The Price of a Life, Mr Trump?

I’ve not posted on here in ages, but I popped the following on facebook and wanted to make sure I had it to hand…


This just popped into my head. Trump’s campaign received (a quick Google tells me) $21m from the NRA – who also spent $19m in non-partisan anti-Hillary advertising, etc. But we’ll stick to that $21m.

Since the orange shitball took over, there have been 35 deaths (students and staff) in school shootings, including one on his inauguration day [].

In the same period, including the above where relevant, 103 people have died in mass shootings [].

Over 15,591 people died from gunshots in the US in 2017, not including suicides (22,000!) [].

So, let’s put this in terms that Trump can understand:

One student or faculty member is worth $600,000
One mass shooting victim is worth $203,883.50
One person killed by a firearm (non-suicide) is worth $1346.93
One person killed by a firearm (inc suicides) is worth $558.64

The price of a life, eh? And of course, as time goes on and those numbers of dead rise, the value of a life falls.

Hope the NRA are pleased with the bargain they got.

Leaders’ Conference

English: Logo of the DofE (The Duke of Edinbur...
Logo of the DofE (The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award)

I’m sat here at a conference (or was when I typed this up) with some time over lunch and realised that I’ve not done a blog post in absolutely ages. So here’s one.

I’m at the Scottish Leaders’ Conference for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award as I’m one of my school’s “leaders” for the scheme. So, what is the Award? Some of you may have heard of it, but likelihood is that anyone outside of the U.K., or at least the Commonwealth won’t have.

It kicked off in the 1930’s – this is the 60th anniversary, in fact – and is designed to help develop life skills in young people. It’s meant to be as self-led as possible and to encourage participants to improve themselves and hopefully try things a little outside of their personal comfort zone.

At each level, there are three sections (five at Gold) which have to be completed. Physical, Skill, Volunteering and an Expedition with a Residential section added for the highest level. The awards must be completed by people aged from 13 to 25 so it is aimed very much at younger learners.

The job of staff is very much one of support, information provision, guidance and – in the latter stages – pushing and shoving to get the thing finished off! The conference I’m at is comprised of workshops where we can swap ideas to make this job easier and more effective.

Why do I do it? That’s a question asked today to pretty much everyone. Funnily enough I never completed my award at school. I started the Bronze, turned up for some after school sessions and then kind of drifted away. Looking back, that was me at the time and it’s not cost me anything in terms of lost glory but I still regret it and if I could do the award now the I would. I just don’t want any of my own pupils missing out on the chance so that, I guess, is one reason.

Another is the chance to see my pupils in another light, especially on the expedition. Away from the classroom, away from computers (another reason is the get my lazy arse into the outdoors) and into a setting where far too few of them find themselves these days. The expedition involves teamwork as well as legwork, and it’s mildly sadistically pleasurable watching them complain at having to walk for more than five minutes!

Also, I genuinely want my pupils to do well and this is a chance to help with that outside of the remit of my own subject. I get to deal with more pupils in more circumstances, expanding my own skill base as well as my relationship with them… Which in turn helps when I am teaching them academically. It’s a win/win. Usually!

If I’m honest, I also get some extra hours out of it as well. Being a part time teacher, this means I get paid a little extra but hand on heart I would do it regardless. Just don’t tell my boss. Thing is, if I go full time then I will end up doing it for no extra pay – that’s the deal with a full time contract.

This year is shaping up nicely. I’m assistant coordinator for the school (not sure if that’s formal, but it is true in effect), I’m in charge of around 50 pupils across all grades, assessing some for a section topic I suggested and get to go on day walks and expeditions where I can take my son and the dogs. If they behave!

Oh, and I get to attend nice conferences with rather delicious lunches where I can bump into fellow students from when I was at university. That was a pleasant surprise this morning.

If you’ve not heard of it, then check the award out. Most of you will be too old to do it,  but if you’ve got kids of your own then it’s worth asking to see if their school offers it. And if not, the are plenty of centres that can help.

Burger King “green” experiment

Current "blue crescent" logo (July 1...
Current “blue crescent” logo (July 1, 1999–present) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah, how disappointing. After all the tabloid / facebook stories recently of Burger King’s black-bunned Halloween Whopper turning people’s poo “bright green” I just had to try one. Tolerating the horrendously slow, unfriendly service at the nearest branch to me I picked up a burger the other day and rushed home (the drive took less time than the service).

I tucked in – it was very nice, actually – and allowed my guts to get to work.

Two days later and with much anticipation with each toilet trip, I feel very let down. At most I have a slight greenish tinge after a good smeared wipe. Honestly, if I wasn’t looking for something I’d not even have noticed that. Maybe it’s to do with what else you eat (i.e. nothing at all, or perhaps you need to down half a dozen of them) but I’m still downhearted about the outcome.

I just wanted to see if it topped the time that I did get luminous green poo. That certainly came as a shock as it was well pre-Internet so there were no facebook warnings that it would occur! Back when I was around 11-12 years old, there were little sweets you could get called Coals From Newcastle. They were small boiled sweets coated in a black dust. A knock-off product was a bag of said black sherbet called Coal Dust. I’m pretty sure they bagged this detritus up by sweeping underneath the conveyor belt for the Coals to save wasting any of the stuff that fell through.

Either way, I ended up with half a pound of the stuff that I ate in more or less a single sitting. As it happens, I did buy it in Newcastle and finished it by the time I returned to my then-home in Scotland after a weekend away. Thing is, artificially black foods are often not black but a very dark green… as I discovered the day afterwards once the food dye worked its way through my system.

Clashing rather horrifically with the blue porcelain, I was somewhat disturbed to discover that my bowels were evacuating what seemed to be rather odorous alien blood the next day. This wasn’t a vague green tinge as I experienced this week, but a full on radioactive green. Sadly, I didn’t get pictures (no smartphones back then) and there was no “online” to post the news to.

I guess, for your sake, it’s fortunate therefore that this week’s experiment failed now that I have a camera in my back pocket and multiple social media accounts.

My third dad-day (well, one of them)

Original image (c) Soapylove (some rights reserved)
Original image (c) Soapylove (some rights reserved)

Today was Niamh’s third birthday. She’s the youngest of our three kids and the only one I’ve been around since day one (well, day minus 275 approximately if we’re going to split hairs) so the only one I’ve seen grow up from that squidgy, rather disgusting beginning (talking about the birth, not the other bit this time).

Three years ago today I was fortunate enough to be by Gillian’s side (and not holding her hand, I was warned about that) as she popped Niamh out like a cork from a bottle, much to the surprise of the midwife who had assume she was – as usual – in for the long haul. That evening I dressed Niamh in her bedclothes for the first time and left the two of them in the hospital when I headed home.

Tonight I got Niamh ready for bed again and it’s no less special than that first time. Just with more cuddles and kisses and giggles. And I still can’t bear to walk away and leave her, even though nowadays she’s only a few steps away in her room.

It’s staggering how the time has flown and how this screaming, bawling, pooping, peeing… thing, big enough to hold in one hand has turned in a screaming, bawling, pooping, peeing bundle of absolute all-encompassing wonder and adoration who now makes my arms and back ache when she insists on being carried because I’m too damn soft to refuse her.

Roll on the next three years. Or thirty. I need at least one kid to look after me when I start wetting myself again.

Computing – the fourth science

This was a facebook post, but I’d like to expand on it here:

I’ve just checked our school leavers’ destinations for last year. We had 16 going into medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, pharmacology or veterinary science.

We had ten going into software engineering, computer science, AI, robotics or related subjects where Computing would be an essential or near-essential skill (including one Maths/Physics pupil in there).

I have been very generous in what I consider a “medical” subject and quite strict on the computer-relates ones. We’re looking at something not that far away from a 1:1 relationship between the two overall, depending on how you view the courses.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Not even considering how useful basic Computing would be for anyone doing engineering, chemical engineering, bio-tech, or indeed the medically-related subjects… would someone kindly explain to me why parents still think their children “have” to do Biology, Chemistry and Physics to get into Medicine et al? Especially when university entry requirements haven’t asked for this triplet for many years?

Yes, I’m selling my own subject. I just want to know why I need to when the advantages of it are so flipping obvious to so many pupils.

I was speaking to a parent recently who finished her PhD a short while ago and she can’t understand why Computing isn’t encouraged more by schools. Her subject was Genetics and there was no way she could have done the work she did without the aid of computers and knowing how to use them.

Yes, there’s a definite gap between “using a computer” and “knowing how it works and how to program one”, but there’s also a big common ground where the skills picked up would be useful for so many other areas of life/study.

Take the Software Development Process, for example. It teaches how to approach a large problem, break it down into smaller ones, plan each section appropriately, distribute these small problems to multiple people (if required), get the parts made, test them thoroughly, document everything, evaluate the finished product and maintain it afterwards.

This procedure can be applied to so many other skills: essay writing, laboratory experiments, household projects, business plans… it just needs a little bit of tweaking. To the best of my knowledge, with the exception of CDT/”techie” we’re the only subject that teaches this structured approach to problem-solving. Not only do we teach it, it’s entrenched in the ethos of computing and forms the framework of the course from junior years right through to senior. It’s not just an exam topic.

Computers are in use in all walks of life and knowing how they work helps you when you’re dealing with them. If you know what they can do and roughly how they do it, then it makes it easier for you to communicate to an expert exactly what you require if the actual task is outside of your skill set. This would be incredibly useful for those doing any scientific university course as they rely so heavily on information-gathering and, indeed, automation of experimental procedure. Automated and monitored by, of course, computers.

We’ve had pupils who’ve told us in their first year that they’re not taking Computing because they’re going into Medicine and their parents have said that Computing is pointless. This angers me. A good Computing pass further up the school is as valuable as any other for university entry and equally as useful for getting onto Medicine. In First Year you don’t even know what your child’s strengths truly are and by telling them they won’t be taking the course at certificate level in two years you’re hamstringing them – they won’t try, so they won’t achieve their potential. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You could be pushing them to do a subject they struggle at, when they could be a natural nerd who could get a far easier “A” in Computing… and still get onto a medical course at university.

Computing is a science. In fact the course – right through from the beginning of the certificate route in schools to the end – has recently been renamed “Computing Science” in Scotland to reflect this. What more do we need to do to make parents, and indeed those within schools who sort out the timetable, realise that Computing Science is comparable to the “classic” sciences in terms of academic value?