Is Bono A C***?

Mike McCaughan delivers an entertaining intro
Mike McCaughan delivered the intro

I mean, one shouldn’t just assume.

Or to put the question more precisely, is the supposed anti-poverty campaigner actually promoting neoliberal global exploitation? This fair question is asked by journalist Harry Browne in The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power), which got its Galway launch tonight in good old Charlie Byrne’s bookshop.

As I understand it, the thesis is that Bono has become the poster child for what is sometimes referred to as the “conscience consumer”. This is the sort of person who chooses a credit card because it gives some tiny percentage of each transaction to charity, who is ready to make the world a better place just as long as they don’t have to get involved personally.

Through being rich and powerful, and associating with the rich and powerful, Bono has come to promote the idea that the rich and powerful will save the world. Despite all the evidence to the contrary so far. It’s an interesting argument, and given his odder actions and pronouncements – see links below – I am inclined to think it’s true.

Is it? Read the book and let me know. College is back and I have about fifty others to get through right now.

Painted Into A Corner

20120914_110718
I think I’m lost

You’re finally clearing out the shed or the cupboard under the stairs – what do you always find? One unfinished tin of every single colour paint you’ve ever used. These things build up – indeed it’s actually illegal just to throw them away. Paint is hazardous waste now. Hazardous to whom or what I am unclear, but I can sort of imagine why it shouldn’t just be poured down the drain. If nothing else, the sewers would look a mess. So what can you do with it?

If you live in Galway City, the simple answer is: Nothing. There is no way of legally disposing of a tin of paint. The city used to offer a facility, but that’s closed temporarily. Temporarily since last October. I quote from the City Council site:

In the interim people are encouraged to use up all paints, clean container thoroughly at which point the empty clean container can be placed in the household recycling bin.

So I did one gatepost in blue, the other two-thirds orange and one-third cream. Then I removed the dried paint residue from those tins with a gallon of white spirit, four hours scrubbing, and some fire. There were still quite a few tins left though and I was getting tired. Was there nowhere else?

I looked to the county, and found that all Galway has turned its recycling over to local commercial interest Barna Waste. Who of course charge for disposal – not a great advert for our new property taxes that, but at least there’s somewhere to go. According to the website, the nearest facility is in Tuam – a town about twenty miles away. But where exactly in Tuam?

I turn to Google maps, but no combination of terms like Tuam, Galway, County, Council, hazardous, waste, disposal and recycling found anything. Well, you don’t expect Google Maps to know where everything in the world is. OK you do. What drove me nuts though is that most searches returned just a single result – every one of them a commercial entity, and frequently nothing whatsoever to do with waste disposal. It was, in short, about as useful as a slap in the face. There have been a lot of changes with Google Maps recently, and I’m not sure they’re for the better.

Much of the blame though must go to Barna Waste. They have a lovely website, with nice pictures of all the kinds of rubbish you can bring to any of their luxurious dumps across the county. Nowhere though do they actually give addresses for any of these, other than their home base. The County Council meanwhile hides the address on a Word document you have to download – and even then the sum total of information is “Athenry Rd”, a seventeen-mile route. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Google has no freaking idea where this place is. Took me half an hour of driving around to find it myself.

By which time it was closed, of course.

Addresses, people. Put addresses on your websites if you want people to visit. I know we live in the Internet age, but some things still actually need to be physically moved. Crap especially.

Brighter Days In Ireland

Irish tradition.Hurling
Father and child playing hurling on the beach, or uneven duel with cudgels (Photo credit: Godo-Godaj)

A hot day in Ireland – more special than Christmas. That feast arrives once a year, like it or not. Hot weather is significantly less dependable. If it comes at all, you know not the day nor the hour. Where the wind and the water currents of the Atlantic collide with land, weather is about as predictable as a fruit machine. So hot days are precious.

Which is why I gave up any idea of getting work done and went swimming. I had no choice.

It was lovely at the lake. The water hasn’t got very warm yet, but it was fine for swimming. Mostly young people there, throwing themselves and each other in. Some had brought hurls and sliotars (hurling balls) and were practising in the water. The ball landed near me at one stage and I threw it back – or tried. Ever thrown something while floating in water? It’s weird, and largely unsuccessful. I was throwing myself backwards as much as the ball forwards. Embarrassing.

