Monday, December 18, 2006

Big Girls Are Best

Depending on the day that's in it, or some sort of switch in the direction of the prevailing wind, one or other of the skinny-girl-eating-disorder / obesity-epidemic newspaper staples will usually get a quick breath of life. Mostly this is because some bunch of researchers, desperate for funding, will throw any old half-assed study at the media for a bit of free publicity.

Often, however, other publications and/or product sellers will benefit from some free advertising, masquerading as journalism (How much free publicity has Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty gotten, for example?). You have Cosmo, or whatever, getting kudos from the liberal press (and a pile of free ads) when they announce they'll only use models that are Size-8 at a minimum, only to be using the frankly ridiculous sounding Size-zero models within months.

So it was yesterday in the London Independent where on Page 6 we were treated to the story of how the big fashion houses intend banning under-16s and size-zeros from modelling because they risk "sending the wrong message to girls of the same age in the delicate pre-puberty stage". While on Page 7, facing, we could read that "Parents of fat children are being blamed by ministers for the failure of an attempt to measure the nation's childhood obesity crisis."

An interesting dichotomy?

Dirty Day

Eamonn Sweeney in yesterday's Sindo outlines exactly why we feel as cross as we do...

Dundalk, you may recall, recently won a promotion play-off against Waterford United. But last week it emerged that Dundalk will be staying in Division One along with relegated Waterford while Galway, who finished in third place, get promoted. The reason is that the eircom League, in their infinite foolishness, opted for a new set of criteria when deciding who makes the Premier Division for next season.

This was apparently the price demanded by the FAI when agreeing to a merger with the League. (Why the FAI felt they had to make this demand remains a mystery, though self-importance, power mongering and the simple fact that they could, can't be ruled out). Clubs would earn their place by a combination of their on-field ranking and an off-field ranking decided by something called The Independent Assessment Group (which sounds like a body that should be searching for IRA arms dumps and operates with the same degree of transparency.)

When the ranking totals came in, Dundalk were 14th and Galway were 12th and the Corribsiders got the last place in the top flight. The play-off had thus been rendered meaningless. And, given that the League top brass presumably knew how the rankings were going to turn out, you'd wonder why the clubs were put through a charade and, more importantly, why the hopes of the Dundalk fans were so cruelly and misleadingly raised.

Now, there's not much that can be said in defence of the League's new system, but we will try to be fair here. Given the chaos caused by Dublin City's withdrawal from the league, isn't it only fair to make sure that clubs are properly set up off the field? Didn't Dundalk know this? Hadn't they sufficient warning to get their act together financially?

The only problem with this reasoning is that Dundalk did get their act together off the field. In fact, their off-field ranking is joint eighth out of 21. So they would appear to qualify for the premier division on both on and off-field grounds.

However, what has scuppered Dundalk is their low on-field score of 247 points, a mere 15th overall, just three points ahead of the perennially struggling Cobh Ramblers, almost 100 points behind Waterford, who finished bottom of the Premier Division and in a normal year would have been automatically relegated, and 86 behind Bray Wanderers, who previously might have been playing off with the Oriel Park side.

And the reason for this terrible score? The League decided that the on-field ranking would be computed by taking into account the combined results of clubs since the 2002/2003 season. Dundalk have had a bad couple of seasons so they were severely handicapped before they started their campaign at all. You and I might think that Dundalk actually deserve credit for bouncing back from adversity. Then again, we're mere football supporters who cannot appreciate the Borgesian intricacies of the eircom League, an organisation which thinks logic is someone who used to play for Red Star Belgrade.

Whatever the reason for bringing off-field factors into play, this invocation of past results goes against everything competitive sport should be about. Surely the point of a football season is that every team starts with a clean slate and will be judged purely on their results. The only reason I can think of for this clause is that the League were scared that (a) a big club might follow the lead of Shamrock Rovers and get relegated this year or (b) that Shams might not do that well in Division One and might need a leg up. In the end, they needn't have worried. The Hoops won Division One. But it says something about the way the rankings are weighted that, after narrowly winning the title in the lower division, their on-field score is 40 points higher than Sligo Rovers, who finished fifth in the top flight.

We are in the realms of utter absurdity here. UCD, for example, come second in the off-field rankings. But, as any supporter of domestic soccer knows, if there's one team which the Premier Division could lose without regret, it's UCD. They have, for obvious reasons, no real fan base.

And it's easy enough to present an impressive business model when you can secure players by offering them scholarships.


Waterford were proclaiming their unhappiness last week, but they have far less to complain about than Dundalk given that, under normal circumstances, they'd have made the drop anyway. On the other hand, it was interesting to hear that they were mystified about being awarded almost 100 fewer off-field points than Galway. This is the problem with ranking systems, they will always have a whiff of the arbitrary about them and that is why these matters are properly settled on the pitch.

Then again the League has previous on this. It's not too long since Shelbourne were given a League title which St. Pats had won on the field.

And the exciting run-in to this year's title race was marred by the capering of Ollie Byrne and Shels, who at one stage had three different appeals on the boil in an attempt to gain extra points should they fall short against Derry City. In the end Shelbourne didn't need the points, but the fact that they reserved the right to once more win the league off the field left a sour taste in the mouth. They should be beyond the 'by hook or by crook' approach at this stage.

So, a kick in the teeth for the proud soccer town of Dundalk and an unwarranted promotion for the perpetual under-achievers from Galway. And a brilliant start to the merger between the FAI and the eircom League. What a dream team. There hasn't been a partnership with so much promise since Peter Andre and Jordan decided to record an album together.

I, for one, can't wait to see John Delaney doing for domestic soccer what he's done for the international team. The GAA must be quaking in its boots.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Somebody Got Murdered

Not withstanding what I said about Trravellers the other day, the decision to find oul Podge Nally not guilty of manslaughter for shooting a Traveller is both astounding and, frankly, ridiculous.

You have to accept that the Traveller was intending to rob and was, by all accounts, a total scrote. However the fact remains that, not only did Nally shot him once on his land and beat him to a pulp, he then reloaded his gun, followed the badly wounded Traveller down the lane and finished him off with a second shot. I hate the phrase coup de grace, as if a final, fatal shot to someone is in some way classy or cool.

If he had left it at the first shot then it's self defense and fair enough. But Nally has claimed he was afraid the Traveller would come back and 'get him' so he followed him down the lane and blew him away. That is not self defense, it's murder and to be found not guilty of even manslaughter is horrendous. The jury have basically said that his actions, on the basis of a fear of what might happen, a perceived threat, were 'self defense'.

The George W. Bush interpretation of self defense must be getting infectious.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Somebody Got Murdered

Or didn't.

Shock of the decade, that. I've only just picked myself up off the floor.

How much money did they waste proving what everyone already knew? And did anyone outside certain sections of the media (i.e. the Daily Express and Fayed) really believe it was anything other than an accident?

Interesting story - I was arrested on Alcatraz island by Park Rangers 'round about the exact time Princess Di had that fatal accident. No word of a lie, I got released with a caution after sucking up to the Irish-American Ranger that arrested me! I had wandered off down a closed path cos I wanted to see the water tower and they saw me coming back.

Anyway now if anyone asks me where I was when I heard Princess Di had died I can say "escaping from Alcatraz"! No one ever asks, though...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fire

This is embarrassing.

Funny, but embarrassing...

The country has gone nuts the last few weeks between murders, traveller shootings, GAA violence, lads invading TV studios, the same lad ram-raiding the TV station, football fans invading the FAI...

If Music Could Talk

Despite still being gutted, the Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas album has me in good festive cheer. I had to go to Newry to get it and the HMV there only had one copy 'out back'. I'm glad the guy made the effort to find it for me...

Now time for the one bit intolerance I allow myself - Travellers:

First there was this. What is it about Travellers attacking each other in cemeteries?...

Then there's this. Now I might be required to backtrack soon, as the story doesn't mention the involvement of Travellers, but I don't think I will be.

UPDATE 14/12: Nope, no backtracking required - GardaĆ­ say they're looking for a group of Travellers from Dublin and Armagh. It's the machete that gave it away, if you're wondering.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Some Days Are Better Than Others

Absolutely gutted...

Silver And Gold

Remember this nonsense? Well if you do a search for 'taxi regulator' sorted by date of the RTE News website you'll find that this article is pretty much the last mention of the dispute over the new fare structure. This was the dispute that ground Dublin to a standstill a couple of times over the summer and clogged up the airwaves for months. Every other day bitching, crying taxi drivers made out that they would barely be able to afford to put food in their mouths when the changes came into effect.

Well there hasn't been a peep out of them since and why? Because prices ended up being increased by 10% across the board as far as I can make out. By coincidence my house in Dundalk is the same distance from the town centre as my house in Cork is from the city centre - 3 miles. The taxi journey at home was always €7.50 - €8 while in Cork it was typically €8.50 - €9. Now both journeys work out at €9.50. If only I could go back 6-months and give the whiney gits a good slap...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Safe European Home

I'm reading Collapse by Jared Diamond at the moment. It's a big read (should have been edited better), but a fascinating look at societies past and present. Reading it from my vantage almost watching other societies as they rise, make mistakes, then fail feels like this somewhat.

One chapter in it describes the island of Hispaniola - present day Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is very poor by, say, American standards, but is far richer and more prosperous than Haiti, which is a failed state. As Dominicans (Spanish speaking Eurasians) emigrate, there is an influx of Haitians (Creole speaking Afro-Caribbeans) who survive by doing the back-breaking menial labour that many Dominicans consider to be beneath themselves.

The Dominicans accuse the Haitians of such negative things as bringing disease into the country and having no respect for the law and so on. Where have we ever heard stuff like that before?...

Anyway the point of all this is that recently The Sun (I know, but it still sells huge volumes...) published an editorial about how there is a potential for an EPIDEMIC of PLAGUES like AIDS (this is The Sun, remember) in the UK with the forthcoming accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU.

Little Factarama for people who believe this kind of nonsense. Those experts at info gathering, the CIA, state in their factbook that there are 51,000 people with AIDS in the UK, compared with 6,500 in Romania and a paltry 346 in Bulgaria. Still things like facts can't be allowed to get in the way of good old-fashioned Xenophobia, can they?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Career Opportunities

This post was going to be a bit of an old moan. That's because the salaried workers in my pharmaceutical plant (including me) got word last week that our annual pay reviews, due before Christmas, are being pushed back to April. This news came just after all the people on an hourly rate received the pay rises due to them under the latest Partnership agreement - Toward 2016 - AND a lump sum, as the rise was backdated to last January. A majority of those workers aren't even in a union, but reap the benefit of union negotiations.

Also, unlike most of the salaried workers who aren't entitled to overtime, the clockwatchers are in at 8am and out at 4.25pm (3.05pm on Fridays) regardless of workload, which is the opposite of what you'd expect. I'm not looking for a medal but, just to illustrate, I typically work 20-hours overtime per month and don't receive a penny for it. I do it because at my technical / junior management level, the pressure to meet deadlines (and the pressure to mask the effects of the lazy-ass clockwatchers) is intense. The clockwatchers get away with not giving a damn.

However things develop in this industry, and the company has taken an almighty hammering with the news that its next big blockbuster, due to hit the market at the end of 2007, has suddenly been pulled due to bad results in clinical trials (i.e. people croaked it). There are major repurcussions for all the drug manufacturing plants in the Cork area. Pipelines consisting of drugs developed from 'classical' Organic Chemistry are drying up - Biopharma appears to be the way forward - and all the companies have more capacity than required. There could be alot of job losses yet as Big-pharma struggles to realign itself.
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