Friday, March 30, 2007

Congratulations to Rosaleen and Keith

I am off home for the weekend to attend the wedding of a long time friend, Keith who has finally managed to convince Rosaleen to make an honest man of him, at least on paper if not in politics.

Keith used to comment on this blog until the company he works for blocked access to comments on blogger at their firewall. He is one of the reasons I started blogging since I could never win a debate face to face against him. My chances of winning those heated discussions will not be increased when Rosaleen takes over speaking for him from tomorrow afternoon on ;-)

Best of luck to you both and I'll see you tomorrow, though I expect you have better things to be doing today than reading my blog.

TK Maxx credit card hotline

TK Maxx is once again in the news for a story about credit card numbers being stolen by hackers. This was on the internet back in January but the full details only came out today.

I guess these things happen and the fact that they were robbed wouldn't stop me shopping at their store, after all you wouldn't move your bank account just because the bank got robbed. Granted they should have had better security on their computer systems and will probably have learned their lessons by now so their systems will probably be the most secure on the high street.

However what may well stop me from shopping there ever again is the fact that their hotline for their Irish customers is an English toll free number, Irish customers would have to pay international rates to call it.
TK Maxx has eight stores in Ireland and the retail chain has advised Irish customers who are worried about possible theft of their credit or debit card details to call a special hotline on 00 44 800 779015.

Bad show TK Maxx, last thing you need to do right now is cost your customers more money. Perhaps you should just get a 1550 number and screw your Irish customers completely?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ah those were the good old days

"A year ago my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my vice-president had shot someone..... Ah, those were the good ol' days."

Bush has a sense of humour, or his speech writer does, but his delivery to the correspondents dinner shows he can take the piss out of himself. We should get one of these press diners in Ireland. Imagine Bertie trying to be funny. :-)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dust removal on cameras

Before going to Australia I bought a Fujifilm S9500 camera. It is not an SLR but it was perfect for what I wanted. One of the really good features of this camera when travelling around dusty Australia was the fact that the lens did not come off the camera. While this was less flexible than a sack full of lenses it meant that I would not have to worry about sand and dust getting into the camera and onto the sensor, at least not as much I'm still working Whitehaven sand out of the zoom ring. Also the odds were the lens attached already, 28-300, would cover the ranges I wanted in 99% of cases, which it did.

Despite the Fuji being a great little day to day camera I still have the idea of buying a proper D-SLR (what can I say, I'm a gadget freak) but dust on the CCD was still a concern so I was considering some of the newer models with built in sensor cleaning, mainly the Canon 400D and the Sony Alpha, while discounting the new Nikon D40 and D80 since they didnt have similar mechanical cleaning mechanisms and use a software system instead. Turns out I was completely wrong.

Pixinfo has done a review of the anti-dust systems on 4 cameras and returned a surprising verdict. The review has photographs taken with the cameras before dust was applied, after dusting, and then after cleaning up to 25 times. Then they simply used a blower to clean the cameras. The results are clean from the photographs.

  1. Olympus: good
  2. Canon: poor (we are disappointed)
  3. Pentax and Sony: useless (we are very disappointed)

If you, like me, are considering buying a new D-SLR just as a hobby then this is required reading. For me it means I will be looking again at the Nikons and in fact I may even look at one of the old Canon 350Ds which were top notch cameras 6 months ago and are now on special offer. Though the chances are I'm going to wait longer and see if the technology improves to a point where it, you know, works.

[via Engadget]

Dublin Fog

Foggy morning today as I walked to work. I thought it was pretty, we don't see enough fog or snow, or sunshine in Ireland, but at the same time there were 28 people injured in a pile up in Kildare.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Someone should be fired

It is hard to believe the state this countries health system is in and still some muppets persist in stopping a new maternity hospital in Cork from opening. Now the HSE is threatening to not open the hospital this year. This is so messed up I cant help but wonder how long it will be until someone tries to sell the building to property developers to build apartments?

I don't know if it's management penny pinching or if its the trade unions trying to milk the system for more money. I don't particularly care. The labor court should look into the problem as an independent adjudicator and whom ever is found to be in the wrong should be fired and never allowed to work on publicly funded projects again. That would send a signal that this kind of messing cant be tolerated anymore if we are to stop Ireland from sinking further into a mire of unionized bureaucratic hell holes.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Too many accidents

The office I work in has a little car park out in front of it. This car park is narrow, crowded and the entrance opens onto a busy road with a bus lane. It seems as if every week there are accidents in and around this car park. Sometimes they involve cars pulling out of the car park, not getting up to speed and having another car bang into the back of them. Some times it is as simple as someone trying to manoeuvre into or out of a parking space and hitting cars parked at the other side of the car park. Sometimes it is more serious with cars pulling out into the bus lane and knocking unseen motorcyclists off their bikes.

Today was a prime example. Looking out the window I saw two cars blocking the entrance. It appeared one had been reversing out of a space and perhaps all the way into the bus lane when another cat must have swung into the car park and collided with them. No damage was visible on either car but the Gardai were called. Meanwhile a taxi was waiting in the car park for the entrance to be unblocked when an SUV reversed out of a spot and straight into the back of the taxi and right in front of the Garda who just continued taking notes for the first accident.

The strange thing is this is perfectly normal for this car park. It's obvious something needs to be done with it. Personally I'd take out the four spaces on the outside and widen the entrance, but in 5 years the council has done nothing beyond picking up pieces of cars and mopping up the odd petrol spill. I wonder how much money they make from those 4 pay and display spaces.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Queueing for fun

I was in town this evening and saw 3 people queuing outside Game on Dawson Street. The reason? The Playstation 3 launches tonight at midnight. I cant help but feel that the three of them will feel a little silly in the morning, especially when you consider that had they arrived a little earlier, before the store closed, they could have pre-booked the Playstation, gone to the pub and then just shown up again a 11:55pm to collect their new toy. Alternatively, odds are they could have just shown up at 11:50pm and been at the top of the queue.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

St Patrick's Day Photos

I spend a couple of hours on Saturday freezing my ass off on Dame Street waiting for the Dublin St Patrick's Day Parade to come by. In the end it was worth it because I managed to get lots of photographs which are now up on Flickr. The Dublin Community Blog also has a posting and a flickr group with more photos from the parade.

I was on Dame Street opposite Dublin Castle which was pretty crowded and it took an hour for the parade to reach us. Next year I think I'll go back to Parnell Square where the parade starts so I don't have as long to wait and a friend of mine was up there and rang me to say there was loads of space along the barriers.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Playstation 3 in Dundrum

I got to play on a Playstation 3 today. There are two demo consoles up in Dundrum, one in Virgin and one in Game. I was playing Motorstorm. Graphics are very good and smooth but there was no sound and no rumble in the controllers making it feel a little flat and not a really true show case of the PS3. Rumble wont be in any controllers until later this year since there was a patent infringement case blocking Sony from using the rumble technology which was solved last week.

The game seemed a bit difficult for most people with the car blowing up randomly and spending most of its time flying off cliffs and it got boring after a couple of laps. It felt a bit like Star Wars Pod Racer without the Pods. The console itself looks cool, a very stylish looking box that girlfriends probably wont keep trying to hide behind the TV.

I still doubt I'll buy one any time soon, too expensive and I don't like buying the early versions of things like that. I'd rather let other people find all the bugs and problems :-)

Irish Rugby Jersey

I had today off work so I spent the day in town walking around seeing what was going on in the run up to St Patrick's Day, which was nothing, in case your wondering. Still, I had another reason to walk around the city, I was searching for an Irish rugby jersey. Every sports shop in town was sold out. I tried everyplace from the Leinster Rugby store in Donnybrook and Elverys on St Stephens Green to several Champion Sports and Lifestyle stores. No luck.

Each store told me they were sold out and there were none in any stores in Dublin. Finally after hours of walking around I headed up to Dundrum, 20 minutes walk from my apartment to get some stuff in Tescos and called into Champion Sports where, shock, they had two left. A medium and an extra large. I bought the medium one straight away and went home happy. Now I'm ready for St Patricks Day, the final day of the 6 Nations and the World Cup.

What I found interesting about this search was that every store had racks and racks of Irish soccer jerseys. Every colour, size, style and shape you can think of. Tons of them. Usually beside the door where customers are most likely to see them but no one was bothering. Several other people were rooting around in the rugby sections, obviously on a similar hunt as my own. That just shows how fickle the public are. Once, not so long ago the team were regular competitors in major competitions, it seemed like everyone owned an Irish soccer jersey and stores were often sold out of proper green home jerseys. These days the Irish soccer team under Steve Staunton are in free fall in the World rankings and struggle to beat amateur pub teams while the rugby team are talked about as World Cup contenders. I have to admit I haven't owned an Irish rugby jersey before but I do own two Munster ones but I wanted a proper green jersey for St Patrick's Day. It also shows how choosing a bad manager can impact a sporting organizations income as well as their results.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How to get into Irish Politics

Irish Election has a post about the previous careers of Irish politicians. Accountancy, law and teaching seem to be the best jobs to have if you want to get into politics. Nice safe and respectiable. What ever happened to soldiers, aristocracy, doctors and GAA stars?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Great excuse for St Patricks Day

Seventeen people attending a St Patricks Day dance in America were hospitalized after some collapsed and became physically sick. Yeah, I know what you are thinking, I thought the same, a few pints too many of the black stuff, but no, the truth is they were poisoned with carbon monoxide after the vents in the hall were accidentally blocked.

Carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas. Jaysis that's a great excuse. "Honey I know I was sick and passed out last night, but it wasn't my fault, it was carbon monoxide. I know you cant smell it now, that's why it's so dangerous...".

Grrr, MP3 player

While I was in Australia I bought a Toshiba Gigabeat S30 to use as both an MP3 player and a backup for my photographs. In fact the pictbridge functionality straight out of the box was the reason I bought the Gigabeat instead of getting an iPod and then having to buy a bunch of extra cables.

So far the Gigabeat has worked well though these days I use it as my MP3/Radio since all my photographs are safely backed up elsewhere. Good thing to, as I found out this morning when I plugged the player into my computer and was greeted with a "Removing Media Items" message and a big number 4 on the screen of the player. I assumed it was simply removing old podcasts that I had removed from Windows Media Player but when I looked at the player all my media was gone. Turns out that is not such an uncommon problem and others have seen it.

Fortunately all my music was on my computer so I just synched again but I have to ask what bloody good is an MP3 player that can store photographs directly from a camera if when you connect the player to a computer to restore your photographs there is a chance it will just wipe all the files on the drive. Basically this now means that I cannot use the player as a backup for my photographs. Sure it works well as an MP3 and video player and I can store photos but I just cant rely on it as any form of backup. Even if it fails just 1 time out of 20 (I don't connect the player to my computer very often) then how could I ever risk storing photographs on it while on holidays? Grrr.

Update: Mar 30th: Damn, it happened again. I wanted to sync podcasts onto the MP3 player for a weekend down the country away from broadband and the unit wiped itself again. That was only the second time I'd plugged it into the computer in the last 2 weeks.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

St Patrick banishes the snakes from Ireland

The Irish Government is about to become the annual Irish Government in Exile with the majority of the cabinet going on holidays, sorry taking a junket, sorry getting duty free, sorry "maximising opportunities for showcasing Ireland" for St Patricks Day.

In case you were thinking of taking a weekend break over the long weekend you may want to consider avoiding the following destinations
  • Taoiseach Bertie Ahern: Washington
  • Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern: Washington
  • Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell: Savannah
  • Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan: New York
  • Minister for Finance Brian Cowen: Chicago
  • Minister for Transport Martin Cullen: San Francisco
  • Minister for Communications Noel Dempsey: Dallas and Houston
  • Minster for Education Mary Hanafin: Boston
  • Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív: Phoenix
  • Minister or State Patthe Cope Gallagher: Atlanta and Philadelphia
  • Minister for the Environment Dick Roche: Toronto,
  • Minister for Arts Sport and Tourism John O'Donoghue: London
  • Minister for Health Mary Harney: Norway, Sweden and Denmark
  • Minister for Social and Family Affairs Seamus Brennan: Italy and the Holy See
  • Government Chief Whip Tom Kitt: Warsaw
  • Minister of State Brendan Smith Manchester
  • Minister of State Seán Power: Birmingham
  • Minister of State Conor Lenihan: Edinburgh
  • Minister of State Mary Wallace: Vienna
  • Minister of State Brian Lenihan Paris
  • Minister of State Noel Ahern: Bucharest
  • Minister of State Seán Haughey: Moscow
  • Minister of State John Browne: Hong Kong, Shenyang, Shanghai and Beijing
  • Minister of State Tim O'Malley: Tokyo and Osaka
  • Minister of State Frank Fahey: India
  • Ministers of State Michael Ahern: Kuala Lumpur and Singapore
  • Ministers of State Batt O'Keeffe: Vietnam
  • Ministers of State Tom Parlon: South Africa
  • Attorney General Rory Brady: Buenos Aires
Why exactly we send the Attorney General out to represent the country I dont know but I suppose it wouldn't be fair to leave him out, though I'd think Buenos Aires is one of the plum trips.

I would suggest closing the airports after they leave but we still have Micheál Martin and Willie O'Dea back here to run the nation so we will probably want the other lot back eventually.

Update: Lets not forget President Mary McAlese, she's on her way to Belgium. I'm not sure if she is there for St Patricks day or if she is there now or leaving next week.
President McAleese is paying a state visit to Belgium and Italy next week ahead of a meeting with the Pope.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Carbon Cost

Last night BBC's Panorama program was based on Ethical Man from Newsnight. Over the space of 1 year this BBC journalist and his family tried to reduce their carbon footprint and live an environmentally ethical life. It started life as a regular feature on Newsnight but panorama took it and edited it together to make a 30 minute documentary. It made interesting watching, though I'd seen most of it already when the pieces were originally broadcast.

After my Mars post and watching this program I was inspired to check something. People always say that airlines and foreign holidays produce the most carbon so I decided to calculate how much my trip to Australia produced. 4 tons of carbon in flights alone. It may or may not seem like a lot of carbon but consider that the average footprint for a person in the UK is 10.92 tons, or if you live in America 19 tons.

Over one third of my footprint for the year was used in one trip. I guess I now owe the world a few CFL bulbs, convenient timing when you consider that there are 3 light bulbs that need to be replaced in my apartment. That said I don't own a car and I walk to work every day so I think I have a few spare carbon points to allocate towards foreign travel, but not 4 tons.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Global Warming on Mars?

National Geographic News has an interesting article on a recent study of conditions on Mars that suggests that the current phenomenon of global warming may not be limited to just our globe. Carbon dioxide ice caps on Mars are also shrinking.

In 2005 data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide "ice caps" near Mars's south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

I'm sure that the findings of this study will be highly controversial and will be questioned by many other scientists but they do suggest an interesting idea. Why don't we use Mars as a basis for proving or disproving the suns roll in global warming? After all why should we bother going into space if we don't use our presence there to tackle issues of global interest instead of just poking a few rocks and sending pictures of red sand home.

Personally I don't know what I would prefer. The idea that the planets ecosystem is so delicate that we can cause it serious and life threatening damage or that it is not our fault at all and we are entirely at the mercy of the Sun. I do, however, suspect that if there really was proof that Mars was warming in a similar manner to Earth then George W. Bush would be waving the report in every press conference he holds.

[via Slashdot]

Price of a Pint

The price of a pint in Ireland is going up by as much as 8 cent, just in time for St Patricks day as well but I presume thats just a coincidence...

Diageo has added 4 cent to the price of a pint and your local friendly publican, in between bitching about how the smoking ban is driving customers away, that the government should bus this customers to the and from the pub, and how the drink driving is the foundation of life outside Dublin, is likely to add 4 cent as well.

Diageo, the world's biggest drinks group, reported a 3% drop in beer sales in Ireland for the second half of 2006.

The firm blamed the drop on people drinking at home and enjoying different tipples.

You have to feel a certain lack of sympathy for the people in an industry that squeezes the last cent out of customers wallets before throwing them drunk and in many cases aggressive or incapacitated out onto the streets to find their own way home leaving a trail of vomit and destruction behind them.

I'm beyond bitching about the price of a pint in the pub. Now I just take comfort in the fact that by pushing up the price of drink they drive more people away from their own bars. Roll on the rise of café culture.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Blog Awards Tonight

The second Irish Blog Awards will be held tonight in the Alexander Hotel. Unfortunately I didn't make the short list for Best Personal Blog but even without direct personal interest in the awards it should still be a good night. Coincidentally there is also a lunar eclipse tonight. I wonder if it is an omen. As the Best Blog award is announced the moon is eclipsed, the gates to hell open and Twenty Major steps into the public gaze to accept his award and continue his reign. ;-)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Sinn Fein Embracing Policing?

Last Wednesday there was a piece in the Irish Independent criticising Sinn Fein MEP Mary Lou McDonald. One of the topics raised was a Green Party claim that her attendance in the European Parliament was poor because she was always in Ireland following Gerry Adams around.
She said she stood over her record - but pointed out that as Chair of Sinn Fein, she also had duties in Ireland, not least involving the peace process. She also rejected the suggestion that she was constantly seen 'doughnutting' Gerry Adams to the detriment of her European role. "I am not a doughnut," she said.

I thought doughnutting was spinning round in circles in a car, a pass time of boy racers so I wasn't sure how it applied to Mary Lou I decided to google it. The usage of the word in this case would seem to be
The surrounding of a speaker in parliament by members of the same party, to give the impression on television of a packed House.

Further down the page was another result that I thought was funny in the context of Sinn Feins recent decision to support policing in Northern Ireland.
Doughnutting: Sexual intercourse between two male police officers

Did anyone think that when Sinn Fein said they were now fully behind policing?