Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: "Thomas Cromwell" by Tracy Borman

Having recently read both of Hilary Mantel's novels based on Thomas Cromwell: "Wolf Hall", and "Bring up the Bodies", plus having watched the BBC's dramatization of the books - I can say that I already knew quite a bit about Henry VIII's Chief Minister. Despite this, Tracy Borman manages to re-invent Cromwell in this wonderfully researched book: "Thomas Cromwell".

Image source: Amazon.
The book covers Cromwell's early life, his rise at the court of Henry VIII, and his downfall. Borman speculates very little on what might have happened in the inevitable gaps in his life that were not recorded. The court intrigue and politics is described so well that you almost feel as if you are present in Henry's court. Cromwell made enemies and friends in equal measures, and is regarded by Borman as a workaholic who had a prodigious appetite for getting things done by whatever means necessary. Where is succeeded in getting rid of Anne Boleyn (there's not doubt that she lost her head because Henry wanted her gone, and Cromwell found a way to do it), he failed with Anne of Cleves. His enemies at court, led by the Duke of Norfolk, saw to it that failure meant a one way trip to the block.

The pace of the book is kept up throughout and for the most part it is an easy read. However, I found the use of old English very difficult. Many long passages and quotations (from Cromwell's writings) had to be read several times to get the meaning. Though some old words are translated into modern English - most were not. This irritation does not detract from a great read about a fascinating man in a fascinating time.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Preston North End 3 Swindon Town 0 @pnefc #COYW #DontForgetTheTickets

My first visit to Deepdale in Preston for a couple of years ended with a convincing win for North End over Swindon Town courtesy of a hat-trick by League One Player of the Year - Joe Garner. This also afforded me the great opportunity to hang out with my bro' Brian for the day!

Thanks to Ryanair, it was cheap (€37) to get return flights to Liverpool from Dublin - we targeted this game a few weeks ago as one that might be a big occasion for Preston in their push for promotion to the Championship. A bus from John Lennon Airport to Lime Street followed by a train meant I arrived in Preston at about 11.30 - Brian was waiting in the station, it was good to meet him again (last time was for Liverpool vs West Ham - God Bless football!). We went to Weatherspoons for an early lunch of burger, fries, a pint, and a great catch-up chat. The pub was buzzing with PNE fans and I wasn't the only one with wearing the club's colours.

We walked up to the ground, but had to turn back because somebody forgot the tickets! Nevertheless, we were in plenty of time for a quick pre-match beer in the Sir Tom Finney Stand. Preston were 1-0 up within two minutes thanks to League One player of the Year - Joe Garner. After this Swindon dominated possession for about 20 minutes without really looking like scoring. PNE got a second goal just before the break - a simple header by Garner. Just after the restart he completed his hat-trick with another simple header. Overall - a very solid performance and a great atmosphere from the 17,000+ crowd inside Deepdale.

After the game it was a quick walk back to the station to get the train to Liverpool. I don't know who organizes the trains in England, but take a bow - I got a train to Wigan, and immediately transferred for Liverpool Lime Street where I got another train to Liverpool South Parkway. A bus from here to John Lennon Airport and I was in plenty of time for my flight home. As neither Liverpool, Everton, or Manchester United were playing today - the flight home was less than half full.

I'm off to Croke Park tomorrow for Dublin vs Cork - you'd never guess my other half was away for the weekend!
At Deepdale with Brian.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday YouTube! #10years @YouTube

Today 10 years ago, this 18 second video, "Meet me at the zoo"...

...was the first video ever posted on YouTube. Just under a year later I created my own channel on April 7th 2006. With over a billion users, YouTube has become part of our lives like Google, Facebook, and Twitter - also 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute (Source: YouTube Statistics). YouTube has been very good for me with many of my students using the videos for studying tasks covered in class. As I write, the my channel has 7,806,655 views and 16,232 subscribers. To put this into context, this is a tiny number compared to what other videos and channels achieve - the video above alone has 19,606,483 views!

So happy 10th birthday to YouTube, roll on the next 10 years!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Open Plaques - "The Museum of the Street" @openplaques

Recently I have been contributing to the Open Plaques project which documents "the historical links between people and places, as recorded by commemorative plaques". Essentially it is a database of plaques from all over the world contributed by people who pass by a commemorative plaque of any type. 

Image source:
The idea is a simple one - if the plaque is not already listed on Open Plaques, it is easy to add one. A photo is ideal, though it should be readable. Some plaques are quite high up and you need a reasonable camera to get a good shot. Each plaque entry should have the details added to the site - a simple transcription of the text (in all languages) should be provided as well as such details as who posted the plaque, what colour it is, and when it was posted. Quite a few plaques plaques in the Dublin area are already listed, mostly thanks to Dr Michael Seery of DIT (who is a historian as well as an award winning Chemistry Lecturer). 

Plaques of any type are accepted - not just the round blue ones that tourism boards put up. So any time I see anything of interest I take a photo and check Open Plaques to see if it is already there (most likely Michael Seery beat me to it). Below are some of the plaques I've added (or were added for me by the good folks in Open Plaques), with links to their Open Plaques page:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Preston North End for promotion? #coyw

It's been just over four years since I last went to see Preston North End play Ipswich Town and get a 1-0 win in the English Championship. Unfortunately PNE were relegated to League 1 at the end of that season, but now after four years they are on the verge of being promoted back to the Championship with just two games left. Two wins and they are up! On Saturday I am off to Deepdale in Preston, thanks to a €36 return fare from Dublin to Liverpool, to see PNE play Swindon Town (and to catch up with my bro' Brian). What a tribute to the late Sir Tom Finney if they get promotion in the season in which he moved on to that great football field in the sky!

Image source: The BBC.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Village of Clonegal

About 8 kms from where I grew up in Ballingate in Co Wicklow is the village of Clonegal which lies on the Carlow/Wexford border. I went there yesterday with my Dad Joe for a pint in the excellent Osbournes pub, but finding it closed we had a look around instead. Dad told me there was a plaque on the bridge so I want to take a photo for the Open Plaques website. I never knew that Clonegal had so much items of interest, so with Dad as my tour guide I snapped a few more photos to record our time there.

Dad poses at the "Gate of Tears" with the River Slaney in the background.
This is on Open Plaques here.
This is located on the Carlow Wexford border near Kildavin here
This plaque is located on the bridged over the River Derry in Clonegal.
This is on Open Plaques here.

Posing for a selfie with Dad - we are getting more alike by the day!

Mágh dhá Chon - The Plain of the two Hounds in Clonegal was in the ancient parish of Mágh dhá Chon.
The legendary hounds of Fionn Mac Cumhail, Bran and Sceolaig, rested here during their pursuit
of Diarmaid & Gráinne.

Soup pot at High Street in Clonegal.

Dad pointing the way to Slí na Sláinte.

Rebels in 1798 were hanged in the yard behind this gate.
This 1798 monument is on the Slí na Sláinte commemorating Mylie Doyle who is buried nearby.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Learning from YouTube Analytics #ThingsIDidNotKnow

Yesterday evening I had my first ever conversation with someone in Google/YouTube about my channel. I did not know this but I have an Account Manager who helps YouTube content creators once they reach a certain number of subscribers and the number of watch minutes exceeds a threshold. I was surprised to find that my Account Manager knew a lot about my channel and she had plenty of advice about how to improve the channel to get more views and subscribers. 

One of the main things we discussed in over an hour's conversation (in a Google Hangout - another first for me) was about how viewers find my videos. 61% of my views come from Google and/or YouTube searches which brings the viewer directly to my video. Another 29% comes from "Suggested Videos" - they are from the suggestions that appear at the end or at the side of a played video. This means that hardly any are coming through my channel or my website.

Also of interest to find out was what the people were searching for when they landed on my video's page - here are the top ten searches terms from the last 365 days:
  1. gantt chart (2.6%)
  2. gantt chart excel 2013 (1.9%)
  3. standard deviation excel (1.5%)
  4. how to embed a youtube video into powerpoint 2010 (1.2%)
  5. gantt chart excel 2010 (0.8%)
  6. how to make a gantt chart (0.5%)
  7. how to make a gantt chart in excel 2010 (0.5%)
  8. gantt chart excel (0.5%)
  9. how to calculate standard deviation in excel (0.5%)
  10. how to create a gantt chart in excel 2010 (0.4%)

While the overall percentages for each is small, it does give a strong indication that Gantt Charts are very popular. My most popular video is How To... Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel, which accounts for 896,897 out of 7,725,778 views. I was also informed that the Search Algorithm searches through the metadata tags, video title, and video description (in that order) so it is therefore important to make sure that these items are as optimized as possible.

One of the first things I plan to do is to create a custom thumbnail template for all my videos - my Account Manager showed me some sample channels where faces and large type made all the difference, especially for searches. Lots more to do!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Game of Thrones - Season 5 #CantWait

Like millions of viewers all over the world I am really looking forward to the opening episode of Season 5 of Game of Thrones this evening on Sky Atlantic. I have watched all four previous seasons, though have not read the books that the series is based on. There is still life in the weekly format of programmes like this - Netflix hasn't got hold of it (yet)! Ten weeks of great TV awaits - here's the official trailer on YouTube to whet the appetite:

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Linkedin Acquires

Right on the heels of my post yesterday ranting and moaning about "endorsements" in Linkedin comes the news today that training company has been acquired by Linkedin. Were they listening to me? When I think about it - adding a successful training company to the Linkedin portfolio makes sense. Jeff Weiner, CEO of Linkedin, states in the video below that "skills is one of the final pieces of the puzzle" and their aim is to empower "membership through learning and development". Linkedin wants to create a "digital representation of every job and every skill" required for their members and companies. 

I think this is a good mix and will certainly add a lot more value to Linkedin members' profiles if skills and proof of acquiring those skills through training (rather than endorsements from somebody else) are provided. Check out the video below for more about this acquisition.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Linkedin Endorsements

A few times a week I get messages from Linkedin that So-And-So has "endorsed" me for a particular skill. While this is nice to get (and thank you to those who have taken the time to do so), I'm not sure how valuable they actually are. 

Image source: Pixgood.
Today I was endorsed for "Event Management" - I was quite surprised by this. I have never managed an event in the sense that this is intended. I am also endorsed by people whom I barely know, and who certainly would have no knowledge as to how skilled I am in the likes of "HTML" (I have 25 endorsements for this, even though I rarely use it). I have been "endorsed" several times for "Research" even though it is about 10 years since my last peer-reviewed research publication. This makes such endorsements have reduced value for me, however well-meaning the person doing the endorsing is.

I know that Linkedin pops up suggestions for members to endorse others, and my guess is that many folks just click a few options to get them out of the way. If a ranking was introduced, then it would be more beneficial - but I suppose this is open to a lot more difficulty. An old Competency Management rating that I sometimes use: "Beginner", "Intermediate", "Advanced", "Expert", and "Guru", might possibly be more valuable - but you need to know your stuff before judging others. I'll continue to be skeptical about Linkedin endorsements until they come up with a better, more meaningful system.

Monday, April 06, 2015

O'Connell Street Today #RoadToTheRising #ProudToBeIrish

So it was off to Dublin in the green today to see what was happening in O'Connell Street for the "Road to the Rising" event created by RTÉ. Thousands of people turned up for what was an ordinary event with too many people and too few attractions. 

The Easter Rising in 1916 was the single biggest event in Irish history, and forms part of what we are. Arguably our nation was created during the fight that tool place between a few Republican dreamers and the British Empire. A year of nostalgia lies ahead as we rightly celebrate the seed that grew a few short years later into independence. I loved the event today as a celebration of the birth of our nation. Everybody that I could see was enjoying the day, especially those who dressed in early 20th century costume for the day. 

I "forced" Roma to take the picture below of me in front of the GPO - you can still see some of the bullet holes in the pillars behind me. 99 years ago our nation was created here.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Review: "Jersey Boys" at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre @BGETheatre @JerseyBoysUK #JerseyBoys

Oh What a Night! The Broadway show "Jersey Boys" came to Dublin last evening and sent the full house home walking like a man and humming songs by The Four Seasons. I had seen this show last year in New York, but when I heard it was coming to Dublin I just had to see it again. I was not disappointed.

Though slow to get going the show moves into top gear the second "Sherry " and "Big Girls Don't Cry" are blasted out in fantastic harmonies and falsetto. With the excellent Tim Driesen (who is from Belgium, not Jersey!) in the role of Frankie Valli, all the company performed brilliantly putting in a magnificent effort all evening. It is both a very funny show and a warts-and-all account of the lives of Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi, and Tommy DeVito - these four were only together for a few years, with lots of other members coming and going after DeVito (1970) and Massi (1965) had left the group. The list of hits they had from 1962 to 1975 is a chronology of pop/rock music that any group would be proud of. Classics like "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", "Beggin'", "Walk Like a Man", "Decemember 1963", and "Who Loves You?" will last forever.

Being that it was Good Friday, it was strange being in the middle of a crowd of over 2,000 people in a theatre with not an alcoholic drink in sight! Our archaic licencing laws in Ireland prevent alcohol being sold on Good Friday. It was a strange sight at the interval seeing most of the crowd staying in their seats - no need to rush to the bar for a quick one! I wonder how much the takings for the night were affected by this?

Here's a flavour of the show from

Video source:

Friday, April 03, 2015

Killiney Lions Club Quiz

Last evening I had the pleasure of acting as quiz master for the Killiney Lions Club fund raising quiz in aid of "My Canine Companion - Support Dogs for Children with Autism" held in the Rochestown Lodge Hotel. The event was very well attended and it raised a lot of money for a great cause. 

In acting as quiz master I also wrote all the questions. Following some feedback that my last quiz was "too hard", I set about trying to make this one a bit different with something for everybody. I decided on themed rounds which seemed to go down well. Ten rounds of 10 questions was the format - seven of these rounds are below (the other three are tow picture rounds and a Recent News round). As you can see there are a mix of "easy" questions that most people should get, and some harder questions. Also in there are lots of questions that got an "Aww shit - I knew that!" reaction when I read out the answers. The event was won with a score of 76/100 and it was competitive right to the end. The winning team was lead by Mary Hanafin (pictured) who is a great supporter of fund-raising events like this. This winning score was actually a lot lower than the winning score (91/100) of my previous "harder" quiz.

So - here are the questions below, see how you do (no cheating with Google and Wikipedia)!


Who came second in the 2011 Irish Presidential Election?
Who is the oldest surviving living former Taoiseach?
Who was the first woman to be elected as an MP in Westminster elections?

Name the four TDs for the Dún Laoghaire Dáil constituency.
Name both Republican party candidates defeated by President Barack Obama in the US Presidential elections in 2008 and 2012.
Who is the Minister for Education & Skills?
What is the name of the new political party launched in March 2015 by Lucinda Creighton?
What position does George Osbourne hold in the UK Government?

Who is the current Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council?

How many seats did the Labour party win in the 2011 General Election? (range: plus or minus two)

Numbers (Answers are 1 to 10)

How many of golf’s Major titles has Padraig Harrington won?
What is the Square Root of 49?
How many statues of Irish historical people are there in O’Connell Street in Dublin?
(O’Connell monument counts as one)
How many counties are there in Connaught?
How many All-Ireland Senior Football Championships has Donegal won?
How many times was British actress Elizabeth Taylor married?
How many times has Everton FC won the English League Championship?
How many “hole-in-ones” has Rory McIlroy scored in competition in his professional career to date?
According to research by the University of North Carolina (Irish Independent, 16th Feb, 2015), how many kilometres does it take to walk off one large pizza (930 calories)?
How many sides does a tetragon have?


Who wrote and said the famous words: “the fools, the fools, the fools! - they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace” on the 1st of August, 1915?
Who is reputed to have killed Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf?
Who was the sixth wife of Henry VIII?
He was born in County Mayo in 1777 and was an admiral in the Argentine Navy. There is a statue of him on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay by the Liffey, and the Wolfe Tones wrote a song about him in 1982. Who is he?
Which County Dublin park was officially opened as a public park on 30th June 1887 by Prince Albert Victor (grandson of Queen Victoria)?
What organization was founded on the 21st October 1879 in the Imperial Hotel Castlebar, Co Mayo?  Clue: Charles Stewart Parnell was elected as the first president of this organization.
In what year did the Battle of Waterloo take place?
Which English King signed the Magna Carta in 1215?
Who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic ocean?
Who was Taoiseach from 18th February 1948 to 13th June 1951?


Who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2015?
Name both parents of 50 Shades of Grey star Dakota Johnson.
Name the Disney movie released in 2013 which is based on the fairy tale “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen.
Who played the part of Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 movie “Gone With the Wind”?
Name the Academy Award winning song from the movie “Once” sung by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglova.
Spell the song title “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from the movie Mary Poppins.
Who was presented with an Honorary IFTA Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Irish Film and Television industry at the 11th Annual IFTA Awards in 2014?
What movie shot some scenes on Skellig Michael in County Kerry last year?
Gregory Peck played the part of Atticus Finch in this 1963 movie adaptation of a book by Harper Lee. Name the film.
Name the real life US Navy SEAL that the 2014 movie “The Sniper” is based on.


Name the former three time Formula One World Motor Racing Champion from Australia, who went on to form his own Formula One team, who died on 19th May last year aged 88.
In cricket, what is meant by the term “maiden”?
Who was the Leading Jockey at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival?

Which school won the Leinster Rugby Senior School’s Cup for the first time on St Patrick’s Day this year?
Name the only county in Leinster never to have won a GAA Leinster Senior Football Championship.
What golf course is the 2015 Irish Golf Open to be played on May 28-31?
What team was Stephanie Roche playing for when she scored the goal that came second in the FIFA Ballon d’Or Puskas Award?
Which individual has won the most Olympic medals (gold/silver/bronze) of all time?
Name the Irish sailor who finished fourth in the 2012 London Olympics in the Women's Laser Radial class event.
Only three Irish players have finished in the Top 10 Premier League goal scoring charts in England since 1992. Robbie Keane is one, name either of the other two.


What is the second smallest county in Ireland?
In what country would you find the Cantabrian mountain range?
What is the county town of Leitrim?
What is the modern name for the street in Dublin City Centre formerly known as Drogheda Street?
What is the capital city of North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)?
If you were on a boat in the middle of Lough Key, what county in Ireland would you be in?
Name the three states in the USA whose names start and end with the letter “A”.
Which European country has a map on its national flag?
What is the highest mountain in the Province of Ulster?
Which borough of New York City is named after the Dutch word for "broken valley"?

TV and Radio

Which character in RTÉ’s Fair City is played by actor Bryan Murray?
On what radio station does former minister Ivan Yates present the Breakfast Show?
What is the name of the Netflix series starring Kevin Spacey as President Frank Underwood?
What planet was the Star Trek character Mr Spock from?
What ITV series is shot on location at Highclere Castle in Hampshire?

In the Dallas TV series - Who Shot J.R. Ewing?

First broadcast in 1953, name the world's longest-running current affairs television programme?

What is the name of The Simpsons pet dog?
Who is the presenter of the RTÉ cooking programme “Kitchen Hero”?
What programme is presented on FM 104 by Jim-Jim and Nobby?