Thursday, June 13, 2024


I recently visited Sardinia for a short holiday - I had never been to this beautiful island before. We stayed in Alghero Old Town which was a ideal location to explore Alghero and to enjoy the evening sun setting over Alghero Bay. We certainly enjoyed the Italian food. I had four pizzas in the ten days that we were there!

We didn't know it when we booked, but the World Rally Championship was in Sardinia while we were there - Alghero was the headquarters of the Rally for three days. There was an interesting tented village with old rally cars, merch, food & drink, plus rally cars of course. We watched the parade of rally cars which was noisy and fun. After the parade, the cars drove off to begin the real stuff of rallying, which we did not see.

Another first was hiring e-bikes - expensive, but fab. We toured the countryside around Alghero, stopping to visit a place called Nuraghe Palmavera, which is an archaeological site featuring stone ruins of a Bronze Age Nuragic settlement. We also stopped at the Ledà d'Ittiri wine resort near Fertilia where we were treated to generous amounts of different wines to taste.

We took the boat out to see the Neptune Cavern - very crowded, but fun and interesting. We also went to visit the nearby city of Sassari by train. It was a bit if a waste of a day because nearly everything was closed when we arrived. 

Alghero is a lovely small city to relax in - the Sardinians are very friendly and have good English. It seems to be a popular place for Italians to holiday - there were very few British people, and just a few Irish. We rarely heard English being spoken.

Enjoying the evening sunset.

At the Nuraghe Palmavera.

Piazza d'Italia, Sassari.

A poser with some old rally cars.

Saturday, June 08, 2024

Democracy in action

Yesterday I was a Poll Clerk at the European and Local Elections based in Cabinteely-Kilbogget electoral area in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown constituency in Dublin. It was my first time to do this and I was very much looking forward to seeing the "other" side of the voting process.
Image source: Elections SK.

The day started very early as we had to be in the polling station at 06:30 to prepare the location for opening of polls at 07:00. There were five desks in the school hall with each having approximately 600 registered voters to check and provide ballot papers to voters. I was the guy that voters presented their polling cards to after which I checked their name against the register. I got a shiny new ruler and pencil to cross their names off the register. The voter was then passed on to my colleague the Presiding Officer, who gave them stamped ballot papers after which they went to the ballot box and cast their votes. A simple job really.

There were no major issues at any of the polling desks in our station. Minor issues that arose were things like voters not having their polling card - in this case we checked ID and if we found their names and address on the register they were OK to vote. Some voters were not on the register, but we had a supplementary register of voters who had only registered in the past few weeks. I had just one prospective voter who was not on the register at all - he had only just moved to the area. Some sadness for some voters as they saw their deceased parents' names still on the register.

By about 17:00 I was beginning to wonder if anyone under the age of 40 was going to vote - the "grey" vote certainly came out in the morning and afternoon and by this time it was certainly obvious to me that older people get out and vote (and that the politicians know this). However, by the time evening arrived there were a lot more younger voters, including some first time voters in school uniform.

Non-EU citizens could not vote in the European election (for obvious reasons) - they could only vote in the local elections. It was a surprise to several British citizens that they were not allowed to vote in the European election - all blamed Brexit for that. At the end of the day we had to lock the ballot boxes and tidy up the small mountain of paper and left over ballots. Everything is bagged and sealed - no doubt to be checked the next day in the RDS where counting takes place.  

While it was a very long day for us (16 hours), everybody was in a good humour throughout the day. Voters were very polite and none of us reported any rudeness or problems with voters. The whole process is very transparent and it was great to be see that the voting process is clean and above board. Every voter can be assured that their ballot is safely looked after and will be counted the next day.

Democracy in action is great to see - I will sign up for the next election for which I hope to be selected as a Poll Clerk and perhaps a counter too.

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.

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.