Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Snow means no classes #sneachta

With the whole country shutting down and joking about bread for sale on Donedeal, it was inevitable that NCI would close too because of the bad weather. Many of our students travel long distances to College and it would have been unfair to expect them to attend lectures. Classes for Thursday and Friday are also cancelled. Interestingly, online classes are cancelled too.

Snowmen (snowpersons?) in Blackrock this morning.
The word "cancelled" is an interesting one. We are in week 6 of the 12 week semester, and cancelling one week's worth of classes will put a lot of pressure on lecturers to complete a 12-week curriculum in 11 weeks - or to be more accurate, 7 weeks of lectures in 6 weeks. I'd prefer if the word used was "postponed", but with hundreds of classes being cancelled over the next three days, it will be very difficult to reschedule everything college-wide.

I have two evening classes (Weds and Thurs) and I cannot afford to lose one class. If I cannot reschedule the classes, I have the option to cover the material on-line or in a recorded lecture. I could also make sure not to set any exam questions based on material due to be covered at the end of the module in case I don't get to it. Another alternative is to speed up, but much feedback from my students tells me that I go too fast already. I could also ensure that I stick to the curriculum and not get side-tracked as I often do. My classes always start on time, but I could shorten breaks and continue until last minute.

I hope all our students stay safe and warm, and that they wrap up well in front of the fire while studying!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Wedding Bells for Eileen and Peter

I am just home after the wedding of my niece Eileen to Peter in Kilkenny - a great day was had by all. It was a great family occasion and we celebrated the happy couple's special day in style. I decided to take a lot of photos with my 10-year old Canon EOS 350D. When I got it I found it to be a fantastic camera, but it has been surpassed in quality by the iPhone. I had a lot of difficulty with focusing it, and ended up having to delete many out-of-focus shots. I did get some nice ones below to share.

I wish Eileen and Peter all the happiness that they deserve for the rest of their lives - best of luck to you both!

Mother and Grandfather of the Bride.

All Married Now!

The Happy Couple arrive at Lyrath Estate.

With Roma, Claire, and Vicki.

Chris and Kathleen.

With my little sister.

Brendan and his Grandfather admiring a 2012 Brenchley.

First minute of wedded bliss.


David and his Grandmother

With my two Bros.

The Boss enjoying a pint.

The Best Man Michael with a well earned pint.

The wedding party.

Mother and Bride.

My Mum and Dad.

Cousin Lauralea and Joe.

With Roma.

Kathleen and Chris.

The Bride and her Grandmother.

The Happy Couple.
Granddad dispensing advice to Claire.


Vicki and Claire with Grandparents.

The O'Loughlins.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Eugene Loughlin - more family details

Earlier this week I discovered my namesake, and great-great uncle Eugene Loughlin who lived in London, and I also discovered he had a son called Eugene who was five years old in the 1911 census. This census show no details on my uncle - I now know that from the England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index (1837-1915) he died in July, August, or September in 1907 in Woolwich. Based on the ages of his sons Patrick (6) and Eugene (5) in the 1911 census - they were obviously very young when he died. Patrick and Eugene are my first cousins twice removed - I will try to find out more about them.

Eugene Loughlin married a Marie Quin in October, November, or December 1901 in Greenwich, London. It seems odd for a Catholic family at that time that their first son, Patrick, was not born until 1905 - perhaps there were still births or infant deaths between 1901 and 1905. His death in 1907 would have been at the young age of 37 years - did he die in an accident, get cancer, or die of a heart attack - we'll probably never know. 

It's fascinating to look up ancestors and find snippets of their lives on-line. In another hundred years it will be easy for researchers to do this to find out anything about us today. I have no pictures from the early 1900s to see what my great-great uncle looked like. Future generations will have millions to choose from on Facebook and the like!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Post #2000 #Blogging

On 13th November 2006, I published my First Blog Post. Today, over 11 years later, this is my 2,000th post. Never would I have thought back then that I would write so much and that it would become part of me. I have written about education, family, sport, travel, books, politics, history, technology, data analytics, and yes - some shite too!

Below I've plotted (using Tableau) the number of posts each month since I started blogging:

Click/Tap image to enlarge.
2016 (in red) sticks out as it was the year I challenged myself to write a blog post every day - which I found difficult to do, and will probably not try again for some time. I can also see it took me a couple of years to get going. After my first post of just two posts in 2006, I only made 15 posts in 2007. 

I've always felt that this blog is a personal website - blogs were originally set up as "web logs", a kind of on-line diary. I often wish I had started doing this when I was much younger - I'd love to reach back to my school and college days (which are fast fading as memories). I have regularly received comments on this blog which have slagged me off, criticised me, disagreed with me, supported me, and of course lots of spam. It can be liberating (and scary) to share thoughts and discuss topics of the day on-line - but what the hell. Not that many people read this blog, though posts do show up in Linkedin views quite a bit. When I write about educational matters it usually gets picked up by, which can double or treble views.

Thanks to all those who have read any of my blog posts. I plan to keep going for at least another 11 years!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Eugene Loughlin" - 1901 UK Census

When I was baptised "Eugene" after Pope Pius XII, it was the first time in some generations that the eldest born male O'Loughlin was not named "Joseph" or "Patrick". My Mum told me that my grandfather PJ (Patrick Joseph) was a little perturbed at the name she had chosen, but could not argue with me being named after a Pope. He then said that he was happy because he had an uncle "Eugene", a brother of his father "Joseph", and that it was a family name after all. 

My great-great uncle Eugene Loughlin was born on 25th November 1870. The "O" and apostrophe was commonly left out in official documents at the time. I am told he was a publican in London, and I decided this morning to search for him in the 1901 census in London using Sure enough, I found him straight away, with his sisters Hanna and Mary, living in 58 Mansford Street in Bethnal Green. There are no houses there now - a block of apartments occupies this site opposite Oaklands Secondary School for girls. Eugene is listed in the census as a "Licenced Victualler" and is classified as "Own account" meaning that he was self-employed. No occupation is given for his sisters. Here's an extract from the census form:

Click/Tap image to enlarge.
I have found no trace of this Eugene after the 1901 census either in UK or Ireland - Perhaps he died between 1901 and 1911. I have found a "Eugene Loughlin" in the 1911 census, aged 5. He had a brother Patrick aged 6 - definitely family forenames. They are listed in the household of Michael and Marie Dennehy living in 206 Albert Road, North Woolwich. This house also does not exist any more, it is in an area that was heavily bombed in World War II - and is very close to the location of an unexploded bomb found earlier this week. Michael is listed as their step father - perhaps a clue that that my great-great uncle Eugene did die between 1901 and 1922. Interestingly, their mother Marie is listed as a "Licenced Victualler" - perhaps keeping up the family business! 

Click/Tap image to enlarge.
More research needed!

Monday, February 12, 2018

How To... Create a Random Sample in Excel 2016 #YouTube

It been a while since I last published a "How To..." video on YouTube (five and a half months to be precise). Today, while browsing through a Research in Education book I came across a short piece on random selection of a sample from a larger population using Excel. I decided to try this for myself and thought such a video might be useful. Using Excel's Data Analysis Tookpak, it is very easy to do - the video is just 3 minutes and 22 seconds long. 

Random sampling is an important technique in Statistics. Every researcher must be careful to avoid bias in sampling, otherwise experiments may be compromised and you may end up with meaningless or misleading results. Here's the video...

Friday, February 09, 2018

Professor Neil J. Salkind RIP #statistics

Image source: Amazon.
For over five years now I have been teaching statistics at NCI, and there's no doubt in my mind that the textbook "Statistics for people who (think they) hate statistics" has been a centre piece for me in preparing for classes, using explanations and examples in my notes, setting tutorials, and getting ideas for exam questions. Salkind's writing style is both humorous and informative - for me he has a brilliant, yet easy, way of explaining statistics so that they can be understood by almost everybody. I have often said to students that his book is my favourite textbook, and if I was ever to write a statistics book I would want it to be like his.

I have never met or communicated with Professor Salkind. Yesterday, while looking up details in Google to order the 6th edition of his book, I was shocked to see an obituary notice for him. He died on 18th November last year. I feel so sad - the world has lost a great teacher. I dedicated my Statistics class last evening to his honour.

Rest in Peace.

Here is Professor Salkind speaking briefly about the 5th edition of his well-known textbook:

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Why is data science sexy? via @james_aka_yale

James Le asks why is data science "sexy" in his on-line article: 16 Useful Advice for Aspiring Data Scientists? In the end he says that "sexiness comes down to being effective".  Hmmmmmm?

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Not a Data Scientist!
Image source:
The Dutch footballer Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink once said, in response to Alan Shearer who claimed that scoring a goal was better than sex:

"You can never say a goal is better than sex - all the guys that say that are not having proper sex."

I guess the same could be said for Data Scientists in what the Harvard Business Review calls The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century. Let's not lose the run of ourselves!

Le goes on to collate advice from 16 data scientists who responded to his question: “What advice would you give to someone starting out in data science?”. For students aspiring to become data analysts/scientists, the list makes for interesting reading. Just a selection of some interesting quotes from Le's article:

"It’s very easy to get a Wikipedia-level understanding of, say, machine learning. For actually doing it, though, you really need to know what the right tool is for the right job, and you need to have a good understanding of all the limitations of each tool."

"put effort into understanding how the data is captured, understand exactly how each data field is defined, and understand when data is missing"

"For the person who’s trying to transition like I did, I would say, for one, it’s hard. Be aware that it’s difficult to change industries and you are going to have to work hard at it."

Joke: "a data scientist is someone who knows more stats than a computer programmer and can program better than a statistician"

"learning how to do data science is like learning to ski. You have to do it. You can only listen to so many videos and watch it happen. At the end of the day, you have to get on your damn skis and go down that hill".

Eugene's advice:
  • Ask a question first
  • Answer the question by using statistics, data mining, and visualization to make sense of the data
  • Think before you plot
  • Challenge every number
  • Above all - be passionate about data!

Monday, February 05, 2018

Re-learning Irish #ConasAtáTú?

DCU are currently running a free on-line course in learning basic Irish - it's called Irish 101: An Introduction to Irish Language and Culture. I decided I'd check it out for two reasons: first as an on-line learning experience - it's only three weeks long and I am less likely to drop out. Secondly, even though I hated Irish at school, I decided to brush up 40 years after my last Irish class and see how much I have to re-learn. 

An Fáinne Nua.
Image source: Gael Linn.
So far, not much of the basics is new to me - but is is really basic in the first lesson, "Conas atá tú?", "Dia duit" and all that. In 1972, after completing a year in a Scoil na nÓg in Trabolgan (Co Cork), I could speak Irish fluently and even had the precious Fáinne Nua to show that I could. But since then I have not had much use for Irish, though like a lot of Irish people I have found it handy when abroad and trying to confuse the locals. I have always been opposed to compulsory Irish in our schools - I prefer it to be a language of choice rather than being shoved down our necks.

The course has a lot of spoken English in it - but that's to be expected for first time learners. I will persevere (I'm almost a third of the way through). DCU have done a good job on this and I hope it is a successful programme for them, and that they plan some more for improvers. Good stuff DCU!

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Being Trolled

Recently a viewer of one of my videos added a comment that simply stated "IRA". Foolish idiot that I am, I responded pointing out that the IRA had nothing to do with the video and that it was a pointless comment. This unleashed several responses such as "Your pointless", "IRA bomber, run!!!!!!!!!", "FUCK THE IRA ACTUALLY NO JUST YOU!", "Over 50 lines of places to bomb!", and "IRA WERE GONNA DIE". Needless to say it is an uneasy feeling that someone would take the time to write comments like this (appalling grammar included) on a video that teaches you how to sort data in Excel. I reported the comments to YouTube as "Spam or Abuse" and blocked the user, but several reappeared as comments. I don't know if they were reposted by the troll, or if YouTube "investigated" the comment and decided they were not "Spam or Abuse".

Image source: Karen Gately.

Compared to some people being trolled - my experience is almost nothing. I often thought to myself that if it happened to me I would brush it off or ignore. I can understand how other people can get upset by abusive comments - it makes me want to reach into my computer screen and give the troll a clip on the ear. There are no more comments today, so I hope the troll has stopped - I hate to think that he (yes - I'm guessing that the troll is male) will have moved on to someone else.

For the record: I have never been in the IRA or planted a bomb.