Tuesday, May 14, 2024

My first 2,000,000 viewed video

Recently, my video How To... Plot Multiple Data Sets on the Same Chart in Excel 2010 passed the 2,000,000 views mark, a first for me. This video is 12 years old - I created and published it on 11th April 2012. I never expected this to be a "hit". I actually needed to plot multiple data sets on the same chart and could not find useful videos on YouTube at the time - so I decided to make my own once I'd figured it out.

In addition to 2,009,832 views (todays figure), there are some other interesting data provided by YouTube about this video:

  • The country with the most views is the USA (33%)
  • Ireland accounts for just 4,836 (0.2%) of views
  • London is the city with most views
  • The estimated overall viewing time is 82,815 hours, which is equivalent to 3,450 days or nearly 10 years
  • 40% of views come from suggestions appearing alongside or after other videos
  • The video has revenue of nearly €10,000 since June 2014 when I switched on revenue sharing (I am taxed on this revenue)
  • 77% of revenue comes from skippable ads
  • The video is 7 minutes and 20 seconds long - the average view duration is 2 minutes and 28 seconds (34%)
  • Likes are at 91%, Dislikes are at 9%
As always, I am both flattered and grateful that so many people are still watching this video and finding it useful.

Here it is:



Thursday, April 25, 2024

GAA Championships: Experience the Unforgettable

One of my fondest memories as a young child was being brought to Croke Park for an All-Ireland final in 1964 by my grandfather PJ O'Loughlin. As his eldest grandson, many of my cousins have often asked me about him (he died in 1965) - but I have very few memories of him now. I have often told the story of my Croke Park experience with him of not remembering the journey to Dublin from Carnew, who was playing, whether it was hurling or football, who won, or what the score was. But I did remember him buying me an ice-cream after the match. Indeed this story was published in the Personal Histories section of the History Ireland website: "My Grandfather, Croke Park, Ice Cream, and Gay Byrne".

The GAA's new ad "Experience the Unforgettable" captures this feeling very well and brought back memories of my grandfather and my own unforgettable experience. It seems that I am not the only one who has shared experiences like this. Enjoy the ad!

 
Source: Video above is a link from YouTube.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Jury Service

A few weeks ago I was called for jury service at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Parkgate Street. It was the fifth time I had ever been called, but this was one I could not get out of. The first time I was a student and just did not show up. The second time I was still a student and claimed exemption. The third time I met an acquaintance from Carnew on the doors of the courts, he was a solicitor and happened to be in court that day - he got me off. The fourth time was while I was a lecturer and was for during term time - so I was again exempt. 


Image source: The Journal.

I was told to be available for two weeks. This turned out to be one week, which was shorter again as Good Friday fell on that week. I estimated that there was over 130 people called to the jury waiting area in the courts on the first day. We waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually names were called for one jury and after about two hours those that were not called out were told to go home. The same happened on the second and third days. On the fourth day after about half an hour we were told there would be no trials and that we were free to go. So I was not called - phew!

The only thing that made me think that the week was not a complete waste of time was the fact that I could have been fined for not showing up. With only three juries being selected during the week - most of us had to sit and wait until allowed to go. While I was able to leave quickly at the end, almost everyone else that was there queued up to get letters to give to employers to cover their absence from work (and get paid). I'm sure it was on everyone's mind that an awful lot of work days were lost for practically nothing.

The good news for me is that there won't be a sixth time, as I will be 65 later in the year and entitled to exemption. I'm quite happy (and selfish) to leave this shitty job to someone else. I hated being in the Courts building, I hated having my photo deliberately taken by a press photographer outside the main entrance, and I hated the waste of time. 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Branding irons

I have completed my first oak table of the year. A lot of elbow grease, sanding, levelling, and polishing went into this. I'm quite please with this, it is my first produced with almost perfect levelling. A new feature is some branding - literally with branding irons! My Dad gave me his O-L iron sheep marker - it was almost certainly made in Rickerby's Forge in Croneyhorn outside Carnew, Co Wicklow, for my grandfather PJ O'Loughlin. Most likely this was during the 1930s or 1940s. His farm was in Tomacork, also outside Carnew. The iron would have been dipped in paint so that the O-L mark would be visible to identify O'Loughlin sheep after they would have be sheared. It was most unlikely to have been used as a hot branding iron. A smaller and more modern branding iron was given to me by my daughters last Christmas. It has my initials at the bottom and crossed axes at the top!

I put both of them into the fire and marked the bottom of the table - I think it is kinda cool, and I have decided that this is my logo from now on.



The table is quite small, about 50cms in diameter. The wood is from Ballingate and was taken from a tree felled by my bother Joe. This is one of a set of four taken from the same section of the tree and will soon be on its way to a new owner in Belfast who has just bought her first house. 

Monday, March 04, 2024

Short Trip to Madrid

Last week Roma and I travelled to Madrid in Spain for a few days. Neither of us had ever been to this city before, even though we have been to Spain many times. We spent four nights, which was just about right, close to the city centre. Lots of walking, art, wine, and tapas just about sums up our trip.

The Royal Palace was our first stop. It is one of the biggest in Europe and only a fraction of it is on view to the public. We don't have anything like this in Ireland. While it is a magnificent building, it shows off the riches of the Spanish Royalty. It is richly decorated and must have cost millions to build. No doubt there were many people at the time that thought the money could have been used to build something else, like hospitals or schools. Nevertheless it is worth a visit - at this this time of year the queue to get in was very short.

The Royal Palace.

We went to The Prado museum where there are loads of paintings by famous people such as Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, and Goya. The painting we most wanted to see was The Third of May 1808 by Goya, but there were lots of other brilliant pieces of work to be seen. One thing about touring the Prado is that the audio guide is very user unfriendly.

We also went to the Queen Sofia Museum of modern art. Here the most famous painting is Guernica by Picasso.  I had no idea it was so big, and thanks to the (better than Prado) audio guide I got a great explanation of what the painting was about and how it was put together. I just stood and stared in awe at magnificence. 

Guernica by Picasso.

An interesting museum for me was Legends of Football. It was mostly about Spanish and world football. There's a virtual tour of the major football grounds in the world, but the best parts were seeing jerseys worn by famous football stars. Maradona's jersey from the 1986 World Cup final was there, as were jerseys worn by George Best, Cristiano Ronaldo, Johann Cruyff, and our own Ray Houghton (from the 1-1 draw with The Netherlands in the 1990 World Cup). I had a great chat with the museum manager who gave me a personal tour around part of the museum. I don't think I have ever met anyone as passionate about football as him!

I paid €16 for this. Eejit!

But the best thing about Madrid is the food and wine. We had done a Walking Tour on our first evening and been to fantastic tapas bars like La Casa del Abuelo, which we went back to on our last night. Tapas is an exciting and delicious way to see a city - I feel as though I ate and drank my way around the narrow streets of central Madrid. I even developed a taste for vermouth in the Antón Martín Market (which was just across the road from our hotel)!

Enjoying tapas at the wonderful La Casa del Abuelo.

Madrid is definitely a city worth visiting. Everyone was so friendly and it is a very clean city centre. The metro is fantastic and easy to use, and there is so little traffic on the streets. Madrid does not have an Eiffel Tour, Colosseum, or Statue of Liberty, but it does have loads of character and culture to satisfy any visitor.

PS
I'm mindful that this is my first post in over two months. Since I started this blog I have not let this happen before. January and February have been quiet months this year for me, and I have not had much to blog about. 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Eight countries in one year

One plan for after my retirement in 2020 was to travel the world and experience new places and peoples before I kick the bucket. Covid quickly put a stop to my plans, but 2023 was finally the year that Roma and I got to believe in our dreams. This year we visited eight different countries - some for the first time: UK, France, Spain, Dubai, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and South Africa.

My Google Timeline.

First up in January was a trip to London with our daughters Claire, Kate, and Vicki. It's not often that the five of us manage to get together at the same time, so this was quality family time. London is a fantastic city to visit, though I did find it very crowded and a bit on the expensive side.

London.

A big trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand (with a stop off in Dubai) followed in February and March. This was the furthest from Ireland that I had ever been, and by far the most different experience I ever had. We visited Hanoi, Hoi An, Saigon, and Bangkok, and also enjoyed trips by boat through swamps and the Mekong Delta. Vietnam is a fabulous country to visit with lots to see and do.

Two Paddy's in a Vietnamese field.

After we left Vietnam we spent a few days in Siem Reap in Cambodia. A much different pace to life here and we certainly had a very relaxed time. Angkor Wat is an unmissable sight to see and we certainly had our fill of temples and ruined buildings.

Going for a ride in Siem Reap.

After Cambodia our plan was to fly home via Bangkok. But since neither of us had ever been to Thailand, we decided to stay for a couple of nights. Bangkok was a very different city to Saigon, and especially to Hanoi. While distinctly Buddhist in nature, it had a European/American feel to it with tall buildings and streets full of cars.

Bangkok.

In June we took the motorbike to Spain and France. We had the unique experience of watching our daughter Kate's marriage to Brenno on my phone in the middle of the Bay of Biscay on the ferry from Rosslare to Bilbao. We planned on a four stop holiday starting in the Rioja region at the city of Logrono. This was our fourth holiday on a motorcycle together, but the first with rain. Previously we had travelled to Germany/Austria, Route 66 in the USA, and Netherlands/Luxembourg/France, and not had a drop of rain fall on us. While we had good rain gear, it still was not too pleasant riding in the rain.

Logrono, Spain.

After plenty of nice wine in Logrono, we headed over the Pyrenees to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France. I have crossed these mountains on a bike before, though on this trip it was not as spectacular as  through Andorra a few years ago. Unfortunately Roma had to leave for a few days to attend a family funeral back in Ireland, so I finished up here on my own.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France.

I moved on to Bayonne on the French coast and stayed for two nights on a river boat near the city centre. I got to ride down to Biarritz and also to see the Sare Grotto and Caves. Bayonne is a lovely city with a lot of water about. While I enjoyed myself, I did miss Roma.

Pont St-Esprit, Bayonne.

Our fourth and final stop was in San Sebastian back in Spain. Roma rejoined me here and we set about to explore this beautiful city. A highlight for us was a food tour around the Old City. We loved the tapas bars in Spain as it was a great way to try different foods. When we left San Sebastian to get to the ferry back to Ireland, we had some time in Bilbao and saw the incredible Guggenheim Museum.

Food tour in San Sebastian.

I though that was it for the year. I had spent most of the summer in Wexford and knew that Roma was planning her ninth trip to volunteer with Mellon Educate in South Africa. She thought it would be her last time, so we decided that I would join her (after all the building work was done!) So I headed off to Cape Town crossing the Equator for the first time ever on the way. We packed in lots during our week's stay with the highlights being Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, Franschhoek, a Township Experience, and Robben Island. 

So that's it for this year - we are so lucky to be able to visit eight countries in one year. We are already looking to see where too next while we are still able for long trips. We are considering Japan for our big trip of the year, and I'd also like to get in another bike ride in Europe - probably Italy. We had a trip booked to Iceland a few years ago, but had to cancel - I'd like to check out some volcanos and perhaps ride around the island!

Thursday, December 07, 2023

South Africa Part VIII

I visited the Imizamo Yethu (IY) Township near Cape Town with Roma while I was in South Africa, it was the first time I had ever been to see anything like this. We had a tour guide to provide the township experience. We walked about for about an hour and saw plenty to ensure massive white guilt on my part. The cramped conditions where people live in mostly corrugated iron sheds are hard to take in. Yet people exist and get on with their lives. I spent all my cash on over-priced crafts in one shop - I was not going to bargain here. I did not take any photographs while in the township - it just didn't seem a right or cool thing to do.

We were shown actual proper houses built by the Niall Mellon Township Trust over 10 years ago - a huge contrast to the sheds around them. In 2014, Roma and my daughter Kate worked with the Trust helping to rebuild the Orangekloof Primary School, which was close to where we were. Huge admiration for the Mellon Trust and all it does. 



Tuesday, December 05, 2023

South Africa Part VII

On my last full day in Cape Town, Roma took me to see Robben Island, which housed a jail for political prisoners during the Apartheid era that so shamed white South African rulers. The trip to and from the island, plus a tour takes about three hours. We were met by a bus which took us on a short tour around the island. Our tour guide was very informative, but we were not allowed to leave the bus except at a designated shop. I would have like to have seen the Irish cemetery and Robert Sobukwe's house. 

My Mandela pose.

At the end of the bus tour we were met by Sipho Msomi, a former political prisoner in the 1980s on Robben Island, who brought us on a tour of the facilities. He first described the torture and cruelty of the guards, before describing the miserable daily life they all led. He of course showed us the cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner. His cell is about 2m by 2m - my garden shed at home is bigger than this. He slept on a mat on the floor, and had to slop out with a bucket. Despite 27 years in prison, his will was never broken. He was not the only one who suffered here, at one stage Sipho told us that there were over 1,000 prisoners here at one time. 

I wonder will attractions like this still exist in years to come. Today as I write this, it is the 10th anniversary of Mandela's death. There are now just 20 former prisoners working as guides on the island, soon there will be no more. Long after everyone who knew Mandela is gone, his legacy will survive, and the bitter memories of Apartheid will fade.

Roma at Nelson Mandela's cell door.

Cape town viewed from Robben Island.

Monday, December 04, 2023

South Africa Part VI

Before we left Franschhoek, we decided to have a go at being wine makers for a day at the Café du Vin on Huguenot Street. It was two hours of great fun and worth having a go. Our job was to make a blend for red wine using Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. We had three attempts to create a wine to our personal taste. I started out with 70% Shiraz and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was nice. I then tried for my second effort to make a small change to percentages - this time I tried 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. I could not tell the difference between it and my first effort. For a final blend, I decided to do the complete reverse of my first blend and made a 30% Shiraz and 70% Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought this was the best I had done - my last task was to make up a bottle of my chosen blend. We got to cork our own bottles and create labels for them.

Our sommelier was Ricardo who definitely knew his stuff. He was great fun too and added to the enjoyment of what we were doing. 

Our own wine!

I knew I would put Chemistry classes to use some day1

A professional Chemist at work.

Before we left Franschhoek we paid a quick visit to the Huguenot Museum to learn about the French Protestants who escaped religious persecution in France to set up vineyards here. A great way to round off a couple of days on Franschhoek.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

South Africa Part V

Our first day in Franschhoek was all about wine - we were staying for a couple of days here which is in the Stellanbosch wine growing region in South Africa. They have a really cool wine trail which is part tram/part bus. We set off at 11:00 in the morning to taste some wine! Our first stop was at Leopard’s Leap Winery - a very cool and modern building caters for wine tasters. They gave us six wines to taste (small portions of course!) which were all delicious. We got the whole story on each wine from our excellent sommelier, but I quickly forgot everything. Too much information about smell and tastes was very confusing. I still can’t smell anything since getting Covid last year, so that part of the tasting was no good to me. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant way to start the tour and get going. I felt that I would be drunk by mid-afternoon. 

Leopard’s Leap.

Our second stop was at Rickety Ridge Winery where there was a more modest three glasses of wine to taste. I was only interested in red wine, but I did get to taste a nice Semillion here, again we had an excellent sommelier to give us all the information about each wine. We did some wine-influenced Christmas shopping too. It was also interesting here that the tram line was connected by tractor to the winery. I got a couple of photo ops with Massey-Ferguson and Ford tractors.

You can take a man out of a farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the man.

Enjoying the tractors.

I often wondered what it would be like to up-sticks from Ireland and buy a vineyard somewhere else in the world. It’s not a dream of mine, but when you are in verdant vineyards - there’s a part of me that would like to make wine, and of course drink it!

A would-be wine maker?

Our third stop was at Grande Provence Winery here we had lunch - with a glass of wine of course. At this stage I had already tasted 9 wines, I’m guessing that the portions added up to at least three or four glasses of wine. However, the tour was already stretched out over a few hours and I was not yet too tipsy! We didn’t go for tasting in Grande Provence and moved on to our fourth and last stop at Franschhoek Cellar. This was by far the least interesting of the stops. We had three wines to taste with accompanying chocolate. Our sommelier was not interested and the chocolate was nearly melted. Suddenly it was five o’clock and time for the last tram back to base. We had been on the wine tour for nearly six hours, but it did not feel like a pub-crawl.

Chocolate and wine.

Overall, the experience is definitely worth it. If you are in to wine, as I am, this is a must see/do. The town of Franschhoek is lovely, and the wineries are brilliant. Most staff were very informative and enhanced the experience.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

South Africa Part IV

This post is dedicated to Nelson Mandela, admired all over the world, and revered here in South Africa even though the 10th anniversary of his death is coming up next Tuesday. 

Today we travelled from the Aquila Safari Park to Franschoek to spend a couple of day in South Africa’s wine region. On the way we stopped at Drakenstein Correctional Centre, which was formerly known as Victor Verster Prison. It was here on the 11th of February 1990, that Nelson Mandela finally walked free from prison after 27 years. I remember this day very well and being absorbed by the news that he was at last free.

Outside the prison there is a statue of Mandela with his right fist raised - there was only one thing for Roma and I to do, but pose in front of the statue with our right fists raised too.

Amandla!



Friday, December 01, 2023

South Africa Part III

The next part of our trip to South Africa was a visit to the Aquila Safari Park about two hours out of Cape Town, where we would stay the night as well. We were far removed from everything and Aquila is a large safari park.  

At the Aquila Safari Park.

Our ride out into the park started at about 16:00. We were warned that due to flooding that the dirt tracks were in bad condition - they were not wrong! It was a very bumpy ride despite our drivers best efforts. Soon we saw hippos and zebras. The hippos were mostly under water, and the zebras turned their arses to us - not much to see there. A real treat was seeing four elephants up close walking past us. These gentle giants are amazing and it was good to see them walking in a far bigger space than a zoo. Soon after we came upon a small pride of lions who have their own large enclosure. They were sleeping, but we could get right up next to them.

Langer!

Do not disturb!

White rhinos were up next and we could get very close again to watch them munching on saw dust. 

Super rhinos!

We were treated to a brilliant dancing troupe in the middle of the park - very energetic. This was a pit stop in the middle of the tour where we were also provided with sparkling wine and biltong - we were being well looked after. 

Dancing and singing.

After refreshments, we continued our quest to see more animals in the (almost) wild. Ostriches came up close to our bus looking for food - I kept well back as I did not want one of my fingers to be their next snack!

Curious eye.

Dinner at the Aquila is buffet style - it had to be as a couple of hundred hungry people descended on the restaurant at the same time. The food was OK - nothing to get excited about. Afterwards there is nothing much to do though star-gazing was in the schedule for the evening. I wanted to see the Southern Cross, but my Night Sky App told me that it was still under the horizon.

The next morning we were up at 6:30 for a 7:00 start for a second tour of the park. Apart from seeing giraffes for the first time we saw the exact same animals at almost the exact same places doing exactly the same thing as the day before, all on exactly the same bumpy road. It was great to see the animals again, though apparently they were supposed to be more active in the morning.

A nice place at Aquila to write this blog post.

Overall impressions were that it was a fantastic experience dragged out a little bit. We basically did the same thing twice. I also felt that though it was wonderful to see the animals that we did, I just thought - there are not that many to see? Four elephants, four lions, three giraffes, you get the message. The food was just OK, and we had a lovely room though not much time to enjoy it. I also decided that later in the morning before we left at 12:00 that I would have a go at a 45 min quad bike tour. Our brochure told us that a tour would start at 11:00 - perfect timing so I thought, but when I went to book I was told that there was no tour at 11:00 and that the next one would start at 11:30. Disappointing again. Very much a 6/10 experience. My recommendation is that you should do the tour - it is brilliant. But not stay over and do it again.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

South Africa Part II

Today was all about touring the Cape of Good Hope. We set off in the morning and first stop after a great drive on the coast road was at Chapman’s Peak overlooking Hout Bay. We bought some overpriced souvenirs and then headed for the Cape.

Chapman’s Peak.

The Cape of Good Hope is the most south western point in Africa. Apparently it got its name from sailors who when they reached this point we’re hopeful that they had left the Atlantic behind and were headed into the Indian Ocean.  There’s not really that much to see here, but is is cool to be at one of the great landmarks in the world. There were a lot of tourists like ourselves queuing to get the photo opportunity at the sign. We also had a treat to see some baboons on the road from the safety of our car!

We’re here!

Not too far away is Cape Point where the lighthouse is. This again is a major tourist spot and has a lovely path with great views up to the lighthouse. We are approximately 10,000 kilometres from Dublin at this point which is possibly the furthest ever I have been from home.

Cape Point.

At the top of Cape Point.

After the breath-taking scenery of the Cape, we headed to visit the African Penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach. They pretty much do a lot of standing about, and are probably wondering what all the weird creatures called humans were doing. It was time for late lunch at Bertha’s Restaurant in nearby Simon’s Town. It’s thirsty and hungry work being a tourist! A really enjoyable day seeing the sights of this part of South Africa.ee

Boulder’s Beach.

Cheers from Simon’s Point.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

South Africa Part I

This week is my first time ever in South Africa for a visit to Cape Town and its surrounding areas. After an 11 hour flight from London I met Roma in her hotel after she had spent a week volunteering with the Mellon Educate crew. We went down to Camp’s Bay for a light lunch where we had wonderful tasty sushi at the Paranga waterfront restaurant. Not a bad start for my first day in Africa! We went for a wander on the beach and dipped our toes into the very cold water. It was strange to see a packed beach with almost no one in the water - it is a feature here that the water is colder in the summer compared to winter as the stiff wind blows the warm surface water away.

On Camp’s Bay Beach.

For the evening we went to the Cape Town Waterfront area which was a hive of activity. A first for me was to eat springbok served on a skewer at the Karina restaurant. Despite having to send it back to be heated up a bit, it was delicious. We caught the end of the Leinster-Munster rugby game in Mitchell’s pub at the end of the evening.

On Sunday, my first full day, we took the Hop-on Hop-off bus to see the city. First stop was Table Mountain. The cable car up to the top is fantastic - it revolves so that you can see all views. We had a clear day and could see some fantastic views from the top of the mountain. This is a must-not-miss experience and I loved every minute of it. Another first for me was having a beer at the top of a mountain!

Looking like I’ve climbed to the top of Table Mountain!

With Roma on top of Table Mountain.

Cheers!

We continued the bus tour and stopped off in Sea Point for lunch. At first we were a bit concerned because nobody else got off the bus at this stop, and we wondered did they know something we didn’t know! Nevertheless, we made our way to Regent Road where we found the Three Wise Monkeys restaurant, and again some delicious sushi.

Lunch at the the Three Wise Monkeys.

Our last stop on our tour was back the the Waterfront area where we did a little bit of souvenir shopping. A late evening steak at the Spur restaurant near our hotel was a great day to wrap up my first day in South Africa.

With some notable South African people.

Monday, October 09, 2023

Weekend in Paris #RWC2023

I was very lucky to get tickets for the Rugby World Cup 2023 Ireland vs Scotland rugby match in Stade de France last Saturday. It was a great occasion for the Irish and we thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and the build up to the match. It was a pity that the game was over as a contest before half-time - Scotland were as poor as Ireland were brilliant. The All-Blacks in the quarter-final will be a much different proposition, but Ireland definitely have the skill, ability, and power to win. Bring it on!

That soccer shower at the rugby!

We also took the opportunity to see some of the iconic sights in Paris while we were there. Here are a few photos (some already published to Facebook) to mark the occasion:

With Roma at the Arc de Triomphe.

On the banks of the Seine.

Posing with Gustav Eiffel at his Tower.

In the crowded Metro tunnel on way to the match.

At the restoration of Notre Dame.

At my new restaurant in Place du Tertre, Montmartre.