Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Higher Diploma in e-Learning Class

It's 18.20 on February 26th, 2008 and in 10 minutes time I have a class with the Higher Diploma in e-Learning students at NCI. Our class tonight is about Wikis and Blogs and I am going to show off my own blog as a "typical" example of Web 2.0 self publishing.

There are plenty of blogs related to on-line education. For example, "The Rapid e-Learning Blog" which publishes hints and tips about rapidly developing e-Learning content - a subject covered earlier this semester in our class. You can subscribe to blogs like this and get and automatic email everytime something new is published on the blog. This is a good way to keep up to date with information. On the down side is the fact that you can subscribe to too many blogs and not read any of them!

Happy blogging everyone!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My reviews at Amazon

A few years ago I started writing reviews of books at Amazon.co.uk. On 21st July 2001 I wrote a review of The Life of Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer, and Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club by Sonny Barger.

As of today - I have written 46 reviews of books, music, gadgets, and movies. I am currently ranked as a Top 500 Reviewer - my position as I write is #364. I have 496 "Helpful votes" from other reviewers, it is nice to know that others found my reviews helpful.

Writing reviews is one of the great features of Web 2.0. You can not only let others know what you think of products, but also I often read reviews before I consider purchasing something written by someone who has already bought the product. Amazon also use this information to help make recommendations to me for future purchases.

Most of my reviews are positive, though I point out rubbish when I see it. To read my reviews, click here.

Places I have visited - by TripAdvisor

This is an interesting and cool tool provided by TripAdvisor for Facebook - (yes I have a Facebook page, but hardly use it at all).

MyTravelMap allows you to mark places you have visited - it is very accurate. All you need to do is click on a map provided by Google, and MyTravelMap does the rest.

Here's my map....

As you can see I have not been outside of Europe or North America much - just India (on business with SmartForce in 2001) and Morrocco on holiday.

Other countries I have been to: Canada, USA, England, Wales, Scotland, Holland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Germany, Croatia (when it was Yugoslavia - 1986 on my honeymoon), and Greece.

Other countries I'd really like to go to: Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Israel, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. There are sites that allow you to mark "Places to see before you die" - I think I'll add a few!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Return to Cork

I paid a quick visit to Cork City last Friday (15th February) to deliver a one-day Tutorial for students taking the NCI Diploma in Business Analysis and Consultancy. I'm going to be back again three times over the next couple of months to deliver a full module on the same Diploma programme.

I travelled down the previous day which of course was Valentine's Day. I missed my darling Roma, but I had cleverly hidden a card and a small present for Roma under her pillow so that she would find it when she went to bed. Am I a romantic or what?

Unfortunately my surprise didn't work as she spotted that the bed had been made earlier in the evening and so she checked under the pillow. Am I like an open book or what?

In Cork that evening I stayed in Jurys on the Western Road which is almost at the centre of the city. I went for a walk and found that the city centre was very active with (mostly) young couples out for the evening. I took a long walk so see the city centre as I am not familiar with Cork. I walked up St Patrick's Street and was reminded of the occasion in the summer of 1971 when Mum and I went to Cork to get me a school uniform and sports gear for Trabolgan (see previous blog entry below). Cash's (now Brown Thomas) was the shop on St Patrick's St that had everything. We didn't have uniforms in Carnew National School, so this was a first for me - all very exciting. I remember that the colour of the jumpers was purple, and that the football jersey was the same colour (maroon) as the Galway GAA strip. I told my students this and they had a good laugh.

Cork has changed a lot since 1971 - a very cosmopolitan city. It also has a traffic problem - the Western Road and city centre are dire. I was stook in my car, wishing I had my Harley.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ireland 0 - Brazil 1

I attended the Ireland vs Brazil friendly football match last evening at Croke Park. I had an excellent seat just on the half way line for a great view of the match. The ground wasn't quite full, but I'd guess there were over 60,000 at the game.

Hill 16 was set aside for the Brazilian fans who really did create a carnival atmosphere and lots of colour. It was cruel that they were exposed to the rain which dampened their spirits a little bit in the second half.

As it was a friendly game I did not expect too much serious football. The Brazilians owned the ball for most of the game, but our lads defended well and limited their chances. There was some skill and trickery, but not all from the Brazilians - Celtic's Aidan McGeady also got the crowd going with some fancy footwork.

The game was settled with one goal in the 67th minute. In the period before the goal, Ireland were actually doing well, with Damian Duff getting on the ball a lot and passing defenders with ease. The crowd (me included) started chanting "Olé" for every Irish pass - we were getting cocky, but the "Oooooh" came when Duff lost the ball in their penalty area. Seconds later the ball was in the Irish net after a lightening break and a cool finish from Robinho - super goal.

Curiously, a lot of people started leaving the ground with 15 minutes to go. In the section where I was seated the seats were €55 each, the best team in the world were playing, and Ireland were only 1-0 down and giving a good account of themseleves. Why do they bother turning up in the first place?

One of my heroes - former Ireland and Preston North End goalkeeper Alan Kelly, was honoured at half time with an Eircom Legend Award. He wasn't there to collect it himself (Alan Kelly Junior collected on his behalf).

Overall, a good night's football. Sadly, it was flagged well in advance that Ronaldinho wouldn't be playing. Even worse, Kaka pulled out the day before the match - I felt a bit cheated and wondered if there was any intention on their parts to play at all. These guys could fill a stadium on their own. Kaka was even on the programme cover!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Who's that beside Eugene O'Loughlin?

For five years (1972 - 1977) I attended boarding school at Cistercian College Roscrea (CCR). I have reasonably happy memories of the School, though these are fading somewhat over time. I sometimes try to think of what I did each day during those five years - memories have faded over the last 30 years. The picture to the right (click on it for larger view) is our class photo taken at the end of 6th year - that's me in the middle of the second row from the back. Look at the three-piece suit, and the hair!

My good memories of CCR were: listening to football commentaries on BBC Radio 2 on Saturdays, playing in goal, saving a penalty, films on Sunday nights, visits from my parents, any trip outside the school, golf, coming second in a debating competition, Niall Duff, French classes, the bread, being in the Guest House Dorm in 5th year, being a prefect in 6th year (nearly everyone was!), common rooms in 5th and 6th year, shows and plays.

My not so good memories of CCR were: the food (except the bread), bullying by older boys (especially one Kerry bastard), missing home, the cold and having to wear a coat, cold water for washing (until 5th year), rugby, running out of clean socks (laundry was only once a week), getting thrown out of the Guest House Dorm in 5th year, the toilets, Fr Éanna, being caught with a "dirty" book.

One thing I should point out in the photo above - the lad to my left. Can you guess who this is? I sometimes bore people who visit the house with showing them the photo and asking the same question.

The lad is a very slim and youthful Brian Cowan - our current Minister for Finance and most probably future Taoiseach. He was a popular boy in CCR, very bright, good in class, and an excellent sportsman - I liked him. There was nothing in my mind back then that would have singled him out as a future Taoiseach. His father (Ber) was TD, but I didn't know this at the time.

Two of the other lads are sadly dead. Kieran Egan (5th from right in 3rd row) died in a car accident in the early 1980s. Enda Nolan (2nd from left in 3rd row) died of cancer last year. Of the others - I rarely meet any of them other than at a re-union. Mark Ryan (4th from right on back row) works in Accenture in the IFSC near NCI - I've bumped into him a few times. I occasionally meet Barry O'Shea (2nd from right in back row) - last time was at a coin fair in the RDS. I've met Liam Lenihan (fourth from right - second row) a few times as he is married to a daughter of a friend of my in-laws. The next meeting could be at the traditional 40th anniversary re-union gathering in 10 years time.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Irish School in Trabolgan and Sleeping with a Tenor

From September 1971 to June 1972 I attended an Irish speaking school called Scoil na nÓg (School for the Young) which was located in Trabolgan, Co Cork. It was a boys only school with about 60 students, which was run by two teachers (a Mr Kelly and a Mr O'Riordan). It was an excellent preparation for Secondary School where I learned lots of Irish - I even graduated with a Fáinne Nua (a pin worn by speakers of Irish). In Trabolgan I was known by the Irish spelling of my name - Eoin Ó Lochlainn.

The School no longer exists as it was closed in 1973 - my brother Joe was in the last ever class. Even the building, which I remember was a very old house with huge pillars at the front, is gone. I revisited the location a few years ago and found no trace of the old School. This location is now better known as Trabolgan Holiday Village. The school was a great location for 11/12 year old boys - it was beside the sea at the entrance to Cork Harbour, there were lots of woods about with plenty of bamboo shoots which made great swords and spears. We played lots of football and hurling and generally had a good time.

On my first day I was shown to my bedroom which I was to share with another boy who had not yet arrived. As the room had bunk beds I naturally put all my stuff on the top bunk to reserve it. Later on in the evening at bed time I met my room mate for the first time and I said to him that I hoped he didn't mind that I had taken the top bunk. He said "not at all" and told me that he wouldn't have been able to use the top bunk in any case. What happened next was quite shock for an 11 year old - the boy knocked on his shins which made a hollow sound. He had artificial legs! I had never seen or heard of this before. He removed his "legs" and showed me his thalidomide affected short legs. He had three toes on each foot which he called Curly, Larry, and Moe on one foot - Turny, Fuffo, and Jinks on the other.

This boy was none other than the now well known tenor - Ronan Tynan. We shared a room for the year 1971-1972 and I soon got over the shock on the first night. In his autobiography he mentions the school (though not me!) and he tells the story of playing football in his wellingtons which I remember well. The picture on the right is taken from Ronan's web site.

I have only met Ronan once since 1972. During my college days in Trinity (I'm guessing about 1985) I was walking through College Park when somebody called out "Eoin!". Curiously, I turned around to see Ronan - we had a great chat, he was doing Medicine in Trinity and by this time he was reasonably well known for his achievements in Para-Olympics. We promised to keep in touch, but never did. I have his Christmas "Irish Tenors" album which I play every year. I don't recall him singing or even being musical at all in school - but then again we were only 11 or 12 and our voices had not yet broken!

One of my favourite memories of Scoil na nÓg was during a History class. Our teacher was Mr O'Riordan who struck terror in our hearts every time he mentioned that the next subject was "Stair!" (history). He had a habit when testing us of asking each boy a question - if you got it right, he moved on to the next boy, if you got it wrong - you had to stand at the back of the class. The classroom was arranged in three lines - I was towards the end of the middle line. Mr O'Riordan started out with a few questions and after about three boys in the front row had been asked a question he asked the next "Who was the leader of the 1798 Rising in Antrim?". I knew the answer, but there was nearly two rows of boys to go before I would have got asked. One by one, the boys could not answer the question and as Mr O'Riordan got closer to me I was starting to hope that maybe nobody would know the answer. Finally, it was the turn of the boy next to me - and I was hoping he would not know the answer. He didn't, and was sent to the back of the class. My turn - I answered "Henry Joy McCracken" (that's him pictured on the right) and a sigh of relief went up from the boys after me as it was the correct answer. I was a hero!