General Neuroticism

Anyone who knows me will know that I am steadfastly colour co-ordinated when it comes to taking notes. I use various colours of Post Its, record cards and highlighters to aid my studying according to subject- yet I famously do not believe in the convention that my socks must be a matching pair.

This neuroticism is something most people are caught up in at some point or another. I’ve a friend who won’t talk to me when we’re in separate cubicles of a bathroom, and I myself cannot drink my takeaway tea until the cardboard holder is turned so that the label is lined up on both cup and holder.

I realise that this is a venomous waste of time and that it will only make me go grey faster- but I just cannot help it. I actually thought that everyone was like this- but last week I met someone who claimed not to have any of these types of neuroses at all. I was both perplexed and amazed- since even my family have notable stupid neurotic moments that I can’t understand- to discover that here was a person who was quite entirely laid back. Total freak.

The one thing, she said, that bugged the crap out of her, was when people in the shop she works at put their change on the counter resulting in her spending ages trying to pick it up. That and people who won’t take out their iPod earphones when talking to her- though this is solely applicable to the work environment, apparently.

But, I digress. My point here is that this girl was living proof of a totally chilled out and relaxed individual. She needn’t worry- as I often do- about the need for a coaster under your glass, or the fear I have of public toilets, or the fact that I cannot, actually cannot, eat a packet of smarties without arranging them according to colours and eating the ones I like least first (brown), followed by the colour I like second least and so on up to my favourite colour (blue- I didn’t buy smarties while there were no blue ones). I realise that this is also a total waste of my time, and that the flavour difference is just plain negligible, but it is one of those compulsions 1 have that I just cannot beat.

It has struck me in recent times that I am in fact very wary of other people’s neuroses; I do not understand why people feel the need to avoid escalators in case they get stuck in them, or people who keep every piece of paper they’ve ever owned just in case it turns out to be useful, or those weirdos who wait persistently for the green man before they cross the road, even though the nearest car might be a mile away. To this end I am vowing to be a little more appreciative of other people’s quirks. Everyone is neurotic in  their own way, right?

Crap, my yellow highlighter has run out.

iPod, iDrop

It is usually at this time of the year that I decide to do something completely harebrained. True to form, this year I gave in to peer pressure (and industry pressure!) and bought an iPod on impulse. Frankly my parents had iPods before

I did; this was not due to my inherent lack of access to music or anything. It was just that until this point I always used a Creative Zen and it suited me grand. Of course, in typical fashion, I ran out of space on every smaller MP3 Player and I was really forced to branch out.

Hence the 160GB iPod Classic that now follows me everywhere. Given the fact that it cost me a small fortune (actually, it cost my father a small fortune, if we want to be proper about it), I immediately began to worry about losing it. This happens every time I buy something new and relatively expensive. What I didn’t realise until very recently is just how much I have to lose if I misplace my bag or ifs aid bag gets saturated (which it does obviously)- or dropped on cement.

First, there’s the netbook, which was €400. My phone was €170. The iPod was a steal at €229- and my beloved Amazon Kindle (yeah yeah, nerd, I know) was €250. On the average day, these are all in my bag. That has started to worry me because I’ve never even considered insuring any of these things, and added together that’s a whole lot of money I have to lose. And it’s the same, if not worse, for others. Some people bring Macbooks and HP Laptops to college; some of them have cost over €l 000 all on their own- not to mind iPhones, iPods and other paraphernalia that we actually cannot live without anymore.

This is unlikely to; have worried anyone else; I’m an anorak about  some things, and I know I’d be in tears if I ever lost one of those tiny devices that give me Repetitive Strain Injury and ruin my eyesight and give me a headache and sometimes break for no apparent reason other than that they just don’t love me anymore.

So here’s the nub of it: I’ve decided that everything has to have some sort of physical cover, meaning that each of the items can take a fall once or twice with no serious damage. This is of course not an absolute defence- the amount of phones and MP3 Players I have had in past times is too large a number to say without shame. Phones in particular; the cover policy

cannot apply to my phone because it’s a slider.; it slides right out of my hand. It must simply accept that at any time, it faces falling from my car, my bag, my pocket or my hand. And see, that’s the real problem. Any sensible insurer wouldn’t cover me at all at all. I am, and always will be, a clumsy fool who drops things all the time. Doesn’t spell well for the new iPod now, does it?

Ring Them Bells- UCC Express, February 2010

Shure hasn’t Cork changed a mighty amount since we rang in the new Millenium?

When I was the happy age of ten, Cork was a very different place. Debenhams was Roches Stores, Opera Lane was a back alley named after a bloke called Faulkner, and Patrick Street was traffic-rancid and rather grey. There was no such thing as Accessorize and Subway was entirely unheard of, not to mind Starbucks! The last ten years have seen great change in Cork, just like everywhere else. The city has seen some triumph, some disasters, and a whole lot of growth and development. In 2000, we celebrated the new millennium, and it’s fair to say that we’ve come a long way since then.

Patrick Street changed entirely in the first four years of the last decade. Although people gave out about the amount of time it took, the footpaths were widened, concrete was replaced with limestone bricks, and lamps were mounted all along the street. The developments stretched into Grand Parade, which was similarly changed and revamped.

By the time 2005 rolled around, and those developments were nearing completion, Cork accepted its role as European Capital of Culture. It was in that year that. We made our own music festival- Live at the Marquee. In its first year, Diana Ross, Nick Cave and Brian Wilson played. In 2006, Kanye West, Bob Dylan and David Gray played, and since the festival moved to the Marina in that pretty coloured tent, Elton John, Lady GaGa, Dolly Parton and Neil Young have all played to critical acclaim. 2005 saw other changes too; Mahon Point is the biggest shopping centre in Munster, and it opened that year. Bershka is a firm favourite and since Mahon Point houses the only Zara in the city, it’s a definite attraction for the average shopper.

In a similar vein, the Capitol cinema went south in December 2005; on the night it closed, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the main attraction. Just like the Pavilion and the Savoy, Cork had lost another cinema, after 58 years of strong business. Cinema didn’t lose out in Cork long-term though. Ken Loach arrived here in 2006 with The Wind that Shakes the Barley. With Cork’s own Cillian Murphy in the starring role, the film struck a chord at the heart of Cork. In 2007, Vinnie Jones and Michael Madsen arrived here to film Strength and Honour. It was definitely an experience to remember for the many UCC students that took part.

It wasn’t just a case of economic boom and bust; Cork does lie on a marsh, and the waters have come calling once or twice. 2009 is best remembered, not least because it was so recent, but there were floods at other times too; the Blackwater burst its banks in 2008 and Fermoy can be flood central when the rain comes.

If there’s a representative sad story to be had in all of this, it likely comes in the form of the rise and fall of Cork City Fe. In 2001, Brian Lennox took charge of the club and success began to smile when George O Callaghan, John O Flynn and Dan Murray joined the team in 2002. In 2003, City came third in the league under Pat Dolan, and the following year, we competed in Europe and came second in the league. Amid controversy, Damien Richardson took over management of the club in 2005, and Cork City secured the league after a win over Derry City, and on a cold day that December, Cork City travelled to Dublin, finishing runners up in the FAI Cup.

Things were looking up for City; then it all came crashing down. When Arkaga took ownership of the club in 2007, Damien Richardson parted ways with CCFC amidst talk of lawsuits and settlements. Alan Matthews took over the reins but the club could not be saved; Cork City went into examinership in 2008, a victim of decrepit ownership by the Arkaga fund. The club emerged from examinership when Tom Coughlan took over, hut the sad end to the story is that Coughlan is now the most hated man in Cork.

Paul Doolin did wonders with a broken and battered team when City ended third in the league in 2009, bot the players and staff had not been paid, there were bills outstanding, and Tom Coughlan has yet to explain his actions. As we walk into 2010, it is uncertain whether Cork City FC will survive another decade. Even with the mentioned potential losses, Corkonians are the happy-go-lucky type. Cork is one of the strangest and best places there is. Everyone knows everyone and any town where you can climb to the top of a tower and ring the bells is a town to see.

Shure ten years ago that was about all we had!

Live It Up!- UCC Express, February 2010

UCC’s Mental Health Policy was outlined on January 15th; it’s time for a re-evaluation of our attitudes and behaviours.

We all get down every now and then. Stress is a big part of life; you don’t have those 4000 essays done and your apartment is cold. Your part time job is only aiding the demon Pressure, but you can’t give it up because it pays for your day to day college life (the occasional roll and a lot of skimping on necessities like pens and decent food). And then things really hit the fan: you have everything ready to go, and you’re in the library and for some technological reason that’s way beyond your comprehension, the printer breaks and you’ve nothing to hand up and the marks are floating out the window.

We’ve all been there. That terrible sick feeling in your stomach followed by the incandescent rage that things never work for you when you most need them to. There are occasional tears and occasional tantrums. And the following day you wake up even less enthused; perhaps because of a hangover. It sounds soft, but that’s so not good for your head or your body. It’s neither healthy nor progressive- and the world has enough problems without you feeling bad to top it all off.

See here’s the thing. Sometimes the best thing to do is sit down with a cup of tea and a book. Avoid the news, avoid the papers and avoid the college work. Talking to your roommate, calling an old friend from school or even phoning your sister for a chat will honestly make things feel better. We’re all in the same position; everyone is stressed and strained because that’s life.

Alcoholism is a tentative talking point here. I’m not here to talk about the physical stuff. We know about the liver damage and the sexual dysfunction. Psychosis, confusion and panic attacks are not uncommon. Depressive episodes go hand in hand with too much drinking. Not to mind the possibilities for drunk driving and date raping- both of which carry huge consequences. If you have trouble sleeping and if you feel unhappy, if you’re the butt of everyone’s jokes for your drunken antics and if you feel less ambitious and less focused, or if you find your money is being poured into pubs and clubs, it might be time to rethink the drink and cut down. I’m not saying cut off completely; I’m saying that taking some time out might be just what the doctor ordered.

Mental health problems are becoming more common now- but generally we prefer not to talk about it. It frightens us to see sadness at its core. But we really shouldn’t ignore it. It’s unimaginable to consider that there are those of us who suffer so much, but the truth is on the sheet. When the HSE reported on mental health, they alluded to the fact that 62% of people would not want anyone to know if they had mental health issues.

Just over one in ten people asked about mental issues reported having experience with mental problems- and women reported as being the more affected. This University has over 18,000 full time students. Imagine that 1,800 of those are currently in a battle we might know nothing about. Depression is one of the biggies. Feeling sadness or hopelessness consistently, having difficulty with daytime activities and problems concentrating, as well as changes in basic functions like eating and sleeping are some of the symptoms.

Anybody who recognises the symptoms should talk to a doctor or a friend- and try to work it out. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. The world is a cruel son of a bitch sometimes, and there are times when we all feel overburdened and underwhelmed. Nobody should feel bullied, harassed or humiliated about their problems; if anything they should feel all the more supported and appreciated. We all get caught up in the independence of college, but make a call home every now and then.

Chat to your friends, make dates outside of the pub and go to society events and club meetings. No need to overdo it, but a bit of exercise and some hobbies can do all the good in the world. If you find yourself feeling out of your depth, stressed and alone, make a call to someone who can help. If there’s nobody at home, phone the Samaritans, Aware or Niteline. Take the day off and go get some retail therapy. Go outside for a walk in the air, rain or shine. Sometimes the smallest things can put everything into perspective and make you feel way better. Take care of you, and take care of your friends.

Life is bigger than stress and strain: live it up, not down.

Law Students Travel to EU Institutions

The annual Irish Universities Law Students tour of EU Institutions took place between February 8th and 12th this year. 24 students from UCC were among those who flew to Brussels on Monday in preparation for a tour across Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands.

On Monday the students visited Luxembourg City and took in the sights of one of the wealthiest nations in the world. On Tuesday the group attended the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg, where they were present for the hearing of an important case before thirteen judges of the Grand Chamber. They also attended a question and answers session with representatives of the Court, as well as the two Irish judges of the European Court of Justice, Judge O Caoimh and Judge O Higgins. Following this session, a lunch was hosted for the students, who hailed not just from UCC, but also from NUIG and UCD.

On Wednesday the group visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg and met with the majority of the Irish MEPs, among them Alan Kelly, Sean Kelly, Jim Higgins, Pronsiais de Rossa, Marian Harkin and Gay Mitchell. They were invited to ask questions and learned about the committees and operations of the background to the European Parliament. They also visited the Public Gallery of the Parliament and were present for voting of the MEPs on issues including the ascension of Turkey to the European Union and aid for Haiti.

The group stayed in Antwerp and on Thursday visited the European Commission in Brussels. Here they participated in several presentations, the first by Mr. Jo Vandercappellen regarding the fundamental institutions of the European Union. A further discussion by Mr. Donnchadh Woods arose in the area of competition law and antitrust policy in the European Union, with particular focus on the strength of companies such as Microsoft and Intel and their ability to abuse their noted positions of dominance in the market.

The European Union’s Neighbourhood policy was discussed by Mr. John O Rourke, who elaborated on the aspects of EU relations with other nations- among them Algeria and Turkey. He accepted questions regarding Russia and an Eastern Policy that is likely to emerge in the near future, in an attempt to strengthen old relations and build new ones- a core principle of the ‘peace and stability’ intention of the Union as a whole. Finally the group spoke with Mrs. Audrone Steiblyte about the European Commission’s Legal Service. how it operates and deals with obstacles such as language on a daily basis. She outlined for the students the future career opportunities at the European Commission.

On Friday the group spent free time in Amsterdam before returning to Cork.


Weird Wide World February 2010

 Katrina Victims Sue Companies for Hurricane

A group of Hurricane Katrina victims are suing oil companies such as Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil in a class action for damages resultant from the Hurricane. They argue that since the companies run the energy and fossil fuel industries and these industries produce greenhouse gases, which cause global warming, and global warming makes hurricanes worse. They believe that they are owed compensation.


Cabin Crew Sentenced to Jail for Texts

Reuters reports that two cabin crew members with Emirates Airlines have been sentences to jail time for sending sexually explicit text messages. They were convicted of “coercion to commit sin”, and sentenced to three months imprisonment.


Dentist Used Paper Clips in Surgeries

A former Massachusetts dentist is accused of placing paper clips instead of stainless steel posts inside the teeth of root canal patients while billing Medicaid for the more expensive parts. He is accused of assault, battery, larceny, illegally subscribing drugs and submitting false claims to Medicaid.


Hostile Eviction in China

Chinese property developers, with aid from the police force, confronted 70 year old Wang Cuyun, with the intention of bulldozing her property. She was beaten with a stick and thrown into a ditch in the ensuring struggle, and the property developers buried her alive. By the time she was found, she had already died. The Chinese government has suppressed internal reporting of the incident.

USI Criticises ESRI Report

The Union of Students in Ireland has criticised the recent report of the ESRI on the Cost of Participation in Higher Education for being outdated. The USI believes that the report, reliant on surveys detailed between 2003 and 2006, does not adequately portray the current situation of students given the recent recession, increased unemployment rates and changes in costs of living in Ireland today.

The Report itself indicates that the primary source of data used is the Eurostudent Survey of 2003-04, which “provides valuable data on the income, expenditure and wellbeing of 3,900 full and part-time higher education students at undergraduate and postgraduate level across the institutions.”

The Report also notes its intention to chart changes since the early 1990s in the education system, noting its reliance on School Leavers Reports of 1992 and 2004, based on school leavers from 1990-91 and 2002-3. USI President Peter Mannion stated that “”Much of the data contained in this ESRI report is outdated and irrelevant. The assumptions that parents are still able to part fund their children’s Higher Education, and that students can secure part-time employment, are now redundant.”

The report indicates evidence of a trend that mature students are overall more dissatisfied with their financial situation than non-mature students. Mannion stated “Many of the points raised in the report still need to be addressed- for example, the need for greater financial support for mature students.” The recent changes in the Budget 2010 mean that new mature students in the academic year 2001 will not qualify for the grant if in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance, which is an issue requiring immediate addressing according to Mannion.

UCC SU Welfare Officer Rebecca Murphy, when asked to comment, stated that she welcomes the report, but that she “would be in agreement with USI that the figures are quite dated in [the report]- the economic climate has changed drastically since the survey was carried out, and even I have seen the spike in cases of financial hardship this year in my job. Almost every single student who calls in to me has an issue with finance.”

President: We Have Fees

The President of UCC, Dr. Michael Murphy spoke and answered questions at the Student Union Council on February 3rd 2010, at which point he acknowledged that the student registration fee is “a charade practiced by government”. In pointing out that “We have fees”, the President noted his commitment to the Framework for Good Practice, which outlines the need for student involvement in the spending of the student registration charge.

He related that prior to the involvement of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Science and Education, he had in fact been unaware of the Framework and he further promised that the necessary forum for student involvement will be initiated.

In his speech the President acknowledged the effort of this year’s Student’s Union in the rebranding of Raise and Give Week, which he referred to as genius. He further thanked the students of UCC for their effort in the aftermath of November’s floods in Cork city. He noted that UCC has received a good deal of respect for coping with the trouble.

In mentioning the damage to the college and noting the monetary obstacle the damage presented, Dr. Murphy also outlined that economically, the college which twelve months ago had debts of €13.2 million, now has cut that figure to a remaining €3 million to be paid before the end of the year.

When questioned about the possibility of the ‘Exchequer providing more funds for Universities rather than the registration fee rising, the President replied that he and other heads of national Universities meet Ministers frequently to discuss this issue. When further pressed, he stated that the tuition at the University is the best it can be, which is the most important thing to get right. He asserted that “We are jointly victims on this.”

The President further answered questions regarding postgraduate numbers at UCC and noted his belief that there is a failure in providing postgraduate facilities. When questioned about provisions for disabled students and the cut in funding in this area, Dr. Murphy took note of the issue and noted his intention to follow up on it in future meetings with the Student’s Union.

UCC News in Brief

Glucksman Reopens

President Mary McAleese reopened the Glucksman Gallery on January 22nd. The new exhibition, entitled Thingamajig marks the 5th Anniversary of the Gallery. “2009 will be remembered as a horrible year, but it also be remembered as an extraordinary chapter in the gallery’s history. When you see what has been redeemed, your heart lifts,” she said.

UCC and Bon Secours Sign Teaching Agreement

UCC and the Bon Secours Hospital have signed a teaching agreement designed to benefit Medicine students and provide future aid to pharmacy, nursing and clinical therapy students. Under the agreement, hospital staff wishing to access research facilities will be able to do so at UCC. Professor David Kerins of the School of Medicine said: “This demonstrates that private hospitals and public universities can collaborate fruitfully to the benefit of both parties in the best interests of patients.”

 Adult Continuing Education

UCC, in collaboration with Cork City Library and the Crawford Art Gallery, is offering a series of programmes for adult education which are to be run at locations throughout the city. The introduced programmes include a study of Western artwork masterpieces and a creative and imaginative writing course.

 Cancer Research

It has been announced by Billy Kelleher TO that the Cork Cancer Research Centre at UCC is exploring the possibility of a collaboration with Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, a leading medical school in the United States. It is hoped that a physician transfer and fellowship with both colleges will work to the benefit of both.

The 13 and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear

Bluebear is … well, a Blue Bear. He’s the sort of high-falootin’, sea swarthy, ultra smooth blue bear that has 27 lives. In this book, he outlines the first thirteen and a half to us because the others are secrets, and he fully intends to keep it that way, thanks very much.

Walter Moers is famous in Germany; he’s written comic strips for years and years. His books about Zammonia – of which Bluebear’s story is the second, are what made him more popular, but he’s still chronically under-established and unknown.

Bluebear begins his tale with an introduction unlike anything I have ever seen. If you ever wondered about things like Bolloggless Heads and Headless Bolloggs, or what a real life Deus Ex Machina might be like, or what can be learned of the Gelatine Prince from the I 364th dimension, or the Babbling Billows, then this is a stop off point for you. Beautifully illustrated and splendidly fantastical, the story just flows into a web that, at its finish, is the most amazing thing you could imagine.

In the beginning, some Minipirates find a tiny blue bear floating in a walnut shell towards a huge whirlpool. They save him and his long series of fairytale lives begins. From his life with the Minipirates, where he learned to tie a knot in a knot, to the Hobgoblins and their dancing nights, right through to his time on Gourmet Island (where we see an obese but adorable bear), Bluebear thrives. We also read his time navigating for a saviour bird called Deus X Machina, right down to his education in the Gloomberg Mountains; Bluebear’s courage, personality and true lust for life is a dream to read about.

Building on every adventure, fantasy, fairytale and action story ever written or committed to screen, the book is a story of love, war, torture, dreams, nightmares, monsters and heroes, myths and legends and a mysterious ship called the S S Moloch, where Bluebear’s distinguished thirteenth life takes place.

The main story, because it is so very wide reaching and solidly random, is interspersed with “extracts” from an Encyclopaedia of everything, Written by Bluebear’s great Professor, Abdullah Nightingale. The extracts are a delight to read through, giving you the information you need with a sweep of majesty that even the Encyclopaedia Britannica lacks by comparison. The book is a storm in a teacup. It mocks itself, satirises itself, makes fun of literary types and establishes a world in which I would pay to even dream about. It’s a tome- but by the end, you sorely wish that Bluebear would emerge once more and tell us about the other half of his lives.

He displays a distinct humility and utilises an unassuming air, even in times of acute wisdom; the abundance of innocence and sense of humour even in the worst times is what makes him such a great character. He has a true joie de vivre that is unmatched in any other character I know of. If you like random, funny, sad, strange and beautiful stories, then this is honestly the only book you’ll ever need.