Monday, 27 February 2012

What we obtain too dear...

Just a thought. If something is rare, we sometimes esteem it too dearly.

Like Ground rhino horn or Tiger penis is thought to have properties that cannot be obtained from horseshit or sand.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Yet another redesign to come...

I'm not totally happy with what I have. I tried it, and I will keep certain elements of it, but I want to change the look and feel of it quite radically.

The big idea this time is to take an existing website, and use the stylistic elements, changing the text and graphics to make them specific to what I want.

So I've been going to random websites, via a random website website and bookmarking any sites that come close to what I'm looking for.

So far I've got:

http://www.tricatel.com/index-english.php
http://www.barbelith.com/
http://www.anime-supreme.com/news.php
http://www.freeevents.org/ (This is the one that seems most promising)
http://www.staysafeonline.info/
http://www4.callista.com.au/display/website/Home
http://www.nokarma.com/
http://www.mommy.com/
http://www.disneylandpostcards.com/
http://hirshhorn.si.edu/
http://www.gardens.com/
http://www.chairandthemaiden.com/
http://www.woodmereartmuseum.org/
http://www.candyfavorites.com/
https://www.eff.org/

What they all have in common is a clean, uncluttered display, easy to follow site navigation, and nothing too complicated that I'd struggle to work with.

I suppose there's an ethical issue here. If I download someone elses site into dreamweaver, and change all the words and pictures, effectively nicking their stylesheet, but not piggybacking their bandwidth, am I doing something morally suspect?

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A word that means everything

Let's hear it folks please, for the most versatile word in the English Language.



driving lessons in Wallasey?

Lennies over Liverpool...

Well it's been a busy day, make no mistake. I've worked from 9 this morning until 8 this evening, with scarcely a break.

But what a day it's been. My car's display reckoned it was 20 degrees centigrade at one point early this afternoon.

In February? Scary.

Apart from the freakishly mild air, the skies have been a glorious mix of highly luminous and textured clouds. I didn't have my camera with me, but I did take a few pictures on my phone of what appeared to be lenticular clouds over Liverpool.

something similar caused a bit of a media stir a little while ago when they appeared over Yorkshire.

Not sure about the quality of the images or how well my phone will have captured what my eye can see, but here's what I got...






driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Nukes

How many nuclear explosions have there been in the whole damn world?

Well, there's the tests they did in the US desert. That must make a couple. Then there's the two that got dropped on Japan. So that's 4. Then they set off a load in the pacific. Brits, French. And Russia set some off too. And I know China has done a few tests, and India and Pakistan have too.

So how many's that then? 100? 200? More?





driving lessons in Wallasey?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous.

I've met a few famous people in my life. Perhaps some of the people I've taught will go on to become famous in the future. Who knows?

Anyway, if you define famous by having a wikipedia entry, I can say I've had dealings with quite a few famous people.

  • I've read the electric meter of the Former Manager of the Sierra Leone national football team!
  • I've also read the electric meter of Wirral band, The Coral. The rehearsal room smelled funny.
  • I've got Derek Hatton's autograph!
  • Paralympic Gold Medal Winner, Heather Frederiksen trained to be a driving instructor with me.
  • I once annoyed Alan Bleasdale at a CND rally in Liverpool.

I can tell you're impressed.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Monday, 13 February 2012

Positive feedback...

A couple of nice, life affirming things have happened over the last couple of days.

Firstly, yesterday, I had a brand new pupil.

She'd never driven before, so I was taking her to New Brighton Promenade where it's nice and open and quiet and predictable. A drive of about 15 minutes. Turns out that she's a friend of a girl I taught briefly last summer.

This particular girl had a driving test booked, and her regular instructor was unable to give her a lesson for a week or so beforehand. She didn't feel ready, and so booked a lesson with me.

She was right to not feel ready, because her driving was a lot different to what I would have taught her. I gave her some simple ideas, which we practiced intensively, first for one lesson, then for several lessons.

The difference in both her control, and confidence was huge. A few simple changes to the way she approached things completely changed what driving was for her. She did her test in her usual instructor's car, and passed easily.

I'm told that as he was driving her home, he said "I really don't know how you passed that." The inference being a contemptuous "you fluked  it".

My puipil knew better. She recommended me to the girl I picked up yesterday. She too is thriving under my tutilage.

And then today, a pupil who previously had several lessons with a different instructor. He'd got a few lessons cheap because of an offer on the internet, and after using those lessons, promised to get back in touch with this instructor after he'd had the lessons with me (he'd had a voucher bought for him as a gift)

After the first lesson; again, a two hour slot in New Brighton, he'd kind of decided to switch his allegiance, but felt a bit guilty about letting his previous instructor down. After today, he had no such qualms. He was effusive in his praise for the way I was doing things. Things really clicked. Pretty much the same things I was showing the girl last year were working for him too.

Essentially my job is simple:
  1. Be a highly trained advanced driver who uses best practice across the board.
  2. Teach people the same techniques I use myself.
That's it. That's all. The whole thing in a nutshell. Right from lesson one, give the pupil the best possible way of doing everything. Why other instructors are not doing this is really a testement to the standard of instructor training in this country. Most instructors didn't get the training I got.

Anyway, feeling good right now. I put a lot of myself into my work. When things go badly, when someone fails their test, when someone decides they don't like the way I do things, it does hurt. So it's nice to get some indication that I'm doing things right.
driving lessons in Wallasey?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

On Whitney Houston...

Before I became the fine upstanding member of society you see before you now, I used to work in a shop.

It was just agency work, for a couple of months, in a factory outlet store in a retail park called Cheshire Oaks. I would fold clothes, match up shoes, help customers with any enquiries they had.

Like most modern stores, the shop had a PA system, and music would be played over it. A silent shop is an uncomfortable place for customers after all.

Every morning, the shop manager would put Whitney Houston's Greatest Hits on the PA, and there it would stay. All day, on repeat play.

It was never my kind of music in the first place, but after a few weeks of this, I was climbing the walls.

Anyway, RIP Whitney. However much you did my head in, it was only for a couple of months, and 48 is way too young.


driving lessons in Wallasey?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A Marxist Analysis of Middle Earth

I had a vague idea about doing something like this, but beyond identifying that the society created by Tolkien was essentially feudal in most aspects, I wouldn't have got very far.

But I don't have to, because someone has already done one, and a fine piece of writing it is too.

http://johnmolyneux.blogspot.com/2011/09/tolkiens-world-marxist-analysis.html

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

5. Blur - 15. Pentangle - 38. Stone Roses.

See how it works? I wonder how many will translate?
Group 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Period
1 1
H

2
He
2 3
Li
4
Be

5
B
6
C
7
N
8
O
9
F
10
Ne
3 11
Na
12
Mg

13
Al
14
Si
15
P
16
S
17
Cl
18
Ar
4 19
K
20
Ca

21
Sc
22
Ti
23
V
24
Cr
25
Mn
26
Fe
27
Co
28
Ni
29
Cu
30
Zn
31
Ga
32
Ge
33
As
34
Se
35
Br
36
Kr
5 37
Rb
38
Sr

39
Y
40
Zr
41
Nb
42
Mo
43
Tc
44
Ru
45
Rh
46
Pd
47
Ag
48
Cd
49
In
50
Sn
51
Sb
52
Te
53
I
54
Xe
6 55
Cs
56
Ba
* 71
Lu
72
Hf
73
Ta
74
W
75
Re
76
Os
77
Ir
78
Pt
79
Au
80
Hg
81
Tl
82
Pb
83
Bi
84
Po
85
At
86
Rn
7 87
Fr
88
Ra
** 103
Lr
104
Rf
105
Db
106
Sg
107
Bh
108
Hs
109
Mt
110
Ds
111
Rg
112
Cn
113
Uut
114
Fl
115
Uup
116
Lv
117
Uus
118
Uuo

*Lanthanoids * 57
La
58
Ce
59
Pr
60
Nd
61
Pm
62
Sm
63
Eu
64
Gd
65
Tb
66
Dy
67
Ho
68
Er
69
Tm
70
Yb

**Actinoids ** 89
Ac
90
Th
91
Pa
92
U
93
Np
94
Pu
95
Am
96
Cm
97
Bk
98
Cf
99
Es
100
Fm
101
Md
102
No


1. Hawkwind
4. Brian Eno
5. Blur/Blondie
15. Pentangle/Pixies/Pulp
20. Curved Air
23. Vangelis
38. Stone Roses/Simply Red
39. Yes
43. The Chills
45. Rolf Harris
52. The Enid
56 Blue Aeroplanes
60. Neil Diamond
65. The Beatles
73. The auteurs
81. The La's/Tom Lehrer (I like the circularity of including Lehrer given his most famous work)
86. Randy Newman
90. Talking Heads
102. New Order
103. Little Richard
106. Simon and Garfunkel

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Oh yeah...

And I'm trying to be honest and up front about it instead of sneaky and furtive. I did not entirely succeed in this endeavour.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

deliberately removing the wheels from the wagon.

Tonight, for the first time since 31st December 2011, I'm drinking alcohol. Not just one drink. I've bought 5 bottles of beer, and intend to get drunk. Currently I'm about half way down the third bottle, but the two bottles I've already drank had the lowest ABV.

I'm sort of doing it because I can. The idea of never ever getting off my head again in any way for the rest of my life is pretty grim, so I will get out of it occasionally.

I plan to not do this more than once in any calender month. An arbitary rule that I'm setting for myself, and one that could lead to two consecutive days of drunken-ness if I leave one to the end of a month and take the next at the beginning. Not touching alcohol in January doesn't mean I can get drunk twice in February though.

My recollection is that beer tastes nice and that being drunk is a pleasant state of mind. The reality is that it's giving me indigestion and making me pee. I don't yet feel particularly drunk.

Beyond this immediate stuff, troubling shit is happening. One of my favourite uncles has cancer. One of my other uncles has developed serious heart problems. One of my wife's best friend's has been recalled after a mammogram.

I haven't chosen to drink consciously because of these things, although they may be unconscious factors.

Choice is important.  I think to some extent it defines the difference between use and abuse.

Enough for now. I have two and a half more bottles to quaff. Any that don't get drank tonight get given away or thrown out.

Monday, 6 February 2012

I'm going to...

I'm going to rip off America's head, and spit down it's neck.

I'm going to poke the USA in the eye with a sharpened shitty stick.

I'm going to smash America's fucking teeth in.

I'd be bollocksed if I had a passport I suppose.



driving lessons in Wallasey?

Backgammon and fragments of knowledge...

Teaching is not generally about telling people how to do stuff. It's more a process of helping them to develop their own understanding by breaking complex things into small bits that they can get their heads around.

As a teacher, I will not always just tell people how to do things. I'll ask them a series of leading questions, especially if the thing I want them to understand is counter-intuitive.

Here's an example.

Me: When should you change to a lower gear? When you want to go faster or when you want to go slower?

The question is phrased in a way that requires my pupil to give one of two answers. It's not an open question encouraging them to discuss an idea at length, although there are times when those type of questions are useful. I give the option of "when you want to go slower" last usually.

Pupil: When you want to go slower.

This is the answer I get most of the time. I've put a "." at the end of it. In practice, it should really be a "?" more often than not. It's the answer I generally want to get, because it's wrong in most circumstances. So it's then a starting point for more questions.

Me: What is the most powerful gear in this car?

Generally the response to this question is...

Pupil: "Gear 5".

In fact gear 1 is far more poweful. There's a trade off between speed and power. If you don't believe me, try riding a mountain bike up a steep hill in 21st gear, or trying to pedal down that same hill in first gear.

Me: When do you need power? When you want to go slower? Or when you want to go faster?

Pupil: When you want to go faster.

Me: So when do you change to a lower gear...?

Mostly they still don't really trust this answer at this point, but it makes sense to some degree. I'm not expecting them to really grasp it straight away. I'm planting seeds. I'm messing with their heads. And what I say is true. When you get to a junction or traffic light or whatever, you slow down or stop, and pretty much the last thing you do is you shove the car down into first or second gear. Then you accellerate.


Learners don't. They want to change gear first instead of last. The snippet of conversation I've highlighed above is a set piece of my job. The details vary from pupil to pupil, but the the whole follows more or less the same narrative structure in almost every case.

Anyway, since  this breaking down into simple unit elements is something I do as a teacher, it's also something I recognise as a learner.

And that brings me to backgammon.

I'm a reasonably competent backgammon player. Not world class, but good enough to beat a world class player perhaps one time in ten. It is a game of luck as well as skill.

I've started playing in my local Liverpool backgammon club one night a month, and I wish there was more around here. Mainly I play online at dailygammon.

Dailygammon offers unrated "friendly" matches. It also offers rated tournaments. In these, you don't have any say about who you get drawn against. At the end of a rated match, your rating changes. If you win your rating increases. If you lose it goes down. The amount by which it changes depends upon the length of the match you played (A match played to 9 points will affect your rating much more than a 1 point match) and the rating of your opponent realtive to your own rating (Beating a player rated 300 points better than you will improve your rating by much more than beating a player rated 300 points worse than you)

The baseline for the ratings is 1500. In practice the average rating of all active players at the site will be slightly higher for a variety of reasons. The very best players are rated around 2200. The very worst have a rating of perhaps 800.

This rating is visible on your profile page. Here's mine.


 DG   Top Page |Game Lounge |Discussion |Links |Log Out |Help  

personal high water mark? 1889.96 (12 March 2011)




player
helvellyn
Rating1833.31
Experience9074



I tend to oscillate between about 1820 and 1860. My current 1833 is pretty much representative of my abilities. But I do want to improve, and I've got to a point where I'm not going to get much better by the osmosis of just playing. I suppose I should read books on the subject, but I struggle with doing things that way, and I lack the self discipline to perservere. I have a golf book from my Dad languishing. I feel guilty for not reading it but not guilty enough to get my head stuck in it.

Looking at the rating of my opponent, I'd expect to see certain things.

If they're rated at 1200 or less, they don't have much of a clue about how to win the game. They may know how to play, but they don't really get the strategy beyond a very basic level.

Between 1200 and 1400 I'd expect them to make fewer obviously rash moves, but not give much thought to the game beyond the immediate roll they're dealing with.

Between 1400 and 1600, they're starting to play in a way that strives to obtain objectives, such as building walls, covering vulnerable points, etc. They may not always do so in an efficient way, but they have some eye for the bigger picture. They might still make some basic errors, such as not doubling post crawford.

Here for example, I'm playing an opponent who's rated in the high 1500's.

  _ _ b5 _ b1 b2   b2 b3 b1 b1 y1 _     lainie202
89 pips
score: 6
                        A      
        6 3   1   9 Point Match
          A                    
  y2 _ _ y2 y1 y5   _ y3 y1 _ _ _     helvellyn
92 pips
score: 8
 


















I've just moved my 6-3 roll to the positions indicated by the pink arrows. It's now lainie's turn. It's a 9 point match, and the match score is 8-6 to me. I only need one point to win the match. Lainie needs three points. She should turn the doubling cube to 2. She stands to win two points if she wins this game, taking the match score to 8-8. If I win 2 points, I still just win the match. I don't get anything extra. But she probably won't. She'll just roll the dice instead.

Between 1700 and 1900 the player has a good knowledge of the game in just about all of it's aspects.

Above 1900, and certainly when you get into the 2000's, the player has a head full of probability tables and roll-outs. S/he can quickly weigh up all the options available and choose from the best of those options according to the situation. They take into account what their opponent has done in similar situations earlier in the game, or will even look back over their opponent's previous matches to guage their probable response to a gambit.


And some of all that complicated stuff that those top players do can also be broken down into small, easily digestible chunks. For example, if the match is tied, and the score is 2 away (for example the match score is 7-7 in a 9 point match) it's statistically advantageous to double at the first opportunity if you don't get the first roll. If you don't do so, it then becomes advantageous for your opponent to turn the doubling cube themselves on the next roll.

Today I've picked up another fragment.

It came from playing a real match with a real person in Liverpool. He expressed surprise at a move I made, and obviously thought I should have done things differently. So I asked about it on the discussion board at dailygammon.

And one of those top rated players told me that "With two checkers left have them as close to 2.8 pips apart as you can. If you plan on playing a lot it is worth just knowing how many good rolls each two checker position gives."

Another fragment for my collection of fragments. I used to have 1833 of them. Perhaps this added snippet will make it up to 1900 someday.




driving lessons in Wallasey?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be...

I've always enjoyed computer games. The younger reader might be forgiven for thinking there was nothing to do before Call of Duty, but video games go back much further.

First I knew about it was Pong. Bat a big square pixel from one side of the screen to the other. Your opponent would do his best to send it back to you. First to 15 won or something. Extremely simple of course, but for the first time we had some control over what we had in front of us.

And of course, what started simple gradually evolved into more and more complex things. By the time I was in my early teens, there were arcade machines everywhere. In newsagents, in the bar of my local swimming baths. Come half past three to four O'Clock, when I was walking home from school, I'd call in at the local shop and there would be a crowd of pre-pubescent boys clustered around the latest game. Jostling for the best view. Those with any proficiency were sort of lionised. Held in temporary awe.

In the great scheme of things, I wasn't particularly good at these games. I wasn't spectaculerly bad either. But I was as avid as any of my peers at either playing or watching these games.

Now of course, what represented the pinnacle of electronic engineering 30 years ago could easily be played on your mobile phone. And you can play them all on your PC as well.



There is a bit of software that turns your PC into an arcade game cabinet. The games are ROMS that you load into the emulator. As far as the software is concerned, it's sitting in a cabinet in an arcade waiting for some spotty kid to come and put 10p into the slot. It even goes through all the hardware checks when you load it up.

So I've been busy reliving my youth by attempting to play some of the old games I used to know and love.






 Defender was hard. It's still hard. Donkey Kong was relatively easy once you got your head around it. Pac Man never really grabbed me. Scramble absolutely enthralled me. I'd spend my entire pocket money trying to get a bit further through the caverns.

Playing them now, for free, I find that they've lost most of their ability to capture my attention. Probably for the best I suppose. Of the games I've tried, the last one pictured, Track and Field (the logo was emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes - 1984 was the year of the Los Angeles olympics) entertained me the most.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Hard driving...

They only have a finite life of course.

I had a hard drive. It buggered up. I bought a replacement from ebay. That lasted a while then it too buggered up.

I went back to the original hard drive, reformatted it and put XP on it, and it worked for a few weeks.

Then last night, it started making clicking noises and spinning up and down seemingly at random. The end, I knew, was probably nigh. This morning, I got the PC to boot into windows after about 4 attempts. It lasted for about 10 minutes before freezing with a click and a spindown. Now it just hangs on the intro screen, asking me to press tab if I want to enter BIOS, etc.

I hope it's the hard drive that's faulty. I have experience with that stuff. If it's something else, it's likely to be far more expensive and extensive to repair.

I've bought yet another hard drive from ebay. It should be with me in a few days. Storage capacity is pretty cheap these days. Ten years ago, a 40Gb drive would have set you back the best part of £100. These days, you can pick up a 500Gb drive for about the same price. A 40Gb drive will cost maybe a fiver, including postage, from ebay.

The main problem is one of inconvenience. The drive has to be loaded up with an operating system. My XP disk has now been loaded onto so many hard drives, I could do it with my eyes closed. (Actually, I can't even make myself a cup of coffee with my eyes closed, so maybe not) But it all takes time. Once it's up and running, I have to get it connected to the internet. This usually takes a bit of head scratching. Then I have to reinstall all the stuff I had (The data is generally stored on my "D" drive - a large capacity drive in the same PC carcass, which just contains songs and music and data and what have you. My D drive has happpily functioned through the lives of about 4 of it's more heavily used siblings.

Windows then needs to load about a billion updates. They have to be loaded in a particular sequence.

Until Service pack 2 is loaded, mny other things won't work properly or at all.

Each update of course requires you to restart your system.

I have to put all my website stuff on. FTP software, web design software. The data itself has to be imported from the FTP server to be usable, at least the way I have things set up.

Anyway, the upshot is, yet another hard drive crash, inevitable because I was reusing an old and faulty drive, from which I've not really lost anything important, but which will require time and effort to put right.

Again.


driving lessons in Wallasey?