Rotterdam Park Hackathon

Last weekend, I had the chance to join a Park Hackathon organised by my colleagues at TU Delft (OpenData Lab Rotterdam) as part of the CAPSS EU project Open4Citizens.
The participants came from different backgrounds: civic activists, public administration, communities around Rotterdam and researchers.

Four parks, all part of the envisaged Groene Connectie (the Green Connection) were targeted:


Before the hackathon, I had a bit of time to explore two of the parks. While Park 1943 is a “normal” park in an area with schools and apartment blocks, Dakpark is not your usual park. The municipality and the citizens had very different ideas about how to regenerate an area that was falling into dereliction: while the municipality wanted a long row of shops, the locals wanted a park. In order to reach a compromise, the park was built on top of the shops: that’s where the name- roof park – comes from.








The hackathon was meant to reveal what kind of data could be accessed, collected, shared, reused in order to respond to current needs and allow the collaboration to improve.

We started with presentations of  the parks  and their current problems on Friday afternoon. As most of the talks were in Dutch, I had to guess, look at slides and Google a lot to make sense of what was going on. When groups with mixed expertise formed, I joined the group working on the Dakpark. People were very nice to me and I finally got a summary of the previous discussions in English, but then people shifted naturally back to Dutch. Once tuned in, I realised I understood a lot more. For people who don’t use English frequently, switching can prove difficult.

After the end of the project that involved building the shops and the park, the municipality is claiming that from now on, it is the responsibility of the citizens/volunteer to maintain it and does not see supporting them as a priority. And although a lot can be done with volunteer work, infrastructural elements and other logistic issues are not so easy to deal with without any support whatsoever!

The details of what happened and what was discussed were thoroughly documented by the project team. What I want to share here are just my thoughts on this type of events. I am a big fan of barcamps, design jams, hackathons and so on, because they give you the chance to meet new people and learn new things outside of our academic environment. Most of the time, people choose to go to such events rather than feel obliged to attend.

But other than the fun and the networking, what is the value of such events?
In this case, the researchers committed to this type of work sessions as part of their project. They organised and documented everything, played the hosts, kept the time and so on.

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Many of the attendees already knew each other, but it was also an opportunity, especially for the people talking on behalf of the organisations involved in park maintenance,

to tap into new types of expertise and get others to work on their problems for free.
An important finding was how efficient data is when you need to persuade someone, and how relatively easy it is to contribute to  open data repositories. Networking appeared as a natural solution for finding what kind of data exists out there in the open and how it can be made sense of.

It was interesting to watch people working in the public administration how they listened to problems – many times outside the remit of their own departments, and how knowing the administration inside-out, they were able to suggest creative solutions. Also, I noticed how their know-how was simply bursting out in response to the problems formulated – some things appeared as obvious to them, but they weren’t at all obvious for their group counterparts.

IMG_20161105_122314Over the two days, the possible solutions continued to change and evolve: what seemed a brilliant idea on day 1 was then rejected and reconsidered on the second day.

As an outsider, I wasn’t aware of the local war stories that people kept on mentioning, so I had to ask to find out the MacDonalds saga. For locals, it was impossible to imagine that someone wouldn’t be familiar with it! There was also the language barrier, which I haven’t encountered in a good while (not since I was working with Folkuniversitetet in Sweden many moons ago), but I was able to get the general gist. When I felt totally lost, I waited for the right moment to sneak in a question or to offer an idea in English.

There’s a special sort of energy at such events. I feel really involved and my neurons fire. I can’t speak about a hackathon addiction – like this young lady -but I never had a bad experience with a hackathon. There’s always stuff to do, interesting people to listen to, and some ideas that give you a sense of achievement.



In my case, this was simply field work. I was interested to see co-design at work in a different environment than cultural heritage. I looked for the pitfalls. As an outsider, it was easier to ask myself: “Who’s in control? Who benefits?”, keeping the work of Vines and his colleagues at the back of my head.

And parks, after all, are closely related to topics I relate to: sustainability, communities, DIY, growing and sharing food, planting fruit trees in cities and so on.

I am really grateful to Ingrid Mulder for embedding me in her team and giving me the opportunity to participate in this event while on sabbatical at TU Delft!

November 07 2016 | sabbatical | No Comments »

Games for Cities Training School

During the week 10-14 October 2016, I had the chance to attend the ‘Games for Cities’ training school in Amsterdam. The training school was part of the CyberParks COST action, and the central topic was Circular Amsterdam: Cities, Public Space, Play. The main organisers were Martijn de Waal and Gabriele Ferri from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, and Ekim Tan from Play the City



The main focus was on investigating “how play and games can be used to engage and activate citizens around the advent of a ‘circular economy’, with a focus on the flows of food and waste”. Taking a playful, game approach to city-making facilitates engaging different stakeholders in discussing and imagining future developments. This wasn’t my first encounter with the concept of “Circular Economy” (a SIG on this topic exists at the University of Limerick and my host university, TU Delft, is offering a MOOC on the topic), but seeing concrete examples and adopting this mindset definitely helped framing our mission for the training school.

The 5 days programme included presentations by and discussions with various specialists in game design and in the Circular Economy, as well as briefings offered by a number of local organisations on topics they brought to the table as case studies. The majority of the time was dedicated to work in interdisciplinary teams to design a prototype for a city game to take place in a specific location in Amsterdam.

The 19 participants (‘trainees’) were asked to opt for the selected case studies before the training school. The trainers’ task was to coach, nudge, inspire and share knowledge. The participants came from different backgrounds and from all over Europe. Each of them had impressive practices and achievements, and I had the chance to learn from them more than they probably learnt from me.

The first day was dedicated to introductions, general presentations and warming up with some games. We started with the Circular Economy game, designed by Play the City.

Games for CitiesLater in the afternoon, there were presentations on City Games, Circularity and Games Design. The day ended with a scenario game at Mediamatic, that I had to skip because of my daily commute to Delft, where I was based. On the second day, we listened to presentations from representatives of the five ‘clients’ who provided the case studies for each of the teams. The first, from the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, introduced the concept of Urban Mining. The second one was introduced by Arjan Wardekker from Utrecht University, and was connected to water and reflecting on situations where a city has too little or too much water, what can be done to reuse grey water, rain water and so on. The third case introduced a European project run by Waag Society, Urban AirQ, which enables citizens to measure the quality of air in a polluted area of the city by distributing DIY devices. The next step is to reflect on potential behaviour changes and their own roles and that of the neighbourhood in making these possible. The fourth case focused on waste streams at an experimental site in the North of Amsterdam, Noordoogst. Maarten Mulder from the Urban Technology group at the Amsterdam  University of Applied Science talked to us about the efforts for building a Circular Economy system at this location that includes at the moment a pancake restaurant, a bakery, bee hives, a kindergarten, a vineyard, offices, a take-away restaurant and a hostel. The last case was introduced by Francesca Miazzo from Wasted , a system developed for Amsterdam Nord in 2014 to recycle plastic waste. After a trainers’ coordination meeting, I joined the team working on waste streams in Noordoogst, as I found this development intriguing. After a discussion with Maarten and some brainstorming, we decided to make a trip to see the place. It wasn’t easy to get there- we had to catch a bus from the train station and walk quite a bit. We met the hostel owner in front of the hostel itself and he gave us the Grand Tour. There is a lot of potential, but also doubts that the municipality will extend the lease after the current contract ends. Visit to Noordoogst

In the evening, we went to Pakhuis de Zwijger for a “City Game Talk Show”, which was open to the public. Ilaria Mariani, Kars Alfrink, Francesca Miazzo, Michiel de Lange and Lucy Chamberlain gave short talks and participated in a panel discussion. I missed the following day’s activities, as I had meetings scheduled in Delft.

On Thursday, Silvia Tagliazucchi spoke about her work with Architetti di strada, an interdisciplinary group including architects, human rights activists, sociologists, communication & environment specialists, and the process used in Modena to find solutions together with the citizens. Maria Tome Nuez presented her perspective on digital/physical hybridation and co-creating with the citizens. Michael Nagenborg gave us his philosophical perspective on playful interactions, illustrated with interesting examples of games such as Papers, please!  , Cutthroat capitalism and September 12th.We continued working with the teams and the prototypes started taking shape. Games titles started emerging: Food loop, Carzilla, Fun plastic…

On Friday we heard  Lada Hrsak  talking about storytelling, futuring, agents and actors in street communities. Lada is an architect running her own company and has worked on a lot of fascinating projects all around the world This was my first exposure to performative architecture and it was like a new door opened! Ryan Pescatore Frisk from Strange Attractors presented some of their projects using typography, game design and connections between the physical and digital world.

The work on the 5 projects continued until the afternoon, when the whole group moved to Pakhuis de Zwijger for the public presentation of the game prototypes.

For more details, you can check my photos here, and read the Final Report available from the Cyberparks COST action website.

October 24 2016 | Events and sabbatical | No Comments »

Sabbatical leave

The last few years were extremely busy work wise. A sabbatical was on my mind for quite a while. Fortunately, my university considers sabbaticals as important opportunities to form new international collaborations and learn about higher education and research systems elsewhere. It’s time away from our regular obligations (teaching, supervision, grading, meetings, administrative tasks) when we finally get the chance to dedicate our whole time to reading, writing and planning future research.

During the summer, I had the chance to spend 3 weeks at QUT in June, attending DIS 2016, visiting local cultural institutions and meeting people. It was mostly a meSch mission, introducing the meSch kit, the  authoring tool and our meSch codesign resource down under. But it was also a great opportunity to focus on work while the time zone difference kept my inbox quiet. But that was just the warm-up.


The official start of my sabbatical, 1 September, found me in New York, attending the 2017 CSCW conference Program Committee meeting at Cornell Tech. A weekend of hard work, but also imbued with the joy of meeting colleagues, sharing news from our field and talking about the future.


Back in Limerick, I sat in Laura Maye’s viva voce together with Lui Ciolfi, and I was impressed by the confidence and sparkling display of knowledge demonstrated by our joint ‘academic godchild’. I took part in another viva the following week, and now it is almost time to go.

From 1 October to 1 December 2016 I will be visiting the StudioLab in the Industrial Design and Engineering department at TU Delft. I will be back in Limerick for the winter, and after that I am planning a two-months stay in Brighton, visiting the University of Sussex, and another three months stay at the University of Siegen in the summer. I am really looking forward to the new experiences awaiting!

October 05 2016 | sabbatical | No Comments »

Good bye 2015!

As 2014 was tough and madly busy (teaching, research, City of Culture projects), one of my goals for 2015 was to  catch my breath and recharge my batteries. It was the first time in 10 years when I had a two weeks holiday!

But it was, nevertheless, busy. My students made me very proud – I had the chance to work with very good students both at the undergraduate and at master level in 2015!

The meSch project team was involved in several exhibitions at Museon, Allard Pierson Museum, Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra and, closer to home, the Hunt Museum. I worked on the evaluation of the Atlantik Wall exhibition in The Hague in May and June, and it was good to be doing field work myself again. Too often I sit in my office and polish interview questions, help with ethics applications and data analysis, and the students have all the fun! It was very fulfilling to see our work from 2013 on so well received!

I was given the chance to host the Communities and Technologies 2015 conference in UL, and although it was a long struggle, I have the feeling that it went well and people enjoyed coming to Limerick (although our June didn’t look like summer at all!)20150630_152453_Unnamed Rd


Following an application written in a hotel room in Helsinki while attending NordiCHI last year, IxDA Limerick received a grant from the Year of Irish Design and we were delighted to host some brilliant speakers throughout the year.

I got involved in the ATTIRE project and had the chance to witness the brilliant collaboration of fashion designers and dress makers with electronics and 3D printing enthusiasts at FabLab Limerick over a 6 months period.

I have travelled a lot- again!- (Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg, Germany, France, The Netherlands and Scotland), mainly for work. I must say I enjoy travel less than I used to – teleportation couldn’t come soon enough to rescue me from the airport hassle!

On a more personal note, I am delighted to have fulfilled the dream of planting a “secret orchard” on the banks of the Shannon with the Limerick Riverpath Volunteers. Also, I took a course in Limerick lace making this autumn and I am enjoying my lace making time a lot. The plans to augment it with technology make it even more attractive!

I went to Romania for a week in spring – unfortunately it was as hectic as always, having too little time and too much to do. I wish I could have spent more time with my kids- maybe next year?

We had a great holiday in West Cork this year, and even if the weather wasn’t very kind to us, we managed to visit some fantastic corners of the area. Also, we took a week-long writing course with John Boyne as part of the West Cork Literary Festival. We had some great writers-to-be in our group, and I am much more open to reading books from more diverse genres since. I am still trying to get into a routine that would involve writing – but at the moment it’s still all bits and pieces spread in various notebooks and files.


Also, we had some great weekend trips this year: we went to Liss Ard and Cape Clear Island in September, escaped to Castlegregory for some autumnal sunshine, and celebrated our anniversary at Grange Manor (highly recommended!).

Last but not least, I received the 2015 University of Limerick Award for Excellence in Service to the Community in August for the contribution to the Are You Dancing? and Amazing Lace (City of Culture projects), for Limerick Riverpath Volunteers, 3Dcamp and so on. I felt deeply honoured- after all, I’m just a blow-in.


December 31 2015 | personal | No Comments »

Reflecting on volunteering and work-life balance

I spent the morning doing web archaeology work – I updated the Limerick Riverpath Volunteers website by digging content and dates out of its lively Facebook page and of my photo folders. There are still a few posts in draft stage, because I need to confirm names and events, but it’s almost there. We are organising an event dedicated to the Plassey Black Bridge tomorrow, as part of Heritage Week, and people will probably check our website.

Maintaining a digital presence for groups and organisations I am part of is work that I am inclined to take on without thinking about it as “work”. But when I run out of time and my university work obligations become overwhelming, the pressure of having these on my to-do list and the guilt feeling brought by the thought that I am disappointing people are simply too much!

Trying to do a quick count: the Limerick City of Culture 2014 projects I worked on last year all have websites I am still responsible for. The Limerick Lace one is up-to-date. The Are You Dancing? website still needs work and the transfer to its permanent home is not yet complete. The video recordings from last year’s 3Dcamp still need to be uploaded.

The website of the  Communities & Technologies conference, that we had the honour to host this year at the University of Limerick has done its job for this edition and I am preparing its transfer to the Troyes University of Technology for the 2017 edition.

The IxDA Limerick website needs to be brought up-to-date with this autumn’s events, as part of a Year of Irish Design 2015 grant that we received. Maintaining the website is part of our in kind contribution.

The UL Environmental Committee site needs to be updated too. I contribute quite a bit to the UL Community Roof Garden blog and Facebook page.

And there’s plenty of work to be done on the Creative Communities website as well.

I like this kind of work and I am good at it. But I will have to stop one day, because the sheer amount of work is not sustainable. So, who wants to take over?

We tend to upload everything to Facebook and Twitter on the go nowadays, and although this is excellent for immediacy – you read about events as they happen – they are not suitable for keeping a permanent archive of what a group or organisation does. Any of these needs a public facing permanent home on the web for various purposes, easy to find, to access and search.  I’m almost thinking about a plugin that would repost stuff from Facebook to WordPress, although I am quite sure that Facebook wouldn’t like this idea!


August 22 2015 | blogging and Communities | No Comments »

What a day!

Everybody around me knows I’m always busy. But today was quite unusual, because it involved two events related to Creative Writing, which  interests me a lot, but rarely can afford the time  to pursue- there’s simply too much happening!

I woke up a 5:55am, tortured by a thousand questions related to a conference budget. I revised the budget – again!, I sent a couple of emails and updated the event page on Eventbrite (hopefully it will go live tomorrow!)

I got to the university at 8:45am, with my porridge in a jar, as I couldn’t afford the time to make it and eat it.

9:15am. I was in the middle of the first Skype call of the day when my door opened and Prof.Tom Moylan came in with no other than Kim Stanley Robinson! I knew he was around, and I had made time for a joint seminar with the Interactive Media and the Creative Writing master students titled “Interaction Design and Scenario Building”, supposed to start at 10am in our Design Studio. I brought the guests to the studio, rang my colleague, tried to organise coffee (and failed), finished the Skype call, initiated the next one while fighting with the printer to get a presentation printed for a student. Workshop details discussed.

10am. The joint seminar was very interesting- we drew parallels between writing and designing, spoke about the  similarities between characters and personas, the importance of narrative for both fields and how scenarios come about. One day I might find time to transcribe my notes!

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12pm. I ran downstairs to talk to three of my students whose final year projects I have supervised this year. Alex explored opportunities offered by NFC tags to make the connection between buildings on campus and digital content about those buildings, Niamh studied gesture interaction opportunities in a museum environments and Athiei filmed people telling stories about particular places around Limerick in those very places.

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1pm. Two more emails and a phone call, and I ran to the weekly gardening session of the UL Community Roof Garden, to introduce one of my master students to the group and do a bit of manual work in the gorgeous sunshine.

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2pm. More firefighting – a student who had to demo her project in the lab came to tell me Flash was out of date and she didn’t have rights to update it. I went looking for the technician, sent him her way.

2:30pm. The afternoon demo session started- I went to see two other of my students – Clodagh who designed an app for DIY skincare enthusiasts and Aoife who created a playful interface for keeping track of the roof garden evolution.

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3pm. I got back to my desk for a call with the editors team of a PUC  Special Issue that came out of our 2013 ECSCW workshop. We distributed responsibilities and set deadlines. Facebook gave me a glimpse into the meSch exhibition launch at Museon in The Hague – it looked like a great success!

4pm. I ran back to the lab to see a few more final year projects before the end of the day. I’ve sent a few more emails, tweeted about my students and said goodbye to the people getting ready for the reception.

5pm. Drove to the Clare side of the campus for the inaugural lecture of Joseph O’Connor, Frank McCourt Professor of Creative Writing. The reception started at 5:15 and the lecture at6pm.


The lecture was titled: ‘Ghost Light: John Synge and Molly Allgood – A lecture through fiction, letters and music’ and Martin Hayes was invited to play during the lecture.

Ellen McCourt- Frank McCourt’s widow- was in the audience. Facebook brought me this video with her taken the other night  in Limerick. Great lady!

I loved  Ghost Light  very much, and during the Q&A chaired by Prof. Sarah Moore some interesting connections came to light: Joseph O’Connor grew up in Glenageary, and passed by Synge’s house at least twice a day.

8pm. Very hungry. We decided to have dinner in the Pavilion admiring the sunset. Very soon after, Joseph O’Connor and his family, Martin Hayes and the whole group of Creative Writing master students arrived to have dinner in the same place. Dinner was lovely- and none of us had to do the dishes!

9pm. Back home, writing a blog post before reading a proposal and grading more student work.

Now you have it! A day in the life…

April 09 2015 | Events and Limerick and personal | No Comments »

Field trip in the Burren

As part of an agreement with Clare Local Development Company, I have worked with a number of communities in co. Clare. My role was to put in place the technology and support its appropriation depending on each community’s needs and aspirations.

One of the groups I’ve been working with is Clare Pilgrim Way, an initiative group that aims to create pilgrimage routes connecting sacred places in co. Clare. As the group is taking control of their own website, Facebook page and Twitter account, they also need a way to track and share their routes. I’ve recommended EveryTrail, and a few attempts have been made.

I decided to join them for the second of their three days Stage Two of the Clare Pilgrim Way, and I have looked at the Burren from a completely new perspective. The day started in Carron, with a visit to the old school where Michael Cusack once taught. At Burren Life, Brendan Dunford (the project manager) gave us a brief but passionate presentation on the objectives and achievements of this organisation.

The walk started with a visit to Cronan‘s Well , then to Chronan’s Church. We met a lot of tourists on our way.

We passed several penitentiary stations and arrived to Fachnan’s Well. The final target was St.Colman MacDuagh‘s hermitage at Eagle Rock.

Here’s the trip as recorded on EveryTrail:

I had a great time out in the Burren, talking to people from all paths of life. And within that day, I have gained an understanding of this particular group of mobile technology users that I couldn’t have got in any other way!

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August 23 2013 | Communities and Technology | No Comments »

Digital Cities 8

This year, the Digital Cities workshop (co-located with the Communities & Technologies conference) took place in Munich and I finally managed to make it.

Digital Cities 6 happened in 2009 at Penn State University, and Digital Cities 7 was in Brisbane, co-located with Communities&Technologies 2011. Too far, too expensive!

Throughout its existence, the event followed the intertwined development of cities and digital technologies. My interest in urban informatics/Urban Interaction Design has continued to grow in the last 3-4 years. Back in 2009, I came up with the idea of a Connected Limerick project, that went through different incarnations- from workshops and curated talks through to active involvement and support for local communities.

In September last year, I started to work with a team of three students on a Connected Limerick-related project meant to explore opportunities for supporting citizen and visitors in adding digital information to the physical layer – in other words, annotating the city.

The three students who joined me were Laura Festl, a visiting master student  from the University of Siegen, John Slattery, a Music, Media and Performance Technology final year student, and Alan Ryan, a Digital Media Design student  doing an internship with us at the Interaction Design Centre at the time.

John continued his work in the new year and produced an excellent proof-of-concept for the application we had in mind  as his final year project.

From February on, we were joined by an Erasmus student from the Military Technical Academy in Bucharest, Cristina Dobrisan, who continued the work, producing a working prototype.

I was delighted to be given the opportunity to present our work in Munich. The paper is available on and will probably be developed into a longer article for a future Digital Cities 8 volume.

I enjoyed the workshop a lot – some very interesting attendees and papers. Martin Brynskov did an excellent job as workshop organiser and facilitator. I was delighted to meet Eleni Christopoulou, who joined our morning session. She had a paper in the main conference on Collective City Memory together with Dimitrios Ringas. I was aware of their project – CLIO, and indeed there were a lot of commonalities.

DC8 Munich  Martin Tomitsch spoke about an app  that aggregates real time data on the public buses’ locations contributed by the citizen. It made me a bit nostalgic – my son had the same idea for Bucharest during his PhD and he was told it wouldn’t work… Well, it worked in Sydney!

Ingrid Mulder spoke about Creating 010, an initiative based in Rotterdam meant to enable citizens to be involved as co-creators in the development of public services. Fiorella de Cindio spoke about participatory budgeting -a fascinating subject I’ve read more about since, and  Henrik Korsgaard  presented City Bug Report, an installation meant to explore transparency and Open Data readiness in Aarhus, Denmark. Alexander Wiethoff introduced his work and his efforts towards developing a method for the evaluation of media facades. Katharine Willis‘ paper looked at how online interaction could facilitate inclusion and support a sense of place.

We were also joined by Martijn de Waal (The Public Matters) whose insightful questions and comments brought a valuable contribution to our discussion.

It was a fantastic day and it opened new horizons for my future work in this field!


July 03 2013 | Events | No Comments »

Celebrating St.Patrick’s Day at home in Limerick

I must confess I have no Irish roots. Before coming to Ireland 8 years ago, I knew very little about Ireland. But now I feel a bit Irish. Irishness grew on me. I know I’ll always be a blow-in, but I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else. This is my home, and I have no plans to move anytime soon.

I remember landing into Shannon in February 2005, having left Luxembourg at 5am with -14 degrees C. It was +14 degrees C in Shannon and there were blooming daffodils everywhere.  I needed a work permit and a visa to move here, and that meant that I had to spend 3 months eating into my little savings between when I was offered the job in February and the moment when I could actually fly back in.

This morning I realised this was one of the few times I got to spend St.Patrick’s Day at home in Limerick.

    • In 2006 I met my daughter in Vienna for a brief holiday. We dressed in green and we went to Carl Corcoran’s RTE Lyric Breakfast that was broadcasted from ORF Kultur Cafe Vienna on that day.
    • In 2007 I attended a workshop in Val d’Isere and couldn’t get a flight back from Geneva the day when the workshop ended. So together with my colleague we went to a chocolate festival in Versois. Here’s a photo with me dressed in green and eating sheets of chocolate.

A bit of paddywhackery, isn’t it?!

  • In 2008 I was out on O’Connel St. in Limerick watching the parade – it was freezing cold, but I enjoyed immensely to be part of it all.
  • In 2009 I had to fly to Romania to renew my ID card.
  • In 2010  I was in Brussels for a Marie Curie ITN evaluation session. I brought Butlers chocolates with me and shared them with all my colleagues there.
  • In 2011 we organised an IDC outing at Lough Gur – about 10 of us having a picnic by the lake and freezing to the bone.
  • In 2012 I attended the Local & Mobile conference in Raleigh, NC. They had 22 degrees C, everybody was dressed in green and the students from the area were partying hard.

So I enjoyed very much being out on the streets of Limerick again watching the parade. I brought two Erasmus students into town to see the parade as well. It’s amazing to see how many nationalities are living here, and how they all want to be part of the celebrations. On my left, I had a Mongolian family, while on my right, a couple of African origin were waving at their daughter, who was part of the parade. Fond memories came back to mind from my early childhood, when both my parents had to be in the parade and there was nowhere they could leave me, so I got up very early and passed in front the tribunes once on my father’s shoulders with his mates from the factory, and then later on I was passed to my mother who had a tiny white coat for me so that I could mingle seamlessly with the other nurses and doctors from the hospital she was working for, while passing in front of the tribune a second time. Anyhow, enough about the past!

Here is a snippet of video, to give you an idea of the atmosphere. My photos are here.

I was a bit puzzled to see that some companies chose to take part in the parade driving a company van only. It didn’t make much sense to me, and it wasn’t entertaining. At least the Limerick Cupcakes people were giving away free cupcakes! And then there was a group protesting against the household charge! Is this part of the celebration?!

It was surprising to see groups advertising shows and festivals – an innovative use of the parade. I found out that one of my former students will sing in Oklahoma, and that we will have a Sarsfield Day in August. But this was interesting at least!

Oh, and my favourite contraption was a giant insect brought in by Macnas, a performance group from Galway!


March 17 2013 | blogging and Limerick | No Comments »

On gardens and gardening

As a child, I grew up in an apartment block. But my father had green fingers and he got an allotment somewhere on the edge of the city, about 1 km from the end of the bus line. As a child, I enjoyed having my own tiny garden that I was completely in charge of.

Since then, I had balcony gardens, indoors tiny herb gardens and at a point in my life, a big garden (too much work involved for the little time I had!).

When I moved to Ireland almost 8 years ago, I chose an apartment with a balcony. I had herbs, beans and morning glories growing on my balcony, but I longed for more. At some point, I remember having a plan to sow climbing beans in the bushes by the canal and riverbank, where I was cycling every day on the way to and back from the university. I wouldn’t have minded if my harvest would have been eaten by the birds – just the pleasure of seeing stuff grow and doing things with my own hands is enough for me.

In the summer of 2011 I finally found a house with a garden for rental. I had visited many places before that – most of them had a great garden, but the house wasn’t exactly a good place to live. I had to come to grips with the idea that the garden was a hobby and I actually needed a place to live in.

Since we moved in, I put in two vegetable beds, a tiny pond, a greenhouse, a rose bush, a lilac tree, several soft tree bushes ( blackcurrant, red currant, raspberry).

I have great plans for this year. We planted a Kilkenny Pearmain apple tree bought from the Irish Seedsavers two weeks ago and cleaned some of the overgrow. And today was all about gardening – farm manure got added to the vegetable boxes, the front garden got a make-up and everything is now smiling in the sun. I’m happy, but wrecked! I love working with my hands – gardening, knitting, giving massage – I feel like I’m filling up with energy instead of getting tired! I guess this is what Csikszentmihalyi was referring to!

These are a few snapshots from last year:


March 16 2013 | blogging and Life and Limerick | No Comments »

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