Thursday, April 27, 2006

Failed your driving test? Come back in 18 months and pick up your car.

Minister Cullen has once again come up with a headline grabbing idea that any idiot could tell him was a non runner. I am beginning to wonder if the problem actually lies with the civil servants in the Department of Transport for not telling him to take a deep breath and think twice before calling a press conference.

In this particular case the proposed solution to the carnage on our roads is to stop people who have failed their driving test from driving.
Reports this morning said Minister for Transport Martin Cullen was planning reforms that would see provisional license holders forced to undergo more tuition and re-sit the test before they are allowed to drive again.

At first glance this seems like a great idea but there are several problems.

Firstly and most obviously it currently takes 18 months to get a test. You cannot take people off the roads for 18 months depending on the mood of a driving examiner. The waiting period for a test should be no longer than 1 month if this idea was to be a runner.

Secondly the government does not provide driving instruction and private lessons are expensive, for example the prices from one major driving school are

1 Lesson - €37
5 Lessons - €175
10 Lessons - €340
Pre-Test Course (4 Lessons) - €135

Young people can’t afford driving lessons so of course they can't drive properly. If you are going to force people to sit a certain number of lessons then the government must provide a cheaper alternative.

Thirdly people seem to pass or fail at the whim of the driving examiner. Some people I know failed for stupidly vague things like "driving too far from the edge of the road". They were not over the white line or even too close to the white line, just not close enough to the edge for the examiners liking. Maybe the examiner was trying to pick flowers or something. Other drivers I know passed despite driving on footpaths during their tests but were told, "you just need some experience, and sure you wont get that without your license". If you are a pedestrian in Ireland you will know that footpaths and pedestrian crossings are not something fully qualified drivers pay much notice to. There has to be a happy medium between the two standards.

Fourthly the Department of Transport that has come up with this idea that could take up to 400,000 drivers off Irish roads is also responsible for the public transport network. A public transport network that is suffering from chronic under funding, laughable timetables, expensive tickets and white elephant projects that cost a premium and service a minimum. Until they provide a decent nation wide alternative to the car, people who have not passed their driving test will continue to be forced to drive, legally or illegally.

And finally driving examination centers do not provide cars. You have to bring your own, either hired for the day or one you own. If after failing the test you cannot drive away from the center until you re-sit your test how exactly do they propose you should get your car out of the center? Should you just park it in their car park and come back in 18 months to re-sit your test?

The carnage on our roads will not be solved by taking away the licenses of one section of the community. They might as well just raise the driving age to 26 and be done with it. This problem requires imagination, investment and ambition, things this government has been lacking in the last few years.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Free WiFi in Cafe Java?

For a while I've been looking around for a coffee shop that I can go to at the weekend when I'm in town and get free WiFi with my coffee. Now I've found one, Cafe Java in Donnybrook had a sign up saying they are offering "Free WIFI access" in all their cafes.

Cool. Branches are at Upper Leeson Street, South Anne Street, Blackrock, Sandymount and Donnybrook.

I used to prefer Coffee Society for my caffeine fix, but they use BitBuzz who charge an arm and a leg for their WiFi. Cafe Java if more food oriented than casual coffee drinking, but if they really are offering free WiFi then I'll switch.

Update 27 April: I went to Cafe Java for coffee at lunch. Unfortunately I could see the network but for some reason my PDA would not connect to it. I wasn't asked for a key, and the PDA said the signal strength was good to normal and the network was open, but it just wouldn't connect. I asked the staff if I needed a voucher or something but they didn't know anything about the free WiFi. For the moment I'll assume it was my PDA acting up and I'll try again later.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cigarettes are good for you :-)

Well, no of course they aren't, and anyone who says they are is an idiot but you have to admire the sheer audacity of a company that thinks they can make a healthy cigarette by adding some vitamins :-)
A Quebec company is producing a cigarette it claims does not stain teeth, has less of an odour than regular brands and contains beneficial ingredients like vitamin C.

Of course Health Canada were a little direct in their rebuttal
"I say this half-jokingly: a safe cigarette is one that's not lit," Health Canada spokesperson Mathew Cook said.

