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Tuesday, August 30, 2016
The Kennedy Homestead in Irelandouring Ireland on our motorcycles, we sometimes saw ruins of deserted homesteads. These had been left when people either died or emigrated during the Great potato famine in Ireland (1845-1852).
About a million people died and a million more emigrated, often to the USA, in sailing ships like this, the Dunbrody, restored and on display in New Ross. I did the excellent ship's tour and learned some Irish emigrants' history :-)
The Kennedy (JFK) family lines split then, one half staying in Ireland and the other half emigrating to the USA. In the 1960s, emigrants' descendant JFK took it into his head to visit Ireland to see the other family line and visit the old family homestead, locals were fascinated (see my photo of their photo).
The homestead is still in use as a farm, and so their house is kept private.
The building on the right on the photo above was probably the old stables. It now houses a JFK/USA museum which, amongst other displays, also shows us what JFK's ancestors' bedroom would have looked like 170 years ago.
The grounds also contained an obligatory JFK bust, imho not a good likeness or maybe it's supposed to be Ted Kennedy? I didn't read the plaque :-(
And so we wrapped up our tour of Ireland and took the ferry over to Wales the next day. So I'll write about touring Snowdonia in Wales a little soon.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Always On :-(attended a lecture on Carbon Footprints at a pub hall. The pub is NOT called the Green Man ;-) For our homework, we were to make a list, room by room, of the devices which are Always On. Devices that go into Standby when you turn them "off" also count as Always On. The lists are surprisingly long (to me). Food for thought! You try it too & blog or mail me your results.
Living room : Clock, WLAN repeater. Kitchen : Fridge, Clock. Dining Room : nothing. Bathroom : clock. Toilet : nothing. TV-room : Clock, WLAN repeater, TV, Videocorder. Music room : nothing. Bedroom : alarm clock. Hobby room : clock. Dressing room : nothing. Study : WLAN router, NAS, UPS. Reading room : clock. Laundry : leak detector. Heating room : Hot-water circulation pump, boiler igniter. Sauna : clock. Storage cellar : Fridge, deep freeze. Outside : fire alarm, garden WLAN repeater. Garage : remote garage door opener receiver, trickle-charger. Hallway : landline phone, answering machine, clock. Undisclosed location : burglar alarm.
So that's 27 devices which are Always On; not a clean carbon footprint :-(
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Kissing the Blarney Stonene of the compulsory stops for any blogger/author/politician or salesperson etc visiting Ireland has to be to Blarney Castle, just a few miles WNW of Cork. Here, one just has to kiss the Blarney Stone. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery) ;-)
The castle ruins are set in their own beautifully tended grounds and are dominated by the tower. The Stone is set in the outer baluster at the top of this tower, so you have to climb up about 7 storeys of a narrow defensive staircase. It felt more like 77 than 7, I'm getting old :-( A defensive staircase spirals up clockwise. This means that a right-handed attacker has no room to swing his sword. The stairs are irregular in height and width so an attacker can't run up them. The spiral staircase is quite narrow, barely giving room for one person. Arrow slots point into the staircase so that defending archers can shoot at any attacker climbing the stairs. Devilish medieval design :-)
Before climbing this staircase (in my motorcycling gear!) I took a rest to get my breath and after descending another rest to get my breath back. A suitably wide bench is provided for all the tourists, but Frank waited until we were alone to get this commemorative photo :-)
When one gets to the roof of the tower there are two strong men to hold you whilst you kiss the stone inverted! So, any glasses off, any false teeth out, and any smart-phones, wallets etc out of any breast pockets, we were told. Then you lay on your back and edge out over the castle wall towards the outer baluster where the Blarney Stone is set. Then hold the rails and head down, leaning back, stretch out and kiss the Blarney Stone :-)
So that was another thing struck off my bucket list, begorrah! :-)
Monday, August 22, 2016
Berlin's Burka Ban?erman CDU/CSU politicians in Berlin have been debating banning the Burka. It is not clear to me what perceived threat this is supposed to counter. I think this is just a knee-jerk reaction to avoid losing votes to the extreme right parties in the forthcoming regional elections. Be that as it may, this is the spectrum of headdresses that Muslima immigrants wear :-
Now they have reached a compromise that the Schalla to Tschador be permissible but that the Nikab (=Niquab) and Burka be forbidden in certain environments. These include : public offices, schools, universities, passport-control, demonstrations and courts of law. Also when Muslima are driving; so it won't be long before the Muslim community comes up with a workaround for Muslima drivers : Smart Burkas for cars, maybe ;-)
It would be more sensible if the politicians did something to lessen the chance of Islamic terrorism, but that is hard work :-(
Friday, August 19, 2016
Gap of Dunloeack now to showing you our motorcycling trip around Ireland. Of course, we did what all tourists do, rode around the Ring of Kerry. We did it clockwise of course to get less traffic from the tourist busses which also has the advantage of putting you on the sea side of the road for your sea-scenery photos. Thanks to reader Noel for that tip :-)
However, the Ring of Kerry is less than 200km long, so we had time left over (and in sunny weather for a change) and following a tip from local Patrick, turned south at Beaufort to ride through the Gap of Dunloe, a narrow pass with an unmarked single track road & overtaking places like this one :-
The scenery is spectacular; some of the time we followed a small river and so saw beautiful waterfalls right next to the road. Compulsory photosession! :-)
At the top of the pass, the road (from the left to the centre in this photo) passes two small lakes where sheep graze contentedly, munching on the lush grass between the lakes. The craggy hills loom on either side of the pass.
However - and it is a BIG however - one is not alone. Notices at either end of the pass road state that it is unsuitable for cars and anything bigger; priority is to be ceded to ramblers and the horse-drawn gigs transporting the lazier tourists through the Gap. Tourist busses drop off their passengers in a big parking lot at the northern end of the Gap road. Said passengers are then loaded onto gigs for a ride through Dunloe Gap and are picked up by their busses at the other end. Some walkers = ramblers hike through the Gap!
Frank and I looked to see how wide the gigs were and decided that where they could get through, so could we on our motorcycles. But the only place to pass one another was at the overtaking places, see photo below.
As the road got steeper, gig-drivers had their passengers walk, so as to spare the horses :-) The road narrows too, so again, no overtaking, and we were reduced to a slow walking pace in first gear.
Despite the warning notices some car drivers tried to drive through the Dunloe Gap :-( We saw three. All three had scratched their paint along the way, an expensive mistake. That'll teach them to ignore the notices!!!
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
H-plates at last :-)ere in Germany, the government encourages people to own and maintain historic vehicles, recognisable by having an "H" at the end of their number plates. You only pay about ⅓ of the regular road tax. Insurance premiums are about ⅓ of what I would otherwise pay. And I don't have to conform to modern emission regulations (CO2, NO, fine dust, noise etc) which lets me drive in city centres without a green plaque.
To qualify, the vehicle has to be at least 30 years old, has to pass a stiffer safety test, and pass an inspection that it is as original as possible (no tuning, no modern add-ons etc etc). So I took my old Porsche 944 for the official inspection, failed on three issues which I had to get fixed (e.g. they didn't like it that the car had the original brake hoses, 30+ years old), but now it has passed the tests and proudly bears the letter H (for Historic) at the end of its number plate. Now I just have to learn to drive it like a gentleman ;-)
It may be an Oldtimer, but it can still trounce a lot of modern tin cans :-)
Saturday, August 13, 2016
The South Pole Innocation, location, location! Turns out the South Pole Inn is nowhere near 90° South, but can be found in Ireland, at the junction where the main road crosses the Anascaul river. And thereby hangs a tale...
Back in the early years of the 20th century, one Ernest Shackleton, himself of Irish birth, put an advert in the papers asking for adventurous crewmen for a proposed expedition to the South Pole (but didn't actually say where ;-)
One of the foolhardy people responding to this advert was a rugged fellow Irishman, Tom Crean who partook in both of Shackleton's expeditions.
The two expeditions were on the ships Terra Nova (1910-1913) and the Endurance (1914-1916). During the Terra Nova expedition, Crean walked alone across 35 statute miles (56 km) of the Ross Ice Shelf to save the life of Edward Evans, for which he received a bravery medal.
On the second trip the Endurance became icelocked in the pack ice and Crean sailed 800 miles in an open boat to South Georgia to fetch help. Returning to Ireland, he opened this pub where he lived quietly until 1938 (aged 61).
The pub today is dedicated to his memory. The walls are covered with original B&W photos taken during the expeditions. The ceiling bears a winding timeline of events. And all the beers on tap are of their own Crean brewery. Busloads of American, Chinese and Japanese tourists, all ticking the pub off their list of things seen, many without any real appreciation of the courageous deeds of these men :-( And we weaklings thought riding through the intermittent Irish rainshowers was hard; shame on us!
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
The Monorail @ Listoweln another non-atomic posting, I'm showing you a weird Irish railway restoration project, the monorail in Listowel. Officially it is called the Lartigue single rail system after the inventor (Mallet's patent merely refers to the fact that it used a compound steam engine). Three were built, one in Algeria, one in France and this one in Listowel, the only one remaining worldwide (I told you we looked at some pretty obscure stuff ;-).
The photo below shows the track and a locomotive. The track has a single load-bearing rail mounted on an A-shaped frame. The runners for the non-load-bearing side-wheels are merely there to ensure things are kept in balance. Instead of one large central boiler as usual, there are two smaller boilers, one on each side, one being operated by the engine-driver, the other by the fireman. I'm not sure why the headlamp is so huge, it is unlikely that there might be any animals on the track ;-) Anyway there are small cow-catcher rails at 45° on the locomotive on either side of the track.
Not just the locomotive, but the passenger and freight cars are split into two also (see photo below) which have to be kept balanced. To this end there is a central inverted-V staircase so that passengers can change the side of the train at loading time as instructed by the pernickerty and balance-obsessed porters , viz. "The fat lady with the small child on this side please, you two German bikers on the other side please!" How insulting was that for the lady? The central mirror enables the driver to see that he has engaged the coupling properly. Breezy compartments with open windows only :-(
The photo on the left below shows the central wheels (0-6-0) of each passenger unit (same for freight units). The wheels need two flanges to prevent derailment. Apropos freight : if a farmer wanted to take a cow to market for sale, he had to take two calves as well (on the other side of the train), sell the cow, and on the return trip put one calf on the left and the other on the right of the train to maintain balance on both legs of the trip ;-)
The Listowel restoration project has just ½ mile of track; the original track went from Listowel 9 miles to the seaside resort of Ballybunion. At each end of the track there is a turntable - powered by the human force of driver and fireman - for turning the locomotive around and putting it on another short track to get it back to the other end of the train for the return journey (more about switching later). This gave me the opportunity to take a profile shot of the locomotive (see below).
We enjoyed our rickety 12 km/h ride back and forth, but a couple of things had me curious. First off: how do switches / points work? Well there is a central rotatable plate bearing a piece of bent track. At the position shown in the model switch below, the train can go from tracks B to E (or vice versa). If the large central plate is rotated anti-clockwise one position (45°) then tracks A and D are connected. Turning the plate anti-clockwise another 90° connects tracks C and E. Turning the plate anti-clockwise another 45° connects tracks B and D. And so the locomotive (or train) can make a 3- point turn; indeed we watched it do so :-) The turntable is - again - human-powered; so that was where all the huffing and puffing came from ;-)
The other disturbing thing is that the 9 miles of elevated A-frame track between Listowel and Ballybunion effectively divided the countryside into two halves; one half on the left of the track and one on the right rather like a stone wall would. You can't have a level crossing with an elevated track :-(
I suppose you could add extra steps welded to the sides of the A-frame to make a "stile" for pedestrians, but what about animals/freight/vehicles? You would need e.g. a turntable big enough so that traffic could cross through one side of it when open, but ensure it was closed to let the next train pass.
It was not possible to build level crossings. In order for a road to cross the track, a kind of double-sided drawbridge had to be constructed, which required an attendant to operate it. There were 11 of these (labour was cheap in those days). Where farmers' tracks crossed the line there were level crossings based on the principle of a turntable as shown above. These were locked and the farmer in question provided with a key. Once unlocked, the track could be swivelled to one side to allow the crossing to be used. Both the swivelling and drawbridge type crossings were automatically linked to signals, which stopped any approaching trains; road traffic was always given priority under this system.
And another thing : the locomotive is a fake! A look in the footplate showed none of the assembly of valves, levers and gauges needed to operate a compound steam engine! At the front of the tender are two give-away exhaust stacks. The tender contains a diesel engine to simplify driving the train instead of a huge oil tank to fire the mock steam boilers. The steam whistle is just a digital recording! So it's a working mock-up; mixed feelings.
I told you we looked at some pretty obscure stuff ;-)
Saturday, August 6, 2016
The Colour of Guinness ;-)nstead of writing about matters nuclear today, I'll give you one of those delightful Irish explanations that we heard on holiday there :-)
We were in a pub which sadly did not serve Beamish, my favourite Irish stout, and so had plain Guinness instead.
After we'd signed (for) each Guinness, we got involved in a discussion about the colour of Guinness. I asked "What colour is Guinness?" and was told it was black. So I pointed to the head and in a pseudo-concerned way asked "So this white stuff is NOT Guinness?". Outtraged cries of "Of course it is, it's all the same stuff!". So I proceeded blithely, "So there's white Guinness too?". The barmaid, seeing a fight about to start, nipped it in the bud by explaining "Well, it's dark, not black. And it's light, not white. And it being light, it rises to the top :-)"
Several pints were quaffed as we did a statistical verification of this theory :-) And yes, the light part of a Guinness is always at the top! (Australian feedback requested if this is true there too;-)
Monday, August 1, 2016
Foynes' Flying Boat Museumhis month I'm continuing to tell you about some adventures on our motorcycle trip though Ireland and Wales. As Carol (UK) has pointed out, you can see better pictures of the countryside there than mine in any travel-broschure (ouch, Carol, that hurt!), so I will restrict myself to the more scurrilous places we visited; let's start with Foynes :-)
Foynes is a small harbour town on the southern side of the river Shannon. In 1939-1945 it was the centre of the world! This was the era when transatlantic civil flying was done by flying boats (remember, Ireland was neutral in WW2). The map below shows the three transatlantic routes and the coastal connecting civil flights as flown during WW2.
Pan-Am had this advertisement for the advantages of their Boeing B314 Clipper. What they didn't mention was that the mooring door was mounted so low that if the captain accidentally dipped the port wing while mooring, gallons of sea-water would flood the dining-room :-(
Foynes Flying Boat museum has a 1:1 scale mockup of a B314; here you can see how low the mooring door is mounted.
My photo below shows the cockpit layout. Note the sparse instrument panel and the lack of engine controls or radio equipment. That little tunnel between pilot and copilot's seats leads down into the nose where a large rescue-dinghy is stored (that yellow cylinder you can see there).
The pilots had no direct control over the engines or propellers. These were controlled by the Flight Engineer who had is own console (with no forward view). If there was any engine trouble during the flight, the engineer could crawl through a narrow passageway in either wing to get to the engines for a spot of in-flight maintenance! How reassuring is that? ;-)
All the radio communication and direction-finding was done by the Radio Operator. Note : no microphone, Morse only (see the key?). The box at the top left is a (low-frequency) direction finder; the main radio is below that. The navigator sat across the aisle from him, but couldn't see outside either.
Anyway, the most important person on board was the cook, but I forgot to take a photo of the small galley he used to conjour up 7 course meals for the passengers (3 course for the crew) :-(
Why was Foynes chosen as the seaplane base? It is on Ireland's biggest river and is easily seen from the air. There are no mountains nearby. The river Shannon there is completely sheltered from Atlantic winds and waves. There was already a railway station in Foynes, and a main road (to Limerick). Foynes had been a port for 100 years and so had the infrastructure in place, including 2 large fuel storage tanks for boats and small ferry boats to (dis-)embark passengers. Economically, a 4-engine flying boat from England to the USA could refuel there, gaining 3000 lbs in payload and thus £1500 in profit per trip.
The Kennedy Homestead
Always On :-(
Kissing the Blarney Stone
Berlin's Burka Ban?
Gap of Dunloe
H-plates at last :-)
The South Pole Inn
The Monorail @ Listowel
The Colour of Guinness
Foynes Flying Boats
Irish green rains
Irish friendliness :-)
North-Ireland coast road
Dutch car-care products
Wild Atlantic Way
AFK, so Hiatus.
Can you see the stars?
Weekend FAILs :-(
Ain Bulldog Blog
Finding life hard?
Not Always Right
Rants from t'Rookery
Spork in the drawer
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct Nov Dec
This blog is getting really unmanagable, so I've taken the first 12 years' archives offline. My blog, my random decision. Tough shit; YOLO.
ENGLISH : I am not responsible for the contents or form of any external page to which this website links. I specifically do not adopt their content, nor do I make it mine.
DEUTSCH : Für alle Seiten, die auf dieser Website verlinkt sind, möchte ich betonen, dass ich keinerlei Einfluss auf deren Gestaltung und Inhalte habe. Deshalb distanziere ich mich ausdrücklich von allen Inhalten aller gelinkten Seiten und mache mir ihren Inhalt nicht zu eigen.
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Blog Dewey Decimal Classification : 153
FWIW, 153 is a triangular number, meaning that you can arrange 153 items into an equilateral triangle (with 17 items on a side). It is also one of the six known truncated triangular numbers, because 1 and 15 are triangular numbers as well. It is a hexagonal number, meaning that you can distribute 153 points evenly at the corners and along the sides of a hexagon. It is the smallest 3-narcissistic number. This means it’s the sum of the cubes of its digits. It is the sum of the first five positive factorials. Yup, this is a 153-type blog. QED ;-)
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