2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Good grief, Amazon, srsly?!

Amazon’s most recent recommendations for me.

Right next to each other.

An unlikely combination, and two books manifestly unsuitable for me.

Crafting with Cat Hair

And

How to Avoid Being Killed in a War Zone.

I went on to look for children’s books, got distracted by Images You Should Not Masturbate To

I give up!

Solar panel performance – 2013

Another year, another desperately late solar panel performance post. It’s been sitting on my to-do list since January 2nd, but at least writing this will let me tick off something today.

solar 2013

2013 has an ever so slight edge on 2012 so we’ll estimate the kWh as 3,800. Sadly once the year is over the more detailed records are not accessible through the controller app.

Nottingham Energy Partnership have an Energy Costs Comparison table. I neglected to look at it last year, so will have to use the data from last month now to estimate the financial value of the heat we got from the sun. I use the gas rate of 4.19p/kWh, since if the water were not heated by the solar panel, it would be heated by gas. Interestingly this is the lowest price for gas since 2009, according to my records.

That means the solar panel gathered around £159 of energy last year.

The running total to the end of 2013 is therefore £990 and will clearly top a thousand pounds next year.

There are all sorts of flawed assumptions being made to come to that figure, so take it with a fairly large pinch of salt.

If you are considering a solar panel of your own, whether for hot water or to generate electricity, and you live vaguely near Nottingham, do please get in touch with Sungain at Nottingham Energy Partnership, who would be delighted to let you know what to do next. You can also follow them on Twitter, and they also have a very helpful service on their website that lets you compare your electricity and gas tariffs and see if you can save money.

Buckets more information about my own solar panel under this link.

And a declaration of interest: I’m on the board at Nottingham Energy Partnership, where they very kindly describe me as an “energy expert.”

5k run for Parkinsons UK

I did a charity run yesterday after seeing a flyer in one of the gyms that I use. The first time I’ve actually run an event like this with all the paraphernalia – timing chip for shoe, a number to pin to my shirt etc, etc. This one was run after dark, so we all were given a head torch as well.

It was quite an impressive event, a rather nice family, halloween atmosphere with lots of runners in costumes. There was a simultaneous 10k and 5k event with the 10k-ers running the same route a second time. It was all the way around the 2k long Holme Pierrepoint boating lake with a slight uphill diversion to get the final kilometer in. The up-and-back nature of the event meant you could see where other runners were in relation to you – the 10kers set off first and you eventually saw them turn the corner and start running down towards you. When I turned the corner myself there were a few minutes, and before long you could see the 10kers starting their second lap.

Here’s what it looked like in the start line as we all did warmups together:

5k Spooky Sprint

5k Spooky Sprint

5k Spooky Sprint

Certainly an impressive number of people there!

There was also a drone filming us as we set off so I will look forward to seeing the footage from that! I’ve never been filmed by a drone before, as far as I am aware.

In terms of my targets – my main one is always to see how far along I can get from the start without having to break into a walk, and this time I managed the first kilometer without too much of a struggle but didn’t continue to the second.

My final time was a bit of a disappointment and I know I didn’t pace myself correctly as I easily had enough energy for a final sprint the whole of the last 400m. My time according to the chip 41’52”, which is pretty dreadful actually. I had been hoping, and half-heartedly training, to beat my PB in a timed event of 35’52”. But six minutes slower! Oh dear! The results system helpfully adds I came in 223/265 runners and in my age and gender category (“senior” ! erk!) 36/39.

No worries, you can still sponsor me on my Just Giving page until 01/02/2015.

Wugs

The wug test is something you do to prove that young children are internalising the rules of the English language. You show them a wug, and there is a short dialogue: “This is a wug. Now there are two of them. There are two _________ ?” Most children over two or three will know the answer is wugs.

I was just googling this and found there’s a wealth of wug related material.

Firstly, there’s a lovely website with many of the original drawings, from 1958.

This is quoted in the wikipedia page for Jean Gleason, who devised the test and a bunch of others I’d not seen before. “This is a dog with QUIRKS on him. He is all covered in QUIRKS. He is a _________ dog.” and even better, “This is a very tiny wug. What would you call a very tiny wug? This wug lives in a house. What would you call a house a wug lives in?” which prompted the commenters to speculate – wuggery? wug-wam? wugloo?

Then this fabulous cartoon.

breeding wugs

Then this…

wug life

Some lovely comments on Arnold Zwicky’s blog.

I once tried to use wugs as a spring board to talking about German plurals but it proved counter productive. We got a little bit obsessed with wugs and kinda didn’t pay a lot of attention to the actual real point of the lesson.

Oh look, you can even get a wug mug!

Music to learn verbs to

I’ve been doing avoir to the Pink Panther theme since finding this lovely TES resource at the very start of my teaching career.

Last week I found I didn’t really have anything for haben and wasn’t that impressed with my options. I went googling and found some absolutely lovely Mozart songs for both key German verbs that are very catchy, slightly silly, and will be used by me for ages to come.

I even wonder if we can get them into the soundtrack for foreign trips.

(slightly chipmunky, also very reminiscent of Sound of Music – I can imagine curtain-clad pirouetting alpine children singing these)

(This is from the Magic Flute and I’m quite interesting in trying to find sheet music. It’s classic choral harmony and I can’t hear it without trying to busk through all the parts)

This is also a great excuse for singing the Queen of the Night song. Not that I would ever do that in front of a class (ahem!).

Up until now I had been doing both sein and être to the tune of Michael Finnegan. You have to include the English in this to work as well. “Ich bin, I am, du bist you are, er ist he is…” and so on.

Both sein and être also work nicely to the Mission Impossible theme. You can fit versions of the whole verb both to the bass introduction and the treble theme once that kicks in.

There is also this balmy and awesome aller song to complete the trio of vital French irregular verbs.

The images are starting to be dated, and some classes can be obsessed with the visuals whilst not listening to the actual French, but it still plays well with most groups. I generally use it with older classes as we start really working on the near future tense. Using mixed / boy and girl bands to explain ils and elles is inspired and chimes much better with students than “on the day the priest visits the convent, they turn from elles to ils.” (although I still tell that story too)

If you are actually going to sing the songs yourself to your class, you need to practise privately before trying to do it with everyone, so you can be consistent with your underlay (how the words fit the tune.) This is why several bemused colleagues have put their head around my classroom door in the last week to find me singing Pink Panther in a darkened classroom. Even my set of personal pronoun hand gestures isn’t moving enough to turn the occupancy lighting back on.

These wonderful youtube videos mean you can use song to teach verbs even if you are the sort of teacher who does not sing yourself.

Stop press – here’s a version of the Pink Panther powerpoint converted to a youtube video!

My differentiation on this – ALL do the jazz hands on vous allez MOST sing all the words SOME sing in tune.

On the BBC the day I was born

People have been posting links about the telly on the day they were born for the last week or so and I have been fairly sceptical about whether I would be interested. The BBC have produced a gizmo that checks TV listings from as far back as 1923.

But when I went over to check a Thursday in 1978, it was actually quite fascinating.

Not very many programmes per day – there was Open University first thing, two chunks of the morning with BBC1 not running at all, and an awful lot of children’s programming that was repeated so much it’s in my memory as well as on the day I was born. Jackanory, the Mr Men and Paddington.

Despite it being August, there is the Christmas Day episode of Belle and Sebastian.

The whole afternoon is showjumping, children’s TV again (Peter Purves is going orienteering! The Wombles!) and news.

For the evening, it’s Holiday Report (“…based on two people sharing”), Dr Who (banned from watching as a child because we had too many nightmares based on it). A Barry Norman Hollywood retrospective, I Clavdivs, and two hours of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games – “live coverage by satellite from Canada”. Ooh!

Not that my mother would have been aware of any of this after, hours of labour in a cottage hospital followed by an uncomfortable 40 mile ambulance trip on poor country roads for an emergency Caesarean in Shrewsbury. Undiagnosed breech.