Monday, June 29, 2009

Another nice bike theft story

I posted a while back about the recovery of a stolen bike by way of Ebay.

Here's another one that worked out well:

SeanH (25-06-2009, 13:39):


I just had my shiney Trek nicked from the boot of my car in the IFSC. You can't miss her, she looks like this:

Stolen Trek

There are only two of them in the country so if you see one buzzing around the city streets will you please call me (Sean 087*******) or Store Street Garda Station (666 8000).



And then the next morning:

SeanH (26-06-2009, 09:20):

I got my Trek back, took it back off some head on sherriff street last night.

Went for a walk around Sheriffer yesterday morning, nothing going, another stroll around at lunch time, nothing going, going home after work, turned on to sherifer and some lad coming down the foot path on the far side of the road on me bike.

Went to cross the road and notice a Gard on a moter bike coming down the road. I got me bike back and yer man went for a drive with the Gards. Yer man was saying that he just bought it 10 minutes before for 100 yoyo.


Tour de France 2009 calendar download (.ics) #tdf

UPDATE 2012: 2012 TdF calendar info here.

UPDATE: An early version of the 2010 calendar is now available here

UPDATE 2010: We hope to have 2010 calendars online soon. Nous espérons avoir bientôt en ligne Calendriers 2010. Speriamo di avere presto online calendari 2010. Esperamos contar con 2.010 calendarios en línea pronto. Wij hopen te hebben 2010 kalenders binnenkort online.

UPDATE: Check out our post on live, online video coverage here

Cycling fans who want a calendar for this year's Tour de France can get it here. You can import it directly into Google Calendar, or into a desktop application like iCal or Outlook.

It features the basic information of where each day's stage starts and finishes, but the notes include the departure times for caravane and riders, the estimated average speed, the ETA at the finish line, and a list of the climbs and sprints for each stage - with locations, distances and gradients where appropriate.


PS A few points to bear in mind:

the timezone for the calendar is set to Paris, and the times given in the notes are in French time, so you may need to adjust for your location;

in the notes, * indicates a climb, with C1, C2, etc. relating to the categories of climb (and CH is for hors catégorie);

S indicates a sprint;

the "Caravane" time might be of use to those of you lucky enough to be going along to watch the race live, and may help you plan how best to get hit in the head by a packet of sweets, or how you can add to your collection of enormous foam hands (if that makes no sense to you at all then you don't need to worry about it);

the information is sourced from, so if I have made an error anywhere check that site for correct details.

I've tried to make it as accurate as possible (I'll be using it myself), but you take the calendar as-is, use it at your own risk, etc.

This is the Google Calendar version of it, with the times adjusted for my location (Dublin, Ireland).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Signal to noise ratio #IranElection #SkyNewsFail

One of the problems with sourcing information from something like twitter or blogs is that as the attention to an issue increases the signal to noise ratio deteriorates. This can extend from the idiotically opportunistic Habitat advertising to the usual porn-spam, along with drivel-merchants like Sinbad777 (Michael Meier), who is the internet equivalent of those gormless feckwits who hang about behind reporters hoping to get on de telly.

There comes a point at which mainstream news outlets need to step up, as we've already said, and do what they're good at (or should be good at) - filtering and assessing the raw feeds of information coming out of a difficult and confusing news context.

Instead, Sky News appear to have opted for wall-to-wall Wacko.

We nominate #SkyNewsFail as the hashtag...

Check this out instead

Friday, June 26, 2009

An Post: celebrating 25 years

An Post issued a set of stamps to celebrate its 25 years of existence. Some examples are below.

Cead Mile Feck OffsThis stamp celebrates the 2004 citizenship referendum, which allowed "foreigner persons and those who look a bit foreigny" to use envelopes, provided that their parents had been tax-resident for at least three years. Previously, they had been allowed to send only postcards, and even then only postcards featuring donkeys, Guinness-based puns, thatched roofing, or picturesque Georgian housing.

More secure than a job at British LeylandThis stamp celebrates the release of the Birmingham Six.

Ma, what colour is Dundrum?This stamp marks the 1991 introduction of addresses to the Irish postal system. Before then it was mainly done by drawing pictures.

Green jerseys courtesy of Sean KellyThis marks An Post's express delivery services, which operate for two weeks in August each year.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Silly Habitat

What were Habitat thinking when they used Iran-linked hashtags to get exposure for their adverts? At least they had the decency to apologize, if not to explain how it happened. I might boycott their Dublin shop for a while. Oh, no, hang on...

Defamation Bills and slow governments

The NUJ has said that the damages award of €1,872,000.00 to Monica Leech by a High Court jury is "disproportionate". NUJ’s Irish secretary Séamus Dooley said that, "The current system allows juries to settle on an arbitrary figure".

This is not a problem of which the government is unaware, it's just one that they haven't bothered their arses to fix yet. In 2007 McCann Fitzgerald published a report called Litigation in Ireland: Changing - and Changing Fast. (In retrospect, the title seems a little optimistic: the text is here (PDF).) The report includes a section by Karyn Harty, a Partner at McCann Fitzgerald, called "A Case for Libel Reform".

In that section Ms Harty summarizes the O'Brien -v- Mirror Group Newspapers case - an action originally heard in 1999, with a Supreme Court appeal and a High Court retrial to follow. At the time of Ms Harty's writing another Supreme Court appeal was pending.

The gist of the case was, in short, that Denis O'Brien had been libelled by a newspaper allegation that he had paid £30,000 to the subsequently disgraced Ray Burke. (The newspaper, the Irish Mirror, was represented by McCann Fitzgerald.) The original High Court jury found in O'Brien's favour and awarded £250,000 damages. The newspaper appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the award was too high. The Supreme Court agreed, but declined to set an alternative amount for the award. Instead, they sent the case back to the High Court for a retrial.

However, Irish juries cannot be given guidance on the level of award that they might make, and the Supreme Court explicitly declined to give any such guidance.

So the case went back for retrial and the new jury, who could not be told that the Supreme Court had considered £250,000 too high an award, awarded damages of €750,000 (about £590,673). Yeah...

Ms Harty notes that this indicates an urgent need for reform and writes,
The current Minister for Justice has indicated that he intends to press ahead with reforms to defamation law in Ireland in the form of the Defamation Bill 2006. The Bill contains some long awaited reforms, including provision for juries to be given guidance when assessing damages and for the Supreme Court to substitute its own award. We must see whether these changes will be brought into law.
The 2006 Bill was introduced by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell about fifteen years after the Law Reform Commission recommended that the libel and slander laws needed revision. It has not made it into law and is now known as the Defamation Bill, 2008.

That's the one that sees Dermot Ahern get medieval with his idiotic provisions for criminal blasphemy.

Ahern argues that there is urgency to the legislation because of the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutional position with respect to blasphemy. (This is particularly unconvincing given that successive governments have been untroubled by the Supreme Court pointing out that they really ought to do something about the mess that is abortion legislation, or lack of it.) It's a pity that he and his pals in government didn't have a bit more of a sense of urgency in 1999 or 2006 or 2007 when the O'Brien case was making clear the weaknesses of existing legislation. They might have had a sense of urgency in 1991 when the Law Reform Commission told them that the libel and slander laws needed fixing.

The Commission's 1991 annual report says this:
In January 1989, the then Attorney General requested the Commission to undertake an examination of and conduct research and formulate and submit to him proposals for reform in relation to the law of defamation and contempt of court.
Its report (The Civil Law of Defamation (LRC 38–1991)) to the AG recommended, "Clarification of the law by providing that the Supreme Court can assess damages on an appeal".

January 1989? A 1991 LRC report? So, being generous, they've had eighteen years to sort this and they still haven't managed it. Moreover, if Dermot Ahern's handling of the Defamation Bill, 2008, is anything to go by then whenever they do legislate they'll be replacing one set of problems with another of their own making.

Can you imagine how bad things might be if this government could legislate efficiently??

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Internet Censorship #IranElection #zensursula

Concerns about Iran's ability to monitor and censor communications come hot on the heels of news that China has asked told google to block search results, and is requiring that all new PCs shipped in the country have web-blocking software pre-installed (quite possibly stolen software). Now Germany has passed legislation that will allow it to block internet traffic that it deems inappropriate.

Of course, both China and Germany insist that they want to use these powers to block things like child pornography, which seems entirely reasonable. In the case of China, it's likely that it will be used to block all sorts of other things - favourable mentions of democracy, references to the massacre at Tiananmen Square, frivolous nonsense like freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and all those other freedoms that Amnesty International keep banging on about. We don't tend to feel any more optimistic about China's use of this sort of technology than we do about Iran's use of it?

So what about Germany? Well, already there are Germany politicians who want to ban access to things like first-person shooter games, Islamist websites (who gets to decide what's Islamist and what's just a legitimate religious site?), and p2p networks. They might even bar Scientology websites, given that it's considered a cult in Germany, so there'd be no laughing at Tom Cruise making an idiot of himself on film (unless you can get a copy of Far and Away. Or Days of Thunder. Or Eyes Wide Shut. You get the idea...).

The point here, of course, is that the German authorities can decide what they feel is inappropriate and then block it. Do we trust them? Should we? Have our enlightened liberal occidental governments shown themselves to be trustworthy over recent years? What might the George W. Bush regime have blocked? What might Tony Blair have sexed up or glossed over?

(Incidentally, one of the good things about the UK holding a public inquiry into the Iraq war is that before the whitewash sets in it might just throw enough sticky shit at Blair to derail his President-of-Europe plans. Do we really want that war-mongering, self-righteous, crypto-Catholic-god-botherer in high office?)

Big Brother isn't just a reality show. Where's George Orwell when you need him?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hanging on the telephone #IranElection

Writing on the BBC's Technology pages, Rory Cellan-Jones reports that,

Nokia Siemens Network has confirmed it supplied Iran with the technology needed to monitor, control, and read communications.

It told the BBC that it sold a product called the Monitoring Centre to Iran Telecom in the second half of 2008.

This monitoring and control systemis not unusual in itself. Asked about it, a Nokia Siemens spokesman
described the system as "a standard architecture that the world's governments use for lawful intercept".

He added: "Western governments, including the UK, don't allow you to build networks without having this functionality."

Two things are of concern here. Firstly, that this phone-tapping technology is so widely deployed by governments who seem to lose laptops and the data on them at the rate that banks lose credibility and money. Is it in use here in Ireland? If Cowen and Co. ever decided on a repeat of the 1983 phone tapping that Haughey et al engaged in, would we know about it?

Secondly, and surely of far greater concern, is that Nokia Siemens sold this equipment to Iran "in the second half of 2008". Is it just too much to expect that a publicly listed company (maximize-shareholder-value-maximize-shareholder-value) might exercise some sort of ethical foresight? Well, the company say that they don't sell the monitoring system to China or Burma. Why is that? Are you less dead if an Iranian soldier shoots you than if it's a Burmese soldier?

So when you watch the video of blood streaming from the head of a young woman who has been gunned down on the streets of Tehran remind yourself that you're only seeing it because someone managed to circumvent the tools that Nokia Siemens put into the hands of the Iranian government less than a year ago. The problem is that the information may well be coming out of Iran via networks that the likes of Nokia Siemens supplied. If that's the case then it just reinforces the need to preserve anonymous web access.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tehran Bureau #IranElection

One of the interesting things about the flood of twitters and blogposts apparently coming out of Iran is how they reflect on the role of the mainstream media, particularly the electronic media. If they don't have their own correspondents on the ground, or can't contact them, then what is the point of those mainstream outlets? Why look at Sky News or CNN if you can just watch a raw feed of information, including some horrific photographs and videos that are unlikely to make it to broadcast but tell you more about the situation than a hundred emails from the shocked and hearsaying masses on Sky "let us know what you think" News.

If anything, the role of the established media outlets is to filter and assess. The feeds get hit with a lot of spam and rickrolling nonsense. They serve up information raw, which is both their strength and their weakness. Outlets like Sky News and BBC News 24 should be subjecting that raw information to journalistic due diligence, which is precisely why they shouldn't be asking us what we think.

On the raw front, these seem worth a look:


And an interesting comment on these issues is here:

Importance of open access internet

Online anonymity can be used for nefarious purposes, but it has political importance as well. This interview with Andrew Lewman, the Executive Directory of the Tor Project, and Peter Eckersley of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, discusses that importance in the context of events in Iran and of restrictions on those who might want to run the kind of proxy servers that can be so vital for things that are rather more important than watching iPlayer from outside the UK.

Tor Clients in Iran

Following #IranElection

A useful site that pulls together a lot of the twitter information relating to the situation in Iran.

Linking to the likes of this:


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Twitter and Iran

Twitter can seem (and often is) immensely frivolous, but it has over recent days been playing a role in maintaining the flow of information to and from Iran. The Twitter-masters are not unaware of this, and have responded accordingly: good for them.

(from mashable)

Twitter Reschedules Maintenance Around #IranElection Controversy
June 15th, 2009 | by Adam Ostrow

As we reported over the weekend, Twitter (Twitter) is playing a crucial role in the ongoing controversy over the disputed Iran elections. Meanwhile, earlier today Twitter publicized on their status blog that there would be maintenance at 12:45am ET/9:45pm tonight and it would last for at least 90 minutes.

While that would’ve been convenient for users in the US, it would’ve meant the maintenance would be scheduled for Tuesday morning Tehran time, when activity on the ground is likely to be intense. Taking this into account, Twitter, in conjunction with their network host, NTT America, have rescheduled maintenance to tomorrow afternoon US time – the middle of the night in Iran.

From the Twitter blog:

“A critical network upgrade must be performed to ensure continued operation of Twitter. In coordination with Twitter, our network host had planned this upgrade for tonight. However, our network partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran. Tonight’s planned maintenance has been rescheduled to tomorrow between 2-3p PST (1:30a in Iran).

Our partners are taking a huge risk not just for Twitter but also the other services they support worldwide—we commend them for being flexible in what is essentially an inflexible situation. We chose NTT America Enterprise Hosting Services early last year specifically because of their impeccable history of reliability and global perspective. Today’s decision and actions continue to prove why NTT America is such a powerful partner for Twitter.”

While that essentially means Twitter will be offline during some peak hours in the US, it’s the right move given the circumstances. The company realizes its service is proving a critical communications tool at a crucial time in a nation well-known for censorship, and by ensuring it’s as accessible as possible, it’s doing all it can to help.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Why did Christy Burke resign from the IRA/Shinners?

Our theory here in Skangerland is that he was told that come the next election he wouldn't be selected as the IRA/Shinner candidate for Dublin Central. He recently and unsuccessfully contested the byelection there, but by the time of the next General Election there'll be someone else standing on the IRA/Shinner ticket, someone who's been out of office for a few days now.

So that's our theory: Burke was told that he wouldn't be contesting the next General Election because he'd have to make way for Mary Lou, so he quit.

Early and often

[UPDATE: on the "Mary Lou TD" point, see our thoughts on Christy Burke's resignation]

Mary Lou will no longer be turning up at the European Parliament, and she won't even have to use maternity leave as an overstretched excuse to cover poor attendance across an entire five-year term of office. Now she can spend more time with her family, which is what she was doing anyway.

The trouble is she might run for the Dáil next time out, and then we'll have to spend even more time changing channels to avoid looking at her overfilled face or listening to her aggrieved, self-righteous whine. (It uses up batteries something awful, all that channel hopping - the Greens really should do something about it.) On the plus side, we'd get to watch from behind the sofa as some Fine Gael glamourpuss - maybe Paschal D, the thinking mammies' Daniel O'Donnell - gleefully prods her towards one of her temper tantrums.

This screenshot from aertel suggests that the old policy of "vote early and often" didn't work out for Mary Lou. It's probably just a typo - how strange to find a typo on the RTÉ aertel news pages - but it's an apt one.

Read the second paragraph carefully.

Early and Often

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's not often one feels like agreeing with Dev

But with any luck Friday next will be one occasion when it happens.

David McWilliams (2009)
There is no systemic interest in Anglo Irish Bank. It all smacks of banana republic stuff, with elites being saved simply because they are elites. This has not gone unnoticed in Germany. Last night, I spoke to someone who is very close to its government who said that the Germans were livid with the Irish.

They are angry with the Financial Regulator, which allowed delinquent bank Depfa to lend out trillions of dollars from its IFSC base without asking any questions. This bank, which was bought by another German bank, Hypo Real Estate, in 2007, nearly brought down the entire German financial system last October. Only a massive injection of cash from the German state kept the system afloat.

A Bundesbank auditors’ report, published last Thursday into the Depfa scandal, was damning of the Financial Regulator and, by extension, the whole operation of the IFSC.

Dermot Desmond (2004)
No other politician in Ireland would have built the IFSC but Charlie Haughey.

Éamon De Valera (1970):
Haughey will ruin the party