De omnibus dubitandum
13 Apr 2011
Since a few weeks I’ve been helping the Belfast City Airport Watch organisation with their online stuff – updating their website, posting on Facebook, doing some tweets, and sending out the odd email now and again.
I signed up for this because I live very close to the Belfast City airport, and the noise pollution really is quite impressive.
It’s funny how when you don’t live near an airport, you are quick to judge people who complain about aircraft noise. “They shouldn’t have moved close to an airport then!” is an often heard rebuttal, as is the claim that these regional airports have enormous economic benefit and the comfort of a few residents in the area is a small price to pay.
I used to be one of those naysayers who dismissed people who complained about aircraft noise. But my perspective changed radically now that I’m personally submitted to noise pollution on a daily basis.
It’s hard for people who don’t live near airports to understand how incredibly overwhelming aircraft noise can be. For a few seconds when the plane passes over you have to stop your conversation, put down your drink, stop watching TV, and in the case of big jets even stop thinking for a wee while. The noise is more than just sound reaching your ears – you feel it in your bones and it scratches at your brain.
Unsurprisingly, noise pollution is actively harmful as a recent WHO study has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
In the case of the Belfast City airport, their rebuttals can easily be, well, rebutted. As if the dangers of noise pollution wasn’t sufficient reason to lobby against expansion of the airport (what price do you put on the health and well-being of tens of thousands of local residents?), the economic value of the airport is limited. It employs only a handful of local residents, and with a perfectly fine larger International airport just a few miles outside Belfast (in a rural area where noise pollution is not an issue) flights and jobs can easily be moved without having a negative impact on the local economy.
And the people affected by the noise didn’t choose to live near a busy airport. The City airport has seen enormous expansion in recent years. When people first moved in to their homes in east Belfast and Holywood it was perfectly quiet. Not so now.
The first thing that struck me when I started helping out the Airport Watch residents association – which is a purely not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers – is that this is a dirty fight. The City airport has powerful backers and deploys sneaky tactics.
For example, from the moment the BCAW twitter account was launched, it was being harassed by ‘egg’ accounts – Twitter accounts without a proper avatar and thus showing only the default egg icon – who were protesting about what the BCAW tweeted, casting (baseless) doubt on facts tweeted by the BCAW, even going as far as tweeting blatant lies about the BCAW.
Also in the comments of articles on news sites like the Belfast Telegraph, certain commenters always applaud the City airport and criticise the BCAW every chance they get – using the same lies and distortions. It’s nothing short of a social media smear campaign, intended to make the BCAW look bad and cast the City airport as a saviour of the Northern Irish economy.
It is also all done in quite an amateurish fashion. Egg accounts on Twitter have no credibility, as they have no history and are easily recognised as the spammers they are. The comments on news sites are always posted under the same usernames, and they only comment on airport-related stories and always with the same anti-BCAW pro-City Airport message. They’re transparently obvious PR spinners with zero credibility. I even managed to retrace one account back to an actual City airport employee.
But despite this ineffectiveness, it does demonstrate that the City airport and its backers – lobbyists and politicians with fingers in relevant pies, no doubt – will and do play dirty. Truth is the first victim of any conflict, and this is no exception. The City airport is deliberately polluting the debate (pun intended) and using dirty propaganda tactics to oppose valid criticism.
And that’s pretty sad. The quality of life for tens of thousands of people is at stake, and the greedy money-grabbing capitalists behind the scenes of the City airport care only for their own continued enrichment. The welfare of people doesn’t matter, and every dirty trick is allowed to ensure that the rich get richer and the poor stay poor and uninformed.
This is not a surprise, of course. This is what capitalism does, this is how it operates. It’s a zero-sum game, with winners and losers.
But sometimes I wish that I wasn’t being confronted with such blatant evidence of moral bankruptcy and unbridled greed quite so often. Sometimes I wish people would just be nice to one another and stop polluting and abusing the world for their own temporary and ultimately fleeting gains.
I’m afraid that’ll always be just wishful thinking.
9 Jul 2009
Remember PeerDrivetm? Well, either TomTom has stolen my idea and gave it a twist to make it work, or my idea wasn’t so new and revolutionary to begin with (pick your version).
TomTom has recently implemented a new feature in their GPS devices called IQ Routes. To quote:
“This new improved technology calculates routes based on the real average speeds measured on roads every day compared to speed limits. This uses historical data that TomTom users have been adding to over the years. It will always provide users with the smartest route hour-by-hour, day-by-day, saving them time, money and fuel.”
Pretty darn clever idea, even if I say so myself.
14 May 2009
Ryanair is now going to charge customers to check in online. If customers fail to check in online, they’re charged a ridiculously high fee they call a “boarding card re-issue fee”.
This once again proves that Ryanair is not an actual airline. Their business model isn’t flying passengers from A to B. No, they have a business model very similar to that of organized crime.
You see, Ryanair’s business model is to lure customers in by advertising very cheap tickets. Then, when the customer has been snared, the real business starts: the business of extorting customers for every penny they’ve got. Mandatory fees for everything begin to heap on top of one another: fees for checking in, fees for luggage any bigger than a sandwich bag, even fees for paying your fees!
Ryanair is a company that doesn’t deserve to exist. It’s a blight on the airline industry as a whole and deserves to die a quick, gruesome and hopefully painful death. I will never fly with Ryanair again, ever. I’d rather give my hard-earned money to a proper airline or a discount airline like Easyjet that at least tries to treat its passengers like human beings.
28 Apr 2008
On the first day of my vacation in Portugal (which was great by the way) my girlfriend drags me into a dusty looking liquor store, tightly packed from cracked-tiled floor to dirty ceiling with all kinds of booze.
I immediately head for the whiskey section, of course. It’s not particularly elaborate, but then my eyes fall upon a sight I’d never expect to see here: an original boxed bottle of Jameson 15 year old Limited Edition.
This particular vintage is a true collector’s item. Bottled especially for the millennium, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get your hands on this glorious whiskey. And an obscure little liquor store near Albufeira, Portugal has not one but two of these wonderful gems. The price is €60 – nearly half the average online price of €115 for this rare vintage.
I’m inclined to by both but keeping my baggage limit in mind I opt for only one. It’s a fine addition to my collection, and I don’t want to spoil the joy of the discovery for the next Irish Whiskey connoisseur to stumble into this establishment.
19 Mar 2008
Best dining experience I’ve ever had: Ninja New York restaurant. Superb decoration, fantastic food, and you are waited on by ninjas. Ninjas! How cool is that?
(I’m in NYC for the SES conference.)
29 Jan 2008
Ever had a dream of flying a huge passenger jet? No? Me neither. But I’d like to mess around in the cockpit of one, just to see what all those little buttons and switches do.
And now I can. Sort of. I can’t exactly take off, or really do much of anything, but it looks great. And it’s from the Airbus A380, officially (in my world) the coolest jet airliner ever made.
1 Nov 2007
More people should listen very closely to what this guy has to say.