Monday, October 31, 2011

The World at Seven Billion: What's your number?

Today the world's population reached seven billion - it's astonishing that so many people could exist on one planet at the same time. At the time I was born in 1959, the world population was just under three billion - so it has more than doubled in my lifetime. There's obviously a lot of sex going on!

The BBC have an interesting site where you can calculate where you fit in this population growth. Just enter your date of birth and it will do the rest - here's my data:

Screen shot from BBC's The World at Seven Billion.

So - I was the 2,997,910,172nd person alive on earth when I was born. Also incredible is the number of 76,613,447,508 which is my number since history began. The site also tells me that the average life expectancy of a male in Ireland is 77.3 years - so I have 25 years left (better make the most of it!). Interestingly, the world population grew by 265 people while I was on the BBC site.

What's your number?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

President Higgins

Congratulations to Michael D. Higgins on winning the Presidential Election with a huge vote, he won by 19,000 in my own Dun Laoghaire constituency. Even though I voted #1 for David Norris as promised, I think that Michael D will be an excellent President of Ireland. It must be the easiest job in Ireland, with a nice house to go with it. But he will command respect from all Irish people and will be a true Irishman when representing our country.

What a shitty election campaign - Michael D alone escaped the personal skeleton digging that went on. It might be easy to blame the Media (they do bear some blame), though each candidate must accept that they were not perfect. I'm certain that Michael D will serve just one term - so we'll all get the same circus again in 7 years. Message for Fine Gael - start choosing now who you want to run and build them up as a potential President over the next 7 years. Michael D has effectively been canvassing since 2004.

Niall O'Loughlin (no relation) has some super caricatures of Michael D - see here for more.

Image link to Niall O'Loughlin's Blog.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How To... Create a Basic KPI Dashboard in Excel 2010

With increasing amounts of data now being processed and the concept of "Big Data" taking over Business Intelligence and Analytics - it is important to be able to use tools to visualize large amount of data. Since many people use Excel for Data Analysis - it makes sense for people to be able to use what they are familiar with to analyse their data.

Last week I saw a neat Excel Spreadsheet that had traffic light icons (red, amber, and green) beside some of the figures on the sheet. They were being used as a KPI Dashboard - KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. The traffic lights were being used as a status for each number to provide a visualization of the data. If you see a lot of green lights you get a sense that overall performance is good, but a lot of red lights indicate poor performance.

It turns out that this type of KPI dashboard is really easy to create using the Excel Conditional Formatting function. For example, just tell Excel that any percentage value over 90% should show a green light, any value between 80%-89% should show an amber light, and any value less than 80% should show a red light. This will result in a series of traffic lights whose colour will depend on the values shown. Check out my latest YouTube video to learn "How To... Create a Basic KPI Dashboard in Excel 2010":

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Facebook for Business

Last evening I attended a lecture by Ciarán Quilty of Facebook who gave us an interesting talk on "Facebook for Business". This was part of NCI's 60th Anniversary Lecture Series. A large crowd attended and I was also glad to see quite a lot of students in the crowd. Clearly there was a lot of interest in anything to do with Facebook, and how it can be used for business.

Image link to woosamedia
Facebook is essentially being used in the main for advertising and marketing. At least this is what Facebook themselves are saying. Other companies are using Facebook and building Apps for it so that e-Business can take place. Ciarán gave us some impressive figures - 800,000,000 Facebook users worldwide, 0 users in China. We also had examples of how some companies are using Facebook to drive business - a good example was a flower shop that promoted its business through "Likes" and networking. The marketing map has certainly changed with the arrival of Facebook in this space. Nearly every Dublin Bus that I see carrying advertising has the Facebook (and Twitter) logo displayed prominently.

Fabric Cards by Vivienne.
I nice touch at the event, hosted by my colleague Desmond Gibney, was the introduction of a start-up Irish company after the lecture who told us about their experience with Facebook. Cards by Vivienne was set up by a former lecturer in NCI Vivienne Maher. It's a good example of how a start-up can piggyback on the free services of Facebook. It's a slow start and takes a long time to build up. 

