ED209 – Week 18

Tonight, I was looking forward to having a play with the neural networks software – but the DVD drive on my computer has stopped working! Apparently my wife noticed this a few days ago but failed to mention it. Sigh. Still, it does mean I can nip down to Maplins or PC World or Staples and have a look at some new toys.

I mention Staples, as although both of the other places have lots more fun gadgets to play with (and there’s only so much excitement I can get – no, anyone can get from chairs and desks and filing cabinets), the last couple of times I’ve bought something for the PC it’s been from Staples as they’ve been the cheapest and the friendliest too.

The reading on ED209 was pretty interesting this week and the style of the book seems (so far) to be in marked contrast from the first two. Suddenly, I feel as if I’m back on a psychology course, rather than something primarily aimed at educators and people who want to work with children (I’m neither).

I suppose I relate more easily to the cognitive aspects of psychology as its far closer in concept to computing and the way we sometimes talk about software systems. I remember on DSE212 a couple of years ago getting terribly excited by one of the models of consciousness and comparing it to the way enterprise service buses work.

Anyway, my  notes for the first chapter of book 3 are here. Now, let’s see if I can fix that wretched DVD drive …

East Midlands Airport

I used to love flying from East Midlands Airport around 10 or so years ago. I’m here this morning, but the experience is rather like being in the waiting room for hell these days. Apart from the fact that it’s noisy and crowded, even at 5.45 am (which I can just about cope with), Manchester Airports Group who own it these days have simply turned it into one big method of extracting money from the passengers.

I’ve paid the best part of £20, pre-booked, for around 14 hours in the long stay car park (a decade ago it was around £5 for the day in the short stay in front of the terminal – I think it’s nearer £30 now) and the decidedly average breakfast I’ve just eaten had an extra 8 pence charged on top of the £6.45 for a “Great British Breakfast” (without a drink), for a meager sachet of ketchup.

Then there’s the way you’re forced to wind your way through ‘duty free’ once you get past the security checks and the way the departure boards exhort you to ‘relax and shop’ – not two words that really go together in my experience.

But at least they’ve dropped all that ‘Nottingham East Midlands Airport’ nonsense they went in for when they bought it. Recognising Derby and Leicester in the airport logo is a much smarter idea, as Derby is the closest city and the airport is in Leicestershire.

I even prefer Heathrow and Stansted these days to this truly awful place. At least there is some semblance of competition for services at those airports and for about the same price as a not so great British breakfast at East Midlands Airport, you can get a really nice one with a drink at Chez Gerard’s, Stansted.

Still, today can only get better. And I am flying to Glasgow, which had a civilised airport the last time I went there.

6.30am – Someone else has just walked past me grumbling about the ‘relax and shop’ messages on the departure boards. See, it’s not just me …

ED209 – Week 16

Another week, another chapter … and indeed, another book completed. With next week being an assignment week (that’s come round again quickly), it means I’m now half-way through the course. Yay!

Young consumers was an interesting chapter to end the section on identity with. While I found it quite tough going in places (too much name dropping and not enough explanation in places rather like a couple of earlier chapters on the course), the section relating consumption to three theories of identity (Erikson, Tajfel and social constructionism) was very well done and would seem to give some real meat for writing an essay in the exam should the topic come up.

TMA04 next. I’ve already started by reading and re-reading the assignment brief (it’s long and fairly complex) as well as digging out the report template that I used on my previous two OU psychology courses. I’ve even started annotating the transcript of the two interviews we have to listen to and analyse.

Unlike essay questions, I’m pretty confident about how long it will take me to do it as the process is rather more mechanical. However, I don’t believe for a moment the OU estimate of 11 hours is anything like correct for me. Somewhere between 15 and 20 hours for the pace at which I write and think will probably be closer to the mark.

I’m also going to be taking a peek at book 3 this week as well, but I’ve decided not to worry about the seen question on book 4 until I get through TMA04 and 05 at the earliest and I may even follow the course calendar and not even look at it until after TMA06! I promise to confess here if I do get tempted to skip ahead though. With the seen question being worth 1/3rd of the marks on the final exam it is a real temptation to spend even more time on it than the course calendar suggests is necessary.

Irrationality

Having spent a couple of days away over this bank holiday weekend, I’ve had a chance to catch up on some reading that isn’t directly connected to my OU course. Irrationality, by Stuart Sutherland was a book that was given to me for my last birthday and it’s proved to be an enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed chapter 15 – ‘Misinterpreting the evidence’ and the first example he gives. I think I’ll try it out on the next internal sales meeting I talk to.

If I toss a coin six times, which sequence is most likely to occur?

1. T T T T T T

2. T T T H H H

3. T H H T T H

Most people pick sequence number 3, but, of course, each sequence is equally likely to occur. There are 64 possible sequences and each coin toss results in a 50% probability of a head or tail. And, crucially, a coin has no memory for previous events!

I also really liked his debunking of psychoanalysis in ‘Mistaking the cause’ as an example of the “like-causes-like” fallacy. But it was his application of the same fallacy to the assertion that foods high in cholesterol cause high blood cholesterol readings that made me sit up and take notice, being someone who feels guilty about putting butter on toast (it tastes nicer than margarine) and eating the occasional spoonful of clotted cream with a scone and jam. Indeed, he concludes the chapter with the moral “Eat what you fancy”.

So, that’s what I’ll do then!

On a train

I’m on a train again this morning on my way to a meeting in Reading. I’d meant to bring the materials for TMA04 with me but didn’t remember to pick them up from the study at 6am this morning. D’oh.

While TMA04 doesn’t seem that different in concept to the report assignments on DSE212 or the report I had to write for DXR222 there’s an awful lot of information to read and make sense of. It involves coding and analysing a couple of self-concept interviews and while I’m fairly confident I can do the assignment reasonably well, it does look as if there might be a bit more to it than meets the eye on first inspection.

As I prepared for today’s business meeting in Reading last night and I’m without my ED209 stuff on the train, and it’s still early, and I didn’t sleep well last night (getting my excuses in early, you see), I’ve just found myself thinking about my father again. The last time I saw him was Boxing Day 2007. He died a few days later, unexpectedly. I’ve been trying to remember some of the things we did together as a way of turning my thoughts to more positive things. It’s just random stuff really, but it helps with the loss I feel.

  • “Helping” him and his father build the greenhouse in 1969, aged 5. It’s still there today and in good order. I hope to be harvesting tomatoes from it later in the year, even though I don’t like them.
  • Going trout fishing with him aged 12 or 13. Although he and my brother were accomplished anglers, I never once caught anything.
  • Watching bike racing at Donnington Park, in the era of Ron Haslam (the local boy made good) and Randy Mamola (the flash American wheelie king).
  • A conversation with him and a family friend in 1976, before the Derby v Manchester Utd cup semi-final, making plans to go to Wembley for the final. Derby lost against all expectations, so we didn’t get to go after all.
  • Dad calling Emily a “proper nana” when she was small, and Emily indignantly replying that she wasn’t a banana, but a little girl.

Time to look at my notes for today again I think. Sometimes professionalism is all there is.

Deeply sad

I’ve just been reading the chapter on young consumers for ED209 and came across a piece of research, cited in the text, that is almost certainly factually inaccurate. The chapter cites a piece of work by Garratt, quoted in Usher from 1997. I suspect from the fundamental error in the text that neither were very old in 1975, or alternatively were banned from watching ITV due to its suspect content during children’s programmes – you wouldn’t have found something that racy on the BBC, that’s for sure. This is what the book says:

What I do remember are the bus rides, running home from school together to get to someone’s house to watch Shang-a-Lang[the title of a Bay City Roller pop song] on TV, …

Now, while Shang-a-Lang certainly was a Bay City Roller’s song, it’s far more likely that the person being interviewed by Garratt was going home to watch the TV show of the same name.

Of course, this error has absolutely no impact on the point the original author was making nor on the point that the chapter in the textbook is trying to make. I just wanted to set the record straight, that’s all.

And no, I most definitely never was and never will be a fan of the Bay City Rollers. Credit me with some taste, please.

ED209 – Week 15

This week’s topic has been on how national identity develops in children and young people. Given the lack of TMAs on the ‘identity’ sections of book 2, I suspect it’s probably going to mean that there will be a question on the exam paper tying one or more of these chapters together, so I’m trying to make sure I’ve understood the ‘identity’ theme well.

It’s a well written chapter, that suggests that neither the cognitive-developmental and social identity theory explanations by themselves are backed up by the available evidence. For a theory to be considered adequate in this area, this chapter argues it needs to be able to cope with the variabilities in national identity development found within and between countries, but stops short of suggesting that such a theory exists. Intriguing.

I’ve just about finished TMA03 as well – a bit of re-reading and re-editing tomorrow should see it done, but I can’t help feel that it’s not the best essay I’ve ever written. Still, I wasn’t that convinced that my effort at TMA02 was good enough – and I still got my best ever marks for it!

Tonight is Eurovision party night – with the ‘winners’ of our sweepstake getting to keep this lovely candle for the next year as a trophy.

Lovely Eurovision Candle
Lovely Eurovision Candle

I just hope I draw the UK’s entry – because much as I’d like us to do well, I don’t think we will, and, unlike last year, I don’t think we deserve to do well either. It’s a truly dreadful dirge that is not worthy of the singer who will be performing it, sadly.

But that’s just my opinion – you’d never get me to go and watch a Lloyd-Webber musical of any description. Sondheim is much more to my taste.

Update 7.45pm: I’ve drawn France, Bosnia, Denmark and … the UK in our sweepstake – wish me (bad) luck …

Update midnight: Yes!!!!!!! The candle goes back to the Gregory’s for another year! Well done Norway, and well done to Jade as well. Was it just us, or did anyone else notice that one of the violinists appeared to almost knock her flying at one stage?

ED209 – TMA03

After a couple of false starts, this assignment feels like its starting to flow a bit more easily now. I managed to finish off an almost complete draft yesterday evening and I spent some time reviewing it on my train journey to and from London today. This evening, I’ve re-written the introduction, tweaked a couple of the main arguments I’m using (I must try to find ways of stopping saying ‘also’ every other sentence …) and written a fairly perfunctory conclusion that requires a little more work. I guess I would really be very happy about it if I weren’t so far (for me) under the maximum word count of 2,000 at this stage. I’m currently around the 1,700 words mark at the moment.

In theory this is absolutely perfect – you have to write between 1,500 and 2,000 words. However, I haven’t yet been through it and pruned all my superfluous also’s, however’s, but’s and so on (which normally saves me a 100 or so words!). It feels like I’m a vital piece of the essay short.

I think I need to go back to the books and my notes over the next couple of evenings to really make sure I’m ok – otherwise, this really is a first. Nothing ever leaves me speechless (I’m sure many of my work colleagues wish some things would …), but this essay is doing!

Consistency?

I’ve just had my marked ED209 TMA02 assignment back from my tutor. The email telling me it was ready to collect off the eTMA system arrived while I was at work, so I apologise now to my work colleagues who sit near me for the expletive I uttered when I saw my mark.

This time, I’ve been manfully personfully(*) resisting, albeit not very successfully, my impulse to check the eTMA system 73 times a day to see if my tutor had marked it. If you do OU courses, you’ll know exactly what I mean. I’m sure there’s some psychological disorder associated with this habit; if not, I’m going to claim it for myself and do research into it when I’m doing my PhD … (I can dream, can’t I?)

Having had my worst ever TMA result for the first assignment (but admittedly only by 1 mark), I was delighted (understatement of the week) to get the best ever result I’ve had for this one, and by some margin too. I’m still pinching myself now, because as I’ve written previously, I did everything in my power to avoid working on it. If procrastination really is this effective, then perhaps the moral of the tale is that I should wait right until the very last moment before doing any work at all on TMA03. Or not.

So, I’m happy this evening and given the current pressures I have elsewhere at the moment, it’s been nice to think about this on and off during the day when things have been tougher than they usually are.

Consistency. Who needs it?

(*) I’ve just been re-reading the section of the course on essay writing and using non-sexist language. Must try harder.