Sunday, May 26, 2013

When your daughter insists on going in the One Direction that creates the most stress

The stress of being a One Direction fan.
Saturday morning was a stomach-churningly tense time (for some) in our house. My wife tells it better than I could.

18 years ago I looked down at her little crying face and I promised myself that I would do anything for her.
She opened her new born eyes, stopped crying and I was hooked.........
I never expected that feeling to lead me to the morning of Saturday May 24th 2013.
The clocked ticked, the THREE computers and the phone were primed and ready.
My fingers were stretched and hovering above the keys.
Her little face was looking at me again - full of hope and anticipation.
The clock struck 10am and we were off.
Trembling fingers now, total concentration on our goal.
12 open tabs, 3 different browsers. How could we fail??
The phone was under the chin now, just in case she had to speak to a real person in order to achieve our desire.
Seconds turned into minutes. The unblinking focus on the screens.
The circle of dots going round and around, a short message informing us that the waiting time was 15 minutes. Then 13. 10. Then 12. 12? How could it go up? Then it started to go down again.
Stress levels rising.......
What was Twitter saying??
Out came the tablet.
Now we had a fourth electronic device on the go plus the old fashioned land line!!
All the while the inexorable ticking of the clock was in my head.
What if it did not happen??
What if that precious face crumpled up and cried like it had done 18 years ago????
Knots in MY stomach now!!! Would it happen? Would I be able to make it happen for her??
Minutes seemed like hours now.....
Then tab after tab started reporting failure.......
The quiet sobbing started to my left......
What could I do???? One last last last hope.
The sobs turned into a sharp intake of breath beside me.
Fingers trembled and shook almost uncontrollably. Numbers typed or maybe mistyped. Blurred vision now......Oh! Please let this work!!!!
The screen changed again.
All hope rested on this screen. No breathing, no blinking to my left!!!!!
Total stillness!!!!
Then at last.........SUCCESS!!
Tears came then. I looked at her little crying face. I knew that I would do anything for her.....including now being the proud - NO!!!- the super proud, stressed-out but amazingly (in my case!) "over the moon" owner of ........TWO General Admission tickets to see ONE DIRECTION in Croke Park......on May 25th 2014!!!!!!

{Photo thanks to}

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ireland as Britain's wind farm - weighing up the pros and cons of ugly and heavily subsized Irish windfarms

Wind turbines at Richfield Windfarm, County Wexford
Wind turbines at Richfield Windfarm, County Wexford
If you have been to Ireland recently then you have seen the wind turbines. Like daffodils in the spring they seem to be popping up all over. Unlike daffodils, the wind turbines aren't vanishing weeks later. They're much more permanent.

I have two problems with wind turbines: they're ugly and they're heavily subsidized. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm entirely opposed to them.

Ugly doesn't really matter at all. In fact, I know quite a few people who don't mind the look of them one bit. Some people even seem to like them. I disagree with them.

When I'm driving through County Leitrim in Ireland or Livingston County in upstate New York and I see windmills on the distant hills I feel like my view is spoiled. I like the natural look.

I know, I know. Scenery - is it really that important? My mother has often said to me, "you can't eat scenery." So if there's money to be made in wind farms then that takes precedence over whether I can enjoy an unspoiled view of the treeless hills of Ireland.

Ah, but then again, there are quite a few people in Ireland who are now "eating the scenery." Or at least they're earning enough to put food on their tables and a roof over their heads thanks to the money that tourism provides. Would as many Americans, Germans and others travel to Dingle or Connemara or wherever if the views on offer were predominantly giant white wind turbines? Doubtful.

So the financial benefits from wind turbines have to be assessed against possible losses in the tourism trade.

All of which brings us to ... money. This is where the subsidies come in. Wind energy cannot compete with its natural gas competition so the Irish government subsidizes wind-generated power.  Without the subsidies there would be far fewer (read ZERO) wind turbines on the Irish landscape or offshore.

This is the problem with subsidies: the wind turbines we have are not efficient enough to warrant using them. Rather than wait for the day when they will be cost-effective - and that day may be coming soon - the Irish government forces us to pay to have our view spoiled. Yes the government subsidizes other industries, but at least in all those other cases there is an arguable benefit to Ireland. With these turbines the only benefits accrue to a few landowners and subsidy-chasing investors. Oh, and there is the vague possibility that there will be one inch less erosion of the coast in 2163.

Recently a new twist has been added to the wind farm mania: Britain. The idea is that the British government will subsidize wind energy companies to turn a chunk of the Irish midlands into a giant British wind farm, with the support and assistance of the Irish government. The obvious question is why: two "why's" really. Why aren't the British companies erecting these wind turbines in Britain and why is the Irish government keen on this idea.

The answer to the first "why" is that the people of rural Britain are fed up with wind farms. They don't want any more. They're sick of the sight of them; they're sick of the sound of them. So Britain looked across the sea, saw all those complacent people only barely occupying Ireland's midlands and thought, "let's see if we can put those things up there?"

The second why is even easier: money. Again. The Irish government is talking this up as a windfall for the national coffers, which it may or may not be. Even if it nets a gain for the government I still don't like it. Why? Because there will be no benefit to the locals other than those few landowners.

Wind farms don't produce jobs, save a maintenance job or two. There will be no wind industry in the area. There isn't even a local tax benefit. Local planning regulations are to be ignored. There will be nothing for the locals other than huge wind turbines dominating the landscape.

That is simply wrong. There has to be a general, local benefit to these sorts of projects - especially one like this where the very idea arises out of vehement local objections in Britain. It isn't right for the Irish government to rent a piece of Ireland to Britain to soothe the British government's climate conscience. It isn't right for the government to treat the concerns of those who have to live with these things with disdain.