Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yesterday's Green party press conference was bizarre in that the Green TD Paul Gogarty insisted on keeping a small child on his lap throughout:

Presumably he did this so there would be at least one person in the room who would believe them...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Theft of Sandbags...

Apparently the economy is so bad that people are stealing sandbags intended for flood prevention:

“On Sunday morning, in the region of 1,000 sandbags used to provide defences in these coastal walls were discovered to have been dismantled and removed.


The spokeswoman said it was difficult to see how members of the public might have mistaken the sandbags as being available for general use as it was “fairly obvious that they were there to protect the gaps in the coastal walls”.

I sent the following letter to the Irish Times, which doesn't appear to have been published:


Who in Dublin would have a need for a few thousand sandbags and be self-centered enough to put their own welfare before that of the public? Possibly Government TD's preparing their constituency offices for the aftermath of the next budget....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Airtricity claiming non-existant 26% discount?

In today's Irish Independent Charlie Weston says that Airtricity is claiming to off a 26% discount off Gas and Electricity:

Yesterday the company claimed that the combined discount of 26pc would mean a bigger overall energy cost saving for households who sign up for both electricity and gas supplies with Airtricity.

In fact they are offering a 20% discount for Gas and a 6% discount for electricity with a 1 year lock in and a 100 Euro exit fee, but someone at the Indo appears to have decided to add the two percentages....

Monday, September 6, 2010

D B Cooper Was An Amateur

Saw an interesting article about D B Cooper in Air and Space mag.

Added my 10c:

While everybody wants to believe that D.B. Cooper got away I think he died on the night. I'm a former skydiver with over 450 jumps, including one from a a Boeing 727 at the World Freefall Convention.

The first odd thing is that D.B.Cooper was apparently wearing slip on shoes. No skydiver in 1971 would have jumped wearing such shoes - landings were fast at the best of times and you needed ankle protection. Any experienced jumper who was planning this would have had footwear with proper ankle protection.

But the part which makes it obvious to my mind that Cooper wasn't an experienced jumper was that he didn't bring a parachute with him. Skydivers are understandably picky about equipment and any jumper planning a hijacking would prefer to bring his own equipment rather than rely on the government to provide it to him. Not only did he create a dependency his plan didn't need, he also telegraphed his intentions. If, instead, he had disguised the parachute as a bomb and then left a suitably fractured and psychotic suicide note before jumping out the back with the money it would have taken people days - if ever - to figure out what he'd done.

The third thing I'm not so sure about - apparently he was seen using paracord to tie the money bag to himself. You need to be extremely careful about attaching anything to yourself and especially an object that is loose or can move. Simply failing to secure the chin strap on your helmet results in agony as it beats against your skin in the 120kt airflow. Attaching a large object and then being able to fall cleanly and not tumble - which is essential for a safe opening - would require practice. Instead he was almost certainly an amateur who left the plane, lost his shoes, tumbled wildly while trying to open his borrowed parachute and then spent the rest of his life regretting it...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

BOOK OF THE DAY: Climate Wars

Since when has a review of a two year old book qualified as an 'Opinion' piece?

Having apparently run out scary global warming pieces for the moment the IT has presented a review of a two year old book in the slot that has been used before for this purpose.

Climate Wars was first published in 2008 as for all I know may well be a very readable and credible but hypothetical examination of the effects of a significant increase in Global Temperature. But given that it was published in 2008 why should a national newspaper of record use up editorial space on it now? Why editorial space instead of the book review section?

The review itself doesn't really add much, and seems to have been written before the publication of the book itself - some quick googling revealed that the text of the review has been around for ages, if it's URL is anything to go by:

Given that ClimateGate has revealed that thanks to poor data management and politicized science the millions of euros invested in global warming research has failed to produce quality results and that we have no way of verifiying either the extent or cause of climate change I have to wonder if this book is still relevant.

Friday, May 7, 2010

More Climate Skeptic bashing at the IT...

Following hard in the heels of John Gibbons attack on Bjorn Lomborg the IT's environment reporter Frank MacDonald makes no attempt to understand the arguments advanced by skeptics in an opinion piece which is just as full of venom and short of facts as Gibbons. The title - "A dialogue of the deaf with US climate sceptics" pretty much says it all, but neglects to mention that Frank is the one who's hard of hearing...

The key questions to ask here are:

Why does Frank think the Heritage Foundation are representative of US Climate Sceptics? What not speak to Anthony Watts or the Canadian Steve McIntyre? These guys are asking hard questions which climate scientists either won't or can't answer. Why ask a bunch of DC Republican lobbyists?

Any bets on whether any letters on this are printed? I think not...

When I put it to him that the World Meteorological Organisation had identified the past decade as the warmest since records began, followed closely by the 1990s, Lieberman dismissed these findings as “grossly exaggerated” – even though they were grounded in scientific measurements taken all over the world.

This head-in-the-sand approach is reminiscent of the Birthers, a daft grassroots movement that believes Obama has no right to be president because he “wasn’t born in the US”. It simply doesn’t matter that he has a birth certificate from Hawaii and can point to a contemporaneous birth notice in one of the local papers.
Ah yes 'grounded' in 'scientific measurements'! Given the ongoing arguments about data quality in this area this is something which deserves a discussion but doesn't get it. And why the comparison with the Birthers, an openly political movement with nasty overtones?

“We care about the environment,” said nuclear specialist Jack Spencer...

Ooooh! Jack Spencer is a nuclear specialist, which presumably makes him untrustworthy by definition....

Is Osama Bin Laden Alive And Well in LA?

While visiting the UN Iran's excitable president Mahmoud Ahmadinejan advanced the novel theory that OBL is alive and well and hiding in Washington DC, according to the Guardian.

This is nonsense. The logical place for OBL is in LA, where he can pretend to be an Osama Bin Laden impersonator with impunity....All he has to do is dress normally but carry a stack of 8x10 headshots with him..

Monday, May 3, 2010

John Gibbons and Bjorn Lomborg

The IT printed a deeply unbalanced opinion piece by John Gibbons the other day. John had a fairly serious go at Bjorn Lomborg, who has had the temerity to question the status quo on human induced climate change. While one expects opinion pieces to be opinionated one doesn't expect a national 'newspaper of record' to allow a writer to falsly accuse a public figure of lying about his academic qualifications. Gibbons gave the piece the title "Exposed: Climate change doubter with a PhD only in spin". John describes Mr Mr. Lomburg as "someone without even an undergraduate degree in a physical science", when in fact he has a Phd in Political Science.

John's argument is that people without 'relevant' qualifications don't have the right to criticise people who do. I sent the letter below to the IT, which didn't get published:


The title of John Gibbons opinion piece 'Climate change doubter with PhD only in spin' (April 30) directly challenges the validity of Bjorn Lomburg's academic qualifications, yet nowhere in his article does he substantiate the serious allegation made in the article's title that Mr Lomburg is lying about his 1994 Phd in Political Science from the University of Copenhagen.

The fact that Mr. Lomburg does not hold a Gibbons-Approved qualification in climate science is not relevant and does not deny him or anyone else the right to question the reasons for climate change. I would be very surprised if the staff of your newspaper included anyone with postgraduate qualifications in Creationism, Canon Law or Eugenics, but thankfully that does not prevent your writers from casting a critical eye over such disciplines.

Carl Sagan once said that 'Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence'. The exteme sensitivity to criticism that climate scientists display, along with their documented use of dubious sources of information means that their evidence is indeed extraordinary, but for all the wrong reasons.

David Rolfe
The interesting thing is that no letters on this Opinion piece have shown up, which considering how provocative and inaccurate it is makes one wonder what goes on in the mind of the editor. It;'s a bit like the truly crazy report on the "Spirit of Ireland" scheme, which never got discussed on the letters page either despite being an announcement that coastal valleys all around Ireland were to be dammed and filled with Sea Water by vast shoals of windwills.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Morgan Kelly on the Irish Credit Bubble..

Anyone who wants to understand what's going on here in Ireland should read this paper by Economist Morgan Kelly. A Quote:

Since the seventeenth century, financial innovation has consisted in banks finding new ways to lose money. However, while US, UK and European banks lost money in exotic derivatives, Irish banks lost money the old fashioned way, by making bad property loans.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mother's Day Warning for expatriates


Did you know that Mother's Day changes depending on what country you are in? Last Sunday was Mother's Day here in Ireland. In the US it will be May 9th this year.

It took me a long time to figure this out after I moved to the US. I could never understand why my Mother would barely be speaking to me between the end of March and the US version of Mother's day...

Note also: This web site is wrong.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Spirit Of Ireland" - Coming to a Valley near you?

"Flooded valleys key to huge power plan"

It's not often you see a newspaper headline with such amazing potential to induce panic. But Frank McDonald, the IT's environment editor has succeeded with today's unquestioning puff piece about "Spirit Of Ireland", a suspiciously named scheme to make Ireland an exporter of energy. The piece immediately grabs ones attention by implying this is government policy:

PLANS TO build a new electricity generating system, combining large-scale wind farms with huge hydro-power storage reservoirs in valleys on the west coast, are at an advanced stage, The Irish Times has learned.

“Spirit of Ireland”, billed as a national project for energy independence, has been under discussion for several months with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, as well as other agencies.

It would involve identifying up to five coastal valleys from counties Donegal to Cork, building dams on their seaward side and flooding them with sea water. These would provide a hydro-power back-up for the wind farms.

Obviously this story is of considerable interest to anyone who lives in a coastal valley and doesn't own scuba gear.....But it gets better:

Fifty potential sites along the west coast were identified, but he said many of these were not suitable for environmental or geological reasons. “We’ve now reduced the number of sites to 10, of which five will be studied in micro-detail,” he added.

The bowl-shaped valleys, created during the Ice Age, are located in areas with some of the best wind conditions in Ireland.

“Many are in areas of low population density, where land is of marginal or no use for farming,”the project’s website says.

Presumably the population density will drop to zero and agriculture will cease once the place is flooded? Given that people's homes and quite possibly entire communities are going to be destroyed the obvious question is "Which Valley?":

Dr O’Donnell said he was not in a position at this stage to reveal which were the most likely locations. “There’s an enormous amount of geological investigation and mapping involved, and we have a total of 18 teams of people working on the project.”

Not to mention such issues as Property Rights, Human Rights and the wisdom of holding vast quantities of seawater inland where it can get into the water table. Or the number of turbines required - one estimate is the entire western seaboard saturated with windmills to a depth of 10KM..... Or how this is supposed to happen in a country where you can't run a gas pipeline 10Km without having to deal with violent and illegal protests...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An alternative to "PIGS"...

Down at the IT today a Mr. O'Connor is unhappy with the use of the term PIGS to described troubled eurozone countries:

Madam, – Why does the Irish media insist on using the ridiculous and insulting “P-I-G-S” acronym in its financial reports, when referring to Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain? The term has been actively denounced by the Portuguese and Spanish press, and perhaps we should follow suit.

It seems the acronym is more aptly suited to the British and American bond and currency traders who coined the term. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 15.

So here's my suggested alternative:


People who think the term "PIGS" shouldn't be used clearly haven't considered that any alternative could be much worse. If Britain's finances deteriorate to the point where it qualifies for membership of "PIGS" we might see a new acronym coined - "Fringe Europeans who Can't Keep their Economies Running Sustainably".

David Rolfe

Monday, February 8, 2010

David Fennessy 's Bodies: A Haunting and Iconclastic commentary on taxpayer funded art.

I don't normally do classical music reviews, but after surviving the premiere of David Fennessy's aptly named new work 'Bodies' feel I have to. I have to wonder how much RTE knew about the piece before it was premiered - One imagines the conversation would have run like this:
The scene: An office at RTE headquarters. Mr Fennessy is explaining his
latest project to his sponsor.....

RTE: So how's it going ?

Composer: Great! I'm just putting the finishing touches now. I've added a selection of Japanese gongs to go with the Harp.

RTE: But don't you also have 8 double bases?

Composer: Yes - there's no point in doing anything by halves. Actually I think 8 is a minimum....

RTE: A Minimum? Won't it be a little ... basey?

Composer: Not really - the double bases are needed to balance the augmented percussion section in the room next door to the stage.

RTE: What?

Composer: The extra percussionists. They'll be in a room next to the auditorium and will be playing as well.

RTE: Ummm, won't that confuse the audience? Isn't one of the unwritten rules of Classical Music that all the people playing the music be in the same location as the audience? And the conductor for that matter?

Composer: But rules are made to be broken! Having all the orchestra actually in the orchestral venue is a pointless tradition that has long outlived its usefulness. With the piece I've moved beyond melody and harmony. They weren't adding anything. Not only that, I've eliminated the ludicrous requirement that the instruments complement each other when played. At one point I even have the Harp, the Japanese gongs, all eight double bases and the percussion section in the next room all going at once!

RTE: Isn't there anything conventional about this piece?

Composer: Well, at the very end the string section suddenly breaks away and starts playing harmoniously for about thirty seconds. It's a doomed yet beautiful act. Sort of a musical equivalent of the Warsaw Uprising. Then the piece ends.

RTE: So let's get this right - we've given you licence payer's money and you've written this?

Composer: Yes. Actually we'll need a bit more cash. Some of the musicians are demanding Danger Money to play it. They are concerned about the audience reaction.

RTE: But no normal person is going to want to listen to this...

Composer: So it'll fit well with your other stuff then?

RTE: Hmmm.. We do Property Porn, Reality TV shows about people who don't drink, Reality TV about schools nobody cares about, startlingly predictable current affairs programs...Yes, I can see a fit...

The above conversation may not have taken place but I swear to god the music is as described. If you don't believe you can see an interview of Fennessy on YouTube where he freely admits all this. Except the bit about danger money....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Those canny Northern Businessmen...

You couldn't make this stuff up - would be 'Leader of Industry' and lover of Iris Robinson had this to say about his business venture:

"All I was thinking about was getting the business up and running. Where the money came from never entered my head. The council gave me the cafe for the first couple of months after I opened but this is standard practice for any new business. "
Yeah I know - what sane businessman would worry his head over (a) where his capital came from (b) what strings came attached and (c) when the owner would want it back....