Vote for Me! I live down the road!

As you may or may not be aware (and should you be a European, I sincerely hope it is the former), next month sees the European elections. Here in Ireland, we also have local elections on and due to the rather tumultuous political events of recent times, the local candidates are hard at work begging us all for our votes.

Ireland uses the enormously confusing preference voting system which involves picking from the list of candidates in order of preference. As I understand it, although don’t quote me on this one, the ballots are gone through awarding the number one votes to each candidate. The process is repeated awarding the number two, then the number three and so on. When a candidate has amassed a required number of votes, they are in. This counting continues until the correct number of candidates has been reached.
This system requires a certain amount of tactical canvassing by the candidates. There may be up to four candidates running from a single political party so they have to let you know which order to vote for them in. It is all most mystifying.

As it happens, the voting system is not even the most mystifying thing about it. It is the candidates themselves.
In Ireland there are two main political parties, Fianna Fail and Fianna Gael. One is descended from De Valera (thought we should all live in hedges and speak Gaelic) and the other from Michael Collins (keen on hedges, a little more flexible about the Gaelic). I still have no idea which is which.
Naturally, I am keen to rectify this gap in my knowledge so when Candidates called round to find out who we would vote for, I dispatched He Who Knows Everything to the front door to speak with them. I would have gone myself but, for complex reasons I won’t go into here, I was wearing a shirt covered in egg and didn’t feel they would take me seriously. HWKE was far more appropriately dressed: An inside out vest half tucked into visible underwear. He’s been taking style tips from Pat the Farmer.

HWKE explained he was foreign and had no clue what the parties stood for or who he should vote for. Rather than explaining which party he was from, what he stood for and what he was going to do should he be elected, the candidate explained he came from down the road and had been elected on previous occasions. When he found out we had come here from Wales, he told us his son took part in the ploughing championships in Pembroke. Then he told us that in the 70’s, he went to Wales and got to shake hands with the Queen.
About an hour later, the candidate from the other main party called around. He hadn’t been to Wales or shaken hands with the Queen but he came from down the road in the other direction and had been elected before as well.

I read carefully through the promotional leaflets both candidates had left. One contained no policies at all but did mention all the years in which the guy had been elected; the other contained a list of when the bloke had been elected and mentioned how fond he was of sport.

Call me an idealistic fool if you will, but I had rather hoped for candidates who would have some kind of plan for the future. I fear it is just not meant to be.
I did have huge sympathies for the candidates of the moment. That was until the doorbell rang halfway through writing this and I answered it (in an egg free shirt) to find my local Sinn Fein man, John Dwyer, asking me for my vote. I told him that I had ruined my paper last time around due to none of the candidates having any policies at all. I explained that I don’t care that candidates come from down the road. I asked him what he planned to do on a local level. I asked him about what he felt he could do for New Ross and told him I felt that there was a great deal which could be done locally for tourism (citing the Ros tapestry project as a hugely wasted opportunity for the town and saying “I thought it was an emigrant ship, not a famine ship” about the Dunbrody). The poor man couldn’t wait to get away. Maybe he was just busting for a wee.

John Dwyer is a great turn in the local paper providing many amusing sound bites at council meetings. My opinion of him, based on what I have read of his activities, is that he is a genuine worker for the local people who have problems with local issues. I do feel that sometimes he makes too much fuss over petty issues which don’t matter to the majority of us. While they may matter to the people he is working on behalf of, I personally would prefer to see somebody who is moving things forward instead of getting bogged down about the order of the council minutes. He may consider it a bonus to be a lone voice standing up to the big guns at the council meetings, I say it doesn’t get anything done. He may give me a confidential look and tell me that he isn’t paranoid when he says the reduced four seat town council is designed for two members of each of the main parties, it isn’t going to make me vote for him. Push forward with fresh ideas. Not just you John Dwyer, everybody.

The trouble I had is that he seemed unable to tell me of anything specific he had achieved. It is all very well saying “Oh yes, we created 5000 jobs, some in cottage industries”, but I want to hear “We did this and this other thing is what we want to do and this is how we are going to do it”.
When I talked about the wasted opportunity that is the Ros tapestry (longest tapestry in the world, or at least it will be) and mentioned how poor the website was, he mentioned the funding it had been given and how supportive he had been to the project. I said you could throw money at anything you liked, it didn’t help. He also mentioned how he had long conversations with the Countess (the leading force behind the project) on the matter. I think I may have supposed to have been impressed.
He talked about schools for a while. I think he assumed that because I am female, I must have children. It would have been much better to ask me what issues are important to me. In case you are wondering it is mental health services, job creation, teaching Irish people to stop being so racist and the queue outside the post office. Start small and world domination can be achieved in no time.

