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George [userpic]

The unprofessional me

January 24th, 2011 (05:57 am)

current mood: curious

Can there be any unprofessional me? What would it look like? Or more importantly what would it look like to all the other professional selves who have access to some me on the web? There are times I want to let my hair down, swear, etc, but I keep returning to the certain knowledge that the Internet is a crowded room, with CCTV, friends and family present and all sorts of surveillance. I could make this LJ private, I guess. But, still, privacy on the Internet? And what would I say or do anyway? So I guess the answer is that on the Internet there can be no unprofessional me. A bigger question is whether there is (or should be?) ever an unprofessional me in any context ex tororum.
Don't want to get into arguments about what professional is. Maybe I just mean public.

George [userpic]

Policy-informed evidence or evidence informed policy - and the rest

November 1st, 2009 (04:22 pm)

current mood: angry

I just wrote to my MP, Andrew Smith to express disappointment at two recent government reactions to expert advice:

  • the dismissal of David Nutt, head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by Alan Johnson (many stories, but this will do as a reference)
  • the rejection of the findings of Robin Alexander's excellent Cambridge Review of Primary Education by Ed Balls (also many stories, but this is a place to start)
Though different policy areas, the common theme appears to be that evidence must be informed by policy; policy will not be informed by evidence.

There are other instances. I could go on. The Government's cloth ear doesn't stop with matters of policy. The reaction to the Parliamentary expenses issue, the bail-out of the banks to the tune of £3,000 from each household in Britain; they just don't get it.

If a mob were to show up outside Parliament and drag every member out onto the street and tar and feather them, I reckon the mob would have the support of the people. The people certainly don't have the support of their so-called representatives. Time for them all to go.

George [userpic]

Blogging here and there: who am I?

October 18th, 2009 (04:59 pm)

It has been too long since I tended this site. I have been blogging a lot on my rWorld2 sites (BrookesBlogs and Posterous) as well as on my current R&D support project (JISC-ssbr), but those are mostly to do with my professional geekery: learning and teaching with Internet technologies, higher education, community education, and so on. I don't like to compartmentalise, but when the Internet is a big part of my profession as well as my person it makes some sense to go to different places on it to do and say different things.

The question of identity is a confusing one. I am prompted by commenting on Simon Collery's excellent Kwasababu blog. Blogger (or BlogSpot) offers the commenter the opportunity to "Comment as"... a Google identity (yes, I have several), a WordPress identity (I use local installations of WordPress, not the big public one), TypePad (yes, I have a TypeKey), AIM (nope), OpenID (yes, via all the above) and, of course LJ.

Over the years my identity has fragmented and then re-cohered. There is not much I hide from anyone these days. The Internet is too public for me to indulge in identity play. My work place is reasonably tolerant of (not too) radical politics. But, there are things I want to respond to not as an academic and a higher education professional. So, I guess LJ is the repository of that part of me that survives unprofessionalised.

George [userpic]

Whisky note - Teaninich 23yo cask strength

April 8th, 2009 (02:36 pm)

current location: Seumas Bar, Sligachan, Skye
current mood: content

Wow! At £5.70 a dram it should be good, and blimy, it is. Just had a wee Talisker to start. Nice iodine, golden syrup and black pepper accents, but it gets knocked into a cocked hat by this complex beauty. I don't know where to begin. It speaks in full sentences. The first nose is like the essence of a seaside hayfield distilled through a full silver moon. The first touch on the tongue is astringent and warming as cloves, nutmeg and allspice. Throughout the high alcohol note would remind even a meths drinker that there is something to life. In the background, Seumas' bar is selling cullen skink and the smoked haddock backdrop makes a hard stage for any whisky to work. The colour is very pale straw. The whisky rolls on the back of the tongue like pearls fresh out of an oyster and there is a hint of Tobasco that fades into a warm cedar glow.I  know it must be oak, but there is nothing cheap retzina or Aussie Chardo about this. You couldn't imagine a better potpourri for a country house. Seems a shame to tip water into it, but, needs must. The tap water isn't great. The whisky reveals the chlorine and metals that you wouldn't otherwise notice. But the water does release the sweetness, knocking the alcohol spirit down and bringing up the golden sugar and grassy, gentler notes with a hint of wintergreen wafting down the path.

Wish I had paid as close attention to last night's Springbank.

George [userpic]

Women in SET

February 5th, 2009 (10:02 am)

Sometimes things just get to me. Media Planet published a supplement in the Guardian back on 30 October 2008 titled Women in Science, Engineering and Technology: the Problems and the Solutions. The supplement appears to have been commissioned by the Institute of Physics, who are prominent on the cover proclaiming, "Good practice benefits all". The cover is a mess of a design, but I will focus on the 3x3 grid of pictures which makes up about three quarters of the page. In this there are only two photographs of women: one a pair of smiling Asian graduates in mortarboards and gowns holding scrolls (who knows what discipline, or even if they are anything other than models in a PR stock photo). Now, where else have I seen this picture? Oh yes: http://buyessay.org/how-it-works/ That'll get quality graduates into SET.

Another pic is of a young blonde amongst skyscrapers interrogating a mobile phone or similar portable device. There is a picture of three very young girls each of a different racial type marveling at a hand pipetting a substance into test tubes. There is a photo of people of indeterminate gender in full white cleanroom or decontamination coveralls. There are two abstract images, one of molecules and the other of a glowing green binary bitstream. And, there are three pictures of military hardware: an ICBM labelled "United States", a jet fighter displaying the white star in blue roundel of the US Air Force, and what looks like a filthy great flamethrower, or a static rocket test, or a gas-air burst weapon; anyway, an exhibition of hideously inefficient combustion with billowing clouds of black smoke above a torrid fire stream.

Inside the supplement, big (very big) engineering, military technology and physics are conflated. The adverts tell the story: Atomic Weapons Establishment (full page) with a cubist abstraction of a woman's face made of various arty-techy mini images, Defence Engineering and Science Group (full page) with a besuited babe beside a Eurofighter loaded for bear, BAE Systems: Submarine Solutions, with a wireframe submarine (double half-page spread); Halcrow (full page) boasting what can only be described as terraforming megalomaniacal projects.

Sad, really.

George [userpic]

Reasoned argument

February 1st, 2009 (08:16 pm)

As I do when riding to work or pushing Johnny in his buggy, I exercise debates.

It is often said that we do not have a drugs problem, we have problem because drugs are illegal. I was wondering if aesthetics could help. I hypothesised that there might be an aesthetic of opiates. That there might be a connoisseurship of heroin that would analyse the experience and recognise from sensual nuance the provenance, the makers hand, and so on. I hypothesised that if there were such an aesthetic, it would help to mitigate the social ills brought about by heroin use. Users would strive to become more sophisticated, would shun the bad stuff, and generally use would go down. It became quickly clear to me that even though there is an elaborate aesthetic of alcohol: malt whiskies, champagne, bordeaux, CamRA, etc, this doesn't stop people drinking paint thinner and lamp fuel until they are blind and killing each other.

So, is there a place for aesthetics in addressing social ills?
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George [userpic]

Licensed activity

January 16th, 2009 (07:23 pm)

The car, the house, the job, the phone, the telly, the bank and the supermarket or mall are our architecture of recordation and social control. Each gives us an illusion of freedom and individuality. Each serves, rather, to individuate, identify, monitor, track and regulate our behaviour. This is why I value my bicycles so highly.

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George [userpic]

Turkeys do vote for Christmas

December 17th, 2008 (08:48 pm)

I accept that Mancunians wouldn't want to be lectured at by London. But, I am sorry that the congestion charge was overturned - and by such a majority. It does seem extraordinarily short sighted and selfish. The problem is that the "Christmas" they have voted for: no charge now, will lead to worse congestion, poorer public transport and will do nothing to help anyone reach any sustainable level of emissions.

George [userpic]

Police fundamentalism and Earth First!

November 11th, 2008 (10:13 pm)

The Observer published a "warning" by the police on Sunday 9 November under the headline, "Police warn of growing threat from eco-terrorists". In the article, the writers Mark Townsend and Nick Denning, appear to serve as mouthpieces for a simian authoritarianism. They provide little balance to counter the assertion by a "senior source" in the The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) that, "... eco-activists are researching a list of target companies which they believe are major polluters or are exacerbating the threat of climate change." Something wrong with that?

The article goes on to suggest there is a "... network of UK climate camps and radical environmental movements under the umbrella of Earth First!, which has claimed responsibility for a series of criminal acts in recent months." As far as I understood it, the umbrella works as much the other way. Climate Camp provides the umbrella and Earth First! sympathisers - and environmentalists of all stripes, including such radical membership organisations as the WI and the National Trust - may from time to time come under it. This is not just dreadful journalism in the manner of the Daily Mail, this is an attempt to shape a national debate in ideological terms with, I suggest, the aim of demonising dissent, driving a wedge into the environmental movement. Why?
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George [userpic]

Whisky notes

November 3rd, 2008 (09:17 pm)

Three lovely malts this weekend in Rydal with Ali, Johnny, John, Aileen, Iain and Mhoraig:

  • Glen Moray (no age, guessing 7 or 8 years) lovely, honey and black pepper
  • Glen Morangie, Maderia wood finish, sweet, as you would expect, and slightly cloying
  • Teaninich 10 yo black pepper, lemon and oak.

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