Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The latest non-work-related items

Friday Fun: Frantic via the How-To Geek by Mysticgeek
Frantic may be a good adjective to describe how your work week was and it is the name of the game we look at this Friday to help take the edge off. Frantic is an old school space shooter type game that is a lot of fun.
NB: You may want to turn the sound off so the pointy-haired bosses don't catch you.
Play Frantic at the How-To Geek Arcade

Six Once-Forbidden Foods that Aren’t so Bad for Us
via Gimundo.com on 23/06/09Researchers have found that these foods are less sinful than we thought, and in some cases, can actually provide health benefits. Find out what makes these “bad” foods not so bad after all.

Friday fun via Science, Engineering & Technology Blog by Anne
As we reach the end of the first week of Wimbledon, find out more about the science behind the sport of tennis at the following sites:
Physics of tennis
Tennis sport science
Physics of ball spin in tennis, topspin and backspin
Racquet research

via Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate
Obsession can be genuinely agonizing and disruptive. It can also be highly valued in an artist, a lover, or a doctor... more

Friday Fun: Cargo Bridge via the How-To Geek by mysticgeek
  • You need to build a bridge between the valleys so the workers can finish their jobs. So the first thing to do is survey the terrain, move the mouse cursor to the left side of the screen to scroll further over.
  • Go back into design mode to start sketching your bridge design using wood blocks and connectors. Keep an eye on the funds in the bank while building.
  • During the design process you can go back and test the design with your workers.
    If the test doesn't work you can go back to the design board and start again.
  • A successful design allows you progress to more challenging levels and adds funds to the bank for better materials.
  • Progress is saved automatically which makes it easy to start where you left off.
  • There are a few setting you can change such as the image quality and sound.
Copyright © HowToGeek.com. All Rights Reserved.

Tetris: an excellent treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder? via Technology blog guardian.co.uk by Charles Arthur
Tetris is good for easing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), scientists have found. Yes, you read that correctly: the infuriating, mind-swallowing piece-twiddling row-building game actually has a medical value. The research, which was conducted at the department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, suggests using Tetris as a "cognitive vaccine" against flashbacks from traumatic events. It's published on the open-source science research Public Library of Science (PLoS) website.

via Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate
Setting achievements of Mesopotamia and Greece side by side is a useful exercise, says Roger Sandall. What do we learn from the comparison?... more

via Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate
The beauty, intelligence, grace, complexity, and wit that make Lolita a work of art deepen our well of compassion and sympathy, says Francine Prose, whether we like it or not... more

via Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate
Most of what scholars need for research these days is on the Internet. Oh yeah? So you're trying to trace a judicial duel held before the French King in 1386... more

via Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate
Is religion innate? Would children raised in isolation spontaneously create their own religious beliefs? Paul Bloom says yes.... more

Toward understanding the Middle East
via Doc Searls Weblog by Doc Searls on 5 February
I don't write much about war, mostly because I'd rather write about stuff I can do something about. As a young man I opposed the Vietnam war, wrote about it, protested against it. If I hadn't lucked into a medical deferment, I would have been a conscientious objector, like some of my good friends.
Stephen Lewis was a fellow student at the same Quaker college, a good friend and a fellow protestor. We met when we crashed the same Ku Klux Klan rally, near the ironically named Liberty, NC. I believe we even joined the same picket lines outside one of Ed Cone's family's textile plants. (I'm not sure if Ed was even born back then. We're talking about the '60s here.)
With A Gingerly Step Middle-East-Wards, Steve treads lightly on territory I've been reluctant to write about — but about which I've been glad to learn more. At that Steve helps a lot. The post is short, sobering, and linkful.
There are no easy answers. But we can improve on the questions. This post does that.

Hunch – a decision search engine that works

“Hunch works” according to Phil Bradley.

Trust me, Phil knows what he's talking about when it comes to information searching, finding and retrieval.

Read all about it here – and learn.

Equally prepared for life? How 15-year-old boys and girls perform in school

via OECD Directorate for Education

This book aims to provide important insights for policy makers reponsible for endorsing gender equity by exploring the educational performance and attitudes of 15-year-old girls and boys in reading, mathematics, problems solving and science.

Full details from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment

Monday, 29 June 2009

If someone is watching, I'll do what I'm asked: ...

... mandatoriness, control, and information security

an article by Scott R Boss (Bentley University), Laurie J Kirsch (University of Pittsburgh), Ingo Angermeier (Spartanburg Regional Medical Center), Raymond A Shingler (Spartanburg Regional Medical Center) and R Wayne Boss (University of Colorado at Boulder) in European Journal of Information Systems (2009)

An earlier version of this paper was presented in Montreal, Quebec, Canada at the International Conference on Information Systems, 2008


Information security has become increasingly important to organisations. Despite the prevalence of technical security measures, individual employees remain the key link – and frequently the weakest link – in corporate defences. When individuals choose to disregard security policies and procedures, the organisation is at risk. How, then, can organisations motivate their employees to follow security guidelines? Using an organisational control lens, we build a model to explain individual information security precaution-taking behaviour. Specific hypotheses are developed and tested using a field survey. We examine elements of control and introduce the concept of “mandatoriness”, which we define as the degree to which individuals perceive that compliance with existing security policies and procedures is compulsory or expected by organisational management. We find that the acts of specifying policies and evaluating behaviours are effective in convincing individuals that security policies are mandatory. The perception of mandatoriness is effective in motivating individuals to take security precautions, thus if individuals believe that management watches, they will comply.

