Thursday, March 10, 2005

Like men? Don't read.

Whine, whine, whine.

Well I've had just about the worst week known to man. Oh shush, a little hyperbole never killed anyone. But, really. Why is it that when crap things happen, they always have to happen together? It's just not possible for one mean thing to smack you over the head with its rubbishness, oh no. Three other things have to come and smack you all at the same time. One softens your head up, makes it so that you're all vulnerable and little-lost-kittenesque and then the others crowd in con gusto. It's most annoying. So I think I'm entitled to whine just a little bit.

And, on a not-so-distantly related tangent, could someone please explain to me why men can be such immature idiots at times? Or, all the time? Is it genetic? I realise it's possible that I'm not the first person to ever ask this question. But I would really like an answer. The state of the world continues to unsettle me whilst /men/ are in charge as the ones I meet all appear to be fairly representative of current world leaders who, due to their own personal frustrations, seek to blow other people's stuff up on a regular basis. Of course, the ones I meet don't have their own personal arsenal or head up large countries but they still act in a way that never ceases to shock and appall me. Were they brought up under a rock? Would that even be a good enough excuse?

I just don't think so.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Don't be such a bully!

The Dublin Airport Authority has voiced regret after an ambulance waiting for a seriously injured patient was clamped by airport police.

And I also read an article today about a woman who returned to find someone had broken into her car but a traffic warden had left her a ticket because, during the break-in, her parking ticket had blown away.

Having said that, I did read the above story in the Daily Mail. So, probalby there was a story with a car and a woman but any details should be taken with a pinch of salt. It was the only paper in the health centre this morning so it was either a large dose of poorly written zenophobic ignorance or staring at the other people in the waiting room.

On a tangent, I do feel for the very maligned NHS. Perceptions of woeful mismanagement do not help to improve its general image but it is the only general health service that we have. And it does have a very lofty and important aim: for healthcare to be free and available to all. Those are not values and ambitions that you can turn your nose up at. If we do, we'll end up with an American system and, worse still, we'll deserve it.

But what tends to annoy me about it is that it could be so good. It has this potential and it never makes it. It always falls short. And there are so many people in the NHS that are excellent at their job and bring great comfort and security to thousands around the country. Today, I had to make a quick stop at my local NHS walk-in centre. Before I did that, I called the NHS Direct and spoke to a lovely woman (a health information advisor) who answered all my questions about the, er, small drunken error that I committed last night. She was very patient, very kind, and very informed. Then, down at the walk-in centre, the nurses were all very patient, very kind and very informed. It was excellent, I was very impressed and it made me a little embarrassed about how much I enjoy ripping the NHS apart. After all, there is bad and good and constructive criticism is all very well but my usual rants of "The NHS is so shit and should die!" are really quite pointless and silly.

So my March months' resolution will be: leave the NHS alone.

Simple Solutions

A major US corporation built a new, high-rise corporate headquarters. A few weeks after the building was fully occupied, the employees began to complain about the slowness of the elevators. Very quickly, the complaints reached epidemic proportions, so the company spoke to the architects of the building. Could the lifts be speeded up? Or increased in size? Sure, came the reply, but it would involve months of demolition, extension and reconstruction around the elevator shafts. It would be hugly disruptive to a large part of the workforce.

Supposedly, the story goes, the corporation did nothing to the elevator shafts. Instead, it placed full-length mirrors on every floor beside the elevator doors. The employees spent an extra few moments preening themselves and looking at one another in the mirrors, and the complaints faded away.

The point of the story? There must be a simple solution.

From Simply Brilliant: the competitive advantage of common sense by Fergus O'Connell.

I'm not an overly big fan of these kinds of books; I think in general they tend to spout more hot air than life-changing advice, but I liked this little story. It would be wonderful if it were true: that there is always a simply solution like this. I'm sceptical, and yet, I'm sure mirrors on the walls would have worked a charm in this situation. I know it would stop me from complaining; people-watching your colleauges is an underrated and under-encouraged pasttime.

I've been a little blog neglectful of late! Bad Ista. It's called Real Life, and it bloody gets in the bloody way all the bloody time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Scholarly South Park

Personally, I didn't think Team America: World Police was a criticism of US foreign policy, etc etc. That's a bit deep for South Park fans. I just thought it was a piss-take of everything that Parker and Stone could get their mitts on - except Bush! I was hoping for a glimpse of a puppet George but no joy. However, the funniest bit was the puppet sex scene - I'm sick - and the puppet who throws up for England. Good stuff.

The rest was crap, however.

I think I'm becoming a Google Scholar fan. So far, it's been terribly useful. The "Stand on the shoulders of giants" caption is a little melodramatic but, overlooking that, it seems to produce the goods.

