Harry in Afghanistan

Prince Harry is a stupid toff. He’s out shooting people in Afghanistan and his only comment is:

It’s very nice to be sort of a normal person for once, I think it’s about as normal as I’m going to get.

As opposed to loafing about in Nazi uniforms? And what constitutes “normal” for the Prince is very worrying too: 

I haven’t really had a shower for four days, I haven’t washed my clothes for a week.

I am reminded of the joke from some Carry On film: Minion: “Princess, the peasants are revolting!”. Princess: “Oh, yes, they’re awful aren’t they!”.

Geeks and nerds

There is a common and badly mistaken notion that geeks and nerds are one and the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Geeks are to Nerds as Paris in spring is to Fermoy on a wet February night.

Being a geek is a hard-won badge of honour. It requires years of expensive education and endless hours of dedicated study of the chosen discipline. That the discipline is computer-related is almost a given, but is not essential. There are music geeks, movie geeks, wine geeks, opera geeks, and political geeks. Geeks are non-conformists with a stubborn streak. Leonardo da Vinci was a geek par-excellence.

Nerds have the same underlying intelligence, but something thwarted their development along the way. They’ve failed completely to develop social skills. They act passive-aggressive when confronted with new situations and prefer their own company. Nerds hate change to routine and they see no point in small-talk.

Geeks welcome change, but only if it introduces new problems for them to solve. We can name lots of famous geeks: Bill Gates, Larry Page, et al, but who can name a famous nerd? Huh? Maybe Woody Allen comes close, but he’s too socialable to count. But the characters he plays in movies are always nerds.

Other names for geeks: boffin, expert, consultant, brainy-box, wizard, programmer.
Other names for nerds: dweeb, dork, wally. Geeks invent. Nerds recite.
A geek buys gadgets and discovers how they work. Nerds tape their glasses together.
Favourite geek word: Linux. Favourite nerd word: Trekkie.
Second favourite geek word: API. Second favourite nerd word: Python.
Geek character on Star Trek: Scottie. Nerd character on Star Trek: Spock.
Geeks share in-jokes about obscure cult movies. Nerds obsess about a handful of movies.
Geeks have girlfriends/boyfriends. Nerds do not.
Geeks feel superior to ordinary humans. Nerds feel inferior.
A geek will fix your computer and add some extra memory while he’s at it. A nerd will fix it and steal the digital music off your harddrive too.
Geeks can earn prodigious amounts of hard lucre and inherit the world. Nerds get pocket money.

Ten Inventions the World Really Needs

  1. The Carrot-Stick. A very large, genetically-modified carrot with a tough exterior capable of throttling someone, but delicious when cooked.
  2. Taser-phone: combined mobile phone and taser. If someone steals your phone, you just need to dial it, enter a special password, and electrocute the thief.
  3. Take away meals with built-in heat pads. Pull the cord and heat the meal on the move.
  4. Wheels that go sideways on cars, for those tricky parking jobs.
  5. Laser analyser that detects corked wine while it is still in the bottle.
  6. Invisibility shields: for avoiding those awkward moments with people you’d prefer didn’t see you
  7. Self-cleaning and self-ironing clothes
  8. Cows that can milk each other
  9. Eggs that produce white-only or yellow-only bits. Saves all that waste when you only need one or the other
  10. Little nano-robots that clean your teeth while you sleep

Spot the odd one out

  1. If every Mars bar ever eaten was lined up, they would stretch from here to Mars.
  2. If everybody in China inhaled simultaneously, it would cause a tornado to develop over Texas.
  3. An area the size of Belguim is covered in dog poo every year in the world.
  4. Scratching burns calories faster than walking does. Scratching your arse takes up even more.
  5. In France, every child drinks, on average, 380 litres of wine per year. Totalled up, it is bigger than Lake Erie in Canada.
  6. A disease afflicting vines has been called “Black Goo” by experts.
  7. Avro Part stole his best melodies from migrating blue whales and got the Icelandic government to kill them when they threatened to sue.
  8. A special court in India has been set up to arbitrate disputes between monkey tribes.
  9. If you suck boiled sweets too hard you can damage your brain.
  10. Lingustic analysis of ancient written scripts has indicated that the first written words were probably “Dear John”.

Answer Below:

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Cheap flights on Ryanair?

I have this urge to fly somewhere quick, cheap, and nasty. Like Blackpool….on Ryanair! Yeah! A perfect combination of feel-good nostalgia, sandy beaches, the thrill of a fair-ground ride and Ryanair’s cheap and tacky service. Like going to a 70’s-themed school disco.

I fancy going, oh, let’s say end of April. Just click click, here we go….:
ryanair-selection-screen.jpg

Look at the price…an amazing 2 cents! That’d hardly buy the snot off a donkey on the Blackpool pier. That’s gotta be good value.
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My hands are trembling as I select the flights. I think of all the ice-cream I could buy with the change of a fiver? Oh glory! I might even be able to afford those retro brown cordury jeans with the money I save.

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Uh oh. What’s this about taxes and charges? Still, 34 odd euro is still not bad. I shall press on regardless…maybe I can swap the Ye Old Clapboard Hotel for the planned extravagance of the Pierless Grand Palace to save on cash.   

So, let me see, I’ll take three bags, that should be enough for all that suntan lotion I’ll need. What’s this, priority boarding? Oh, luxury! I’ll be sure to get a seat with that, click click. Yep some insurance thrown in too, can’t be too careful!

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What’s this? 120.25 euro?!? Oh my. Have I done something wrong?

Throw in a couple of sandwiches, the taxi ride to the airport, the bus from Blackpool to the hotel, hmmmm, beginning to add up. Maybe I’ll reconsider…

Banning music downloads

There are proposals afoot to ban Internet users who “illegally” download copyrighted content, mainly music or video. Paul McGuinness, manager of U2, made a speech recently, recommending a “three strikes and you’re out” policy. And the BBC has reported today on British government moves to introduce such legislation. 

This proposal is absurd for several reasons.

First, it is impractical: the technical difficulties are immense. Seeking to track down music or video downloads amid the torrent of information being communicated around the Internet at any one moment is hard. Determining that that content is “illegal” would be virtually impossible. And then, connecting that downloaded content to a single user would be even harder again.

Second, where is the motivation for the ISPs, since they would take on the burden but not the gains from preventing illegal downloads? If the music industry challenges them with legal writs, it could shut down the entire Internet.

Third, there is the moral and legal arguments. Who has the right to prevent someone using the entire Internet just based on the fact that they misuse (and even that is debatable) one part of it? If challenged for proof, no ISP could definitively identify an individual to target and may end up barring innocent users too.

Fourth, even if they were “banned”, it would be so easy to get around that it would make the ban practically irrelevant. Users would only need to transfer to the nearest Internet café, change ISP, or operate behind a firewall, and their access would be instantly restored.

So if the idea of banning Internet users based on their supposed infringement of copyright is being mooted, despite the practical and legal difficulties, there must be an overriding reason for attempting it nevertheless. That reason is profit: enormous, huge, outlandish profit.

The twentieth century must have seemed like a dream world for the music industry. They could develop music acts, record them, and sell physical copies for vastly inflated prices. The disparity between the cost of the physical object being sold and the price was always argued to be justified based on the costs of the intellectual rights. The “artist” had to be developed, promoted, given the best recording equipment and so on. Or so it was argued.

But let us stand back from some of the hidden assumptions of the arguments.

Artists (and record companies) do not have the right to make inflated profits. Where did they ever get the idea that being good at belting out a couple of songs entitled them to immense rewards? Hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases. No one does. They only got these rewards because of the accidental, contingent properties of the music distribution business in the middle of the twentieth century. The record companies controlled the production of physical recordings (via vinyl, tape, and CD) and so could charge what they liked. But now that digital music has made these formats redundant, the once-off accident has disappeared. They have lost control of their music. Once it has gotten out into the open, on the Internet or elsewhere, it is virtually impossible for them to prevent millions of illegal downloads and copying.

But to see this as a problem to be tackled is to be limited in vision. It is an outdated mode of thinking about music and content distribution. We cannot turn back the clock on technology. The genie is out of the box.

The music industry’s money-making model has to change. They need to accept that the music itself is going to be harder to justify selling at a premium. Premium services – such as iTunes – will still be capable of charging for songs, based on the ease of use and high quality. Bands and acts will have to flip their thinking too – they will be selling their music cheaply, as a promotion for their live acts. They can still charge for use of the music in film, as advertising, or through radio and TV. They can still make money, just less of it.

The record companies will be falling over themselves to prevent this happening. But it is a losing battle. It is only the dinosaurs of the old music industry – Paul McGuinness of U2 being the prime example – who will still try to resist the inevitable.
 

Death of the Celtic Tiger

I already wrote about the death of the Celtic Tiger phenomenon as far back as last August – the final ignominious end of the ten-year long economic boom Ireland has been experiencing. What’s the name for the new era we’ve now entered? It’s no good calling it the post-Celtic Tiger era. 

Here is my suggestion: The Celtic Hangover

It captures, I think, that essential characteristic of the post-euphoria, morning-after-the-night-before mood: just how did I spend all that money to feel this bad? Why is there a dull, pounding noise in my head? Oh shit, I need to go to work!

Add to that the Irish (supposed) propensity for drinking and we have the perfect phrase. Let’s just hope we don’t end up in A&E: have you seen the state of the health service lately?

Dustin the Turkey at Eurovision

Dustin the Turkey

Dustin, the infamous children’s TV icon and singer, puppet on a string, serial Pat Kenny-basher and all-round good laugh, was in the shortlist of six entrants for the Irish song contest, the winner of which gets to represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest. He won. Easily as it happens.

Oh joy! The editors of every paper in Europe are preparing the headlines as we speak….

  1. Irish entry to get stuffed at Eurovision!
  2. Dustin, a slice of Irish life…
  3. Saucy Irish entry…
  4. Dustin gets roasted by foreign critics
  5. Dustin sandwiched between Finland and Italy at Eurovision
  6. Dustin entry is food for thought
  7. UK cries fowl over Irish entry
  8. Irish song is a turkey
  9. Eurovision song is a feather in his cap
  10. Eurovision addicts face cold turkey
  11. Plucked from obscurity
  12. Feathers to be ruffled
  13. Top of the pecking order
  14. Battered pride…
  15. Now facing a pressure cooker environment (11-15 all seen on the BBC!)

What is it about Dustin – or Mr Hoffman as he is also known – that he attracts such pun-itry? Dunno.

Anyone who can sing ‘Bling When You’re Mingin’ with a straight face, deserves a chance at Euro glory. Dustin is quoted as saying that:

It’s a selfless act based on my desire to help my country as I believe there’s a direct link between the recent downturn in the economy, my lack of musical output and our poor showing in the Eurovision over the last number of years.

I just can’t wait for the votes of the Turkish jury. The Greeks could claim they voted for Turkey with a straight face.