What might have been

November 11th, 2018

For the day that's in it.

Living in Switzerland, I'm often struck by how quintessentially European life here can be, in the most positive sense: public transport, rich culture, multilingualism, deep historical roots.

To some extent, I consider it more European than any one other EU country, but paradoxically aloof from Europe (without wanting to discredit Swiss individuality, or minimise the negative aspects of the country).

The thought that recurs: Switzerland today gives us a glimpse, however partial and illusive, of what France, Germany, Austria, Italy; Europe, might be like without having suffered two World Wars.


April 20th, 2014

IMG_20140312_164847 IMG_20140312_164846 IMG_20140312_164844 IMG_20140312_164843 IMG_20140312_164836

Ready messages

January 12th, 2014

Ready messages

Pink card

December 2nd, 2013

Pink card

Two abdications

July 6th, 2013

Qatari emir abdicates

Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad hands power to son Tamim - BBC News
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Belgian king abdicates

Belgium's King Albert II announces abdication - BBC News
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Selection Bias

March 18th, 2012

Extermination through labour

February 25th, 2012

Prisoners were forced to carry granite blocks some weighing up to 110 lb. up 186 steps, repeatedly throughout the day, if they fell from exhaustion they were often killed.

Bull Island

January 30th, 2012

Photos from a walk along Bull Island and Dollymount Strand in North Dublin, December 2009. You may recognise the scenery from the end of Adam & Paul, tragicomic film about two Dublin heroin junkies.

It didn’t survive the winter

January 30th, 2012

Gordon Foster

January 30th, 2012

1921 - 2010

Pioneering figure in the worlds of informatics and computing
- The Irish Times
Saturday, February 26, 2011
(mirrored here)

Gordon Foster moved through the 20th century like a lost character from Cryptonomicon.

He worked as a code-breaker in Bletchley Park, met Alan Turing, studied cybernetics, helped develop operations research, invented ISBN, became a professor in Statistics at TCD, connected remote areas to the internet and communicated with doctors attending the Ebola epidemic in Zaire.


Return of the Strong State

November 20th, 2011

Greece’s newest government minister, carrying an axe

The most important article I read this week:

Austerity & Fascism In Greece: The Real 1% Doctrine - Exiled Online
Mark Ames - Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Here is a stream-of-angry-consciousness passage I wrote about it.

Just in case it wasn't clear:

One of the 'technocrats' installed in the new Greek government is a card-carrying, Jew-hating, leftist-bashing fascist in the classic style. The occasion of the near-collapse of the Greek state is the opportunity they've been dreaming of since the fall of the Colonels.

Another Papandreou driven from power, by no means guilt-less, but at least he tried. This one, unlike his father, remembered to fire the army leadership before stepping down. Greece remains second only to Turkey in Europe for deep-state and army skullduggery, with a side of ethnic-identity fascism.

I know this isn't as interesting to most people as the nice pictures of babies and how they look 20 years later, but it's important to realise that the 'austerity' is a Trojan horse for the kind of hard-right politics that has been in the doldrums for 20 years.
The Strong State is back, and it's going to fuck you again.

Marlay Grange, after snow

September 21st, 2011

The last two winters in Ireland have been colder than usual, with deep snow and frozen roads. Public transport seized up and water supplies dried up. In February 2009, I was working in An Gúm, on the New English-Irish Dictionary project, first real job after college.

I was walking to work because the buses weren't running out as far as my house, and the bike was a non-starter on icy roads. As I walked past my beloved Marlay Grange, I saw the gate was partially open, as it often was (more on that later).

I resolved to get up extra early the next day, and bring my camera to work if the snow still lay. And it did, so I slipped between the gates and explored the snowy landscape, for all the world like the world of Narnia.

I took a number of photos which I wanted to share, but I delayed doing so for a number of reasons. Now there's no point in sitting on them any longer. These may be the last photos of the house intact, a very sad thought.

You can also read more about the house and grounds or take a look at the gate-lodge and its history.

Comment as you wish, click below to see the photos.
Read the rest of this entry »

The world’s most dangerous water-park!

August 24th, 2011

Action Park logo

Since it's easier to start again with a trifle than a weighty tome... My friend Dave found the Wikipedia article of the week:


It is written in the slightly tongue-in-cheek style of a Wiki article that hasn't been found by the deletionist hordes yet, interspersing slight anecdotes with factual information. Knowledge doesn't have to be boring.

This New Jersey water park, a more extreme version of Ireland's Clara Lara, opened in the late 70s and closed in the late 90s. But it lives on, on the internet, where the history of each incredibly dangerous ride becomes more and more vivid.

Cannonball Loop

Kids who grew up in New Jersey still talk about Action Park today, and reminisce about the thrill of danger, especially of the almost legendary looping waterslide.

Some choice quotes from the Wikipedia article:

For the remainder of the park's existence, it remained visible near the entrance of Waterworld, tempting visitors with the possibility of the thrilling ride it might have offered yet tempering it with the high potential for injury that was just as obvious from looking at it.

A rider also reportedly got stuck at the top of the loop due to insufficient water pressure, and a hatch had to be built at the bottom of the slope to allow for future extractions

As with the Super Speedboats mentioned below, the bumper boats pond was infested with snakes, and the boats themselves were notoriously difficult to maneuver, so much so that the employees who worked there in 1990 were reduced to shouting "Skee-Da-Va", "Squeeze The Wheeze", and other nonsense.

The director of the emergency room at a nearby hospital said they treated from five to ten victims of park accidents on some of the busiest days, and the park eventually bought the township of Vernon extra ambulances to keep up with the volume.

Read it all, and enjoy the strange sensation that you are watching a 1980s Australian comedy.

Further reading:

Watching the news these days

July 23rd, 2011

Alphabets through the ages

June 27th, 2011

I'm not sure how accurate this is, but that's not really the point. Seriously cool.