Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.

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In Praise of Walking

Friday, 23 August, 2019

Weekend reading is In Praise Of Walking by Shane O’Mara, thanks to Noel Donnelly, a true friend.

Snippet: “Humans are not especially fast runners — we can easily be outrun over short(ish) distances by lots of other species (think tigers and gazelles) — but we are exceptional walkers, possibly the best walkers of all species. And this has been the secret underlying our far-flung dispersion across the face of the earth. We humans are the most dispersed of all animal species, living in the northern and southern extremes of our planet, and at virtually every land point in between. Walking allowed us to probe and extend the edges of our world and then undertake risky journeys by boat,travelling to the next island — which we then explored on foot.”

Our boats



Slow horses at Suprema

Thursday, 22 August, 2019

And Mick Herron smiles because “Slough House is a dumping ground for members of the intelligence service who’ve screwed up: left a service file on a train, blown a surveillance, or become drunkenly unreliable. They’re the service’s poor relations — the slow horses — and bitterest among them is River Cartwright, whose days are spent transcribing mobile phone conversations.” Now, today’s news today:

“The fingerprints of over 1 million people, as well as facial recognition information, unencrypted usernames and passwords, and personal information of employees, was discovered on a publicly accessible database for a company used by the likes of the UK Metropolitan police, defence contractors and banks.

Suprema is the security company responsible for the web-based Biostar 2 biometrics lock system that allows centralised control for access to secure facilities like warehouses or office buildings. Biostar 2 uses fingerprints and facial recognition as part of its means of identifying people attempting to gain access to buildings.

Last month, Suprema announced its Biostar 2 platform was integrated into another access control system – AEOS. AEOS is used by 5,700 organisations in 83 countries, including governments, banks and the UK Metropolitan police.”

Slow Horses


Wednesday, 21 August, 2019

It’s very much in the news, and it’s big up North.

“Most of the settlements which were founded in Greenland, in about the year 1,000, remained inhabited until well into ‘The Little Ice Age,’ which started in 1350 and lasted for approximately 500 years. In the beginning when the weather was considerably warmer, about 400 farms were started by the Viking farmers. However later, the extreme cold and glacial ice made farming on Greenland nearly impossible in these frigid northern latitudes. Recently, archaeologists discovered a Viking village that was radiocarbon dated back to circa 1430.

In the year 985, having been blown off course, Bjarni Herjolfsson became the first Viking to see the coast of North America. However, he missed his chance for fame…. Being more interested in getting home, he never set foot on the ‘New Continent.’ Instead, he set his course back to Greenland, leaving the discovery of America to others.” — Captain Hank Bracker, Seawater Two


Song Composed In August

Tuesday, 20 August, 2019

Written in 1783 by Robert Burns and known as Song, composed in August. Dick Gaughan’s performance here is sublime.

Thus ev’ry kind their pleasure find,
The savage and the tender;
Some social join, and leagues combine,
Some solitary wander:
Avaunt, away! the cruel sway,
Tyrannic man’s dominion;
The sportsman’s joy, the murd’ring cry,
The flutt’ring, gory pinion!

Easy Rider: Peter Fonda

Monday, 19 August, 2019

This photo by Susan Wood, titled “Easy Rider 1968”, captures not just the coolness of Peter Fonda, the star, co-writer and producer of 1969 Hollywood cult classic Easy Rider, who died at the age of 79 on Saturday; it reflects the luminosity of era of change, hedonism, adventure, possibilities and dreams.

Peter Fonda

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final

Sunday, 18 August, 2019

Kilkenny have won the trophy 36 times and Tipperary 27 times, and yet they keep coming back for more. Today’s installment of this classic between Tipperary and Kilkenny will be a physical affair with more emphasis on fitness and brawn rather than the fine arts of the game but the traditionalist will be pleased with that.


Cashman: Summing up the state of the game in the year 2000, the laureate critic of hurling, the great Cork hurling writer, Kevin Cashman, put it thus: “In Kilkenny they very notably think long and hard about the game of hurling sometimes to the extent of outsmarting themselves. In Cork we think long and hard, too, except that much of what we think is complacency or cliché; in Tipp it is self-delusion; in Clare paranoia; in Wexford nostalgia; and in Limerick grudgery.”

RESULT: Tipperary 3-25 – Kilkenny 0-20. It ended in a rout for Tipp and the fateful decision was taken by the referee, James Owens, just before half-time, when he red-carded Richie Hogan for an alleged high challenge on Tipperary’s Cathal Barrett. It was a critical moment that ended the game as a contest. Referees need to be very, very sure when showing a red card.

Which strange creature, once upon a time…

Saturday, 17 August, 2019

… passed this way? This way was established tens of millions of years before the Ice Age, and the Alien-like results can be seen today in the Mitchelstown Caves.

Mitchelstown Caves

Current reading: Because Internet

Friday, 16 August, 2019

“Whatever else is changing for good or for bad in the world, the continued evolution of language is neither the solution to all our problems nor the cause of them. It simply is. You never truly step into the same English twice. When future historians look back on this era, they’ll find our changes just as fascinating as we know find innovative works from Shakespeare and Latin or Norman French. So let’s adopt the perspective of these future historians and, and explore the revolutionary period of linguistic history that we’re living through from a place of excitement and curiosity.”

A snippet there from the conclusion from the entertaining first chapter of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch.

Because Internet

It’s the Pattern Day

Thursday, 15 August, 2019

The “drawing in” of the hay was a typical activity around the Pattern Day and a trip to the meadow on the horse-drawn “float” was a really big adventure. On board (right to left): Madeleine, Jacqueline, Helen, Mary, Eamonn and Michael John. Head and shoulders above us all is Father, in his prime.

On the float

Background: Ireland has thousands of “holy” or “blessed” wells. These ancient water sources were attributed mystical powers in pagan times and the related customs and beliefs were incorporated by Christianity when it arrived on the island some 1,600 years ago. The converts assigned a “patron saint” to each well and thus began the custom of the “Pattern Day” (from the pronunciation of the Irish Pátrún, “patron”). The “Pattern Day”, then, is the feast day of a parish’s patron saint and entails a pilgrimage to the sacred well and the saying of specific prayers in a certain sequence. Bottles are filled with the “miraculous” water, which is often applied to wounds or sprinkled on children, visitors, travellers and animals for their well-being.

Ethnologists describe patterns as “community generated festivals”. In 1810, Crofton-Croker counted up to 15,000 people at the Pattern of St. Declan, which is still held annually on the 24th of July in Ardmore, County Waterford. This tradition of vernacular religious practice and the carnivalesque continues in Ballylanders, County Limerick, where the 15th of August, the Feast of the Assumption, is the local Pattern Day.

Churchill flirted with Basic English

Wednesday, 14 August, 2019

In the early 1920s, a rather eccentric Cambridge academic named C.K. Ogden came up with the idea of “Basic English“, which reduced the language to 850 words. One can imagine Winston Churchill, then in his mid-forties, having been shocked by such an idea, but circumstances change cases and, astonishingly, the great orator and author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples found that Basic English had its war-time merits. The first recorded mention of his support for the notion dates from an Anglo-American summit with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Quebec in August 1943, when he was proposing a closer union between Britain and the United States. Eight months later, in April 1944, having heard nothing from Washington, Churchill wrote to Roosevelt stating: “My conviction is that Basic English will then prove to be a great boon to mankind in the future and a powerful support to the influence of the Anglo-Saxon people in world affairs.”

Filled with enthusiasm for the idea, Churchill formed a Cabinet committee on Basic English and appointed Leo Amery, then Secretary of State for Burma, to chair it. Amery had been a close friend of Rudyard Kipling, a great writer as well as a stout imperialist and, as the late Christopher Hitchens put it in Blood, Class and Nostalgia, “It is hard to think of a man less likely to acquiesce in the reduction of English to 850 words.”

Eventually, Roosevelt replied. Snippet:

“Incidentally, I wonder what the course of history would have been if in May 1940 you had been able to offer the British people only ‘blood, work, eye water and face water,’ which I understand is the best that Basic English can with five famous word.”

Thus, with a deft jab of WASPish sarcasm, Basic English was banished forever from the “Special Relationship”. Curiously, George Orwell was also an early fan of Basic English, but he turned against it and used the concept as the basis for the dreaded Newspeak of Nineteen Eighty-Four.


Tumbler has fallen

Tuesday, 13 August, 2019

Verizon bought Tumblr in 2013 for a reported $1.1 billion, just two years after its massive $4.48 billion Yahoo acquisition in 2017.

Yesterday, Automattic (parent company of WordPress) bought Tumblr for a reported $20 million.

Founded in 2007 as one of the first microblogging services, Tumblr had its moment in the sun when it became famous for its porn services, but that was then. Automattic chief executive, Matt Mullenweg, confirmed the acquisition in a post on his personal Tumblr account and hinted at a fork towards fun: “When the possibility to join forces became concrete it felt like a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have two beloved platforms work alongside each other to build a better, more open, more inclusive &mdash: and, frankly, more fun web. I knew we had to do it.”

Let’s hope Matt knows what he’s doing here.