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!).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I am sailing!

Yesterday I had my first sailing lesson at the Irish National Sailing School. This course runs on the syllabus of Irish Sailing Association/Royal Yachting Association Level 1 and is aimed at total beginners. There were five people (Deirdre, Susanne, Marco, Leon, and me) in our class which was ably led by Brian - none of us had had sailing lessons before so I was in good company. We were first kitted out in wetsuits and life jackets and taken to a classroom for some theory. This was about the wind and Beat, Reach, and Run - the class lasted about 5 minutes and we were brought to our boats. The boat I had for the day was an eleven foot Topper - like the one in the picture here (that's not me in the boat). After we set the boats up it was into the water and we were sailing! We learned the basics - one of the first things I learned after about five minutes was how to right the boat after I was rammed by one of my classmattes and it capsized, dumping me into the waters of Dún Laoghaire Harbour. This was the first of four times I fell into the water during the day.

While the day was beautiful there wasn't much wind - just a gentle breeze. This was fine for getting used to the boat, but after a while it would have been nice to have a slightly stronger breeze. However, we had a great time learning the basics of jibing, tacking, and directing the boat - this was good fun. We had lunch in The Purty Kitchen - seafood of course! After lunch it was more sailing - we practised running and zig-zagging around marker buoys. It was also a bit cold.

One thing I wasn't expecting was that I would have sore legs the next day - the Topper is a small boat and I was kneeling down for most of the day. I was tired at the end of the day, but definitely worth it. I'm looking forward to the second part of the lesson tomorrow evening. I definitely like sailing and would like to get my own boat - hopefully for next year. I can picture myself sailing off the coast at Skuna Bay in Wexford.

Evelyn (Byrne) Letko

Mum's sister, my Aunt Evelyn, passed away yesterday. She had been ill for some time and was only in her late 50's. I think she is 18 years younger than Mum - that would make her 56. She emigrated to Canada from Ireland as a small child in the 1950's.

She last visited with us in August 2004. Kathleen hosted a party for Mum's 70th birthday (and Claire's 16th) in Kells which Evelyn attended. We also had Sunday lunch in Lawless's Hotel in Aughrim the Sunday before. The photo to the left of Evelyn and me was taken in the lobby of the Hotel.

Evelyn stayed with us in Blackrock for her last two nights in Ireland before travelling on to Slovakia. She toured some of the sights in Dublin and I brought her to her former home in Temple Cottages near Dublin City centre (click here to see a map of where this is - Temple Cottages should be at the centre). She didn't remember the street very well, but we went into Comiskey's Pub which is around the corner from Temple Cottages for a jar. Evelyn got talking to some of the locals (she wasn't a bit shy), some of whom remembered the Byrnes and Mrs Ruddle (next door). Evelyn very much enjoyed herself talking to them all.

It is  a sad time for the Canadian side of the family as Geoff Edwards, Mum and Evelyn's brother-in-law also passed away this week after a short illness. He was married to Mum's sister Patsy (Cathy to the Canadians) who died several years ago. I don't recall ever meeting him though Mum says he and Patsy visited Ireland in the 1960's.

God be good to both Evelyn and Geoff.

22nd Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday, 13th September, was our 22nd Wedding Anniversary. Roma and I were married in Newport Co Mayo in 1986 - the photo to the left was taken outside the church - we were probably only married for about 30 minutes when this was taken. 1986 was of course pre-digital camera days and this is a scan from our wedding album - quality is not so good. Roma still looks great today, but I seem to have aged a bit - less hair and more grey!

We went out to Dali's Restaurant in Blackrock to celebrate. We were late (9.30pm) as we had a call from the restaurant earlier to tell us that there had been a blackout in the area. I was also quite tired as I had been sailing earlier. Nevertheless, we had a most enjoyable meal - I had scallops for starter and sole for main course. Delicious.

Here's to the next 22 years!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

An Ideal Husband at the Abbey

I went to see Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband" at the Abbey Theatre last night with Roma, Dorothy, and Peter. We first had an excellent dinner in the Mermaid Cafe on Dame Street. I had scallops for starters and ray for main course - excellent (I write this here because I never remember what I had previously in a restaurant if I ever go there again).

An Ideal Husband is a very funny play - it is a blend of humour, intrique, farce, and morality that explores human frailty and social hypocrisy. We all have to pay for what we do is the theme, and Sir Robert Chilton has a secret that is discovered and exposed. His fortune is based on an early version of insider dealing. The wonderfully over-acted Mrs. Cheveley threatens blackmail over a letter and the ruin of Sir Robert's career. But she is not beyond reproach herself. What follows is lots of humour with unexpected twists and intrique - the difference between men and women is constantly examined. Wilde wrote this when his marriage was breaking up and he was being blackmailed by the owner of a homosexual brothel over a letter written to his lover. Wilde is present in the three main characters - Sir Robert Chiltern, Lord Goring, and Mrs Cheveley. He mocks London society at every opportunity.
I don't go to the Abbey (or plays) enough - this was a wonderfully entertaining evening in good company and I should make a greater effort to see more. Roddy Doyle's version of "The Playboy of the Western World" is coming up in Decemeber - I'll be sure to catch that.

An Ideal Husband also sounds likes a series of one liners. Wilde is quoted so often that the play could be considered a selection of his quotes being joined together to form a story. My favourite quote was "If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilized".

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Happy Birthday Maria!

Had a great night out last night at Maria Bourke's 40th birthday party - Maria is Roma's sister-in-law. The party was in the Maria's Mum's place in Shrewsbury Road. Kate and her friend Niamh were doing the cloakroom so we had to bring them in early. Roma and I headed down to the nearby Ice Bar in the Four Seasons for a jar, and also to be a little bit late for the party. Style is king and queen at the Ice Bar - there were plenty of beautiful women all dressed up. Roma reckoned there must have been a Brown Thomas fashion show in the Four Seasons as there were a lot of BT gift bags around.

At the party I was sitting beside Progressive Democrat Senator Fiona O'Malley and we had a great chat. I have to say I would normally have no time for her or the PDs, but we got on great.

Lots of delicious food and wine at the party - as I'm trying to lower my carbohydrate intake I enjoyed an almost totally meat only dinner: beef, crab, salmon, and prawns. Delicious!

Yesterday was also my brother Joe's birthday - he's 48. For the next month we will be the same age until I turn 49 in October. So Happy Birthday Joe! The next whiskey is on me.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Naughty Ladies' Book

I read a book in 20 minutes! Yes really! I read the book while standing in the queue to board my Ryanair flight from Liverpool to Dublin - it sure was a fun way to pass the time and I sped throught the 368 pages in no time.

The book is "The Naughty Ladies' Book" by Helen Exley and I bought it in Lime Street train station in Liverpool on my way to the PNE vs Charlton match last Saturday. I thought it would make a nice present for Roma. It is about 3 cm thick, but only 6x4 cm in size. It is a tiny book. It has 368 pages of quotes - the title of the book gives away the subject of the quotes.

I liked the one by Burt Reynolds "Happiness is seeing your favourite girl in a two-piece outfit - slippers". Also the one by Woody Allen - "My brain? It's my second favourite organ". And "I dress for women - and I undress for men" by the beautiful Angie Dickinson.

My favourite quote however, was a simple one. When asked what she wore in bed, Marilyn Monroe is reputed to have answered "Chanel No. 5" Now there's a thought!