Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Riot Photos Photoshopped

After 3 days of serious posts about the riot I think its time for a bit of humor, even if it is still about the riot.

Visit this site for a set of edited riot photos posted on Creative Ireland. They are good for a bit of a laugh.

Update: Someone called "r1g2b3" has done a brilliant job on one of my pictures.

Very funny, especially since I'm a fan of Newstalk 106 whose adverts this is based on and it's much more relevant to Dublin than many of the other photos on the list.

[via GUBU]

Monday, February 27, 2006

Our dirty family secret.

Two days after the events of Saturday I find that the attitude of most people towards the riot is like a family who has kept a secret for years only to see it leak out and find that no one really cares. Everyone knew that we had a serious thug problem and that it was starting to assert itself more violently each year, but we choose not to mention it. Like a crazy uncle, an alcoholic aunt or a relative in prison we choose to not mention them, to hide them away and hope they wouldn't call around when we had guests. We kept our little family secret and stood in judgment of our neighbors, tut tutting at the riots in Paris or the racial tensions in Burnley and lets not even mention the carry-on of the family whose house is at the end of our back garden. Now suddenly our little secret is out. We are not the perfect angelic family we liked to portray ourselves as. We have our own problems just like everyone else.

Unfortunately I can't help but feel that we are about to bury our heads in the sand again. So far the media has focused on the impact of the riots on tourism, on the Northern Ireland peace process, on what the Unionists think and even hoping are they the ones to blame, hey its not our fault at all its just Northern Ireland. What we should do is face up to our own problems. What we need to do to is punish the offenders, deter those inspired by the events, rehabilitate those carried along in the emotion of the event and ensure there cannot be a repeat of the event.

Finally, one more thing needs to be considered in any solution. Earlier I compared the looters on Saturday to the looters of 1916 but there is a world of difference. The looters of 1916, and this isn't meant to defend their actions, came from slums, areas of true poverty and complete social exclusion. The looters of 2006 were dressed in the newest white fashion tracksuits, €100 runners, branded baseball caps and soccer supporters scarves. They walked around texting and talking to each other on their new mobile phones and they donned the uniform of the day, €80 soccer jerseys. They are not the starving and huddled masses. They were not standing up to imperial oppressors or absentee landlords. They did not steal valuables or food. They stole more runners, more tracksuits, more scarves and more t-shirts.

Bloggers and the Riot

Irish Bloggers and amateur photographers were out in force over the weekend. While rioters were attacking traditional media like RTE's Charlie Bird they seemed to have missed the internet revolution where anyone can be reporter. Ok I'm not comparing bloggers to professional reporters but they do give a new source of information and comment on the events of Saturday.

Especially interesting are the photographs that have found their way onto flickr. There are currently over 400 photos on flickr.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dublin Riot Thoughts

I've spent the evening trying to decide what to say about the riot in Dublin today. It's been a long day and I'm tired so excuse me if this posting is even stranger and more confused than usual. Earlier I posted some photos first while trying to gather my thoughts, I may post some more later when I've gone through them properly. Part of this confusion is because I find myself very puzzled, not because of what happened, but because everyone is so shocked.

Last night I met some friends and everyone was in agreement that there would be trouble. If we could see what was going to happen why didnt the authorities? The Republicans have little respect for the rule of law in either the 6 or 26 counties so they would think nothing of violently challenging the forces of authority. Secondly the Love Ulster march was obviously meant to provoke an outcry in the Republic and to cause trouble. The more trouble the better for them as the Unionists can now point to the riot as an example of the hostility they face from Republicans on a daily basis in the North. The fact that they provoked the confrontation will not matter to them.

The only thing that surprised me is that it was allowed to get so compeltely out of control. At one stage there seemed to be fighting going on in 4 different areas of the city. From the day the route of the Love Ulster march was announced it was clear that they would be lucky to even get as far as O'Connell Street. The area they were starting in is a rough area of Dublin where the more aggressive Celtic fans like to congregate for Old Firm derby matches. As I walked around that area today people were standing outside some pubs jeering the police and cheering the rioters. To them having Unionists marching past their pubs was akin to an act of war. Once Republican Sinn Fein announced a counter protest the stage was set for trouble.

I think the police were caught of guard with the number of non-republicans who joined in. Like a sick remake of the 1916 Rising, once the fighting started the looters arrived intent on profiting from the situation. The bizarre thing was that of all the shops on O'Connell Street they decided to target Foot Locker. Are shoes that important to these muppets? Once the looters arrived in Dublin the situation moved from being a violent protest to one where trouble could erupt in any area of the city where shops could be looted, the Jervis center being a prime example. It also appears that the Gardai were fortunate that the looters targeted the Jervis Center since once they were inside they were trapped. Had they remained on the streets it would have proved much more difficult to pin them down.

Another puzzle is why any march or protest was allowed onto O'Connell Street while the street is being renovated. The street was a building site with flimsy metal grills between any potential rioter and an almost infinite supply of weapons and missiles. Who gave the go ahead for the route? Did they have any security experience at all? Was any attempt made to tidy away the building materials? Lets not even ask why O'Connell Street is still a building site years after it was supposed to be finished.

Finally it is a sinister development that members of the media were so clearly targeted. Normally people making a political statement want press coverage. They want film of police battoning rioters. They want photographs of people covered in blood. They want to be interviewed. Today the media were the enemy. This was yob violence designed solely to cause damage and injury. The riot was the goal more so than any political statement.

The Irish people now face a harsh reality. It is clear that there are groups with the goal of destabalising the Irish State. They feel that they haven't gotten their share of the Celtic Tiger and they will take what others have with force. Violence is more common today, a certain section of Irish society has learned that they can inflict violence and harm on others and they will not face any serious punishment. The rioters I saw today were predominately from a group know unaffectionately as skangers. They provide the expendable and unquestioning foot-soldiers for militant republicanism. Like the Nazi Brown shirts their only interest in politics is limited to the level of school yard bullies intent on ruling through force.

Severe penalites must now be imposed on those involved in todays riots. The Gardai must make every possible effort to identify those involved from CCTV and photographs. They city is full of cameras, use them. They must then prosecute all the rioters they can locate, or they will face them again in street battles.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dublin Riot Photos

I was in Dublin city center today when the riots happened. I had my camera and took some photos. They are uploaded at this site on flickr. I started at the top of O'Connell Street and walked down to O'Connell Bridge and then on the Nassau Street.

This was a shameful day in Dublin. I will post my thoughts on the whole thing later as soon as I collect them.

Update: I've added a few more photos.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Jury Duty Finished

I finished my jury duty this morning. I don't suppose you could really call it a "duty" since I was not picked for a case and all I had to do was spend an hour or so in the Four Courts for the last 3 mornings and then get sent home by the judge.

There was a jury panel of about 50 people. Note to anyone else who gets called, there are not enough seats, show up 30 minutes early or stand! The panel really was a cross section of the state with male and female, old and young, well-to-do and not so well-to-do. By Tuesday we were all talking and joking in the hallway while waiting to be let into the court room so it wasn't so bad.

On Tuesday and Wednesday there was a delay in all the scheduled cases so the panel got sent home. This morning there was just 1 case left on the schedule but that one did need a jury. The clerk picked the names of jury members out of a wooden box containing all our names. A few people were not there and a few who had been selected were challenged by the solicitors. The challenge process is strange since no explanation is given, the barrister just says they challenge the juror and that's it. The juror is not asked any questions, they don't get to defend their place in the jury, not that they wanted to, all they do is stand aside and wait like the rest of us. The judge does explained that being challenged is not an insult. It seems to be down to just the instinct of the solicitor and who they want or do not want on the jury. Finally they got their 12 jurors selected and those of us who didn't get drawn out were told we could go home. Since there was no case scheduled for tomorrow we were not needed and that ended my duty. I was a little surprised that they did not select substitute jurors, but I guess they know what was needed for the case.

People complain about having to do jury duty and many people try to get out of it when they get called. In fact when the roll was taken on Tuesday about 20 people were not present, and even this morning 5 or 6 names drawn out or the box were not present. Our judge explained to us that as citizens we all have constitutional rights but we also have constitutional responsibilities. Those who skipped their duty now probably face a fine or some other punishment, and I hope none of them ever use the phrase "I know my rights" because they certainly do not know their responsibilities. Personally I did not mind having to do jury duty. I was in the High Court so the cases were not going to be gruesome, boring maybe, but nothing disturbing like what is seen in the Criminal Court from time to time. It did not interfere with my life to any great extend, it just meant I had to catch a bus into town and made me a little late for work. I am actually a little disappointed at not having been selected for a jury.

I do have a couple of observations about the court itself. Firstly the court room was small. Somehow in my mind the "High Court" always seemed like a very grand place where important matters were discussed in historic surroundings. In reality the court room was very modern and was about the size of a small classroom. The 50 members of the jury panel filled it, with people standing. Secondly the building itself is old but well maintained and warm, in fact it was a little too warm. The walls looked like big old blocks of stone but in reality they were plaster board. I guess we did do alot of damage to the Four Courts during the Irish Civil War so the plaster board may be needed in places.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Iraq shrine blown up

It's a real shame when a historic site becomes the victim of a military strike, terrorist attack, or just plain sectarian vandalism.

Today one of the holiest sites to Shia Islam was destroyed by a bomb in an attack that can have just one aim, to start a civil war in Iraq. The unfortunate thing is once one side in a conflict sets the precedent for this type of attack then the other side tends to retaliate in kind and soon the situation spins out of control.

Look at this picture on the BBC website to get a clear idea of the damage caused.

This is just one in a sequence of historical and religious sites damaged or used as pawns of war in recent years, here are 3 I can think of

It's a shame that humanity has not progressed to a point where we can respect each others heritage and history regardless of our current conflicts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

PPAI Awards Show

I went to the opening of the PPAI (Press Photographers Association of Ireland) Awards Show in The Gallery of Photography in Temple Bar tonight. It is an exhibit of the best press photos taken by Irish photographers over the last year.

I think the type of photography someone likes is a matter of personal taste just like ones taste in art and music. For me I prefer press photography to some of the artistic or landscape type of photos. Photographs with people in them interest me far more than photographs with just trees and sunsets. Press photos are the best of this genre, capturing events and people at important moments. These days they often do not get the recognition or the respect they deserve. Their pictures accompany the writings of far more famous journalists adding life and color to black and white letters. They are not paparazzi, they are hardworking photographers capturing valuable moments of current affairs for posterity, not sticking their lenses up mini-skirts or photographing C-list celebrities drunk outside bars.

The exhibit runs from today until the 3rd of March after which it goes on tour to different AIB bank branches around the country. It is worth going to if you like photography and the news. My personal favorites were not actually the photos that won. If you do go look out for the photograph by Bryan O'Brien of the child on her fathers shoulders during the Irish Ferries protest, the "Eyes on the Ball" photo by Brendan Moran and the picture of Charlie Haughey by Christopher Doyle. If I can find a website with the awards photos on it I'll post the link here later.

Monday, February 20, 2006

David Irving V's Muhammad Cartoon

The British Historian David Irving has been jailed for 3 years in Austria for denying that the Holocaust ever took place. Denying the Holocaust is obviously a stupid thing for any historian to do, even Irving has since admitted that he was wrong. However jailing him is a little embarassing for Europe after the recent furror in the media over the Muhammad cartoon protests.

It seemed every commentator and journalist was quick to jump to the defense of freedom of speech and to condemn the muslim world for protesting. Now they have to consider a situation where someone has been jailed for saying something many of them probably found offensive and 6 months ago most of them would probably have agreed with the jailing. We should now ask why does a cartoonist in Denmark have more rights to express his opinions than David Irving? Freedom of speech is rarely the black and white issue we would like it to be. Irving was an idiot, the Danish cartoonist was also an idiot, but both of them have the right to be idiots, just as we have the right to ignore them.

In a similar manner to the way the protests against the cartoons raised their profile internationally, would many people have even heard of Irving had he not faced a trial and now jail for what he said? Sometimes we should just ignore the radicals and let them wither away when denied the light of publicity.

Liverpools Lucky Draw

Liverpool have drawn Birmingham in the quarter finals of the FA cup. At initial glance that seemed like a good draw when you consider Chelsea, Newcastle, Charlton, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Bolton and West Ham are all still in the competition and are ahead of Birmingham in the Premership today.

However to add a little spice to the tie it should be noted that
Rafael Benitez's Liverpool side have not beaten Birmingham in four attempts since the Spaniard arrived at Anfield in 2004.

But since Liverpool had not beaten Manchester United in the FA Cup for 85 years prior to Saturdays victory this should be a good time to break such silly records.

The draw for the quarter finals is:
Charlton v Middlesbrough

Aston Villa or Manchester City v Bolton or West Ham

Chelsea v Newcastle United

Birmingham v Liverpool

More Electronics Woe

Hot on the heels of my laptop dying my TV decided to shut itself off yesterday and has refused to start since. It's amazing how used one can get to a 32" screen so when an old 14" portable is put in front of the darkened behemoth I suddenly find myself squinting to read the NTL-Digital text. Now I have to find a TV repair man in the locality and probably bring the TV into him, not an easy task when it takes 2 people to lift it. Unfortunately I'll be busy over the next few days so that may have to wait until next week. Still it should make me appreciate the cinema feel of the big TV after 2 weeks of eye strain.

I have also come to realize that all my gadgets are around the same age 3-4 years old. Over the last 10 years there has been an annoying trend where they all die around the same time usually after 3-4 years. Is there a lifespan built into these devices? I figure my mobile phone and my MP3 player are next in line. Fortunately my cameras are now out of the sequence as I bought a new digital one last year for a photography course and my SLR doesn't seem to have enough technology in it to cause much grief (touch wood). Of course I did go looking at flat screen TV's yesterday. I've no real intention of buying one, but its nice to look.

Update 14 March 2006: I got the TV fixed a week ago. I went to a little repair shop on the Dundrum Rd late on a Saturday afternoon, they picked it up and it was delivered back to me on Monday lunchtime. Total cost €160 which was a pain, but better than buying a new TV. So far the TV is running fine (fingers crossed).

Friday, February 17, 2006

Irish National Anthem in England?

There is small story in the news today about the British anti-terror laws and their impact on songs. The new laws are a little vague, especially where they ban the glofification of terror. The BBC describes this as

What is glorification?

The government says it wants to act against people who "praise or celebrate" terrorism in a way that makes people think they should emulate such attacks. Home Secretary Charles Clarke says people should not, for example, be allowed to glorify the 7 July attacks, or the bombers themselves, as it could encourage impressionable young men to think they should commit similar atrocities.

Sounds like a reasonable thing when you first think about it. Unfortunately its a little vague. What exactly will be counted as glorification and what wont. Of course there is the old problem of one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.

Now questions are being raised about paramilitary songs in Northern Ireland. Songs that talk about "republican and loyalist songs referring to armalite assault weapons and wading knee-deep in Fenian blood." Again seems pretty reasonable, at first glance.

However I see a potential problem. The law is so vague its not clear what is illegal and what is ok. What happens with the Irish national anthem. Written in 1907 and adopted as the national anthem in 1926 it reflects the fight for Irish independence in a way that today could be seen as glorifying terror.
We'll sing a song, a soldier's song,
With cheering rousing chorus,
As round our blazing fires we throng,
The starry heavens o'er us;
Impatient for the coming fight,
And as we wait the morning's light,
Here in the silence of the night,
We'll chant a soldier's song.

Soldiers are we
whose lives are pledged to Ireland;
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave.
Sworn to be free,
No more our ancient sire land
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the gap of danger
In Erin's cause, come woe or weal
'Mid cannons' roar and rifles peal,
We'll chant a soldier's song.

In valley green, on towering crag,
Our fathers fought before us,
And conquered 'neath the same old flag
That's proudly floating o'er us.
We're children of a fighting race,
That never yet has known disgrace,
And as we march, the foe to face,
We'll chant a soldier's song.


Sons of the Gael! Men of the Pale!
The long watched day is breaking;
The serried ranks of Inisfail
Shall set the Tyrant quaking.
Our camp fires now are burning low;
See in the east a silv'ry glow,
Out yonder waits the Saxon foe,
So chant a soldier's song.

Could someone get an injunction against the playing of the Irish nation anthem using the anti-terror law as grounds for the injunction? What will happen on Saturday March 18th if during our last game of the 6 Nations some fire-brand in Twickenham strikes up the Irish anthem and the rest of the crowd joins in? Would the BBC have to cut off coverage? What happens if the Irish international soccer team visits England for an international or a testimonial and the players sing along to the anthem? Will the manager be forced into a few early substitutions while the original players wait in holding cells? What happens if the Irish President visits England and someone plays the anthem? Could she be arrested and charged with glorifying terror?

I'm all for anti-terror laws, but vague laws make bad laws.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Where's The West Wing?

Bloody RTE, messing around with the schedule again this year and dropping The West Wing for the smallest reasons. This week its the O2 Ability Awards, held last night in Dublin Castle. While it is a good cause the awards show itself seemed more like an advert for companies like Bank of Ireland, Dell and Hewlett Packard as well as a chance for Irish celebrities to get on TV again. The awards probably do deserve some time on TV, but why in The West Wing slot?

Why does RTE bump The West Wing every time they have something else to show in a 1 hour slot? They did the same thing last year, dropping the show or just moving it around up to half an hour earlier or later every week. Why not bump shows that will never win awards for script writing or intelligent stories. For example here are the shows that were on RTE in that time slot the other nights of the week but which were kept on air ahead of The West Wing:

  • Monday - The View and Podge and Rodge, (disgusting people talking shite and insulting the nation, and then there is Podge and Rodge)
  • Tuesday - The View and Podge and Rodge (AGAIN),
  • Wednesday - Analyze This (cause its only been on TV two or three times this year).
  • Thursday - Hanging With Hector (if only he was hanging, from the RTE mast) and Punk'd (dumb down TV).
  • Friday - The Late Late Show (Pat Kenny should only be allowed on TV once a week at most) or Podge and Rodge (so crap they show it 3 times)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Haughey the Fine Gael TD?

Sean Haughey is not a happy man. After weeks of speculation that Sean was about to be appointed to a Junior Minister post Bertie Ahern instead picked Mary Wallace for promotion from the back benches.

In response to this Sean has, apparently, threatened to quit.
"I enjoy my representational role but I do think the time has come to consider my future.

"“If I'’m likely to be in line for promotion in the future, I will continue on. If I'm not, then that certainly needs to be reflected upon," he told RTE Radio.

But what exactly is he threatening to quit? His seat or his party? Opposition deputies were quick out of the blocks to sympathise and say how unfair Bertie was being to poor Sean. They would sell their mothers for the chance to get Charlies son to dump the party his father led and join the opposition parties. Sean would be foolish to do that, but if he is really pissed off then anything is possible. It would screw Bertie, probably end Sean's career, and cause the Fianna Fail party to have a fit. Could make for an interesting few months. :-)

$1000 for desert?

Boing Boing have a story about a $1000 desert called the Grand Opulence and served in New York's Serendipity restaurant. I'm not one for beating the "think of the starving children" drum when it comes to people eating in fancy restaurant but in this case I'll make an exception. I think if they charge $1000 for this then they should actually charge $2000 and send half to charity. The idiot that is rich enough to spend $1000 on a fancy ice cream sundae, which a comment calculates to have cost $200 to make, is dumb enough and rich enough to spend $2000 on the same thing.

Update: Woops. I think this may be a marketing scam to drive traffic to the restaurants web site since I cant find the icecream listed or any reference to anything close to as expensive. Who would spend $16.50 on a burger and then spend $1000 on a desert? Perhaps the wrong restraunt is linked because I have heard of stupid deserts like this being made in other places.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Daily Show and Cheney

Dick Cheney's little shooting accident over the weekend was like a Valentines card from God for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. The video can be downloaded here, for anyone with an interest in American politics this is hilarious.

Update: Jon Stewart mentions the last sitting American Vice President to shoot a man. It was Aaron Burr in 1804.

Update 2: Download and watch/listen to this video of Scotty McClellan briefing the press. West Wing fans may find it very familiar.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Real Transformer

Another gadget post, I must be getting into the mood for another gadget purchase. This is supposed to be a video of demonstration of a Japanese robot that transforms from a dune buggy type model car into a biped robot and back again.

Something about it smells fake (the movement is a bit too smooth near the end), so it could be an viral marketing advert for the new "live action" Transformers movie. But if they could actually build this as a toy then every kid and adult who watched the Transformers will want one. Compare it to the success of the Robosapien and Roboraptor and you'll see the potential.

[via Slashdot]

Apple IPod virtual wheel???

There is growing speculation about a new IPod Video coming out with a 3.5 inch screen. Basically imagine an IPod with a screen the size of the IPod and the buttons and scroll wheel are virtual.

Gizmodo have posted pictures of the what is supposed to be a patent application for the new interface, but there is a certain amount of doubt on it. Still if it is real and they can work around the scratches on the screen that people are complaining about today then this could be the way of things for MP3 Players in the future. IRiver have already done something similar with their U10. No more buttons, everything is a touch screen and the controls are all virtual. Better start washing the oil off your fingers now if your going to avoid smudging these things.

Vice-President Hunting

I see Vice-President Dick Cheney is once again in the media for the wrong reasons. Poor old Dick was out quail hunting when he accidentally shot a lawyer friend of his. It was an easy mistake to make, after all his friend Harry Whittington does bear a striking resemblance to Quayle.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ski Jumping History

Today is a sports day with the 6 Nations rugby match and the Winter Olympics. This evening I was watching the ski jumping. As I watched I wondered how did that become a sport? I ask not to call into question the merits of ski jumping as a sport, but how did it start. What skier turned to his mates and said "Look chaps the bridge is out. How much do you bet I wont ski over the end as fast as possible?". So I looked it up.

The origin of Ski Jumping can be traced back in 1860 when Sondre Norheim of Norway, who is also considered as the Father of Ski Jumping, jumped and reached 30 meters without poles over a rock. After two years, the first ever competition on Ski Jumping was organized at Trysil, Norway.

He jumped 30 meters over a rock? By accident? Apparently not. Another site tells me they used to jump from roofs to show off.
The valley of Morgedal, with its steep hillsides, was great for challenging skiing. A popular activity on Sundays, was to come together and have a joyful time on the slopes and hills. Some were eager to surpass each other in the most spectacular skiing acrobatics like jumping from the roofs.

So 140 years some people were showing off and pissing off their neighbors then it became a sport. Snowboarding anyone?

Snowboarding in the Winter Olympics

Sitting at home watching the snowboarding halfpipe final in the Winder Olympics. I've never been skiing let alone snowboarding but this sport is interesting, not for the sport but for the competitors and spectators.

In most Olympic sports the athletes are so focused and so dedicated that they almost seem devoid of emotion and humanity. Everything around them is planned and organised so they live in a bubble of concentration and focus where normal humans cant reach them. Snowboarding is different, the competitors want to win and are competing hard but they also seem to enjoy the event. Sometimes it almost seems like they are taking the piss a little and have snuck into the arena while the skiers were on lunch. For example the Finish competitor Antti Autti turning off his mobile phone while standing on the start line before doing his second run. The American competitors including the winner Shaun White messing around like school kids when the camera was on them and Mason Aguirre searching for music to listen to on his MP3 player while on the start line. Maybe they don't perform as well as they could if all those things were carefully pre-arranged and setup, but they seem to have more fun and appreciate the event as being more than just the result.

The spectators seem to break down into two groups, the traditional Olympic spectators, respectful and quietly taking their turn to wave their flags and cheer, and the ones who just came from the shopping mall carpark with their skateboards under their arms. Many kids would never dream of watching the Olympics because none of the sports appeal to them, but sports like snowboarding do.

The Olympics could do with encouraging more sports like this, fresh blood and new excitement. There was a discussion in the Olympics about dropping some sports to shorten the schedule and alter other sports to make them more TV friendly. I don't agree. Any sport that can field competitors from several nations should be considered for inclusion in the Olympics. The event should be about being the greatest showcase of sport, and not just producing the greatest TV ratings.

Friday, February 10, 2006

King Tuts Gardener

It's nice to see that no matter how much a piece of history is researched there is always the chance to discover something new and unusual. Archaeologists have discovered an intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The last one discovered before this was King Tutankhamun's in 1922. People have been digging there for 100 years and had long since announced that everything had been discovered. Who knows what else may be still be there?

The tomb was discovered 5 meters from Tutankhamun's and dates from the same period. It appears to be alot less lavish than Tutankhamun's and it sounds like it was a somewhat hurried burial so don't expect to see rooms full of gold and jewels on the TV. Still this is interesting because no one knows who the people buried there are.

Egypt's antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, said, "Maybe they are mummies of kings or queens or nobles, we don't know. But it's definitely someone connected to the royal family."

"It could be the gardener," Otto Schaden, the head of the U.S. team, joked to Hawass at the site. "But it's somebody who had the favor of the king because not everybody could come and make their tomb in the Valley of the Kings."

I know this is highly unlikely but wouldn't it be great if they were Tutankhamun's family, especially the man thought to be his father Akhenaten known as "The Heretic Pharaoh" and Akenatens main wife Nefertiti whose mummy was thought to have been discovered a couple of years ago but that is in doubt now. One of the great mysteries in Egyptology would be solved if they were.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Eoin Harris, 1916 and Suicide Bombers

I was sickened tonight as I watched Eoghan Harris on a Prime Time debate compare the dead of the Easter 1916 Rising to Muslim suicide bombers. Yes, that's right, he said that one day he could see Muslim extremists in Ireland justifying the action of suicide bombers by pointing to 1916 and saying since those people knew they would die then its ok to be a suicide bomber. He knew exactly what he was saying because he repeated it, twice, at the end of the show much to the disgust of all the other members of the panel. He thought he was great, on national TV insulting the history of the nation and having the last word.

Most nations have a history of violence in their foundation. They are not ashamed of their dead, they don't ignore the sacrifices of their forefathers and they do not hand their tradition and history to militant extremists and criminals the way we in Ireland do. Sinn Fein do not represent the men who fought in the GPO 90 years ago, nor for that matter do Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or any of the modern political parties. Sinn Fein have taken over the event and driven ordinary Irish citizens away from it, making people ashamed of their history.

The Easter 1916 Rising was a military expression of the ideal of freedom, by idealists who knew they would loose the battle but hoped they would win the war. They were not suicidal killers. They did not walk into bars or restaurants and kill innocent civilians. They did not kill innocent people based on religion. They did not hit from a distance and run away. Instead they stood up in the center of the second city of the British Empire and declared their desire for the freedom of their people. They then stayed where they were and awaited the military reaction of that Empire, knowing they lacked any real hope for success but willing to face death if it would help secure a future for their nation. Did the men of, for example, the Alamo do any less?

For Harris to compare Easter 1916 to suicide bombings is to insult every citizen of Ireland who is proud of their nation and its role in the world of 2006. We must learn to separate the heroes of the past from the villains of the present. The volunteers of 1916 were not terrorists. Sure they were poorly trained, poorly armed and poorly led, but they were uniformed soldiers in entrenched positions fighting other uniformed soldiers. The 90 years since then may have seen the rise of terrorism, but 1916 was not a terrorist strike.

Sinn Fein and co may have driven people like me away from the GPO at Easter for years, but now that we have an official government organised commeration this year Eoghan Harris wont scare me away.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I'll have one transporter pad. Do you take Visa?

After venting my spleen in the last post I thought I'd post a story about a more amusing waste of money.

The man who spent £100,000 turning his apartment into a set from Star Trek Voyager has, surprise, surprise, gone bankrupt. Apparently his wife has left him and he has maxed out 14 credit cards. He tried to sell the apartment on eBay (yeah, that was going to work) for $2 Million but with no success.

In fairness to the guy he actually thought he had a (crazy) business plan. He could get other Trekies to pay for their homes to be remodeled. He would have been a millionaire but his customers mothers wouldn't let them get their rooms done. ;-)

[Via Gizmodo]

Hotel Beds or Hospital Beds?

In a clear example of the way the Irish State wastes money maintaining a semi-state organization that it doesn’t need but wont get rid of because of trade union pressure the Irish taxpayer is subsidizing a chain of hotels. The Dublin Airport Authority runs a chain of nine hotels called The Great Southern Group which it no longer wants since there is an over supply of hotel rooms and guest houses all over the country.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Mr O'Donoghue in particular are both strong supporters of the Great Southern Hotel Group. Two of the hotels are in Mr O'Donoghue's constituency while Mr Ahern has made a habit of staying regularly in the group's Parknasilla property in Kerry.

However, with losses approaching €6 million last year and €3m the previous year, the company has been warning for some time that a solution will have to be found. The value of the group is thought to be in excess of €100m although operational costs are unusually high for the sector.

Of course the trade unions are up in arms saying they will go on strike and break off partnership talks if these hotels are sold. So now we have a situation where a group of semi-state trade-unionized workers are holding the ordinary taxpayers to ransom while not providing a useful return for the money pumped into them.

To add insult to injury the over supply of hotel rooms has been caused by tax reliefs given to people who build hotels. This is just one of many tax reliefs that costs the Irish State €2 Billion. So the taxpayer has to subsidize a chain of semi-state hotels that are in competition with private hotels which are also, indirectly, subsidized by the taxpayer.

Now Minister for Transport Martin Cullen thinks we need to invest €80 Million in the hotels. The State will probably then just sell them off, almost certainly at an overall loss, to some property developer who will probably get tax relief knock the old hotels and build apartments, which will be sold at inflated prices.

All of this occurs at a time when hundreds of Irish citizens are lying for days on hospital trolleys because there are not enough hospital beds for them to be properly treated. That is the ultimate irony and shows just how warped the trade unions view of life in modern Ireland is. What we should do is close these hotels and turn them into convalescence homes to which bed-blocking patients currently in hospitals can be moved while recovering. But of course that wont happen and the Irish taxpayer will continue to pay for hotel rooms they don’t want (and probably cant afford to stay in).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Microsoft to charge users for Security

If you bought a car and it broke down every couple of months due to flaws in the design and assembly would you pay an extra annual charge of up to 25% of the original cost of the car so the company will provide you with protection from those problems? Nope you'd probably expect the car to be recalled and fixed for free.

Now unfortunately the same rules don't apply to software (maybe fortunately for me as I work in the software industry, but lets put that to one side). Microsoft make the operating system that is used on 90% of the worlds desktops. They sell Windows XP Home Edition for $199 and now they want to charge users $49.95 a year for extra protection against viruses and spyware.

Called Windows OneCare Live, the subscription service will compete with security products made by traditional Microsoft partners, including Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc. although the software giant insists that its aim is not to run those companies out of business.

Ok I recognise that it would cost too much for them to provide the software for free, and it would be anti-competitive if they did since it would exploit an effective monopoly to put companies like Symantec and McAfee out of business, but it still seems unfair to the users. Flaws in their software are at the root of the problems, though it takes a hacker or virus writer to exploit them. Now they will get paid to protect people from those flaws, so one way of looking at is that they could get paid more the more flaws they introduce into their software. I'm not saying they would do it deliberately, but there would exist a financial incentive to not improve quality.

Also if they are going to provide anti-spyware and anit-virus software don't they have a major and unfair advantage over the companies already in the field. After all they can just load up the Windows source code and find a fix for the security hole, where as the others would have to patch over it.

Respray a BMW, Ex-Wife Style

There is a filler story in the Irish media today about a car for sale on the Irish site Car Buyers Guide. The story is it's supposed to be a BMW that a wife painted, keyed and then put up for sale after her husband cheated on her.

Its amusing but unfortunately not true, probably a marketing stunt to drive traffic to the car sales web site. The original pictures come from Canada, apparently.

However it is still worth a look at the Canadian site for more photos of the car. Man, if this is the handy work of a woman scorned I sure wouldn't like to be the first person to turn the key in that ignition.

[via The Register]

Monday, February 06, 2006

National Sickie Day

Damn, after watching the Superbowl until 3am, then dragging myself out of bed and into work I had to live on coffee for the day. Now I find out that today was National Sickie Day. Ok it wasn't official and in fact it was probably the worst day to pull a sickie because apparently it is the most popular day to do so.
Cary Cooper, a pyschology professor who helped with the research, said: "Early February is a very popular time for taking a 'sickie', the first bank holiday still seems a long way off, the days are gloomy, and many people are still feeling the post-Christmas blues."

Well it's time to catch up on my sleep.

[Via The Register]

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Superbowl is on ITV

Brilliant, the Superbowl is on ITV tonight, free to air. I thought it was on Sky Sports. The only problem is its on so bloody late. Still, I can watch the first half anyway.

Hmmm, who should I cheer for? Pittsburgh Steelers or Seattle Seahawks. Who are the underdogs? Google tells me its the Seahawks. That'll do, Come on Hawks. :-)

Update: 1st Quater is just over. Seahawks lead 3-0 and were damn close to getting a couple of touchdowns. They are dominant at the moment but they need to get some scores. The Americans sure know how to film sports, even if they insist on stopping every 5 seconds. There seems to be a camera covering every possible view. Plus the boom cameras (I presume they are boom mounted) that go in over the pitch and show an over the head view of the players while getting set for plays are great. They wouldn't work well in soccer, but they might work in rugby? The ITV feed does seem a little flaky as ABC presenters appear with no sound and other commentators appear with no lights.

Update 2: 1st half is over, Steelers lead 7-3. Steelers did better this quarter, but they seemed to be riding their luck a little. They got a touchdown, created by a cross field pass that brought them to within 5 yards of the goal but which would have been intercepted by the defender if he hadn't stumbled slightly. Then on the 3rd and Goal a defender literally threw himself under the diving ball carrier and seemed to push the ball back to almost prevent the touchdown but the video ref gave it. The Seahawks then seemed a little stunned and uncertain wasting alot of time. Two out of bounds and a missed field goal then finished the half for them. 30 out of the last 37 teams leading at half time have won the Superbowl.

It is now 1 a.m. in Ireland, if only American football didn't take 4 hours for a 60 minute game. The Rolling Stones are on stage now and I think I'm off to bed.

Update 3: I ended up staying up til 3 a.m. to watch the rest of the game. It wasn't great. Steelers won 21-10, but I didn't think their performance was that good, really the Seahawks should have been alot close but didn't seem to be able to figure out what to do. With 10 minutes to go the Seahawks seemed stumped when they had the ball. Their quarterback Hasselbeck threw the ball into empty space several times. I don't know if the receiver was messing up and not being where he was supposed to be or if Hasselbeck was making the mistakes, but they never looked likely to score. In fact their best chance to score seemed to come from a 70 yard dash by one of their defense. In the end the Steelers were celebrating with 5 minutes to go and there was no tension, they wanted the win more than Seahawks and in the end they deserved it more than the Seahawks.

The Hare of the Dog is gone

For the last few months a statue was placed at the St Stephens Green end of Grafton Street. This was called "Lady Hare and Dog" by Sophie Ryder. The statue on Grafton Street looked like a giant rabbit shagging a dog while standing on a tractor tire. It also seems to have originally been placed on display in California, so either we got a copied statue or a second hand one. I don't know who thought it would suit Grafton Street, but you can bet they were stoned at the time.

Anyway, it has finally been replaced with a new metallic statue, with a crouched figure sitting in an alcove in a pyramid. I'm sure some will say its boring and unimaginative, but I like it. The tourists around the Green seemed to like it as well and they were examining it and taking photos, instead of pointing laughing and taking photos as they had done for the rabbit thing.

Update: I knew Blogger ate my original post. Now I've got proof I wasn't crazy. It was up long enough for Irish Blogs to list it but it no longer available on my blog.

More Blogger.com grief

Blogger.com was having problems again over the weekend. I tried to post a story yesterday, and as far as I know it made it to my Edit posts list but I couldn't connect to decsramble.blogspot.com to verify it had posted. This morning its gone. Anyway it was only a short post so I'll put it up again.

So sorry if anyone has been having trouble reading this blog, it really is beyond my control. Blogger say they are working on the problem, though I REALLY wish they wouldn't host their status page on their own servers. It's a bit like sending out an email to tell staff the network is down.
As many people will have noticed, we've had significant hardware trouble over the past couple days. We have tried to keep all of you informed about the status of the service and our efforts to correct the problems. Unfortunately, today's problems were widespread enough such that we were unable to provide ongoing updates. One of the things we'll be doing in the short term is to come up with ways to prevent this.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Euro Millions Won

Last week I posted about the Euro Millions draw that was 150 Million. It wasn't won and rolled over to today when it was 180 Million Euros. Unfortunately I didn't make it to the shop in time to buy a ticket. The draw closes at 7:30pm not 7:45pm as I thought.

Anyway it was won tonight. Two winning tickets were sold in France and one in Portugal. Some lucky people are having a very happy weekend :-)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Muhammad cartoon row

How did this become such a big story. Someone draws a couple of bad cartoons of the prophet Muhammad which are published in a Danish magazine in September and 4 months later the protests are headline news around the world. The editor of the paper was on the BBC tonight and claimed it was satire and humor, he says Danish magazines often publish cartoons that make fun of the Danish Royal family, of Jesus and now of Muhammad. He says it wasn't meant to be insulting.

I can understand Muslims being upset at the cartoons. Their religion forbids the creation of images of Muhammad, I believe its something to do with not worshiping false icons. Apparently they apply those rules to all the major figures of the Islamic, Christian and Jewish religions. Though the Danish editor claimed you can buy posters and postcards depicting Muhammad in Tehran. Can you? I hadn't heard that before. Next one of the images portrayed Muhammad wearing a turban where the drawing of the turban was one of those cartoons that merges two items so it went from being a turban to being a bomb with a lit fuse. That was a really stupid thing to draw. We wouldn't like it if someone drew a cartoon of Jesus showing him carrying a cruise missile instead of the Cross.

So now there are protests all over the world. Have the protests achieved anything? Nope, I dont think so. Infact they have actually worsened the situation because they frighten other cultures at a time when Islam and Christianity should be trying to build bridges. Even worse, they are the reason I saw the cartoons. I found them on the internet. Would I have seen them if there had been no protests, no. I would never have even heard of them, and if I had seen them I would have thought they were unimaginative drawings done by some high school kid.

Most Muslims are not out protesting and calling for death to all those who insult their religion on 24 hour news stations, but we don't see them. We see the photographs and videos of the protestors, after all those photos sell more papers.

Puppy plays Drug Mule

Ok, now this is sick and more than a little ingenious. Columbian drug dealers have been smuggling heroin into the United states using Labrador puppies.
In one planned shipment, six puppies were found impregnated with three 3 kg (6.6 lb) of liquid heroin packets.

DEA spokeswoman Erin McKenzie-Mulvey said that in January 2005, DEA officers and police in Colombia found six puppies with scars on their bellies at a makeshift veterinarian clinic on a rural property.

Ultrasound scans revealed the heroin hidden inside the young dogs, three of which later died of infection. Another four puppies were found with no drugs inside them, she said.

I am sure customs officials are thinking of all those people they suspected of smuggling drugs but they could never find the stash so they let them and their cute little puppy go on their way. Though at the same time if there was a sudden increase in popularity of Labrador puppies at border crossings you would think someone would get a little suspicious. Still the next time you see that puppy on TV in the bathroom you will know what he is really up to.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

More on Civil Servant pay

Following on from Tuesday story on civil servant pat here's a story from the Irish Examiner.
PAY increases in the public sector are running at nearly twice the rate of inflation, figures from the Central Statistics Office show.

Average weekly earnings in the public sector rose 5.7% in the year to September 2005.

The increase is almost twice the rate of inflation and higher than the pay rises agreed under the last national wage agreement.

The story does go on to mention the pay of Gardai, prison officers and teachers. To be honest I don't really mind people like them getting paid more, they do contribute to society and if we don't get the best Gardai and teachers we are just storing up trouble for the next generation.

I'd like to have heard more about the pen pushers in each department. The people who get paid vast amounts of money to run this country and oversee the planning and construction of things like the Luas (connect the two tram lines? why would anyone want to do that?), the Port Tunnel (waterproofing? sure its underground?), the M50 (just throw in 2 lanes, sure we'll all be using flying cars in 10 years time). None of them ever get fired and they get paid vast sums of money.

But never fear, there will be another round of benchmarking, Bertie gets it as well.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Stringfellows and Irish Celebs

I wonder how many Irish celebs will show up for tonight's opening of Stringfellows. There are numerous "celebrities" that will show up at the opening of an envelope just on the off chance that a camera may be somewhere near by so their heads are probably spinning as they try to figure out which is worse:

  • To be photographed going into a strip club or
  • To not have their photograph in the papers tomorrow.

Oh the pain they must be in. How many will show up, go in, come out several hours later and claim "I didn't know what went on in Stringfellows"?

George Hook and Eamon Dunphy on Newstalk 106 were both open about it. Hook wanted to go but couldn't get an invite, Dunphy had a invite but couldnt go tonight. Shame that Dunphy didnt raffle off the ticket. :-)

One thing you can be certain about, the stars of RTE or other bastions of Irish morality wont be photographed going in the front door tonight, they will probably have a special tunnel built to the VIP area. ;-)

Update: Stringfellows opened to protests from the locals.

George W. Bush replaced by Environmentalist Aliens?

Aliens are taking over the world. Maybe David Icke was right after all, they have replaced the worlds political leaders. Where is the proof of this insane statement you ask? Its all in last nights State of the Union address by George Bush. Nothing short of alien abduction could explain George W. announcing that America must end its addiction to imported oil and research alternative sources of energy. He is aiming for a 75% cut in Americas imports of Middle Eastern oil by 2025.

Though I suppose being a little cynical I could say there goes Alaska. George and his mates will probably carve up the wilderness and pump every last drop of oil out of it. Also the possibility exists that most of the foreign oil that can be easily pumped out of the ground will be used up by 2025 so really they will have no alternative.

Still the idea that Mr. Screw You Kyoto would make the following statement seems bizarre.
"Tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative -- a 22 percent increase in clean energy research at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas," Bush said. "To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission, coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.

"We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks,or switch grass." (Domestic points)

If you had told me that a year ago that Bush would make this announcement I would have assumed that the movie The Day After Tomorrow had come true and Bush was sitting in a refugee camp in Mexico so he could no longer ignore the problem. Still at least he is making an effort so we should all applaud him for it. Or maybe in one of his conversations with God he was told to tidy up the place a bit or the landlord would evict the human race. Though in the end perhaps President Bush is concerned about his place in history and doesn't want to be remembered as the worst American President ever.

IRiver to quit Europe?

Crap. There is a rumor on the gadget web that iRiver is to quit the European market. I like iRiver, I own two of their players and would be quite happy to buy another one when I am upgrading. Now it looks like I may not get the chance.
Korean jukebox manufacturer iRiver appears to be on the verge of pulling out of the European market following the sacking of its Euro PR team.

Its marketing headquarters for Europe will now shift from Germany to an in-house department in Korea, suggesting that the company will cease to launch new products in our fine continent.

The company has a healthy cult following in Europe and the UK thanks to feature-laden jukeboxes such as the H10, but the faith of its passionate supporters has clearly not been enough to sustain a continent-wide investment.

I'm one of the cult followers and I really will be disappointed to see them leave the market. Hopefully they are only rationalizing their teams and will keep selling the players in Europe. The iRivers always seem to be ahead of the IPod with things like photos and even video, but they pack alot of other features into the case like FM Radio, Optical Line-In/Out, microphone, easy to upgrade firmware. All they were missing was the white headphones of fashion accessory status. Soon I'll end up having to buy an Apple IPod just because there wont be anything else available instead of buying based on features.

[via Gizmodo]