30 December 2009

The Coldest Winter in the West of Ireland

...or so it seems. Nobody here can remember another winter with so much frost and ice for such a long time.
All over the Christmas period, many people were housebound as walking outside or driving was hazardous. A thick icy blanket formed on every yard, path, minor road and pavement, and with Ireland not being used to this kind of weather, it stayed there. Environmentally dangerous salt was deposited on the main roads by gritting trucks, but all the minor roads and pavement remained covered in ice.
Old people couldn't leave their houses for fear of having an accident and even younger people had a difficult time getting about. There were lots of accidents on the roads and how many people slipped and injured themselves is anybody's guess. I myself fell twice on the ice and I know of an old man who died after slipping and falling at Christmas.
The worst thing was that the ice was melting and when the frost came back, it would freeze over again. This happening several days in a row and resulted in a shiny and extremely slippery surface covering just about everything outside.
And just as the last of the ice was melting away, the snow started coming down.
This evening, things are not too bad as the snow has started melting (in our area, that is), but the night is supposed to be cold again. That being the case, we could find ourselves on another ice skating rink tomorrow morning.

Vitamin World

17 November 2009

Back to School!

Nearly 4 weeks since I started my course as a Health and Fitness Instructor and we had our first continuous assessment exams today. Hard work! I never went through the Irish school system, but I remember from when my daughter went to school here, that exams are "write write write" within a short period of time. So I wasn't surprised that it was the same in my university course:
1/2 hour to answer 5 questions in writing, with explanations plus a diagram in 2 parts for one of the questions. Just about got it finished before time was up.
And then in the afternoon, we were examined on a 5 min aerobic warm-up, not just doing it but teaching the moves to a group of classmates, including queueing and safety instructions.
It all went well though (I hope). I know I passed the aerobic warm-up assessment and hope that I also did ok in the anatomy and physiology exam this morning.
Only 2 weeks to go before the next exam and lots of practical and theory work to be done for other modules in the course. Didn't have a phantastic social life before I started the course, but now I hardly even find the time to post to my blog :(

31 October 2009

We call it "Tappie"

This is the little bird who still taps on our windows every morning. We've decided to call it Tappie.
This picture refers to my post about Reincarnation. Please check it out!

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MuttMart - Everything for your dog for less!

13 October 2009

Have you got Soul?

It just occurred to me that I haven't actually written anything about music in this blog. How could I forget?
Just going through some songs I have in my iTunes and on my iPod. I have a very broad taste in music and listen to lots of different genres. However, I think it's the soul tracks that have made the biggest impact on me over the years, or so it appears. (Why do they call it R&B these days?)
So I thought I'll put up a few tracks here of artists and songs that I like. Hope you enjoy them too.

Richard "Dimples" Fields, a lesser known artist who sadly passed away in 2000, only 59 years old. He recorded quite a few albums and did a few duets, the best known one is probably "She's got Papers on Me". Here, however, my all time favourite "Jazzy Lady".

Another great singer is undoubtedly Willie Clayton who I only discovered recently. He's been around for a long time, but someone I missed this fantastic singer. Here's a great duet he did with Pat Brown: "Equal Opportunity". He's sung a lot of great ballads, so make sure you check him out.

Sometimes it's hard to define what exactly Soul is. I'm sure cleverer people than me have analysed and written about soul; but for me it's the feeling that is brought across by the singer, so some of the songs I'm mentioning here may not be pure soul but could be classed as ballads or blues or jazz. I don't think there are any clear cut lines. The question is: does it really matter?

Here is the famous late Lou Rawls who I had the pleasure of seeing live in London. He sadly passed away a couple of years ago. He did tons of good stuff, but this video shows the great man live in concert with "You'll never find":

I'll leave it at that for today, but if I haven't bored you and if you like this kind of music, please check back here soon as I'll be continuing by personal voyage of Soul Searching.

06 October 2009

Do you believe in Reincarnation?

No, don't worry, this is not going to be a philosophical post about reincarnation but rather an account of a strange thing that's happened here:
For the last month or so, I've been waking up every morning to the sound of ...hammering. That's what I thought it was to start with. But the only person who would use a hammer in our house would be my husband, so when he's lying next to me in bed, he can hardly be doing DIY work at the same time.
So I investigated the noise.
And there it was: a little bird, a great tit to all accounts, was hammering against the window with its beak, flying up and down outside the window and pecking at the glass. It looked like it was trying to get into the house.
Since my first observation, this has happened every morning and sometimes during the day as well. The tit flies to different windows of the house and starts pecking. Not one morning has gone by without me waking to the hammering noise.
We have been talking about this at home and the most likely explanation we've come up with is that this bird is, well, a reincarnation of a person or animal who lived in our house some time in the past. We first said this jokingly, but the more we think about it, the more sense it makes.
The only animal that has died here in the last few years is our cat who was allowed in the house, but she wouldn't have been in the upstairs bedrooms. But it's those windows in particular that the tit pecks at as well as the living room downstairs. And it positively looks like it's trying to get into the house.
Our house is an old house and many generations of people have lived here over the decades, so assuming that reincarnation exists, why shouldn't it happen here?
I'd be most interested to hear from people who have observed something similar. Or maybe there's a zoologist among you who has a perfectly reasonable explanation for this bird's behaviour?

I posted a picture of the little bird in this blog 31st October 2009.

Autumn Hotel

29 September 2009

Bike Trip through North Clare

September hasn't been a bad month in Ireland compared with the summer we never had. So this afternoon, my husband and I set out on a bike trip around North Clare (the county we live in). First we went to Lahinch, a small seaside resort with a beautiful beach. Lahinch has in recent years become very popular with surfers.
We then went on via Kilfenora, home of the famous Kilfenora Ceili Band, and on to Lisdoonvarna, where the annual Matchmaking Festival takes place. It's actually on at the moment and the town was decorated with bunting. We were too early to witness any activities as most of the "dances" are taking place later in the evenings and at night. I've never been in one of the pubs or venues during the festival, but I found a nice video clip on YouTube (funnily enough from the BBC in the UK) which illustrates what the Matchmaking Festival is about:
Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival
We carried on through the Burren to Ballyvaughan on the North Coast of Clare which forms part of Galway Bay. The panoramic shot shows part of the Burren with Ballyvaughan and the sea in the background.
We stopped at Monk's Pub in Ballyvaughan, a well-known pub and seafood restaurant for a bowl of seafood chowder and then took the coast road via Fanore to Doolin. Doolin is a famous tourist spot for traditional music and you can take a boat to the Aran Islands from here where people still speak Irish.
On the way back, we passed the famous cliffs of Moher which can be seen in the video clip about Lisdoonvarna and went back via Liscannor and Lahinch.
A nice round trip of over 150km. The weather was kind to us and the sun came out near the sea, so we had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

Photo 1: Our bikes in Lahinch in front of the leisure centre
Photo 2: View from the Burren towards Ballyvaughan and Galway Bay
Photo 3: I'm sitting on a wall by the pier in Ballyvaughan
Photo 4: Sitting inside Monk's Pub by the open turf fire
hoto 5: The boat going to the Aran Islands from Doolin

19 September 2009

On yer Bike!

One thing I've been meaning to write about is bikes. No, not push bikes, although I've always enjoyed cycling too. I mean motorbikes and anything on 2 wheels with an engine.
I've always loved bikes. As a teenager, I lived in Germany and as soon as I was legally allowed to, I got a "Mofa" at the age of 15. It looked like a little moped but the engine was restricted to 25km/h and you didn't need a licence for it. It was an ugly little red thing that often wouldn't start, but I loved it.
My second motorised bike was a moped restricted to 50km/h. A licence was required for riding it, but you were only tested on the rules of the road, and the insurance for these bikes was cheap. It was a shiny blue Peugot bike. I had it for several years.
Got my first car in 1975, but went back to cycling in 1977 as I'd moved to West-Berlin, a city with an abundance of public transport and great cycle routes. The only motorised thing I drove during the next couple of years was a Mercedes taxi for a living and to finance my studies in Berlin.
Around 1980, I took motorbike riding lessons and passed my test. A friend of mine had a Yamaha XS 650 for sale which I purchased. Now that was something else! I did a good bit of touring with that bike, but my most memorable trips were from Berlin to Ireland in 1982 and in 1984. Both times, I was the rider and had a boyfriend on the back of the bike. And both times, we made it back safely. I must have a rummage to see if I can find any old pics from the trip in 1984 as the bike was packed so high, it's a miracle the wind didn't blow it over.
When I moved to London in 1985, I reluctantly sold my lovely bike to a friend who subsequently crashed it only 3 months later :(
For years after, I didn't have a motorbike and didn't think I'd go back to biking as my daughter was born in 1987.
We moved to Ireland in 1997, and after a couple of years, my husband who had always had bikes, was talking about getting a motorbike again. I advised against it, but only a few weeks later, he bought an old Kawasaki Z900. He was so pleased to have a bike again and asked me to come for a spin. Reluctantly, I got on the back of his bike (only the 2nd bike I'd ever been on the back of one) and off the went. Well, we didn't get very far. After about 8 miles we stopped and I told my husband that I wasn't at all happy on the back of his bike. When he suggested that I should get my own bike, I just laughed...
3 weeks later, I'd purchased a Kawasaki 400cc Eliminator and felt great. We went on a few outings and a couple of times I took my daughter on the back of the bike. That's when I noticed that the 400cc engine wasn't really up to much as the weight of 2 people slowed it down. I mentioned this to my husband who suggested upgrading, but I couldn't find anything I liked at the right price.
Sometime later, my husband mentioned that he'd seen a great bike for me in Galway but wouldn't give me any details. So off to Galway we went, and then I saw it:
A dream of a bike, next best thing to a Harley: it was a cruiser, a huge Suzuki 1400cc Intruder. I have to admit, it was love at first sight, but I told my husband that the bike would be far too big for me. And too expensive. But I went for a test ride down the road...and the rest is history.
That bike I rode for several years. Did a lot of shorter trips in Ireland with it and went to to the Continent in 2004 via France, Luxembourg, Germany, Holland and Belgium. A mammoth trip of 3500km in 15 days or so. My husband had upgraded his bike as well and rode on his own motorbike.
In 2006, I had a lot of problems with tendonitis and decided that the Intruder was getting too heavy for me. Riding it on the Continent would've been fine, but the Irish roads are fairly bad and very narrow and winding especially in the countryside, not the ideal roads for a big heavy cruiser. So for the first time, I downgraded and went for a scooter. What? A scooter? you might say. Well, actually, the Yamaha Black Max 500cc is classed as a hybrid as it looks like a cross between a bike and a scooter. Very zippy with fairly big wheels and a sleek appearance, I liked it immediately.
We travelled to Germany via England in the autumn of 2006 with 2 bikes and had a great time.
However, a couple of years ago, I decided to give up biking in Ireland. The main reason for this was that there are so many lousy drivers on Irish roads and that so many bikers get killed in this small country. For various reasons, we were considering moving to the UK again, and there, I thought, I'd be able to get back on my bike.
That was before the recession and now we can't even think about moving as the housing market in Ireland is dead and selling our house at a decent price would be impossible.
So all the while, my poor Black Max was gathering dust in the garage and I couldn't bear to think of it. In addition, my husband was walking around with a long face every time the weather was nice (which is rare enough here), as we couldn't both go for a spin on our bikes.
So this week, 2 years after making my decision not to ride a bike in Ireland anymore, I changed my mind and registered and insured the Black Max again. And for the first time in 2 years, we went out for a leisurely spin in the Irish autumn sun! Lovely!
Me and my Yamaha 650 XS in 1981 approx.
My Suzuki 1400cc Intruder
Me and my Black Max taken in Kilkee, Co. Clare, today 19.09.09.

Dillyeo Inc.

12 September 2009

Climbing to the top of Mullaghmore in the Burren

Yes, I was in the Burren again. Those of you who have read my previous post on the Burren will know what I'm talking about.
Well, as I've mentioned on various occasions, we had no summer again in the West of Ireland for the third year running. For the last 3 months, from the beginning of June to the beginning of September we had rain every day. Not necessarily for the whole day, but we had some rain every day. Very frustrating!
And then, 4 days ago, the sun came out. Normally it comes out when the kids go back to school, but this year it was delayed by a week. But now our summer is back, or should I say it started in the autumn? We've had a pleasant 17 to 21 degrees today, warmer in sheltered spots, blue sky and sunshine, yippee!
So I donned my walking boots, grabbed a couple of my dogs and set off for the Burren. I expected to see a good few people out walking, but it was very quiet. Many people would have spent this Saturday at the seaside after such a rainy summer.
I'm not usually overstruck with what our local council does, but they actually did a good thing by marking out some walkways in the Burren. Previously, you had to find your own way which was fun, but you could easily injure yourself when walking over the rocky ground, especially when you were trying to walk over grass and shrub covered rocks. Many a time I've slipped and nearly twisted my ankle as the rocks are very slippery when wet.
Not so today. There was a little bit of mud in places, but most of the path was dry. Now, this is not a walk to want to do without proper hiking boots, but if you're kitted out and fairly fit, you can master the walks they've marked out. They are between 4.5 and 5.5km long.
For the first time in several years, I climbed to the top of Mullaghmore today in beautiful sunshine. I met a couple of people coming down from the mountain, but nobody else was going up and I had perfect solitude when I reached the top, a wonderful experience. And looking around, I couldn't see a single soul except for my 2 faithful hounds who'd accompanied me.
Pity my photos cannot portray the peaceful silence up there, nor can the camera really show how high up you are on Mullaghmore (I think you're climbing 140 metres in height between your starting point and the top of the mountain).
Enjoy the pictures! This time I've included a picture showing the "Father Ted House" in the distance, nestled among the hills around Mullaghmore in the vicinity of the village of Kilnaboy, Co. Clare.


09 September 2009

Internet connection still up the creek

Unfortunately, my internet connection is still up the creek and I haven't been able to get online at all since last night. Will they ever fix this?
I'm really stressed out and I'm sitting here in my vehicle in town with my netbook on my lap dealing with my emails. Needless to say, I'm not in the right frame of mind to post to my blogs.
More to follow as soon as I can access my internet from home again.

05 September 2009

Netbooks save PC industry from collapse

Do you own a netbook?
I bought a netbook at the beginning of 2009 as I though it would be handy for carrying around when I'm out and about, rather than carrying my much heavier laptop.
I must admit, I'm still delighted with it (Samsung NC10). I'm a real gadget fan and like my mobile phones and computers, but I'm not as keen on the latest smart phones and touch screen phones as I used to be as many of them are awkward to use:
Maybe the font is too small and can't be adjusted, or the touch screen makes usage more time-consuming, or writing emails is long-winded as you have to use T9 or regular texting. Some of the phones have QUERTY keyboards, but they are so small that you can't type on them.
The netbook, however, has it all in my opinion:
You can type on their keyboards and send emails easily, you have a fairly decent size screen for using the internet and can watch movies without ruining your eye sight. In addition, the current generation of netbooks run on Windows XP. This takes up less space than Vista and is more reliable. And with the advent of Windows 7, netbooks will really come into their own.
I don't have to rely on my phone for emails anymore when I'm out and about as my netbook boots up in seconds and with the help of my broadband modem or wireless hotspots, I can have internet access in most places.
Looks like many people have similar requirements, as the netbook has saved the ailing PC market:
Netbooks save PC industry from total collapse

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02 September 2009

Muhammed Ali looking for his roots in Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland

Yes, Muhammad Ali was in Ennis yesterday and I missed this once in a lifetime chance to see "The Greatest". He was a sporting hero and famous boxer, then called Cassius Clay, when I was a child in the 1960, and he's still a name that most people are familiar with. He visited the Turnpike in Ennis for the first time in his life to look for his Irish roots.
Mind you, to catch a glance of him would've been rather difficult as there must've been thousands of people packed into the county capital for this special occasion.
I had of course been aware of his visit to Ennis (10 miles from where I live), but I'd already booked a short but well needed break in Northern Ireland), so I wasn't around when he came to Ireland.
Here's an article from the RTE News about Muhammad Ali's visit to Ennis:
Ennis honours Muhammad Ali

28 August 2009

Broadband? What's that?

If you have a decent broadband connection, count your blessings! (and feel sorry for me)
Ireland in some ways is way behind the rest of Europe and this is most apparent when it comes to broadband connection in rural areas.
When many other countries started getting broadband, we still had to use dial-up. Then we had an ISDN connection which improved things somewhat and we weren't kicked out of the internet quite as often anymore.
Every few months, we would check if our landline telephone provider Eircom had made any changes to the telephone lines in our area, hoping that eventually we would be able to get broadband here. No such luck! They just couldn't (and can't) be bothered to bring broadband to the rural areas in Ireland as opposed to the UK where you find proper and relatively fast broadband connection in remote areas like the Scottish Highlands.
We were delighted when the "broadband modems/dongles" appeared on the market a couple of years ago. "Broadband" via a mobile device - Wow! - Only "Wow" it certainly wasn't. Problems, problems and more problems. Slow speeds, network problems, even slower speeds, unusuable speeds, no network connection at all, you name it.
2 years later...and still no joy. Eircom are not improving the lines in our area, so home-based broadband won't appear here in the foreseeable future. Still stuck with the so-called broadband modems which use HSDPA technology. In the spring of this year, the Irish government decided that this technology was good enough (and cheap enough) to bring broadband to many parts of rural Ireland and awarded the National Broadband Scheme contract to the operator we've been dealing with for the last 2 years. Believe it or not, but we aren't even part of this National Broadband Scheme and we live only 15km (10 miles) outside Ennis, the nearest big town and county capital.
I've made some contacts within this company (the mobile broadband operator) over the last couple of years and they have done a lot to help us with our problems. Our modems were upgraded and we've got so-called repeaters installed which are supposed to boost the signal. For about a fortnight in July, we had the pleasure of a near decent broadband connection with 1 - 4mb download speed and were able to stream videos for the first time ever. Then the problems started again.
Today, I'm very lucky indeed to be online as I haven't been able to get on the net in the last 26 hours on the laptop in my home office. Had to drive into town this afternoon in order to read my emails (the modem worked there, different mast for the signal).
Eventually, we managed to get online on one of the computers in my husband's office in the house, but although we have 2 modems which we pay for on a monthly basis, we only managed to get online with one of them and at appalling speeds (waiting for pages to load, etc.)
Fun?...Not. Unfortunately, we're fairly stuck for alternatives. There are other operators using these "broadband" modems in Ireland, but they don't cover our area. I've seriously considered moving, but would you give up your house for a broadband connection?
Watch this space for more rantings and ravings :(

27 August 2009

The Age-Defying Diet

I just posted this article on my Venus with Weights Blog. As I think it's a really good article about nutrition, I decided to post it on this blog as well. Hope you find it interesting.

I borrowed this article from Core Performance, an American Sports/Fitness/Nutrition site:

The Age-Defying Diet

image via flickr

I now have enough evidence to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that my mother was trying to kill me. She kept a can of grease under the kitchen sink that she repeatedly recycled for frying things—like her potato pancakes, pork-kraut roll and even mince bologna. For breakfast when I was in grade school, she’d warm a tray of pecan twirls and instant black coffee, then puzzle over why I got D's in conduct. Any meat, like steak or chicken, was always boiled first (“to get the scum off”) and then cooked. It wasn’t until I was well past puberty that I realized a good steak was dark and juicy rather than the color and texture of rhino hide.

I weighed 200 pounds when I left home at age 21, and my cholesterol and sugar were already high. Fortunately, a succession of jobs in the health-and-fitness field educated me about proper eating, and I slowly changed my diet. Now on the brink of turning 50, I weigh 175 pounds and have no significant health problems. In her defense, mom didn’t know what she was doing nutritionally and, when it comes right down to it, neither do most people. So I won’t prosecute.

But I often wonder if I’d be in even better shape if I hadn’t eaten so poorly for almost half my life. What if there was an Age-Defying Diet just like there is an RDA for nutrients that could keep us forever fit, slim, strong and energized Well, with the help of Jose Antonio, Ph.D., CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, we’ve created one for you—an eating plan that strives to deliver all those benefits and can adapt to any lifestyle. Here are the components:

1. Eliminate (or significantly limit) processed foods.

“This is 90 percent of the battle,” says Antonio. “If it doesn’t occur in nature, then try to avoid it.” The closer a food or drink is to its natural state, the more beneficial nutrients and fewer artificial ingredients it contains. It’s like premium rather than regular fuel for your body. (Click here to watch a video of resident nutritionist Amanda Carlson explaining this concept more.)

2. Maintain a 40/30/30 diet.

This means 40 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrate, 30 percent from protein, and the remainder from fat. There’s no need to count calories and start a spreadsheet, though. “Eating shouldn’t be about mathematics,” says Antonio. Just ballpark it.

3. Eat fish at least three times per week (and lean meat the rest).

“Fish is the most important food,” says Antonio. It not only supplies protein and healthful fat, but it also contains heart-protecting nutrients such as omega-3s. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, cod and mackerel are best. To prevent developing fins or bankrupting yourself at the sushi bar, eat lean chicken or beef the remainder of the week. Antonio points out that people who replace a percentage of their carbs with an equivalent amount of protein or healthy fat (while keeping total calories the same) automatically lose body fat and either gain or maintain lean muscle mass. “So weight and body composition isn’t a calorie issue, it’s a food-choice issue,” he explains.

4. Eat more nuts, avocados and eggs.

All these foods were once considered bad for us, but we now know they contain beneficial fats and, in the case of eggs, additional protein and essential nutrients. (Eggs won’t raise cholesterol either.) For more, check out this primer on healthy fats.

5. Make colorful fruits and vegetables your major source of carbs.

This means eliminating or reducing processed breads, pastas, rice, cereals and snacks such as cookies and crackers. The more colorful the fruits and veggies, the better they are for you. Eat plenty daily. Bonus: You’ll be able to quit lugging around a water bottle because you’ll be naturally well hydrated.

6. Organic is nice but not necessary.

Antonio points out that there is no scientific evidence that organic food is any more healthful than non-organic. However, here’s the trick: If you eat more organic fruits and veggies because you think they taste better or your conscience is clearer, then by all means pay the premium to build better eating habits.

7. Eat three meals per day and two snacks.

Notice that we didn’t say “graze your way through the day” or “eat five meals daily.” That intimidates people. Most of us don’t have time to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, let alone brunch and linner. So take the pressure off yourself. Eat as you’re accustomed to, and then just add a healthful mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. It’ll keep the edge off your appetite and steady your hormone levels so you’ll be less likely to give into cravings or overeat at mealtimes.

8. Take a daily multivitamin and 2 grams of creatine.

The former is insurance for those days when we’re too busy to eat right. The low-dose creatine, which is available in capsule form, has been shown to not only help maintain lean body mass but also boost brain function. Check out our complete guide to creatine to learn more.

And that’s it. Notice there isn’t anything wacky here—nothing worthy of a new diet book or a Kirstie Alley commercial. It’s just a solid eating plan that anyone, regardless of age, can maintain for life. And that’s the key: Diets fail because they aren’t sustainable. This one is.

About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

24 August 2009

Reviews for This 'n' That Blog

Please check out some of the reviews for my blog:
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Mad Stuff: Girlfriends and Dogs not allowed. Ouch!

Just came across this article on an Indian website.
This article is about rental agreements in Bangalore, India's IT capital, so we're not talking about some backwater. Just imagine someone trying to do this in the Western world. Maybe 50, 60, 70 years ago but not in this day and age:

Off track: Sorry, girlfriends and dogs not allowed

23 August 2009

Global Warming and the Weather

This picture was taken at lunchtime today, 23rd August 2009.
Yes, I'm talking about the weather again. What else would I be talking about on a day like this? It's been raining non-stop since last night and we've had torrential downpours. There must be a lot of flooding in Ireland today.
A couple of years ago, I heard an expert talk about the effects of global warming and climate change on the weather in Ireland. Rather than it getting warmer and maybe dryer, he predicted that the differences between the seasons would be even less noticeable than they have been in the past. This, for Ireland, would mean, even warmer winters, cooler summers and even more rain.
I think that this is already happening here. Since about the middle of June, which is 10 weeks ago, we haven't had a single day without rain here. We've had some sunshine too, but at some stage during the course of the day, there would always be showers. The temperatures for the last couple of months have been between 17 and 21 degrees Celsius, so it hasn't been cold, but it's been very wet.
I was born in August and to the best of my knowledge, I've only had 2 rainy birthdays in my entire life: 2 years ago and this year. This August has been a total wash-out in this country.
What are your experiences? Has the global warming affected your country or region? I'd be really interested to know, so please leave a comment.
Pic 2 & 3 show a local road 3 hours after the rain had stopped.

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17 August 2009

My lost Friend of 26 years and the Internet

I wrote about the "Dark Ages" and "Cyber Friends" last month and what life was like without computers and modern communication technology. I also mentioned that I found a lot of friends again over the last 5 years or so, people that I would've never been able to locate using conventional methods like phone books and letters.
But this is the story of my most amazing reunion:
Back in the early eighties when I lived in Berlin, I became friends with an American woman, her husband and her 2 young kids. I was going through a difficult patch in my life at the time, and my American friend was there for me, put me up in her house when I needed a place to stay and introduced me to real American hospitality. We got on great and I missed her a lot when she and her family moved back to the States in late 83 or early 84.
We were writing letters to each other, but at some stage, we stopped hearing from one another. She was going through a separation and was going to remarry.
A lot of years went by.
I'd moved to London, and then to Ireland and got my first computer with internet connection in 1998. I'd never forgotten about my friend and started looking for her on the internet. No luck. My problem was that I had no idea of her new surname. I wasn't even sure which state she lived in; I merely assumed it would be in the American South as she had lived there before she moved to Germany. I made a few tentative inquiries with American people I knew but I go nowhere.
Every few years, I would give it another go but I never had any success.
A couple of months ago, I decided to try once more. This time, I thought I'd try and find one of her kids who by now wouldn't be kids anymore. At first, I only found people search sites who wanted money for their services. But I wasn't going to give up this time, so I kept on looking.
And then I had a breakthrough even if it was a sad one:
I spotted an online death notice of a familiar name, the name of my friend's ex husband. Thinking that it could just be a coincidence, I kept reading. And then I saw a dedication to him by his daughter. There was no more room for doubt: I'd found the right family.
Getting in touch, however, wasn't that easy as the link to get in touch with the daughter via the memorial site didn't work. I was very frustrated but having come that far, I wasn't going to give up.
The memorial site provided me with the name of the town where the daughter lived, so I tried to locate her. Her name appeared on Google, but it was on one of HER friend's social networking pages. Following that up, I eventually got to my friend's daughter's social networking page, only to find that I couldn't check out her profile or send her an email as her details were private and only visible to friends.
So I very politely sent her a note, explaining briefly who I was and what led me to write to her.
The following day, I received a very nice reply - she even remembered me - and she told her mother immediately about our communication. Her mother, my friend, was delighted, but unfortunately, she isn't on the internet at present. But I did write her a letter and received a lovely letter back approximately 26 years after we last saw each other.
On receiving my friend's letter, I knew immediately that the long search had been worth it as I felt that there was still a close bond between us. We haven't chatted on the instant messenger as yet, but that should happen within the next couple of weeks. Pity the daughter doesn't use Skype as that would allow us to actually hear each other's voices. (Yes I know that's possible via some of the instant messengers too, but I don't think my friend's daughter uses a mic on the computer).
I'm still amazed that I managed to find my friend after such along time and am most grateful for the technology that has allowed this to happen.

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15 August 2009

40 Years since the Woodstock Festival

OMG, I can't believe it's 40 years ago! The biggest and best music festival ever with the greatest musicians of that era.
I was only a young teenager then but I was fascinated by the music festivals, the music, the hippies and most of all, the freedom! I had just turned 14 and was developing into a rebel. My parents were strict and I wasn't allowed to do a lot of things that teenagers want to do. Even going to the Saturday night disco in the local parish hall meant pleading with my parents, and then my father would pick me up bang on 10pm to take me home. How embarrassing!
So I dreamt of the freedom I would have once I grew up! And the festivals of the late sixties embodied everything I wished for. Funnily, I never ever went to any of the big music festivals of the 70s when I would've been able to go as by then I'd moved on to other things that had become more important to me
Some time in the 70s though I bought the Woodstock album, 3 LPs with lots and lots of photos of Woodstock. I still have the album. My husband bought me a USB turntable for my birthday yesterday and Woodstock will be one of the albums I'm going to transfer to my computer in the near future.
The music of Woodstock is still great and sounds so fresh. It's really hard to believe that 40 years have gone by. If you get a chance to watch the Woodstock movie, do so. It's a great portrait of the time and for those of us who were teenagers or young adults then, it's a trip down memory lane.
Here's an interesting article about the Woodstock Festival on About.com:

12 August 2009

Customer spots poison stems in salad

Well, I never...Imagine this, you're going to the supermarket to buy a nice healthy summer meal, like a lovely bag of salad, only to find out that your lovely healthy salad contains poisonous weeds...
Read this for another chapter of "Mad Stuff":
Customer spots poison stems in salad

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Actually, unless I'm totally mistaken, these weeds are pulled out in many countries because they're so dangerous. Cows and other cattle can die if they ingest them as they will distroy their livers. I've been known to pull them out of my back garden, so my dogs wouldn't be tempted to eat them.
Thing is, most animals won't touch them, but then again, some young and inexperienced ones might and die a painful death :(