Saturday, April 21, 2012

Olympic European Qualifiers, Bratisvlava

No Olympics - now what? First of all, some thanks...

I suppose to some extent the Olympic goal was possibly a bridge too far from a starting point of having begun the sport at the ripe age of 18 in a country without a recent international pedigree in fencing. Furthermore, this was not necessarily my explicit personal goal but instead it was rather to push myself to see what I could achieve. As an external watermark of achievement, in this brief lull of reflection, I'm proud that I was selected to participate and that I participated to the best of my ability.

Thanks for all your kind words of support over the last few days! More especially I'd like to thank all of you for your support, which took so many different forms, over the last ten years or so. Thanks especially to my family for their constant love and encouragement; to all the great friends I made through the sport in Ireland who helped foster this passion for the sport within me; to my club-mates and coaches at US Metro who've helped me achieve this level; to all the wonderful friends I've met in my time in France; and of course, Laura, who has been a constant support and has bore the brunt of the fencing-induced mood-swings, depressions and poverty over these last 3 years. I remember particularly today my number 1 fan - my grandmother - who died last year and those friends who were taken from us too young.

I'm happy with how I fenced today and I feel I reached my own personal goal of leaving content to have no regrets and achieving one of my best international performances. Somewhat analogous of my international career at certain moments key decisions and luck didn't always come my way but that is the flawed and masochistic sport I chose.

Today really reminded me of the brutal nature of this and to varying extents all sport. That such happiness/despair can rest on the trajectory of wildly-bending shards of metal, the interpretation of referees, a minute twitch of a muscle propelling the sabre towards it's target, the endemic corruption involved in any international sport governed by a poorly defined set of conventions... And yet I can't quite bring myself to hate it. I think I'm in an abusive relation with this sport and I, like 99% of the participants, am the battered spouse. I suppose then the only question becomes when to leave it and how...

But now as one arbitrary cycle comes to a close, it's a moment to reflect and to allow myself a moment of pride (if I may be so self-indulgent) and decide what to do next. Perhaps, I'll even start writing a blog.

Thanks,

Owen

Friday, March 09, 2012

There's Something About Half-Time Shots

There's something infinitely satisfying about watching some ordinary punter succeed in their half-time attempt to win X amount of dollars or a new car or whatever the prize might be by shooting a 3-pointer, scoring from the half-way line, getting a field-goal, slowly sliding an ice-hockey puck into the net. At first we are rooting for the John Everyman for this Willy Lowman we see ourselves in this poor gormless idiot (well I imagine the rest of you do) and then we are either amused by a particularly awful attempt, are ready to groan at a near-miss or are ready to go mental for the rare success. 

As a marketing ploy designed to momentarily catch our attention, it can't really lose no matter what the outcome for the sponsor and if it's a success all though they will have to spend more it has the chance of going viral and getting even more attention for the brand.

But what if we look at the small subset of all successes together what does it tell us about fairness in the cosmos. Case in point - 


Idiot somehow lands 3-point shot get $77,777... Dances around like an idiot... Then we see the way he threw the ball. Compared that to - 


Man gets a lay-up, a free throw, a three-pointer and a half-court shot to receive... a $3,000 voucher from a shop unfortunately named The Dump.

It seems to me there is a very tenuous relationship between effort, skill and reward in a lot of these cases. In the second case above The Dump clearly didn't want to pay out the $3,000 prize and tried to limit their pay out by requiring a large amount of skill. In the first case they tried to select an idiot to do something very difficult in order to limit their chances of paying out $77,777 but idiots can always surprise you.

Which leads us on to perhaps the ultimate half-time shot for £250,000



Really makes throwing a ball into a little basket seem a bit pathetic particularly...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When Irish Eyes Are Crying - Business: vanityfair.com

Michael Lewis the writer of Liar's Poker and the Big Short gives his summary of the Irish financial situation. Up there with the most depressing I've read so far...

When Irish Eyes Are Crying - Business: vanityfair.com

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Rugby Season Started Without Telling Me...

