Defending Israel backfire

Don’t know whether to laugh or… or… Well, judge for yourself. I’m listening to a programme about the interesting online and social media side to the conflict in Gaza*. Kind of annoyingly, the two guests being interviewed whom I’ve heard speaking before pausing to share this are not neutral. The first guy clearly has an agenda, which is unfortunate. The pro Israeli spokesman follows suit, and clearly aims to show Israel and its side of the story in the best possible light.

He mentions that Israel’s military is the only military in the world with the word “defence” in its title. Its aim is to defend, not attack.

My eyes widen, I stop washing dishes and dry my hands. Pause the programme, open a new tab, do a search, and yes: I remembered correctly. They are in fact not the only military with “defence” in their title. The South African military was called “South African Defence Force” from 1957 to 1994**.

In case you need a reminder:

During apartheid, armed SADF troops were used in quelling violent opposition to minority rule, often directly supporting the South African Police.South African military units were involved in the long-running Mozambican and Angolan civil wars, frequently supporting Pretoria’s allies the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). SADF personnel were also deployed during the related South African Border and Namibian independence conflicts.

That word


*I am deeply interested in what’s happening in Gaza, and particularly support all in the Middle East (this includes Isrealis, Palestinians, Iranians, and many more nationalities and backgrounds) who are striving for an end to the conflict through a pursuit of non-violence and much more effective methods for quelling the acidic hatred in the region. There are loads of them, why not add your support?

**After 1994, the SADF was dissolved and reformed into the SANDF (N for National), so the IDF is STILL not the only military with the word “defence” in their title.


Online business fail

A few months ago, I wanted to change to spelt bread from wheat, as I believe for us, it’s healthier. Here’s the challenge: the bakery is open from nine, and during term, I had to leave for college way before that. The spelt bread is usually sold out by lunchtime, so getting it on the way home wouldn’t work. I wasn’t comfortable with placing a standing order, because I’d need bread on odd days, not every day, and knowing myself I KNEW I’d often forget to collect the bread. Also, it would be a pain in the butt to always make sure I have cash on me, and make sure I have enough cash to pay for the bread.

The solution? They have a website, with an online ordering facility. Great, I thought, I’d order the bread in advance, pay for it online, and if I forgot to collect it or was home too late, I would not have to feel guilty that they’d lost a sale they would most certainly had made if the bread had not been put aside for me. I didn’t care if I lost the money for that day’s bread, I cared that I could know it would be there for me and that I didn’t have to stress myself to death if I didn’t collect, it would be no loss to them.

Great, right? You’d think so.

The first time I fetched the bread, the staff were unhappy with me ordering online. They insisted I place a standing order, picking regular days of the week to collect my bread, so they could scribble it in their tatty paper diary they keep near the counter. I’m quite sure I made it clear that I would not mind losing money if through my own fault I didn’t get the bread I’d paid for, but they would have none of it. Over time, I kept missing collections, they got more and more politely exasperated with me not collecting bread they’d put aside for me, I got more and more freaked out every time I would realise just after their closing time that I had forgotten to collect the bread, it became an increasing mess until I cancelled my standing order and went back to buying bread at the supermarket.

As someone who is keenly interested in websites and the online world, this whole experience has kept bugging me ever since. We’re urged to buy local, support small businesses, but at least in this instance, the small business’ backward thinking lost them roughly €300 per year.

It really bothers me. I am considering going back there, speaking to someone in management rather than at the counter, insist on the arrangement I had in mind to begin with, perhaps with the addition of “…and if I haven’t collected my bread by 5pm on days I have one on order, please give it to the soup kitchen across the street.”


The story of you

Picture this: someone has scratched your car with their keys. Deliberately, because they don’t like you. Now, you’re walking along a dark street and happen to spot their car. Nobody is watching, and you know this is a CCTV blind spot. You have a bunch of keys in your hand. What do you do?

What if the wrong done to you was more serious? What if someone you love was murdered, the killer feels no remorse, and you are put in a position to decide their fate? What do you do?

Here is something I’ve come to believe: your decision in this matter has nothing to do with the wrongdoer, it has nothing to do with the incident, with revenge, justice, restitution, rehabilitation, or any of the things we tend to think of straight away. It has everything to do with you. We must understand that our response to what is done to us, tells the story of who we are.

Scratching the other person’s car makes you someone who damages another’s property. “But I had a reason!” Well, so did they. If you ask for the murderer to be hanged or killed by lethal injection, you are someone who took another human being’s life, and showed no mercy. The entire world may think you were justified doing that, but what does it do to you? What does it make you? The motivation matters far less than the action you take, because our actions shape how we think, who we are.

This applies to nations, too. The USA has one of the most aggressive, vengeful systems in the world for responding to those who have committed crime. You may reason that crime deserves punishment, but the response again says more about the country than about the criminals. This aggression and tendency to violence persists in their behaviour on the world stage. In contrast, Norway’s response to crime is very different. It doesn’t seek revenge, it seeks to rehabilitate. It asks why crime is committed and focuses on solving the problem, preventing reoffending, rather than demanding the fleeting satisfaction of feeling the offender has been punished. The reasoning that this speaks of them, not of crime, is borne out by their ranking in the world peace index.

Here is a rule of thumb: if you are responding to a situation and someone comes around the corner, observing your behaviour with no knowledge of what went before it, what will their first thought be? That thought should matter to you, because that is the purest description of what you are doing. What we do, in the end, is the only way to tell the world, and ourselves, who we are.


How much time does speeding save you?

I went through a shameful phase when I was under enormous stress, expected to be in two places at once. Quite literally. As a result, I used to speed. I’m often reminded of how stupid I’d been, when I read of accidents, see it on the news, and last night when a friend lost control on a slippery road – luckily escaping with only a few bruises. It made me think of what got me to just stop speeding.

It’s virtually impossible to say, when someone gets in a car, what the odds are of them having an accident. There are so many factors to consider: how alert are they, how rested, have they taken any medicines, drugs or alcohol? What state is the car in? What’s the state of the road they’re travelling on? What time of day is it? That said, a rough guide has been put together.

On a good quality urban road, the risk of accident increases by about 4% for every 1km/h increase in speed.

If you have to travel 25km, it would take you 25 minutes at an average of 60km/h. If you speed up to 70km/h, you will save 3.5 minutes. You will increase your risk of being in an accident by 40%.

Make it an average of 80km/h, and the risk increases by 80% in return for 6 minutes 25 seconds saved.

If you’re travelling on a less perfect rural road, as many of the roads in Ireland are, the risk goes up 5.5% for every 1km/h increase in speed.

If you have to travel 50km, it would take you 37 minutes 30 seconds at 80km/h. You can slice 7.5 minutes off that time by speeding up to 100km/h, by increasing your risk of accident by 110%.

In Ireland, the speed limit on most motorways is 120km/h. The higher the speed, the greater the risk of accidents, because our reaction time stays the same, while the time we’re given to prevent disaster decreases. However, these roads tend to be wider and better maintained. As a general guide, it is assumed the risk of accident increases by about 2% for every km/h increase in speed.

If you have to travel 100km, it will take you 50 minutes at 120km/h. Speed up to 130km/h, and the 20% increase of risk buys you…

Four minutes.

Speed up to 140km/h, and you’ll save…

Seven minutes.

We tend to overestimate how much time we’ll save by speeding. – it won’t get you there as much quicker as you think. Furthermore, the severity of the consequences of an accident increases in direct proportion to the speed at which it happens. The higher the speed, the higher the risk of death, disability, horror injuries that leave people unable to live normal lives.

accident_speed_01accident_speed_02It really is just not worth it.



