Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The #ASTI & #TUI - on strike to defend the meaningless Junior Cert

Philip Irwin of the ASTI attempts to justify his union's ridiculous strike action today with a column in the Irish Examiner. He makes a number of assertions that are total horse manure.

This is the crucial one:
Despite assertions from commentators that the Junior Certificate is low status, the fact is that it is valued by students, parents, and teachers. It encourages students to develop goal-setting skills, it motivates students at the mid-point of their second-level education, and it offers students an important objective guide as they enter the senior cycle.
Irwin says the exam is valued by parents. I don't think so. It's seen as inevitable, rarely questioned, but not valued. How do I know? Try asking a parent - any parent of a second level student - if they'd be happy if their child left school after getting a good Junior Cert. Yeah? Didn't think so.

So what's the value in it? Well, Irwin tries to deflect us from the fact that the certificate itself has no value with his drivel about goal-setting and motivating students.

The goal-setting and motivation is almost entirely driven by the teachers. If they can inspire that sort of effort for a meaningless state exam, why can't they do it for a school exam? Why do we need an expensive state run system to motivate?

The only potential value in the Junior Cert is the one that the ASTI and the TUI would resist manfully: to expose those teachers who are doing a terrible job; to ensure that those teachers don't teach at the higher, meaningful Leaving Cert level.
 
So seeing as that isn't part of the package then what on Earth is so important about the Junior Cert? It's valueless to employers; it's a source of unnecessary stress for students (& their parents) and expensive to the state.

The lesson to be learned is this: the Junior Cert is a relic from another era.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Autoflush toilets are crap

Okay, I know this subject that is not quite suitable for civilized discourse, but this has to be said: the absolute worst new technology development is the autoflush toilet. Seriously, there has to be a better way to accomplish this goal than having an electric eye try to determine when my ... backside has left the seat.

And, as if having an electric eye watching you go to the bathroom wasn't bad enough, my experience is that the damn things almost never work properly, which of course leads to a lot of wasted water.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What else can the state do to "protect" children from their parents?

The Seanad passed a bill today to outlaw smoking in cars carrying children. It will, apparently, sail through the Dáil and become law. Thank God! It's about time!

But let's not be content with that. There's more we can do to ensure bad parents behave. So much more.

First, let's face it your kid only spends a short time in the car. What about the hours at home? We must ban smoking in the house so that no kid is subjected to all that second hand smoke where they live.

Next, now that they're breathing all right, what about getting them to eat right? We should outlaw, oh I don't know ... ice cream? Sweets? Cakes? Fast foods? Soda? What about ... all of it? Yeah, let's outlaw all of it. At least for children. Let's fine parents – and if they don't pay the fine, jail them – for giving goodies to their children.

Don't forget exercise. Let's fine parents who fail to get their kids moving. Parents should HAVE to send their kids out to run or bike (with a helmet of course – another potential fine).

Oh, and television. Any parent(s) who allows their children to watch more than 20 minutes of television a day should be fined, with stiffer penalties for repeat offenders. The state should ensure there are retina scanners in all video display devices so that the forces of goodness can monitor the parents, who are often too bad to monitor their children's television viewing /video game playing.

And, [related to the previous item] what about reading? Yes, let's fine parents who don't read to their younger children or who fail to get their kids to read when they're old enough. Reading is good for them, so let's force them to do it. Kids always enjoy reading once they get started (& once they have no alternative).

Oh, but let's be careful. We can't have them reading just anything. No, no, no. So much of what's out there is soooo unacceptable. Wrong ideas, etc. I mean, you have to get them reading, but don't let them read anything published before, oh, say, 2005. You just never know what dangerous ideas their young minds might absorb from some of that which for so long was passed off as literature. So, fines for any parents whose children are reading the wrong books.

I'm sure there are other measures we can take to protect our children from malignant parents. Let's get going. The State knows best!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Why use "US" when you mean "American"?

This headline from the Daily Telegraph annoys me: British teenager dies after shooting of US police officer. And, yes, I realize that the underlying story is so grave that this complaint may be too trivial, but regardless, I'm going to carry on.

