Wednesday, March 25, 2015

All Quiet on the Blogging Front

It's been over a week since my last blog post and I hardly noticed the time going by. I don't know the last time I left it this long without blogging about anything - my last post was on St Patrick's Day and it was only my fifth post of March. I am heading for my lowest number of monthly postings since I started this blog in 2006.

So what's going on?

Not much really. I am spending quite a bit of my spare time writing my second travel book: "Exploring Northern Ireland's Causeway and Mourne Coastal Routes" - I am about 70% complete. I recently lost a lot of work due to syncing problems with OneDrive and it was much more difficult than I thought it would be to re-write the section that I lost. I think I am also suffering from writer's block! I have also been preparing a quiz for a Killiney Lion's Club fundraiser - 100 questions takes a long time to write (and check for the correct answers).

I have not commented much recently on educational matters. I was listed to speak at the DCU Dublin Summit (featuring Google for Education) last week, but had to withdraw. Following on from missing the Irish YouTube Creators Day at the end of February , it has certainly been an exciting time in education that I have missed. 

I also have to admit that sometimes I now forget about my blog - up to recent times I would have been thinking almost every day about what I should post about next. Anyway - following this brief "holiday" I hope to get back to normal ranting and raving soon!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St Patrick's Day - What does it mean to be Irish? #StPatricksDay

Happy St Patrick's Day!
At 7.30 this morning three drunks passed by our house on the other side of the street. One was vomiting very loudly in between telling his two mates "I'm so sick". I guess he won't be the first Irish person to get sick today! Taoiseach Enda Kenny rejects the "stage Irish" image that people abroad have of us that Irish culture is synonymous with alcohol. He has rejected Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's awkward message to Irish people in which he describes St Patrick's Day as the one day when "it's good to be green". Here's Mr Abbott's message - judge for yourself:

I like being Irish. I was born and reared in Ireland. I've lived and worked in Ireland all my life. I will die in Ireland. I have never ever been ashamed of being Irish. I am a proud Irish man, and today is our National Day. I had a great giggle at Jennifer O'Connell's article in Monday's Irish Times on 37 signs that you might be Irish. In particular I loved these ones:
  • There’s nothing that can’t be cured by either flat 7Up or Sudocrem
  • Grievances are measured in units of 800 years
  • You have a Bono story
  • When people of other nationalities ask you if you speak “Gaelic”, the only phrase that comes to mind is “An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas?"
  • If Tom Cruise walked into the pub, you’d let on you hadn’t a notion who he was
  • You think there should be something about the immersion in this list

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: The Book of Mormon

On Saturday last Roma and I went to see "The Book of Mormon" at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London (it was a Christmas present to ourselves!). I've seen some brilliant musicals in my time but this was by far the most enjoyable!

The music is great, the acting was very strong, the singing was fantastic, and the humour was amazing. It is a bit of a piss-take on the Church of the Latter Day Saints, but I felt it slagged off religion in general. There's no way that a musical like this could be done for all religions - I remember the controversies when Jesus Christ Superstar first came out - it is very tame compared to the BoM. Don't go to this if you are easily offended by bad language and blasphemy. This is satire at its best. 

Below is is the opening number "Hello" as performed at the Tony Awards - enjoy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Keeping Pace with the Changing Face of Online Learning via @OLCToday

The Online Learning Consortium has just published a smashing new infographic about the changing face of on-line learning. Third level colleges are now offering more affordable degrees on-line than ever before and it has become much easier for students to study as broadband penetrates further into the learning sphere. Does this spell the death-knell of classroom based colleges? Not yet in my view, but it is coming and our Colleges need to be ready for it. Recent media reports point to our growing population and the pressure it is causing on primary and secondary education provision. Inevitably this will reach our Colleges in a few years and we have to be ready for it. Short-sighted and short-term strategies at individual college level is not enough in my view - the Department of Education and the Higher Education Authority need to be the drivers of this change. As the world gets smaller, on-line education providers like Udacity are offering on-line degrees that will some day replace our existing college degree. Someday employers will compare a Computer Science degree from Udacity with Trinity or DCU and think - there's no difference!

Jobs? Am I a turkey voting for Christmas? Doesn't supporting on-line education mean that us Lecturers will all lose  our jobs? This was a question asked of me back in 1989 when I joined the then CBT Systems (now SkillSoft) - computer-based training (CBT) was going to take over the world! Well - it hasn't happened yet.

The Online Learning Consortium contains lots of interesting points about the future of learning, and here's what it says about what the future holds for "New Types of Educators":

  • will digitally track and assess performance

  • will pilot blended and flipped classes

  • will build and teach digital curricula and oversee MOOCs that thousands of students could enrol in

No mention of a lecture!

Education is changing rapidly - according to the infographic "Jet Blue and Virgin America are offering in-flight video college lectures from Coursera and the Great Courses series allowing continued learning even in the air". Never did I think that a student of mine could be learning on a cheap flight!

My fear is that each Higher Education Institution in Ireland will go ahead and do their own thing (as most seem to do now for classroom-based courses, albeit under the QQI standards) - this doesn't make sense. Why not have one central degree per subject (eg Computer Science) delivered on-line by top educators available to anyone - rather than 40 odd different programmes from 40 odd different institutions? Joined up thinking required!

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Book Review: "The Church of Saint John the Baptist" by Michael O'Connell

I'm not the holiest Joe on the planet, but I do take part in the church choir at St John the Baptist church in Blackrock on Sunday mornings. I'm don't even live in the Blackrock parish, I live in the nearby Guardian Angel's Parish. Nevertheless I enjoy singing in the choir. Whether it will get me into heaven or not is another thing. 

Each Sunday I sit in the balcony beside a Harry Clark Studio stained glass window depicting the crowning of the thorns on Christ, and his carrying of the cross to Calvary. Regardless of your religious beliefs (or none) - it is a beautifully painted window. This morning the sun was shining bright so I couldn't resist the photo to the right (before Mass started).

A few Sundays ago I purchased a copy of Michael O'Connell's new book about the history of church. It is an interesting read for anyone interested in the history of Blackrock as it chronicles the development of the church from when it was first blessed and dedicated in 1845. Lord Cloncurry donated the site and much funds to the development of the church in an era when Catholic Emancipation initiated a building boom in churches all over Ireland. It was also a time of Father Mathew's Temperance movement, and O'Connell tells us that an estimated 15,000 people attended a pledging ceremony after the dedication mass in a nearby field (he doesn't say that all 15,000 took the pledge!).

The book documents several of the stories behind the windows, altars, and statues in the church. Perhaps one of the most interesting items is a brass plate on one of the church pews dedicated (in Irish) to Paddy Moran who was hanged in Mountjoy Prison on 14th March 1921 (here is his Wikipedia entry). Moran was convicted of the murder of a British intelligence agent on Bloody Sunday (21st November 1920), despite the fact that he was at Mass in Blackrock at the time of the murder. He was one of the "Forgotten Ten" who were re-interred in a State funeral in 2001 (Kevin Barry was the best known of these ten men). Over 40,000 people prayed outside the prison on the morning that Moran and five others IRA were hanged.

With declining congregations, churches all over Ireland will reverse the expansive trends of the 19th century. I see Catholic parishes and churches merging with each other, even closing, over the next few years. Michael O'Connell's history of St John the Baptist church ensures that it will not be forgotten in years to come.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Equality of Variance - new @YouTube "How To..." video

Since taking over the Business Data Analysis (Statistics) module a few years ago at the College I have been endeavouring to improve the module content and cover more tests. Many statistical tests assume that populations are normally distributed and that variances are equal. Student's t-test for comparing the means of two samples uses a slightly different formula, and a completely different way of determining degrees of freedom, depending on if the variances of the two samples are considered equal or unequal.

Fortunately the test for Equality of Variance is an easy one - it is called the F test. Simply divide the higher sample variance by the lower sample variance - this gives an F statistic which can be compared to a critical value for F in an F Distribution statistical table. From this you can determine the appropriate t-test formula to use.

Here is my latest YouTube video showing how to carry out the F test, both manually and using Excel's Data Analysis Toolpak:

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review: "Bring Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel

It's sometimes difficult to write a review of a book when you are not sure if your enjoyed it or not. I found the first of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy "Wolf Hall", to be a difficult read. Despite the fact that both these books won the Booker prize, I found I had to work hard to understand the prose and keep up with what was going on. I don't enjoy a book if I have to do this, but despite stopping several times (including breaks to read other books) I persevered with "Wolf Hall" to the end. Being reasonably familiar with who Thomas Cromwell was and this period of English history made it easier to understand what was going on.

Image Source: Amazon.
"Bring Up the Bodies" is written in the same difficult to read (for me) style. The story of Thomas Cromwell is a fascinating one and his character as portrayed by Mantel was the one thing that kept me going with this book. However, it was not until I watched the BBC TV adaptation of the two books that I really got to grips with the text. Actor Mark Rylance plays Cormwell to perfection and with every line in the book I envisaged his cold face staring as I tried to understand Mantel's wandering prose. Suddenly it became a lot clearer and finally enjoyable. It was like having someone explain to me what was going on. 

I probably will get the third book in this trilogy which will probably concentrate on his downfall and death - which in itself is a fascinating story.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Gathering Requirements - 1st Annual Conference of the Business Analysis Association of Ireland #BAAI15 @IrishCompSoc

Today I had the pleasure of attending and participating at the Irish Computer Society's hosting of the first annual conference for the Business Analysis Association of Ireland. I sit on the committee for this group and I can tell you that the ICS put in a huge effort to make today the success that it was. About 60 people attended, most of whom I had not met before, so it was great to meet and network with so many Business Analysts. 

We had very interesting talks ranging from subjects such as: Change Management, building a Business Intelligence competency, Extraordinary Productivity, Memory Improvement, Data Privacy, Six Sigma, Agility in business, and Business Analysis in the Public Service. So much was squeezed into one day that it felt like we wanted more. A great and enjoyable day.

My own presentation was about Requirements Gathering (though I prefer to use the word "Elicitation"). I promised those attending that I would put the slides up on Slideshare - so here they are: 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Killiney Lion's Club Charter Night

Roma is in the Club - the Lion's Club! Last evening we attended the Killiney Lion's Club Charter night (I have been at quite a few of these in the past), and had a great evening in the company of Roma's fellow Lions and their partners. The event was held in Killiney Golf Club and after an excellent dinner we had a few speeches where a lot of people were thanked for their efforts over the past year. Congratulations to the Killiney Lion's Club on their excellent year of charity work. It is also an opportunity for me to scrub up and wear my tuxedo, and also to go out with a pretty girl!

Friday, February 20, 2015

DIT Spring Academy - "Learning Interruptus - That's All Folks" on @SlideShare #ditsa

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of presenting to the DIT Spring Academy on "Video in Education". I spoke about how learning is commonly interrupted and how this could be overcome. I also presented some learning analytics from my YouTube Channel, and on how to manage a YouTube channel. Plenty of interesting discussion from the audience followed - many were interested in what makes my YouTube channel successful, what videos were created, tools used, and also how this graduated from being for just my own students to a wider audience. They were also interested in how to make money!

Here are my slides for the presentation - missing is the live demo of YouTube Analytics.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Bishop in the Family

In my last post I mentioned finding the grave of my great-great-grandmother Julia Cullen. Her maiden name was Browne, and my Mum remembers her Aunt Maggie always claiming that "there is a Bishop in the family" - Bishop James Browne of Ferns (Co Wexford plus parts of Co Carlow and Co Wicklow). The Bishop was born on 28th August 1842 and died on 21st June 1917. He was Roman Catholic Bishop of Ferns from 6th July 1884 until his death. He was ordained a priest on Christmas Day 1865. There is an entry for him in Wikipedia here.

The photo of the Bishop to the right is scanned from the "Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland" by Joyce, P.W., Sullivan, A.M., Nunan, P.D. (1900). I have a copy of this book which has been in our family for a long time, and which I have stolen from my Mum!

How Bishop Browne is related to us I do not know. My great-great-grandmother Julia (Browne) Cullen died on 21st May 1878 aged just 37. James Browne was a priest at this time and, if related, must have officiated at her funeral.

Both my Mum and I think he is the image of my brother Joe!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Discovering the graves of my Great-Great Grandfather (Richard Cullen) and Great-Great Grandmother (Julia Cullen, née Browne)

While chatting to my Mum recently she told me that she had the gravestone of her Grand-Aunt Maggie (Margaret Cullen) cleaned up, and also that she had done the same for the gravestone beside this. Today I went along to the cemetery in Gorey in Co Wexford (Google Satellite view: - you can actually see the gravestones at the near left) to check this out and noted that there were a lot of Cullens listed, so I called Mum to check out who's who.

Some context first:
  • My Mum Phil's maiden name was Byrne 
  • Her Mum and my maternal grandmother Kathleen Byrne's maiden name was Cullen
  • Kathleen (Cullen) Byrne's father was Richard Cullen - my Great-Grandfather
  • Mum grew up in Gorey with her Grand Aunt - Margaret Cullen (mentioned above, gravestone in Gorey below)
So the connection to the Cullens buried in Gorey is as follows:
  • The first two names on the gravestone above, Julia and Richard Cullen, are my Great-Great Grandparents. Julia was the second of his three wives and the only one that he had children with
  • Bryan and Patrick Cullen on the gravestone are two of their sons
  • Margaret Cullen in the grave beside them is their daughter (see photo below)
  • They also had a son called Richard, who I mentioned above is my Great-Grandfather (I don't know where he is buried)
Below is the gravestone of Mum's Grand Aunt Maggie - though I was two and a half years old when she died I have no memory of her. According to Mum, the other person in her grave was a very distant relative who died alone and the family buried her here.

If above does not make sense, see below tree. The "Phil Byrne" on the bottom left is my Mum.

Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Water Meters on our Road #rant

In what has become a familiar sight around Ireland for the past few months, Irish Water have just dug up the path outside our house to install a water meter. In our middle class area there is no sign of protest. I went out to have a look and chat to the lads doing the work. It was explained to me clearly what was happening, by what I have to say was a very mannerly lad from the North. I let then into my garden to get some water. In many ways I feel some sympathy for the lads doing the work - they haven't had it easy in some areas where residents feel a genuine resistance to the idea of metering water.

Water is a precious resource, but we are not short of it in Ireland. Just stand at the mouth of the Liffey, Slaney, or the Shannon rivers and you'll see millions of litres of water flowing into the sea every day, We don't need to conserve what Nature dumps on us on a regular basis from the sky. Of course we do need to conserve treated water and that's where the problem is. We all object to leaks and waste, we all want our sewage to be treated, we all accept that treated water is not free. But water taxes are here to stay and there is nothing we can do about it.

My main problem with water tax is how this has been implemented. In years to come this will be a case-study for students to learn how not to do things. The shambles over fixed vs metered charges, PPS numbers, and the reaction to protests makes me wonder if there is a hidden Department of Cockups in Government whose job it is to make a mess. We all paid for water in the past anyway through tax which I feel is the fairest way to do this. Those who are unemployed or cannot pay paid less tax than those who could afford it. Forcing everyone to pay the same is ridiculous. To some people the €260 charge per year is the price of a case of nice wine, for others it is more than their entire weekly income. "Fairness" is not a word that the Dept of Cockups thinks about - instead they plan to be unfair, divisive, and weak. With an election coming next year, politicians are more concerned about their seats than the people.

Irish Water - welcome to our road.

Advance warning to politicians - when you are canvassing in the next election, do not knock on my door.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Book Review: "Irish Voices from The Great War" by Miles Dungan #review #GreatWar @MylesDungan1

I was delighted to get a copy of the re-release of Myles Dungan's 1995 book "Irish Voices from The Great War" as a Christmas present, which I have now just finished reading. I have read quite a few books about The Great War and this one is much different as it concentrates on the Irish contribution to the war. My own great-grandfather James Burns fought in the war (according to my family), and Dungan's own uncle (pictured on the book cover) was killed in the war. There possibly isn't an Irish family today that was not affected in some way by the war.

Image source:
Irish people of my generation who went to school in the 1960s and 1970s grew up in a country where Irish participation in the First World War was literally airbrushed out of our history. The Easter Rebellion in 1916 was the most important event between 1914 and 1918. Myles Dungan pays tribute to the Irish Regiments like the Royal Munster Fusiliers and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and their fighting in places like Gallipoli and the Somme. Irish soldiers fought well and the memories of those that survived of battle are captured and elegantly combined by Dungan to give us a flavour of what it must have been like to serve in the army. Heroism and fear go hand-in-hand in the trenches, and there's no doubt that Irishmen did their "bit" for what they believed in.

There is no effort to rewrite history here, though Dungan lays much of the blame for the fruitless slaughter at the feet of the generals (thought he does admit that they "got it right" on occasion). Reading any book like this you cannot but be appalled with figures like only 108 men of the Dublin Fusiliers D company out of 239 survived one battle at Suvla Bay. The waste of life makes you angry, though Dungan's matter-of-fact approach lets you judge for yourself if the sacrifice was necessary. 

Overall this is an excellent read for students of Irish history and it goes a long way to reverse the way we were taught our history. One thing though that was very annoying - the number of punctuation errors in this book is unforgivable. It would have been bad enough in 1995 when first published, but not to fix this problem for the re-release is ridiculous.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

New Irish Times Data Blog via @IrishTimesData. A Must Read for #HDSDA #analytics

A sign of the times and the great interest in "Big Data" is that the Irish Times has announced a new data service with a new blog about all things data. It has already discussed a wide variety of topics such as: clamping in Dublin, water charges, names, asylum rates, and A&E Overcrowding. For students of data analytics this will make for interesting reading and will be a good way to keep up with the latest data news and trends. 

Image source: The Irish Times.
One of the blog posts is about "Is your name going out of fashion?" - so I had to look up "Eugene". Sad to say that my name is not a popular one - it did not make the top 604 boy's names list for the year 2013. However, The Irish Times does provide a link to a spreadsheet containing 1,665 names for the period 2004 - 2013, and "Eugene" is ranked 464th on this list. There are 59 "Eugenes" - 18 of these were in 2004. It has declined in popularity over this time period:

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
 Eugene 18 7 * 7 9 5 4 5 * 4

The dataset is an interesting one to analyse - I'd recommend to my students to review and see what other analyses are available.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Seagull on my window! #Gullgate #NoFear

Recently the Department of Health advertised for a specialist company to rid them of a colony of seagulls circling the Department's building (see "Gullgate: 'Sweet-stealing seagulls’ at Department of Health to have wings clipped by pest control" article in Irish Independent. It also was the subject of a lot of jokes last summer when Senator Ned O'Sullivan stated that seagulls were "losing the run of themselves" - he called them "raucous" and "cheeky"!

Well here's a cheeky herring gull that landed on the window of my office. He/She pecked at the window and seemed very interested in the name tag necklaces I keep hanging on the window. It was not in the least put off by me holding a camera in its face - I was no more than a metre away from it.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Liverpool 2 West Ham United 0

Yesterday was my first ever visit to Anfield in Liverpool to see the Premier League game between Liverpool and West Ham United on a very cold last day of January. My brother Brian invited me over as he had been given two tickets by one of his suppliers for seats almost right on the half way line in the eight row - perfect for seeing 22 millionaires kick a ball about for 90 minutes!

In a game at times littered with poor passes, West Ham played very well early on with Andy Carroll winning everything in the air and the outstanding Alex Song dominating mid-field. Liverpool took control in the second half with goals from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge, who got a great reception from the crowd as this was his first game back after a long injury. The biggest disappointment for me was that neither Steven Gerrard or Mario Ballotelli were in the Liverpool squad -  I would love to have seen them play (for different reasons!). In the end the best team won and the big crowd got the result they wanted. 

"You'll Never Walk Alone" was of course sung with gusto before kick-off by the sell-out crowd. Overall - a great experience and a very enjoyable day out. If you listen carefully to the video towards the end below you will hear Brian beside me joining in with this Liverpool anthem.

Friday, January 30, 2015

How To... Embed a YouTube Video into a Word 2013 Document @YouTube #HowTo

I have created a new YouTube video today to do something that until recently I did not know was possible. I knew that you could embed a video in PowerPoint, but I didn't know that you could embed a YouTube video into Microsoft Word 2013. I wondered why Microsoft added this feature to Word - but then I thought that not everybody prints out documents to read them. So many documents are now being read on-line, or on tablets and mobile devices - so there is an opportunity for content creators to make their document more interactive. So here's my latest video...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Always go to @YouTube First! #LessonLearned

Recently I have been having problems charging my iPhone, I found myself holding the charger in different positions to try to get a connection. The problem was getting worse. I thought - no option but to go to a phone repair shop and shell out a small fortune for a new part in the phone. 

But what about going to YouTube first - in case there was a simple explanation? Thanks to Rudy's Productions I had the perfect fix with a toothbrush in two minutes. My iPhone is charging very successfully as I type without having to hold the charger in. It turns out that the problem is caused by dust and dirt - Rudy shows us how to get the job done. Here's his excellent  video!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

7,000,000 @YouTube Views!

This morning the number of views for my Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin YouTube Channel passed the 7,000,000 mark! This is a very big number - it would take 81 days to count this far non-stop (counting one number per second/24 hours a day). The estimated Watch Minutes is 34 years and 155 days - this is just counted from 1st September 2012.

Image Source: Get Set Games.
When I set the channel up on 7th April 2006 I had no idea that it would hit anything like these numbers. I guess in those days that numbers of things like "views" and "likes" were not part of how this type of on-line media presence was measured. To each and every one of the viewers I thank you all most sincerely - I am both astonished and humbled that so many people still find these videos useful. 

It has taken just over four months since 19th September 2014, when I reported hitting the 6,000,000 figure, to add the 7th million. One of the things that I have noticed at the end of last year is that for the first time the growth in views did not increase in the same way as previous years. Looking carefully at the last big growth at the end of 2014 below you can see that it is very similar to the growth pattern in 2013. Over the years the growth rate has been approximately double the previous year - but in 2014 it was the same as in 2013. Despite adding more videos I've no explanation for this other than a levelling off of demand. 

On to 8,000,000!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Exploring Northern Ireland's Causeway and Mourne Coastal Routes - book nearly there. #CausewayCoastalRoute

I am still working on my second travel book which is in two parts: the Causeway Coastal Route, and the Mourne Coastal Route. I have just finished the first part from Derry to Belfast and am about to start the Belfast to Newry section. At the rate I'm going to will be at least March before this is ready for publication though Amazon. The plan is to release it as an eBook via Kindle Direct Publishing, with the possibility of creating printed versions too via CreateSpace.

I certainly had a blast on the Causeway Coastal Route. It is east to do with lots to stop and see on the way - and it is an ideal motorcycle ride. This is part two if my trilogy following the Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way book. These two books combined cover the coast of Ireland in a clockwise direction from Kinsale to Newry. I have done the rest from Newry to Kinsale, and much of this is already written up - I will most likely publish this as an eBook too later this year.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Why Great Presenters are Boring People! via @ethos3_scott

It's official! According to Scott Schwertly in a Slideshare article "Why you Need to be Boring", some of the best presenters are "boring people with predictable schedules and habit". Check out Schwertly's slides below:

The lessons from Schwertly are based on his personal experience and have a meaning for the rest of us. His three key ways to become a better presenter are:

  1. Say “No” More Often
  2. There is Beauty in Compounding
  3. Embrace the Pain
In particular I like item "2" above where Schwertly adds "Good habits compounded over a long, predictable, boring cycle produce magnificent results. Routine always wins. So, if you want to be a better presenter by next month or next year, let those good habits start to work for you right now. The longer you can let them compound, the greater the end result". The message is practice-practice-practice, even if it is a boring thing to do.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Motorbikes (1977-2015)

Below is a blog post first published on 24th December 2007. It was just my 14th blog post at a time when I was figuring out what blogging was all about. I have been messing with old photos on Facebook this morning and decided to re-publish this old post in honour of the 38 years since I first rode a motorcycle...

Honda 50
My brother Joe bought a Honda 50 from Damian Doyle of Carnew in 1977 so that he could use it to go to school in Bunclody. In one of those "small world" coincidences, Joe's son Niall goes to school with Damian's son Harry in Bunclody!

Of course, I got to ride the Honda 50 as well - I didn't know at the time how uncool this was, or that it would be the first of several bikes that I would ride. I remember feeling particularly cool once when riding home in the dark smoking a cigarette. The tobacco burned down inside the cigarette paper as the wind blew in my face. I was only 18 or 19 at the time, so to me this was cool!

The picture here was taken during a family summer holiday in Cork on which Joe took the bike. As well as the Honda 50, the picture features my Mum, Joe, our dog Pheobe, and me in very fetching flares!

Honda CD175

After the above Honda 50 Joe bought a new Honda CD175 - the picture shows Joe and me with the bike on the day he bought the bike (note plastic still on seat). Look at that hair! The bike is not yet registered - it was later to get the number 8923 NI. I still have the registration book. In the background is a Renault 4 van in which I learned to drive.

Joe bought a car within a few years - I think in 1980 and this bike "became" mine. I loved it and took it to Dublin while I was in Trinity. My landlady, Mary Dillon-Kelly, used to allow me to park it in her front hall! I used the bike to commute from Drumcondra to Trinity, and also going up and down home to Ballingate.

Sadly, this bike was stolen on 8th December, 1981. At the time I was staying in Rooms in Botany Bay at Trinity and used to park the bike in the shed beside the tennis courts. The previous evening I had returned from Ballingate and I remember the weather was really bad. To this day I am not certain that I locked the bike properly - so it was possibly easy to steal. I reported the theft to Pearse St Gardaí, but no trace was ever found. My motorbiking days were over for 18 years.

Honda 250N Nighthawk

In September 1999, the QBC on the Stillorgan Road was opened. The significance of this is that my morning commute from Blackrock to Clonskeagh was doubled in time as I used to use the inside lane to drive to work in my car. I didn't have the patience for this. One day I said to Roma "I should get a motorbike again" and guess what - she said "Why not!". In October 1999 I turned 40 years of age - some people think that there is a link here!

I went to a bike shop on Pearse St and after looking at several bikes I settled on a Honda 250N Nighthawk. It was blue and was the same as the one pictured here. I had it for a few weeks before I got a licence and insurance. My first trip on it (to Deansgrange) was very strange and wobbly! It took a lot of getting used to - soon however, I was riding like a natural and started the work commute soon after. One problem with this bike was that it was very light and used to fall over in strong winds when parked. Happy days - I loved the "freedom" that a motorbike provides and was delighted to be back on two wheels again.

Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Hugger
In January 2000 I was on a SmartForce trip to Scottsdale in Arizona. Now that I was a biker again I decided to visit a bike dealer near the Hotel - Harley-Davidson naturally. I was mesmerised by the colour and style of the Harleys - beautiful machines. I didn't have the courage to hire one. I did buy a denim jacket in the shop and I do remember joking with the Shop Assistant "I suppose I'll have to buy a Harley in order to wear this". I never had a denim jacket before and this was my reason for buying one. I also promised myself that I would investigate Harleys on my return to Dublin.

I visited Harley-Davidson Dublin soon afterwards and was interested in two second-hand Sportsters. However, they were expensive - one was almost £5,000, while the other was over £5,500. A new one was about £8,000 - so I decided to go for it. I bought a white 883 Hugger like the one pictured here. I was warned that everyone who buys a Sportster sooner or later wants one of the big Harleys.

My longest trip on this bike was to London for the "Last Ever CBT Systems Party!" in October 2002. This was just after SmartForce was taken over by Skillsoft and I had already applied for voluntary redundancy. It took me most of the day to get there and I had a severe hangover for the return trip.

I customized this bike a lot. But on my last trip to Scottsdale in Arizona I hired a Fat Boy and was bitten by the Big-Twin bug. With 2003 - the centenary year for Harley-Davidson - around the corner I decided that I would buy a centenary model Heritage Softail Classic.

Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic

This bike is the King of Bikes and is my most favourite thing that I possess. I ordered it in 2002 for January 2003 delivery so that I would have a special centenary edition. I spent a big chunk of my SmartForce redundancy money on this bike - but it was worth every penny. It looks just like the stock photo here. My number plate is 03 D 1903. You'll see elsewhere in this blog that I have travelled quite a bit on it.

I have added quite a bit of custom material to it. I have changed the pipes, added light covers, and lots of pieces of chrome. It has cost a hell of a lot to maintain - tyres are expensive, I have also torn the drive belt, and once destroyed a new tyre with less than 500 miles on it by riding over a metal peg in Booterstown. I would still like to customize it some more - I'd like higher handlebars that would help me to sit straighter on it. A new saddle would also help.

I don't think I'll ever change this bike for another - it's my dream bike! I don't know what will happen to it when I stop riding. I have promised it to Kate, or maybe I'll have some Grandsons who might be interested in it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis new book cover #excited

My first book is going to reprint this week! So glad it did not end up being pulped. 1,000 copies have been sold and it is out of stock. I decided the cover needed a new image to replace the old one that had floppy disks and CD-ROMs on it. I like the idea of a maze and we found the image below on to freshen up the book a bit. I also had a few typos spotted over the years corrected, so it is not a new edition.

I'm as excited as a terribly excited person who has a really good reason for being terribly excited (George - Blackadder series 4).

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Book Review: "Hidden Streams" by Brian Mac Aongusa

Image source: Amazon.
Recently I was given a lend of Brian Mac Aongusa's history of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown (DLR), "Hidden Streams", published in 2007. Mac Aonghusa links local history with the geography of this part of South Dublin. Though I'm not a native of DLR, I have lived here since 1990. Neither have I any family ties here - I come from south Co Wicklow, my Mum's parents were from Galway and Wexford, while both my Dad's parents were from North Cork. I have no roots in this area, so it was time to find out a little bit more about where I live.

"Hidden Streams" is an interesting account of how the streams influence the locations of places such as Dún Laoghaire, Rathfarnham, and Stillorgan. I was particularly fascinated to learn the there actually was a brewery on Brewery Road, where the Glaslower flowed. A pity a lot of locations like mills and breweries are long gone, but nevertheless the history is fascinating. A few more larger scale maps, with perhaps modern roads overlaid, would have added a bit more value - some areas mentioned I did not know where they are. While the history and geography of the region is fascinating, there are not many central characters who had an serious impact on the development of the county. Surprising also that the likes of Frascati House and the Fitzgeralds were not mentioned, but this is part of Blackrock history, and not of "Hidden Streams". 

Overall - an interesting read for anyone interested in the history of south Co Dublin.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Best Big Data Quotes Of All Times via @BernardMarr on @LinkedIn #Analytics #HDSDA

Quotes are always interesting and some of them stand the test of time even though the persons making the quote are long gone to the big quote in the sky. Recently I read about The Best Big Data Quotes Of All Times - my favourite two are:

Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.
Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871), inventor and mathematician.

To call in the statistician after the experiment is done may be no more than asking him to perform a post-mortem – he may be able to say what the experiment died of.”
Ronald A. Fisher (1890 - 1962), biologist, geneticist, and statistician.

See the other quotes at Bernard Marr's Slideshare below:

The 10 Best Big Data Quotes Of All Times from Bernard Marr

I bet some of these quotes will makes it into my lectures notes for Statistics classes! 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Great review of "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" via @LJReviews & @LibraryJournal

Out of the blue I have received news of a great review of my book by Victor Or for the Library Journal - it's on-line here. (it's the last book reviewed near the bottom of the page) This is the first major review and I'm thrilled that it is so positive!

Here's the review in full:

O’Loughlin, Eugene. Exploring Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way: A Motorcycle Odyssey. Liffey. 2014. 228p. photos. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781908308559. pap. $31.TRAV
Desiring to seek out his ancestry, appreciating the fact that medieval castles and abbeys are reminders of bygone glorious eras, and aware that truly hidden gems can be found in the most unexpected places, O’Loughlin, a college lecturer with a fondness for Harley-Davidsons, sets out on a motorcycle journey along Ireland’s “Wild Atlantic Way,” considered the longest coastal driving route in the world. At various discovery points, the author introduces the reader to renowned and historical figures, as well as Celtic mythology and legends. While his musings about the contrast between ancient archaeological sites and modern-day structures and conveniences are intriguing—for example, being able to view the Bronze Age Drombeg Stone Circle only after having to use a satellite map on his iPad to locate it—particularly fascinating are the snippets of history he imparts about many of the points of discovery he comes upon. The prose reflects a fascination with the scenery¸ complete with commentary, much like an expanded version of TripAdvisor. O’Loughlin’s straightforward style, devoid of any profound revelations, focuses strictly on dispassionate observations. VERDICT This guide, with maps and color photography, will satisfy those who seek an immersive drive around Ireland.—Victor Or, Surrey Libs., BC

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Happy 4th Birthday "How To...Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel 2010" @YouTube #analytics

This time four years ago I uploaded a video that has gone on to become my biggest "hit" on my YouTube channel. Four years later it has reached just over 826,000 views and it accounts for a significant amount of my total views (6,852,665 as I write this post). During this time it has received 8,708 "likes" and 90 "dislikes". It has also received 783 comments (mostly favourable), and made me a nice four figure sum in revenue. Try as I might to get another "hit", four years later it is still my most popular video. Here are the view trends over the last four years:

The USA and the UK account for almost half (49%) of total views though I am surprised to see countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines in the top ten below. Within the USA, the states of California (13%) and Texas (9%) top the table:

253,426 (31%)
902,035 (33%)
150,937 (18%)
525,035 (19%)
58,725 (7.1%)
198,774 (7.2%)
45,279 (5.5%)
153,913 (5.6%)
26,939 (3.3%)
92,472 (3.3%)
26,676 (3.2%)
91,159 (3.3%)
15,983 (1.9%)
56,295 (2.0%)
15,192 (1.8%)
46,973 (1.7%)
14,682 (1.8%)
48,853 (1.8%)
13,248 (1.6%)
38,558 (1.4%)

Here's the video: