How to Write a Good Blog Post

There is a huge amount of literature with hundreds of tips on how to write a good blog post. Just to name a few examples: 10 tips for an Awesome and SEO-friendly Blog PostThe On-Page SEO Cheat Sheet, and How to Fix the 4 Biggest Problems with Content Writers. Your aim, and mine, is to reach a good ranking in search engine results in order to drive traffic to your website. How can we achieve this?

Tips to Create a Good Blog Post

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is key. SEO experts recommend to focus on just one keyword per post. This keyword should be included in the title, in the first paragraph, and in the Header 1. Exactly, now you see why I have embedded a second header just above this paragraph.

Have you figured out now which are my chosen keywords?

In order to write a good article, SEO and Content Marketing gurus recommend that the selected key term shouldn’t be repeated again and again. This common strategy is known as keyword stuffing. Google is constantly improving its algorithms to detect customised and machine-generated content: they want an excellent user experience and demand quality content instead of ‘thin content’. Therefore, Google has been penalising in the last years a high density of repeated words in their page rankings.  Experts recommend not exceeding a 3% of keyword density (30 repeated keywords for an article of 1000 words). You are warned now, be aware of the sophisticated algorithms of Big G!

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Content is King

How can we avoid this? A handy solution is to find synonyms or terms semantically related. You can find an example of this in the paragraph above. Have you found it? No? In the first line of the second paragraph, I deliberately used article instead of blog post. I searched before in Google for blog post and I checked the suggested related searches. One of them was article. This is a tip I found here. The idea behind is that it is important, when doing your keyword research, to look for semantically related terms in order to improve your content quality (Content is King and Google is watching you!).

Have you now a better idea of the focus keywords of this article? No? I will give you more tips then on how to write a good blog post. Have you noticed the green highlighted text in the previous sentence? With this hint I’m sure you will definitely guess it: using your keywords in the linked text will help you rank better. Please don’t tell me you still don’t know which are my chosen keywords… Yes, you are very close!

But now you will tell me that my keyword(s) is too long, and you might be right. However, before starting to write your post, you need to conduct a thorough keyword research. For this purpose, Google’s Keyword Planner is extremely useful. With this tool you will be able to know how many searches have been done with a given keyword. Your aim is to find a term or set of terms that have a lot of demand: topics with a high number of searches. At the same time, we need to do some research to know if there are already too many websites with those keywords. How do we do this? Simple and easy, we just perform a normal search of the keywords in Google preceded by allintitle:. Have you clicked on the link? (Please do, links are easy and wonderful, I might rank better now!)

If you have clicked on the link you must know now my keywords, and yes, you are right: they are How to write a good blog post. First I thought just like you that it was a too long string of keywords, but my research gave me good arguments to use it: there was enough demand (an average of 480 exact match monthly searches), but a very low supply: only 326 websites containing those exact keywords in their title. If I were a trader of words, I would have material here to get rich!

Digital marketers like Brendan Maguire insist on the importance of the allintitle search for an effective keyword research:  it is free and easy. As a matter of fact, anything which is below 10,000 allintitle results is considered a good result. Considering that my search produced only 326 pages, are you less sceptical now about my chosen terms?

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How to write a good blog post

I will give you a couple of tips more, but briefly, because I have already written 750 words, and the recommended length for a good blog posts goes from 800 to 1000. Alright. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I hope it doesn’t, because I am going to post one and my blog would be twice as long for the best SEO practices!

There are a couple of reasons why I have added an image. First, because it makes the reading easier: it accompanies the text and illustrates it, quite needed in such a text-heavy article like this one. On the other hand, and for SEO purposes, it is important to add Alt Text to the picture containing our keywords. I have done so, and they are relevant to the picture. Alt Text is a description of the picture aimed to help visually impaired people to understand the picture.

Oops, I am about to run out of words, and I need to trade with them! One last point: there are many, many factors to take into account in order to improve our SEO: it is said that Google uses at least 200 in their algorithm, and I only have a couple of lines left. To wrap up, we aim to create meaningful, engaging and interesting content; with informative value that will make the visitor stay and read our lines until the end. For that purpose, it is essential that the post has a good structure and a logical progression, with clearly defined titles, paragraphs, and connecting phrases.

Are you still reading? If so, it means that the content and the structure of this article is not too bad. I might even have been able to write a good blog post!

2014 in Review @paugimenez.com

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

That Was All (Summer), Folks!

Dublin Weather If anyone was feeling excited about this rather good Irish summer, we are back to reality. There is a Facebook page called ‘I love the summer in Ireland, it’s my favourite day of the year’. Well, this time it has been a bit longer, but for us Mediterraneans these 10 degrees are more of a winter season.

The weather in Ireland is not really that bad. It isn’t very cold: many places in Spain are much colder in the winter. However, the main problem here is the rain and that the summer is unpredictable. If you are planning a barbecue you won’t be sure that you can have it until the same day, and that same day a bright sun may turn into hailstones.

I met a Swedish girl that after 5 years in Dublin said she wanted to move somewhere else because she couldn’t stand the Irish weather. And that came from a Scandinavian gal… Indeed, in Malmö or Stockholm you know that in July you will be in the 25s and you will be able to go to the beach for a swim. Here you will be able to go to the beach… to run or to walk the dog (fully clothed).

So given these temperatures and autumn feeling (Irish autumn = Spanish winter), it’s time to grab your blankets, prepare hot whiskeys and get ready for the winter. It’s going to be a loooong one. Luckily, nowadays we have low cost flights to take us to a bit of the real summer left in more southern places. And I promise I’ll get my last rays of sun!

I leave you with this beautiful version of Autumn Leaves by Chet Baker & Ruth Young. Enjoy the rest of the sum… winter!!! 

Tips to Visit (My) Barcelona

I have never talked about Barcelona yet, my home town, and what a better occasion than now, especially when the temperature here in Dublin, the 7th of July,  is 14º C and overcast.

Many of you have probably visited Barcelona. Most of the Irish people I have met have visited the Catalan capital. I won’t go into detail about the typical tourist places as everybody knows them and they are shown in every guide, website or travel magazine. I will just give a few tips of places I like to hang around or that I think are worth visiting for a tourist apart from – or including – the famous ones.

