Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thousands beaten, raped in Irish reform schools

Lots of people were asking me about this today. Thing is I probably know more about this Madiun crash, OK maybe not.

In any case, Ireland's history should be a warning to everybody about mixing religion with government and the judiciary. People of religious authority could do anything they wanted without question, how some evil people took advantage of that.

Religion is all well and good, the trick is to remember that people representing their gods are still ultimately fallible people. They are no closer to god than you or I (well I am an atheist).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Booking Flights

I have booked several flights in the last week or so.

I just rediscovered today. What a site!!

I was losing my tether with Singapore Airline's site (for some unknown reason they would not accept my card). They had flights from NYC to Jakarta for $1250, which I thought was an amazing price. So I rang up their sales line but their operators in India could not make out what I was saying (terrible line).

I hung up rang again, same bloody problem. What shoddy shoddy service! The website didn't want to take my money, the call centre operators could not make out what I was saying.

A colleague then suggested, straight away it suggested trying Emirates. Everything was booked in under 10 minutes. Plus the flight only has one stop, plus it cost me only $1035! Emirates seem to be best bet flying to Jakarta from New York (whereas Etihad, their Abu Dhabi neighbours are definitely the best from Dublin).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

For a while now I have been thinking of doing a blog about the importance of freedom of movement, immigration and all that Jazz.

Haven't put much effort into yet, but hopefully some day I will add to it.

If anyone sees any interesting immigration articles, please let me know!

Questions from Kids in Germany

A pal of mine asked me to answer some of her classes questions about life in New York. I reckon she may have to edit some of the answers : )


1. Many people say NY is great, but they forget the poor people there. You always see the great things. But is it easy to become a part of the societ there or can you move to a lower level in the society very quickly?

Poor people are not forgotten in America.

In fact I suspect Americans have more of a sense of an individual's public responsibility and charitableness than many Europeans. Europeans expect their governments to take care of the less fortunate, whereas Americans take it upon themselves to look after the disadvantaged. I am not sure which way is better, there are pros and cons to both ways of thinking.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that America does have a slippery social slope. For example a colleague of mine recently told me that his mother requires hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical treatment, which would bankrupt many middle class families. Luckily for my colleague he and his family are wealthy enough to have good health insurance cover, something which can be costly in itself.

On the other hand, America provides a hand up to many people that are poor but hard working. There is a culture of hard work and an openness to immigrants which unfortunately Europe lacks.

2. You always hear that it's very stressful in New York. Is it easy for somebody new, alone, to be alright in the huge city?

Moving to any new place can be difficult. Magdeburg was a difficult place for me to move to when I first arrived! New York isn't stressful, as long as you choose to work and hang out with non-stressful people : ) Just like anywhere I suppose. The really cool thing about New York is that you can hang out with people from anywhere in the world and you can work in any industry. There is a lot of choice!

3. Is it difficult to find a job or to find new friends?

I was sent here by my company, so I have no experience of looking for a job here. I suppose it's never too difficult to find a job, it just depends what you are willing to do.

As for making friends. I have made a few good friends while I have been here, but because I am working crazy hours I am not getting out and about as much as I'd like.

4. How do the prices of apartments compare to Germany?

I pay $xxxx, and I am sharing with 2 other people. But it's a nice apartment in Manhattan, which is the most expensive area of New York. You can pay a lot less if you are willing to live in Queens, The Bronx or Brooklyn.

I have been looking at apartments for $xxxx or so. Which I could afford, but I am a cheapskate at heart (I still remember my lovely xxx Euro studio on Werder : ) - Magdeburg's Manhattan!).

5. Is it difficult to find an apartment?

I chose the first apartment I saw. So it was pretty easy. It all depends on what kind of budget you're on I suppose and how picky you are of course!

6. It NY really so free and wonderful as the people say it is?

Free and wonderful? As in Sex and the City free and wonderful? How ever you define your free and wonderful, you can find it here, you just have to be patient : )

7. Was it easy to get used to all of the people and to the crowded streets?

It was not difficult. Mainly because there are lot of very good looking women on the most crowded (shopping) streets.

8. Is it easy to make friends there or is it difficult to find friends because there are so many people?

I have heard people complain that it is difficult to make friends here. I have not found that. It's like any big city I suppose, you meet a lot of people and can be hard to make good friendships.

9. Is NY very different to other cities in the U.S.?

I have only been to three cities in the US. Boston, Seattle and San Francisco. Each one has its own flavour. But at the end of the day you have your own group of friends, colleagues, usual haunts and office. You only ever live in small nooks and crannies of any city, a city means different things to different people.

For example, I used to hang out at Moonlight in Alteneustadt way too much : )

10. Is it difficult to find a good job?

It is always difficult to find a good job, wherever you go. The good thing about New York is that there are so many niche industries you at least have a good chance to find something that matches what you are passionate in.

11. Is it really so dirty in New York?

New york is smelly, grimey, dirty. But that's all part of the character! By the way, there's a good song by the Pogues called "Dirty Old Town" which is about my hometown and well worth checking out!

12. Have you visited the Empire State building? Is it worth seeing?

I haven't gotten the chance to go there yet. Actually I have heard that The Rock at the Rockefeller Center is better and has smaller queues.

