Friday, January 30, 2009

Rattling a Nation

Many times, I thank God for how lucky I am. I’ve lived a comfortable life to date, have visited a substantial number of foreign countries, and have been privileged enough to live my life on two different continents. Each time I visit a foreign country, I am amazed at how advanced the infrastructure and road systems of such a country are. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about our islands, which seem to be moving rapidly from bad to worse in this regard.

If the much-famed public transport strike last July was farcical enough, then the state of our roads almost certainly is up there with it. With the recent rain showers, Malta has degenerated from a network of roads full of potholes to a network of roads filled with craters that could rival those on the moon. And I’m not saying this to jump on the recent press bandwagon about the roads’ appalling state, but I’m saying this from first hand experience as a driver with nearly two years under his belt.

Take a trip to Sliema Road, San Gwann, for instance. This road is used by thousands of vehicles on a daily basis and is one of the most important junctions in Malta as it links the Regional Road roundabout to San Gwann, and also Mater Dei Hospital. Recently, The Times reported that this stretch of road has over 124 potholes in 500 metres. Going up or down this road resembles one taking part in a slalom ski race; such is the nature of cars swerving from left to right on a frequent basis in order to avoid these deadly craters. Pass over one deep hole and you’ve simply had it – you’ll be footing the bill for a tow truck, a new tyre and possibly even a new rim. And it’s not even your fault. With such roads to navigate, it’s no surprise that I hear a new rattle on my poor car every day of the week.

Another class act of a road is Ganu Street, Birkirkara (the road going down towards Birkirkara from the Vodafone roundabout). This road also resembles a fully-fledged slalom and is more disastrous than the days America was under the Bush Administration. On a recent venture to this street, I had the pleasure of braking around 3 times in order to swerve my car and avoid this series of potholes, and, when I thought that I had evaded all of them, I ended up crashing into one nonetheless. Honestly, sometimes I wonder whether its best to crash one’s car into another while avoiding the pothole or simply driving through the potholes themselves, hoping for the best while at it.

Of course, these are only two examples taken from routes that I use frequently, as there are many other roads that are in such dire need of repair that I could simply name from memory. The shocking thing about it all is that while there are groups of people out there performing maintenance on these roads, the work is of a shoddy nature to say the least, to the extent that by the next rainfall, all the potholes would be uncovered once again and hence, we’re back to square one!

I may not be the Minister for Infrastructure, Technology and Communications but I believe that action has to be taken to rectify these ridiculous problems with immediate effect. If the local contractors being assigned such jobs to fix our roads are performing work that even a bunch of chimpanzees could do better, then why don’t we employ people from abroad in this regard? I’m sure that there are workers out there, in the EU, who would do the job at double the standards but for half the price that we’re currently paying. Maybe then we’d have a road system to brag about.

This situation has reached the extent where the nation should be declared in a state of emergency, with the only difference being that the emergency is to repair the terrible stuff that we drivers face day after day. After all, we’re paying hundreds of Euros per year in road tax – with hundreds of thousands of cars on the roads, where is all the money going? I can’t answer that one myself, but I can definitely affirm that it isn’t going towards the quality, EU-standard road system that we sorely need.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Google Verb Meme... THE latest craze, it seems!

So, carrying on from seeing Achie's blog, I have also decided to attempt this Google Verb meme (pronounced meem) to humour myself in these times of doom, gloom and the doldrums, due to our lovely University exams. For those who don't know what a meme is, it is something passed around the internet that one tags people in for them to carry it on.

The questions are the following:

Q: Type in "[your name] needs" in the Google search.
Q: Type in "[your name] looks like" in Google search.
Q: Type in "[your name] says" in Google search.
Q: Type in "[your name] wants" in Google search.
Q: Type in "[your name] does" in Google search.
Q: Type in "[your name] hates" in Google search.
Q: Type in "[your name] asks" in Google search.
Q: Type in "[your name] likes " in Google search.
Q: Type in "[your name] eats " in Google search.
Q: Type in "[your name] wears " in Google search.
Q: Type in "[your name] was arrested for" in Google Search.
Q: Type in "[your name] loves" in Google Search.

Here are my answers:

A: Matthew needs to bring sexy back. [I found this disturbing enough, but I'll link you to something that I found when I attempted to do this with both my name and surname at the bottom of the blog!]
A: Matthew looks like one of those one of those football guys with a 3 month pregnant belly. [So true!]
A: Matthew says... after bedtime prayers tonight.
A: Matthew wants to know why a girl is answering his friend's phone.
A: Matthew does devilstick.
A: Matthew hates the fail whale! [If that's when you fail an exam, you're spot on, buster!]
A: Matthew asks two questions. [That's all? I thought I ask many, many more!]
A: Matthew likes to hump. [LOL!!!!]
A: Matthew eats his first cereal. [What, 20 years ago now?]
A: Matthew wears shirt by Flickr.
A: Matthew was arrested for sexual assault stop teacher sex abuse.
A: Matthew loves. Abbie says. [Ok...]

As for that link that I promised, well, this came up when I typed in "Matthew Borg needs"... How ironic!

I'm tagging the following people to do this:

Mark Galea
Nicola Jaccarini
Andrew Bajada
Becky Abela

... and, if she sees this blog, Nadya!

Enjoy, and God Bless to all! :)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Highlights of 2008

2008 has come and passed fast enough, and 2009 is already upon us. Stating the obvious, true, but it's a fact that has to be acknowledged - 365 days may seem like a huge number, but in reality, they zip by with the blink of an eye. And there's no doubt that this will, once again, be the case in 2009.

2008 has, however, been a year with its typical ups and recessions (no pun intended). In a similar method to that that The Times adopted recently, I will be using seven key words to really summarise the events of 2008 - both positive and negative, and both my own and that that happened on the national and international scenes. After all, simply including everything would be too lengthy to write and too impossible to remember.

Elections - 2008 was without doubt a year determined by elections both on a local and international level. In Malta, a relative majority (49.14%) of the public reconfirmed their faith in the Partit Nazzjonalista (PN) and their leader Lawrence Gonzi for another five year term in Government, condemning the Partit Laburista (PL) and their leader Dr. Alfred Sant to their third successive electoral defeat, and fourth in total if one considered the referendum result in 2003. This was the catalyst for a real bidu gdid within the PL, as Dr. Sant 'irrevocably resigned' from his post after the PN victory was confirmed and MEP Dr. Joseph Muscat, only 34, was elected in his place. Subsequently, Muscat has revamped the PL administration from head to toe, with Anglu Farrugia and Toni Abela now his deputies, but despite rumours of conflict and an ultimatum issued, Jason Micallef still holds the coveted General Secretary position. America also saw the battle for the White House, which was a three-way tie between Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama in the preliminary stages. McCain and Obama eventually won the Republican and Democrat nominations respectively, and Obama comfortably went on to defeat McCain on the November 4 election. He will assume office, and become the country's first ever black President, on January 20.

Recession - An economic clout has been upon the world's doorstep for the last three months, all instigated by the collapse of financial giant Lehman Brothers in September. The bankruptcy of the company led to many countries becoming victims of the credit crunch, especially because assets shared were now lost and hence money went down the drain. Particularly badly affected were the USA and Iceland, who, prior to this, had a stable financial backing. Iceland are now seriously considering joining the EU in order for the ECB to help out in their crisis. Meanwhile, Malta was minimally affected by the entire scenario, with some assets that the Bank of Valletta had being lost, but retained a relatively stable economy throughout. However, people are now spending their money more carefully and in fact, this Christmas, businesses did not sell as much as in 2007.

Sports - The international sporting world saw a load of firsts in 2008. In football, Manchester United and Chelsea contested the first all-English Champions League final... in Moscow. After a game that didn't disappoint, albeit the 1-1 final score, the penalty shootout that ensued provided tension and drama as never seen before. The reaction of John Terry, after his missed penalty, still lives in the minds of many Chelsea supporters as that converted spot kick would have given the Blues their first Champions League title. However, United went on to win the shootout 6-5 and become champions for the third time. They backed this up with their first World Club Championship, beating South American champions LDU Quito 1-0 in the final in Yokohama. Spain also won their first trophy in 44 years after winning the EURO 2008 tournament in Switzerland and Austria, beating Germany 1-0 in the final and hence finally shedding their tag of perennial underachievers. Rafael Nadal became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win both Wimbledon and the French Open in the same year, and subsequently became the first person to defeat the all-conquering Roger Federer in over 60 matches on grass. Nadal finally became World Number 1 - at Federer's expense - in August. The Olympics in Beijing also took place and were heralded as the best Olympics ever. Both Usain Bolt (athletics) and Michael Phelps (swimming) enthralled the world of sport here in different ways. Bolt won the 100m and 200m finals comfortably, breaking the World Record in both instances, and Phelps won an unprecedented 8 gold medals in the swimming pool, becoming the most successful Olympian of all time. Finally, Lewis Hamilton became Formula 1's youngest ever World Champion, and the first black person to do so, after finishing 5th in Brazil, which was enough to win the title by a single point from Ferrari's Felipe Massa. In the most enthralling finish to a title race in years, Hamilton overtook Toyota's Timo Glock at the final corner in Interlagos to deny Massa, who had already won the race, the title. Had Hamilton remained behind Glock, both he and Massa would have finished level on 97 points but the title would have gone to the Brazilian based on more race wins within a season.

