Friday, January 31, 2014

The Ryanair and Google Partnership – what’s in it for us?

I wrote an opinion piece for The which was published today. In the article I speculate about the Google/Ryanair "partnership". You can read the article here.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

The piece was written at the invitation of the Business Analysts Association of Ireland and it was an interesting article to both research and write. It is my first article for The Journal.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Two dozen Semesters

Tomorrow marks the start of my 24th semester in NCI and I am looking forward to getting back into "business" in the classroom. I am listed to teach on the following modules:
  • IT Project Management
  • 3rd Year Project
  • Managerial Foundations of Information Systems
  • Business Analysis and Problem-Solving Techniques
The last module above will not start until March, so I've a reasonably light teaching load for the first five weeks or so. For the first time in many years I will not be teaching the Business System Analysis module on the Certificate in Business Analysis - I will miss this module. It will also be the first semester in many years that I will be teaching for two nights a week.

Image Source: ExamSoft Blog.
For many students this is their last semester in College. It's probably lucky for them that no final year classes have me this semester! 15 weeks (includes reading and revision weeks) from now seems a long way off, but as always it will fly by in a heartbeat.

The ExamSoft Blog offers Five Tips for Kicking Off a Great New Semester, including “Make the time to network with your colleagues a couple hours a week" - in other words, make time to relax as well as study. I'm sure every graduate will agree with me when I say that especially for final year students to enjoy the semester as it might be the last time you will have such freedom to do so! My own last semester (1983) was memorable because I enjoyed it and was very relaxed - after four years in College I had finally figured out the balance between pleasure and study.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Back after a brief break #ManFlu

I've been feeling shite (and yes - sorry for myself too!) for the past two weeks since returning from New York. Coughs, sneezes, aches, snot, tissues, lack of sleep - all have been part of my life for the past few days. Consequently I didn't feel like blogging, so I sulked away from my computer.

One good piece of news to report on is that my new book, Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way is finished and is now in the proofing/final editing stage. No exact date for publication and launch, but I expect it will be in April, maybe May. I'm excited that this project is near completion, and I have been tweeting some of my unpublished photos every day for the past few weeks. More about this soon!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Visiting New York City - Day 4

Today was mostly about snot! Yes, all those people who were coughing on the flight over to NYC gave us the gift of colds and flu. First we all got up to have an American breakfast at the Malibu Diner on West 23rd Street. I didn't feel like eating much and I opted for simple pancakes and bacon, but I was served a mountain of pancakes - I'm guessing I only managed to eat about about a third of it. As it was Sunday morning, the diner was very busy and many of the customers seemed to know each other. Great diner, great atmosphere, great food, great value - but be hungry when you go there.

With my daughter Claire at Times Square.
After checking out of the hotel we headed uptown for some last minute shopping, including to Best Buy to exchange Vicki's Kindle Fire for the excellent Google Nexus. I wasn't feeling any better and even started to shiver, so I headed back to the hotel (where we had left our bags) to get another jumper. A feckin' cold was spoiling my last day in NYC. Later we adjourned to the Perfect Pint bar on West 45th Street, but I was not able to put the bar's title to the test (unless a pint of Diet Coke counts)! The girls finished their shopping and we had a last snack at the Guy and Gallard Café near our hotel on 31st Street - this was the cheapest place we had eaten at in New York, and I had a delicious sandwich.

It was time to leave for the airport and it was difficult parting from Claire not knowing when I'd see her again. New York is her home now and she is very happy there - she is just one of thousands of young Irish people who have to find a life outside of Ireland.

Our over-night flight home was on an almost empty Aer Lingus plane. I could not sleep and I also raided the bathrooms for lots of tissues to deal with the snot. I watched the 4.5 hour long Gods & Generals movie about the American Civil War on my iPad. This was a movie that lost a lot of money and it's easy to see why - nevertheless I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Visiting New York City - Day 3

Saturday morning in NYC and what better way to start the day than go shopping. Yesterday in the rain I noticed that both my shoes were leaking, and I persuaded myself that I should buy a new pair. My old ECCO shoes, which were also that last pair of shoes that I bought, were purchased on 13th October 2008 (I blogged about that here!). So after over five years of very regular wear, it was time to say goodbye to them. I bought a pair of very comfortable Rockport shoes which I wore for the rest of the day.

We also went up to Best Buy to get an Amazon Kindle Fire for Vicki, only to later discover that has restrictions outside the US (they later exchanged it no problem). Claire also brought me to the Harley-Davidson Store on Lexington Avenue where she bought me a super t-shirt. After this I made my way to the American Museum of Natural History, and what a treat this is! First, it is huge and there is no way you can see and read everything in just one day - there is so much to see and do. The Indian Peoples section was great, as were the stuffed animals, the rocks, and fish. But the crowning glories were the dinosaur skeletons - Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Brontosaurus being the biggest specimens. Unfortunately my iPhone camera captured my shots as .PNGs rather than .JPGs and cannot be reproduced here.

We wrapped up our evening in the California Pizza Kitchen where we enjoyed great pizza and artichoke dip. Ominously we were all feeling a bit out of sorts with coughs and sneezes starting to take hold - I was able to eat very little. Saturday night in New York City and I went to bed at 10.30. #PartyAnimal!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Visiting New York City - Day 2

The tragic events of 11th September 2001 will never be forgotten, and New Yorkers are working hard on a fitting memorial to their fellow citizens at the 9/11 Memorial, which is based at the site of the two towers. Both of the fantastic water memorials are based on the foundations of the two towers and they are surrounded by the names of those who died as a result of the 9/11 tragedy. One of things that hits you is the noise of the waterfalls inside the memorials, plus of course the intense security that all visitors have to go through. The museum is not yet open and there is still a lot of construction work going on in the area. We finished up at the museum shop where the highlight is definitely the American Chopper motorcycle (I bought the fridge magnet of it!).

After the 9/11 Memorial we walked down Wall St and paid a quick visit to the National Museum of the American Indian. I was a bit disappointed with this museum as I didn't feel there was that much on show. Soon after we stopped nearby for lunch at the Takahachi Japanese Restaurant in the Tribeca region - light and delicious! After this we made our way uptown to Times Square where we queued for discount tickets (50% off) to see the Jersey Boys on Broadway (the next day I bought the Best of the Four Seasons CD). Later we adjourned to O'Brien's Bar just off Times Square which is run by an old classmate of mine from my CCR days.

The Jersey Boys is an incredible show, and we all enjoyed a great evening's entertainment. I had not realised that Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had so many hits. My favourite song is December, 1963 (Oh What a Night!). Here's a flavour of the show from the website:

Video source:

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Visiting New York City - Day 1

Normally I rarely take holidays in January - I prefer to take as much as possible in the summer when it is warm. In the College we already get good holidays over Christmas and the New Year (Dec 24th to Jan 2nd). However, last week the girls and I went to New York for a few days to visit our daughter and we really enjoyed ourselves. The highlights of our first full day were visits to the Apple Store and to the Intrepid museum.

The Apple Store on 5th Avenue is the busiest computer shop I have ever been to. In a large show area, most computers/tablets/smartphones were being examined by customers. We bought an Apple MacBook, but unfortunately a voucher I had bought in Ireland for this purpose was not accepted. Something to do with my voucher being in euro and not dollars. No problem accepting my credit card, which is of course also a euro account. Anyway, Apple Support refunded the voucher no problem when I got home. In the half hour or so I was in the Apple Store I'm guessing Apple did thousands of dollars worth of business - it's also worth mentioning that the Apple Staff are brilliant and very knowledgeable.

A selfie at the Intrepid Museum.
I left the girls and went to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Pier 86. This was a super experience as I had never been on an aircraft carrier before. The first part of the tour was through the Growler submarine - very cramped and confined. You have to admire the guts and patience of the sailors who sailed  in this metal tube under the surface of the sea. I also checked out Concorde on the Intrepid's deck - a pity it was not open as I would like to have seen the inside. In the main hanger deck there were plenty of helicopters and plains. There was a super Kamikaze Experience right in the centre - chilling to realise that if I was standing there during one of the attacks I would have been killed along with several others. There are lots of other planes on the top of the ship, but the highlight has to be the Space Shuttle Enterprise - I was taken aback by its size, and I would surely like to have seen the inside. Intrepid - go see it!

We finished the evening at the Japanese Benihana Restaurant on West 56th Street. Our teppanyaki chef was Pedro (definitely not Japanese!) who prepared our food in front of us. It was a fantastic experience - great to see and smell all the cooking. And of course the food was delicious - seafood for me. The restaurant was full and incredibly noisy - a feature of most places we went to in New York. I found it very difficult to hear anything, making for difficult round table conversation. Otherwise - recommended.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Serious piece of kit! @Bose QuietComfort Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones even work on a @HarleyDavidson #wow #ToughTest

I don't think I have ever tried to listen to my iPhone while riding my Harley-Davidson with its Screaming Eagle exhaust pipes. It is far too loud to hear a radio or MP3 Player, which would have to have the volume turned up very high to have any chance of hearing anything. There is also the safety aspect as well as the awkwardness of trying to use any controls with thick gloves on. So I never really bothered, though I often thought that it would be great to listen to a Beatles playlist while riding on a motorway.

Today I tested a (borrowed) Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling set of headphones and I am both fascinated about how they work and how good they are. On my way to work I just used the headphones without any music, switched them on (it has its own power supply), and rode to work. They reduced the noise of the Harley-Davidson engine rather like wearing ear plugs, only much more comfortably. It's important to note that the headphones did not completely "cancel" the noise, but they did a pretty good job of reducing it effectively.

On my way home I decided to try the headphones with some music on. I decided to go for some easy listening (AC/DC would not be quite the right sound to try on a first test!), and I settled on "Raising Sand" by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. 

The verdict? 

Top class!

While the background noise from the bike could still just about be heard, it in no way interfered with the music and I enjoyed very comfortable high-quality listening without having the volume up high. I felt safe as the headphones have an Aware Mode that let you hear sounds while still reducing background noise. I'm wondering if the Bose engineers tested this system on a Harley-Davidson, which I reckon would really put it through the toughest of tests. For me it passed with flying colours!

There are two problems: First - my bike no longer sounds like a Harley-Davidson, I risk being expelled from the Biker's Union! Secondly - the price, €299.95! It is expensive for me to buy this for an occasional ride on a motorway, but it would be nice to have. No doubt this technology will get cheaper, but Bose have created a fantastic high-quality product that lovers of music who do things like travel a lot on a bus or train would love.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A Visit to a High Dependency Unit (HDU)

Behind the front doors of our hospitals there are many things happening that we don't see. Most of us will have visited someone in hospital and quite often it is a simple visit to see a relative for a few minutes. My fondest memory of visiting a hospital was of course going to the Rotunda Maternity Hospital in Dublin for the births of my daughters. 

Waterford Regional Hospital.
Image source: Breast Centres Network.
Yesterday I visited the High Dependency Unit (HDU) at Waterford Regional Hospital. A HDU is one step down from intensive care, but as the name suggests it is a hospital ward where patients are monitored very closely. The small ward I visited had a lot of monitoring equipment and just four patients. There were two nurses and a doctor present - I believe the ratio is one nurse to two patients. All the time I was there (about 25 mins), there was constant checking and recording of patient data (eg heart rate, blood pressure). Curiously, even though monitors were being used, the data were being recorded on very large paper sheets by hand. Perhaps it is also being recorded electronically, but this was invisible to me. I would imagine that it would not be too difficult to hook up each patient monitor(s) to a computer. One can only be hugely impressed by this 24-hour care by dedicated professionals. Our Health Service is much maligned at times, but there's no doubt that patient care work like this is going on all the time. We owe so much to our doctors and nurses. A visit to a HDU will remove any doubts about anyone may have about our Health Service.

For any family and friends reading this, Dad is doing great.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Joining the conversation about the #WildAtlanticWay on Twitter

From January 1st I have started to tweet photos of my journey last year around Fáilte Ireland's new project for 2014 - the Wild Atlantic Way. The #WildAtlanticWay hashtag has been in use for a while and I will tag all my tweets with this. The #WAW hashtag has been suggested, but @Failte_Ireland have suggested to me to keep the longer tag. Lots of other Tweeters are already using the longer version.

I took nearly 3,000 photos over the ten days of the journey and I expect around 200 of the best will make it into my new book "Exploring the Wild Atlantic Way" due to be published in the next few months. So I have lots of leftover photos to tweet. I will tweet just a few each day and keep going until I reach my last photo taken in Lough Foyle. Here's the feed for #WildAtlanticWay:

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2014 Resolutions - not for me!

I have just looked back on my New Year resolutions for 2013 which were as follows:

  • Keep on blogging!
  • Keep on riding!
  • Try to get to 3,000,000 views on my YouTube channel before the end of the year
  • Establish a steady modest income for the same YouTube channel 
  • Finish my book about the "100 Corners of Ireland"
  • Get a publisher or self publish the same book
  • Re-start my abandoned book on YouTube and Education
  • Be a little more active on Twitter, especially on educational matters
  • Hang on to my job in what is likely to be the first year of significant change the Higher Education sector in Ireland

So how did I do?
  • I blogged less in 2013 (196 posts) than in 2012 (243 posts)
  • No change to riding
  • I reached just over 4,000,000 views on the YouTube channel
  • As for income - despite doubling the number of views, the revenue from ads was static for the year
  • My book, now called "Exploring the Wild Atlantic Way" is finished and should be published early this year
  • The book will be published by The Liffey Press
  • The YouTube and Education book did not get restarted
  • I think I was less active on Twitter
  • I did hang on to my job!
I guess I did on 1st January 2013 what a lot of people did - write a list of resolutions and then forget about them. So no 2014 resolutions for me!

The two big things for me in 2014 will be the launch of my new book, and a motorcycle trip to Berlin in the summer. I'll also turn 55 later this year which will of course entitle me to an Over 55's Dublin City Discount Card, Over 55 Travel discounts, and Over 55 Hotel Breaks. It will also entitle me to get free computer courses from Age Action for the over 55s, and use Seven Seas Active 55 vitamins - Seven Seas' experts "understand how important it is for you to stay flexible and be able to continue doing the things you love". Fuck!