Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Frugal Guide Podcast is a Go!

As if I didn't need anything else to work on...

I've been busy working on the first (hopefully of many... or at least several!) audio supplement pieces for The Frugal Guide: Dublin. Why all the extra work? Well, I want to do this thing for real, with all the usual twenty-first-century additions.

Hopefully, these additional audio tours and podcasts will help boost the popularity of the book and help more people have more fun in this great city. If not, it'll just be another huge time sink that I can look at with pride even though it was enjoyed by few.

I am working to get this podcast feed available on iTunes, but for now it's only available for direct download from PodOmatic -- the service I chose to host the podcast -- as they have the best free account package.

Below is the full text from my Five Suitcases article with an embedded podcast player at the bottom if you care to listen. Please help boost the signal by continuing to like and share the book and podcast on the usual social channels!


I've been warming up my voice and flexing my very limited audio editing muscle recently. After many hours of recording, deleting, recording again, and testing, I've finally finished and published my first piece of supplementary audio content!

One of my original goals with this project was to produce some guided audio tours in podcast form. Unable or unwilling to hire professional help, I would have to be writer, producer, narrator, editor, and publisher of everything, of course. For the first audio tour, I chose Dublin's Urban Park Scramble, because it was my first and my favorite.

Much of the time needed to produce this first piece of audio content was spent learning the ins and outs of podcast publishing in general. Sadly, free podcast hosting is difficult to find, and with limited choices when you find it. For now, I'm using PodOmatic as they offer the most free storage space and the most monthly bandwidth with their free account. Other services' free accounts are much more limited, and the always-free-unlimited-storage-and-bandwidth use of archive.org seemed a bit too clunky, even for me.

Now that I'm an experienced podcast publisher, producing more short audio pieces should be much easier. Look for more audio tours, interviews with inexpensive attraction curators, and other soundy content coming soon.

If and when you download this walking tour, notice that the attached image is the map of the walk. It is a bit ugly when seen at super-zoomed thumbnail size, but becomes a handy map of the whole walk when displayed on an iPod screen while playing. Practical over pretty every single day!

This series of walks and podcasts will hopefully be available on iTunes soon, but for now, they will all be available for direct download from PodOmatic at the following address: frugalguidedublin.podomatic.com

Don't feel like downloading? Take a listen right from your computer with this handy embedded audio player!


Please continue to help me promote the book and the podcast with reviews, likes, and shares on all of the usual channels. Oh, and here are those usual channels again!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Follow the Irish Cops on Twitter!

Ireland's national police force, An Garda Siochana, have a very active and sometimes entertaining Twitter account.

Most of their notifications are mundane public safety and traffic announcements.

Important, but not very exciting.

It's also nice to see the creative use of social media to return lost property.

The preference, of course, would be to help curb the scourge that is bike theft in Dublin. But hey, they've started watching the bike rack outside their own police station more closely recently! Isn't that enough for you people?

No word yet on whether or not bike theft numbers are down outside the Pearse Street Garda Station, though. And the known stolen bike merchants continue to operate in broad daylight all over the...

Yes! More tweets from the friendly local police force. Thinkin' about doin' a bit o' drinkin' and drivin' home? Better think twice! The Guards'll nab you and put you on Twitter for your trouble!

Seriously, drinking and driving is dangerous and stupid. The force has been publicly cracking down on this menace recently with a blitz of TV and radio commercials and "safety checkpoints" on busy roads throughout the day. They have been pushing particularly hard to educate the public about the length of time alcohol stays in the system and impairs driving. A few hours of sleep and a cup of coffee after an all-nighter just isn't enough.

At these safety checks, the guards also make sure vehicles are properly registered and all safety functions are working correctly. If they aren't...

It's healthy for a public police force to engage with the people they are sworn to protect and serve. This punishment by social media shaming might have a real future as a law enforcement tactic in the future. Can you imagine a judge one day ordering you to put "caught drinking and driving" on the top of your Facebook profile? How about mandatory mugshot selfies permanently pinned to your Twitter account?

Oh, and in case you were thinking about sharing that tweet while driving...

Don't! Remember, if you mess with the Garda, you might get a swift kick of polite social media justice!

Actual Garda Bustin' Perps in Dublin Last Week

Monday, January 12, 2015

Judge Dredd in Future Ireland

After a visit to the Dublin Central Library, I was inspired to make this January the month of graphic novels and comics. I've been trying to read more lately, but I haven't been revisiting the comic book format, an old favorite. The Central Library has a sizable collection of graphic novels and comic compilations, so I grabbed a handful featuring some classic characters and dug in.

As it happens, I've been sharing and tweeting highlights over on my nerd content Twitter account, @Active_ate (www.twitter.com/active_ate).

The first book is a collection of comics featuring one of my favorite comic butt-kickers, Judge Dredd. Back in Iowa, I snapped up handfuls of comics from the 1980s and 1990s, including a decent number of Judge Dredd issues. I didn't realize the character was created in the UK until I read the updates and letters segments in these US-released collections.
He originally appeared in the weekly sci-fi comic magazine 2000AD in short episodes. For the US releases, the episodes were stitched together into US-sized issues and released by Quality Comics and Eagle Comics, possibly to hide the non-American origins of the hero of Mega-City One?

Emerald Isle is a very interesting story arc for the Judge, given its setting in future Ireland and its disturbing IRA-Northern Ireland allegory. As usual for Judge Dredd, the book mixes biting socio-political commentary with black-as-tar humor for a very interesting and fun read.

The story begins when an ambassador to Emerald Isle -- Ireland in the future -- is assassinated in Mega-City One with a spud gun. Apparently bullets are too expensive for the future Ireland militia, so potato-shooters it is.

In the future, Ireland has been taken over by Brit-Cit -- future Great Britain -- after a government collapse. It has been turned into a provincial, rustic theme park with one large city covering the entire southeast coast, Murphyville.

The residents work in the entertainment industry and entertain tourists with their old-fashioned charm and endless potatoes. An underground group -- Sons of Erin -- dedicated to restoring Ireland to its former glory, plot to seize the country from Brit-Cit and shut down the Emerald Isle theme park.

The writers of the comic tried to give the Irish characters Irish accents, but things aren't quite right. I don't know if this was intentional or just the product of ignorance. The characters in future Dublin use words like "aye" and "wee" like someone from Northern Ireland today, but they also use current non-Northern phrases like "your man." Maybe all regional dialects have dissolved into one standard accent in the future, or maybe I'm just overthinking it.

The writers did throw in some interesting Irish-accurate touches. Dredd occasionally runs into singing dolphin mutants (because future) who narrate the story with words that fit into the tune of popular Irish trad standards like Cockles and Mussels. Also, the Judges take a shortcut up Leeson Street and through future St. Stephen's Green. Dredd hilariously runs over the only remaining shrub in the Green.
Needless to say, the Judge comes through. He throws the Sons of Erin hitman into a potato masher (they have been making artificial spuds out or rice since potatoes went extinct in the 2050s!) and makes a great joke on his way out of town.

This story arc was written in 1990-1991, when the Troubles would still have been raging. Before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, bombings, kidnappings, and reprisals were still common throughout Ireland, and this material would have been quite topical. The obvious IRA overtones are a bit too spot-on, especially considering the state of affairs at the time.

I wonder what it would have been like to have read this as a kid in the UK or Ireland in 1991, when I would have been the target audience. The tone appears to cast the Irish (not just the IRA characters) in a negative light. The Irish judges are incompetent and drunk on the job, and the terrorists are ruthless, savage, and ineffective. I can't help but feel that the British writers had an axe to grind against the Irish. With what was happening at the time, I can't really blame them.

Even though it's a sci-fi/action lark, Emerald Isle is a very interesting product of its time. Recommended for diehard Dredd-heads and newbies alike!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Getting Fit on the Beach

Last April, while walking along the beach in Clontarf, I was able to try out something new, outdoor public-use fitness equipment.

Cory on the Leg Swinger
Cory on the Leg Swinger

It seemed like a novel idea at the time; the brightly-colored machines looked very much like playground equipment for children. Looking back, I suppose they serve the same purpose: allowing the public (in this case adults) without elaborate play (fitness) equipment to come together in a public space to play (exercise).

On a walk on Sandymount Strand this week, closer to my neighborhood, I noticed a new lineup of the colorful and functional machines.

Sandymount already has a fantastic walking/running trail along the beach, leading all the way along the coast out to Poolbeg Lighthouse. Now, I can do my low-impact cardio, running, and my upper body strength training all while looking at the crashing waves (high tide) or a vast field of mud (low tide).

Sandymount Leg Swinger
Sandymount Leg Swinger

Chin-Up and Lifting Bar Sandymount
Chin-Up and Lifting Bar

This equipment is manufactured by and Irish company based in Co. Mayo, OutFit. They have installed outdoor adult fitness equipment for parks and other public spaces all over the country, and Sandymount has been one of the more recent additions. The installation of this equipment is part of Dublin City Council's plan to provide accessible activity and fitness facilities and equipment for all of its citizens.

Well, now there's no excuse for the apartment-dwellers in South Dublin to get out there and tear it up! See you on the beach!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

In the News: UTV Ireland Launches

For the last few weeks, we've been seeing billboard advertising for a new television network, UTV Ireland. It was to be launched with the new year -- replacing the old UTV on satellite subscribers' channel lists.

The new network would be a strange hybrid of old UTV (UK-based) programming combined with homegrown Republic of Ireland content. New soaps (somehow still hanging on here in the British Isles), new talk shows, and a new nightly newscast (featuring Chris Donahue, our favorite morning radio talk host on NewsTalk Breakfast).

Not that this will make any difference to us at home, understand. We do not own (and have no plans to own) a television here in Ireland, because we are tightwad tax dodgers. A number of European countries charge yearly taxes to homes with televisions to fund government-run television (and sometimes radio) broadcasters. In the UK, television licenses (a word used to avoid the terrible t-word) fund the BBC. In Ireland, RTE.

We have been inspected for a television twice since moving to Ireland. TV license dodgers receive stiff penalties if the post office (the TV license collectors) catches an unregistered home watching Father Ted reruns. Having just recently made a trip to the TV license office to sign an affidavit affirming my lack of television set, maybe we are off the hook -- for a while.

As it happened, the launch went off without a hitch, with a quick introduction followed by an hour of the British show Emmerdale.

And that's when things got fun. UTV hired an Irish media ringer, Pat Kenny, to be its mascot and frontman. Kenny had a long career with the government-run RTE before his contract cost outpaced the cash-strapped public institution, and he was released into the private sector. Like Chris Donahue, he now has a radio talk show on NewsTalk and his face on UTV.

On the night of the premiere, UTV was scheduled to be airing an all-new documentary about... Ireland, and the greatness thereof. Images of Irish scenery and interviews with Irish celebrities like musician Hozier (who?) and the parents of one of the stars of Love/Hate (what?) would all be hosted and narrated by Pat Kenny.

Hilariously, the old UTV had scheduled a screening of The Dark Knight -- the popular Batman movie from a few years ago -- at the same time. The Kenny documentary preempted the Christopher Nolan classic, and Irish fans took to Twitter to show their displeasure. Check out some of the embedded tweets on the article for a good laugh.

It is nice to see the homegrown Irish media market growing. Twitter-complaining aside, I would guess that most of the country is happy to see Ireland just a little bit less reliant on the UK (and Hollywood) for entertainment and programming. If only the TV license wasn't so stiff, I might just have tried to tune in.

Good luck on the new venture, Mr. Donahue, Mr. Kenny, and the rest of UTV Ireland!