The Chicken Years

Internet advertising is an odd beast. Facebook seems to have pinned me as a man who likes his golf, his Trump and his new age retreats, to judge from the ads it shows me. From my age, perhaps. Or my maleness. Or the colours and texture of my aura.

But over the last few weeks, a certain ad has been following me around the internet, at least on my mobile phone. Any website containing advertising that I open will, in seconds, be showing me the following advertisement:

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These are chickens. Wearing reflective vests. One is pink. The other is yellow. You know, for those chickens who are picky about their colour schemes.

One question here is why chickens need reflective vests — maybe they’re laying tarmac, or directing crowds to fire exits? Fuck knows. The other question here is why the site lantbutiken.se is apparently so keen to have me as a customer. They sell farming equipment and I am currently not a farmer, nor an owner of chickens.

The ads they show me do push the whole chicken angle pretty hard. Observe:

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This chicken is wearing a camouflage vest. No, I don’t know why either.

It’s possible, I suppose, that I accidentally clicked on an ad for chicken stuff one time. So now lantbutiken.se is convinced I’m a chicken accessory collector just waiting to come out of the coop. Or maybe their calculations show that a 40+ man with an Irish surname simply must be interested in chickens, and that’s all there is to it.

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Here is a water feeder for chickens. And some kind of … chicken-proof apron?

So, lantbutiken, I’m afraid you’re clucking up the wrong tree here. Save your money and advertise to someone who doesn’t live in a second-floor flat, in a city. Although if I ever need to kit out an all-chicken army or building crew, I do know exactly where to go.

/ paddy

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The Job Application Anecdote

I am the master of cringe-filled anecdotes. There’s the snus in the arse, for example. Or the one where I set fire to a newspaper while trying to impress a sexy waitress at a café. But this one, my friends. This one is solid nuclear gold.

So I was applying for a new job. I got talking to some very nice people at company X, who wanted me to send in a work sample. That meant a simple game made in Unity, a nifty game motor. On this they would judge my game-making ability, and also me.

I had a game already half done, just to learn Unity. It was a novelty game in which you had to find swear words in a grid. I also had an algorithm for combining swear words to make new swear words (arsenibbler, cumgurlger, fuckflapper, and so on) to get points. An odd idea, perhaps, but nobody was really supposed to ever see it.

swearsBut the game I had to make for the new job had nothing to do with swear words, obviously. So I cleared out the files in my game, saved the code that was useful, and built my new game. Which I liked, and a few days of work later, I sent it in.

All was well. For four hours. Until I got a short mail, written in a shaky and hesitant hand. Basically, it said – “Um … that ideas file. Um. What the hell?”

I swallowed. I went pale. And I checked. Ah. I hadn’t cleaned out all the files from my filthy words game. I’d left one – just the one – which was a list of filthy words and game modes I’d thought to use. Pussygrabber. Cockgobbler. Fuckwangler. Turdlicker. The filthiest words I could think of. They were all there, in a neat long list.

When you send a list of extremely filthy words to the female recruiters judging you for a new job, you know it’s not going to end well. With all credit to them, they did their very best to handle the situation, and after a discussion, they believed me that it was a dumb accident. But let’s be honest – there’s no coming back from that. None. So the next morning, I withdrew my application for company X. Because even if I got the job, I’d always be THAT GUY. Pussygrabber Paddy, in the flesh.

In the end, it turned out to not matter, as I failed the coding part of the test. God never opens a window without slamming a trapdoor on your knuckles. Or something.

So hopefully I’ll never make an anecdote any better than that one. But, you know, given my track record, I kind of doubt it.

(All respect again to the recruiters, who did a great job in dealing with that dumpster fire of a situation. And if they want to make it into an anecdote of their own, they have my blessing.)

/ paddy

The Swedish Flag

This Friday there was an awful truck attack in Stockholm, where four people died. I wasn’t personally affected, even though it was just up the road from where I work, although I know several people who were scarily close to it. For the people who did lose somebody, it must be the worse thing in the world, and I can’t even grasp it.

A horrible situation, although on the day after I made damn sure to get into town and do the whole carry-on-as-normal thing. If life doesn’t go on, then we’ve lost.

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The view from my office after the attack

A few positive things came from the attack, though. One was the immediate and professional response from the police and emergency services, closing down the city and catching the guy a few hours later. The police were getting hugs and flowers from people all weekend, which was great to see in usually-reserved Stockholm.

Another was on social media, where the hashtag #openstockholm took off. People were offering accommodation and help and car rides and company to people stuck in town as a result of the attack and subsequent shutdown. It brought a tear to the eye, this random kindness on a massive level. Stockholmers, it turns out, have a great ability to react to crises, and will throw their doors wide open when needed.

Then people started putting Swedish flags on their Facebook profile pics, as one does after something like this. That’s when it got a bit strange for the Swedes.

flagHere’s the thing. Swedes are often embarrassed to fly their flag. They are generally damn proud of their country, but they don’t show it much. My Swedish workmates are much happier flying an Irish flag on St. Patrick’s day than flying a Swedish flag on any day, ever. It’s part of their “no boasting” mentality, but also because the far right have mostly claimed the Swedish flag, and the average person doesn’t want to be seen as a neo-nazi. You might see the blue and yellow on a bus on Sweden’s national day, or at a sporting event, or fluttering over a summer house, but that’s it.

It’s something that immigrants like myself find very odd. But after this attack, maybe it will change. I do love my adopted country and I hate to see them squirm and not show that love too. You’re awesome, Sweden, so go get your flag back. Remove it from the grubby hands of nationalists and “patriots” and fly it high and proud.

/ paddy

Sunshine and Sneezes

You can’t beat a good sneeze. Especially now that the pollen season is upon us, which sees me doing it quite a bit. However, when it comes to sneezing, I have a superpower.

I am cursed / blessed with a photic sneeze reflex. Which means that when I emerge from an interior space to a brightly sunlit exterior space, I will sneeze. Violently. Usually twice. It also means that if I feel the tingle of a sneeze that doesn’t quite want to arrive, I can shove my face into a lamp and bring the sneeze on. Very handy.

For years I thought this applied to everybody and was quite surprised when I found out  it didn’t. Some mere mortals, apparently, only get to sneeze when the sneeze is good and ready. There are theories about why the photic sneeze reflex works, to do with nerves in the brain and such. Even Aristotle noticed it, when he wasn’t busy incorrectly counting women’s teeth. But work it does, and when it comes to sneezing, I’m no slouch.

genes-for-achoo-syndrom-sun-sneezingI like my sneezing so much that I am amazed by the number of people who block their sneezes. They clamp their noses, sending the sneeze booming around the insides of their skull, in a way that sounds physically painful. I’ve always wondered – why on earth would anybody do that. Is it a fear of contaminating others? A terror of seeing snot and spittle? Or a religious conviction that sneezing is too much like sex? Fuck knows, but lots and lots of people do it, in my workplace as well as in the great wide world in general.

If anybody knows why people do this, please share it. Because I fully expect to one day be a witness to a head boinging off, or an eye popping out and dangling from its fleshy wire.

In Sweden, by the way, you say “Benny!” when someone in your vicinity sneezes. The proper response to that is to yell “Björn!” and then go put on spangly trousers.

/ paddy

Springtime For Sweden

The first signs of spring have come to Stockholm. There are snowdrops sprouting, there are drinkers sitting outside of Snaps in Medborgarplatsen, wrapped in blankets and grimly pretending to be having a good time. And there are people standing against sunlit walls in every corner of the city, with their eyes closed, basking in the rays like vertical seals.

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Here we see a few, snapped by myself yesterday. In this shot we have two proper baskers, two semi-baskers, and a tanned guy who knows exactly what I’m up to.

This behavior will continue on into April, until that first hot day when it is agreed that Stockholm may now shed its black coat and don its skimpy summer things, even though it’s really a bit too cold for that yet, but fuck it.

And for the sake of disclosure – yes, my coat is black. It’s just the rules, okay?

/ paddy

Jazz on the Train

I was on my way to work. It was a typical March morning in Stockholm, which meant the weather could be snow, or blazing sun, or icy gales, or all three at once.

On trains, I am peculiar, especially in the mornings. Things annoy me and they annoy me five times more than normal. These things include (but are not limited to):

People eating their messy breakfast on the train
People having loud conversations on the train
People shoving their massive luggage into other people’s way
People putting on makeup on the train
People with awfully leaky headphones

Of these, the headphone leakers are the worse. Yes, I’m sure your music is fun to listen to, but if you insist upon playing it so fucking LOUDLY then use good headphones and not those pieces of cheap shit they gave you when you bought your mobile telephone.

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But no. People will play the most appallingly annoying music at full tinny volume, in total disregard for those around them (meaning, of course, me).

So on this particular March day, I was noodling about on my phone, reading news, playing a game, the usual sort of thing, when a man got on the train and sat close to me, wearing headphones. And the air suddenly filled with jazz.

Not good jazz either. Shite jazz, with the same piece repeated over and over. I did my usual scowling but the man didn’t notice or care. Then I wasn’t sure it was him, so I scowled at some other likely leakers in my vicinity, and shook my head, and muttered to myself.

dogThe music kept on going, becoming more and more annoying. So finally, I moved. At which point I noticed that the music, oddly, was now coming from ahead of me, and not from behind.

And it clicked.The music was coming from my own mobile, from a game I had been playing. Luckily I was spared any embarrassment as pretty much everyone around me had headphones on and couldn’t hear a damn thing. The sweet and awful irony.

Note that I didn’t mention dogs on the train being a thing I dislike. I’m trying quite hard to like dogs and so far it seems to be working.

Until someone invents leaky dog headphones and I am forced to go postal.

/ paddy