Saturday, January 27, 2018

Edward Browne, Colour Sergeant

Recently in correspondence with a distant relative, I was shown an extract from a family notebook that appeared to be copies of inscriptions from headstones in St Michael's Cemetery, Gorey, Co Wexford. There are several Brownes buried in this cemetery - see full list at The Brownes are my ancestors on my maternal Grandmother's side of the family. In the note (see middle below), the James Browne that died on 19th September 1876 is (I believe) my Great-Great-Great Grandfather. In the next note (at the bottom of the page), James is recorded as having erected a headstone (presumably) in memory of his father Edward Browne (also from Gorey and who of course would be my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather) - to my surprise he is recorded as being a "Coloured Sarg (sic) in Her Majesty's Service"!

There is not much military history in my family tree. While we are sure that my Great Grandfather James Byrne (no relation to the Brownes) served in the British Army in the First World War - no record of him can be found. To have an ancestor as a Colour Sergeant opens up the possibility that he may have seen action in the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). I have no record of how old Edward was when he died, but his son James was born in 1811 - so he definitely would have been of fighting age. More research needed. Note that I find there is some doubt about this as the St Michael's Cemetery list indicates that the Edward Browne who died on 15th June 1852, was 46 years old at the age of death.

According to Wikipedia, a "Colour Sergeant (CSgt or C/Sgt) is a non-commissioned title in the Royal Marines and infantry regiments of the British Army, ranking above sergeant and below warrant officer class 2". Wikipedia goes on to say that the "rank was introduced into British Army infantry regiments in 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars to reward long-serving sergeants" and that this rank was considered to be a "a prestigious attainment, granted normally to those sergeants who had displayed courage on the field of battle". Go Great-Great-Great-Great Grand Dad!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Just how young is our @campaignforleo Taoiseach? #DataViz #Analytics

According a new Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll out today, our Taoiseach is enjoying excellent approval ratings of 60%. Pat Leahy writes in the Irish Times that Varadkar’s approval jumps to 60% as voters show their satisfaction. Much of this high level of approval is put down to Varadkar's youthfulness and straight-talking. As I have just started two data visualization modules this week at the College, it got me thinking when I saw this headline how could age of the Taoiseach over time visualized, and how does Varadkar compare to the other Taoisigh?

I looked up Wikipdia and one page gives all the information I needed to draw a time series chart in Tableau. With still quite limited skills in Tableau, I managed to create a coloured area chart with year (1922 to 2018) across the X axis, and age along the Y axis. Each shape that you see represents the time each Taoiseach* served and the age they were each year. The raw data consists of simply listing the name of the Taoiseach for every year between 1922 and 2018 in one column, and their age in a second column. One thing that Tableau is not (yet) good at is adding images. So I had to save the Tableau chart as an image, load it into PowerPoint, insert the images (all taken from Wikipedia), and save the slide as an image (I could have done this in a graphics package either). Below is the result:
Click/Tap to enlarge image.
Indeed, Leo Varadkar is our youngest appointed Taoiseach ever - but not by much. W.T Cosgrave was just 42 when he became President of the Executive Council in 1922, and Bertie Ahern was 46 when he was appointed Taoiseach in 1997. You can see that he has a long way to go to reach the longevity of former Taoisigh - Éamon de Valera was President of Executive Council/Taoiseach for 16 years years from 1932 to 1948!

The Tableau interactive worksheet (without images) for above diagram is available in Tableau Public at this link

*The title "Taoiseach" was not used before 1937, the title "President of the Executive Council" was used from 1922 to 1937 instead.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"May the force (of big data) be with you" via @ShradhaMukherj7

Dr Shradha Mukherjee provides us with a really interesting article in the DataCamp Official Blog about the "Top 10 Breakthroughs in Big Data Science in 2017". Google searches for "Big Data" now result in a similar number of results as does searches for "Star Wars". The list of breakthroughs, according to Mukherjee, makes for interesting reading - here are her "Top 10":
  1. Are we alone in the universe?
  2. Wonder how the dolphins are doing?
  3. Will this cancer medication really work?
  4. Can we predict the next severe thunderstorm and tornado?
  5. How to increase safety and minimize crimes?
  6. Is this a new species of plant?
  7. Can molecular structure predict smell of the molecule?
  8. Where did the constitution come from?
  9. Which is the best city to celebrate Christmas in U.S.?
  10. What's the risk of a second heart attack?
All of these questions are being answered with data! The list contains some trivial and serious questions, and I'll not reproduce all the details here - readers can go to the link at the top of this post to read the lot. However, two are most interesting for me: #5 and #9. I never believed that analytics could be used to predict crime, yet police in Vancouver are doing just this. They are using data mining to predict where "crimes are likely to occur" - a valuable tool I think you'll agree in the fight against crime. Imagine police shouting warnings to criminals along the lines of "Armed police - we have you surrounded with data"!

Chicago is the best of 100 cities in the United States to celebrate Christmas. Using 29 parameters, such as "affordability, number of Christmas events, shopping deals", a profile of each city can be built up to come out with the highest score (and best city). The cool thing about this is that any data analyst can do this and create a system of rating cities. You could gather/mine/scrape date from a variety of sources and come up with new and different "Top 100" lists. Imagine doing this for: best city to buy a book in, best city to go to the toilet in, best city for free stuff, and best city for creamy pints of Guinness! The list is endless!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

100 years of Coastal Erosion in Co. Wexford

The Irish Ordinance Survey has a really cool tool, called GeoHive, where you can overlay old maps with modern aerial photography. I have written here before about coastal erosion near our house in Co Wexford, and next week some local residents are meeting to see if we can get some erosion protection works done. Ahead of this I used GeoHive to generate the following image:

Click Image to Enlarge.
The overlay on top of the aerial photo is from the 1888-1913 25 inch map, and it illustrates how much of the coastline has been washed away in just 100 years. I have pointed out where the coastline was in 1988-1913 - this is directly opposite our house. To the left of this is the beach today, (running from top to bottom of photo) with the coastline clearly visible as a band of bushes to the left of this. The area to the bottom right, called "Pattern Green", is almost completely gone today - indeed the last house (at the 7 o'clock position under the "G" of "Pattern Green") made the news two years ago after it was washed into the sea. The photo above must be a few years old, as there has been much more of the coast eroded since it was taken.

The good news is that at the rate of erosion illustrated by my image above, my house will not be washed into the sea for another 100 years!  The bad news is that erosion has accelerated over the past few years and affects the value of every house that you can see above. There's no stopping Mother Nature, and we cannot predict what will happen over the next few years - will Mother Nature use Global Warming to pick away at more of Co Wexford's coast?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Nothing like a Passport to tell you you're getting old!

I recently had to get a new passport, and there's no doubt that one's appearance changes over the years. In 1974 (at the age of 15) I made my first trip abroad to France - the photo for this was taken by Barney McGirr, the Chemist in Carnew. Of course our passports were green back then - should we join the Brits and hanker nostalgically after our old passports? Every ten years a new Eugene shows up - a little older, and a little wiser. The ten year sequences was broken in 2008 when I lost my 2004 passport in France, and had to get a new one. For the 2018 version the photo was taken with my iPhone - it appears on both booklet and credit card style passports that will keep me going for the next 10 years. 






Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Census 2016 Sapmap Area: County Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown #Census

I often use census data in my Statistics classes (they are a great source of non-normal data) - this year I will be able to use the 2016 census results for the first time. One of the most interesting sets of data is from the Small Area Population statistics - you can look up your county or right down to your local area. The county Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown (DLR) has a population of 218,018 - this includes me. It is also one of the wealthiest parts of Ireland (this does not include me!). Data are easily downloadable in Excel or PDF format.

An interesting analysis to make is to examine how people commute to work. DLR is well-served by public transport with trains DART, LUAS, and plenty of bus lanes. The pie chart below (created in Tableau) shows the breakdown of the census figure for "Population aged 5 years and over by means of travel to work" - this represents 94,397 people.

Data source: Census 2016.
Despite some of the best public transport infrastructure in the country, 47,577 (50.4%) of us still travel by car to work. Train, DART or LUAS is a distant second with 14,094 (14.9%) using this to travel to work. Only 7,781 (8.2%) use buses.

Despite the well-documented increase in the number of people cycling to work, only 5,770 (6.1%) do so in DLR - this is less than the number (6,875 or 7.3%) of people who walk to work. For my own mode of transport (motorcycle) I am one of the 805 (0.9%) people who reported in the census that we use a "motorcycle or scooter" to travel to work.

More to follow!

Monday, January 08, 2018

"Look what a Parking Payment Machine can do!" - Eight years later. #CunningPlan

On April 26th 2010 I wrote a post about the introduction of parking meters on Upper Sheriff Street in Dublin's Docklands (which previously had free parking) - Look what a Parking Payment Machine can do! At the time I thundered "Dublin City Council obviously decided that they were having none of this free parking lark and that folks would have to pay for the privilege of parking on Sheriff Street" and "What genius in the Council decided to do this?". I further moaned "Grown up people in the Council made the decision to charge for parking here, but all they've done is empty the street".

Well - almost eight years later, the street is still empty (the red Hyundai at the right in the photo below is mine at 11:30 this morning). I walk this street a lot at lunch time and it always seems to be empty. I wondered previously if a Cost-Benefit Analysis had been done - you don't have to be a genius to figure that this street is generating very little revenue for Dublin City Council - their cunning plan to generate more money does not seem to be working. 

But... perhaps it does make money? 1 euro buys you just 25 minutes of parking time in this empty street. I used up all the change I had which only got me 50 minutes while I dashed into the College to pick up some papers. 

In 2010 I thought this was " just mean and stupid" - I still do.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Computer science will now be a Leaving Cert subject, via @siliconrepublic #STEM

Yesterday, Education Minister Richard Bruton announced that "an important and timely addition to our education system" is being made with the introduction of computer science in second level schools. According to Eva Short in Silicon Republic, students will be taught "computational thinking and analysis; programming languages and how to modify computer programmes; and how to design webpages, digital animations, simulations, games, apps and robotic systems". Good stuff I hear you say - it should have the desired effect of increasing the number of students studying STEM subjects. There will of course be a knock-on effect for third-level colleges, many of whose introductory computer science modules in first year will have to be pitched at a higher level. This is initially being rolled out to just 40 schools this year, with first Leaving Cert exams taking place in 2020, adding a further complication for third-level colleges as some students coming into first year in 2020 will already have studied computer science, while most will not have.

Interestingly, the Silicon Republic article states that the new course aims to "teach students to be creative, adaptive learners and to employ flexible, solution-oriented thinking" - I would argue that subjects such as Maths, science, and many others already do this. According to the Action Plan for Education (2017), the Dept of Education has the ambition to "create the best education and training service in Europe by 2026" - quite an ambitious target in a European Union with richer countries aiming to do the same thing. No harm in aiming high, but sound-bites like this need to be backed up with action and a lot of money. Hopefully it all comes true.

Image source: Rupert Mallin.
But my main thought on all of this is from the educators perspective. What a time to be a young teacher, or for those studying to become teachers! Richard Bruton is one of the (very few) Ministers I respect - I assume he has the teaching unions on side (and inevitably the money needed too). Many inspiring young educators will be champing at the bit to be teaching these computer science classes. A pity it is just 40 schools first, but rolling this out to all schools at once would be risking too much. It is fascinating to me that in my lifetime, the classroom has changed from using inkwell and pen (yes - I did use these at a desk like the one to the right!), to modern classrooms with a computer on every desk. If every one of our teachers (and children) get this opportunity, there is no doubt that Ireland's future is bright. I might not get to share in this (2026 is the year I formally retire!), but I can watch from the sidelines to see how it all goes.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Hans Rosling Animation in Tableau #Analytics #DataViz

I was always fascinated by a TED talk given by Professor Hans Rosling called "The best Stats you have ever seen". In particular his animation of a bubble chart comparing fertility rates, life expectancy, and population for every country from 1960 to 2013. This is the relevant bit in the video (2:39 - 5:02):

I've always wanted to recreate his animation, and now thanks to Kirill Eremenko (via Udemy) - I know how to do it in Tableau Software. It turns out to be a very straight-forward task. I have data for 53 years downloaded from The World Bank - essentially I get Tableau to plot 53 bubble charts and animate them in sequence. Tableau allows a lot of cool filtering too - here's a short video I've made summarising my result: