Saturday, May 31, 2014

Setting out my stall for "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way"at #bikefestireland #wildatlanticway

I was never any good at sales, and I found it difficult to put myself in the position of salesman at the Bikefest Ireland event at Killarney today where I was selling my new book about the Wild Atlantic Way. I got great help from the local organizers in setting up my stall and I had plenty of callers asking about the book. 

I sold a good few copies - not as much as I thought I would, but tomorrow is another day. The weather is great and everyone is in a very good mood. I am beside the Harley-Davidson demo rides stand where bikers can go for a 20 minute ride on a Harley. This was good for the number of people passing my stall. There are thousands of people here having a great time!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! @GeorgeWendt loves the #WildAtlanticWay (and a pint of the black stuff)

The Wild Atlantic Way is getting a lot of publicity at the moment and the latest well known person to praise the 2,500km route is non other than actor George Wendt - better known as "Norm" from the sitcom "Cheers". George is of German and Irish descent, so it was partly a trip "home" for him when he and his wife Bernadette recently visited Ireland for an appearance at Kilkenny’s Sky Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, 19 years after appearing at the maiden festival. He also found time to check out some golf and a pint on the Wild Atlantic Way. The video below is embedded from the official Wild Atlantic Way YouTube channel - he signs off with a pint in his hand and says "Well we did a lot of things today, but I'll give you a little preview of what I'm going to do tonight" - Welcome to Ireland George!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Check out the awesome Signature Discovery Points on the #WildAtlanticWay @YouTube Channel

Fáilte Ireland certainly knows how the whet the appetite for visitors to Ireland with a series of videos about the Signatory Discovery Points along the 2,500km Wild Atlantic Way route. There are 159 Discovery Points in total, of which 15 are so-called "Signature Discovery Points". I have been to them all on my own trip and wrote about them in my new book "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way".

Below is the playlist of short videos about each of the Signature Discovery Points - I think that the Mizen Head (Cork) and Sliabh Liag (Donegal) videos were my favourites of all the places I visited. If you are planning a holiday in Ireland this summer, these videos are a must to check out.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Off to Bikefest in Killarney this weekend! #bikefest2014

For the first time ever I am going to a motorcycle festival. Each year Bikefest is held in Killarney in Co Kerry and attracts thousands of visitors every year. In addition to seeing lots of bikes (it's not just about Harley-Davidsons, I am taking a stand in the Bike Village and bringing along a few copies of my new book "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" in the hope that I can sell some of them to the bikers and visitors attending the event. The plan is to ride down early Saturday morning and stay over until Sunday evening. It should be an exciting event, but I have to confess that I am nervous about selling. It's hard to predict if I will sell any books, so I am bringing down a modest amount and hope that I don't have to bring any back!

Image source:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cool Data Analytics, Trendsmap - Real Time Local Twitter Trends @trendsmap #HDSDA #analytics

There are many cool tools mapping Twitter information and I have been looking at Trendmaps where you can do things like trace geography of viral tweets and get a visual of what is currently trending. Lots of companies like Trendmaps are offering services like this and the model seems to be first a free "limited usage", followed by various packages from $9/month to €19/month in the case of Trendmaps. Given that Twitter only allows free access to about 1% of its massive database of tweets going back to 2006 for free, and charges from $500 for its so called "Twitter Fire Hose" per month - services like Trendmaps can provide access to Twitter data for a much lower cost for businesses.

Tools like this can also be used for education. Donal O'Mahony (@domaho) writing in his blog Elearning Island shows 20 uses of Twitter for educational purposes - his main use is for a History class where Twitter is used for an assignment. I think we will see more innovation in the analysis of Twitter for both business and education purposes. Twitter is now a valuable source of information for researchers.

Screen shot of Trendmaps tool.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Changing the car - a difficult experience

It's eight years since I last changed my car - I traded in a Volvo S40 against a 2005 Volkswagen Golf which was just one year old when I bought it. It was the longest I ever owned any one car for. Today I reluctantly traded it in for a 2011 Hyundai i30 1.6 diesel (pictured blow) imported from the UK. In the end I am pleased with the deal I got, but why do I have to go though the second-hand car sales game to do this.

Why is it that:

  • dealers tell you that the car they are selling will hold its value, but years later tell you that it is not worth very much?
  • as part of the sales process they tell you how brilliant the car they are selling is, and how rubbish your trade-in is?
  • that there are no faults with the car that they are selling, but that your trade-in is "old", "scratched", "will be hard to sell", "will have to be sold to trade", "will cost to provide a warranty", or "will cost €100s to clean up"
  • every dealer offers you a different price for your trade-in (€2,000 difference between highest and lowest I was offered for VW)
  • every dealer has to ring someone while they check out your trade-in
  • dealers offer you the "best price" that cannot be negotiated, but end up negotiating anyway?
  • and finally - that no matter what deal you get, there is still a feeling that later on in the evening that the dealer is sitting in the pub over a beer telling his mates about the punter that walked in today and how much money he made on the deal
Anyway - I'm looking forward to driving the new (3-year old) car for the next eight years at least before I have to go through this ordeal again.

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" now available on

Printed copies of my new book will be available from this Wednesday when they arrive from the printers (GraphyCems in Spain) to The Liffey Press. Watch out for it soon in Easons Bookshops, and it is also available on-line from Easons (here) where it qualifies for free shipping. I do advise waiting a few days because the list price of €18.95 has been reduced to €17.95 - I do wish it was a lot cheaper than this, but printing costs leave us with no choice.

The book is also on where it is already reduced by 11% ($31.00 down to $27.44) - it can be pre-ordered and shipping is just €3.00 within the USA. While the book is listed on (I do wish we had our own for Ireland), it is described as "Currently unavailable". I'm told that the rules for listing books on are more relaxed than for For the latter, the book must be physically in Amazon's warehouse before they will list it on the UK version of the site as for sale.

It will be a tough job to sell this book, but hopefully the publicity about the Wild Atlantic Way this summer will at least help with some sales. I'm hoping to finalize a book launch this week, which will be another opportunity to sell a few books. Finally, I hope to sell some from this web site and on eBay, as well as those mentioned above.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fruits of labour - my book in my hands

Today I received an advance copy of my new book "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way: A Motorcycle Odyssey". The remaining copies are due to be delivered next week. It feels good to finally get my hands on the book nearly two years after I first set out to ride around the Irish coast. I'm very pleased with the quality of the printing, especially the photographs which had never looked good in the PDF formats that I had reviewed. The book cover looks great - now the hard part, selling it!

The book is published by The Liffey Press and the advance orders are OK (250+), but we still need to sell about 100 more to break even for the cost of printing. A launch date is still to be set - I'm hoping for early June, but I'm still waiting on confirmation from the person I have asked to do the launch. 

Writing a book is something special - regardless of whether it gets published or not. David Givens of The Liffey Press believed in and supported me in the writing of this book. I owe him a lot of thanks. There is relief when it finally goes to the printers after dozens of reviews and editing, and there is relief when like today you get your hands on a printed copy. A successful book launch will also be a relief!

Both The Liffey Press and the National College of Ireland will issue Press Releases about the book and the launch - hopefully that will help publicize the book and sell a few copies. I will remain mercenary about this until we reach break-even. If you are reading this  post and would like to come to the book launch - please let me know!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

There Should Be A Law turned 3 today! #thereshouldbealaw

Three years ago I set up a website, so that grumpy old men like me could post messages like "There should be a law against eating crisps in the cinema", and other things that get up our nose. The site was very much an experiment, with a view to possibly creating a book of "laws" down the line. It has very much taken a back seat over the past two years while I worked on my new book "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way". I occasionally post a new "law" as I see things all the time during everyday life, but I've done practically nothing to promote the site.

I think I'll keep it going for now - it is hosted for free on Tumblr and the domain name costs very little. In addition to everyday life, social media sites such as Twitter provide many ideas that I shamelessly use. I have many "laws" waiting in a queue to be published. While they are posted on, I'm guessing that it is on Twitter that the little bit of notice it gets occurs - the Twitter handle is @thereshudbalaw - please give it a follow. I had to use this shorter title because the full name of @thereshouldbealaw was one character too long for a Twitter username.

There should be a law against people setting up "There should be a law" websites!

Monday, May 12, 2014

It's Motorcycle Awareness Month (in the USA) #thinkbike

There was a 70% rise in the number of motorcyclists killed on Irish roads in 2013 - 27 riders died compared to 17 in 2012 (see Irish Independent report). As someone who has been motorcycling since 1978 I am very aware that accident rates for motorcyclist are higher than other forms of transport. Many motorcyclists bring this on themselves by riding too fast and carelessly, but there are certain precautions that motorists can take to help reduce the death rates on our roads.

Ride safely!
Ron and Karen Knudtson, writing in the magazine, list ten things "all drivers should know about motorcycles", which I reproduce in full here:

1. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don’t “recognize” a motorcycle — they ignore it, usually unintentionally. Look for motorcycles, especially when checking traffic at intersections.

2. A motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed. When at an intersection or driveway, realize that a motorcycle is closer than it looks.

3. A motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spots or masked by objects or backgrounds. Take an extra moment to check traffic, whether you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections.

4. A motorcycle may seem to be moving faster than it really is.

5. Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. At intersections, expect that a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

6. Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Watch for other signs that a motorcyclist is making a turn.

7. Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose.

8. Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle’s better characteristics, but don’t expect a motorcyclist to be able to dodge out of the way.

9. Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more distance behind a motorcycle.

10. Motorcyclists are more vulnerable to injury in traffic collisions. When a motorcycle is in motion, think of it as a person.

Source: Knudtson, R. & K. (2014) It's Motorcycle Awareness Month. Globegazette. Available at:

Always be sure to take a second look, and for goodness sake - don't try to teach a motorcyclist a lesson by making the situation worse. Ride safely everyone - the road belongs to us all.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Book Review: "Citizen Lord" by Stella Tillyard

Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798) is often portrayed as a romantic aristocratic revolutionary who was one of the leaders of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland. On a recent trip to Belfast I came across Stella Tillyard's book "Citizen Lord" in a second hand book shop and picked it up for £1.

Image source:
The book is a mix of dramatization of stories like Lord Edward's gardening and his death, and fact from many letters and known history of the time. I'd prefer if the book was either a dramatization of his life or an historical account of his life. Nevertheless I found Tillyard's book a good read and found out a lot more about Lord Edward than I remembered from the late CCR history teacher Roderick Ryan' classes.

Lord Edward was an interesting historical figure. He was a great-great grandson of Charles II of England and brought up in privilege during the Ascendancy period in Irish history. He was also a British soldier who fought in the American War of Independence, and later an ardent supporter of the French Revolution. Tillyard explores his undoubted fascination with all things revolutionary and concludes that he was more than a follower of fashion as his "commitment to the cause [of Irish freedom] was complete, and his opposition to the English connection and to Castle rule implacable". That the 1798 Rebellion was a complete failure, which resulted in the deaths of over 50,000 people, is not usually attributed to Lord Edward as he was shot as it was about to start. There's no doubt that the rebellion would not have succeeded had he lived either.

The book is also an interesting account of the lives of Irish aristocrats in the late 18th century. It seemed to be a life of luxury with little actual work to do - plenty of eating, sex, drinking, travelling and sleeping seemed to preoccupy people like Lord Edward in the midst of the poverty of the vast majority of Irish people. At least Lord Edward had the courage and conviction to do something about this - even doing his own gardening while plotting rebellion. He was both foolish and courageous to continue with plans for rebellion after discovering the French would not come the aid of the United Irishmen rebellion in time.

Stella Tillyard does not paint a picture of Lord Edward as an "incurable and innocent romantic", but portrays him as reckless and a reluctant leader. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in late 18th century Irish history.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Paddy Cosgrave stirring things up in the Higher Education sector

First - some declarations: I was awarded a 2:1 B.A. (Mod) degree by the University of Dublin, Trinity College, in 1983. I am also a Lecturer in a third level institution in Ireland that is not one of the seven Universities. All views expressed here are my own and do not represent those of any education institution. I do not know, nor have I ever met Paddy Cosgrave.

Paddy Cosgrave.
Image source:
@paddycosgrave Twitter page
Paddy Cosgrave, founder of the successful Dublin Web Summit and board member of the Higher Education Authority, certainly knows how to get up the noses of academics and the people who work in the third-level sector in Irish education. The Irish Times reported last Thursday (8th May), in an article entitled Is a Trinity degree worth more? Tech entrepreneur hits a nerve, that Cosgrave will only "recruit graduates who got a 2.1 degree from TCD or a first-class honours degree from the other six universities here", and he is also quoted as saying "a 2.1 in one university would not equate to a 2.1 in another university". Much of the social media storm surrounding Cosgrave and his comments comes from his interview with Pat Kenny on Newstalk Radio. The full interview can be heard here - the second half of the interview is the most relevant to this story. I listened to it in full, and advise others to do the same to hear the remarks in context before jumping on any beat up Paddy Cosgrave band-wagon.

The Web Summit has recently announced that it is creating up to 40 new jobs - this is good news. The Web Summit is not an equal opportunities employer. In case you think that Cosgrave was misquoted in the article above, this is what it says on the Web Summit Careers page in relation to graduates applying for Internship positions:

Important Guidelines for Recent Graduate or Graduate Applications From Ireland*:

For applicants who have graduated since 2010 or expect to graduate in 2014 with a B.A,, LL.B., B.Sc., B.D., B.Ed., B.B.S. or similar from an Irish university or IOT, please be advised we will only consider applicants with or expecting a first class honours degree

Further down the same page is the declaration:

*These application requirements only apply to applicants for internship positions. 

At least their bias is declared up front and should reduce the "huge volume of CVs" (quote from Newstalk Interview) that the Web Summit gets from Internship applicants. It is a sobering thought that graduates from my own College (winner of the 2014 HECS Gradireland Gold Award for Employability) who have been placed in internship and full time positions in leading companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Accenture, Intel, SAP, HEAnet, and Google - are not welcomed or wanted by the Web Summit.

Cosgrave has a particular beef about grade inflation - in the Newstalk interview he says that the "awarding of 1st class honours in Maynooth increased 900% in 20 years despite no obvious increase in education standards". Quite an insult to the staff of NUI Maynooth I think you'll agree, and he did not cite any evidence for the lack of increase in education standards in the interview. 

So - what are we to make of all this? Paddy Cosgrave is entitled to his opinion just like the rest of us. He moved yesterday in a blog post "We Even Hire Pirates" to defend his position by stating that the outrageous (my word) requirements do not apply to their full time position, but that the "incredibly tough, incredibly crude and incredibly blunt requirements" for interns remains. Perhaps there is a tacit admission at the end of his post that maybe he went a bit too far with his comments and that he should "tread more carefully going forward". At least we agree on something.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

How To... Create a Pareto Chart in Excel 2013

It's been several months since I posted a video to my YouTube channel. This hasn't been deliberate, but while I have a few ideas in the pipeline I just never took the time to create new videos. One thing that does need doing is to make more 2013 versions of my 2003 and 2010 Microsoft Office videos. Two of these older versions are quite popular - they are both about creating Pareto charts in Excel. As I write, the 2003 version has 104,326 views, and the 2010 version has 142,649 views - so it makes sense to create a new version for 2013. The data I used is taken from my book "An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis" - here is the video:

Monday, May 05, 2014

Book Review: "Vicious Circle" by Wilbur Smith

This Bank Holiday weekend I decided to do something that I haven't done for a long time - sit in my conservatory and read a book from start to finish. The book I choose to do this with was "Vicious Circle" by Wilbur Smith - his 34th book. I have now read every single one of his books, my favourites were the series of Ballantyne, and Courtney novels. His latest novel, "Vicious Circle", is a follow on from his previous book "Those in Peril" (which I reviewed here).

Image source: Amazon.
The reviews I have read on-line at Amazon blast this book as a piece of garbage and unworthy of Wilbur Smith - many reviews call for him to retire and not write any more books like this (he's 81 years of age). The end of this book indicates that there is another book in this series. Also, all the quotes on the front and back from reviewers are directed at Smith himself - none of them refer to the book itself.

This book is very poor, despite this I read until the end. I don't want to spoil anything for those who might contemplate reading this book - but I agree with most of the reviewers on Amazon who called it "badly written", "predictable", "pure garbage", "perverted", "sadistic, perverted and disjointed". Pretty vicious stuff! There are really three stories in this book, and in the past Smith has combined separate stories excellently. WTF are the first 136 pages about? There are many factual errors throughout and overall the book does not grip you in the way that "When the Lion Feeds" or "A Sparrow Falls", which are true epics, do with their great story lines, fantastic and believable characters, and wonderful descriptions of Africa. There is none of this in "Vicious Circle".

For Wilbur Smith fans this book is just about tolerable, but also evidence of a sad decline of a once mighty author. For others thinking of reading this book - don't bother, but do check out his early books for some timeless and magic reads.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Book Review: "Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf" by Seán Duffy

It's just over 1,000 years since the Battle of Clontarf took place on Good Friday 1014. This date is etched on the history brains of every Irish school kid as of course it was the occasion when the Irish High King, Brian Boru, defeated the savage Vikings. In doing so, he saved Ireland and Christianity, and became a martyr for all Irish people ever since. For once the Irish won a big battle and Brian Boru has had hero status ever since. Was it so?

Image source: Amazon.
Professor Seán Duffy of Trinity has written a new book: Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf, which "offers a new interpretation" of the events leading up to this famous battle. The book does not describe that actual battle in any detail, as not much is know about it other than that a great slaughter occurred. Much of the book relies on so called "Annals" for sources and Prof Duffy uses these sources carefully and at all times questions their accuracy where appropriate. Brian Boru's rise to the High-Kingship is described in great detail and there is much made of the rivalries that existed between the Irish at that time. Indeed the Battle of Clontarf itself is sometimes depicted as being like a Munster vs Leinster rugby match with axes and spears. Prof Duffy covers all angles in what is a very detailed and well researched book.

I did find all the names in Irish difficult to follow and the timeline jumps around quite a lot. I did find the book difficult to read at time because of this, and as a result it took me a long time to read it. This is a serious history book and not for those looking for a quick summary of heroism and events 1,000 years ago. It certainly raises new questions about the almost legendary life that Brian Boru had that is familiar to anyone taught history in Irish schools. 

Recommended, but be prepared to work hard to read it through.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Who Am I? The Genographic Project (Part 4)

In the end, the Genographic Project results do not really tell you too much that is surprising, but it is a research project whose results will only get better and better as more people submit DNA for analysis. Below is an Infographic (provided by the Genographic Project web site), summarizing my results:

Click image to enlarge.
Also of interest is that they provided me with a complete copy (.CSV format) of my sequenced genetic information - this has 142,134 records, and below are the first 10 genetic markers of my DNA sequence:


I wonder will scientists in the future be able to clone a copy of Eugene based on my DNA sequence? Now there's a horrible thought!