Saturday, September 30, 2006

How odd...

I'll admit it. I don't understand. But evidently a man has received funding to write a piece of music lasting 1000 years (yes, one thousand years) and it will be played by water dripping into a hole in the ground.

The Guardian story.
The project web site.

Just an aside...

While following up a link to Brutalist architecture (see post below), I thought this place looned interesting - St. Peter's Seminary near Glasgow. (Another article here)

The Barbican

It's big. It's concrete. It's easy to get lost.

And now, after 25 years, it finally has a front door. (Evidently it was difficult for people to figure out how to get in. Actually, I found my way in just fine. What they need is an exit.)

The Wikipedia entry.
The Barbican Arts page.

(I just learned that that ugly concrete architecture is called Brutalist architecture. You'd have thought I'd have figured that one out on my own.)

Ever heard of Kalmykia?

No, neither had I. And I probably wouldn't have heard of this former Russian republic except that its new president claims he was abducted by aliens in Moscow. (I've been there, pal. That's just the way the place is.)

Official Government Website.
The Wikipedia entry.
The Guardian story that led to this post.

Old Ways for Modern Times

The BBC has had its charter renewed for another 10 years. And since it's a Royal Charter, the official documents have to be printed on vellum. But for those of you without the Vellum Plug-In for your browser, here it is as a pdf file.

Links here and here.

Interesting Names

Tired of plain, ordinary names? Try some of these. Some of the Pilgrims sailing on the Mayflower in 1620 had some interesting names.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Motivational Posters

I whiped up a batch of motivational posters for school using one of FD's Flickr Toys. It's free and they turned out quite well (even better in color, but the magenta toner cartridge is empty...). In fact, after seeing them, my Head rewrote his Open Evening speech around them. (If you click the picture, you can see an even larger picture.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Ever bought something on e-Bay by mistake?

Ever have your three-year-old buy a £9,000 car on e-Bay by mistake?

Evidently, he's a whizz at computers. (Can a three-year-old be a computer whizz?)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

My Weekend

On Saturday, I visited the Royal Mews (also information here) and saw a number of State carriages, including the Gold State Coach used for Coronations.

Then, I stopped at the Guards Museum (easily identifiable by the small armored (armoured?) car outside. The museum traces the history of the five regiments of Foot Guards.

Next, I had a bit of a wander over to Covent Garden where I saw this group of English Civil War reenactors.

Finally, I headed back to Buckingham Palace where I had a ticket for the Summer Opening of the State Rooms. I was able to see a number of wonderful rooms and then have a short wander through the back gardens. (Sorry, I couldn't take pictures inside.)

On Sunday, I had a short walk around Windsor Castle and took a few photos before heading up the Long Walk to see part of the Windsor Half Marathon.

I also saw Lord Sebastian Coe, former Olympic medallist and currently head of the London Olympic Committee for the Olympic Games.

(London photos are here. Windsor photos are here.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Interesting tips for new teachers

Yesterday's Guardian had an interesting column by Philip Beadle. He gave readers the four tips he was given on his first day teaching.

I won't ruin the column by listing them here...the column is worth reading.

Read It, Swap It

A few days ago, I blogged about a site called Read It, Swap It. Basically, if you have books you no longer want, you enter their information into the site. If someone sees a book they want, they request to swap. You check their list and, if you find one of their books you want, you swap books.

That's it.

All you pay is postage to mail the books. Monday, I mailed six books for a total of £6.00 total. That means I will receive six brand new (to me) books for less than the cost of one new one.

Five reasons why this is great:
  • I like getting mail. Mail larger than letter size is even better. Today I had three waiting for me! My Deputy Head saw my pigeon hole aat work and said, "Ooo...presents!" (I had them sent to work in case they wouldn't fit through the mail slot at home.
  • I am providing my books with a new home rather than letting them sit or just tossing them.
  • I wrap my books in plastic bags before sending them - thereby getting rid of the excess supermarket bags I had.
  • I will end up reading books I probably wouldn't otherwise have read.
  • It's dirt cheap. (Yes, yes, libraries, blah, blah, blah, etc. But libraries don't provide the other four things above.)

Read It, Swap It is ony for UK residents. However, Bookins is a similar site for US residents (but I can't vouch for anything about it).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Odds and Ends

I'm cleaning my room...and uncovering things I meant to blog about.

  • Cyber Candy - A candy company that imports candy (and some soft drinks) from all over the world. So, expats no longer have to suffer London summers without Jolly Ranchers and Reeses Cups. (There's one at Covent Garden.)
  • Joanna's Restaurant - It's located in the Crystal Palace area of London and is superb. I went there last weekend with friends and loved it.
  • McDonald's - Evidently, they are running this new campaign to get people to understand how wonderfully aware McDonald's is. Supposedly, they're looking for people to become Quality Scouts and visit farms and other suppliers. That would look fun on a resume!
  • Starwonders Wholesale Neckties - The Guardian actually had a small bit about this place in Florida. For just $4.75 each (less if you order more than 59 at a time), you can get these excellent ties!
  • Assistant to Stephen Hawking - One of the world's most famous physicists is looking for an assistant. "The Head of the Group is Professor Stephen Hawking who is disabled and communicates using a computer system and speech synthesiser. If you were accepted for the post you would be responsible for maintaining and improving this computer system as well as other pieces of support equipment. You would help him to prepare and deliver seminars and public lectures and assist with scientific papers. You would also accompany Professor Hawking on his many travels and assist other members of the group.
    Flexibility, stamina and a confident and caring personality, together with a valid driving licence, are essential for this demanding job."
  • Ryan Frank - A London-based designer who makes these really cool furniture things.
  • Oasis Hong Kong Airlines - They promise flights from London to Hong Kong starting at just £75 each way. Not every seat is £75, but I found one that leaves on November 21 and returns on November 29 for £75 each way. Add taxes and the whole round-trip costs just £261.05. That's less than a flying one-way from London to Washington.
  • Indigo Children - Instead of being ADHD (or just plain rude), your child may be a super-evolved psychic being. Seriously.
  • The Mirna Diamond Mine - In eastern Siberia, this mine opening is 1.25 km across (that's more than 3/4 of a mile). Helicopters are not allowed to fly over the opening because the vortex of air above it causes them to crash. (In the link, go almost to the bottom of the page...there's a picture.)
  • A Royal Residence - I have read the property laws and rental agreements and things of that sort are so complicated in parts of England, that people really have no idea who owns certain properties. So, imagine their shock to learn who owns a run-down, rat-infested house in Manchester: the Queen. (Well, actually, the property was not wanted by it's actual owners so it falls to the Dutchy of Lancaster which is controlled by the Queen. So, it's not as much of a slum-lord story as people made it out to be at first.)
  • Atomix-Full of Love and Wonder - 50,000 polystyrene balls blown by 10 fans. The pictures are way cooler than it sounds.
  • Uncool Under the Collar - Evidently, people aren't buying enough neckties. Only 13% of architects, surveyors and engineers managed to buy even one tie last year.
  • Pay Cash to Top Maths Pupils - To help counteract the shortage of maths students in higher education, it has been suggested that people getting top grades get £500.
  • Obsolete English Words - Please, won't you use words like felth and spuddle?
  • Obsolete English Occupations - Some are not so much obsolete as just renamed or less-specialized. But still, it must have been nice being a Sifker.
  • KZ the Film - I picked up a card about this at the Institute of Contemporary Art last week. It is supposedly a 'radically different Holocaust film' and the 'first postmodern Holocaust movie.' I haven't seen it yet, but it has won a number of awards.
  • Bilibo - listed as number 1 in the Independent on Sunday's list of '50 Great Ideas for the 21st Century' - it's supposed to be 'the next big thing.'
  • Pandora - This website helps you find music that is similar to music you already like. It's based on the Musical Genome Project
  • Read It, Swap It - It is possible that this site could solve quite a few of my excess-book and I-don't-have-anything-to-read problems.

This is just too much...

Cherie Blair, wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, visited a school recently and, at one point, patted a child on the back. (And that is what the 17-year-old child's mother said it was, "just a pat on the back.")

As a result of that pat on the back, this incident was investigated by six detectives from the Strathclyde Police Department after officials from the Child Protection in Sport Unit complained to police. "Downing Street said no action is expected against Mrs Blair, who is also a Crown Court judge."

Every teacher in the country should immediately stand up and demand that they not be required to enter a school without an individually-assigned witness to be with them at all times.

The story from ITV.

And from The Independent.

Good grief...there's tons of articles about it!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Interesting matchup

Combine television listings with Google maps?

Now TVMAP allows you to select which (British) television you will watch based on where the show takes place.

I thought it was cool.

For travellers: Arriving in the United States

The United States has published a pamphlet explaining the entry procedures into the United States, complete with diagrams.

Thomas Scott has explained those diagrams. After reading that, I can't wait to go back and visit the US! (But somehow, I don't think it will really be quite how he describes it...)

The Semaphore Ninja

The wonders of computer technology are truly amazing.

Click here.

Yarr! It be almost here, me hearties!

Aye, it be almost time for International Talk Like a Pirate Day! If it be helpin' 'ere's a website fer ye!

Things I Learned About Slough

Just four minutes by train from Windsor is the city of Slough. Pronounced so that it rhymes with "plow" and "now", the city hasn't always had a positive reputation.

Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman wrote this about Slough in 1937:
"Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough, it isn't fit for humans now".

Then, much more recently, the BBC comedy "The Office" was set in the Slough Trading Estate. And, for anyone who has ever seen the show, you'll see how bleak Slough can be.

But, after reading this article from the BBC, I learned the following:

  • Thunderbirds was filmed in Slough. (This was a 1960s television show about a family that ran an emergency response service using rockets and spaceships. Oh yeah...and it was filmed using puppets. The marionette kind.)
  • Mars Bars are made there. (And from the Mars site, I learned that the Slough factory makes 200,000 tons of confectionary a year, and 3 million Mars Bars a day. Who's eating those things?) (Oh, and the Mars Bars here in England are like Milky Ways in the US.) (And, from following wikipedia links (Mars Bars to Deep Fried Mars Bars to...), I learned about a deep-fried pizza, but that's another story.)
  • The Beatles started their British tour in Slough in 1963. (However, according to this, there were several 1963 tours.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Bluemantle Pursuivant

Image from Wikipedia
I learned something today.

I wrote to the College of Arms to ask about using coats of Arms to illustrate some mathematical concepts. (Basically, I wanted see what permissions I needed before using a person's coat of Arms.) I was delighted to receive a reply from the Bluemantle Pursuivant saying such a use was permitted without requiring any special permissions.

Don't you wish you had a cool title like Bluemantle Pursuviant? Your full title would be Bluemantle Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary and you'd get to hang out with the Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary.

You may still have a chance...the posts of Portcullis Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary and Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary are currently vacant.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Two Funny Videos

You know how on the web, one click leads to another which leads to insanity?

It started with my mention on Ewan's edu.blogs site which lead me to the EdCompBlog site. There I saw this treadmill video...which had a link to this video of experiments with Mentos and Diet Coke. They are both quite nearly roll-on-the-floor funny.

And I'm watching them without audio. I can only imagine what they'd be like with sound.

I survived the computer lab...

Ever taken 25 eleven-year-olds to the computer lab? In order to accomplish a specific task? That none of them had ever seen before?

It makes my skin crawl at the mere thought.

However, I took one of my groups of year 7 kids to the computer lab to work on a wiki. (What's a wiki, you ask? Better look here, but basically, it's a collaborative web document.) Yes, the hour was mostly frought with cries of, "What's the web address again?" "Huh?" "What's the password?" "My screen doesn't look like that!" and "Now what?!!" but they managed to produce simple pages. The point today wasn't to make great earth-shattering contributions to maths, but just to actually get logged in and make a page. All they had to do was type a sequence of numbers and explain it in words. But now that they know how, it will be much easier next week.

Here's ours. As you can see, there is a big range ability of things like spelling, proofreading, actually putting in the explanation, and making a proper sequence but we have 14 pages of mostly good work. The next steps might be reading the pages and having other pupils correct things, possibly do some proofreading, maybe comment on the explanations.

All I know is, I have 7 more days to prepare for the next session in the computer lab.


Not me, thank goodness, but two of my students. They were sent home today for having nits.

I must say that I consider myself lucky. I was on my way to deal with it (two other students informed me of the problem) when another teacher met me to tell me she had dealt with it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Last Night of the Proms

On Saturday, I went to the Last Night of the Proms.

Until I moved to England, the term "prom" was used to refer to something high school kids went to soon before graduation.

In England, however, the term "prom" refers to a promenade concert. One of the most famous series of proms is the BBC Proms, a series of concerts held every night for about eight weeks at the Royal Albert Hall in London. (This year, there were 73 proms held between July and September - one every day and, on some days, two.) These are mainly classical concerts with performances by world-famous musicians with full symphony orchestras. A main distinction between these concerts and other concerts is the Prommers - up to 1400 people who are standing in the main arena of the Royal Albert Hall.

But, as unique as this series of concerts is, the other 70-odd concerts are completely different from the Last Night of the Proms. (The fact the it is always referred to this way - full capitalization - should give a clue as to its high standing in the calendar.) Though all of the proms are broadcast live on BBC radio and some broadcast on TV as well, the Last night of the Proms is broadcast live on radio and TV - the first half on BBC Two and the second half on BBC One. There is a live link-up to proms in five different parks around the UK (including Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland) who have each had their own concert earlier - with full orchestra. It is a major deal.

Just getting a ticket at all requires a majorly organized campaign (and possibly overnight camping). If you expect an actual seat, well, you have to start in about April. The Proms ticket order form (actually an application) is three pages long and is more complicated than many tax forms I have seen. (Ordering tickets to six earlier proms allows you to request to order a Last Night of the Proms ticket...people are limited to a maximum of two tickets...Ordering a ticket for a prom in Category A gives you priority...if the stamp is licked under a full moon in the last week of April...that kind of thing. Heck, the order form comes bound in a book...full colour...glossy pages...found at bookstores nationwide.) Don't ask how I got one (I don't really need both kidneys, do I?).

Take a look at this picture (I didn't take it). Ever been to a classical concert with flag waving? Bobbing sunflowers? Beach balls and balloons? Air horns? A conductor's stand that gets decorated by fans at the interval?

I'm sorry, but words just fail me. I truly believe there is nothing like it anywhere.

Here is one news account. (The photo is not mine - it's from this news story.)

This Google search shows some Last Night of the Proms pictures.

I Have Seen the Future

Last night, I went to a taping of BBC's Songs of Praise. We all gathered in the Royal Albert Hall - all 6,000 of us. We sang and watched performances by a full orchestra and several choirs (Royal Choral Society Saint Michael's Singers Adventist Vocal Ensemble Cantamus Songs of Praise Orchestra Sketchley Hill Primary School Choir St Aidan's C.E High School, Harrogate. ) The evening was hosted by Aled Jones and conducted by Paul Leddington Wright. For UK viewers, the two shows we taped will be broadcast on Sunday, October 28, and Sunday, December 31. (Yes, that's New Year's Eve...yes, it's September and I've already sung my share of Christmas carols and have been to a New Year's party. Break out the Easter eggs!)

(As an interesting side note, Aled Jones was terribly famous here in England in the mid 1980s for singing "Walking in the Air" - that Christmas song - something about a dancing snowman. You can't swing a dead cat at Chrstmas time without hearing "Walking in the Air". Anyway, after years of suposedly vowing never to sing that song again, he's recorded it a duet...with himself.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to School

Yesterday was our (one and only) preparation day for the first "real" day of school. We arrived to find that none of the supplies we diligently ordered last term had arrived. (Bah...who needs paper?)

Today the kids returned.

And now I am very tired.

For those keeping track at home:
  • Phone calls to parents: 1
  • Detentions set: 7

Sunday, September 03, 2006

All the highlights

I mentioned below that I created a set of pictures showing the highlights of my trip. I have now added all the pictures, Athens to Istanbul. There is also a map showing where I took each picture.

So hurry and stomp your way to the Summer 2006 Rail Trip Highlights picture set!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Just the Highlights

Okay, I know that nobody is really going to want to slog through all of the trip pictures I took, so I pulled some together into the Summer 2006 Rail Trip Highlights set. Currently, there are 83 pictures (each with a short description). When I get the pictures from the first half of my trip posted, I will add some highlights to the set.


Belgrade Pictures

Pictures of Belgrade are available now on Flickr.

Don't you just love the shoes?

Sophia Pictures

I also have a few Sophia pictures ready for viewing on Flickr.

I can understand how this police car (barely) runs...

...but I wouldn't think a car like this would go very far.

Bucharest Pictures

My pictures of Bucharest are now available on Flickr. Eventually, I hope to post a few here and explain them. But for now, I'll just settle for showing you this picture of a rather odd Romanian hobby - painting their children to match the walls.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Istanbul Pictures

My Istanbul photos are now available on Flickr. A sample picture is at the top of the blog, just below the kid walking on the map. I took it on Monday at sunset after a huge thunderstorm. It is looking back over the European part of Istanbul.

Back in England

Last night, I arrived safely in England, ready for some sleep! Today (in addition to finally getting the haircut I really needed before I left three weeks ago) I have been working on the pictures from my trip. I am starting in reverse, with the Istanbul photos. I am uploading them to Flickr as I type this (but it's taking a while to upload).