Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Google Eire

The Google Earth data about Ireland has been updated to use the Irish names for towns instead of the more common English versions. The English version of the name is displayed in parenthesis beside the Irish ones but I'm still not happy about it.

Sure from a ideal nationalistic perspective it's a good thing to use Irish place names in preference to the anglicized ones but that view is a minority one. However the minority is more vocal than the majority and in places like Dingle, sorry An Daingean or whatever they call it this month, they force the majority to use Irish place names. Forcing Irish down the throats of school children for generations has failed to revive or even halt the decline of the dying language so instead of trying to find more imaginative ways to popularize the language they just try to force it down the throats of adults as well.

Ironically Ireland is called Ireland not Eire, as I'm sure the Gaelic extremists would like. But just as controversially "Londonderry (Derry)" is on the map as well, Ian Paisley must not use Google or we would have heard him shouting from here.

Emerald Green Taxi is reporting on a hoax letter that was sent to taxi drivers in Kerry telling them they would have to paint their cars emerald green.
Taxi drivers have fallen victim to a hoax claiming they would have to paint their vehicles emerald green as part of new regulations.

At least 11 drivers in Kerry received letters, claiming to be from the Commission for Taxi Regulation, stating that taxis would have to be colour-coordinated.

To me it sounds like a student prank. However, you know what, I think it's a great idea. Many cities and countries have easily identifiable taxis, yellow cabs in New York, black cabs in London, and the taxi drivers don't suffer. Why not here? Emerald green would be a great color choice for Irish taxis. Wasn't this suggested a couple of years ago in an official press release or study?

Anyway, the Gardai are now involved and are investigating the forgery, because the Taxi regulator says he takes it very seriously. Get off your high horse mate. How about stopping the taxi strike scheduled for this weekend instead of getting worried about some silly little joke. You would think the Gardai would have better things to do, and taxi drivers would be less gullible.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Digital TV by 2012

The Irish government has announced that it hopes to switch off the analogue television services by 2012. I wonder does that include switching off Pat Kenny, Gerry Ryan and all the other analogue broadcasters from the last millennium and currently kept running purely on the electronic emissions from the RTE broadcast masts? :-)

EU decide Ireland acted illegally by complaining about Sellafield

It looks like Ireland is no longer a sovereign nation able to argue its case on the international stage as an equal member of the United Nations. The reason? We are members of the EU as well as the UN and the EU doesn't like it when member states get pissed at each other.

In this case we were bold little children and complained to the UN that the United Kingdom would not close Sellafield, a plant that is poisoning the Irish Sea for decades. Strangely radioactive waste doesn't respect territorial waters so what BNFL throw into the Irish sea in Wales has a tendency to wash up along the Irish coast line.

The EU took offense at this. No, not at the complete disregard for the safety of Irish citizens. Instead the EU objected to the Irish for snitching to the UN and trying to get the English to shut down Sellafield. The EU likes to keep things within the family and like good family members they know how to deal with those who look outside the family for help. Now the issue will have to be dealt with in the appropriate endless committee meetings and European Court meetings. With Tony Blair planning to build more nuclear reactors we know how much impact the risk of EU action is having.
In its judgment the court said Ireland's concerns about the marine environment around Sellafield should have been addressed within the EU and not by turning to an external body.

It says only the European Court of Justice has the right to resolve a dispute between member states about an interpretation of EU law.

Minister Dick Roche says that this has now clarified the jurisdiction of the European Court and Ireland will now contest the continuing operation of Sellafield through this channel.

I seem to have missed the referendum where we gave up our independence and agreed to let some faceless, nameless, unelected Eurocrat decide how, where and when we represent ourselves on the international stage. If Minister Roche had any balls he'd tell the EU where to stick it's jurisdiction.

Monday, May 29, 2006

British Film wins Palme d'Or and its about the Irish War of Independence

Normally I get pissed off when the British media hijack Irish stars as being British or more vaguely "from the British Isles" but this time I think we should all let them away with it. After all it's not every year a "British" movie wins the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

The beauty of this particular British movie, called The Wind that Shakes the Barley, is in it's subject matter.
The film charts the republican struggle in the years after the Irish election of 1918, a period when British Black and Tans and Auxiliaries committed atrocities on the Irish population. Loach and his screenwriter, Paul Laverty, wanted to expose the "true underbelly" of Britain's colonial past, a history that is repeating itself, they argue, in Iraq today.

If the British media wants to publicise a movie that details the actions of the Black and Tans they who are we to complain? Also it cant hurt to have someone make an internationally released movie that covers events in the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War, two conflicts that I feel have been forgotten by most of the world and replaced in the public mind with the actions of the Provisional IRA. Most people probably think the Irish War of Independence was fought by Brad Pitt, Richard Gere and Sean Bean.

That said the trailer makes the movie look pretty shakey with lines like "Did you see our position when you came over the crest of that hill? You did not. You were looking down at your shoes. There'll be clean shoes on your corpse".

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Trademark 2.0?

O'Reilly Media is a company that produces a host of technical and computer books, courses and conferences. Their output is generally quite good and you'll probably find a few of their books on the bookshelf of most computer professionals.

However they have been getting a fair bit of flack in the online community in the last week for their decision to set their lawyers on a nonprofit group down in Cork that wanted to have "Web 2.0" conference. The problem? O'Reilly claim a trademark on "Web 2.0". O'Reilly sent in the lawyers before contacting the conference organisers and in fairness to them have now apologized and allowed the conference to use the phrase.

This got me curious so I had a look at the O'Reilly web site and it currently lists another upcoming conference using another term, Where 2.0. I presume they also claim the trademark over that, it does have TM on it. Now I wonder, can a company really claim a trademark on an existing widely used word, not even a phrase, simply by adding 2.0 to it? Should I just grab the Oxford English dictionary, write "All the above plus 2.0" on the last page, head down to the trademark registration office and wait for the money to roll in?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Blogger publish problems? is causing me grief this evening. When I try to publish anything the publish screen just loops aroung and never reports success. The progress stays at 0%. That led me to publish the Ulster post 6 times because I hit publish 6 times thinking it was failing. I think I have now deleted the extra posts but if blogger still publishes them then sorry about that and no I havent gone mad.

Ulster win Celtic League

Ulster have just beaten the Ospreys 19 points to 17. So Ireland have won the Heineken Cup with Munster and the Celtic League with Ulster. A little bonus is the fact that by winning tonight Ulster pipped Leinster to the title. I shouldn't take pleasure in Leinsters loss, but I cant help it, they can be so full of themselves sometimes. You would think they were the best team in the world instead of, -ahem-, the third team in Ireland :-)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Taxi Strike

The Taxi drivers unions have called on their members to down tools at 10pm Saturday week until 4am. Yeah right, some chance of that happening. Saturday night? The busiest night of the week for taxi's? Not a hope in hell of a taxi driver refusing to take a fare that night. You might as well ask Pope to buy a round in Stringfellows. Best the unions can hope for is their members to stay away from the ranks but still drive around with their roof light off picking up fares and hoping the union rep doesn't spot them.

Cannon to quit film camera business?

Yet more news in the transition from film to digital photography. Engadget and MSNBC are reporting that Cannon are now considering dropping their film compacts and SLRs. This follows Nikons decision at the start of this year to stop all their film cameras bar one.
A spokesman at Canon, the world's largest digital camera maker, said it would consider whether it needs to continue developing both compact and single lens reflex (SLR) film models because the markets for both are shrinking.

My earlier concerns on the impact the demise of film based SLRs could have on people taking up photography as a hobby still apply. Digital SLRs are still way, way, way too expensive when compared to entry level 35mm SLRs. So much so that if someone has not already developed an interest in photography they wont impulse buy an €800 digital SLR the way they could with a €200 film SLR. Also digital SLRs are still too delicate and prone to dust.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dunphy to replace Hook on Newstalk?

Update 20-June: For the people who are searching for Dunphy and Newstalk and ended up here, Dunphy has announced he is leaving Newstalk. Go here for my post about that.

I guess we all know why he would not answer the Evening Herald now, he was considering leaving.

- Original post from May -

George Hook was just talking on Newstalk 106 to Ger Gilroy and he mentioned an article in tonight's Evening Herald that reported Eamon Dunphy was going to take over Hooks slot in the schedule. George made little of it saying that he wouldn't take it seriously because it was in the Evening Herald, but then he joked that he would be willing to swap with Dunphy because he likes to get up early in the mornings.

I wonder... could Dunphy return to the radio slot that started his radio career? It would put him head to head with his old program on Today FM. It would also be a big PR stunt when the station goes national in October.

Though that said the idea of waking up to George Hook is just as disturbing as the idea of waking up to Eamon Dunphy.

Update 25 May: Bol**cks, total and utter Bol**cks. The Evening Herald basically created a story out of nothing. In Newstalk 106s application for a national license they "revealed their plans to have Eamon Dunphy broadcast and early morning programme". Fair enough that, seeing how that is his job already. Then the Herald continues
But when contacted by the Evening Herals, Dunphy refused to be drawn on any future competition between his show and Morning Ireland.

This will lead to speculation that the controversial broadcaster may be plotting to move to a different slot, possibly to go head-to-head with Matt Cooper, who took over his Today FM job

So the Herald asked a question Dunphy didnt give a real answer so they "speculated" and made something up. Pah, they could have just as easily speculated that Dunphy could quit broadcasting to return to Manchester United team as striker cover for Wayne Rooney. Why did the journalist even talk to Dunphy at all if they were just going to "speculate" and make up a story?

Priceless Munster

Got this in email today

Munster Jersey: 75 euro
Flights to Cardiff: 400 euro
Accomodation: 150 euro
Tickets to the European Cup final: 75 euro
Six pack of cans: 8 euro

Having a camera as your mate throws the lips on Mary Harney:

Absolutely F**kin’ Priceless!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ticketmaster US to auction tickets?

Slashdot is reporting on a story in the New York Times. Ticketmaster in the US is to start auctioning off the best tickets for concerts and events instead of selling them at a set price. The logic basically boils down to this, if touts can charge $1000 for a $50 ticket why cant we do that instead?
Once the auction service goes live, Ticketmaster will receive flat fees or a percentage of the winning bids, to be decided with the operators of each event, said Sean Moriarty, Ticketmaster's executive vice president for products, technology and operations.
You can see their logic. Everyone knows ticket touting is a big problem, especially for popular concerts like U2. Tickets can sell out in minutes and if you aren't one of the lucky ones you will be forced to risk buying a ticket on eBay and hope it shows up or buying a ticket on the day from a tout and hoping its not a fake. By doing this the tout should be cut out of the market, the promoter wins, ticketmaster wins but the concert-goer still looses.

Of course there are other ways to stop touting, like printing names on tickets and making them match some ID, or match a credit card to the ticket. There would be a technological solution if the companies put their mind to it but there is more money in auctioning tickets so the punter looses out. If touts could not sell on tickets there would be no point in them buying tickets then there would be more tickets available for genuine fans and supply might more closely match demand.

At the moment this seems to be only in the US but how long will it be before it gets moved over this side of the Atlantic?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ireland Win Eurovision! If you ignore all the others countries...

The Irish Government have come up with a solution to the problem of Ireland's inability to win the Eurovision anymore. With a nod towards great the news outlets of the former Soviet Union the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism simply announced that Brian Kennedy had won.
Minister O'Donoghue said: "I wish to extend my congratulations to Brian on his marvelous win for Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Athens tonight. He gave a wonderful performance and in the process extended Ireland's record number of Eurovision wins to eight. Everyone should be very proud of this excellent achievement."

In reality Brian came 10th and my tip for the top, Lithuania, came 6th.

When the Department realised Brian hadn't won or that some people in Ireland had actually watched the show, or maybe someone just spotted the result in the Sunday newspapers, they removed the press release from their website.

Don't worry lads, mistakes happen, and sure in another few years you will be able to claim we won and no one will know any different cause no one cares anymore.

[via NewsWire]

Newstalk 106 to go national

Good news for all those people who live outside Dublin, Newstalk 106 has been granted a national broadcasting license. The license is "quasi-national" covering 98% of the country and lasting 10 years. They are planning to go national by the end of the year, probably October, just at the same time as I head to Australia so I'll miss their first 3 months, but they do provide podcasts so I will be able to keep up to date from the other side of the world.

It would appear that they are planning on tweaking their line-up.
Targeting over 25s, big name presenters Eamon Dunphy and George Hook have been secured while the colourful civil rights campaigner Senator David Norris is also being lined up.

The station has said it is committed to bringing more Irish language programming to the airwaves along with shows for immigrant communities while limiting music to three tracks an hour.

I hope they keep the shows I listen to Eamon Dunphy, George Hook, Sean Moncrief (from time to time) and especially Ger Gilroys Off the Ball show. It's the best sports show on Irish radio, and is on every evening of the week (in fact they are on now and have warned their competitors around the country that they are coming for them :-) ).

Sunday, May 21, 2006

St Patrick's Hunger Strike Photos

I've posted some photographs here that I took at Saturdays protests outside St Patrick's Cathedral. The protests were peaceful despite the close proximity of the two opposing groups. In fact they were mingling and trying to out do each other for the attention of the cameras.

In the end the hunger strike ended peacefully anyway.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

[Spoilers ahead]
I went to see The Da Vinci Code last night. To start with I have to say that I read the book and I didn't like it. I could forgive the fact that it is riddled with historical inaccuracies, it is after all a work of fiction. I could also forgive Dan Brown what he called a page of facts at the start of the book. They may be controversial but they worked perfectly as an advertising gimmick and that one page has done more for the sales of the book than the other 580.

However, what I couldn't forgive is that fact that despite all the hype and all the praise the plot of the book was weak and the characters annoying. The code and the adventure were more like one of those city treasure hunts that groups of people do around Dublin, and I presume most cities, with a list of questions and riddles to answer. In fact I've taken part in ones that were harder to solve than the Grail quest in this book. Dan Brown flatters the reader by presenting them with a riddle that they can figure out before the so called experts in the book.

The second weakness with the book was the characters it contained. Robert Langdon and Leigh Teabing spend too much time explaining every little fact to Sophie Neveu while drawing sweeping conclusions and wild assumptions that allow them to continue the Grail quest.

Unfortunately these weaknesses are all faithfully reproduced in the movie with the movie itself managing to add a couple more. By faithfully adapting the plot and script of the movie Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman have produced characters that are rather one dimensional, colorless and you can never figure out why they are doing what they are doing. On paper you can read a mans thoughts, on the silver screen best you can hope for is a pensive frown or a puzzled look. The situation is not helped by the cast.

Tom Hanks seems to not want to be in the movie at all, large parts of his dialog are delivered in flat uninterested way, especially his discussions with Teabing about the history of the Grail where you feel he is embarrassed to even be in the scene. His chemistry with Audrey Tautou reminds the viewer of a blind date gone bad where everyone is trying to be polite but get away as soon as possible.

Audrey Tautou plays Sophie perfectly, unfortunately thats not a good thing. The character of Sophie starts the story as a police cryptographer but one third of the way through the book she suddenly seems to have gotten a lobotomy and ended up with an IQ of 5. She spends the rest of the book being lectured to and led along by her male companions like a silly child instead of a clever intelligent police cryptographer. Audrey also spends most of the movie staring one eyed from behind her hair, it's a beautiful eye but it does begin to seem a little odd all on its own with its companion hidden away behind her fringe.

I was curious about how Ian McKellen would play Leigh Teabing. Would we get a Gandalf or a Saruman or a Magneto? Clever but with a hint of something menacing and a doubt as to which side he would really be on? Nope, in the end we get a physical impersonation of Gollum, the character may be crippled but the way he moves is just weird and really is like Gollum. Still he was vaguely more interesting than the two main characters, but only just.

The best performance comes from Paul Bettany playing Silas the albino monk. His character is the best explained in the whole movie and his motivations however bizarre are at least better explained and more believable than the others. His performance was the only one to get a reaction from the audience, be it his corporal mortification or his ability to jump out of the shadows.

The supporting cast of characters end up dragging the whole story in directions that worked on paper but just distract when put on screen. It appears that everyone in France, England and the Vatican knows about the Priory and are after their secrets. The Grail and the adventure turns into more of a Famous Five type adventure than a suspense triller with the heroes running from one dull set piece to another. The Priory of Scion ends up looking more like the cast from the Vicar of Dibly than the descendants of the Knights Templar.

The end of the movie also appears to have been hastily and badly revised with the ending from the book almost, but not quite, making it onto screen. The movie spends several flash back scenes setting up the whole background story ready for the final revelations and then just doesn't bother explaining what happened.

The one thing I did like was the last scene with Robert Langdon. Somehow that never worked for me when it was on paper but on the big screen it seemed to click. It may be daft, but it's the best scene in the movie. However that last couple of minutes are not enough to save this movie.

In the end I have to give this 2 out of 5. I wont say I hated it, and I expected to really hate it. It is passes the time but is still fatally flawed with the weaknesses of the original book magnified on the big screen.

Friday, May 19, 2006

St Patricks Cathedral Standoff

There is a standoff between the Gardai and the asylum seekers on hunger strike in St Patrick's Cathedral. The minors in the cathedral have been made wards of the state and the HSE wants them to leave the cathedral. They responded by threatening and apparently even attempting to commit suicide. It's an on going story, go to The Dublin Community Blog for updates.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sony Digital SLR and FujiFilm price increase

Today was one of those rare days when instead of having nothing to write about I find several stories that catch my interest and cover things I had blogged about previously.

So here is one about Sony's move into the realm of digital SLR photography. Back in January I posted about the fact that Konica-Minolta were pulling out of the photography business. However at the same time Sony announced that they were going to release their own digital SLRs based on the Konica-Minolta technology.

Well the details of the camera have firmed up over the last few months, it's called the Alpha. But now it's also been announced that they have bought the Tamron lens company and are scooping up software companies in fields related to digital media.

Looks like Sony want to become the Chelsea of the photography world, buy their way to the top. Not that it would be a bad thing if they did, some improved competition in the market would help after a year of contraction. Hopefully it will at least drive prices down, I want to buy a digital SLR.

One of the reasons I want a digital is that 35mm film and development is getting too expensive, at least if you want decent film and well developed photographs. Now FujiFilm have added to the expense and put the prices of their film up by 20% to cover increases in the price of crude oil and silver. The decision was probably also related to the fact that Kodak did the same thing last month.

[via Gizmodo]

Da Vinci Code check list

A list of the flaws in the book/movie The Da Vinci Code can be found here. Should be worth a read after watching the film, or before if you don't mind some spoilers. Normally I'm not one for beating a movie over the head for simple continuity errors but in this case the claims of accuracy and the flaws are getting as much media attention as the plot itself.

It varies from the silly (The restrooms of the Louvre have liquid soap, just like most other public restrooms), to the technical ( GPS receivers are accurate to somewhere between 13 and 328 feet) and the historically important (The Priory of Sion is a fictitious organization, founded and publicized by Pierre Plantard in 1956)

Cardboard SLR

With the age of 35mm cameras coming to a end and digital taking over it's nice to see that someone has taken matters into their own hands and made their own film single lens reflex (SLR) camera, out of cardboard :-)

They didn't post the instructions and it does look fairly primitive with a pencil to wind the film and the shutter release looks like two handles to push down, but it is novel and could be an interesting project.

[via Gizmodo who have promised to find out more]

Tagging Finished

I have finished the tagging of my blog, 377 posts from the last year. I've shortened the list of tags as well. I may shorten it a little more, but for the moment you can find it at That's the end of the bulk tagging, now all I have to do is tag as I post.

Funny thing is is reporting all my posts as Recent so I have had a lot of people visiting my older posts by following the Recent links. I'm sorry for the confusion but I hope they like what the read and come back for the up-to-date posts.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

BBC Review Da Vinci Code, and its not favourable

The BBC has the first review that I have seen of the most hyped movie of the year, The Da Vinci Code. They don't like it.
Ron Howard's adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, which debuts at Cannes Film Festival, fails to live up to the hype that surrounded Dan Brown's novel.
While the plot worked its magic on the pages, it does not transfer well to the screen - here, it is long and it is dull.
They acknowledge the fact that the movie will be a commercial success regardless of how good or bad it is but reviews like this wont do anything to bring people who have not read the book out to the cinema. That said the BBC were never likely to give The Da Vinci Code 5 stars since their reviewers are probably well aware of the historical flaws in the story.

I'm going to see it on Friday (see my post on The Dublin Community Blog) so I'll post my own review here on Saturday.

Update: No sooner do I post about the first review then I see another one, this one is by Sinead in Dublin on the Sigla Blog so it's worth a mention and again the reviewer wasn't thrilled by the movie.
The film wheezes along, dragging its unimaginative script with it, relying on something akin to Leaving Cert. standard history to make the whole concept credible. Overly earnest dialogue (another Howard-ism) and clunky puzzle-solving scenes only confirm the filmÂ’s blandness.

My expectations for this movie go down hourly, so I'll probably end up enjoying it :-)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gassed Chickens

Following up on this mornings post the chickens are now officially no longer a threat to the future of the human race.

Instead of gassing 6000 chickens they decided to go for broke and gassed 12000 instead. We can now be completely confident in the Irish States ability to kill chickens on demand.

Ireland is now better prepared to deal with an outbreak of bird flu following the testing of a contingency plan on a farm in Co Limerick today.

Fifteen tonnes of liquid carbon dioxide in the form of dry ice was injected into a shed containing 12,000 hens on a farm in Kilmeady this afternoon.

15 tonnes of liquid carbon dioxide to kill one shed full of chickens? Did they drop it on the chickens? Doesn't sound very scalable, at least not without accelerating global warming. However I am confident that there will be chicken curry on the menu in the Department of Agriculture canteen for the next few weeks.
[photo from]

Hunger Striking Tip

We should send one the former IRA hunger strikers in to St Patricks Cathedral to give some advice to the Afgan asylum seekers on hunger strike there since Sunday.

For starters someone seems to have mis-translated "hunger strike" for them as some of them are not drinking fluids either. If you refuse food its a hunger strike and you'll last around 60 days, if you refuse water it's suicide and you'll last 6 days at most. It usually takes the Irish government at least a full week to make any decision, so that's not good for them, regardless of whether you agree with their cause or not.

Update: The majority of the Afghani hunger strike at St Patrick's Cathedral have started taking water.

Gassing Chickens

6000 chickens are going to be gassed today "as part of an exercise to test Ireland's preparedness for a bird flu outbreak". Huh? Would they not know it the gas works by killing 60 or 600 chickens. 6000 seems like, pardon the pun, overkill. Will the gassed chickens be fit for human consumption or will they just be discarded? I'm not an animal rights nut, I just hate to see 6000 healthy chickens being wasted.

Also I don't think our ability to kill chickens will be the deciding factor in stopping the spread of any bird flu outbreak, I'd rather see them trialing ways to keep free range flocks away from wild birds, disinfectant routines for people accessing infected farms, or procedures to monitor mysterious bird fatalities.


I'm finally getting around to tagging my blog posts with tags. Since the blog is a year old and there are 372 posts even I cant find my old posts. I'll try to tag one or two months of posts each evening and will hopefully finish in a week or so. I also have to streamline the tags themselves. I started putting in too many unique tags for each post and I only just realised you cant have tags in quotes with spaces between them, duh.

Monday, May 15, 2006

More Public Transport Chaos

Why do we have a public transport service? Is it to help the public? To transport them to their destination in a timely and efficient manner? To serve the taxpayer that foots the bill and pays over the odds in fares? Nope. In Ireland public transport exists only to provide employment and a pay packet to a bunch of people who don't know the meaning of the word service.

After years of running their existing fleet of trains into the ground and working day and night to bring our rail network right up to 1940s standard (1944 to be exact, in Germany, after a bombing run by the US Air Force) CIE finally introduced some trains suitable for transporting people instead of freight and on the first day the bloody train drivers take advantage and go on strike.

Officially this evening they claim the strike is because of inadequate training but this morning it was supposed to be about money. They know they can cause chaos and they will take maximum advantage of their monopoly.

"Inadequate training". Pah, they aren't driving steam locomotives anymore. A modern train is pretty much Push button to go, Push button to stop. In between keep an eye out for cows and leaves on the track. If I had my way they would all be fired and a new crew trained up, perhaps we could get some helper monkeys to press the buttons and a seeing-eye dog to watch the line ahead. Though then the taxpayer would have to pay for their dole, but somehow that seems more palatable to me. Hell, maybe we could adapt those electronic voting machines to start and stop trains and the could solve two problems at the same time.

Update 18 May: The dispute was resolved after 7 hours of talks. The problem is whats not being said
Neither side is saying what, if anything, has been agreed in relation to pay or working conditions.
My guess is someone is singing "Money, Money, Money, It's a Train Man's World."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What's a Jaffa Cake

Does a Jaffa Cake not have to be orange? You know, because they are supposed to be made from jaffa oranges?

Apparently not anymore because there are now Lemon & Lime and Blackcurrant versions. Lemon & Lime I can live with but the Blackcurrant one sucks. They all look like real jaffa cakes but only one is the original and still the best.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mission Impossible III

I went to see Mission Impossible III today. I hadn't been to the cinema in ages but there are a few summer blockbuster movies coming up that I have been looking forward to and this was the first of them.

First of all I have to say I wasn't very happy with the first two movies. Mission Impossible was just a dull spy thriller with some gymnastics thrown in to make things look difficult. Mission Impossible II seemed to be some religious homage to the Church of Tom with choirs singing and doves flying around every time Mr Cruise walked onto screen.

This is different. It is more of a Mission Impossible, yes there was a franchise there before Tom and co got their roles. The original TV series had a team of agents working together and depending on intelligence and technology to pull off what amounted to cons and tricks to complete their impossible missions.

This time Tom has a real team and they do more than drive him around and use computers. Ving Rhames is back as Luther, Toms computer wizard sidekick who starts the movie with a van the A-Team would kill for. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Declan, not too many Declans in Hollywood movies, the only other one I can think of is Richard Gere in The Jackal. Declan provides the transportation for the team but also gets involved in the cons. Maggie Q plays Zhen, a more special forces type agent along the lines of a female Ethan Hunt, blasting bad guys and blowing up rooms, but she still looks lovely and wears a dress into the Vatican that would make the Pope turn his back on the celibacy vows.

Tom Cruise of course reprises his role as Ethan Hunt and while the choirs and doves are gone, the movie still centers a little too much on him. The one time we start to get some background on the other characters and see some interaction between them while Tom isn't around he interrupts by shouting on the radio and jumping through a window. Talk about attention seeking. His character is more interesting than in previous installments though when you see him with his finance, played by Michelle Monaghan, you cannot help but think about him and Katie Holmes. Especially weird is the way he can read the lips of her and her friends. Shudder.

The movie is broken into several set piece missions in cities around the world. By far the best is the sequence in the Vatican where the team try to track down the villain played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman is excellent as a villain, a man you don't want to piss off, and one you hope never learns your name. He is a big improvement over the villains in the first two movies. A man almost worthy of having James Bond chase him instead of Ethan Hunt.

The end of the movie is a little weak, the last scene in particular, and the last frame before the credits was truely bizare, but that aside J.J. Abrams has salvaged something for the future of the franchise from the ashes of the previous two movies. His next mission, which he has chosen to accept, will be a little more impossible, saving Star Trek, but this movie proves he has the ability.

I think I would give this 3.5 out of 5. Its not a great movie, but it's fun and it's a huge improvement over the previous two.

One Year Old Today

This blog is one year old today. When I first set it up I didn't expect to make it past a month before getting bored and forgetting about it. It was three months before I told people about it. I did post a couple of entries to an MSN Spaces starting on the 6th of May, but I changed my mind and moved it to Blogger instead. Hopefully it hasn't been too boring and hopefully it lasts another year.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Vote, Vote, Vote for the Winners

Lets be honest, since the celtic tiger saved us all from poverty and misery we Irish are incapable of winning Eurovision. Like a team that after years of quiet progress we are finally at the top of the English Premier League and in the semi-finals of the Champions League we no longer have much interest in the Carling Cup and if we can make it to the World Club championship we may even skip the FA Cup as well.

That seems to be how we now view the Eurovision. Once upon a time we were the undisputed masters of Eurovision and it seemed like all we had to do was turn up on the night to collect the trophy, much to RTEs annoyance as they had to host it the next year. Now we have come to our senses and we don't really want to win it anymore. We pick a representative who may have had potential in his younger years but enjoyed his media profile a little too much now hasn't started in a match for a couple of seasons. While the first 11 get ready for the World Cup, we wheel out the reserve player, but no one complains because he brought his own ball. 'Every Song Is A Cry For Love'? More like 'Every Verse Is a Cry for Mercy'.

Face it, the chances of Ireland winning Eurovision are not very good seeing how we don't come from Eastern Europe. Eastern European countries really want to win the competition, they still get excited about it and more importantly they vote for each other. This year I think the best entry comes from Lithuania with LT United and their song "We are the Winners". With lyrics like "Vote, Vote, Vote for the winners" we should vote for them, just for their audacity, and the fact that we would be terrified to win it ourselves.

Click the picture below to see a video of their performance. [Via The Dossing Times]

DVD Prices

Techwire has a nice survey of the prices of some new DVD releases in Ireland (I presume Dublin). In each case they picked a TV box set or a new movie and went to different shops and online stores. The result? It's cheaper to shop online but even so it can really, REALLY, pay to shop around. Shops you consider expensive may be cheaper for an individual item.

For example for Lost the prices given on Techwire for two of the stores are
Tower Records - €90
HMV - €55
While the opposite pricing happens for 24 season 2
Tower Records - €45
HMV - €80

So as Mary Harney and Eddie Hobbs would say, shop around.

[via Techwire]

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Playstation 3 in Ireland

The Irish Independent via ElectricNews are reporting that the Playstation 3 will go on sale in Ireland on November 17th
The same paper reports that the latest must-have computer console is to hit Irish shops five weeks before Christmas, with a price tag to match its formidable technology. The much-delayed and much-hyped Playstation 3 will be on shelves from 17 November and will cost EUR499 for a basic model and EUR599 for the version with a bigger memory.

No prize for guessing what the most sought after Christmas present will be this year and no prizes for guessing what item will have the highest mark up on it on ebay this December :-)

My advice? Buy a Nintendo Wii for a speculated $199 and then late in the new year when your wrists get tired of fly fishing go buy a Playstation 3 which by then should have some of the standard new console kinks worked out, some cheaper games are available and the queues have died down.

[via ElectricNews]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tennis anyone?

The game console wars are hotting up. Microsoft, the late comer to the battlefield made a preemptive strike last year with the XBox 360. Now Sony and Nintendo have revealed their new consoles at E3 and allowed journalists to play with them. It will be the second half of the year before the consoles actually make it to the shops but both have an interesting feature, motion sensors in their controllers.

Sony are the more traditional, their new Playstation 3 controller apparently has a motion sensor that detects the way players moves the controller and reacts accordingly. Watch someone playing a racing game and you will see what they mean. If someone wants to go faster around the corner they instinctively move the controller in that direction. They also tilt their heads as if to compensate for g-forces, maybe there is an EyeToy function there? Follow this link for Engadgets photos of the presentation.

But the really revolutionary idea is Nintendos. The Nintendo Wii, formally Nintendo revolution has a unique controller that looks like a TV remote control. They have a bunch of sensors in it to allow people to use it like a tennis racket, golf club, fly fishing rod etc. Don't believe me? I don't blame you, I didn't believe it either, I thought it was an early advertising gimmick. But check out Engadget, they have lots of photographs with people playing tennis and golf with the new controller, I linked to some above. They also have photos of the Playstation 3. Bizarre, but interesting, at least for gamers.

[via Engadget]

Dublin Blog Posting

A friend of mine who uses bloglines to read my blog post complained to me that he didn't know I also post to another blog (yeah, where do I find the time?). If he visited my site once in a while, and improved my visitor counter, he would have noticed the link on the side bar. ;-)

The Dublin Community Blog is a group blog where several bloggers that live in Dublin post about the city on topics from news and events to tourism and attractions. I try to come up with at least one post a week but there are several other more prolific posters.

So John, here's the link and I just posted an entry about Collins Barracks. :-)

Digital Terrestrial Television Pilot in Ireland

After years of talking the Irish government is finally moving ahead with digital terrestrial television. It's only a pilot so don't expect to be tuning in to a plethora of new Irish channels broadcast on crystal clear digital signals anytime soon.
The DTT pilot is currently in the build phase and is expected to be operational by mid-August 2006. It is planned to continue the pilot over a two-year timeframe, during which time broadcasts will transmit from the Three Rock site in Dublin and the Clermont Carn site in County Louth. The trial provides the opportunity for technical testing of services, both of existing and new broadcast channels and services, while allowing for viewers to experience the new service at user level. Broadcasts will be initially across three multiplexes with the option of adding a fourth multiplex.

Now I wonder if I will be able to "Press Red" to get interactive on such wonderful pieces of television as Nationwide, Late Late Show and Fair City. Up to now the only "interactive" button I've needed for them has been Channel Up/Down. Though that said if they did have interactive feeds of Kathryn Thomas and Lucy Kennedy I'm sure there would be a waiting list to sign up for the trial. :-)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Starbucks Challenge 4: Dundrum, Dublin

Now for the last of my three posts about the Starbucks Challenge in Dublin. Over the last year I have posted on a few occasions about Starbucks and have done the Starbucks Challenge in a few stores. Each time I got a cup of Cafe Estima and the barista or their supervisor knew about Fair Trade coffee. I'd actually grown complacent and had come to assume that Starbucks in Ireland had the Fair Trade thing down pretty well so to a certain extent the Challenge was a little pointless for them, beyond adding a sale of Fair Trade coffee for their, ahem, bean counters.

Dundrum was the first general Starbucks store in Dublin. It's located on the first floor the new Town Center and it's always packed with a queue out the door. Irish people just love their coffee and tea. When I first did the challenge Dundrum passed with flying colors. Cafe Estima had pride of place in their display and was mentioned on a couple of signs. The staff knew about the Fair Trade coffee being on brew and were apologetic that is wasn't in the espresso machine.

Unfortunately things have changed. I visited the store on Sunday evening and had a look around for Fair Trade signs, they were gone. This was unusual, the other shops in Dublin still had signs mentioning Fair Trade. The other stores also had Cafe Estima brewing, which they marked as Fair Trade on their boards. Cafe Estima as far as I knew was Starbucks only certified Fair Trade coffee. Dundrum had Timor Lorosae on brew and the sign made no mention of Fair Trade.

I asked the barista my standard opening question, could I have a cup of Fair Trade coffee. At first she was confused and then she said they had Timor Lorosae. I asked if they did French press and if I could get Cafe Estima instead. Now she really got confused and went to ask her supervisor. The supervisor came back and said they didn't have Cafe Estima in the espresso machine. Then before I got the chance to correct her and ask for French press came the kicker. She looked at me and said, "we have stopped doing fair trade!".

There goes Starbuck Irelands 100% winning streak. A shame really. Especially since some branches of Starbucks claim that Timor Lorosae is certified Fair Trade. I don't know if it is or is not, I haven't been able to find out for sure. Maybe Siel or someone else more into Fair Trade knows? Is it Fair Trade or Ethically Traded? Either way the supervisor short-circuited the issue by announcing "we have stopped doing fair trade!". I took the hint, got my cup of Timor Lorosae and went on my way a little surprised at the failure. Shame really, I'd grown used to success.

Update: and then GreenLA girl came along to confirm that Timor Lorosae is Fair Trade certified. So we are upgrading this to a success. BTW Timor is nicer than Cafe Estima, not as strong tasting. :-)

Ireland 13th in road-safety enforcement

It is reported today that Ireland is 13th out of the 25 EU states for road-safety enforcement.
The ranking is contained in a report published today by the Brussels-based European Transport Safety Council.

The report focuses on efforts by EU member states to combat drink-driving, speeding and the non-wearing of seat-belts.

Hmm, do the 12 states that were worse than us have police forces at all? Because it would be hard to be worse than Ireland. Pretty much all you would have to do is set up a road block once a week to leap frog us in the rankings. Or was this table just based on government spin, reports and wishes?

If the EU wants to get an estimate of the Irish road-safety enforcement they should get an official to stand at the pedestrian traffic lights beside the Donnybrook Garda station where every day scores of drivers drive through red lights, talk on their mobiles or go by with no seat-belts on. I've even seen cars break the lights with Gardai standing there waiting to cross. Enforcement? The Gardai barely have the numbers and resources to protect themselves let alone enforce the road-safety laws.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Starbucks Challenge 4: Harcourt Street, Dublin

Time for my second of three Starbucks Challenges. This one was in the Starbucks on Harcourt Street.

The Harcourt Street Starbucks is south of St Stephens Green, beside the Harcourt Luas stop and is surrounded by office buildings instead of shops. This means that at the weekend you can get a cup of coffee and sit down for more than 5 minutes without someone standing over you waiting for you to finish so they can have your seat. Unfortunately for me it is a little too far away from the shops and restaurants I tend to visit in town so I've only been there once before.

I went in there on my way home, a few hours after visiting the College Green store. When I walked in one unusually friendly barista behind the counter greeted me. I asked my standard opening question, can I have a cup of Fair Trade Coffee. The barista said of course, told me they had Cafe Estima on brew and poured me a cup. Next I asked if they do French Press. Answer, yes, but it would take a few minutes. Finally I thought I'd ask if they have much demand for Fair Trade coffee. Bingo, that was his cue. There followed a 5 minute discussion, where he did most of the talking about Fair Trade, ethically sourced coffee, the prices paid to coffee growers by Starbucks and the long term contracts they make with the growers. He even called me back to the counter after being interrupted by another customer.

I quickly grew suspicious that I wasn't actually talking to your run of the mill barista and as it turns out I was talking to the store manager, Donal I think he said his name was. By the time I left the store I was pretty much ethical coffeed out, but in fairness to the man he did show a keen interest in the whole idea and while he was towing the corporate line at least he knew what that line was and he knew why it is important to buy fair\ethical trade coffee. Perhaps Starbucks should consider promoting the chap, the store in Dundrum could certainly do with a visit from him, but that's tomorrows post...

So with the proviso that I was talking to the store manager and not a barista I have to say Starbucks Harcourt Street did quite well in the challenge.

How to get press coverage

What's the best way to insure a journalist will write a story that doesn't come to a favorable conclusion? Insult their intelligence.

While being quizzed about an insurance charge applied to Ryanair tickets the Ryanair spokesperson obviously got just a bit frustrated
However, he declined to say whether the airline made a profit from the surcharge and when pressed on the point, he advised the Guardian to "stick to reading and writing because the sums clearly aren't your strong point".

Oh well, I guess there is always the chance to appeal to a countries national pride in the run up to the World Cup. Oops, whats this? It looks like Ryanair decided to get all Irish on the English team.
Irish low-cost airline Ryanair could offer free tickets for each goal scored in the World Cup against England, the company's outspoken chief executive Michael O'Leary has told a German newspaper.

"That's something we can envision doing," O'Leary, an Irishman with a flair for publicity and known fondness for soccer and rugby, told weekly Welt am Sonntag.

"100,000 tickets for each goal against England or something like that."

You have to say one thing for Michael O'Leary, he sure knows how to get the press coverage, good, bad or indifferent, and it always seems to work for him. Now all I can say is Come on Paraguay!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Starbucks Challenge 4: College Green Dublin

Anyone who has been following my blog for a while (and indeed it is a while, but more about that later in the week) will know that I have previously taken part in the Starbucks Challenge. I realize some people don't like reading about the challenge, so I'll warn you now that you can skip this post :-)

A fourth round of the challenge has started and I thought I'd join in again. The idea of the challenge is to check how well Starbucks live up to their promise to provide Fair Trade coffee.

The Challenge
1) Visit your local Starbucks this month and ask: “Could I get a cup of fair trade coffee?”
2) Tell us what happened next. Ideally, the barista should immediately offer you a French-pressed cup of Cafe Estima — Starbucks’ only fair trade certified blend.
3) If your barista gives you a blank look, and you’re feeling courageous, try asking specifically for a French-press of the Cafe Estima blend. If the barista says it’ll cost you extra, say that HQ told you that you should be able to pay just for the size you asked for. And as always, be nice to the baristas :)

Well over the weekend I visited the two Starbucks in Dublin that I had previously written about for the challenge and I also visited the newer one on Harcourt Street. The one alteration I made to the challenge is that I don't assume I can get Cafe Estima French-pressed by default, it's usually on brew in the stores.

First of all I visited Starbucks on College Green. This is the flagship Starbucks in Dublin and is by far the biggest and nicest looking of the three shops, however it is a little busy so I rarely drink coffee there as I rarely get a seat where I can sit in peace and read a paper with my coffee. The shop is just too popular. On a previous visit it had passed the challenge and anytime I had visited since Fair Trade coffee was available.

This time I asked for a tall fair trade coffee and the barista knew exactly what I was talking about. He went to the Cafe Estima that was brewing and I got my cup of fair trade coffee, no waiting at the counter so that makes it handy if your in a rush.

As I walked away I decided it had been a little too easy so I thought I'd go back and ask a couple of questions. I ended up talking to a different barista to the one who had first served me and her English was not as good. I asked her if they do French press, yes they do but it would take a little longer than a normal cup. Next, out of curiosity, I asked if they sell much fair trade coffee. Initially the girl said all their coffee was fair trade but I queried this saying as far as I knew only Cafe Estima was certified fair trade. She got a little confused and went to ask her supervisor. When she came back she said that they do sell a good bit of fair trade but didn't give me any figures and that all their coffee was ethically traded. I thought that was a pretty good response so I finished it there.

I think that means Starbucks College Green did fairly well in the challenge. I'll post later about the other two stores, where the responses were not quite what I had expected.

[Update: I should also say, Timor Lorosae is also certified Fair Trade and is available in Dublin stores from time to time]

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Worst chat-up line

I heard the worst chat up line in the world tonight, a line of so cringe worthy that only one person liked it and bizarrely that was the girl it was aimed at. Though in her defense she was drunk at the time. The really, really, sad part was that it was me who was using the line.

I went out on the town with some friends that I used to work with. After a night of drinking in Bowes on Fleet Street we decided to head to Doyles next door for one last late pint. Personally I'd had enough to drink and while not drunk I was merry but sick of drinking pints.

As I stood in the queue I noticed a girl behind me talking to her male work colleague. She was pretty, blonde and in her early twenties. While discussing their work attendance the girl announced to me and her friend that she couldn't stay out late because she had an appointment to have her legs waxed in the morning and she didn't want to be hungover.

It was already clear that she had failed in that goal and her odds of making any appointment in the morning depended entirely on the bouncers turning her away. After her companion made some jokes about getting a Brazilian he then told the people around how hairy her legs were and he then announced that she also had hairy toes. She got worried and insisted on proving that she did not have hairy toes by showing off her foot. Being a chivalrous gentleman I took her foot and confirmed that she did not have hairy toes. Her friend, who obviously at this stage saw me as a threat to his chances of moving beyond work mates strangely decided that his best course of action would be to turn me off her.

Despite the fact that she was standing there and could hear him he announced that she actually had hairy soles to her feet. Again she got offended and insisted she didn't. Now I could see the line coming but I felt powerless to stop myself. I turned her foot over inspected the sole and confirmed it was hairless, that she actually had lovely feet and that in fact she had, are you ready for it... "the sole of an angel" (say it out loud)

Even I cringed, her friend looked like I had hit him with a 2x4 but she melted like butter getting all flustered and saying that was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to her. Granted she was drunk and her companion had not been setting a high standard in the chat up line stakes. I cant possibly defend the use of that line, except to say I may have had too much to drink and had been in a strange flirtatious mood all day.

Anyway at that stage of the night the night club bouncer intervened and let me into the bar in the next group but stopped her. I don't know if she made it in later on, I didn't see her, but to be honest I would have been too embarrassed to actually continue anything with her.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

West Wing Warning

Anyone who follows The West Wing should make sure to tune into RTE One tonight. If you have been following the show and you miss tonights episode you'll be kicking yourself, after two years of campaigning it's Election Day. :-) (No spoiler there, it's the title of the episode)

Rebranding Ireland

I was walking to work this morning and flicked to the Ryan Tubridy radio show. He was asking listeners to come up with rebranding ideas and tourism slogans for Ireland. I came up with:

Ireland, 10 Stars for the Price of 5
5 Star Prices
4 Star Scenery
3 Star Golf
2 Star Food
1 Star Facilities.

I did like someone else's slogan that said
Ireland, on the edge of Europe no one can hear you scream

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Curious Date

Tonight just after 1am there will be a numerically curious time/date. The time will be:

01:02:03 04.05.06

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

England loose World Cup finals on a Technicality

England are the current holders of the soccer World Cup and have been since 1966. You see while other teams may have won the final, England have always had a good excuse why they have not won since 1966 so the other results don't count.

At least that's the way it seems this week since Wayne Rooney followed the English tradition of being the most hyped player in the last 4 years and then getting injured just before the World Cup. The way the English media are carrying on you would swear they only had one player in the team and the other 20 or so were just there to carry Colleens luggage. We now have weeks of "Can Rooney Make It", "Team struggle through without Wayne", "Team go down, Rooney would have made the difference" to go until England get knocked out of the competition or, God forbid, win. Then we can watch soccer in peace for 4 years until the next big injury disaster.

Tracking busses

Finally, some good news for public transport users in Ireland. Bus Eireann has announced that they are going to roll out GPS tracking across its fleet to allow users to track busses and know how long it will be before they arrive at a particular stop.

The Irish Independent (reg required) tells us
Passengers waiting at stops will know exactly where the bus is and how long it will take to reach their stop.

Those already on the bus will know the time and distance to their destination.
Using mobile communications, this information is transferred to a central computer which distributes it to the website, to mobile phones and to electronic display signs at bus stations.


Monday, May 01, 2006


I went down to Galway for the long weekend. It was my mothers birthday so the family took her for a surprise weekend away. Galway is a lovely city. This was just my second visit to it, the first being for a stag party with a somewhat different tempo than a family get together but Galway was well suited to both.

We stayed in the Quality Hotel outside the city. It's a typical purpose built large hotel that has been popping up around Ireland in the last few years but it's quite nice, though my tastes in hotel are quite simple. It also had free Wi-Fi for it's guests so I was happy.

Galway itself is full of restaurants and pubs, my brother organised the weekend and picked two nice restaurants that were not too expensive, The Malt House and Kirbys. Both were nice, but Kirbys was my favorite, and was cheaper.

I did check out the reopened Eyre Square. I posted last week about a press statement that announced Wi-Fi broadband was available. I tried to connect from all around the square but the only open networks were from a near by hotel and an eircom one that required an account. The new Eyre Square is nice but other than cutting down the trees and relaying some paths I couldn't really see what all the fuss was about and why it took so long and caused so much trouble to finish.

I must arrange to go back to Galway with a few friends for a weekend that is neither a stag nor a family reunion so I can properly appreciate the city :-).