Monday, November 29, 2010

What have the Government ever done for us?

The Sunday papers yesterday were full of news about a poll by the Sunday Business Post that shows Fianna Fáil "at lowest ever support" - 17%. This could lead mean that "Fianna Fáil could face a humiliating defeat" in the next General Election. The Business Post also reports that "Support for Fine Gael (33 per cent) and Labour (27 per cent) remains strong, with Enda Kenny on course to lead the next government". Well - we live in a democracy - so be it.

Let me get this out of the way first - I do support the call for an early general election, and agree with the Business Post's assessment above of the likely outcome. I am, however, fed up of all the various commentators, pundits, experts, and lobby groups consistently spouting "The Government is doing nothing for (insert your name/cause here)". Just do a Google search for "The Government is doing nothing" and you'll see what I mean. This got me thinking - do Brians Cowen and Lenehan get up in the morning and say "I'm going to do nothing today for (insert your name/cause here)"? Monty Python famously asked a similar question in "The Life of Brian" - here's one of the funniest clips you'll ever see:

So - what have our government ever done for us? "Nothing" I hear you say!

What about the M50 extension recently completed? Or the roads to Cork, Galway, Waterford, and Limerick? The new Convention Centre? The Aviva Stadium? The Port Tunnel? Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport? By-passes all over the country? New buses and trains?

Or one of the highest rates of social welfare in Europe? Or the second highest minimum wage? Free medicines (until recently when a 50c charge was introduced) for all medical card holders and older people? Free transport for over 66 year olds? Free libraries all over the country? Free museums and parks?

And of course free education for every child who needs it? Teachers, specials needs assistants, facilities for disabled learners, increased spending on technology?

Who provides all the doctors, nurses, Gardaí, prison officers, defence forces, and health services?

So I ask you - what has the government ever done for us?

Before you hit the comment button (I will publish all comments) - I do agree that much of the above could be done better. We take a lot for granted, but I do think that comments such as "The Government is doing nothing..." are wide of the mark.

There - I finally said it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our snowman!

Is there anything more fun than making a snowman with your family? This afternoon, Vicki, Claire, and I decided to make a snowman in our back garden. We had about three inches of very powdery snow, which meant we had plenty for our snowman, and a few snowballs! I had great fun with the girls - sadly, we have had very few opportunities over the past 20 years to do this, this amount of snow being rare in Dublin. It's one of those things I envy people in other climates, who can do this with their kids all the time. I know it brings hardship for some people, but I still love to see it. Even though I am 51 years old, snow still brings out the kid in me - I can't resist any target with a snowball.

Now - going to work tomorrow will not be such fun. We had snow in January earlier this year during which I fell on my arse outside Salthill DART station. Must be careful!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snow in November!

Snow in my back garden.
Last night I was woken up twice by thunder, and this morning got up early to see some snow on the ground - I'm guessing about 1". Not much, but snow in November is not that common here. While it is worse in other parts of the country, there is not enough to cause any disruption here in Dublin - or is there? The are no DART services because of the snow - I wonder how 1" of snow stops an entire railway service? I was out early in the car and was glad to see that the main roads around here had been gritted over night. 

I did witness an accident when a driver going too fast at a bend in a Merc SUV crashed into the back of a parked car right outside my house. No one was hurt, I'm glad to report that the driver, after inspecting the damage to his own car first followed by another inspection of the parked car, knocked on No 33 to fess up. The owners promptly moved their car into their own driveway. I guess the tinted windows in the SUV blocked out all the white snow so that the idiot driver felt that warnings to drive carefully in the snow did not apply to him.

It's a day for in front of the fire!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

From the campus to the dole queue

Student Excellence Awards were presented at the National College of Ireland today, and I finished a class early to attend. The award for both Best First Year Student and best Third Year Student went to students (Brian S and Darren O'N respectively) from the B.A. in Management of Technology in Business - much of my teaching in on this programme. Many congratulations to both students, and all the other worthy winners of their respective awards. Students are presented with a certificate, and get their photos posted on the Atrium wall for a year (plus of course the added value of having something really worthwhile on their CV).

There is now considerable difficulty for new graduates in getting jobs. Last Tuesday the Irish Times published a report "From the campus to the dole queue" - the report describes the experiences of three recent graduates. Sad that such talented students cannot find work. At my own College's recent Graduation Ball, all the students I talked to at one table had no job and were just about to emigrate to Australia or Canada. While I envy them the opportunity to travel and work abroad, I know that the streets of Sydney and Toronto are not paved with gold either. Good luck to them all - I do feel that they are better off out of this country for a few years. The world is now a lot smaller than it was. I dread the day when my own daughters have to make a similar decision.

I do sometimes wonder if my own efforts as a Lecturer at third level are being wasted as we (Ireland) educate graduates for the emigration trail. I think not - work and travel abroad is only part of a person's development. Going to College is a significant step in personal development. Long may it continue!

Some graduate unemployment figures from the Irish Times report - they make for stark reading: 

The number of people unemployed in Ireland in September, representing a jobless rate of 13.7 per cent. This is one of the highest unemployment rates in the developed world.
The number of unemployed graduates, according to recent report of the Union of Students in Ireland
The percentage of 2009 graduates describing themselves as unemployed, according to a survey conducted by UCD Students Union
The number of graduates set to leave Ireland every week, according to a USI estimate
The number of graduates set to emigrate in the next five years

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mise Éire

This morning I caught a few notes of Seán Ó Riada's most famous composition "Róisín Dubh" (meaning "Black Rose") on RTÉ Radio 1, which was also used as the theme music to the 1960 Irish film "Mise Éire (meaning "I am Ireland"). I love this music and always think of the time in school in the 1970's when the film was shown to us boys - it tells the story of Ireland (in Irish) from the 1890's to 1918. While the film, and Ó Riada's music, were unquestionably designed to stir up patriotism in the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the 1916 rising - it always sends a shiver down my spine when I hear this piece of music. While listening to this I can thrust out my chest in a little bit of Irish pride.

Below are two YouTube videos featuring Ó Riada's music. The first shows Matt Cunningham playing Róisín Dubh on tin whistle - brilliant. The second is a clip from the beginning of the Mise Éire film posted by a 65-year old YouTube user "rasherst" (Jim) who also has posted other parts of the film. So here's some reminders of some of the things we can be proud of as Irish people...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book Review: A. Lincoln by Ronald C. White Jr.

Abraham Lincoln is considered by many, including me, to be one of the greatest leaders of all time. Many biographies have been written about him, as well as many books about the American Civil war. This is the second biography of Lincoln that I have read - seven years ago I read Jan Morris's "Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest". This (rather light-weight) book left me wanting to read more about Lincoln, but it has taken me quite a while to get around to it.

Image from
Ronald C. White Jr writes a fantastic account, not just of Lincoln's life, but there is also some fascinating examination of the words and prose of Lincoln's most famous speeches. For popular history readers, this is an easy to read book. While it has over 60 pages of references at the end, it is not too academic and is written with lightness in mind. This book should have a wide audience, even for those who are familiar with Lincoln's life and death. White does not over dramatize anything - even Lincoln's assassination which is described in just one page.

While Lincoln is remembered for preserving the Union and freeing the slaves, White also paints a picture of a man who changed his opinions as war ravaged the country and slavery became more central to victory or defeat. However, White also points out (p276) that in 1858 Lincoln stated, in a debate with his rival for the presidency Stephen Douglas, in Charleston "I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people". By the end of the war he had emancipated the slaves, even though by today's standards the above statement would be regarded as an extreme form of racism. 

Lincoln's speeches still resonate today, and are expertly dissected by White. In his short (10 sentences) Gettysburg address he concluded: "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth". Oh how I wish that leadership of this quality was in evidence in poor old Ireland today. 

In his inauguration speech in 1865 Lincoln is also famously quoted as saying "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations". Hugely emotive words that Ronald White describes as Lincoln asking his audience to "enter a new era, armed not with enmity but with forgiveness". While this was said after the end of the Civil War, and we are not at war in Ireland today - I think that our future leader, whoever he or she is, could do worse that read Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address and his 1865 inaugural address. For that matter, they should also read this book by Ronald White - inspiration and leadership are on every page.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The House of Cards is Falling - Each Man for Himself!

After a calamitous and dramatic weekend for Ireland - it is now clear that it is "each man for himself". I have  heard this afternoon that the Green Party calls for election to be held at end of January - effectively pulling the plug on Fianna Fáil. Perhaps this is a last ditch attempt to claim some credit for bringing down the Government. Those old reliable independents (Healy-Rae, Lowry withdraw support) are also looking to their own electoral back yards. A budget that the country needs badly to be passed is now under threat. But that doesn't seem to bother "I'm all right" Jackie and "honest" Micheal - but their limp thunder has been stolen by the Greens.

We are Irish!
Image from Wikipedia.
So - an election at last! It's every man for himself now as the race to claim no responsibility for the economic mess we're in will reach epidemic proportions between now and polling day. Some people are already setting the pace with anti-Fianna Fáil sentiment. One commentator in an Irish Times Poll Do you agree with the Green Party's decision to pull out of Government? writes that "Only a fool would vote for Fianna Fáil. We will see in January how many fools there are in Ireland", while another writes "Fantastic, I would vote for Vlad The Impaler to see the back of Fianna Fail". Expect to see a lot more of these very intelligent and helpful comments. Brian Cowen came out fighting in the press conference this evening - but it is the last Hurrah of his doomed administration.

I'm looking forward to writing about the election campaign, which might be as late as next March - I have only blogged about the Lisbon Treaty Referendum before. My archive shows no comment on the 2007 election. Right now there is an overwhelming desire by voters to get rid of Fianna Fáil at all costs. But look around you folks - are you prepared for a government run by Enda Kenny and Eamonn Gilmore? Perhaps their greatest electoral asset at the moment is they are not Fianna Fáil!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Flickr and Family Photos

I was surprised to find that I did not have a Flickr account - I thought I was connected to everything! So I've created a new account and have uploaded my first set of photos. A few weeks ago I had my work colleague Bonnie Cullen take some family photos at the Dublin Camera Club studio - here's a slideshow of some of her excellent work with Roma, Claire, Kate, Vicki, and myself as her subjects:

Bonnie Cullen is a published photographer and has her own Flickr photostream here - check it out for some fantastic photos.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Some photos of Roma the Builder in Cape Town

Today is Roma's last full day with the Niall Mellon Trust in South Africa. She begins her long journey home tomorrow, hopefully arriving back in Dublin early on Sunday morning. I spoke to her last evening and while she is exhausted from all the physical work, her spirits are very high. There are many photos located on the November Building Blitz website and Flickr. I have spotted a few so far that feature Roma (click to see larger versions):

Up Mayo!
Roma fourth from right.
Roma with Nozibusiso Zuma, daughter of
the South African President Jacob Zuma.
Roma (with water bottle) and
colleagues form the grey team.
Roma mixing mortar!

The township where she and the 750 volunteers are working is located in Wallacedene - you can see where this is on the following Google Map - check it out on street view and you'll get an idea of the conditions that township residents live in:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Mouse That Roared

There isn't a more profitable undertaking for any country than to declare war on the United States, and to be defeated.

Prime Minister of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick - Count Rupert Mountjoy.

In 1955, Irish American writer Leonard Wibberley wrote a satirical novel about the Cold War entitled "The Mouse That Roared". In 1959 this was turned into a film of the same name starring Peter Sellers and (the tragic) Jean Seberg. The theme of the film is based on a crisis in Grand Fenwick when its wine industry is threatened which would result in a total collapse of their economy. Learning lessons from the Marshall Plan which was funded largely by the US for the rebuilding of Europe after World War II, the Prime Minister of Grand Fenwick decides that the only way out of the economic mess was to declare on the US and deliberately lose. Reconstruction funds would surely follow. To get a flavour for what the movie is about, here's the movie trailer from YouTube:

Sadly for Grand Fenwick, the plan didn't quite work. In their only act of war their army of 24 men unintentionally captures the Q bomb which could destroy the world if detonated. The US has no choice but to surrender.

So - I have a plan to get Ireland out of the current economic mess. Let's declare war on someone now!
  • Would this plan work for Ireland today? 
  • Should we declare war on the United States and hope for a new Marshall Plan that would follow after our inevitable defeat? 
  • Can our former Celtic Tiger (which is surely no more than a mouse now) roar again?
  • What single act should we do to provoke war? 
  • What would happen if we accidentally won the war?
We know the USA is a big and rich country - so they would be the best target. But I'm not really that fussy about who we declare war on. The UK or Germany would also be good bets - anyone with money will do. To start the war we must make a declaration. This should be done by President McAleese after midnight so that the declaration would make prime time news in America. 

We then need a small army, cleverly disguised as tourists, to invade and strike a blow for economic freedom. The army should be lead by General Jack "Put 'em under pressure" Charlton. We will have few weapons - so we'll have to resort to threatening to bore the Americans to death. I have a lot of choice for the "Death by Boredom" squad leader, but I've selected Enda Kenny to do this. Transport - that's easy, it will have to be economy all the way, so Michael O'Leary will be in charge of this. Ben Dunne will be in charge of provisioning the army with beans on toast. The cook will be Darina Allen who can also double as a mascot and add a bit of class. Tesco will provide the necessary communications infrastructure, ie a mobile phone with €10 credit. Infantry should be made up of a team that never wins anything - the Kilkenny footballers or the Wicklow hurlers come to mind. The Wicklow lads might be best if they promise to bring along their hurleys as weapons. We'll also need a diplomat to negotiate our surrender - Dustin the Turkey would surely make the required balls of this. Finally, Michael Fingleton and Seán Fitzpatrick will make up the suicide bomber squad.

So what would this motley crew of Ireland's finest actually do as an act of war before the surrender? Well I thought about what Americans value and I've decided that Irish army should occupy the Statue of Liberty in New York and threaten to blow it up. This would provoke a confrontation with a SWAT team who will demand our immediate surrender. Job done!

We can't afford to win the war (where would we put all the prisoners?), so it is essential that it ends in our surrender. Next - simply wait for the American occupation of Ireland and an Obama Plan for our recovery.


If CIA terrorist threat detection software is doing its job, this post may show up on their radar because I wrote "declare war on the United States" above - sorry for wasting your time. Don't worry - your national security is safe from me and my tongue-in-cheek rantings.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

YouTube - The T-Mobile Welcome Back

Today is a dreary day with nothing but bad news. Our country is in a precarious situation - eg, EU/IMF to commence talks on rescue plan for Ireland. Looks like we're fucked. Like everybody in Ireland today, I worry constantly about our great country (at least to me I have always felt that Ireland is a great country). Also like everyone else I am very worried about my own job security - nothing is safe. I believe that I am experiencing the same depressing worries as everyone else. How much worse will things get before they get better? Today I feel more pessimistic about the future than I ever have had before.

Today (via Twitter) I viewed a great "feel good" video - an ad for T-Mobile set in Heathrow Airport, the theme is "Welcome back". Sadly this type of video would have more of a "Goodbye" feeling if it was set in Dublin Airport today.

However, on a bad day for our country - at least this video (and several other T-Mobile videos) cheered me up for a few minutes...

God (please) save Ireland. I welcome British and EU moves to save us - it's clear we can't save ourselves. It's good to know that our European friends and neighbours are prepared to, as well as want to, save us. I'm not an economist, and I know fuck all about banking and finance - I have to trust in others. 

But - for fuck sake who can I trust? Brian Cowen, Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore, and John Gormley - I trust you not. 

Who do I trust? I never thought I would say this, but the people I trust right now are the likes of Sinn Féin, and the leftiest of lefties - Joe Higgins. At least they say what they mean, and practice what they preach. I'm sick of fat cats bleeding the country dry, and I'm tired of the never ending political point scoring of "blame somebody else", "it's not our fault", and "we didn't benefit from the boom".

Tomorrow I will write about "The Mouse that Roared" as a solution to our problems,

Monday, November 15, 2010

FAI Cup Final

What a great advertisement for Irish football - yesterday's FAI Cup final in the Aviva Stadium had drama a plenty. I decided to head off to the match to see Shamrock Rovers vs Sligo Rovers - I was in time to beat the big queues for tickets and got a great seat on the West Stand for €10. With a crowd of over 36,000 present, it was a good day for the FAI with probably the largest crowd to see two League of Ireland teams play for a very long time.

Despite the cold (I was actually shivering near the end - I can't remember the last time that happened!) both Rovers teams served up a cracking game - all that was missing were goals. It ended 0-0 after extra-time, which of course meant penalties. I have never been at a big game that ended in penalties - there was a lot of tension all around the stadium. Sligo keeper, Ciarán Keely proved the hero by making four magnificent saves in a row - Sligo won 2-0 on penalties. As an ex-goalkeeper myself, I was delighted to see the keeper making the decisive moves. I was also pleased to see that the goalkeepers union is still active - Kelly went over to the Shamrock Rovers keeper (Mannus) for a hand shake before he was mobbed by his team mates. The whole atmosphere was great - I was closest to the Sligo fans who were very colourful and made a lot of noise. I shot the following short clip with my iPhone at the start of the match:

I used to go to many League of Ireland and FAI cup matches in the early to mid 1980s. I lived in flats in Drumcondra for three years, and it was very close to Tolka Park, Dalymount Park, and Croke Park. I haven't been at a game featuring League of Ireland teams since before 1986 (when I got married). I am making a mental note to get along to a few more.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Broadband woes continue

I'm mad as hell over my access to broadband services. I have been with BT - RUBBISH. I have been with Clearwire - RUBBISH. I am currently with eircom - RUBBISH. I tried to change to Imagine - RUBBISH. Despite writing previously that I was Leaving eircom for good, I am still stuck with them. I suppose the thing that makes me the most mad is the fact that I am paying for an 8MB connection, but am getting only around 20% of that. A speed test this morning (using shows a 1.52MB download speed. According to this is less than half the average for eircom as the graphic below shows. Clearly eircom can provide a good service, but not to my house. results for
eircom server in Dublin.
Last Wednesday two Imagine engineers (the excellent Sam and Tomas) came to my house to install a booster on the outside wall. Imagine had informed me that I could avail of a 7MB WiMAX connection to the local hub in Deansgrange (1.3KM away). Previous efforts with an indoor-only reciver could not pick up a signal strong enough for 7MB - hence the booster solution. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, the Imagine engineers could not get a strong enough signal. I declined their offer to take a lower 3MB package.

So - it was back to eircom to try to find out why their service was so shite. eircom provide a Twitter support service (@eircomconnect) and the excellent Tony spotted my earlier post and had offered to help. Eventually, after much checking on his part, he discovered that the eircom line to my house could only support a 2MB connection, and that there was nothing more that he could do to help. Until recently I have been paying for "up to 3MB" with eircom (which is now supposed to be 8MB NGB) - I am close to making a formal complaint to eircom (I'll need to do this if I want to also complain to ComReg). 

How do companies like eircom get away with this persistent and blatant misleading nonsense? Imagine if Ryanair only flew you half way to your destination and forced you to get off! Imagine if a book you bought ended in the middle, or a movie closed down after half an hour! What if a restaurant told you to leave after you had your starters but had paid for a full meal? Supposing you paid for 50 litres of petrol, but only got 10! Finally, what if you paid for a dozen eggs but you only got 3 eggs! There would be míle murder - and rightly so. Yet we put up with it from the likes of eircom because we let them do it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Roma in Capetown

I dropped Roma off at the airport at 5am this morning - as I write she is on her way to Capetown (via Abu Dhabi and Johannesburg) to do volunteer work for the Niall Mellon Irish Township Trust. She will be working on blitz building new homes in the townships - the work will be long and hard, but rewarding too.

Over the past few months, Roma has been collecting donations from friends, family, and businesses. Her biggest fund-raising event was her parachute jump last August. Donations ranged from a few euro to a thousand euro. To date she has collected over €5,000, with some money still coming in. This money funds her trip and the building work involved.

A couple of years ago Roma promised herself that she would do this before she turned 50 - we thought she was mad! But she persevered and was really excited and delighted to be heading off this morning after such a long build up. She (and most others making the trip) has taken lots of goodies (lollypops!) and spare items from the Pharmacy for the people of the townships - her bag weighed a tonne.

Way to go Roma - we are so proud of you!

The NMT Blitz has a blog which you can follow here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Widespread Cheating Scandal Prompts Florida Professor to Issue Unusual Ultimatum

ABC News reports today on Widespread Cheating Scandal Prompts Florida Professor to Issue Unusual Ultimatum. This is a story where Prof Richard Quinn of the University of Central Florida discovered that "two hundred students, approximately one-third of the class of seniors, were believed to have received advanced copies of the exam. It was the largest cheating scandal in the university's history". Prof Quinn  "offered the students an ultimatum: Come clean and take a four-hour ethics course, and your records would be wiped clean. If they chose not to come forward, they'd run a risk" - see Prof Quinn's lecture from YouTube below:

So far about 75% of the "cheaters" have come forward. Interestingly, the video shows a student who states that cheating is OK because everyone cheats all the time in life! Dude - you are so not going to get a job when (if) you graduate.

I like the idea of giving the students a second chance. At least they will learn about the experience and will discover that learning is also about dealing with the consequences of making a big mistake like cheating on an exam. I recommend to the remaining students to "come clean and take a four-hour ethics course". First - is is a very small price to pay for what they did. Secondly, it will be a valuable life lesson - but be warned, don't go to the second chance well too often!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The top 100 best-paid in education - Does Not Include Me!

Oh dear - I did not make the list of The top 100 best-paid in education in last today's Irish Times! Sadly (for me) I cannot even come close to Professor BG Loftus, who is Dean of Medicine at NUI Galway, who makes a paltry  €112,610 per year, and who is positioned at #100 on the list.

Top of the list is Prof Des Fitzgerald, who is Vice-President for research in UCD, who earns €263,602 - even this salary is reduced from the €409,000 he earned last year. Interesting to see that the President of UCD (Dr Hugh Brady) earns €212,755 - a full €51,000/year less than the VP. That's €1,000/week less than someone who reports to him!

The Irish Times article goes on to state that:

The education sector has 95,554 full-time staff – about 27 per cent of total public sector employment. Of these, 59,000 are teachers, 10,400 are special-needs assistants and 20,000 work in third-level colleges. The cost of teacher salaries is €2.1 billion at primary and €1.9 billion at second level. The cost of pay in the university/IT sector is €1.3 billion. 

This by the way does not include staff at my own college - NCI ('cos we are outside the HEA).

Now what do I think of this? Not surprisingly, a huge amount of the Education budget goes on wages - if you look at the Irish Time article, you cannot wonder if is OK for an almost bankrupt country to be paying so many people such high salaries. The "universities say they need to pay the best to attract the best" - but my opinion is that if "the best" up-and-leave for richer pastures, there are plenty more (especially young and keen) academics ready to step into the breech. The job of a top-level academic can be done for a lot less - just look at the list and judge for yourself if (for example at random) Eamon Drea, who is Vice-president for staff (whatever that is) in UCD, is worth €202,913/year. Nice money if you can get it!

The Hunt Report is due out next month and must certainly examine the high salaries of top academics in Ireland. I do not begrudge individual academics what they earn, but in the current economic environment you don't need an MBA to figure out that we (Ireland) can't afford this. Sadly, I anticipate that it is the salaries of the mid (me) and lower paid academics that will be main targets for reduction. This bitter medicine will be a lot easier to take if the those at the top contribute a larger share.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Joe O'Loughlin Sings...

Joe O'Loughlin Snr (1954)
Quite a few people commented on my Dad's fine singing on the audio track of my memorial to my late brother-in-law Jim Kelleher. Dad was always a great singer and has a fine voice - he is still singing regularly in the Church Choir in Askamore. He can also be persuaded to sing at parties and family gatherings!

To hear both songs, click on the play button in the player below - the first song is "If I Can Help Somebody", the second is "Fr O'Flynn":

If you want to download these tracks, I have uploaded them to which is a free music hosting site. These were recorded in 1990 for a cassette tape called "Askamore Sings". Below are links from which you can download both of these tracks. They are in MP3 format so you can add them to the likes of iTunes - I have both tracks on my iPhone. Enjoy!

Download: "If I Can Help Somebody"

Download: "Fr O'Flynn"

A note about Copyright. The cassette is copyrighted to M.C.P.S. which is the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society. I guess I'm technically in breach of copyright by putting the songs on-line here. I truly hope that no one will be offended by this and that I will not be sued.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Graduations at NCI

This week was Graduation Week at NCI. I attended two out of three Graduation ceremonies - unfortunately missing a third where most of my own students were graduating. These are days when you can feel good about yourself - they don't happen very often, and should always be regarded as a major milestone in your life. 
The Graduation ceremony is a serious and formal occasion (though not as formal as Trinity where the entire ceremony is conducted in Latin). Us academics get to wear a gown - in my case it is the Trinity scarlet and gold gown that I wore for my Ph.D. graduation. All the students also wear gowns, and most also dress up for the occasion. While the ceremony is long, it is worth every minute as you see each student beaming when they receive their scroll - a very proud and special moment for all. Congratulations specifically to all students on the following programmes in which I taught many of the week's graduates:
  • M.Sc. in Learning Technologies
  • Higher Diploma in e-Business
  • B.A. (Hons) in Technology Management
  • B.A. (Ord) in Management of Technology in Business
  • B.A. (Hons) in Accounting and HRM
  • HETAC Certificate in Business Analysis
The week was rounded off nicely with the Graduation Ball which was held in the Clontarf Castle Hotel. We had a great evening and I was glad to be part of the students' celebrations. Next week - it's back to educating next year's graduates!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

George Siemens - "Questions I’m no Longer Asking"

I have been reading and following George Siemens (now of Athabasca University) for many many years and find that in addition to having plenty to say, he more often than not hits the nail on the head for me. My first ever conversation using Skype was with him back in 2004 - in fact I had to set up my Skype account just to do this. He is a most interesting and knowledgeable person who is well respected in the e-Learning community. 

George Siemens
(Photo from elearnspace).
So - when George writes in his latest blog post Questions I’m no Longer Asking, it's time to sit up and take notice. First - George is convinced (among many other things) that:
  • Learners should be in control of their own learning
  • Learners need to experience confusion and chaos in the learning process
  • Learning is network formation. Knowledge is distributed

He then poses some simple, but very much thought provoking questions - here's a selection of his questions (with his answers, my emphasis):
  • Is online learning more or less effective than learning in a classroom? Who cares.
  • Does technology use vary by age? Nonsensical
  • What role do blogs or microblogging [insert tool in question] play classroom or online learning? Any role you want
  • How can educators implement [whatever tool] into their teaching? Simple: do it.
A lot of research has been going on over the past few years in an effort to answer these questions. For example, the effectiveness of online learning vs classroom learning is a popular research topic for many of my MSc in Learning Technologies students. Siemens now finds these questions "boring" and that they "no longer interest" him. I too find many of the questions "boring" because they have been asked many times over the past few years and I have listened to many conference presentations on this theme. However, they still interest me - but I will keep George's thoughts in mind as I continue on my own journey through technology in education.

Finally, George finishes his post with two questions (what are your answers to these questions?):

Which questions are you no longer asking about the role of technology in learning?


Which questions about technology and learning are still relevant for educators to consider?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Book Launch: Patrick Pearse - The Making of a Revolutionary

Image from Amazon.
I attended the book launch of Dr Joost Augusteijn's new biography of Patrick Pearse at The Pearse Museum last Saturday. The launch was held in the recently opened Great Hall and kicked-off by Brian Crowley (director of the museum). He introduced Professor Mary Daly who formally launched the book. She gave an interesting speech about Pearse and gave us insights into some of the new material that is contained in the book. It is the first major biography on Pearse in 30 years (since Ruth Dudley Edwards' book - A Triumph of Failure, which I have previously reviewed), and is therefore an important contribution to the literature about Pearse.

Dr Augusteijn then spoke about how he came to write the book (which took him 10 years to do). He is a scholar on Irish history and has several publications on the IRA, War of Independence, and Ireland in the 1930's. He had not intended to write a biography, but over time this is what he ended up doing. He did not tell us much about the contents of the book - preferring (rightly) to let us read it ourselves. After his speech I got him to sign a copy of the book. I also had the opportunity to chat to the Director Brian Crowley, who is equally as passionate about Pearse.

I look forward to reading this book and to compare it with Dudley Edwards' controversial versions. I have several other books in my queue of books to read, but I will post a review when I have read it.

Monday, November 01, 2010

It's time to bring on the bangers or become mash (by Eoghan Harris)

I see Senator Eoghan Harris, also of the Sunday Independent, must be reading my Blog! Harris (surprisingly in my view) takes exception to the procession of Ministerial cars to Farmleigh las week. He writes in yesterday's Independent: "How can politicians be so blind to public perception as to arrive like an aristocracy at Farmleigh House?". He also states that politicians still have a "blind spot when it comes to sacrificing the trappings which they traditionally enjoyed", and he even copies my remark referring to "let them eat cake".

Cartoon from Sunday Independent.
Perhaps I struck a cord with my previous post Running the country from the back of a van - Del Boy for Taoiseach! OK - maybe Senator Harris does not read my blog, but I was attracted to reading his article after seeing the cartoon of Brian Cowen in a banger being pushed by Brian Lenihan, and followed by Mary Coughlan on her bike. Harris does not let up with just attacking the Government - he aims at all politicians when he writes that public "anger is aimed at politicians of all parties".

Finally - I see that some Ministers are getting the message! Four ministers hand in luxury cars in exchange for Volkswagen Passats. This sounds like a good idea - pity it is happening in Kenya and not here! (via @brianlucey from the Kenya Daily Nation Newspaper).