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iOS 6 – argghh

I don’t usually bother upgrading the OS on my phone the day it comes out because usually I am too busy. I don’t, however, usually avoid doing it for long but on this occasion, I am going to have to.

Apple have replaced Google Maps with some homefried application of its own. It’s fair to say that according to most of the comments about it yesterday, it probably isn’t very useful.

My most frequently used applications on my phone are the browser, the phone, text messaging and maps. On my iPad it is probably the browser, Chilltrax, Bejewelled and the maps. In real terms, I can’t actually do without the maps. They find me when I am lost. They cover me for everywhere I have tended to need maps. I have been standing lost in the middle of Helsinki finding my way to my hotel using maps on my phone. I have used maps on my iPad to plan journeys in France and check out areas where I dream of buying houses. They regularly help me locate myself in the banditland that is anywhere south of the Liffey. Last night they helped me find Dunsink Observatory.

But it doesn’t sound like I can rely on the same accuracy from the current incarnation of Apple’s maps product so for now, no iOS6.0.

We the people and open data

When I told my mother that the Oireachtas website had stopped serving XML the other day, she wasn’t very pleased on two counts. She wasn’t pleased that this was not reported on her main news service and she wasn’t pleased that it happens.

I might never go to Kildarestreet.com but I absolutely value the concept of open data and believe that our ability to crowd source and mash data is massively important and it is a coming skill, not just in government matters but in most matters relating to the collection of data on which decisions rest. We the tax payers pay for this data and I don’t think it’s unrealistic to make it easy for us the tax payers to gain access to it. Saying “It’s on the Oireachtas website” is not really adequate if the Oireachtas website is not all that perfect from an accessibility or search point of view which in fact, it was prone not to be.

In a country where there is massive attachment to smart economies, computer science, and we have business people talking about datascience being the coming thing, and we have an official policy on open data, the decision to stop releasing XML was a retrograde step. I know that there is some effort being made to rectify this and hopefully next week Kildarestreet.com will be back functional. But it does suggest that there is occasionally a tendency to make short decisions without looking at the wider ramifications and what it is we talk about wanting to achieve and what we are doing to achieve this.

I will be writing to my local TD today – whom I viscerated on my doorstep last week for various reasons relating to pensions and poor job creation plans – and I will include this as evidence of the lack of consistency between words and actions on the part of our government at this time. It may be a small thing – it’s not like Kildarestreet.com or god knows the Oireachtas’s own website – get anything like the same amount of traffic as Facebook for example – but it is evidence of an ethos, a desire on how to do things, which matters for the future.

Culture Night – Dunsink Observatory

I’m never really quite prepared for Culture Night – I love the whole idea of it but there seems to be an overwhelming amount of stuff to do so I fear to tread anywhere near Dublin City Centre. I found out by accident yesterday, however, that Dunsink Observatory were doing a few bits and pieces so I ventured out there.

I met a friend there too, family in tow and the overwhelming assessment was that this was fantastic.

Dunsink Observatory is in the grounds of what was William Rowan Hamilton’s house. Its South Telescope is an example of a Grubbs telescope and when your local politician is on to you about knowledge economies, know that in the early 20th century, the world’s leading manufacturer of telescopes was based in Dublin. We have powered the science of the world. In fact, we also had the biggest telescope in the world for a while over in Birr but that’s a different story.

Anyway, Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies who own the site were on hand with someone giving a talk about the telescope every 30 minutes, with someone on hand to talk about ICHEC’s work with heavy duty dataprocessing and demonstrating their 3D visualising software. I was absolutely mesmerised by this and took information home because I want to know more. There were people pointing telescopes up and the sky and when I left, one of the telescope operators was about to start looking for what my memory tells me was the Crab Nebula.

The sky was mostly very clear.

The staff were overwhelmed by the turn out – it seems to have far exceeded their expectations and there were a lot of children there which I think is some evidence that here, at least, interest is turning in the direction of science and what it can do for the world. Things like this are inspiring – I know I was fascinated by the Birr telescope when I was a teenager, that here was something that we were best at in the world. That there are no limits.

According to Dunsink’s website, they run public evenings from the observatory a couple of times a week during the winter. My friend and I are definitely, definitely up for that this winter.

 

AND…dammit…I left before the meteor shower. That’s a pity. Still….next time.

 

How to avoid a 386 situation.

  1. Identify the site in question
  2. install a plug in such as Leechblock or StayFocused.
  3. Allow yourself 20 minutes on that site a day.
  4. You get thrown out.

Plus points of this are:

  1. Your mind gets focussed on what’s really important about your interaction on that site.
  2. You have more time to play Bejewelled
  3. You realise there is more to life than online fora.
  4. Your stress levels and blood pressure tend to be a bit healthier.

Worth doing. 386ing yourself is not good. People being wrong in bars gets limited by barmen asking if you have no homes to be going to. You need an equivalent for the internet.

Beautiful things – Fiskars scissors

I own quite a lot of stuff – many books, much stuff in the kitchen and a lot of hobby related items. One of the more utilitarian things I own is a Fiskars scissors, with the trademark orange handles. It was given to me by a girl called Ulla, from Finland, very proud of how good Finnish things are. I still have the scissors. It is unquestionably the best scissors I own. Fiskars scissors are not cheap; in addition to the household scissors which I have used to cut every sort of things from paper to chicken breasts, I own a couple of smaller craft scissors for cutting thread; one in my knitting tool box and one in my crochet tool box. They are always comfortable to use and in fact, I believe Fiskars were the first company to produce scissors to suit lefthanded people. I think this is brilliant, even allowing for the fact that I am right handed.

I was in Finland last week, after the whole OLympics trip, and while I was in Stockmann, Helsinki’s biggest department store, I made a bad-for-my-credit card discovery. I discovered that you could get Fiskars scissors with lovely designs on the handle. They are utterly beautiful.

This is a scissors. You don’t usually apply the word “beautiful” to it. They are not beautiful. They are usually plane; the Fiskars for years had the orange handles I mentioned above, most of them come with plain coloured handles if they are not 100% metal with a few dots of rust. Some of them have red swival dots but they are not beautiful. They are sharp, or blunt, or lousy or useless.

The first one I saw had a scene from the Finn Family Moomin on it. I had to have it. Then I discovered other ones from the Inspiration range. Beside me I have a Gloria scissors. How can you not love something? And because it’s a Fiskars, I feel confident that it will work and last me. After all, the one I mentioned above, my general orange handled household scissors I have had since 1998.

One day in London

I used to live in London what seems several lifetimes ago. I was lucky. I lived a 10 minute walk from Oxford Street and I had a decently well paying part time job. I may have had lectures for 30 hours a week and work for 20 plus extraneous studying and being stuck in underground trains and all that, but it wasn’t as hard as it can be for, e.g., anyone trying to exist in London on minimum wage. I got to go to the theatre now and again and I fell in love with the British Museum. But not with London. It always struck me as a city with too little time and too little care for the people in it. Also a bit fragmented.

I don’t often go there now. But I was there about 10 days ago to go to an Olympic final. I have some issues with the Olympics as big business but I did also feel that to go to an Olympic final would be a bucket list kind of thing and when I discovered I could get my hands on a ticket for the canoe C1 final, I decided to ignore the issues I have with Olympic Business and go and deal with Olympic Sport. London was a revelation. My London was a revelation because needless to mention, not everyone has the same experience. I found it a city transformed.

My hero of the Olympics wasn’t a sports star. He was a London Underground employee at Paddington Rail Station who provided useful advice on how to get to Liverpool Street Station after the ticket machines at the Hammersmith & City Underground Station decided they didn’t want my money without me having to walk the length of Paddington Rail Station between the two Paddington Underground stations more than once. This makes a difference really because London involves one thing and that’s walking.

There were Gamesmakers everywhere. You fell over them at all the railway stations, telling you where to go and how to get there. You fell over them at the venues. Unfailingly they smiled, and unfailingly, they were happy to be there, happy to be a part of the Olympics. Happy to show their city off the world. This is London we are talking. London is already a world city in the way that Dublin, for example, will never be. This is London whose position in the world has been assured for 200 years or more. And this is London who wanted you to see its heart, the people that make it, and not the people in the newspapers. I had a long haul from Heathrow Airport to Lee Valley White Water Centre which is way on the other side of the city, to the northeast so I met quite a lot of Gamesmakers on my way. Every single one of them made my day a little brighter, a little happier and I was already in a good mood anyway.

The world would be so much a better place if everyone was like that all the time.

Lee Valley White Water Centre was custom built for the Olympics I believe. I wasn’t aware that people built centres like this (because most of the white water sports I see/have participated in involve rivers and real rocks and stuff) but they’ve done a superb job. The British Army were handling security. They were fast, efficient and friendly and without exception, smiling. I can’t fault them. I didn’t spend much time in a queue at any stage.

The atmosphere was fantastic. I was there for the C1 Mens final and the weather stayed dry from the slalom which was very, very exciting to watch even if you don’t know a whole lot about it. There were a lot of Slovakians there, and especially a lot of French; I guess because those two nations are right up there with the slalom racing. We don’t hear much about it here although we are good enough in that sport to send people to some of the disciplines in it. Sometimes I wish our media would lose its narrowmindedness in terms of how it covers sports.

Tony Estanguet won the gold medal for France. It was pretty obvious on his second run that he was going to – he was noticeably more confident around the gates and down the river than his closest rivals. The place erupted for him – like I said, a lot of French. It poured rain for fifteen minutes while we waited for the Olympic medal ceremony I can’t see myself going to Rio in 4 years’ time, so if this is the last chance I get to see one, I don’t think I’ll shelter from the rain.

So I didn’t.

Higgs’ Boson and during the week

I’m not a physicist. I will freely admit that. I did quite a lot of chemistry in my younger days because chemical equations, for some bizarre reason, appealed to me, and now, I’m back studying maths.

There wasn’t any major doubt in my mind that they’d found something in CERN when they lined up for their announcements during the week, and given that they’d been looking for something in particular, there’s not any major surprise for me that they’ve probably found it. It’ll be interesting to see how, from a purely physics point of view, said particle behaves.

I’m more interested in how they found it. Over at Significance Magazine’s website, you can find a whole lot about this. Basically they looked at a whole lot of data and analysed it statistically. We’re talking a lot of data. It’s the sort of thing that makes me think that statistics can be really fascinating.

It’s just, we don’t sell it very well sometimes.

If you’ve any interest at all in statistics, I recommend a look at Significance’s website, and if you have an iPad, their magazines can be downloaded for a handful of euro each. And a few of them are free at the moment. Well worth a look and in particular, it’s fairly accessible as a stats publication goes.

I’d be very, very rich if…

I came to the conclusion yesterday that I’d be very rich if I got a euro for every time someone said to me this year that the summer was over. It’s the start of July. We can have amazing weather right up to September.

Yes, I know that June was the wettest on record. Today, on the other hand, stunning day.

Cut the grass. Sat in the garden most of the afternoon. Felt great to be alive. On a Saturday of a week when I’d definitely have made a tenner on a euro for every time I heard the summer is over.

There are times I don’t understand Irish people. I know I’m one but frankly, we can be incomprehensible. A week of rain doesn’t segue us straight into the middle eight of autumn, you know.

Yes, the weather may be brutal today (couple of days during the week may definitely count, and, if you live in Cork, quite a lot of the week before) but that doesn’t mean that’s it, the sun ain’t going to shine any more.

It just means that today it’s raining and it might tomorrow.

We have another 3 months to go before you could justifiably sure that the summer is gone back south.

So…just please…think about it. If you’re going to say the summer is gone; that’s it for our summer, and assume it’s funny; it’s not. It’s an old joke, it’s a worn out joke and it’s bordering on pathetic at this stage.

EWAC: Chinese 5-Spice Pork Belly

This will be the last EWAC for a little while – I’m really just catching up.

Donal Skehan has a comparatively new book out, this time called Great Food for Less. I bought it for what the label says is €20.99. He’s well worth the money. I did also sit through a bunch of his TV shows before I got the book and one of the things he did which stood out from that was this Chinese 5-Spice Pork Belly. I, as usual, because I am cooking for one person and while I don’t actually hate my kitchen it is not laid out to my preference (I am getting very testy about these things – later), I cheated. I didn’t have any rapeseed oil. I have no idea what I used. Yesterday, I know I used vegetable oil.

Pork Belly is something I hadn’t eaten in years. This is a bad thing. It’s lovely. It’s particularly lovely with Chinese 5-Spice scattered over it. It took me twenty minutes to get it in and out of the oven yesterday. Did this join the list of stuff I’ll do again? Yes. You can freeze the pork easy enough provided you have room in your freezer and it doesn’t – if you are cooking for one – take a whole lot of time to defrost. These are all good things.

I like Donal Skehan’s stuff because it’s accessible. As far as the book layout is concerned, it’s nicely done and easy to read while you’re trying to follow it. This compares very well to Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals which was not laid out with someone actually cooking in mind; the recipes are cluttered and the print is too small. I also like Donal Skehan’s stuff because he’s bright and enthusiastic about what he does. You’d like to hope that lots of kids will start to cook because of him. And I particularly like him because he had the guts to go on Swedish TV to do a piece and did it almost entirely in Swedish and look as entertaining in Swedish as he is in English.

Anyway, thanks to him I have a slight addiction to this. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.