Words for the sake of words.

I’m forcing myself to write something, anything as I just realised the last time I posted on here was September. Way to long ago for my liking.

I know, I know, I said it before, I always say I will write more often, but never get around to it. The thing is, I have something new in my life which takes up all my time. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing, It’s a very very good thing. I am of course talking about my beautiful and wonderful daughter. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to go off and start waxing lyrical about how amazingly great it is to have a daughter…It is pretty nifty by the way… I’m just pointing out that my days are quite full, which unfortunately doesn’t leave much time for writing.

I have a number of projects which have been shelved for now. I’m not abandoning them, I promise (myself). I am just taking a somewhat extended break. A break I can ill afford to take. Between dog walking, work, my daughter, more dog walking and the never ending list of home improvement jobs my wife keeps reminding me I promised to do, but I just haven’t gotten around to; I’m amazed I’ve been able to find time to eat, let alone write.

The problem with this as I see it, is I’m only getting back into writing after quite a long break, read 7 years, and while I am trying to get to the computer as often as I can. I can feel the few skills that I have picked up over the last few months ebbing away.

I will finish this post with some words often seen in my school report cards: Could try harder.

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I’m a geek,

There I said it, a geek. I like comic books, and movies. I like card games like Magic the Gathering, and Legend of the Five rings. I play computer games and use Ubuntu Linux on my main laptop. I Like Star Trek, Wars and Gate, in fact pretty much every Star franchise. I have a copy of the Star Trek encyclopedia. I can name the star ship class of every Enterprise and I know what a Rebel Blockade Runner, an A wing and a sun crusher are. Some of my favourite T-shirts are from sites like mental floss or Qwertee, full of geeky puns and hidden meaning. I know that in magic, having a plated slagwurm with mythic proportions is an expensive but pretty good place to be when playing.

On Sky my stations of choice start at Channel 520, I watch obscure deadpan comedies, like the IT Crowd, Arrested Development and Seinfeld. I read books like the Game of Thrones series, and the legend that is Douglas Adams, with his amazing trilogy in five parts, that is the Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy. I laugh at memes, and I cried when Spock died at the end of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. I finish out every evening with my wife by going through the RSS feed of Reddit’s top pictures.

I love being a geek, but despite it being “Chic” at the moment, what does it really mean to be a geek? To live and breathe within the worlds created by sci-fi writers? To read books that have complex themes and characters and to spend an inordinate amount of time playing games and surfing the net? The Chic Geek crowd are no more geek than most people. The real geeks are the ones who envelope themselves in their geekiness. Wearing thick rimmed glasses and a check shirt does not make you a geek. Your love for the offbeat side of life is what makes a geek. The ability to be open to so many other forms of entertainment, than just going to clubs and watching TV. The ability to talk, in-depth, for hours about your favourite book series and how you believe it will end. The ability to enjoy the things that others don’t and not care. These things all help make a geek what they are.

I like to think that the games I play help me think, they help to clear and focus my mind, by having me concentrate on strategy, by becoming part of the world my games occupy for a brief period of time. The TV shows I watch are, for the most part, informative. I get to learn by sitting on my couch, and staring at the screen. Don’t get me wrong I love my fair share of cop shows too, and I will pretty much watch almost anything. Just not that reality TV stuff where idiots make fools of themselves on national/international television in an effort to grab their 15 minutes of fame.

My music taste is actually pretty varied, with everything from classical to metal, again excluding pop and R&B and “gangsta rap”. I’m not quite sure what that has to do with being a geek, but I appear to be rambling again. I do that.

Back on topic, I love my comics, sure I could read a “grown up book” as some people have told me, but with a comic you get to go along with the character, it’s a very fluid form of story telling, unlike a regular book, a comic book author doesn’t have to spend an age describing the scene to the reader. That’s taken care of in the panels of the comic, by some amazingly talented artists. They can just get on with the story, the thoughts of the characters, and the dialogue. Everything else is taken care of in the art.

Sci-Fi plays a large role in the life of a geek, I love sci-fi for a number of reasons. If you take Star Trek for example a lot of what we have today was first shown in Star Trek as far back as the ’60s. They had communicators which were precursors to mobile phones. In The Next Generation they used Padds which were basically tablet computers. Sci-fi, in most cases, shows us a world which we can aim for. In other cases it shows us a dystopian future, which less face it, isn’t all that great.

What else is there? Well there’s my love of model making, and collecting things, for example props from movies, my love in general of movies. I could sit and talk for hours about movies.

So I’m going to wrap this up, by hitting save on Libre Office Writer, shutting down Ubuntu and going to see if I can find some educational programming to watch(like Mythbusters, or maybe How it’s Made).

Good Night.

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Writing, why does it need to be difficult? Why do we feel the need to constrain our language, keeping only the language suitable for a classroom or boardroom? Why can’t we write in the same fashion as we talk? Why are we branded as uneducated or uncouth if we try to emulate the language of the street? It makes no sense. It makes the process harder. If it was more acceptable to write in the fashion of everyday language then I don’t think I’d get writers block nearly half as much.

I’m currently writing 4 different stories. I know probably not a great idea, but I find it helps get the creative juices flowing, if I’m thinking of more than one scenario at a time. But still I yearn for the ability to just open the laptop, or notebook and write. Short stories aren’t very short when you consider they take months to write.

Yet I still love the freedom of expression that writing gives. The transformation from simple words on a page into a heart wrenching story. I wish I was better at that process, and so I try to write, as often as I can. But the stories just won’t come. I keep calling and calling, searching the inner reaches of my brain for the topic I so cleverly thought of earlier that day. The entire prose that I conjured up in my head. A whole story from start to finish. Gone. The basic idea will still be there, but the words I used to describe it are gone. Never to be seen again.

Sure I keep a notebook with me all the time. Unfortunately it’s illegal to stop on a motorway to write down my ideas. Also a hectic family life doesn’t help. Every moment of every day is block booked. From the moment I wake I’m doing something or other. Let me flesh out an average day for you, Wake around 6am, and trudge downstairs to leave the hyperactive dog out of her kennel. Chase her around they garden, once ensnared, I take her for a 3 mile walk. Home for shortly after 7am, it’s into the shower and into my work clothes, out the door by half 7 for the 20 minute commute to work. I then spend all day in front of a computer screen, much like this one. 4:15, quittin’ time. Home to walk the dog for a second time. Get home from the walk and my wife is home with the dinner on. Eat and clean up, then I get into my house work…..no not that kind. The type of work which requires a hammer and/or drill (the joys of bringing an old house back from the brink). I hopefully get to sit down around half 8 or 9pm, at which point I’m physically and mentally drained. Oh and did I mention my wife is pregnant?

So there are fun times ahead. The only reason I’m getting time to write this little essay, is my glorious wife is at the other end of the country this weekend, It’s half 8 of a Saturday morning and I’ve been awake for the last two and a half hours. The dog is walked. I’m back in bed, and now I’m contemplating breakfast. I’ve ignored this blog for some time. But I feel that I should probably start writing articles for it again. If for no other reason but to stretch my literary legs.

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No Side Tactics

When it comes down to it, I believe the actions of a group of people really shows how they think and what they believe in. I would like to think that in a referendum debate, that both sides would use reasoned arguments, based in fact, to put their views across.

This unfortunately is not the case, while the Yes side in the upcoming Fiscal Compact Treaty referendum are discussing the facts of the treaty, the No side are making the referendum into exactly what I hoped it wouldn’t, I even predicted it in an earlier post. They’re making it into a, punish the Government for past transgressions, type of affair. Lets face it, we were managed badly as a country for years, The banks screwed us, and we in a general election voted in Labour and Fine Gael, now with a little over a year in office we’re baying for their blood because they haven’t fixed all the issues created by Fianna Fail who had basically been in power since 1987, in 15 months.

I personally believe we should give them the chance to fix the country, let them have their four years, and re-assess them based on their full term in office. The country doesn’t need knee jerk reactions based on what the Government has done in its comparatively minuscule time in power , we need reasoned debate of facts. That and only that will allow us to see where we currently are, and where we are headed as a country.

