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.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

ITunes and TV in Europe

Damn, the one feature of the new ITunes that I wanted was TV shows, and it doesn't seem to be enabled for Europe.

I had a suspicion that this might happen. When I installed ITunes 6 all I could find was Movie Trailers, Music Videos and Pixar, none of which I want to download. I guess the "broadcast" rights haven't been sorted out for Europe yet. The BBC says

Apple has also set up a deal with US television company ABC to let Americans purchase episodes of shows for $1.99. The shows will be available the day after broadcast. There was no information about when, or if, this service would come to Europe.

And of course the price of a Music Video in Europe is €€2.49 while in America its $1.99 so it is more expensive in Europe.

Update: I was in London over the weekend and called into the Apple store on Regent Street. A Shop assistant told me that there should be lots of content coming on line from the BBC, but that this will probably be limited to UK residents, who have to pay the BBC television license fee. The Republic of Ireland will probably be out of luck with that :-(. However he did say that he would expect other content to come available later but didnt know what or when that would be.

Ryanair & The Disabled

Ryanair the low cost airline is getting lots of bad press for removing 9 blind passengers from one of their planes because they violated their safety regulations.

The reports said the move was linked to a Ryanair safety regulation that allows no more than four "disabled" people on any flight.

Fair enough I suppose, safety is important and in an emergency the flight crew could have to assist the passengers. But it appears Ryanair had been told about the disabled passengers in advance and said it would be ok.

However, one of the group had reportedly telephoned the airline eight months before the flight to check there would be no problems.

If Ryanair were told in advance they should have been ready to deal with the passengers, or they should have told them before hand that they wouldnt be allowed to fly. I wonder will the passengers get their money back or will Ryanair claim that they should have read the terms and conditions.

What also pisses me off if the fact that Ryanair insists on charging every passenger a wheelchair levy regardless of whether of not they need a wheelchair. So we are all paying for disabled passengers but Ryanair wont let them on the plane in the first place?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

New Apple IPods

As has long been expected Apple have released a "video" IPod. They have also released ITunes 6.0 to allow users to download "high-quality, ad-free music videos and TV shows for just $1.99".

I'm not a great fan of the IPod, but if I missed an episode of my favorite TV show, could download it for just $1.99 and play it full screen on my computer using ITunes then I would be very interested in that.

Ireland V Switzerland The Result


Ireland V Switzerland

Never in the field of human sport has so little been expected by so many from so few.

Damn the begrudgers, Come On Ireland!!

Uri and Ireland

Uri Geller, the famous psychic/nut case (depending on your point of view) will be in a helecopter above Lansdowne Road to help the Irish soccer team beat the Swiss tonight.

Geller is planning to fly a helicopter over Lansdowne Road just before kick-off in tomorrow’s home game against Switzerland to focus the energy of fans watching the match on TV.

Has no one warned him that it is October and all the kids in Dublin are armed with fireworks?

James Bond

How do you know you are old?
When the actor playing James Bond is *younger* than you are!

Fortunately the actor, Daniel Craig, who is currently reported to have been picked is still several years older than I am.

Craig was also reported to be have gotten the job back in April, so take this with a grain of salt (and a dash of martini).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Patience personified

Via Boing Boing

Have you ever tried to make a house of cards? Bloody frustrating and delicate work. I've tried a few times, but generally don't get above a miserable 2 levels. The guy in this story makes TOWERS of cards! He uses a technique called "grids"

What makes them stand up?
The cards stand up and stay up for two reasons. First, there are so many cards in large constructions, the combined weight of all the cards actually adds to the stability of the structure. Second, the weight is supported by the strategic arrangement of cards, called grids. Cards, arranged in grid patterns, resemble waffles or ice cube trays. The cards actually prohibit each other from bending and also prohibit each other from falling over. If you can learn to build a grid structure, you can build just about anything.

I must give it a try.

China sending two men into space

The Chinese are sending two men into space tomorrow. They really seem to be speeding ahead, trying to catch up with the Americans and the Russians. They already have plans for a spacestation and moon missions. This mission will see the two "taikonauts" spending around 5 days in orbit on board a spacecraft that has an orbiter and a re-entry capsule. Not bad for their second space mission.

New Scientist has a story about the mission which says

If the launch does not succeed, a documentary about failed space missions by other countries will reportedly air on the state network.

Nice to know when you are strapping yourself to the top of a giant fire cracker that should anything go wrong, there is a backup plan that insures no politicians pride will be injured. :-)

Update: As expected the launch went ahead today.

Hotmails new Interface

Looks like Hotmail is changing their interface. I might sign up for the test out of curiosity. I liked the old Hotmail because it was simple, easy, and fast to load. The new one looks a bit more complicated, like a real email client instead of a web-based one. I hope Microsoft don't screw this up and slow it down, though the developers do claim it will be faster. Interestingly they seem to be calling it Microsoft Mail Beta instead of Hotmail Beta...

Update: Someone has already answered many of the questions I had about the new Hotmail.

Update: I've signed up for the Beta with one of my lesser used email accounts. I now have to wait for an invite to join the Beta. If I get accepted and the changes look good and work I'll sign up with my main Hotmail account.

Blog link. I've got a blog link :-)

One of the weird thing about blogging is how easy it is to become obsessed with who is coming to your blog and how they find you. A few of my friends know that this is my blog but in general I don't advertise it. I find it very interesting to see the searches that bring people to my blog or the links they followed, one reference popped up a couple of times. She has my blog down as one of her favorites :-)

Hi "Hurley"!

She is an American who lives in Sweden. She has two blogs, a personal one and a movie one and posts more than me. ;-)

On the movie blog she writes good short reviews of movies she has seen. Strange as this may seem to say, but she also has good taste in women. (You have to read her blog to see...)

Monday, October 10, 2005


I went to see Serenity in Dundrum this weekend. I thought it was a very good movie. Its not a big budget sci-fi epic but all the better for that.

First of all lets get the issue of the Firefly series out of the way. I have never seen it. Not for any particular reason, I just don't remember it being on TV so I don't know if it was even shown on any of the channels I have. However you don't have to have seen the show to understand the movie, all the characters are introduced and their roles are clear from the very beginning.

I watched Star Trek, but I was more a fan of shows like Babylon 5 and Buffy The Vampire slayer. The main reason was that I liked the story arcs that made up both shows. Many sci-fi series claim to have a story arc but in reality they are just a loose collection of episodes that you could watch in any order. Babylon 5 and Buffy were different, each episode followed the other closely and missing an episode could leave you scratching your head in the next episode. The arc wasn't the only thing that I liked about them, the stories and the writing tended to be very good and the characters were more complex than usual.

Those elements are present in Serenity. Joss Whedon who created Buffy is the writer director behind this so the writing and conversation style is as good as it was in Buffy. It is obvious that you are watching a crew with a background story, who are a team and make smart comments to each other with the relaxed tone of a group of friends. While everything is explained for the new viewer you still know that there is more to the characters than what you have just seen.

The film is a sci-fi western, with everyone putting on a Wild West drawl. Mal, the captain of the ship, is a gunslinger and is a real Han Solo type character. River the young girl is quite odd looking. Joss Whedon seems to like his female super heroes as River has a certain Buffy quality to her while at the same time being a little insane. The other charters are fairly standard sci-fi fare. Though Simon, Rivers brother and the ships doctor, is an annoying ass whose total obsession with protecting his sister actually comes across as a little incestuous. The Operative, who is the bad guy, is very lethal while being very spiritual and calm. These are not big time movie actors, they are little known TV actors, but still pull off their roles better than any A list celebrity actor could have.

Strangely the climax of the movie is a little weak, the whole point of the adventure was flimsy in my opinion. I couldn't help but feel 'so what?'. That said the ending wasn't a standard happy ending. Whedons characters tend to suffer losses and not just victories, if you've seen the last episode of Buffy and Angel then you know he doesn't do endings where everyone walks happily into the sunset.

Compared to big budget Hollywood releases such as Minority Report, War of the Worlds, and Fantastic Four this is a much better movie, especially when you consider it was made for $45 million, which by Hollywood standards is next to nothing. If you liked Babylon 5, Buffy and/or have ever read the Dan Simmons Hyperion/Endymion books you will enjoy this movie.

P.S. If you would like to see the first 9 minutes of the movie, it is available online.

Christmas time in Dublin

Apparently we have skipped Halloween this year and gone straight to the main event, Christmas.

House Of Fraiser in Dundrum have Christmas decorations up. Not the Christmas shop! Christmas decorations! Trees and all. I like Christmas, but come on, at least wait until November.

Movies at Dundrum Again

As planned, I went to the new cinema in Dundrum last night. I expected it to be a big modern multiplex, its not. There are two reasons for this. Firstly they appear to be going for a retro look in the lobby. Thats quite nice, though with todays drive for better technology in cinemas, digital films, better sound and the like, it is a little surprising that they decided to go with an older look and feel. Surprising but not off putting.

Secondly, and this is a off putting, is the way the lobby and toilets seem old and worn in places, and I don't mean old and worn in a homely way. Nor do I mean its just that the building work is unfinished it looks worse than that. I mean old and worn in a 'cheaply built and open for years' kind of way. They do appear to have some teething problems and delays in opening but at the moment it does look like some work hasn't been finished or finished very cheaply. Thats a shame and I would be concerned that if they have done things on the cheap and it will only get worse as the public use the cinema. Plaster work has holes in it, even in the coffee area (see picture), paint looks worn and chipped already and needs another coat. There seemed to be a leak in the toilets as there was water of the floor. Also only one pre-booked ticket console was working, but no one was using it so the others may have just been turned off until they get online booking working. Those are all minor concerns and can be solved with a few more weeks of work. Though they need to get them sorted before the cinema gets a bad reputation. And of course I went on a Sunday night when the skangers were passed out after a weekend drinking so I dont know what it would be like on a Saturday afternoon when it could be full of kids and trouble makers.

All the typical cinema snacks are there. I didn't buy any popcorn and it was only after I had gone though the ticket check that I saw popcorn comes in what look like microwaveable bags, that's odd, I like my popcorn in a proper boxy container. It was €9.30 for a ticket, expensive, but I suppose its the new price in some other cinemas as well. There are concession prices for earlier shows, something other cinemas have stopped doing and something I applaud Dundrum for doing.

No one goes to the cinema to sit in the lobby and eat popcorn, we only do so while waiting for the screen to be cleaned, The screen (Screen 2) was about as nice as cinema screens in Ireland get. It had a new car type of smell to it (who doesn't like the new car smell?). The seats are highbacked and cushioned, I imagine they could be a little narrow for some, but they were comfy for me. As I said they are high backed, so when you sit down the first thing you think is, 'God I'm going to have someones head in my way', but I would think most peoples heads wont go over the back of the seat, at least not once they get settled. Though if their head does come over the top of the seat in any amount then they will block the view. Heads blocking my view was one of the reasons I stopped going to the cinema in Stillorgan which is run by the same company.

I have no idea how big the other screens are, the one I was in (Screen 2) was a small sized screen. I was in row C, third from the back, and the view was fine. I forgot to check how many screens there are (yeah this is a piss poor review :-)). There are lots of movies on show, so I imagine they must have lots more screens down stairs.

