Monday, December 19, 2022

13 World Cup Finals - Lucky Me!

The last World Cup final I missed was in 1970, when Brazil beat Italy by four goals to one - I was 10 years old. On the day of the final, our family attended what I remember as a Field Day or some kind of Garden Fete. I kept wondering what the score was - no smart phones to look it up in those days. In fact it was several days before I found out the result. By 1974 I was already a huge fan of football, and haven't missed a final since. Yesterday's final was the most exciting one so far.

Image source: Sportsnet.

I asked myself today what single memory do I have of each final, so here I go:

1974: Gerd Müller's winner (West Germany 2 - Netherlands 1)

1978: Mario Kempes raising his arms after scoring (Argentina 3 - Netherlands 1)

1982: THAT goal celebration by Marco Tardelli (Italy 3 - West Germany 1)

1986: Maradona's pass to Burruchaga for the winner (Argentina 3 - West Germany 2)

1990: Maradona in tears at the end of the game (West Germany 1 - Argentina 0)

1994: Roberto Baggio's miss in the penalty shoot out (Brazil 0 - Italy 0)

1998: Zidane scoring two goals (France 3 - Brazil 0)

2002: Ronaldo scoring two goals (Brazil 2 - Germany 0)

2006: THAT head butt by Zidane (Italy 1 - France 1)

2010: Iniesta's winner in Extra Time (Spain 1 - Netherlands 0)

2014: Mario Götze's winner in Extra Time (Germany 1 - Argentina  0)

2018: Kylian Mbappé announces himself to the world (France 4 - Croatia 2)

2022: Messi lifting the trophy - class (Argentina 3 - France 3)

Here's to the 2024 final (when Ireland win for the first time!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

20 Years Ago

At the end of November 2002, about a month after I had left SmartForce/Skillsoft, I was invited by a former colleague (DK) to give a guest lecture to 4th year Computer Science students at the National College of Ireland. At the time I had never heard of NCI, and I was still wondering what I was going to do. An academic career seemed impossible to me as I had very few publications, little research done, and almost no classroom teaching experience. NCI gave me the opportunity to at least try a lecture, the College has always been supportive of guest lectures for students. I spent many hours preparing a 45 minute presentation which was about the use of GroupWare (Lotus Notes) to support the courseware production process. This lecture led to giving more guest lectures on a new eLearning Diploma programme that the College had just launched - I was so lucky to be in the right place at the right time. 

A photo from my early days in NCI.

In the summer of 2003 I landed a fulltime Lecturer position at NCI, but I always credited the guest lecture the previous November as the real starting point of my career as a Lecturer. While I am retired now, I'll never forget the opportunity presented to me in 2002. 

None of us know what the future brings. My lesson from 20 years ago is that we should grasp any opportunity presented to us

Friday, October 14, 2022

Back to Vaccination Centre #Memories

2nd Booster Done!

Yesterday I received my 2nd Covid-19 booster vaccine at the Shoreline Leisure Centre in Greystones. I was really keen to get the booster coming into the winter. I contracted Covid last May and thankfully was not very sick - just one day of feeling really drained. The vaccine I got is the new SpikeVax (formerly Moderna) one, I have now received AstraZenica (2), Pfizer, and SpikeVax - quite the vaccine cocktail!

It is amazing how quickly the pandemic is fading from our minds. It took me a while to find a face mask and I had forgotten all about the vaccine centres. Even the blue/green signs everywhere seemed new. It is strange to think that I spent a huge amount of time last year as a volunteer in the Aviva, City West, and RDS Mass Vaccination Centres. The last time I was in the Shoreline Centre there was a queue all around the car park and out into the main road. There were only about 10 people there yesterday. Indeed there must have been queues like this in centres all around the world. Covid is probably one of the biggest and most historic things to happen to us all - we should not forget.

It remains to be seen if Covid-19 will disrupt our lives again, but I feel a little bit safer today thanks to the wonderful Barbara who vaccinated me yesterday, all the staff at the Shoreline Centre, and indeed all the doctors, nurses, and scientists who have protected so many people as a results of their work.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

YouTube Slowdown

It is now over 14 months since I last posted a video on YouTube. Since I posted my first video on 11th December 2007, I have made a total of 285 videos on a wide range of "How To..." topics. For 13 years or so it was a major part of my educational life, but since retirement I have let it go a bit. My last video was number 105 in a series of How to Programme in R videos. This series has not done as well as expected, with many of these 105 videos only getting a few hundred views in just over a year. The most popular video is "How To... Plot Multiple Datasets on the Same Chart in R #38" with 12,351 views as of today. This is not a surprise in many ways because my "How To... Plot Multiple Data Sets on the Same Chart in Excel 2010" has been my most popular video ever with 1,853,216 views as of today. Here are both videos:

Despite no uploads for over 14 months, the channel still gets around 2.5 million views per year. It stills makes me money which is very welcome for a retired person! To be honest it was part of my original retirement plan to make more videos (and money). A diversion to create a Udemy course on Problem-Solving Techniques was probably not a good financial move - I make more in a day on YouTube than I have in three months of Udemy.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Short Motorcycle Tour

Earlier this month I made a quick tour around North Western mainland Europe on my motorbike - my first trip like this since Lockdown and our Route 66 Tour in 2019. It was great to be back on the bike again, I travelled just over 5,000 kilometres in prefect weather (even through England!). 

I set out from Dublin Port to Holyhead in Wales, and then took 7 hours to ride across Wales and England to Maidstone where I spent the night. Despite a lot of warnings about delays in Dover, I got through it with no difficulties. From Calais I rode towards Belgium and stopped at the Battle of Waterloo site. It's really just ordinary fields under tillage, but the mound and its 265 steps is cool and provides a great view over the site. The museum is interesting and I also watched a musket fire demo (firing a musket is now on my Bucket List!).

Lion's Mound, Waterloo.

From Waterloo I headed to Valkenburg near Maastricht where I met up with Roma, my sister Kathleen, and her partner Chris. What a gem Valkenburg is - lots of pedestrian streets full of bars and restaurants. We were staying here the night before the Andre Rieu concert in Maastricht.

Getting ready for Andre Rieu.

Fantastic music from Andre Rieu.

Andre Rieu and his Orchestra are wonderful - we loved the evening and have become classical music fans. Watching and listening to brilliant musicians and singers doing their work was a pleasure. We had brilliant seats near the front and had a great view of everything. I'd never have thought that I would have enjoyed an evening so much!

Next on our list was Luxembourg City - I had never been there before. It's quite a small city and the centre is easy to walk around. We were there for Sunday and Monday, and unfortunately lots of places were closed. We wanted to see the City Museum and the Palace, but we'll have to come back for that some other time. We moved around using the fantastic free bus service, and walked the pedestrian streets. 

Luxembourg City Centre.

Rheims in France was our next city stop - two nights to enjoy in a city known for its magnificent 13th century cathedral. We stopped for lunch in Bouillon in Belgium on the way and had great view of the town's castle and the river Semois. In Rheims, we stayed near the city centre and first stop was the cathedral - it is magnificent. The nearby Tourist Office provided us with audio gear for a tour around the cathedral - well worth doing. We also visited the Museum of the Surrender and saw the room where the Germans surrendered to the Allies on May 7th 1945. Rheims is a centre for champagne, so we just had to try a tour and tasting at the Champagne Charles de Cazanove. 

Lunch in Bouillon.

On tour at Rheims Cathedral.

Our final destination was Deauville in Normandy where we spent three nights. Beside Trouville, this is a beautiful location which is very popular for French holiday makers. We enjoyed the pedestrian streets and the outdoor cafés. We had intended to tour around Normandy a bit, but I had a dose of food poisoning which laid me low for a day. 

On the short ferry between Trouville and Deauville.

On our last day, we departed Deauville and headed for Cherbourg and the ferry to Dublin. We stopped on the way at the American WW2 Cemetery in Colleville where there were huge crowds attending at this magnificent memorial. There are 9,388 Americans buried here - a very sad, but respectful place. 

American War Cemetery, Colleville.

Overall, the trip through six countries (Wales, England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg) was very successful. The bike performed well and the good weather made for very pleasant riding. I'd love to come back with the car and fill it up with wine on the way back. Judging by the low profile of many cars getting on the ferry, lots of people had the same idea. 

Adieu France!

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

10 Years Ago #WildAtlanticWay

This time 10 years ago I was riding around the Wild Atlantic Way - how time flies! I had the mad idea to ride around the entire coast of Ireland and to go down every coast road/lane that I could. I set out from Dublin and headed south through Wicklow and Wexford. It took two weeks to get around the coast and despite a lot of rain, I really enjoyed the experience. 

Initially, I called the trip "The 100 Corners of Ireland" and even had a #100corners hashtag on Twitter. When I reached Youghal in east Cork, I noticed in the Irish Times that Peter Murtagh was writing about a new route from Fáilte Ireland called the "Wild Atlantic Way". An opportunity to be one of the first people to travel the entire route from Kinsale to Mizen fell into my lap. I wanted to write a book about 100 Corners, but this changed to just the Wild Atlantic Way part of the route on the advice of my publisher. At the time of my trip there were not even any signs up and it was still just a plan. Today this is a very popular tourist attraction. 

Tomorrow I am riding through Wales and England, and hopefully avoid congestion in Dover on Friday morning before departing to Calais. My destination is Maastricht in The Netherlands, where I will hook up with Roma. It's then on to Luxembourg, and across northern France to Normandy. Hopefully I will get a chance for a blog post along the way!

On Loop Head Lighthouse

Friday, June 24, 2022

First Census Results #Census2022

The Central Statistics Office have published today the first set of preliminary results from the Census taken on April 3rd last. This is pretty impressive speed given that over 1,000,000 census forms were collected - mine were collected on May 5th, only seven weeks ago. Each form was fed into massive machines which first cut off the spine and then scanned each page using OCR technology.

My piece of these first results was that there were 480 dwellings in the area (Foxrock/Deansgrange) that I enumerated. You can see on the infographic below that South Dublin has the lowest vacancy rate at 4% - it was slightly less in my area. 

Image source:

One of the more interesting graphics from the CSO Preliminary Report shows the change in our population since 1841 (26 counties only). The devastation of the Great Famine (1845 -1849) and the curse of emigration is plain to see. The 1961 census shows the lowest population figure (actual figure was 2,818,341). This was just after I was born (1959) - so I'm glad I did my bit for population growth in Ireland. I'm guessing that in our next Census, our population will have doubled since 1961.

Image source:

Expect more results to drip feed from the CSO over the next few months. I'm told that one of the figures to be released next is the percentage of Time Capsule that were filled out. If my area is anything to go by I expect this could be as low as 25-30%.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Making a Course on Udemy #udemycourses #problemsolving

My first course on Udemy is now available, and it seems strange to be no longer in content creation mode. The structure of the course has long been in place. Several years ago I created a "course" on Udemy consisting of YouTube videos only. I had lots of old Problem-Solving Techniques videos on my channel and I invented a course structure around them. Not surprisingly, the good folks at Udemy rejected such a "course" as it went against their policies. But it did give me the idea to one day rebuild.

For lectures, the new course uses PowerPoint and Snagit to capture screen video and audio. Udemy have a support process that allows you to upload videos to have them checked for quality before publication. Once this was cleared, I was ready to go. There are 24 lectures, each one followed by a short assignment which were created in Udemy's own tools. Some of the lectures also had "How To..." videos - for example, the Pareto Analysis lecture has an accompanying video showing how to draw a Pareto Chart in Excel. Most of these videos were also screen captures using Snagit, but I also used my GoPro as a document reader for videos, eg Flow Charts, showing how to do them by hand.

In April 2021, Business Wire reported that Udemy has over 40m learners with 70,000 instructors teaching 155,000 courses in more than 65 languages. It is going to take a long time to to get any notice for my course. My post announcing the launch of the course on LinkedIn last week generated a good deal of traffic with lots of Likes and Shares, and had over 6,200 impressions (the number of times my post was displayed on-screen). Indeed, this post is a blatant attempt to get some more traffic!

For a short time I am giving away free access to the course for 100 students - click on the link below to use the PROBLEMSOLVING coupon code:

This coupon expires on 3rd July, 2022 and is available on a first come first serve basis.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

My Problem-Solving Techniques Course on Udemy

After many months of stop/start development I have finally released my first course on Udemy: Problem-Solving Techniques. The course is based mainly on my 2015 book, An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis, and on an old module called Business Systems Analysis that I used to teach at the National College of Ireland. I have set the price at a modest $24.99 in order to see if this low price can generate some sales, though I see that Udemy are currently running a Sale and that the course is already available at $12.99!

In the course, students will cover a wide variety of problem-solving techniques in the following eight areas:

  • Problem identification
  • Improvement priorities identification
  • Decision making
  • Process identification
  • Resources planning
  • Process improvement
  • Performance measurement
  • Predictive techniques

In all there are 24 Lectures, plus several "How To" style videos, on topics such as Pareto Analysis, SREDIM Process Improvement, PERT, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Value Analysis, and many more. All lectures are short (average about 10 minutes), and the course is designed so that students can dip in and out rather than having to start at lecture 1 and progress incrementally to lecture 24.

While I have spent way more hours creating the content for this course than I had expected, I am pleased with the result. Getting the course published on Udemy is the easy part, now begins the task of promoting the course and getting people to enrol. The are so many courses on Udemy and other platforms that I feel that it will be very difficult to sell this course. Nevertheless, even if it ends up as a total failure, I feel happy and proud that I have finally got a course up on Udemy.

Monday, May 30, 2022

F 404 Orange and Green: 44 Years Late

Recently, I was making some space on my overcrowded bookshelf, when I picked up a battered-looking book entitled “Orange and Green”. It was written in 1887 by G. A. Henty, who was a prolific author of books for boys in the late 19th century. Inside the front cover was the code “F 404”, underneath this was a stamp with “Mt St Joseph College Roscrea, Library”. I suddenly realised that this was a library book from my old Alma Mater, Cistercian College Roscrea in Co Tipperary, where I completed my secondary school studies in June 1977. It is with some embarrassment that I work out that over 44 years later, I still have not returned the book to the College Library.

G. A. (George Alfred) Henty was born in Cambridge in 1832. When the Crimean War broke out in 1853, he left Cambridge University before completing his degree and volunteering as an Officer in the British Army Hospital. His letters home described in detail the appalling conditions suffered by British soldiers in the Crimea. His father, impressed by the quality of the writing, sent the letters to The Morning Advertiser newspaper, whose circulation in Britain then was second only to The Times – his career as a war correspondent and writer had begun. He covered several European wars between 1866 and 1877. 

Henty wrote 122 books in total over a 34-year period. His books were aimed at teenage boys and almost always featured one or two boys as the main characters in many historical contexts such as the Crusades, the Napoleonic Wars, and the American Civil War. The “Orange and Green” book was one of six books he wrote in 1887. It is based on the 1688 - 1690 period during the War of the Two Kings between Catholic King James II, and Protestant William of Orange. In the first sentence of the book in the foreword Henty prophetically writes:

The subject of Ireland is one which has for some years been a very prominent one, and is likely, I fear, for some time yet to occupy a large share of public attention”.

I decided to read the stained yellow pages of the book again. The central character in the “Orange and Green” story is 16-year-old Walter Davenent, an Irish Catholic descendent of Norman invaders from the 12th century. His family survived the Cromwellian wars and lived in a castle just south of Bray in Co Wicklow. He makes friends with a Protestant neighbour, John Whitefoot, whom Henty describes growing up as a: “hearty, healthy boy, with a bright eye, a merry laugh, and a frank, open bearing”.

Early in the book during a storm, Walter almost single handedly saves many English soldiers from drowning in a shipwreck – an action that later saves him from the gallows. This was just the start of his heroic deeds during the war. Later he twice escapes capture, dashes without fear into battle, smuggles bread and milk with the help of John into the children trapped behind the walls in the Siege of Derry, rescues a damsel in distress, falls in love, and marries the girl of his dreams.

Besides being an adventure story for boys, the “Orange and Green” book is also a history lesson of the period. This was a favourite tactic of Henty – he researched many other books about his subjects before writing his stories. “Orange and Green” is also a tale of the Battle of the Boyne, the sieges of Derry and Athlone, the Battle of Aughrim, and the final siege of Limerick. Despite being a life-long imperialist and glorying in the British Empire’s successes, Henty laments the lost Irish cause and condemns the many atrocities by William of Orange’s soldiers during the war. Many of G. A. Henty’s books aroused controversy due to accusations of racism and stereotyping of minorities while depicting his stories as heroic and patriotic.  

Feeling a little guilty, I posted the book back to Cistercian College Roscrea, pleading with the President of the College for forgiveness for depriving generations of schoolboys of the chance to read the book, and for an amnesty for my 44 years late return. Indeed, a modest fine of ten cent per week would have resulted in a late fee of about €230! 

A few weeks later I receive an email from the College President (Gavin Clark) thanking me for returning the book. He wrote:

I am pleased to acknowledge that due to your act in reuniting us with this lovely book that we shall waive any potential penalties, and instead thank you for taking the time and energy to assist us in helping get this book back into the library for the boys to enjoy.”  

He even posted a short video online of the book being put back on the College Library shelves. After 44 years, G. A. Henty’s Orange and Green book is finally back where it belongs.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Officer of Statistics #Census2022

Today is my last day as an Officer of Statistics - Census Enumerator for the 2022 Census. I am officially retired again! It was an unusual feeling being back at work, and I never had a job before that involved so much cold-calling to households. While I can never say "never again", I'm fairly sure that this is the final time working for pay - it's good to feel retired again.

Ready to enumerate!

I cannot reveal anything about any Census data I gathered - I have had to assure people on the doorsteps that all data gathered is confidential, so I need to respect that. Enumerators do not cover their own neighbourhood, and I was very lucky with the area I got. It was almost all domestic houses, and I gather from what other Enumerators have said that I was lucky I did not get any apartment blocks or hotels. 

As expected, I had to walk many kilometers for both delivering forms and collecting them. It is a physically demanding job - in addition to walking a lot, there is all the carrying of documents. I was also very lucky in that almost everyone I met was very cooperative and supportive of the Census. I was welcomed by most, and with the exception of a handful of rude people, I had very few problems. My only awkward moments were when I called at an inconvenient time.

I had to call to several dwellings multiple times. It can be difficult to call at a time when people are at home. I did find a lot of people working from home, but there were many houses when I had to call back to again and again to deliver or collect a Census form. I got to know my area very well!

Part of my reason for coming out of retirement to be a Census Enumerator was that I had used 2011 and 2016 Census data for assignments in my Statistics classes at NCI. Students were required to compare demographic data from different areas. The reason for choosing census data was that it is a great source for data that does not follow a normal distribution. This meant that it was ideal for non-parametric statistical tests such as the Mann-Whitney and Kruskal-Wallis tests.

Census 2022 is also historic in that it is almost certainly the last time the Census will be conducted on paper. It is going on-line next time as has happened in other countries. There will be no more Enumerators in yellow high-viz jackets pounding the streets. 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Going Electric

Last January I bought an VW Electric Vehicle, leaving the petrol world behind. I had no particular reason to go electric, I was very happy with my one-litre petrol car which was very economical (about 5 litres per 100km). But I just decided that I wanted "in" on the electric revolution now rather than wait several more years when the price difference between ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars and electric cars would be minimal. Also - range anxiety is real, but waiting for batteries that have longer ranges is a bit like waiting for the next generation of computers. there will always be a faster one next year!

My car's official maximum range is 505 kilometres as specified by the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). The advice from the manufacturer is to charge to 80%, so if I adhere to this - the range drops to 404 kilometres. In colder weather, I never get this - the effective range is no more than 350 kilometres. This is plenty for normal driving. 

I stopped using public chargers two months ago. South Dublin is not well served with public chargers, and I often found myself finding the charger spaces already occupied. There is a lot of waiting for chargers, and then a 45 minute wait while the car charges. I used the so-called "Granny Cable" for slow and overnight trickle charging instead. However, yesterday I got Electric Ireland to finally install a Home Charger - this will be my main charge point from now on using night rate electricity. I've yet to work it out, but I 'm guessing I will be able to get a charge up to 80% for around €6.

Only three months into EV driving, and there is no going back to petrol/diesel for me. I love EV cars!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

3% Welsh!

When I first had the Ancestry DNA test done it indicated that I was of 100% Irish ethnicity - this was no real surprise as I found no non-Irish ancestors going back four generations to the late 1700s in my family tree. Most of my DNA matches with the Munster area - particularly North Cork where all my father's family were from. The Ancestry web site is constantly updating as more and more people do the DNA test and upload their results. It's good fun seeing a map of the world with where your 4th - 8th cousins live.

Today I had another look and was surprised to find that I am no longer 100% Irish! Ancestry tells me that I am 3% Welsh, though does not record anyone in Wales today who is even remotely related to me. Somewhere in my background there is Welsh blood - I wonder will I be able to find it? 

Rwy'n falch o fod yn rhan o Gymro 
(Google Translate: "I am proud to be part Welsh")

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Sr. Brigid Hurley IBVM

A few weeks ago I visited the Loreto Convent in Bray, Co Wicklow - it is about to close and I wanted to see the grave of my Grand Aunt Sr Brigid Hurley (known to the family as Mother Brigid). We used to visit her in Bray on many occasions, and I have fond memories of tea and cakes in the Visitor's Parlour.

Hannah Mary Hurley was born in Newmarket, Co Cork on 26th August, 1898. She was the third oldest in a family of six. She entered the novitiate at Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham on 1st September 1920, and was professed there on 28th May 1929. She was known in religion as Sr. Brigid. She obtained a B.A. from UCD in 1926, a Higher Diploma in Education from UCD in 1927, and in 1924 had passed the Cours Moyen, Certificat from the Alliance Franciase, Paris. Throughout her religious life, Sr. Brigid ministered as a teacher (teaching Religious Education, Irish, French and English), held various administrative offices including Superior, Assistant Superior, Consultress (advisor to Superior), Procurator (house bursar) Mistress of House, and Infirmarian.

The Hurley family

Front row from left: Pat Hurley, Sr Brigid Hurley, Mons Charles Hurley, Kathleen Hurley (my Grandmother).
Back row from left: Rosa (Keane) Hurley, Tim Hurley, Eileen Hurley.

Sr. Brigid was resident in and ministered in the following communities*:

1924 – 1926 Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham (University student)
1926 – 1927 Loreto College, 53 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin
1927 – 1928 Loreto College, 43 North Great George’s Street, Dublin
1929 – 1932 Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham
1932 – 1938 Loreto Convent Kilkenny (1937 – 1938, Assistant Superior, 1st Consultor, Procurator)
1938 – 1944 Loreto Convent Cavan (Local Superior)
1944 – 1946 Loreto College, 43 North Great George’s Street, Dublin
1946 – 1948 Loreto Convent Letterkenny (Assistant Superior, 1st Consultor, Procurator)
1948 – 1949 Loreto Convent, Gorey
1949 – 1955 Loreto College, 43 North Great George’s Street, Dublin (Local Superior)
1955 – 1962 Loreto Convent, Wexford (2nd Consultor)
1962 – 1981 Loreto Convent Bray (Procurator & Retired)

According to the Loreto Archives, "Mobility for mission was, and is, a key feature of the lives of IBVM Sisters. Transfer between communities and ministries usually occurred each August, in time for the start of the next academic year.". Sr Brigid certainly got around!

Rest in Peace Mother Brigid.

Mother Brigid died on 21st February, 1981. This was a sad time for the family as less than a month earlier her beloved sister Eileen had also died. She is buried in a small cemetery along with over 100 other Sisters overlooking Bray. The Convent and adjoining lands are to be sold by the Loreto Order - most probably the land and house will be developed for housing and apartments. Hopefully the cemetery will not be moved. I don't recall attending Mother Brigid's funeral - I was in Trinity at the time and should have been able to attend.

*Information provided by the IBVM (Loreto), Institute & Irish Province Archives, 55 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2

Monday, March 21, 2022

A New Tattoo and Tribute to my Great-Grandparents

Last month I visited Dublin Ink to get a second, and almost certainly last, tattoo. Ever since I got one on my left arm, I have thought that adding one on the right arm to match would look good. In deciding what to get I had made up my mind to have something Christian and Irish - so what better than a Celtic Cross! A suitable design presented itself when I was tidying up the grave of my great-grandparents Richard and Anne Cullen in Mt Jerome Cemetery. I sent a photo of the Celtic Cross that marks their grave to Dublin Ink where the fantastic Mauro expertly inked my arm. I'm delighted with it even though my Mum hates it!

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Census 2022 #BeCounted

Census 2022 was launched today by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin. We have a census every five years though last year's version was postponed for a year due to Covid. The Central Statistics Office runs the census and it is a massive logistical operation to deliver and collect over 2,000,000 forms during the next two months. Census night is Sunday 3rd April.

Image source: The Irish Times.

I am a big fan of the 1901 and 1911 Census data that is freely available on-line. It is a great research tool for anyone looking for ancestors. It's amazing to think that the people who filled out those forms are now all dead and that 100 years later their details are being perused by curious researchers like me. The inclusion of a voluntary "Time Capsule" section at the end of this year's form adds a new dimension and should make for interesting reading 100 years from now.

For assignments in my old Statistics module at NCI I used to use the 2011 and 2016 Census Small Areas data as a data source. I graded many excellent student assignments over the years with students tasked with gaining insights into demographic data. Most of the data are non-normal which makes it an excellent source of data for non-parametric tests. 

I will have a small part to play in this year's Census as I will be one of over 5,000 Census Enumerators calling on households all over the country. My area is in South Dublin, so I'll be out pounding the streets with good walking shoes and a high viz jacket.

Be counted!

Friday, February 25, 2022

End of the (Land) Line

So - I have disconnected the telephone fixed land line in our house and will recycle two old phones and their wires. I'm sure I am not alone in doing this. For all the years I have lived in this house, the landline was our digital/analogue connection to the outside world. For a long time it was our only connection! It doesn't feel like the end of an era, and I am not sorry to see it go.

I recall that not long ago there was a lot of controversy about waiting times to get a land line connected - especially in rural areas.  It also seemed a big deal when we got our first cordless phone - we felt so modern. 

I can't remember that last time I used the landline to make a call. One huge reason for getting rid of it is to stop the annoying scam calls: "How are you today?".

Goodbye to the land line!

Monday, February 07, 2022

Back on Vaccine Duty

Recently, I have been back helping out the Covid 19 Vaccination efforts at the RDS in Dublin. For much of last year I was a Volunteer Steward at the Aviva Mass Vaccination Centre. When it closed in September, I moved to the Citywest Centre for a few months. Many of my fellow Aviva Volunteers are helping out at the RDS - it's like old times in there.

At this stage in the National Vaccination programme, it seems to be a lot quieter. I have not experienced long queues at the RDS - it has mostly been 5 to 16 year olds on the days I have been there. I wonder how long more the Mass Vaccination Centres will be kept open? Whether it is the first, second, or a booster dose - all recipients seem to be happy and relieved to get vaccinated.

If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in join the Volunteer effort, keep an eye out on the Dublin City and South Dublin Volunteer websites.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

US Navy Seaman Daniel Murphy: Born 100 Years Ago Today

On this day 100 years ago, 26th January 1922, Daniel Murphy Jr was born in Chicago. His father, also Daniel, had emigrated from Lisrobin in Co Cork arriving in Ellis Island, New York, on 5th July 1907, and settled in Chicago. His wife, Elsie Riedinger, was a native of Chicago - they were married on 8th November 1916. Daniel Junior was one of their 10 children - he was the only boy.

Daniel Murphy Sr (left),
Daniel Murphy Jr (middle),
Frank Jost (brother-in-law).

Daniel Murphy Jr

Daniel Murphy Jr is a distant relative of mine - we are 1st cousins, but twice removed. In other words, he is my grandfather PJ O'Loughlin's 1st cousin. PJ's mother (Julia) and Daniel's father were sister and brother. He features in a lot of family trees online*, so there is quite a bit of information about him. He was married on 24th September 1943 just before he set off for war in the Pacific. In the photo below Daniel is seventh from the left on the second row from the back. He has his arms around a young woman who presumably was his sweetheart (I don't know her name). 

Click/Tap image to enlarge.

He was drafted and joined the Navy (Seaman Second Class: No. 7258832). He served on the USS Corvina, a Gato-class diesel-electric submarine which had set sail from New London, Connecticut, on September 18, 1943. It arrived in Pearl Harbour on 14th October. I don't know if Daniel joined the crew of the submarine in Pearl Harbour or earlier. The Corvina set sail on her first patrol on 4th November 1943. Her mission was to patrol near the Japanese Navy Base at Truk Atoll (now known as Chuuk Lagoon). However, just over a week later on 16th November, she was hit by two torpedoes fired by the Japanese I-176 submarine, and sank with all 82 crew lost - the only US submarine sunk by the Japanese during World War II. One can only imagine the terror of the crew during Corvina's last moments.

Daniel's Draft Card.
USS Corvina
Daniel Murphy was just 21 years old when he was killed in action. He was not the only crew member on board the Corvina with an Irish sounding name. The On Eternal Patrol website lists all the crew. The Commanding Officer was Roderick Shanahan Rooney, other Irish sounding surnames are: Ennis, Fahey, Jordan, and Maloney. Daniel is commemorated on the Honolulu Memorial in Hawaii where he is one of 12 Murphy's listed.

I'm sure Daniel's extensive US family will mark his 100th birthday today. Though my relationship to him is a distant one, I too wish to mark his birthday from his Irish family. I hope that it is appropriate to wish Daniel a "Happy 100th Birthday" even though he has been dead for 79 years.

* Family photos taken from the Jost Family Tree.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Death of a Teacher

The tragic and untimely death of Ashling Murphy, a young teacher from Co Offaly, has struck a chord with everyone. A life senselessly cut short is difficult for us all to understand and the outpouring of grief and support for her and her family will last a very long time.

Aisling was a primary school teacher just starting out on her career. I can only imagine her excitement at being told she had a teaching job in the community where she grew up. But what should have been a 40-year career lasted just a few months. Teachers hold a special place in all our hearts. Like family, even oldies like me can recall who our teachers were many years ago - we never forget them. They help form us as learners and human beings - we learn so much from them and they have so much to give. 

Image source:

As she is being laid to rest today, this is a desperately sad day for all. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Goodbye 2021

2021 was supposed to be my first full year of Retirement, but it turned out a bit different than expected. Covid 19 dominated the year for us all, and I got the opportunity to "do my bit" as a volunteer at both the Aviva and Citywest Mass Vaccination centres. While my main motive was to help out what I could, it also gave my something to do during periods of Lockdown and Restrictions. 

There were many positives during 2021 in addition to volunteering at the Aviva. The main one was that I got to see more of my Mum and Dad during the year. Despite the fear of catching Covid and being extremely restricted, they have kept up their spirits admirably. A great day for me is to visit them in Ballingate, cut sticks, drink tea, and enjoy a small drop of whiskey them. 

With my Mum and Dad.

Ballingate Bell

I had hoped to try writing a bit more. I did get the Ballingate Bell story published in both the Wicklow People and the Gorey Guardian newspapers. I had submitted it to the Doc-On-One documentary series, but it was not accepted. It was good fun researching this story with Fr Noel Brennan who is a Capuchin Missionary in Zambia. 

Family Tree

I spent a lot of time during the year researching and building my family tree. I have got as far back as my Great-great-great-great-grandfather David Coburn. I was also excited to find a cousin who had fought in the US Navy in the Second World War, but was then saddened to find that he died in the sinking of the USS Corvina submarine. I still have not found my great-grandfather James Burn's First World War record - but I'll keep trying. 

DNA Test

I did the Ancestry DNA test which threw up a few surprises. I found that an Uncle, who everyone in the family thought had died in the Blitz in London during WW2, survived the war and lived until 1985. I was connected to his daughter (my 1st cousin once removed) by the DNA test, and after contacting her I had great enjoyment in telling her about her Irish family that she knew nothing about. I'll not give names here to protect her identity.


I had of course hoped that I would have been around the world by now. I had only one trip outside of Ireland to Crete in September. It was great to get away, but we have abandoned plans for some winter sun early next year while Omicron is around. We are planning a trip to Vancouver in the Summer, but nothing else for the moment.


