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Look Down it’s OK!

I saw a video on YouTube called ‘Look Up’.  Some guy reciting a poem about how we should stop looking down at the screen or we’ll miss all the great moments in life.

I don’t think we will.

Yes, the message to look up every now and again is a good one but most people have sense enough to instinctively know this.  Especially crossing the road or while eating in someone’s company etc. However, if you’re on a subway or eating lunch while on a business trip, feel free to check out your facebook feed or your newspaper, or buy something on ebay.  If you’re relaxing in the evening, play a game instead of watching a tv programme, that’s fine too, check out a cool video on youtube or solve a puzzle.  Why not.  But don’t do it while you’re bouncing on your trampoline or out on your bike, or doing chin ups, or visiting grandma and eating her tarts.

Not a good idea.

If you’re waiting for your mates to come into a pub or want to show them a picture of you acting the maggot, look down, if you are dancing and eyeing up a member of the opposite sex, look up. If you are in a parking lot, searching for an address, look down, if you are driving, look the f*ck up. Simples.

My point is, most of us have a bit of common sense and aren’t complete morons, and we don’t need to be pontificated to by a gobshite who wants a bit of attention.  It’s worse than that though, through this video, 35 million people have looked down.  Does anyone see the irony here.  35 million people wasted 5 minutes looking down.  That equates to 332 years of lost time.  I mean you could have used this time give some babe the puppy eyes, you could be in the hospital hugging your dying grandma, or how aboout throwing a stick for a couped up dog or even giving de missus a belt of the old relic.

Oh, and it wasn’t so great in the old days either.  People used to ignore people in other ways, like a huge big broadsheet newspaper, or up in the toilet with a well used copy of playboy, knitting, playing cards or watching Bosco on RTE1.    Kids were bored a lot more often and use to play with small metal cars in dirt or getting stung by nettles catching ladybirds and bees.  Boy would I have loved an ipad back then.  I might not have gotten those warts on my hands.

So my advice is turn off videos like this after 10 seconds before you waste any more time listening to drivel, but if you’re entertained by something or learn something, or challenge your mind or are communicating with a friend 6000 miles away, or chatting up someone, go for it. You see sometimes it’s good to look down, for work, rest or play. Do your own thing, use your own concience to guide you and listen to it.  If it guides you in the wrong direction, or you don’t listen to it…

… Darwin will take care of the rest.

Ps. If you stopped reading this halfway through, good on ya!

Arnold… you son of a bitch!

When I saw that there was a Kettlebell Sport competition being planned for the Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Festival, in Columbus, Ohio, known simply as ‘The Arnold,’ the week after the All Ireland’s I thought to myself, “Ill have all the training done, what if I did well in that competition, would there be a chance that I’d meet my boyhood hero too?’

The truth is I’ve always had a soft spot for Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s a real man’s man. He’s likeable, macho, smokes cigars, is a shrewd business man, and makes action movies where you believe he can beat the bejaysus out of anyone that crosses his path. He’s even beaten Satan in one of his movies, ‘End of Days.’ I mean, who else has ever called Satan a choir boy compared too them and got away with it?

As one of his biggest fans, owning pretty much all of his movies in every format, I’ve held Arnie nights in my house where the lads call over and eat steak and ribs, drink beer and smoking cigars while watching Commando, Predator or some of his other classics. We have a great laugh in anticipation of his most famous lines. If any of the guys stay over and we eat Green Berets for breakfast!

green-beret-for-breakfast

One of his mottos is to just do things and forget about what the naysayers think.  He likes to do things that others believe are not possible thus setting out to break the rules.  Nobody thought he could be the world’s ultimate bodybuilder, nobody thought he would be the highest paid actor in Hollywood, nobody thought he would be Governor of California but in every case he’s proven the naysayers wrong and he seems to get great satisfaction from it. I can really relate to this mentality. Sure he’s had some incidents in his life that show he’s not perfect but he always apologises, takes it on the chin and moves on, never shying or hiding away from negative press. Personally, I think he is a great example of a self-made man and though perhaps he is a workaholic, he has fun doing what he does and that is what is most important.  When it’s fun it isn’t work.

When I saw the pan-American tournament event being promoted on Facebook, I thought it would be a great opportunity to lift bells and perhaps even get to see my hero up close and personal in real life.  A win-win situation.  To boot the Irish Nationals were being held the week before so all my training would be done, which was another positive. I talked to a few friends about it to get their opinion and I just went with my gut and registered.  One of those friends was Colm O’Neill, a Ferrybank man, who runs a Hostel in Cusco, Peru called the Wild Rover.  I visited him a couple of years back whilst on a trek to Machu Picchu and we hit it off.  Since then Colm has become Mr. Cusco. He is a credit to Waterford and Ireland and more importantly, knows how to party!!!  Colm said ‘go for it!’ immediately. I also talked to my brother Colin, who is a flight simulator engineer in Dubai (i.e. plays video games for a living) and he said ‘no question, do it!’  I said it to Nicola my wife too and she told me to ‘follow my dream.’  Kieran O’Sullivan my training partner thought it was ‘a great idea’ and my Coach Gan said ‘it was a brilliant idea, but make sure and wear the club t-shirt.’  I did.

So, I booked my place in the competition and then booked my flights and felt my heart palpitate, for several weeks, everytime I thought about it, working out what was going to happen in my head.  Of course I couldn’t control what was going to happen but I just knew I had to be there.  All I could control was my training and so I focussed on that.

The weekend before the competition in Columbus I competed locally in the Irish Nationals, held in Cork City, and I decided to compete in both long cycle and biathlon.  Long Cycle is my main event but I wanted to challenge myself and see could I gain Rank 1 in both disciplines in one competition.  Long Cycle is like the Olympic Clean and Jerk except instead of doing 1 rep with maximum weight, we do as many reps as possible in 10 mins without putting the bells down.  Biathlon is a combination of Jerk, which is essentially popping 2 bells overhead using legs mostly leg power to drive them upward and lock them out overhead.  Snatch is a single arm event where you bring the bell from below hips to overhead in one swift movement.  I compete with 24kg bells in the sub 85kg bodyweight category.

20140226_213130 (Custom)Someone told me that I shouldn’t do both events and all of a sudden, those pesky ‘it can’t be done’ neurons fired and the decision was made ‘I’m gonna do it!.’  It was a big risk because if I got injured or over strained doing biathlon, I may have ruined by chances of getting on the Irish team with the long cycle event, which was my main concern.   However, I felt I could do it safely and so I made that decision a week before the competition.  I needed to score 130 points or 80 jerk and 100 snatch to make rank 1 on the Saturday.  I jerked 80 reps and I did 110 snatch to achieve rank 1 on day 1.  The next day I was tired for the long cycle event and I got a bit nervous but I managed to get a PB of 80 reps, which I was over the moon about, as I won the event getting rank 1 and secured my place on the Irish team.

After that I was buzzing for days, but it took a lot out of me and it wasn’t until Thursday that I felt like I could even lift a bell again.  On Friday morning I flew to Columbus, Ohio from Dublin and got there at about 6pm.  I bought an Irish t-shirt to wear when I got there which had Ireland on the front and Murphy’s law on the back, perhaps tempting fate, I’d find out later on just how appropriate this was. Total travel time was about 12 hours with the time difference.  I checked in to the Hampton Inn at the airport in Columbus, a great little find.  The Hampton put on a shuttle bus to the centre and back, which was incredibly handy and saved me well over 100 dollars over the weekend so I had a shower and went straight over to the weigh in at the Greater Columbus Convention centre. I weighed in just over 83kg. Game on.

I helped myself to a well earned philly cheese steak and went back to the hotel… I put my head down around 9.30pm and was asleep in seconds. I woke up at about 4am doh!  I filled up on a big brekkie and went over to the convention centre.  There was free WiFi there so I was in touch with friends and family at home through facebook and the support and encouragement I received was phenomenal including a message from my old pal Keith Barry, the great magician, who may have hypnotised me to do well. It’s what he does.

I met some lovely people at the event from the American Kettlebell Association at the opening of the event and got myself into the competition mind set.  I was up on flight 7 ( a flight in kettlebell sport is a 10 minute set with athletes competing on several platforms) so with 2 mins between each flight that meant I had about an hour and a half to warm up and prepare.

I was anxious and thought about taking the trip over on my own, the pressure to do tne training justice etc.  My good friend David Burke, a hypnotherapist in Waterford, told me to make sure that I am in a state where I physically drop to the floor after the set or I haven’t done my absolute best and given it all.  He told me to become like Arnie in his movies, the terminator, a cyborg all that sort of stuff.  We have a joke in Kettlebells about turning BEAST MODE ON and there are stages you go through during a flight such as the first 6 minutes, the work minutes where you build up some numbers, then there’s purgatory, minutes 6-8 where all sorts of things go through you mind, mostly your body saying ‘drop these fuppin yokes you mad eejit!’ I try and relax through these two minutes if possible, slowing down slightly, and then after these two minutes up it’s make or break time. You the find out if there’s anything left in the tank and if there is you flick the proverbial BEAST MODE switch to the ON position and just go for it, hell for leather.  This works for me because the mind is no longer active you just go for it and try get a bonus few reps.  The following video shows my last 2 mins.

During the set I lost track of my count because the counters were overloaded due to wireless signal issues, and the clock counted in reverse, which I wasn’t used to. The judge gave me 91 reps at the end of the set, which surprised me.  I was ecstatic with the win and felt like the trip was already worthwhile, but there was more to come.

After this I explored the convention centre.  There were huge bodybuilders, sexy bikini models, and athletes everywhere selling protein, sports gear etc.  There were sports events going on everywhere, karate, gymnastics, powerlifting, strong man, fencing, even table tennis!  Arnie is a big fan!  (see budweister ad).  This opened my eyes and realise how amazing America is at running events correctly and taking advantage of sales opportunities.

On my way out of the arena, action hero Jason Statham walked past, he missed the opportunity to get my autograph ;-).  Little did I know that he was with Arnie, so as I was walking out of the area, Arnie was walking in!!! He gave a speech right in front of where I competed with the kettlebells and I missed it.  Murphy’s law was in full effect. I was gutted!  One of the lifters I met, Joey Ifft, showed me some photos of Arnie and my heart sank.  ‘What an idiot!’ I said of myself  However, I had bought a ticket for the Arnold Sunday showcase, taking place in the Hilton across the street, so I knew I had one more opportunity to see him before I left.

20140301_131827 (Custom)I went back to the Kettlebell area and watched some amazing Athletes compete.  Over the day a world record was broken by Svitlana Krechyk (70 lc with 32kg bells), and there were some amazing athletes from US, Kazakhstan and Australia at the event competing including Goncharov Yevgeniy who did 83 reps LC with the 32kg bells in the professional men’s event. Not many in the world can get numbers like this! It was a pan-american open tournament but there was an international element to it.  It felt great to be part of it and to see such great kettlebell athletes in full swing (pardon the pun). During the presentation I got a fabulous medal and cup and I wondered how the hell I was going to explain this to the TSA at airport security on the way home. At the end of the day I took park in the Jerk relay, which was great fun and then I got a well earned pint.  It was a fantastic competition that was extremely well run by the American Kettlebell Alliance (AKA).  I hope that I get the opportunity to take part in a Kettlebell event on US soil again in the near future and that some more Irish Kettlebell lifters travel too next year.

Photo Copyright American Kettlebell Alliance. Click image to see full photo set on facebook.

 

Our Jerk Relay Team

After this I went to the char bar across the road to have a pint with another of the lifters from New York City and enjoyed a bit of craic there with some locals.  I sensibly went back to my room earlyish then so that I’d be fresh for the Arnold showcase in the morning and for travel home the next day.  There were snow warnings too so I wanted to avoid those.  Again when I got back to the room, after touching base with my wife Nicola, I was asleep within minutes of hitting the pillow.

I woke up the next morning a little later and had a relaxed morning.  I looked out my window after having a shower and it was white outside, about 4 inches of snow! YAY!  I was worried that my chance to see Arnold and my flights would be cancelled, but then I thought, what happens happens.  I relaxed, packed my stuff up and went for breakfast.  I had a waffle with cinnamon sugar, it was beautiful, just what the body needed after Irish Car Bombs the night before, but I digress.

I took the shuttle to town. The driver flew in regardless of conditions and I got the convention centre.  I got a few souvenier t-shirts for my family and went across to the Hilton to go to the Arnold showcase not knowing much about it.  I got there early and got a seat 3 from the front.  At first there was a talk by Jim Lorimer, a lovely gentleman who spoke at length about Arnold’s character and about the event and how it has grown from strength to strength over the years and how it is a testament to Arnold and part of his legacy.  It was very interesting and eloquent.

At about 11.15 Arnold came up through the audience and went on stage.  I nearly burst with excitement.  I was like a little kid going making his holy communion because people were going to be invited to ask questions and I had one prepared.  The question I had ready in my mind was this:  “Arnold, I’ve come all the way from Ireland to ask you one thing… will you do the Predator hand shake with me… then I’d walk up to him and say to him “Arnold… you son of a bitch!” and clasp his hand in the arm wrestling position causing his guns to flex and a sonic book to go off exploding all of the windows in the building… Sorry, my imagination was running wild at that point…

See the original clip with Carl Weathers below.

I had my arm up for about a half an hour waiting to asked a question and have it answered immediately. It was actually tougher on my shoulders than my 10 minute kettlebell set and when I was just about to be asked some d#ckhead in front of me stuck up his hand and asked a boring question instead LOL.  He’s probably actually a lovely guy and it probably wasn’t a boring question at all, but he’s the d#ckhead who stopped me getting my question asked.  Anyway, apologies for the profanities. THE ABSOLUTE DUCK HEAD! 😉

In truth, it didn’t matter whether I got to ask a question or not, being there was enough. I’d probably have just got caught like a rabbit in head light and just said something stupid anyway like ‘Arnold’ followed by long pause and a mis timed guffaw, followed by another ‘Arnold?’ and a then a high pitch squelching noise and another nervous chortle.  Anyway, the main thing is that I got to see my hero in person and listen to him speak for an hour sitting just 5 metres from him. He made eye contact with me a few times so I felt he was speaking to me directly.  How many people get to experience that with their hero? The following clip of video that I shot at the event sums up the trip for me, what Arnold is about and and why I did it.

After this I got the shuttle back to the hotel, collected my bags, went to the airport and started my travels home.  Turns out with the snow my flight was cancelled.  I managed to get another connecting flight but it ended up leaving an hour late so I was fretting that I’d miss my flight to Ireland.  When I got to Philadelphia Airport I ran to my connecting flight, it was about a mile away, but I ran past it about another mile and then had to sprint back with the suitcase full to the brim with clothes and the trophy which weighed a tonne.  I got on the plane sweating like mad, I pitied the poor guy next to me.  Then another chap coming from another connecting flight did the same. The guy between us was surrounded by two sweaty betties the poor unfortunate soul.  Then, as it turns out, this plane was experiencing technical difficulties so we had to switch planes, so I needn’t have run at all!!!  The new plane left an hour and a half late but all was well.  It gave me a chance to change my t-shirt too.  I put on my Murphy’s law t-shirt… how appropriate!  I guess this balanced out the good luck I had over the weekend.

20140303_162533Overall I had an amazing trip, I met some wonderful people in the American Kettlebell Alliance, I got to compete in a sport I love and winning my event was a real bonus (If you’re interested in kettlbells there’s loads of clubs popping up everywhere, I train at Tactical Fitness SC, Tramore, Waterford).

Finally, just before travelling home I got to spend an hour in the company of my boyhood hero, well I still feel like a boy and he’s will always be my hero, even though he doesn’t bleed according to one of his mates from Australia.

You see Arnold aint got time to bleed because remember, if it bleeds you can kill it! and you can’t kill a good thing.

I’ll be back!!!

Ps See you at his new movie, Sabotage, coming out at the end of the month.

Here’s the trailer:

Here’s a few shots I took with my phone over the weekend:

Why do I need a Mobile Website? Responsive design, what does it mean?

web-statsThese days more and more people are access the web from devices such as tablets and mobile devices. Statistics I gathered from one of my websites has shown that of 26,214 visits to the site, 9,938 (37%) requests came from mobile devices, and another 2,022 came from tablet devices.  Therefore, of all the visits to the site almost half (45%) of the traffic is now coming from mobile devices and browsers other than desktop.  This is a huge change from only a couple of years back when 90%+ of requests would have come from desktop browsers.  What is more, the trend seems to be still on an upward curve, so within a few more years desktop browsing will most certainly continue to drop.

“Almost half (45%) of website traffic is now coming from mobile devices…”

With a change of this nature it’s important that your website can be displayed on mobile web browsers.  The simplest way to do this, and provide a consistent experience across multiple devices, is through a responsive design.

All responsive design really means is that elements of your website will re-organise themselves as the browser window gets smaller. This is achieved through aligning elements to float, just like an image that is aligned to the left of text within a word processor, the words will wrap and flow around the text.  With a responsive design aspects of the user interface are organised into blocks that can resize and drop beneath one another as the website resizes.

Another approach is to create a totally separate website using adaptive design.  This is generally a completely new interface, specifically built for mobile around the same content.  When someone accesses your website from a mobile device they get redirected to the mobile website. Most websites do not require this as mobile browsers are now capable of practically everything that a desktop can do with the advent of html5 and css3.

So, what are you options?  If you have an existing site that was developed previously it may be possible to upgrade to a responsive design without losing your content.  If you use a platform such as wordpress, you could get a new theme developed for example.  If your site is very old and you don’t have a CMS it may be more difficult, and now may be the time to make a move and upgrade.

If you are going for a bespoke design you could consider utilising a framework known as twitter bootstrap for example, or if using wordpress you could use one of their latest themes (2012 or 2013) as a starting point for developing your page.

The best advice is to keep it simple and clean, and allow high contrast text so that users can view your site in daylight.  Allow menus expand and contract on mobile devices so that users can get to the main content quickly and easily.

UTD Web Design is currently building a platform to allow small businesses create simple responsive sites.  If you are interested in finding out more contact me at cian@utdwebdesign.com. If you wish to upgrade an old site, design a new site or if you require some independent advice with no obligations. please do contact me and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

HTML5 WEB CAM VIDEO TO ASCII DEMO – MATRIX EFFECT

HTML5 WEB CAM VIDEO TO ASCII DEMO - MATRIX EFFECT

Me Matrixified!!! Click Image to Matrixify Yourself.

It’s been a while since I coded something up that I had both a challenge and fun doing.  I was giving a html5 lesson to a friend and we were looking at the videostream to capture a snapshot of a video.

I started messing with it and once I had the pixels read into a HTML5 canvass you can do some pretty cool stuff because you can find out the colour of each pixel and redraw them one by one if necessary.

I had seen other video to ascii demos out there but wanted to implement my own from scratch to see if I could do it for both fun and a challenge.

You can view the VIDEO TO ASCII – MATRIXIFY demo here

Here’s what I did for those interested:

  1. First I put in place the HTML code to capture HTML5 video stream from a video element
  2. I also create a canvas to draw frames from this video to
  3. On the canvas on start up I draw out visible ASCII characters from space (32) to 127
  4. I interrogate each character to find out how bright they are and sorted them  by brightness
  5. I then chose 16 characters from this list at intervals from most dim (space) to most bright.  In courier font this seems to be the M character.  I keep this as my ASCII pixel set for use later.
  6. I then implemented a timer (using setInterval) to capture the video stream to a HTML5 canvas every 1/10th of a second
  7. I interrogate the canvass in block sizes that match the characters I will eventually output
  8. I convert each pixel to greyscale and work out an average brightness for the entire block and divide this by 16 to get a 16 colour representation of the block.
  9. I then wipe that block from the canvas so that I can then output the character that represents this level of brighness (see point 5) at that position

That’s pretty much it, nothing spectactular.  The code is a bit sluggish depending on what browser you have and the beef of your machine.  I’m sure it can be made more efficient but I don’t have that much time on my hands.

List of Waterford Beaches

goat-island

Goat Island Beach

Considering the weather we’ve had over the past few weeks, here’s an old post about Waterford Beaches that I dug up from UpTheDeise.com (a site that I ran a few years ago…)

Waterford Beaches listed from East Waterford to West Waterford

  1. Passage East    A small beach with a lovely view of hook head in a lovely little village.
  2. Woodstown    One of Waterford’s favourite beaches with good night life, camping sites and beautiful wooded scenery, the Harristown passage tomb is also situated close by.
  3. Fornaught    Close to Woodstown this is a favourite  for locals.
  4. Crayden    A lesser known beach.  Small with character.
  5. Dunmore East    Waterford’s biggest fishing village and the festivities in the summer are second to none, several small but beautiful beaches.
  6. Portally    Small cove between Dunmore and Tramore
  7. Rathmoylan    Lovely cove. Home of the famous eggs
  8. Ballymacaw    A very nice cove for swimming in, very long inlet, very unique.
  9. Saleens/Backstrand    Beautiful views of the sand hills and lovely walks.  Good fishing too and great for cockels when the tide is out.
  10. Tramore    Probably the finest bay in Ireland and the most popular.  Sand dunes, beach for miles, arcades and amusements, pubs and large town, this is Waterford’s second biggest town as well as the centre for summer recreation in the south east.
  11. Newtown Cove    A small cove as you head towards the metal man, good fishing and diving in an area  called the Guillemine.
  12. Garrarus    A fine beach not far from Tramore but not sign posted.  You will get here just after Fenor and before Kilfarrasy.
  13. Kilfarrasy     Another gorgeous beach with amazing scenery 😉 Lovely clear water too.
    Annestown    A beautiful beach in a lovely small village, spectacular views of Dunhill Castle and a lime kiln at the car park.
  14. Knockane    A lesser known, but beautiful beach between Annestown and Boatstrand.
  15. Boatstrand    A small beach with a great peer for the kids to have fun off.  Very safe. Before you get here from Annestown the view of the coast is breath taking. Very safe for swimming and lovely when the tide is in.
  16. Trabeg
  17. Kilmurrin    A small beach on the main road to Bunmahon.  Beautiful sunsets can be taken in here on an evening coastal drive.
  18. Bunmahon    An absolute jewel of a beach with lovely sand along the beautiful South East coastal drive.
  19. Tra na mBó Small beach with wonderful natural standing stone and lions head island just next to Bunmahon
  20. Ballydowane    Impressive cliffs and lovely scenic beach.  Be careful of rip tides!
  21. Ballyvooney    Stony little cove with character.
  22. Stradbally    Beautiful village, beautiful beach with loads and loads of sand and a lovely river along it’s side.  Great for the kids, better for swimming when the tide is in fully.
  23. Ballyvoyle
  24. Clonea    Another huge beach with hotel and amenities.  Very popular with people from Dungarvan and West Waterford.
  25. Helvic (Ballynagaul)
  26. Muggort’s Bay
  27. Ballymacart Cove
  28. Ballyquinn    A lesser known beach with some fantastic beach rock formations. Lovely long sandy beach.
  29. Ardmore East    The second of Ardmore’s long sandy beaches
  30. Ardmore Bay    Beautiful beach with some extra surprises in terms of history.
  31. Goat Island    One of the gems of the Waterford coast, a gorgeous little beach!!!
  32. Whiting Bay (2 beaches)    Two long sandy beaches with beautiful surroundings
  33. Caliso Bay    Lovely fishing beach with pretty scenery and an exotic name

Go forth and explore your county and if I’ve missed any please comment below or email cian@utdwebdesign.com

Stride for Spraoi 2013 – A great day had by all in the Comeragh Mountains.

Stride for Spraoi

Stride for Spraoi Triangle Formation at Summit of Comeragh Mountains. Image src. Spraoi Copyright 2013.

One hundred and twenty one people took part in the Stride for Spraoi on the 22nd of June 2013.  I was one of the one hundred and twenty one foot soldiers and I have to say it was an epic day.

On de bus

On de bus

The day started with a bus journey to the Nire Valley which took us around the foothills of the beautiful Comeragh Mountain range.  The beauty of this part of the country is often overlooked but the lush foliage along the way with the backdrop of the sleeping giant is magical.

 

20130622_104247We stopped at Hanora’s Cottage to get set up where we learned the plan from the main man TV Honan about the day ahead and how we were going to be a part of a work of art at the summit of the Mountain. He explained how we were going to make a triangle with flags representing Waterford at the top of the mountain, facing into the wind as the Air Sea and Rescue chopper flew overhead to take the money shot.  We collected the flags that the children of the Deise worked so hard to make for the event.  Being a Mount Sioner I was proud to collect a flag made by the infants of the great school that started an era in Irish History: 20130622_110812Cnoc Sion, named after the biblical Mount Sinai, by Brother Ignatius Rice, the founder of the Irish Christian Brothers in 1802.  Like Moses going up to collect the tablets, we now had our own mission on a local Mountain.

We walked along the road side to the Nire Valley and we started our hike.  It was a fairly mild incline at the start but it started to get tough as we marched through acres of fields covered in bog cotton.  We ventured up a steep climb to an unusual Waterfall known as ‘The Smoking Lady’.  This Waterfall is bizzare as it falls20130622_124415 into a valley directly into the prevailing wind, which causes the waterfall to fall upwards?  Like the magic hill on the otherside, this is another of the bizzare features of this wonderful mountain range.

The Misty Mountains

The Misty Mountains

We stopped for a bit of packed lunch there and I looked around jealously at Clem Jacob eating some salty Waterford ribbs (or Ghhrrribs as they are pronounced in Waterford) out of tin foil (a classic treat for Waterford folk at the side of the road at GAA matches normally).  I was happy enough with my packet of Aldi Cajun chicken, a bag of mixed nuts and a coffee to wash it down.  The weather was a bit miserable at this point but it didn’t get our spirits down as the craic was mighty.  I enjoyed the chat with Wayne Browne, my wife Nicola and some of Nicola’s work colleagues who happened to be on the trek.

The sun came out and we began the next stage of our journey. We stretched the legs and strode across the plateau to the highest point in the Comeraghs.  20130622_131023This took us across some very boggy terrain, that was commented on as looking ‘very lunar’ but then we did have some space cadet’s in our midst.  Wayne Browne managed to nearly get eaten by the bog as he plunged into an inconspicuous hole and, though he suffered a minor injury (the big baby), he ploughed on.  Once we got to the pinnacle, we got set up with our flags.  Padraig O’Grioffa, a man after me own heart, took out a mighty cigar to reward himself at the top.  I had to make do with a little rolley but I have had many the not so sneaky cuban cigars and clonmel chardonnays at the top on previous occasions so I could relate to such exotic pleasures at 2000ft. What is it about mountains, food, drink and cigars… anyway, I digress.

20130622_141317So we all got set up in a triangle equally spaced within an equilateral triangle.  It was great fun, but very very cold.  Someone kept blowing a sheep whistle or something and it seemed to co-incide with people raising their flags so I just copied everyone like a well behaved comeragh sheep (we saw lots of these).  It was amazing to be part of this scene and when the chopper flew overhead we were all buzzing and everyone gave 100%, not that we needed to as the wind was blowing about about gale force 12.  We repeated this for take after take until they got the perfect shot for Monday nights Nationwide.  Our job was done. This was not the end however, not by a long shot.

We then went across to the most beautiful corrie lake in the Comeragh’s that antique jewel, Coumshingaun, the black lake, with legends of giant serpents and all sorts of other myths and stories (some recent ones too).  Coumshingaun, the black lakeThe lake is about 800 metres long and is 60 metres deep at it’s deepest point.  The cliffs are ridiculously high and so the view to the lake is absolutely astounding.  If anyone is interested in visiting it please read this post on how to get to Coumshingaun.  It is wonderful to have a world class beauty spot like this in Waterford, just minutes from the city (about 20).  It is completely unspoilt and let’s keep it that way.

Mahon FallsAfter people had time to take in this view we went back across the plateau to the Mahon Valley, which is the start of the Mahon River, which flows past Flahavans Porridge factory down to the sea at Bon Mahon (which means End of Mahon, it makes sense!).  At the top of Comeragh Mountain we were greeted by a Piper.  This was a lovely touch before we started our descent.

We made our way down and everyone was still very good humoured, even though we had covered about 15km.  The colours and shadows in Coum Mahon were spectacular.  Once we got down we crossed the mahon river (a stream at this elevation), looked up at the beautiful Mahon falls and made our way down the comeragh drive to the buses where coffees and chocolate fingers were laid on for us and boy were they welcome.

A great day was had by all and a nice few bob was made to keep the Spraoi festival going, which happens over the Bank Holiday Weekend in August each year in Waterford City.  Spraoi is celebrating it’s 21st year which is a testament to the event and the committee, who work tirelessly to put on a great show for the Irish public every year.  Let’s hope that it continues indefinitely and that the Stride for Spraoi becomes an annual event.

A big thanks from me, Cian, and my wife Nicola to TV, Dee and all of the organisers for such as great day. The day is over but the memories and photos will last a lifetime.

Here’s a few pics I took on the day.  Enjoy :-)

How not to kill a smoking bird! – Are the horrific messages on cigarette boxes causing more harm than good?

20130620_141026This is more of a thought than a blog entry, and maybe it has no place here, and thought is a dangerous thing too but anyway here goes…

I took part in a seminar in Waterford Health Park with Dr. Mark Rowe who is an expert in wellbeing.  He is currently putting a book together on the subject and I have to say that if it’s as good and well researched as his talks it will change lives.

During the seminar Mark spoke about the placebo effect and how pharamceutical companies have it down to a fine art with labelling, shapes and sizes of tablets etc.  The Placebo effect is a mysterious, unexplained phenomenon where by patients who believe a medicine or technique will cure them are more likely to be healed (even if the placebo has no medicine in it at all).  It was discovered during war times when a doctor ran out or morphene and gave a saline (salt water) solution to his patients via a drip.  To his surprise it worked.  Injured soldiers immediately felt pain relief and could be operated on while they thought they had been given morphene.  This is probably the reason why so many alternative therapies work, because if a person believes something then it tends to assist with the effectiveness of the technique/medicine being used.

With that in mind I began to wonder does the placebo effect also work negatively, and I queried Dr. Rowe on the matter and he said it does.  So I was wondering about the side effects of certain drugs because some people tend to read these in detail.  Perhaps it is better not to read the side effects in case you bring them on yourself!!!

Anyway, that got me thinking about positive vs negative messages and the horrific wording images they put on smoking boxes (see image at the top of this article).  If you believe in the placebo effect working positively and negatively then it stands to reason that negative messaging will amplify the ill effect a substance will have.

Think about it, the messages currently state things like “Smokers die younger, smokers get cancer, heart attacks, strokes etc etc.” If these messages are being seen and are imprinted on the minds of smokers then everytime someone lights up a cigarette it will be reinforced further.  Could this actually cause these problems in some who might otherwise escape them, could it cause the problem earlier or make the condition more serious etc. I think it would be worth gathering statistics on and we really need to be careful about all of our messaging as every thing our mind consumes has some effect on us, which is proven, but as yet still unexplained, by the placebo effect.

Personally, I think messaging does need to be present but why can the language not be changed to positive messaging e.g. be free and become healthier, have loads more money just quit, feel better and live longer by stopping today, you have the power to beat the habit etc. etc.

What do you think?

If you require help to be free of cigarettes I can recommend Richard Burke of Safeharbour Clinic who specialises in hypnotherapy to quit smoking, Richard has a very positive outlook and understands the concious and subconcious mind and has a very high success rate when it comes to stopping smoking.

Web Skin: ‘the Best of Waterford’ by Waterford Illustrator Lee Grace

backgroundI became good friends with Waterford illustrator Lee Grace a number of years ago.  We were both colleagues at Marla.ie and we got on like a house of fire from the get go.  It could have been our mutual love for Waterford, or maybe it was Arnie movies, but I guess it could have been our bizzare shared appreciation of Stan Bush’s music from the 1980s Transformers the Movie sound track that really cemented our friendship.  I mean the fact that someone else knew songs like Dare, and The Touch off was a real shocker for me.

Lee is a fantastic and accomplished graphics illustrator having produced graphic novels, high profile logos and brands through Marla, and other amazing professional and personal work. He has undertaken some pet projects for me over the years such as the UpTheDeise.com car sticker logo, the cover for a slang book I published a number of years back entitled ‘For Focal Sake – A 32 County Guide to Irish Slang‘ and he’s done some excellent volunteer work for the 1848 Tricolour Celebrations.  Next years branding will be based around his latest portrait of Thomas Francis Meagher.

I approached him a few months ago about a background for Waterford Web Design.  I sketched out a view of the county on an opened envelope and took a photo with my phone and sent it via email to him.  He said he’d knock something together for me…

When he sent the background through to me a a few weeks later I could not believe my eyes.  A masterpiece had been produced.  He had actually captured the essence of Waterford in one illustration.

Just a few features of the design to look out for starting from the bottom left, all of them being huge parts of Waterford’s identity and offering:

  1. A viking long boat complete with Viking on the River Suir
  2. Reginald’s tower, Ireland’s Oldest Civic Building
  3. The Clock Tower on the Quay
  4. The beaches off the east coast and the Metal Man from Newtown Head
  5. Surfer dudes on Tramore Beach
  6. Coumshingaun Lake in the Comeragh Mountains
  7. Ardmore and the west coast beaches on the right
  8. Towers from Ballysaggartmore near Lismore
  9. A golf course
  10. Waterford Crystal
  11. Waterford’s city bridge
  12. A hurley and sliothar representing sport in the county

Can you spot anything else???

Just wanted to say a huge thanks to Lee for illustrating this exclusive web skin for me, fantastic illustration work as always!  Lee is a man on top of his game. Please visit www.leegrace.com to see more of Lee’s great work.

Stride for Spraoi

The stunning Coumshingaun Lough in the Comeragh Mountains Co. Waterford

The stunning Coumshingaun Corrie Lake and back cliffs, located in the Comeragh Mountains Co. Waterford

 

Just a quick post really… I’m taking part in the Stride for Spraoi this Summer solistice and I need to raise a few bob for it.  €121 euro in total so it’s not a big amount.

If anyone out there would like to sponsor a small amount I would really appreciate it.

You can send me a small donation if you like via PayPal (the deadline for sponsorship is Thursday the 30th of May).

Ps. I’ll cook sausages up the mountains for anyone that donates!!!

No Products Displaying under Manufacturers in Prestashop 1.5

This issue might help someone out there that had the same problem as I did when upgrading a shop from an older version of Prestashop.

I upgraded from 1.3.x to 1.5.x using the manual upgrade whereby I copied all images across and migrated the database etc. When I performed the upgrade to 1.5 all looked well until I clicked on manufacturers and no products where showing.  The message I kept getting was:

“No products for this manufacturer.”

From the back office all products were associated with the correct manufacturer so it seemed to be a front end issue.

After tearing my hair out and comparing the database tables with a sample prestashop install I started trying all sorts of settings at the back office. In the end it turned out to be a simple filter issue.

I went into preferences->products and scrolled down to the pagination section and changed the filter from manufacturers to product name and it worked a charm.

filter

Essentially what seemed to be happening is when manufacturer was clicked the default pagination was set to manufacturer and this was causing a filter issue.  Changing it to product name solved that issue and now the products display when manufacturer items are clicked.