Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Aren't university marketing departments fantastic?

I sometimes wonder if universities would be better off without their marketing departments. The number of times some institutions change their branding (especially the ones that seem to go from "Place University" to the "University of Place" and back every other week) is absurd and I suspect it has more to do with a marketing department trying to prove its existence than any real need.

But there are times when they can come up with material that has everyone talking about them. Before today I had never heard of Lakehead University. But its latest campaign is generating attention all over the world:

Graduating from an Ivy League university doesn't necessarily mean you're smart.

If you agree click here.

There's been a flurry of people denouncing Lakehead, but I can't help but feel that in some ways they've hit the nail right on the head. The quality of a university is so much more than its historic reputation or its membership of some arbitrary group (and remember the Ivy League is a sports tournament) and Lakehead has decided to tackle this straight on. Yes it's negative advertising (although most US politicians are amongst the last people to complain about that!) and yes I somehow doubt anyone contemplating Yale is going to suddenly decide to go to Lakehead instead, but it has received massive attention. Bush is hardly the most popular world leader and such an advert is going to make the target demographic more likely to consider Lakehead. Whilst there are clear limits, does anyone really think Yale's reputation is going to suffer because of this? Or that it's going to turn more people away from considering Lakehead (if they were never going to consider it anyway they won't factor in the advertising calculations) than it attracts more?

Academia is notoriously bitchy at times, especially when it spills over into the public arena. (just watch or read some of the exchanges between A.J.P. Taylor and Hugh Trevor-Roper for some of the best exchanges amongst historians, regardless of the merits of their actual arguments) and whilst I dislike basing campaigns around personalised abuse (and let's be honest - the advert is hardly playing the ball rather than the man) I have to admit a wry smile about all this. Maybe a University Challenge special could be arranged putting the raw institutional rivalries on the screen...

Monday, August 28, 2006

I need to get about more

Several blogs I read have recently been displaying maps of the countries in the world the writers have visited. Here's mine:

But it's not as impressive as it seems when you consider that all I saw of Russia was the transit lounge in a Moscow airport!

There are some more local maps such as the US States one has visited:

My experience of Canada is even more pathetic:

And for those wondering about Europe in detail try here:

If you want to create your own maps, take a look at the website here.

So which other countries should I visit?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Strange search terms

Other strange search terms that have led people to this site:

*coprophillia study women
*confusion about choosing a travelcard or an oyster card
**Everyone's confused about that one!
*how do i get an extension on my oyster pay as you go
**Yet another case of Transport for London spreading chaos and confusion in their wake
*charles kennedy cure
**Is this just what the Lib Dems need?

Caroline Hunt for Conservative Future Chairperson

Yes it's that time of year again. I am in disagreement with Iain Dale about an internal Conservative election.

The annual Conservative Future (CF) elections are on us again and in the race for National Chairperson I have decided to cast my vote for Caroline Hunt. In this crucial year, CF needs a strong and experienced Chairperson who can build up the organisation and take the fight to the other side. Caroline has shown she is dedicated and committed over the past two years and has the necessary experience for the task. It's telling that already LDYS (the young Mingers) see her as the most dangerous of the three candidates.

Caroline's website can be found here and her statement on the ConservativeHome CF diary is here.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Taylor mystery grows

Just what has he been doing?Since my initial post on this subject I've had another visit, this time from someone searching for Matthew Taylor MP Scandal on My Way. Why are all these searches bringing people here? And just what has he been doing?!

Friday, August 25, 2006

What has the News of the World got on Matthew Taylor?

Whilst checking stats for this blog I noticed that someone in the domain is looking fo News of the World tabloid Matthew Taylor MP on Google. Is there yet another Lib Dem scandal due to come out?

So is the Earth a planet?

Astronomers in Prague have voted a definition of a "planet" that excludes Pluto. And now the backlash begins and we will see whether the world at large will actually accept the International Astronomical Union as having the power to do this. Already some scientists have declared they will not be changing their textbooks.