Euro - The beginning of a new financial era for Malta began effective January 1, 2008, with the introduction of the Euro instead of the Maltese lira. Upon entry into the EU in 2004, Malta was forced to adopt the Maastricht criteria that stated that new member states must eventually join the Eurozone. Malta was praised by the EU for its effective and efficient awareness campaign - no doubt aided substantially by the FAIR campaign - as well its smooth transition period, both widely considered to be among the best Europe has seen to date. Compulsory dual pricing came into effect July 1, 2007 and ended June 30, 2008, allowing the Maltese a period of one year to get used to the exact exchange rate between the lira and the Euro. However, a recent poll on the Times of Malta website has shown that the majority of the public - from the sample who voted - still seem to translate prices listed in the Euro to the Maltese lira before buying a product.

BOOM! - 2008 was also a tragic year for many Maltese families, as various accidents and murders took the lives of a substantial amount of people nationwide. A few days after the General Elections, Malta was plunged into mourning after fireworks stored in a garage in Naxxar exploded, destroying 3 houses and killing two people, including a 33-year old mother of two children. The dust had barely settled on that tragedy when another one struck the islands this summer, as four people aboard the now infamous fishing boat Simshar were killed following an explosion on the boat that destroyed it completely. Only one of the crew members survived the ordeal - barely alive - after being found following a week out at sea. There were also various murders throughout the year. Among the most controversial was a mother being killed by her 15-year old daughter in Mensija, San Gwann, on February 26, this following an alleged argument between the two after the mother asked her daughter to get some drugs. There were also two murders in Qormi within the space of two months and another murder in Xemxija between those two events. Finally, there was also the attempted murder of 20 people at a PN club in Mqabba, which left no people killed but some injured. It seems as if criminality in Malta is on the rise.

University - Life at University was full of controversy this year too. The much talked about Debate on Campus proved to be a hit from many a student's perspective, but also proved to be a massive talking point in the media. The PL apologists brought Insite's independence as a student media organisation into question by stating that the debate was an organised Nationalist Mass Meeting, while the PN claimed that this debate really showed the leader that the majority of the students were backing. This once again led to damaging claims being thrown by members of the opposition, who went to the extreme of labelling students as marmalja and hmieg, and also led to some sectors of the public questioning the true quality of individuals that the highest educational institution of the land produces. Insite were not reported to have taken legal action against any entity in terms of damage of reputation. Meanwhile, no elections to elect a new KSU office were held after Pulse withdrew from the running and no independent organisation opted to contest. Hence, SDM were reconfirmed in office, and Roberta Avellino took over from David Herrera as President. Finally, the University welcomed its new batch of students - the majority of which born in 1990 - amidst a construction site; after the administration decided to undertake renovation work on the Library and extend the Administration building over the course of summer.

Y4J - Finally, ending on a personal note, and probably saving the best till last. 2008 was finally the year where I felt that I did something worthwhile, and substantive, with my life. Joining Y4J was undoubtedly one of the best moves I could have ever made, because it has allowed me to make a whole host of new friends, become closer to others who I already remotely knew, and, most importantly, allow God to enter into my life. If I had to describe anything else pertinent to this, I could simply go on forever. The times we have shared together, from meetings, to Soul Survivor, to Stronger, and the moral support that we have established for one another is something incredible. It's made me believe that there is a tangible God out there, contrary to me previously thinking that God was simply an entity, and made me change my perspective of religion almost entirely. Praising God and becoming Jesus' friend is cool! However, unfortunately, opinions differ greatly, and I've come to realise that the good that one does for himself may often be shot down and ridiculed by other people. I'm just hoping that come the New Year, come a new attitude by such people.

God Bless You all - and may everyone have a super 2009!