Archive for August, 2011

New Job

August 31st, 2011 No comments

I started a new job at the end of August so will be taking some time to settle in and get the gossip before I blog in more depth about it.

Back at the Table

August 30th, 2011 No comments

Over the past few weeks I have been slowly getting back into playing poker live. I played online quite a bit during my uni years and did relatively well. Not huge money, but it kept me in beer. I used to play in a regular home game in first year and most of my second year, but that petered out as people moved on. Live poker was something I wasn’t really exposed to outside of the aforementioned home games and the odd low stakes tourney at Gala Casino in Leeds.

With my flatmate Chris really getting into the game, I have been along to a few tourneys with him – first of all placing 2nd in his office game at Alea, dying on my arse at the Grosvenor freeroll (I went out in 121st place) and then finishing 4th at the Redtooth Poker League meet at the Fenton pub. Overall I am up around £50 but thats not really a fair reflection as only 2 of the games played for cash.

Live poker has a lot of advantages over the online version mainly centred around the fact you can see your opponents and get a feel of their mannerisms and hopefully get a tell. However, for me there is definitely a much greater feeling of involvement in a live game. Online I would play four or five tables at once (an advantage in some senses as you can make 5 times as much money) but I never really felt I was playing people. At the casino, or even in a home game, there is a greater social element that really brings the game alive for me.

I am hoping to play a few more Redhot Poker league matches at the Fenton over the coming weeks to see whether it is worth joining for the season, but I think that I will almost certainly me playing some tournaments at Grosvenor and Alea at weekends.

Though if my luck last night is anything to go by then I won’t be playing for long. Pushed with AJ under the gun four handed (I was all in with around 5x the big blind) got a caller with 22. Flopped the straight and then the 2s caught runner runner for quads!

What I have been up to this week 2011-08-28

August 28th, 2011 No comments
  • My home town. #
  • Happy to home to see my doggy :-) #woof #
  • Just been asked by some scousers (with tracksuit bottoms tucked into socks) if I had any smack or e they could buy. #goodtobehome #
  • Now in Preston. It occurs to me that I no longer own key to my mums house. Now lived away from Kirkham longer lived there. #makesmefeelold #
  • On train to see mum and family. 2 carriages is way too few for the number of people on board. #
  • Good work out at the gym this morning, now to pack for a weekend away. #
  • Our new beer fridge being lovingly stocked by @chrisworfolk #
  • Lol, Mmmbop by Hanson just came on the iPod. #oldschool #forgottonipodtunes #
  • So @chrisworfolk comes into front room half naked to ask a HIMYM question then goes back to bedroom saying 'right, going back to finish' lol #
  • As @andrew_gibney would say if he were an American Hollywood actor… Freeeeeeeeeeddddddooooooooooooom #
  • I think, on balance, that if everyone at Leeds/Reading died in a fire this weekend that the world would be a better place. #
  • Leeds is full of little festival fuckers. #gettingold #grumpyoldman #
  • Last meeting before finishing for a long bank holiday weekend. Looking forward to putting my feet up and being cooked for by mother! #
  • Anyone got any good relaxation tips? Getting my stress on about handover and new job. #
  • Weekly Franklin and Bash hit coming up :-)#
  • (Pic now included) what's wrong with this ad? #
  • What's wrong with this advert? #
  • New job on Tuesday! #
  • Crap. Boss at work wants to add me as a friend. What's the etiquette for this? Esp as we have fundamental differences in worldviews… #
  • I'm going to throw my 2p into the ring re #EPL this season. MU to win from MC. #shockhorror #
  • Its been a quite crazy day. Lecture was mental. Made @YoungNicola and @ShinyPyroGirl look sane :-p #
  • Banging headache. Thank god for night mode on @UberSoc :-)#
  • On way home from lecture dropped by @leedsatheistsoc social. Fun times. #
  • If you're unemployed, write free software! #
  • All schools should only use free software. #
  • 'Apple is the pioneer of attacking the freedom of its customers' #
  • But the internet is a human right. #
  • Stallman is dissin Debian! #
  • So questions about software?? #
  • Plummeting into anarchic political debate now! #
  • Classic sidetracking arguments about riots rather than software. #
  • 'Keeping contracts is worse than breaking them' #
  • Looks like the GNU is selling for 50 quid. Guy bidding against himself. #
  • Now the auction for the GNU begins! #
  • After a load of hippy nonsense, Stallman has some good ideas about copyright protection and artist support whilst ensuring freedom to share #
  • Interesting take on file sharing. Pro sharing but also pro paying artists. #
  • Now we need to remove passwords from our wireless networks. #
  • Totally with this guy on dissing the #DEA #
  • Pretty sure we all should go live in a cave with no connection to the outside world! #
  • Dr Stallman is a very paranoid man. Though maybe he is genuinely being followed. #
  • So open source software =/= free software #
  • Linux-Gnu=android #
  • Freedom 0: free to use software as you wish. 1: free to view/change src code. 2: free to dist original. 3: free to dist modified versions. #
  • Starts countin at zero. Happy again now. #
  • I'm a fan of free software and the licence methods that go with it, but this Dr Stallman is turning me back to Windows!! #
  • So the UK has abolished the idea of justice!! #
  • Not citing references! I'm going to get cross with this guy. #
  • Nooo. We're under suveillence 24/7. Dr Stallman doesn't own a phone!! #
  • Is it too late to live in a free digital society? #
  • Flash is stalking us! Scary stuff! #
  • Do we want to live in a digital society? Apparently its Stalin's dream! #
  • Dr Stallman being introduced :-)#
  • He's going to auction a GNU! #
  • Am I too close to the front to get away with live tweeting this lecture? #firstworldproblems #
  • About to start :-) exciting times. #
  • Ooh, @sarannity has turned up. Tho walked right past me :-(#
  • This guy is going to present bare foot. #eccentriclecturers #
  • Tho only 5 girls in an audience of over 100. #
  • Quite a few faces I recognise here from my time at Leeds Uni doing computing. Funny to think I left 3 years ago #
  • At Leeds Met (ick) for lecture on a Free Digital Future. @rabywhyte is here too! #
  • Finally :-) RT @ahsstudents: free NSS for all \o/ #
  • Anyone want to go see Madame Butterfly at @Opera_North in Sep/Oct? My fave opera :-)#
  • Hope @godwinslaw1 sorted that thing out this afternoon. #
  • And after gym I'm going to a lecture on a free digital future :-) life is all about learning! #
  • Home time :-) then gym :-(#
  • Crazy @YoungNicola at #wendy on Saturday. Love finding random pics on my phone. #
  • First day back in the gym after throat infection. Managed 15mins on bike and 45mins on treadmill. #
  • I love picking up old saves on Football Manager. Some 'what was I thinking moments' and also some 'wow, good call' moments. #

What I have been up to this week 2011-08-21

August 21st, 2011 No comments
  • Hitting wendy with the cool kids @Viki_Chan @chrisworfolk @thealchemist88 @theblindking @YoungNicola etc. #
  • The torture scene in Casino Royale is just too painful to watch. Makes my eyes water. #
  • I have one SoCo and the voice goes :-( fail. #
  • Its @theblindking birthday #wendy tomorrow :-)#
  • Another day of not talking :-(#
  • My usual big brother boycott is now on. Means giving up the cricket highlights and dumping some friends. But needs must. #
  • So I'm officially poorly sick according to the doctor. Laryngitis apparently. Antibiotics for the win. #
  • Why is everyone wishing people good luck for tomorrow? Surely the luck would have been more useful 2 yrs ago when starting modules? #
  • Yummmm. Habanero and Jalapeno cheese on toast :-)#
  • Poorly sick :-( happily drugged up and have a can of Mountain Dew to get me through the evening. #
  • It's coughs like these that make me regret not smoking 40 a day. At least then it'd be justified :-( #iblameotherpeople #
  • Made some fresh tomato soup for lunch this week. All home made :-)#
  • Margherita Monday worked out quite well except for the live porn show @chrisworfolk and the sausage doctor put on. #
  • Apparently @chrisworfolk nickname for Elina is 'the sausage doctor' #getaroom ? #
  • How I love to estimate nebula penetration :-) #thatswhatshesaid #
  • Yay. Khaaaaaaaaaaaaan!! Such an awesome moment. #
  • Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn #

What I have been up to this week 2011-08-21

August 21st, 2011 No comments
  • Hitting wendy with the cool kids @Viki_Chan @chrisworfolk @thealchemist88 @theblindking @YoungNicola etc. #
  • The torture scene in Casino Royale is just too painful to watch. Makes my eyes water. #
  • I have one SoCo and the voice goes :-( fail. #
  • Its @theblindking birthday #wendy tomorrow :-)#
  • Another day of not talking :-(#
  • My usual big brother boycott is now on. Means giving up the cricket highlights and dumping some friends. But needs must. #
  • So I'm officially poorly sick according to the doctor. Laryngitis apparently. Antibiotics for the win. #
  • Why is everyone wishing people good luck for tomorrow? Surely the luck would have been more useful 2 yrs ago when starting modules? #
  • Yummmm. Habanero and Jalapeno cheese on toast :-)#
  • Poorly sick :-( happily drugged up and have a can of Mountain Dew to get me through the evening. #
  • It's coughs like these that make me regret not smoking 40 a day. At least then it'd be justified :-( #iblameotherpeople #
  • Made some fresh tomato soup for lunch this week. All home made :-)#
  • Margherita Monday worked out quite well except for the live porn show @chrisworfolk and the sausage doctor put on. #
  • Apparently @chrisworfolk nickname for Elina is 'the sausage doctor' #getaroom ? #
  • How I love to estimate nebula penetration :-) #thatswhatshesaid #
  • Yay. Khaaaaaaaaaaaaan!! Such an awesome moment. #
  • Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn #

Are A-Level Exams Getting Easier?

August 19th, 2011 No comments

This week saw thousands of teenagers across the UK get the results for the last two years of work they put into their A-Level courses. There has long been a debate about the standards required of students to attain passes in their chosen subjects which has focused on the fact that for the last 29 years more and more students have been passing with better results than in previous years. My friend Chris posted an article on his site today with his views on it and his conclusion are, that yes, exams are getting easier and the best way to handle it is to band results so that 10% get A*, 10% A etc regardless of individual results.

I feel quite strongly that students should be punished due to how well or badly they have faired compared to a completely unrelated group of people. Is it this year’s group of A-Level students’ fault if the previous 28 years worth of students did worse then they did? Absolutely not. Is there soemthing for us to worry about that the number of people passing their A-Levels has increased again? On the face of it, no. It shows that there are improvements in teaching methods, that modern teaching allows more people to do well in exam (and coursework) conditions. There are of course arguments to say that if things keep getting better then it is harder to differentiate between students and that it is impossible to differentiate between students who took their exams in different years. These are of course valid arguments. However, I think that by simply slamming the examinations as being too easy is just as bad as print media’s fascination with good looking teenage girls on results day when it comes to how we debate this matter rationally and without ruining the image of young people.

Chris’s proposed solution of a banded graded system was in fact the way that A-Levels were graded the early 1960s through to the late 1980s. With the massive rise in students staying on for A-Levels from their introduction in 1951, this system was changed for something more closely resembling the current model, i.e. where results are normalised and then graded based on specific criteria. This system has then been modified by the introduction of modular exams to combat the high drop out rate of linear courses (up to 30% in some subjects) and the realisation that the A grade was not neither norm or criteria assessed.

Essentially, my biggest argument against a banded system is one that Chris attempts to combat in his own arguments, the idea that banding prevents all students aiming for the top grades.

You could also argue that everyone deserves the change to get an A* if they achieve the required level. There are two parts to this answer, first of all, they have target just like the current system – except, instead of a specific number of marks, their target is to reach the top ten percentile, but either way they have a set, fixed target to reach. Secondly, you could argue that if everyone in the country all worked really, really hard, they should all deserve to get A*.