But lets not forget that you can actually overdose with vitamin C so if that 100 a day habit doesn't kill you then the vitamins may so the job instead. Course this "healthy" cigarette will still get you kicked out of Irish pubs, and rightly so, but a friend of mine thinks he has found the solution to that, though I somehow don't see it taking off.

[Via Gizmodo]

Wi-Fi in Galway?

I just saw a press release on discussing eGalway week. Much of it sounds like fluff, showing off the internet to people.
The event, which takes place this week, includes the Broadband Conference and Expo, which is due to kick off on Wednesday in the Radisson Hotel. Internet Service Providers, e-businesses, the public sector and international firms such as eBay will gather to demonstrate the possibilities the internet opens up to people, in an attempt to encourage people into adopting high-speed internet access.

However at the bottom of the release is an interesting little sentence
Meanwhile, Galway City Council has announced that Wi-Fi access will now be available at Eyre Square.

What exactly does "available" mean? Wi-Fi access is "available" all over Dublin, but it's commercial and you have to pay ridiculous charges. Is the Wi-Fi in Eyre Square free? Part of me suspects it isn't since they would have publicised it more if it was, but I'm very open to correction on the matter. If it is free then three cheers for Galway City Council for being more progressive and up to date than Dublin. Hopefully Dublin City Council would consider doing something similar on, for example, O'Connell Street and St Stephens Green. Remember, the free Wi-Fi that was around some telephone boxes a couple of years ago now seems to be pay for use, or it was when I tried a few weeks ago. By a happy coincidence I will be in Galway this weekend and will check, but if anyone already knows then please let me know.

Update 1 May: I was in Eyre Square over the weekend. I was able to detect several Wi-Fi networks but most were secure. The two open ones were an Eircom one that still required a username and password and one from a near-by hotel. I presume the Eircom one was the one being referred to in the press release. So no free Wi-Fi.

Bush popularity

Less than one third of American voters now approve of the way President Bush is handling his job. The way I see it, this is one of the weaknesses of the American Presidential system. A President can become so unpopular that he becomes what Americans refer to as a lame duck president. His Presidency may have failed in the eyes of the electorate but he still has time in his term so no one can really do anything about the situation.

In a parliamentary system if a Prime Minister becomes hideously unpopular either the government will fall and an early election will be held, or if the governing party is strong enough they can just vote for a new leader, and therefore a new prime minister, giving themselves a fresh start without having to sit around for 2 more years and hope things don't get worse. The Republican party must be praying that the next 2 years pass quickly and they don't loose too many seats in the mid term elections.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Munster, Munster, Munster

Wonderful result yesterday. Most of the "experts" had predicted a close match with Leinster winning in the end but no one seems to have told Munster that they were supposed to roll over and let Leinster through to the Heineken Cup final. From the first minute Munster were dominant and the final score line of Leinster 6 Munster 30 was a little bit flattering but not terribly unjust, the last try was something of a cave-in by Leinster once they realized that they could not catch Munster.

I didn’t have a ticket for the match, and to be honest while I am a Munster fan I know people who are much more fanatical about Munster than I am, like my brother, so if I had managed to get a ticket I would have probably passed it on to him if he had been without one. Still, as I have mentioned elsewhere, since I couldn’t get into Lansdowne Road I figured there was only one other place worth watching the match in Dublin. Kielys of Donnybrook, the epicenter of Leinster Rugby.

It was a bit of a gamble but I thought if Munster won it would be the place to be to watch the Leinster fans cry into their pints of "Ken". The flip side of that would be the slagging that would accompany a Munster loss as I cried into my pint of Carlsberg. Still, since Kielys is practically my local I decided I would chance it. From the moment I walked in and the barman spotted me in the mob waiting for beer I knew I was onto a winner, I was served straight away. Whether that was a nod towards my "regular" status or a desire to get my red Munster jersey away from the bar I'm not sure. I settled down at the bar in front of one of the screens and watched the pre-match analysis and the crowd.

Frank McNally wrote in today’s Irish Times:
Even before the match, Munster dominated them in most key areas. The visitors established numerical supremacy in Doheny & Nesbitt's, Searson's, and the Waterloo Inn. A flying column even penetrated Kiely's of Donnybrook - Leinster HQ - and was holding its own there as late as an hour before the game.

The local Leinster fans were fairly vocal in their support, cheering every shot of a Leinster jersey or flag and booing (in a friendly manner) Munster. However they did most of their cheering before the game started. As the game continued Munster applied the pressure but were never out of sight so the fans were pretty tense. I figured that maybe at best 10% of the crowd in Kielys were Munster fans, there was only a handful of Munster jerseys and the Munster fans were being strategically quiet when surrounded by Leinster fans. However when Ronan O'Gara sprinted over the line to score his try half the pub erupted and the other half sank into their seats. When the Trevor Halstead gave Munster their third try on 80 minutes it was like all the Leinster fans had left the bar and Munster had taken over. It was now Kielys of Limerick, not Kielys of Donnybrook.

In fairness the Leinster fans were magnanimous in defeat, admitting the better team won and wishing us all the best for the final. Munster will be representing the whole of Ireland in Cardiff on May 20th.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Renters Rights

30 people in Ireland got scammed last week by a man who rented all of them an apartment in Dublin that it appears he didn't own and gave them keys that didn't work. It is reported that he made around €35,000 from the con. seems to be getting some unwelcome press coverage about the issue, but you cant really blame them as it appears that the advert was also in newspapers and other web sites. If fact Daft were able to take down the advert when they became aware of the con, but obviously the newspapers would have still been in circulation.

The whole thing just serves to highlight the fact that despite the governments press releases and toothless committees on the rights of tenants most people renting are completely exposed to the whims of their landlord when it comes to deposits, rent and conditions. With property prices rising so steeply many people are being priced out of the market and forced to continue renting. The government wont really act to help them since people renting often don't re-register to vote when they move apartment so there are no votes to be won, and property developers and investors are major contributers to political parties so there is incentive to rock the boat for them.

Why I hate unions

These days I hate trade unions. Don't get me wrong, I'm against the idea of a trade union, nor am I against the important issues that trade unions promote. I think that a union does play an important role in preventing unscrupulous employers from abusing their workforce. Many of the important work place improvements of the last century are as a direct result of trade unions.

However, like every organization with high ideals trade unions can, and often do, get dominated by the extremists and the die hards who would rather see the whole workforce go out on strike and close the factory than compromise on some minor idea or notion they have.

A case in point would appear to be the union in Waterford that took a stance on relocation of a factory and now may cost the entire workforce of 120 people their jobs.
The company wants to move production of its cookers and ranges to a premises on the IDA industrial estate three miles away.

The union representing most of the manufacturing staff, the TEEU, wants €2,300 for each employee for the relocation.

The company says it will not pay relocation money as it will cost the company at least €500,000.

Was the relocation really that severe? Let's be honest, three miles is not that great a distance, it's certainly not worth loosing your job over. Was this just a case of someone deciding to take a chance and see if they could get some easy money from the employer without thinking of the possible consequences?

It the global economy of the new millenium the Irish unions must learn that they can no longer squeeze the employers for every last penny. Companies don't have to stay in an unprofitable, unproductive, troublesome factory in Ireland when Eastern European countries are queuing up for the chance to shower them with new factories, cheaper workforces, and laxer employment laws. It may not seem just, but thats the new reality.

What will happen to the high ranking union officials if the 120 union members loose their jobs? Very little I suspect. Apart from the shop steward all the others will probably keep their jobs. When unions and employers square off frequently the only real looser is the ordinary worker. I wonder if the trade union would do the decent thing and offer the 120 union members jobs in their office? Not bloody likely.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Perfect Ass

This is a few days old but I thought it would make a suitable Friday posting. A psychology lecturer, David Holmes of Manchester Metropolitan University in England, has come up with a math equation to express the perfect female derriere.
The magical figures are (S+C) x (B+F)/T = V. Though the equation looks rather complicated, it is, according to the scientist, simple.

It assesses shape, bounce, firmness and symmetry – all factors that add up to the bottom line.

S is the overall shape or droopiness of the bottom, C represents how spherical the buttocks are, B measures muscular wobble or bounce, while F records the firmness.

V is the hip to waist ratio, or symmetry of the bottom, and T measures the skin texture and presence of cellulite.

I guess these things are all a matter of taste, but Dr Holmes did give an example of the person he believes has the perfect, mathematically proven, behind so you could use that as a baseline should you like to modify the equation to match your tastes.
Dr Holmes said that Kylie Minogue, whose celebrated bottom relaunched her career with the help of a pair of hotpants, would almost certainly score a perfect 80.

Personally I can’t really argue with him there. Still the day to day usefulness of this equation may be some what limited as no math equation could ever replace observation and hands on practical experimentation.

[via Boing Boing]

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Time for Bush to learn the Art of War?

Chinese President Hu Jintao has given Geoge W. Bush a copy of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War".

Anyone else think Hu is taking the piss, just a little? :-). It's good to see international diplomacy can have a sense of humor. Maybe next week Vladimir Putin will give Bush a copy of War and Peace and Jacques Chirac will give him The Vietnam War for Dummies.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kodak price increase

On a related topic to my previous post, Kodak is increasing the price of their film by as much as 17 percent.

The company cited rising costs for raw materials such as silver and petrochemicals. The company also attributed the price increases to growing expenses for packaging and transportation, which are tied to higher energy costs.

I suppose you can also expect the shops to add on a little increase of their own so I expect the price of film will go up at least 20 percent. Lets not forget that as more people switch to digital the declining economies of scale will start to drive the price of film up even further. In the medium term film will probably only be sold in specialist camera shops with most other shops switching over to digital printing kiosks.

I'll use my film SLR on my trip to Australia later this year because I don't want to bring an expensive digital SLR, and lets face it even "cheap" digital SLRs are expensive, but I think that will be the last time I use film for general use.

Souvenirs of Vietnam

I went to the Gallery of Photography tonight for the opening of a new exhibition, Souvenirs of Vietnam by Liza Nguyen. The main photographs are of samples of soil that Liza brought back from a visit to Vietnam.
Nguyen traveled to Vietnam, the home country of her father, for the first time in 2000. As a sort of ritual, she began methodically collecting handfuls of earth from historically significant locations all over Vietnam, mostly places that have become synonymous with battles or atrocities from the war years. She brought the soil samples back to Europe and photographed them in a clinical, almost forensic manner, enlarging her prints to reveal the subtle textures and colors of the earth.

It sounds strange but the photographs are very novel because they have been blown up so large and they all look physically similar from a distance, apart from color, but close up the textures and shapes are totally different. The fact that they are all samples from the main battle sites of the Vietnam War adds to the interest as I found myself examining the photographs to see if I could find any residue of war.

On the second level there are some smaller photographs printed like books of postcards. These are photographs of the structures and weapons of war that still remain, mostly in museums. There are also several photographs of the victims of Agent Orange, a topic that could be worth an exhibit of it's own.

As with all exhibits in the gallery admission is free so its always worth a visit.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Drivers Licenses

I was away for the weekend so I missed most of the news coverage but I did see a clip of Martin Cullen giving an interview where he said it was too easy for people to get their driving license and too difficult to take it away from them.

Easy? Is he kidding? I know people who have gotten university degrees in less time than it takes to get a drivers license in this country. The fact that it takes a year to get a date for your driving test means that if you were unlucky and failed the test twice it could easily take up to 3 years for you to finally get your full license.

As for it being too difficult to take a license away, well if he took the licenses off everyone in the country who is a bad driver and made them sit the test again it would take 5 years to get a test instead of 1.

Fix the driving instruction and driving test fiasco in this country and then you can worry about taking peoples licenses from them. It should take no more than 1 month to book and sit a test and driving instructors should be properly qualified and licensed to be instructors. Then maybe there wouldn't be the need to take away so many licenses and the option would be available to punish minor offences by forcing fully licensed drivers back onto provisional licenses with L plates and make them sit a driving test again.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Remember Easter 1916, but only after Easter 2006

Like many others in Ireland I'm off work today. Good Friday is a bank holiday but is not a public holiday however many companies still give their staff the day off. In the Ireland of 2006 most shops cafe and other foot-fall based businesses are open and doing quite a brisk trade. Now I know that I shouldn't complain about some things being closed since I myself have the day off but in one particular case I think I have to.

Collins Barracks in Dublin is hosting the main Easter 1916 exhibition to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the rising, The Easter Rising: Understanding 1916. Following a major advertising campaign it would seem logical that the busiest time for this exhibition would be over the Easter holiday. I headed over to it today only to find the gates shut. You see it may be hosting the Easter 1916 exhibition but that's not a good enough excuse to get the staff to work on an Easter bank holiday. So it's closed today.

While I waited 7 minutes for a Luas tram to bring me back into the city center I counted 11 other tourists walking up to the gate only to turn around confused when it was closed. It might be open tomorrow but I wouldn't be too sure about Sunday or Monday.

Update Arpil 18th: I was away for the weekend and I took the train to and from Heuston. The museum was open on Saturday morning when I passed on the Luas and then on Monday night a sign on the gate said it had been open between 14:00 to 17:00.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Admitting Drink Driving

The new Road Traffic Bill has a provision that gives a motorist caught drink driving to admit the offense and take an on the spot fine and a 6 month driving ban. If instead they appeal the case to the courts they will face much stricter penalties.

Now on the Eamon Dunphy show this morning Eamon came up with a reason why this wouldn't work. If you are drunk and the cops catch you are you in a fit state to make a decision regarding your legal position. (Available on podcast, check here)

It's insane but you just know people will get out of drink driving convictions by going to court and proving that they were incapable of making decisions so they should not have been convicted. Then they will get off on the original drink driving charge because the correct procedures for bringing a case to trial will not have been followed after they took the on the spot fine.

It all makes me wonder if when a driver is caught drink driving, accepts the on the spot fine and driving ban will they be allowed to drive home? Probably.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Iranian Nukes

The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has announced that Iranian scientists have succeeded in enriching uranium. This is low grade enrichment which is suitable for nuclear fuel but not for nuclear weapons, though it is a big step in that direction.

More concerning is the fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would make such a big announcement. It seems clear he is taunting America and must be hoping that Bush will react by sending in the bombers. That seems like a bloody good reason not to attack. Though I cant help but think that if Bush hasn't reacted and launched the missiles already its only because Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have him pinned to the floor and wont let him get to the telephone.

I don't see how there can be any winners in this apart from the fundamentalists on both sides and they are the ones who will get first dibs on the bunks in the fall-out shelters.

Britain faces airborne threat from Germany

61 years after the end of World War II Britain is once again under attack by airborne raiders from Germany. This time there are no bombers, fighters or waves of V2 rockets. Instead it's them pesky German swans.

It turns out that the swan found dead in Scotland is now reported to have come from Germany. It's not known if the bird flew across and died quickly or floated across after it died. Either way it would appear that this was the first bird to come to Britain with bird flu (and be found) and may not have had time to infect others.

That's good news for the chicken population of the British Isles who should now be able to get back to clucking around outdoors without having to keep an eye out for incoming swans.

Monday, April 10, 2006

National Dreams

I placed my annual Grand National bet on Saturday and, continuing an inglorious tradition, I lost. I'm not a gambler, viewing betting as basically a mugs game, but since I was a kid I have always placed a bet on the Grand National. After years of picking a horse randomly, based on which name stood out most I had never won a bet, or even placed to the best of my knowledge. It's actually getting a little annoying.

Last year I altered my strategy, I just randomly picked a horse whose odds were around 25 to 1 and also bet on one of the favorites. Again a dismal failure, but to rub salt into the wound the horse I had initially selected, using my previous strategy, won. So I altered the system again. I decided I should ask the one man I know who follows the horses for his advice. A few horses got mentioned but I settled on Ross Comm and Haute De Gamme as my two each-way bets for this year.

I was full of confidence as I placed the €10 bets. I couldn’t loose. Both horses were reported as having a chance and so long as one of them made it into the first 5 I should at least break even. Easy money I thought... unfortunately not.

Ross Comm put in a brave show full of eagerness and energy. In fact so keen was he that he caused a false start. Perfect, I thought, he'll give the others a run for their money. Springing into an early lead and leaving the other horses in his dust. He fell at the 4th!

So now I was left with Haute De Gamme as my sole interest in the National. Unfortunately as the race progressed I began to doubt that he had even made the starting line. There was not a mention of him. I wandered over to the newspaper page on the wall of the bookies to join the other new betters checking their horses colours. Black with light blue stripes. I looked at the screen with a reduced number of runners still in the race, no sign of him. Wait, did the commentator just mention him? Yes he did, I was sure of it. So Haute must still be in the race.

The other horses were dropping like flies so I figured he was bound to make it to the top 5. Maybe he was in 6th? The commentator was only calling out the top 5 and the last runner so I couldnt tell what other horses were in the race. One faller could be all that stood between me and an end to my Grand National curse. As the race drew to a conclussion there was still no mention of Haute de Gamme and no sign of the black and light blue colors. As the field strung out it began to dawn on me that unless several horses did a Devon Locke on it I wasnt getting my money back. In fact if Haute De Gamme was still in this race he must be in the pits getting refueled or something.

Finally the race ended and the results were announced. Haute De Gamme was not one of the 9 finishers. I went home wondering if he had even started. Yesterdays Sunday Times and the BBC then informed me that he had started but had fallen at the 20th fence, which was probably when the commentator mentioned him.

There ends another Grand National. Next year I think I'll throw a dart at a newspaper and bet on which ever horse it hits.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Cold April

It was bloody cold today in Dublin. So cold that there were heavy hail showers and the hail lodged and turned parts of Dublin white for a few minutes.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Pesky Wabbit

A super sized rabbit is terrorizing a quiet corner of English countryside. Yes really. An unusually large rabbit is plundering allotments and has driven the allotment owners to take desperate action.
"It is absolutely massive. I have seen its prints and they are huge, bigger than a deer. It is a brute of a thing."

Hmm, I wonder, could it possible actually be...... a deer...?

Mr Smith, who has kept an allotment for 25 years, added: "We have two lads here with guns who are trying to shoot it, but it is clever."

They have hired two "sharpshooters" to hunt down and kill the beast. Better not be a deer then, I'm sure I've read you can have your hand cut off in some parts of England for killing the Kings deer. But the hunter doesn't sound like a Robin Hood.

"It's a monster," said Brian Cadman, 17, one of the guards charged with terminating the rabbit. He said he could not wait to glimpse his prey for the first time. "Only a couple of people have seen it so far, but I've seen the evidence and I think it's going to be a biggie," he said.

Ah, if only someone would have given me a gun, a license to kill and international press coverage when I was 17 I could have chosen totally different path in life. International big game hunter, or James Bond.

Criminals buy bullet-proof vests, McDowell buys stab-proof vests

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has announced that the Gardai are to get issued with stab-proof vests and that a tender process will start.

Michael McDowell says there have been trials carried out on different models of vests to choose the most suitable for this country.

I may be taking a wild stab in the dark, but I'd guess the Gardai might have more use for bullet proof vests? After all these days bullet proof vests and guns seem to be standard issue for criminals so it's only a matter of time until the Department of Justice has to buy bullet-proof vests to replace the new stab-proof ones.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Panic Nation

Stanley Feldman was interviewed by Matt Cooper on The Last Word this evening. He gave a refreshing explanation of why people should not panic over Bird Flu and all the other health scares that come and go on a regular basis and never really amount to anything.

The show is podcast and should be available for download tomorrow.

He has also published a book on the subject called Panic Nation. It may be worth a read.

No good deed goes unpunished

During the Winter Olympics a Norwegian cross-country ski coach Bjoernar Haakonsmoen helped a Canadian skier, Sara Renner, win an Olympic silver medal by handing her a replacement ski pole when one of hers broke.

He became a hero in Canada and was thanked at a ceremony at the Canadian embassy in Oslo yesterday. He was then presented with some maple syrup by the grateful Canadians. 5 tonnes of maple syrup! 7,400 cans of maple syrup! In a truck!

I know it's the thought that counts, but you can bet no one will help the Canadians next time, unless they have a very large family to feed. :-)

Bird flu arrives, cough, cough

Bird Flu has reached Scotland. Odds are the scientists didn't pick up the first bird to arrive in England or Scotland with the infection so I'd guess there's a reasonable chance it's spread already to Ireland. To be honest I'm surprised there was not a confirmed case before now, it's not like there is a glass wall between France and the British Isles. But lets be realistic, the media will have a field day and go into fits about a pandemic but there is no real risk to people at the moment.

Until people start getting sick there is no reason to worry and that's not likely to happen unless someone is living with poultry the way some people do in parts of Asia. Even then there probably isn't much to worry about. If H5N1 eventually does jump to humans, and that's still a big if, you'll more than likely catch it from one of your mates than any bird. I'll avoid the obvious catching diseases from "birds" joke here :-)

So there is no risk, unless of course you own a cat. Apparently they are susceptible to catching it.

Scientists know so little about H5N1 in cats that it is difficult to assess the risk they pose when infected, the virologist Albert Osterhaus from the Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam and Peter Roeder, from the UN food and agriculture organisation, wrote in tomorrow's issue of Nature.

So if your cat brings you home a dead bird and puts in on the door step best not to leave it there. I knew there was a reason I didn't like cats.

Update 6 April: Bird Flu may be in Northern Ireland.

Update 7 April: Looks like the birds in Northern Ireland got the all clear. They are still dead, of course, but they can be happy in the knowledge that they didnt die of Bird Flu.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Unique Moment

Wired is reporting that in one hours time just after 1 am there will be a unique moment in American calendar time.
Pogue writes: Late tonight -- specifically, 123 seconds after 1:00 a.m. -- the time and date, for the first time in all of humanity, will be 01:02:03 04/05/06.
It happens next month in Europe because we write our calendars with the day before month. Geeky but kinda cool. (Ok, I'm sad)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

John Reid thinks international law is getting in the way

The Guardian is carrying a story which if this was last Saturday I would assume was an April fools joke. Now assuming the editor didn't make a monumental screw up and hold the story over from Saturday then it appears British Defence Secretary John Reid thinks the Geneva convention is hindering British troops.

You cant actually argue against his point. The Geneva Conventions do hinder allied troops. International law does tie the hands of law abiding nations.
Mr Reid indicated he believed existing rules, including some of the conventions - a bedrock of international law - were out of date and inadequate to deal with the threat of international terrorists.

"We are finding an enemy which obeys no rules whatsoever", he said, referring to what he called "barbaric terrorism".

But isn't that the point of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars? The people and nations who ignore international law and the Geneva Conventions are terrorists and barbaric. Some one has to stand up to them. What makes the actions of a nation acceptable is following those rules despite the hindrance. If International Law and the Geneva Conventions were discounted then the allied task in Iraq would be much easier, they could just drop some nukes and sterilize all life from the nations that annoy them. But then who would be the good guys and who would be the bad guys?

Blogging Libel

The very public demise of a blog over the weekend may frighten some people away from blogging. El Passo Times received a big press hit on page 3 of the Irish Sunday Times. Unfortunately for El Passo the story was about the fact that it had shutdown after being served with “very serious legal documents”.

I have to admit when I read that on Sunday afternoon I got a minor moment of panic. Blogs being sued? Blogs being closed down? So publicly? Could I be sued? Who had I offended? What? Why? When?

However a quick look at El Passo showed me that their style of posting was, well lets just say, somewhat different to mine. In fact it was somewhat different from most of the blogs I read. I had looked at El Passo previously and not added it to my bloglines. It was a little too aggressive for my taste. I may bitch and complain about the government and ministerial decisions but that is, apparently, fair comment. It’s not personal. El Passo on the other hand went for the jugular of people and, in the case that led to their downfall, they apparently posted about the family of a public figure. I wont repeat the details, or even post a link to El Passo.

I’m not a solicitor or in anyway legally qualified but the key seems to be to remember public figures are still private people so don’t say anything about them you wouldn’t say about anyone else or want said about yourself. Even then don’t say anything you know is probably wrong or is likely to get your ass dragged to court. You may laugh it off but they might not. Your blog will be read by more than just you and other like minded individuals, it can be read by anyone and everyone. This includes comments posted by other people. It's your blog, your responsibility.

The public may want to know that the Department for Applied Widgets paid 4 billion euros for a secondhand plastic widget that was on sale on ebay with a previous highest bid of 50c. But they do not need to know that you personally think the local TD’s niece is a slapper whom your mate Jayo says he shifted in the nightclub last night.

Damien Mulley has some interesting and useful comments and Running with Bulls has a useful link to a pamphlet on libel.

(I have sort of cross-posted this with the another blog I post to but there I just posted a quick set of links. I wont make a habit of cross posting.)

April Fools round-up

Wikipedia has a round up of April fools jokes played this year. The internet dominates the list, but television and newspapers get a couple of mentions.

I saw this one and thought it was funny because I think it could happen
The Daily Mail announced that the door at Number 10 Downing Street that had been black for 270 years had been painted red by Tony Blair
It reminded me of the story of the Clinton staffers stealing all the W's from the computer keyboards in the White House before George W Bush's people arrived.

If you think you spotted a joke but are not sure then you could check here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

How to do election posters

When you have a stunning party leader and a willingness to use movie style posters for your election campaign you can come up with some really novel posters.

Yulia Tymoshenko, a.k.a The Orange Princess, is Ukraine's answer to Princess Leia. A journalist interviewed on the radio last week said he should no longer report on the election as he was totally infatuated with her, look at her web site to see why. She is definitely alot better looking than most Irish politicians ever get (I'm sure Deputy Healy-Rae wont mind the comparison).

But she is not by any means just a pretty face. She is a successful business person, though some of her gas dealings are reported as murky. She played a leading role in the Orange revolution and as the former Ukrainian prime minister she was ranked 3rd most powerful woman in 2005 by Forbes.

[via Boing Boing]

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It pays to shop around

People always say it pays to shop around, but sometimes shopping around can be as easy as walking around one shop. Case in point is the Virgin Megastore in Dundrum.

Yesterday I bought the original Star Wars Trilogy for €24.99. This was a sale price and according to the sticker was reduced from €47.99. The boxes were on a stand at the front of the shop. At the back of the shop in the DVD section the same boxes were on sale for €42.99. These were the basic 3 disc packs, there is another box set with 4 discs for €57.99. 4 prices for one set of movies.

Of course €24.99 isn't a bad price for 3 movies so I'll forgive them, but I'll always search the shop before buying a DVD just in case I'm looking at the expensive stand.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Leinster steamroller on

Leinster completed the first part of a dream semi-final for Irish rugby fans. Munster will kick off in half an hour to try and make the second component.

Despite being underdogs Leinster went to Toulouse and beat the reigning European champions 35-41, with Toulouse scoring a converted try in the last 15 seconds to add a certain respectability to the score line.

Now its up to Munster to beat Perpignan in a sunny but shower soaked Lansdowne Road. Munster start as favorites so lets home Perpignan don't do a Leinster on the game. Dublin city center is a sea of red Munster jerseys. My brother, a huge Munster fan is in Landsdown Road and is already trying to figure out where to get a ticket for the semi-final.

If Munster win then it's Leinster Vs Munster in two weeks time and an Irish team is guaranteed to reach the final of the Heineken Cup.

Update: Munster were not on top form by any means, but they managed to beat Perpignan 19-10. For a long time it looked like Perpignan could spoil the day but in the end an injured Ronan O'Gara was still the best man to have on the Munster team for scores, and Paul O'Connell was going to drag Munster to the winning post if he had to personally flog every member of the Perpignan and Munster squads. So now the great Battle of Ireland is on for the weekend of 22/23 April.