Testing Testing One Two One Two

An Irish learners permit which is issued to be...
Licence To Kill

Thank you for your perseverance through the downtime. I lost my blogging rhythm for a few days there, between one thing and another. One was the current job – if that’s an appropriate word for what’s turned into a litany of frustration – the other my driving test, which I failed.

It would be easy to say the main reason for the other was the one. Easy, and largely true. I only had time to drive every other day because I was busy working to (oh, the irony) pay for lessons.

Too easy though; I want to resist the urge to blame something other than myself. Driving is about the most responsible thing you can do. Unless you’re a surgeon or a soldier in action, you aren’t usually in a position where one lapse of judgement can kill the person nearest to you. So no excuses, I wasn’t ready for that test.

I probably never will be. Let’s face it, I lack the necessary intelligence and skill to ever be left in charge of a dangerous machinery. Wait, that’s too far the other way now. In reality there were bad habits in my driving technique that I became aware of too late in the game to break. Ah well. I have applied for another test.

So in the last six months I’ve gone from being certain that driving wasn’t for me to being besotted with it – closely followed by the feeling I’d never figure it out, and finally a cautious optimism that I’m going to get it right some day. It’s been like adolescence on fast-forward.

Queen’s Greatest Hats

World's constitutional monarchies coloured by ...
These Countries Have A Special Magic Person

It’s not that I didn’t care about the royal visit. I had really strong feelings. It’s just that they were so contradictory, they averaged out somewhere near ‘Meh’.

So it was a good thing mostly. I was irritated by commentators who gushed like it was the second coming of Elizabeth Christ, beginning of the end of all our troubles. (Slightly disorientating that this coincided with America’s latest rapture attack.) I’m sure that it will be good for our image abroad and for tourism especially, will demonstrate that the Irish still know how to entertain even – perhaps especially – when times are tough. If everything goes well with the Obama visit too, I think this whole summer will be remembered as one brilliant PR coup.

But like all true democrats, I’m a republican (try explaining that in the US), and find the idea of ‘constitutional monarchy‘ bizarre. Genuine monarchy at least has the excuse that it’s what happens when someone wins a fight. But for a self-proclaimed democracy to maintain the post of hereditary pretend-ruler… Well basically it’s just silly, a sort of national charade. This may look like a nice little old lady, but we’re all pretending she’s magic. I resent being required to play along.

The Pain In Spain

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn (...
So I said "How about this for fiscal rectitude"'

So protestors march by, chanting that Ireland is in solidarity with Spain against the EU-IMF bailout. Wait – don’t you usually express solidarity with someone in their troubles, not your own? That’s a bit like shaking hands with a mourner at a funeral and telling them your car needs a new clutch.

But I am qibbling over a choice of words. It is good that people are at least protesting, whether it be against the Spanish government’s cuts, our own bailout conditions, or – to go for the common thread – the destructive role that the financial industry now plays in western economies. Perhaps it will even make the news. Second or third item after after the nation waving a tearful goodbye to her majesty Queen Elizabeth.

Wouldn’t want to spoil that image of us quietly taking the fiscal punishment we deserve.

The Pain In Spain

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn (...
So I said "How about this for fiscal rectitude"'

So protestors march by, chanting that Ireland is in solidarity with Spain against the EU-IMF bailout. Wait – don’t you usually express solidarity with someone in their troubles, not your own? That’s a bit like shaking hands with a mourner at a funeral and telling them your car needs a new clutch.

But I am qibbling over a choice of words. It is good that people are at least protesting, whether it be against the Spanish government’s cuts, our own bailout conditions, or – to go for the common thread – the destructive role that the financial industry now plays in western economies. Perhaps it will even make the news. Second or third item after after the nation waving a tearful goodbye to her majesty Queen Elizabeth.

Wouldn’t want to spoil that image of us quietly taking the fiscal punishment we deserve.

And That Completes The Set

garret-fitzgerald1
The Way We Were

And that completes the set. Now there are no honest politicians left at all.

Maybe I exaggerate a trifle, but Garret Fitzgerald did seem different. Even though he led a right-of-centre party, even though he could give the impression of being confused and ineffectual, even though he didn’t achieve much of what he set out to, he was the greatest leader that Ireland has had in my memory. There was never any doubt that Garret’s motivation was not personal power, status or wealth. He wasn’t there to be liked by his coterie or cheered by the the masses. He was there to do something about the mess the country was in.

He did that, and he was still liked anyway. Though the sobriquet ‘Garret The Good’ was intended to lampoon his earnestness, no one doubted that it was true. This was a good man in politics. A man who did more than anyone to free Ireland from religious domination, who first dared to attempt what finally bore fruit as the Peace Process. That rarest of things, an intellectual in a leadership role.

And in 1987, the voters of Ireland decided that they would actually prefer to be ruled by Charles Haughey. So perhaps we deserve all that has come since.

A Walk In The Dark

Home! (Just so’s you know I made it)

The last time I walked along this boreen, I was ankle deep in bright, blue-white snow. Now it’s night. There might be snow for all I know, but hawthorns and blackthorns and, in all probability, whitethorns are the only white I can make out. Then there were sheep in the fields, now there are newborn calves hardly bigger than dogs. Madly cute.

A cow lets me scratch her nose.

The gate to this field I notice bears that most futile of signs, ‘Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted’. I bet you they won’t – there is no crime of trespass. I suppose it has more impact than ‘Don’t Come In Or I’ll Sue’, but to be honest the sign just makes me want to go into a field I would otherwise not have the slightest interest in.

What are you going to do about it, field-owner?

On my left, passing a cousin’s house. They just got set up for 3D TV. When I was a kid in 1975, we were definitely going to have that by the year 2000.

On my right now, the well where we got all our drinking water when I was a kid in 1975. So some things changed.

And now I’m blogging in the dark, something I don’t remember anyone predicting. By the year 2011 people will walk around at night, publishing their thoughts in an almost stream-off-consciousness way for no very clear reason. Nope, those rubbish visionaries were way off on that one.

Mac Users, Beware!

A new malware variant is doing the rounds. Calling itself “Apple Security Center”, it tells you your Mac is infected. It isn’t infected. But as a counter showing the number of viruses “found” rapidly rises, it will offer to clean your computer. Don’t agree to let it!

Oh, you did. Damn. Well now you are infected.

It’s like inviting a vampire in. Modern computers are designed so that software can’t just install itself, it needs interaction from the user. So malware (that is, evil software) can’t do any harm until you give it permission. Now Mac and Linux are more common, and Windows is a great deal tougher than it used to be, malware is increasingly forced to focus on the one major remaining weakness of all computer systems. This is what techies like to call the PBCAK – the Problem Between Chair And Keyboard. In other words, you. Sometimes called scareware, things like “Apple Security Center” attempt to mindgame you into infecting your own computer.

Stop and think. It’s a Mac, it is quite to very unlikely that it has a virus. And anyway, who the heck is in any position to know what’s on your computer? If you did not install an antivirus program – and even now you really don’t need to – then you will not get virus warnings. Not real ones anyway.