Saturday, February 28, 2009

Legends in your Lunchtime

National College of Ireland, Metro Newspaper, and Newstalk Radio have been hosting a series of lunch time conversations with "Leaders" over the past few months - these are then played on Newstalk Radio. Last week I went to the Danuta Gray talk - she is CEO of O2 in Ireland. This week I attended the talk with Maria Mahon, who set up the website. Despite being persuaded to attend by some of my NCI colleagues at the numbers were expected to be low, there were about 80 people there for an interesting talk between Ger Gilroy of Newstalk and Maria. She is certainly a very energetic lady and had some interesting things to say - especially about using the model in other countries such as China. The full converstion can be downloaded from the Newstalk Podcast page or from iTunes.
At the end of the talk there was an opportunity for people in the audience to ask questions and I was first up to ask Maria which leader did she admire most - her answer? Barack Obama. You can hear my question and (part of) her answer by clicking on the play button below:

Irish Motorcycle Show

I went to the Irish Motorcycle Show in the RDS today to see the latest in bikes and accessories. After the dissappointing Boat Show last week, this was more my kind of thing!

I rode in to the RDS on my Harley (of course) and arrived at the opening time of 10.00am. A lot of other people had the same idea for an early arrival - there was a big queue and quite a crowd inside. There were lots of shiny custom bikes just inside the main door - everything from choppers, to Indians, to kids bike. All the main manufacturers were there - including Harley-Davidson. I met Jeff Murphy of H-D Ireland and thanked him for the great reduction in price on my new seat last summer. I decided not to tell him about the major trouble I had with the bike in France just after it was serviced in his shop.

I bought new boots which were reduced from €150 to €79 - a lot of items had huge reductions (including bikes). These are real motorcyle boots, but look like a casual boot as well - they should be better than my worn out hiking boots. No more wet feet for me. I looked at a lot of other gear as well, but only bought a tub of wax for leather (€15). I did buy a ticket for Crumlin Children's Hospital - the prize, a new motor bike of course!

There were some stunts and Wall-of-Death - a variety of stuff for everyone. On the way out I chatted to a guy from Enniscorthy who had a trike on his trailer - he had arrived too late to have the bike included in the show. The engine is an old Volkswagen air-cooled one and looked great.

It was a well organized event and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Vision of Students Today

This YouTube video tells us educators a lot about how students are working today - I have shown this video to many students in class. Students are much more digitally tuned in than their teachers/lecturers - which is a major challenge for us all. Take a look and see for  yourself:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Boat Show (RDS)

Today I went to The Boat Show in the RDS - I'm not sure why!

I don't own a boat, but did take some sailing lessons last year. I fancy sailing (but not the yacht club scene) - so I decided to check out what was available. The Boat Show today was a strange event. It show-cased huge expensive motor boats that I'm certain very few people in the crowd could afford. Good on the organisers to get this going!

I was looking for info on sailing, but there was very little. Apart from a few dinghies, not much. I left none the wiser.  I did see some nice small boats. I also bought a ticket for a draw for a Morris Minor (€25), and picked up a handy magetized pen shaped tool for picking up iron based metal objects (I'm getting old!). 

The highlight was a presentation on deep sea diving on three wrecks - Audacious, Lusitania, and Curacao. I bumped into an old Trinity colleague, Dr. Ian Lawler, on the way into the Show. He mentioned that he was doing the presentation, so I stayed around for it. It was worth the wait - Ian and I chatted briefly afterwards - good to catch up.

Killiney Lions Charter Night

Last evening Roma and I went to the Killiney Lions Charter Night in Killiney Golf Club. As Roma is current President of the Killiney Lions it was a big night for her. There was the usual pomp-and-ceremony (slow hand clap for guests), but over all an enjoyable evening for me, but an especially good one for Roma. She made anexcellent speech, and looked great - every bit the Lions President. Lions members tend to be "older", and they all loved Roma (as of course I do!).

It was a long evening, but enjoyable none-the-less. At this stage I know quite a lot of the Killiney Lions. At dinner I sat beside two Lions from Sutton - good company (I did my bit!). I'm not a member of the Lions and have no plans ever to do so - nevertheless, the people involved are genuine. In the current climate, this is a good cause, but it is not for me.

We got a taxi home, but accidentally spilled a small amount of water (from a bouquet of flowers that Roma got) during the trip. Our taxi driver (who got €20, including €3 tip, for the very short trip) was not impressed, and told us so. I offered to bring out a towel and dry his cab, but he declined. F**k him.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

iPhone - be careful about using abroad

I got quite a shock with my latest O2 bill - it has more than doubled. 

Since last October when I switched from Vodafone to O2 when I got an iPhone my bills have averaged between €50 and €60. I am on the lowest tariff available for the iPhone - "iPhone 175". This allows 175 minutes talk and 100 texts per month. On my most recent bill I had used only 53 minutes and 36 text messages. On examing my bill I could see that I had been charged almost €60 for "Roaming" - this of course was as a result of my trip to Reading in the UK last weekend, which was my first trip outside of Ireland using the iPhone. Most of this was made up of Data Usage - I had only a few calls and text messages. 

On the bill I note that my total Data Usage spend was €44.81 (+ VAT). My total for four calls for 4 mins and 47 secs was €3.46 (+ VAT). Two separate data costs were just over €12 each - I reckon these were due to using Google Maps to find my way around Reading. Each was for about 1.45MB of data. Total Data Usage was about 5.5 MB - about the exact same file size as the song Bohemian Rhapsody (5.58 MB). Apart from Google Maps I looked up train and bus time tables.

As I was passing through Dublin Airport on the way to Heathrow, they were selling small hand-held SatNav devices for only €99, but I said to myself "No point in buying that, sure I have GPS and Google Maps on my iPhone"!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty - Second Cousin Twice Removed

I have been created a family tree at and currently have 416 people on it. The URL is Dad has a lot of family material collected over the years and I was fascinated with our roots. Last year's visit to Newmarket really got me going on this. Though I have never met her, my third cousin Catherine Culloty of Newmarket has provided both Dad and myself with lots of information going back to our great-great grandfather Patrick O'Loughlin (1821-1897). I have much of my Dad's side done, I have a lot more to do with Mum's side.

One interesting connection is to Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty - the so-called "the Pimpernel of the Vatican". He is my second cousin twice removed, and is related to me through Dad's grandmother Julia (Murphy) O'Loughlin. A distant relative, but an interesting one none the less! He was portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1983 file The Scarlet and the Black. Dad often mentions that there was a connection - now we know.  There is also a connection to Marian Finnucane of RTÉ through this side of the family.

Other connections to check out are to the late actor Donal McCann, and to founder of the Argentine Navy Admiral William Brown, through my Mum's side of the family. 

A lot done, but more to do.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Fake Work

I have been reading Elliott Masie's Learning Trends for several years - since my time in SmartForce.  I once met him in Dublin when he visited Ireland in the mid 1990s - at that time SmartForce was called CBT Systems. 

In today's edition he interviews the author of a new book called "Fake Work" - you can hear the podcast here (15 mins). The book focuses on "Why People are Working Harder Than Ever but Accomplishing Less, and How to Fix the Problem!". It is an interesting podcast that will ring true to many people - perhaps we are working on things that don't contribute to the Organization we work for. Things like writing reports and creating PowerPoint presentations, are regarded as sometimes being unnecessary. Have a listen, and think!

Professor makes his mark, but it costs him his job

I read with interest this article about a Lecturer in the University of Ottawa, called Professor Denis Rancourt, who has been fired for giving all his students an A+ at the start of the year! The article states:

It was not his job, as he explained later, to rank their skills for future employers, or train them to be “information transfer machines,” regurgitating facts on demand. Released from the pressure to ace the test, they would become “scientists, not automatons,” he reasoned.

Interesting stuff. I  find marking one of the most difficult parts of my job - the difference for a student getting 68% vs 72% could affect the rest of their lives. My College has recently introduced Second Marking of all assessment - this has been greeted with disdain by myself and almost all my colleagues. Perhaps Professor has a simple, but effective solution to this problem?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Reading 0 - Preston North End 0

Brian and I went to our first Preston North End away game yesterday to the Madejski Stadium to see Reading take on PNE. Reading were second and PNE sixth in the Championship before the game, so it was an important one for both sides.

I flew over to London Heathrow having arrived at Dublin Airport at 05:45 (at least an hour too early) - the Aircoach service was much faster than expected. In planning my trip, I noted on a UK rail website that I could get a train in Heathrow direct to Reading, but I had to take two trains. The first, to Hayes was only a four minute journey but cost £4.90 (about €5.60)! The next, to Reading, was a more respectable £9.90. Our hotel, the Ibis, was very close to the station and I met Brian there. 

After a coffee we headed towards the stadium stopping off on the way at a wonderfully named pub - the World Turned Upside Down! We had a couple of pints and lunch, after which it was time for the match. 

The PNE fans were located at the south end of the ground. We sat in the middle, with the boisterous fans behind us. They kept up the singing and chanting throughout the game - "Alan Irvine's Yellow Army", "Yellow Army of the North End", and of course "Your Support is F***ing S**t" to the equally boisterous Reading fans. Good natured stuff that added to the atmosphere - Brian and I were enjoying ourselves, and joined in the singing (when we could figure out what the words were!). There was a lot of yellow balloons about as it was designated as a "Yellow Day" by PNE's CAST (Club And Supporters Together). Though it was a very cold day, one fan behind us had no top on for the entire match - they breed them tough in Lancashire.

The game was great from a PNE point of view - though Reading had many chances, PNE defended really well and gave the fans lots to cheer about. The result, 0-0, was about right - match report here. As Reading had four Irish internationals in their squad (Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Noel and Stephen Hunt), it added to the interest for us. Ominously for next Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Georgia, all were rubbish. Today I note that PNE's full back, Eddie Nolan, has been called up to the Irish squad for the same game.

After the game we walked back towards the town centre hoping to get to see Ireland vs France rugby game. We looked in through the window of The Wellington Arms and saw that they were showing the match, so we decided to go in. The pub was very quiet and had a dog which kept sniffing around us - at half time we left and went to O'Neills Irish Bar in the town centre. I was first refused entry because I was wearing a PNE jersey, but was let in after I took it off. The pub was packed and we had to stand to watch the game which Ireland won by 30-21 (report). After this we watched Portsmouth vs Liverpool which had a very exciting second half (Liverpool won 3-2).

For dinner we went to the Raj Indian where we had an excellent meal. Finally, we stopped off for a last pint in The Bugle which was directly across the road from our hotel, before collapsing into bed after a long day.

Today I got up at 07:00 to get a bus to Heathrow - again I was at least an hour too early and had a long wait in the airport. Tired, I finally got home at about 13.00 - Kate kindly picked me up at the bus stop.

Friday, February 06, 2009

How To...Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel 2003

I have posted another How To... video on creating a simple Gantt chart in Excel to YouTube.

I had seen a couple of videos on YouTube doing the same thing, but I fancied having a go at doing this myself and posting. Some of my students are still having difficulty creating Gantt charts, so I have referred them to this video. It took me a feww takes to do this as I had to find an appropriate video and audio format to keep the file size down.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

How To...Embed a YouTube Video into a Moodle Course Page

I have added another video to YouTube as part of my How To... series. This one is about embedding YouTube videos onto a Moodle course page - I will be getting my e-Learning students to do this in class next week. There are three ways to add video to Moodle which are shown in the video -Moodle does not have a direct "Add a YouTube video" option, but it is possible if you know how.

Here is the video embedded into this Blogger page:

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Dublin 1-16 - Tyrone 1-18, Croke Park

Last evening in Croke Park, the GAA celebrated its 125th anniverary year in front of almost 80,000 people at the opening match of the 2009 National Football League between Dublin and All-Ireland Champions Tyrone. I had given Kate a present of two tickets in her Christmas stocking and she kindly brought me to the match!

We had excellent seats in the front row of the upper Cusack Stand with a perfect view of all the proceedings. While it was cold, we were treated to a great game with a very exciting finish. Tyrone bossed the first half with Stephen O'Neill contributing eight points including one from just under where Kate and I were sitting - as the commentators say, it was "almost from an impossible angle". While Tyrone were running the show, Dublin kept in touch and were only four points down at half time - they could not have complained if it was 10 or 12. At half-time we were treated to some songs, including "Galway Girl" from Mundy and Sharon Shannon.

The second half was completely different, with both teams showing plenty of skill. Two goals really lit up the stadium which lead to the exciting finish. Dublin finally took the lead in injury time only for Tyrone to nick three points in injury time for a just about deserved win by 1-18 to 1-16 (match report). But the show wasn't over yet!

After the game there was a special event to commemorate 125 years of the GAA. First there were clips from past games on the big screen and then the fireworks started. With a backing track provided by Irish groups such as Thin Lizzy and U2 (Larry Mullan Jr. apparently arranged the music) - the fireworks were spectacular. The big ones were outside the ground - presumably on safety grounds, while inside a combined light and (smaller) fireworks show warmed us all up on a cold night. Kate and I loved the occasion - fantastic value for €20 each.

More people attended this game than went to see Manchester United at Old Trafford earlier in the day, or are expected at the Super Bowl Final in Tampa Bay this today. Croke Park probably won't be full again until either Dublin play again or the All-Ireland finals in September.