Oh Joy! Oh Bliss! Oh Rapture! Let Happiness now hap!

As you know, we all have our own little ways of making a house a home and I assumed that worms operating in a different sphere to me would most likely prefer to do it their way.

Oh Joy! Oh Bliss! Oh Rapture! Let Happiness now hap!

Today is another positive step in my efforts to develop a sustainable, independent way of life and living? “So what?” you may well chorus. Indeed so. But I am now equipped with a compost heap (five in fact!), a warm and healthy  wormery, and the crowning jewel, or jewels rather, two Bokashi Buckets. This means that from now on, I have no need to waste money on refuse collection services and no corresponding “opportunity” to finance the State or Local Authority for collecting my (and your) waste to compost it centrally and then to sell the compost back to me to feed my garden. My next target is (hopefully) to get a few SEAI grants to insulate my cottage and conserve heat, to add solar panels to provide free electricity and then finally to go off-grid. Freedom and Fun!

 

wormeryIt has to be admitted though that it has also been a painful learning experience. I have a confession to make. I have been using a wormery for a few years now and gradually learning how make effective use of it. Unfortunately, the wormery developed a crack in the base just where one of the legs joins the bottom “floor” and started to leak the fluid which is a very valuable bye-product and plant food. I stopped using it and bought another wormery … as I thought.

My Silver Palace Composter
My Silver Palace Wormery

This was a metal construction, very sturdy and impressive. It was described on the company’s web site as being a wormery. In my untutored eyes it was the Harley Davidson of wormeries. I also invested in 1 kg of Tiger worms because those from the previous wormery had by now escaped into the wilderness that is my front garden. I hasten to add that my garden is a wilderness by choice because I have been following a course in permaculture design and I am learning to read the strengths and weaknesses of my small holding as part of preparing my overall plan and map for my 2 hectare holding.

 

I read the instructions carefully. In all modesty I can say that I am an eager reader of instructions and I follow them assiduously. Especially those originating abroad and which were translated into English by a junior secretary or office gopher to help their boss and save on the expense of a professional translator. I soaked the coir block overnight in water to provide the initial base for the wormery and laid newspaper over the screen at the bottom so that the worms would not slip through the drainage holes and be lost. And then, in a touching private ceremony, I introduced the worms to their new home. As a shamanic practitioner I dedicated their work and mine to the good of all our relatives on the planet, human, animal, plant, natural resources, rocks, you name it. I could feel the love of Mother Earth and Father Sky enveloping us. As advised I gave the worms time to settle for a few day and get their living conditions sorted out. As you know, we all have our own little ways of making a house a home and I assumed that worms operating in a different sphere to me would most likely prefer to do it their way. A few days later when I opened their Silver Palace I was shattered to discover that a seeming massacre had taken place. There were black streaks tarnishing the inside walls of the wormery but not a worm in sight or on site. I couldn’t understand how they could have escaped and was puzzled by their apparent “break-out” … until last week, that is.

I had by now decided to try my hand with a Bokashi bucket. I was driven to that by having undergone ten days without electricity during the recent heat wave as a result of a bureaucratic stand-off and bungle which pincered me in the grip of a Wifi supplier and a State utility. As a result I had to empty my fridge and freezer and clean it out completely. I haven’t needed to use the refuse bin for several months now being, as I try to be, an almost-Vegan and 90% Vegetarian who is also religion averse. But the waste collectors would not accept my rotting meat, fish, and veggies in the recycle bin for composting. They slapped a big sticker on the blue bin labelling it “contaminated”. That is when I decided to step into Bokashi buckets, figuratively that is, of course. A quick search on the theme of recycling contaminated food and I found my way via “composting toilets” (which are also on my list, but further down) to Bokashi Buckets. I thought it odd when I saw a picture of my above-mentioned Silver Palace wormery, but now masquerading as a BB. I didn’t ponder deeply on it because it seemed to be the immediate answer to my problem of recycling rotten food before the health authorities stepped in.

