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.