Thursday, December 29, 2005

RTE and Christmas

Congratulations to RTE who proved that charity is at the heart of Christmas. For indeed charity can be the only explanation for their schedule over the holidays. Every poor old celebrity in Ireland who could sing, do a magic trick, tell a story, or just stand there and smile at the audience were brought onto some stage or other to entertain the public. Many of these people no longer have a real income, the target audience for their music having died sometime during the famine of 1846. Now RTE is the only organisation on the face of the planet trying to support these people, feeding both their wallets and their egos. From bad Elvis impersonators to Daniel O'Donnell, RTE are firmly stuck in a timeline all their own.

Unfortunately I'm stuck in 4 channel land so I cant avoid RTE. My parents have so far refused to get a satellite dish using the logic that since there's never anything on TV why would they want more channels? I've tried to explain that the lack of good programming, scripting and acting is something RTE seems to be proud of. Where, for example, have they gotten the actors on Fair City? Were they homeless and scavenging in the dumpsters behind the BBC offices when the RTE recruiter came around and took pity on them? The Christmas week is the only time I am home for any long period of time so I don't push the subject and go find other things to amuse myself, mmm Carlsberg and Christmas Cake :-).

Anyway I'll be back up to Dublin on Saturday to celebrate New Years, after which I hope to get a connection speed faster than 19K and one that lasts longer than 5 minutes (bloody Eircom), so this is a very fast post (excuse any spelling mistakes or typos). My blog will soon return to its old frequency, I promise :-)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

I'm at home with my family, watching It's a Wonderful Life on TV3 and trying to get a decent dial-up speed. Just a quick post to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, I'll be back after the holidays.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ahh, the Christmas Party

Its that wonderful time of year again, our office Christmas party. Experience has taught me that its good to have the following day off, which I do this year. Lots of food and drink, usually followed by a trip to some random nightclub that we all afterwards agree was awful and why did we stay out til 3am. Then everyone staggers out into the night, gets refused from Joys nightclub on the grounds that its closed at 4am. Then on to find an open kebab shop followed by a search for an empty taxi and the next morning people slowly wander in to the office with Lucozade (like Power-Aid) in one hand and a sausage sandwich in the other, to sit at their desks and try to ignore the bright glare their monitor seems to be giving off that morning. As you can tell its usually one of the best work nights of the year. :-)

Anytime now I expect someone to wander from desk to desk around the office and out of earshot of management say, "Fancy a few pints before the meal?".

Who was the first human in space?

Anyone remember who the first man in space was? Some crazy space historians claim that someone called Yuri Gagarin was the first. But of course since he wasn't actually American and didn't bring a TV camera then that doesn't really count, does it? I mean the nation this so called "Cosmonaut" came from doesn't even exist anymore, so logically some Americans can now forget about him.

Boing Boing has a story about the first human in space, a man called Joe Kittenger who went into space in a balloon and parachuted back to Earth. Most web sites about him say he went to the edge of space, but that's close enough these days. Boing Boing, The Discovery Channel and Google Video Search can drop an embarrassing loss in the space race from history and label an American as the first man in space.

NASA may acknowledge the fact that Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space, but what would they know about making good TV?

I guess history really is written by the victors.

Monday, December 19, 2005

John Spencer, RIP

I was saddened at the weekend to learn of the death of John Spencer. Spencer played Leo McGarry on the TV series The West Wing. For those unfamiliar with the show Leo McGarrys role was Chief of Staff of the White House and Spencers portrayal of the character lifted the whole show. It was his job to make the viewer believe that the collection of characters in the show could lead America. Watching John Spencer play Leo McGarry on screen made Chief of Staff of the White House my dream job. The president, played by Martin Sheen, would never have succeeded without his Chief of Staff. Leo was the real leader of the pack.

All of McGarrys power and influence on screen came from the way Spencer played him. A tough, clever, powerful, yet human and likeable figure. One minute Leo could be in the war room reviewing the plans for a military strike against a rogue nation, the next he would be in his office loosing another discussion with his assistant, Margaret, all the time it was well delivered by Spencer. His best scenes were where he kept the other characters from bringing down the nation.

Leo McGarry: You saw Sam's friend?
Sam Seaborn: How did you know?
Leo McGarry: I had you tailed.
Josh Lyman: You had us tailed?
Leo McGarry: Yes.
Sam Seaborn: Why?
Leo McGarry: On the off chance that you're as stupid as you look.

Spencer died on Friday after suffering a heart attack. This is a real case of life imitating art as in the TV show his character suffered a heart attack and had to leave his job in the White House for most of the 6th season. Since then he had returned to prominence in the show as the Vice-Presidential candidate. His temporary reduced role in the show seriously diminished the show, his death diminishes the whole of television.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Still offline

Since my laptop is still broken and I havent gotten a replacement my blogging exploits will have to slow down for a while. I will post from time to time using other computers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

ITV to close ITV News

I have NTL Digital at home. That gives us 7 news stations ITV, Sky, CNBC, EuroNews, CNN, BBC and Bloomberg. Of those 7 the only two I watch are ITV and BBC. The rest are either boring, too garish in their sets and graphics, or too quick to display BREAKING NEWS so that the screen is full of stories that don't actually exist.

Now it the Examiner is reporting that ITV news is to close. That's a shame. I guess ITV must still be suffering from the failure of its digital service a few years ago.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bloody Laptop

My laptop finally gave up the ghost over the weekend. I own a 2 year old Dell 5150 and while it was a pretty good laptop with good battery life and good performance, there was an inherent weakness in it, the power socket is connected to the motherboard and tends to break. (The IT manager in work described it more sweepingly as "Its a Dell").

For the last few months the power cable was a little sensitive and would disconnect as I moved the laptop. Over the weekend it got worse and I had to wedge the cable at a weird angle to make a connection. Finally, last night, even that stopped working. After a quick search on the web I found lots of other people have the same or similar problems and Dell charge $400 to fix it, which is probably more than the laptop is now worth.

I now have two batteries which usually give me 3 hours of life each. With that six hours I have to backup my laptop and get it repaired, out of warranty, or get a new one. Bloody Dell.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas Toy Appeal

Here is a good cause that I think is worth a mention.

Barnardos and AIB have teamed up again this year to collect toys that will be distributed to children in poor famlies. Christmas is a very special time, especially for children, but unfortunately many families find it difficult to make ends meet as Christmas becomes more and more commercial. This appeal helps to bring Santa to these children.

You are welcome to bring new (unwrapped if possible) toys to any AIB branch and leave in the special Better Ireland toy appeal bag - your gift will support children and families in Barnardos services throughout Ireland. Your kind donation will go to a child attending a Barnardos service and any surplus toys will help to provide support services for more children throughout the country, making sure your gift keeps on giving long after Christmas is over.

It couldnt be simpler. I know its a little late to blog about this as it ends next Friday, the 16th, but when I mentioned this to some friends at lunch on Friday I was surprised that they had not heard of it before.

Friday, December 09, 2005

National Day of Protest Joke

Bad joke of the day:

Did you hear the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have asked people not to finish decorating their Christmas Trees?

The Irish Faries are on strike.

If you dont understand, follow this link, though it only makes the joke worse :-)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Starbucks Challenge Round 3

Green LA Girl and City Hippy are running the third round of the Starbucks Challenge. Those who have been reading this blog will have seen my postings about the previous rounds of the challenge.

The basic idea behind the challenge is that the Starbucks Corporation has a policy that all its stores should have Fair Trade coffee available, even if it is only as a brew and not in the espresso machine. Fair Trade is important because it helps the coffee growers in the poorest parts of the world, not with charity and hand outs, but by cutting out middlemen and providing a fair price for the coffee beans.

Now the problem is that not all the Starbucks stores do have Fair Trade coffee, so while Starbucks Corp get a lot of good press and marketing from Fair Trade, some stores and the baristas working on the ground don't actually know what Fair Trade is let alone provide it.

It is at this point that the bloggers step in. Green LA Girl and City Hippy have organized a campaign to get people to check how well their local Starbucks does. I've taken the challenge in 3 stores, including the two in Dublin and I'm glad to say they have all passed. Others have not had the same experience.

Now the third round of the challenge has started. This one doesn't even require you to buy a coffee. All they are asking is for people to sign a letter calling on Starbucks to live up to their promises and to make sure their franchises do provide Fair Trade coffee.

Budget time

It's that time of the year again when the Irish Government takes from the rich to give to the poor, Budget 2006. Except seeing how this is Ireland and the government is in awe of the rich we don't actually take any money from the rich, instead we give them tax exemptions.

Fortunately things have moved on from Robin Hoods time. Now you don't need to take from the rich to give to the poor, you can instead take from the middle classes and give to the poor and the rich.

The middle classes who pay 42% Income Tax plus 4% PRSI as well as other taxes to live, like bin tax, car tax, VAT, excise duty, and then have to pay all the little stealth taxes like the WEEE tax. In return for all the tax they pay they get... nothing. They have to pay for private health insurance and private pensions. They spend 3 to 4 hours each day commuting to soul less housing estates. They pay tolls to use the roads their taxes paid for or they pay for public transport that is late, crowded and unreliable. Then they use what money they have left to pay off a mortgage that is averaging 10 times the average industrial wage and hope interest rates don't go up too much.

So we'll see that Brian Cowen does for the middle classes, I doubt it will be anything useful. The rumors are there is a big child care package coming, but I guarantee they will make a mess of it and end up driving up the cost of childcare by the amount matching whatever assistance the government provides.

Come on Brian, surprise me, please.

Update: Ok, I was a little surprised. He was very generous to people with children. €1000 for every kid under 6. I imagine a lot of that money will end up going to creche owners who will put their prices up in response, but it looks like families with kids under 6 should be very happy, families with kids aged 6 and 1 month will be a little pissed but you cant keep everyone happy. Social welfare and the elderly won as well, though not as much.

Hanging over all this is the fact that the government tends to hide the bad news in the Finance Bill so I expect that some bad news will be on the way. Well I'll have to wait until tomorrow for the papers to calculate how I did and the Irish Times usually has a good calculator the next day. At the moment I think I'll be marginally better off but only by a token amount. Maybe next year. Maybe.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


As expected David Cameron won the Conservative leadership election. For the first time in a over a decade the Conservative party looks like a good election package. Cameron and his team, nicknamed the Cameroons, look very young and energetic, you would never pick them for members of the Conservative party, let alone the leaders of that party. They certainly are not Harry Enfields "Tory Boy".

His team is amazingly young, they all seem to be in the mid to late 30s. They look more like dot-com middle management execs than statesmen. That could well be the greatest challenge they will face over the next few years, convincing the nation that they can represent them on the international stage, though Gordon Brown doesn't exactly look the part either. Imagine this, in four years time, David Cameron could be Prime Minister of Britain and Hillary Clinton could be President of America. Weird!

Personally I don't think I'd vote for either Labour or The Conservative Party at the moment. It's would be like voting between E-Coli steak and Salmonella chicken poisoning. You don't want either but you feel you should eat something. Maybe stick with a salad and vote Liberal Democrat, it might not get rid of your hunger but it probably wont kill you either.

Blogger down?

Hmm, blogger is back but it appeared to be down last night. While I could get into the posting page I couldn't get to any page.

Like a minor heart attack makes some people aware of their own mortality a blogspot outage suddenly made me very aware of my blogs mortality. I realise blogger is free and handy so I shouldn't really complain but if anything permanent happened to blogger (the same applies to any of the other blog sites) then my blog would go with it.

Suddenly I realise two things. Firstly the need for a local back-up, a function blogger doesn't really provide, so I'll have to get one of those web site download applications. Secondly how useful having my own URL would be, even if just for a redirect.

Things to look into over the Christmas holidays.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Craft Show

Ok, I know this a bit of blatant advertising but I think I can be forgiven. I haven't done this before and I wont make a habit of it, promise. Hell, I don't even have Google ad-sense turned on.

The National Crafts Show is on in the RDS this week from the 7th to the 11th. Its a great place to pick up some nice Christmas presents, everything from hand made jewelry and clothing to mirrors and furniture. Last year there was also a pretty good foodstuff section with lots of samples, if you get bored.

If you do go along to the show take a look at NB Designs stand A45. Nicola and Brenda are two friends of mine who make various types of jewelry based on their own designs. They use semi-precious gem stones, sterling silver and art glass beads. They have been making jewelry for several years and I think this is their third show in the RDS. The pictures on their website don't do their stuff justice, and seem to be pretty old compared to some of the pieces they have now. At the very least call into their stand and tell them I sent you, it'll freak them out :-)

Update: I had to go to the RDS last night to help my friends set up their stand. The craft show seems to be at least as big as last year. In fact some of the stands seemed more tightly packed so perhaps they have added in another row of stand in some places. Worth a visit for anyone shopping for Christmas presents.


This is a post for some friends of mine who read this blog and own IPod Shuffles. They argue that the shuffle is cool, fashionable and handy. I argue back that as an MP3 player it sucks, if any other company brought out an MP3 player that size with no screen and no radio they would cut their losses and sell it for €20. It's just a delivery mechanism for the white headphones that have become must have fashion accessories.

Not wanting to gloat of anything, but it turns out I was right ;-) The shuffle has just been voted this years "Must Have Chav Gadget"

The shuffle is perfect for chavs. It's cheap. It’s by a cool brand, and you can let others know you have one as it is designed to be worn round your neck. As it is white it also accessorises well with those classy gold chains Chavs wear. The sad part is that the shuffle is the worst player in the Apple range – more like some dodgy back street knock-off than the excellent other iPods. The fact it has no screen so you can’t program it or choose a track – it chooses the music for you – also saves Chav brain cells for the much more important business of, ahem, ‘pimping their rides.

Lets face it, Shuffles are stocking fillers. For anyone considering buying a Shuffle, there are far better things available, like the Creative Nano the IRiver T30 or if you are willing to pay a little more, a proper IPod like the Nano. Me? I'll stick with my old reliable IRiver H120 running the open source Rockbox firmware giving me all the features I want.

[Via The Register]

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Late Late Disaster

Oh dear God, pass the alcohol, I need to kill some memory cells. That was the worst Late Late Toy Show I have ever seen. It was so cringe worthy, right out of the scripts for The Office or Alan Patridge. From the beginning when Pat Kenny showed up dressed as Darth Vader on a white horse and surrounded by Vikings and Braveheart type soldiers it was clear that this show could only get better.

Unfortunately that was the highlight of the show. No I lie, the highlight of the show was the boxing kangaroo couple who decided to get frisky on the floor of the studio instead of boxing. Poor Jimmy McGee who was supposed to commentate had to shout "This is a childrens toy show" before the director cut to a sudden ad break.

After that we were treated to 2 hours of Pat Kenny being bullied by every kid to wander into the studio. "Pat, we did that in the rehearsals" would have seemed funny in previous years and especially with Gay Byrne, but with Pat it seemed like the 7 year olds were genuinely taking the piss out of him and the look on his face was classic everytime a kid interrupted him.

This may seem cruel but the acts were atrocious, even taking into account the fact they were children. In previous years The Late Late Toy Show has showcased some of the best young talent in the country. This year it must have been the best young talent related to the staff of RTE. The first lad was a 12 year old piano player singing "I believe in Father Christmas" unfortunately it appeared that his voice had broken since rehearsals. At least he could play the piano very well, other acts had less going for them. Obviously parents had shoved them into singing and dancing school and would not let a lack of talent stop them getting their kids on TV.

When Pat brought on a remote control "homeless man" robot the stage crew had obviously given up on him and refused to remove the robot, instead the robot struck up an accordian and rolled around in front of Pat. In desperation Pat pulled off the wig and exposed the innards of the robots head. That was the only way you knew which was the robot and which was the TV presenter.

If you missed it tonight, tape the repeat on Sunday (I think) and use it as a drinking game. Every time Pat cringes at a kid, take a drink, you'll be passed out before the second ad break.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Late Late Toy Show

Tonight is the unofficial start of Christmas in Ireland. The Late Late Toy Show is on! For those who don't know what the Late Late Show is, it's a chat show on the Irish television RTE, which has been running since 1962. Irish folklore says that its the longest running chat show in the world, though in my opinion it actually ceased to be The Late Late Show in 1999 when Gay Byrne retired and Pat Kenny took over.

Once a year, for as long as I can remember, and probably for years before, they have had a special show dedicated to toys and Christmas. As kids we were allowed stay up to watch the show and see all the new toys and Christmas acts. Maybe that was where my love of gadgets started. In between toys, bikes, lego, remote controlled cars, books, board games, and anything else Santa will be able to pack into his sleigh on Christmas Eve, there was The Billy Barry Kids singing pieces from Bugsy Malone (shudder), choirs from local churches singing Christmas carols and Irish classical singers performing seasonal favorites As Gaeilge.

When Gay was in charge it was like a old grandfather with his grandchildren, Pat is more like an uncomfortable uncle who doesn't really like or understand children. Still its a nice piece of tradition and for many people, both young and old, its the only episode of The Late Late Show that they will admit to watching.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cant live without your mobile phone?

Well it turns out that if you are a woman you may not be able to live with it either. The route to this idea is a little round about but kinda interesting.

An Australian psychiatrist, Michael Berk, has found that there was a "small, but significant increase in the suicide rate among women” on the days after the Earth was hit by a solar flare.

Normally this would be of minimal press interest, except maybe to women who worry about statistically small risks or any women who get to spend time outside the protection of the Earths atmosphere in the International Space Station or on any future Moon/Mars missions. However what has grabbed some web coverage for this is the fact that the researcher has theorized that mobile phones could induce similar effects.

The finding meant it was feasible that electrical and communications equipment could affect mood, Professor Berk said, though not inevitably for the worse."

With people today swamped by mobile phones and electrical fields there is probably no way to accurately measure this effect, but it provides another reason why people should limit the time they and especially their children spend talking on mobile phones. Though it also shows that no matter how much we worry about what modern civilization can do to us and try to protect ourselves, Mother Nature can still pop up and kill you in totally new and interesting ways.

On a lighter note I wonder if one day we will get "psychological phone messages" that can tweak the electrical field of a mobile phone to create a desired emotional response in the listener. Even a slight response could be useful (if possibly carcinogenic). Could be an end for the smiley :-O

[Via Engadget]

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Man sues Weather Forecasters

The litigious nature of the Irish has reached a new level with a hotel owner in Co. Donegal threatening to sue Met Eireann for an inaccurate forecast.

A furious tourism boss has threatened to sue Met Eireann for an inaccurate forecast which he claimed kept hundreds of visitors away from the northwest last weekend.

In what could be the first case of its kind, hotelier and chairman of North West Tourism, Sean McEniff has instructed his lawyers to look into the possibility of taking the national weather forecaster to court for alleged loss of revenue for Co. Donegal.

Last week Met Eireann forecast severe weather and possible blizzards for Co. Donegal. The weather was not as bad as expected but as Met Eireann has pointed out winds off the Donegal coast were gusting up to 125km per hour on Friday. Met Eireann were not the only ones to expect bad weather, and in fact we did get unusually bad weather.

So what's next, will people sue if their picnics are ruined by a summer shower that hits in the early afternoon instead of the late afternoon? Or if they buy a kite but the wind isn't strong enough to lift it? Or if their sun tan isn't up to scratch after the European forecast told them their holiday would be sunny?

Monday, November 28, 2005

18 ways to deal with irate soccer fans ;-)

[Via Boing Boing] After the reaction to my earlier post about what some fans got up to at the Man City Vs Liverpool match I found this list very useful, 18 Tricks to Teach your Body.

The following were especially useful ;-):
4. Feel no pain!

German researchers have discovered that coughing during an injection can lessen the pain of the needle stick.

8. Make burns disappear!

When you accidentally singe your finger on the stove, clean the skin and apply light pressure with the finger pads of your unmarred hand.

11. Stanch blood with a single finger!

Pinching your nose and leaning back is a great way to stop a nosebleed -- if you don't mind choking on your own O positive. A more civil approach: Put some cotton on your upper gums

Now, does anyone know how to remove a football boot from a rather embarrassing place...?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Liverpool fans cant shut up

Congratulations to the Liverpool fans who yesterday couldn't keep their mouths shut for 20 seconds never mind for a whole minute. The referee in the Manchester City-Liverpool match was forced to end the minute silence in honor of George Best after 20 seconds because the fans couldn't shut up.

they were less than impressive during the minute silence for George Best, which referee Alan Wiley cut down to barely 20 seconds to ensure audible murmurings from the visiting section did not turn into something more embarrassing.

I was listening to the match on the radio and as I heard the "murmurings" I was shocked and ashamed to be a Liverpool fan. To me it didn't sound like murmurings, it sounded more like booing. I hope the scum responsible are proud of themselves and I hope they all ended up stuck in one of the weekends freak snow drifts and froze on the journey home. May they never have a player like George Best in their team to cheer.

Update: Ok, I feel I should clarify, my posting came across as a little sweeping in its condemnation of Liverpool fans. I am one myself. It was a minority of fans who disrespected the minutes silence. Unfortunately it is far too easy for a small section of fans to spoil something like a minutes silence. The minutes applause done at other games far more appropriate both for the environment of a stadium. I also shouldn't condemn the team to never have a player like Best. Perhaps I should say May they have switched their fickle allegiances to Everton before Liverpool have a player like George Best.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady

[Via Rick O'Shea] For anyone who missed the argument about Roy Keane between Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady on RTE during the Champions League coverage follow this link to In Fact, Ah for 13 minutes of classic Dunphy. UPDATE: Unfortunately the page has been taken down. No word why, hope the chap didnt get into trouble for posting it. UPDATE 2: The guys at In Fact Ah took down the original due to bandwidth problems, but TCAL has found it on

By the way, Brady was on Dunphys radio show this morning so they seem to still be talking to each other. Highlights of the show are podcast everyday.

(For any American readers out there, imagine if the toughest, no-nonsense, but also one of the best players in the NFL quit his job as captain of one of the leading teams following a dispute with his manager and other players over the teams poor performance and lack of commitment by some of the younger team members and then two football commentators have a heated argument about it, on national TV)

Irish Lotto winners & Lost

I heard part of this story on the radio this morning and didn't believe it at first. Those of you who watch Lost will know that in the show the character Hurley won $156 million lottery with numbers from a patient in a mental institution: 04 08 15 16 23 42. Apparently the numbers are cursed and anyone who uses them ends up with bad luck.

For example, after winning the lottery Hurleys grandfather died at the press conference, his mother broke her ankle while being brought to see her new house, which then burned down and of course the plane he was on crashed on a mysterious desert island, where the numbers are an important plot feature.

Now in a typical luck of the Irish manner the winning numbers in the Irish Lotto on November 19th were 04 08 15 16 23 24. I hope none of those people watch Lost or they are going to be a little freaked next time they board a plane :-)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Something for "those" days in work

[Via Boing Boing] here's something for those days when no matter how hard you try no work gets done.

How to make the perfect paper airplane:

  • The nose must be heavy to ensure stable flight. A paper clip on the nose should allow the plane to fly further
  • If the plane tends to nose-dive because of the heavy nose, bend the back edge of the wings upwards slightly
  • The centre of gravity should be towards the front to prevent the plane from stalling
  • The wings should be angled upwards to give the plane a slight "“Y"” shape when viewed from the front
  • Winglets added to the edge of the wings will reduce drag
  • Check for symmetry by looking down the nose of the plane and refold it if necessary. It will not fly smoothly if it is not entirely symmetrical
  • Be patient and make small adjustments rather than radical changes to the basic design

I'm off to the stationary cupboard to get a ream of printer paper...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Nuclear power for England

Looks like Britain is going to build more nuclear power plants to solve their electricity supply problems. At least that's what Tony Blair sitting in London has decided.

I find this topic particularly annoying because of the way the British power plants have a nasty habit of being built along the coast of the Irish sea. I'm guessing workers in the new plants wont be commuting from London or any other major English city. The Welsh and Irish are going to have to put up with a few extra rads so England can find a quick and easy solution to their electricity shortage.

The Irish Government is "disappointed" but since we didn't get a say when it came to Sellafield/Windscale why should we get one now when they want to build new plants? I suppose we now know why they were willing to close Sellafield.

If only there was another solution to generating electricity on a windy island in the North Atlantic...?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Flu Vaccine

British news outlets are reporting that vaccines for the common flu have almost run out. There is a public dispute going on, with doctors blaming the NHS for not having enough vaccines available and the NHS blaming the doctors for not ordering enough in the first place.

The problem is that while there were 14.5 Million vaccines ordered when normal usage is 11 million it was the same media that is now reporting on the shortage that actually caused that shortage. It was their apocalypse reporting around the bird flu pandemic that was about to kill us all last month that drove many healthy people, who were not at risk, to go get the vaccine. To add insult to injury the common flu vaccine does not work against the infamous H5N1 bird flu virus. Now people who are genuinely at risk are unable to get the vaccine they need.

The media of course will not report their part in this fiasco and instead tut-tut at the NHS and doctors. They made their deadlines with bird flu and now they have made their deadlines reporting the vaccine shortages.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Stepping outside for a smoke can kill

Especially at 35000 feet. The BBC has a story about a woman who tried to open the emergency door on a plane from Hong Kong to Brisbane so that she could have a smoke.

A French woman has admitted attempting to open an airplane door mid-flight so that she could smoke a cigarette.

Who says passive smoking isn't dangerous?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on Saturday. At this stage everyone knows the basic premise of the franchise, and anyone reading this blog probably has at the very least a fair idea about what will be in this movie. Still I wont post any spoilers, beyond what people will have seen in the trailers.

The look and atmosphere of this movie is a lot darker. It's no kids Christmas movie and from the very beginning its a 12PG movie. Some idiot brought a young kid to this and after 2 hours the kid burst out crying and screamed his way out of the cinema.

The book is very long so of course many things don't make it onto the screen. Even so there is not much fat in this movie, there is no introduction of the characters. The movie jumps straight into the action and from the start you know this is a darker movie. Hogwarts is darker, more brooding and in my opinion more claustrophobic. The challenges faced by Harry are more grown up. Not just dragons and merpeople, mazes and dark wizards but teenage girls and school dances. In fact most of the comedy revolves around the romantic challenges of the main characters, even Hagrid has to comb his hair and make a good impression.

The star of the movie is Brendan Gleeson. Most of the other Hogwarts teachers have smaller roles in this movie than in the previous ones, too many other things have to be dealt with. Some of them get little more than two or three speaking scenes. Gleeson however is central to the story and plays the new defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Mad Eye Moody. In my imagination while reading the book I saw the Mad Eye part of Moody to be the dominant feature. With Brendan Gleeson its the Moody and he plays the character in a much better way than the one I imagined. (BTW, I see from IMDB that he is filming Beowulf, that could be cool)

I think this is probably the best of the four movies. The first one has more magic as a family Christmas movie, and I think Richard Harris will always be the real Dumbledore, but this movie is better made, more ambitious and more interesting. It is definitely better than the last movie. In fact its probably the best movie I've seen in a while.

Starbucks College Green and the Challenge

Ok I know, I know, another Starbucks posting. But I was asked if I was going to do the Starbucks Challege for the new shop in College Green. However in my defense I have to say that I am not the only one talking about this store, its been on the radio and in the newspapers all weekend so I do feel like I can justify at least one more posting and another entry into the Starbucks Challenge.

First of all this Starbucks store is getting a lot more press and marketing than the one up in Dundrum. In typical Irish media laziness if something doesn't happen within the area of Dublin 1 to 4 then it is regional news and of little interest to them. The Starbucks President of Europe Middle East and Africa was in town on Friday for the opening and was interviewed on the radio. There were Starbucks staff with coffee dispensers on their backs handing out free espresso shots of VERY foul tasting coffee outside the shop. Newspapers have covered the opening and business programs have discussed the danger Starbucks poses to existing coffee chains. Personally I don't think Starbucks poses much of a threat to the existing coffee, most shops do a fairly brisk trade. Chains like Coffee Society have already adopted the "Starbucks experience" with couches and wi-fi, though the wi-fi is pretty expensive. Some other coffee shops have free wi-fi. All of them have loyalty cards and importantly they tend to be cheaper than Starbucks with shorter queues.

This shop is bigger than the one in Dundrum, it is more like the large Starbucks that you see in other countries, for starters it has exterior windows. People were sitting and chatting over empty coffee cups, something I just realised they don't do in Dundrum. It does not suffer from the same delays in service as Dundrum. There is still a queue but it moves quickly and all the tables tend to be occupied. These baristas have had a lot more training and in fact several of them seemed to be American and English leading me to suspect that Starbucks had flown in experienced staff to provide training and keep the shop running smoothly in its opening weekend when the eyes of the press are on it.

Now for the Challenge. The Starbucks EMEA President did mention Fair Trade on the radio a few times during an interview on Saturday so I was pretty confident that they would have at the very least the same amount of Fair Trade coffee that Dundrum does. They do have signs up for Fair Trade coffee being brewed but they don't have any Fair trade beans on sale. I got to the counter and was served by a smiling and pretty blonde Scandinavian lady (there-by biasing my entire review as I am told I have a certain weakness for blondes). I could see the Fair Trade brew so I decided to complicate the task. I asked for a Venti Latte to take away and then asked if I could get it made with Fair Trade beans. This was a new idea to the barista who had to ask one of her supervisors if lattes could be made with the fair trade coffee. The supervisor was apologetic and explained that the espresso machine was not fair trade but I could get a brewed Fair Trade coffee instead. Pretty much the same response I got in Dundrum (and Leicester Square) so I guess that's a Pass for Starbucks College Green, and 100% success for Starbucks Ireland.

Apparently their next store will open in the Harcourt Street area of Dublin, which while on my LUAS route home I think I should leave that one to someone else to review or my work mate Seamus will beat me to death with my coffee mug for posting another Starbucks story ;-)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blocking Flash Popups

Of late I've noticed more flash popup adverts appearing on web sites. They are bloody annoying, especially the one on The Examiner web site which today was popping up two windows containing the same advert so I had to click close twice.

I found the following instructions at the office weblog

1. Type about:config into the Firefox location bar.
2. Right-click on the page and select New and then Integer.
3. Name it privacy.popups.disable_from_plugins
4. Set the value to 2.

The possible values are:

* 0: Allow all popups from plugins.
* 1: Allow popups, but limit them to dom.popup_maximum.
* 2: Block popups from plugins.
* 3: Block popups from plugins, even on whitelisted sites.”

And since that didnt work on the Examiner website there is always the flashblock plugin for Firefox. (If you are still using Internet Explorer then you deserve popups :-) )

BBC and Bloggers

Some people use their blogs to cover serious issues like the war in Iraq and they have become a new form of journalism. Blogging and its role alongside journalism was discussed tonight on BBC Newsnight. They were talking about the white phosphorous story and how bloggers dug up the online articles about its use in Iraq after the US government website had denied it.

It discussed the fact that the blogs are challenging the mainstream media. How they have gone from just discussing news to acting as a guardian for the news. While the journalists dig up the original stories they have to move on to their next story deadline but the bloggers are able to dedicate more time to stories.

Its interesting to see how mainstream and established media like the BBC view blogging. The BBC has really embraced the internet with podcasting, live streaming and downloads of programs. Tonights Newsnight episode can be downloaded for the next 24 hours at

Update: Unfortunately the Newsnight site says that last nights episode and Wednesdays are not available for download "because of copyright problems". Pity.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

UnReality TV

[Via The Guardian] Channel 4 has yet another "reality" TV show in the pipeline. This time they have obviously decided that reality is no longer good enough so they have created a show where the contestants are fooled into thinking they are competing to win a trip into space.

Channel 4 is pulling an elaborate hoax with a new reality TV show in which a group of people believe they are in Russia training for a space mission - but are in fact having their every move filmed at a disused airbase in Britain.

It will be on Channel 4 every day at 9pm for 10 days, there will be round the clock coverage ala Big Brother on E4, and on the Channel 4 website.

I'm all for the public humiliation of Reality "I wanna be famous" TV contestants, and in fact find the idea of filling a real rocket with a group of them and firing it into outer space quite appealing. However I think that this show is just another in a long line of shows created by lazy TV executives throwing out variations on the reality TV theme and passing it off as new entertainment. Reality TV has gotten so bad that the contestants now exist in a reality different from the one they think they are in, if you get my drift. Perhaps the next evolution of reality TV will be a camera crew filming another camera crew that thinks they are filming a reality TV show made up of people who think they are famous celebrities on a reality TV show but who never actually appear on TV. At which stage I presume all our TVs will fold in on themselves in some quantum physics nightmare and blink out of existence.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Last Tommy part II

The second and last part of The Last Tommy was on tonight. It dealt with 1916 to 1919. Most of tonights show focused on Harry Patch as he journeyed back to Belgium to visit the battlefields of Passchendaele where on September 22nd 1916 at 10:30pm three of his close friends were killed and he was injured when a rocket landed among them. That is his remembrance day.

On the 87th anniversary Harry met his first German since the war. A veteran who lived in Alsace Lorraine, he served in an artillery unit that was fighting in the same area as Harry. That said the chances of him actually having fired the rocket that killed Harrys friends would be pretty remote. The two shook hands and said they didn't hold grudges. I couldn't help but wonder how many German veterans are left, especially when you consider how many of them were drafted into the volksstrum at the end of World War II and sent to face the Russians. (I found this page on wikipedia, its marked for deletion and is already out of date)

In the end Harry asked to visit the memorial to his battalion near the point where his friends died. This was the most touching moment of the episode as he placed a poppy wreath and card on the memorial.

The other veterans are interviewed as well. Discussing their experiences of being gassed, serving on ships that sent planes to fight Zeppelins. They also discussed being demobbed, small mutinies as they waited to go home and the uncertainty they felt when the war was over.

When they finished filming the documentary at the end of 2004 there were only 4 Tommies left of the 27 alive at the start in 2003. Harry Patch and Alfred Anderson were the only two well enough to take part in the series. Soon the last four will be gone, hopefully the world will never forget them and their comrades.

Update 21 November: Alfred Anderson has died at the age of 109.
"He was the last surviving veteran anywhere to have served in the First World War in 1914 and lived a truly remarkable life."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Childhood memories

RTE has released some new DVDs in time for Christmas. Two will be real stocking fillers for of us around 30 who grew up in two channel land, Bosco and Wanderly Wagon.

I just barely remember the Wanderly Wagon puppets but I do remember being shocked when I heard RTE had recorded over the series because they didn't have enough money to buy new tapes. Probably an Irish urban legend. Some part of my brain was hardwired in early childhood to remember characters like Judge, O'Brien, Crow (?) and Godmother.

Bosco was more insidious and ran for much much longer, though I'm pretty sure there was only about 10 episodes that they just repeated daily for 20 years. I'm pretty sure Bosco is evil just like Bert from Sesame Street.

For the more grown up among us the Haughey documentary from earlier this year has also been released on DVD.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

XBox 360 demo stations

There are now XBox 360 demo consoles in several computer game stores around Dublin, including Game Stop and Smyths Toys. I was playing Call Of Duty 2. It looks amazing compared to the original Call of Duty, which I am playing again on PC. The demo level appeared to be based in North Africa, and the graphics look great, though the colors were just a little too white. Personally I've never owned a games console. I prefer my PC and I prefer to play first person shooters with a keyboard and mouse. Which, coincidentally the new Playstation 3 is reported to support.

Starbucks College Green

Another Starbucks posting, I should just rename this blog Dec's Starbucks Rambling. Anyway after months of saying the first Starbucks in Dublin would open soon on College Green (near Trinity College) the Starbucks in Dundrum beat them to it and opened last August. I don't know what the delay with College Green was, maybe they were waiting for the best location to open up. It looks like they got it sorted out and now have 1 College Green. They should be open in a few days. The store is on the corner between the Bank of Ireland and Little Caesars. Nice prime piece of real estate, they should do well.

Update: Newstalk 106 announced this morning that the first Starbucks in Dublin has opened on College Green. Probably a deliberate marketing mistake to ignore the fact that its the second. Its a small mistake but I really wish media outlets would stop regurgitating the press releases they get from marketing departments without bothering to check the truth of the contents.

Oh, and the Irish Times has a story from a couple of weeks ago explaining that the delay was caused by competition for retail outlets in the city center and people objecting that Starbucks would dumb down a historic part of Dublin :-)

However, the coffee chain had originally planned to first launch its flagship store at College Green but was held up by claims the company's presence would "dumb down" an historic part of the city.

Obviously the convience stores, fast food kebab outlets and lapdancing clubs have standards about their neighbourhood.

Update: I went into the new Starbucks on Saturday. Follow the link to that posting.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hillary V's Condi

Here is a story I bookmarked a couple of weeks ago and only just got around to reading. It is an extract from a new book discussing what is, at the moment, the most likely line up for the next US Presidential race, Hillary Clinton V's Condoleezza Rice.

It outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the two and why they are likely to get their parties nominations. It all makes for interesting reading.

Like them or hate them they are likely to dominate US and there-by world politics for the next 3 years.

Update: Looks like someone wants Condi to get a Nobel Peace Prize in the run up to an election, or at very least a Time Person of the Year. She is getting the credit for brokering the deal between Israel and the Palestinians to open up the Gaza border. A few years ago the credit would have gone to the President, Bush or Clinton. The media would have been told that the President had made a late night phone call that clinched the deal (most of the deals in Northern Ireland were explained like that). Now Condoleezza is the one being portrayed as the world statesperson and peacemaker.

What's in your Coffee?

Hmm, I must be getting addicted to caffeine. Far too many of my posts these days seem to revolve around coffee and ways of getting it.

Here is another coffee related posting. This one comes via Boing Boing. A 77 year old lady found a baby turtle in her bag of freeze dried coffee. Unfortunately for her it was a 2 pound bag of coffee and she had been using it for a month, yuck. The turtle was dead, but was it the freeze drying or a caffeine overdose that killed the little critter? A surprisingly small amount of coffee could kill something that size. Don't believe me? Try this web site to see.

All things considered the woman is fairly calm. As she says herself it could have been worse,

"It could've been a snake," Morris said.

I guess that's looking on the bright side of things. There is a lesson for us all there, check your bulk bought food for the factory managers daughters pets before eating :-)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Toys 4 Big Boys

Each November for the last few years I have gone to the Toys 4 Big Boys show in the RDS. And after each show I've come away thinking "that wasn't great, I wont go next year". The first year I was really disappointed, last year was a big improvement but I still went away feeling a little disappointed.

But you know what, I love gadgets. I leave each show with a bag full of leaflets and brochures for TV's, home cinema systems, stereos, cars, saunas (don't ask me, I've no idea why), mobile phones, mp3 players, activity centers, boats, and various other things, 99.999% of which I will never actually purchase.

The show is on again this weekend and of course I'm going again. I'm a sucker for punishment.

Update: Went tonight (Thursday). I managed to get a free corporate ticket so I decided to go for an hour tonight and see what it was like then if it was any good I'd go again on Saturday and spend a few hours there. Its not as good as last year, feels a bit like the first year I was there. Fewer stands. Some stands were more spaced out, obviously just using up space. All in all not, as good as last year. After an hour I'd seen everything I wanted to see.

Update 2: I forgot to mention this last night. As an example of how bad this state of the art gadget and technology show was, Sligo Macra na Feirme (the Young Farmers association) had a stand there. No farming gadgets on display, they seemed to be recruiting. Maybe they got locked in and have been there since the Dublin Horse Show?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Last Tommy

The BBC has shown the first part of a documentary telling the personal stories of the last 27 surviving British veterans of World War I. The last Tommys are now all over 100. One was 107 when the series started filming in 2003. They were born when Queen Victoria was on the British throne. They watched the victorious British troops come home from the Boer War. One walked on the deck of the Titanic. They grew up in a world that was totally different from the one we now live in. They fought in the war that changed it.

Harry Patch never told anyone about his experiences for 80 years. He only spoke about them after moving into a retirement home and suffering flashbacks as the result of a light flickering in another room and shining like shell blasts through a small window into his room. When he spoke you could see the haunted look in his face, and at 106 years of age it is obvious that the experiences are still vivid and painful. Another veteran, Arthur Halestrap, spoke as strongly and clearly as a man half his age. He has traveled to 30 commemorations in Belgium and yet when he visited a trench being excavated in Belgium and saw the uncovered flotsum of war it was clear how close he was to tears when he made an excuse and asked to go back to the bus.

All of the veterans talk about their lost friends with sadness, pausing to reflect. One soldier Alfred Anderson is the last surviving soldier who was in the original 80,000 sent to France. He witnessed the Christmas Truce in 1914. He was wounded and sent home in 1916 while a friend who took his place died. The family of his friend blamed him for getting wounded and surviving. He said "All these years I've been trying to forget and its all been dragged up again. I thought I would die peaceful" and then came a quiet, resigned laugh, not at his friend, but at himself.

The second and final part will be on next week. It is worth watching to see these men tell their own stories. As Harry Patch said, they did it all "for 18 pence a flipping day".

Monday, November 07, 2005

London Starbucks and IPods

I'm just back from in Dublin after spending the weekend over in London (hence the lack of posts over the last 4 days).

This is just a quick post to deal with two topics I've blogged about before.

First the Starbucks Challenge, I went into one of the MANY Starbucks around Leicester Square and they do the Fair Trade coffee as a brew. The lady behind the counter was very apologetic that they did not have fair trade lattes available. I thought I would be able to say "The Starbucks in Leicester Square passes the Starbucks challenge" but I walked past 4 others in the area while still drinking my latte, so who knows how many are in other directions, I'd guess even Starbucks must have lost count. We can now say that like Dundrum at least one of the Starbucks around Leicester Square passes the Starbucks challenge, but it would probably take weeks to work ones way through all the Starbucks in the area (do Londoners really drink that much coffee???) .

Next the IPod Videos and what we can download in ITunes. I went into the Apple store on Regent Street. It's huge and has every Apple product you could ever want, including the IPod Video. They look pretty good. I would consider getting one if I could download TV programs, but the shop assistant I was talking to said that while there should be loads of content coming from the BBC, it will only be available to BBC license payers, so unfortunately that means it probably wont be available in Ireland.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Coffee Beer

Nestle have patented Coffee Beer. You can now have coffee that "that pours and foams like beer, but smells of strong coffee and packs a concentrated caffeine kick." Unfortunately at the moment it is non-alcoholic which pretty much removes the sole reason for drinking beer. You only have to look at the popularity of non-alcoholic beer to realise that most people don't actually drink beer for the "pour and foam" experience. However all is not lost:

The beverage is made in a similar way to beer, but fine-tuned temperature control stops the formation of ethyl alcohol. So the new drink could go down well with people who want a long tall pick-me-up while driving.

Obviously it should not be too difficult to make the beer alcoholic, in which case it would not be recommended as a "pick-me-up while driving" more a "pick-me-up while stumbling". The trick for Nestle would be to achieve a perfect balance between alcohol and coffee so that one could get drunk and sober-up at the same time.

(Via New Scientist and several other blogs today)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

West Wing Debate

There will be a "Live Presidential Candidate Debate" on TV this weekend in the States. Unfortunately its not between Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton, thats a few years away yet. Instead its between Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits on the TV show The West Wing.

Apparently it will be a live debate between the two and though it is scripted they will be able to veer off the track a little. Should be interesting if for no other reason than it could well be less scripted and controlled than real Presidential "debates".

The West Wing is some of the best TV to come out of America in the last 10 years, I hope they show the episode over here. At least one other special episode was never shown on TV this side of the Atlantic. At least I've never seen it and I understand it was never intended to show it again since it dealt with the aftermath of September 11th and was a stand alone episode before the season opener that was out of sync with the rest of the season and the previous season cliffhanger (the one where Bartlet announces his MS). I wonder if the missing episode is on the DVDs....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Transport 21 Plan

The Irish Government has released its 10 year plan for improving the transportation network in Ireland, they have called it Transport 21 (I've no idea where the 21 comes from).

'Transport 21' is targeting an integrated transport system for Dublin which will include seven new LUAS projects, two Metro lines, DART extensions and an underground station at St Stephen's Green integrating all services.

Newstalk 106 said that the DART would be extended to Gorey and Drogheda, so much for the Dublin Area part of D.A.r.t. :-) . In general it seems like a good plan, assuming they can deliver it on time, on budget and on spec. Given the governments previous track record I would seriously doubt they will.

One thing really worries me and I think is worth highlighting is the role St Stephen's Green will play in the plans for Dublin. They plan to run a metro line from St Stephen's Green out to Swords and the Airport, and to link the LUAS and the Metro all they plan to build an underground station at St Stephen's Green.

The St Stephen's Green area is one of the most high value commercial areas in Dublin with some of the highest ground rents in Europe. You can bet they are not going to be knocking any buildings around there. Some construction work has been under way for several years to the south of the Green at the far end of Harcourt Street, but that would be a little isolated from the city center and it is also unlikely that the developers would switch from building office blocks to building a Metro/LUAS station. I've searched online but can't find any official report about where this would be located. So the only place I can see to put a station is under the Green itself.

That wont go down well (no pun intended) as the Green is one of the most popular and historic landmarks in Dublin. Every summer it is full or tourists and Dubliners enjoying the little good weather we get. Personally I would be conflicted, I like the idea of a city center transport hub but I don't want to see the Green destroyed, even if it was replaced with a new park that covered the new station it would be many decades before a new park would reach the same level of maturity.

Also I'm not convinced that St Stephen's Green is the best place to start a metro line to the airport at all. Being at the far side of the city center and the other side of the river would seem like factors that should rule it out. The O'Connell Street area would be far more logical, especially if they interconnected the LUAS tram lines so people could easily get from St Stephen's Green to the Metro.

Anyway why am I worried, it'll probably never happen, they will spend a few hundred million on feasibility studies and designs then realise the price has doubled so they will shelve half the projects, take 20 years to build the other half and then decide its no longer suitable and announce a new 10 year plan that will include all the things they shelved at the start.

Update: Yep, its going under the Green. Eamon Ryan of the Green Party is on Newstalk 106 and thinks this is a great idea, though he's worried about how long it will take and he estimated it would be a hole the size of a football pitch in the Green for several years. I think that would involve most if not all of the Green being destroyed, especially when you consider that the builders would need space to park their equipment.

Update 2: The 6pm news on Newstalk just said that St Stephens Green would be truned into a "Civic Space" with LUASs overground and Metros below. Hmmm, I smell concrete.

Update 3: The 21 stands for "21st Century" (which is probably how long the government will take to complete it).

Monday, October 31, 2005

I-Mode on O2

A few months ago I posted about the launch of 3 in Ireland. Both 3 and Vodafone in Ireland have 3G phones and services. The big selling point for both networks is the fact that you can download video and make video calls. I looked at the video features on some phones and they are interesting gadgets but really don't provide a service that I honestly need. However I cant help but think my next phone will be 3G anyway, for no other reason than I love my gadgets.

Unfortunately I am on O2 so I had decided to wait for their "3G" service. Then a couple of weeks ago they launched I-Mode in Ireland. I went into one of their stores on Grafton Street last week and got to play with a couple of phones and i-Mode. The result? Well it had such an impact on me I forgot to post about it until now :-)

I may be mistaken here but its WAP. Its glorified WAP! The pages do seem to load a little faster than the current WAP/GPRS service. The content seems limited, only 80 web sites divided into categories though they will probably increase that list over time. After a couple of minutes I had looked at all the sites that I was curious about. The pages displayed looked like WML, plain and simple. Each page seemed to have a picture banner above the text story, I guess this is probably adding a nice amount to your download which would be annoying when you are paying 1c per KB.

The most telling comment I have read came from a story on

"I-mode is the world's most widely used mobile internet service," said Danuta Gray, chief executive of O2 Ireland in a statement. "Following its introduction in Japan in 1999, it drove internet penetration levels up from 18 percent to 78 percent."

It was state of the art in 1999 but today to me it's dull when compared with video calling. O2 is saying they will provide video messaging and downloads and will double the number of available sites over the next 12 months but at the moment the service just doesn't grab the attention of the gadget lover in me. After playing with i-mode I wandered over to the Vodafone shop to see if they had any new 3G phones.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Halloween movies Irish style

I like Halloween. Its that time of the year when all the kids in the neighborhood gather together and follow the age old tradition... of blowing up stuff. I think some of the bangers and fireworks being set off tonight must have been stolen off the back of American planes in Shannon Airport on the way to Iraq. I think one blast actually had a concussion wave that shook windows :-)

I'm about to sit down and watch what is a traditional Irish Halloween movie, Saving Private Ryan.

Update: Last night was just a skirmish, tonight the Battle of Dublin is in full swing, I think I'll sit down and watch Band of Brothers.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Don't die at Halloween

Bizarre story from America, apparently a womans body was hanging from a tree for hours but her neighbors thought she was a Halloween decoration

The 42 year-old was discovered on the side of a busy road in Delaware, but locals were convinced it was a prank

I guess the moral of the story is if you are going to die at Halloween make sure you tell someone in advance or you may be left til the Christmas decorations are being put up.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Equality is a two edged sword

Looks like after fighting for years for equal rights some women in the golf world may be about to find out that equal rights apply to men as well as to women. Shocking. :-)

Male Golfer Jean van de Velde has followed the example of players like Michelle Wie and applied for entry to the Women's British Open.

Fair play to him. It may seem a silly thing to do, but he has a point, either we have mixed sports or we don't. You cant have one gender with its own league and the other forbidden from having an exclusive league. Golf club membership should be open to all, thats not in question, but if women want to take part in mens golf tournaments it has more to do with money than a burning desire for equal rights. There is simply more money in mens golf than in womens, and thats true for most sport.

The solution isn't to mix genders, its for the organisers to improve the sponsorship and profile of ladies golf. Then everyone will be happy. Until then I suppose people will have to continue making silly stands to get their message across.

George Best

I was listening to the radio this morning and it pissed me off to hear people ringing in talking about George Best. At 9am people were having arguments on national radio about a man who is gravely ill in hospital and quite probably dying. Some were saying how great he was and others were criticising him for his alcoholism. Some people said he didn't deserve to get the liver transplant he received a few years ago because he continued to drink and had been reported as beating his wife.

I think its important to remember a some things:
  1. The doctors have said his current illness is not as a result of alcohol.
    Prof Williams, responsible for Best's care since his transplant, said the infection was not directly related to his problems with alcohol.

  2. The media that is now making so much capital from his illness have as much as anything else contributed to his demise. The man needed help and support to overcome his alcohol addiction. Certain sections of the media used his alcoholism for sensationalism, and I'm not talking about the tabloids. I'm talking about TV chat shows that bring him on as a guest, but first put him in the guest reception room with alcohol freely available. They have done it to lots of people, Best, Oliver Reid, Shane McGowan to name just a few. A drunk guest will get people talking about your show and boost viewer numbers the next week

  3. Finally, he is a dying man, no one deserve to die for having an illness like alcoholism. He got a liver, he continued to drink, he was wrong. Maybe someone else would have gotten the liver and never drank again, but maybe not. Maybe that person would have drank as well. How can we ever know? Should he have been allowed to die because his alcoholism was so public compared to most? Does he now deserve to die for that weakness? And remember it is not his new liver that is failing, but an infection causing internal bleeding.
We should let him and his family have some dignity in his final days.

Update: 25 November - After an initial recovery George Best was again returned to intensive care last Friday where his conditioned worsened and, after fighting for much longer than the doctors predicted, he finally passed away at 12:55pm today from multple organ failure.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Galloway V's The Committee: Round 2

When I started blogging back in May two of my first posts were about the British election and the resignation of Michael Howard as Conservative leader and another was about George Galloway being called to testify before a US Senate Committee.

Six months later and things havent changed much. The process of electing a Conservative leader is finally underway, and now the US Senate has decided to have another go at questioning George. You would think they would have learned their lesson after the last time when he tore strips off them and became some kind of hero for the anti-war lobby.

I don't support or even like Galloway, he is too confrontational and gruff, but in this case I think he should tell the US Senators where to stick their committee. If they do have evidence that Galloway has profited from the illegal sale of Iraqi oil then they should hand it to the British government and let them deal with him. If the British legal system finds him not-guilty then American politicians have no right to interfere. They may not like the verdict, but setting up the US Senate as some kind of global court room that can override the verdicts of other nations legal systems will only alienate more nations from Americas side. If the senators once again make a mess of questioning Galloway, which is likely unless they have been taking a crash course in British politics and debating, then they will only make him a bigger, and probably richer, celebrity.

Dilbert Blog

The first thing I do every morning when I get to my desk is read the Dilbert cartoon for that day. Ok, so its the second after starting up my computer, but it is the first non-productive act of the day so it is important.

Turns out Scott Adams the creator of Dilbert has started The Dilbert Blog. Its not "Dilberts" blog but Scotts. His first posting was yesterday and he has discussed the changes needed to publish a recent comic, a movie projector, grammar and spelling and the weasel poll. Should be worth a look for any Dilbert fans.

Monday, October 24, 2005

1916 Parade

I am delighted to see that Bertie Ahern and the Irish Government have reinstated the Easter Parade by the army down O'Connell Street to commemorate 1916. For too long we have left a fringe element hijack our history and frighten the rest of us away.

Sinn Feins recent parade down O'Connell Street showed just how brazen they have become. It is about time someone stood up to them and said this is our country and our history and not their personal property. We have just as much right, and in some cases more of a right, to celebrate history of the Republic of Ireland as they do. We wont let them frighten us away anymore. We wont let their actions make us ashamed of where we came from. We are Irish and we are proud to be Irish.

Hopefully now the Irish people can start to take pride in the men and women who died to win the freedom they enjoy.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Jack Charlton

The most loved English man in Ireland was in Dublin today signing his DVD. Jack Charlton was the most successful manager of the Irish soccer team, guiding the team to their first major championships and then to the quaterfinals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The nation would have crowned him King if he had asked.

He has released a DVD covering his time managing Ireland, Jack Charlton, The Irish Years. Hundreds of people turned out to meet him. I was in the queue for an hour and a half but it was well worth it to finally meet one of my childhood heroes. People say you should never meet your heroes, but Jack didn't disappoint. He's aged a lot in the last ten years but he still had a smile and a joke for everyone. He shook hands with everyone, had his photo taken with lots of people. Joked with me about Eamon Dunphy. It was a childhood dream realised. Brilliant.

When I left the queue was even longer so God knows when Jack got to leave, but I expect his DVD will be in every Irish home this Christmas, so he will have made a nice bit of money. For all the joy and pride he gave the Irish nation, when we had very little to be proud about, he deserves much much more.

This Parrots Dead... No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting

Bird Flu has come to Britain, though only in a quarantine facility. I couldn't help but wonder if it was all a joke perpetrated by a staff member at the quarantine facility that just got out of hand. I mean come on, a dead parrot? In England!

Can you imagine the conversation?

Vet: Theres something wrong with this parrot we just got.

Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

Vet: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!

Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

Vet: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

Vet: The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

Yes, for all those who know their comedy this is the famous Dead Parrot sketch from wonderful Monty Python. I never really liked the Dead Parrot sketch but if you want the worlds greatest movie comedy go buy a copy of The Life of Brian to see what comic geniuses they were.

Friday, October 21, 2005

USB sticks are the new CDs?

Ok this is a bit geeky, even by my standards, but the German encyclopedia Brockhaus has been released on a 1GB USB stick. The stick has even been designed to look scholarly. That's cool.

I know nothing about Brockhaus but when I was a kid we had a copy of the World Book which was 20 something volumes of information. I loved them. I could take a book for any letter and just sit down and start reading. Unfortunately all these things age and end up out of date. I never bothered with computer encyclopedias which are based on CD. It was just the esthetics of the CD that never appealed to me. The CD made the encyclopedia feel cheap and flimsy, though it contained much more information and media than the book version ever could. To me USB sticks would feel different, more solid and dependable, more weighty and official.

In fact the company I work for is considering shipping its software on USB sticks as well. We used to ship CDs, then we went download-only, and now we are looking into branded USB. They are more expensive but easier to create and customise, and they make a better impression on the customer. If the customer wipes the thing and uses it to carry their own data, well we still get advertising and they will just have to sit through the 300MB download next time they want to install the software. I expect more companies will come to this realisation over the next couple of years and more software will start showing up on USB. Games will never appear on USB since the costs would be too great, but when the software is quite expensive or the quality of packaging is important then USBs may become fairly common.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sellafield to Close!

Irish Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche has announced that the British government has finally agreed to close the Thorp nuclear re-processing plant.

About time. The east coast of Ireland lived in fear of that place since it was called Windscale. The plant is basically an accident prone, act of genocide waiting to happen. If it had been as close to London as it is to Dublin then it would would have been closed years ago.

A quick glance at the dots on the map on this page will show you just how keen the English are on having nuclear power, so long as it is as far away from them as possible.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Conservative Leader Round One

The Conservative MPs (yeah, they still have some) voted yesterday in the first round of the Conservative election. In that round, and the next on Thursday, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. The final two will then be voted on by the Conservative Party members over the next 6 weeks.

The result was not too unexpected, Ken Clarke only got 38 votes while David Davis got 62, David Cameron got 56 and Liam Fox got 42. Clarke while he seems like a nice enough fellow would probably have been a disaster for the Conservatives as he would not appeal to too many young non-Conservative voters.

A lot of TV pundits declared David Cameron to now be the firm favorite since they expect that a lot of MPs could defect from David Davis' camp now that the first round of voting is done. That is probably true. In fact they got so carried away several theorised that Liam Fox could overtake Davis and become the second candidate in the final round of voting. I think that's unlikely for one good reason Fox seemed genuinely surprised and delighted to still be in the race and to have beaten Clarke. MPs will smell fear and defeat in his campaign and wont want to side with him in a power struggle, supporting a loosing leadership candidate is a sure way to political obscurity.

So I expect it will be Davis and Cameron in the final round. Davis has gone out of his way in the last few weeks to tarnish Cameron on drugs issues. Fair enough drugs are a serious issue. But he also went on TV and in a two faced manner denied that his team had anything to do with keeping the issue in the media but then the next day went on TV and brought it up again.

The final round will see Conservative party members voting. This really is where anything can happen. Party grassroots members anywhere in the world are always hard to predict. The strangest things can win them over or loose them. Davis is obviously targeting them already by attacking Cameron on possible drugs use. That could have been a wise move, but I suspect he may have used it too early in the campaign. If it had been raised in 4 to 5 weeks time shortly before the members vote then the damage to Camerons campaign could have been fatal. Davis obviously hoped to force Cameron to withdraw from the race. As it is Cameron is keeping his mouth shut and focusing on winning MPs to his side. Then once he is in the final round I would expect to see him on the TV over the weekend making a frank and open interview about the drugs issue and getting it out of the way once and for all.

My moneys still on Cameron, but 6 weeks is a long time in politics. In fact it seems that these days its almost the average term of a Conservative Party leader.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

King Kong stumbles?

Is there trouble brewing for the biggest movie release of the year? Is the man who can do no wrong in Hollywood about to drop a clanger?

The director of Lord of The Rings, Peter Jackson, is currently working on a remake of King Kong. The score for the movie was being composed by Howard Shore, also from Lord of the Rings. Now with seven weeks to go until the premier of the movie Jackson and Shore have "decided amicably to let another composer score the film."

Remember the not so wonderful Troy? Similar thing happened there, and the new score was a mish-mash of tracks from other movies putting a final nail in that movies coffin.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Irish Government saves us from Bird Flu

The Irish government is stocking on anti-viral drugs to help prevent the spread of Bird Flu.

I guess the world is ending again so I should put some anti-viral drugs in the same box as my government issue iodine tablet. (Oh wait I never got one!)

I'm getting tired of the end of the world announcements. Until I see an army of scientists leaving their wives, selling their houses and all worldly possessions, taking loans out from every bank, bad-ass loan shark, and Mafia Don they can find and then heading to Vegas for the mother of all send offs I'm going to take the media frenzy with a grain of salt.

UPDATE: Via Boing Boing: Video download of the The Daily Show tackling Bird Flu. Very Funny.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Starbucks Dundrum passes Starbucks Challenge

A blogger friend of mine posted an entry about the Starbucks Challenge. Since John isn't a coffee drinker and I have previously posted about Fair Trade coffee and Starbucks in Dundrum I thought I would take up the challenge for him.

The idea of the Starbucks Challenge is to find out how well the Starbucks shops live up to their own promise to provide Fair Trade coffee when asked for.

According to its own policy, Starbucks will make Fair Trade coffee for you, any day of the week, in any of the 23 countries it is licensed to sell Fair Trade including: Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.K. and the U.S.

But just how easy is it to get a Fair Trade coffee in a Starbucks in one of those countries?

We aim to find out.

Join the challenge:
1) Simply visit your local Starbucks and ask: "Could I get a cup of fair trade coffee?"

2) Tell us what happened next. Was it hard or easy to get a cup? Watch out for posts by us and others on this blog.

The good news is Starbucks in Dundrum does provide Fair Trade coffee.

First of all I decided to have a look in the shop and see if they even mention Fair Trade. I didn't have far to go. The very first basket of beans by the door has a sign in it advertising Fair Trade beans. It seems to be selling well since the basket itself only had 5 packs left and several people picked them up to read the labels. At the counter there is a sign saying Fair Trade is available, but it is partially blocked by the chocolates display. Then at the milk and sugar counter they had leaflets explaining Fair Trade coffee.

Next I got in the queue (yes, there are still long queues) and when I got to the counter I asked for a Venti Latte made with "Free Trade" coffee. (I think I was still hung over from a party on Friday night, I'm getting old and cant hold my alcohol anymore). The barista never even blinked but said they have Fair Trade but unfortunately the lattes are made from an espresso machine which uses a general bean. I then asked what could I get that was Fair Trade and he gave me a normal coffee, asking if I wanted space left for milk and poured it himself so I didn't have to wait at the coffee counter. I didn't ask about french press coffee, but they don't advertise it and I don't know if they even do it in Dundrum since it is a small, busy shop.

So Fair Play to Starbucks Dundrum. They are doing their bit for Fair Trade. Maybe if more people ask for it then they will switch the espresso machine to Fair Trade, or allow users to get french pressed lattes. Until then the "Venti Coffee with Fair Trade beans" will do nicely.

Christmas is coming and the marketers are getting fat

Ok now this is getting ridiculous. Previously I posted about the fact that House of Fraiser in Dundrum had put up its Christmas decorations. At the beginning of October! Now on October 16th I have just seen my first proper Christmas advert on TV. Its for an air freshener. On October 16th you can have the smell of Christmas in your house.

Of course all this early advertising works well on the most impressionable part of our society, kids. Today in Dundrum I walked past a mother and daughter shopping. The little kid looked up at her mum and said "Can I ask Santa for this in pink" The mother just nodded and mumbled a response with a resigned tone that said "Oh God, 10 weeks of Santa to go..."

Friday, October 14, 2005

Even James Bond has a Mammy

There you are, in line to get the most famous role in movie history. About to play an international spy, a man of mystery, a man of secrets and intrigue, a man with a license to kill, whose job is to keep the world safe from super-vilains in their secret bases and at the same time seducing beautiful women... and then your mother appears on the news and tells the world how thrilled she is your about to get the job.

Craig's mother appears to have verified the news, telling the Liverpool Daily Post: "We are thrilled to bits. "He could bring something very interesting to the part. It will be life-changing," she told the paper. Craig would be the sixth James Bond.

Update: As expected Daniel Craig is the new James Bond.