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On July 25th to July 27th of this year I am going on a sponsored walk in aid of the Cork Cancer Research Centre – a local charity. We will be walking part of the Ring of Kerry, from Caherdaniel to Killarney – a distance of 71 km.

I can’t wait! Hiking, fresh air, good company, nice photographs and the scenery of County Kerry all in one weekend. It will more than make up for any bad weather or sore feet along the way. 

Cancer research features very highly on my list of worthwhile causes. Good friends of mine are currently battling it, two family friends have recently been lost to it, and I had a close brush with it myself last year in a very minor way.

I set up a web page to get some sponsorship and already I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of all the contributors after just two days. It’s been amazing! The donations have already exceeded my initial expectations. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! 

You can sponsor me online at this page. Every penny goes to the CCRC, and I promise I will post up some nice photos of the trip when I get back. 

 

This nugget comes from a recent issue of Cara, Aer Lingus’ inflight magazine.

Since when did New York State annex Quebec? 

(via Strange Maps, Lindsay Watt)

I’m not a huge fan of internet memes, however after reading Truce’s entertaining memories, I thought I would give this one a go.

  1. My earliest memory is falling off a swing in Shandon Park. I think I was three years old. 
  2. In 1978, my family took a boat to France where I danced to Gloria Gaynor sing “I will survive” and the Village People’s “YMCA”. It was the first time I began to take an interest in pop music. Of course, another song I was into was the “Chicken Song”, so I had a long way to go..
  3. When I was 11, I directed an audio movie featuring me (as hero), and my sisters (as villains). I had to coax, cajole and threaten them into performing in my masterpiece. The result was a mixture of bangs, screams, and shouts, with me (as hero) saving the universe while my sisters (as villains) cackled and died repeatedly. The marvelous thing about it was how awful my acting was – I stuttered my way through – compared to my siblings. Hollywood got away lightly.
  4. I played my first hurling match (at under-14 level) for my local parish in a pair of wellies. One of the players was never turned up, so I replaced him that day, complete with novel footwear. I wish I could tell you I went on to score 4 goals, but unfortunately I could barely hit the ball in those days. Despite never really mastering the skills of hurling, I managed to keep my place on the team for 2 years. Maybe having a father on the selection committee had something to do with it. Hmm..
  5. I went to an all-Irish boarding school for a year before I went into secondary school. It was a rather unpleasant experience as this was back in the days when teachers whacked kids with impunity any chance they could get. Nevertheless I managed to learn a lot of Irish. I was the first guy in my secondary school to ever get 100% in his Irish Entrance exam. 
  6. I never went to hospital during my childhood. This is despite driving a toy tractor out onto a busy road in the middle of traffic; nearly getting knocked over by a train while running after a small dog; falling off a tree in front of the house; almost drowning in Butlins Mosney; missing a bullet from a guy shooting magpies; and narrowly avoiding electrocution from a bar heater. I did however manage to cut the top of my finger off while making papier-mâché with a paper guillotine. 
  7. I was on holidays in Galway when Elvis died. Not that I knew who Elvis was. Another memory of Galway is locking myself into the boot (trunk) of the car. Is there a pattern emerging here?  
  8. Star Wars. I used to think that my white Liam Brady Texaco ball was the Death Star and that I was Luke Skywalker single-handedly fighting the Evil Empire. This was a time before plastic light-sabres or any of those fancy things. Nope, my Luke Skywalker had a hurling stick. There’s a thought.
  9. My cousins from England used to come over every year, regaling us about amazing TV programs such as Blue Peter, Doctor Who and the Magic Roundabout. They couldn’t believe that we had never seen them. The games we got up to brings back great memories. I remember pouring a full bottle of ketchup over myself in an attempt to pretend that I was grievously wounded. It would have worked perfectly except for the fact that they could smell the stink from a hundred yards…
  10. My granddad lived with us throughout my childhood. He frequently entertained us by spitting into the fire and going berserk any time he heard the words “divorce” or “abortion” being mentioned on the telly. We dreaded going on walks with him so we would often hide out in the wardrobes and under the beds. It’s strange though: the walks were invariably interesting as he told us about things like life during the War and his memories of the Titanic disaster. He would give us a few squares of chocolate at the end of each walk. 

That’s me done, how about you?

 

Digital products

 

This weekend I will be taking a trip up to Dublin to accept an award for my master’s thesis. I’m looking forward to it, but it strikes me that I have never mentioned much about it in this blog. So here’s the basic idea. 

We live in a world of physical supply chains. If you want a product, a whole load of people are involved in making sure that it is available when you come in to a shop to get it. Some months or even years ago, people had to mine or harvest all the components or ingredients. Other people worked in factories to refine it, mill it or make it. Yet more people drove the stuff around to different locations. Presumably there was a place where final assembly was required. Then the products were stored in warehouses and finally distributors and retailers got involved to that it could be bought by you.  Lots of people. Lots of complexity. Lots of cost. Lots of things that could possibly go wrong. 

But some products – digital products – don’t seem to require this complexity. They have these unique, almost magical qualities that physical products don’t have. They can replicate themselves perfectly and with ease (i.e. copy / paste). The production of an additional copies does not require any new materials – there’s no resource drag. Digital products move around the internet for free and at high speed. This means that in the world of digital products there is no need for purchasing, manufacturing, transportation, assembly or any of the other related functions needed to support physical products. 

There are a number of different approaches to manage digital supply chains. First of all, there is the “pseudo physical” approach where people treat digital products as if they were physical. They limit distribution through DRM or copy-protection. They apply restrictive licensing. They threaten dire consequences against incorrect usage. They run complex processes to distribute keys to authorised individuals. It’s complex and messy. Customers get frustrated by them. Lawyers love them and given the recent history of the music business, this strategy is being forced into a long, painful retreat as file-sharing and peer-to-peer networking becomes more commonplace. 

The opposite side of the argument is super-abundance: a digital product, by its nature, cannot be controlled. Once it’s out there, it’s wild – downloadable by anyone. What I discovered was that companies are adapting to this. They still make money by wrapping their digital products into physical supply chains; by customising them so that they can’t easily be used by other people even if they were free to download; by using them to complement other (paid) services; and by using advertising based models. 

Digital products represent a big opportunity for companies, because all the infrastructure necessary to duplicate and distribute them is increasingly tending towards zero. The downside is that the price of digital products is also being forced towards zero, so sellers of digital products need to radically rethink how they organise their supply chains if they want to make money for themselves. 

And that, in a nutshell, is my thesis. Clear as mud?

I can think of 5 reasons.

1) A slow start. While the government was busy changing its leaders, the NO campaign had plenty of time to prepare. The YES side appeared to be blind-sided by the intensity and focus of the NO people, and subsequently spent the rest of the campaign on the back-foot.

2) Simple Messages. The Yes side failed to create simple reasons why a YES vote would be advisable. They had no equivalent to “Keep our commissioner”, “Tell Mandelson where to go”, “If you don’t know, vote NO”. On the YES side it was just blandishments: “A stronger voice in Europe”, yadda, yadda.

3) Populism: The NO campaign was much more populist, much more likely to appeal to the man on the street, whereas the YES campaign conveyed a perception that “we know better than you”. The NO side capitalised on this, and particularly benefited from support by the highly effective communication skills of popular contrarians such as Eamonn Dunphy and Shane Ross.  

4) Fear: The YES side didn’t do enough to allay people’s fears. One woman on the radio voted No yesterday because she didn’t want her son to be conscripted! Others feared unrestricted abortions and goodness knows what else. A secretive French plan to assault the Irish taxation system was mentioned. Thousands of people were scared into voting no.

5) Confusion. This was one seriously complicated piece of legislation. Few would have the time or inclination to tease out the minutiae. Even if you wanted to vote YES, you might still have niggling doubts. Better the devil you know, then. 

Whatever your views on the matter, it has to be admitted that the NO side ran an extremely smart campaign. The YES campaign didn’t do enough to anticipate what they might do, and now they will reap the whirlwind. 

Utter confusion

In a few days the Irish people vote on one of the most inscrutable, inpenetrable and incomprehensible pieces of legislation that has ever been put in front of any populace, anywhere: the Lisbon Treaty.

24 out of the 25 other member states of the EU shied off putting Lisbon to a referendum for good reason. It’s impossible to read. Most of our politicians haven’t read it either.

It’s a complete mess. On the “No” side are the usual suspects: the anti-abortionists, the pro-neutrality crowd, the “Ourselves Alone” bloc, the anti-immigrant league and various conspiracy theorists and assorted weirdos. On the “Yes” side is the establishment – the politicians, the trade unions, the church, the farmers and the main lobby groups.

Both compaigns have employed very different strategies to gain electoral support. The No Camp have gone for the jugular with direct, easily digestible messages such as “They won’t see you, they won’t hear you, they won’t speak to you”, or “If you don’t know, vote No”.The Yes Camp have decided to use bland messages and to appeal to authority. A happy shiny face of some politician accompanies each poster with the implication that because X is voting Yes, you should too. They appeal to negative consequenses, telling us that all sorts of bad things will happen if we vote No.

In the end, it’s a battle between the Red Herring on one side and Darth Vader on the other.

Me? I’m probably going to vote yes, but I’m open to convincing. I am pro-European and I don’t think there is anything in this treaty that will herald the end of the world. Europe has been a hugely positive force in Ireland, has done a good job in bringing Ireland out of the Stone Age over the last 40 years. Personally, I don’t think that Ireland as a part of an integrated European Union is a bad thing.

My sense is that the referendum will be rejected, but we’ll see how it turns out.

I took a trip to Purple Mountain in County Kerry this weekend. Purple Mountain is the highest in a small cluster of peaks directly across the lake from the town of Killarney.

Ash Tree in Gap of Dunloe

We started our trip by the tourist centre at Kate Kearney’s cottage. From there we walked through the Gap of Dunloe, a spectacular narrow valley cutting through Ireland’s highest range of mountains. A low cloud accompanied us for the entire distance. It was magical.

The fog lifts

As if on cue, the fog lifted just as we began our ascent. We spent an hour and a half climbing uphill beneath an unrelenting sun.

The view south of Purple Mountain

Dry blanket bog gave way to loose stone during the last few metres of the climb to the summit. The mountain is well-named: the old red sandstone gives the mountain a purplish hue from afar. While we were there, a helicopter flew through the Gap. You don’t see a helicopter flying beneath you every day.

Purple Mountain

We proceeded on to Tomies mountain where we were rewarded with one of the most spectacular views in all of Ireland. To the West rose the Magillicuddy Reeks and Carrauntoohil. To the North, the Dingle Peninsula swept into the sea. To our East was Killarney, Lough Leane and the mountains beyond. 

Thunder threatens

The sounds of thunder could be heard in the distance. Rain swept down in torrents near Mangerton. The rumbles began to get louder. It was time to go. 

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