confidence, as always...

Thanks, Alice!!!

Innocent in London

Oh how easy it is to get a criminal record these days... All you have to do is get dressed, get out, get the tube without staring at everyone you meet and check your text messages. This story also appears in today's edition of the Guardian.

Crocodile Rock

On my way to work in the morning I tend to listen to the radio in the car. It passes time and generally puts me in a better mood than I was when I first left the house. I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never been and probably never will be.

My good mood is due to Colm & Jim-Jim on the Strawberry Alarm Clock (FM104) and this week particularly to their Strawberry Pick of the Week. The “Strawberry” is entertaining, dynamic and truth be said… rather brainless: just what a girl who doesn’t reach her maximum brain potential before 10:30am needs on a bleak September morning.

Anyway, for those of you who do not listen to it, the Strawberry Pick of the Week (around 8:40am usually) is a single the team thinks will be a big hit in the future. However, the DJs are not averse to picking really quirky songs that have made it to the number 1 spot abroad. This week, they delight us with this marvelous German title: Schnappi – das kleine Krokodil.

Now, I lived in Germany for a year. You don’t fool me… Their taste in music is generally…. Well… Shite. Between Scorpions, David Hasselhoff (whose singles are only released in Austria, Germany and Switzerland), the Kelly Family and the home-baked Schlagers, it’s enough to break the defenses of the best-trained Intelligence agents. Indeed, there are ways to make you talk… (I am perfectly aware of the fact that some German music is good like Die Toten Hosen, Die Fantastischen Vier and even Rammstein on small doses but… that’s not my point. I am also aware that the Kelly Family and David Hasselhoff are not German, but we’d all agree that they are REALLY bad… and yet, they are loved over there…)

Now take aforementioned Rammstein and imagine the complete opposite. You get Schnappi, the little crocodile. It's disturbingly catchy like most kids songs and it WILL stick to you like a bad smell if you listen to it more than 3 times in a row. Even if you don't know a word of German, you WILL sing along (then again, how hard is Schni Schna Schnappi / Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp / Schni Schna Schnappi /
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp
to pick up? Anyway, I love it like cigarettes... the first time it's minging but then you get used to it and without you knowing how it happened... you're hooked.

While you listen to it here, you can sing along!! If you're feeling adventurous, here are the full lyrics:

Ich bin Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil.
Komm aus Ägypten, das liegt direkt am Nil.
Zuerst lag ich in einem Ei,
dann schni-,schna-,schnappte ich mich frei

Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp
Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp

Ich bin Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil,
hab scharfe Zähne, und davon ganz schön viel.
Ich schnapp mir was ich schnappen kann,
ja ich schnapp zu, weil ich das so gut kann.

Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp
Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp

Ich bin Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil,
ich schnappe gern, das ist mein Lieblingsspiel.
Ich schleich mich an die Mama ran,
und zeig ihr wie ich schnappen kann

Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp
Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp

Ich bin Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil,
und vom Schnappen, da krieg ich nicht zu viel.
Ich beiß dem Papi kurz ins Bein,
und dann, dann schlaf ich einfach ein.

Monday, September 19, 2005

May The Force Be With You

For the Star Wars fans, this is a little clip that will undoubtedly make you smile as the Organic Trade Association spared no expenses to shoot the remake of the first (well, fourth, to be exact) episode of Star Wars... with vegetables, exhorting us in this galaxy far far away to join the Organic Rebellion. It sounds weird and it is. Enjoy!!! (click on the picture to start)

Vacation is Over

It IS a bit dated and perhaps some of his supporters are getting a bit tired of him but one thing is for sure, you can always rely on Michael Moore to spill the acid in a rather entertaining way, leading his anti-Bush crusade with everything he's got...

Vacation is Over...
an open letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush:

Any idea where all our helicopters are? It's Day 5 of Hurricane Katrina and thousands remain stranded in New Orleans and need to be airlifted. Where on earth could you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you need help finding them? I once lost my car in a Sears parking lot. Man, was that a drag.

Also, any idea where all our national guard soldiers are? We could really use them right now for the type of thing they signed up to do like helping with national disasters. How come they weren't there to begin with?

Last Thursday I was in south Florida and sat outside while the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over my head. It was only a Category 1 then but it was pretty nasty. Eleven people died and, as of today, there were still homes without power. That night the weatherman said this storm was on its way to New Orleans. That was Thursday! Did anybody tell you? I know you didn't want to interrupt your vacation and I know how you don't like to get bad news. Plus, you had fundraisers to go to and mothers of dead soldiers to ignore and smear. You sure showed her!

I especially like how, the day after the hurricane, instead of flying to Louisiana, you flew to San Diego to party with your business peeps. Don't let people criticize you for this -- after all, the hurricane was over and what the heck could you do, put your finger in the dike?

And don't listen to those who, in the coming days, will reveal how you specifically reduced the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for New Orleans this summer for the third year in a row. You just tell them that even if you hadn't cut the money to fix those levees, there weren't going to be any Army engineers to fix them anyway because you had a much more important construction job for them -- BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ!

On Day 3, when you finally left your vacation home, I have to say I was moved by how you had your Air Force One pilot descend from the clouds as you flew over New Orleans so you could catch a quick look of the disaster. Hey, I know you couldn't stop and grab a bullhorn and stand on some rubble and act like a commander in chief. Been there done that.

There will be those who will try to politicize this tragedy and try to use it against you. Just have your people keep pointing that out. Respond to nothing. Even those pesky scientists who predicted this would happen because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is getting hotter and hotter making a storm like this inevitable. Ignore them and all their global warming Chicken Littles. There is nothing unusual about a hurricane that was so wide it would be like having one F-4 tornado that stretched from New York to Cleveland.

No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh! Race has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with this!

You hang in there, Mr. Bush. Just try to find a few of our Army helicopters and send them there. Pretend the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are near Tikrit.


Michael Moore

PS: Thanks to the little bro for the heads up!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Pride (In the name of...)

A lot of people have been talking about hurricane Katrina and the devastation it brought, the death, the rapes, murders, lootings; race and class issues were highlighted as well as the personal failures of George W Bush who was nowhere to be seen, Dick Cheney (who?) and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who was spotted shopping for shoes (retail therapy still the way to go apparently) and going to a show on Broadway. On a more practical note, the very poor responses of local and federal governments and agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency have already sent heads rolling and will continue to do so under popular pressure. However, as I said, a lot of people have already talked about this, very often more aptly than I ever could.

One thing that has been rarely talked about (and I guess that’s the price to pay for following US / US owned news papers / TV channels) is the blatant and damaging unwillingness on the United States’ part to accept international help. Of course, even in the face of such a disaster, most countries are reluctant to provide help in the first place, especially financial. As someone put it on Questions and Answers last night, if your rich Uncle is going to hospital for surgery, you’re hardly going to put a 50c coin in a get well card to help with the cost. Watering the plants or walking the dog IS indeed more useful.

As well as financial aid from Europe and the world at large (Kuwait pledged 0.5 billion dollars) and big corporations like Whirlpool, Microsoft, GlaxoSmithKline etc, material and human help has been offered. The United Nations offered its emergency response system, including disaster relief teams, equipment and expertise. Overall, as many as 90 nations have deluged the State Department with offers. .Fidel Castro (hardly a US fan if there ever was one) offered to send 1,100 Cuban doctors and nurses carrying over 26 tons of medication wherever they were needed. Even tsunami–hit Sri Lanka promised a $25,000 donation to the American Red Cross.

But even offers of walking the dog have been refused. Last week, according to Der Spiegel , a German military cargo jet carrying 15 tons of food destined to help feed the victims of Hurricane Katrina was refused permission to land by US authorities and turned back to Cologne still fully loaded. Reason? Out of fear the beef may contain bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), responsible for mad cow disease. It would be good to note that those rations were originally prepared for NATO troops and had been certified by aforementioned NATO as BSE-free. Moreover, the same type of meals is regularly eaten by American troops, in Afghanistan for instance.

On a cynical point, Hurricane Katrina is an opportunity like no other for the United States to start rebuilding bridges. International relationships with the States have been damaged by the Iraq war amongst other things. Countries like France or Germany who are now offering their help are being turned down in the name of national pride. Yes, America is the superpower, the giver not the receiver. Yes, accepting help from countries who need these resources a lot more than the States ever will would be humbling and yes, it would be a blow to the American belief that they are self-sufficient. But international relationships are above all else human and interpersonal relationships and when someone is taking the first step towards you after a time of rather chilly climate, the last thing you want to do is refusing that helping hand. They have their pride too, you know.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Debriefing and update

Well well well...

What a night!
France won against the Republic of Ireland 1-0.
Did we deserve to win? Hmmm, that may be debatable. The Irish were over us like a rash and defended rather well. The only great opportunity we had, we took and scored. At this stage of the competition, it doesn't really matter to me how we win, to be honest!

Oh a different note, t looks like my other predictions were good too. Pierce and Mauresmo (see previous post) met in the quarter finals and Pierce came on top. In 2 sets 6-4 6-1. In 66 minutes. Trashed poor Amélie.

"You know, I'm really happy to be in the semifinals," said Pierce when asked about her next opponent. "This is the best that I've done at the US Open in my career, which I think is amazing. I'm just really happy, so, you know, anybody I play, I'll be looking forward to it. I'll be excited. I'll be giving everything that I have." (source: US Open)

It's the passion, you see.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Allez Les Bleus!!!!

Well, the match is tonight and as a good French citizen living in Ireland, I shall sit myself down in a pub tonight (starting early because we have to get seats / it's an Irish tradition to start drinking early) and watch the match in the company of lovely people, even if they will be supporting the other team. However, I feel I need to tell you a little bit more about the context I will support my team in.

You see, such things are taken seriously around here. Pubs, people... everything is green on important match days. TV sets are brought in to work to follow matches, big screens in Board Rooms / auditoriums are switched on and phones go unanswered. Tumbleweed is commonly found on the streets. The only people who are busy are the ones pulling pints.

As I have lived in Dublin for a few years now and I am an avid sports fan following both football and rugby, my sporting life here hasn't always been easy as a result. The French contingent in Dublin is nothing to be sneered at, however we cannot compete with 1 million + people. So we DO wear our colours with pride, we DO clap (albeit politely and out of nothing but sportsmanship) when Ireland gets one over us and for the sake of survival, tend to make our own manifestations of joy rather discreet. Whatever the score, if France won and an Irishman (let's face it, most woman don't care enough to talk about the match afterwards so for arguments' sake and because of the law of probability, I shall use the term Irishman) starts taking to me, it ALWAYS was a close match and yes, Ireland played well and YES, you could have SO won that one.

Given France's rather poor performance in the qualifiers so far, I understand that the Irish think they have a shot at it. They do, in fairness. Well, they would have had a better one if we hadn't called back the Old Guard, namely Zidane (a.k.a. Zizou), Thuram etc... Now? I know you all think you're going to win it. I have seen a score of 2-1 to Ireland mentioned several times. And I'm sure it will be a close match and yes, Ireland will in all likelihood play well and YES, you could SO win that one.

But you won't.

Allez Les Bleus!!!!!!!!

PS: This post will self-destruct should Ireland win 2-1 tonight

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

To the Irish TV viewers

So, the long awaited Ireland vs. France clash in group of the World Cup qualifiers (that’s football, by the way) is nigh. Kick – off was scheduled for 7:30pm GMT and everything was going fine. Until French TV channel TF1 muscled in, flashed the cash and got its way… Kick-off is now 25 minutes late, at 7:55pm.

TF1 is the biggest TV channel in France. In fact, I hear it’s the biggest TV network in Europe. It is also the Chelsea of terrestrial TV: what they want, they pay for and pay for well, whether it is TV rights or presenters in order to be the “best” although their definition of what the “best” is remains somewhat dodgy.

Something else worth bearing in mind is how sacrosanct prime time slots are in France. One of the things that amazed me when I first moved to England and then Ireland were the one hour programmes after 8pm. In France, on both major channels, the “Grande Messe du 20 heures” (big 8pm Mass) is pivotal. Programmes ahead of that slot are probably some of the most watched, despite the fact that it’s dinner time in most households and programmes in the 9pm are usually big 2 hour shows (either news – related or entertainment), or movies. You see, French don’t seem to “flick” that much and most people will watch the same channel all evening… Apparently…

Of course, this has a big impact on advertisement since it is THE cash cow for TV networks such as TF1. If you think you have it bad in Ireland, with 3 minutes breaks during and in between your favourite programme, breaks that last exactly 3 minutes and you know you can turn the kettle on, make it up the stairs to the bathroom and back before it ends? Think again.

In France, the news is over by 8:30pm and the main evening programme used to start around 8:35pm. A little bit of commercials, a little weather forecast and that was that. Grab your beer, dim the lights, get comfy (no feet on the coffee table, though) and we were set. Well, that was that 10 years ago. It progressively slipped to 8:45pm, then 8:45pm, 8:50pm… Now, we’re somewhere between 8:50pm and 8:55pm. Thing is, they haven’t slotted in another programme in between, oh no. Lucky French viewers are privy to 25 minutes of ads, trailers, and still a bit of weather forecast (with a sea weather forecast in the summer and snow forecast in the winter as a bonus). You might think that with 25 minutes of commercials during peak hours, TF1 would not need to interrupt its programmes to add even more brain-washing… Oh but they do. Every 25 minutes for about 5 minutes, sometimes more.

Patrick Le Lay, the 'Oh-so-wise’ CEO of TF1 was quoted in a book called Les dirigeants face au changement in 2004 and what he had to say was absolutely enlightening. “TF1's business is to help Coca-Cola sell its products” he said. “For an advert to be effective, the viewer's brain has to be available. Our programmes are made so that their brain becomes available, that is to say to entertain them, make them feel relaxed to get them ready between two commercials. What we sell Coca-Cola is available brain time.” In other terms, TF1 is nothing big a giant, continuous commercial break, barely interrupted by TV programmes.

You understand, dear Irish TV viewer, that priorities are priorities and that since TF1 are reported to be paying €1.6m to show the game in France, the FAI could do nothing but oblige. Now we understand that YOUR programme will end around 7:30pm GMT. Since you have 25 minutes to fill and since millions will be watching… could we suggest a big commercial break?