I was impressed though by this positive attitude. Galway lost the Leinster Championship final yesterday, to underdogs Dublin. (No Galway isn’t in Leinster – it’s a long story.) Some might have wanted to forget about hurling for a while after that, but here these young guys were not just practising, but apparently developing an entirely new tactical approach that involves flooding the pitch to a depth of over two metres.

It may be romantic optimism brought on by the weather, but I see hope for the future in that.

Coffee Break

McCamridges2The window of McCambridge’s is one of the great places in Galway to have coffee. Looking onto the main shopping thoroughfare, it combines all that’s best about walking around town with all that’s best about sitting inside not doing that.

With our weather – and the last time I was here I watched a wooden forklift pallet being blown down the road – it’s a priceless resource.

The name of that thoroughfare by the way is Shop Street. I’ve always liked the excessive literalness of that. The adjoining High Street meanwhile is full of pubs. All we really need is for the banks to be down Arsehole Avenue.

But I must stop avoiding the issue, I’m here to apologise. This has been one of the longest breaks I’ve ever taken from writing here. What siren has lured me away with her haunted song? I’ll tell you honestly. Flagrant geekery. Part of the time it’s been Java. Not the coffee, the programming language. Part of the time it’s been Linux. All of it, in short,  stuff that most people neither understand nor – and here’s the really tricky part – particularly want to understand.

So writing about them in an entertaining way may be a little tricky. But  I will give it a  go.

Hello World

Protesting in Frankfurt

It’s something of a tradition that the simplest possible program, and therefore the first one you’ll ever write, is one that prints out “Hello World“. It’s cute and sweet because it makes the computer seem intelligent and aware – if only just.

I know how it feels. So I’m dropping by here to say hello to the world. I haven’t seen much of it, living as I am in a tunnel of projects and meetings and assignments. And yes, programming.

Also, to say that if you’re in Galway now’s your chance to march with the lovely people from Ballyhea in their ongoing protest against giving all our money to reckless and irresponsible bankers. You know, the ones I went to Frankfurt with. And when I say march, to be honest it’s more a saunter. Despite the seriousness of the issue it’s as good-humoured a protest as you’re likely to find. They’re forming up at the station corner of Eyre Square at 10:45. I urge you to join in.

Further details of this and other protest venues on Bondwatch Ireland.

And for the record, my first attempt at a program printed out “Hello Golfcart”.

It’s a little buggy.

Tuam Raider

Tuam. Not the worst for traffic

Well here I am in sunny Tuam, for the first time really since I passed my driving test. Yes I’m sorry Tuam, I admit it, I used you. People say it’s easier here than in Galway city. After the fact, I’m not so sure. Galway traffic is insane at rush hour it’s true, but Tuam was then going through an interminable process of roadworks, diversions, temporary traffic lights and tailbacks. And though Galway has imposing roundabouts, Tuam has far too many of those ridiculous mini-roundabouts that transform a simple honest junction into a revolving door. Also, some trick signage; my instructor introduced me to a way you could fail your test without even trying. At one junction there’s a yield sign, so naturally you stop if there’s oncoming traffic. If there is no oncoming traffic, you fail your test.

How come? Because there’s a STOP line marked on the road – presumably left there from a time before the junction was demoted to a mere yield. But the indicator of the greater hazard overrides the lesser, so if you went through without stopping you’re breaking a stop sign, an instant fail, even though there’s no stop sign there. OK, it’s not part of any known test route, they’re not actually out to trick you with legal ambiguities. But with all those diversions in place, you never know your luck.

I’ve just passed a restaurant called Cré na Cille. It’s named after quite a famous novel by Máirtín Ó Cadhain, sometimes called “The Irish language Ulysses“. One  problem though. Literally, the title means “Graveyard Soil”.

I wonder what their specials are.

Speaking of tests, we have our first one coming up on the MSc course already. Well it’s a project, for the Data Analysis and Project Management module, but we will be marked on it. We’ve two weeks to get a proposal together, which includes assembling a team, creating a proposal, even devising a contract to sign for ourselves. It’s not something I mind doing, it’s just that before I do I could probably use a few lessons in, you know, project management. And data analysis.

We’ve had just two so far. I only have the sketchiest idea of what the course is even about. Project management and data analysis – you might as well say “All that businessy-computery stuff.” So I literally don’t know where to begin. I have no idea at all of what would make a good project. Or even a feasible project.

And as a part-time student, I’ve very little idea about a team either. The full-timers meet much more, and many of them will have been undergraduates together. Us part-timers meet literally one day a week. Some of us might be able to get together socially, but most not. So I’ve volunteered to create a forum or bulletin board for us, so we at least have some level of virtual presence.

I’ve done forum admin before, but I’ve never actually set one up from scratch. It’s not hard though – not at least if you rent some web space that supports the necessary technologies. I set one up last night in fact. And in the light of what I learned by doing that, I’ll be setting it up all over again today. I’m also going to suggest we create a spreadsheet of our strengths, weaknesses, and other factors, centralising the information we need to assemble project teams. A database, if you will.

Huh. Maybe I have a project idea after all.

Or would that be a metaproject?

Comedy Tonight

OK, maybe I’ll have to be taking two days off per week. One for college, the other to recover from college. Or maybe I’ll get more used to this, we’ll see.

I’ll tell you about my back-to-school experience tomorrow though; first I’ll talk about this show while there’s still a chance you could make it. Well, the final performance is on at 8:00 tonight at the Town Hall Theatre Galway, so you’ll have to be fairly near. Or what the hell, charter a plane. It’s pretty good.

People from Galway will need no introduction to… well to anyone really. We’re informal like that. But Little John Nee will be familiar to most. A clown, musician, actor and street performer for his day job, about once a year he puts on a theatre show. In Galway it’s one of the events of the Season.

Always funny and poignant, a Little John play can sometimes have a serious historical or social side too. The Mothers Arms, not so much… This is straight-up comedy, albeit of the dark persuasion. Our protagonist is a former blues man, who fell in love and became so happy he had to put down his ukulele (yes) and take up organic farming.

On collision course with his happiness: The Highly Strung Orchestra, a band on the run, plus Dublin property developers and Northern terrorists. The epicentre: run-down local singing lounge The Mothers Arms. Featuring an ensemble of misfits, tattooed ladies, tattooed gentlemen, and faithful old overweight dogs.

And all really just a story that Little John tells us. Though he illustrates it with music and is supported by three great musicians playing bits, it is essentially a comic monologue. Well mostly comic monologue, a little bit gothic opera, full of sharp, funny descriptions of rural life in a state of terminal disrepair.

It could have been longer. A problem with comic drama is that characters are introduced because they’re funny, and then nothing much happens with them. I’d like to see Little John do something more complex. But the meandering, anecdotal style is full of charm, and full of darkly amusing lyrics about contemporary life like, if I’m not misquoting:

You want to hit a banker but there isn’t one in sight
So you settle for the wanker who just bumped into your pint

A lovely little show, and very much part of the fabric of Galway culture. Catch it tonight if you can.

Comedy Tonight

OK, maybe I’ll have to be taking two days off per week. One for college, the other to recover from college. Or maybe I’ll get more used to this, we’ll see.

I’ll tell you about my back-to-school experience tomorrow though; first I’ll talk about this show while there’s still a chance you could make it. Well, the final performance is on at 8:00 tonight at the Town Hall Theatre Galway, so you’ll have to be fairly near. Or what the hell, charter a plane. It’s pretty good.

People from Galway will need no introduction to… well to anyone really. We’re informal like that. But Little John Nee will be familiar to most. A clown, musician, actor and street performer for his day job, about once a year he puts on a theatre show. In Galway it’s one of the events of the Season.

Always funny and poignant, a Little John play can sometimes have a serious historical or social side too. The Mothers Arms, not so much… This is straight-up comedy, albeit of the dark persuasion. Our protagonist is a former blues man, who fell in love and became so happy he had to put down his ukulele (yes) and take up organic farming.

On collision course with his happiness: The Highly Strung Orchestra, a band on the run, plus Dublin property developers and Northern terrorists. The epicentre: run-down local singing lounge The Mothers Arms. Featuring an ensemble of misfits, tattooed ladies, tattooed gentlemen, and faithful old overweight dogs.

And all really just a story that Little John tells us. Though he illustrates it with music and is supported by three great musicians playing bits, it is essentially a comic monologue. Well mostly comic monologue, a little bit gothic opera, full of sharp, funny descriptions of rural life in a state of terminal disrepair.

