Sunday, April 30, 2017

Did you know - 28 O'Loughlins were killed in the First World War?

Michael Patrick O'Loughlin.
Image Source: Find A Grave.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has a brilliant "Find War Dead" service, and I decided to look it up to see if any O'Loughlins were killed in the First World War. To my surprise, there are 28 listed as being killed in the war or who had died shortly afterwards from wounds. There are no Eugene O'Loughlins, though there is an "E O'Loughlin " listed among the dead. The O'Loughlin side of my family came from Newmarket in North Cork and there is no family history that I know of where any O'Loughlin took part in the First World War.

13 of the 28 dead were from Australia, among them Private Michael Patrick O'Loughlin (Service number 3216) who was killed on 28th September 1917 aged just 24. He has no known grave and is listed on The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (Panel 27). He has a page on The AIF Project website, but it does not say where or how he died. The On This Day feature shows very little happening on 28th September 1917.

The other 15 (of 28) O'Loughlins who died are listed as being from the United Kingdom, of which Ireland was a part of throughout the war. They served in various regiments as follows:

  • Cheshire Regiment
  • Irish Guards
  • Manchester Regiment (2)
  • Royal Dublin Fusiliers (3)
  • Royal Engineers
  • Royal Field Artillery
  • Royal Marine Light Infantry
  • Royal Munster Fusiliers (3)
  • Seaforth Highlanders
  • The King's (Liverpool Regiment)

I'm guessing that if I go back far enough I must be related to at least some of the O'Loughlins listed by the CWGC. Indeed, all of us in Ireland must have at least a distant connection to the many war dead from 1914-1918. Incidentally, the CWGC lists 35 O'Loughlins killed in the Second World War - this includes civilian war dead. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

There's still a bit of farmer in me!

In Dad's 1978 Zetor tractor.
A regular Saturday activity for me is to make the 90 kilometre trip to Ballingate to visit my Mum and Dad, and brother Joe. It takes an hour and 20 minutes to drive down - on Saturdays cycling clubs and horse boxes make this a slow trip through Rathnew, Rathdrum, Aughrim, and Carnew. Apart from the road to work, it is probably the most travelled road for me. Before lunch, my brother Joe and I decided to head for the bog and feel a few trees. This is forward planning for next winter - this timber will dry out over the summer and we will spend many a further Saturday sawing the tree up into logs for three houses, (Mum and Dad's, Joe's, and mine). I took a car boot load of ash logs home and placed them in my back garden for next winter.

I also got an opportunity today to drive Dad's tractor with a trailer. It is a Zetor and he bought it new in 1978 - we are looking forward to its 40th birthday next year. I even managed to reverse the tractor and trailer without doing any damage - I was proud of myself for not having forgotten this skill which is an essential one for anyone working on a farm. The field in the photo below was once a bog which Dad drained in the 1970s. It is now planted with trees, so we are being environmentally friendly by replacing trees that we cut down for fuel. The trees we cut down today are all oak trees over 75 years old - it seems a pity to cut down these magnificent specimens of wood, but they were overhanging the edge of the field and had to go.

You can take the man out of the bog, but you can't take the bog out of the man!

Our job today was to kill these trees.

Phew - End of Semester II

Not yet!
Image source: Endgadget.
Last evening I had my final class of the semester. It has been a long 14 weeks (includes two reading weeks) for both students and Faculty - now classes and tutorials are over for another academic year. For some students, this week's classes will have been their last classes in College ever. For me, it is about putting my notes and books back on the shelf until the beginning of the next academic year in September - which will be the 16th academic year for me in NCI. For the next 20 weeks it is not quite feet-up time - May (for me) despite no classes is always the busiest time of the year with exams and projects to be graded.

Traditionally, the end of semester II also marked the end of the academic year, but that is changing. One of my classes this semester started their academic year in January rather than the previous September - they will be continuing on to semester II over the summer. I don't envy them or their lecturers. Timetables, and the systems and people who support them, are more flexible than ever. We will all have to get used to this.

While I am happy that the semester is over, I am also a little saddened that classes are finished - it is by far my most favourite part of what I do. Students are now facing into exams (one of my exam papers is tough) - for them their learning is not yet complete. It's stating the obvious that I know how anxious students can get before exams - it is always a relief to me too when the exams are over!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Unemployment in Ireland 1983 - 2017

In yesterday's post about a recruitment fair at NCI: What a Time to be a Graduate!, I wrote about how timing is almost a "lottery" for when graduates finish College. Today's opportunities open up many possibilities for our graduates, though it was not always this way.

Figures below from Eurostat show Ireland's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate since 1983 (coincidentally the year I graduated from Trinity College):

My final year Trinity ID card (1983).
In July 1983 when I graduated the rate was recorded as 14% - the rate was on an upward spiral reaching 17.1% just 14 months later. This was the highest rate of unemployment recorded in Ireland since 1983 - not a good time to be seeking a job I think you'll agree. I postponed the inevitable by continuing on as a postgraduate student and graduated with a PhD in July 1988 - the unemployment rate was almost as bad at 16.9%. By August 1988 I was on a FÁS course. While initially this was a big come-down (PhD to a FÁS course in one month) - I never looked back as it directly lead to a career in eLearning.

According to the Central Statistics Office, the most recent unemployment figures (for March this year) show the rate at 6.4% - very much on a downward trend. While I exaggerate by stating that timing is a "lottery" when you graduate - you can see from above that the good times are back for graduates.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What a Time to be a Graduate! #NCICareersfair

Today in the College we had a fantastic recruitment fair with over 30 companies visiting NCI to meet with our students. As has now become familiar to us there was a great buzz in the Atrium with every stand busy. I am told by our wonderful award-winning careers service (a BIG SHOUT-OUT to them!) that most employers are in recruitment mode and looking for graduates. It is a golden time for the 2017 graduates who have a fantastic variety of opportunities and employers to choose from.

Recruitment Fair at NCI today.
There is an element of lottery about the time of graduation. Of course it was not always this way, 7-8 years ago in the midst of economic crisis, an event like this was very different. While opportunities for graduates always seem to be better than for non-graduates - timing is everything. Leaving Cert students today condidering going to College will graduate in 2021 - who knows if the current upward cycle of opportunity will have bombed by then. Let us (Ireland Inc.) be optimistic and work to make sure that our future graduates will continue to have opportunity like today's graduates. It is our job in the Colleges to keep the supply of top quality graduates coming.

I wish our 2017 graduates much success in their careers. I hope they choose the right company and the right job to suit their skills. 

NCI: Changing Lives Through Education

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Twelve Million @YouTube Views #DozenMillion #ThankYou

A nice thing to discover this morning was that the number of views on my YouTube Channel has just reached 12,003,866 views. It has taken four months for the most recent million views to be racked up - I wrote on December 14th last about reaching 11,000,000 views. The most popular video is still How To... Create a Basic Gantt Chart (published in 2010, and has 1,102,083 views), but over the past couple of years my How To... Plot Multiple Data Sets on the Same Chart, with 731,904 views, is catching up fast.

I haven't actually published a video since November last year. To keep the number of views climbing I have been advised by my YouTube Partner Manager to try to publish on a regular basis. In fact in the past year only two videos How To... Perform the Kruskal Wallis H Test (By Hand) and How To... Perform the Mann-Whitney U Test (By Hand) have been in any way successful. I have often been asked to create more videos on how to use SPSS, but the number of views on the ones I have are very low. I have a few more in the pipeline (Multiple Regression, Wilcoxon Rank Test, and perhaps more Excel videos) - now that we are coming to the end of the academic year I should be able to find time to create some more.

A HUGE THANK YOU to all my viewers - as always, I am humbled and gratified with so many views. I hope that my small efforts can continue to help people to learn "How To..." do stuff.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter With Family

A quick post to share some photos of a great Easter Sunday lunch with my family in Skuna Bay. 14 folks fitted into our kitchen for delicious roast lamb all beautifully prepared by the lovely Roma. I almost forgot to whip out the camera, but I managed to get a few snaps. A pity it was not warm enough to eat outdoors, but we were cosy anyway. It took us a while to clear up, but Roma and I lit the fire and put our feet up for the evening.

Family friend Mary Ball, my brother Joe, and Mum.

Chris and Dad.

Dad and Me.

Vicki and Claire.

Sister-in-law Miriam, sister Kayo, and Mikey.

With the lovely Roma.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Thirty Pieces of Silver (in stone)

While out for a walk today I wnet into the small cemetery at Donaghmore in Co Wexford. It is very close to some bad coastal erosion and over the past year Wexford Co Council did a fantastic job in creating a wall of boulders to protect the road and cemetery. I took the following photo of the grave of Anne and Loughlin Brenan (no relation) who died in 1748 and 1772 respectively:

In 2014 Wicklow County Council published "Here Lyeth - The 18th Century Headstones of County Wicklow" by Chris Corlett. It is of particular interest to me in that Denis Cullen, who I believe to be my ancestor, is lauded as a skilled stone-carver of headstones. The Cullens were based in Monaseed, Co Wexford, and according to Corlett in his book - they are responsible for many fine headstone carvings in Wicklow and Wexford. The headstone above is one of many ornate headstones in Donaghmore which are similar to the type that Cullen and his son created in the 18th/19th centuries. It is not signed (as Cullen typically did), so it may not be a Cullen original. Another stone nearby looks as though it might be a Cullen one. Above you'll see carvings of Christ on the cross, a ladder, a hammer and nails, and interestingly - 30 pieces of silver to the left of the Crucifixion (I counted them - there are 30). It's great to see such craftsmanship lasting over 250 years.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Second Reading Week

This year in the College we have introduced a second "reading week" - essentially a week in the semester where there are no classes. Our first reading week was back in March - it was week 8 of the semester and coincided with the week that has St Patrick in it. It was also approximately half way through the semester. Our second reading week is this week - it is the 12th week of the semester and leaves just two more weeks after this. This week we would have lost a day anyway as the College closes on Good Friday (I don't know what for - it is certainly not on religious grounds). I'll reserve judgement on how well or not the second reading week works. I for one would have preferred the semester to end a week earlier instead. Next year I understand that the two reading weeks will be consecutive as Easter is so early in 2018. As far as I know it is common in many other colleges to have reading/study weeks around Easter time.

As I've written before, taking a rest or taking a break between activities (ABBA) is important. A 12 week semester is a long time and weariness creeps in on both student and faculty. There is merit in taking a "break" in the middle of the semester. The College Library is busy this week - our 4th year Computing students are close to their final exams and are studying hard. Many other students are taking the time to work on assignments and end-of-semester projects. Even though a second reading week prolongs the semester, I know that some of my own classes welcome the "break". I don't know how many students take a holiday or do no College work during this week.

Easter has lost its religious appeal for many people. While Easter Monday is a national holiday in Ireland, Good Friday is not - many businesses stay open and of course many shops will be open. Only the pubs will be closed, though this is sure to change next year if our politicians are to be believed. Very soon Good Friday will be like any other Friday, with just a tiny proportion of us going to church. I still like going to Easter Services and will do so again this year. 

Happy Easter everyone!

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Kerry 0-20, Dublin 1-16 #GAA

It was a real treat to be in Croke Park today with my daughter Kate to see the Allianz League Final between Dublin and Kerry along with 53,000+ GAA fans. In a thrilling game Dublin’s four-year reign as Division 1 football champions and their 36-game unbeaten streak was ended in dramatic style. The manner of Kerry's victory was spoiled a bit at the end for me as Dean Rock missed a free from long range after Anthony Maher's cynical pull down on a Dublin player. He knew what he was doing and committed the foul a long way from goal. Nevertheless Kerry deserved their victory with some fantastic football reminiscent of Kerry teams of old. We were treated to a tough close game with a lot of skill and an exhibition of point scoring, many from long range, by both teams.

For me there is a tinge of sadness in that my regular companion to matches in Croke Park hopes to move to Canada for a few years this summer. Kate loves The Dubs and wears her colours proudly - she will miss the big games this summer, and I will miss her too. Today's game certainly whetted the appetite for the Championship this summer. Now that everyone knows that the Dubs are beatable, it's game on for Sam in September!!!

A Great Day Out at GAA Headquarters!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Here's a Good Idea (or is it?) - "cut college fees for courses linked to skills shortages"

Recently I read an article by Owen Ross in The Irish Times entitled "We should cut college fees for courses linked to skills shortages". Ross, who is is Head of Department of Business and Management at Athlone Institute of Technology, speaks a lot of sense when he writes that there should be financial "incentives for school leavers to undertake designated programmes". He suggests that programmes associated with "skills shortages might cost €2,750 per year", while other programmes associated without skills shortages "could cost €3,250". However, this is only a €500 difference and may not be enough to entice many students to choose differently. In another suggestion he writes that "graduates who enrol on designated third-level programmes in disciplines with skills shortages" should get tax credits in the years after graduation. What ever about the merits of Ross's suggestions, at least he is innovative (in an Irish context) in his suggestions and is certainly not burying his head in the sand like a lot of policy makers in third level education.
Image source: Times Higher Education.

My one major reservation, which Ross alludes to himself, is that students could be being incentivised to sign up for courses like Computer Science and Engineering that they are completely unsuited to. Drop out rates are higher in these disciplines than others, and every year I see students coming to College and dropping out. While the reasons for doing so are varied, often students who are not suited to a particular course just simply don't like it either. It is so difficult to decide what you want to do after fours years in College - at the pace the world is changing it will be a completely different place after graduation.

When I meet prospective students who visit the College to see what it is like and to find out about courses, my only advice to them is to choose what they are good at and what they like/love. This to me is the primary consideration when choosing what to study in College. Secondary considerations such as location, where your mates are going, where your parents went, cost (important yes - but still secondary to me), salary after graduation, prestige, or the incentives mentioned by Owen Ross, should not be the main reason for choosing a third level course. So if you want to study Ancient Greek, Welsh Civilization, or flower arranging - do it. Who knows - you might still end up working for a multinational in an IT role, but you have done what you wanted to do first.