This is, quite frankly, a ridiculous argument. Not only is a banding not a target (how does one control their placing in a banded split?) but it doesn’t answer the underlying question of whether it should be possible for all students to attain the highest grades.

I would hope that any educational system allows for the fact that if all students who took an exam achieved 100% they would be all awarded the highest grade. This is not possible under the norm assessed system. Now I realise that this is not something that is likely to happen, which Chris also points out as an argument in favour of his system. I prefer to remain idealistic about our young people and feel that this should never be ruled out.

Chris does make some good points in his piece. He suggests that modern A-Levels are more about teaching individuals to pass exams rather than fostering an ability to pursue independent learning and developing research and critical thinking skills (although many subjects now contain modules covering these very things). I certainly experienced this style of teaching during my own A-Levels where I was regularly lambasted for asking questions beyond the scope of the syllabus and asking for proofs for concepts that outside of our required learning. This is certainly an area of concern for modern examinations. Chris also points out that it is getting harder and harder to differentiate between students. Again, this is a valid point. There should be some ability to compare one student with another. However, I feel that this comparison should only take place within any given year group. or within a few years either way (where the differences are very small, i.e. less than 1%). It is not appropriate to compare my A-Levels (nearly ten years ago) with those of today’s eighteen year olds.

This is something that is practiced, if not preached, in both the academic world and in the real world of job applications and interviews. A-Levels are a means to an end, not and end in themselves. They are used to demonstrate knowledge in a certain subject that then allows an admissions tutor or an employer to make a decision of suitability for a university place or a job. A-Levels are not, as Chris attempts to claim, a measure of intelligence and they never have been. There is certainly a link between the two, but it is not as profound as some would think. One of the best pieces of advice (although I expect it was meant as a dressing down) was from my head of sixth form. Mr Long sat me down one day and explained that A grades at A-Level were attained in one of two ways 90% application and 10% ability or 10% application and 90% ability. He went on to say that those with the 90% application were far more likely to see their A grade that those with 90% ability.

Differentiating between individuals is hard enough at the best of times, this is beyond question, but trying to do so on the basis of exam results is not always a guarantee of picking the best candidates. Their extra-curricular activities, their performance in interview and the statements of support from teachers and employers are key components of this mix too. Intelligence, learning, knowledge and performance are all different things, with different measures. We should not confuse them despite the lines between them blurring somewhat in this information age.

There isn’t a perfect system where everybody gets the grade they deserve. I didn’t get the grades my intelligence and knowledge deserved as didn’t put the effort it. I am sure there are those that didn’t get the grades they deserved despite putting the effort in because of other factors. People can only pass the exams that are put in front of them, with the support of the teaching methods provided bu their teachers and we should get off both their backs.

Yes, the system needs to be looked at. I think exams could be harder to ensure fewer people take places at university which means that a university degree is the epitome of academic achievement and not a useless piece of paper that leave 30% of graduates unemployed with inflated ideas of their career prospects. Yes, we need to make sure we are holding our education system to account for the standards they set.

However, vilifying our young people through shrieks of “easy” and “low standards” is not the way to achieve the robust education system we want to see.

What I have been up to this week 2011-08-14

August 14th, 2011 No comments
  • Teach evolution, not creationism – e-petitions << get this signed! #
  • So is the Premier League website down for everyone today? #
  • It seems I have an hour to put my fantasy football team together. Send me leagues to join so I can come bottom! #
  • Stupid tickly cough :-(#
  • Man do I feel poorly :-( luckily got almost 3 days off to try and shake it like a polaroid picture #songintheresomewhere #
  • I blame @godwinslaw1 for infecting me over the internet. Woke up with horribly sore throat and a cough. #
  • Feels like I've lost my Mojo!! #
  • Gah, I thought I'd gotten past objects and passing from server to server… #
  • All in with A high straight on flop. 2 callers, both drew 4 to a flush. #
  • Finally done for the day. Off to play some poker in an hour after a sly beer. #
  • This flipping shoulder is not getting any better :-( really doing my head in! Let's hope a top 10 finish in tonight's poker will help. #
  • Funtimes at @leedsatheistsoc social. Man have I missed steak night! #
  • We are not seeing end of the world! RT @DavidAllenGreen: Criminality in urban areas is ongoing, casual, and rarely picked up by media. #
  • I just can't get my head round the mindset required to riot. I understand the social and economic drivers, but not what sparks it off. #
  • Going to see if a long hot shower helps my shoulder. Sooo painful. #
  • I do love me some Men in Black :-) so cheesy. #
  • Anybody do massages in Leeds. Got stressed muscles in both shoulders due to ill advised sleeping position whilst camping :-(#
  • Your password thing scared me though !RT @danpalmer: Questival was a great success, met loads of awesome people and had a fantastic time! #
  • I hope 'Steve' makes the edit of the @questival live @poddelusion . Was it me or was it fantastically surreal? #
  • It was great to see @jonnyberliner at @questival he is really quite funny. Bought his cds too. @standupmaths was funny last night too :-)#
  • I agree :-) RT @Psythor: Well it turns out @Questival was totally wonderful. Congrats to @krypto et al on putting on an excellent weekend! #
  • I was hoping this shot of @krypto wearing 'gordon swayze' would turn out better. @questival #youhadtobethere #
  • The always fantastic @MikePaynterAHS wearing his deity :-p @questival #

Questival 2011

August 9th, 2011 2 comments

Questival is an annual festival that is put on by the AHS to celebrate the ideas of skepticism and rational thinking. Featuring speakers such as Julian Baggini and Michael Marshall and performers like Matt Parker and Jonny Berliner the weekend long event attracted young people from across the UK.

Having missed its predecessors in the Yorkshire Dales, it was with some excitement that I made my way to Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire to join forty other free thinkers. At this point I must add my sincerest thanks to David and Peter from the Bradford University Atheist and Humanist Society for sorting me out with a lift down from Leeds! I arrived a little after eleven in the evening on Friday to be greeted with some bean chili and a glass of Glenfiddich and rest of the Questivillains (the collective noun according to the organisers) partying like it was 1999. I had booked my spot at Questival quite late so I had turned up without a camping spot but quickly found an old friend from university who had some room in his tent and after I had dumped my stuff I quickly joined in the party.

The theme of the main shenanigans seemed to be worms (the sleepover classic of wriggling around in your sleeping bags pretending to be worms) and the quote of weekend was soon to follow:

Andrew is the egg, everyone sperm him!
- Mark Wonnacott

The drinking and conversing continued late into the night (and the next morning by all accounts) with topics ranging from whether Socrates was a figment of Plato’s imagination to whether Oli had comfortable thighs and ankles. I gave up to hit the sack just after midnight due to the fact I had been at work and travelling all day.

The mob was awoken early Saturday morning for a breakfast of sausages and bacon (and their vegetarian equivalents) that was incredibly welcome by those that had taken the partying too seriously the night before. The rest of us wanted to fuel up ready for a full day of events. We started off with a gentle stroll into Tewkesbury that involved a water crossing! The nearest bridge to cross the Avon was several miles away, so the Questival team had organised canoes to ferry the forty-odd people from one side to the other. Despite the inherent risks of putting many people in small, unstable canoes everyone made it without getting too wet and those of us that thought the crossing was hard work were in for a surprise when we were presented the most fiendishly difficult treasure hunt I have ever been faced with!

Questivillains in Tewkesbury during the treasure hunt.

Splitting into a number of teams we set about trying to solve numerical, general knowledge, observational and physical challenges to try and unlock the secret to the philosopher’s tome (the prize turned out to be a signed copy of Professor Grayling’s The Good Book). Unfortunately, the team I was in struggled to solve the final puzzle, so settled for second prize – that of getting to the pub early! We were slowly joined by the other teams and managed to quaff our fair share of some good ale and cider before setting off back to the festival site for an afternoon of speakers and performers.

Due to a scheduling incident, the weekend’s first speaker, Julian Baggini, failed to show up but the BHA’s faith school coordinator, and former AHS President, Richy Thompson, and skeptic and 10:23 founder, Michael Marshall, stepped into the breach to talk about campaigning from both a national and grass roots level. This was followed by a presentation by the founders of the fantastic Pod Delusion about skeptical landscape and how social and internet media are used to provide balance to the “crackpots”. The talk also laid the foundation for a special live recording of a Pod Delusion podcast which featured some great segments on epigenetics, cyber security, the STEM project and a wonderful summary of the energy industry’s portrayal in the media by an insider codenamed “Steve”. The evening was rounded off by the self-styled standup mathematician Matt Parker who did a meta-gig (a gig about his other gigs) that covered everything from his uncanny ability to predict barcodes, how many times we would need to shuffle a deck of cards to see every possible combination and other fun maths stuff. He had the room in stitches and if anyone gets the opportunity to go and see him then you should jump at it! Many of the attendees then hit the bar at the campsite and spent the night drinking and dancing and wondering if Gordon Swayze was just a figment of their imagination.

Sunday was a little less frantic as we started off with a leisurely breakfast followed by the rescheduled Julian Baggini talking about logical fallacies with reference to news and media stories. The talk struck the right balance between philosophical technicality and layman application. Despite being at a number of events where he has spoken, I have never actually heard Julian talk live. He is an engaging speaker with a real knack of selling logical argument and critical thinking. The early afternoon was then taken up with a variety of activities ranging from archery to sailing to making graven images of gods. The final act of the weekend was a musical performance from the simply brilliant Jonny Berliner whose quirky science and maths based songs had people gasping fro breath whilst tapping their feet. I bought his single and EP on the spot and he is definitely a name to look out for!

What I have been up to this week 2011-08-07

August 7th, 2011 No comments
  • Last talk/workshop of the weekend is done :) now time to make my own god and have a pint. #
  • Heavy night last night! Got quite drunk. Luckily no hangover this morning :-)#
  • Still no bastard signal. But at least @krypto @youngnicola and @mikepaynterahs are dancing!! #
  • Not much signal at @questival so not much chance to tweet :( fun day so far. #
  • 'So @krypto is the egg. Sperm him.' Quote of @questival so far… #
  • Just waving at @Aislinfrancis work place as I drive past it on way to @questival running a little behind schedule.s #
  • On train to bradford to then get lift to @questival :-) #questival #ahsquest #
  • 8 hours of work then hitting @questival via good folk at @uobaass :-) feel underpacked with my little 25l rucksack compared to @YoungNicola #
  • GI Joe was one of those films that are fun whilst you watch but instantly forgettable. Its pizza time now :-)#
  • Gonna watch me some GI Joe! #
  • One more sleep til @questival :-)#
  • this morning. Really could do with a holiday. Luckily I'm off to @questival this weekend. #
  • Just got in from @leedsatheistsoc and @uobaas social. @theblindking and @chrisworfolk on good form. #reindeerwrestling is go!! #
  • Just about to set off to @leedsatheistsoc and @uobaass joint social :-)#
  • So cross about training. Strongly considering a written complaint. #
  • This training is using Britains Got Talent to teach us life lessons. I'm enraged. Tempted to walk out. #
  • Completely forgot I'd agreed to shift slide for training this morning so missed out on hour's lie in :-(#
  • The lens fell out my glasses as was walking to appt. Homeless guy picks it up and offers to sell it back. (Tho good he didn't know value) #
  • Fucking glasses broke on the way home. Fucking shit. (Apologies for language) #
  • Nice dinner with @Aislinfrancis and her house mates :-) big bang theory and family guy with good hot chilli! #
  • Off for dinner at @Aislinfrancis new place :-)#
  • Its toooooo hot :-(#
  • Been in town for 10 mins and already seen at least a dozen pregnant women smoking!! #
  • The #uncagedmonkeys are doind a brand new show in Dec (6th/7th) in Manchester. Anyone want to go? #