Archive for February, 2009

26
Feb
09

Roe versus the Volcano

With the media’s constant attempt to makes us feel miserable these days (discussed here, which in turn produced this. I always thought of myself as something of a muse), it’s good to see there’s still room for this kind of story. Blogger Jason Roe posted about a glitch he found with Ryanair’s website, which produced a spate of offensive and highly personal responses (accusations of a “pathetic life”, etc) from individuals within Ryanair’s HQ. (link and linker)

I still don’t understand how exactly the glitch Jason found works, and as I wouldn’t fly Ryanair even if they paid me I don’t really care. What interested me was the vindictive nature of the responses left by the staff. The rudeness of Ryanair’s frontline service has long been established, so it’s somewhat refreshing to know they share this attitude within the inner-workings of the company. Even so, the explosion of anger over someone doing nothing more than highlighting a bug on your site is baffling. Choice quotes for me are: “Keep working on yourself and don’t post bollocks,” “It’s not a threat, its advice for you to present yourself better… but of course you think of threat straightaway, because that fits you better,” and my favourite, “Offensive aggression of customers depends on customer’s ignorance.”

Even their PR guy was snotty about it when discussing the matter. “It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers,” he was quoted in the IT, adding, “lunatic bloggers can have the blogosphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel.” Of course he also admitted the offending posts did come from staff. So we have two conflicting pieces of information within the same head with both being accepted as true, not terribly unlike the difference between the prices they think they charge and what they actually charge. Orwell would have had a field-day with this. Presumably the cost of air travel went up a little when their people were wasting time and energy with Jason’s blog.

When RTÉ reported it a spokesman tried to suggest it was the work of just one member of staff “when they should have been working”. I call bullshit on that one. This to me sounds like the kind of thing that spreads around the office like wildfire, and in a mob-mentality sort of way they lost the run of themselves. As for their repeated degrading language regarding bloggers, I would suggest a blogosphere boycott, except I’m not that organised and I really don’t care enough.

Anyway, the relevant blog is here, but yoze have probably found it already.

26
Feb
09

As if I needed more reasons to dislike bankers

I was trying to get some cash to pay for my lunch today when my ATM card feel victim to the hunger of an AIB cashpoint. As soon as entered in the amount of money I wanted the screen flashed like a mad thing and a reboot thingy kicked it. Now as annoying as this is, it happens all the time and there’s no point in getting upset about it. What’s pissing me off, however, is the attitude of the woman in my local AIB branch in response to this incident.

I went to the nearest branch to ask if there’s any chance of me getting my card back. It didn’t seem to me to be too ridiculous to think somebody in AIB would have control over AIB ATMs, but it appears I was wrong. “We don’t have access to those machines,” she snapped. “It’s Securicor that’s does all that.” Fair enough, except I could have been told this without the What do you expect me to do about it attitude.

She then asked if I’m an AIB customer. When I said I’m not her eyes flashed and roll upwards slightly. She seemed to be thinking So you use our machines on us an then complain that they don’t work. This of course isn’t the first time I’ve experienced such insolence from bank staff (though it might be the worst). I accept it must be difficult listening to complaints every hour of every day (though I was perfectly polite and did nothing to agitate her). It wasn’t her fault a machine ate my card, it might not even be an AIB issue, but it certain wasn’t my fault. And I don’t appreciate attitude when at the very least I’m due an apology.

When I went to report the card missing at my bank (Bank of Ireland) the woman who dealt with me was in comparison highly pleasant and went to great lengths to ensure I wasn’t unduly affected by this. Still, I have to wait until Monday before I get a new card, and I’ll have to pay a fee for it. Ok, it’s only a fiver, but it’s my fiver and this wasn’t my fuck up.

22
Feb
09

I’m full of shit

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about this blog is the reaction it has generated. The e-mails and comments sent to me have been almost entirely supportive, which I very much appreciate. However, last week this suddenly landed in my inbox.

i just read your blog and you are full of shit.if i was that girl i would walk passed you in the street.they all did that for a good cause grow up…………………

I found this anger confusing, not least because it was left as a comment to my “this is me” page. At first I hoped it might have been left my mistake, as it seem like otherwise the writer had somehow taken offence to me personally, which was just bizarre. However, I soon realised that what had upset this person was my post on a naked calendar featuring people I know that I had just discovered. I had to delete the comment, as it would have been ridiculous to leave it where it was left. All the same, I’d like to highlight it and offer a defence.

