Ghosts – @ds106dc #tdc2096

Tell us a ghost story – #tdc2096


Well! Which to tell? This one is simple. The ghost(s) in our house where I grew up used to make the Christmas decorations spin around the light fittings. The baubles would spin at top speed and suddenly stop. Fact.

 

 

 

 

Lovely image from http://www.ahandmadecottage.com/2013/.

DNA: The Secret of Smooth

It seems to me that the Yachtski scale, as a linear device, is increasingly becoming the subject of contention. And with other areas of the Yacht or Nyacht discussion delving into the history of smooth, it is perhaps time to apply some evolutionary genetics to advance our understanding.

 

Introducing Gregor Mendel

When we start to delve into the history of smooth we stumble across an unexpected character, the founding father of genetics, Greg Mendel. What we can reveal is that whilst he was breeding peas in his garden shed, he was also listening to smooth music. In fact, the his garden shed was an old converted boat house, and the pea seeds germinated to the calm relaxing vibes of yacht rock music.

Greg Mendel

Greg Mendel – fan of the #smooth

The science bit!

Recently discovered, some of Mendel’s historic sketches reveal early hidden hypotheses that refute the linearity of the Yachtski Scale. Combinations of what he called ‘smooth heredity factors’ could form only two phenotypes – either audibly smooth (so-called Yacht) or not smooth at all (so-called Nyacht). As he experimented he realised these always fell into the ratio of 3:1. This would account for why the combination of two (or more) supposedly smooth factors may on occasions (25% of the time) produce a non-smooth result (as detected by the fine measurements of the Yachtski instrument).

Taking the pea

However the phenotype was just part of the story and reflected a complex array of genotypic factors underneath.

Mendel's Early Notes

Mendel’s Early Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Greg unravelled the mystery of heredity and unpicked the determining genotypes, he found dominant inheritance factors always included the featuring of the singers Kenny and Michael, and songs with the words ‘fool’, ‘heartache’, ‘sailing’ or ‘wind’ in the title. Further experiments showed that recessive inheritance factors that figured in the Nyacht genotype were the year of recording, and the presence of an out-of-tune alto saxophone solo. Perhaps the most radical finding, was the discovery of bass pairings that hold the complimentary strands of genetic material smoothly together. This discovery is often not accredited to Greg.

Bass Pairs

Bass Pairs

 

The CRISPR revolution

Toward the end of his career, Greg had achieved such intricate levels of smooth genotypic combination, it was only to be centuries later where his most hidden secrets were to be revealed. The latest CRISPR technology – Clustered Regularity Interspaced Smooth Pallendromic Repeats – only this week – revealed the wonders of his ultimate experiment. Supreme smoothitude and top of the Yachtski scale. Scientists revealed an animated GIF that Mendel put inside live pea genes all those years ago.

CLICK HERE FOR THE BIG REVEAL!

Farewell old friends…

 

Dear darling cherished friends of mine,
Your smell bequeathed to passing time.
Mud-filled paths we have travailed,
In fitness fads to no avail.
Worn out treads and threadbare insoles,
Puddle-seeped, beyond console.
Stench-infused in every granule,
Desirable only to a spaniel.
From Vale of Belvoir down to Bristol.
I cry my friends, I sure will miss you.
As always inspired by @lemnsissay

#DS106 fuel for the soul

When I woke up this morning (big blues guitar chords), I was full of dread. I have struggled myself through 2016 to say the least, and with David driving to his folks today, I was worried about the immense gulf presented by the next two days on my own.
 –
I think everyone would agree 2016 was a stinker one way or another. For me, my ‘in-work’ world becomes increasingly separated from my ‘out of work’ world. My daytime is full of an incredibly stressful and unsatisfying often seven-day-a-week role, and my spare time is full of the open education work I so love and believe in. This year saw seven more conference presentations and papers on open education. I completed an eight month secondment in our Department of Education leading our Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education – supporting about 70 university colleagues through their modules and gaining some of the best feedback I’ve ever received. I left that role without so much as a thank you from that department.
 –

Sparing you lots of other stuff, I woke up today filled with dread and wondering how I’d fill the time I had. Something then must have said to me to revisit Jim Groom’s keynote from the Edinburgh OER16 conference. Boy. Here is vision, inspiration, clarity of thinking – everything I lack in my day-job. I just don’t find fighting over education league tables inspiring – or worthwhile at all in fact. People are important. Having a vision is important.  (Don’t start me on the NSS – I’ve written about that twice before). Jim – pointing to the work of many others – talked about developing an open infrastructure via the web – something that is very much lost in UK higher education. I mean that not just in terms of pushing the boundaries of what is digitally possible and acceptable, but what the US and Canada seem to do very well, is put their technical wizards at the heart of pedagogy and innovation in their institutions. I love that Jim and all the people he mentioned are building, and doing, and experimenting, all with the fundamental purpose of making teaching and learning better. And more fun. So Jim inspired me. Thank you Jim. You have no idea what that meant to me this morning.

Then, second dose of inspiration. The wonderful Alan Levine recorded a song and how awesome was that? “I’m a reclaimer”.…complete with guitar, vocals and harmonica, although a distinct absence of dog. I don’t know how he quite achieves that one. Ours does like to join in. Alan was also thinking about reclaiming the web, and in the comments on his blog, the gauntlet was thrown down by Talky Tina for more #ds106 music. OK then.

So like Alan, I’m immensely indebted to the Reclaim Hosting company. I’m not technical at all but somehow have ended up running five blogs. All well with that until you get hacked, and my poor Biology Courses has had more than its fair share this year. The previous hosting company was fine but not able to support me in the end. You know what really is stressful, those ‘ticket’ systems – “you have not responded in 24 hours so were have marked your ticked resolved”. Not resolved!! Stressed!! But then along comes Reclaim, and more than a fair share of pestering from me. But they transferred everything, cleaned it up, and pointed things to new things. Tim was amazing, and for him, I wrote this song.

More than that, it entirely occupied the day I was dreading, and up until 9.34pm at night, am still surviving. Thank you. So wanting for a while to do the “Chattanooga Choo Choo” – the Andrew Sisters’ version, here you are. I have no idea how they do their harmonies – but here is how I tackled it.

My lyrics:
 –
Hello internet.
Is this the internet?
I want a one way ticket to my privacy
I want to keep my data immediately.
 –
Timmy-boy
Are you the man at Reclaim Hosting?
“Transfer your domain”?
“Migrate your site to Reclaim”?
I can afford
To move my site to Reclaim Hosting
Since the pound’s had a fall
And is now worth bugger all.
 –
You send an email off to Reclaim ‘bout a quarter to three
You get a message back – instantaneously
“We’re so glad you came now”
“You’re hosted on Reclaim now”
“You control your data and you own your domain now”
Now I have my own vir-tu-al space to create
I can start a blog and share some stuff for debate
Photographs on Flickr
Twitter’s even quicker
Woo, woo, Reclaim Hosting you are so great.


It would be nice
If education was more open.
Let’s build and connect.
And share ideas with respect.
Reclaim your domain.
And build an open infrastructure now,
The folk at Reclaim Hosting
They can choo-choo you home.

Big fan of Reclaim Hosting…..

 

My recordy stuff:

The other miracle of the day was actually being able to ‘midi out’ from my Technics keyboard, into a USB box thing, and into Garageband on the Mac. It worked like a treat. Usually I record the Technics straight from a mic – but get the annoying sounds of fingernails clunking the keyboards and dog howling. That kind of thing. It worked fine. Of course, the trusty Blue Snowball microphone direct into Garageband for all other live recording. Not much ‘mastering’ or editing down – but reasonably OK.

Music set up

 

Harmonies?:

I don’t really know how the Andrew Sisters got their sound. I bang out the main melody in one take and can usually find a second harmony in another. I then usually have two more ‘tracks’ in Garageband and patch in harmonies that sound right for to make up a third line.

My final sounds:

Come and be creative in 2017:

In short, it is so important to find your creative space. You have to step off of the treadmill and out of the firing line. Join the #ds106 community on Twitter and have a look at the Daily Create. Today, I combined “His Master’s Voice” – Nipper the dog – with the create. I painted Nipper at school in the 6th form after I’d been dumped from art classes several years before. Nobody knew I could paint. A bit like work now, life is very good at focusing on the unimportant and trying to focus on what you ‘can’t’ do. Somehow that is easier and less of a risk of one day somebody being just bloody awesome.

 

 

 

When I am in charge….if I make it….

OMG. This Minion really does look like me. I shudder to think when I am in charge what I will actually look like? But you know what, I don’t care. I’ll be in charge and sorting out this unholly and ungodly mess.

VivMinion

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hate just to turn out a blog post unsubstantiated and ill referenced, but sometimes I do think plain and simple opinion is important.

I wonder at what point education innovation in the UK is going to entirely come to a halt. It can’t be far off if it hasn’t already done so.

I have spent an amazing day with education researchers from around the UK being trained. But we were peering over our vol-au-vents and thinking well this is all great, but there is no funding for me to do this.

What on earth is seriously happening to the UK Higher Education Sector. Come on.

I can’t entirely blame the organisations involved who previously dished out vast sums of money to support pedagogy and technology projects, training, networks and research. But I do look back feeling quite enraged at things like CETL (Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) a few years back that dished out some £350 million pounds to the sector. WHAAAT? Around half of that investment is no longer visible or of any permanent use to the sector. But gosh, what we could do with a few pounds right now.

 

OK so these organisations are busy licking their wounds but the fact that they haven’t stood up with the HE sector to lobby for support is unfathomable. What however seems to have happened is almost instantly they underwent significant institutional change and reorganisation to reposition themselves as commercial ventures. OK that may be impressive, but personally I feel utterly let down by them, and like many others, having worked on and supported work in the sector for decades, I feel utterly betrayed. In some quarters, entire repositories of educational materials have gone. Do prospective students and families realise what an absolute mess the whole thing is in?

So what is it with UK Higher Education? We are supposed to be players in a global market, to be widening our entry gates, to be ensuring students have grande employability opportunites, to be keeping up with increasing and insane demands of the NHS and professional bodies (yes I deal with three on one single course of 15 sutdents per year). So really, how can we evaluate and address simple questions without money? I’m not even talking about full economically costing to buy me out for one hour a month, that is ridiculous. But to put it simply for me 1) I DO need to feel some sense of value on what I am doing by my institution, 2) I need some fair reimbursement for the extensive time I put in (outside of work) working in YOUR HIGHER EDUCATION SECTOR and  3)  I wouldn’t mind the odd financial reimbursement for the training or odd conference here and there that increasingly I pay for myself. I am 47 and am still renting a house. We talk about the NEW generation of people experiencing difficulties, but there is a whole generation who are still struggling?

But size of money isn’t everything
I’m not saying research investment is the be all and end all. I’ve worked in industry and know that throwing millions of pounds at projects does not necessarily produce inventive steps or life-changing results. UK universities that receive funding to produce results targeted toward certain outputs and impacts – that by definition cannot be robust research. Money increasingly goes to more polarised body of institutions and I hate to hear of money simply being wasted because they received so much and it is the end of the financial year. This is WASTEFUL to the UK overall. This knocks blue-sky research. Bashes creativity. We have a generation of researchers now (well, the ones with the jobs), who entirely think about the outcomes of their work rather than even thinking what would be interesting, what if we combined these theories…..innovation has come to a crashing halt.

University problems
OK so I moved from scientific research to education a few years ago. If we think that about half of UK universities aren’t bothered with learning and teaching at all, so the investment isn’t going to come from these institutions, then there is practically NO money for very fundamental EDUCATION research from anywhere else.

1 There is little money for education research and investment.
2 There is not much money to invest in developing education.
3 Nobody is interested in your child, or investing in what their needs are to gain a fruitful education.

I really can’t see how enough of the UK is going to compete globally for very much longer
I absolutely do think a university education is tremendous. But it isn’t fair, it isn’t equal, and great parts of it does not work. I bite my tongue talking to prospective students and parents in talking about education when I know the majority of my time and that of colleagues is administration, sorting out timetables, I count bus tickets, I input data, we verify administration decisions, I spend an vast amount of time requesting rooms or car parking. I might say these things flippantly, but when students need accommodation then I am on the case. But I do think, why am I doing this when I do absolutely know people who would be far bester than me in doing these things. Please sir – we want to teach!!!! Don’t start me on workload administration – my 9 year old niece would do this for me. Charmingly, one of the senior faculty members who introduced the scheme (that I do not condemn overall) did not even realise we inputted the same data year on year.

So what happens next?
OK so it is well established that academic hours are huge, but nobody does anything about it really. Academics have always worked long hours but usually writing papers and because they are engrossed in their research. I work weekend to stick boring numbers into a workload system. Because I have to compile over 200 documents for an NHS programme review. A complete and utter waste of time in terms of real value given to students. And this brings the notion of ‘hyper stress’ – immense stress by the shear volume of tasks, and things like data input if you are tired, dyslexic or whatever, do take a huge amount of attention-to-detail and skill to undertake correctly.

This worries me totally. I’ve had an amazing day today at a research workshop in London and I am tired of the conversations that show that we will do the research anyway. We all sat there thinking about the important work needing to be done, and with few exceptions, and verified by coffee and lunchtime chats, well, we’ll do this anyway. We will work evenings and weekends to make sure the concerns we have with international students, widening participation, making sure young people get the best out of their university experience……..we will make sure these get addressed. Not because of any UK sector leadership that used to come from the HEA or Jisc, or from our institutions…

…but because of us.

Is this a form of torture?
The situation has become so bizarre that you start to think that you are living some crazy dream. Is this a form of torture? I’m in my mid-40’s and driven to at times work around the clock for a job I’m allocated 2 days a week for? Because I’m under allocated on a system (despite having a fantastic boss) I still have to take on more. I’ve never been so physically ill in my life. But is this some joke? Is someone going to leap out from behind a lamp post and say you silly thing?

Part of some big master plan!
Perhaps I should just admit defat and stop caring. Is this what is intended? Am I supposed to just put all PowerPoint slides on Blackboard and assess every student by multiple choice questions? Because frankly, with no money for innovation, with no realistic look at what academic staff do, that is where we are.

 

 

 

#Noir106 The Music!

‘Strike Anywhere’

by David Kernohan and Viv Rolfe

It was a privilege being part of the DS106 ‘3 Fingers of Gin‘ radio show recently. Whoever so effortlessly turned out such a professional sounding production was a genius, and I never anticipated our attempt at ‘noir jazz’ sounding so good. As always with DS106, from the chaos and different ideas and talents of the group emerged something slick and entertaining. What amazing people.

When I think of ‘noir jazz’ the atmospheric black and white photographs of Herman Leonard immediately spring to mind. The smoke-filled pictures and crisp lighting conjure up sounds of dark saxophone or bright trumpet just drifting through space. John Coltrane and Charlie Parker never really did it for me in terms of their harsher saxophone tones, but the likes of Dexter Gordon and Ben Webster would certainly be more appropriate for that velvety, growly, ‘noir’ sound. I’m very lucky to have a superb Julius Keilworth saxophone that weighs a tonne, but that is the trade off for a good sound. I’ve also been lucky to hit on a spectacular reed at the moment – so this recording will never be entirely reproducible in time as the quality of reed vary so much and influence the sound tone greatly.

Process

When we set to record our music I think David and myself instinctively knew what it would be, and as always, we had very little conversation about it. We recorded all in one take. The first take is always the best. Most of it was bashed out on a Technics KN6000 which has done more gigs than I can shake a stick at but still can produce any music style that you could possibly wish for. We used the Technics for bass and drums.

We record the Technics directly through a Blue Snowball microphone into GarageBand which isn’t ideal and we could do with finding some direct input connectors, but hey, it seems to work. You do tend to pick up the clatter of the keys. Headphones on, and guitar, sax and other instruments were then layered over the top. GarageBand is brilliant and has never let me down through all the recordings and punishment that I throw at it.

Mood music!

MotionPicturePlays

We tried to create a series of moods that would enhance the radio show – whatever it would end up being. Motifs from parts 1 and 2 can be heard throughout with growling saxophone. My favourite was part 3 – all David’s own work featuring a flute which was somewhere between ‘car chase’ and ‘lift music’.

 

 

 

I like the idea of creating musical moods – I have a book of silent movie piano music – that can provide anything from ‘Fervent Passion’ to ‘Unleashing Storms’. Perhaps we should record some more for the next instalment of ‘3 Fingers of Gin’!