Archive for November, 2005

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Brain fodder

Saturday, November 26th, 2005

This past week has been particularly productive, with my getting stuck into reading some very interesting papers. Admittedly all a quarter of a century old, but hey, they’re worryingly relevant (perhaps more so than much recent stuff I’d been reading).

The Skynet talks today were great. I shouldn’t have started into reading more work stuff when I got home though, it’s not like I needed to! Annoyingly interesting research!

Amazingly I’ve gotten more fiction read in the last week too, despite fitting in Civ4 playing and three evenings out.

Hmmm… I’m losing track of days again. Perhaps this week and last week have merged together for me. I should do my Christmas shopping soon, I’m liable to forget/postpone it until really late otherwise.

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Amusing things

Friday, November 18th, 2005

And so the latest in the Sony DRM rootkit saga is it’s apparant copyright violation. Apparently code by none other than Jon Johansen (guy in Norway, wrote stuff to more flexibly play DVDs – i.e. circumvent DVD DRM) was used by the First4Internet folk. It’s all getting a wee bit crazy at this stage. I almost feel sorry for Sony. Oh, wait… no I don’t.

And now to politics, where the Northern Ireland secretary (the British government minister who essentially does the job of running NI under direct rule from London) declared that the North’s economy is not sustainable in the long term and only an all-island economy can work. I’m laughing so much at the absurdity of such a person bluntly declaring this, but the Unionists really aren’t laughing at all.

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Limerick

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

I’ve been in the city centre quite a bit recently, and it’s been great for shopping. It’s nice to see some new decorations up this year for Christmas – they aren’t much, but they’re better than the previous coloured bulbs and malfunctioning displays. Those are still about, but they’ve been fixed up and more tactically placed on the outlying streets. A good show of lights is important at Christmas time – mainly because its one of the things people (traditionalists like me) associate with it. Besides – it makes the winter streets more cheerful.

It’s great to see the city centre on the up and up at the moment. The amount of redevelopment underway is phenomenal. Certainly some of the new large blocks are rather plain, but they are at least not too shockingly out of place (the red brick blocks on Henry Street fit in quite well – and the height works fine with the elevation being lower nearer the river) and are much better than the likes of “Little Baghdad” (where the disused Carlton Cinema and shabby taxi offices used be – now Bank of Scotland House).

Despite a lot of changes in the retail scene (with some oldies closing), it has also never been better. Lowerr Denmark Street will soon have almost a full contingent of shops – quite an acheivement when for almost a decade after the Cruises Street development some have lain bare. New (in the past year) shops include a European food café, Chopper bikes, and soon, a BB’s (yum – good coffee). Upper Denmark Street (club icon territory) should have more life too when Rosen’s Café site is opened as the new Finn’s Pub.

Also new in the last half decade is the new life on one side of High Street (our beloved Wild Onion, and my beloved O’Brien’s bookshop).

The Milk Market area is going from strength to strength, stalls are staying up longer than ever now, and the shops in the area seem to be doing great. It looks like the Cornmarket Row side (where Pizza Hut used be) may finally be colonised (a new takeaway has replaced Pizza Hut, and the other units seem to be being readied for occupation).

Meanwhile there are huge plans for repaving and pedestrianising the city centre. After the work alongside the new Dunnes, and at the Tait Clock (Baker Place) the next event is Bedford Row (after they finish excavating it and the Savoy site).

There are other signs of life, the café being replaced on Cruises Street rather than being left vacant, a new posh food shop on little Catherine Street (or is it Little William Street), Guiney’s setting up and finally taking over the derelict Williamscourt Mall, Euro2 replacing Mary’s of Limerick without too much vacant time, French’s Café (do visit, it is fantastic food and coffee) down the street from Java’s moving into a new location (with Bedford Row where they were being dug up). The general colonisation by sandwich/coffee/juice bars is a healthy sign of shoppers in the city. There’s even a Juice Bar opening as far up O’Connell St. as Clancy’s Electrical!

And so, in summary, as someone who’s been in Limerick almost a quarter of a century, I end by saying that each year, particularly at Christmas, I see my city coming more to life than the previous year, and slowly recovering from decades of neglect.

All in all, it’s very exciting.

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On an angry note…

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

Wikipedia is moronic and filled with far too many morons.

That is all.

Some of you may consider this a somewhat belated realisation on my part.

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Locomotion

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

Today I got a bike! Wheeee! It’s a really nice one. I like to think so at any rate, seeing as I spent lots of money on it. But it does have two wheels, handlebars, chain and cogs and suchlike, so looking good.

On the subject of going from place to place, this weekend I will be going to the ex-capital of Ireland (yes, for real – see here), the City of Kilkenny. This is for the event of “Irish Conference” where 300 or so Christian students from all over Ireland, including the North, meet together. I’m looking forward to meeting people again, hearing some interesting talks and having praise and worship music with 300 people.

The next weekend is spectacularly different, off to the boglands of the Middle of Ireland for MidLAN. No idea what this will be like besides the obvious nerding and gaming. Looking forward to the experience though.

Also I’ve just booked flights to London – I’ve never been there before!!! (except on stopover) I’m visiting a friend from the States who’s now studying there, whom I haven’t seen in two years. This looks like being a great trip. I was amused that the “Heathrow Express” railway trip would cost over half what I’m paying to fly from Shannon to LHR with Aer Lingus. So I’ll be taking the tube then even if I have to make a change!

And finally, also on the subject of moving, yes, of course, the transport plans announced yesterday were of interest to me. The “plans” are dubbed Transport 21. Actually, while some may scoff at whether a lot of the stuff will happen (and I do), some items have been in the pipeline for some time. Here are the ones that you should expect at some stage, for some unspecified huge globs of money:

  • Spencer Dock:
    A new railway station east of Connolly station, on the current freight lines. These pass from the Sligo/Maynooth/Phoenix Park tunnel (from Heuston) line, under the Belfast line into the docklands. The station would allow Kildare, Maynooth and Drogheda commuter services to all terminate in the one station, and leave space at Connolly for more Belfast, Sligo and other services – it’s currently mobbed with traffic.
  • The Interconnector:
    This is a proposed rail tunnel south from Spencer Dock, under the Liffey, to Pearse Station, St. Stephen’s Green and back to Heuston. It would allow through services from Drogheda to Kildare – all the better to interconnect with services from Bray to Maynooth. Cross-city travel sorted. The current “Loop line bridge” is full – that’s why we got longer DARTs instead of more DARTs. Speaking of which:
  • Extending DART:
    This is part and parcel of the Interconnector. No diesel trains allowed (they’ll go to Spencer Dock via the Phoenix Park tunnel and one of the two lines passing Croke Park). The Intention is to electrify the line to Hazelhatch on the Kildare line, to Maynooth on the Sligo line, and Drogheda on the Northern line. I’d not hold my breath on the last one, though it’s the most needed. The DMUs are not coping with passenger volumes northside, and more housing development (and stations!) is planned! Nevertheless, we already have some DART on the northside, as far as Malahide. The other two are likely to happen to some extent, as they’ll allow more intensive services on those lines, and allow the X type cross-city services using the Interconnector. It’s likely to be honest that the existing diesel services will continue in parallel, as they extend further than the DART will (just as is currently the case on the Northern and Southern commuter services). Hmmm… lots of trains on limited rail – what now?
  • Kildare Route Expansion
    The railway from Kildare to Dublin is the equivalent of the N7. An insanely congested route that takes services from Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Waterford. Except the railway also takes Galway services on the line. Add the Kildare commuter services (which should be expanded but can’t currently cause of the line being full) and the desire for Athy/Carlow commuter, and it’s very messy. So the solution is quadrupling the line out of Heuston as far as Hazelhatch. Again, this is not a new plan. It’s been on Iarnród Éireann’s website for years now, and is currently being processed. More padding on the Transport 21 plan.
  • Navan railway:
    OK, so this isn’t actually going to Navan yet 🙂 This is Ireland after all. But the link to Dunboyne and Pace (N3) is going to happen. The main reason for not going further is that no-ones sure how direct a route to take, and how many places to serve on the way to Navan. Read: who can make the most money from property development.
  • Limerick to Galway
    Actually, half of this line is currently open and heavily (8 trains a day in both directions) trafficked. The other half isn’t in too bad a shape. The main problem is having to re-open some passing points and resignal the line. But that’s relatively minor. This is the only “certain” bit of the “Western Railway Corridor” for now. The Limerick-Galway will be in conjunction with:
  • Galway commuter trains:
    The line from Galway to Athenry will have to be fixed up for more trains anyways with the Limerick-Galway service. There’s been talk of commuter services to Oranmore for a while. It now seems it’ll be to Athenry – this might work like Limerick junction, and passengers from Limerick will have to change to a shuttle train service to Galway, or trains from Dublin, at Athenry.
  • Cork to Midleton
    Actually this was announced as actually starting through the processes a while back. No sense in missing on reannouncing something though! This forms a part-reopening of the line to Youghal, which leaves the Cóbh line at Glouthane (Cóbh Junction).

So all of these are projects that us railway folks knew about before Transport 21. The less certain thing in Transport 21 is the magnificent “two Metro lines” to Dublin Airport and Swords, and even more ambitiously, skirting the outside of the city from Tallaght to Liffey Valley, Blanchardstown and connecting to the other line (unlike Luas). Also amazingly the Luas extensions are less thought out than the big projects I’ve already listed. The cross-city link is likely to just be the original “crossing O’Connell bridge overground” plan that was rejected before. The extension to the Docklands and the Point (passing Spencer Dock) is being processed atm. Lines to Lucan and Citywest? Don’t hold your breath.

Whew, that’s a lot of summary. There’s actually quite a bit more happening on Irish Rail at the moment, even ignoring Transport 21. The new carriages in January should be nice as long as they don’t hit anymore cows (the first test set had it’s nice aerodynamic end carriage totalled by a cow on the test run on the main Cork-Dublin line. Lucky it wasn’t a real service!!!). Look out though for Shannon Bridge (on the Sligo line) finally collapsing. It’s something that really needs money, and the reason Sligo folks are getting lightweight crappy commuter carriages instead of heavy locomotive-hauled intercity trains! And people aren’t exaggerating the problem. The Cahir Viaduct on the Limerick-Waterford line actually did collapse a couple years ago. Fun fun fun. Fortunately it was just cement wagons and the loco and driver got across.

What else is happening. Oh yes, a new depot at Portlaoise for the new intercity carriages, and some of the commuter carriages (we have HUNDREDS of these DMUs now, and there’re likely to be more) – the rest being at the spanking new depot that was built in Drogheda.

Well, that’s all folks. Thanks for reading.