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!