Monthly Archives: March 2011

I shouldn’t have let our nine-year-old fill in our census form

Maybe I should not have let my nine-year-old daughter fill in our census form. Looking at the form, we seem to have acquired an extra resident.

The once-every ten years trawl for information took place on Sunday night. It’s an offence not to to fill it in. It says on the front of the form. “You could face a fine if you don’t participate or if you supply false information.”

It also says: “Your personal information is protected by law. Census information is kept confidential for 100 years.”

A hundred years? Sure who can wait that long? When I checked over our completed census form, I found this entry for the fifth member of our household. As the form says: Individual questions – Person 5 start here…

1. What is your name? Christy Shmib   (First I knew he had a surname.)

2. What is your sex? (I see a third box has been added and ticked.) Continue reading

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Is this racist?

Is this racist? Or sectarian? Or more simply – just bullying?

Or perhaps it’s somewhere on the spectrum between fair comment and edgy political satire?

That’s one side of a lantern at what some call the world’s biggest moving outdoor art display – the Basel Fasnacht. The other side – the more offensive side is Continue reading

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“Aah look at the Waggis. He’s so cute.”

Every year the normally sober sensible law-abiding Swiss go a bit crazy. They risk life and property by dragging huge flaming pyres through narrow streets. That’s for starters.

Then they converge on the city of Basel (or Basle in French) for a 0400 kick off. Yes, that’s four in the morning. It’s called the Morgestraich. At that moment all lights, including streetlights, are shut off.  Then band after band of bizarre, grotesque, odd and even cute creatures begin three days of Continue reading

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Hamburger Helper

Reports from the frontline in Iraq, the classroom and Japan. And I need your advice about visiting New York (see bottom).

1. HAMBURGER HELPER. This is from the Conservative Lie blog by veteran Dave Jeffries. Whether you agree with his politics or not, this poignant memory from his time in Iraq is worth reading. It gets gruesome if you click on the link – which is also where you’ll find his thoughts on combatants’ motivations. Here are the opening lines:

Sometimes there are scenes from my time in Iraq that won’t quit looping through my mind. So, I thought that maybe writing about it might be cathartic and help me put paid to it for a while. I suppose, in a way, this is political, but I really don’t care.

While in Ar Ramadi, we had a network of computers that had limited internet access, but a great intranet system that allowed us to communicate with each other very well. One day, as I was perusing the list of messages, I came across one labeled “Hamburger Helper”. There were a few jokers in the Regiment, so I opened it up anticipating something that would make me laugh. Instead Continue reading

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Explaining the Japanese nuclear crisis using poo

Once you get away from the explosions and help! Help! Radiation! Head for the hills… All this nuclear meltdown China Syndrome in Japan business gets a bit complicated. Too many millisieverts, half lives, critical masses and atomic bomb memories. Should we all be panicking? Or not?

Without wanting to be too complacent – and sitting far from Japan – I think, on balance, not.

Here are two options for you to make sense of it all.

1. Read this book. Physics for Future Presidents by Richard Muller. (Or he’s here on wikipedia.)

Or check out his University of California at Berkeley lectures on YouTube.

2. Or – watch the children’s version of events, using farting and poo. Continue reading

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Confession time: I deface books

C.mon, who can resist adding a moustache and specs? (From - Wreck My Journal)It’s a cardinal sin to scribble in a book – for some people. I used to feel this way, but now I see them (the ones I own) as more interactive templates. I’m allowed to take notes, highlight, dog ear the pages if I find something wonderful.

Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and Jane Austen did it too. They annotated, or engaged in marginalia. Often gossip it seems in the case of Twain. But also comment on the text.

I’d want to read that marginalia. But it won’t exist in future once/if e-books kill off paper copies.

You see? You see! Bet you didn’t think of that in your headlong rush to the future all you developers. (Unless you in fact have already developed features to let us carry on with our marginal doodlings after all. In which case, drat, you’ve outsmarted me again.)

The defaced page, by the way, is from Lari Fari‘s charming and imaginative Wreck My Journal idea.

Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times article by Dirk Johnson on the romance of marginalia:

Some lovers of literature even conjure dreamy notions about those who have left marginalia for them to find. In his poem “Marginalia,” Billy Collins, the former American poet laureate, wrote about how a previous reader had stirred the passions of a boy just beginning high school and reading “The Catcher in the Rye.”

As the poem describes it, he noticed “a few greasy smears in the margin” and a message that was written “in soft pencil — by a beautiful girl, I could tell.” It read, “Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.” Continue reading

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Feeling redundant? Be thankful you’re not an Irish racehorse.

Shergar - One titan of the turf to escape the knacker's yard. (Or did he become the world's most expensive hamburgers? The mystery continues...)

I could have called this – They shoot horses, don’t they? But with friends going through or facing redundancy – or like myself having been made (voluntarily) redundant – I’ve gone a different direction.

I’ve been told I have a tendency – a talent or a failing – to see positive aspects to seemingly dire scenarios. Perhaps this is an example. So without wishing to minimise the pain of redundancy, it’s better than a quick trip to the donkey butcher.

Or perhaps this would work better as a metaphor for Ireland’s current economic ills. In fact, skip the metaphor, it’s a direct result of it.

If you’re an animal lover, look away now. (Though there are a couple of very cute horsies at the bottom.) Continue reading

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Happy St Patrick’s Day (from an unlearned exile)

James Joyce. Writer, musician and singer, in Zurich, 1915.

And now this is another thing I’ve got in common with James Joyce… We’ve both been in Switzerland for St Patrick’s Day – which is today. Though I’m not planning to spend quite so many here as he did.

Greetings to everyone, from one who – like St Paddy – is “first of all, countrified, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future…”

I wish you strength in times of tribulation and the ability to take joy when it’s possible.

But I should really be offering something more amusing than that. Oh yes – there’s always my favourite St Patrick’s Day joke – it’s here. (Sorry, I’ve just the one.)

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This made me cry…

This story made me cry. Which is unusual. Continue reading

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Filed under life, politics, What I'm Reading

My eyebrows are singed

Is my ear on fire?

I’ve temporarily escaped from the fire that threatened to set alight me, the small boy beside me and the shop behind me. Continue reading

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