One point that's come up is that the definition of "planet" that the IAU voted on may exclude the Earth as well!

One of the three criteria for planethood states that a planet must have "cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit". The largest objects in the Solar System will either aggregate material in their path or fling it out of the way with a gravitational swipe.

Pluto was disqualified because its highly elliptical orbit overlaps with that of Neptune.

But Dr Stern pointed out that Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Neptune have also not fully cleared their orbital zones. Earth orbits with 10,000 near-Earth asteroids. Jupiter, meanwhile, is accompanied by 100,000 Trojan asteroids on its orbital path.
So do we have yet another mess?

And if even the head of NASA's mission to Pluto is not going to accept the new definition, why should anyone else feel bound by the IAU's decision?

"Will you join my sinking ship?"

When am I comingb back?Will you come sink with me?In the latest desperate attempt to stabilise what he calls his leadership, Sir Menzies Campbell has publicly invited Charles Kennedy to come back to the Liberal Democrat frontbench. He could not be more transparent if he tried. With Campbell's leadership faltering and so many looking for a Kennedy restoration this is a blatant attempt to take destroy Kennedy by taking him down with him. Now let's see if Kennedy will fall for this and board sinking ship.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The most dramatic assassination of all time?

Whilst chanel surfing this afternoon I came across the 1963 film Cleopatra - the one with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison. Amongst the scenes shwon was the assassination of Julius Caesar and I remembered my recent comment on Cally's Kitchen:

I think I've seen this discussed elsewhere but has there ever been as dramatic an assassination as Caesar's?

Just think about it - the undisputed ruler of a Great Power is murdered in the legislature itself by legislators. It would be like Congressmen murdering Bush when he goes to deliver the State of the Union address.

Has any other leader been killed in so dramatic fashion by the political leaders of the day at the centre of power?
Can anyone think of one?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

100 metres gets shorter

Journalists have once again struck gold in what is normally one of the slowest newsweeks of the year. A-Level results have come out today, allowing for endless recycling of speculation about whether A-Levels are being "dumbed down" and much waffle about standards.

Sometimes I wonder if the journalists even wrote these stories this week, or whether they just type them up earlier in the year and take today off. Yes results have improved on the previous year. And the record for the 100 metres is repeatedly broken - does this mean a metre is getting shorter?!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Paisley/McCrea affair?

As ever the last resort of a blogger is to the strange terms on search engines that have brought people to their blog.

One recent search was for rhonda paisley and willie mccrea affair on Google. Does anyone know any more details?

Stop the war... or just "Bush's wars"?

Courtesy of Jo's Journal, who got it in turn from Snedds' Blog who got it from The Man Who Fell Asleep:

How so very true of the "Stop the War" campaigns of recent years!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Who decides what "a planet" is?

The International Astronomical Union is meeting in Prague to try to decide just what officially constitutes a planet. Or to put it in real terms, to decide whether or not Pluto is one.

I'm reminded of the many lengthy debates amongst academics and students over just which is "England's third oldest university", nearly all of which seem to come down to a proposal for the key point (doors opening, charters being issues, formal conferrment of university status, formal conferrment of degree awarding powers) which conveniently gives the answer as the institution the proposer personally wants to be the oldest. Or the film The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain which shows how rigid scientific definitions can clash with popular usage and understanding. Or even the long running debate amongst some Doctor Who fans over what certain stories should be called (I'm serious - there really are people who argue this ad infinitum), where the term "official" is thrown around as though to mean "That Is The End Of The Matter" and never has any effect on the raging arguments.

Which leads me to wonder whether any decision by this meeting that ultimately says "Pluto is not a planet - that's official" will actually be accepted by the population at large. But if the definition that is eventually adopted is made with public perceptions in mind, one has to wonder whether or not the exercise is necessary at all. The public does not always respond well to scientists rewriting the vocabulary - look how long it has taken for the Brontosaurus to disappear from popular perception - and when they are starting from the point where the term is not really widely accepted as being something determined by scientists in the first place, they are especially unlikely to accept a change that changes the popular conception.

Maybe the best solution that would command popular support would be the following:

One possible resolution to the debate is for new categories of planet to be introduced. Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars would be "rocky planets". The gas-giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune would be a second category.

Pluto, 2003 UB313, and any other objects passing the "roundness test", would be reclassified as a third type of planet - perhaps "icy dwarfs".
We shall see what the meeting's outcome is...

A Head of State blogging?

Thanks to Slugger O'Toole for bringing to attention the latest politician to join the blogosphere - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran. I am hard pressed to think of another Head of State who blogs, but if Hugo Chavez can have a regular chat show (so did Harold Wilson, albeit after he left office) then why not a blogging President?

Ahmadinejad's blog is multilingual, handling Farsi, Arabic, English and French, but be warned there are some technical problems in the English version at least. And the French version doesn't seem to be working at all. Still it's good to see leaders at the very highest levels using the internet to speak to the world and explain themselves. Now will Dubya or His Toniness deem to talk to the common folk?

Teenage sex

Over on Jo's Journal she discusses "Shocking news: teens have sex!" in response to news of a survey that found a third of 16-24 year olds have had sex below the legal age of consent. For her, and no doubt many others, the big concern is not the headline figure but other statistics such as:

38% of young people do not always use a condom with a new partner, with being too drunk cited as one of the most common reasons well as this:

The survey also revealed deficiencies in young people's sex education.

One in 10 claimed to have had no sex education at school, while three quarters said they only learned the basics.

Many showed a lack of awareness about contraception failure, with 43% not knowing it was possible to get pregnant if a condom is not used correctly and 35% unaware that the contraceptive pill can also fail.
Having been to all male (from the age of 7 onwards) private schools my own school experience was no doubt abnormal. Jo comments:

I remember when we had "the talk" at school. Helpfully it took place after at least half the year had lost their virginity..
I strongly suspect the figure for my year (I can't remember if it was when I was 14 or 15) was considerably lower due to the nature of the pupil base (all male, private, pupils from all over Greater London which was an impediment to friendships, many pupils coming from strong religious homes, a high geek element and frankly a good number of the not so socially advanced) but frankly it was still rather poor and had nothing really in it about proper safe sex. (We were taught as part of biology just how condoms work as barriers but I can't recall ever being taught how to operate them! It's like a physicist knowing all about how partial vacuums operate but not having a clue how to actually use the vacuum cleaner, albeit with rather more serious consequences.)

One of the other problems that I don't often see addressed in this debate is the role of parents and their sometimes reluctance to allow their children to find out about much of this "too early". The desire to "let children be children" is understandable if more dangerous here - often it doesn't actually result in their offspring not learning about sex for some years but instead in finding things out haphazardly through a mixture of the playground, friends, magazines and whatever they pick up from elder siblings.

The other one which gets a bit more attention is the current cultural attitude to sex. It isn't actually one that encourages people to wait or treasure virginity, and yet many abstinence programmed seem to blindly assume that such values can be inculcated.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The new England Captain

One of the best pieces of news today is Steve McClaren's announcement of the new captain of the England football team. It's John Terry - no better choice could be made.

Here's to a fantastic run and finally winning another tournament!

Events today

Today I've hardly turned on the television or looked at the internet - and it seems I've missed much of the breaking news today. The first I saw was a post on a messageboard by someone questioning the scale of the plot and the media attention. At lunchtime I went for a walk through the City and didn't feel much fear on the streets - but then the City is used to terrorist threats and getting on with life as normal. Once again also there are major police raids in East London.

The scale of the foiled attack astounds me - it seems beyond belief. Maybe that's why it seems so unreal at first.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Quietness lately

Regular readers of this blog (I know there are some!) will have noticed that I've been rather quiet lately. This is because I was recently at the annual conference of the National Postgraduate Committee (invariably referred to as "NPC"), held at Aston University.

During the conference the NPC Annual General Meeting took place, including elections for the new year's officers. The following were elected:

Management Sub-Committee (aka "the NPC Executive")

General Secretary: Simon Felton (Birmingham)
Chairperson: Jennifer Winter (York)
Treasurer: Tim Roll-Pickering (London)
Minutes Secretary: Chris Norris (Nottingham)
Conference Secretary: David Thurkettle (Keele)
Communications Officer: Chris Whittaker (Southampton)
Equal Opportunities Officer: Armineh Soorenian (Leeds)
Project Officers (x4): Alex Higgins (Sussex), Rhys Kearney (Salford), Chandan Singh (Staffordshire), Daniel Snowdon (London)
Ordinary Officers (x2): Matthew Daley (Aston), Marilyn Shanks (Essex)
Chairperson of NPC Scotland/CIN Alba: Jim Ewing (Glasgow)
Chairperson of NPC Wales/PCÔ-R Cymru: To be elected at the next Wales/Cymru meeting

Financial Sub-Committee

Treasurer (Convener): Tim Roll-Pickering (London)
Past Treasurer: Christabel Silva (Middlesex)
General Secretary: Simon Felton (Birmingham)
Chairperson: Jennifer Winter (York)
Conference Secretary: David Thurkettle (Keele)
Treasurer NPC Scotland/CIN Alba: To be confirmed
Treasurer NPC Wales/PCÔ-R Cymru: To be elected at the next Wales/Cymru meeting
Ordinary members (x2): Duncan Connors (Glasgow), Martin Gough (University College London)

Constitutional Sub-Committee

Chairperson (Convener): Jennifer Winter (York)
Past Chairperson: Marilyn Shanks (Essex)
General Secretary: Simon Felton (Birmingham)
Ordinary members (x3): Peter Campbell (Sheffield Hallam), Duncan Connors (Glasgow), James Groves (Lancaster)

The full results can be found on this educationet post.

It looks like being a good year. I was especially stunned to find out afterwards that Armineh has been named Yorkshire and Humberside international student of the year by the British Council.

Also launched at conference was the new discussion board for the NPC and postgraduate issues. To register please click here.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

July on this blog

Yes it's that time of the month again! Earlier stats can be found at the pages for February, March, April, May and June.

First off the sites most people come from:

  1. Mars Hill (+1)
  2. (-1)
  3. Google (-)
  4. The Vented Spleen (-)
  5. Cally's Kitchen (+5)
  6. Jo Salmon (-)
  7. My Yahoo! (NEW)
  8. Conservative Mind (+3)
  9. Take back the voice (-2)
  10. Antonia Bance (-1)
Dropping out of the top ten altogether are Iain Dale's Diary (at 11, down 3) and The Wonderful World of Lola (at 12, down 7).

Jo Salmon continues to occupy number 6 on the list for the third month in a row. Is she going to move in there permanently? ;)

The My Yahoo! link is one of the strangest as I can't see what the page referring people here is. Can any of you tell me?

Then we have the top ten search engine requests that brought people here:

  1. what does your birthday say about you (+1)
  2. tim roll-pickering (-1)
  3. abolish council tax exemption students (NEW)
  4. official monster raving loony party, address of croydon branch (NEW)
  5. stanley baldwin sounds of england
  6. doctor who tonight (NEW)
  7. laura blomeley (re-entry)
  8. return of the hero (NEW)
  9. local borough of sutton andrew theobald (NEW)
  10. 'academic assessment' 'waste of time' (NEW)
As ever a mixture of brand new terms and some ongoing ones. Some of the sillier other terms include:

Finally as ever we have a list of all the cities detected that people are in (although many are listed as "other"):


Thank you all for reading!


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