Ireland Trip – Cliffs of Moher

On my last day of touring before the conference, I decided to visit the Cliffs of Moher.  I had seen pictures, but it’s hard to really comprehend how amazing the cliffs actually are.

It took a few hours to get there.  When I arrived, it was raining and cold.  I decided to put on my full wet weather gear – waterproof jacket and coat, with my waterproof hiking boots.  The only part of me that got wet was my gloves, which were still warm, but wet.

As I walked into the visitor area of the Cliffs of Moher, I immediately noticed a map that detailed a lengthy hike along the cliffs (about 20 km total).  I didn’t realize there was a hike.  That got me excited, though I was really thinking, “I’m going to have to come back here and do the entire hike on a nice day.”  Despite the weather, I decided I’d do at least a little hiking. I started my hike by walking up toward O’Brien’s Tower near the visitor’s center.  I then walked about a kilometer past there along the cliffs.

As I walked back toward the other side of the visitor’s area, I saw another tower far in the distance.

Cliffs of Moher from near the Visitor's Center. You can almost see the Moher Tower on the very last cliff to the right in this photo.
Cliffs of Moher from near the Visitor’s Center. You can almost see the Moher Tower on the very last cliff to the right in this photo (at this resolution, it’s a little tiny dot).

Since I was warm and feeling pretty good, I decided to hike to the other tower, not really knowing how far it was or even what it was.

I started hiking and didn’t pass many people, just a few who were also crazy enough to be hiking in that weather.  None of them were bundled up like I was, though, so most were just trying to get back to comfort.  One group of hikers stopped and took a photo for me:

Me nearing Moher Tower on Hag's Head in the not yet terrible weather.
Me nearing Moher Tower on Hag’s Head in the not yet terrible weather.

It took about an hour, but I finally made it to the tower.  It turns out it is an old signal tower, Moher Tower, built a couple hundred years ago that has been left to ruin.  It’s on a cliff called the Hag’s Head.

Moher Tower on Hag's Head cliff.
Moher Tower on Hag’s Head cliff.

Just as I arrived at the tower, the storm got much worse, leading to a white out.  I couldn’t see more than about 15 feet in front of me.  With a tower at hand, and no one around, I made use of it and went inside, sheltering from the wind for about 15 minutes while I ate a few Starbursts and waited for the wind to die down.

After that, I headed back to the visitor’s center.  It took about an hour and ended up being 2.84 miles one way (so, 5.6 miles round trip).

I was still warm and dry (aside from my hands) when I got back.  I stopped in the visitor’s center for a few minutes, then headed out.

I stopped in Ennistimon for soup on the way to Limerick, which is where the conference was and where the next house where I would be staying was.  As I was passing through Ennistimon, I saw the coolest cemetery and had to stop to take some photos:

On the way to Limerick I saw a sign on the freeway that said “Craughaun Cemetery.”  Thinking it might some how be related to “Cragun,” I pulled off to check it out.  Turns out it is a cemetery with an ancient passage tomb in the cemetery (but no noticeable Craughaun’s buried there; I looked for a while):

The passage tomb in Craughaun Cemetery.
The passage tomb in Craughaun Cemetery.

I arrived in Limerick in the evening. Limerick turned out to be quite nice.  I saw a little bit of it here and there when I wasn’t in the conference.  The conference was great.  It was at Mary Immaculate College, was very professionally run, and is likely going to result in a book chapter for me.  I also met a number of great people, some of whom I may work with in the future.  I spent a couple of days in Limerick, then flew home, just in time for Toren’s birthday party.

Ireland Trip – Carrauntoohil hike

I’m always up for a good hike, and it often turns out to be a great way to see places most people don’t see.  One of the places people recommended I visit in Ireland was the Ring of Kerry.  As luck would have it, the tallest mountain in Ireland, Carrauntoohil, is within the Ring of Kerry.  I did a bit of searching and learned about an alternate route, the Coomloughra Horseshoe, which starts from a different place than most people who hike Carrauntoohil and makes a loop that tops the three tallest mountains in Ireland, Carrauntoohil, Caher, and Beenkeragh.  I was hoping to do the complete Horseshoe, but was also paying very close attention to the weather.  The route between Carrauntoohil and Beenkeragh involves a climb over a razor back ridge that seemed like a bad idea if it was raining or cloud covered.