Roy Lichtenstein Sculpture at El Moll de la Fusta, La Barceloneta

The city is packed with tourists all year round, and especially the summer. Barcelona is not a huge city, it is medium size but densely populated. Therefore, some places, like the center, are sometimes annoying to walk by as there are too many people. By people I mean tourists. I read that in La Rambla, 8 out of 10 people were foreigners. Actually, I was surprised, as every time I walk it I think I am the only local aboriginal.

However, some areas are still quieter and more chilled out to go for a walk or for a drink. Here are some:

Gràcia

La Vila de Gràcia was once a village separated from the Old Town of Barcelona. It could be compared somehow to places in Dublin like Ranelagh Village: close to the center but not totally centric. It is an area of mainly young locals with theaters, small shops, bars with terraces, to go for a drink, a stroll or to chill out. The main metro station in the area is Fontana (Green Line) or Diagonal (Green or Blue Line). I like to get off at Fontana and walk towards Plaça del Diamant and then to Plaça de la Virreina. Gràcia has many cosy squares and these are two of them. Plaça de la Virreina has a church, benches and terraces where the locals sit to have a drink and kids play ball. From there, I usually stroll down Carrer Verdi towards Plaça de la Revolució. Carrer Verdi has bars and restaurants, both local and Lebanese, Syrian and others. There is also the Verdi Cinema where you can see interesting movies in original version, usually not mainstream (a bit like the Irish Film Institute in Dublin). From Plaça Revolució I walk to Plaça del Sol, that has many bars and terraces where young people are having a drink either in the bars or sitting in the square. This is one of my favourite places in Barcelona to hang around with friends. It is usually full of young people, and sometimes in the summer there are people around until late in the night after the bars close. A few years ago it was packed until 5 in the morning, but due to neighbourhood pressures and City Council new laws, outdoors activities have been more restrictive in the last years.

Now around 1 am, which is quite early for Spanish standards on a weekend, the Cleaning Commando kicks them out with their powerful hoses.  Usually, behind the Cleaning Commando there is the Police Commando, for those ones who are reluctant to go home even wet. I suggest to start moving once the yellow and blue men start the water festival.

El Raval

Another area I like to hang around is el Raval. In the past it was ‘historically infamous for its nightlife and cabarets, as well as prostitution and crime’ as Wikipedia puts it, as it is next to the port and it was the area where sailors and navy men went for drinks and for other things. It has changed a lot now, and although there are some places late at night that maybe wouldn’t be advisable for ‘guiris’ (the word used for tourists, especially tourists from the British Isles, Germanic and Scandinavians), it has changed a lot and there are many bars, restaurants, galleries and museums. I like to go around the terraces of the Museum of Modern Art (MACBA) to have a drink while the skaters are jumping all over the place.

MACBA Museum

El Raval has a very diverse immigrant community (according to Wikipedia, 47.4% of its population was born abroad), ranging from all South America, Pakistanis and Indonesians, or Romanians. Therefore, you can find shops and restaurants of all sorts.

Born

“Roda el món i torna al Born”. This is a Catalan saying that could be translated as “Travel the world and come back to the Born”. The Born used to be years ago a deprived area. However, it was transformed and gentrified to become one of the coolest parts of Barcelona. It has the Picasso Museum at Montcada Street, and plenty of restaurants, bars and shops. The church of Santa Maria del Mar is a must, and there are some cute small shops. It is an area where people go out, but I would say that it is mainly foreigners and prices are higher than in other areas. I used to go every now and then, but not regularly.  There are a couple of spots that are worth a visit though.  Behind the church and the Rambla del Born (not to be mistaken by La Rambla) there is the Carrer Montcada, where the Picasso museum is. Even if you don’t want to visit it, I would recommend  “El Xampanyet”, a Catalan family owned bar. It is quite small and cosy, so it’s always packed (by tourists too, of course, it must be in every guide). Their house “xampanyet” (little cava or champaigne in Catalan) is very nice and quite good value, especially compared to Irish prices.

Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria del Mar

La Rambla del Born is worth a walk too, there is plenty of bars around and terraces. It wouldn’t be the kind of bars I would usually go, but sometimes I go to one of the terraces such as the bar Mamainé  in a corner of the Rambla del Born. They serve good mojitos. Probably you will see it as it is very small and usually packed.

If you are interested in magic, there is a hidden gem in Carrer Princesa: El Rei de la Màgia (‘The King of Magic’). It is a shop more than 100 years old, I would say the pioneer in Spain in magic arts. I used to go when I was 13 or 14 to get magic tricks. I haven’t been since then, but it was a really ‘magic’ magic shop. You went there and the man did a mini show for you. If you wanted to buy one of the tricks, then he would show where was the secret. I still keep my magician case somewhere in my mother’s place. Of course, a true magician “should never reveal the trick”, so I won’t tell you all about it and let you discover by yourselves. One, two, three… you are gone!

La Barceloneta

It is within short walking distance of el Born, so you could head towards La Barceloneta from there. It used to be the old fishermen’s neighbourhood and some of their families still live there. It is probably the best area in Barcelona if you like fish and you are looking for a nice paella. PaellaUsually the more touristy restaurants are in the main avenue Passeig de Joan de Borbó along the port with the yachts. Some of them are more traditional and very good – although quite expensive too-, but there are also good restaurants walking towards the inner part of La Barceloneta and around the market square. La Barceloneta is a must-see, because of its restaurants and also because it is on the way to the beach (La Barceloneta beach), so it is a nice stroll.

In the square of the market there is an old school fishermen bar called “La Cova Fumada”. The problem is that it is usually packed, and since it used to be a bar where the fishermen went to eat after being in the sea, it does really strange opening times: many times you will find it closed, including Sundays all day. Take a look on the internet before if you are interested in going. If you are a fish fan, this is a good place to try authentic fish tapas. You can have grilled squid, ‘bacallà esqueixat’ (a kind of cold cod Mediterranean salad), ‘bacallà a la llauna’ (cod with tomato sauce), fresh grilled prawns, and many others. Also, it is worth to try their famous “Bomba de la Barceloneta” (‘Barceloneta Bomb’), a sort of round croquette made of potato and meat with home made alioli (you have the Irish version of it in Las Tapas de la Lola in Dublin). I would have it with a local vermouth and olives. Mmmm yummy I’m getting nostalgic now… I really like that place as you still smell of something authentic and you can imagine how the area might have been years before. It is family owned and crowded with locals. Obviously, there are tourists like you, because there has been locals like me that have shown them the the way. Enjoy!

Funky Barceloneta
Funky Barceloneta

I wouldn’t know which “restaurant-restaurant” to recommend, so I will leave that responsibility to you. However, I have been to Restaurant Maians a couple of times in the last years and it is quite nice. It is not expensive for Barcelona standards (which are not cheap in general) and good. It is Mediterranean food (fideuà, black rice, fish tapas), small but cosy. There are two Maians restaurants that are not related. One of them is in the main avenue Joan de Borbó, which is not the one I am talking about. Make sure you go to this Maians. There are of course better restaurants than this one. Usually in the good fish restaurants 2/3 courses and wine will be around 40 or more euros per person, more of less like in Ireland, unless you go for a lunch menu which are usually good value and for more or less the same quality as the dinner à la carte menu.

One of those good restaurants, at least for me, is ‘el Xiringuito Escribà’. It is not in La Barceloneta, but in another beach not so far away. It is a nice walk along the central beaches of Barcelona. It is not a cheap restaurant: a paella can be around 20 € or more per person, but it is really good and you are facing the beach and the sea. If a good paella is what you are looking for, Xiringuito Escribà is in a great location and it guarantees a good rice dish.

7 portes
7 Portes Restaurant

Another option, is el 7 Portes (‘7 doors’), which is more than 175 years old. It is between el Born and la Barceloneta and it is a classic. It is not cheap either and a bit touristy as it will be in all guides. I think it is worth a visit though if you have enough days to go to different restaurants. The decoration is ‘classic Catalan’ if such thing exists. My grandparents celebrated there 50 years married, so I guess it is a personal thing too.

Touristy things

I won’t go much into detail, but I will mention a couple of things. First, I would go to la Rambla just to say that you have been there. La Rambla, for Barcelonians, is something annoying to avoid unless you really have to cross it to go somewhere. It is packed, with human statues and silly attractions for tourists blocking the walk. You need your handbags controlled, there and in other crowded places like the metro or bars. There is no need to be paranoid, Barcelona is a safer city than Dublin, for instance, but you shouldn’t leave you things as if you were in rural Ireland.

It is always packed and it is very difficult to walk there. Nevertheless, it is worth going to the market La Boqueria. If you try to pass the first stalls (the ones with smoothies and fruit pealed and prepared for tourists), I really like it, locals buy there , and it is good value. There are also some bars and restaurants inside and around the market where you can eat good fresh market food.

Sagrada Família.

Sometimes I wish it collapsed and fell down. No more business. They will never stop building it and they are a machine of making money for making it worse and worse.

I just visited the inside when I was working there. If you plan to go and you are not a huge fan of Gaudí, I would just suggest watching the church from the outside. I think it is a nightmare to get in with the queues in the summer. It depends on your interest, but I wouldn’t pay for it. I understand though that Gaudí was a genius and many people have interest in visiting the inside part.

In Passeig de Gràcia, there is the “Manzana de la Discordia” or The Apple / Block of Discord, with 4 modernist buildings of different Catalan architects: Gaudí, Domènech i Muntaner and others. These are beautiful buildings that you will easy find when you see the crowds taking pictures of, mainly, Gaudí’s building.

If you have time and you go to Montjuich, it can be interesting to take the cable car from the Barceloneta to get there, so you have beautiful views of the city, and once there you can visit the museum la Fundació Joan Miró if you are interested in art. Also, from the terrace of la Fundació Miró there are very nice views of the city. On the other hand, closer to Plaça Espanya, Caixafòrum is a very interesting museum and venue. It used to be a modernist factory transformed into a museum. They host excellent exhibitions and it is free.

I hope these few tips help you to have a good time in Barcelona.  Enjoy your time, eat, drink and, my dear guiris, don’t get sunburnt!

Half Marathon in Cork, ‘The True Capital of Ireland’?

Last bank holiday weekend a few friends and I did a trip to Cork to run the #CorkCityMarathon. It had been more than one year since I had been in Cork and that was a perfect excuse to head to the Rebel County. At the same event there was a full marathon, a half marathon and relays. We went for the half, as it was our first time. The atmosphere was nice, it was not too crowded and you wouldn’t have the feeling that it was an ultracompetitive environment, as it was a rather small event compared to marathons organised in bigger cities. There was a good variety of people, nationalities and ages. There was even a fireman of the Cork brigade with the aim to break the marathon world record in the full official fireman outfit! You can see him in the picture below.

https://www.facebook.com/corkcitymarathon/photos/
Cork City Marathon

Cork is the second city of Ireland and the county town of the biggest county in the island. It is a small and cosy city, especially compared to Dublin, a much bigger capital.

Before moving to Dublin, I was used to hearing not precisely loving comments from Corkonians about Dubs. I thought that that would be a general attitude of other parts of Ireland towards the capital. However, once in Dublin, I was very surprised to learn that Corkonians were also regarded by the rest of the Irish as somehow arrogant or ‘special’. There are a few reasons for that: Corkonians are very proud to belong to the ‘Rebel County’. Their GAA teams are cheered with ‘Up the Rebels!’ and they consider themselves ‘The True Capital of Ireland’. Obviously, this rivalry, mainly between Cork and Dublin, is a healthy one as in any other normal country. However, I have to say that when I moved to Dublin I had my prejudices towards the people from ‘The Pale‘ after a few years of Corkonian nationalist propaganda. The video below is a promotional ad produced last summer by RTÉ for the GAA match between Dublin and Cork. It is a quite clever and funny way of showing the ‘clash of cultures’ between the two cities. 

But rather than to do a contrastive sociological or politologist study, the reason that brought us to Cork was to run a half marathon: our first half marathon. Although I hadn’t had the best preparation (I had recently been in a wedding in Spain for a few days, with the high doses of food and drink implied), we managed to finish it at a decent time. During the run, the people were very cheerful and helpful, there were a lot of water points and local neighbours gave us oranges and jellies. That was really helpful, especially in the last 5 km, when the muscles were becoming stiffer and stiffer and energies were fading away. We managed to finish and at a quite good time for being our first time. We of course celebrated with good Irish beef and a pint of Beamish stout, what else?

Beamish

As I was saying, Cork is a small but friendly city, and a good place to work or to study as there are multinationals (Amazon, Apple, McAffee, Dell, etc.) and an important university like University College Cork (UCC). The day before the race we went for a walk around UCC. When I lived in Clonakilty, I went every second Friday to UCC to the seminars organised by the Hispanics Department. After each seminar we had some red wine and Spanish cheese in the department. It was a good way to get to know the teachers and researchers there.  In UCC you can learn Catalan, as there is a Catalan Studies lecturer and a Galician Studies Center.  The campus is very nice, it has an old part ‘Harry Potter-wise’ and more modern facilities, like a museum of modern art in the campus.

Afterwards, we had brunch in Triskel Arts Center. This is one of my favourite spots in Cork. It is an old church converted into a concerts, exhibitions and cinema venue. There is also a funky records shop upstairs and a nice cafeteria to have brunch, lunch or a beer while reading a book or chatting with friends.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t show my friends The English Market, as it was closed on Sunday. Ironies of life, The English Market is the only indoors food market in Cork and probably in Ireland, as far as I know. They have very fresh products at a decent price. It would be very similar to any normal Spanish market, with fish stalls, meat stalls, fruit and vegetables, etc. We Spanish people would be very used to this kind of market, as we have one in each neighbourhood (more than 40 just in Barcelona city! – being the most popular for tourists La Boqueria in La Rambla), but in Ireland a market of this kind is a unique place and a tourist destination. For instance, when the Queen of England visited Ireland in 2011 (a hugely symbolic event, as she was the first British monarch to visit the country in 100 years!) she visited the English Market.

After that, as semi-professional athletes that we are, we headed towards a pub to complete the last details of the training preparation: pints-lifting.  We went to The Crane Lane, a must-visit pub with a concert venue. My friend Isaac, the only poet rugbyman in the village, joined us there. It was nice to see him as it had been more than a year since I had last seen him. That’s the problem with rugbymen poets, that they are all the time playing rugby or doing Poetry World Tours. Hopefully he leaves for a few days the True Capital of Ireland and pays us a visit in the Administrative Capital of Ireland.

Afterwards, Noel the Galwegian, former team mate in Clonakilty pub running competitions, joined us to continue the pints-lifting session in a funky craft beers pub of the Northside (Southsiders of Dublin, don’t be scared, I’m talking about the Northside of Cork). Noel is exactly the opposite of Isaac: he really looks like a rugbyman and he even borrowed Gordon D’Arcy’s beard. However, the only rugby activity he does is running the wing to the bar at a frenetic rhythm.

Around midnight we decided that our muscles were properly toned, we finished the last exercises and went to hit the leabah, also known as to go to bed.

At 8 bells, I pulled the curtains to see that the light of the new day had come. We rose and shone, ate copious amounts of bananas, water, and some sugar, just in case. The moment had come and we, well, we… “We” were 5 going to Cork and “we” ended up just Sascha and I running the half. But in all fairness, like, to be honest, like, the rest hadn’t planned to run it. Vedran was more interested in taking pictures, deconstructing, constructing them again and uploading them in Google +, and Blagoj joined us for around half of the half marathon. Dimitri was sleeping. He got injured in the pints-lifting exercises.

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish it. If one month before I was pretty confident that I would make it, as I had run a couple of times 15 km, the last month I had done a very poor to almost non-existing training. I hadn’t done anything the week before and I had been 10 days on holidays just running only twice and less than 8 km and eating a lot. From the beginning I could feel I wasn’t very fresh, but I knew that if I paced myself and reached the 10-11 km feeling more or less ok, I would trespass the psychological barrier and it would be then just a count down, as long as I didn’t speed up and kept myself properly hydrated.

That’s more or less how it went: my muscles were very stiff and the last 5 km were quite hard, especially the last 2-3. The km/miles signs were very bad, as they were in miles (the official measures changed years ago to km), but sometimes in km, and in the last 2-3 km there weren’t signs saying if there was 1, 2 or 3 km left, so I didn’t know if I could speed up or not, and when I speeded up I realised I had to stopped as there was still 1 more km to go. Anyway, the important thing is that we crossed the finish line and walked a bit before sitting down. That was the moment where I felt very tired and disorientated, but after eating a few bananas and Oreos that the organisation provided, I felt better and we walked towards the hotel.

Overall, it was a really good experience: it was nice to be back in Cork and to be able run and finish my first half marathon. I think that my next goal will be the #ClontarfHalfMarathon in 3 weeks and I am considering giving a try to the full #DublinMarathon the 27th of October. Anyone interested in joining me?

PS. To finish I leave you this video of Rory Gallagher. Following the ‘clash of cultures’, if Dublin has Thin Lizzy, Cork has Rory Gallagher. Although he was born in Donegal, he was raised in Cork and lived all his life there. Someone told me that once a journalist asked Jimmy Hendrix how did it feel to be the best guitar player ever. He answered that he should ask that to Rory Gallagher.

Thanks again!

Last Friday this blog achieved the beautiful sum of 2,000 clicks. I am very happy to have had visitors from New Zealand to Iceland, from Trinity and Tobago to Malaysia, from South Korea to Peru, from every corner in the world. Not too bad for just 8 posts!

Visitor number 2,000 seems to be in Mountain View, California, and happens to be my friend Vedran. So Vedran, I am pleased to announce in public that as visitor number 2,000, you have won a romantic dinner with the author of this blog. I will be preparing the candles and the wine.

A while ago, I thanked all of you for the first 1,000 hits. Now the numbers doubled.  Thanks again for following, it must still be the Irish accent!

10 Tips to Be Successful in Everything (and More)

I apologise, I couldn’t resist. In these days of quick, wise and cool advises on what (not) to do in an job interview, on how to be rich in 24 hours, how to have a perfect relationship or how to cook turkey in the oven, I wanted to contribute with this wisdom that the altar of Internet has given me.

1. Stop Reading Any of Those Tips, Including This One. Now

Come on, a little bit of cop on, as they would say around here. You have been working, studying, eating, flirting or walking your dog all your life. You don’t need anyone to tell you how to tie your shoe laces.  Even though you might see those trendy influencers with religious admiration, they belong to the same animal specie as you and me, trust me, there are scientists out there that can prove it.

My life went downhill when I started reading those kind of things. I thought I was up to date, modern and cool, but things were going better before that moment in my life, and things are going much better since I follow my (un) common sense.

2. Never Trust a Real Estate Agent, a Recruiter or a Community Manager

Why would you? A real estate agent is a human being like you and me, true. They are doing their job and everyone needs to make a living, true. If they could sell or rent you a garbage bin as an organic duplex with natural refrigeration, they would do it. Your life might be condemned to eternal debt if you choose -or are chosen by- the wrong smiling real estate agent. Don’t trust them. True.

Never trust a recruiter. Even if it’s your best friend, your boyfriend or girlfriend. Probably they recruited you. You were the right candidate, you ticked all the boxes, you spoke languages, you were skilled… in all areas. Wars have started for more trivial things than that. They will try to sell you a job that nobody wants to do. This is provided that you are lucky enough to be in the process of being sold a job, of course. Otherwise, they will care less about you than an out-of-date slice of cucumber in a McBurger. Without ketchup to make it smoother. Yes, that’s a generalisation. So what?

From Elaine Wherry website http://www.ewherry.com/
From Elaine Wherry website http://www.ewherry.com/

In the evolution of species, Homo sapiens sapiens evolved into us, human beings. But while the group was hunting to bring food home and minding the children, there was a subgroup that started to develop different activities: they stayed in the entrances of the caves and tried to impose their modus vivendi. They didn’t accept the members in the group if they weren’t properly shaved or didn’t have a proactive, multitasking and hunting under stress attitude.

Thousands of years later, university degrees would even be created with such strange names as Human Resources (what about animal rights here?) where you could study how to become a recruiter. Many of them didn’t even study that, but they had a proactive, team-player, multitasking and passionate attitude towards recruiting and short-circuiting people, so they became admired people in society: they could get drunk on Fridays and go back to work on Monday with a results-oriented focus.

Feck it, like, it sounds cool, I think I’m going back to college.

Community Managers. Just this name makes me grin. Old professions in new environments with new names. My father taught me to be grumpy and I follow his advise. Paternal loyalty, what can I do?

I won’t develop this point. Just to mention that it is one of these things that seem trendy just for the sake of it. If you want to be a Community Manager, first of all, you have to learn to write and use less emoticons.

3. Buy Local, But Cheap

I read this one somewhere.

4. Say Hello to Your Neighbour

Even if they don’t. You are not a real estate agent, a recruiter or a community manager. Say hello. It’s easy, free and there is no need to be impolite.

A recent research shows that the wealthier an area is, the less helloes are said. Don’t forget what your mama, your papa and your grandma said. The fact that you are are doing well doesn’t mean you are not an absolute eejit (‘well’ means having money here, many people who thought they were doing ‘well’ found their spouse in the kitchen with the gardener who said hello every morning, and not having a cup of tea precisely).

Another study demonstrated how the amount of sincere helloes uttered is inversely proportional to the degree of constipation. Really, I see a lot of people with a grin in their face in my area. Residential area an so on.

5. When Working, It Doesn’t Matter What Really You Do, but What It Looks Like You Are Doing

It doesn’t always work, of course. But from my personal experience, I have worked in some places, in one in particular, producing like a slave, great results and so on, and still I was being made my life impossible everyday by a just a little bit less slave in the hierarchy. On the other hand,  I have been working in another place where I worked with less intensity but I always had a big smile (try the recruiter or estate agent smile, that one always work): everything went perfectly fine and I made great friends there.

I am still in contact with some of them and that was years ago. And they said hello every morning by the way. Big hello to my friends of Zaragoza.

6. Everything Has a Price, Yes, But Don’t Sell Your Mother

Everyone has had experiences where they have been tried to be bought. Everyone has been offered 1 million € to sell their body or their soul, just like Demi Moore in that film. Well, to be honest I haven’t, but I wish I had!

Anyway, what really matters is that everybody has worked, studied or lived with people who don’t care about anyone (the no-helloes type) and just want personal success. And that success implies usually a material success, derived from professional success (unless they are professional thieves, which is actually another respectful profession). These people are everywhere, they are out there, they are watching you. They don’t have to be a bank executive. They can be a garbage collector or your housemate, your colleague or the folk you play football with on Wednesdays.

Don’t trust them.

These people are usually quite smart people, and great actors. These people have  a fixed plan for the next 30 years of their lives, and they will try to achieve it no matter what. They are a mutation of psychopaths still to be diagnosed. They would sell their mother for a good offer. Even their grandmother for a worse offer. They will use a broad repertoire of smiles (remember the real estate agent smile?) to seduce you and then… then they will stab you to death (this is a metaphor).

Don’t be like that, please. I know, we don’t want to be poor, we all need to progress, to succeed, to be Emperors of the World. Who doesn’t want that? But what about our integrity, your poor mama, your poor granny who is 93 years old?

But if in the end you decide to sell them, at least it has to be for an offer that will allow you not having to work again. Ever.

7. Don’t Be a Pagafantas

We were talking about integrity and about not selling one’s body nor soul. As part of it, in this accelerated course on how to succeed in everything (and more), a crucial point is not to become a “pagafantas”. Pagafantas was a Spanish movie released in 2009 which could be literally translated as “Fantas payer”, that is, the lad who is best friends with a girl he fancies and who just buys fantas for her or carries her shopping bags. No need to say that the girl is interested in other men. That could be applied the other way round, but the in the movie the “Pagafantas” is a lad.

Everyone knows a pagafantas, and everyone has been a pagafantas at certain point of their lives. But now we have an age and a decency. The moment has come to say no. Don’t be like that, please. If the guy/gal doesn’t like us, well, the world is big. And Fantas are getting more expensive with the VAT raise.

The movie is translated into English as “Friendzone”. You can see the trailer with English subtitles here.

8. Don’t Put Chorizo in Everything, Especially Not in a Paella!

Irish people have mostly good things, and some extravagant behaviours too. Irish cuisine has evolved incredibly since the times of potatoes, potatoes, and potatoes. And cabbage. There are international and sophisticated restaurants in every corner of the island. They travel, they emigrate, and they have good chefs.

Paella without Chorizo
Paella without Chorizo

However (the famous ‘however’), I don’t know why -it is a mystery still to be solved- they love to put chorizo everywhere. Spanish food (Mediterranean food in general, but probably Spanish above all) and tapas are the cool stuff going on. Dublin has the very least (the ones I walked by) 6, 7 or 8 Spanish tapas restaurants. Many of them owned and managed by Spanish people. Many other restaurants which are not Spanish offer Spanish tapas too. And they put chorizo in the paella. Arghhhhhh! I love chorizo, and I love morcilla (a Spanish black pudding, but with different taste and nicer), but you-do-not-put-them-into-paella. Their flavour is too strong for that, and you will be killing a nice seafood rice by doing that. Chorizo is rather for stews (lentils, beans, chickpeas), potatoes and so on. I appreciate the effort and the interest, but chorizo doesn’t match with paella.

9. Your Family and Your Friends, like in The Godfather

If you haven’t sold them yet, remember they are the most important things you have. That and the million euros you got for you granny. They will always be there even if you are a total scumbag. No matter what you do, even when you sell you grandma some friend will still talk to you, either visiting you in prison or in the Bahamas. Really. Buy them a present for Christmas and another one for their birthday. And call them every now and then. It is not so difficult and you will need someone to buy you chorizo if the Gardaí get you.

10. Vote

Elections are coming and they are European and so on, yes. They are not very exciting for many people and there is a generalised scepticism towards politics and politicians. But I am one of those who still thinks that all politicians are not the same, and that all parties are not the same. Unfortunately, to vote is one of the few ways we have to participate in democracy, at least while we don’t decide to do a 1789. It is only once every 4 years, or 2. It is quite easy, and if your candidate doesn’t win, at least you have someone to blame for all the bad things in the world: your horrible job, your horrible partner, your horrible paella with chorizo, your horrible real estate agent, your horrible community manager, your horrible neighbour who doesn’t say hello, you horrible gardener who says hello and has tea on the kitchen table with your spouse, your horrible workmate who makes your life impossible, your horrible  influencer or your horrible team that won’t play the final of the Champions.

Transport in Ireland (I Have a Horse Outside)

It has been a few days since I last posted. Something that has happened this morning has given me the idea of writing about (public) transport in Ireland. Public’ in brackets since, first, I don’t know if it is exactly public, and second, because I will write about other means of transport which are not public too.

This morning I was going to take a bus and it didn’t stop. I waved twice and still it didn’t stop. That made me very angry as I missed the connection. Next bus was in 38 minutes, and then I would have to wait 30 more minutes for the next bus. So an already long daily journey of 1 hour and a half, became more than a 2 hours journey.

So finally I decided to write a complaint letter to Dublin Bus.

I spend 35 euros a week in bus + Luas (tram) in Dublin, around 140 euros per month. It takes me around 3 hours a day for 12 km between X and Y, and 12 more between Y and X. If I went walking, it would take 4 hours, only one more hour than with public transport, and free. If the weather was not so bad in Ireland, I would have a total 1.5 hours commute by bike, half the time of public transport.

It is easy to draw conclusions, right?  For the sum spent in a month just from Mon-Fri I would have unlimited integrated Bus+ Metro + Tram for 3 months in Barcelona (142 €, being cheaper options too). I could even live in the public transport. Get up in the morning and take the metro, go to the other side of the city and take a bus, then cross it again and change to the tram, and so on until midnight. Then, I could take night buses until the metro opened, and so on and so forth.

And lucky me I live in Dublin. If you don’t live in a city, then it’s even worse. When I was living in Clonakilty and had to take a bus to Cork city, it took more than 1 hour for 50 km, and it costed 21 € return. Then you understand why everyone drives here. Although I am not too sure if this it’s like a dog that chases its tail.

Ireland had a better railway network decades ago. According to Wikipedia, by its peak in 1920 Ireland had a 5,600 km route. The current status is only a third of that. In West Cork you can have a nice stroll along the walkway where railways used to be. Before, you could travel from Bantry to Cork by train. Now you have to take a bus which is expensive and has a low frequency.

Or you can buy a car. Or two. It is very common that in each family there are at least two cars.

I had my first and only car in Clonakilty. You need a car if you don’t live in a city. Otherwise you are stuck. My first month in Ireland I was more than stuck. I was completely shshtuck. Before moving to Clon, I was in a beautiful place in the middle of nowhere. The closest village was Kllbritain (population of 324 people), and it wasn’t so close. So I didn’t have a car, and I couldn’t take a bus anywhere. I was blocked.

Moving to Clonakilty was a big improvement, but I still needed a car. As I was saying, there I had my first – and only – car. And it was not exactly mine, but that’s another story. It was a fabulous Honda Civic of year 1999. It worked quite well and drove me to Bandon, Rosscarbery, Glandore, Kinsale, Skibbereen, Mizen Head, Goleen and I’d say to Kerry too. Never complained. Or at least not too much. She brought me to Dublin too, but then our lives fell apart. It made no sense to have a car in Dublin (at least by then I thought so) when I had a 20 mins walk to work and city center.

So here I am again, ranting and giving out about Irish (public) transport system. I think the best way to travel in Dublin is by bike. There are quite a lot of bike lanes and, in general, cars are quite careful with cyclists. At least more than in Spain. There is also a Dublin bikes system that works in a similar way like in other European cities. It is quite popular and it is growing.

Regarding the ‘foot transport system’, some people run to work and then they shower and change there. I have done it myself a few times and it is a really good way to start the day. You get to work earlier and fresh. Obviously not all companies have a shower or a gym, but there are many that do. I have never seen it in Barcelona and I think it is something that would benefit the employees and therefore  the companies if they provided these facilities. It is funny too that you see many women that walk to work and they dress with formal office attire but then they have pink runners that they change for high heels shoes when they get to their offices.

Nevertheless, this isn’t the most interesting way to get to places.

You can have a horse.

Yes, you can have a horse. Why do you need a Honda Civic when you can have a horse outside? The Rubberbandits say so, and I completely agree.

No kidding, I have seen horses in Dublin. I’m not saying that it is something that you see every day, but I can say that once I saw one ‘parked’ in a green on my way to IKEA. And some months ago a horse was burnt in Tallaght, Dublin.  These things only happen in Ireland.

This illustrates again what I have mentioned in previous posts. Ireland, but mainly Dublin, is a place with pronounced contrasts where there are very wealthy people and very poor people. Peaceful nice residential areas with big houses and not so nice ones. The same applies to transport. You can see all those young professionals jogging or cycling to work, and then… and then you see a horse parked.

And why not? Considering the prices and the inefficiency of public transport, what the heck, I will have to follow the Rubberbandits’ advise: feck your Dublin Bus, I have a horse outside!

 

From Silicon Valley to Silicon Docks

In life, Sun is not everything

Dublin may not be Sunnyvale, Cupertino or Mountain View in sunny California, but within a few years it has become the home for the EMEA headquarters of most tech companies. The modern and renovated Docklands area is also nicknamed Silicon Docks due to the high concentration of tech companies based in Silicon Valley.

Google has its EMEA headquarters here with around 3,000 employees and continues to grow and acquire new buildings. Within a 5 minutes walking distance around 200 people work for Twitter. From there you can head towards a strong competitor: Facebook at Hanover Quay. With its 400 employees, it has its largest operations office outside their headquarters in Menlo Park, California, and it is moving to a new 11,000 square meters office in Grand Canal Square with the capacity to accommodate 1,000 workers.

Around the corner you will find Indeed, the main job site in the world, which this year will open around 100 new positions. Yahoo! is not far away, and it is also increasing their number of workers with 200 new openings. Dropbox is in Dublin too, and IBM, Amazon, PayPal, eBay, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, TripAdvisor, Betfair, and many other multinationals and start-ups.

And why, you will ask

There are different reasons and people will give a different value to each of them. From my point of view, the main factors are three: low tax corporation, geostrategical location and language advantage. Although some Irish people like to think that all these companies are here due to the high qualifications of Irish workforce, the truth is that other Europeans are equally qualified and probably speak more languages. Actually, some companies struggle to find qualified employees after having opened their offices in Ireland and have to bring them from abroad, with the extra investment of money that it entails.

It is true, however, that the fact that Ireland  is an English-speaking country is a big asset. At the same time, it is a EU member but it has always had strong links with the US due to a long history of emigration. For that reason, I think that Irish have a more entrepreneurial attitude than other European countries. Ireland is geographically located close to the UK, to continental Europe, and not too far away from the US. Plenty of Americans have Irish roots and they love to say they are Irish because their great-great-grandfather was from Kerry and their surname is Lynch. This fact results in a mixture of European identity along with an American working culture influence. If we add up that they are a pro-EU country, generally speaking, in contrast with their sceptical British neighbours, that Irish are seen as a friendly people. and that there is a lack of serious social or political conflicts, Ireland becomes the preferred base for American investment.

Is that all?

Not quite. The third factor, or the first, or the second, is the famous low tax corporation. Companies pay a very low tax in comparison to other European countries. Try to purchase a mobile phone in Spain with a Spanish salary taxed in Spain at the online shop of a tech giant and, guess what, oh surprise, it will be billed at the address X St., Dublin, Ireland.

Not nice? The European Union thinks the same way and wants Ireland to change these policies, as products acquired abroad are taxed in Ireland at a much lower rate with the resulting impact on competing markets. But Ireland was smart enough to attract investment through this system and they will fight hard to keep it.

So what?

As a result, and due to the highest birth rate in Europe as well, Ireland has the youngest population in the continent: there are young professionals from all over Europe and all over the world working here. At the same time, there is a lack of IT professionals and the Irish government is investing in conversion programmes for people with a non-IT background who want to change career.

That makes Ireland an interesting country for people looking for a job, especially in the IT sector. However, you have to keep in mind that if you plan to emigrate to Ireland your level of English has to be high and that you should have some money saved. Ireland is not cheap, especially Dublin, with living standards similar to London. You can read more about working in Ireland in this post.

Please feel free to leave a comment!

Drinking in Ireland

DebarasDrinking in Ireland, ah, drinking in Ireland. Irish have the reputation of being a nation of good drinkers, we have seen it in many movies and it is a stereotype. The question is: is that true? Yes. Categorically yes. Yes, they are good drinkers. Social life in Ireland, especially rural Ireland, has traditionally been organised around two institutions: the church and the pub. If you go to any place in Ireland with more than two houses and you don’t see at least one church and at least one pub, well, you are not in Ireland.

Since Ireland is still a very rural country compared to other European countries, with a high population of people living in quite isolated areas, the only way they have to interact with other people is going to the pub on Saturdays and to mass on Sundays. As I said before, Irish people are very sociable and they love to talk: about the weather, about the new neighbour, about the new priest, about the government, about Ronan O’Gara, or about their cattle.  And the pub is a welcoming neuralgic meeting point where all kind of different people can gather.

The Pub in Ireland is an institution. There are loads of pubs, and all kind of pubs. Old school, modern, small, big, with live music, without, with TVs and sports, with a piano, with a cosy fireplace, with snooker and darts, with young people, with old people, or with old and young people altogether. I really like old school pubs, with old men drinking their stout at a very slow pace as if time didn’t go by, like characters of  old movies like The Quiet Man or Ryan’s Daughter. A good thing about Irish pubs is the amount of live music for free that you can see. In Dublin you have live music every day in various pubs, and for free. And in the weekend, in every corner of the island, no matter if it’s a city, town or village, you’ll have a good choice of live music, traditional or rock/pop.

However, (there is always some ‘howevers’), alcohol in Ireland is veeeeery expensive, and not only in pubs. An example: a bottle of red wine Sangre de Toro or white Vina Sol, which in Spain are around 4 € in a supermarket, in Ireland cost around 12-13 €, if you are lucky reduced to 9. A 50 cl can of beer in a supermarket won’t cost less than 2 €. And a pint of lager in a pub in Dublin won’t be less than 5 € up to 6 € or more depending on the pub. Stouts like Guinness or Beamish are slightly cheaper, but with the new budget alcohol raise, it’s difficult to pay less than 5 €. Dublin is more expensive than the rest of the country though, so just by travelling out of the city you may be able to find these same pints for up to 1 € less. In short, alcohol is expensive, but if you are not a marathonian alcoholic and just want to have a couple of drinks every now and then and enjoy some good live music, you don’t need to spend more money than you would be spending in Spain. And let’s not forget that a pint equals to 568 ml, which is more than half a litter.

Afterwork drinks are quite popular in Ireland the same way as in other countries like England. It is common that any Thursday or Friday you find suited men and dressed up women having a pint once they finish work at their bank, office, hospital or school. Actually, drinking, and even getting drunk with workmates, is part of the Irish culture as long as you behave to certain extent (‘certain extent’ varies depending on the job, company, group or people). I’ve been realising throughout my 10 years living in Ireland and coming as a visitor that it’s more socially accepted drinking than not drinking. ‘That lad doesn’t drink? Mmmm, something’s wrong with your man’. Exagerating a bit, ‘never trust someone who doesn’t drink’. I love this motto. Did I ever tell you I love Irish people?

Another thing that strikes tourists a bit is the poor variety of beers in a regular pub. People have the image of Ireland as a country of beer. However, this is not Belgium nor Czech Republic. If you go to any pub around the corner, the top lager will be Heineken, maybe Carlsberg, and you’ll have Guinness as stout, maybe Beamish, and Murphy’s too if you are in Cork. You could have Smithwicks ale and a couple more German or Belgian lagers too, but generally speaking, you won’t find an Irish lager. People thus mainly drink, at least in Dublin, Heineken (famous Irish lager from Holland) and Guinness. According to Gerry O’Hara, famous pub owner in Bandon, Co. Cork, the only 100 % Irish beer in his pub, O’Hara’s, was Beamish. All the products would be Irish, including the water. On the other hand, the only Irish thing in Guinness would be the water.  All the rest would be imported from their plants in Africa and other locations. Interesting, right? (Thank you, Gerry, for your knowledge! Greetings to the people of Bandon).

There’s much science about the brewing, especially the stout brewing. Guinness invests a lot of money in training pubs and bar tenders on how to brew Guinness properly. You may think that all Guinness taste the same everywhere, but the taste depends not only on how it is brewed but also on the distance between the taps and the barrels and other factors. So it really hurts me, not to say that it pisses me off, when you go to a pub in Dublin where they will charge you 5 or more euros for a Guinness and they pour it as it was Coca-Cola. No. No and no. Guinness, Beamish or Murphy’s are not Coca-Cola. They are not Heineken nor Carlsberg either. What a normal bar tender will do, or a normal bar tender that has ever drunk a stout will do, is to pour first less than half of the pint and leave it rest. After a few minutes s/he will pour the rest. Don’t get impatient if you are kept waiting for your dear beer. You MUST wait to have a proper stout. And a good stout feels good. Oh yes, it feels good. Especially on a cold rainy day next to the fireplace in your local pub.

So if you like drinking, Ireland is a good place to be. Nobody will look at you with mistrust because you like to drink. You will be fully integrated when you embrace the drinking tradition, the proper nodding gestures as a way of greeting, the ‘How’s it goin’?’ or ‘What’s the craic?’, a ‘Good man yourself’ in the right moment, a ‘Fair play to you’ with a proper diction. That, a few freckles, and an acquired love for GAA and rugby, will make you the perfect newborn Irish person.

This is a list of some of my favourite pubs I have been in Ireland:

Dublin:

Whelan’s: a must in Dublin. Concerts every single day, some for free, some with cover charge. Young and consolidated bands gigs. Any Irish band who is becoming known must have played there.

Against the Grain: just across the street of Whelan’s. Crafted local and international beers. You won’t find Heineken, Carlsberg nor Guinness. A good choice of less known beers.

Bernard Shaw: in Candem St. a more modern kind of pub. It’s a Berlin-wise bar with a two stories bus in the beergarden where you can have a choice of pizzas baked there. There’s a pool and in the summer a ping pong table.

The Lower Deck: in Portobello Harbour, just next door of my previous apartment. This pub is in Dublin but reminds me of a country pub. Owned by Liam, a man from Tipperary, it’s decorated with hurling stuff. They made my Sundays more enjoyable when I heard a loud karaoke from my bed.

International Bar: I like this place off Grafton St. because it’s an interesting mixture of authentic Irish pub with locals and some tourists. Live jazz or blues music almost every day.

O’Donoghues: In Baggot St. I just went a few days ago to this pub. A classic with the reputation of having one of the best Guinness in town. It has an air of authentic old school pub .

Slattery’s: My second home when I worked in Google. Just five minutes away, many Googlers and young professionals gather there for an afterwork pint or to watch rugby in the weekends. Just 5 minutes away from Aviva Stadium, so on match days it’s packed of locals or foreigners having a pre or post match beer.

Smyth’s of Ranelagh: In the rugby ghetto too, where the beautiful people of beautiful Ranelagh go. It’s a nice pub and it’s good to go since it’s mainly Irish young people instead of a more international atmosphere of the center.

McSorley’s: After Smyth’s, the beautiful people of beautiful Ranelagh go to McSorley’s for another pint and a dance. Interesting too.

Cork:

The Roundy: I like this pub because it made me feel a bit like at home, in Barcelona. It has a small terrace where you can sit while watching passers-bye in Cork center.

The Crane Lane: Great venue for free concerts, it is quite big and either you can sit and have a quite pint or enjoy one of their good concerts.

Bandon, West Cork:

O’Hara’s: The Gateaway of West Cork, an institution in Bandon.  Apparently a quiet and regular pub, Gerry O’Hara is a well of wisdom. He seems reserved at first, but he will introduce you to the locals and the not so locals, like the weekly foreign au pair gathering that he holds in his pub. With two tables of snooker and one of pool, don’t expect him to serve you after the sacred last call, but he might drive you home if he thinks you shouldn’t take the car.

Clonakilty:

Debarra’s: This is my favourite pub in Ireland. I’ll never stop saying it. Second home for many years for Noel Redding, bass player of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, it holds live music almost every day of the week in 2,000 inhabitants Clonakilty. Trad music and rock concerts, destination of Limerick hen parties on Fridays and Saturdays, a perfect place for a Catalanman in West Cork.

Scannell’s; Another good pub in Clonakilty, especially in the summer, as it has a great outdoors beergarden where barbecues are organised.