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It's time to renew my car insurance; the letter advising me of this tells me I can do it online. And so I go to AA Ireland's payments page and attempt to enter my details - only to discover I can't enter my policy code as it's a 10-character string and they have, for some reason, capped the relevant input field at 9 characters. Classy.

update: renewed it by phone instead. Mentioned to the customer service rep that I was unable to renew online. From his disinterested response I don't hold out great hope for it being looked at, much less fixed.
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Overheard on the DART: male garda stops a young, female learner driver as she is driving unaccompanied on a motorway while texting someone on her mobile phone. Says something like "I suppose you were texting the boyfriend". She says she doesn't have one, or words to that effect, and so the garda asks for her number and lets her off with a warning. The story was related by the female in question to a male friend of hers, so it's not exactly third- or fourth- hand.

For those not familiar with Irish law, learner drivers on their first (learner) license are required to have a fully-licensed driver accompanying them; they're not allowed drive on motorways; and anyone using a mobile phone without a hands-free kit is liable to get points on their license (12 points over 42 months and you lose your license) and (I think) an on-the-spot fine.
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Apparently one of our elected representatives is embarrassed at being arrested for driving under the influence. But it's okay; one of his fellow TDs says he had apologised profusely, and was aware that it is inappropriate to drink and drive. Well then! I'll be sure and remember that the next time I feel like putting my own life and the lives of others at risk!
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Our current minister for transport feels that there will be sufficient traffic in Dublin in 2011 to merit banning private cars from the city centre during LUAS/Metro works. This despite the fact that petrol is now running at a rough average of €1.25 per litre, biofuel is proving to be a great way of triggering rising food prices, and oil in general is continuing to creep upwards in price. And I don't see affordable non-oil-burning cars on the market any time soon, either.
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I drove somewhere in the order of 500 miles in the last two days, from Dublin to Cahersiveen (via Mitchelstown, if you're interested in poking at Google Maps). Some notes on the trip:
  • Dublin has mountains. Kerry has Mountains. Yes, they're all under 3,600 feet tall, but in Dublin, the mountains huddle together for mutual support, while in Kerry you see mountains that seem to say, "Behold, I can touch the sea AND the sky!".
  • Special warning signs, such as "Military Activity", "Area prone to ice in winter months", "Dangerous bridge/bend/junction ahead", and, er, SHEEP. Yes. You will not generally find these in the Rules of the Road.
  • Multiple instances of road works with temporary traffic lights, which, being non-functional, are accompanied by the guys with the stop/go lollipop signs.
  • One of the aforementioned lollipop men, walking up the middle of the road at the head of a line of traffic, sign over his shoulder offering "Go" to the following cars (I was the second car in the line). Suddenly, he flips the sign around, we all stop, and the reason is revealed: the gaffer's car is coming in the opposite direction.
  • A bike lane on the Kilorglin/Cahersiveen road. For half a mile. With no trivial means of getting a bike there; and more to the point, the road is signficantly wider at that point than other places where a bike lane might actually be useful.
  • EVERYONE in town seemed to know the wedding I was attending was on. I know it's a small town, but really now.
  • Bad Salesman: stops at service station, makes pitch to guy behind counter who is, essentially, a desk jockey with no real power, then offers to leave a card for the manager before admitting that he doesn't actually have any cards with him.
  • Bad B&B: "what time do you want breakfast?" "what time do you serve until?" "noon" "Ok, 11:30 will do me". Much later, I discover signs in several locations declaring that breakfast stops at 11, and this indeed turns out to be the case.
  • The variety of surfaces that make up an Irish "National Route" - at one point, I was convinced they'd actually ploughed the road; ten minutes later I was on a broad, smooth expanse of motoring joy.
  • Bad Detour: it caught me both ways. Driving into Mallow I encounted a detour around the north of the town, which concluded at the Limerick road, where the signs offered either Cork or Limerick as destinations, neither of which I was headed for. And of course in my confusion I took the wrong one (Limerick) before getting myself back on track (Cork turns out to be Cork plus Other Routes). On the way back, I again messed up my choice of exit from a roundabout and wound up in the town centre, and once more encountered a diversion sign, which directed me to... a car park. Well, not quite, but the diversion signs consisted of one at the town centre indicating that I should go to some street or another, and ... that's it. I eventually found my way to the road home using Douglas Adams' Zen Navigation - follow someone who looks like they know where they're going. The fact that the car had a foreign registration made the exercise that much more fun.
  • On the second last roundabout before home, I tucked in behind an honest-to-goodness DELOREAN. Man, those things still look sweet.
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As previously mentioned, I've been going back through old LiveJournal posts applying the Web two-point-oh tags (and thusly building a votagulary); occasionally I stumble upon myself being sufficiently funny to make me laugh out loud, which fact I even commented on back in November 2004. Anyway, I am reposting an excerpt here from a December 2004 entry relating to a loaner car given to me by the garage repairing my own car, because it still makes me laugh:
The car is... fascinating. It seems to handle by suggestion, such as when I press the brake pedal, the car thinks about slowing down, and when I steer, the car makes suggestive moves towards the general direction I indicated. I pressed one of the preset buttons on the radio and the radio switched off for five minutes, then came on and flashed various backlights at me before eventually returning to normal - I presume something's loose there somewhere. The driver's side wing mirror is held on by several screws, which means that occasionally road vibration (and there's an amount of that) causes the mirror to drift out of the position I set it in, giving me instead a nice view of the skyline behind me. There's some unidentifiable goop on the dashboard on the passenger side, which I only discovered after dropping my GPS toy into it. I think it might be a long-discarded Fox's Glacier Mint. I scared the living daylights out of Eoin, who was half-asleep in the back seat, by turning on the rear wiper without warning him. And the front wipers sort of smear the mud and rain around the screen rather than actually wiping it; to this end, there appears to be a reservoir of mud at the bottom of the windscreen that they can drag across. I guess throwing a bucket of water over it would do no harm. Truly an experience, this car...
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When you're "rollin'" with your "homie" in the shitty little car that is all you can afford because of the cost of insurance for young male drivers in this country (which cost is strongly contributed to by your behaviour in said car) and you decide to demonstrate that, despite its decrepitude, it's still a penis extension by doing one of those wheel-spinning take-offs - which isn't really a much of a challenge in a small car with bad tyres on wet roads, but I digress - it's probably a good idea to make sure there are no Gardaí around first.

Ha ha ha.
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To the motorcyclist who dramatically swerved around my stationary, signalling-to-change-lane car yesterday before glaring over your shoulder at me: riding a motorbike gives you the ability to weave between lanes of traffic. It doesn't give you the right. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, doing so is illegal.

By the same token, when a sign says "bus lane not in operation", the thus-marked lane is a normal lane, and ducking your taxi into it in an attempt to overtake on the wrong side is once again illegal. Looking unhappy because I didn't stand on my brakes and risk being tail-ended to let you back into the queue of traffic you were trying to jump isn't going to help.

And that was just two of the many fun incidents from yesterday's 10-mile drive. Frankly, if I had to drive this route daily, I'd have exploded from stress long ago.
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If you've ever wondered what sort of stuff the drivers on a movie crew do, you should watch the feature-length making-of documentary that comes on the Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest 2-disc DVD set. The packing of the trucks onto container ships has to be seen to be believed, never mind the fun they had driving around on Dominica...
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I go away for a day, and there's a new frickin' roundabout up the street. What the hell?
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Don't click on this link lightly; it's a TV spot in support of a recently-launched road safety campaign targetted at excessive speed, using the tagline the faster the speed, the bigger the mess. It's been rated as 15/15A for cinema viewing and cannot be broadcast on national TV before 9pm; I saw it on TV during the week and to be honest found it difficult viewing. My only concern is that too many people in this country seem to think, "ah, but that wouldn't happen to me".
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Rugby: Italy 18, Wales 18. Italy actually deserved to win this, I think. Ireland 15, Scotland 9 in a hard-fought game at a wet and windy Lansdowne road; both teams missed plenty opportunities to score but the commentators said it was a spectacular game under the conditions, so I guess I can't fault that. And in case anyone cares, there's a new F1 season, with new rules, new teams, and new drivers. I watched some of the new qualifying format and it's certainly an improvement over the single-lap qualifying, but it remains to be seen whether or not the race is worth any attention.
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Jeremy Clarkson in large doses is all the things I don't like about tabloid newspapers and chest-beating "national pride", by which I mean jingoism (real or otherwise) and the like. Even in small doses he can be annoying if I'm not in the mood. But I do like his review of the new Bugatti supercar.
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Mr. EEEEEeeechverri, attempting to open up the floor asked me, (a) did this year's F1 season really suck, and (b) how dare I place any movie above Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?

In order to stop him from posting further to an essentially dead-end location (HINT: I rarely bother checking my syndicated feed for posts; just email me if you wanna discuss some random point I made) I am commenting here. Take that, non-sequitor boy.

This could be long, or short, or you might not care. )
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Here's a map of Ireland with the relevant points labelled. For reference, Ordnance Survey Ireland tells me that Ireland is about 300 miles long by 170 miles wide (or "thick", as Niall Tobin once put it). behold the island )
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My brother (the one who lives in Boston) was visiting, and I was providing chauffer and contact facilities to him. This is my approximate itinerary for the last week:
Thu 8: Dublin - Youghal
Sun 11: Youghal - Dublin
Tue 13: Dublin - Youghal
Wed 14: Youghal - Cork - Oranmore
Thu 15: Oranmore - Shannon - Dublin

The GPS toy tells me I've done about 700 miles since 9:30am yesterday, at an average speed of somewhere short of 60kph.

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