What annoys me is that the man was not a US police officer. He was an American police officer, a member of the Windermere Police Department from Windermere, FL. If he was a German police officer, from a local German force, would the headline refer to him as a FRG police officer? Obviously not. Well, using US where you should use American is the same thing.

The headline is from the Daily Telegraph, but I saw nearly identical headlines from the Guardian and a couple of others this morning. And this sort of thing comes up all the time. For some reason news organizations in Britain and in Ireland are reluctant to use the word "American." I can't for the life of me understand why. And it can't be just because they are saving space in the headlines because the same construct is used in the actual article. Something else is going on here.

The only people in America who (might) fit the bill as US police officers are federal Marshals and the FBI. The rest of them do not work for the "United States," aka the federal government.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Someone at the Belfast Telegraph needs to proof-read their blog posts

It's possible Dr Timofey Agarin is not a native English speaker. If that's the case, then someone at the Belfast Telegraph should have edited his blog post on Ukraine before it went live on their site. If he is a native English speaker – and a PhD – then God help us. His grammar is atrocious.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

@PhilHoganTD Charge by volume, not weight, if you want to encourage recycling

Maybe it's my jaundiced eye, but I can't help thinking that this is a "bad thing" in the mind of the journalist who wrote it, "Currently, private waste collectors can offer customers any price and any charging structure they choose."

Well, Olivia Kelly, I happen to think competition is a good thing. Ever since competition came into my neighborhood's refuse market, it has helped lower my waste bill significantly. Long may it last.

But what of the bigger issue? What of the government's desire to incentivize "better" behavior? That is, what of the government's view that we need to dump less and recycle more and, thus, need a pay-by-weight system?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if the goal is to reduce the amount going to the landfills then charge by volume, not weight. The problem is that landfills are filling up, not that they're getting too heavy. So where's the logic in charging by weight?

If we are forced to pay by weight rather than volume – as we can now, paying so much per lift – I will recycle less, not more. A lot less. Why? Because most of my recycling is empty plastic containers. Those things don't weigh much and they're a pain to store because ... they take up a lot of room.

Can you see where this is going?

So if it isn't going to cost me a whole lot (more) to dump all that plastic I'm going to. Therefore, charging by weight will actually reduce the incentive I have now to recycle as much as I can.

Got that Phil Hogan?





Saturday, January 25, 2014

An "oleaginous" name change propsal in Limerick

I love this one sentence.

I know nothing about the move to rename a bridge in Limerick after JFK. I don't know the Shannon Bridge in Limerick or anything at all about it. All I like is a sentence from the Limerick Leader report on the proposal.

The motion to change the name has "the unanimous support of councillors," but has apparently "polarised public opinion."
Many callers and readers of the Limerick Leader, in writing letters to the editor, have expressed bemusement at the name change, which they fear will add to the taxpayer’s already depleted public purse.
Instead, some members of the public have called for the bridge to be named after Frank McCourt, Richard Harris, Willie O’Dea, or Des O’Malley.
Others called the JFK name change “lazy and oleaginous”.
You see that? "Others" said the name change was "lazy and oleaginous." Others, meaning more than one.  Oleaginous – what a wonderful word. I had seen it before, but I had to look it up. I love the idea that the people of Limerick have that word at their fingertips. I just kind of doubt it, but if I'm wrong I hope someone will let me know.

I absolutely love the idea that Limerick people are casually tossing out the word "oleaginous" to describe the proposal to change the name of the Shannon Bridge to the JFK bridge. If they are, you know what? They're right.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dear Minister Quinn: digital does not = iPad

Clare Daly asked Ruairí Quinn about a secondary school in Lusk, Co Dublin looking for parents to buy €700 "iPad systems" (her words, not mine) rather than the traditional books and his response is amazing in its (feigned?) ignorance:
 it’s about more than merely getting information. It is about getting used to the format in which much information will remain in situ for the rest of their lives, even though they will be highly engaged in digital learning as well. 
Now maybe something was omitted by the Irish Times, but what the heck is the Minister for Education talking about?

Of course information is digital and (maybe) there's some value in schoolchildren "getting used to the format in which much information will remain in situ for the rest of their lives." None of that means parents should have to buy an iPad for their child.

Someone needs to inform the Minister that there are many far cheaper options than iPads if the concern is that children need to learn get used to information in a digital format. It doesn't have to be an all-too-fun, all-too-expensive iPad. You can get a Kindle Fire for under €200. Tesco and others have tablets for even less.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lidl is here to stay

Tesco, Dunnes & Superquinn are losing out to the "the lower price stores." In fact, five times as many people are shopping in the "discounters" than "before the recession."

'Will this trend continue?' Checkout magazine's editor asks.

My sense: Yes. Why? Because the savings are signficant and the products on offer at Aldi & (especially) Lidl are good. The German supermarkets are not 'Yellow pack' stores. They have limited product lines, but the jar of jam that costs €0.99 at Lidl is as good as one at Tesco or Dunnes for €2. Lidl's fresh bakery goods are far better than Tesco's or Superquinn's.

For me Lidl is not a "discounter," but simply has "even more better value" than Dunnes. Or Tesco.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Christie's problem: it's not the underhandedness. It's the nitwittedness.


Look I don't believe there are any angels in politics, especially American politics. That my side is as capable of turning to dirty tricks as the other side is a truism that too many people forget.

So I'm not all that bothered by this ploy to get at the Mayor of Fort Lee as I am worried by the stupidity.

First—the plan.

The Christie-ites devised a plot that they hoped would 'get' Fort Lee's mayor, but what they came up with was something that would inconvenience tens of thousands of people, voters of both parties. That's just so stupid. Did they really expect to get away with it?

Anyone who has lived or worked in or around Fort Lee understands how an incident on the George Washington Bridge can create havoc on the streets of Fort Lee. People get angry enough when the cause is legitimate – even fatal accidents get little sympathy – so this politically inspired fake traffic study to clog the roads of Fort Lee was bound to infuriate people even before they knew it was all political jiggery pokery and not real. Just so stupid.

Next—the communications.

The geniuses used e-mail and texts to communicate with one another about what they were going to do and then how it was working out. Everyone – everyone, right? – knows that you can't use these forms of communication if you want to leave no trail. Right? I mean every schoolchild is getting pounded with this message. Heck, it's the reason Snapchat exists.

So what were these people thinking? Did they really think no one would be annoyed enough to investigate what was going on with the abysmal traffic around the GWB?

Just so, so stupid.

That's the real measure of this scandal. Just how dumb are the people that Christie chooses to surround himself with?

I can't see him winning in 2016 if he doesn't know how to get the right people around him.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Paying the Property Tax

I'm as keen to NOT pay tax as the next person, but I gotta admit the Revenue Commissioners' web site sure is efficient and easy to use. It took me less than a minute to fill in the direct debit mandate for the annual charge.

And, yes, direct debit. I know I've said before that I HATE direct debit, but it really seems the best option for making the property tax seem as insignificant as possible. Obviously the amount owed differs according to property value, but if you use a €500 estimate for the tax that works out at less than €42 per month.

Do I want to pay it? No, I don't want to pay any taxes. However, the amount I pay in property tax is dwarfed by what I pay in income tax and VAT. The total tax taken from me is a far bigger issue than whether it's tax on my property or income or purchases.

So if you're a Labour or Fine Gael hack - or worse, government minister - quit bellyaching about the Revenue Commissioners' letters and do something about our massive tax bills.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The elite moaning about elitism

The Seanad is "elitist." I just can't get over how many times I've seen that on Twitter. What exactly makes it elitist? Oh yeah, there are six seats reserved for university graduates.

OK. I guess that settles it then. The Seanad is eitist because those with university degrees are the "elite."

It's a laughable argument. Not because it's not true, because it is, but because nearly all those who are making that case are graduates. They have the better jobs and the higher salaries. That is, they are the 'elite.'

The killer is that almost all of those who make that case are graduates who benefited from an entirely or almost entirely subsidized college education. {And, yes, €3,000 per annum is nowhere near the full cost of your education. €15,000+ would be closer to the mark.} Yet I've heard precious little from any of the political parties or even from the media (no elite in either of those groupings, I'm sure) demanding an end to the government subsidy for third level education.

So before you bellow like a starving animal about the injustice of the elitist Seanad perhaps you should consider whether those who do not have a third level education, who fill the ranks of those jobs graduates don't want, whose children have little hope of getting a place in university might have a far bigger gripe about having to pay taxes to subsidize the education of the elite than they do with the fact that 10% of the members of the powerless upper chamber of parliament are reserved for the elite.

In other words, give me a break with your elitist moaning about elitism.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

2016 – "More charismatic than Scott Walker, more conservative than Chris Christie"

I'd actually forgotten about Mike Pence. I had no idea what he was up to until I came across this column from the Daily Caller.

I have no idea if the columnist is right and that Pence would make a formidable candidate for 2016. Truth is I'm about 2+ years away from giving much thought to 2016. However, I would be keen to see how the Irish media reacted to candidate Pence, who is a grandson of an Irish immigrant, and who
spent the better part of a year working in Ireland when he was younger. He bartended and cut turf in County Clare and almost stayed there.
"Irish" or not, I suspect most in the Irish media would run a mile from the 'teavangelical' Pence.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why should Ireland support France's demands to exclude audiovisual products from trade talks?

Is Ireland better off if movies and television are excluded from EU-US free trade talks?

Danielle Auroi - French deputy of the European Green Party, chairwoman of the European Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly, and head of delegation for the Conference of the Community and European Affairs Committees (busy woman) - writing in today's Irish Times argues that film & television should be specifically excluded from the current trade negotiations. She says the US hasn't asked for film or television to be included in the talks, but she and others - especially in France - want to make sure film & tv don't find their way into these talks. They're worried about English-language film and television driving out work in any other European language.

Whatever. I don't have any strong feelings on audiovisual products being included in the trade talks. What interests me is this sentence: "I do hope that Ireland, which knows how vital cultural and language diversity really is, will also be vigilant on the consequences of this negotiation."

What does that mean? Does Ireland know "how vital cultural and language diversity really is?" If yes, can someone share the insight with me? I would have thought that Ireland would have been more beneficiary than loser in the growth of the market for English-language products.

Sure if you want to go back through history and talk about the destruction of the Irish language I get the point, but I don't see how the future of Irish today is threatened by these trade talks. In fact, I wonder if free trade in film and television products would be a plus for Ireland? I really have no idea.

I can't imagine that free trade in film and television products could result in any more American movies and television shows here. They seem to be everywhere already. I have a vague idea that Irish film-makers struggle to crack the market here, let alone outside Ireland and that's under the current regime. Would things really be worse for them if there was a totally free market in audiovisual products?

Maybe they would, but maybe they wouldn't. I don't think it's obvious in the way Auroi makes it seem.

Irish authors, playwrights and song-writers all benefit from the ubiquity of English so I can see no reason why Irish film-makers shouldn't too.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

OMG #CCVEN - Children should vote? LOL

The Constitutional Convention - aka talk shop for those with too little do - has proposed that children should be allowed to vote. Now, not all children, but any child over 16.

And yes - children. They are children at that age. It's not just me who says so. That's the law of the land. "In Ireland under the Child Care Act 1991, the Children Act 2001 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (pdf) a child is defined as anyone under the age of 18."

So we're talking about children. And there are those who want them to vote. Yet, has the Constitutional Convention proposed eliminating laws that restrict the rights of these would be voters to work? No, of course not. They're children, remember? Has the Constitutional Convention recommended that 16-18 year-old criminals be charged, tried and jailed as adults? Like hell they have. They're only children, remember?

So, no. They're children in the eyes of the law and, therefore, cannot be allowed to vote.

End of