Last Friday evening, I decided to leave the house to go and attend The House of Light Ritual - announced as an all night celebration of music and dance dedicated to Saraswati at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. A nice warm atmosphere welcomed us, the Tower Theatre was completely open to the lobby (it was the first time I saw it like this), there was tea and coffee and quite a few people around.
Next, Prof. Mel Mercier invited us upstairs to see, play and listen with the newly forged gamelan, made on order for the IWAMD by a Javanese gamelan maker. I witnessed a gamelan performance before ( it was the Cork City gamelan), but I have never been so close to one. What Mel did with the volunteers was incredible, assigning to each one a rhythm and some sounds, until they sounded like an experienced, faultless orchestra. In the second half, students from the BA in Contemporary Dance went to perform a dance in the middle of the room, adding to the magic.
I had to go home around midnight, as I felt really tired. The concert continued until the morning, and I’m sure there were plenty of other unique moments – so sorry I didn’t last longer! On the way home, I was thinking how lucky I am to live and work here, to have all these cultural confluences on my door steps, and to be able to join in from time to time. On the night, I heard about the new BA course in Performing Arts – World Music that is starting in September at IWAMD. So many opportunities – lucky those who will take this course!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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!
At the beginning of last year, I started working on the idea of a Limerick Tweasure Hunt – a treasure hunt using Twitter. The initial idea was to send the participants out for a walk in the city and help them discover things they ignored during their daily rush through the streets. Their tweets were going to expose those places to all their Twitter contacts and generate awareness. I also intended to draw attention to the Open Plaques project – a fantastic initiative to build a crowdsourced database of historical plaques from all around the world.
It was part of my ongoing “Connected Limerick” pet project – trying to connect the digital and the physical layers of the city in a playful way. You can read more about the background of this idea here and get the gist about what went on by watching this video.
Together with Sharon and Tara, we ran the event for the first time on the 1st of April, as part of the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival. We included an April Fools joke – unfortunately the first team who got there bagged the fake plaque as a trophy and that was that. The date coincided with the launch of the Limerick City centre Tidy Town initiative – so one of the missions that participants had was to meet the volunteers, talk to them and take a picture.
Following the invitation of the Limerick Local Heroes, we ran a second Tweasure Hunt as part of the 4th of July celebrations in Limerick. By using the same hashtag for all the activities going on on that Sunday (#4thJulyLimerick) we managed to get the public attention by trending in Ireland that morning.
The next one is planned for Sunday the 24th of March 2013. Sharon and myself went for an exploratory walk today, to check historical plaques, odd corners and timing. We were accompanied by Laura Maye, my PhD student working on the meSch project. She is looking into possible technologies that could support museum and cultural heritage curators to make use of digital artifacts in the actual locations.
As usual here, within an hour we had all four seasons: it rained, it got cold and windy, and then the sun came out and it got really warm. And the story was repeated a couple of times. After a nice cup of tea, we continued with a walk in English Town together with one of my final year students, John Slattery, who is at the moment testing a mobile app. But more about this in another post!
Limerick has an annual Lifelong Learning Festival. I remember the first time I came across this information, it was in relation to a gardening demonstration and it was back in 2011. I read the whole program and I realised how many interesting events I had missed because I was unaware of the festival’s existence.
I have the strange reputation of reading any notice, poster or flyer that falls under my eyes. To me, everything is interesting. I’d like to try everything and go everywhere. A friend called me a “culture vulture” one evening when I was leaving early from an exhibition opening to attend a dance performance in a close by location.
So last year I decided that miLKlabs, the Limerick hackerspace, had to get involved in this Lifelong Learning Festival, and somehow I managed to convince the others. We had three events over a week, and everybody -organisers and attendees – seemed to enjoy them. For the first time, we attracted people who weren’t on any mailing lists or subscribed to Facebook pages – people who read about us in the Festival brochure or heard about the events on the radio.
Looking at the Festival brochure, I’m really upset that there are so many great events I will have to miss, because they’re running in parallel with the ones I’m involved in. The Festival is a celebration of the really impressive amount of skills people of Limerick have and are willing to share. I know “there’s a recession on the radio” (Irish joke, don’t be upset if you don’t get it!), but this shows clearly how rich we are, and the kind of things we can do together!
Now please excuse me, I have to put on my various other hats and blog about these events on their own websites;)
miLKlabs and IxDA Limerick are joining forces to organise the first Ignite talk series ever in our city!The event will happen on Wednesday, April 6 2011, 7 pm in the Absolute Hotel.
Why this event?
The idea is to spread the news about miLKlabs, bring together likeminded individuals, create synergies between people from different backgrounds and highlight possible collaborations. We are also trying to shed a light on the creativity and talent of Limerick people and bringing them to the attention of the public. IxDA Limerick is hosting the event as part of their United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development programme.
What is Ignite?
In talks that are exactly five minutes long, Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. Ignite events are run by local volunteers in many locations around the world, as part of the global Ignite network. Talks are video recorded and shared on the Internet, allowing local Ignites to share the knowledge and passion with the world (more about Ignite here ).
What is miLKlabs?
miLKlabs is a collaborative community space based in Limerick City, Ireland. The name is derived from ‘made in LimericK’. It is meant as a shared physical space for any and all creative projects: art, woodwork, software, photography and electronics – to name but a few. The aim is to provide Limerick with a place for people to work and collaborate on creative projects, to learn and to share their knowledge.
What is IxDA Limerick?
IxDA Limerick is the local chapter of the Interaction Design Association, a global network dedicated to the professional practice of Interaction Design.
..or how I managed to get dead frozen selling Romanian language lessons on Bedford Row on Saturday;)
A year ago, I found out about the existence of an organisation meant to bring together the Romanians living in Limerick. I started going to their monthly meetings whenever I could find the time, and I met very interesting people from all the paths of life there. At the first IRCBA meeting this year- I heard about the Excursions Performance festival and the “Sell your language” happening organised by Ania Bas as part of it. Me and my colleague Daniela Butan decided to give it a try.
We found Ania (who is Polish) and Helena Zelesakova (Slovakian) on Bedford Row, and we joined them. I must say that the “would you like to buy a language?” approach didn’t suit me, so I kind of turned it into “would you like to buy a language lesson?”. Daniela and I offered 5 min Romanian language lessons for 1 eur – a rather competitive price, taking into account that Slovak and Polish lessons cost 1.50 and 2 euros!
A lot of bypassers didn’t pay any attention to us, but quite a few asked for more detail, and a few accepted our offer. It was interesting to see how perfect Romanian pronounciation someone can achieve in just 5 minutes!
I didn’t make any money on the day, but I managed to learn some Irish in exchange!
I would have loved to see a lot more people involved in teaching their own language – the mix of languages offered was exclusively East European, while there’s such a variety of people coming from different corners of the world living in Limerick!
A frosty afternoon… Nowadays I have to leave the university shortly before 5pm, otherwise it’s too dark to cycle by the Shannon
When I got into town, it was 5:10 – the exact time indicated by one of our colleagues for watching the sky and see Venus and Jupiter next to the New Moon.
The lights of the city and my own clumsiness in using the camera didn’t let me get a perfect picture of what I saw – but this one is nice enough – you can see Venus very clearly on the right bottom part of the Moon! Jupiter was there as well
An explanation of the phenomenon can be found here. I must say I had tears in my eyes because of the cold and I kept wondering if it wasn’t a simple illusion…
My department organised a great event yesterday – the first Irish Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. About 50 people from different universities, companies and public institutions attended the event, which turned out to be a success! Several research groups from Cork, Dublin, Galway , Limerick and Maynooth presented their current research and projects, and I must say it was very interesting to find what was going on – not only in the other universities, but also in our own!
I found a lot of interesting connections in the presentations of Tim Hall (EMRC), Mark Magennis(NCBI) , Aphra Kerr(NUIM – NIRSA).
Mark Leslie(Martello Media) presented three of their projects, and the “fun palace” designed for the Visitor Centre at the Cliffs of Moher really caught my attention. I’m as mad as everyone else for the horrible impact that building had on the environment, but I’d still like to see what came out!
The ScanCam one of the participants was wearing at his neck raised privacy concerns (taking shots at every change detected in the environment- 5000-7000 pics/day). Our colleague introduced an interesting application that was actually trying to make sense of these images by selecting the less frequent situations out of the huge pile.
I also had the chance to discover that one of our colleagues in TCD is actually studying meetings and the electronic support for meetings (unlike us, who are focusing on software engineering, he’s looking at the medical domain).
The breaks allowed for a lot of networking, and the gorgeous weather brought us outside, in the nice ambiance of the Kilmurry village.
In the afternoon, we had a group discussion on possible future actions for keeping in touch, creating awareness mechanisms on each other’s work, and becoming more visible in Ireland as a community. The ideas kept buzzing, and we put together a wiki page to keep track of what was said and remains to be put into practice.
Although several people were involved in the organization, my colleague Luigina Ciolfi was the heart and the force behind this event. Kudos, Lui, for all the hard work! I enjoyed every minute, and judging by what I’ve heard, so did most of the participants!