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!