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If anyone had asked me up to today what the Irish mainland’s most southern headland was, I would have immediately answered “Mizen Head”. I would have been wrong.

That honour goes to the much lesser known Brow Head, a few kilometres to the east of Mizen*.

Brow Head can only be visited on foot. There is a small car park near the ithmus between Crookhaven and Barley Cove. A 2km walk westwards up the Mallavogue laneway and through some fields, leads you directly to the headland. On the way, you will see the remains of some old mines, constructed in the 19th Century. There is also a signal tower on the headland, dating back to the Napoleonic times. Guglielmo Marconi built one of the first transatlantic telecommunications towers on the headland.

The headland itself is precarious. There are high cliffs on both sides, with sheer, vertical drops in all cases. Brow Head is undergoing active erosion and entire bedding planes are exposed in some places. The wave action is intense, to say the least. We were fortunate to come there during a large swell. The huge volumes of water crashing into and pouring off the rocks were nothing short of breathtaking.

Here’s a short video to give a flavour of the place. It’s a real gem. Hidden Ireland at its best.

 

* Mizen Head is actually the third most southerly point on the Irish mainland. That’s a good pub quiz question for you, right there).

Apologies to regular readers. If you are not interested in local politics click the back button now. Quick! Hurry! I’ll give three whistles when it’s safe to look here again.

For a while now I have restrained myself from talking about politics on this blog, but since the 2011 General Election is drawing near and I feel very strongly about exercising my right to vote, I have decided to get my thoughts together on our prospective candidates, and what I can find out about them via their online presence.

I work away from home between the hours of 8am to 7pm each weekday so I am unlikely to be canvassed at all during this election. I read a lot of blogs however and I’m a Twitter addict, so I just wanted to see how these candidates have done in reaching out to the likes of me. What I have found is rather uninspiring.

Using TheJournal.ie’s excellent roundup of the candidates, here are some of my impressions.

  • Fianna Fáil (Michael Ahern and Kevin O’Keeffe) don’t have much of a social media policy at all. No Twitter, no videos, no blogs, just static web-pages and a Facebook account for O’Keeffe. Their candidate web-pages are devoid of anything that might persuade me to change my mind.
  • Fine Gael is more interesting. All of the candidates have a live video. (Pa O’Driscoll had one but for some reason it has been taken down). David Stanton’s video does not inspire a huge amount of confidence. It could have been a lot better in my opinion. I felt as if I was reading his CV and I didn’t get any feeling for what drives him and his passion for change. This is a potential government minister, so I would have expected a bit more drive. Tom Barry’s video is better, hitting the point on the main points of his candidacy. All three candidates have Twitter streams with Pa O’Driscoll leading by miles in terms of engagement and David Stanton saying aloof from any interaction with the great unwashed. Tom Barry shouldn’t have bothered with Twitter, given tweets such as the following: “Thanks to the canvass crews out over the weekend! Ye are pure marters for the cause out in that rain!” David StantonPa O’Driscoll and Tom Barry all have passable blogs.
  • Now we get to Labour. Sean Sherlock is engaging with people on Twitter but he has no video that I could find. His website is also, how do I put it, parochial. Here is a guy who could possibly find himself in the cabinet and yet he is campaigning on the subject of local roads and rezoning. Honestly, I’d prefer if these guys started thinking about Ireland and less about the parish pump. John Mulvihill has another parochial website, a Twitter stream (not engaging), and no video to give us an impression of what he is like. I am leaning towards Labour in this election but neither of the candidates inspire me with much confidence.

From here on in we are dealing with smaller parties and independent candidates. None of them have ever served as a TD and they have fairly low profiles. So you would expect them to be using every media outlet, including social media, to sell their message. Right?

  • Sandra McLellan, Sinn Féin’s candidate has no website or video or Twitter account, so apart from their policies which I think are woefully ignorant of basic economics and belong to the 19th Century, I know very little else about her.
  • Malchy Harty of the Green Party is a photographer, but he fails to put up a video of himself to tell us why we should vote for him. No blog (just a static web-page) and no Twitter. I will grant that he has a somewhat less parochial vision, but that’s about it. Very little to go on here.
  • Paul O’Neill has a website and a video. You actually get to see what this guy is thinking and what he is interested in doing. No Twitter though, no blogging and nothing in his Facebook page that I can see.
  • Paul Burke also has a static website and a video (I had to do a bit of rummaging to find it) which is quite good except for the fact that “Independent” is spelt incorrectly in the title. I find the policies here a bit wishy washy. He wants change but I don’t get a strong sense of vision around it.
  • Claire Cullinane has a static website and audio stream to help her outline her policies and a Facebook page where we find that she has been educated in the University of Life (hmm). No Twitter and no blogging – just a static web-page. Again, the policies seem quite vague. I’m not sure what I would be voting for.
  • Patrick Bullman has just a static web-page where he outlines his political philosophy. Not much else to go on.

So, what do I know? Fine Gael have definitely tried the hardest to engage with social media, Fianna Fail are a write-off, Labour are somewhat disappointing, and only a handful of independents or smaller party candidates have done very much at all to raise their profiles. While this is not the only information I will take into account when making my vote, it is interesting nonetheless.

Update: In an earlier version of this posting I wrote that Tom Barry didn’t have a blog and that based on his Twitter comments he shouldn’t have bothered to write one either. I subsequently found his blog and I need to, how do you say – eat my words. You live and learn I guess.

A stray tweet in TAM London a few weeks ago has lead to my setting up, with three other comrades in arms, Cork’s first Skeptics group in the city.

We are busy working on the agenda and details for our first meeting, which will take place in Blackrock Castle on Thursday next, November 25th at 8pm. We have a Twitter account and a Facebook page already, some posters on the way and a website in the works too, where we can post all sorts of stuff and nonsense.

The group is part of the global Skeptics in the Pub movement, where people come together to share stories and to discuss a wide range of topics, from pseudoscience to proper science, medicine to alternative medicine, parapsychology to psychology, and goodness knows what else.

I just want to say that I’m really appreciative of the work everyone is putting in. We have Dylan Evans from UCC lined up to do a speech on Alternative Medicine on Thursday and I’m hoping I can get a few more people to talk to us over the coming months. We hope to meet every month in Blackrock Castle. The Castle has a great café with a full drinks license. We couldn’t have asked for a better location and meeting room.

If you have any ideas or suggestions on what else we can do to get the group off the ground, I’m all ears.

Today, I brought my kids along to the Discovery 2010 exhibition in Cork’s City Hall. The show is the centrepiece of Science Week in Cork and it features exhibitions from CIT, UCC, Blackrock Castle Observatory, the Tyndall Institute, Lifetime Labs and many more.

There were tons of interactive displays. The Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre were showing the kids petri dishes full of bacteria and luminescent microbes from the deep sea. There were Venus flytraps and molecular construction kits in the UCC stall, as well as a strange game that allowed two contestants to challenge each other using mind waves alone. The Tyndall display had a lot of of weird electronics on show, from photoelectronics to nanotechnology to wireless sensors. Pharmachemical Ireland were showing lot of hand-on demonstrations including a great explanation of keyhole surgery. Across the way, the Cork Electronics Industry Association were displaying magnetic levitation (MAGLEV) technologies using flying saucers and rotating spheres.

The Defense Forces and Gardai were there too. The Defense Forces had a highly informative display on land-mines and bomb-disposal. They even a heavy kevlar bomb-protection suit for people to try on for size. The Gardai were handing out high-visibility vests and armbands to all the kids.

Blackrock Castle Observatory were there with the StarDome – a mobile planetarium used as part of their astronomy outreach program. I managed to squeeze myself and the kids in for the last showing of the day. Inside was an informative surround-movie depicting a solar eclipse from the perspective of a base on the Moon. My kids gave it the thumbs up as their favorite exhibit of the show.

I was also highly impressed by some of the demonstrations by the Lifetime Labs people, showing how to make simple batteries out of lemons. They tell me that you would need 500 lemons to light up a small incandescent bulb, so if I notice my kids storing lemons everywhere, I’ll figure out quickly what is going on.

Scattered throughout the show area are many interactive displays. What particularly caught my kids’ attention was a revolving planet model that went beautifully turbulent if you suddenly stopped its motion.

Not only were the displays impressive, some of the people at the show had interesting and inspirational stories to tell. I spoke briefly to Ms Xiao Fang Zhang, who won the European Laurate of Innovation Award for the invention of an air-bubble extractor – extremely important for intravenous infusions of any sort. She is a student of Mechanical Engineering in CIT and is currently studying for her PhD.

The show is well worth bringing the children to. The exhibits are hands-on and geared to what kids are interested in. There is a sense of energy and fun amongst the exhibitors. In brief, the organisers have done a great job and the kids will love it.

The World cruise ship came to Cobh yesterday. It will be berthed in Cork Harbour for the next two days. It’s an interesting concept: the passengers own their cabins and many of them are long-term residents. It’s like a floating apartment block where the view outside the front window is constantly changing. A way of living that chases the summer around the globe, if you like.

Here are some pics from yesterday evening.

Here are some of my favourite pictures from 2009. Click on any of these photos to enlarge.

February 2009 – Galtee Mountains, Co. Tipperary

April 2009 – Germany (Wiesbaden and Stuttgart)

May 2009 – Glenmalure,Co. Wicklow

May 2009 – Grand Canal, Co. Kildare

May 2009 – Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare

June 2009 – Skellig Islands, Co. Kerry

June 2009 – Midleton, Co. Cork

July 2009 – Old Kenmare Road, Co. Kerry

August 2009 – Sheep’s Head, Co. Cork

September 2009 – St. Davids, Wales

September 2009 – Brecon Beacons, Wales

September 2009 – Elan Valley, Wales

September 2009 – Aberystwyth, Wales

September 2009 – Carrauntoohil, Co. Kerry

Wishing everyone a relaxing and peaceful day wherever you are.

On Sunday I participated in an annual charity walk from Ballycotton to Ballinrostig in Co. Cork. It’s a pretty special occasion because it is the only time in the year that walkers are permitted by the local land-owners to hike the route. As the video below will testify, the scenery is quite stunning. It’s not the easiest of walks – you have to negotiate quite a few barbed-wire fences – but the end is definitely worth the effort. The weather on Sunday was unseasonably good, which helped greatly. 

So here is the video. Enjoy!

On July 25th to July 27th of this year I am going on a sponsored walk in aid of the Cork Cancer Research Centre – a local charity. We will be walking part of the Ring of Kerry, from Caherdaniel to Killarney – a distance of 71 km.

I can’t wait! Hiking, fresh air, good company, nice photographs and the scenery of County Kerry all in one weekend. It will more than make up for any bad weather or sore feet along the way. 

Cancer research features very highly on my list of worthwhile causes. Good friends of mine are currently battling it, two family friends have recently been lost to it, and I had a close brush with it myself last year in a very minor way.

I set up a web page to get some sponsorship and already I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of all the contributors after just two days. It’s been amazing! The donations have already exceeded my initial expectations. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! 

You can sponsor me online at this page. Every penny goes to the CCRC, and I promise I will post up some nice photos of the trip when I get back. 

 

A couple of weeks ago, an unusual advertisement appeared on RTE Radio 1. It called to attention the amount of litter on the N25 road from Cork to Midleton, sarcastically inviting people who wanted to see real litter to take a trip on this road. This was the brainchild of Zoe Malone of Ballymaloe Country Relish who decided to take Cork County Council to task in a very public manner*.

According to the County Manager Martin O’Riordan, this was a much more complex issue than it might seem. There were health and safety issues, the traffic would be disrupted and the costs would be astronomical. As a result, the county council did nothing for well over a year, leaving one of the busiest roads in Cork to become a veritable rubbish tip.

It’s an ongoing problem in Ireland. We spend billions on building new roads all over the country, but once they are up and running, no-one can be bothered to spend any money on maintaining them. Before long you have mounds of litter, overgrown hedges, unkempt verges and noxious weeds such as ragwort running riot.

Anyway, as you can see, it looks like the Cork County Council have come to their senses. The road is being cleaned this week. It’s just a pity that it required someone taking a public stand to prompt them into action. Well done to Zoe and the team at Irish Business against Litter.

* More information about this can be found on this stream (Real Player required) at the 14.43 minute mark.

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