Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope Santa was nice to you all.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


I like to keep an eye on the Apple rumour and gossip sites to see what new technology I will be lusting after in a few months. The current favourite product that doesn't exist yet but is being designed by rumour is an Apple iTV. Like all things Apple, if it's on a website and someone has a "reliable" source who says the new product "will have feature X,Y and Z" you can be reasonably certain that is is either all made up or a proof of concept device that wont actually make it to development so the security teams stopped watching it.

Apple have a track record of producing products that answer a problem in a way that no one expects and I hope that this will be the case an iTV. Personally I don't see Apple producing a range of large screen TVs. They would be entering a market that is saturated with good products already available at every size, price and quality range. How would an Apple screen be different from a Sony screen? The problem is not the physical TV itself but the content and how it is managed and controlled. We may be better looking at existing the Apple TV 2 for an idea of how any iTV could work.

First content will need to be addressed. The current Apple TV is useful for renting movies or streaming content from my MacBook or iPad but I cant get TV on it in Ireland. If Apple enter the TV market in a strong way they are going to have to improve the content that is available outside the States. Apple could sign a deal with the studios to provide world wide access to their shows and the back catalogues at a reasonable price for the viewer then they would be onto a winner. Next they are still going to have to make it possible for the local channels to get content onto the box. For example, I may not watch RTE much but I'll still want to watch the news and special shows like the Late Late Toy Show live and not on an RTE Player type service.

Second, how that content is managed will also need to be looked at. My broadband like many others is not the fastest so movies take a while to download, even for streaming. The user will need to have the ability to store some shows locally either downloaded or "recorded" in advance and can be viewed on demand. The Internet is great but Internet providers are not. You don't need to be able to store 100 hours of The West Wing for those days when you are bored but you do need to be able to press a button and watch tonight's episode of The Walking Dead when you get home late. Waiting for a download to complete or the stream to buffer is going to ruin the experience.

How its controlled is a more fun but potentially more annoying issue. Voice recognition with Siri is not going to work on its own, especially when you want to browse randomly through the channels. Try sitting in front of the TV tonight browsing channels and every time you press channel up say "Channel Up". You'll get pissed off very quickly, though not as quickly as the other people in the room with you.  The existing Apple Remote is quite nice and simple but it is difficult to type in anything. A combination of the two would work but the more interesting controller would be a Kinect type motion sensor. Waving your hand left or right in a page turning motion to spin through a coverflow of channels and shows. If you have an iOS device look at the coverflow of music and imagine if each cover was showing a live feed of a TV channel. Then there could be a press type motion to select the channel. If the volume is too loud just gesture down with your hand as if you were telling a friend to lower their voice. Other motions would need more work, off/mute/pause but perhaps that's where Siri would come in.

(Update: I wrote most of this post last night and then this afternoon I saw this patent application from Apple)

If Apple produced that devcice similar to the existing Apple TV 2 hockey puck, with a microphone, video/movement sensor and access to a huge online library of shows I'd buy it in a heart beat. That way Apple could deliver a new TV experience to a mass market without having to produce the TVs themselves.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Not so bad after all

All the speculation and spin in the run up to the budget was that we were about to be crucified and I fully expected lots of pain but instead Michael Noonan pulled a delaying tactic by getting just enough out of consumption taxes and other changes to avoid hitting income. 

It's probably a smart move for two reasons. People spend what they think they will have, a 2% increase in VAT will hurt but if people saw their pay packets 2% lighter in January that would have hurt more and many would have cut spending even more. Secondly we are not really in control of our financial future. This budget is a side show on the collapse or not of the Euro. The government could have made a series of unpopular decisions only to have the situation deteriorate or improve at the next EU summit.

To a degree they have kicked the can down the road hoping that by the time budget 2013 comes along things will be better but if they are not then they will be able to blame the EU for unpopular income tax increases.

The Metro Herald headline summed it up this morning "It could have been worse"

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

3 Day Budget

So the government has started well on it's 3 day budget. It's clear that the simplest way to tackle the issues faced by the nation is to divide up the budget into 3 separate parts and announce the cuts and pain that particular income groupd in the population will suffer. 

Day 1: The Poor - Cuts to health, social welfare, justice and education. 
Day 2: The Middle Income - Probable increases in VAT, excise, motor tax, carbon taxes and a new property tax on homes.
Day 3: The Higher Earners - This is the big one, a new higher income tax bracket. Cuts to senior civil servant and politicians pensions, taxes on bonuses... 

Oh, whats that you say? There is no time for 3 days? Well I suppose we'll just hit the poor and the middle this year and next year try to fit in something for the higher earners. In the mean time if you are a Fine Gael supporter Enda will be giving out jobs and pay increases round the back of Government Buildings after the budget speech, just dont tell anyone.

I have nothing against the idea cuts and tax increases, we need to do something to fix the economy. But it feels to me like the pain is not being shared equally. You only need to look at the cuts in yesterdays budget and compare it to the cuts in politicians pensions then look at the proposals for tax increases in todays budget and compare it to a PR consultants salary increase to see that there really is a two tier economy, the governed and the governing. If we do not spread the pain fairly and evenly then the resentment and bitterness that is built up will be the main legacy of this government.

Update: Wow, I got that completely wrong.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Enda to kill Christmas?

I was surprised yesterday when I read a story on Facebook explaining how Enda Kenny was about to address the nation to outline the dismal state of our economy and how much extra we will have to pay in this years budget. I wasnt surprised at the fact that he would address the nation but at the abismal timing of it: during the ad break before the Late Late Toy Show

For those who dont know, the Late Late Toy Show is a sweet part of most Irish peoples childhood Christmas. We all grew up watching it and most of us of all ages will still sit down on Friday night to watch it bring out our inner child again. Scheduling a depressing state of the nation before it would be a bit like announcing an outbreak of bird flu 5 minutes before Americans sit down to enjoy their turkey dinner at thanks giving or going on TV to announce an immediate ban on suggary food just before showing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. 

The Civil Servants around Kenny are apparently concerned ratings would not be high enough during the rest of the weekend. I suppose breaking into XFactor is not an option? Is Simon Cowel more powerful than Santa? Is the music industry more important than the toy industry? These are the same Civil Servants who got us into this mess and who still insist on being paid enormous salaries, fantastic pensions and automatic promotions to even better jobs. They live in a fantasy land but they seem determined to destroy everyone elses little dreams and fantasies. Let the nation have its Christmas, you have taken everything else from us.

I hope they see sense and reschedule it. Kenny will be a figure of derision and hatred if he announces tax increases and budget cuts just before people sit down to start their Christmas season.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Soccer is the new Rugby?

10 years? Has it really been 10 years since we last qualified for a major soccer tournament? It only seems like a couple of years ago since we were fighting the Roy v Mick civil war in Saipan. Then we had a long old spell in the wilderness but we're back now. Poland in 2012 will sure be something to look forward to, I wonder if Ryanair have jacked up the prices already :-)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


We went away to Co. Clare for the weekend and stayed in a hotel which falls into the "modern but trying to appear old" bracket. In one of the alcoves of the bar was a bookshelf stacked with old hardback books no one ever bothers to read. In the bottom corner of the bookshelf was a stack of even older looking, worn and tatty books. These looked far more interesting so I snapped a photo of them. I didnt try to read any of them because the pile looked a little too precarious to be messed with. For all I know they could have been made in China last year, treated to look old and sold in a Hotel Bits and Bobs market but I liked them.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Aras 2011

Voting day has finally arrived and since 2pm yesterday the broadcast media has had to avoid discussing the candidates. I'm not sure if a broadcast ban is really relevant these days since the internet and print media do not have the same restrictions and these days many people get a substantial amount of their news online and so can continue to read about election. The broadcasting ban may give us some peace quiet in the day before voting but it doesnt really achieve much else.

Either way ban or no ban, my choice is already made, I'll be voting for Michael D Higgins because I feel he better fits the role of President. In the end it was as simple as that. The President is a ceremonial position, they need to represent the state with dignity and poise, they need to be above the politicians who go to them looking for seals of office. Michael D for all his quirks appears to me to be the right person for the job. While some of the candidates had strong points I think they would be better suited to life in the Dail than in the Aras. Others should have been content to make a difference outside the Aras and will leave this election with their reputations tarnished without ever having a realistic chance or getting elected or even getting their expenses back.

Regardless of who you vote for you should go out to vote, it's a right, a privilege and a duty. It is something that people around the world fight and die for even today, dont waste it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Occupy Dublin

Here is a photo I took outside the Central Bank a couple of weeks ago where the Occupy Dame Street Protestors are living in tents to protest against capatilism. I'm not sure exactly what their goal is and what will get them to stop the protest in Dublin. Do they want to close down the Central Bank, redistribute all wealth or just raise awareness? Why are they at the Central Bank instead of the IFSC which would more closely reflect the Occupy Wall Street image? I'm not clear but sure maybe we could all do with some of their passion in our lives, maybe not the protesting but just being that dedicated to a cause or an interest. Though volunteering to live in a small tent on nights like last night when Dublin suffered 100 year floods requires a level dedication, passion and more than a touch of the crazy that I could never have.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

iOS 5

I've been playing with iOS5 for a while and I've come to two conclusions on it. First it's a great update on the iPad. Second its a bit of a let down update on the iPhone. 

iOS 5 on the iPad is actually a nice step forward. There are lots of headline features but the three I've found myself using regularly are the notifications on the lock screen, newsstand and the multi-touch gestures. Notifications are actually very useful and I've now find that I have my iPad in a stand beside my monitor and I can see when an email, twitter of Facebook message pops in. Newsstand I assumed would be a gimmick and perhaps it will be but I currently have two newspapers installed for free (the Guardian trial and metro) and I do find myself reading them. I feel the novelty could wear off and I'll go back to just reading the websites. Finally the killer update for me is the multi-touch gestures. Swiping up with 4 fingers to access multitasking, swiping across to switch apps and pinching to close apps have become my usual way of navigating apps. 

On the other hand (no pun intended) the multi-touch gestures don't work on the iPhone 4, where I actually need them because my home button is acting up a little so I'd like an alternative to pressing it, especially the double tap to open multitasking. I can understand that the screen is a little small and fiddly for 4 finger gestures but Apple could at least have given us the option. To not have it there is a let when compared to the iPad. The notification system is the one update on the iPhone I regularly use and like. 

Other features like wifi sync, and reminders may become party of my day to day use but haven't yet. The photo editing tool is simply too late to the game since I'm already using Photoshop Express and Snapseed.  Airplay mirroring to the Apple TV might prove useful some time but it's not something I have a use for at the moment. My wife and I might use iMessage but she's rather sensibly banned me from updating her 3GS at least for now. She doesn't want any of the other new features and doesn't want anything to change  so she's happy to stay a version behind until everyone else tests the OS.

All in all iOS 5 isn't a bad upgrade. It's adds some useful features, especially for the iPad but most importantly it's free so it is pointless to complain about anything. Like the iPhone 4S it seems like an incremental update but then again iOS works and works well so we'd all probably complain more if Apple changed it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Autumn 2011

Something good seems to have come from the economic collapse, we still have St Stephens Green (at least for another autumn). The plans for Metro North and the Dart Interconnector seem to have been put on hold if not cancelled so there is no need to dig up the Green and build a train station. 

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs RIP

Every morning when I wake the first thing I do is check my iPhone for the news. I suppose that was indeed a fitting way to learn about the untimely passing of Steve Jobs, the man who gave us the iPhone and set the standard by which smartphones, tablets, PCs and laptops are measured today. 

I am an Apple fan. I have owned all the iPhone versions up to and including 4. I own the iPad2, a classic iPod, Apple TV 2, a MacBook Pro, my wife uses a MacBook Air and the whole lot are connected using an Airport Extreme. We don't buy DVDs anymore, we rent from iTunes. My CDs are in a box under the stairs, replaced by iTunes as well. I'm sure many people will tell me that in each case a better device exists for numerous technical reasons. However I chose the Apple device because they are the best fit for what I want.

Steve's genius wasn't in inventing the first device in a class (the iPod wasn't the first MP3 Player, the iPad was not the first tablet device) or even the device with the most features (no Flash), it was in looking at a market and creating something to meet that need and something that would in a short amount of time come to define that market. He will be missed by many who never met him but who have grown accustomed to his genius.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


I watched the Presidential Debate last night on TV3 and the previous one last Friday on RTE. I have to say at this stage that this election is more about mistakes than issues. 

The role of the President is a figurehead role and we currently have 7 candidates in the running. At this stage with just over 3 weeks to go there are, realistically, only 4 candidates still in the race, Michael D Higgins, Gay Mitchell, Martin McGuinness and Sean Gallagher. 

Higgins is clearly head and shoulders above the rest, even if he is 2 feet shorter than the others. His biggest win so far has been staying out of the scraps and acting presidential. He demonstrates a clear knowledge of the role and the constitution and sometimes comes across as the wise teacher explaining to the other candidates why they are wrong in what they said. No one wants to be seen attacking a small old man so the others are scared to even look at him the wrong waay. A good candidate on his own, he was always going to be in the running right to the end but now he might just win easily because the others knock themselves out.

Mitchell and McGuinness are taking lumps out of each other and really need to focus on the campaign because at this stage they are not fighting for the win they, are fighting for 2nd and 3rd place, 4th if they keep dragging each other down and let Gallagher get ahead. With the success of the peace process McGuinness had some appeal outside the Sinn Fein core vote but his constant focus on Northern Ireland issues and achievements in interviews will begin to grate on the voters in the Republic of Ireland, where he is running. His IRA past was always going to be an issue but voters thought they knew about it and many had gotten past it. He has now confused the situation by denying his membership after 1974 and created doubt in peoples minds.

Mitchell is an interview train wreck. His campaign is completely focused on taking down McGuinness and while he's achieving that goal he is not actually winning votes for himself. When talking about himself he constantly repeats tales of woe from his youth that could have come from a Frank McCourt or Alice Taylor novel. Asked about the role of the President he talks about suicide prevention, an admirable goal but he could just volunteer for the Samaritans. He needs something new to catch peoples interest or his campaign is doomed.

Gallagher is the surprise of the campaign for me. I thought he'd pick up some votes from the younger voters and business people and finish 6th or even as high as 5th but last weekend he struck a cord with my retired parents who were impressed with his focus on creating jobs. The older generation, who will vote, are worried about their children having to emigrate so the jobs creation message resonates with them. Gallagher however needs to push himself forward more. There is no point in having a message if you don't tell anyone about it. Also while he denies his FF past many people out there have a history of voting for FF and like Gallagher now claim to have disowned the party. That is a voting pool he could tap into with a "We made mistakes in the past, lets learn from them" message.

The other three, Dana Rosemary Scallon, Mary Davis and David Norris are performing so badly that if they were in an American Presidential Primary race they would have pulled out. Unfortunately at this stage I suspect they are hanging on in the hope of getting enough votes to get some of their election expenses paid by the state. 

Dana seems to wave the constitutions of Ireland and the European Union in response to every question. She is also starting to sound like a conspiracy theory nut and really doesn't seem to understand what the President can and cant do. 

Mary Davis, seems to be caught up in her own airbrushed self image. The Special Olympics was a great achievement but she got paid for it and being on 23 State boards regardless of who appointed her just makes her sound like a friend of Bertie. Also her posters just annoy me. The head shot looks like a completely different person and the full body shot has text too small to read so it looks like a viral advert for Special K. She should fire who ever designed them.

David Norris, God love him he's just in free fall. He started this campaign as a respected elder statesman with a track record of campaigning on many important issues. He is going to end it being chewed up and spat out. He should have known his own personal history and should never have entered the campaign and he certainly should never have reentered it.

I still haven't decided who I'll vote for but Higgins is my favourite at the moment and Gallagher would get a 2nd preference vote, though I expect that Higgins will be in the race after Gallagher is eliminated so a preference vote wont be needed.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fianna Fallen

TV3 finished their documentary on Fianna Fail last week and I unfortunately missed a good chunk of it since I didn't expect much from it after the first two episodes but what I did see looked like a much better summary of the Fall of Fianna Fail and the role played by all the politicians. Rather annoying really since I'd given up on the show so I guess that teaches me and I'll have to keep an eye out for a repeat.


Last week was the now annual Arthurs Day. A day to celebrate Diageo, I can't help but feel that it's here to stay, unfortunately.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Poor Cowen

I watched the second part of the TV3 documentary on The Rise and Fall of Fianna Fail. I'm a sucker for punishment. I've ranted enough about the show already and this episode didn't do much to change my opinion that this is just a fluff piece.

This episode focused on the collapse of the economy. While McCreevy and Ahern did get an amount of coverage most of the blame seemed to fall on Cowen. We all know he was out of his depth and couldn't cope with the economic collapse, we didn't need Bertie to tell us that. I would have hoped TV3 would take more than just a purely chronological view of who was to blame. Cowen inherited the job from Bertie who resigned just before the crash but long after the country had been locked on its course.

You can blame Cowen for how the economic collapse was handled but blaming him for the disaster as a whole is a bit like giving most of the blame for the Titanic sinking to the guy lowering the lifeboats. Sure many people died because lifeboats were half empty but they wouldn't have needed the lifeboats if the captain hadn't sent them full speed ahead into an ice flow. Same here. Cowen and Lenihan made the economic collapse worse with their handling of the crisis and their blanket bank guarantee was the death blow to the economy but it was the Ahern governments that let the banks get to a point where they had to go to the Minister on the night of 29th of September 2008 to seek the guarantee. As the show went on and they heaped more blame on him I actually began to feel sorry for Cowen. Blame the man for what he did but don't make him carry all the blame for what those before him did as well.

While TV3 did mention McCreevys give away budgets they tried to absolve him from his sins by saying when he tried to change things he was sent packing to Europe. The majority of the time on Ahern was given over to coverage of his time in tribunals. 2/3rds of the show were then given over to Cowen. Seeing Ahern being interviewed and commenting on how the shambles he created was managed after him left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The man clearly either believes his own fantasy of a country in great shape when he left or he thinks if he repeats it enough time on the media then the public will begin to believe it.

With one episode to go the space is still there for another station such as RTE to do the definitive documentary on Fianna Fail.

Blogger App

Google finally released an iOS app for blogger and despite it being simple but useful it's let down by not having a landscape typing mode. Am I missing a setting somewhere?

Seriously, how hard is it to put a landscape perspective in your app? Actually I should find that out myself soon as I'm learning iOS development in my spare time but I suspect it's not too hard and in an app where people are supposed to spend most of their time typing the landscape keyboard on the iPhone is much easier (when you get the two thumbs thing down) so it's a feature that should have been a priority.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Rise and Fall of Fianna Fail

I have one of those nice handy UPC PVR boxes that allow me to record TV shows and watch them later. Very handy considering myself and Lauren have somewhat different tastes in TV shows. Monday night was one of those nights however when I played the ultimate PVR card, "I want to watch and tape this show". In an apartment with one TV that is a very valuable card to play, you don't get too many of them, especially when the other person has little or no interest in the show. Unfortunately this time I completely wasted both the card and my time.

My mistake? Expecting a TV3 show entitled "The Rise and Fall of Fianna Fail" to provide an interesting history of one of the most powerful organisations in the history of the State. A story of intrigue, backstabbing and the quest for power that runs from 1916 to the current day this could have been one of the great documentaries on Irish history. Unfortunately the actual result was a fast forward through the years 1916 to about 1998 in approximately 20 minutes. TV3 felt no need to cover irrelevant parts of Fianna Fail history like the leaders between Eamon De Valera and Charles Haughey, then skipped Albert Reynolds completely and jumped to Bertie Ahern. The structure of Fianna Fail was just briefly mentioned, apparently TV3's research team concluded Fianna Fail is just a bunch of grassroots members in Cumanns and directly above them is the Cabinet. The actual structure of the party is a little more, well, structured. Comhairle Ceantairs, Comhairle Dail Ceantairs and the Ard Comhairle are all levels above the Cumann but TV3 missed this (googling "Fianna Fail structure" and looking at the party website was clearly too much effort). Bertie and his ex-girlfriend Celia seemed to dominate the show. I can only assume there are 2 reasons for this. 

First TV3 came into existence in 1998, Bertie became Taoiseach in 1997. Why pay the archives of other TV stations for access to their footage of Lemass, Lynch, Haughey or Reynolds when you can just jump into the national archives for a few clips of De Valera and then skip 70 years to your own archives for Bertie. Second, Bertie now out of politics and with very little of a political legacy to protect, was more than happy to give TV3 a long interview explaining how he is 1000% innocent of everything and to walk around the graves in Glasnevin cemetery looking pensive. 

Based on the first episode this show is not "The Rise and Fall of Fianna Fail". It's a three part interview with Bertie Ahern. Possibly a more correct title would be "Bertie Ahern: In his own words". TV3 only threw in some fluff about the history to suck in people who are sick of hearing Bertie proclaim how he saw nothing, heard nothing and knew nothing. 

The first episode has already been deleted from my PVR, I'm never going to watch it again and I might just wait until Tuesday to read the reviews and decide if I want to watch episode 2 on the TV3 catch up page.

Monday, September 05, 2011

New Blogger

I see Google have updated the Blogger interface. I've been on for years now (since 2005) and this is by far the biggest change I can remember. It takes a bit of getting used to where things have moved but I like it. It's more modern and cleaner. It feels like Google has taken some inspiration from Wordpress which I use for other blogs. Thats not a bad thing but I can imagine people who have been die hard exclusive Blogger users will be a bit upset at the change. They'll get over it.

Peoples Photography 2011

I took part in Peoples Photography again this year. It’s always a good weekend to meet other photographers and to see a wide variety of photography. The weather wasn’t the best but sure no one went to the event to get a tan. I was helping to organise the event so I spent quite a bit of time walking around and was walkng past one of the gates when I spotted this shot. All I had was my iPhone but I like the effect.

Friday, September 02, 2011

iPad 2

One of the things about organizing a wedding from a abroad is that you end up with a stack of spreadsheets, emails, PDFs and other scanned documents that have been emailed back and forth over the previous few months. Maybe that's normal for all weddings but in my case I decided that rather than lugging a folder of printouts or a 17" MacBook Pro around from meeting to meeting it'd make more sense to pick up a tablet to carry them on and as an Apple fan it had to be an iPad.

My current pride and joy is a 16GB 3G iPad 2 and you know what, unlike many gadgets that take my fancy, it's actually very useful. People have described the iPad as a large iPhone but perhaps it's more accurate to describe the iPhone as a small iPad. Reading twitter and my RSS feeds on the iPad is so much easier than on the iPhone. Video, internet and reading all benefit from the larger screen. Battery life seems to be better as well. But that may be more down to the fact that I don't check the iPad as ofter as I do the iPhone. Email and SMS type communitation is probably easier on the iPhone simply because I'm used to it and I am still quicker writing those with my thumb. I'm writing most of this post on it.

It feels good and solid. Plus its light, though I do find myself resting it on something when I'm using it for more than a few minutes and holding it above my head while lying back in bed is a good way to wake up with a glass slap to the face (you dont do that twice). Nothing Apple can do about that, if it was any lighter it could feel too flimsy. It's not really a complaint, just an observation.

I find now I'm looking forward to iOS 5 to see how the new iCloud and AirPlay mirroring change how I use the iPad.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back Again

Sorry I was away for the last few weeks such a short time after returning to this blog. I have a good excuse this time though (before Col. Creedon slaps me again), I got married. Not that it was a surprise or anything, we've been seeing each other for over 4 years and engaged for over a year.

It was a great day and all the work and stress was worth it, though it went by so so fast. One thing about getting married is that there are so many things to do on the day that I started at 8am with breakfast with my family and then next thing we were doing the last dance at midnight. The two bits that do stand out are the ceremony itself, in fact the whole church bit, and the few casual drinks we had in a place called The Inn of Olde in Quidi Vidi while taking photos (we got married in Newfoundland in Canada since that's where Lauren is from).

Anyway I have to thank everyone who helped us out on the day, our family and friends who made the whole thing day so special, though most probably wont read this blog. I should also mention two people who do read this blog. First Karen Dunne who took the photo attached, but more importantly who introduced myself and Lauren at the Irish Blog awards 4 1/2 years ago. Second I should mention Col. Creedon who keeps me blogging and was also there the night I met Lauren. It was the first time I'd seen him since our Carlow RTC days and we stayed talking for ages. So long in fact that Lauren almost wandered off from our group to chat to other people. Ciaran, you and your podcast almost ruined my life ;-)

Thursday, July 14, 2011


With our wedding coming up next month my fiancee took advantage of the one time in our lives when she could get me to go see a movie called Bridesmaids. Ok so it wasn't much of a fight since I'd heard great reviews of the movie saying it wasn't really a chick flick and some had said it was the best comedy in ages. Now perhaps I went into this with high expectations but I was very disappointed.

[Warning spoilers ahead]
First of all it's not original. I'm pretty sure I've seen exactly the same plot many times before. Girl has bad love life but a best friends shoulder to cry on, best friend gets engaged, girl is worried about being left behind, has mad cap freak outs and adventures, big fight occurs at some stage and all is wrapped up with girl saving the wedding day and being there for her friend in the end. Throw in the required nice guy sub plot along with some strange side characters and you have the basis of every rom-com ever made.

I've nothing against that, some rom-coms can be quite funny and even have original ideas within the standard framework. Just 2 weeks ago I watched and liked Gnomeo and Juliet for the novelty of the setting despite it being very predictable. I failed to see anything like that in Bridesmaids. The movie seems to want to start off as Father of the Bride/American Pie the Wedding style story but then before it got going they changed into a female version of The Hangover. Just as it seemed that idea had potential they dump it to fall back on the standard X loves Y but Y is angry at X rom-com, and we finish with the traditional save the wedding panic.

The filmmakers "we don't know what we want" dilemma is also reflected in the characters. There's a father of the bride who only shows up a couple of times to say "I'm not paying for that" but then goes away while the spending goes on unabated. There are two bridesmaids who seem to be there just to start a lesbian joke and then vanish. There are the flatmates played by Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson who appear every now and then to explain they did something nasty off camera but seem to be reading from a different script to everyone else on the set. There is Chris O'Dowd, who I like as a comic actor in the IT crowd, but who seems to start off trying to put on a slight American twang over his Irish accent (even my Canadian fiancee thought this) but then just gives up when Kristen Wiig comments once about him not being American so he can settle into being Irish which we can assume he is from a pint of what appears to be Guinness that he drinks later on. He then spends most of the rest of the movie looking annoyed.

It's as if the writers went into a room, brainstormed on a whiteboard and didn't want to upset anyone by dumping their idea so they wrote a script that contains a reference to all the ideas many of which then come across like some kind of an in-joke between the cast and crew leaving the audience feeling like the stranger at a table of friends when someone says "Remember when... " and everyone else starts laughing.

One scene stands out as funny. The dress shop food poisoning scene was hilarious and got my hopes up for a movie that would take the old standard wedding comedy plots and trash them. It doesn't. That's the high point of the movie. An engagement party joke goes on several minutes too long, moving from funny to cringe worthy to tiresome. The airplane scenes appear to be the moment when most of the cast decided to stop trying to act anymore and just read straight from the script pages.

I came out of the movie thinking I'd give it 3 stars out of 5, now with more consideration I think I'll give it 2. It disappointed, didn't live up to the hype and seemed to be a mess of a movie that starts off promising to be funny, then cant decide where it wants to go and ends up falling into generic predictability.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Fair City hits the headlines

On the front page of this moning under Entertainment headlines "Dinner goes flying on Fair City tonight". Well when they have to pay for things like Marrian Finnucans's grueling 4 hour week I guess RTE dont have much left from the TV license for audience pleasers like stories, scripts, actors, special effects, stunts, or in fact anything else that goes into making a TV show more interesting than an average household.

Next month all homes in Ireland will receive the new Fair City 24 Hour Interactive HD Service from RTE, a polished mirror. Sad thing is the remaining Fair City fans will probably happily sit in front of it for hours on end wondering what happens next.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Beau Brownie

I went shopping for some last additions to Laurens birthday presents and stopped in the antique shops in Powerscourt Shopping Center. I got distracted by a collection of cameras and picked up a present for myself as well, a Beau Brownie from around 1930. It may not be in perfect shape but it still works and came with a bag and original instructions so I’m pretty happy with it. It takes 120mm film which I have a few rolls of so I’ll have to test it out and I’m half tempted to bring it to my wedding and see what cool photos I can get.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yes Minister

Dail (5 of 12)
Michael Healy-Rae is learning his first lesson as a TD, when a Government Minister asks you to do something in the national media you'd better say Yes Minister or be ready to go to the mattresses.

Joan Burton twice wrote to Michael asking him to step down from the Citizens Information Board now that he is a TD. Michael said no. Joan made a bit of an issue about it in the media and Michael responded by accusing her of cronyism and asking who she would replace him with on the board. In your face Minister, dont tred on Michael...

Then suddenly out of the 2007 comes the relevation that 3636 phone calls were made to a premium rate phone number from a phone in the Dail voting for Michael to win a reality TV show. This cost the taxpayer €2,639. Michael's response was he couldnt have done it since he was on TV and sure the money went to charity anyway. Leaving aside the obvious stupidity of an excuse that depends on the inability of everyone who was on Michael's fathers then Dail staff being able to use a phone, claiming it's ok anyway because the money went to charity is like saying it's ok to rob banks so long as it goes to a good cause. Now he's had to come out and pay back the money while insisting he still did nothing wrong in the hope that the story will go away. Meanwhile Joan is off on TV/radio announcing a national intern job scheme and just casually mentioning that Michael should resign from the board.

Whats next for Michael? Some rumours of voting irregularities in his constituency came up again yesterday. Elderly people in Kerry South reporting that people showed up on their door step asking to collect their postal ballot or help fill them out. Stuff like that happens all over the place during elections (or did when I was a kid) but suddenly it's news coming out of the same constituency as Healy-Rae?

Coincidence? Maybe but it's getting a message across as well. Dont mess with a Government Minister or it may just be your bad luck to find yourself in front of cameras explaining something from some years ago.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wedding Documents

Anyone know a good religion, quick to join, fast track for wedding paperwork/interviews and a free church building at the start of August? Preferably one that has a courier service on speed dial who will be able to get documents from Ireland to Canada in less time than infinity?

It would appear that 6 weeks later our paperwork which took weeks to complete has disappeared into the processes of the Catholic Church and hasn't reappeared at the other end yet. Aaaaahhhhhhhhh.

If this doesn't go through Lauren will marry me just to divorce me!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Driving Test

I passed my driving test today. At my age it was a bit ridiculous that I had never bothered to even sit a driving test until today. I live in Dublin in an area well served by buses and the luas so it is easier for me to take public transport into town than drive and worry about parking. However my current job is at the other side of the city so driving became an issue and I decided to bite the bullet and go for my full license.

I have two observations about the process. First my god but lessons are expensive. They were worth it, but at €55 an hour for the pre-test I felt sorry for anyone who needs to book more that a couple of pre-test lessons. Now the instructor was great and without doubt I would have failed if I had not been through the two pretest sessons, had him bring me through the dummy test scenario and been brought around the routes. The test itself did bring me into some different areas from the lessons but in general I was comfortable enough with most of the estates, roads and junctions.

Secondly the tester is hyper professional. It's his job to mark my driving and tell me where to go and that is it. No small talk, no observations about the day or the monsoon rain that hit during the test, just "left here", "right at the end of the road", "pull in" for 30 minutes. Even after the main test when he had me park (yes, parking was tested though I was told it wouldn't be) he didn't say anything just told me to follow him back to the office. Then he sat behind his desk and started getting out papers. By that stage I was sure I'd failed by nearly killing us somewhere along the route and he was bringing me back to the office to wait for the Gardai to impound my car. It was only when he started filling in the Certificate of Competence that he paused and said "oh yeah, you passed, congratulations". I'm sure he sees dozens of test candidates every day and it's his job to test us all fairly with no bias based on how he likes the person so he did the right thing but it was nerve wracking.

So I finally have a full drivers license. I'm now qualified to drive where I like and on my own. Though somehow the knowledge of how to drive on motorways has not magically popped into my brain after passing, I might stay away from them for a while.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bad Declan, Very Lax

I've been called to task by one old friend Col Ciaran Creedon who has reported me as MIA, or is that AWOL, from this blog for 90 days. It's been a hectic 3 months with wedding preparations and other projects so my ramblings were reduced to 140 character tweets and I never got around to posting here. Which is bad of me since the last 3 months have been pretty bloody interesting in Ireland, maybe not as interesting as prior to GE11 but still it's not like I couldnt have found some time to post an update or two. My apologies.

I'll get back to posting here from now on, I promise, and if I dont The Col. will track me down.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


General Election 2011 is over, at least the first one is over and hopefully the politicians can sort out a deal to make a stable government. The odds are that a Fine Gael/Labour coalition will govern for some years to come while the outgoing Fianna Fail party could take several elections to recover from the disaster that befell it. At the end of the day Fianna Fail cant blame anyone but themselves. Their policy decisions over the last decade led the country into an unsustainable boom and when it all collapsed they landed the nation with a huge amount of debt while trying to shore up a group of banks that mattered little to anyone outside the golden circle of property developers and politicians. I personally dont doubt most of the TDs thought they were doing the right thing for the country but they had become so removed from the real country and the ordinary people that they did not understand what life was like outside Government Buildings.

I voted. I always have since I was old enough to vote. When you consider what people went through to get the right to vote then it seems childishly ungrateful not to spare 10 minutes every 5 years on the way home to call into a hall and put a mark on a piece of paper. For ID I brought my passport and before heading over to the polling station I snapped a couple of shots. Most of them didnt come out and then on the way I only managed to get one photo of the election posters that I liked. I did try to sneak an iPhone photo of the ballot paper when I was in the voting booth (not allowed but I wasnt the only one who did it) but it didnt come out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Back to Analog

A year or so ago I was clearing out a storage space under the stairs and I came across a couple of VHS tapes I had packed away some time earlier. These were some old TV shows I had recorded and a couple of movies that I had not yet replaced on DVD when I had decided to keep them. They were significant because they were the only pieces of analog media left in the apartment (if you don't count books and I don't). In fact things had moved on to such a degree that beside the box of VHS tapes was my box of CDs, long since burned to MP3 and playing off my iPhone.

I contemplated what to do with the tapes, they did have a certain sentimental value but I realised that even at their peak they were not the best quality and I had long since disposed of the VHS player that could make them useful again. So they went into the bin, the last relics of our analog past. I was quite proud of myself to have finally moved my life to digital.

At least until last weekend when I went shopping for a present for my fiancee. She is a music nut and accounts for an ever growing percentage of the random tracks that appear on my iPhone after a sync. The English punk rock band The Clash have a strange and cheesy role in how we got together 4 years ago, so I decided that a set of Clash albums on vinyl would make an amusing and quirky Valentines gift. Off I went into Dublin City to scour the music shops for vinyl.

It turns out I'm not the only one to have gone digital, the mainstream shops in Dublin have long since made the switch too, pushing CDs into a smaller section and trying to cling to a market of DVDs and Blu-Ray movies. Even some of the old die hard music shops seem to be allocating more space than I would have expected to CDs. Granted many of those CDs were indeed old and from bands I had never heard of and whose names their own members probably struggle to remember after all these years. In the era of iTunes CD's may start to push the old vinyl disks out of the dusty hidden away record shops and into the antique shops as 30 somethings become nostalgic for their first album bought in the 1990s and want to show their kids how Daddy used to listen to music before phones had play buttons.

Eventually after being sent from one shop to another an assistant at one market stall informed me that indeed he had seen some Clash vinyl that very morning but in a different shop around the corner. Off I went and with some relief I finally managed to acquire 3 albums, an EP and a single (for far less than the new versions would cost on iTunes). Now the first album The Clash from 1977 sits in an album frame in our apartment while the discussion takes place on where we should hang it.

The fact that we don't actually have a record player did cross my mind but that's for another days shopping. We will get one, fans would insist that the music should be played, but for the moment this is analog media that has moved to the status of wall art. A historical relic from a previous era. I cant see myself ever hanging a CD on the wall, VHS tapes were never pretty and iTunes album art makes no sense at all in a role outside a computerised screen so perhaps that is the future for analog media in my home, finding a niche as visual art that digital can never hope to usurp.

Monday, February 07, 2011

New Dublin Street Trading Spots

Dublin Council is considering adding new street trading locations around the city. Most are food stalls but there would be several Arts and Crafts spots around the city. The full list is available here but some highlights include
  • Books and/or paintings under Merchants Arch

  • Jewellery/Crafts on Capel Street Bridge

  • Art and Photography in St Patricks Park
I think some high quality trader spots around the city would be good, so long as they encourage Irish crafts and artists. The spot for Art and Photography in St Patricks Park would be good, especially if they allow numerous stall and dont allow the art crowd to exclude photographers in the way they do at other spots like Merion Square. I do wonder about the need for more flower stalls on Grafton St and a food kart on the traffic island opposite college green seems like a good way to get drunk people to wander into traffic while eating a kebab, but in general the new spots could be good additions to the city.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Dublin Bus Fare Increase

With all the media attention focused on the upcoming General Election for 2011 it appears that Dublin Bus have managed to sneak in approval National Transport Authority for a 2% fare increase. 2% may not seem much but somehow it adds up to 10c on some fares. A quote from their website:
Dublin Bus wishes to advise customers that from Sunday 6th February 2011, adult cash fares will increase. For journeys of 13 stages and under, the fares will increase by 5 cent. Over 13 stages, outer suburban and Xpresso fares will increase by 10 cent. There will be no increase to child fares.
So next week expect to pay more if you take a bus on your commute.

Alternatively if you drive a car through tolls apparently the National Roads Authority believe toll companies are ripping off commuters and should be reducing tolls to reflect the fall in the consumer price index. I agree with them, the price of state supported services should fall when the CPI falls, unfortunately the Public Service seem to think it's fair for them to increase their charges no matter what is happening in the economy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Toy

I got myself a nice new toy this morning, a Canon EF 24-70 f2.8 L USM lens. It's beautiful. Up to now I've bought EF-S lenses and they served my needs well but with my wedding coming up and a friends wedding before that where I have to take photos I thought I'd make the leap into pro lenses. My walk around lenses were good but when i zoomed in the aperture would go up and they never worked well in low light. I've played around a little this afternoon and have been impressed so far. We had to go to a wedding fair this afternoon so my opportunities to test the lens have been limited but hopefully I'll get out tomorrow and put it through it's paces.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Vivian Maier News Clip

I saw this amazing story yesterday. A Chicago nanny by day and a superb street photographer by night (or her time off). Her photos lay undescovered until after her death when a box of her negatives was bought in a sale of an abandoned storage locker. Eventually the guy who bought the first box was able to buy other boxes and found approximately 100,000 negatives, a third of which have not been developed yet so even Vivian had not seen them. It's worth watching and it makes me think of a car boot sale my fiancee went to in Canada a few years ago. A St Johns photographer was retiring and had lots of old cameras on sale. Lauren picked up an old Minolta range finder for me but she said the table was full of rolicords and other old cameras. I'd love to discover a box of old negatives or a car boot sale full of old cameras.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year

Ughh, it's the New Year. I need coffee, lots of coffee.

Ughh, it's the New Year. I need coffee, lots of coffee.