Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Tuesday 10/03/09

Following yesterday’s problems with Google, I tracked it down to a problem with Internet Explorer – not sure exactly what though, as it only happened with Google and no other search engine. Installed Firefox and the problem disappeared. Can’t understand why I didn’t make the switch to Firefox earlier; it’s far superior to IE. Probably a healthy dose of lethargy followed up with a hint of apathy.

Voting has been taking place in North Korea. There is a one party system within North Korea, the party selects the candidates and voting is compulsory. Kim Jong-Il was standing in constituency 333 and the central election committee said: "All the voters of Constituency No 333 participated in the election and voted for Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army Kim Jong-il. This is the expression of all servicepersons' and people's absolute support and profound trust in Kim Jong-Il."

Somehow I get the impression that the servicepersons’ and people’s ‘absolute support’ was about as optional as breathing. Given the foregoing, why the hell does North Korea even bother with the sham of elections? They’re as good an indicator of truth as an HBOS balance sheet.

Who will take over the reins of power in North Korea when Kim Jong-Il pops his clogs? Given that the use of the word ‘democratic’ in the name ‘Democratic People's Republic of Korea’ is a complete oxymoron (the irony of which is completely lost on Mr Kim), North Korea cannot truthfully be termed communist. Nor can it even be legitimately called a dictatorship, as dictatorships have not generally been inheritable since Roman times (Kim inherited the leadership from his old man, Kim Il-Sung). The only logical term for is the North Korean system of inherited totalitarian dictatorship is, perversely, a de facto absolute monarchy. That puts North Korea on an equal footing with Brunei, Qatar, Swaziland, and Saudi Arabia.

The Vatican City is a moot point, as while it’s officially listed as an absolute monarchy, it is in fact a variety of dictatorship where the incumbent is elected by an oligarchic elite, many of which he personally appoints. It cannot said to be a monarchy, as its rule is not inherited (although it was at one point). It’s also slightly incongruous and ironic that the Pope is an advocate of democracy while simultaneously being a dictator. Such is the way of the world.

Do I detect multiple personality disorder in some of the government’s recent thinking? They’ve systematically made just about every conceivable job dependent on having a degree or some similar qualification, and yet they’ve just come out with a hair-brained scheme to shorten teacher training from 12 months to 6 in an effort to get unemployed bankers off the dole queue. They argue that the training period will be shortened for the most able, but how the hell can you establish who are the most able within that timescale, AND ensure they have the necessary training? On top of that, if the amount of school holidays my kids get is any indicator, the school year comprises only about two weeks of teaching anyway. What I do know is that I wouldn’t want my kids being taught economics by unemployed bankers.

Another issue, of course, is how the hell do you identify the most able? Two senior academics at a Manchester university have come out and said that the marks of failing students had been "bumped up". They also claim that the university takes no action against students who fail to turn up for lectures. So if a degree is no indicator of academic ability, then what is? I’ve heard it said that it’s entirely possible for someone ‘off-the-street’ having an ounce of common sense and a bit of organisation to gain a 2:1 in virtually any subject – especially if a humanities degree. Some Eastern European students are on record as saying the level of knowledge required for a UK degree is the equivalent of what’s required to pass the equivalent of an A level, or even a GCSE, in their countries.

Given we now have the go-ahead for the house and can kick-start the project with the footings, we need to ascertain whether the coils for a ground source heat pump can be buried in the footings of the house itself. It seems daft to dig trenches in the field when the footings are going to have to be 2 metres deep in any case and will be quite extensive. Logic would dictate it’s feasible.


  1. I use Firefox, but that has been bloody-minded for the last few days and it does seem to crash quite frequently. Being a bit of an Internet junkie, I often wonder what would happen if the Internet packed up for, say, 24 hours ... what a mess! When g mail went down the other week for a couple of hours, there was panic round the world.
    In your last paragraph are you talking about what is known in French as a 'puits canadien'? Sorry I don't know the name in English - taking natural heat from the earth to heat the house? I have loads of info on this if that is what you are after ...

  2. Louise - that's the stuff. It's just taking off here in the UK, especially for new-builds.

  3. Ah, I so love your observations. Your blog is the closest I get to watching the news. I have little else to add except that everyone I know who works in IT uses Firefox on their home machines.
    That and the fact that I am still laughing at your comment the other day regarding Jade Goody having Canker...

  4. Thanks Kab.

    Just realised I've got me Kims all mixed up.

  5. As a professional web developer (or so I tell everyone... and yes, I have a BSc Web Development degree!) I'd also recommend Firefox. I think I've used it since it was first released a few years ago, although I only started using it simply to "keep up" with current internet-related developments. It turned out that I actually quite liked it, and coupled with the security and extra features it had over IE, I've used it ever since.

    One of the best features of Firefox (if you haven't already looked into it) is the vast array of add-ons that are available for it.

    I'm a fairly minimally-inclined person, and so I don't tend to install many extras and add-ons, but the one add-on I do recommend is AdBlock Plus. As the name suggests, it blocks 99% of adverts on websites, meaning you won't be annoyed with full-screen popups, or mistake those pesky Google Ads for real links. And as the add-on blocks the ads from loading, it improves the speed that the webpages load.

    There are literally thousands of other great add-ons for Firefox, and they do all sorts of weird and wonderful things, but of the few I've tried, AdBlock is definitely the most useful.

    Also, Google Chrome is a rather nice browser. It's got a minimal interface and is blisteringly fast, although it doesn't support add-ons as of yet.

  6. I concur wholeheartedly, Sir, on the graduate training front - Those of my peers who studied the PGCE (post-grad teaching certificate) said that the actual hands-on teaching practice was minimal -

    Goddess help us if they reduce that to 6 months for a load of southern gents whose daddy got them a job with their school-friends in the city!

  7. Dom - last time I looked at Chrome it wasn't Mac friendly either ...

  8. http://www.fiabitat.com/puits-canadien.php

    This is a good site about the puits canadien - how's your French?

  9. Louyise - Slightly worse than my Tibetan Throat Warbling.

  10. TTW can be quite tricky, but French is worse ... I'll see if I can find you something with lots of pictures and big writing (not joined-up).

  11. Tell me about your e cigs ... worth it? Don't answer that - nothing can be worse than this bloody smoking thing.

  12. All will be explained tomorrow.

  13. Chairman Bill, thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. I try to follow BBC news for international updates. What we get in the US is watered down flashpoints. Since I live out in the boonies, there is no major paper here except through the Web, and that is directly connected to our storm tracker. Bummer, I'm making excuses for my ignorance of world news.

    I can comment about education, though. European training was always superior because it kept people from progressing in their studies until they passed national exams. We have no national exams, not even for university admissions. Merit pay that is being pushed by Obama is a start; but it is not the main issue in education in our part of the world. What we need is to put our money where our mouths are: support what we value.