Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.

Home / About / Archive

Israel’s Invisible People

Last Monday’s Guardian carried a shocking feature on the plight of migrant workers in Israel, where tens of thousands of foreigners — from China, South-East Asia and Eastern Europe — are exploited wholesale as slave labour by employers, forced to live in squalor, regularly demonised in the press, and deported at a whim.
This is a familiar story, since the same has been happening here in Ireland — to migrants from China, from Africa and the former Soviet states — over the last number of years, albeit on a less drastic scale.
It’s not an oft-considered notion that Ireland and Israel share many traits: both are small nations identified with particular religious groups; both have a history of oppression and conflict over territory and beliefs, and a common struggle for identity.
One big difference, however, is that we Irish are — slowly, but surely — moving forward. We are finally beginning to embrace cultural diversity (as the recent nationwide celebration of the Chinese New Year typifies) without the paranoia of feeling that our indigenous culture is being threatened or overwhelmed — whereas in Israel it appears that both government and citizens alike are going backward, willing to reinforce a dangerous mindset of monoculturalism where outsiders are only welcomed if they can be exploited.
It might prove difficult to change such apparently defensive, insular (and possibly xenophobic) attitudes when horrific suicide bombings, such as the attack on a Tel Aviv nightclub only last night, are a regular occurrence — it’s a situation not entirely dissimilar to that of Northern Ireland of the ’70s and ’80s — but surely that should be an excuse to make things better, not maintain the status quo.
Your thoughts on this subject are welcome.

The Coriolis Force

Antipixel‘s Jeremy Hedley loves the vaguely comical natural phenomena:
>[S]now always makes me think of chicks leaving a nest. Those little whirlpools that form in creeks are funny, too, in a dog-chasing-its-tail way, and the coriolis force always reminds me a great-aunt who rearranged the furniture in her living room and forever after would get up and walk towards the fireplace, intending to go into the kitchen.

Out Of This World

I was about to post this to the Linklog, but it really deserves highlighting here. According to this BBC News report, 50 planets outside of our own solar system could have life:
>Astronomers estimate about half the planetary systems so far discovered in our galaxy could contain Earth-like worlds.
>
>And they say that space telescopes will be capable of observing these planets and investigating them to see if they support life in about 15 years’ time.
This news is startling enough, but what’s also amazing is the fact that no one seems to care very much. The fact that I only found out about it via the web speaks volumes.
I guess I’m sensitive to this since I’ve been reading, and thoroughly enjoying, Bill Bryson’s excellent A Short History of Nearly Everything — which has by all accounts been a tremendous success commercially, but does not appear to me to have had any significant effect on today’s pervasively apathetic attitudes towards science in general.
I can certainly see some factors that would dissuade enthusaism for space exploration in particular, most notably the Columbia shuttle disaster, but I can’t see any concrete reason why a report as exciting as this one hasn’t generated the excitement it deserves — especially since there didn’t seem to be a such a problem with news of the Cassini-Huygens mission, or the Mars landings last year (although they did fall out of the news quite swiftly).
So I pose some questions to you: What do you make of it? What happened to the public’s awe of scientific discovery? Am I blind to something that everyone else can see?

Hand Car Washing

It was the last day of our flying visit to London in January when Benitha and I noticed this, just around the corner from our hotel (on Holland Road, from Kensington High Street):
==

==
If you can’t make out what the sign says, here’s a closer look:
==

==
You know, I think I’ll let that image speak for itself.

Interview with Blake Norton

Today is your lucky day. Not only do you get something new to read, but you also get something to listen to — namely, the radio programme I made from an interview conducted this past December with independent wrestling renaissance man, the ‘Celtic Tiger’ Blake Norton (right-click on the link below to download the interview):
==

  Blake Norton Interview (Lo-Fi) (4.1MB mp3; 16:59)

==
Please bear in mind, this is the first interview I’ve done as a proper journalist type person, so it’s not perfect, and any faults are entirely my own. Also, I’m sure it will be immediately apparent that this is the first radio programme I’ve ever produced, so please, don’t judge me too harshly.
(And of course, it goes without saying that the illustrative sound infringes upon countless copyrights, so let’s just keep this one between you and me, okay?)