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A Different View

This cooking lark was only monkey business all along

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German President Joachim Gauck and his partner Daniela Schadt at Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Galway during their recent visit to Ireland.

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

Among the many things I cannot do, close to the top of the list is cooking – while I may not be quite in the category of those who could burn water, anything that doesn’t go into a microwave or hasn’t a set of instructions for idiots is beyond me.

A pizza is fine because the box tells you to open the wrapping, put the thing in the oven and take it out twenty minutes later; ditto a ready meal where it’s hard to go wrong in the course of four and a half minutes.

But if this process involves a recipe or looking for sauces or pesto or ragu, then the takeaway or the humble ham sandwich are infinitely better options.

None of this culinary cluelessness causes me any great concern because I know so many others in the same boat. And yes, they’re all the male of the species.

But now there’s a slight embarrassment at this lack of culinary ability – because biologists at Yale University have proved you can even train a chimp to cook.

Okay, so the reality is slightly different in that it would probably be bordering on animal cruelty to let a primate loose at a primus – therefore they let the chimps think they’re cooking but the principle is still the same.

For the purpose of proving the point, these bonobos – a furry fella who qualifies as cousin of the chimpanzee – were given a fake oven and some raw sweet potato.

The food was ‘cooked’ by teaching them to shake the container – effectively a prehistoric microwave – and the bonobos picked up this ‘cooking’ task, with extremely positive results.

The secret was that the researchers had already put pre-cooked food in a hidden compartment that opened when the device was shaken.

But to the chimps, the effect was as if their raw food had been cooked.

And over time, the chimps – who apparently grew to prefer cooked sweet potatoes – learned to save their raw food for the chance to ‘cook’ it.

Now it may not exactly qualify as Neven Maguire or Michelin star dining, but in effect these primates, supposedly further down the food chain, were better at cooking than me.

The research was conducted by an evolutionary biologist at Yale and a psychologist at Harvard University, at a chimpanzee sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Fair play to them for convincing their respective bastions of education of the merits of an extended period in the wild teaching monkeys how to make hot dinners.

But despite the benefits of the nice weather, this was no straightforward task.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Exam points are not the only measure of education success

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

By now, the next batch of around 60,000 students set for third-level education are over a week into the Leaving Cert – the exam that will determine what course they attain a place in for the new academic year.

Their success – added to the performances of their class-mates – will determine their alma mater’s position in what are commonly known as the school league tables.

This is a calculation of how successful a secondary school is, based entirely on the number of its Leaving Certs it gets into third-level education.

In turn – based on this – parents will choose where to send their little bundles of joy when the time comes for them to make the transition from primary to second-level.

And it’s such an arbitrary method of determining the relative success or failure of a centre of education, because it leaves so much out of the equation.

Firstly, it means performance is entirely based on the numbers who go on to third-level, ignoring those who gain apprenticeships or go straight into the workplace.

Admittedly, that’s not a large cohort these days because Careers Guidance seems to begin and end with helping you to choose the right course, not the right career.

But more fundamentally, getting a good student to pass his or her exams and gain a place in college isn’t the ultimate test of a teacher; getting a student who is struggling with reading or writing to a level where they comfortably do both is a far better achievement for any teacher.

Bringing a student who is in danger of failing mathematics, for example, to a position where they pass their exams – but more importantly understand how it works – should be recognised in any measure of performance.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

How will we acclimatise as we ease out of Covid?

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

Back in the world before Covid, a mention of Corona either brought to mind a beer or a rock band – but, as we ease our way out of dire straits (another rock band, as luck would have it), we might require a different kind of acclimatisation.

Because what will the evening be like when no more deaths are flashed up as a statistic on the Six-One News?

Who will the world turn to if we have no more Fergal or George or Zara giving out the daily update in a funereal tone?

What will happen to all the people who used to go to the Department of Health press conference at tea-time in the same way the rest of us once headed for the pub?

Like Pavlov’s Dog, we’ve come to expect an evening illness update, taking consolation in it being two less than yesterday or taking fright if it’s two more.

Nobody told us who these poor people were, unless the local paper carried a tribute a week later – for the number crunchers and bean counters and prophets of doom, they were today’s statistics, to be flashed up for a few seconds every night.

And we took these figures as we got them, never questioning if a person died from Covid or with Covid; if they were described as having ‘underlying conditions’, we seemed to accept that as a very broad church.

We listened intently as Fergal or George or Zara told us what the mean age was, breathing a small sigh of relief if it remained a good distance into the future from our own age now.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

Home ownership should be a prerogative – not a pipedream

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

Half of our 18 to 34-year-olds fear they won’t be able to buy a home in next ten years, according to a new survey. That’s not the shock – it’s the fact that half of them think they actually will.

Because the truth is that owning your own home hasn’t been as much of a pipedream since the days of feudal landlords; indeed many of them will find it a job and a half to even come up with the rent.

And that’s a sign of just how critical our housing crisis has become in the space of a single generation.

We thought that things were bad in the eighties when unemployment levels were way ahead of our pre-Covid figures; when the boat and the plane were the best 0or maybe only – chance for many to secure a job far from home.

But for those who were working, owning a home wasn’t a farfetched concept at all, because there were plenty of starter homes being built and the cost of them still bore some relation to your income.

There was a time before that, when the bank had a simple equation to decide the size of the mortgage they’d give you. It was two and a half times the combined salary for those buying the house – in other words, yours alone if you were a sole purchaser, or double that if it was yourself and your partner.

On top of that, there was no point turning up in the first place unless you had a ten per cent deposit – so it was a straight-forward calculation to find out what you could afford. And house prices, for the most part, kept within that equation.

Of course there were always homes you coveted and couldn’t afford, but you could still buy a roof over your head for a price that only took 20 years to pay back.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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