Monday, March 31, 2008

Health Service Protest

I went into the health service protest on Saturday. Initially as I wandered around Parnell Square I was concerned that it seemed to be the same regular protesters that you see out at each and every protest in Dublin. I mean the groups who have turned Saturday protests into their regular social outing. They probably think they are fighting some good fight or other but really they just tire the public so now no one notices a march or two passing in between the buses. In fact one group tried to upstage the main protest by staging their own march up to Parnell Square and to the front of the main protest. I'm sure they felt they were expressing solidarity but it seemed like attention seeking to me. A Garda I was talking to at the time was surprised to see them marching but insisted that they would be rewarded for showing up late by being put to the back of the march. That was the last I saw of their banners.

However despite the semi-pro protesters getting there early once the start time of the march got closer the crowd built up to become a gathering of general people, old and young, male and female. Most of the people who took part in the march looked like they were off on a Saturday outing to the park or to the shops. These are people who in previous years would have been interviewed saying how they thought Bertie was a nice decent Dublin lad, doing his best for the country and he'd get things right in the end. Now they were marching down O'Connell Street calling for change. Many seemed to have brought their own placards. This wasn't a group of people who had a few minutes to spare and decided to join in for something to do. They were angry and wanted their voices heard. If they are not heard then they should be heard at the next election.

I doubt the organisers got their predicted 70,000 marchers but there were 1000s. When the march got going the pedestrians lining the route of the march did seem interested and some even had their own posters on display. Even passing tourists stopped to take photographs and one American woman I spoke had heard about and understood the reasons for the march.

At the end there were speeches on a stage on Molesworth Street. In general these were not that interesting, mostly being delivered by high profile people from the campaign or the trade unions. I thought the organisers could have done more to highlight individual patient cases. Politicians are not afraid of Union spokespeople or medical professors telling the public about how more funds are needed for their members or how they are going to this international conferences. Bertie knows the general public don't relate directly with those speakers. They are however afraid of cancer patients with microphones or a widowers with an audience, any of us could become one of them while the current government examines it's profit and loss seats.

In the end I doubt the march will achieve anything directly or in the short term. Harney and Ahern know they are in too deep now and the change people want will have to come from the top down. If change does come it will be because junior members of the Dail will begin to feel their seats getting shaky beneath them and they will start to put pressure on those above them for new faces at the top.

My photos from the march are up on Flickr.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Mmm coffee, I missed you over the last 40 days. Now my venti tripple latte is coursing through my veins, buzz buzz buzz :-)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bertie and Txting

Is it rude to go to someones house and while talking with their wife to keep taking txt messages? At what stage should you turn off your phone or at least switch it to silent? What if an aquaintance had invited you over and you took so many txt messages that they were forced to ask if there was a crisis or emergency at home, would that be impolite? Would you go down the pub and joke about it to show how cool you were?

Alternatively what if you were in an important work meeting, or at least one you claimed was vitally important, and you kept reading txt messages from your mates telling you how the match was going, would that be unprofessional? Would you go back to the office and joked about it in front of the people who are supposed do be your bosses and whom you had convinced to let you go in the first place?

I ask because of an article in the Sunday Independent today where Bertie Ahern laughs off stories of political pressure on him with a yarn of how during his recent visit to the White house for St Patricks Day, one of a series of Ministerial trips Bertie justified as vital to the profile of Ireland abroad, Bertie received so many txt messages that Laura Bush asked if there was a crisis in Ireland. Bertie explained to her that everything was ok and it was just his mates in Dublin txting him the news that St Vincents had won the Club Championships. Cringe. I wonder if she found it a refreshing change from all the serious world leaders that cone to visit or if she quietly asked the secret service to turn back on the cell phone jammers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New jobs in Ireland

The Government is getting desperate for good news on the jobs front. Minister for Trade and Employment Micheál Martin has announced that IBM in Mulhuddart are creating 21 new jobs.

Anyone remember the days when announcements were in triple digits?

Victory in Iraq

Good news all, George Bush has declared victory in Iraq, again. Now he can leave office happy with a job well done, the world a safer place and hand over a better America to his successor. Of course from now on should anything in Iraq go wrong it can only be for one of three reasons:
  • The old white guy was too old for the job and had spent too long with the commies in Nam to be trust worthy. If Star Trek has taught George anything it's that real Klingon warriors don't get taken alive.
  • The young black dude was too young for the job and he was probably a sleeper agent anyway. If 24 has taught George anything it's that the non-white guys with the funny names are bad. That and watch out for our Dad making strange deals with Arabs.
  • The scary chic was too, well, too female and was probably all emotional and teary when the bombs needed to be dropped. If Sex and the City has taught George anything it's that women are irrational.

Monday, March 17, 2008


After all my complaining I found myself standing in an O2 store on Friday playing with one of the demo iPhones which wisely were fully functional and connected to the internet. I typed in the urls of a few of my favourite websites did some reading and was hooked. The thing works perfectly for what I needed. Add to that the fact that the store had stacks of 16GB phones and I was hooked.

The only problem was that I made my purchase at lunchtime and the phone needed to be activated so I spent the day in work watching the clock and dying to get home only to then have to spend a couple of hours in Dundrum shopping center with the girlfriend doing some shopping, I think a little piece of her was enjoying the torture. Eventually I got to my laptop at about 9pm and sat down to backup my old phone onto my computer then load up iTunes and sync with the iPhone.

There was another delay as iTunes did what it was supposed to do and synced 16 GB of music to my phone. Silly of me really but I decided what the hell and let it run, by now anyway the girlfriend deserved a little attention or she would start to think I was abandoning her in favour of a shiny black and silver thing. By the time I finally got to actually play with the iPhone it was after midnight but it was still fun.

I have now spent 2 full days playing with the phone, using it for email, web browsing, finding directions to a friends new house. While waiting for the Dublin parade to come by I was watching videos on YouTube. My email now arrived like an SMS with the phone set up to check my accounts every hour. After two days of messing around with it the usage details tell me I've only uploaded 4.6MB and received 37MB, seems a little low to me, if it's true I should have no problem with the 1GB monthly limit. My only gripe so far is with the keyboard, it works well but I'm still trying to get the hang of it. It's improving but I don't think I'll ever be able to use it to write long emails or blog posts. As a result I haven't written any blog posts with it yet. Still the phone is a great gadget and I think in a few years we will wonder how we ever got by without mobile internet access in the same way we now wonder how we got by without mobile phones.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why is property so expensive?

Why is property and rent so expensive in Ireland these days? Who knows? Maybe the government should do something about it, after they finish managing their property portfolios of course.

Topping the list of property holdings was former Fianna Fáil minister for state Frank Fahey, who declared full ownership or part-interest in properties in 29 apartments in Ireland, Europe and the US.
Nice work. Good think sitting in the Dail is a part time job these days. At least we know if and when the property market crash really starts to bite the Government will come up with a package to ease the burden on investors.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Delay for 16GB iPhones in Ireland?

After reading about the last nights iPhone SDK release I decided to give in and preorder an iPhone. I like the iPhone and I liked the plans Apple had for the updates and third party apps. It still seems like Ireland is getting a poor deal when compared to the UK but I figure O2 wont change the package and even if Apple do release a 3G iPhone in June it probably wont reach Ireland until several months after that. So I headed into the nearest O2 store to preorder a 16 GB iPhone.

After a quick chat with the shop assistant I was handing over my credit card to pay the deposit when as a side thought he informed me "Oh by the way we cant take deposits on 16 GB iPhones since we don't know when we'll get them". "What?" I said. "Well, we'll possibly have them on the release day but we may not" he explained. Somewhat puzzled I asked "So do you have any idea when you will certainly have them?" "No, but you can put a deposit on an 8GB iPhone and ask on the release day to upgrade to a 16GB phone. If we have them you can have one, if not you can have an 8GB one or just wait". My credit card went back into my pocket and I said I'd wait.

Thinking that perhaps the problem was that store I went to another and asked again about the 16GB iPhone. They too admitted they did not know when they would get them but they believed it would probably be the release day. I asked when they might know and was told it would be the night before the release when they get the delivery.

What the hell? Are O2 trying to dump 8GB iPhones on the market, sell them off to early adopters and then drop in the 16GB to the people who were willing to wait and see if something better came along? Since their CEO expects to have "Apple Freaks", as she called them, queuing out the door to pick up a iPhone then perhaps she should also consider the fact that those "freaks" she expects to pack her shops on the 14th will want their top spec iPhone and she'd better get them on the shelves if she wants to sell out.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

O2's Paddy Tax

I have to admit that I am seriously tempted to buy an iPhone, I love the interface and I have found myself using the internet on my current phone a little more than I should. Unfortunately when the phone was announced last week my excitement was seriously dampened by the comparisons I've seen of the O2 Ireland tariff compared to the O2 UK version on Damien Mulleys blog.

€45 - 175 mins, 100 texts, 1GB data
€65 - 350 mins, 150 texts. 1GB data
€100 - 700 mins, 250 texts, 1GB data
NO visual voicemail, NO wifi hotspot access

£35 (~€47) - 600 mins, 500 texts, unlimited data
£45 (~€60) - 1200 mins, 500 text, unlimited data
£75 (~€100) - 3000 mins, 500 texts, unlimited data
Visual voicemail, access to UK-wide wifi hotspots.

This morning the issue was raised on RTE's Morning Ireland by Pat Phelan who called it a Paddy Tax on his blog and wants to organise a boycott of the iPhone in Ireland until O2 introduce fair prices. I'd like to think it will achieve something but unfortunately I don't see the boycott stopping people buying the phone. Of more interest is Phelans announcement that his company will make available information on buying iPhones from abroad and unlocking them here. Still it's not likely to make a difference to O2 but may save some people some money.

What is more likely is that O2 could react to bad publicity and change the tarrifs to include more data or minutes in the package but again the chances of enough publicity building up are remote. O2 and the other telcos know they have a cash cow here and you cant blame them for exploiting the Irish consumers like myself who in the end will just give in and pay. It is a better tarrif than the one I'm on at the moment so unfortunately, if I'm being realistic, I see myself buying one and just hating O2 Ireland a little more.