Dublin

We Stand on The Brink

Image via Wikipedia

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?

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!

Getting Back on the Horse - I need to Write

18-Story Accenture building located at One Fre...

So... it's been a while hasn't it?  So many things change with time; school has started, my internship has ended, I'm applying to jobs, I have offers - there's so many things that have moved forward in my life since the last time I made time to write here.

I'm not going to apologize for not writing - I've been filling my time well, I promise you that much.  This summer I worked for Accenture, a global consulting firm, doing systems integration and technology consulting for EMC.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and has given me much more than employment, but confidence, ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and perspective.

One thing that has been missing, however, has been the thrill that I get from writing on a regular basis.  Back in Ireland, I was writing for the University College Dublin paper - the observer.  In addition, I was blogging often, podcasting weekly, and had all the time in the world to engage audiences online.  In contrast, the summer has been amazing but busy - I barely had time to deal with anything outside of work and a rather interesting social life.  My goal is to write every day, either here on Jamesmconnors.com or over on Collegetechcentral.com but hopefully both.  I want this to be a part of my life that doesn't go away anytime soon.

So best of luck to me and best of everything to all of you - thank you for continuing to read and stay involved!

A Last Weekend to Remember

 

Bray Head

 

 

Image via Wikipedia

And yes, I do remember it! Does that set the tone for the rest of the post or what??

Anyways, allow me to get to the story.  Friday last, I had taken the day to work from home.  I did some writing, worked out a bit of my reports and the like when not tending to the feast I was preparing.  Scott and Lauren were off to their friends in Wexford for the weekend leaving Alison and I to our own devices in the apartment.

We had decided to do Powers Court Gardens in Co Wicklow on Saturday and Ryan would be coming too.  Due to bad weather, the call was made to push it all back to Sunday which was fine with me.  Unfortunately, they changed their mind at 8:30 in the morning and I wasn't so much interested in getting my butt out of bed on Saturday morning.  So they set off on their own adventure but I wanted some fun myself.  So begins the epic day that followed.

I decided that it being my last weekend in Ireland and all, that I would go out and do a marathon of the Porterhouse pubs.  There are four in Ireland so they would be my stops for the day.  The furthest away was in Bray - about an hour's journey on the DART (commuter rail) south of the city.  I arrived in town and wandered around until I was able to find my way to the pub.  It was a bit of a cave - dark with red lights to shed some light without making it bright.

I sampled their Porterhouse Red Ale while reading their little primer on the different types of beer and how they are made (Did you know a Lager is a "bottom fermented" beer?).  I followed that pint up with a glass of their Porterhouse Plain Porter - so clean and smooth.  The whole while Seamus, the bartender, and I had struck up quite the conversation.  We were watching the rugby and chatting up the waitresses while sharing favorite brews and stories of the good 'ole days.  After those were down I took my leave and decided to hike the big hill with a cross on it at Bray Head.

Let's just say that it was an hour or so later of walking that I noticed I hadn't come across a trail head and was making my way around the far side of the hill.  Clearly, I had missed the boat on this one.  Oh well - it was a good 10km jaunt to the next town over by way of a gorgeous seaside trail.  After chatting up an old Irish fellow at the DART station, it was time to head back to Dublin City Center.

Upon arrival in the city I grabbed some food quickly and took note of the abundance of goth kids running around in their black, metal addorned clothing.  One group rolled into the restuarant basically carrying one girl.  She couldn't hold herself up let alone keep her head from flopping onto the table with flexibility that would make Gumby jealous.  Being the concerned citizen I am, I made sure to tell the Guarda so she could get some medical attention (either on the verge of alcohol poisoning or had some serious drugs in her) and it was only about half six at this point.

To Porterhouse Central next where I ordered a Temple Brau - tasty for sure.  More rugby to be seen and at that point I noticed another guy watching the match by himself.  Side note -the match was international rugby for the Barclays cup and was being played in Chicago.  Jeff, the guy's name, was a financial planner working for a Boiler Room sort of company and had dreams of going out on his own.  Anyways, we talked a good bit and when he said he was home to the wife and kids I took my opportunity to part ways and head to the second to last Porterhouse in Temple Bar.  Of course, it was on Jeff's way so he came too.

Now, mind you that I'm a responsible adult and all that but I felt rather uncomfortable with letting this guy buy me a couple pints.  I didn't think that he was going to drug me, nor was he trying to take me home.  To me, it was more like the guy wanted someone to drink with and since I was "on holiday" (as he put it) I wasn't allowed to buy a single drink.  This was new territory for me.  I've never had someone else buy me a drink that wasn't later reciprocated etc... I guess when you're as cool as me you've got to get used to that (HAHA BIG JOKE).  He introduced me to an excellent Polish Strong Beer - Okocim Mocne (7% ABV) that was absolutely tasty.

To Temple Bar we go where he again refuses to let me buy a round for the two of us.  We siddled up to a table and enjoyed some modern Celtic music - very cool.  They had all sorts of traditional instruments alongside guitars and drums.  A very interesting sound.  Speaking of instruments - I've made a promise to myself.  If I can teach myself to play the guitar this summer and stay at it, and really dedicate time to it as I've been neglecting to ever since that day mom and I got my Dean Exotica.  If I can do that and really be true to it all, then I'll buy myself some uilleann pipes because I've been absolutely taken away by their sound and their songs.

From Porterhouse Temple Bar, Jeff steared me to the Brazen Head - Dublin's oldest pub situated on what would have been the outskirts of old Duvlin - the Nordic settlement.  He got the Guinness and I got the seats.  We ended up sharing a table with a Montreal transplant and a migrated Limey.  They were good fun though it was a bit odd when the lady was probing to see if Jeff or I were cops - she wanted to light up a joint right there in the open air bar... which she did.

From the Brazen Head, I took my leave from Jeff - good luck to that merry soul.  Thank you for the pints, my friend.  I met up with my old roommate from UCD, Fergal.  It was his last night in Dublin before heading back to Luxombourg with his family Sunday morning.  After the hellos and a bathroom stop at Burger King on lower O'Connell, we headed our way to the Porterhouse North.  It was the first time I had walked through the North Side - definitely an experience.

Upon our arrival at Porterhouse North, I walked in no problem despite my cargo pants and hiking boots... and Fergs was stopped immediately even though he was well kept (for him at least).  I love not getting carded - it'll be a real change when we get back to the States.  This time around I ordered myself the Oyster Stout, a beer that I had sipped before and could actually taste the seafood - GROSS!  This time around, it was great but I'm not sure whether that was something to do with my current state or if my taste buds had really just changed that much.  Oh dear it's going be interesting to come back to the States and the crappy beer etc etc.

Anyways, the cap of the night came next.  We headed out the back of the clubby pub to their patio since it was a nice night out.  Almost as soon as we sat down at a table, a bit of a fight broke out right behind me.  Anyone who knows me well knows I'm very protective and can act like the security guard.  Well before I knew it I was on my feet holding this drunk back so he wouldn't pummell this much smaller guy.  When said drunk started to try to hit me I decided it was time to put an end to it.  I told the guy we were going down and I *gently* brought the guy to the ground and *lightly* put my knee on his back to keep him from going anywhere.  The bouncers came in as I was getting a good round of applause and they took care of boucning then entire group.

I had gone back to my beer when a LARGE black bouncer was coming towards me.  All I could think of was theat he was going to bounce me for taking the drunk down and that I'd not get to finish my drink :-( sad thoughts, I know.  Quite the opposite, the bouncer told me to talk with the waitress and that she'd take care of me for the rest of the night.  Needless to say, I buy another drink that night - completely not expected but whole heartedly appreciated!  Thanks, Porterhouse bouncer!

So for an entire day of travel, food, drink, and fun I had spent less than 20 Euro when I ought to have spent at least triple that for all the craic that had been had.  It was an amazing ni Fergal and I capped it off by taking one last photo before parting ways and then I headed north and walked my ass home.  I would say it was a learning experience and a confidence boosting night - I couldn't have asked for a better Saturday.

So back to work - I have the reseach report for work, a presentatifo them as well.  Then there is that journal entry thing that I need to do for BU as well as their research report... this last week has inevitably come down to crunch time as it usually does with me.  I need to learn how to plan this stuff out better!

 

 

What Is the Taste of Dublin?

Coffee Press 

Image by QuintanaRoo via Flickr

Yesterday was an interesting experience.  Not only was it thrifty Thursday, it was the night of the Tastes of Dublin festival.  It was absolutely amazing.  Basically, round up every *decent* restuarant in the city, grab a bunch of international beer distributers, and then pile on some wine and you'll have an idea of what we had going last night.

All day, we were preoccupied by the prospects of a night filled with music, food, drink, and friends.  I definitely was not up to my usual efficiency master ways.  This particular festival happens to be rather popular and has sister programs all over the place - Tastes of Cork happens to be in the next few weeks.  In any event, the office hired a few taxis to bring those adventurous souls over to the Ivy Gardens (GORGEOUS) where the festivities kicked off at 1700.

Upon arrival, we were ushered through a hedgerow of ivy, weird how that happens, which then opened up to an entire hidden world of food and beer... oh yeah, wine too.  Starbucks employees with french press coffee greeted us (they ground the beans so fine that there was silt in my coffee - big time bummer) and a band of pretty girls were handing out the Evening Herald.

Our first instincts were to go around and get the lay of the land while waiting for the rest of our mates. We wandered about seeing everything from cocktail jugglers to horrible bands in gazebos to Vietnamese food all over the ground.  Finally, the rest of the lads showed up and met us in by the ivy entrance.  It was game time.

First stop were the liquor vendors tasting their wares, then a few of the younger guys and I decided it was time to taste the Sake - a first for me.  Three glasses later, I felt like I had transported into a world of cultural food.  We went touring the globe stopping by India for some of their tandoori chicken and then to Lithuania for cider, lager, and weissbeir.  That was a tasty stop - we came back numerous times since the owner seemed to like us a lot.

After a bit we moved into the other areas of the festival - we had only scratched the surface so far.  I ventured through restaurant row  and passed up a chance to eat Gordon Ramsey's food - he's the chef that yells at everyone in Hells Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares (both are favorite tv shows these days).  It was the fillet of beef that won from a vendor that escapes my mind at this moment.  From there we ventured to the Jameson tent where I had my first measure (really was half a measure I suppose) of Middleton Extra Rare - that's 150 Euros a bottle, friends.  All I can say is YUM.

A stop at the chef demonstration tent nearly threw me into a slumber but a wafting scent of barbecue led to me to the Viking exhibit where they were showing off the newest in outdoor kitchens - basically a kitchen on wheels.  A stop for some Magnums follows before we decide to find the rest of the lads.  They hadn't moved from the Lithuanian beerhaus... figures.  I grabbed them and we moved out in search of something.

In the mean time, I was introduced to premium import beer.  An deluxe importer called me over and recommended a Belgian strong lager after interviewing me regarding my beer tastes.  I believe he described the beer as something that would "kick me in the face with flavor" but still allowed for easy drinking.  Needless to say, 10% later, I was happy.  More food followed a better band at the gazebo (are you getting the nomadic nature with which we conducted ourselves?) before finding a mojito tent.

Now, for having been told that Americans can't drink, I think I did pretty well.  Considering that my Irish coworkers had partaken of the same beverages as I had, they were borderline "Will Farrell" as they put it while I was well within my limits.  More food and a stretch amongst the gorgeous fountains laughing and having fun with the entire gang preceded our made dash to the wine tent as we only had mere minutes before that all closed.  That was a mess - angry vendors turned up their nose at me when I came to their tables genuinely interested but toting a plastic glass (their dishwasher had apparently broken).  In any event, we ended the evening well enough and I took a stroll back to the office by way of the quays at night.

Absolutely fabulous evening with the work mates.  The second best part was that my ticket was reimbursed!  A whole night of Irish entertainment on the cheap - my kind of night.  For those of you reading and worrying that all we did was drink... well we did a lot of that... BUT I've removed a lot of the hanging out times since it was rather passive.  And no... I was not "wasted" or otherwise - just jolly and warm.  Mom isn't going to like this post...

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!

Exams Are Over

I last wrote about a week ago about how studying early wasn't so much fun. Well, it's not and apparently my mind doesn't like to work that way either - early, that is. Instead of following the detailed study plans that I generated, I was much more inclined to work on the "fun" stuff. The fun stuff being my blog, podcast, personal branding strategy, networking, etc etc etc. Basically, I found every opportunity to not study that any college student would be able to manage. It was brutal... but that wasn't even the worst of it. Saturday's exam was, in my mind, going to be the hardest - the mathematical modelling for decision making. I had extensive study guides, past exam papers, notes, problems, and all the rest printed out... all for nothing. The final exam was basically the exam that the instructor had set in 2005... not impressed. I hardly had to think about it since we had already worked through it, just adjusting my work for the new numbers (he did change a couple of those).

OH! Before I forget, let me say a little bit about UCD exams. Basically, imagine a large conference hall at least two football fields in area. Now, fill that hall with 4,000 desks and chairs in rows. Now, place 4,000 students into those chairs, an "invigilator" talking over a PA system, more invigilators pacing up and down the aisles in random intervals and a dead silence. That might be about what we experienced - it was truly something out of Harry Potter.

Monday's exam was a breeze - the Management of Information Systems comes to me as if it were hard-coded into my brain, gosh I love technology! Unfortunately, this particular exam didn't get over until after 7pm leaving me scant hours before the finance exam the next day. At the same time, two of my close friends from softball were headed back to Virginia the next morning ?. It was a sad night indeed. I did, however, pop over for a while to hang out and say goodbye. I dominated at charades but was constantly killed off when playing mafia. In any event, I made it back to my dorm by mid-night and faced a tough decision. Continue to study until I was tired and then sleep for a bit or sleep now and get up really early. Knowing my night-owl tendencies, I opted for the former option working until just about 5am, sleeping for 3 hours, getting up at 8, walking to the convenience store for some coffee and breakfast, getting home, popping the first redbull of the day and then carrying on the studying.

I was furiously trying to fill my little head with knowledge all the while under the gun that I hadn't realized it was going to be so hard. After the first exam, I figured that this class would be no different... I was wrong. Needless to say I didn't feel as confident as I usually like to when it comes to exams but I was able to answer enough questions that I think I did reasonably well (plus I only needed to get 45% of the points on the exam to pass the class with a B).

Irish Education or American, You Decide

This semester, I have been studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland through the Boston University Dublin Management Internship program.  Unlike many of the other BU abroad programs, we directly enroll in a host institution rather than taking classes at a Boston University student center.  This means we are taking the actual Irish classes along with Irish students as they work towards their degrees.  This interaction and firsthand experience has allowed me to gain an interesting perspective on differing educational systems. Here at the University College Dublin Quinn School of Management, the curriculum, course requirements, and credit hours are very different for equivalent degrees in the United States.  There are a number of reasons that I think the educational environment is different here.  First, students do not pay for their school tuition, the government does.  As much as it is elitist to say, I think this may contribute to student buy-in as far as the educational process goes.  Since they have no financial responsibility, as compared to US students, students may not take classes as seriously as they might otherwise if there was a financial stake in their coursework.

Second, many Irish students have a three year program to earn their Bachelor's Degree as compared to the American four year system.  When looking at the curriculums, the Irish spend their entire university career in the college of their major taking courses that relate directly to that major.  There are not the same sorts of "general education" or "elective" course requirements as we have at Boston University.  It seems that by reducing the course load of outside classes, Irish curriculums are able to graduate students a year faster than most American colleges.  I wonder whether this has an effect on the work place and hirability.  One might question maturity and experience given students are hired into firms for full time work at the age of twenty-one rather than our traditional twenty-two.

Finally, the Irish curriculum and teaching style that we are experiencing is very different from that which we are used to at Boston University.  Classes are almost exclusively lecture style with little to no classroom participation and minimal feedback.  The instructor will generally talk about notes they have prepared in a PowerPoint presentation or an Adobe PDF that then displays on a projector.  Classes tend to be about three hours long with a break in the middle and meet once a week.  In contrast, the longest class I had experienced prior to UCD was two hours, met twice a week, and was VERY interactive.  Even our large lecture style courses tended to interact either by cold-call, interactive clickers, or other real-time feedback.

I have not yet formed my opinion about what system is "better" since I have not really gone out and experienced what it is like to work alongside these students.  In a little over a week, I will be starting an internship in downtown Dublin where, among other goals, I hope to experience firsthand what it is to work in Ireland.  I personally prefer the BU system and curriculum because it works better for me, or perhaps because I have grown up with it, so to speak.

What do you think?  Does the Irish system of education sound better to you?  Is it more fun?  If you were a hiring manager, who would you rather hire?  Post a comment or drop a line to james.m.connors [dot] gmail [dot] com and let the community know what you think.

Clogged Tubes - A World's Move to Broadband; [Originally Published with UCD Observer]

Clogged Tubes - A world's Move to Broadband Most University students take for granted that there is going to be fast internet connections around them these days.  We have grown up with the likes of YouTube, Google, Limewire, Kazaa, and the rest.  In fact, there is a lot of technology driving your ability to download podcasts, watch your friends' antics online, and even get your course information online.  However, no computers in the world would be able to get you information if it were not for a little something called Broadband.

What is Broadband?

Broadband is a telecommunications technology that runs both at a hardware level (physical wires etc.) as well as a data level.  In its basic form, broadband is a network of high bandwidth cables spreading throughout the world.  High bandwidth refers to the amount of information that one can send at one time over the internet signal.  On campus, we have high bandwidth wireless and wired connections that allow large amounts of data to be moved at once - approximately 100 Megabits (100,000,000 bits) per second for the wired connections in the Quinn School of Management.  Once that information leaves the University network, it is most likely passed off to the greater "internet" over a T3 or Fiber Optic connection.  These two connections are VERY high bandwidth connections that allow the highest speeds and data transfer rates.  From there, a series of smart switches, also known as routers, process the information and direct it to its intended destination e.g. YouTube video data being sent to your computer.

Who has Broadband?

Unfortunately, not everyone in this country is lucky enough to be on campus with such good connections.  In fact, only about eighteen and a half percent of households in the Republic of Ireland have broadband connections and the country ranks thirty-fourth in the world for number of broadband internet users.  What do these other seventy-one percent use to connect to the internet?  Usually dial-up connections over ordinary phone lines or a technology known as DSL, which stands for designated service line.  These connections are faster than ten years ago but still do not approach the speeds of modern broadband services available.  Dialup connections rely on an old backbone of telephone wires that then connect to the modern "internet" through a node or entry point.  The data then follows a similar path to the YouTube video in the first example.

How does Broadband work?

Broadband internet connections work in a highly efficient manner.  When a client (end user, YOU) type in an internet connection, your browser sends data over the Ethernet or wireless connection to what is called a DNS Server which stands for Domain Name Service server.  This computer sits attached to the internet and holds a translation table to change your www.google.com into its IP address (standing for Internet Protocol address), 64.233.183.99.  Those series of numbers are then used to address your request for the page through the University proxy server (topic for another day) and on to the internet.  Routers will look at the request and the IP address and then decided the fastest route to get to the destination using the least "hop," end-points for the cable at another router, with the highest speed cables.  For example, if you were trying to get to the UN homepage, whose website is hosted in South Africa (for this example), the data might be sent first to Dublin, then the UK, then Spain, then to Egypt, then finally to South Africa where the server is located.  All along the way, routers are picking the fastest connections and the whole process takes mere milliseconds.

How can I get Broadband?

The easiest way to get broadband for yourself is to go on the internet and search "Broadband Ireland."  A number of results show options for selecting a service provider.  These include RTE, BT Ireland, Smart Telecom, Clearwire, and Irish Broadband.  Another route you might take is using what is known as mobile broadband.  You have probably seen adverts for this service from Vodafone and O2 wireless.  These services use a 3G cellular connections to access the internet over the wireless data networks.  Unfortunately, for those of us studying here for just a semester, both of those providers require 12-month contracts.  However, just last month 3 Mobile released a service known as 3pay Mobile Broadband that offers pay as you go 3G internet.  It is a handy service that allows you to pay daily, weekly, or monthly using top-up vouchers.

There are many great benefits to having a broadband connection - everything from being able to see more of the world to being more productive on the internet.  Some countries such as Northern Ireland and South Korea have been able to offer 100% broadband coverage to their citizens but they are the exception, not the rule.  There are a number of options for internet service here in Ireland and everyone ought to go out and at least explore their options.  Look for more information on internet regulation, network policies, and rumors of a Tiered Internet in upcoming issues.

A Weekend in Paris

Well well well - another update for another trip.  This time it was a long weekend in PARIS!  What a gorgeous city.  I have to say that it was probably one of the prettiest city that I have traveled to thus far this semester if not ever.  It was after class was over on Thursday afternoon and a team meeting at the same that I boarded the Air Coach en route to Dublin Airport.  No worries and an easy transit through security - surprisingly so.  However, once I was given the gate assignment, I noted that it was in a different terminal.  I headed out to the place where I was supposed to be a noted that it seemed like a commuter terminal, no jetways but rather doors that opened out onto the tarmac.   Anyways, I found food and drink and found a seat to just cool my heals before we took off.  On the plane, I was seated next to an Irish couple heading to Paris for a vacation.  We spoke about what to do, practiced our little French and compared notes.  They were so cute. Upon arrival at Charles de Gaul airport, I thought I had stepped into a pipe dream.  There were not the normal sorts of straight walkways that we are used to in the states.  Rather there were moving sidewalks that dipped up and down as if it were an ocean swell that we were transiting.  All the while, the path was in these huge tubes with concrete walls - it felt like I was in a cave spelunking or something.  Once into the central terminal, it was through passport control (so many stamps now!) and into what they called "tube central."  The atrium was literally something out of the game chutes and ladders with tubes crisscrossing through the center.  It was so weird but I was able to find signs that pointed to the rail line that headed into the city center.

Onto the shuttle train it was and towards the RER (their version of a commuter rail I guess) station and trying to figure out their system of ticketing.  I opted for the unlimited pass that would let me get onto pretty much anything anywhere any time just because I didn't want to have to deal with that sort of stuff while also trying to navigate and translate my way through the city.  That first night, I made my way alone into the Montmartre (sp) area on the North side of the city and into my hostel for the night.  The only other BU person was in the city on the opposite side staying with a friend so I would be alone at the hostel for two nights before setting myself in with the other BU people that would arrive on Saturday.

Friday started bright and early as the Australian pair, whom were staying their last night in Paris at my hostel (they had been on the road for 2 months then) got up at 0-dark-thirty.  To my glee, there was breakfast waiting in the downstairs for me - croissant and crusty roll with coffee and OJ - I headed out into the city knowing only that I needed to meet Nicole at the Eiffel Tower at 10am.  My plan was to hit the metro over to the Arch du Triumph, which I did, and then walk into the city from there.  It was really need to see all these places that I had seen photos and videos of but now in the flesh.  Onwards into the city, I went and moseyed in towards the center seeing Parisians going about their normal morning.

Nicole made it out to the tower just a bit later after getting lost on the C-Line of the RER (I do not blame her that line is CRAZY with odd end points and routes).  We opted to save some coin and walked up to the first level of the tower, grabbed a quick snack, and then pushed on to the second level.  Photos all around then found out how to get to the tippy top.  The weather could not have been better - clear and relatively warm, minus the wind.  We finally got into the HUGE line for the top stage elevator then it was on our way up!  Hopefully you do not have a fear of heights and in the back of my mind, I was trying to remember that I am planning to jump out of a plane this summer...

Anyways, we hit the top and walked around taking photos as we went.  Somewhere up there Brian and my mother become engaged and on thinking that, I saw a couple seal that deal right there as well - very odd but I took the opportunity to get on a knee for Nicole and ask her to take a photo of me.  You should have seen the looks on people's faces when I said that - haha!  After getting down, we walked around the park adjacent to the tower, took the obligatory photos, and then headed out for more adventure.  The next spot would be Notre Dame Cathedral and oh, goodness it was beautiful.  From the outside to the inside, it was absolutely amazing.  History, stories, meaning, beauty all coming together.  I lit a candle within for my family and friends so I hope good fortune reaches you wherever you are.

After the cathedral, it was to the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxemburg Gardens) where we actually spotted David Letterman with his son, publicist, and personal assistant.  It was SOO surreal to see him there, totally unexpected.  I did not know where to place his face but I knew it was from US TV back home so I started to go through shows that I knew and I finally realized it was David Letterman with a salt and pepper beard.  Too funny.  Once we had had enough sun, we moved towards the Louvre where it was going to be a student's night with free admission with a student ID.  It was a lot of fun to see the old and impressive stuff.  We saw the naked lady without arms - very famous, old cuneiform tablets, the Mona Lisa and so much more.  I was definitely disappointed that the real thing was so small and unimpressive - not to mention the room was completely different from the movie, The DaVinci Code.

That night we headed back to Nicole's friend's place at Cite Univeriste and had a cool little family dinner with parents and friends.  Then I made my journey back north to my hostel for a night of annoyed sleep.  Some drunken bitches rolled into the hostel room at 2am and not only turned on all the lights but were like yelling to each other.  Of course, they were American.  I bit my tongue while they were getting ready for bed but when they continued to yell at one another from the opposite sides of the room, I had to say something.  Needless to say, they shut up really fast - I also adjusted my wake up time to be up showered and out before their alarm even went off.

Saturday started much the same way as Friday but I then ventured through the city on my way to Gare Du Nord (The North Train Station) where I met up with Nicole, Parker (her friend), and Parker's mom and aunt.  We tried to find a train to Giverny, Monet's home, but there was not anything from that station - we found that it was on the other side of the city where we could make it out to the gardens there.  We trucked and barely hopped on the train as it made its way out of the city center.   I caught up with Lost on my iPod while on the train - much fun.  Upon arrival in Vernon, we boarded a bus to get us to Giverny and we set ourselves loose on the small town.  We devoured some delectable crepes at a small hotel/b&b before heading into the house and gardens of Monet.  I took MANY MANY photos of flowers and really got my artsy on.  With someone's suggestion, I have been trying to find marketable photos that I might be able to print and sell at some point in the future.  Check out the Flickr feed for more of those.

That night, I wandered the streets of Paris after moving my stuff from Le Village to Le Montclaire hostels.  Starbucks and all the rest of the American fat machines were around.  After a brief dinner, I thought it would be a good idea to walk down along the Seine... well that was sketchy but I managed to navigate the stone boardwalks without getting mugged.  I had a really good talk with a close pal, a long think while making my way from Notre Dame over to the Eiffel Tower.  I snapped a couple fun night pictures of the tower just before and during the "sparkling" that happens late at night.  That was really special for me.  Along the way, I got a call from my softball pals that were in and we met up along the Seine and headed back towards the hostel by foot.

The next morning we (softball pals and I) trekked our way out to Versailles.  WOW - that was an amazing experience.  I do not think I can remember any buildings that are that old and that HUGE!  Unfortunately there was a ridiculously long line to get tickets and then to get into security and to get into the halls.   In the face of that, we headed around the back to the gardens.  Let us just say it was just like the paintings and all the books - expansive gardens, trees, shrubbery, grass, lakes, ponds, fountains etc... it was perfect.  We wandered snapping photos all along the way.  Tucked away in one of the maze gardens was a café where we pickets up from paninis and that amazing ice cream that you just can't get in the states.  More wandering and more photos ensued before we retreated to the train just as the bad weather rolled in.

It was a chill night that followed and then the next morning I had an uneventful trek back to Dublin.  Sorry for the super long post... I sort of got away from myself.  Hopefully this means my writing spirit is back and I will be able to keep this guy topped off a little bit better.  Thanks for reading!

I went to other places over spring break

Sooo I've not been good about keeping this up to date over the last while so allow me to tidy this one up. After leaving Amsterdam, Grace and I flew into Barcelona and made the most of that city.  It was so cool to be able to use a bit of my limited Spanish.  We toured the city looking at the normal touristy sites but also did a tour of Gaudi architecture.  This tour culminated in a walk within the walls of La Sagrada Familia.  Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!  Go to the spring break collection on my flickr site - http://www.flickr.com/photos/nalgene1080 for more looks at this place.

After leaving Barcelona, we met up with Grace and my friend, Sarah, and rented a car (with GPS) to drive south.  Our first day on the road we made it into Alicante amid explosive festivities - literally.  People were dropping firecrackers all over the place in celebration of the Las Fallas festival.  Basically, the neighborhoods of Alicante build these large statues and scenes out of very flammable materials.  They party and celebrate all through Holy Week and then they burn them on the last day of the festival - we were there for that night.  We met up with friends of friends in the city and they showed us around a bit until we retired to our car and slept in a parking lot, in the car, for the night.  That was enough for us because the next day we found a place to sleep in beds.

< ![endif]-->The next day we walked around the parks and museums of Alicante before pushing on to the beach and then off to Valencia.  We saw the sites as best we could whilst there and enjoyed a relaxing night.  The next day we took in the beach and scenic vistas and even toured an old Moorish fort atop the highest point of the city.  It was absolutely gorgeous to look out over the entire city as well as the beach.  It was definitely the nicest weather we had had all week.  With heavy hearts we headed further south to Granada.

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Granada was where Grace had been studying for the semester so she owned the town.  We stayed with a friend of hers in a very nice hotel.  Absolutely a gas.  We went out that night and sampled the local haunts, namely the tapas bars.  Granada is the only place around that will give you food with every beer you order - it was tasty too.  The night wore on meeting up with friends and new people until eventually we made our way back to the hotel.  The next day, we played it cool touring the city a bit and getting a beautiful glimpse of the Sierra that looms high above the city center much in the way that you'd imagine the Alps would in Switzerland.

With heavy heart, I departed Granada the next morning en route back to Dublin.  I thought that I might MIGHT be able to get onto an earlier flight into Heathrow so that I could get a flight back to Dublin before the night was out... unfortunately that definitely didn't happen.  On the other hand, I rolled into Malaga not knowing where the heck I was going from an hour and a half bus ride from Granada.  Being the inventive guy that I am, I went to the rail station nearby to the bus terminal and was able to navigate my way on the light rail system out to the airport.  This too was in vain as I found the British Airways office closed for a 4 hours making my attempt for moving up my flight a 6.5 hour wait in Malaga Airport.  I read my books, did some work, listened to podcasts, watched some shows I had on my iPod while waiting, trying to be productive.

Finally, the time came when the desks opened and we could get through security.  I ended up meeting a graduate student from George Washington University in line who had been out traveling and learning more about the culture.  He was an international marketing strategy guy - very interesting to talk to.  We chatted and met up after security and have kept in touch since.  That night was a horrific overnight in quite possibly the worst terminal ever.  It started with a sleepless night in an ice cold terminal wing - the Brits didn't want us near the shops so they herded us into one wing that was sooo very cold.  It was awful but I ended up meeting a nice old man that told me his life story around 3am.  I has some calls from friends and family around the 4am time that were interesting (oh how I love time changes).  At about half four, the Biometric office opened and we all had to register with them - they took 4 finger palm prints and a head photo.  This was apparently a recent security measure to control international travelers when in common concourses.

Anyways, the story ends with me getting a hassle at every checkpoint for one reason or another, not getting any breakfast, and then finally got on the flight.  Upon arrival in Dublin, they told me they had lost my bag but didn't know where it was... I wasn't really batting 500 that day.  I headed home, and took care of some of the work that had piled up and then got myself into bed for a long deserved nap.  I woke up in the afternoon to word that I had gotten the Accenture internship which was amazing and then woken up again a few hours later to news that they had found my bag.  All in all, it was a great end to a horrible 48 hours.  It was a great trip and a nice way to spend my spring break.

A New Name - A New Mission

Well, I have been reading a lot online and learning more and more about how to market yourself online and bascially, I've decided that I needed to own my name a little more than I do (online that is).  Therefore, I have registered www.jamesmconnors.com to bring together all of my projects.  If you came in over the old jconnors.net URL, hopefully you were redirected without issue.  I'll be doing more testing to make sure that the transition doesn't break anything major. So the look is the same, the name is different, and now I'm trying to figure out where to bring this blog.  I know I want to keep it as an outlet for me to spend time on and all that but I also want to make sure that I can tie together my projects.  Some know that I'll be launching a company in the near-ish future and hopefully that'll bring my online operations into one single entity.  So look for information about that in the near future.

Hope you're all keeping well and that you're stopping in every now and then.  For more updates on my current adventures, please check out http://www.jamesindublin.com for a narrative of my semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland and my various romps around Europe.

Mind the Step...

Ireland3 054 Ireland3 056 Welcome back from the break. Sorry about that, I was just crashing last night. As some may have noted on my fitness blog at http://surelybonds.blogspot.com, I have decided to start training for a marathon. Yesterday was the first day and even at just 3 miles, I was tired (we had just had 2 hours of softball practice - I am not that bad haha).

Last night, I made a couple revisions to the PHP coding of the website so now you have a date in the message feed around all of the items. I hope that this will help those of you out that were not quite clear on the dates. Sorry about that, it was part of the template I used and did not really do much modification before I left. I also posted up the article that I wrote for the Observer. Since then, they have asked me to come on board as a bit of a regular columnist in the science and technology field. Therefore, that has been kind of interesting. I submitted an article about nano-technology this afternoon - it will be posted up once published next week. In any event, I will continue here with the trip to Galway picking up with our tour of the Cliffs of Moher.

Flash back to Saturday night, there were two different camps when it came to deciding which tour company to take. One company got us back at "approximately 5:30" and came highly recommended by the hostel staff; it also was supposed to pick us up right there at the hostel. However, we needed to make it on a 6pm bus back to Dublin... The other company got us back at about 5pm but was not as recommended citing some customer service issues, was 2 hours shorter and departed on the other side of the city centre. Well, the camps were divided between the two and those that wanted to take the "better" tour knew that there were other options to get back on later buses or trains - we would just have to pay for the ticket again.

Needless to say, we ended up going to the "other" tour that got us back by 5pm because it was the safer bet and those that wanted it were not willing to compromise. I understand that but I really did not want to split the group up and I also wanted to enjoy the 20 euro that I would be paying to see the sights... Fortunately, for us, our tour was amazing. Billy, the coach driver and tour narrator, flung our agile bus around mountain switchbacks like a La Mans driver. He didn't seem to have any regard for the winding roads and charged forwards with the sort of determination a middle aged woman might have to get home when they need to pee (I remember that lmc...).

In any event, when I called to confirm the location for departure on Sunday morning, the owner/operator told us to stay put at our hostel and that he would come pick us up. Five minutes later, we were whisked away in a nice mini coach and delivered to the loading area for the main tour. I had a slight feeling that this tour was going to be better than we had heard. At this point, I bumped into a bunch of friends from the softball club that were also in the city for the weekend. We chatted a bit and then parted ways to get onto our respective tour company's buses. Our coach was not nearly full; each of us had our own row and got to spread out comfortably. This was a godsend because those of us with long legs rarely get comfortable on the cramped seats of the coaches here in Ireland.

Before we knew it, we were rushing past beautiful scenery as we headed south out of the city. It was still early and the morning fog still held the harbor but we could tell there would be better conditions to come. Our first stop would be an area known as the Burren. Billy explained to us that it was named such for the abundance of limestone rock that scoured the hills. Indeed, the landscape looked much like the alpine zones of high mountains with little more than scrub brush and grasses filling in the space between rocks. We let off some passengers at a welcome center for a preordered "walk" around the hills. I couldn't help but think of it as the Australian "walk about" where we just sort of wandered through the brush and such forth until we found what we were looking for. For the rest of us, we held on for dear life as Billy launched our nimble craft up some treacherous switchbacks and hills as we climbed the side of hill to reach a welcome center for some natural caves. Unfortunately, the tour was not included in our tour costs so I decided that once you see one set of caves, they are really all about the same. Mammoth Cave National Park pretty much got me set with all of that and the caves in Colorado Springs that we visited during basic training gave can't really be topped.

After dining on a latte - can I just say that this country is in love with its espresso drinks!? I mean I cannot get a regular filter coffee for the life of me. Instead, they hand me a café Americano and I am sorry, but that is not the same. Anyways, we left that facility passing an aviary that some researchers were trying to preserve and train hunting birds for public display. We then had to bypass the next stop because of road works - another thing this country has an awful lot going on. If there is so many road works, why do the roads still stink? I mean it really ought not to take 4 hours for us to cross this country... it's not that wide! Our backup was a spot called the corkscrew hill, which as you might guess had more switchbacks but also offered a beautiful view back down the valley. I am not sure that the pictures do it any justice because of the haze.

Next, we were dropped off at the cliffs - dropped because the city had decided to raise coach-parking costs from 5 euro to 60 euro per bus. In protest, the tour companies are boycotting the parking area. Anyways, the first thing we noticed was that the visitor center was built into the hill - that was pretty cool. The next was the odd look of built up steps and ramps around the edge of the field. It looked something more akin to the Great Wall of China rather than the dramatic landfall that everyone calls it. Ironically, the Cliffs of Moher are not the tallest cliffs in the country - they are about a third the size of those found in the northwest coastline near Ulster province.

We trekked up to the walls that contained us in the publicly owned areas. They kept us back from the edge by about 10 feet but even so, the view was absolutely amazing. Looking in each direction the site was just as majestic as the professional postcard photographers make them out to be. Craggy cliffs shaded in grey as far as the horizon to the south and a hill with a small castle to the north. Many photos and scenery shots were taken to be sure. A couple of us BU students ventured farther down the coastline and finally past the public area on a well-trodden path with a series of signs that were ironic. First was a Samaritans sign that read, "Feeling depressed? We care" and gave their helpline number. Good to know that I can call someone while I am enjoying freefall before hitting the rocks and water below. Next was a large national park style sign that proclaiming that we were entering private property. Finally, an even larger sign asked us not to go beyond that point. Well, we went past that point and with about a thousand of our best friends that day and the millions that have already gone before us, we pressed on further down the cliffs.

Now, we no longer had the fences holding us back and one false step would easily send us sliding down the mud and into the abyss below. I trod carefully. We took many more photos and had some great shots of the coast and cliffs since there were no fences to get in the way. I have posted all of the shots back up onto flickr and facebook so take your choice - links are to the right hand side in my blogroll. It was about time to get going so we headed back to the visitor center to avail ourselves of the restrooms and then headed for the gift shop (The visitor center "experience" was something like 12 euro... not happening. There were the standard knickknacks and Chinese made Irish gifts etc - we left without purchasing anything. Back to the bus for us.

We made another stop two stops on the way back to Galway. One, a nice rocky shoreline with 30ft cliffs on the edges, the other had an old castle. I think I slept through the second one, oops. We made it back to Galway in record time thanks to Billy's lead foot. We were so early that we caught the citylink bus at 5pm instead of waiting an hour for the 6. Good thing too because the bus hit traffic and made us about an hour behind schedule. It was to home and to bed that we went since all of us were about to get into bed on the bus already.

Well thanks for reading the annals of my journey over the weekend. This week I have got another article for the Observer - turned in today - a hiking trip to the Wicklow Mountains and Glendaloch on Saturday. We are also launching our private beta of my newest adventure with MinuteFix at http://www.minutefix.com where we offer community based IT support at per minute rates. If your problem isn't solved you don't pay anything. So we are off to Irish History class here in a little bit but I wanted to get this written and posted up now that I am back from grocery shopping in the city center. I hope you are all well and in good health. Thinking of you all!

Galway and Aran Islands Venture

Ireland3 034  Ireland3 003 This past weekend a rag tag group from Boston University ventured west to the far off city of Galway.  While there we would sample the local flavor, shops, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and ride the Aran Islands.  I stayed in my first hostel (not like the movie Hostel fortunately) and enjoyed a nice weekend away from the stressed of the town we call home (UCD Belfield/Dublin).

Galway is in many ways just like a little town in Maine known to the world as Freeport - the home of outlets galore and the headquarters for L.L. Bean.  Unlike Freeport, there wasn't any sort of huge anchor store, but much like Freeport, there were tons of little shops, pubs, eateries, classy hotels, and B&B's.  Whole streets, "shop street" for example, were closed off for pedestrian traffic only and sort of resembled the Diagon Alley of Harry Potter fame.  We explored many of these shops the first night we were there, Friday. I've come to the conclusion that I enjoy a certain measure of touristy stuff but only to a point.  I really don't like playing the tourist with camera in hand and city map in pocket.  I don't like feeling like an outsider in this country.  Slowly but surely, it's starting to dawn on me that we're here, that we're actually living here in the country and little by little I'm gravitating towards the local spots.  For the first time, we've been able to find an organic Irish session where musicians sort of show up and play great music together.  It was a wonderful time eating a late dinner while listening to some musicians jam away with a fiddle, pipe, drums, and banjo.

Saturday started early with our group getting some food before departing on a bus for the Aran Islands.  Weirdly enough, Galway itself doesn't have a ton to do, but it's a hub for all the other cool places around - the Burren, Aran Islands, and The Cliffs.  After the 45 minute bus ride to the docks, we climbed aboard a large ferry amidst the ever present haze and set off.  Upon arrival on the island, a salty 30 minutes later, there was some dispute about how we should see the island.  It was very much like the Bahamas with some vans cat calling and trying to get us to come on their tours.  We opted for the road bikes.  It would so much more intimate to see the island under our own power than to go flying by it in a van.  That said, our entire group wasn't ready for that.  Needless to say, we made it out to the ruins and the cliffs at the far edge of the islands.  Let me tell you, it's a rather heavy hit to look out from a 300 vertical drop, see the horizon and know that the next landfall would be your country.

We climbed back down to find my bike's tire had gone flat, though there is suspicion that someone had switched their bike out with mine.  Though, this would be the first of two flats in our group of 7 - I don't think they took good care of the tires...  We took the coastal route back to town and saw seals in the bay though they weren't out on the rocks as promised.  This was very disappointing but inevitable I guess. Finally, it was back to town, the sweater shop, the boat (sleeping), the bus (sleeping), and back to Galway for a nap.

The whole hostel situation was interesting too.  I had been dubbed the accommodation booker/trip leader (I wonder why?) and therefore organized all of the rooms and such.  I made sure the girls (4) were in a 4 person room with their own bathroom - this ended up being a great move for them.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get us 3 guys into our own room so we were sharing our accommodations with 3 other people who all woke up before us.  So the rule of thumb was go to bed early because the last 2 hours of sleep sucked as others would hit the shower, slam the door, rustle through backpacks and leave.  In any event, it was cheap, the place was clean and welcoming, had great service and generally didn't live up to the negative stereotypes that we sometimes hear.  I definitely think that hostels are going to be the way to travel, except for that 5 star hotel Brian agreed to pay for in Amsterdam.

I'm pooped, I'll write more tomorrow and finish this off.

My Article (Original Version) for the UCD Observer: "Microhoo"

This piece was originally written for the University College Dublin Observer student newspaper, a bi-weekly paper written by students for students.  This version is the one that I wrote and is not the version published (they edited slightly). Last week, Microsoft announced its plans to buy out Yahoo with a 44.6 billion dollar cash and stock buyout offer.  This represents a 61% premium over Yahoo's stock price at the time of the offer.  That premium would net Microsoft some very attractive properties including Yahoo's popular photo service, Flickr.  This seemingly random announcement comes 6 months after merger talks failed last summer but soon after both Google and Yahoo! announced improvements to their online application.  Possible explanations for the timing point to the obvious, the 800-pound gorilla in room known as Google.  However, verbiage in Microsoft's letter to Yahoo! made the move sound as though Redmond had lost patience in waiting for Yahoo to submit to their monopolistic ways.

So far, Yahoo has been able to stay independent without needing a dominant company like Microsoft to hold their hand.  But let us be honest, this takeover is all about the money - online advertising money to be precise.  Steven Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, outlined "search and online advertising... new innovations in the areas of video, mobile services, online commerce, and social media" to be the crown jewels of the deal in his letter to Yahoo executives last week.  Indeed, Yahoo has the highest readership among websites with upwards of 500 million hits per month, an online search and advertising business second only to Google as well as number of other online communities.  Now just add the fact that you have knocked off the only competition between you and Google and you are looking at the same incentives the Microsoft execs are no doubt salivating over.

There does not seem to be much of an upside for Yahoo, unless of course you forget the 61% premium Microsoft planning to pay for Yahoo's stock.  Ballmer made sure to threaten the Yahoo management team with investor power by adding rhetoric about "reserving the right to ensure investors understand the opportunity [they] are offering.  Indeed, some analysts are predicting that if Yahoo execs do reject Microsoft's offer, large investors may apply strong pressure since they face substantial returns on their investment.  So the question stands, does Yahoo have a choice?  Well, yes - sort of.  Google has expressed objections to anti-competitive nature of the potential merger and offered to "help" Yahoo! fend off the buyout in the same breath.  Other options include finding another buyer or going private by partnering with a private equity firm.

One other option would be to outsource search and advertising to Google as they have in the past, thereby making themselves almost toxic to Microsoft.  Redmond would inevitably baulk at investing in a venture that would benefit that "significant competitor" that Ballmer talks about in his internal communications and the buyout offer itself.

At a glance, this offer seems to have come out of nowhere but in Microsoft's defense, Yahoo is a very attractive purchase.  The combined entity would become a strong rival to Google's search and ad platforms while standing to shape the face of social networking.  Some industry analysts posit that the merger would create more competition despite the Google's please of foul.  Others cheer the move amidst concerns that Yahoo does not have direction or a clear idea what their business really is.  Over the years they have dabbled in social networking, messaging, email, finance, content and news creation, and now are writing software for enterprise electronic communication solutions.  A Microhoo would probably have a clearer mission for each of the respective brands while leveraging the significant engineering talent of each company.

As of press time, Yahoo! is still sitting on the takeover offer reviewing their options to find the decision that is "best for Yahoo! and our shareholders" as  Jerry Yang, CEO and co-founder writes in an internal email.  Unfortunately for Microsoft, the longer Yahoo stalls, the farther their stock prices fall.   In contrast, Yahoo's stock price has risen enough that Redmond might be forced to make a new bid.  Only time will tell but in the interim, grab some popcorn, a Guinness, and wait with bated breath.  Hopefully we will get an outcome in the next week or so.

To Belfast and Beyond

Well hey there everyone - I'm sorry that it's been a while since I've written anything on this blog.  A lot has gone on, as you can imagine so I'm thinking that I'll break it up into a couple different posts.  This one will cover our trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was an interesting trip, though not nearly what I wanted it to be.  So what did we actually do?  As I've written before, the Quinn School of Business puts on a number of great events and programs for us but this wasn't one of them.  No, this trip was a sort of add-on trip for us from the Boston University program at Dublin City University.  The few of us at UCD that went (6 of 11) were invited along on their special program as part of their Irish culture class.

I should have known this wasn't going to go well.  Originally we were told that we'd be driven up in the coach with all of them and that there'd be a short presentation and then we'd be on our own for a few (3-4) hours to explore the city.  Well, it ended up being a 1 hour presentation, followed by an hour lunch (tasty I must say), followed by 3 hours of bus touring seeing various paramilitary murals on the sides of houses or walls from back when there was such sectarian violence.  Our guide was the same guy that gave the hour powerpoint on flags and their significance to the religious fighting.

Ok, so it wasn't a total bust but it definitely wasn't what I had been hoping for.  I wanted to get to walk around downtown and see the memorials, I wanted to see the Giant's Causeway.  I had such hopes for that sort of stuff and we really didn't get a chance to get off the coach unless it was to see a couple murals all in once place.  Though, I do have to say that there was one stop where the locals came out to heckle us - including one little girl with blue hair.  But let me tell you, I never thought I'd be bothered by something here in Ireland but the 10 year old with a bottle of beer drinking in the doorway of a block house really hit me weird.  I get that it's a culture thing and that we're getting used to these new sort of cultural norms but come on!  In a country where you can legally drink at 18, what're they starting at 10 for?

Finally we parted ways with our tour guide and a few of the students that had apparently planned to stay the night in the city and we were on our way back to Dublin.  It felt like it had been a dream almost but that may have been the fact that I slept most of the way there (we had to be up at 6am... the earliest yet) and most of the way back (did I mention that we were up at 6am?).  I wish that I could have spent more time in the country because I think there's more to see and experience there than just the reminders of how recently war had gripped this otherwise developed country.

After talking with Mom and Brian, I've decided that I'm going to grab a bus north next weekend to see around with or without anyone else.  Obviously, I'll invite the rest but I'm not going to let them hold me back from seeing the country.  I really want to see the Giant's Causeway and the northern coast up there.  I've heard such amazing things.  Next post will discuss some of the coursework from this week, an Irish house party, softball, and an article I wrote for the University College Dublin Observer.  Thanks for reading!

2nd Week and Still Going Strong

Ireland 049.jpg Check out more photos at my Flickr Page!

Hey there, all. It's been a couple days since I wrote last - must be having fun, right? Well absolutely! It's been a very busy week so far - an absolute gas. To cover in this post: food shopping, sight seeing, and horse racing. Hopefully this will be a good read and you'll enjoy it. Remember, you can subscribe to the bi-weekly newsletter to the right and find out how to get in touch with me at the contact page.

FOOD SHOPPING

Food shopping is one of those things that everyone takes for granted in the United States, isn't it?  I mean, how many times do you really consider where, when, for how long or plan extensively your shopping trips?  Yes, you may have shopping lists, a general time when you want to go but here in Ireland we do it a little different.  First, there's a caste system of food shopping locations.  For quick or urgent needs, one would walk to the Centra or Spar for their needs.  If it's time to find a specific or hard to find item, one might get on a bus to the Tesco for higher quality and moderate prices.  Finally, for general shopping and the purchase of staples, one would plan a trip to the city center to find and Aldi or Lidl.  These are foreign owned, discount markets with stocking habits of Walmart super center and the cramped confines of Johnny's Fresh Market.

Here's another one for you - you need your own bags!  This is such a twist.  I mean, stroke of genius for sure, but sooo inconvenient when compared to shopping in the US.  I had over a week's worth of groceries on the first weekend but I was hugely confused, embarrassed, and upset when I realized I had no way to get the food home, no one to help bad, and the people behind me were getting rather heated with me.  Needless to say I figured something out but the 6km trip home was not gentle to my hands with the overstuffed bags etc.  This gets me thinking about things - what are they trying to teach?  One, don't be lazy, you can bag yourself.  Two, don't waste, buy reusable bags combined with the financial disincentive of having to pay for your bags.  Finally, buy what you need for the week.  I had done a big shopping run for a week plus some staples.  This earned me three large fabric bags to tote everything back to campus.  That walk home taught me that it's best to just buy what you need for the week and leave the rest for later.

SIGHT SEEING

Over this weekend, we took a walking tour with a representative from the Erasmus Student Network (international student union type thing).  We saw many of the staple locations around the city centre.  We got to see Dublin Castle as well as many of the night hot spots around the city.  We even saw a small time rapper doing a budget music video -we're talking Youtube production.  I thought it was a really interesting trip and definitely helped with my sense of direction.  As one could imagine, Dublin isn't really a planned city - New Yorkers curse the place often.  If you're into Boston's layout, you'll feel much better about Dublin for sure.

After a nice lunch at Bewley's cafe on Grafton street, we ventured west towards St. James Gate - the beloved brewery of the Black Gold: Guinness Stout.  This was such an improvement to the old facility that they don't even compare.  The Guinness Storehouse is an amazing facility that's part museum, part amusement park.  Starting on the ground floor, visitors make their way up 7 floors to the gravity bar - a 365 glass bar on the very top of the facility - looking at, touching, smelling, experiencing all of the steps to the brewing process.  It was a really great trip and the post tour pint was scrumptious.

HORSE RACING

Sunday was another action packed day here in the Emerald Isle.  After an early wakeup, it was off to the Leopardstown Horse Track for the AIG championship hurdles.  It was a really nice location, professional security, catering, etc. Top notch for those that can afford it.  I wonder if this is just a small version of the Kentucky Derby?  Anyways, it was to the pub to get a pint (required for all school sponsored trips) then to register with the bookies.  40 Euro later, I was scouring the reports, the breeders notes, the critics and all just hoping to be able to pick out the horse that would make my fortune.  The whole day reminded me of Mrs. Knight telling me how she used to be top notch at picking horses at the races back when she was younger - I definitely could have used her skills that day, haha.

Oh!  I should note that when I got there, a structure on the far side of the field was burning - that was different.  Apparently one of the TV camera stands caught fire and burned to the ground.  Soon after, a bunch of large corporate helicopters came swooping in dropping off their precious cargo.  At the end of the day I walked away with 36 of the 40 euro... I consider it a success.

Well, that's the bulk of the news from me this week.  I'm hoping to get a newsletter sent out in the next couple of days - I'm trying to get out and enjoy the nice weather while it's around and get these posted up when it's crummy outside.  Friday, we're going to Belfast with the other BU program so stories from that trek will follow soon after.

I hope all is well with you all - I'm missing you!!

James In Dublin Newsletter

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Well, the Eagle (that's me) has landed! I've safely arrived here in the Emerald Isle and I couldn't be happier! It's rainy, windy, cold, and expensive but I'm away and having a blast. Of course, I miss you guys back home and all too ;-) . I hope this email finds you all well and good back in the USA where a dollar really is a dollar and not 60 cents.

This newsletter is going to be an occasional note put out by yours truly to try to keep all of you that aren't IM'ing or Skyping me on a regular basis. Speaking of which, you can find all the ways to contact me at http://www.jamesindublin.com/contact. Feel free to call, text, whatever you want and I'll try to respond as soon as I can.

So, what have I been doing?! Other than starting the first two days of classes, it's been an exercise in thriftiness, Guinness, and meeting WAY too many people all at once. Some of my observations thus far: if it's not raining, it's windy; if it's not Guinness it's not beer; the only way to meet people (in a platonic sense of course) is to go "out" - a.k.a. pub/club; the Euro makes my savings look insignificant. If you hadn't figured it out yet, it's expensive to live abroad and the current state of the Dollar puts us Americans at a HUGE purchasing power disadvantage.

Enough complaining. It's been an absolute dream to be here, it really has. Sometimes I have to step back and realize that I'm taking classes thousands of miles away from my best friends, my favorite haunts, and the familiarity of Commonwealth Avenue. I'm sure that the Dublin City Centre will become a new fixture of familiarity at some point it the not so distant future, hopefully, and I'd be more than happy to show it to you if you decide to come visit. Officially I can't host anyone in our apartment but the reality is that there's space enough on the floor and my room has its own bathroom with shower.

Let's go out with a story - this tale comes from the first Saturday we were in country... the 3rd night since arriving. Our group of 11 BU students were on our way to a pub in Raneleigh, just north of campus. It was latish - for me anyway - at about 10pm. As we walked along the sidewalk as a group, I felt a sharp pain in my arm like someone had hit me with a stick or something - come to find out it was an egg. We were, I was, egged in the first 72 hours of being in this country, which is supposed to be filled with some of the nicest people in the world. Let me tell you, Mr. I drive a car on the wrong side of the road and throw eggs at Americans, we were none too pleased with your mischief. But really... were we THAT obvious to the locals?!

I hope you found this entertaining - remember to sign up with the link to the newsletter for further fun tales and antics. This message will be posted up on the main site, http://www.jamesindublin.com too in case you delete this pretty little message before you get a chance to click the links. There's a sign up box in the right hand navigation of the website as well.

Cheers,

James Connors

International Student Extraordinaire

It's Blowing a Gale Out

Well it's true - the wind has seemingly blown into this strange little country called Ireland where the skies are grey and rainy and the people are strangely happy to talk for ages!  Don't get me wrong, they're more than friendly and that's a great thing but gosh, I see where my family gets it!  In all honesty, it's been a very crazy weekend since getting here and as such I'm a bit tardy with my web responsibilities. Thursday morning was our first taste of what it meant to be in Ireland.  After a long flight over night from Logan (surrounded by screaming babies mind you) we arrived to be greeted by a rather disinterested Guarda (Police office of Ireland) passport inspector who told me gruffly that I was authorized 30 days in the country... this would be only the beginning of the confusing revelations from over the next 4 days.  Finally we met up with the others in our group and collected our bags.  It appears that I packed much less than most of the others (this would come in handy in the next leg of the trip).

Obviously, after baggage comes communication so our group of 8 (3 had arrived at 5am) descended upon the poor Vodaphone store where we picked up sim cards and cell phones.  Speaking of, my new number here in Ireland is +353 87 656 7404 for those of you that are interested.  Next, we were introduced to the weather - POURING RAIN!!  We got soaked whilst waiting for the correct AirCoach to pick us up.  Of course, as soon as we loaded onto the luxury bus, the sun came out... for a while.  We ventured forth to the city center and beyond, eventually coming to the UCD Belfield stop.  Unfortunately, the rain decided this would be the perfect time to start pouring it on again.  We were caught out in the open when the coldest, most bone chilling rain I've ever experienced fell down on our heads.  It gets better - the reception desk decided we looked smart enough so she gave me the campus map... in Gaelic... :-(.

It took us about half an hour to find out accommodations on this campus but we were pleasantly surprised when we did.  My apartment is AMAZING!!  HUGE common room and kitchen (no oven though :-() with each room having their own bathroom and shower.  The beds are tiny but we have ample storage and a nice big desk to work on - things were on the up and up.  The group on campus met up with the off campus kids (they're staying 2km north) at around 2:30 to pick up our student ID cards after which we wandered over to one of two student bars on campus.  Darts, pool, Guinness, and the like were the cure to our travel hangovers and signaled our arrival.  Of course, we decided the campus pub wasn't good enough so we ventured into the city center not really knowing where we were going but knowing what we needed - food and SHEETS!  Luck would have it that we got off the bus at St. Stephen's Green right next to a large mall where we found most everything we wanted.  Then it was back to the dorms and to our beds.  All told, we were up for a good 45 hours and I was BEAT!

Friday was our orientation to UCD which included a briefing by the directors and coordinators within the Quinn School of Management, a campus tour in the rain, and a rather tasty bag lunch.  Shopping and pubs were the order of the evening... but we had a bit of a twist.  The first came as we were walking in a large group to the pub in Raneliegh where the off campus people are staying - I was egged... that's right, one of these previously mentioned nice Irish persons decided that I was too good of a target and threw an egg at me.  Luckily it bounced off my arm, struck another person in the back and then broke only after hitting the ground.  Needless to say we were all a bit shocked and didn't really understand what just happened.  We made it to the bar - it was filled to the brim with 40's and 50's (year olds) - and we were immediately met with people carding us.  Unfortunately not everyone in our group is 21 so they wanted us to leave... we were packing up to go when the bar keep came over and asked for our order.  Apparently the owner couldn't pass up 11 Americans looking to spend a few Euro at his establishment.

Later that evening Larry and I had the walk of our lives.  Back in the rain - the cold, drenching rain, we walked back to campus from the pub.  We started at about midnight.  After an hour of walking, it became clear that we weren't where we should have been... we were lost(ish) in Dun Loughaire and we were getting tired.  After finding a map at a local bus stop, we were about 1.5-2 km off track and needed to get over a "mountain" in order to make it back to campus.  Thanks to my superior powers of navigation (haha... that's a laugh) we were able to get back to campus in one piece but not before confronting another danger of the Irish 'burbs - Teenagers.  There was a large gang of teenagers beating each other drunkenly on the same road that we needed to take to get over the mountain.  Being smart, we kept moving quickly without making eye contact and got away.  Well, we thought we had... until we looked back behind us to see a few of the group running after us.  Lucky for us we were able to get away and keep the from catching up but it was a scary experience none the less.

Saturday was our orientation to Dublin from our program coordinator for BU.  This consisted of a monument scavenger hunt all over the city center... in the rain.  Are you starting to see a pattern?  It was fine and fun but we were ready to get back to home since it was already dark when we were leaving... a 4:30...  Before we hit the bus back, we went in search of the 2 Euro store and the Lidl supermarket.  Finding bargains at both, we made our way back home finally and called it a night.  Sunday would be a day of rest until 8 when we found ourselves at a bar watching the Pat's topple the Chargers in the AFC championship.  It was a good day to be sure - rainy, but good.

Today is gorgeous outside - the first day of blue skies and sun that we've had and it's the first day of classes.  It must be a good Omen.  However, when there isn't rain, there's wind and as our UCD coordinator put it, "it's blow'n a gale" out there.  I was almost taken off my feet as I crossed the open field between my dorm and the Quinn building.  In any event, I've been at this for a while and now it's time that I got on to my first class.  I'm hoping that the rain will hold out until I can get out of class so I can get some photos of the campus and such put together and posted up.  Thank you all for your emails and phone calls.  Don't hesitate to get me on one of the connections I listed under the contact page.