Commission for Rural Communities

via Latest Internet resources added to Intute: Science Engineering and Technology

The Commission for Rural Communities was established in April 2005, and became an independent body in October 2006 following the enactment of the NERC Act. The Commission's “role is to provide well-informed, independent advice to government and ensure that policies reflect the real needs of people living and working in rural England, with a particular focus on tackling disadvantage”. Its three key functions are as rural advocate, expert adviser and independent watchdog for rural communities. It addresses issues such as housing, transport, access to services and rural economies through thematic studies, inquiries and evaluations. Users can also search the Rural Communities best practice database which shows how 5,000 communities have been tackling issues like social exclusion, road safety and access to health care. The website details the latest work of the Commission, gives access to news, events and blogs, and access to Reports of the Rural Advocate.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Now you know ...

... what I look like when not in "hair up, booted and suited" mode - which I do prefer as a reflection of the real me. (See profile since I'm not sure how to show the profile photo from a post).

I've put the same photo on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as well so that the world knows to whom it is speaking (if you want to, that is).

Big ideas: education

an article by Sandra McNally in CentrePiece - The Magazine for Economic Performance Number 279 (June 2009)

Sandra McNally surveys CEP evaluations of a wide range of school policies in the UK. Education is a key policy instrument for addressing unemployment, rising inequality and falling intergenerational mobility, the social problems that were the focus of the first three contributions to CEP's “big ideas” series. In the latest overview of the Centre’s research, Sandra McNally surveys evaluations of a wide range of school policies in the UK.

Full article: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/cp279.pdf

When e-learning is not enough: ...

... The importance of design and content in lifelong learning

an article by (author not named) in Development and Learning in Organizations Volume 23 Issue 4 (2009)


Reviews the latest management developments across the globe and pinpoints practical implications from cutting-edge research and case studies.

This briefing is prepared by an independent writer who adds their own impartial comments and places the articles in context.
Many human resources (HR) managers have for several years now adopted e-learning strategies to tackle the challenges of lifelong learning in their organizations. As with many new techniques, they sometimes tend to be focused on to the exclusion of everything else, especially when it involves the great firm's great panacea – the Internet.
Practical implications
Provides strategic insights and practical thinking that have influenced some of the world's leading organizations.
The briefing saves busy executives and researchers hours of reading time by selecting only the very best, most pertinent information and presenting it in a condensed and easy-to-digest format.

The changing pattern of earnings: employees, migrants and low-paid families

an article by Richard Dickens and Abigail McKnight in CentrePiece – The Magazine for Economic Performance Number 272 (March 2009)

Richard Dickens and Abigail McKnight explore changes in earnings inequality in Britain since the late 1970s.

Full article: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/cp272.pdf

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Britain's regional divide

an article by Henry G Overman in CentrePiece – The Magazine for Economic Performance Number 277 (Winter 2008/9)

Henry Overman considers the regional distribution of prosperity and the potential policy responses.

Full article (PDF 2pp)

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Have we learned nothing since 1994?

By “we” I don’t actually mean you and I but those, largely invisible, people, who set policy for – in this instance adult learning provision.

I had occasion today to look at a 1994 publication from the then Further Education Unit, Securing adequate provision for adult learners, (don’t ask why or I might just tell you!) The important thing about the framework developed to help areas determine whether they had adequate provision is that the need for such an instrument has never gone away. What has disappeared, however, are the community and voluntary learning services which provided many of the learning opportunities in the “uncertificated, don’t lead to a qualification” arena.

As a result, as many people are becoming all-too-aware, the provision of informal or uncertificated learning has all-but vanished in some parts of England.

Plus ça change and all that!

Friday, 19 June 2009

My approach to guidance? Well, it depends ...

via AGCAS News Feed

David Winter, Careers Adviser at the Careers Group, University of London, outlines his personal approach to guidance.

Read the full article

With my sincere apologies to David for having spent so long hanging on to this useful article instead of sharing it.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Redundant workers have “six month window” to find work

via NewBusiness.co.uk
Redundant workers have a six-month window to find work before the stigma of unemployment affects them, according to a new report by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM). With unemployment figures reaching a 12-year high those currently out of work will be alarmed by the findings of the survey, which revealed that 28% of employers are unlikely to hire someone that they consider to be long-term unemployed. “The research shows that it is important for job seekers to try and get back to work as quickly as possible. They should use their time not only job hunting but finding ways to put themselves in front of the competition,” said Penny de Valk, chief executive of ILM.

