Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Well, not much in terms of blogging for the last month, but lots of change within the realm. I’ve (finally) launched my own blog url… re-education.net (or cliveparkin.com if you come from a different direction), giving me the chance to have a decent domain name, my own (purchased) theme that I can fiddle around with and all that comes with all of the switch to wordpress.org

Road sign merging

Road sign merging (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This includes having little to no idea about how everything works. I love my new theme, but saying that there is a difference between the schmick looking preview on themeforest and what currently exists on my own url is stating the obvious. First lesson… wondering what was needed with png images that would ‘fit’ the screen the best way. I still have some way to go. Haven’t worked out how to do my title banner yet. There is a great series of (silent… I think it comes from Vietnam) YouTube clips that show a moving cursor doing a whole range of changes. A great resource, but it will take some time to ‘decode’ for a relative newbie like me. Looks like the next few weeks will see some tinkering.

Next up, it looks like I’m going to get a lot of spam. Amusing in a way, since I’ve not even posted on that site yet, but offers of how to x-ruple my internet traffic have been coming in… they always seem to pop in about 12:15am my time… not sure what that signifies. It looks like WordPress.com managed to block a lot of this crud. Mind you, I was getting a lot of stuff from Project AWOL beforehand.

Anyway, for the next few posts, I am going to straddle the two sites. I’ll keep this site going for a while – to flag with my small band of loyal retainers where my destination is, while also setting up the new site. Bear with me while I get the layout organised… it is going to take some time.

Thanks for your patience.

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Reader Safety Notice: NO show spoilers appear in this Post

I’ve just finished Season Three of Breaking Bad. This might seem like ancient history for some, but I’m trying to eke out my addictions. As a result, I’ve now switched to watch the final season of Dexter. As each episode is complete, I’m acutely aware that the end is becoming ever more nigh for this show.

Breaking Bad - Adventure Time

Breaking Bad – Adventure Time (Photo credit: B_Zedan)

Around me I have colleagues and students who are just finishing Breaking Bad and are aghast that I’m not doing likewise. One friend has gone from “no” to “whoa” in the space of a two week school holiday timeframe. All of Breaking Bad in two weeks?! Now I’m agog.

While all this is going on, I’ve become aware of how our viewing habits have changed. I say “our” as I’m wondering how many of the following applies to you. Do any of the following sound familiar?

  • Impatient at waiting for a show to come – week to week feels forever. I’d rather wait until I have the whole lot in my hands before starting viewing, rather than come to an abrupt halt at the end of the ep and have to wait a week for the next instalment.
  • We have lost our viewing discourse, as we are all on separate paths. The days of discussing an episode the day after are gone.
  • As a result of our viewing “alone”, we have to feel around, perhaps using careful euphemisms, to determine where we are up to in relation to others, even if across seasons.
  • I’m living in the moment, thus I’m ready to discuss the revelation of the previous episode, but often struggle to recall events for those playing ‘catch up’. By the time that someone has reached a cracker moment in a given episode, I’m struggling to recall the critical details of the episode.
  • Shows are like wine. One more glass before bed? We look forward to anticipate what time the next episode will end. Is that too late? What about if I bypass the opening credits and the “previously on…” (insert your show of preference here). Suddenly my wife is advocating a four show stint of Downton Abbey that will see our going to bed at 1:50am.
  • Suddenly, hearing the HBO white static at the start of a prospective show is an invitation to viewing nirvana.
  • I’ve started to notice (read “guess”) that each series is now following its own kind of arc – a bit like how you might have Joseph Campbell’s/Chris Vogler’s perspectives of the hero’s journey. Is it the case that a season of twelve episodes will describe a similar kind of arc as that of a quest movie (The Matrix is an example that comes to mind).

So as I finish this post, I’m about to watch the fourth episode for Dexter… and who knows, maybe the fifth… I just don’t want to run out too quickly…

A post about rejuvenation…

I’m one term shy of my long-service leave and have been taking the moment to reflect forwards… should that be proflect? Without ever intending the flow of events, thanks to a range of circumstances, I managed to move from school to university to a teaching job before I’d graduated from university. At the end of nine years, I changed schools and in doing, missed the first chance for long service leave that I might have earned. At the time, the challenge of starting a new job meant that I probably didn’t need the break.

Now, nearly eleven years later from that switch, I’ve decided that a break is probably a good thing. I’m one term shy of 80 terms and aside from the regular school holidays, have moved from term to term in succession. So, I have been taking the time to enjoy the looking forward and the need for time down, which I’ve decided to take over two school terms. And while I don’t want to plan too much, I thought a bit of proflection, in thinking about how I should spend the time, mightn’t be a bad thing.  I’ve got my Masters of Ed on the go, so a couple of units there are factored in and I’ll mostly be around as the kids will still be at school. We might look to go on a holiday, perhaps to Fiji. But I’m enjoying the daydream of what else I might (loosely) occupy my time with. Here is the current list:

  • Might try to build in a bit of exercise – bike riding, swimming, maybe even a bit of running. Something 2-3 times a week would be great.
  • An art class – pen and ink is something that I’d like to have a go at.
  • Or maybe work on trying to crack cryptic crosswords… at last.
  • Some regular piano time
  • Maybe a bit of writing
  • Not re-reading school text books that I’m teaching…

    setting up for a different sort of routine

    setting up for a different sort of routine

The last one leads on to my aim of reading (more or less), one book per week. Being ‘off’ from mid December till mid July means a goodly number of books. Books that I have often overlooked in lieu of school texts or waiting for a time to enjoy them fully. Which is now…

The list, only in its infancy, might include:

  • Catch 22
  • Margaret Atwood (generally)
  • Michael Ondaatje (likewise)
  • Cormac McCarthy – No Country For Old Men
  • A Russian novel… not sure which… not even sure I’d want to do this! Perhaps Crime and Punishment?
  • More of Peter Carey, more of Tim Winton, more of George Orwell
  • Maybe some novels I ought to read again… Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying which I read in 1990, comes to mind
  • Maybe a run of a literary award… like my gaps in Booker Prize winners
  • A poem a day
  • More non-fiction. Probably some history.
  • Possibly a little literary sugar, in the form of the odd “page turner” or two, to balance out the literary “vegetables”

As mentioned, this is just a general musing as I write this post. I haven’t even visited the books that sit patiently in our spare bedroom! Feel free to let me know of anything that you think would be worthy of factoring in for the proflection, whether it be reading or recreational!

I’m in the middle of reading George R.R. Martin’s (first thought… why the need for two ‘R’s!) Game of Thrones at the moment. I’ve seen to the end of the second season of the show and am hoping to get ahead of my reading in the novels before watching any more. My main reason stems from my reading of this first book – it reads very much like it views, as if the producers of the TV version decided that they would do a scene by scene replication of the book. As a result, I feel a bit like I did as a boy, reading the film ‘novelisations’ of the Star Wars series, such as The Empire Strikes Back, which I recall getting via my school’s Lucky Book Club affiliation, replete with glossy photos in the centre of the book. The book felt very convenient as it faithfully plodded through the action that we saw on screen. There wasn’t a lot of flavour… or imagination.

Not that I am suggesting that this is the case with Martin’s epic – it obviously predates the show. It’s just that I can’t really tell. I’m not reading it particularly quickly, but I find it hard to clear my head from the action that I have seen on screen, as I read. I’ve heard that the second series starts to deviate from the book and look forward to seeing the evidence of this when I get to the second book – and as mentioned, moving on to the third before I catch up on “that” season. It reminds me a little of my reading of the Harry Potter series. I had my ‘own’ Harry Potter in my imagination before the movies came along, but I can’t recall him now. He (and other characters) have been well and truly replaced by Daniel Radcliffe et al. I find it sad that I can’t get that imagination version back… and probably never will.

So back to the title of my post… I love literary page turners. Those books that you are almost apologetic about reading. In Australia (and perhaps more broadly internationally now) we have Matthew Reilly. 25 words or less for the uninitiated: super hero defies (multiple) deaths from super villains and overuse of exclamation points while solving international mysteries!!! (more or less)

The boys I have taught over the years have loved Reilly’s work and when asking my opinion of it, have been surprised by the fact that I haven’t jumped on board more enthusiastically. It is a certain guilty pleasure and I enjoy it every now and then, while I am consuming the work. But like eating the fairy floss/cotton candy (love the international use of alliteration to describe spun sugar!), one feels strangely unsatisfied (read ill) sometime after completing the work.

Not like some of those authors who present works that are more like a fine dining degustation dinner. Writers like Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, or even the short stories of Alastair McLeod. You might not want to have this level of readership every day, but when you sit down, one can feel sated with the beauty of the words… how they are chosen and placed on the page, in a short period of time.

For now it is George and I am on page 461 of 780 (before we get to the House history stuff). So it is Friday night and, for now, I’m still at sideshow alley and the junk food abounds… and I’m happy to give in to it for the time being.20130816-213642.jpg

How many times, as a child, have we heard this phrase?

Illustration by Warwick Goble to Beauty and th...

Illustration by Warwick Goble to Beauty and the Beast: the heroine is the youngest daughter in her family. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I get you to think about what it means in your mind, like a Pavlovian response, you’d have your imagination firing off possibilities. Quite possibly incorporating images of Fairy Tales, Fantasy, stories set in an indeterminate past. Princes and princesses and simple moral codes. Quite possibly it suggests other or further ideas for you. It was only when my daughter was watching Play School on TV recently, when a presenter began a story with this well-worn phrase

Once upon a time

that I gave it closer scrutiny. And I realised that I, for one, had not really given much (any?) thought as to what this actually means. My own coding sees my mind shift straight away into the premise that I am about to be told a story, quite possibly with an authoritative voice and my own position as listener being that of (or similar to) a child. But thinking about this phrase more closely, it struck me as odd. It sounds like a point being placed on a timeline, when the event that you are about to hear takes place – surely this is not a particularly striking idea to put into a child’s mind? At worst it sounds too clinical – like some kind of science experiment, rather than a story involving flights of fancy and fantasy. Perhaps this is the reason that teachers soon steer students away from using this cliched start in their own writing.

A few years ago, I recall hearing an actor discussing his role as Richard in Shakespeare’s play Richard III. The opening lines will be familiar to many:

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York;

What made this interview noteworthy was his observation that he (and I apologise for being unable to remember the actor’s name) had, for some weeks, been rehearsing these lines without actually understanding what they meant. My memory of the interview was that having admitted to this and saying that this was, it appeared, a not uncommon mistake, he did not go on to clarify what the two lines meant. This set me musing on them, and wondering whether it involved the use of double negatives, which often confused people at the best of times (the “I haven’t done nothing” kind of thing). My understanding of the line is that, from Richard’s perspective, he means the following: If it is the winter of your unhappiness, then are the times actually good for you (the opposite being the summer of your happiness, rather than the summer of your unhappiness, if that make’s sense). Thus the “glorious summer” is a real downer for Richard – who revels when the times are bad, making the most of his own political run when chaos reigns.

What other phrases do we take at face value, rather than giving them the necessary scrutiny?

Well, someone in the next day will be – it could be you and this post might well tip the scale over – currently my blog sits on a modest 1994 views (I know, distinctly small fry for many). I would love to be able to let you know if you were my 2000th viewer. Maybe if I’m vigilant, I’ll be able to tell the country that you’re from. If the first six viewers all ‘liked’ this post, I could tell that number six would be the one. Maybe I could even do a feature on the person receiving that milestone…

English: The Grand Prize for the winner of a g...

A good year thus far… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ironically, the one year anniversary of my writing – NOT my joining WordPress, which took place seven months before as part of a work ICT activity – is also coming up on June 25th. This was a post on students doing ‘TED Junior’ talks. It took me that time to work out what I was going to write about (and feel confident to press that ‘Publish’ button), one reflecting my work and ideas in Education, which, as you might expect, has also undergone some changes in that year.

Back to my title – how many times have you been the “999,999” visitor (or one millionth)? In thinking about this post, I reckon I’ve won about 50 of these things (and have of course, clicked on none of the cheery, cheesy banners when they’ve popped up). I even typed the phrase into Google and got all sorts of discussion about the possible scams and identity compromising consequences of clicking on these spots.

So anyway, to give you something in the same vein, here are some stats reflecting your relative chances of a number of events occurring – just to give you pause for thought. I’ve made them ‘Australia’ based, to reflect some of the idiosyncrasies of my country:

Chance of winning the big division prize in Lotto – 1 in 45 million

Chance of being killed by a shark –  1 in 292, 525 (chance of drowning at the Australian beach, by comparison, 1 in 3,362)

Chance of being struck by lightning – 1 in 1.6 million

Chance of dying in a car accident – 1 in 12, 500

Chance of winning anything by being the “Xth” person to visit a site – nil?

But, getting away from the darker side, it has been a great year thus far. I’ve learned so much and thank you all for popping by, whether this be a first time, or a return trip. Looking forward to even more in the coming twelve months. I’ll keep you posted on the 200th viewer… if I can 😉

You don’t need to like or dislike Arnold Schwarzenegger to appreciate this. I’m just using “Arnie” as a guide. You don’t even need to have seen Terminator (1 or 2) to understand my use of it as an example. If you’ve ever seen a film where there’s a high body count by closing credits, you’ll get the gist of the idea.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800 (Madame Tussauds).

Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800 (Madame Tussauds). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had my movie ‘pitch’ for several years now. I’m blogging it here, because I can’t see myself ever making it (at this point, anyway). Basically it goes like this:

The screen is split in two. On the left side of the split, the audience quickly recognises Terminator (or other equivalent film) is playing. This film plays in its entirety.

On the right, the alternative film plays. In this instance, it might open with a policeman, sitting down having breakfast with his family. Subsequent scenes might show him doing relatively routine activities; dropping off his children at school, buying some take away coffee, doing paperwork. The actor playing this role should be relatively unknown and the reason why would become apparent in due course.

About half way through Terminator, the left and right screens would start to come to reflect one another. Thus the policeman seen doing run-of-the-mill activities (as I understand most policing is on a day-to-day basis) would come to have an interaction with Arnie. For these moments, the screen would show only the ‘original’ film. The policeman might die in the police station shootout, perhaps he is collateral in another scene where his car is crashed by Arnie’s truck – the more obscure it was, in many ways, the better. The audience will now recognise that the small time extra in the big budget film is actually the ‘star’ of the film that has been showing on the right hand side of the screen.

At this point, the screen would split once again. Terminator (or X) would continue on, as before, while the camera on the left would remain with the dead policeman. Over the course of the remaining film, the scenes would return to everyday life: his family receiving the news; their shock at his sudden demise; preparations and the subsequent funeral.

The point? Not much really – just to show, using an unorthodox method, how we overlook details and the casualty count (or take it for granted) when we watch an action movie. Just something a bit different. Hope you liked the idea.