Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A whole new ball game is evolving

Donegal's Mark McHugh is the best sweeper in the game

All sporting success is largely derivative of other sporting success.

When Alf Ramsey's 'Wingless Wonders' landed the 1966 world cup draw rules Cup for England, most domestic clubs in the English league eschewed the traditional winger for a narrower formation.

Ramsey perfected the system at Ipswich Town, and brought it to the international stage.

When Joe Kernan brought Armagh to their solitary All-Ireland title in 2002, he did so with Tony McEntee playing as a withdrawn midfielder, dubbed as the first big-time 'sweeper' in Gaelic football.

The germ of that idea originated with the contingent of Armagh footballers who studied in Queen's and played their varsity football under the coaching of Dessie Ryan.

There, the likes of Kieran McGeeney and the McNulty brothers Justin and Enda would immerse themselves in the possibilities of what could be achieved by tweaking and tailoring formations in Gaelic football.

Around this time, we also witnessed the 'third midfielder', where an immobile lump of a man would wear the number 15 jersey usually reserved for svelte corner-forwards, and instead stay out around the middle to contest kickouts, add heft, and clear a bit of space for two inside-forwards to work in.

Then in order to counter Armagh, Mickey Harte came up with the 'swarm defence', dependent on massive energy reserves and multiple players surrounding a man in possession until he was eventually choked up.

Bearing in mind that these innovations came 20 and 10 years ago, we can safely say that the evolution of Gaelic games since has begun to stall a little.

There have been subtle shifts, but only to existing ideas. For example, take the brand leader in sweepers - Donegal's Mark McHugh.

He is not a sweeper in the Tony McEntee sense but rather a creative and energetic link who, when not in possession, cuts out the corridors for passes forward, and while in possession instantly turns defence into attack.

Alan McCrabbe achieves something along broadly similar lines for Dublin hurlers.

There is much to admire about the Irish rugby team under Joe Schmidt, but perhaps what drew most praise from the players that landed the Six Nations was Schmidt's attention to detail.

Within that set-up, their training sessions were conducted with a mixture of practical and theory. The theory was aided by video analyst Mervyn Murphy working 12-hour days right through the tournament to decipher what was relevant on the opposition.

The backroom team found a receptive audience in the players, who were able to process and learn.

It might be a point to note that, of the teams competing against them, Ireland had the second-highest average age of 26.66 years.

That's a lot of maturity to draw from within a panel.

That maturity, and their humility, made things easy for their sports psychologist, Enda McNulty.

Embedded in the set-up and working across a number of platforms, the depth of tactical knowledge in rugby has been an eye-opener for him since his Queen's days.

"In sport," McNulty says, "We're far too simplistic in our problem solving after a defeat. 'We weren't fit enough' is the classic one in Gaelic games."

Many who have been involved in Gaelic football and hurling will be startled to recognise the truth in that sentence.

As a child, I recall watching my uncle playing on a Tempo Maguires team badly beaten by local rivals Brookeboro.

Immediately after the game, the manager punished his players by forcing them through a gruelling half-hour run through reeds and bushes.

That might have been an extreme example, but there remains a significant proportion of gulpins who insist on 'running the s**** out of them' in the next training session if he feels his team did not perform as he desired.

It's the next thing McNulty says that really nails it.

"There's a lot of talk about how much Gaelic games has tactically evolved over the last five or 10 years. I would say it has been far too slow, that it is virtually prehistoric.

"To look at the attention to detail the likes of Joe (Schmidt, not Kernan) go into, it's a 100 years advance on what Armagh were doing in 2002. In Gaelic games, we think someone's a genius if they bring two men back into the hole to protect their full-back line."

He's right of course, but then the comparison doesn't stand up when you consider that one code is played by amateurs, the other by minted professionals, backed up with a team of highly-accomplished sports scientists.

If you look, you can detect subtle changes, but every sport evolves at its own pace.

And it's not as if the playing style of rugby spent the 150 years between the drawing up of the first set of rules to becoming professional in 1995, in a constant state of flux.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Winn Dixie Employee Reportedly Uses Coupon Codes to Obtain Money

An employee at a Winn Dixie store in DeLand, Fla. reportedly used fraudulent codes from coupons to obtain money from her place of employment.

Ibilola Badmus, of Sanford, Fla., was charged with grand theft of more than $20,000 according to Volusia County Branch jail records Best Buy-codes&tc=ar">The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported Wednesday.

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The incident reportedly cost the store thousands of dollars denting the retail location's revenue fund The News-Journal reported Wednesday.

Employees began to see a decrease in financial reports from the coupon use in February, which amounted in large quantities according to Brandon Haught, spokesman at the Volusia County sheriff's department The News-Journal reported.

Loss prevention officers tracked the transactions back to Badmus when they discovered her coupon activity which totaled $23,000 dating back to November.

Badmus reportedly acknowledged her activity stating she needed the money to fund medical bills from her ill child, which she said was $10,000 The News-Journal reported.

"An internal investigation revealed that it wasn't coupon-cutting customers causing the problem but rather an employee," Haught told The News Journal.

Employees then told the Sherrif's Office, and officers subsequently gathered evidence from the store, and questioned Badmus.

Three thousand dollars of the money was found in her bank account, which was given in to the Sherriff's office by Badmus's husband.

Winn Dixie has over 480 stores throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Three hundred and eighty have pharmacies inside them in according to information on the retailer's website. The company also employs 63,000 people.

Winn Dixie offers a variety of different brands at its various stores. These include, Topcare, Paws, Fisherman's Wharf, Chek, Prestige, Kuddles, Valu Time, Winn and Lovett, Winn-Dixie Organics and Naturals, and Winn-Dixie which has more than 2,800 products according to information on its website.

The stores sell meat, produce, bakery, deli, floral, and kosher products.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Amazon strike merchandising deal

SEATTLE - One of the biggest names in professional basketball history has announced a partnership with one of the biggest names in e-commerce.

According to The Puget Sound Business Journal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Starguard Collectibles has a deal with Amazon Deal to sell athlete-signed merchandise on the website.

Starguard sells sports memorabilia that is directly from the athletes. DNA taken from the athlete's thumbprint verifies the authenticity of autographs on the merchandise.

More information about Starguard Collectibles can be found on the company's website.

Monday, March 17, 2014

[Weekend Poll] Are You Keeping Your Amazon Prime Membership With The $20 Price Hike (If You Have One)?

While we didn't report on the story ourselves, Buy">Amazon's decision to raise the price of its Prime membership service by $20 (to $100 a year) has hard corners of the internet up in arms, albeit over something no one really needs in the first place.

If you're not in one of the countries where Prime is available (I was surprised to learn that it is, in fact, available outside the US), you may not be familiar with the service. The gist is free 2-day shipping on a huge number of items ( even a $1000+ 3-piece sectional sofa) available on Amazon, reduced pricing on overnight or weekend shipping, Kindle Lending Library access, and Amazon Prime's Instant Video service, which has thousands of free TV episodes and movies. For less than $10 a month, it's still a pretty remarkable deal.

And yet, there is decided angst being expressed about the change on various social networks, and the tech media is eating it up. So, we're curious - is the price hike going to cause you to say goodbye to Prime? Have you even said hello? I know I'll be keeping my subscription (which is still student for another year, though I'd happily pay $100 for the 'Prime Privilege'), as I know I get way more than my money's worth from the service between TV / movies and free shipping without having to spend $35 per order. Hell, I order my toothpaste from Amazon - I'd probably pay $150 a year for it without so much as flinching.

But $20 more a year has apparently caused some people to already pull the plug on their subscriptions. What say you?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Top 5 Best Online Deals on Sony Xperia E1 Dual SIM Smartphone To Buy In India

<Deal Nowp>Japan-based premium smartphone maker has now been focussing a bit on the mid-range and affordable handset models. The Xperia M handset launched last year was pretty much an impressive device. Now for this year the company has already launched an affordable handset called the Xperia E1 Dual SIM handset.

Thus today GizBot has come up with a number of deals on the handset available in India. But before that you might want to take a look at the specs of the handset before going ahead with the deal. The Xperia E1 Dual SIM, which was unveiled back in January alongside Xperia T2 Ultra might is an enhanced version of its predecessor, the original Xperia E.

The device features a 4-inch WVGA display featuring 480 x 800 pixels, and runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean mobile OS. Under the hood, you will notice a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8210 processor coupled with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal memory, which can be expandable up to 32GB via a microSD card slot.

Recommended: Top 10 Best Sony Xperia Smartphones With Quad Core CPU Support To Buy In India

On the imaging front, the Xperia E1 incorporates a 3-megapixel camera sensor with 4X zoom and an option to record videos in 720p HD format. Unfortunately, there the phone does not come with a front-facing camera. The Xperia E1 packs 100 decibel (Db) speakers, which is something to reckon with. Additionally, the Sony Xperia E1 features a 1,750mAh removable battery fitted inside.

Also, Sony also is offering a promotional 30 day free pass for company's Entertainment Network music streaming service. The device also supports 3G connectivity. The Xperia E1 handset comes in three sizzling colors: Black, Purple and White.

Take a look at the deals on the handset in the sliders below:

Click Here For The New Sony Xperia E1 Dual Smartphone Photos Gallery Recommended: Top 10 Best Full HD Display Smartphones To Buy in India

Friday, March 7, 2014

Got Milk: after failing to steal Spotify's thunder, Samsung aims for Pandora

Samsung launched a new free music app for users of its smart phones Friday that aims to take on pandora with a free and ad-free radio streaming experience and a unique interface that takes some design cues from terrestrial radio. It's the company's second major foray into music services, and it could signal a shift in direction.

Milk, as the new app is called, offers access to some 200 genre-based stations, as well as the ability to launch custom stations based on artists or songs, just like Pandora. The app's user interface is however very different from Pandora's fairly straightforward music player. At the center of the Milk experience is a virtual dial that can be used to quickly scan through stations that are arranged by genre.

At the center of the Milk app is a dial that lets users skip through and browse for stations.

As the users scans through these stations, Milk actually plays the beginning of each song, making it sound a bit like skipping through the signals of terrestrial radio, minus the white noise and ear-wrecking interferences. It's a fun experience that's being made possible by Milk caching 8 seconds of the first song of each and every station, explained Samsung Mobile Services Director Chris Martinez during a briefing with journalists in San Francisco Thursday.

Milk will be made freely available to U.S. users of Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 as well as Galaxy Note devices through the Google Play store starting Friday. The service is ad-free for now, but Martinez and Samsung Media Solutions Senior Marketing Director Aline Yu said Thursday that the company may evaluate whether to add advertising, or possibly offer a freemium model, in the future. One possible value proposition for a freemium offering would be streaming quality. Currently, users can chose to stream with either 50 kbps or 96 kbps, but audiophiles may be willing to pay for higher bit rates.

Milk's music streams and its recommendation engine is powered by Slacker, but the service will also offer access to Samsung-exclusive content from select artists in the future, according to Yu. Just like Pandora, Milk is DMCA-compliant, which means that you can only skip up to six times in an hour per station. The same licensing regulations also limit the number of songs played by the same artist, which is why a Beatles station might quickly switch to Cosby Stills Young and Nash, followed by some more recent Paul Simon recordings.

A fun interface, but no social sharing

I had a chance to play a bit with an early release of the app Thursday, and have to say that I actually enjoyed the user interface. The dial is a fun way to switch between stations, and the nod to old-fashioned radio is charming. Of course, that novelty factor could eventually wear off, but the radio experience is still pretty solid.

Milk stations are DMCA-compliant, so you won't hear just one artist - but you can finetune the results.

Sadly, Milk doesn't really offer any additional information about the music it's playing, which makes it a pretty bad music discovery app. Also missing is any social sharing, but Martinez said that this is one of the features under consideration for future releases.

The fact that Milk doesn't have any ads is pretty neat, but listeners occasionally get to hear a "station ID" jingle, which is essentially a really short plug for the service itself. Yu told me that this very brief jingle may show up in a user's stream two to three times per hour.

Is Samsung better off with Milk?

There's something else that's interesting about Milk: It's not the only music service offered by Samsung. The company is also running a Spotify-like subscription offering that is being sold for $10 a month. That service, which is offered through the Samsung Hub app, is based on a service run by mSpot, a company Samsung acquired in May of 2012. Samsung has never said how many users its subscription music service has, but there is no evidence that it has gotten a whole lot of traction in a market that's dominated by Spotify and that has proven challenging even for long-running competitors like Rhapsody and Rdio.

At the briefing in San Francisco, it seemed like Samsung is much less bullish about subscription music these days. "We think we are better off looking at radio as a democratized service," said Martinez, adding that the target market of users who access radio is much larger than that of subscription music services, whose total customer base across all services he pegged at under 10 million. Samsung's goal was to be where "millions and millions" of users are, he added.

I quizzed Martinez about the fate of Samsung's music subscription offering after the briefing, and interestingly enough, he declined to say whether it will still be around in the future. "It's around now," he said instead.

It is indeed, but given the difficulties other services have had in this space, one has to wonder for how much longer.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Would Md. ICC toll discount draw more drivers?

LAUREL, Md. -- As the Intercounty Connector remains relatively unused, one candidate for Maryland governor wants to offer an incentive to commuters to drive the toll road.

Attorney General Doug Gansler says if he were elected governor, drivers who used the ICC at least 15 times per month would get a 50 percent Buy Cheap on all tolls. The roadway runs between Interstate 95 in Laurel and Interstate 370 in Gaithersburg, with a final segment from 95 to Route 1 in Laurel opening this summer.

"Our region was ranked the worst in the country for traffic. There's a lot of congestion on the Beltway. The whole purpose of spending $3 billion on the ICC was to reduce traffic. That hasn't been done. If you look at the ICC at any given time, it's like an empty runway at an airport. So the idea here is for people using the ICC to commute, to give them a reduced price," says Gansler.

For a commuter going end-to-end in rush hours, tolls cost about $60 a week, or about $3,000 per year. Gansler says under his proposal, that same driver would only spend $1,500 per year.

"The reason we picked 15 trips per month is because it shows a driver's commitment to use the road. Financially, there would be a break-even proposition because ... if you drop the price, more people will use it. In the short term, there may be a loss of money for the state. But in the long term, the increased ridership will compensate for the lower toll," says Gansler.

Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews has called upon the Maryland Transportation Authority to cut all tolls in half, no matter how often a driver uses the road. While the principles are similar, Gansler says he believes limiting the discount to commuters makes more sense. He says the Andrews proposal goes too far, although the two use similar language to characterize the roadway.

"When we found out that it was being used on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the Harbor Tunnel, it seemed like, why are they not using it for people in Montgomery and Prince George's County?," he says.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running against Gansler, did not commit to a position on the issue.

"I think it's important to look at the impact of what a rate reduction would mean," Brown says.

"Certainly, we want to increase ridership on the Intercounty Connector. Studies right now show that reducing the tolls would not accomplish that. So I'm interested in looking at all the measures we can take to increase volume on the ICC, so that it can accomplish its purpose of alleviating congestion on the Beltway and facilitating trips between places like Rockville and BWI."

MDTA officials do not agree with Gansler's proposal, saying the agency would not consider such a concept.

"The ICC was built for the future, and not to be at full capacity with the traffic demands of today. A key purpose for tolling the ICC is to manage these future traffic demands and congestion in order to continue providing the time savings and reliability that it does today. Using a different tolling model by offering commuter discounts is counter to the roadway's purpose," writes MDTA spokeswoman Cheryl Sparks.

When asked how the ICC differs from the Bay Bridge or Baltimore's Harbor Tunnel, she reiterated that the ICC is a congestion-managed roadway.

"Commuter discounts on the ICC are not being considered, as this is contrary to the tolling methodology for which the ICC was built," she writes.

Gansler says that if he is elected Maryland governor, he expects the MDTA to change its position.

"The MDTA serves at the pleasure of the governor. The board is picked by the governor. You would just say that we spent almost $3 billion on this road, we need to use it. It's taxpayer money. We need to actually have the ICC pay off and benefit the people for whom it was built," says Gansler.

MDTA officials say the roadway is reducing traffic on nearby roads, pointing to a report from the Council of Governments released in June. The agency also says the roadway is meeting traffic projections and remains in a ramp-up period.

Gansler counters that it hasn't had an impact on the Capital Beltway. He adds the ICC is not meeting the original expectations, pointing to how the MDTA lowered the traffic projections in 2005. He says MDTA lowered the bar so much that you can step over it.

As The Washington Post reported late last year, the ICC took in $39.6 million in revenue in fiscal year 2013. The figure met internal expectations, but was much lower than the $50 million to $80 million projected in 2005.

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