Thursday, December 31, 2020

Goodbye 2020

It's New Year's Eve and this is my final blog post of the year. It is also the 87th post for 2020, which is my lowest annual total since 2007. While 2020 has been a momentious year, you-know-what has curtailed much activity and stiffled ideas for things to write about.

Good riddance 2020!
Image source: freepik.

Earlier in the year, Roma and I were planning our big trip to Australia and New Zealand for October straight after my planned retirement. We had planned to come back to Ireland via Canada and so complete our first ever round-the-world trip. I remember saying to Roma one evening as we were looking at flights: "Let's wait a bit and see what is going to happen with this virus...". Little did we know.

I suppose the biggst thing that happened for me in 2020 was my retirement. While perhaps my timing was not the best, I have no regrets. I do find myself looking for things to do, but I am working away on my plans for a Programming in R series of videos for launch in January 2021. 

2021 holds out the prospect of a vaccination and a return to some kind of normality. I am near the end of the list of vaccination priorities, so it could be closer to the summer when my turn comes. I am looking forward to meeting people and seeing old friends again, playing golf, riding my bike, having lunches and dinners out, going to all the museums I had planned to visit, taking random breaks, and of course travelling. You know - normal stuff!

Happy New Year everyone - it's gotta be better than 2020!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Data Visualization: Covid-19 Lives Lost via @IrishTimes

Over Christmas I was reading the "Covid-19 Lives Lost" series in The Irish Times. It is dedicated to "Those who have died in Ireland and among the diaspora led full and cherished lives. This series is designed to tell the stories behind the numbers". There are 68 people listed to date and it makes for very sad reading - each death of course affects 68 families. There were some couples who died within days of each other, at least three priests, two died just short of their 100th birthdays, and there was one from 1959 - the same year I was born. What struck me most was that so many of the stories were about people born in the 1920s and 1930s. They lived very long lives, but were cut down in the end by a cruel virus.

While not a scientific study, I decided to note the year of birth for each of the 68 people listed. The year of birth varies, but sadly they all have on thing in common: 2020 as the year of death. The chart below illustrates the cruel nature of the virus. Nine of the deaths occured in those born in 1937, while eight occured in those born in 1926, 1931, and 1935. Let's hope that the new vaccines will stop these deaths so that our parents and grandparents can live out the rest of their lives in comfort.

Tap/Click to enlarge.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Happy Christmas 2020!

It's Christmas Day and I want to wish all my friends and family a very Happy Christmas! 

What a year it has been, and it is not over yet! I wonder what 2021 has in store for us? Our Christmas tree this year is from Ballingate grown in a neighbouring farm to my Mum and Dad. It's one of the nicest I have ever got. Later I am off to the in-laws for a small family dinner that hopefully will be safe for us all. I miss not being at choir this year, so I'll have to burst into song later on.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Introduction to Children First Certification

Today I completed Tusla's "Introduction to Children First" e-Learning programme, and I'm happy to report that I passed the assessment and I am now certified as having completed the course. It is the first e-Learning course that I have completed for several years.

I have had to complete this course as part of a new volunteer role that I am taking up in the New Year. The role does not involve any contact with children and I will be working from home, but nevertheless it is compulsory training for all volunteers. I have five more courses to complete before I can get started.

While I was a little reluctant to have to complete this programme since I will not be involved with children, the "Introduction to Children First" course was quite interesting and covered much material that I did not know about. It was about 1.5 hours long and featured a lot of video - it was well made, and deals well with this difficult subject matter.

The programme is free, though you will have to register to take it. Tusla emails you a certificate once you have completed the (very easy) assessments. It's definitely worth taking for anyone that will be involved with children in any capacity. The programme is available here.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Remembering a Football Icon (and my Shame) #Pablito

It was sad for all football fans to hear the news of the death of Paulo Rossi this week at the young age of 64 from lung cancer. I watched nearly every game of the 1982 World Cup and remember his hat-trick against Brazil like it was yesterday. A World Cup winner is a rare commodity, and Rossi was definitely a zero to hero icon.

Unlike my other football heros such as Alan Kelly, Pelé, George Best, Maradona, and Messi - I did actually get to see him play in the flesh on the night of the 5th of February 1985 in Dalymount Park. The World Champions were in town to play Ireland and I had a ticket for the match. Unfortunately, the FAI only issued tickets for one section of the ground, and 40,000 fans showed up. I remember the massive queues at the turnstiles, and virtually no stewarding at the match. My ticket told me to go to the North Circular Gate, but there were hundreds of non-ticket holders there as well - the Gardaí opened the gate and we all spilled in. It was very crowded inside, but despite the mayhem - I got to see all the action.

The first goal in Italy's 2-1 win was scored from the penalty spot by Paulo Rossi. Despite it being a clear penalty (Lawrenson foul on Altobelli), Rossi was booed as he lined up the spot kick. While booing a penalty taker is not a surprise, afterwards the crowd chanted "Paulo Rossi, you're a w***er" several times over. To my shame, I joined in. 

Perdonami Pablito.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Most Visited Pages on this Blog - Plagiarism!

Every month, Google sends me performance data for For the month of November, there was a very modest 868 "Total clicks" (how many times a user clicked though to my blog). It also tells me which pages are the most popular - the top three (with dates published) are:

  1. Using Google Translate to Beat Plagiarism Detection Software (11th February, 2013)
  2. How To... Calculate Pooled Variance in Excel 2013 (11th May, 2015)
  3. Word Mixing to Defeat Plagiarism (15th June, 2017)

The had 195, 178, and 57 clicks respectively for the month of November. I'm surprised that a nearly eight-year old post is the number one, but this has been the case ever since I posted it - it is consistently one of the top viewed posts. It has had 17,717 views in total since first posted. The third highest post, also about plagiarism, shows that this is a popular topic. 

Even more interesting is that over the same period, the "Total Impressions" (how many times a user saw a link to my site) is 54,900 impressions. Of these, 4,639 (8.5%) are for the number one post about Google Translate. 

What does this tell me? It's stating the obvious that there are a lot of people out there looking to find out how to cheat. None of my posts offers a service to cheaters - they were simply comments at the time after I had been involved in cheating/plagiarism issues at work. It also tells me that if you want to attract traffic to your site, plagiarism as a topic will sell!   

In contrast to above, my recent "Retiring Today" post attracted just one click (thanks Dad!) and four impressions over the same month. I should note that all my posts are automatically re-posted to LinkedIn where my retirement post got 3,501 views!

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Sub-titles on YouTube

Today a viewer of one of my YouTube videos sent me the following message: "Thanks for the arabics substitles". While this is gratifying, I have no idea how Arabic subtitles were shown - I can only guess that viewer's own language settings are in Arabic and that YouTube detected this and provided the subtitles by translating my spoken word (reveal - I can't speak Arabic!). 

This is a fantastic piece of technology. It has been around for a while and is getting better all the time. My spoken word in English is automatically translated into other languages - I'm assuming that it is first transcipted into English so that the text can then be translated into any language supported by Google.

Just to check, I turned on sub-titles on one of my videos - my language settings are that English is used. I was surprised to see how accurate YouTube is - despite my Irish accent, there were very few errors in translation. I did not have to do anything when I created the video, and a transcript of my voice is also auto generated. This is brilliant for non-English speaking or for viewers with hearing disabilities.

What will they think of next!