Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christy Moore at Vicar Street

Last evening Roma and I went to see Christy Moore in the intimate setting of Vicar Street - he was accompanied as usual by his old Moving Hearts buddy Declan Synnott. It was my second time seeing Moore in concert, two years ago I saw him in the Grand Canal Theatre.

Image Source: Entertainment.ie.
You will always know what you get with Christy - he sings songs about diverse subjects such as the Spanish Civil War, Dunnes Stores strikers, Steve Beko, Euro 88, trade unions, persecution, Arthur's Day, Ruby Walsh, and the DTs. For many it was disappointing not to hear Lisdoonvarna or Don't Forget your Shovel. You also know that you will get passion for songs with Christy and he certainly lived up to that reputation last evening.

We were also treated to a song by Declan Synnott who had seven guitars with him, including a ukulele. I think he used them all! Moore had a bodhrán at his side, but he never used it, he used just two guitars. Both musicians sent the crowd of over 1,000 home happy. We stopped in the Brazen Head for a pint afterwards - it had been many years since I visited this pub, reputedly the oldest one in Ireland.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Discovering my Great-grandmother - Anne (neé McCann) Cullen

My maternal great-grandmother was Anne Cullen - her maiden name was McCann. The photo below of her and my Mum (Phil) was part of the treasure trove of photos recently given to my Mum by her brother in Canada. As you can see she was a very elegant lady, I'm guessing that this photo was taken around 1940 when my Mum would have been 6 years old. Anne was born in 1874 and died on the 5th of March 1952. 

According to my Mum, Anne was a beautiful singer and was also involved in rural drama groups. The late actor Donal McCann was a close relative, Mum recalls him visiting their house when he was very young. The house below still exists, it is No 5 Ashford Cottages near the Phoenix Park in Dublin - I'm not sure if it is located in the Stoneybatter or Arbour Hill areas.

It feels strange to finally see a photo of my great-grandmother after all these years, and there aren't too many of my Mum as a little girl either. Before this she was just a name as she was dead 7 years before I was born.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

School Musical in CCR 1973

Being from a musical family I was always encouraged to take part in musicals during my time (1972-1977) in boarding school in Cistercian College Roscrea (CCR). In an all-boys school it was the lot of 1st and 2nd year students to play the parts of girls before our voices broke. In my 2nd year, the musical was "Lilac Time" by Franz Schubert, this was probably performed just before Christmas in 1973.

I got the part of one of the three sisters - "Willi Veit", and there I am in the photo below in the middle of the three "girls" on the left side of the stage. This was the last time I wore a dress! Until a few days ago I had never seen this photo nor knew of its existence. An uncle based in Canada who was moving house recently sent this to my Mum - how he came into possession of the photo from 40 years ago I have no idea. I recognise some of the lads in the photo, but most of the "boys" were probably 5th year students. Check out the hair, there are no wigs! If you have any CCR connections, please share this photo.
Click photo to enlarge.
(Photo scanned without permission from a print taken by Cotter Photos of Birr, Co Offaly)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Who is watching educational videos on Christmas Day?

The annual fall off in viewing numbers for my YouTube channel has been as predictably sharp again this year. Any holiday time such as Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Summer always results in a drop off in daily viewing numbers. On Christmas Day this year there were 2,189 views and I am curious as to who was watching on this day and where they came from. 

Top of the list was 403 views from the United States, followed by India (249), UK (138), Malaysia (127), Saudi Arabia (79), Turkey (74), Canada (68), and the Philippines (56). At the bottom of the list there are loads of countries that there are no views from, but there is one each from Kazakhstan, Myanmar (Burma), Yemen, Suriname, Tanzania, and Laos. Incidentally there were 10 from Ireland, so I know that most of my own students are not tuning in between their turkey and plum pudding! 

If the trends and patterns of that past few years are to continue, then the daily views figures should return to their pre-Christmas values around the middle of January and then continue to grow slightly until the summer (with a predicted drop off around Easter). I am planning loads more videos, especially updates of existing Excel and PowerPoint videos for Office 365 (2013).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Traditions

It's the first day of the Christmas holidays and I am fortunate to have a quite a long break until 2nd January 2014. Yesterday was a very quiet day at work with most colleagues electing to take the day off. I had some grading still to do, but did not quite get it finished. Christmas shopping is now done, I picked up the turkey from my Uncle Paddy and Cousin Anna in PM O'Loughlin Foods in Shankill where it was already very busy at 9.30 in the morning. 

It's off to Carnew in south Co Wicklow this afternoon to see my Mum and Dad - this is part of our Christmas tradition going back 22 years. Not since 1990 have I seen them on Christmas Day, after this we spent Christmas in our own house in Dublin. Another tradition is slowing down and looking at the Christmas lights on houses on the way back from Carnew to Dublin. We especially like the road between Rathdrum and Glenealy.

Since I joined the St John the Baptist Choir in Blackrock, Christmas Eve has been rather sober - this is my third Christmas with the choir. We have the vigil Mass this evening at 9 o'clock, and the main Christmas Day Mass tomorrow at 12 o'clock. We have been practising hard over the past few weeks with hymns and carols in Latin, German, and English for the Christmas season. 

Merry Christmas to all my friends, family, colleagues, and students who read this blog!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dr William Francis Norman O'Loughlin #Titanic

On a visit to Belfast last week I stopped by the Titanic Memorial at the side of City Hall where there is a full list of all those that died when the Titanic sank on 15th April 1912. Naturally I looked to see if there were any O'Loughlins listed and to my surprise I found that Dr William Francis Norman O'Loughlin was one of those who perished. There was never a mention of him in our family circles and if we are related in any way I'm sure it is a distant connection.

Dr William O'Loughlin.
Image Source:
Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.
According to the Encyclopedia Titanica, the 62-year old William O'Loughlin was the ship's surgeon on board the Titanic. He was born in Ireland in 1849 in Tralee, but was orphaned and then raised by his maternal uncle Benjamin Matthews. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. After graduation he decided on a life at sea where he spent 40 years. When not at sea, he lived in Southampton. In the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Heritage Centre Blog it is noted that many "survivors state that after the ship had hit the iceberg Dr O'Loughlin calmly directed passengers towards the life boats and did his best to calm the panic". It appears that he was very aware of the seriousness of the situation after the Titanic struck the iceberg. A tribute to him in the American Medicine Journal reads:

"Dr O'Loughlin knew no fear, for he paid no attention to his own danger but went from one group to another, soothing the frightened, encouraging the week and striving in every way to prevent panic and hysteria. As the last life-boat left the vessel, although he must have known that the end was near, he was seen standing in a companionway with the same smile on his face that had endeared him to countless travellers who knew and loved him".

It is strange to think that 101 years later another O'Loughlin would be looking at his name on a memorial wondering who he was and how he came to be on the Titanic. There is also a Miss Mary Delia Burns from Ballysadare, Co Sligo, who was one of the 123 passengers who boarded the ship in Queenstown (Cobh). Though Byrne is my Mum's surname, it previously was Burns up until the 1920s. Mary Delia was 18 years old and did not survive the disaster. She too may also have been a distant relative?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Attending a Rugby Match for the First time in 26 Years

Yesterday I went to a rugby match - the last time I was at a rugby match was at Lansdowne Road in February 1987 when Ireland beat England 17-0 in the then Five Nations Championship. Since then I have preferred GAA and soccer. But two friends were going to see the Leinster Schools Senior League Final between Cistercian College Roscrea (CCR) and Newbridge College in Donnybrook. Since I went to school in CCR (where I hated rugby) I guess I had a slight interest in the game, but I knew nobody on the CCR team.

Heave Ros!
Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable game in which seven tries were scored. Unfortunately for the CCR lads, six of these were for Newbridge who ran out very comfortable and deserving winners.

A feature for me was the fierce tackling by both sides - I was right at the side of the pitch and I could almost feel the crunching tackles. These guys put in a huge effort, even after the game was effectively over midway through the second half. The tries were well taken, and the Newbridge lads seemed to be bigger, stronger, and faster throughout. These guys are just 18 years old - what effect will this level of rugby have on them in later life if they keep this up?

There was a great atmosphere at the game with the Roscrea supporters singing and chanting right to the end of the game in support of their classmates. They definitely "won" the supporters competition in the stand. I remember this very well from my own days on the sideline, and I can safely say that many of the songs and chants that were sung yesterday evening were also song by us back in 1977. Some things never change!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advice to an 18-year old student: "take the career path less traveled" via Leo Babauta

Following on from my post yesterday about "From graduation to emigration", I read with interest an article today by blogger Leo Babauta on his advice to an 18-year old student who wanted to be "different", and who asked him for "advice on choosing a career without enough life and work experience to make an intelligent decision". The student asked:

"Should I take the road less traveled, which may be risky and fearful, or choose a college course that interests me to some degree and see where that leads to. I suppose I don’t want to end up as the typical everyday-joe at the office from 9-5. I want to be different from the masses, to make an impact on this world, to be fulfilled. How do I get the best start into adulthood?"

Babauta responds with advice to "take the career path less traveled" even if this means overcoming loneliness and fear while most other "18-year-olds just take the safe route". However, he also advises the student to do other many things including:
  • Learn about who you are
  • Teach yourself stuff
  • Help others
  • Explore the world
  • Get really good at something

Me in 1977 (age 18) - they don't do style like this anymore!
I would have loved to have been given this advice when I was 18 years old back in style-challenged 1977. The advice would have applied to any student then as it does now. Most of us are conditioned to the path of going straight from secondary school to College, but maybe a gap year or two might be a good thing. I don't believe military service, as they have in some countries, would work in Ireland. A student who has started out on a career path "less travelled" may actually find College a better experience afterwards - there is no law that states you have to go to College after school, yet thousands do it every year.

Finally, the best piece (for me) of advice from Leo Babauta is as follows: "Learn to be a good person. Show up on time. Try your best to meet deadlines. Be honest. Learn compassion. Keep your word. Especially to yourself". Now that's advice for all!

Monday, December 16, 2013

"From graduation to emigration" via @Independent_ie - What are we doing at Third Level?

Recent NUI Galway graduate Seán Dunne writes in today's Irish Independent about the road "From graduation to emigration". Dunne is emigrating to New York where there are far more opportunities for a graduate with a Masters in Journalism than here in Ireland. You can get a sense of the difficulty he had in making the decision to emigrate when he writes "the decision to throw the towel in on Ireland and to seek work abroad was agonising", but in the end he has decided that "as a single 24-year-old, emigration is a positive thing".

Image source: Cartoon by Eoin Kelleher via Irish Independent.
I am one of the thousands of parents in Ireland of graduates who have emigrated - I haven't seen my eldest daughter for over a year. Phone/Twitter/Facebook is no substitute for a hug, and it is difficult for all parents to have to bear absences like this for a long time.

I am also a lecturer at third level and I have mixed feelings about graduates having to emigrate. One might ask why we are turning out graduates in fields where the only work is outside of Ireland? Are we wasting our own time, our students' time, and precious State resources in educating students for the emigration trail? On the other hand, in today's smaller world we should be turning out graduates who can work anywhere in the world - which is what we do. It was always a regret of mine that I never worked abroad, especially in the UK and USA. While it is regrettable that students like Seán Dunne feel forced to emigrate, it is also a fantastic opportunity to live and learn in another country. 

Should we be only providing third-level education in subjects for which there are jobs available for graduates? My sense of it is "No". College is more than just about getting a piece of paper at the end - it is a life changing experience that prepares students for the real world. I'm quite happy to continue to work with students who might have to emigrate - I'd much prefer if they did go rather than remain in Ireland with little or no opportunity to develop into the people they want to be.

My grandfather, at the age of about 41, emigrated to Canada in 1956 to create a new life for him and his family (who joined him a year later). My Mum, who was engaged to my Dad at the time, was the only member of her family to stay in Ireland. Emigration has been with us in Ireland for centuries, we have to wave good bye to our children just as our ancestors have done. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Four Million @YouTube Views #analytics #wow

Today I note that the Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin has passed the landmark 4,000,000 views mark. As YouTube Analytics can be up to two days old, I suspect that the mark may have been reached sometime on Friday last. As always, I am absolutely thrilled and humbled with the view figures, which have been growing in a predictable manner over the past few years. Below is a chart of the Lifetime Views...

Click to enlarge for detail.
One thing I have noticed about these data is that it is fairly easy to predict trends and patterns. I had anticipated for some time that the 4,000,000 mark would be passed in early-mid December, that there would be strong growth from September to December, and that there would be a fall off from mid-December until the New Year (this has already started). If the same trends continue, the number of views will recover quickly in late January and continue to grow until the summer.

Two things that I have now noticed on closer examination of the analytics: First, despite doubling the views since this time last year, revenue from ads has remained almost exactly the same. Secondly, there is a noticeable trend in the chart that it is getting wider. This is as a result of the number of views at the weekends not quite keeping up with the mid-week views. For example, the record one day viewing figure of 11,761 was on Tuesday 3rd December last, but the following Saturday (7th) it had dropped to 6,382.

Once again, a HUGE THANK YOU to all my viewers for their support over the past seven and a half years!

Friday, December 13, 2013

End of Semester 1

We (my students and I) finally made it to the end of semester today at the end of 14 weeks of classes. It has felt like a very long semester since it started on 9th September last. While work for the semester is still not complete (there are still plenty of assignments to grade), it is a relief to have another semester done (this is my 23rd since I started in NCI back in October 2002).

Image Source: Wikia.
This semester I delivered four modules: 

 - Business Analysis and Problem-Solving Techniques
 - IT Project Management
 - Business Data Analysis (Statistics)
 - Business Systems Analysis

While the BAPST module was new and involved a lot of work preparing notes and exercises, I had taught the others many times before. For the first time I used weekly assessments in more than one class. This works wonders for attendance and in the main I was delighted with the students' attitude to the assessments in turning up week-after-week. Students are very positive towards weekly assessments and favour them over larger assignments likes essays or projects. Thanks to all for the effort involved.

So - another semester is over, a new one begins next January!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Bad language in Comments

Recently I wrote about a problem that exists between Microsoft and Google in relation to embedding YouTube videos into PowerPoint that has resulted in Microsoft withdrawing support for using YouTube's embed code - they simply removed the option to embed.

Image source: Genius Outside the Bottle.
This situation has led to many comments on my YouTube channel about the features I describe not working, and in many cases viewers get confused and make a comment on the video. Usually these comments are polite, and are written seeking help. I get an email any time a viewer comments on the channel, and I do my best to respond to each comment - usually pointing the viewer to a work-around video that does work. Today I have put a large message on front of each video warning the user that some features might not work.

Recently some of this frustration has boiled over into an increased use of bad language. In the past week I have been called an "a**hole", "c**k sucker", "mother f**ker", "bitch", as well as "dumb", and "stupid". Charming! This is a tiny percentage of the total number of comments, and I must credit one viewer who apologized for calling me "dumb" when I pointed him to the work-around video.

Bad language has been with us forever, and will not go away. I use bad language - I think my use is low and restricted to "f**", "sh*", and "boll**ks" - I don't use it on the Internet and try to keep it to a minimum in conversation. I do not judge people who use bad language, but there is something different about using it on the Internet such as in writing a comment. Seeing it in written form seems to make it worse, why do people want to leave this trail of bad language behind them? Perhaps to regret later? It's already possible to trawl through Internet comments to analyse for sentiment, maybe the day is not far away when employers could run a scan of a job applicant's on-line behaviour before deciding if they want to employ that person.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Launch of Haven Pharmacy in Monkstown

Last Friday Monkstown Pharmacy re-branded to become Haven Pharmacy Monkstown. The pharmacy is now part of the new Haven group and has been run for the past 22 years by the wonderful Roma, serving the community in Monkstown Farm. RTÉ personality Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh performed the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Image Source: Haven Pharmacy Monkstown on Facebook.
Becoming part of a group is part of a major trend in Irish pharmacies, with several groups coming into existence over the past few years. Up to 45 pharmacies are part of this new group, and I wish this new group well.

You can find Haven Pharmacy Monkstown on Facebook.

Friday, December 06, 2013

A first for NCI Learning and Teaching - Twitter makes its debut at #NCILT

I spent an enjoyable lunch time seminar at the Centre for Research in Learning and Teaching (CRILT) in NCI today where the topic of conversation was "What Makes a Good Teacher?". For the first time (to my knowledge) Twitter was used to get some preliminary questions and comments before the seminar. Though the vast majority of those attending do not use Twitter, there were  few of us discussing the points in back chat mode, plus a couple of our colleagues who could not physically attend were also commenting through Twitter. We had the Twitter feed on the seminar room wall. and though the feed was rather slow to update - it did I feel add to the proceedings. This type of Twitter activity at meetings and conferences is now well established all over the world.

For a change I decided to say nothing at the seminar, but to confine my comments to the Twitter medium. While it is hard to shut up (especially when the topic of conversation was so interesting), I did enjoy posting to the Twitter wall and reading the comments of others. The hashtag is #ncilt, and here is the feed:

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Guesting on the National College of Ireland Blog @NCIRL @YouTube

Today I was a guest on the NCI Blog talking about my YouTube Channel in an post entitled Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin. I very much enjoyed being interviewed by the NCI Marketing folks who have done a great job editing the video. In the video I talk about how and why the channel was set up, the types of videos in the channel, and where most of the views come from. The video was recorded last September and already the figures I quoted in it are out of date. Here it is:

Check out the many great posts including interviews with NCI students on the NCI Blog. You can also follow @NCIRL on Twitter and find NCI on Facebook.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Thanksgiving and Black Friday effect on @YouTube #analytics

First - I hope all Americans enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday and enjoyed Black Friday too!

The First Thanksgiving
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
The Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin YouTube Channel is viewed by more Americans than by any other nationality. Since the channel was created, 1,520,896 of the total views (3,871,335) were from the United States according to YouTube Analytics - that's 39%. The next highest countries are the UK (11%), Canada (5.6%), and India (5.1%). Incidentally, Ireland accounts for only 1.3% of total views. So - any time the Americans have a holiday, there is a significant effect on the viewing figures. To show the effect on the learning and YouTube analytics I thought I'd share the figures for Thanksgiving here.

On Thursday 21st November, a week before Thanksgiving, 4,679 Americans tuned in to my videos - this is one of the highest daily totals from America ever on the channel. A week later on Thanksgiving Day, the figure dropped to just 999 - I guess that a delicious turkey meal with family and friends beats learning how to create a Gantt chart in Excel! On Friday 22nd November, 3,171 Americans tuned in - a week later on Black Friday the figure had dropped to 1,826. The line chart below (last two dots are Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday) shows a visual of these data:

Many thanks to the 2,825 Americans who got up from the Thanksgiving table and skipped shopping on Black Friday to learn something from my channel. Here's a breakdown of the number of views from the top 20 States for both days:

362 (13.0%)
226 (8.0%)
214 (7.6%)
New York
195 (6.9%)
122 (4.3%)
105 (3.7%)
98 (3.5%)
New Jersey
98 (3.5%)
97 (3.4%)
North Carolina
91 (3.2%)
81 (2.9%)
72 (2.5%)
68 (2.4%)
66 (2.3%)
66 (2.3%)
55 (1.9%)
53 (1.9%)
52 (1.8%)
50 (1.8%)
49 (1.7%)

All data from YouTube Analytics as of 1st December, 2013.

The lowest figures were two each from Wyoming and Vermont. As far as I know, YouTube figure out where you are from by your computer's IP address, so these data above should be reasonably accurate. Also according to YouTube, 44% of these views were from people in the 44-54 years old age group. I know this to be a less accurate estimate as profiling is used in part to determine age.

God Bless America, and Keep Learning!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Some People Just Don't Get It. #FatSalaries #FatCats #FatTopUps

News this week of top-ups from charity fund-raising being used to top up senior manager's already fat salaries makes our collective Irish blood boil. To me it's not just that the likes of senior management in hospitals and healthcare facilities (like the CRC) are on already on inflated salaries funded by the State, or that their top-ups were taken from charity funds - it that after five years of economic recession and austerity there are still people who are creaming it in Ireland.

Image source: Grand Strategy.
According to The Irish Times (28th November, 2013), the Central Remedial Clinic paid one of its Chief Executive Officers an annual salary of €106,900. This is a pretty good salary - I wish I was on it! But this was topped up "with funds from the clinic totalling €136,000" to give a total pay package of "more than €240,000". Many other examples have been reported in the media - the people concerned should be ashamed of themselves.

Now, I don't begrudge anyone earning big money, but I don't believe in the "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys" idea either. Similarly, I would not advocate a Cuban style same wages for everybody approach. But when the wages are being paid out of the public purse - this is different. If you feel you deserve a big salary, try the private sector. Health services are being cut everywhere, but wages are still inflated and now exposed as being topped up. This stinks. Some people get rich while others have to wait for basic services.

As for our politicians who are (rightly) up in arms over this, there is a whiff of the pot calling the kettle black. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore guffed at the Labour Party Conference that if "agencies don’t comply" with government guidelines on salaries that a way will be found to reduce "their funding correspondingly". Eamon Gilmore is on a salary of €184,405 plus plenty of expenses. It's not fair to single him out - there's many more like him in politics, plus of course the banks (which we own too). 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Academic Freedom to Blog - via @ChrisParrTHE

Chris Parr comments in the Times Higher Education that many "university employees like to blog". He says that academics like to do this "to gather their thoughts in one place, pass comment on current affairs, or vent their frustration at the annoyances of everyday life". Though I am not a University employee, I do work as a Lecturer at third-level at the National College of Ireland (NCI). In his comment, Parr describes a situation where academics got into a bit of bother at the Chicago State University over using the College's brand and name in their blog.

Image source: Tenured Radical.
As a so-called academic myself I of course support academic freedom, and I'm glad to say that there is a healthy attitude to this at NCI. Very few of the academics at NCI blog (I'm only aware of one colleague that does), but it is common among academics of other colleges - three of my favourites are Stephen Kinsella (UL), Brian Lucey (TCD), and Karl Whelan (UCD). There is no restriction on my blogging by NCI - I have never been asked to modify or delete any of my 1,000+ posts. It is really cool to be able to take time during working hours and feel free to write a blog post on educational matters. For non-educational matters I tend to write posts at home (as I am now doing), or during a break.

I am of course careful in what I write so that I do not invite comment from College management. Even when I feel critical of College activities I self-censor myself and hold back, sometimes with great difficulty. In this way I have a self imposed control of my own Academic Freedom. But if others want to go further I support their freedom to do so. In the video below, students and faculty of Florida Atlantic University are protesting about academic freedom in a case where a professor stood on a piece of paper with the word "Jesus" written on it. As a Christian myself I think this action is a bit silly, but the professor involved should not be censured for expressing an opinion. Long Live Academic Freedom!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Bing Video Search, YouTube, and From a Video Embed Code" still missing from Microsoft @Office365

The now long running problem with embedding YouTube videos into Microsoft PowerPoint presentations seems to have no resolution in sight. On Microsoft's support page article "You can't embed an online video in a PowerPoint 2013 presentation", at least Microsoft acknowledge that there is a problem and point the finger at Google: 

"Due to changes in the YouTube service, PowerPoint 2013 is currently unable to support Youtube videos. Microsoft is currently investigating potential fixes to this feature".

Image source: Interactive.
This update is dated 20th November 2013. This problem first started to occur in the early summer this year and I can't believe that Microsoft's programmers can't sort this out within a few minutes. In the statement above I smell a legal issue ("changes in the YouTube service"), but this does not make sense as you can easily work around this by using PowerPoint's Developer Tools (see my video how to do this here). This work around uses a modified URL, but the method referred to above uses embed code. Maybe it's legal to use one, but not the other? 

In any event, I wish this could get sorted. Tom Warren, writing in The Verge last May, replicates a "cease and desist" letter (see below) from Google to Microsoft in a row over the YouTube App on the Windows phone. While these two kids fight over this, the rest of us are kept waiting. Grrrr!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Semester Fatigue - Another View

My post of last Tuesday on Semester Fatigue has attracted a few more views (213 views in 3 days) than my normal posts, and is today at #16 in the top 20 "Top Stories" on the Ninth Level Ireland website. I also received a few likes and comments. Today I read another view, "End of semester fatigue – an honest reflection", posted on the Canadian based Institute for Learning and Teaching website.

In the post, the anonymous science instructor reports that his students "are tired, struggling to take in the new material they are learning and to keep up with the relentless pace of their second year science courses", and that his "classes, which are usually filled with questions, observations and jokes from the students are slowly becoming less and less interactive". The instructor has found that he/she is "mirroring these changes", and that he/she would "love to slow down the pace and end these courses by pleasantly coasting through the last few lectures". I feel this guy's fatigue! The article also contains some interesting observations that this instructor made when observing a colleague who mixed short "chunks" of lectures with a "carefully chosen problem" in order to maintain student interest.

Image Source: Lindsredding.com.
While I was a student myself in Trinity College (class of 1983), the academic year was divided into three terms - two of 8 weeks each and one of six weeks. I think this makes more sense than the two 14-week semesters that we currently have at my College, and in other colleges. Yes - we do have a reading week in the middle when there are no classes, but only for some students. 

I do feel that the light at the end of the semester tunnel is getting closer, but we have three weeks still to go in which I will be covering material in class that will be assessed in the end of semester exams. There's no let up despite the lengthy semester, so it's full steam ahead until December 15th!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reorganization of YouTube Playlists

As the volume of videos on my Learning with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin I have re-arranged the Playlists to better reflect the different types of videos on the channel. My Playlist selection is now as follows:

  • Basic Statistics in Excel 2010
  • How To... Word 2003
  • How To... Word 2010
  • How To... Excel 2003
  • How To... Excel 2010
  • How To... Excel 2013
  • How To... Powerpoint 2003
  • How To... PowerPoint 2010
  • How To... PowerPoint 2013
  • How To... Moodle
  • Problem-Solving Techniques
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

One of my viewers also suggested this to me and of course YouTube have plans to create courses out of playlists in the near future (with edX I think). Some videos are in more than one playlist, and I hope to grow above list to shortly include videos on more Microsoft Office 365 tools.

Despite this, most of the channel's video views are not through either the channel page or though the previous playlists. Only 0.6% (23,347) and 0.1% (2,187) of 3,800,742 views are via the channel and playlists respectively. So I don't expect the above change to do anything very much to improve viewing numbers, but it will help me to be a bit more organized.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Semester Fatigue

It's week 11 of our 14 week semester at the National College of Ireland and I feel and detect an element of fatigue setting in amongst students and staff. We have had ten long weeks of classes, assignments, projects, as well as corrections. For most people at this stage, the end of the semester can't come quick enough. The holiday season is coming and exams in January seem a long way off. I feel myself getting a little fatigued, but there is still three weeks to go. Absenteeism by students and their leaving class early increases at this time every year - it's no wonder after the 11 week effort that they have put in. This is also (in my experience) a risky time for drop-outs to occur.

For academics, we can take some advice on "Work Life Balance" from Franklin University, who recommend five ways to avoid academic fatigue. These are: 
  1. Take care of your physical body. Eat right. Sleep well. Breathe deep. Get some exercise. Hydrate enough. A little self-care goes a long way.
  2. Pick your peak time. Do the hard stuff when you’re at your sharpest. That may be 4 a.m. or 3 p.m. Everybody’s different. 
  3. Learn to let go. Sometimes you can’t do it all. Remember, work is infinite but time is finite. There’s always more to do. And there are only 24 hours in a day. 
  4. Give yourself a break. Long hours don’t necessarily equate to productivity. While seemingly contrary, a short or long break can boost productivity. 
  5. Reboot. A nap. A walk. A snack. Everyone has something that re-energizes them. Find what works for you and build it into your day. 
Image source: Franklin University.
Some good advice here, but I'm sure we all ignore some of this advice at least some of the time - for example I don't exercise much and never take naps. For me, I believe taking a break is the most important (or "Sharpen the Saw" as Stephen Covey called it) - especially a break between activities (ABBA). Even if is is just taking a glance at headlines on a news website, or checking personal email for a few minutes, or reading a report on last night's match - it is better than going straight from one activity to another.

There is something for everyone in the advice above and at this time in the semester it is important to keep both the energy and enthusiasm levels up. Students are relying on us even though they may be fatigued themselves.

So cheer up everybody - there's only three weeks to go before the the end of the Semester!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Review: "The Rocky Road" by Eamon Dunphy

I have always liked Eamon Dunphy as a TV pundit. I don't always agree with what he says, but I find him a passionate and fascinating character when it comes to football. Watching football on TV over the past 20 years would have been much duller without his participation in TVs best trio of football pundits - John Giles, Liam Brady, and Dunphy. You can always be sure that even if the football is poor, the chat before, at half-time, and after would be exciting. He always called it as he saw it - so when I saw his new autobiography I just had to purchase it straight away. I once said "hello" to him in a shop in Donnybrook when he was buying cigarettes (Sweet Afton), and I think I once saw him play for Shamrock Rovers against Limerick in the late 1970s.

Image source: Amazon.
The Rocky Road deals with Dunphy and his life up to the World Cup in 1990. For football fans of English and Irish football it is a fascinating account of a self-confessed journey man who signed for Manchester United as a boy, but played all his football in the lower English leagues, finishing up in the League of Ireland. His account of life as a footballer playing for York City, Reading, and Millwall is by far the best part of the book for a football fan. His time at Shamrock Rovers was brief and not as interesting, but it does offer an insight into the attempt by him, John Giles, and Ray Treacy to instil some life into the League of Ireland.

His time as an international footballer was far from the glory days of Euro 1988, Italia 1990, USA 1994, and Japan-Korea 2002. His hard hitting accounts of how Irish football was run by "suits", while bitter, show that his passion was football and that he hated seeing it taking a back seat to the junkets and goodies that surrounded the international game.

The controversies with Jack Charlton are well known, and are well aired by Dunphy in the book. He does admit that he was not always right and that his major regret was the effect that it all had on his family. The last paragraph of the book must have been difficult for him to write. There is very little personal material in the book - no account of dating, getting married, birth of his kids - in fact they are barely mentioned at all. What does get a mention is some serious name dropping by Dunphy at every opportunity, for example on page 331 Ruari Quinn is mentioned once for no reason at all. 

Overall - and I can't resist this: It's a good book, not a great book!

Friday, November 15, 2013

"How To...Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel 2010" reaches half a million views on @YouTube! #wow #analytics

The Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin YouTube Channel has reached another landmark today as one of the videos has passed the 500,000 views mark. This is a WOW moment for me and I did not for one second think that so many people would view this video when I first posted it on 4th January 2011 last. As I write, the video today has 505,782 views. There are similar videos on how to create Gantt charts in Excel versions 2003 and 2013. The combined total of views for all three Gantt chart videos is 621,601 views - WOW again! A BIG THANK YOU to all my viewers!

Some data on the "How To...Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel 2010" video since it was posted:

  • 51 Dislikes
  • 744 Favourites added
  • 497 subscribers
  • 157,811 views from the United States
  • 27,129 views from Ireland
  • 2 views each from Togo, St Helena, Eritrea, and San Marino
  • 65% Male, 35% Female
  • 1,456,750 estimated minutes watched (since 01-SEP-2012) = 2 years, 281 days
  • €**** Total estimated earnings ;-)

Here's the landmark video:

Monday, November 11, 2013

How To... Display a Range of Descriptive Statistics in Excel 2010

Over the past year since we developed and started the new Higher Diploma in Data Analytics at the National College of Ireland I have been in many discussions about what is the best tool to use when analysing data, especially "Big Data". Some say the R or Python programming languages, others say SAS Software or IBM's SPSS, and I know there are many other tools available as well. One common theme though is that many people still ask "Can I get that in Excel?". It's still probably the most popular tool for analysing data and of course it is far more commonly used than any other as it is on most of our desktops.

Excel has become a great tool for analysing data. You can perform all the basic descriptive statistics calculations, and can carry out many of the inferential statistics calculations such as ANOVA, t-tests, regression, etc. I accidentally came across the "Descriptive Statistics" option in the Data Analysis tool and checked it out. It calculates 12 statistics in one go, and would be a great way to check out manual calculations. So I created a new video to show how to do this - here it is:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, "Vatican Pimpernel" - 50th Anniversary

October 30th last was the 50th anniversary of the death of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, who was known as the Vatican Pimpernel during World War II. Hugh is my third cousin (once removed). My Great-Great Grandfather was Daniel Murphy, his brother James, is Grandfather to Hugh. I was four years old when he died, though never did meet him. My Dad often mentioned that we were related to him and a few years ago I was able to figure out the connection through the Murphy family in North Cork.

Image source: www.hughoflaherty.com
Monsignor O'Flaherty helped Jews and Allied soldiers escape captivity and almost certain death in Rome which was occupied by the Germans. He used the diplomatic immunity of the Vatican to run his operation and was decorated after the war with a CBE (Commander of the British Empire), and the US Medal of Freedom. The following extract from www.hughoflaherty.com gives a short summary of what he did:

In the autumn of 1942, the Germans and Italians began to crack down on prominent Italian Jews and aristocratic anti-fascists. Having socialised with these people before the war, the Monsignor now hid them in monasteries and convents, in his old college and in his own residence. In the spring of 1943, his operation broadened to include escaped British prisoners-of-war and shot-down allied airmen. He developed a network of safe apartments in Rome in which they could hide.

By the end of the war he had helped over 6,500 Jews, American and British Soldiers escape from the Germans and his activities earned him the nickname “Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican” as he became the master of disguises, evading capture from the Germans when he had to leave the security of the Vatican to go on his rescue missions.

In 1983, his story was made into a film called "The Scarlet and the Black", starring Gregory Peck as O'Flaherty, John Gielgud as Pope Pius XII (after whom I am named), and Christopher Plummer as Col. Herbert Kappler. Here's an extract of the movie from YouTube:

Rest in Peace Cousin.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Three Pints for Dad, Joe, and Me #moments

Today I had the pleasure of a pint of stout with my Dad (Joe) and my brother (Joe) in O'Neill's Bar in Tramore, Co Waterford. Many friends and family have been asking about Dad, and as you can see he is in great form, and getting ready to enjoy a pint of plain. Three pints and three O'Loughlins - went down well!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

A Million Irish People are members of Linkedin! #gosh

The Silicon Republic is reporting that LinkedIn reaches 1m Irish members, reveals details on employment at home and abroad. This includes about 100,000 Irish users living abroad. This is an astounding number and in the article, Sharon McCooey of Linkedin is quoted as saying “One million Irish members is an important milestone for us, illustrating that Irish professionals really understand the potential of LinkedIn to network, showcase their experience and seek out job opportunities”.

Image source: Silicon Republic.
The population of Ireland is 4,588,252 according to the 2011 census. 535,3893 of the population are over 65, and 1,205,527 are aged 18 or younger (Data source: Central Statistics Office). It's my guess that not many in these two age groups are members of Linkedin, so if we discount them we are left with about 3 million people - so, one third of these are members of Linkedin. Phenomenal!

Though I keep my own Linkedin profile up-to-date, I am not a big user. I do like to see who has looked up my profile, but most of the news flow is about who has connected with each other. I know there is a lot more useful information in there, but I just don't seem to be bothered to check it out. How useful is it for me to know that I am linked to "6,894,555+ professionals" according to my profile? It would take 80 days just to count to that number non-stop! One of the things that annoys me about Linkedin is "Endorsements". I have been "endorsed" for Lecturing by people I know have never been to a lecture of mine. I have been "endorsed" for Moodle by folks who have no idea what I do with Moodle and have never seen one of my Moodle course pages. I have been "endorsed" for stuff by people that I have never met and only know via Linkedin. While is is great to be endorsed for anything, I'm not sure how valuable many endorsements are. When I endorse others it is always on the basis that I am familiar with the work that person has done that I am aware of.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Real help, from real people, in real time

Here's something very interesting from Google - Helpouts. This is where people can get and offer help on-line to get a helping hand with whatever it is that they need help with. So far you can get a Helpout for setting up printers, cooking, health and fitness, DIY, and many more areas. The idea is a simple one, say you need help with learning to play guitar - there's free helpout where you can access an expert live on-line who will help you out. The number of categories is quite small, and the variety of Helpouts is still low - but this is certain to grow. Some Helpouts link to YouTube channels - here's a Google video with more information:

To me this sounds like a great idea, even though it is still in its infancy. The costs are from free, to $1 a minute, to $25 per Helpout. It's an interesting model that I'm sure Google has run the numbers on - their revenue sharing model (38% for Google, 62% for content provider with AdSense) is sure to attract people who can offer their expertise on-line. Think of that time you rang your Dad to help you out when unblocking a sink or fixing a plug. As long as you have a computer - help is never far away.

Friday, November 01, 2013

How To... Draw a Simple Histogram in Excel 2010

An essential ability for anyone analysing data to have is to be able to draw a Histogram. Not to be confused with a Bar Chart, a histogram is a chart (usually a simple column chart) that takes a collection of measurements and plots the number of measurements (called the frequency) that fall within each of several intervals (called bins). It is the frequency and bins that you need to draw the histogram.

In my latest video I show how to draw a histogram with Excel's Data Analysis Add-In. The example data I used are the grades of students who took an exam. Here is the video from YouTube:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Web at its best with @SocialWebMining #analytics #HDSDA

On Tuesday last I received delivery of the 2nd Edition of Matthew Russell's book Mining the Social Web. This is an exciting book that (hopefully) will get me, and many others, up to speed mining the rich sources of data in Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+. It does not cover YouTube as I would wish, but no doubt that will come in a future edition, and anyway I'll have to learn to walk before I can run.

Image source: Amazon.
However, in order to follow the examples and code that the book uses, Russell advises that a setup involving VirtualBox and Vagrant, plus using GitHub be used. There are step-by-step instructions at GitHub to get this working. So I set about getting this to work at the office and immediately ran into firewall issues. I had to switch from the wired College network to the wireless Eduroam network just to download the necessary packages. I tried it at home yesterday, and again at work today. I got a little step further each time, but eventually this evening I finally got everything to work on my home PC - two days after starting.

But that is not the coolest thing about this experience! I tweeted about the frustration I encountered, mentioning Matthew Russell's Twitter handle (@SocialWebMining) in my tweet. Well - Matthew picked up this tweet and offered to help via GitHub. We spent a couple of hours exchanging issues and he was a great help in getting me further along the way to getting the setup to work. How cool is it that the author of a book helps out somebody thousands of miles away? This is the web at its collaborative best, doing something that would have been almost impossible just a few years ago. Thank you Matthew for your help.

Now I will learn how to mine Twitter first and will no doubt report here some of my findings. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Custom URL for Google+ Profiles #NowWhat? #TooManyThings

Today I received an email from Google offering me a custom URL for my Google+ profile. This is so that it "lets you easily point people to your profile (no more long URLs!)".

Image source: Wardell Design Blog.
The wonderful URL "reserved" for me is google.com/+EugeneOLoughlin. I tried to change it to have +eoloughlin at the end, but even though this is my Google user name I was told it had already been taken! 

Google+ hasn't really taken off for me yet, and Google seem to be determined to keep this up even after their "Buzz" debacle. I wish them well, but I'm not sure how a custom URL makes a difference (it's easy to shorten URLs these days with the likes of bit.ly). It's also so easy to find people's Google+ profile - a search would be quicker than trying to remember a URL.

I also note that for people with an apostrophe in their name (and I'm sure with other nationalities' symbols too) that it is not possible to have a URL with their full name.

Thanks Google, I have added this to my web page, it's now the 5th link after Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and YouTube. I have too many things!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review - Ireland's Arctic Siege: The Big Freeze of 1947

During the summer I read Kevin Kearns' excellent account of one of the worst winters on record ever endured in Ireland. It was called "The Big Freeze" which lasted two months, and brought the country to a standstill. I had meant to write a short review when I finished reading the book, but it has been sitting on my desk now for months and it is finally time to review and put it away.

Image Source: Amazon.
Kearns writes about the hardships suffered by everyone, most notably the poor living in tenements in Dublin. Bad freezing weather meant that ordinary things like fuel and food were running out fast, and as always, it was the poorest that suffered most. Since Ireland did not possess any equipment to clear roads and railway lines, there was hardly any traffic for two months meaning that aid could not be delivered to those that needed it. One thing that comes in for particular criticism was the de Valera government's inaction throughout what was a national crisis. Kearns tells of tales of bravery and of tragedy in the east and west of the country. The lack of leadership stands out, and it was the ordinary citizen that won out in the end.

My Dad was in school in Roscrea in the mid-lands at the time and remembers very little bad weather. Areas like Cork were not affected too much in what was a long spell of cold right across Western Europe. I remember the harsh winters of 1981/1982 and 2010/2011, but they were nothing like the misery our parents and grandparents endured in 1947.

I really enjoyed the book, but did think it was a bit long - I wondered which would come first, the end of the snow or the end of the book. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Gather your own Big Data with #Lightbeam from Mozilla Firefox #awesome

Today I noticed quite a bit of news and traffic on Twitter about a new tool that allows you to track the first and third party sites you interact with when browsing the Web. It is called Lightbeam and can be added to Firefox from here. In just a few moments I visited Amazon, YouTube, and this website. It is surprising how many sites interacted with this. When I visited www.eugeneoloughlin.com - 28 sites were connected even though I typed in just one URL. The graphics are also very cool - here's the one for the above 28:

It updates every time you visit a new site, and you can capture and save the data (in a JSON file). This is an awesome use of analytics and will really inform users just how much tracking is going on. I wonder if the CIA and MI5 have already figured out a way not to be tracked by this?