An Introduction To Sailing

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Just back from completing one of the things on the bucket list – learning to sail, or at least learning a little. The Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School offer a variety of courses from their base on the West … Continue reading

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More Ideas For Places To Go – Ancient Art and Monuments

As part of the ongoing search for ideas for day trips and things to do on longer holidays, the National Monuments Service both preserves historically important structures and provides a good deal of information about them and their history. One of their recently updated lists caught my interest, that of the locations of rock art across Ireland with many dating back thousands of years. The raw data files are available at the national open data site. I’ve used this data to put together an interactive map of the locations by rock art by type.

One of the most common ancient types of rock art are cupmarked stones. These are large stones or rocks that were worked by people in the past to have hemispherical indentation. A great explanation with lots of examples is available here.

Passage tombs are also sites of rock art. The most famous in Newgrange are UNESCO protected and, constructed over 5000 years ago, older than the pyramids. More, including how the passages are aligned to allow the sun into their inner chambers only during the solstice at

The more mysterious and very rare examples in this data are the cursing stones. Very few examples survive as they were systematically destroyed by the church during the 19th century. From folk tradition, they functioned as places where curses could be placed on others by creating symbols from stones and chanting a formula. A description of the ritual and some of the sites is here.

Finally, there’s the general rock art category for all other ancient markings on rock surfaces.

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Some Ideas For Places To Go In Ireland This Summer

I was looking for some inspiration for holidaying in Ireland again this year. With changeable travel rules and the rise of the delta variant, it’s hard to plan anything abroad this summer. The nice people at Bord Failte provide a list of places and locations of interest to visit in Ireland. I put together an interactive map of the data – available at Hopefully it provides some suggestions and ideas!

Note that the map Key also functions as a toggle switch for the various attraction categories.

Beach list below.

List of Notable Irish Beaches
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Improving Judgment and Decision Making

Almost a decade ago, Daniel Kahneman published ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ about a lifetime of research, with colleague Amos Tversky, into biases and shortcuts people take in making judgements. It was the topic of conversation for months afterwards with investors and entrepreneurs as they discussed how best to integrate the many (more than a hundred now) biases and shortcuts that reliably lead people astray.

In the years since, however, I’m not sure that decision making has appreciably approved anywhere by taking this information into account. Kahneman has been asked how much he has improved his own decisions in light of his findings – not very much at all is the answer. Biases are hard for their owners to detect and counteract in the moment as a sort of bias bias or bias blind spot. We know in the abstract about the things that might affect our decisions but can’t correct for them in the moment. In this light, Kahneman’s new book, ‘Noise’, on research into random variability in decision making elicited some trepidation. Hearing yet more about how terrible your brain is at doing fundamental things without a method to improve is a counsel of despair.

As a bit of definition, bias is where judgment is consistently and predictably clustered around a point of error whereas noise is the unpredictable and arbitrary wrongness of a judgment in any direction. Both compound to negatively affect good (or at least better) judgment. Usefully, the authors of Noise offer some helpful guidance here on improving decision making. In respect of bias, the appointment of a ‘Decision Observer’ is suggested. This is based on the observation that people, with some training, are better at recognising bias in others than themselves. Obviously, having a Decision Observer on tap critiquing and improving decisions isn’t feasible much of the time but it is potentially practical in particularly impactful decisions and for strategy adoption for boards and for individuals.

With respect to noise or scatter in judgments, a trichotomy is suggested. Level noise is exemplified by generally lenient vs severe trial judges. Take any judge on the spectrum of lenient to severe and, additionally, occasion noise comes into play – the time of day, the weather, how their team is faring, mood can all cause noise or random variability in decisions. Finally, there is the largest contributor to noisy decisions, pattern noise. Even taking into account the level noise (a lenient judge say) and the factors around occasion noise, decisions are still noisy and have a lot of scatter. This matters because the errors in each case don’t necessarily cancel out. The example of insurers with noisy underwriting giving a huge payout in one example and very little in another of a similar type of case leads to a financial loss for the insurer in the first and the loss of a customer in the second. Following from this, one method of reducing the noise within each case is to aggregate independent but informed decisions. Another is to use algorithms or rules – these perform better on judgments that are predictions about the future than individuals precisely because they are rules based and not open to bespoke details or particulars in their operation. A consequence of both these approaches is that this makes for a conflict between the desire to take each case on its own merits thereby making a unique, localised determination and the need across all similar decisions to be consistent, fair and avoid errors. It has me thinking about where the balance lies and how to achieve it.

In the latter part of Noise, the use of carefully structured decision making in hiring, as an exemplar, is discussed in depth and evaluated with respect to how well the selected candidate does in the role. The approach seems to have broad utility for improved selection among candidates of interest in many other realms such as venture investment, deciding among collaborations, weighing potential acquisitions, etc. The approach is explored in some depth and it is something I may expand on in a later post.

Overall, the authors make clear that this field of research is at an earlier stage and less developed than that on biases. Nonetheless, the map of the territory is assuredly drawn with as yet unknown terrain identified and, most importantly, possible routes through marked.

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Half Way Through Ireland’s €500M Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund

DTIF awards 2018-present. Source:

In 2018, the Irish government launched a €500M fund aimed at supporting Irish companies with groundbreaking technologies. The fund is run by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with the call being managed and assessed by Enterprise Ireland. There have been three calls to date funding 72 projects to a total of €240M (€78.5 in 2018, €65.5 in 2019 and a record €95.7M in the most recent call). The majority of funding, whether by amount of funding or number of projects funded, goes to Health and Wellbeing projects (blue) followed by ICT (red). There are occasional projects in other sectors such as Food and Manufacturing & Materials. Considering the government’s commitment to climate action, the low level of Energy, Climate Action and Sustainability projects is notable – with 1 project in the initial call, 2 in the second and 3 in the third.

Share of overall awards by county based on locations of DTIF lead applicants

DTIF awards range in value from €1M to almost €10M with a mix of small, medium and large companies collaborating with third level institutions. Looking at the locations of the lead applicants, there is a concentration of project leads in Dublin and Galway followed by Cork and the Limerick region with the associated presence of nearby cities and third level institutions. Dublin City University (DCU) has participated in 5 projects to date worth over €11M with DCU spinouts like Pilot Photonics and Remedy Biologics leading others.

With half the fund left to spend, it is likely there will be 2-3 more calls at current burn rates by the government under this fund with one expected to open later this year.

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€3.5Bn Spent by Science Foundation Ireland on Research

Numbers of Projects Funded In Each SFI Scheme

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has just released data on some 6000 research projects led by 118 organisations funded over the last 20 years. It’s a grand total of €3.5Bn awarded in that time. The data is at and has been made available in csv, xl and pdf formats. It runs from 2002 to April this year. I’ve attempted an initial description of the data here.

The first thing to note is that the funding is spread over 64 different schemes. In a nice demonstration of Pareto’s Law (aka the 80/20 rule) 20% or 13 schemes (first 13 from left of the above chart) account for just over 76% of projects.

Value of Projects Funded In Each SFI Scheme

Looking at the data by monies awarded on each scheme, we end up with a different ranking of different schemes but again a top 13 (or 20 % of all) schemes account for 84% of the spend.

Proportion by University of €3.4Bn of SFI Spend on Projects Led by a University

Looking at the 118 organisations listed as leading an award from SFI, there is a great deal more concentration still. Here, some 9 institutions lead almost 5300 of the 6000 projects that are worth €3.4Bn – the majority of the funding. However, this is not to say that these are the institutions that consume the funding. Instead, they are the lead institution in what may be a consortium of research performing organisation and companies. For example, the single largest category of spend is to be found in the SFI Research Centre Programme (almost €900M to date). For instance, in the case of the INSIGHT Centre, helmed by DCU’s Prof. Noel O’Connor, the lead university is listed in the dataset as NUIG. However, the monies flow to the centre partners from the lead university to allow the research at each site take place. In the case of INSIGHT, this includes DCU, UCD, TCD and others. As such, this facet of the dataset is likely a reflection of the fact that universities can manage large, complex projects and lead research consortia composed of several parties that undertake the research collaboratively.

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Retail Sales Volumes Recovering

Retail Sales Including Motors

The CSO has just released provisional retail data for April. Sales volumes are up over 7% compared with March but off 2020 highs seen last year in July-October. However, much of this monthly increase is associated with Motor sales. If these are stripped out, there is a decline of around 4% in sales volume from March 2021. Even so, this figure is still up over 25% on April lows in 2020 during the earlier part of the Covid pandemic. Hopefully, overall, the recovery continues.

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