Monthly Archives: April 2008

Spare a thought…

for two Irish children:

The two children who died in Saturday’s murder-suicide in Wexford were dead in their beds before the fire that gutted the house in Clonroche broke out, it was confirmed last night.

Postmortems revealed Mark, 6, and Julie, 5, may have been poisoned or suffocated by their father who shot himself in the head after shooting his wife. 

Conclusive autopsy reports will take weeks, but I’m not sure we’ll ever know exactly why Diarmuid Flood took such horrific action.

Making progress

The National is well into its life as a full-blown, honest-to-God newspaper and I’m bloody shattered. And I’m not one of the people who’ve been working six-day weeks for the past two months (that’s an awful lot of hyphens in two sentences, Colin will shmack me).

As is always the case in this industry, some nights go more smoothly than others. We’ve had to grow up fast and I think we’ve done that. Onward we go.

I love the smell of ink in the morning


(click for high-res, in focus version)


The newspaper I came to work for in Abu Dhabi has launched. Months of hard work from all parties involved (I was a mere interloper at three-and-a-half months’ service) have come to fruition. I do not think I can accurately describe how happy I am that the paper is finally out, how happy I am that there is now a tangible payoff for what I’ve been working on.

The newsroom was abuzz yesterday afternoon as we trooped in to get the show on the road. Everybody was taken with the sense that now was the time and yes, this was really going to happen. After weeks of dry runs — where we produced full editions but they did not go to print — we were itching to get things moving. This was not limited to us mere oiks in production, but shared by reporters, comment editors such as Rasheed and senior editors such as Colin.

Suited for the occasion, undoubtedly the biggest of my career so far, I entered the fray of text editing alongside my keyboard-wielding colleagues and we came out the other side largely intact. A little frayed, perhaps, and a little stretched, but nonetheless glowing and grinning at having played parts, however tiny, in helping The National make it to the streets of the United Arab Emirates. The main paper-builders, of course, include Martin Newland, the editor-in-chief, Hassan Fattah, the deputy editor, and the aforementioned Colin, the executive editor.

(Martin, as you might expect, spent the evening at the Emirates Palace Hotel at the gala launch of the newspaper. Colin and Hassan largely spent it on the newsroom floor [thanks for the pizzas, Hassan] keeping us on the straight and narrow, along with the production editor Rob McKenzie and his deputy David Green.)

I have only been in print rooms two or three times, but I do love the smell of ink. It hangs in the air as the presses hammer and thread raw newsprint and transform it into the collection of words and pictures you hold in your hands. As midnight came and went we headed to the press building in search of early editions. We did not find them, but the arts section was fully printed up while business and sport were coming off the machines at a rate of knots. Waves of people from other sections of the paper came and went, all seeking a touch of the magic that came with launching this newspaper. The news section suffered its delays but later that morning the first copies of The National made their ways onto newsstands in Abu Dhabi and elsewhere. We had arrived.

We have taken the first steps. We have come a long way from the temporary newsroom we inhabited until last week. Now we do it all over again every night. 😀

Voices of ancient history

Anthropologists and computer geeks have worked their magic and reproduced Neanderthal speech. Yes, they spoke. They just didn’t sound anything like modern humans.

The conclusion is that Neanderthals spoke, but sounded rather different to us. Specifically, the ancient humans’ lacked the “quantal vowel” sounds that underlie modern speech and which provide cues that help speakers understand one another.

By modeling the sounds that a Neanderthal larynx would have made, McCarthy’s team engineered the sound of a Neanderthal saying “e.”

In contrast to a modern human “e,” the Neanderthal version lacks a quantal hallmark, which helps a listener distinguish the word “beat” from “bit,” for instance.

Go download and listen here and here.

The clock ticks down

Tomorrow night The National goes live, with the first edition out on Thursday. We’ve come a long way in the three and a half months I’ve been in Abu Dhabi. Now let’s see if we can take it that bit further.

Incidentally, the paper’s content will be available at, which will be active the day the paper hits the newsstands.