I really haven’t been paying attention this year and haven’t even heard our own entry yet. These things don’t come up much on Radio 4 during my commute to and from school. But for a pithy four line smackdown of every song contention, you could do worse than Will Howells.
And we can’t conclude this little look at Eurovision 2013 without a namecheck to this tweet:
Bonnie Tyler spotted walking past a Starbucks in Malmö. She's holding out for a Nero. #eurovision— Jon (@jon_roc) May 17, 2013
Since January I’ve been doing the Couch to 5K running programme, using an app on my iPod.
I’ve been running indoors on a treadmill, being one of those people who hogs resources in a gym. It takes me around 40 mins to run/walk a 5k indoors and the time is coming down every week.
I’ve not found the time to turn up the 3 times a week the programme demands so my progress is way less than it could be. I realised the other day it’s taken me five months to get to Week 6!
And yet I am making slow and steady progress. I think I can run now for longer than I have ever been able to do so in my life, as I have never been one for exercise. My latest stint got me to run for 10 minutes, walk for three, and then run another 10. Next time I give it a go, it’s up to 22 minutes total.
I’m definitely getting fitter. My breathing is much easier and I can keep running for times I never thought I would be able to. This is in part due to the running, and also due to working with an excellent personal trainer. There are some scary milestones in the programme ahead of me, but within a few weeks it wants me to run for 30 minutes without stopping. Eek.
A few weeks ago, the thought occurred to me that I ought to be considering some sort of race or event outdoors to have a goal to work towards, and I googled 5k races in Nottingham. Nothing really came up.
Then purely by chance a friend posted to Facebook about Parkrun. It’s a weekly event, run around the country, to do a timed 5k run in a park, at 9am on a Saturday morning. My friend posted about Mansfield, and I found out there was also one at Colwick Park in Nottingham. In the last few weeks, one has started up on the Forest Rec as well.
Reading about the event on its website makes it seem complicated. Barcodes! Funnels! Volunteers! Pacekeepers! It will be a few more weeks before I try and take part. But it’s good to know there are so many opportunities to have a go.
Making paper planes is definitely an activity that is very popular with students. One of my own strong memories of school was my last ever geography lesson, which coincided with the last lesson that teacher would teach, as she was retiring. By the end of the lesson, we were in two teams hiding behind desk fortresses throwing planes at each other. And our retiring teaching was flinging them with the best of us.
I have used them to teach past tense in French – and have been really chuffed with answers to the question “what does paper planes have to do with the past tense?” “because we THREW them not THROW them.” The activity came from a “diverse ways of teaching new language” session on PGCE and leads the children through a target language sequence, with overblown gestures so they get what activities to do:
Je prends une feuille de papier >> J’ai pris une feuille de papier
Je signe mon nom >> J’ai signé mon nom
Je dessine une maison >> J’ai dessiné une maison
Je plie un avion >> J’ai plié un avion
Je lance mon avion >> J’ai lancé mon avion
Je ramasse un avion >> J’ai ramassé un avion
This was less than perfectly successful. My students do not have enough of a culture of target language, so activities out of the blue lead to vocal complaining. Also, unbelievably, not all students know how to make a paper plane. (“If you don’t know how, I’m not going to teach you. Make a paper ball instead.”) But the biggest problem using this as a starter is that it winds them up something chronic and it is then very hard to calm them down sufficiently that you can even talk to them, let alone task them with something constructive.
Despite the difficulties I repeated the activity with three different classes and by the end I had a killer top tip for using paper planes.
Since I had heard reports that the planes were leaving my classroom and then getting students into trouble elsewhere in school, the last instruction related to planes that I gave was “throw the planes at me.” (Met with incredulity. Seriously sir? Are you sure? And we’re not going to get in trouble?”)
The reason for doing this is this: one, they are itching to do it anyway, so you might as well give them an excuse. But two, it means all the planes end up at your end of the room and out of their hands, all the better for moving on to the next activity.
Three fun new things to cross my desk recently. Sometimes you can go days without learning any new words, and then sometimes there will be a flood.
1) Reuleaux triangles
A query arose in a game playing household about some game tokens, that looked almost but not exactly like plectrums. Puffy over-inflated equilateral triangles. Turns out they have some interesting mathematical properties, including about how they roll, and that if you make manhole covers this shape, the removed cover does not fall into the hole left behind.
The thing I found most interesting was that Reuleaux triangles are part of a series of mathematical shapes called Reuleaux polygons, and the shapes with seven sides are the shapes that are better known in the UK as 50p and 20p coins.
There are also Reuleaux tetrahedrons that are like puffy, round edged pyramids.
Now here’s an interesting word. in astronomy it describes a relationship between a planet’s north poll and its equator. Or something. But it came up in a meeting in a more social sciences context and it turns out it’s a book. The idea is that instead of being too goal-oriented, you can achieve what you want by taking an indirect route. Presumably there’s a personal goals angle there, and a few linked thoughts about personal productivity. But there’s also a research aspect. What do you find out on the way from A -> B? Sometimes C and D turn out to be the more useful research goals.
Clearly obliquity is related to oblique, a type of angle we learned about in secondary trigonometry. I thought it was a specific one like obtuse or reflex, but apparently it’s just one that is not a right angle. The wikipedia page for angles gets very heavy very quickly and there’s not a lot on the page I can easily get my head around.
NB obloquy is something else entirely. It’s a fancy word for abusive language.
What an amazing word. Are there any other with a chth right next to each other? It comes from the Greek, who apparently have no difficulty putting chi and theta next to each other without a vowel in between. Ooh, there’s also autochthonous – a synonym for indigenous. A Scrabble word finder has a list of 70 -CHTH- words including ichthic, which I think means fishy, although ichthyic is more common.
Chthonic means pertaining to the underworld.
It came to mind because my vegan friend is in the middle of a project of blogging every day and has a chosen to run each post under a new word ending -ic. (Apart from the first, where she sets out the laudable aim of commenting on others’ blogspour encourager les autres)
In an ideal world, I’d be in bed at 9pm on a school night, reading for pleasure for an hour before lights out at 10pm, eight hours of sleep, and up-and-at-’em at 6am the following morning.
In an ideal world, I’d be cooking Sunday lunch every weekend, timing it so that I can listen to the Food Programme on Radio 4 and take a sip of sherry every time Sheila Dillon says “provenance” or “street food” and finishing the glass for “Chorleywood bread process”.
Two simple things I think would make me happy that I barely ever achieve. I didn’t manage them before switching careers, but they’d be even harder to do now. And why not? I’m in charge of what we eat on Sundays and when I go to bed and yet those simple steps seem a long way from possible. Perhaps Sundays might be easier but week nights – my current routine means finishing at school at 6pm, so the three hours from then to bedtime simply includes too many things to be done in time. Driving home, shopping for food, cooking and eating a meal. Any further preparation for the next day at school. Any sort of life maintenance like tidying and cleaning the kitchen, putting things away or any of the stages of the laundry process. Tending the chickens or defleaing the cats. My trainer is on at me to try and get more than one gym session a week but I’m really unsure how to fit that in. Go straight from school, starving? Or eat first and risk hurling all over the TRX frame? There’s no time in that skedz for watching TV, checking email and Facebook or the hours that I could spend trying to read everything now in Feedly. (Maybe reading blogs will be my reading for pleasure?)
I’m sure eventually I’ll be able to work more on having the life I want whilst still getting enough done but it’s a struggle right now. At least with a bit of a simple vision about where I want to end up I have a chance of getting there.
It turns out a simple vision is what’s necessary for those oh-so-long teacher holidays too. Two glorious weeks of Easter freedom fly by and as we near the end now I’m starting to feel guilty about the marking and planning is still to be done. Whilst I have got some things done I planned to – including topping up the balance on my sleep deficit, catching up with some of the TV waiting for me on Tivo and doing a small bit of reading for pleasure – it’s amazing how the time flies past.
I have to confess to not spending enough of my vacation time doing formation waterskiing in a pink rara dress.
This one of several songs that crops up on “Step to the Beat”, an indoor walking game for the Wii that helps me get my step count up on days. It’s very catchy and I really like the up tempo numbers as they let you march quickly through the steps you need to complete the next challenge. Definitely something I have found myself humming in the classroom.
Apparently, Finland, home of the Nokia, has long been the place where home automation and mobile phones are linked. It’s possible, if not common, I remember reading somewhere, to send a message from your phone that tells your house to turn on your sauna, just as you get into the car to begin your commute home. By the time you pull into your drive, your sweatlodge has heated up to the right temperature.
I’d really like to have more of my house automated and connected to the technology that’s already there. Sure, yes, we have a bunch of lights and the fish tank on timers, but that’s not the same. How hard would it be to have car-style keyfob remote locking for the entire house? Preferably with a gizmo that automatically shuts all the windows when you press a button.
This week, my brother sent me a link to a type of thermostat that fixes to your central heating and can be controlled by your mobile phone. That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about. Next time I’ve got over £100 spare, plus the yen to poke at my existing thermostat with a screwdriver I’m totes giving that a whirl. If nothing else, it would be so much easier to set program times from a website than from the poor UX of a tiny LCD screen and only 3 buttons.
Then there’s Belkin WeMo – things that sit in sockets and can be turned on by your iPhone. At the minute, it’s Apple only and pretty expensive. But it can also be controlled by IFTTT which at least gives you more options. (Not sure if you still need Apple in the loop there somewhere too.)
I’ve also wondered for a while about a series of temperature dataloggers scattered about the house just to get some data about how the heating actually works. You know, just because it’s interesting. All the loggers I have been able to find on the internet after not really looking that hard were either very expensive or required the sort of programming or soldering skills I do not have.
But right at the bottom of the page for the Android thermostat guys was a link to a new service called My Joulo. It’s a university project that wants to gather hard data about people’s heating systems. So they post you a datalogger of their own design and ask you to use it for a week then post it back. In return they crunch your data and make basic suggestions about how to save money on your heating bill. Basically, just some fancy graphs that say “turn down your ‘stat and stop fiddling with it” I imagine. Anyway, it’s free, and data-ry and nerdy and to do with heating, so I have signed away the little form and eagerly awaiting the USB logger to arrive in the post.
Oh, and finally, I paid to have a couple of prints of my photo and a CD, and I was really quite impressed with the copyright notice that came with it: You are granted a free licence for unlimited personal printing of this image at home or on the high street. However Tempest Photography retain the copyright of the image for the ability to make copies for reorders or schools records.
Hopefully that’s enough to allow me to post the 11MB JPG on t’internet.
When I get home these days, my Fitbit connects to my computer. On a good day, that then makes my phone go ping and say “You have nearly reached 10,000 steps! Just 2,000 more!”
2,000 steps is about a 20 minute walk, so that’s fairly achievable, and that phone ping is usually all the motivation I need to go for a quick walk to get me over the magic number as recommended by the NHS.
On Friday I got the ping quite late at night, after a slightly hairy drive home from ringing, and I was really reluctant about whether going out was a good idea.
I’m so glad I did.
Firstly I was out in the heaviest snow I have ever seen. Big, fat, Christmas card snowflakes falling at a million a minute.
Secondly it gave me the chance to walk by Woodthorpe Park and take photos of an igloo I’d seen right by the railings on the Mansfield Road.
My route then took me up Woodthorpe Drive, which is pretty steep and would tick off some more boxes on Fitbit’s “how many flights of stairs have you climbed today” measure. As I was doing this, I crossed over a bridge that was for a railway line that closed in the 1960s. In the park below, poking out of the bricked up tunnel, is a model train, along with a board recounting the railway history of the park. And third fun thing – for some reason known only to them, there was a group of lads, late teens, early twenties, gathered around the train smoking and drinking out of insulated travel mugs. What they were doing, only they know. They didn’t really seem dressed for the weather! They seemed to be having a good time, so I waved, and they waved back. Then… I made a theatrical show of making a snow ball out of snow gathered on the brick bridge and taking aim at one of them to squeals of No, mate, no, before deciding not to throw it, waving again, and continuing up the hill.
The weather was still coming in thick and fast, the pavements were now under 3″ of snow and even with my Yaktrax strapped to my feet, the snow was sticky and very hard to walk in. Cars were getting into trouble making it up the hill, snow was getting in my eyes and I was sorely tempted to stop off at the Bread and Bitter at the top of the hill. Having a pint halfway round your walk for health seems a little perverse, so I persevered on round the corner into the downhill stretch.
When I got to Winchester Street, the fourth fun thing happened: one of the few cars to make it all the way up the hill was a 4×4 going at quite some speed – enough to make me look up from my feet to watch it go, only to see that running at full pelt behind it was an athletically built guy in marathon gear – trainers, shorts and t-shirt! (At this point I was in vest, shirt, hoodie, coat, thermal socks, and murderer gloves) What a strange time to go for a run.
I had a jolly leisure walk in the snow that all ended well. But it continued to chuck it down, and there were consequences. The night buses were all cancelled, and not long after, taxis were unable to get up the hillier parts of Nottingham. A friend who arrived home from London on the 2am train had to walk back to Sherwood and recounts the Mansfield Road as full of abandoned cars and buses in the wrong position on the road.
Anyway, must dash. It’s raining tonight rather than snowing, but my step count stands at 9,481 and we can easily fix this.