Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Palin in the Butt!

Couldn't resist this one ... The Guardian (link) quoting Simon Scharma on Ms Palin:

"she makes George Bush look like Karl Marx"

(and he's not over pleasant with the Other side either).

Nose - Face - Blood on the floor

Now, I know the average American politician has the intellectual processing powers of a beer fed slug, but yesterday's antics surely reach a new level of inebriate stupidity?

In order to 'save' money they wiped over a trillion dollars off the stock exchange ... erm, good maths at work there.

Mind you, I knew a head of an International American School who refused to employ American Maths teachers on the grounds that they couldn't do the maths they were supposed to be teaching. Seems the Republican (and sizable Democratic chunk) were taught by the international rejects.

The 'communist-threat' rhetoric too - goodness, which millennium are these people living in?

To actually hear a supposedly serious politician refer to the proposals of George (Der...) Bush as reflective of the actions of the Russian politicians in 1917 is tragic ... almost as tragic as the belief in the words held by the man's constituants back in the 'heartland' of the US of A.

But what can you expect of a bunch if ill educated hics - most of whom are creationists and are waiting for divine intervention anyway.

(Just thought I better confirm my liberal credentials by resorting to abuse.)

Pleased to see how both Obama and the old guy restrained themselves and didn't try to exploit the situation.

What I am not sure about is the reaction over the other side Pacific ... the markets fell, but not as much as expected. Then all was explained by a nice CNN reporter who pointed out that the Asian investors presumed that the American politicians would come back after the holiday (Happy New Year by the Way), do their calculations again and get it right this time.

Sorry - not the American way with mathematics.

Another thing I learnt in international schools - American children just say they are no good at math, their parent was no good at math so there is no point in trying.

Asian children (and mixed Europeans) just say I'll do it 'til I get it right ... and do.

HO HUm, what a world!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Annoyed in Romania

A double bus journey - there and back with a resulting boiling of the blood!

The article to the left is a pale reflection of attitudes here in Romania.

On the bus going, I overheard a conversation between a young child - only just speaking and indulging in a stream of consciousness. We went passed a 'Gypsy' House - much like the one in the picture. The stream of racism which came out of the child's mouth was unbelievable - obviously reflecting the indoctrination of the adults ... dirty gypsy, thieves, black ... etc.

Coming back, an umbrella had been left at the bus stop and a man getting on the bus picked it up and, as soon as he got on the bus asked aloud whose it was.

An older, dark skinned woman said it was hers - he instantly sneered at her and called her a liar - he'd seen her ethnic origins and classed her as someone who would steal and lie. It was a knee jerk reaction - he didn't even think. I looked around at the faces on the bus. Several people were smiling and one actually laughed.

A recent survey revealed the extent of racism in the country -not that a Romanian would recognise their attitudes a racist - "they just reflect the facts".

Another incident on the Television which horrified me (a lot on Romanian Television horrifies me) was a recent pair of raids on prostitution - one here in Timisoara, another in a different part of the country.

In the more civilised sections of the European Union, prostitutes are seen to be as much victims as criminals - it is the gang leaders and the bosses who are the targets. Not so here.

The tv was full of images of arrested prostitutes - film taken inside the police station! They were portrayed as cause and the source of 'the problem'. No mention was made of the pimps or the people behind the scene (possibly heavy bribes in the right place ensured that).

Not at all happy with Romania at the moment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Romanian Heads in the Sand

Romanian Education

Today (Monday) school starts again in Romania – all over the country, schoolchildren will go to school, listen to uplifting, inspiring, vacuous speeches and do nothing … in many schools they will actually do nothing for several weeks as the timetable is ‘finalised’ or the school is repaired – you’d be amazed at the poverty the school buildings exhibit.

Ask a Romanian though how good their education system is and they will tell you it is one of the best in the world.

One sure fire sign of communism and vestigial communist thinking is the belief that the system is OK it is individuals who are at fault.

I heard the sentiment expressed on national television this morning – a man, one of the ‘experts’ came out with the thought almost word for word. It wasn’t an old man either – it was someone who must have completed the higher stages of his education in post-revolution Romania.

The system of education in Romania is good – the problem is the teachers (to paraphrase).

Let me tell you, as someone who has worked within not only the Romanian system but state and private education systems across the world, the Romanian system stinks …the teachers are the way they are because of the system. Of the teachers I know, I can say there is a mix – some remarkable dedicated individuals, many effective at delivering the system, some big hearted and useless, some only in it because they couldn’t think of anything to do with their real-world useless university qualifications: All disgracefully underpaid.

Money is partly responsible for the malaise – there is none: The physical fabric of the buildings, the wages of the teachers, the spending on resources – all are woefully lacking. Seriously greater expenditure would certainly help – at least some children could actually go to school instead of waiting at home ‘til the school building can fit them in.

However, on its own money is not sufficient.

A whole mind set – the communist mindset – that education has locked into for generations (nearly all the teachers, administrators, politicians are a product of that system) has to be shifted.

Romanian Education is poor – it is based on theories of pedagogy dropped in the economically successful countries decades ago.

It is based on assessment procedures that encourage conformity and corruption: the debate over the national baccalaureate this summer, if followed in Europe, will be sending shivers of horror through the institutions which will be responsible for quality control – the real world of business will just refuse to accept a Romanian qualification.

It is based on the decades of lies and assurances about a none existent world beating quality which people are reluctant to accept – after all, it is not nice to know you are not the genius you thought you were but only an average to poorly educated dupe of a system economically and politically corrupt.

There is nothing more symptomatic of the depths and delusions the system takes Romania’s population than the current graduates.

I recently gave a course which included a number of young graduates – their assumption was that they already knew everything about the subject (they had, after all, just graduated from an excellent education system), that they only needed a few ‘tips’ and that they didn’t need to work at incorporating any of the material, or even to seriously think about it.

Setting aside the normal self assurance of youth, they were arrogant in the extreme – subject arrogant. And ignorant – many of them knew nothing of the European Framework for languages (despite graduating with languages as part of their degree), nor of the Cambridge ESL examination system (despite the examinations being commonly taken in the city they studied and both accepted and sometimes requested by international companies employing people here).

Needless to say, most of them are heading for a fall (a serious economic one – their jobs could actually be on the line): It does not matter – they can always get another (better) job – where the pay is higher … or so they think.

Fortunately not everyone thinks that way.

I will be saying goodbye to another graduate this week who, after completing his degree here in Romania has seen the light – and is going to do two more years as an undergraduate in the UK in order to give a bit of weight and meaning to the piece of paper being issued here – he also actually wants to be able to earn a living using the knowledge gained in his studies.

Two younger students have asked for help getting in to the UK and an other European country to start their degrees – cutting out higher education in Romania altogether – with the blessing of their parents – who have seen the failings here at first hand.

There are teachers who know there are other ways of teaching and other aspects of learning … but the system stops them from developing the interests they show.

It really is time Romania and Romanians bit the bullet – your education system is bad … stop trying to change individuals and details, a complete overhaul is needed, from the bottom to the top.


One of the tv channels noted last night that in a recent survey of 45 countries, Romania came 37th - for the ability of 16 year olds to read and understand a passage in their own language. The response of the spokeswoman for the education department was revealing - it is the fault of the parents if their 16 year old cannot read ... QED

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lipstick on a Pig...

One wonders if Mr Obama had someone in mind with the comment - does McPain qualify as Kermit and is the Muppet Show returning with a White House Race special?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Black Futures

I refuse to get 'upperty' about the degree of ignorance exposed in the world over the black hole issue - what I will say is 'so much for Science education!'

Romanians (I am sure) are no worse than other nations (although the refusal to recognise their backwardness in things educational is spectacular - one teacher in a 'respectable' secondary school not far from where I am typing openly taught a class of 17-18 year olds that the dinosaurs died out because they didn't go into Noah's Arc and dinosaurs and people lived at the same time!), but the emotional outpouring of fear over the CERN experiment is amazing to behold. The strongest reason given so far for such fear and belief in the inevitable end of the world is Nostradamus and his 'predictions - so much for the quality of education.

Thank goodness the Romanian National football team is doing so badly - it is providing a much needed distraction. The headline "major" victory for a 1-0 defeat of the Faeroe Island team I suspect is a little over the top. In case anyone here needs reminding - the population of the islands is less than 50,000!

Mind you, the glorious victory of the English over the Croatians, if population is a factor, doesn't quite hold up to too much inspection.

But Walcott got 3 so I don't care.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In Memoriam

Joe Farrar

1913 – Sept 9th, 1968

As befitted, my father died at the time of night most streets are empty. He’d driven past Withington hospital (an old workhouse), parked his car at the side of the road, just outside a pub, and dropped dead of a coronary thrombosis.

I was thirteen at the time, and just starting my second year at secondary school. If he had lived I am sure I would have had a very different life – but the combination of late nights, alcohol, cigarette smoke (although he never smoked himself, he spent a lot of time in pubs playing darts – the doctor had told him to give up smoking only a few weeks before – he had been amused at the suggestion he give up something he didn’t do) had worn through the tubes already weakened by a hard war and did for him.

Although I can’t remember his birthday, I remember his death day … this year it is the 40th anniversary.

We had a good funeral – my brother, mother and I sitting in the car which followed the coffin – having a good laugh at the thought of the old man sitting on the coffin, childhood-rickets bowed legs (wide enough to let a pig through) dangling over the edge, contemptuous of all the fuss and desperate for a pint.

The body was cremated and although his name (not, as it turned out, his baptismal ‘official’ name – all his life though, he’d been called Joe) was entered in the ‘roll of honour’ no memorial marks where his ashes were scattered. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the place – and someone else, a brother-in-law I think, did the same office, in the same place, for my mother when she died 30 years after.

There are fewer and fewer memories now – like the final ripples on a river after a fish has jumped and sunk back in to the deep flowing stream.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Know the enemy ...

Bad night – strange dreams.

Too hot to do anything during the day – including eat … !!!!

Not even in the mood to drink: A half hearted attempt to sink a couple of beers in the form of shandy failed miserably.

Not as miserably as the Romanian football team – which appears to have taken the example of the English team and gone down the drain. So too the Scots – not a nation I have an over fondness for at the moment (although they are doing great things for Romanian education). Pleased to see their precious national team hasn’t got a chance and that the sensible thing would be to field a British team in football … whoops, forbidden territory.

That unshaved, ugly traitor Mad Murray is unfortunately doing too well in his beloved USA (you can have him – give him States citizenship, please) at the expense of a real player (Mr Nadal) – but it’s taken a hurricane to help him out of the inevitable slaughter which was about to ensue as the clean shaved and respectable looking Spaniard recovered form.

Whilst we are over in the states it is worth mentioning that the Palin woman (real Republican Candidate for president) is accused of book banning ….

…. anyone shocked?

Mind you – as a schoolchild I was pleased the Catholic Church had their ‘index’ – a book with a list of books that they had banned. It was a great place to go for a quick smutty read in the library – it not only told you what was banned but why … so the fertile teenage imagination could fantasize about countless bestial and worse activities under the guise of ‘explanation’. I have to say I suspect anyone wanting to ban a book is more frightened of the power the words are having over them than over others. What happened to ‘know thine enemy’?

There is a seriously odd television channel here in Timisoara which perpetrates all sort of Christian nonsense (which I am quite happy with – no banning needed, just a quality state education) and provides regular moments of poor quality ‘healthy’ programming … pity the child exposed to that alone.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Bad Day in Timisoara

There are days and there are – ‘one of those days’!

Yesterday was a distinctly – ONE OF THOSE DAYS!!!!

I should have realised it was gong to be bad when I woke with a headache – never a good sign.

Downloading from the internet site I buy my music from was slow – and a couple of tracks needed reloading. I wrote a great Shakespeare blog – and had trouble posting it.

The walk and sit by the river, on what turned out to be a very hot and uncomfortable afternoon produced nothing but the briefest flash of Kingfisher and a wag of wagtail. Coupled with that was a meeting with one of those people I know – but I’ll be damned if I know who it was or why I knew them (although a name is floating around in the background).

I tried the park and that was no better – too many ambulances and police sirens, heat annoyed drivers and irritating children.

The news was bad – Poli Timisoara no longer exists (that’s the local football team) it has been stripped not only of its name (a noble name) but also of its colours – which I think no bad thing as they are the most awful clash of tastelessness I’ve ever encountered on 22 legs. They have also lost 6 points – which smacks somewhat of insult on top of injury and is distinctly political.

However, the locals have got revolting – and when the Timisoarian get revolting, governments and systems fall … remember 1989? (If you don’t, it was the start of the Romanian Revolution – the only one where the former communist leaders actually got shot). The afternoon sirens were partly responding to the taking to the streets and throwing things at the police that was going on around the stadium.

When I get home – my computer has collapsed – it refuses to start up and rebooting is not working …

I am now on my old, un-connectible to anything and don’t breath too hard or it’ll stop working and anything you do write will have to be transferred using a memory stick if you are lucky – floppy disc if you are not - laptop bought last millennium.

So – no internet – no nothing: All the work, all the downloads, all the documents and … well, everything, looks lost. That includes all the music I downloaded over the last couple of months too.

Blood is flowing. I’ve been seriously sucked by several insects … a join the dots pattern on my upper arm, bites on the feet, on the hands and one really irritating one in the middle of my back. As I type there is one of those females just waiting on the wall. I’m out of spay.

Other blood has been flowing too.

Around 9pm there was an almighty racket as the mob moved from the stadium and marched – I went out and followed them through to Opera Square – there were several hundreds of them and very well behaved too – mind you, they were being shepherded by riot police (two truck loads if the empty trucks are anything to go by) in full gear. They were also being followed by a large number of horn honking cars. Impressive.

And nothing happened – the local TV stations tried to incite some reaction – hanging flags from the Opera House balcony (where the fans could not get so how did the flags and banners get there without the media assisting?).

There was some mighty fine chanting, for 15 minutes. Then things petered out and quickly everyone drifted away.

When I got home the sports channels were talking – talking – talking: A sure sign that nothing will happen, the Romanians are great talkers.

Then I tried going to bed.

It didn’t work.

Gone two am and heading for three – and I’m messing around here, sipping a second cup of tea, fighting off the female dinners on my red-stuff waiting for some sort of resolution to a really bad ‘one of those days’.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Obama vs ... the women

He had to do it against Hillary and now he's got to do it against that other woman (what is her name?).

Is anyone in any doubt MacPain is a dead duck ... and this Monty Python woman is the real runner for president?

A word of warning - Anglo-Saxon society is much more matriarchal than people realise (remember Iron Knickers) and a right wing woman is the sort of dominatrix your average 'naughty-boy' redneck would love to tell him what to do!

Listen to rhetoric and you'll hear an awful lot about firmness and love - iron fists and how, just doing the ordinary makes you extra-ordinary in the world of politics ...

There was a fish and chip shop woman in Australia, just the same, fortunately that ex colony had enough insight to see through the shallowness of the rhetoric ... not convinced the Americans are educated enough to see it!

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

On a pregnancy

... I don't know the girl, it's none of my business, the girl should not be exposed to the press attention she is going to get ...

she's getting the attention because her mother has accepted the nomination for vice president ...

her mother must have known the daughter was going to get the attention and has deliberately sacrificed her daughter (and the unborn child) because of her political ambitions ...



And what of John McCain? Did he know and also tacitly accept the public sacrifice of the child?

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A thankful disappointment

I just caught myself being disappointed that the latest hurricane wasn't a bit more destructive - wasn't the promised, 'Storm of the Century'.

A strange thought ... why would I be delighted in greater destruction? What is it that has dragged me into this urge for seeing a violent and ultimately tragic outcome?

Part of the answer I think is from the impulse humans have to tell stories ... we like a good story.

We are driven by a pattern of narrative which leads us to expect outcomes and if those outcomes are not reached there is a disappointment.

The British and the US media have been leading us to expect a 'certain' outcome ... it hasn't (thankfully) arrived ... so - not a good storm!

Odd the way narrative guides us through life.

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