Friday, October 25, 2019

Half Way Through Semester I #Phew #ReadingWeek

It's late Friday afternoon of week 6 in our 12 week semester, and I have finished classes for the week. Next week we have a Reading Week, the break from classes is welcome - not just for me, but for our students too.

I have shared with many friends and colleagues that I plan to retire next year in September, this is the first time I have publicly stated this intention. I can't help feeling after each class that it is unlikely that I will have to teach that day's topics again - it's a weird feeling. My Project Management, and two Statistics classes fall into this category. While I will not miss the PM module much, I will definitely miss the Stats one as it is my favourite module of all. I intend to enjoy the remaining six weeks as much as I can - I hope my students do too.

A Reading Week (notice we don't call it "mid-term break"!) is a chance for students, and Faculty, to recharge their batteries. They can catch up on continuous assessment tasks, revise what has been covered in the previous 6 weeks, and of course enjoy a break from classes. This is especially true for part-time students - many of whom work through the day, and come to us for evening classes. It's not really a reading "week", as the October Bank Holiday falls during this week - essentially it is a 4-day week. I would like to see studies done on the benefits (if any) of having a Reading Week. Overall I think it is a good idea. The first main benefit is that it is a convenient way of dealing with a week that has a Bank Holiday in it - classes will not have to be rescheduled. But I'd like to see the academic benefits for both students and Faculty. Inserting a week into semester I means that the last week of the semester is very close to Christmas - an already frantic time of the year. Many modules will have project submissions at the end of the semester, and the extra week will most likely help many students get their projects done. It always feels to me that semester I ends, and suddenly within a week it is Christmas.

So - enjoy the Reading Week and make the best use possible of it to enhance your learning experience!

Friday, October 18, 2019

20,000,000 @YouTube Views #Grateful #Humbled

Today, the views count on my YouTube Channel hit a a new landmark figure - twenty million views (20,005,938 to be precise)! When I created this channel way back in 2006, and only got serious about it around 2009/2010, I never once dreamed that I would reach such a figure. I am so grateful to all my viewers, and I am humbled that so many find them useful.

Below is the lifetime chart based on daily figures for the 20.0M views:

Lie time count of YouTube views.

You can see that the views count follows a very seasonal pattern, and looks very predictable. In May 2015 (just to the right of centre above), disaster struck when I changed some of the metadata - I often wonder had I not done this would the trend have continued to increase at the rate it was. The current figures for 2019 are lagging behind the same period in 2018 by about 500 - 1,000 views a day. I don't know why this is, but at least it is following the same trend of increasing in September to November before falling again for Christmas and the new year. 

A HUGE THANK YOU to all learners who have made this landmark figure possible!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Body Mass Index Calculations in R

One exercise I get students to do in one of my early R Programming classes is write code to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI), and then to use an if statement to determine what the value of the BMI indicates about your health. BMI is a gross estimate for the amount of fat in your body - the categories are as follows:
Image source: JoyDeepDev.

BMI is calculated as: BMI = Weight (kg) / Height (m) x Height (m). Before my recent (medically advised) diet, my weight was 104 kgs. My height is 1.82 metres - my BMI is therefore 31.4, which put me firmly into the "Obese" category. This is a term which I would not have referred to myself as although I am heavy - I didn't consider myself "obese". 

Here is the R code that I use in class:

# Short Exercise - calculate BMI
weight = as.numeric(readline(prompt="What is your weight (kilos): "))
height = as.numeric(readline(prompt="What is your height (metres): "))
# Calculate BMI
bmi = weight/(height * height)
print(paste("Your weight is", weight,"kg,", "your height is", height, "m,", "and your BMI is", bmi))

The good news for me is that above emphasis on BMI, and my doctor's advice, is that my recent diet has reduced my BMI to 29.9 - out of the "Obese" category, and into the "Overweight" category. To get to "Normal" I would have to lose another 18 kgs, that's 37 lbs or 3 stones!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Baby Boomers not liking the Harley-Davidson Electric Bike, via @CarBuzzcom

So, someone in Harley-Davidson HQ decided that Harley should make an electric bike. They came up with the attractive looking LiveWire, and I'm sure that many environmentalists will welcome this development that perhaps will ultimately replace the loud petrol-guzzling 1600 cc engines that are standard on most Harley-Davidson motorcycles today. 

Harley-Davidson the company has not being doing well over the past 10 years - they have laid off staff and cut back on production to save on costs. With many automobile manufacturers switching to electric vehicles, it was only a matter of time before motorcycles followed suit. However, according to, since being introduced this year, the LiveWire is: "quickly showing itself to be a flop". The main problem is price - the LiveWire retails at $29,799 in the US, which would make it well over €35,000 here. Another problem is that Harley-Davidson's demographic is getting older - Baby Boomers (like me) are now in their 60s and 70s. They are less likely to change theirs HOGs for a battery on wheels. Also, we don't change our bikes very often - I am on only my second one since 2003. Harley need to attract younger buyers - but I feel that an expensive LiveWire (the same price as a Nissan Leaf car!) may not work well.

Image source:
However, I also feel that this is a trend that is unstoppable. It's hard to justify a 1600 cc petrol powered bike, when car manufacturers are making better and cheaper cars. Harley are surely looking to the longer term with this bike - but their image of big bikes, with big loud engines, riding off into the sunset is still strong, and will take a hell of a lot of marketing to get us Baby Boomers to switch.

Or they could just wait until we all die!

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Noticing getting older #ButNotDeadYet

Last week when I attended the Analytics Institute Inspire event, I was sitting in the back row with a good view of the 120 attendees. I couldn't help noticing that that I was one of the oldest people in the room! There were just two other grey haired men who looked to be about my age. It's harder to tell with women, but I'm certain there were none there older than me. While I am not finished yet, it is clear to me that data analytics is a younger person's game - I suspect that this might also be reflected in other IT disciplines.

One of the reasons why there are few older peoples in rooms like above is that it appears that we (the over 55's) are at twice the risk of dying in workplace! According to Anne-Marie Walsh, writing in Tuesday's Irish Independent, "One in five employees is aged over 55 and faces twice the risk of dying in workplace"! Quoting an ESRI report, Walsh tells us that employees "between 55 and 64 are almost two times more likely to experience a fatality than the under-55s and it gets worse with age". She goes on to write that those over 65 are "three-and-a-half times more likely to experience a fatality than workers under 55". Sounds like the workplace is not a safe place for us oldies! In fairness, Walsh does point out that some professions, like agriculture, are not as safe as others.

The Central Statistics Office's data from 2016 shows labour force participation rates by age group. Just over 60% of men in the 60-64 age group (which I am about to join soon) are at work - this is down from a high of over 90% for the 35-44 age group. There's nothing that I can do about my age (except as my Dad says: "Be proud of it!"), but it is chastening to see below that I am very much in the right tail of the Labour Force Participation Rate chart!

Data Source: Women and Men in Ireland 2016 (CSO)