Friday, June 30, 2006

Whose job is it anyway?

Politics is a tough old game. You spend years faithfully following the leader, waiting for your turn to step forward and lead your party to glory. You listen to the boss telling you she will step down on this date, or before that election and you believe her. Then eventually when she has broken promise after promise you pass a comment about wanting to be leader and the whole of the nations press jumps on you.

Poor old Michael McDowell, he tried to be nice. Sure he believes he'd be a better leader than Mary Harney, but all he can do is wait like a gentleman for her to stand aside and then gracefully and unopposed slide into her office.

But now another woman has stuck her head up and ruined the poor mans day. Liz O'Donnell has decided that, a bit like the Irish Presidency, the leadership of the Progressive Democrats should stay in the gender and she has thrown her hat into the ring for leader of the party. Now the battle lines are drawn, and while Michael is undoubtedly the stronger politician of the two, Liz has a few cards up her sleeves, not least of which being not hated by the whole of the Irish media.

So the scene is set for a battle for leadership. Shame it will all be a bit pointless since no one has actually gotten around to asking Mary Harney her opinion. You see the two contenders can fight among themselves all they like but Mary hasn't actually stepped down or being ousted and until she does its her job and they are just tiring themselves out. One cant help but wonder if we are watching the death throws of the Progressive Democrats? With almost half of their 8 Dail deputies fighting for dominance how can it not damage the party?

Flickr Pro

I finally gave in and paid for my flickr account. Flickr is handy and I found I had used up my 200 photo limit. It kept all my old photographs but I could no longer view the oldest ones. When I go traveling at the end of they year I would hope to use flickr as a backup for my photos as well so having a 200 photo limit was not really a runner. I could have created another free flickr account but €19 for a years subscription wasn't too much to ask.

So that means I have stuck some more photos up and I've created some new sets.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

No Camera Day

I'm just back from another exhibition opening in the Gallery of Photography, I'll post about that later. One thing I noticed as I tried to snap a photograph of the artist, Camilo Jose Vergara, that I could use to accompany my posting was that several others in the audience were also taking photographs, and even more had cameras in their hands or hanging around their necks. Of course being the Gallery of Photography everyone present has an interest in photography or is in fact a professional photographer so having a camera in their hands comes as second nature. However I wondered how much they truly appreciated the talk given by Camilo, or in fact how much of it they even heard as they fiddled with their focus, f-stops and menus.

Coincidentally, tonight the BBC has a story about No Camera Day.
A photographer from Brighton in southern England is urging the people of the world to take a day out and stop taking pictures.

Becca Bland has launched "non-photography day" - planned for 17 July - through a website together with a sticker and flyposter campaign in various cities in England.
I think its a nice idea though unlikely to change many people attitudes even for one day. Once someone gets attached to their camera it can be hard to separate them from it, a bit like their mobile phone. Even so, despite the fact that I almost always have a compact digital with me, most days I never take any photographs. July 17th being a Monday makes it one of the days I rarely take photographs.

Perhaps we should take the idea and apply it to blogs? How about a No Post Day. Maybe we could all enjoy the day and not think, "I must post about this later".

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

RTE Salaries

Next time you are looking at TV and thinking there is never anything on just be glad you are getting the best RTE celebrity money can buy. Pat Kenny, working on a contract basis, earned €899,00 in 2004. That's €411,508 more than the next highest earner Gerry Ryan who earned a comparatively paltry €487,492. Marian Finucane came a close third with €439,265, but may have lost out this year having lost her radio slot to Ryan Tubridy who earned €216,150 as the great young hope for the future of RTE.

Another way to look at Pat's salary is that it takes the license fees (€155 for those who are chancing their arm and hoping the license inspector wont call) from 5800 homes to pay for it. The 2002 census tells me that Pat's income therefore would be the equivalent of the license take from Clonmel. Clonmel! You would think a great, world class, media personality like Pat would be at least worth a Kilkenny or maybe even a Drogheda.

The next time Pat comes to RTE with the begging bowl out asking for a cost of living increase or, God forbid, benchmarking they should tell him to piss off and go to TV3 if he thinks they will match his salary, or maybe NewsTalk 106 if he fancies a challenge. Incidentally a cost of living increase for Pat would be €31,465 assuming an inflation rate of 3.5%, for those keeping track the average industrial wage in 2005 was €29,200).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dublin Mayoral Lottery

Dublin has appointed its 377th Lord Mayor, Cllr Vincent Jackson. Unfortunately regular voters don't get to vote for the mayor, or perhaps fortunately since the last thing we need is another set of elections for another public role that Bertie and his mates can just ignore. When electing a mayor the elected counselors have pacts and rotate the chain of office among themselves, making the position even less prestigious. “It's my turn to have a mandate!” just doesn't seem to have a strong ring to it.

Being Lord Mayor is a pretty nice number. You get a free house in the center of Dublin, even Bertie doesn't get one of those. You get a free car, with the license plate YY D 1, where YY is the year. You get carried around in a fancy gold horse drawn carriage during the St Patrick's Day parade. Finally you get to represent Dublin when visiting dignitaries come to town.

Really it's like winning Miss Ireland, though Irish politicians tend to look a hell of a lot worse in a swimsuit. Perhaps we could combine the two. If we are going to pick Lord Mayors out of a hat we may as well have one worth looking at.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The State of the Irish Health Service

Feeling ill? Better go on your holidays then cause so long as you go to a country in Europe other than Lithuania you are going to get better treatment. Ireland is ranked 25th out of 26 European countries in a European survey. Nice to know we are not the worst, gives the Government something to aim for.

