France Musique – Nocturne

I’m ashamed – in some respects – to say that I don’t listen to RTE Radio much lately. There are probably some moments of joy but Lyric FM took the joy out of my heart when they gave Marty Whelan the morning slot.

For various reasons, I found myself a) regularly on buses for a while and b) in a need to brush up on my French and German. I turned to podcasts to do it. And then I escaped the buses but I’ve been left with a couple of podcasts which…well they’re worth holding on to.

Nocturne is a programme broadcast on France Musique in the middle of the night. It’s typically a 2 hour show, and it consists primarily of complete works. The first one I listened to play the complete Kinderszenen by Schumann and I was hooked. The next one, which I listened to through my headset in UCD played the Sea Symphony by Vaughan Williams. It’s quite extraordinary in the middle of the library at UCD when the world around you is more or less quiet (except for the muttered conversations, the Windows machines starting up, the mobiles whirring into life because people forgot to switch them to silent and the ongoing tap tap tap of the Facebook messaging people). For a few minutes, the world fades into the background.

There are no ads. The presenters – which vary from program to program – say a little about each piece – today I am listening to the complete album of the sound track for the film Black Gold and it was introduced with a brief discussion about James Horner’s work for Jean-Jacques Annaud, and how he took a low fee for this particular film because it offered certain opportunities in terms of who Horner could work with; and how, in the view of the presenter, it was probably the weakest of the three scores Horner had done for Annaud. The other two were Enemy at the Gates and The Name of the Rose.

But there isn’t much discussion otherwise. It’s pretty much wall to wall music and sometimes it is utterly gorgeous and other times, well you skip onto the next one.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes if you are so inclined, or also, I believe, via the France Musique website. If you like classical music with the occasional bit of jazz and blues, it’s a wonderful two hours to have in the background of your life.

Yes, I own a Raspberry Pi

Many years ago I owned an Atari 1200XL and I wrote some BASIC on it. Not a lot, but enough to prove I could do it. I wasn’t much cop at copy typing games out of Atari XL users or whatever the magazine was, but we got small programmes to run in between the interminable Jet Boot Jack and Fort Apocalypse tournaments.

And this is why I bought a Raspberry Pi. I’d already bought it 10 days ago so it was just a really nice bonus that Wolfram came to an arrangement about Mathematica with the Raspberry Pi Foundation and now I have that two.

I only have the one little Pi at the moment although I have a couple of cards so I can do different things with it. I want to get it working as an internet radio and media station and to that end, OpenElec went on one of the cards today. It works very nicely. I just need to organise the media which is basically small fry if a little time consuming.

I think every child in the country should have a Raspberry Pi in addition to (or instead of) pushing iPads or tablets out to all of them. I’m yet to be convinced by the value of handing them a locked down device with few options to explore.

I have beside me me the Raspberry Pi guide for kids. It’s dead handy because it’s written in straight terms, and allows kids to do all sorts of interesting things, from running Minecraft on it, to building a media server with BBC iPlayer for the television and some basic games programming. With Mathematica now they have access to a terrific knowledge engine as well. For that alone, I really do think every house should have one.

I also think that any one should get one and learn how to configure it. Get the kids bookazine thingie I mentioned above as it’s well written and pretty accessible. Or Raspberry Pi for Dummies – these are also generally clearly written.

The future of the world will be technology driven. A lot of this stuff isn’t that hard and it’s worth ensuring that you are technologically independent as far as possible. This should be a little bit past “switching the damn thing on”. This, in itself is handy but if you get caught with the bug, there is also the possibility of setting up your own video intercom (one of my projects for the paltry amount of spare time I have at the moment), customised doorbells, timers for any number of things. It’s a voyage of exploration.

