Monday, September 28, 2009

Pareto Chart video - 1 year, 10,970 views

Last Saturday (September 26th) was a year to the day since I posted my "How To..Create a Pareto Chart in Excel" to YouTube. At the time of writing this post it has 10,970 views. While this is a very modest total when compared to other Excel videos, I am absolutely delighted that it has so many views and that many people have found the video very useful.

Apologies for appearing to boast about this, but here are some of the (unedited) comments I have received:

"You save my life man!!! Thank youuu!!"


"This was extremely helpful!! Thank you so much!!"

"wow i need to submit my coursework this evening and finally my work is done!!"

"thank you so much!"

"thankyou!!! BIGUP!! Keepon makin' such good tutorials. It was pretty helpful!"

"This was very helpful, thank you!"

"fuckin stat class making me do this shit, but prof never thought how to"

The views are running at a rate of 210 per week, and are watched mostly by people in the USA. By far the biggest age group is the 55-64s, with a breakdown of 61% female/39% male. I haven't quite managed another video with these viewing figures - the next highest viewing figure is 4,078 for my "How To...Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel".

There are also many other websites that my videos are used on - Global Oneness INNWA Videos, Technorati, and even Disney!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

10 Years of Motorcycling

I not sure of the exact date in September 1999, but it is 10 years since I returned to motorcycling after a gap of 18 years (on 8th of December 1981 my Honda CD175 was stolen from Trinity College). In the last 10 years I have had three bikes including my current Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic. Previous to this I had a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Hugger, and before that I started out again with a Honda - this time a 250 Nighthawk.

I get fantastic pleasure out of riding my bike. I have chronicled elsewhere in this blog about trips to Portugal, Spain, UK, and France. I love riding it to and from work - the 15 mile round trip takes about 40-45 minutes of my day. When I compare this to the many other folks who spend hours each day commuting (mostly by car), I realise how the bike has contributed to quality of life devoid of transport hassles.

I wouldn't swap my Harley for anything - here's to the next 10 years!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sailing Lesson

I had a sailing lesson today with the Irish National Sailing Club. The lesson was a short version of the Level 2 Sports Yacht course - I had a two day course in one day. As I was one-to-one with my instructor (Donncha), I was able to complete all of the tasks associated with the full course. Unfortunately I don't get the Level 2 certification - this requires the full two days on the water.

The boat was a Squib - like the one in the picture here. It is 19 feet long and quite a nice sized boat to sail. One person can manage sailing in this boat. It has a fixed keel which makes it too awkward for me to actually own one - it would need a mooring and also would not fit into my new shed in Wexford. I found tacking and jibbing a lot easier today than before - basically I am getting used to it. I also had to learning how to pick up a mooring, to come alongside a both a moored boat and a pontoon. and recover a person fallen overboard (which was a buoy). Very enjoyable and I got the hang of things quite quickly.

All of the sailing was inside Dún Laoghaire harbour, and the wind was a nice breeze in the morning session. However, after lunch the wind died down to almost calm and there was not much we could do. We finished up at about 3 o'clock. All-in-all - a very enjoyable lesson and confirms my belief that I should get a small sailing yacht.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Taming Your Digital Distractions

The New York Times has an interesting article entitled Taming Your Digital Distractions. Here's a (large) extract from the article:

Is there any human invention more duplicitous than the personal computer? These machines were manufactured and initially marketed as devices to help us at work. We were told they would perform amazing feats of office derring-do — adding up rows of numbers effortlessly, turning our musings into beautiful magazine-quality documents, and letting us collaborate with one another across continents.

Boy, that turned out well, didn’t it? Sure, you could use your PC to analyze stats for the annual sales report due in two days. But hey, look at this — someone wants to be your friend on Facebook! And wait a second: A zany couple decided to start off their wedding by dancing down the aisle, and lucky for everyone, they posted the video on YouTube. And did you hear what that ignorant congressman just said about health care? Now you’ve got no choice but to spend the next five minutes crafting an impassioned tweet to express your outrage.

I get disturbed all the time when I am using my work (and home/iPhone) computer when I am supposed to be working. This is even after I previously closed my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I regularly check news items that inevitably lead to checking out other distracting news stories. One thing leads to another........

One of the most beneficial things I have done at work is to turn OFF my email alert. I come from a generation who did not get email and text messages on a daily or hourly basis. I still get a "Wow I just got a text message/email" buzz. I once even had the AOL "You've got mail" message alert - allowing myself to be interrupted no matter what I was doing. Try it - turn off your email alert and your productivity will increase.

I also find myself being interrupted by byte sized information. Shallow Thinking (first, if I'm not mistaken espoused by the wonderful George Siemens) has invaded my mind - if something is longer than a standard text message I will not even bother looking it up. If I was reading this post I would have stopped after "I get disturbed..." - 'nuff said.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

13th September

The 13th of September is a special day for me as it is the anniversary of the day Roma and I got married back in 1986. To celebrate we went out for a walk in the pleasant sunshine to Blackrock where we had a beer in Sheehan's Pub. They have a beer garden there and it was very pleasant to be sitting out. After walking home we went out to Alexis in Dún Laoghaire for dinner with Claire, Kate, and Vicki. Alexis is one of our favourite restaurants and once again it did not disappoint as we all had an excellent meal. It was a most enjoyable evening - the three girls are great company.

For Roma and me it is 23 years since we were married. We reminded Claire (who was recently 21) that Roma was just 23 when we got engaged. Claire assures us that it will be at least 10 years before she thinks of marriage! I did suggest that she would get a cool reaction in two years time if she came home and announced that she wanted to get married to a post-graduate student (as I was in 1984 when we got engaged).

Cóir - Nuts!

I love this poster for a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum...

I referred to Cóir previously as "gobshites" - my attitude has not changed. I listened to part of an interview with a Cóir representative on Today FM this morning where Labour's Pat Rabbitte (normally someone who I have no time for) put him in his place - good on you Pat, and you are right - you have a "track record" on workers rights that Cóir can only aspire to. The Cóir guy was ranting on about the minimum wage and worker's rights (not mentioned in the Treaty) - I'm certain anyone listening to this will realize that these people are "nuts", which is why I love this poster (I do dislike that the poster is not signed or claimed by any organizations - whoever it is should be proud of what they have to say and proclaim it out loud!).

What is it about referendums ("referenda" if you went to UCD) that polarizes people? Maybe it's because you can only vote "Yes" or "No" - I'm sure there are many people who would like to vote "Maybe", or "Can I have another choice please?", or "None of the above". Declan Ganley of Libertas, who in the past has said that the people have spoken and that "No" means "No" (referring to the previous referendum result), has decided that in his own case that "No" actually means "Yes". He stated previously that he would not participate in the referendum campaign having been rejected by a huge margin by the voters of Connaught in the last European Parliament Elections. Now he is campaigning! Current polls show a 2-1 majority in favour of "Yes".

My mind is made up - it's still "Yes".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Book Review - "Rebels" by Peter de Rosa

I read Peter de Rosa's excellent historical novel about the 1916 Rising while on holiday in Spain this summer, but took my time writing a review for Amazon. The review is reproduced below. I also note for the first time that I have dropped out of the Top 500 Reviewers at - at the time of writing this I'm now ranked #502.

5.0 out of 5 stars
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical novel, 5 Sep 2009
By EFMOL "eugeneol" (Dublin) - See all my reviews
Peter de Rosa's historical novel is an excellent read and and will give the reader a detailed account of what it must have been like during the 1916 rebellion. All the intrigues of a rebellion are there for all to see. I'm told that there are historical inaccuracies in the book, but even though I am very familiar with this period of Irish history I didn't notice anything wrong.

Events are highly dramatized - particularly towards the end of the book when the executions take place. Written evidence records that the 1916 leaders had accepted their fate, but this book paints them all as angelic heroes sacrificing their lives in the cause of Irish freedom - Pearse would "go through death without hurt". Even he must have felt some terror facing a firing squad, but there is no hint of it for any of the leaders facing death. No one can know what was going through their minds at the time, and de Rosa does an excellent job on what it must have been like.

The 1916 Rebellion had a lot of characters and de Rosa keeps the plot and story going with ease. Countess Markievicz makes for an excellent hero, General Maxwell is the villain, Roger Casement is treated favorably - though his part in the rising is almost a distraction in this book, and all the leaders are heroes too. Almost 500 people were killed in the Rebellion and some of the savagery that took place - especially in North King Street, is graphically described.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to potential readers. Whether you are Irish or not you will enjoy reading about this dramatic period in Irish history. Any Irish person reading this will find that your heart will almost be bursting with pride reading about the rebels and their failed dream of an Irish Republic.

How To... Retain Text Format When Copying and Pasting in Word

I have posted a new video on YouTube about copying and pasting text in Microsoft Word.

This video arose out of frustration when I copy text from one document to another. Here's what happens: I set up my document into a format that I want - font, size, justification, spacing, etc. When I copy text from another document, which has a different format, it messes up my original text. This drives me nuts when I use Word, so this video shows how to overcome this using Windows Notepad.

This is also one of the quickest videos I have made - I recorded it in one take with very little preparation (this might show in the video!).

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

How Many Of Me?

Ego surfing is a factor I think most people who use the Internet and World Wide Web are "guilty" of at least at some stage. I'm sure most of us have Googled our names (I have!). Here's an interesting web site called that determines how many people have the same name as you. It's USA based only, but fun nonetheless. Here are the results for my name:
LogoThere are
people with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Try it out for yourself.

Interesting stuff from the website:

There are 307,351,318 people in the United States of America. If everyone in the U.S. lined up single file, the line would stretch around the Earth almost 7 times. That's a lot of people.

The U.S. Census Bureau statistics tell us that there are at least 151,671 different last names and 5,163 different first names in common use in the United States. Some names are more common than others.

There are 44,441 people named John Smith in the United States. There are 967 people named James Bond, 102 people named Harry Potter , 433 people named George Bush, and 31 people named Emily Dickinson. However, Johnny Cash (32 people) songs aside there are, statistically speaking, very few boys named Sue.

The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Beers

I heard the following story several years ago and came across it today - I intend to use it in my classes. It is a story that makes you think about the important things in life. Today in class I asked my students (30 in total) to tell me their names, and three things about themselves - one of which was untrue. Nearly all the items were about family, favorite sports team, hobbies, and where they were from - important things. I'll tell them the Mayonaise Jar and Two Beers story next week.

The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Beers
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 Beers .

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else---the small stuff. 'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

'Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.' The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.'

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Lisbon Treaty and the Natterjack Toad

In the first referendum on the Lisbon Treaty I voted "Yes". I always vote "Yes" in referendums on European matters. 47% of the vote the last time was for a "Yes" - a sizeable minority, but a fact that "No" campaigners ignored while claiming a massive victory. The Dún Laoghaire constituency returned the highest "Yes" vote in the country - over 60%. Some folks here wanted to know if we could stay in Europe while the rest of the country could opt out. I support the European project - not because of what Ireland has got out of the EU, but because I feel it is a good thing to be a European and that we should all be integrated more closely. In many ways I feel that I am in the same boat as the French, Greeks, Latvians, and people of all the other 26 EU member states - part of a wider Union family of Europeans. In order for it to work better, it needs the Lisbon Treaty - a no brainer for me.

Seeing the array of people who are lined up against the Treaty makes it even easier to vote "Yes". Joe Higgins (one of our MEPs ffs), Sinn Féin, People before Profit, the dreadful Cóir, are all a motley crew of people searching for reasons to vote "No". Many of the issues identified last time for the 53% "No" vote have been addressed, so they are searching the bottom of the barrel for more reasons to vote "No" (that they astonishingly forgot to tell us about the last time). €1.84 minimum wage is the latest - the Treaty does not mention anything about minimum wages. We'll have abortion imposed against our will (what would a vote on that be like now I wonder?) - the Treaty does not mention anything about abortion. I also hated the way that Cóir used the 1916 Proclamation during the last referendum, and the way they are using pictures of Pearse, Clarke, and Connolly this time claiming they won our freedom and beseeching us not to "Throw it all away". They did not win any freedom - in fact they lost and were shot for it. Leave the 1916 leaders and the Proclamation alone - they are dead patriots who do not deserve their memories being usurped like this.

The Treaty also does not mention a lot of other things - among them the endangered Natterjack Toad in Kerry. Does this mean that this protected toad is under threat from voting "Yes"? According to the twisted logic above it will. Now I'm descending into ridicule - but I'm sick of negative people who always oppose anything no matter what. I bet that if we have a referendum on protecting the Natterjack Toad that gobshites like Cóir would campaign against it.

I have no problem with people voting "No" - I'm sure many who did so the last time are sick of the fact that they have to do it again (just like I am having to go out and vote "Yes" again). But please leave our dead heroes alone and stick to the facts of the treaty. Otherwise people like me will want to know where you stand on the Natterjack Toad issue.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Metro Further Education

I am featured in today's free Metro Newspaper in the centre section which today is about Further Education. I was asked on Friday to write an article on advice for IT courses at NCI. The full article is on page 17 - you can see it in the e-Metro edition (you will be required to give your email).

There are swine flu and computerphobia themes (not my idea). The antidote?- why a course in NCI obviously! When asked if they could use a photo of me on my bike to accompany the article I agreed - they did not tell me it would occupy almost half a page. It is a little embarrassing and I got lots of slagging at work today about it. It's really a photo of a bike with a bloke sitting on it, rather than a photo of of a Lecturer who's hobby is motorcycling!