We'd like to write credit crunch stories … but we can't!

Our friends in the dead tree press are still trying to write credit crunch stories, but it seems like they’ve had a tough time of it in Derby today. Isn’t it annoying when reality won’t match your editor’s expectations?

Four examples from the DET website today:

Footfall figures up 15% in city centre despite recession “… Footfall has increased 15% in St Peter’s Street, Iron Gate and Sadler Gate in the past year, defying the credit crunch …”

New bar’s the White place at the right time “… The new owners of a Derby bar, which has been closed for three years, say they have decided to reopen it because of the city’s vibrant future…”

Primark and Tesco top of shopping list “…Midday on a Thursday and Derby’s Market Place is swarming with people…”

No yolk as egg sales on roll “…Retailers say sales of Easter eggs have increased this year ā€“ despite the credit crunch…”

I really do hope that things are getting better. And if they are, how long will journalists take to stop trying to write every story around a credit crunch theme, warranted or not?

ED209 – Week 12

The result for TMA01 appeared just before I set off for my Easter break. After more than a year’s absence from essay writing, I’m pleased that my mark was closer to the one I got for the final essay I wrote on DSE212 than the first essay I wrote for it! Onwards and upwards, hopefully.

Well, who would have thought it? Skegness, at the start of April, with decent weather, (compared to the other times I’ve come to Spring Harvest over the past few years) a Costa Coffee bar in Butlins and wireless internet access too. Fantastic!

The week has been fun, with lots of good teaching – particularly the studies on Acts in the big top, led by Gerard Kelly. Just as enjoyable have been the talkback sessions, with him and Pete Broadbent fielding questions from a few hundred people at once …

It’s been a good place to get away from the hassles of daily life and put some time into the course. I’ve been rewarded with a week I’ve really enjoyed, particularly when I compare it to some of the stuff I had to wade through last week. This chapter makes sense, because, I think, it has a consistent and well-structured narrative that uses the work of the researchers being cited to make its points, rather than simply to appear to name-drop them like the previous chapter did. What’s confusing is that the two chapters share an author in common. Maybe chapter 2 was written on an off day šŸ˜‰

Anyway, I find myself relating to points made about both conflict and co-operation between siblings being an important part of development, certainly thinking back on my own experiences of growing up and that of my own children.

I found the acknowledgment at the end of the chapter that although psychologists have spent a lot of time studying the face to face interactions of children, the rise of disintermediated contact between children (though mobile ‘phones and the internet, for example) is likely to change not only our understanding of how children interact, but has the potential to influence their development in new ways.

It’s certainly arguable whether such changes brought about technology are ‘good’ or ‘bad’; but what is required is research in this area to understand the nature of these changes. If I ever get as far as my Masters(!), this would be one area that I’d be interested in researching myself.

By the way, thanks to everyone who’s sent me messages saying they’re enjoying the blog and the notes I’ve been producing – this week’s are here. I hope they’re helpful, though the health warning attached to them is that they’re produced for me, they are unlikely to be 100% accurate(*) or complete (as I’m just a student like everyone else) and I’m sure other people’s notes are better than mine. But, if you find them useful, that’s great.

(*) If you do spot something that isn’t right, please leave me a comment!

ED209 – Week 11 in progress

I’m still plodding through week 11 on Disturbed and Disturbing Behaviour. It’s taken several readings, plus two or three nights attempting to put some notes together, to turn it into something that makes sense to me. Judging by the activity on the FirstClass forums, I don’t think I’m the only one that’s finding the reading tough going at the moment. It’s somehow not quite as satisfying as the way in which DSE212 was presented. The chapters seem much more dense and many of them (like this one) don’t seem to have a logical structure to their narrative. They name drop academics and their research, without explaining the wider context. An example from book 2, chapter 2:

Many studies have suggested that disturbed/disturbing behaviour … can be related to difficulties in the relationship with their mothers … (Murray and Stein, 1991; Garver, 1997; Wakschlag and Hans, 1999; Halligan et al, 2004).

I’d much rather see one or two studies explained, than having four name-dropped without proper context. This isn’t the worst example on the course of this tendency – just the most recent that’s irritated me.

On balance however, it’s still an enjoyable and mind-stretching (mind-bending?) experience.

Now, if only the results of TMA01 would appear, I might finally figure out if I’m on the right track! It sounds like the OU have been having some difficulties with the eTMA system according to my tutor. If it’s anything like as poor (from the tutor’s side) as, say, the user experience provided to us humble students by the fOCUS II CD, then I understand why there are problems …

Reflections on The Damned United

I went to see the Damned United yesterday lunchtime, in a cinema in Derby. There were fewer than 20 of us in the auditorium (perhaps the later showings are better attended), but nonetheless, we were treated to a glorious trip down memory lane – albeit quite a few of the memories are obviously fictional (Clough begging Taylor to forgive him at the end of the film – I don’t think so!)

The interviews Clough gave to Austin Mitchell on Yorkshire Television bracket the film(*), and as the originalsĀ  are still available in the archives, they provide an anchor in reality for the story being told. The mixing of archive footage with the film is skillfully done and you leave feeling that the real villain of the piece was Don Revie, wonderfully played by that bloke off Star Trek.

It doesn’t bear much resemblance to David Peace’s novel, and the Clough we see here is far more sympathetically treatedĀ  than the portrayal in the book. But it’s still a fictional portrayal.

For people like me who were growing up in Derby around the time of Clough and Taylor’s exploits, it was great to see the Rams rising up the table to become champions of England. I doubt strongly that I’ll ever see that again in my lifetime, even with Nigel in charge!

And for a film set around football, it’s definitely not a film about football. Nostalgic, certainly, but it’s the relationships between the characters and how they develop that grips you from the beginning of the film to the end, where Clough is shown at Forest, ultimately successful, with Revie cast out into the outer darkness.

(*) The Calendar interview, “Goodbye Mr. Clough” was at the time of writing available on the itv.com website, though it appeared that you’d need to use Internet Explorer or Silverlight to view it. The people that run the site clearly don’t recognise that about 25% of the world doesn’t run the Windows/IE combination on their home computers. Whoever the itv.com webteam are, they need to go and read Jacob Nielsen’s books and articles on web usability; this one, paragraph 6, would be a good starting point.

ED209 – Week 10

I’ve just about finished week 10 now, with only the media kit left to do. That’s this evening’s task, after I’ve watched the first episode of The Apprentice, recorded from last night.

There’s a bit of local interest in this series, as there’s a contestant with a connection to Derby. However, if the comments on the Evening Telegraph’s website are anything to go by, he doesn’t seem to be garnering much local support. Personally, I wish him all the best; I can’t imagine it’s an easy process to go through. We all love Surrallan’s sidekicks in our house, especially the faces that Margaret pulls.

Back to week 10 – Parenting and Attachment. Of all of the chapters on the course so far, this is the closest in style and in content to those on DSE212. Most of the concepts felt pretty familiar, especially as one of the exam questions I answered on DSE212 was on attachment.

I found myself wanting more evidence that a type D (disorganised) SST attachment style really did exist, rather than simply being a convenient peg some researchers or policy wonks have invented to hang suggestions that it might indicate abusive or neglectful parents. And as fascinating and fruitful attachment theory is, I can’t help think that an SST that takes place over a few minutes won’t really show up all the complexities and changeability of an infant’s relationship with its parents.

The SST seems to be a pretty blunt instrument, and surely a more qualitative approach to research in this area would generate richer and more interesting data. Perhaps there will be something of that ilk later on in the course.

Mothering Sunday

A relaxing day – mostly!

It started off with me taking a photograph of the elephant in the corner of the room:

The elephant in the corner of the room

The elephant in the corner of the room

He’s not mine, but he keeps me company while I’m trying to write Open University notes and TMAs. I was simply playing with a new digital camera I brought back with me off my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago and at 7am this morning he was the only willing model I could find.

It was off to church with the rest of the family next, collecting my mother on the way. Followed by a fab Sunday lunch at Zest, probably the best restaurant in Derby at the moment.

I then took Emily out driving, so she can hopefully get through her test at the third time of asking in a few weeks. That was relaxing, until we nearly hit a bus, but disaster was averted at the last moment (my apologies to the driver and his non-existent passengers … we all have to learn, sometime!)

No sign of TMA1 being returned from my tutor yet (again, another reason it’s been a relaxing day), but I have managed to finish off the first half of TMA2 this evening.

Having 200 words for a definition seems like a lot, particularly when the first question is something likeĀ  ‘what does a correlation coefficient of 0.7 mean’, but when you try to explain it in the context of the course material the words get eaten up very quickly. I scrapped in just under with 194 words for that one and found the others equally challenging to squeeze in under the bar.

I’ve also started to work on the first chapter of book 2, on parenting and attachment, and have found theĀ  notes I made for DSE212 on Lifespan Development a couple of years ago very useful to look back over.

Looks like it’s going to be a busy week at work – trips to Tewkesbury, Swansea, London, Warrington and Bracknell are all in the diary.

TMA2 and book 2 will be coming with me, but the elephant will be staying at home.

So farewell then, Sun Microsystems?

I was intrigued to hear the news today that IBM is rumoured to be in talks to take over Sun Microsystems. In one form or another, culminating in working for them for a short time last year, Sun has been a constant presence throughout my professional career. One of my very first tasks at PAFEC was to upgrade the port of our DOGS CAD system on SunOS 1.6 running on a Sun2 workstation(*). I also remember getting our first SparcStation 1, which ultimately signalled victory in the war between Sun and Apollo, with Apollo falling into the arms of Hewlett Packard in 1989. More recently of course, the Sun Software AG DIS has been remarkably successful for both Software AG and Sun in helping us to win business around the Government Gateway.

Regardless of whether the takeover happens, I wish all of my former colleagues at Sun all the best for the future. Sun has played, and continues to play a unique role with respect to innovation in the computer industry and it’s vital for the health of the sector that this continues, regardless of the ultimate owner.

(*) The Sun2 workstation in this picture is on the left. The right hand workstation is an ICL PERQ and, if I’m not very much mistaken, the black workstation in the middle is the ill-fated British designed and built Whitechapel MG-1. Getting a pen plotter driver to work on the MG-1 was the very first task I did for PAFEC after graduating from University in 1985!

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