Thursday, March 23, 2023

YouTube vs Udemy

Last June I published my one and only course on the Udemy platform: Problem-Solving Techniques. It has been a chastening failure as there are only 46 students - most of whom availed of a free voucher scheme I made available through Linkedin shortly after publication. Many of these students have not accessed the course at all. Last year I met an employee of Udemy in Dublin who told me that it was vital to promote the course on social media, get endorsements, and use vouchers to get enrolments. The course has had no enrolments since last September, and has made just $38 in total. I don't have the time, nor the endeavour, to promote the course like it needs - so it will languish in Udemy amongst thousands of other courses. 

Then there's YouTube!

I have just over 72,000 subscribers and almost 30,000,000 views in YouTube. 22 of the 37 videos in the Udemy course are essentially updates of my old Problem-Solving Techniques YouTube Playlist - several of these videos are over ten years old and were made using Windows Movie Maker. Many comments on the videos report poor audio quality. I have now released my Udemy videos on YouTube - here's one example about Pareto Analysis.

I checked with Udemy if this is allowed - and it is. They just ask that I do not charge less than Udemy does ($19.99) on a third party platform. YouTube is not suitable as a full course experience as there is no way (yet) to provide a curriculum structure. The 22 videos are listed in a Playlist, but it is not immediately clear that the videos are part of a course. On each video I link to the Udemy course as a "full learning experience". I also put a note in the old versions that a newer version is available.

This new and updated set of videos will make some money from advertising, though this will take time as they have to build an audience. I will report how YouTube compares to Udemy in a few months time.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

St Patrick's Festival

A great way to spend St Patrick's Day was to be a volunteer at the St Patrick's Festival in Collins Barracks. I normally avoid all the crowds, but this was a great day out. My job was to help out with the wonderful Actual Reality Arcade Games - basically to control and manage access to the Laser Run and Pac Maze games. There were many other volunteers of all nationalities helping out, and as you can see in the photo below, the arcade games were very popular with young families. Collins Barracks was packed for the day, with non-stop entertainment to keep everyone happy.

Happy St Patrick's Day!

At the Actual Reality Arcade.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Thailand - Bangkok

The final stop of our tour of South East Asia was Bangkok, where we spent just a couple of nights. Like Hanoi and Saigon, this is a very busy place, though there are a lot more cars and a lot less scooters on the streets. There are also a lot of temples which the locals are very proud of. 

We did a Hop-on Hop-off tour of the city and got to see a lot of this fantastic place. The Grand Palace looks awesome, as well as the Wat Khun Chan Giant Buddha. We finished up at the IconSiam shopping centre - a place that makes Dundrum Shopping Centre look like a corner shop. Later we went on a Tuk-Tuk food tour which was not as good as others we did in Vietnam and Cambodia. Despite requesting no spicy food in advance, this is what we got - so not much local food for me. Nevertheless, we had a great time touring around Bangkok - especially the flower market.

As we were flying out home late in the evening, on our last day we decided to do a water boat tour of the Bangkok canals. This was good fun - the boats are narrow and wobble a bit, but despite stopping at yet more temples it was a great way to see parts of Bangkok not in the tourist guides.

One thing we did not know in advance was that our last day in Bangkok was actually a dry day - no alcohol was allowed to be sold. We did manage to get a glass of wine in a mug at one café, and I felt a bit like I was sneaking a few cans on a Good Friday years ago.

On the Bangkok canal.

Symbol of Bangkok, the Giant Swing.

I'm getting to like the Tuk-Tuks!

At the fabulous Wat Arun temple.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Cambodia - Siem Reap

After the hustle and bustle of Vietnam, it was time for the much more sedate surroundings of Siem Reap in Cambodia, a place of many temples. The first one to see was Ta Prohm, where I'm told that the film Tomb Raider was made - this was the least interesting feature for me. The trees growing over the walls and stones of the temple were beautiful. Later we went down Pub Street in Siem Reap town, which is not beautiful. Nevertheless, despite loud music we had great Khmer food and beer.

On our second day we took a boat down the Siem Reap river to Tonlé Sap lake. This was a fascinating excursion to see houses built on high stilts to avoid being submerged during annual floods during the rainy season. We were also treated to seeing how small fish are dried in the sun and later smoked. The lake has floating villages which seem very isolated and must be a tough place to live. Later in the day were went to see the famous Angkor Wat temple - a magical place that shows the skills of stone masons from nearly 1000 years ago. 

On our last full day we went to see some shops and crafts. The Old Market is a great place to while away some time, but you wont leave empty handed as everywhere you go you are constantly approached by polite market sellers to "You buy something?"! We also had a great tour of the APOPO Hero Rats charity. This is where Tanzanian rats are trained to detect landmines, which are still all over Cambodia since a civil war in the 1970s. I made a new friend called Dora here - she crawled all over my arm and shoulder.

Siem Reap is a great place to visit if you love your history and like relaxing. The traffic here was mercifully miles lighter than in Hanoi or Saigon. The Tuk-Tuks are cheap and a fun way to get around. The food is great and fantastic value - all provided by the kindest and most polite people you can meet.

Trying out some stone carving at Artisans Angkor.

My new job as a Tuk-Tuk driver!

Angkor Wat at sunset.

Angkor Wat temple.

One of the stunning trees at Ta Prohm temple.

Driving a boat on Tonlé Sap lake.

On the Siem Reap river.

With Dora, the mine-detecting rat.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City

Our last stop in Vietnam was a three day stay in Ho Chi Minh city. One of the first things I checked was if it was OK to call this city Saigon. The name Saigon is everywhere, and unlike the North - there is less emphasis in HCM himself here. Saigon is an ultra modern city with a traffic problem to match. On our way there we stopped at the Cu Chi tunnels. This was a 2.5 hour detour from the airport to our hotel, and I have to day it was not worth it. While the story of the tunnels is brilliant, there is very little to see, and I was too old and decrepit to actually go through the 20m tunnel that was available. A bit disappointing.

The highlight was a day trip to Ben Tre island on the Mekong Delta. I felt like I was in a Vietnam War movie going up the Mekong river. We also saw lots of crafts and had a cool sampan trip through some jungle. This was 2.5 hours from Saigon, but definitely worth it.

We also did a Vespa tour around Saigon by night. This was cool, as were the 1950s Vespas we were riding. Food was OK, but we are getting used to Vietnam food, so very title surprises us. Vespa tour - recommended!

Some photos of the three days:

Two locals at the Independence Palace.

Sampan boat in the Ben Tre island.

Roma and our host are very good at collecting leaves, not me! 

Cruising on the Mekong river.

Getting ready for Vespa food tour.

A Huey and a Eugene.

With HCM at the Cu Chi tunnels.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Vietnam - Hoi An

Our 4th stop of our South-East Asia tour was the city of Hoi An. We were located very close to the Old Town and all its markets and shops. This is a fantastic place to stay, with the highlight being the evenings and all the lanterns and lights. Walking the markets can be a bit annoying with the constant “You buy something” from the market people, but it is good natured and no offence is taken for polite refusals.

Hoi An is known for its quickly produced fitted suits and clothes. Roma and I got fitted for jackets - not quite as cheap as I expected, but good fun nonetheless. Food and drink is very cheap, and we loved sitting at the side of the street watching the world go by. The street food is fantastic, though Health and Safety inspectors would have a field-day here.

We had a lovely half-day cycling around Cam Kim Island through paddy fields and peanut fields. We also saw some locals making basket boats and mats. Later in the evening we took a boat trip on the local river in the midst of lanterns decorating each boat, and other lanterns floating down the river. It was magical!

Some photos from Hoi An:

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Vietnam - Hue

Our shortest stop in our Vietnam trip is to the small city of Hue - about an hour’s flight from Hanoi. We made a half day trip up the Perfume River on a noisy boat feeling like being in the middle of a Vietnam War movie. First stop was the Thien Mu Pagoda where, our guide explained the significance of the number seven in Buddhism. Most impressive here is that you get to see the Austin car used by Buddhist monk Thích Quang Duc when he burned himself to death in 1963 in Saigon. He was protesting at a crackdown on Buddhism. This was the  starting point of his trip to Saigon. Three more monks and three nuns did the same - making it seven deaths.

Further up the river is the huge Ming Manh mausoleum. Well worth seeing, though I expect it would be more spectacular later in the year when flowers would be blooming. We were driven back to our hotel after this and we spent the rest of the afternoon in downtown Hue. Not quite as busy as Hanoi, but we sat at the side of the street drinking beer while soaking in atmosphere.

Some photos from the day:


At the Ming Manh Mausoleum.

The Perfume River.

 Thích Quang Duc’s car.

Enjoying coconut juice in the perfume River.

Enjoying a beer at the DMZ Gastropoda.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Vietnam - Halong Bay

Leaving Hanoi, we decided to take a one night cruise in Halong Bay. we had not been on a cruise ship before, but this one catered for just 14 people - so was nice and compact. The “Ginger” was one of several ships in a crowed bay. The crew on this ship were fantastic, and could not do too much for you. The food is top class and presented brilliantly.

Halong Bay is a world Heritage site, and it’s easy to see why. Hundreds of islands stick out from the sea like stalagmites. You can’t get enough of just sitting on deck and watching this wonder of nature. It is however, spoiled by the flotilla of plastic and other rubbish that floats on the sea.

We also took an excursion from the Ginger to Cat Ba Island where we were treated to a trip through a small jungle (my first time) down to a remote holiday location.

Definitely worth doing!

Definitely worth doing!

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Vietnam - Hanoi

This week I am starting a trip from Hanoi in the north of Vietnam and working my way south over the next three weeks. This is one of those big trips that myself and Roma wanted to do in the immediate years after retirement. 

We spent the first three nights in Hanoi, and my lasting impression of this city is that it is a vibrant, chaotic, and wonderful place to visit. We stayed tight in the centre and were in walking distance of almost everything. We took a tour of the Ho Chi Minh complex including his mausoleum and the house where he lived. Despite being dead for over 50 years, he is still revered here. 

The traffic is the most chaotic thing about the place, it’s scooters and cars competing for every inch of the road space. There was only one thing to do about this - join them! So we took part in a Scooter Food Tour moving from place to place - my driver, Thomas, was an expert rider. this is just about the best fun I’ve had on two wheels since riding Route 66.

There are plenty of temples and old buildings to see - some interesting, some not. The symbol of Hanoi is the Khue Van Cac - we got to see the pagoda it is based on.

We do!

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Still searching for the easy way out #plagiarism #cheating

I get regular performance updates from Google about this blog. Even though I have not posted much since I retired, there is still some traffic to this site (26.5K impressions last January). Alas, our old friend plagiarism remains the top attraction for visitors to my blog.

Exactly 10 years ago, I wrote a post: Using Google Translate to Beat Plagiarism Detection Software. In this post I translated an English piece of text from Wikipedia into Spanish, French, Polish, Chinese, and back to English in order to show that trying to cheat using Google Translate would not work. Sadly, I had previously detected this in student assignments. Ten years later, this is still the most popular post in my blog! The top performing query was "how to avoid plagiarism using google translate" - clearly there are still folks searching the Internet to find an easy way out.

ChatGPT is making a lot of news lately. While it is no longer of concern to me, it still saddens me that people could use this to cheat. I'm sure that there are several legitimate uses, but there is obviously the strong temptation to use it for College essays and assignments. I decided to give it a try to see what all the fuss is about, but the site was overloaded! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Oak Tables by Eugene

One of the things I took up after retiring was woodworking. Most of what I do is to make oak tables from cross-sections of oak trees while harvesting them for winter fuel. All tables so far have come from the O'Loughlin family farm in Ballingate, near Carnew, Co. Wicklow. This was once part of the huge Coolattin Estate. The trees are approximately 80-90 years old - please note that I have planted 10 replacement oak trees grown from acorns collected from the same location.

My brother Joe, who is expert with a chain saw, cuts the slabs at about 8-10cms thick. There then follows a long period of months of drying out. During this time cracks appear, it is a lottery how many or what size they will be. Once dry enough, I use a router to level the slabs as much as I can. This is a cool tool to use - it takes a lot of effort as oak is so hard. Then I sand, and sand, and sand, and sand some more. I use 40 grit first, and work my way up to 1200 grit. This gives a very smooth fish which I top off with oil. 

Once the legs are added - hey presto I have a table! I can be lucky with some tables if they have decayed in parts. The one below has a nice river-like section near the bottom formed where bark has rotted.

I have no idea how much time I have spent making each of the tables above. The double decker one at the top took the longest. Getting ordinary logs in the middle to work as legs was very difficult. Lots of YouTube videos were viewed to get hints and ideas on making tables like these. If I was selling these I would have to charge a small fortune to cover equipment and labour costs.

In the next few weeks we will be cutting some more slabs to work on later this year and next. I'd like to try different (and softer!) timber to make more tables and the likes of cheese/bread boards. I have also always used blue dye in the resin, and would like to experiment with different colours.

This is a fun hobby that I would never have attempted while still working. It certainly helps to fill the dull winter days!