Monday, June 29, 2009

Fooled by the Irish Examiner

I saw this article this morning and thought it was something. The headline is pretty eye-catching in itself - "Majority would oppose Papal visit, finds poll" - but the rest of the article is just as certain. Newstalk carried out a poll, which found that 51% of "the public" is opposed to a visit by the Pope.

That may well be true, but the Irish Examiner left out a fact that was included in the Irish Independent's report on the same poll: it was an online survey. Uggh. Read this from the Examiner's report.
The poll, carried out by Newstalk radio, found that 51% of 1,108 people questioned would not welcome Pope Benedict if he were to put an Irish trip on his itinerary any time soon.
I thought it was a proper poll with an appropriate attempt at selecting a representative sample of the population. A poll conducted via Newstalk's web site is open to all sorts of non-random selection issues.

Are Newstalk's listeners representative of the nation as a whole? Are those who are online representative of the nation as a whole? Are those who are motivated to respond to such a poll representative of the nation as a whole? Can those who do respond do so more than once?

For all I know the poll is an accurate reflection of the views of the nation, but if it is that's just pure dumb luck. And, I'm not criticizing Newstalk becuase I have no idea how they presented their poll and its findings. The Irish Examiner, however, clearly misrepresented what the poll was.

Worse than that, they fooled me and I included this nonsense on the Newshound today. For that reason I'm angry.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What if Michael Jackson was a Catholic priest?

I always thought Michael Jackson was creepy - major league creepy. I still cannot understand how any parent allowed their child to get near him. Was he a pedophile? I don't know, but if I hear people saying so in the next few days I sure as heck won't immediately dismiss them.

What's been annoying me is the attitude in the press (& the Irish Examiner is pretty representative of what I've seen in the Irish & British press this morning) that seems to say, "Sure he may have molested boys, but (a) he had a tough childhood and (b) the music was sooo good that we can overlook his dark side." What? How many people would accept the following in a newspaper editorial: "Yes the allegations of child abuse were unseemly, but he was a gifted priest and ..."?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Jackson Will

I remember reading something early this year about Michael Jackson leaving the Beatles songs to Paul McCartney in his will. My thought was, "So what? He's about 15 years younger than McCartney. McCartney will never get those songs back." Well, just goes to show that you never know. Looks like McCartney will soon be able to sing Hey Jude without having to send a small check to Neverland (or wherever it was recently).

2010 World Cup

One thing that that's instructive about the Confederations Cup is that the weather may be about as favorable to an Irish team as they'll ever get at a World Cup. They won't have to worry about wilting in the heat the way they did in America in 1994 and in Korea in 2002.

Also, someone better do something about those annoying horns. I had to keep putting the volume on mute because of that drone.

It's not 1980

Of course I was rooting for America as I watched the second half of yesterday's Confederations Cup semi-final. It was great to see them win. Soon as it was over I just figured I'd check twitter to see what was being said and there were a lot of posts comparing the win with the 1980 Olympic hockey team's accomplishments. Today, George Vescey, who is old enough to know better, continues with that theme, although at least Vescey merely says this is the "second-biggest upset by an American team" in any sport.

First, there is no comparison with 1980. For it to come anywhere near 1980 you would need the following conditions:
  1. a team comprised totally of amateurs;
  2. the competition to be more a lot more meaningful (like the World Cup);
  3. the whole nation riveted, watching and rooting for the guys wearing USA on their chest;
  4. a semifinal match-up with the world's greatest national team and that team to just happen to be from America's primary rival on the world stage (the USSR).
Is this even the "second-biggest upset by an American team" as Vescey contends? Well, of course, America isn't as involved in the sports that feature international competitions so maybe it is. However, I would say that the following are bigger upsets (given the stakes and the competition);
  • 1-0 win over England in the 1950 World Cup;
  • 1960 Olympic hockey gold.
I think I would probably say that the win over Portugal in the 2002 World Cup was bigger and also, maybe, the 1996 win over Canada in the final of the World Cup of Hockey, although that wasn't really much of an upset seeing as America had great players at the time. Still, this was the Confederations Cup and, well, let's face it it's not that prestigious a tournament and the fact that the stadiums are only half full tells a big part of the story.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The 1911 Census

I know there are a lot of people over 60 in this country who are resistant to the internet, but if there's one sure-fire way to get them interested in the web it's the 1911 census. The archives of nine counties are now online and the other 23 counties will be added by the end of this summer.

I've seen the reaction a few times already. It isn't just the raw data that's interesting, but the fact that you can view the actual form that was filled in back in April 1911. When today's elderly person sees a parent's name and, often, a grandparent's hand-writing they're hooked.

Public libraries should advertise the 1911 census on the internet and encourage older people to try searching the records.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ads on the jerseys

American sports teams are testing the water, to see how people respond to ads on the uniforms.It goes without saying that I'm 100% opposed to this development. The jerseys don't need ads. Ads on the outfield walls is bad enough.

Starting this summer the NFL is going to try out small ads on the sleeves. On their practice jerseys only. {For now.}

Okay, so I hate that idea, but sports continually adopt ideas I hate. (And, once, dropped a bad idea -- artificial turf is nearly completely gone from baseball. Yahoo!)

I know the ads on the NFL jerseys will be small, but I doubt they'll remain small. What use would that be? I expect they'll gradually grow to European soccer proportions, which I think would be a mistake.

European soccer clubs have sacrificed their own brand development potential with the ads on the jerseys. I gotta figure that's why you don't see Manchester United tee shirts, etc Unless it's an official team shirt or shorts or socks - whatever - you don't see it. The sponsor's logo is the real visible trademark. For example, the Manchester United crest is so dwarfed by the advertiser's logo that it's insignificant. AIG could probably sell red tee shirts that would satisfy Manchester United fans.

I know that there is an awful lot of Manchester United merchandise available, but I still think their branding takes a hit with that big AIG in the middle of their jersey. I mean, who wants to be associated with AIG these days? (Or Citibank - don't talk to me about the Mets' new home!)

Another reason I don't do direct debits

Bord Gais admitted last night that the banking details of 75,000 people were on a laptop that has been stolen. The information wasn't encrypted. Typical.

The customers affected are those who switched from ESB to Bord Gais for their electricity supply. That includes me. Oh yeah, as a by the way, the information has been in criminal hands since "last Friday week" (June 5? not sure). Hey, at least they only made us wait two weeks before telling us, right?

Customers should be entitled to sue BG for this sort of negligence. They should be compensated for the aggravation and, yes, the worry over something that has arisen because "it's not that big a deal" is the prevailing attitude at Bord Gais (and the banks too. Remember?). What price will BG pay for this? Not much to be honest. It's a bit of a PR headache right now, but that will pass quickly. Meanwhile all 75,000 customers now have to wonder if their bank details are in the hands of people who could use them for their own criminal ends.

Fortunately I didn't sign up for direct debit with BG so they don't have my bank details. And, now, fortunately, neither do the criminals. Just another reason why signing up for direct debit is a bad idea: you're giving important information to people who simply don't care enough to take care of it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sports obsession pays off

I knew that following sports wasn't a waste of time. Yesterday my daughter, who is a keen sports fan, got a bit of an advantage on her Leaving Cert Spanish exam thanks to her sports knowledge. The listening part of the test was all about Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal. She had all the answers written down before they even started the playing the short recorded biography of Nadal.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Posters between Bray & Dublin

Driving into Dublin last night I was surprised by how many posters were still up a full week after the vote. I thought there was some form of fine for posters that were not removed after seven days following the election.

I also noticed that most of the posters were Sinn Fein posters, particularly Mary Lou McDonald. Is it because they handle the posters differently - who puts up/takes down posters; - or is the party sort of demoralized by McDonald's defeat. Just curious.

Time for license fee cut

RTE is looking for an increase in the license fee because their ad revenue is falling, according to the Irish Examiner. This is despite the fact that the license fee is supposed to be linked to inflation, which means the license fee should be cut.

The Examiner has another story saying that the cost of living has fallen by 4.7% over the last year. Therefore we should be getting a €8 cut in the cost of our television license. There is no argument for anything other than reduction in the license fee. And the government should tell RTE to drop dead.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Will Europe miss Bush?

I don't want to claim any special insight into the views of European governments just because I live in Europe, but I gotta say I kind of doubt Ralph Peters has it right with his column today. Peter says that "[a] big chill has hit the trans-Atlantic atmosphere," referring to relations between the Obama administration and various European governments.

Peters says that during his trip to Europe last week Obama "brushed off Sarkozy", looked like he had just been divorced from Angela Merkel and treated Gordon Brown as if the British had "just burned the White House -- or a Kenyan village..." Peters says America's relations with Europe were better in Bush's second term than they are now.

Peters finishes up saying that Obama's upbringing was in the third world and that he just has it in for Europe on a personal level. Peters believes that, "Europe is going to miss George W. Bush."

I haven't got that sense at all. Maybe someday Europeans will turn on Obama, but we're a long, long way from that. I suspect that goes for the leaders too. However, I would imagine that (a) some of the European leaders are a bit miffed at Obama's popularity in their countries and (b) I'm pretty sure Merkel is none too happy with the way the administration and the fed are treating the dollar.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Whither ESPN America?

It looks like Setanta Sports is on its way out. The company's founders - need to raise £100m immediately or the company will go into administration. STV reported at 6:00 that Setanta would go off the air tonight. Setanta has since denied that, but the Guardian's web site says
that the company has stopped taking subscriptions and that the "wind down has begun."

Now what makes this really important to me is that I get my American sports fix through a subscription to Setanta. Setanta set up the North American Sports Network six years ago and sold it to ESPN last year, but ESPN America (as NASN is now known) is still sold through the Setanta pack. So, my question is, what happens to ESPNA if (when) Setanta vanishes?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Nobody would take Irish & Polish

I know, I know. The Leaving Cert is on my brain. It's hard to believe how much your child's Leaving Cert takes over your life. Your whole family's life.

At least I'm gaining some insight into another aspect of Irish life. Today I found out that the Polish exam was scheduled for the same time as Irish.

I guess the state assumes that all the Polish students here either came after they were 12 and, thus, can opt out of Irish or that they haven't reached Leaving Cert age yet. Well, I heard about one poor boy who has to do his Polish exam after his Irish. And those two are following a morning of Math. That makes about nine hours of exams this kid has to endure today and he has to be ready for another 3'20" of Irish in the morning. It seems so cruel and unnecessary.

The number of kids doing Polish and Irish is only going to rise rapidly in the coming years. Same goes for all the other E. European languages. Would be a good idea to consider the possibility that some children are going to need to take both Irish and Polish exams and set schedule accordingly.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The death of Grasshopper

Is it true that David Carradine was best known for the Kill Bill movies? To me he was, and always will be, Caine or Grasshopper.

"When you can walk the rice paper ..."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

I'm not "the quality"

Our local gentry are getting special treatment at the polling booth tomorrow, according to the local free sheet the Wicklow Times. Apparently those who live on the Kilruddery Estate, including Lord & Lady Meath will have their own special polling station. The Wicklow Times says that Lord & Lady Meath and the other 28 or so people who live on the estate - extended family - have their own polling station and when they're done voting that box is opened in private, unlike all the other boxes.

Actually it's not quite as bad as that sounds. The Meaths' little place lies just outside the town boundaries, so they don't get to vote in the local town election. That explains the separate polling station. And there is a law that says any box containing fewer than 50 votes must be opened in private.

So disappointing. I was looking forward to being outraged.

Unquiet Man

Just to let you know, I'm also blogging here. These posts are really aimed more at an American audience.

Rescheduling the English exam

One more thing about the rescheduled English test: why couldn't they have simply put the Engineering test on this morning and the English test this afternoon? The Engineering students were already facing a full day, all that would have been different would have been the order of their tests. And, if the English test was set for 3:00, say, the state could have ensured that every school received the contingency papers by then.

Anyway, enough of the Leaving Cert. I'm sick of it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Leaving Cert fiasco

If you don't really know the Leaving Cert this will seem like a minor detail. If you know the Leaving, but aren't involved in this year's exams you'll at least understand why it's big news. However, if you're in my boat, you'll know that this is really, really big. Canceling tomorrow's English paper can really throw a student for a loop. The more hard wired to planning your student is, the more this could be a game-changer.

The state says that they couldn't do anything other than cancel it because they couldn't get the contingency paper to all the schools on time. Yet every school is online now, right? Couldn't they have simply put the contingency paper online at 9:30 or whatever and let the students work from that?

I don't know if that would have worked, but postponing the exam until Saturday is no better. Maybe there was no viable alternative. This sure is one massive foul-up.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Church was the cheaper option

Was the state "supine"? This is a question that's been nagging at me for a few days. Was the state cowed by the Catholic Church? Was that why there was all that abuse in Church run institutions?

Mary Rafferty says it was.
Today, the Government faces a clear choice: will it continue its supine and cowed attitude – so disastrous in the past for the children of Ireland – or will it at last on our behalf stand up to those who have bullied and intimidated us all for so long?
Well, this partial sentence taken from a letter from Department of Education (Vol I, Ch. 16) makes me think that, perhaps, that it wasn't just a matter of the Church bullying and intimidating the forces of the state*.
… it is a general experience that for an institution of the kind management by a religious order is more economical than lay management …
The state was using the Church for its own ends. It was cheaper to outsource the management of the industrial schools, etc. to the Catholic Church than it was for the state to provide them.

*Really that is a ridiculous notion. As if the Church had more power than the state. The Church's power derived solely from the devotion of the people of this Republic. The state had an army and the police. The Church had men in cassocks and women in habits.

E-Day comes before D-Day

I never heard of The Messenger (not to be confused with the Sacred Heart Messenger) until yesterday when I received a copy of the Wicklow Election Guide '09 through my door. The Messenger is a local paper for Gorey in Wexford and Arklow in Wicklow.

Anyway ...

The first sentence of the introduction to their guide is
D-Day will be the 5th of June once again, but this year they won't be hitting the beaches, they'll be prowling the polling stations, as candidates ....
Oops. D-Day was the 6th of June (and yeah, I know it was originally supposed to be the 5th, but in the end it wasn't.)

Regardless, the guide is kind of useful. It would have been a whole lot more useful if it had spelled out where the various candidates differ. From what I can tell they all want the same things. Or they tell you nothing of what they would do if elected. Two or three candidates have called to the door and I couldn't tell you one thing that any of them said that wasn't said by the others. 'Vote for me, I live nearby' is a summary of what they all seem to have to say.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Fr. Flanagan mentioned in the Ryan Commission Report

Where have I been? Well, I've been doing a lot of other things, most of which are of no interest here. Today I spent most of the afternoon sitting in the backyard simply enjoying the weather.

I have written a few things that were published on Irish Central. This one on the Ryan Commission on Institutional Child Abuse might be of interest.

I really had the sense that those who composed the Ryan Report didn't really understand how well known Fr. Flanagan was and how highly regarded he was - among all Americans and not just Catholics. If the Ryan Commission did understand who Fr. Flanagan was they seriously downplayed the significance of the state's decision to ignore and denigrate him.