It is important to stress that John Dwyer is by no means unique. This is exactly what all of the politicians around here seem to be like. They hand over the policy free leaflet and run away. They don’t want to talk because they don’t have any answers.
I am a wavering voter. How can I vote sensibly if the best options I am given are “Vote for me because they don’t want me in power” or “Vote for me, I’m from down the road”?
I’m not an idiot. I understand the economic situation. I know it is hard and that any candidates with promises of funds for hospitals or improvements in education are not going to come good.
There aren’t any answers but I know that I would definitely vote for a candidate who could at least tell me what the questions were.

Either that or Alan Kelly:

Blogs win Prizes

Ordinarily it takes me a certain amount of effort to think of something to write about on this blog. Amazingly enough, not every single day of my existence is filled with unusual and blogworthy events. You’d have thought the universe could be a bit more considerate than that, but there you go.
Happily, the lovely Sarah over at http://sapporosarah.blogspot.com (check her excellent blog out for the latest in Japanese Kitkat flavours and general Japan based amusement) has awarded me, your gracious host, the Awe-Sum blog award. This makes me Awe-Sum, which is a phrase deserving of a jaunty exclamation mark if ever I saw one.

The rules run as follows: I list seven things that make me awe-sum(!) and then pass the award on to seven other people whom I consider to be worthy.

Here we go:

1) I am a genetic mutation. Really. Mammy has blue eyes while He Who Knows Everything has brown. Mine are green. If I didn’t look so much like the Paternal Welsh Aunties I would probably be a bit suspicious by now.
2) I can recite my family tree back to the 1530s. That is back to the reign of Henry the Eighth, history fans. We’re a little bit posh I’m afraid. Highlights throughout my family tree include being hideously insulted by Jane Austin, naming children King when their surname was Fisher and getting murdered on the Isle of Mann. Granted this doesn’t make me personally awe-sum, but I am part of my family and, frankly, will never come up with seven things otherwise.
3) I can move my left eye independently of my right. It is quite painful but jolly useful for impressing boys. Next!
4) I am perfectly capable of holding a conversation while fully asleep and have done on several occasions. I suspect it is connected to my (very infrequent) sleep walking. This is a useful skill I would recommend you all master, although I would also advise you try and learn how not to answer a ringing phone in your sleep. Otherwise you will inadvertently agree to things without thinking them through first and people will assume you only speak in monosyllables.
5) I failed my first driving test with 6 major faults. I then failed my second with only the one minor. Driving into white van men one roundabout before the test centre is not allowed, apparently. I also scored a fat one hundred percent pass on the theory test. Not a total failure then.
6) I am a cruel and heartless daughter. Mammy broke her foot last year and was in a wheelchair for two months. She was deeply unhappy at being so confined to chair and bed and unable to do anything without assistance that I immediately went to the bookshop and got her a copy of Stephen King’s Misery to read. I also got very annoyed with her at one point and wheeled her out onto the decking and left her there. Even Mammy could see why I did it. Upon reflection, she may have just been saying that so I would bring her back inside out of the chill wind and growing drizzle.
7) I have moles everywhere. If you ever need to identify my charred remains, check my ears for two on my right and one on my left. I don’t know anybody else who has moles on their ears. It is ridiculous. I also have one on my right palm at the base of my middle finger. Were I a contortionist, I could probably create some cool dot to dot body art. As I am not we shall just have to wait for a willing volunteer to step forwards and see what they can create on me.


There we are. Seven things. Madam Merrywhether, Donna, Strider, Jo, Aimee, Lily and any board ladies reading… I CHOOSE YOU!

Boom-shanga-nonny-doo-dah

If you have a large amount of free time at the moment, you may well have decided to occupy yourselves with organising the inaugural Confused Continent Identity Championship. I would urge you to save yourselves the bother; it is quite obvious that Europe would win.

Depending on the context, the term Europe can refer to several different places. To begin with there is Europe the geographic continent. This is simple. There are probably tectonic plates and things to tell us where Russia stops being Europe and begins to be somewhere else entirely but having paid very little attention in geography class, I’m not positive where this is.
There is the Europe of the European Union; a collection of member states whose citizens can travel and work (mostly) freely between them. The EU is also a massive body of complex bureaucracy which has no idea how many people it employs or what they all do. It was based in Belgium to help the Walloons and the Flems stop arguing about who was best and instead unite against a common antagonist.
Then there is the Europe of the Eurovision Song Contest. For some reason, Italy doesn’t exist in it but it does include that well known bastion of European Culture, Azerbaijan.

54 glorious years ago it was decided that the best way to help Europeans become Better People was to pit the various nations against each other in a grand sing off to decide who was the best. So it was that Eurovision was born and it is, by far, the best thing ever to have come out of Europe. It is a chance for each country to represent itself to the rest of the continent. If Albania wants to do that with break-dancing dwarves and a man rejected by the Blue Man Group for wearing turquoise, who are we to tell them they shouldn’t?

Every country gets to field a song. Each country then has a vote to decide who they thought was the best awarding a score of 1 through 8 points, 10 points and 12 points to the top acts. At the end of the night the winner gets to take home a shiny trophy created by the host country and the honour of paying for next year’s gig.
In recent years, due to political forces and the eagerness of various nations who cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be counted as Europe, the number of countries taking part in the competition has reached a dizzying 42. So that nobody feels left out, a new regime of qualification was instigated. We now have a quarter final, a semi final and the grand Saturday night affair. Your qualification is based on how well you did the previous year unless you are France, Germany or the UK who get automatic qualification based on the fact that they fund the thing.

For some reason, large parts of Europe feel that the UK does not take the song contest as seriously as it ought to. I can’t imagine why. I think it might be because we like a theme and have the habit of sending an act with a gimmick. Notable mentions include the school girls with knee socks dancing around a working class white rapper and the camp flight attendant who enquired if the audience would like something to suck on for landing.
It wasn’t always this way. We used to send Cliff Richard, Lulu and Sandi Shaw. Then communism ended and all of a sudden Eurovision was filled with new countries who all voted for either each other or for Mother Russia. In the olden days all we had to contend with was the Greece/Malta/Cyprus love triangle and the Scandinavian coalition, now there are huge subcultures of bloc voting.

In an effort to break the Iron Grip of Russia and the Baltic states, this year the voting was split between the phone vote and a jury vote. Encouraged by this (and presumably by Russian Premier Vladimir Putin’s promise that if we did it properly, Russia would vote for us), Andrew Lloyd Webber got involved. He wrote a tune, he got a lyric writer to put some words on it and he had an X-Factor style competition to find a vocalist. It worked. We came 5th.

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter how seriously we take it, we are never going to win. We know this and, what’s more, we are comfortable with it. Eurovision isn’t about the winning, it really is about the taking part. It is about the show and the spectacle. It is about sitting at home saying “Fyrom? Who on earth thought that would make a snappy name for a country?” and “Wait… didn’t Serbia and Montenegro used to be one place?” It is about costumes that do things and arguing whether the Israeli entrant was born a man.

This year was great. Our gracious Russian hosts had last year’s winner running on a treadmill and through a wall. The interval act was some kind of Argentinean circus troupe who made odd shapes in swimming pools suspended above the audience. Moldova taught us what the daughter of Red Sonja and Michael Flatly would look like. Our new best friend Greece had a light up coffee table which doubled as a cherry picker and Germany brought Dita Von Tease with them.
Ireland wasn’t in it on account of fielding a puppet of a turkey called Dustin last year and a mediocre girl band this. Girl bands only work in Eurovision if they do belly dancing. There was much griping that this would be the year Ireland won and much relief all around when they didn’t make it through to the final. They really can’t afford to stage it at the moment.

In the end it was bookies favourite Norway who took the Russians exquisite frosted glass microphone shaped trophy away with them. It was only to be expected. Their singer was from Belarus.

Dear Dave

To: The Leader of the Conservative Party, The Rt Hon David Cameron MP

Dear Dave,

I am a voter. I am a voter with a problem. You see, I am something of a hippy and, as a hippy, I have always voted Liberal Democrat. However, without Charlie at the helm they have lost their way. Ming did an okay job for a while but, let’s face it, his popularity was based entirely around his nickname. Nick Clegg must be good at something but whatever it is escapes me.

You can see where I am going with this Dave; If I want Labour out of power, I must vote for you.

This troubles me, especially in the light of recent revelations about MPs’ expenses. You missed a trick there Dave. It’s all very well pre-empting the trouble and giving sound bites claiming the system is to blame for allowing such things to happen, but that is simply not true. The truth is that the members of the house deliberately exploited the system for personal gain.
You are not journalists Dave, you are democratically elected representatives of the people who are paid more than enough to meet the costs of fixing your own dry rot and cleaning out your own moats. Maybe you should suggest abolishing the MPs’ expenses altogether and give everybody the use of a one bedroom flat in their constituency and a room at the Westminster Ibis when in session. Austerity is character building. Remember that Dave.

Obviously, as a voter, I want to know that you are going to address the issues that matter to me. Sadly, you don’t. None of you do. As an overseas voter, my vote is cast in my last constituency. There the candidates are sound on matters of the NHS, schools and the Welsh language but less sound on the issues I care about.
Dave, we ex-pats need out own MP. Who am I supposed to complain to about the price of passports from the embassy? Seriously, €145? That is the same as it would cost me to take a boat to Newport and stand in line at the passport office. It would be cheaper if I lived in Bolivia. There I would only pay £124 sterling.
An MP for ex-pats would be a valuable ally to your future government Dave. We can vote in the home EU elections. We can subvert the entire system if we get together. An MP for ex-pats could organise this for you. The Empire can live again

Think it over. This is your big chance to win my vote, Dave. Here is what you need to do:

1) Start railing against Sinn Feinn. They claim expenses on London flats (for which they pay their Irish landlord twice the going rate) and they refuse to sit in parliament. Stand up and tell Gerry Adams to get over himself. Ireland was never a united nation and we were paid to conquer it over 800 years ago. The people of the north know where the border and its 22% VAT rate is if they don’t like it.
2) Get somebody you know at the BBC props Department to give you a false nose for a day and go and sign on at your local job centre. This is the only way you will fully understand the depths of humiliation and worthlessness all job centre staff are trained to fill the newly unemployed with. You will also appreciate why the country isn’t getting off its knees anytime soon. The job centre is of no use to graduates. If you can’t find them jobs, they won’t pay their fees back and that will be another big hole in your finances. Point this out to people before Labour cop on.
3) Scrap the electric car scheme. It isn’t going to work. Even if it did, it is only good for people who live in cities. People who live in cities don’t need cars because they have public transport and legs to take them where they want to go. If you watched Top Gear you would know by now that Hydrogen is a far better bet.
4) Refuse to allow any kind of religious basis for any decisions. Do not be influenced by religious leaders. Have a lackey handy to pass out copies of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins to any community leaders who want more respect for the needs of their religion. When people criticise you, become a devout Pastafarian. You get to dress as a pirate on a Friday.
5) When you are canvassing and people approach you to complain about things, ask them if they have a full set of limbs. If they do, tell them to be grateful; if they don’t, assure them science is onto it.

Yours etc

Theo

In which Theo Clears out the Cupboard

You find me in something of a posh mood today. He Who Knows Everything has received a letter from a young man named Chris Fellowes who styles himself a “Retention and Loyalty Manager”. It opens with the words “Why give one gift to Ms Theodosia when you can give 13?”.
Young Master Fellowes mentions, rather familiarly it must be said, how sure he is that Ms Theodosia is still very interested in the subject matter. The coy lad even slips in a joke, claiming that a magazine subscription is not the same gift as last year as a magazine changes with every issue. The stage has clearly missed out on a great wit.
I am very pleased with this new moniker. I would henceforth instruct all people to refer to me thusly, but as it would mean an end to gender based confusion, I don’t think I will.

Anyway. Maybe it’s because Spring has sprung and the sunlight is occasionally streaming through the sunroom windows and necessitating the wearing of sunglasses indoors, maybe it is because when I opened the top cupboard next to the oven a bag of rice fell on my head; whatever the reason, I have been sorting out the kitchen.

My kitchen is stuffed with what many in my area would regard as highly improbable foodstuffs. You would not regard them so, but that is because you are devastatingly attractive and cosmopolitan. I once heard Waterford City described as cosmopolitan by a good looking gentleman friend of mine and have yet to figure out if he was being drier than Michael “I gave up homosexuality because it made my eyes water” Gambon or was actually being serious. I fear the latter.
Some time ago, at Mammy’s instigation, I became an expert in Asian cuisine. My Beef with Broccoli and Ginger could bring a tear to the eye of many a Michelin starred chef. If the Chinese government had offered the pro-democracy demonstrators a bowl of my Sweet and Sour Chicken, tanks would not have been necessary to clear Tiananmen Square. Still, Mammy liked it and that is the main thing. The fact that Mammy’s palette only responds to salt and coriander is neither here nor there, as far is she is concerned I am a top chef.

As a top chef in foreign cuisine, any meals out in foreign restaurants are immediately followed by a request from Mammy to recreate the dish at home. Unfortunately, living in a field, basic ingredients are rather difficult to come by. Up until 10 years ago, you couldn’t buy an avocado south of Wicklow so you can appreciate that my local supermarket can be rather remiss when it comes to stocking such exotica as Shaoxing rice wine or noodles which are not based around eggs.
To solve this, when we go to the UK, we take a trip around the gargantuan Tesco and stock up on various exotic goods. Mammy grows wildly enthusiastic at such moments and encourages me to throw goods into the trolley with growing abandon. Occasionally I attempt to ask a sensible question such as “Are you sure you want that? When you tasted it before you said it was like eating slugs”, but Mammy is blinded by the bright lights and myriad choices of marmalade and can only respond with a vague “Yes I am. Get lots!”

When we return home to our silent field, Mammy looks at the spread of ingredients.
“Can we have spaghetti bolognaise for tea?” she asks.

From time to time I attempt to interest Mammy in the prospect of rice noodles but she refuses to eat them because it’s like eating slugs. Eventually I give up and the ingredients sit neglected in the top cupboard until one day, a bag of rice falls onto my head and I regretfully find a bin bag and begin clearing out the things no longer edible.

The amount of food I had to throw away was so disgusting that I have instigated a new rule. If you insist on buying it, you are eating it. So far we have endured Tikka Masala made from instant spice sachets and several jars of *Meat of Choice but Probably Chicken* Tonight.
We have a Bombay potato spice mix earmarked for next week.

Maybe slugs would improve it.

"Wow! This Product Realy Works!"

Once upon a time I must have been less cynical. I’m sure I wasn’t born into this world with an instinctive reasoning that anything demonstrated on the television in front of a studio audience must, by default, be a lie. At one time I must have been able to marvel at power juicers and mandolins which prevent your fingers becoming an attractive side dish, even if I was too young to articulate such amazement at the time.
As it is, years of broken promises and presenters suffering from hyperthyroidism have destroyed any belief I may once have harboured that a copper coin can truly be returned to its original factory sheen using only the power of oxygen. I could be forgiven, then, for regarding Mammy’s latest cleaning product acquisition with less than total enthusiasm.

Mammy is not a cynic. When she is told that something is going to happen, she believes it will. When she sees an oven cleaner labelled “Wow! This Product Really Works! No Mess! No Smell! Simple To Use!”, she immediately thinks of how much I will enjoy using it and of how her oven will become so clean, she will be able to cook her dinner in it.

Having been presented with my new gift, I read the instructions tentatively. They specify coating the inside of the oven in the liquid and leaving it for a minimum of four hours, or overnight if you want what they refer to as “truly amazing results!”. I don my rubber gloves and set to work.
The liquid itself is gloopy and puts me in mind of egg whites; egg whites with a very faint chlorine smell. I apply it to the inside of the oven. Things go well. I am able to inhale without fear of burning my nose hairs off and there is none of the light-headedness you get from using Mr Muscle in an enclosed space but never mind.
I turn my attention to the oven shelves. Large plastic bags are provided into which you put your shelves, add half a bottle of liquid, expel the excess air from and leave for two hours. My first problem is finding somewhere to leave the bag where inadvertent leakage won’t cause damage to flooring, worktop or the world’s nosiest one-eyed feline. I settle for the utility room as the tiles in there are already ugly.
My second problem is attempting to expel all of the air without either ripping the bag or covering myself in what the packaging swears is a deadly chemical. Eventually I manage it but only once I have dripped several fluid ounces of liquid onto the kitchen floor. As it fails to strip the patina of my medium price clicklock flooring, my doubts increase as to how effective the product will manage to be on the burned on fat on the bottom of the oven.

Four hours later I return and examine the oven shelves. With the small encouragement of water and sponge they are clean. Spookily so.
I turn my attention to the oven. None of the liquid has dripped onto the carefully spread newspaper. It still doesn’t smell. When I begin to wipe it with a wet tea-towel, to my amazement, the dirt comes off. I spend half an hour on my knees with my head in the oven, wondering why anybody would chose this as a method for drawing their life to a close (although, to be fair, if that was your state of mind I suspect you would probably be less concerned than I was about leaning on the oven door and breaking the hinges). When I am finished, the inside of the oven is really clean.

So, there was no mess, there was no smell and it was simple to use.

It has to be a sign or portent. The End of Days is definitely upon us.

In camera news: I have very nearly learned how to use the camera on auto mode. When I can remember to leave the anti-shake turned on, I will be photographically invincible.

Here is a (very slightly out of focus) picture. I call it “All Your Nuts Are Belong To Me”.

So this is it, we're going to die.

As promised, He Who Knows Everything brought me my new camera. I love it. It is, quite possibly, the best thing ever. It will take me, at a conservative estimate, from now until the Armageddon to learn how to use it properly but that’s okay because the good news is that the Armageddon is already upon us.

Happily, Ireland has only the one case of Swine Flu so far. The news reports helpfully specify that the recipient lives in the east of the country and has just returned from Mexico so we shouldn’t all panic just yet.
According to the Chief Medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, the Government has enough antiviral drugs put by for half of the population. This sounds like a lot until you consider that there are only 4 million people in Ireland and 1 million of those live in Dublin. Maybe Bono will step in and buy doses for those of who don’t live in the cities. For years we’ve let him pretend he is Dutch for tax reasons. He owes us.

The World Health Organisation is promoting helpful advice to help prevent the spread of the disease, such as washing your hands and throwing a tissue away as soon as you have used it. Personally I would suggest sneezing into the inside of your elbow (so germs don’t sit on your hands) and getting an alcohol gel to clean your hands with before eating or drinking whilst out (find them in the soap dispensing aisle), but then I am a lot better looking and much more clever than the WHO boffins.

While I am certain that this is not the start of something which will end with me being drowned by my own mucus filled lungs, part of me feels slightly concerned that I may be wrong. This is for two reasons.
The first is that I had a bad dose of flu a couple of years ago and still remember how awful it was. I was unable to sleep. I had constant pain in my legs, a fever and a spell of delirium in which I was mentally trapped in a game of Advance Wars DS at which the computer kept cheating so I couldn’t win. Since then, I haven’t been able to play it with any enjoyment.
I also couldn’t eat. Even once I had recovered it took a week before I could eat anything. It wasn’t down to nausea, I just could not eat. If I had a mouthful of food, it took the hugest effort of will to swallow it. Bizarrely, I didn’t feel weak from lack of sustenance and I didn’t loose much weight either.
Maybe I am stating the obvious, but flu is the one illness I really don’t want to get. It is unpleasant. The universe knows this and, I am concerned, may feel inclined to send some my way just so that it can watch my reaction. It is already visiting hay fever upon me in the guise of sore throat, runny nose, headache and thick lungs. If I had been to Mexico, I’d probably be worried by now.

The second reason is because of literature. Some years ago I read a quite good book called The Last Town On Earth by Thomas Mullen. It is about a town in Washington state which quarantines itself during the 1918 pandemic. Every description of the Spanish flu in that book seems to be coming back to me now. If you are very ill and on the verge of Swine Flu related death, I thoroughly recommend it as something to read while confined to your bed.

To be honest, I’m having a little trouble being worried about this. Mind you, that is me all over. Severed limbs or economic disaster I remain unfazed by; a single woodlouse on the kitchen floor and I will be behind the sofa hyperventilating in the panic that there may be more somewhere.
Mammy seems worried and found the announcement that we were at level 5 pandemic alert (or whatever they call it) rather scary. I, whose school career was marred by criteria marking, remain slightly more blasé about it. At least I understand the numbers and what they mean. Announcements that the terrorist threat level has been raised to dark magenta give me no knowledge at all.

Anyway. As with all things there is a bright side. Everybody who still has a job will catch swine flu from their colleagues and die.
The unemployment crisis: Solved.