Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Alan Irvine sacked by Preston North End

Huge surprise to hear on the sports news a few minutes ago that PNE boss Alan Irvine has been sacked. Already there are many posts (see BBC 606 Comment page) expressing surprise, outrage, and disbelief. The official announcement on PNE.com is here.

I have been to see several PNE games (with my brother Brian) - the last being a 0-0 draw vs Reading. At this game the PNE fans were chanting his name all the time "Alan Irvine's Yellow Army!". PNE made the play-offs and  everyone was delighted at such an achievement for a small club on a tight budget. Irvine was a target for West Brom in the summer, but stayed out of loyalty to PNE. After a run of only one win in 10 games, he gets sacked - not much loyalty from the club to him. While 1/10 is a poor run (in fact it's relegation form), it does seem to all to have been a very hasty reaction by PNE chairman Derek Shaw.

Irish international Sean St Ledger has returned from loan at Middlesborough (PNE's bad form started after he left). He was supposed to stay. Something is not quite right, and I, along with many posters on the Web feel that there is something behind the scenes that we don't know about.

All the best Alan Irvine - no doubt you win't have long to wait before getting another job.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ballingate on St Stephen's Day

Due to bad weather our planned trip to Ballingate on Christmas Eve to visit Mum and Dad not happen. Having made this visit every Christmas Eve for several years, I was at a loss as to what to do with myself (I cleaned up around the house in preparation for Christmas Day!).

Instead we (Roma, Kate, Vicki and me) went to Ballingate on St Stephen's Day. The roads were a wee  bit icy going down - especially around Aughrim (we returned by the coast road via Gorey). My sister Kathleen and brother Joe were also present - we had a great chat and good banter. The photo to the right was taken in the sitting room - Mum and Dad looking great. We had an excellent lunch and swapped belated Christmas presents. I also got a wonderful belated 50th birthday present from Kathleen - Mount Juliet here I come!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Carol at the Gate

Last Saturday, Roma, Kate, Vicki, Emma, and I went to see A Christmas Carol at the Gate theatre. Last Christmas I had received a voucher for the Gate and was only now using it. I had never been to see A Christmas Carol on stage, and it has been several years since I had been to the Gate. I had coincidentally taken part in a screen reading experiment the day before which involved reading some text on screen from Dickens' book - so many of the lines were familiar.

This was a super performance and very enjoyable to watch. Barry McGovern was an excellent Scrooge - he squeezed every ounce of acting he has into this role. The standing ovation at the end for him, and all the cast, was well deserved. Though he only had minor roles, John Kavanagh's voice is a national treasure which should have a Preservation Order made to ensure that he never looses it! The Victorian seasonal "feel" that you expect from Dickens was convincing - top hats and black suits were the order of the day (except for Mr Fezziwig of course). The cast was large, and the stage production handled the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to perfection. The singing of Christmas carols - especially "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" at the end, made me want to join in. Curiously - none of the audience that I could hear joined in.

Overall - a great evening's entertainment enjoyed by us all. Last word to Tiny Tim - "God Bless Us, Every One!".

Christmas Eve 2009

I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front this month. Work has been very busy and I am conscious that one or two people at work read this blog (so I don't want to appear as a dosser by posting during work hours!).

I've even been doing some Christmas shopping. I am a rubbish shopper - on several occasions over the past couple of weeks I have gone up to Grafton St or O'Connell St and bought nothing! I needed Kate's help to get Roma a present (thanks Kate!). I've done some shopping on-line, but it appears that the biggest present I got on-line (bought in September) will not be delivered on time for Christmas. In fact I cut it fine for two sets of presents - more on this post-Christmas.

I am off with the girls to Carnew later on this morning. I just spoke to Dad who tells me that the roads are icy, but that they are getting better. Carnew, Shillelagh, Bunclody, and even the Slapper's Cross (about 2km from Mum and Dad's house) were mentioned on AA Roadwatch this morning. Christmas Eve would not be the same without a visit to South Wicklow. We will go the coast road via Gorey and avoid the higher ground and twisty roads around Rathdrum.

I still have some presents to wrap - so I'd better get to it. Happy Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My first penalty points

Yesterday when I arrived home from work there was a letter from the Gardaí informing me that I had been detected speeding at 68 kph in a 50 kph zone at Victoria Quay on Saturday 28th November at 9.07am. The notice even had a photograph of my VW Golf's number plate. I had being driving to Heuston Station to drop Kate off to the train which was due to leave at 9.30am - we were running late. I wasn't stopped at a check point, so it must have been a speed camera or a hand held device - I didn't see it. The letter points out that the fixed fine is €80 if paid within 28 days. But the biggest shock for me was two penalty points are coming my way!

I have been caught speeding only a few times - always avoiding a ticket. Twice on the motorbike, and only once before in a car - I think on each occasion I managed to talk my way out of a ticket. Not this time as I was caught by a camera. Ironically, I am known within my family as a slow driver - I'm always being slagged about it. The person driving at 80-90 kph on the inside lane of a dual-carriageway - that's me. I always knew that if I was to be caught it would be for exceeding the limit in low speed areas. In this case I exceeded the limit by 36%, so I suppose I can't complain.

The lesson from this is to leave on time - we got up at 8.35 and the train was leaving 55 minutes later. Also a lesson is to watch my speed in low limit areas. 50 mph is very slow, and it is easy to exceed this without noticing. I'll be more careful in future even if it means getting a reputation as an even more boring slow driver!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Emerging Technologies in Education

The 2009 Horizon Report from the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE makes for interesting reading about the impact emerging technologies will make on education over the next five years. The report can be accessed here.

The Horizon report is published every year and I have been following it since 2005 when they predicted that Social Networking, which was then an emerging technology, would find a place in education.This years report breaks down into three parts:

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
  • Mobile Internet Devices
  • Private Clouds

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
  • Open Content
  • Virtual, Augmented, and Alternate Realities

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
  • Location-Based Learning
  • Smart Objects and Devices

I am particularly interested in the "Open Content" discussion as I am in favour of learning content being made available for free on the Web - my own learning videos on YouTube are an example of this.

The report is definitely worth a look at if you are interested in seeing how technology will become more ingrained in our education over the next few years.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Announcing........My First Book!

For the past year and a half I have been writing a textbook based on a module that I teach at The National College of Ireland. The book is called An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis: Problem-Solving Techniques and Strategies. It is based on the Business Systems Analysis module which is now part of the HETAC Certificate in Business Analysis and Consultancy. This course is delivered by NCI on behalf of the Business Analysts Association of Ireland. I have not mentioned it much in this blog - I preferred to keep relatively quiet about it. The book is part of NCI's "Changing World of Work" series and is published by The Liffey Press.

While I am very proud of the book already - I am fully aware that it is a modest textbook that will have limited appeal. Nevertheless - I am hopeful that it will provide some value for my students on the Business Analysis course. I won't get rich financially with this book, but it has already made me rich in other ways.

The first copies of the book arrived today!

I am 50 years young and this is my first book - I hope it will not be 50 years until the next.

It is a cool feeling having a copy of your own book available on Amazon. As I write, its Sales Rank at Amazon.co.uk is "378,370 in Books". It ranked at about 250,000 yesterday which is better than the 1,000,000 plus earlier in the week - I jumped three quarters of a million places in rank this week! Ranking is calculated hourly, so there must have been an order or two going through.

I spent a lot of time - mostly outside of work, writing this book. The hardest part was coming up with examples and exercises to explain each concept. In class I can use examples from the literature, but obviously I cannot use other people's work in my own book. So I had to come up with new ideas, which can be difficult. I can now use this new material in class - I am testing it out on the current class this semester.

I have no immediate plans for another book - I'd certainly like to do something in the Learning Technologies area. I'll keep an eye out for ideas - something on Learning Needs Analysis or Project Management might be most useful.

Monday, November 30, 2009

They don't make 'em like they used to...Hawaii Five-O.

When I was growing up in single-channel television land an absolute "must see" every week was Hawaii Five-O, which aired from September 1968 to April 1980. The theme music is well known and the introductory sequence would not be out of place in today's special effects CGI enhanced television and film. Here is the opening sequence via YouTube which I came across today (while of all things I was looking for a graphic of a Google Android phone!):

Jack Lord (as Steve McGarrett) was the coolest guy on the planet. Each episode built up to the inevitable climax where McGarrett would say "Book 'em Danno" - the Five-O team always got their man. Classic television - one of my favourites of all time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Problem-Solving Techniques: #2 Value Analysis

The second video in my series of Problem Solving Techniques has now been posted to YouTube and also embedded below:

I plan to create about 20 of these videos which are based on problem solving techniques from my book "An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis". At the end of each video I shamelessly plug the book - from now on I will mention that all royalties from the book will be donated to the National College of Ireland Foundation. The videos in the series I plan are as follows:

MoSCoW Analysis
SIPOC Diagrams
Weighted Scoring Model
Project Network Diagrams
Cause and Effect Diagrams
Use Cases
Check Sheets
Capacity Planning
Pareto Analysis
Simple Estimation
Value Analysis
Work Volume Measurement
SWOT Analysis
PEST Analysis
Activity Sampling
Cost-Benefit Analysis
SREDIM Process Improvement
Flow Charting
Radar Charts

If this is successful (and I have not yet decided what my measure of success will be) I may follow on with several more. Walter Michalski's excellent book "Six Sigma Tool Navigator: The Master Guide for Teams" contains no less than 222 analysis tools. While my own book is a very modest effort at describing problem-solving techniques, I am also interested in the power of the Internet and will use Blogger, Facebook, Linkedin, and YouTube to promote the book.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Problem-Solving Techniques: #1 Pareto Analysis

I have started a new series of videos on YouTube - "Problem-Solving Techniques". I plan to do several of these over the next few weeks and months - hopefully up to about 20 altogether. The first one is about Pareto Analysis and is 6 minutes and 50 seconds long. It is a quick summary of what Pareto Analysis is all about. Here's the video:

I haven't recorded a video in several weeks and it took several takes to get above done. I made this by creating a series of slides in PowerPoint which I saved as .TIF format (this is good quality for graphics). I then recorded the audio at my desk using Audacity and imported both the .TIF graphics and the audio into Windows Movie Maker. I'm pleased with the quality of the graphics and audio (though I still "Eh" and "Um" quite a bit).

More videos on the way in an effort to promote my new book.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I hate Graffiti and all other Italian foods

This morning I had the pleasure of painting over some graffiti on the outside wall of my house. "CC+V->" decided to leave a mark - he/she/it has written on other walls in the neighbourhood. I don't know whether to be angry or just laugh at this. Since Man lived lived in caves he has been writing on walls - leaving marks that people wonder over thousands of years later. "My" graffiti artist's work lasted on a few hours on my wall - it will not be available to archeologists to ponder over in years to come.

What makes people write on walls? Some graffiti is quite good to look at, but most meaningless scrawls do nothing for me. This type of Graffiti Tagging is supposed to be a personal signature - no doubt there is a caveman's desire in the mind of the graffiti "artist" to leave their mark for posterity. Or is it just pure vandalism - the result of a juvenile alcohol inspired act of destruction?

I have often thought that there should be a punitive tax on the spray cans that are used to deter graffiti artists with high costs - legitimate users of the spray cans can claim back their tax. I am lucky that in the 15+ years I have lived in this house that today was only the third incidence of graffiti on my wall (the first was by my own daughter Kate and a neighbour Fraser). Across the road my neighbour has constant difficulties with graffiti - CC+V-> also marked his wall.

So - my message to graffiti "artists" is: Get a life, and sign your real name if you've got the balls.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Leather's Echo by Jim Brophy

I have borrowed a copy of a book about the history of Wicklow GAA written by the late Jim Brophy as part of the GAA's Centenary celebrations in 1984. Thanks to my good friend and colleague, Leo Casey, for persuading his wife Máire, who is Jim Brophy's daughter, to part with this precious book for the weekend. My grandfather PJ O'Loughlin was County Secretary from 1935 to 1940 according to the Wicklow GAA website, though Brophy's book states that it was from 1935 to 1942. I have written in a previous post about my Grandfather and his connections with the GAA, and also another post about my fond memories of him (he died in 1965). Wicklow is one of only two counties (the other is Fermanagh) who have not won provincial football titles, and of course have no All-Ireland Senior titles. However, Wicklow did win the All-Ireland Junior football title in 1936 when my Grandfather was County Secretary - he's the guy on the left in a suit in the picture (taken from Wicklow GAA website) below:

Also in the book are references to when my Grandfather first became Vice-Chairman in 1932, and then County Secretary in 1935 - below are two images extracted from Jim Brophy's book:

A surprise for me, and my Dad when I spoke to him this morning, was that PJ had played hurling for Carnew Emmets and even won the Wicklow Junior Hurling final in 1932 - see extracts from Jim Brophy's book below:

Dad recalls PJ playing hurling at the back of the family farm in Tomacork (a townland just outside Carnew), but did not remember any mention of above achievement (Dad was born in 1931). Nor indeed did he remember that there was once a hurling team in Tomacork. Interestingly when I read out the names of the Tomacork, it turns out that Pat Holmes was a "Son" Holmes that worked for my Dad on our farm whom I remember well. He was a wonderful story teller - I especially recall his ghost stories and tales of Wicklow Rebel Michael Dwyer.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

That Goal...

Like most Irish people this morning I'm gutted that the Irish football team have failed to qualify for next year's World Cup. It was a wonderful game to watch, with Ireland dominating much of the match and taking the lead with an excellent Robbie Keane goal (32 mins - see it here on YouTube). It was long wait to the end of the game, but Ireland were worthy winners of the game in normal time. It all ended in extra time with "The Hand of Gaul" - as Thierry Henry made an excellent hand pass that would be praised if it was in a Gaelic football match in Croke Park. Even Henry admitted it himself - Oui, il y avait main.

Now there is much discussion in the media this morning about this - "France/Henry cheated" is the jist of it all. Had Ireland won in similar circumstances we would be passing it off as "cute hoorism". I don't really think that video refs are the answer - players will always try to get an advantage by fair means or foul. Duff goes down very easily to win free kicks - remember his dive vs Spain in the 2002 World Cup? (perhaps justice was done then when Harte missed the ensuing penalty). The Ref should have spotted Henry's hand on the ball, but McShane (in the picture above) should have prevented the cross, and Gallas was given an easy header to score - we were not properly organised for the free kick that preceded the goal. Very sloppy defending contributed to the goal just as much "The Hand of Gaul".

At least we have something to moan about for years to come - the English are still moaning about the "Hand of God" when Maradona scored for Argentina in the 1986 World Cup. Pity - a World Cup run would have done the country some good and got us out of recession just like Gary Mackay did in 1988 (see his goal on YouTube)

Honesty is a quality demanded in most professions and in our personal lives. We all hate cheats no matter what, but I guess we all cheat at least a little sometimes. Sport is riddled with cheating - drugs, hand balls, and even "ordinary" fouls are all cheating. It will never go away.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Not once, but twice....


This evening I had to stop for petrol at Texaco just past the Merrion Gates. Just as I was finishing I noticed an idiot (man) in a Merc lighting up and then driving off - no more than 2 metres from where I was standing with a petrol nozzle in my hand. Clearly the "No Smoking" signs did not apply to him! Go ahead stupid and smoke yourself to death, but try not to take the rest of us with you in a fireball in the middle of a petrol station. Just when I was getting over this, another idiot (this time a woman in a more modest Nissan) did exactly the same thing in the same place!

Now how stupid can people be? As Niall Toibin once said "They don't come much thicker than that!".

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tricked by HMV in Liverpool

While in Liverpool last month I purchased the new remastered Beatles CD box set - it cost £179. I felt this was expensive, but worth it given the euro/sterling exchange rate. It was also a nice feeling buying it in the home of The Beatles. Anyway - the Sales Assistant (who was very helpful) persuaded me to sign up for a purehmv card, especially since the purchase was going to be worth a lot of points. I was told I could use this in any HMV store, including Ireland and on-line - this sealed the deal.

I only remembered the card this evening and went on-line to register. Well Surprise! Surprise! - you must be a UK resident and have a post code to register (see screen grab). There is even a useless option to select your country from a very long list on the registration page. Now I'm not really too bothered about this as I do not buy much in HMV - but the Sales Assistant informed me that I would start off with almost enough points for a £10 voucher as a result of my purchase. I feel tricked - a lot of Irish people go to Liverpool and I'm sure that the Sales Assistant, who knew a lot about the purehmv scheme, should know that it was a waste of time getting an Irish person to sign up?

In protest at this (admittedly small) faux pas I will tear up the card and not purchase anything from HMV this Christmas. There is a price to pay for annoying your customers!

Irish Art Fair 2009

I attended the Irish Art Fair in the RDS yesterday afternoon with Roma, and Dorothy who provided us with free tickets. I'm one of those "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like" type of people, and much of the paintings on show went way beyond my limited artistic knowledge. However, there was lots to keep even a philistine like me entertained. We have several paintings by some of the exhibitors at home - Honor Hales, Barbara Boland, and Louise Mansfield. Each of these three artists had splendid work on display - Honor Hales has especially come a long way since we bought a painting some years ago, beautiful art. Anything I liked coast a lot of money - I'm talking €1,500 plus. There was very little for the bargain hunters and cheap-skates like me. Despite the Recession, many artists had the red dots signifying a sale on many paintings, and the wrapping service at the exit was doing a brisk trade as we left. I didn't feel the urge to buy anything, and left empty handed.

I bumped into my cousin Kevin Shelley who was working at the Event. Kevin is my age and we spent many holidays together when we were kids - we had a great chat about family.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

30,000 miles of riding!

Just noticed on my odometer that I passed the 30,000 mile (that's just over 48,000km to those of you in decimal land) mark this week on my Harley-Davidson motorcycle. While no doubt that a few of these miles were by mechanics road testing the bike after a fix/service, but I have enjoyed almost every mile. There was one day in pouring rain in riding through Wales and England (see Rain, rain, and more rain! post) - I am normally lucky with the weather.

I have the bike almost seven years (since January 2003) - so that just over 4,000 miles per year. This is not actually a lot - two trips, one to Portugal accounted for 3,210, and one to France accounted for 2,072 miles. This is just over one sixth of all my miles. For the rest - it is mostly in and out to work (15 mile round trip), I don't use the bike every day, sometimes taking a bicycle.

I hope to keep the bike until I can no longer ride when I'm an old man! This should give me another 25 years or so riding, which if using the mile rate above will mean that I will ride another 100,000 miles.

So - here's to the next 100,000 miles!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Windows 7 Upgrade Experience

This evening I upgraded the OS on my computer from Windows Vista to Windows 7 - it was quite a lengthy upgrade. I started at about 6.30 and as I write this (11.45pm) it is still finishing off re-installing software that it removed throughout the upgrade process. I had to cancel the upgrade to manually remove the Google Toolbar and McAfee Security - it could not handle this. Later in the installation I had to cancel again because it wanted me to remove iTunes - I guess this is Microsoft's way of saying "Up Yours" to Apple and Google! Each Re-start was manual and I had to start to Upgrade all over again, as well as manually removing each program.

Each of the seven programs that were uninstalled (with the exception of iTunes) was re-installed automatically - though user intervention was required. Several re-installs required that the computer be restarted, but I chose not to do this in case things were lots on re-start.

At least while the upgrade is taking place I can still work on the computer. I have already noticed some differences in appearance, but the one thing that worked really well is that all my settings are still in place, with user accounts, files, and network connections all working fine. Overall, if it wasn't for the delays encountered with Google, iTunes, and r it would have been a smooth experience.

Monday, November 09, 2009

1977 CCR Old Boys

On Saturday last I donned the tuxedo for the second time in two days and went along to the Cistercian College Roscrea (CCR) Past Pupils Dublin Branch dinner. We met in the Ginger Man for a pint beforehand - present were Pat Cleere, Mark Ryan, Liam Lenehan, George Mellotte, John Irwin, Kieran Walsh, and Geoff Coman. At the dinner we joined up with Eugene Hardiman and Paul Heslin. Many of us had met in early October - this time the evening lasted a lot longer. I also got talking to some lads from my brother Joe's year (1978) who were all curious as to how Joe is getting on.

There were some speeches, with Past Pupils Union President Gerry O'Meara bringing us up-to-date with what was going on in the College. I had a long conversation with Gerry later on about my Mum's side of the family (the  Byrnes) who I thought originated from Gerry's home town of Lorrha, Co Tipperary. Gerry kindly emailed me this evening with news that there were no Byrnes in Lorrha matching my description, after he had spoken with his own Dad. Rubgy player Gavin Duffy (a CCR old boy) also gave a good and interesting speech, which was probably of most interest to rugby heads.

We had good banter and craic - washed down with a liberal quantity of pints. It's a long time since I walked so crookedly out onto the street! One bad mark for the Davenport Hotel - the food was poor and there were no potatoes for our table as they had run out. For boys who had lived on potatoes in the 1970s this was an unforgivable oversight.

Any CCR old boys reading this - keep in touch.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

My first Debs Ball

I was at my first Debs Ball last evening with Kate and her classmates from John Scottus School (JSS) at the former Berkeley Court Hotel. Having gone to an all-boys boarding school (CCR 1972-1977) I did not have a Deb's Ball, though when I went to FCJ Bunclody I could have gone to its Debs Ball - but I chickened out.

Kate looked beautiful (click on  photo to see for yourself!) - the guy standing to her right is her very proud Dad. Kate's partner Luke, her friend Viv and her partner Mekon came to our house for a glass of bubbly before we set off. We had a Reception in the School before going down to the hotel. There were quite a few parents in attendance. All the JSS kids looked great - many obviously spending hours to get ready! They were all having a good time.

After dinner, the parents adjourned to the quieter surroundings of the piano bar for more chat. We left about 12.30 after a very enjoyable evening. There was no ceremonial pomp or speeches (just one presentation to Jessica the organizer) - so my first Debs passed off peacefully.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Everton 1 - Aston Villa 1

For the third time in October I was in the UK - this time in Liverpool to see Everton vs Aston Villa in Goodison Park with Brian courtesy one of his Bakery Suppliers. We had perfect seats on the half-way line - the TV cameras and the commentators were just above us. There were nearly 40,000 people in attendance and they certainly created a great atmosphere. The football was mixed with some great skill and many errors in abundance. Overall the quality was a lot better than the Championship matches I had previously seen. In the end, a 1-1 draw - the result was about right. Very enjoyable match - my first one in the Premier League.

I had arrived in Liverpool very early and got to see a Remembrance Ceremony at the Cenotaph where there were two companies of British soldiers who had just returned from Afghanistan - they received a heroes welcome from the large crowd. Several wreaths of poppies were laid at the cenotaph. I bought a poppy - something I've never done before. It was a solemn event as this group of soldiers had lost eight comrades killed in Afghanistan - they all looked so young.

After the game Brian and I had a few beers - we first stopped in The Queen's Arms on the way back from the match (we had also called in on the way to the ground). Next was an Irish bar called The Slaughter House and we then headed for The Sultan's Palace for an excellent Indian meal. After eating too much we stopped off in Liverpool's oldest pub called Ye Hole in the Wall.

On Sunday Brian headed off to Ulverston at about 11.00 and I went down to the Docks. I went to the Slavery Museum which is excellent, followed by the Maritime Museum which had lots of stuff about the Lusitania and the Titanic, which was also excellent.

Very enjoyable weekend !

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fleetwood Mac at the O2

Roma and I went along to see Fleetwood Mac at the O2 last evening - the line-up was (as in photo above) John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, and Lindsay Buckingham. They range in age from 60 (Buckingham) to 63 (Fleetwood). For a bunch of old codgers (as I heard them referred to in the radio afterwards) they put on a fantastic show. They were not promoting a new album - so we were not treated to the dreaded "Here's a song from our latest album....". Instead - they came to play all their hits and this is what we got. We had excellent (expensive!) seats right in the middle near the front for a fantastic view of all the proceedings.

All the hits from "Rhiannon" to Seven Wonders" were played. Buckingham and Nicks still have some chemistry on stage (though she kept leaving the stage - sometimes to change clothes). Buckingham put in a virtuoso performance on guitar - which he changed for nearly every song, he ranged from hard rock, to acoustic, to picking and slapping. Neither he nor Nicks have lost anything in their voices - though at times her voice was drowned out by the music. Highlights for me were thumping versions of "Chain", "Tusk", "You Can Go Your Own Way", and the acoustic solo of "Big Love" by Buckingham. For an encore they brought the house down with "Don't Stop".

While Buckingham was the real star of the show, Mick Fleetwood played a storming session on drums - including a long solo as part of the encore. Not bad for a man of 63! Nicks was excellent, though I thought she looked tired - or maybe it was too much eye make-up that made her look like this. She's 61 - but still hot!

Before the show we had dinner on the MV Kill Airne on the Liffey. While this is a pricey restaurant it was very enjoyable and within walking distance of the O2. It's only my second time there and it is a nice setting with excellent food.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More YouTube Success

I continue to be fascinated about how many people are viewing my YouTube channel videos - last Friday (23rd October) the total viewings reached 30,000. The rate of viewings has increased over time as I add more videos.

My first video was posted on December 11th 2007. My channel reached 10,000 views on 8th April 2009 - 16 months later. It took only four more months before the view figure reached 20,000 on 10th August. The next landmark of 30,000 views was reached in only 11 more weeks. I'll be interested to see if the rate increases further.

Some people have asked me if it is possible to make money doing this. I'm sure it will be possible some day, but not now. It is important to point out that viewing figures of 30,000 for my channel is an extremely modest number of views, with many others doing the same thing with hundreds of thousands of views. I do have plans for further videos - I have been exploring the possibility of introducing a series of problem-solving techniques.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tales of Ballycumber at The Abbey

I went to see Sebastian Barry's new play - "Tales of Ballycumber" at the Abbey Theatre on Saturday night. Barry lives near Shillelagh - about four miles from where I grew up and his kids attend Carnew NS - where I also went to school. I had read previews and learned that the play is set in a fictitious Co. Wicklow townland between Shillelagh and Tinahely. I felt like I was at home during the play as the south Wicklow accents were delivered like natives.

Stephen Rea is the star of the show - he never left the stage throughput the 1.5 hour play. He had plenty of stories about the area that struck home with me - I loved every mention of Coolattin (where I play golf), and the references to the Fitzwillliams (Lords of the manor in Coolattin), Hacketstown, Humewood, as well as Shillelagh and Tinahely. I called Mum and Dad to check if the story about Lady Fitwilliam's husband eloping with John F Kennedy's sister was true - it was.

It was a smashing play- Stephen Rea would make for a natural Tinahely or Carnew man. Difficult at times to accept the theme of suicide, but with a very simple set (daffodils throughout) it was a very entertaining evening.


Restaurant Review - Talbot 101

Roma, Dorothy, Peter, and I went for a quick pre-theatre bite in the Talbot 101 on Talbot St. There were many other theatre goers there too and the place was very vibrant and almost full. We decided to go for the Early Bird menu and I had a delicious salmon an prawn mix in crispy file pastry. For main course the "Jane Russell" sausages and mash were excellent. Just time for a quick coffee before heading off to the nearby Abbey Theatre. Thoroughly recommended - excellent food, quick efficient service, and very friendly staff.

It's been a while since I was down this area of the city in the evening- there are quite a few groups of young people hanging around who are quite obviously either stoned, drunk, or both. They leave a lot of litter around, are very noisy, a bit intimidating - the Gardaí seem to leave them alone as long as they do not cause any trouble. I felt a bit relieved when we drove towards home - preferring to go for a pint in The Wishing Well rather than staying in the city centre.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

MoSCoW Analysis

Today I used a new (to me) tool in class - the MoSCoW analysis technique. The capital letters in MoSCoW stand for:
  • M - MUST have this
  • S - SHOULD have this if at all possible
  • C - COULD have this if it does not affect anything else
  • W - WON'T have this time but WOULD like in the future
We were discussing the design of databases in a Technology Fundamentals class. I set the students to work in pairs and design a database for their local Chinese Takeaway - they were allowed to add anything they wanted. Below is a photo of their suggestions (taken with my spare mobile phone that I use for class):

We then went though each item and labeled it with M, S, C, or W in an effort to decide what should be in the database. I used a Chinese Takeaway example because almost everybody will be familiar with ordering food for delivery from their local restaurant. The students seemed to enjoy this exercise and by the end we had agreed on what should be in the database, and what is less important. Hopefully they will found the exercise useful and imformative. I found it useful and informative too!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend in Holyhead

Roma and I went over to the Holyhead Lions Club Charter night dinner which was held in the Valley Hotel in Anglesey, Wales. It was a quick visit - we left Dún Laoghaire on the Saturday afternoon HSS, and returned on the Sunday morning sailing. We traveled with four of Roma's Lions Club companions - I was not really looking forward to the dinner. We stayed in the Travel Lodge near the ferry port - very comfortable, clean, and tidy (recommended for a quick stay).

Holyhead is a quiet town - the centre is a bit dull on Saturday afternoon with a lot of shops closed. We stopped for a pint and a game of pool before going to the dinner in Valley. The evening was a long one - we had a lot of wine. I won a bottle of Rosé in the raffle. We got home around 1230 - phew!

I was missing the Ireland vs Italy World Cup qualifier - brother Joe was sending me text messages with each score (2-2).

The Welsh Lions were extremely nice and welcoming - they couldn't do enough to make us feel comfortable - even sending a bus to pick us up despite the short distance from our hotel to the ferry port. Thank you to them all.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Weekend in Liverpool

Last weekend Roma and I went to Liverpool with The Beatles very much in mind. We had to fly to Manchester on the way out, but this was very pleasant as was the train trip from Manchester to Liverpool. Very little to see from the train on a very wet day, but I did see the newish City of Manchester stadium in the mist.

On Friday night we stayed in the Hard Day's Night Hotel which is a Beatles themed four-star hotel. It was very nice,and while it was a Beatles theme throughout (we had a huge poster of John Lennon over our bed) - it was not over done. The hotel is a very central place to stay, it is right beside the Cavern Club - and is a most pleasant hotel to stay in. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant, though Beatles-themed throughout was called Blakes.

On Saturday we had a tour of the main Beatles sites with cabbie Jay from the
Fab Four Tours. Jay was an excellent tour guide who knew everything about The Beatles - he brought us to each of the four houses where the Fab Four grew up, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, Eleanor Rigby's grave, and the place where Lennon and McCartney met - St Peter's Church. Lots of nostalgia - we also saw the spot where Julia Lennon, John's mother was killed, and the Empress Pub that featured on the cover of a Ringo Starr album (Sentimental Journey), Ringo's boarded up old house. The tour was made special by Jay - he was very friendly and was happy to take photos and let us out wherever we wanted to go. The picture to the left is of him and me at the barber shop mentioned in the song Penny Lane. In between us on the poster in the window is a picture of Jimmy Osmond of "I'll be your Long Haired Lover from Liverpool" fame) getting his hair cut - Jay had been his cabbie on his tour. Definitely worth doing this tour, though you don't get into John or Paul's house as they are owned by the National Trust and must be booked separately.

In the afternoon we had lunch in The Pumphouse after which I went to The Beatles Story on Albert Dock while Roma hit the shops. The Beatles Story is excellent, but when you know a lot about them already - there is not much new to learn. At £12 it is definitely worth going to. After such a Beatles day we went for a pint in the Fab Four bar. Liverpool Central was hopping - every pub had loud music - The Cavern Pub was a bit of a kip, so we didn't stay. For dinner we went to Piccolino's Italian restaurant where we had the best table in the house at the window. Smashing food and a very pleasant atmosphere.

On Sunday we did a little bit more shopping - I bought a Let It Be t-shirt which has the picture to the right. This is my favorite picture of The Beatles as it is really how I remember them - I was only 11 years old when they broke up. We also got t-shirts for the girls - Yellow Submarine for Vicki, Help! for Kate, and another Let It Be for Claire. I also bought the obligatory fridge magnet - Sgt Pepper! I did treat myself as well by buying the recently released remastered stereo box of all the Beatles albums which I have been listening to since the weekend. Expensive, but worth it! Finally, we dropped in to the Tate Gallery for a quick look - that's all you need for "modern art". While a Picasso and an Andy Warhol painting were worth looking at, I'm afraid that the rest was completely lost on me.

Overall a great weekend from which I will have very special memories. This was a birthday present from Roma, so it was also my final fling in my forties. I'll have a job following that for a birthday present for Roma next year!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

CCR Old Boys Get-together

I joined several of my old Cistercian College Roscrea (CCR) classmates for dinner and a few jars in Bewley's of Ballsbridge last evening - we were the class of 1977. We had good fun at first trying to remember all the names - there were 13 of us in total. Apart from shorter hair - some of the lads have not changed a bit (Geoff C, Ali B, John I, and Paul H) - the rest of us were a bit grey or folically challenged. It was nice to meet after such a long time - I think it must have been 1977 since I last met Mick L who I was sitting beside at dinner and who regailed us all of tales of rich Americans buying multi-million dollar yachts. It was also nice to discover that in the group was a fellow Harley-Davidson rider (Pat C) - we promised each other that we would meet for a ride out.

Good luck to John I in his new businees opening next week - I'll be sure to call in. Mick L started a new job yesterday - good luck to him. Happy 50th birthday to Barry O'S on Friday 9th next. Good luck to Brian C in running the country

Monday, October 05, 2009

Damien Mulley at the Institute of Business Analysis and Consulting

I attended the lunchtime seminar hosted by the Institute of Business Analysis and Consulting today at lunchtime. The speaker today was Damien Mulley - well known blogger, and expert on all things technological. His talk was on "Social networks: The foundation for long-term business relationships with your customers". I missed the start, but I was impressed by Damien's knowledge of social networking tools. He is clearly an enthusiast of social media - he was bursting to tell us about Twitter, blogs, bebo, and facebook - he used some good examples to support his points. He is much in demand and is quite often interviewed on RTÉ radio whenever there is a technology item. Anyone new to social media at the seminar will be impressed by the possibilities of networking on the web - how to make money doing this is another thing. An enjoyable seminar!

While in Liverpool at the weekend I noticed signs for facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and others in the windows of the first floor office suite, and advertising that they provide advice on all things "socila media". It turns out that this is a company called Digital Liverpool - clearly there is money to be made providing this type of advice as companies seek to make the best of social networking.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Lisbon Treaty Referendum - it has to be Yes

Tomorrow is the Lisbon Treaty Referendum (part II). I will be voting "Yes" early in the morning before I head off to Liverpool for the weekend - here's why:
  • I voted Yes the last time and have not changed my mind
  • 63% of people in the Dún Laoghaire constituency voted Yes the last time
  • I support the real reasons for the Treaty - making the EU work better
  • I actually believe that Europe should move closer to a Federal system
  • We (Ireland) cannot manage on our own
  • 26 out of 27 EU countries have already ratified the Treaty (Czech President still to sign)
  • All major political parties are recommending a Yes vote
  • Not that I listen to them much, but Trades Unions are also recommending a Yes
  • Employers are recommending a Yes
  • Michael O'Leary says Yes
  • Brian Cowen says Yes
  • Anything that the following people/groups are against, I am for: Sinn Fein, Coir, Joe Higgins, Declan Ganley & Libertas, Patricia McKenna, Richard Boyd-Barrett, UKIP.
I will miss the posters though!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pareto Chart video - 1 year, 10,970 views

Last Saturday (September 26th) was a year to the day since I posted my "How To..Create a Pareto Chart in Excel" to YouTube. At the time of writing this post it has 10,970 views. While this is a very modest total when compared to other Excel videos, I am absolutely delighted that it has so many views and that many people have found the video very useful.

Apologies for appearing to boast about this, but here are some of the (unedited) comments I have received:

"You save my life man!!! Thank youuu!!"


"This was extremely helpful!! Thank you so much!!"

"wow i need to submit my coursework this evening and finally my work is done!!"

"thank you so much!"

"thankyou!!! BIGUP!! Keepon makin' such good tutorials. It was pretty helpful!"

"This was very helpful, thank you!"

"fuckin stat class making me do this shit, but prof never thought how to"

The views are running at a rate of 210 per week, and are watched mostly by people in the USA. By far the biggest age group is the 55-64s, with a breakdown of 61% female/39% male. I haven't quite managed another video with these viewing figures - the next highest viewing figure is 4,078 for my "How To...Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel".

There are also many other websites that my videos are used on - Global Oneness INNWA Videos, Technorati, and even Disney!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

10 Years of Motorcycling

I not sure of the exact date in September 1999, but it is 10 years since I returned to motorcycling after a gap of 18 years (on 8th of December 1981 my Honda CD175 was stolen from Trinity College). In the last 10 years I have had three bikes including my current Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic. Previous to this I had a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Hugger, and before that I started out again with a Honda - this time a 250 Nighthawk.

I get fantastic pleasure out of riding my bike. I have chronicled elsewhere in this blog about trips to Portugal, Spain, UK, and France. I love riding it to and from work - the 15 mile round trip takes about 40-45 minutes of my day. When I compare this to the many other folks who spend hours each day commuting (mostly by car), I realise how the bike has contributed to quality of life devoid of transport hassles.

I wouldn't swap my Harley for anything - here's to the next 10 years!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sailing Lesson

I had a sailing lesson today with the Irish National Sailing Club. The lesson was a short version of the Level 2 Sports Yacht course - I had a two day course in one day. As I was one-to-one with my instructor (Donncha), I was able to complete all of the tasks associated with the full course. Unfortunately I don't get the Level 2 certification - this requires the full two days on the water.

The boat was a Squib - like the one in the picture here. It is 19 feet long and quite a nice sized boat to sail. One person can manage sailing in this boat. It has a fixed keel which makes it too awkward for me to actually own one - it would need a mooring and also would not fit into my new shed in Wexford. I found tacking and jibbing a lot easier today than before - basically I am getting used to it. I also had to learning how to pick up a mooring, to come alongside a both a moored boat and a pontoon. and recover a person fallen overboard (which was a buoy). Very enjoyable and I got the hang of things quite quickly.

All of the sailing was inside Dún Laoghaire harbour, and the wind was a nice breeze in the morning session. However, after lunch the wind died down to almost calm and there was not much we could do. We finished up at about 3 o'clock. All-in-all - a very enjoyable lesson and confirms my belief that I should get a small sailing yacht.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Taming Your Digital Distractions

The New York Times has an interesting article entitled Taming Your Digital Distractions. Here's a (large) extract from the article:

Is there any human invention more duplicitous than the personal computer? These machines were manufactured and initially marketed as devices to help us at work. We were told they would perform amazing feats of office derring-do — adding up rows of numbers effortlessly, turning our musings into beautiful magazine-quality documents, and letting us collaborate with one another across continents.

Boy, that turned out well, didn’t it? Sure, you could use your PC to analyze stats for the annual sales report due in two days. But hey, look at this — someone wants to be your friend on Facebook! And wait a second: A zany couple decided to start off their wedding by dancing down the aisle, and lucky for everyone, they posted the video on YouTube. And did you hear what that ignorant congressman just said about health care? Now you’ve got no choice but to spend the next five minutes crafting an impassioned tweet to express your outrage.

I get disturbed all the time when I am using my work (and home/iPhone) computer when I am supposed to be working. This is even after I previously closed my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I regularly check news items that inevitably lead to checking out other distracting news stories. One thing leads to another........

One of the most beneficial things I have done at work is to turn OFF my email alert. I come from a generation who did not get email and text messages on a daily or hourly basis. I still get a "Wow I just got a text message/email" buzz. I once even had the AOL "You've got mail" message alert - allowing myself to be interrupted no matter what I was doing. Try it - turn off your email alert and your productivity will increase.

I also find myself being interrupted by byte sized information. Shallow Thinking (first, if I'm not mistaken espoused by the wonderful George Siemens) has invaded my mind - if something is longer than a standard text message I will not even bother looking it up. If I was reading this post I would have stopped after "I get disturbed..." - 'nuff said.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

13th September

The 13th of September is a special day for me as it is the anniversary of the day Roma and I got married back in 1986. To celebrate we went out for a walk in the pleasant sunshine to Blackrock where we had a beer in Sheehan's Pub. They have a beer garden there and it was very pleasant to be sitting out. After walking home we went out to Alexis in Dún Laoghaire for dinner with Claire, Kate, and Vicki. Alexis is one of our favourite restaurants and once again it did not disappoint as we all had an excellent meal. It was a most enjoyable evening - the three girls are great company.

For Roma and me it is 23 years since we were married. We reminded Claire (who was recently 21) that Roma was just 23 when we got engaged. Claire assures us that it will be at least 10 years before she thinks of marriage! I did suggest that she would get a cool reaction in two years time if she came home and announced that she wanted to get married to a post-graduate student (as I was in 1984 when we got engaged).

Cóir - Nuts!

I love this poster for a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum...

I referred to Cóir previously as "gobshites" - my attitude has not changed. I listened to part of an interview with a Cóir representative on Today FM this morning where Labour's Pat Rabbitte (normally someone who I have no time for) put him in his place - good on you Pat, and you are right - you have a "track record" on workers rights that Cóir can only aspire to. The Cóir guy was ranting on about the minimum wage and worker's rights (not mentioned in the Treaty) - I'm certain anyone listening to this will realize that these people are "nuts", which is why I love this poster (I do dislike that the poster is not signed or claimed by any organizations - whoever it is should be proud of what they have to say and proclaim it out loud!).

What is it about referendums ("referenda" if you went to UCD) that polarizes people? Maybe it's because you can only vote "Yes" or "No" - I'm sure there are many people who would like to vote "Maybe", or "Can I have another choice please?", or "None of the above". Declan Ganley of Libertas, who in the past has said that the people have spoken and that "No" means "No" (referring to the previous referendum result), has decided that in his own case that "No" actually means "Yes". He stated previously that he would not participate in the referendum campaign having been rejected by a huge margin by the voters of Connaught in the last European Parliament Elections. Now he is campaigning! Current polls show a 2-1 majority in favour of "Yes".

My mind is made up - it's still "Yes".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Book Review - "Rebels" by Peter de Rosa

I read Peter de Rosa's excellent historical novel about the 1916 Rising while on holiday in Spain this summer, but took my time writing a review for Amazon. The review is reproduced below. I also note for the first time that I have dropped out of the Top 500 Reviewers at Amazon.co.uk - at the time of writing this I'm now ranked #502.

5.0 out of 5 stars
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical novel, 5 Sep 2009
By EFMOL "eugeneol" (Dublin) - See all my reviews
Peter de Rosa's historical novel is an excellent read and and will give the reader a detailed account of what it must have been like during the 1916 rebellion. All the intrigues of a rebellion are there for all to see. I'm told that there are historical inaccuracies in the book, but even though I am very familiar with this period of Irish history I didn't notice anything wrong.

Events are highly dramatized - particularly towards the end of the book when the executions take place. Written evidence records that the 1916 leaders had accepted their fate, but this book paints them all as angelic heroes sacrificing their lives in the cause of Irish freedom - Pearse would "go through death without hurt". Even he must have felt some terror facing a firing squad, but there is no hint of it for any of the leaders facing death. No one can know what was going through their minds at the time, and de Rosa does an excellent job on what it must have been like.

The 1916 Rebellion had a lot of characters and de Rosa keeps the plot and story going with ease. Countess Markievicz makes for an excellent hero, General Maxwell is the villain, Roger Casement is treated favorably - though his part in the rising is almost a distraction in this book, and all the leaders are heroes too. Almost 500 people were killed in the Rebellion and some of the savagery that took place - especially in North King Street, is graphically described.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to potential readers. Whether you are Irish or not you will enjoy reading about this dramatic period in Irish history. Any Irish person reading this will find that your heart will almost be bursting with pride reading about the rebels and their failed dream of an Irish Republic.