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June 2009

May 2009

My Grandmother Escaped the Orphange

Nana's KitchenWHILE READING THE RYAN Report in Ireland, I realise that I'm very lucky that my grandmother entered the care of her aunt instead of beng entered in Irish institutional care . My granny (seen at left in her kitchen) was orphaned by six, following the tragic deaths of her mother and father. One of the options by her aunts included bundling up our Kitty for an orphanage--or worse, a laundry. Instead, Aunt Jane came into the picture and took young Kitty into her care. Across Ireland, hundreds of Irish children faced a more difficult existence when they were bundled off to State-subsidised industrial schools. The Ryan Report about this abhorrent parallel society writes an important parallel strand in 20th century Irish history. It would have been a major departure from the norm for Kitty to be removed to Ireland, but that's where many of her closest relatives lived and in the early 20th century, families stayed together. Fortunately for me, my Irish great aunt came to the States and helped raise my orphaned granny.


Footprints of Whitman from the Song of Myself

Walt Whitman #bestpractiseAS A READER OF Walt Whitman, I learned that many researchers consider the 31st of May to be his birthday. That makes today the 190th anniversary of his birth. I've always liked the way Whitman defined himself. To my ears, he sounded like the independent and self-assured American that he was. Here is how he defined himself:


I know I am solid and sound.
To me the converging objects of the universe
perpetually flow.
All are written to me,
and I must get what the writing means.
I know I am deathless.
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept
by a carpenter’s compass,


I know that I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself
or be understood.
I see that the elementary laws never apologize.

My foothold is tenoned and mortised in granite.
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.

From Walt Whitman -- "Song of Myself"


Station Innovation Scheme

AT Tipperary Institute, we are looking at ways to work with local radio stations towards improving their streaming services. Some of our ideas involve use of HD cameras set up through UStream or Bambuser. The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland has awarded €25,000 to seven licensed radio and television stations under its Station Innovation Scheme. Some of this funding will show a boost in listeners using data connections on mobile phones when interacting with presenters. Several promising iPhone Apps feature in the current work.


Saturday 46 Years Ago

MY GRANDMOTHER was over the moon on 29 May 1963 when WGAL TV8 reported the visit of President John F. Kennedy to Ireland. She tuned the family television (hers was the first television in our Lancaster County family lineage) to watch the news reports of JFK's arrival in Ireland. Nana was born in the States but reared by her aunt from County Clare so her values were Old Irish. In today's Irish Times, two pages of the 1963 edition have been reprinted in their entirety, including the small advertisement for "Mannequin: Nylons of Aer Lingus."

Sent mail2blog using Nokia E90 O2 3G Typepad service over the River Liffey in Celbridge, Co Kildare, Ireland.



Impending Car Crash

125 Miles without a ScratchIF YOU LIVE in Ireland, you know there's an impending car crash looming directly ahead--just before Christmas as part of the national budget. Some new charges will drop onto home owners in 2010, after the Minister for Finance announces them in the Dail (Irish Parliament). Speaking from experience as a home owner in three States spread across the USA, I know that paying $1000 annually for property tax and school district tax is about the kind of citizen burden that many Americans expect. As an Irish homeowner, I live free of a property tax. As a reader of the Irish tea leaves (those used by government ministers), I can see the property tax coming in slow motion, like the impending car crash that I watched through the rear window of the car at left.

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Summer Camps in Ireland

Stacey Pyke and Sarah CondonTHERE IS NO REASON for an Irish child to be idle in summer because vibrant summer camps exist throughout the country. Whizz Kids run a number of IT camps in university campuses in Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Galway. Each camp runs from 0930 to 1530 and covers a mix of activities, including web design, movie making, sports, online gaming and a host of hi-tech challenges. Niamh Barrett Computers offers a series of tech-inspired five-day courses for ages 5-6, 7-12, and for teenagers in Cork, Charleville, and Mallow. We used to offer that kind of activity in our Schoolworks programme, shown at left. Imaginosity offers half day summer camps in Dublin, based around science, arts, learning and playing for ages 4-6 and 7-9 years. Artzone offers a series of drawing, animation and design camps for children and teens throughout the greater Dublin area in July and August, lasting a week at a time.

Declan Cashin -- "Playtime" in the Irish Examiner, 26 May 2009. Photo from Schoolworks in Tipperary Insititute.


Electricity Metre Running Backwards

ONE OF MY CLEVER colleagues has an electrician friend who has helped him run his electricity metre backwards. He's working with a backyard wind turbine and although its power output will hardly justify the cost of its purchase, it's still nice knowing that the initial installation is affecting power used by the house. And it's nicer still getting the news through a reduced electricity bill. Family living in Arizona pointed out how it's possible to get creative solar financing. Because photovoltaic panels are high-priced at the moment, some installers offer innovative ways for homeowners to afford the initial costs of installation. Arizona residents who jump over the cost barrier can discover that they can generate more than half of the electricity they need in their home. Throughout the States, you can often go solar with a company that agrees to install high-quality panels on your roof for no money down. So you let a solar installer put smart cells on your roof and you maintain them until you own them. The panels come with a smart metre that tells the company how much your home has resold to the electricity grid. The installer keeps the revenue generated by the panels and the home owner gets a metre that winds back a few units for the power produced. So basically, your roof is paying for the solar power installation and within 20 years, you own whatever is on your roof again. But right now, there's an enterprising lad in Tipperary who has figured out how to make his electrical metre turn backwards on peak wind days and that's a story that I hope gets repeated throughout energy-hungry Ireland.

Photo from Kevin Kelly.


The Guardian on Twitter

First Twittermosaic CoffeeIN TODAY'S EDITORIAL section of the Guardian, yet-another affirmation of Twitter appears for readers. It's important to note that the Guardian's take isn't the same as many in Irish mainstream media. "Twitter is the latest of a family of communications technologies that are breaking down barriers of geography, class and even shyness. Social networks such as Facebook and MySpace enable hook-ups with friends and friends after a time lag. Twitter and its much smaller voice equivalent,, go much further by enabling you to follow any person or topic almost instantaeously. Since the 140 characters can include a web address, you can, unlike texting, view videos after one click. Twitter or a rival could become a major video channel with choices influenced by people you trust." This little sentence is one of the nubs of a $700 Forrester report. The most interesting developments will follow on the heels of what Twitter has carved out--the world's most vibrant village gossip network.

On the Guardian's comment page: "Tweet Nothings", 25 May 2009.
Sent mail2blog using Nokia E90 O2-Typepad services in the sunny of centre city Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland while drinking a cuppa.


Sunday Business Post with Twitter Subtitltes

Mannix Should TweetMORE THAN ANY OTHER newspaper that I buy in Ireland, the Sunday Business Post (SBP) looks like it could benefit from subtitles written in Twitterspeak. It's quite simple--just add the Twitter nic to the writer's byline and you're off. If the journo doesn't use Twitter, add a Twitter user name to the body of the article when the person interviewed has an account there. This idea occurred to me while paging through the SBP and I took the liberty of marking up the appropriate stories with my attempt at attributing Twitter nicknames to people in the stories. The seven minute Qik video that I put online shows what I mean. There are stories about technology in education that cite people using electronic tools well. Some of these people tweet and many of them write blogs so the SBP reader deserves to be alerted to where to go for the rest of the story. And in some cases, those Twitterstreams and blog posts provide important details about what's really happening with technology, business and education. Being a realist, I know that most of the ink used by the Sunday Business Post is clever commercial profiles for companies and I don't argue with that approach. However, I think many readers would find better embedded web reference to be a technique worth considering as a way to boost newsprint sales.

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If Churchill Had Blogged

EVEN IF BLOGGING had existed in the 1940s, I doubt Winston Churchill (1940 photo at left) would have blogged the last days of May 1940 because the archival records showed he was increasingly despondent. "There is no doubt that had I at this juncture faltered at all in leading the nation, I should have been hurled out of office," he wrote years later. Of all the military campaigns and hard-fought battles, the moments during which the war was not lost rank as some of the most significant. One of those defining moments came dujring the last five days of May 1940, at a time when the fate of Europe and Western civilization were hanging precariously in the balance. My Irish-German-American family felt more allegiance to the emerging German nation, without understanding the machinations of the Third Reich. The United States and Russia had yet to enter the war and Britain faced the possibility of standing alone in the fight against Nazi Germany. These last five days of May 1940 are the days when Adolf Hitler came the closest to achieving the total victory he sought over Europe.

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