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April 2009

Tesco Tourism

Anti-slipALTHOUGH I FEEL a little guilty, I have become a Tesco tourist. Like many living in the Republic of Ireland, I'm planning routine monthly shopping expeditions into Northern Ireland. And like those who have gone before, I've contributed an estimated half a billion euro into Tesco's coffers over the last 12 months. Some of those profits came through my wallet--and in the process eFlow in Ireland lopped off a few euro from my current account, billed directly through the little white number at left.

Last week Tesco announced record profits, helping to offset the idle cash tills at Tesco Cashel, a 10-minute walk from my front door. But my local Tesco charges 30% to 200% more for products we use regularly. Up north, children's clothing is half the price we pay in Cashel or Clonmel. Northern nappies come in at least 30% cheaper. And the red Chilean wine costing €15 locally is €7 in Banbridge or Newry. So we're either doing Tesco Tourism this Bank Holiday Weekend or giving County Louth friends £100 to partially fill a boot with nappies, baby formula, cat food and wine.


Sent mail2blog from my Nokia E90 using O2-Typepad service on Suir Island, Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland.

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Profiled by Google

Google Profile

I HAD MY GOOGLE PROFILE before I discovered Google had a dedicated spot for profile information. My profile was important when arriving at immigration checkpoints because several times the back office staff used Google to check up on me after arriving places where I overstayed my visa. My passport name differs from the name and nickname I carry around the internet so it's good to be Googled at the counter and validated as a nice man. Google is attempting to capitalise on every nice man's ego-surfing routines by allowing people to nominate stuff for their profile. This comes with a risk because if you compromise your Gmail log-in details, anybody with a grudge (or friends with too much time on their hands) can attribute to your name compromising photos that aren't yours, job summaries you would never write, or living locations you wish to deny. So if you've ever used any Google property with a log-in sequence tied to your real name, you need to be very careful with your user name and passwords. The first lesson I learned on Facebook is that people appear in places they'd rather not and they're put into those places by people who tag them with identifying details when they shouldn't. For added comfort, get a Google identity that in no way intersects with your real identity.

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Upskilling While Idle

One Gig MoleskineEVERY SUMMER, I spend a few weeks trying to improve academic materials and make the following semesters glide into the frame with a clear set deliverables for students. Since we launched a new creative multimedia degree programme last term, I've lost some ground and feel as though I'm bogged down in the sand. This means the upcoming summer months will feature a lot of serious work, trying to weave the academic material into our virtual learning environment. That's somewhat tedious, but always worthwhile. At the same time, I'm trying to determine how much latitude we have to produce some of our learning materials in a blended mode (i.e., virtual learning with Moodle and intensive tutorial sessions, perhaps in four-hour blocks). I think the blended model would suit people who are between jobs or who want to upskill as part of an enrichment strategy.


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Doubling Storage Requirements

First Qik ClipAROUND ABOUT THE TIME when I first started messing around with Qik (first clip at left), I was archiving 250 GB of data annually. That was before I started shooting with a HD handycam and before I got addicted to Miro and Hulu. Coupled with a regular diet of podcasts and spiked with weekly Camtasia screencasts, I'm now pegging my data storage requirements at more than 500 GB annually. I can't afford to manage that amount of data so I need an archivist's discipline to reduce some screencasts to cover art and to compress some audio files to 30-second tasters. I'd like to keep a lot of the original work because I enjoy discovering throwaways. But at the moment, my desk space is too much of a mess and there's no way I'll be able to think straight if I don't control the digital pack rat side of my personality. So I'm off to consider how to slice and dice hours of video into 12-second clips, thereby reclaiming as much as a terabyte in my personal storage spaces.


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Toes as Evidence

Mia's ToesI PASSED A MAJOR MILESTONE in my life 33 years ago this month when a beautiful lab assistant took my footprints. I remember the footprints because I had never been fingerprinted and no matter how powerful the soap, I just couldn't remove the ink from my toes. I just let it sweat away. My employer, the US Air Force, needed my toeprints because feet often survive aircraft accidents since they're encased in combat boots. If you've little evidence, a foot can verify who was sitting where when metal hits concrete at 400 miles per hour. I had one of those 400 mph 400 above ground level jobs and every year, the flight surgeon would flick through my records and ask, "Are these your feet?" If I affirmed, I initialed the footprints. Today, I don't have footprints but the Garda National Immigration Bureau have my fingerprints. And today, I noticed how my toddler has toes that look like mine. It's a genetic thing--her second through fourth toes will grow to be around the same length. And when a background check asks for identifying features, she can say, "I have my dad's feet." I'm off to get footprints made again because she might want to be a pilot too.


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Personal Mobile Data Usage Dropping OTA

Ghosting E90IN A SURE SIGN that I'm dealing with recessionary pressures, my over-the-air usage of data through my mobile phone is dropping more than 30% every month. I need to save EUR 80 a month on my mobile phone bills and that's very easy to arrange if I keep a disciplined approach to how I use my phone. I've made free and open wifi nodes in Dublin, Cork, and Limerick placemarks and named contacts in my Nokia E90. Knowing where these places are located before the fact makes it easy to set up coffee chats and tabletop briefings where my laptop and my mobile phone won't feed O2-Ireland. I've got a Boingo subscription that complements my need for flexibility and I have enough stuff cached on my phone, in my Moleskines, on three different playback devices, so I'm suitably engaged without needing the cloud. I know some visitors to my blog have to hit the cloud for their Powerpoints, documents and spreadsheets. I like the flexibility you get when storing stuff in the ether but there's something to be said about the savings you can achieve when carrying around secure copies of data on memory cards. I've more than 32GB of slip-in storage in my pockets and bags and I can't wait until my phone packs more than 100 GB onboard too.


Previously -- "Thoughts about mobile data on holidays"
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Dell Starts Its Wind-down

Early SteampunkDELL IN LIMERICK starts reducing its manufacturing presence this week, when 450 workers leave its Raheen factory. The workers are the first to depart under a restructuring plan that will result in 1900 lay-offs in Ireland and an upsurge in activity in Poland. The departing workers receive six weeks' pay per year of service, capped at a total of 104 weeks. This is better than many manufacturing line workers get in the States when they're let go. I'm still wondering how Fas outplacement service and relevant training will spin up to help re-establish ex-Dell workers back into full-time employment. Getting work for more than 2000 people (more than 600 jobs outside of Dell are directly dependent upon the Raheen facility packing and shipping computers) will challenge planners from Limerick through Tipperary, a corridor I travel regularly. We plan to meet up with more ex-Dell workers throughout the summer, during Limerick OpenCoffee sessions held on the first Thursday of every month in the Absolute Hotel.


Photo from my Flickr photostream. It seemed like a redundant factory piece when I spotted it in Limerick.

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Fingers as Protest

AROUND THE TIME that Dublin bus drivers sat down without driving, a Serbian union official chopped off his finger and ate it in a protest over wages that in some cases have not been paid in years. The Serb, Zoran Bulatovic, said he did it to show how desperate he and other workers were. "We, the workers have nothing to eat, we had to seek some sort of alternative food and I gave them an example," Zoran Bulatovic told Reuters. "It hurt like hell." Bulatovic is a union leader at the Raska Holding textile factory in Novi Pazar in southwest Serbia. He used a hacksaw to cut off most of his left-hand little finger last Friday. Bulatovic said he decided to act after his deputy, "a single mother of three, was the first to say she would cut off her finger. I could not allow her to do that," he said.


Aleksandar Vasovic -- "Man cut off finger to protest overdue wages" on Reuters via J-Walk, the blog.

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Sunday Times from Ireland

Sunday News 26 Apr 09THERE ARE SEVERAL strong indications in today's Sunday Times in Ireland that the current ruling coalition government will not enjoy the results of upcoming local elections in June. Besides economic gloom and wrong-footed response to a growing budget deficit, the current Taoiseach has fanned discontent in the regions by reshuffling two seats in his cabinet. In the process, Taoiseach Brian Cowen cut loose direct-talking John McGuinness for the national media. Now in addition to the lowest-recorded popularity of Fianna Fail, there are open criticisms mounting against the senior Irish cabinet--criticisms arising from within Fianna Fail itself. [1] This did not have to happen. But because it has transpired, every national broadsheet in Ireland is documenting the discontent [5], making it easy for voters and opposition to form a more substantial judgment against the current Irish government. If I was a betting man, I would put Brian Cowen on the opposition benches before the end of 2010. These thoughts form part of my conclusions in a short Qik video filmed as I flicked through the Sunday Times in Ireland, summarising my thoughts as a few phrases below.

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