13. What is your overall opinion of New York?

It's the best place I have lived, without a doubt. But my mood changes from week to week. I shall keep you posted! ; )

14. Why did you choose to live in New York?

Well, because I wanted to travel a bit, see something new (and keep my job). The opportunity came up, I took it.

15. How do the people differ to those in Europe?

There are many Europeans here! If another Italian tourist asks me where I got my Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie or my jeans I think I will clock him...

But seriously people are mostly the same all over the world. They care about their family, complain about their jobs and think about sex most of the time.

16. Was it hard to integrate yourself?

No. The great thing about being a foreigner in any country (Germany included) is that when you say something stupid or untoward people automatically think it's an Irish thing. Girls give you a lot more leeway!

17. Is it difficult to find your way around the city?

It can be. When I first got here, I couldn't find my way to my apartment. I had to ask some people, and they were all very friendly. It reminded me of my first days in Magdeburg and I knew I was going to like this place.

18. As a tourist what sights would you recommend visiting?

The Met Museum and a dive bar. There's Nassau Bar near me, which is a "bikini bar", you lot are probably way to young for that one. There also Jeremy's Ale House near the South Street Seaport, probably not best to go there with your parents either.

19. Do you like the life in New York or is the city too big?

As I think I mentioned above, you only ever live in small parts of New York, otherwise you would go completely insane in the membrane. The biggest advantage to livng in New York (and any big city) is that if you want to best Italian food you can go to little Italy in The Bronx; if you want to see world pop groups perform every week you can see 'em in Madison Square garden 20 minutes away on the Subway; if you want to buy the whole line of Hello Kitty clothing there's a Hello Kitty shop 25 minutes away in Times Square.

20. Describe your opinion about the night life?

I love the variety of neighbourhoods; from edgy to posh; chilled to hectic. The bars and clubs are mostly cheaper than Ireland. The girls are hot, plus they like Irish accents, what more can I say!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Twenty Years Since the Dismantling of the Iron Curtain

Having lived in East Germany for years, I am fascinated about the death of communism in Europe. From all the stories I have heard, it that time sounds familiar and yet so alien.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bizarro Blog Whackiness, Part 1

I have decided to have a new segment in my log which highlights whacky blog posts.

If nothing else, it will feed the troll in me.


Jakartass is like the granddaddy of Indonesian expat bloggers. And like all grandparents, every so often he comes out with the most whacky old timer bull.

This time he says:

"I'm not an advocate of market forces."

OK, fair enough. But what are you an advocate of? Hippy astrological love forces?

In most cases being anti "neo-liberal" (I still don't understand what that means! I suppose put neo in front of any word and it becomes evil sounds, neo-hippy's anybody?) is like being anti anything, it's all well and good being against something, but what are you for? What is your plan for love, happiness and donuts?

I have read Das Kapital (in the original German) where Karl Marx lays out a plan for a global utopia. Spoiler alert! There's worryingly little religion or sex in this Marxist utopia. Actually, I reckon there's a gap in the meme market for Marxism with extra sex. How about this, Marxist manga with lots of hentai!

I shall coin it "neo-Marxism". A Marxism for cosmo readers and people that make their own fair trade hemp clothing.

Anyway, back to Jakartass, he tells us that Thatcherism is now global in the form of the IMF and ADB yada yada -- apart from North Korea! Good old Kim Jong Il, I bet he'd never contemplate a poll tax or borrowing from the evil IMF. Spoiler alert! It turns out the Kim Jong Il runs the IMF!

In any case, skepticism of neo-liberalism is healthy (I am sure neo-liberalism was coined by lefties in order to have something to worry about!) as is being sceptical of any ideology. We live in a less than ideal world after all.

There are many examples where free markets fail miserably at providing a reasonable standard of living to societies. In fact that is what economists busy themselves doing, fixing up markets to increase people's welfare (that and trying to relate moral hazard to everything).

Economics is a science not an ideology, because free market (e.g. libertarian) and interventionist (e.g. socialist) ideas are mixed and matched to come up pragmatic way to improve people's welfare.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Finding New Music

The first two CD albums my bro and I bought were Pulp's Different Class and Radiohead's The Bends. They took a while to grow on me. I remember choosing the Bends cos it seemed to have so many stars and 5/5s on the cover I reckoned I couldn't go wrong. It must've taken me a good 2 months to "get it" though. Definitely a grower (at least to a 14 or 15 year old me) but then again I didn't have enough money to buy any other albums, so I was stuck with it.

But buying listening to something new, something that none of my pals had, was, err, cool!

I am still the same, I love listening to new stuff. Few or zero preconceptions, no expectations and the chance of stumbling across the best thing since the last best thing.

Today I used to do some musical exploration. is like a musical version of Facebook.

It saves all the songs you play, so you can look up what your most listened to track, albums or artists are.

Even better, you can look at what other users are listening to and even listen to their 'radio station' (i.e. their music collection).

I often listen to my bro's station to check up on what he's listening to and my own while at work and want a bigger selection than the iPod.

Apparently my bro and I have a really similar 'musical compatibility'. I always thought his taste and mine were pretty different, but then again it's all relative I suppose.

I checked out what my favourite DJ's been playing recently and bought a handful of albums. Unfortunately, I am too lazy/busy to listen to his show regularly now.

Anyone know of a decent DJ (especially Indonesian) with a account? Would love to keep more up to date with Indonesian music (and music in general...).

Maybe I should subscribe to some music review websites. Any suggestions?

How do you find new music?