The Tri Nations is winding down, the Top 14 is back a few weeks, the Magners starts this weekend but I'm more concerned with the distant distant future and the World Cup in NZ in 2011. Australia, who share a group with Ireland, are rapidly looking like the 2nd best team in the World. Players like the 12 year old James O'Connor is finally starting to bulk up a bit (Ed - Christ, he was actually born in 1990 - he definitely doesn't remember communism) and they've really got a team that looks like it's going to be maturing nicely around September 2011.

It remains to be seen whether Ireland are getting over the hill or whether there will be just the right amount of youth and experience in the team by then. Certainly would be nice not to repeat the awful experience of the 2007 World Cup.

Anyhoo, here is the clip, that inspired me to write this little note, of Austrailia looking impressive.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Why will Sepp Blatter not consider video refereeing?

Let us consider the type of man we are dealing with...

Transparency in Sport

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Surviving Venezuela...

The Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs travel advisory for Venezuela had me paranoid even before I arrived. Particularly since eight lines into this document they mention my destination by name...

"There are also growing concerns about the incidence of violent crime on the island of Margarita. Travellers are advised to exercise particular caution there."

Aside from that I'd heard of an official attending the tournament last year being robbed of everything he had and left on the side of the road in his underpants. Venezuela is ranked in the top five countries in the world... for homocide and kidnapping increased year on year by between 40 - 60 % from 2008 to 2009 (US govt. travel advisory). Generally not necessarily a place you would choose to go to.

To my alarm I was off the plane all of 20 minutes, just after collecting my cumbersome fencing back when one of the warnings I had read began flashing in 30-foot neon letters in my brain.

"The airport itself can be a dangerous place. If approached by an officer purporting to be an airport official,"

I was immediately approached by about seven of them.

"even if they are in uniform and/or present credentials, "

All with official ID and wanting to help me out. One of them eventually negotiated his way to be the one who would take care of me and the others dispersed. Offering to help carry my bags, he said he would accompany me to the domestic terminal and would not take "NO GRACIAS!" for an answer.

"you should try to ensure that you remain in a busy area of the airport and, if possible, check with other airport or airline staff that the officials are genuine."

When I reluctantly found him walking with me in the direction I knew well was the domestic airport I tried to check with a tourist information desk or do something that would get him to give up. He gestured that we needed to take a lift to the domestic airport but there was no way I was getting into a lift with this stranger, particularly a lift I didn't know to where it lead.

Eventually when absolutely refused to go anywhere with him he got a friend of his to translate. I took this oppurtunity to tell him that some Venezuela Esgrima friends of mine were waiting for me in the domestic airport and I didn't need to change any dollars. He immediately lost interest. Chances are he was only looking for a tip and not going to kill me and steal my fencing gear on the black market to illegal Venezeulan bee-keepers but I thought best not to risk it and was glad when he finally got the message.

Aside from that incident which instantly increased my paranoia, I suppose quite luckily, the main challenge (outside of the competition) I faced was boredom. When I reached the domestic terminal an expected 4 hour lay over turned into an 8 hour unexplained delay. Absolutely no explanation was given, even in Spanish but we finally arrived in Margarita around 22.30.

I'd left France at 04.00 Venezuelan time, so I although I had intended on trying to negotiate to paying the hotel in Bolivars (where I could get an black market exchange of 8 to 1) I was far to tired when I reached the hotel and handed over my dollars without discussion.

In a similar vein to my previous travel to the Algeria we were advised not to leave the hotel at all. Paying at all for a hotel of such low standards still wrankles. Photos will follow shortly but aside from the general poor repair of the place you had the issue of thumping Spanish Karaoke until 11pm and then thumping club music until 4am. Luckily I was able to change rooms to a quiet family room at the back of the hotel, sacrificing my sea view for a construction site but only having to tolerate the bad Karaoke and not the techno.

On my first full day on the island, my one excursion to the nearby beach to read a book for about hour lead to serious sunburn on my chest despite having 25+ sun block on and that was the end of hopes of returning to France a slightly darker shade of pale. Perhaps it added extra motivation to avoid through-cuts across my chest during the competition but I don't intend to leave a hot iron on my chest before future competitions to achieve the same effect.

...

The morning of competition I still had faith that the tournament would have to be conducted in a air conditioned hall. I found myself very much wrong as we pulled up outside a covered dome that was to be the venue. A concrete down covered the basketball arena inside but while the roof did at least protect from the sun that would have made any sort of activity impossible, it did nothing to counteract the overwhelming humidity underneath the dome. Feeble air conditioning added a whirring soundtrack to the competition but with no doors on the venue and indeed a large gap in between the stands and the domed roof it was never going to do anything much.

Even after a light warm-up I was dripping with sweat. My fencing gear didn't feel particuarly comfortable over first degree burns either. But despite the environmental conditions I managed to win four matches in my poule of 7 fencers (including myself). 4 wins from 6 put me through to the last 64 the next day.

15 point matches were even more tiring in the stiffling humidity. I won my L64 match 15 - 13 after leading the match most of the way through against a member of the Japanese squad whose name will forever escape me. In my last 32 match I faced the much trickier proposition of Diego Occhiuzzo of Italy, the fourth member of the Italian squad. Despite what I felt were some decidedly "Maybe it will be just easier to give that to the Italian" calls, the final score was 10 - 15 in the Italians favour.

All in all, I was happy with the result. I feel I performed as well as I could have been expected to in advance and while there is still room to bring through what I've been doing in training to this level of competition, the result is a big confidence booster travelling to New York for the final WC of the season.

...

After the competition the last couple of days passed without major event... aside from the effects of drinking tap water during the second day of competition as no other water was available... and rubbing after sun on my burns 6 times a day... and being attacked by mosquitos while sitting by the pool in the evening.

So I survived. I still even have 100-odd Bolivars with which to buy a T-shirt to prove the same, if only anyone would take the worthless currency off my hands...

Only one more hour to waste in Trinidad and I'll be on my way to the Big Apple...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Caracas Domestic Airport... ?Gateway to Madness¿

Arrived in South America about an hour ago and I´m still alive - That has to count as a result. All the stories I´ve heard in advance about this place have left me pretty much terrified to make eye-contact with anyone.

Already had a police officer offering to accompany me to the domestic terminal and had to tell him I had Venezuelan mates waiting for me before he'd leave me alone. Chances were he had no intentional of robbing or killing me but there was no chance I was going to go alone with him anywhere.

So my options at this point are to chill out or to lock myself in my hotel room. I´m sure I´m being a bit over precautious.

In other Venezuelan related news... it´s fricking hot here. 1000% humidity - it´s like walking through a Turkish bath for the brief 5 minute walk between the terminals.

The weather was cloudy and somewhat misty as we landed. As the plane banked we could not see past the first range of mountains that line the coast and seperate the Simon Bolivar Airport from Caracas. You have the impression that just beyond this mountain range and the curtain of clouds there is a huge continent to explore. This exploration however will have to wait for another trip as I am bound for the Isla de Margarita and this first encounter with mainland South-America will soon be over...

...Blogpost written - two more hours to kill.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

No. 1 Reason Not To Watch The FIFA World Cup

...Or at least not to listen to it.

No, it's not Bono's annoying ad for the tournament on ESPN.


No, it's not that Sepp Blatter is a corrupt bureaucrat and that one can never be sure of any result in football over the past twenty years.



It's not even about the prospect of watching France Vs. England and being truly confused as to who you want to lose more. It's about the vuvuzela -



Here's an alarming taste of things to come. Try if you can to avoid listening to the annoying buzzing in the background of this all SA Super 14 final played out in Soweto this weekend.



Now imagine that noise for a 90 minute football match (you might survive an 80 minute rugby match) and you have the most convincing argument to travelling to South and North America (Venezuala and New York to be specific) and completely ignoring that the World Cup is actually taking place.

Enjoy! Be sure to let me know when you lose the will to live.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Champions League Final in Madrid...

...But the world's media are all focused on the Villa de Madrid Fencing World Cup.

The only reason I've had any interest in the Champion's League final this year is that it's made it impossible to find accommodation in Madrid for the last three weeks. I eventually set off for Madrid this morning with only a rough plan of crashing on the floor of anybodies hotel room that would accept me. Planning ahead I brought a sleeping bag and ground mat. By chance the French team were on my flight and I attached myself like a tick and refused to go away until I'd found a bit of floor I could call my own for the evening.

So, there it is, the glamour of fencing for the Irish fencing team - a hard floor and a sleeping bag.

Looking like there is a strong field for tomorrows competition but that's hardly a surprise. At least I'm not sleeping on a park-bench - that's already a small victory.

Buenos Noches!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Down and Out... and soon to be blogging again... In Paris

This blog has suffered from severe neglect of late but perhaps no more. The French Domestic season is all but over but the international season for picks up again next weekend in Varsovie (Warsaw). I should hopefully have plenty to write about and in the mean time, I can complain about French banks...

...

Goddammit HSBC! Every time I try to leave they pull me back in. After having enough of their policy of arbitrarily dipping into my current account whenever they felt like it to take 'convention d'avenir' that I never signed up for, or "FRAIS TENUE DE COMPTE" , I went an opened an account with an online bank and basically stopped using the account except to make deposits and then immediately transfer them to the online account.

I cancelled my credit card with them, I cancelled my any direct debits I had with them, I carry out no actions in their branches and I thought I'd removed any opportunity for them to charge me anything... But no! Now they want to charge €2.00 a month for a security service to send a code to my mobile in order to access my account online. Looks like a just can't escape them trying to rip me off!

...

I imagine a time where the internet will be full of blogs written by fencers expressing how poor they are (├íla Tim Morehouse's - Flat Broke and a US Olympian, but Worth It or my own various rants against french institutions stealing my money). I'm thinking of writing my own "Trying to live, work and train in Paris on €5 a week" but I'm afraid the post would involve to much boredom and swearing as I got ever more hungry as the week went on.

...

Oh and by the by, if you happen to read this and enjoy occasional rants about fencing, sport, politics, France, food or whatever I feel like writing about why not click the little button that says follow up the top-right.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Know Your Limits... Or Not!

After what seemed like months of so much monkey-droppings worth of stories about chimps with feelings and dogs who "woved deyr ownuhs" and other such tripe Radiolab, a WNYC public radio show and one of my favourite podcasts, is back on form with a show on the Limits of humankind - physical and mental.

The physical limits section of the show is of particular interest to any long-distance runners but also to anyone whose ever pushed themselves physically as far as they thought they could go. The show is always exceptionally well produced and the conversational, story-telling style and rapport between the shows two presenters makes it top-quality radio.

Anyway, you should listen to the show and if you don't podcast it already - what are you doing with you life?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

They know how to make a good music video...



YouTube - OK Go - This Too Shall Pass - Rube Goldberg Machine version - Official: "Rube Goldberg Machine"

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Name Is...

Dear France,

I would like to inform the citizens of your fair land that I know how to spell my own name and, despite what they may believe to be their better judgement, my passport and driver's licence are correct.

My name is not Mc Namee, my name is not MacNamee, my name is not Mac Namee... My name is spelt McNamee.

Yours Sincerely...

Now to translate this message and send it to the Securitie Sociale, my mutuelle, my landlord, my fencing club, the Revenue Service and the many other flailing arms of the great bureaucracy who have ignored how my name is actually spelt.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

FIFA's reaction to last Wednesday Night...

...Ignore it.

Well the dust is starting to settle and the shelf-life of Irish heart-break as an international headline is looking seriously limited at this point.

I saw one rumour that Henry might not play in the world cup according to the back-page of the Paris rag Le Parisien but I think I might have misread it. Roy Keane has instructed us to get over it, Eric Cantona has reminded us that he would have killed Henry, Domenech has patronised us in his arrogant slimy way, Tony Cascarino, a man who quite recently confessed that he was never actually qualified to play for Ireland has chastised Henry as a cheat, the man himself has tried to manage his falling brand image by so very nearly but, very importantly, not really apologising.

But where have FIFA been in all this? Bold statements about finally cleaning up the game? Expansive gestures towards polishing the dripping turd that is the reputation of soccer worldwide? Not a peep aside from their reading of the rule-book on Friday.

This has been the week that I gave up on Football. I have no interest in watching a sport whose governing body has for years now ignored the wishes of its supporters, has allowed cheating to run rampant in the beautiful game and has erased any shred of sportsmanship that existed in the sport through it's inaction.

This report from FIFA's own website typifies its reaction... not one single mention of the moment of cheating that turned the match. FIFA is burying its head well not in sand but in the large lake of money that it maintains in Geneva.

Soccer RIP

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thierry Henry - Class to Cheat in 0.5 second

To get some rambling and unordered thought out of my head before going to sleep...

The difference between Ireland and France this evening was the blatant cheating of the one of the erstwhile greatest players of this generation and a man who was formerly a great ambassador for the game. Thierry Henry handling the ball (twice) intentionally to keep the ball in play has lead Ireland to crash out of the World Cup qualifiers.

After exiting undefeated from a group with the world champions, after being told a week before the draw for the play-offs would be made that the play-offs would be seeded, explicitly to allow greater revenue generating nations a better chance to get into the world cup, a group of footballers dismissed as journeymen and second-rate go toe to toe with one of the greatest nations in world football... and then lose to a blatant act of cheating from the very leader of the "generation Henry"! There is no justice in sport, it is inherently unfair.

Here's my Jerry Springer summing up moment before I cry myself to sleep. If Robbie Keane had stuck the ball up his jersey and ran into the French goal and somehow the referee had allowed the goal (I know, completely hypothetical since the referee was never going to give Ireland the benefit of the doubt), would we Irish still be celebrating...

No wait, I can't do it. That situation didn't happen, that is fantasy. Henry did cheat (blatantly and intentionally) Ireland fought honestly and were given no reward. I feel nothing but disappointment and shame for Thierry Henry - he knows he cheated.

Lizarazu had the class to come out and be frank about what had happen. To paraphrase 'we cannot be proud of what happened this evening it was shameful. We can be relieved but we should be ashamed'. No one chimed in to agree (his co-host was Arsene Wenger who's hardly one to concede wrong-doing) but he was right and I think most reasonable people would agree.

Anyhow, I suppose that is the advantage of sport - "It's not a matter of life or death... it's much more important than that!".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Beatbox Euphonium

Following on my post several months ago pondering which wind instrument would get the beatbox treatment next, my money would have never been on the euphonium...




While I'm at it on my wanders about the interweb I also came across Eric Lewis a massively talented pianist doing some great arrangements of pop-rock songs - his site Eric Lewis Grooves. He has a few albums and I'm investigating which one to invest in...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kitten Rage Haiku

I am the zen master, my chi is focused... A series of haiku based around my experiences with my room-mates cat.

Kitten Rage

Bare foot in something warm
stumble back leaves foot of puke
'Aw poow kittey sick'

Arrive home late night
kitchen roll torn across floor
'Aw kitty been busy'

The faint smell lingers
crunch of pebbles under foot
kitty litter in bathroom

Eating dinner starts
scratching and biting hand
scrapes with shit full claws

Day planned at races
Cat flees apartment, returns
once races are done.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The King Is Dead, Long Live Hypocrisy

Is anyone else as sick about the levels of hypocrisy surrounding MJ's death as me?

Suddenly every idiot on the planet who wasn't even born the last time he released anything more insightful than a particularly musical fart is jumping on their facebook status to claim this man very recently decried as a weirdo was "a god" and "will be sadly missed" etc.

I will acknowledge the man was amazingly commercially successful musician but it does not explain how a man can be so maligned and treated in such a voyeuristic fashion for the last 10 years only for the minute he dies to be hailed as amazing. The same public opinion which seems to have driven the man to apparently starve himself to death is now elevating him to the status of deity.

More to follow...

Friday, July 03, 2009

Brazilian Parkour

Well I can't quite get to sleep while there is a tempest complete with fork-lightning outside my window. What else is there to do except stumble across wonderfully shot Parkour from Sao Paolo. Enjoy!

SAMPARKOUR

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Future Is Here

I can't imagine why this didn't catch on... Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the hover-bike.



I can think of one reason that perhaps lead to the project being abandoned. I could imagine that sitting with a turbine engine between your legs could potentially leave a man infertile after 3 minutes use.

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