Friday, June 24, 2016

Whither Northern Ireland?

When I left work at 4AM today, I put on the local NPR affiliate, which broadcasts BBC programming in the wee hours of the morning. Needless to say, the topic was all Brexit, all the time- a pattern which held true for most of the day's news cycle. Among the main topics is the ripple effects of the UK leaving the EU on financial markets... I don't even want to look at my 403(b) right now.

On a personal note, I wonder what effect the Brexit will have on the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I'm a quarter-Irish by heritage, and I live in neighborhood in which many Irish immigrants live, so I tend to write about Irish matters quite a bit. Thankfully, the Good Friday Agreement, while not signed, has largely held, and the bloodshed stopped in 1998 with the horrific and broadly condemned Omagh bombing. With the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland both being members of the European Union, the divisions between north and south lost much of their meaning.

Now, with the population of Northern Ireland voting 56% in favor of remaining in the EU, and sharing a land border with the EU, the republican Sinn Féin party is calling for a vote on Irish reunification. This is, as Irish-American Joe Biden would put it, a Big Fucking Deal.

The repercussions, economic and social (hell even border control will be an issue), of the Brexit pose real challenges for the Republic of Ireland in the near future. Before the pipe-dream of a United Ireland even becomes an agenda item, these problems will have to be ironed out... one might even say Norn Ironed out. It's a bit premature to sing this:

I'm working tonight, so I don't have an opportunity to broach the subject in one of the local pubs, though such conversations can be contentious. It's been a long, long time since I've heard a publican intone, "If you're gonna keep asking questions, we're gonna ask you to leave." I call that challenge the barxit.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Talk About Failing Upwards

Now here's a revolving door for you... the big political story of the week's beginning was the firing of Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's troglodyte trumplodyte campaign manager. Now, three days later, the creep was hired by CNN as a political commentator- talk about failing upwards! Reading about Lewandowski's hiring, I immediately thought, "Wow, I guess cable news figures that racist, misogynistic white guys with anger issues are underrepresented."

Last week, I had a door-to-door sales rep from Cablevision ring the doorbell. I had just gotten up and decided to answer the door in case it was UPS delivering something- my upstairs neighbors and I look out for each other when it comes to deliveries (and other things, too, it must be said). I explained to the guy that I was uninterested in paying for cable television. He then asked me if I wanted an account for the internet:

"What about internet services? We can give you high-speed internet for $49.95 per month."
"I have high-speed internet at work."
"What about surfing the net at home?"
"I have a smartphone, there's no need."

Poor guy, he was trying his best to close a deal. I finally told him that I worked nights and that I had just woken up. To avoid appearing rude, I asked him for a business card, then explained that I worked nights and had just woken up before slamming the door. Reading about CNN's hiring of Lewandowski, I have to ask myself, "Why would I pay fifty bucks a month to have sewage piped into my apartment?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Above Your Mundane Concerns

If I had to define intelligence, I would define it as the ability to observe the world and to connect the various observed details in a manner which is conducive to successfully navigating one's surroundings. I'm not the sort of guy who likes to toot his own horn, but I have a couple of pieces of parchment which certify me as a clever boy. I chalk any cleverness up to my observational skills. A couple of days ago, I stopped at a supermarket to buy a half-gallon of milk to bring to work (I admit to being a big coffee drinker, and I tend to put a little milk in my java to take the edge off the stuff, though I will certainly drink it black if there's no other option). While walking across the parking lot, I saw a grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) suddenly veer off in its flight, an act which tipped me off to some unusual condition in the vicinity. Sure enough, I looked up to ascertain what the disturbance could be, and saw this beauty:

This red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) had taken up a position atop one of the parking lot lampposts, and was calmly surveying the environs as shoppers hustled in and out of the supermarket. It was a bit of wildness injected into a most suburban setting... and most of the people running errands didn't even notice it on its perch. I made sure to point it out to one of the shopping-cart wranglers, a gregarious teenage boy with a good sense of humor- his mind was pretty blown by the sight of the hawk that had visited his normally uninspiring workplace. I reminded him that everybody needs to look up every once in a while, even in a suburban parking lot. There are things above our mundane concerns, and they can be transcendent and transforming.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tripping, By Which I Mean Road-Tripping

Last month, I headed up to my own particular Prestigious Bastion of Prestige for a reunion. A friend of mine who grew up not far from the PBoP jokingly asked me if I could take him as a date, so he could check out this place which is practically in his backyard. After assuring him that I loved him, albeit platonically, I let him know that it would cost a few hundred dollars, and he'd be confronted by a bunch of nostalgic drunks who'd be sharing decades-old jokes. For example, all the the Bronson from Wisconsin (whose birthday is today, high five Base!) has to say to reduce me to gales of laughter is "COOT!" Of course, the proper response is, "GREBE!"

We decided that a summer road-trip would be the best way for me to introduce him to the arcana of the place... and there's a lot of weird stuff to point out. For myself, reunion was a time to hang out with friends, lectures and tourism took a back seat to joking about waterfowl and old reminiscences, I really didn't do any 'touristy' stuff, besides visiting the museum, where I worked as an assistant to the head of anthropological collections. I'll be road-tripping as Virgil leading a local Dante through the circles of, certainly not hell, but a place that probably looms larger in his imagination than mine, because I know it as an insider. What was a nearby mystery for him was home for me for four really amazing years, pretty good for the 'First Circle'.

It'll be interesting returning as a combination tourist/tour guide, playing Virgil in a setting in which I read Virgil.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Fathers' Day

Here's wishing all the dads out there a happy Fathers' Day. I know that most people in our society are closer to their moms than to their dads (I being no exception here), but I have to say that things seem to be getting better. In my peer group, the fathers are careful to take time to spend with their children, and there is more of a sharing of labor with moms... I think that enough of us saw our parents getting divorced and made the determination to do better in our personal relationships.

A recent Raw Story post detailed the need for better work/life policies for men as well as women. The conversation is about the need for men to receive time to care for their families, an issue which was largely considered a 'women's' problem until recently. I have to observe that feminism, contrary to the bleats of the MRA whiners and 'red-pill' bros, helps men.

Hey, how about a Fathers' Day treat? Here's a sweet video of Mick Jones of the Clash singing the classic Hitsville UK with his lovely daughter, Lauren:

That's one of my all-time favorite songs, and dad and daughter seem to be having a ball singing that duet.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why, You Could Say, a Crappy Day

The immediate tip-off that something was amiss was the sight of my department head, who usually works Monday to Friday, 9AM to 5PM, sitting on the low wall in front of the main building. Yeah, that's not ordinary, so it must be an out-of-the-ordinary day. Sometime in the early afternoon, the main line from the bathrooms to the sewer had gotten blocked, and a flood of raw sewage backed up into the basement of the building. Because of this problem, the air conditioning system had to be shut down so that the foul miasma from the basement wouldn't be spread throughout the building. Needless to say, our weekend cleaning contractors, two wonderful, hard-working Latin American immigrants, did heroic work holding back the tide of foulness in the basement. It was comical, however, seeing one of them, a four-foot ten-inch tall woman, wearing a pair of shitkicking boots that would have made me, with my size 11-and-a-half EEEEE feet, proud.

Because of this situation, we had to close the Visitors' Center and gift shop early, and I had to run interference with the tourists, telling them that we were closed for the day. Everybody was lovely, everybody was patient, so things ran smoothly. In the meantime, the plumber/sewer maintenance contractor came on an emergency call and snaked out the system.

The last of the tourists have left, and I closed down the parking lot. The regular duo of cleaners have gone home for the day, but their supervisor, an Anglo dude with a shaved head (he could pass for a relative of mine) is downstairs with a heavy wet-vac, an industrial sprayer full of disinfectant, and a high-powered air-blower for drying out the area. Thankfully, about a month ago, the carpeting in the basement was torn out and a new tile floor put in, so there's no problem of tainted carpeting to deal with.

I am currently sitting outside the main building on a nice little patio, taking advantage of the wi-fi system and the gorgeous late Spring weather. It's been a crappy day, but the main problem occurred before I clocked in, so I really can't complain. I've had my fair share of storm sewer backups and weather-related flooding, but I got off easy today. My typical line is that the job is cushy except when it's not, and that the rough days constitute 'paying the dues' for the easy days. In the meantime, I have to document the fact that the various contractors have done the necessary work, so there will be a small amount of paperwork, but that's okay... it was a crappy day, but I wasn't up to my ankles in the stuff.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Current Earworm, Topical Earworm

It's been a busy week, which is a good thing, considering last weekend's horror. I've been very busy, the social calendar has been full. In my write-up of Monday night's Secret Science Club lecture, I didn't mention the subway ride from the Bronx to Brooklyn and back again- there were a lot of same-sex couples openly holding hands on the train and the subway platforms, and people were carrying the rainbow pride flag. As always, there were riders of all races and colors, and people advertising their religious affiliations with hijabs or the full regalia of the Hasidim... and everybody was coexisting peacefully. As usual, people kept to themselves, as people thrust into close proximity to eighteen million of their closest friends often do, but New Yorkers tend to defend our own on those occasions when somebody gets stupid.

The solution to hate and violence isn't hate and violence, and all-too-many bigoted religious whackos of all kinds are pushing a bizarre narrative that the shooter was wrong but that the government should kill gay people.

Anyway, the current earworm is by Nada Surf, a New York band whose best known song was teen-angst anthem Popular. The song that I'm currently obsessed with is the topical Always Love:

Hate will get you every time.