 

on interests and judging them

Shane Hegarty has written a piece in today’s Irish Times which you can, if you’re so inclined, read here.

but it did hint at a key point about the modern foodie industry, which is that its chief product isn’t delicious meals, artfully presented: it is waste

He’s talking in the context of waste of time buying cookbooks, waste of time taking pleasure in your cooking, waste of time in taking instagram photographs of your food, waste of paper in printing cook books which will never be used.

I think he’s wrong.

I own about 100 cookbooks. Pretty sure it’s in that zone because they were recently counted and this does not include myriad copies of Delicious, Donna Hay, Tesco and Superquinn magazines. I also have an A4 notebook into which I glue oddball stuff cut out of magazines, newspapers, the backs of ingredients containers and such like. All of it gives me very great pleasure even if I do not cook.

I’ve always taken the view that if it’s feeding yourself is all it’s about, then you really only need one cookbook, be that either Nigella Lawson’s first one – How to Eat, or, possibly better, one of the Good Housekeeping ones. But that’s really not what it’s all about. There is something beautiful about opening a cookbook, looking at the pictures, and considering whether you will cook this or that.

It’s a pleasure to read cookbooks; not just cook from them. And sometimes you will cook from them and get things right, or sometimes you might not. It is ultimately a voyage of discovery.

In that respect, you cannot possibly consider the acquisition of books – of any type – which give you pleasure as a waste. Effort in cooking, likewise, is not a waste.

I swim because…

Four mornings a week I now go swimming before having breakfast and heading into whatever morning activity I have lined up. I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer – far from it – but I do it because it sets me nicely up for the day.l

Sometime ago there was a hooha over obesity and the Minister for Health in this country, and some journalist or other mentioned that she suffered, between gym membership and going running and stuff.

I was thinking about that word suffered the next day and it occurred to me – to some extent – that there seems, occasionally, to be this idea that life is some sort of penance.

You’d think with the pushing back against the Catholic Church that this whole concept of penance and suffering just to behave properly inline with society’s expectations might have gone the way of the snow a few years ago but no. It lives on.

I don’t run. And when I swim, I don’t feel like I am suffering. I enjoy it.

There are generalised health issues around the western lifestyle. The whole desk-lifestyle isn’t exactly great, and most people don’t get enough exercise. People’s eating habits have changed too. SO one of the things that I know to my cost is sometimes it’s very hard to get exercise.

And exercise is important. If you’re doing it right, and if you’re doing something you like, you feel great after it. It brings other benefits. I mean, I get up at 6.30 and drive to UCD and am in a swimming pool at 7.20 every morning and I really, really enjoy it. I couldn’t do it if it were a sufferance or a penance. I’d just find something else I like doing. While it will not really enable me to run away from a bad guy very fast, per se, it does have helpful things like a) making me fitter and b) having me more prepared for other stuff I like doing, like surfing, and kitesurfing. I get more confident in the water.

I have a couple of targets a) swim 1500m again and b) swim 400m in 8 minutes. I’m a long way off both of those. Currently I’m touching 500m in the mornings. Given the time available to me, that’s going to reach maybe 800m, maximum 900m. But that’s okay – it’s four times a week.

There is this moment – it’s not a measurable moment and it’s not even guaranteed to happen – when I am swimming, when everything just fits together and I feel great.

I swim for that.

An open letter to Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Dear Aodhán,

You are my local TD and I voted for you at the time of the last election.

In fact, I found the last election difficult because there seemed to be so many more candidates not to vote for than to vote for. But I voted for you because

a) you seemed to have a reasonably decent record as a councillor

b) you were young and I firmly believed that what the country needed then, and now, even more so, were new voices, a new generation of representatives, for a country desperately in need of a vision; desperately in need of change.

So there’s this

 

And now, I find the next election will be even more difficult because in this little tweet are encapsulated a lot of reasons not to vote for you or any of the government parties again. It is fair to say that the Green Party got more out of Fianna Fáil than the Labour Party has gotten out of Fine Gael.

I am not happy with the budget, Aodhán. If it is key in rebuilding our Republic, and its values, it is clear that the values are not values I can identify with.