I spoke to a friend who lives in Melbourne today. She was relaxing as tomorrow is Australia Day and thus a public holiday. So, instead of working, she'll be enjoying the predicted 35C heat at a barbecue with some work colleagues. Life is so unfair.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Lunch: Sandwiches and free conspiracy theories.

Talking of more-than-run-of-the-mill entrances into countries (see last post, can’t be bothered with whole linking thing), one of the American guys on my course had the most interesting story to tell about his last arrival into the US. For the sake of my sanity, and to avoid having to be pathetic and use the term “the American guy” through this post, let’s call him John. During passport control, he was asked to move to another desk and, once there, the passport official demanded to know where else he had been whilst abroad that he had not declared on his form. John stood there, confused, before he was told that he had been in Beijing at some point in the last two months. No, said John, I was in England and Holland. Silence, pauses, long waiting times, passport official looks suspicious, asks lots more questions, wanders off to another room – twice - before finally letting John through.

Weird, no?

How exactly are you meant to answer someone who tells you you have been somewhere that, well, you haven’t been? Surely if he had been to Beijing, there would have been a stamp in his passport? Isn’t that generally what a passport is meant for?

Of course, then the story got even more interesting, to me at least. When opting between awesome conspiracy theories or plain coincidence, I’ll always choose the former. John used to work for a rather well-known lawyer in Oregon. This lawyer represented one of the lawyers of the Portland Seven who was, afterward, indicted on charged that have escaped my recollection. John worked for lawyer dude, who incidentally also converted to Islam in his younger days like some of the Portland seven lot. Of course, this is the Portland Seven who, at the time of their arrest, John Ashcroft declared, “Today is a defining day in America's war against terrorism. We have neutralized a suspected terrorist cell within our borders.”

The funny thing is that none were found guilty under charges related to terrorism. Information about them was gather under that darling piece of US civil liberties legislation, the Patriot Act. However, this information was gained through warrants issued by FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ). But FISA was meant to be used for counterintelligence purposes, though the Patriot Act tweaked the wording a little in an attempt to widen its remit. There was concern that any attempt to continue prosecuting the Portland Seven under terrorism-related charged would lead to a larger question relating to whether the Patriot Act’s amendment of FISA was constitutional – or not. So, through a deal with the government, the Seven were charged under a law which bans “seditious conspiracy”. A random civil-war statute. Really, Ashcroft should be blushing to the roots of his died hair for his earlier “we got them dang terrorists” remarks. And then he should learn to just not talk.

John (remember him?) worked for one of the lawyers connected to this case when it grabbed media attention in 2002. He isn’t all that stressed about what happened to him last time he tried to enter his own country but he did hint that he has his concerns about exactly why he was stopped like that. Interestingly, Beijing – where John was accused of having been - was one of the places some of the Portland Seveners passed through, on their way to Afghanistan. Good, no? Well, this little discussion kept me riveted during our lunch hour.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Renting, Criminalising and Exploding.

You have to admit, renting your forehead as advertising space is a pretty original idea. But, really. How irritating. If you follow the above link, take a look at the first image. It's hilarious. I especially like the "this model shows how the forehead advert could work" caption. Well done, BBC.

I'm back in the UK, now. I had the most exciting entry into the country ever. After going through passport control at East Midlands (which is just a small, regional airport) I noticed there were about six or seven policemen all lined up in a row. I got my bags and then passed this gaggle of policemen (what's the collective noun thing for policemen?) and was about to go through 'customs' (a desk with no one behind it) when two of the policemen came up behind me and asked me if I was travelling alone. It was like a bad chat-up line. Just not. I said yes and was ushered into the other side of customs where I had to show my passport and answer a few questions about where I had been and where I was going. I felt like a hardened criminal, it was awesome.

And this is pretty disgusting but when I got back, a small sachet of chinese black bean sauce had exploded everywhere in my cupboard. Why? I have no idea.

Sunday, January 02, 2005


Fuck, it's 2005.

I've already broken all my new year's resolutions, which I think is a very good start. The Netherlands was awesome, by the way! Really, on the coolness scales, it must rank very high. And the guys who I went to meet were absolutely awesome too and we had a great time and I didn't end up dead in a ditch so nyeh, parents.

Incidentally, my friend is a student and he has a pass that gives him free travel by public transport anywhere in Holland. In the UK, I get a discount on cinema tickets. Do we think this is fair?

I'm finding the disaster wrought by the Asian tsunami just impossible to conceive. Twenty people dead and your brain can assimilate that information. But 150,000? Where do you start? How can anyone comprehend so much loss? The grief currently being felt by so many people around the world is nearly unimaginable. Blah. Ista states the obvious.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The 'Dam

Off to Amsterdam tomorrow. Hungover right now - big reunion in Brussels of old school friends last night. Ouch. My liver is evil and must be punished etc. Hrm.

Will hopefully take interesting photos of the Netherlands if I can remember take my camera.