Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Correta King

Correta Scott King, widow of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, has died aged 78. After her husband's murder Mrs King carried on his civil rights work and also fought for Dr King's legacy to be remembered - because of her his birthday is a national holiday in the states. The world has come a long way since the 4th of April, 1968 but still has a very long way to go - Ang has a piece about police officers being caught on film kicking and beating a black suspect in St Louis. Of course this may have been the appropriate action in the circumstances but recent research suggests that the colour of the victim of a crime in some states of America can determine whether the killer is sentenced to death. In Louisiana black inmates are far less likely to be given parole then white inmates jailed for the same crimes. And it's not just a problem in the US. Here in the UK the leader of the BNP is in court charged with spreading racial hatred and racism plays a major part in Middle East politics.

Rest in peace Mrs King - I hope those of us left have the courage and energy to continue the fight.

In Bayern............

I'm sure we all knew that appointing a Bavarian Pope would mean changes but.....................


No idea who he is but I can't be the only one who thinks he looks like Gabriel Batistuta? If he plays as well as "The Angel" we've got a great deal! (And I'm hoping it's the bloke in the blue stripes rather than the oaf in red who he's clearly skinned)

Monday, 30 January 2006

Oh heck!

The Bush/Blair axis is busily installing democracy in places they feel that the populace deserve it and then something goes wrong. You just can't trust the electorate can you?

Both the EU and the US have said they will starve Palastine of humanitarian aid because Hamas, a militant group of thugs responsible for many of the atrocities in Isreal, have won the elections. Of course we're back to the "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" argument - Menachem Begin was Prime Minister of Israel but as a member of Irgun planned the bombing of the King David hotel in which 91 people were killed and at Deir Yassin the objective was to evacuate an Arab village and then destroy it but 100 civilians were killed by forces led by Begin. The rhetoric of many Israeli leaders is not so different from the language used by Hamas and others now. There are countless other examples but the main issue is the hypocrisy of suggesting that imposing democracy on places like Iraq is the answer and then demonstrating that democracy is only valid if the people we like are the ones who win.

Saturday, 28 January 2006

I wish I'd written this.........

Whether you follow football or not I implore you to read this column! It's by Harry Pearson and it's a wonderful example of witty writing which demonstrates pace and direction and the joy of the language as well as some sharply observed points - particularly about listening to football on the radio and, perhaps, how we might often imagine Alan Green.
There have been persistent rumours in the agricultural community that, like badgers, Manchester United players spread bovine TB among dairy cattle.
Don't you have to read something which contains that line??? I was pointed in that direction by Memex 1.1

Oh dear!

Just watched the highlights of the Barnet Vs Sunderland cup game. I've always liked McCarthy - he's an honest bloke who has turned many a sow's ear into a silk purse but also been upfront and told it like it is when his team have played poorly and/or other teams have played better. I honestly hope he's stopped off at MFI on the way back north because a couple of wardrobes would make better defenders than those he played today - and would certainly be more animated!


Although I often take risks and gamble I'm not a betting person so I wonder if anyone can help. Has anyone any idea what odds I would have got 6 months ago on the LibDems managing to self-destruct in such a catastrophic manner and in such an extended way? They are disappearing one a week, it would have been less damaging if they'd all stood together on stage and exposed their foibles one at a time rather than dragging it out like this. Who knows what lies ahead? Menzies Campbell admitting to a heroin habit? Chris Huhne revealing that he's undergone gender realignment surgery? It's only three weeks since they managed to push Charles Kennedy into resigning and there must be a large number in the party who wonder about the wisdom of that! This soap opera will change from Wednesday when nominations for the leadership close and then they shift in to full-on electioneering before the announcement of the new leader in early March. I bet we can't wait and I, for one, wouldn't be surprised to see Chantel from Big Brother scooping the leadership and then going on to beat Brown and Cameron in an election in three years time. You heard it here first and when you collect your winnings from Ladbrookes don't forget me! :-)

Friday, 27 January 2006

Rude beer

I can't get this link to work properly so here are the instructions. Hit this link and then follow "News in pictures" and look for "Store Says New Beer's Packaging Is Pornographic". It then opens a slide show which tells a bizarre story about a beer being sold in Susquehanna Valley, Lancaster County, Pa (dunno where Pa is but there ya go - it's somewhere past Land's End going west I think). Some people are upset about the packaging so the bloke flogging it is wrapping the cases in brown paper. Summat bonkers about it - if the booze is good who looks at the box? If the box is rude why was it approved? The beer will kill you before the images and - and this is where my head collapses under the weight of all this thinking - the US is the home of some of the heaviest pornography available on the planet.

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Dust off your CV

Sorry I've not been around but I'm frantically learning a new programming language so that I can demonstrate robotics next Monday. The language is very simple and uses a drag & drop interface but because it's greatly restricted I'm learning what it won't do (or how to do things I'd so in other ways otherwise). For those interested it's the Lego Mindstorms kit but programmed through a slightly different interface.

Anyway! Last year a few of us missed out on a really cool job that came with a great company flat and country pad and wheels and loads of staff but Ratzinger got that so we've had to keep looking. Here it is then - a few million quid a year, first class travel around the world (but usually to nice places, we're not talking back streets of anywhere grubby), your employer will have far lower expectations than your customers - in fact your employers rarely have their sh*t in a pile so once you have your feet under the table you'll get away with all sorts of stuff. There are a few downsides, you'll probably have to spend time with some real idiots and they work for you. The press will be all over you all of the time and if you try going over the side the details will be printed and public before you've pulled your strides back on. The job becomes available sometime during the world cup - hopefully after the final but it might also be after the first round.

Saturday, 21 January 2006

They get my vote!

Following Kennedy standing down as leader of the LibDems and the Lords leader of the party admiting to being a heavy drinker during the 1970s and 1980s a candidate for leadership has today withdrawn his bid after rumours of a dalliance with a rent boy. Mark Oaten's entry in Wikipedia has already been updated but I'm having problems linking to the BBC page - it keeps falling over.

I'm not and never have been attracted to rent boys and I recognise that addiction to anything is a terrible problem but you have to admit that they do sound like the most interesting bunch to spend time with!

You are what you drink

This piece on the BBC site caught my eye. It's drawn from research findings (known as "basket analysis" in the retail trade) which extrapolates diet information and relates it to what alcohol people purchase. According to these data wine drinkers eat healthier food than beer drinkers. One surprising factoid:
An earlier Californian study suggested that those who drank beer tended to be less-educated men who with a higher alcohol intake.
I've still to find any research regarding the academic status of those who don't drink or if anything can be inferred from whether people drink lager rather than Guinness (though I have my own thoughts). Overall, and without seeing the research, I think this is probably deeply flawed as it seems to make some big assumptions - does everyone buy everything they consume in the supermarkets sampled? Is everything we put in our basket just for us? I buy frozen chips but rarely eat them - they are here for when my children stay. I also buy wine and beer - perhaps it reflects my less-educated days as well as my reasonably normal days.

Go and check it out and be careful what you buy!

Thursday, 19 January 2006


I'm just back from a conference at the OU HQ in Milton Keynes. It was great being there as an interloper as all these high-powered academics strutted their stuff and bandied words like "pedagogy" and "technology" (I understand technology but it was clearly a new concept to some of the academics on show! :-)).

There were some webcast plenary sessions and all were very good - our very own Bluefluff watched one from home and emailed a question which was asked live, don'tcha have to love technology?

Anyway, in amongst all this there were also breakout sessions running in parallel so there were four options of 3 or 4 sessions at a time. Again I saw some great stuff but the one I'd like to share with everyone was stunning.

First up some numbers. There are about 63 million children of secondary school age without access to schooling in Africa. Read that again - the population of the UK is fewer than that all up. Also in Africa one million children each year lose their teacher to Aids, a teacher dies, on average, every two hours. In Lesotho the state started offering free education to all and now classes at the Thamae Lec school are in excess of 200 pupils, many of those teaching have no more than primary school education themselves. Many schools are nothing more than tents and they frequently blow down, even brick-built schools often don't have electricity or telephone lines.

The OU is working in collaboration with partners in the area (and from further afield) to help train teachers, in schools, using mobile phones as the main communication and delivery mode. Part of the OU's mission was always to be a public good and this is just one example of how it is using technology and near global reach to help with a problem that is described, in education terms, as being as big as HIV/Aids. The programme is called TESSA - Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa and is working with the DEEP - Digital Education Enhancement Project (I often wonder whether there is a special department dedicated to coming up with these acronymns??).

Take a moment to look at these sites and think about the educational advantages you and your children enjoy, I know I sat through this presentation thinking about the number of times my children had complained that their bags were heavy or that there were 30 children in a classroom and it was hot that day.

Saturday, 14 January 2006


I hope everyone admires my restraint. I've been home since 17:30 and I checked my mails and looked at a few blogs and listened to the radio and did a couple of batches of washing and cooked a nice meal and it's taken me this long to post on the blog.

Lovely day today meeting some new OU tutors and chatting with people from the regional office. Terrible phone reception in the school so I had to pop out to get a signal every now and again but I finally saw the HT score and then, a little later, saw what I thought was the FT score - it was 16:30 when I got in the car and heard the final score properly.

If anyone doesn't know what I'm on about hit that link to read the match report. Blue Moon over Manchester tonight!

Four things

El Mouse invited me to share this thang (you know what these 'Mericans are like) and I don't want to upset her so here goes..............
Four jobs you've had in your life: Nice easy one to start, just soooooo many to choose from! Children's Entertainer on a holiday camp, chef, Operational audit and Communications manager (put that in because I like the way it trips off the tongue, business cards were A4 sized), Open University tutor.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Shawshank Redemption, Casablanca, All that jazz, Wayne's World

Four places you've lived: Another long list to go at! Loose (Maidstone, Kent), Scarborough (North Yorks), Munich (Bavaria), Manchester - where I was born and dragged up.

Four places you've been on holiday: Andros (Greek Island), Preston Brook (the Trent & Mersey canal), Vienna (Austria), Portugal.

Four websites you visit daily: BBC, Open University, Smart Mobs, Echo Mouse :-)

Four TV shows you love to watch:
BBC News, The West Wing, Match of the Day (sometimes), Later with Jools Holland (Struggled with this - TV is often on but I don't really watch much)

Four of your favourite foods:
Salad Nicoise (bet I've spelt that wrong), Tournados Cordon Rouge, chocolate, Guinness

Four places you'd rather be: Erm! Tricky this one as I'd usually be where I am but........... Munich (in Zum Donisl on the Marienplatz having a nice cold Helles and watching the world rush by), having a coffee on the KuDamm in Berlin, New York, Anywhere with my children

Four albums you can't live without:
Blood on the tracks (Dylan), Beethoven's 9th (Berlin, Christmas 1989, Bernstein conducting, words changed to "Ode an Die Freiheit"), Holland (The Beach Boys), Born to run (Springsteen)
Ask me again in five minutes and that list will have changed!
I'm not going to tag anyone but I'd love to see what GW, Bluefluff, Morning and Kat would make of this.

Tuesday, 10 January 2006


Great game this - manage England at Euro 2004. Pick the team and tactics, don't pick players who are turning up for training drunk! Sort out your tactics and style and battle against France, Switzerland and Croatia in the group games. Top two teams go through and you're only three games from European glory! Not long ago games like this would cost money but this is a lovely little Flash game with a great deal of detail, check out the player descriptions by holding the mouse over them in the team selection screen and during the games watch for the assistant's comments! Enjoy!

Sunday, 8 January 2006

FA Cup third round

For those who don't follow football the third round of the FA cup is when the Permiership teams join in and play teams from lower leaguse and sometimes non-league teams. As a follower of a team often likely to come a cropper at this point I was pleased that we came back from being a goal down at half-time to win after a Robbie Fowler hat-trick! There was a brilliant game last night when Liverpool were 3:1 down and came back to win 3:5 with a 65 yard goal and today we've seen the first giant killing - lowly Leyton Orient, two leagues below Fulham, went to The Cottage and won 1:2.

As long as your team is in the hat for the draw in the next round the third round of the cup is always special and this year there are still some replays that may provide shocks, non-league Nuneaton earned a replay at Middlesborough. Nuneaton are a typical non-league side made up of part-timers including teachers and social workers so it's great to think that they will have a chance to play at a Premiership ground. The magic of the cup!

TV Viewing

Calum and I chilled yesterday and he wanted to watch, of all things, darts on the TV. I think it's the numbers - adding and subtracting but I was drawn to the conclusion that this is probably the only professional sport for which I am equipped. I was never tall enough to continue playing rugby after I left school but in darts being 5' 6" need not be a major disadvantage. I have a tattoo but it's not as garish or visible as those on display at the Word Championship and I don't feel uncomfortable in a large room where beer is served. I'm sure I could find myself some silly nickname and as training seems to involve sinking a few pints I'm prepared to give my all for the sport.Anyone interested in sponsoring me?

Tonight's TV viewing is decidedly blokey too. From 6:30 we have live footy on BBC1 (I only have PMT - Poors Man's Telly, no Channel 5 or Sky) and then a brilliant film - "Con Air". Something to distract me from this marking :-)

Saturday, 7 January 2006


Only in America? The organisers of the Superbowl felt that those of us over the age of 45 wouldn't be able to boogie to The Stones. They are inviting 2,000 people to go onto the field at half time to bop when Mick and the boys are strutting their aged stuff. Now it strikes me as slightly silly when you consider that the youngest member of the band is in his late 50s. They've lifted the upper age limit now - common sense prevails. The daftest part is that although they have a global following and I'm sure they attract younger fans but those of us who grew up with this music are now getting into middle age, it's a simple matter of numbers. The game is on February 5th if anyone plans to watch.

I do think it's ironic that their Satanic Majesties have been booked to perform, all over the place people were having an attack of the vapours when Janet Jackson showed her breast at the Superbowl yet they've now got a group who were banned by many radio stations and who are one of the raunchiest acts in the history of music. I know it's only rock and roll.................

Friday, 6 January 2006

More beer

Okay I know that, in principle, we can find links and conjunctions between almost everything but here's another few. On Sunday all right minded football fans will be supporting Burton Albion in the FA Cup - a team based in one of the brewing meccas of the world and called The Brewers. One team is managed by an ex-publican still known for his love of a tipple and the other is managed by an ex-Manchester City player (one of the most expensive to warm the subs bench) and his father famously battled alcoholism and received a liver transplant before dying of stomach cancer. C'mon Albioooooooooooooooooon!!!

Tonight my son and I are going to the pub though - and he'll be on Diet Coke :-)

Thursday, 5 January 2006

Booze again

It seems like the most credible bloke to lead a political party in this country for a while has been hounded because he has a drink problem. Nick Robinson, BBC telly blokey, has the story on his blog and identifies times when Charlie denied a problem with drink. I'm no expert but I thought that most people with a booze problem spend a long time denying it to themselves so it hardly seems earth shattering that he didn't admit it live on TV! One of the comments on there makes the very valid point that a surgeon who drinks is dangerous, a politician who drinks isn't (in fact I'd think that a few bracers might actually cheer some of them up!). I'm sure the tabloids will have a field day with this and however he faces it in public the guy is going to feel kicked about a bit for a good while - a terrible shame.


Emails erfect you're IQ. Sorry for the delay in posting this - it was published in November - but I've had too many emails.

Spreading the net

Not sure if this should be on this blog or one of my others but I'll bung it here as I think it has application outside the narrow confines of education. Elgg describes itself as a learning landscape and it's another interface where we can blog and share ideas and link like minded people. I think it's interesting because, again, it shows how groups and communities can grow and share and find common ground. It has some funky elements not available through Blogger - file sharing for example and the opportunity to create closed groups (or open groups) to collaborate online. This is more structured than simply blogging but the advantages are that it's easier to find members and/or posts within a certain interest area. Many of the folk on there right now work in education (around the world) and some interesting folk they are too! Have a look!

Wednesday, 4 January 2006

Trivia time

Before each Bond film is made the actor is measured for shirts by Turnbull & Asser. The shirts have distinctive cuffs and collars, T&A also make shirts for The Prince of Wales and other members of the royal family. They also design a new range of ties (silk, of course) for each Bond film and yes, I have some of their shirts and ties. If anyone can get to Jermyn Street in London or East 57th Street in New York I'd recommend a visit if just to window shop - lovely schmutter!

We the people

Craig Murray- remember him? - has an ineresting analysis of why some people who have recently breached the Official Secrets Act have been prosecuted while others, himself included, haven't had their collars felt by the bill or the front door kicked in during the early hours. He also highlights that the torture memos appeared on over 4,000 blogs within 72 hours, I wonder how many other PCs have copies which aren't publicising the fact? On both sides of the Atlantic and across Europe more and more people are asking questions about the governance of both the UK and the US - this isn't new, Britain has a history of pamphleteering.
Take the growth of political pamphleteering as a potentially informing example. When the printing press became a public instrument in the mid-seventeenth century, the autocratic voice of England's King Charles I could no longer remain discrete, inexorable, or unchallenged. Pamphleteers could sound off to their allies and adversaries alike in the form of one-cent* printed flyers created with Gutenberg's moveable type. This free (relatively speaking) flow of expression gave birth to the British Civil War.
This is from a really interesting piece about the cultural repercussions of the print and digital media and can be found here. It's been oft stated that the web was the next step in empowering anyone with access to the technology but now everyone, even those who can't hack a bit of HTML, can publish and be damned using blogging software that takes out the need to know a tag from an attribute and an absolute to a relative reference. Can we change the world, if only just a little, using blogs? Will articulate bloggers suffer by being drowned out in the Tower of Babel that is the blogosphere? Will we learn to find and trust reliable commentators for the 21st century? Will we ever teach the Americans to spell? :-)

* It's very unlikely that the people paying for pamphlets in 1641 used cents though we did have a dollar and a half-dollar from the 16th century!

Sunday, 1 January 2006

Happy New Year!

So that's it! Those who feel they made errors in 2005 can breath again, we messed it up but we've still been given a brand new, shiny year to play out in!

I hope you all get whatever you want from this year - let's get out there and bite it on the bum!