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!
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!
How do you know when it is time to let go? I find this to be one of the hardest things to do in my life. Whether it be parting ways with that extra snack that you were about to eat, or saying goodbye to a close friend. Sometimes the RIGHT thing isn't fun or interesting or even popular.
I believe that the way that we make decisions is a direct reflection of who we are as individuals. So many times in our lives we give into the group, let our "friends" influence our choices, or otherwise forfeit our ability to choose for ourselves and be independent.
I'm making a choice. I'm letting go.
Maybe it was the crappy weekend that you had. Perhaps it was a fight you had with a best friend. Perhaps you were let down by someone that you thought you could trust. No matter what the issue was, it's time to let go. Dwelling on the past doesn't bring more insight - just pain... especially when it's a bad memory.
I have made many mistakes in my life, done a lot of things that I wish I could take back. That said, I am starting to let go. The United States Air Force Academy was a really hard and sucky place to live. I decided that the straight up misery I experience wasn't worth the end result (I had decided I didn't want to fly anymore). So I left.
After leaving, I had to learn how to be a human again - I was a robot. Cadet James Connors now needed to become a normal person again. For a long time I hurt and was down about my decision. I had nightmares about the sucky parts of the Academy, the affects it had on my life and my relationships. Eventually they started to fade intot he noise.
Now, I only remember the good parts of the Academy. I have let the bad stuff go.
While in Ireland, I had repeated dreams of going back to USAFA and rejoining. The visions would leave me restless in the morning because I honestly wish I could go back most of the time. Then again, most of the time, I don't remember the bad parts. So it's up to me to remind myself of why I went and why I left.
Everyone has challenging situations and experiences in their lives. Some of them turn out really well, some totally suck and still other scome out with a mix of both. Let go of that nasty bits. They aren't going to help you move forward with you life. Do yourself and everyone around a favor, let it go. Just be. Stop worrying - you can't change it now.
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!
One of the biggest energy hogs for any building would be the lighting and the climate controls. I've seen varying amounts of integrations both in the US as well as abroad. I have to say, though, the Irish design and architecture do a great job of using their designs to reduce the consumption of energy for airconditioning and lighting. By leveraging open dynamic cooling, novel insulation methods, and available lights, the United States could reduce their consumption of energy.
One of the first things that I noticed when I walked into the Quinn School of Business was that the atrium was wide open... I mean WIDE open. The ceiling was transparent to let in as much light as possible - there were even trees freestanding on the ground floor. It gave the entire building a spacious, airy feel that limited the use of artificial light as much as possible. It was always bright and this allowed supplemental lighting by way of indirect light - it wasn't as harsh on the eyes at all. Take note, USA.
Where the two come together is another interesting thing that I've never seen anywhere but Ireland. At the top edge of a line of windows on the exterior of buildings, there is a grill arrangement with angled slats. These slats angle off the light depending on the sun's position in the day. It allows two different savings. First, by giving a shade to the window, there is no need to lower shades which would block out too much light and therefore require the use of lighting. The second is that by reducing the need to tint the glass, as is the custom in the states, colder climates such as Ireland will be able to utilize the natural convection heating and not need to turn on the heaters.
When it comes to design, besides the transparent ceilings and the like, there are a few design characteristics that Ireland just nails. The first was that shade above windows - that's great for reducing consumption. The second really noticeable and beautiful design feature is the use of what I would call buffer space inside windows. Basically one completely clear pane of glass is either outside the line of the building's walls or flush but then about a foot or two behind that is the interior pane. By creating an open buffer, a wall of air, between the structural glass, heating and cooling efficiency is greatly improved. It's similar to how double paned glass keeps windows from leaking heat but on a grander scale. Colder air in the shadows would be able to cool the heated air in the sunny parts to make for a temperate average temperature.
By combining technologies such as these with designs discussed here, I think that the United States could do a lot to reduce electricity consumption and ultimately the need for oil dependency. More to come this week!
This thought screamed through my head this morning as I woke up. Tomorrow is the last full Saturday that we'll be in the country, the last Sunday, Monday et all, following too. This weekend is last bit of our European adventure. I'm left stunned at all we did. I'm stunned with all that I've done. I came here saying "no judgement" and "no regrets" so it's been a few days that I've been thinking back through trying to evaluate my successes on that account.
It's time to remember the great times, the trying times, the hard times, the late nights of laughs, and the early mornings of tears. It's been a trip filled with a lot of firsts and a lot of lasts. Funny how the time seems to have been stolen back away from us. It was just yesterday that I was feeling the same bits of anxiety as I prepared to embark on this adventure in January... I have those feelings again. What will Boston, the US, the summer have in store for us - for me?
At the same time, I feel myself getting ramped up for production. I fell into this semester from the highest functioning lifestyle that I've ever experienced. Needless to say, my Irish lifestyle did not match the fervor of that pace. Having completed a number of phone interviews in the last few days, the first few conference calls for Accenture and some student groups, I'm reminded what it feels like to be back "on edge." Listening to my fellow interns address the analysts on the call while my mic was muted gave me the first example of how we Americans are always "on edge." They sounded tense, wound up but held back - like a mouse trap ready to spring. Is that really how we are?
This weekend will be busy with seeing my Irish friends and saying goodbye to them. We have the International Street Performers Championship going on too - I hope to make it over to Marrion Square for that one. Here's one that I never thought I'd find here in Ireland - International Gay Rugby Championship. I was on the bus with one team and helped steer them to the pitches the other day. In any event, they will be playing for an international cup this weekend just a few hundred meters away from our accomodation.
My projects are on their way to completion. I was able to collect over 115 responses to my online survey regarding student experience - that was amazing! Thank you to all that participated. That will be going into my research project that I will present to my office on Tuesday and hand in a report on Thursday. Also due on Thursday will be my research project comparing the Irish and American teaching methods at University as well as a internship journal. So, needless to say there will be a lot of working to be done... and of course, as soon as I say that the roommates are telling me that we're going to some gardens. So stay tuned for further info, I guess.
This will be the first of a few posts that I wanted to throw together that address some of the lessons that I think the United States can learn from countries like Ireland. CNET published a story about how green technology could make Europe a technology power house - story found here. At the same time, this is a chance to try BlogDesk as a remote blogging software tool.
Anyone that has gone outside of the United States will know that we waste a lot of energy (in the US). I have a feeling that I'm going to be a little shocked upon my return. Maybe, just maybe, someone with some pull will read this and make some changes. It's really not hard to conserve a little bit but making change is the difficult bit.
I'll address some background first. The Irish consider themselves "hardy folk" as Mary McClosky put it upon our first meeting. They keep the heat down, take short showers, turn out the lights when not needed, and unplug appliances when not in use. It's an attitude of conservation brought on because electricity costs are EXCRUTIATING.
Not only does Europe pay amazingly high prices for gasoline, equivalent to ~ $8.20/gallon, but the energy costs are easily twice what we pay in the US. Just looking around cities in Europe, it is clear that costs are a significant issue on everyone's mind - there are barely any cars on the roads and many that are use diesel fuel instead of unleaded gasoline.
What these environmental factors breed is a culture of conservation. The "hardiness" is less about being strong willed and more about being sensible. I've learned that it is possible to use all that you need and not overuse. In reality, it's very easy to do but hard to keep in mind. Just keeping in mind that I should unplug the computer or turn off the lights has been a large change mentally for me just because I've been so conditioned to not care.
One thing that Ireland has that makes this easy is that every outlet has a circuit-breaker in it with a switch. I can shut off the power just by throwing the switch and it keeps power from flowing to the machine or appliance. It's stupid simple but apparently is too difficult for Americans to ever want to implement.
Take aways from today's entry would be:
Foster a mindset of conservation
Use what you need and no more
Unplug when done
Switch off when leaving
Find circuit breaking plugs to manage power leaks
Thanks very much for reading and I'll see you next time!
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!
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!
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).
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.
So, Friday was the last day of classes for the entire term. The day passed without much incident beyond a small group of friends doing the famed Baggot Street Mile (mile long pub-crawl). The Irish students had other plans though. The entire school was swarming with new security guards, ids and bags checked at all the entrances, and the largest display of public drunkenness that I have ever seen, save maybe Marathon Monday. People were sloppy everywhere - guys peeing in the bushes, girls flashing guys, it was a mess. I am somewhat glad that I slept most of the day away and then went out.
With the closing of the last few assignments over the weekend, I am left looking for something to fill the void. At this point, the void was filled with pontification. I basically came up with the thought that I should have some sort of BIG revelation from being here. The summer before freshman year of high school, I was fortunate enough to go abroad for a month in Australia. When I came back, there had been so many big learning moments and my parents said that I came back a different person. When I went to the Air Force Academy, my parents said I was a changed person. What will they say this time around?
I do not know what I am expecting, some sort of giant neon sign to tell me I am not the same. Perhaps it will be the way others treat me but I have not really noticed much change there either. One of my good friends told me that she thought I might have changed but I did not know it yet. I want to know it. I want to validate this feeling of obligatory learning. I mean, I am in a different country far flung from the states for six months, I would hope that I have learned something. But what has it been? My opinions have changed a bit; my worldview is broader. I have learned to do without an oven and can go weeks without doing laundry but where is the big achievement?
What I have come up with is that I might be done CHANGING and that the largest contribution that this whole experience has given me is that I have become more ME than ever before. I have had time to think, to explore myself and to understand who I am and what I want. Could this be the gift that I am seeking underneath my shamrock? I am hoping it is. I would love to know that this is the right thing because I don't want people to think I have had this tremendous opportunity and then just wasted it but that brings up another point. I have to care about what the other people think and let them have that force over me.
What I know to be the benefits of my time here in Ireland ought to be my own counsel. That private knowledge should be validation enough to prove that I have indeed taken advantage of where I am and what I am doing. My thoughts in private moments should count more than what anyone outside of those thoughts could say. Well, they are. I believe that I have gained strength here to take what I want, to do what I need, and to think as I may because in the end it is not about THEM, it is about me.
I have been wondering for a while now about a simple question. Why does our culture hate it when someone is going above and beyond? Why is high achievement looked down upon by our peers? Today, I experienced this very effect while at a program meeting. Allow me to explain.
There is a project that requires a certain amount of writing. Now this project was supposed to encompass our views from our entire job placement in Ireland within the 7-week internship. This report is supposed to be 14 pages long... just 14 pages for almost two days of daily entries. Anyone that has read this blog knows that I love to write so when I saw that it was 14 pages DOUBLE SPACED! Really? That is not enough. Seven pages of writing are not enough to sum up the deep pontifications from almost two months.
When asking about the requirements to understand whether it would be ok to write more, my peers scoffed, laughed, and became perturbed. Why? Why is it so bad that I want to do a little bit more than the minimum? You will say, "But, James, if the minimum was enough, why would you want to do more?" Well, to that I say this: we are abroad in a foreign country for the longest time than you have ever been away from everything that is normal to you. I have to say that there is plenty that I would like to talk about. I have been thinking critically about those aspects of my experience that are not "normal" and have noticed some very interesting differences. I want to write about it - I want to have something tangible to show for my time here.
Why does that threaten society when someone would like to do a little bit more? I do not think that it threatens to unbalance the world or shake the status quo. Are we a society that is afraid to push a little bit harder for fear of filling the voids of our lives that we currently fill with mind-numbing television? Or does it come to something much more personal? Perhaps it would not have mattered if it were one of their friends, but because it had been me, an outsider, it was acceptable to be openly perturbed. I cannot really figure it out.
Do you have any experiences like this? Any ideas as to why we as a society dislike those that push the minimum requirements? Leave a comment and we will get back to you.
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), 18.104.22.168. 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.
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.
Sorry to keep you all hanging. There's really no reason for not posting - I've been having a great time relaxing in the past while since writing last. Brief overview of what's been going on to catch up quickly:
1 - Last week was the last week of class before our break. It was really uneventful except for the first bit of work that I've really needed to do. It was a term paper for our Irish history class and it's worth 30% of the grade. I'll be sure to let you all know how it went. I wrote about the causes of the 1641 Rebellion in Ireland. It was just like most of the other rebellions in Ireland (unsuccessful) except that it was the first look of the North vs. South and Catholic vs. Protestant conflicts that have been in headlines over the last few years. Needless to say that I did a lot of research for a 2000 word essay and got lost in the beheamouth that is James Joyce Library (HUGE - think Boston Public Library on steroids).
2 - Last weekend I went down to see parents and cousins in the southern portion of the island. Castle Island, Co Kerry where they called home. There was a lot of catching up, a bit of harmless birthday partying, and lots of relaxing. It was really great to see all those that I hadn't seen in 9 years now. How things have changed, but oddly stayed the same in some ways. I ended up doing some work online for one set of cousins while fixing a couple computer issues with another. I guess it's just my currency with which I can pay the family back for all their hospitality and the like.
3 - Currently, as of 5pm yesterday, I'm in the historic Amsterdam City. I met Grace, long time best-friend, at the airport last night then journeyed through the city to find our hotel. It's a cute little boutique hotel (Hotel Piet Hein) situated in the quiet and quaint depths of the museum district. Things here have been great so far and I'm going to be writing more for sure. So stay tuned and come back often for updates (I mean it).
Thanks for staying subscribed and keeping up to date. Just a reminder - if you want to get in touch, don't hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here.
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!
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.
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!