THE SAME DAY that President Obama pointed to Ireland as a country that understands the concept of dialogue and compromise was the day that Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland watched a curtain of censorship descend upon a political cartoon of himself. The artist's work wouldn't be something suitable for hanging in my office but getting disrespectful lampooning is part and parcel of politics. To my mind an ocean away, it is rather remarkable that street-smart Brian Cowen could be swayed to follow the advice of a formalised public relations consultant and agree to swing the full powers of the Irish police force into action against all evidence of the unbecomig caricature. What has transpired is picturegate, a talking point fueld in no small part by Irish bloggers, radio personalities and tweeple. It would have ended with a whimper had the Taoiseach used the caricature as the cover shot for the 13th month of an Irish calendar featuring some of the semi-nude chiseled Irish rugby team. If he had autographed a few hundred of the images, he could have earned a few approving nods from even the most acerbic critics of his government.
WHILE IN THE STATES for President Obama's hour-long live press conference, I was intrigued by the textual nature of the occasion. Behind the scenes, hundreds of viewers also participated in discussing the subtext of various comments made by the President by sending their thoughts out into the twitterverse. ABC News plans to harvest those tweets in a piece to be aired hours later, perhaps on Good Morning America. This would be a natural evolution for the Irish national broadcaster to follow when considering how to enhance its Questions & Answers format. Several articulate Irish tweeple use Twitter to follow events in Ireland, including live TV shows. Spotlighting those live tweeting commentary would offer a live view of public opinion.
In another development, President Obama will answer a cross-section of questions left on the White House website in a Twitter-like text-only online press conference. This would be an easy thing for the Irish Taoiseach to do as well. It ould be one way to get to the bottom of #picturegate.
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OUR ECONOMIC DOWNTURN has produced several examples of cut-rate hotel room rates. W Hotels offers three nights for the price of two through 30 Sep 09. Stay at Choice Hotels for two separate nights before 30 April and get a free third night any time through the end of 2011. Marriott lets its Rewards members transfer free rooms to family and friends and that means free overnights for lucky people through 7 Sep 09. And Expedia has a promotion with 700 hotels in which travelers get their last night free on stays lasting three to five nights between now and 31 May 09. We got the "best rate" from Affinia Hotels during our stay in Manhattan, but that cost is a long way away from being "free." Qualilty often comes at a cost.
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USING MY NOKIA E90 and Google Latitude in the Philadelphia area has given me ample opportunity to check out traffic alerts on the phone. It's very straightforward on the Nokia E90's wide screen. While trusting Latitude to map our travels through Philadelphia, a multi-coloured band appeared along our route when Latitude overlaid traffic information (see below). It's a capability that would be well-appreciated in Ireland, a country with a population less than the 5.1m living in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.
Using the Nokia E90 during the seven-hour day showed us another resilient feature of the phone--its battery held up for an always-on internet connection while handling push mail from Nokia and also a few simultaneous web sessions with Facebook, Twitter, and Jaiku. Latitude served up a perfect answer to "diner" while we were motoring along Roosevelt Boulevard. We got an address, phone number and directions to a place serving really good crab cakes.
I know my day-long data ost me more than a tank of petrol but the experience with free maps and highly relevant tourism information was well worth the expense.
Sent mail2blog using AT&T Typepad service on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
FROM THE FRONT garden in Lancaster, Pennsylvania comes a short Qik clip, inspired by weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. One front page story concerns Vie de merde, "a crappy life"  including stories like the guy whose boss "came into the office and asked what I was working on. I replied, 'My departure.' He'd forgotten I had been laid off."
Until I read Peggy Noonan, I didn't know the White House teleprompter had a twitter account and also had screwed up Brian Cowen's speech on St Patrick's Day. 
Jim Carlton finds homes are selling strongly in Mountain House, CA  and Jason Zweig points to problems with college savings plan. 
IN MARCH 1992, a moving van stopped by a neighbour's barn and unloaded a crate of my personal belongings. Yesterday, I started inventoring the stuff. Among the treasures are chippings my daughters made from the Berlin Wall in 1989, all my original flight manuals, keys to a suite used by Herman Goehring during the Nürnberg War Crimes Trial, and a railway watch that carried me through pilot training. I don't know how I will get this stuff back to Ireland but I know it will involve a large container ship.
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I HAVE USED Typepad to control blogging during the past five years while connected to Nokia Communicators. This trip to NYC is no different. I'm watching blog activities through FreeNews and getting push mail alerts like the screenshot below whenever anything noticeable happens on my blog. It is really comforting to know Typepad's spam filters keep most of the weirdos at bay (more than 500 comment spammers get caught every day in Typepad's nets before they deface my blog). That level of comfort, along with easy pocket-sized controls, is one of the most compelling reasons I recommend Typepad as an enterprise blogging solution to small business operators.
WE SPENT A NIGHT on New York's 7th Avenue at the Affinia Manhattan Hotel because several of the 943 TripAdvisor reviews of the hotel told stories of its family-friendly environment. In my experience, big rooms means good things for toddlers. We had a gigantic room (more doors than an average Manhattan flat) with two TV sets and a kitchenette for a little more than we spent for our last night in The Clarence Hotel in Dublin. Litle Mia slept with the hotel mascot (see below the break). The fedora-bedecked doormen set new standards for courtesy, the 24-hour green grocer next door replenished us with blueberries, the bagel shop across the street satisfied our 6AM cravings and our Amtrak train departed from a platform 645 paces away. The hotel's wifi cost me €9 for the day and I could use it on the pavement outside. There are countless reasons that justify being near Madison Square Garden when staying in NYC. I'd put "overnight in the Affinia" in that pile of good reasons.
TWO THINGS always impress me about traveling aboard Amtrak along the northeast corridor of the United States. First, you can easily find a working electrical outlet near your seat (see below for proof). Second, if you want business travel, you can find silent passengers all around because Amtrak has Quiet Cars where you dare not use your mobile phone for calling. I always marvel at Irish Rail's ability to source carriages with the fewest operating power points. Even in Irish Rail seats where you see an power outlet, you may find no power streaming to the circuit. And no sense of aural decorum seems to exist aboard Irish public transit because too many people want to phone a friend instead of reading or listening. We will log 400 miles aboard Amtrak this month and I will enjoy the power and the quiet.
ONE OF THE little benefits of using Shannon Airport is that you can pull down free and open wifi throughout the facility. So when I shot our Airbus below, I could send the evidence out across the clear blue sky for free. While seated on the aircraft.