Of course Mary Harney stopped giving tax breaks to the wealthy and beating Michael McDowell with the PD party whip long enough to deny there is a problem and that the survey was out of date. I guess she is right, after all some people on the waiting list will have died by now.

End of the Housing Boom?

Is the inflated housing boom in Ireland about to come to a halt? Reports in the Irish media today speak about record numbers of houses being completed, but a "significant" reduction in the number of projects being started in the last six months is being seen as a possible peak in the property boom.

On it's own it's not very significant but add to that the fact that banks like AIB and Bank of Ireland, who provide a significant chunk of Irish mortgages to the general public, have decided that now is a good time to offload some of their own property and you begin to see that there may finally be some genuine doubt creeping into the market.

With 250,000 people directly employed in the construction industry in Ireland, and a further 80,000 indirectly employed that makes 20% of the work force. I wonder where is the tipping point for the industry. What percentage reduction in construction work would start a self fueling cycle of redundancies followed by a decrease in demand for property followed by more redundancies. Add to that the idea that many migrant workers who live in rented accommodation may move to other countries once the work here starts to dry up. Again that could dump some investment property on the market and further reduce the demand for new construction.

Throw in a couple of new interest rate increases from the EU central bank and it could make for interesting times ahead. However the boom has been so great that the bust may not really hurt. A man I know who worked in Bank of Ireland Finance once explained a simple fact to me. A 20% reduction in house prices would be a pretty serious bust, but it just reflects the last couple of years of price increases. It wont really impact most people, at least not in real terms. They may feel worse off, but it's all virtual money unless they bought in the last couple of years or they were planning on buying an investment property. Still, it should give first time buyers a long over due break.

Talk about good timing

I got home today to find I had left my keys in the office. My flat mate was out so I went for a cup of coffee in the hopes she would be back before I finished. No luck. So I gave up and headed back to work to get my keys. I get home two hours after I left work for the first time and an hour late to watch Lost. Lost seems to be so confusing these days that missing one seemingly pointless episode can leave you scratching your head and wondering where characters or items or stories came from.

But guess what, Switzerland and Ukraine played what sounds like a boring 0-0 draw all the way to penalties there by allowing me the extra time to get home. Best result I could have hoped for. It's is a touch annoying to think that in an alternate Universe that could have been the climax of Ireland's involvement in the World Cup, though I think I would have hated to see us loose on penalties.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Bomb scare in Sweden

Weird, just saw this story on TV. A man in Sweden has been saved by the police and the bomb squad after he showed up in a suburb of Stockholm with what he claimed was a bomb belt around his waist. Unlike a suicide bomber this guy claimed that kidnappers had put the bomb on him and told him it was remote controlled. He says he escaped after 3 days and then went around pleading for help. The footage showed the SWAT type team watching him from cover and then a bomb squad guy moved in, removed the belt and the guy ran for cover. The bomb didn't explode and the police are questioning him, but they seem to believe his story. It's like something from the movies.

England heading to World Cup Semi's?

Yup, it sure is starting to look that way. Not because they are good, in fact the teams performance so far in this World Cup has been far less than the sum of their parts. They have gotten a very easy run through the group and then against Ecuador. Now they could well find themselves in the semi-finals because their opposition team in the quarter finals, Portugal, are even worse than they are.

I was looking forward to Portugal Vs Holland and was bitterly disappointed by the worst display of diving, pushing, shoving and refereeing mistakes in the competition to date. Now a bunch of the better Portuguese players are suspended or possibly injured so England could well stagger on past yet another poor team and continue this tragedy.

The England media is making a big deal about the heat but everyone is playing in the same weather and England should have acclimatised by now. Dear God, please let Argentina Brazil or Spain meet England in the Semi's cause then we will see the true state of the England team under Sven.

(Note: Colm has pointed out my mistake about Argentina, I was reading the fixture schedule from top to bottom, instead of left the right.)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Chocolate recall

Cadburys have recalled 20,000 chocolate bars in Ireland and 1 million world wide in a salmonella scare.

The precautionary recall involves two products on sale in Ireland, 250g bars of Dairy Milk Turkish and 250g bars of Dairy Milk Caramel.

I don't have any now, but did eat some dairy milk caramel earlier in the week. Strangely that's the second product I have consumed that has been recalled in recent months, my contact lens solution was recalled as well and my optician told me to stop using it.

Now that I think about it I never even thought I could have gotten a replacement for free. I was getting fresh lenses and solution anyway so I just dumped what I had left, as I always do when I get new lenses. I wonder if consumers can send back chocolate and get a refund? I also wonder how many other things I have bought have been recalled without me realizing. Would I know, for example, if my DVD player was recalled? I don't register products when I buy them, so they cant have my contact and so would have no way to inform me. High profile recalls get press publicity, small ones don't.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

RTE showing Croatia Vs Australia match

RTE showed a bit of intelligence and have switched to the last 20 minutes of Croatia Vs Australia once Brazil got to 3-1 against Japan. The BBC have stuck to their schedule and continue to show the Brazilian match despite the Australia game being far more interesting. Maybe Liam Brady hijacked the control booth, he was vocal in his disgust at RTEs choice of matches last night.

Update: RTE just showed the most exciting 20 minutes of football I have seen in the World Cup so far. End to end with Australia coming from behind to qualify for the next round. Then pin-ball in the Australian penalty area with players heading it back and forward. Two sending offs in the last six minutes, another after the final whistle and one player getting 3 yellow cards. The referee seemed to have lost his way at the end, but it added to the tension as chaos descended all around the pitch. It wasn't beautiful football but it had me on the edge of my seat, though I am supporting Australia since Ireland failed to qualify.

Immaculate Conception an Act of God?

The BBC has a story about 3 sisters who were members of Christian group in Scotland and were so worried about the second coming of Christ they took out insurance. Specifically they were worried that one of them would be the mother and they would have to raise the Christ child. I guess it could be an expensive matter raising the messiah, at least until he can provide for himself and the family with loaves, fishes and wine.

To be safe the 3 ladies took out insurance to cover their possible expenses. If either of them could prove they were the mother of Christ then they would receive £1 Million pounds from the insurance company. Their premiums were £100 a year and the insurance company donated it to charity.

After 6 years the insurance company figured they had gotten enough complaints and withdrew the cover. I don't suppose the 3 would really need the million pounds, after all last time Jesus was born Mary and Joseph got gold, frankincense, and myrrh, so I imagine he was well provided for. Anyway, I thought insurance companies didn't cover acts of God. :-)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Owen out of World Cup

Being an England striker seems to be a high risk occupation. 50 seconds into last nights game Michael Owen crumpled over with a ruptured cruciate ligament injury, so he's out of the World Cup and the start of next season for Newcastle. Looks like Benitez at Liverpool made the right decision when he refused to buy Owen at the start of last year. Owen is a good player but a fragile one.

With Wayne Rooney just back from a broken foot and one solid tackle away from a permanent limp, Ericksons forward selection is starting to look a bit daft. Can you see Peter Crouch and Theo Walcott leading the attack against Brazil in the World Cup final? Can you even see them leading the attack against Portugal in the quaterfinals?

If I was Walcott I'd seriously be considering switching to a safer position on the field before the curse of Sven gifts him a career ending injury. I'm sure he could fit in as a ball boy.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Wheres Dunphy?

I was writing a post about this when I spotted a similar one on the Dublin Blog and I got curious and went searching the web. What's the story with Eamon Dunphy and NewsTalk 106? He has been on holidays for a while. I personally thought he was just on an extended holiday from his morning show to focus on football punditry during the World Cup. He is on RTE some nights and writes a column for the Star. But I'd also noticed some people visiting an older post of mine where I mentioned Dunphy and NewsTalk, so obviously other people are curious too and there must have been some rumour out there.

NewsTalk still listed him as one of their presenters, the stand-in presenter still said on the podcasts he was standing in for Dunphy, and the stations plans to go national included Dunphy. It would be a blow for them if they lost him.

Then I found Wikipedia had been updated today to say he was leaving NewsTalk, but you cant really trust Wikipedia 100%. A search in Googles News section eventually returned the story.

Eamon Dunphy is leaving Newstalk.
"Because of my increased commitment to RTE television sports soccer coverage, I have decided not to exercise the option of another year on my contract with NewsTalk 106," said Dunphy.

"Over the past two years I have enjoyed the challenge of helping to create the credible morning programme that NewsTalk now has. I was fortunate to have worked with an outstanding team and I wish them and the station every success in the future."

Well aint that a kick in the nuts for Newstalks national plans. Still no one is irreplaceable, as David McWilliams knows. I wonder if Dunphy has something in the pipeline, he cant have quit his job just because the World Cup is on?

Update 26th June: Dunphy was back on the radio this morning. At the end of the show he explained that he has to work out his notice with the station. He gave the impression that the station was as much to blame as he was. He also said that the introduction of the 30c text messages which he was strongly opposed to had created a rift between his team and the station managers. It sounded a little like him trying to justify his decision, but there was probably a grain of truth to it. The 30c texts may have been the final straw.

McDowell always gets his man

Michael McDowells plans to introduce a garda reserve will today receive the support of the Mounties and the Norfolk Constabulary, according to
Canadian Mounted Police and officers from the UK's Norfolk Constabulary will back Michael McDowell's plans for a arda reserve force later today.
Unfortunately BreakingNews doesn't expand on the comment, so it could appear that McDowell had given them a vote or something. RTE does provide a little more information when it says the following.
The minister will be supported by senior officers from the Canadian Mounted Police and the Norfolk Constabulary in the UK, while rank and file gardai, sergeants and inspectors will appear to oppose the reserve.
However I do find their wording a little off. The Minister is supported by "senior officers" while those against the proposal are just "rank and file". Personally I'm in favor of the idea of a Garda Reserve, so long as it it managed properly and used as a reserve force not an unpaid replacement that I fear it will become.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Haughey Tunnel

Two Fianna Fail councilors, Tom Brabazon of Dublin City Council and Michael Kennedy of Fingal County Council have called for the Port Tunnel to be named the Charles J Haughey Tunnel in honor of our recently deceased leader.

Naturally as expected the begrudgers were out in force to knock the suggestion. Cllr Sean Kenny, from Labour, said that proper consultation would be needed. Translation, "your taking the piss mates".

Personally I think you will find that naming the Port Tunnel after C.J. is actually very apt. After all it has consumed vast quantities of Irish taxpayers money, it loves the sea so much it keeps letting it in, some people say it's a little too short to do the job, general punters wont be able to use it but construction trucks can, it has taken a lot longer to finish off than anyone could have expected, and it has a certain flare for things French with it's new operators. I couldn't think of anything more suited to Mr Haughey. :-)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

New cash for Old stories

Several Irish tabloids treated us to big pictures of Charles Haughey and Terry Keane kissing while on their holidays years ago. One had Charlie and Terry on a boat with his shirt undone and his wrinkled sunburned old Irish torso on show. Please, that's the last thing I need to see on a Sunday morning, or any morning for that matter.

One paper paid 25,000 for an exclusive interview with Terry only to see two others publish almost identical front page stories. I'm sure all the papers will have sold out but I cant believe the public still have a appetite for this story. We heard it all in 1999, and even Scrap Saturday were joking about the affair in the mid 1990s. Maybe next week they can tell us all about Princess Diana and Prince Charles having marital difficulties?

If you want pay good money to hear old stories about Charlie Haughey go buy the brilliant Scrap Saturday CDs. They are still funny after 10 years and bizarrely still topical.

Sky By Broadband

Sky are allowing their digital customers who have signed up to Movies or Sports download movies or sports events onto their computers with a service called Sky by Broadband
Sky digital customers who subscribe to Sky Sports 1 & 2 can get Sky Sports from Sky by broadband, while Sky Movies 1 & 2 subscribers can get Sky Movies from Sky by broadband. Sky customers who subscribe to our premium Sky World package can get both Sky Sports and Sky Movies from Sky by broadband - all at no extra cost

The movies you download can be watched for 30 days after the download. Interesting, though when they say "all at no extra cost" I wonder does that mean no charge for each movie, or no extra based on existing pay per view charges? I couldn't find that information on the web site. Still, downloadable TV is the future so one day maybe all TV programs will be downloadable and I wont have to remember to set a timer to record my favorite TV program just because RTE sticks it on too late or too early.

Shuttle and safety

The space shuttle will finally fly again. NASA has scheduled it to launch on July 1st despite warnings from some officials and engineers that it is not safe to fly. Well it's as safe to fly, or safer, than it was 20 years ago, they just know the risks now. Part of the allure of space travel and indeed any exploration is a certain amount of risk. If it was easy and safe we'd all be dragging sledges to the South Pole, climbing Everest or walking on the surface of the moon.

Those who go know the risks, but they also know the benefits so they choose to go. All NASA can do is make it as safe as possible while accepting that all risk can not be removed. Part of me also wonders if the real concern is the risk of loosing another shuttle in the dwindling fleet with the replacement Crew Exploration Vehicle, or even the private sector craft, far from ready. The fear of loosing a shuttle and being unable to complete missions like finishing the International Space Station means NASA wont launch the shuttle and therefore not finish the missions anyway. Space exploration is supposed to be an adventure, unfortunately NASA view it like a Sunday drive in the country so we never get anywhere.

Update 4th July: The shuttle launched tonight. Brave of NASA to launch a rocket on the 4th of July but thankfully it seems to have been a successful launch, though they didnt pick up some minor damage caused during the previous launch until after inspecting the shuttle in orbit.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Come on USA

I hate soccer matches where the most influential man on the pitch is the referee. That's what is happening tonight in the Italy V's USA match in the world cup. The ref has sent off two USA players, one Italian player, ignored an Italian hand ball and disallowed a goal for 9 man USA.

I don't think he is being unbalanced and favoring one team over the other, I just think he has totally altered the flow and end result of the match. Maybe his decisions were technically correct, but I'd rather see 11 v 11. It does make for a very interesting match but I cant help but feel the he will make at least one more decision that will break the current 1-1 deadlock instead of a player on one of the teams.

Update: The ref put his red card away and the USA hung on for a 1-1 draw.

FIFA is pants

The organizers of the World Cup made 1000 Dutch fans remove their trousers before entering the stadium for Hollands match against the Ivory Coast. The reason? The orange trousers, orange being the national color of Holland, bore the name and logo of a Dutch beer company. Anheuser Busch, the makers of Budweiser, have paid FIFA something up to $50m to have exclusive rights to advertise and sell their beverages in the stadias being used for the World Cup.

The attempt to wear these trousers was seen by the organizers as an "'ambush' publicity campaign". Now I wonder what would have happened if, say, the Irish soccer team had qualified. The Irish jersey is sponsored, prominently, by an Irish telecommunications company, Eircom. T-Mobile seems to be sponsoring the World Cup. Would Irish fans be banned from the stadium if they were wearing replica jerseys? Or what if the Czech beer company Budvar and their beer Budweiser Budvar sponsored the Czech Soccer team? What would FIFA do then?

Update: Noticed something while watching the Brazil Vs Australia game. Lots of the photographers along the sidelines seemed to be using Canon or Nikon cameras but Fuji sponsor the World Cup. Since the camera logos are visible on my standard TV they must be very readable on High Def TV's. I wonder if FIFA and other sports organizations will force photographers to cover their camera logos in the future?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Haugheys Funeral to be broadcast Online

I know I'm often quick to jump on RTE when I think they are screwing up. This time I'll give them a complement, or at least a sort of complement. They are going to broadcast the funeral of Charles Haughey online.

Now while it's nothing compared to the BBC's coverage of the World Cup online at least it shows that RTE are now trying out new technology. They may have missed the boat (plus the bus, the train, the plane and the horse and cart) when it comes to things like digital TV, but they seem to have learned something from their mistakes and are making an attempt to embrace online broadcasting at the same time as world leaders, like the BBC.

Update: It's on now. If you want to watch it click here.

Update 2: Charlies brother Fr Eoin Haughey is giving the sermon. It's kind or strange listening to it as from time to time he says words like Carlie himself used to, that low growl Dermot Morgan used to mimic so brilliantly. It almost seems like Charlie is getting a say in his own funerals sermon.

Update 3: And so Charles J Haughey, sixth Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, has been laid to rest. Ar Dheis De go raibh a anam dilis. May he rest in peace.

Update 4: I went to the Mansion House today to sign a book of condolence, the place was all closed up. I guess you can only offer your condolences 9-5 Monday to Friday.

American Catholics to get new Mass words

Roman Catholic Mass goers in America are going to notice some changes in the ceremony. The American bishops have voted for a new English translation of the Latin mass.
Minor changes to the wording of many portions of the Mass will be obvious to Catholics. The repeated exchanges "The Lord be with you" / "And also with you" between a priest and his congregation, for example, become "The Lord be with you" / "And with your spirit" in the updated version.

The prayer said before Communion would become "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof," instead of "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you."

Personally, while the American translation wont directly affect Mass in Ireland, I think its a little silly to change the prayers that people have been using all their lives. Especially when the version you are changing to makes slightly less sense and is somehow less personal than the original. To me "enter under my roof" sounds less personal than "receive you" when taken in context of being about to receive Holy Communion.

I'm not against change, and I personally don't go to Mass much, but I think it's a little daft to fiddle with words like this when the Church has far more pressing issues to deal with if it hopes to rebuild its reputation and congregation in it's 3rd millennium.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Photography large and small

Two photography stories on the web today that describe two total extremes.

First of all from Wired, six photographers in California have unveiled the worlds biggest camera, an aircraft hanger. Using the process of camera obscura the photographers have blacked out the interior of the hanger, put a tiny hole in one wall and will hang a light sensitive fabric on at the other end, then the fabric will be developed in tubs made from swimming pool sidings full of developer and fixer. Developer and fixer is pretty nasty stuff so I wouldn't like to be responsible for mixing and disposing of swimming pools full of the stuff. The figures are:
  • 1 aircraft hanger
  • 10 days exposure
  • 20 gallons of light-sensitive emulsion
  • 31-by-111-foot piece of white fabric
  • 200 gallons of developer
  • 600 gallons of fixer

At the other end of the scale is this simple little idea. Need a wide angle lens for your digital compact? Just pick up a peephole viewer. You know, the ones you put in a door. Instructables has the details, though it pretty much amounts to hold the peephole flush with the lens of your digital compact, take the photo and then crop.

The End of the West Wing

The last episode of my favorite TV show is on RTE tonight. The West Wing has run for 7 seasons and while it dipped a little after its creator Aaron Sorkin left around season 4 it has picked up again during the last season and a half.

The last season was in my opinion one of the strongest, ironic considering most of it occurred on the election trail instead of in the West Wing itself. But tonight the show comes to a logical conclusion with President Jed Bartlets second term as president coming to an end and a new president being sworn in. Despite a strong possible cast for the next administration I think they are doing the right thing ending it here instead of dragging it out for another few years rehashing old stories and ideas as many previous TV shows have done.

Now I wonder what will I watch in it's place? At least I wont have to worry anymore about RTE screwing with the schedule and dropping The West Wing every time they wanted to show some awards ceremony or something. Though knowing them, they have probably dropped tonights episode to repeat the Haughey documentary after his death.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Yo Ho Ho and a Barrel of Rum

Some teams use things like isotonic sports drinks to help their players perform better. Trinidad and Tobago use... Rum. I just found a new team to support in the group stages. :-)

Poor Poland

Damn, you have to feel sorry for Poland. They just got knocked out of the World Cup with a 91st minute goal for Germany. With 30 seconds of normal time to go Germany hit the cross bar and then hit it again from the rebound. At that stage I thought the Polish goal keeper had earned a great draw for his team. Then a door opens for the German forward Oliver Neuville in the 91st minute and that was the end for Poland.

Social Partnership Deal

The Social Partners have agreed a deal to bring the country up to 2016. At least that's what they say. Social Partnership is a set of agreements made between trade unions and employer's on a national level that is supposed to help stabilize and progress the Irish economy.

While it was a good idea a few years ago, in recent times its relevance for most workers is limited as trade union membership declines. In fact it really is just a deal between the government and the civil service. Interestingly I heard it's called "Towards 2016" but all the highlights mentioned in the media seem to be things that happen in the next 6 to 27 months. Perhaps the "10 years" is just spin to make it seem a better deal for employer's than it is?

The next 24 hours will bring more coverage and information, but I think it will mean little for me as a private sector worker, except maybe to add a little fuel to inflation and house prices.

Update: the government has committed to solving the social housing situation by 2013. Hmm, by then the only people able to afford houses will be higher level civil servants and the rest of the country will be on social housing. But lets bear in mind the current regulations regarding social and affordable housing
While up to 20% of any new housing development can be set aside for social/affordable housing, the local authority will determine the exact percentage, given the level of social need in the area. It may decide for example, that zero percent of the overall development is appropriate. However, overall, the amount of social housing in any new developments cannot exceed 20% of the total housing development.

If they enforced the 20% rule instead of letting the local council set the percentage , and we all know how friendly local councillors and property developers can get, they could solve it by 2008.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Haughey Dies

Charles Haughey, former Taoiseach, leader of Fianna Fail and one the most controversial politicians in Irish history died this morning at 10am.

Even in death he will divide the nation. Some people who hated him in life will hate him in death and will not be able to let the opportunity pass to twist the knife one last time thereby gaining some press publicity for themselves. We all know the history but let us not allow the misdeeds of the past completely overshadow the achievements of the past. There will be years enough to savage his reputation, there are only a few days to bury the man with dignity.

He had done the state some service, we know it, no more of that.

Monday, June 12, 2006

RTE showing 24 season 5

RTE is showing the new season of 24. I think they are showing hour 2 tonight. For some bizarre reason RTE have shoved it into the Monday 11:30pm slot. Why buy a new show and then put it in a slot no one watches? Why waste the money?

I know Sky shows it but if you have missed it on Sky for some reason watching it on RTE could have made sense. Sky advertise it as one of their headline, prime time shows, RTE on the other hand hide it away, a bit like The West Wing at 11pm on Thursdays.

Bank of Ireland 365 to support SSIAs

Bank of Ireland have announced that they are to upgrade their on line banking interface. Cool, though I think one new feature stands out
The new-look Bank of Ireland 365 online banking service will sport a range of improved services such as the ability to register and view mortgage, SSIA, or investment accounts online. The bank said it is gearing up now so it is ready for the spike of online usage during the summer months.

For four and a half years they have been telling me that I cant view my SSIA online. Now with the SSIAs finally maturing over the next year and many already matured and closed, Bank of Ireland finally announce they will add those accounts to online banking? Wow, it only took 5 years to add a new feature to their systems.

Whaling to restart?

The BBC is reporting that pro-whaling nations are expected to have a majority of votes at the International Whaling Commission meeting in St Kitts & Nevis on Friday. While there probably wont be a return to full scale whaling the conservation and welfare programs could be scrapped. The argument by the pro-whaling lobby is simple.
"We think there is growing support for whaling in principle and in practice," said its secretary Rune Frovik. [of Norway's High North Alliance]

"Whales belong to the animal kingdom. In some cultures they eat frogs, others don't; Hindus don't eat beef, that's their choice, but they don't try to prohibit the rest of the world from eating it.

"And we think that you can't find anything more environmentally friendly than whale meat - this is an animal which lived in nature, we are harvesting nature's surplus and you don't have to destroy nature to do that."

You could counter that argument by saying some cultures eat dogs but I don't see Norwegians rounding up their family pets to ship their carcasses to Asia for a bit of profit. What is Norway's attitude towards imports of elephant ivory, or rhino horn, or tiger penis? Some cultures value such items, should the Norway legalize the sale of those in it's stores? Some people like snorting cocaine and injecting heroin, and the economies of some areas in countries like Afghanistan are dependent on the export of such crops? They come from plants, environmentally friendly bit of farming, would Norway therefore agree to legalize the sale and use of hard drugs?

This isn't the 1800's, you cant hunt a species to extinction without expecting some kind of international public reaction. If this goes ahead I would expect there will be consumer boycotts of produce from pro-whaling countries organized around to world. Who knows, maybe one day in the not too distant future a couple of containers of whale meat to Japan may be the number 1 export from Norway and the only people with jobs would the whalers the rest of the country is so keen to protect?

Update: Japan lost two important votes on day one of the conference. Turns out some of their supporters, Togo and Cameroon, showed up late.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dublin Still Ducked

Some of last weeks 150,000 rubber ducks are still floating around under the Halfpenny Bridge. It was an amusing charity idea, but archeologist will still be digging those things up in 2000 years.

I didn't see any yellow jacketed Today FM employees walking along the river with net scoops collecting the ducks, strange cause they managed to put loads of them along the river advertising the radio station when they put the ducks in. Maybe they could do a general clean up of the river as well, God knows it needs one.

The ball in football

Over the next month we will be subjected to scores of old football pundits on TV telling us that goals are easier to score these days and that balls don't fly the way they used to. They will then go on to tell us that back in their day football boots were army surplus boots so you didn't break your metatarsal, pitches were rock covered mountain sides so you didn't dive when tackled in case you fell off, and the balls were made of cow bladders filled with lead to stop the crowd stealing them so they flew just 2 feet when you kicked them.

If you want to know about the new football causing havoc with goalkeepers check out this story from Gizmodo. The ball is called the +Teamgeist from adidas. It is the roundest ball ever with just 14 panels instead of 26 or 32 and has been compared to a baseball, it's practically waterproof, bounces in a more predictable manner, and maintains it's pressure better than previous balls. Made for the World Cup in Germany its black and white colors are supposed to represent the German team colors. I have to say it looks a lot better than that daft yellow Nike thing the Premiership uses during the winter. The +Teamgeist costs £75 from adidas and if it gives us more wonder goals from 40 yards I don't care how funny the pundit thinks it flies.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cool Optical Illusion

Boing Boing have a link to a really cool optical illusion put together by a guy called John Sadowski. It is a picture of a Spanish castle.

Leave your mouse pointer off the picture area and the picture is displayed in an orange and blue negative. Stare at the black dot in the center for 30 seconds and then while still staring at the picture move your mouse pointer over the image. It now changes to a positive black and white image. Except that's not what you see. Your eyes will see the image in color until you move your eyes. I thought it was a trick but it really works.

The guy promises to post instructions on how to do it with your own photos as soon as his bandwidth usage settles down.

[via Boing Boing]

The last time we tried this they burned our villages

Hey good news, the Irish government finally got around to passing a law that repeals the remains of feudal land ownership. If you cant sleep you can read the explanatory memorandum here.
"much current law and practice relating to land ownership and land transactions is based on the system introduced to Ireland by the Normans from the 12th century onwards. A key feature was the feudal notion of land tenure whereby all land was held from the Crown. The Bill abolishes feudal tenure in so far as it survives and updates the law relating to land ownership."

I bet in London Tony Blair is looking up the history of the Falklands to see if he can start a war he might actually win, the Queen is wondering how many other countries she owned without knowing and Prince Harry is looking up the laws on Prima Nocte to see if the founding fathers of the Irish State over looked those ones as well. :-) (Admit it, you would too)

Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup Day One Finished

Well the first day of the World Cup has finished and my predictions for the office World Cup pool are already looking a little shaky.

I predicted Germany to top group A and Poland to come second. Germany will probably do the job, but their 4-2 victory against Costa Rica didn't look certain until near the end. Poland on the other hand has really left me down with their 2-0 loss to Ecuador.

Still tomorrow is a more interesting day for me with England and Argentina playing their first matches, both of whom I predicted to make it to the final four and therefore worth many more points in the pool.

Water shortage in North Dublin

We just had one of the wettest Mays on record and 9 days into a sunny June we have a water shortage in North Dublin.

For an island nation where it rains most of the year we are piss poor at something as basic as providing clean drinking water to people. Of course the public should be a little more sparing in the water they use, but if the County Councils stopped scratching their arses, leaning on shovels and staring into holes all day then maybe they could fix the leaks in the main pipes where most of the lost water goes.

I often wonder why we pay tax at all. Private health, private pensions, private transport, private education, and if this continues private bottled water. Soon the only thing the government will provide plenty of without the need to purchase your own is a Civil Service.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

God is English

Ah crap. The miracle has happened. Wayne Rooney is fit and, in the words of Sven-Goran Eriksson, injury free. What did they do, super-glue his foot back together?

The next miracle for God to grant is England to win the World Cup, but that's a pretty big one.

Still on the up side, now England has no excuse when they loose to Brazil.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sony Alpha 100 DSLR

The new Sony digital SLR that I mentioned a while ago has been officially announced. Due in shops at the end of July it is priced at $1000 so I'd figure at least €1000 given the weird anti-currency-conversion companies run between the States and Europe. I dont know if thats just for the body, I suspect it may be.

Still the spec is rather impressive, especially
  • 10.2 million effective pixels
  • Anti-dust protection system
  • Super SteadyShot in camera body
  • 750 shots from single charge
  • 2.5-inch anti-reflective display

It takes Compact Flash and apparently Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo using an "adapter". Sony have also announced 20 new lenses for it, though it uses the Minolta mount so there are a lot of existing lenses already available.

You can never really tell from photographs, but it looks a pretty reasonable size for a general use dSLR, like the Canon 350D or the Nikon D50, i.e. something I can fit in my current camera bag without having to dump half the other stuff. The reviews all give it thumbs up for it's build quality and apparently the hand grip has soft rubber on it. Digital Photography Review and Digital Camera Review got their hands on "pre-production versions" and have detailed reviews.

I wonder how Canon and Nikon will respond. I wont be buying a dSLR until January or February of next year, but this one just jumped onto the current short list.

[via Gizmodo]

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Testing the Nations patience

RTE wasted our license fee last night with another BBC remake, Test the Nation. I wouldn't have minded but they didn't even remake the original test which BBC held in 2004. The original one was a proper IQ test where they asked logic, language, number and spatial recognition questions. Since then they have been reduced to testing the nations knowledge of popular culture sport, news and music.

RTE jumped straight to the level of testing popular culture instead of knowledge. Basically if you have not watched RTE continuously for the last 20 years you would automatically be down 20 points. If you didn't know your pop years you slipped down another bit. Miley of Glenroes extra marital affair was ranked with Charles Haughey, and Nick Leason.

The Test the Nation idea is a good one, when done right. Unfortunately RTE didn't do it right.

[Update: 2 Jan 2007] RTE got their act together last night and put on another edition of Test the Nation but this time they put on a proper IQ style test. Dublin came joint bottom of the test with an average IQ of 101. Monagahn came top with 106. You can take the test yourself on the RTE website.

Monday, June 05, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

I went to see X-Men: The Last Stand on Sunday night and I'm afraid to say I was a little disappointed. As the final part of a trilogy it works, so long as you can remember who each character is, where they come from and how they are connected. As a stand alone movie it sucks.

The existing characters have become one dimensional and uninteresting. The story is dull. The new characters introduced seem more like rejects from a gay musical version of Mad Max than superhero/villain mutants. The only X-Man who seems to be able to achieve anything is, once again, Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, hacking, kicking and cigar smoking his way through hordes of evil mutants. The movie rests entirely on his shoulders with the other characters stories reduced to a minor love triangle and a very minor father/son story. Most of the other X-Men are too young, too distracted or just plain too incompetent to make it to the battlefield.

The whole movie builds up for one disappointing set piece battle with only Vinnie Jones' Juggernaut and Ellen Page's Kitty providing any kind of interest and surprise when their mutant powers face off. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen renew their friendship/rivalry with McKellens Magneto once again proving the most interesting and unpredictable. Everyone else is completely good or bad. Magneto is bad, but he has a cause and you cant help but feel he will do the right thing when given small choices. Some characters such as Angel only appear for a tiny portion of the movie but leave the impression that on a day to day basis the director had no idea where the characters were going and who he would need for the next days filming. With the sole exception of one other surprising outcome of a confrontation the movie is very predictable.

That brings me to the most likely cause of the failure of this movie to achieve the same quality as the previous two, the change of director. With Bryan Singer leaving and moving on to the new Superman movie, something you can only see as a promotion, the mantle of director has fallen to Brett Ratner and he has produced a movie that feels like someone else's work that he just finished, and indeed since this is the final part of a trilogy that is the case.

By the end of the movie you end up with an anti-climatic feeling, not as much has changed as you think. Some characters have passed on but you feel the any X-Men 4 will be well able to carry on without them, or perhaps with them. If you stay until the end of the credits you will learn that comic books stories never really come to an end.

As an end to the trilogy I give this a 2.5 out of 5. As a stand alone movie I give 1.5.

St Stephens Green

I have put a post up on The Dublin Community Blog about the governments plan to dig up St Stephens Green and construct an underground railway station. If you are interested follow the link and read the post.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Taxi Strike? What Taxi Strike?

I was out in town last night and as expected the taxi strike had little impact. I spoke to the taxi driver who brought us into town a couple of hours before the strike was scheduled to start and he said there would be no strike. He, like many other drivers, was not a member of a union so he was going to continue working. He also pointed out that only one taxi drivers union had called a strike, there are several others and they had told their drivers to keep working. Also the union that had called the strike had downgraded it to a recommended work stoppage. The sole condition he had was that he would not use taxi ranks in case there was any trouble at them but he rarely stopped at ranks on a Saturday anyway.

He did expect the strike to be more serious in places like Cork because there the drivers are loosing money on their fares. Their argument was that they used to make over €5 as their base fare but now that was reduced to just over €3 with a standard national fare. He explained that the Cork drivers argue that they have a smaller pool of customers so they need to charge more but proportionally they have access to as much business as drivers based in Dublin since there are a smaller number of taxis in Cork than in Dublin. In fact, he pointed out, the number of taxis in Dublin is not limited but the regulator is limiting Cork taxis to address just this issue so a Cork driver could still be better off than a Dublin one.

Later that night there were loads of taxis driving around the city center. The interesting thing was that none of them had their roof lights on but they did stop when people hailed them. It was only out in the suburbs that I saw taxis with lights on.

[Update 13 July 2006: There is another taxi strike planned for Monday 17th of July]


Yesterday saw a world record attempt in Dublin city. 150000 ducks were put into the river liffey and a race was held to see which one would make first to a bridge further down the river. The race itself seems to have been a bit of a non starter as the ducks huddled under the halfpenny bridge and refused all attempts to shift them. Hours later stragglers were still floating around the starting line and exhausted yellow ducks resting all down the banks of the river.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Mr A Case Protest Photos

Red Mum has a great set of photographs from today's protests against the recent Mr A case and the way the government has (mis)handled the whole issue. When I get a chance I like to go to protests with my camera to snap up some photos because they provide ample opportunities for interesting people photographs. I was in work today so missed this one.

The REALLY interesting thing about the photographs of this protest is the people protesting. Protests in Dublin tend to attract the usual suspects, Socialist Workers, Militant labor, Sinn Fein and all the other groups who seem to protest because it's the weekend and that's what they do on weekends. It's easy to ignore these fringe elements because however vocal they try to be they are still a tiny minority. This protest looks different, these people look like typical middle class citizens, you know just the type of people who vote.

Look out Bertie, when these people protest you know you have screwed up.

Summer time and the living is easy

Sometimes God really pisses on Ireland weather wise. We get at least 9 months of so-so weather, not too cold but damp and grey and depressing. But for a couple of months a year we get summer time and then the so-so weather works for us. It's sunny but it's not too hot, just as I like it. Today is just one such day and to make it even better it's the Friday of a bank holiday and Met Eireann tells me I can look forward to the same for the rest of the long weekend.

Today was also the first beer garden evening of the year at least for me. We had spent the week in planning meetings trying to estimate how long it would take to do the next block of work our sales team had already sold and how we could make that fit into the time available. Our manager took pity on us this evening and sent us all home early to enjoy the weekend.

Like good Irish people we headed straight to the closest pub with a beer garden before all the other wage slaves got there. A few pints later I'm back in the office for a couple of minutes to post a blog entry and pick up my laptop with a face that has that nice warm tingling feeling that tells me I have moved from off white to slightly redder shade of off white.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Anyone spend the SSIA already?

Close of business on the first day of the SSIA windfalls has arrived. I wonder has anyone managed to spend the whole amount in the first day? I don't mean people who had previously arranged home improvements, got loans to purchase something in advance of the SSIA maturing, or just used it to pay off old debts. I'm talking about someone who woke up this morning with €17,000 new unspent money in their bank account but who is now going home with a €0 balance once again?

Irish Alcohol Spend

The EU has issued a report telling us that we are the biggest binge drinkers and highest spenders on alcohol.
The report says Ireland has the fifth-highest consumption of alcohol per person in all 25 EU states, behind Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Elsewhere, the Irish are identified as the biggest binge drinkers and the highest spenders on alcohol in the EU15.
Everyone knows Ireland has a bit of an alcohol problem, we drink too much. Fair cop, the researchers caught us, the worst kept secret in the world is out. For generations Irish society has revolved around the pub. Well the pub and the church, because you have to have some balance in your life.

These days the churches influence has declined to, at most, moral guidance instead of the legislative and social overlords they were for previous generations. I think the first signs of the pubs decline are now beginning to show as well. Pubs are being bought to be redeveloped as apartments. The bars are still full but publicans like to complain about the falling numbers of drinkers and falling profits. People want Cafe Bars and while the publicans have stopped them up to now one day they will make it through the Dail.

Ironically the decline in the pub as the center of Irish social life may well be linked to the second point raised by the report. We are the highest spenders on alcohol in the EU. That is probably as much related to the cost of alcohol in Ireland as the amount we consume. The EU may see the amount we spend on alcohol as a problem, but I see it as a long term good thing (though on a Friday night I tend to agree with the EU). If publicans keep putting their prices up people will just find alternative social outlets and hopefully drink less. Change comes slowly to Ireland, but it does come.