Sunday, December 27, 2009

Leg Bomber Aftermath?

Sky News is reporting that extra restrictions are being imposed on air travel to the United States. They say that passengers are going through security as normal but when they get to the gates they are subject to extra checks. Hand luggage is being inspected and passengers are being patted down to make sure they don't have anything strapped to their body. Then on the flight for the last hour of the journey passengers will not be allowed to leave their seats or access their hand luggage.

Great, just great, in case flying wasn't already a big enough pain they have decided to make the whole experience even more uncomfortable. I don't really mind the idea of hand luggage checks but surely if that was done properly at the security desks we wouldn't have to queue up a second time to have our bags searched again? The same for the pat down, the existing security checks are supposed to find things hidden on the body and that has been the case for decades. As for the restrictions on movement on the plane itself, does anyone seriously think a suicide bomber is going to walk up to the check-in desk, be told that he wont be allowed to leave his seat one hour before the flight lands and decide the whole idea of killing himself and hundreds of others is just not worth it anymore? What happens next time there is a security alert. Will we be strapped to our seats for 8 hours? Hand luggage banned? Body cavity searches?

Another idiot fails to blow up a plane and the whole world has to bend over backwards because the security precautions introduced last time an idiot failed to blow up a plane don't stop more idiots with explosives getting on planes.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Snow in Ireland


I can't remember the last time I saw a really decent fall of snow. Sure every so often we get a sprinkle and some places up North might get enough to build a snow man or two but this year my home town of Clonmel got enough snow to make it a winter wonderland.

Merry Christmas

Sorry for the late post but Merry Christmas everyone. Hopefully I'll have more time to blog next year, the last 3 months have been hectic but in a good way :-)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Regulator Strike

I returned to Ireland last night to hear that staff in the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator had gone on strike for a day. Oh dear God no!!! What will happen without those brave people regulating the banks and making sure the economy is kept on an even keel..... oh wait, aren't those the people who haven't been working for the last 10 years and got us into this mess with the banks?

The fact that they still have their jobs and aren't searching for food scraps in the bins outside the banks they failed to control is an prime example of what is wrong in the Irish civil service. The fact that they went on strike is crazy, someone should have locked the doors when the fools were out of the office.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Swine Flu Worry

This morning in Clonskeagh church the priest gave over a few minutes to discuss swine flu. A couple had recently approached him and asked what the parish was going to do to reduce the risk of spreading swine flu. You see the woman is pregnant and they felt that the sign of peace where they shake hands with fellow church goers was an unacceptable risk to her and the baby. They wanted the priest to ban the gesture in the church. The priest tried to reason with them, pointing out that it is not necessary for people to shake hands. Church goers can just make a gesture towards others by raising their hands in a wave like motion and that other parishioners would understand. This was not good enough for the couple, you see they feel bad when they refuse to shake hands with the others in the church so the only solution for them was to have the sign of peace banned in the church and then no one would try to shake hands with them.

The priest explained to the congregation the advice the parish had received from the HSE on the control of swine flu along with the steps he and the other priests take before and during mass to insure their hands are clean. How they wash their hands with soap and warm water then dry with clean towels. He said that the parish had decided some changes were now needed. The sign of peace would no longer be offered during mass. The holy water fonts would be emptied, washed with soap and left to dry. Finally communion with wine would not be offered as had been traditional during Christmas. The priest hoped these changes would be temporary and that normal routines could be restored soon.

To me this is an over reaction to a situation hyped in the media to sell newspapers. Yes swine flu is a risk but so is the annual flu. People get sick every year, the vast vast majority recover but some may die. Until Sky News and the like displayed the latest in a series of *the world is ending* headlines, swine flu was heading to the annual "there is a bad bug doing the rounds" classification we all talk about every winter. The media would not let that happen. In the last few years we have had CJD, SARS, Avian flu and Bio-terrorism to make us afraid to shake hands. At the same time we had asteroids, ice ages, global warming, and mega tsunamis to stop us going outside at all. The world has been ending for so long that sometimes I just cant remember what is about to destroy us all, at least not until I turn on Sky News and the yellow Breaking News banner informs me as to what will be killing me later that day.

It's called apocalypse fatigue. The media has spent years selling newspapers and pulling in viewers by hyping up some risk or other that has a cool sounding name like SARS or Swine Flu. They want people to be worried and scared because no one buys a newspaper to read about someone from one town away who died from the common cold but thousands will buy a newspaper that tells them 10 people are sick from Bovine Flu at the other side of Europe and how that virus could sweep the planet.

The risk is real but is it any greater than the risk we face every year from normal flu? Is the danger of swine flu worse than the danger of offending a neighbor by not shaking hands with them? The whole parish of Clonskeagh now has to stop offering each other the sign of peace not because of swine flu but because one couple were too worried they would offend others by not shaking hands.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Going quiet for a while

Looks like I'll be cutting back on my blogging for a while since I have started a new job and will be traveling for a few weeks. I'll get back to this blog as much as I can. :-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Robot Doctors

Some what less cool than Terminator, RTE is reporting that a robot doctor has started work in Tallaght Hospital this week. Unfortunately by now it has gone on strike and wont treat any patients unless it gets a voltage increase and an extra can of oil per injection. It is also working in a private practice as an IT consultant so if you go to Tallaght Hospital you will actually be treated by an AIBO.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Ireland V Canada Song Contest

My girlfriend, who is from Canada, showed me a video of the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper singing so I decided to show her a video of the Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen singing. I think Harper wins this one.

Stephen Harper:


Brian Cowen:

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Open House Day



The annual Open House Dublin is on again this year, in fact it's on next weekend October 8th to 11th. It's a wonderful opportunity to visit some of the iconic buildings in Dublin. For photographers there is the opportunity to go up onto the viewing deck of Liberty Hall to take photos of the city skyline. For political fans there is the chance to visit Leinster House and Government Buildings. It's well worth having a look at the schedule, some buildings require an advance booking others are on a first come first served basis.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The End of the World Started in Dublin






The end of the world is coming in 10 years time and it appears to have started in Dublin. That is according to the new movie The Road starring Charlize Theron and Viggo Mortensen. The movie is described as "A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible".

In typical disaster movie style the trailer starts with news footage of the start apocalypse. In prominent position is footage from the 2006 Dublin riots. That means we have 7 years until most of us are dead and the survivors are pursued by gangs of lawless killers. So really if things keep going the way they have over the last year 7 years might be an optimistic estimate.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Voting Card

I got my voting card for the Lisbon II referendum. Somehow the polling day has crept up on us and as usual my apartment has not been canvassed by either side. Not that I particularly care about canvassers since I've already made up my mind which way I'll be voting, yes. I think it is best for the country to be close to the EU and I believe a No vote will see us pushed to the margins if not on paper than certainly in the minds of the other EU governments.

O2 strangle hold on iPhone comes to an end?

Good news from The Guardian this morning, O2 UK's two year exclusive contract with Apple for the iPhone in the UK is coming to an end. Orange is entering the iPhone market later this year. That means for those of us who use the iPhone in Ireland there might be hope that O2 Ireland will soon face similar competition. I am almost 1 year into my 18 month contract for the iPhone 3G so I wont be switching networks straight away but I hope that with some competition in the market O2 will be forced to finally implement the features they have ignored up to now.

Visual Voicemail: now it's not a big thing but for some people it was an important feature when the original iPhone launched two years ago. A year and a new iPhone later O2 just announced it was too expensive to implement the advertised feature and they were shelving the project.

Tethering: a simple feature available on many other phones and just recently introduced on the iPhone 3.0 OS. Unfortunately O2 have not been keen to allow iPhone subscribers to use tethering. It appears they were worried that tethering, supported with other phones and contracts, would destroy their broadband market if it was allowed on the iPhone.

Hopefully O2 Ireland have a similar 2 year contract to O2 UK which might mean other networks should be preparing for the iPhone sometime between now and March next year. That might see me and other iPhone users getting more and paying less sooner than that if O2 wishes to keep their current subscribers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Airships Return

The US Military is looking to deploy airships in Afghanistan which can stay at 20,000ft for 3 weeks and can watch the battlefield.




The airship, that wonderful military technology of the first world war, is now about to hover gracefully over the people who figured out how to shoot down Soviet helicopters with RPGs. It sounds and looks cool from the video but I hope they remember the other technological advancement made for airship crews during World War I, parachutes, because 3 weeks in a floating target has got to be one of the worst assignments going.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Emigration is back

RTE news is reporting that net emigration has returned to Ireland for the first time since 1995. In the year to April the number of people leaving this country grew from 45,300 to 65,100 while the number of migrants to Ireland fell from 83,800 to 57,300.

30,100 East Europeans left the country and 18,400 Irish.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

LCD Ads in Magazines

BBC News just showed a piece discussing the future of adverts in magazines and a new LCD advert page in Entertainment Weekly. The consensus was that it was novel but the advertisers would not get their money back based on approximately £20 per magazine.

Maybe in pure circulation of Entertainment Weekly they wont but for that £20 they just got 5 to 10 minutes of news and discussion on BBC News showing parts of the adverts for Pepsi and CBS shows including Big Bang Theory and NCIS as well as several appearances and mentions for Entertainment Weekly. For a station that does not show adverts like BBC News they just gave Pepsi, CBS and Entertainment Weekly a great free advert. You can bet other news stations will do similar. Suddenly £20 each for a few thousand magazines seems like a pretty smart investment when you are the first with these screens and can get the news coverage.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My head hurts

After watching this video describing the 10 dimensions I think my head hurt in at least 7 of the 10 ;-) Some where around 8 I was thinking, right they are just making all this up now but when I got to 10 it did make a little sense, I think.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Liffey Swim 2009



Congratulations to all the participants in the 2009 Liffey Swim. I understand over 200 men and 70 women took part this year. They had a lovely sunny day for it and that brought out the crowds of spectators along the quays and over the bridges. Special praise has to go to the swimmer who while bringing up the rear of the mens race was still gracious enough to joke with the crowd. At the Ha' Penny bridge some jokers cheering on the swimmers shouted "you're going the wrong way". The swimmer looked up seemed to smile and shouted "Oh Really? Thanks!" turned around and started swimming back up the river to the amusement of all present.

I have not been able to find official results yet but from what I can find out the mens race was won by Pat O Driscoll of the Templeogue Club. More photos from the swim can be found on my Flickr account and in the Dublin Blog Flickr Group.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Back to Photos


It's been weeks since I took any photos. Kinda got out of the groove and had too many other things on to be lugging my camera gear around with me. Still I went into town on Wednesday with the intention of taking some photos. It was fun to get back into it again and I did get at least one photograph that I liked. A photograph of the Ha'penny Bridge with the sun setting behind it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

iPhone 3.1 and Tethering

Apple announced iPhone 3.1 and iTunes 9 yesterday and part of the upgrade closes off the hack that people used to enable tethering. Basically networks like O2 Ireland have exclusive deals to supply the iPhone and cant be bothered to implement the features of the iPhone. No Visual VoiceMail and no tethering. They don't need to invest the time or money in the infrastructure because they can just pay Apple for exclusive deals and the only people who suffer are the consumers. Monopolies suck.

Still no movies of TV shows in Ireland, that's not O2's fault but it's just another indication that the Irish consumer is being screwed at every turn.

The sooner Vodafone and other networks get the iPhone the sooner we will get iPhone services from O2.

[Update] Looks like there is no support for ringtones either in the Irish iTunes store, or I should say I cant find it where Steve Jobs said it would be, replacing the podcast button on the iPhone iTunes app. Not that I particularly want to download ringtones but I'm sure other people do and I cant understand why they are not allowed here as well.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Property Tax in Ireland

The government seems to be giving up on ever restarting the stamp duty gravy train they have lived off for the last decade and instead now wants to tax residential homes. In other words, we taxed you when you bought the house and now we want to tax you again because no one else is buying houses. Add to that the plan to tax children's allowance, pension lump sums and the sale of rezoned land and the government could well be facing protest marches numbered in the hundreds of thousands instead of just the thousands that brought down the medical card changes.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Cowen upset to be asked questions

Poor Brian Cowen, you almost start to feel sorry for him then he turns around and cries like a baby to random journalists. The leader of this country comes back from a few weeks of holidays and claims he was ambushed by questions on the new Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy.

Tubridy asked him questions about the economy, his role in creating the economic bubble that had burst so painfully and Bertie Aherns timing in stepping aside to let Cowen come to power just before the bubble burst. Tubridy did also ask Cowen about reports of his drinking but the leader of Fianna Fail managed to deal with the question in a good "everyone enjoys a couple of drinks at the weekend with friends" kind of way. Perfectly valid, who doesn't like the odd drink at the end of a hard week in work. I watched the interview on RTE Player and initially I thought that Cowen had come out of the interview quite well and he had gone up in my estimation. A man trying his best in difficult circumstances and holding on to the belief that what he is going is the right thing for the country as a whole. According to a survey run by the Sunday Independent 41% of people who watched the interview thought the same. Not bad for a politician who prior to the interview had a 15% approval rating.

Now it turns out that after the interview Cowen sat in his dressing room removing his makeup and cried to a Sunday Independent journalist that he had been mugged by Ryan Tubridy. For anyone who doesn't know Tubridy the idea of him "mugging" Cowen is laughable both physically and mentally. Tubridy is a light weight fluf TV presenter whose idea of heavy weight issues is a debate on who had the better tailor Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. Cowen on the other hand is supposed to be the elected Taoiseach of this country, though he wasn't actually elected Taoiseach, he was appointed Taoiseach when Ahern resigned.

Whatever sympathy I had for Cowen after the Late Late Show interview vanished when I read his comments to the Sunday Independent. First of all why on earth is he crying and whining with journalists after coming out of a TV studio? Who allowed that to happen? Someone should be fired, either his press secretary for incompetence or Cowen for insanity. Secondly after all that has happened since he became Taoiseach where does he get off being publicly annoyed at any questioning. The man has led us into the greatest recession in decades. He has overseen a property bubble and crash. His budgets bought elections by putting this country into hock to pay for benchmarking. Yet at no stage has he faced the public and answered their questions as a party leader seeking election. I suspect Cowen now will never face questioning from the public. He'll be dumped by Fianna Fail before the next election. He is a millstone around the party, a walking talking PR disaster, stumbling from one bad news story to another. Get rid of him now and salvage what little is left of the government and the Fianna Fail party. Feel sorry for him if you want, he'll just go cry on the shoulder of a journalist and moan about how unfair life is.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Dublin in 1911

The National Archives of Ireland have released the 1911 census. This is a fascinating resource with scanned copies of the original forms filled in by households around Ireland available to download. Personally when I downloaded the form for my grandfathers family I discovered that my great-grandfather was born during the famine. My great-grandparents spoke both Irish and English, something I can not do and neither could their children. They had 10 children 7 of which were still alive at the time of the census, my father remembers that another 2 died young after the census. Those were harsh times in Ireland.

But my family came from outside Dublin, for Dublin people there is even more than just their family history. The website contains lots of information about the city in 1911.
There were, by 1911, 330 trams operating on lines which ran for 60 miles along the city’s roads, drawing the suburbs tightly to the city.

Those trams ran on 17 routes around the city. Today the Luas has 2 routes, covers 15 miles and has 40 trams. Maybe in some ways times were not so bad in 1911...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Brendan Grace is Still Alive?

The Irish Road Safety Authority today dusted off the classic old safe cross code in an attempt to educate todays children about road safety. An it would appear that Gay Byrne has decided that the RSA needs to be hip with the cool young kids and rehired the 57 year young comedian Brendan Grace to dress up as a school boy once again and re-record his Safe Cross Code Song.



I understand next few months the RSA will be launching several new campaigns. The first will warn people about the dangers of not checking the shoes on your horse before setting out on a long trip. In October they will highlight danger areas of the country where highway men like Dick Turpin have held up stage coaches. Finally just in time for Christmas a new set of maps will be launched with the "Here Be Dragons" print moved west to reflect the fact that Mr Byrne, now into his third millennium as the number one celebrity in Ireland, remembers hearing news when he was younger that a Spanish explorer called Columbus has claimed to have discovered a new continent across the ocean.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Big Brother is Dead

Channel 4 has announced that they are canceling Big Brother after this season. The world will be a richer place though the British government may now need to find a new employment program for hopeless fame junkies. The job losses in the paparazzi alone may add a couple of percentage to the unemployment numbers in the UK.

The death of the first hit reality TV show may not be the end, but if may be a sign that the plague of "reality" TV may one day come to an end.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why Apple banned Google

Apple have responded to the FCC's questions explaining the reasons why the Google Voice app has not been approved. The bit I found most interesting was how Apple used Visual Voicemail as one of the many reasons to not approve the Google app.
The Google Voice application replaces Apple’s Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple’s Visual Voicemail.
So Apple think Visual Voicemail is something worth challenging other companies on when those companies try to mess with Visual Voicemail and other features. Such a shame they don't apply the same logic to the networks who have exclusive contracts with Apple for the iPhone. Look at O2 Ireland who after launching the iPhone with Visual Voicemail in March 2008 have still not actually enabled Visual Voicemail and have in fact shelved the project. Then when iPhone 3.0 was launched back in June tethering with iPhones was added. O2 Ireland haven't figured out how to enable that either. Tethering works fine if you get the settings but O2 Ireland still do not officially support it. Why should they, they have an exclusive contract for one of the most popular phones on the market so why bother investing supporting the features of that phone. I guess Apple only need to protect the features of the iPhone when it's Google who change those features.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Phil

Today would have been Phil Lynotts 60th Birthday.
Happy birthday Philo.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Photos for Peoples Photo

I've selected the photographs I want to display in Peoples Photography 2009. In the end I picked more than 20 but I'll narrow it down on the day and it's always good to have spares in case I sell some and in case I get bored looking at the same set of photos all day. Head on over to my photography site to see the final selection :-)

O2 TV

O2 Ireland have launched a mobile phone TV service, something other networks like 3 had done years ago. Channels include RTE News, BBC World News, Sky Sports, and kids TV with new channels to follow later.

Sounds good but unfortunately the new service does not support the iPhone. Yet another service O2 does not provide for the iPhone same as visual voicemail and tethering. This time the iPhone does not support 3GPP 3GP which is used for streaming TV. I suppose we cant blame O2 for that but I'm looking forward to the day when O2 loose the exclusive deal with Apple for the iPhone. The prospect of competition in the market might see them finding solutions to all the problems with the iPhone on their network that up to now have been rotting on the TODO list.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Poolbeg Demolished?

Today's Sunday Business Post is reporting that the ESB is considering demolishing the twin chimneys of the Poolbeg power station which have been a feature of the city skyline for 30 years. While no official decision has been made about the future of the chimneys the station will be decommissioned next year and Dublin City planners have already rejected a proposal to put a preservation order on the chimneys.

Personally I think it would be a shame to demolish the chimneys so long as they are safe and can be maintained. Not everything on the Dublin Skyline has to be designed by an architects competition and built on the continent.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Google Chrome OS Screenshots

Mashable.com have "screenshots" of the upcoming Google Chrome OS. It's an early developer beta but it looks... basic, too basic. They might be a very early set of screenshots but they still looks a bit too Windows 95. If fact it looks a little like a college project which makes me think it's a fake. That said a simple OS like that would probably work well on the target market of underpowered netbooks but they will have a long long way to go before Google OS becomes a mainstream OS of choice for most users.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blasket Island Ferry

My brother and his family went to Dingle and the Blasket Island for short holiday last week. The ferry to the island cost €25 per adult and €15 per child and that didn't include a guided tour or anything. How can we expect to have a tourism industry in the middle of a global recession if we charge such amounts just to get to tourist attractions?

CIBC and AIB

RTE is reporting that Canadian bank CIBC is interested in buying a share in AIB but only if NAMA goes through and the bad debt held by AIB gets transferred to the taxpayer. Personally I think if foreign banks are waiting to jump in and buy Irish banks once NAMA comes into force it indicates that perhaps we the taxpayer are taking on too much bad debt and we are creating private banks that are internationally seen as good deals. After NAMA completes its work we should have Irish banks that can continue to operate in the Irish market and provide funds to people and small businesses but they should still have work to do to undo years of bad management. If the Irish taxpayer takes all the hurt and international banks take all the profit what is the point?

On the up side perhaps if CIBC do buy AIB it will be easier to transfer money between the two banks because right now you seem to have to have studied with Harry Potter in Hogsworth to figure out the magical combination of time, forms and numbers to fill in online in order to get the current system to accept an international transfer.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Your Alibi Sucks

Yesterday CBC Newfoudland had a story about a young moose which was chased to exhaustion by three boys and beaten with sticks. The moose was so exhausted and distressed that wildlife officers had to put it down. The story is pretty disturbing and obviously any kids who would do something like that must have issues.

Strangely today CBC has a follow up story. It seems the kids may not have been guilty of animal abuse after all. One of boys fathers has come forward with an alibi. The boys couldn't have chased the moose, they were busy... "vandalizing a church in Deer Lake". Oh well that's OK then, obviously they are saintly kids. As alibis go thats a pretty awful one. Generally the idea is to explain how the person is innocent by providing an example of them acting legally at the time in question not doing something possibly worse. "Your honour my client couldn't possibly have been shoplifting on Monday afternoon, he was robbing banks on the other side of town".

Pirate Party Ireland

I just heard today that the Pirate Party UK has been officially registered as a political party. Ireland also has a Pirate Party website. I think it would be a good idea to have an official Pirate Party here with a representation in the Dail. Politics needs people with widely disparate views on policies otherwise you end up with what we have in Ireland, a political system where the opposition is the same as the government so no matter what way people vote we still end up with the same vested interests.

Now I don't think it would be a good idea to have copyright laws scrapped or to just allow private people to take whatever copyrighted material they want but I do think we need someone to bring some balance to the current situation. Look at the new three strikes rule from Eircom. The RIAA can tell Eircom who they believe are illegally downloading copyrighted material owned by the companies who make up the RIAA and Eircom have agreed to disconnect the offenders. These would be the same companies who at the same time do everything possible to block and delay legal downloading. It took years for the iTunes Store to come to Ireland and we still cannot purchase movies and TV shows.

We need someone in government to stand up the the RIAA and other companies and tell them you can have your copyright and a crack down on illegal downloaders but you have to provide legal downloads at same prices as other countries. Then give them an ultimatum, bring Ireland up to the same level as the US and other countries within 1 year or a new copyright bill will be put through making the maximum punishment for illegal downloads a fine equal to just the price of a purchase in the shops. I support the right of movie makers and musicians to make money from their work but I'm sick of being forced to buy movies on disc, my shelves are full.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Peoples Photography Slot

The slots for Peoples Photography have been announced and I've moved from 376 last year to 70 this year. Granted my bump up the list was aided by the fact that I've been helping out with the organisation and have been running the new website. Still I'm delighted to be on the North side of the Green where more people will see my photos. If you are around Dublin on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th August you should walk around St Stephens Green and see some great photography on display from all the photographers.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Short Haul Long Haul

We spent the weekend down the country with my family and at some stage we were discussing flights to Newfoundland. My girlfriend is from there and we go over at least once a year, she goes twice. The annoying thing about flying from Ireland to Newfoundland is the fact that you need to fly away from your destination to get to it.

For example in the summer we have to fly from Dublin to Toronto, a flight that takes us pretty much over Newfoundland. Worse comes in the winter when we have flown Dublin to London, London to Montreal and Montreal to St John's. On one occasion when the map was put up, close to the end of the flight from London to Montreal, the track showed the plane flying over Dublin and St John's. Basically a flight that could take at a guess 4 hours takes closer to 20 with all the stop overs and waiting in airports.

This led someone over the weekend to ask, what is Ryanairs longest flight and why couldn't they make Shannon and St John's hubs for a service across the Atlantic? Their longest flight is apparently around 3 hours so extending it to 4 hours shouldn't be impossible. Then they might be able to connect into the North American short haul service from St John's and they can already have flights from Shannon which could be extended to the rest of Europe. I'm sure Ryanair would be able to negotiate good terms from Shannon and St John's and these days people might be willing to have a short stop over in St John's or Shannon if they could get their long haul transatlantic flights at short haul prices.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ikea prices

Has IKEA jumped on the rip off republic train and jacked up their prices to exploit the poor Irish consumer? Possibly not. This post by Barry Smyth tries to answer that question by looking at all the prices across several countries. We might not be the cheapest but we are not the most expensive and when tax differences are taken into account the rip off seems to fade.

[via Sliabh]

Sunday, July 26, 2009

U2 in Croker

I went to see U2 play in Croke Park on Friday night. I'll try to write a proper blog post later if I get a chance but for those who are wondering what the concert was like have a look at this video I found on YouTube.




I imagine it wont stay up too long but it's certainly worth a look for those who missed the concert :-)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Last Tommy

Harry Patch one of the last Tommies who fought in World War I died today at the age of 111. He follows Henry Allingham who died last week. The last British survivor of the War is now Claude Choules who served in the Royal Navy. Harry on the other hand was the last British survivor of the trenches.

Ruby Card Photo Competition

I've decided that I must start to enter some more photo competitions. As they say if you're not in you cant win. I was contacted about one on pix.ie for the Ruby Card so I thought I'd have a look and give both them and pix.ie a mention. They are looking for a photo from Ireland to put on the next release of their prepaid credit card and the winner will get €2500.

Even if you don't want to enter the competition, pix.ie is well worth looking at. The quality of the photographs already entered is stunning. Some of the top photos might look a little photoshopped for some peoples taste but there is also a nice number of street photos and ordinary landscapes. Photography in Ireland is booming with some wonderful and very talented photographers. I don't know what photo I'll enter but it's certainly an interesting challenge.

Rick Roll

If Kurt was still alive he'd shoot himself again. :-)


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Scrubs the Finale

I just watched Scrubs My Finale. Apparently it's the end of the series as we have known it but it might continue in another form. Either way the main character J.D. leaves the hospital and the show is all about his goodbye to the other doctors. I used to love Scrubs it was an imaginative piece of TV comedy that at the start was far better than anything else on TV at the time. As the years went by I lost interest. The joke just got a little old and the story seemed stuck in a will they wont they relationship for J.D. and Elliot.

By chance I happened to turn stations at the start of the finale and I watched it for old times sake. Glad I did, some of the originality was still there at the very end with J.D. watching an imagined home video not of his past but of his future. The rest of the show was still a little dull but it was certainly interesting way to end the show.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Canada Day, Ireland Day

I'm in Canada again and today is Canada Day. The country is 142 years old. At first I thought that was weird after all there are people alive who are almost that old. Then as I thought about it I realised that if the 26 counties of Ireland had an independence day we would only be 87. If we had an independence day based on the foundation of the Republic we would only be 60, my parents were born in the British commonwealth, now that is weird.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson is Dead

Michael Jackson has died from a heart attack. That's actually sad. The poor man might have been very weird and a little crazy but he didn't deserve to die at 50. I'm sure his death will be the subject of conspiracy theories in years to come, somewhere Elvis and Jackson will be comparing record sales.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Street Performers 2009


Another set on flickr, this time it's the Street Performance World Championships which returned to Merrion Square for another summer weekend. As is traditional now the weather was a little overcast and damp at times but that didn't stop people from having a good time. Unfortunately I missed seeing the winners and even the second place, but I did see Bendy Em who came third and lets just say, she had at least third place wrapped up and in the box if not in the bag.

(Also posted to the Dublin Community Blog)

Taste Of Dublin

Taste Of Dublin 2009


Another set of photos on flickr, this time from the Taste Of Dublin Festival. This was my first time attending the festival and I have to admit that while the food was very nice I did think there was very little value for money. The celebrity chefs attracted crowds and the food stands did a great trade but I have to wonder if next year prices will drop and how many of those restaurants will still be around. Was this the last day out for the Celtic Tiger?

(Also posted to the Dublin Community Blog)

Docklands Festival

Dublin Docklands 2009


It's been a busy June in Dublin, I've decided to catch up on some photos on flickr that I've taken and intended to post to the Dublin Community Blog.

First we had the Dublin Docklands Festival. A great sunny weekend packed with food, music and tall ships. Click on the image to see more photos from Flickr.

(Also posted to the Dublin Community Blog)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ronaldo Leaves ManU

The BBC is reporting that Manchester United have accepted an £80 million bid from Real Madrid for Christiano Ronaldo. Crazy money for one player. No matter how good a player is they are only one crunching tackle away from a ruptured knee ligament that puts them out for a season. I wonder how many replica shirts Real will have to sell to make their money back?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Apple Store in Dublin?

Just spotted a piece on ENN from the Sunday Tribune, Apple are looking into opening a store in Dublin. As a recent Mac convert I think that would be great, the MacBook Pro is a wonderful laptop and I'd like to have a proper Apple Store to browse and a Genius Bar to bring any problems to. The resellers in Ireland get screwed by Apple when it comes to stock of new tech. The 17" unibody MacBook Pro was a prime example. I didn't want to buy one without seeing it in the flesh, so to speak, but it was months before any were available in stores in Dublin.

The former Habitat Store and the Dunnes store on Grafton St are both mentioned as possible locations. I think Grafton St is more likely since it would have more footfall and the Habitat Store would probably be too large for the Irish market, unless Apple can get the store lease cheap and don't care about filling all the space. It would be the nicer profile building and Apple like their fancy store frontage.

Now of course all that should be taken with a grain of salt. The Irish market small enough to start with is now in recession/depression so Apple could still decide there is no long term future here. Interestingly the Sunday Tribune article also mentions Abercrombie & Fitch who were looking into setting up an Irish store but decided against it because Grafton St is "run-down". They might have a point, the gloss is leaving Grafton St, too many phone shops, burger joints and closed stores.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Setanta Sports in trouble?

It sounds like Setanta Sports is in trouble having apparently missed a payment of £3 million to the SPL for match rights. They are in talks with "a range of sporting bodies in an effort to change their payments following a strategic review".
Crap! I hope we dont return to a situation where Sky Sports hold the rights to every sporting event on TV, I like having the option to watch some Saturday soccer or late night American sports as part of my cable package.

2009 Flora Womens Mini Marathon

Congratulations to Rosemary Ryan winner of the 27th Flora Women's Mini Marathon. Congratulations also to the over 40,000 entrants who took part on a blisteringly hot Dublin bank holiday weekend. I was glad I got to stand and sit in the shade in St Stephens Green instead of going running around the city.

Rosemary Ryan, the 2009 winner.


Some more photos can be found in my flickr stream,

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bank Nationalisation Sucks

The Irish government has announced that is will need to put €4 Billion into Anglo Irish Banks to recapitalise the bank. The bank has lost €4.1Bn for the six months to the end of March and total losses are likely to reach €7.5 bn. The government says it cannot allow the nations third largest bank to fail so they will need to invest the €4Bn to recapitalise. If the government would stop throwing money onto the bonfire of the vanities that is Anglo Irish Bank perhaps it wouldn't be the third biggest bank in Ireland and we could cut loose this dead weight.

Interestingly at the bottom of the story on RTE they say
The results show deposits from businesses in Anglo dropped by almost €9bn after nationalisation.


Now I don't know anything more about banking than the average Irish tax payer but if the bank has lost €9Bn in deposits after we nationalised it and now the Irish tax payer needs to give them €4Bn isn't that proof that if we hadn't nationalised the bank and had found a better way to reassure depositors the bank would have €5Bn more money on its books than it does now?

On a side note the government will be sinking €4 Billion into Anglo while on the other side of the same street as the Anglo HQ they are planning on building a €4 Billion metro tunnel. How often has a government thrown €8 Billion into two bottomless pits within 50 meters of each other?

PlayNow Arena Movies: None for you Ireland!

Another update following on from the Sony Ericsson event on Tuesday. Sony have announced the details of PlayNow Arena Movies. Big, big FAILURE! After all the talk and praise for a cool sounding service it appears Sony have ignored the Irish market, same as in iTunes. The service will launch in June in Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK but no mention of Ireland. Please Sony tell me this is wrong!

Simply put my opinion now is, their phones are cool, their ideas are great but since media and the downloadable content of Play Now is such a fundamental marketing point of their new phones do not buy the new phones when they go on sale in Ireland if Sony have not made the services available here. The same applies for other countries where the phones are available but the service is not. Wait until the complete service already available in other countries is launched in your country then buy the phone, it'll probably be cheaper by then anyway.

Sony own the phones, own the service and own the movies so the rights issues that have plagued Apple and iTunes in Ireland should be easy to sort out for Sony. Instead they are forcing Irish customers to find other ways of obtain digital content for their portable devices. If they see sales of their new phones markedly down in countries without the full PlayNow service they might give in and allow customers to legally download their content.

Sorry Sony Ericsson but no movies, no money.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

iDou now Satio

Following on from my post earlier in the week about the Sony Ericsson idou they have announced the final version and name calling is a Satio, I prefer the name idou but maybe it was too similar to iPhone.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Broadband in Ireland according to the BBC

The BBC has a table of advertised broadband speeds in the 30 OECD countries. Ireland comes 26th just above Hungary, Poland, Turkey and Mexico. Not good not good at all, and thats the speed they "advertise" not the speed they achieve.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sony Ericsson Event

I was at the Sony Ericsson Show and Tell event organised by Damien Mulley tonight. It was an interesting event and we had the opportunity to play with some of the newer Sony Ericsson phones as well as one or two unreleased models. The phone highlight had to be the iDou with a touchscreen, 8GB card and a 12 mega pixel camera it looked like a the phone I wish would mate with the iPhone to produce my dream device. Unfortunately I spent too much time playing with an Experia X1 so by the time I got my hands on the iDou the battery was more iDont and all I could do was admire the lifeless case.

The Experia X1 looks nice, I liked the keyboard and the form factor, even windows mobile impressed me when compared to my previous experience on a Dell Axim. However the screen was a little small and web browsing didn't live up to the experience on the iPhone. Plus the touchscreen was controlled by a stylus and again that's a little out of date, it took several minutes of poking and prodding by iPhone users before someone realised there was a stylus. A stylus is so 2007 :-)

The highlight for me was the discussion of PlayNow. The rep described it as Sony Ericssons version of iTunes. It's not quite there yet but hopefully they will improve over time. Packages include an unlimited music subscription service. Another service being worked on is based around movies allowing 45 downloads over a year from a library of legacy movies. This is a step in the right direction but the current version wont compare with Apples iTunes service.

That said where it does beat iTunes Ireland hands down is that movies will be available. ITunes Ireland seems to be locked in an endless right negotiation with the media companies (including Sony I expect) to provide TV and movies in Ireland. Sure I can sign up for iTunes America or download the movies from other "sources" but why should I be forced to break the law just because the same companies who want to disconnect people who illegally download movies refuse to provide a legal download service available in other countries. There was also a mention of a possible slingbox type service for the PS3. Load it up with media and stream to where ever you are in the world.

Thanks to Damien for organising the event and I'm looking forward to future ones.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dell Studio One 19

Just saw this new PC up on Engadget (where I got the pic, hope they don't mind). Dell have released their Studio One 19 and thankfully are moving away their ugly boxes hidden under desks or stacks of papers. The new PC looks nice and modern and sure why wouldn't it considering it looks like an iPhone.

Seriously look at it. All PC companies can learn lots from Apple designs but making a PC sized iPhone? Hmm, don't know about that one. I imagine we will see lots of these in office receptions and customer meeting areas but I can't see myself handing over my own money for one.

(via Engadget)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Badges? We dont need no stinking badges!

A hard drive containing sensitive information from the Clinton administration in the US has gone missing from the US Nation Archives. Among the information contained on the drive was the social security number of Al Gore's daughter.

The drive was located in an unsecured workspace while Archives employees were in the process of digitizing information from the Clinton administration. About 100 badge-holders had access to the area, which was also available to janitors, visitors, and employees passing through to access the bathroom. It was stolen sometime between October and March.


So apart from the people with official badges the area was open to anyone visiting and people who wanted to go to the toilet? Why bother wasting money on the badges then? It reminds me of a company I worked on contract in years ago, a company long since closed down. An email was once sent around warning staff to stop allowing people follow them in through security doors onto the call center floor. Journalists had gotten access to the floor and had then published some embarrassing stories about the lack of security. Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The recession is over

Ernst & Young have released a report that shows our great Fianna Fail government has successfully led us out of the recession. Shame they led us into a depression instead. I remember the recession, that was nice.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Spire Sunset

Another photograph from my library. I'm trying to find photographs to display in the peoples photography this year. I know it's still months away but I want to have a good selection of photos to pick from this year and I'm thinking of displaying just sepia photos.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Peoples Photography 2009

Peoples Photography in Dublin is on again this year. I was at a meeting on Friday night where the future of the exhibition was discussed and seems to have been secured with many people volunteering to help out. 

Peoples Photography will take place as always on the last weekend of August, Saturday 29th to Sunday 30th. It's a great event for photographers of all levels to display their work and a great free exhibition for Dubliners and tourists. Go up to the website to find out more, it still contains the 2008 information but should be updated soon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ireland out of Eurovision

Ireland is out of the Eurovision at the semi final stage once again. But I have to ask, who cares anymore, outside of RTE and Today FM?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Photographs of the Customs House


The new Samuel Beckett Bridge will be floated down through the East Link bridge in the next day or two, weather permitting. It will then span the river just at the docklands side of Customs House quay. I think the bridge looks nice, much more pleasing to the eye than most of the other bridges across the river but I just realised that it will likely change the views of the Customs House and city skyline from the south quays.

I've seen some lovely sunset photos taken from that side of the river and from the docklands pedestrian bridge looking towards the Customs House. The new bridge will probably provide new photo opportunities but it might be worth getting down there and taking some photos today before the bridge is put in place.

Update: Woops, silly me. I got a look at a map and it turns out I thought Customs House Quay was half the size it actually is and the bridge is going in further down the river. The pedestrian bridge is closer too the Customs House than the new one.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Poolbeg


Continuing my trawl through my photo library I came across this one and decided to convert it to antique black and white. This is the Poolbeg gas powered electricity generation. I was fortunate enough to get to take part in a photo tour of Poolbeg station in 2007 with the meetDublin flickr group.

Time for change?

Here is an interesting idea inspired by a post from Damien Mulley in turn inspired by a picture from Laura McGonigle. Laura is a Fine Gael councillor on twitter and not the typical twitter contribution of politicians where twitter is used to link to their press releases she actually seems to tweet in a genuine manner.

Anyway, her father took this picture in Tipperary.


Why has no one started selling "No Fianna Fail" posters, bumper stickers, and t-shirts in time for this election. If Fianna Fail canvassers started seeing No Fianna Fail posters outside houses then I'm sure they would be onto Brian Cowen pretty quick to tell him the public have had enough. Anyone out there got the capacity to print, sell and distribute these? Go ahead and I'll buy some.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Chad aint Croker

The Irish army has 400 soldiers deployed in Chad and now wee Willie O'Dea has banned them from playing football because the ground is too hard.

"The reality in Chad is that the ground is extremely hard," Mr O'Dea said.
"Some of the sports are played out on open ground and when people fall, it
tends to have a much greater impact on their bodies than falling in a field in
Ireland."

I wish this was an April Fools joke but we are into May and even the Department of Defence must be able to issue it's jokes within a month and a half. We have an army that cant fire guns because the noise is too loud and now they cant play football because the ground is too hard. Why havent we been invaded yet?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

George Lee off to Fine Gael

So George Lee has been selected to run for Fine Gael in Dublin South next month. A high profile candidate such as Lee will make the by-election much more interesting and he should have a good chance of winning but it will also make things interesting in Fine Gael itself. George Lee is hardly going to give up the job as Economics Editor in RTE to rot on the back benches of the opposition. He must have his eye on the front bench and logically he would want a finance portfolio, but Richard Bruton is Fine Gaels best front bencher in the finance role so Fine Gael would be crazy to demote him. 

Here is my guess, if Fine Gael do well in the up coming local European and by-elections Enda Kenny will stand down as Fine Gael leader within the next year and later announce he wants to run for president in 2 years time. Richard Bruton will then step up to lead Fine Gael and George Lee will become finance spokesperson. That should give Fine Gael a strong finance team to attack the government in the next election.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swine Flu

Wow, where did this one come from? Swine flu has arrived in the news like a breath of fresh air from the recession. Nothing like a global pandemic to send George Lee on a long weekend. The good news is that thanks to bird flu the Irish government came up with a plan to deal with a pandemic. Apparently the plans and the antivirals like tamiflu put in place for avian flu will work for swine flu as well. Worth reading, if only for the sentence on page 3 that encourages a spate of panic buying.

If and when a pandemic becomes imminent, you will need to stock up on essential medicines, food and other supplies.

Right so, I'm off to clean the guns and set the man traps around the apartment block. ;-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

RTE Player

RTE has launched an iPlayer type service showing programs from the last 21 days. It's called RTE Player. Even though it is in beta it looks good and seems to work well. It's mostly domestic programming but Grey's Anatomy and Top Gear are on the list so maybe when it comes out of beta there will be more popular programs like Lost.

Paul O'Connell Lions Captain

So it appears Paul O'Connell is to be captain of the British and Irish Lions for the tour of South Africa. I hoped he would be captain but I waited until someone other than the Irish media reported it. It makes sense to pick O'Connell ahead of O'Driscoll, after all if someone spears tackles O'Connell the planet will end up with a dislocated shoulder.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cape Spear Newfoundland


I got a new laptop recently and it has led me to go through all my old photos again and salvage ones that I didn't pay much attention to previously. Here is one of Cape Spear from my first trip to The Rock. We must visit there again in the summer when we go back to Newfoundland. This is also a nice picture to post for what blogger tells me is my 1000th blog post. I've gotten far too grouchy and grumpy towards the government in my recent blog posts. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cake and Ale

The BBC is trying to ruin our weekends with their story this morning "Many unaware of alcohol calories"

But to coincide with the focus on weight, the Department of Health carried out research showing a regular beer drinker, who downed five pints a week or 250 over the course of a year, packed away the same number of calories as someone eating 221 doughnuts over the space of 12 months.


221 doughnuts! I feel ill.

3700 ESB Jobs

The ESB has announced that it plans to create 3700 jobs. It's a good news story that has quotes from the Taoiseach, the Energy Minister and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I imagine every other government TD and Minister will have a press release of some kind or other welcoming the announcement and taking some credit for new jobs coming to their locality.

My question is this, while all new jobs are welcome do we really want the big job announcements of the "smart economy" coming from existing semi-state companies? Work policies and union vetoes in semi-state companies seem to result in every decision, new technology or green idea being delayed and costing more than it should. Why not take the opportunity to spin off new smart economy companies in which the government holds a majority stake but without the dead weight of employment agreements, benchmarking and programs for prosperity from another era. This would allow the companies to quickly respond to changes in the market place, bring new technologies to customers and depend on innovation and quality to win customers instead of government monopolies. If and when those companies become a success the government could then easily sell their stake in those companies and re-coop the taxpayer investment.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Income and Medical Levies to be backdated?

The income and medical levies that were increased in this months emergency budget may be backdated to January 1st 2009. That would see most people paying hundreds of euro in extra tax this year, possibly out of their May pay cheque or spread out over the rest of the year. George Hook on Newstalk is covering the subject and was interviewing Ruairi Quinn from the Labour Party who said the tax increases could be backdated once the legal position was clarified.

It seems clear the Irish government has no idea how to stimulate the economy and will now just suck as much money as possible out of peoples pockets while hoping a global economic recovery will solve all their problems for them.

Update: It looks pretty official now. Many news papers have the story and apparently it was in one paper on Sunday. The Irish Times has a good article that explains what is likely to happen. Ordinary PAYE payments will not be hit instead it's likely the government will use the backdating to claw money out of people who received lump sum payments since January. In some cases these payments were attempts to evade tax later in the year once it became clear the government was going to increase the levies. However in many cases, including people who took voluntary redundancy payments, ordinary people who were not evading tax will now be hit as well. Many will have used those lump sums to reduce their mortgages or invested in long term bank accounts with penalty clauses for early withdrawal. Many others may now be unemployed and living off those lump sums. Now I personally wont be impacted having not taken redundancy or received a bonus but I still think this sets a dangerous precedence. If later in the year the government is forced to introduce another budget what would stop them backdating those taxes?

Friday, April 10, 2009

24 reasons to buy a generator

Spies have penetrated the US power grid and planted software that could shut it down, or at least so says the US government. Didn't I see this on 24 a couple of weeks ago? Actually didn't I see this on Die Hard a few years ago? Or any number of movies and TV shows for decades? It is a bit hard to believe that the US power grid can be hacked into from China or Russia. If a TV script writer can think of it shouldn't some highly paid government advisor?

Though now that I think about it I do remember a guy I worked with in a large company used to dial into his home network provider on his work laptop so he could download stuff blocked by the firewall. This while also connected to the office network. Basically millions invested in corporate firewalls and cyber-security can be bypassed by one guy who wants to watch YouTube in work.

Irish Buses

While looking up the weight of a Dublin bus for a post on another blog I came across this website Irish Buses. A website for Irish Bus enthusiasts. Ok it sounds weird but it is strangely interesting to find out about the busses I take to work every day.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Budget Day

Ah Budget Day. The wonderful time of year when the government takes from the private to give to the public. My wild guesses are
  1. Adjustments to stamp duty to encourage people to buy and kick start the property developers. The government is addicted to the property market and hopes one day in the future to be able to restore it's lost income from stamp duty.
  2. A tax on second property, but nothing too high. Enough that landlords wont absorb the tax but will be able to pass it on to renters spread over 12 months, see 1 about encouraging people to buy property again. The ideal for the government would be to encourage renters to buy but not force landlords to sell yet. Clear out new property stockpiles before ex-rental properties flood the market.
  3. A ban on below cost alcohol selling with no real increases in alcohol of cigarette duty, that will help the publicans.
  4. Some car scrappage scheme to encourage people to buy new cars and dig out the car dealers
  5. A toxic bank to rescue the bankers. Split everything down the middle, they get the profit and we get the loss. Plus this hands the bad debts of the property developers to the State where it will be managed by a government that has worshiped at the altar of those same property developers for years.
  6. An increase in DIRT tax to encourage people to spend instead of save.
  7. Raising or scrapping the PRSI ceiling.
  8. The recent government levies to double or an extra percentage grade added on for even higher earners.
  9. The abolishment of tax reliefs large and small including the rental relief, see 1 about encouraging people to buy property.
  10. A change in the pension levy to remove people from the levy who are not entitled to a public service pension.
  11. Possibly a drop in VAT possibly to 20%. A small enough drop that shops will be able to get away with not passing it on the the public while not impacting too much on the government.
  12. A pay cap on some senior grades of the public sector with some changes in government departments and committees to save token amounts.
  13. Some task force or government body to boost job creation and inward investment.
  14. Token measures to encourage the knowledge economy, improvements in broadband and IT infrastructure. It will sound good but it'll be vague enough to allow the government to continue to class 3G mobile phones as broadband.
  15. A couple of woolly green measures, create some "green jobs" and keep the Green Party happy.

I'd also guess that after this budget there wont be the same number of protests that there was after the last one. Everyone is going to be hit but Fianna Fail will have learned their lesson and wont target any one clear group like the elderly again. Either everyone will be out on the streets or just the die hards who wont have much sympathy from the public since we will all be suffering.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Fact Finding Mission

I was just listening to a lady talking on the radio about the possibility the government may cut foreign aid in the budget tomorrow. She was just back from a fact finding mission to Bolivia and the situation was pretty desperate over there.

Hmm, well here's the thing, I haven't been on a fact finding mission and I know things are pretty desperate in the developing world. How about cutting out the fact finding missions, both by aid agency managers and government ministers, and just use a telephone to ask the people on the ground what they need. Then use the money which had been allocated for the trips to give those people some of what they need.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The New Metro North

The Irish government today announced that it will continue with construction of Metro North, all be it a scaled back lower cost version of the project. Commentators have criticised plans to construct a 4.5 Billion underground railway system in light of the nations dire financial situation. The Department for Transport disagrees saying the Metro is of vital importance to the nation and is a matter close to the hearts of many government ministers. Instead the Department has announced a 3 point plan which it hopes will reduce the cost of constructing the Metro.

  1. It has been estimated by government experts that 97% of passengers on the Metro will simply wish to travel from the city center area out to the airport and in some cases back again. The extension of the Metro to Swords would not be economical for the remaining 3%. Therefore the length of the Metro will be shortened, running from beneath St Stephens Green directly to the Airport where it will terminate. This should also greatly speed journey times from the city center to the airport with trains able to make the trip in far less time than large groups of people travelling on foot or by car at times when large numbers of people may have gathered in and around the city center especially the Kildare St and Upper Merrion Street areas.

  2. The number of stations will be cut drastically. The stations, especially underground ones were proving to be a larger than expected burden on the construction costs.

    The Department explained that the new locations were chosen after consultation with the current occupants of the buildings who agreed that easy, safe and secure access to the Metro would far out weigh any temporary disruption to their offices during construction. There will be one station on the south side of Dublin under St Stephens Green with additional underground access points added from several locations including 80, 94 and 51 St Stephen's Green, Agriculture House, Leinster House and Number 23 on Kildare St and Government Buildings on Upper Merrion Street.

    On the North Side there will be 5 stations, Parnell Square, Store Street, Custom House, Marlborough Street and the airport itself. In the airport costs and disruption to the public will be minimised by moving the new station to beneath a site currently occupied by a private hanger which is already owned by the Government and currently houses the government jet and several helicopters.

  3. A back to work scheme will be introduced where workers recently laid off will be given work on the construction of the tunnels and stations as part of a retraining and reskilling program. The manual construction of the tunnels is seen as a far cheaper option than using complex tunnel boring machinery such as the large automated drills used in the construction of the Port Tunnel. Costs will be further reduced by classing the workers as third level students. The whole retraining program will be designated as a further education institute and will provide these student workers with invaluable skills which will be in high demand in post recession Europe. Fees and new third level charges will of course be applied where appropriate but a government loan scheme will be introduced and the workers will be allowed to pay these loans back to the government over a period of 10 years at favourable rates of interest.

    All people who have applied for unemployment benefit since the start of 2009 will be entered into a draw for the retraining and will have their names randomly selected on a weekly basis as places come available in the institute. The first batch of students will be expected to report to the construction site no later than September of 2009 for orientation and physical assessment. Those living outside the capital will be provided with accommodation in specially constructed government facilities in The Curragh army camp. The retraining programs will run for between 1 and 2 years during which the government expects to go through between 70,000 and 100,000 workers.

Construction of the metro should begin later this year and be complete within 2 years from today April 1st 2009. It is expected that it should be open to the general public shortly after the next election or the resignation of the Government.

Life Mag

The archives of Life Magazine have been put online with a new website Life.com. There are 7 million images from Life and Getty. This a little treasure trove of old photographs and it's great to see these being digitized and put on line instead of put in boxes and locked away in archives like so many photos.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Picturegate

The Irish internet and blogging community reacted with anger today at the idea that the government would take such offense at the display of caricatures of a naked Brian Cowen that they make the state broadcaster apologize for broadcasting a story about the paintings and then send a Garda detective around to another radio station Today FM to demand they hand over emails from the artist.

Today FM, in fairness to them, stood up to the Garda and asked him to return with a warrant. RTE on the other hand caved and apologized as well as taking the story down from its web site and archives. Unfortunately for the government once something goes on the internet it's hard to stop people from keeping a copy of it.

If the government had shut up and ignored the issue then it would have just gone away. Now it's all over twitter and on blogs all over Ireland. There are even t-shirts and copies of the pictures being put up on lamp posts.




Sunday, March 22, 2009

Puffin for Dinner

Watching Gordon Ramsey's F-Word on More4 while trying to set up my new laptop, more on that later I hope. He just went to Iceland to go puffin catching. The puffin is the official bird of Newfoundland, where my girlfriend comes from, so you can imagine her disgust when they pulled the heads off the puffins ripped the breast and insides out then ate the heart raw. In my youth I did go hunting rabbits but even I baulked at the idea of plucking birds out of the air, ripping their still warm hearts out and eating them on camera. On the other hand the dish he made in the end with the cooked puffin breasts did look tasty.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

3 years for shoe thrower

The Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi who famously threw his shoes at George Bush has been jailed for three years as a result. Apparently he could have been jailed for 15 years for the crime of hitting someone with his shoes. Harsh! Seriously, what does putting him in jail for 3 years achieve? It's not likely that he will re-offend, how often does a repeat offender get the opportunity to throw their shoes at George Bush? It's more likely to generate sympathy for him and inspire others to use shoes as symbolic protests. Finally I'm sure the prison space he will fill would be far better used housing a terrorist or insurgent. I wonder if the Americans will lobby to get him released.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Manhunter

Just watching an old episode of CSI called Abra Cadaver where a stage magician called Zephyr is tracked down by Grissom. My girlfriend pointed out how similar the actor who played Zephyr looked to the serial killer in the movie Manhunter a movie we watched last year and which still scares her. Turns out he is the same actor Tom Noonan. But the cool thing is the actor who plays Grissom, William Petersen, was the cop in Manhunter. I wonder if they deliberately set out to get the two actors back together.

Blogger Registration

Boing Boing has a story about attempts in Italy to pass a law to have bloggers register with the government and to ban anonymous posts to the internet. Scary. We rightly criticise countries like China or Iran when they crack down on bloggers yet when a member of the EU tries to do the same thing no one is concerned?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Brrrr

I went to sleep in the Spring and woke in the Winter. I even heard people on the radio talking about cars being stuck in the snow. Snow! On Sunday I was down in Cork taking photos and thought it was too warm for the jumper I had on. Yet this morning at the bus stop I was wondering where I had put my gloves and scarf. I liked the snow last month but the novelty is wearing off and I'd like it to get warm with some sunny days again please.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Civil Service Strike


The Civil and Public Services Union played their trump card by going on strike today and guess what, the Earth did not stop revolving, Brian Cowen didn't explode and Brian Lenihan didn't come crawling to their picket lines covered in ashes and dressed in sackcloth. In fact, it might have just around my area but traffic did seem lighter this morning so I got into work quicker this morning.

Maybe all this strike has done is highlight the fact that there are thousands of civil and public sector workers that aren't vital to running the country on a daily basis? At the very least if we get a few more strike days this year the budget deficit may be solved.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gardai to protest


The Gardai (Irish police force) were on duty last Saturday for the public service pension levy march. Of course you do need as many police around as possible when you have 120,000 protesters so they had to put up with some shouts of "why aren't you marching with us", of varying levels of friendliness, from the crowd walking past their cordons around the Dail.

They get their turn to stand out side the Dail and shout at the government next Wednesday marching from Parnell Sq to the Dail. Interestingly the GRA have put forward some suggestions to the government that went beyond the usual "don't make us pay it's not fair" that comes out of most trade unions.
"We asked Government to consider legislation to write down mortgages by 20%. We also asked the Government to consider legislation that would allow people on fixed rate mortgages to be allowed to switch to variable rates without penalty. Their silence is deafening.

I like the 20% write down idea. The government is giving billions in taxpayers money to the banks to cover bad loans from property developers so I like the idea that instead of writing off huge property debts write off 20% of everyones debt and see if that stimulates the economy and restores confidence. Seems very unfair to those of us renting and with no mortgages or to those who spent their whole lives paying off theirs but it does seem better than just paying off the debts of a few millionaires.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Standards & Decency in the gutter?

I went into the anti-pension-levy protest yesterday in Dublin. It was an impressively organised protest. If we spent as much time thinking up solutions for the economic crisis as we seem to be spending complaining about it then we would well into our next economic boom.

More pictures can be seen here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

We apologise for any inconvenience

I saw signs up in St Stephens Green this morning giving advance notice of work planned for the Metro North station from the Green out to the airport and on the Swords. Personally I cant believe they ever planned to dig up St Stephens Green to build a train station when just running the Metro from O'Connell St and going ahead with the planned over ground connection of the Luas lines would have been much cheaper, far less destructive and much less disruptive.

There is an existing Luas line from O'Connell Street to Heuston and Connolly train stations so there should be no need to extend the Dart to St Stephens Green. In theory it may cut a couple of minutes off some peoples public transport journey from Sandyford to Cork or the Airport but is that worth the investment? Would it really be such a hardship to expect people to stay on the Luas an extra 2 minutes all the way to O'Connell St and then switch to the other Luas line or onto the Metro?

Given the current economic down turn the cynical part of me thinks the only reason to push ahead with an expensive plan to extend the Metro line under the Liffey and connect it with a new Dart and train extension from Heuston and Connolly is because the new station would be a two minute walk from the Dail. Of course it's all ok because as the sign says they "apologise for any inconvenience".

Save the money, save the Green. Put the money into a decent bus and tram service in Dublin and around the country as a whole.