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!