2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,100 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


2014: What Kind Of Year Has It Been?

Scholars in the middle ages were superstitious about the 14th year of a century, as it was perceived wisdom that misfortunes occur more frequently in any year ending in 14. The Moors took Spain in 714, Charlemagne died in 814 (he was quite important back then), 914 saw various famines throughout medieval Europe, and the years 1014, 1114, 1214 and 1314 all saw various military and natural catastrophes that dug deep into the medieval psyche but don’t really seem bad these days (unless The Hungarian Invasion, the loss of Brittany and the Battle of Bouvines mean anything to you). The superstition hasn’t really stood the test of time, probably due to the fact that not many people have lived through two 14’s, and thus interest in the topic is muted.

More recently, 1914 saw the start of World War One, which can be said to have unleashed a three decade period of carnage and destruction that has never been seen before and hopefully will never be seen again. How does 2014 rank in this illustrious company? It was a year that saw the first real threat to the borders of a European country for almost half a century, and also one that saw the European Space Agency succeed in the greatest chase in history, as the Rosetta team managed to catch and colonise Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko after a decade long pursuit. It was a year when One Direction finally overcame the might of Justin Bieber to become the true kings of pre-teen pop merchandising, and ultimately it was the year that the whole world fell in love with Matthew McConnaughey. In this end of year summary I pay tribute to all those that made this year memorable, mostly through the world of entertainment and inconsequence, but always in search of truth, justice, and the American Way. Continue reading

Death and Taxes

Coming as I do from Ireland, and being born at a critical time that means I remember a time before the economic boom and church paedophilia scandals, I was part of a generation of schoolchildren that were probably the last to enjoy a primary education that was dictated by the Catholic Church. Religion was a large part of my education from the ages of 4-12, which involved at least an hour per school day saying prayers and learning about Jesus and how great he was. This is a level of indoctrination that would be mocked if we heard about something similar happening in North Korea, but back then it was part of life and it didn’t seem like anything strange at all. In the separation of Church and State during the process of Irish Independence, somehow the Church had been given control of the nation’s children, which is intuitive, as the Church works for Jesus, and there was no better man.

These daily religious lessons focussed mostly on Jesus and his travels, with a lesson to be learned from each story about how to live in society and function as a reasonable person. One of the stories I remember most from my tenure as an Irish primary school pupil was the story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector who learns from Jesus that there is more to life than collecting taxes. Basically, people in a town get pissed off with Zacchaeus taking all their money and chase him up a tree. Jesus comes and saves the day before the taxman presumably gets lynched by the angry crowd. It’s unclear to me to this day precisely why Zacchaeus was the bad guy in this situation, and apart from some very obvious anti-Semitic undertones there is little substance to the parable. It did make me think at the time that a tax collector was obviously a bad person, since Jesus had to help him out and set him on his path. This conflicted with everyday life of course, as tax men were a part of normal life, and it didn’t seem like there was anything wrong with their choice of profession. Continue reading