Open letter to Amazon

Dear Amazon,

I am a customer of your dot co dot uk store and I have a Kindle which is linked to that store.

I know that you sell books in French, and German through your dot fr and dot de stores in Kindle editions.

I live in Europe. I speak fluent French and fluent German. I occasionally order books  – actual hard copy books – from both stores. The number of books I can get in either language on to my Kindle, however, is restricted to what is on offer in the dot co dot uk store.

I realise you need the Kindle to be limited to one store. But the array of books available across Europe, that would be great. Surely, given that the European Union has some small pillar regarding the free movement of goods and services across its internal borders, this has to be possible?

Could you maybe have a look at it please?

 

It’s My Life…

My twitter feed is full of moaning this morning, mainly by people who are not Garth Brooks fans moaning about people who are.

We seem to have an issue in this country whereby people judge others for the simple sin of not conforming to their narrow definition of what is being acceptable. It’s a problem, and it’s writ high in the reaction to the Garth Brooks concerts. He’s just sold out three nights in Croke Park.

To put that into context, so have One Direction.

So there are a lot of Garth Brooks fans about. Given that he doesn’t, compared to One Direction, get that much air play on most of the radio stations here, and hasn’t played here for quite a while, in music business terms, that’s quite the achievement.

My twitter feed is full of people who have:

  • never heard of Garth Brooks
  • if they have, are dismissing concert purchasers as culchies
  • dismissing concert goers as lacking class and intelligence
  • suggesting they’d be better off spending their money on 2 or 3 bands which are less famous shall we say.
  • despaired for Ireland because Garth Brooks has sold out 3 nights in the biggest concert venue in the country

All this misses one major point. There are people out there – approximately 200,000 of them – who have done a quality/price assessment and decided Garth Brooks is worth the money. Good luck to them. They are out to enjoy themselves.

So motivation – Out to Enjoy themselves. 

The moaners, the complainers are not. They are out to put people down, judge them, be nasty. It’s sad if that’s what constitutes enjoying themselves, but hey…this is Ireland. You’d never get on with living your own life and let other people live theirs right?

And yet, I think the whole idea of living and let live is likely to result in more happiness than bargying on about how stupid Garth Brooks fans are for queuing for tickets. It’s just a pity not enough people realise it sometimes

declaration of interest: I own no Garth Brooks CDs, no One Direction CDs (although you should watch this by the way) and I have tickets for neither concert and tried to get tickets for neither concert. I really just wish people would focus on what makes them happy rather than complaining about other people making themselves happy.

Book review: Eruptions that Shook the World – Clive Oppenheimer

I found this book fascinating.

Oppenheimer draws together strands from geology, history, archaeology and the current world to assess the impact of volcanic eruptions, the direct consequences, the indirect consequences. He provides an indepth technical understanding of volcanoes and their behaviour, the terminology used by experts in the field. He looks at a number of cataclysmic eruptions in history and highlights how they changed humanity’s world and humanity’s view of the world.

 

UPC price updates

I had an email from UPC the other day informing me of contractual changes which would also include an increase in price of 7.92 in my package.

My package already cost 85.99, negotiated after a similar letter some time last year; not absolutely certain but I think it was in the last 12 months. At that point, it transpired that although I was under the illusion I was on a package, I wasn’t, and so I was being nicely charged for separate products.

At the time, I voiced some discontent that UPC, in writing to me to tell me they were charging me more money, had not thought to provide me with the information that if I changed to one of their bundle products I could save, oh it was about 30E at the time.

So, some calculation done, it appears my monthly charge from UPC would go from 85.99 to 93.51 but I could save 3.50 if I signed up for MyUPC. I believe I already have this but it’s irrelevant.

Currently, the top price available bundle that you can buy from UPC is 80E, one of the Horizon bundles. It is – according to the literature on UPC’s website – a faster broadband product with a greater download allowance. I can’t see the upload speed but I assume it’s at least 10Mb up if we have 150 down. ACtually I can’t even see what the products are at the moment because UPC’s site is not responding and unfortunately, when I tried to call them just now, I wound up on hold for their phones ringing 20 times. I do not have time for this unfortunately.

So again, I am asking – this time publicly – why can’t UPC, when they are writing to tell me they want more money, that I can also available of different more modern less expensive products.

I’m currently a full time student and 13E a month, over the course of a year long contract is quite a bit of money. It represents almost 2 months of a 80E a month contract for one thing.

UPC are looking for comments on their customer service at the moment.

 

 

France Musique – Nocturne

I’m ashamed – in some respects – to say that I don’t listen to RTE Radio much lately. There are probably some moments of joy but Lyric FM took the joy out of my heart when they gave Marty Whelan the morning slot.

For various reasons, I found myself a) regularly on buses for a while and b) in a need to brush up on my French and German. I turned to podcasts to do it. And then I escaped the buses but I’ve been left with a couple of podcasts which…well they’re worth holding on to.

Nocturne is a programme broadcast on France Musique in the middle of the night. It’s typically a 2 hour show, and it consists primarily of complete works. The first one I listened to play the complete Kinderszenen by Schumann and I was hooked. The next one, which I listened to through my headset in UCD played the Sea Symphony by Vaughan Williams. It’s quite extraordinary in the middle of the library at UCD when the world around you is more or less quiet (except for the muttered conversations, the Windows machines starting up, the mobiles whirring into life because people forgot to switch them to silent and the ongoing tap tap tap of the Facebook messaging people). For a few minutes, the world fades into the background.

There are no ads. The presenters – which vary from program to program – say a little about each piece – today I am listening to the complete album of the sound track for the film Black Gold and it was introduced with a brief discussion about James Horner’s work for Jean-Jacques Annaud, and how he took a low fee for this particular film because it offered certain opportunities in terms of who Horner could work with; and how, in the view of the presenter, it was probably the weakest of the three scores Horner had done for Annaud. The other two were Enemy at the Gates and The Name of the Rose.

But there isn’t much discussion otherwise. It’s pretty much wall to wall music and sometimes it is utterly gorgeous and other times, well you skip onto the next one.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes if you are so inclined, or also, I believe, via the France Musique website. If you like classical music with the occasional bit of jazz and blues, it’s a wonderful two hours to have in the background of your life.

Yes, I own a Raspberry Pi

Many years ago I owned an Atari 1200XL and I wrote some BASIC on it. Not a lot, but enough to prove I could do it. I wasn’t much cop at copy typing games out of Atari XL users or whatever the magazine was, but we got small programmes to run in between the interminable Jet Boot Jack and Fort Apocalypse tournaments.

And this is why I bought a Raspberry Pi. I’d already bought it 10 days ago so it was just a really nice bonus that Wolfram came to an arrangement about Mathematica with the Raspberry Pi Foundation and now I have that two.

I only have the one little Pi at the moment although I have a couple of cards so I can do different things with it. I want to get it working as an internet radio and media station and to that end, OpenElec went on one of the cards today. It works very nicely. I just need to organise the media which is basically small fry if a little time consuming.

I think every child in the country should have a Raspberry Pi in addition to (or instead of) pushing iPads or tablets out to all of them. I’m yet to be convinced by the value of handing them a locked down device with few options to explore.

I have beside me me the Raspberry Pi guide for kids. It’s dead handy because it’s written in straight terms, and allows kids to do all sorts of interesting things, from running Minecraft on it, to building a media server with BBC iPlayer for the television and some basic games programming. With Mathematica now they have access to a terrific knowledge engine as well. For that alone, I really do think every house should have one.

I also think that any one should get one and learn how to configure it. Get the kids bookazine thingie I mentioned above as it’s well written and pretty accessible. Or Raspberry Pi for Dummies – these are also generally clearly written.

The future of the world will be technology driven. A lot of this stuff isn’t that hard and it’s worth ensuring that you are technologically independent as far as possible. This should be a little bit past “switching the damn thing on”. This, in itself is handy but if you get caught with the bug, there is also the possibility of setting up your own video intercom (one of my projects for the paltry amount of spare time I have at the moment), customised doorbells, timers for any number of things. It’s a voyage of exploration.

 

on interests and judging them

Shane Hegarty has written a piece in today’s Irish Times which you can, if you’re so inclined, read here.

but it did hint at a key point about the modern foodie industry, which is that its chief product isn’t delicious meals, artfully presented: it is waste

He’s talking in the context of waste of time buying cookbooks, waste of time taking pleasure in your cooking, waste of time in taking instagram photographs of your food, waste of paper in printing cook books which will never be used.

I think he’s wrong.

I own about 100 cookbooks. Pretty sure it’s in that zone because they were recently counted and this does not include myriad copies of Delicious, Donna Hay, Tesco and Superquinn magazines. I also have an A4 notebook into which I glue oddball stuff cut out of magazines, newspapers, the backs of ingredients containers and such like. All of it gives me very great pleasure even if I do not cook.

I’ve always taken the view that if it’s feeding yourself is all it’s about, then you really only need one cookbook, be that either Nigella Lawson’s first one – How to Eat, or, possibly better, one of the Good Housekeeping ones. But that’s really not what it’s all about. There is something beautiful about opening a cookbook, looking at the pictures, and considering whether you will cook this or that.

It’s a pleasure to read cookbooks; not just cook from them. And sometimes you will cook from them and get things right, or sometimes you might not. It is ultimately a voyage of discovery.

In that respect, you cannot possibly consider the acquisition of books – of any type – which give you pleasure as a waste. Effort in cooking, likewise, is not a waste.

I swim because…

Four mornings a week I now go swimming before having breakfast and heading into whatever morning activity I have lined up. I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer – far from it – but I do it because it sets me nicely up for the day.l

Sometime ago there was a hooha over obesity and the Minister for Health in this country, and some journalist or other mentioned that she suffered, between gym membership and going running and stuff.

I was thinking about that word suffered the next day and it occurred to me – to some extent – that there seems, occasionally, to be this idea that life is some sort of penance.

You’d think with the pushing back against the Catholic Church that this whole concept of penance and suffering just to behave properly inline with society’s expectations might have gone the way of the snow a few years ago but no. It lives on.

I don’t run. And when I swim, I don’t feel like I am suffering. I enjoy it.

There are generalised health issues around the western lifestyle. The whole desk-lifestyle isn’t exactly great, and most people don’t get enough exercise. People’s eating habits have changed too. SO one of the things that I know to my cost is sometimes it’s very hard to get exercise.

And exercise is important. If you’re doing it right, and if you’re doing something you like, you feel great after it. It brings other benefits. I mean, I get up at 6.30 and drive to UCD and am in a swimming pool at 7.20 every morning and I really, really enjoy it. I couldn’t do it if it were a sufferance or a penance. I’d just find something else I like doing. While it will not really enable me to run away from a bad guy very fast, per se, it does have helpful things like a) making me fitter and b) having me more prepared for other stuff I like doing, like surfing, and kitesurfing. I get more confident in the water.

I have a couple of targets a) swim 1500m again and b) swim 400m in 8 minutes. I’m a long way off both of those. Currently I’m touching 500m in the mornings. Given the time available to me, that’s going to reach maybe 800m, maximum 900m. But that’s okay – it’s four times a week.

There is this moment – it’s not a measurable moment and it’s not even guaranteed to happen – when I am swimming, when everything just fits together and I feel great.

I swim for that.

An open letter to Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Dear Aodhán,

You are my local TD and I voted for you at the time of the last election.

In fact, I found the last election difficult because there seemed to be so many more candidates not to vote for than to vote for. But I voted for you because

a) you seemed to have a reasonably decent record as a councillor

b) you were young and I firmly believed that what the country needed then, and now, even more so, were new voices, a new generation of representatives, for a country desperately in need of a vision; desperately in need of change.

So there’s this

 

And now, I find the next election will be even more difficult because in this little tweet are encapsulated a lot of reasons not to vote for you or any of the government parties again. It is fair to say that the Green Party got more out of Fianna Fáil than the Labour Party has gotten out of Fine Gael.

I am not happy with the budget, Aodhán. If it is key in rebuilding our Republic, and its values, it is clear that the values are not values I can identify with.

The budget does nothing to suggest that post recession we will get the values of a Republic. All it does is tell me that the government will protect some people while hanging others out to dry. It hung a lot of groups of people out to dry.

Take this:

Eamon Gilmore: “We’re not cutting their benefits.”

Jennings: “But you are. From 188 to 144 or 144 to 100 Euros.”

Source: http://www.broadsheet.ie/2013/10/16/were-not-cutting-their-benefits/

Under discussion is the younger generation of Irish people. A generation that you and your colleagues appear to be working very hard to either a) radicalise or b) force to emigrate.

I was 22 the winter of 1994. I emigrated for 5 years. I am not saying it was a bad thing; I learned a lot from the five years I was out of Ireland. A lot of people did, and a lot of my generation came home and, I would say, along with our new European neighbours, had a great impact on Irish society and values. What I am saying is that if I was 22 now, I would not be hanging around to try and get on a FAS place if that’s all that was on offer, or stay in full time education, if that’s all that was on offer. People start in education at the age of 5. Seriously, trying to keep them there until they are 25 so you don’t have to acknowledge a youth unemployment problem is infantile and cowardly.

How Eamon Gilmore – your party leader – can, in all conscience, claim not to be cutting the benefits of those under the age of 25 is absolutely beyond me. Welfare paid x, now it pays x-44E.

This is a cut, Aodhán, and if you understand it, please ensure that Eamon Gilmore learns it.

He went on to say this:

Well to be clear about it, what this Government is about is ensuring that young people have a job or have education or training.

To that end, I’d like to note – because I checked the other day – that youth unemployment in Ireland is about 30%. Getting people into non-existent jobs is a fools’ errand. Cutting the support they have will not get people into jobs that do not exist.

I can’t comment on training in general, but Aodhán, I’m back in full time education following redundancy, which, incidentally, I am paying for myself, and I can tell you that being in full time education is not cheap, even allowing for the fees structure which we have here. When I hear talk about keeping young people in education and training, I see politicians trying to paper over the crack that there are no jobs.

I could talk about a bunch of other things – but no doubt you’re already aware that the medical cards streamlining/free health care for the under 6s hasn’t done much to suggest the government is offering a value system worth anything. Care for the under-6 cohort is a nice idea, but at the expense of people who’ve already gotten sick?

It’s perverse in my view.

One of the issues I have, more than anything, is that the budget speeches by Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, revealed the current government as petulant children. I expect more from highly paid politicians who are screwing me over than I do from four year old children.

The story of insolvent Ireland is familiar to all our people and the sacrifices people have had to make in recent years are well known. Reckless policies were pursued by the Fianna Fáil led Government. (Michael Noonan)

and

This Budget and Estimates sets out to deliver on this Government’s promise to the Irish people at the last General Election – to fulfil our commitments under the troika programme foisted on the Irish people by the previous Government and to restore Ireland’s economic sovereignty. (Brendan Howlin)

Fine Gael and Labour have been in government for almost 3 years now. Barbed comments about the previous government like this are unbecoming to professionals.

Why should I vote for parties who think this is acceptable behaviour? And seriously, in a budget which removed tax credits from redundancy payments, cut unemployment support for the youngest unemployed people, and cut maternity benefit having taxed it last year?

Here’s the issue Aodhán. You and your colleagues left income tax and USC alone. And your colleagues peppered their budget speeches with barbed comments against the previous government. This is the activity of a government desperate to stay in power, and completely lacking in vision or even basic cop on. If your colleagues were seriously good at their job, they wouldn’t have to keep reminding us how bad the previous lot were.

It is in this context that you want to talk about the values of a post-recession Republic. I believe that values, in general, are typically absolute. Are we the kind of people who screw over the weakest in society and protect the strongest? Are we the kind of people who wait until our back is against the wall before we do something about a major problem? Is our primary value “Sure it’ll be grand”.

Why do you think those values need to change whether we’re rich or poor if they are based on how we treat each other?

The budget was one for I’m alright Jack. Those who lost most from this budget are the ones who aren’t alright.

It is in this context that you will be looking for my vote again in a couple of years time. The context of being someone who seems to think values are negotiable based on whether we’re in a recession or not.

I can’t see myself supporting you.

Regards,

Treasa

 

 

 

on the Seanad referendum

I’m deeply concerned about the order in which we do things in this country. Enda Kenny has given us an opportunity to abolish or retain the Seanad but without the sense of reforming the Dáil first. Given that the Seanad provides some oversight and debate, it seems to me that if you want to get rid of it, you’d sort out the Dail and oversight requirements in that chamber before you get rid of the Seanad. I fear that if we get rid of the Seanad before we sort out the Dail reforms, we will never see the Dail reforms.

In normal circumstances, I don’t understand why we can’t have the Dail reforms first and I don’t see any discussion of that with Fine Gael and Enda Kenny. Enda is refusing to debate the issue with opposing politicians which is – in my opinion – not really the actions of a genuine leader with his heart behind his policy. All they are doing is bleating about saving money, but the figure they have put forward, they cannot actually stand over.

A lot of the argument appears to centre around the notion of “I don’t know what it’s for therefore it’s a waste of money”.

Well I don’t know what a lot of things are for but that doesn’t automatically make them a waste of money. The sad part is, this is used in an argument in a country which is simultaneously boasting of its high rate of education. I am at a loss to support the idea that we are such an educated nation when many of our debates take place on a massively superficial level and are often coloured by a culture of envy.

I am voting against the abolition of the Seanad. In my view, Fine Gael and Labour, and the other supporting parties, Sinn Féin, the Socialist Workers Party, have singularly failed to make a rational case to abolish it. It’s incumbant on them to do so, to change the status quo. If their argument amounts to, grosso modo, “it costs money and I don’t know what it’s for” plus “it’s elitist” when there are simple solutions to both issues a) education and b) universal suffrage, then I do believe the rational response is to reject the referendum.