29 Aug 2008

All that stuff about the Beijing Games starting on 8th of the 8th 08 because 8 is supposed to be a lucky number in China? Guff, naturally. You might have heard about the piece in the NY Times where a senior executive at NBC TV explained what really happened.

Fearing that their severe summer weather might cause problems for the outdoor events, Beijing had originally wanted to host the games in September. But that would mean NBC, who were paying more than a half billion euros for the TV rights, would be up against the extremely popular Monday Night Football over on ABC (the American football season starts the beginning of September). So, the Chinese offered to move the start of the games to mid August. Which was fine, until the TV people figured out that some of the top tennis players, tempted by Olympic Gold, might pull out of the US Open in New York, which traditionally begins the last week in August, creating yet another ratings situation.

Luckily, having the games start on the 8th meant that everyone could make money.

Meanwhile, there’s a thing going around the web you may already have come across regarding the situation between Russia and Georgia. Some folks are saying that the whole thing is something to do with the Winter Olympics of 2014 which are due to be held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Unluckily for Russia, all the raw materials needed to build the facilities are buried in Georgia and South Ossetia. Also apparently unluckily for the Russians is that the area which stands to gain the most from the Olympics in terms of increasing real estate values is Georgia’s Black Sea Coast. Wealthy Moscovites think it should be theirs.    


I can’t stop thinking of things I’d put into Room 101 if I ever got on the show. Here’s a few more:

People called Jeremy. Like, for example, Paxman: a few weeks back on University Challenge the answer to the starter-for-ten was something to do with Irish mythology and a person called ‘Cush-a-layne’ (Cú Chulainn). And I seem to remember last year that the five point bonus was a ‘caymin’ – a stick apparently used in the Irish sport of hurling. 

'Friends' who, for example, of your holiday photographs say things like: ‘you should really check your lens to see if it’s gone out of alignment… ’

Wayne Rooney ability exaggeration.


The yellow part of GB registration plates. Apart from the minging colour and the weird font, what really bothers me are the letter combinations: don’t you find you spend all your time driving behind these guys making up stupid words?

The Heineken Cup. I’m sorry, lads. It just seems like the whole of Munster has succumbed to the most successful beer ad campaign in history. How come no French fans go to Cardiff? Because the French don’t guzzle cheap lager, that’s why.

Female TV presenters who use the Irish form of their last name.


I came across this on one of the environmental websites the other day:

[Bloggers] and other Internet critics have already started to expose what they see as ‘greenwash’ advertising – ads put out by mega corporations which exploit the current craze for all things green amongst the young people. A French group called l’Alliance Pour la Planète, which monitors this type of advertising, cites an ad for a Japanese sport utility vehicle that was billed as having been “conceived and developed in the homeland of the Kyoto accords.”


I start lecturing history of architecture in WIT next week! Luckily for me, I found this very useful map animation...


I'll have good stuff next week like how planners get approval for their own one off houses in the countryside, and how you can build a building after its been refused permission and not have to remove it and how you don't have to comply with planning conditions. Have a great weekend.

25 Aug 2008
20 Aug 2008
As every kid in the country already knows, because the Department of Education is incapable of building decent schools, sooner or later they’ll end up a book-learnin' in a Portakabin. In a recent attempt by the Department to reduce levels of frustration and make desperately needed school upgrades possible to achieve within the average person's lifetime, a scheme was put in place whereby school Boards of Management were given the power (within reason) to disburse grants of up to €380,000 on the provision of additional classrooms, school halls, etc. Previously, all school upgrade projects were sent to Dublin for approval where they were left to wither on the endless shelves of bureaucracy. The new system was supposed to be an improvement on what went before and, until lately, people would have said this was the case.
20 Aug 2008
15 Aug 2008

In his first media event since moving to Holland to coach some team over there, Steve McLaren shows how quickly he's picked up the lingo by speaking better Dutch than the Dutch woman who's interviewing him! It's as if he's never heard of YouTube.

Mildly entertaining for the first minute or so, before Shteefan lapses into his mother tongue...



If the Ballymun Regeneration people spent as much money on saving money as they do on public relations exercises designed to disguise how much money they’ve managed to waste we’d be much better off.

To recap: the regeneration project is a half billion euros over budget (as I understand it, the entire project was originally expected to cost a total of only a quarter of a billion euros). The Comptroller and Auditor General wrote a vaguely critical report about the project which led to the Public Accounts Committee holding some hearings. The PAC's final report is due to be sent to the Minister for Finance next month - the word around towns is that it will be some kind of whitewash.

But, obviously, just to make sure that we are predisposed to not being too harsh on them, the people leading the regeneration project from time to time come up with new and inventive ideas of how to get soft good press. The most recent thing they managed to peddle to The Times was something to do with the amount of rubble from the demolished flats which ends up being used for fill along the M50.  


Someone in the media who knows how these things work, fill me in here: Does Ballymun Regeneration  pay money for this kind of coverage? Or do they just bring unsuspecting young journalists out on junkets? Or do they negotiate some kind of deal with the newspapers? What actually happens?


When are we ever going to get inside the Bird’s Nest? This is what I hate about the Olympics – all the first week action you have to endure before anything happens. That, and RTE’s 'Channel 4 Big Brother House' set. I almost enjoyed watching Team GB’s performance in the ‘People On Huge Horses While Wearing Hats’ competition as they did battle with The Vatican for the final place on the podium, but the ‘Two Statues Of David Jumping Into The Water At The Same Time’ event shouldn’t be allowed. If they don’t bring on the Nest real soon, I’m switching off.

Anyway, we all know what happens when the biggest serial objector in the country lodges a planning application – he simply avoids the wrath of those he’s annoyed in the past off by lodging the application in his wife’s name. But what do you do if you happen to be a local authority planner and you want to build a one-off-house in the county in which you happen work, a county which is sort of known for having a funny record on developments of this type? Anyone any ideas or suggestions?     

15 Aug 2008
In the post of a couple of weeks ago when I drifted into science fiction mode about the character of Sandyford (what else could I do? what else could anyone do?), I said I’d follow up with some commentary on other planning spawn of the Celtic Tiger. Commenter 'Joe R' mentioned 'Belmayne' – that place at the junction of the N32 and M50 Extension currently being advertised by the Redknapps, so we’ll start with Belmayne.
13 Aug 2008
On foot of the news that the fireworks display during the Olympic Games opening ceremony was apparently faked, I found this article illuminating, if sad. It concerns the extraordinary steps the Chinese authorities are prepared to take to make Beijing look its best for the duration of the Olympic Games, including putting huge pressure on small traders to move out of the central axis which links the city centre with the Birds Nest campus. For aesthetic reasons.
5 Aug 2008

Contrary to my earlier assertions, the RIAI have not given up entirely on their survey which showed that so many architects were extremely unhappy with just about every aspect of the planning system. In correspondence I received late last week from the Director of the RIAI, John Graby, I was left with the strong (and very welcome) impression that the Institute is determined to stay on top of the matter with more media activity promised for when the Dail resumes.

Crucially, it seems that, in future, the Institute will be represented in the media by Mr. Graby himself and not by other senior RIAI officers who may happen to be in practise. (I take this to mean that media stewardship on planning matters will shift from Institute President to Institute Director. For those who were following the media roll out of the RIAI survey results, the significance of this move will not be lost.)

Quoting directly from John’s correspondence, the following specific matters will be targets of RIAI attention in the coming months:

'1. Need for leadership and management at National, City County Manager level and Director of Services Level. There are policies and guidelines but these are not operated and in many Local Authorities there is no corporate view in terms of planning etc.

2. Need to clear out once and for all the mess about invalidation, planning notices etc.

3. The need for proper recording of pre-planning meetings and for these to form a corporate view.

4. Planning authorities to work on the basis of multi-disciplinary teams and not simply sending a file to the Roads Department one week before a decision is due.

5. Consistency is needed. There is always a great deal of complaint about Planning Officers moving around and if you think about it, why should this make a difference if there is a consistent planning view. What this supports is a perception that planning is a matter of whim or belief on behalf of a particular planning officer.'

If I were allowed to include a no. 6 on John’s list of items requiring immediate attention, it would be to address the whole situation of how the quality of an architect’s design is to be judged in a planning application: we’ve all been involved in situations where our best design efforts have been referred to as ‘inappropriate’, ‘poor’, etc., by planning officials with no qualification in (nor, even, inclination toward) design.
However, it’s all very reassuring. From the fighting tone of John’s correspondence I think it is clear that the business of planning applications is now the focus of the Institute’s gaze. Everyone familiar with John Graby’s reputation for not tolerating bs will know that when he says an issue is live, then that issue is live and change will happen.

1 Aug 2008

Thank you to the anonymous correspondent who sent me this:

‘Self Portrait. By Garry Miley’



To hell with the planning stuff for a minute. This is absolutely true.

A recently retired New Yorker wanted to use his retirement funds wisely, so he decided to buy a home and a few acres in Portugal.

The modest farmhouse he settled on had been vacant for 15 years; the couple who previously owned it had died. There were no heirs. The estate was being sold to pay back taxes. Several people had previously come to have a look but were put off by a big ugly barn...

... which sat on the property and which had had its steel doors welded shut. No one wanted to go to the extra expense of opening up the barn to see what was inside so, until our New Yorker came along, there had been no offiers.

The New Yorker took a flyer and bought the property as it stood, paying just over half of the asking price. Shortly after the deal was done the new owner got some local lads with angle grinders to open up the barn.

What did they find inside?




A $35 Million collection of vintage and classic cars to which they were found to have full title!

... Formula racers and Chyslers...

... Alphas...

... Guiliettas...

... and a Porsche 356!

Mercy sakes!


I always presume that Dispatch readers like to consider themselves Cool Moms and Dads who, despite signs of wear and tear, embarrass their kids in front of their friends by knowing too much about, say, Queens of The Stone Age, right? I guess I have this impression because I know, for example, that Tom Byrne after having inappropriately body surfed to the Zutons at Oxegen a few weeks ago had to be helped to a comfortable bed at a nearby relative's house by his teenage sons for a lie down. And also that each time Mike Maher hears an Allison Goldfrapp tune (like, for example in that bar in Cardiff (after which, because he had no accommodation, he crashed out on the hotel bedroom floor of some Toulouse fans before hitching his way back to Pembroke (hiding in the boot of an Opel Astra en route in an effort to get on the ferry without a ticket AND THEN GOT CAUGHT BY THE COPS!))) he ends up having key hole surgery on his knee. 

(What I lose in fabrication of the Tom Byrne story, I make up for in understatement of the Mike Maher story. Believe me, its all true.)

Anyway, as soon as it stops raining, I’m going to drop the roof on the Eos and cruise around east Clare listening to this. Don’t try telling me it isn’t cool – she kicks bottom. And, besides, they’re in the desert:

There’s a ghost in me
wants to say I’m sorry.
Doesn’t mean I’m sorry.

Let's all have a BRILLIANT weekend!


1 Aug 2008

Just a quick update on that situation regarding the appeal to An Bord Pleanala against approval of the Limerick hospital co-location project. Remember now, the appellant was told this week that his (he was representing a larger group of people) appeal was invalidated for the most frivolous of reasons. Well, it seems that the Bord may not have been completely accurate in leading the appellant to believe this was the case.

After some confusing exchanges in recent days between the Bord and the appellant, during which time there were hints that the appellant’s submission may have been accepted without proper authorization by someone on the Bord’s security staff (except this wouldn’t explain how the appellant’s application fee had been drawn from his bank account) and so on, it turns out that the submission may have arrived in the usual way and then misfiled.

Hopefully, this will eventually mean that an Bord now considers the appeal valid and that any fears some of us may have had that someone was hoping an inconvenient appeal could be pushed to one side are without grounds.

Seems to me that the Bord needs a little bit of a shake up. Can’t believe this isn’t front page.