Ok, so, conclussion? It wasn't the new modern multiplex I expected. It seems to be aiming to be a more traditional type of cinema. It has a few minor issues that I'm sure they will sort out. But if they don't sort them then the cinema could go downhill very quickly. If the cinema has been done on the cheap and attracts the wrong crowd then it could be a major problem. I would have to go a few more times before making a firm conclussion. I thought it was comfortable. Its expensive to go to the cinema any where now, but Dundrum do have off peak prices. I would like to see how they cope on a Friday or Saturday evening when the place would be at its busiest, but overall I do think I like it and I'll be going to the movies more often now that I have a cinema so close.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bush doesn't consult God about National Security

Well the good news is the White House have come out and denied the earlier news story alleging President Bush mentioned to the Palestinian delegation that God told him to invade Iraq. This means the most powerful man in the world is no longer of questionable mental stability, though some people still question his mental capacity.

Interestingly enough the story first came out of the BBC, who have made a 3 part documentary on the Israel-Palestine peace process. It is during this documentary that the allegation is made. The BBC now seem to be backing away from the story.

The Guardian have picked up on this sudden reluctance on the part of the BBC and the fact that the BBC just covered the story by reporting the White House denial and not the original "Bush is Nuts" slant taken by most other media outlets. In fact a quick look on the BBC site shows that even that denial story has disappeared while older stories remain, though you can still find it through a search for the words White House.

Its interesting that the BBC have backed down so quickly on this, especially after earlier (untrue) allegations that they tried to fire John Humphrys for giving an after dinner speech criticising the Labour government. Though the BBC did admit that they "censured" him. Is the BBC running scared?

Update: The BBC now has a story saying
A Palestinian official who said the US president had claimed God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan says he did not take George Bush's words literally.
So I guess everyone is stepping back from this story.

People will get money to research anything

Must be a slow news day, and an even slower research year in Ireland. Someone (I'm guessing a first year student doing their first year project) researched SUVs and came to the conclusion that they "pose an increased danger to pedestrians" and that pedestrians are "between two and four times more likely to be killed or seriously injured" if hit by an SUV instead of a car.

Wow, who would have guessed? Maybe they should look into doing post-grad to see the effect trucks have on the pedestrians they hit? I'm guessing, and its only a guess mind you, that it would be worse than being hit by BOTH an SUV and a car (maybe even by both at the same time). :-)

Movies at Dundrum and Google

Several visitors to this blog over the the last week have come from a Google search for Movies @ Dundrum which I posted about a week ago. Unfortunately Google keeps pointing them at my main page and not the actual blog entry so when they follow the link they dont find the posting as it has slipped off the main page. So here is a link to it.

For those just looking for the cinema listing try this.

On a related note, I hope to go (went) to see Serenity over the weekend and I hope to see it in Dundrum. From the outside the cinema looks nice and modern, as you would expect. Its gotten good reviews on the radio so I'm looking forward to watching a movie there. If its good I could be spending alot more time going to the cinema. I'll post my opinions of it afterwards as it seems to be a popular subject.

Nobel Peace Prize

Mohamed El Baradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency have won the Nobel Peace Prize. I was kinda rooting for Bono and Bob Geldof, but ElBaradei is a better choice, seeing how he works to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

There was a very good documentary on BBC a few weeks ago that followed ElBaradei and his team as they attempted to monitor Irans nuclear program. From the inspectors on the ground to ElBaradei personally negotiating one-to-one with ambassadors on couches outside meeting rooms, the work these guys do is difficult, frustrating and thankless. No nation involved makes life easy for them and every side believes he is favouring the other side. So I guess that means he must be doing something right.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

George W. and THE VOICE OF GOD

Good old George W Bush. Most people would be concerned if they started hearing voices, especially if those voices told them to go kill people by invading countries. Not George. No, George figures its the voice of God telling him to do these things. He's been given a mission and we know he'll accomplish it, or kill us all trying. Then he tells the Palestinian delegation during peace talks, who naturally being a little bemused go and tell journalists.

One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."

But George, the bad news is that isn't the voice of God, its Dick Cheney talking into the heating vents between your offices. Oh and George, its not God he's impersonating, but the other fellow...

Conservative Leader

The Conservative Party in England is finally electing a new leader. One of my first blog entries was about the resignation of Michael Howard 6 months ago and they have taken their time just figuring out how to elect his successors.

After 8 years in the doldrums the conservatives finally have a leadership candidate who seems like someone who could lead them to victory in an election and be the "new Tony Blair". David Cameron is a young MP with 5 years experience, but he has star quality. Either he is a political genius or someone with loads of experience is behind the scenes handling his campaign. He comes across as friendly, open, trustworthy, basically he seems like Tony Blairs younger hipper cooler brother. People have asked if he has the experience and gravitas needed to lead the conservative party. I think if there is one thing the conservatives have too much of it is experience and gravitas. They desperately need a new image. Maybe British politics is about to get interesting.

When are WMDs not WMDs?

When are Weapons of Mass Destruction not Weapons of Mass Destruction?

When does research into a biological weapon with a proven track record not breach the Biological Weapons Convention?

When is it a clever thing to do to recreate a killer that took more lives than the Black Death? Or more lives than World War I?

The answer is... when it is done by American scientists in the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in an attempt to understand what made the 1918 Influenza virus so devastating. Oh, and to make things more interesting they made the genetic sequence information available online.

If this was any other country in the world the Tomahawk Missiles would already be on the way. How can the American government expect other less stable nations around the world to not develop WMDs when they do so themselves with such blase? I believe they would never knowingly release the virus, but the point is they should be setting an example to the rest of the world, not flaunting their double standards.

Update: To be fair, here is a post from CNN which is more in favour of the American scientists. Though I still think its a dumb thing a) to do this research at all, and b) to make the story, let alone the gene sequence, public.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

2FM and blogging

The RTE 2FM DJ Rick O'Shea was moved off the breakfast show which he presented with Ruth Scott. I've made my opinion of that clear in other posts. Now he has the 10pm to 12pm slot. Its an awkward time of the evening, but I've heard some of his show the last two nights. I like it, interesting and easy listening. The main thing that really caught my attention is the fact that he talks about blogging, and tonight was slagging another blogger about their lack of posting. Looks like blogging is becoming mainstream if it gets mentioned on RTE :-)

What do we know about our history

Landsdowne Market Research have published the preliminary results of a survey they did on how much Irish history the general public know. The results are actually better than I would have expected.

Shame on me, when I read the questions I couldn't remember who the first Irish President was.

Here are the questions they have posted, see which ones you know the answers to before going to the results page

  • Which Irish historical figure was known as the Emancipator?
  • Michael Collins was a leader on which side in the civil war, the pro treaty side or the anti treaty side?
  • Who was the first President of Ireland?
  • Who was Taoiseach during World War 2 ?
  • In what year did Ireland officially become a Republic ?

Naming computers after muppets

The company I work for has a ever changing set of software test machines. As new machines come online they naturally have to be given a name. The naming convention for test machines in here is to name them after characters from The Muppets.

For anyone out there with a similarly insane strategy, they may be familiar with the argument that generally starts something like "What was the rats name in the muppets? Ratto? Robbo?...".

The solution to this is

All the muppet names you could ever need. I know some friends of mine who will like this site, just for the fact that its related to the muppets (yes, they are female :-) ).

p.s. Our IT manager is currently printing out the pictures on stickers so no one can confuse the machines ever again. I work in a madhouse.....

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Irish Government and the Drinks Industry

The Irish government has scrapped a bill that was supposed to protect children and adolescents from over-exposure to alcohol advertising. The industry will now self-regulate. I have to wonder if our favourite 40 TDs, whom I like to call "The Publicans Friends", had anything to do with this. However, that said, I do agree with the government on this one (yeah, amazing, I know. I promise I wont make a habit of it :-) ), though they will take alot of flack from the opposition and anti-alcohol lobby.

In fairness to the drinks industry it is doing its bit to counter the problem of binge drinking. Diageos "don't see a great night wasted" campaign deserves special praise. Many of the adverts for beer now show people drinking socially in a non-pub environment instead of locked into a pub where binge drinking was part of the ambiance. Take the new Miller advert with the guy going to the off-license on his bike and rolling down the hill for example. (Ok drinking and cycling is a VERY stupid idea, as I know from experience). A couple of years ago he would have been shown in the pub with a limitless supply available from a barman only too happy to serve him as long as he had money and no matter how drunk he got. Now all he has are 6 bottles, and its a more social, casual, drink with friends. Drinking at home is a problem for some people, but I think in general people consume less when drinking with friends at home than when drinking with friends in a pub. Of course not all alcohol adverts steer away from binge drinking, but its a start.

The problem with children and drink is not advertising. It is peer pressure. They don't learn to drink from TV, they learn from their mates. Drink culture is going to prove to be a difficult thing to change. Its ingrained in the Irish psyche and it will require a long term strategy to wean the nation off alcohol. Too many things in Ireland revolve around the pub. Sporting events are watched in the pub, after game team drinks are held in the pub, company events end in the pub, mates meet up in the pub, working weeks end in the pub, families go for lunch in the pub, political parties hold meetings in the pub, and so on.

It is also far too easy for kids to get alcohol in the first place. The majority of kids are not stealing bottles of cider from their parents drinks cabinet, or buying pints in pubs. They are getting their drink from dodgy off-licenses that dont mind selling to anyone who looks close enough to 18. Many off-licenses are perfectly law abiding, but enough are not to fuel the alcohol problem for kids.

I would like to see more official checks on off-licenses. There needs to be more enforcement of age checks to prevent kids who look 18 (in the opinion of the seller) buying beer. Of course we might need ID cards for that, but surely at this stage everyone over 18 either has a drivers license or a passport. The American idea that if you look younger than 30 then they "card" you is a good one. No room for error.

The Gardai should also increase the checks on off-licenses by sending under age kids in and seeing if they can buy alcohol (though I imagine civil-rights groups would freak and child protection agencies wouldn't know what to say).

If dodgy off-licenses knew they could be closed down for selling alcohol to kids and that the Gardai were checking up on them, then they sure as hell would stop selling to kids.

Rocket Races Update

As expected the guy behind the X-Prize has announced a new venture... The Rocket Racing League :-)
(From MSNBC)
Contestants in the Rocket Racing League would not necessarily pass the 62-mile-high (100-kilometer-high) threshold to outer space, but would vie to go the fastest and the highest in the atmosphere. In that regard, the EZ-Rocket — a rocket plane powered by liquid oxygen and isopropyl alcohol that takes off and lands like an airplane — provides a better model than, say, the air-launched SpaceShipOne rocket plane that won the X Prize almost exactly a year ago.

"For me, it's sort of a remembrance of 'Star Wars' pod racing," Diamandis said.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Turkey and the EU

The EU foreign ministers have "reached a deal" on opening accession talks with Turkey which wants to join the EU. Its a shame really, Turkey was making such great strides in terms of democracy. Now those will be cast aside and replaced by the government from Brussels that the rest of us are increasingly having to put up with.

All joking aside, I think Turkey joining the EU as the EU currently exists is not a good idea. Not that Turkey is the problem, a bit of diversity never hurt anyone. The problem I have is with the race to expand the European Union and the way the concerns of smaller nations are being discounted. For example look at the current news stories linked above, what was the "deal" that was reached? The Guardian says:

Austria's foreign minister, Ursula Plassnik, backed down after hours of intense talks chaired by Jack Straw.

and The BBC

But officials said after intense negotiations in Luxembourg that Austria had fallen into line.

Sounds very democratic, doesn't it? "Backed Down". "Fallen into line". Lets not forget our own Nice referendums ("What? You voted No? That wont do at all. Here have another go and this time remember the correct answer is Yes!")

What started as a trading block has suddenly grown into an unwieldy bureaucratic nightmare where faceless Eurocrats decide policies for citizens who have no say in the decisions and can do nothing to remove those Eurocrats that place themselves in positions of great power.

Before anyone else is allowed to join the EU the current members should look closely at how the organisation is run, and where it is headed. The idea of streamlining the running of the EU by reducing the power of smaller states is not a solution, unless of course what the Eurocrats are trying to do is reinstate the old European idea of great powers and spheres of influence. Maybe England could represent Ireland and say the Scandanavia countries, France could represent Spain, Portugal Belgium, and co, and Germany could represent Eastern Europe. Wouldn't that be great? Much more streamlined. The Big Three could sit down make a few decisions and if any of the smaller nations disagreed well, there are always severe financial penalties to keep the rabble in line if they breach any EU regulation. (Yes, I'm joking again)

Though that said even the opinions of the larger states are not always counted. There is no denying that Ireland has done well out of the EU, but did we trade our democracy for a few cows and some miles of motorways?

Lets sort out our own house first. The talks with Turkey will take about 10 years. I cant help but feel that Turkey will have made more progress in those 10 years than the EU will.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a total Euro-sceptic, I just dislike the Eurocrats who have twisted it into something that only serves their egos.

Xena and Gabrielle

Several news sites have a story about the recently discovered "10th planet" and the fact that it has a moon. Some bright spark has called the planet Xena and the moon is now called Gabrielle, from the TV series Xena: Warrior Princess.

Fortunately official names have yet to be agreed, but imagine if these names stick, teachers in 200 years will have to explain where the names came from. "Well there was this thing called 'Television' and there was a 'show' called Xena. No one has seen it in 175 years because the tapes were wiped so we don't know what it was about, but we're stuck with the names now. Now on to the 11th planet, Buffy and its moons Xander and Willow....".

Shudder, geeks shouldn't be allowed pick names (I count myself in that group) :-).

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. I want my 2 hours back!

While in Liffey Valley today (buying the poker chips) I went to the cinema with some friends. We decided to go see Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. It was an awful, awful mistake. We should have stayed in the lobby and watched the trailers on the tv screens, it would have been less of a waste of €9.30 (yeah, the price has gone up again) and 2 hours of our lives.

The original movie was never going to win an Oscar, or make it to my DVD collection, but it had some funny moments. Its no Theres Something about Mary, but it is worth a watch when it is on tv. The sequel though has nothing going for it. Its a straight to video type of movie, that no one should ever have to watch.

The plot is basically ugly short nerdy middle aged American guy becomes a gigolo and ends up on dates with an assortment of women who are comedic freaks and rejects but whom he helps get their lives together while trying to save his fish/friend (change depending on which movie you watch).

The jokes were all funnier in the original movie. Rob Schneider and Eddie Griffin both look like they would rather be anywhere else than on the set of this movie. The side characters have gone from being comical to being absurd.

The only interesting thing in it is the fact that they joke about Europeans hating Americans for invading Iraq with Americans having bricks thrown at them from off screen and shouts about weapons of mass destruction and invading countries for oil. I couldn't help but think that the director was actually aiming the criticism more at Bush than Europeans. (Though I may have been clutching at straws in an attempt to salvage something from this movie).

Save your money, skip this movie.

Poker chips

As I mentioned in a previous post I was looking into getting poker chips for a poker party. In the end I bought a set of 400 in an aluminium case from Special Days in Liffey Valley. They have a sale on at the moment so the set was €59 down from €72 and since I was buying the last 400 case which was being used as the display model I got even more money off.

Compared to the kit available in Argos which was €72 for what appeared to be 500 plastic chips they seem very good value. They are clay composite. I have never used poker or casino chips before but somehow these ones feel like I expected poker chips to feel. Nice and solid with a good smooth but not slippy feel to them.

There is also a large array of poker accessories and chips available in the shop, including poker tables. Poker really does seem to be taking hold in Ireland.