Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More money than sense?

People pay vast amounts of money for incredibly stupid things.

A prime example is the $45000 (yup, that's FORTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS) paid by someone for chest and pelvis x-rays of Marilyn Monroe.

I've been known to spend more money than I should on fancy food, or maybe even a handbag on occasion. But x-rays of a dead actress? Come on. Give the money to charity or something. Surely there must be a better use of money than for that kind of thing?

And what does a person do with these x-rays anyway? Display them as art? Hide them away to make sure they don't fade with dust and age?

I just think it's pure idiocy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life

Published here.

We, at the World Atheist Conference: “Gods and Politics”, held in Copenhagen from 18 to 20 June 2010, hereby declare as follows:
  • We recognize the unlimited right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, and that freedom to practice one’s religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.
  • We submit that public policy should be informed by evidence and reason, not by dogma.
  • We assert the need for a society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. History has shown that the most successful societies are the most secular.
  • We assert that the only equitable system of government in a democratic society is based on secularism: state neutrality in matters of religion or belief, favoring none and discriminating against none.
  • We assert that private conduct, which respects the rights of others should not be the subject of legal sanction or government concern.
  • We affirm the right of believers and non-believers alike to participate in public life and their right to equality of treatment in the democratic process.
  • We affirm the right to freedom of expression for all, subject to limitations only as prescribed in international law – laws which all governments should respect and enforce. We reject all blasphemy laws and restrictions on the right to criticize religion or nonreligious life stances.
  • We assert the principle of one law for all, with no special treatment for minority communities, and no jurisdiction for religious courts for the settlement of civil matters or family disputes.
  • We reject all discrimination in employment (other than for religious leaders) and the provision of social services on the grounds of race, religion or belief, gender, class, caste or sexual orientation.
  • We reject any special consideration for religion in politics and public life, and oppose charitable, tax-free status and state grants for the promotion of any religion as inimical to the interests of non-believers and those of other faiths.  We oppose state funding for faith schools.
  • We support the right to secular education, and assert the need for education in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge, and in the diversity of religious beliefs. We support the spirit of free inquiry and the teaching of science free from religious interference, and are opposed to indoctrination, religious or otherwise.
Adopted by the conference, Copenhagen, 20 June 2010.
Please circulate this as widely as you can among people and groups who advocate a secular society.

 I like this. I could definitely support such a declaration. Basically, as long as religion isn't hurting anyone, let them get on with it, but the laws of society and its education system should remain free from religious indoctrination and repressive views on morality. I'm not saying to agree with everything here - I need to spend some time thinking about it. Some of the wording seems poor and way too open to interpretation of the wrong kind, like the sentence about minorities. But it seems like a good place to start, and as always with secular types, there is room for debate, there are no absolutes (unlike religion!).

Pristine - A flash fiction piece

Pristine. That was his first thought when he saw the snow. He had opened the curtains without much enthusiasm, but the sight that greeted him brought an awed look to his still-sleepy eyes. He scanned the landscape, taking it all in, until something caught his eye.

Red. Blood red. There was no mistaking it. A bloody blot on the landscape. His eyes narrowed and he reached for his dressing gown, slid his feet into his slippers, without taking his eyes off it. A bright red swirl in the midst of the clean snowy scene.

He made for the door. The handle was cold, slightly stiff from the frost. He wrenched it open, curiosity driving him to investigate.

His footprints were the only ones. Nothing else had disturbed the snow, so far. No sign as he approached the red patch of anything that had created it. He began to doubt his earlier surety that it was blood. How could it be?

It was still warm and sticky when he bent down and touched it. “Blood, definitely,” he muttered aloud, disturbing the silence. His feet were already going numb with the cold, so he knew it couldn’t have been out here much longer than he had been aware of it.

There were no other footprints, he double checked, casting his gaze over the land. Not even the little twiggy ones the birds usually left. The morning was silent and still.
A scream pierced it. His heart quickened; he held his breath.

Not terror, he realised. The scream was one of rage. It carried echoes of destruction. He stayed still. Didn’t dare to move or breathe.

A snowflake landed on his nose. Melted, slid down, made his face itch. He tried to resist but couldn’t prevent the sneeze.

He gagged when he heard the scream again. Above him. He looked up, but couldn’t see; suddenly the snow was falling heavily. He couldn’t see his house. Fighting the terror and disorientation, he began to run.

The scream was closer now. He could hear something moving through the air, heavier and faster than the snow. The beauty of it that had so entranced him earlier was lost to him. It slowed him down as he ran for the house. His left slipper got caught on something, he tugged his foot free of it and ran on, ignoring the cold.

He could see the door when he felt the talons pierce his sides. It was sure of itself, he dithered in the struggle, trying to fight and also to simply wriggle free.

Pristine, he thought as he looked over the snowy scene from above while it faded to grey. He was still conscious as the creature began its descent again. Still alive as it dumped him on virgin snow, face down. It was the pain that eventually allowed him to pass out, as the hideous beast he had not seen but knew must be worse than he could imagine tore strips of warm flesh from his body. The sound of it gnawing was the last he heard.

I wrote this to submit to an anthology, but I was so busy with exams and things that I forgot about it and missed the deadline. If I was sending it off I'd probably give it another rewrite/edit, but I thought I might as well share another piece here on the blog. Enjoy!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Looks great but hold your nose...

So many fancy houses built in the last decade or so. They look great. They're well finished, the gardens have been landscaped by professionals.

They have big gates that open by remote control from their cars.

Via car must be the only way the people who live in these houses enter their property though. Them, and anyone who visits them. Because for all that they look great, when walking past with my dogs the first thing to make an impression on me is the smell.

Instead of the money for the landscape gardener maybe they should have got the septic tank checked?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Good football, bad officiating

I don't think there's any debate that Germany were better than England or that Argentina were a class above Mexico. However, the real talking point in both matches is not the skill of strikers or anything else related to actual football performance. In the first game, Lampard scored a goal which should have put the score to 2-2. It was clear that it was a goal, to everyone except the referee and his assistant. The second game's opening goal was scored by Carlos Tevez, who was clearly in an offside position.

It is time to have technology in football. Tennis uses it, rugby uses it. It wouldn't slow the game down any more than the protests that we saw from Mexico.

I don't advocate using it to check every single tackle/dive/foul or every offside even, but if a goal is scored or may have been scored, the technology is there to check it. There is no merit to any of FIFA's arguments against it. Football overall is what suffers when horrendous calls such as those today are made. In years gone by human error may have been a valid reason for bad decisions, but now the technology exists and can be accessed easily there is no reason not to have goal line technology at the very least, and at least entertain the possibility of video replays in certain situations.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A poem - Thunder


Clap! But not in praise;
No applause.
Simply unaware,
Except of itself.

Bang! But not like a gun;
No lethal aim - 
Though potential is there,
To deal a lethal blow.

Flash! But no new knowledge;
Lightening is not a lightbulb.
No way to switch off;
Its power is its own. 

Clap! But not in praise;
No applause. 
Bang! But not like a gun;
No lethal aim-
That can kill all the same.

Another old one - I haven't written any poetry for quite a while.

If we only invented certain things now

I wondered before what kind of world we would live in if time measurements were only invented now . Thinking about this some more, I wondered about other things and how they would be perceived if only just dreamed up today.

On the time thing again say, would the USA permit itself to be at the end of the day? It seems to me like they would want the International Date Line placed somewhere in the Atlantic so they would be the first to experience any new date - and the Europeans would be the last.

Something else which came to my mind though is not really anything to do with time.

In today's world, if someone came up with the idea of a public library, would they be denounced as promoting illegal file-sharing? Think about what a library is.

A library is: A building which houses many books. Many of the greatest books ever written. A mixture of everything from cookbooks to novels to poetry to textbooks as well as archives of old newspapers and access to various kinds of information about the locality.  All available for people to borrow and read or partake of for FREE. (The library board pays a fee to compensate the authors of the books, but ultimately they make much less than they would were each person who reads the book courtesy of the library to instead purchase a copy).

Anyone who came up with this idea now would probably be denounced as a bleeding heart commie or something.

So I, personally, am very glad at least that libraries have been around for a long time, and hope they continue to be!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A poem - This is Not a Pen

This is not a pen
This is not a pen
It stabs and imparts poison
As it pierces.

This is not a pen
It tears and scrapes across
All chasms

This is not a pen
It drips with sugar and spice
Words nasty and nice

This is not a pen
To write dark upon light
Oh no

This is not a pen
But my mind liquefied
Preserved in time

I know that since this is online, technically it isn't a pen/ink so much as a cursor or a little light/darkness on a screen....anyway, the sentiment remains.

Submission Day (but not in a kinky way)

I have an excel document listing all my short stories as well as where they're currently submitted to, and when. I change it whenever I get a rejection or acceptance.

The idea is to keep track. Organised. Well, to be honest, it's the only way I can avoid accidental simultaneous submissions and submitting a story a second time to someone who already rejected it. I am a scatterbrain at the best of times and now I have baby-brain as well!

I opened the document today though and realised that almost none of my stories were submitted anywhere anymore. There had been a couple of acceptances and a slew of rejections, but none of the rejected stories had been resubmitted anywhere else.

So today, I name you Submission Day. No, wait, that sounds like something kinky! Not that there's anything wrong with that of course, but it isn't quite what I was aiming for!

Basically, I am going through all the sites that seem suitable based on searches on Duotrope - various genres, but one thing I always search for is electronic submission accepted. It's easier for me and better for the environment and quicker for everyone, really.

So, fingers(and toes, and arms etc) crossed that some of the places I send to will love my work...

Civil Partnership Bill

In a break from my usual lighthearted tone, I'll be writing about something serious today.

Ireland has a history of being notoriously backward when it comes to gay rights. For those of you outside Ireland (or possibly many of you inside it), when would you think the laws outlawing homosexual acts were struck down? It may shock you to learn that this did not happen until 1993.

Yep. 1993. The same laws under which Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in 1895 were still in effect in Ireland almost 100 years later. It was only thanks to the efforts of people like Senator David Norris bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights that the laws were eventually struck down.

Now, almost 20 years later, things have come on somewhat - but not enough. Ireland is introducing a civil partnership bill which will give some rights such as that of inheritance to gay people. It is NOT on a par with marriage and there is no provision for gay couples to adopt children (or for the non-biological or non-official adopting single parent to have rights to the child he or she has helped bring up in the even of the death of the partner). However, it could be construed as a step in the right direction.

The bishops - those of the moral highground of perpetrating and covering up the sexual abuse of children for decades - don't like this. Some others are also against it - mostly the right-wing catholic (or other religious) brigade who tend to be against any challenge to the status quo.

Even allowing full gay marriage would not take anything away from heterosexual marriage.  I'm a woman, married to a man, and I don't feel like gay marriage would create any kind of threat to that. Marriage is when two people who love each other make a commitment to try to continue loving and supporting one another for the rest of their lives. Domestic violence is a threat to marriage. Emotional abuse is a threat to marriage. Infidelity is a threat to marriage. But other people getting married is not a threat to marriage.

If the church doesn't want to have a religious ceremony for gay couples who wish to commit to one another, fine. No one is suggesting they should. The state is a different story however. The church is subject to the laws of the state in which it operates, but the state is not and should not be subject to the laws of the churches operating in its jurisdiction under any circumstances. So butt out, bishops! Go get your own house in order and stay out of lawmaking.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I'm doing some writing today - yay! Been a while.

I'm trying to write a sort of sequel to a story that appears in Casting Shadows. It's odd, having to go back to an old story and pick out details. Especially as it's for something completely different - just an anthology seeking submissions that I found on Duotrope.

It's just the first write - I'll have to edit and rewrite, and that's never as much fun, but at least the creative juices are dripping again, if not quite flowing just yet.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

If we only now started to measure time

If we only got around to measuring time in today's world, it would probably be measured in metric form of some sort. How long would a second last? The same as now? Or shorter, or longer? Would it change our conception of an instant? Would it be ten or a hundred seconds per hour? How many hours per day?

