life

Relaunch And Rebirth - Our Site Moved

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Why Choose a Dedicated Web Hosting Company?
  • Types of Web Hosting - Assessing Your Website's Needs
  • Determining the Appropriateness of Shared Hosting or Dedicated Hosting to Your Needs
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A Moment In History - the First Black President

Inauguration Day 2009
Image by The Visions of Kai via Flickr

Today is a historic day.  We are about to swear in our first black president.  Not too far back in our history, our beloved country subjected anyone of a different race to slavery and worse but now Barack Obama will lead our country into a new chapter in our history.

So, around this country, men and women will pause for a few moments of their day and tune into the inauguration on TV, streamed online, or listen in on the radio.  Thousands more have swarmed to the nation's capital, Washington D.C., to honor our new president and celebrate the closing of our last.

I am sitting here in my apartment, relaxing with a cup of tea, watching the events unfold on NBC.  It's an odd feeling that I have right now.  Am I fond of President Bush?  No, not really.  However, I do have to respect that he has kept our country safe following the tragedy of September 11, 2001.  The circumstances that surrounded his presidency have been the most extreme that I've seen in my lifetime. BUT

It's time for Change.

I am excited for Barack Obama to take office today.  I am excited to see what he says.  I am excited for our country to get back to the business of being a nation leading the rest of the world.  Let's make the change by being the Change YOU Want to See.

MEME: Interview Tag

Grand Canyon, Arizona. The canyon, created by ...
Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Real Education Is Outside of the Classroom

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 05:  Dan McGoff #19 of the B...

When describing how to best take advantage of Podcamp Boston 3, Chris Brogan said something to the effect of, "It's not what people are teaching in the classrooms that makes Podcamp special.  Rather, it is what goes on in the hallways, lounges, and small informal gatherings that makes the magic that is Podcamp" (Loosely quoted).

It was soon after podcamp that I started to learn this same principle while interning for the IT consulting firm, Accenture.  We had formal training, workshops, on the job learning and the rest but what made working for them so special was the day to day interactions passing by a coworker's desk.  It was the informal talks at internal networking talks that provided huge value, not the formal reports and speakers.

As I've entered my final year of college, I've brought the lesson of informal gathering, investing in intertactions, and the value of uniting others to my every day life within the University.  It is easier to parse through the lecture notes and find the important chunks.  Focusing in class is far less challenging now that I know what is important.  All the classwork prepares me to work with peers in the hallsways and on teams.  My experience informs my actions in student groups and guides the decision making I use every day.

So what are the next steps?  Here are a couple:

  1. Find what drives you - focus on it and develop it.
  2. Get extroverted - we all have introverted days but getting outside yourself lets you see the value you have to bring to others and vice versa.
  3. Get involved - you can find something that excites you every day that you're alive, I promise!  Find it and follow it.
For me, I have found a new energy investing in the Student Alumni Council at Boston University.  It wasn't until I took a leadership role organizing our members to assist with the University-wide Reunion and Alumni weekend that I actually rediscovered my love for the group.  I do a lot of grunt work but the few hours of networking and the fun pay-offs of meeting new people were more than enough to jumpstart that drive within.  SAC will be a new priority for me in the coming months.
What are you passionate about?  Have you started to find the value in the hallsways and informal gatherings?  What are you favorite conversations to have in the halls of conferences?

 

Responsibility, Hazing, and the Lawyer Nation

Since when have we lived in a state where people are so afraid of litigation that we purposefully change our lives (that are well within the rules) just to appease those that stand to sue us?

Today, I experienced for the first time the empty feeling of caving into someone else.  We had traditions, all of them legal and safe, but they must be broken because of the mere threat that an administrator would choose not to like our activities and censure us.

The laws pertaining to hazing in this state are broad, open, and seem to encompass just about anything that one could possibly want to do.  They set forth a few examples of common issues but then throw in a wildcard stating that "any other activity or practice" that harms mentally or physically another person is considered hazing.  Take that a step further.

Boston University is so afraid of litigation that they have taken the wildcard and applied it to all manners of activities from scavenger hunts to dress codes, wearing greek letters to how we term certain things, and everything in between.  It's ludicrous .  Now, on a mere rumor, we are changing our process because of the possibility that it maybe out of line w. their interpretation of the laws/rules etc.

Individuals need to take responsibility for their organizations.  We aren't hurting people, honest.  Our practices do serve a purpose.  We are indeed helping them learn and though we are open to changing, why are you forcing us to because you're afraid of being sued?  Shouldn't the student experience mean something?  Shouldn't the fact that we are preparing our members for the real world be important?

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 12:  Brian McGuirk #28 of the Boston University Terriers is surrounded by teammates Kenny Roche #6, Tom Morrow #21 and Pete MacArthur #16 after McGuirk scored the game winner during the Beanpot Tournament Championship Game on February 12, 2007 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston University defeated Boston College 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brian McGuirk;Kenny Roche;Tom Morrow;Pete MacArthur

Before you flame me, yes, I understand the issues involved.  Number one - hazing is a VERY touchy subject... no one is contesting that.  However, we are not hazing.  No one is being hurt by our process, no one has complained, no one is distressed or altered.  Number two - Boston University cannot afford litigation and even if not a lawsuit, the bad PR that would stem from the mere alligations of Hazing.

So I leave you with this thought for the evening: When did we become so sensitive to hurt feelings that we are allowing ourselves to compromise our missions and objectives?  Why are we so trigger happy to sue when most issues could be worked out with a mature conversation?

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!

Learn to Let It Go...

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Maybe it's that time.

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.

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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!

 

 

America Can Learn A Thing or Two; Part Two

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 05:  A crowd gathers for the annual lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree on the West Front of the capitol December 5, 2007 in Washington, DC. This year's tree, a 55-foot balsam fir from Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest, is decorated with strands of energy-efficient LED (Light Emitting Diodes) lights as part of the Captiol's commitment to save energy.   

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Weekend Of Lasts

Trim Castle  

Image via Wikipedia

This is our last weekend in Ireland...

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.

PS - photos are now up at my new flickr account.

 

 

 

 

Google As a Social Commentary

 

Image via Wikipedia

I'm not sure if this is the post that you were looking to find on this blog but stay with it for a few minutes because I think it's going to turn out fine.

For many of us, "Googling" has become the new standard for information searching.  I know for my own self, Google has become the center of my world.  After UCD blocked our access to outside mail servers (they were afraid of scary viruses...) I had to find other email solutions outside of Boston University infrastructure.  Naturally, I turned to the one parent figure in my digital life - Google.  Gmail, GCalendar, and GTalk are now the focal points of my information gathering.  I have embraced the Goog and it feels good.  I know that I am an early adopter of sorts but I can't be the only one doing this.  Google is now inseperable from our society and we from it.

Yesterday, Thursday the 5th of June, Google announced a new feature to their ever popular GMail service - GMail Labs.  This beta service, along with many other Google Labs program, is a way for you to access non-mainstream features in order to make your life easier.  Features such as changing the way your signature is displayed, adding the old Snake game, or even locking yourself out of GMail for 15 minute email time-outs are all part of the offering.

So, that's all well and good, James.  We know you are a geek and love this stuff but what about the social commentary part of all this?  Here it comes.

Google doesn't do things lightly - they move relatively slowly, though much faster than other corporations of its size.  The launch of a new service is a definite sign that there had been interest in such a feature as well as someone that was interested in developing the tool - perhaps part of their progressive 15% time allocation for employees to pursue their own projects.  To me, this is a sign of a new wave of human.  In my mind, this is the same sort of movement that is propelling Barack Obama through to the Democratic party's nomination - we want change and now there is a voice, a drive to get it.

Let me expand.  As part of this new feature, private users will be able to code their own features for GMail and have them integrated with the service.  Sure, you can do similar things using extensions and personal scripts such as Greasemonkey and Better Gmail 2 for Firefox.  Those services are great but they aren't native, each user has to go out and get it for themselves.  GMail Labs will be for the masses and supports all those that are out using Google products.

Some are bashing Generation Y as the generation that will ruin the world with our preoccupation with social networks and social media.  I happen to believe that we will be the agents of change that our parents could never dream to be.  We have a drive, a carnal need to change things.  We are driven to make an impact on the world around us.  Generation Y will be a seen as the network of individuals that come together to make change in this world.

The launch of GMail Labs is a perfect example of this.  When a company like Google makes a move, it's for a good reason.  Their strategy reflects society and our passions, our desires.  I would look to Google to become the next Microsoft... but in a rather friendly, positive partnership rather than the hostile prisoner relationship we have with Redmond.

 

 

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!

 

 

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.

Amsterdam: Red Lights, Smokey Streets, and... Museums?

Well, there's a headline for you if I've ever seen one! This place known as Amsterdam is such an odd place for an American. From the get-go you're assaulted by foreign languages and strange sights but for some reason, it's not overwhelming. I flew into the city on Thursday afternoon not knowing how to get to town, how to get to the hotel, or really how to do much of anything in this new city. I made it... safe and sound. That's sort of been the theme of this trip so far - start with a goal and figure out how to get there. I'm sure there's some sort of deep moral statement floating in there somewhere but I've not found it yet. Probably something to do with having an end in sight and just working until you make it there.

So, allow me now, for a few moments, to pontificate about what it means to be in Amsterdam and how this city would never be possible in the States. First, the entire city is built for the people that live in it. Parking is about 35 euro a day so there aren't many cars around. To make up for that, there are THOUSANDS, and I mean THOUSANDS of bikes around everywhere. Every single spare space is filled with bikes locked to fences, railings, light posts, other bikes, and more. There are special lanes on every street for bikes to go through. These lanes have their own street-light system and are completely separate from the passengers. Trams are everywhere and go to every point in the city. We've yet to find ourselves lost in the city without some tram-rails sitting around nearby. It's great. All of the taxis are BMWs or Mercedes Benzs - clean, new, and expensive?

On the approach into the airport, I saw a number of firsts for me. At first it was the wind turbine farm that was off the coast. Next it was the turbines lining the major canals outside of the city. Then it was the canals themselves - they were both a great way to tour the city but also a means of travel. The Dutch have a very intricate energy plan here - something I wish we could make work for the states. On the canals, individual company lands had their own turbines - it was great! Who would have seen that coming?? States, take note.

Unavoidable when talking about Amsterdam is a discussion of the Red Light District. This was something I would have called Las Vegas if I didn't know better. Apart from the rest of the city, this area of town runs along two minor canals just south east of the central train station. Here, the setting changes from the quaint cultured structures of the rest of the city in exchange for neon neon neon. Girls here, sex toys there, a whole manner of debaucheries for those so inclined. Instead of Las Vegas' street vendors shoving cards of naked women into your hand along the street, the RLD was tame with the main drags being rather tame while letting the side alleys hold the practitioners of the world's oldest trade.

I still don't know how I feel about this whole situation. My mother would probably try to understand what they do by way of "cultural relativism" but I'm not sure that I can really agree there. The streets were crowded with on-lookers. Couples, homosexual and heterosexual, old people, young people, foreign and domestic. You name it and people came to gawk in hopes of seeing something but there weren't there to partake. Much like me, these people were just walking through the RLD - something that would leave a trip to Amsterdam otherwise unfinished. Sure you saw some Johns going in and coming out, heard the taps on the windows from girls in underwear etc. It was rather uncomfortable really. But just as soon as it started, it was over. The RLD is tiny - much smaller than I had imagined. In fact, it didn't really stand up to any of the preconceived notions that I had. It wasn't dirty, sketchy (too much), and was seemingly safe. Police on bikes, motorcycles, and cars patrolled the area much more often than other parts of the city. Security cameras were everywhere - who knows who was working them.

In general, it shows a rather mature approach to what we Americans look down upon as dirty and depraved. When reading some of the brochures of tours etc that were given to us in our room, we understood more the Dutch attitude towards the RLD. True, they are trying to get rid of it and they will eventually. But I'm not sure if that's the best way to control it. As it stands, the whores are unionized, have structured health tests, and apparently command a good salary. One history article mentioned that it was the oldest profession in the world, exploiting the woman's power in the work-place, and how it's a job that's portable. I personally see that as a bit of a romanticised version of dealing with it but whatever. I didn't partake but I don't look on others with disgust - it's a personal thing I suppose and everyone has their reasons, who am I to tell them theirs are wrong?

Another controversial topic bubbling through the canals that ring the city center is the bit about weed... It's legal here, you'll smell it EVERYWHERE from the shopping malls, to the Irish pubs, and definitely down the alleys where the "coffee shops" make their business.  It was strange... very strange.  Being on the outside of this one, I didn't really get it.  I know in the states that weed is illegal and all but for the most part, that law keeps it off the streets.  It's not something that is EVERYWHERE.  Perhaps it's because this is one of the few places where the drug is legalized and therefore everyone comes here to partake, but it sure seems like the legalization increases the amount of people in the general populace lighting up or even having to smell it.  The widespread use of marijuana calls up some concerns about safety - aren't there a bunch of commercials in the states about how driving high is just as bad as driving drunk?  Hmm... I guess that's why they have lots of trams and bikes...?  Then there's the thought - if it's legal, can you just go out for a smoke like people lighting up cigarettes while you're at work... that's gotta be different - maybe it'd make afternoon meetings more entertaining?

In general, I'm not convinced that the States ought to bring this drug to the legal market the way it is here.  Whether it's a matter of culture or if it's a matter of details, I'm don't think the States are the place to rock the boat on this one.  Yes, we can go back to cultural relativism and the like but at the end of the day I ask myself, is this what I want it to be like in Boston?  Resoundingly the answer is no.  Unlike the RLD, which doesn't publicly affect anyone else, those partaking of weed tend to affect those around them without their consent.  It's been so long since I've walked into a restaurant and been asked "smoking or non" that I'm not sure whether I could deal with being assaulted by weed-smoke every time I went to dinner.  Maybe the food spots would like it (reference munchies) but I doubt that their profitability would outweigh social welfare and responsibility.

The last bit that makes these last two topics so incongruous is the sheer density of museums here.  Every block there's a museum, especially around our hotel.  Granted, we're living in the Museum District, but even in other parts of the city there are MANY MANY places for one to visit the past.  So far, my favorite has been the Van Gogh museum - I actually felt as though I learned something that I didn't already know and found it interesting as well.  It was great.  His works were organized in chronological order and were accompanied by stories of his life.  I can definitely say that I knew more coming out of there than I did going in.  Not just about the painter, but about what it meant to be a painter.  Van Gogh, for those out of the know (haha), was a self-taught artist.  He rejected all formal training and refused to go the traditional route.  So, he set out on his own going into nature to discover the true forms of art and how to capture them.  He kept himself in strict discipline to study only sketches and then once mastered, moved into the paint.  His career was very short - he painted for a short 9 years before killing himself (another shocker).  We could see the progression in his artwork as he was influenced by new people with whom he came in contact.  We could see his skill building, peaking, and then fall away as his life dwindled in the twilight of his life.  Disturbing but in some ways poetically tragic.

So, I sit here in the hotel lobby alone hoping that my travel companion makes it back ok tonight as we sort of did our own separate things this evening.  We leave early tomorrow morning with a 10:20 departure from Amsterdam on our way to Barcelona.  It's going to be an interesting few days to be sure.  I'll do my best to keep you guys in the loop and whatnot but no promises.  Check out the contact page for more ways to get ahold of me!

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

What is nanotechnology?  Well, it is all about small stuff.  It started about ten years ago when scientists started experimenting with what they called "Bucky balls."  These microscopic, molecule size materials were made entirely from carbon.  They promised to be an interesting field of research and to this day have yielded some amazing advances for computing and science in general.  These Bucky balls have some interesting properties.  They are tiny - to give a scale of the size, a pinhead could hold over 3000 buck balls.  They are incredibly strong and can conduct electricity too.  Since that time, scientists and engineers have explored and developed novel and innovative uses for these miniscule Lego blocks. About two years ago, researchers managed to form these carbon nano-structures into what are now called nanotubes.  They are long hollow chains of carbon molecules in a particular mesh structure.  These engineered structures are considered some of the strongest and most robust materials known on earth.  They can also be manipulated into useful structures.  Scientists have used them to make molecular toilet bowls and other structures just to prove it can be done.  All fun aside, researchers have found very useful ways to use and transform nano-tubes into nano-wires and other structures for industry.  The following three technologies are some technologies already on the market or nearly to market that all of us can benefit from.

Nano-wire Capacitors

Current batteries use chemicals to store electrical charges.  Unfortunately, the amount of charge batteries can hold is limited because the chemicals swell when energized.  Also, after many charge-discharge cycles, the chemicals tend to wear out and become unusable.  Nano-wire capacitors stand to change the way we store energy forever.  Instead of using chemicals, these batteries would use bundles of miniscule nano-wires.  Capacitors are limited by the surface area of the circuits storing the charge - nano-wires, being so small, have TONS of surface areas.  Nano-wire batteries would be the same size as our current batteries but could store 6 times the charge and would never suffer from "memory" or wear out.  Think about not having to charge your phone for weeks at a time?  Don't need that charger for your next trip, now would you?

Nano-particle Solar Panels

Today, the world derives less than 10% of its power from renewable or green sources.  Of that, most is hydroelectric.  One reason for is that solar cells have been incredibly hard to make and prohibitively expensive.  A new US company, Nanosolar, has developed a novel way of producing cheap, efficient, and flexible solar cells.  They use nano-particles in an ink that is then printed on sheets of conductive foil.   When compared to traditional photocells today, Nanosolar's cells produce pay for themselves in a few months where others take years to make back the money invested in them.  These new cells come in two flavors, one geared towards utilities companies, the other to manufacturers.  The manufacturer side is a flexible cell that can be cut to exact size and used on almost any surface.  This means streetlights could power themselves, bike lights do not need replacement batteries, and your car roof can keep the car battery charged when the engine is not running.

Nano-wire Generators

Ever wished that you could put all of your walking and motion into better use?  Well, an emerging technology promised to do just that.  A new sort of fabric is in development that uses nano-wires woven into fabric with Kevlar casings and brushes (microscopic mind you).  Like industrial generators, when these brushes move, they create static electricity with the nano-wires, which then conduct that energy to a battery or nano-wire capacitor.  Next time you go for a run, you could charge your iPod so you will have tunes all through your work out.  For those with prosthetics, nano-wire generators promise to provide power for more advanced electronics and motors thus improving quality of life.  Just think, your next static shock could just power up your dead mobile phone or give an artificial heart a few more thumps.

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!

Expecto Patronum

Ok, all I can say is that JK Rowling is absolutely amazing!  Last night I was among the select few that got to sit within the presence of one of the most influential writers in my life.  This event got national media coverage as well as a HUGE following here at UCD.This adventure started a few weeks ago when I was at Refreshers Day where all of the student clubs (known as societies) toted their wares and tried to entice students to join up with their groups the same way vendors sell produce at Boston's Haymarket.  At this event, I was physically stopped and pulled me back in order to explain all the multitude of reasons that I ought to join up with their society.  That society is known as the L&H Society (Literary and Historical Society) and their mission is to bring attention to the arts within the UCD community.  For 2 euro, I could open myself up to "untold treasures" but what got me was the event that went off on Tuesday.  2 euro would get me in to see the person whose words have enchanted my mind and emotions, offered escapist nights of reading, a second life where anything was possible.  2 euro would get me in to see JK Rowling, the famed author of the Harry Potter series.

Unfortunately, they didn't email the tickets to me but rather, I ended up standing in line an hour early in order to queue up to get a ticket on Monday morning.  But boy was I happy that I did!  After softball practice on Tuesday, I walked up to the library and found a rather HUGE line waiting for the doors to open to let us into the amphitheater.  After 45 minutes the line begins to move as the masses flood into the gargantuan lecture hall.  Security guards and media people were whirling around snapping photos, checking bags, and a whole manner of other duties.  The decision was hard, go back and get high or stay low and be in the front.  I opted for the latter and sat off to the right hand side thinking there might be a good look at her from the side but I was in for a whole lot more than that.

When JK came into the room, cheers, clapping, hoots and hollers erupted from all around me.  We got to our feet to welcome our prophet into our midst.  A large thrown chair was brought in and put on stage not more than 10 feet away from me and you know who settled into the cushy seat in an elegant black dress.  She read from Deathly Hallows at the part where Ron comes back to the other two in the forest after saving Harry from the pond.  JK brought the book to life - I mean I'd hope she can, it's her book after all - but it was more than that.  She gave the book soul.  Her voice took on the personality to the characters.  Her emphasis, perfect.  Her accent, true.  It was overwhelming.  At interval she would stop, explain something from her writing process or other background that just fueled the atmosphere in the room.  When she stopped, there was a palpable feeling of remorse that the sweet storytelling had come to a close.

The next phase of the reception was to take questions from the audience.  She answered the questions of 10 students who had submitted their questions ahead of time.  With honesty and openness, she answered questions about her writing, the story lines, the pressures and all.  Two major points really panged at our hearts though.  The first was when she spoke of not writing Harry Potter any longer.  It was clear that she was going to miss this story that had been part of her life for 17 years.  17 years, she said, and this story had been the one constant in all this that time.  I have no doubts that she will miss it every day.  That said, the second and most emotional point was when she called us out as her target audience, "her people" as she named us.  We were the age group that she had been gunning at when the first book was released.  The entire room cooed with understanding and emotion.  JK herself started to get a little misty when she was talking about that bit.

In any event, the evening came to a close after the L&H Society's auditor presented JK with the famed James Joyce award in recognition of all her contributions to society.  She has singlehandedly helped students and adults rediscover their passion for reading and imagination.  This event was amazing and absolutely thrilling.  I'm so happy that I got to participate!

8 Hours Until Aer Lingus Sweeps Me Away

That's right, it's now 11am EST and in 8 short hours I will be getting onto the proverbial chariot ready to whisk me away to a new world. I think I'm ready. I've done my homework, packed the bags, weighed out the luggage (It's far too heavy for sure), and said some really hard 'see you later's. This isn't going to be an easy change, I don't think, not having all the things that make everyday "normal." But isn't that the point? Study abroad, in my mind, is all about stepping outside of the normal hustle and bustle - the daily grind. Yes, I'll meet people that might not like me because of my citizenship. Yes, I'm going to have to learn to deal with people driving on the wrong side of the road (that's humor btw ;-) ). All of that is part of the experience. During my semester abroad, I'm going to have the unique opportunity to study at a new school, meet new people, do new things. I won't be condemned to walking along Commonwealth Avenue playing the life or death game of "Dodge Car" just to get to class. I'll be getting a different view of the our country, the world, and all of humanity (if everything goes according to plan).

All that said, leaving is still difficult. How do you say "Goodbye" or "See you in 6 months" to people that you've spent practically every day with? How do you express the sadness and loneliness you'll feel not having them close by? How do you tell them that everything is going to be all right and fine? You can't. It's impossible to express in words all that you wish to say. It's impossible to get that across in a few minutes of goodbyes. It's too difficult a feeling to communicate among strangers and worse - so, you do your best. You make the efforts. You show the intent and try to look at the positives.

At least this time, when I leave, I'll know when I'm coming back - a firm goal to work towards. Please, don't take that to mean that I'll be counting down the days until we leave Ireland because that wouldn't be accurate at all. In fact, I have the benefit of being so swept up in all things Dublin that I won't have much time to stew on these thoughts after I step on that plane.

On the upside, Dublin is in a heat wave at 43 Degrees F, and only light rain forecasted for our arrival :-P. Lots of rain gear and warm clothes will be the staples for fashion these next 6 months - though for my friend from Seattle, this might not be that big of a change.

Once I'm settled in at UCD (University College Dublin) I'll be able to send out a mass email pointing everyone here and updating them on how to get ahold of me while I'm abroad. As for this website, I think It's going to become a regular travel journal of sorts that I update on a regular basis (schedule unknown at the moment) but rest assured, you'll have plenty to read.

Until next time, safe travels to all and take care!

-James

I Started a Couple of Different Projects

It has been far too long for this blog to get updated.  It's true, weeks and months have moved past and settled without a single update, not a word.  I kept promising so many things and didn't get you anything.  I'm sorry about that everyone, I feel badly.  That all said, I want to show you a couple of the projects that I've been working on. Number 1:  SCHOOL!

Some of you know that I'm in Boston University School of Management's Cross Functional Core Curriculum program.  For those of you who don't know what this innovative program is, let me fill you in.  CORE, as it's known, is a comprehensive class sequence that integrates four different classes together as you work in a team towards building full business plan.  What constitutes an integrated program?  Well, let me put it this way: I take four classes that are in different subjects but the topics, the goals, of each class is to provide you with more information about your business plan.  Marketing, Operations Management, Finance, and Information Systems classes feed us bits of information that we must assimilate and coalesce into a complete and manageable business plan.

My team is working on a product known, right now, as the Portable Laptop Lock.  Without going into details right now, let me say that seven other teammates and I have worked countless hours designing, developing, marketing, building, and all the other applicable verbs, for this one little product that culminates in 30% of our grade.  Which is silly since we spend 80% of our time on the team project.  It's unique in that having one common thread throughout the course gives examples in real time, something solid and tangible to tie the business concepts to that we're working on.

Our product will be able to be found on our team website at http://www.hemispheresecurity.com where we'll be able to show off what it takes to be a real presence in e-commerce.

Number 2: College Tech Central

My other baby is my new podcast, College Tech Central.  But, James, what is a podcast? A podcast is very similar to a blog, sometimes called an audio blog.  I first got turned onto the idea over the summer when I was using a MacBook Pro provided by my office at ISPS.  It was so easy to play in the digital lifestyle.  Unfortunately, I didn't get out any shows before I had to turn the computer back out.  Macs make it so easy to build a podcast and produce and distribute the entire system.  Well, I finally got it up and going.  If you run over to the website you can see some of the great content that we're putting out over there.  I'm recording Information Systems lectures from Professor Shankar, with permission, as a student study resource.

Once the class winds down a bit, I'll be able to produce a more robust podcast that brings together so many more bits.  College Tech Central, Technology on Campus, is your home for technology news, tips, tricks, reviews, and secrets where we demystify computers and make it easy for students and young professionals.  Tune in sometime soon for some great content.

Well, that's all for now, everyone.  Thanks so much for surfing over and taking a look.  I hope that you bear with me as I try to get more work done and still maintain these blog posts at least on a weekly basis. Until next time, take care!

DARPA Brings New Meaning to the Mobile Web

A wired blog article broke news about the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) newest public project.  These little pals are robotic wireless access points, or more properly - autonomous, mesh networked, wireless extension units.  The agency sees the future of the glorified lego mindstorms robots as being expendable units for soldiers to deploy as they move, thereby extending the multitudinous information technologies available to field commandos. Each robot must be less than $100 per unit on small production runs, must have a long service life of 7 - 14 days while on batteries (they won't be recharged), and they must be intelligent.  Swarm technologies have been used in robot demonstrations where each unit is aware of each other and actually work together by passing information from unit to unit to achieve the objective.  These units would be able to heal the network, should an individual unit shutdown or be destroyed.

I found myself wondering about these technologies.  I feel that the most difficult requirement to satisfy will be the cost measure.  I'm sure that some University has been working on just such a project somewhere but otherwise, how could a corporation hope to make and $$ on this?  There won't be any support because they're throw away and self programming.  There won't be any parts market for the same reason so all of their costs for production and development must be paid off within the sale price.  Of course, like every government contract, this project will be going to the lowest bidder.

The hardest part of the hardware will be designing a router that will interface with both the data and voice networks of the military (NIPRnet and SIPRnet plus many others that were not declassified at my time in the Air Force) while at the same time being able to communicate with the other units in the area.  The truss and chassis will probably be a lightweight metal with treads of some sort.  The battery unit will invariably be the largest portion of the entire unit since it will need to power both the propulsion unit and the router technology.  But these hardware issues can surely utilize market technologies without needing in house development.

Software will be a different issue all together.  Not only will the routers have to recognize where information is going and coming from, but they'll need to know where the other units are such that they can cross route information without having to go back to the main servers in order to facilitate faster data transfers.  Each robot will need to have a broad understanding of the current network coverage as well as the holes in reception and be able to navigate to improve connection strength and safety.  Fortunately, DARPA is looking for these units to fit into the urban warfare environment where coverage must be robust with respect to structures and shorter distances rather than the more open distances of desert or wilderness environments.  Perhaps the military will integrate the GPS system into the unit providing waypoints for the robots to traverse but this would increase costs and incur further programming time for what was supposed to be a zero-configuration project.

In summary, I think that this particular project will be a new step for DARPA by showing their interest in disposable network technology (tolerance for it falling into enemy hands with no plan for recovery by US forces... can you say self destruct?) as well as their continued insurmountable cost positions.  Let's get real... even if a company was going to get further gov't contracts as a result of this, there is no way they'll be able to fulfill the mission specs while simultaneously staying within the price point for each unit.