Thursday, June 30, 2016

Whale Watching off Cape Cod #awesome #185

We are coming to the the end of our week in Boston and today we had no real idea what we would do - we agreed that we might try the Aquarium in Boston Harbour, but soon changed our mind over breakfast when we compared watching fish in a tank to seeing whales in the wild. I have never seen a whale up close before in the wild - I do recall see in killer whales in Sea World in Florida on holiday many years ago.

We were warned when getting our tickets ($49 each) that it would take at least three hours round trip. We set off at 12 noon and enjoyed the fast ride out to the Stellwagen Bank Reserve, and it wasn't long before we spotted some Humpback whales - there were seven together in a pod, including several baby calves. Lots of oohs and aahs from the small crowd on the boat. We had a great view of everything. We saw the whales forming bubble pools to force fish to the surface, and of course the majestic creatures when they broke the surface. The boat got right up to the pod - we had a perfect view. I shot mostly video (which I cannot upload from my iPad), which I will have to wait until I get home to post. This is a problem for me using a Windows phone and an iPad together.

This was worth every cent of the $49 ticket. We were lucky we had a beautiful day with almost calm sea conditions - don't miss this if you ever come to Boston.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The JFK Museum #186

President John F. Kennedy has always been a hero of mine. I remember well the day he was assassinated, even though I was just four years old. Today we went to the museum dedicated to his memory and it has been one of the best things I have done in Boston so far. It takes quite a while to get there via the "T" and the brilliant free bus service to UMass. We had a great tour guide - I'd say that Bob was about 60 years older than our Harvard tour guide yesterday. It turned out that he served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam war and he shared with us his terror at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Lots of Audio Visual displays and some great artefacts from Jack and Jackie. I loved th handwritten notes the gifts from foreign leaders to the glamorous couple. If Kennedy were alive today he would be 99 years old, probably still as charming as he was in the 1960s. There's hardly any mention of his assassination - just a dark hall labelled "22 November, 1963".

This museum is a must for everyone - don't miss it. To hear extracts of Presidential debates and press conferences involving Kennedy, you would not think much has changed. Problems in 1960 are still here in 2016. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Going to Harvard #187

Today we paid a visit to one of the top universities in the World - Harvard. This is what other Colleges and Universities want to be when they grow up. Even though I myself have been an academic for quite some time, I did feel a bit overawed here today. The sense of history and brain power is everywhere - it was founded about 50 years after my own alma mater - Trinity College Dublin. The town of Harvard is lovely and friendly - it must be mad during term time. We took a tour delivered by a Harvard student who was both entertaining and informative. 

After this I went to the Boston Science Museum. This seems to be very much aimed at kids - I wish I was able to bring my own girls when they were young. The museum is brilliant with something for everyone. The highlight for me was finding a display about probability which include a live experiment where balls are dropping through a maze into boxes, which neatly result in a normal bell-shaped curve. I've inserted a photo below which I will replace with a video when I get home. I'll also now use this video in class!

Still lovin' Boston!

Probability at the Science Museum.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Harpoon Brewery & Iceland #188

After the disappointment of yesterday at not gaining admittance to the Harpoon Brewery because we could not prove that Roma was over 21 - we went along again today for a great tour of the brewery. We were early so - needs must, we had a beer in the bar before hand. The tour itself was quite short - it is a small brewery. I had a lot of difficulty understanding what the tour guides were saying as they spoke so fast, also the background noise made for difficult listening conditions (or maybe I am turning into a deaf auld bollix?). We had a tasting session where I tried several different beers - each taste was 2oz, which is about a mouthful. Very enjoyable and worth the $5 entry fee. We also visited the shop where I bought a new cap and some glasses. Normally I steal glasses, but did not think it wise to try this here where they were selling them.

Also of course there were two big games on today - I saw a bit of Italy vs Spain, but none of England vs Iceland. I was not surprised to see Italy beat Spain, but what about Iceland beating England? I saw the highlights on YouTube and was impressed with Iceland. Is this the Leicester City phenomenon continuing in the European Championship? I'll certainly be cheering them on against France. I don't understand why England under perform so much in big tournaments. I remember Italia '90 when they were a whisker away from a World Cup Final and probably winning it. They have brilliant players, but suffer from poor management and over-confidence - they need a completely different coach to get the best out of these spoiled millionaires who do not try very hard for their country. Every team like Iceland has a puncher's chance of an upset, but England should have been prepared for this - and they didn't. 

Boston seems indifferent to football/soccer. You see very few football jerseys being worn by people on the streets. The USA reached the semi-final of the Copa America last week, but you wouldn't know that around here. Bostonians wear all types of t-shirt - not too much focused on one or two teams. There does not seem to be the same desire that to wear a badge/identity for one affiliation that you see on the streets of Dublin. I felt a bit out of place yesterday wearing my Ireland jersey on the day we were playing France, the only other International jersey I saw was a German one. How do they manage?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

No Beer in Boston, but Paul Revere saves the day again #189

First up this morning to see the 09:00 am kick-off between Ireland and France in the Euro Championship (thank you ESPN!). No luck for the brave Irish team, but the better team on the day won in the end. We then went got some nice sandwiches at a local market for brunch - Americans sure know how to create brilliant fast food. I never thought I would order cauliflower (in a poutine) - ever! We decided to go to the Harpoon Brewery for a tour and a taste of their excellent beer. However, the local law requires you to have ID to prove you are over 21 when entering a brewery - Roma (who is over 21!) did not have her passport so was not admitted. So no brewery tour and no sample tasting! 

We left and headed to downtown where the girls went shopping. I went to see Paul Revere's house in the North End. It is a small house (just three rooms on view), but despite the fact that it is a restored house, you do get a great sense of what it was like to live at the end of the 18th century. Fantastic stuff for a history buff like me. On the way back to downtown I stopped at the Holocaust Memorial. It is a simple, but brilliant moving memorial to the millions who died in concentration camps. The walls of the glass towers are engraved with the numbers of those who died.

Finally - after a very hot day in Boston with sore feet from walking, I am off to a steakhouse for dinner. So far I love Boston and look forward to seeing more tomorrow.

At theHarpoon Brewery.

At Paul Revere's House.

Holocaust Memorial.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Salem #190

Today we decided to go to Salem to see what all the fuss was about with the witches. Made famous by plays such as "The Crucible", the Salem Witch Trials saw 20 Salem people executed (19 hanged, 1 crushed) for the crime of witchcraft. Unfortunately in the year 1692, Puritans (and many others) believed in witchcraft and lived in fear of the devil. This superstition lead to the deaths of 20 innocent people. Unthinkable today, but not so at the end of the 17th century.

Essex St, Downtown Salem
We took the ferry from Boston to Salem - lovely day to go anywhere by sea. Salem was very busy with tourists, and lots of extra colour was added as it was also LGTB Pride Day. We visited a poignant memorial to the 20 executed "witches" and also went to the Salem Witch Museum. This was not that good - the first part which was a type of show representing the story of the witch trials was OK, the second part (about witchcraft in general) was less interesting, made so by the teenage tour guide who seemed to forget a lot of stuff. Lunch was excellent in the Village Tavern, I'm beginning to become a connoisseur of American beer.  

Memorial to John Proctor, one of the "witches" hanged in 1692.
Overall - well worth the visit, though probably not a full day. Been there, done that!

Friday, June 24, 2016

First Day in Boston #191

For our first full day in Boston we took a hop-on-hop-off bus around the city. As always, this is a great way to see lots in a new place. We got off at the USS Constitution where we visited the museum and learned a lot about "Old Ironsides" and the War of 1812. We also walked up to the Bunker Hill memorial, which is on Breed's Hill. We stopped for lunch at the harbour and went on a short cruise around the bay. We had a very entertainingly commentator from Donegal who told us lots of interesting things about Boston. Following this we went up towards Boston Common and stopped at the Granary Cemetery to see the graves of Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and John is Hancock. We went for a jar in JJ Foleys and took the "T" back to the apartment. We walked, were on a bus, boat, and train today - very exhausting. Here a a few of the photos I took today...

Bunker Hill.
Boston Harbour.
At  the grave of Samuel Adams.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Boston Here I Come! #192

Quick post today - I am on the way to Boston for a few days. I hope to keep up the daily blogging while I am there - I plan to visit as many of Boston's attractions as possible, it is a very historic city. 

Happy Holidays!

Image source: TripAdvisor.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sharpening the Saw #193

The late Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" advises us in the 7th habit to "Sharpen the saw". Sometimes we are too busy to take the time to do the things we need to do to keep fresh. Covey advises that we need to renew and strengthen four key areas:
  1. The body
  2. The brain
  3. The heart
  4. The soul

This habit's main thrust is for us to take breaks and come back refreshed to take on the tasks we do in our work. We can participate in different activities and renew ourselves in the four areas. According to Covey, without this renewal, the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish. 

So - it is time for summer holidays and I have just finished up work. Tomorrow I fly to Boston for a few days and hope to renew myself through visiting family, checking out the city of Boston, going to museums, experiencing different surroundings, trying different food (and different beer) - in other words, doing anything that is not connected with work. While on holiday I never check my College email or voicemail. All this (I hope) will lead to a refreshed and renewed Eugene!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New Additions to "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" #WildAtlanticWay #194

Continuing the work on republishing my book about the Wild Atlantic Way, one of the things I have been doing is adding and deleting some of the photos from the original book. When I set out on the trip I had no plans whatsoever to include photos in the book. I am not a photographer and know very little about how to include them in the test. Thankfully my publisher, The Liffey Press, encouraged me to include some of the hundreds of photos I took on the round Ireland trip. I had taken the photos to reminds me where I was when I came to writing the book.

New photos to be included are some of my own - these will replace a few of the photos that did not print out well in the original edition. Today I received some brilliant photos from my good friend and colleague, Leo Casey, which I am including in the revised version. On the day I was in the Céide Fields in North Mayo - it was pissing rain. My own photos from that day are dark and dreary. I also did not know about Dún Bríste until researching later for the book. 

By very kind permission of Leo, the following two brilliant photos will be included in the new version:

Céide Fields Interpretive Centre (via Leo Casey).

Dún Bríste (via Leo Casey).

Monday, June 20, 2016

Using CreateSpace #195

Since my book Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way sold out in late 2014, it has been decided by my publisher not to reprint any more copies. It's taken a while, but I finally got the go-ahead to take the book back and do what I like with it. I am currently working on a print-to-order version with Amazon's Createspace, and I'll follow this up with a Kindle version published through Kindle Direct Publishing. I can't believe that it is almost four years to the day that I set out on a round Ireland motorcycle trip!

I have to rework the entire 225 pages of the book. All photographs have to resized to be 12.6 cms wide and I am saving them as 300 dpi. The position of each photo in the book has to be changed as I don't have the skills for fancy arrangements like in the original version. Also, I am unable to set the Microsoft Word page size to match exactly to Createspace - therefore some photos are not in a good position as in the screen grab below. It takes a long time to re-arrange a few pages, and even longer to upload and preview a PDF version online. Every time I see an output like below, I have to rework the Word version and upload again. I have also dropped some photos and added some new ones. I'm hoping to get this job done before I go to America on holidays next Thursday - it's hard to find the time to write blog posts during this work!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Dad #FathersDay #196

My Dad Joe is 85 years young, and still going strong. I am incredibly lucky (at the age of 56) to still have my Dad (and Mum) hale and hearty - very few men my age still have their Dads to wish "Happy Father's Day" to. Dad still keeps active and is once again selling bedding plants from his farm in Ballingate. He always has a cheerful smile and a positive outlook on life - I hope I will be as cheerful and positive at the same age. My favourite moment each week, during visits to Dad and Mum in Ballingate, is when he finds a different way to offer me a glass of whiskey. He always mentions the medicinal qualities of the water from places like Glendalough and Middleton (where whiskey is distilled) - you just have to try it!

So "Happy Father's Day" Dad from me for the 56th time - I look forward to our next drop of "medicine" together!

Showing my Dad how a Selfie works!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

There's always hope #USA94 #Euro2016 #197

Oh dear - Belgium thrash Ireland and we are all very glum. No shame in losing to a better team as Belgium outclass Ireland. We now need to beat Italy. Fuck - we have no chance.

Or have we? We beat them before (44 seconds into video - Ray Houghton scores)...

Friday, June 17, 2016

Professional Development Day #cpd #198

Today was professional development day for staff in the College and I'm sure I was not alone in thinking as I got up this morning "Oh no - not another professional development day" - it's one of those things many people love to hate. However, I was in for a great surprise - the theme for today's session was "Blended Learning" and several colleagues shared their experiences with many different and innovative tools. I'm glad I did not miss this.

Image source: University of Ottawa.

My first learning from the day is that learners are "hunter-gatherers" - we build our learning in different ways, so it makes sense that we consider blending the ways we teach and learn. We the had a discussion on using Turnitin which always generates debate - I have used this tool quite a lot as unfortunately plagiarism continues to be a problem (though with just a small number of students). We then had an excellent presentation about using Moodle for group projects - I've been using Moodle for many years and this was something I did not know was possible. Moodle offers a great way to set up groups (including allowing students to do this themselves) and to even schedule presentations. We also learned about gamified learning in a brilliant interactive session where we used tools like Spiral and Kahoot - so easy to use and full of possibilities in class. The next two sessions were more technical - we learned about a WePresent that allows students to share their devices on classroom screens. I'm not sure that I will ever do this, but the technology for the classroom is being enhanced every day. We also learned more about Office 365 and how Microsoft is catching up with Google.

The final session I attended was about Yammer - part of Office 365. I had not heard about this before and to be honest don't see myself using this. I see it as a social media tool like Facebook but used within organizations. All such social media tools rely on a critical mass of users who are prepared to contribute and keep it going - otherwise initial enthusiasm will wane.

Overall - a very useful and enjoyable day full of ideas!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

How To... Perform a Kruskal-Wallis H Test (By Hand) @YouTube #ILoveStats #199

The Kruskal-Wallis H test (sometimes also called the "one-way ANOVA on ranks") is a rank-based nonparametric test that can be used to determine if there are statistically significant differences between two or more groups of an independent variable on a continuous or ordinal dependent variable. When you have more than two samples to compare you would usually attempt to use analysis of variance (ANOVA). However, if the data are not normally distributed (i.e. not parametric) then an alternative must be sought. This is where the Kruskal-Wallis H test comes in.

The formula I use to calculate the H statistic in the video is as follows:

where "n" is the total number of values, "R" is the sum of the ranks for each sample, and "n with an i" is the number in each sample. The key to performing this test is ranking each value from the smallest to the largest. Once this is done the test is straight-forward to complete. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Nice Bikes at @DublinHarleyD #200

I had my bike service today at Harley-Davidson Dublin for the first time in several years (I had it serviced in Motorcycle City for the past few years) - just for a change. They reported a few items that need to be fixed, so I'll be back very soon. While waiting I had a look around the new and used bikes for sale - as you can see below they have a mouth watering range of bikes. 

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm - my bike is 13 years old and I bought it new. I'd hate to part with it, but...........?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How To... Perform a Chi-Square Test for Independence in Excel @YouTube #ILoveStats #201

Adding to my recent set of new videos, my latest is using the Chi-Square Test for Independence. This is a non-parametric test that is a bit like a two-way ANOVA. It is applied when you have two categorical variables from a single population. It is used to determine whether there is a significant association between the two factors. 

In this video, the example used is based on an opinion poll. Voters might be classified by gender (male or female) and voting preference (Left Wing, Centre, or Right Wing). We could use a chi-square test for independence to determine whether gender is related to voting preference. Note that it is just a relationship that is established (or not) - we do not establish causation.

I will be adding this test to the Advanced Business Data Analysis module next year. The module currently does two-way ANOVA, which assumes that the data are normally distributed. If the data are not normally distributed, the ANOVA test is not appropriate - use Chi-square instead.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Following Ireland #COYBIG #202

I can't remember when I first went to see (the Republic of) Ireland play in an international football game. I have an FAI history book which lists all Ireland's fixtures - when I look through the fixtures I know I was definitely at the famous 2-1 win over The Netherlands at Lansdowne Road in a World Cup qualifier on 30th September 1980 (Mark Lawrenson scored the winner), though I might have been at the 2-0 win over Switzerland on April 30th that year. I have been at many Ireland games since, though the high prices now charged at the Aviva for games is a deterrent, especially when you get Giles/Brady/Dunphy on the telly. 

I have only been to one Ireland away game which was against Portugal in the old Stadium of Light in Lisbon during a downpour on 15th November 1995. Ireland were thumped 3-0, but I did buy an Ireland jersey for the occasion which I still have 21 years later. It's time to put it on again today as Ireland begin another Euro Finals with a game against Sweden. On a good day we can beat anyone (ask Germany), so let's hope the Boys in Green can give us all something to shout about. I think their biggest task will be to keep Zlatan's mouth shut.

If Christy doesn't get you in the mood for Euro 2016 - nothing will...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Star of the Sea #203

The local church in Ballygarret is called Star of the Sea - it's a typical rural church and I have attended Mass there over the years (there is a terrific choir there). In the car park there are two interesting headstone like plaques commemorating two historical events. Ballygarret is twinned with the town of Refugio in Texas. In 1833 hundreds of local people left this area to emigrate to Texas and colonise that part of America which was then controlled by Mexico. They had a very difficult journey and not all made it to Refugio. Looking through the family names I don't see any that might be my own ancestors, but it must have been a terrible experience to leave your home forever.

Close by there is an interesting plaque that commemorates the first notification of potato blight in Ireland on 18th August 1845 at the outbreak of The Great Famine. This was at Killegney close by, blight was also discovered in Oldtown near Ferns. Little did they know the tragedy to follow over the next four years. The county of Wexford was not as badly affected as other counties during the famine, but this is where it started.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Coastal Erosion in Co Wexford #204

I am spending this weekend in Wexford at our family home in Donaghmore. Coastal erosion in this locality has been an issue for us since we bought the house in 2002 - our garden facing the sea is very close to the coastline - half of the passageway down to the sea (green path in some of photos below) that we used to access the beach is now gone. Below is a compilation of photos showing the erosion since 2008 - most photos are taken from approximately the same place on the beach. A little bit is being eroded every year, but this past year (Storm Imogen) has been the worst. While I will be long dead before the rate of erosion means that our house will fall into the sea, a few more storms will result in the garden itself being in danger, and of course all this does not do the value of the house any good.

The video below shows some of our unfortunate near neighbours whose houses are already falling into the sea. Since this drone footage was taken, the damage to the blue house and mobile homes beside it has worsened. Our house is approximately 500 metres further along the coast from this location. Wexford County Council have no budget to erect coastal protection in this area, though if you look carefully in the video you will see a graveyard very close to the edge - there may be an effort to save this from falling into the sea.

Friday, June 10, 2016

How To... Perform the Mann Whitney U Test #205

From my Advanced Business Data Analysis module we learned how to compare two groups using the Mann-Whitney U Test. This is a non-parametric test which indicates that we can't use parameters like "mean" and "variance" to compare the groups as in a Student t Test - usually because the data are not normally distributed. I don't require my own students to be able to do this by hand - we use SPSS and R in class to do this. Nevertheless, showing and learning how to do it by hand gives a good understanding of how this rank-based test works. 

If you want to perform the test described in the video above in R, you just need three lines of code as follows:

TreatmentA <- -="" c="" font="">
TreatmentB <- -="" c="" font="" nbsp="">
wilcox.test(TreatmentA, TreatmentB)

Note: the  wilcox.test() function is used for both paired and unpaired tests.

The above code will generate the following output at the R console:

Wilcoxon rank sum test with continuity correction

data:  TreatmentA and TreatmentB
W = 2, p-value = 0.01244
alternative hypothesis: true location shift is not equal to 0

The "W" value of "2" is the same result as in the video when calculation "U".

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Value of Student Work Placements #206

One of the duties I have to engage in at my College is to visit some of our third year students who are on work placement. It is a tedious task that takes up a lot of time - I hate it. It is part of each student's assessment for their work placement module - even though the module is simply pass/fail, they have to be assessed.

Image source: Highly Trusted College.
Nevertheless, when I get on site I get over my ennui and actually enjoy talking to the students and their supervisors. Over the past couple of weeks I have visited several students in their work placement including in Bank of Ireland, Dunnes Stores, and Hewlett-Packard. All seem to be getting on well and enjoying learning about their new roles. Students gain valuable experience which will boost their CVs and develop some fantastic skills before coming back to the College for their final year. 

I am struck by how much effort the companies I visited put into their work placement programmes. They take their responsibility in recruiting raw students for six months seriously. They train and mentor the students, and while they expect some value in return - in the main it seems to me to be more of a continuation of students' education and development, rather that the extraction of value from each student. Long may it continue!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

How To... Perform a Two-Way ANOVA in Excel 2013 #207

It's been a while since I uploaded a video to YouTube - partly because I had a very busy semester II, and partly because I had plenty of videos already to support existing classes. This past semester I took on a new (to me) statistics module: Advanced Business Data Analysis. While much of the work done in the class was in R and SPSS, we did use Excel for a few of the statistical tests. The first was for a two-way ANOVA*. This is a hard test to calculate manually, so we use tools instead to perform this test. More videos to support this module to come in the next couple of weeks.

* From my course notes:

Use two-way anova when you have one measurement variable and two nominal variables, and each value of one nominal variable is found in combination with each value of the other nominal variable. It tests three null hypotheses: that the means of the measurement variable are equal for different values of the first nominal variable; that the means are equal for different values of the second nominal variable; and that there is no interaction (the effects of one nominal variable don't depend on the value of the other nominal variable).

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

If you blog, will you lose your job? via @THESISWHISPERER #208

One of the joys of working as an educator at third level is the academic freedom that we enjoy. This isn't a licence to do whatever we like, but in my case it allows me to run a YouTube channel (which I would not have been able to do in my previous job because it would have been in competition with the company's business), and to blog. Even in my blog I do not write disparaging comment about the College, its students, or any of my colleagues. Even if I wanted to do this - thankfully academic freedom does not stretch this far. I can give my own opinion on the likes of educational matters and my own experiences without fear of sanction from the College. I suspect that very few people in the College read this blog - in the near 10 years that I have been blogging there have only been a handful of comments from colleagues about something I wrote. Nevertheless, I don't think I would get away with it if I slagged off the College.

Dr Inger Mewburn.
Image source: The Conversation.
How far should academic freedom go? In an article by Dr Inger Mewburn (The Thesis Whisperer) entitled "If you blog, will you lose your job?" mention is made of a case in La Trobe University in Australia where an academic (Roz Ward) was stood down after a Facebook post in which she suggested a red flag should fly over state parliament instead of the “racist Australian one". She was later re-installed. Dr Mewburn asks "if you are an academic, should you blog or otherwise be present and opinionated online?". She doesn't blog about matters that she has no expertise in for fear of being "hung out to dry by university management" - she freely admits that she just doesn’t "have the guts" to do so. But what she does do, and I'm fully behind her on this, is "support academics who blog on controversial and risky topics, even if I don’t agree with everything they write". 

Academics must be allowed to express their opinions. Whether it is via a blog, Twitter, or Facebook - comment should be part of what we do. As Trinity College academic Professor Brian Lucey puts it about academics he states they "need to man and woman up, start doing press releases, contact journalists, cultivate contacts in the media, do newspaper articles and columns, start blogging… They need to get engaged".

Please note:
Opinions expressed in this post, and all other posts in this blog, are my own and do not represent the opinions of the National College of Ireland in any way.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Confirmation & Commemoration #209

This weekend I was in Westport Co Mayo for the Confirmation of one of my in-laws. The ceremony was in Holy Trinity Church of Ireland, and I can safely say that this is one of the very few times I have been in  Protestant church. I hadn't realised that the ceremony is very similar to a Catholic ceremony. Nevertheless it was enjoyable and interesting at the same time - it was given by Bishop Patrick Rooke of Tuam, Killala and Achonry. One big difference between the Catholic and Protestant churches is that the latter have lots of interesting plaques on the inside walls commemorating Lords and soldiers. I was right beside the one below commemorating three local men killed in action in both the first and second world wars - very sad that all three were only sons. There were several others dotted around the walls - I think it is nice that communities remember their war dead like this. We should do more of this.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Near Misses while Cycling in Dublin #210

Well - I made it to the end of this week despite several efforts by South Dublin drivers to see how close they could come to killing me without actually doing it. On Monday while riding along the cycle lane outside the Convention Centre a woman swerved out of oncoming traffic to drive into the Centre's car park. I jammed on my brakes and swerved to avoid her - despite my bright yellow cycling top I'm certain she did not see. Later in the week I had to test my brakes again - this time the same thing happened as another driver forced me to stop suddenly while she drove into the petrol station on Newtownpark Avenue. I looked around and there was no traffic on my side of the road. Either the driver misjudged my speed or did not see me. The most serious incident for me this week was on the Blackrock Bypass where a motorist turned left onto Carysfort Avenue right across me as I riding along the cycle lane - just in time my sixth sense told me he was not going to stop to let me continue and again I tested my brakes. Again - I'm convinced that the driver did not see me.

Image source: My Parking Sign.
Every morning and evening when I cycle to and from work I feel that I am going into battle - not just with motorists, but with other cyclists as well. Many cyclists (mostly male) are very aggressive, and of course there is appalling behaviour on the road. I am no angel, but I do stop for red lights and observe the rules of the road (I have to admit to keeping going at pedestrian lights when there are no pedestrians, and occasionally cycling on the path on the Strand Road). There are some brilliant cycle paths and dedicated traffic lights for bicycles in Dublin - unfortunately they are regularly abused. I feel like hissing every time I see a cyclist go through a light, but what purpose would that serve? I get particularly annoyed when I see cyclists wearing "Be Safe, Be Seen" vests running a red light. Clearly this message is for other people, not them.

Wouldn't it be great if everybody was just nice on the road? Wouldn't it be great if everybody obeyed the rules of the road all the time? Nobody owns the road in front of us, yet we all behave as if it is our personal property and how dare anyone take advantage of us. I have many more mornings and evenings of cycling to and from work - lets hope I make it to retirement!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Another Icon Passes Away #RIPMuhammadAli #TheGreatest #211

Image source: Retro-Reviewer.
Sad news this morning of the death of one on the greatest sportsman ever - Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali. I am old enough to remember many of his fights and saw him box on TV several times in the days before Pay Per View television. He would have made a fortune if he was boxing today - there hasn't been anyone like him since he hung up his gloves. There have been many imitators who try to be loud-mouthed and brash like he was, but they were missing one ingredient - class.

As a sportsman Ali inspired many generations of more than other sports people. He showed that you could stand up to Uncle Sam when he refused the draft. He showed that a poor boy from Louisville Kentucky could reach the top in his sport. He showed that it was OK to be a Muslim. He showed that you should never give up by winning the world title three times. He also showed humility when diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease - he stated that it was Allah's way of telling him that he was not the greatest. Rest in peace Ali - may Allah be with you.

For 1970s teenagers a popular song in the discos was Johnny Wakelin's "In Zaire" which was based on the famous Rumble in the Jungle fight between Ali and George Foreman. Here's a video from Top of the Pops in 1976....enjoy!

Friday, June 03, 2016

20,000 @YouTube Subscribers #Milestone #212

This week the number of subscribers to my YouTube Channel passed the 20,000 milestone. This figure is the difference between the total number of subscribers (23,200) less those who have unsubscribed and de-activated accounts (3,190). My very first subscriber signed up to the channel on 28th September, 2009. The top four nations (according to YouTube Analytics) are as follows?

United States
United Kingdom 1790
India 1527
Ireland 895

I'm especially pleased to learn that I have so many subscribers from Ireland - I'm guessing (and hoping) that many of these are students of NCI. The United States provides by far the most subscribers - more than three times the next figure for the UK. God Bless America! The largest lecture theatre in NCI is the Kelly Theatre which has capacity for 270 students. If I were to hold a lecture for the 20,000 YouTube subscribers I would have enough students to fill the Kelly Theatre 74 times!

The bar chart below shows the top 20 countries by number of subscribers. The chart is done in Excel from data downloaded from my channel. I also added the data to Tableau as well to display a heat map of the world. It is not that effective for data like this because of the huge range between smallest and largest values, and the fact that the data are very much skewed as you see. I still used the Tableau heat map by inserting it as a partially transparent background image to the bar chart.

A huge THANK YOU to all my subscribers - I do hope you all find my videos useful.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

UCLA Professor shot dead by student "for getting bad grades" #WearOrange #213

Dr William Klug.
Image Source: UCLA.
Awful news from the University of California at Los Angeles yesterday that mechanical engineering professor Dr William Klug was shot dead by a student who then it is believed took his own life. UCLA was locked down for hours as terrified students huddled in classrooms until the all clear was given. Today's Irish Independent is reporting that Dr Klug was allegedly shot by a student because of "bad grades". This killing happened the day before today's National Gun Violence Awareness Day in America - Dr Klug's murder is just one more senseless killing in a country that has a love/hate relationship with guns.

Killing someone over a bad grade is obviously an extreme reaction by the UCLA student (if this is true). There is no doubt that people can react strongly to low grades. I have seen this myself as I have awarded "bad grades" many times, and though I have not experienced anger - I have had several students disagree with the grade I awarded (I once had a student who was very unhappy with a grade of over 80%!). Most, if not all, Colleges have procedures where students can receive formal feedback on grades, and can appeal results. They will also have External Examiners to ensure standards are appropriate. In the end - it is my professional opinion what an assignment/essay/exam is worth. I have to remember that I don't "fail" students, they fail themselves. An academic can be a bit of a snob at times to students ("I have a PhD and years of experience in this subject - what have you got?"), but we can obviously get things wrong just like everyone else. We take great care to make sure the basics are done when grading, for example - adding the marks up correctly and then inputting the grades into the College's systems correctly. It also helps if you have a brilliant Exams Office who check everything. 

The death of William Klug shows that anyone is vulnerable to gun violence. We are all vulnerable to anger and resentment. A "bad grade" can have a life changing effect on a student - it could mean that they lose out on a job application or progression to a higher level course. It could even mean they are paid less than others doing the same job. Getting angry won't change things.

Video promoting National Gun Violence Awareness Day...

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Locating my Cullen Great-Grandparents' Grave #214

First - a family history lesson. Below is part of my family tree on that shows my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Up to now I have only been able to find the grave of my Dad's maternal grandparents Thomas and Bridget Hurley in Clonfert outside Newmarket in Co Cork (I posted about this in 2008). 

Click tree to enlarge.
Last week my Mum told me that her maternal grandparents were buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin. Since I knew the date of death of her grandmother Anne McCann (5th March, 1952), I contacted Mount Jerome Cemetery online who almost immediately responded with the grave number: "A2-624-23450 also in this Grave are  Richard Cullen Snr 1940, Margaret Cullen 1862 and Desmond Cullen 1972 there is a Limestone Celtic Cross on the grave". There is a map online at the Mt Jerome website to show where this is. To find it walk down Prospect Walk from the centre of the cemetery towards Greenmount Walk by the wall. The grave is in section 624 and the number is 23450. It is a single grave with my four relatives buried there. The Celtic Cross is about two metres tall and is just one row back from near the end of left side of Prospect Walk. The names on the headstone are just about readable: In Loving Memory of  Richard Cullen who died 10th March 1940. Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on his soul. Also his wife Anne who died 5th March 1952. Also Margaret (Cissie) Cullen who died 23rd October 1962. Also Desmond P Cullen who died 30th December 1971 aged 57 years. I only remember "Uncle Des" - he was a Bohemians fan and we used to talk about football!

There is a grave cleaning service at the entrance to Mount Jerome cemetery and I am having the headstone cleaned (just the part where the names are). Some of the lead letters have fallen out - it costs €3 per letter to replace each one. I shall certainly post a photo of the cleaned up version when it is done in about 5 weeks. The grave looks like it has not had any work done to it since Uncle Des was buried in 1971. There is a wreath on the grave which could be there for a very long time. I will buy a few bags of white stones to cover over the top to make it look a bit better.

Richard Cullen is a descendent of Denis Cullen - a well known stonemason in the 18th century from Glendalough in Co Wicklow. I am working on confirming this through Anne McCann is a relative (possible an Aunt) of the actor Donal McCann - I have yet to establish what the exact relationship is.