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Stealth geek June 24, 2017

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I only heard the term ‘stealth geek’ on a Babylon 5 podcast the other day. Which kind of disproves any sense that I might be a stealth geek despite it being completely unfamiliar to me. But I find it a brilliant term…

For a definition look no further than here… 

A person who has many of the internal qualities of a geek, however does not look or act like a geek.

A geek who has developed social skills.

If you want to know if the hot guy is a stealth geek, the ask him about Star Trek or Mac vs. PC.


Hmmm… both topics I have opinions on – though I’m agnostic in respect of the conflict between proponents of the two competing computing camps (even as a user mostly of Mac).


Stealth Geek is a geek who processes more information, on average, in a better way, despite the fact the knowledge he processes isn’t necessarily useful. The fact someone is a geek is “Stealthed” until someone within earshot of the “Stealth Geek” mentions video games, PCs, consoles, software, roleplaying games or some other such “uncool” item, at which point the “Stealth Geek” drops “Stealth Mode” and his geekiness spews out.

Most “Stealth Geeks” fit in with the popular crowd and bash geeks who don’t seem “cool” right off the bat, at least initially.

I used to think Warian was cool, but he’s a stealth geek.

But isn’t that true of many enthusiasts or fans? You don’t tend to wax lyric in crowds of people who aren’t into something you necessarily are but you do with likeminded people. Kind of courtesy, isn’t it?


This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Kelly Lee Owens June 24, 2017

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For those who like electronic music Welsh based Kelly Lee Owen’s eponymous album released a couple of months ago is well worth a listen. It manages the neat trick of being both nuanced and yet immediately approachable merging techno, dance and near ambient sounds with a – perhaps surprisingly – pop sensibility to good effect. There’s something about the slightly detached sung/spoken vocals (her own for the most part but from Jenny Hval on Anxi) that crop up in tandem to the instrumentation that is extremely compelling.

I’m particularly fond of Evolution and its none more dubstep bass but… Anxi is pretty great, and so is 8 (not on the videos below) which travels through an engaging soundscape. But CBM, Lucid, they’re all good. Playing this album a lot.

By the way, those who have seen the tv series Occupied will recognise the (supposed) Norwegian government buildings in the background of the Throwing Lines.


Throwing Lines



Pride 2017 Parade Dublin June 24, 2017

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Has a different route this year due to Luas works, starting in St. Stephens Green and going to Smithfield. Details here. Assembles 11 on, starts at 2 pm. Weather improving – should be a great afternoon.

Brexit duties and VAT…  June 23, 2017

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Well now, here’s a piece in the Irish Times that points to the brave new world post-Brexit that those who shop online from the UK are about to enter. A world of higher costs – fantastically higher costs, due to VAT and customs. Those of us who purchase DVDs from the US will probably be aware of this. Already that’s a bit of a nightmare. I get a few bits and bobs a year from secondspin.com and having been caught once I have to make sure that what I buy accords to the following:

How much will these extra duties be? That will depend on the type of goods you purchase, and whether they exceed the exemption limits.

Goods delivered by post under the value of €22 won’t incur VAT, for example. And when it comes to customs, goods won’t incur such a charge if the value is under €150.

But goods worth in excess of €22 will incur VAT at 23 per cent, and, as O’Loughlin notes, consumers have no way of offsetting this.

In other words one has to ensure that an order is less than €22 in value in order to avoid VAT – actually the functioning rate is €26.08 since VAT is only collected on goods where the VAT liability is less than or equal to €6. With the euro/dollar exchange rate that can be achieved on some second hand goods. But keep in mind postage is part of this as well. There’s further complexities in terms of some goods where there is no relief on VAT.

But look, away from my woes, and perhaps yours too, there’s this much more serious set of points, starting in relation to sales from the North:

Whether small Northern Ireland-based businesses will be willing and/or able to cope with the additional costs and administrative burdens in selling to the South remains to be seen.

“A lot of this sort of trade will just cease,” says O’Loughlin. “It may be too cumbersome and difficult to trade.”

Great. And then there’s this:

With a potential mark-up of 35 per cent on clothes and duties of as much as 50 per cent on food, the future of UK retailers in Ireland looks uncertain – and it won’t be just online. After all, UK bricks and mortar retailers selling their goods in the Republic will be bringing them in from the UK, which will incur duties and VAT.

“The market is going to have to consider to see if it’s worthwhile,” says O’Loughlin.

This could be particularly true of British supermarkets, where duties can be as high as 50 per cent on food, even if most food is zero rated. Whether the Irish market can absorb such inflation remains to be seen.

And for all one has issues with the “high-streetification” (to coin a phrase) of this land there is the basic simple issue of jobs being lost. Potentially lots of jobs. Tesco alone employs 14,000 workers in the Republic and is reckoned by some to be the largest employer in the state.

As always I wonder did any of those promoting Brexit do a cost benefit ratio analysis on all this in terms of impacts on actual existing workers?

‘Posh schooled’ ‘cliques’ and the ‘ordinary member of the public’ leading this state… June 23, 2017

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Reading a headline in the IT that Leo Varadkar was right to defend Whelan court move I made a mental bet with myself that the author of the piece would have the initials SC. And so it was, Stephen Collins who writes what is effectively a defence of the status quo in relation to the Whelan appointment.

First he exculpates Varadkar from responsibility.

He managed to cope with the first assault on his position reasonably well, given that he was on a sticky wicket over the way the former attorney-general Máire Whelan was appointed to the judiciary on the last day of former taoiseach Enda Kenny’s tenure.

Then suggests that he was forced into what he did…

Varadkar was left to carry the can for what was essentially his predecessor’s final act. He was in a no-win position but made the decision to defend the appointment and try to move on to next business as quickly as possible.

And then argues there was no alternative.

In the circumstances it was the right option because any sign of a wobble or second thoughts would have made a bad situation worse. Look what happened to May when she panicked in the face of criticism and abandoned her election manifesto in the middle of the British general election campaign.

Er. Come again? It’s hardly like and like.

There’s more. Not least a defence of Whelan against the ‘arrogant’ ‘posh schooled’ ‘cliques’ of the Law Library which seems breathtakingly beside the point.

Interestingly Collins dismisses the idea that this is like the Whelehan appointment in 1994 arguing…

…there is a crucial political difference between the two cases. The Labour members of cabinet walked out when Whelehan’s nomination was proposed but Fianna Fáil went ahead regardless and the party lost power as a result.

First Collins throws in some diversionary stuff…

In the current case the Independent Ministers Shane Ross and Finian McGrath accepted the decision and because of that are as committed to it as their Fine Gael colleagues.

And then glides over the single most proximate point…

Given that the controversy wasn’t of his making, although he was a member of the cabinet which signed off on the appointment, Varadkar put up a stout defence in the Dáil over the past two days.

Meanwhile, on another aspect entirely, this is priceless…

Varadkar had an easier time dealing with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who attempted to embarrass him for expressing childlike excitement at going into 10 Downing Street on Monday. His observation that it reminded him of the scene in the film Love Actually, when fictional prime minister Hugh Grant waltzed down the stairs of the building was picked up in the international media.

While some of his colleagues cringed with embarrassment at Varadkar’s remark its gaucheness actually reflected one of the key reasons for his popularity to date. He responds to situations like an ordinary member of the public rather than a professional politician.

What popularity? The man has never been tested in a General Election as leader of a party. The polling evidence to date suggests no swing to FG. This is near enough entirely a media construct. And as for ‘posh schooled’ cliques…

From the Queen’s speech…  June 23, 2017

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A priority will be to build a more united country, strengthening the social, economic and cultural bonds between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

My government will work in cooperation with the devolved administrations, and it will work with all of the parties in Northern Ireland to support the return of devolved government.

What cultural bonds in particular and what about where such cultural bonds are non-existent or aren’t held by those who live in those areas? How does that work? How does one build a more ‘united’ country where a significant number in both Scotland and NI don’t want a more united country? Presumably a sop to the DUP.

Strike of the times June 23, 2017

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From RTÉ… 

The construction sector is facing industrial disruption as crane drivers belonging to Unite prepare for a strike that could seriously hit activity on building sites around the country from next week.

Unite says it represents 90% (around 170) of the country’s crane drivers, though that figure is disputed by SIPTU, which has traditionally represented the grade.

The union is pursuing a 10% pay claim for the crane drivers that would bring their hourly rate to around €24.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series June 22, 2017

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

Urghhh… does he have to say stuff like this? June 22, 2017

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There’s often a sense that Newton Emerson is attempting to have his cake and eat it in his columns. Never more so than with the following:

Since the election, remarkable levels of ignorance and hostility towards unionists have been revealed among the English left and the London media.

Unionists are unlikely to be bothered by this – the need to be liked is an Irish weakness. However, they should be concerned by the long-term implications.

Is the crack about ‘an Irish weakness’ a joke or not? It fits a pattern where Emerson says stuff about certain supposed character traits of Nationalists or Unionists.

Only the other week he wrote about Varadkar…

According to reports, Varadkar brings one final, personal gift to Irish nationalism. Sources claim he can be distant, private, impatient with glad-handing and awkward in social situations. What a breath of fresh air.

Any country planning to take one million unionists on board should get used to it.

Yeah. Because every Nationalist and Republican is glad-handing and unawkward in social situations. And every Unionist is dour and asocial.


I hate that rhetoric. It seems to me to be of a piece with mindsets that it seems to mock. Which reminds me…

Sometime in the mid to late 1980s I was on an Irish Defence Forces base where in the course of a Military History event amongst the great and the good was a female member of IIRC the UDR. We were talking and she was telling me about how easy it was to tell Catholics from Protestants (she was from her own testimony very decidedly from the latter category). How so I asked? What about myself? She looked at me and said ‘you’re 100% Irish Catholic, dark haired, etc…’ I have to admit I enjoyed telling her that I was from a background where my mother was originally English and originally CofE as were all her relatives into the distant mists of time etc. So I could only be 50% of what she was suggesting I was. Even assuming I accepted her premise which I didn’t. But again I dislike this sort of rhetoric that ascribes intrinsic and unchangeable traits to groups.

All that said Emerson is right to ring alarm bells on the broader issue. A pity that level of analysis isn’t matched by an ability to avoid those sort of quips.

The DUP and London June 22, 2017

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One interesting aspect of the negotiations this last week has been the implication of a basic fact. That fact is a deep antipathy on the part of many in the UK to engage with the DUP. There’s been much rending of hair and wailing and gnashing of teeth about this in the Irish media (Eoghan Harris had a masterclass in this at the weekend in the SI where it, everything, was the fault of… SF! You have to wonder. You really do), much of it along the lines of ‘don’t be beastly to the DUP’ though given that it was English media et al who were critiquing that party it was hard to see why we should have to take any responsibility for what they decide they feel about their unionist compadres. And while I’d never criticise someone for being unionist (indeed I rather admire Sylvia Hermon amongst others) I can’t quite see why it is unreasonable to critique the more outlandish beliefs amongst many leading DUP lights – creationism, climate change denial, antagonism to LGBTQ people and rights etc. Indeed isn’t it a good thing to be criticising people not for their unionism but their other political beliefs? Isn’t that a different sort of politics? Isn’t that what we have been told is necessary?

But the implication I mentioned above is even more intriguing. When it comes down to it even the Tories in their straitened circumstances were loath to do much of a deal with the DUP. Indeed it was remarkable to see not so much what was left in (rather banal economic policies) as what was left out (near enough anything to do with social policy and/or the dispensation in the North).

Here is the DUP’s moment. A grateful Tory party in London!

And yet a grateful Tory party which is unwilling to – say – fundamentally undermine the GFA/BA (ironic that considering how abysmal London’s representatives have been in the North in recent times). It’s not just what London accepts are the constraints, but what the DUP accepts likewise. They may hope for political emphasis tilted in their direction – but essentially the status quo persists.

And so we have this bizarre situation where the DUP are, if anything, near enough champions of a no-border policy on this island. Are asking for more funds into the North. Seeking special assists in a range of areas. Assume SF were willing to jettison abstention. What would an SF menu look like. Not much different. What more could they ask for or reasonably expect from a BLP government? Not a lot one has to suspect.

In a way this underlines how the North is indeed special, distinct. Something, by the way, that the DUP under Paisley senior always seemed to grasp so much better than the hardy but diminishing band of direct rulers in the UUP. But that logic is an odd and paradoxical one because what is good for the North under the present dispensation is likely to align with what SF (and in fairness the SDLP) consider to be good for the North. And that is likely to be good for the island as a whole too.

As to the DUP itself and the response to it in England. I am dubious that this comes as much of a surprise. Perhaps the broadness of the response might. And the fact that it is evident amongst Tories too. One would hope that that would be food for thought for them as regards how they (the DUP) should proceed from here. It will be telling indeed if we see any signs that they might attempt to soften certain aspects of their approach subsequently. I’m dubious that will happen, but who knows? Certainly it does point up a degree of isolation that they themselves might not quite have recognised. After all, if not the Tories as natural and congenial allies in London, then who?

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