Friday, April 27, 2007

Speaking of premature election news …

I can't get over the fact that Sky News had a report on last night's Presidential election debate in South Carolina. Are their British & Irish viewers that interested in what Mike Gravel has to say about the state of US trade policy or whatever? I find that hard to accept.

Are opinion polls news?

Given that the election hasn't even been called yet isn't it just a little premature to be featuring opinion polls as the lead story day after day? This week we've had opinion polls as the lead story in the Sunday Business Post, Sunday Independent and now today's Irish Times.

I can't be the only one who sees a big front page headline about an opinion poll and instantly figures nothing worth reading in there. Then again, I've never been able to 'feel' what the average Irish person feels. I have no instinct when it comes to the media or politics or whatever, so maybe the Irish consumer loves opinion polls. I really do not.

A1 for death

One more thing about driving to/from Belfast - the A1 is just ridiculously dangerous. I saw some building near the border, but didn't see anything beyond Newry. Are they ever going to make it motorway the whole way from Dublin to Belfast? The sooner they get rid of all those intersections, the better.

The Kerrygold M1

I was driving the 'new' motorway from Dublin to Belfast yesterday and noticed that the M1 is known as the CRG M1 on the road signs. I didn't know what CRG stood for, but that got me thinking. Why doesn't the government (and their private partners) sell the naming rights to the motorways? You know, like sports stadiums.

If there can be an Emriates Stadium or Citizens Bank Park, why can't we have the Vodafone M50, the Nike M4 or the Kerrygold M1? It would be a great opportunity for increasing our awareness of their brands. They could add their brand to every road sign. Maybe we wouldn't have to pay €3.40 for a round trip journey and wouldn't that be great?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Is WiFi dangerous?

According to the Independent on Sunday the chairman of the Health Protection Agency in Britain "wants pupils to be monitored for ill effects from the networks". This is a reaction to the increasing use of wirless networks in schools.

Well, what about homes? I have a WiFi network in my house. That persistent, nagging question comes to the fore, "Am I hurting my children?" With my laptop I can see that I'm not the only one in the neighborhood. I remember when I was staying at my brother's place in Manhattan my laptop's WiFi card found more than 20 networks. What about children in that neighborhood?

I presume this is the same discussion as the mobile phone mast issue - an issue I never took too seriously. I don't dismiss the possibility that WiFi networks are not entirely safe, but I'm not panicking either. After reading that article in the Independent on Sunday I clicked around. I found out that one Canadian university banned WiFi due to health concerns. Still, I'm put at ease by these sorts of comments.
Peter Bennett, deputy city surveyor, told the City had evaluated the risks but did not believe them to be significant. "The health issue and the potential risks were considered. No one can be sanguine when creating wireless networks but we were satisfied there is far less risk in the network we are creating than in many existing radio networks operating in the City."

America, not "The US"

I regularly use the phrase "the US". Never gave it a thought before. Until I read last Friday's letter to the Irish Times (sub reqd.) from Irene Lynch Fannon, University of Virginia on loan to UCC. She wrote:
No self-respecting liberal in the US, many of whom I count as friends, would ever describe their country as "America", as Dr. Toal does. "The US" is the appropriate and correct political term, particularly in the context of federal and state laws, as the use of the term America is inaccurate and considered to be imperialist and disrespectful, not only to Canada but also to the countries of South America.
So, as a self-respecting conservative I have to make sure I always use "America" when I'm referring to the land of my birth, right?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Geek fest?

This year's Belfast Ulster-Scots Festival (the second) is celebrating Lord Kelvin. I know next-to-nothing about Kelvin, but I remember the name from my Physics classes of 20+ years ago. He was the guy who invented (discovered, theorized, imagined, whatever) Absolute Zero.

Ah, how we laughed when we discussed the possibility of achieving an Absolute Zero on our Physics exams. Fun with thermodynamics, what's not to like? I can well understand how you'd build a whole festival around such frivolity.

What caused Columbine?

Just out of curiosity I checked the archives to see what foreign policy matter the Irish Times believed led to the Columbine massacre. I figured maybe it was US involvement in Kosovo or maybe the WTO talks with China or maybe it wasn't foreign policy at all but the whole Lewinsky thing. However, the Irish Times opted not to editorialize about Columbine. Better judgment in 1999.

Stupidity no cause to resign?

On Wednesday the Irish Times published what may be the DUMBEST post-Blacksburg editorial (sub needed to read in full). The Irish Times said that "many factors help clarify" why Cho Seung-Hui carried out his mass murder last week.
The easy availability of lethal handguns in Virginia is undoubtedly one of them. So is the prevailing anxiety, insecurity, embitterment and violence currently felt in this cultural centre of the US military as the war in Iraq turns so sour for its troops on the ground.
The war in Iraq caused Cho to do it. Yeah, that's it.

The Irish Independent and the Sunday Times both highlighted the Irish Times's blatant stupidity.

I guess what surprises me is that no one seems to feel that this lapse in judgment merits a resignation. Yet, why shouldn't it? I don't see why the editor responsible shouldn't go after something this embarrassingly ludicrous. Paper of record? Even a college newspaper would hesitate before publishing something this amateurish.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Where to for Ryanair in the USA

I was only reading last week's Sunday Tribune today. The paper's business editor, old blogging comrade Richard Delevan, notes that real details about Ryanair's plan to fly to the US seem pretty sketchy. Delevan contacted MacArthur Airport in Islip to ask about possible contact from Ryanair and they've had none. Still, Delevan seems not to realize that Stewart Airport might be another possibility for New York. But, maybe O'Leary doesn't plan to go to or near New York.

Last Sunday's Baltimore Sun reported that Baltimore-Washington International has had discussions with Ryanair. The article also notes that Michael O'Leary never mentioned New York (or Baltimore) when he was quoted as saying he wanted to offer service to "Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas and Florida cities".

So, us New Yorkers in Ireland and those in and around NY who fly to Ireland may have to wait to be able to be able to get the ultimate no-frills transatlantic service. {I hope when they do go to New York Ryanair revives the old Laker Airlines ads featuring people strap-hanging to London}

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Living in L.A.?

How dry has it been around these parts lately? All day a brown plume of smoke from fires in the Wicklow hills has been floating vaguely northeast over south County Dublin. From what I read in the news the fires are even worse in Galway. It's like living in S. California or Australia. {Okay, probably not exactly like it, but still pretty unusual for Ireland.}

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mrs. Robinson

I meant to write this two days ago, but forgot after the Va. Tech killings. Anyway, on Monday night NASN broadcast ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball game. This was the game with the special Jackie Robinson ceremonies. Before the game I heard that Frank Robinson (not related), Hank Aaron, Dave Winfield and Jackie Robinson's widow were going to be interviewed during the game.

When I heard that Mrs. Robinson was going to be on I groaned, expecting to hear one of those interviews with old people that makes you say, "Wouldn't it be better if they just left that woman alone?" I couldn't have been more wrong. She was fantastic. She spoke clearly, without any long awkward gaps. She cheered like a young girl when the Dodgers did something good (and kept apologizing when she remembered she was supposed to be neutral in the booth). Overall she was a breath of fresh air. I was disappointed when she left the broadcast booth. I'd rather she had stayed and Morgan and Miller had taken the rest of the night off.

And, on top of it all, she looked great. I googled her later just to confirm that she was as old as I figured. And, she is. Born in 1922. Amazing.

None of the rest of the guests, all of whom I was really looking forward to hearing from, was as good as Mrs. Robinson.

Streaking & mass murder

Way back in the 1970s a universal policy across all television networks and local stations for all sports was implemented in the US. That policy was to deny streakers (and others) the publicity that they craved when they disrupted a game by jumping onto the playing field (never saw a streaker at a hockey game, funny enough). All things considered, streaking was a minor irritation, but I don't think there's any doubt that the incidence of streaking went down sharply once streakers no longer got to be on the television.

So, what about something similar to publishing/broadcasting manifestos and other publicity-seeking devices provided by mass murderers. Sky News was practically giddy last night when they were able to broadcast the material received by NBC yesterday. I bet NBC was even more excited as the network that actually received the material from the mass murderer. Such honor.

I watched the stuff, but I didn't need to. It was voyeuristic and I didn't feel good about it afterwards. If NBC had simply handed over the material to the FBI I wouldn't have been even a little worse off.

The worst part of it is that you just know there are other psychos out there who will see this as a standard to achieve and overcome. These nuts seems to crave their after-death publicity, so why don't we not provide it? Okay, the first nut to be denied will never know he was denied his publicity, but all others after him will soon learn that fame will not follow infamous acts. It might just help disincentivize mass murder.

Guns and psychos

I'm not a gun guy. I've never owned one, never fired one, never even held one. Just not something that I was interested in, I guess. I don't know if any of my friends or brothers owns a gun, but I don't think any of them could be a gun nut. You know what I mean, one of those guys who lives for gun shows and has all sorts of firearms in the house.

And seeing as I don't even live in the US it would hardly be an issue for me if the gun laws in the US were tightened. I could well imagine that a ban on plastic bags would have a bigger impact on my life.

So, having laid out where I'm coming from, I have to say that it seems to me that Virginia's gun laws were too lax based on everything we've learned about Cho Seung-Hui. When a guy who was judged to be "mentally ill" by a psychiatric hospital doctor is still able to buy guns something's not right. Isn't this really a no-brainer?

It really annoys me to be on the side of the European chorus, but come on. This guy was a psycho and he was still able to buy guns. What? You don't like my use of "psycho"? Well, that's part of the problem too. He was a psycho, but I suspect that people are so afraid of 'offending' anyone that the language is less stark than necessary when confronting a problem like Cho.

The students were afraid of him, some of his teachers were afraid of him, a doctor diagnosed him as "mentally ill" and still the college didn't kick him out or even notify his family that he was mentally unwell. That can only be thanks to political correctness.

It's a perfect storm. A psycho like Cho gets treated with kid gloves thanks to political correctness and libertarian gun laws allow him to buy two semi-automatic handguns. Uggh.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

They were afraid of Cho

One of AOL's employees is a Va Tech graduate and a former classmate of Cho Seung-Hui. Cho's classmates knew he was capable of this. They were afraid of him.
A major part of the playwriting class was peer reviews. We would write one-act plays and submit them to an online repository called Blackboard for everyone in the class to read and comment about in class the next day. Typically, the students give their opinions about the plays and suggest ways to make it better, the professor gives his insights, then asks the author to comment about the play in class.

When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of. Before Cho got to class that day, we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him. When the students gave reviews of his play in class, we were very careful with our words in case he decided to snap. Even the professor didn't pressure him to give closing comments.
Maybe there's nothing that can be done about such a person, but how can a class function if the class is afraid of one of the students? How can a teacher mark a student's papers when he's afraid of the student, afraid the student might "snap"?

I don't think there are easy answers, but I'd like to think a college/school could demand a student get counseling in such situations. That might not have helped anyway, unfortunately.

UPDATE 2:15: You know, I think the college could have, no, should have notified this guy's family that they were worried about him given what he'd been writing. And, once the police were notified that this guy's teachers were worried about him you'd like to think that his name would be added to a database of those for whom gun purchases should be a no-no. That's another post.

No blame or shame for Korea or Koreans

Today's (London) Times reports that the S. Korean government is afraid that Americans will "take out their anger and shock over the shootings at Virginia Tech on Koreans living in America". I certainly hope not. The Washington Post says that "every Korean person is so very sorry". They shouldn't be.

I think Americans will recognize that despite the fact that Cho Seung Hui was originally from Korea , for all intents and purposes he was American. He'd been living in the US since he was 8 years old. His formative years were spent in the US, not Korea. And, from the little we know about him so far even his disturbed mind-set – he hated "rich kids" – is an attitude that could be held by Americans of any descent.

Cho was a disturbed man. Maybe he would never have become a killer if he'd remained in Korea, but the fact that he emigrated from there is no indication that there's any flaw in the character of Koreans or any reason for any Korean to feel shame for Cho's actions.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mike & the Mad Dog fight for Imus

So, having gotten sort of interested in the Imus story, I tuned into WFAN this morning. Wow! Mike & the Mad Dog are having a real go at all those politicians and media figures who were regulars on Imus's show but who are now nowhere to be found or are dumping on Imus big time. Tim Russert, Christopher Dodd & Mike Wallace are three big names who were regularly featured on Imus's show. Dodd announced his candidacy for the Presidency on Imus's show.

And, to answer my question below, the Los Angeles Times reports that the Democratic Party is worried by the demise of the Imus Show.
… Imus gave Democrats a pipeline to a crucial voting bloc that was perennially hard for them to reach: politically independent white men.

With Imus' show canceled indefinitely because of his remarks about the Rutgers University women's basketball team, some Democratic strategists are worried about how to fill the void. For a national radio audience of white men, Democrats see few if any alternatives.
So, Sunday Tribune, probably not a "right wing" shock jock.

Is it still raining in New York?

Let me say that I'm with you New York. Yes, it's been amazingly warm and sunny here, but how could I enjoy it when I know that my friends and family are enduring what has been one miserable month of freezing cold and now drenching rains? I'm a naturally sympathetic person.

What do you mean you don't believe me? What? Do you really think I'd find anything funny about your poor weather when we enjoy our tropical climate?


Let me say, again, that Ryanair's service is great for families. We bought our 5 tickets for our trip to Germany (Frankfurt Hahn) for less than €150 (about $200). That simply can't be beaten. Anytime I've tried to find internal US flights for all five of us I've never seen prices anywhere near as low.

With Ryanair my children get a taste of other countries/cultures and I get to brag that my carbon footprint just got a bit bigger. Who can argue with that?


I've lived in Ireland for 16 years and in all that time I've never really been to Germany, except for one quick business trip. I've never been to France either, but anyone who knew me in college would probably be surprised that I never went to Germany.

You see, I was a keen student of German during my 4 years in college. My enthusiasm was mostly thanks to the enthusiasm of my teacher, Professor Robert Kramer, who simply loved his subject and teaching.

Well, finally, 20+ years too late I spent a couple of days in Germany last week.

Last week we spent our two days along the Rhine. I enjoyed it, but I was frustrated that I couldn't really communicate in German at all. The closest I came was answering a few simple questions from a ferry operator - one of the few people I met who couldn't speak English. I found it easier reading German than speaking it, which was handy trying to interpret road-signs and menus.

Here are a few observations:
  • No bridges - I couldn't get over the fact that there were no bridges over the Rhine where we were. In fact, from what I can make out there are no bridges between Wiesbaden and Koblenz, which is about 45 miles or so. There are many car ferries, which cost us €6 per trip.
  • We stopped at a number of castles. The castles have spectacular views of the Rhine, but I don't think they're as interesting as the castles we visited in Scotland (and I'm not talking about Edinburgh or Stirling) I was also surprised at how many of the castles were privately owned.
  • Some things were a lot cheaper in Germany. Our one big meal in a restaurant was significantly cheaper than it would have been here. Probably €30 less than we'd have paid here. Gas was about 20% more there, however.
  • I was thrilled to see Pretzels (Brezeln) for 60c. Still, I'm not sure they were as good as what I can find on the streets of New York.
Overall, I really enjoyed this trip. I can't wait to go to another part of Germany in the future.


I've been pretty busy lately, which is one reason why it's been so quiet here. I also have been only vaguely interested in the news, which happens every so often and sort of helps explain why I've had so little to say here. I've also been working on fitting my daily Mets fix into my schedule, which limits the time I have for this page. And, we've had visitors and I've been away for a short break.

I hope I'm back now.

Shock jock

I'm kind of surprised at how much coverage the Don Imus firing has received here. In fact, I can't believe anyone in Ireland (or Britain, for that matter) really cares. Yet, it was in quite a number of the papers over the past few days.

I never really liked Imus and I'm shedding no tears. His crude and cruel schtick was lost on me. I never considered him a political ally and was surprised to see him described as "right wing" by the Sunday Tribune. But, to be honest, I know next-to-nothing about his views because I never listened to his show - even when it was available to me every morning during the 80s. I have this half memory of hearing him referring to Bush and Cheney as traitors who should be hung, but maybe I'm mistaken.

I know he had a lot of good political guests and I've heard he is a good interviewer, but his unfunny, crude jokes were always a turn-off for me.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Who Are You

Just happened to get lucky this afternoon. Hopped in the car for a short trip and was just in time for the start of Who Are You by The Who. In my imagination all those teens were quickly switching off, but if they did they missed a great song.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Canadian silliness.

Is there anyone from Canada who's not embarrassed by the Television Bureau of Canada for banning this advertisement for the Toronto Blue Jays? I've seen the ad three or four times now and all I do is laugh.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A title demanded.

The Mets' season begins tonight (two hours from now). That's just wrong. Baseball seasons should begin in daylight, not under the lights. Oh well. Just about all other traditions have been cast aside by those who run Major League Baseball, day-time season openers is just another one.

The Mets have to win this year. That's the difference compared with last year. Last year was like a fairytale. Expectations were restrained and the performance on the field was magical, right up until the final, sickeing, stomach punch-like finish to the season. This year, nothing less than a title will satisfy.

The Mets have a lot of questions heading into the season, but no team is perfect. The team is well-led, has an excellent nucleus of players and the resources to add key components mid-season, if necessary.