Five Facts To Help You Forget How Crap Today Was

Leinster House
Little-Known Fact: Leinster House, the parliament building of Ireland, is on another f***ing planet.

Today yet another report on clerical abuse revealed yet more rape of children. The government says that child neglect is a thing of the past, but that the terms of the EU-IMF bailout deal require it to end the jobs of 200 Special Needs Assistants. That deal is supposed to get us back into the bond markets, yet following it has made these markets declare our bonds worthless. And the Euro is on the verge of collapse anyway, so it’s actually all meaningless.

However the hottest news item of the day was a personal remark about someone’s appearance made in parliament. Sometimes you just want to give up.

So I gave up. Unable to say anything meaningful about so much insanity, I went outside in the sun and painted the gateposts to match the wall.

I’ve decided that the colour is really 50% Grey – the shade exactly half way between black and white. I can like 50% Grey. (It’s probably more like 53% really, but I choose to ignore this.) It reminds me of Photoshop, and it’s a good mount card colour for black and white images. Anyway, it all looks nicer now that the walls and gateposts match. That at least was productive.

So here, instead of a proper post, are five things I learned today while drifting listlessly about the Internet:

1) There’s a company in England that sells a handmade sports car called the “5EXi”. Presumably this is a vehicle designed and built specifically for the needs of twats.

2) A disease called “nodding syndrome” is spreading in Africa. The symptoms include stunted growth, and a lack of neck muscle tone causing the characteristic nodding. No one yet knows what causes it.

3) Teapoy is a word of Indian origin meaning a three-legged table. By erroneous association with the word “tea”, it is also used to describe a table with a container for tea. So if you were stuck on today’s Irish Times simplex crossword, now you know.

4) There are now at least three people on Google+ posing as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Well I guess that should be “at least two”. One of them could be real.

5) There’s a fashion currently for women’s pants with the crotch hanging down at the knees. A friend in the States was prevented from boarding a bus because the driver considered them unsuitable attire. They call them harem pants, I think because women in harems wore them when they wanted their Sultan to leave them the hell alone.

Ulysses

Was fixing someone’s e-book reader, so for the day that’s in it I put on a copy of Ulysses. I’ll be surprised if he actually reads it on his Spanish holiday of course, but at least I committed larceny against the Joyce estate, something I feel is all our duty. This is the last chance in fact as next year the work will finally be free from copyright, which will take the fun out of it.

On the other hand it may help bring an end to the Great Ulysses Wank, the interminable argument about what is the one true and sole definitive version of a fictional work much revised by the author himself. This quote from Wikipedia should give you the flavour:

According to Joyce scholar Jack Dalton, the first edition of Ulysses contained over two thousand errors but was still the most accurate edition published. As each subsequent edition attempted to correct these mistakes, it incorporated more of its own. Hans Walter Gabler‘s 1984 edition was the most sustained attempt to produce a corrected text, but it received much criticism, most notably from John Kidd. Kidd’s main theoretical criticism is of Gabler’s choice of a patchwork of manuscripts as his copy-text (the base edition with which the editor compares each variant), but this fault stems from an assumption of the Anglo-American tradition of scholarly editing rather than the blend of French and German editorial theories that actually lay behind Gabler’s reasoning.

I can actually hear the skin-on-skin fiction.

 

The Back of Beyond, And Beyond

County Monaghan
Monaghan - Even Some People From There Have Never Heard Of It

I was rushing for this bus so there wasn’t time to look twice but I could swear that as I passed a shop I caught a glance of tanks full of fish on the floor, and people sitting on benches with their bare feet in the tanks. Funny, I thought. I never took all that much acid.

Bu that’s a thing now, isn’t it? Supposedly the tiny mouths of very small fish are meant to clean you better than scrubbing or using a soap. Better in what way exactly, I am unclear. More erotically I would think. But perhaps that’s just me.

There’s the Shannon. Just leaving Connacht now and entering Leinster, next stop Dublin. By tonight though we’ll be in Ulster – in the tiny and pretty much unknown town of Ballybay, County Monaghan. By this circuitous route we plan to reach a little literary and music festival tomorrow. But God knows.

Jesus Saves

Duh. Week in Dublin was great, but I was up early almost every day. Reloaded with sleep this morning, and followed that up with a nice lie-in. Which ended when I sprang upright, suddenly remembering I had a bus to catch. Got out of bed, dressed, made it to the stop in fifteen minutes flat.

When I remembered I’d forgotten my phone.

Just as well perhaps. Staying in town gave me a chance to help a friend with a computer problem. But oh… It made me wish I’d caught the bus. This was a sick kitty.

Never mind, I got a Christmas present! Secret Santa, from my secret internet community. (Yes, this is pretty representative of how together we are.) It’s… Jesus. A plastic Jesus, Jesus Cartoonabout a foot high, covered in the most tacky silver glitter. With a slot on its back. Yes it’s a Jesus money-box. Even as an atheist I find that disturbingly sacrilegious. It’ll have to be used to save for something very special… Any suggestions?

And the big news: My girlfriend’s sister just had a baby boy! That makes me a…  a…  Guy who’s girlfriend is an aunt. Dammit there should be a word for that.

Clash of the Titanic Brains

Quiz CartoonWas in a table quiz the other night. Four from Galway¹ up against the finest of the Dublin media. A great turnout, we had quiz teams hanging from the rafters, all in support of a service for troubled teenagers called Reach Out and the Capuchin Day Centre for homeless people. But I wasn’t there for human kindness and Christian charity (dammit), I was there to be cleverer than other people!

So much for that. Came third.

But we wuz robbed – Definitely we should have had one more point in the first round. Though I suppose in fairness we made up for that when we traded an answer with some people from the Irish Times on the next table. Under house rules that meant we really should have paid €50 and left naked.

The questions didn’t suit us I guess. But, compiled by media celebrities, they were an interesting sample of questions that media celebrities compile. News priorities in catechismic form. A round of TV, a round of pop, a round of film, a round of sport², a special round for celebrity bollocks too trivial even for the other rounds.

No round on literature, or any cultural form less popular than cinema. Nothing on science. Not even the sort of science that actually gets on the news, like… well, medicine. No technology. Knowing who won the first X-Factor would stand you in much better stead than knowing, say, how TV actually works. But that’s how TV actually works. And the rest of the mainstream media³ these days.

I reject any inference that I’m a sore loser.

  1. Well one of us was only from near Galway. OK, Spain.
  2. Bizarrely, it was entirely on rugby. Compiled by George Hook
  3. Interestingly, there was only one question on the new media. (Unless you count the one on who wrote the screen of The Social Network. And no, I don’t think you do.) Who founded Storyful? And I got it wrong… I thought it was Gavin Sheridan, but I was confusing it with his own thestory.ie. It was of course Mark Little.

Poles of Steel

Bus Cartoon

In Dublin again. Beginning to get to know the transport system, though that didn’t stop me being more than half an hour late for a meeting yesterday. I waited at the train station for ages, but they kept going past without stopping. Even when I held my hand out.

Another bit of the money we spent while we had it has reached fruition: A modern bus information system is just coming on stream, with handsome stainless steel signs displaying waiting times. (You can get the same information online too of course.) The first ones have appeared along the quays. Great – one of those rare things that remind you we do actually live in Europe. Considerably later than some other countries of course but hey – so are the buses.

I jest. Dublin buses are not at all bad. Or at least, they weren’t. As they do have to save money somewhere, they’re cutting back drastically on, well, actual buses… Ten percent across the board, including big reductions of the night bus system. So if you live in a Dublin suburb and want to go out on any night other than Friday and Saturday – which are frankly quite hellish enough in central Dublin already – then remember to factor in a very expensive taxi home.

But it makes sense I guess. As there’s a severe recession on, people will be abandoning the luxury of cheap public transport and taking to cars in droves. No wait, that doesn’t sound right.

Science In A Gallery Or Art In A Lab?

Exhibit
Science + Art = Weird Stuff in Jars

So I’m in Dublin’s Science Gallery, a worthy but slightly disappointing project. Passing by, you see it has a cool looking café section jammed into a wedge-shaped window on Pearse Street. That must be part of an interesting place, you think. On going in though, you find that the part is the whole¹.

It has exhibitions, yes. I didn’t warm to the one that’s on right now though. Called Visceral, it uses things out of labs for artistic purposes. Tissue cultures, tubes. It seemed to me less science than cyberpunk. According to blurb, this was “challenging work at the frontier between fine art and biotechnology and forms a series of provocations and puzzles around the nature of the living and non-living”. It sounds like exactly the sort of thing I would find fascinating, but I didn’t even feel particularly intrigued. Possibly I just didn’t find my way into it. I haven’t been in much of a mood to explore the interface between art and biotechnology since I quit drinking.

Maybe the disappointment of the place itself put me into a negative mood. I feel like I should be in favour of the thing, it’s just… The title ‘Science Gallery’ had me expecting more. A science museum of sorts, I suppose. Wonders.

Transparent Horse
Horse Inside

What must be said for it though is that it has probably the best gift shop in Ireland. The perfect place to find an unusual present. What do you give to the person who has everything? A transparent horse, of course. Other lovely things included magnetic tape that actually is tape that’s magnetic, Rubik’s cube salt and pepper mills, and great books including a healthy pile of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science.

Also it’s one of the rare stockists of Sugru, the multi-purpose polymer beloved of “makers” and other hardware-hacking types. It’s a silicon-based substance that can be moulded to any shape, will adhere to many smooth surfaces, and sets with the texture of tough but yielding rubber. That makes it particularly suitable for human interface things. The name comes from an Irish word for “play”, and I can’t wait to start playing with it myself. My portable hard drive is about to become rugged. And weird-lookin’.

  1. I was quite wrong about this – see here.

All Off To Dublin In The Suit

Ceannt Station GalwayHmm. Iarnród Eireann (Irish Rail) are sneaky. Offer a low fare if you book online, then add an administration fee – for booking online. IarnRyanaireann?

Railway improvement was one thing I’m glad we spent money on while we had it, though we started too late to get enough done and cut corners on the way. I was never really convinced by this Spanish-made rolling stock. Too cheap to buy French. But they’re comfortable, and a hell of an improvement on the old.

So I’m off to Dublin to sort out this lot in Leinster House. Oh OK, to see a girl. The upside of getting up for a train at seven in the morning is seeing the sunrise framed by a beautiful… railway shed. The downside of getting up for a train at seven in the morning is of course that it’s seven in the morning. To me that may as well be a visit to another country where I don’t speak the language. What, shops aren’t open? How does that work – where do morning people buy things?

And I made the foolish decision to travel in my suit. The things you do to impress ladies. Well that’s partly why. I must confess this is the first one I’ve ever owned and it feels like I’m playing dress-up. Plus, it cost a bit and I want to get some wear out of it before suits go out of fashion.

What I should have done is worn the usual combats and hoodie, and carried the suit. Voluminous pockets are a thousand times more practical for travel than tailoring. I could have nipped into the toilets and changed just before the train arrived. Superblogger! But I was worried it would get creased in a backpack.

Wrong idea. When you’re wearing a suit underneath a greatcoat, a portable computer slung over one shoulder, and a backpack that contains your ‘casual’ pair of German army boots, you are a crumpling machine. It couldn’t get more creased if you stuffed it in a horse.

And I feel wildly overdressed for a train in the middle of a bog. On the bright side though – if I turn up in Dublin looking crumpled and overburdened and like I haven’t had enough sleep, I may get interviewed by foreign TV.