Read the full report (Bouncing Back: attitudes to unemployment) (PDF 14pp)

Now it's personal

Also this week an ippr report (Now It’s Personal: Personal advisers and the new public service workforce) revealed that frontline services provided by Jobcentre Plus, much trumpeted by government as new tailored services to get people back to work quickly, are badly stretched. ippr found that Jobcentre Plus Personal Advisers providing one-to-one support for jobseekers are doing almost twice as many interviews with benefit claimants since the beginning of the recession and almost half of advisers surveyed do not feel they have enough time to help people.

Following the publication of the report, ippr is holding a seminar this coming Tuesday June 23rd looking at the relationships between welfare to work providers and skills and training providers. To confirm your attendance, please email events@ippr.org or telephone 020 7470 6100.

Read about the event and read the report at the ippr website.

Hazel’s comment:
I’m sorry that I shan’t be able to get to London for the event but my quick glance at the report (6pp in the Exec Summary, 91pp full) shows that Jobcentre Plus staff are experiencing very similar problems as those of us in Jobcentres in the 70s experienced – too many people chasing too few jobs.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Understanding happiness: the distinction between living - and thinking about it

Latest articles from CentrePiece – The Magazine for Economic Performance – produced by the CEP by Daniel Kahneman on 9 June

CEPCP273. March 2009.
Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman discusses happiness as an indicator of social progress.

Full article:

Very interesting. Nothing else to say.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Coming Soon: Free Access to Over 3,000 e-Books for UK College Students

via ResourceShelf on 10 June

JISC has funded an e-books for Further Education (FE) project to make over 3,000 e-books freely available to every college and sixth form in the UK.
Over the next five years, the project, which also received funding from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), will enable all students in FE in the UK to access online course texts to support their studies.
E-books will be made available from the start of the next academic year via the ebrary e-books platform. Subjects will range from Fashion Design to Software Engineering, Health and Social Care to Automobile Electronics, and Beauty Therapy to Practical Lambing. Access will be available whether students are studying in the college, at home or in an Internet café.

See Also: UK National e-Book Survey (May 2008) (14 pages; PDF)

Source: JISC

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Friday Fun from the How-To Geek

As you may be aware I would normally add fun or trivia, and even serious but not work-related, items to the occasional emails which cover ten such items. Ten apparently being the optimal number for lists on blogs. Why I do not know but there it is.

However, this issue of Friday Fun (which I've been holding back from you for absolutely ages) contains a wealth of “time-wasting online games designed to keep you from getting anything useful done”. So, here in all it’s glory I present

GemCraft is a Totally Addictive Tower Defense Game
This is similar to Desktop Tower Defense but also has some very slight role playing elements to it.

Show Me the Game!
Once you start playing a game, you'll be presented a map with a path and a couple of towers. In each tower you can place a Gem, which will fire bolts of energy (or something) at the little creatures trying to get past. The goal, naturally, is to keep them from reaching the end.

Each one of the gems has a “grade” associated with it, and different gems have different powers, for instance the cyan gems will shock the enemies and make them pause in their tracks.

You can create new towers and new gems based on the Mana that you have available, but where this game gets really interesting is that you can combine the gems together to make new gems.

I've wasted at least 6 hours this week playing this game… and now I pass the productivity killer on to you.

Play GemCraft at Kongregate.com (Flash required)
Copyright © HowToGeek.com. All Rights Reserved.

For more fun games and office time killers check out Mysticgeek's archive of fun stuff, or try playing the geekiest game ever.

Related Posts:
Friday Fun: Five More Time Wasting Online Games
The Best Waste of Time Ever!
Friday Fun: Do You Remember Oregon Trail?
Weekend Fun: Easter Egg in Spybot Search & Destroy

Hazel’s comment:
I haven't dared to start this as I have quite enough time-wasters in my repertoire as it is! However, Mr E tries all of these and … “When is the washing-up going to get done, dear?”

Monday, 8 June 2009

Easier word processing for someone with aphasia

Jack Schofield, the technology expert at The Guardian was asked about alternatives to using Open Office's predictive text for someone who has acquired asphasia after having a stroke.

There are several programs that are designed for people with physical impairments or severe dyslexia that should be more useful than Open Office's predictive text or Microsoft Office's AutoComplete.

Two that are often used in British schools are Don Johnston's Co:Writer, £149 and Penfriend Ltd's Penfriend, £90. Penfriend will predict the next word and offer a menu selection without the user typing even one letter.

Another option is VK TypeHelp, described as an “adaptive predictive typing assistant”. I would look at Co:Writer first as it is the one listed on the Aphasia Now website.

Otherwise, I would suggest contacting a local aphasia self-help group and finding out what they recommend. Speakability may be able to put you in touch with one (email speakability@speakability.org.uk or you can call free on 080 8808 9572).

Hazel’s comment
Very useful, and not just for asphasia but for anyone who has difficulty with words.