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"

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