The budget does nothing to suggest that post recession we will get the values of a Republic. All it does is tell me that the government will protect some people while hanging others out to dry. It hung a lot of groups of people out to dry.

Take this:

Eamon Gilmore: “We’re not cutting their benefits.”

Jennings: “But you are. From 188 to 144 or 144 to 100 Euros.”

Source: http://www.broadsheet.ie/2013/10/16/were-not-cutting-their-benefits/

Under discussion is the younger generation of Irish people. A generation that you and your colleagues appear to be working very hard to either a) radicalise or b) force to emigrate.

I was 22 the winter of 1994. I emigrated for 5 years. I am not saying it was a bad thing; I learned a lot from the five years I was out of Ireland. A lot of people did, and a lot of my generation came home and, I would say, along with our new European neighbours, had a great impact on Irish society and values. What I am saying is that if I was 22 now, I would not be hanging around to try and get on a FAS place if that’s all that was on offer, or stay in full time education, if that’s all that was on offer. People start in education at the age of 5. Seriously, trying to keep them there until they are 25 so you don’t have to acknowledge a youth unemployment problem is infantile and cowardly.

How Eamon Gilmore – your party leader – can, in all conscience, claim not to be cutting the benefits of those under the age of 25 is absolutely beyond me. Welfare paid x, now it pays x-44E.

This is a cut, Aodhán, and if you understand it, please ensure that Eamon Gilmore learns it.

He went on to say this:

Well to be clear about it, what this Government is about is ensuring that young people have a job or have education or training.

To that end, I’d like to note – because I checked the other day – that youth unemployment in Ireland is about 30%. Getting people into non-existent jobs is a fools’ errand. Cutting the support they have will not get people into jobs that do not exist.

I can’t comment on training in general, but Aodhán, I’m back in full time education following redundancy, which, incidentally, I am paying for myself, and I can tell you that being in full time education is not cheap, even allowing for the fees structure which we have here. When I hear talk about keeping young people in education and training, I see politicians trying to paper over the crack that there are no jobs.

I could talk about a bunch of other things – but no doubt you’re already aware that the medical cards streamlining/free health care for the under 6s hasn’t done much to suggest the government is offering a value system worth anything. Care for the under-6 cohort is a nice idea, but at the expense of people who’ve already gotten sick?

It’s perverse in my view.

One of the issues I have, more than anything, is that the budget speeches by Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, revealed the current government as petulant children. I expect more from highly paid politicians who are screwing me over than I do from four year old children.

The story of insolvent Ireland is familiar to all our people and the sacrifices people have had to make in recent years are well known. Reckless policies were pursued by the Fianna Fáil led Government. (Michael Noonan)

and

This Budget and Estimates sets out to deliver on this Government’s promise to the Irish people at the last General Election – to fulfil our commitments under the troika programme foisted on the Irish people by the previous Government and to restore Ireland’s economic sovereignty. (Brendan Howlin)

Fine Gael and Labour have been in government for almost 3 years now. Barbed comments about the previous government like this are unbecoming to professionals.

Why should I vote for parties who think this is acceptable behaviour? And seriously, in a budget which removed tax credits from redundancy payments, cut unemployment support for the youngest unemployed people, and cut maternity benefit having taxed it last year?

Here’s the issue Aodhán. You and your colleagues left income tax and USC alone. And your colleagues peppered their budget speeches with barbed comments against the previous government. This is the activity of a government desperate to stay in power, and completely lacking in vision or even basic cop on. If your colleagues were seriously good at their job, they wouldn’t have to keep reminding us how bad the previous lot were.

It is in this context that you want to talk about the values of a post-recession Republic. I believe that values, in general, are typically absolute. Are we the kind of people who screw over the weakest in society and protect the strongest? Are we the kind of people who wait until our back is against the wall before we do something about a major problem? Is our primary value “Sure it’ll be grand”.

