Bock's People Humour

True Story

Water dripped incessantly from the underside of the concrete on the underpass. it had been muggy, warm, suddenly a downpour from nowhere. Pulled in on the hard shoulder of a national primary, flashers on, hiding in plain view, the best way.  Waiting.

It had been organised in a hurry over the previous forty eight hours. Delivery of the packages had gone wrong, the original courier suddenly “departed” from the organisation. The well oiled machine had kicked in almost instantly, mobile phones buzzed until the re-routing of the three foreign visitors had taken place. We’d met their european cousin this time last year but he had moved on to another location.  The “Three wise men” as we had nicknamed them had a meeting in Cork and after the initial flurry of excitement at their arrival , the delivery man was to meet me on his way home. First, he had to complete his normal duties to avert suspicion. Look innoccuous they said. We try to do our best.

Where the bloody hell is he? Trucks pass into the night, I turn back having averted my eyes from the strong headlights, just in time to see the red glows reflecting off the asphalt as they carry on receding into the pitch black. The Chairman is to meet me in a quiet watering hole to give me further instructions on overnight storage. Because of the change in plans it looks like I’ll have to hide them out at my gaff before moving them on to the next destination the following day. Who can I tell? Who will believe me? Until I have them in my possession I won’t believe it myself.

Still waiting.

I ponder on the lunacy of the last few months, the incessant travel across Britain, onto europe, the late nights passing time in hotel rooms watching foreign channels, the clandestine meetings in smoke filled foreign cafés, wined, dined while all the time the serious work was going on in the background. They worked while we played, (or so it seemed). The hard work had all paid off though, and for me tonight was the end result, the culmination of it all. I’m looking after them for a mere twenty four hours before passing them on again.

Still no sign, I check my watch, it’s much later than I thought.

Suddenly, there it is, a yellow flashing indicator in the middle of a long line of traffic, all held up by one slowcoach at the front wending his way home after a nights festivities.

The car pulls into the side in front of my pickup. I raise the lid on the rear cover and walk to the front. “Hi Peter, how’d it go?” “Good night” he replies. “A result, We were longer getting away than I expected but we made good time. This is Flann, have you met him before? He’s one of us, was on duty with me tonight in Cork”. I meet his firm grip, they are both a lot taller than they look on the TV.

“I put them in here so they wouldn’t be seen”. Have you something to cover them with?”

I point towards the multitude of Safety jackets and raingear that I had thrown in for just this purpose. “Okay Flann, lets have a look at them, we may not get the chance to see them together again!” He pops open the boot. I get my first glimpse, sodium light reflecting off the silvery curves and blazoned crests.”They’re bloody gorgeous Peter” Flann retorts, ” I can see what all the fuss is about!”.

“Make sure that the big fellah gets them back to Dublin tomorrow night or my head is in a sling, the captain is showing off those two the day after.”

I help them load into the back seat as the Sponsored car pulls off into the stream of traffic.

For one glorious day, They’re ALL MINE,

Click to see the three wise men.


Google Street mapping possibly with the new driverless car?

The Automatic Car From Google
The Automatic Car From Google
Googles Automatic Car on Highway 101 in California.
Googles Automatic Car on Highway 101 in California.

With all the furore here over the last week about the announcement of Googles Streetview photography, something slipped in under the radar over the last 24 hours.

When I was a teenager, I was convinced that we would all be flying around in either helicopters or some other vehicle capable of taking off and landing, and that at some stage that computer drivers and pilots would take over the responsibility of ensuring that we do not ram into each other on the roads. Do you remember the movie “Demolition Man” with Sly Stallone and one of my favourite babes Sandra Bullock and the automatic police car in it? or maybe more recently the fabulous Audi Automatic car in “I, Robot” that Will Smith kept arguing with about the standard of his driving?

If you have been on the roads between San Francisco and Los Angeles recently may have glimpsed a Toyota Prius or an Audi TT with a curious funnel-like cylinder on the roof. Harder to see unless you had been specifically looking out for it was that the person at the wheel was not actually driving.

With someone behind the wheel to take control if something goes haywire and also a technician in the passenger seat to monitor the navigation system, seven test cars have driven over 1,000 miles without the driver’s intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. (Click here for the link on Googles Blog). With a team of 15 engineers working on the project, Google hired more than a dozen people, each with a spotless driving record, to sit in the driver’s seat, paying $15 an hour or more to look after the fleet of six Toyota Prius’s and an Audi TT.

Google have apparently managed this with the full knowledge and co-operation of the local police forces and other relevant authorities.

The safety record of these vehicles is by all accounts excellent with the only incident to date being when one got rammed up the backside by a normal “Human” at a traffic light.

I just love these guys (Google), people say that companies should concentrate on their core businesses but how about this for a completely sideways track , current technology with the backup of googles streetview database, GPS tracking and voice driven turn by turn descriptions of what the car is about to do, along with a real-time use of their aerial and road mapping.

Is this another step on the way to Googles world domination or just a brilliant sidetrack which shows the way of the future? Only time will tell, but sources reckon that we are about 8 years away from realtime use of this technology.

Click here for the full article on the New York Times Website


Social Responsibility

Following on from a previous post where we  discussed problems that some members of our society create because of a lack of respect for property and other people, Today I read Bock’s post and I want to “add my spoke” as they say, about another side to social responsibility.

In the rugby club that I am involved in, we meet as an Executive committee every two weeks. Following these Exec meetings we usually hang around for a general chat or discussion for half an hour or so afterwards before heading home. These discussions serve as a way to wind down and calm yourself after a monday evening of “Healthy” and often robust discussion where tempers can occasionally flare, proposals are chewed over before being spat out and replaced with polar opposites before a compromise is found. These compromises, while often not perfect, usually succeed in making everyone about as unhappy with the situation as everyone else,  no winners or losers, just an agreement. That’s the way of a committee.

During one of these informal chats, we chanced to discuss something with a little more meat than the usual ramblings about how the teams have done over the weekend, who’s playing well and who’s not etc. The discussion was in my opinion worth sharing as it has wider implications, it centred on civic responsibility in general and the role that clubs and societies have to play in the current climate.

In our club we happen to have a larger number than average of people who depended on the construction industry for work, whether at the lower “unqualified” end of the spectrum (the people who really get things done), we have  tradespeople, we have those at the “Educated” side of the industry and we have those working in the many spinoff industries such as plant hire, catering, transport, all which have been seriously damaged by the recession in which we now find ourselves. Many of our members and players find themselves out of work at the moment or seriously reduced in the hours and money available to them. While this has put extreme pressures on our members and players, it has oddly enough had a good affect on the quality and success of the teams in our club and also on the facilities there. We all seem to have much more time available to put into training or working in the club over the last twelve months just for something to pass away the extra free hours if for no other reason. But with the success that we have had as a club, comes an increase in the workload involved and over the years there has been a substantial fall-off in numbers of volunteers. We need as much help as we can get and can never get enough volunteers.

Lining the pitches can help
Lining the pitches can help

The Club is in a primarily rural area where loneliness and isolation are common and suicide rates are above the average.  It affects people of all walks of life and age groups and it feels like it’s becoming more and more common, particularly among men. This is actually how the discussion began and we came around to talking about the role in society that clubs like our own have. Golf clubs, GAA clubs, musical societies — societies or groupings of people of all types — will have to stop and think seriously about their role in society, about how they can serve as a release valve for people in trouble. A few times a week, we serve as a place that someone can park their troubles at the gate and forget about the outside world for a couple of hours. While training or at a game or when someone is changing in the dressing room alongside you a simple question like “How are things on your end?” can lance a boil that is brewing in someones mind and let them vent out their frustration if that is what they want or need.

Just asking could often be enough to lift someone.  The simple fact that someone cares enough to ask can help. Chatting with the person alongside while you watch your sons or daughters training could actually make the difference between someone else’s life or death. Sounds Dramatic? I don’t think so, it’s a known fact.  Solitude can be dangerous at a time like that and no-one ever knows because they didn’t ask.

Things may look dark for the economic future but we came to the conclusion that what is needed now more than ever is for people to look after each other and try to work through this pile of shite we find ourselves in.

So here’s my proposal:

Get Involved
Get Involved

Instead of spending those extra few hours on the internet, get yourself down to your nearest club or society, whether it’s GAA, Knitting, Soccer, Crochet, Badminton, Music classes or Bowls. Lend a hand if you have an hour to spare.  There is always something that needs doing there.  Line the pitches, set out the chairs in the hall, get involved if you can. If you can’t, just have a chat with the person on the sideline who’s waiting for their son or daughter to finish training.  If you can’t help, just get out and watch, or take part in something that you can do. There is a multitude of ways to get out and pass away a few hours without spending a bob. It’s cheap and cheerful and you’ll find a kindred soul out there somewhere.

Maybe you need to vent yourself. If you are in a dark place, getting out and meeting someone and having a cup of tea in the parish hall kitchen can lance that boil.  It gets you out of the house if nothing else. Stop looking at the four walls. Helping has its own rewards.  It’s a great feeling to see how your contribution of time can help  the younger generation play your sport (if that’s your thing). If you have a skill in something else, cooking, music, dance, singing, woodwork, who knows what, pass it on to the next person, young or old. Learn something new yourself.  We will need all new skills to survive what we has been done to this country.

Get out and meet a kindred spirit.
Get out and meet a kindred spirit.

If we look after each other maybe some good can come out of all the crap that we are going through at the moment. It costs you nothing except your time, a mere hour or two. And that’s become cheaper every day.

Sorry if it feels like a sermon, I couldn’t figure out how to write this so please take it as it is meant, as something to prod your mind. If it makes a difference to one person it’ll have done what it was meant to.


Why would you bother?

Within the last few months I have come across two fabulous examples of “freedom of expression” by the underclasses in our society.

I brought the kids on a Sunday drive to Charleville back in March. There is a fantastic playground there with climbing rope frames, swings, trains for the younger ones to play on and loads of other fantastic gear. It gave herself time to read the Sunday papers in the car while I tried to wear them down enough so that they would sleep before getting up for school on Monday.

When I got there this is the sight that greeted me.

Football and Basketball Court

Now this took some work to achieve, Hard Work, this stuff is deliberately tough, made to withstand torture from having kids run into it, swing off it, kick footballs against it, that’s what it was designed for. But some bloody Muppet really went out of his way to destroy it, using fire and an accelerant.

The work that went into destruction.

Then, the following weekend we went the other direction, my lunatic brother in law decided that it was time for the first Surf-boarding of the season . We went to Spanish point to put ourselves through the torture of entering the water for the first time this year.

We parked up, geared up, wives (The sensible ones) with woolly caps and winter jackets, husbands, us lunatics in wetsuits carrying boards, too daft to call each other out on the sheer stupidity of it. Each just not willing to admit to the other that we were bloody frozen in the water until eventually through mutual agreement, we got out en masse before our toes fell or broke off due to frostbite.

Back to the cars, dry off and sit down at the tables to eat the lunch which was brought with us.

This is what we should have been able to use:

Spanish Point

This is what we saw when we got there, Notice anything different?

Picnic Table

Here’s a closer Look:

Saw Cut through a 9"x4" solid piece of teak seating.

Some idiot had done this with a bloody Chainsaw: Had gone to the trouble of getting petrol, mixing the oil/petrol mix, bringing the chainsaw to the lunch area and taken it out, started it up and cut a bloody chunk out of a perfectly good seat.


Clare Co. Council had a spare ready in the wings to replace it, I had seen it on my way up out of the water but didn’t realise what it was until I had seen the damage, how much is it going to cost between buying the lumber, getting the seat made then breaking out and replacing the cut one?

Replacement Seat.

This vandalism is just another symptom of a far more serious problem. Earlier this year, on this site , the boss lauded the passing into law of the right to protect your home and the vicinity of your home. It is a good idea, but a good first step only in my opinion.

As a society, we appear to have created an underclass that has no respect for anything or anyone. Maybe I’m just getting older, but over the last few years I’ve been more and more sickened by the increasing number of attacks on Elderly people living alone, destruction of peoples property, the destruction of Public Property. We are becoming immunised to the many, many cases of people being savagely beaten and terrorised for a measly few Euros that they had put away to keep themselves warm and fed. Who can blame these innocents for keeping it at home instead of in the bank? They have worked hard for all that they have. The banking system has failed and has lost all credibility, they cannot trust it, so they go back to doing what they did before in hard times, stuffing their hard earned cash under the mattress or in a hole in the house wall.

Our so called “Deprived” underclass of course, have never worked a day in their lives but they have “Issues” around things if you are to believe the bleeding hearts who have made an industry out of explaining away the failures of society to give them “Their Entitlements”. These “Deprived” automatically assume that they have a right to money along with all of their other rights and therefore they think they can just walk in and take it and destroy anyone who disagrees with them.

The title of this piece started as “Why would you bother”, I was dejected, but I’m sick to the teeth of it, of them and of the apologists who reckon it’s societies fault that they do what they do.


As I wrote this, I became more and more agitated. I am going to bother, and I want you to bother too. The truth of it is that it is societies fault, it is our fault, mine and yours. We’re all guilty. We have allowed these thugs to do this to us by being complacent. We have allowed them to do this by turning the other cheek.We have given them the power by sitting back and doing nothing. We tolerate it.

What do I think? I don’t have to become a vigilante. You can if that’s your wish but there’s no need, we’re not paid for that.

Start by reporting everything and anything wrong that you see to the relevant “authorities”, Plague them, for as long as it takes. Sicken them by tying up their phones and their administration for a year or longer. To stop the annoyance they have to do something just for the sake of peace and quiet if for no other reason.  If they don’t deal with reported incidents Ask why not? Ring them two or three or even more times until the message gets across that we are sick of it. MAKE THEM DO THEIR JOB.

Change the stupid archaic Drink laws so that the guards don’t have to waste valuable time paid for by you, checking on whether some poor bastard, minding his own business, harming no-one is finishing his drink five minutes after the prescribed closing time. This would get them back to doing what they are supposed to be doing, protecting the innocent from these “Poor Misguided”. Staggering or completely removing closing times like some American states would also lessen the numbers of people on the street at the same time (closing time or “Happy Hour” as the emergency workers call it) thereby having the knock on effect of getting them home easier by taxi, bus, whatever. This ONE simple step alone would make the streets safer at night, easier to police as there is less numbers to deal with at any one time. It gets the Guards back to their primary responsibility, protection.

Garda Síochána, Guardians of the peace is the translation from our mother tongue, not guardians of the holy drinking hours.

Don’t turn the other cheek. Keep an eye out on your neighbours, elderly and otherwise. Our glorious government is not looking after us so instead we look after each other. Call in, even if it is just for a minute twice a week. You don’t have to stalk or peek through windows, we outnumber these thugs, they are the minority, there is safety in numbers if we stick together.

Don’t buy hardware or anything from those in the markets, marts and anywhere else, if it’s not clear that it’s genuine goods (again the majority are and will make this easy for you to do) Remove the market for the stuff to be stolen and you put them out of business.

Don’t buy Drugs, soft or Hard. Again, no matter your views on the rights and wrongs of it, this is what keeps the most dangerous bastards in business. Let’s be clear on this, It’s a business, a real money making enterprise. Remove the market and they won’t be long closing down and shutting up shop. For twelve months do without the E tabs, the rollie, the bathroom snort. Couple this with freeing up the guards from policing ridiculous drinking laws and you can get the results from 24 hour policing of the thugs, emptying their cars onto the side of the road everytime they move from the estates and houses in which they hide. In your face policing works. They will shut up shop because it’s just too much hassle to operate.

Make punishments an actual punishment. If someone gets jail make it hurt. Remove the TV’s from the cells, get rid of the cell phones, Chain gang the fuckers to the sides of the roads giving back to the community that they stole from. Make it a worse place to be than at home rather than a better place. Make them serve the full sentence. Two strikes and on the third mandatory sentencing without any chance of parole.

Make the parents responsible for the actions of their kids. Make them pay for the damage, take it out of their welfare if necessary. A couple of years of this, hitting the parents in the pocket wouldn’t take too long to get the message across that they are responsible until their kids become adults, the kids are not just a way of getting more government help.

Or am I all wrong? Am I a dinosaur for thinking like this? Have you any other alternatives to add?

For fuck sake, let us take it back.


On Semiconductors and Paranoia…

Semiconductor Wafers
Semiconductor Wafers
Electronic Water Valve
Electronic Water Control
Electronically controlled Gas Nail Gun
We don't use hammers any more.

With the increase in the use of semiconductors into every facet of technology, slowly but surely doubts are beginning to creep in to my mind about the amount of control that chip manufacturers have over our daily lives.

Over the last half century or so, semi-conductors have become prevalent in everything from the timers used to control your heating to the main control systems in our municipal water supplies. The phones & PDA’s  that we now all carry, the cars we drive daily. We don’t even hammer nails anymore, most being driven by electronically controlled gas guns. Screwdrivers are a thing of the past, replaced with electronic screw-guns.

Electronic components have taken over the jobs that previously some very devious mechanical methods were used to do. Rather than coming up with a (sometimes) beautiful and intricate mechanical solution for a problem, we now find a way to change it to an electronic solution. It just seems to be so much easier to do.

With the rapid increase in semi-conductor technology from this years invention of bendable/stretchable electronics,  the traditional square ceramic blocks change into shapes that are only limited by your imagination. Couple this with the invention of soluble semiconductor ink and you may finally see “bendy” video screens for a “roll-up” video-phone that fits in a pen sized roll  (remember the Sci-Fi TV series that featured these?) It will allow ID tags or tracking devices to be printed onto anything, requiring only a minor change to an ink-jet printer to accomplish what used to be impossible.

Where is this post leading you might ask? Fair enough…I’ll show you my fears, if you show me yours…

From a purely commercial viewpoint, planned/timed obsolescence of perfectly good electronics is one insidious method of control (pay us thirty thousand this week or we shut down your computer network remotely). If you don’t upgrade to this years model of phone, the old one just stops on the 366th day at 11:59 and 59.99999 seconds. Don’t buy your car, but lease it and if you are a second late on your payment it suddenly stops  on the road. One example of this “Shutdown technology” in current use is desktop printer cartridges which stop working until replaced after a certain lifespan (currently measured in months).

In an age where electronic tagging of people is seriously being mooted,  especially in these times of closed borders and the administration of one of the worlds superpowers becoming more and more paranoid every day, who is to say what can and can’t be built into a chip? Late last year the “New York Times” reported on “A 2007 Israeli air force attack on a suspected, partly-constructed Syrian nuclear reactor, which led to speculation about why the Syrian air defense system did not respond to the Israeli aircraft. Accounts of the event initially indicated that sophisticated jamming technology was used to blind the radars. Last December, however, a report in an American technical publication, IEEE Spectrum, cited a European industry source in raising the possibility that the Israelis might have used a built-in kill switch to shut down the radars. Separately, an American semiconductor industry executive said in an interview that he had direct knowledge of the operation and that the technology for disabling the radars was supplied by Americans to the Israeli electronic intelligence agency, Unit 8200”

Now here we have a situation where proprietary equipment used in a sovereign nations defence was subverted using methods built in to the semi-conductors, the building blocks used to create it. Think of how this could be used to cripple an economy (the quickest way to win a war).  Close down the financial sectors of another country and you cut into its very heart, surgically.

Shut down vehicular traffic and a country is crippled.  All of the roads are suddenly littered with vehicles unable to move, planes or helicopters cannot get off the ground. People die, not from explosions or radiation but rather from the ensuing chaos following such an occurrence.  All your fancy satellite technology for defense goes straight out the window, useless.

Attack the the modern Media & phone networks. No communications means crazed panic. People normally able to contact anyone almost without thinking are now powerless to find out whats going on. All of the above is quite possible using this technology.

Even without it being built into the original chips, Use of an EMP weapon would more efficiently neutralise any nation than any amount of conventional warfare. Nothing works anymore. We grind completely to a halt, lost, alone and helpless.

I know this is taking it to the extreme, to a dark place that currently exists only inside my head. Don’t get me wrong, I love current technology. I love the innovations currently taking place, but if you stop and think about where we’re heading, it poses some awkward questions:

Are we putting too much control of our lives into chip manufacturers hands? Are we just far too dependent on them, their products, on electronics in general to stop now? Could a future war be fought across networks rather than on the ground? Electronic attacks remotely? Is it really all that far fetched?



Remember the Big Freeze?

With the climate going the way it is and suddenly this beautiful mild weather of ours turning into something reminiscent of Iceland (Like our banks) , I “stumbled” across this over the last few days and just had to link to it.
There may be a design challenge for one of the Dragons out of this one… I can think of a multitude of uses to put similar machines to.


Health and safety my arse

You have the Irish version of Health and Safety where losing bodily fluids or waste involves forms filled out in triplicate and then you have this….


Sexifying a Metro System

When you hear the phrase “Metro” or “Underground” it immediately brings to mind dull, drab stations with dreary tiled floors and bad fluorescent lighting.

Not if you live on Stockholm however. When they decide to build a new metro station they do it in style:  Metrô na Suécia


The Fun Theory by Volkswagen

Here’s a brilliant use of electronics in various guises to make environmental awareness and health awareness fun, thereby encouraging change rather than the usual finger-wagging, po-faced, matronly, political correctness.

By creating a Piano keyboard out of a stairway alongside an escalator they increased use of the stairs by 66%.

By simulating the world’s deepest bin with sound effects they massively increased the use of a public litter bin.

By turning a bottle bank into an arcade game they increased its use exponentially.

Admittedly, these have an initial wow factor and probably will get up people’s noses after a while, but as a form of advertising environmental awareness in a fun way rather than ramming it down people’s throats it definitely gets my vote.

Who says the Germans are too serious?

Take a trip over to their website and make sure to have a look at the entries pages as well, there is some good stuff there. Maybe you can come up with something yourself and win a prize.


Proposal to improve the 3 pin plug.

Three pin plug replacement prototype
Three pin plug replacement prototype

Have you ever had a  charger stick in your rib in an inside pocket? Or tear a hole into your favourite book if you carry a laptop or camera bag? Or if,  like me, you use a rucksack to carry both around together nearly all of the time, then you already know the curse of the three pin plug.

Sometimes the simple solutions are the best. I have imported electronic gear across the Atlantic on a few occasions and even though  battery chargers and other similar items often have a 100v-240v rating on the back, I have had to purchase a transformer like THIS ONE from Maplins.

The North American version of a wall plug is a tidy thing.  Voltage adaptors often have the two pins built-in, and if you bring a new camera, pocket computer, iPaq or any other kind of electronic implement across the Atlantic, you’re struck by the simple elegance of the North american two-pin system compared to ours.

Here on this western tail end of Europe we have a bulky lump of plastic with three metal prongs that seem to inevitably poke holes in your camera bag or in one instance a  laptop screen causing a very expensive repair.

Tonight while “Stumbling ” again, I came across the site of Min-Kyu Choi, a student in the Royal College of Art, London who had a design for a fabulous folding three pin plug prototype which not only is able to be folded almost completely flat removing the “Sticky-out” bits, but reduces the thickness of the obnoxious plastic lump to about 1 cm flat on the end of a cable.

Have a look at the video and also at the proposal for a new angle on the three-way adaptor.

If these things start going into production any time soon, you won’t see anyone cutting plugs off cables any quicker than me.