Why not drop by Cards By Vivienne and give her a "Like" - she is just 6 "Likes" away from her first 100!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reputations - Elizabeth I

Last evening's lecture in the extra-mural series of lectures by the Dept of History in Trinity was delivered by Professor Ciarán Brady. The subject was the reputation of Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth I.
Image link to Wikipedia.
Prof Brady must be the most enthusiastic lecturer I have ever heard. He absolutely loves his subject and is extremely knowledgeable about Elizabeth, the Tudors, and the mid to late 16th century. In what was a very entertaining lecture, and the best so far in the series, Prof Brady discussed first the reason why Elizabeth never married. This was a combination of her not wanting to marry a Catholic, get involved in Europe's wars, and not wanting to offend the local aristocracy. He told us that he cannot get inside her mind, but he believes these to be the main reasons why she defied everyone's wishes that she should marry.

Prof Brady also discussed Elizabeth as a politician and her difficulties being a woman in a man's world. Her principle predicament was not having the elements at Court that her father Henry VIII had in gathering intelligence to keep her informed of what was going on. Instead she turned to hunting and setting up a series of favourites to keep her informed.

A lively discussion followed during which I asked why she was not married off at an early age by her siblings. Apparently this was because her family were afraid of her producing offspring and the best way to manage her was to keep her barren.

A two week break now before the next lecture. This is an excellent series with lectures by some of the country's most foremost historians - well worth the €100 fee.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Irish Computer Lecturer is a YouTube hit

That's me!

My Learn with YouTube Channel banner.
The Marketing Department in NCI issued a News Release about my Learn with YouTube channel on Friday - it was picked up by the Silicon Republic News site, and fed to many other sites (eg see here, here, and here). The news release was prepared earlier this week, but I did not know it was going to be released on Friday. I first noticed that something was up when I started to get a lot of emails from YouTube Service telling me that I had a new subscriber to the channel - in fact I got 37 new subscribers on Friday, mostly from Ireland. I now have a total of 570 subscribers, and 551,598 views as I write.

In the overall scheme of things - 584 subscribers and 555,013 views is very small compared to other channels and videos, but I still get a thrill every time I see the numbers go up. Monday last (17th October) was the highest ever daily viewing figures when 2,757 people tuned in to learn from my videos. In contrast I had one class on the same Monday with 28 students, and another with 18 students.

I hope to get some time this coming week to prepare a new video based on creating a KPI dashboard in Excel, which I learned how to do myself last week.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The National Car Test (NCT)

I took my 2005 Volkswagen Golf for its second NCT this morning (what made me book a time for 8.45 in the morning on a Saturday?). I don't use the Golf that much - especially during the week when I bike it to work. So it doesn't get much abuse. The car was tested straight away - the whole setup at the NCT Centre in Deansgrange was very efficient. The test took just 20 minutes and the Golf passed with flying colours!

Image Link to Portarlington Tyres
What is it about the NCT that makes the experience a personal one? We all love our cars and maybe feel that they are part of us. I know a lot of people, like me, feel as if it is ourselves that is being tested - not the car. I was nervous and worried about having to get expensive repairs done before a retest. I was able to watch the whole test from the viewing room - I have to say that the mechanics/testers know their jobs very well and seem to be well able to test any type of car. I couldn't help think that it would be a great experience for my 4th year Business Process Management students to watch this and see if this very efficient process can be improved even further (my car had to wait about 5 minutes while the car ahead was cleared from a ramp).

So - I'm sure that the little bit of pride (and relief) that I felt as I was putting the new NCT badge on my windscreen is shared by many. No more worries for the next two years!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Last evening I had the pleasure of being the Quiz master for the Killiney Lions Club Quiz Night in the Rochestown Lodge Hotel - the Lions were raising money for the local National Rehabilitation Hospital. We had 13 tables at the quiz - a little down on last year, but nevertheless a good evening was had by all with over €1,000 raised.

The Quiz Master.
Image link to
The best part for me was that I actually prepared the questions for the quiz - 10 rounds of 10 questions each, 100 in total. It was much harder than I thought, I had to balance hard with easier questions to give everybody a chance. The winning team scored 86 points (out of 100), with second on 82 points. The winners are a team that go to a lot of quizzes, and they told me that the found the quiz very balanced and also a challenging one (they usually score higher). Some teams found the going tough, and I saw one older participant throwing his hands in the air when I asked about the name of the Michael Jackson series of concerts in London that were to be held when he died (Answer: "This is it!").

Writing questions is fun, but also a delicate exercise. The tables ranged from my daughter Vicki's table of 16/17 year old's to tables with retired participants - so I mixed in questions from the Simpsons with Shakespeare. I also discarded questions that upon reflection I felt were too hard and unlikely to be answered except by a small minority. So I changed "In the Beatles song Mean Mr Mustard, what did Mr Mustard keep up his nose?" (Answer: A Ten Bob Note) to "In what film featuring music by The Beatles would you find characters called The Blue Meanies?" (Answer: Yellow Submarine).

Here's the first round of questions - see how you get on (two tables got 10/10 in this round):
  1. Who scored the first point for Dublin in this year's All-Ireland Senior Football Final against Kerry?    
  2. Mary Byrne, of X-Factor fame, worked for which supermarket chain at the time of her success on the show?
  3. Who was the U.S. President’s wife who opened an addiction Clinic in California?    
  4. What do the letters in the acronym WYSIWYG mean?    
  5. What is the name of the pet greyhound in The Simpsons TV cartoon show?    
  6. In what county in Ireland would you find a town called Carnew?    
  7. What company's logo features on the front of Premiership side Chelsea's shirt?    
  8. How many counties are there in Leinster?    
  9. Siam is the former name for which country?    
  10. Who is the current President of Killiney Lion's Club?  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Business Intelligence and Analytics in the Cloud #cloudarena

Today I attended a half day event at NCI about "Business Intelligence and Analytics in the Cloud" organized by CloudArena. I attended talks by IBM, Fujitsu, Microsoft, and Staff Balance. There was quite a mix of people at the event, including two ex-colleagues from SmartForce with whom I had a great chat.

Image link to
I found the event to be more about Cloud Computing than about BI and Analytics. My main purpose for attending was to glean some information from industry to support my initiative in NCI to create new programmes in BI and Analytics. I can't say that I am any the wiser, but it was interesting to see what company's are doing in the Cloud space. We learned about Social Network mining and how organizations like IMRO use cloud computing for in depth data manipulation such as matching over 25,000,000 songs with airplay and royalty payments. 

At the Q&A session at the end I asked a question about what skills people in the industry would like experts in BI and Analytics. The stock answer to this seems to be "Understand the business plan and manage the change - Technology is secondary" - and I got this today. When I pushed a bit further I got key skills like visualization and analysis of data. 

Overall - an enjoyable afternoon, though a bit long. I enjoyed the networking and each presentation I attended was well done.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski on Quality in Higher Education

Former DCU President Ferdinand von Prondzynski is a man who speaks common-sense - almost everything I hear from him I always give myself a mental "Here Here". Today he writes in his University Blog about quality in Higher Education. 

Ferdinand von Prondzynski.
Image link to Sligo IT.
FvP points out first that it is hard "to identify what quality actually is, how it can be recognised and how it can be measured". According to FvP there is too much emphasis on process because there is no real definition of what quality is. He writes that "because nobody has anything much to say as to what quality is, the temptation is to get out of this dilemma by focusing entirely on process: we cannot say whether what you teach is good quality, but we can ask whether you have followed the 20 prescribed steps when you developed the programme and are counting the answers students have given in the feedback questionnaires". I hear this! As far as I can tell this is the way quality is measured in many institutions. What about teaching quality?

This is my 10th academic year in NCI and to date there has not been a single evaluation of my teaching by anyone other than the handful of students who happen to be in the class on the day student surveys are taken. Mostly this evaluation is meaningless (eg I once got a 100% rating only to discover that there was only one or two respondents!). In fact I am almost horrified to report that only once has one of my colleagues come into any of my classes - and that was just for a few minutes at the beginning of one class. I might think that I deliver good quality lectures, but how do I know that I do? In fact I also have never been at any of my colleague's lectures either! How do I know that they are?

Teaching unions, and many others (including lecturers) will be sceptical about any attempt to measure quality of teaching in higher education. However, I feel that until this happens that the form filling, reporting, and "20 prescribed steps" that we all have to do will always be considered as getting in the way of teaching - it's not part of an overall quality process.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reputations - John Calvin

This evening's lecture from the Reputations course in Trinity was about John Calvin (1509-1564) who created a version of Christian theology called Calvinism. The lecture was delivered by Dr Graeme  Murdock, who I have to say demonstrates extraordinary enthusiasm for such (in his words) a "dour" character. 

Calvin as shown to us by Dr Murdock.
Image link to Calvin Campus Store.
John Calvin is best known as the person on whom Calvinism is based - though he did not set out to found a new religion. He was a workaholic who espoused a moral way of life that in the 16th century was attractive to people who wanted to study the bible and practice their own religion. Catholics at that time were not allowed to read the bible, and the church was corrupt (think the Borgias!). Interestingly he promoted the idea that all Christians were far worse morally that they could ever conceive, and that life was about living according to certain rules of morality. He wrote a book (Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536) that was well received and was intended to be read alongside the bible - this was a revelation for believers at the time. Calvin did not want his grave to be marked - preferring that in death, as in life, that the body did not matter.

There were 16 people like me at the lecture, including one Calvinist who regaled us of the strictness of the religion when he was growing up. This lecture was one of the most interactive, with comment and questions happening throughout (and not just at the end as in previous lectures). A very enjoyable evening and course so far.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Singing in the Choir

St John the Baptist Church, Blackrock.
Image link to Wikipedia.
I finally took part in singing in the church choir in Blackrock this morning. As it was my first time I was a bit nervous - especially meeting the other members of the choir for the first time. 

Men are scarce in choirs, so I am already considered a valuable asset to the choir. I am now one of three male members of the choir. Basically today I just joined in with the others when I could - many of the hymns were not familiar to me. I was even singing in Latin - Fr Patrick, my Latin teacher in Roscrea, would have been proud of me finally finding a use for his subject. I will not be able to attend any choir practice for the next few weeks as it clashes with my Reputation II classes in Trinity. This is a pity because I could really do with the practice.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy the occasion - and my Mum will be happy too!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

GOAL Jersey Day

A quick note to mention that the final total collected by staff and students of NCI was €300 - a great total raised for water and sanitation facilities for schools in Calcutta in India. I also note that our photo made it onto the GOAL website along with lots of other fund raisers. Irish rugby international Jamie Heaslip is a patron of GOAL, and he shows in the following video what the money we raised will be used for:

I had great fun doing this and hope to push it again next year in the College - a final thanks to all for their generous contributions.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Trinity Fresher's Week 1978

Today's Irish Times in one of its regular Archive pieces selects the 12th October 1978 as today's recollection from the past. This article from 33 years ago today is about Fresher's Week in Trinity. And of course it was also my first week in Trinity too, and I was surely there on this date.

Fresher's Week in Trinity.
Image link to
On 12th October 1978 I had just passed my 19th birthday and was entering Trinity for the first time. As I have written elsewhere in this blog I was completely unready for College life and Fresher's week was a huge awakening for me. The Times reports that "Politicians were plying students with drink" - Garret Fitzgerald, Peter Barry, Enda Kenny, and Mary Harney among others were present to try to get us "Freshers" to join political parties. I remember this quite well - there were a lot of politicians around. I wasn't tempted to join a political party to see them, or get the free drink. I was completely overwhelmed by all the stalls, and Clubs and Societies badgering everyone to join up. The only thing I joined was the Gaelic Football Club who had a stall just inside Front Gate. Beside them was the Soccer Club which I had queued up to join, but the guy in front of me said he was a goalkeeper (which I wanted to be) and I thought that since there was only one keeper position I should try something else. Hence the GAA club. I don't really recall why I didn't join anything else - I do remember that it cost 50p to join any club.

Rocky DeValera & Gravediggers
Rocky de Valera and The Gravediggers.
Image link to grassisblue1's photostream.
Can you remember your Fresher's Week? How did you feel? What did you join? Did you join loads of things and not bother to show up? Fresher's Week is an important week in the lives of all students, but I was too shy to participate fully. By the time I got to 2nd year I did participate a bit more - I even went to the Fresher's Ball for the one and only time. Rocky de Valera and the Gravediggers were the headline act. The previous year it had been The Boomtown Rats.

Students can find out a lot more about life in College than I ever could - the Internet makes this easy. Trinity now has a full web page devoted to Fresher's Week - something I would have found very useful in 1978.

Good on The Irish Times for reminding me of my own Fresher's Week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reputations - Henry "The Navigator"

The series of extramural lectures on Reputations II: The World's Greatest given by the School of History and Humanities in Trinity, continued last evening with an excellent lecture by Dr David Ditchburn on "Henry the Navigator".

Discoveries Monument in Lisbon.
Image link to
The lecture was as much about Portugal's expansion between 1415 and 1460, as about Henry himself. The most surprising thing for me to discover was that Henry never sailed on any of the expeditions during this period. If fact it is suspected that Henry never even left Portugal! The title "Navigator" was only assigned to him in the 1800s - over 400 years after his death. He certainly supported and benefited enormously from the expeditions.

Dr Ditchburn explored the many reasons why Portugal expanded first in Morocco, and then on to other parts of  Africa. There was a strong Crusader influence to the expansion - the Moors had only been kicked out of Portugal not long before the expansion began. Rivalry with Spain was a key influence. There was also a "something to do" motive for Henry's father Joao I's sons to be involved in. Curiosity about what lay beyond the current limits of exploration also played a part, as did overcoming the de-population of Portugal during the Black Death in the previous century. Undoubtedly the lure of gold and booty also attracted adventurers.

Henry certainly did not deserve the title "The Navigator", but as Dr Ditchburn pointed out - it also has a modern context in that Portugal's dictators (Caetano and Salazar) in the 20th century looked to historical characters like Henry to promote him as a global Portuguese hero.

Finally, I found that this lecture was most interesting and it held my attention throughout. This is a tribute to Dr Ditchburn's ability to keep us interested and focused on a fascinating character from history.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Initial Thoughts on 2011 Election for President

The campaign for the election of our new President has been going on for a while now. While I am very interested in the election, I have not written about it much - other than writing about waist lines! The campaign has so far been very nasty in my view. Gay Mitchell is already painted as a loser, Dana has been ridiculed over her dual US-Ireland citizenship, David Norris has been pilloried mercilessly about letters, Seán Gallagher is being linked with Fianna Fáil, Mary Davis can't deal with being asked about board memberships, Martin McGuinness is continually asked about the IRA, only Michael D seems to be escaping the at time vicious delving into each of the candidates pasts. FFS - Irish Times journalist Colm Keena (a classmate of mine in Trinity) confessed on radio that he used Google to find a story about Dana (Dana became US citizen before 1997 election bid).

The seven Presidential Candidates.
Image link to RTÉ.ie.
I intend to just vote #1 and #2 - but were I to vote all the way from #1 to #7 on  the ballot paper, this is how it would go:

#1 - Senator David Norris
I have always voted #1 for David Norris in the Trinity Senate Elections (see my post from 29th March last - "I told David Norris to be Quiet"). If he stands again, I will vote #1 for him again. I see no reason to alter my support for him now. Despite getting a nomination by the skin of his teeth, he has since performed very badly. Gene Kerrigan in today's Sunday Independent called him "a crap candidate". The Trinity electorate is a much easier prospect to handle than the whole of Ireland. He has made mistakes. I would have loved to have seen him in the Áras, but I don't think he will get even close and will be eliminated at the second or third count.

#2 - Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness has balls - he needed them during the building of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, and to work with the Unionists in the Assembly. He does not hide his IRA past, but there have been many failed efforts to link him to murders and robberies. Sure his past is violent, but since the early 1980s this has changed dramatically. I do see some substance in him as a politician and a populist, and I think he is a serious candidate who will easily make it to the second last count - perhaps even the last. My vote here is also tactical (aren't they all?) - as after David Norris is eliminated, I don't want my vote to transfer to any of the other candidates.

#3 - Michael D. Higgins
I don't intend to give more than a #1 or #2 vote - but if I did continue down the ballot paper MDH would be #3. I don't really have anything against him other than he is from the Labour party and that he is 70 years old. I have never voted Labour, and don't intend to start. At 70, I've no doubt he is still capable of doing the job - but he will be 77 at the end of the Presidency. I'm being ageist I know, but 77 is too old - he should retire.

#4 - Gay Mitchell
I sometimes give Fine Gael candidates in elections #3 and lower votes (after I have filled out votes for the  Fianna Fáil candidates). So on that basis he would be next. I'm really surprised he is doing so badly in the polls - he has failed to inspire, and the Fine Gael leadership is clearly chickening out of supporting him in fear of being associated with a loser so soon after the General Election. I find him a very dull candidate, and I feel that he would be a dull President. 

#5 - Seán Gallagher
I must confess that Gallagher is the candidate I know least about. I've never watched Dragon's Den (I'd prefer WWF to this!) - so I don't see the attraction of him at all. He is doing well in the polls - perhaps because he is not one of the other candidates. He is being linked with Fianna Fáil (from which he retired earlier this year) - I don't see this costing him votes, he might benefit from votes from FF voters (but not me) who have no candidate of their own to vote for. He will do well, but will not make it to the final count. As a Cavan man I'd expect Martin McGuinness to do well with his transfers.

#6 - Mary Davis
I'm sure Mary Davis is a decent person, but what on earth made her think that the Irish people would elect her to the highest office in the land? Sure she did a great job for the Special Olympics - but it takes more than that to become President. She is also tainted by being a serial Board Member on numerous Quangos - and making it sound like she was doing us all a favour. No - she's a lightweight in a race for heavyweights.

#7 - Dana Rosemary Scallan
"You bet your boots" Dana is a straight talking bullshitter. Likely to come last in the election she will have the least impact on the electorate. I didn't give her a vote in the 1997 election, and won't this time either. Her type of religious right-wing intolerance has no place on modern Ireland. She's out of her depth in this race and I predict she will poll badly - however, she could do well in getting the "none of the above vote".

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Mobile Broadband - a long way to go

I was tempted during the week to switch from eircom broadband to O2 broadband. O2 had a stand in the Atrium of the College where they were offering "up to" 7MB and 22MB packages for €9.99 a month to students. The offer (supported by HEAnet) is also open to staff of Colleges. I thought this would be a good option for our iPad - we had a prepay option which costs €19.99 for a 30-day pass, so I'd be cutting the cost in half. Good deal!

When I got chatting to the salesperson at the stand he told me that the gear he was selling was also a mobile wireless hot spot and that I could use it for up to five devices - and a 22MB connect to boot! But - there was no long queue to get this bargain. I also put up a question on Twitter and anyone that responded said that O2 service was poor. In the end I decided just to get it for the iPad.

In the Atrium of the College (smack in Dublin City Centre) I ran a speed test on the iPad which showed a connection of 0.6MB - oh dear, what had I done! I went out to the Liffey and stood across from the O2 building on Sir John Rogerson's quay which has aerials on the roof  - the signal speed went up to a semi-respectable 1.5MB. When I got home to Blackrock I tried another speed test in the kitchen which showed 0.3MB, it was 0.6MB if I tried at the window at the back of the house (0.2MB at the front window). My eircom connection to my desktop computer shows 3.6MB, while if the iPad is switched to our wireless network, it gets a speed of 3.31MB. The slow speeds over the mobile network are due to no 3G in our area. This is also an area where WiMAX doesn't work either. Are mobile signals avoiding us? We live in a mobile communications black spot. So glad I was not tempted to change everything to O2!

GOAL Jersey Day at NCI

Today staff and students of the National College of Ireland took part in GOAL's Jersey Day to raise funds for water and sanitation facilities in schools in Kolkata, India. 

Donegal, Dublin, Meath, Manchester United,
Wicklow, and Doncaster Rovers at GOAL Jersey Day.
We had lots of GAA jerseys, with my own Wicklow jersey attracting quite a bit of attention (and slagging too!). Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone, Tipperary, Donegal, Meath, Cavan, Kildare - were all represented. There were a few rugby jerseys - Ireland, Munster, and Leinster featuring. Soccer also featured strongly - Manchester United and Liverpool were dominant, but I also saw jerseys from Barcelona, Pachuca (Mexico) Wolves, Middlesborough, Doncaster Rovers, and of course my own Preston North End jersey which I wore in the afternoon.

Lot's of us had fun with our jerseys and of course there was a lot of banter and friendly rivalry. A great splash of colour  in the office today - we'll have to do it again next year.

In total we raised €292.66 - thanks to all for their generosity for this worthy cause.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

My Tribute to Steve Jobs

Image link to EveryBodySucksButUs
The news this morning that Steve Jobs has died from cancer is not unexpected - but very sad nonetheless. I, like a lot of people, admired him for many years. His name, with probably only Bill Gates, was part of computer technology vocabulary - in the 1980s and 1990s he was held in the highest regard long before the iPod, iPhone, and iPad arrived.

A young Steve Jobs with the original Apple Mac.
Photo link from
When I first used the Apple Mac, exactly like the one in the photo of a young Jobs to the right, I had no idea that this was just the beginning of many years of innovation in technology. There was nothing else like it - by the time the Apple Mac was launched in 1984 I had not used a PC and the Apple II computer in the Zoology Dept in Trinity stood unused by all - all my computer use was on the DEC 20 mainframe in an old building in Pearse Street. Apple, and Jobs, has a strong influence on me in the mid-80s, but after I was finished in Trinity I have never used a Mac for anything (other than clicking on a few icons in a computer shop).

I don't know when I bought my first iPod - my daughters had them long before me. Right beside me now in my kitchen I can see my iPhone, my wife's iPad and iPod Mini, and my daughter's iPod. Each of the five of us in our family has an iPhone - we joke that we should change our name from O'Loughlin to iLoughlin.

I know that Apple is a huge organization that is bigger than one man, but it is a tribute to him that Jobs is seen as Mr Apple and that the company might not be the same again. It won't be, but it will continue to innovate and produce wonderful services and products.

May he rest in peace in iHeaven.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Reputations - Alexander the Great

I went back to College yesterday for the first time in over 20 years. I am attending an extramural course in Trinity - this one is called "Reputations II: The World's Greatest". I did feel a little bit nervous walking up to the Jonathan Swift Theatre - Who would be there? Would I recognise anyone? How many would there be in the class? What would the lecturer be like? Would the course be any good?

Alexander "The Great"?
Image link to
Extramural courses in Trinity are an excellent idea to give people the chance to hear experts in certain fields lecture about their areas of expertise. For the first class, Dr Shane Wallace, delivered a lecture on Alexander "The Great"? Dr Wallace is a new lecturer in Trinity and is very young - good luck to him in his academic career which has just started. He reminds me of me in my late 20s (but without a job).

The first part of the lecture was a bit tedious - it was basically a chronology of Alexander's life, battles, and conquests. Much of this would be known to anyone with a good general knowledge. But where Dr Wallace, and his lecture, came into its own was in the second part where he explored the epithet of "The Great" which was added to Alexander's name many years after his death. The main thrust of his argument was that "kingship" and "divinity" were the main contributors to the addition of "The Great" to his name. In an excellently researched background, Dr Wallace explored the many myths, legends, and recorded stories about Alexander - compares them to contemporary accounts, and truly asks the question - was Alexander "Great". I believe, on the basis of what Dr Wallace told us, that yes - he was "Great".

I enjoyed my first lecture as a "student" in 20 years. There is no registration, ID cards, or access to the Library with this course. There are eight more "Reputations" to explore - next week it is Henry the Navigator which I am looking forward to.

Monday, October 03, 2011

What Richard Byrne has Learned from 5,000 Blog Posts

Richard Byrne, a "guy with a computer in western Maine" (@rmbyrne on Twitter) has a fantastic on-line resource for anybody involved in education - Free Technology for Teachers. Lots of goodies and free stuff - his video creation resources are especially good. He is also a serious blogger (he is not my uncle Richard Byrne though!).

Image link to
Free Technology for Teachers.
Yesterday, Richard posted about What I've Learned from 5,000 Blog Posts. First - this is a fantastic publishing rate, all done in under four years. It takes a serious amount of dedication to do this. While some bloggers (like me) rely on personal experiences, family events, elections, etc, for ideas to post about, Richard has a track record of posting about everything educational. His blog is worth checking out - recently he made his 5,000th post and gives us bloggers a few lessons. Here are the headings for what he writes about:
  • Just ship it
  • About growing your audience
  • Dealing with criticism, backlash, and mistakes
  • Monetization
  • Balance
  • Technical skills

I particularly like the "Balance" item - Richard strives to "find balance with the other aspects" of his life finds that if he doesn't "step away from the keyboard" he will "get stagnant and everything suffers". Good advice. This past weekend was very wet in Dublin and I hardly stepped outside the door on Saturday -  I spent a lot of time on my computer.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Presidential Election 2011 - It's all about the waistline

During the General Election last March I had some fun having a go at some of the candidates election posters (see here, here, and here). In the Presidential Election 2011 there are just seven candidates. Seán Gallagher has decided not to use any posters (the spoil sport!), Dana and David Norris have not yet launched their posters. So far, Michael D, Mary Davis, Martin McGuinness, and Gay Mitchell have launched posters. Mary Davis has already had to deny that her posters have been air-brushed - I have to say she looks a lot younger in her poster than on TV. 

My first reaction to the four posters so far was how boring they are. The slogans are sh1te, and so far have no influence on how I will vote. However, Mary Davis has set a standard with her Special K look and clearly wants to use her slim figure to her advantage. So this set me thinking, this election is not about letters, terrorism, politics, Eurovision, or Dragon's Den - it's about who has the narrowest waist. What do you think?

The Special K Lady takes an
early lead in the waistline stakes
(image link to Irish Election Literature Blog)

A smiling Martin McGuiness claims "My
waist is so narrow I have to use a narrow
poster to prove it!
Gay Mitchell denies he has a waist problem,
but won't show his on a poster.

Michael D tells us how narrow his waist is.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Photography Exhibition by Bonnie Cullen

Last evening I attended an exhibition of photography by Bonnie Cullen. This also coincided with Bonnie's last day working with National College of Ireland. She displayed some super photos of animals, scenery, people and city scenes. I liked the one below so much I bought it - this is an image link to Bonnie's Flickr Photostream.

Winter on the Liffey
Photo by Bonnie Cullen.
I'm sure we will hear and see more from Bonnie, and I'd like to wish her well on her travels (especially the one up the aisle to Ian!) over the next year. I very much enjoyed the exhibition and the few jars in The Lagoona afterwards.