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!

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.

Link graveyard (lots of French)

I have this unhelpful habit of following links to something interesting and thinking, “that’s interesting, I must do something with it.”

I then leave the window open in my browser. Thanks to new browser technology, when I re-open it next time, Chrome still has a bunch of interesting tabs I don’t know what do with. They have been there for months. I don’t know who sent me to them in the first place, but there they still are. So that I can finally close them and get browser closure, here’s a selection:

Awful translations.

Many of these are funny to good speakers of French and English. But many are too rude to share with school students.

Funny photos of Paris métro stations.

Interesting. But what could I do with them? Shared in the context of teaching about Paris, which we don’t really do.

A Dilbert cartoon about being shamed for asking for training.

This would have been useful if I had found it when I still had a responsibility for councillor’s professional development.

An article in French about why the French are bad at learning English.

An interesting twist on the usual fare about why the English are bad at learning foreign languages.

Introverts in the classroom.

I’d talk to you about this right now but I’m too shy.

Away from my usual focus about teacher introverts, this is something aimed at teaching which allows space for students who are less than happy with group work.

A table of weird French that sounds like English, along the lines of Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames.

A teacher twitter colleague keeps sharing awesome resources that are essentially French LOLcats, or the funnies that are shared on Facebook, but translated into French. I would be retweeting these in a heartbeat were it not for the fact that his twitter account is locked, and I can’t.

Teaching responsively

I like the idea of having a drawer full of resources that can be used for anything to make it look like you planned the diversion you ended up on.

An essay about Tom Lehrer.

I’m reading this slowly because there’s so much of it.

This might be a good way to revise colours in the run up to French GCSE.

Walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity

Here’s a fun thing I am doing virtually with Fitbit and the internet: attempting a long distance walk largely within my classroom.

Towards the end of last year, people in the Fitbit UK facebook group pointed me at a charity group in which a bunch of people attempt to walk the length of the UK – 605 miles.

The group doesn’t mind at all how you do the miles – walk, run or zimmer frame, its description says – so long as you post periodically how you are doing.

Fitbit send me a weekly summary email so all I do is take that, convert KM to miles and post each week. The mail comes through on a Monday, and last week’s put me well over 100 miles already this year, largely done at work. That puts me kind beyond Bristol and in Wales already and suggests I will have done the whole walk by around June / July.

Whoever runs it posts regular status updates to tell walkers what milestone they have reached, along with a lovely photo from somewhere in the UK.

ALEX FOSTER at 110/605 miles you are outside Swansea in Killay; The village of Killay evolved as a direct result of the south Wales coal industry. There were a good number of mines in Killay, the Clyne valley and in the neighbouring village of Dunvant dating back as far as the 14th century. The largest company, but also one of the latest, to mine coal in the district was the Killan Colliery Company, which began operations in 1899.

Someone not much further forward – 161 miles – has just passed St Lawrence’s church in Ludlow and there are a lot of people in the group at various milestones in Shropshire at the minute. The first few people have already completed the race and there’s a significant minority crossing the border into Scotland already.

Better still, your modest annual sub also pays for them to post you a real postcard from time to time from where you have supposedly got to – I got one at the end of January from the English Riviera.

If you’re interested in something like this, there is another Facebook group for virtual runs.

Milestone post

This, according to the wordpress system, is my 3,000th post since I began this blog in September 2004 with some initial jottings.

That post has some artwork which pokes fun at Ed Fordham, newly famous for his work on equal marriage, and nailbitingly close to beating Glenda Jackson in the last general election. At the time in 2004 his was a name that Simon Hoggart didn’t know – and Hoggart left us recently too.

There’s a link to Cafépress shop I’d forgotten I had with two designs – one about swearing in French and one about not like Skegness very much. How time changes a person.

If 3,000 posts in a little under 10 years seems a lot to you, bear in mind that for a large chunk in the middle, automatic posts of some sort or another were happening. I had a responsibility to provide content on Lib Dem Voice, which was automatically reproduced here by a machine that permanently knackered my categories. And for a long while, my prolific tweets were also munged into blog posts before the gizmo that did that stopped working as well.

These days the tone has changed as my work has moved from politics to education, and there has been the suggestion made on more than one occasion that living one’s life so publicly on the internet is a bad idea for a teacher. Although the writing contained herein is not worth a hill’o’beans it is perhaps the one project in my life that has some sustained continuity to it and it holds a great deal of sentimental value for me. As it happens, I don’t think what I write is of interest to my students, so although the blog has vanishingly rarely led to questions in the classroom like “what on earth are Mr Brain’s Faggots, sir?” I think I can continue with it without too much concern.

Indeed although some of the things I write about has a little interest for people other than me, most hours the hits to the blog are in single figures these days.

I’ve always struggled with the difference between personal and professional blogging, and mixed the two up merrily with scant regard for building an audience. I write, sometimes at length, what I want to, when I want to. It’s a personal archive as much as anything else and when I want to try and remember something I’ll often come here first. Had I wanted to be a solely political blogger, or these days, a blogger with a focus on education, I’d have had to follow the instructions better; write more tersely and remember Duffett’s first law – it’s not about you, it’s about them.

Solar panel performance – 2012

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 2012

So last year continued a downward trend that looks like it will be over by the end of 2013. 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 3666kWh.

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 5.06p/kWh, since if the water were not heated by the solar panel, it would be heated by gas. Interestingly this appears to be a lower cost than last year’s gas cost.

That means the solar panel gathered around £185.50 of energy last year.

The running total to the end of 2012 is therefore £831.06.

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.”