Why do you think those values need to change whether we’re rich or poor if they are based on how we treat each other?

The budget was one for I’m alright Jack. Those who lost most from this budget are the ones who aren’t alright.

It is in this context that you will be looking for my vote again in a couple of years time. The context of being someone who seems to think values are negotiable based on whether we’re in a recession or not.

I can’t see myself supporting you.

Regards,

Treasa

 

 

 

on the Seanad referendum

I’m deeply concerned about the order in which we do things in this country. Enda Kenny has given us an opportunity to abolish or retain the Seanad but without the sense of reforming the Dáil first. Given that the Seanad provides some oversight and debate, it seems to me that if you want to get rid of it, you’d sort out the Dail and oversight requirements in that chamber before you get rid of the Seanad. I fear that if we get rid of the Seanad before we sort out the Dail reforms, we will never see the Dail reforms.

In normal circumstances, I don’t understand why we can’t have the Dail reforms first and I don’t see any discussion of that with Fine Gael and Enda Kenny. Enda is refusing to debate the issue with opposing politicians which is – in my opinion – not really the actions of a genuine leader with his heart behind his policy. All they are doing is bleating about saving money, but the figure they have put forward, they cannot actually stand over.

A lot of the argument appears to centre around the notion of “I don’t know what it’s for therefore it’s a waste of money”.

Well I don’t know what a lot of things are for but that doesn’t automatically make them a waste of money. The sad part is, this is used in an argument in a country which is simultaneously boasting of its high rate of education. I am at a loss to support the idea that we are such an educated nation when many of our debates take place on a massively superficial level and are often coloured by a culture of envy.

I am voting against the abolition of the Seanad. In my view, Fine Gael and Labour, and the other supporting parties, Sinn Féin, the Socialist Workers Party, have singularly failed to make a rational case to abolish it. It’s incumbant on them to do so, to change the status quo. If their argument amounts to, grosso modo, “it costs money and I don’t know what it’s for” plus “it’s elitist” when there are simple solutions to both issues a) education and b) universal suffrage, then I do believe the rational response is to reject the referendum.

The Black Valley in the snow

Back earlier in the year, Peter Cox was posting photographs to his twitter feed of shots he had taken when there was a particular quantity of snow in Kerry and I promised myself then that at some stage this year, I would make my way to his gallery and buy myself one of those prints. I don’t really like buying prints over the internet – I like to actually see and respond to them first. But I did love his snow photographs.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to drop into his gallery in Killarney and look at his photographs. It is a gorgeous gallery of photography, beautifully lit, and with some stunning photographs. He has a gorgeous one of the Fastnet, and some lovely photographs of the area around Killarney, and Iceland and various other places he has been.

I eventually chose to buy this photograph although there was one other that I thought I would prefer in the flesh, so as to speak which I may yet purchase in the future. When I have a house and walls to hang these things on.

If you’re in Killarney, I strongly, strongly recommend you take a look in at Peter’s gallery – it’s in the middle of the town and you can’t really miss it. Ireland is a much photographed country. I’m not going to say we are fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the world because in my experience, outside the cities, most parts of the world are inherently beautiful. A lot of cities are as well but from a scenery point of view, nature always has something to give. Peter’s photographs of the southwest are amongst the best I have seen.

Something new

I know. It’s a banal kind of a headline. Headline writing has never by my strongest suit.

Last week I registered at University College Dublin as a full time student for a taught Masters in Science in computer science. Yes, yes I did.

I am incredibly lucky. I found myself at a confluence of time where I a) was able to leave work to do this b) able to fund it for one year and c) was given a place on the course to do it.

Not a lot of people are so fortunate, not when they are my age anyway.

My life has changed a lot and despite a lot of unknowns, such as what the weather will be like in January, and how long I will cope with the idea of getting two buses to college every morning instead of driving for 15 minutes, I am incredibly relaxed about this. And very happy.

