Archive for September, 2008

Check your grocery receipt!

Trying to pack the items after the checkout staff scanning them along as quickly as possible. Heavy items in first so fruits and vegs are placed on top and will not be squashed. The eggs even higher over to avoid cracks. Separating food and non-food items. Pay for the purchase. Put purse/wallet away. Move away because there are items coming through for the next customers even before you can evacuate the packing area.

All these happen at the checkout so quickly that, seriously, how many people actually look at their receipt and check if it’s correct before they leave the premises?

I’ve always tried to at least scan through my receipt, although not always, especially when I’m in a hurry. Lately however, I’ve been particular about checking my receipt, after one too many incidents where I ended up being overcharged. Surprisingly, or maybe not, I’ve never been undercharged.

It all started when I was being charged a lot for some toothbrush that I thought I’ve found a great promotional deal on. Upon recheck of the price, apparently the item on promotion wasn’t the one that I’ve bought. That was a case of mislabelling, or so I was told. Except this “practice” seems to be more widespread than ever. It happened several times that I started scrutinising every detail on the labels to ensure that I’ve picked up the right item. I’m nearly not surprised anymore on seeing similar items placed side by side, with ambiguous promotional sign placed in front. Pick the wrong one and you could be paying a good deal more.

As extension to that, I also started paying more attention to my grocery receipts. It is astonishing, how often I’d still be overcharged. I would have imagined, now that I have ensure I’ve picked the right items in relation to the prices displayed, and with the barcoding system, this shouldn’t happen. But no, I’m still being charged more. They are usually items that are marked to have reduction in prices, except somehow at the check out, the deduction didn’t happen – I would have been charged the full price!

Of course, the shops normally have policy that if you found such discrepancies, they will refund the difference. But the onus to this is, as a consumer, you need to be aware of every little details of your purchase and you will have to alert them of this. Surely as a merchant, they also have the responsibility to ensure their system is working correctly and that the customers are paying more than they should. However, when overcharging is happening nearly everytime I shop, I have pretty much lost the confident and trust in the merchant.

I query such discrepancy every time, even when the amount is negligible. And even when the queue behind me is long and everyone’s getting impatient. I refuse to let them think they can get away with such small deception each time. Little by little, if people don’t notice nor query it, they can make a pretty profit out of it!

International students, welcome to Ireland..?

It’s the time of the year where students are starting or going back to college. First there are students of UCD starting in mid-September, then students of RCSI, DCU, DIT etc starting a week or two after that, and last but not least TCD in early-October. That’s the trend for Dublin colleges as far as I know of.

At the same time, flights are arriving in Dublin airport with fresh-faced students, be it someone from Europe on an Erasmus exchange or someone who’s here and registered as a fully-fledged international student. For the Europeans, their main worry would most likely be competing with the Irish for accommodations. And maybe a small sense of inadequacy in using English 24/7 for the first time in their lives. For the non-Europeans though, add on another (major) headache – the immigration.

This article in Irish Times today highlights the immigration issue that every foreigner faces in this country – the procedures involved in making sure your entry and residency status in this country is legal and above board. But as pointed out in this article, the immigration procedures are arbitrarily carried out and trying to pinpoint on guidelines is a mammoth task for many.

If you are an international student who applies for a visa while still residing in your home country, this is the minimum guideline from the immigration service website. The international students office in your education institution should also be able to provide assistance and further information that you require.

For continuing students, things should be more straight forward as there would be a record file in place and one who also already have some experience dealing with the immigration bureau. Please note that the processing fee for visa this year has increased from €100 to €150.

The following is a list of minimum documentations that everyone applying visa in person should be aware of, and hopefully these would be all that would be asked to produce. The thought of re-queuing outside the GNIB office with hundreds of other students should be an encouragement for anyone at all to ensure he/she has all documentation at hand the first time round.

  • Passport, with at least 6 months validity post-course completion date
  • Letter from college, certifying that you are a registered student with fees paid
  • Valid student card, obtained following registration week in college
  • Bank statement showing sufficient funding, or letter from sponsor
  • Proof of course attendance, particularly if attending private colleges e.g. DBS
  • Evidence of private medical/health/personal insurance
  • Specific bank giro of €150 for processing fee, or credit card to pay this amount

[Note: this is only a guideline, and is by no means exhaustive. The invididual immigration officers dealing with the cases may exercise their rights in requiring more documentations and in approving/declining the visa applications.]

I am uncertain of this year’s application procedure (this has been changing several times in the past years) so I would just write on what I know based on last year. While the immigration bureau on Burgh Quay opened its door at 8am, students were asked to queue outside (it snaked around to the back to the building/block even) before numbered tickets were distributed starting at 9.30am. The number of tickets distributed per day was limited. Someone who was too far back at the queue may not get a number and would have to return another day.

A good book and a music player won’t go astray while one waits for his/her turn inside the office once a numbered ticket is obtained. For some, based on the number given, it could well be hours before their turn to talk to an immigration officer. Some people leave to return later, but my advice on this is, if you’re doing that, time it smartly. If your number is called and you miss it because you’re not there, then you’re back to square one and will have to queue again another day.

A few minor things. Be courteous and respectful. Turn off the mobile phone. Put it on silent otherwise. The office will most likely be packed this time of year so your bag doesn’t need a seat. Hours spent at the immigration bureau is frustrating, but everyone is in the same boat. Good luck!

If you have any other tips, or have been at the bureau recently, share it with us through the comment box.

Where have all the gentlemen gone?

I was catching up on some news through Huffington Post when I came across this article (full text below). Interesting attention grabbing headline, until I read further and the writer was drawing examples from this very city itself! I don’t really have much time to assimilate the details within this article right now (work beckons!) but thought I’d post it here for your reading pleasure.

What’s your thought on it? Were anyone in the audience of the debate? (And I wonder if it was L&H Society that organised this debate?)

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In Ireland last week, in front of hundreds of students at University College Dublin, I participated in a debate on whether pornography is destructive or harmless. Numerous speakers on the pro-pornography side argued that pornography was a central part of women’s liberation, a point which met with thunderous cheers from the women in the audience. When it was my turn to speak, I asked the young women present to raise their hands if they needed a man. Not one hand went up. I then told them that commensurate with the degree to which men are becoming immature, porn-obsessed schoolboys, women are giving up on the hope of ever finding a noble, well-mannered gentleman. As women confront the vulgar reality of how men treat them, they discover that becoming masturbatory material to men is not particularly liberating.

The despair of Dublin’s women was mirrored the next evening in a conversation with a twenty-nine year old woman who told me that she had given up on finding a good man because the men in Dublin were conditioned ‘to treat women as orifices.’ She said, ‘A huge number of women play along by coming out on Friday and Saturday nights in their skimpy mini-skirts in the freezing cold, getting completely drunk and doing anything the guys want in the mistaken belief that somehow this will bring them love. After a few years they give up on men and become like me.’

Nowhere in the Western world are we raising a generation of men who pride themselves on their restraint and respect toward women. We are likewise failing to cultivate women who refuse to be complicit in their own degradation and who insist that their sexuality be shared with a man only in the context of a serious and tangible romantic commitment. It’s a man’s world. Women just live in it.

This is even true in marriage as more and more relationship experts blame a cheating husband on his wife. If a man is unfaithful, they argue, it is often due to the fact that he feels lonely and unappreciated by his wife. By recognizing that their husbands have emotional and sexual needs which wives may be ignoring, a wife can win her husband back and ensure that he does not stray.

A few months ago I mentioned that this was the position taken by Dr. Laura Schlesinger after the Eliot Spitzer affair and it has since been echoed by other relationship writers.

But this attempt to blame the victim ignores the fact that the principle reason men womanize is to shore up their broken egos. There are so many damaged husbands who think that a nurturing stranger who both desires him and wishes to be an ear to his pain will be a salve to his painfully low self-esteem. In many cases, these are husbands who have wives who could not be more devoted, who give them sex whenever they want, who pine for them to come home at night, all to no avail. No matter how much she huffs and puffs, she cannot inflate his perforated ego.

Would we really suggest that, as Elizabeth Edwards ran around the country with incurable cancer catering to her husband’s yearning to be president, he cheated on her because she wasn’t caring enough? After Silla Ward Spitzer garnered national ridicule by quite literally standing by her husband in his greatest moment of shame, would we inflict the final insult on her by telling her that her husband hung out with hookers because of her neglect?

In this age of husbands who are sports and TV addicts, I dare say that there are probably more wives who are ignored by their husbands than the reverse. But women seem much more capable of controlling themselves and deciding that a husband’s neglect is no excuse to corrupt one’s character and become immoral. Indeed, the only way to truly affair-proof one’s marriage is to decide that the pleasure of righteous action and moral heroism by far outstrips anything that can be experienced in illicit sex. This is something magical in a man’s ability to turn down an opportunity to stray and walk away from the encounter a devoted husband and moral giant. One of the prime reasons we all suffer from low self-esteem these days is that we are not the people we want to be. Becoming a liar and a cheat is probably not, in the long run, going to make us feel a whole lot better about ourselves. But deciding to behave righteously even when we are in pain will.

To be sure, wives should of course work to reach their husband’s buried emotions. Contrary to what many women believe, men are intimacy seekers. In these challenging financial times, wives should ask their husbands not, ‘How did your day go?,’ but, ‘How do you feel about all the convulsions in your company?’ They should nurture their men’s hearts and do their best to address their pain. But in the final analysis, if a husband cheats, it’s his fault. Period. He has his own selfishness and ingratitude to blame.

As I survey the current cultural landscape I often wonder, where have all the gentlemen gone? Our movies are filled with male bathroom humor. Our sporting heroes like Alex Rodriquez can’t seem to respect their commitments. Our college campuses are filled with frat boy party animals for whom womanizing is an integral part of ‘higher’ education. Do men today only aspire to an internet startup but not to refined character? Do they yearn for the Forbes Four Hundred list but not to set an example for their own sons of how a great man honors his wife and prioritizes his family?

There was a likable young man I met in Dublin who was very smart but also very cynical. As I spoke with him he shared with me his desire to be recognized as a great director. He also said, matter-of-factly, that when he meets a woman he is unapologetic about trying to have sex with her. When I asked him if he wanted children, he said, “I love my future children enough not to have them. I would inevitably mess them up.” Of course, by the same logic he might as well never try and make a movie. But then, great directors get Academy Awards while gentleman receive no public accolades other than the knowledge that they alone among men tamed and harnessed the beast within.

[Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hosts a daily national radio show on “Oprah and Friends.” His most recent book is the ‘The Broken American Male.’ (St. Martin’s Press) www.shmuley.com]

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The Music Show ~ RDS

The Music Show (formerly Music Ireland), Hotpress magazine’s comprehensive exhibition showcasing all things, em, musical is back in the RDS next weekend, Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th of October.

The exhibition brings together the cream of the Irish music industry all under one roof. With exhibitors ranging from recording studios and duplication plants to vintage guitar stores and rock schools, you’re sure to find something to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, whether you’re in the industry or not. Complementing the exhibitors, there are a number of workshops running throughout the weekend such as drum and guitar masterclasses and recording techniques tutorials, all headed by experts in their respective fields. Seminars and panel discussions chaired by the likes of Liam O’Maonlaí (he of Hothouse Flowers fame), Mick Quinn (rock photographer extraordinaire) and Dave Fanning (needs no introduction) serve to provide invaluable insight to the ins and outs of the music business.

And thats not even the best part. For the bargain price of €15.00 (weekend ticket in advance), you get to witness live performances from the fabulous Ham Sandwich, The Blizzards, Jaded Sun (check these guys out if you get a chance – really great classic rock sound from an unbelievably underrated Irish band) and Mercury-nominated Fionn Regan, to name but a few.

So, if you’re in any way musically inclined and find yourself free next weekend, get yourself to the RDS for the only Dublin Show of it’s kind.

Tickets available from Ticketmaster.

Ranelagh Arts Festival 2008

Well, the weather remains somewhat gloomy (but dry) in the city, with the odd sunny days at weekends. Not entirely a bad thing if this trend continues, although I wouldn’t be looking forward to a beautiful Saturday followed by a drenching Sunday (cf weekend 13-14 Sept).

Nonetheless, after the fun that was last night of Dublin Culture Night, there’s more activities for arts lover coming up in a few days, namely Ranelagh Arts Festival 2008. The festival runs from Tuesday 23 September to Sunday 28 September.

The festival is in its 4th reincarnation, with various events to be held in and around Ranelagh (of course), where some would be free, some free but ticketed (so order those you want now!) and some are plainly ticketed. You can either order them online or at the box office, which is the front snug of Smyth’s Pub on Ranelagh Road.

There will be song and dance, comedy nights, photography competition, open air movies, poetry reading, family fun day, children’s pirate parade, free food tasting and many many more. [Check the full programme in PDF]

I think this is a brilliant initiative to bring the people who lives in and around Ranelagh village together, while promoting this urban village to everyone else. I’ve marked out a couple of jazz events and comedy nights to check out, and perhaps will brave the crowd on Sunday for some free food at Ranelagh Gardens. ;-)

Dublin Culture Night 2008

Today is the day! Or maybe I should say… Tonight is the evening!

The Temple Bar Cultural Trust is bring the Dublin Culture Night for the third year running, and it’s all starting at 5pm. Think culture and you’ll get galleries, museums, theatres and the likes, and for this special day, they’re opening till late (well, very late for most of these places actually) – give or take 11pm/midnight – and there will be no entre fees charged.

The comprehensive list of events can be found on the Culture Night website, and there are some awesome and unusual line ups too, including Filipino Tribal Dance (Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, 6.45pm), Yodel (Old City, Temple Bar, 6pm & 8pm), 2D and 3D building illumination (3 different locations) and for anyone wanting to go and visit Leinster House, have a look at this press release and ring in to see if they have any places/tickets still available.

Lots and lots of dance and music all over the city, which will add to the liveliness that’s ever the hallmark of Dublin on any good old weekend. That’s the spirit we should all maintain, and I hope you have a fantastic evening, enjoying all the free goodies on offer! :D

O’Death Free Tickets

So we still have a doublepass to give away for O’Death at Whelans the 25th. O’Death are hard to describe as they combine folky instruments and beards with a attitude that is one part punk, one part hoedown and one part crazy.

For entry into the draw email me at dublinthom@gmail.com the nicest/funniest/most memorable email wins.

listen to them here.

Radio Nova granted licence for Dublin rock station

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) have awarded Radio Nova a commercial radio licence fo a new classic rock station in Dublin, to begin broadcasting from August 2009. Despite applications for the licence from two other contenders – Rock Radio and Classic Rock Radio – the licence was awarded without an oral hearing – a first for the BCI. Phantom FM broke the mould in 2004 when they were granted a licence from the BCI to broadcast an alternative music station after years operating as a pirate station. Personally I can’t wait to have another alternative to Westlife and breakfast DJ’s. For the full story click here.

Transport21: €70,000 Logo

I would be eager to hear what any marketing execs or indeed Joe Public thinks of this logo for our fantastic new Transport21 plan:

Snazzy? Effective? It had bloody well want to be, it cost €70,000 of taxpayers money to come up with it after Noel Dempsey, Minister for Transport, snubbed the free logo that had been drawn up by the Department of Transport.

It emerged today that Noel Dempsey allocated €2 million of taxpayers money to outside consultants, PR and advertising in the first half of 2008 alone, with the majority being spent on promoting Transport21. You can read the full story here.

I may not be too savvy when it comes to the multi-layered world of PR and advertising, and I do acknowledge that a certain amount of promotion is necessary, but a €70,000 logo – funded by the target audience?? I’d love to hear from anyone who thinks that this is justifiable.

Ponytail tix last call

I still have one double pass for the Ponytail gig on Wednesday to give away. I also have some passes for Immanu El on Saturday. Read about the gigs here and to win the tickets just send me an email at dublinthom@gmail.com

You can also read a recent interview with Ponytail by State Magazine (now free State Magazine) here.

ponytail

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