Winning is for Losers — March 8, 2016

Winning is for Losers

Not long ago I set myself the task of choosing an MLS team to follow as its new season was just beginning. Why you ask? I’m no football expert, I don’t take sport in general particularly seriously. It’s all just a bit of laugh to me but all the good things about football, I love. When people aren’t being yobbos or acting as though it’s life or death, I really do love football. The excitement and local matches that could very easily be a scene from Father Ted.

I simply adore how hilariously serious some people take it; football commentators frustrate me with their constant stating the obvious whole simultaneously giving me endless laughs. More often than not it’s too predictable but when it’s not the results will blow your head off, I live for moments like that – AGUEROOOOOOOO. The beautiful game.

I am also in the unfortunate position of supporting what is probably England’s most hated team. Even as someone who doesn’t know or even care too much about the game I get dog’s abuse from those (awesome) people obsessed with hating Liverpool. I do support Liverpool and I have since before I can even remember. I cried when I saw them win the Champions League, You’ll Never Walk Alone gives me shivers every single time I hear it and not just because it’s such a beautiful song.

My wardrobe used to be filled with their jerseys, no matter how ugly they were, which was often. I’ve since learned how unflattering jerseys really are so I give that a miss these days. The fact that I support Liverpool is actually surprising because I am very much a fan of the underdog and well known for it. Liverpool might be about as exciting as a wet carrot right now but you could never class them as the underdog. I can’t do over my EPL team choice at this stage so here you have why I decided to acquire myself an MLS team.

I want an underdog to root for; to not feel despised and hopefully to not have the face bored off myself. Anyone reading this with a genuine interest in football will not be at all impressed by the selection process, you’ll downright hate it. First came eliminating LA Galaxy because Steven Gerrard isn’t a deciding factor for me, Robbie Keane could have swayed me but no, they’ve proved too successful in recent years. Next was the need to be a little bit crap but not so much so that I’ll live a life of misery following them, ya’ll hear me Fulham fans?

Up for consideration next was a good name, or what I consider to be a good name at least. All United’s and FC’s need not apply. Last of all of came weather conditions; nowhere hot. Sweating is not for winners, or in my case losers. Seattle could have been a good shout especially with all that rain, only they seem to actually be good and I have an irrational, intense dislike for Clint Dempsey. I simply cannot bear to look at that grumpy face.

Canada, hey? I strongly considered Vancouver Whitecaps for a while but sorry guys, you’re just too good for this gal. Thus came my shining light; 9th in the Western Conference and 16th overall! Hoo-ee that stinks, it might just be love. Real Salt Lake. I found my team, lads. They ticks all the boxes, it even has scenic mountain ranges! Because I know how much geographical imagery matters to a football team’s performance, about as much as me finding their name really very nice. I have followed their Twitter and Facebook accounts, that makes me a real fan right? Maybe I’m one of those dreaded bandwagoners so hated by all those oh so true fans, the same fans that are about as much craic as those Liverpool haters. A hobby wouldn’t go amiss.

But anyway, here I am in the land of soccer and hopefully I can look forward to a season disappointed and lording my superiority over all those glory hunters. “WINNING ISN’T EVERYTHING”, I’ll shout. “I HAVE MY INTEGRITY.” I sure do.

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Dublin Startup Enters the Bioprinting World — June 19, 2015

Dublin Startup Enters the Bioprinting World

Imagine a product that could curb rhino poaching and end the need for organ donation in equal measure. An endangered species could be saved from being wiped out, while countless patients will avoid long waiting lists thus freeing up much-needed hospital beds. A Dublin-based company is attempting to achieve just that.

Jemma Redmond first started work on 3D bioprinting at a university until the funding for her project was cut. Thus, Ourobotics was born. The startup company uses a high-precision desktop bioprinter for tissue growth used in reconstructive surgery as well as for research in the bio-printing field. Redmond noticed that high cost, ease of use, accuracy, upgradability and reliability were features missing in bioprinters currently on the market. Ourobotics was created with the purpose of making an affordable modular bioprinting platform for students, biohackers and researchers alike. Their product is being offered at an estimated rate of $5,000 (€4,500).

Bioprinters are being used by researchers and companies to create human tissue for organ transplants and human skin to help end animal testing. It can also make synthetic meat and leather meaning animals will no longer be killed for such commodities. Along with the kinds of bioprinters being produced by Ourobotics they may even be able to create a substitute for rhino horn that will crash the black market.

Rhinos are being poached to the point of extinction, and solutions are needed thick and fast. Companies hope to produce rhino horn that is not only extremely similar to the real thing, but cheaper too. Rhino horn is not just a collector’s item, but is used for medicinal purposes too. By creating a synthetic horn that biologically resembles it, poaching could become significantly less prevalent.

The process of creating a synthetic rhino horn or even a new limb is complicated and has always been out of reach up until recently. Right now 3D bioprinters are proficient at creating new tissue. This is achieved by generating specific cell patterns using 3D printing technology and putting them onto a “biocompatible scaffold”, in other words a framework that could survive in or on a living being. The cells are distributed layer by layer so as to construct a tissue-like 3D structure.

While the technology is experimental at this time, 3D bioprinting has the potential to open a lot of scientific doors. Synthetic organs are the next milestone, although vascularisation is a crucial obstacle. Vascular networks facilitate the transport of oxygen and nutrients, as well as the removal of waste products. Without a proper functioning vascular network, these new organs would just be filling up space. Last year though, scientists used 3D bioprinting to produce blood vessels, a big step in the right direction.

The machines responsible for these advances are generally the preserve of big companies or research facilities, for the time being. Jemma wants to change that. She hopes to “democratize” 3D printers as a product that can be made available for and used by and everyone.  exactly the most3D printers are not practical household item — they can be expensive, large and time consuming. But so were computers once upon a time and now they are arguably the most practical device in our modern lives.
That kind of homogenisation doesn’t happen overnight of course but the practical uses for such a device are countless. Run out of paper clips? Just print some more. Need a hanger for that new jacket? Warm up the auld 3D printer there. That is perhaps a simplification of its usability, but it is the point for which Jemma and her colleagues at Ourobotics are striving.

Yes — May 5, 2015

Yes

Before I get into this there’s a few things I need to get off my chest about the no campaigns methods. So you would be well advised to prepare yourself for a rant.

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THIS. Will you give it a rest! I cannot believe how much this type of argument has been implemented throughout the campaign. I don’t know how many times yes voters have exclaimed in sheer amazement “THIS REFERENDUM ISN’T ABOUT CHILDREN.” I can’t grasp what they don’t understand about this. You have to wonder if it’s simply a case of them having absolutely no logical reason why it shouldn’t happen so let’s bring children into, it’s a safe bet. Except this time I don’t think it is. As Alan Shatter TD rightly put it they are using children as weapons, weapons to fight a battle that should not be happening in the first place. They keep pushing the idea that marriage is all about having children, that that is its entire purpose. I have no intention of having children so by their logic that means I shouldn’t be allowed to marry the man I love and I can assure I would not stand for that, nor should anybody else.

This idea that children need to be raised by a mother and father, as in a male and female, is running rampant right now. First of all there are plenty of gay people who are already parents in Ireland, being able to get married is not going to change that. This leaves an awful lot of people out in the dark; all the single parents, widows and widowers and of course gay people. And you know what; they’re wrong. A child needs people who will love them, take care of them and raise them to be decent human beings regardless of gender. Love is a concept lost on the no side evidently.

Something I found particularly nonsensical and unintelligent was the argument from Senator Jim Walsh who has equated the death of his father when he was 5 years old to his reason for voting no. He grew up without a father so gay people shouldn’t get married. It doesn’t compute, does it? And so it shouldn’t. I also lost my father when I was a child and I don’t see how it could possibly have anything to do with my view on this referendum. I find it impossible to see where he’s coming from, other than a stand point of discrimination and bigotry hidden behind a personal tragedy.

I couldn’t finish up my rant without a shout out to our old friend sodomy. Here is something also used as a weapon, the word “sodomy”. If you’re unfamiliar with this, allow me to enlighten you. It comes from the bible (naturally), the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and it generally refers to anal or oral sex between people. In this case it is used to describe the sex between gay men. Right. This in some cases has been used as an argument against same-sex marriage. Jaysus. In a debate over the referendum on Ocean FM a yes equality campaigner was repeatedly asked, “what two men do when they’re engaged in a sexual act?” Excuse my language, but why the fuck does that even matter? The main thing that irks me about this is that they genuinely don’t seem to realise that gay men are not the only ones engaging in anal sex, not by a long way. If they really don’t know that they are living very sheltered lives indeed. It is an absolutely erroneous argument and one that shouldn’t have place in society in general. “Those people shouldn’t get married because they might engage in certain sexual activities that I find unsavoury.” Sure jaysus, none of us would be able to get married then.

My ramblings have not effectively demonstrated the entirety of the arguments made on the no side but you get the idea, it is complete and utter lunacy. And truly, I don’t know where this all comes from. Is it really just this ungodly fear that the very idea of the family will break down all around us or does prejudice play a role? I feel it is clear what I think in that regard.

I’m a firm believer in equality, I have been as long as I can remember and not just when it comes to marriage but gender, education, health, work, salary etc. I’m under no illusions, total equality will never happen. I don’t think human beings are wired for it. But this is level of equality that is entirely reachable. To say that everyone should be able to marry whoever they want, lads that really should be the easiest thing in the world. I never even had to think about what way I would vote, there was never a question over it. Never.

It is no one’s place to force their opinion onto the lives of others. To vote no would display such a high degree of arrogance and a complete and utter disregard for equality and for love quite frankly. They can claim that this referendum is not about either of those things until they are blue in the face but they are exactly what it is about.

It is also about hope, the hope that things can change, that people can change and nobody has to feel isolated or segregated because of who they are.

It feels strange to be a part of this choice for a group of people, most of which I’ll never even meet. This personal, private decision should not be up to the public. My right to marry isn’t up for debate so theirs shouldn’t be either but if that is what it takes I’m more than willing to do it.

I believe in equality for everyone, not just for some. I will be voting yes and I couldn’t be happier or prouder to do so.

Why does “the craic” supersede safety? — February 5, 2015

Why does “the craic” supersede safety?

It is being proposed that minimum prices be set on alcohol in what is said to be an attempt to curb the alcohol related problems in this country. It has been said by industry sources that the price of all but the cheapest alcoholic drinks will not be affected by the introduction of minimum pricing.

A poll taken by thejournal.ie posing the question “Do you support minimum prices for alcohol?” produced results unsurprising to me.

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But why is this the case? If you’re brave enough to read the comments section, you’ll see people, “wise” as they are, naming it as yet another money-making scheme by the government and that it won’t solve the very apparent alcohol problem this country has. Both of these may be true in part but I can’t help but wonder if this might be coming from a different place altogether, the place where the problem lies in the first place. People want cheap alcohol prices, not because they deserve it or because it’s their right but simply for the reason that they want it. Forget road accidents, liver disease, violence, alcoholism; sure what does all that matter in the face the ever-present “craic”?

Look I’m not saying the government don’t rub their hands together in delight when it comes to the money they make from tax on alcohol sales, damn right they do. They exploit the situation without a shadow of a doubt. There should be better solutions, better education and preventative measures. But that doesn’t mean that alcohol prices should be low, as far as I’m concerned they shouldn’t be. Alcohol is not a need, it is a want and in many cases a dangerous one.

The stats speak for themselves;

– 88 deaths every month in Ireland are directly attributable to alcohol.
– One in eleven children in Ireland say parental alcohol use has a negative effect on their lives.
– There are 1,200 cases of cancer each year from alcohol in Ireland.
– One in four deaths of young men aged 15-39 in Ireland is due to alcohol.
– One in three road crash deaths is alcohol-related.

If anyone can plead a case for cheap alcohol I’d love to hear it but I haven’t heard a logical argument up until this point. The government shouldn’t profit from the Irish people’s love of alcohol and the problem’s that inevitably ensue but does that mean it should be an all you can eat buffet?

Put your thinking caps on esteemed thejournal.ie readers, your commenting skills won’t save the world just yet. But bravo for always giving us a good laugh.

Surrogacy: Time for Recognition — November 10, 2014

Surrogacy: Time for Recognition

A landmark case in the Supreme Court late last week saw the status quo go unchanged, in that the genetic mother of twins born to a surrogate could not appear on their birth certificates. According to Ireland’s current laws, genetics only count when it comes to the father, not the mother.

The case was brought by the genetic mother of twins whose sister who acted as a surrogate for her sister “as a gesture of love.” She sought to be named as mother on the children’s birth certificates but six out of seven judges ruled that only the woman who gives birth to a child can be recognised as the mother.

This brings up a number of issues, inequality between mothers and fathers; the question of same-sex marriage being introduced next year and the need for legislation on the subject of surrogacy.

This is a country with no laws governing any aspect of surrogacy, leaving women like this unfortunate mother unable to legally be named the mother of her own children without adopting them. It sounds unbelievable but it is clear there was no other choice. According to the Chief Justice, It was not the job of the courts to make a “golden rule” for motherhood. It’s up to the lawmakers of this country.

The reasons why fathers are entitled to be named as such based purely on genetics and mothers cannot are entirely archaic. It’s based on history and the outdated idea that the only child a woman can bear is genetically her own. This does not cater for surrogacy which is not a new method of reproduction by any means. Being an Irish woman once again puts you at a disadvantage.

This just goes to show how behind the times Ireland really is yet again. When it comes to women, motherhood and the general matter of reproduction no government in this country has had any clue and has failed to provide what is needed at every turn.

The changing nature of reproduction in today’s society instigated by scientific advances and the emergence of alternative family units such as homosexual partnerships means the need for legislation by the government is becoming more and more urgent.

Sexism against men: Why is it acceptable? — July 28, 2014

Sexism against men: Why is it acceptable?

Sexism. So often related to women, the roles women “should” play in society, suggestions of generalised weakness, sexual objectification, the list goes on and on. Does this mean men are never the victims of sexism? The accusations that all men are womanisers, sexual deviants, that they all have bizarre expectations of women when it comes to dress and behaviour. I hear this from women constantly and it baffles me. Yet I’m the weird one for pointing out that talk like this may be an unfair generalisation and not all men are like that. It’s infuriating because not only are these women wrong but painfully ignorant. 

There are men out there that fit perfectly into these stereotypes, of course there are but there also exists women who treat men terribly. When it comes to shoddy sexual conduct, cheating and general bad behaviour women are not innocent; they don’t get a free pass because “they’re not men”. Men don’t have a patent on being assholes; women can be just as skilled in the area. But more often than not, women play the role of the victim or assume that getting involved with any man will result in their imminent heartache. Instead of blaming men well in advance of any wrong-doing, they might want to consider looking at their own choices, perhaps they’re the creators of their own misery.

I find this entire attitude offensive, not personally offensive but to speak like this of an entire group of people in such an inaccurate way is not only an insult to men but also to women. Is this where feminism has brought us? To a point where it isn’t about equality any more but to fight against men? Is that what women want now, to be better than men rather than on the same level? It sure sounds like it. 

I know many wonderful, kind men who would never dream of participating in sexism against women in any form but these aren’t the men given focus. And these are the very men who have to suffer because of the actions of an older, long gone generation and the minority of idiots left still taking part in it. I say, think of these men next time you want to tear down sexist behaviour because they actually do deserve better and they deserve to be acknowledged. 

Looking at the bigger picture, men are supposed to be tough, active and out there making the dough for the missus so their claims to domestic rights are belittled and violence suffered by them is shrugged off as natural or not of importance. That’s where it gets scary. And don’t tell me these things don’t exist, let alone matter because they do, just as much as inequality suffered by women.

The fight against inequality is so important, for both women and men. Sexism against men is an issue, it appears to be on the rise and it is completely overlooked. No matter what way you look at it, sexism is wrong. Let’s stop making all men suffer for the mistakes they may not have even made. If only the two sexes could see how much in common they have when it comes to discrimination and generalisation, they could join together and put an end to all of it. But I’d just be a simple dreamer if I thought that could really happen, wouldn’t I?

Fifty Shades of Feminism — July 24, 2014

Fifty Shades of Feminism

For the first time I am going to publicly admit something I’m quite embarrassed about, I have read Fifty Shades of Grey in it’s entirety. You did hear that correctly but don’t be too quick to judge. It wasn’t because I was expecting a fine work of literature, it wasn’t because I was bored and it certainly wasn’t because I needed to get my jollies from it. No. I was curious about the levels of bad writing I’d heard so much about. I wondered if it was exaggerated and I can confirm, it was not.

Fifty Shades of Grey was originally Twilight fan fiction, that tells you far more than you need to know. It’s origins in the vampire tale is evident throughout, it represents the same idea of a controlling man and weak willed woman desperate for a man, any man in her life. Even a fiercely abusive one. The storyline is painfully unrealistic, in fact let’s not give it any credit by even calling it a storyline. It’s a group of words strung together in an attempt to make it appear as though an actual plot exists when in fact it just glorified porn, simple as. Porn is a bestseller on Eason’s shelves, awesome right?

I’ve heard people refer to it as a modern day love story, this is somewhat surprising given that the value of love in a relationship is defecated all over by ever inch of this book. If you want a synopsis of the plot you don’t want it from me. I have to stop myself from vomiting in my shoes any time I try to explain it with any kind of serious tone. Why do I feel this way about it? Well, I’ll tell you.

As if porn masquerading as decent literature wasn’t bad enough but what this novel puts out into the world and into the minds of anyone willing to read it is what really shocked me. Sexual violence; psychological, emotional and physical control; horribly inaccurate perceptions of love. The list goes on but it all goes along the same lines. Normal, loving relationships aren’t sexy any more. Nope, dysfunction is what you really need to get your motor running.

The main male character, Christian is a predator, the worst kind of man imaginable. He stalks this girl mercilessly, then goes on to get her to sign a contract (yes, a contract for a sexual relationship) which basically lays out the depraved things he can do to her, including disciplinary acts, you know in case she’s acting up and such like that. It’s beyond twisted. This is exactly what society is looking for, more aggressive approaches to the pursuit of sex.

Probably the most worrying aspect of this novel is the protagonist, the woman Anastasia. Here we have a girl so weak willed, so low in confidence that she is willing to become a sexual slave for a man who is incapable of love. Apparently this kind of situation is acceptable for the sake of a bit of erotic shimmy shammy.

What IS the point of this book? Either it is just a smutty read meant to give the more bored among us a little thrill or is it actually supposed to be a love story? Because if it is then it’s genuinely suggesting this is the kind of relationship women should be aspiring to. According to E L James mutual respect and love just isn’t sexy enough to sell a book. And sex sells, right?

Erotic fiction is all well and good, more power to you for indulging in it. No complaints from me on that front. In fact, women enjoying this type of literature is supposed to be a welcomed expression of their sexuality so long repressed. But this is a hugely anti-feminist work of fiction, it’s sexist and it represents every disgusting quality human beings can have and no good ones.

I’m not known for being any kind of feminist but this is enough to make me want to run down the street, my bra alight, begging women to think better of themselves and at the very least, to not indulge in this horrible drivel. Get yourself a Mills and Boon, that’ll get you where you want to go. No more, no less, who can argue with that?

Garth Brooks Controversy — July 9, 2014

Garth Brooks Controversy

Garth Brooks at Croke Park 20 Jan 2014. Photo: Mark Stedman Phtoocall Ireland

We sure do know how to embarrass ourselves, don’t we? As if enjoying the music of Garth Brooks isn’t silly enough, the country took it to whole new levels this week.

Last week 40,000 fans were disappointed to hear none of the five scheduled Garth Brooks concerts would be going ahead later this month. This came about after an arduous battle started by residents surrounding Croke Park but their argument wasn’t to stop all the shows, only two as five had exceeded a previously agreed deal. But somehow the situation has snowballed beyond anything anyone could have expected.

I sit back in absolute awe and wonder as it unfolds before my eyes. Can someone please tell me why this is such a big deal? The day the news broke that two of the concerts would not be going ahead the internet went insane, truly insane. In Ireland, the news that thousands of families would be cut from the One-Parent Family Payment was virtually ignored in favour something I would barely even refer to as news. Apparently any Garth Brooks related news must be more important that the genuine suffering of people. Ugh.

From there we saw searches for new venues, Brooks getting all in a huff and “not feeling welcome in Ireland” and now the government is involved and beyond all reasonable comprehension are doing their darnedest to make all five shows happen. Even legislation is being drawn up. Wow.

Enda Kenny has said that this is making us, as a country look bad. Funny how we never heard him say that when Savita Halappanavar passed away because of crazy, outdated laws on abortion. The Lord Mayor of Dublin was quoted as saying the concerts should go ahead to, “to save the nation from sorrow and misery”. What was he thinking when he said that? People who can’t afford to feed their children, people living on the streets without a home are all going to feel so much better Garth bloody Brooks played a few gigs in Ireland? If only we knew this sooner, all our problems would have been solved.

I understand the disappointment people may feel about missing the opportunity to see something they were looking forward to but could we all just calm down please? Refunds will be made and life will go on. Sure use the money and take a trip to Bray, a go on the slots might do you the world of good. And please for the love of good, don’t ask for Barack Obama’s help with a problem like this, not again. The holy mortifying shame.

Girls and Comics — June 6, 2014

Girls and Comics

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I read a Tweet recently posted by a local comic book store, it read, “Parents that go, ‘This is a store for boys, there’s nothing here for girls” makes us :(“ I think many people would tend to agree.

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I’m a woman that reads comics, all kinds of comics. It’s one of my favourite things to do but I will admit that I feel like a bit of fraud while doing it because of the boys culture surrounding it. I don’t know any other women on a personal level that read comics, in fact I’d find it strange if I did. Even I see it as a male hobby. GASP. I know, I know, I should be more of a feminist than that but I’m not really a feminist at all.

I defend and advocate women’s rights to partake in male-stereotype hobbies and activities but I don’t view them as a unisex thing. That doesn’t really make sense, does it? Well actually I think it does. Just because my senses have been conditioned to see something a certain way that doesn’t mean my mind views it similarly. Everyone is entitled to read comics, or play video-games, or even enjoy the odd football match regardless of gender. It’s just that some things appear more man-friendly than others, even if that’s not true at all.

Something that will never help bring down the walls of sexism in the comic book world is the “sexualised” images of women. The Guardian’s Joan Hilty referred to Wonder Girl’s breasts as “head-sized” in a recent article, while this is hilarious, it’s also entirely true. I doubt there’s any straight women wanting to see comic characters on the verge of looking like porn stars. So you have to wonder, are these drawn with only men in mind? I can assure you they didn’t have me in mind because that’s the last thing I want to see, anywhere.

Comics have real potential to appeal to everyone, men and women alike. There isn’t just the crime-fighting, weapon wielding world of superheroes; there’s fiction (such as The Walking Dead and Fable) and non-fiction (such as Persepolis and Maus). A world of ideas exists within the medium, it’s just a shame that not enough people are taking advantage because it’s a kids game or only for nerdy men. They are books with words, anyone can read and enjoy them. I think people would surprise themselves if only they tried.

Godzilla — May 23, 2014

Godzilla

I went to see Godzilla earlier this week and I’ll admit I had high expectations.

It’s not as if I’m a huge Godzilla fan, I don’t think I’ve even seen the 1998 remake. I remember Matthew Broderick being in it but not seeing it. I’m also not a huge fan of the idea of a 500 foot monster prancing around town but Bryan Cranston’s in it and the trailer’s looked so awesome.

Having now seen it, I can say the only real disappointment is Cranston’s departure 45 minutes in. But that has very little to do with the character but more with the actor who played him. Kudos to Cranston for being talented enough to provoke this reaction but it shouldn’t have a bearing on one’s opinion of the film as a whole.

Once I got over that particular blip, I really enjoyed the movie and the new take on it. Godzilla as the hero, who would have thought it? I ended up feeling sorry for the monster as if he was a cute little puppy when really he could eat any of us whole in one bite.

It’s not an intellectual piece that’ll require any kind of thought but it’ll entertain you. It’s tense and gripping. I was caught up in the action of it all. The battle scenes are enough to make you sweat in your seat. That was all I was looking for it from it and that’s what I got. Job done.