Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What is the origin of the term 'Luck of the Irish'?

What is the origin of the term 'Luck of the Irish'?

Surely the term "The luck of the Irish" originated from the fact that despite hundreds of years of prosecutuion by the British, land grabs by the British, occupation by the British, the very fact that Ireland still exists is kind of "Luck" in itself.


The saying refers to the fact that the Irish people have come through such overwhelming adversity and have come out on top and kicking! It must be luck... or true perseverance.


"Luck of the Irish" Refers to the Abundance of Good Fortune Long Enjoyed by the Irish

Really? What sort of luck is it that brings about 1,000 years of invasion, colonization, exploitation, starvation and mass emigration? In truth, this term has a happier, if not altogether positive, American origin. During the gold and silver rush years in the second half of the 19th century, a number of the most famous and successful miners were of Irish and Irish American birth. For example, James Fair, James Flood, William O'Brien and John Mackay were collectively known as the "Silver Kings" after they hit the famed Comstock Lode. Over time this association of the Irish with mining fortunes led to the expression "luck of the Irish." Of course, it carried with it a certain tone of derision, as if to say, only by sheer luck, as opposed to brains,

could these fools succeed.


The flap about Twitter

Twitter lets you shout out 140 characters of micromessage to the world, or at least to whoever is watching the tweetstream at the exact second your two cents blip by. Twitter is a massive social experiment in the dissemination of profound and banal bits: news updates, pet photos, traffic reports, jokes, amber alerts, direct marketing offers, one-sided fragments of conversations, citizen journalism, profanity, random inquiries, self-promotion, truncated hyperlinks and more. Twitter is mashup, misfit media defined. It is the quintessential tool fit for a remix culture.

Special to Globe and Mail Update

It shouldn't be a surprise to hear that Twitter is the fastest growing social networking site on the Internet, expanding astronomically at a rate of close to 1,000 per cent year over year. People are more interested in themselves and each other than in any mass media.

The intoxicating blend of online anonymity and Internet microfame has proved irresistible for about eight million regular tweeters, who are busy discovering, ignoring, following, blocking and retweeting each other.

Twitter lets you shout out 140 characters of micromessage to the world, or at least to whoever is watching the tweetstream at the exact second your two cents blip by. Twitter is a massive social experiment in the dissemination of profound and banal bits: news updates, pet photos, traffic reports, jokes, amber alerts, direct marketing offers, one-sided fragments of conversations, citizen journalism, profanity, random inquiries, self-promotion, truncated hyperlinks and more. Twitter is mashup, misfit media defined. It is the quintessential tool fit for a remix culture.

The Twitter phenomenon, launched three years ago, has tipped from belonging to the subculture of geek hipsters into the mainstream. Third-party developers have flooded the market with widgets and applications, expert consultants will help you be a shining star in the Twitterverse, and e-mail notifications will inform you when your followers are dumping you (how humbling). The emerging Twitter industries are fertile ground for creative types, social media upstarts, PR folks, mark

Importantly, it's not just kids jumping on the bandwagon. The average age on the site is 31, five years older than the typical Facebooker. Now most major players in the news industries are tweeting alongside national brands, authors and artists, retailers, sports teams, CEOs and non-profits. Government offices and politicians are joining the fray, including early adopter U.S. President Barack Obama (who has ceased using the service since taking office). A slew of pop-culture celebrities and trade characters are tweeting through real and fake profiles. (Accounts for Bill O'Reilly, Snoop Dogg, Ashton Kutcher, Kelly Ripa, Jimmy Fallon, 50 Cent, Hulk Hogan and Britney Spears are real; ones for the Dalai Lama, Emma Watson, Darth Vader and Sarah Palin are not; Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey we aren't so sure about.)

Looking at Twitter from the outside, the public timeline is a mishmash of arbitrary tidbits, impossibly random and nonsensical. As is the case with many things however, from the insider's perspective, Twitter delivers a unique and valuable user experience. First, the service supports building a network of microconnections with a motley crew of likeminded people who might otherwise never meet. Secondly, this is an opt-in communications tool, which means subscribers are not (necessarily) deluged with virtual flotsam and jetsam, but instead select who they'll receive updates from, whose information is relevant, which castoff bits prove intriguing. If tweets become tiresome, readers won't hesitate to vote with their mouse or keypads. Those who send what are perceived as incomprehensible, irksome, or useless tweets risk being unfollowed with one swift click.

All of this innovation and mainstreaming hasn't deterred a microblog media backlash. Many are skeptical and dismissive of Twitter, criticizing it as a narcissistic time-waster. Yet this simple messaging service is having an immense impact on the Web itself.

Some laud Twitter as the next great thing in real-time online social searching. That has Google's attention. Twitter facilitates peer-to-peer queries and resource sharing. Twitter attracted a buyout offer from Facebook last fall. When that didn't work out, Facebook (which is more than 20 times larger than Twitter) launched a site redesign that is unashamedly Twitteresque. The redesign caused a wave of dissent and debate on Facebook, as each upgrade will do - pleasing 180 million is no easy feat - but many users have admitted being pleasantly surprised. The result will likely be an influx of millennials to Twitter, extending their digital footprint on a site where it is much faster to expand your network in strange and interesting directions.

Nielsen Media metrics released figures last week indicating that social networks are already more popular than e-mail. This shouldn't surprise us either. In an age of inbox inundation, economical Twitter demonstrates that less is more. A mere 140 characters forces the long-winded to be refreshingly concise. This encourages more people each day to plug in, hang around this virtual water cooler, lurking and listening, shooting the bits and hoping to see their name in tweets.

Sidney Eve Matrix is assistant professor and Queen's National Scholar of Film and Media at Queen's University, where she teaches mass communication and popular culture trends.

Pope says condoms not the answer to fighting AIDS

Associated Press

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Benedict XVI today said the distribution of condoms is not the answer in the fight against AIDS in Africa.

He has never spoken explicitly on condom use although he has stressed that the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against AIDS. The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight the spread of the disease.

“You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

Some priests and nuns working with victims of the AIDS pandemic ravaging Africa question the church's opposition to condoms.

The pope also said he intends to make an appeal for “international solidarity” for Africa in the face of the global economic downturn. He said that while the church does not propose specific economic solutions, it can give “spiritual and moral” suggestions.

Describing the current crisis as the consequence of “a deficit of ethics in economic structures,” the pope said, “It is here that the church can make a contribution.”

Pope Benedict's seven-day pilgrimage will take him to Cameroon and Angola.

Africa is the fastest-growing region for the Roman Catholic Church.

Science minister won't confirm belief in evolution

Researchers aghast that key figure in funding controversy invokes religion in science discussion

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Canada's science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won't say if he believes in evolution.

“I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

A funding crunch, exacerbated by cuts in the January budget, has left many senior researchers across the county scrambling to find the money to continue their experiments.

Some have expressed concern that Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., is suspicious of science, perhaps because he is a creationist.

When asked about those rumours, Mr. Goodyear said such conversations are not worth having.

“Obviously, I have a background that supports the fact I have read the science on muscle physiology and neural chemistry,” said the minister, who took chemistry and physics courses as an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo.

“I do believe that just because you can't see it under a microscope doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It could mean we don't have a powerful enough microscope yet. So I'm not fussy on this business that we already know everything. … I think we need to recognize that we don't know.”

Asked to clarify if he was talking about the role of a creator, Mr. Goodyear said that the interview was getting off topic.

Brian Alters, founder and director of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal, was shocked by the minister's comments.

Evolution is a scientific fact, Dr. Alters said, and the foundation of modern biology, genetics and paleontology. It is taught at universities and accepted by many of the world's major religions, he said.

“It is the same as asking the gentleman, ‘Do you believe the world is flat?' and he doesn't answer on religious grounds,” said Dr. Alters. “Or gravity, or plate tectonics, or that the Earth goes around the sun.”

Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said he was flabbergasted that the minister would invoke his religion when asked about evolution.

“The traditions of science and the reliance on testable and provable knowledge has served us well for several hundred years and have been the basis for most of our advancement. It is inconceivable that a government would have a minister of science that rejects the basis of scientific discovery and traditions,” he said.

Mr. Goodyear's evasive answers on evolution are unlikely to reassure the scientists who are skeptical about him, and they bolster the notion that there is a divide between the minister and the research community.

Many scientists fear 10 years of gains will be wiped out by a government that doesn't understand the importance of basic, curiosity-driven research, which history shows leads to the big discoveries. They worry Canada's best will decamp for the United States, where President Barack Obama has put $10-billion (U.S) into medical research as part of his plan to stimulate economic growth.

But in the interview, Mr. Goodyear defended his government's approach and the January budget, and said it stacks up well when compared to what Mr. Obama is doing.

He also talked about how passionate he is about science and technology – including basic research – and how his life before politics shaped his views.

Now 51, Mr. Goodyear grew up in Cambridge. His parents divorced when he was young. His father was a labourer, his mother a seamstress who worked three jobs to the support her three children.

His first summer job was laying asphalt when he was 12. At 13, he got a part-time job at a garage, pumping gas. At 17, the young entrepreneur started his own company selling asphalt and sealants.

He was in the technical stream at high school, taking welding and automotive mechanics. No one in has family had ever gone to university, but he secretly started taking academic credits at night school so he could get admitted to the University of Waterloo. He didn't want his family to know.

He took chemistry, physics, statistics and kinesiology, and was fascinated by the mechanics of human joints. After three years of university, he was admitted to the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, where he was class president and valedictorian.

He had his own practice in Cambridge, where he settled down with his wife Valerie. He worked as chiropractor for two decades, and set up private clinics to treat people who had been injured in car accidents, sometimes using devices that he invented to help them rebuild their strength and range of motion.

He had sold that business when, before the 2004 federal election, a friend approached him about running for the Conservative nomination in Cambridge. His two children were then in their late teens, so he agreed. He took the nomination and won the seat. He was re-elected in 2006, and again in 2008, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper named him science minister.

“Now I have got a portfolio that I am absolutely passionate about and frankly connected to,” he said, adding that his days of experimenting with engines in high school automotive class gave him an appreciation for what it feels like to come up with something new.

“When I was in high school, we were already tweaking with a coil that would wrap around the upper [radiator] hose and it got an extra five miles to the gallon. … So I've been there on this discovery stuff.”

Commercializing research – the focus of the government's science and technology policy – is an area where Canada needs to make improvements, he says.

“If we are going to be serious about saving lives and improving life around this planet, if we are serious about helping the environment, then we are going to have to get some of these technologies out of the labs onto the factory floors. Made. Produced. Sold. And that is going to fulfill that talk. So yes, we have to do all of it, we have to do discovery … but it can't end there.”

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