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January 2008

Making Money with O2 Active Life

ALTHOUGH I CAN save lots of money when buying products and services from O2-Ireland online, I have learned that my local O2 channel sales partner looks after me better over the counter than I get from online support. Just before Christmas, Brendan Coleman pulled up my most recent bill. He was surprised that I was spending more than himself. He recommended that I change to Active Life 150 so I did. Today, the bill arrived for a month's hard use and I owe O2 less than €50 for the same voice, text and data that cost me €139 a few months before. At this rate of savings, I will have more than €800 in my pocket for Christmas presents--money saved through more efficient billing. But the cool thing is that I get 100 free minutes of calls to a national land line, And since more than an hour of my national land line calls ring a VoIP switch, this means I am getting 100 free minutes of calls from my mobile phone to phones in the States. Active Life 150 gives me 10 MB of data free every month but something about my phone number means I have no data cap. For that magic treatment, I thank my channel service expert. Now I wish I could roll back billables on my petrol purchases. I'm off to analyse my other three mobile phone bills too.

Bonus Track: Sarah Silverman -- "I'm fucking Matt Damon" [2.7 MB MP3] Downloaded onto my Nokia 9500 as part of my 10 MB package. Must ensure I get a bigger bite of data next month.


State Warning About Ireland

A FEW YEARS AGO, an aircraft commander flying cargo aircraft through Shannon remarked that his outbound briefing had included warnings about snide comments to be expected in and around Shannon Airport. He also made passing comments about crime in Ireland and I thought he had been reading a tabloid newspaper. His source of information actually came from the US Department of State Travel Advisory. Under the category of Crime, State advises potential tourists, "There have been a limited number of incidents in which foreigners and tourists have been victims of assault, including instances of violence toward those who appear to be members of racial minority groups. In addition, there have been several reported incidents in Dublin of persons severely assaulted by small, unorganized gangs roaming the streets in the early morning hours after the pubs close."  This tidbit of information will not be easily offset by the glorious panoramic videos of Ireland now playing on broadcasts in major American media markets. Nor will suggestions that Barack Obama can trace his forebears to the Republic of Ireland distort the reality of racism on some of Ireland's major streets.

US Dept of State -- "Country Specific Information for Ireland"
See also: "Racism in Ireland" and "Visiting Dublin".


When Cats Sign

I THINK IT'S COOL to mainstream everything possible to those who might not be able to latch onto things on their own. So this little video about Misty and her cat takes on special meaning because it's targeted at those who cannot hear the backing track from The Weakerthans.

Disclosure: I like stray cats (we have one who owns the house) but not as much as I like my daughter who produced this YouTube video. Lyrics for "Plea from a cat named Virtue" from The Weakerthans.


Sunday News Under Clear Blue in Ireland

Up the RockI JUST WALKED over a young daffodil in Ireland on the way "up the shops" (photo at left) and that's a good thing in a winter filled with flooding. My walking about will take precedence over my survey of Irish Sunday newspapers today because as anyone familiar with Ireland knows, you have to take your sunshine when it rains upon you here. And it's a glorious day, one that will get its share of coverage with a Nokia D80 that I took from the clutches of Mike Kiely last week. I also took its reference manual and even though I paid it short shrift, I cannot get that D80 to snap what I see through its viewfinder every time I want to take a picture. The daytime shots are simple, fast and very crisp but the low-light ones need serious forethought.

Back to the Sunday readings. I often think I am fueling the demise of proper reading patterns among the twentysomethings under my care. Last week, a report by the British Library and the University College London revealed the way young people seek and find information. As explained by John Naughton, "The findings describe a new form of information-seeking behaviour characterised as being 'horizontal, bouncing, checking and viewing in nature. Users are promiscuous, diverse and volatile.' 'Horizontal' information-seeking means 'a form of skimming activity, where people view just one or two pages from an academic site and then 'ounce out, perhaps never to return.' The average times users spend on e-book and e-journal sites are very short: typically four and eight minutes respectively." [0]

I know this is happening on my blog. It's unusual to get anyone viewing a page more than 90 seconds--even the posts that would take 15 A4 pages to print the original posting and the years of comments. The study says "users are not reading online in the traditional sense, indeed there are signed that new forms of reading are emerging as users 'power browse' horizontally through titles, contents pages, and abstracts, going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense." And so it is with the common "paper rounds" that fill the Irish radio shows on Sundays. No need to read a big story. Just wait for a talking head to digest it for you.

The study spotlights something that is emerging with full force among those who play around inside Twitter, Jaiku and Pownce. We are following the new seers but we really don't know if they are truly aware of the expanses of the Gutenberg Galaxy.

Continue reading "Sunday News Under Clear Blue in Ireland" »

Special Inspector

Old Badge Collection

WITH KILKENNY SOON to open its first lap dancing club, I decided to dust off my badges to see if I have one that will work to observe the occasion. All new premises need inspection to ensure they meet quality standards and then, hopefully, achieve a five-star status on LouderVoice. You can help by contributing your first-hand opinions.

Flip-out Badges like the ones you see on CSI.


Those Missing iPhones

I FOLLOW SPECULATION on sales numbers and the forecasts on the Apple iPhone's world domination have always intrigued me because bigger companies have fallen foul of investors when failing to reach and hold market share. For a few weeks, analysts have combed Apple's iPhone sales numbers and some discrepancies keep surfacing. Apple share price will take a beating, week on week, until iPhone numbers get some public discussion from Steve Jobs. Apple claims slightly over 3.7 million iPhones were sold in 2007 -- yet AT&T this week revealed it ended the year with "just at or sightly under two million iPhone customers". That two million has been boosted somewhat by an estimated 300,000-400,000 sales in Europe, analysts believe. According to PC Week, "The discrepancy is that the 3.7 million iPhones Apple says it has sold and the estimated 2.4 million sold by its network partners still leaves 1.3 million of the devices unaccounted for. That implies that around one in three iPhones are being purchased in order to unlock the device for use on other networks and/or for use with unapproved third party applications." That is certainly happening in Ireland. And since the unlocked phones equate to loss of revenue for Apple, the market has reacted by taking 4% off the value of Apple shares.

Continue reading "Those Missing iPhones" »

Books That Make Me Dumb

Christmas UnreadI HAVE MORE hard-bound books than shelves to store them so when an expert proves that some of my personal library is making me dumb, I take his conclusions seriously. For example, I own a hard cover edition of The Color Purple and that title is statistically proven to make me dumb. However, I also have a copy of Lolita, the book read by the smartest people in the study. Griffith mapped the average Scholastic Aptitude Test score against the the 100 most popular books on Facebook. He discovered Harry Potter is the most popular book. The Bible is the second most popular book. At least among college students, Harry Potter is, like the Beatles, indeed bigger than Jesus. The smartest religious book is The Book of Mormon. The dumbest religious book is The Holy Bible.  The dumbest philosophy book is The Five People You Meet In Heaven and the smartest philosophy book is Atlas Shrugged. The dumbest book--the one that statistically links its readers to being the lowest achievers on standardised college admission exams in the States is  Zane.

Virgil Griffith -- "Books that make you dumb"


Tato Nano in the Hood

Hemi EstateRATAN TATA drove the Tata Nano onto the map on the 10th of January and I started reading how that €1700 four-seater rice burner would actually harm the environment because it was priced so affordably (less than a DVD player costs in a Lexus in Ireland) because millions of people throughout India, Africa and South America would now start driving. No matter that several of the critics drove Hemi-powered Dodge vehicles (see one at right) or were range riding in their Ford F150 pick-up trucks, the staple of the American West where many of my college friends have their homesteads. "Listen, I fought to defend our oil," friend Randy has told me. His F-150 is 6.3 metres long, two metres wide and seats five without wrinkling dresses on the way to church, located 43 miles away. Randy has the standard 5.4 litre engine and he gets around 20 mpg while out shooting rattlesnakes on his spread. He might achieve 24 mpg on the way to church--once a week--and again get highway mileage when heading down to the shops, 17 miles from his front door.

Continue reading "Tato Nano in the Hood" »

Heath Ledger RIP

Heath LedgerWE WILL MISS the talented Heath Ledger (at left, in Brokeback Mountain), the 28-year-old Australian actor who died today in New York City. Heath made a big impression on me and my memories of the Big Sky country of the American West. I passed through my late teens in lands where he made Brokeback Mountain and I respect his portrayal of the rugged mountain personalities that frequent those spaces, I also knew a kind and gentle side of several outdoorsmen who had to cloak their personalities in ways that would not compromise their military careers. And like the storyline of Brokeback Mountain, some of the guys I knew in college rode off into the sunsets of their careers carrying a capacity for love and a respect for others that serves as a guiding inspiration for me today. I felt Heath Ledger brought many of these convictions to the screen with him because he pushed the faces of the guys from years ago across my mind as I watched Brokeback Mountain play out before me. "Sundown, you better take care." Heath Ledger, RIP.

Wikipedia entry on Heath Ledger.
James McInerney -- "Heath Ledger Dies January 22nd"
Sarah Lyall -- "Portrait of a restless young spirit" in The Observer, 28 January 2008.
The Global Stage Orchestra -- "The Wings"[3:36 MP3 file]