Thursday, October 28, 2010

Googling can be another word for plagiarisng

The article below appears this week in the Irish regional newspapers of Independent Newspapers.

A person who has a twitter address tweets. Anyone who uses email sends and receives electronic mail. If you have broadband it means you can stream quite easily. People are uploading and downloading. Websites are part of everyday reality. You can choose your own server and can also have a domain name. Skyping is a great way to make cheap phone calls. And then everyone is googling. The world is full of googlers. I nearly forgot to mention apps.

Have I excluded anything? I hope not. Never mentioned iPhones and iPads. What about virtual reality? And then there is a matter of how many dpis in the jpg.

Modern jargon, buzzwords and cutting edge technology. What do you think?

Earlier this year a young German woman was awarded a prestigious prize for a book that she wrote. It transpired that she turned on her computer, maybe even or Iphone and “researched” much of the material. What she really did was plagiarised or in more understandable terms, copied or “cogged” much of the material she later presented as her own original thought.

When she was confronted on the issue, her simple reply was that that’s the way of the world today and that her work represented a new genre in modern literature. Anyone who sits down in front of a blank page or screen and has the discipline to write thousands of words deserves praise and respect.

Some weeks ago I picked up a recently published book.

I’m sure the author is widely read and is familiar with literature from the medieval period, the classics, theology, philosophy, Anglo-Irish and modern Irish literature. Somehow or other I find it hard to get my head around the idea that anyone could have such a wide and universal appreciation of literature.

The book, sorry, almost every page, had references to Goethe, Joyce, Kipling Thomas Aquinas, Socrates, Aristotle, biblical tags, St Francis de Sales, Scott Fitzgerald, Madeline L’Engle, TS Eliot. Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Just two more, WB Yeats and Kathleen Morris.

I became enraged reading it and threw it on the floor. Why? Is it possible that the author could be at home with all these authors – and there were many more – that he had the facility to dip into their thought and use it as back-up in explaining his argument? Pace Goldsmith’s village schoolmaster, wondered “that one small head could carry all he knew”. (OK, I admit it, I googled that, but just to check that I had it right).

Or is it that it was an exercise in internet searches? Because you can google anything. It really is as simple as that.

Some weeks before I read the book I heard someone say that she constantly tweets, skypes, emails and texts. And then came, what for me was the bombshell, she said that when she could not think up something to say, she would download material from other people and then tweet it, email it, send it via SMS and maybe even skype it.

Back in the 1960s UK computer firm, ICT, built a large building near Dublin’s Harcourt Street to house their new computer. I remember being shown around it and really could not take in what it was all about. I just knew that the computer people, who worked and managed it, were very clever. Yet the machine, which filled that room had probably less capacity than the smallest modern laptop. Of course it is truly extraordinary.

When I was in my 20s I messed about with telephones and while living in Rome helped install a crossbar telephone exchange with automatic dial-up telephones in individual rooms. It was all mechanical stuff that required wire strippers, a soldering iron, screwdrivers and hammers too to assemble.

Today I can hardly turn on an iPhone never mind download apps. These days 12 and 14-year-olds do all that sort of stuff with amazing ease.

I’m always asking myself who are the geniuses who develop, design and implement this amazing technological hardware and software too.

Is it that we should all take it for granted and just simply use it? Of course there is no going back. That’s clear. But I have to say I for one am nervous about how googling can make plagiarising or simple copying respectable.

Modern technology has given us extraordinary possibilities. It is changing the face of the earth. And yet there are one billion people without enough food to eat today and we in the West are in one hell of an economic mess.

Not a word of this googled but I did read it to a friend who told me that Brendan Behan described reality as an illusion caused by the absence of alcohol. So what’s virtual reality?

And the reality is I am emailing this column to the editor.

Interesting how someone who uses twitter is not a twit.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Report to point finger at German foreign service

An historical report to be published this week will show the link between the German foreign service and the Nazi party.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in an interview on German television on Sunday evening said the report was worrying and would be carefully studied.

The report points to a link between the foreign service of the Federal Republic and former Nazis.

The genesis of the report goes back to the period of Joschka Fischer as foreign minister when he prohibited an obituary of a West German diplomat to be published because of his links with the Nazis. His ruling was set aside by the foreign service and the obituary appeared.

The father of former Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker, Ernst von Weizsäcker, while state secretary under Hitler reportedly told a Swiss ambassador in 1938 that, “The Jews will have to leave Germany, otherwise they will, one way or the other, be simply confronted with their own destruction’.

von Weizsäcker was ambassador in Switzerland when Thomas Mann wrote an article in a Swiss newspaper critical of the Nazis. In a report to Berlin, he recommended that Mann be stripped of his German citizenship.

If what this report has to say is true, then it is shocking. And yet in another sense not at all. Institutions, whatever their hue will always do what they can to survive.

And then to think how we doff our caps at those in power and authority.

In the current economic disaster in Ireland there is so far little criticism of our civil service. These are the women and men who since the foundation of the State have been considered the ‘mandarins’. They are often referred to as the ‘permanent government’

They receive preferential treatment, paid phenomenal salaries.

Was it that they simply kowtowed to their political masters or was it that they were incompetent?

One way or another they were and are simply part of the nomenclature.

Can anyone ever reach a position of the most insignificant power without selling their soul in some way or other to the institution which feeds them, church or State?

It is a shocking reality.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time to cut out all the waste and stop calling rail passengers customers

The piece below appears in the regional newspapers of IN&M today.

By MIchael Commane
My father was born in 1909, before the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and five years before the outbreak of the First World War.

It was another world, different times. I’m old enough to remember the arrival of electricity at my grand-uncle’s farm in Tipperary in the late 1950s.

Maybe it was because it was something new for him but my father for all 95 years of his life never understood why people would leave a light on in a room if there was no on in the room. Indeed, many is the row we had about it. In my ignorance at the time I would point out that it costs as much turning on and off lights and anyway leaving lights on help make our environment more positive. Silly I.

I have a wheelbarrow at home, which my father repaired well over 20 years ago. It still works and is in great use these days when I am raking up the autumn leaves in the garden.

My father wasted nothing. Washers and screws were a protected species that were safely stored in jars in the shed. When it came to fixing things such as a wheelbarrow the necessary material for the job was always at hand.

Back in the 1950s he built a pathway to park his car, 50 years later it is exactly as it was on completion. Not one single crack in the cement.
Up to very recently I fixed all my bicycle punctures. If he knew that I was now leaving the bike down to a bicycle shop for them to throw out the punctured tube to replace it with a new one he would turn in his grave.

For the last 20 to 30 years it was considered silly, mean, old fashioned to fix things. It was the era of throwing things out. We invented the skip.

When one looks back in history to think of those inventions that were significant in the affairs of mankind, most of us will mention the wheel.

Maybe the advent of the skip had its inevitable progression to the €35/€50 billion banking disaster that has led us to chronic bankruptcy.
It has been the bankers, the PR gurus, those slick and fast speaking exquisitely groomed women and men who ‘explained’ that waste, profligacy and actually skips were moving Ireland ‘forward’.

They won the day and the debate and we all realised the folly of keeping, saving and repairing. So we kept all the lights on, wasted as much as we could and anytime we needed money we borrowed it from those polite people in the bank. This was the new order and it was only fools and morons who were not ‘up-to-speed’ who were sadly ‘missing the boat’.

It went great for years and years. And then smack, it all collapsed.
It’s hard to change people’s ways. Naturally the movers and shakers still want to see us all as consumers – people/clowns who buy their products and make them rich or at least give them a few bob to offset their loans and debts.

Last week while shopping in a supermarket I was buying a loaf of bread. The display date was the previous day. Guess what, the bread would have to be binned. I asked to see a manager and it was explained to me that they could not sell me the bread. After some words between us I was given the bread, free of cost.

How much is wasted every day in our State?

Recently the Minister for Finance pointed out that anger will get us nowhere. He probably is right. It certainly will not get us out of this mess. But standing up to so many mad mantras that have been spewing out of the mouths of clowns might well bring us back to earth and get us to begin acting in a way that simply follows the rules of common sense.

Why in God’s name should we not fix a puncture, turn off a light in an empty room and stop wasting food?

Have you ever noticed how those slick and fast speaking exquisitely groomed women and men insist on calling us customers. At Heuston Station the PA system keeps telling us we are customers. I hate it because I am not a customer. When I am on a train I am a passenger and not a victim of marauders trying to pick my pockets.

It’s that nonsense that has been part of the ingredient that has led us to where we are. We have manufactured our own disaster and sadly allowed ourselves to be fooled so easily. And guess what, we are not going to change. Gombeen men and women that we sure are.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Arrival of Deutsche Bahn ICE in London's St Pancras changes European travel for ever

Today an Inter City Express of German Railways (DB) arrives at London's St Pancras International Terminal.

It is naturally an historic day in the history of European railways.

It is a test train and schedule services are due to begin in 2013.

German Railways have concluded their takeover of Arriva.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Catholic newspaper refers to 'irrational and bigoted comments' on Irish Times website

Why is it that so many Catholic newspapers give an impression of oozing with anger?

This week's Irish Catholic has page after page condemning the media.

The current issue of Alive refers to those who leave comments on The Irish Times website as being bigoted, virulent, irrational, extremist and thuggish.

That same newspaper criticises Amnesty International and makes unfortunate comments about the salary paid to its CEO.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

World cameras on miners as they see daylight

The Chile miners have stolen the hearts of thew world.

I have seldom if ever watched morning TV and yet this morning I was glued to the TV watching the scene at the mine.

The first miner in his press conference above ground stressed the importance of love and spoke about a man's love for his wife and children. He also spoke about his belief in God.

BBC News 24 certainly was an antidote this morning for RTE Radio 1 News and the travails of taoiseach Brian Cowen

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Metro North should be binned now

The controversy concerning the metro to Dublin Airport grows.

I am neither an economist nor a politician but it seems the building of such a metro is simply an extravagance that we cannot afford or need.

Why not build a spur from the Malahide line to the airport? There is already a tunnel linking Heuston to Connolly stations.

Irish Rail seem to argue that the tunnel is not a runner as there is not enough platform space at Connolly. It sounds far too weak an argument Why not develop Connolly?

Michael O'Leary is right, there is not need at all for Metro North.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Irish media catches up on events in Stuttgart

Eventually an Irish newspaper carries the story of the demonstrations in the German city of Stuttgart.

Today's Irish Times carries the story about the protests against Stuttgart 21.

The IT says the police used pepper spray, water canon and tear gas. Police authorities in Baden Wuerttemberg deny that their officers used tear gas.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stuttgart blackout in Irish media

It seems there is not a word in the Irish media today about the demonstrations in the German city of Stuttgart.

Yesterday the prime minister of Baden Wurttenberg said that the project has to go ahead because the decision has been made by the legitimately elected parliament. He argued that Germany is a constitutional democracy and no demonstration could alter that. He went on to say that the police were called out to protect the building site where work had begun on Thursday.

Anyone who saw pictures streaming out of Stuttgart will have been moved by what they saw. The attire of the German police will have shocked people all over Europe.

Angela Merkel is so far supporting the B-W prime minister but cracks are appearing in Berlin.

And not a word in the Irish media of tens of thousands taking to the streets in Stuttgart.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Police confront Stuttgart 21 demonstrators

Yesterday tens of thousands of citizens of Stuttgart came in direct confrontation with the German police.

For weeks now there has been a dispute going on in the city concerning the development of Stuttgart 21. This is the project that plans building a new main rail station underground.

A growing number of people have been demonstrating against the project arguing that it is a waste of money and not at all necessary.

Last night it came to a major confrontation. The first trees were knocked. The people demonstrated and over a thousand German police responded, with pepper spray and water canon. Anyone who has seen the confrontation on television is surely moved by the ferocity of the police action.

The demonstrators came from right across Stuttgart society, pensioners, elderly women and men. They were not rowdies - indeed similar people to those who demonstrated 21 years ago in Leipzig.

One woman who was there spoke with passion of the brutality of the police and shocked that this could happen German citizens on German soil.

And this to happen in the days celerbarting the 20th anniversary of German re-unification.

It is interesting to compare what is happening in Stuttgart and the passion of the people with how we in Ireland are responding to our economic apocalyptic situation.