bookmark_borderWhy are they surprised the universities want free money?



Leeds Metropolitan JG Entrance
Originally uploaded by effortDee

Today Leeds Metropolitan announced they’re planning to charge £8500 a year from 2012.

Given that Leeds Metropolitan (the former Leeds Polytechnic) is not considered a top university, this shows that almost no universities will charge the basic £6000.

According to the Guardian, “David Willetts, the universities minister, had anticipated that a market would develop, with institutions charging a wide range of fees”.

I don’t understand why he had anticipated that, though. If fees had to be paid upfront or paid back over a smallish number of years, you could have expected people to go for a cheap university unless employment prospects were exceptionally good at a dearer uni.

However, the way the CoLD coalition have created a system that means that most people will pay 9% of their salary for 30 years, after which time the loan is cancelled, for the majority of people there is never any real hope of paying back the loan early, so they might as well borrow as much as possible because the difference will be paid by the taxpayers.

In other words, if Leeds Metropolitan had decided to charge £6000 a year instead, very few of the graduates would by 2042 have paid any less for their education, so by charging £8500, they basically get £7500 extra per graduate over three years, all paid for by the state.

As I’ve said before, I think the whole idea of tuition fees and graduate taxes is a disaster, and we should make all education free again and pay for it by cutting down on the number of students.

bookmark_borderHalf-siblings aren’t step-siblings!

In today’s census, we need to fill out how everybody in the house is related to everybody else. To do this, we need to tick some boxes that contain options such as “mother or father”, “step-mother or step-father”, “brother or sister”, “step-brother or step-sister”, etc.

However, there is no box labelled “half-brother or half-sister”. Fair enough, I thought when I filled it out, I’ll just use “brother or sister” instead – that’s how they think about each other and what they call each other when they’re not being pedantic.

However, according to this article, the official advice is to tick the “step-brother or step-sister” box for half-siblings. (The article is about the English census, but Scotland’s census contains exactly the same questions about family relationships.)

This is ludicrous! If they want those two categories conflated, that’s fair enough, but then the box should then be labelled “half-sibling or step-sibling”. Without those extra words, most people will automatically assume they should tick the “brother or sister” box, and the result will be inconsistent statistics.

It’s possible that statisticians use “step-sibling” in a different way from the rest of us, but the census will be filled out by normal people, and the language used should reflect that.

bookmark_borderWhy I’m in favour of AV



"I ? AV" Slogan
Originally uploaded by dumbledad

AV (the alternative voting system that is being offered as an alternative to FPTP in the referendum on the 5th of May) is not my favourite way to elect a parliament.

However, it’s vastly better than FPTP when there are more than two parties.

In the US, they’ve managed to prevent additional parties from emerging, probably because of their system of primary elections, and if the opponents of AV were actively proposing to introduce a similar system here, I’d be less reluctant to listen to them.

The problem with FPTP is that there are a lot of constituencies where the votes are fairly evenly spread, i.e., situations like SNP 26%, Labour 24%, LibDems 22%, Tories 20%, and it’s really problematic to have a winner who only got a quarter of the votes (which, if turn-out is bad, might mean that less than 15% of the constituents voted for the winning party).

I’d much rather have proper proportional representation – I’d prefer something like the Danish system, but the system used for electing the Scottish Parliament or STV would be OK, too.

However, this is probably the only chance we’ll get for decades to change the electoral system, and AV is definitely preferable to FPTP, so please vote Yes!

bookmark_borderEndelig forår



1st garden breakfast 2011
Originally uploaded by PhylB

Det er nu rart, når vinteren endelig siger helt farvel, og man kan sidde udenfor i solen og spise morgenmad uden overtøj på.

I år har vejret virkelig haft travlt i den sidste uge – det er præcist en uge siden, børnene byggede årets sidste snemand.

Nu gælder det så om at få smidt nogle frø i jorden – hvis det går som det sidste par år, slutter sommeren nok midt i august, så der er ingen tid at spilde!

bookmark_borderTekstredigering uden distraktioner

I de gode gamle dage, da jeg var næstformand (NF) i TÅGEKAMMERET, skulle jeg skrive løbesedler på næsten daglig basis. En sådan løbeseddel skulle normalt skrives på ét A6-ark på en skrivemaskine af mærket RemToR. Jeg sad ofte sent om aftenen på Kammeret, bare RemToR, mig og min Top.

Når man har stirret længe nok på et blankt stykke papir, og deadline nærmer sig, sker der ofte noget. Pludselig begynder ordene at flyde frit fra leveren, og man skriver noget, som man ikke havde planlagt, men som nogle gange forbløffer én selv, når man læser det senere.

Denne effekt er svær at opnå på en moderne computer. For det første kan man bruge uendelige mængder tid på at surfe og maile, men selv hvis man afbryder internetforbindelsen, er der jo hundredevis af programmer installeret på en normal computer, og hvis det ikke er nok, kan man jo bare selv skrive et til.

Selv hvis man klarer at begrænse sig til sit tekstredigeringsprogram – det være sig emacs, Open Office eller noget helt tredie – kan man også der spilde tiden på at redigere og formatere sin tekst uden egentlig at producere noget.

Så hvad skal man gøre? Nogle gange kan man godt blive fristet til at købe en RemToR og sætte sig ned i et tomt rum kun forsynet med en Ceres-øl og en stabel papir, men det er jo også lidt absurd ikke at drage fordel af moderne software, som jo også kan være en stor hjælp til tider.

Jeg er derfor begyndt at overveje, om det er værd at bruge et af de antidistraktionstekstredigeringsprogrammer, som findes. For eksempel er denne blogposting skrevet i PyRoom, som virker ganske udmærket. Jeg har kun tre kritikpunkter:

  • Selv om man ikke kan minimere vinduet, tillader min windowmanager mig at tabbe væk fra det; det ville være bedre, hvis man ikke kunne komme ud uden helt at afslutte programmet.
  • Der er ingen løbende markering af, hvor meget, man har skrevet. Jeg tror, det ville være psykologisk godt, hvis man fik at vide, hvor mange sider, man havde skrevet.
  • Det er desværre muligt at gå tilbage i teksten og redigere den. Det ville nok være bedre, hvis tekstredigeringer var begrænset til den sidste linie eller to.

Jeg ville blot ønske, at der også fandtes en måde at programmere uden distraktioner på, men det kan man nok ikke lave uden at forhindre en i at programmere frit.

bookmark_borderFolketællingssprogspørgsmålene



Gaelic Signs
Originally uploaded by Duncan Brown (Cradlehall)

Den 27. marts i år er der folketælling i Skotland. (Det er der også i resten af Storbritannien, men den skotske organiseres separat.)

Det er ti år siden, det skete sidst, og jeg har kun boet her i ni, så det er første gang, jeg prøver det, og jeg går nok lidt mere op i det end de fleste. 🙂

Der er tre sprogspørgsmål:

16. Which of these can you do?

English Scottish Gaelic Scots
Understand ? ? ?
Speak ? ? ?
Read ? ? ?
Write ? ? ?

or

? None of these

17. How well can you speak English?

Very well Well Not well Not at all
? ? ? ?

18. Do you use a language other than English at home?

? No, English only

? Yes, British Sign Language

? Yes, other – please write in: ?????????????????

Det bliver interessant om et par år at se, hvad folk svarede til spørgsmålet om scots, der stadig i høj grad bliver betragtet som en inferiør dialekt i mange kredse.

Jeg er også selv lidt i tvivl om, hvad jeg skal svare. Jeg kan forstå det (både i tale og skrift), men jeg er ikke god til at producere det. Jeg er dog bedre end de fleste englændere, der er flyttet hertil, og som ikke kan sige så meget som et enkelt ord på scots.

Det sidste spørgsmål bliver i øvrigt lidt svært at besvare: Vi skal på blot 17 tegn udtrykke, at vi taler engelsk, scots, dansk, fransk og tysk her i huset – det bliver ikke nemt!

bookmark_borderDutch roundabouts

When I was in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden last summer, my hotel was placed next to a huge roundabout. This gave me a great opportunity to observe how the Dutch have managed to make roundabouts that are safe for bikes – something which so far has been beyond most other countries.

Have a look at the picture on the right, and in particular at the bike (marked with an arrow).

The bike lane is red, and cars are warned with triangles to give way to any bikes. Also, there is a car length between the edge of the cars’ roundabout and the bike lane, so a car can leave the roundabout first and then look out for bikes.

All in all, it seems like an excellent solution. I wonder when we’ll see something similar here in Scotland?