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October 2010

Deep Holes in Ireland


IT'S A SCARY WEEKEND for Ireland because all across the Sunday broadsheets are more dismal pieces about the range of Irish government borrowing, stories about the running down of cash reserves by Ireland, and more background information about how various government ministers mired the Irish people in a quagmire of unsustainable public services. Persistent increases in day-to-day Irish public spending over several years has laid the foundation for a €15 billion austerity programme that will not be pretty. With every working week, more strident criticism emerges against the Croke Park Agreement and that criticism bears down directly on my household income. I wish there was a clear acceptance around the Cabinet table that cuts need to come from the top down. Personally, I'd like the number of elected national representatives cut back to 100 and I'd like to see ministers handing in the keys to their chauffer-driven cars. I think Ireland's current challenge is like a country ravaged by war. It takes several generations to pay off war reparations. Ireland is facing into that deep hole now.

Sunday News 31 Oct 10

Direct link to video.

Last Week: "Reading the Sunday Papers", 24 October 2010.

Last Month: "Sunday News with Apps Inside", 26 September 2010.

Five Years Ago: "Images worth browsing", 31 October 2005.

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First Look at Digital Terrestrial Signals

Digital TV Test PatternAFTER A BROADBAND ALERT from Zenark and a tweet from Liam Noonan concerning digital television signals being switched on across Ireland, we went to Maplins and bought a Humax HD-DOX T2 digital audio and video receiver. It's too early to know whether the €205 purchase is worth a Christmas present for the digitally-deprived grandparents but first looks are impressive. The unit is about the size of an Apple Mini and it fits out of sight. It takes an antenna lead from either our loft antenna or from a small Nikkai micro indoor antenna that I found on the shelf but not in Maplin' online shop. I've tested the receiver unit on 12-year-old television sets and it works as simply as a DVD player. However, I can't get it to recognise my USB collection and I think that's because it needs to find Media Center code between the audio, still and video files in order to display cover art and metadata. It makes no sense to spend several hundred euro on a receiver/player if the player portion is inoperative. The digital receiver's interface says we're receiving a signal at 60% of its maximum strength and that means we occasionally get artifacts with rain outside. There is absolutely no static on the 10 digital audio channels that the set autotuned. I imagine there will be some people who will be a little upset at spending any sort of money to tune their television sets when the analogue signal is turned off in 2012. I doubt those people will want to pay several hundred euro for a receiver that's ready to accept a datastream from a media center. However, those same people will be really annoyed when they discover they have to buy both the tuner and a new antenna. I wonder if there will be grants for pensioners to afford this kind of digital living appliance.

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Clonmel! Is it on the brink of disaster?


Flooding in Clonmel

Up on the mountain, the season brings a fall of dead leaves, grasses, and loose rocks and stones which tend to scatter the landscape without a bother to anybody. But when you add heavy rain into the mix this foliage becomes a dangerous problem for those of us who live on the mountain side. It brings a wake-up call for those who are not wise to the way Mother Nature plays her role in the world. A little light rain helps collect dregs of foliage into fallen branches and over time creates a light dam. After a while over the summer these dams will get bunged up with mud and stones and come into autumn you have a large pool of water just waiting to get out. Or more often than not many pools. These become spots for the amateur naturist and a drinking hole for wildlife, but you must remember--it is only a dam. Eventually it will burst.

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Appreciating Biodiverse Moments


I'M STARTING TO MAKE TIME for people who appreciate biodiversity without insisting that I walk only in sandals, eat only organic things and wrap my Christmas presents in last week's newspapers. I particularly enjoy the astute advice of Peter Donegan (especially his sodcasts) and I am amazed at the depth of gray files that sit in Labhaoise McKenna's heritage office in Clonmel. So I'm going to start sharing my encounters with biodiversity on my blog because I want friends visiting from the States to know it's fun to walk the boreens and riverbanks of Ireland.

With Stefan Mueller


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Home Lives

Cupped HandsWHILE OUT WALKING WITH MY TODDLER, I got a short email from Steven Gill: "Aaargh!" He explained, "That is what my head screams most of my time at home. The oldest two girls will not stop arguing. My youngest daughter and my son will not stop beating the hell out of each other. My house is always a mess, the washing pile never seems to get smaller." And he can never find where he put his coffee cup. I have the many of the same challenges.

Through a set of Media Writing assignments, I know that life as a creative media student falls somewhere on the scale of "bliss" and "hectic". Steven "would gladly work on a fifteen page document on campus than at home," but there are work pressures all around the gaff and if you don't deal with those as a priority, you will pay. Who doesn't have hectic home life challenges? And when you ask a few follow-up questions, would those with screaming kids really object to having them? Not the people I know.

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Discovering Suir Trailheads


At the TrailheadYOU KNOW IT'S FALL because autumn leaves are underfoot and light rain falls at least once a day. This means the easily-traversed trails along the banks of the River Suir are a little slippery these days. Overhead, an occasional flock of geese fly south. Down the bank, the River Suir appears to be a calm and placid little tributary--nothing like the roaring mass of water known to burst its banks a few miles downstream in the middle of Clonmel. The River Suir is part of Europe’s network of navigable inland waterways and in its day, the Suir made industrial commerce possible by connecting traders to its navigable waterway throughout the entire reach of County Tipperary. As Labhaoise McKenna has explained to third level students in Tipperary Institute, the River Suir made the Industrial Revolution possible in early 19th Century Ireland. The River Suir's transport function has ceased today, replaced by the recognition of its contribution to tourism development and quality of life. Walking the River Suir from Trailhead 69 upstream of Clonmel brings this fact into sharp relief. It's a lovely family activity.

River Suir Trailhead

South Tipperary's River Suir Project


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Underway in Ireland


Underway in IrelandIT'S TIME to reboot Underway in Ireland because podcasting has become an easy pocket-sized skill, thanks to Audioboo and Libsyn. Back in 2006, when I was churning out podcasts several times a week, an entire production process figured into the mix and that meant setting aside hours of time for post-production. Today, you can tell if someone has used high-quality editing skills but the emphasis is shifting to media swarms. When you work in that space, you're one step from live broadcasting. That's the space I'm going to slip into because I can go from my pocket-sized device (Xperia X10 or iPod Touch) straight to a subscribeable production, thanks to Audioboo. And a few clicks of the mouse later, I can pull the same MP3 file into a Libsyn database for complete statistical analysis. I have to teach this kind of process at the Tipperary Media Academy in LIT Clonmel so I want to stumble first and explain the potholes to creative multimedia students who follow.

Underway #76


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Reading the Sunday Papers


I BUY TWO Sunday papers regularly, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Business Post, and then read selected highlights out loud for those too skint to afford the titles out of their tight pants pockets. Today's press coverage continues the death knell for the current government as the pages reveal the lowest-ever support for the ruling Fianna Fail party. The latest Sunday Business Post/Red C monthly tracking poll shows support for that party sits at 18 per cent. If a general election happens next month, the party would lose half of its seats.

Underway #77


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Four Years on Twitter

Twitter SupermanI STARTED LISTENING to Twitter back in October 2006 and followed Liam Burke into the Twitterverse on the 7th of December 2006 on the day that Jaiku's robin started bugging me. I've a little copy book containing scrawled notes from mid-October 2006 that shows a little matrix of comparisons between threaded comments on Jaiku and meandering thoughts on Twitter. Listening to Twitter was an exercise in economy of expression because most of the earliest Irish users were part of the Cork mafia and they were a hands-on crew of real developers. The crowd has become noisier since then. I regret my failure to impose Twitter on all my creative multimedia students at that time because if they were connected on the system, I'd be in close contact with graduates living 12 time zones away now. Back in October 2006, I pulled most of my information from feeds first, tweets last. That's nearly flipped on its head now. I was holding onto some old URLs and watching some old friends lose their grip on life. I was more interested in their progress, not in messing around with something that looked anemic without a comment stream. I learned about Chris Gulker's brain tumor in October 2006, a condition not well-suited for 140-character exchanges. Chris is barely hanging onto life today. And I'm actually surprised Twitter is still around, one billion tweets later, because those early days were fraught with broken service and a dearth of Irish users. Things have changed--reliability is higher and the number of Irish using Twitter is around the same population as the number of full-time third level students on campuses around Ireland. This makes Twitter more interesting than the average office water cooler. And even though Twitter is still a niche service, you're running naked if you don't know how to listen to a live public twitterstream.

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