Bokashi Kitchen Bucket
Bokashi Kitchen Bucket

So, when earlier today a courier delivered my new Bokashi Kitchen Bucket,  I settled down to read the instructions carefully and began to assemble it. Smaller than the silver wormery I have described above, it soon became obvious to me that the components were the same in each. Interesting! Then I read the words “anaerobic environment” and the scales fell from my eyes. To be honest, it felt more like slates being ripped off the roof of my house in a hurricane. I now had to admit to myself that unintentially but with ignorance guiding me I had committed genocide on a kilogram of Tiger worms, a whole city full of Nature’s hardest, unheralded and undemanding workers. The awful truth now screamed at me: “Worms need air to breathe and therefore cannot exist in anaerobic conditions. You, ya eejit, signed their death warrants when you sealed them up for three days in a coir bed in an air-tight container.”

 

There now, I’ve gotten it off my chest. I am a changed person. I now know what not to do. Tomorrow a new adventure starts. Not a worm will be put in the Bokashi Kitchen Bucket and a new coir block will herald a new era of wormery. I think that a different launch ceremony will be necessary to convince the worms that they are safe and that they will be needed for their skill elsewhere than in a bucket. The philosopher (unqualified) in me is even beginning to think that this experience might, as a metaphor, have relevance in the Middle East.

Banking for Dummies

Dateline: Friday June 8, 2018

In today’s Irish Times, it is reported that Supporters of a radical scheme to upend Switzerland’s financial system have made an 11th hour appeal to voters to approve a proposal to strip banks of the power to create new money through lending”. What a brilliant initiative and about time. I’ve just had a dust-up with my own bank, y’know, (Well, I don’t actually own it but you know what I mean) because they have the nasty, sneaky, practice of taking money out of my back pocket and giving it to people they don’t know without asking my permission. If I want to pay a bill, but don’t have enough money to cover it, then, of course, they will slap me (metaphorically, of course, across the knuckles) and say “No, no, no, you naughty man, not till we tell you that you can”. Well, what they are actually doing is processing incoming debits before my pension is lodged. They could have done it in the other sequence of first lodging my pension, and then peeling off enough to pay the incoming demands, which, I hasten to add, are legitimate. I have checked with a few other people including small businesses and the same is happening to them. As we already know, the banks are now completely controlled by computers and human staff reduced to work like robots, while their directors behave towards the public like Daleks in Dr. Who?

The trick, just in case you didn’t know, is that the system pays incoming POS (point-of-sale) requests from traders from whom you have bought something or (in my case) with whom you have a standing order for regular subscriptions. Then, if the account balance is low and there is not enough in the account at that instant, the debit is made in any case, putting the account into the red, incurring a penalty charge. When the debits have been processed, any incoming credits, e.g., my pension, are then processed, and (in my case) bring the account back into the black but with the effect of effectively reducing my pension sometimes by up to 20%.

Now if the sequence were the other way around I would not have paid any penalties in my nearly 20 years with the Bank! I have gone to the trouble of graphing my bank balance against time since I first opened the account in 2003. The clear pattern emerged that shows that anytime I have incurred a penalty was between 02.00h and 04.00h on Friday mornings. In the middle of the night! This is when all, or nearly all, of the bank staff and their families, are in the arms of Morpheus. That is also when I am usually asleep. But, as they say, money never sleeps. Note this, however, someone chose to brief the IT people in the Bank to devise that system. In that way. On the few occasions where I had been hit badly and painfully by the process I challenged them and lodged official complaints.

I should explain that my complaints were always on an ethical, moral, even a philosophical  basis. I think that it doesn’t sound right to speak about money as if it were something dirty and grubby. But then I don’t really understand finance. Between you and me and the wall, I believe that money is an imaginary entity, a concept without a reason, a spirit without a body. My sympathies have always been with the Unwise Virgins. Why should any normal young woman, keep her wick trimmed and her lamp lit in the middle of the night just in case her boss came home late and on the off-chance that he might have lost his keys. Indeed I often wondered why those Virgins, Wise and Unwise, didn’t join up with the Labourers in the Vineyard while the Boss was away. I’d say now that Ten Unwise Virgins would have sorted out those Vineyard boyos, whether they came late or early. Any way, back to my complaints. One of them was acknowledged by the Complaints Department who promised to reply to my complaint within a fortnight. That was two years ago and I still have not received a reply! But me being a “cute hoor” I’m still counting down on the clock! There could be one hell of a fairy goodwill gesture in the pipeline. Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

The other magic trick to look out for is what I call “The Ride of the Little Old Man”. When someone transfers money to me it doesn’t show up in my account for about four days. The same is true if I am sending money to you. It goes out of my account immediately but won’t show up in your account for about another four days either. Where has the money been for those four days? Well, in the old days, when the bank officials wrote with quill pens and home-made ink, it did genuinely take time to record every single transaction, have it checked, signed off by the manager, and details sent to the Central Bank or wherever for whatever central banks do with that information. In fact, they sent a little old man on a high Nelly bicycle with a big woven-willow delivery box hanging off the handlebars, and it full of envelopes containing all the financial information to stoke the financial fires of the Central Bank.

Needless to say, given his age he probably stopped off every now and then to slake his thirst, chat with the lads, you know yourself. But that was back then. And it took time for the L.O.M to get there and back. And certainly he had to make more than one journey of it. And that was a thirst-creating job. And stressful in the extreme. And now? Well, you know, traditions die hard in these great, important, financial institutions. And they have maintained the tradition of “The Little Old Man” to bring a whiff of nostalgia and a stabilising sense of tradition to the business.

You have only to look at their advertisements on the telly to see how much they care about young couples starting out, starry-eyed on life’s journey, having smiling babies, buying their first house. The same financial institutions are also thoughtful to take care of the money saved up by the elderly for their retirement and, sure, isn’t that why they are smiling and untroubled by anxiety, even though their eldest son is still sleeping at home on the coach. He is at least married but his wife and children are with her mother’s people. The elderly smiling couple alluded to above. At least, the fees for the photo shoots might pay for tomorrow’s dinner. And so on. You are doubtless impressed by the care and forethought of the financial institutions, aren’t you? Like *%^??#?/*%^??#?/ (expletives deleted). Oh, and by the way, whenever I have complained very LOUDLY, and remonstrated, and used very strong undeleted language, do you know what? Within a week a fairy seems to have sent me a “goodwill gesture”. At least, that’s what it said on my account statement, the gesture, I mean. Not the fairy. And now, in my “cere and yellow years”, that’s why I still believe in the good fairy, the tooth fairy, and the f-f-f-f-f-inancial f-f-f-f-airy!

Goodnight now to children everywhere. Sleep tight and don’t let the bugs bite. Don’t forget to say a little prayer to Holy God, for your local Bank Manager and Bank Directors. And don’t forget the Swiss Banks as well. Sure, don’t they all need the odd oul’ prayer to protect them? Because they don’t know the day nor the hour when the Law Officer will come knocking on the door. “I’d like to invite you to come down to the Station with me to answer a few little questions”. Cometh the day, cometh the sentence! And, of course, it’s about time, isn’t it? The longer the time the better, sez you!

The Second Law of Thermodynamics, Modernism, Post-modernism and Me

An Irish Government in Exile – just another English translation for the word Dáil, like Tír na nÓg

Scenario

A large disused garden shed, somewhere in the galaxy. Or maybe in another galaxy.

cosmic-taijitu

The Stage is empty. Entities are scurrying around in the dark. A single overhead spotlight, with green filter, creates a cone of light. An old man enters (stage left), looking slightly out of place and embarrassed. He stands near the cone, occasionally looking up at the spotlight.

Voice (stage right): “Stand directly under the light, please”.

Old Man: “Oh, I see. Thanks. By the way, will they understand that there is no difference between ‘The Tao’ and ‘The Path’?

Voice: “You don’t need to worry about that.”

Old Man: (smiles nervously)

Voice: “Oh, get on with it.”

Beginning

Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy
Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy

Imagine that you are assembling a jigsaw puzzle of 4,000 pieces1. You have a picture of what the final assembled jigsaw will look like. Now, why would anyone want to painstakingly and with great difficulty, by trial and error, assemble 4,000 random pieces of colourdy cardboard in order to create a picture that you can stick painstakingly, with glue, and with great difficulty to a large sheet of brown paper, then frame it and hang it over the fireplace in your sitting room, when you could have framed the original picture and just dumped the 4,000 pieces of colourdy cardboard?

Anyway, there you are with the 4,000 pieces finally assembled into a picture that is the same as the one on the box that originally contained the pieces of the jigsaw and you are now carrying that picture on a large sheet of stiff cardboard or plywood into another room to show to your friends what you have achieved , when you trip over the cat, or the dog if you don’t have a cat, and if you have neither just imagine that you tripped somehow and dropped the jigsaw on the floor. As a result, the jigsaw breaks apart into its separate pieces which now lie scattered all over the floor. Get it? OK. Good!

Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy
Doppelganger Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy, in  a parallel reality.

Now, imagine that in a parallel reality, someone who looks exactly like you is carrying a box with a lovely picture on the cover, and in the box there are 4,000 similar pieces of colourdy cardboard. Again, for some unknown reason, that someone like you trips over the cat, or as I explained above, trips over a dog, or just trips, dropping the box, which falls open on the floor and all the 4,000 pieces are now scattered over the floor. Get it? OK. Good.

Middle

But why on earth do those two different scenarios end up with the same result? Why, in the second case which is the reverse of the first, do the dropped pieces not assemble into a picture like that on the box when they hit the floor? Why? Because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics2, that’s why. The what? What in the name of all that is good and holy has the Second Law of Thermodynamics got to do with jigsaws? Well, it just does! That’s what every scientist since the Age of Enlightenment will tell you! Get it? O.K. Good!

Now the same scientists from the Enlightenment onwards have checked with one another and compared results and are unanimoniously agreed that the planet we now inhabit was first a cloud of cosmic dust that was set spinning in Space after the Big Bang, and gradually, because of the spinning motion over billions of years , the bits of dust kind of stuck together tightly until it formed a rock. Then drops of water that had become frozen together somewhere else in space after the Big Bang, froze together into one huge, really huge, snowball, or ice ball, flying through space and eventually, accidentally crashed slap, bang, into the stony lump that had been dust.

dreamstime_l_52443973
Smaller lump of rock

Then, later, other bits of debris from the Big Bang, together with other lumps of rock that had been formed elsewhere in Space, crashed into that lump of rock, which now had big, really very big, in fact, ginormously big oceans of water as well as additional lumps of rock that had arrived in the meantime, and caused a relatively smaller but still a very, very big lump of rock to break off and start spinning around the bigger piece, which then became a humungously enormous big rock with oceans with a smaller lump of rock called a Moon spinning around it.

Over the next few billion years, funny things happened on that big lump of rock and water3 which now , due to the Laws of Gravity, was causing teeny, weeny bits of even tinier bits of dust to start sticking on to other teeny weeny , tiny bits of even tinier dust which, over another few billion years, formed atoms and then atoms stuck on to other atoms to form molecules, and then molecules got stuck onto other molecules, until eventually a blob of matter flopped out of the sea somewhere and landed on a dry rock.

220px-Homo_erectus_pekinensis_-_archeaeological
Gouger (Homo dubliniensis)

Incidentally, that dry rock can be seen from the Great Atlantic Way off the West Coast of Ireland and has been nominated by an Irish Government in Exile (just another English translation for the word Dáil, like Tír na nÓg) as another Unesco site worth preserving because we might get a few extra shekels from the E.U. to keep it clean after the gougers from Dublin on holiday in the West wrote inappropriate graffiti on it. Get it? O.K. Good!

And this little blob, over the next few millions years joined with other blobs and formed bigger blobs with blobs attached to them and then, one day, one of those multi-blobs saw its reflection in the water surrounding the rocks

dreamstime_m_28250959
Selfie by blob

and realised that there were other blobs around it that looked just like itself. The He-She-It blob called all the other blobs to view their reflections in the water. Then one blob looked up at the sky and called out in ecstasy: “That’s not Space, that’s the expletive deleted Cosmos”. Whereupon all the other blobs fell to their knees even though it would have been easier for blobs to sit in the Full Lotus Position. Unfortunately, lotususses had not yet become part of the landscape.

And that is how Evolution started.

End

But what puzzles me, after all those billions of years, why didn’t the atoms and molecules and blobs just fall apart like the pieces of the completed jigsaw that you dropped in the second paragraph? Get it? Good. Rrrright! We’re nearly there now. So, what was the difference? You tell me! Because if those blobs and multi-blobs had behaved according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, then we would never have produced Donald Trump, Theresa May, Ching Duk Qwan (or whatever his name is), or Isis,  or Will-Will, or religion, or atheism or whatever and whoever they are, and our World wouldn’t be in the mess it now is. And what’s more, we would never have arrived at the situation we are now in.

That is why a very wise, really stunningly wise, poly-blob called Lao Tsu4, once wrote:

When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.

When Goodness is lost, there is morality.

When Morality is lost, there is ritual.

Ritual is the husk of True Faith,

The Beginning of Chaos”

Long silence.

Old Man: “Can I go now?”

Voice: “Sure! I’ll turn the voice-over off later”

Some Notes

1 At an earlier stage in life, when I worked as an Organisation Development consultant, I was asked to run a course in Management Skills for a project management team. One of the exercises I designed involved a 4,000 piece jigsaw. I emptied the box of pieces onto the table and told the participants that they had one hour to assemble the picture. They dived into the task immediately, asked no questions, and no one challenged my wisdom. It was clear to me that the participants had been on other management training programmes run by reputable self-sustaining drip-fed institutes that I refer to now as WOT Seminars, where WOT stands for “Ways of Talking”. Content never changes but the way of expressing the eternal truths of management do change to maintain the drip-feed.

An hour later we sat in a circle to discuss the task. After dutifully trotting out the standard answers, they were somewhat taken aback when I asked them to include my role in their discussion of the task. Then the penny dropped and we had quite an interesting discussion about the perceived role versus the actual behaviour of management! This sage advice has nothing to do with the main story here. Or maybe it does.

2The Second Law of Thermodynamics is about the quality of energy. It states that as energy is transferred or transformed, more and more of it is wasted. The Second Law also states that there is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state. Ergo, our post-modern society now. But this also relates to the intolerance of scientists towards environmental activists, New Age unwashed, anybody who uses the word “Namasté” or practises Yoga, Qigong, Shamanism, or Druidry, because they are always complaining and demanding the we conserve energy.

3I know you can’t have lumps of water – lumps of snow and ice, yes, but not water. But for all purposes, a huge mass of smashed rocks and mind-boggling masses of water, can collectively be referred to as a lump when spinning in Space.

4Caveat! Some people say that Lao Tsu never existed and that it was a few other psycho-blobs who were bored one night and decided to write a very clever book on “How to rule without actually getting blamed by the mob of blobs”.

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A Count-down to (S)laughter

Now that the count-down to our General Election is getting closer, I would like to appeal to all those angry people on social media who are advocating either spoiling their votes, or plumping, that is, just using their vote for number 1 and no others. I know what it is like to feel that Irish politics is just a charade and changes nothing. If you doubt me cast your mind back over the past century. I have also been tempted to spoil my vote, but I believe that democracy is necessary even though big improvements are needed in the system to make it appropriate and usable in today’s world. [Ed: Now that’s enough of the po-faced introduction! Get on with the message.]

There is a better way and it is a little game that I invented for my own amusement back in the 1970s. It is designed to keep the spirit of democracy alive whilst giving a stiffly raised finger to those who would subvert it for their own sakes. I think of it as:

The Bored Game of Noble Knights a-Pricking on the Plain People of Ireland
A fantastical mediaeval Age of Austerity board game without the gory bits, nor a maiden in distress, and not even a board!

Introduction:

First of all, you must remember that unless your vote is for one of the major parties, under our system of Proportional Representation, you may as well vote on toilet paper, because your vote will have no effect after the first count and you will be the one left with shit on your hand. In a situation such as we face today in Ireland, however, where there is very likely not going to be a winning party with a clear working majority, it is important to vote right down the list if you are to have any effect on the outcome. That is a difficult task, when you look at the list of candidates and see just a bunch of arse holes smiling back at you. This game counteracts the nausea you would feel.

Equipment required:

All you need is a legal voter’s card and a borrowed pencil. The game may also be played with the voter’s cards of the deceased, the incapacitated, and the deranged (but these will require a handbag of disguises as provided by the agents of the registered contesting political parties). For the final stages of the game, a flask of soup, a bottle of wine or a crate of beer, and any “thou” beside you giggling in the wilderness having made the sandwiches for you, will do.

A strategic approach:

So if you are like me, and you are pessimistic about the future of Irish politics, then try this strategy. It means that you can at least have fun throughout the election campaign, right up to the end of the entire count, And you will also have had the satisfaction of seeing where your vote trickles down … and if enough voters participate in this game, we could make the eventual winners sweat long enough to make them think again. Of course, if all of the great unwashed electorate participated then we would have a Dáil that might elect a Government that could terrify the Bejaysus out of  the EU and have trembling despots on their knees crying for forgiveness. It is a simple game for simple minds and simple natures. It is for the childlike amongst us who know that the Emperor was always starkers.

Rules:

This game is played in real time. The game starts once the election is called by the Great Panjandrum himself. During the run up to the polling day, you must listen assiduously to every election broadcast and make notes. Collect all election literature dumped in your mailbox. That information will be a source of invaluable information and ribald comment later (see notes below about the night of the count). If you can catch the departing canvasser(s) before they depart and engage them in pointless debate for at least half an hour, you gain “Lustre Points” (calling them “Bluster points” might tarnish the mediaeval atmosphere of the game).

On Voting Day dress well for the outing. Greet all the one-eyed party minions who have been bluffed into canvassing those entering the building, with a gentle but knowing smile and a wink. Then, bestill your trembling heart as you identify yourself to the officials who will provide you with the voting paper. Don’t panic about the pencil, that will be tied to the voting booth. Neither should you forget about the pencil being tied to the polling booth, because in your haste to escape there would be nothing so embarrassing as dragging the booth after you as leave. Then, take a deep breath, contain your laughter, and just vote Number 1 for the candidate on the ballot paper that you believe will be THE FIRST TO BE ELIMINATED, then continue with the next most likely to be eliminated, and so on down (or is it up?) the list, leaving the last candidate standing with no vote (it won’t be needed, and neither probably will they). Do not write or depict your anti-establishment views by scribbles or cartoons, because that will disqualify you. Then fold the ballot paper neatly like every other sucker (sorry) voter, but knowing that you are actually a revolutionary in disguise, smile at the returning officer, at his/her assistant, at any Guard hanging around, and pop your voting paper in the box. You may,  at this stage, wish to try a little visualisation, such as the ballot box going up in flames when your ballot hits the bin, but do so only if you are sure that you won’t give the game away. As you leave, tell all the party ToaDies outside that you gave them a vote, and smile, damn you, smile gently. Hysterical laughing at what you have done will destroy it all. Then go home and treat yourself to your favourite treat and wait for the early results to come in. Be prepared for a Long Knight at the Count. The latter title is again merely to justify using the word “mediaeval” in the title of the game. It may also give someone the opportunity to remark later about the Long Count of the Night.

This part of the game can also be expanded into an Election Count All Night Party if you persuade your friends to join you for a Party of Parties.  Those participating in the Party might like to prepare victory / defeat speeches in advance, based upon the party literature mentioned above, to bring some light relief to otherwise banal solemnities. This could even rival Eurovision parties as the last resort of contrarians! Do take care, though, and make sure that all sharp objects are removed before you start and that all drinking vessels are of plastic. You may have a closet Party Member attending and we don’t want to upset them unnecessarily , do we!  I do not wish to encourage gambling in an Age of Austerity, but if enough people participated, then the various Turf Accountants in the business might be tempted to give odds. (Note to the unitiated: Turf Accountants are not bog-trotters counting sods. The latter are the current tally-men for the political elite and the former are those who never lose in the long term. And neither is a qualified accountant – or, at least, admits to it).

Above all, have fun. It will be your only chance to have fun at the expense of those whose expenses are guaranteed by making fun of you. And may the Seven Signatories turn over in their graves joining in the laughter.