Saturday, August 31, 2013

Careful with that saw, Eugene

There's nothing better than getting out into the fresh country side for the afternoon. Today I went to the family farm in Ballingate near Carnew, Co Wicklow to help with cutting logs for the winter. I felt a bit like a "hunter-gatherer" as my Dad, brother Joe, and myself sawed up four small trees for firewood for the coming winter. This is quite heavy work if you're not used to it, and I'm already beginning to ache!

Careful with that saw, Eugene!
Careful with that saw, Dad!
Careful with that saw, Joe!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Middle Age Begins at 53 says New Survey #SameAgeAsMe

The Daily Mail Online in a report today When does middle age really begin? On your 53rd birthday tells us that in a new survey that "Rising life expectancy means it no longer hits when you're 41". 53 is now the new middle age! Since I am 53 I thought I'd read on and see if there is any truth to this and if I am now officially middle-aged.

Below (from the Mail Online report with a slightly British twinge) are the "tell-tale" signs that you are middle aged - and I must confess to seeing myself agreeing with most of these points (though it usually takes more than one glass of wine to put me to sleep!):
Image source: Daily Mail Online.

For me, middle age strikes when you:
  • Look at a beautiful young woman and wonder what her Mum looks like
  • Dry your hair gently after a shower in case rigorous drying with a towel uproots some of your few remaining precious hairs
  • Know the theme tune to The Monkees TV Show
  • Still think George Best is the greatest footballer of all time
  • The expression you say most often is "Where the f**k did I leave my glasses?"
  • Put on a jumper instead of turning on the heat in cold weather
  • Think that Fawlty Towers is still the best comedy ever
  • Listen to RTÉ Radio One more than any other radio station in Ireland
  • Remember when Offaly were good at both football and hurling
  • Still cheer when you see replays of Packie Bonner saving a penalty at the Italia '90 World Cup
  • Bore the pants off people by telling the same story again that you told them five minutes ago
  • Think that there should be a separate sound-proofed area for crying kids on airplanes
  • Drive by your primary school and think "I'll be dead when those little feckers reach my age"
  • Think that everybody on the road drives faster and more carelessly than you do
  • Think it's a tough call to decide between a nice cuppa tea and a lie in
  • Insist on proper punctuation and grammar in text messages
  • Finally throw out clothes that fitted you 25 years ago
  • Your favourite TV channel is GOLD
  • Turn off light switches around the house like your Dad used to do
  • Think that someone in their 60s is really not that old
  • Can't believe that John Lennon is dead almost 33 years and that he would be 72 if he was alive today
  • Put on a replica football shirt and think "There's still a chance"
  • Know the words of all The Beatles songs, but don't know the words of any song written after 1979
  • Bore the pants off people by telling the same story again that you told them five minutes ago

Yes - I am officially middle aged!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Face in the Crowd #FanPic

Eircom and the GAA have teamed up to provide an interactive photograph of fans at last Sundays All-Ireland Football Semi-Final between Mayo and Tyrone. If you were there, as I was, you can find and tag yourself with your Facebook ID. A bit of fun, or is it?

Below I reproduce a screen shot after I tagged myself (yes, I am wearing a Wicklow jersey at a Mayo vs Tyrone match!) in the Hogan Stand - you can do this at At the time of writing this post, nearly 5,000 people have already done so. None of the people in the photograph gave me permission to reproduce the image below, and many will be unaware that this photo (and screen shot) was taken. Is it an invasion of privacy? In the future will the police or intelligence agencies be able to match up all the faces regardless of whether they were tagged or not to a Facebook profile? What about employers watching out for employees skipping work? What about people cheating on one another? Can it be used to identify football hooligans? Could this technology be applied to any crowd? 

Expect more of this sort of thing!

One thing I will say - everybody in the photo above was enjoying the match, though Tyrone fans did not go home happy!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Carnew Heritage Week

Last week I visited Coláiste Bríde in Carnew, Co Wicklow to see the "Carnew: A Town of History & Heritage" exhibition with my Dad Joe. I grew up in the town land of Ballingate which is three miles outside Carnew and I attended Carnew National School, though curiously I had never set foot the Coláiste Bríde secondary school before. I looked forward to seeing reminders of my youth and some interesting things about Carnew - I was not disappointed.

The exhibition featured material about Trades, Military matters, Carnew Castle, Businesses, Religion, Famine, the World Wars, 1798, and Emigration (among lots of other subjects). There were an awful lot of posters to read, and a dearth of photographs and memorabilia. While there I heard other visitors saying things to each other like "I have a photograph of that..." and "I have one of them...". I'm certain that if the organizers of future exhibitions made an appeal to locals for the loan of memorabilia, that it would be met with a positive response. There are lots of brilliant memories of "The Town", both text and audio based, and I particularly liked material from the 1960 & 1970s which was closer to my time there. 

My Grandfather PJ O'Loughlin features in the exhibition where he is described as "the man who started the milk round he also started a hurling team in Tomacork" and he was also Chairman of the organizing committee for the 1944 Ploughing Championships. We also learned that he moved to Carnew in 1928, my Dad had thought it was 1929.

Congratulations to the organizers and I look forward to seeing future exhibitions or a book based on what was shown.

Image Source: "Carnew: A Town of History & Heritage" leaflet.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Is it Mayo's Year? #GAA

Today the O'Loughlin family descended on Croke Park to support Mayo in the All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final against the men from Tyrone. Along with a crowd of over 65,000 we enjoyed some great football, and of course a win for Mayo. Roma is a native of Mayo, so she proudly wore her the shirt of her native county. Not to be out done, I wore my Wicklow jersey!

Mayo were deserved winners, though did not play well for most of the first half. In the second half battle of midfield, Mayo's O'Shea brothers dominated Tyrone's Kavanagh brothers. One sad thing to see was the great Stephen O'Neill of Tyrone leaving the field early on - will we see him in Croke Park again?

Next Sunday we will go along to see the opposition in the final when Dublin face Kerry in the other semi-final. Whoever wins that will have a serious challenge from the Mayo men who were victorious today.

A really enjoyable day out when once again team followers from each county mixed with each other in the ground. We had some passionate and noisy Tyrone fans behind us, and some (large) Mayo men in front of us. Where else would you get such a mix and not feel intimidated?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

100th YouTube Video on Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin

Today I have added a new video to my YouTube Channel: "How To... Add an Image as a Background to a Chart in Excel 2010". This marks a new milestone for the channel in that it is the 100th instructional video that I have uploaded since I first uploaded a video on 11th September 2007. That first video: "How To...Convert PowerPoint to iPod Movie", was the only one on the channel for just over a year, so really the uploads have been over 5 rather than 6 years.

This new video shows viewers how to add a graphic as a background to a chart in Excel 2010. This often improves the look of a chart in a presentation, and if you've never done I'm sure you may have wondered how it was done. Here's the video...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

GroupThink, and Would You Fall For That? #WYFFT

For the past several years in my Project Management classes I have played a Candid Camera video to demonstrate GroupThink using an elevator experiment - many of my PM students will remember this:

I came across a more recent version of this video today on article entitled "Would You Fall For That? Elevator". It's amazing that even with the test of time that the same idea works. Check it out, and notice that a more modern idea to replace wearing a hat is using a phone to play music:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Enniscorthy Castle Museum, and a Surprise #FCA #Dad

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Castle Museum in Enniscorthy which has been renovated over the past few years. We used to go there quite a bit when I was a youngster and I have to say that there seems to be a lot less material on display from what I remember in the past. I do recall the dampness and I'm sure that the renovation works will make the building last another few hundred years. While I was there, some of the rooms were closed due to floors being re-polished. Even the 1916 room seemed to have very little on display, and overall I was very disappointed with my visit - there is not really a lot on view though the dungeon and its medieval graffiti, was fascinating.

However, I was in for a surprise when I stopped by to check out the room in the round tower dedicated to 1916 commemorations!

On the 14th September 1958 there was an unveiling of a statue to Seámus Rafter, one of the leaders of the 1916 uprising in Enniscorthy. Part of the ceremony was a parade by the local North Wexford FCA (reserve defence forces), and there are a few photographs of the event in the Castle Museum. In one photo, I noticed a long line of marching FCA men, and decided for the hell of it to see if my Dad, who I knew was in the FCA at that time, was in the photo. Much to my surprise, I spotted someone who looked like him, can you see him in the photo below (click to enlarge)?

Photo taken with my iPhone in the Enniscorthy Castle Museum.
Copyright of Ger Carty. 

My Dad has confirmed that the guy under the "O" in the Joseph Doyle shop sign is him! What a surprise for us both! He had not seen this photo before, though guessed that it might have been in The Wexford Echo newspaper at the time. In another photo, my Uncle Pat is featured, and in another my grandfather PJ O'Loughlin may also be present. I have ordered copies from Ger Carty Photographers of Enniscorthy who own the copyright and I'm guessing whose ancestors were also responsible for taking the original photos.

A dull visit ended up to be quite exciting!

Monday, August 19, 2013

10 Years in NCI Today

This time 10 years ago I started out on a career change after leaving the e-Learning company SmartForce the year before. I had some part-time work with NCI in late 2002 and early 2003, but became a full-time Lecturer in Computing on 18th August 2003.

Image source: Brand Style Design.
It has been a very enjoyable 10 years, I hope that the next 11 (to retirement at 65) will be just as enjoyable. I love the teaching part, and there is great academic freedom to investigate (also called "Research") things, plus I get to learn a lot of new cool things. Where else would I be allowed to blog, maintain a YouTube channel, read, and follow so much on the web. I have had a great variety of subjects from Statistics to Programming to teach. This coming semester I have another brand new module to teach: "Business Analysis", though I have taught a similar module in recent years.

The best part of each year is graduation where you see the results of each student's own efforts, and take a little bit of pride in our own role in getting them to this ceremonial end to their College days.

Here's to the next 10 years!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Frustration with embedding @YouTube videos into PowerPoint - but there is another way

Over the past few months I have been getting emails almost on a daily basis about people having problems getting YouTube's embed code to work in the different versions of PowerPoint. It seems to be OK now in version 2010, but it is still not working in version 2013 - I understand that this has got to do with Microsoft connecting to YouTube's API (currently at version =3). It is hugely frustrating that a simple change to an API can cause problems for so many people.

In PowerPoint 2003 there was no option to embed YouTube videos into a presentation, but you could use PowerPoint's Developer Tools - see my video here about how to do this for PowerPoint 2003. This method is still available in later versions of PowerPoint - so today I have uploaded a new video to show how this work around works using the Developer Tools.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Digital Natives Go to College - a Baby Boomer Reflects

Most of this year's Leaving Certificate students were born in 1995, also the year that Web browsers were first introduced to the then very basic and small World Wide Web. So - all their lives, these students have been browsing the web, they can only know a world without browsing the web from the history books. They are the first generation of real Digital Natives (a term first used by Marc Prensky in 2001) to go to College. When I was 18 it was 1977 and I had never seen a computer in my life. The only computers that I knew about were the ones on TV programmes like Star Trek, I wonder what's ahead for the children of 1995?

A Digital Native.
Image Source: Psychology Today.
I suppose the first thing is that going to College will not be that much different for the 1995s than for the 1994s. Nevertheless, they will enter institutions far more technically advanced than in my generation. Some things will be the same. Lectures will still be delivered in lecture theatres by a lecturer standing in front of a class who talks for 50 minutes. And of course the lecturers are almost all born well before 1995 (1959 in my case) - these are what Prensky called the "Digital Immigrants". Throw in the Generation Gap (between today's Generation Z, and the Baby Boomers in my case). This is a problem without a solution. Now there is nothing I can do about my age, so even if I pierce my nose, pull on a hoodie, wear the arse of my trousers down at my knees, I will never be able to close the Generation Gap. Let's not forget, today's young people are tomorrow's old people - this gap will always be there. Their turn to look at the generation gap from the other side will come!

The technology gap can be narrowed. During my recent holidays I listened to talk radio a lot and I was surprised to hear many people worrying about what their children are doing on the Internet, and at the same time moaning that they "don't know anything about computers". Well LEARN! It's not rocket science, and it is people's own responsibility to keep up with technology. Take a course, there are a lot of free on-line courses available. For our seniors there are the wonderful (free) Age Action Getting Started with Computing programmes for the over-55s.

For today's new College entrants, the world could be a very different place in the four short years until they graduate. They may get jobs in companies that do not exist today, or use technologies that have not yet been invented. Even the job that they do might not yet exist. This Baby Boomer (someone born between 1945 and 1960) is very envious of them, but wishes all new entrants to College the best of luck.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Leaving Certificate - not the most important exam in your life

Thousands of families, including mine, are today celebrating Leaving Certificate results. Many are counting up points, and while the stress of waiting for results is now over, the emphasis now moves to next week's offers of College places.

Many students have already made their minds up about what courses they want to do in College, and they will get them. Many more will have to settle for 2nd, 3rd, or lower choices - this should never be seen as a failure. Neither is it a failure to not have achieved the result or number of points desired. There are so many options available for further study, and equally it has to be said, there is a plethora of advice of TV, radio, online, from Colleges - there is a danger of information overload. So choose carefully who you listen to.

Trinity College.
Image source:
I sat the Leaving Certificate exam in 1977 (two honours for 8 old-style points), and repeated it in 1978 (5 honours for 17 old-style points) achieving a place in Natural Science at Trinity. At the time they were "the most important exams in my life", but I quickly learned that my 1st year exams in Trinity then became "the most important exam in my life". A year later, my second year exams became "the most important exam in my life". In short, it is always the next exam that is the most important one.

So my message to Leaving certificate students today is to enjoy the day, but already it is time to move on to the next phase of your life. College is a fantastic experience and you will love it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Following 1,000 Twitter Accounts, and Working at the Same Time

Today I have followed my 1,000th Twitter account when I clicked to follow @irishmammies. One thousand accounts - that's a lot. I know some people follow a lot more and it must be hard to keep up. I'm sure that just like everybody else on Twitter, I follow friends, colleagues, academics, celebrities, news feeds, education feeds, newspapers, sports organizations, and a lot more. I find it is a great way to keep up with topical discussions, and several times during the day I will check in on Twitter to see what the folks and organizations I am following have to say.

Image source:
Some business have often asked "How do you make money with Twitter?" (and Facebook). Quite often the best answer might be to "Turn it off". Twitter is incredibly addictive. Today I read the article "5 Grammar Points You Don’t Have to Care About Anymore" which I would have missed if it not for someone else that I follow having tweeted about it. Should I have been doing something else? Twitter takes a lot of the work out of keeping up-to-date with subject areas that I teach in, but many people might regard using Twitter as a waste of time. 

Me - I intend to be a bit more active on Twitter during the coming academic year, and post tweets about topics that I think my students should know about. I will be recommending accounts to follow at the start of the year and encourage students to tweet and retweet items of interest.

Twitter is also an incredibly powerful tool when you want to complain about something. Putting your complaint in a public domain like Twitter makes companies sit up and take notice much quicker than they might if you make a call to a Support Line and speak to just one person. I've got Eircom to fix my broadband at home in the past, and more recently got free stamps from An Post when I tweeted about their stamp machine not working in Dublin Airport. A tweet can trend so quickly that companies are using Twitter to address things quickly and address customer concerns and complaints.

Monday, August 12, 2013

3,000,000 @YouTube Views #Learning

A BIG THANK YOU to all the learners who helped my YouTube Channel pass the 3,000,000 views mark last Tuesday (6th August). I continue to be astonished and humbled that so many people find the videos useful. Most comments on the videos are positive or are enquiring about how to do something else with what viewers have learned. Over the summer there have been a lot of comments about embedding YouTube videos into PowerPoint which seems to work on an on/off basis.

Below as a screen shot (click to enlarge) of the views over the lifetime of the channel. You can see that there are definite trends and patterns in the chart. At the moment the daily view figures are starting to grow again after the usual summer slump. If past trends continue, the views will continue to climb until early December. The figure for Estimated Minutes Watched dates only from 1st September 2012, the figure shown is the equivalent of 10 years and 179 days.

As you can see, it took a very long time for things to get going. The first 1,000,000 took from 5th November 2007 to 29th April 2012 (2,365 days), the second 1,000,000 was from 30th April 2012 to 13th February 2013 (290 days), while the third 1,000,000 was from 14th February 2013 to 6th August 2013 (174 days).

Friday, August 09, 2013

Back To Work with a Sharpened Axe!

It's lunch time on my first day back to work after holidays and time for a quick blog post. I have also not being posting very much during the holidays, so hopefully this will mark my return to regular blogging. The great thing about being a Lecturer is that we get longer holidays than most people. In my previous job with SmartForce we got a standard 22 days off per year, currently I get 31 days per year. Some Lecturers in the IoTs get even longer! Do we deserve this? Perhaps a topic for discussion before the end of the summer?

I have just spent the entire morning going through 5 week's of emails - there were over 800 to check through. Most were the various subscriptions that I simply deleted after a quick glance at the subject header. Most others were for news and events which have already passed by the time I read about them today. In the end there were only a few dozen that needed to be read and answered. College is fairly quiet anyway over the summer, so there was not too much to deal with.

The late Dr Steven Covey wrote about The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. His 7th habit is called "Sharpen the Saw" which he described as meaning "preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have--you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual". One simple interpretation of this is that people take their holidays to recharge their batteries. Many people claim to be too busy to sharpen their saws, but it is vital do do so so that you can remain effective and productive. You can read about Covey's Sharpen the Saw story here.
My Axe being sharpened! Image source: