Monday, April 30, 2007

O'Leary Plasters Clonskeagh

Cllr Jim O'Leary is really keen on getting the vote of Clonskeagh residents. So keen in fact he has covered the place in posters. Two on most polls at the junctions. Obviously his campaign has too much money and too little sense.

Election slogan

Following up from my earlier post the city is now covered in election posters. I see Fianna Fails generic poster is once again a picture of Bertie but with the slogan "Now, The Next Steps". I have to say it's no "A lot done, more to Do" of the last election.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

My Vote

The election has finally been called and like greyhounds leaping from the traps to chase a hare every candidate is after your vote, desperate to catch you but I cant help but suspect that like any greyhound race the one that stands to loose most is the hare. Who will I vote for? Well I grew up in a Fianna Fail family so the idea of voting for anyone else was bizarre. Now, for the sake of the party I think a clean out at the top is needed and I'd welcome time in opposition.

For 10 years people like Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen, Martin Cullen, Willie O'Dea, or the PDs Mary Harney and Michael McDowell have existed in a parallel universe, detached from normal life and protected from the everyday worries of the voters. They will tell you they understand life in their Ireland, but when was the last time any of them took a bus to work? Spent 2 hours in a traffic jam commuting to work. Queued at check in and security in Dublin Airport? Paid for a train ticket? Waited in A&E for hours? Slept on a hospital trolley in a corridor? Had to travel without a Garda driver to watch over them? Had to ask a bank for a mortgage? Had to worry about interest rate increases? Had to wait on hold to ask an eircom customer agent why their local exchange doesn't support broadband?

These people tell us all that life in Ireland is wonderful, all thanks to them of course, yet the longer they stay in power the more detached they become from the nation they govern. The more they believe that quality of life is measured in euros and stock options. The more they believe that theirs is the normal life.

So who will I vote for? Well I haven't decided who is getting my vote, but I know who isn't.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Poor Clonmel

Why don't I ever hear anything good about my old home town of Clonmel in the news these days? It's not a bad place it just seems to be going through a bad patch in the news lately. Today it is because a woman was killed in a suspicious fire and there are reports that some wheelie bins around the town had earlier been set alight. The speculation is that a bin fire spread to a car which exploded and set the victim's house alight.

It sounds like a prank that got out of control. It's a tragedy, and it is an over the top prank that cant be excused but I doubt anyone set out to deliberately burn down a house. That said the town does seem rought than I remember. This article describes some of it but I heard more last time I was home. It sounds like some local kids are basically travelling in gangs and consider themselves above the law.

On Saturday Clonmel town centre came to a standstill when a gang of uniformed youths took over the Main Guard area. Eye witnesses said weapons were produced and spoke of 'a violent clash'.

The previous Saturday, St. Patrick Day, the town centre was the scene of another shocking incident when young men stole weapons from a pet shop and later brandished them on the streets of Clonmel.

The town Mayor commented

Cllr. Prendergast said there should be more police patrols on the streets of Clonmel, a more visible presence to deter such activity. She also called for more resources to be channelled into housing estates to provide facilities that would establish an outlet for the energies of the young people involved in that type of behaviour.

Despite what Cllr Prendergast says it's not like the kids in Clonmel can complain about the lack of facilities in the town today. "There's no facilities" is just the automatic excuse when people dont want to stir things up. I know this sounds like I'm an old fogey but in my opinion the town has come on along way since the 1980s and 1990s when I was growing up there.

For years the cinema was closed, McDonalds would have been a family from Scotland, a coffee shop was some place with a jar of nescafe and a kettle, the best bookshop in town had about 4 shelves and 100 books, the best disco was two miles outside the town, a "playstation" used cassette tapes to store the games which you couldn't buy in town and the cable company wouldn't come down some roads unless every house agreed to sign up. It was a quiet town sometimes but we didn't cause trouble like what happened above. We had fun but we knew if we crossed the line we'd get into the shit with our parents, the neighbours and even the school principal would give you a bollocking if you misbehaved outside school.

Today the town is almost a small city with every possible facility to keep kids amused and yet some still join gangs, loot shops (that's how it was described to me), take over parts of the main street, attack passing cars, burn bins, cars and possible houses and people will still excuse their behaviour. When will we learn that bad kids don't always become good kids if you give them a pat on the head and put up some goal posts? Sometimes a little fear of punishment goes a long way to keeping people on the straight and narrow.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Embarrassing the Government

Pity poor Bertie. Years of dedicated service to the people of Ireland and we still do things that embarrass him. How thoughtless of us. Yesterday during a debate in the Dáil he was asked about the fiasco of e-voting machines.

Mr Ahern countered: “If this House did not want to play politics with the issue, we would not be the laughing stock of Europe by carrying out a vote for two million people by using pencils. A ridiculous situation.”

Well, it was his government that ignored concerns about the security of e-voting machines and paid €52 million for them. They were then used in just two elections, and have been sitting in storage ever since. The public had been under the misguided notion that the then Environment Minister, Martin Cullen, was the one who was responsible for the failure of the project. Turns out we were all wrong. You see the failure had nothing to do with the people responsible for the project itself. It was all the fault of the opposition parties because they, shudder, "objected".

He told the Opposition: “It was your fault because you objected to it. If you had taken a mature attitude to the e-voting system that worked particularly well in the last two elections, but politically you didn’t agree with it and got a few people in to find flaws with it.

How evil of them! Finding flaws in e-voting machines. Sush don't tell anyone, maybe we can sell them to some other country where the opposition and public are less diligent. Perhaps after the next election we could have the opposition Deputies bound and gagged before they enter the Dáil Chamber? That should make things easier for Bertie. Though it would appear he is already thinking along those lines.

“It is an embarrassment. I do hope that in the next Dáil that we’re able to rid ourselves of the horrendous difficulties we have in trying to be a modern country.”

So, Bertie is embarrassed that we are voting with pencils. Well, we have used those pencils to vote him into power for the last 10 years so if he feels that embarrassed by the whole process he can simply remove his name from those old fashioned paper ballot sheets and perhaps move to a country where such tedious problems have been already been overcome. May I suggest North Korea?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Coke Zero

I'm not a big coke drinker, personally I'd prefer a glass of cold water to a glass of cola or any fizzy drink, diet or otherwise. Still, my attention was caught by the recent arrival of Coke Zero.

Today at lunch we speculated that Coke Zero was really just Diet Coke re-badged and stuck in a black can to appeal to men. We bought a can of each and put them into two glasses for people to taste. The taste difference is very noticeable! To us casual consumers Coke Zero does taste more like full fat cola. Hard to describe really, I guess where Diet Coke is a little sickly fake sweet to my taste buds Coke Zero just tastes like a sugared drink, despite not having any sugar in it.

Opinion was divided but I prefer Coke Zero to Diet Coke. Though I doubt I'll be drinking much of it anyway. Now, where is my bottle of water...?

Alien Life

The big news of the day is the fact that astronomers believe they have found an Earth like planet 20.5 light years from our own. The mean temperature on the planet is 0 to 40 degrees Celsius which means water could flow on it's surface which means the conditions could exist for life.

I have to wonder, if there is life on the planet and if it is intelligent and advanced have they noticed us? If so what could they think about us? Maybe the TV listings from 1980s would help them decide.

They have just watched humanity fight off one alien invasion and are just starting to watch a typical suburban family protect another cat eating alien. The man destined to be the worlds greatest intelligence agent has just started down the path to international spy by doing a little bit of private investigation while former soldiers turned PIs enjoy the sun and drive Ferraris in Hawaii. But should they plan to attack our puny little planet they now know that you should never lock a team of 4 humans in a barn with a bus, a stack of air cannisters, some metal sheets and a welder.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Someones made a movie about one of the towns I visited on my travels in Australia. Jindabyne is a little town in the Snowy Mountains between Melbourne and Sydney. The premise of the movie seems to be about a murder and the strange behaviour of people in the town after the body is discovered.

Having been there I have to say it's not the strangest place I visited in Australia, but I can kind of understand the idea of the local people starting to go a little crazy. It's a nice town to visit, but I imagine that for the locals things can get a little quiet. Plus, maybe it's just me, but if you destroy an old town and build a new one somewhere else giving the new town the same name as the old one just seems unluky if you don't add "New" to the name. When old Jindabyne was flooded they should have built "New Jindabyne".

But the madness is not limited to the locals, I even remember some of the people on the bus doing some strange things a few hours after getting there, namely Adrianna, Rachel, Jenny, Ian and their reaction to the "Picky Picky song". But sure what goes on tour stays on tour...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Best weather forecast

Jeremy Paxman doing the weather forecast. Very funny.

See The Dossing Times for more Paxman classics.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Jaysis, someone is making a Smurfs movie. Scary. I hope it's proper animation and not CGI or live action. Though I wonder who would play Smurfette, I'd vote for Britney Spears.

Take the train from Cardiff to New York

The Russian Government is proposing the construction of a tunnel from Siberia to Alaska under the Beiring Strait. It may seem fanciful but it would only be 64 miles long which is just over twice as long as the Channel Tunnel which is 31 miles long. It would cost $10 billion to $12 billion (yeah, I'd say take that with a grain of salt and multiply by at least 5) and it would take 10 to 15 years to build.

Imagine how cool it would be to travel by land from Cardiff to New York! Probably by train, but I'm sure some people would try to drive it. Hell, some crazy people might even try it by foot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Irish alcohol consumption

The amount of alcohol consumed by Irish adults has fallen by 7% in the last 5 years. That does seem to echo the lamentations of Irish publicans who now seem to be spending a lot of their time demanding government funding for schemes to funnel more people into pubs while putting up the price of a pint every time a glass breaks.

I for one am glad to see the amount of alcohol consumed in Ireland falling, I'm sure most people not working in the pub trade probably are glad. Still I was actually surprised at the figures quoted in the story.

In 2001, 14.45 litres of alcohol were consumed per adult (defined as 15 years and older), while in 2006 that figure reduced to 13.48 litres.

Figures were based on information supplied by the Revenue Commissioners and the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The internet tells me that 13.48 litres equals 23.72 pints. Maybe I've read that wrong but over the space of a year 23.72 pints amounts to less than one pint a week? Less than 2 pints a month? I think someone must be fiddling the Revenue books if they think the average consumption is less than 2 pints a month. The story reads like a press release from the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) so I suspect its a case of "lies, damn lies and statistics".

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hot Car

Read this today on
A car enthusiast who "got a bargain too good to be true" after he bought an Alfa Romeo car for €18,000 less than its value "from a man called 'Damo' in a pub" has received an 18 month suspended sentence.
What can you say? What a muppet, but you almost have to feel sorry for him. For that poor chaps own safety he should be banned from using a computer and accessing sites like ebay. :-)

Gun Control Logic

Pro and anit gun lobby spokespeople seem to be all over the media explaining that if the students in Virginia Tech had their own guns then yesterdays tragedy would not have happened. Ok, I'm not anti-gun or anything like it but the idea of 25,000 students walking around campus with guns stuns me. There has to be a better solution than a national mexican standoff. On the other hand the idea of banning all guns in America and hoping everyone hands over their weapons, leading to the creation of a crime free and peaceful utopia is equally unrealistic. The problem is the two sides in the gun control debate are so polarized that they don't seem able to compromise. Thank god we dont have those problems in Ireland, yet.

Monday, April 16, 2007

€1 Bus fare

The election may still not have been called but for months now the political parties have been coming out with all kind of promises as part of their attempt to buy the votes of the Irish public. Most of these promises are daft, big bang, headline grabbing ideas like slashing the tax rate, scrapping stamp duty, providing hundreds of new hospital beds in every town or building Luas lines down every road in Dublin, Cork and Galway. The more they promise, the less we will actually get.

Today someone has promised something that made me think, "Oh? Well that makes sense!". Labour has proposed the introduction of a standard €1 euro fare on Dublin Bus. That's a good simple idea and should be easy to introduce after the election, assuming of course that they provide extra buses to meet demand. Public transport has never been high on the priority of the Irish Government. Projects like the Luas start big and end small, serving a minimum number of people at a maximum cost to the tax payer and the user. Meanwhile for private car transport it seems like there has never been a town that couldn't be bypassed or a motorway that couldn't be expanded.

I'll admit that one little proposal makes me more likely to throw a vote towards a Labour candidate than any number of tax cut or stamp duty bandwagon proposals. Now that everyone involved in the election has promised the same set of big give aways we may see small realistic items more likely to impact people on a day to day basis.

Photos from new camera

Went into town on Saturday and tried snapping some photos using my new camera and a Sigma 70-300 macro lens. I've never really tried to take macro photos before but I have to say I was really pleased with the results. Granted it was a bright and sunny day in Dublin but the pictures seem sharper and the color better than any I've gotten with the Fuji. I've put more photos up on Flickr.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New camera, again

I've been debating for months whether or not I should get a proper Digital SLR. I have other cameras, but a D-SLR and a number of good lenses provides more flexibility than any non-SLR camera can, regardless of how good it is. Unfortunately even the basic ones are expensive pieces of kit, especially the new ones with the extra features like sensor cleaning and anti-shake. €899 seemed to be a pretty good price for what I was looking at. Then, as I mentioned in a previous post, I discovered that the sensor cleaning mechanisms on the new cameras didn't work properly and a simple blower works better. With that fact came the option to buy an older model that was being flogged off cheap(ish).

Last weekend I wandered into town, had a look around and ended up buying a Canon 350D for €599. I'd like to say it was an impulse buy but at this stage I'd been in and out of the camera shops staring at Digital SLRs and the bundle offers so many times that the staff probably thought I was some weird obsessive compulsive. In the end I opted for the simple one lens kit since one shop assistant had told me to stop being stupid about getting a high spec camera with extra poor quality lenses in the box. Instead I should just find a cheap basic model camera and buy a good lens to go with it. I might not have bought the camera in his shop (Camera Exchange on George Street) but I will be going back there to get a lens or two.

Later someone asked me how many cameras I now own. I never dump cameras, strange but I just don't. I'm a gadget nut so over time I've built quite a collection without even realising it. Two digital compacts, two film compacts, two phones with cameras (my Sony Ericsson k800i is my new compact general use out around town camera as well as my phone), a film SLR (Sigma SA7), the Fuji s9500 bridge camera and now a Canon 350D D-SLR. Hmm, I think I need a cheaper hobby. :-)

So far though I haven't had a lot of time to play with it I'm quite impressed with the Canon. It has enough extra little bits and pieces features wise to keep me entertained for a long while. It is smaller that the other two cameras (as you can see from the photo) which makes it feel a little strange in my hand but I'll get used to it. The lens that came with it is acceptable for general use though I hope to get another one or two soon. The one thing I found odd is the fact that there was no compact flash card in the box. There was an offer to send off for one but that had expired. Many cameras come with some token amount of memory in the box so people can start playing straight away. Fortunately I've got 5 GB of compact flash for the Fuji so I just put one of the cards into the Canon when I left the shop. I got a "free" bag with the camera, it's a generic Canon bag and not very good. That's going to hold the Sigma I think and the Sigmas bag will end up holding the Canon.

I'm hoping to take the Fuji and the Canon out at the weekend and do a comparison, though I need to pick up a lens for the Canon first to match the lens range of the Fuji.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Irish Air Corp

The Irish Air Corp was flying over Dublin on Easter Sunday as part of the 1916 commemoration. I think they were our new Pilatus PC-9M planes.

Now if we could only get Lloyd George and his World War I cabinet to send the troops in again we'd give them a right old pasting. :-)

The wall is gone?

It's interesting how a symbol of state tyranny and oppression can be hated and eventually destroyed by the people but then years later it's remains could be protected by the people and destroyed by the state.

One of the last pieces of the Berlin Wall was removed at the weekend by the German government to make room for the construction of the new environment ministry. Ironic that they would remove the Berlin Wall for an Environment Ministry since I once heard that the wall contained of asbestos.

Anyway, the government decided to remove the slab over the Easter weekend because they hoped people wouldn't notice. Unfortunately for them tourists like to visit the wall and were a bit confused by it's sudden disappearance. It took a couple of days for the government to admit that they had removed the wall but they now claim that it will be integrated into and on display in the new building.

It's a strange world sometimes.

[via The Guardian]

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Prison survey have a story about a survey conducted by TNS/MRBI on issues related to the prison system. The story seems to be based on a press release from the Irish Penal Reform Trust but it doesn't say if the survey was conducted on their behalf.

IPRT say that the results of the survey show that
  • 91% of respondents believe offenders with mental illness should be treated in a mental health facility instead of being sent to prison.
  • 81% believe offenders with a drug addiction should be placed in drug recovery programmes instead of serving a prison sentence.
  • 74% are in favour of using alternatives to prison when dealing with young offenders.
Now I'm not sure but to me those numbers seem a little high. 91% of people in favor of anything as divisive as prisons and law reform would make me wonder how the question was phrased. After all most pollsters can get at least 50% of those surveyed to agree that it would be a good idea to shoot their own grandmothers and feed the body to the crows if they have phrased the questions correctly. Then vested interests can go ahead and claim 50% of people are in favour of euthanasia and recycling.

Still the issue I feel most annoyed at is the idea that 81% of people in Ireland believe that offenders with "a drug addiction" should be placed in drug recovery programs instead of serving a prison sentence? Really? 81%? So if a drug addict attacks someone with a syringe of blood to get some money for their next hit, 81% of people think we should just send him to rehab with all the celebrities? If a junkie breaks into their house ransacks through their prized possessions and family memories they believe that the offender should receive an arm around the shoulder and a nice chat? If someone high on cocaine slams his car into one of their children they believe he should sit in a circle and announce how many days it has been since his last hit of cocaine? I doubt it.

I'm not saying every offender should go to jail for life but I don't believe the current system where people walk the streets with 70 or 80 convictions is working. I also don't believe that prisons are properly run or suitable for purpose but lets fix the prisons not release the prisoners. Make prisons strict, well managed, clean, and drug free and lets build more prisons to reduce over crowding before shrugging our shoulders and finding spurious reasons not send to criminals to jail.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

McDowel poster

Last Sunday, the 1st of April i.e. April Fools Day I read a story in the Sunday Independent telling readers that the Progressive Democrats had put up a billboard poster outside a train station in Dublin that misspelled Michael McDowells name using one l instead of two, so it said "Michael McDowel". Being April Fools day I assumed this was just the Independents lame attempt at a joke including a photoshopped picture. Turns out it wasnt a joke at all.

I was walking through Rathmines last night and what should I see but a "Michael McDowel" poster. Woops. :-)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

New 2 Euro Coin

Just saw a new Irish €2 coin from 2007 minted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. The front of the coins looks the same but on the back the Harp, which as far as I know has been a feature of the vast majority of Irish coins since the foundation of the State, has been replaced by a book representing the Treaty of Rome. (A few coins in 1966 appear to have had Patrick Pearse instead of the Harp)

I guess that means it's a pretty accurate of Ireland's current relationship with the EU :-)

Lightbulb levy

The government woosed out and decided to place a levy on incandescent light bulbs as part of its new climate change strategy. If they had been as ambitious as they were a few years ago when they introduced the plastic bag tax then they would have followed the lead of Australia, Cuba and Venezuela by just banning the bulbs outright. It may sound like a big leap but the EU will ban them anyway in the next few years so why couldn't the Irish Government take the lead?

It may be an election issue. They may be afraid of annoying voters with accusations of a nanny state, but I think announcing an ambitious policy on climate change sounds a lot better than announcing a new tax .

Aer Lingus selling exit row seats

Once the pride of Irish tourism Aer Lingus is rapidly nose diving down to the level of Ryanair where seats are sold for €0.02 but end up costing nearly €50 when you take into account taxes and charges as a friend of mine found out recently when he bought tickets for himself, his wife and their baby on Ryanair for €0.04 but ended up paying €116 for when all the charges were taken into account. I must get the breakdown of the charges, it's shocking, he gave me a copy of it and said I should blog about it. It is a bit like going to a supermarket buying a loaf of bread for €0.01 but then being charged 0.50c to use the basket, €1.00 per item for the use of the checkout til and another €0.50 for using the laser scanner.

The latest extra charge being presented to travellers is a charge for pre-booking seats.

From 23 May it will cost €10 to pre-book a seat in the first five rows, an exit seat will cost €15, and all remaining seats will cost €3 to pre-book.

Not so long ago online seat reservation was a feature airlines advertised and boasted about, now they penalise those who choose their airline because of that facility.

What I'm truly annoyed at is the fact that they now sell emergency exit seats. A few years ago they used to offer those seats for people who were physically able to open the door in case of emergency. Now it appears that so long as you can pay they don't care. I imagine plenty of old and infirm people would appreciate the extra space now available to them. Just hope that an 80 year old man isn't trying to open your nearest exit if the plane your are travelling on ever has an emergency.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Prisoners on TV

I see Iran is now claiming that all 15 of the sailors and marines captured two weeks ago have now confessed to being in Iranian waters. I find it curious how quickly Iran had members of the group on TV confessing to everything Iran claimed. It's not the first time something like this has happened, though last time it was footage of pilots in Iraq who had obviously had been beaten.

After the events of the first Gulf War I would have expected capture and use as pawns in the media would have been part of standard training for soldiers heading to the Gulf. This time the British troops seem to be in good health and to have been well treated. Lets face it, it would not be in Irans best interests to torture the prisoners for the sake of a 30 second TV sound bite. Are British troops trained to avoid torture and cooperate with interrogators after a certain number of days have passed once operational security wont be compromised or is something else going on?