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 GardaĆ­ 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.