Curiosities of “Good to Great”

Good to Great 1I really enjoy the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.  It’s a book about business. I found it compelling but, even after having read 2/3 of it some years ago, I still often wonder: what does it all mean?

Perhaps I will never fully know.

An M.D. friend of mine told me about the book.  He found that it applied to multiple contexts. Another colleague of mine has been reading it, and I’ve flipped through it several times lately while visiting in his office.

As for myself, I think I’m better at achieving greatness in some contexts than others. In business I’ve little idea of how greatness looks or feels. In work and in life, I’ve achieved things that seem pretty great to me.

Beryl Markham provided the opening quote Collins used in his book: “That’s what makes death so hard — unsatisfied curiosity.”  Of course, we have all heard that curiosity is also what killed the cat.  Striking the right balance isn’t easy.

Defining new goals has always been the biggest challenge for me.  And I see I’m not alone. Defining appropriate goals for achieving greatness requires curiosity and experience.  So many companies are limited by their own success, Collins asserts, that they don’t flourish because they limit themselves to tried and tested approaches that they don’t realize are outdated.  If they do realize it, they usually are unable to shift to new approaches anyway.

Achieving those goals requires skill, perseverance, and steadfast determination.

Good to Great 2

Filming at the Cobblestone Pub

Setting up to film, the room was filled to capacity with Mulligan relations.

Setting up to film, the room was filled to capacity with Mulligan relations.

Cinematographers and musicians filled the tiny musicians’ corner at the Cobblestone pub last week.  They were filming a documentary about traditional Irish music, focusing on the influence of the Travelers (the ethnic group that’s had the roughest time here in Ireland).  I’ll try to keep you posted as to when and where the documentary will air.

And then the filming commenced.

And then the filming commenced.

Criminal Courts and First Thursdays in Dublin

Lobby of Ireland's Criminal Court Building, located near Heuston train station.

Lobby of Ireland’s Criminal Court building, located near Heuston train station.

Former Fulbright Pam Eddy and I enjoyed a quick visit to Temple Bar’s First Thursdays events during her February visit.  Throughout most of the year, the galleries and other cultural establishments throughout Temple Bar stay open late (6-8 PM) on the first Thursday night of each month.

Pam and I had time to visit just two galleries because I’d been part of a Fulbright “field trip” to the Criminal Courts of Justice building that started at 5 (as pictured to the left).

It appears that First Thursday is officially dormant during March. This year, it  will re-emerge on Thursday, April 4.

The surprising thing about the many free cultural events offered in Dublin each year is the high level of participation among Dublin residents.  In many other cities, residents ignore such offerings.  That is truly not the case here!

The Temple Bar Cultural Trust website explains:

First Thursdays Dublin is a Temple Bar Cultural Trust initiative that brings together art galleries, cultural and creative spaces on the first Thursday of every month – by sharing the same late-night opening times.

First Thursdays Dublin (FTD) happens on the first Thursday of every month. Opening hours are extended from 6 – 8pm in a number of galleries. Please note: this list changes every month for First Thursdays! It offers you an extra opportunity to visit exhibitions, attend cultural events and experience some light-night culture. It is our way of experiencing a taste of Culture Night on a monthly basis!

Here is the list of the galleries, cultural and creative spaces that are now part of First Thursdays Dublin:

  1. Basic Space
  2. Block T
  3. Centre for Creative Practices
  4. Cow’s Lane Designer Studio
  5. Darc Space
  6. Debbie Paul Studio and Gallery
  7. Design Yard
  8. Designist
  9. Douglas Hyde Gallery
  10. Draiocht, Centre for the Arts
  11. Dublin Civic Trust
  12. Exchange Dublin
  13. Gallery @ No. SIX
  14. Gallery of Photography
  15. Gallery Zozimus
  16. Graphic Studio Gallery
  17. Green on Red Gallery
  18. Hillsboro Fine Art
  19. Jam Art Factory
  20. James Joyce Centre
  21. Kevin Kavanagh Gallery
  22. Little Green Street Gallery
  23. Monster Truck Gallery & Studios
  24. National Gallery of Ireland (open late every Thursday)
  25. National College of Art and Design Gallery
  26. No Grants Gallery
  27. Project 51
  28. Project Arts Centre, Gallery
  29. Olivier Cornet Gallery
  30. Science Gallery
  31. Sol Art Gallery
  32. Talbot Gallery & Studios
  33. Tamp & Stitch
  34. Taylor Galleries
  35. Temple Bar Gallery & Studios
  36. The Copper House Gallery
  37. The Doorway Gallery
  38. The Goethe Institut
  39. The Green Gallery
  40. The Icon Factory
  41. The Joinery
  42. The Keeling Gallery
  43. The LAB
  44. The Little Museum of Dublin
  45. The Market Studios
  46. The Picture Rooms
  47. The Pallas Projects
  48. The White Gallery
  49. White Art Lady


My engineering colleagues, Drs. Ted Burke and Damon Berry, hosted a brilliant RoboSlam last Friday.  They had recruited a diverse crowd of participants to help them refine the way they teach kids to build robots.  You can see the basic method (which is being tweaked for use with a new group of kids in May) on their RoboSlam website.  I’ve attempted to capture the excitement (and my confusion) in the images below.

Before the event, Ted sent me this:

Hello All,

You’re receiving this because you’re on our list of participants for the upcoming RoboSlam workshop. Hopefully you’re still willing and available! If so, please reply to let us know so that we can confirm our numbers.

The details are:

  • Date: Friday 22nd March
  • Time: 2-6pm
  • Location: DIT Kevin St, room TBC

What happens over the course of the afternoon is this:

  1. We give each of you a bag of carefully selected low-cost components and a link to some online instructions.
  2. You build and program a small autonomous robot.
  3. Damon and I hover around offering friendly guidance.
  4. We all try out our robots!

We previously ran this workshop as a public event in the MAKESHOP which is part of the Science Gallery at Trinity College. It was a resounding success and it convinced us that this has real potential for a wide audience. Our next workshop with ordinary participants is with a larger group of transition year school students who will be visiting Kevin St in May. What you (extraordinary participants) will be doing on March 22nd is basically the same activity that the participants normally do, but what we’re trying to achieve in this session is slightly different:

  • Improvement: We want your ideas on how we can refine the RoboSlam recipe. You have been selected for your expertise, wisdom and creativity. Experience the workshop, then think carefully about how we can make it better.
  • Promotion: We want to recruit mavens. Makers clubs and workshops are emerging as a critically important channel for getting talented people with a natural interest in technology involved in engineering. We think RoboSlam is a good recipe, so we’re eager to bring it to a wider audience.

Once we get the robots working, we may wish to reward ourselves with a visit to e.g. Ryan’s for some scholarly reflection on all that we have learned. Naturally, this part is optional.


Techno Geek

I’ve been brushing up on e-Learning tools as of late.  I took a workshop on Wikis last Friday and another on Blackboard yesterday.  At DIT, these workshops are provided through the Learning, Teaching and Technology Centre (LTTC), where I will be teaching a course in May.  Yesterday I met with Orla Hanratty, who has graciously agreed to co-teach the module with me.

Workshop on how to use Wikis.

Workshop on how to use Wikis.

Flurries in Dublin

It’s snowing in Dublin today, an unusual site indeed. Right now the sun is shining.  But big, fluffy flakes are falling gently to the ground. Here are photos from my wintery walk to the Learning, Teaching and Technology Centre for meetings and a workshop today.

A Chilly Antique Car Show in Smithfield

A dozen and a half owners of antique cars braved the frigid temperatures Sunday to show their treasures on Smithfield’s cobblestoned plaza. Among the collection were a couple cute old Minis and a dozen or so old Triumphs.

The photos below show my favorites from the show.  I love viewing early model autos!

Seeing them on Smithfield Plaza, an important industrial hub of 19th century Dublin, is all the more fun.

Dublin Castle and Chester Beatty

None of my guest have been able to get into Dublin Castle, although I had the chance to see it last September, on Culture Night.  I’ve finally figured out why it’s closed to tourists.  This year Ireland is the president of the EU.   The Castle is being used for all sorts of formal ceremonial event.  Therefore, it’s closed to the public until June 30.

A tourist to Dublin will find the best view of the castle from the mort side, looking south from the garden in the front of the Chester Beatty Library.

The Chester Beatty is still open and offers one of the most fascinating places to visit in Dublin.  To access it, you have to go around the west wall of the castle and through the side gate.

Patty, Kitty Lee, and I visited the Chester Beatty Library and saw fragments of the Bible that date back to 150 AD.  These are some of the oldest pieces of the document in existence in the world. While at the Beatty Library, we also saw a temporary exhibition of paintings including one that Patty has always admired, The Gleaners.  It was painted by Jules Adolphe Aimé Louis Breton in 1854.  It’s from the period when artists were trying to record the daily life of laborers and the hard reality they faced in the mid-1800s. We could have spent much longer in the exhibits as we had very little time in the non-Christian collections on this particular visit.

The Library’s website explains:

Described by the Lonely Planet as not just the best museum in Ireland, but one of the best in Europe, the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin is an art museum and library which houses the great collection of manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and some decorative arts assembled by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). Its rich collections from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe opens a window on the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world. Chester Beatty Library was named Irish Museum of the year in 2000 and was awarded the title European Museum of the Year in 2002.

Egyptian papyrus texts, beautifully illuminated copies of the Qur’an, the Bible, European medieval and renaissance manuscripts are among the highlights of the collection. In its diversity, the collection captures much of the richness of human creative expression from about 2700 BC to the present day.

Admission to the Chester Beatty Library is free!

The Impressive National Library of Ireland

You’ll recall that the National Library was on the blog post I made for Kitty Lee.  It was among the things I wanted to see but hadn’t yet.

My recent visitor, Pam Eddy, used to enjoy going there when she was a Fulbright scholar to Ireland in the spring of 2009.  She knew the ropes of getting in and around the place, and that made it easier for me to jump in and enjoy being there.  (I’ll admit I’d been a bit intimidated by the place before going there with her.)

We viewed an exhibition of W. E. B Yeats, stowed our bags in the handy (all glass) lockers, and proceeded into the grand reading hall.  I’ve posted a host of images to show you the grandeur or the hall and the entry procession leading to it.

History Lessons (for the Irish, Italian, Tunisian, English and American crowd)

Fergus Wheelan is a walking archive of Irish history and politics.  He’s a self-made historian who brings complex history to life and makes it simple to understand.  Every guest who visits I find reading his book, Dissent into Treason. It’s available from Amazon in the US. I can’t fathom the amount of time he spent in libraries and archives research this book — nor the time it took to understand, structure, and explain the information in such an enlightening way.

It’s no wonder Fergus drawn to the Cobblestone Pub, a place operated by Tom Mulligan (a man with a degree in Irish history and policies himself).

Every visit to the Cobblestone is a lesson in tradition for me.

Last week, I had more friends in tow.  Here you see Toni Grey (an English friend who retired to Tunisia many moons ago) and her Italian boyfriend, Toni and Giuseppe Conte.

Incidentally, Giuseppe rents apartments and B&B rooms in Rome.  I visited one of the apartments and found it to be quite charming and extremely well located (near Campo de’ Fiori).  You can contact Giuseppe at <> for more information.