Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reading my own book #weird

In preparation for the reprint of my sold-out first book, An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis, I have just finished reading through the entire book checking for typos and errors. Since it was first published in 2010, I have spotted some minor items that need correction. There are several that I hope can be updated before a reprint is ordered by The Liffey Press.

Reading my own book feels weird! When I read books by people I know and have met, I always find that as I am reading I hear their voice in my head coming from the pages. In contrast, I do not hear my own voice from my own pages, and I wonder if other authors feel the same? I'm sure other authors will always be self-critical and feel as they re-read their own material that they could have done better. For example, I found that as I re-read my own book I over-used words like "vital", "essential", and "imperative". Very tiresome I have to admit.

Ahead of the likely reprint of my Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way book in the New Year I also plan to read through it again in the next few days. I only know of two errors, one of which is erroneously placing the colourful village of Allihies in Co Kerry - it is of course in Co Cork!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Look up - the sky is full of air planes! #thingsididntknow

Today I saw a tweet from @airlivenet that a Virgin Boeing 747 was "circling at 5,000ft with serious gear issues", and the embedded URL brought me to emergency.airlive.net. I didn't know this but you can track the position of any air plane in the air anywhere in the world. Sure enough the Virgin jet was circling south of London Gatwick Airport, and later flew out over the channel - presumably to dump some fuel before an emergency landing - here's a screen grab from emergency.airlive.net of its flight path (in both shades of green) while circling (the pile of planes near the top is Gatwick airport):

Thankfully the plane later landed safely after circling for four hours. This site got me thinking about how many planes there are in the sky at any one time - above you can see three planes approaching Gatwick from the east in their landing paths. According to Science on a Sphere, at any given moment, "roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the United States". Here's what a screen shot of the world looks like today - screen grab taken from www.flightradar24.com:

Click to enlarge.
This is a fun site (www.flightradar24.com) to look at as you can zoom in and out over any location in the world for more detail. Some of the things you will notice is the low number of flights over Africa as well as being able to see flights avoiding Ukraine.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2,225 viewers on Christmas Day

Quite often when I use my own YouTube analytics in my classes I draw attention to Christmas Day and make a joke about viewers watching my videos while eating their turkey. It is always one of the lowest daily viewing figures for the year, and this year was no exception as 2,225 viewers tuned in. So -  what were they watching and which countries did they come from? The table below lists the top ten countries (with number of videos watched in brackets), and the top ten videos (with number of views in brackets):

1 USA (283)How To...Add Music to a Presentation in PowerPoint 2010 (193)
2 India (297)How To...Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel 2010 (147)
3 UK (134)How To... Plot Multiple Data Sets on the Same Chart in Excel 2010 (137)
4 Malaysia (113)How To... Create a Progress Gantt Chart in Excel 2010 (123)
5 Turkey (82)How To...Plot a Normal Frequency Distribution Histogram in Excel 2010 (105)
6 Saudi Arabia (57)How To... Create and Edit a Basic Table of Contents in Word 2010 (79)
7 United Arab Emirates (56) How To... Calculate Mean and Standard Deviation in Excel 2010 (77)
8 Canada (51)How To... Create a Basic KPI Dashboard in Excel 2010 (75)
9 Philippines (50)How To... Draw a Simple Box Plot in Excel 2010 (73)
10 Singapore (47)How To... Create a Basic Pivot Table in Excel 2010 (72)

Judging by the types of videos watched, it's clear that viewers tuned in to learn how to do various Microsoft Office tasks - eight of the top ten videos viewed were based on Excel, with one each for Word and PowerPoint. Below is a heat map for all countries. Ireland, with just 14 views, ranked 37th of the 109 countries that had at least one view. YouTube lists 233 countries and territories in total, therefore there were 124 countries in the world where no one tuned in to my channel. Interestingly, North Korea was added this year to the list of countries with views on my channel. So far there are just three views - on 20th and 21st of September, and on 22nd October. The videos watched were about creating Gantt charts!

Heat Map of World Views.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Trade Route 66 for the Wild Atlantic Way" says @Ryanair #WildAtlanticWay #Route66

The good folks over at Ryanair have set up a new web site for America (http://www.ryanair.com/us) according to the Irish Independent. Even though Ryanair do not yet offer flights to America they are doing their bit for Irish tourism, and of course they are also hoping that Americans will fly Ryanair when they come to Europe.

Image source: Ryanair.

If you are American and thinking of coming to Ireland to see and experience the Wild Atlantic Way, why not read all about it in my new travel book "Exploring Ireland Wild Atlantic Way: A Motorcycle Odyssey". It's available on Amazon here!

I'd love to ride the iconic Route 66. At 3,940 km it is about 1,440 km longer than the Wild Atlantic Way. There are no highways on the Wild Atlantic Way - in fact only between Oranmore and Galway City did I get to ride at more that 80 km/hour for a few minutes. The rest of the Way has an 80 km/hour speed limit. Route 66 no doubt has places where you can open up the throttle and enjoy the beauty of America. Route 66 for me? Maybe some day!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Google+ Year in Photos 2014

A nice feature provided by Google is that they create a 50 seconds video of your photos from the past year that is downloadable (and they add music to it!). I just got an email about mine today. I don't know how they select the photos or if they are taken from my Google Drive or other cloud service. It was a nice memory of the year - here it is:

Click here for full larger version.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

SOLD OUT! "An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis"

My first ever book is officially "Out-of-Stock"! Yesterday I picked up the last seven copies available from The Liffey Press of "An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis". This book was published in early 2010 and all 1,000 original print copies are now out of supply at the Liffey Press distributors. It has taken nearly five years for this to happen, so it has been a slow seller. At least I didn't have the indignity of having excess copies of my book pulped as happens when books don't sell. The book is still on several college reading lists - Algonquin College in Ottawa are the latest to recently add it. As we are out of supply it is likely that they will use an eBook instead of printed copies. We are planning to run a second print - this can now be done with what's called "Digital Printing" where any number of copies can simply be printed and bound to excellent quality - a print run of 100-150 more copies is likely. This also gives me an opportunity to correct some typos that escaped my several proof-reads!

Below are some sales data rankings from Amazon (Author Central) - this only accounts for books sold through Amazon and not through other sources. I am guessing each peak represents the sale of a single book, followed by a drop in ranking until the next book is sold. The top chart represents sales ranking from Amazon.co.uk  - the highest ranking achieved was at the lofty heights of #8,510 on 24th March 2013. The lower chart shows a similar pattern from Amazon.com - the highest ranking achieved here was at #43,845 on 7th April 2014. Very modest figures I think you'll agree, but I'm gratified that it has continued to sell since it was published.

Sales and Ranking for Amazon.co.uk.
Sales and Ranking for Amazon.com
My "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" book is also almost out of stock. It has sold much better and as of yesterday there were just 24 copies left (out of 800 printed last summer). We are also considering a "Digital Print" run for this book, but this is not as easy a decision because this book has a lot (169) of colour photographs and apparently there is a drop in print quality using this quick method.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Data science toolkit via @HarvardEXT #analytics #HDSDA

The good folks over at the Harvard Extension Hub have given some great tips for students interested in a career in Data Analytics in an article entitled: "Why Data Science Jobs Are in High Demand". They provide a good model for what skills a data analyst should have:

Image source: Jonathan Davidowitz.
  • Wrangle the data (gather, clean, and sample data to get a suitable data set)
  • Manage the data in a way that gives you access to big data quickly and reliably
  • Explore the data so you can generate a hypothesis
  • Make predictions using statistical methods such as regression and classification
  • Communicate the results using visualization, presentations, and interpretable summaries.
At the National College of Ireland we cover all these skills (and more) in our Higher Diploma in Data Analytics course. We use the Python and R programming languages, plus tools like SPSS and Excel to analyse data. If you, or a colleague, are interested in studying Data Analytics part-time, check out our course at the SpringBoard website now. In addition we will be holding Open Evenings on Tuesday 7th and Thursday 22nd January from 5-7pm - why not come along, meet the NCI team, and find out more about the course?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Life is a struggle on €232,000, says university president #WTF?

Dr Michael Murphy, president of UCC, tells us that the heads of Irish universities "are as challenged at paying their bills as anyone else" according to a report by Niamh Horan in the Irish Independent. Dr Murphy is paid €232,000 per year, yes - that's over €19,000 per month, or about €4,400 per week, or almost €900 PER DAY! Nice money if you can get it, and Dr Murphy certainly is getting it.

Dr Michael Murphy.
Image source:
Irish Universities Association.
Why does an intelligent person like Dr Murphy feel the need to spout this shite? Why does he feel the need to elicit pity from the average Irish citizen for his desperate financial situation? He is quoted in Horan's article as saying:

"Contrary to popular opinion, I do not have a house or a car provided by the university. But I do know that a university in Britain last year advertised the post of vice-chancellor (for a university) the same size as UCC, (which is) behind us in rankings, and if I had applied for it I would have doubled my salary, got a house and the use of a Jaguar".

Seems to me like a no-brainer decision to make? If you are finding it so hard to pay the bills, why not feck off to the money bags university and drive the Jag around campus?

By doing this Dr Murphy insults every taxpayer (who pays his salary) in Ireland, and the hundreds of thousands of working people who are genuinely "struggling" on a fraction of what he earns. He also insults his academic colleagues - most who earn a lot less than what he does. Sure - academic positions are well paid in Ireland, but telling us that he is as "challenged" at paying his bills as anyone else is just galling to hear. 

Get real - there are probably well over 4,000,000 people in this country with a population of 4,500,000 who would gladly like to have a go at paying their bills on €900/day. Stop this Sean-Bhean bhocht "poor me" nonsense - PLEASE!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The shorter the name, the higher the earnings - Mr Bond #analytics

A student told me recently that James Bond movies with shorter names made more than those with longer names. I found this hard to believe, but the statistics show that there may be some truth to this. The table below (provided by Statistica) shows that the top three grossing Bond films had just one word in the film title. Only "Moonraker" bucks the trend. I remind students that "Correlation is not Causation", but I wonder what the movie moguls behind the Bond franchises are thinking?

Guess what - the title of the next Bond movie is the single worded title: "Spectre"!

Infographic: The highest-grossing Bond films of all time | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

Saturday, December 06, 2014

John Bishop at the 3Arena

Last Christmas my daughters got me the brilliant Christmas present of tickets to a John Bishop Show at the 3Arena, and almost 11.5 months later I finally got to see this classiest and funniest of comedians. Is there a funnier man on the planet? I think not!

Image Source: Irish Independent.
The show started with recorded material with Gary Lineker, Samuel L. Jackson, Graham Norton and José Mourinho - this is all about Bishop missing three penalties in charity matches. Bishop comes back to this theme to end his show with a penalty shoot-out with a member of the audience. He comes across as a normal person talking about his life and he plays himself down with ease while we laugh our guts off at his stories. I'm sure he appealed to all ages in the audience, though I (and I'm sure everybody else) felt he was talking to me. His story of First Class flight to Australia where he had a shower (and a w*nk) was particularly funny for our section of the audience as Michael O'Leary (CEO of Ryanair) was just a few rows behind us!

Overall - a fantastic evening's entertainment, and from the buzz of the 9,500 sold-out crowd leaving the 3Arena, everyone else there felt the same as me. Now to get an Anadin for my sore sides! 

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Three (Irish) Tenors Concert

Guardian Angels church in Blackrock was packed (it's not often you see a church full these days) on Thursday evening for a fund-raising concert by The Three Tenors - I had to sit in the balcony at the back. There's no doubting the singing talent of these three lads who belted out a mix of traditional, religious, and seasonal songs. In particular I liked the Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus - I suppose because we do these hymns in our own choir. Church pews were not made for long concerts, especially ones like this which had an inexplicably long interval of 25 minutes to sell raffle tickets. Nevertheless the three tenors gave us value for money and I was humming their tunes on the way home - especially Goodbye from the musical The White Horse Inn. I didn't win a raffle prize.

Image Source: The Three Tenors.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Fr Peter Garvey O.Cist. #RIP

The President of Cistercian College Roscrea while I was a boarder there from September 1972 to June 1977 was Fr Peter Garvey - he passed away last Tuesday. He was new to the role and we were his first class to go all the way through the then five years of secondary school. He was an extremely intelligent likeable man and a fine priest who was passionate about the education of generations of CCR boys including myself. The 1970s were a time of great change. While the Church still dominated society and education, questionable fashion style and long hair seemed to help us rebel against the norms of the time. Think about it - we entered the 70's mourning the break-up of the Beatles, and ended it with the break-up of the Sex Pistols. During all of this Fr Peter had a school to run.

My class had him for Religion in 1st year, but I have little memory of his classes. In those days, religion was far more accepted than it is now and we were less likely to question faith. Fr Peter was just one of several Cistercian priests who helped turn us from boys into men and I can only look back at that time with good memories.

I'm certain I did not come into Fr Peter's radar at all until I got to 6th year. I never got into trouble, largely because I was afraid to do so - no drinking, smoking, bunking, robbing apples from the orchard for me! One thing I do recall was that Fr Peter did not tolerate bullying, and cracked down on it quickly in a time when bullying was more tolerated (especially in an all-boys school). In 6th year I found studying difficult and as this was graded I started to get poor marks. A "2" (out of 6) for study meant an automatic visit to the President's Office. The first time I got one I didn't go to his office, hoping that he would not say or do anything. He called me to his office one day later looking for an explanation - he was not cross, did not get angry, nor did he add any further punishment. We just chatted and he offered to help and advice - which I ignored. This resulted in more "2s" for study which meant more visits to his office, more chats, and more advice. Later I was caught reading a "dirty" book - more visits to the President.

Fr Peter Garvey on left.
Image source: Dublin and Glendalough United Diocese.

The lifestyle of a monk living in a monastery appeals to very few people today, and I often wondered how Fr Peter and his fellow monks kept going. Today is his funeral at the Abbey in Roscrea and it is time to say goodbye to him. I am reminded of the last few lines from the film "Goodbye, Mr Chips":

Pity he never had any children.
What was that you were saying  about me?
Nothing at all, old man.  Nothing at all.
We were just wondering when you were  going to wake up out of that beauty sleep.
I heard you.
You were talking about me.
Nothing of consequence, old man.  I give you my word.
I thought I heard you saying  it was a pity
Pity I never had any children.
But you're wrong.
I have.
Thousands of them.
Thousands of them.
And all boys.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips.Goodbye.

(Source: http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/g/goodbye-mr-chips-script-transcript.html)

Goodbye, Fr Peter.

Monday, December 01, 2014

101 miles from Dublin #Belfast

I spent last weekend visiting Belfast and came away liking the city even more than before. Until my daughter started College there last year I had only ever been in Belfast for the briefest of visits and had never stayed there. With "only" four weekends to Christmas it was a very busy city centre full of shoppers (or should that be "shappers"!). The Christmas Market at the King's Hall was almost inaccessible - such were the queues to get in.

We had great food in Fratelli's Restaurant on Friday, and in Howard St on Saturday. We also did some shappin in Victoria Square and Castlecourt Centres. To escape the Christmas shappin fever I went out to the Crumlin Road Gaol for a fantastic tour of the old gaol which was closed in 1996. I have been to see Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, and Wicklow Gaol - "The Crum" is a great experience, even the Death Cell and the Hang House had a fascinating, if macabre, interest. I even touched the rope - our guide told us that it is not known if it was ever used. The last hanging in Northern Ireland took place on 20th December 1961 when Robert McGladdery was executed for murder. It is a strange and horrible thing to be standing inches away from a scene of judicial death like this.

On a brighter note, Belfast has a feel good factor with the streets, bars, and restaurants all very busy We went to the wonderful St George's Market where there was plenty of food on offer and lots of arts & crafts. The entertainment at the market was provided by the brilliant Leading Ladies - who finished off their set with ABBA's "Thank You For The Music". Great stuff!

Overall, I ask myself why I had not gone to Belfast before. I guess The Troubles had a lot to do with this as I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s when The Troubles were at their height. Belfast was (to me) where murders and bombings were a daily occurrence. Today - it is a cosmopolitan city with a lot going for it. I will definitely be back!