31 July 2009

What's up with the Irish weather?

It's driving me crazy, this weather! For 2 years, we didn't have any summer at all. Maybe a week of reasonably nice weather, but that was it.
For this year now, they were promising us a record summer. Well, they were for the UK, but I heard the Irish weathermen and women predict something similar for us.
And at the end of May, it happened: A heatwave! Now, when I'm talking about an Irish heatwave, you may get the wrong idea. We're talking about temperatures of 20 degrees or more. That's what we call a heatwave in this country, not the 35, 40 or 45 degrees that you might experience in parts or Southern Europe, Asia or the Southern States of America.
So we had a week of really nice weather with up to 25 degrees and after that, it was up and down a bit, but still mainly sunny and warm.
Then July came and the weather deteriorated. We had rain for part of the day on most days, and the temperature varied from about 14 to 19 degrees. In July? Indeed.
Today is the last day of July and this should be the hottest time of the year. Instead, it was raining all day. This is the beginning of the August Bank Holiday, the main holiday weekend of the season. They've forecast gale force winds in parts of the country and more rain, and I'm sitting inside with a hooded sweatshirt on and a little electric fire next to me to keep me warm.
With regard to the global warming, the predictions for Ireland are not encouraging:
Summer and winter are going to be even more similar than they have been in the past. Which means more rain and even warmer winters with the summer temperatures barely topping those of the colder season. Yes, the "Emerald Isle" will probably remain green for a while, but will the people of this country have to grow fins and gills?

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28 July 2009

Up close and personal

Well, not in the biblical sense. I'm talking about my personal trainer Chach who's been inspiring me immensely. As I keep telling him, he's the only man I ever listen to (and my husband agrees with that comment).

Chach came to Ireland from the United States and has been living in Ennis, Co. Clare, with his family for the last 4 years or so, but he's been a personal trainer for 15 years.

I came to know him by pure chance. When I started going to the gym again in January this year, I spotted this very energetic man training 2 guys on various occasions. Not being backwards about coming forward, as the saying goes, I approached him and asked him if he was a rugby coach as the two lads he was training looked like rugby players to me. Chach then explained that he was a personal trainer.

Out of curiosity and because I was serious about my own training and fitness, I asked him how much he charged and was positively surprised that his rates were a lot lower than what I had imgagined. Fair enough, we're not talking Hollywood here or celebrity trainer, but I'd seen him in action training other people and was impressed, so I arranged for my first session with him.

That was quite something! Not once in the last 15 years since I stopped my karate training have I been pushed this hard. Sit-ups and weights, more sit-ups, dumbells, leg press, leg extension, treadmill, chest press, pec machine and whatever else they have in my local council-run gym. All exercises in quick succession, so you can hardly catch your breath.

However, Chach knows what he's doing and times the breaks between the sets. He also varies the exercises and weights in order to stimulate your metabolism and enable fat burning.

But the best thins is, he does it all with a smile. When you think you really can't do another set of sit-ups or weights or whatever, he will encourage you and make it all look like fun. But if you're really exhausted and feel like giving up, he will give you a hand to finish your set.

I couldn't speak more highly of Chach as he's giving me so much encouragement with my training. I found it hard to lose weight because of my underactive thyroid, but he talked to me about my diet and pushes me very hard with fat-burning exercises, so I lost a few kilos since I started training with him in February. (A "normal" person would've probably lost a lot more weight in that same period of time.)

Another thing is that Chach treats everyone the same, men, women, young, middle-aged and older people. Middle-aged people like myself often don't feel great about themselves as they feel that they're past their physical best, but with all the encouragement this personal trainer gives you, you feel like you're on top of the world and that you've really achieved something.

I usually train with him once a week for one hour but will go to the gym for another 2 sessions by myself. I'm more aware of what I'm eating and have cut down a lot on carbohydrates, especially refined ones. So white pasta and white rice are usually out as are potatoes. And that in conjunction with the exercise seems to be helping me.

As some of you know, I'm now training hard for the weight lifting competition next week, 6th August, something I would've never dreamed of in a million years without Chach's encouragement. Ok, I only started training for it a couple of weeks back, so I won't expect any miracles, but I will take part in the competition which is the main thing. So watch this space!

I asked Chach what he likes about being a personal trainer. His anwer was:
To be part of people's physical transformation and to see their confidence grow as a result of it.

I couldn't agree more!

Chach is a personal trainer in the Ennis Leisure Centre and is involved in the physical training of Garda officers (Irish police) in Ennis.

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26 July 2009

New Info Site for Aragon Translations

As you know, I've been looking for translators for the last few days.
While it will be a while before I have the "proper" website for Aragon Translations up and running, I've launched a basic info site with contact details today.
So if you're interested in some freelance translation work or you know somebody who might be, please get in touch.
Check out:

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25 July 2009

Walking in the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

Most of you will know by now that I live in the West of Ireland, in Co. Clare to be precise.
We've been living here for the last 12 years and to be honest with you, the rose tinted glasses have come off and my romanticised view of Ireland is well and truly gone at this stage. Thoroughly disillusioned would be another way of putting it:
The Recession has hit Ireland much harder than many other countries and the unemployment is at an all-time high;
the weather drives me mad and after 2 years of no summer, we've had a few nice days this year, but temperatures have rarely exceeded 20 degrees;
the Irish Health Service is worse than ever which is very worrying;
the majority of Irish drivers (especially in rural areas) are terrible drivers and there's no improvement in sight, etc.
So more often than not, I completely lose sight of why we actually moved here from London in the first instance:
The better quality of life,
the beautiful landscape,
the peace and quiet in the countryside,
the beautiful deserted beaches on the Atlantic coast
to name but a few of the reasons.
Sometimes I really have to remind myself of why I'm still here.
So today, my husband and I bundled a couple of dogs into the van and drove to the Burren, a worldfamous area of natural beauty, only a 30 minute drive from home. The Burren is of great interest to geologists and botanists. You can find plants and flowers in the Burren (pronounced "Burrn") that are very rare or can only be found in high altitudes like in the Alps, such as the beautiful gentian. There are also wild orchids and many other unusual plants.
I've added a few pictures from this afternoon's walk:
Picture 1 shows Mullaghmore, a beautiful limestone mountain in the Burren, popular for walking and climbing. One of my all time favourite mountains.
Picture 2 shows a neighbouring mountain in the Mullaghmore area of the Burren.
Picture 3 shows one of the lakes in the area.
Picture 4, well, that's me with Luna.
Picture 5 shows bluebells growing in between the rocks. Whenever I'm in the Burren, I'm amazed at how nature always finds a way. You would think that nothing can possibly grow between these rocks, but how wrong can you be.
Picture 6 shows Luna swimming in one of the lakes.
Picture 7, another view across the Mullaghmore area. For those of you who are fans of Father Ted and Craggy Island, well, can you spot a little white dot in the distance, in the middle of the picture? That's the Father Ted House which was used in the series. I didn't go anywhere near there today, but the next time I'm driving past it, I'll be taken a picture of it. The area is called Kilnaboy, near Corofin, Co. Clare. Check it out if you don't believe me.
Picture 8, that's Colleen who was in the Burren for the first time today and who was clearly enjoying herself.
Picture 9, more wild flowers growing in the Burren.
We had a lovely afternoon, but as soon as we got home, the weather changed and it started raining, again.
Welcome to Ireland and an Irish summer.

For some more info on the Burren, please check out this website:


23 July 2009

You're doing...what???

That's what some of you might say to me when you hear that I'll be taking part in a weight lifting competition. You might look at my profile and picture and come to the conclusion that I'm either stark raving mad or not to be taken seriously.
Neither is the case (I hope).
For about 6 months or so I've been going to the local gym again using the treadmill and various weight lifting machines. I nornally go 2 or 3 times a week, but once a week, a personal trainer (more about him later) puts me through my paces with an intense workout. This has increased my fitness levels tremendously and I've slowly started losing some weight which is a big issue with hypothyroid people. (People who suffer from an underactive thyroid gland often put on weight as their metabolism slows down and subsequently find it very hard to lose any weight, even if on thyroid medication.)
Last week, during one of my gym sessions with my trainer, he commented on me being quite strong and asked me if I wouldn't consider taking part in the upcoming weight lifting competition in the gym which will be for men and women for the first time. I thought he was joking. But he told me that to the best of his knowledge there wouldn't be many women lifting the same weight as myself. He was under the impression that women would be allowed to use the chest press while men would use the bench press. That would have been fine by me as I've often used it in my training sessions.
Plant an idea into my competitive brain and off I go! So I made a few enquiries and found out that there is no favouritism for the girls - it's the bench press or nothing (although women obviously don't compete against the men but against the other women participants.)
That would've been it for many, but not for me (blushing). So I asked my trainer if he would consider training me for the competition using the bench press. - He agreed.
After giving it a lot of thought, I started training last week for the competition which will take part on 6th August in the local gym. I have no idea how many other women will be competing, but I'm not really worried about that. It's the taking part and doing something I've never done before that counts for me. Not being a young woman anymore helps as I'm confident enough within myself to accept this challenge and I'm not too worried about how "good" I look in the competition. In saying that, of course I will compete to the best of my ability and I will try and win just like anybody else. The will to win has nothing to do with age.
So I hope you will all wish me good luck in my endeavour on 6th August.
Watch this space for a profile on my personal trainer as well as my honest report about the competition.


21 July 2009

Is there an easy way to make money on the internet?

I am a member of one of these referral sites that promises to get you lots of traffic to your website. It does to an extent, but in exchange for their services, I need to check out and review a certain number of websites each day.
So I've seen a lot of website over the last few weeks which I wouldn't have normally come across. Some of the most interesting sites are the Money Making sites.
If you were to believe these sites, making money would require nothing besides sitting in an armchair and watching TV while the money would be pouring in, not just a few cent from your Google Adsense but large amounts of money, several hundred dollars a day - and all that for doing nothing.
Network marketing, although outlawed, still seems to attract a lot of people who are looking to get rich quick, and isn't there an abundance of "Get Rich" books out there which you will have to purchase, of course, before you can find out how to get rich quickly.
Or think of all the infallible systems that will bring in money by the cartload once you've subscribed to xyz scheme.
Some of these sites really make me laugh, especially if they're unprofessional and thrown together in one rainy afternoon. How gullible do these operators think people are?
Unfortunately, in these recessionary times, more and more people will try and make money on the internet and fall prey to dubious schemes and scams.
It's my firm belief that the old saying holds true: "There is no such thing as a free lunch". If someone is promising you riches, you can bet your bottom dollar that they want their share and if what they're offering sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
So the sobering truth is, you've got to put in the work and the hours if you want to succeed in making money online. There is no shortcut or guaranteed recipe for success, but the more knowledge your acquire about websites, SEO (search engine optimisation), web design and marketing, the better your chances will be of making some money via the internet. Riches? If you're one of the lucky ones who sells the right product at the right time etc., maybe you'll make a lot of money.
The majority of us, however, will have to work hard in order to get by.
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20 July 2009

Translators wanted

I'm a qualified translator and used to do a lot of translation work back in the 1980s and 90s when I lived in London: magazine articles and video subtitling or corporate videos and feature films.
After years of doing different types of work, I have now decided to set up a site for translation services. Fortunately, in this day and age, people don't have to live in the same town, city or country to do business with each other and when the written word is involved, things are even less complicated.
While setting up this new website which should be up and running within a couple of months, I'm looking to recruit a panel of experienced translators with different languages.
So if you are an experienced translator whose mother tongue is English but you are fluent in at least one other language and have experience translating from that other language into English, or
if your mother tongue is not English, but you are fluent in English and experienced in translating from English into your mother tongue,
then please contact me via the Contact pages on www.this-n-that-bazaar.com. (There will be a dedicated email address for my translation services site once the site is up and running.)
All I require in the fist instance is a few lines about yourself, your languages and experience. I will then get back to you.
Or if you know anybody who would fulfill the above criteria, please forward these details to them.
Many thanks and hopefully this venture will be beneficial for all of us.

19 July 2009

Cyber Friends versus Real Life Friends

When I was in my teens and my twenties, I had loads of friends. They came and went as I moved around a lot, but that didn't bother me very much in those days.
I moved from West Germany to West Berlin in the late 70s and then from Berlin to London in the mid 80s while my friends stayed behind. Making new friends was becoming more difficult as many people were hanging out with friends who they'd know since their childhood or school days. I had a lot of acquaintances in London but I didn't make many real friends. Keeping in touch with old friends from Germany was difficult as my only means of communication were letters. But who had time for writing lots of letters?
In the late 90s I moved to the West of Ireland, first to a small town and then out to the country a few years later. Did I make friends here? A couple maybe in the last 12 years. That sounds awful really taking into account that I'm an outgoing person. But being a city person and a foreigner really set me apart from the beginning and while my husband is Irish, he is from Dublin which is probably worse than being a foreigner in this part of Ireland. "Blow-ins" is the name they have for people like us.
So we persevered for many years but were unable to establish any close friendships based on similar interests.
Thankfully, we got our first computer in 1998 with a connection to the internet. That changed our lives and mine in particular as I started making full use of the social networking available in those days like chatrooms and forums. I met a lot of interesting people over the years, people I was able to relate to in many different ways.
But another great benefit of the internet was that I was able to start looking for old friends and acquaintances, people who I had lost touch with.
Over the years, I managed to locate several good friends from my twenties who I hadn't seen or heard of in 20 odd years. All replied to my emails and some have become great friends again. Sometimes it took years to locate a friend, but I found all the ones I wanted to find.
Recently, I manged to find an American friend of mine who I haven't seen in 26 years. As she changed her name through marriage, I had no means of finding her, or so I thought. But with diligence and patience, I eventuallylocated her and we're in touch again after all this time.
Cyber friends versus real life friends: Well, real life friends who you've known since your childhood or teenage years will probably always be your best friends, but cyber friends can be a great source of inspiration and comfort. Anybody able and interested in using a computer doesn't have to be lonely or bored, as there's a huge world out there with thousands of people who have similar interests. Loneliness these days has become a matter of choice for many, not an unavoidable necessity.
And last but not least: How many people do you know who've met via the internet and who have great real life friendships or relationships these days?
I just found this article on the Irish Technology site Silicon Republic which deals with the popularity of social networking sites and the time employees spend on them during working hours:
Workers waste two hours a day on social networks

18 July 2009

Who's obsessed with SEO?

I must admit, I've been laughing at people fiddling around with their SEO (search engine optimisation) in the past. Thought it was a bit of a waste of time trying to get things just right. But then I came across a few articles and SEO programmes and got caught up in it myself.

This evening, I used this programme which is supposed to tell you what Google are looking for. I spent ages condensing all my keywords and fine tuning my site description... only to come across a different programme later on in the evening which told me that I hadn't used enough keyword. So in they went again after I'd painstakingly taken them out an hour previous.
I'm calling it a night now as I'm
a) getting tired and
b) wondering if it's all worth it.
From what I gather, nobody really knows what makes Google spiders tick, so should we really spend our lives worrying about it?
My humble opinion would be: choose your keywords and descriptions wisely or at least do the best you can. After that, it'll be in the hands of the cyber gods.

Who's whispering to their Dogs?

I've recently started watching Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer on the box and I have to admit, I'm hooked.
Having 5 dogs myself, I've come across all kinds of problems with my dogs who are outdoor dogs as we live in the countryside.
We used to have them chained up in front of their dogs houses as we have a small road running past our house and with 4 of our 5 dogs being sheep dog crossbreeds, chasing cars is one of their favourite pastimes. Twice a day, we would take them for a walk up the road.
Eventually, we splashed out on an electronic fence and receiver collars for the dogs and for the last year or so, the dogs have been able to run around outside together. This turned them into a pack.
While they've been enjoying their freedom, they've established a more pronounced hierarchy among themselves which can be quite difficult to deal with at times. Food fights would be the order of the day unless the human top dog takes firm control of the situation, but even with keeping a watchful eye on them wherever possible, there are still vicious dog fights at times.
The saddest thing that happened was that the pack ganged up on our cat last autumn and pinned her down. They hadn't injured her when I ran out and picked her up, but the cat suffered such a shock that she died from the traumatic experience some 30 minutes later. I'm still grieving for her 9 months later.
I've read Jan Fennell's book "The Dog Listener" and watched her video. Learned a lot from her but not enough, I think.
With watching Cesar Millan, "The Dog Whisperer" on the telly now, I feel that I might be able to sort out some of the problems I'm experiencing with the dogs. Especially one of them, a spayed 5 1/2 year old bitch, is very difficult to deal with and causes a lot of aggrevation with her aggressiveness.
After watching Cesar Millan, I've started trying to get to the bottom of her problems. She acts aggressively toward the other dogs and tries to establish herself as the new top dog (her mother, the current topdog, is getting a bit old now). At the same time, she is disobedient, but I think that she's insecure and doesn't fully trust the human top dogs. I've just ordered one of Cesar Millan's books to help me and I hope that I'll be able to rehabilitate her by myself.
We've started trying out some of Cesar's methods on our dogs and they appear to be working. Fingers crossed!

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What can possibly be good about the worldwide Recession?

Not a lot, at first glance. So many people have lost their jobs and for middle aged or older people, it will be nearly impossible to find employment again, not in countries like Ireland, for instance, where you have a very large number of young people out of work.
The banks are not giving out loans, people are struggling to pay their bills and many are in danger of losing their houses.
Most of us who were born after Word War II in the Western World have never experienced an awful lot of hardship. We may not have been rich, but we've been getting by. And now we find ourselves out of work with little chance of getting a decent job again.
Unemployment in this country (Ireland) has doubled over the last year and the rate of unemployment has exceeded 11%. They're talking 14% by next year, 2010.
So what can possibly be good about that?
In my opinion, the recession can be a new beginning, a fresh start. That's not an easy thing to do and it won't be possible for everybody out there.
However, for those of us who don't want to take this recession lying down, there are opportunities. All it takes is some reflection and to think outside the box.
Many of us have talents, skills and dreams, but we've shelved them because we were too busy in our jobs. We may have put some of our skills to good use as a hobby, but we never thought of making money out of them.
Now times have changed. Why not sit back and think about what skills you have, what interests you have and what you would like to do.
Not every new little business venture would cost a lot of money to set up. Some may be completely free, others may require a minimum outlay of money.
And what about courses? There is a multitude of courses out there where you can improve your skills or acquire completely new skills. Depending on where you live, there may be money available from the state if you're unemployed and would like to do a course. Or the job centre may offer you a course for free.
In Ireland, there is a new website for unemployed people where you can offer your skills and someone will give you their skills in exchange. Like the old barter system: I'll do this for you, and you give me that, or you do that for me.
Fair enough, most of us won't become rich over night with our new ventures, but if we persevere, we may be able to make a living out of something that we would've never dreamed of in the past.

Back in the "Dark Ages"

What did we ever do without computers and mobile phones? How did we survive back in the dark ages?
What did we actually do all day and night?
I do have a vague recollection of what life used to be like:

We phoned people from our home phone and made arrangements. Then we would meet or maybe wait for ages while the other person wouldn't show up.
Or we sat by the phone at home, waiting...for that important business call or that date we were looking forward to.
Or we would queue at the public telephone in the rain or try and find a free one, only to discover that it had been vandalised. - Hours wasted.

What did we do for communication? We had pen pals and would write letters to friends and family. Difficult when you had something urgent to relate in a letter that didn't justify sending a telegram. You knew it would take days, or weeks, to get a reply, depending on where in the world the other person lived.
To check out any kind of information, it would either be the parents' encyclopedia or a trip to the nearest library to find the information needed. Chances were that the information you were looking for was already obsolete.
These are just a couple of examples of life in the Dark Ages, not to mention things like meeting people, communication, social networking, setting up a business, research, study, courses, job search etc etc.
On the other hand, people spent more time with each other, went for walks, participated in sporting activities and played games. Many of these pastimes have all but disappeared since the advent of personal computers, laptops, netbooks and the various games consoles available on the market.
Still, you gotta love 'em, the computers and gadgets. They have deprived us of some things but they've given us so much more than we could've ever imagined.

I'm still here! Well, actually...

I have to admit that I forgot all about this blog or should I say, I had too many other things on my plate for the last couple of years.
For the last month or so, I've been working on my new commercial website This 'n' That Bazaar and after listing a lot of different items, I decided to start a blog on my website. This led me back to my existing blog here which I've decided to revive.
I will copy some of the entries from the blog of my website to this blog if I consider them to be of general interest.
Apart from This 'n' That Bazaar, I have another commercial website Tara Herbs Ireland, a site for natural and/or organic remedies, supplements, toiletries and essential oils.
With the recession having hit Ireland really hard, I don't have much work at present and am therefore putting most of my energy into my online projects.