Friday, September 30, 2005

Rocket Races

There is a story on Wired about a convention of commercial spaceship manufacturers. By spaceship they mean craft like SpaceShip One that won the Ansari X Prize last year. The other companies attempting are to make similar purpose craft (not all are planes, some are rockets).

Most interestingly the man who set up the Ansari X Prize is talking about holding a rocket race in future.

On Monday, Diamandis plans to unveil a new venture at a press conference in New York: Rocket Racing.

It seems likely that Diamandis wants to promote NASCAR-style rocket races at which crack pilots will compete in tests of raw speed -- perhaps both in the atmosphere and out.

People probably laughed when he set up the X Prize, so when he says he wants rocket races he may just manage it. Who wants boring old Formula 1 when you can have Formula ZeroG :-)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Rudolf V's the F16

Following on from the Irish government introducing a tax on toys a few months before Christmas, the Irish Examiner is reporting that the Danish government have taken things a step further and killed Rudolf with fighter jets.

The animal, named Rudolf, was grazing peacefully at the central Denmark farm of Olavi Nikkanoff when the screaming F-16 jets passed overhead at low altitude in February.

The reindeer collapsed and died, leaving Nikkanoff with the prospect of only one animal pulling his sleigh next Christmas.

Now if only they could track the Easter Bunny to his underground lair...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Movies in Dundrum

Ok this post is of no interest to anyone who doesn't live near Dundrum in Dublin, but for anyone who does the new Dundrum Town Center/Shopping Center web site says the new multiplex there will open this Friday September 30th. Cool, a nice new cinema 5 minutes away from me, I haven't been to the cinema in Dublin in ages.

Update: I found a website It seems to be a work in progress so I dont know if they want anyone looking at it yet :-). Cinema Info gives a page not found error, some links are not active, online booking is "Coming soon", but it does seem to be the authentic site for the new cinema and it lists the movies and times. What more can you want for a cinema website? It also seems to be part of the Ormonde Cinemas group. They run the cinema in Stillorgan.

Update 2: I dont know if the cinema opened yesterday, but today (Saturday) they were closed "due to technical reasons" and hoped to reopen in a few days, though one member of staff did say they were going to reopen tomorrow at 1pm.

Update 3: The cinema is open :-)

Where our money goes

Just got my wage slip for the month. It's depressing how much the government takes in tax, especially when I think about how little I really get in return. I was wondering what is my tax used for.

Fortunately my curiosity has been answered. The Irish Comptroller and Auditor General has issued his report on the accounts of the Government Departments for 2004. Basically the answer to where my money goes is..... waste, the inept management of public finances and fraud.

From the Irish Independent today:
The State received €2m less than it should have got from West Link bridge tolls under a licensing agreement.

 The prison service abandoned a €500,000 computer system because it was not the right one to do the job.

 €129m was spent on refugee policies but only 25 failed asylum seekers out of 456 were deported.

 36pc of patients under the National Treatment Purchase Fund were treated in the same hospitals from which they were first referred.

 The cost of a new Automated Passport System doubled from the original estimate of €13.6m to €27.8m.

 The Department of Social Welfare made overpayments of more than €56m on social welfare schemes, with more than €18m attributed to fraud.

The report is quite easy to read, so I would recommend everyone should take a look at it, just so you know why we dont have enough funds for things like decent health care and public transport.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pride comes before a Fall

Looks like the new Apple IPod Nano may have a few problems. Apparently its case is too easy to scratch, its screen is too easy to crack and in some cases it just stops working. A website has been set up where people are posting complaints:

I have a 4 gb white nano. it is less than a week old. The LCD is failing. The colors are blurry. The Apple store told me it was user damage. I spent one hour on the phone with apple care. I am sending it in but am not guaranteed that it will be fixed. I feel it is defective. It was not sat on as apple care said it must have been to have the screen fail.

For the last few years Apple could do no wrong with their IPod range. They are by far the best looking MP3 Players on the market (with the possible exception of the IPod Shuffle which I hate). However in my opinion they were lacking in functionality when compared to other brands which have built in radios, video and audio recording. Personally I own an IRiver H120. The IPods were always saved by being a fashion icon. Apple could do no wrong so long as they maintained the IPod style.

Unfortunately for Apple the new Nano is getting a lot of bad press (they were even mentioned on RTE Radio One this morning). Will this be the start of a public awakening? Hopefully white headphones are no longer enough. If Apple sorted out the problems with the Nano, made sure future IPods have a high level of quality, and stuck a radio in them I'd probably buy one.

Update: Apple have admitted there is a problem with the Nano screens
and they will replace the damaged ones. One journalist on tv said the problem occurs in 1 in 1000 Nanos. However they say that the Nanos are no more succeptable to scratches than other Ipods, so I guess no luck for anyone hoping to get a scratched Nano replaced.

Dolphins fight back

The Guardian (actually The Observer which is the Sunday version of the Guardian) has a bizarre story about military dolphins having been let loose when Katrina struck. To make it even weirder, they may be armed. Haven't I seen this movie?

Mother-In-Law Jokes

Put aside all those mother-in-law jokes, according to a story on the BBC a man in England is to marry his ex-mother-in-law.

Monday, September 26, 2005

IRA Decommissioning Press Conference

The Canadian General John de Chastelain and the other members of the Decommissioning Body have just finished a press conference where they announced (as expected) that the Provisional IRA have decommissioned their weapons.

Some journalists questions were a little skeptical, this is where the politicians step in and try to convince the Unionists that the weapons are gone.

I guess I'm skeptical too. Not so much about the Provisional IRAs decommissioning, I think we all know that there are bound to be some weapons left hidden away that even the IRAs Army Council couldn't get their hands on, but the vast majority of weapons will be gone. Some IRA members may engage in criminality, but the organisations ability to stage a military campaign will be gone.

The problem I have with Sinn Fein and the IRA is the paramilitary display in Dublin last Saturday. I think it was a mistake on Sinn Feins part. Someone should have realised that paramilitary uniforms on the streets of Dublin would worry people. You can take the gun out of Irish politics, but you still need to take the gun out of some Irish minds. I want to trust Sinn Fein, everyone is entitled to their say, but it will take time before I can see them in government in the South.

Politics Test

A friend sent me a link to the following politics test. It may be on a dating website but it is kinda interesting, in a totally unscientific way. It asks you 42 questions and then tells you where your political allegiance is. Then in a nod to bloggers it provides html so we can post our results for all to see.

My friend will probably be disappointed to find out I'm a Democrat.

You are a

Social Liberal
(60% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(33% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

Handy Handles

I'm thinking of hosting a poker party with some friends so I thought I'd look into getting some poker chips. A quick search on google brought me this 500 piece set in an aluminum case.

There isn't a lot you can really say about poker chips, which means the person writing the blurb for this set was reduced to saying:

Plus, the handle allows you to carry your poker set nearly anywhere.

Wow, gotta get me one of them handles.

Marty in the Morning

Well Rick and Ruth are now banished and Marty is returned to the pinnacle of power that is 2FM.

In fairness to the man his first morning went smoothly and none of the first morning jitters that previous breakfast show hosts had experienced. However given the fact that he has been doing this since 1979 you would expect him to have it figured out by now.

Unfortunately I didn't really like his show. I know its only the first morning and I could get used to it. His continuous impersonation of Gay Byrne, say what Marty, Gay Byrne I say, does get a little annoying after a while. I couldn't help but get the feeling that RTE have conceded the youth market and are now aiming 2FM at the middle aged market. I know I'm no kid myself but this doesn't appeal to me.

I'm sure that Marty will be a "success". He will probably draw in a similar profile listenership that Gerry Ryan gets, but maybe he will get them listening to 2FM a little earlier in the morning.

As the public broadcaster who gets the license fee, RTE should show more imagination.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

IRA Decommissioning

RTE news (and now the BBC) is reporting that Provisional IRA decommissioning has finally taken place. General de Chastelain, the head of the Decommissioning Body, will brief the British and Irish governments tomorrow and there will be a press conference later tomorrow.

I don't mean to sound like the DUP who are never happy no matter how much progress is made in the peace process and no matter how much the Provisional IRA give up but I think we have a long way to go before Sinn Fein can enter government in the Republic. This was reinforced after yesterdays march through Dublin (registration required on the Irish Independent website, sorry) with numerous paramilitary uniforms and especially kids in uniforms and replica guns .

Children posed with replica rifles in their hands yesterday as thousands of SF/IRA sympathisers brought the streets to a standstill at the height of a busy Saturday afternoon.

Among the 3,000-strong crowd that choked traffic along O'Connell Street for the march, some participants wore paramilitary uniforms while others dressed up as British soldiers.

Normal political parties don't need to dress their members in military uniforms and march through the city center.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Not all Bad

Of course Dublin isn't all bad. Not everyone is a protestor. On Grafton Street there are loads of street performers and buskers. Every now and then you come across a moment of beauty, such as this lady doing salsa/spanish style dancing.

Protesting cause its Saturday

Saturday seems to be protest day in Dublin. Every idiot with a cause decides that Saturday is a good day to make a point. Some set up stands on the side of the street, some shout a lot, some block up O'Connell Street.

Today for example in a 15 minute walk from O'Connell Street through Temple Bar and on to Grafton Street we had

  • Take Back the City (It seems they want to take the city back from its citizens and give it to kids)
  • Youth Defense (abortion is banned in Ireland but they want it more banned)
  • Falun Gong (maybe they have a point, I don't know much about them)
  • Youth Defense again (just to reinforce the point they had two protest stands going at the same time)
  • Sinn Fein (a rather disturbing show of force in favor of a united Ireland, too many military style uniforms for comfort)
  • Vegetarians (yes vegetarians, meat is murder and all that)

Its all getting boring. At this stage they seem to protest just because it is Saturday and thats what they do on Saturdays.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Virtual Weapon of Mass Destruction

Strange story on BBC today. Online gaming may not be everyone's cup of tea, the real world being enough of a challenge for most of us, but for many they provide a new challenge that normal computer games cannot since the other characters are real players. Apparently someone figured out how to spread a disease in the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft and has unleashed a virtual plague.

The infection was only supposed to affect those in the immediate vicinity of Hakkar's corpse but some players found a way to transfer it to other areas of the game by infecting an in-game virtual pet with it.

This pet was then unleashed in the orc capital city of Ogrimmar and proved hugely effective as the Corrupted Blood plague spread from player to player.


Many online discussion sites were buzzing with reports from the disaster zones with some describing seeing "hundreds" of bodies lying in the virtual streets of the online towns and cities.

I've never played World of Warcraft, but it is interesting to see how a virtual game, when it gets large enough, can evolve in ways the developers did not expect, and in ways that mirror the fears of the real world.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Back from holidays

As you can see from my posts I'm back in Dublin, still on holidays from work, but back in Dublin and back online. :-)

Taxing the WEEE ones

On the way back to Dublin this afternoon I was listening to Joe Duffy on the radio. For anyone who hasn't lived in Ireland at anytime over the last decade or so, the Liveline show is another hang over from 1979, but it appears to be popular and actually kinda interesting in a bizare, unexpected way. The basic idea is people ring in with complaints and tales of woe, Joe tells them how terrible it is and others ring in with similar stories.

Anyway, today one lady rang in to complain about the new WEEE tax. The government may not call it a tax, but when they force everyone to pay it then it is a tax. The unfortunate thing about it is that it was an EU idea and no one in Ireland seems to want to take responsibility for it. The electronics shops now have to pass on an extra charge to consumers for electronic devices that will need to be recycled. The consumer is then supposed to be able to return old electronics to the shop and the shop is responsible for the recycling of the old device. Probably a good idea, in an ideal world. However no one seems to know what is taxed, how much the tax should be and even that they can bring their old devices back to the shop.

The lady told Joe about her husband who went to Argos to purchase a talking Peepa Pig (a character from a cartoon aimed at 2 to 6 year olds) and a set of surround sound speaker stands. Peepa was €21.99 and the pair of stands was €29.99. The ladies husband was then charged €5 for each of them as recycling tax.

There are two problems for the government here. Firstly the stands are not electronics. They may be used with electronics, but they are just basically shelves on poles, nothing electric in them. Why is the tax being added to them? Probably confusion, the retailer doesn't know what to tax and so taxed everything electronics related.

Secondly, and far far more importantly, taxing toys? The government has introduced a tax on TOYS???? In the run up to Christmas??????? Thank God the opposition are totally inept or they could cause some trouble for the government on this one.

Of course I'm being ironic, only the Irish opposition parties are so bad at the job of opposition that they could let a government off on this one. Someone needs to get their arse kicked for allowing toys to be put on the list or for allowing retailers to put the tax on toys in error.

In fairness to the Department of the Environment, they did contact the show and announce that the tax was not supposed to be added onto any toys, and that they had nothing to do with the tax, it was all Europes fault. Joe did insist that toys were on the directive and while I couldn't find "toy" in the directive itself I did find this list on another site.

This Directive applies to the following categories of electrical and electronic equipment:

  • large and small household appliances;
  • IT and telecommunications equipment;
  • consumer equipment;
  • lighting equipment;
  • electrical and electronic tools (with the exception of large-scale stationary industrial tools);
  • toys, leisure and sports equipment;
  • medical devices (with the exception of implanted and infected products);
  • monitoring and control instruments;
  • automatic dispensers.

It appears that we have a new tax that no one is responsible for, no one understands and no one wants except some Eurocrats. The Department of the Environment needs to come out with a definitive list, make it widely available and easy to understand. Then we should all familiarise ourselves with the directive and when we are in shops over the next couple of months make sure that we only pay the tax on items that are covered by the directive and not items the retailer has thrown the tax onto in a scatter gun reaction. If the retailer disagrees with you, simply walk away and go to another shop that does not charge you 20% extra tax on your kids Christmas present just because it takes batteries.

The Past

Since I was in Tunisia earlier this year, then Paris and will be off to London later in the year I decided I should do the family thing and visit the important people in my life that I don't see enough.

My grandfather has not been too well lately. He's 87 and spent 86 of those years eating enough high cholesterol food to kill an rhinoceros. Fortunately for him he has the constitution of an Elephant. Unfortunately time has caught up with him and in the last few months his heart has been causing him some problems. Suddenly my last surviving grandparent isn't immortal and I realise that I haven't spent as much time with him as I should have in the last few years, especially since I moved to Dublin.

Therefore I thought it would be worth taking some time and visit him. On Tuesday I went with my Grandfather and my Mum for a drive around the area he has lived in all his life. Its a secluded part of the country and as we drove my Grandfather would point into empty fields, down overgrown long unused laneways, and through forestry planted fields. He would explain how 80 years ago my great-grandparents lived down there with their fruit trees. How over that hill was the house where my great-great grandmother lived. How a fertile green field in the middle of useless bog was land drained by a man 50 years ago "and he did a grand job of it". How that man died in an accident and wasn't found for days. How there used to be a house in another field that was a good place for the boys on the run from "the Tans". And on and on through the locality.

It was a history lesson of a countryside that has died, the young people moved to towns, the old people passed on. So slowly the the houses fell into disrepair and were abandoned and knocked down. Now few people are left that remember that past. It wasn't a glorious history but it was a personal history of far more relevance to me than distant wars, and politics. I know that when my Grandfather does pass away not just a person will die, but one of the last routes into a long lost community of many people will die with him. Its a shame that we dont appreciate the simple history of our localities and families as much as global history.

Friday, September 16, 2005


:-) I'm on Holidays. :-)
:-) Back in a week. :-)

The Coffee Trail

The Guardian has an interesting article on coffee. They start with growers in Ethiopia, through the buyers, inspectors, roasters and on to the coffee shop.

Things are a little better now: last year, Mekonum made 35p for each kilogram of coffee. This year, when he hired a donkey to take the family's beans along the hilly road to the village - the first stage in an extraordinarily complex journey that would end, months later, in the supermarkets and coffee shops of Britain and elsewhere - he found that the figure had risen to 48p

I like my coffee, and we buy Fairtrade coffee in work, but I had never thought about making sure to ask for it in coffee shops. I think I will in future.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sir? Sir? May I go to the Toilet?

I found this on a friends blog initially and then on other sites. Apparently a Reuters photographer, Rick Wilking, took a photograph of Bush writing a note in the UN yesterday.

The caption reads:

U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's vision of freedom from want, persecution and war.

The note reads:

"I think I MAY NEED A BATHroom break? Is this possible."

Of course you cant actually see his face, or anything other than the back of part of his head, part of a desk, a stack of papers and of course the note, so there is a good chance someone rigged it and managed to fool Reuters and then the story started to spread on the internet.

If this is real someone really needs to come up with code words for George W Bush to use at embarassing moments. Things like "I need to take a call from the LOOuisiana Governor", or "I would like to consult with the SUPREME Court".

Update - Apparently its real. Though you would think that with the majority of world leaders being men in and around 60, bathroom breaks would be fairly regular items on the schedule.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Google Blog Search

If there is one thing every blogger can be guaranteed to blog about over the next couple of days its the new Google Blog Search engine. I guess it was inevitable that they would launch a blog search tool. Technorati and the likes must have dreaded this day.

Google search it in beta at the moment but it seems to be fully functional, or at least as fully functional as Google gets with its simple, no nonsense, interface. I don't know what way the search engine ranks results but to a certain extent the results seem to be grouped by blog. Searching for "Rip Off Republic" Google returned 101 entries. ("George Bush" returned 322,533). I found my 8 blog entries that mentioned "Rip off Republic" in the title all grouped together (on page 9) but three other entries that just mention "Rip off Republic"were separated from the others by other peoples blog entries. 2 of my entries were 100 and 101, so I guess I've a bit of work to do to improve my Google "relevance" rating.

Google do have a Web Crawler which you can add URLs to. I chanced my arm and added my blog url to it. I'll see if that improves my rankings tomorrow, though I doubt it.

I got quite a few visits from searches on Technorati, which was sorted by date. On Technorati the search for "Rip Off Republic" gives 69 results, my latest one being on page 1. Google by default is sorted by relevance, so its alot harder to know how this will impact on blog traffic. I don't know how Google decides which blog entries are more relevant than others, but I imagine some people will be happy, some wont be.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Free Online Guardian Newspaper

The Guardian has changed its format, instead of being broadsheet, it is now "berliner", which is like a cross between broadsheet and metro/compact/tabloid. I'm not too sure about the new format as I actually much perfer the compact versions of papers like The Irish Independent and The Times, but the berliner version is alot easier to handle than the broadsheet version

Anyway the point of this post it to tell people that as part of the relaunch the Guardians digital version is available for free until September 26th. You can view each page of each section of the paper as it looks in the printed version. On some pages there are links to certain stories. You can click on a PDF link and download the whole page in readable size which can then be saved from Adobe Reader to be read off line. Handy. Many of us just read certain sections of a paper or just read headlines that grab our attention, so just save those pages onto disk and read them later. As online versions of newspapers go this one is quite fancy.

Always on the look out for free stuff :-)

Bush gets permission to use the Bomb

Looks like George W now has a plan to avoid future military quagmires like the one in Iraq. If he thinks a country is about to use Weapons of Mass Destruction against the USA he can now make a preemptive nuclear strike instead of invading the country.

This has two advantages over the current Bush military strategy. Firstly no bad press when thousands of troops die after you declare the war has ended. Secondly no embarrassing moments when the public realise there were no WMDs in the first place, the nuclear devastation can be hailed as 100% successful in destroying the phantom weapons.

Apparently he can also use nuclear weapons if there is an

"imminent attack from adversary biological weapons that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy."

Better stop talking about the risk of disease from polluted flood waters in New Orleans then.

Monday, September 12, 2005

England Win the Ashes

England have just been bowled out but have basically won the Ashes in cricket. Cricket is a sport I have never really figured out. Terms like midon, midoff, leg-break and square leg, just seem bizarre. Also the idea that one game can take 5 days and then end in a draw seems, well, terribly English.

Anyway the BBC radio commentators are currently trying to decide if the match is already over, if Australia have to bat or if they can just "take the light" and end the game. Even the commentators admit the rules are complicated, but as they said, anything else just wouldn't be cricket. In fact Australia just conceeded, took the light and walked away, but the umpires have decided the game could continue, so England are sitting on the field wondering whats going on and no one knows if they can celebrate yet.

Still it seems the ashes has been the sporting event of the summer, even in Ireland where 6 months ago people would have laughed themselves silly at the idea of watching cricket and shouting for England. On Saturday, with Dublin full of GAA fans up for the All-Ireland Hurling Final, most pubs seemed to be showing the Ashes and people were watching and could tell you what the score was and how many overs were left.

Congratulations to England, and well done to both teams for making cricket popular.

Fianna Fail and polls

For the last year the Fianna Fail/PD government has faced a bad time with public opinion polls. Its popularity has fallen in the face of allegations of Rip off Ireland, political cronism and incompetence. However as I thought about Fianna Fails current dismal ratings in the latest polls (32%) I reminded myself its only a opinion poll. The party may be on the canvas, but there are still several rounds to go before another election. Then the more I thought about it the more I realised that the government is actually in a better strategic position than people realise. I know it may not look like it, but the opposition has actually gone along way towards helping the government win the next election. How? By setting an achievable agenda.

Take Rip off Ireland for example. The public has had its attention focused on the Groceries Order, which has been blamed for the price of a shopping basket being 20% dearer here than in Europe. The order is currently under review and the government could easily scrap it. Sure they will take time to consider it, they will explain that there are two sides to the issue and they need to be carefully consider the consequences before acting, but in the end they can give in. The public will be convinced that they have won a major concession, but what has the government lost? Nothing.

Closer to the heart of the government has been the rip off imposed on the public by publicans. Cafe Bars may have been stopped earlier this year by a backbench revolt, with TDs looking out for their mates in the vintners federation but when their comfy seats in the Dail are suddenly feeling a little shaky it'll be every TD for himself. Cafe Bars can be reintroduced with a triumphant Minister for Justice claiming he has stood up to vested interests and won a major victory for the ordinary man on the street.

Next comes the budget, the government can reduce tax on motorists, possibly with a significant drop in fuel tax. Brian Cowen will say its costing him alot of money, but with fuel prices 12% higher in the last 12 months, they can should be able to afford to drop their percentage and still take more money next year from fuel tax than they did this year. The public, however, will love it. Every percentage point dropped in tax should gain a few in the polls.

Then comes transport infrastructure. Early in the year they could buy out the M50 motorway bridge and scrap the tolls on it. This would be a financial hit but not a substantial one, at least not as big a hit as people like to claim. Follow this closely with the opening of the port tunnel, some bypasses, an announcement of a link up between the Luas lines, and some spin around the roll out of new trains and carriages for CIE and the government can say they have achieved something.

Then finally in April comes the real vote grabber, the maturity of the SSIAs. Thousands of people will suddenly get an average payout of €13,000 from the government. Ok most of it is not from the government. The punter will have contributed 75% and the government 25%, maybe a little extra will have been earned on the stock market, but you can be sure it will be spun to make it seem like Bertie is writing out cheques from his own bank account. Nothing makes people happier than a wad of cash and a spending spree. After related increases in VAT returns, stamp duty and the take from VRT, the bulk of that 25% will be back in the governments coffers, while the public are contented with their shiny new toys. Bertie and Co will seem like the best thing that ever happened to this country and the public will forget all their little faults.

By next summer the government could be riding high in the polls and quite probably celebrating a recent election victory. The opposition could be back to plotting to oust their new party leaders and everyone will be trying to figure out how the government managed it all.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Rip off Republic Part 4

Monday night saw the last episode of Rip off Republic. The first 2/3rds of the show were less about individual rip-offs and more about the general state of financial life in Ireland in 2005. The last third of the show then briefly touched on some individual problems.

To start with Eddie explained how indebted the people of Ireland. We now owe more than we earn as a nation. That's not national debt, that's personal debt. By the end of 2006 we will be the most indebted nation in the developed world and we are the 2nd most unequal society.

Eddie covered one of the problems faced by immigrants who come to Ireland looking for work. They are at risk of being exploited. There was a case of a immigrant paid €5 an hour to walk dogs instead of the minimum wage of €7.42. The reason for this? The employer said the he was still being trained in dog walking. Eddie made a bit of a joke about it by going onto the streets of Cork trying to hire a dog walker for €5 an hour and "interviewing" people. I didn't particularly like this part as it made light of a pretty serious issue, the exploitation of immigrants. But I suppose the whole series is about serious topics and maybe comedy highlighted the absurd nature of the situation.

Next came pensions and how difficult it is to accumulate a decent pension if you are working in the private sector. To get a pension of €40,000 a year you need to put around €1,000,000 into your pension fund. That is way beyond most people who on average make about €500 a week and once bills are living expenses are paid they are left with very little, especially if they have to pay unexpected bills. Another sketch followed with Eddie suffering a series of accidents and needing a doctor, a plumber, a mechanic, etc. Its frightening how quickly money can disappear and how standard the prices among people who are supposed to be in competition is.

He made just passing references to Credit Cards and Benefit in Kind. BIK I can live with, I understand that alot of people avoided tax in the past by getting company cars, or gifts and presents instead of direct cash. Credit Cards though deserved ALOT more attention than they got, in fact banks in general could have had a whole episode dedicated to them. The charges and interest rates they apply are grossly unfair and need regulation. However Eddie was again a little cautious and obviously didn't want to offend what would be a big client base of his.

Eddie ended the show by telling people that in the end they need to stop the Rip Off attitude. They need to help the competition authority by reporting un-competitive behaviour. I personally think that anti-competitive practices in Ireland today are one of the biggest problems we face. There is no such thing in Ireland as competition. Prices rarely go down due to competition, instead they tend to go up to the highest level charge not down to the lowest.

Apparently RTE are ready to make a second series, so they obviously don't expect the issues to go away any time soon. I would expect that they will find a repeat slot for the first series sometime soon, lots of people that I know missed the first two episodes and only started watching the show when the press got behind it.

Will the show change anything? Probably not. But you know, I think it has brought the issues to the fore in the publics mind. Next week most people will probably wander back to watching Lost and forget how annoyed they were on Monday evening. In the end we Irish get ripped off because we are too lazy to do anything about it. We shop in the nearest convenience market where everything is more expensive, instead of going up the road to the supermarket. We stay with our bank because they have always been our bank. We buy coffee at €3.70 a cup because its the fashionable place to be seen. We drink ourselves silly on expensive booze because that's what our mates are doing. We re-elect the same politicians because they get things done locally, even if they are screwing things up nationally. But for 5 weeks this summer the publics eyes were opened and maybe some of us will be a little more careful with our money in future even without realising it. In the end maybe we will have something to thank Eddie Hobbs for, though we will probably still be complaining about Rip Off Ireland in 5 years time.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Donnie Cassidy announces there is no Rip Off in Ireland

Donnie Cassidy was on the radio yesterday evening telling an interviewer that there is no such thing as Rip Off Ireland. He basically accused the RTE interviewer of bias and of only wanting to advertise Eddie Hobbs' program, Rip off Republic. He said that only the media believe in and talk about Rip Off Ireland. He then said he was on holidays in Ireland and it was great value. He said that a he was surprised that a show with the title Rip off Republic got by Cathal Goan the director of RTE who are normally very good. The program is available on the RTE website, it was the 6th Sept around minute 26.

That man must be nuts and totally out of touch with the common people. Only the media believe in Rip Off Ireland? If he walked down any street in any town in Ireland he would be hard pressed to find a random person who did not believe that consumers were being ripped off at every turn.

Does he believe that RTE, the national public broadcaster, funded by taxpayers money should tow the government line and never criticise it? Should RTE clear every program and news story with the government press office?

Perhaps he has spent too much time in the sheltered environs of Leinster House and should now retire from public life. Someone who knows what life is like outside the Dail should be given a chance to serve the public. At the very least Bertie should find a deep dark hole in the ground and stick Donnie into it where he can do no more damage to the government with his media interviews.

(I'll post my comments on last nights Rip Off Republic later)

Rick O'Shea Update

Rick posted an update on the demise of his and Ruth Scotts breakfast show. Its very interesting to hear things from an RTE celebrities point of view. Sometimes we the general public think they have it easy in RTE but it can be a cruel life.

It's never easy in any job to be told you're being demoted, to be told and then to have your ugly mug in every national paper this week (3 nights in a row in the Herald!) telling the nation you're being demoted certainly tests you a little more. It would also sting a little less if I didn't genuinely care about and have a passion for the show I was presenting.

Fair play to Rick for blogging about this. Many people, myself included, don't blog so openly and certainly not about things that cause us pain.

Also he posted a link to the entry on my blog. Wow people who I dont know personally are actually reading my blog. :-) Thank you Rick, and dont let the bastards get you down.

Rip Off Republic reminder

Just a quick reminder that the last episode of Rip Off Republic is on tonight at 9:30pm on RTE 1.

Eddie Hobbs was on the Ryan Tubirdy show this morning and he said that tonights episode would cover banks, insurance, women and introducing people to the competition law.

(I presume by women he means the particular rip offs experienced by women, not the costs incurred by men on the dating scene :-) )

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Shakespeare in the Park

I went to see Shakespeare in the Park in St Stephens Green yesterday. Its been running every summer for several years and this year they are putting on The Comedy of Errors. Its all outdoors in the Yeats Memorial which is surprisingly well suited to staging a play.

The play has been altered to move it into The Wild West, and the roles of the sexes have been reversed, which adds a to the comedy. The actors put in a alot of energy and the audience responds well. I had not seen the play staged before but I thought it was very enjoyable and fun. The outdoor atmosphere adding alot.

Its been on for a week and I think today (Sunday) is the last day, so its probably too late to recommend it, but if you have the chance and are looking for something to pass a couple of hours you could do worse than go to the Yeats Memorial in the Green at 5:30pm this afternoon.

Friday, September 02, 2005

George Bush and New Orleans

The situation in New Orleans just keeps getting worse. Every few hours there are fresh reports of violence, anarchy, looting and death. The Federal Government seems unable to respond with the swift decisive action needed to save lives and restore confidence.

I keep thinking of the scene on 9/11 when George Bush sat in a class room reading childrens books after being informed that the USA was under attack. What was reported to be an attempt to show the country that everything was under control just came across as weakness and indecisiveness. Bush was saved by patriotism. Standing in Ground Zero surrounded by firefighters he managed to rally the nation to his side. The last 4 years have been dominated by the War on Terror and the hunt for al-Qaeda which pushed Bush's popularity back up and got him re-elected.

Now the citizens he represents are once again under attack and the old Bush is back. This time there is no external enemy to distract the people. No super-villain plotting the over throw of the worlds last superpower. No patriotic duty. Instead people are dying because of bad management and poor leadership in the face of crisis.

Two facts in particular caught my attention this morning. Firstly the USA has refused assistance from Canada and other countries on apparent national security grounds. What national security grounds? Its not like Canada is going to take advantage of the situation to smuggle an army down to Louisiana and then invade the USA on two fronts. Its just a case of a government not wanting to appear weak and being willing to let its citizens die instead of asking for help. North Korea and Zimbabwe do the same thing.

Secondly the evacuation was halted yesterday when rescue helicopters came under small arms fire and it was decided not to put the emergency agency personnel into harms way. There has been a huge change in 4 years. On September 11th 2001 hundreds of firefighters willingly ran into danger and lost their lives in an attempt to save others. Now after 4 years of Bush led wars that courage has been used up.

They impeached Bill Clinton for lying about an affair with an intern, why don't they do the same to Bush, after all he is screwing with the lives of millions.