I’m not really into termtime yet – lectures start on Monday so it’s all going to be terribly exciting, and no doubt, a complete shock to start dealing with studying and assignments again on a full time basis rather than on a when I have time after work basis. There is a lot of autonomy here, and a huge onus on myself to achieve what I want to achieve.

I’m focusing on data analytics and if you’ve any vague interest in this, I’ll occasionally be blogging on that and related tech matters on this other blog which I have.

Una Mullally’s making a list, kind of

Una Mullally wrote a piece for today’s Irish Times. It was called “The 60 Most Creative People in Ireland“.

I have some issues with it. Mainly encapsulated in this neat little disclaimer included as paragraph 6. Don’t worry if you missed it.

 don’t give out to me about a lot of these being Dublin-focussed. That’s where I live, so that’s where I interact with most creative stuff. SOZ LEITRIM, etc. Also, DECLARATION OF MULTIPLE INTERESTS: I do know some of these people, but that’s life, innit

Any writer worth their salt and having the guts to stand over what they are writing would not include any sentence along the lines of “Don’t give out to me because…” blah blah.

Either you can stand over it or you can’t and clearly, something titled “in Ireland” shouldn’t need to be defended with “and a lot of them are from Dublin because that’s where I live“. As for

I do know some of these people

Amazing.

I wonder what the overlap is.

 

time better spent

The weather in Ireland has been fairly impressive lately; stunning sunshine which has not yet yielded to cooler weather, clouds and rain. Last Sunday morning, I got up and drove from Dublin to Clare for the day. I don’t usually do this at the start of July, for two reasons 1) Clare tends to be busy and 2) there haven’t generally been waves I could remotely or imaginatively attempt to learn to surf on. I learn to surf, have been at that zone for a while because mostly, I don’t make it to Clare.

The drive from Dublin to Lahinch takes about 3 hours now, via Limerick. I think it’s faster via LImerick than Galway; the tolls are lower as well (No Enfield :-)) It’s a pleasant drive early on a Sunday morning, if somewhat nervewracking. Those are clouds overhead. I got to Lahinch at 10.20 in the morning, parked up in front of John McCarthy’s Lahinch Surf School.

Pretty sure the last time I had lessons there, it was a freezing cold New Year’s Eve.

Lahinch, at 10.20 last Sunday morning, was still cloud covered; for all that, it was warm, and families had staked out their territories on the beach. Kids surf lessons were in the water; people were swimming. Adult lessons, I was told, would start at 11.45. This suited me fine. I went for a walk around the town; somewhere to have coffee if possible.

I wound up in Philip Morris’s gallery on the corner of what I call the main street but which I am pretty sure has a different name in Lahinch terms, and I bought a beautiful print of a beach which is a bit far away from me in Dublin, Barleycove in Cork. If you’re in Lahinch, I strongly recommend a trip into Philip’s gallery as he has a lot of interesting things hanging on the walls; and they are all in lovely, strong vibrant colours. It does not matter what the weather does outside; they will put sunshine in your life.

They recommended I went to Dannie Mac’s for brunch. It was still before 11; most of the bars were still closed at that point, but Dannie Mac’s was serving breakfast. I had pancakes. Breakfast in Dublin, Weetabix and some orange juice had been well over four hours previous and I was hungry. I recommend the pancakes if you’re ever looking for grub at that time of the morning on a Sunday in Lahinch. The place was packed, and while there were a few families and couples; a lot of their custom came from groups of young men. I suppose there were a few stag parties around.

By the time I finished up in Dannie Mac’s,. Kenny’s had open. Kenny’s is a fantastic shop; seriously. I’m biased of course – last time I was there I discovered they sold Dunoon China mugs. I haven’t found a source in Dublin, and the first one I ever bought, I bought in a tea shop in a shopping centre in France.

They are beautiful. If you want an idea of the ones I like, I have a pinterest board full of them amongst other things (but mostly them). So I bought another three, this time, only one with a lighthouse; the others were a pair of very nice surf mugs. I was surprised and happy to see them.

