A Little Patriotism

Yesterday was the 4th of July. I spent it with my best friends in the place that I spent so much of my childhood, The Lake. It's a wondrous thing to be able to come back to a place again and again. Life is filled with so many variables and to find constants in your path can be difficult if not impossible. The Lake is one of my constants. From when I was a baby, I've been spending summers or weekends up in the New Hampshire woods on the banks of Lake Wentworth.

These days, this constant has gained a new role in my life, my getaway. I love Boston, don't get me wrong. But after working. 50-60 hour week there is nothing I want to do less than stay in the blast furnace of brick and concrete when I know there is a quiet camp and glistening lake with my name on it waiting to the north.

For the first time in a long while, I have been bringing friends with me to this special place to share the peacefulness and slower pace. It's truly a relaxing experience. If you are one of the chosen few, feel lucky. Just kidding... But really. I don't normally include others in my relaxation because what I require to relax is often times the opposite of what others bring with them.

Fortunately for me, I have friends and family that can respect that and look for the same thing too. I love this place and hope that I get to continue to visit for many years to come.

Australia Chronicles: Day 11 Part 2

7/31/09 - ? We finally arrived at the Rydges Resort and it is sweet!!  The place is so big and really nice.  We have suite rooms with a queen and a full and two pull out couhced.  We saw a movie, "Space Cowboys" for the 4th time.  I ended up skipping that and mingling with more of my friends getting closer to many of them.

There was some interesting social happenings happening in the many social circles.  The day started off with a rocky start but it ended up being very good.  We had our longest travel day so far, almost 7 hours.  That really sucked - my ass was in a ton of pain and there was some difficulty holding it until we got to a place to relieve yourself even though there was a bathroom on the bus.  Jordan used it 8 times with an average of 15 minutes each use.

Also, Jenn was caught by the security people for walking on the roof.  She got in loads of trouble.  Well, I don't have too much else to say other than Nick C, Derek D, and Brian R were my new roommates.

James M. Connors

Procrastination Nation

Students taking a test at the University of Vi...
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It's 2am and I'm still up.  Tomorrow is the last day of classes for me as an undergraduate.  I want to be in bed but I have procrastinated away my semester and am now paying for it.  That said, there are 18 days 11 hours and 4 minutes until graduation according to my widget... that's foreboding.

What am I procrastinating on right this moment? Well... it's an assignment that was originally due two weeks ago for IS.  I just finished an assignment that was due four weeks ago.  I still have to prep on the concepts of pipes and design a pipe for class tomorrow.  On the up side, I have nothing left except the final exam for finance, and I've completed all requirements for my networking and telecom class except for the take home final.

The way I'm looking at it now is this: I've spent 4 years doing the same gag, I've caught onto the game and now, with the end quite literally in sight, I am sort of hard pressed to stay concentrated.  Truth be told, it's hard to keep attention on any one thing right now.  My head and attention is all over the place.  Oh well.  I'm getting it out of my system so that I can bang out work starting in July but that's for another post.

Now back to my object oriented model building - wOOt.

We Stand on The Brink

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It is officially the last week of my undergraduate education.  Shit.

The last time I was in a similar situation, e.g.  the last week of high school, I was looking out to this huge adventure that was laying before me.  No, that adventure wasn't the standard orientation, matriculation, and endless hours of waiting for elevators to move into your freshman dorm.  No, I was waiting to hop on a plane with nothing more than the clothes on my back, the strung around my neck, and the knowledge that I was about to enter the military as part of the United States Air Force Academy class of 2009.

Though, slightly less forboding than going out in to the "real world" as I will be in a few short weeks, given the time in my life of each, I think the feelings are incredibly similar.  It's time like these that I start to reflect... and procrastinate.  This week is even similar to the last week in Dublin, Ireland this time last year.  We start counting off our activities as our "Last xyz" where the xyz is something that you would only do there: the last pub crawl, the last business class, the last frat party etc etc.

I am terrified that my list of lasts will miss so many things that I "should" have done while in college.  I didn't have the standard freshman experience, the military had a very different path there.  I didn't live on campus that first year at Boston University.  I didn't have to deal with gang showers (in Boston at least) and I never really frequented the fraternities on Trashford et all.

Following that same thought process but bringing it outside of the social education one gets at college, I'm afraid that I didn't make the most out of the absolute gift of education that my parents have helped make possible for me.  It is not the thought that I didn't do my best or that I took the wrong classes but the worry is more along the lines of whether I took the "right" classes or not.  Did I miss an elective that would have been amazing?  Was there a different professor that would have been better?  Should I have stayed in Engineering and not go to business?

Thinking like this isn't productive.

I have decided that I am happy with where I am right now.  I feel confident in my ability to go out into the workforce and do a great job.  I know that I will succeed.  That said, I cannot stop running the what if's in my head.  What if I didn't go the Air Force Academy?  What if Notre Dame had taken me off their waiting list?  What if I had stayed in Engineering?  What if?

Instead of spending hours working through the what if's of life, I have found that it is best to deal with your actual reality.  What did you actually do?  Why did you do it?  Ok, so you've got you past, your present... where are going now that you know these other two parts?  How are you going to change the world?  With that, I'll leave you with one last piece of pondering:

As we are moving away from wherever has been our homes for the last 3-5+ years at school, we need to define where our home is.  Home is where you go to re-energize, where you go to get in touch with yourself, where you feel at ease.  For me, home is where ever I am.  That is home for me because I need me to recharge, and I don't need sentimental ties to arbitrary locations.

How do YOU know that you're in the right place and that you've made the right decisions?  Is it only with 20/20 hindsight that you know it?

Spring Cleaning and Restarting the Blog

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 12:  The Boston University T...
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A blogger I always admired once told me to never apologize for not updating your blog and he was doing very well for himself.  So too, I will not apologize but I will go so far as to say that I have rejuggled my obligations in the internets and this is my sole priority.

It's a wonderful spring here in Boston, MA at Boston University.  Classes are almost out, jobs are being landed, professors are loosening up, and graduation looms on tomorrow's horizon.  Well, not really.  We have 25 days left... that's close enough.  I can almost taste the amazingness of freedom.

Everyone is priming themselves for their next few weeks as we finish school, stumble through senior week, and finally walk across a stage to receive a small piece of paper that validates all of the effort I have exerted for the last four years.  In these few short days, we must finish all of our illustrious classes with famous professors, grit our teeth through the pomp and circumstance that is graduation and finally, move on to bigger and "better" things.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I have a job.  For the last 6 months, I've known that I had a job upon graduation and finally found some information regarding when that new game would begin.  I will be starting with Accenture on the 6th of July, the Monday following the 4th.  I see this becoming an epic weekend.  Along these lines, I am moving out of the coop from the get go.  Some friends and I have an apartment on Beacon St. in Brookline, MA.  I cannot wait to move in with these friends and to begin my life as a professional, a productive member of society.

Funnily enough, I am so excited with bringing my new experiences to the website.  I want to share the new activities and observations to you... if you're still listening out there.  We are all on the brink of something amazing and the die is cast.  Our course is set.  We've been directing our boats for the last four years (or more) and now our course is set.  Basically, that means it's time for autopilot.  It's time to enjoy the moments we get to share with those we love and surround ourselves with.  It is time for celebration.

Please look for jamesconnors.com to bring more and more content directly to you through RSS and the mighty interwebs.  I hope that you enjoy where we go with this and stick around for the ride.  Warm wishes and good health.  Congratulations to all of my classmates in the class of 2009 and thank you to all of the parents that have made this a reality.

Relaunch And Rebirth - Our Site Moved

Rude Awakening album cover
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To all that may have had an issue getting to the website, I'm very sorry.  We have moved... well, I have moved.  For a number of reasons, the hosting company that I was using, Bluehost.com, was not meeting my requirements:

  • Their support personnel, though intelligent, have often been rude when responding to issues.  They have straight up refused to help with an issue that was clearly on their end.
  • Admin work they were performing in an unannounced maintenance window actually deleted my website.
  • The shared hosting service that I was on was routinely overloaded and nothing was ever done to the load even after I had brought it up a number of times.  There were times when my mostly text site would take nearly 40 seconds to load... in internet time, that was an age.

So what have I done?  Well, I've taken action and seen an opportunity here.  Not only will I NEVER DO BUSINESS WITH THEM AGAIN, I will be taking all of my properties over to Godaddy.com.  I've had good experiences with Godaddy thus far and have even recommended them to clients and friends alike.  Goodbye Bluehost.  Take your slow service and unresponsive techs and keep them to yourself.

The new project is ambitious.  I have left the traditional 'shared hosting' behind for the next step up in the evolution of my digital life.  For the time being, all of the North West Wind Productions properties - jamesconnors.com, collegetechcentral.com, bualumni.org, and buakpsi.com - will be hosted on a virtual dedicated server.  This move has started this past week and will continue through the next month.  Each property will move on its own schedule depending on the critical nature of the content.

I'm proud to say that the old website, Jamesmconnors.com, is now relaunched as jamesconnors.com - hopefully this will be easier for people to find and get involved with.  So far, so good.  I've been able to make some good changes thus far and the site has never been faster.  At the same time, I'm getting some amazing experience configuring in a linux environment and it's really nice to have the added horsepower of a virtual dedicated server.

Hopefully you're seeing improvements to the site as we're moving forward too.  But, I'm curious.  Where do you host your website/blog?  Do you use a hosted service like wordpress.com or blogger?  Do you opt for shared hosting?  Virtual dedicated or fully hosted?

  • Why Choose a Dedicated Web Hosting Company?
  • Types of Web Hosting - Assessing Your Website's Needs
  • Determining the Appropriateness of Shared Hosting or Dedicated Hosting to Your Needs
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MEME: Interview Tag

Grand Canyon, Arizona. The canyon, created by ...
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It's been a while since I posted last and I've been looking for a reason, an impetus to start blogging again.  Well, my friend Jenn over at www.youllgrowtoloveme.com tagged me in an interview meme.  Of course I wanted to take part, but then I saw the questions.  Oh well - here are the answers to her juiciest questions:

1. How many times have you been naked in public? Elaborate.

I guess the first question is what is public?  I can't really remember any time that I've been out streaking or naked in public on purpose.  The only time that I remember was a hot summer day at Aquabhagan - a water park in Maine.  I was on the racing slide that goes incredibly fast and you race your friend in the lane next to you.  When I hit the bottom pool, my bottoms decided that they had had enough and slipped right off.  My times naked in public = 1. 2. Now that you've been knighted, what else is there to look forward to in life?

As amazing as being knighted has been, there is plenty more to look forward to.  I'm still waiting for "the one" - the woman that I spend the rest of my life with.  I'm still looking forward to my first job and even my last job.  I'm looking forward to having children, a dog, a family.  I can't wait to go skydiving, continue to blog and write.  I look forward to meeting all the rest of the people that will be part of the story known as my life. 3. What is your favorite sound in the world? Why?

I think my favorite sound is the complete lack of sound when I am out in the woods alone except for nature all around.  Living in the city, there aren't many times of quiet... I mean COMPLETE silence.  When my mother's side of the family went whitewater rafting down the Grand Canyon, I experienced a complete silence that was indeed "deafening."  Yes, the river burbled at the shore and the wind blew through the grass but the air was completely devoid of human sounds.  I found the quiet comforting, rejuvenating, and personal. 4. What is the best thing about women?

I think the best thing about women is that they make men want to be better men - at least when things are going well.  Have you ever noticed that a coed apartment is generally cleaner than the frat house you used to party at?  Have you ever seen the way that men dress when they're trying to impress women?  What about the man that learns about something from a woman and because they said something, they stick to the change.  Recently, my friend Rachel made a cup of tea for me while I was sick.  I've had tea before but her lack of coffee drinking and this amazing cup of tea seemed to spark something within me.  Since that day, I've forgone coffee and slashed my caffeinated beverage intake to nearly none.  Women are great - and they're pretty too. 5. How would you propose to me?

Jenn, the one who tagged me on this, loves to travel.  She went abroad while in college and was in a different city each weekend for a time.  At the same time, I have always wanted to travel with someone I love because I think there is nothing better for two people than to experience something together and make some amazing memories.  This particular trip would be throughout Europe, backpacking style.  In Paris, my favorite city in Europe, we would spend the day seeing museums, the Tower, and lounging by the river eating a baguette.  As night falls we would walk towards the Tower once more and the timing would be perfect where it flashes just as I get on my knee and ask her to marry me.

Okay so here’s the deal. It’s now YOUR turn to be interviewed! Here’s how:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me!” 2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions. 3. Update your blog with the answers to the questions. 4. Include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. 5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you get to ask them five questions.

Even if you’ve already been interviewed by somebody, you can still play. I’ll be sure to e-mail you new and exciting questions

Dublin Meets Boston

Dublin 049-Dublin 056

Hey there everyone.  I wanted to announce that I have just rolled my content from jamesindublin.com into this site since I will be shutting down JID in short order.  I appreciate all the comments and messages that these posts have brought and to that end, I have imported all of those comments to the posts here.

Hopefully some of you will find value in these posts - everyone can find the articles I wrote in Ireland at Dublin so enjoy!

Lessons From a Weekend of Training Cadets

US Civil Air Patrol members practice searching...

This past weekend, I spent my Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday out in the Blue Hills reservation just south of Boston, MA training the cadets of Boston Cadet Squadron.  These young adults are members of Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer organization that I have been a part of for eight years now.  Our goal for the weekend was to work as a single team while we trained in Emergency Services, survival, and overnight camping.  At least that had been the plan.

I have been instructing these same topics for a number of years now but of late, my lessons have focused on learning through my teaching.  Working with cadets that are from ages 12 to 18, I have found it a challenge for me to properly orient my instruction and leadership style to suit the varied needs of the cadets in our squadron.  Timing can be ironic - I'm currently a teaching assistant and candidate for Teach for America.  This means that I've been working in the "teaching" area for a while now and I am just starting to notice the issues that come along with being a teacher.

There are such varying levels of support needed by our cadets - everything from complete autonomy to complete and total supervision.  There are a few that I would trust to be out in the woods for weeks on end but others that I would prefer to have a physical leash to.  How does one cope with these situations?  How do I change behavior when I don't have the "full" story on cadet conditions, attitudes, and history?  Answer: you do your best and work as a team.

In order to make legitimate change with these cadets, I need to alter behavior.  Through my experience, I have found this to be a difficult task, though not impossible.  The United States Air Force Academy taught me many things about leadership and one of the most powerful tools we experienced was the power of peer accountability.  This is the idea that you are responsible for the actions of your teammate, and they are likewise responsible for yours. 

We are making changes in the way that we work within the group.  I am changing my role within the power structure.  We will go back to basics in order to obtain the correct temperment and attitudes.  We will remove priveledges such as talking, break times, and "fun" activities if need be.  We will provide structured rituals such as current event and news reviews, squaring of corners, and the buddy system.  Finally, we will delegate responsibility to the lowest level possible while enabling those levels to make good decisions.

Hopefully, these changes will create the environment necessary for proper learning to take place, for friendships to form, and leadership to flourish.  My goal for these kids is for them to develop into leaders with a sense of purpose, drive, and self respect that their peers in inner-city Boston do not have.  I want them to be constantly thinking about the group, not just themselves, I want them to work as a team.

If you have suggestions for making this process easier, please email me at james(dot)m(dot)connors(at)gmail(dot)com or leave a comment here for people to share.

[Edit: removed "children" from first paragraph 10.10.08]

Help Change The Face of Education

A-levels (concept) (notes) 

Image by orangeacid via Flickr

Second post for the day - I'm asking for your help.

As part of my time abroad, I am required to do a fair bit of research. I am currently working on a research project looking into a concept known as "student experience" and I need your help. All I'm asking for is that you take 5 minutes to take a very short survey.

URL: Help me with my research

The above URL will bring you to survey monkey where I have put together a 5 minute survey. Please take a few moments to fill it out and help me with my research but also help companies and institutions improve the experience that students, faculty, administrators, and parents have when dealing with the administration. It only takes five minutes or less.

Conducting Research on Student Experience - Please Help

A mathematics lecture, apparently about linear algebra, at Helsinki University of Technology (HUT) — Teknillinen korkeakoulu (TKK) in Espoo Finland.

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Second post for the day - I'm asking for your help.

As part of my time abroad, I am required to do a fair bit of research.  I am currently working on a research project looking into a concept known as "student experience" and I need your help.  All I'm asking for is that you take 5 minutes to take a very short survey.

URL: Help me with my research

The above URL will bring you to survey monkey where I have put together a 5 minute survey.  Please take a few moments to fill it out and help me with my research but also help companies and institutions improve the experience that students, faculty, administrators, and parents have when dealing with the administration.  It only takes five minutes or less.

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15 Days To Go

I promise that I will write more... I promise, promise, promise.

As the headline says, our program has 15 days remaining before we leave the Emerald Isle for the harsh realities of the United States. I don't mean that to be a negative statement but rather a sobering fact. We've been in a world where a dollar means nothing, where cars run on the wrong side of the road, where it rains every day (almost). Returning to Boston is going to be a shock to our system much the same way arriving in Dublin was - but we're "normal here" (not many of us are actually normal to begin with so... I'm not sure how to put that into thought, sorry).

Our impending departure illicits a whole plethora of emotions, mostly panic. There are a mulitude of things to wrap up here before I can even think about heading home. Our internships have projects that need to be delivered (more on mine in a few), we have a portfolio and research project for BU that no one has even looked at. On top of that, I just don't want to leave. I like the abstract world that we live in. My decisions here don't necessarily have real-world impact. Allow me to unpack that.

First, our grades don't matter. They do, but they don't. Whatever mark that we earn from University College Dublin is then passed through a matrix to yield a conversion to the "American" system. That matrix tells me that a 70% is an A... you tell me if you wouldn't laugh a little bit. Euros are funny money. Long past are the days that we were converting the currency in our minds. Pints are well over $7 USD and just hopping on the bus feels like an investment (over $2.70 each way). On top of all that, I speak differently. It's sloppy, inprecise, and sort of bugs me. I'll say something such as, "Oh, he was acting like a fool, like" and my questions no longer have the proper syllabic emphasis, e.g. questions don't end with your voice being "high" we sort of put it in the middle.

Did I mention that my rambling has gotten worse? That sentence was how many lines long... geez.

The moral of the story is that we're changed but it's as if we're in a playground. Our choices here don't impact our career (in theory). Mostly, I'm thinking of my internship with that thought. I'm using this experience as an opportunity to practice being at a real internship, practice for Accenture and EMC this summer. It's actually really helpful to see what I'll be able to get away with and what won't fly even whenconsidering what the different expectations will hold. I guess it's like I get to expell all the bad habits now... to include blogging while at work (oops).

So now that the kvetching is over, let's talk shop a little bit. I've been living in another culture for so long, I sometimes forget that all of you are sort of watching this game from the bleechers. I love Ireland. Despite the ups and downs in my personal life and the various other concerns that have come up, this semester will go down in my Wikipedia page as one of the best experiences ever. I am eternally grateful to my parents, Paul, Laura, and Brian, for their unending support, latenight phonecalls (my time, not theirs) - I could not have been here in Dublin without their support.

By the way, remember that melodramatic post a while ago about needing to find that "BIG" answer... some sort of wholistic change?  Well I found it.  Let me tell you a secret - it was with me the whole time.  Basically, I got a dose of reality - some would call it a good smattering of perspective.  Not only have I finally grown to see my parents as good friends instead of those people that try to embarrass me all the time, but I've found myself.  I've found the internal value in myself that doesn't require external validation for me to know that I'm me and that's really ok.

While my world no longer plays like a Las Vegas slot machine, I can tell there are going to be many, many new adventures to be had and all I have to do is be patient for them.  Hopefully you all will be a part of that with me.  I intend to quintuple efforts for this blog between now and my return.  There will be a few post-return entries that will hopefully have some interesting stories.  Then I'll be archiving these posts into my other blog, http://www.jamesmconnors.com under their own tags so they don't disappear when the jamesindublin domain expires.  Thank you for stopping by - I hope to see you next time!



Starting A "Real" Job

I've started a new chapter in my time here in Ireland. With exams now over, it's time that I turned my eyes away from the pages of notes and stick my head into the wild world of business. Yes, that's right, I'm at my new job... internship, work placement - whatever you want to call it. I just posted up a bit on how the whole exam thing went down... very interesting indeed. I'm currently mooching my lunch as much as possible and have the entire room of the office to myself. So, what am I doing? I'm working as a management intern at Campus IT ltd. Their main offices are in Dublin, Ireland with another office in the UK. It's an interesting company - they build software applications on top of Oracle database programs and sell them to colleges and universities. The real wonder is how they can exist when the market is so small. Since there are probably as many college in all of Ireland as there is in the Boston metro zone, I would say that their market is rather small.

What am I doing here? Well, it's not computers and it's not finance either. I'm actually going to be running a research project on what makes up a student's experience. Since their market is primarily the administration of these large colleges and universities, the student experience they talk about is the one that is tied to the differing models of administrative back-ends. I think it could be an interesting project and will definitely be a good conversation piece for future interviews. My role will be lead project manager, interviewer, head researcher, presenter, and coffee guy.

In reality, though, I'll have the opportunity to stretch this oddly creative brain of mine to try new things and experiment with the way I think. Having no background in sales, marketing, or market research, I wouldn't think that I'd be a good fit for the role BUT we had that amazing thing called the Cross Functional Core Curriculum! Hurray for Boston University School of Management and your ability to make me stretch my mind further and further every year.

I'll keep you all posted on the outcomes of the research and periodic updates for sure!