It’s not that I’m so thin-skinned that I can’t accept that someone doesn’t like me for what I write. I’ve had plenty of articles published that pissed people off, and I would never dream of giving a shit. I’m also not bothered by the childish use of foul language. Let’s face it, with post titles like “Dermot O’Leary can go fuck himself”, it’s not something I’m in a position to moan about. What is bothering me is how people can misinterpret a comment and perceive offence where none exists. Ok, the language I used in this particular post might be described as flippant, you might even say sarcastic. Yet I do not accept that it was negative or unfairly critical. I believe I expressed encouragement for the enterprise and the cause it is aimed to support.

I have to admit I’m nervous about meeting again the individuals referred to in the post. I imagine they’ll be a bit pissed. I probably should be more careful about what I write here, especially now that thanks to the Indo people close to me know I write this blog. Even with this aside, there’s a duty of care. We bloggers enjoy a freedom to write what we like without interference from an editorial process. This, however, should not permit us to unfairly cause hurt or offence with impunity. In general, this isn’t a major issue as most Irish bloggers seem to be mindful of this. But we should also be mindful of unintended offence with off-the-cuff remarks about individuals.

This being said, if you publish pictures of yourselves in the nude and distribute them freely, it’s a bit of an ask to assume everyone will dismiss it as a big laugh. I would have thought such a calendar was designed to generate a discussion, and this is what my post sought to reflect.

22
Feb
09

You’re gorgeous!

So my first Blog Awards has come to an end. In a sense, I shouldn’t have been there, as I didn’t make the shortlist. But I suppose anyone there who isn’t Tommy and was hoping to win the best newcomer gong was fooling themselves.

Still, I’m delighted I went. I learned that the guy behind Green Ink is an old college buddy (as ridiculous as this may sound, I had no idea), I got laughed at for opening a statement with “this may betray my nerdy side” (apparently my t-shirt had already taken care of that), and I won some sort of “Facebook phone” (at least I’m assured I won it. I won’t be certain until it lies in my hands). Above all I met lots of cool people, some of whom I’m a big fan of. And I got to see Rick O’Shea with no shirt.

I was more than happy Suzy won best blog. I’ve never said this out loud, but Maman Poulet was largely the blog that inspired me to start my own. Overall, it was a fantastic night. Thanks so much to Mulley for doing this.

18
Feb
09

Dermot O’Leary can go fuck himself

I was interviewed yesterday on the lunchtime show on 102-104FM regarding this blog, where I accidentally proclaimed that I’m joining the Socialist Party. I’m not. I don’t have a problem with Joe Higgins and co (in fact, Clare Daly has helped me out with a couple of pieces I’ve done in the past), but I’m not a socialist. I am, despite my present condition, a believer in the Capitalist model, just as long as it’s even slightly regulated. The reason for my unintended commitment to Marxism was that I was thrown by the question (enquiring if I might enter politics to see if I can do a better job than the current shower), and I suddenly recalled sentiments I expressed earlier in the day as I read the papers and began to suspect the socialists are right.

Economists with Goodbody stockbrokers are warning that the economy will shrink by 6% this year, and in response the government should cut social welfare payments (which seems like a good opportunity to recall my opinion on economists. For all that people like O’Leary know, we’re better off investing in an online casino than following their advice). Naturally, I was pissed. It’s not that I’m concerned with my own pocket, at least not primarily. The issue I have with this is the signal it sends out, and what it says about the capitalist’s thinking in this crisis.

Earlier this month the government faced anger (and will probably go on to face strike action) from lower civil servants over their cost-cutting pension levy plan. In practise (and it seems Lenihan didn’t quite realise this) the higher-paid civil servants will be less affected by the levy than the rank-and-file. The burden for fixing this recession is placed squarely on the lower-paid worker. And now, in the report titled A Rocky Road Ahead by Goodbody economists Dermot O’Leary and Deirdre Ryan, the idea is to cut support for those most affected by the recession by reducing dole payments by at least 3% (as well as cutting grants for students, which again are offered to those from low-income families).

The article that covered this in yesterday’s Daily Mirror highlighted that every 1,000 on the dole cost the state €11 million. This to me sounds awfully like the repeated language used in the media last year to highlight what a burden on the taxpayer the civil service is. It conveniently pastes over the fact that the unemployed, as with the civil service, are not the ones responsible for the recession. They are, in fact, the victims of it.

And what do we do with those who are responsible? Well, they get €7 billion bailouts, legislation guaranteeing deposits, and – if they really screw up – nationalisation. All necessary, perhaps, but it does kinda suggest Marx was right.

As for the suggestion by Dermot O’Leary that unemployed people wouldn’t lose out due to a general fall in prices, people are losing out as it is. I know many people (myself included) who are being kicked out of their homes because the can’t meet mortgage and rent costs. To tell these people that they can save 5% on a bag of carrots is highly insulting.

Anyway, I want to thank 102-104FM for their interest in this blog and what I’m trying to do here. I’m still not quite sure what it is that I’m trying to do here, but I appreciate the support.

14
Feb
09

Fame at last

The ‘Review’ section of today’s Indo has a feature on personal stories from the “Frontline” of the recession, in which yours truly makes an appearance. Any fans of this blog who’d like to know what I (or even my mother’s sitting room) look like might want to pick it up. Dear Edel paraphrased a lot my comments to her, but she didn’t change the points so that’s ok, and I suppose I did kinda ramble for a bit.

14
Feb
09

Pets

After arriving home last night from a highly successful surprise party for my mother’s 50th birthday, I got into an argument with my sister about our dog. “He would be a fantastic dog,” I drunkenly declared, “except he’s getting so many mixed messages about what he’s allowed and not allowed to do.”
“And who’s fault is that?” she responded.
“Not mine, anyway. I’m the only one who takes care of him.”
“You fucking spoil him,” she shot back, “he’s only trouble when you’re home.”

I had no response to this. I’m sure the dog is still a handful when I’m not around, but how can I prove it. As for the charge of spoiling him, perhaps I do, but in my opinion Labradors demand/deserve a high level of attention. I see it as my role to supply this attention.

Every time I’m home it seems that, with the occasional exception of my mother, I’m the only one who takes him for a walk every day. The siblings claim to do this when I’m not around, but I flat out don’t believe them. My suspicions were confirmed last night when talking with a neighbour (a fellow Lab owner) who told me he’s only ever seen me take the dog out. “I’ve seen him more in the last two weeks than I have in months,” he said.

As Labradors go, Frank is pretty dim and of limited use. And his position in the family has at least once been questioned. When he was leaving the puppy stage my mother wondered if we should give him away. “He’d make a good guard dog for a site or something,” she argued. It wasn’t an unreasonable proposition. After all, ours had always been a feline household, and we really couldn’t be sure we would be able to care for a small dog, never mind a Lab. However, the idea was quickly shot down and never broached again when I shot a quick, expressionless response: “You’re not getting rid of our dog.”

There are a few reasons why I’m so unwilling to let him go. For one, he is, indeed, an excellent guard dog. This is quite convenient for us as we live in a fairly industrialised area, occasionally frequented by individuals who might see an open shed door and help themselves to a few supplies. Of course the problem with this is that people who are perfectly authorised to be on our property have often been hounded. In his younger days, visitors would have to phone in advance to let us know they’re coming so we’d know not to let Frank bark them out the gate again. He’s a lot calmer now, but he has an incredible ability to remind strangers who come to our door, “I’m watching you, buddy.”

Frank is also remarkable for his gentle nature with weaker creatures. We did once have a cat that was forced to live in my father’s vegetable garden (out of bounds to Frank) until it unsurprisingly ran away. The two just couldn’t get on. This, however, is the one exception as Frank is very calm, even nurturing, with our cats. At one time one of the cats was having a litter, and sensing she was in trouble Frank worked himself into a tizzy trying to help her. Unfortunately helping to him meant pulling her around the back yard by her head, but at least he was trying (mother and kittens were fine, by the way). We currently two cats, one of whom displays bizarre behavioural characteristics for a cat. Unlike most cats, he’s friendly, affectionate, highly energetic and loyal (he has his favourites within the household). He’s playful in the way kittens are playful but usually grow out of. I can’t sit down without him jumping onto my lap. And when I take Frank for a walk he insists coming with us. He’s more of a dog than many dogs I know, and I suspect it was Frank who trained him to be like this.

All of this, however, is irrelevant, as I don’t need a reason to defend his presence. Frank is part of the family just because he’s Frank. I don’t expect him to proof his worth anymore than I expect him to decide for himself he doesn’t want to be part of the family anymore.

Anyway, I’d like to retract an earlier statement on the book Marley and Me, now that I’ve nearly finished it. I’m not saying it’s not light and easily marketable, because it is. But it’s also very well written, on occasionally brutally honest, and of course essential reading for anyone who’s ever loved a dog.