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Monday, September 18, 2023
Saturday, September 16, 2023
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
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
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.
Friday, June 16, 2023
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.
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.
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
Tuesday, June 06, 2023
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
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%
Monday, May 15, 2023
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
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.
Saturday, March 18, 2023
Thursday, March 09, 2023
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.
Wednesday, March 08, 2023
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.
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
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:
Sunday, February 26, 2023
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: