Sunday, October 15, 2017

My 100th plaque @OpenPlaques

A couple of years ago I started to upload photos to the Open Plaque Project - most are from around Dublin, but now I watch out for them everywhere and take a photo. If it's not already uploaded, I do so. The inscription is also uploaded, plus the location - I can add as many photos as I want, so I usually do close-ups and medium shots. This weekend I was in Gorey in Co Wexford where I came across several plaques, three (all related to Bishop Ram) of which are suitable for Open Plaques. The stone plaque for Miles Byrne is probably not suitable - the site aims to show "where they are, we identify who is commemorated on them, what those people are notable for, and what their connection is with the place where their plaque is installed". This plaque is not located in Monaseed which is about 7 miles away from Gorey (Jez - if you are reading this perhaps you might comment?).

The Market Square plaque is my 100th one uploaded! This pales into insignificance beside the wonderfully named "Spudgun67" who has uploaded 1,549 plaques. 

Here are the plaques, with Open Plaque links:

Open Plaques link.

Open Plaques link.
Open Plaques link.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Great Data Visualization from @Tableau #OLOUGHLIN #DataViz

My surname "O'Loughlin" to me is a very Irish surname. Anyone with an "O" and an apostrophe must be 100%Irish - right? Here's an extract from my book "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" about the O'Loughlin name:

O'Loughlin's Pub in Ballyvaughan.
One of the things that attracts people to different parts of Ireland is the search for ancestors, and I am no different. North Clare is O’Loughlin country, and for a short time I travelled the Wild Atlantic Way in search of my own ancestors. A short distance after Black Head I stopped at the side of the road to look down at a castle which is visible for a long way along the beautiful ride on the southern side of Galway Bay. It is the sixteenth century Gleninagh Castle and it was built for the O’Loughlin chiefs who were resident there up to the 1840s. It was lived in up to the 1890s, but is still well preserved. I wondered if any of my direct ancestors had lived there. There is no shortage of people with the O’Loughlin name in County Clare, and this northern region of the county is where the name O’Loughlin originates from. At the end of the tenth century some of the Irish upper classes started to adopt Viking names such as Lochlainn, and it is thought that some of the County Clare families did so as well. The Vikings were known as na Lochlannaigh in the Irish language. My dad Joe has told me that his grandfather, also Joe O’Loughlin, was born and reared in County Clare, but he does not know which part. It could be that the O’Loughlins are descended from either the Vikings themselves, or from a County Clare family that adopted the name.

Yesterday I came across an excellent Data Visualization by Mike Cisneros on Tableau Public, which illustrates the association between surnames and racial groups. You can enter your own surname (must have appeared at least 200 times in the 2010 US Census), and enter an estimate of the assumption of which race your name belongs to. I entered 99% for O'Loughlin as "white" and was surprised to discover that this was not a correct estimate. According to Cisneros's graphic, only 92.1% of O'Loughlin's are classifies as "white" - I was off by 6.9%. So in the United States there are 7.9% of "O'Loughlins" who are not classified as "white". Cool!" There are only five races listed:

  1. Native American/Alaska Native
  2. Asian/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  3. Black/African-American
  4. Latino/Hispanic
  5. White


You can view the full graphic at Tableau Public, and try out your own surname.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The downside of technology #Fitbit

In my statistics classes I have a topic early in the semester about "Thinking Statistically" and cite many examples of how data are gathered on a daily basis. One of the good stories I use is about a research project by the Dan-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston where 6,000 over-weight women have been given Fitbits to track exercise over a six year period - I try to get students to think how much data there will have been collected by the end of the study. You can read about this in the Irish Times: Does wearable technology deserve clean bill of health?
This is the Charge HR Fitbit that I use.
Image source: Walmart.

Today I read in The Sidney Morning Herald: "Fitbits in schools a step in wrong direction, make kids less active, study finds". While the idea of giving Fitbits to teenagers appeals to me in that exercise is encouraged and tracked, the SMH reports that such trackers in schools "has been linked to poor self-esteem and negative feelings of alienation and inadequacy" and that the devices can actually "demotivate children". The study by the University of Birmingham (which is not referenced) reported "feelings of inadequacy and lower self-esteem among pupils". There is a suggestion that setting "unattainable targets" is a major factor in demotivating students. Unintended consequences? I must confess that I had not thought of this. I would hate to see Fitbits being taken away from students because of this.

