Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Flights grounded

Travellers due to head for the airport today and tomorrow must be frustrated. All non-emergency flights have been cancelled due to ash cloud over our airspace. For once in this modern society, the only way for an average person in Ireland to leave this island is by ferry. Almost reminiscent of centuries passed.

This is probably the kind of time we wish we’re connected by road or by rail to mainland Europe. UK has its saving grace in the form of the Channel Tunnel. Or as my friends call it, the Chunnel.

I am no meteorologist but is the volcanic ash from Iceland also causing part of the chill today?

Ps: does that mean any tourists who want to go out to Iceland right now to witness the eruptions (amazing isn’t it, how such a phenomenon is drawing in all the visitors to Iceland at the moment) or those already there are essentially also stuck in Iceland with no way in nor out either?

Frivolous laws?

There have a lot of grumbles of late, of laws and regulations that many deem frivilous and a waste of resources, whereas there are other more important issues which should be tackled but seem to have been sidelined to goodness know when. (Since I haven’t personally look into the matters discussed, I won’t cast an opinion over them just yet.)

One of the latest introduction is that of speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour in city centre area. Really? The whole city is going to be crawling. Not to mention, there are already plenty of stretches where it’s unlikely for vehicles to be going over 30km/h, and in general, road safety in the city centre has been good. Road accidents are more likely at places where there are long stretches of empty road ahead, which tempt some drivers into speeding and being careless. But in city centre? Additionally, the Garda resources are already limited and now they have to be stretched further to monitor really small speed discrepancies? And the government in general will also have to spend more money to put up the speed limit signs everywhere? Many opined that this brings on board more cons than pro argument. For now, I’m inclined to agree.

Recently, a blasphemy law was also passed, and I’m afraid I still haven’t quite get the point as to why this is necessary despite the changes in the faces of the society. How much time was spent debating the points of this legislation which can be better used to sort out other problems, such as harmonising public transport ticketing system, or improving health care, or fight against anti-social behaviour? PZ Myers, on invitation by Atheist Ireland, will be speaking at Buswells Hotel tonight, at 7.30pm, on this issue. The public is welcome and the entry is free.

Do you think these laws are unnecessary and wasting tax payers’ money? What’s next that’s going to be on the list of more frivilous laws?

A little water…

Happy 2010 everyone!

It’s rather amazing that we’re already two weeks into the new year, and somehow it felt like so little had been achieved in this time frame.

Blanketed under inches of snow and sleet, and icy weather abound, the first ten days or so saw the country coming to a relative stand still. The pace of life slowed down, and the fracas over mismanagement of road maintenance had plenty of people irked and annoyed, and rather inconvenienced.

Waterdrops

Gradually, in the last few days, things began thawing up as the temperature climbs back to what is the norm at this time of year. Indeed, -10°C is not something we’re accustomed to, more so when extended over days, not just hours. A single digit above 0°C works nicely really.

But of course, now we’re facing new problems, of flooding and of water shortage. Yup, a country with plenty of rain having water shortages, no thanks to the bursting pipes following the big freeze.

The various city councils are implementing water restrictions, with some water mains being shut off or the pressure lowered in different areas, in order to conserve water as well as necessitate various reparation. Dubliners should keep an eye on notices on the website of the Dublin City Council, especially if you find yourself suddenly without water supply. Chances are, it’s a scheduled shut-down and there’s no need to panic – the water will be back up, usually overnight in these cases.

Thierry the thief, Thierry le voleur

The look on Shay Given’s face, when he grabbed on to the Swedish referee and told him it was a handball but just got shrugged off. It was heartbreaking. And in the same way, the loss was heartbreaking. The boys were devastated after putting through such a sterling performance tonight. France pulled through an advantageous goal because there was a thief amongst the lot.

Meet Thierry Henry.

La main de Thierry (via @bruno_tran)

It doesn’t matter what the tv commentators are saying, that “such a thing unfortunately happens” or all the other consolation gobbledygook about the match. We were robbed. In a way, yes, it is unfortunate, but such a thing shouldn’t have happened! Could the referee not take a moment to consider the situation, perhaps confer with the linesman, when there were so many other players protesting over it?

2 offsides and 2 handballs.

How can that be justified? How?

Now, a selection of some of the comments published on Twitter so far:

  • Thierry Henry, I’m really happy for you and imma let you finish, but Diego Maradona had the best handball of ALL TIME! (via @darraghdoyle @Shiminay)
  • New French flag http://flic.kr/p/7gEiY8 – Jesus people work fast! – Imagine what 2mo is going to be like! (via @lexia @JulieDil @davanac)
  • If I even SEE a croissant tomorrow… (via @shanehegarty)
  • wow, just the two handballs from thierry henry in that goal. maradona only needed one. (via @heg @curlydena)
  • Thierry “The Thief of St Denis” Henry. Copyright George Hamilton. (via @tigercooke)
  • FFS!!! Thierry the thief. Beyond angry and disappointed. And seriously, referee – go to Specsavers and get new glasses!!! (via @DUBMetblogs)

I’m a bit too cross to rant right now. If I continue, I may also say something that I’ll deeply regret tomorrow morning. And I can’t watch the replays anymore either. It’s too painful and the wound is too fresh. The boys have done well and we’re proud of them.

Besides, I need to get off here now and lodge a complaint to FIFA. You can do that too, by following this linky to FIFA comment page.

Metlinks 10.11.2009

Things are a little crazy busy on our ends, but that’s not excuse to leave this blog unnattended for too long. Several things have caught our attention in the last couple of weeks, so here’s a quick digest to keep you in the loop.

  • This week, running from Monday 9th November to Saturday 14th November, Take Your Seat is bringing arts and theatres back into your life. Book for tickets to shows of your preference, and you’ll be offered some promotional tickets (if not free!) to other shows at a later date, therefore doubling up your fun evening out. They also run daily competitions so sign up for it today and who knows, you could win them and be heading out to a play or a musical next.
  • Fancy a little bit of a geeky event? Look no further, head out the door tonight to the Mercantile for The Alchemist Café event at 7.30pm, where a discussion of “memory traces” and the role they play in shaping our sense of self and form the instint for survival. My former lecturer, Prof Ciaran Regan, will be taking on the hot seat for this discussion.
  • There’s a relatively new gourmet food market every Thursday, from 11.00am to 2.30pm, at the banks of the Grand Canal next to Mespil Road (just off Upper Baggot Street). Pretty good timing and location really, considering there are quite a number of offices around the area, and the workers sure could do with a bit of a change for their lunch goodies from the usual sandwich and coffee from the shops nearby.
  • Given the grip of recession, it is never pleasant to read about the bleak economic outlook faced by Irish youths of today, where unemployment for those under 25’s is about 1 in 4. If Ireland is as perceived – no country for young men – how long will it be, before they leave the country in search for a better future? A drain of human resources is not desirable for a country that is trying to pull itself out of this financial hardship.
  • It has been claimed, that the internet brings people closer and forges intimacy. But how close can become too close? So much so that it’s not only a ground for stalking, it’s bringing cyberbullying to a whole new level. Scary.
  • Love cooking and interested in cooking demonstrations? Arnott’s is organising a few demo sessions, while promoting the cookware/kitchenware from Siemens Home (Saturday 14th November) and Judge and Stellar (Wednesday 18th November and Thursday 19th November). And there will be reductions in some of these gears too.
  • Since when does Christmas come round so quickly? I’ve barely dragged my winter clothes out, and already I’m seeing light fittings being put up all over the city, and this Sunday (15th November) the festive lightings at Henry Street and its environs will officially be switched on at 4.00pm. There are also other family fun events organised throughout the day, and check this link for further details.

I’m sure plenty of people are looking forward to the first World Cup qualifier match between Ireland and France this Saturday (14th November). Can we pull it off in this home game? Fingers crossed. Goooo Ireland!

Calls to abolish passenger tax

Rarely do the chief executives of the main airlines operating in Ireland see eye-to-eye but today, Christoph Mueller (Aer Lingus) Michael O’Leary (Ryanair) and Geoffrey O’Byrne-White (Cityjet) are on an united front in urging the government to get rid of the €10 passenger tax for every traveller leaving from an Irish airport.

Ireland is a small island country, and to get away anywhere at all, we either travel by ferry (to UK and France) or by flight. We don’t have the luxury like our neighbouring European countries to hop around the continent by rail or by car directly. But the competitive air travel market has enabled us to travel in and out of the country very easily, and at a reasonable price. Most of the time anyway.

Dublin Airport

Last year, approximately 23.5 million passengers used Dublin Airport as their travelling hub. The tourist tax that’s currently in place would have generated €235 million for the government without further ado.

However since the introduction of this tax on 1st April, the number of passengers using Dublin airport have fell by about 3 millions. Assuming a linear model of projection, by the time the tax scheme operates for a full year, approximately 6 millions passenger losses will have taken place. That’s about 1/4 of last year’s number! Such a large scale drop in passenger number must be worrying for the airlines which are already struggling with high operating costs, increasing debt burden (alright, mainly Aer Lingus for now) and diminishing profits. Not to mention, this will actually also affect government’s taxation income when these companies simply aren’t posting that much profits that are taxable.

Hence the dilemma – is there a balancing point between the two? The government needs to generate revenue somehow given the state coffer is in a dire state. Yet at the same time, they cannot afford to alienate travellers at times of economic downturn. This country does not have bountiful natural resources to see through the hard time, but it does have a reasonably buoyant travel industry to keep things going.

Nonetheless, the passenger tax must not be cited as the main reason for the drop in the number of travellers passing through the airport. We are facing a worldwide recession right now, and many people simply are not inclined or cannot afford the international travel right now. Staycation is on the rise, not just in Ireland, but elsewhere too. Not only the Irish are not going away for holidays, tourists from abroad are also not coming to Ireland. Add on the horror stories from the past couple of years that earned the moniker “Rip-Off Ireland”, any wonder if the tourists are cautious about making Irish holiday plans when their dollars/pounds/yen etc could stretch further if they go somewhere else.

On top of it all, the economic downturn also takes it toll on businesses, that many are simply not travelling for work like they used to in order to cut down the business costs. Instead they turn to conference calls, voice calls (like Skype) and networking sites (like Twitter) to conduct their business and to market themselves.

Perhaps if the government deem that they really cannot afford to scrap this tax altogether, how about reducing it? Already examples are being cited for countries that have scrapped similar passenger taxes (Belgium and Netherlands) or reduced the charge (Spain, Greece) in an effort to stimulate tourism. Now, on a parting note, it would be interesting to see if the US is really going to start charging $10 entry fee per person, supposedly to fund tourism promotion costs.

My memory of (Boyzone and) Stephen

Everyone’s tweeting today on the sudden death of Stephen Gately. News outlets internationally are writing columns of obituary and tributes. Media notables and fans are saddened by the news. Boyzone found themselves to no longer be a band of five.

Growing up in South East Asia in the 1990’s, boybands were de rigueur du jour. There was the sensational New Kids on the Block, soon rivalled by Take That but also quickly usurped by Backstreet Boys. At the same time Boyzone came onto the radar and sure enough, the entertainment magazines were pitting the Americans against the lads from UK and Ireland – NKOTB vs TT, BSB vs BZ. It wasn’t even unusual to see magazine covers graced by these guys issue after issue.

Boyzone : Mikey, Keith, Ronan, Shane and Stephen

My initiation to Boyzone was during a school trip, when a friend raved over “Love me for a reason” and had played the cassette (yes, cassette!) of the band’s debut album on the bus as part of the road entertainment. A couple of years later, when I was moving to Ireland, said friend made me promised to tell if I ever meet any of the boyz.

Sure enough, Ireland is a small country and Dublin is not all that big either. About a week or two before Stephen came out publicly, I bumped into him at the Westbury Hotel. (I got an autograph but I don’t think I ever remembered posting it to my friend.) Not long after that I also bumped into Ronan Keating and Shane Lynch at Dublin Airport, when I was there to meet an aunt who was returning from her holiday.

What I remember of the boyz were chart-topping pop songs loved by many (SE Asian market was – and still is – very much pop/rock-orientated). An ex even bought a special collection Swatch which had been programmed to scan as entry ticket to their concert as a birthday gift. I couldn’t go though, bummer.

Moving to Ireland, I found it rather strange then that not many people I know seemed to like them. Or at least nobody was admitting to it. Yet they continue to sell their singles and tour dates like hot cakes. I began to think maybe the people I know were closet fans. Or perhaps it was an uncool thing to openly claim listening to boy/girl band of any sort?

That mattered not to me. I happily listened to them from time to time, and I attended a gig during their last tour prior to their split. I got lucky and had amazing seats near the front, at the centre block. I went on to have a great time, and so did my cousin who was highly sceptical of them (she was more into R&B than pop).

Never one to follow artists’ careers closely (even to this day), and as my music preference changes over the year, I never quite knew exactly the direction each of the boyz were taking during the split. I saw videos of Ronan on MTV, news article on Stephen’s West End shows, and glimpses of Keith Duffy on Coronation Street when I was channel-hopping. When they re-formed the band last year, I respected their decision to perform a come-back tour but by then I have left my teenage-year admiration behind me and not at all too nostalgic over it.

On hearing the news today, that Stephen had died in his sleep at the age of 33, I was saddened nonetheless. He was gracious to me when I bugged him for an autograph (what can I say – I was very young and impressionable back then, with too little sense) and he was a talented young man who co-fronted Boyzone with Ronan. His role in the band was an important one, his voice distinctive and instantly recognisable in their hit tunes.

There will be investigation in the next couple of days to look into the cause of death, and the boyz are reported to be heading out to Majorca where Stephen was on holiday with his civil partner Andrew Cowles. A family spokesman claimed there was nothing untoward that led to his death but attributed it to natural causes, and a funeral in Dublin is planned for hopefully by the end of the week, accounting for time to conduct the post-mortem examination and arrangement to fly the remains home.

Meanwhile, in memoriam of someone who loved to sing and to please the crowd, here’s Stephen singing Beyoncé’s Single Ladies.

What happened to science and mathematics classes?

It’s easy to go about our days, keep our heads down and get on with our work. It’s easy to plan for our free time to be filled with leisurely activities or trips away. It’s easy too to shake our heads in disbelief when we hear/read about the golden parachutes received by folks who have little interest in anyone’s economic well-being, except, errm, themselves. Surprise, surprise.

It certainly is NOT easy though to stay unaffected after reading about follies that should not happen in the first place, and one of the latest effects vital education programme.

Mathematical cartoon from Brown Sharpie, by Courtney Gibbons

For a country that prides itself in a knowledge-based economy and education excellence, it is therefore incredulous when cutbacks encroach into education sector in the craziest way possible. When said cutbacks mean science and mathematics teaching in school is going to suffer. When said cutbacks mean students who are interested and talented will not have teachers/mentors who can help direct their learning.

What is the logic behind the cutbacks on something that really matters?!

Just a couple of weeks ago, a pair of 14 years old boys won the first prize in EU Young Scientist Contest in Paris, France. A couple of days later, a team of four secondary school students from Wicklow won F1 in School Technology Challenge World Championship.

Don’t these achievements say something about the need for continuous investment in science and mathematics education? That we have tremendous amount of talents that should be nurtured, not snipped at the roots.

How are the students supposed to keep up with the high standard of scientific knowledge expected of them, to move into the age of information and technology, when they lack the foundation learning to start with? How are the third level institutions supposed to produce graduates in Science worth their salt when students are discouraged from secondary school level to pursue the learning?

The cutbacks certainly aren’t saying “we are trying to encourage students to take up Science” nor “we are trying to maintain the high calibre in Science and Technology”.

Is there any common sense left?

The bikes are here!

When my friend J told me over coffee one day, a gazillion years ago (well it feels like it), that JCDecaux was in talks with the Dublin City Council to bring the free bike system similar to that of Vélib’ in Paris, I was quite excited with at the prospect of this initiative. Little did I know that it would take a good couple of years before we even start seeing the installation of the bike stations all over the city.

Now, after months of looking at empty bike stations, the bikes are finally in place!

The Dublin Bikes was launched earlier today, signalling the start of availability of some 450 blue and grey bikes at 40 stations all over the city centre area.

dublinbikemap

Today couldn’t have been more perfect to inaugurate this scheme, given we’re getting a lovely Indian summer which looks set to continue well into later this week. Woohoo!

Darragh over at Culch.ie has written a detailed blog post over the usage of this scheme, so head over and have a read on what are fitted on the bikes, how to use it, and what the charges are like for the subscription fees (available as either annual long term or 3-days short term subscriptions). A €150 guarantee/deposit is required, in event of non-returning of the bikes.

Do note, particularly if you’re planning to take up a 3-days short term subscriptions, that NOT all bike stations are equipped with credit card terminals to take payment. For now, only 14 stations are good for taking out a 3-days hiring card. (Consult the station list)

For long term subscription, please apply online using this form and it will take about 2 weeks for your application to be processed and the card sent to you by post.

Fingers crossed that the bikes will be well used by the locals and the tourists alike, with minimal incidents of theft/vandalism (which unfortunately is inevitable). It is a brilliant scheme to improve mobility in the city, while staying green in the process of it. Happy biking!

Brief Updates from MBHQ

You’ve no doubt by now noticed that the sites got a bit of a re-design and some things got changed around last week. We wanted to highlight two changes to make sure everyone knows what changed.

The first and biggest is COMMENTS! Registration is no longer required to post a comment on any post. Of course if you already have an account you can still login to ensure your comments are attributed to you, but those who don’t can now post a comment without any long term commitment. Also, on the right you can see some of the recent comments so you’ll always know what the active discussions are. This was the most requested thing we’ve heard from people since our last redesign and we’re excited to see where it leads.

The next change is also something that was heavily requested, and that is a change to the ADS on the sites. You’ll immediately notice fewer of them, but what might not be as obvious is those smaller square ones to the right are specific to this city only and are being sold for a flat rate for a period of time rather than a confusing CPM/traffic/network model. Depending on the city, these range from $7-$175 for a full week. If you purchase one, during that time your ad will be the only one in that spot and will show on every page. We set these up both to make it easier for smaller local businesses to get their ads on our site, and also to help us bring in ads that relate better to our local audiences. Also, keeping these sites online is expensive and every little bit helps.

There are a bunch of other things we changed but we’ll leave those to you to investigate and take advantage of. Hope you like it, and we look forward to seeing you in the comments!!

Love,
The folks at MBHQ

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