Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Man sues Weather Forecasters

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2005

18 ways to deal with irate soccer fans ;-)

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

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

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

8. Make burns disappear!

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

11. Stanch blood with a single finger!

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Liverpool fans cant shut up

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2005

Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady

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

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

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

Irish Lotto winners & Lost

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Something for "those" days in work

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

How to make the perfect paper airplane:

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Nuclear power for England

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Flu Vaccine

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2005

Stepping outside for a smoke can kill

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

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

Who says passive smoking isn't dangerous?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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

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

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

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

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

Starbucks College Green and the Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blocking Flash Popups

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

I found the following instructions at the office weblog

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

The possible values are:

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

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

BBC and Bloggers

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

UnReality TV

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Last Tommy part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2005

Childhood memories

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2005

XBox 360 demo stations

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

Starbucks College Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hillary V's Condi

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

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

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

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

What's in your Coffee?

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Toys 4 Big Boys

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Last Tommy

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 07, 2005

London Starbucks and IPods

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Coffee Beer

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

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

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

(Via New Scientist and several other blogs today)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

West Wing Debate

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Transport 21 Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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