Dear Oxigen

I got a text yesterday informing me that my waste collection account was €92-50 in arrears. Because my pay-as-you-go account was, last time I checked, in the black and no bins had been lifted since, I phoned to find out what was up. It turns out since I switched to a pay-as-you-go service, they had neglected to charge me for organic waste removal. Therefore, they charged me in one go for the last two years’ organic bin lifts. I did not contest the amount, but when it was confirmed that they would not lift any of my bins until this amount had been settled in full and my account was in credit to the required amount, I got quite angry and said I would change to a competitor.

This morning, there was an anonymous brown envelope in the post. I had already drawn up a hand written note to remind them their bins were outside for them to collect, as I would no longer be needing them. On seeing what was in the envelope, I added a PS:

I am including what I found in the post this morning. I am curious to know what went through the mind of the genius who thought this was the correct response to my situation.

“Right, we’ve charged a customer a massive amount, setting her account in arrears through our mistake, not hers. Then we tell her no bins of hers will be lifted until this charge has been paid, even though it’s about 5x her usual monthly expense. Oh, she’s angry. I know! Let’s send her printouts of her lifts record and accounts transaction details with NO cover letter, NO indication where this information was even from such as, say, a company logo, and baffling scribbles in the margin. SHE SHOULD LOVE THAT!!”

Are you actual human beings, or perhaps aliens who don’t understand human interaction?

At least you’ve managed to exceed my expectations of the limits of incompetence in customer service which was possible to achieve.

Congratulations. Well done. Not sure if there’s a prize.



It’s late now, fiddler man. Go home!
Balance your fiddle and folding chair
on your sturdy bike, while over there
a pair of racers breeze past
on sleek fast bikes, and students
lay in the park where you played,
on the lush, soft green, the summer scene
a welcome relief from their brief burst
of hard work. A seasoned drunk
marches along, the harsh song
of his over-loud voice advertising
his choice between reality and
sweet escape this night.
Yeah, right enough it’s late, and
the notes fade, and fiddler man
balances his odd load on his bike,
and he pedals away, away.


More than disagreement

About forty minutes ago, I was sitting in DKIT’s canteen with my son, Jonathan, discussing an urgent issue – we meet there when we have to talk during his school’s lunch, as his school is adjacent to the campus. We were interrupted by a chap in a suit who offered me a pamphlet, one of the politicians running for the upcoming elections. I took it, glanced at it, then handed it back: “Sorry, I will never vote for you. I’m pro choice.” I thought I was matter-of-fact but not rude. This sadly was a short-lived state of affairs.

“Ah,” he replied, “yes, I believe in the sanctity of all life.” He half leaned over me to hand the pamphlet to my son. “Can I give one to you then?”

That’s where I kind of lost it. “No, you can’t, that’s my son, you can go away and leave us alone.”

“There now,” he said, “we may disagree but we can do so without mumble mumble (it was noisy, I missed his exact words).” He squeezed my upper arm as he left. (Really? I made it abundantly clear to you that I don’t like you, and you go and clutch my arm?)

So I sat there, battling to get my concentration back to the discussion my son and I were having, but I was shaking with anger. We don’t merely disagree, Mr Mullen. You view me as an inferior human being. To your mind, my rights are conditional. If I were to fall pregnant, my body, mind, organs, all become things over which others decide. A potential human being is more important to you than a human being who has lived, loved, built relationships, who carries responsibilities and on whom others rely. Over and above denying women the right to choose when they are ready to give birth, you also inflict the most unspeakable cruelty on heartbroken parents who have to end a much wanted pregnancy for medical reasons.

Frankly, Mr Mullen, fuck you. We “disagree” the way a neo-nazi and a Jew disagree. I have no obligation to be anything but rude to an arsehole who views me as inferior. You disgust me, the pain and sorrow you and your kind inflict on others should see you in hell, and what you experienced today was my version of being nice to someone as disgusting as you. Gods help us all if you do get elected. I’d be ashamed to have you represent my country.