Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Last One #GoodBye2016 #1

So - we've reached the end of another year and the countdown is on for 2017. 2016 has been an interesting year for me and I hope that next year will keep me curious. The best things about 2016 for me were as follows:

Blogging 365
Well - I finally made it to the 366th day of this (leap) year with a blog post every day. Last January 1st I wrote "one of my resolutions for 2016 is to post every day if I can". I somehow managed to do this, though I have to confess an occasional slip up where I had to post twice in the one day and back date one post to the previous day. I also was stuck quite a lot for things to write about - I can remember sitting in front of my computer late in the evening wondering what on earth I would write about. I'll do a separate reflection on blogging in 2016 in the New Year.

This year we were lucky enough to be able to travel to the United States twice (Florida in January, and Boston in June) for holidays. I was also in Berlin in September for a short break. During the summer I rode my bike around Wexford quite a bit. Travel really does broaden the mind and this year I was at places like the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, the Kennedy Museum in Boston, Salem, whale watching off Cape Cod, Fenway Park for baseball, Harvard, the Bundestag in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate, the Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Antrim, Drogheda, Achill, Dunbrody Abbey, Croke Park, Arbour Hill - all enjoyable and fantastic places to visit and see. It is also strange to think that when Roma and I visited the Kaiser Wilhelm Church and surrounding market in Berlin on September 3rd, that three months later the exact same spot would be the location for a terrorist attack on December 19th. 

Republishing "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way"
This year I secured (for free) the rights to republish my book "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way", which I did through Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing. Just 35 copies have been sold since the relaunch last July, and I had a moderate amount of success with a short advertising campaign at the end of August. I will try this again before the summer season next year. I will also this year aim to complete my trilogy of books about riding around Ireland with a book about exploring the east and southeast coasts.

New Harley-Davidson
In August I sold my 13.5 year old Heritage Softail Classic and purchased a new Road King. While I do miss my old bike, the new Road King is a fantastic machine and I can't wait to try it out on a long trip. I got it at the end of the summer when I was back to work, so apart from the odd trip or two down to Wexford I have mostly just used it for going into work. If I keep riding this bike for 13.5 years like the last one, it will take me up to 70 years of age - I hope the good Lord spares me long enough to enjoy.

Year of Celebration
2016 marked our 30th Wedding Anniversary for Roma and me - if we stick together for another 30 years it will take me up to 87 years of age - I hope the good Lord spares me long enough to enjoy! We also celebrated 20 years living in Blackrock - we moved to our current house in May 1996.

It was the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising and I very much enjoyed both writing about and experiencing some of the events to mark this iconic year in Irish history. It was a year to feel extra proud to be Irish (I always do anyway).

From an academic point of view I felt the year went well. One of the highlights was learning and using a lot more of the R programming language for a Statistics module. It involved a lot of learning and planning - but it was worth it. I am not a programmer, but it is great to be able to program. 

Best of 2016 
By far the biggest highlight of the year for me was the return home from America of my eldest daughter Claire. She had been away for nearly four years, so no more worries about her living in a huge city far away. When she was born in 1988 I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen - it is so good to have her home.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Family Tree: Four Generations #2

One of the things I spent a bit of time on this year was in developing a Family Tree. At the beginning of the year I switched my tree from MyHeritage to Ancestry. I find Ancestry much easier to use and it has a lot of Irish genealogical content available.

I have now completed the generation of my grandparents and great-grandparents on the tree. Dates of births and deaths of my great-grandparents are now established and in most cases backed up with copies of birth, marriage, and death registrations. I also now have photographs of four of my eight great-grandparents. 

Click/Tap Image to Enlarge.
The generation previous to above is incomplete. Part of the difficulty here is the non-availability of genealogical documents, another difficulty is the spelling of surnames. In Ireland we now have access to births registrations from 1864 to 1915, marriages from 1882 to 1940, and deaths from 1891 to 1965. I do know that my great-great-grandfather Patrick O'Loughlin was born in 1821, and died in 1897. Registration of his death (20th Dec, 1897) is the only document from this generation that I have found so far:

The big mystery in my tree is my great-grandfather James Byrne (Burns), who I have written about before in the blog. We are told he served in the British Army in World War I, but no record of his service has been found - this I would dearly like to find. My diagram above does not show the dates that I have for my great-great grandparents, but I do have some - to complete this generation is a project for 2017.