Would we be in a ten day working week? How many days off would be standard in that? Maybe three? Would three days weekend followed by seven days of work be better or worse than what we have now? What would the days of the week be called? Would they be boringly labelled as One, Two, etc?

Maybe there would only be ten months in the year? Would that play havoc with our notion of seasons? Maybe it shows how far removed we are from nature, if it did work like that?

However, the world can't be made to fit a system we come up with. Ever 4 years there's that extra day to add on - and no system could account for a quarter of a day. Some stuff was made up so we can organise ourselves and each other, but days and years exist, regardless of whether we pay them attention or not! And seeing as humanity seem to have a desire to measure everything and then create standardised measurements of everything, perhaps this is a good thing!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finger on the big red button...

Portugal are currently 4-0 up against North Korea (Korea DPR).

Not that KDPR were expected to win or anything, but 4-0 is pretty much a hammering. And while other teams have been trounced and there have been shock defeats and poor performances, this one might be slightly more dangers, seeing as the guy in charge of North Korea is mad.

(Now 5-0).

Yeah. Mad. Not in a good way. Not in a fun, bit of craic kind of way. No. A lose his temper, might be willing to blow up the world, kind of way. They've been developing weapons over there for a while, in secret. No one really knows exactly what's in Kim Jong Il's arsenal.

It sometimes gets called a communist country. And DPR actually stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It isn't socialist and it sure as hell isn't democratic. It is run by a madman who runs the country like it's his own personal cult.

What's the betting that regardless of how many goals the Ivory Coast put past them later in the week, the players are slightly reluctant to get on the plane home when their exit is confirmed?

It finished 7-0. It sounds selfish, but I really hope that if Mr Crazy presses the big red button, his targeting system is good so he doesn't hit Ireland if he's aiming for Portugal...

It's the longest day of the year!

Summer Solstice. June 21st. Longest day of the year.

I don't believe any of the pagan stuff anymore, but it's still a wonderful day. Plus, for once in this country, it's actually sunny. That helps. For anyone who suffers from some kind of Seasonal Affective Disorder though (basically, being miserable when there isn't enough sunlight) it is one of the best days of the year.

As someone who writers horror stories, I love and appreciate nighttime. However, as someone who lives in wet old Ireland, I love a long sunny day, and it looks like today might be the sunniest as well as the longest! Yay!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rally Weekend

*really big sigh*

Rally weekend is here again.

I love to drive fast on a good road (admittedly, not many of them around here). I certainly appreciate the skill of rally drivers. I watch Top Gear. I even sometimes watch Formula 1 and rally shows.

It's the followers I can't stand.

Men dressed up as boy racers.Doing doughnuts in car parks (Wow, how cool are you, you can drive your car around in a circle. Would you like a cookie?). Getting pissed and pissing and dumping rubbish all over town.

By the way, I'm well aware that the locals are quite good at dropping rubbish too. I'm not suggesting otherwise. The sheer amounts of it on rally weekend are staggering though. I guess that's what happens when you live on fast food and beer for an entire weekend.

Anyone complaining about the noise of the vuvuzelas should try listening to the drone of souped up Corsa engines driven by people who think that drilling a hole in their exhaust makes them rally drivers for a weekend. At least there's a mute button & a graphic equaliser on the TV, folks.

I know it's great for the town's economy (probably because of all the people they have to employ to clean up the rubbish starting on Monday), but that doesn't mean I can't complain about it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My name is

Joleen. Yes, Joleen. J-O-L-E-E-N.

J for Juliet
O for Oscar
L for Lima
E for Echo
E for Echo
N for November

I am aware that Dolly Parton spelled it differently (Jolene).

This is probably the most common variation I get. Other common ones are Joeleen, Joelene, Joline, sometimes Joelle and occasionally, Gillian. (I get all sorts of variations on my surname too, but I won't go on about that here).

I've grown used to it. Most annoying is when it's spelled wrong on a cheque - especially when I've typed out an invoice with my name on it, spelled correctly. I don't hold the knowledge of how to spell all names in the universe within my brain either - but when I'm writing a letter/email/cheque etc, I do tend to do my best to check how the person I'm addressing it to spells their name. Cheques especially, as the bank has this remarkably annoying tendency not to allow people to cash them if the name on the cheque doesn't match that on the account. 

 What's even more hilarious than people spelling it wrong though, is when people tell me I spell it wrong. I wasn't aware of the law that made Dolly Parton's words (and their associated spellings) some kind of canon. I wasn't named after the song. My name is spelled how it's spelled. It's right, simply because it's what it says on my birth certificate.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blogs about Blah

Been flicking through the "next blog" link here on Blogger looking for something amusing (it's up at the top there, on the left, near the middle. Feel free to click it once you're finished here).

It just struck me how many blogs there are about people's children and god. Seriously. Go ahead and click it and I bet that in no more than 3 clicks, probably fewer, you'll come to a blog where people post *cute* pictures of their children or talk about how much they love god/god loves them.

To my untrained eye, all the god blogs are the same and all the brats blogs are the same. I'm actually pregnant with my first child and very excited about it. However, I don't see the need to describe the minutia of said baby's existence online for all the world to read about. As for the god ones...well, they just bore me. I'd happily ignore them, but there are so many of them.

I do wonder what people are thinking when they post naked baby photos of their kids on the internet though. I mean, I remember being a teenager and at some stage during those years I went through all my photo albums and tore out anything in which I was naked. Imagine if those pictures weren't in a book in a chest in the attic, but posted on the internet???

As for the god-blogs...surely if you believe that strongly in god, surely you can't possibly imagine he needs the internet to hear your prayers (if so anyone who lived before 1995 or so is well screwed!)? Posting how much god loves you all over the internet doesn't make it true any more than me writing Jo-K (hearts) XY all over my maths textbook at school got me a boyfriend.

Oh well. Off to do some more clicking and see if I can come up with something funny or interesting instead of pictures of babies who all look the same or religious imagery.

Quick edit - I know the internet is a great way to communicate with distant friends and family so I get that people might therefore use it to display baby pictures. BUT, it is not that difficult to make a blog private/invite only. You don't need to display the pictures to any random stranger who can find them just by clicking through blogger.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Late Night Adverts

Watching TV late one night recently, one advert particularly caught my attention. Possibly because it was played every ad break. Often the only one that was played at all.

It promised viewers that real Irish girls were available to chat. For the mere sum of €100/second or something equally extortionate. I translated in my head. Real Irish girls probably means prostitutes from Moldova. Or fat housewives trying to earn a few quid extra to make sure their homes aren't repossessed. Not the hot blondes in the advert anyway. Dying to chat could mean they're desperate for their next fix of whatever drugs their pimps have them addicted to. Or possibly just that they're so 'keen' to talk to you that they will keep you on the line as long as possible. Because you're so great, obviously, that they can't bear to hang up. Not because they charge by the minute.

I'd say the only thing you can take for granted is that you will be ripped off and that the girls you talk to will not look anything like those in the ads. Who rings these things anyway? They must make money if they continue existing and continue advertising. Sad. And that's sad as in pathetic, not tragic.


So the World Cup is on in South Africa at the moment. So far there haven't been an awful lot of goals, so for a neutral like me (neutral because Ireland are not in it, though I am sort of shouting for the Netherlands) it hasn't been great. I've been shouting for both teams in most games so far (except for France vs Uruguay, for reasons the other Irish and those sympathetic to our plight will understand). This has been great fun actually - though it would have been even more fun if a few more of the chances had resulted in goals.

All the commentators seems to be complaining about the vuvuzelas though. They're long trumpets that the South African fans play. Apparently it makes the stadia sound like there are bees buzzing around them.

Come on folks. Football stadia in the WC are going to be noisy anyway. Something about all the criticism just seems off to me. There haven't been many crimes, the stadia are finished and looking great...maybe people are just desperate for something to criticise? Or maybe they're just old white men looking for a chance to be nasty about an African's horn ;)