Archive for the ‘Discuss This’ Category

The quest for employment

This is one of those scary real life videos, which is not even about reality tv show. Instead it highlights the real problem during times of economic downturn. Previously, practically most of the convenient shops in town would have signs at the window offering casual/full time employments. Now, a single sign at one shop window for just a few days could evoke a line of over 500 applicants!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cf31q4TC790[/youtube]

In fairness, the ratio for this particular employment interview session is about 1:5, given there are about 100+ positions to be filled for 3 new Londis stores. Quite a normal rate. I guess the surprise factor is actually seeing queue of this magnitude instead of a more traditional discreet interview appointment system favoured in this city.

I fear we have not seen the last of such open call interviews (while the number of jobs offered keeps on dwindling over time). Hard times people. Hard times.

Only €17

Easter Egg

Seriously. Only €17. Only? For an Easter egg plus a few token chocolate pieces? I know it’s Butler’s and all but how do they justify it with the word “only”?

I really dislike the use of the word “only” in conjunction with prices at the supermarket etc. More often than not, it’s just a psychological ploy to impart a false sense of good value to the shoppers and consumers.

Even more distastefully was, near this very sign, there was another that says if you shop there and using their Value/Club Card, you’d get some percentage back in the next card mailing. If they can afford to do so, how much profits are they making out of anyone who doesn’t have a membership card or had forgotten to bring the card with them? This particular chain no longer allowed crediting of points at a later stage, which was what one used to be able to do as long as he/she presents the receipt within certain number of post-shopping days.

Is this really the representation of good value?

Player of the RBS 6 Nations Championship

How was your Paddy’s Day celebration? Were you taking full advantage of the weekend festival line-ups, as well as yesterday’s parade (which seemed very similar to last year’s but with notable addition of Simpsons and family)? And for those attending the All-Ireland Club final in Croke Park on a beautiful spring day, did you enjoy the action regardless of which club you were supporting?

Now, with all those out of the way, the eyes are now on the upcoming final match of the 6 Nations Championship, between Ireland and Wales. The mention of you-know-what is almost taboo-like (that even I am a little scared of uttering the words) and to be honest, I have been all nerves about it since Sunday. In the last couple of days, I must have read more articles, pundit predictions and comments that I care for, each time with this rush of thumping heartbeat. I am as yet uncertain how I’ll survive until Saturday with this eternal palpitations…

The players in contention (images compiled from RBS 6 Nations website)

The players in contention (images compiled from RBS 6 Nations website)

All talks aside, there’s something else of matter too – the Player of the RBS 6 Nations Championship. It’s time to rally everyone to vote for Dublin’s favourite son – Brian O’Driscoll – and see him regaining this title this year after it was awarded to Wales’ Shane Williams last year. Brian O’Driscoll was the winner for both 2006 and 2007. Let’s help him get it back this year! You can vote for it on the RBS 6 Nations fan’s poll.

The contenders this year, apart from Brian O’Driscoll, are Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), Lee Byrne (Wales), Delon Armitage (England) and Sergio Parisse (Italy).

Yup, three Irish players ranked among the top 6 players of the tournament, that’s very impressive. Indeed, all the players above have shown great sportsmanship and skill on the field, and each of them worth of the title, but we want our men to win – so go on, cast your vote! Voting opens now and will close on Monday 23rd March at 5pm.

Ps: the mind games began, with Wales’ coach Gatland arrogantly undermining the ability of the Irish team. Re comment that his players dislike Irish the most, I think it’s very sad for someone in his position to bring comments like this into the game.

The news on explosives

The recent shootings in Northern Ireland has evoked unity among the people in condemning the sad and mindless killings. At times of hardship in the wake of a recession, however, the idyllic peaceful pact of the last decade now seems more fragile than ever. While the majority has come to prefer the truce and learn to live together despite differences in ideologies, for some, the time is ripe to instill fear once again.

One of today’s dominating news headlines in Ireland has been the stepping up of security at the borders between the Republic and Northern Ireland, at the threats imposed by smuggling of explosives. The direction is currently from the south to the north but regardless, this doesn’t bode well for anyone that lives on this island.

News of explosives aren’t new. Even in Dublin, combing through the archives of the Irish Times, there are plenty of articles pertaining to discovering of hoax devices, of live devices, and of dismantling of viable devices. Like this, reported last weekend. What I find puzzling though, is the seemingly blanketing of successful explosions.

A few months ago, while I was out at the cinema with a friend, my housemate sent me a message to inform me that part of the road leading to our place had been cordoned off. She heard someone around whispering about an alleged explosion. By the time I went home though, the area had been clear and had this just been any other day, I wouldn’t have thought anything had taken place there at all. Next day, curious over the incident, we scoured through news sites and found nothing at all. We then supposed the alleged explosion was just a rumour and left it at that.

However, a couple of days ago, another friend, in a different part of the city, witnessed a car explosion before his very eyes. Concerned for his own safety, he legged it away from the site. Again, me being me, curious over the incident, was on the lookout for news articles again yesterday. Guess what – I couldn’t find anything!

Is it me or is this too weird? That devices found or dismantled made it to the news, but except for a few eyewitnesses nothing had been reported on cases of explosions in the city? Since when is there a shroud of secrecy around incidents like this? Is this an attempt “to protect” the people of Dublin from unnecessary worries or panic? Are these incidents something of utmost secrecy? (Will I get into trouble for even questioning this right now?)

Yup, no more free online check-in!

I knew it! As I suspected last month, when Ryanair announced the intention to abolish desk check-in, there’s going to be a sneaky reintroduction of web check-in fee. Well, there is no way they’re not going to exploit this now that everyone’s obliged to check-in online.

What do you know – it’s coming at €5 per flight per passenger!

There will be some phasing out of desk check-in service between now and October, with huge penalties in order to discourage anyone from going near those desks at all. For the whole shebang and gooblydooks on this, read this press release. Frankly speaking, how can this web check-in charge be “savings” that can be passed on to the passengers, I don’t know.

Of course, this spells more profits for Ryanair. They can finally charge EVERYONE again for check-in fees, not just non-EU/EEA travellers or people with luggage to check-in. In fact, this means you are actually paying them to do the work yourself! Without any designated airport desks, they also need not employ so many staff anymore so I expect some of them may be seeing their P45s sooner than they’re expected to. Ryanair would probably cite recession as an excuse for that or something.

I need a better paying job just so I don’t have to fly with Ryanair anymore.

More Ryanair "fun"

Ryanair is clearly desperate to stay in public eyes and certainly believes in the mantra “no publicity is bad publicity”!

Last week, it was all about abolishing desk check-in service. Earlier this week, they went on blogger bash fest. And today, what that comes in as “breaking news” on Irish Times and BBC is the plan to introduce charges to use toilets on board! Whoa! What’s next? Charging a pregnant woman because she’s clearly carrying “extra passenger” with her?

You know, I’ve always defended Ryanair’s to my friends with “have no expectation and you won’t be disappointed” and “what you see on the tin is what you get” but it’s getting harder and harder to side with them. I’ve fly often with them and so far, so good. (Touch wood!) But sometimes, extreme measures like this really made me go, blah…

If I can afford it, I would choose to fly with different flight operators but until then, I’d just chalk this to another of their madness that I’m going to shrug off. Not that I’ve ever use their toilets on board come to think of it. Afterall, I only fly with them for short-haul (2 hours max) flights and I never really like the sorry excuse of a small, usually disgusting, cabin that’s being passed off as lavatory. That also explains why I could never understand why anyone sane would go for a tryst or attempt to join the so-called mile high club in one. Seriously unclassy.

The Big Switch!

The Big Switch

This should really have been blogged last week but while it was on my radar, I’ve been up to my eyes with a gazillion and one tasks to complete. (In fact, this switch is also on my to-do list.)

Anyway.

Finally.

An electricity service provider that promises substantial saving on the crazy utility prices, no thanks to the years of monopoly that ESB had.

To be honest, I am a bit annoyed with ESB at the moment, as I’ve just received our latest household bill. They had just up the rate of electricity unit (with effect from January 2009) from €0.1597 to €0.1640! At time of recession and economic downturn, and where the price of oil worldwide had came down (they previously sought for the green light for an increase on the premise that oil price was too high), this is really quite unacceptable.

At the heel of the receipt of this bill, it reminded me of the Bord Gáis’ The Big Switch that I saw through an announcement on their website. I’d wager you have heard all about it too, even if you’re not already a current customer of Bord Gáis, given it was written up well on the Irish Times’ PriceWatch, they’re advertising it everywhere (including Facebook!) and everyone is talking about it. The changeover is really quite simple – just sign up for the switch and Bord Gáis will take care of everything else.

As pointed out by the Irish Times, consumers who change over their provider from ESB to Bord Gáis stand to enjoy a saving of up to nearly 24% – that’s a lot of money that you and I can do with in our own pockets right now. I’m switching mine with immediate effect, well, after reading and understanding the terms and conditions involved of course.

Ryanair and no desk check-in?

Ryanair has been in the news a good bit again this week, and for a change it’s not about yet another attempt on hostile takeover of Aer Lingus or advertisement infringement etc.

Instead, they’re introducing a new fleet of flights that allow in-flight mobile phone calls. Well, of course, this is a service that comes with a price (check this press release) and is currently available only to Vodofone and O2 customers. To be honest – can people really not wait till they arrive at their destinations to make further contacts etc? The plane is the only mode of transport where I don’t have to hear incessant ring tones of phone calls and text messages coming in (personally I keep my mobile on silent at all time), and I can also do without hearing one sided conversation (for some reason, a lot of people increases the decibel when speaking over the phone in comparison to talking to someone while seated side by side).

Never mind. I don’t think this will be a major issue since most people probably wouldn’t be too keen on paying the exhorbitant fees. Afterall there is a reason why people are flying Ryanair despite all the grumbles about their charges and service – they’re the cheapest option to fly in/out of Dublin to European destinations. Therefore money matters.

Another piece of news that I just saw on BBC is their plan to scrap desk check-in service. I can’t find any details yet from their website, but it certainly raises a few questions.

Currently, online check-in service is only available to EU/EEA passport holders with hand luggage. Other international travellers and anyone who has luggage to check in must pay additionally for desk check-in service. Already this is obligating many to travel light (which is not a bad thing to be honest) and it’s also rather unfair that international travellers be charged more by the nature of their citizenship.

Now, if the desk check-in is to be abolished:

1. Travellers who have hold luggage must check in online then drop off the luggage at bag drop. I’m imagining chaos with this if the tags were not put properly etc and there is need for someone to man the bag drop anyway, so how is this different from having desk check-in?

2. Will this be a sneaky way to re-introduce some kind of online check-in charges to all travellers at some stage in the future?

3. What happens to international, non-EU/EEA travellers? Can they now suddenly avail of online check-in whereas previously they can’t (for reasons unknown – or the faible “it’s for security purposes” without further explanations) or will they just not able to travel with Ryanair anymore?

I guess only time will tell what Ryanair’s full plan is. They are always full of surprises and implement radical changes, enough to confuse anyone who doesn’t travel regularly with them. Frequent travellers on Ryanair know full well what the score is and I’d imagine by now have benefited in the experiece to become one of the most unflappable air passengers in the world.

Ireland protesting!

In all the years living in Dublin, I have yet to seen so many demonstrations and marches organised in the city. Until this year. With so many issues nagging at the population left, right and center, on top of economic downturn, more and more people are taking to the streets to make their voices heard.

Earlier in the year, the atrocity of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians saw a series of protests held in the city in succession. So far, the various protests and marches since January:

03.01.2009 : Anti-war Groups against Gaza Bombing
10.01.2009 : Anti-war Groups against Gaza Bombing
13.01.2009 : Anti-war Groups against Gaza Bombing
17.01.2009 : Anti-war Groups against Gaza Bombing
02.02.2009 : Taxi Drivers against Deregulation
02.02.2009 : Busworkers’ Action Group against Transports Cutbacks
04.02.2009 : Union of Students in Ireland (USI) against Fees Reintroduction
05.02.2009 : Taxi Drivers against Deregulation
06.02.2009 : Taxi Drivers against Deregulation
09.02.2009 : Taxi Drivers against Deregulation
09.02.2009 : Teachers United against Education Underfunding
11.02.2009 : Dublin Bus Action Group against Transports Cutbacks
16.02.2009 : Union of Students in Ireland (USI) against Fees Reintroduction
17.02.2009 : Taxi Drivers against Deregulation
18.02.2009 : Garda Representative Association (GRA) against Government’s New Pension Levy
18.02.2009 : Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) against Government’s New Pension Levy
18.02.2009 : Dublin Bus/ SIPTU against Transports Cutbacks

And upcoming protests and strikes, including one tomorrow:

21.02.2009 : National Demonstration organised by ICTU, 2pm, Parnell Street to Dáil Éireann
25.02.2009 : Garda Representative Association (GRA) against Government’s New Pension Levy (morning)
26.02.2009 : Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) One-Day Strike
28.02.2009 : Dublin Bus/ NBRU One-Day Strike
01.03.2009 : Dublin Bus/ SIPTU All-Out Strike (from this date, possibly ongoing)
09.03.2009 : Dublin Bus/ NBRU One-Day Strike
10.03.2009 : Dublin Bus/ NBRU One-Day Strike

With regards to strikes, it’s prudent for commuters to pay particular attentions to them. Usually, per what is norm for Dublin, such strikes may be averted following union-authority discussions. But given the unsettled times, who know what’s next?

Unity through music : Playing for Change

Everywhere you go around the city, you’ll see now of the Christmas lightings and trees and decorations. There were Christmas songs belting through the sound system from Brown Thomas but unfortunately now this may be shut because the Dublin City Council deemed it noise pollution blah di blah. I mean, c’mon, this is pretty much part of Grafton Street Christmas tradition – to walk past BT, admire their beautifully decorated windows (with overpriced items that I could never afford, but that’s not the point) and sing/hum along to the Christmas carols!

Please don’t spoil this festive cheers by being so uptight about this. I don’t know of anyone who complained about the music and as far as I know, it actually puts people in Christmassy mood. More than the weird Christmas tree on O’Connell Street that the city council was raving over.

And staying with the topic of music, watch this video by Playing for Change. I know it’s not Dublin-specific, but it emphasises music as an universal language that links people together. Including Dubliners, and you and me who live in this city.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us-TVg40ExM[/youtube]

There are a few reasons why I think it’s appropriate to post this video here today. First and foremost, it’s a beautiful song that’s produced using recordings from all over the world, harmonised together so elegantly that it resonates with everyone. Secondly, this organisation aims to promote peace through music, and this is one endeavour that I’m whole-heartedly supporting. Thirdly, I think we can all do with a good reminder that no man is an island and we have wonderful people, friends and family, that stand by us every day, every step that we take. (Quite nicely, it was Thanksgiving yesterday in the US, so what are you thankful for this year?)

We need more positive actions like this.

In the past week, we’ve seen chaos in the Middle East (so much so that it’s nearly business-for-usual that doesn’t quite raise the eyebrows anymore), military coup in Thailand and most shockingly the violent attacks in Mumbai that left over 100 people dead and a few hundred more injured. At the moment there are some progress made in containing the attacks and I hope there will not be anymore unnecessary casualties.

But it begets a few questions. Why are men still using violence in order to achieve what they want? How come, through the ages and civilisations, are there still systems and governments that don’t work that the people felt they need to speak out radically? And why are men not searching for better middle grounds to their ideologies, and at times agree to disagree, or able to disagree without being disagreeable?

Sure, there are no simple answers to these. I long for the ideal world, but hey I also often live behind a rose-tinted glasses, Pollyanna world. I’ve tried stepping out and look at things with more cynicism and skepticism, but I didn’t (and still don’t) like what I see.

Oh well, this is something best left to philosophers to debate.

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