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Pet Hate Alert: “, and” – Mind your commas!

Why, oh why can people not write proper English. I am foreigner and at least I have a semi-acceptable excuse, but the amount of native English speakers (and writers) that ALWAYS put a comma before an “and” is shocking.

An example would be: “At the event, there will be music, dance, and theatre!”

This is WRONG!!!!!! A comma can be put before an “and” but only if the following sentence after the “and” could be a self standing sentence. Do not use a comma before “and” in a list.

And if you tell me now that the comma in a list is an Oxford Comma, then I will ask you next if your publication is the “Oxford University Press”, because that is the publication that came up with the very controversial use of a comma in a list.

Goodbye, Internship!

Google’s interpretation of “internship” is the “position of a student or trainee who works in an organization, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification.” The part that is missing in this definition is that the internship is only for a limited period of time. But this is not the only problem with that definition. The other problem is “sometimes without pay”.

Many arts organisations in Dublin regularly look for interns and some say that they couldn’t operate without them. Internships are usually restricted to 6 months and are very very often unpaid.

BUT, this is not ok!

This week the RTE News website reported that the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) was forced to withdraw a job advertisement for a full-time six month long unpaid internship in the area of sports science that required the candidate to have a PhD or a Masters degree. The IRFU claimed that the job ad was publicised “in error” and without approval, seemingly when it was pointed out to them that unpaid internships are essentially illegal.

And this is the shocker that arts organisations in Ireland are clearly unaware of: The Workplace Relations Commission has stated that ALL employees with a contract of employment, even if they are called “intern” are entitled to salary of a minimum of EUR 9.55 per hour. That is EUR 382 for a 40 hour week and is a minimum of EUR 1528 per month. The National Minimum Wage act does NOT contain an exemption for internships.

So what does that mean for the art gallery in Dublin that says “Please note that internships at XXXXXXXXX are unpaid.”? It is illegal! And what about these current (!) job ads:
www.linkedin.com/jobs/view/670035213/ or
ie.indeed.com/cmp/KEELINGS/jobs/Interniship-97faca21db54e156 or
ie.indeed.com/company/Decathlon-Ireland/jobs/Business-Development-Intern-e52c37583b99df09 or
ie.indeed.com/company/Dualway-Group/jobs/IT-Intern-96fc0b43d65cff48
jobs.trovit.ie/listing/marketing-intern.1VB1Dy1j1s1o17
ie.jooble.org/desc/-432130274709652778
ie.jooble.org/desc/2112319712079505216

All dodgy!! And the names of the companies and organisations that break the law? Keelings, Decathlon, Dualway, Connect The Dots, YouBloom, Christ Church Cathedral. This list was the result of a quick Google search and a more detailed search would probably bring a MUCH longer list of companies and organisations that want to employ but not pay.

It is highly likely that plenty more unpaid internships are among this list of vacancies on all websites, especially because many companies don’t say if the internship is paid or unpaid. Sneaky!

The rules seem clear, but do the rules make sense? Yes and no! And it is a similar problem as with Au Pairs in Ireland where the Workplace Relations Commission has said that Au Pairs have to be paid at least the minimum wage. There are circumstances where an Intern (or an Au Pair) can learn a HUGE amount and will get therefore an adequate compensation through the learning that they couldn’t get otherwise. In that case there should be an option maybe to pay a lower amount than the minimum salary. But I know also cases where internship is or has been totally abused to get a free worker in the same way as the IRFU was nearly doing it.

Our government should spend time on fixing the Au Pair and the Internship rules. The way they are now is not helpful to anybody!

Are we all becoming Snowflakes?? Public opinion about “Ophelia Offenders”

The ex-hurricane Ophelia came to visit us last Monday and it was very much a mixed experience. Some people lost property, experienced damage to their house, were cut off from electricity and phone/Internet and sadly three people even lost their lives. Others, however, just saw a few leaves being blown around or a plastic bag flying by. Yes, the experience was THAT diverse! And by the way, this is not a flippant assessment of the storm that Met Eireann warned us with a “RED” weather warning about, but it is based on actual media reports and on comments from people like you and me on the Dublin Event Guide Facebook Page.

People were at home on Monday because a large part of business asked their staff to stay at home all over the country because the weather warning applied to the whole country. And when we are unexpectedly at home with no other plans and nowhere to go, we do nowadays “jump on” the Internet. A huge amount of people did and also shared their opinions and I would definitely say that there were many more opinions given than on other days.

But what surprised me was how judgemental and condemning people are without KNOWING better, just by THINKING they know better. And it also surprised how all this judgement was not based on REAL events but only on EXPECTED events. Let me give you some examples:

1) Two surfers were rescued in Co. Louth on Monday and outraged ensued: “How could they be out in the water during a RED Weather Warning? How irresponsible to get a Lifeboat and a helicopter and other rescue services to bail them out when everybody knows that it is super dangerous.”
Well, let’s look at some of the facts: Surfers ALWAYS go surfing in strong wind, there is no surprise. The rescue happened at 10:20, which was approx. THREE hours before Ophelia arrived in Dublin and between 4 and 5 hours before it was forecasted for Co. Louth, so there were without a doubt NO “RED” state conditions out there even if the Red warning was already – and probably unnecessarily – applicable for the whole country. In addition it was not reported why these surfers got into difficulty and – like mountain walkers – surfers get in difficulty regularly. Can you criticise them over getting into difficulty? Most likely YES!!! If they lack experience, they shouldn’t be out there. But that is completely independent from the Met Eireann weather warning and applies in every storm that is outside of their skill level.
Conveniently the report in the Irish Independent was decorated with a dramatic pictures of mad and dangerous waves in the Tramore, Co. Waterford, one of the worst affected areas. There was no picture from Co. Louth displayed.

2) The missing picture of the REAL conditions in Co. Louth was provided in the next case, but it was duly ignored by the masses of complainers: Dave and Steve Flynn, the owners of “The Happy Pear” in Greystones and other parts of Dublin posted a picture of themselves on Instagram leaving the sea after their morning swim and they wrote “Happy Monday. The calm before the storm this morning where there was blue sky and the sea was like a pool. Inspite of weather warning it was one of the calmest mornings in a while so there was no risk in having a swim.” On the picture you could see a TOTALLY calm see with no waves and no danger. Unfortunately the time is not reported, but I’d say the Flynn brothers are the type of people that mean “early morning” when they say morning, so that means the storm was still far away and we CLEARLY see in the picture that there is no danger.
That didn’t stop “Moneymaid”, however, to comment on The Journal.ie article with “People who swim/walk piers etc in weather like this intentionally put our front line staff in danger. They should be prosecuted if front line staff are required to assist them.”
How does that make sense? NO “front line staff” was put in danger by their swim! Nobody was called out. WHY should anybody be prosecuted if in perfect conditions someone goes for a swim.
Just because there is a blanket warning in place? What about taking personal responsibility and being able to assess the dangers yourself instead of freaking out over something that MIGHT happen in a few hours.
And by the way, if the picture had shown ANY choppiness or waves – and I am talking about moderate waves, not just high waves – I would totally agree that maybe there was a risk and it would be wiser to avoid putting yourself in danger and risking to need help. But there was NO danger.
The Flynn brothers had to apologise over this storm in a teacup … and I am not referring to Ophelia, but to the uproar about their swim!

So what is going on here? Why are people so hypersensitive and so over “protective” (or rather judgemental)?

In 1996 Chuck Palahniuk used the term “Snowflake” in his novel Fight Club and that since has become a term used to characterise a generation that is more prone to taking offence and less resilient than previous generations or that is too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Snowflake) (There is also a more recent meaning of Snowflake in a political context, I am not referring to that!)

Are we all becoming snowflakes? Worried stiff about totally calm water just because someone said “Code RED”? Are we becoming incapable of correctly (!) assessing dangers and making appropriate decisions? Do we need to be wrapped in cotton wool by our government and other authorities?

I think the surfers in Co. Louth possibly should have stayed at home. Not because of the storm warning, but because maybe they didn’t have the skills required even if there had been no warning. But it also is possible that they would have got into trouble without an approaching storm. Leg cramps and lots of other things can happen even on the finest day.
The Flynn brothers on the other hand did absolutely nothing wrong!

And in case you wonder: My opinion about the man who swam in Galway, while the storm was raging: He is an idiot and DEFINITELY shouldn’t be there!

—–

Let me leave you with one more story:
In 2015 Teresa Mannion became famous with her report about storm Desmond www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI5Oxj04_8s and she is a bit of a “storm personality” since then. So many were hoping for a repeat of her warnings during Ophelia but it was a much calmer affair this time here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5BYKUBOvAs Still you have to wonder what Teresa Mannion means when she says in the report “This was a day to remain indoors, unless absolutely necessary to venture out.” Hmm is it really absolutely necessary for Teresa Mannion to venture out on such a day?

 

ID Cards for Ireland? – Storm in a Tea Cup

There are passports in Ireland and most people have one, but for some strange reason some people in Ireland are totally and passionately against any type of ID Card system and currently there is a huge amount of panic amongst that group of people. I really can’t understand why that is! But then I read something that worried even me!

It all started with a report in the newspapers about a woman who’s pension was withheld because she didn’t agree to getting a Social Services Card. We are told that there are currently close to 3mio Social Services Cards issued to people in Ireland and with all children excluded and a population of around 4.7mio, that seems like a huge amount. The card was initially used to combat Social Welfare fraud, but it seems it is now unnecessarily also used for lots of other things and that seems to panic people.

The unnecessary uses of the card are in areas where it seemingly is used as an ID Card, for example if you want to do a driver theory test or if you want to apply for or renews a drivers license or a passport. There is NO need to use a “Public Services Card” in these cases. Instead it should be absolutely find to bring your passport as ID. (The worldwide joke of having to bring some other forms of identity to renew a passport is something I will write about another time. ;-) )

There is no obligation to have a passport AND there is no obligation to have a Public Services Card, but it seems without the Public Services Card you can’t get any services so there is a form of obligation.

But let me pick the pieces apart first:
1) Is an form of ID Card justified for people that receive Social Welfare? I absolutely think so. It helps fighting against fraud.
2) Should a Public Services Card be used for all the other services I have mentioned above? Absolutely not if the person has a passport instead. Sure it can be an option to ID yourself, but only ONE option.
3) Is the Public Services Card a National ID card? No! It isn’t and it doesn’t look like one BUT it is used like an ID card and therefore the principle of “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it most likely is a duck” will apply.

Now SHOULD there be a National ID Card? I definitely think so! It does make sense to have a form of ID (instead of having to bring two household bills!!) but the use of the information “behind” the ID Card has to regulated and should be limited and that is where even I have concerns about the ability of the Irish government and state to protect its citizens.

As you know, I am German. In Germany we have National ID Cards (called Personalausweis) since 1951!! And the requirement to always have an ID card with you was introduced in 1939 and nobody has a problem with this law. I never experienced any problem due to the fact that I had an ID Card or that I had to carry it with me all the time and even today in Ireland, I always have my ID Card with me.

So what is the panic? It seems that the panic is caused by the fear of how the authorities could do bad things to you if they know who you are. BUT they can arrest you anyway if you do something bad with or without ID Card and if you don’t do anything bad then they should not be interested in you, right?

Well, in Germany (and other countries) the system seems to work and you wonder if this panic is just a storm in a tea cup!? A panic about some imaginary risk that will never happen?

But then I read the article in the Irish Times about the person that found her car registration details in the records of the Department of Social Protection. Information that they should have NO access to because every department should only have access to the information they need for their own business.

And when you realise that most likely the Irish government WILL screw this up again and will share information across all departments even if they shouldn’t. Then suddenly you wonder if the worries of the panicking privacy defenders and ID Card opponents are maybe a lot more plausible than it should be?

Next Summer will be in 40 years!?

Last Wednesday (21 June) was the hottest day of the year, when Met Eireann measured 28.6 degrees in Phoenix Park. The whole week, or 5 consecutive days, was 5 degrees warmer than normal and if that happens, it is called a heatwave. For me, it was just a nice warm summer week. because summer temperatures for me START at 20 degrees. But if you are used to the cool 16-18 degrees that Ireland normally gets at this time of the year and if your thermostat is set to that low level, than you were probably melting in the current weather.

Gerard Fleming, the head of forecasting in Met Eireann explained that the last time such a heatwave hit Ireland was 40 years ago, So will it take another 40 years until we have a proper and nice week of summer again?

Unfortunately the heatwave came to an end for now and there is no promise and certainly no guarantee that there will be another one soon. But wasn’t it great while it lasted!?

By the way, did you know what the highest ever temperature was in Ireland? On 26 June 1887 the temperature of 33.3 degrees was measured in Kilkenny. 33.3! That’s not a lot at all. Where I am from in Germany (not Spain, or Italy or Morocco. ;-) ) this is a NORMAL summer temperature!

 
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