Work, Play and Life

Another month has gone by and I didn’t post a thing.  Thankfully Cindy has managed to keep the banner flying while I have been slacking off.  So the question now is one big post or a bunch of small ones.  Well, let’s let the muses out and see what happens.

I have managed to land a new job as a Software Engineer with Synchronoss at their European Research & Development Facility here in Galway.   They provide activation software to mobile providers as well as software to synchronize content across platforms.  This is an opportunity to do more hands on development while staying in Ireland.  I now have a green card that will take me thorough next October when I can apply for my stamp 4.  The increase in pay isn’t bad either and means that Cindy and I will be able to eventually pay off last summer’s trip across the continent and perhaps take a few trips around Ireland.  I think Cindy is already planning some.  With the new job being 2x as far as DERI I will probably start by taking the bus to work, but I hope to be back on the bicycle soon as it tends to keep me sane by providing me with a few moments of quiet in an otherwise hectic day.

Speaking of cycling…  I found a patch of black ice earlier this month.  When heading out of the estate there is a gentle slope down and a slight curve as the Dun Na Carraige road meets the main road.  Dun Na Carraige is shaded by the apartment towers that front the shore road.  I remember hitting the ice, feeling the bike start to go out from underneath me, and, like last time, uttering a multisyllabic curse before I hit the ground.  Once I stopped sliding, I looked up and discovered I was in the middle of the road and two cars were following me, so I clutched my arms to my chest and rolled to the gutter.  The cars managed to stop, though one of the drivers almost fell when he attempted to walk across the ice.  PJ, our local grounds keeper, saw me fall and came over to assist.  I sat on the curb for a bit before fixing the bike and heading off to work.  I discovered that the left brake lever was bent so I bent it back, all the while thinking “don’t snap, don’t snap…”  I discovered that my right hip was bruised and my left knee was scraped — figure that out.  I managed to make it to and through work and home again.  But the next day I was so sore I stayed home to recuperate.

I’ve spend most of my time away from work developing a security framework for RDF graphs — a rather esoteric diversion I suppose.  But I figure a shameless plug here will provide my developer friends with an opportunity to check it out.

There was a fairly strong wind storm here the other night.  The next morning I wandered down to the beach to see what effect the storm might have had,  The only thing I could see was that seaweed had been wrapped around the railings of the approach to the diving board.  There must have been some big waves.

Many of the Irish people I have met here have asked me if I like it here.  When I tell them I want to stay, they almost always ask: “Even with the weather?”  Even with the weather.  It’s just not that bad.  It doesn’t get too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter.  It rains a lot but then that is why it is green here — even in the winter.

I hope that the new year brings all of you joy and contentment.  I have no worries for I am in Ireland.

— Claude

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Slowly emerging from the dark ages

abortion lawsSo far most, if not all, of our blog posts have been about happy things, or light-hearted observations of our experiences in the last year plus of living in Galway, Ireland.  And for the most part, it has been an overwhelmingly positive and uplifting experience.  But there are deeper observations to be made – I’m going to go out on a limb and make them.

As some of you readers may know, in late October of this year a young woman of Indian descent died needlessly at University Hospital Galway while miscarrying her pregnancy.  She and her husband wanted that baby, had planned for it.  Even through the extreme pain she was suffering she knew that she was not going to be able to carry to term.  With a heart that was breaking in two she begged the doctors and nurses to help her by inducing labor.  She was told “this is a Catholic country.”  In other words, the church has so hamstrung the laws of this nation that they were not legally allowed to terminate the pregnancy as long as there was a fetal heartbeat.  She suffered the pain and humiliation of this miscarriage for 5 days before the fetus’ heart stopped.  By then she was septicemic.  Before she passed away from the infection that ravaged her system, she did point out to the staff that she was neither Irish nor Catholic.

Ireland has been taken to task on many occasions by European Union rights groups for their draconian laws and generally Catholic stance on human rights, particularly in the cases of gay rights and of abortion.  (Same-sex sexual activity has only been decriminalised since 1993.)  The Irish Constitution was amended in 1983 to ban abortion constitutionally, backed strongly by Catholic influence.  This fact amazes and stuns me.  In 1984 a 15-year-old girl named Anne Lovett and her newborn son died alone and freezing after Anne gave birth in a church yard precisely because of the stifling attitude of her religious upbringing.  In 1992 the Irish Supreme Court ruled in the X Case, which allowed for abortion in the case of risk to the mother’s life including risk of suicide.  The problem with the ruling is it is in direct opposition to the Eighth Amendment, and worse, to the Offences Against the Persons Act of 1861 – yes, you read that right, a law written in the 19th Century which is still in effect today – which makes it illegal to use drugs or instruments to cause an abortion.  The Irish Parliament has REFUSED to legislate on these issues for over 30 years now.

The Catholic church would have women believe that their lives are never at risk from pregnancy.  The government sees no problem if women choose to travel to another country to obtain abortion services.  Most private physicians will perform follow-up treatment for women who have done so.  So no one seems to understand why Irish women are so angry about Savita’s death.  The church has no intention of assisting women who can’t afford to travel, so they’re resorting to purchasing abortifacients over the internet – the import of which is also illegal.  The utter hypocrisy of not allowing babies who are still-born or die upon birth without being baptised to be buried in consecrated graveyards doesn’t seem to faze the church at all.

I’m not a religious person, neither Claude nor I are, really.  We have our individual views about it.  He tends toward the Buddhist way of thinking, I tend toward the agnostic.  No matter how you define it, we are definitely not advocates of the Catholic vision of the world.

At this point a number of EU rights groups are calling for sweeping change to these ancient laws.  Ireland is out of step with all of Europe in this regard and does not, in my opinion, deserve to hold the EU Presidency next year until its laws come in line with the rest of the Union.  The anti-choice groups are pulling out all the stops, pressuring their local politicians to not allow women the right to a safe, clean abortion in Ireland.  Women are once again being held hostage to their gender by the Catholics.

The Irish people have some fairly archaic attitudes when it comes to being open with one another, talking about sexuality and differences, speaking of uncomfortable subjects and history.  They use euphemisms to describe horrors of their history.  They have a similar stiff-upper-lip style to the British.  They call periods of anarchy in their history “the Troubles,”  like it’s a touch of the flu or sluggish bowels.  People die and they’re labeled as “the tragic.”  It’s all so … very.

— Cindy

The Library

We love libraries.  Every place we move we get ourselves registered with the library and obtain our cards.  Claude is very proud of his library card collection.  So naturally we obtained our borrowing privileges almost immediately upon arriving in Galway, when our address was so new that we didn’t even have a piece of mail to prove our residency.  The librarian was kind enough to go ahead and give us our cards – although I noted at the time that she seemed a bit surly.

Well, that has not changed.  It has come to the point where I dread having to interact with the librarians at the City branch because they are all so damned .. surly!  I’ve never met crankier librarians than these people.  Mind you, the children’s library librarians are nice ladies and always pleasant.  The librarians at the Westside branch are all happy and helpful.  But those City branch folks are something else.

Other frustrations about the Galway library system include the fact that their online catalogue is notoriously incorrect; their shelving system is barely alphabetical – no, seriously, if the author’s name starts with W (for example) then you have to scan through every single book on the W shelf to find your book – and they don’t even match up duplicate titles by the same author; most of the time even when the catalogue says it’s in the fiction section it ends up being in another section altogether; and the sections are so poorly labeled that it’s almost impossible to find what you’re looking for.

Of course, the easiest branch for me to get to is the City branch.  I could ride the bus to Westside but it only shows up every 45 minutes and it’s been pretty darn cold out these last couple of weeks, too cold to stand around waiting for the bus while trying to do the time calculation in my head.

Today’s adventure had me trying to find “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde.  I’ve recently read a biography of the entire Wilde family and have wanted to read this novel for quite some time.  After scanning the W shelf twice and not finding it, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and ventured to the front desk to ask.  The cranky lady behind the desk starts tippy-tapping her keyboard and concludes that I’ll probably need to request the book.  (Note: Previous experience has shown that any requests made through the library system go completely unheeded and are not acted upon.)  I told her I had found it in the online catalogue this morning under “Dorian Gray” and that it was listed as being on the W shelf in fiction.  At this point the other librarian pipes up and says, “Maybe it’s in Classics.”  He scoots off and the librarian I’m working with continues her tippy-tapping at the keyboard.  Seconds later the other librarian comes back with a copy of the book in his hand – at which point I fight desperately the instinct to berate them about their online catalogue and control of their inventory.  Instead I thanked them, she checked me out, I left at least enriched with what I had come for.

These experiences have done nothing to put me off libraries.  But there is something inherently wrong about crabby librarians!

— Cindy