Personally, the more I look at it, the more I’m leaning towards a yes vote on Thursday. Why you might ask am I doing that? Well I’ve listened to the debates on The Last Word, I’ve read the newspaper articles, and I’ve read about it on the internet on webpages and on web forums. Every place I’ve looked I’ve seen reasoned debates coming from the Yes side and I’ve seen name calling, mud slinging, and deception coming from the No side. There are even campaign posters calling for “No to Water Charges”. This referendum has nothing to do with water charges, in case you believe it does.

I have also seen something that shows exactly the kind of people that are running the No side. In Limerick I’ve seen streets full of No campaign posters, and nothing but cable ties where the Yes posters had previously been. Why if they have a decent argument do the No side need to pull down the posters of the Yes side and replace them with No posters?

Why if they have a decent argument do the No side need to vandalise the posters of the Yes side?

Stability to instability on a Yes campaign poster in Limerick.

And why if they have a decent argument do they not just deal with the facts instead of muddying the waters with talk of water charges and previously introduced taxes?

Why? In my opinion, the person who reaches for these kind of tactics in a debate are the ones who don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

The Yes side seems to have a reasonable, well thought out campaign that doesn’t rely on hyperbole, or false allegations to make its point. These are the reasons I feel I will be voting yes on Thursday, unless the No side can get their act together and come up with a good reason why I should vote no between now and Thursday.

For those of you still undecided, there is a great summary of exactly what the treaty proposes on the Boards.ie politics forum. Written by forum moderators under the screen names “Lockstep” and “Scofflaw”. This helped me understand what the treaty was about better than any other source I’ve read while making my decision on how to vote.

So it’s Tuesday afternoon, you have until Thursday to make up you mind. I’ve pretty much made up mine. I will once again urge you to have a proper read of what is happening before you make up your mind. Whether you vote yes or no, at least make it a well informed decision and not one based on the unsavoury tactics of the no side.

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Referendum or Revenge???

As I’m sure anyone who’s reading this is aware, we in Ireland have a referendum coming up in the summer of 2012. This referendum is on whether we should agree to the European Fiscal Treaty being pushed by Germany.

I’m not going to get into the rights or wrongs of the treaty, because I haven’t read enough into it yet and don’t know which way I’ll be voting.

What I do know, is that we in Ireland don’t tend to vote well when it comes to referenda. We tend to take our anger at the government out on the referendum topic. No matter what the consequences are to us as a people. If the government are making unpopular choices, and a referendum comes up that they are looking for a yes vote in, then we as a people tend to vote no, just to stick it to them and show them we’re not happy with them.

This often leads to the farcical situation where we have to have a re-vote on the referendum and once we’ve gotten the dissent out of our system we vote yes. Why do we take our anger out on these very serious topics? Why do the opposition parties always, shall we say, “embellish” their point and make the topic into something it isn’t.

As a result we get confused and vote wrong. What I’d like to do, is to plead with the Irish people not to rely on the news and the parties endorsing either side of the argument for their information on this very important topic.

Get your computer out, get onto google and search for information! Find out the important points for yourself, don’t listen to the vitriolic rants of the opposition parties, and don’t listen to the pleads from the Government. Do educate yourself on the topic, and do make your own mind up based on the facts.

I’ve started looking into this and from what I’ve read so far this treaty will have an impact on our economy no matter which way we vote.

I’m imploring you please don’t try to take your frustrations out on this referendum. Unlike Nice and Nice II, this referendum will not have any effect on the rest of Europe if we vote No. The majority of the rest of Europe have already signed up to this treaty, which means it is going ahead. If we vote no they will simply continue on without us. So voting no will not cause Europe any issues and they will not care how we vote.

So educate yourselves and make the right choice this summer. We can’t afford to make the wrong choice this time.

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Aldi Facebook Vouchers Give Away

If like me you have many gullible friends on Facebook, then I’m sure you’ve been invited to an Aldi voucher give away in the last few weeks. I got concerned about this as there are about 10,000 people out there that have accepted the invitation, including a number of my friends. So I decided to do a little digging.

My first port of call was to call Aldi on 1800 99 18 28, and after a 17 minute wait (thank god it was a free phone number), I got through to a lovely lady named Amy, I put the situation to her and the first word out of her mouth was scam, That’s right folks, it’s a scam. Aldi have denied it is anything to do with them.

I then went looking further and did some googling, I found that what happens here, as I wasn’t foolish enough to click on the link, is you get redirected to another site, unrelated to Aldi or Facebook, where your promised vouchers are held hostage by the need to select and complete a survey. You can see the page to claim your vouchers behind the surveys so you click into them.

Pretty mundane stuff in the surveys, but when you go to claim your “prize” we start to get to the juicy stuff, you’re asked for your contact details so “Aldi” can send your vouchers. So you give them your name, address, sometimes date of birth, and then the big one, your telephone number.

So you think nothing of it for a while, forget you ever went looking for those vouchers and suddenly you’re getting annoying text messages offering you ringtones, wallpapers and local ladies in your area who want to “party”. You can’t figure out why you’re getting these messages and your first action is to ignore the messages only to find your credit gone or your bill looking like the Encyclopedia Britannica, being shipped to your house in several boxes. The reason for this biblical bill? These messages can cost you up to €5/6 to receive just 1. You could be signed up for a number of different “services” getting up to 4 messages a week from each one. That’s a lot of Euro out of your pocket and into the scammers pocket.

Another angle on this, is the list of 10,000 gullible idiots, is sold for a considerable amount to direct mailing companies, who bombard your house with junk mail and more strange offers than you can shake a stick at.

Here’s the scoop people, Aldi don’t do vouchers, and anyone that falls for this type of scam with all the information out there is a fool, there I said it. A quick look at their website or a not so quick telephone call will tell you that responding to this invitation is nothing short of idiotic.

They say a fool and his money are easily parted. It definitely rings through in this case.

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Dog Foul Limerick

You can imagine my amazement, as a dog owner, and a conscientious one at that, to count 24 different piles of dog foul on the South Circular Road, between Fennessey’s pub and the Redemptorist church last Thursday 26/01/12. While 24 sounds like a large number it becomes even larger due to the fact that the 24 I counted were on one side of the road.

Yes I know that doesn’t mean there will be 24 on the opposite side, but if it’s on one side then there is no possible way it will not be on the other. I really don’t get it. Why do people in this day and age, with all of the information available still not clean up after their dogs. A quick search on Google and you find all the information you need on dog foul and why it needs to be cleaned up.

Dog foul can and often does contain a little bug called Toxocariasis. Toxocariasis is an infection of the roundworm toxocara canis. The eggs of the parasite can be found in soil or sand contaminated with faeces and if swallowed, result in infection that lasts between six and 24 months. Symptoms include eye disorders, vague ache, dizziness, nausea, asthma and epileptic fits. Often the eggs are ingested when passed to the mouth by the hands, but this can also occur through contact with dogs or other inanimate objects including the wheels of toys and the soles of shoes. Infected soil samples are often found in play areas and as a result, Toxocariasis most commonly affects children between 18 months and five years.

Now we have to wonder, with this information so easily available why do people still not clean up after their dogs? A roll of dog foul bags can be picked up from a pet shop for as little as €1.99 and a roll of regular plastic bags from a supermarket for considerably less.

The main issue as I see it, is laziness. People seem to believe it is not their responsibility. Obviously this is not true. It is the responsibility of every dog owner to ensure they properly care for their dog. This includes cleaning up after them.

Sure the city council could do a little more, in the way of providing bins, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the dog owner and walker. Yes it is unpleasant to walk around in search of a bin with a bag of your dog’s foul. But it is even more unpleasant for the person who gets sick because of your laziness.

What can those who don’t own a dog do about this? Well it’s simple really, don’t stand for the dog fouling in you area. Be vocal about this. Limerick City Council have leaflets and posters available from the environment department, which are free of charge to take and distribute. Why should we, I’m sure I’ll hear you say, Well it’s simple. We can live with dog foul and run the risk of disease, or we can begin changing our own and others opinions on the matter. The only way we can beat this issue is to educate people on the issues relating to dog foul. Yes there are those who will not listen and for them there is the possibility of a €150 fine by calling 1 800 216 816 and reporting them.

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