I should probably stop buying mugs now #itsworsethanthestationeryproblem.

The tillkeepers in Kenny’s always thank me for my custom. Always. It’s almost unique in my experience.

At this point, it’s wandering on to time for me to go back and get back in the water for the first time.

Firstly – I am going to say this. There are at least 8 surf schools in Lahinch. I went to John McCarthy because I know them having had lessons from them before at a time when there were only 2 surf schools in Lahinch. Customer loyalty I suppose you’d call it bar the minor detail that I can’t really surf and I don’t go often enough. I had my first surf lessons at least 10 years ago which should tell you a lot about how much money Lahinch Surf School has actually earned from me (clue, West Cork Surf School in Inchydoney in Cork has done slightly better). But I do also have to commend the staff at work on Sunday. I do not know the name of the girl taking bookings but she was unutterably helpful. The instructor I got paired up with, David, I think his name was, was extraordinarily helpful. Mind you, I still can’t surf but that’s definitely a lack of practice and it’s definitely a lack of time in the water. Also, I’ve put on weight since the last time I was in the water (so XL wetsuit, good to know, takes less than a minute to put on, probably a clue it may be slightly too big) (also good to no). I wore bootees.

I. hate. wearing. bootees. So I asked whether, you know, was the water, maybe warm enough, that I could avoid bootees. You’re talking to someone who stands in 4 foot of freezing cold water in Dublin taking photographs (ie, freezing) so I Can HANDLE the cold.

They mentioned jelly fish.

This is an entirely different prospect to freezing your toes off.

I got four great waves, fell off the board 19 times and had a decent chat with Dave about such esoteric matters as “can’t remember which foot I used to put my leash on but this doesn’t feel right” the truth is I really don’t know now whether I’m goofy or natural although I’m tending to think natural.

I tried both last Sunday. I was neither, if I’m honest.

I love the momentum you get when you balance right on the board, and paddle right and you, board and wave head for the sure. I imagine it’d be even better if I were popping up. But it’s that feeling as you fly back into shore that gets you to go back out and try, and try again. I had a ball. I loved it. I want to do it more often. The sun came out at that point in time as well.

After the surf lesson, I packed everything up and then drove from Lahinch to Loop Head. It took rather a long time; much longer than I expected. I had to reasons for going down there. Firstly, Loop Head Lighthouse is now open to tourists. You can hire one of the lightkeeper cottages as well via Irish Landmark Trust and that, along with Wicklow Lighthouse and Galley Head, is on my list of potential honeymoon locations.

The tower lighthouse at Loop Head is not inhabited because they could build cottages for the lightkeepers, even though it’s on a particularly pointy bit of land, over a few cliffs. The tower itself is made of limestone so on what was probably the warmest day of the year, it was still FREEZING in there. You can climb up the lighthouse and see to the Aran Islands on one side, and the Brandons in Kerry on the other side. You can also see the ruin of the coastal watch look out post, a concrete bunker, 83 of which were plonked around the coast in the early 1940s to watch for any trouble during the Emergency. I know quite a lot about these. What you cannot set from the lighthouse, because of the way the land slopes on Loop Head, is the EIRE sign. I know a monumental lot about these and the main reason I was in Loop Head was to see their sign as it was renovated last year.

Mind you, long before I ever knew about EIRE signs, I liked lighthouses and Loop Head was on my lighthouse bingo card, so amongst the achievements for this year is “saw Loop Head Lighthouse and did the tour”.

And went surfing.

When you have a day where you get to do something related to three major interests, which includes some exercise (oh god did my arms hurt on Monday), it’s got to be a good day. I drove back to Dublin the same evening.

but to quote Calvin and Hobbes, “but it was worth it”.

(and I’ve just discovered there is Calvin & Hobbes fan fiction…colour me nonplussed)

waves and numbers and stuff