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: rip.ie.

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.

Travel

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.

Woodworking

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!



Blogging

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: volunteer.ie.

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: https://www.volunteer.ie. 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: https://www.bevelwoodworkingschool.com

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!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Return to SCUBA Diving after 33 years

During the mid 1980s, I was a member of the Dublin University (Trinity) Sub Aqua Club (DUSAC) and logged almost 100 dives. The Club was very active and we dived nearly every week. I reached the Advanced Diver qualification in 1988 and was Training Officer for the club in my last year. In 1988 life started to get in the way of diving. First, I submitted my PhD in January 1988 and graduated later in the year ending my student days. I also started an eight-month Technology course in the old Centre for Advanced Technology Training (CATT) in Bray which would eventually lead to a job. Also in 1988, Roma and I started our family. In October 1988, I had my last dive just off Dalkey Island (with CPS) - I remember it as a short dive with almost zero visibility. Little did I know at the time that it would be my last dive for 33 years!
Me in 1987 at Killoughter, Co Wicklow.

In Crete this week I signed up for a beginner dive with Fun Dive in Platanias. A couple of years ago I did the same in Cuba, but bad weather prevented us going out. This time in Crete we went by boat to just off Paralia Macherida beach, which is near Chania Airport. I wondered how much I would remember after 33 years, but with the reassuring and fantastic guidance by my instructor Dimitrios, I felt safe and confident. We had about 20 minutes of snorkelling first in the crystal clear waters before dining our gear for the dive. Following safety and skills instructions it was backwards over the boat and it immediately felt like old times. We dived to about 8m and spent about 25 minutes underwater - I loved every second of it! We fed the fishes and had photo opportunities galore. The Fun Dive guys were brilliant - highly recommended.

A learning for me was to not wait another 33 years (when I'll be 95) to dive again. I won't go back to my College days, but I'll certainly look it up on holidays in the future - especially in warmer waters than in Ireland!


Feeding the fish!




Thursday, October 07, 2021

German Military Cemetery of Maleme

While in Crete I took the opportunity to visit the German Military Cemetery of Maleme where 4,465 German soldiers, who were killed in Crete between 1941 and 1945, are buried. The German invasion and occupation of Crete was brutal, and there is no attempt to hide this by the Volksbund (German War Graves Commission) at the site. It is a peaceful place, and is well kept by the Volksbund. Many of the graves are of unknown soldiers, but most have names and ranks. 

The invasion of Crete by German paratroopers on 20th May 1941, did not go well on the first day and many were killed before they fired a shot. So many of the grave markers had the date of death as 20th May, 1941. It is also striking to see that so many of the dead were very young - teenagers and many in their early twenties. What did they die for?

German Military Cemetery of Maleme (2021)

In 2008 I visited the La Cambe German War Cemetery in Normandy where there are 21,000 soldiers buried. As in Maleme, it too was well kept and is a serene and calm place. In both cases, there were very few people visiting the cemeteries (in complete contrast to the American Cemetery and Memorial, at Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy where there were thousands visiting when I was there). It must be hard for the German people of today to take in what happened to their menfolk in World War II. Many of the young boys/men in Maleme and La Cambe could still be alive today 80 years later had war not happened. I left both cemeteries with an overwhelming sense of waste of life and sadness for what might have been for the young men who lost their lives on both sides in the war.

 La Cambe German War Cemetery (2008).

Monday, September 27, 2021

Samariá Gorge, Botanical Gardens, and 76 Olives

Europe's longest gorge at 16 km is the Samariá Gorge in Crete - we decided we would pay it a visit on one of the cooler days this week. It's a brilliant drive up to the gorge - lots of hairpin bends and stunning views. At the start of the path leading down to the gorge we looked down at the incredible depth with some trepidation. There were lots of other people there, all a lot younger than us. Most people seem to walk the entire gorge (5 to 7 hours), and get a boat and bus back. We had decided that we would only do a short bit and turn around. We soon found that while walking down the path to the gorge was quite easy - coming back would be a lot more difficult. The further we went down, the tougher it would be. There's no shame in admitting that we felt that we would not be up to the return trip, and we abandoned it after just a few hundred metres. 


