The Celtic Phoenix

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Credit to Feivelyn.deviantart.com for the image.

I’ve been gone from Ireland for 4 years but looking back through most of my last few posts. They’ve been about my struggling with the way of life over in the US. I thought, I would post something about some of my concerns with Ireland. For the last 2 years, I have been really stressed and anxious about whether to move back or stay here. This post is about some of my concerns around moving back to Ireland. It might be good for those of you who view and comment on the moving to Ireland posts. Which is a lot of you!! My anxiety isn’t about me moving back. My anxiety is around moving back with my Americanized other half…there’s some things I think she will not like over there. Here goes nothing!

Job opportunities

Ireland is currently seeing a big boost in the jobs market. As of this posting (November 2015) unemployment is 9.3%. How is this figure calculated? It’s based off the live register. I only know the American and Irish systems so to give some perspective. In the US unemployment is calculated off a similar system, the main difference? In the US (differs on the state) after a couple of years or months, your unemployment benefits get stopped and you’re no long counted on that list. Bernie Sanders estimates that unemployment is closer to 11.5% in the US…not sure if that’s true but it’s probably closer to that then the actual current figure of 5%.

Despite this fact the jobs in Ireland are a little tainted. The majority of the jobs are in Dublin. So most opportunity is in the only real major city in the country…which sucks. I like Dublin but having to go there for a career is shit. It’s the reason why at one point around 1.8 million people lived in the greater Dublin area…this in a country with 4.6 million! The other thing is the jobs usually require a certain level of experience and education. The starting rate is much lower than the US equivalent and the taxes you pay is likely to be higher. My fiancé would need to accept less career opportunities and less money. Not everybody would be cool with that.

Socialism

Americans seem to think Socialism = Communism. My fiancé is not one of those people but at the same time both through her Thai parents and through growing up in America she believes in people earning their living. Her perception is that many in Ireland live off welfare as a lifestyle choice. It’s an easy perception to develop. Hell, some of the Irish media themselves report it that way because riling people up sells. In actual fact, at one point when Ireland had close to 5 million people, we also had an unemployment rate around 4%. Much like pretty much every country in the world If, there are good opportunities out there, people will take them but there will always be those few that are happy being bottom feeders. That’s the downside of living in a higher tax economy…you will know people that milk the system and live a pretty comfortable life for themselves while you’re just about able to make a somewhat comfortable living.

I should say. Ireland also has one of the highest standards of living for it’s citizens in the entire world. The thing about a welfare system that doesn’t cut off after a certain amount time is that if you’re an Irish citizen you have great security. You might fail and land on your arse but hitting rock bottom in America vs hitting rock bottom in Ireland are two very different things. You will fall much harder and faster in the US than you will in Ireland. Having that peace of mind itself, is worth the higher taxes.

Weather

We live in Arizona. It’s hell on Earth here for 6-7 months of the year but she’s still a little weary of the Irish weather and that’s with, just cause. It rains a lot! If you’re not use to rain or cold. You may really struggle BUT you’ve got to keep that in context with the rest of the world. One of the great things about Ireland is that it’s pretty mild…it drizzles a lot. It could drizzle all day. Heavy rain happens too but it’s usually a drizzle. Where as, if you go to Oregon or Washington there’s a lot of very, very heavy rain. Ireland never gets too hot. It also doesn’t get too cold. There was 1 year in my 26 years there that it got properly cold but it’s usually nothing compared to the Eastern or Midwestern US states or most of Europe. BUT if you don’t like rain or think you can’t handle a lot of grey skies and rain…think again!

Isolation 

Isolation is a concern for her; obviously this would depend on where you choose to live. If you live in a city, it won’t be very isolated. If you live outside of a city, it still likely won’t be too isolated. If you’re living in a village, it’s a small community but there’s still a community. It can still feel isolated, though. When you go outside on a cold winter night and you can’t see anything, Just pitch darkness, that can have a major affect on people. Ireland has a pretty high rate of mental illness. Personally, I believe that may be one of the mitigating factors. If you live in a city or suburb in the US right now and are thinking of moving to a small village in Ireland…maybe you should rent first. You may have a tougher time adjusting than you think.

Laws

I was a little surprised by her having this concern. She’s not familiar with Irish law and thinks that might be a problem. Honestly, Ireland is a little more lax than the US. Gambling is not only free, it’s not taxed either. Once you turn 18, you can drink. Tenants in Ireland have so many rights! Consumers also have so many rights. The laws in Ireland, for the most part protect the Irish citizens to a much greater degree than the US laws. The US laws in many cases seem to protect companies to the detriment of citizens, as far as I can see.

I’ll list off some of the legal concerns one might have or that come off the top of my head. Blasphemy is illegal..that’s also a recent enough law BUT it has not been enforced…it’s a really strange one and it’s likely to be repealed soon. I mention it because if you see it mention somewhere, you’d probably think: What the fuck!?..it has not been enforced. It’s just a strange honey catcher law.

The one case many like to point to as an example of the poor Irish justice system  is that of a man who imported tonnes of garlic and had them labelled as Apples. Apples incurred a lower tax so it was seen as massive tax fraud up to the value of 1.6 million. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Which was then reduced to 2 and I believe he got out in less than 1. People were livid because as they saw it, this guy ducked paying some taxes by doing something a bit cheeky, meanwhile the bankers that destroyed the country got off scot free. Personally, I think he deserved his sentence. I also don’t believe in pointing to the bankers and politicians and saying why should so and so get that punishment when banker x and politician y haven’t gone to prison. I believe it is a travesty but you can’t justify breaking the law like that. That’s a dangerous mindset.

Something which is truly troubling is how juvenile offenders are handled. If a kid is under 17, for most crimes they are pretty much untouchable. They will be picked up, arrested and returned to their parents. The Irish prison system is not sufficient and as such the  criminals usually get off with much lighter sentences. Unlike Norway and some other Nordic countries, our prisons are also not heavily funded with a keen focus on rehabilitation…unfortunately. We do have a high rate of repeat offenders, just like in the US. Which can get frustrating and create a bit of a divide.

Convenience

This is a big difference, unless you’re in Dublin. There’s not many 24 hour grocery stores or shops in the country. A few opened during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ phase in other counties but many have changed their hours..even when they were open it was nothing to the level of the US. If you want something, you need to make a point of getting it when the shops are open. That can take some adjusting.

Questions

My fiancé rightly points out that Americans ask a lot of questions while the Irish don’t. She seems to think it would be more difficult for her to adjust to that then it is for me in a country where people always asks questions. She might be right. I’m not sure but maybe some in Ireland would just get annoyed if somebody asks a series of straight forward questions. I know I have friends that thought some of the American students were annoying for asking what they perceived as dumb questions. Don’t know about this one.

Family

This is the toughest hurdle! There’s no real counterpoint. If you’re close to your family and want to be near them. There’s no saving grace. I will say, If you are close and you do end up moving. In Ireland you get a minimum of 20 days paid time off for a full time job. So you would have plenty of time to take off to go home or entertain visitors. Ireland is also a door step to Europe so you are your family could use it as a cheap jumping off point for low cost airfare to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Wales, Germany etc. etc. But this criteria or decision maker is usually weighted pretty heavy on the scale of decision makers and can be the tipping point. If you always want your parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents etc. to be in close proximity…there’s no saving grace and you should really think hard about your decision.

With some of her concerns out of the way, let me spit lyrical about some of my own worries.

One of my own big concerns is the current economic state. Irelands unemployment is under 10% which is a big improvement but to me (I’m not an Economist) when I look at the country and the way it is, I worry. The cost of rent in my home town of Galway barely budged during the down turn. Some businesses closed down for the simple fact that the landlords refused to adjust their rent during the dip in their sales. This was notable in the price for rent of houses and apartments too. During the downturn, building of new homes slowed down which has now resulted in high demand and low supply for rentals. Which means the price of rent is now going up.

What’s concerning about that? Surely, that will encourage more building of new homes to meet the demand and it’s a sign of encouragement…Not, so fast. In my opinion, Ireland didn’t hit the bottom or as low as we could or probably should of in the last downturn.

Though many fell into arrears with their mortgages e.g. some bought homes for 400k+ and got an 80-100% mortgage and then lost their jobs. The banks did not evict people in arrears with any type of urgency. Some people have been evicted or have had their homes come under full ownership of the bank in some capacity BUT more people are still in their homes and still in massive arrears. When you have people with massive arrears still in their 400-500k house. What does that lead to?

There’s people hanging on and keeping the price of their home unjustifiably high. They aren’t pressured into selling because the banks are not seriously threatening eviction. The banks are working with people and negotiating payments based on whatever they can afford but many of these people are keeping a high evaluation of their home and are unlikely to ever completely pay back what they owe. They are also not acting like the money has been lost (which it has or should be!)…they may think that eventually, things will swing back and the home will be worth 400k again and they will be in positive equity again…it’s crazy.

There’s a horrible knock on effect for people my age or younger. Those who didn’t live beyond their means by buying an overpriced home. We got jobs either just before the downturn, or maybe during or after. Those who got just before and managed to keep their jobs, likely started on a pretty good salary but had that salary frozen for 4+ years. Those who got jobs during, started off on a much lower salary than those who started their careers in the late 90’s, early 00’s. Those who are getting their jobs in this new economic upturn..’The Celtic Phoenix’ are on even less money than those who got hired in 2009 or 2010. The money just isn’t there any more. But guess what…the rent is still high. Home prices are still high. How can somebody who starts on 21k a year ever hope to save up for a house, if they can barely afford to live from pay cheque to pay cheque?

Clearly, this current upturn is a bubble. A new bubble that will eventually burst. It’s even worse than that. There’s even more looming outside factors this time which can burst the bubble this time. If the US takes a shit again, so will Ireland and the US economy will likely take a knock when they increase interest rates. They must increase interest rates but have been reluctant to do it, so far as they know it will pack a punch. Basically, the traders that fucked the world, now have the US treasury by the balls…we didn’t learn a thing!

The US economy is also reliant upon the US dollar being the universal currency for trading and it’s future as that looks uncertain. Ireland is riding the crest of the Tech wave. Most new jobs created in Ireland are in the Tech field….they say don’t put your eggs in one basket… Our current Government is doing just that and bending over backwards to accommodate these companies while they are at it. The PC hardware business is dying, the chatter in Silicon Valley right now is about saturation of the market from small startups and speculative investment (Similar to the .com bust). Will investment in Tech remain steady or will it taper off?…it’s looking like the latter.

Ireland is in a bubble. I believe that bubble will burst. Personally, I think Ireland is much better equipped to handle such a downturn. So, I would still rather be there than here. Of course these last few paragraphs are based on my own speculation and such an impactful decision should not be based on speculation but I figure it’s good to share this possible extra factor. I’m not an economist at all but to my dumbass, there’s a lot of recurring trends and history has a tendency of repeating itself. I hope I’m wrong, though.

P.S. Vote Bernie Sanders…Socialism is not Communism.

Peace and Love,

Fuckers!

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Do I stay or do I go?

A couple of days ago when I sat down at my desk in the morning I browsed to the news to see how the Dollar was doing vs the Euro. The surge of the euro was worrying for me! When searching, I saw a story about a shooting, clicked on it and watched the video. It was the story about the Lady Reporter and her Cameraman being gunned down live on the air in Virginia. Whenever there’s a mass shooting in the US, it really saddens me. The way this story played out with the gunman tweeting and posting on Facebook really, really saddened me and still does. It galvanized my thoughts in the last year of moving back to Ireland.

Over the last few months I’ve been tearing my hair out over where I’m going to settle. I’m pretty sure I want to settle in Ireland but I won’t have the same work opportunities as I have over here. When I speak about my gripes with friends living in other states e.g. New York, California, Washington, Oregon etc. my negative views are met with, “that’s just Arizona, dude” It’s made me think about moving to a different state before deciding whether or not to move back to Ireland. I recently spent some time looking at rent in Seattle and the general cost of living. In the end it was too much of a hit to take. I would actually have been making less there, salary wise in the job I was offered and spending way more just to maintain the same standard of living.

It made me widen my scope, though. I started looking around at rent and places to buy. At one point, I was even contemplating renting in Hawaii. Again, it was too much of a hit to take financially but at least it would have been a much different culture and lifestyle. California is beautiful in parts but the parts I like are way too expensive e.g. Monterey. I’ve met people in similar jobs as me that live outside of LA or in the Bay area and make about 1.5 times my salary but even at that, it wouldn’t be enough for the increased cost of living.

It made me ask myself some questions. What do I miss the most about Ireland? I miss a lot but what did I miss the most…. I really miss the air quality in Ireland. It’s not bad up in Washington but there’s something different in Ireland. I think maybe the mositure in the air makes it soft to breathe in. I have been to half of the states in the US but have yet to find air as good.

I miss the temperate climate. For this I was told to try the East Coast. The only state I’d like to live in over there is Connecticuit but again it’s very expensive. They also have very cold winters and warm muggy summers. For temperate weather. I believe the two best states would be California or North Carolina. One has water restrictions and is one big eathquake away from being a memory and the other has a reputation that’s not too disimilar to Arizona..they also have Hurricaines and poorly built homes.

I miss the Ocean. Along with the air quality, this is something I took for granted. I really didn’t factor in that I would miss being by the Ocean. I don’t swim much, if I wanted to I’ve had a pool here for the last 3.5 years, I don’t use it. I don’t even like the beach much. I realized I missed the Ocean a couple of years ago on a business trip to Rhode Island. I took a drive over to Cape Cod. It was so nice just to stand with my face feeling that Ocean brreze and listening to the waves crashing. I embarked on a 14 hour driving day to drive up and down the Pacific Coast Highway last year…same feeling, though a lot of that stretch of Coast hag big ugly looking rigs ruining the view.

I miss the quality of the food. Recently I became a vegetarian over here not just for any moral reaons but because I’ve had stomach problems for years now. I’m trying to remove things from diet to figure out what might be causing it without success so far. I have found you can good quality food here but you have to pay $$$…to the point it’s more expensive to buy your weekly gorceries here than it was in Ireland. Even so, when I go into Sprouts and see the size of their Organic Chickens I have to double take…if those are Organic, I’m the fuckin’ Pope.

I miss more than just those things. At 30 years of age and these thoughts of settling down, I’ve been factoring in the long term plan. Where’s best for my kids? US schools have rolled out common core, which seems to suck! There’s also now drills for kids incase of an active shooter…that’s disturbing. Quality of the school your kids go to depends on where you live..which has benefits but disadvantages too. Then there’s college. I do not want my kids joining the forces over here. For many that’s the only viable way to get an education here. Fuck that.

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A month of changes

Over the last month I made a few changes in my life. I pretty much cut out posting on Facebook and I stopped eating meat. The Facebook decision wasn’t deliberate…I just stopped posting. I didn’t notice until about a week ago my mother pointed it out to me. I moved to Arizona on my lonesome. It was pretty scary moving 5k miles away. The only people I knew in America were on the East Coast. No joke, my relatives on the East Coast would nearly have been as close to me when living in Ireland than where I am now. This is a huge ass country.

I’m not missing Facebook too much to be honest. I never got much out of it. I would just use it as a journal. Posting stories and my opinion about them. I started posting more and more after they added the timeline feature. I find it interesting to look back through from time to time. I can see how I felt about American before moving over here and after moving here and then again after a few years of living here. That has been some transition.

Giving up meat was not some cavalier attempt at loving all of God’s creatures more. It is down to the fact that within 4 months of moving to the US, I started having really bad stomach pains that became more and more frequent. They became a nightly occurrence. I have tried cutting many things from my diet. Bread, Soda, Spicy food, Alcohol, Chocolate, Reduce Sugar intake etc. Nothing has helped. So, I decided to give up meat. Whilst, I can’t say it has completely eradicated my problems. I can say it has helped a little but AND I haven’t found the process that difficult. It turns out, I like Tofu!

I’ve been eating a Tofu with most meals. Though, some times I’ll just have Pasta or Rice. It’s been pretty good. If anybody is reading this and wants to try. Check out Trader Joes and even Target for meatless options. There’s some good stuff out there. And if you want to eat out, Pei Wei has really good Tofu. Once a week, I’ll usually treat myself to a Cheese Pizza. I’m lucky, my fiancé has been very supportive and had has prepared many of my meals for me! (I’m a useless f*ck when it comes to cooking). Will I keep up the vegetarian lifestyle? I will to a degree but I think, mostly due to convenience, I will adopt a caveman diet. Eating mostly vegetarian and eating meat from time to time.

Another change in my life over the last 3 months is the fact that I’ve been working 3 jobs. It’s kind of strange how all of that happened. Again not knowingly but I just started saying Yes to everything all of a sudden and found myself with a coveted CTO title for one company, a 40 hour a week contracting gig and another flexi-hour contracting gig with a really cool start up company. I also became involved with a local User Group as a leader. This year, I decided, I would only present twice and I was on track for that until a few weeks ago…I have already presented 3 times this year, now AND I’m scheduled to present 4 more times between now and November.

To say I’m feeling stressed out would be putting it lightly. Unfortunately, I’ve been suffering from anxiety quite a bit for a while now. Mostly during the night…which, coupled with the fact my dietary changes has had such little impact on my diet makes me think maybe my stomach problems are just stress related. I’m hoping the hard work that I’m putting in now will stand to me in the future. I have surprised myself with the level of success that I have achieved to this point. I have never been a career driven person. In fact, I cringe hearing, saying or typing the word ‘career’….it seems like a pretty dumb concept. Working is a means to an end for me…I hope… In the last 5 years, I have become so consumed by it. It’s great for bank account but bad for my health. I just hope I cash out before my body decides to cash out for me!

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In a bid to not end on a bummer! I do have an amazing, beautiful, smart, funny and loving fiance with whom I am sure to build an exciting future with. My brother and mother are coming over to Arizona to visit in November, I’ve got tickets to go see the Book of Mormon, I bought my first high quality camera AND of course, I have the gift that keeps on giving (usually in the form of shit) my puppy Lemon! That’s me and my story right now. Hope all is well in your world. Later!

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An Automated World

I have a Tech blog but this one is a little too theoretical for that one. Over the last couple of years I have been thinking about the state of Technology. I, myself work in virtualization and the area of creating automated tools for managing Desktops and Servers. As tech gets more and more advanced, more and more of my own job can be automated. I am embracing this. I am not overly concerned with becoming obsolete. I am focusing a lot on building a nest egg for that eventuality. I am also constantly keeping my skills up. Spending what spare time I do get, studying and skilling up in new technologies.

I have spoken with non-tech workers who seem to think they the job they do cannot be automated. I belief if anybody thinks this, they are far too secure in themselves. Look at how things have advanced in a relatively short period. Go into a grocery store. Right now most have sections of Self Checkout aisles….but they still have regular aisles. At least where I am, I have noticed only a few of the old skool aisles will be open and they are usually pulling people off the floor to go into them when it gets busy. The aisles are typically open to handle the demand during the holiday seasons. For all intents and purposes, that job is becoming rapidly automated. Some stores even have smart shopping trolleys for helping to navigate their stores and push advertising to you. It’s likely only a matter of time before robots are stocking the shelves too. And what about the deliveries? There’s already concept trucks that are automated….

In a CNN piece, Microsoft showed off their robot assistants used to give new directors and exec their own personal secretary. Aside from the Robot, the last couple of times I went to my dentist there was no receptionist. He used something called ZocDoc..you book online, you can see what time slots are available and you book yourself in. This company has now started advertising this much more heavily. Receptionists and Secretaries are going to be replaced very soon!

Over in the US, there’s a lot of hate thrown towards Fast Food workers. Ironically, I believe the only reason many of these employees have not been replaced my automation up to this point has not been due to the cost of investment, it’s down to the fact that Americans are so entitled when it comes to service. Stand in line at a Fast Food place, you’ll hear pretty much everyone ask for an alteration to what they order from the menu. No pickles, No Mustard…can I swap this for that etc. Stand in line for 10 minutes, you’ll see many people coming back up to ask for something else or something extra that they didn’t think to ask for while ordering. In a country of convenience, a lot of that convenience is being delivered by the amazing work force that work in the Service Industry…

They have started to trial automated machines to replace these workers. I think there will be some pain here for a few years while they refine the machines to factor in every possibility. Eventually these workers will also be replaced.

Surgeons have been getting replaced with Robots. Much like Pilots who are somewhat replaced with Auto-Pilot, these professions may now be more about being there in case of catastrophic failure rather than for operational reasons. Many companies are working on some pretty serious looking wearable health gadgets with rumors of wearables that can detect certain illnesses based on patterns.

When you go to the movies you can buy your tickets ahead of time and pick them up at a machine. You can buy concert tickets on Ticketmaster rather than at the Box Office. Cable companies are suffering due to many cutting their ‘chord’ thanks to the advent of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBOGo etc. That could impact many employees too.

How about taxi dispatchers? Replaced with Uber, Lyft etc.

This is without covering people like programmers, web developers, administrators etc. For admins, robots are already working in Data Centers to replace and maintain hardware. For WebDevs and Programmers…I think there’s less of an issue right now but it’s coming. Self learning technology will be getting more and more advanced. Unless your doing something which is truly unique and original and not just re-using existing stuff. You’re also under threat of becoming obsolete.

America is probably in one of the worst positions of a developed country to handle this. A third level education is not attainable for all. Training and Skilling up into an area that is not being automated is tough for many. People who lose these jobs may not be able to find suitable work. There’s also a cap on social welfare. At some point there will be massive unemployment without any proper support in place to deal with it, either.

Larry Page at Google has previously spoken of replacing the current 5 day working week with a 3 day working week. Where employees would work 10-12 hour shifts. This would allow employers to hire more people to help spread the jobs around. That won’t fix the education problem. It also likely won’t fix the massive wealth gap which could cripple the country. It’s likely not ideal when the richest people have so much money that they simply can’t ever spend it. That money is taken out of circulation. It’s just sitting there. In a regular country that would be much more noticeable in the NOW. In the US it’s not an issue because the US Dollar is the Universal currency for trading.

This means the US can actually print as many dollars as they want without it having too much impact on the valuation of the dollar BUT what if we move to a digital currency like Bitcoin? Or even what if China decides they are sick of dealing with the Dollar and decides to work with other nations who are also tired of the US imposing it’s will on the world and they create their own new paper currency and agree to trade with that? Pretty much over night the US economy could be in the shitter. There’s a huge deficit and a lot of growth which can be attributed to the US spending thanks to the fact we can basically borrow from ourselves.

I’m not an accountant, an economist or even a particularly bright person. I just worry way too much. A lot of this thinking for me has been driven by the fact there seems to be so much business here. So many of the me things e.g. 10 Grocery stores within a few miles of each other…it doesn’t seem sustainable to me. The rallying again raising the minimum wage and the memes of the automated machines in McDonalds with the caption of “You can’t even give me a burger with no pickles and you want $15. Meet your replacement” has made me think about a lot of this stuff. Anyways, that’s my ramblings

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Is the J1 really that bad?

Following on from my last post about the situation in America when it comes to tragedies like, that which has fallen on the families of 6 young people from Ireland who fell to their deaths from a balcony in California this week. I wanted to comment about the J1 Visa program. This is because that has been the ire of the New York Times article which pissed so many people off. One of the victims sister wrote a response to the article damning them for writing it. Now, she also responded by saying YOUR country’s engineering is the cause. Maybe she worded that incorrectly because the way I read it, that was a generalization about American building practices…it could be heat of the moment but I would not combat a generalization with another generalization but whatever, she’s not a journalist so her integrity can’t be called into question the way the supposed journalist at the New York Times can.

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The J1 Visa…above are some tweets from an Irish comedian. He claims it’s a trip we’ve all done. Well, not quite. It’s a trip that a group of the more privileged kids in Ireland get to do. He said practically everybody does it…Maybe that’s not misleading because most kids are privileged in Ireland. We have a pretty equal system that provides a wonderful quality of life for pretty much everybody BUT to me the ability to go to the US for the summer on a J1 trip was a little out of reach. I also have friends who have never been on a J1 trip. I’m sure we’d all have loved the opportunity to go and I wouldn’t begrudge those who do get to go.

At one time, in Ireland, I was very bitter and resentful at those students who didn’t have to work during the college year and seemingly either worked very little during the summer or not at all. They got a free ride while I had to work myself into the ground. What’s worse when you’re working during college, it’s like working an 8 day week. You still have your college work and lectures. Then your work 30+ hours a week. There’s no day of rest. The people where you work that are full time usually look at you as though you’re lower than them and can be nasty to you. When so many of your classmates, roommates etc. don’t work..you don’t really have many people in the same situation that you can relate to. I had a girlfriend who did work during college but then one summer she decided to quit her job and move to Scotland for 3 months. She urged me to come over too. I couldn’t. I couldn’t afford to. I just got my first job out of college and had loans that I needed to pay back. She struggled to understand my reluctance. I told her, I don’t have a job over there. She said you can find one. I said I can’t go there without a job. She said all of us are (her and her friends. That kind of made me come to a realization. It’s not just about having the money to do these things. It’s really more about a support structure. If you can turn to your parents and ask for them to send you money to come home and they’ll feed you and take care of you. You can take this risks at a young age. I wasn’t in that situation.

Most kids in Ireland are in that situation. Do most go on a J1? Maybe, I’m not entirely sure. I’ve known a lot who did go on a J1. I’ve known a lot who go traveling after college…it was not a world that I know. The article highlighted incidents in which J1’ers destroyed an apartment in San Francisco. There’s countless stories of J1 students destroying places. Getting into massive brawls and sometimes even worse. These are kids that don’t really have to worry about consequences. Is it reflective of all J1 students? Of course not.

But I will say. The kids that died this week were probably drunk at the time but that balcony would likely have collapsed even if they weren’t. Do most kids who go on a J1 trip act like assholes and spend the summer getting wasted? I’m going to go with a yes on that one. Is that an embarrassment to the country of Ireland? No, it’s not. Should it be? Maybe. We have a very unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Absolutely everything is tied to alcohol for us. A birthday? Drink! A wedding? Drink! A communion? Drink!, A funeral?, Drink! A concert? Drink!, In an airport for a couple of hours? Drink! A sporting event? Drink!, It’s raining out?, Drink!, The sun is out, Drink! It’s a long weekend, Drink! Going on holiday? Drink! I just had a baby, Drink! I just graduated, Drink! I got my drivers license!, Drink! I just got a job, Drink! I want to hang out with friends, Drink! etc.

It would be great for the Irish to collectively stand up and say, maybe this culture does us more harm than good. Maybe sending our kids off to America for the summer to get drunk and dick around isn’t the best way to nurture them or encourage them to live their life and have fun. But then, when the previous generation did the same thing and now my generation has done the same thing. It’s a vicious cycle to break. It’s like gangs in LA! You always hear that they don’t have any good reason for taking part but they do anyways, it’s how they are shown to live their lives.

As an Irish person living and working in America. The J1 Visa program is an embarrassment to me. America does not enjoy the same equality as Ireland. I have yet to meet somebody here who hasn’t worked from a young age and worked through school. I met a young man working in Fuddruckers who asked me what I do for a living and how he could do what I do. He’s never left Arizona. I’m working with a guy right now who hasn’t been to any other state in the US. They don’t have the means to. That’s not the fault of Americans but I’m embarrassed that our kids are coming over here and acting like the relatively small group of young Americans from an elite class. I don’t think it endears us to anybody.

That’s just me rambling. To anybody on a J1. Go and have fun. Be sensible and courteous. This is not your country, treat it with respect.

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America: Ignorance of Apathy?

It has been a terrible week for the nation of Ireland. The entire country has been grief stricken by the awful accident that took the lives of 6 young people in Berkeley, California. I first heard of the accident when I was driving to work the morning that it happened. There was a news flash which announced that 5 young people died after a apartment balcony collapsed at an apartment in Berkeley, California. It’s believed all of the students are from Ireland (said with an infliction) and they had been celebrating a 21st birthday party at the time. It’s unclear at this moment whether or not they are students at the local University. Nothing too bad in that, right? I thought it was better that they didn’t lead with the fact that they were Irish because it’s irrelevant to the tragic circumstances.

Unfortunately, the press did not remain that respectful. The New York Times posted an editorial article, in which, the opening few paragraphs called out the fact that the young people involved were students from Ireland who were in America on a J1 Visa. Which is a Visa that college students use to come to America between college years. Some attempt to work for the summer, others just go to enjoy themselves. The article highlighted an incident which happened last year. A group of young men on a J1 trip to San Francisco rented an apartment in a very nice area and got it at a decent price for that area out of kindness from the landlord. A few days before their lease ended, they just left. They left the apartment completely destroyed in their wake. Thousands upon Thousand of dollars of damage. There was uproar in local SFO media and in the Irish media.

This obviously was in very poor taste. Why open an article about young people who died in a terrible tragedy just a day earlier and lead with a negative depiction of the character of those who come to America on a J1? Why? Is it because they are Irish and it’s a prejudicial thing?

No, it’s not. Was it insensitive? Certainly. Was this a once off flub on the editors part? Absolutely not. What the Irish people don’t understand is how callous the media and many people in this country area. The Westboro Baptist Church claimed it was due to Ireland legalizing gay marriage…but that’s expected because they die without attention. But seeing the Fox news coverage was pretty terrible..for better or worse, that’s a mainstream media outlet. And the comments were fucking disgusting online from the far right people. Everything from agreeing with the Westboro baptists church sentiment about God taking vengeance to blaming Mexican laborers!!

Even the USA Today websites comments bordered on the depraved. I know we should all view these as trolls but they didn’t seem to be trolling to me. They seemed steadfast in their convictions. They also were using their social media accounts, not just some nameless and faceless trolling account.

How could people in the country that this happened in be so cold? I know, it’s not everybody, so sorry for generalizing BUT I believe it’s because it’s ingrained in the culture here. People have been dealing with such abhorent violence and tragedy for so long that they are desensitized by it. They look at stories of mass shootings, plane crashes, accidents for a different angle which does capture their imagination and attention. To me that’s so disturbing and is part of the reason I really want to leave this country.

9 people were shot and killed at a Church in Charleston. It will be forgotten in a few days. Certain people and media outlets are already beginning to downplay the core of the story, instead deflecting attention away from the how and the why to simply looking at his character. This will be blamed on mental illness and then nothing will be done because the same people that claim that are the same people who don’t want to fund any form of affordable health care which these people would need.

The violence will continue….it’s by design

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A Cynicists Travel Review: One Week in Ireland

The season is upon us! When the weather in Ireland get’s a little less cold, the festivals begin and the throngs of tourists start arriving at our airports and ferry ports. This year I’m coming back with a couple of Yankee Doodles! My Fiance, who has been to Ireland before and one of her friends who has a very romantic view of the country. She tells us, she’s been obsessed with Ireland and the idea of going there since she was 8 years old! This has put a little bit of pressure on me. I know what I love and appreciate about Ireland but that’s not necessarily what somebody else will love. My Fiance loves Dublin and doesn’t like the more rural parts of the country. I love the rural parts. So what’s the compromise!?

Here’s some places I like and recommend people to go to and some general tips I’m flying into Shannon for my first time in about six years. This is the best option if you intend to rent a car for your trip and if you’d like to start your trip in the more rural parts of the country. Of course you can rent a car in Dublin too but it can be a little more confusing driving out from Dublin. Dublin is a major European city! The roads show that. It can be quite confusing, at first. The busy roads are also probably something you don’t want to tackle right away, either, particularly if this is your first time driving on the ‘wrong side of the road’ If you are renting a car, a GPS is a must. If you have a GPS unit, check out if you’ve got European maps, or if you can buy some. If not, you should check to see if you can use your phone in Ireland. European roaming charges are now pretty reasonable. If you’re coming from the United States, you’ll want to buy a SIM card for your phone for the trip. NOTE: If you are on contract, your phone is locked. Obama signed off on a law meaning, if you are out of contract, your provider must unlock your phone for you. Which allows you to put an Irish SIM Card in there. If you have an iPhone, changing the SIM cards can be a chore. FUCKING APPLE!! If you are on Verizon, I believe they do not use the same type of SIM card as the Irish. If you are with AT&T or T-Mobile, you can put an Irish SIM card in your phone as long as it’s unlocked! Dublin

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