In the main I am in favour technology being used and data such as activity being tracked. This could leads to a significant addition to research over long periods of time that could aid in the treatment of illnesses and conditions. Imagine tracking heart rates over a half a lifetime to look for early signs of a heart attack. Assuming that data privacy is respected, these data will make a valuable contribution to science. I am in the "opt-in" camp rather than the "opt-out" - data such as this must be voluntarily collected under the same rules, for example, that clinical trials are conducted.

There is another thing - wearable technology is taking off. While we may not be using a Fitbit, the Smartphone in our pockets can do exactly the same thing. I see watches becoming smarter - the day will come when almost all watches will be smart. What then? The above report suggests that it has been a bad start for wearable technology for secondary school students. With more planning and reflection on what has happened so far, perhaps realistic goals can be set for students so that they don't feel demotivated by not reaching 10,000 steps in a day. We can learn from this "mistake" (my word).

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

New Avatar #DraganEffect #ego

Last year I wrote about experimenting with The Dragan Effect for photography - named after the Polish photographer Andrzej Dragan - the effect uses "dramatic lighting and editing techniques that enhance the tonality and skin texture of the images subject". This is done using Corel PaintShop Pro X7. Recently I have grown a bit of a beard, and wondered if the Dragan Effect could improve the look - here is the result:


The photo was taken with my Windows phone's 20MP camera (the only good thing about this phone). I tried it with both a serious face and with a bit of a smile - I prefer above. I think it does make me look a bit older as it emphasizes wrinkles and the greyness of the beard. This will be my avatar for the next while! 

If you have Corel PaintShop Pro, check out this video which takes you step by step through the process. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Launch of IFS Apprenticeship Programme @NCIRL

Today I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the IFS Apprenticeship programmes in the College - the programmes in FinTech were formally launched by the Minister for Education Richard Bruton. These new programmes are aimed at providing students with both on-the-job training and classroom - it is an exciting opportunity for the new students, and the College. The apprenticeship model in popular in other countries and is now becoming a new model for recruitment here in Ireland. Good luck to the new apprentices!


Richard Bruton is a fine public speaker. He did not use notes today, and spoke as if his entire speech was scripted. I recall seeing him doing this before at a launch of new offices for SmartForce in my previous job during the 1990s. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Can you really be over-qualified? via @IrishTimes

According Carl O'Brien, writing in last Friday's Irish Times, Irish workers are most ‘overqualified’ in Europe. This is based on "research carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) between 2000 and 2011". About 60% of our school leavers progress onto third level education, and this is projected to rise to about 70% over the next decade - one of the highest rates in Europe. Of course not all of these students will leave college/university with a qualification, but most will. 

So - can you be overqualified? Is it OK to have "bar tenders who have university degrees"?

My view is that there is no such thing as being overqualified. There - I said it!

Of course, I work in the third level sector so I guess I would say this. 

My first business card.
Let me tell a quick personal story. When I was getting my first ever business card, I was asked for details such as job title, phone number, etc. This was about 1994. I still had my graduation in 1988 fresh in my mind and I wondered if I would be allowed to add either "Dr" before my name, or "MA, PhD." after my name. My manager at the time said an emphatic "No". He did not want to intimidate anyone with fancy letters (I was one of only two PhDs in the organization at the time). So I accepted the decision despite being bitterly disappointed - I was very proud of my degree (as all graduates should be). Today of course, I do have the "fancy" letters on my business card - but I do work in a College where things like this are accepted and expected. 

Attending College and getting a degree means many things. For those studying subjects such as Medicine, Pharmacy, or Law - it is a career decision made before going to College. A degree is obviously needed for these types of careers. If I ever end up in an operating theatre facing a surgeon's knife - I am not going to ask for someone else to do the job if my surgeon is over-qualified to wield a scalpel. For most other third level students, the three or four years in College may be something else completely. I studied Marine Biology - but never worked as a Marine Biologist. Students learn so much more in College than just what's on the syllabus. I'm sure if we asked all graduates if they regretted attending College - very few would say that they did.

So - the next time a bartender with a degree serves me a pint I will be thinking "Good for you!". Your degree did not make you a better bar tender or a better person than another bartender who does not have a degree. You will both have had different life experiences - neither is better than the other. Be proud of your achievement in gaining a degree, you might never get a chance like it again. You are not over-qualified.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Students Don't Take Notes Anymore?

While taking my usual perusal through the very funny Waterford Whispers News this morning I had a giggle at one of their latest posts: Fucking Loser In Front Of You Actually Taking Notes During Lecture. In this post a student who doesn't take notes thinks others who do are "losers" while scribbling rude drawings and checking out Snapchat and Netflix. Funny - maybe, but real?

When I first became a Lecturer in NCI in 2002, most students took down notes based on what my slides showed on screen. It appeared to me that students took note of my bullet points word-for-word, and I often wondered if they were listening to anything I said. Basically, at the time this was the only way for them to have material from class - no Moodle or Blackboard in those days. For those of us Lecturers who knew a bit of HTML, we then started to put our notes on web pages. While this worked for some students, it is hard to believe that many at that time had no email address or access to the Internet. Moodle changed everything for both students and Lecturers. For students, it was an easy way to get notes and saved a lot of note taking in class, for Lecturers it was an opportunity to provide not just notes, but other resources (such as case studies, web links, quizzes, and exercise files) as well.

Many Lecturers create quite elaborate notes, often based on PowerPoint slides created by textbook authors. I create my own and sometimes use very modified (by me) textbook versions. Perhaps because of  this, or maybe it is part of a wider condition - I too notice that students very rarely take notes in my classes. While my notes are no substitute for a textbook, I know that many students who choose not to buy a textbook rely on my notes (and videos). I am often asked by students if they really need to buy one of the recommended textbooks - my answer always is that there are some copies in the library, but good luck trying to reserve a copy in the days and weeks leading up to the exams.

Taking notes is a great way to really learn - it helps with your writing, understanding, memory, exam revision, and is a useful record of information. The Horry Georgetown Technical College has a really good (and short) presentation on how to take and review notes. If you don't take notes in class, the presentation below will really make you think:


Monday, September 25, 2017

Great day out at Ladies' All-Ireland Footaball Final #Mayo #Dublin #SeriousSupport

First - a confession. I have never ever attended a ladies football game of any kind. I never really thought about it, and certainly did not consciously avoid them. So when Mayo and Dublin lined up for the Ladies' All-Ireland Football Final in Croke Park, it was my first ever ladies match. It was also my first football All-Ireland Final since 1980! A huge crowd of over 46,000 attended - a record! 

We certainly had great fun with both teams of girls playing their hearts out. Dublin had lost the last three finals, so they were in a determined mood. Mayo were very wasteful, missing a lot of easy chances. They did not help themselves by having three players sin-binned - that's equivalent to being down a player for 30 minutes in a 60 minute game. After the third sin-binning, Dublin just exploded out of the blocks and cut loose to win by 12 points (4-11 to 0-11). A well-deserved win.

Mayo fans will just have to suffer for another year!


Friday, September 22, 2017

Employers Giving Lectures - whatever will they think of next?

Katherine Donnelly writes in yesterday's Irish Independent in an article entitled "DCU invites employers in to lecture its students" about an interesting idea to get employers to "to deliver master classes to undergraduates about the realities of the fast-changing workplace". Donnelly goes on to write that this initiative by DCU is "aimed at ensuring that third- and fourth-year students on technology-focused degree programmes are up to date with current thinking and equipped for what lies ahead". Sounds like a good idea?

Leaving aside scheduling issues and payments, this on the surface looks like a great initiative. However - it implies that existing lecturers are not "up to date with current thinking and equipped for what lies ahead", so it is likely to be less popular with lecturers - though none of us would have a problem with someone else taking over a class from time-to-time! I think the biggest problem is getting busy employers to commit - they will have to ensure that someone is available to give the "master classes" at the scheduled time. Not impossible, but a commitment none-the-less. While there are no details in Donnelly's article about whether the "master classes" would be embedded in modules or given as separate lectures - I feel that separate "Guest Lecture" style events outside of class time would be best. This allows for a more informal setting devoid of learning outcomes and QQI standards - Q&A afterwards would also be very useful. No doubt DCU will have thought this through thoroughly and I applaud their innovation.

Preparing "master classes" (or any class for that matter) takes a considerable amount of time, so employers should not underestimate the resources and time required. Were other colleges to follow DCU's lead there could be a huge demand for such classes that might not sit well with employers unless they commit to having dedicated Academic Program Managers (such as Microsoft do).

I hope this works!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Jimmy Magee RIP #DifferentClass #Legend

Sad news this morning that Jimmy Magee has died at the age of 82. Being a huge sports fan I must have listened to Jimmy's voice countless times over the past 50 years or so. One of Ireland's most popular sports commentator has passed on to that great gantry in the sky.

When I started to watch sport back in the 70s I was too sophisticated to watch a game on RTÉ with an Irishman like Jimmy as commentator. Somehow we thought that the commentators on the BBC and ITV were better. We did at times have to watch RTÉ - one match sticks out for me, the English League Cup Final between Manchester City and Newcastle United. City won 2-1 with the winner being an over head kick by Dennis Tueart - Jimmy's commentary was simply "Well, what about that!".

Definitely my fondest commentary was the 1984 Marathon finish at the Los Angeles Olympics with Jimmy rattling off all of Ireland's medal winners in previous Olympics before acclaiming John Treacy's silver medal. Magic stuff - here it is on YouTube:


When somebody like Jimmy who has been part of your life this passes away it almost feels like a death in the family. I never met Jimmy Magee and have no connection to him other than his commentaries. All sports fans will miss him greatly - rest in peace Jimmy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

New Semester! #33

It's been 21 whole weeks since my last class at the end of the 2016/2017 academic year, and it is just coming up to 09:00 on the first day of the new semester for the 2017/2018 academic year. This will be my 33rd semester as a Lecturer in NCI. When I started back in 2002 I was mostly involved with e-Learning programmes, but in the past couple of years it has been mostly Data Analytics. 

Image Source: Business 2 Community.
This semester I will be working on the Higher Diploma in FinTech for the first time - it is only the second year of this course. The module I will be teaching is Business Data Analysis (a statistics module) on Wednesday evenings. It will be a slightly awkward module in that it is a combination of two separate modules normally delivered in two three hour classes - I have four hours for the combined version.

FinTech is also a new field for me. The good thing is that Statistics is still Statistics, but I am embarking on using financial data instead of my usual scientific and demographic data for this module. This is not a comfort zone for me, so I will be learning a lot throughout the semester - I look forward to it!

This semester I am scheduled for four modules with around 200 students spread across each. I am also scheduled to supervise eight MSc students. This will mean a very busy schedule is ahead with lots of Continuous Assessment to grade, also - each MSc student is supposed to get one hour a week face-to-face supervision.

Despite the heavy workload ahead, I am just as hungry and enthusiastic for the new semester as I was for my first way back in 2002. There is nothing I like better than being in the classroom with students hungry for learning. If at the end of the semester my students are more knowledgeable - great! If they are more fulfilled - great! If they think a bit differently about a subject than before - great! If their lives are changed in even a tiny way - great! And if I had even a tiny part in this - fantastic!

National College of Ireland - Changing Lives Through Education.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Visiting all 32 Counties #Fermanagh

Fermanagh County Crest.
Last evening I was in County Fermanagh and it was my first time ever to set foot in this county. It only took me almost 58 years to complete the tour of all 32 counties in Ireland, but now I can say I have been to them all. Any time I have ever been to Donegal or Derry, I skirted around this beautiful county. We were staying the night in Blacklion (only my second time ever in Co Cavan), and during our trip we crossed the border six times. Not many people there looking forward to the re-introduction of border checks if they happen after Brexit. 

We also took the chance to visit Enniskillen, the largest town in Co Fermanagh. it was early evening and the town was quiet. We had a nice walk around the town and I wanted to see the cenotaph where a bomb killed 11 people at a Remembrance Day ceremony almost 30 years ago. After the bomb the locals added a plaque with the names of the 11 dead to the cenotaph, and also added some peace doves around the top of the monument. It's horrible to think of what happened that day, especially the death of young Marie Wilson whose father, Gordon, went on to be a peace campaigner and a senator. On other trips around Northern Ireland nearly ever town and village has a war memorial. Sadly, this is missing in the Republic of Ireland - our towns and villages suffered loss just as much as the North, but we chose not to set up memorials to the dead of the two World Wars - a pity.

At the Cenotaph, Enniskillen.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Orientation @NCIRL


Today I had the pleasure of welcoming new students studying the BSc in Technology Management to the National College of Ireland. It is 39 years ago that I attended College for the first time. It is a very nervous day for everybody, and the new students get so much information on their first day that it must be difficult to remember everything - I told the new students that I forgot or ignored all advice given to me on my first day! 

Many of today's new students will be in my classes and will be with us in the College for the next four years. I really hope that College is everything they expected it to be - it is the next step on life's journey with a lot of unknowns ahead.

Welcome to NCI!


Thursday, September 07, 2017

13,000,000+ @YouTube Views #LuckyThirteen

Each time the number of views on my YouTube Channel passes a million milestone mark I boast write about it here. Since I started this channel on 7th April 2006, it has accumulated 13,005,837 views as of today. In overall YouTube terms this is a very modest number of views, but I continue to be fascinated and grateful that so many people find the videos useful. Older videos are still the top attraction, though my more recent Statistics by hand videos are gaining in popularity. The views continue to be very seasonal - currently the number of daily views is climbing again after a fall off during the summer. Lots of other content creators are doing this now, so there is much more competition for views. With a bit of luck the number of views will pass 14,000,000 early in 2018.

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Has anyone from North Korea ever viewed my YouTube videos? #BigInNorthKorea

North Korea is in the news again for all the wrong reasons - I feel a creeping sense of dread and disaster as Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump face off in a pissing contest. In the midst of all this I decided to revisit YouTube Analytics for North Korea on my channel. Between 21st September 2014 and 4th May 2015, there have been four views lasting just over 14 minutes. No more views before or since these dates. The videos were about creating Gantt, Polar, and a Progress Gantt charts. I suspected that YouTube must be blocked in North Korea, but according to Wikipedia it has been only fully blocked since April 2016, and "anyone who tries to access it, even with authorization, will be subject to punishment". I'd hate to think that anyone in North Korea would end up in jail for watching one of my videos!

Click to enlarge.


Monday, September 04, 2017

How To.. Create and Manage a Drop Down Menu in Excel @YouTube

Recently, a colleague asked me if I know how to create drop down lists in Excel. I didn't, so I looked it up and found that it was relatively easy to do. Then I thought a video for others might be helpful - it's just my 7th video uploaded this year. 



I note that there are several versions showing how this task is done on YouTube - lots of people are doing this now. Each of my 26,547 subscribers will have received an email notifying them that a new video has been uploaded - so at least that's a start in getting it publicised. It takes a long time for a video to get a significant number of views - only one of my videos published in the last 12 months has exceeded 10,000 views, it's the oldies that are still attracting views. Total views for all videos on my channel are currently between 18,000 - 20,000 daily.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dr Frank Jeal RIP

Dr Frank Jeal.
Image source: www.tcd.ie.
There are few University Lecturers that inspired me as much as the late Dr Frank Jeal from the Zoology Department in Trinity College who sadly died today. He was a very accessible lecturer and I first met him in 2nd year in Trinity when he lectured in Zoology - he made dinosaurs hugely interesting long before the likes of Jurassic Park. He was a significant part of my decision to specialise in Zoology in 3rd and 4th year, he helped and encouraged me all the way to a PhD. I am certain I would not be who I am without his advice, support, friendship, and vast knowledge. He also encouraged me to become the Chairman of the Zoological Society in 1981 - he was always a great supporter of Zoo Soc!

Frank was of course also well-known in the pubs and bars in central Dublin - he was a legend amongst trad musicians in the pub scene. I last met him in O'Neills of Pearse Street just a couple of years ago, and had the pleasure of having a pint with him. While I was both an undergraduate and postgraduate at Trinity in the 1980s I spent many a great evening (far too many for a student!) in his company singing and hearing him play the accordion. Field trips to Portaferry and to Clare were legendary - many students went for the craic as much as for learning.

Frank knew many songs, many of them such as "Glorious Ale" and "The Old Dun Cow", were very funny and appropriate in a pub environment. I found one video on-line of him in full flow with his accordion in O'Donoghues pub in 2013 posted by Niall MacDonagh. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Surrounded by Mayo and Kerry people in Croke Park #GAA

So this year's All-Ireland football final will be a repeat of last year: Dublin vs Mayo. Dublin looked awesome today as they swept aside a disappointing Tyrone. I attended the Mayo vs Kerry match yesterday, Mayo were brilliant. Have they enough to beat the Dubs? I think not.

Gaelic football honours belong to just a few counties now - Dublin, Kerry, and Mayo are so dominant that most of the other 29 counties can forget about getting their hands on the Sam Maguire cup. The GAA is for everyone - when I'm stopped in Croke Park wearing my Wicklow jersey I tell people to look at their tickets - it says "All-Ireland"!

The Connaught Telegraph has a series of fan photos on their Facebook page, and today there I am in my Wicklow jersey (bottom left) - everywhere you see happy Mayo and Kerry people standing up and cheering their team - I'm sitting down! I'm surrounded by GAA fans who know that every year they will have something to cheer in the middle and late summer - most counties don't have this.

One thing is for sure - no team/county keeps on going forever. This weekend we say two greats walking off Croke Park for possibly the last time: Kieran Donaghy of Kerry, and Seán Cavanagh of Tyrone - thank you both for many fabulous days in Croker. Time for the young lads to come through!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

PowerPoint Tips, Tricks, and Hacks from 29 Experts via @elearningart

I was pleased to be invited to contribute to a new eLearning resource created by Bryan Jones in California. eLearning Art is a web site that provides resources for the eLearning industry claiming to have the "largest library of eLearning assets on the web". It is a great resource for anyone interested in creating eLearning content.

One section shows 29 PowerPoint tips from "experts" - my tip is #17.

17. Use the notes panel for detailed printed notes

I’m a College Lecturer and use PowerPoint for Lecture notes. 
Many students want detailed lecture notes, but get bored quickly reading mountains of text on a slide.
So I use the “Notes Pages” panel for detail while keeping the slides simple – I urge students to read the notes which may contain more information than given in a lecture. 
If printing out the slides, it is essential to use “Notes Pages” print layout option.
PowerPoint Presentation Tip from Eugene O'Loughlin: Use the notes panel for detailed printed notes

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Kerry 2-14, Mayo 2-14 #GAA #Wow #ILoveFootball

Ready for the match.
Sometimes football can take your breath away - today in front of 66,195 GAA fans, Mayo and Kerry served up a brilliant exciting match in the rain which ended in a draw. It was 9/1 for a draw on Paddy Power before the match, but I didn't fancy it (instead I went for a Mayo/Tyrone semi-final double #fail). A cold wet day did not reduce the excitement, though it did produce lots of turnovers and slipping. Four goals superbly taken were the highlights, with Andy Moran of Mayo putting in a man of the match performance. What a pity Aidan O'Shea of Mayo was delegated to man mark Kieran Donaghy - for me, this did not work and resulted in O'Shea being far less influential than usual.

The replay is next Saturday and I think Roma and I will go along again - if it is half as exciting as this match it will be worth going to. We are regular visitors to Croke Park and both love the day out. I even wore some Mayo colours for the match, though I still had my Wicklow jersey on. Before the game we supported Our Lady's Children's Hospital and got an opportunity to take a photo of Roma with the Sam Maguire cup - will the Mayo lads get their hands on this for the first time in 66 years before the season ends?

What Mayo people want the most!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Wells House and Gardens #Gem #Wexford

Having been born and raised in the Southeast of Ireland, and coming here for holidays almost every year, I thought I had seen all tourist attractions on Co Wexford. This week I went to Wells House and Gardens near Ballyedmond and I highly recommend it for a visit - until recently I never knew it existed. It has been open to the public since 2012 and the owners are gradually opening up more of the house every year. I took the tour of the house and found it a fascinating insight as to how families lived in the 19th century (rich families that is!). The grounds are small, but there is a delightful short walk through a forest which features carvings of animals from a fallen redwood tree. There were plenty of visitors so it is proving a popular attraction - I'll certainly be back.

While looking around the house grounds and grandeur, I couldn't help thinking about the opulence of the place with wood panels carved from Italian oak, and fine furniture from England. The gardens and driveway are beautiful - but this would have all been done on the back of local labour. Were they paid adequately? What were their working conditions like? Was it enough to survive? Our tour guide told us that the owners were popular locally and that the house was not burned down during various rebellions because of this. The owners of the house (Doynes) will always be remembered - their portraits hang in the main hall. The people who built and maintained the house are long gone and are unknown - I'd love to know more about them.

Mogue's Walk.
 yyy
My new bear friend.

Well's House and Garden.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Package Wasting by @Amazon

Image source: Amazon.
Today I had a recent purchase of a Frostfire Universal Soft Car Roof Bars delivered - they look great and I can't wait to use them. They are a simple idea to let occasional users of roof bars carry stuff on the car roof - I intend to use for a canoe. The are excellent value at £19.99, and can be easily taken off and stored in the car. Postage was £7.06 (about €7.75) - again excellent value.

But...

...what wastage by Amazon! The Frostfire measures 60 cm long and 12 cm wide, but was delivered in a giant box. You can see below that most of the box was filled with air-filled plastic bubble wrap - this was almost 7 metres long! While I had great fun bursting all the bubbles, and then putting the lot into the recycle bins, I wondered why on earth a box this size was used? Surely £7.06 could not have covered the cost of this (and delivery by DHL)? The Frostfire is not in the least fragile, so does not need any protection. Perhaps this was the only box available and had to be used? While I am more than happy with the product, I am not happy to be part responsible for such waste. Amazon need to be better at this.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Remembering the 1950s

Yesterday my cousin Susan, who is from Canada and was visiting Ireland for the first time, and I went on a short tour of north central Dublin to visit where her Mum was born, lived, and left in 1958 to emigrate to Canada. Susan's late mother Catherine Byrne is my Mum's sister - she was known as "Patsy" while she lived in Ireland. I don't recall ever meeting her, she died in 1979. We posed for photos out the last house in Ireland where the Byrne's lived. Susan told me that her Mum worked in the GPO at the stamp counter - so we re-traced her (likely) steps to work from Temple Cottages, through Dominick Street, Parnell Street, Moore Street, Henry Street, and O'Connell Street. An interesting experience - especially for Susan. 

Ireland is a completely different place now compared to 1958 - most of the buildings Patsy would have walked past on the way to work will have been demolished and replaced. While Temple Cottages remains the same, it is unlikely Patsy would recognise much of Dublin if she were here now. 

Outside 22 Temple Cottages in Dublin.
Susan inside the GPO.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Grave of Great-Great Grandparents

James & Catherine McCann's
daughter Anne.
Recently, when writing about the spreading of my cousin Ryan Byrne's ashes on the graves of his great-great-grandparents Richard and Julia Cullen in Gorey, Co Wexford - I noted that this cemetery has an on-line list (see http://www.stmichaelsgorey.ie/listofgraves.html). At the cemetery itself it has a map of these graves so I decided to check if my McCann great-great grandparents' graves could be found. It turns out that the grave is very close to my Cullen Great-great grandparents. There are three people in the grave, in addition to James and Catherine (née Walsh), the grave contains their son William. Incidentally - the late actor Donal McCann is related to this family (and me).

I'd love to know what James and Catherine McCann looked like - I do have a photo of their daughter Anne (my Mum remembers her granny very well). They lived in Kilnahue outside Gorey - the name "Killanean", which is on their headstone, is regarded as a typo by the map details below.

Captured from the cemetery list.



Erected 
in loving memory of 
William eldest son of 
James & Catherine McCann 
of Killanean 
who departed this life 2nd June 
1902 aged 32 years 
The above Catherine McCann 
died 2nd May 1908 aged 64 years 
James McCann husband of
Catherine McCann
died 26th January 1927

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

"Who gives a flying f@@@ about your holidays?"

This blog attracts very few comments - most that are made are spam, but one today one caught my eye. "Anonymous" wrote ""Who gives a flying f@@@ about your holidays?" as a comment on my Day of Rain post. Fair point - any reader of this blog is entitled to their opinion. A few thoughts on this:

What is a Blog?
This is my personal web page. The word "blog" is short for "web log" which was originally set up as a type of on-line diary/log. As I write this post I have noted that the "Day of Rain" post has been accessed 39 times (according to Blogger Stats) - this number is typical of most of my posts. Very few people read this blog, but I do not write for others - it is a personal diary. I don't actually care if anyone reads it, even less about their opinion. Of course I am conscious that some family, friends, and work colleagues do read some of my posts, so I am aware that I have a small audience. I publish personal comments and experiences, and while at work I write a lot about educational matters.

Who cares about anything?
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and many other social media sites are full of "look at me" posts. Blogger is just another one of many ways to post about any kind of activity. I am no different than anyone else in doing this - I guess "Anonymous" objects to a lot of people and their personal posts.

Freedom of Speech/Writing
Can anyone write what they like in a personal blog?  Well I do, and will not be put off by anonymous comments. As long as it does not offend or discriminate - I'll keep doing so. Writing about and posting photos of experiences while on holiday is an innocent activity and should not offend anyone.

Self Censorship
Why read something you don't give a "flying f@@@" about? Surely there is a lot of other web pages that you could spend your time more productively? If you don't want to read my posts, do not type "www.eugeneoloughlin.com" into your browser. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wicklow Man Lifts Sam Maguire Cup #GAA


Wicklow man Seán Doherty, 1974.
Image source: Irish Independent.
On the way to Croke Park yesterday with Roma to see the Mayo vs Roscommon All-Ireland Football Quarter-Final we stopped for a photo opportunity with fund raisers for Crumlin Children's Hospital who had the Sam Maguire Cup on display. For a few bob they were happy to allow people have their photo taken with the cup, and Roma and I couldn't resist. Naturally as a Wicklow man I am wearing my Wicklow jersey, coincidentally the same colours as Roscommon on the day so I didn't look too much out of place. Roma of course is dressed in her Mayo county colours. Mayo have won this cup on three occasions (1936, 1950, and 1951), and have been beaten finalists 12 times. Wicklow on the other hand have never played in an All-Ireland final, nor have ever come close to it. So, Mayo are a bit more used to it than Wicklow!

However, I am not the first Wicklow man to get his hands on the Sam Maguire Cup - the great Seán Doherty from Greystones captained Dublin to win in 1974!


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Last Day on Continent

Today I had to travel from Heidelberg in Germany to Maidstone in the UK via the Channel Tunnel. A day was lots of time to do this. I decided that first I would visit the Castle near the hotel, but it was raining heavily - this slowed me down. The Castle is fantastic, but hard work in the rain. I saw the largest wine barrel ever, and some fantastic ruins - a pity that the castle was destroyed by fire and lightening. The views from the Castle over Heidelberg, especially of the old bridge,  are majestic. One good thing was that the rain finally stopped as I was about to leave Heidelberg.

My first stop was to visit Schengen in Luxembourg - my first time ever in this country. Schengen is famous for the Agreement that allows free movement across borders in Europe. There is a wonderful display of national flames beside the Mosel river - sadly the Irish tricolour is not among them, largely because the Union Jack isn't there either. Schengen also marks the location where the borders of Germany, France, and Luxembourg come together.

Just for the he'll of it I decided to travel through the Channel Tunnel to get from France to the UK - so quick! I was struck by how few bikes (4) were on the train, not many cars either. It was mostly empty.

Some photos from today:

Heidelberg Castle in the rain...



Heidelberg...



The largest wine barrel in the world...



The village of Schengen in Luxembourg...



The bike is on Luxembourg, straight ahead is Germany, while France is to the right...



An almost empty Le Shuttle...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Road to Heidelberg

It's approaching the end of this European holiday and it is time to head home. Roma and I had breakfast in the market in Innsbruck before we parted - her on a bus to Munich (to fly home), me - I was off to Heidelberg in Germany (440 kms). It was tough parting as we had just the best 12 days together. 

I first went to the local Harley-Davidson Store in Innsbruck to get a souvenir t-shirt (which I managed to do despite their dreadfully small selection). Then it was turn around and head west towards the town of Motz which would be my signal to turn north. After a while I noticed that there was no signs for Motz yet, but I kept going because navigating the Tyrolean valleys is easy - or so I thought. Just when I begun to think I had made a wrong turn, I noticed a sign that I did not want to see: "Italia". I had somehow managed to ride directly south rather that west. I also had to pay €9 for the privilege of using this road, and €9 back. In all I lost about 1.5 hours and a lot of pride! Italy was the sixth of 8 countries I will travel through on this trip. Soon after crossing into Germany the rain came and stayed for the rest of the day. My rain gear is good, and just my gloves were wet.

In addition to the rain, roadworks and awesome traffic jams made the day a lot longer. At one stage I was stopped so long that I got off the bike to take photos of the traffic ahead and behind (see below).

I am staying at the Hotel am Schloss, a basic but comfortable hotel. The view from my window is the incredible ruins of Heidelberg Castle, which I plan to go up and see in the morning. I was in Heidelberg before on business (with SmartForce), but remember very little. Tomorrow it is on to Calais through Luxembourg and Belgium - two countries I have never been to.

Traffic jam forwards...


Traffic jam backwards...



The wonderful ruins of Heidelberg Castle in the evening...


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Innsbruck

Yesterday we rolled into Innsbruck - a pretty city between huge mountains lining a valley. For the last leg of our holidays we are staying in a self catering apartment in the centre of the Old Town. Yesterday we walked about to check the city centre - Innsbruck is a lovely place with everything very close in a small city centre. Today we went up to the top of a local ski slope to get a better view of the Alps and Innsbruck. Smashing. We used the Funicular and ski lifts to get to 1,905 metres above sea level. We we came back down we went on the Sight Seeing tour, first big stop was to Schoss-Ambras which contains the world's oldest museum. Later we went to the Panoramaunde Bergisel Ski jump site - awesome. 

Some photos from yesterday and today:

Bridge over the River Inn...



In the City Tower with Roma standing on glass at the top of 133 step staircase...



View from the top of the city tower....



Only mad feckers jump this thing in the snow...



At the Schloss Ambras...



On top of the of the mountain at Seegrube...

Friday, July 21, 2017

Zell am See

Just for the hell of it we decided to take the bike out for a spin to Zell am See - about an hour from our hotel. It is a pleasant ride through the mountains, but as we got closer we noticed that many others had the same idea as us as the road was very busy. The town of Zell am See was packed with tourists, and as we were in our biker gear we found it very hot. We did not stay long and instead had lunch in a biker friendly cafe near Mittersall. On the way back to Kitzbühel I took a wrong turn, but overall it was a nice ride - Zell am See was not a great experience.

In the evening we were joined by Paul Radic from Enniskerry - he's a BMW rider, but otherwise OK. We had a great dinner together and shared our summer biking stories.

Some photos from today...


The bike:



A fine Alpine view:



With Roma in Zell am See:


What happens to old bikes when they die: