Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day 2008

Happy Christmas!

Up at about 8.00am this morning - I felt like sleeping longer, but Kate came into our room, turned on the lights, and "ordered" us downstairs to open presents. We had good fun checking out each present - lots of clothes, books, DVDs, and make-up (for the girls). Vicki got a Guitar Hero and she and Claire spent a long time trying it out. I will be well dressed - a new shirt, jumper, jocks, and socks! Roma gave me some sailing lessons, and I also got Barack Obama's Dreams of my Father book, which I am looking forward to reading.

In the afternoon, Bryan and Eddie (two of Roma's brothers) called with their families - again great fun with kids. I have a train on the Christmas tree that I had not used in the past two years as it was broken. I fixed it this year, and Conor and James Bourke found these very interesting. We had some Champagne to get into the Christmas spirit.

Christmas dinner was great - delicious turkey and ham. We ate a lot. Vicki and I had a Christmas tinsel "fight" - our crackers were covered in this tinsel - I still have some on myself today.

We watched a little bit of a comedy DVD (Late Late Show extracts) but started to fall asleep in front of the TV. Vicki and Kate started a jigsaw puzzle, Claire went out to see some friends - Roma and I collapsed into bed after a long day.

During the day I called Brian, Joe, Kathleen, and Mum and Dad. All were in great form - it's nice to talk to family anytime, but Christmas is a bit more special. All in all, a very nice day.

Christmas Eve 2008

Today is St. Stephen's Day (or Boxing Day) and I am having a quick session on the computer to check email and place a bet at My favourite bets are on golf and football, so I placed a "Lucky 15" bet on four matches in the Coca-Cola Championship.

On Christmas Eve - Kate, Vicki, and I went down to Ballingate to see Mum and Dad. This has been a tradition now for me and the girls since the early 1990s. Ever since we decided to have Christmas Day in our own house I have been travelling to Ballingate for Christmas Eve. I took the picture to the right just at the back of Mum and Dad's house - we had a very pleasant and mild day (12 C). This year will be Mum and Dad's first Christmas ever on their own. They are in great form - Dad broke open a bottle of Scotch that we gave him for his 50th wedding anniversary. Nice, and I had Kate to drive me home! I have to confess to having a large Scotch!

Joe and his crew weren't there this year as he had gone to Sligo instead. Kathleen, Eileen, and her son Daniel arrived in the afternoon - there's a little bit more magic in Christmas when there are small children around. I pretended to be Santa and called Eileen's mobile phone looking to find out where Daniel was staying that night - he fell for it and it was magic. (Sorry Daniel if you ever read this in the future - you were only 3 years old). Photo to the left of my sister Kathleen and I was taken by Kate in Mum and Dad's front room.

We went to Evening Mass in Foxrock church, but despite being 10 minutes early the church was full - I had to stand in the porch. The mass was 1.25 hours long, so I was glad I wasn't inside as the heat was difficult for people to bear - several left during mass. We stayed up to watch a Christmas movie whose name I forget and which was very boring.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Golf at St Annes, Clontarf

I played golf today with students and staff of NCI - it was the first time in my 6+ years there to take part in any student/staff activity (other than Graduation). I had practiced yesterday in Leopardstown Driving Range where I was "brutal" - as my brother Joe says, I "couldn't hit the ball out of my way".

Sadly the bad form was to continue at St Annes Golf Club (Google Maps above) which is a links course. I want to say that I have always hated links courses, and after today I still do! On the first tee I had to tee off in front of all 12 people who participated. A shout from a player in another group didn't help and I promptly messed up my tee shot. I was also playing with Fintan Bonner who has just turned professional - fuck!

I never settled, and had probably my worst round of golf in 20 years. I managed 10  (yes ten) Stableford points on the front nine which included my only par of the day. This was fortuitous - my tee shot went about 20 metres, my second shot left me 130 metres from the pin, but I got up and down in two for a par 4. I didn't count, but I 'm sure that I didn't make the green in at least 8 holes'- I was having a miserable time. I only "scored" 3 points in the back nine, for a total of 13 points. A most awful golf day.

Links courses are hard, but I cannot blame the course for today's "golf". Anyway, there's always a next time.

Final Meal in South

On Saturday last Roma and I went out with her four brothers (Eddie, Peter, Angus, and Bryan) and their wives and partners (Karen, Dorothy, Fiona, and Maria) to the South Restaurant in Sandyford. We had a table for 0900 which was quite late - but when we got there the restaurant was far from busy. While the food was good, there seemed to be a lot of problems with any bottle of wine we ordered - "none in stock"! Service was irregular and not great. Nevertheless we enjoyed ourselves, though a long table for 10 people doesn't make for good conversation with everybody.

Next day we learned from The Sunday Independant that the Restaurant is to close on Tuesday 23rd December. The Recession is starting to bite hard.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How To...Draw a Polar Diagram in Excel

I have added a new video to YouTube as part of my "How To..." series. This one is about drawing Polar Diagrams in Microsoft Excel. I teach about Polar Diagrams as part of the subject of Performance Measurement. They are really useful and easy to draw - they can graphically show gaps in performance without the detail of figures.

It took me a few hours to create this video - I made so many mistakes that I had to re-record it several times. I used PowerPoint to record the audio and Audacity to edit the .WAV files. I found that the files skipped a lot so that they sounded like I had deleted very short sections. In the end, I recorded the audio in one take using Audacity and exported the audio to an MP3 file. I imported this into Windows Media Maker to which I also added the slides. I used the Print Screen button to capture the slides and PaintShop Pro to turn them into .JPG files. Windows Movie Maker converted this into a movie - this is embedded above and also uploaded into YouTube.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Business Analysts Association - Graduation Photo

A new photo featuring yours truly is placed on the home page of the Business Analysts Association of Ireland web site. The photo was taken at the NCI Graduation ceremonies on October 30th last.

This group represents students from the course Diploma in Business Analysis and Consultancy - I am Course Director and a Lecturer on one of the modules for this course. The course was run twice in Dublin and twice in Cork in 2007/2008. While over 80 students attended the course, only 18 made it to the graduation. Also in the photograph is President of NCI, Dr. Paul Mooney (beside me dressed in Trinity's scarlet and gold gown), and Phil Chambers (second from right at back) who organizes the course and the Association. 

The module I teach (Business Systems Analysis) is one of my favourites, and I always enjoy the classes with these students.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fastest Broadband Connection Yet!

I have been a bit concerned about the speed of our new connection to Eircom Broadband. An earlier test (two posts below) showed download speed of only 0.757 Mbps out of a possible 3.0 Mbps. I ran several tests since and got almost exactly the same results.

Today I added more filters and a new splitter to our telephone lines. We have four phones (hall, kitchen, office, and bedroom), plus two connections to Sky satellite in our house. They now all have broadband filters. After fitting them I decided to take another test and as you can see above we have a lot faster connection of 2.2 Mbps - the fastest I have ever seen in this house. I don't know if it is a coincidence, or if the additional filters had an effect - but something has improved the connection. Back to surfing!

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Camara is a charity based in The Digital Hub in Thomas Street near Dublin city centre. They take in second hand computers and rebuild them to give to schools in Africa. It's a fantastic idea and they get donations for individuals as well as businesses.

I brought along two old computers from the Pharmacy, plus two monitors, a printer, and lots of cables and other bits and pieces. I even gave away my old Palm Tungsten PDA. They took everything and were more than happy with all I brought along. I met Jim who is a volunteer for Camara and I told them I was a Lecturer in Computing at NCI and he showed me around. They have a very efficient operation and he brought me though the process from taking in the computers to shipping them out. Everything is checked - they get a lot of faulty monitors in particular which are sent for recycling. They are currently processing a shipment of Compaq computers from an office in Belfast. The big thing is that they have to guarantee that the hard disk is wiped and they have special Garda approved software to do this. For some computers they have to destroy the hard disk - banks like AIB won't give the computers otherwise. They first use a Degausser which renders the magnetic hard disk completely unusable and actually damages the storage system. The disk is then split and crushed using a special gadget like a guillotine. They have to buy new hard disks to replace these, and also buy a lot of mice - they got a shipment of 1,000 from China yesterday.

The rebuilt computers end up in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Lesotho. Camara also send out volunteers to teach IT and to maintain the computers. Jim told me it is a very successful operation. 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hotel Eugenie, Rue de Rome, París in Street View

I am fascinated with Google and the nice gadgets and features that they produce. And the best part is that everything is free! Recently I noticed a little "man" appearing on Google Maps and I decided to click on it, and hey presto it gives a street level view (if available) - this was released on November 21st 2008 for the iPhone. 

From Wikipedia: Google Street View is a feature of Google Maps and Google Earth that provides 360° horizontal and 290° vertical panoramic street-level views and allows users to view parts of selected cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas at ground level.

I decided to show this off to Roma on my iPhone and looked up Hotel called Villa Eugenie on the Rue de Rome in Paris where we once stayed (we immediately re-christened these Hotel Eugene on Rue de Roma). This location is available on street view. Below is the interactive view from Google showing the Rue de Rome street sign and the Villa Eugenie hotel name:

What will Google think of next? According to Google, this will expand to many more cities and metropolitan areas - they need people to drive around with special cameras to make the recordings. There are privacy concerns and Google have started to fade out things like faces and number plates.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

New Eircom Broadband Connection

We switched from Clearwire to Eircom Broadband recently. Clearwire had increased our monthly subscription from €39 to €49 per month without telling me. I was outraged by this. I called Clearwire for an explanation and they told me that my fixed contract was over and that this meant I was put on a higher rate. They "kindly" offered to renew my contract, but I thought I would check out other offerings instead. Later when I called them to terminate the connection they went as low as €29 per month in an attempt to keep me as a customer.

Eircom came out the best - for €54 per month we get free local, national, and Meteor telephone calls. We get a 3MB connection instead of the 2MB from Clearwire. We also get Setanta Sports free on-line, and they don't block any sites such as Sky Sports and Limewire. So far the new connection has been good - I still have to get some filters for some of our extra phones, but so far it has been a great success. The only thing I was worried about in switching to Eircom is that they have a high contention rate (48:1) in my area. During the day I can get up to 1.8 Mbps, as as you can see from the graphic it drops right down at peak time - this test was done at 1900 hours. I'll post a high result in the near future just to compare to today.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book Review - "Cool Waters - Emerald Seas"

As mentioned in a previous post , I met an old diving buddy (John Collins) from my Trinity days at the Cahill May Roberts weekend in Adare Manor a couple of weeks ago. While catching up on old times - we're talking the late 80s/early 90s, John mentioned that he had written a book featuring many of his photographs. 

I bought the book from Amazon and really enjoyed it - especially the photo of Calliostoma zizyphinum (the painted topshell) on page 60. John and I as members of the Dublin University Sub-Aqua Club (DUSAC) dived together several times - no doubt he collected many of the topshells I used in my PhD studies.

I have written a review at Amazon and gave it five stars. The text of the review is also below:

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Collection of Photos29 Nov 2008
By EFMOL "eugeneol" (Dublin) - See all my reviews
This is a most enjoyable book for everyone. If you ever wanted to get up close to what's under the sea, John Collins'wonderfully photographed book will take you there. This is both a work of art and a work of love by the author. The excellent photographs combined with the author's own written contributions, plus quotations from diving's pioneers works extremely well. 

The book is well edited and I'm sure it was a huge task for Collins and his editors to select the final photos from what was no doubt a massive collection. It is divided up into several sections like "Undersea Journeys" and " Sea Dreams". My favorite section was the "Face to Face" where Collins gets up close and personal with wonderful fish, dolphins, seals, and sharks. 

I also like the fact that the author does not use each organism's taxonomic full title - the common name "Painted Topshell" (p 60) sounds much more interesting than the more formal "Calliostoma zizyphinum". 

This book is like a collection of the best photographs from the National Geographic, with a personal touch added. It makes you want to put on a wetsuit, learn how to dive, and jump straight into the ocean to see the plants, creatures, and wrecks that are out of sight for us landlubbers. If you like a glimpse of the undersea world, you will not be disappointed with this book. 

Maith an fear tú féin John.

Friday, November 21, 2008

25 Year Old Research

In 1983 I did my finals in Science at Trinity, specializing in Zoology. My final year project was on Air Breathing Rhythms of Oxygen Consumption in the Shore Crab Carcinus maenas (L.). I enjoyed this project and got really positive feedback about it. The then Head of the Department of Zoology, the late J.N.R. Grainger said to me that I "had a talent" for research and I was inspired to continue my research studies by enrolling for a PhD.

I have often thought over the years that I should have tried to publish my research findings. Basically, air breathing rhythms in the shore crab had not been shown before (they had in water) - therefore my work was new to science. However, I never bothered to write my project up in a suitable format for a paper. It didn't help that in 1983 there were no computers - my thesis was typed up on a typewriter. In the last year I finally wrote the paper, with the aid of OCR and a scanner. I first submitted it to the Journal of the Marine Biological Association and it was rejected - but there were some positive comments (among the many negative). The main feedback was that it was too long. I tried two more journals with a shortened version, but was rejected on both occasions. It's time to give up trying to publish this in a scientific Journal.

The great thing about blogs is that you can publish anything you like yourself. So I hereby publish my own paper - it can be accessed from my Google Pages by clicking here. Of course I doubt if anyone will ever find it, let alone read it - but I have a little grin on my face as I publish this 25 year old piece of research.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ride to Wexford General Hospital to see Dad

Bit of a scare this week in that Dad went to Wexford General Hospital after feeling unwell. I went down to see him last evening and I am glad to report that he looked very well and healthy after a tiring couple of days. We chatted for about an hour and a half, and I enjoyed the evening, Dad needs a change in medication for blood pressure - hopefully this will get him back to normal again.

The ride was enjoyable too - I had not taken such a long journey (see map above - 160 miles/131km  round trip) since my journey home from France. The bike ran very well - no problems. I wrapped up well - I am using an old set of padded pull-ups that are very effective. Riding in the dark was also something that I had not done for a long time (London to Dublin in 2002) - lights are not great, but the there was enough traffic on the road to lead me on my way. 

Harley-Davidson Bar Stool

In the summer, for my trip to France, I changed the seat on my Harley-Davidson to one with a back rest. The new seat has been a great success and I like it very much. But what to do with the old seat?

I brought home the old seat from Dublin Harley-Davidson and decided to make a chair or stool out of it. At this time NCI were re-decorating some laboratories and there were some old broken office chairs ready to be dumped. I selected one that was in reasonable order and brought it home. I took off the old battered seat and fixed the Harley seat on top - the picture to the right shows the result. Now I have an interesting bar stool that moves up and down just like a real office chair. I moved it to our house in Wexford hoping to enjoy a few beers at the bar (kitchen counter) there. Now I can pretend I'm riding and drinking a beer at the same time!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekend in Adare Manor

Roma and I were slumming it in Adare Manor this weekend - it is a five star hotel and golf resort in the village of Adare in Co Limerick. We had last been in Adare in 1983 for a wedding (Ger and Martin in the nearby Dunraven Arms). The weekend was organized by Cahill May Roberts who supply many of the drugs for Roma's Pharmacy - they paid for everything. Cheers!

We drove down on Friday evening and arrived just after 10 pm. We went straight to the Tack Room (a bar) for some food and drink. A lot of people had arrived ahead of us and the party was in full swing. We met Pat and Anne Staunton from Castlebar whom we knew - Pat was in Roma's pharmacy class in Trinity. I also met an old SCUBA diving buddy - John Collins who is a pharmacist in Kinsale. We had a great chat about old times in Trinity and the sub-aqua club.

On Saturday I played golf - my partners were both from Cork, Tony Daly and Cormac Deasy. We had a very pleasant round and came in with a gross score of five over par in a scramble competition. This very respectable score wasn't good enough to get in the prizes - in fact we came last! I lost quite a few balls, but also more than played my part in the scoring - especially in sinking two long putts to save par. 

On Saturday evening we had dinner in The Minstrel's Gallery, which was very pleasant, followed by another session in the Tack Room. I was careful not to overdo the jar, but still didn't go to bed until 3.30. Sunday was about getting home - nice to be back after a nice weekend in a smashing hotel.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2nd Anniversary of Creating this Blog

It is two years since I created this blog and posted my first item - appropriately called "My First Post".  I had no real plan or idea about how the Blog would turn out - I just wanted to set one up to see what it was like. In 2006 I only made two posts (including the first above). This increased to 15 posts in 2007, and so far there are 109 posts (including this one) in 2008. I have become more prolific, though not like some bloggers who post several items every day.

I once showed my Blog to a visiting academic in NCI - he immediately started warning me about falling into the trap that many others fallen into, ie feeling that you have to post something about yourself every day (however trivial). People do get addicted to blogging - in this article, "10 Signs That You May Be a Blog Addict", several warning signs are given. My favourite is this one (#4):

You get inspiration for new blog posts at the strangest times - in the Jacuzzi, sitting on the toilet, during marital activities (cough, cough)... you get the picture

I know very few people read the blog - my rank in Technorati is 4,697,735. Not sure if this really means anything. I once reviewed a Conference and complimented one of the speakers - he saw the post and commented on it, presumably using Google Alerts.

I like the freedom of a blog - you can write and post anything you like. This self publishing phenomenon has captured my imagination, and I intend to keep going. Long Live Blogging!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Victory for Obama

I'm delighted with this morning's news that Barack Obama has won the US Presidential Election. I stayed up until about 3.00 am and followed the early results. At the early stages it was actually looking good for McCain -  but it was fascinating to watch the counts coming in and the results of each state being projected. The photo to the right is of a victorious Obama from the today's Irish Times website - too late for print version.

I mostly watched CNN, and once they had projected that Obama would win Ohio, and that he was was ahead in Florida - it was all over bar the shouting.  Time to go to bed.

I rarely stay up this late - especially to watch TV, but I was hooked and didn't feel tired. I would have liked to have been in Grant Park in Chicago where CNN kept showing us the crowds that were gathering early on for Obama's victory speech - this looked like a great party and a historic place to be last night. McCain had Waylon Jennings Jnr playing at his "victory" location - no wonder he lost.

Sadly for McCain, he will be forever remembered as a loser. His place in history as a maverick senator and war hero is assured, but who remembers Kerrey, Gore, Dole, Mondale and many others as anything else but as having lost a US Presidential election?

Now it's Barack Obama's turn at the Presidency - time to deliver. The world is watching!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

US Presidential Election

If I had a vote in the US Presidential Election I would go against my more conservative (Republican) nature and vote for Barack Obama.

He is a breath of fresh air and I believe that he will make a far better President than John McCain. I'm sure McCain would be a good President, but it's Obama time now. Change is needed, he is young, and I also believe that what is good for America is good for the rest of the world.

I'm also struck by the fact that it is now my generation's time to run this world! Our Taoiseach, Brian Cowan is 48 (almost 49 - the same as me). Obama is 47. Go the 40-somethings!!!

So, I'll be listening to the results early tomorrow morning - I have been following the candidate's campaigns since the Iowa Caucus last year. It has been fascinating. I think folks that we are on the verge of a history making moment.

Early Morning Squirrel

This morning was warm and bright after the recent cold weather. I spotted a Grey Squirrel in our back garden - I have sometimes seen one running along the wall at the end of the garden, and they are quite common in Dublin. The Squirrel ran into the garden shed, so I waited until he came out before I went in to start the Harley - no point in killing the poor little thing with the shock of such loud noise.

After it came out of the shed it danced around the end of the garden, stood up on its hind legs - before scrambling up the electricity pole at the corner of the garden. I ran inside to get my camera and as the pictures show he went right to the top of the pole. I took a lot of photos (24 to be precise!) hoping to get one that would look good. I felt like a National Geographic photographer! The squirrel mostly clung to the edge of the pole, but on two occasions it sat on the top - the early morning sun was just about enough to make it visible in the photos (click on photos to see larger version). 

The squirrel stayed on the pole for a long time. It's hard to tell if a squirrel is scared, but I thought that it might not have been able to climb back down - then I remembered that they are very skilled climbers. He might also have been basking in the sun to warm up - he mostly stayed on the sunny side of the pole.

Nice to see wildlife in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Picasa - Web Album

I have created my first Picasa on-line photo album. This album has pictures from both my Mum and Dad's Golden Wedding anniversary party and from the lunch at our house in Skuna Bay the next day.

I took a lot of photos and the ones in this album are just a selection. A lot of my photos are blurred and I have suspected for some time that the automatic focus is not working right. I also need a better flash for the evening shots - maybe Santa might bring me one?

NCI Graduation Ball

Yesterday was the second of two Graduation Days in NCI. I had classes on Thursday, so couldn't go that day. On Friday I attended two ceremonies. In the morning I was part of the Academic Procession. I knew a lot of the students graduating as it was mostly School of Computing students. Author Maeve Binchy received an Honory Fellowship. I was Master of Ceremonies for the afternoon session which was very long. I kept the ceremony going fine - I have done this on several occasions before and really enjoy doing it. Gary McGann of Smurfit Kappa received the Honory Fellowship at this ceremony.

In the evening I attended the Graduation Ball which was held in the Hilton Hotel in Charlemont Place. There were quite a few staff present, but curiously only three Lecturers (including me). We had a great evening. I was sitting at a staff table for dinner with nine women colleagues and no men - lucky me surrounded by so many beauties!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Family Lunch at Skuna Bay

I had invited all the family who were at the Golden Wedding Anniversary Party to lunch in our Wexford house in Skuna Bay. Before this we went to mass in Star of the Sea church in Ballygarrett celebrated by Fr William Howell. My head wasn’t quite ready for mass, but I struggled through it without falling asleep. At the end of mass Fr Howell congratulated Mum and Dad from the altar. He gave Mum a bunch of flowers and the congregation applauded them – Mum and Dad were beaming.

We had 28 people altogether at the house. Roma had been working very hard preparing food and had a fantastic spread for all. My contribution? Well…..first, I didn’t get in the way. I also poured drinks and did lots of washing up to make up for my lack of input into the food. Roma, as always, has a knack with presentation – every one commented on the smashing food. We had lots of chat. I was particularly delighted that as well as Mum and Dad, Aunt Breda and Uncle Seamus, Aunt Mary and Uncle Donal, Mum’s cousins Brendan Byrne (and his wife Collette), and Madeline Shelly (and her husband Kevin)
, my cousin Declan and his wife Marguerite, Joe/Miriam and family (David, Niall, and Maeve), Kathleen/Jim and family (Eileen, Brendan, Michael, and Daniel), as well as Roma, Claire, Kate, and Vicki – were all there. 

Picture below is me with (from left) my aunts Breda and Mary, and my Mum's cousin Madeline.

Roma and I were tired when all had left. We were both falling asleep by nine o’clock and went to bed early. The day was a great success – 28 people are the most we’ve ever had at our Wexford home. The sun came out and the place looked beautiful. Mum and Dad really enjoyed the day and went home happy.

Golden Wedding Anniversary Party

The O’Loughlin Clan gathered in the Amber Springs Hotel in Gorey on Saturday 25th October, 2008 to celebrate the Golden Wedding Anniversary of my Mum and Dad (Phil and Joe). With us were all the in-laws, neighbours, and friends of Mum and Dad – about 60 people altogether. Unfortunately, bad weather on the Irish Sea meant that Brian could not travel over from England – I spoke with him earlier in the day and while he was disappointed not to be with us, he was very much in our hearts and thoughts. We had a toast to Brian during the after dinner speeches.

For me the party started early – I went to the hotel at about 4.30 to set up the presentation that I had planned. I have spent a lot of time preparing the presentation, collecting photos, searching through my own photograph collection (both film and digital), selecting background music, and working with my cousin Janet Edwards to get some video messages from Mum’s Canadian family into the presentation (thanks Janet for all your help, especially at a sad time for your family). I was as excited as a Rolling Stones Roadie setting up a concert. I had my laptop from work (thanks NCI), my iPhone, speakers, projector, scanner, and camera, all connected – it looked like an AC/DC concert with wires everywhere. I set up everything fine and was ready to go – I wanted to include some final pictures, which Mum brought, and some photos of their arrival at the hotel. Despite the bad weather I got some nice shots of their arrival. Kathleen and Eileen worked hard setting up the tables – the layout with mirrors, stones, and candles really added to the sense of occasion. I felt sorry for the hotel representative who was looking after us – Eileen worked for Hotel Kilkenny and was expecting high standards from the Amber Springs

Mum and Dad arrived in a Rolls Royce at about 7.00 pm and were greeted at the hotel entrance by all their guests. We had a nice sherry reception (I’m not a sherry person, so I had a pint instead!). It was great to meet up with all the family – the last time I had met them all was at Uncle Charlie’s funeral last year. 

For dinner, we all settled down before Mum and Dad arrived to a great reception from everybody. I had a poster created for them which was posted just outside our function room – this was very much appreciated. We had a very pleasant dinner followed by some speeches. Dad’s brother Paddy spoke first – he was, as usual, very funny, and told some stories from the time Mum and Dad were courting. Dad spoke next and was his usual confident self – he particularly thanked Mum for her support and friendship over the past 50 years, a special moment. Mum spoke to thank everybody, especially Uncle Paddy whom she presented a bottle of Paddy whiskey to as a “Thank you” for his discretion 50 years ago. My nephew Brendan Kelleher spoke on behalf of the younger generation – while nervous, he was very good and he represented his cousins very well. Dad’s sister Eileen also spoke before my big moment arrived. Mum's cousin Brendan Byrne spoke on behalf of the Byrne side of the family. I had not prepared a speech – deliberately, as I wanted to speak from the heart. I’m very proud of my Mum and Dad and I hope it showed in my words. All of above was ably managed by Joe. 

I started my presentation with some photos of Mum and Dad before they got married – the background music was “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. Next I had a series of news items from 1958 (music – “The Washington Post” marching band music) culminating in the news that Mum and Dad got married in 1958. Next up was some pictures of Mum’s parents Kathleen and Paddy Byrne – I played their 1958 wedding message recording during this section (this is playable from one of my earlier blog posts). I followed this with a “Next 50 years” section – lots of photos of family over the years. I did this with background music from Edith Piaf (“Je ne regret rien”) and Barbra Streisand (“The Way We Were”). Then it was time for the Canadian video messages – this worked very well and added to the sense of occasion. Finally, I had a “Moments in Time” section (Music – Whitney Houston and “One Moment in Time”) – this used all my favourite photos of Mum and Dad. I also had a couple of photos of their arrival at the hotel. The presentation got a great round of applause at the end – Dad wants it on DVD! Maybe I’ve a career in the movies ahead of me! It was a relief that all went as planned and I could now relax a little bit more – phew!

As you would expect with a party involving Mum and Dad and a lot of their Carnew Musical Society friends there was a lot of singing after dinner. Each table sang a song from a musical – this “competition” was judged in X-Factor style by Fr William Howell who was attending a wedding downstairs and is a long time friend of Mum and Dad. Loads of people got up to sing afterwards. Dad, Joe, and I sang “The Bold Gendarmes”. Joe and I also sang “Fifty Years Ago” as well as “When I’m Sixty Four”. Highlight of the singing was Dad’s rendition of “The Mountains of Mourne”. 
It was a late night, which we rounded off in the Resident’s Bar of the hotel. Joe stayed with us in Skuna Bay and we got a late taxi home and got to bed at about 4.30 am. 

Today was a great day for our family – especially for Mum and Dad. We love you both, and many congratulations on achieving 50 years.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Golden Wedding Anniversary - 22nd October, 2008

Yesterday was a great day for our family when Mum (Phil) and Dad (Joe) celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary - they were married in Ballybrack Church on 22nd October, 1958. Dad's uncle, Monsignor Charles Hurley was the mass celebrant. 

50 years later they spent the day together. First, they went to Mass in Tomacork Church. I called them to wish a "Happy Anniversary" and they were in great form. Later they went to lunch in Lawless's Hotel in Aughrim. They had several callers and well wishers on the day.

We are partying on Saturday night in the Amber Springs Hotel in Gorey - all the family, neighbours, and friends will be there. A good night is in prospect.

Congratulations Mum and Dad!!!

Your loving son,


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ireland 1 Cyprus 0

I got two tickets for a birthday present to the Ireland vs. Cyprus World Cup Qualifier in Croke Park last evening. My good friend and former colleague in SmartForce, Ciarán O'Connell, came to the match with me. We had Premium seats with an excellent view of the pitch.

Robbie Keane scored the only goal of the game in 5th minute - we had a perfect view of his header into an empty net. Ireland had most of the opportunities in the first half, but could not add to the lead. Our defence and attack played well, but midfield seemed to be lost. The crowd were calling for Andy Reid quite early on, but Ireland Manager Giovanni Trappatoni made no substitutions other than a time wasting one in the last seconds of the match.

Cyprus were shite all through the game, and Ireland were shite in the second half. Cyprus rarely threated to score, though they did get some opportunities near the end but Richard Dunne resisted all attempts to score. Dunne was man-of-the-match for me, but the press gave the award to Kevin Doyle.

The view in the papers and on radio this morning is that a "win is a win". The heavyweights in our qualifying group, Italy and Bulgaria, won't be shaking in their boots at the prospect of playing Ireland. Italy won again last night (2-1 vs Montenegro) , while Bulgaria drew (0-0 vs Georgia).

We left the ground happy with the win, but it was not an impressive performance by Ireland - especially in midfield. Darren Gibson, who is 9th choice for Manchester United's midfield, failed to impress, as did Glenn Whelen, who can't get into the Stoke City team. Andy Reid, a first choice at Sunderland, was kept on the bench. Trappatoni rules!

We finished the evening with a pint in the Lagoona Bar and a good chat.

Book Launch - "The State of the Unions"

I attended a book launch at the National College of Ireland last evening. The book is entitled The State of the Unions, and it is edited by Dr Tim Hastings, a colleague from the Associate Faculty at the College. It is the second book in the series of books published by NCI and Liffey Press - the series is called The Changing World of Work. The book launch is mentioned in today's Irish Times.

The book launch was opened by Dr Paul Mooney, President of the College. Dr Hastings also spoke about putting the book together - it is a series of chapters by leading labour movement figures in Ireland, including Ruarí Quinn (former Minister for Labour), Dr Brendan McPartlin (a former lecturing colleague in NCI), and Davig Begg (General Scretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions - ICTU).

I don't have much time for unions. I am one of the few members of academic staff in NCI who are not in a union - and have no intention or desire to join SIPTU, the union most staff in the College are members of. However, the highlight of the evening was hearing and meeting Jack O'Connor, President of SIPTU, who formally launched the book. He de-bunked the myth that union membership is falling, and claimed that unions are now more relevant than ever before to stand up for workers who have to work for somebody else. I have to say he is an inspiring speaker - I had also heard him on RTÉ radio in the morning calling the new one percent employment levy in the Budget as a crude instrument that disregards the principle of ability to pay and will inflict further hardship on those on middle to lower incomes.

I bought a copy of the book and had both Tim and Jack sign it. I will give the book to my Mum's cousin Brendan Byrne who is a retired SIPTU official. I had invited him to the launch, but he didn't make it. I don't think I'll read it myself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Shoes

I called to Arnotts in Henry Street today to buy a new pair of shoes. I have three pairs of shoes already, but all are worn and need to be thrown out. All three existing pairs of shoes are by Ecco and I had convinced myself that the quality of Ecco shoes was not as good as it used to be. I would try another brand.

When the shoe salesman asked me how long I had had these old shoes - several years, he told me not to expect more than two years from any pair, and that Ecco were the best. So I bought a pair of Ecco shoes having intended not to buy them in the first place (good salesmanship!).

I add this trivial post to record the day I bought the shoes so that I'll know in a few years time when I bought them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How To... Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) in Excel

I have added a new video to YouTube on how to calculate Net Present Value (NPV) for two projects. NPV is used by Project Managers as one of the tools to help them select a project. This short video describes how to make the calculations in simple steps.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Institute of Business Analysis and Consulting Annual Conference

I attended the Institute of Business Analysis and Consulting (IBAC) Annual Conference yesterday held in the Davenport Hotel. The title of the Conference was From Business Support to Business Influencer - The Evolving Role of the Business Analyst. There were about 60 people present - I'd say about 12 were graduates of NCI's Diploma in Business Analysis and Consultancy course that I teach on. The course was also mentioned by one of the speakers.

The first presentation was by Sue Stockdale who is a motivational speaker, executive coach, and people development consultant. She spoke on Thriving in the Extreme World of Business. She once skied across Greenland and used her story of the expedition to compare her adventures with business issues. She was excellent! I also got to sit beside her at lunch and we had a great chat - I told her about putting lectures on iPods/iPhones and she was fascinated. I promised to send her details about how to do this.

Next up was a presentation from Alan McGilton who spoke on How to Change your Approach to the Market and Stay Ahead of the Competition – The Case of Ignition at Hibernian. This was a very interesting presentation and focused very much on a Business Analyst as an agent for change. The following speaker was Kathy O’Reilly of UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. Her topic was Business Analysis in Ireland: Evolving Roles, Changing Landscapes which was about research conducted on the role of the BA by two of her students. I was also sitting beside Kathy at lunch and we had a great chat comparing our courses (it was she who mentioned NCI in her presentation). The final speaker in the morning session was Michael Cullen, CEO of Beacon Medical Group. His topic was Stakeholder Management in the Healthcare Sector - a bit long, but an interesting account of how the Beacon hosiptal was set up. He also had a go at Joe Higgins of the Socialist Worker's party.

After lunch, there was a choice of three breakout workshops - I picked Applying Six Sigma Principles to Customer Experience Management – How to Develop Profitable Relationships with Internal and External Customers by Jeremy Heaven of Distinct Business Consulting. This wasn't particularly good and I wished I had gone to the one on virtual teams instead. The final speaker was Adrian Beggan of Google who spoke on Forget Tomorrow! What about the Next 5 – 10 years? Seizing the Opportunity to Shape the Trajectory of the ‘Business Analyst’. He was very good, though overdid the innovation bit and kept repeating himself. The learning from his session was to always be creative and innovative, and he described how Google cultures this within their organization.

I was surprised that I knew so many people at the Conference and met quite a few new people too. I discovered that I was mentioned as a possible speaker for this Conference - who knows, I might be asked for the next one!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Holyhead Lions Charter Night

As President of the Killiney Lions Club (of which I am not a member), Roma get invited to Annual Dinners of other Lions Clubs. Killiney is twinned with the Holyhead Lions Club in Wales. We set off on the 11.30 ferry from Dún Laoghaire to Holyhead and were picked up by Lion colleagues of Roma, David and Jim - there were seven people associated with Killiney Lions attending. We decided not to take the car as it is very expensive and we didn't really need it.

The Hotel where we were staying, and where the dinner was, is the Valley Hotel in the village of Valley, on the Isle if Anglesey. It is a small hotel, nothing fancy. We had lunch on arrival, and as it was raining heavily we stayed in the hotel for the afternoon.

Dinner was a black tie affair, and was full of Lions ceremoney. Holyhead Lions only recently voted to allow women members, and some of the speeches bordered on sexist (they have no women members yet). We were sitting beside a couple from the West of Ireland who had emigrated to Britain in the 1950s - so we had some interesting chat about that. I'm guessing that I was either the third or fourth youngest person there, Roma was one of the people younger than me. After dinner there was some music and dancing and the night finished up before 12. I had an interesting evening with a Rev James - not a vicar/priest, but a beer by Welsh brewing company Brains!

Before our return home to Dún Laoghaire we were invited to lunch in Holyhead Golf Club in Treardur Bay by the Holyhead Lions. It was pleasant sunny day and we had a nice walk along the Bay first.

Kate picked us up from the ferry in Dún Laoghaire - very handy having a daughter who can drive my car. Overall, an good weekend. However, most of the Lions we were with are in their 60s and 70s - they seem to all want to "look after" the younger people. They were constantly asking if we were OK - as if they were our parents. I had enough of this, and was glad to be home.

Chez Max Restaurant Review

After the Art Garfunkel concert last Friday Roma and I went for a quick bite to eat at Chez Max in the corner of Palace Street beside Dublin Castle. We had looked to eat there before but it was always booked out. It is a small restaurant - very French. We were late, and past last orders, but they took us in anyway. It was very dark and even though I actually had my reading glasses with me I could not read the menu without holding a candle up to it. I had a steak, which turned out to be a bit oily - but OK. It is a nice intimate atmosphere and I enjoyed discussing the Garfunkel concert with Roma and reminiscing about 1982 when we last saw him. Due to the late hour we only had time for one course and a glass of wine.

Chez Max - recommended, but I'd like to go back and take a bit more time to enjoy it more.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Art Garfunkel at Vicar Street

Roma and I went to the Art Garfunkel concert in Vicar Street last Friday evening. I bought the tickets several months ago and was looking forward to the concert as a birthday treat for a long time. Roma and I had been to a Simon and Garfunkel concert at the RDS way back in 1982 - one of our earliest dates. I remember this mainly for the bottle of white wine that Roma "smuggled" into the concert arena - this was my first gig at a major international artist and I felt that we were certain to be ejected from the arena for drinking.

Garfunkel has aged quite a bit and was a bit stooped at times. His voice has lost none of its gentleness and he is still a magnificent interpreter of songs. A bit of the power has gone, but that's OK for a guy who is 66 years old. I couldn't see the connections between his wig and his head - it was very well fitted.

He sang all the stuff we came to hear - "Bright Eyes", "The Sound of Silence", "Bridge Over Troubled Waters", "Scarborough Fair", and many more. As always at concerts of artists who have been around for a long time he also sang stuff from his "new" CD - not what we went to hear.

He seemed a bit uncomfortable - Vicar Street is a small venue and he took exception to a couple chatting in the front row while he was singing. He stopped the  song to confront the couple! Maybe he felt he should be singing before more people. When we last saw him at the RDS there were several thousand people present - on Friday there were just a few hundred. Celebrity spotting - Tony Ward and Joe Duffy were there too.

Nevertheless,  a brilliant concert that was thoroughly enjoyable. We were only about 5m from Art and it was incredible to be so close to the man who sings one of the most famous songs of all time - Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Great evening!

Friday, October 03, 2008

1001 Spams

I reached a milestone today as I have 1001 spam emails in my Gmail. This is the first time it has exceeded 1000. These are only the spams for the last 30 Days as Gmail messages that are in Spam more than this time are automatically deleted. 

Gmail is great for filtering spam and I rarely get a spam message in my Inbox. The Spam is mostly about drugs, watches, software offers, penis enlargement - the most recent one was for a degree or diploma based on work experience. No thanks!

I rarely view my spam list as I have never had a legitimate email labeled as spam by Gmail. I trust Gmail to sort the genuine email from the spam. Death to all Spammers!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Curry's Good, Harvey Norman Bad

Don't you just hate it when you realise that someone is trying to rip you off, and just love it when you find out that you can beat them at their own game?

Yesterday, Roma and I went to Carrickmines Retail Park to buy a new dishwasher. We started out in Harvey Norman and looked at their selection of dishwashers - they have a good range. We had already decided that we would also check out Curry's across the car park. Curry's has a more limited range but their prices seemed to be a lot lower - an average of about €100. As always, it also seemed that there were different brands and models between the two shops - so it was difficult to compare like with like. However, I did note that a Zanussi model that we liked looked the same as one I had seen back in Harvey Norman. I noted the model number, and the price - €429. We decided to go back to Harvey Norman and lo and behold - the EXACT SAME dishwasher was €529 - a whopping €100 more expensive - and Harvey Norman were having a Sale! Needless to say we bought the one from Curry's. We asked the Curry's Salesman why there could be such a massive price difference - but he didn't seem to understand my question (he wasn't Irish).

The lesson is "shop around" and avoid Harvey Norman. With the difference in price we also bought a George Foreman Grilling machine. Good on you Curry's!

Friday, September 26, 2008

How To...Create a Pareto Chart in Excel

I have added a new video to YouTube to describe how to create a Pareto chart in Excel 2003. For my Business Systems Analysis module in NCI I have a Pareto Analysis exercise, and I had previously created a Word document showing the steps using screen shots. Now I have a video doing the same - I will link to this from the course resources page on NCI's Moodle LCMS so that future students who prefer to watch rather than read can learn how to create a simple Pareto chart.

A Pareto chart is based on the Pareto Principle (named after Vilfredo Pareto) - it is more commonly know as the 80/20 rule, ie - 80% of problems come from 20% of sources.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm getting an iPhone!!!

Exciting news - I just got an email from O2 this evening offering to provide me with a free iPhone! Wow!

I sent them a video podcast last week (that could be viewed on an iPhone) pitching for an iPhone to use in education at NCI. It was a long shot, but I pulled it off.

More about this in future blogs!

Lunch at Nosh in Dalkey

Roma and I went to Nosh in Dalkey for lunch yesterday (Sunday). It was a glorious day and we cycled all the way - the first time the two of us had cycled anywhere in many years. We set out on spec as we had not booked anywhere and were disappointed to find InDalkey closed due to a fire. Nosh looked good, so we took a table at the window to watch all going by. The menu was very limited and I had a Caeser salad. I can't believe I'm having salad in a restaurant - feckin' high blood sugar levels!

We cycled back via Coliemore Harbour to see the boats and a seal. I was looking at my watch a lot 'cos the All-Ireland final between Tyrone and Kerry was starting at 3.30. I got home in time to see Tyrone run out deserved winners.

Cycle to lunch with Roma on a Sunday - must do this again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Google Chrome

I have started to use Google's new Internet browser called Chrome. Google describes Chrome as "a browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier". It is easy to install and use. It looks good and I particularly like the use of the address bar for both searching and entering web addresses. Google shows great suggestions for everything you type in and is very good at "guessing" what you are trying to access. No doubt there are some developers in Google trying to figure out how to get some advertising into this! I also like the spell checker in web text boxes - this is super for someone like me whose fingers are still finding their way around a keyboard 25 years after first using a computer.

On the negative side there is still lots of things that Google needs to do. This browser is a long way from being useful for business. Plug-ins need to be reinstalled, some web pages won't work at all - for example, in NCI the College's Student Management System (QuercusPlus) will not operate at all in Chrome. In Moodle, the usual WYSIWYG editors for creating content do not display - you have to be content with simple text editor. It is a bit annoying to have to switch back to Windows Explorer just to use Moodle. This could revive the old Netscape vs. Explorer wars of the past.

Another annoying thing is that the End key brings your cursor to the START of the next line rather than the end of the current line.

I think critical to Google is to get some tyle of toolbar working - like the one available for Windows Explorer. Not being able to autofill web pages is annoying - expecially when there is one available from Google for Explorer! It also has an incognito mode, but Explorer now has that too.

I'll continue to use Chrome at home, but not so sure if I'll continue to use is at work. I'm looking forward to seeing what Google does next with this browser and how it will be developed. If I were Microsoft, I'd be worried about this development.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Brandon-Hall Judge 2008

For several years now I have been a Judge for the Excellence in Learning awards from Brandon Hall Research. They used to be the Excellence in e-Learning awards. They send all judges a nice Certificate of Recognition that we can display, and also list us on the Judges List.

Each year I judge two e-Learning entries, usually in the Custom Content category - I was once Director of Custom Content while working for SmartForce. Being a judge is enjoyable work and I get to see lots of different types of e-Learning courses that I might not otherwise come across. It's a good way to keep up with the latest technologies in the e-Learning industry.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Unpublished letter to Editor of the Sunday Independent

I tried again to get a Letter to the Editor published in a newspaper - this time the Sunday Independent. It was not accepted - so I publish here anyway (isn't blogging great? - I am my own editor!). I titled the letter "Conscription and the moral mire"

I read with interest Clodagh Sheehy's report in last Saturday's Irish Independent that conscription into a European army was one of the "main fears" for those who voted No to the Lisbon Treaty. In the Sunday Independent, Patricia Redlich writes that the nation's young people have been left to "to sink or swim in the moral mire" as they party on a cocktail of drink, drugs, and casual sex. Perhaps conscription might not be a bad idea after all?

Eugene F.M. O'Loughlin,
2 Richmond,
Co. Dublin.

Level 1 - Start Sailing (RYA)

Last evening I completed Irish Sailing Association/Royal Yachting Association Level 1 course at the Irish National Sailing Club in  Dún Laoghaire Harbour. Even though this is but one small step up the sailing ladder, I feel a sense of achievement at having completed the course. I got a Level 1 - Start Sailing certificate to show I had successfully completed the course. The certificate is awarded by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and it means that I can now progress onto Level 2 (Competent Crew course). I thought about doing this straightaway, but I will now wait until the Spring instead - I have the impetus now to keep going. I'm setting a personal target of being able to sail properly by the summer, and possibly buy a boat.

We used a Laser Pico dinghy (like the one pictured, but not me sailing it) this time instead of the Topper used last Saturday. It was slighlty bigger (12') and much easier to handle. We were towed out to a pontoon in the harbour where we had to rig the boat. Not having rigged a Pico before, and being slightly different from the Topper, I was very awkward getting it together - I needed help from one of the instructors. Once I got going I felt comfortable, though I was still a bit stiff after Saturday's efforts. We sailed around a short course that helped us practice what we had learned before. There were 13 people in the class and the short course got a bit crowded at times. I was proud of myself this time in that I didn't fall in, but there was plenty of bad tacking/jibing, and a few bangs on the head from the boom to remind me that I was not yet a round the world sailor!

Darkness decended very quickly and the class ended at about 8.00pm. We were towed back to the slip where I was the last of the 13 boats to get out of the water. In all, we had just about one hour's worth of sailing (advertised class - 6.30-9.30) - a bit short, but rewarding for me nonetheless. I'm looking forward to the next class and sailing again next year.

My only regret is that I have waited 48 years to learn how to sail - I should have done this a long time ago. But it is never to late to start (I was not the oldest person in the class last evening!).