Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Favorite Clash song

If someone asked me to name my favorite song, I'd be hard-pressed. My answer to such a question depends on my mood, the time of day, the season, the weather, whatever. Still, if someone pinned me down and forced me to proclaim one song as my favorite Clash song, it would be Lost in the Supermarket. At least, that's the answer I'd give today.

The Observer asked a few well-known people what their favorite Clash song is. Two votes for White Riot, which might have been my answer at a different time of day/season/etc.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Detention for the Minister

I love Brenda Power. Okay, love is a little strong seeing as I've never met the woman and am unlikely to. And, when I hear her on the radio something about her voice puts me off. But, when I read her columns on Sundays, ahhh …

Today she punishes Minister Hanafin for failing to do her homework. The whole column is worth reading, but I figure I can't quote the whole thing here. So, here are some snippets.
If it wasn’t for the students, their pesky parents, their inconvenient lives, their outlandish expectations and their utterly selfish residential preferences, we’d be able to enjoy the education system that is within the power of the education minister to provide.

If only we arranged our communities to yield neat homogenous class sizes across the country then the problem of overcrowded schools, for a start, could be solved overnight.

If only we didn’t allow the trivial distractions of work and mortgages and commuting distances to influence our life choices, we’d be far more considerate consumers of the education system.

… Despite not having access to the minister’s private intelligence on this matter I very much doubt that families moved to Newbridge because they fancied a superior quality of bathroom decoration. I doubt they even did it with the pig-headed intention of completely and freakishly derailing the minister's carefully drafted projections, although this is what she clearly suspects.

And to suggest, as Hanafin did, that the families moving to Kildare are just well-heeled flibbertigibbets, trampling all over the local infrastructure on a passing design whim, is hugely invidious and unhelpful.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sergeant York

Lt. Col. Douglas Mastriano believes he has found the exact location of Sergeant York's heroic sweep down on German trenches in WWI. Mastriano has been researching this for six years and thanks to a large find of empty Colt .45 cartridges he believes he has all the proof he needs to be sure he has the right place.

York led a team of 8 that killed a couple dozen Germans before another 132 had had enough and surrendered. The legend has it that York captured all those Germans alone, but that's not the official record.

Of course, it's the legend that inspired Hollywood. If you haven't seen the 1941 movie Sergeant York, you should. It's great fun. I particularly love the early part of the movie before York is drafted.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Just noticing

Ever since I read that article about the EU's intention to wipe out the old style measurements, I've been taking note of those products and services still using inches/pounds/etc.

Two examples I saw yesterday: pizzas - generally still sold based on the size of the diameter in inches and rubbish skips, rental price determined by how many cubic yards the skip is. And, as Brendan helpfully pointed out in the comments, there are one or two people still using the pint as a measure in this country.

Stay where you are, the school's full

You know you've been in a job way too long when you're damning the citizens who vote you in because you're not capable of solving the problems you're supposed to solve.

The Minister for Education damned a lot of parents with these remarks:
"I really wish parents who are choosing to move house within term time would make arrangements for their children to be in a school at the beginning of the term."

She added it was "entirely unacceptable", in the educational interests of their children, that parents "checked out the colour scheme in the bathroom of their new house but would not have found out if a place was available for a child within a school".
Look, Minister, you're the one who's in charge of this excessively centralized education system so it's your fault if you can't move resources around sufficiently quickly to ensure that those areas that are experiencing rapid growth can have schools that grow with them. And, I don't remember hearing you say anything about decentralizing funding and control of education, so it's not like you can claim any "I told you so's" here.

People choose to move for all sorts of reasons. They buy a house that suits their budget, work, family-size, and, yes, taste. Often they don't have much choice about when they move. The state's monopoly on education (and don't talk to me about the Church, the Church has almost no say these days in building or staff numbers) means it's the state's responsibility to provide schools and teachers where people live.

For the Minister to condemn parents because they choose to live where she'd rather they didn't is an indication that arrogance and hubris are now setting the tone in the Department for Education.

Black pudding

Black pudding is something I've liked since I first came to Ireland in the mid 80s. Maybe it's fortunate that I found out what it was after I found out that I liked eating it, but knowing it's a 'blood pudding' hasn't put me off one bit.

Today's Washington Post reports that these scrumptious 'treats' made from animals' blood are even rarer today in American butchers' shops than they were 25 years ago, and they were pretty rare then. For what it's worth, I highly recommend the black pudding and blutwurst and would be willing to try most - maybe all - of the other national dishes made from blood.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Come Ye to Ireland

FÁS is advertising for people to come live and work in Ireland on the New York City subway this month. Thanks to Eddie for this picture, which shows the FÁS ad.

I had meant to say something about this last week, but that event about which nothing more will be said knocked it right out of my head. The reason this was on my mind, if only fleetingly, was because the New York Times reported on last week's FÁS jobs fair. According to the Times, more Americans moved to Ireland than vice versa last year. Quite a turn-around. When I first moved here people used to say that Boston (or the Bronx, take your pick) was the 33rd county. How long before I can claim that Ireland is the 51st state?

There isn't a whole lot to say about this, really. Ireland's got a booming economy so it's hardly a surprise that some Americans want to come try their luck here. I just wonder how many Americans at the jobs fair are hearing about the property prices here. I don't know what a middle of the range family home in the suburbs of New York might cost these days, but anyone moving to the Dublin area better be ready to fork out at least €600K or around $750K (and a lot more if they don't want 60-90 minute commute).

The Sunday Independent had a short piece this weekend describing how a New York area real estate agent was shocked to find out that top of the line properties here go for a lot more than they do in the New York area. Is it possible that the family home prices are also a lot higher here?

That's 84¢ you won't be getting back

Last week I cast my ballot in the elections for the U.S. Congress. On the same day the ballot arrived I received an election flyer from Sam Pitcheralle, who is running for Saratoga County Treasurer. Unfortunately for Sam, I'm not entitled to vote in any local or state elections so his flyer and postage (84¢) were wasted on me.

I hope for Sam's sake he doesn't find himself short of funds as the election winds down or he may regret all those letters to overseas citizens who are only entitled to vote in Federal elections.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Arrogance, ignorance & opulence

Yes, I'm getting old, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. I still believe that a large number of the under 30s in this country are a let less gracious/considerate/intelligent than those who were under 30 twenty years ago.

Maybe this is a never-ending complaint, I don't know. I guess it's possible that if I wait another twenty years I'll believe that those who are under 30 in 2026 are less gracious/considerate/intelligent than those who are under 30 today. Maybe.

Anyway, I had another encounter with an arrogant under 30 jackass on Saturday at the local service station. He jumped into the space for the air pump ahead of me despite the fact I was waiting long before he arrived. His answer when I confronted him was, "What? You want me to wait?". (Seriously, that's what he said.) Of course, he was driving a smart, expensive-looking sports car. Money & ignorance - a lethal cocktail that too many seem to be drinking these days.

The only upside to the incident was that I was so angry that it took my mind off that recent event about which I'm saying nothing more.

Give em an inch . . .

Three years from now it will be illegal "for any products made in or imported into the EU to carry any reference to non-metric measures". Illegal simply to make reference to pounds, ounces, inches, etc.?

This is exactly the kind of excessive control that makes so many people absolutely despair of the EU. What purpose is served in banning service station air pumps from listing the PSI measurements for air pressure? How long will it be before it's illegal for someone like me to ask for a pound of steak or to talk about suit sizes in terms of inches?

Then there are the simple practical concerns of businesses that want to export from the US to Europe and vice versa. These sorts of changes are easy enough to deal with if you're a mega-conglomerate transnational corporation with vast resources to devote to new packaging and warehousing, but if you're a small Irish company selling boxes of hand-made chocolates, for example, such a law change can mean the end of selling to the US market and, possibly, the end of the line. What possible benefit does the EU derive from this?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Two days later

I expect this will be the last time I write about the Mets for a few months.

I woke up this morning and I'm still replaying the 9th inning in my head. Errrrr. The "agony of defeat".

If you're not a die-hard sports fan this may sound strange, but there's a hole in my life now. Ever since April 3 I've been listening to the Met games on a nearly daily basis. I probably listened to 135 of the team's 162 games and watched another 15 or so. When you add in the blogs and newspaper articles I've read, well that's a lot of time I suddenly have free. And, at the moment the only thing filling the gap is all those "What if's?".

Some Met fans feel the team underachieved by not making the World Series. Maybe, if you put a lot of stock in the regular season. The regular season is important, but it's been seriously undermined by baseball authorities, who believe that 8 teams should compete for the World Series title despite such a long season. Anyway, the Cardinals may have underperformed during the regular season, but they were clear favorites to win the National League back when the season started. The Mets were expected to be no better than the 4th best team in the league.

This was a great year. It should have ended in victory because that's how fairy tales end. Sure I'm looking forward to next year, but next year hope will be replaced by expectation. 5 months to Opening Day.

Pointless apology demand

The head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal O'Brien, wants Muslims to apologize for September 11 and the July 7, 2005 bombings in London. He was claiming that such an apology would somehow be a reciprocal action after the Pope's recent 'apology'.

Pardon me, Your Eminence, but you're way, way off on this one. First of all, if someone insults me and apologizes, fine. However, if they kill thousands of my fellow citizens and desire to kill thousands more then an apology is slightly insufficient.

Second, is Cardinal O'Brien saying that Muslims generally are responsible for September 11, etc.? If not, then why should Muslims apologize? And, if he is then how is an apology sufficient? Shouldn't all Muslims then be treated as enemies of the state seeing as the acts he wants Muslims to apologize for were acts of mass murder, crimes against the state?

The key question is not whether Muslims should or should not apologize for what's happened so far. The key question is whether there is something about Islam that renders its adherents incapable of being law-abiding, loyal citizens in a democratic state. I believe the answer to that question is yes, but it's pretty clear there are many who don't believe that. And, I don't think I can make a strong enough argument to try and change anyone's mind on that score.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Mets lose and are out. Nothing left now, but a long, dark winter.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cape Cod wind farm

The Irish Wind Energy Truth Alliance has allies in the anti-wind farm movement in a couple of Massachusetts politicians: Senator Kennedy and Governor (& Presidential contender) Romney. They're both opposed to an off-shore 130 turbine wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod. Each turbine will be 440ft high and will be visible from the shore as they're only 6 miles out.

According to the article from the New York Sun MIT is conducting research into floating, tethered wind farms that can be located further out to sea. That would enable them to be placed beyond the visible range, which would probably ease the concerns of large shoreline property owners, such as Senator Kennedy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


My bank's online banking system is down and could be down for "a few days". I couldn't help laughing when the guy on the other end of the phone explained to me that there is "a hiccup in the system".

Once a system is down more than ten minutes it's more than a "hiccup". There are a lot of expressions one could use to describe the situation, but "hiccup" is not one of them.

Lies, damn lies & statistics

Statistics is more science than art, but projections generated by statisticians are not as certain as those produced by a physicist studying the effect of gravity on a falling object. The physicist can say with 100% certainty that a brick dropped from a height of 20m will hit the ground in just over 2 seconds (I hope I'm remembering my physics correctly). He makes this statement without any fear of someone proving him wrong.

The same is not quite true with statistics and statisticians. Projections are not as sure and depend on the methodology of the data collection, which can be influenced by factors that can require adjustments based on judgment. In other words, a key question for any statistical study is, "Is this methodology sound"? To some degree that is along the same lines as, "Is this painting beautiful"?

Steven Moore questions the methodology used by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in their study of the Iraqi death toll since the March 2003 invasion. Moore's focused on the number of clusters and the failure to ask demographic questions in the surveys.

Moore is a political consultant who has done work for the International Republican Institute and the Coalition Forces in Iraq, so he clearly has an agenda. However, there's no good reason to assume that the Bloomberg School of Public Health doesn't also have an agenda, always releasing their findings in the last month of an election cycle. {The last study's findings were released in October 2004.)

Unlike the numbers provided by the physicist, these statistics are built around a very soft scientific core, which means anyone can accept or reject the findings without fear of being proven wrong. I think I'll take the 650,000 death toll figure with a large pinch of salt.

The Dow & the Mets

By the way, look for the Dow to come down significantly if (when? I hope not) the Mets do make their exit from the Playoffs. Okay, so I don't put too much stock in it (hey - that's a good one), but there is something of a historical correlation between the market's performance and the extent to which New York's teams exceeded or failed to meet fans' expectations.

There has to be some explanation as to why October is the primary month for 'crashes'. Right?

Not my fault

You can't pin this loss on me. Despite the fact that I wore the lucky shirt through the whole game the Mets lost 4-2 and now trail 3 games to 2. Two straight wins is a MUST.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Italians in Boston (& elsewhere across America, presumably) thought they were getting a chance to see, touch, have their pictures taken with THE World Cup. They paid $5 for the privilege. Boston's Mayor Menino kissed the trophy and other politicians posed for photographs with it. However, the trophy that made it to Boston is a fake.

Anheuser-Busch, sponsor of the fake trophy's tour, released a statement "insisting that the gold-plated dome is just as important in Italy as the real deal". If this is true, then why didn't they leave the fake in Italy and tour the real trophy? And, why claim to be "proudly hosting the FIFA World Cup Trophy in six cities around the United States, including St. Louis; New York; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Miami; and Chicago".

I can't understand what FIFA or Anheuser-Busch are doing sending a copy of the trophy around the US all the while pretending it's the real deal. I hope Tony Soprano is looking into this matter.


According to today's Times, the EU wants to control web videos now. The proposed Television Without Frontiers directive would require web sites to obey the same regulations as currently control television.

I'll be honest I don't know too much about this proposed directive, but I can guarantee you that it has nothing to do with extending anyone's personal freedom. When the EU proposes a new directive it's all about making sure you don't get out of line.

Based on what I see on the Irish government's web site, this directive will suit the television industry just fine. This line from the government's web site tells me everything I need to know: "Following a consultation process with those operating in the Irish television sector, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources made a submission to the Commission." So, the government asked the t.v. industry how it wanted to be regulated and, if the Times is to believed, how to control any potential threats to itself.

It's no surprise that web videos are now targeted for control. Stifling initiatives like 18 Doughty Street is, I'm sure, part of the thinking here.

Ryder Cup wrap

The final tallies are in and the Ryder Cup television audience seems like it may have come in just a shade under the promised billion.
In America, where NBC Sports had exclusive live broadcast rights, ratings figures for the competition peaked on the final day – Sunday, September 24 – at less than 4m viewers. This was 20% fewer than in 2004 when the competition was held in America, and almost a third less than 2002 when it was played in England.

The figures were slightly higher on the Saturday, when NBC scored a 3.2 Nielsen rating, the equivalent of 4.6m viewers, for deferred coverage. But this was also down 18% on live coverage in 2004, and down 22% from 2002.

… Live broadcasts from the K Club were watched on Sky Sports by a total of 600,000 Irish viewers, though that does not include audiences in pubs and clubs. Some 206,000 watched highlights of the European team's victory on Sunday night on RTE 2, the highest audience the national broadcaster achieved for its nightly highlights package.

In the UK, live coverage on Sky Sports averaged 811,000 viewers over the three days of the event, peaking at 1.1m on the Sunday afternoon. In 2004, when the event was held in America and coverage started several hours later, the British TV audience peaked at 1.4m as Colin Montgomerie holed the winning putt for Europe.

The last Ryder Cup failed to make the 15 most-watched world sporting events in a global survey of 57 major TV markets, accounting for 90% of television households worldwide.
But, hey you know what? The organizers raked in the cash.
More than €50m was grossed from corporate hospitality alone at The K Club and that extremely conservative estimate based on an average cost of €1,500 per day for each of the 8,000 executive guests who crammed the dining suites on the golf course.

... Ordinary spectators pitched more than €12.5m into the Ryder Cup kitty for their tickets and a torrent of cash flowed through the 30 tills in the merchandising area each day as Irish and American fans went on a massive spending spree.

... All of this pushes gross income over the €87m mark and when broadcasting rights and other sources of finance are factored in, that figure will rise well above €100m.
Thank God the government was on hand to over hype the Ryder Cup. They might have grossed only €90m if not for the government's help.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Not Hispanic

I just stumbled on this letter to the editor of the Miami Herald. The letter writer is from Portugal and explains how Portugal, Brazil and other Portuguese-speaking nations are Lusitanic and not Hispanic. The point of his letter is that Lusitanic nations should not be included during Hispanic Heritage Month activities in schools.

Interesting. I know I wouldn't have even given it a thought, but it's always nice to learn something.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What's going wrong?

The Mets have lost two straight games to St. Louis and suddenly their prospects look far from rosy. The cause of the Mets' problems is one (or more) of the following:
  1. I forgot to wear my lucky shirt either of the past two days
  2. I wimped out and went to bed the past two nights rather than stay up to watch the games live
  3. The Mets are just simply playing badly
Well, I've got the lucky shirt on now, so we'll see how much effect that has tonight. I haven't decided yet whether I'll stay up to watch the game live.

UPDATE 7am Oct 16: The Mets won 12-5 last night. It's now 2 games a piece with three to play. The lucky shirt came through.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bray wind farm

The Irish government has approved a proposal to build a "wind farm" off-shore. 220 wind turbines will be built 12km off the Bray coast. Fortunately, the Irish Wind Energy Truth Alliance is on the ball. Spokesman Peter Crossan let us know that wind energy is inefficient, "causes huge harm to the landscape and wildlife" and "will cause a visual eyesore in a tourist area".

I have no idea if these wind farms are "inefficient", but so long as it's not my money that's being spent what do I care? Now, to be honest it wouldn't take much for Mr. Crossan to convince me that burning oil or gas is more efficient than getting electricity from the wind, so I'll give him a pass on that one. However, how can wind turbines 12km off shore cause "huge harm" to the "landscape"? Surely, off shore, by definition, means that landscape doesn't apply.

The Independent's article says these turbines will be 100 meters (over 30 stories) in height, which sounds awfully high. If they're that high, then those turbines will definitely be visible from the shoreline, but so what? I don't think it necessarily will ruin the view? I suppose it's possible that wildlife might be affected, but I find it hard to believe that this development will be a serious blow to the ecosystem in the Irish Sea.

Death of Cory Lidle

Odd, sad story. We'll probably never definitively know what happened. I can't believe that small planes are still allowed to fly over and along Manhattan. Maybe the threat from small planes is not considered to be too great? I don't know, but that fire roaring in the upper levels of that apartment building sure looked serious.

I watched CNN and Sky News last night, but by far the best coverage of this story that I found was on WFAN, New York's all sports talk radio station. I have to admit that Mike & the Mad Dog, two guys who drive me nuts, did an excellent job of piecing together the background to what happened. Great interviews with people who knew Lidle and a former NTSB investigator.

On Monday, Lidle was on with Mike & the Mad Dog defending himself after this article appeared in the NY Daily News. The discussion was pretty contentious and I thought Lidle was uncomfortable, angry and confused when he finished. When I heard about the crash yesterday, I had this vague thought that he might have committed suicide figuring that you never know what might push people over the edge. I just thought his failure in the Yankees' season-ender on Saturday and the interview may have caused something to snap. Nobody has mentioned it as a possibility yet so I figure there's nothing to it.

The interviews are still available on the WFAN web site.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm part of the problem

Cursive is dying. (I think it's known as joined writing here, but I'm not 100% sure of that). Apparently computers are to blame.

I'm sure the conservative position on this would be to bemoan the death of a traditional skill, but you know what? I don't care. I hardly write at all these days. When I do, it's essentially illegible to anyone but me.

I remember an incident a few months ago where I was trying to write a note to someone and I couldn't remember how to make a capital G. I sat there staring at the paper dumbfounded until I eventually used the 'print' version instead. Sister Saint James would not have been impressed.

And, of course, I dismiss all concerns about my children's handwriting when I hear their teachers tell me that their writing is not what it should be. I'm probably dooming my kids to a lifetime of printing.

Fearing Muslims

The NY Times reports today that anti-Muslim sentiment is rising in Europe. On the one hand, this is a big "Duh" moment for anyone who's even half paying attention. However, there's a tone in this article which I find really annoying.
But many Europeans – even those who generally support immigration – have begun talking more bluntly about cultural differences, specifically about Muslims' deep religious beliefs and social values, which are far more conservative than those of most Europeans on issues like women's rights and homosexuality.

"A lot of people, progressive ones – we are not talking about nationalists or the extreme right – are saying, 'Now we have this religion, it plays a role and it challenges our assumptions about what we learned in the 60's and 70's,' " said Joost Lagendik, a Dutch member of the European Parliament for the Green Left Party, who is active on Muslim issues.

"So there is this fear," he said, "that we are being transported back in a time machine where we have to explain to our immigrants that there is equality between men and women, and gays should be treated properly. Now there is the idea we have to do it again."
The arrogance of European "progressives" is on full display here. If citizens want to vote to change (okay, roll back) some aspects of social policy why shouldn't they be able to? But, according to "progressives" they need to be re-educated. Surely, Muslims have as much right to vote freely on social policy as anyone else.

As a non-"progressive" Catholic I say to Muslims, "welcome to the club". Europe's "progressives" have been parading their anti-Catholic bigotry with pride for a LONG time (see Rocco Buttiglione for a recent example). Why shouldn't Muslims feel some of that?

This whole business of "progressives" only being concerned with Muslims' views on various aspects of social policy is a big fat porky. They simply won't admit that they don't trust and don't like Muslims. I've heard it a few times here and read it elsewhere, but it's all so mealy-mouthed. They don't want to agree with those "lunatics" on the "far right", but something deep down is pushing them that way. They can't control it and they live in fear of being outed as "not-quite-so-progressives". It's funny in a way.

The stuff dreams are made of

Game 1 New York vs St. Louis tonight.

PC license

The fact that you need a license (cost €158) to own a television set is bad enough, but any proposal to widen the scope of this tax is grotesque. According to this (sketchy) report in today's Irish Independent, the government is planning to extend the television license to PC's and laptops. Why stop there? Surely mobile phones should be similarly taxed. And, I've seen plenty of cars with television sets built into the back of seat etc. Do those cars require a television license?

It's time to just bite the bullet and face up to the fact that the television license is a holdover from a different era. It should be phased out and RTE should be made to stand on its own two feet. In the meantime, RTE should be barred from entering any new media markets where they can use their government-backed dominant position to crush any possible competition.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Yes, I'm a bit late chiming in, but I just thought I'd add my two cents worth on the veils, Muslim women and Jack Straw. I see nothing wrong with Jack Straw - or anyone for that matter - asking a woman to uncover her face if she wants to meet him. Why shouldn't he ask to see someone's face when they have asked to meet him?
Straw said he feels uncomfortable talking with someone whose face is covered, saying the veil could be seen "as a visible statement of separation and difference."
I'm not sure about that explanation, but I'd be uncomfortable talking to someone whose face was covered. If they want to talk to me then they have to live with the fact that I have some prerequisites, including seeing the other person's face. I agree with Straw that there's a world of difference between the headscarf and a veil.

However, if a woman doesn't want to uncover her face then that's her choice. She just has to accept that many people will not want to deal with her. Shopkeeprs or whomever may not want veiled women in their shops, which is their choice.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Can the economy be far behind?

I wonder if years from now people will look back to last Saturday evening, when Ireland lost 5-2 to Cyprus, and say, "that's when it all started to go wrong. When the economic miracle was blown away and the excesses of wealth of the 90s and early 00s finally caught up with us".

Silly, right? Well, I can't count how many times I've heard people say that the Celtic Tiger started with the success of the Irish soccer team in the 1990 World Cup. So, if the Celtic Tiger was born with success on the soccer field why can't the national economy also die there?

But, for most sports fans around here . . .

Truth is, I've been so baseball-obsessed lately that I'd completely forgotten that Ireland had a game on Saturday until I stumbled onto it when I was flipping the channels mindlessly waiting for the first pitch of the San Diego vs Saint Louis game on Saturday evening.

In the end I sort of paid attention to the soccer game between innings, etc. Uggh. Unlike with the Yankees' failure, I get no joy from Ireland's crushing defeat against Cyprus. I don't lose sleep over soccer games and I'm not a big fan of international sports, but despite all that I do root for Ireland and I know there are a lot of angry Irish soccer fans out there today. All I can say to them is, "Hey, it could be worse. You could have watched a $200m team get flushed down the toilet".

Is there anything else happening?

Okay, the figer-tip tingling excitement of Saturday night/Sunday morning is easing, but I'm still in a very happy place. In no hurry to leave.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

What a day!

It's around 5am and the Mets have just eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. Great team effort. As it was all year, nobody really stands out over the three games. Just a great team effort.

Don't get me wrong, the Mets winning is the main thing. But, a not insignificant contributor to my good mood is the fact that the Yankees were eliminated by the Detroit Tigers a few hours ago. Schadenfreude, anyone? Well, Met fans probably enjoy the pain of Yankee fans as much as any people on Earth enjoy the sufferings of their relatives/friends/neighbors/co-workers.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Look up, it's … Ryanair

I just laughed when I heard this morning that Ryanair is making a play to buy Aer Lingus. How many years has Michael O'Leary been bad-mouthing Aer Lingus? Why didn't anyone anticipate this possibility? I'll admit I didn't, but it's not my job to analyze the possible implications of the privatization of a "vital national asset".

Let's face it, there'd be no competition in the Irish market if this sale actually went through. For that reason, I guess I'm opposed.

But, really, what a laugh. Aer Lingus Chairman John Sharman said that the Ryanair offer of €2.80 per share "undervalued the group's businesses and attractive long-term growth potential". This is a side-splitter. This guy's the government-appointed Chairman of a company that was valued at €2.20 per share when it was privatized last week! Come on - he should be relieved of duty right now for uttering such stupidity.

Obviously, the government didn't have a clue what their asset was worth. Reason #4538 why governments should not be involved in commercial activities.

Al Qaeda, Algeria, France

Interesting article in today's Washington Post about the change in objectives of Algerian Islamists. Essentially defeated at home, they have teamed up with al Qaeda and are providing terror training camps in Algeria and fighters for Iraq and elsewhere. The new Algerian group is "one of the most serious threats currently facing France" according to the French Anti-Terrorist Coordination Unit.

In a possibly related story, today's Daily Telegraph reports from France
that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed "banlieue" estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin.
As I said during last year's riots, I was open to the idea that the riots were an intifada, but also open to the idea that these riots were not much different than Brixton or Watts, etc.

Obviously, those in the French police forces are in a better position to judge this than I am and if this French intifada is or becomes the majority position among the French police then I'd be more inclined to accept the intifada arguments.

The combination of the unrest in the Muslim neighborhoods and this new Algerian threat is a real worry for the French.

American illness

During yesterday's NY vs LA playoff game, ESPN turned its broadcast booth into Entertainment Tonight for an inning. ESPN thought us viewers needed a break from Talkative Thorne and Phony Phillips so they put Tim Robbins in the booth so he could plug his latest movie. What on Earth is going on with that?

Earlier in the game we were subjected to a "star search" - the cameras looking for 'celebrities' in the stands. Why? This was a BIG and exciting game. Why the broadcasters figure that we fans need to know that John McEnroe or Ron Howard or whomever is at the game escapes me. But, generally these sort of things happen when there's nothing going on at field level.

The Robbins interview took things to a whole new level. I generally wouldn't care about Tim Robbins or his new movie, but during the 7th inning of a Met playoff game I found myself wishing failure on the movie and painful deaths to all involved in its making and those at ESPN who thought this was a good time to ignore what was happening on the field.

This would NEVER happen during a big game on this side of the ocean. Sports fans here are taken more seriously. I keep trying to imagine John Motson talking to Colin Firth during an FA Cup quarterfinal or whatever, but it just wouldn't happen. The BBC's headquarters would be stormed.

This is an illness in American sports, one that the sports themselves need to address. Major League Baseball should insist that the only people in the booth during a game are those who want to talk about the game.

Walking to school

Kids don't walk to school any more so the Dublin Transportation Office is conducting a survey so that the transport chiefs can "deliver the most sustainable transportation system possible". Uh-huh.
The use of the car to drop the kids off is one of their big concerns because of localised traffic jams it causes around schools for 20-30 minutes.

… parents and others say parents are not to blame and the problem can only be resolved through better public transport, with better footpaths and cycle lanes.
I suppose I should wait to see this survey before I comment, but I doubt it will be open to ideas about making it easier to drive kids to school. The whole point of the exercise is to try to determine how much taxpayers money should be spent on transport in a futile attempt to end the school run.

Working parents, the added the traffic (and, thus, danger) on the roads, mollycoddling, and smaller families are probably all part of the problem. These contributing factors are not going to be changed by "better public transport, with better footpaths and cycle lanes".

First of all many schools are not built along bus routes. So, unless the state is going to provide school buses – and that's buses, not bus – for every school in the state, improving public transport is not going to help much. Working parents want to see their children safely into the school's hands before they head to work. It's part of what being a parent is. Putting your 7, 8 or 9-year-old onto the 46A is not the same as putting him/her onto a school bus. Often working couples will enroll the children far from home, but near work or near a child-minder. Those children have to be driven to school too.

Mollycoddling and smaller families are also part of the problem. Many parents today are not willing to let their kids make the short walk to school in case the poor little dear should happen to get wet (it does occasionally rain here). And, there aren't as many kids with older brothers and sisters to keep an eye on them during the walk to school.

Cycle lanes sound like a great idea, but the narrowest roads are the most dangerous and also the ones least likely to have room for a safe cycle lane. And, with all the non-school traffic on the roads, is it any wonder that people are wary of letting their children bike to school.

The one phenomenon that could probably be addressed is the explosion in the number of 17 & 18-year-olds driving themselves to school. I don't know how that might be changed, but that sounds like the easiest of all the contributing factors to start with.

Hey Fred, can you hear me?

Lizzie and Paul Gibbons were supposed to be back in Ireland by now, but they decided to spend one last year in New York. Why? Because they wanted to see how the Mets fared this season. Well, they were richly rewarded.

Fred Wilpon, owner of the Mets, was touched by the couple's tale when he read about them in the Daily News. He decided to give the couple a pair of tickets to tonight's Game 2, but they had already bought tickets so he offered them a refund.
"We were very grateful," said Paul Gibbons, who works in construction. "But I nearly told him to keep his money and get me tickets for the World Series!"
Gibbons's friend, Conor O'Sullivan, also from Ireland, would probably have liked his friends' free tickets.
"It's easier to get a green card than a ticket for the playoffs," O'Sullivan quipped. "Who do I have to marry to get a playoff ticket?"
Hey Fred, if you need a feel-good story with an Irish angle to go along with the Mets' (so far) magical season, go ahead and send me a couple of tickets. The headlines will write themselves when the press hears my sad story.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Promoting tourism

Interesting question: which is a more worthy event for Fálte Ireland's tourism promotion money - the Ryder Cup or the Ploughing Championships? The Ploughing Championships get very little assistance despite the fact that
[t]his year's event attracted a record-breaking crowd of 225,000 to Tullow, Co Carlow, making it the biggest rural event of the year and providing a massive boost for the local economy, said National Ploughing Association managing director, Anna May McHugh.

By incorporating the world ploughing contest this year, it brought in visitors from 27 countries, including Tasmania, Finland, Britain, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand.
I'd like to imagine that Fáilte Ireland knows what it's doing and isn't just wasting my (and all taxpayers') money, but I'm skeptical. I'd rather the government got out of the business of picking winners and losers for investment.

El Duque's age

Orlando Hernandez claims to be 36, but he is 5 years older than that. This is a subject of discussion nearly every time he pitches. Roberto González Echevarría says that "there is a good deal of racism involved in harping upon El Duque's age" by baseball fans because "if a player is Latino, any question over his age carries the intimation that there are no reliable birth records in the banana republic he is from".

Well, are there reliable birth records in Hernandez's Cuba? Have Hernandez's been made available to the press? Why is he so coy about his age if 41 is his age?

Fans don't care about Hernandez's age so long as he can do the job. However, it's true that a 41-year-old player is more prone to injury than is a 36-year-old and Hernandez's leg injury yesterday has seriously undermined the Mets' chances this month. It is certainly legitimate to discuss El Duque's age whatever the truth.