Monday, September 18, 2023


Scan to access Instagram.
I have just recently revisited Instagram. I set up an account a few years ago and promptly forgot about it. Now I want to showcase my woodwork which has become a serious hobby for me - scan the QR code to access my Insta page. I have no intention of becoming an Influencer and making money by selling my work. Instead, my pieces are for family and friends as gifts (or payments!)

Much work goes into making an oak table. Finding the right sized tree is of course the first option - all my oak tables come from my Dad's farm in Ballingate, Co Wicklow. It is usually my brother Joe who cuts the slabs, as he is a far better chainsaw operator than me. A long period of drying follows, and it is pot luck as to how cracks will form during the drying process. Next is levelling with a router followed by lots and lots of sanding until a smooth table top is formed. I mostly buy iron table legs on-line, this makes getting a level table a lot easier. The last stage is filling the cracks with resin and polishing off the final product. A huge amount of time goes into each piece, though I am getting better and more efficient with every job. I see some of these types of tables making big money on-line, but these are made by professionals who have a lot more gear than me. 

I have shown/boasted about some of my pieces in this blog before, but Instagram is the place for my work from now on. I have quite a lot of pieces planned for this autumn and winter - in addition to table tops, I also want to create a side table, bread/cheese boards, and also to try my luck with ash. 

The beginning.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

I haven't gone away you know!

August 2023 is the first month since January 2008 that I have not posted on this blog. After a run of about 170 months in a row, I just did not get around to writing anything in August - a month which I mostly spent in Wexford. It was not a deliberate decision, but over the past couple of years since I retired, there are a lot of subjects that I am no longer really interested in. I have tended to put short posts on Facebook instead.

So - just a quick note to say I am back, and hope to renew blogging over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

New Director


I am delighted to announce that I have been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Dublin City Volunteer Centre. I am greatly looking forward to working with this brilliant organisation who do great work on behalf of the citizens of Dublin. The appointment is for two years, so lots of interesting times ahead!

Friday, June 23, 2023

Donostia - San Sebastián/Bilbao

Our final stop on our tour of the Basque Country was in San Sebastián - a beautiful city with a brilliant Old Town to explore. The city has a well-earned reputation as one of the must-visit food destinations in Spain. We certainly tried as many different Pinchos as we could, and we also went on a food tour led by Amaia of the Devour Touring company. The tour involved visits to six different restaurants with a Pinchos and a glass of wine at each. This was great fun and Amaia was brilliant. Be warned, this is not a cheap tour and you will spend most of the time standing up. 

The Devour Food Tour is great fun!

Enjoying the Pinchos Tour.

I visited the San Telmo Museum in the Old Town. It has lots of interesting features on Basque history and culture. The museum was free to access, an English audio guide was €2. This was essential as all displays had only Spanish and Basque language text. On our last day we went to the Aquarium, not expecting much. But it is an incredible place with fantastic displays of marine animals on show. The centre piece was a huge tank that you can walk under and see sharks and all sorts of fish of all sizes. I’m sure they do eat each other, but all seemed happy to swim about and be stared at. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!

On our way to the ferry from Bilbao to Rosslare, we stopped at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao for a few hours. The building itself is incredible and has a fantastic display out front of a puppy sculpture covered in flowers, mostly bedding type plants. It would have taken a large nursery to grow these plants - a nice contract for a grower to have!

Inside the museum there were exhibitions of art that were hard for me to interpret. I just don’t get some of the work - it must be brilliant if it is on display in the Guggenheim, otherwise it wouldn’t be there.

Getting ready for the Guggenheim Museum.

Roma admiring the sculptures in the Guggenheim Museum.


Modern art at the Guggenheim with a secret message: Mayo for Sam!


Monday, June 19, 2023


Next stop on my tour of the Basque Country was Bayonne on the coast of France. No particular reason for staying here other than it seemed like a nice place to stop. Sadly, I was on my own on this leg of the trip as Roma was back in Ireland at her Uncle Aodhan’s funeral. I stayed on a river boat called the Peniche Djebelle. This was a really unusual place to stay, but very comfortable and in a good location right in the city centre. It was a bit claustrophobic in that the hosts also lived on the boat - I had to cross between their couch and TV as I went to my room. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant stay - I really liked the gentle waves from other boats rocking the Djebelle as they passed by.

On the Pont Saint-Esprit, Bayonne

Looking for something to do I decided to take a trip on the bike to see the Sare Grotto and Caves which is close to the  border with Spain. This was a fantastic experience. First there was a great ride though the French countryside and mountains. The caves are definitely worth a visit for anyone who is nearby. Our pre-historic ancestors set up home here thousands of years ago. It was also a home for bears, which must have made for tough neighbourhood relations! Our tour guide warned me at the beginning that the commentary would be in French, he gave me a short leaflet that helped in explaining the features of the caves. Despite this, I was happy to be able to understand much of what the tour guide said - he often checked with me in English if I had any questions.

At the entrance to the Sare Grotto.

Both evenings that I stayed in Bayonne were subject to the most fantastic thunder and lightening that I have seen. The rain was monsoon heavy, though I watched it from the comfort of Bodega Gilles with some grilled sardines and grilled mackerel for dinner. I have a new wine to watch out for when I get back to Ireland - Irouleguy is very tasty and worth checking out. Pity I’m travelling by motorbike, otherwise I’d stock up on this stuff!

On to San Sebastián for our last stop! 

Friday, June 16, 2023

St Jean Pied de Port

We arrived in France yesterday after crossing the beautiful Pyrenees mountains via the Ibañeta Pass. Lots of twisty roads and thrilling hairpin corners to ride. St Jean de Pied de Port was our destination, it is the official start location for the Camino in France to Santiago de Compostela. There are a lot of people in hiking gear about, especially in the morning.

At the Ibañeta Pass.

St Jean de Pied de Port is listed as one of France’s most beautiful villages, and it is easy to see why. Narrow hilly streets feature loads of small shops and plenty of bars and restaurants. The Nive river flows through the village which still has medieval walls and buildings. It was one of the main routes for pilgrimages and armies for centuries - you get a real feeling for history here. There are a lot of tourists here, with a traffic problem to go with it. It is very popular with motor homes and motorcyclists - a strange  comparison with the city of Logroño where there was hardly any traffic.

At the official start of the Camino France.

Sadly, Roma’s Uncle Aodhan Bourke died yesterday and we made the decision that she would go back to Ireland for the funeral on Sunday. She will come back to Spain on Monday to finish the holiday for the last few days. So, I have a few days to myself with my motorbike. Tomorrow I am heading to Bayonne, so looking forward to a few kilometres on the road.

Here we go on the Camino.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023


Today we took the short trip by bus from Logrono to Laguardia, which is described as one of Spain’s loveliest villages rising high above the Rioja region to provide panoramic views all around. It seems that vines are pretty much the only crops grown around here with every available space cultivated. I did see some olive trees, but nothing else. Wine is big business here and Laguardia is right at the centre of it. 

On top of the Abacial Tower.

The streets of Laguardia are narrow with no traffic allowed. It was very quiet while we were there, so strolling around was very enjoyable. We went up the Abacial Tower for the best views - it was €2 each to climb the 115 steps, but worth it. Nearby was the magnificent Church of Santa Maria do Los Reyes - this, and many other churches in Spain are lavishly decorated inside with scenes of Christ and his mother Mary’s life at the entrance and above the altar. One small bug about the tour here is that a presentation about the entrance was given in French (because most of the group we were in were from France.) Outside the church in the plaza there was an interesting sculpture by Koko Rico dedicated to travellers.

The door to Santa Maria de Los Reyes.

Koko Rico sculpture - boots and bags.

We had some wine and pinchos on the Plaza Mayor and watched the world go by. This village is definitely worth visiting, though I’d imagine it would not be as pleasant at peak tourist times and in hot weather (we had lovely cool rain while we were there.) 

Just one of the lovely narrow streets.

Cheers from Laguardia!

Tuesday, June 13, 2023


Today I am in Spain with Roma for a few days of motor cycling, plus of course wine and tapas. We sailed on board Brittany Ferries Salamanca from Rosslare to Bilbao, 30+ hours of relaxed comfort - I’d certainly recommend this as a way of getting to Spain.

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the road from Bilbao to Logrono. This is the fourth time Roma came on a motorcycle holiday with me, but it was her first time getting rained on. We had our onesie suits which we bought for our Route 66 ride in 2019, but had never used. They work well, and the bike is performing great so far.

Getting ready to board the Salamanca.

Logrono is a lovely city - we picked it for 4 nights purely on the basis that it is in the Rioja region. There was a brilliant Medieval Festival on which we did not know about. Plenty of brass bands and people parading in medieval dress - the place was hopping and we loved it. We had wine and tapas in Laurel Street where we had front row seats to the parade. We also did the Tapas Crawl where we moved about from place to place. Fantastic pinchos made eating out cheap and tasty.

Not in Temple Bar!

Because it was Festival time, most shops were closed. Travelling by bike means that we will not be shopping much, which is a pity because there was a brilliant street market all around the centre of Logrono. 

We finished the day by visiting the Bordon Franco-Espagnoles wine cellars just at the edge of the River Ebro. This was a very good tour and I learned a lot more about making wine than I did in other wine tours in other countries - definitely recommended. There is a huge cellar with impressive amounts of oak barrels aging the wine to perfection. Some Bordon wines are expensive, but we got to taste a glass of one red wine that cost €25 a bottle here - what would the price be in Ireland!

Getting ready to drink this lot!


Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Going Solar

We  have had solar panels installed on the roof of our house and are turning into complete nerds to see how much power we are generating, how much we are earning from surplus, and how green we are. We got 15 panels installed that are capable of generating up to five Kilowatts/hour when the sun is shining. The supplier estimates that we will generate between four and five thousand Kilowatts in a year. This will be a substantial part of our estimated seven thousand Kilowatts used in a year (this figure is very high, but about a third is from charging my car.)

Installation was very efficient and the system worked straight away. I have switched charging my car from night time to day time when it is sunny. I haven't worked out what the savings are from doing this. The screen shot below is taken at a time when it was sunny and most of what was being generated was being uploaded to the electricity grid. On a sunny day like this we should get about 5€ to 6€ per day - the recent good weather has been kind to us!

The next chart shows one day's overall output and consumption. Obviously nothing is happening when it is dark. The green line tells us what we were generating from the panels throughout the day. For the red line you can see at first that about 8 kw/h were being consumed when I plugged in my car. There's another red peak as we have now set out immersion heater to heat the water during the day. Charts like this are interesting as you can really see the difference solar power is already making. We estimate that it will have paid for itself in about 5 to 6 years.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

2022 Census Results

Today, the results of the 2022 Census are being published by the Central Statistics Office. I was one of over 5,000 census enumerators who collected the census data in April last year. Spare a thought for 50 or so of my colleagues who were bitten by dogs in the line of duty. Apart from being threatened by one man will legal action, my 480 households were relatively problem free to deliver and collect census forms. 

Two headline figures stand out for me:

  • The proportion of the population who identified Roman Catholic as their religion fell from 79% in 2016 to 69% in 2022
  • Of the 1.8 million occupied private households enumerated during Census 2022, 348,443 (19%) completed the Time Capsule. The completion rate by county ranged from 16% to 21%

I was surprised that the 69% for Roman Catholics was so high. As a fairly regular Mass goer myself I see the almost empty churches on most Sundays. I think a more interesting piece of data that should be collected would have captured the number of practising Catholics. I'm also surprised that the Time Capsule completion rate was so low, as there was lots of publicity and excitement about it in the lead up to the Census. On the doorstep, many people told me that they did not know what to write, or that they were not bothered. Sadly, for researchers in 100 years time, there will be disappointment when they look up ancestors to see what they put on the form, only to find that 81% were not filled out.

Lots more data to peruse as it is released - I'll be interested to drill down into my own area, plus the area I enumerated. No doubt I would have used Census data in my Statistics classes had I not retired - it is a great source of non-normal data. 

Monday, May 15, 2023

30,000,000+ YouTube Views

Over the weekend, my YouTube channel passed the 30,000,000 views mark. As always, I am both humbled and thrilled when the channel reaches landmark figures like this. The channel is maintaining some steadiness with views (250k/month approx.) - perhaps a slight drop off as older videos become less relevant. It still earns me money, and I also get lots of (mostly positive) comments. At the moment the channel is my only involvement in Education, and I try my best to respond to questions put by viewers of the channel. My most recent series of 22 videos on Problem-Solving Techniques is not performing well, but hopefully will pick up soon.

The top performing video of all is "How To... Plot Multiple Data Sets on the Same Chart in Excel 2010". It was published on April 11, 2012 and has 1,917,000 views. Six of my videos now have over 1,000,000 views each - they account for 7,811,419 views or 26% in total.

A huge thank you to all viewers of my videos, and as I say at the end of every video: "I hope you found this useful".

Thursday, March 23, 2023

YouTube vs Udemy

Last June I published my one and only course on the Udemy platform: Problem-Solving Techniques. It has been a chastening failure as there are only 46 students - most of whom availed of a free voucher scheme I made available through Linkedin shortly after publication. Many of these students have not accessed the course at all. Last year I met an employee of Udemy in Dublin who told me that it was vital to promote the course on social media, get endorsements, and use vouchers to get enrolments. The course has had no enrolments since last September, and has made just $38 in total. I don't have the time, nor the endeavour, to promote the course like it needs - so it will languish in Udemy amongst thousands of other courses. 

Then there's YouTube!

I have just over 72,000 subscribers and almost 30,000,000 views in YouTube. 22 of the 37 videos in the Udemy course are essentially updates of my old Problem-Solving Techniques YouTube Playlist - several of these videos are over ten years old and were made using Windows Movie Maker. Many comments on the videos report poor audio quality. I have now released my Udemy videos on YouTube - here's one example about Pareto Analysis.

I checked with Udemy if this is allowed - and it is. They just ask that I do not charge less than Udemy does ($19.99) on a third party platform. YouTube is not suitable as a full course experience as there is no way (yet) to provide a curriculum structure. The 22 videos are listed in a Playlist, but it is not immediately clear that the videos are part of a course. On each video I link to the Udemy course as a "full learning experience". I also put a note in the old versions that a newer version is available.

This new and updated set of videos will make some money from advertising, though this will take time as they have to build an audience. I will report how YouTube compares to Udemy in a few months time.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

St Patrick's Festival

A great way to spend St Patrick's Day was to be a volunteer at the St Patrick's Festival in Collins Barracks. I normally avoid all the crowds, but this was a great day out. My job was to help out with the wonderful Actual Reality Arcade Games - basically to control and manage access to the Laser Run and Pac Maze games. There were many other volunteers of all nationalities helping out, and as you can see in the photo below, the arcade games were very popular with young families. Collins Barracks was packed for the day, with non-stop entertainment to keep everyone happy.

Happy St Patrick's Day!

At the Actual Reality Arcade.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Thailand - Bangkok

The final stop of our tour of South East Asia was Bangkok, where we spent just a couple of nights. Like Hanoi and Saigon, this is a very busy place, though there are a lot more cars and a lot less scooters on the streets. There are also a lot of temples which the locals are very proud of. 

We did a Hop-on Hop-off tour of the city and got to see a lot of this fantastic place. The Grand Palace looks awesome, as well as the Wat Khun Chan Giant Buddha. We finished up at the IconSiam shopping centre - a place that makes Dundrum Shopping Centre look like a corner shop. Later we went on a Tuk-Tuk food tour which was not as good as others we did in Vietnam and Cambodia. Despite requesting no spicy food in advance, this is what we got - so not much local food for me. Nevertheless, we had a great time touring around Bangkok - especially the flower market.

As we were flying out home late in the evening, on our last day we decided to do a water boat tour of the Bangkok canals. This was good fun - the boats are narrow and wobble a bit, but despite stopping at yet more temples it was a great way to see parts of Bangkok not in the tourist guides.

One thing we did not know in advance was that our last day in Bangkok was actually a dry day - no alcohol was allowed to be sold. We did manage to get a glass of wine in a mug at one café, and I felt a bit like I was sneaking a few cans on a Good Friday years ago.

On the Bangkok canal.

Symbol of Bangkok, the Giant Swing.

I'm getting to like the Tuk-Tuks!

At the fabulous Wat Arun temple.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Cambodia - Siem Reap

After the hustle and bustle of Vietnam, it was time for the much more sedate surroundings of Siem Reap in Cambodia, a place of many temples. The first one to see was Ta Prohm, where I'm told that the film Tomb Raider was made - this was the least interesting feature for me. The trees growing over the walls and stones of the temple were beautiful. Later we went down Pub Street in Siem Reap town, which is not beautiful. Nevertheless, despite loud music we had great Khmer food and beer.

On our second day we took a boat down the Siem Reap river to Tonlé Sap lake. This was a fascinating excursion to see houses built on high stilts to avoid being submerged during annual floods during the rainy season. We were also treated to seeing how small fish are dried in the sun and later smoked. The lake has floating villages which seem very isolated and must be a tough place to live. Later in the day were went to see the famous Angkor Wat temple - a magical place that shows the skills of stone masons from nearly 1000 years ago. 

On our last full day we went to see some shops and crafts. The Old Market is a great place to while away some time, but you wont leave empty handed as everywhere you go you are constantly approached by polite market sellers to "You buy something?"! We also had a great tour of the APOPO Hero Rats charity. This is where Tanzanian rats are trained to detect landmines, which are still all over Cambodia since a civil war in the 1970s. I made a new friend called Dora here - she crawled all over my arm and shoulder.

Siem Reap is a great place to visit if you love your history and like relaxing. The traffic here was mercifully miles lighter than in Hanoi or Saigon. The Tuk-Tuks are cheap and a fun way to get around. The food is great and fantastic value - all provided by the kindest and most polite people you can meet.

Trying out some stone carving at Artisans Angkor.

My new job as a Tuk-Tuk driver!

Angkor Wat at sunset.

Angkor Wat temple.

One of the stunning trees at Ta Prohm temple.

Driving a boat on Tonlé Sap lake.

On the Siem Reap river.

With Dora, the mine-detecting rat.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City

Our last stop in Vietnam was a three day stay in Ho Chi Minh city. One of the first things I checked was if it was OK to call this city Saigon. The name Saigon is everywhere, and unlike the North - there is less emphasis in HCM himself here. Saigon is an ultra modern city with a traffic problem to match. On our way there we stopped at the Cu Chi tunnels. This was a 2.5 hour detour from the airport to our hotel, and I have to day it was not worth it. While the story of the tunnels is brilliant, there is very little to see, and I was too old and decrepit to actually go through the 20m tunnel that was available. A bit disappointing.

The highlight was a day trip to Ben Tre island on the Mekong Delta. I felt like I was in a Vietnam War movie going up the Mekong river. We also saw lots of crafts and had a cool sampan trip through some jungle. This was 2.5 hours from Saigon, but definitely worth it.

We also did a Vespa tour around Saigon by night. This was cool, as were the 1950s Vespas we were riding. Food was OK, but we are getting used to Vietnam food, so very title surprises us. Vespa tour - recommended!

Some photos of the three days:

Two locals at the Independence Palace.

Sampan boat in the Ben Tre island.

Roma and our host are very good at collecting leaves, not me! 

Cruising on the Mekong river.

Getting ready for Vespa food tour.

A Huey and a Eugene.

With HCM at the Cu Chi tunnels.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Vietnam - Hoi An

Our 4th stop of our South-East Asia tour was the city of Hoi An. We were located very close to the Old Town and all its markets and shops. This is a fantastic place to stay, with the highlight being the evenings and all the lanterns and lights. Walking the markets can be a bit annoying with the constant “You buy something” from the market people, but it is good natured and no offence is taken for polite refusals.

Hoi An is known for its quickly produced fitted suits and clothes. Roma and I got fitted for jackets - not quite as cheap as I expected, but good fun nonetheless. Food and drink is very cheap, and we loved sitting at the side of the street watching the world go by. The street food is fantastic, though Health and Safety inspectors would have a field-day here.

We had a lovely half-day cycling around Cam Kim Island through paddy fields and peanut fields. We also saw some locals making basket boats and mats. Later in the evening we took a boat trip on the local river in the midst of lanterns decorating each boat, and other lanterns floating down the river. It was magical!

Some photos from Hoi An: