Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Do you hate us yet? Do you hate us yet?...

I turned on the radio this evening and caught the tail end of an interview on RTE's Drivetime program. It hasn't been uploaded to RTEs website yet so I haven't been able to listen to it properly. From what I could gather at the time an RTE journalist had been in Lebanon and interviewed a Lebanese politician who is linked to Hezbollah. During the interview the reporter asked the politician if he thought it was wrong for Ireland to let American forces pass through Shannon and would this turn Ireland into a possible target for Al Qaeda. Naturally the politician said yes it was wrong and could make us a target. Well he wasn't likely to say "Nah, no problem mate, sure we'd let them land here too if the runway wasn't full of shell craters"? Then the journalist asked about the status of Irish troops in Lebanon and what would happen if the conflict restarted? The politician responded that he hoped Irish troops would fight to assist the people of Lebanon. Again what would you expect? "Ah, sure lob a few shells our way, we wont take it personally"?

That made me think, but not wether it was right or wrong to let America use Shannon, nor should Irish peace keepers leave Lebanon for their own safety. Instead it made me think, what the hell is going through the minds of Irish journalists when they interview people linked to Islamic terrorism and press them to give a meaty quote on the status of Shannon? Are they trying to push Ireland onto the agenda of Islamic terrorism. "Please sir, we solved our own terrorism problems, can we have some of yours?" I realise "Ireland Terrorist Target" is a much better headline for grabbing attention than "Islamic extremist says: Where the f**k is Ireland?" but I'd much rather see the second one than the first.

Some journalists are like kids asking the same question over and over until they get the answer they want or the adult gets angry and scolds them. I'm not saying we should ignore the issues but it might be an idea to not go highlighting them to people who have probably never heard of anything coming from Ireland other than Guinness and U2. Ireland is not likely to even be on a terrorist hit list never mind high on that list but it looks like Irish journalists wont be happy until they force every terrorist in the Middle East to declare Ireland is a target. Eventually they will probably either attack to shut us up or just stop taking calls from the nagging Irish.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Got sent this brilliant picture today. It appears that the organisers of the Republican Sinn Fein protest outside Croke Park on Saturday are either blind, cant read, don't know what they are protesting about anymore or just have a strange sense of humour. Perhaps it was someone who realised that no one really cared about England playing in Croke Park and they were taking the piss a little bit. I have to admit I did get a chuckle this morning when I read about the graffiti on a house wall spotted by a journalist from The Guardian, "No Crossley Tenders Beyond This Point."

For anyone who doesn't understand what the problem is with the above photograph I'll explain. Soccer is a "foreign game" in Ireland. Celtic FC is a Scottish soccer team. Pictured above is a muppet wearing a Celtic FC jersey and tracksuit while protesting against the playing of foreign games in Croke Park, home of the GAA.

Still they probably didn't have a great selection of protesters to choose from. All the usual Saturday protesters were marching in the Shell to Sea protest on O'Connell Street so poor Republican Sinn Fein probably had to settle for what ever edjits walked into the pub before the protest start time.

Though you have to say the lads gear is nicely washed and very white, I wonder if he uses Daz....

Pounders after all

What can one say about the match at the weekend. Ireland were so superior to England it almost felt like we should have been more polite as hosts and sent over our medics to help patch them up and get them ready for the second half. Ireland tore them to pieces and left English players with puzzled and surprised looks on their faces for most of the game. Apart from a brief moment of concern at the start when England scored first there was only one team that was going to win. Maybe loosing to France was a good thing for the Irish team, character building or something. Hopefully the team can maintain that level of performance, the 6 Nations Championship may be out of our hands now but for the first time I thought they looked like a team that had a real shot at the World Cup later in the year.

Given the performance of England after all the build up to this match I couldn't help but think of a quote from Wellington at Waterloo. Facing Napoleon himself for the first time on the battlefield, Wellington was unimpressed with his opponents tactics and expressed his disappointment by saying "Damn the fellow, he is a mere pounder after all."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Unions ready for action?

Looks like the Irish trade unions have found a new way to bring employers to heel. "Screw the Labour Relations Court, lets get all George W. on their asses" :-)

Well I found it funny when I read the headline on RTE, though I am doped up on cold medication. The story isn't nearly as interesting, it seems like everyone is threatening to go on strike these days.

Ireland beat England in Rugby, hopefully

Oh no, it's happening again. After the French game I wrote that at the end of the game I couldn't shake the feeling that Ireland had actually won and I was confused as to what exactly happened in those last two dreadful minutes.

It was truly confusing and a little upsetting to see the French players celebrating and to have to listen to George Hook tell me over and over again that Ireland somehow lost the game. Even now, two weeks later I've only begun to come to terms with the loss.

Now it looks like whatever brain short-circuit I suffered as I watched Ronan O'Gara win the match is actually a contagious disease that has now spread to the Irish betting industry.

You see Paddy Power Bookmakers have paid out on Ireland beating England and Ireland winning the Triple Crown. Yes a whole 24 hours before actually playing the game they have paid out on an Ireland win. Of course it's too late to place a bet and claim your advance winnings now, they may be optimistic but they aren't stupid.

Should Ireland actually bother playing international games anymore or like Kim Il Jong playing golf should we just declare victory and leave it at that. It may be something we should seriously consider for the Irish soccer team at the very least.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Harry off to Iraq

This isn't something many Irish people would say but fair play to Prince Harry and the Royal Family. The Price is heading off to Iraq with his regiment called the Blues and Royals. He didn't have to go, being a Prince it would have been very simple to get his superiors to announce for unit safety reasons he would not be sent to Iraq. Instead it appears Harry put his foot down and insisted on going with the other members of his unit. I'm reminded of that scene from Fahrenheit 9/11 when Michael Moore stood on a street corner asked members of congress if they would sign their kids up to go serve in Iraq. At least the British can now come up with an answer that doesn't involve running down the street.

Considering the bad publicity the British government has been getting about the poor equipment and supplies the British Army in Iraq are forced to use, and die in, I'd bet the last thing the members of Harry's unit will have to worry about is the thickness of the armor plate on their Landrovers. Though at the same time I wouldn't want to be the private sitting in a fox hole beside the British prince when the locals start shouting Death To Britain.

Interestingly even though Harry's older brother Prince William serves in the same regiment he can never be sent to Iraq because members of the direct line of succession cannot go to war. Kings leading armies into battle is sooo first millenium.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Is Mary *trying* to close BUPA

Jesus, Mary Harney either really hates BUPA or really loves the VHI, I'm not sure which. She must do to go so much out of her way to close off the loop hole that would have allowed BUPAs new owner the Quinn Group to declare themselves a new operator in the market and avoid having to pay millions of euros to VHI in risk equalization payments for the next 3 years.

The Dail is sitting in emergency session tonight in order to rush through a change in the law which will then be signed by President McAleese. Getting all members of Parliament out of the pub after work hours and keeping the President awake is not an every day event. If I was in the Quinn Group I'd be ringing every Munster based Dail deputy explaining that if they pass this law tonight the Quinn Group will have to pull out of the BUPA deal and hope VHI will employ the 300 people currently working for BUPA in Cork. Governments protecting former state monopolies, driving new companies out of the country and putting people on the dole queue just before an election are not exactly vote winners.

I remember just 18 months ago Mary was telling the Irish public that they should shop around for better prices. I wonder would one shop around if the local authorities kept adding extra taxes on new shops that attempted to open up in a town.

Update: Quinn Group have just announced that while they will fight the legislation through the appropriate channels they will continue with the purchase of BUPA. As someone pointed out earlier today why wouldnt they stay in when they are operating in what now amounts to a closed market since few other companies will want to come into the market. Mary Harney says she is committed to overhauling the health insurance market, shame she hasnt shown the same eagerness to tackle the actual health system, but sure why deal with the big issues when the little ones are so much more fun?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

PPAI awards in Gallery of Photography

The Press Photographers Association of Ireland award winning photographs for 2006 are now on show in the Gallery of Photography in Temple Bar. I love press photography, I feel it can be one of the truest forms of photography since a photographer covering a breaking news story rarely gets to plan, layout and stage photographs as they can in a studio. Sure some amount of staging does take place and Photoshop is a wonderful tool, but I still get absorbed by press photographs. There were a several photographs from the Dublin riots, an interesting and I thought telling one from Charlie Haugheys funeral, a cringe worthy photograph of a horse with a broken leg and a compulsory collection from the Ryder Cup.

I went to the opening tonight and heard a couple of the photographers give brief thank you speeches, they don't seem to like being the center of attention. The gallery was as full as I've ever seen it, and I didn't stick around long as I had to rush up to Dundrum before the shops closed. Even though I picked up a copy of the catalogue I'll probably go have another, more relaxed look around the exhibit at the weekend. Initially I think looking at both catalogues last years photographs were a bit better but this exhibit is well worth seeing.

On a related note, the World Press Photo award winners 2006 are also online.

How to get 600 Million

Want to know how to get an annual income of €50 million for 12 years without having to lift a finger or employee anyone, except maybe an accountant to count the money and a security guard to accompany you as you laugh all the way to the bank? Spend £6 million, build a bridge for the Irish Government and wait. Eventually they will buy from you for €600 million. Not bad money if you can make it, and no matter what you think about the deal you cant really blame NTR for cashing in on the stupidity of the Irish Government through the ages.

Awarded the contract to build and operate the Westlink on the M50 for £6 million back in 1987 NTR have since then been held up as the bane of Dublin motorists with the toll bridge being blamed for all the traffic problems on the M50. Now the Irish Government has stepped up and saved the Irish motorist, bought the bridge and announced plans to introduce barrier free tolling, and all this just before an election, though tellingly the barriers wont be removed until after that election.

You see what no one has actually answered is a simple but important question. "Is the traffic congestion on the M50 caused by the bridge?" NTR have always insisted that the traffic congestion is not caused by the bridge and lifting the barriers would only move the problems to the next junction, but they refused to lift the barriers to prove this. Even when Senator Shane Ross and others offered to pay the tolls the barriers stayed down. The anti-toll campaigners claimed this was proof that the bridge really was the cause of all the worlds traffics woes, but I have to wonder, will it solve anything? I'm cannot be sure that the taxpayer has not been bluffed.

If NTR lifted the barriers and the traffic did back up at the next junction what would have happened? If there really is no other solution to the traffic jams on the M50 other than to widen the motorway what would that do to the price of the Westlink bridge? Would the government be willing to pay €600 million to move a traffic jam half a mile? I doubt it. Would everyone be cheering and clapping if we had just spent all that money to extend a parking lot? Probably not. The toll bridge being seen as the main problem for traffic on the M50 has actually proven to be a great asset for NTR. If you were in NTRs position would you risk a €600 million pay day by lifting the barriers and allowing traffic to flow freely through the bridge just to prove to Senator Ross who was right? Not bloody likely! Hell, if it was me I'd have been out there nailing those barriers into the down position and throwing spikes under the wheels of passing cars.

Perhaps the Government has just spent €600,000,000 of taxpayers money to undo a 20 year old mistake. Perhaps they have finally done the right thing and will have made life easier for thousands of daily commuters. Perhaps, but it they were spending €60,000 on a new car I would assume they would first ask to take it for a test drive. Now we wont find out the truth until after the election and by then it will be too late if that bridge turns out to be exactly what NTR claimed it was, just a bridge.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Awards Shortlist

The shortlist for the Irish Blog Awards has been announced. Unfortunately this blog didn't make the 5 for Best Personal Blog. Still just getting on the nominations list for the public voting round was an improvement over last year so it gives me something more to aim for next year.

On the up side two blogs I have contributed to did get through The Dublin Blog and Irish Election (though in fairness my contribution to Irish Election has been very minor). They give me something to cheer for on the night :-)

Congratulations to all those who did get the nod for the shortlist and thanks to all those who voted for me.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

It's coming.

Saw my first PS3 stand in a Dublin game shop on Saturday. Several shops had posters up and are taking orders, all for €629. No sign of any demo consoles yet. In my opinion €629 is too much to pay for a games console but I'm sure there will be queues on March 23rd.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Oh, please let this be made into the Wii 2 :-)

The VirtuSphere platform consists of a large hollow sphere that sits on top of a base and allows the sphere to rotate 360 degrees. Wearing a wireless, head-mounted display, users can step inside the sphere to fully interact in immersive virtual environments. The VirtuSphere enables 6 degrees of freedom – one can move in any direction; walk, jump, roll, crawl, run over virtually unlimited distances without encountering real-world physical obstacles.

Simple but probably great fun, if you can learn to stand up in it. Reminds me a little of Zorbing, without the hills, water, swimsuits or elbows in the eye, but you get the idea :-).

[via Boing Boing]

Tips for Free Beers

I'm off to a stag tomorrow night and, as fortune would have it, I just got the some tips for getting free drinks. My favorite is the The Magic Whiskey Trick:

Go to Wise Bread for 4 more pub cons and YouTube for lots more cons from The Real Hustle people. I'm not a real fan of the show but sometimes they show interesting cons. Plus Jess is a stunner and I'm a real sucker for blondes so she would have no trouble getting a few free drinks from me. Are they training the criminal or warning the victim? I'm not sure. But the pub tricks are a bit of fun, til someone punches you in the face.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dont forget to Vote

Here is another blatant pitch for votes. If you haven't already voted in the Irish Blog Awards please do so before Friday 16th 5pm. If you could throw a vote my way in the Best Personal Blog Category that would be great :-)

While your there and if you don't know who else to vote for in certain categories I would humbly suggest
  • Irish Election in Best Blog, Best Political Blog, Best Contribution to the Irish Bloggersphere Best News/Current Affairs Blog,
A full list can be found here.

Remember if you've voted already don't vote again because the powers that be are checking for that :-)
It’s ONE vote per person. If a person votes twice in the same category then both results are void. Please do not encourage people to vote multiple times.
By the way, 1100 people have voted so far. This is turning into a pretty successful event.

Update: As an incentive to vote (like they needed to incentivise people :-) ) the organisers of the awards have announced that all those who vote will be entered into a draw for a copy of Vista Home Premium. There’s 5 to give away. Just remember it's one vote per person.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Black Holes on Earth

Slashdot has a small, off the cuff, post about a theory that any black holes that pop out of the Large Hadron Collider under construction in Switzerland may be shaped like Saturn. It would be "a black hole far smaller than a proton and circled by a squashed four-dimensional black doughnut".

Lads, in fairness, stop messing with the black holes would ye? Christ, some scientists with earth destroying machines are like 3 years olds with coloured pens and a white wall. Why do I get the feeling that the last words uttered by humanity will be "Cool, it wor....". Lets try holding off on creating the most destructive items in the galaxy til we can, you know, get away from those destructive items. Go cure cancer or something useful.

[via Slashdot]

Mandatory Pensions

Social Affairs Minister Seamus Brennan is refusing to rule out the introduction of mandatory pensions in Ireland. A Green paper on pensions is due to be published next month (though at this stage of the election build up any thing not due to be published next month may not make it).

Mandatory pensions may be a good idea. It probably wont effect me much since I already pay into a private pension, but it makes me wonder, why do the middle classes in Ireland pay tax?

Private pensions, private health insurance, private transport, private schools, public-private partnerships on construction projects. Apart from the civil service, police and the army does the government provide anything these days?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Confused Result

Is anyone else feeling confused after the dramatic end of yesterdays Ireland V France rugby match? I'm still certain that I watched Ronan O'Gara kick a match securing penalty. Surely the game was over, the Croke Park dream complete, the other games just a formality before the Grand Slam.

I looked away from the TV for a second, distracted by someone coming into the room asking what the score was. Glancing back I saw a replay of France scoring a try. Highlights from some other game or a replay of the first half try? Surely it was a replay? After all we had won the game just 5 seconds earlier. Ok, so it's not a replay but the referee must have blown his whistle before the try was scored because the Irish players aren't tackling the French player.

But we have still won, havent we? 1 point behind, O'Gara will just score a drop kick and everything will be ok again. Huh? The French just scored a conversion? Did they change their kicker, the last guy couldnt hit the stands in Croke Park never mind get the ball between the posts. Ok, it's just 3 points. Worst possible case is that we just draw the game with the up coming drop kick, though it's more likely that an Irish player will run in for the last minute match winning try.

80:05? What? That cant be right. The clock on the TV must be wrong. The ball is still in play and the teams are mauling. Ok here comes the turn over and the Irish sprint to the line. Hang on, he cant just kick the ball out like that, can he? Thats not in the script. Come on ref, that cant be legal, blow for a penalty or something. Final whistle, what the hell? France have won?

No, no, no, that cant be right. We won! We did! I saw it! I don't know where the last 2 minutes came from but it wasn't the 2007 Six Nations game. It was highlights from some other game, not todays game. We won.... I'm sure we did..... didn't we....? Nooooooo!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Blog Awards

I'm delighted to have made the short list of nominations for the upcoming Irish Blog Awards. My blog has been nominated under the Best Personal Blog category along with 18 others. I'm realistic enough to know my chances of winning are quite slim but it's nice to have been nominated. If anyone wants to vote for me they can do so at this page.

By the way, while you are up there you could also vote for my brothers blog which received a nomination as well. His blog is listed as World Debating Website (the blog is actually World Debating News) under Best Specialist Blog.

Australia posts done

Yes, at last, the final few posts from my Australia travels are up on my blog. Who would have believed it :)


On my way home from Australia I stopped over in Singapore for three nights. Singapore seems like a nice city but I didn't get to see much of it. While I was there they had their third wettest day in history. Walking outside was like walking through a wall of water. Plus the humidity was high so walking from air-conditioned buildings to the outside air meant everything from sunglasses to cameras fogged up instantly.

Therefore I spent most of my time in doors. That wasn't too bad since I was staying in a hotel and had my own room. After 2 and half months of backpacking and staying in dorms it was really really nice to get into a hotel room. My own room, my own shower, a TV, the ability to leave the light on to read a book or to just sleep-in without being woken up by other people moving around.

Two places I did visit were Raffles Hotel and Sim Lim Square. Raffles is the famous old colonial hotel in Singapore, a room there is well out of my price range but that didnt stop me visiting with my camera and going to the bar for a drink. It has some beautiful old colonial architecture and was larger than I expected with courtyards and outdoor bars. I could have taken lots of photographs but again the rain forced me to stay under cover. Raffles seems to have been built for the rain since there are lots of covered walk ways around the courtyards. Of course when in Raffles I had to visit The Long Bar and try a Singapore Sling. Apparently the cocktail was invented there. It's nice but I don't see myself swearing off beer in favor of drinking slings for the rest of my life. The bar itself is interesting, a little piece of British colonial life in modern Asia. Whatever you feel about British colonialism there is something appealing about the place.

Sim Lim Square on the other hand is heaven on earth for gadget freaks heaven. 6 floors of shops selling all kinds of electronics, gadgets and computers. Things are cheaper but not cheap enough for me to justify some expensive purchases at the end of my holiday. Each floor seems to be dedicated to different categories of electronics, though the lines between each category is a little blurred. There are lots of digital cameras on the ground floor, obviously aimed at tourists. Working up through home electronics and computers the top of the square seems dedicated to components for people who want to build, repair or have repaired, their own computers. If I lived in Singapore I figure I'd spend hours and a large portion of my income in Sim Lim. In the end all I bought was a handy little hard disc enclosure for my old laptop hard disc back at home, didn't really need it but I couldn't leave without buying something.

The rest of my time in Singapore was spent walking around shopping centers and other places that didn't interest me too much but kept me out of the rain and humidity. This isn't really my scene but I imagine some people, mostly women, would love it, though they would probably spend years paying off the credit card bills. A couple of trips outside during dry spells did some beautiful sights such as the buildings in the Arab Quarter.

Singapore did seem like it would have been a nice city when it wasn't raining. Unfortunately its probably not going to be on my list of places to visit again. When I do go back to Australia again I think I'll go via someplace like Tokyo of Thailand. Nothing personal against Singapore, it's just too far away to visit on it's own and there are too many cool destinations that can act as stop overs to justify visiting the same one again.


At the end of my travels around Australia I had a week in Sydney. At one stage when I first started researching my trip to Australia I had considered flying into Sydney and then flying out of Darwin. I'm glad that I didnt do that. For starters I would have missed out on some of the best parts of the trip. Places like Uluru and Melbourne would have been flying visits, if I had gone to them at all. I would have missed out on other places like Cober Pedy and The Simpson Desert. Also if I had gone with my original plan I would have flown from Sydney to New Zealand at the start of the holiday and probably wasted 2 weeks rushing blindly around New Zealand leaving me with way too little time in Australia.

So now I was back in Sydney, my third visit to the city, and this time I was with a group of friends. My first visit was 5 years earlier when I visited a friend and while we spent the 3 weeks backpacking around close to Sydney and it is different to be with a group. On our first night in Sydney we all met up in The Gaff pub where we joined in and won the pub quiz. Pub quizes may seem dull to some, but The Gaff is a backpacker bar so the questions are all about Australia from a bakcpackers perspective and the rounds of questions were broken up with pub games. Our group won the quiz, thanks in no small measure to the assistance of our bus guide Joel who as an Oz Experience driver is an encyclopedia of backpacker knowledge. The prize was a one hundred dollar drinks voucher which was quickly converted into jugs of beer and guranteed a good night. Later as 4 of us walked home at 3am down Oxford Street one of the group suddenly ran over to 3 people walking the other way. It turned out she knew two of them. It took a second for me to realise I knew them too. I had travelled with Simon and Edward through part of the East coast and had completely forgotten they would have made it back to Sydney by now. It really is a small world.

The next few days were then spent travelling around Sydney with the others. Some of them had not been to Sydney before so it was really nice to bring them around the city, seeing the sights with them and visiting places that I probably would not have visited again if I had been on my own. The Opera House, the Harbour Brigde, the Rocks, the Botanic Gardens, Kings Cross, Darling Harbour and Centerpoint. Centerpoint was probably the only place I'd not visited back in October but I had been there back in in 2001. These places are spectacular, world famous sights, so they are worth multiple visits.

One of the new places I visited was Hyde Park Barracks. A museum dedicated to the penal colony history of Australia it is one of the better historical museums I visited in Australia. There are several rooms each covering different aspects of penal life in Australia with lots of interactive displays and stories of individual colonists and convicts.

On another occasion we went to the Minus 5 bar on circular quay. For $30 dollars we got about half an hour in the ice bar plus one drink. Everything in the bar is made of ice, glasses, tables, chairs, sculptures. The temperature was aroung -15C so we had to wear jackets and gloves. It's a novel place to visit but I dont know how many people visit twice. Another day we took the ferry to Manly Beach. It was a bit cold and windy but we still went for a swim. I thought it was a nicer beach than Bondi, but not in the top beaches I'd visited in Australia. We did stop in a bar selling German beers and had a couple before taking the ferry back to the city center.

I spent a week in Sydney and it's still my favorite city. Compared to Dublin, it's beautiful, clean, modern, great public transport. Everything Dublin should be and should have if it was managed properly. The one thing that I have to say is worse in Sydney than in Dublin is the Airport. Twice I've flown out of Sydney, and twice I've spent three hours in queues and just made my flight. I thought they may have improved things over the last 5 years but it is exactly the same. If I ever take a flight from Sydney again I will aim to get to the airport at least 4 hours in advance.

So that was the end of my time in Australia. 2 and a half months was no where near enough time. I saw so much, met so many great people and learned so much. But no need to be sad, I'm going to go back. I still have to visit the West coast. It may be a few years but I will go back.

Sydney: 10-17 December
More photos on Flickr

Melbourne to Sydney

Melbourne to Sydney was the last Oz Experience bus that I took during my visit to Australia. Taking the bus around Australia was not part of my original plans made in Ireland but given the amount of time I had it was the best way to travel. Sure I could have spent a few extra weeks in cities and towns along the way if I had flown or taken direct buses. Perhaps I would have had time to fly over to Perth and Darwin and see those cities as well but when visiting a place like Australia the adventure is not visiting towns and cities, it's visiting the country between those urban centers. Not only did I get to see much more of Australia on the bus but I got to meet some great people as well. Sure, I met some ass holes but the vast, vast, majority of people I met were cool, fun and interesting. When was the last time you made friends with someone on a plane, played cards with the person across the aisle on a train, or introduced your self to a boat loads of strangers. Lets face it, putting 24 strangers on a mini bus together for 3 days and driving them through deserts, rainforest's and mountains will make for great adventures. I would recommend it to anyone.

The trip from Melbourne to Sydney was a three night trip. Like many of the Oz Experience buses they take 2 or 3 days to travel a route main stream busses do in 14 hours or so. The "Oz Bus" travels off the direct route, going to different parks and sights along the way, staying overnight in different and unusual places. On one bus I remember seeing a sign post for the destination town that said 380 Kilometers and after two days of travel we were over 400 Kms away on the last day of travel. As one of the buses said "for those who believe the journey is as important as the destination".

While for me this was the last leg of my trip but for others it was the first part of their journey and it was fun to be one of the experienced backpackers on the bus. There was a couple of us on the bus and we compared notes on our travels, finding out that we had met the same people, and then passed on tips on places to visit to people who had just arrived in Australia and had not finalized their trip plans yet.

This was also the first bus in the whole trip that was not full. Several of us managed to get rows to our selves and it was great to be able to stretch out and relax on the bus. I suppose the main down side of traveling on a minibus for 3 days is the lack of space, I did get used to being cramped but it was nice to have a little extra space. Also after spending two weeks with one group of people most of whom were German and Dutch it appeared that I had picked up a German accent. Funnly enough the other people on the bus thought I was German for most of the first day, and apparently it was several days before I completely lost the accent. How weird is that!

On the first day I got the bus at 6:30am and by 11am we were in a town called Foster which was where we would spend the night. We only stopped here to buy a packed lunch and then headed to Wilsons Promentary and the town of Tidal River. Wilsons Promentary is the most southerly point of the Australian mainland. We went looking for kangaroos and emus in fields near the road, there were lots. We then stopped at Norman lookout to take photographs and have lunch.

After that the guide dropped us at a beach carpark and told us he would meet us at the other end of Squeaky Beach. We walked down the path, turned left and walked for about 15 minutes. People were a bit concerned because the beach seemed a little deserted, we were walking towards what looked like a dead end, passing dead seals and the sand didn't squeak. Turns out we were actually on the wrong beach, Norman Beach. A quick about face and hike over a hill brought us to the correct beach, though we had wasted all the time we would have had to enjoy the scenery. One thing we did notice is yes the sand on Squeaky Beach does squeak as you walk on it. Next we went to another beach where there was supposed to be wombats but unfortunately they must have been hiding that day and we couldn't find any, which is a shame since wombats were pretty much the only Australian animal I have not seen in the wild. Then it was back to Foster and we went out to the bar that night where I tried to play ping-pong but found out that it's one sport that I have zero ability to play.

The next day we drove to Tarra Bulga Park rainforest where we did another rainforest walk. As I've mentioned before by now I was a little bored with rainforests :-). Afterwards we drove to a town called Straford on Avon to get lunch. I had fallen asleep on the bus and when I woke I looked out the window and saw what looked like ominous rain clouds. I asked the guide if it was raining and he pointed out that it was not rain clouds but was dense smoke from massive bush fires. The fires were 100 Kms away but the smoke completely covered the sky. It was only when you looked at the blood red sun through the smoke that you could see for sure that these were not rain clouds. Strangely there was no smell of smoke in the air. Apparently the road we had just traveled through was closed shortly afterwards because of the risk of fire.

That night we stayed in a Buddhist retreat up in the mountains where we did a meditation session. I was never taken with the idea of meditation. I don't know why, but I had never paid much attention to it and had never tried it. It wasn't what I expected, for starters there was no chanting and no closed eyes, I would have fallen asleep. We sat cross legged on cushions, staring ahead and listening to the instructor guiding us through the meditation. It was actually quite relaxing, until the peoples legs start to cramp. The center itself was almost deserted. We seemed to be the only bus present and some of the staff themselves were preparing to leave because one of the bush fires was approaching and there was a risk to the center.

In the morning the fire situation seemed a little better as the sky was now clear of smoke. We drove into the Snowy Mountains and into New South Wales. The Snowy Mountains are very rugged. They seem to have an almost America Wild West tradition demonstrated by a poem called "The man from Snowy Mountain" which was played for us on the bus. We stopped and went for a swim in the Snowy River and then went horse riding. That night we stayed in a town called Jindabyne and went out on the beer and on to a night club. It was a fun night that seemed to revolve around the girls fascination with a song called "The Picky Picky Song". Strange, strange night.

Next day we drove to Canberra. Everyone was more than a little hung over so a quiet visit to Parliament House was probably as much as most of us could manage, though the guide Joel seemed worried that we would do something to get ourselves arrested or thrown out. I don't know if thats based on his past experience or a genuine concern that we were a group that could do something unusual. I'd been to Canberra before and written it off as one of the most boring cities I'd ever been to. Not much had changed, though they did seem to have a new shopping mall where we got lunch. I found the Starbucks I'd been to 5 years earlier and got another coffee to help cure my hangover.

After that it was back onto the bus and on to Sydney. After over 2 months of travel I was finally back where I'd started.

Melbourne to Canbera and Sydney: 7-10 December
More photos on Flickr


Melbourne was another destination on my list of must visit places during my trip to Australia. When I was in Australia back in 2001 I stayed around New South Wales, apart from a quick trip to Canberra. During that visit several people apologized to me for Sydney being such an awful and dirty city and told me if I got the chance I should go to Melbourne. This piqued my curiosity as in my opinion Sydney was the nicest city I'd ever been to, and compared to Dublin was a gleaming, polished, modern city. Therefore now that I was back I made a point of arranging to have a week in Melbourne so that I could see the city properly.

While in Melbourne I stayed in King St Backpackers which was handy and close to the city center. I had booked it, and my hostel in Sydney weeks earlier while in Alice Springs and it was the first time in ages that I was in a hostel without anyone I knew. That was a little strange but it seemed like a nice hostel. I didn't really spend a lot of time there are I was out sight seeing or meeting friends most of the time.

Melbourne's public transport caught me a little off guard. Instead of having a subway system it had a tram system, all above ground. For some reason I thought there was an underground as well and I spent some time on the first day looking for it before I realized that the tram was what I was looking for. Melbourne's tram system is exactly what Dublin should be looking to do with the Luas system. While Melbourne is built on a grid layout which makes it easier to navigate than Dublin there is still a mix of cars and trams on the streets that prove it can be done without the regular accidents that bring the Luas system to a halt. The trams also have ticket machines on board cutting eliminating queues at the stops. Thats a good idea since I've missed several Luas trams while queuing behind change fumblers. If you have any questions about using the trams or anything else to do with Melbourne you can ask one of the City Ambassadors in their red outfits that wander the city center to provide advise. I'd say it would be nice to try that in Dublin but I don't know how long they would last.

I visited Melbourne Museum. This is a pretty typical Australian museum, but the building it is in is a lot nicer than most. They don't really have a lot of history to put on display so the majority of the museum is a natural history museum. It is a big museum with lots to see and a bizarre range of exhibits from dinosaurs to the human body and apple computers to Neighbors, which is filmed in Melbourne, apparently. Several people I knew in Melbourne headed to the Neighbors set on organized tours. I don't watch Neighbors and even though I saw a couple of episodes in hostel TV rooms there was no chance of me wasting my time, but the people who were fans seemed to like the tours, though their experience varied depending on whether or not filming was going on when they were there.

I went up to the Victoria Markets on another day and I have to say I was bored. It was all stalls selling clothes, cheap jewelry, nic nacs and other junk. I've never really liked those types of markets. There was a section dedicated to food which seemed like a good place to get good cheap ingredients but in general there wasn't much there for me. After that a group of us went to the Botanic Gardens and then to the Transport Bar for a drink. I really like the way Australian cities have large green areas within walking distance of the city center. It really adds to the quality of life in the city.

It was cool to have so many of the group that had traveled from Alice Springs to Adelaide back together again in Melbourne, several had followed a couple of days behind us. The best thing about being a backpacker is the people you meet, though the worst thing can be having to say good bye to them. Another fun thing about traveling abroad is meeting and spending time with people that I wouldn't normally meet. I didn't hang out with many Irish people while traveling, why travel to the other side of the world to meet the same people you meet at home? I found it more interesting to spend time with people from other countries.

Perhaps the nicest part of Melbourne that I visited was St Kilda. It reminded me a little of Cobh in Cork. It has a nice Sunday street market along the Esplanade selling arts and crafts, a beach, marina and lots of little shops and restaurants. While I was there a large part of the water was taken up with people kite surfing. It involves surfers using large kites to propel themselves along the water and looks like great fun. There is also an amusement park, similar to the Luna Park in Sydney.

Melbourne is indeed a lovely city. Is it nicer than Sydney? Well thats all a matter of opinion. Some people prefer Sydney, some Melbourne. You could compare the rivalry to that between Dublin and Cork, but thats a little misleading as it would be a little like comparing a rivalry between Jaguar and Aston Martin cars to a rivalry between Ladas and Trabants. Personally as a tourist I prefer Sydney but if I had to choose one to live in I think it wouldn't be a clear cut.

Melbourne: 1-7 Decemeber
More photos on Flickr

Great Ocean Road

Leaving Adelaide I was traveling onto Melbourne along The Great Ocean Road. Officially this was all part of the same 10 day trip Alice Springs to Melbourne but really it was a separate trip. Different bus, different driver and only 5 of the passengers from the last trip were on this trip with me.

This was a much quieter trip than the last one. For starters the driver was older than any of the other drivers I had met and insisted on calling us all “family”. This was nice, but did begin to grate with me after a while. For some reason there was a woman in her late 50s and her mother on the bus. I don't know who booked them on the Oz Bus but someone was taking the piss a little bit. They were lucky to be on a quiet bus. Also on a personal level I wasn't feeling well since the blisters I had picked up around Uluru had flared up and seemed to have gotten infected. In the end I had to soak them in disinfectant at night and stay off them. I should have done that days earlier but a couple of nights soaking my feet finally did the trick.

Our first stop was a town called Bordertown. It gets its name by being close to be on the border between South Australia and Victoria. The main reason we stopped here was to see white Kangaroos. Since 1963 they have bred white kangaroos in the towns wildlife park. They can never be left free into the wild and they are susceptible to skin cancer. They looks kind of sad and very weird. The guide was not too keen on them and wouldn't have stopped if it was up to her. When we crossed the border there was another of those crazy 30 minute time zone changes, Australians like doing things their own way and 30 minute time zones seem to be one of them. Add to that a seemingly random approach to changing the clock for summer time and you very quickly learn that when you finish a journey you check what time everyone has on their watches before making plans to meet up later, there are always a couple of people whose watches are stuck in another state.

Next we headed into the Grampian mountain range. We climbed Hollow Mountain (which isn't hollow) and went to see Mackenzie Falls. The view was pretty good from the top of the mountain but the more interesting sights were beside the paths. The Grampians had been hit by a bush fire at the start of the year and the ecology had not recovered yet. Lots of the trees are still charred and black. This is part of the natural cycle of things in Australia but seems very strange to see so much destruction and how quickly the nature can start to heal. We spent the night in the Asses Ears Wilderness Lodge which is names after the nearby Asses Ears Mountain. We played pool competitions. Everyone took it in turns to take one shot and had to sink a ball with that shot, fail and you loose one of your two lives. I came second with some truly lucky shots but failed to sink a relatively easy long pot at the end.

The next day we went to the Balconies which gave us a view of the valley below which had been destroyed in the bush fires. I couldn't help but think that the view from the balconies during the fire must have been amazing, especially at night. Deadly dangerous and destructive but amazing. Next we went to Brambuck National Park and to the cultural center to see a movie about Aboriginal legends. It was interesting but three of us missed the start having gone to the gift shop. I think the guide was a little annoyed at us, it felt a little like being on a school tour. Still this was a good place to buy good quality yet cheap souvenir boomerangs.

After that we finally arrived on the Great Ocean Road. In one long drive we saw the Bay of Islands, Bay of Martyrs, Peterborough beach, London Bridge, The Arch and The 12 Apostles, stopping at each for a few minutes and to take lots and lots of photographs of the ocean views. This lived up to all my expectations, its a lovely coastline and anyone with a panoramic camera and time to spare could get some amazing photographs there. We went to the hostel, had dinner and then went back to The 12 Apostles to see the sunset. Initially I thought that it was a poor sunset but when I looked at the photographs later I was quite pleased with the results. Afterwards I went to bed early feeling ill but the others stayed up having a few drinks and seemed to have had a good time.

Next morning we went to the Loch Ard Gorge. This is named after the Loch Ard, a ship that was wrecked off Mutton Bird Island in 1878. There were only two survivors, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael, both were 18 and from Ireland, though Tom was poor member of the crew and Eva was a rich passenger. Tom swan back out into the stormy sea to save her and they sheltered in a cave that night. The media at the time thought it would be great for paper sales if the two got married, but social etiquette of the time thought otherwise. It was like the Titanic movie of it's day, and had about as happy an ending. Apparently they stayed in contact but married other people. Loch Ard Gorge itself is impressive, a circular bay and beach with a small entrance to the sea. Nearby is the Loch Ard cemetery though they only recovered 5 bodies.

After the Gorge we went to the local helicopter field where I got to take a flight in a helicopter over The 12 Apostles. Mental note, before getting into an 8 minute helicopter ride over one of the most amazing coastlines in the world check that there is space left on the camera memory card. Still it was amazing and I did manage to get some nice photographs and anyway photographs are just a record of the event. You have to experience the event as well as photograph it so sometimes it's nice to have the camera out of action. I always wanted to fly in a helicopter and I have to say it was great fun and a lot smoother than I expected. I'd love to be able to fly one, they are much more interesting than planes.

Next we headed to Otway Range national park and the rainforest canopy walk. Bit dull really. At this stage in my trip around Australia I'd seen more rainforests than I knew existed so the novelty of them had worn off and this rainforest didn't catch my interest, especially when compared to tropical ones like the Daintree up at Cape Tribulation. The canopy walk is a set of metal walkways through the canopy which sounded more interesting than it really was. It was a little too safe, all enclosed with no need for harnesses, helmets, or anything that could possibly have made it fun. Finally we drove to Apollo Bay, Koala Cove (yes there were koalas) and Bells Beach, a famous surfing beach. A short distance outside Melbourne we stopped at Torquay and the “Surf Capital” clothing and outlet mall. We only had a short amount of time there but that was enough for me. Girls would love the shops, but we only had half an hour so only a couple of people bought anything. We got to Melbourne at 7:30pm which was probably the latest any of the buses I was on got to their final destination.

Overall the trip was a little dull really, perhaps after coming through places like Uluru and Coober Pedy I was a little spoiled, but the Great Ocean Road itself was worth seeing. As a bonus I heard that several of the others who had stayed behind in Adelaide had decided to come to Melbourne on an overnight bus since they couldn't get accommodation in Adelaide, had run out of things to do there anyway and were surrounded by English cricket fans.

Great Ocean Road Trip: 29 Nov - 1 Dec
More Photos on Flickr


On our first night in Adelaide most of us were staying in Canon Street Backpackers. After weeks traveling from Cairns to Adelaide this was a really nice hostel. Large with lots of rooms, internet access and nearby bars. It was like being back on the East Coast again. Our first night we ate in the hostel “restaurant”. Most hostels have restaurants but they are really just canteens serving mass produced food. Still it was nice to be able to eat food and not have to help prepare, tidy up or wash up afterwards. Plus Canon gives free apple pie, it's amazing how easy it is to bribe backpackers into thinking a hostel is the greatest place on earth :-) We spent the night playing pool and drinking in the bar.

The next day I headed into town with several of the others. Adelaide is Australia's 5th largest city with a population similar to Dublin so there is plenty to see and do. Several people described it as a mini version of Melbourne. I had not been to Melbourne at the time but having now seen both I'd have to agree. It seemed small and friendly, like a more laid back version of Brisbane. I only had one full day in the city so I didn't get to see a lot of it outside the city center area but it did seem nice, I'd like to have spent more time there.

One thing I did have on my to-do list was to go get myself an iPod. At this stage I had almost filled my 5 GB of memory cards for my camera and that was after burning 4 GB of photographs to DVD and sending copies home. I had close to 9 GB of photographs and a serious risk of loosing them. Lots of other backpackers had iPods which they used to store all their photographs with the pictbridge cables. I had decided to buy one but when I got to the shops I found that the 30 GB Toshiba S30 gigabeat cost the same, but came with all the necessary accessories like power cable, radio and photography cable, which would cost another Aus$150. This was really handy as it allowed me to save copies of my photos in a small unit that I could keep with me at all times. Perfect. Apart from a poor battery life I have to say I like the gigabeat.

That night was my second and last in Adelaide. I went over to China Town and got noodles in a fast food restaurant called Dumpling King. I mention it because for $6.80 I got a huge plate of noodles and a flask of green tea which was easily one of the cheapest meals I had in Australia and far far nicer than the usual stuff served up in hostels as free meals or $5 dollar meals..

Later I sat with my German friends who introduced me to other Germans as Elton, the German comedian. Yes, apparently I am the double for a television comedian called Elton. In fact some of them just nicknamed me Elton and I took to answering to the name. They meant it in a nice friendly way but it must have confused the hell out of some other Germans who wondered why “Elton” couldn't speak German and had a funny Irish accent. I've got to find out who this guy is, one of the group said he would send my photograph to the comedians show, last year they held an Elton look a like competition and they might do something similar this year. God help me, but at least I'd get a free trip to Germany and I promised to invite the Germans. I want to look into learning German, after all it is embarrassing that I can only speak English. My friends would apologize to me when they spoke to each other in German in front of me, but as I pointed out I'm the rude one who hasn't bothered to learn a second language, at least not properly.

I was getting on the Oz bus again the next morning to do the Great Ocean Road and was disappointed that I had not planned on spending more time in Adelaide. That said I would not have has the option to stay longer since the Ashes were coming to town the next day and every hostel in town was now booked up in advance as hordes or English cricket fans descended on the town. It might have been cool to see the Ashes, but since each game goes on for 5 days (apart from when Australia really kick England off the field) I wasn't keen to waste that much time and certainly wasn't keen to spend the guts of a week with the barmy army.

Adelaide: 27-29 November
More photos on Flickr

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ceremonial Democracy?

The Irish Examiner reported today that there are plans to replace the current Dáil and Seanad chambers with €100 million "high-tech" ones.
Reports this morning say proposals have been put forward that would see the current chambers used only for ceremonial purposes and new high-tech facilities constructed for day-to-day busines
I haven't been able to find these "reports" so I have a couple of questions.

  • If they keep the two chambers for "ceremonial" purposes, does that mean that new ones will be constructed elsewhere? There is not a lot of space around Leinster House where new buildings could be constructed. Will they move the day-to-day business of Parliament out of Dublin city center? While I personally wouldn't mind moving most of the current set of TD's to an oil rig in the North Atlantic and then removing it from all maps, I do believe that a government and parliament should be in the capital city, it is after all traditional.
  • What do they mean by "high-tech facilities"? Will there actually be new chambers or will all issues now be dealt with at committee and civil servant level? With the Dail Deputies meeting only for ceremonies?
  • Are we looking at the prospect of Dail Deputies "working" from home? It's bad enough when many of them took a vow of silence for the last 5 years but if they didn't even have to show up in Parliament in the first place why the hell are we paying them?

If the current Dail Deputies don't like the current facilities and if they don't want the hassle of meeting just 96 times a year they will have the opportunity to do something about it in the summer. They can stand aside at the next election and let people who want to take part in real democracy take their seats.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Photography Course and Soccer Match

I started a new photography course tonight. The first class was pretty much a rehash of previous courses covering aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, exposure e.t.c. all the basics. We finally finished tonights class with a brief introduction to Photoshop which I believe will be the focus of the next 3 weeks. I'm looking forward to those classes, I want a proper start in how to use Photoshop. Usually when I open Photoshop, I look at all the different options and decide, "to hell with this" and just close it down.

Of course it did mean that I missed tonights soccer match. That didn't bother me, after all the Republic of Ireland should have no trouble beating San Marino. The only question was how many goals would we score. Dear God, how wrong was I. It sounds like it was the worst ever performance by an Irish sporting team. 2-1 to Ireland with the winning goal scored in the 4th minute of extra time. I havent seen any highlights of the match but I dont understand how Ireland could have done so badly, it just doesnt seem possible. Did we actually have a full team on the field?

No Snow

When my radio alarm clock woke me this morning the news was just coming to an end and the traffic report came on. Imagine my delight as the AA warned that snow had fallen and conditions were difficult for drivers. I walk to work so I don't care how bad things get for cars. I was looking forward to a walk through the snow and the chance of some nice photographs .

Unfortunately with my first peek out the window I realized there was no snow outside. Green grass with a little amount of frost, but not snow. When I finished my shower the radio was once again informing me of last nights snow fall. This time I took a proper look out the window, perhaps I'd been mistaken the first time. Nope, still no snow. I felt a little cheated, it's been years since I saw a decent fall of snow.

Now tonight the media is telling me there will be heavy snow falling tonight, possibly up to a whole 3cm. I don't know if I should believe them. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Vista and MP3 players

Looks like several MP3 players from at least 4 different companies are having problems with Vista. First Apple told iPod users to hold off on upgrading to Vista until they update iTunes because the current iTunes on Vista could corrupt the iPod. Now Samsung, Cowon, and iRiver are telling users that some of their players are incompatible with Vista and they need to release firmware upgrades.

Thats crazy, first of all why didn't the companies test their MP3 players on the Beta release of Vista or even the Business release that came out a couple of months ago and have the upgrades ready to ship the same day Vista shipped? Secondly why didn't Microsoft test Vista against MP3 players, especially the iPod? Did the fact that they now sell the Zune mean they were not worried about other MP3 players and if so is that not anti-competitive?

If MP3 players have problems I wonder what other devices will have problems. I have a Fuji S9500 digital camera, a Sony Ericson K800i mobile phone, and a Toshiba gigabeat s30 mp3 player all of which I regularly connect to my computer. If I had the opportunity to upgrade my OS and any of those devices wouldn't work with Vista then I'd blame Vista not the devices and I'd just stay with XP.

All patients are equal in Irish Hospitals

As a medical consultants representative said tonight on Prime Time, public and private patients are treated equally by the Irish health system. Neither group can get into hospital for elective surgery. I think she was trying to be sarcastic but it so close to the truth it shouldn't be joked about.

Want decent medical treatment? Get sick abroad.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Drug testing TDs?

Should Dail Deputies be drug tested? Enda Kenny called for school kids to be drug tested and now Damien Mulley has started, or maybe he is just publicising, is pointing to an online petition to have Dail Deputies drug tested as well.

I actually think this is a good idea. After all these people ask us to put our faith in them to run the country, decide national and international policy and spend billions of tax payers money while half of them look hung over on a daily basis. Massive levels of psychedelic drugs abuse could be the only explanation several of the projects that we have paid for over the last few years.

If enough people sign it then it could make for an interesting and potentially embarrassing question to be addressed by politicians in the run up to the election.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Super Bowl and Muslim names

Just watching the Super Bowl on ITV. Did I hear it right? Did the the crowd just boo Muhsin Muhammad of the Chicago Bears when his name was called out? What was that about?

Is there a history there or was it just because he has a Muslim name? If it is because of his name would they boo anyone based on their name, say for example Muhammad Ali? Will Barack Obamas name really be an election loosing issue in the 2008 Presidential race? How messed up is that? Someone, please tell me I'm wrong.

Right now I'm supporting the Chicago Bears because I want to see Muhsin Muhammad lift the Vince Lombardi trophy, something those who just booed him will never get to do.

[Update 23:55]
They did it again. Muhammad just scored a touch down and they booed him. Bastards. The commentators have not mentioned it but it is kind of obvious and other bloggers2 have3 mentioned1 it as well. Come on the Bears!

[Update 00:04]
Here are some stats on Muhsin
Muhsin Muhammad #87 Wide Receiver Chicago Bears
Height: 6-2 Weight: 215
Born: May 5, 1973 - Lansing, Michigan
College: Michigan State
Draft: 1996 - 2nd round (13th pick) by the Carolina Panthers

His religion shouldn't be an issue, official web sites don't mention his religion, as well they shouldn't, but Wikipedia says he is Christian. update: A MySpace site claiming to be his lists his religion as Muslim. But like I say his religion shouldnt be an issue.

[Update 00:10]

I'm getting lots of hits to my blog with people searching for "booing mushin muhammad". Looks like lots of other people noticed it as well.

[Update: 00:18]
It has been pointed out by Paul in the comments (and I found mentioned on a site that claims to be Mushin Muhammads own MySpace site) that his nickname is "Moose" which I suppose could be what the crowd are shouting? I'd have to hear it again to know for sure. I hope that is the case.

[UDATE: 01:46]
I heard it again. I'm 90% sure that it is not, repeat NOT booing, but instead the fans are chanting "mooooosssee". The commentators mentioned it as well confirming this. So my sincere apologies to the fans! I should have known better.

[Update: 3:00]
Congrats to the Indianapolis Colts for winning 29-17. Time for bed now.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Need Vista?

BBC's technology program Click have done a report on Vista explaining whats new, what it does and do you need it. It's clear, to the point and interesting. Lets just say, I wont be upgrading until I'm forced to by buying a new laptop.

You can see the report here on the BBC website, resolution is a bit low but you'll get the idea.

Bird Flu in Suffolk

BBC News just reported that there is an outbreak of H5 bird flu in Suffolk in England. Officials are doing more tests to find out if it is H5N1 the strain that can infect humans. Defra in the UK is where the official information comes from.

1000 turkeys have already died and 160,000 are to be culled. Hmm, coming so close to Christmas that's a bad 2 months to be a turkey.

Update: It's H5N1.

Sky News have a map of the world showing places where there have been outbreaks of Bird Flu. It shows Northern Ireland as having had an outbreak because Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom just like England where Suffolk is. An outbreak of Bird Flu in turkeys on a farm in England being extended to the United Kingdom is a bit unfair on Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland. Suffok is about as far from Northern Ireland as you can get and still be in the United Kingdom. Also the farm was supposed to be a "biologically secure farm" to prevent the spread of bird flu, so it is possible that the infection came in on infected material rather than wild birds.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Disenfranchised Part II

After almost being removed from the Register of Electors last year, along with 19,000 other people living in the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council area, I decided it would be a good idea to check the register online this evening. It was supposed to have been updated and made official today. Guess what, despite reassurances that people would not be removed I don't seem to be on the register.

At least, I should say, the online search fails to find me. I do suspect that the search is not working at all so I will have to call into the Gardai station to check the official paper based register. It's a bit annoying because it means either I have been removed despite the councils promises, or yet another Government IT project isn't working properly (I'll wait a few weeks before calling it a failure).

I'd recommend that anyone who wants to vote in the next election should check the register, soon.

Good nights ahead in Coppers?

I saw the headline today that said "Nurses set to be allowed prescribe medicines". The first thought that popped into my mind was, "Wow, Copper Face Jacks will be an interesting place after this".

Speaking of Coppers, I'm going to a stag later this month, eh Keith (the Stag) if you are reading this what do you think, for old times sake? ;-)

Irish VAT rate is "extortionate" says Sony Manager

Anyone looking forward to the long awaited, and delayed, release of Sonys new Playstation 3 in Europe and Ireland should by now know that the price that has been announced is on bit on the high side. To be honest it's on the "I'm not paying that, piss off, there will be a price drop in a few months anyway" side of high.

Now it's not just Irish gamers who are weeping into their piggy banks and eyeing the local securicore van with evil intent in their eyes. Gamers in the UK have also been complaining about the pricing, where they have to pay £425 RRP compared to £300 RRP in the US and £250 RRP in Japan.

Todays Guardian has taken up the cause of the geeks and have an interview with Ray Maguire, Sony Computer Entertainment's UK managing director. It's full of the usual market waffle to explain differences between US, Asian and European releases of anything electronic, VAT and tax being the main culprit.

Interestingly though, when talking about tax, Ray is quoted as saying
Maguire adds that VAT varies from "lesser" rates in mainland Europe to an "extortionate" one in Ireland (update: 21%). Which does, at least, explain why the PlayStation 3 will cost €629 (£415) in Ireland as opposed to €599 (£395) in continental Europe.

So who says we are a low tax nation? When electronics companies start to refer to Irish tax rates as "extortionate" you have to wonder just how badly is the Government screwing us? Still I'm sure the rest of Europe can take comfort in the fact that Sony can point at Ireland and say "see, they are worse off than you, so stop whining and pay the money".

[Via The Guardian]