What I sound like right now

Promised over Christmas holidays to make short recording of short story for online SF magazine StarShipSofa.

Reckoned without illness and throat pain.

Thought, sod it, let’s tape it anyway and see if they accept, can always redo it next week if necessary.

Here’s an outtake to share just how awesomely gravelly it all is, even if it does now actually hurt quite a lot to speak.

French mnemonics

When I came back to seriously working on my French after many years of neglecting, I found there were some words and phrases I could not get correct without checking every time, and so I started to try making mnemonics for myself to get acceptably consistent.

Of course there are some I was taught that still stick in my mind.

And there are one or two I am trying out to see if it improves my students’ accuracy, especially when it comes to tenses.

Here’s my top five for starters.

je m’appelle

I couldn’t get my head around the spelling of this so made up a rhyme:

When you spell
qui s’appelle
It’s got two Ps
and it’s got two Ls

(My students now always spell it with two Ps and two Ls, but still manage a dazzling array of different combinations of other letters, spaces and apostrophes, so we are not out of the woods yet. Gemappllle!)


Never sure of the spelling of this one, especially the n and the g. You just have to remember you can’t get to 20 without having some vin.

There’s an R in futuRe

Almost universally we teach the futur proche these days instead of the real future tense, and students need to use the correct form of aller along with the infinitive: je vais faire mes devoirs or je vais jouer au foot. There are many ways of getting it wrong but a common one is to use a conjugated form of the verb: je vais joue. So I tell them you can’t have futuRe without R – you need the form of the verb with an R at the end. A little complicated by RE verbs, but if they’re far enough through to be using those as well, they can probably cope.

Where wears a hat

Ou and où get mixed up. They are or and where. But which witch is which? I was taught that the longer word (in English) has the accent but where wears the hat is quite nice too.

I prefer wears a hat too

Je préfère needs accents either side of the F that form a hat. This gets messy when students have both je préfère and ma couleur préférée in their Wortschatz.

Have you got any awesome mnemonics? Feel free to add them in the comments.

Solar panel performance – 2011

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 panel annual graph

So last year was a little under the year before. At this stage in the year, the graph is the only source of information still recorded so we’ll have to guesstimate the heat output as 3700.

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. At 5.24 pence per kWh, the value adds up to £193.88

The running total to the end of 2011 is therefore £645.56.

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

This year I have had my annual half-hearted attempt to work out if it’s possible to do more comprehensive data logging using the equipment I have. I did pay extra for the ethernet connection with the idea of putting some sort of graph on my website to show how the system is doing in real time. I’m super jealous of this guy who has done exactly that with the same setup as me. And as a favour to everyone else he has made public the code to do it. And I don’t have a clue what any of it means or how to use it!

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.”

Reading for pleasure

(It’s odd and disproportionate that two blog posts in a row should be about stuff I’ve been offered for free as a result of blogging but hey ho!)

During our PGCE it was often said that we knew which children would prosper most at school: it was those that read for pleasure. And certainly reading for pleasure was a strong feature of my own childhood and definitely something I do whenever my leisure time outweighs my commitments. Definitely, a holiday wouldn’t be a holiday without a small mountain of trashy detective fiction.

But again during our PGCE there was a point when we were discussing reading and a class of us were asked to raise our hands if we a) liked reading for pleasure and b) were managing to do any during the course. We all liked reading; next to no-one was still doing any when the chips were down.

It’s true for me still. I had planned to ensure I read a book during half term if I did nothing else, but just didn’t get around to it. Any leisure reading I do do is attempting to make a teeny dent in feedreader: blog posts. Lolcats. And that’s about it.

Perhaps as the work/life balance is slowly restored towards life as and when I end up being a more experienced teacher, I’ll manage to get into a more sensible routine. Maybe one that means I’m in bed by 9pm and I read for an hour. At the minute that barely seems possible.

This week, the Folio Society sent me a book, a super wonderful edition of Fahrenheit 451. It has a real feeling of luxury – the book has its own box; the paper feels sturdy and good quality. There are a series of illustrations as well. When I finally find time for reading for pleasure the quality will enhance the pleasure no end.