Monday, 31 December 2007

So here we are again!

The end of another year. Been a busy one for most of us; I've moved house and I'm still unpacking and trying to work out why I bothered shoving some of the stuff into boxes rather than straight down the tip. Mark Jopling (Historian of Kingston) wrote a great piece about one little slice of WWII and how it happened in Bishopsbourne - read it here.

Hope everyone has a great time tonight and a peaceful and prosperous 2008!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Have a good one!

Veg prepped, more food than you could shake a stick at and a handful of decorations tastefully strewn around the house. Yesterday I took a hired van and both daughters to Ikea so I now have furniture to sit on!

I hope everyone is sorted for the festivities and that you have whatever sort of day you wish yourself. Whatever you celebrate use tomorrow as a space to celebrate it.

The one you were looking for

This is the web site you are probably looking for. It's "Norad tracks Santa" - every year the lovely folk at the North American Aerospace Defense Command use some of the high tech kit at their disposal to track Santa and grab some real-time video as he travels round the globe delivering presents.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

For Mouse

Originally uploaded by nogbad the bad
The sheep were in the field across the road today. And then the road was closed for a moment as the sheep were brought out of the field and up the farm yard behind my house. They did all this just for Mouse so that I could grab some quick snaps - the whole world knows that Echo Mouse loves sheep photos :-)

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Monday, 26 November 2007


Sara is a 3rd year undergrad in the group I work with at LCC. I was publishing from the phone to demonstrate the speed of the digital world.

Sent using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone

Sara 2




Sunday, 25 November 2007


My initiation into the secret world of cleaning products continues. I wasn't sure how I'd clean the racks from the oven and the grill pan which doubles as a roasting tray until I found a garishly decorated box on the shelf in the aisle I've just discovered at Morrisons. The box looks as though it was designed by a three year old on ecstasy but, boy oh boy, it's the real thing inside. It comes with rubber gloves and more warnings than a nuclear power station. It also has a large plastic bag in which the items to be cleansed are deposited. Bung them in the bag, pour in the gunk and leave for a few hours. Wear gloves, old clothes, don't get the liquid on your body or furniture or any materials not provided in the kit or constructed of stainless steel or enamel.

Bunged them in yesterday afternoon - I got two boxes so one bag has the grill pan and the other has the oven racks - and let it do its work. Wow! All that's left to do is to don the protective gear and wash the gel away but through the bag I can see that this stuff has eaten away all the grease and baked-on crud - it is amazing. I'm sure that everyone else knows about this stuff but to me it's a revelation. Of course the text on the box is confident that there are no environmental impacts of swilling the stuff down the sink so that's all good too.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Unknown delights

I have to admit that beyond a dab of bleach and the stuff that makes the water in the cistern blue the mysteries of bathroom cleaning products were an alien world to me. Clearly I need to make sure that all is shipshape and Bristol fashion so I strayed down one of the two aisles I usually forgo (pet food in case you wondered about the other).

Bloody hell but there's a lot! Who would have thought that there could be so many ways of getting rid of limescale on plugholes? (Hands up all those who even knew that the white crusty crud was limescale!). Because I can cook I don't need Brillo pads to clean pans, I use those sponges with a green abrasive side, but I now find that they are available in white for cleaning baths. I'd hate anyone to think that I live in abject squaller but I wasn't aware of the sheer delight in stocking up on these gels and preparations which will transform my life.

On the packing side - blitzed the packing cases which had been untouched since I moved in here (3yrs 1 month) and now have 9 bags of recycling waiting for collection and just two neatly packed boxes - mainly books about exciting stuff like education and advice & guidance. Got rid of piles of old OU brochures from when I was doing some project work from home, equally large amounts of prospectuses (oldest dated 2000) from colleges and universities around the county - another legacy of project work.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007


I'm good at project management, I've done it for years and been paid - often handsomely - for knowing how to do it.

Why then am I in bits about getting all this stuff sorted? I'm surrounded by "stuff" and I have to determine what stuff is worth packing and what stuff should go to the tip. Some of the stuff has no intrinsic value but means something because it's part of my lives - stuff that I've carried since I was a child, stuff that means something as a husband and a father and stuff that has been part of the latter life as a bloke alone. I have things that measure my success as a person alone - I'm proud of not having broken things or of having clothes that I've managed to wash and iron alone. These might seem silly tests but by such tests we measure how we've managed, the metaphysical question of "How am I in the world". The person I was when I moved in here on 18th October 2004 is gone but should I save some trace? Is memory better than artifacts?

Have I picked the right place to move to? Is it the right move?

My father remains my hero - he was a quiet man who occasionally said things which I try to aspire to and one such thing was "That's what being grown up means" - he used that whenever I said that something was difficult. Right now moving is difficult, beyond the physical packing and going, because it means I have to assess where I'm at and where I'm going.

Which stuff do I need?

Friday, 9 November 2007

Outside (through window - too cold to go

Outside (through window - too cold to go there!)

Llandoger Trow

Llandoger Trow


Sending this from the bar of the Llandoger Trow in Bristol. Chilly night but everyone is outside so that they can have a smoke. This building dates from 1664 and features in 'Treasure Island'.
Famous feet have trodden these worn old boards; Alexander Selkirk met Daniel Defoe here and pirates sailed from the quay outside and Gowing and Rivers wrote in green ink.
Halcyon days and 5oz rumps.

Sent using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Happy birthday!

Originally uploaded by icedjem2040
My big child celebrated her birthday in Japan.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


Originally uploaded by nogbad the bad
I'm moving at the end of November and this is where I'm going to live. It's bigger than where I am now, it's just over a mile to where my children live and more than 30 miles closer to where I work a couple of days each week. Fields out the front and it backs onto a farm. Now I've got the faff of packing up and shifting over things like the phone and broadband but it's all good and it'll mean I can see the children even more.

This map shows where the house is and in the shot below I've highlighted it in red with the blue circle showing where the children live.

It's jolly exciting!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


I've just realised, while driving home, that today is my 25th wedding anniversary!

Monday, 29 October 2007

World school

Largest child is at "World School" in Japan right now. She appears in one of the photos - I've not looked through the videos yet.

Sunday, 28 October 2007


Originally uploaded by nogbad the bad
Went to Plymouth to do a presentation to colleagues from the OU today. I went yesterday and stood most of the way from Paddington to Plymouth but there was a really friendly buzz on the train - a couple of guys who did the trip regularly were going out of their way to talk to people. Had a walk (and beer) round the harbour and a nice curry. After the presentation I headed back to the train station to get the replacement bus service to Tiverton and then the train to Paddington and then the tube to Victoria and the train back to Maidstone to collect the car - loooooooooong day but great meeting people from the far west.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Getting old

Today is the anniversary of the birth of both of my daughters. Rowan is having a sleepover with some chums so Cal is here with me. Jemma is in Japan with the school. I'm not the only one who is getting old.

Saturday, 20 October 2007


So England didn't win but it's still amazing that they dragged themselves to the final after an appalling four years since the win in Sydney and being destroyed by South Africa at the beginning of the tournament.

Friday, 19 October 2007

I love this image! It's from The Guardian today and it's a waxwork model of Jonny on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. Whatever the result tomorrow night I think that English rugby has reason to be both proud and relieved - the team have managed to deliver despite a terrible start and appalling four years since Sydney. Go England!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

40 years ago

Today is the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr Ernesto "Che" Guevara - his nickname came from an interjection he often used when speaking. Hero or villain his image is now an icon and many of those who recognise it know nothing of the Marxist Revolutionary who helped Castro to power in Cuba. people of my generation grew up with this image as a poster next to the girl playing tennis.

Dali in Bond Street

Originally uploaded by nogbad the bad
The Persistence of Memory - a statue

Sunday, 7 October 2007


I think this makes a good deal of sense except it'll take teachers out of the classroom - again! Schools are already suffering and using teaching assistants in the light of the last cut in teacher contact time.

Saturday, 6 October 2007


Apparently it's difficult getting a pint in Earls Court tonight - the bar staff won't stop crying.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Happy birthday

50 years ago today the starting pistol on the space race sounded and the first man-made satellite went into a low space orbit. In a brilliant PR move Soviet scientists set Sputnik's broadcasts to be at a frequency available to radio hams - people around the world could listen to the chirping which signaled that the Soviet Union led the world in space exploration.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

For goodness sake!

10 years? More funds than ever before? Sixth richest country in the world? And only now are we aspiring to "world class"???

Before anyone asks I spend enough time talking to teachers and others working in the compulsory education system to know a few of the reasons why we're still not there yet. And if you need proof of how much we're not there yet........
By the end of the last summer term, 246 schools were in "special measures" - the most serious category - compared to 208 at the end of summer term 2006.
That's according to OFSTED and they should know.


Tony Hirst has written the posting I've been avoiding since Thursday.

Saturday, 29 September 2007


Originally uploaded by nogbad the bad

Tidying up

I'm going to be doing some tidying up over the next few weeks. That'll include separating my links by type and shortening the roll. Just warning everyone that things will be coming and going.......

Friday, 28 September 2007

A monk

A monk
Originally uploaded by NaingKo,Burma/Myanmar
I'm blogging this as the only way I can think of showing support for what these people are doing in Burma.

Monday, 24 September 2007



Just been listening to a piece on the radio which has brought me to tears. It's a recording of an emergency call to Essex Ambulance service

"With the midwives stuck in traffic and his wife going into labour, Leo Hickman had to turn to the emergency services......"

It is incredible and very, very moving. To read the transcript check out Leo's article in the Guardian, to hear the tape check out the BBC site. Not covered in either is the news that the operator had only been working there for a few months and is 20 years old.


My mate Phil mailed and in amongst a fascinating dialogue about the origins and meaning of the word "mountebank" he mentioned a long held belief that it's impossible to strike a match on a jelly. First up it's difficult to see how this might be inaccurate but then I got thinking about the difficulty that this seemingly simple fact might cause in our polyglot blogosphere. And then I got to thinking about a blog someone I work with pointed me to - it's wonderfully written but so it should be, the writer is a professor of linguistics and English at the University of Sussex. Check out Lynne's "Separated by a common language". Back to striking that match - anyone ever tried it?

Wednesday, 19 September 2007


Originally uploaded by nogbad the bad
I didn't take this photo - my mum did when she was down for the graduation. I'm using now because the local BBC have arranged a showing of "A Canterbury Tale" a film made in 1944. It's special because it was filmed in Canterbury and shows much of the bomb damage and vistas of the cathedral no longer visible as buildings have grown up again to restrict the views.

The photo is of the supposed site of the martydom of Archbishop Thomas Becket on 29th December, 1170 - supposed because accounts vary, it was certainly there or thereabouts. Bad day for him but without it York would probably still be the seat of the church in England and Canterbury would have little to look forward to except a market once a week. Thomas turned the town into an internationally renowned tourist attraction and inspired generations of men and women to build an awesome cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage site number 496) which, in turn, inspired countless men and women to visit and spend some of their hard-earned cash in the town. Now there are a couple of universities, always close by seats of religion, and a swanky new shopping centre but the jewel in the crown remains the cathedral and tonight, for the first time ever, a feature film was shown in the nave. The star of the film is Canterbury.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007


UK slips behind on graduate numbers

Let's ignore for one moment the recent decision to withdraw funding for students studying any course which is at a level lower than that which they've already achieved. Let's look first of all at some of the details of the BBC report. Firstly
With modern economies emphasising the need for a highly-skilled, well-educated workforce, the survey shows that the UK has been relatively sluggish in its approach - with much less expansion than in countries such as South Korea, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Of course it's difficult to find any real research that supports this proposition. In fact the reason that so many Poles come to the UK is that they have a highly educated workforce, one of the best in Eastern Europe, but the economy is a basket-case.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says the UK has slipped from the third highest proportion of graduates to 10th.

The survey also found that teenagers in the UK had particularly low expectations of going to university.

Damning really given that this government has spent the last 10 years pumping money into projects like Aimhigher and P4P. Millions and millions of pounds - the cost of each widening participation place is incredible and the ongoing failure shows how poorly targeted these activities have been. If the money had been put into secondary schools....

In response, Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said: "The figures are encouraging.

"The UK has one of the highest entry rates for vocational higher education and since the higher education figures in the OECD report are from 2005 we expect to see continued increases over the coming years.

And here's the nub of it. This government is so hung up on the idea of "vocational higher education" that they are prepared to devalue all the other types of higher education. The much vaunted lifelong learning agenda has a rider - only if the learning is vocational. How long before they offer a degree in floor sweeping to increase the number of vocational higher education courses? New Labour's love affair with qualifications rather than learning continues and we are all paying through the nose for it.


Decided to upgrade the template through blogger. I wish I could find out how to change the default font for postings though - I have to change to Verdana every time (and it's zapped the earlier posts into Arial)

Now my Flickry friends

Have you tried Check out this link and let us know what you think!


I dropped this in here because I was finishing some work and listening to some music and I was struck with one of those "Hi Fidelity" (the book rather than the rather poor film adaptation) moments. What is the best guitar-based pop/rock track? What is the best guitar riff? Clearly Layla has to be in there and any number of tracks by Jimi but does Eddie's pop/rock fusion bundle of energy with David Lee Roth's screaming vocals hit the spot?
Of course even David Lee Roth has to grow up and slow down - check out this video...

Monday, 17 September 2007

Proof that only crooks and scoundrels use the Internet

Simple really. Our local authority, Kent County Council, bans any images which show a child's face on any of their websites in order to protect children. The BBC news have been running a film today where a charming older lady is named, her location made public and all the watchers have been told that she's withdrawing £750K from her bank account with Northern Rock. Ergo robbers and burglars are too busy using the web to watch television and paedophiles also use the web.

Am I a wimp?

I read. I read lots and I read for fun as well as for work and studying. I love reading. I buy novels in threes and I rarely read the same book twice - I have the kind of memory which tells me who did it after the first couple of pages if I've already read that book. Some books I do reread, things by Anthony Burgess and ZAMM and Jupiter's Travels and a couple of others.

Recently though I've found that I can't finish some books. First up was Haddon's "A spot of bother". I got past halfway and there really wasn't anything happening. I don't need a double digit body count but the initial charm of its gentle humour wears off after a while. Now I'm struggling with Will Self's "Book of Dave". Those who vaguely know Self's name but not why might be half remembering him being banned from travelling as part of the press party with John Major after being caught nasally ingesting some Columbian marching powder in the lavatory on a prime ministerial flight, he was employed as a journalist by The Observer at the time. He was never allowed near Blair because of this lettle indiscretion. Anyways, Self is straightened out and flying right and is a good, if wordy, writer. "The Book of Dave" is really imaginative and well written and makes great use of language including a phonetic language of his own making but it's just so damn bleak. It's described as having some humour but it's unrelentingly downbeat in a range of time periods through flashbacks and flashforwards. It's erudite and makes me feel "virtuous" in the same way that eating lettuce does but I feel just as fulfilled. Maybe I need "fast-words" as well as fast food?

Am I being a wimp swapping away from Will Self and starting on "Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders"? Rumpole is an old and much loved favourite and I've not read this account of his first ever case alone and without a leader.

Saturday, 15 September 2007


My son. I took this photo with my camera and uploaded it to Flickr while we waited for the food. Connectivity and social networking at the beginning of the 21st C.

"Fears over NHS e-records system"

The Health Committee said there was a "worrying lack of progress" and raised concerns about the security of patients' electronic records.

But the MPs also said the system - an online database of 50 million medical records to be accessed across the NHS - had huge potential to improve care.
There can be little doubt that the database has huge potential and improving care might well be one of the benefits but simply stating stuff like this doesn't make it happen. Nor, of course, does blindly pouring cash into poorly specified and ill-conceived projects which are badly managed. Governments of all hues have proved singularly unsuccessful when it comes to implementing big IT systems yet they keep on trying. Biometric ID cards are reliant on a database similar to the one they are trying to build here but with far more trying and robust external connections; terminals at all border crossings, police stations and countless other places will need to be able to access records for everyone in the country - anyone any idea of the potential costs? And who will be footing the bill?

Read what the BBC think.

Got it!

Originally uploaded by nogbad the bad
Scrappy game today and one where Dings Crusaders got a couple of tries against the run of play and Canterbury's handling and kicking game let them down. Halfway through the second half Canterbury brought on a new guy who joined last year. He's still a teenager but a great kicker. Of course if I had the programme to hand I could name names but.............

Thursday, 6 September 2007


Originally uploaded by
nogbad the bad

Stunning sunset this evening - took this quick shot with the phone (it's one of a lot because I didn't want to take my eyes off the road!)

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Jane Tomlinson

Jane Tomlinson has died. Those who don't know her story will find some of the details on the BBC page announcing her death. An inspiration.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007


Over the past month or so I've been giving some time to learning how to author course material using Moodle. I've not been able to give it as much time as I'd like but I've finally uploaded a first stab. if anyone has time (and the inclination) please have a look at "Working online" - the wiki section is blank but the other two should work. Let me know how it is for you :-)

Sunday, 19 August 2007

1 - 0

Those of a non-footy disposition might want to miss out on this one but today the Super Blues won the Manchester derby by the only goal of the game. As it says on the BBC site:
"Sir Alex Ferguson's side have taken only two points from their first three games and the champions are now seven points behind City at the summit of the table."
Blue Moon!


I don't know what is so special about this weekend but we're 38 minutes into 19/08 and my spam filter shows that it's zapped 688 spam mails between 18/08 and the 38 minutes of now, i.e. 24 hours and 38 minutes. Is it just me?

Thursday, 16 August 2007


This is funnier than a funny thing after a day at funny school!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Social bookmarking

For all those who struggle to understand how social bookmarking should work - and it's so beautifully explained in really simple terms.


Cool slide show


Originally uploaded by nogbad the bad
Where I was brought up we didn't have many apple trees, or even many apples, so I'm always blown away when the tree in the garden is full of juicy red Discovery apples. They taste brilliant fresh from the tree!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Coming to Manchester

The Pev
Originally uploaded by nogbad the bad
Over the 20 some years that I've not lived in Manchester there have been a lot of changes but The Peveril of the Peak remains as a wonderful example of a proper pub. Picture isn't very good because I took it with the phone rather than the camera.

CTID at Urbis

I found this while looking for something else. It's a shot of the photo exhibition - CTID - at Urbis. Check out the full sized image.

The photo is part of Lynn Smith's Flickr stream and it's well worth checking out her stuff.

Sunday, 5 August 2007


DSCF1571, originally uploaded by nogbad the bad.

A really cool thing about having a son is that we get to go to see trains. Yesterday was scorchio so we went to Tenterden and eat ice cream and watched steam trains - full size this time.

Saturday, 4 August 2007


So I've been playing with Flickr and have uploaded some stuff and played with linking to maps an all sorts!

Thursday, 2 August 2007


I posted what might otherwise have been a blog post on Facebook. Not a problem but I've been wondering about why I might go there instead of here - particularly as Facebook has a different audience - one that is limited and "controlled".

Anyways - Mild at The Mermaid yesterday and a picnic on a train today. The train is on the World's smallest passenger railway; The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007


Some might remember that there is a "magic" river through the village. It only runs every six or so years, the rest of the time it's a dry ditch - you can see a photo of the bridge we use to cross it to get to Jopper's Bank to watch cricket.

Anyways. Even after all the rain (and there's not been enough for flooding or damage down here) the river is still not showing any sign of flowing! Earlier in the year it was in water as far as World's Wonder (or some such which local name) but it receded. The other night I popped out to grab a glass of refreshment at The Mermaid and almost drowned wandering up the road but still no chance of a Bishopsbourne Regatta!

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Ontario bans employees using Facebook

Does just what it says at the top. This link goes to Michael Hotrum's blog and he links to a paid for service so I've mooched around and found the story on CBC Canada

Home again!

Back from a week at OU Residential School. I was working as a learning adviser at the University of Sussex, looking after a group of science students. Great fun and not dissimilar to working on a holiday camp (done that so I know what I'm talking about!). It was hard work too though and I am completely cream-crackered right now, I've been asleep much of the day and now I'm trying to get the washing done.

In the photo I'm engaged in one of my favourite activities - opening a bottle of fizzy wine. This was to celebrate the retirement of a colleague who has spent 53 weeks at residential school since 1980. The orange tape attached to my belt has my keys on it - that way I don't lock myself out of any rooms - and the badge has a black strip behind the "Open University" wording showing that I'm staff. Student's badges are colour-coded to show the course they are studying, blue indicates SXR103.

Thursday, 5 July 2007


Conference in Greenwich yesterday - I was Jacqui Bennett and helped Anna with her presentation. Gilly Salmon headlined and there was sushi on the lunch buffet. T'was a funky sort of day.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Connected me!

The connected academic
Your Result: Connected academic

You are the future! You've taken openness, connectedness and 2.0ness to heart. You are an asset to your organisation. I would be happy to be your Facebook friend.

Mildly connected academic
Unconnected academic
The connected academic
Create MySpace Quizzes

Tuesday, 26 June 2007


Check out this page about an exhibition being held at Urbis in Manchester.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Thai bites

So now Man City look to have a new owner and a new manager. Of course it's not as simple as that because this is Manchester City but...........

I've not been a fan of Sven in the England job but he has a great record in club management and the new owner has said there will be money for two strikers, two midfielders and a keeper - £50M? Of course the new owner (assuming he doesn't get banged up before the paperwork i sorted) is now known as "Frank" for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Social networking

One of the things I've been dipping my toe in is social networking, Rheingold said in "Smart Mobs" that social networking would be the next killer app and it looks as though Facebook is the flavour riding the crest of that wave just now. Tony Hirst suggests that it might begin to look like a VLE and Martin Weller looks at what opening up the Facebook API might mean in the longer term. Anyways - I'm all Facebooked up and fascinated at the number of folk who have got themselves onto it.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Just what we were waiting for.......

Those who haven't booked their holidays yet might like to add this museum to the trip.

Need talc?

Are you able to find anything more useful?

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Saturday, 19 May 2007

It's the future

No - not garlic bread (though garlic bread certainly is the future).

Friday, 18 May 2007

From the local press

This made me smile:

"The church bewails its tiny congregations and the village hall runs functions merely to raise funds to keep the hall going, so that it can
run functions to raise funds to keep the village hall standing; a never-ending spiral"

Sadly this is true of a lot of small villages but we all cling to an important piece of village life regardless of wider purpose. I'd be horrified if our village hall disappeared but as Malcolm states - it's difficult to see why it's there apart from as a historic monument. The porch on the village hall was paid for by Joseph Conrad so it has "real" history.

Read the rest of Malcolm's report on the parish council meeting on the Kent Online site.

Sunday, 6 May 2007


Damn - got a speeding ticket!

11 MPH over the limit on an urban dual-carriageway. Can't argue; I was going too fast.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Where I've been

Just spent a couple of days at HQ. James Cridland gave a kicking presentation on Tuesday morning and he copies a photo on John Naughton's blog showing the view from the back of the Berrill lecture theatre. Had a kicking time meeting folk and getting to hear some fantastic speakers laying out possible futures - wonderful way to spend some time. Had a coffee with Methel, finally met Martin Weller and bumped into a good few other people who it was good to chat with.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

The earth moved for me!

Twenty past eight this morning while I was considering getting out of bed for a cup of tea the house shook. Earthquake strikes Kent! No real problems here but down the road in Folkestone there is some damage - nobody seriously injured though. Almost like living in San Francisco!

Sunday, 22 April 2007

What I did yesterday

Yesterday I was mainly wearing a different gown and being presented to the Vice Chancellor and having a jolly time.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

In 2005-6 3.8m children were in poverty - in homes on less than 60% of average income including housing costs.

In the developed world.
In Britain.
After the crowing over another successful year for the economy.
And this number is increasing.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

The mouse that roared

I suppose we've always been worried that the next world war would be started by a small, under-developed state with delusions of grandeur. Of course one of the signs of such a state would be that their leaders wear rather ludicrous looking uniforms - probably topped off with a hat with a shiny peak. It's therefore important to watch out for these uniforms and highlight them if spotted anywhere. To this end I hope you'll all check out the uniform worn by the Deputy chief of the New York City Department of Sanitation, he even appears to have medals and while I don't doubt he earned them I'm not exactly sure how. Can anyone explain why the bloke one from the top of the bins, bags and skips detail gets a quasi-military uniform?

Friday, 23 March 2007

Hot buttered smimbies

All you've ever wanted to know about hot buttered smimbies but were afraid to ask...........

The author of same sits in the same office as me when I'm in the office (and when I'm not there he still works in the same office but I don't - if you see what I mean!). Check out his seminal posting about being a Lancastrian - "Pride and PG Tips" and also the history and etymology of the smimbie.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Oyster does Canterbury

This is a (rather poor) YouTube video of Mark, Mary and Oyster Morris dancing at Canterbury Cathedral. Mark is shouting out the instructions. For those who haven't been keeping up - Mark and Mary are regulars in The Mermaid.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Learning through play

Of course we've always learnt through playing games, from children playing counting games to adults with simulations. There is also the ongoing argument that children spend far too long in front of PCs when they should be "playing out". This weekend Calum was with me so we did some boys' stuff (can't tell you the details but other boys will know! :-))

He showed me this online game. Now give it a go and look at the way it is coded first - this level of complexity and interaction would have been unknown until very recently but now it's given away as part of a game. Look then at the strategies needed to complete the game, at least one appears counter-intuitive, and consider how much children can actually learn from these games.

I'm not suggesting that children shouldn't play outside or that spending all their free time in solitary pursuits is wise but stuff like this is a good example of some of the "learning through play" that is happening and that those who don't get involved in what their children are doing at the PC might be missing. And this is a jolly good little game :-)

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

A new badge perhaps?

I've never trusted them anyway - far too neat and squeaky clean, nothing like my life. And now they've been found out and shown to be cheats - now I know why I didn't ever win one of those badges! Blue Peter has been caught up in the fall out from the premium rate telephone scams being run by TV stations. It's strange that they have been hit like this given that the real crims are the people running late night shows with nonsense answers to simple questions and nobody taking calls while you are paying through the nose on hold. All poor old Blue Peter did was falsify the winner of a phone in competition because they couldn't get the kit to work so that they could have a phone in winner. It's not even as though they pretended that the outcome of a live event could be determined by callers when, in reality, the person supposedly in that live event was actually broadcasting live on a national radio station and the "live" event that people were calling about was really prerecorded. A round up of the crop of phone scandals is here and shows just how much money is involved! Maybe Blue Peter will bring out a new badge?

Tuesday, 13 March 2007


Following the posting about the NIACE conference here is a piece in The Observer on 6th March

Monday, 12 March 2007

Healthy eating II

My search for healthy (less fattening) eating is being driven by my current cessation of smoking - I'm growing like a balloon and I am the size of a small family car now. Anyways - anything stir fried is healthy right? Stir frying is done in a wok - with me so far? Thus anything cooked in a wok is healthy. Did you know that it's possible to cook chips in a wok?

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Healthy eating

I'm trying to make sure I eat my five portions of fruit and veg each week (whether I need them or not). Can anyone confirm that hot cross buns count as four portions of fruit and veg?

Sunday, 4 March 2007

NIACE Conference

Went to a conference in London on Friday. Some fascinating speakers talking on the subject of adult education and the state of play following the election of New Labour on a platform of "Education, education, education". Speakers included Professor Richard Taylor from Cambridge, Professor Maria Slowey from DCU and Jane Thompson. The event was held to launch a book of essays written as a festschrift for Dr Veronica McGivney.

It was both fascinating and deeply depressing. The number of adults in formal learning in this country has declined by 1 million over the last three years and the drive for skills based, utilitarian learning has squeezed funding for courses where people were learning for the sheer joy of learning. The need for vocational qualifications also demeans all the "not qualified" skills that we have. The current culture appears to think that anything which is worth knowing/doing will have a bit of paper attached and this excludes those with necessary skills that fall outside the vocational framework - I think that the people who carry out traditional crafts have great skills but the idea that we need to create a Foundation Degree in dry walling or thatching or brewing is silly but not to HMG.

The bigger issue is that employers have still to embrace the fact that in a few years time there simply won't be enough people leaving school or college to fill the requirements of the job market but it's still difficult to find a job if you are unlucky enough to find yourself out of work after the age of fifty. This tends to be regardless of qualifications - an unemployed engineer will probably face the prejudice that being out of work means that they are a poor engineer.

Of course the biggest problem remains the ongoing discrimination against women. Despite raising over 3,000 pieces of new legislation since coming to power New Labour have still failed to raise laws to address the differences in women's pay and working conditions. Full time women workers are paid, on average, 18% less than men, even when working in the same job. After five years in work women graduates earn 15% less than men with the same qualifications. (ONS, 2004; Women and Equality Unit, 2004 cited by Thompson in "Participation and the pursuit of equality") The number of women in prison has doubled in the last ten years and the majority have no previous convictions, one third have a history of sexual abuse and more than 70% of women offenders have two or more mental illnesses. The government is now pushing for legislation which will mean that single mothers will have to seek work once their youngest child reaches the age of 12. Of course those at most risk, those on benefits, are also often those who are most likely to find work in the lowest paid work and also find it hardest to find work which will offer the flexibility to work only during school hours.

Participation and the pursuit of equality" is the collection of essays released by NIACE as a smashing book edited by Alan Tuckett and it's a jolly good read.

Sunday, 25 February 2007


Popped to the supermarket for some shopping earlier. I wanted some meat and veg and such like, also wanted suet. Wandering around I started reflecting on how little of what the shop stocked my grandmother would have recognised - she died in the early 1980s. First up let's ignore the country of origin information on the fruit and veg - some of these countries had different names in 1980 (Zimbabwe, Croatia, etc) and let's also ignore all the electrical kit that simply wasn't around. It's the packets and pouches, tins and cartons, boxes and bags. I'm not suggesting that ready meals and processed food are new but it's the sheer welter of it - I'm trying to remember the name of those chinese meals with dehydrated "meat" and crispy noodles that had to be fried. Gran would also have been shocked by the small amount of space devoted to "real food", so little unprocessed stock, so few of the basics like flour and cornflour and the bits and pieces that those who can cook like to have festering at the back of the cupboard.

Of course that doesn't mean that these things aren't stocked but there were six different types of tinned chopped tomatoes and two types of flour. Next to the suet are boxes and boxes of suet dumpling mixes with different flavourings - trust me, if you can master making suet dumplings making herby suet dumplings isn't a great stretch. And that's where I ended up, I realised that the stuff on the shelves was mainly made from a few bits of the other stuff on the shelves but by mixing it in a factory rather than selling to people with the gumption to mix them at home the manufacturers and supermarkets are making a killing. I know none of this is new but it takes me a while to catch on.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Wednesday, 7 February 2007


"Something's gotta give" is on TV right now. Smashing film with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. They can both act but what I find most striking is how stunningly attractive Ms Keaton is.

Years ago I fell in love with her in "Annie Hall" - to see her again after all these years has taken my breath away.

But she never calls, she doesn't write............

Useful science!

I think that scientists actually engage in some valuable research - at least some of the time!

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

People power?

I've mentioned the petitions section on the government's web site in the past but this petition has really attracted some attention. It's been discussed on a couple of BBC radio programmes and I think that's helped boost it to 707,000 signatures and I think it might be getting names simply because people have heard about it rather than any great views about the petition - though I think it's a good idea to stop the government's poorly constructed plans. See what you think?

Every little helps!

This has been bouncing round internally for a week or so but it's finally getting some exposure.

Monday, 29 January 2007


Just some stuff to help when considering the latest information about the prisons crisis.

Firstly the spin seems to suggest that the reason that prisons are full is that more criminals are being caught and locked up. Not so. The average number of convictions is pretty constant at 1.75M/annum. The difference now against 10 years ago is that magistrates used to use a custodial sentence in 25% of cases - now they lock up 61% of offenders. Remember that magistrates deal with "minor" cases, theft of less than £1,000 for example.

Longer sentences are a greater deterrent. Not so. If prison were any sort of deterrent they wouldn't be full! The UK locks up more people per head of population than any other country in Europe. The chances of someone who serves a sentence of 3 months or less reoffending is 96% - so that works then doesn't it?

Prison places are at a premium and so they are only used to detain those who are a danger to society - people like Lindis Percy. She's 64 and this criminal mastermind is in Low Newton Jail on Co Durham, we're being protected from a woman who failed to pay a fine after being convicted of a breach of the peace at a protest outside a US base in Yorkshire. And today there was news that a man who should have been released and repatriated is still in jail because the home office hasn't applied for a copy of his birth certificate from his country of origin so that he can be resettled.

Cheap jibes? Not really addressing the main issues?

This government was elected on a platform about being tough on crime, etc, but they've singularly failed to plan for the effects of increasing sentences. A by-product of the current overcrowding is that education is being restricted in some prisons because of security fears. Rather than dealing with the causes of crime Tony's cronies have really just tried to lock up more people for longer as a sop to the law and order brigade. This serves only to ensure that we are banging up people with mental illnesses and real medical reasons not to be in jail and it's easy to keep building more cells rather than actually looking at how to reduce crime.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Blokey stuff

I guess that Top Gear is seen as a symbol of blokey beer culture but I'm afraid I do enjoy it. I didn't see it tonight though - forgot it was on and I was working anyway - but caught up with it on the web site. Anyone who hasn't seen Hamster's 280 MPH crash should check it out and also the very scary caravanning clip.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Stuff and stuff

Marking and a dopey connection are my excuse. Just seen this though

Tuesday, 2 January 2007


Happy New Year everyone!