Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ireland 52 - Australia 55

Croke Park on a Saturday night, the cream of Gaelic Football, the best that Aussie Rules has to offer - it doesn't get better than this. I attended the Ireland vs Australia International Rules match, with my daughter Kate and her friend Viv, hoping to see a fast exciting game - this is what we got. While there were a lot of errors, particularly on the Irish side, the game ended up being a very close contest with a very exciting finish.

About 61,000 fans turned up and created a great atmosphere. The Irish Daily Mail were sponsors and had left a green flag and some goodies under each seat. There were also a lot of Australians shouting on their team - it's not often you'll see the Union Jack in Croke Park (it's part of Australian flag - they need a new one!).

The game was running away from the Irish (we were 17 points behind at one stage) until the third quarter when a scrappy goal (6 points) gave Ireland some hope. The fourth quarter was very exciting with the (amateur) Irish doing way better than the (professional)  Australians. Several easy scoring opportunities were missed, but eventually Ireland took the lead for the first time with just minutes left. But credit to the Aussies who found the skill to score the winning points. At times they looked like they could take the ball at will from the Irish - they were also far better at finding the space that does so much to secure possession in their own game. See Dermot Crowe's match report in the Irish Independent.

On the evidence of this game, there is certainly a future for the International Rules series. God willing, I will be in Croke Park the next time the Aussies visit.

Friday, October 29, 2010

College drop outs - failures? What about Bill Gates?

I almost dropped out of College in 1980 having failed my second year  - but my Dad persuaded me to give it another go and repeat the year - I never looked back.

John Walshe writes in today's Irish Independent  that "Colleges will face penalties if they don't tackle drop-out rates". This follows a HEA report (published yesterday) on "Progression in Irish Higher Education 2010". In the report there is a lot of evidence of high dropout rates in first year programmes in Universities, Institutes of Technology, and some other higher level colleges (not including NCI). 

Non-Progression Odds by Field of Study
(HEA Report)
The highest dropout rates were reported in computer science courses, where students experience "a relative risk of dropout of 1.7 times higher than their counterparts in social science, arts and law". Lowest drop-out rates occurred in education and healthcare courses.

The HEA report makes for interesting reading - it takes into account Leaving Cert results, Maths ability, and socio-economic background when examining the results of its research.

Naturally there is concern over the cost of public funding for students who drop out of College. There is no doubt that this money could be spent elsewhere. Students drop out of College for many reasons - most of course because they fail their exams. Many choose to drop out themselves - the course does not suit them, they got a better offer somewhere else, they hate maths, a job offers money - lots of reasons. Some choose to not study and miss continuous assessments, and still hope to get through. We in the Colleges can't make students study, we can't force them into the library, we can't force them to learn. We can teach them, provide facilities, hopefully present good courses, etc. But in the end each student is responsible for his/her own learning. All Colleges (including NCI) have practices in place to support vulnerable students who are most likely to drop out - but in the end there is only so much we can do.

Back to John Walshe's article - he writes:

"Under a new funding system, colleges will receive reduced 'core' grants from the Exchequer. They will then be offered financial 'incentives' to meet targets in areas such as the retention of students, the rate of course completion, increasing access to college, teaching standards and research. If they fail to meet these targets, they will face financial penalties".

Penalizing Colleges for student dropouts is a ridiculous idea IMHO. A dropped out student penalizes a College already as the College has spent money educating them, and will lose out on future fees. We are all trying hard to provide a good education for our students, but the message seems to be "Try harder, or else".

Of course a student who drops out of College may go on to greater things. Check out this list of Billionaire College Dropouts which includes, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Ralph Lauren, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell. 

College dropouts!
Just think - I might have ended up a billionaire if I had have dropped out of College back in 1980!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The IBTS Platelet Clinic

Yesterday I became a platelet donor at the Irish Blood Transfusion Service clinic in St James's Hospital. Since I was 18 I have been attending ordinary blood donation clinics to give whole blood. I want to emulate my Dad who is the proud owner of a Gold Drop Award for 50 donations. At my last donation in D'Olier St, an attendant persuaded me to try out the platelet clinic - last week I went along for an assessment. Yesterday was my first time at the clinic proper.

I have to say that the whole experience was trouble free and very pleasant. All the staff are wonderful - so polite, caring, thoughtful, and very professional. They obviously are delighted to have people call to the clinic to donate - and they show their appreciation. The clinic is very modern, with state-of-the-art equipment. Hygiene and sterilization are taken seriously - all needles, tubes, and blood collection tools are discarded after each donation. It must be a very expensive business. My platelet donation took 75 minutes - a long time given that an ordinary blood donation can be less than 10 minutes. Their WiFi service was not working - I had brought along an iPad with the intention of accessing the Internet. Instead I read about 50 pages of "The Last of the Mohicans" eBook. After the donation I had one of the best scones ever - this alone makes it worthwhile to come back!

From Wikipedia: Image from a light
microscope (40x) from a peripheral
blood smear surrounded by red blood
cells. One platelet can be seen in the upper
left side of the image (purple) and is
significantly smaller in size than the red
blood cells (stained pink) and the two
neutrophils (stained purple).
Blood has three main parts - red cells, white cells, and platelets. Platelets are small cells present in the blood of all healthy people. They are essential to enable blood to clot properly. Patients who do not have enough platelets in their blood are at risk of spontaneous bleeding - patients recovering from major surgery and new-born premature babies are the main recipients of platelets. 

Over 20,000 platelet transfusions are needed every year in Ireland, and this number is continuing to rise. If you are interested in donating platelets, or know someone who might also be interested, check out the IBTS website for more details.

It really is a pleasant experience in comfortable surroundings. I experienced no pain or discomfort at all - even the initial needle piercing was painless. 

Why not give it a try?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Running the country from the back of a van - Del Boy for Taoiseach!

Anger. Anger. Anger. We are certainly getting our fill of it at the moment. 

Am I angry at the state of our economy? Yes!
Am I angry that our political leaders seem helpless in the face of economic disaster? Yes!
Am I angry that we have to foot the bill to pay for developer and banker mistakes? Yes!
Am I angry that our future as a nation is dependent upon savage budgets for four years? Yes!

Our new Ministers' car and drivers.
I just wanted to set the tone for this next comment. 

I listened to "It Says in the Papers" on Morning Ireland this morning to hear that the Daily Mail takes issue with "out of touch Fianna Fáil" using their ministerial cars for the Cabinet Meeting in Farmleigh yesterday. The Irish Times has an irate reader, Allen Conlan of Co Meath, writing about the "sickening hypocrisy and disgusting irony of Government Ministers being chauffeur-driven to Farmleigh". Anger at our Government is plunging to new depths. OK - I too dislike the idea that a Minister sits in an expensive Merc telling us how health, education, and social welfare spending are to be cut. "Let them eat cake" comes to mind. If we were all to agree with Mr Conlan - our Government would be run from the back of a van, Del Boy for Taoiseach anyone? Perhaps Ministers could share a single Robin Reliant? Del Boy and Rodney can run an "Independent Trading" company with a Reliant - maybe we can run a country? Fuck.

Conlan goes on in his letter rant - "First cut? Ministers’ cars! I’m sure they all have their own cars and I’m sure they can all drive and I’m sure they all know where Farmleigh is. It wouldn’t save us €4.5 billion, but it would show we’re all in this together". Great idea to make us all feel better. But why stop at Ministers? I saw plenty of Mercs, BMWs, and Jags on the way home from work today - should they not be banned too? After all, would not the money spent on these cars be put to better use?

One thing a new Government next year will not do is "cut" ministerial cars. Imagine the embarrassment of Enda Kenny arriving back in Castlebar, after receiving his seal of office as the new Taoiseach, in a Reliant! What about the magician Eamonn Gilmore coming to Dún Laoghaire on a bicycle with his seal of office tied to his bicycle clips! What about Leo Varadkar thumbing a lift to Brussels for a Council of Europe meeting! 

Mr Conlan and all the other irate letter writers need to get a grip. If he (and others) want our politicians to demonstrate some leadership by giving up their cars - it implies that we should follow. Maybe we too should give up our cars. My prediction - we won't? If Ministers follow Mr Conlan's advice they will end up stuck in traffic on their bikes, or risk life and limb crossing roads full of Volvos, Mercs, Audis, and Jags - there are a lot of them about. 

Jaysus - I myself am ranting more than ever!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is The Walkman Really Dead Or Not?

I read with interest several reports (eg ABC News) that Sony have announced that they are to discontinue the Walkman Cassette Player. This was an iconic and revolutionary device that literally gave us music on the move in ways that we never experienced before. There were many imitators, and no doubt battery sales also  ballooned when it was released.

My Collection of Cassettes.
In the late 70's and early 80's the LP and cassette were kings. Most of the music I listened to was copied from LPs onto cassette. Though I did buy the several cassettes (Hotel California was the first) - many were BASF 60 or 90 minute tapes copied by friends. I still have many today. I took the photo to the right with my iPhone (click to enlarge) of my remaining cassette tapes from the 80's - they all work still and I have one radio/cassette player that stills works. The cassettes range from the cool U2, Joe Jackson, and Donald Fagan, to the decidedly uncool Bagatelle and Madonna! I have also learned how to transfer recordings from a cassette player onto MP3 format on a computer. There are still some gems in my cassette collection that I do not have in my iPod, eg: China Crisis, Carole King, and Bonnie Raitt.

But is the Walkman dead? The Consumerist asks: Is The Walkman Really Dead Or Not? It reports that it is just in Japan that Sony are ceasing to produce Walkman cassette players, and write that Sony "is continuing to produce the portable tape players in China for sale in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere". Seems the Internet is buzzing with a "nearly story"?

The 1979 Original
Sony Walkman.
Roma gave me a Phillips Portable Cassette Player for a birthday/Christmas present - I'd say in the mid 1980's.  I searched Google Images for a photo - but no luck. All I found was a photo of the original Sony Walkman from 1979 which was a very desirable gadget to have in a generation where gadgets had yet really to catch on. In 1979 there were no mobile phones, no satellite TV, no desktop or laptop computers, no Internet, and in our house there was just one TV with only two stations (RTÉ 2 has just started broadcasting in November 1978). But I felt very cool with my Walkman - it was the first gadget I had ever owned. I'm sure I'd get a good price for it on eBay if I still had it! Nostalgia ain't everything, but do you remember the slooooowwwwwwed dooooowwwwwwnnnnnn sooooooouuuuuunnnnnnd when the batteries started to run out? Today's gadgets just cut out - it ain't the same!

No doubt there will be news reports in years to come that Smartphones, MP3 players, and Sat Navs are to be discontinued. I just hope I'm around long enough to see what they are replaced by. You see - 25 years after my first gadget I still get that wide-eyed feeling in the presence of a new gadget. Ooooh - new toys to play with!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Leaving eircom for good

I am expecting engineers from Imagine to install Wimax in my house later this week. This will be the third time I will have change ISP. I started out with BT, but they were hopeless. Every time I tried to get them to resolve a problem with my connection they blamed my eircom phone connection for everything. I then tried to get eircom to take over as my ISP, but they were taking so long to send me the gear that I switched to ClearWire instead. I lasted two years with ClearWire despite constantly only getting about 50% of my so-called 2MB connection. I then switched to eircom. I posted recently about their email to me congratulating me on my "new 8MB connection". Instead of making me feel happy, they have got the complete opposite reaction - I'm leaving them instead.

The reason I am leaving eircom.
Here's the reason: A speed test on my line this morning shows a download speed of 1.49MB. That's less than 20% of what I'm supposed to be getting. I know I'll never get the full 8MB, but this connection is shite. eircom Tech Support is shite. There are five people in my house using the web - we need better service than this. We are paying for a better service - so be warned, if you do not provide me with the service I am paying for I will move. 

I'm moving to Imagine's Wimax 7MB service - but is this the best thing to do? Already I'm worried. I am 1.38km away from the Deansgrange transmitter (I measured it in Google Earth), but the Wimax box cannot pick up a strong enough signal for a 7MB connection. There are no tall buildings between my house and the transmitter - in fact most of the direct line between us is through Deansgrange Cemetery. Imagine are sending out an engineer to set up a booster - I do hope this works. Others are also concerned - @keithmalone tweets to me "@eoloughlin are you keeping the Eircom as a backup in case wimax ever goes down?". Roma is dropping Imagine in favour of O2 in the Pharmacy - she has been very unhappy with Imagine. Imagine don't have Tech Support at the weekend.

I wonder what ISP I will be changing to in a few years/months time?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ireland's Greatest - My vote goes to Michael Collins

RTÉ have just completed a poll to decide if Michael Collins, Bono, Mary Robinson, John Hume, or James Connolly is Ireland's greatest person ever. It's an interesting list of Irish people and made for interesting viewing on RTÉ television over the past few weeks. In today's Irish Tims it is reported that John Hume wins 'Ireland's greatest' award, with Michael Collins 2nd, Mary Robinson 3rd, James Connolly 4th, and Bono 5th. I watched all the RTÉ programmes (except the Mary Robinson one). There was clearly a lot of enthusiasm and over-the-top hero worship from each of the presenters, though I wonder if John Hume would have won if someone other than the gorgeous Miriam O'Callaghan in blue jeans presented the programme on him. I like John Hume - always did. But to describe him as "Ireland's greatest" if a bit far fetched for me. Rev Ian Paisley, a giant in Irish and British politics, could also arguably be regarded as being "Great" as he had more of an influence on Northern Ireland than Hume.

Graphic from RTÉ website.
I wrote in a previous post last March that I had voted for Patrick Pearse in the initial poll which featured 40 people. At the time I bemoaned the fact that the list of 40 contained a lot of celebrities such as Stephen Gately, Ronan Keating, Louis Walsh, Adi Roche, Joe Dolan, Colin Farrell, and Liam Neeson and I asked the question Can these people really be counted as "great"?. Thankfully none of them have made it onto the shortlist. My shortlist in March was Pearse, Collins, Charles Stewart Parnell,  Éamon de Valera, and Oscar Wilde - at least one of my selections made it to the final cut. Another feature of my short-list is that they are all dead!

Clearly with the above five people, greatness is measured in different ways - and to me there was no raging hot favourite to win - though I thought Michael Collins would win (I voted for him). I also thought that either Mary Robinson or James Connolly would be last - Robinson because she cannot be described as "great" (confession here - I was one of 694,484 people who voted for Brian Lenihan Snr in the 1990 Presidential Election), and Connolly because Collins would get votes that might otherwise have gone to him.

Congratulations to John Hume for winning this accolade. He is a modest man and I'm sure that he is more than a bit embarrassed at being described as "Ireland's Greatest ever". He would be the first to give credit to the many others who worked hard to secure peace in Northern Ireland - he didn't do it by himself (though you would think so having viewed the RTE programme about him.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Logistics" today, my Delivery, and Loc8 Codes

I am astonished that some so-called "logistics" companies are wasting time and money when there are easy technology options to help them get their job done. Last Wednesday I got an unintelligible voice mail at 2.30pm from someone who didn't identify himself. I was expecting a delivery from Imagine (more about this in a later post) and guessed from his accent and background noise that he was driving a van at the time he called - he must be from Imagine's "logistics" company.

Graphic copied from
Man and his Van, Sydney.
I called him back at about 4.30. He told me that he had called to find out where my address was. He was in the South Dublin area and wanted to deliver my package - but now he was on his way home and would not make the delivery. Imagine had told me that I would get a call from their "logistics" company to arrange a time for delivery. While I missed his call by two hours, I was at work and would not have been at home to accept the delivery anyway. Why did Imagine tell me one thing, and the "logistics" company do another?

The package (a Wimax box) was delivered on Saturday - I got a call from the "logistics" company van driver that he was in Dún Laoghaire and he wanted to deliver the package. I gave him directions and he was here in minutes - package delivered three days after first call. I noticed that his van did not have any markings on it - he is clearly an owner-driver (Man with a Van) trying to make a living. But - this so-called "logistics" company (Imagine's description, not mine) needs to get with the times.

Did this Man and his Van ever hear of a map? Shouldn't someone who does deliveries invest in a Sat Nav? He had to make two phone calls to find my address - I know phone calls are cheap, but surely this is adding to his costs (which ultimately I as a customer have to pay for)? Could Imagine not provide him with at least a map printed out that pin-points my address? After all - Imagine did provide my exact name and address, it was printed on the package cover.

Another possibility - use Loc8 codes.

Loc8 Codes were developed by GPS Ireland in 2006 and are now used with Garmin Sat Navs (just like they use post codes in the UK). John Kennedy, writing in the Silicon Republic, reporting back in July that an All-Ireland digital address code system goes live writes that the new Loc8 code "provides precise address information...and will be invaluable to businesses that need to deliver products and services across the island". This new system references map data from Ordnance Survey Ireland and Land and Property Services Northern Ireland, and has been developed by Cork-based company Loc8 Code Ltd in collaboration with Garmin Europe. For example, the Loc8 code that I use for NCI in my email signatures is NN5-10-VP7 (click on the code link to see how it works). You can even have separate Loc8 codes for different parts of a building, eg one for the front door, and another for deliveries at the back. Time for all "logistics" companies and every Man with a Van to modernize. I predict Loc8 codes will change the way we do deliveries in Ireland - and not before time too. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Facebook friends: Is this principal going too far? has a report on Facebook friends: Is this principal going too far? by Claire Knight dated 3rd October last. The report refers to a school principal, John Hoving of All Saints Central School in Bay City, Michigan, who created a facebook profile to "promote the school...connect with alumni,... and increase communication with parents". Hoving accepts "friend" requests from students, but some parents say that he is using facebook to "to monitor students’ online activity". Knight's report asks some serious questions - for example, what would happen if "parents who have an issue with the principal’s actions really want him to ignore potential problems — especially when he has an opportunity to protect their children before something happens?".

facebook is not a dangerous technology - as some would have it. Today in a tutorial I was checking on two students who were working on a group project to create a marketing campaign. One student practically ignored me while he was reading and adding messages to his facebook page right in front of me. First, I am impressed by his student's ability to multi-task. I chose to ignore the rudeness of his actions and also not to read his messages, but instead turned this event into a project related matter - I said "why not use facebook for your marketing campaign?". A blank look immediately followed! We then discussed how to use facebook Advertising to target people with certain profiles (eg - a marketing campaign by a wedding dress shop aimed at young single women in Ireland aged 25-35). For a few minutes I felt cool! And I'm sure the students will use facebook for their project.

My own personal rule is that I never accept facebook friend requests from my students - regardless of age. I just don't feel comfortable doing this. Most of my students are in their late teens or early twenties, and I don't accept that it is right for me (more than twice their age) to be their "friend". When they graduate - maybe. I don't use facebook, other than that my Blogger and Linkedin posts automatically update my facebook page. I feel that it is more a young person's technology. Hey entrepreneurs - how about a facebook for older people?

Despite his best intentions, I feel that Principal Hoving has got his facebook strategy wrong. He can use school based tools such as Blackboard, Moodle, or Elgg to set up a school-based social network to "promote the school...connect with alumni,... and increase communication with parents". facebook is personal and is, I believe, for young people. They need their space and privacy - we educators should step back from joining such student social networks.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ed Walsh wants school budget for Irish to be halved - I agree

Today's Sunday Independent contains a report by Shane Ross and Nick Webb that Dr Ed Walsh (he of UL fame) proposes that the "€1.2bn a year spent on teaching the Irish language in schools should be halved". Walsh prefers to money to be spent on other subjects such as "Chinese, French and German", and he proposes that Irish be compulsory for just the first three years of secondary education.

I agree with this suggestion. I am a long time advocate for the removal of compulsory Irish from our secondary education system. I and millions of Irish students hated it in school. I can safely say that I never needed to speak Irish since the day I left secondary school in June 1977. Make it optional for those who want it - but shoving it down the throats of generations of Irish students does not work. Perhaps banning it would generate a revival? Perhaps if we all adopted it for everyday use, nobody outside of Ireland would understand us and we could fool them that we don't have a Recession?

Photo from UL web site.
But what of our culture and sense of Irishness? Walsh's view is "we should broaden the teaching of the language to include Irish culture. But let those who are not enthusiastic about Irish drop out after primary school". None of us will feel less Irish for want of being able to speak Irish beyond a "cúpla focal". I even claimed to be a patriot in a post last week - while I was not thinking about Irish at all, I still view myself as Irish despite my inability to speak our first language (despite 13 years of learning it in primary and secondary school). 

In these financially difficult times we have to decide where our limited resources should be spent. Is it right or ethical that educational services such as special needs for some students are cut back while we plough money into a dead language? Schools are crying out for computers and roof leaks to be fixed, but Irish gets €1.2 billion a year! One thing I teach my Project Management students is that they will need to learn how to prioritize very quickly - in Ireland today the Irish language is slipping down the priority ladder (or matrix as I teach in class). Our political parties (with the probable exception of Sinn Féin) should tackle this - believe me, it will not cost them too many votes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lessons From the Chile Miners

The human spirit is sometimes a wonder to behold, as the news this week of the rescue of the Chilean Miners from the San José mine made headlines all over the world. I watched some of the live pictures on Sky News and couldn't help feel joy for the miners and delight for the Chilean nation. 

Photo from The Santiago Times.
Two months is a long time to spend in the same place - let alone 700 metres underground in the company of 32 other men. The photo to the right of the last miner rescued Luis Urzua with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera shows what it means to be free after such an ordeal. A fantastic story that the Chileans themselves, despite the cost. It is estimated by The Santiago Times  to be about $20 million US dollars - this is $1 million more that the company (San Esteban Primera) which runs the mine owes in total debt.

I looked for an educational angle in the miners experience - did they use the time to learn some new skill, take classes, or teach one another new ideas and concepts? I have not found that they had any formal education underground. I think this would have been a wonderful opportunity for learning from each other as well as from above ground. This would have been the ultimate test for Distance Education - a virtual classroom underground would have been some story

I took a brief look around the Web for some stories and learnings from the miners. Steve Tobak writes in BNET (CBS's Interactive Business Network) on 4 Leadership Lessons From the Chile Miners. Like us all, Steve is inspired by how they organized, supported each other, and in my mind, demonstrated the very best of what the human race is capable of doing under extremely challenging conditions. He also gives us four leaderships lessons as follows (read article for full details):
  1. Humans really are at their best under extreme adversity
  2. Leadership, management, and organization are not just business concepts
  3. Embracing emotion aids survival
  4. Democratic organizations or “social collectives” where everyone has a voice are inherently problematic

Friday, October 15, 2010

Falling off my bicycle - Lessons Learned

Its been many years since I fell off my bicycle, but it happened yesterday on the way home at the Newtownpark Avenue/Monkstown Ring Road junction near my home. I had come to the lights which were red, but noticed that the pedestrian lights had just turned from green to orange. Knowing the sequence of these lights well, I knew that seconds away I would be able to continue on a green light - so I tried to keep my bicycle upright and slow moving (almost stopped) so that I could take off quickly. Unfortunately, the orange seemed to stay on for so long that I eventually had to put my foot down to stabilize myself, but fell over as I could not get my right foot out from the pedal strap quickly enough. Over on my arse! A very pretty woman came to my rescue and helped me up - nobody else did (they were possibly already in shock seeing a cyclist stop at a red light). With a bloody knee and wounded pride, I continued my journey home. The bike was OK too!

We are always told that we never forget how to ride a bike (yet silly things like above happen). Neuroscientists at the University of Aberdeen even claim to have found out why this is so - see article Scientists discover why we never forget how to ride a bicycle. Apparently they have "identified a key nerve cell in the brain that controls the formation of memories for motor skills such as riding a bicycle". 

Mistakes also happen, so I reckon that I should reflect on my small accident and see what I can learn from it - so here are my learnings from this episode:
  • Don't forget - bikes fall over if they are not moving
  • 51 year olds are not good at balancing a non-moving bike -I am not Seán Kelly
  • Falling over your bicycle is still a good way to attract good-looking women
  • I am now worried that the "key nerve cell" in my brain is not working properly
  • It's only a small accident - get over it
  • It might be safer to keep going rather than stopping (like 99.999% of cyclists do anyway)
  • And finally I should re-consider my decision not to wear a helmet on the bicycle

Monday, October 11, 2010

Patriotism, Treason, and Traitors

I have noticed that the rhetoric used in the media recently has stepped up a notch with words like "patriotism", "traitors", and "treason" being bandied about. Sensationalist headlines add to the fervour of this type of angry rhetoric.

First - some definitions (all from
  • Patriotism: devoted love, support, and defense of one's country; national loyalty
  • Treason: the offense of acting to overthrow one's government or to harm or kill its sovereign
  • Traitor: person who commits treason by betraying his or her country
...some easy to understand definitions I think you'll agree.

Paddy Woodworth in the Examiner newspaper of 1st October last writes: "Suck it up and shut up is the message to the taxpayer" in which he states: "I WONDER if you feel as sick as I do? And as scared? And as helpless? I would like to add "and as angry?" but I have just learned that I must not give any more space to that unpatriotic emotion". Woodworth's article is well worth a read - it is calm anger at its best. As he puts it - there's nothing wrong with being angry at what has happened to our wonderful country, and it is not being unpatriotic to suggest so. Hell - I am angry along with everyone else.

Photo from Bernie Goldback's Inside View.
The Irish Daily Star in a headline last March, thinks that some people should be shot! If I'm not mistaken - they also had a headline with "Traitors" on it recently, I searched the web for a copy of this but could not find it. Strong stuff from the Star. To suggest that they are traitors is a bit far fetched according to the definitions above, to suggest that they should be shot is equally far fetched. I know anger is an extreme emotion, but I also know that decisions should not be made when you are angry - better to decide in the cold calculated non-angry aftermath. We should also remember that revenge is not satisfactory - we might feel better for a while, but not for long. How would we feel as a Nation if the news tomorrow morning reported that Fitzpatrick and Fingleton had just been executed at dawn in Kilmainham Jail - not good for a society that traditionally shuns capital punishment. Yet it is a fabric of our current situation that rags such as the Daily Star spout this nonsense in an effort to make people feel better (and of course to sell more papers). Shame on them for spouting this shite.

Finally, the Irish Times had a recent poll - Does the Government have a mandate to introduce a four year budgetary plan? Someone called "Maggie" responds (and gets up my goat): 

No it doesn't. It doesn't have a mandate to do anything. But watch what will happen - if/when an election is called the auld boyos will still be voting for the FFers. I think it's time to make being a supporter of FF a treasonable offence.

Strong stuff also I think you'll agree. Well my message to "Maggie" is "fuck you" for calling me a traitor. I love my country and do not seek to harm or kill anyone. I have voted #1 for Mary Hanafin of Fianna Fáil - an honest, able, and good politician in my view, in recent general elections. I will continue to vote for her - and I (and no doubt a few more thousand Dún Laoghaire voters) will also support her and her party. I do not see better or more able candidates in our constituency. "Traitors" we certainly are not. You are of course entitled to your (stupid) opinion, but fuck you again.

The value of patriotism is not just a love for our country - but the deeds we make on our country's behalf. John F. Kennedy puts it nicely as I suggest in my published letter to The Irish Times of 13th April last. It is what we do rather than what we think as a nation that counts. As a society, we are descending to the gutter if we think that hanging or shooting a few bad guys will cure all our ills. We need to be more mature than that - alas, maturity is in short supply at the moment.

So my message to the media (who will certainly not listen), and to the "Maggies" of this world is this: think before you publish your vile shite - some of us "auld boyos" get on with our jobs, pay tax, do not preach treason, and are not traitors. We are above all this - let's behave accordingly.

Apologies for the bad language in this post - but it is possible to use bad language and still be patriotic. According to the definitions above, I am a patriot, am not a traitor, and have not committed treason.

We should reclaim "Éireann go Brágh", and believe it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lessons to Learn - Well Said Mick Fallon!

It's open season on Brian Cowen - even his school days in Cistercian College Roscrea (where we were classmates from 1972 to 1977) are being dragged up. Terence Cosgrove wrote in the Sunday Independent on 19th September last that Cowen beat me up when I was 12, so what? In a peculiar article, Cosgrove (who I do not recall) writes that Brian Cowen  "beat the living daylights out of" him and at the same time states that he doesn't blame him for all this and that he doesn't "have the slightest bit of bitterness towards him". He goes on to describe a lively school debate where Cowen continuously "heckled and interrupted" another speaker, after which he got "wild cheering and clapping". As it was a school debate, no doubt I was there - but I do not remember his antics of speaking through the chair (literally), or anything else about the debate. I do remember Brian Cowen being an excellent and passionate debater in both Irish and English debates.

Brian Cowen in the 1970's.
Photo from RTÉ.IE.
Why does Terence Cosgrave drag this up from the past? Making a statement like "BRIAN Cowen beat the living daylights out of me", and then passing it off as he "wasn't the only boy who gave a younger one a thumping", seems odd to me. The article was written in the aftermath of Cowen's Morning Ireland interview, and Cosgrove's message was he got over his beating, so get over Cowen's performance on the radio. Very mixed messages.

A letter writer to the Sunday Independent of 26th September, Anne Lawlor, in responding to the article, moans that the people who are running our country are "nothing more than bullies and cowards". She further states that "boys will be boys...we need grown-ups, though, to run the country -- small wonder it's in the mess it is". So she is making a connection between an incident in 1977 and the mess the country is in today. I thought it was the banks and property developers who are responsible for this "mess" - but no it seems it's because "boys will be boys"!

Dr Michael Fallon, in a letter to the Sunday Independent of October 3rd last, strikes a more carefully thought out and factual response to Cosgrove's article - Lessons to learn. Dr Fallon (Mick as we knew him) was also a classmate of ours, and he recalls an excellent educational environment where debate was encouraged. He writes that "Roscrea simply wasn't that kind of school" to the impression that Cosgrove gives about the school and Brian Cowen. Like Mick, I recall excellent teachers "whose enthusiasm and dedication, nurtured very successful English and Irish debating teams". Also like Mick, I remember Brian Cowen as a boy who "had no need for cheap gimmicks -- his knowledge, wit, passionate delivery and, above all, his ability to see through waffle, made him a formidable opponent".

Well said Mick Fallon!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

John Lennon's Birthday

John Lennon was born on the 9th October 1940 and would be 70 today if that bastard Mark Chapman had not shot him on 8th December 1980. It's hard to believe that he was only 40 when he died - I'm not the only one who still finds this hard to believe. In today's New York Post, Andy Soltis writes, in an article entitled Still hard to imagine he's gone, that "Yoko Ono said she still hasn't come to terms" with his death.

I'm listening to Imagine as I write this. He is one of my most listened to artists on my iPod - I never tire of hearing either his songs as a solo artist, or as a Beatle. Google have marked his birthday with an excellent "Google Doodle", which is available on YouTube - click video below to see.

Imagine no possessions, 
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger, 
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people,
Sharing all the world.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Launch of O2 Affinity Scheme

The O2 Affinity Scheme that will provide support for students with disabilities and the excellent Disabilities Support Service at NCI was formally launched in the College this morning. We have seen a big increase in the number of students with disabilities attending the College this year, so this Affinity Scheme is more than worthy of our support.

Danuta Gray Speaking at Launch.
Danuta Gray spoke of behalf of O2 who are very committed to supporting the scheme. As she pointed out, O2 do not simply give money away, they want their customers to be "involved", and make the commitment to support their various Affinity schemes.

To add your support to the scheme, it is very simple. If you are an O2 customer you can freetext NCI to 50308. There is no charge for this service, and O2 will donate 5% from each text message to the Scheme. It does not cost you anything, and you will be helping a very worthy cause. 

Please pass on this message to your Twitter, Linkedin, MySpace, Facebook, etc - and get your friends and family to join in.

A Long Week

It has been a long week which started out with the funeral of my brother-in-law Jim Kelleher. My post about him has attracted three times the normal levels of traffic to this blog, with over 300 views on Tuesday and Wednesday alone. I was surprised to find that most of this traffic came from Facebook - my blog posts also feed into my Facebook page, but apart from that I don't use it much. Thanks to all for the very kind comments about the post to Jim - some are on the blog post (just click the "Comments" link), while I have also received many comments by phone and text message. I have refrained from blogging since Monday to make it easy for folks to find the post, and as a tribute to Jim. Rest in Peace Jim.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Jim Kelleher 1953 - 2010

Jim Kelleher died on October 2nd last at the young age of 57 after a long battle with cancer. He is my dear sister Kathleen's husband of almost 29 years, and was like a brother to Joe, Brian, and me. I know too that he was like a son to my Mum Phil, and my Dad Joe. He will be sadly missed by many people - his friends, neighbours, colleagues, and the Kelleher family. His funeral today was a beautiful ceremony with lots of music. Requiem Mass was said by his brother Fr Connie, and his brother Humphrey delivered a moving, as well as a warm tribute to Jim. He was laid to rest in Danesfort Cemetery, near his home in Kells, Co Kilkenny.

When I got home this evening I looked through my collection of photos, Jim was very fond of family and loved coming to the O'Loughlins' various homes, and we enjoyed his company on many occasions. Family gatherings will not be the same again. I have selected a few photos to make up the following short video, and have added audio of my Dad singing "If I can Help Somebody", which was one of Jim's favourite songs. Dad sang this again today at mass with my brother Joe:

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam. 

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Welcome to the Next Generation Broadband experience - Bollox!

Here is part of an email I received three days ago from Eircom:

Dear customer,

Congratulations, you have been moved onto our new eircom Next Generation Broadband service. You can now enjoy the uncongested Up to 8Mb Next Generation experience for no extra charge!


eircom broadband support

I did a speed check using just now (9.30am) - here is the result:

Now that a long way off "uncongested Up to 8Mb". So I called Eircom Tech Support for help who informed me that the line to my local exchange only supports 4MB, and that the remaining loss is due to me talking to him on the phone (which is using the same phone line as broadband connection)!

This type of thing drives me fucking crazy. I was delighted to get the email above which is a legit non-spam email  from eircom. Wouldn't you think that they would know about the line's limitations? Wouldn't you think that they would run a check on the line before sending the email to me? A computer can do this in seconds.

I'm now officially in the market to change phone and broadband connection - the next WiMAX salesman who calls to my house will get a warm reception from me. If you know anybody in this business - please pass on this lead to them.

eircom - you had your chance to keep me. I waited a long time for the "Next Generation experience for no extra charge", but you blew it. There is NO DIFFERENCE in my broadband connection, so stop telling me one thing and doing another. All talk, loads of PR, lots of ads, a nice email - but no action. How do companies get away with this?

Friday, October 01, 2010

My blurred out face on Google Street View

Google street view was launched in Ireland yesterday, and I'm sure I was the only person in Ireland to immediately look up the view of their own house. If you try hard enough, you can find out where I (or anyone else) live and look at my house for yourself - so here is the street view of where I live:

You can see my car (the red VW Golf), and you can also see me! I spotted the Google car going up my road (which is a cul-de-sac), as I was cleaning my daughter Claire's car in the driveway. So I made sure I was out on the path when it was coming back down. Sure enough, all reg plates and faces are blurred out, but I can recognize myself, Roma and Vicki, quite easily. I recall giving the driver a thumbs up as he passed by.

Curiously, the view from directly outside my house does not have any of the three of us in it - in fact it shows me at the boot of the car in the driveway. You can see clearly where one photo ends and another one starts by looking at the blue Honda and the house next door. I don't think that someone in Google edited us out - I note in neighbouring streets other people standing outside their houses. I presume they use a mixture of photos to make up the view from their 3D type camera.

I love Google Street View, and think we should welcome it. After checking out my own street, I also had a fantastic virtual "walk" down some of the country roads and lanes where I grew up in Ballingate (near Carnew in Co Wicklow). I can now do this any time I want - thank you Google! Here's a view of where my sister, two brothers, and I used to wait for the bus to take us to Carnew N.S. in the mornings: