Beautiful Ireland by Joe Cashin

Two of my favourite photographs from the last year or so were both taken by Joe Cashin, an extremely popular contributor on Flickr and also an old friend of the family. Interestingly, both shots were taken in Co. Kerry and clearly demonstrate the truth in the statement that is omnipresent in Irish minds around this time of the year:

If only we had the weather

An Old Killarney Home (Muckross National Park, Kerry)

An old Killarney home

Evening on the Lakes (Killarney Lakes)

Evening on the lakes

The Mom Song

As parents of a delightful and vibrant 4 year old (going on 40), my wife and I constantly find ourselves re-using phrases that our parents used (in vain) on us. This regularly brings a smile to my face and I frequently pause to ponder about our own parent’s emotions back then, and how they must feel now looking at us going through the same thing.

I guess if I find myself witnessing history repeating itself once more in 20-30 years time, I’ll have passed on a little magic of my own, and may even be able to answer my own question.

With this in mind, my brother-in-law sent me this fine piece of art that captures many of the everyday phrases that our mothers undoubtedly used on us all. Enjoy!

Brain Surgery with a Banjo

We’ve all seen the documentary where the surgeon operates on a patient’s brain while the patient is still awake, placing electrodes at various points in and around the brain, observing the patient’s behaviour and responses to certain tasks they are asked to say and do, thus increasing the accuracy and effectiveness of their work.

Well, surgeons in the Nashville, Tennessee have just taken this to a new level with the legendary Blue Grass musician Eddie Addock. They actually asked Eddie to bring his Banjo with him to the operating theatre and had him play it while they operated on brain, ensuring that their efforts to cure his essential tremor symptoms didn’t adversely affect his livelihood and life-long passion for music.

So what would you bring to the operating theatre to aid the surgeons?

Source: SlashDot

Beijing 2008, LEGO style

A group of LEGO enthusiasts from Hong Kong have constructed their own version of the Olympic venues from Beijing 2008.

By the looks of it, they’re made mostly from fairly common LEGO pieces and as a result, they’re both highly impressive (as it anything made from LEGO in my opinion) but also refreshingly simple. Far too many modern LEGO kits have pieces in them that are all to realistic, taking the fun out of it for me.

Source: SlashDot

Ronnie Drew R.I.P.

Today will go down as a say day in the annals of Irish folk music as it marks the death of Irish musical legend, Ronnie Drew. Most famous for his role as the singer with the Irish folk group, The Dubliners, Ronnie passed away earlier today in Dublin after a long illness. He was just 73 years of age.

Ronnie was almost as famous for his immaculately groomed white beard as he was for his unique voice. Whether he was talking or singing, or looking down the lens of a camera, Ronnie was unmistakably himself. He was truly one of a kind in every way possible and his passing will leave a void in Irish life for some time to come.

As we say in Ireland, “Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam” which translates to, “May his soul be on God’s right side”.

Irish Wife Carrying Championships

They say that you learn something new every day. Today, that something new for me was the existence of a sport called Wife Carrying. Here, a male contestant carries his female team mate over an obstacle course in as quick a time as possible. Several styles of carrying are used, including piggyback, fireman’s carry (over the shoulder) or Estonian-style (where the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist).

Whilst it is predominantly a Scandinavian sport, the inaugural Irish Championships were held in Co. Kerry earlier today as part of the Sneem Family Festival, with the winners going on to represent Ireland at the World Championships in Finland next July.

Source: RTE News

Inside the LEGO Factory

Gizmodo is back with another amazing LEGO exclusive and this time he has been afforded the opportunity to explore (and film) inside the LEGO factory itself. His report includes several short videos showing the LEGO manufacturing process as well as some astonishing footage of how the bricks are stored in massive silos where no humans are allowed.

Some interesting facts and statistics I took from this are:

  • The plastic granules from which LEGO is made are a by-product of Diesel.
  • The LEGO machines produce 600 pieces per second (36,000 per minute, 2.1 million per hour or 19 billion per year).
  • The LEGO factory processes 60 tons of plastic  granules every 24 hours.
  • The plastic granules come in 70 basic colours, from which all other colours are derived.
  • The moulds that produce the LEGO pieces are retooled after 5 million uses.
  • Decorating the pieces is the most expensive part of the process.

Having spent a number of summer months working at an Injection Moulding company in a past life, I recognised much of the machinery and processes used but it is clearly off the radar in terms of scale, with pretty much everything controlled by a mainframe computer system.

Source: SlashDot

Seamus Brennan R.I.P.

I was saddened to learn of the untimely death of Irish Politician Seamus Brennan earlier this morning (9th July 2008) at the age of 60. Politicians rarely catch (or hold) my attention but I can recall being impressed by Seamus Brennan on a number of occasions.

His honesty when answering questions and ability to explain complex matters in simple terms were a breath of fresh air in a political world where the norm was to dodge questions and fluff around the subject matter with vague answers and irrelevant waffle.

There were tributes to Seamus in the Irish Times and on RTE News.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Secret LEGO Vault

Here is real treat for LEGO fans everywhere. I learned today that there is a special vault at LEGO Headquarters in Denmark where they store one of every LEGO set ever created from 1953 to 2008, that’s 4720 sets, still in their original boxes!

Apparently one of the primary reasons for retaining such a collection is that LEGO can use it as a safeguard in copyright and patent cases.

To a long time LEGO fanatic like myself, this is an unimaginable concept and represents possibly the finest toy collection in existence bar none. Special thanks goes to Gizmodo for sharing the experience and emotion of his recent visit to this labrynth of true wonderment. His article and accompanying video are well worth checking out.

Source: SlashDot

How clean is your car?

Sustainable Energy Ireland has a useful energy emissions calculator for all models of car purchased since 2000. I tried this out for my 2003 Renault Scenic and was quite shocked at how poor the emissions were (173 gC02/km) and that it could cost €600 under the new motor taxation scheme, compared to €292 under the current scheme. Fortunately, it will not cost this since it was registered prior to July 2008 and is thus exempt from the new system.

I was also very surprised to see how little by comparison a brand new 2008 BMW 520 Diesel is going to cost under the new scheme (€290 compared to €689 under the current scheme). This car is very efficient and emits a mere 149 gCO2/km.

The times they are a’ changin’