Thursday, December 15, 2011
Friday, August 5, 2011
Now I understand that this is probably the way these things get done and maybe Sarkozy is playing the facilitator, but to my mind this send a message that the solution is purely being driven by Germany and France and that the other countries are waiting to be told what to do.
If we are trying to sell the idea of Europe as a unified state that is not purely driven by a Franco-Saxon agenda then this is not the way to go.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
I know its a big day for Greece but its potentially a pivotal day for Ireland as well.
If the Greeks do not vote through the austerity measures then they have as good as defaulted. At that point it makes more sense for them to leave the single currency. That way they can set their interest rates, devalue their currency and address some of their problems without the straightjacket they are in now.
Notice I say leave the single currency. Their is no pressure on them to leave the common market.
If they do vote in favor then I can only imagine that the streets of Athens would be a no-go zone for the next week.
For Ireland ( a country that was more than willing not to blindly accept Europe in two referendums) this could be a big moment. If Greece defaults then we will be in the firing line along with Portugal as the next to go down.
And with Greece blazing a trail (particularly if they leave the single currency)then we have a precedent to play with. It could strengthen our bargaining position against Europe and force the ECB into accepting a policy of restructuring. Of course if we are allowed then we may be in technical default as well.
If Greece accepts the Austerity measures then we will continue to kick the can down the road, but I don't see how it helps all of us in the long run. The problem remains in place, to be born by taxpayers that are rapidly running out of patience. If Greece does accept Austerity then it will be at the expense of voters in other countries; and those whose economies are relatively sound but experiencing cuts and unemployment may lose patience with the process. Indeed that could easily become an election platform for the opposition.
Ending this post prematurely as the vote is on right now: 20 For / 18 Against so far!
Update: Motion in Favour passed by 4 votes. Will be interesting to see the counterfactuals in years to come
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A man who had his house repossessed has vowed to picket the house for the rest of his life, presumably unless he is reinstated into the property on reasonable terms.
Part of his reasoning is that he should never have been given the mortgage in the first place. Thats quite a true statement. I wonder if at the time, had he been turned down for a mortgage, would he have gone on Joe Duffy to bemoan the fact that he couldn't get financing.
Hearing the phrase, "they shouldn't have given me the money" hardly ignites sympathy in peoples minds, but it is nonetheless a correct statement; so why did they? Our personal solvency laws provide that the borrower remains liable for the full value of the mortgage, even if the house is sold.
In the US the borrower can hand back the keys which closes out the mortgage. This should mean that borrowers would be more discerning as they would stand to lose money as well.
Here the borrower is on the hook for the full amount, which means that the lender can do less due diligence and still make a reasonable assumption that they will get back the bulk of their money. In addition, they have an incentive to sell the house and realize the funds ASAP, rather than hold out for an offer that is a reasonable market price, which would reduce some of the outstanding debt of the borrower.
We are going to see more of this behavior as the number of repossessions rise, not less. There is a substantial danger that we will marginalize those people and their children and in doing so reduce society's respect for personal property.
Friday, June 3, 2011
A salute to Polish Beers!
I was in Poland during May so I decided to do a special bit on the country's beers. I started early with Jboy and went through 3 of the better known ones here. This was actually a good idea as the tipple of choice over there was Vodka, and while it was excellent, its hard to write a review after 3 of them
Lech is the first beer I'm trying and I have to say I'm quite impressed! It pours with a golden colour and a head that quickly dissipates. The first impression is crisp and mild honey tones. It finishes with a nice smoky flavour. I always thought Lech was going to be a very generic beer but this would make a good alternative to Heineken
Zywiec is more golden in colour than Lech and far less carbonated. I can only describe the aroma as mealy. If I got this from a tap I would even suspect it was slightly off but I am reliably informed this is the way it should smell. Flavour wise it was more hoppy ad bitter than Lech and with a very dry finish
Same as the other two Tyskie shows a classic golden colour but the flavour has a lot more bite. There was even a faint white wine smell that I was unable to shake. Quite Bitter
This is the only beer that I actually properly tasted in Poland. The beer hall was in a shopping area in Lodz. They Brewed 3 of their own beers with more to come and even had waitresses dressed in the German beer hall style. Since i was with a group the beer came in a barrel that could be poured by the customer which was a nice touch!
The beer itself was slightly cloudy with a lovely light honey scent. The flavour relfected this with additional corriander and smoky tones.
After I came back I was pretty well behaved for the rest of the month, but I did try a few more:
Flying Dog Double Pale Ale
Flying Dog are going up in my opinion. They modelled themselves after the writings of Hunter S. Thompson and the artwork on the label is always psychadelic.
The double pale ale is a belgian style, with a very high alcohol content. It would be similar to Delerium Nocturnum in flavour. Amber in Colour and a wonderful berry smell. The flavour is a mixture of hops and Citrus. Definetly worth a look but one at a time!
Another Flying Dog offering and an IPA to boot. I am on record as saying I don't like IPA's but after a good experience with this and Jagged Edge I am going to give this style another go. This one poured a lovel Amber colourand had a bitter but orangey finish. Quite dry as an after-taste.
The final taste for May was Jagged Edge IPA. The Amber colour was once again in evidence but with a less pronounced bitter scent and flavour. The finish was citrusy and I find this style of Fruit flavoured finish makes an IPA more attractive.
Deveneys in Dundrum is running its Beer Festival again this year in the Tripod. Tickets are on sale now so go buy them, its a great festival and a fantastic way to expand your knowledge!
Official Festival Site
Ruth Deveneys Beer Blog
Saturday, May 7, 2011
(I also believe they may be as well!)
Goose Island, India Pale Ale
I can't describe the colour because I didn't get a glass ( a mortal sin I know!) but the flavour was slightly caramel and orange rind with a mildly malty after taste. I'd definetly recommend this to other people who aren't fans of IPA. According to the beer advocate there are hints of pine but I didn't get these! At 5.9% its certain to give you that happy feeling!
Triple Karmeliet pour slightly cloudy into the glass with very little head. The aroma was immediately coriander with a hint of caramel and a vague nutty scent and the flavour was all of the above. The taste was a bit hoppy for my liking but certainly a beer to taste, almost like a desert wine. 8.4% gives it a good kick!
Metalman has been causign a stir in the Irish craft brewing community over the last few months to the point where you have to dash to a pub when you hear its on tap to try and get a taste! Metalman are basedin Waterford and seem to release batches of their beers on draft only.
The colour is blonde but with a hint of red (i'm colour blind so don't trust this description) As with all IPA's its bitter but with a smoothness I have only seen matched by Goose Island above. The taste is caramel (again!) and honey, but the scent is more about the hops.
The final beer I am blogging about is Trouble Or. I was lucky enough to taste this just after the keg was opened in the Bull and castle. Its brewed by Trouble Brewing, another addition to the growing army of Irish Craft Brewers.
I'm a bit stumped as to how to describe this. Their spiel is:
"A smooth, refreshing golden ale that is full-bodied and has a distinctive hop flavour.
Brewed using the best two-row Maris Otter pale malt interwoven with a complimentary selection of speciality malt for a robust taste. It is hopped with a combination of traditional English and modern American hops, to produce a beer with subtle fruit flavours and a crisp, lingering finish."
What I tasted was slightly different. I'd definetly agree with the malty falvour but it seemed uncarbonated to me. The colour was golden but slightly cloudy while the flavour was honey, like Fullers Honey Dew. The smell was of grain as well. I'm not certain if this is supposed to be the way it should taste or if it was too young or had not come out right, but I quite enjoyed it. I think the only way is to try it again :)
Thursday, May 5, 2011
I'm not going to pretend to understand the full career requirements or motivations of people to choose teaching over another profession; but I think that it is an important area of ambiguity that needs to be addressed.
From my point of view the benefits and positives of being a teacher are:
- Stable employment once your are taken on full time
- Opportunity to work with young people
- Opportunity to shape and direct young adults
- Able to focus on a subject that you have some interest in
- Long holidays
- Tenure (where you are full time)
- Putting up with disruptive kids
- Repetitive nature of the material
- Lack of direction in terms of career development.
How does a teacher progress? I assume that you start off on an entry grade and over time maybe you teach higher level classes, or more subjects or become year heads. Maybe the ultimate objective is to become principle or vice principal? (Feel free to enlighten me, I really know nothing about this topic!)
In my line of business I advance by going for roles with more responsibility or I move into roles that I feel can benefit from my experience plus give me knew understanding. In theory I can indefinetly move diagonally upwards. to my mind there is effectively a cap on how much authority you can achieve as a teacher.
How do you get salary rises? If your salary is linked to the number of students you teach, or the number of classes you take then you might be able to cheat the system by offering your services and targetting those classes and subjects that are in demand at that time. However this reflects nothing of your achievements. Good exam grades might be a start but only exam year teachers could be assessed. Non-standardised end of year exams can be easily gamed to produce lots of good results; Cross-marking and exam setting have the same vulnerability. Obviously a class full of A's isn't likely so the bell curve can be used to detect cheating in that way, but in effect it pre-determines performance and therefore remuneration?
If anyone wants to explain to me how the Irish system works!
Thursday, April 21, 2011
I'm sure these sentiments have been echoed in the media many times before but I just don't understand the logic now in prohibition on Good Friday. It temporarily shuts pubs till midnight, so people stock up in an off Licence the day before, or go out on the tear on the Thursday night instead.
The government should drop the ban for many reasons:
- It forces people with other religous views to comply with the Catholic churches laws.
- It fails to prevent people actually drinking on the day
- It prevents tourists from drinking on a good friday
Of course one problem is that most people manage to resist that temptation 5 or 6 days each week.
So telling them they can't drink and then closing off all of their options is basically nannying them.
As we we have all experienced in our own lives; when you are told that you have to do something it makes you more likely ro "rebel" and not do it. It might make more sense to force people to drink on the day, that way they might "rebel" positively and not drink!
Monday, March 28, 2011
Haven't been many beer posts in a while. I have been drinking I just haven't been posting due to laziness!
So let me make it up to you!
The find of the pack by far, beautfiul Brown colour, Caramel, chocolate and pine, smooth with no bitter after taste. 8.2% hit me pretty hard!
From the Dun Garvan Brewery, Unfortunately I don't have many notes on this one, cloudy in the glass with a slightly citrusy flavour, worth a look, not least because its Irish
Wonderful flavour in the best Winter beer tradition. Dark but not black in the glass, Strong flavour with rich caramel tones.
I had expected this to have either a bitter black chocolate taste or a smooth creamy milk chocolate taste but I was wrong on both counts. The chocolate flavour is mild and a bit watery in the finish. If you're expecting a hot chocolate I wouldn't go for this. If you find something like that, let me know!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
For the most part I drive about 750 miles a month, which is made up for trips from my home in Drumcondra to Cherrywood. Some months I drive about 600 miles (when I travel abroad) and when I have to work in Limerick the number can go up to 900 miles. My car gets about 6.5 miles to the litre, or 390 miles to a full tank, which hardly makes it a green-mobile. At €1.50 a litre I’m spending about €173 a month on petrol. The drive to and from Cherrywood is about 25 miles round trip.
Fuel is not the only cost I incur though. My insurance is about €600 euro a year. My car tax is €324 a year and I also have the AA at €210 a year. I expect to spend around €300 on maintenance and repair over the year as well.
There is one more cost that is less straight forward. Strictly speaking the cash isn’t going out every month. In fact the cash has already been paid out. Its an opportunity cost; what I could have done with the money if I hadn’t tied it up in the car. I know this sounds like a fuzzy concept; I’ve already paid the money right? But here’s the thing, If I sell the car right now I might get €4000, but If I hold on to the car till next year like I plan to it might be worth €3000. In a way I am renting the car or slowly surrendering value day by day. I figure that the car is worth about €1000 a year. If I had a more expensive car then it would be worth more.
So having worked out all these costs I can look at the three scenarios and work out how much money I’m spending a month. I can also calculate a proxy for “convenience” i.e. The value I am paying to have the car for average use. I can then compare this to my utility value – How much I am willing to pay for this privilege. If my utility is greater than that of convenience then I should keep using the car but if its less then I should use substitutes I.e. The DART, where they exist.
The easiest way to summarise the options is with a table.
As you can see the more miles I do the lower the total cost, but it also shows that the cost of having the car under each scenario is way over the cost for the same trip to Cherrywood on the train.
In reality I'm paying an average of a 61% premium or €7.67 to use the car on my round trip to and from Cherrywood.
I know I said I'd calculate my utility value but I actually haven't a clue how to (If anyone wants to suggest how to do this I'm happy to try it) I just know that a 61% premium feels too high for me though. I suspect that if it was raining when I got up I'd prefer to take the car but with the summer coming up hopefully I'll think of my pocket and take the train!
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Not a major post for the weekend.
Two things that stand out.
I've been resisting shaving / growing a goatee for the last two weeks with mixed results. Amazingly there is a lot more grey and a lot less ginger than the last time 10 years ago, I'll try to put up a photo to compare shortly.
The other thing I did was to put up a shelf for the LAK. It was a cheap one from Woodies, but it put me up against the 2 years of selling DIY to actually prove that it was easy to do.
What was bizarre is that the 2 supports were definitely not level and yet the shelf is!
Friday, March 4, 2011
Actually I've been sick with the man flu for the last 4 days, and was at a stag party the week before. (I see no connection!)
I have been active though so expect some bursts of updates next week around beers, Prague and Politics
As for the Election:
The outcome was easily predicted. All of the posturing now is disappointing and I am a little concerned by the looks of smugness from FG are worrying. Like I said before. The 25% vaccum of votes left by FF had to be filled somehow. As for the Wipeout, FF will be above 20% next election and in danger of becoming a real coalition option next time round.
I feel sorry for the independents. They fought hard and have won...nothing. No real power, no legislative authority. I think many of the new ones will do a George Lee and quit because they are frustrated by the glacier like pace of change.
Lets see what happens. I have a feeling the departmental briefings are going to scare some of them and there will be a lot of "look at what FF did the country". This will fly for a while but eventually they will have to start solving the problems in front of them. Because if they can't make a dent themselves then they aren't any better than the outgoing administration.
Thats all for now, The virus is still at work and my mind is not using english properly
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Labour and the Retail Sector
Labour's focus on the retail sector for jobs is worrying me. Jobs in the retail sector have a wide level of access - many people are capable of doing these jobs (as compared to say programming, or science or nursing) and they are definitely a boon for lower skilled workers. My concern is the reason why stores hire staff. The common view seems to be that business rates and rents are too high and that's probably true, but how much is that reducing the numbers employed? Back in the boom the same rents and rates were in place, but we had higher employment in the retail trade - why?
We are now at the employment level of 2005-2006 for retail according to CSO statistics
Demand, confidence and credit in the economy are the answers:
- More people working right across the economy in every sector
- More disposable income per person
- Easier access to credit via cards, loans, low(er) interest rates.
- Greater confidence around getting and retaining jobs, wage growth, debt repayment
I worked in Brown Thomas for a year and a half in their TV and HiFi department back in 2000. It was a great time because there was so much money in the economy, combined with shiny new technologies like, flat screens, wide screens, LCD's MP3 players and play station 2. During the week there were about 4 people on the floor plus a manager, but at the weekend that would go up to about 8 people. Often times the full time people would work a Saturday to make up for the slim pickings during the week. And this staffing experience is common to many retail operations - If there isn't demand you don't need people on the floor.
Right now there is over 200% more people unemployed in the economy (13.5% vs 4.5% for the same period in 2005). That's a lot less disposable income, fewer people willing to spend on their credit cards and most importantly, a tremendous lack of confidence in the short to medium term income prospects. If retailers don't see changes in peoples short term confidence then why would they hire in the first place? If I dont think my wages are going to rise in the near term (or worse still that I may lose my job) then I am not willing to make unnecessary large purchases taht require credit in case I can't pay them off. I understand Labours reason for targeting jobs in the retail sector, its an area where low skilled workers could re-enter the workforce quickly but creating the reason for retailers to hire in the first place is much more important.
Just as an addendum:
The current employment laws around working while on the social welfare would be a far better place to start.
People on social welfare can work up to 20 hours per week without endangering their entitlements, however it must be the same 20 hours every week. Most people who work in stores (or in other places like cinema's leisure centres, call centres etc) will tell you that most of the time their hours vary to match busy times, employee holidays and specific initiatives. There are very few of these jobs that can support this type of inflexibility in their employees. If you took away this outdated condition then you could get people back into part time work and reduce the burden on the state. In addition you would make them feel like they are contributing and ensure that their skills are not eroded over time.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
All the parties have been setting out their manifestos for the last week and a half.
The prime time debate went well, the quality of argument was high and both leaders acquitted themselves well.
Martin was much more ferocious on the attack, which makes sense since he cannot defend the record of the government. Gilmore came across well though in my opinion, "labours way not Frankfurts way" is childish rhetoric when Europe can simply say "No More Money". The other stage show was in Leitrim where Enda addressed probably the smallest meeting in the country and got heckled by what probably was a plant.
The other news of note was Alan Dukes telling us that Anglo need another €15bn. Lenny has quite smartly turned around and said that he no longer has a mandate to inject capital into the banks so that the incoming government will need to do that. I think this is a brilliant tactic on his part for two reasons:
- He actually doesn't have a mandate anymore
- It puts it up to all of them as a practical situation - What are you going to do?
Me and the LAK had quite a debate on this today. She thinks he is a scumbag for having us in this position in the firstplace (TRUE) and is now being sneaky about it - which I disagree with.
I promise that I wont vote FF this time but you have to have a grudging admiration for their tactics!
Thursday, February 3, 2011
This is more of a summary than anything else since my last post a few days ago.
Sources are "meet the leader" podcasts from NewsTalk
The Labour party has come out with a €500 million recommendation for jobs which sounds remarkably like FF's €500 million smart economy fund.
FG - TBA
FG and Labour have also said that they won't renegotiate the Croke park agreement but expect productivity gains, redundancies and natural attrition. I assume FF won't want to renegotiate the Croke Park deal.
FG said they won't raise income tax
Labour - TBA
Labour - not against selling off bodies but hasn't listed any ones that it wants to
FF- Much the same, prefers to retain strategic interest
Residential property tax
Labour want to exempt the tax on the primary residence, elimination of reliefs (section 23)
FG - TBA
FF -Favours site value tax
FG - Abolish the HSE, set up Dutch FairCare over 5 years
Labour - TBA
FF - Would not chance HSE
FG - Free third level, 30% contribution over 10 years after graduation
Labour - NA
FF - need to cut costs, loan system (Australian system)
FG - Will renegotiate on interest rate, constitutional referendum on budget targets
Labour - Will renegotiate on interest and duration, say they never signed up in the first place
FF - NA but I guess either renegotiate or hold.
Labour have a "digital Ireland" platform which is all about broadband roll out. I don't want to seem arrogant here but is this really an issue? I understand that in rural areas broadband it probably is but it seems to me that there is plenty of broadband packages available.
Fianna Fail have now announced their front bench with nobody particularly special included. FF want to abolish the Seanad and suggest being able to appoint non-Oireachtas members as ministers. Its funny to see Willie O'Dea back, Proves he's a wily operator, Get canned just early enough so that no one really remembers him too painfully. His banishment to the political backwaters has worked quite well.
Looking at Micheal Martin I think he is a clever guy, He is clean enough to get some votes in this election and reduce the available voting space for the rest - shrink the Governments majority. It wouldn't surprise me if he tried to promote independents to further erode majorities.
FG and Labour are simple, get as many seats as possible and either be the majority party in coalition or single party government. According to recent polls FG would be the majority partner, and rumor is that FG will give up an extra ministry to get their hands on the Finance portfolio.
FF are of course trying to get as many votes as possible, but their outcome is different. Every % that goes to them or independents/ Sinn Fein / Green party / Others is a reduction in the governments majority and puts more pressure on an FG / Labour Coalition Government. If FF can get between 16% and 20%, Sinn Fein and the Greens get 10% between them and the Independents get another 10% that only leaves 60% between FG and Labour. It puts them in opposition during a difficult time (which is the place to be) and gives them 4 years to rebuild the party, mostly with a "lower taxes, small Government platform" next time round.
Latest MRBI / Irish Times Poll
Fianna Fail 15%
Sinn Fein 12%
Remainder - 16%
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
So many happy memories!