I got up early, had a hearty breakfast of sausage and eggs at my B&B, then headed to the trailhead.  No one else was parked at the trailhead, but I assumed some others would be coming along later.

I had okay directions from several websites, but knew I had to do some route finding along the way.  Alas, the clouds were still hanging quite low when I started the hike and, by the time I reached Cottoners River dam, I was in the clouds and could only see about 50 feet in front of me.  I knew roughly which way I was supposed to go, so I headed that way and tried my best to track my route on my GPS.  Here’s a short video of what it was like hiking on the lower part of Caher before I crossed the vegetation line and was hiking just on rocks:

I eventually made it to the top of the first mountain, Caher, and was quite impressed with the elevation gain and ruggedness of the mountain.  It was turning out to be a fairly challenging hike. Plus, the humidity in the clouds led to condensation all over me:

Me at the Caher summit with condensation on my hat.
Me at the Caher summit with condensation on my hat.

Unfortunately, at this point, I had the crazy notion that the trail turned slightly on its way to Carrauntoohil.  Not sure why I thought that, but I got off the actual trail and spent about 30 minutes wandering off the horseshoe before I realized I was off the trail.  Thanks to Google Maps and my GPS, I got back on track and headed toward Carrauntoohil.

Just as I reached the summit of Carrauntoohil, about 30 minutes after I regained the trail, I noticed two individuals on the summit – two Russian-speaking priests in full priestly garb performing a ceremony that included chanting, praying, reciting, reading from books, and so on.  No one else was on the summit, and I’ve never experienced that on the top of a summit.  It went on for about 10 minutes after I arrived and I didn’t really know what to do, so I just kind of sat there, waiting:

After they finished up, I confirmed that they were priests, then took a few pictures as the sun had finally broken through the clouds.

On the summit of Carrauntoohil.
On the summit of Carrauntoohil.

I spent about 20 minutes on the summit, then, because it was still very cloudy, I opted to go back the way I came rather than try the razorback.  It was so cloudy I immediately took a slightly wrong turn and headed down the standard route.  I hiked for about 30 minutes before I realized my error and had to hike back to the route I had taken, which added another 30 minutes or so to my hike.  Once I made it back to the trail, the clouds started to break and I finally started to get some nice views of the area.

Near the summit of Caher once the clouds broke.
Near the summit of Caher once the clouds broke.
The valley below Carrauntoohil once the clouds clear.
The valley below Carrauntoohil once the clouds cleared.
A panorama of the three peaks.
A panorama of the three peaks.

The rest of the hike was quite pleasant and I finally passed a few other people on the trail.

After the hike, I headed back to the B&B, showered, rested a bit, then went to the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club for a delightful dinner of fish and chips:

Fish and chips at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.
Fish and chips at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.

Here’s my route from the hike:


Ireland Trip – Newgrange and Knowth

After a good night’s sleep, I packed up, cleaned up the apartment, and headed out.  There were just a few things I really, really wanted to do in Ireland, and Newgrange was at the top of the list.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a pre-historic monument similar to Stonehenge, but of a different sort.  It included a ring of large rocks, but also a stone cavern in the center, and was then covered as a mound with rocks and dirt.  It’s both bigger and older than Stonehenge.

It’s only about a 40 minute drive north of Dublin.  As I walked into the visitor’s center at Brú na Bóinne, one of the staff asked me if I was interested in just Newgrange or also the tour of Knowth.  I didn’t know about Knowth, but she quickly convinced me it was worth it as it has more artwork than does Newgrange.  Since I really didn’t have anything else I had to do that day other than drive to Killarney for my plans the next day, I decided to go ahead with both tours.  It was worth it.

Knowth is a mound similar to Newgrange, but larger.  It hasn’t been restored the same way as Newgrange, but was fully excavated and restored to some degree.  However, what really sets Knowth apart from Newgrange is the extensive artwork on the stones around the mound.  Here’s the mound:

Knowth mound
Knowth mound

And an example of the artwork on the stones:

artwork on stones at Knowth
Artwork on the stones at Knowth.

Each tour is about an hour and a half.  After the Knowth tour, I went back to the visitor’s center, got another coat (it was a little chilly), then got ready for my tour of Newgrange.

Newgrange has some artwork on the stones, but has a different feature that Knowth does not – you get to go all the way inside the stone chamber.  It’s quite large (you can’t take photos inside), perhaps 15 feet in diameter, and about 24 feet tall.  Once inside, the tour guide shuts off the lights and then turns on an electric light that imitates what the sun looks like on the winter solstice when it shines through the light box (see photo below), through the passageway, and into the center of the mound.

light box at Newgrange
The light box at Newgrange.
Newgrange - 2015-05-25T13:07:28
Me at Newgrange.

These are remarkable mounds and well worth a visit if you’re in Ireland.

After my visit to Newgrange, I drove to Killarney.  I stayed in a bed and breakfast I booked through airBNB again.  This one was a more traditional B&B.  I went to bed fairly early as the weather looked pretty good for an attempt to climb Ireland’s highest point the next day.

Ireland – arrival and Dublin

One of the perks of my job is that I can occasionally get funding to attend international conferences.  Since I love to travel, this is a great way for me to get out a bit and see the world without spending tons of my own money while also making international connections that will advance my career (win-win!).  One of these opportunities arose when I heard about a conference focused on the European Social Survey that was taking place in Limerick, Ireland.  One of the suggested topics was religion, which was perfect for me.  I submitted an abstract for the conference, found out it was accepted, then asked my university for some money to cover my travel.  My Dean approved funds to cover my flight, which was good enough for me.

The way my schedule worked out, I was able to fly into Ireland about four days before the conference started, giving me a few days to experience Ireland before the conference.

I left Tampa on May 23rd, had a layover at JFK in New York, then flew into Shannon, Ireland.  Unfortunately, my overnight flight wasn’t all that pleasant as the guy sitting next to me must have weighed 300 pounds.  He barely fit into his seat, meaning he took up a decent portion of mine as well.  Plus, he was basically asleep when I got on the plane and slept the entire flight to Ireland.  That would not have been a problem except he snored and kept leaning on my shoulder.  That made getting much sleep difficult.  I managed to get about 3 hours is all, but that was enough to get me through most of the first day in Ireland.

I opted to rent a car in Ireland so I could traverse the country at my leisure and visit some more obscure locations.  Everything seemed to be going fine when I stopped to pick up the car until I learned the price of the insurance.  When I reserved the car, I was quoted €90 for an entire week.  But, being in Ireland, I wanted insurance for the car.  Turns out, insurance was €53 a day! That meant my rental car suddenly became the most expensive part of the trip.  The only other option was not getting insurance, but I’d rather not have to deal with that.  So, I approved the €600+ transaction on my credit card and got underway.

Driving in Ireland also meant that I had to drive on the “wrong” side of the road on the “wrong” side of the car again.  I did that before in Scotland and only ended up driving against traffic once.  I was fairly confident I’d be fine.  But I was also driving a stick this time, which added to the confusion.  Even so, on my way to pick up the rental car, the bus driver gave us some good advice.  He said, “Every time you get in your car, remember that you need to keep the white line separating you from the other traffic just to your right.  If you remind yourself of that every time you get in the car, you should be fine.”  I found that rather helpful.

The next hiccup was my GPS.  I didn’t rent one (at the rental car rate, it was probably €800 per day) because I had just bought a new phone that works internationally, the LG G3 on Sprint (though I use for my service, which is awesome). I planned ahead to simply stop by a Vodafone store in Shannon, get a SIM card for my phone and pay for that and a week’s worth of data and then get going with my phone guiding me around the country.  Everything seemed to be going according to plan as I drove straight to the shopping center where the Vodafone store was.  But… It was Sunday.  And, in Shannon, that meant the Vodafone store was closed.  No SIM card.  I still needed to drive across Ireland to Dublin to make it to my room that night.  I found a wi-fi network that was open, logged in with my phone, and plotted a course using Google Maps.  Luckily, Google Maps caches the map and directions and then uses GPS to navigate, so I was able to get started on my drive across Ireland.  However, between Shannon and Limerick there was a toll and I hadn’t gotten any Euros yet.  I had to exit and find an ATM.  I happened upon a Tesco (basically the European Wal-Mart equivalent) and remembered that they have cellular service.  I stopped in, got some Euros, then tried to get a SIM card working in my phone.  I was able to make calls, but no data, and the Tesco techs I called were worthless.  Turns out, because my phone is a Sprint phone that doesn’t typically use GSM, there were some additional settings (APNs) that needed to be adjusted.  I ended up wasting about €10 trying to get the Tesco SIM to work and finally gave up: I needed to get to Dublin before nightfall.  I cached the route on my phone again and left.

With Euros in hand, I had no problem with the tolls and Google Maps got me right to the car park where I was going to leave my car for the night.  I was staying in Temple Bar, the Dublin equivalent of New Orleans’ French Quarter – lots of pubs, lots of drinking, lots of music, and lots of drunk people.  I was really just hoping for a taste of Dublin and some Irish music.  Even so, there are a number of really cool things to see in the area.  Before I called my airBNB host, I walked around Temple Bar and found a couple of open wifi networks.  I used one to find a Vodafone store, which happened to be open and had techs who were able to figure out how to get my LG G3 to work on their network.  Hooray!  I now had mobile data coverage for most of Ireland.

I then stopped by Trinity College Dublin to look around:

At Trinity College-Dublin.
At Trinity College-Dublin.

I then called my host and arranged to go by the room I would be staying in that night, which was right on the River Liffey.  My host, Franck, was out of town, but he had a friend let me in and show me the place.  I ended up having the whole apartment to myself.  And this was the awesome view out my window:

View of the River Liffey from my apartment in Dublin.
View of the River Liffey from my apartment in Dublin.

I got settled, then headed out for dinner and to try to find some Irish music. On the way to a nearby pub, I stopped by the Famine Memorial.

The Famine Memorial in Dublin.
The Famine Memorial in Dublin.

I got a recommendation for a pub with traditional Irish music from a friend who is Irish: O’Donoghues.  The pub was very small, which meant I couldn’t really see the band that was playing, but the music was good.  I chatted with a very inebriated local for a bit who was hitting on every woman who came within his orbit while I pretended to enjoy a not very good sandwich (no pint to accompany it, alas, since I don’t like beer).  After about 45 minutes of nice Irish music, I realized I was getting very tired.  I walked through St. Stephen’s Green – a very nice park – then headed back to the apartment where I crashed pretty quickly.

St. Stephen's Green.
St. Stephen’s Green.

LibreOffice – Comments Inserted on the Left rather than the Right

I’m guessing I have discovered a bug in LibreOffice, but I don’t know if that is the case for sure.  Regardless, it’s a problem.

Here’s the situation.  I have my students submit all sorts of things to me digitally so I can grade them digitally.  I just finished a marathon grading session and finals are over.  But about 5 of the dozens of papers students sent me had a weird problem.  When I would insert comments into the file, the comments would end up on the left of the document rather then the right, like this:


There is no way, as far as I could tell, to move the comments back to the right side of the document by clicking on the comment or changing its formatting.  No matter what I did, the comment was stuck on the left.  If I opened the file in Word, it was cozily back on the right.  Something was just weird and not working correctly.  I tried lots of things.  I even installed the development version of LibreOffice thinking it might just be a bug in the version I was using.  Nope.  It did it in every version I tried (mostly iterations of 4.4.2).

I was kind of stumped.  It wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I export the files to PDF to send back to the students, and that meant what the students would get would be something like this:


The text is highlighted as it should be, but the comment was cut off.  That’s, well, useless.

After spending about an hour trying to track down a solution (there was nothing online as near as I could tell), I finally lucked into a solution.  It turns out, this has something to do with a page style in Word.  I couldn’t figure out what the setting was in the page style, but I figured out that I could get the comment to switch to the right if I changed the page style in LibreOffice.  Here’s how you do that.  First, open the Styles and Formatting window (F11 or Format -> Styles and Formatting):


Once you have that open, click on the icon for “Page Styles”:


You’ll then see a list of options.  If you’re having the same problem, it’s likely that the applied page style is “Default Style.”


Double-click on any other style (I went with “First Page”) and, like magic, the comment should switch over to the right side of the document, like this:


And there you go.  The comments are now where they are supposed to be.  I hope others find this helpful.  This drove me nuts for a couple of days, and then for over an hour as I tried to solve the problem.  I literally found nothing using the following searches:

  • libreoffice insert comment on left
  • libreoffice comment on left
  • libreoffice move comment
  • libreoffice move comment from left to right

Anyone have any idea what is causing this problem?

Hiking journal, childhood adventures, travelogue, and other stuff…