If there are any of my relatives reading this and who would like to see the tree in full, please send me an email or get in touch through Facebook and I'll send you an invitation to share the tree.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Who is Watching "How To..." videos on Christmas Day? #3

Each year I am fascinated that so many people watch some of my videos on Christmas Day. This year was the highest number of views ever (2,869) on this day. So who's watching?

By Geography, the top three countries were as follows (all figures from YouTube Analytics):

  1. India: 698 views (24%)
  2. USA: 274 views (9.6%)
  3. Malaysia: 170 views (5.9%)

When you compare this to exactly a month earlier (25th November), the top three were:
  1. USA: 1,120 views (18%)
  2. India: 1,011 views (16%)
  3. UK: 558 views (9%)
It's interesting to see that while there is a big drop in numbers from the USA, which has always been the channel's best country, India takes over the top spot during both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Incidentally, the number of views on Christmas Day in Ireland was 18 (0.6% of total) - some of my students perhaps?

The most watched video was How To... Plot Multiple Data Sets on the Same Chart in Excel - this video is the channel's second most popular video and, in my view, reflects a growing demand to learn about charting and analytics.

This has been a good year so far for my YouTube Channel with just over 2.25 million views. This followed a poor year in 2015 when some changes I made to metadata in May caused a collapse in views - the recovery is now complete and hopefully the channel will continue to grow. I am exited about a new module (Data Visualization) next semester and hope that it will afford me some new opportunities to create more videos. Watch this space!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Feeling Energetic! #4

To work up an appetite for lunch out today Roma and I took the car to Bray and walked the 7 km path from Bray Head to Greystones Harbour. There were lots of people about and it seems to be a very popular walk, which for the most part runs along the cliffs of Bray Head. I had only done part of it once before, today's walk took about 80 minutes. On a beautiful winter's day in the sunshine we headed up to the centre of Greystones for a delicious lunch in Las Tapas. We took the DART back to Bray to pick up the car on the way home.

This wonderful walk is only a few miles from where I live, yet after nearly 40 years living in Dublin I have only visited it twice. It is an example of the many amenities on our doorstep that we do not use very often or at all. I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I definitely should do this walk more often.

Out for a walk on the Bray to Greystones Coastal Path.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Blood Platelets #Giveblood for #Christmas #5

Ireland needs more blood platelet donors. Platelets are a component of blood, essential to stop bruising and bleeding. Over 22,000 platelet transfusions are needed every year in Ireland - I donate about 10 times a year at the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Clinic in St James's Hospital. Especially at holiday time, donations are needed more than ever. Unlike whole blood, platelets only last a few days - so a steady supply is needed. Today I did my 125th donation. You can see a Blood Platelet Apheresis Machine to my left in the photo below. Basically it extracts whole blood, and removes the platelets with a centrifuge, and returns what's left. It's completely painless (OK - the needle at the beginning can sting for a second) and takes about 50-70 minutes, though this varies from donor to donor. My donation took 74 minutes today. I started to watch "Designated Survivor" on Netflix throughout the donation.

If you are interested in becoming a blood platelet donor, check out the Give Platelets page at the Irish Blood Transfusion Service's web site. You'll be glad you did it!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 8th Earl Fitzwilliam, and my Grandfather #6

For many years the area around Carnew in South County Wicklow was dominated by the Wentworth-Fitzwilliams who were Lords who owned the Coolattin Estate near Shillelagh. The fourth Earl was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for just three months in 1795. The last earl died in 1979 and the title lapsed. The eight earl is pictured below (left) with my Grandfather PJ O'Loughlin - we think the photo was taken at a Hunt Ball in Coolattin in 1946 or 1947:

Catherine "Kick" Kennedy.
Image source: Wikipedia
Peter Fitzwilliam was killed in an air crash flying from Paris to Cannes in a storm on May 13, 1848. The plane he was in was a ten seater de Havilland Dove, all four on board were killed when it crashed near the village of Saint-Bauzile in the South of France. In addition to Fitzwilliam and the two crew who were killed, the fourth person on the plane was none other than Catherine "Kick" Kennedy - sister of President John F. Kennedy. It is believed that they were having an affair and that they planned to marry. He was seeking a divorce at the time. Rose Kennedy disapproved of their relationship because he was married and a Protestant, and reputedly skipped a memorial service for her to have routine tests done in a hospital. Her devastated father Joe was the only family member to attend her funeral.

Kennedy was just 28 when she died, Fitzwilliam was 37. Her first husband was killed in the Second World War in 1944 after they were married for just four months. Her brother Joe Jr had been killed a month earlier. This was all before Jack and Bobby were assassinated in the 1960s. The Kennedy's had their fair share of tragedy, and Kick is often considered the forgotten Kennedy.

So, I am connected to the Kennedy's through the photo above!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve #8

The traditional Christmas Eve gathering for lunch of O'Loughlins in Ballingate brought four generations together for one those family occasions that makes Christmas special. Mum's delicious home-made soup, some quiche from Dunne's, nibblies from M&S, plus some of Lar Duffy's home made cider were on the menu for lunch. We sang "Away in a Manger" as baby Hannah placed Baby Jesus in the crib. The drive back to Dublin is usually about slowing down to look at houses lit up with Christmas lights. However, that house across from Lawless's Hotel in Aughrim had no lights this year, and the best of all on the Glenealy side of Rathdrum had not yet turned on their lights. 

Later it's choir for me at the vigil Mass in Blackrock (9 pm) - I look forward to belting our a few Christmas hymns. We have been practicing for both this evening and tomorrow. While it is a bit of a nuisance not to be able to have a jar, I am looking forward to a couple of pints in the Wishing Well after Mass.

With Mum.

With my sister Kathleen.

With Dad.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmases Past #9

I don't have any photos of myself taken at Christmas time from when I was growing up, and perhaps because of this I have very few memories of Christmas as a young boy. I do remember getting the likes of Lego, farm sets, toy tractors, Airfix, but the best of all was Mecanno. Myself and my brother Joe had hours of fun making everything - it was a great way to learn about screws, nuts, connecting things, reading (and following) instructions, and solving problems. I regard myself as handy enough around the house, I can definitely trace this back to Mecanno. 

At home in Ballingate, Christmas dinners were a fantastic affair. My Mum certainly knew how to cook up a huge turkey and ham. Red lemonade was a special treat at our dinner table, and plum pudding to die for with delicious brandy sauce - great tastes and memories. I haven't had Christmas dinner in Ballingate since 1990, though we do always meet up on Christmas Eve for lunch.

Later, when we had our own children - we of course recorded events and memories are a little closer. When we got married (in 1986), Roma and I did alternate Christmases in each of our families - 1992 was the last time we did this. We used to drive down to Castlebar on Christmas Morning - in the days before by-passes we seemed to get stuck a lot with Mass-going traffic in towns along the way. Since then we have mostly spent Christmas Day in our own house. The photo to the right is (I'm guessing) from 1992 - Kate, Claire, and myself are visiting Santa, probably in the Blackrock Shopping Centre (I love Santa's black wellies!). Despite long queues and rubbish presents - Santa was always in good humour. 

Children today will obviously have lots of photos and videos to remember in years to come. Memories will be available at the click of a mouse button. I am envious of them as I'd love to look back on selfies from the 1960s or a snap of me making a rocket out of Mecanno.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Attendance at Classes #10

I am fairly sure that students who attend classes (and pay attention!), do better in exams and continuous assessment than those who choose not to come to class. I am very mindful that some students may learn more from an hour in the Library or reading a textbook, than attending one of my classes. Learning styles vary, and a lecture is not suitable for everyone. Many Colleges monitor attendance in an effort to intervene and provide support when a student is recorded as absent after a couple of weeks. This is also an effort to reduce dropout rates, which are strongly linked to lack of attendance.

Image source: Taft High School
Often I hear that students will use the excuse that they can get the class notes on-line, and that this is the same as attending a lecture. Even one of my longests sets of notes will take a fraction of the time to read when compared to the time taken to go through them in class. I could spend 15 minutes discussing 3 short bullet points that take 10 seconds to read. I know that there are lecturers who do little more than read out detailed notes in a class - even I would skip such a class. Most of us don't do this - and use class time to discuss points, give examples, ask and answer questions. Outside of all this is the act of getting up and going to College and experiencing life as a student. 

Perhaps the day will come when all classes will be delivered in the classroom and on-line at the same time - the on-line version being recorded and archived for students to view later. This is better than missing the class. I recall at a conference presentation that a professor in Trinity routinely recorded his classes in engineering and made them available on-line. The technology to do this is easy and has been available for a long time. The professor did not edit the recordings and discarded them at the end of the academic year, and started all over again the next year. Even though his subject changed little from year to year, he still wanted his students to get a recording of the actual class they missed. Admirable dedication I think you'll agree.

From my point of view I of course prefer a fuller class to a near empty one - I feel it leads to a better teaching experience for me. A classroom is about learning AND teaching - neither takes place for a student who is not there. Attendance matters!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Larger or Smaller Classes - Which is Best? #11

I love teaching to large (50+ students) classes - full stop. There is a dynamism that cannot be measured - I love the banter, interactivity, challenge, friendliness, that does not exist in smaller classes. While I am happy to work with small classes - nothing beats standing in front of a group of 50+ students and engaging in learning and teaching. It's what I live for.

If given the opportunity to lecture to 5 students or 50 is presented to me - I will go for 50 every time, regardless of time table.

There is no straight answer to "Larger or Smaller Classes - Which is Best?". But there is a buzz in larger classes that cannot be replicated in smaller classes. 

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Is the Christmas Card Dead? #12

This year, for the first time I am not sending Christmas Cards by post - yes, not even to my Mum and Dad (sorry)! Like lots of people I have noticed that Christmas cards coming to our house have diminished over the past few years, and the numbers going out have also declined. It is a dying art as social media takes over, and I am going along with this. So this year I will use Facebook to issue a Christmas card from my family and I on Christmas Day. My Dad is now on Facebook - so I will not leave anyone out. 

Image source: Mastibite.

This of course has consequences for companies like An Post which employs over 9,600 people. But Facebook now employs about 2,000 people in Dublin - so my conscience is clear about the consequences of my actions. It is a changing world and Christmas is no different. I love moving with the times, and so I am moving to Facebook for Christmas greetings. I think I can reach everyone (except MBM) that I would have sent a card to anyway.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Making Comparisons with Data Visualization #Analytics #13

Statista produce some great data visualization on a daily basis - today's shows the top 15 countries in the world for the number of PhDs (data from 2014). The USA comes out on top with a whopping 67,449 PhDs graduating in 2014, more than double the next country Germany. As I will have a new module on Data Visualization to teach next semester I have a renewed interest in how data are visualized. I also have an interest where data visualizations by the likes of Statista like these can be a little bit misleading. I'm not questioning the data - just how it is show in a bar chart. At a glance it would indicate that the USA is the smartest country in the world - here's Statista's chart:

Infographic: The Countries With The Most Doctoral Graduates | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista.

The chart does not take account of population and therefore lacks proportion (Statista does not claim this - it is simply plotting numbers). While the USA has just over double the number of PhDs compared to Germany, its population is four times greater. A more useful graphic would be the number of PhDs as a percentage of each country's population (pop data from When you do this a completely different visual (drawn in Excel) emerges:

(Globe background sourced from Wikipedia)

In my version, Germany, UK, France, South Korea, Spain, and Australia are all ahead of the US - in fact instead of ranking first, the US ranks seventh in my list. And don't forget - this is just one year's worth of data - the actual number of people in each country will be much higher than the percentages above. 

I tell my students to challenge data when they see it. Ask how reliable they are, what do they tell you, is there a different way to visualize and analyse, how best should the data be used? It's fun to draw interesting charts, but we need to be careful how we use, and in this case, visualize the data.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

1936 Junior All-Ireland for @WicklowGAA and PJ O'Loughlin @GAALeinster #14

Wicklow "vs" Mayo!
In 1936, Wicklow won the first of the county's two All-Ireland Junior Football titles by beating Mayo 3-3 to 2-5 (they won a second in 2002). Us Wicklow natives don't have high expectations when it comes to All-Ireland success, so it must have been an exciting and happy occasion when they won the first title in 1936. I still wear my Wicklow jersey to Croke Park when other teams are playing - the photo to the right with Roma was taken at the Mayo vs Kerry All-Ireland Senior Semi-final in 2014. Despite living in Dublin since 1978, I don't consider myself a Dub.

As I was going through some more old recently discovered photographs with my Dad, we spotted his father PJ O'Loughlin sitting on the steps of the Bel Air Hotel near Glenealy with four other men. He said they were there to celebrate Wicklow's 1936 win - date is confirmed on the photograph. In the Leinster GAA web site there is a photo of the victorious Wicklow team which includes the then County Secretary, my grandfather PJ O'Loughlin (standing at the left wearing suit in photo reproduced below). PJ was not a native of Wicklow, he was born and reared near Newmarket in Co Cork.

Comparing the two photos I think can identify the other four men who were players on the team. In the photo are (sitting left to right) are PJ O'Loughlin and Mick Keating, standing (left to right) Jim Kelly, Mick O'Brien and Ned Byrne. Also comparing the two photos it is certain to me that the team photo was taken on the same set of steps. 

Source: Leinster GAA (used without permission),
I'm guessing that none of the men in either photo are alive today (they would be over 100 years old if they were), and looking back at old photos it is a strange feeling to think that they are all dead (my grandfather died in 1965). None could have predicted or envisaged the world we live in today - if you told them their photo would be on the Internet 80 years later, I'm sure they would have laughed at you!

Wicklow Abú!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

End of Semester #Phew #15

Semester I is over - yay! It flew by very quickly and I enjoyed every minute of it (well almost!). I was fortunate in having great classes to work with this year. I had final year students who were enthusiastic, hungry, and anxious to do well in their studies - their attendance and participation in class was great. I also had a Higher Diploma class which I really loved - great enthusiasm and more hunger for learning. I had two separate second year classes. While I enjoyed these classes, I did have some behavioral issues to deal with from time-to-time which takes (a little of) the enjoyment out of my work.

In the College this year we have finished Semester I a week later than normal. This puts a little pressure on with just a few days left before Christmas to complete grading continuous assessment, but I'll get it done anyway. One of the perks in working in the College is that we get a nice Christmas break - we finish up on Thursday 23rd December, and return on 3rd January - almost two weeks. Time to relax a bit and enjoy the holiday season. Looking forward to Semester II!

Image source: Elisha Goldstein.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Little Things #YouTubeComments #16

When people take the time out to say "Thank you", it not only shows good manners - but it is also gratifying to the recipient, regardless of whether the comment is positive or negative. I get a lot of feedback from my viewers which motivates me to keep going. There are many comments on my YouTube channel, most of them positive - just saying "Thank you". Negative comments are hard to read, but they can help me to improve. I do get some criticism for speaking too fast, but as you'll see in some negative comments below, that not everyone is in agreement on this. So I am very grateful to my viewers for thier kind comments, and I hope they keep it up! It is also a reminder to us all to say "Thank You" to others when they do something for us.

Some recent examples of positive feedback:

I have my biostats final tomorrow. This was better explained thatn both my instructor and the book! Thanks so much!

I luh u, literally have project due 2morrow and out here stressing with damn music. if i see in streets u getting a hug #savingtheyouth

I love your videos. They are so clear and concise and make things easy to understand. Thank you so much for posting and sharing.

The greatest example I have seen, by far.  Thank you for the walk-through and explanation!
Gus have some manners and give this guy some credit, Eugene should work for NASA :)

So great!!!!! Thank you! Love your beautiful accent too.

OH MY GAWD! I LOVE YOU! Thank you so much, and thanks for the formula. You sir, have saved my behind with this formula

I love this guy

Some recent examples of not so positive feedback:

I can barely hear this guy?  Speak up  :/  or raise your recording volume

"There are Tertteen numbers" 2:33 xD

get to the point omg

fast as hell.. slow down

you shouldn't have ads on your videos its very annoying when someone is trying to get help with a project and you have to sit through a thirty second ad

This gave me crippling autism.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Top Seven Video Stats #17

There are 147 videos on my YouTube channel, and as you would expect - some are watched more than others. The top seven lifetime details below show that my "How To... Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel" remains the outright leader as it has done since it was published on 4th January 2010. It alone accounts for 10% of all views. Fast catching up on it though is my "How To... Plot Multiple Data Sets on the Same Chart in Excel". It is my most popular video over the past year, and is a surprise "hit" for me as I remember putting it together very quickly and only after I had tried to do the same thing myself. The top three videos below make up 20% of all views - these are the ones that also make me the most money. Not shown here, but at the bottom of the list are my SPSS videos. While these are still very new and will take time to gather views, it is also a fact that far fewer people use SPSS compared to Excel - so I am not expecting them to surge up the leader board. The number of "Likes" and Comments is also gratifying - more about this tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

11,000,000 YouTube Views #WOW #18

Today my YouTube channel passed 11,000,000 views since 1st January 2010 (views before this date are no longer counted). As always, I am both gratified and humbled that so many people from all over the world watch my videos and find them so useful. It has taken 4.5 months for the most recent million views to rack up, and you can see in the chart below that overall views are almost back to what they were two years ago. You can see a sharp drop in views around April/May in 2015 following changes I made to metadata and the ill-fated introduction of thumbnail graphics for each video. Revenue too is starting to recover. Interstingly, and completely coincidentally, the Watch Time is 57 years and 33 days - almost exactly my own age!

Click chart to enlarge.

Despite the big decline in views during the first part of 2015, you can see that the pattern remains very cyclical. Each year the views grow from the beginning of the year and peak in April/May before dropping off slowly in the summer. Around mid-August views start to increase again, and keep climbing until early December. There is then a dramatic drop off during the Christmas and New Year holidays. I will dig a little deeper into these analytics in a post tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

@YouTube's Top Earners (sadly - the list does not include me!) #19

I don't mind admitting that I earn a few bob from YouTube advertising placed by Google on my videos. It's a nice little earner on top of my salary as a Lecturer. But I am a complete miniscule novice compared to the earning power of others on YouTube. According to Statista, PewDiePie earned $15 million in the six months to June 2016, even the tenth highest earner pulled in $5 million - impressive.

Infographic: Highest Paid Stars Of 2016 | Statista
Source: you will find more statistics at Statista.

A quick look at the list above made me realize that I had no idea who any of the top 10 were - I should get out more often! PewDiePie's channel looks interesting - he has 50,597,217 subscribers and 13,951,262,373 views. Clearly, a few people are making a lot of money, but I'm guessing that the vast majority of YouTubers earn very little from their channels. Very few videos "go viral" and make lots of money. Nevertheless, good content will get noticed and it may be possible to add a few hundred euro a month to your salary. Educational videos will not get you near the top ten or make you a living, but there is still money to be made.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Clergy in my Family #20

Like a lot of families in Ireland I have several ancestors who became priest, monks, and nuns. Today, there is a dearth of young people joining the clergy, and grey is the dominant colour of hair at Mass these days. In my family, none of my own generation joined the clergy. Neither did anyone in my mother and father's family. But in the previous generation, there were a few. Today there are very few men and women joining the clergy, but this was not always the case.

In the photos below (from my cousin Clarissa's album), we first see Fr Alberic (James) Murphy in his Cistercian outfit in Roscrea (where I went to school). He was the first Bursar in Cistercian College Roscrea. I cannot establish what his relationship is to me - my great-grandmother Bridget was a Murphy, and I'm guessing he was her brother.

Fr Alberic Murphy, with my grand uncles Charlie (left) and Tim (right).
Next in my cousin's album is Fr Pat Breen. He was from Boherbue in Co Cork, and other than that I know nothing about him. Boherbue is near Newmarket where my grandmother's family were from, so I'm guessing he was a family friend rather than a relative. He was a Cistercian, but left the order.

Fr Pat Breen.

Monsignor Charles Hurley.
The photo above is Monsignor Charles Hurley - my grand-uncle. I remember him well - he died in 1985 when I was 25. He was born in 1895, and assuming that he had already been ordained by the time the above photo was taken, I'm guessing he is in his late 20s in the photo. You can see that there is a "British Consulate" stamp on the photo - what this is for I don't know. In the photo below he is looking rather grand in a top hat getting ready to ride a horse with my Dad - this photo was taken in Tomacork. 

The "Mons" in top hat. The bot on the other horse is my Dad (Joe).

The last photo (for now) below shows two nuns. The nun on the left is my grand-aunt Hannah Mary Hurley, known in her convent as "Mother Bridget". I remember well my mother and father bring us to visit her in the Loreto Convent in Bray - she was always good for giving us pencils and other stationary - no doubt left behind in classrooms by generations of Loreto girls.

My grand-aunt Hannah Mary Hurley (Mother Bridget) on the left.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

New Photos of my Grandfather PJ O'Loughlin #21

I have written about my grandfather PJ O'Loughlin before in this blog - he was the guy who took me to Croke Park as a small boy in 1963 or 1964 (see I did have one photo of him from 1927 when he still lived in Newmarket, Co Cork. He is featured in the Newmarket Junior Football Team (dressed in a suit and sitting at the extreme right of the middle row in the photo below) - I have had this photo for some time:

In my cousin's album I uncovered some more that I had not seen before. There is a brilliant studio photograph of him as a young man - I'm guessing he was still in his 20s when it was taken. I also have a photo of him with Lord Fitzwilliam of Coolattin Estate in what must have been a Hunt Ball or similar. Finally, there is a photo of him in his FCA uniform (third from right) with some other men, my Dad identified Andy Minahan (second from left), but not the others. I've no idea what the trophies were for, but the football suggests some sporting connection. The last two photos look like they were taken within days of one another - he looks exactly the same in both!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Old Photos #22

Thanks to my cousin Clarissa, I have been looking through an old photo album of my Dad's family. I will publish many here and on Facebook as I am making copies before I return the album. Many show the O'Loughlin family at their home in Tomacork, near Carnew, in Co Wicklow. We had great fun today with Dad going through the album and identifying people, locations, and cars!

One of the most interesting photos for me turned out to be my great grandparents Thomas and Bridget Hurley:

I had never seen this photo or any other of them before. They were married in 1894 and had six children, including my grandmother Kathleen, before Bridget died in 1916. They lived in Newmarket in Co Cork where he was the local creamery manager. Thomas died in 1921. I think my Dad looks a bit like Thomas, many of his descendants inherited his (lack of) hair. Despite having six children, they did not have many grandchildren. One son (Charles) became a priest, another (Pat) never married, while a third (Tim) had just one daughter (Ursula - my Dad's only first cousin). Of their three daughters, Kathleen had six children, Hannah became a nun, Eileen sadly lost her husband (Joe) just five weeks after they were married in 1934.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Visualization: Classic Books in a Word Cloud #HavingFunWithR #23

In preparation for a new module on Data Visualization next semester, I have been briefly experimenting with some R code to visualize classic books in different ways. Last Monday, I took a look at books without letters and words. Another way to visualize the content of a book is to create a Word Cloud which shows us the most common words.

Word Clouds are fun to make, and they are a great way to compare books. For this experiment I have chosen the following books from the Project Gutenberg:
  • "Ulysses" by James Joyce
  • "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens
  • "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen
  • "The Last of the Mohicans" by James Fennimore-Cooper
Below are the Word Clouds showing the 100 most used words in each book (the larger the word in the cloud, the more often it is used):


A Tale of Two Cities.

Pride and Prejudice.

Last of the Mohicans.

One word stands out as very much in all four clouds: "said". As all are novels, dialogue needs this word to show what each character said. Interesting, the lead character's name does not appear as a top word in each cloud. "Elizabeth" (Bennet) is the most used word in Pride and Prejudice - she is very much the lead character in this book. "Bloom" (Leopold) stands out in Ulysses, but "Carton (Sydney) - the lead character in A Tale of Two Cities shows up as only a small word. For the Last of the Mohicans, the lead character "Hawkeye" is not dominant, Fennimore-Cooper constantly refers to this character as the "scout" throughout this book, so the character is essentially divided into two names. Major Heyward, a significant though lesser character in the book, shows up as a most used word. Interestingly, other characters such as Cora, Alice, and Uncas make the top 100 words, but the very last of the Mohicans himself, Chingachgook, does not make the list. The word "savage" appears more often.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Importance of Feedback #24

Part of my work is to give feedback to students about assessments and exercises. Usually, this takes the form of a general class feedback which can be followed up by individual feedback. Mostly, the general feedback is sufficient for students, I rarely get requests for individual feedback. I sometimes get requests for feedback on exam papers - students often question how they lost marks. When I go through the exam script with them, they always accept my grade as I point out what was good and bad about their paper. Students in general appreciate feedback, often with a view to doing better next time. It can be difficult providing feedback to students who has performed poorly or who have failed, but I find that honesty and directness is best is dealing with difficult situations.

Image source: Digital Thinking.

David Didau of The e Learning Spy gives us three reasons that make giving feedback worthwhile:

  1. Provide clarity
  2. Get students to increase effort
  3. Get students to increase aspiration

Clarity is essential so that students know how to improve. After all, we can all learn from our mistakes. But simply stating what mistakes were made will just show that there is room for improvement - getting students to improve by increasing their efforts following feedback is a challenge. So part of our feedback should be to show how improvements can be made. Not all students are hungry for achievement, many in my experience want to know enough to get by. Really useful feedback will not just clarify what improvements can be made and how to make them - motivating students to aspire to a better performance is really that last piece in what makes up good feedback.

For more on this check out Didau's excellent slideshare presentation at:

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Why a university degree is worth more in some countries than others, via @EconBizFin #25

Much evidence around the world tells us that getting a degree leads to better job prospects and higher average earnings than those without a degree. A degree is the "ticket" to a higher standard of living. OK - there are many exceptions to this as there are plenty of rich people without a degree, and poor people with one. However, the consensus stongly favours the value of a degree. 

A report by Fiona Reddan in The Irish Times this week: "Irish degree gets you more bang for your buck than anywhere else" cites figures from The Economist that show Ireland as the leading country for the "lifetime benefit of getting a degree". Here's one of the charts from the original Economist report, "WHAT THE NUMBERS SAY, HIGHER EARNING: Why a university degree is worth more in some countries than other", written by James Tozar for the December 2016/January 2017 edition:

The report also tells us that unemployment "for under-35s has swelled to 8% for those with degrees – but to more than 20% for those without, and nearly 40% for secondary school drop-outs". That's quite a gap between the haves and the have-nots - this tells us that Ireland's "wealth now goes disproportionately to workers with letters after their names". But the biggest news is that Ireland ranks top of all OECD countries for "net benefit". Yes - we have a high cost of living, but the net benefit is clear. 

There is no breakdown by type of degree, I suspect that people with professional type degrees, eg law or medicine, plus those with IT qualifications, will do better again than those with Arts or Business degrees. 

So - if you are thinking about going to College straight after school, or coming back to education, the evidence strongly suggests that financially this would be a great move. Educationally it will also benefit most and you learn a lot when studying for a degree of any type. So check out courses starting in Ireland's Colleges this January or next September. You won't win the Lotto, but a degree is worth more to you here than anywhere else.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The end of Twitterfeed - Thank you @dlvrit #BackToNormal #26

Recently I have noticed a major drop off in comments and views on my blog posts - especially via LinkedIn. My LinkedIn profile dropped from being the 5th or 6th most viewed profile in NCI to 27th today. Suddenly, the counter for views in LinkedIn dissapeared. I did not notice that blog post #62, published on 31st October, was the last one posted to Twitter. And - I wondered why I was getting no likes or views on my posts from Facebook. In short I was wondering was anyone watching anymore? 

It turns out that Twitterfeed shut its doors on October 31st last - and it has taken me over five weeks to spot this. Strangely, no one mentioned this to me! I had been using Twitterfeed to automatically publish my blog posts here to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I have now signed up for, a smart social media automation tool, which will restore the automatic publishing of each post.

Back to normal!

Source of all logos: Wikipedia Commons.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Visualization: Books without Letters and Numbers #JustMessing #27

Thinking about my new Data Visualization module next semester I came across Nicholas Rougeux who likes to visualise books in patterns without words. I thought I'd check out a few books available at the Gutenberg Project. I selected four classic books:
  • "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens
  • "Ulysses" by James Joyce
  • "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy
  • "The Illiad" by Homer
I stripped out all words, letters and numbers. I also remove square brackets and hyphens. All that was left were punctuation symbols. Each book looks very different. Tolstoy uses a lot more quotation marks than the others. Dickens uses a lot of exclamation marks, as does Joyce - the latter's work seems to be mostly commas and full stops. Joyce's last chapter (18) in Ulysses famously has no punctuation marks at all - so this does not feature in the stripped down version. Homer's Illiad looks the simplest of the lot.

It's just a different, and meaningless, way to visualise text. I'm sure it would be possible to identify someone's work based their punctuation patterns if for example a long lost text was found reputed to be from a famous author. There's no hidden meaning from any of this work - just a different way of looking at things.

A Tale of Two Cities.


War and Peace.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Christmas Shappin' in #Belfast! #28

Today was all about shopping, we went to St George's Market at about 11:00 am only to find everybody else in Belfast had the same idea - soooo crowded! We visited lots of stands with food and crafts - we even bought some Christmas presents. The market is a complete hive of activity - lots of pushing and shoving to get past the crowd. Everyone was so relaxed - we had savoury crêpes for breakfast and enjoying mingling with the locals and tourists in one of Belfast's best attractions. Later we wondered down to the city centre where semi-naked young fellas were destroying Christmas carols in Victoria Square. Belfast was a buzzin' today - no doubt with a lot of "shappers" from the South as the road back to Dublin was very busy.

Once again  a wonderful weekend in Belfast - love it! 

The very busy St George's Market.

Bangor Rugby Club - Hardy Men!

Belfast City Hall.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Belfast Murals #29

Today while visiting Belfast for the weekend I decided to go on the Belfast Taxi Tour to see the city's many murals. This was a fascinating tour expertly provided by my cabbie Robert. We started out with Loyalist murals near the Shankill Road and toured the Peace Line wall between the two communities - I had no perception of how long or high the peace wall was - it was way taller than the Berlin Wall which I had also seen for the first time last September.

I suppose the highlight for me was the Bobby Sands mural on the Sinn Féin office on the Falls Road. Even though he died in May 1981, he is still an iconic figure to many people in Belfast and the rest of Ireland. I remember well the day he died on hunger strike and it still hasn't stopped me thinking of his death (and nine others) as a waste of a life. Robert told me honestly about the divisions in the Belfast communities - it seems to me that The Troubles could easily start again.

Nevertheless - the Belfast Taxi Tour is well worth the £35. It is a history tour de force with fantastic cab drivers who really bring the city to life.

Stevie "Top Gun" McKeag.

At the Peace Wall.

A Big Thank You to Robert of Belfast Taxi Tours!