On way back from the mountains we stopped off at the lovely Crete Botanical Gardens. We got a nice hike in here as it is a 2 km walk down and up the side of a mountain. September is not the best time of year to see the gardens in all their glory as most flowering plants had shed their flowers. There was still lots of fruit and tropical plants from all over the world to see. 

76 olives?

In the Olive Tree restaurant at the end of the gardens we had lunch. I had a dish called "Walk to the Village" which was a tomato and olive fried dish. Delicious, but I never had so many olives on one plate. I had to count them - 76 in total.





Monday, September 20, 2021

First time on a Jet Ski!

Riding motorcycles for most of my life should mean that I take to a Jet Ski like a duck to water - right? 

Wrong!

We hired two Jet Skis for the first time yesterday and took to the waters with just a short lesson in how to turn the machine on (green button) and off (red button), and how to accelerate. When that 20 second lesson was over I was suddenly riding out to sea. I found the machine very difficult to control - nothing like a motorcycle. I kept trying to turn the handle as a throttle and bending like on a bike to turn. It took me a long time to get used to the handlebars and how to control them. I had a lot of stopping and starting. Nevertheless, I had great fun when going in a straight line at top speed. Turning was a different story, I fell off the Jet Ski when it was almost stopped.

Learning something new is good fun - especially when it involves engines and speed!



Sunday, September 19, 2021

On Holidays

It's a strange feeling going on holidays for the first time as a retired person. Despite being retired for almost a year now, I am on my first "holiday" abroad. Today I am in Crete enjoying the sunshine for a couple of weeks. Normally, holidays are a break from work and all that goes with it. The moment I feel that I am finally on holidays after months of work was always when I have a beer in the sun at lunch time on my first day. Though just as enjoyable as always, it doesn't feel quite the same. The end of holidays always brought that resigned feeling having to go back to work. 

I am now enjoying learning about being on holidays without the before and after boundaries of work!

Cheers from Crete!
 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Family Heirloom - Shakspeare!

Recently, I received a copy of "The Handy-Volume Shakspeare" series from my Mum who told me that it belonged to her grandfather Richard Cullen. Of the original 13 volumes, this set comprises nine volumes, #VIII, #IX, #X, and #XI are missing. The set is not of any value - many copies are on sale on line for less than €20. Their condition is not great, further reducing value as a set.

There is no publication date on any of the books, though I believe they were are from the 1880s. Note the spelling of "Shakspeare" - this was a common spelling of the Bard's name in the 19th century.


An interesting feature of this set is that inside the front cover there is a sticker with the name "Wilson" and a family crest. On the first page there is a very neat signature for "HORACE WILSON". I asked my Mum if this name rings a bell, but she has no memory of the name in the family. It is therefore likely that my great-grandfather bought this in a second hand book shop in Dublin.

I was never really a fan of Shakespeare's work. In secondary school I studied Julius Caesar, As You Like It, The Tempest, King Lear, and Coriolanus. I once attended a performance of King Lear in the Globe Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon - I don't believe I have ever seen a performance of Macbeth or Hamlet.

I'll keep these little books as a memento of my great-grandfather. I am unlikely to read them, though I do open up random pages to see if any famous quotes stand out. I've put a post-it note inside the cover of volume I, so that whoever ends up with these books after me will know where they came from.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Volunteering at the Aviva @HSELive @DublinVolunteer #Covid19

Today I had my (probable) last day as a Volunteer at the Aviva Mass Vaccination Centre. For five months I have been giving a hand as a Volunteer Steward, it has dominated my summer. The Aviva MVC is closing for two weeks (to allow for World Cup Qualifier games) - when it re-opens on Sept 11th, I may not be able to participate as I will be on holidays.

What a five months it has been - I had no idea back at the beginning of March that I would still be involved. I have met so many wonderful people and been part of "one of the best teams" to play at the Aviva (Martina Queally, Chief Officer for Community Healthcare East). We had a send-off and photo call to mark the end of this phase of the vaccination programme. I got an opportunity to sneak onto the edge of the pitch for a photo, and I had my 26-year old Ireland jersey on to mark the occasion.


Thank you to all my fellow Volunteers for the welcome they gave me and for being a real joy to work with. The Clinical, Administration, Housekeeping, and Security teams also gave us great support - we backed each other up all the way through. I will miss taking part in this very historic occasion. I hadn't done much volunteering before - but now I have the taste for it, and the time, I hope to help out some more.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Simple Linear Regression, 1,000,000 Views

One of my most popular videos over the past six years has been How To... Perform Simple Linear Regression by Hand. It has recently become the third of my videos to surpass a million views. Since it was first published on 23rd December 2015, it has also got 505 comments (mostly very positive), and 9,442 Likes (a 96,7% positive rating). This video has also gained me 4,400 subscribers and earned just over €2,000. Most viewers (78%) are in the 18 - 24 age group indicating that most viewers are students. The top viewing countries are the United States (21%), and India (19%). Just 1,941 (0.2%) of views are from Ireland - less than Zimbabwe and Nepal!

 

Interestingly, despite the video being 10:55 minutes long, the average viewing time is just 2:46 minutes. By 13 seconds into the video, 40% of viewers have already stopped watching. I introduce all my videos in the same way, but even though I am concise and to the point, there is still a large drop off. Only 12% watch the video until the end.

It is gratifying and humbling to find that a video, which took me less than eleven minutes to make, has been useful to so many people. Getting a "hit" is so difficult - none of my top 20 viewed videos was published in the last five years. It is difficult to build an audience.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Great Driving Experience at @Mondello_Park with @Max_Hart1

Yesterday I finally got to use a gift of a driving experience at Mondello Park for my 60th birthday (22 months ago!) from my three daughters. I had never been to Mondello Park before, so this was a first for me. My daughters think that I am the slowest driver on the road, so I'm guessing that they had a lot of fun coming up with this as an idea for a present.

My instructor was fellow Wicklow man and up-and-coming race driver Max Hart. He immediately put me at ease and showed me how to take corners and brake at the last moment. I got to drive a Porsche for the first time - in fact I don't think I ever even sat in a Porsche before. It is a fantastic powerful car, and I loved driving it. Six laps around the 3.5 km track went by so quickly, but it was the most fun I had in a long time.

If you are looking for a great present - give it a go!


Thank you girls!

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Happy 4th of July

Today is a great day for Americans to celebrate their Independence Day, and display a fantastic sense of national pride. I searched through my photos to see if I had a picture of myself with the stars and stripes, and I found the one below from my Route 66 trip two years ago. It was taken in Carlinville (Illinois) on Day 3 of the trip. A nearby shop was advertising a fundraising draw - first prize was a gun!

God Bless America and Happy Independence Day to all Americans!



Monday, June 28, 2021

2 Years Ago Today - Route 66

This day two years ago Roma and I set out on Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. With all that has happened since then, it seems like a lifetime ago. It was a fabulous trip with a fabulous group of fellow bikers from all over the world. Two weeks of Americana was fantastic - is is a great country and I'd love to go back and ride again. We thought it would be the first of many road trips, but we will have to wait until next year at the least. We still have Route 66 photos displaying on our Google Nest Hub in our kitchen - great memories!

Here we are picking up our bike - a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide!



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

25,000,000 YouTube Views

My YouTube Channel has passed a landmark figure on reaching 25,005,845 views yesterday. This is the total number of views since I set up the channel on 7th April, 2006. YouTube was just 13 months old (it was founded in February 2005) at the time and this was just before the Google takeover in October 2006. I could not then have anticipated that I would go on to be a YouTuber with 25M views and 57K subscribers.

The number of daily views on the channel has shown almost exact similar patterns over the years. For example, it is currently experiencing a seasonal summer downturn, with views expected to rise again in September. There has been a steady decline in the number of views over the past two years. I put this down to ageing videos (eg, How To... in Excel 2010), as well as a lot more competition. Videos concerning data analysis are now dominating the view counts - Simple Linear Regression has for the past three years been the most popular video. The United States still makes up most views (32%), with India next (14%), followed by the UK (8%), the Philippines (5%), and Canada (5%). Ireland is the 13th most popular location with just 1% of total views.



As always - I continue to be amazed that the Channel has grown so much. Of course, it is an extremely modest number of views and subscribers compared to real influencers. All of the videos are "How To..." educational Learning Objects - there are now 280 videos in the channel. I plan to add more to this by competing my series of Programming in R in the next couple of weeks, and producing a few more Statistics videos. However, there will be every little over the summer.

A huge THANK YOU to every viewer who has clicked on one of my videos - I am very grateful for your time and support. As I say at the end of every video: "I hope you found this video useful, thank you for your attention".

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Second Dose

Having received my first AstraZeneca vaccination at the Aviva Stadium on 25th March, 12 weeks and two days later I got my second jab at the Shoreline Leisure Centre in Greystones. It feels great to finally get it done and join the millions of people worldwide who are hopefully now fully immune to Covid 19. There was hardly any queue outside the centre. Inside I was processed quickly, and steered to the vaccination queue (which moved quickly) of about 40 people, by the always smiling and cheerful volunteers. The wonderful Brenda gave me the jab, and then I had the obligatory 15 minutes in Observation. It was all very calm and extremely efficient. Despite having heard about horrendous queues, I was in-and-out in under 40 minutes. The Shoreline Vaccination Team is brilliant! 

From the scientists who researched and created the vaccines, to the people who underwent clinical trials, to the likes of the HSE who managed and governed all of this, to the factory workers who bottled and shipped the vaccines, to the transport workers who shipped the vaccines all over the world, to the administrators who set up appointments and registered us all, to the IT folks who kept our systems working, to the people who invented SMS so that a simple text message with our appointments meant so much to us all, to the security people who help make the vaccination process safe, to the clinical leads at each centre, to the thousands of dedicated doctors/nurses/pharmacists/paramedics who are saving us all with a needle and a small drop of vaccine, and finally to the army of volunteers who manage the queues at the Mass Vaccination Centres: THANK YOU!

At the Shoreline Leisure Centre, Greystones.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

100th Programming in R Video

Today sees the publication of the 100th video in my series of How To... Programme in R. This video is about the exciting topic of multicollinearity - which can be a problem when building Multiple Linear Regression models. Here's a useful definition:

The term multicollinearity was first used by Ragnar Frisch. It describes a perfect or exact relationship between the regression exploratory variables. Linear regression analysis assumes that there is no perfect exact relationship among exploratory variables. In regression analysis, when this assumption is violated, the problem of Multicollinearity occurs (Statistics Solutions).

I am coming to the end of this series of R videos as there are only a few small topics left from modules that I covered in my teaching days at NCI. I have mostly kept up publishing one video every working day since mid-January, but this will soon stop as I run out of ideas, and the summer is here!

The number of views for each video continues to be low - only a handful have exceeded 100 views. The most popular ones so far deal with Linear Regression, and the Chi-squared Test for Independence. I know there is a lot of competition on YouTube for videos about R programming - so it was always going to be a tough start to getting views. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed making the videos, even though the pressure to keep up the one-a-day schedule was often hard and at the last minute.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

My 3 Seconds

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan attended the Aviva MVC for vaccination last Thursday evening, and of course he had to tweet about it! He had his visit recorded despite cameras not being allowed at the Centre. I feature in the video for three seconds near the beginning, that's me in the blue vest patrolling the queue as it nears the vaccination area.

Minister Ryan queued up just like everyone else, in fact he was one of the last of over 2,000 people to be vaccinated that day at the Aviva. The work of the fantastic team of Dublin City Volunteers is in the main to manage and control the flow of people through the vaccination centre over three floors. We also try to project a positive attitude despite people queuing sometimes for over an hour. Almost everyone who comes to the Aviva is positive and accepting that queuing is necessary. Rudeness and moaning does happen, but it is thankfully very rare. Recognition such as that from Eamon Ryan is very much appreciated by all the staff and volunteers - we look forward to having him back in a few weeks! Here is his Tweet:

Thursday, May 13, 2021

To Answer (or not) viewer questions in YouTube comments?

Many people who watch my YouTube videos leave comments. Sometimes the comments thank me for posting the video, tell me that viewer has learned a lot, and that some like my style (while others don't!). However, I also get a lot of questions seeking further help - and I find that it is time consuming to answer them all. I take the view that if a student had asked the same question face-to-face, I would respond with "Did you attend the class?", "Did you study the course notes?", and "Did you read the recommended text book?". So I ask myself should I respond to all video comments when I feel it is clearly a student's responsibility to do their homework first?

In general, I do not respond to comments unless I can do so quickly and easily. As I write, my channel has 11,615 comments, so I feel with this volume that I cannot respond to them all. I'm guessing that responding to comments improves my rating in YouTube's algorithms, but I basically do not have the time to do so.

One of my most popular videos (a surprise "hit" for me with 867,638 views since published January 11th, 2012) is How To... Calculate Mean and Standard Deviation in Excel 2010. This video has 261 comments and today I received a comment from a viewer looking for further help. The viewer should be able to check out other resources before they come to me - I am not an on-line tutor providing an education service. Nevertheless, in this case I will respond as I have used the viewer's post as an example here.


I hope that any viewers reading this post do not think that I am being mean!

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

40 Years Ago Today #BobbySands

On 5th May 1981, I turned on my little radio when I woke up to hear the news of the death of Bobby Sands after 66 days on hunger strike. He was just 27 years old. I was both sad and mad. Sad that he had died after much suffering in a cause he had the courage to believe in, and mad as hell that he had been allowed to die. He was the first of 10 to die on this strike - all the strikers were in their twenties, and would surely all be still alive today if they had not participated in the strike.

It was a turbulent time with many demonstrations in Ireland and black flags everywhere. I was 21 years old during all this and was a student at Trinity College. There was a lot of sympathy for the strikers, but perhaps not as much support for their aims. While I was supportive, to my shame I did not participate in any of the campaigns. However, I did sign the Book of Condolence for Derry man Thomas McElwee (died 8th August 1981, age 23) outside the GPO in Dublin. I recall I signed my name as "E O'Loughlin, Wicklow" - not having the courage to give my full name or address. Shame.

Photo to right taken in 2016 at the Bobby Sands Mural, Falls Road, Belfast.





Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Aviva MVC #VolunteerDublinCity

For much of the past two months I have been working as a volunteer steward at the Aviva Stadium Mass Vaccination Centre with the Dublin City Volunteer organisation. The Volunteer team manage the queueing systems (yes - there are queues!) and we act as stewards at key points for the one-way system over three floors. If you are familiar with the Aviva, vaccination is taking on the third floor in the large bar area. It is all very efficient, with the Volunteer, Security, and Medical teams working well together. Everybody is always in good humour and the best part of the job is seeing the relief on the faces of people who have just received their vaccine. 

The Volunteer team is very diverse, with people from all over the world "doing their bit". Most are young people giving up their time in a good case, but there are a few retirees like me who are glad of something to do during the Pandemic. If you wish to volunteer - there are often opportunities posted on the Dublin City Volunteer website.

It is weird to think that this is a historic moment in human history. All over the world in sports stadia, car parks, and medical centres - there are people queueing up to have a needle jabbed into their arm. It is desperately sad that people are still dying in such large numbers in places like India for want of a vaccine. What is happening is a great relief to us all here in Ireland, but relief is not spread evenly all over the world. I do hope that lessons will have been learned for when the next Pandemic comes along.




Thursday, April 15, 2021

My Maternal Great-Grandparents Richard Cullen and Anne McCann #Census1901

The fourth and last installment of my quick review of Census data from 1901 relating to my great grandparents features Richard Cullen and Anne McCann - both from Co Wexford. They were married on 12th November 1905 in St James' Street in Dublin. Luckily, I do have photos of both of them - I think they both look very glamorous in the photos below - especially my great-granny Anne.


Richard Cullen (1870 - 1940) 

Richard proved hard to find in the Census. He was from Wexford Street in Gorey, but is not listed in the Cullen family which still lived there in 1901. He was 30 years old at the time of this census - clearly he had moved out. We know he was a plasterer by trade and that he had moved to Dublin. By the 1911 census he lived in Ivar St in Arbour Hill. In a search I found a "Richard Cullen" who was a "Boarder" at a house in Merchant's Quay in Dublin (Residents of a house 18 in Cornmarket (Part) (Merchants Quay, Dublin). His occupation is listed as "Plasterer", and that he was originally from "Co Wexford". However, some doubt arises in that his age is given as 29. As he did not fill the census form out himself, it may be that his landlord guessed his age or didn't bother with accuracy. Nevertheless, I can be reasonably sure this is my fourth great-grandfather in the 1901 census.



Anne McCann (1874 - 1952)

Anne McCann grew up in Kilnahue, near Gorey in Co Wexford. Unfortunately, she is the only one of my eight great-grandparents that is not recorded in the 1901 census in Ireland. In the 1905 marriage registration her address is given as 13 Gambier Terrace in Liverpool, England. Clearly she had moved to Liverpool for work. Unlike in Ireland, access to the 1901 census records in England is not free.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

My Maternal Great Grandparents James Byrne and Margaret Coburn #Census1901

Continuing my research into the 1901 Census, today I am focussing on my mother's side of the family. Her surname was Byrne, but as many before me have found - names have been spelled differently in the past. In the 1911 census, the family record featuring my grandfather Paddy Byrne was "Burns". In the 1901 census, James Byrne and Margaret Coburn are listed as Residents of a house 4 in Ballincor (Redwood, Tipperary) - he was a "Farm Servant" and she was a "Domestic Servant". In this record his surname is given as "Byrne". James married Margaret on 29th January 1903 - their marriage registration shows the surname "Byrne".

The 1901 census form shows that my Byrne/Burns great-grandparents were working as servants on a farm. James is listed as "Can Read", and Margaret is listed as "Cannot Read" - neither are listed as being able to write. Perhaps this might explain some confusion over the spelling of their names. It should also be noted that the census form was probably filled out by the Head of Household Denis Maher, and he may not have checked the spelling of James' surname with him. According to the Enumerator's Return Form, the house they lived in had a thatched roof with either 2, 3, or 4 rooms. With 10 people in the house it must have been very crowded. Though there is no evidence of this, I would not be surprised if some or all of the male servants lived in sheds or farm buildings.


The confusion over the surnames Byrne and Burns has made further research about this side of the family difficult. For example, within the family we know that James Byrne served in the British army from the beginning to the end of the first world war. He most likely enlisted in the Leinster regiment in Birr, Co Offaly - but there is no record of his service. I have never seen a photograph of either of these great-grandparents, though I expect they do exist. My great-grandmother Margaret Byrne lived until 1965 - I remember my mother visiting her in hospital, but little boys were not allowed on the ward. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

My Paternal Great-Grandparents Thomas Hurley and Bridget Murphy #Census1901

For the 1901 Census, my paternal great-grandparents Thomas and Bridget Hurley were already married and had four young children. They were Residents of a house 74 in Newmarket (Newmarket, Cork), which was on Church Street in Newmarket. Thomas was the local Creamery Manager, while Bridget ran a small shop in the ground floor of their house. 

On the census enumerator's House and Building Return form, their house is described as a "Shop" and has a "1st" class rating with a score of "12". This figure was based on adding up scores for number of walls (1), number of roofs (1), number of rooms (4), and number of windows at the front (6). 

In the family listed below, their son Charles became a priest, Tim became a doctor (and moved to Wales), Hannah became a nun (Sr Bridget), and Pat never married.

This is Thomas Hurley's signature:

Monday, April 12, 2021

My Paternal Great-Grandparents Joseph O'Loughlin and Julia Murphy #Census1901

Following on from my recent post about the 1911 census which featured three of my Grandparents, I knew that in my Ancestry family tree that I did not have all census details for my eight Great-grandparents - so I decided to see if I could find them at the National Archives. Here are two of my paternal great-grandparents:

Joseph O'Loughlin (1864-1916)

The common (and annoying) practice of dropping the "O" and the apostrophe from surnames made finding Joseph a little difficult. By the 1911 Census he had been widowed twice and did not marry again. In the 1901 census I found him under the surname "Loughlin". I already knew that he was born on 10th April 1864 in Tureenclassagh in North-west Co. Cork. I found a "Joseph Loughlin" living on his own in house 11 in Tooreenclassagh (Williamstown, Cork). The writing is identical to that on the 1911 Census. However, I am only 99% certain that this is my Great-grandfather - his age given in 1901 is 32, but he is 46 in the 1911 (which would be correct based on his date of birth). Did he lie about his age on the 1901 census? He later moved to Barnacurra (about 20 kms away) where he lived in 1911. Here are his details from the 1901 Census:


Here is his signature from the 1901 Census form:




Curiously, in the 1911 census form, while he filled the form out - he did not sign it. It is signed by the Enumerator (Thomas Brien) - who added other bits to the form which was obviously not completed correctly by Joseph.

Julia Mary Murphy (1876 - 1907)

My great-grandmother Julia Murphy was from Lisrobin (about 6 kms from Tooreenclassagh). As she died in 1907, she is obviously not listed on the 1911 Census. But I found her in the 1901 census living as Residents of a house 1 in Lisrobin West (Meens, Cork). She married my great-grandfather on 16th February 1904. She came from a very big family - she was the fourth youngest of the 14 children of Daniel and Mary Murphy. She was just 31 years old when she died. Here are her details from the 1901 Census:

Trivia: it is through Julia's mother Mary (née Finucane) that I am related to the late broadcaster Marian Finucane - she is my 2nd cousin x2 removed!



Monday, April 05, 2021

50 "How To... Programme in R" Videos

Today marks the publication of the 50th video in my "How To... Programme in R" series - I have been posting videos every week day since the launch in mid-January. I don't know how many more I will do, but I estimate that I am about half-way through my former "Programming for Big Data" module that I used to teach in NCI. The 50th video is about how to reference data in a matrix:


Unfortunately, so far the series hasn't really taken off. To date, the How to... Programme in R series has garnered just 3,845 views for all 50 videos. In contrast, my most popular single video How To... Perform Simple Linear Regression by Hand achieved 46,600 views during the same period. I do expect that when I create videos about performing statistical tests later in the series that the view count will go up. I also would like to be able to figure out how to group the videos into lessons without having to re-record. The 50 videos that I have created equate to six out of 12 classes that were in my module. I did not intend that I would create a full course - there's too much competition for that, but it might me a nice option to have.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Census Data 1901/1911

Wednesday was the 120th and 110th anniversaries of the 1901 census and 1911 census respectively. For anyone who has searched through their family histories they are a mine of information, and a fascinating look back in our history. It is also interesting for me and others of my age in that they were taken at the time when my grandparents were small children. My maternal grandmother Kathleen Cullen was born on the 14th April 1911, so missed out by two weeks on being recorded for posterity. However, both my grandfathers and my maternal grandmother were recorded.

Patrick (Burns) Byrne

My maternal grandfather Paddy Byrne was born on 20th July 1905 and was 5 years old for the 1911 census. His record was difficult to find due to the spelling of his surname. His father (James) spelled the surname with "Burns", which became "Byrne" in the 1920s. The record is located at Residents of a house 17 in Ballyquirk (Lorrha West, Tipperary)


PJ O'Loughlin

My paternal grandfather was born on 22nd December 1904 and was six years old for the 1911 census - he was an only child. His first name is recorded as "Pattie", and the surname is spelled "Loughlin" instead of "O'Loughlin". His mother Bridget had died in 1906. Note also that there is a cousin "Eugene" listed. The record is located at Residents of a house 3 in Barnacurra (Barnacurra, Cork).


Kathleen Hurley

My maternal grandmother was born on 28th August 1903 and was seven years old by the time of the 1911 census. Interestingly, her first name is recorded as "Katty". This family was originally hard to find, but one of my cousins living in Newmarket found a "Hurby" family recorded and sent me the link. The hand writing on the original census form is difficult to make out, but this "Hurby" family names, age, and location matched my grandmother's family, so I reported the error in the surname and it was corrected within a few weeks. The record is located at Residents of a house 2 in Church Street (Newmarket, Cork).