Archive for September, 2009

Humble opinions are for losers, I haven’t had a humble opinion in years

I think I can safely say without fear of contradiction (because this is my blog and I can fiendishly delete comments that contradict me) that the irish government largely consists of corrupt, incompetent assholes. Now one could make an argument that this is to some extent true for all governments, and one would not be incredibly unreasonable to do so. However for some reason I have never quite figured out the consequences of corruption and incompetence seem to be practically non-existent in Ireland.They involve a few newspaper articles, maybe a slap on the wrist and some public censure, or perhaps in a severe case the odd custard pie. They rarely if ever appear to involve seizure of assets, jail time, or facing the motherfucking consequences of your actions.

The current hot topic in irish politics is the Lisbon treaty, an EU treaty basically designed to streamline the European parliamentary structure. Ireland has already rejected this treaty once, as far as I can tell just out of general assholery and slight panic. Basically, it appears the irish government was hoping to get away with quietly pushing this through and obtaining a yes vote without people really noticing. So there wasn’t really a whole lot of information going around aside from “Vote YES” in big red letters. Naturally the paranoid elements of the populace were perturbed, questions were asked, it turned out that several top tier irish politicians had not even managed to get through the summary document, and the majority of people voted against the treaty out of general frustration and confusion. Naturally our government then wrote to the EU saying “eh, sorry about that, how embarrassing, let’s take another shot at it” and we are now having the same referendum again, in a beautiful tribute to democracy. Yes we know you have a vote, but you voted wrong, try again.

The Lisbon treaty is a long. complicated boring legal document outlining the re-arranging of the EU in order to try to be a bit less monstrously complicated, and to streamline things like the voting process. I do not at this point claim to understand everything in it, but the part that people seem to be objecting to in our tiny island nation is the bit that says EU law takes primacy over the laws of an individual country. Of fucking course it does, you arseholes. It has since we joined the damn thing in the 80s, we bought into this idea quite some time ago, what the hell are you pissing around now for?

We appear to be terrified at the prospect that our constitution could be overruled by the EU. Well kids, I have to confess, what I really don’t get is why the hell we are so protective of our damn constitution. What is so amazingly great about how ireland works? Even if this treaty did make it possible for the EU to overrule more of irish law (which it doesn’t), we are talking about a constitution that contains the line “The State recognises the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens.”, as well as another of my favourites “In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved”. Don’t even get me started on the fucking preamble.

What exactly are we protecting here? Our outmoded links with religion? Our sexism? Our neutrality? We are neutral until America decides they need somewhere to re-fuel, then we are a fucking military air-base. What the hell are we afraid of? The primacy of European law is not news, and the specific concerns of the irish people, retarded and irrelevant as they were, have been consummately addressed not only within the treaty we helped to fucking write but in the form of further legal declarations on top of said treaty that were basically just put there to say “No really, we mean it, ireland can deal with abortion itself. It’s like, in the treaty already. Did you not read it?”.

The EU is an essentially good thing, that enables us to better organise everything, fight climate change, and ensure that essential human rights are equally enforced across a multitude of countries. Enlightened self-interest seems to be the most positive force available these days, so now that we have the self-interest part down pat perhaps we can try for some enlightenment, and realise that the EU is actually in our best interests, and that pointless nationalism is inherently fucking stupid. And while I’m at it, why is neutrality so goddamn important? because as far as I can see our reasoning goes along the lines of “we are a tiny island nation subject to easy potential annihilation” which would be rendered less potent as an argument by say, joining a large association of 27 countries.

I don’t give a flying fuck about neutrality,  and I’d vote to legalize abortion, and so I am desperately disappointed because these issue are both nothing whatsoever to do with the Lisbon treaty. The blatant scaremongering by the Vote No lobby is a disgusting travesty rivaled only by the utter bullcrap of the Vote Yes lobby.

The treaty has already been summarised extremely well by people who are not me, so instead of regurgitating I shall point you in the direction of this excellently written and particularly amusing and informative guide by Jason O’Mahony. Complete with Eval Kanieval references. I urge you in the spirit of democracy to consider your decision carefully and make up your own mind, in full posession of the pertinent facts. However, should this be too much effort or otherwise an unattainable achievement, there is one simple step you can take to resolve the whole issue:

Just fucking well vote yes.

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I am not certain about the former”

I am not a software developer. It was drummed into my head when I started my current role, which is client facing with a load of coding work thrown in, that it is not a development job. People who hold the same position and job as I do sometimes do not code at all, I can, so I do. With the result that I only devote about 50% of my time to technical work, and that work itself is not hugely technical, being largely high-level and largely various flavours of .Net.

So if someone asked me if I was a coding expert of any kind, I could not in all honesty answer anything but a resounding “no”. I like coding work, I enjoy development, and problem solving, especially if it can be elegant. But too much of my job involves being a translation facility for business -> tech and vice versa, and too little of it involves intricate programming. So I don’t spend enough time at it or do enough complex work to be what I would consider all that good

So why the bloody fucking hell is everyone I interview so bad?? Do people write down on their CVs everything they have ever heard of? Besides which, it is .Net people – it’s not exactly hard.  If you have programmed in it for 3 years and you cannot tell me what a function is or  the difference between passing a variable by value and by reference then you are either lying, clinically retarded, or had a job that was so far removed from actually writing any code that you don’t know what it looks like. None of which would make me want to hire you.

Not only can people not answer basic, just-out-of-college type questions, but when they are given the answers they are frequently unable to extrapolate anything logically when asked a follow-up question.  I’m not asking for your opinion on the historical application of the Reimann-Zeta function here kids, I am asking fucking string manipulation questions. I am not trying to catch you out, I am trying to gauge precisely how much bullshit you think I will swallow.

And oh dear god, the bullshit. Streams of it, wells of it, great big flowing rivers of fucking bullshit. This is not an English literature course! Technical questions have correct answers, they are very rarely susceptible to bluffing. If you do not know the goddamn answer why not just save everyone the trouble and tell me that? I would respect that a lot more than 2 minutes of excruciating evasion. “I don’t know” is an efficient response that allows an interviewer to actually gauge your familiarity with something. Interviewers are generally looking (sometimes desperately) for competence, if it is there they will do their best to see it.

By the time someone comes along who actually does know what the fuck they are talking about, I have had my brain reset on “questioning idiots” for so long I nearly fall backwards out of my seat in shock. And then feel desperately embarrassed by the kind of retarded questions I have started off with. And you know the very worst, most  irredeemable and irritating part?

I keep having to get up at 7am for this shit.

Wanted: Giant frying pan

Because frankly ostrich eggs are surprisingly good, and exceptionally large. Particularly when one is hung over in the middle of the desert after having spent a night at Ashram Galactica, one of the most ridiculously well stocked, decorated and maintained bars at Burning Man. How fortunate that our property was so mauled by a baboon in Reno that it was felt a couple of ostrich eggs would be good compensation. Incidentally anyone who thinks the previous sentence is gibberish is being far too optimistic about the level of sensibleness of the universe in general. Life really is this odd, and thank fuck for that.

I’ve now been going to Burning Man for 4 consecutive years. Every year I leave the desert dusty, filthy, exhausted, and deciding that next year I will take a break, next time I will skip it, next time I will ignore the ache that happens in my heart when I think about the city and contemplate somehow not being there, not feeling that free and intense and insane and connected and invincible. But every year I also come back to real life with a perspective that cannot be rivaled by anything in the civilized world. The knowledge that if my whole life goes to hell there are always other lives I could decide to live. The remembrance that even though a great many people are shortsighted and stupid and petty, many also aren’t, and even those that are aren’t like that all the time.

I believe humans to be capable of amazing things. I kind of need to, or else I couldn’t believe myself to be. But there are times when it feels like my life is surrounded by an ocean of mediocrity and boredom, when my job seems as meaningless as it would to a caveman who counts success in pelts of fur collected, and at those times people seem soulless and stupid and inaccessible and not worth even trying for. Generally these phases last about an hour, so maybe its just sugar withdrawal or something. But that week in the middle of nowhere with 40,000 other weirdos resets my faith in humanity, and not just because its filled with nudity, giant slides and flamethrowers.

I like the way people behave there. The sense of personal responsibility runs high, the sense of community probably almost as high. In the best individuals radical self reliance combines with a sense of being part of something to produce both independence and generosity in larger quantities than I would ever have expected. Naturally this is not the case with everyone – as a good friend of mine said when I stated that I had expected BM to be filled with silly hippies, “It is filled with silly hippies, you just don’t hang around with any of them”. Turns out that at the burn, much like at home, I am an intolerant fuck. Thank Christ.

People hide behind a lot of things in real life. Their job, their friends, their clothes, their lifestyle, the internet. Sometimes it can be very hard to tell what a person really is when life is as easy as it can be for a white-collar employee in a big city. Hard to tell when someone is a real friend or just hates going to the movies alone, or whether they give a damn about you or just get emotional while drunk. I generally don’t know whether people like me or not, though this may have something to do with not caring. But in the scorching desert in the middle of nowhere while trying to hold up one side of a carport so that someone can get the poles under it you see a little more of what people really are and really think. Even if those are (respectively) “sweaty and irritable” and “fuck this for a carry on”.

Sometimes, your friends turn out to be exactly as amazing as you thought they were.