It could have been longer. A problem with comic drama is that characters are introduced because they’re funny, and then nothing much happens with them. I’d like to see Little John do something more complex. But the meandering, anecdotal style is full of charm, and full of darkly amusing lyrics about contemporary life like, if I’m not misquoting:

You want to hit a banker but there isn’t one in sight
So you settle for the wanker who just bumped into your pint

A lovely little show, and very much part of the fabric of Galway culture. Catch it tonight if you can.

In Which I Hit A Tree

As if of its own volition, the car darts to the left. A skid? I know how to deal with that. Stay calm, don’t overcompensate. And yet I am lurching drastically to the right now. My feelings are oddly not of panic and fear but puzzlement, disappointment. The steering, something I’d come to think of almost as a direct expression of my will, had suddenly decided to have its own opinion. Parents of teenagers must feel like this, as their world spins out of control.

A ditch. No wait, a tree. A slow, sickening crunch. I’m athwart the driveway, nearly facing the way I came. But I’m relieved. That tree saved me from the ditch, that’s good. I’m a whistling kettle of shock and adrenalin, but I seem to be uninjured.

So what was that sickening crunch, exactly?

I turn off the engine. My glasses have flown off in the impact, I know not where, so I get out and inspect the damage without them. Even with the glamorising effect of soft focus though I can see it’s not pretty. The right wing is crushed like foil, the water tank displaced and leaking, the wheel… doesn’t look right at all.

My glasses turn out to be under the passenger seat. So, can I drive this thing? The engine starts. The power steering does move the wheels, though the noise it makes is like insurrection at the bacon factory. I select first gear, let out the clutch and…

Nothing at all. It’s a front wheel drive car, and the front wheels don’t. That… is probably not a good omen. The damage goes well beyond one corner.

What the hell just happened? I was on the driveway to Cregg Castle, an old colonial manor house that’s being converted into an artists’ residence. It’s covered in slippery mud. The drive I mean. It’s also pocked with holes so thickly that they’re practically impossible to avoid – indeed I’d just failed to avoid one seconds before the accident. Had I simply skidded on the mud, or had the impact broken the steering? It had felt more like the latter. And indeed the two front wheels pointed in different directions now, though of course that could be effect rather than cause.

Sudden steering failure. Imagine if instead of a driveway that had been on a main road. At 95kph, with oncoming traffic. It would have been almost certainly fatal, for me and for others.

And yet I find myself hoping it is the explanation. I mean, skidding off a driveway. That’s just embarrassing.

So first problem would be getting the car off the road. I was near the gatehouse and knew the people who live there; fortunately someone was in. We couldn’t move the car between us, but soon more people came down the driveway in both directions and they stopped to help. They pretty much had to, but I’m sure they would’ve anyway. Two women tipped the balance, and we got it lined up to the point where it could be towed off the road. Thanks to James, “Lorraine Micra”, and all the cooperative people from Cregg Castle. And to the couple who were just passing by to take a walk in the woods but offered me a lift without knowing my mother’s house was only a mile away.

Now it’s the next day. I’m a little achy, though that will be mostly from trying to push the car. I await the insurance report which hopefully will tell me what happened, though I expect it will also bring the sad news that the car is a write-off. The first car I’d ever owned – and that for only about two months. It wasn’t all that much of a car perhaps. A red Nissan Micra that had been my mother’s before me, and several other people’s before that. Thirteen years old, but a tough and feisty little car. Useful, pleasant, reliable – well, it was only unreliable once. I will miss it. I may well buy another like it; I don’t think the write-off value will cover the Land Rover I really want. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if it didn’t cover the excess. But I will need something if I’m going to college next month.

And you know what’s even more annoying? Literally the day before I was full of joy because I’d finally got my resident’s parking permit, the magic sticker from the city that means I never have to pay for parking near my flat again. Freedom at last! It’s almost like receiving full citizenship; finally I was a paid-up member of Galway’s horrendous traffic problem, and could park anywhere I liked in the part of town that has no parking.

But seriously, just taking the car into town for an afternoon had been costing me six or eight euros. Having it overnight was pretty much unthinkable. So since I’d got the thing it had continued to reside at my mother’s place. Now at last I would be able to make proper use of it.

Oh well. Taking a bark rubbing with your front end is another way to avoid parking fees I suppose. But the irony, it is bitter.