Monday, July 31, 2006

Photos from Lebanon

Daragh McGrath has some truly shocking photographs from Lebanon. They seem to be from airstrikes on a building and a convoy.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Photos - Lebanese Protest in Dublin

I went to the Anti-the war in Lebanon protest held in Dublin today to get some photographs and to hear Michael D Higgins speak. At least I thought he was supposed to be there but he wasn't, maybe I was mistaken or maybe I got my protest marches mixed up. I took some photographs and I uploaded them here.

To be honest this is the second protest march about Lebanon in a week in Dublin. Protestors seem to march every second Saturday for some cause or other and it has devalued the whole act of protesting. Instead of creating activism they are creating apathy. Why hold a protest during the week if you are going to hold one at the weekend? You just push your protests to page 4 or 5 of the newspapers.

Personally while I agree that the Israeli response is disproportionate, I also think they had some justification in striking against militants. Sitting here in Ireland how am I to know who is right or who is wrong. As far as I can tell both sides are wrong and it's the civilians on both sides who suffer. It's clear the Israeli forces are bombing civilians. Hundreds have died, hundreds are injured and hundreds of thousands are homeless. They cant get food or even clean water. They cant get out and help cant get in because convoys are being bombed and the Israeli army wont agree to a ceasefire nor will they even guarantee the safety of convoys, as Fergal Keanes report on the BBC showed last night.

On the other hand it is also clear that the Hezbollah forces are hiding among the civilians and firing rockets from civilian areas whose only target is an area as general as a city. They know they will kill civilians and they also know that the Israelis will fire back and kill the civilians around them. Israeli civilians are also the targets of suicide bombers. There were no speakers present talking about Israeli victims, no Israeli flags, no one to speak out on behalf of the Israeli people opposed to what their government is doing. Were they invited? I doubt it. Sometimes I think if we forced politicians to personally fight gladiator style battles to settle disputes they would be a lot less willing to start wars.

There needs to be a ceasefire and there needs to be a serious military force put in to keep the two sides apart. I cant help but fear that Irish soldiers are going to end up back in Lebanon in the near future. Hopefully this time they will have a peace enforcing role and not just peace keeping because in a war both sides shoot at the peace keepers.

I saw Fergal Keanes report from South Lebanon last night on the BBC when he was in a convoy that came under attack from unknown artillery. Keane is one of the best television journalists on TV at the moment. His reports and his bravery make for amazing watching. You can watch some of them here. [via DjMagra]

Update: RedMum informs me Michael D did give a speech, afterwards, when the march ended at the Central Bank. I didnt realise there would be more speeches there and had long since wandered away for coffee and a newspaper, my attention span not being what it should be :-)

Photos - Dublin Women's Mini Marathon

I got some rolls of film developed today and found some photographs of the Dublin Women's Mini Marathon from earlier this summer. Some are ok so I've uploaded them.

I do have a serious problem with getting my horizontals level. I always seem to lean to the left. Must work on fixing that in my photo stance, but I've no idea what it is that I'm doing, must pay more attention next time. I could just have fixed it in paint shop, but I couldn't be bothered, it's not like I'm a professional :-)

Friday, July 28, 2006

EU wants taxpayers to pay tax on service charges that their taxes should have funded anyway?

I bookmarked this yesterday and just got around to reading it this evening. The EU commission wants to take Ireland to the Court of Justice in Luxemburg (again) because the Irish government has deemed public services to be VAT free. The idea is that the public don't have to pay VAT on services like waste collection. After all these services were subsidized by tax payers anyway and probably should be free. The idea of charging them another tax on top of that is in effect making them pay for a service 3 times.
Irish VAT legislation provides that only the Minister of Finance may decide that public authorities can register for and charge VAT.

However, EU law states that public bodies should not be exempt from VAT when they engage in the same activities as private operators.

If they were, this would lead to a distortion of competition, meaning private companies would not have a level playing field in the market.

Now that Ireland is a net contributor to the EU I say we tell them to go screw themselves and if they want to take us to court the Irish government will just withhold its contributions to the EU and use it help properly fund the public services. Then tax payers wont have to pay for those services and so there wont be any need to charge VAT which should keep the eurocrats happy.

And as for a level playing field for private operators against public services, how about not having to deal with public service unions as a great leveler in their favor?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

End of the Heatwave

I don't know if I should be happy about this or sad, I'm going to lean towards sad. The recent heatwave we have been having is coming to a dramatic end over the weekend. Heavy rain is on the way. In fact it is so heavy that Roads Safety Authority has issued a safety alert.
A spokesman for the authority said: “At this time of year the roads are at their most slippery when the weather breaks after a prolonged dry spell.

“This is because the fine grit on roads tends to polish the road surface and roads also see the build up of a film of rubber and oil deposit.

I'd have liked a drop in humidity so long as it remained sunny. Still, now Fingal County Council will have a cheek if they continue to blame the recent good weather for the water shortages in the area.

IE7 Beta 3: Thank God I have Firefox

I installed Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 yesterday. Beta 3 is the final beta release before the full release at the end of the year. Beta 3 was supposed to be a reliable version and as a final beta I would presume they were only expecting to uncover obscure bugs.

The IE 7 beta 3 makes some feature changes from the beta 2. The new version also provides reliability, compatibility and security fixes--more than 1,000 bugs have been dealt with in total, according to Microsoft.

Unfortunately it's not very reliable on my machine since it crashes within 10 seconds of starting up. I don't touch anything I just start it and 10 seconds later it crashes, even on as the picture shows.

Fortunately I switched to Firefox last year and have no problems running that. I've no religious type attachment to Firefox over IE7, I just switched because of all the security concerns with IE6 and I liked the tabbed browsing. If IE7 is better and safer than Firefox then I would probably switch back.

I only use IE for accessing Hotmail, and strangely that seems to work with IE7 though no other page does. Firefox can display the new Live hotmail anyway so that's not a problem. Uninstall doesn't seem to be an option as a work mate of mine did that last week and ended up with a machine that had no Internet explorer at all which he says "hosed" his machine. He did say that IE7 ran ok on his machine, before he uninstalled it.

The real worry is that Microsoft are going to push IE7 out as a "high priority" update to XP users at the end of the year. If IE7 is still crashing when they release it, even for a tiny percentage of users, and people have automatic updates on, then a lot of people are going to find themselves unable to access web sites one morning. Download your backup installer of Firefox now, just in case.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

German Soldiers V's Israeli Soldiers?

The BBC has an interesting article on discussions going on in Germany at the moment. With the crisis in the Middle East well into its second week, people are looking for a way of bringing about a ceasefire and at the moment the proposed solution is that NATO should send peace keeping/enforcing troops to Lebanon to separate Israeli and Hezbollah force.

It is only 12 years since Germany changed its constitution to allow its military to get involved in international disputes. World War II prevented them from sending troops abroad prior to that. Since then they have sent troops on peacekeeping missions to the Balkans, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Sudan and DR Congo.

This one is different. The problem here is the idea of having German troops pointing weapons at Israeli soldiers. Jewish soldiers.

The Suddeutsche Zeitung said it was "astonishing" that politicians were discussing the idea, while Austria's Der Standard said it was "unthinkable" that the grandchildren of Holocaust perpetrators might find themselves shooting at the grandchildren of victims.

I can understand their concerns, but perhaps they could look at it another way. Maybe Germany has a responsibility to protect Israel, as much from Israel itself as from outside forces. If German troops prevented Israeli soldiers from committing war crimes would that not be a good thing? If Germany can prevent Israel from making some of the same mistakes that they made (not that I'm comparing the Jewish Holocaust to what is happening at the moment in Lebanon, but there were many other war crimes committed during World War II that may resemble what is going on now) would that not be some how appropriate? If German troops put themselves in harms way between Hezbollah and Israeli civilians would that not also be a good thing? I'm not suggesting that German soldiers should blast away at Israeli soldiers, but what if a convoy of German soldiers stood between Israeli tanks and a village and waited for the Israelis to shoot first while at the same time removing any Hezbollah in the village would that not prevent a possible "over reaction" in the village?

By the way, I like the way they call it the Middle East "Crisis", normally I would call a situation where land, air and sea forces were actively engaging enemy troops with numerous casualties on both sides over an extended period of time a war, but what ever makes the media feel more comfortable.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Water Shortage in Fingal

Two weeks of hot weather and we have an urgent water conversation order in Fingal.


Fingal County Council Water Services is today issuing an Urgent Water Conservation Notice to all residents in County for the coming week. Due to significantly increased demand on water supplies we are experiencing severe difficulties in replenishing reservoirs in some parts of the County and will not be able to guarantee supplies.

The really ironic thing is that after issuing the press release announcing the shortage, Fingal County Council issued a second press release informing the residents of Garristown that they wont have water until Monday the 24th because two burst water mains emptied the reservoir.

Fingal County Council Water Services Department is currently working to restore full water supply to the residents of the Greater Garristown Area.

The situation in the Garristown area is critical at present. Two bursts on the main supplying water to the area last week (Tuesday and Wednesday) resulted in the emptying of Garristown Reservoir.

They even suspect that there is a third leak elsewhere but they cant find it. They acknowledge the fact that the mains are old and the leaks are the reason for the lack of water. Shame they couldn't have fixed and replaced the mains they know were old and weak before they ruptured.

[via The Dublin Community Blog who have the full press release for the urgent shortage]

Third Taxi Strike

This is starting to get repetitive. There is another taxi strike scheduled for next Tuesday. The taxi unions (or maybe just one union since the only one I ever hear on the radio is the National Taxi Drivers Union) are complaining that the taxi regulator, Gerard Deering, wont give in to their demands. Bummer that, I guess they have come up against the one official in the government who actually does his job. They spend years campaigning for a taxi regulator and then the one they get actually stands up to them, oh the irony. Maybe when he fixes the taxi industry the government should move him to ComReg where he could try his luck with the blockages to decent broadband.

Now the taxi drivers are being told they have to go on strike again. Third day of no pay, its like some one punching himself in the face until he gets what he wants. Remember most taxi drivers are self-employed so while the unions officials sit in their offices and call on their members to sacrifice another days income the union officials will still be getting paid for a good days work.

Ryder Cup in Brown Thomas

The Ryder Cup trophy is on show in Brown Thomas for the next two days. Personally I couldn't be bothered going in, but I know some people out there like golf, and even more people like the rivalry of the Ryder Cup. This is your chance to see what all the hype that will be in the media for the next few months is about.

[via The Dublin Community Blog]

Monday, July 24, 2006


Just watched the season 2 finale of Lost on RTE. I have to say I'm even more confused and puzzled. I didn't think they could keep my interest in the series going for two seasons but it was excellent right to the end. The last scene left me completely puzzled. I cant wait for season 3.


I'm off home after a long, hot and somewhat frustrating days work. I shouldn't complain though, there are people out there who are only starting their days work in support and call centers. Today is a special day for them, after all it is 24th or July, or 24/7. :-)

Blogs Fantasy Football

Simon over at The Dossing Times mentioned a fantasy football game being run by Karlos at A Northsider on the South Terrace and he suggests getting bloggers to sign up as a bit of friendly competition. Not a bad idea, I'm going to sign up, even though I always do badly.

If you are interested go here and sign up.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Snakes in Ireland

I heard this on the radio yesterday. The DSPCA has appealed for people to be on the lookout for snakes. It appears that the recent hot weather has "energised" pet snakes and they have gone walk about, or slither about. People are asked to not approach a snake if you see one as you will just frighten it away. People are asked to contact the DSPCA who will come and rescue the reptiles, they have rescued 10 already. At most people can drop a basin on the snakes and put a stone on top.

No offence DSPCA but if I see a snake and I've got a basin in one hand and a rock in the other, I'm going to skip the basin and go straight to the rock.

Sports Sunday

Spending the day watching sports on TV. First Tipperary Vs Waterford in hurling. I was thinking of going to see that, but in the end I settled for watching it on TV. Very good game and Waterford won, something they don't usually do when I watch them. Then the end of The Open golf, with Tiger Woods crying his eyes out when he won. But strangest thing of all is on now. Celtic Vs Everton in a preseason friendly on TG4. Commentary is in Irish. It just feels weird to hear Irish commentary and not see the players picking up the ball like in GAA.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Cold Winter Ahead

Feeling the heat this sunny July weekend? Enjoy it because come October things will be getting rather chilly, especially for people who depend on natural gas for their heating. The energy regulator has proposed to award Bord Gais an increase of nearly 34% in prices. That would be on top of the 25% increase they got last year.

What about all that natural gas in the Corrib gas field off the coast of Ireland you may ask? Well first of all protestors wont let it be brought on shore for processing and anyway it wouldn't matter because, you see, that's not our gas anymore. The Irish government sold it to Shell, so the Norwegian people benefit more from it than we will.

Our gas will probably have to come from Russia, so lets hope Russia, The Ukraine, Poland, Germany, France or England don't start to run short because we are at the end of a very long pipeline line and if someone decides their country need the gas more than we do there isn't a lot we can do to stop them. A 34% increase in price may be the least of our worries.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Ireland is in the grip of a heatwave, temperatures in the high 20s Celsius or even 30C and high humidity. This is about as warm as it ever gets here. After 4 days sitting in the office wondering if the air conditioner is still on I now know that I'm probably going to melt when I get to Darwin in Australia sometime around next November. :-)

On the up side all the fine weather does bring out all the beautiful women from beneath their hats, scarves and duffel coats. A friend of mine from France once told me he was convinced Ireland has a special hideaway for beautiful Irish women and we only let them out during the summer months.

The Met Eireann website tells me it will get cooler for the weekend, typical.

18 Million euros for Barr Tribunal

The Barr Tribunal reported today on the death of John Carthy. Mr Carthy was a manic depressive and was shot by Gardai Emergency Response Unit members after a 27 hour siege outside his house. During the siege he fired 30 shots from a shot gun and he was shot after he left the house and refused to drop the loaded weapon. At least that's the simple version.

There has been a lot of criticism of the Gardai with people in the media saying they didn't need to kill him. As was pointed out today they had no non-lethal options available to them. No tasers, no bean bag guns, just real guns. Another commentator on Newstalk 106 this morning said that John Carthy was "harmless" and the police over reacted. He said if they had left John alone he would have been sitting in the pub that evening having a pint.

Now the Barr tribunal that was set up to investigate the shooting has reported that the responsibility lies with senior Gardai and not with the cops on the ground on the day. The Barr tribunal sat in public for 208 days issued a 704 page report and came up with suggestions any Garda or crime journalist could have come up with. The tribunal cost the 18 million euros.

I wonder how many non lethal weapons would 18 million euros buy? How many fully trained Garda negotiators? How many psychologists to advise the Gardai during sieges? How much treatment for manic depressives like John? Instead now the money will to to solicitors and barristers. This, like many other tribunals, has ended up costing the taxpayer far more money than the conclusions are worth.

Bertie in car accident

Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern was involved in a car accident when a car hit the car he was traveling in. At least it's being reported that the other car hit his but you never know with the way the government spins everything. Anyway no one was injured and it was reported that Bertie got out of the car made sure the woman in the other car was ok and then continued on to his meeting in Government Buildings.

Can you imagine being the driver who hits a car and sees the Taoiseach step out. You would absolutely piss yourself. I wonder if there are extra penalty points for hitting a government minister? Anyway the woman should be thankful it was Berties car she hit. If she had been in England and hit Tony Blairs car she would probably have been shot dead before the cars stopped moving. Then of course it wouldn't be spun that she hit him, it would have been spun that it was part a terrorist attack.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Frozen embryo rights

Yesterday the Irish High Court issued its first part of a judgment in a case where a woman wanted to have spare embryos implanted in her womb in the hope of conceiving another child. The embryos were created during IVF treatment when she had a baby a few years ago with her now estranged partner. The man objected to this saying he had not given his consent for the second set of embryos to be used. The High Court agreed with him saying a person could not be forced to become a parent and that the original consent forms signed at the clinic did not cover this situation. The High Court will now have to make a judgment on what is to be done with the frozen embryos raising all kinds of Pro-Life V's Pro-Choice arguments. The pro-life supporters argue that the embryos are alive and covered by the Irish constitutional protection for the unborn.

The irony here for pro-lifers, as I see it, is that this could have serious practical problems for IVF. If an embryo created in a lab is defined as unborn then how will IVF clinics be able to handle them? Could they be forced to use all the embryos in IVF treatment. Could they, in the extreme, also be prosecuted for manslaughter should a fault in their storage equipment destroy the embryos? In theory the right to life of the unborn, should an embryo be defined as unborn, could actually reduce the possibilities for life to be created using IVF which would seem to go against the goals of the pro-life campaign and doom many couples to remain childless.

I also have to wonder what the outcome of the case would have been if the woman had said she was willing to wave all the mans responsibilities for the child. I heard on the radio she had wanted him to be fully legally responsible for the child. I dont know if that was true, I havent been able to find it mentioned elsewhere. You cant force someone into a life long financial and legal commitment against their will purely because someone else wants it. If that was the case I wonder how much did that influence the judges thinking.

Finally what would have happened if the judge had agreed with the woman, or for that matter if the Supreme Court overturns the High Courts ruling and the roles in a future case are reversed. What if a man wanted to use embryos with his new partner? I'm not even dealing with the idea that his former partner could have been made carry the baby for 9 months. I'm talking about the case where he was the one who could no longer father children and his last chance for a child with his current partner were embryos he created with another woman and his current partner was willing to carry the baby. Would the father have rights to use the embryos separately from the mother?

Bush video Gaffe 2

Poor old George, he's just trying to be friendly and the he keeps being caught on camera. The latest one, getting some press in Germany is a video of George giving the German Chancellor a surprise neck rub. You can see the video here. Before anyone goes all Brokeback Mountain on poor George, that's German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a woman. She appears to have been a little, well, surprised...

I remember hearing that Bush is popular because he's the kind of man many Americans would like to have a beer with. Talking with his mouth full, cursing, and grabbing women. I'll have a beer with him if he wants. ;-)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Taxi Strike Version 2.0

Today's taxi strike seems to have been more effective than the last one. At least I didn't see any taxis today, but that said I didn't spend a lot of time on the roads. Did anyone get a taxi today?

I know some were still picking up passengers and the radio reported that there was some small confrontations between working taxis and strikers. The taxi unions also seem to have gotten their PR act together and were flooding the media with their side of the dispute. The unions are already talking about more protests, like a march or a driving protest through the city.

We'll see how many days of lost income the self employed taxi drivers are willing to put up with before they start to break ranks with the union.

A scoop of what you like

Boing Boing have a post about a funny novelty ice-cream. Viagra flavour. It's a nice novelty but I wonder how much they actually sell.

"Hi. I'll have vanilla, chocolate, oh and a scoop of viagra please" :-)

Irish Election Blog

I have started contributing to Irish Election. It's a blog about Irish politics with some brilliant contributors, far better than me so I'm very pleased to have been asked to join. If you are interested in Irish politics it's well worth adding to your blog list.

Bush video gaffe

The BBC has a video from St Petersburg of President Bush talking to Tony Blair. Unfortunately Mr Bush didn't realize his microphone was on and sat there talking with his mouth full and telling Blair "What they have to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit". Blair, being the professional life long politician knows what a microphone-on light looks like, mumbled some politer response and later turned off Bush's microphone. Duh :-) On the up side we now know that, regardless of whether you agree with them or not, the worlds leaders can cut through diplomatic waffle and call it as they see it.

The BBC presenter also seemed to take some pleasure in saying the word "shit" on TV. :-)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

God Bless Global Warming

I'm just back from a reunion game of soccer in Herbert Park in Dublin. A group of us used to play soccer together every week but had stopped 3 or 4 years ago. Someone said we should get together for another game and everyone agreed, one lad even flew in from Lyon. We were blessed with a lovely sunny day, especially when compared to the wet weekend we had last week.

Anyway, things were going along quite nicely until some foreign girls who were playing volleyball near us decided it was too warm so off went the t-shirts and out came the bikini tops. Beach volleyball in Herbert Park! Who says global warming is bad. Unfortunately the game went down hill from there as players started shooting wide at that end of the pitch. :-)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Newspaper prices

I have a question. Why are Irish newspapers so expensive? Why, for example, in Dublin shops the Irish Independent is eur1.60 and The (London) Independent is eur1.00? Why is the Irish Times eur1.60 and The (London) Times 90c? I could also ask why are the Irish Times and the Irish Independent charging exactly the same price? Are the prices agreed between them or is it just a happy and amazing coincidence? Surely they are in competition?

While I'm on the subject of printed media prices, why if newspapers can set the price they are sold at then magazines and books can not do the same? Prices on books and magazines vary widely from shop to shop in Ireland. The prices printed on the back and used in many other countries do not apply here and the shops can pretty much charge what they like.

Dublin Council picking up its rubbish

As a follow up to my post from almost two weeks ago Dublin City Council finally sent someone to recover its roadworks material from the River Dodder this morning. They have been working around the foot bridge for the last week resurfacing the road at one end. I hope they tidy the stuff away this time or kids will just throw them in again tonight.

On a side note it appeared to me that a private contractor company dug up the street to lay new pipes and yet Dublin Council has to resurface the road when the contractors leave it riddled with humps, hollows and pot holes. Contractors should be forced to resurface roads they dig up to at least the same standard as they found the road rather than letting taxpayers finish the job for them.

Women and Gadgets

Here's something to kick-start some Friday pub discussions, a recent study of 1000 customers in the retailer Comet has found that 75% of women don't know how to use mobile gadgets.
Despite all those hours talking and texting, 75% of women say they can only handle the basic functions of a mobile phone.
Seven in 10 women ask partners or even their children for advice on how to operate gadgets, including having others download music to an MP3 player for them.

Women, it appears, just want something functional whereas men want to know all the specs and want all the bells and whistles. Comet are responding to this problem by introducing Gadget Angels, all-female teams of experts to "break down female 'technofear'".

With a name like "Gadget Angels" I think they will appeal more to the male customers than the female ones. Will they have costumes? For example Wonder Woman with an iPod?

[via Gizmodo]

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Neil Horan (The Grand Prix Priest) Strikes Again

Everyones least favorite Irish sports related personality, ex-Fr Neil Horan, is under arrest in Germany having been detained before the World Cup final.

Horan first came to the attention of the world when he disrupted the 2003 British Grand Prix. He ran down the track towards the speeding Formula 1 cars while dressed as a leprechaun or something equally tacky Irish. He was a priest at the time and his protest was his own little way of telling the world that the second coming of Christ is close, though I suspect not as close as a Formula 1 car can appear while traveling toward you at full speed.

Next Horan decided to tackle the leader of the 2004 Olympic mens marathon, Vanderlei de Lima from Brazil. Obviously marathon runners are closer to God than the rest of us. By about mile 20 they are probably praying, a lot, by mile 24 they are wising the end of the world would come before the end of the race and by mile 26 they should be hearing voices and think God is chasing them. Vanderlei eventually finished 2nd and the Irish nation hid it's collective head in its hands and cringed as the international media realised who the kilted assailant was. He has since been defrocked. Even Father Ted never had to deal with a character like this.

This time the nations most embarrassing citizen decided it would be a good idea to do a peace jig outside the World Cup stadium in Berlin while doing a Hitler salute and carrying sign that said Adolf Hitler was a good leader who was following the word of Christ. He also wanted to visit Gestapo headquarters (there is still a Gestapo headquarters in Berlin?) and light a candle for Hitler. (You cant make this stuff up, you just cant). Obviously Christ wasn't playing ball and ending the world so Neil must have switched his allegiance to the other team.

Fortunately for us he also decided to send a letter to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, informing her of his plans. Just in case she didn't get her mail that day, he also wrote to The Kingdom newspaper in Kerry and let them know of his plans. The Germans, being sensible people, arrested him.

Now that the Germans have him, would they please keep him. Maybe lock him up in Gestapo headquarters he was so keen to visit and throw away the key?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Another Taxi Strike

The nations taxi drivers are to go on a 24 hour strike next Monday the 17th of July. The strike will start at 5am on Monday morning and end at 5am on Tuesday morning.

This strike is a little more sensible than the last strike. Last time they called a strike for Saturday night and most taxi drivers ignored the unions instructions. Saturday is their busiest night and they were doing more harm to themselves than to the general public. This time they are striking on a Monday, a day I would presume would be fairly quiet but would still have an above average business impact. On top of the usual taxi fares around the city I would guess there would be a higher than normal number of business people heading to or from the airport on a Monday morning. may try to add some emotion to the story by describing the taxi drivers as "furious" but remember what the taxi driver told me on the night of the first 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.

I would expect this strike to be a little more successful, but I doubt all taxis will be off the road.

Integrated ticket systems

The Sunday Business Post and The Sunday Times carried stories last weekend about the current state of the integrated ticketing system for Dublin Bus and the Luas. Between €9.5 million and €13 million have been spent from an original budget of €30 million and so far no progress has been made.

Do you know where the problem is with the current government? It is all summed up in this sentence from The Sunday Business Posts story.

A former secretary general of the Department of Defence will chair a new committee being set up to oversee the implementation of integrated ticketing on Dublin Bus and Luas.

Titles, government departments, chairs, committees, and overseeing. All to integrate the ticket systems of two publicly owned companies that operate in the same city.

If Martin Cullen was any good as a government Minister he would call in the head of Dublin Bus and the head of the Luas and tell them they had until the start of December and the Christmas shopping rush to get the whole thing implemented or they will be fired. Not pensioned off, not moved to other departments. Just fired. Both of them. That will get the whole thing sorted double quick. No need for committees, no need for chairs or overseers, no need for consultants and reports. Just two companies working together to get the job done in an efficient and timely manner.

What has the €13 million been spent on? Can we reuse what has been bought already. How much has been spent on consultants and reports?

In April the comptroller and auditor-general expressed concern that money was going to consultants rather than being spent on delivery of the technology.

Cullens track record as a minister has not been good with millions wasted on integrating tickets, €52 million wasted (so far) on electronic voting machines, historical and important areas of the city scheduled for destruction, rising numbers of fatalities on the roads, over crowded public transport, chaos in the airport and taxis on strike. And that is all in just 4 years during which he was Minister for Environment and Local Government (2002-2004) and Minister for Transport (2004 to present).

If Bertie Ahern was any good as a Taoiseach he would call in Cullen and tell him he was fired. But then I suspect the whole lot of them have been in power for so long they have lost all touch with the real world and any sense of civic responsibility they had. Money means nothing to them anymore. It's all just monopoly money. €1 million here, €10 million there, €100 million where?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Self parking cars?

Would you trust your car to park itself? Would you trust your car to park itself if it was a €100,000 7 Series BMW? Ah the conflict, its a top of the range BMW so you would think it must be good, but the car is worth €100,000 so do you really want to find out the system doesn't work?

Here is the promotional video.

Reminds me of that Mercedes anti-collision system that was in the media last year. I cant find a video of it online, but it was shown on Top Gear and was hilarious.

RTE license fee increase

RTE is to get a license fee increase. I cant really complain about it since it is a surprisingly small €3 bringing the license fee to €158. As the press release points out with inflation running at 3.8% the increase could have been €6.

The extra license fee should bring give RTE an extra €2m in 2006 or almost €4m in a full year for investment in a couple of spare Pat Kennys, some acting lessons for the cast of Fair City, a new Eamon Dunphy, and there may even be change left over for digital TV (but don't bet on it).

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup Final and Dunphy

I watched the World Cup final this evening. It wasn't a bad game but I just couldn't get into the atmosphere as I didn't really care who won, I did think France were the better team on the night but it doesn't matter how well you play if the other team still manages to score more goals or penalties than you. Even the penalty shootout didn't get me excited, just curious as to who would win. I'm much more interested to know what Materazzi said to Zidane which led Zidane to head butt him in the chest, and ended with Zidane being sent off. The fool was 10 minutes away from penalties and a glorious end to his international career.

At the end of the show Eamon Dunphy who was on RTE as a pundit thanked everyone involved in putting on the RTE coverage. He praised the station and its staff. I couldn't help but think the other pundits were surprised with what he did and that he was angling for a job. Turns out he already has one, a weekly show on RTE Radio One.

But perhaps the thing I'll miss most is Apres Match and their GAA Assimilator.

The Cancer Divide

What happens when a husband and wife are diagnosed with cancer within an hour of each other? The man with prostate cancer, which strikes 32,000 men in the UK every year and the woman with breast cancer which strikes 42,000 women every year.

Breast cancer currently enjoys 10 times more funding than prostate cancer. It has benefited from very glamorous campaigns, such as Ralph Lauren's initiative, Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, supported by models such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Giselle. Pictures of men in underpants highlighting prostate cancer do not have quite the same appeal as sexy women in white T-shirts

The Observer has a very interesting article today that tells the story of Bill and Val Elliott. Val is already receiving the best treatment money can buy with the NHS. Bill on the other hand has been turned down by the NHS because his recommended treatment was £2000 more expensive than the older more invasive, higher risk treatment. But Bill is the golf writer for The Observer so as soon as The Observer started asking questions the local Primary Care Trust decided to deal with each patient requesting the treatment on a case by case basis. However the men will not be allowed attend as this will be a "virtual meeting".

Friday, July 07, 2006

Bomb Squad and Dublin Airport

Dublin airport is really the center of Irish news this week with wildcat strikes and bomb scares. The airport was evacuated for the third security scare in a week this morning. Once again the bomb squad was dispatched to the Airport. Listening to the radio it would appear that the squad take at least an hour to get to the airport but once they arrive the scare then ends quickly, probably with a bomb squad officer saying something like "For f**k sake, cant you people recognize a can of deodorant and an underwire bra when you see one?".

It would appear that this summers fashionable entertainment is causing a bomb scare. Some bloody ejits think its funny to close the airport and piss off passengers. Until the kids get distracted and go back to sniffing glue or trying to steal money out of their mothers handbag maybe the Government should base a bomb squad unit in the airport full time? Then the disruption at the airport could be kept to a minimum.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Anyone want to own an airline?

The Irish Government has announced that a majority share in Aer Lingus will be sold to private investors by October. I'm in favour of selling off some or Aer Lingus, it's not like any of us get free flights in exchange for the share of our tax that goes to fund the airline.

The strange thing is the government and media are talking up the fact that the general public will be able to buy shares, so long as they invest a minimum of 10,000. Hmm, that's just about the share of their SSIA many people would be willing to reinvest once they have splurged a little. Coincidence? Of course if you do invest in Aer Lingus you'll probably have to spend years listening to employees complaining and striking when the notion takes them. Alternatively you could fire the lot of them and sell the planes to Michael O'Leary, he'd love the chance to be photographed painting over the Aer Lingus green with Ryanair blue.

You would think the government had learned about the dangers of mixing voters and the stock market after the Eircom disaster. Though then again they probably assume most voters have short memories, they do vote the same government in every 4 to 5 years.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Aer Lingus Meeting/Strike

Heres another reason to sell off Aer Lingus. Tomorrow 1800 SIPTU workers will go to a meeting between 9:45am and 11:00am. As a result flights will be disrupted and baggage will not be unloaded. They are being generous and will allow passengers on arriving planes to disembark but thats pretty much it. Everyone else will have to wait for the lads to finish their chats.

Why are they holding a meeting? They need to discuss their response to the Governments offer of a €250 million compensation package if the airline is privatized. Note they aren't making these people redundant. They aren't closing the airline. They just to sell it to the private sector.

Why do the workers need compensation? Well for starters if they all took an hour and 15 minutes off to have a moan about how unfair their lives are when working for a private company they would be fire the lot of them.

Would it have killed them to hold several smaller meetings and allow the airport to stay open? Would it have ruined their case if they met after working hours? To me it appears they are just throwing their weight around to bully the government into giving them more money.

At this rate the taxpayer will be lucky to get €50 million for the whole airline never mind €250 million.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Come on Dublin City Council, Pick up your Rubbish

The River Dodder flows through Donnybrook in Dublin. Just before Beaver Row meets the Donnybrook Road there is a foot bridge over the Dodder. For the last few months there have been roadworks around the bridge.

Like any roadworks they put up traffic cones, signs and barriers around the work site and like any unsupervised construction site people have been messing with cones and barriers. For the month or two there have been traffic cones in the river. Over the weekend someone went a step further and threw several barriers, cones and signs into the river. So far Dublin Council haven't bothered to retrieve them and this evening a beer keg had joined the collection.

The Council needs to collect this stuff before it attracts more rubbish. If they don't care about the rubbish then perhaps they should care about the items themselves. Surely all together they must cost a few hundred euros to replace and the longer they stay in the river the less likely they will be usable when retrieved.

German and Italian National Anthems

Just sitting down at home to watch the World Cup Semi Final between Italy and Germany. I was making dinner when the anthems were played and I got them mixed up. When they played the Italian anthem I thought it was the German one. The reason? I got so used in previous years to hearing the Italian and German anthems together when Michael Schumacher won a Formula 1 race that they seem like one song to me now.

I hope Germany win this one. I need Italy to loose this game and then loose the 3rd V 4th play off as well if I am to have any chance of getting money out of the office World Cup pool. Sorry Italy.

Update: God I'm a jinx. German lost 2-0. Italy scored both goals in the last 2 minutes of EXTRA time. With the length of this game and the penalty shootout against Argentina Germany have sure gotten value for money from their stadiums.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

It's a bit late but I went to see The Wind That Shakes the Barley at the weekend. I have to say that while I quite enjoyed it at times it seems a bit stunted and narrowly focused.

Cillian Murphy is very good in his role as Damien, the central character. Damien is a doctor about to emigrate to London to start a new job but the Irish War of Independence gets in the way. Here is the first point that the movie seemed to not quite click with me. Damien changes his mind a little easily. A couple of run ins with the British army and he gives up his plans to leave. His decision seems to boil down to whether or not he can get on a particular train. So starts Damien's career in the West Cork IRA. Damien's brother Teddy, played by Padraic Delaney, is the leader of the column but their time on screen together never really makes their relationship seem close, Damien even mentions that they spent a lot of time apart. This takes something from later events when the civil war starts, they could as easily have been long time friends instead of brothers.

While a lot of actors are recognizable from Irish television the movie appears to use a lot of local talent as extras. This works at times when they get into the flow of the scene, but sometimes they deliver their lines like a kid who has just walked on stage during the school panto to repeat the one line he has spent the last two months practicing in front of his proud parents. That is my biggest complaint about this movie as I found it very distracting at times. A big part of me feels that I'm being cruel, so I'll be nice for the rest of the review.

The movie looks lovely. This is old rural West Cork. Everything looks like they stole it from the cabinets in the Collins Barracks museum exhibition of old country furniture. The table and chairs are not Georgian, they were made by the carpenter down the road. The roof thatch is gray and old, not yellow and just put on by the set designers. The clothes are used and worn not straight out of the tailors. The roads are bumpy and over grown not nicely trimmed tourist trails. This is not Michael Collins cycling around Dublin streets leading an intelligence war against an Empire, this is Dan Breen running around boggy mountain tops shooting at convoys of soldiers and scrounging ammunition and weapons off dead bodies.

They are fighting their own little war separate from Dublin but part of an overall effort. It would have been nice to get some more context of what was happening outside the area of the village, such as the burning of Cork city, especially at the end when a little explanation of the outcome of the War of Independence would have been useful for those unfamiliar with the Irish history. The fact that the republicans lost the Civil War but that the Irish Free State did become a Republic in 1949 would have added to the pointlessness of the losses during the Civil War scenes.

The roots of the Irish Civil war appear early on, but instead of basing them on the usual Republic V's Free State arguments the movie focused on the more Socialist vs Capitalist perspective. Something that rarely gets a mention in todays history but something that may still be around in the policies of Sinn Fein. The story was pretty much what I expected, though the end of the movie did take me a little by surprise. Not that I was surprised by the outcome, just how it happened.

All in all I think it was a good movie. I don't see it doing well at the Oscars or any Hollywood awards ceremony, the edges are a little rough for the taste of most Hollywood stars. It did win the Palme D'Or at Cannes so it has had more critical success than most big budget movies ever see. I think all the criticisms I've had so far are really quite minor and I did enjoy the movie so I'll give it a 4 out of 5 and I'll buy it on DVD when it's released.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Weird Special Offer

I saw a strange special offer at the weekend. Buy a mobile phone, get a free tent. Wasn't even a waterproof phone so I'm not sure what the link was with a tent and camping.

It was probably aimed at the Oxegen goers, but I wonder how many people buy a phone just to get a free tent? How about some free calls, or maybe better upgrade offers for existing loyal customers?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

First Christmas Advert!

I saw my first Christmas advert of the year today. When I went to see The Wind That Shakes The Barley in Dundrum one of the adverts before the movie was the white Christmas advert from Guinness. You know, the one that shows snow falling around Dublin on Christmas Eve and the tag line is "Even in the home of the black stuff we dream of a white Christmas. Merry Christmas from Guinness."

Certainly it was a mistake when the tape was put together but it drew hoots of derision from the packed cinema. Actually rather bizarely I had been thinking earlier today that I should give some thought to Christmas presents before I go to Australia at the start of October since I wont be back in Ireland until December 21st and I've no intention of getting off a plane and going present shopping. Maybe Guinness read my mind. "mmm, free beer, free beer, give Declan free beer..."

American Ruins.

On Thursday I went to see the new exhibition in the Gallery of Photography entitled American Ruins showing the work of Camilo José Vergara. Born in Chile in 1944 Camilo has been photographing working class areas of the United States for over 30 years. Thats him in the photograph with two of his Fern Street photographs behind him.

The photographs on display show 30 years of urban decay, mostly from the city of Camden in New Jersey. The main set of photographs show the view down Fern Street. Starting in 1979 with two solid rows of houses, houses are gradually demolished, photograph by photograph, until in 2006 all that remains are a few individual, run down, houses separated by empty lots. One lady ahead of me described it as a set of teeth gradually falling out with age.

Another series of photographs trace the fortunes of two shops from 1977 to 2004 when the shops were finally demolished to make one large store. I wondered what the reaction of the photographer had when he saw the last photograph and knew that a 27 year project was complete. My favorite set were not from Camden but from the Bronx showing a lovely old New York apartment building that over 13 years suffers possible arson and falls into disuse and is eventually demolished and replaced with a nondescript row of houses. It shows how urban redevelopment can destroy a cities character as it tries to save it.

I like this type of photography. The photographs document something. The subject is more important than the photograph itself. I also admire Camilos dedication, to go back and take basically the same photograph year after year, watching how things change and never knowing what the final outcome of 30 years worth of photographs will be. I know I'd loose interest after a couple of years. This exhibit is well worth a visit, especially since all exhibits in the Gallery are free so you have no excuse.

Sven says don't kill Rooney

As Sven runs for the hills he leaves the English FA with one last piece of advice.
Eriksson said: "Wayne Rooney is the golden boy of English football. Don't kill him because you will need him."

Jesus, how serious do the Swedish FA take mistakes by their players. Are Freddy Ljungberg and his team mates currently locked in small jail cells awaiting their turn with the firing squad?

Meanwhile I hear Eriksson has a new job already lined up. He's off to America. Mayor Quimby in a town called Springfield has hired him to build a monorail. If he convinced England they could win the World Cup by just strolling out onto the pitch then he's wasted in football management.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


With Australia out I need a new team to follow in the World Cup....

Ah screw it, Come on England :-)

Update: Oh well, that didnt last long. England made it to penalties, but I never felt they would win. At least now they have a new manager so maybe things will improve for them.