On the other hand

Just because I didn’t want such negative home-ed news to be atop the blog for long: have this wonderful and inspiring story from the (fabulously named!) Southport Visiter.

All children learn in different ways, they are all individual with their own talents and abilities but the school system treats all children the same. In my opinion, schools are too concerned with exam results and Ofsted reports than they are coaxing an individual child through a learning experience. The more I read about teens self harming, suffering from stress and developing mental issues because of the pressure of school, I was determined that our daughters would not have to face that. Home education was a viable option for us and we took it.

Hooray for them. It’s nice to get away from the angst and just have a reminder of what home-ed is all about.

Money money money

Another day, another “attack” on home educators. The story first broke in the Independent, but I saw the first mention on this Mumsnet thread. [Quick aside: the Mumsnet home-education topic is excellent, with a small number of prolific supportive posters; but when home-ed comes up on Mumsnet outside of that topic, it does tend to get a little, er, shrill.]

The story itself is sadly familiar. It boils down to, “some people who home educate their children do bad things, therefore the freedom to choose to home educate should be curtailed and controlled.” (In fact, this time around it’s actually “We haven’t done much about illegal unregistered schools at which some people do bad things which reminds us that some people who home educate do bad things therefore…”)

Start with the general lack of knowledge about the facts about home education, and add in to the mix a bit of muslim/christian/any-religion/immigrant bashing, and the comments are predictable enough.

What amazes me though is that nobody gets beyond the sound and fury of accusations of abuse and radicalisation and welfare and all the rest to get to the real agenda: this isn’t about religious schooling, or even about home education, it’s about the monetisation and creeping commercialisation of organised education. Home education is just the proving ground, the test bed.

Yes, I’m sure there’ll be no monetary effect at first. First registration, then compulsory checks, then curriculum advice followed by curriculum materials – and all paid for by diverting your child’s £6000pa from the LEAs to commercial organisations who will be happy to provide these “services”. From there, it’s a very short hop to all schoolkids being offered study packs, “curriculum support”, fees for examinations beyond an officially sanctioned number and timetable. And so on. And so on.

Education and health – the two last bastions of nationalisation, where it’s still unacceptable to say you’re going to privatise. So governments have to find ways to privatise by stealth.

As always, Grit has it dead on…

[Story re-hashed at the Guardian, Telegraph (paywall), Daily Mail]

Back to life?

So, I came back to this blog after almost two years, and what did I find? Somewhat inevitably, nearly five thousand spam comments awaiting approval. Most of the utterly mundane workaday kind, but some that went far beyond that, into the realm of brilliance.

Easily the most surreal:

if the buffalo in my head could speak german i would not know a god damm thing. What i do know is that the language of art is out of this world.

Er, quite. There just aren’t enough German speaking buffalo on the internet.

Most pointless complaint ever:

The next time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as significantly as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I really thought youd have something intriguing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something which you could fix in the event you werent too busy seeking for attention.

Er, welcome to the world. Hilariously, there were many variants on this, with alternative words, which I will reproduce here in my own imitation of machine written spam:

The subsequent|next|following occasion|time someone said|I read|learn a weblog|blog, I hope that|hopefully it doesnt disappoint me as approximately|significantly|considerably|a good deal|a whole lot as this 1|one|brussels. Come on man|I mean|imply|am talking about, I [do] know it was my substitute|option|choice to read|learn, nevertheless|but I in fact thought youd have something|one thing intriguing|attention-grabbing|fascinating to state|say|express. All I hear is [really|usually] a few|bunch of whining about something which you could|may repair|fix really for those who|should you werent too busy on the lookout for|seeking|in search of|looking for attention.

The best telling off:

Ive to say, I dont know if its the clashing colors or the dangerous grammar, however this weblog is hideous! I mean, I dont need to sound like a know-it-all or something, but might you could have possibly put a little bit more effort into this subject. Its really attention-grabbing, however you dont signify it nicely in any respect, man. Anyway, in my language, there usually are not much good supply like this.

I’m not much into clashing colours, but I’d consider it a compliment to seriously be told I’ve used dangerous grammar.

And, in this context, the absolute all time winner, out of many thousands:

I used to have a website that I used to cover this, but it got spammed to death. You seem to be better at keeping out the spammers than I did! Well done!

Irony indeed!

Butser (again)

[Marilyn #1]

Ticking off all the local Marilyns again, with the very first, Butser Hill. Such a lovely walk, up one shoulder and down the other. Ignore the transmitter and tramp over to the trip point; summit level snacks with junior; and awesomely windy and cold on the way back down. No pics this time, but have some from last time.

What is this about a kiosk? I’ve never seen that! The views are great though. Next time we really must wander into the mini punch bowl between the two shoulders and have a mooch around in there.

Chanctonbury Hill

[Marilyn #3]

The third Marilyn in this phase of my life! The strangely atmospheric Chanctonbury Hill – goodness, that’s a terrible Wikipedia article. No pics I’m afraid, maybe next time. Oh, the article on the Ring at the summit is slightly better. And an article with much more on the eeriness – some very excitable description, but the fact is that we did feel oddly disquieted at the top.

Vagaries, Bits and Bytes versus Shiny Plastic

With: Some music.
Without: A CD.

The vagaries of the music retailing business eh?

Inspired by this post at the lately infrequent but always excellent Loft and Lost, I thought I’d check out the Fairport Convention album, Unhalfbricking.

Quick detour away from the main point to say: Who Knows Where the Time Goes has assumed the position of current Best Song I’d Never Heard [TM] (ah, note to self, learn how to do superscripts in WordPress!) – it’s just beautiful. And the singer’s name is Denny (well, Sandy Denny, but someone out there will know what I mean), so what else is there to be said? Well, only that I have no worries about being considered a hippy, I’ve always considered myself a hippy actually. But you know, apart from how their personnel overlapped with Steeleye Span – a favourite from my youth – and Pentangle, in that weird triangular folk-will-eat-itself construct that was British folk music of the sixties and seventies, I’ve never really known a lot about Fairport, much less listened to much of their music. A blind spot.

Anyway… I buy all music electronically these days – who wants to have stuff lying about the place? Yes, I know there are sonic considerations, but really: all music I listen to is played through some kind of digital device, be that a phone, laptop, or “mp3” player (scare quotes, because we’re mostly an Apple household, so “AAC player” would technically be more accurate).

So, I bought the album from iTunes, where it sits somewhere in the cloud, Apple very kindly hosting it for me and ensuring that I don’t actually own the thing, but that suits me fine, since it’s one less thing to move next time we change homes.

But…following on conversation with someone at work about the relative pricing of Amazon and Apple for music downloads, I thought I’d check it out there too. Needless to say, as I’d suspected, the Amazon and Apple prices for a download version only were the same – not too surprised by that.

But what did surprise me is this: at Amazon, a CD of the album, with free mp3 download of the same material, costs £6.38; the mp3 only download of the album, from the same retailer, costs £7.49…

Amazon, in effect, wants me to charge me £1.11 (oddly neat looking amount) to not press a CD, print a label, put them both in a plastic case, put that case on a shelf, pick that case from a shelf, put that case in an envelope, put the envelope in the post and deliver it to my house, forcing me to deal with an item of clutter around the house. Humph! This is corporate cluttering! That sounds a bit conspiracy-theorist, but really, there are similar anomalies in the Kindle world too, with actual paper books – albeit generally with no ebook version – costing less than the Kindle version. I get that the main cost of intellectual property like books and music is, well, the intellectual property and not the paper or plastic that the carrier of that property is made of; but really, charging more?

For your convenience, you have been charged a premium to not receive anything…

External links:
Loft and Lost
Wikipedia | Fairport Convention

Bin Rage

It’s time to talk about bin rage.

This concept is, it’s fair to say, a bedrock of life for me and Waawo-ette senior. Well, being on the lookout for it, and avoiding it all costs.

What is bin rage, I hear you cry?

Well, bin rage is the rage you fly into when you realise you’ve got to empty the bin again. It’s what causes you to speak to your partner the way you’d never speak to anyone else. Snide, sarcastic remarks. Passive aggressiveness.

I’ll just do the washing up should I?

Bin rage seems to stem from the fact that a lot of people are together who really shouldn’t be. This hooks back to the last post too, because it seems like a lot of people not only can’t get along with themselves, they can’t get along with their significant other either.

Why not leave them? Really, just leave. Over on Mumsnet’s AIBU [“Am I Being Unreasonable?”] and Relationships forums, an oft quoted motto is “LTB” for “Leave the bastard” – so much so that it’s become a running joke. But the LTBers are right in a way. So many of the posts on those forums are describing classic bin rage – and there really is no way back.

From the first signs of bin rage appearing, it won’t be long until you can’t stand the way your partner eats, talks, breathes – how can anyone enjoy a life of such constant misery? Some people just don’t get along – but for whatever reason, are bumping along together, whether it’s because of kids, houses, or just convenience. Many years ago I remember a professor of behavioural science expounding how most people are with the person they’re with because they were with that person yesterday… and the day before… and so on and so on, for years, lifetimes.

Such a depressing thought.

Some examples of really bin ragey behaviour:

  • Organising work nights out specifically to avoid spending time with your partner;
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time and money on hobbies that don’t involve your partner;
  • Spending your time at the opposite end of the house to your partner.

There are loads more. The thing is, it’s been seven years since I was in a bin rage relationship and I’m actually having trouble remembering any.

You might, of course, put off the critical phase of bin rage. Long winded planning for an extravagant wedding is one way. Having a baby, buying a new house – all potentially will stave off encroaching bin rage. But be warned: nothing works forever. If you’re saddled to someone you don’t like, the truth will out. And please don’t suggest counselling (but that’s another post, for another day).

[Picture: the actual bin that inspired the name “bin rage” – although this was in a shared house when I was single, so oddly enough it wasn’t classic bin rage that I was suffering through then.]

And no, nothing to do with wheely-bins! (I’ve just googled, who knew green and black bins with wheels cause so many arguments? Although…)

I’ll just put the bin out then should I?

External links:
Mumsnet
Mumsnet | AIBU
Mumsnet | Relationships

1. Too much stuff, too many things

Well, here we are at post number 1 (of one hundred, you’ll recall). I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about, until serendipity sent this post on Becoming Minimalist my way.

To begin with, a quote:

“All of man’s difficulties are caused by his inability to sit, quietly, in a room by himself.” —Blaise Pascal

Yep. That’s a lot of what I want to talk about right there. About how important it is to be, as I say, “happy inside your own head.” I know lots of people – easily the majority – for whom time spent with no book or music or television or phone or whatever, some distraction or other, is just the most deadly time of all, to be avoided whatever detriment that might cause. “Oh, I couldn’t wait an hour, I didn’t have a book with me!” Well, hello, actually you could easily wait an hour, you’d just have an hour to spend all to yourself, with just yourself and your thoughts for company. It feels like a lot of people just don’t know how to sit and think, without being, in effect, told what to think about. The post I’ve mentioned here is specifically aimed at meditation, and that’s not something I feel like I do as such: except, maybe sitting and thinking, alone and quiet, is in fact meditating. Whatever, that’s just nomenclature – whatever it is, it’s something I’ve always done.

Instead, their lives are molded by the voices that bombard them each day from the Internet, television, radio, magazines, and celebrities.

(I’m not going to quote the whole piece by the way, breath a sigh of relief!)

This struck me though. I know this is something that youngsters seem to be afflicted with – although I wasn’t, even as a child – but it also seems to be more and more common among adults. And it’s related to the Pascal quote, and also just to habits in general. People need this stuff, these things, this noise, to fill the void that they think exists in their heads. Once people get into the habit of filling the quiet with noise, it becomes just that: a habit. Impossible to imagine life without it. Like all habits, life is then arranged around it. And you know what? Soon one noise isn’t enough to still that dreadful silence. No, now we need the TV and the phone. Now the TV, the phone and a quick check of email. And so on. And on.

Their desires are ever-changing and are quickly swept away by the newest fashion, most recent technology, or opportunity for financial gain.

Yes. I’ve been there. A lot of tech-desire can fall into this category. It’s like a double whammy in fact: the noise around the whole desire, research, buy, obtain, configure, tweak, upgrade cycle; and also that the end result of a lot of tech is to open up yet more channels to more noise. Whereupon, once the noise level from that channel has settled, it’s time to desire yet another object, and begin the whole cycle again.

A society built on the foundation of consumerism must attack gratitude—only if they can sow discontent in our lives can they sell us on their new product or latest version with new improvements.

Yes! This thing, this desire to consume, to own – where does it come from? Not from within us, that’s for sure. When I see the (less than two year old) Waawo-ette Junior running around the place, she has no innate desire to own the latest thing. Oh, for sure she might want something right now: it’s the bright red thing she can see atop the cupboard; or the noisy thing on the floor; or the furry thing purring its way around the lounge. But she doesn’t wake up feeling the need for the latest building block upgrade. This all comes later – right around the time peers, and school, and competition are introduced. If we let it of course. One of our biggest goals is to bring up Waawo-ette Junior to have a deliberate, mindful, or as Joshua says, an intentional life.

I love the image of society actually attacking gratitude. For our western society is so deeply built on consumerism, this idea of need and want becoming interchangeable, or the same thing, is powerful indeed. It takes a real effort of will to keep out the forces of marketing and advertising, so cleverly designed to separate us from our money and, in an awesome feat of collateral damage, separate us from what really matters in our lives.

Last quote:

It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. And that gratefulness quickly leads to a satisfied, simplified, focused life.

Just the thing we’re after. Satisfied, simplified, focused – these things are not just means, and not just ends – they are both at the same time, intertwined through our way of living life and what we get out of life.

Oh, definitely the last quote:

More meditation. More gratitude. Better living.

Which I would paraphrase as: More being quiet. More joy. More contentment.

Enough for today – I’ll try to be less rambling next time!

[Picture: the Waawo-ette Junior, decidedly unconcerned about what block version she’s on!]

External links:
Becoming Minimalist

100 things in a, you know, 100 other things

So: one hundred posts in one hundred days. Inspired by the never less than entertaining 23thorns – a site I’m sure I’ll be mentioning again – I’ve decided to try to emulate the one hundred posts thing. Not for any real readership – because there is none – but just to build up a body of work on this site and to get into a groove, a rhythm, a reflex, a habit. Studies these days seem to suggest sixty-six days is what’s needed to build a habit, so this should get the job done. I have no idea what these one hundred posts will be about, there’s no master plan; I expect most will just be rants of one kind or another. But hopefully rants that lead to somewhere, illuminate something, or at least make me laugh. If not, they’ll at least be a kind of long long long journal entry for the coming three months and a bit.

External links:
23thorns

Coding Congratulations

Just for a giggle, I completed one of the “hour of code” tutorials at code.org – specifically, this one in the beginner’s section. And lo, the certificate of completion duly arrived:
Congratulations
Joking aside, this is a great resource for kids and adult beginners – and the coding “game” used in this example, which allows “coding” through dragging and dropping programming constructs, is remarkably similar to MIT’s Scratch, as used in RC50x.

External links:
code.org
Scratch