November 19, 2017

Functional Blindness?

The term "functionally blind" is usually related to a person with some vision, but who functions as someone who is blind. In some situations, it is very difficult to determine whether someone is functionally blind or not. In the case of doubt, it is better to err on the side of caution and apply the functionally blind label.

When we say “functional”, it is implied that it is something affecting the function, but not the structure. In the case of our (Irish) politicians, we better drop the functional all together!

Sinn Féin has been signalling a disposition to join the government in a possible coalition with another party in the next elections. A big step in the broad political scene, which was even reiterated by Gerry Adam’s announcement that he is stepping off from Sinn Féin’s presidency.

It seems that the general media don’t see this flexibility as a positive diversity in our political microcosmos, and insist on comments about Mr. Adam’s past and his time in the IRA. Besides making statements as “the Irish people do not want a Communist government”, which should really be left for the Irish people to decide through democratic vote, the two (of a kind) main parties - Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael - seem to refuse a coalition with Sinn Féin, saying they have fundamentally different economic views!

It continues to baffle me that our leadership so stubbornly refuses to see what is displayed so clearly right in front of its nose! The so called economic view that FF-FG have, a unconditional bent to the rules of Washington Consensus, is not working for people!

Heavily taxing income rather than profit, waving the wealthier, looking to the other side in regarding to big companies tax evasion, free movement of capital but not people - none of this sounds nor look fair, and it’s more than time for a change!

And that change is frightening the current status quo!

October 01, 2017

The Relativity of Time

10 strings Chapman Stick
Chapman Stick is an instrument created by Emmett Chapman back in the 70s. A guitar-like that can have 8, 10 or 12 strings, half bass-like and half guitar-like strings. It is very popular among musicians who like to play bass and melody lines, or chords and textures - all together! You don't see much gigs using it, though.

Designed to act as a fully polyphonic chordal instrument, it looks like a wide version of an electric guitar's fretboard, but longer and wider. Unlike the guitar and the bass, it is played by tapping or fretting the strings, rather than plucking them.

My Chapman Stick is 10 strings. I bought it from the bass player of one of the bands I used to play, back in Brazil, but never had the opportunity nor the time to play it. Or should I say to tap it?

The tapping is not the only challenge

The "Free Hands Two-Handed Tapping" technique, a two-handed tapping with the fingers of both hands perpendicular to the strings, is harder than just tapping the guitar! Another challenge is the tuning. There are several different options, but the original 10-string Classic Stick tuning is still very popular, and it is my preferred.

An awkward tuning based on open fourths and fifths

The first 5 strings are called "Melody" strings, and are tuned as D, A, E, B and F#. Each string downs a 4th from the previous one. The next 5 strings, called "Bass" strings, starts with a deep C (a 2nd down the bass E) then G, D, A and E. They are upped a 5th from the previous one.

All together: D, A, E, B, F#, C, G, D, A, E. It is a pretty awkward tuning for those used to guitar/bass tuning.

Finding the time

All set! Now is just a matter of finding the time to learn it... but differently from that old Stones' song, time is not on my side, and if space and time are really relative and flexible as per Albert Einstein's theory - "the dividing line between past, present, and future is an illusion", said the man himself - I shouldn't need to choose between learning the Chapman Stick or studying to my so long postponed EA Certification exam...

September 24, 2017

The United States of Europe

Art by thumboy21
I just read in The Sunday Business Post, Michael McDowell's article about the speech Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament Coordinator on Brexit, gave in the Oireachtas last week.

Despite his humour - he said as a Belgian, surrealism comes naturally to him, but to reinstate a border would be more than surreal - his soothing words assuring "we (EU) will never allow Ireland to suffer as a result of the British to leave the EU. That's a commitment given by the European Parliament and the European Union as a whole" - are actually quite meaningless without a proper explanation on what he meant by "suffer" and by "EU as a whole".

Clearly Ireland has been a thorn in the EU's foot when it comes to corporation taxes, and the recent news about Apple's €13bn tax evasion in Ireland (and the mystery why Ireland doesn't want it back) only helps EU with more ammunition towards an more unified tax system across Europe. Verhofstadt's ideas are no secret to anyone. It's all there in his books - The United States of Europe (Federal Trust) and the latest Europe's Last Chance: Why the European States Must Form a More Perfect Union, among others.

Question is: will it be that bad to have a Federal Europe?

August 06, 2017

Recycling made easy

The 7 standard classifications for plastics: 1–PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate); 2–HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene); 3–PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride); 4–LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene); 5–PP (Polypropylene); 6–PS (Polystyrene); 7–Other (BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN)
The title of this blog is totally misleading... Recycling is NOT easy at all! Apart from all the rules around recycling - most of them quite fair - there are the "plastic issue". Not every plastic is recyclable, and to know which is which, you need to understand what they are!

Ok, one might say "C'mon, it's not that difficult!" Yeah, but you missed the point: why, first of all, the government allow companies to use non-recyclable material, or raw material which recycling process is costly and complicated?

Take polystyrene for example. It's widely used - from disposable drinking cups, take away food containers and foam packaging protection to rigid foam insulation and underlay sheeting for laminate flooring used in home construction - even recycling is not widely available, and despite containing styrene, a possible human carcinogen, (especially when heated in a microwave). Chemicals present in polystyrene have been linked with human health and reproductive system dysfunction.

Because it's structurally weak and ultra-lightweight, it also breaks up easily and is dispersed readily throughout the natural environment. Beaches all over the world have bits of polystyrene lapping at the shores, and an untold number of marine species have ingested this plastic with immeasurable consequences to their health.

Even the recommendation is that polystyrene should be avoided where possible, there's no regulation! It's upo to the government to impose restrictions to such materials, and force companies to use greener alternatives