February 2009

Pat and I were illegal immigrants for five days this week.  Not by choice.  The immigration office told us that they preferred for us to be briefly illegal.  Let me explain.  Even though my Irish work permit is good for two years, immigrants are required to check in at their local garda station at the one year mark to update paperwork, confirm employment details, etc. The date for Pat and me to renew was the 12th of February.

A friend of mine at work went through this process a few months ago, so I knew that it would require a bit of planning and preparation on my part to make sure all of the paperwork was in order. A month before my work permit expired I rang the immigration office in Cork to get some information on the visa renewal process and to ask if I could come in a few weeks ahead of time.  I was told in no uncertain terms that I absolutely should not come early to renew the visa. A week to 10 days late is grand, but don’t even think of coming in early. I wonder if there is any logic behind this request? If there is a reason, it wasn’t explained to me. I was told that if I arrived early to renew the visa, I would need to have written proof that I would be out of the country or otherwise unavailable on the date my visa expires. Pat has written in previous blogs about the Irish sense of time, and I think this needs to be added as a classic example. It would seem that the Irish government not only encourages procrastination and lateness, but insists upon it.


You know what they say about the weather in Luxor:  If you don’t like it, just wait 15 years.  I’m not sure of the accuracy of the report, but as mentioned in an earlier post, one local there said it had been that long since it had rained in Luxor.  When we were riding in the felucca at Aswan, the chief of the Nubian village was a little unsure whether it had been one, two or even three years since it had rained there, but he said it rained for quite awhile, about 45 minutes.  So, according to Met Eireann, the Irish Meteorological Service, what’s the longest drought in recorded Irish history?  37 days in Limerick in 1938.

As you can tell, Ireland’s climate is just a bit different than that of Egypt.  In Cork in 2008, total rainfall was 1340.5 mm, or nearly 53 inches of rain, about 10% more than normal (although from June through August, there were almost 18 inches of rainfall, or just over twice the normal amount.  As we said earlier, it was a wet summer) .  It was actually drier here near the end of last year and the first 10 days of 2009, but that “good” weather couldn’t last.  Even with the dry first third of the month, it rained nearly 8 inches this January in Cork, more than in any month last year.

Because of the first 10 days, it was a bit sunnier in Cork than normal for January, but that’s relative, of course.  According to Met Eireann, there are on average just over 1 ½ hours of sunshine per day in Cork in December and it’s not much better by January.  Met Eireann notes that year-round, “Irish skies are completely covered by cloud for well over fifty percent of the time.”

Met Eireann tries to make it sound like the weather really isn’t that bad here, stating, “The general impression is that it rains quite a lot of the time in Ireland but in fact two out of three hourly observations will not report any measurable rainfall.”  Yes, that’s right, it’s not too bad because only in one of three hours is there measurable rainfall.  Met Eireann goes on to say that “the average number of wet days (days with more than 1mm of rain) ranges from about 150 days a year along the east and south-east coasts, to about 225 days a year in parts of the west.”

I honestly felt as if for nearly the last year here in Ireland I could not leave the house in the morning confident that I would remain dry the entire day.  Until this last weekend, when Saturday was guaranteed to be good weather, I can’t think of a single day since last spring when there wasn’t at least a threat of rain in the air at some point in the day (this weekend showed how relative a term “good weather” is, when one-and-a-half days of sun seemed like a wonderful break).  Of course it didn’t actually rain every one of those days, just most of them.

Until we arrived in Ireland, neither Amy nor I had blogged before, and while we had seen a few, we’d never been regular readers, either.  But a blog seemed the best way to let people back home keep up with our travels, so we set one up and posted our first item one year ago today.

We thought some of you might like to look “behind the scenes” of our blog, as it were.  If you have your own blog, much of what I’m about to write will be old hat, but I know many of our friends and family don’t have a blog and may be unfamiliar with how they work.

Our blog has a counter which keeps track of all the hits we get on our website, and about a week ago we hit 7,000 and earlier today we hit 7,300.  Some blogs get that kind of traffic in a week or less, but we were pleased so many people had come to our blog.  We had thought of our blog just as a way for people who know us to keep up, but lots of the traffic comes from people who happen to find our blog through a search engine.

We know this because our blog has a stats page and it shows what other webpages are referring readers to our site, and what search terms people use to get here.  Yes, if you google a word or a phrase, and you end up at our site, we know how you got here (we just won’t know who you are).  This brings me to my first piece of advice if you set up your own blog: If you want a lot of people to read your blog, include articles with either the word braless or peeing in them.  Judging from many of the search terms people use to get to our site, I know we’ve disappointed lots of readers.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to allow people to comment on our blog, but Amy thought we should, and I’m glad we set it up that way.  It allows people to clarify points, or just jump in with their own two cents.  But if you allow comments you definitely need a spam filter.  Some companies spam blogs with links to their own sites, and it’s interesting to see the different approaches.  Most don’t even try to hide that they’re spam, while others try to make it seem like there really is a person out there who read the post and is simply responding to it (“That’s some good content!” or “I really think that your site is informative, I have read through it and think that you have several amazing points. Please visit mine . . .”  These almost fooled us, since of course our blog IS good content, and is always filled with amazing points, and how could they know that without actually reading it?).

We often include a picture with our postings, and on the right side of our screen we have a link showing the latest pictures we’ve posted on our flickr account (this may seem obvious, especially if you’re reading this on the blog, but some of our readers subscribe to the blog and get emails sent whenever we post something new, so they don’t  actually see the blog itself unless they seek it out).  Our flickr page has stats, too, and while they’re sometimes a little harder to decipher, it seems most people looking at our pics find them not through the blog but from simply doing an image search on google or flickr.

Here, too, content is important.  The numbers of viewers of two of Amy’s photos of David Czerny statues rose steeply about two weeks ago.  What happened was the Czech Republic took over the presidency of the European Union January 1, and their government commissioned Czerny to work with artists from each of the 27 EU members to create an exhibit with statues representing each country.  Instead, he decided to create all the statues himself and made up names for the other artists.  The exhibition created something of an international incident, because for some reason Bulgaria didn’t like being represented by a toilet.  With his name in the news, people began searching for his work online, and they found us.

This is what’s amazing to me.  I write a blog posting on the Cork Admirals and for months afterwards whenever someone searches for the Admirals online my story is on the first page of results.  Amy photographs some statues, and when people image search David Czerny, her pictures come out as the fourth and fifth images on the results page.  It’s one thing to know that what we create is available to anyone with a computer and internet connection, but it’s another to see how easy it can be for someone to actually access it.