Conor's Bandon Blog

Local stuff and other stuff from a blow-in

February 1, 2014
by Conor O'Neill
1 Comment

Please someone make a documentary on TB hospitals in Ireland

Four years ago I wrote a quick throwaway post about TB hospitals in Ireland. For whatever reason it bubbles up very close to the top of any google search on that topic. As a result, I have set of comments there which just have to be read. All of them are interesting, many are heartbreaking. The majority are written by people who were either in such a hospital or had a relation in one.

the-administration-building-circa-1913

I implore someone to take this information and do a proper documentary on it before it’s too late and all of these people are gone. These stories have been hidden for far too long, just like so many other parts of our 20th century history in Ireland.

Is anyone out there up to the task?

 

January 1, 2014
by Conor O'Neill
1 Comment

Two lovely hot sauces from Mexico

It’s been a while, I know. I spent most of 2013 focused on my tech blog over here. But I thought I’d kick off 2014 with a foodie post.

I use a lot of hot sauce but tend to be very boring in the ones I buy, mainly sticking to the supermarket reliables like Tabasco and Encona. I’ve got the odd Irish one too but many of them seem obsessed with heat and not flavour (Rebel Chilli being the worst culprit here).

One of my most spammed blogposts here is the one I did on Frank’s Hot Sauce back in 2006. However I’ve long given up on Franks due to the lack of kick and depth.

I recently read an article about the Sriracha obsession in the US. It lead me to believe that only one company in California was responsible for it and the distinct bottle. But their company name bears no resemblance to the one in my fridge, so I’m not sure how accurate anything they said was. I only use Sriracha in kebabs (I know, culture clash) as I find it a bit a too raw-garlic-smelly. Then I found this great piece on Pando daily, giving Sriracha a good kicking and recommending some alternatives.

The ones he mentioned that stood out for me were by El Yucateco and I found a bunch of places online selling them without too big a gouge to Ireland. So I ordered their Chipotle Hot Sauce and Green Chile Habanero Hot Sauce off eBay.  And boy am I glad I did. The Chipotle is a bit too smokey straight out of the bottle on to your finger, but it does some sort of crazy transformation the second it hits food. Everything tastes better, everything! It must be packed with umami. It’s not very hot but adds depth and some heat to spruce up even the most boring of foods. The Habanero is very hot, but not madly so. It is lovely and fresh and adds a lot of zing. A great replacement for Tabasco or Encona everywhere.

2013-12-22 13.52.52

Try them out. I’ll be ordering more soon as I’m nearly out already.

 

March 3, 2013
by Conor O'Neill
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Poacher’s Inn Tapas Night. Staggeringly good. Epic in fact.

For a good few years, this blog was all about food. I had lots of restaurant reviews and foodie pics and experiments like making sausages. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t done much in that area for a long time. Whilst I’ve eaten lots of lovely food since then, I haven’t had much that was truly memorable. Until Friday night.

My parents were down for a visit and we planned to go to The Poacher’s Inn with them and big sis, but when we went to book we were told the Tapas night was starting at 8pm and it was only a very limited menu before that. As we hate to eat late, we decided to go to Bandon’s other superb restaurant, Chapel Steps. We figured it wouldn’t be too busy around 6.30pm and we didn’t bother book a table. Boy were we wrong. They were jammed and didn’t have a table free when we arrived. Whilst it was a disappointment for us, I was thrilled for Siobhan and the team. They’ve got an absolute winner on their hands now.

So back to Poacher’s and not only did they have a table, they were happy to give us the Tapas menu early. I was chuffed! We ordered a clatter of plates for sharing. We knew we had to be out by 8pm and were relieved when the plates started coming thick and fast.

Not a single dud. Not one. Everything was gorgeous and lots of it was surprising. The tempura oysters with pepper sauce were a revelation. The sauce on the whole prawns was completely addictive. I could go on and on about the tastes but I think a few pictures are called for. Apologies for the rubbish picture quality. It was quite dark and I couldn’t find the option to turn on the flash as a light in the camera app on the phone.

Superb olives:

Local cheeses and meats (that pickled cauliflower was a thing of joy):

My favourite share plate. Everything on this was perfect:

Biggest surprise for those who thought they didn’t like oysters:

The incredible sauce. I need that recipe!

Beautiful brill with patatas bravas (best pickled artichoke ever):

By 7.30pm I think we’d tried everything on the menu. And then we had the desserts. That thing with the granita was the nicest sweet I’ve had in years. Seriously.

The others raved about this dessert too:

Rory told us that it was just a one-off experiment but can I implore Poacher’s to do this regularly? I know it had 5 chefs flat-out all night Friday so maybe once a month? And have it all night rather than the big-bang at 8pm? We haven’t eaten out much recently and it’s food like this that will get us out the door regularly.

When we first moved to Bandon, we were told that there were no good restaurants here because it was too close to Cork. So everyone went to Cork or Kinsale to eat. But Urru, Poacher’s and Chapel Steps have proven that was bullcrap and was just an excuse for mediocrity in the past.

If we get another couple of places of this quality in the town, it will become a serious foodie destination and rightly call itself the new gourmet capital of Cork.

January 29, 2013
by Conor O'Neill
1 Comment

Doing something about bullying – Tuairisc

Brian Greene contacted me last week about a new project he has just launched called Tuairisc.me. Like many good ideas, it’s brilliantly simple. It’s an anti-bullying form for school web-sites that can be added with a single line of HTML to any site.

I sent some questions/thoughts over to Brian and his responses convinced me that this thing has legs. But it will only work if as many people as possible know about it.

So if you are a parent, a teacher or even a student, let’s make this happen for your school. Get them to go to Tuairisc.me, sign the school up for the FREE service and grab that one line of code.

If the school gets stuck adding the code, I’m sure many people, including me, would be glad to figure it out for you.

Then get the message out. If your school uses SMS, send one. If it uses school-bag paper-slips, use that. Put posters in the school telling kids they can safely and securely report bullying via the school’s site.

Tuairisc is another perfect example of a motivated tech person getting us from “someone should do something about this” to actually doing something about it. I hope we see many more.

January 14, 2013
by Conor O'Neill
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Ballincollig’s permanent Orienteering Trail points the way for all West Cork towns

We recently did a short family outing to the forest in Castlefreke just before the kids went back to school. Whilst the walk itself was fun and short enough to avoid the kids complaining too much, it brought up a ton of questions and ideas in my head, such as:

  1. Why is it so hard to find detailed information about walks/trails in West Cork and the rest of the country? The Irish Trails site is very poor indeed.
  2. Why is Coillte sticking to unreadable-by-normal-people Ordnance Survey type maps in PDF format in 2013?
  3. Why doesn’t Coillte have iPhone and Android Apps for all forest activities?
  4. Wouldn’t such an App be a perfect positive example of The Gathering in action?
  5. Wouldn’t Google Streetview tours of the walks/trails/forests be an amazing resource?
  6. Why can’t I tell from online info if a walk/trail is buggy-friendly or small-child friendly?
  7. Why is signage in Irish forests so utterly useless?
  8. Why are we talking about selling off our forests rather than turning them into strong tourism revenue generators?

In the case of Castlefreke, rather than just complaining, I turned on a GPS tracker on my phone during the walk and uploaded much improved data to Open Street Map afterwards. I’d do the same on Google Maps but they don’t have a Map Maker for Ireland yet. (Aside: Sign-up to be notified when it happens here)

On our next walk, my plan is to take a Contour GPS camera and video the whole thing with location info. So future walkers can see exactly what a trail is like rather than relying on vague text descriptions on web-sites.

So it was a real joy for me to read Margaret Jordan’s blogpost this morning about the new permanent Orienteering Trail in Ballincollig Regional Park.  I did a bit of orienteering as a kid in the Scouts and absolutely loved it. It turned forest walks into an exciting adventure. It’s a sport that people of every age and ability can do. The one in Ballincollig sounds perfect for families.

And if you think about what’s involved, the cost to add this feature to any recreation space is very small. You could transform many barely used forests into hives of activity. But huge kudos to Cafe Chico for sponsoring the one in Ballincollig.

Given that Bandon is now an “Active Travel town” and funding has supposedly been allocated for walking and cycling routes, wouldn’t orienteering be an ideal and inexpensive way of achieving the aims of that initiative? I know we don’t have many forests locally. I once tried to go for a walk in Duke’s wood and failed miserably after a few yards. I wonder if Castlebernard would be amenable to such a thing? Or Manch? Are there other places, not necessarily forests where this could be done safely?

In the rest of West Cork there are plenty of areas where orienteering could slot right in. Imagine Lough Hyne or similar.

Thoughts? Problems? Suggestions?

UPDATE 1: I just noticed from the Cork Orienteering Club site that Farran has a permanent course too. That’s two weekends sorted for us now!

UPDATE 2 (20/01/2013): Today we had a go at the course in Ballincollig. We printed off 7 maps and the guide and got our warm clothes on. Overall we had good fun despite the usual kids complaints. But (big but!), you have to do it in wellies at this time of year. Most of the route is either off-path or on mud-filled paths. We did a short loop of the first 6 markers or so and were very mucky by the end. It’s not really suitable for people with buggies or very small children. Also if you want to split up into teams, there are a lot of rivers/streams/pools which means small kids must be accompanied by someone with sense. Highly recommended tho!

 

 

January 2, 2013
by Conor O'Neill
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Three full years a-running and my first Marathon

I thought I’d have a quick peek at my running stats this morning. Last year was pretty good and I’ve managed to start 2013 a whole 6 lbs lighter than I started 2012. Having said that, lots and lots of weight to be lost this year.

I started “running” back in 2009. It was not an auspicious beginning.

2009

  • 28.43km

2010

  • 435.81km
  • Timoleague: First 10km
  • Half Marathons: Dingle, Galway

2011

  • 394.39km
  • First road race in Vibram Five Fingers
  • Half Marathons: Bandon, Amsterdam

2012

  • 849.41
  • 10kms: Bandon
  • Half Marathons: Cork, Clonakilty
  • First Marathon: Dublin

2013

  • Second Marathon: Location TBD

I never did a blogpost on the Dublin Marathon. Must have been the mental scars :-) So here we go:

After the Cork Half in June, I stated, as I always do, that I simply don’t have a marathon in me. But over July I thought more and more about it and finally, after a lot of egging on by my wife, signed-up to do the Dublin City Marathon.

I decided to follow the official training guide for a nice slow 5+ hour run. I was starting a month late but I figured the Cork Half training was an acceptable substitute. Overall training went very well even if the loop around Bandon does get a bit boring after the 3rd time in a day. Hopefully we’ll get a path all the way out to the railway path some time this decade. My schedule peaked at an 18 mile run which was very slow but gave me a huge boost in confidence.

The day of the Marathon was quite chilly and we did the short walk up from the Mespil with windbreakers on. I was totally planking it. Despite lots of attempts at warm-up, I was very cold at the start, particularly my poor Vibram clad feet. And then we were off.

I decided to err on the side of total caution and went very slowly around Stephen’s Green and up O’Connell St. All felt good heading up to NCR and into the Phoenix Park. The Park is the longest and most boring part of the run. My right calf started to feel tight about half way through it. By the time I got to Chapelizod Gate, I was in serious trouble. The calf hurt more and more. The pain behind my knee getting worse with every step.

I finally took a breather heading up to Kilmainham around mile 10 and walked up some hills. Walking was no better. And that was the rest of my Marathon. A mixture of walking, slow jogging and a tiny bit of running, barely able to extend my right leg at all. All my attempts to compensate ended up hurting shin muscles and then my left leg. Pure bloody torture.

But here’s the amazing thing. At no point did I think I wouldn’t finish. Knowing all of the second half of the route inside-out was a huge help. I could just tick off sections in my head. Walkinstown, KCR, Terenure, Milltown, etc. That stubborn part of my brain simply decided that if it was going to take 8 hours, it was going to take 8 hours, even if I had to do it on all fours. I have Scott Jurek’s book to thank for a lot of that mental attitude. If he can run 100 miles with his ankle held together with duct tape, I can do a jog around Dublin.

The worst part was coming on to Merrion Road. The downhill on Nutley wasn’t bad and I jogged most of it but then I tried to walk on Merrion and saw that long long road stretching out in front of me and I wobbled mentally. So I stuck my headphones in for the first time and put on some Kermode & Mayo movie reviews to distract me. Then RunKeeper told me I was doing < 3 miles an hour. And I had more than 3 miles to go. Another hour of torture awaited me. So I bit the bullet and started jogging again. My speed was barely above walking. In fact many walkers passed me.

But on I went. And I got to the bloody end. 6 hours and 32 minutes after I began.

And the first thought as I crossed the finish line, apart from wanting to bawl crying, was “right, the next one is going to be a lot faster”.

Epilogue (In the best tradition of The Streets of San Francisco): Catherine had to help me get to a taxi and back to the hotel. I then peeled off the Vibrams and discovered I didn’t have a single blister. Not a one. Crippled but blister free.

6 weeks later I did the Clonakilty Half. Still some aches and pains from Dublin but otherwise a grand run which proved that I hadn’t damaged anything irreparably.

Now we are planning our next one. We’re signed up for Berlin but that’s a long way away. London looks great but is pricey. Copenhagen looks fantastic in May but may be too hot (and pricey).

The training begins tomorrow.

UPDATE 1: I decided to go for a short 3 mile run this evening. Very sore achilles but bloody hell, managed to do my all-time fastest average speed over any distance. 2013 is off to a great start!

November 12, 2012
by Conor O'Neill
2 Comments

New Alerting System from Cork County Council

It’s great to see Cork CoCo finally putting an Alerts system in place. It’s very easy to use. You simply go to the relevant Map Alerts site and register there with your mobile/email/etc. You can also add your home and work locations for alerts.

Right now they are doing Alerts for Met Eireann Severe Weather Warnings in all of the County and for Flood Warnings in Clonakilty. I assume they’ll eventually integrate Bandon FEWS in too rather than running two separate systems.

Other Alerts they will add in the future (presumably on the same opt-in basis) are:

  • Road Closure & Scheduled Road Works
  • Road Gritting and Salting Updates
  • Road Incidents and Accidents
  • Water Service Disruptions & Boil Water Notices
  • Community and Miscellaneous Events
  • Major Emergencies
You can see all the latest alerts here.

The system is powered by Map Alerter, an Irish company based in Carlow and run by Brendan Cunningham. They already have several other CoCos using the system and I look forward to all counties signing up.

MapAlerter has an API and RSS feeds available and I’ll do a post here soon on how to use them for the Cork data. It’s a brilliant example of real #opendata being made available rather than being talked about.

I have to assume some of the towns in the county are creating, or have created, iPhone/Android Apps for their town. Alerts would be a very useful addition to those.

Well done to all involved.

October 21, 2012
by Conor O'Neill
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Bandon Coder Dojo on the move

Bandon Coder Dojo kicked off this year and they have just made the move to St Brogans school at the top of the town. It’s on every Tuesday from 6:30pm to 8pm.

They are currently focused on Scratch, HTML and JavaScript. If you have any skills in those areas, they would really appreciate more mentors taking part.

Our eldest has just started using Scratch and is finding it good fun. Here’s a screenshot:

You currently need to have a laptop to take part in Coder Dojo. I know this excludes a lot of people but Camara Ireland has stepped in to help there. You can get reconditioned laptops from them via the Coder Dojo movement for between €114 and €125, which is a great price.

I also wonder if there is any possibility for school PCs to be used during the Coder Dojos too? Or perhaps, over time, Raspberry Pis which people can bring and hook up to the monitors there? This would maximise the number of people who can get involved with Coder Dojo, no matter what their financial situation.

Note that parents must accompany children for the entire session. If you have any questions about it at all, contact bandoncoderdojo@gmail.com

August 31, 2012
by Conor O'Neill
6 Comments

Finally, together at last, Vibram Five Fingers and Sugru

My two favourite products working together to make me run like the wind (*cough*).

When I switched from running in Bikilas to these TrekSports, I started getting a sore spot just behind the ball of my left foot. It appears to be due to a seam on the VFFs rubbing me. Using a temporary pad worked during the week so now I’m hoping this Sugru fix will be permanent. I have to run 5 miles tonight so that should prove it one way or another.

 

July 12, 2012
by Conor O'Neill
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Without Fibre, Bandon will suffer Timoleague’s fate

Timoleague was formerly a place of some note, being much resorted to by the Spaniards, who imported large quantities of wine here and it is said there were formerly no less than fourteen taverns that sold sack in the town.

Looking at the wide slob lands when the tide is out, or the shallow waters at full tide, it is hard to believe that here was once a busy Medieval port where foreign merchants from France and Spain bartered their wines and Mediterranean produce for Irish butter, hides and farm produce

In Timoleague’s case, the harbour silted up through no fault of the town. In contrast, we can actually save Bandon from becoming  “formerly a place of some note”.

Due to some catastrophic incompetence a few years back by the powers that be, when the two optical fibres were laid on the way to Clonakilty, no-one thought to spend a few quid running a spur to Bandon. So whilst Dunmanway has a MAN (for what?) and Clon has a fibre-enabled Technology Park, Bandon has residential-quality DSL, at best, for local businesses. In Old Chapel, we max out at 6Mbs down and sometimes 512kbs up.

Anyone setting up a business in the next few years will insist on decent internet connectivity. No FDI company will ever setup in Bandon without Fibre.

The Council is now about to spend millions ripping up the streets of Bandon to install a new drainage system. Why the hell isn’t Fibre being laid along all the new drains? It may not be able to connect to anything now, but in a few years time when budget is available again to run a spur here, Bandon could be the most advanced connected town in Ireland.

But of course, being Ireland, we won’t, and Bandon will slowly become Timoleague. A lovely place to visit and look at old ruins.