One hobby I took up was wood-working. I have made an Adirondack chair plus some coffee tables made from Ballingate oak. I am slowly building up my tools and skills and hope to keep this up for 2022 and experiment with different wood. Coffee tables like this make for great Christmas presents!


This is just the 51st blog post this year - way less than any other years since I started. I had had less to write about as not so much was happening. I do want to keep this Blog going, but I don't feel any pressure to post as I had in the past. In 2016 I posted every day, 315 more posts than this year. Hopefully in 2022 I can keep writing. The blog gets very few views, especially since I stopped re-posting to Linkedin where most of my views had come from. 

Goodbye 2021!

Monday, December 27, 2021

My Cousin Daniel Murphy and the USS Corvina #PurpleHeart

I never knew of any family connections with the Second World War, but today I discovered that a 1st cousin (2x removed) was one of 82 men killed on the USS Corvina submarine which was sunk by a Japanese submarine on 16 November 1943. Daniel Murphy Jr was the son of a Chicago police captain, Daniel Murphy Sr, who had emigrated to the US from Cork in 1900. Daniel Murphy Sr's sister Julia was my Great-grandmother. Daniel Murphy Jr is therefore a 1st cousin of my grand-father PJ O'Loughlin, and I am two removed from him.

Official Daniel Murphy Naval Photo.
Image source: On Eternal Patrol.

According to USS Corvina Wikipedia page, the Corvina was the only American submarine to have been sunk by a Japanese submarine during WWII. It was launched on 9 May 1943 in Groton, Connecticut and arrived in Pearl Harbour on 14 October. Her maiden patrol started on 4 November to patrol near the Truk Atoll in the middle of the Pacific, which was a major Japanese base during the war - she was never heard from again. Daniel Murphy's rank was Seaman, Second Class. He was awarded the purple heart as were the full crew, who were mostly young men like Daniel. He would be 99 years old today if he was still alive.

Monday, December 20, 2021

2021 YouTube Review #MyYearOnYouTube

YouTube provides annual data at the end of each year, though curiously their year ends on December 15th. So far this year my channel has had 2.65 million views. While I am delighted with this figure, it is down 10% on 2020. I had 8,200 new subscribers and a total watch time of 103,700 minutes Watch Time (equivalent to 72 days). My most watched video, with 232,753 views, is How To... Perform Simple Linear Regression by Hand...

My new material on Programming in R published earlier this year has not exactly set the world on fire, though interestingly it is videos related to statistics in R that are attracting the most views. However, it is now my 4th most popular playlist with 7% of all views in 2021. As the years pass by, many of my older videos are reducing a lot in number of views as they get dated.

The top five countries for views continue to be the United States (18%), India (17%), Philippines (12%), UK (6%), and Canada (4%). Ireland comes in at 23rd position and just 0.7% of total views. 2021 is the first year that I was not in a position to promote my videos top my own students!

As always, I am thrilled and humbled that so many people find my short videos useful. I love to get Likes and Comments - thanks to all for the 22.2K likes, 941 comments, and your support throughout the year!

Sunday, December 05, 2021

International Volunteer Day #VolunteerNow #IVD2021

International Volunteer Day (IVD) is celebrated on December 5th every year to recognise and promote the tireless work of volunteers across the globe. This year's theme, "Volunteer now for our common future", aims to inspire people to take action for people and the planet.

Image source:

Many people will feel that volunteer work should not be needed. For example, at the Aviva Mass Vaccination Centre during the summer, a small army of wonderful volunteers worked alongside Security, Administration, and Clinical teams. These were all paid teams (and rightly so!), but even in an operation costing millions of euro - volunteers were still needed. The fact is that without volunteers, lots of work would not be done at all leaving people in need without help.

Anyone can volunteer - there are usually lots of roles available to suit all skills. To sign up, go to the Volunteer Ireland website at: You will get to work with wonderful people and do your bit to help others.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Get Your Vaccine Booster #ForUsAll

Yesterday, I got my vaccine booster at the Shoreline Leisure Centre in Greystones - many thanks to the wonderful staff and volunteers for making everything easy. Unfortunealty, I was in the wrong queue for 50 minutes - anyone with an appointment (like I had) should have queued up separately. I was in the Walk-In queue. Perhaps they were short-staffed, but someone at the entrance to the car park to direct people to the proper queue would be useful. A big shout out to Terence who gave me my vaccine - he was also a vaccinator at the Aviva MVC throughout the summer.

Most people seemed to be in the 60-69 age group. Most of us would have received the Astra Zeneca vaccine early in the summer. I got the Pfizer vaccine booster yesterday. Apart from a sore arm where I got the needle, everything else was fine. I accept what the medical and scientific community say about the vaccine and willingly embrace it. I'd encourage others to accept the vaccine and do their bit to help eliminate this Covid-19 scourge. 

All Done at the Shoreline!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Making a Chair with @BevelFurniture

Last Friday and Saturday I participated in a brilliant two-day course on how to make an Adirondack Chair with Bevel Furniture near Fethard-on-Sea in Co Wexford. I had never taken a woodworking class of any kind - ever! This was a birthday present from my daughters and I highly recommend it as an ideal gift for the retired person in your life. There were seven in the class which was delivered by Tommy Kelly - a very experienced wood craftsman, and a great teacher too. I often feel that it is not easy to put a class or student at ease, and/or to ensure that a student does not feel stupid for not knowing how to do things - especially like me when you have not done anything like this before. Tommy immediately put us at our ease and and we were relaxed straight away. Safety was top of the agenda, but we needn't have worried on that front with the watchful Tommy looking after us. 

The chair is made step-by-step with easy to follow instructions from Tommy, who also gave us careful demonstrations at all stages. Though my chair won't win any beauty competitions, I was nevertheless very proud of it when I put in the last screw. I'll sand it down a bit more at home, and we have yet to decide whether to paint it or use an oil stain.

If you want to find out more about this and other brilliant courses, visit:

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Finding my Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather through @ancestrydna 100% Irish

Recently I had the Ancestry DNA test done to add the results to my family tree. I was looking forward to finding more family connections and also learning about DNA testing. Several years ago I had the National Geographic DNA test done (unfortunately the results of this could not be imported into an Ancestry tree) - this told me I was 42% Northern European, 37% Mediterranean, 19% South-west Asian, and 2% Native American. Clearly the National Geographic test goes back a long time, and is no use for  a family tree. 

So - what do the latest results reveal? Are there any skeletons in the family closet? Would I find new relatives?

First - not surprisingly I am 100% Irish! I was interested to find that Munster is where I am predominantly from (darker colours on map to right). This is my Dad's side of the family. My Mum's family were from Tipperary and Wexford, though this does not show up as strong in the map. 

I did know that my Great-Grandmother Margaret Coburn on my Mum's side was from Kildare, and that she was a Protestant. What I did not know was that her parents and ancestors were Northern Protestants from the Lisburn/Hillsborough area in Co Down. There's Northern Protestant blood in my veins! Cool!

My DNA was matched with another Ancestry user with whom Margaret Coburn's parents are a common ancestor. I have a new 3rd cousin who lives in England and is a descendent of Margaret's sister Eliza. On her tree I was able to find Margaret's Grandfather Moses, whose father in turn was David Coburn born around 1805. David is therefore my 4th Great-Grandfather - the furthest I have been able to go back. I hope to find out more about my Coburn connections. Here's the direct line of descent from David to me:

Saturday, November 13, 2021

HSE COVID-19 Vaccination Programme Reflection

The HSE have released a new video showing "Our staff and volunteers reflect on being a part of the HSE COVID-19 Vaccination Programme". I was delighted to be part of this video and enjoyed my own personal reflection on spending a lot of the summer as a Volunteer Steward at the Aviva Mass Vaccination Centre. I finished up at the Aviva at the end of August just before it closed. I miss the camaraderie that existed between all the different groups at the Aviva, but I hope to continue in some way with the Dublin City Volunteer Centre (click on the link if you would like to join up).

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Irish Great War Dead Archive

Good news today for researchers with the launch of the Irish Great War Dead Archive. This is a fantastic piece of work by military historian Tom Burnell - it has taken him 20 years to compile this database for the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland. Even though Ireland was part of the UK at the time, it is almost unbelievable that the database lists over 31,380 people who died in the First World War. Almost every part of Ireland lost young men - indeed my home town of Carnew lost 12 men, these are commemorated at the Woodenbridge War Memorial in Co Wicklow. The first Carnew man on the memorial, Owen Brestlaun (a surname I had not come across before) , is listed in the database. He was born in Carnew and was killed in action in Gallipoli on 29th June 1915. He had enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers (1st Battalion).

My Dad (Joe) at the Woodenbridge War Memorial.

Previously I had written in this blog about O'Loughlins in the First World War (Did you know - 28 O'Loughlins were killed in the First World War?). This was detail from the  Commonwealth War Graves Commission. These were from all over the world. In Tony Burnell's new database there are 12 O'Loughlin men from the Republic of Ireland killed during the war. I have no idea if I am related to any of them - some that are listed as being from North Kerry, Limerick, and Clare may well be distant relatives as this is the region in Ireland where my O'Loughlin family comes from. My grandfather PJ O'Loughlin (born 1904) was too young to fight in the war, his father (Joseph) was too old to fight - he died aged 52 in 1916.

My maternal great grandfather (James Burns/Byrne) did fight in the war, but he survived and died in 1925. I have no knowledge of any other family members who fought/died in the war.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Retirement - One Year On

This day last year was my last day at work before retiring from the National College of Ireland - how time flies! At the time I didn't imagine one year on, or even what life would be like into the future. It was very much a step into the unknown.

One year later, I have absolutely no regrets to take the decision to retire early at the age of 61. Even though the Pandemic has dominated everyone's life for the past year, at no time did I think I would have been better off still working. I do miss teaching and interacting with students, and the camaraderie with colleagues at the College, but there's lots that I don't miss!

I have only been back to the College Campus once since I left. Recently, I met a former colleague for lunch and was brought to see my old "office". It is gone and has been turned into a classroom! I'm sure that if I had not retired that I would have been chucked out of this office. I was very fond of that office and many colleagues were envious that I had a room to myself. But I have no doubt now that the space is now being put to a better more productive use as a classroom.

Office 3.21. There it is - gone!

One of the main things I had wanted to do after retirement was to travel the world - I wanted to go to places such as Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Japan, Canada, and South America. Covid 19 has put paid to all that. We'll all have to wait some more before these dreams can be realised. On the plus side I am getting to see my parents a lot more and to visit Wicklow/Wexford more frequently. Working at the Aviva Mass Vaccination Centre during the summer was definitely a welcome opportunity to get out and about, while I am also proud of my Ballingate Bell story published earlier this year. Earlier in the year I also published a series of 106 YouTube videos based on Programming in R which was modelled closely on one of my old NCI modules. I plan a similar series for another old module this coming Winter.

Retirement needs to be worked on, and yes - there are times when you are waiting for the phone to ring or wondering what you'll do next. Somehow us retirees mange to fill the time - we don't have the time to work!!!