Wednesday, 31 August 2011

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Samuel Johnson derided slang as "fugitive cant" unworthy of preservation, but the low idiom of thieves and beggars has evolved into a highbrow linguistic tradition... more

I don’t normally post whole journal abstracts in the “trivia” posts but this interesting piece didn't seem to fit in elsewhere. Maybe this series is becoming my “dumping ground”
Visualizing Keyboard Pattern Passwords
an article by D. Schweitzer, J. Boleng, C. Hughes and L. Murphy published in Information Visualization (Volume 10 Number 2 (April 2011))
Passwords are fundamental security vulnerabilities in many systems. Several researchers have investigated the trade-off between password memorability versus resiliency to cracking and have looked at alternative systems such as graphical passwords and biometrics. To create stronger passwords, many systems enforce rules regarding the required length and types of characters passwords must contain. Another suggested approach is to use pass-phrases to combat dictionary attacks. One common “trick” used to remember passwords that conform to complex rules is to select a pattern of keys on the keyboard. Although appearing random, the pattern is easy to remember. The purpose of this research was to investigate how often patterns are used, whether patterns could be classified into common categories, and whether those categories could be used to attack and defeat pattern-based passwords. Visualization techniques were used to collect data and assist in pattern categorization. The approach successfully identified 2 out of 11 passwords in a real-world password file that were not discovered with a traditional dictionary attack. This article will present the approach used to collect and categorize patterns, and describe the resulting attack method that successfully identified passwords in a live system.
I have used, for most of my passwords, a combination of the initials of relatives combined with dates of birth, death or significant anniversaries. For example, Emma Lucy Sims would yield a password of e15l04s81. The name and the year of birth are accurate for my grandmother – that would be 1881 of course.

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What has the iPod wrought? Earbudded into isolation, merrily ensconced in our own expertly curated soundtrack, who any longer has a serendipitous interaction? The future belongs to solipsism...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
With his prodigious talent, parents who loved him to bits, and a piano teacher named Marietta Clinkscales, Duke Ellington could only succeed...more

The Psychological Effects of Pornography via Big Think by Big Think Editors
What’s the Latest Development? In a 2009 study conducted at Utah State University, psychologist Michael Twohig asked 299 undergraduate students whether they considered their pornography consumption problematic; for example, causing intrusive sexual thoughts or difficulty finding like-minded sex ... Read More

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Historians, please note. If ever there existed a scientific theory that is fundamentally historical, that explains change over time, it is Darwin’s evolution by natural selection...more

WarpShot via How-To Geek
A fun physics-based game where you need to use gravity and warp through portals to beat each level by par.
Play WarpShot at Armor Games (Turn off the sound unless you like the seriously annoying, repetitive thump of the arcade.)

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The Michelson-Morley experiment opened the universe to Einstein. What's more, Albert Michelson was a dab hand at pool. Norman MacLean recalls...more

Evolution of the Equine via Britannica Blog by Britannica Editors
The equines we know today are descended from the first horse, the “dawn horse”.
Members of the Equidae family have roamed Earth’s forests and plains for some 54 million years. The first horse was the tiny, hoofed Hyracotherium, or Eohippus, the “dawn horse”, which inhabited landmasses in the Northern Hemisphere and measured a mere foot or so in height and two feet in length. After Hyracotherium, there came a succession of genera—from Orohippus to Miohippus to Merychippus. During the Late Miocene Epoch (11.6 million to 5.3 million years ago), Merychippus diverged into different evolutionary lines, one of which ultimately gave rise to Equus. All modern equines – horses, zebras, and asses – belong to the genus Equus.
And the pictures are, as always with Britannica, stunning!

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
You know that Shakespeare was a word-coining genius who revolutionized the language – and the world. Did you know that he’s also responsible for the scourge of starlings in America?...more

Monday, 29 August 2011

Working conditions of nationals with a foreign background

a report from EWCO (European Working Conditions Observatory) by Miet Lamberts and Fernando Pauwels (ID: TN1012015S)

This report presents an overview of the employment and working conditions of nationals with a foreign background (NFB) and nationals with a different ethnic affiliation (NEA) based on reports from national correspondents. It highlights the scarcity of relevant data on these groups in EU countries and the different interpretation of EU legislation in debates across the EU27 on ethnic data collection. The picture painted of the work quality of NFB/NEA is not straightforward as, although the prevalence of precarious work is sometimes higher in this group, non-nationals are often worse off. There are large differences in the labour market participation of NFB/NEA between EU countries. Apart from foreign background, other factors such as gender, ethnic origin and skills play a role. Nevertheless, stereotyping and discrimination are mentioned as an important determinant in at least 14 countries. Many EU countries still have a lot to learn about tackling work-related discrimination complaints.

The study was compiled on the basis of individual national reports submitted by the EWCO correspondents. The text of each of these national reports is available below. The reports have not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The national reports were drawn up in response to a questionnaire and should be read in conjunction with it.

Comparative study (appears to be HTML only – believe me, I’ve tried to find a PDF)

Contributing articles (27 of them) accessible here

UK here

Quality of life in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods

a report from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions

by Rhys Davies and Clair Wilkins (Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods, Cardiff University), Eric Harrison and Elissa Sibley (Centre for Comparative Social Surveys, City University) and David Owen (Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick)

Executive Summary


Many European countries have experienced a high level of immigration from all parts of the world in the past two decades and the population of visible minority ethnic groups has grown rapidly. Neighbourhoods with a high percentage of minority ethnic groups are expected to be relatively disadvantaged in social and economic# terms. The in-movement of an economically disadvantaged population will itself change the social character of a neighbourhood, increasing the average level of social exclusion and deprivation.

This report presents the results of a research programme that analyses the quality of life in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in EU15 countries (Member States before the 2004/7 accession) based on the 2007 European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS). The focus of the analysis is on the comparative situation of neighbourhoods in which respondents to the EQLS state that the share of the population from racial or ethnic groups different from the majority population is relatively high (‘high- diversity neighbourhoods’). The analysis concentrates on the EU15 aggregate and 10 selected countries within it. The selection of these countries was pragmatic and reflects the available sample size within the EQLS of respondents who report that they live in these areas. A large majority of the respondents who report that they live in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods are native to their host country, as are their parents. Hence, this report does not provide a detailed picture of the lives of ethnic minorities.

Full paper (PDF 89pp)

Vocational education and training is good for you: …

The social benefits of VET for individuals

Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) Research Paper No 17

The Executive Summary is four pages long so I’ve chosen to pick the Foreword for you.


The Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth, foresees increasing people’s knowledge, skills and competences as one of the main growth engines to propel Europe out of the present deep economic crisis.

Vocational education and training (VET) plays a central role in Europe’s response to the unparalleled socioeconomic and technological challenges facing it. VET systems have to endow workers with the right mix of skills and competences, as preventing skill shortages will enable Europe to achieve its full growth potential.

To fulfil their role, VET providing institutions will have to reach out to workers and learners of all ages and social backgrounds. The Bruges communiqué recognises that a new impetus for VET in Europe is needed and that a key strategic objective lies in improving the quality and efficiency of VET as well as its attractiveness and relevance to learners.

The magnitude of the economic and social returns associated with it is an important determinant of attractiveness of VET. While there is extensive evidence on the economic returns on education, only a small, but distinguished, set of findings exists on the social returns. Very little is known about the social and economic returns associated specifically with VET.

The present study is part of a wider research effort by Cedefop to fill this knowledge gap. Over the past four years, Cedefop has investigated the social and economic returns on VET for economic systems, workplaces and individuals. This report complements Cedefop’s findings on the economic benefit of VET accruing to individuals, by focusing on wider social benefits such as health, civic participation, and satisfaction with job and income.

This report provides evidence of positive social outcomes generated by VET in terms of increased civic participation and improved health, and that workers in their early career can experience strong positive returns from VET participation. National institutional set-ups are, however, identified as key mediating factors for the realisation of social benefits of VET, i.e. the nature of the social benefits of VET will change depending on the type of system and, hence, according to country. Comparing the social outcomes of continuing vocational training with other types of adult learning (of a general nature) demonstrates that all forms of continuing education and training generate positive social outcomes for individuals and that these are of the same nature and magnitude whatever the type of adult learning.

I trust this research paper, and Cedefop’s work on VET benefits, will help policy-makers in continuing to make the case for increasing the attractiveness of VET among learners of all ages and demonstrating that VET is a crucial pillar of European productivity growth and social cohesion.

Christian F. Lettmayr
Acting Director of Cedefop

Full paper (PDF 116pp)

Despite the length of this paper I believe that it is worth reading in full. If you really can't face that then do, please, read the Executive Summary.

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

Going, Going, And Gone?: No, The Oxford Comma Is Safe … For Now
from NPR via Library Link of the Day
Read all of Linda Holmes's article

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
For Tolstoy, love is a great existential drama. To be mean and generous, depraved and decent, loving and murderous, not by turns but all at once – that is the true burden of our existence...more

World’s oldest protractor? via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
This object was found more than a century ago in an Egyptian tomb belonging to an ancient architect who lived around 1400 BCE. In the Turin museum where it's displayed, the artifact is identified as a decorative case for a balancing scale. However, physicist Amelia Sparavigna thinks it may be the oldest surviving protractor. From New Scientist

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“Never again” has never been more than an empty promise, and there's no reason to believe it will ever be otherwise. So suppose genocide isn't preventable. Then what?...more

The Largest Ocean in the Universe via Big Think by Daniel Honan
What’s the Big Idea? The word “ocean” doesn’t quite do it justice. Two teams of astronomers have discovered an enormous reservoir of water in space that contains 140 trillion times the amount of water in all the Earth’s oceans combined. This reservoir is inside a quasar over 12 billion light years ... Read More

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The Greatest Generation lived through the Depression. Then came the Boomers, obsessed with themselves. But what about those born in between, during the war?...more
According to this report in The Chronicle of Higher Education we are “the peculioar generation”. I always knew there was something odd about me but peculiar? No thank you.

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Aging and innovation. We spend billions to live longer, yet give little thought to how to live longer, better. Here comes the silver tsunami...more
MIT has invented a suit which allows young people to imitate and appreciate the physical capabilities of older people. Incredible!

5 places in your home that are breeding superbugs
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Your daily dose of paranoia: Mara Grunbaum on the 5 places in your home that are breeding superbugs
There's some serious besorgniserregend going on in this article. You'll walk away feeling both educated and with an intense need to wash your hands.

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Benjamin Franklin thought it an abominable practice, our incessant verbing of nouns. But we can’t help ourselves: Texting, friending, parenting, bookmarking...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Population density of Mumbai slums: one million people per square mile. What can slum and squatter life tell us about the future of the planet?...more

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The impact of a time-limited, targeted in-work benefit in the medium-term:…

an evaluation of in work credit

IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies) Working Paper W11/14 by Mike Brewer (Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex and IFS), James Browne and Haroon Chowdry (IFS) and Claire Crawford (Institute of Education, University of London and IFS)


Conventional in-work benefits or tax credits are now well established as a policy instrument for increasing labour supply and tackling poverty. A different sort of in-work credit is one where the payments are time-limited, conditional on previous receipt of welfare, and, perhaps, not means-tested. Such a design is cheaper, and perhaps better targeted, but potentially less effective. Using administrative data, this paper evaluates one such policy for lone parents in the UK which was piloted in around one third of the country. It finds that the policy did increase flows off welfare and into work, and that these positive effects did not diminish after recipients reached the 12 month time-limit for receiving the supplement. Most of the impact arose by speeding up welfare off-flows: the job retention of programme recipients was good, but this cannot be attributed to the programme itself.

This paper is based on research commissioned by the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Full text (PDF 39pp)

Launch conference of PARES - Partnership between Employment Services

PARES - Partnership between Employment Services will be launched on 28-29 September in Brussels. The initiative will encourage dialogue at EU-level between employment services.

The conference aims to launch a discussion between public, private, third sector employment services as well as service providers in voluntary and community sectors on the PARES agenda and deliverables.

Current models of cooperation and partnership between employment services will be presented with case studies to:

  • design a starting and factual picture for future actions within PARES;
  • identify challenges and potential cooperation in areas of common interest; and
  • define fields for complementary services.

The launch conference is the first step of the wider “PARES – Strategic Dialogue”, which includes a set of more restricted dialogue events and a dissemination conference in 2012.

Participation is by invitation only.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Does unemployment cause return migration? …

a summary of the effects of labour market dynamics on return migration from the Netherlands published in NORFACE MIGRATION Discussion Paper No. 2011-7

To what extent does unemployment affect the decisions of migrants to return to their home

Does unemployment lead immigrants to departure?

Does re-employment increase the chance of immigrants to stay? How does the effect vary by the duration of unemployment and re-employment spell?

Key Points
    • The majority of recent labour immigration to the Netherlands is temporary. • British immigrants are the largest recent labour immigrant group in the Netherlands. • Across all labour immigrant groups, unemployment shortens the migration duration. • Becoming employed after a spell of unemployment delays return migration for all migrants except for those from the new EU countries (mainly Poland). • Length of unemployment has a substantial effect on the return decision, while the effect of immigrant characteristics is relatively small.
Read ESRC Centre for Population Change - Briefing 1 - June 2011 (PDF 4pp)

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
If science is systematic skepticism writ large, doesn't it follow that a scientific cast of mind requires us to be sceptical of science itself?...more

All About Phone Numbers via Stephen’s Lighthouse
10 Fascinating Facts About Phone Numbers
via Mashable! by Amy-Mae Elliott
Fascinating is exactly the right word!

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Roger Bannister proved that athletic barriers are figments of our imagination. Except when they aren’t. Has athletic performance peaked?...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What makes a psychopath? It might in part be a deep, hard-wired inability to recognize the nature of a social contract...more

Do worms that eat books actually exist?
Read Richard Davies's blog post from Abe Books and find out as much as he knows – and why he wanted to find out.

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“This war is trivial,” said Bertrand Russell in 1918. “No great principle is at stake, no great human purpose is involved.” Jailed, he joined the largest group of political prisoners ever in a Western democracy...more

Get chased by zombies in Google Streetview! via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Mike Lacher’s Streetview Zombie Apocalypse is a great Google Streetview mashup: enter your location and then watch (and flee) as zombies converge upon you from all directions. I managed to get about 10 blocks from my flat before they caught me. It was surprisingly intense! Streetview Zombie Apocalypse (Thanks, Mope, via Submitterator!)
I didn’t even get round the corner let alone 10 blocks away – surprising difficult – and addictive!

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Few tyrannies will be tweeted out of power. But over years and decades, social media will enhance democracy. Be patient, urges Clay Shirky...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“Will language have the same depth and richness in electronic form that it can reach on the printed page?” Don DeLillo asks, “Does poetry need paper?”...more
Does poetry need paper? YES, of course it does. Of all the literary styles I personally think that those black splodges printed on a piece of flattened and bleached wood pulp are needed by poetry the most. I can't begin to think about Wordsworth or Keats on an e-reader.

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In January, 1917, Lenin described a Communist uprising in the near future as exceedingly unlikely. Let's face it: Revolutions are hard to predict...more

Friday, 26 August 2011

Do Androids Dream of Stealing Your Job?

a short item by Megan Erickson published in The Big Think’s ThankTank series

The word robot comes from an old Slavic word meaning to work – which may be more apt now than in the 1920’s, when it was first used in a play about mass-produced labourers overthrowing humans. In the near future, robots will be our fiercest competitors in the workplace, says Dr Michio Kaku, the theoretical physicist.


As interesting as the original item is you need, if you are to understand the topic thoroughly, to read the debate which ensues in the comments.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Earnings returns to the British education expansion

UCD Centre for Economic Research working paper series WP11/11

by Paul J Devereux and Wen Fan


We study the effects of the large expansion in British educational attainment that took place for cohorts born between 1970 and 1975. Using the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, we find that the expansion caused men to increase education by about a year on average and gain about 8% higher wages; women obtained a slightly greater increase in education and a similar increase in wages. Clearly, there was a sizeable gain from being born late enough to take advantage of the greater educational opportunities offered by the expansion. Treating the expansion as an exogenous increase in educational attainment, we obtain instrumental variables estimates of returns to schooling of about 6% for both men and women.

Full paper (PDF 39pp)

Published by University College Dublin in June 2011
NOTE: I cannot find an ISBN for this

Satisfying labour demand through migration

This Synthesis Report from the European Migration Network summarises the main findings of the National Reports for the EMN Study on Satisfying Labour Demand through Migration undertaken by EMN National Contact Points from 23 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom).

The overall purpose of this study was to identify those sectors experiencing shortages in the Member States, to outline the national strategies for addressing labour market needs with third-country national migrant workers and to gain an understanding of the perceived effectiveness of these strategies, including examining the impact of the recent economic downturn and recovery on them. The study covers the period from 2004 up to end of 2010 with statistics provided up to the end of 2009.

The Synthesis Report (PDF 115pp) is here whilst the National Reports upon which the synthesis is based, are available from under “EMN Studies”.
Several of the National Reports are available in the Member States’ national language, as well as in English.
[So said the press release but either I’m being thick or … but I could not find the National Reports]

Working from home? Wonderful? Not always

You may, or possibly may not, have noticed that the only posts over the last few days have been my non-work-related ones all of which are post-dated (I'm up to 14 September at the moment).

It's not just the "oh shit, it's raining I must bring the washing in" but the realisation when I go into the garden that the dogs have been out there and, besides the normal clearing up, I must rescue the tomato plant that Sion has jumped on to try and reach the cat on the shed roof . That done, of course I then have to side-shoot all twelve plants so that there is some hope of real red tomatoes in the next couple of weeks.

Hang about, wasn't there something I was supposed to be doing?

Ah yes, it's called “finding items of interest for careers practitioners” and then not leaving said items languishing in my drafts folder but actually formatting into a post and publishing the damn thing!

Must go – both dogs are demanding to be walked.

Procrastination? Who? Me? Surely not!

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Yes, the Chicago Manual of Style trudges through each new edition, workhorse that it is. But even in the new 16th, it remains a poet. Even a dancer...more

Friday Fun: Battleship – General Quarters via the How-To Geek by Asian Angel
Take command of a naval fleet and go into battle with Battleship – General Quarters.
Note: Depending on your office environment you may or may not want to disable the sound for this game. It comes with explosion and alarm sounds.
The instructions on the game are minimal so I suggest reading Asian Angel's run-through first.
Play Battleship – General Quarters

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Fat Kat had a knack for guns, drugs, and gangs; also, it turned out, for being a prison librarian. He helped fellow inmates connect to the world...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Boredom is often quite exquisite. To be sure, it can be a sad affair, and it's related to emptiness, but in a perfectly enjoyable way...more

Save a Library, Save Democracy via Big Think by Austin Allen
Earlier this summer I was feeling down in the dumps about libraries. I was spending the month of June in Flushing, Queens, a melting-pot neighbourhood where the local library bustles with patrons of all ages. Unfortunately, like much of the Queens Library system, the Flushing branch had been ... Read More

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Why even bother with Charles Dickens, a vain actor-manager type who used pathetic victims as tear-jerking raw material for his novels? Why, indeed...more

Barbie and Bratz: the feud continues
from WIPO Magazine July 2011
Since 1959, Barbie has been the queen of the fashion-doll market. She even has close to two million friends on Facebook. However, in 2001, Bratz fashion-dolls entered the market, and their funky, trendy attitudes led them to quick success. Within five years Barbie had a formidable competitor in Bratz dolls (“The Girls with a Passion for Fashion!”) which had captured about 40 percent of the market. Barbie manufacturer Mattel responded by suing MGA Entertainment (creator of Bratz), and the two California-based companies have been locked in battle ever since. The reason? An employment agreement that was ambiguous about intellectual property (IP) rights.
Read the rest of the article

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Albert Gonzalez's gift for deception made him one of the most valuable cybercrime informants the U.S. government has ever had...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
From Missouri to Florida, more than 70 caves feature mysterious drawings thousands of years old. What do they mean?...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Henry Fowler did not waffle: there are right ways and wrong ways to use words. A new edition of his classic guide takes us back to the original Fowler's...more
I debated with myself for some time about including this as it is now 18 months since it was published but for those of you interested in the correct use of the English language there was nothing better than the 1965 revision of Fowler's – and now there is!!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Qualitative Research into Enhanced Jobseeker’s Allowance Provision for the 50+

DWP examines the experience of unemployment for older jobseekers (DWP Research Report 766) by Andrew Thomas and Alison Pemberton (Insite Research & Consulting)

Unemployed people over 50 face particular challenges in the labour market. They generally take longer to get back to work and are at greater risk of drifting into long-term unemployment or prolonged economic inactivity.

Additional support was introduced from April 2010 for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants aged over 50 years of age. The policy aim was to help and support older jobseekers to return to work. Enhanced training for Jobcentre Plus Personal Advisers was introduced at the same time to support the changes.

The research suggests that older newly redundant claimants have a number of key barriers to work that stem from having long work histories e.g. the lack of a CV, lack of job application experience and lack of familiarity with the modern labour market and with online job application procedures.

Older jobseekers prefer one-to-one provision with Personal Advisers. Work Trials are seen as effective in helping older claimants show their employability. Flexibility in the timing of employment support interventions was seen as crucial in meeting the needs of older claimants.

The Work Programme was launched in June 2011 to help long-term unemployed people return to work through personalised support.

Jobcentre Plus will continue to support claimants early in their benefit claim. From April 2011 advisers have had greater flexibility to address the needs of individuals and respond to the local labour market more effectively.

DWP has worked with Jobcentre Plus to build on these research findings to enhance training for personal advisers to ensure that employment programmes achieve the best possible outcomes for older jobseekers.

Full report (PDF 81pp)

ISBN: 9-781-90852-304-4

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Widening Participation in Higher Education: …

 Analysis of progression rates for young people in England by free school meal receipt and school type

BIS publication URN 11/1082 (an official statistics release)


This Official Statistics Release provides the latest information on the estimated number of 15-year-olds in receipt of Free School Meals (FSM) who progress to Higher Education (HE) by age 19 by 2008/09. The information is presented at national and local authority level. Further data is also provided on the number of young people taking A-levels or equivalent qualifications who progress to the most selective institutions by school type.

This release replaces the previous Widening Participation release Full-time Young Participation by Socio-Economic Class (FYPSEC):2010 update published in July 2010. In this release, receipt of FSM is used as the measure of disadvantage and replaces the previous measure based on socio-economic classification. The context for these changes is reflected in the Background.

The FSM and school type/selective institution measures are intended to contribute to the understanding of widening participation issues as part of a range of measures, which have different strengths and limitations. Annex D provides information on some of the other measures available. We aim to further develop the measures contained in this publication over time.

Full document (PDF 24pp)

Almost complete recovery for EU-27 trade in 2010

via Eurostat Statistics in focus Issue number 39/2011

The sum of EU-27 imports and exports to countries outside the EU rose by almost one quarter between 2009 and 2010.

Exports recovered to a higher level than seen in 2008, while imports rose by more than exports, leading to an increase in the overall trade deficit of over EUR billion 43. EU-27 remained the largest player in the world in trade in goods in 2009, the latest year for which comparable data are available.

EU-27’s exports of goods to the United States rose by less than the overall average, but this nevertheless remained by far the most important destination. However, exports to China rose by over one third between 2009 and 2010, making this the second largest trading partner for EU-27 exports for the first time.

China remained the largest source of EU-27 imports in 2010, recording a rise of 32% since 2009. In contrast, EU-27 imports from the United States rose by only 6%, though this still remained the second largest source of EU-27 imports. EU-27 exports of machinery and vehicles rose by a quarter in 2010, making up 42% of exports.

The largest percentage rises in exports were in raw materials and energy products, both of which rose by well over 30%. Imports to the EU-27 of machinery and vehicles and of energy products both rose by over a quarter, accounting together for more than 60% of the overall rise in EU27 imports. While most member states recorded increases in total trade in 2010, Ireland and Luxembourg both recorded falls in imports.

Full details (PDF 8pp) with clear graphs and charts to make the understanding easier (remember, I’m the visual learner!)

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
We Boy Scouts were black, white, thin, fat, rich and poor, and united in being geeks. We rather disliked our uniforms, says Paul Theroux...more

The object of this game is to embark on a reign of destruction as you and destroy a series of castles, get the treasure, and free prisoners along the way.
Play Sieger
An understanding of stresses involved in wooden building bricks seems to be useful in achieving a high score. And, please, allow yourself plenty of time before you embark on this!

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“When you say banker, a lot of people think Jewish.” So what if they do? What if people are a just little prejudiced about Jewish bankers?...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The fifth blow ripped open the back of his head, forcing fragments of skull into his brain. He was dead. The violence, however, went on...more
I broke Rule Number One on this story. Rule Number One says “Thou shalt not spend longer on reading a story than is required to determine its inclusion or rejection”
A good ten-minutes, with a cup of coffee, had passed before I came to and realised that I’d got to the end of not only the story of Towton but the background to the War of the Roses.

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Georgian poet Titsian Tabidze wanted to use his avant-garde art to transform the Russian Revolution. For his pains, he was murdered...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
When the economy was about making material things, economics looked like physics. Today it’s more about ideas, and economics looks like psychology...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
We are known by the trail of 0's and 1's we leave in our wake. Who owns that information? Is sharing it - creating a data commons - a civic duty?...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Privacy is passé – if not dead. Confessional tweets, narcissistic status updates: We are the Wikileakers of our own lives...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Can science explain the soul? Well, a preternaturally self-assured scientist like Nicholas Humphrey can try...more

Hippity Hop, it’s National Rabbit Week!
via Britannica Blog by Britannica Editors
Yes, you did read that correctly. The week of 18 July in the US is “intended to promote responsible rabbit ownership and to honor the adorableness of our long-eared furry friends”. I must admit that the pictures are stunning (as always) even though one of them is of a hare! And the reading suggestions are useful reminders.
Read it for yourself

Sunday, 21 August 2011

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Graham Greene’s fearless travels in west Africa made his reputation as a literary explorer. But were his intrepid cousin, Barbara Greene, not at his side...more

New Evidence: Apparently, Castration Has Its Drawbacks
via Big Think by David Berreby
Carlo Maria Broschi, better known as Farinelli, was one of the most celebrated opera singers of all time, and the 18th century equivalent of a rock star (“One God and one Farinelli,” one lady cried out after he'd finished an aria). Handel courted him for years. Mozart sought him out.
Read more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Casanova made prodigious use of English frock coats, the "little preventive bag invented by the English to save the fair sex from anxiety"...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Conservatives love war, as long as it remains sublime in Edmund Burke’s sense, with the aura and mystery of violence, pain, and death held at a distance. Corey Robin explains...more

Joy Words via How-To Geek by Asian Angel
The object of the game is to create as many words as possible using a given set of letters. You will only have two and half minutes per round, so think fast!
Play Joy Words (allow plenty of time – not as addictive as some but …)
And while I’m talking about word games you are still playing, the site that gives away grains of rice for each correct answer, aren’t you?
If you haven’t played for a while then note that there are now many more categories available to you – I just failed miserably to identify Moldovia as a blob on the map of Europe (got Mongolia correct, though)!

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
English may well be one of the biggest, most imaginative and attractive languages on the planet, but people just won't leave it alone...more
Book review is 18 months old but still worth reading!

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Youth genres - action, raunchy comedies, comic-book adaptations - have completely colonized Hollywood. How did this happen? Two words: Top Gun...more

Machu Picchu: The Incan Fortress in the Andes via Britannica dot com daily blog (better than a casual browse through the paper version!!)
High in Peru’s Andes Mountains, at an elevation of 7,710 feet (2,350 meters), Machu Picchu – the site of ancient Incan ruins – lay hidden away, known only to local residents, for centuries. That was, until July 24, 1911, when Yale University professor Hiram Bingham was led to the site by a local. In search of the “lost city of the Incas” (Vilcabamba, or Vilcapampa), Bingham was sure he had found it when he stepped foot into the narrow saddle between Machu Picchu (“Old Peak”) and Huayna Picchu (“New Peak”).

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The deep future for humans looks grim. Only .01 percent of species that ever existed still do so. You think we're special?...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Banele Shabangu is scared. Rightfully so: A man in a mask is about to stick a needle into the base of his penis. Can circumcision save Swaziland?...more

Friday, 19 August 2011

Workplace Bullying: How Not to Get Involved

via Blog by Andrew G Rosen

One would assume childish bullying is left on the playground, abandoned as people develop into mature adults. However, adults are carrying this harassing activity into their professions, which can have devastating effects on the workplace. In fact, in its 2010 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35% of workers have experienced workplace bullying with an additional 15% of workers reporting witnessing bullying in the workplace.

With workplace bullying [links to another blog post] so prevalent, can you pinpoint its signs? Further, are you aware of the appropriate actions to take if you witness it happening to a co-worker? The following are tips for recognizing bullying behaviors and your options for stopping the harassment.

Read in full and remember that, although the advice is provided with reference to US workplaces, the behaviour is not confined to the USA.

Directgov has some advice, has does the TUC.

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Grief is a lonely yet enticing place. Burrow in too far, however, and sorrow becomes all you know. Write about it and risk being branded a solipsist...more

Soda bottles become electricity-less “light bulbs” for the poor
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
In many of the world’s poor neighborhoods, homes are built out of whatever materials people can get their hands on, often without windows or electricity. That means the buildings are awfully dark during the day, reducing quality of life, safety, and productivity.
But the situation can be improved with only a used soda bottle, some water, and some bleach. Check out this clever solution, developed by MIT and distributed by the Liter of Light project.
Via Grist
Video Link

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In fairy tales, good triumphs over evil., but in ways we may find quite vexing. Look at the Brothers Grimm with Snow White vs. how Disney ends it...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Having kids - what’s in it for me? The economics of happiness, nature and nurture has an answer: Parents’ sacrifice is much smaller than it looks...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Of the 6,500 languages in the world, half are expected to die out by the end of this century. The race is on to collect and record...more

via Marcus P Zillman: Internet Happenings, Events and Sources
Leafsnap: An Electronic Field Guide
Leafsnap is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This free mobile app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves. Leafsnap contains beautiful high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark. Leafsnap currently includes the trees of New York City and Washington, DC, and will soon grow to include the trees of the entire continental United States.
OK, this is not going to be a really useful application for the majority of my readers who are all based in the UK – but surely some of the information will be the same.
And it’s free which is a price we like, is it not?

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Odyssey, the most magnificent travel record of all time, is about one man’s courage, cunning, and will to prevail, with or without help from the gods. It is also about wisdom...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Researchers in Siberia have managed to breed foxes as tame as dogs. It's a feat that might unlock the genetics of violent behavior...more
A truly intriguing story.

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Why is Galileo portrayed as a stony rationalist when it was his engagement with the arts - The Divine Comedy in particular - that inspired him?...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The printing press was not at first used to make books. Rather, almanacs, calendars, municipal orders, indulgence certificates...more

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Increase in the number of copyright offenders prosecuted, report says

via OUT-LAW News
The number of individuals found guilty of violating UK copyright laws has increased, according to a report into intellectual property (IP) crime.

Read OUT-LAW’s take on the issue,

Will It Take a Crisis to Fix Fiscal Policy?

an article by Rudolph G Penner published in Business Economics (Volume 46 Number 2 (April 2011))


The U.S. national debt is on a trajectory to reach 185 percent of gross domestic product by 2035 unless there is a drastic change in federal fiscal policy. The main drivers of this situation are Social Security and health care programs, whose growth is amplified by an ageing population and increasing medical costs, a dysfunctional Congress and an unwillingness to tackle the increasing burden of Social Security and the medical programs. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and the Bipartisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force have produced thoughtful and sound plans for debt reduction but have produced little political traction. Reluctance to come to grips to the U.S. federal debt problem has increased the risks of a sovereign debt crisis, and the paper spells out potential responses, should one occur. Given the obstacles to a major overhaul of fiscal policy, it is difficult to see how it will be avoided.

Hazel’s comment:
I don’t pretend to understand fiscal policy nor the whole business of sovereign debt. I do know, however, that if my personal indebtedness was 185% of my earnings then I would be in trouble, big trouble. And presumably my indebtedness would be rising because I am, by now, unable to meet even the most basic of interest payments on what I owe.

Employers’ perceptions of the employability skills of new graduates

Research commissioned by the Edge Foundation and undertaken by Kevin Lowden, Stuart Hall, Dr Dely Elliot and Jon Lewin (SCRE Centre at the University of Glasgow) identifies those skills and attributes that are valued by employers seeking to recruit new graduates.

Rather than try to précis the report of this research (long-term readers will know that I do not rate my skill in this regard) I bring you the introduction and urge you to read the full report (PDF 42pp).


This report provides the findings of a study of employers’ perceptions of the employability skills of new graduates conducted by the SCRE Centre. The research was funded by the Edge Foundation.
Main data collection began in 2009 and was completed in October 2010.

The report first highlights key themes in the literature on graduate employability with particular reference to understanding what graduate employability is and goes on to explore whether Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are addressing employability and the perceived needs of employers in their provision.

The report then draws on the qualitative strand of the research to explore the views of groups representing employers, HEIs and recruitment organisations, employers, graduates and students concerning graduate employability. In particular, the research highlights what they believe promotes graduate employability and their own experiences in this process. The final part of the qualitative findings considers the views of those HEI representatives associated with the case studies.

The report suggests that despite UK policy stressing HEIs’ contribution to graduate employability and the existence of examples of good practice in employer-HEI partnerships, there are still considerable tensions and barriers facing this process. The report concludes by examining some of the ways employers and HEIs can better work together to promote graduate employability.

Warehousing programs deliver for Morrisons: …

and support supermarket’s “can do” culture

an article published in Human Resource Management International Digest (Volume 19 Issue 5 (2011))


Describes two award-winning training programs for warehouse employees at UK supermarket Morrisons.
Explains the reasons for the programs, the form they took and the results they have achieved.
Details how Morrisons trained 800 new staff in six months with the skills to operate a large new warehouse designed to deliver fresh produce to up to 65 supermarkets in Southern England. Also describes how Morrisons trained more than 3,000 of its warehouse staff across the UK to use a voice-controlled warehouse picking system.
Practical implications
Reveals that the two programs have helped the company to achieve huge efficiencies.
Social implications
Highlights the way in which the first of the two programs provided warehousing skills for employees who largely lacked experience of working in this type of environment.
Reveals how the programs supported the “can do” culture that prevails at Morrisons.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Quarterly CIPD KPMG survey on the labour market forecasts jobs contraction, …

with stark sectoral and regional differences

The employment recovery is set to slow sharply, according to this summer’s Labour Market Outlook1 survey of over 1,000 employers from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and KPMG. On average, growth in hiring intentions have been reported throughout the past year, but a more sombre outlook is now being driven by a fall in confidence among private sector employers, particularly in manufacturing.

Full press release (HTML)

via CIPD Press Releases

1 Full document is a CIPD member benefit until “later this month”

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
It is a philosophical education to keep chickens, live with them, and treat them with courtesy. All chickens are not born equal, but they deserve equal respect...more

Mitozoos via
It's a game, an instructional game, I'm not sure that I quite understand what to do but it looks like fun.

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The politics of yuck. Sewage on a hot day is simply gross. Disgust, however, is actually quite complex. In fact, it’s dangerous...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Much of what medical research treats as fact is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. Why is bad science used to justify treatments?...more

via Britannica Blog by Debra Mancoff and Michal Raz-Russo
Attitude and Altitude: A Short History of Shoes
What’s not to like about this?
Starts by discussing why people wear shoes, looks at shoes as a fashion item, for those who could afford it, through history (the pictures, starting with one from 1345, are stunning) and there's a link to two videos (first one is better with sound off - I think the tracking has slipped) showing elaborate modern designs.

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Craving solitude: It’s been deemed suspect – or worse, evidence of a psychological ailment. But being alone makes us better social animals...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Happiness is not a right, it's a duty: We owe it to ourselves. But the burden of obligatory well-being has transformed the pursuit into a source of unhappiness...more

Scroll Britannia: the UK's First Road Map via Strange Maps
This extraordinary map, dating from 1675, details The Road From LONDON to the LANDS END Comencing at the Standard in Cornhill and Extending to Senan in Cornwall. It was made by IOHN OGILBY Esq[ui]r[e] his Ma[jes]ties Cosmographer and covers 308 miles and 3 furlongs (almost 500 km).
This comes from a website dedicated to maps – old ones, new ones, strange ones …

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
For hawkish humanitarians, Libya is a necessary intervention. Doing nothing while others suffer is not an option. Or maybe it is, suggests Tolstoy...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The ancient world was hardly full of starry-eyed universalists. But even then, categorizing and hating people en masse was a choice, not a necessity...more

Advanced learning and ICT: …

new teaching experiences in university setting

an article by Fabio Bertarelli, Matteo Corradini, Giacomo Guaraldi, Sergio Fonda and Elisabetta Genovese [affiliation information not provided] published in International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning (Volume 3 Number 4 (2011))


The digital board is thought of as a tool that has limited use, primary or secondary school or in a situation of learning for the handicapped. This case study aims to show how these new tools can be used in for higher learning, in scientific and technical universities. The current software available on the market and its use with these tools foresees originality in the approach to teaching in the future. The article explores the use of advanced innovative technology in the lecture hall for effective teaching and learning. The digital whiteboard tool is a flexible and powerful didactic instrument that can greatly enrich the experience of both the learner and the lecturer. This article will explore a completed case study, a case study still in progress and future possibilities.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Country reports on the Action Plan on Adult Learning

via cedefop news

The Action Plan on Adult Learning It is always a good time to learn (2008-2010) provided, for the first time, a set of common priorities to be encouraged in the adult learning sector, introduced the sector to the Open Method of Coordination and thus initiated intensified European cooperation between its diverse actors.
The country reports have been carried out, on behalf of the European Commission, by GHK in cooperation with Research voor Beleid. on the basis of country-experts’ analysis of existing national literature and the Confintea IV-report and were used as background reports in the Final Conference on Adult Learning Action Plan in Budapest, 7-9 March 2011.

Links to the country reports including to the UK report (PDF 23 pp) and to the Ireland report (PDF 21pp)
Background reports from the final conference on the adult learning action plan

Hazel’s comment:
If I posted about these documents in March when they were first published then I am sorry for the duplication but I did only pick them up from the ETV Newsletter last week.

Taxonomy of technological risks: when things fail badly

from BoingBoing by Cory Doctorow

A Taxonomy of Operational Cyber Security Risks" by CMUrsquo;s James J Cebula and Lisa R Young is a year-old paper that attempts to classify all the ways that technology go wrong, and the vulnerabilities than ensue. Fascinating reading, a great primer on technology and security, and as a bonus, there’s a half-dozen science fiction/technothriller plots lurking on every page.

This report presents a taxonomy of operational cyber security risks that attempts to identify and organize the sources of operational cyber security risk into four classes:
(1) actions of people,
(2) systems and technology failures,
(3) failed internal processes, and
(4) external events.

Each class is broken down into subclasses, which are described by their elements. This report discusses the harmonization of the taxonomy with other risk and security activities, particularly those described by the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publications, and the CERT Operationally Critical Threat, Asset, and Vulnerability Evaluation (OCTAVE) method.

A Taxonomy of Operational Cyber Security Risks (PDF 47pp)

Helping individuals succeed: Transforming career guidance

This report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills starts with a five-page executive summary which does not appear to have been separately published.

Introduction [Note: the footnote numbers are entered as given but, no more than they do in the original, do they actually hyperlink.]

Extensive research and evaluation evidence demonstrates the benefits of effective career guidance – directly for individuals and also more widely for UK Plc. Good career guidance can raise aspirations, increase self-confidence and resilience and help people to make sound decisions about learning and work. In turn, employers gain better quality applicants and are able recruit people who can improve their business.

In order to realise these benefits, however, career guidance needs to be high quality. This report identifies the characteristics of effective career guidance, looks at how technologies, particularly new technologies, can transform delivery, and the role that government and other public bodies might play in securing greater quality and impact from public investment.

The UK Commission is not the only organisation working to bring about improvements in this area. In the last couple of years, governments across the UK have been focussing on how careers provision can be improved. The Scottish Government published a national framework for Careers Information Advice and Guidance1 in March 2011. In England in November 2010, John Hayes, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning announced the establishment of an all-age service for England2. The Welsh Government has recently published the findings of a review into careers services in Wales3. In January 2009 the Northern Ireland Government launched ‘Preparing for Success’4

This report is not an isolated study but the culmination of a number of pieces of supporting work including expert papers on a range of topics related to career guidance and technology. These are available on the UK Commission’s website (details are attached at Annex 1). We also consulted widely by inviting responses to a consultation document and through a number of events. Taken together the expert papers, outcomes of events and wider consultation provide a robust evidence base for the conclusions drawn in this report. , a joint departmental strategy and implementation plan for Careers Information Advice and Guidance.

The report is divided into three sections. The first focuses on what we know already about career guidance and the career support market; the second outlines some areas that need to be improved, and the third describes an effective career support market and makes suggestions about what actions are needed to bring this about.

1 A framework for service redesign and development improvement (2011)
2 Speech given by John Hayes Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, 4 November (2010)
3Future ambitions: developing careers services in Wales’ (2010);jsessionid=4RYhNNHQLqV0hf8wyKW3vyLntPvBhyln0k9kVk4K27BJZ2L9CCyg!1989468226?lang=en
4 ‘Careers InformationInformation, Advice and Guidance Strategy’ (2009)

Full report (PDF 33pp )

You may find it useful to read Tristram Hooley’s blog post on this publication

Lifelong learning: insights, issues and solutions

 an article by Mark Glynn, Richard Thorn and Ruan McGloughlin [affiliation information not provided] published in International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning (Volume 3 Number 4 (2011))


This paper describes the results of a market research exercise undertaken as part of a major project on flexible and part-time learning being undertaken by the institutes of technology aimed at increasing the amount of flexible learning being provided and taken up by learners. The research was designed to find out what triggers may be used to encourage adult learners back into education in Ireland and so contribute to more appropriate responses to their needs by the institutes of technology for whom increasing flexible and part-time education is a major strategic objective. The EU has established a target of 15% of adults participating in lifelong learning by 2020. Whilst some countries, notably the northern European countries, comfortably exceed that target, many do not, including Ireland. Within Ireland the Institutes of Technology (IoTs) constitute almost half the total higher education population and two-thirds of part-time students at first cycle Bologna (bachelor) or Level 6 to Level 8 of the Irish National Framework of Qualifications.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Getting digital copyright right: pay artists, but don’t break the Internet

via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

I'm headed to Vancouver this weekend to give a keynote at SIGGRAPH; I did a long interview with Blaine Kyllo from the Georgia Straight about the subject of my talk – that is, how you build a digital copyright system that gives creators a fair deal, and why getting it wrong is bad for the whole society, not just artists.

BoingBoing items usually go into trivia – or nowhere. This is different, though. This is not only serious but is also work-related.

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Cultural looting reached its apex under the Nazis, who were efficient but careless. What kind of idiot hangs a da Vinci painting above a radiator?...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Ortega y Gasset: “Culture is what remains after we’ve forgotten everything we’ve read.” And what, Sven Birkerts asks, is left after reading a novel?...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In America today, men are caught: they are shown the old breadwinner ideal in an economic era that no longer delivers a proper family wage...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Viagra in the agora. The little blue pill gives rise to enduring philosophical insights. But if they linger for more than four hours, consult a doctor...more

Maus Trap via the How-To Geek by Asian Angel
Your mission is to help a poor mouse named Peanut escape the dangerous lab she is trapped in. Do you have what it takes to save the day?
Play Maus Trap

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Moral intelligence, an innate sense of right and wrong, allowed both dogs and early human societies to flourish and spread across the world...more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Dogs do it, lions do it, even babies in the womb do it, and though weird theories abound, nobody really knows why we yawn... more

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Deciding on the best science fiction calls for literary judgment. Asking what is the most accurate science fiction is a different question altogether...more
And having read the comments from six scientists about the accuracy or otherwise of fiction in their area of interest then think about the SF you would most like to be true!

via Arts and Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Real ants offer no lessons in human moral conduct, says Deborah Gordon. Brave soldiers, dutiful factory workers: this is the stuff of our fictions, not insect behaviour...more

Get ready to detonate that boredom via the How-To Geek by Asian Angel
In this game your mission is to move level to level and blow up the evil things you encounter while not harming the good ones.
Play Blow Things Up! 2

Sunday, 14 August 2011

10 skills you need to survive the job market

via Guardian careers: The Careers Blog from by Clare Whitmell

The Future Work Skills report (PDF 19pp) predicts that six trends will dominate the job market over the next 10 years. To be successful, employees will need to acquire 10 key skills.

Sense-making: while computers can automate certain tasks or jobs, they can't perform reasoned analysis, which is where humans excel.
Social intelligence: working effectively with large groups of people involves the ability to adapt language and behaviour.
Adaptive thinking: finding solutions to unexpected situations, whether these occur in high-skill professional / technical roles or in lower-skill roles.
Cross-cultural competency: being able to work not just in different linguistic or cultural settings, but in groups including different generations or people with varied skills and working styles.
Virtual collaboration: adopting strategies for virtual team working, such as providing immediate feedback or staged challenges.
Computational thinking: with increased data comes the need to understand it, and to make decisions based on it.
New media literacy: producing content with non-text communication, such as video or audio.
Cognitive load management: using filtering techniques and tools to deal with the information overload caused by huge amounts of data.
Transdisciplinarity: working longer or in multiple careers means having a deep understanding in one field, as well as familiarity with a broader range of disciplines.
Design mindset: as physical environments affect mood, the ability to plan work environments for different tasks or work processes will allow employees to perform better.

What does this mean for today’s graduates?

Read the answers here

Hazel’s comment:
It’s not only graduates, whether initial entrants to the job market or returners with higher qualifications, who should be thinking about future jobs. People of any age need to be aware of the changes taking place in the world of work and adapt themselves to take advantage of the current conditions. 

A new, fit-for-purpose regulatory framework for the Higher Education sector

This technical consultation (URN 11/1114) from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) seeks views on technical aspects of regulatory reform of higher education, building on the proposals set out in the white paper Higher education: students at the heart of the system (URN 11/944).

The White Paper set out a commitment to introduce a new, fit-for-purpose regulatory framework to establish the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) as lead regulator. This document is a technical consultation, to be read alongside the White Paper, to inform what changes in procedures, powers and duties will need to be considered, particularly in forthcoming legislation, in order to protect the student interest and provide a high quality experience.

As set out in the White Paper the principal aim of the regulatory framework must be to protect the interests of students and the public investment. We are committed to reducing bureaucracy overall while maintaining accountability in the public interest. We will do this in the context of preserving academic freedoms and institutional autonomy and maintaining HEFCE’s independence as an arms-length body.

This document seeks your views on how the new regulatory system should operate within the principles we have already set out. It covers:
  • The introduction of an independent lead regulator
  • A single regulatory framework for provider designation for student support and HEFCE teaching grant
  • The adoption of a single gateway for entry to the higher education sector
  • Reforms to Degree Awarding Powers (DAPs) and University Title (UT) criteria
  • Simplifying the process for changing corporate status
The consultation document (PDF 52pp) is here.

Instructions from the BIS about responding are here. The deadline is 27 October 2011.

Careers Work with Young People: Collapse or Transition?

iCeGS has published a new paper which explores the current development of careers work with young people in England. Written by Tristram Hooley (Head of iCeGS) and Tony Watts (iCeGS Visiting Professor) the paper examines how changes in the funding of careers services and the policy around the responsibilities of schools and Local Authorities have impacted on the support that is available for young people. In particular the paper looks forward to explore how current transitional arrangements prefigure new directions for careers work.

View the paper (PDF 21pp) here.

The paper is based on a new dataset compiled from a range of published, unpublished and online sources. The full dataset is available to accompany the paper.

View the dataset (Excel 97-2003) here.

Report on the mid term review of the Lifelong Learning Programme

The Report is from The Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions

This formal report is not, to my mind an easy read.


In accordance with Article 15, paragraph 5 of the Decision No. 1720/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2006 establishing an action programme in the field of lifelong learning (LLP Decision)1, this report provides information on the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP). It builds on the findings of the LLP interim evaluation2, on National Reports on LLP implementation from the 31 participating countries3 and on information gathered by the Commission.

1 OJ L 327, 15.11.2006, p. 45.
2 The interim evaluation of the Lifelong Learning Programme has been implemented between January and December 2010 by the international consortium led by the Public Policy and Management Institute from Lithuania. The full LLP interim evaluation report can be consulted at
3 National reports provided by countries participating in the LLP (27 EU Member States, EEA countries and Turkey) in agreement with paragraph 15.4 of the LLP Decision and covering the 2007-09 period were important sources of information and data for the overall interim evaluation of the LLP.

However, this, from the CEDEFOP press release, makes things a bit clearer.

During its first three years, the Programme has financed, with almost EUR 3 billion, transnational education and training activities promoting the modernisation of education systems in 31 European countries. It has catered for 900,000 learning mobility periods of European citizens, of which more than 720,000 by students and almost 180,000 by teachers/trainers/staff. More than 50,000 European organisations have taken part in various forms of co-operation activities.

Reference: CCOM (2011) 413 final, 7.7.2011

Full report (PDF 12pp)

The influence of advergames on consumers’ attitudes and behaviour: …

an empirical study among young consumers
an article by Martin K.J. Waiguny, Ralf Terlutter and Melanie E. Zaglia [affiliation information not available] published in International Journal of Entrepreneurial Venturing (Volume 3 Number 3 (2011))


Companies are increasingly making use of advergames. Advergames are regarded as innovative tools for relationship building with the customer, which are suitable for both existing and new products, for both established companies and business start-ups. This paper investigates the influences of advergames on consumers’ brand attitudes and behaviour intentions. As most of the current advergames target children, this study reports on findings from an experiment conducted with 97 school pupils aged between nine and 12. Implications of the use of advergames; e.g., for launching new products, public policy issues and selected limitations will be discussed. This research can be considered highly innovative since hardly any studies exist, which have analysed the effects of advergames on existing consumer attitudes. No single study has shown the influence on behaviour, and finally, this study has been applied in the special context of young consumers.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Learning disabilities and access to offender behaviour programmes in prison: a High Court decision

an article by Isabel McArdle (One Crown Office Row, London) published in Journal of Learning Disabilities and Offending Behaviour (Volume 1 Number 2 (July 2010))

This article provides an overview and comment on the case of R (on the application of Dennis Gill) v Secretary of State for Justice [2010] EWHC 364 (Admin), which drew attention to a deficit in the system, that those with learning disabilities were not being provided with an equal or adequate level of offending behaviour treatment work. This was a claim for judicial review by Dennis Gill, who is a life-sentenced prisoner with a learning disability. He had served well over twice his four-year tariff but, because of his learning disability, had not been permitted to take part in any offending behaviour programmes.

Hazel’s comment:
Although this article is over a year old I’ve only just come across it and have not yet had the opportunity to read the full article which I will do ASAP and post any additional info as comment.

Social media: key tools for the future of work-based learning

an article by Tony Toole, (Director, Ltd, Swansea) published in Development and Learning in Organizations, (Volume 25 Issue 5 (2011))


This paper aims to demonstrate the potential of web 2.0 tools in the online support of work-based learners.
The paper provides an overview of the current use and benefits of web 2.0 tools in the support of work-based learners. It includes two case studies that demonstrate, first, how action research is testing the boundaries of online technologies as new tools and functionality emerge and, second, how work-based learning support staff are being trained to use such tools. These case studies are illustrations of how institutions in South Wales, UK are seeking to exploit the benefits of web 2.0 technologies in their drive to improve the support of work-based learners.
The outcomes of the work described in this paper showed that the use of web 2.0 tools enabled online support of work-based learners to include remote access to practical work. It also describes how work-based learning support staff are being trained in the use of the new technologies.
Practical implications
There are significant practical implications in this paper. It shows how online distance learning support for work-based learners can include remote access to practical work through the use of web 2.0 tools. This has always been a problem for the distance learning support of vocational subjects and indicates that such support will continue to improve as new web 2.0 functionality emerges.
The original value in the paper is: the remote access to practical work for work-based learners using web 2.0 tools; and the online support of WBL trainers in their use of web 2.0 tools

Entrepreneurship and SME Growth: …

Evidence from Advanced and Laggard Transition Economies

an article by Dr. Iraj Hashi (Staffordshire University) and Dr. Besnik A. Krasniqi, (Staffordshire University Business School) published in International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research (Volume 17 Issue 5 (2011))


This article examines the impact of firms’ technological capability and other firm and environmental characteristics on the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in six transition countries at different stages of transition. It compares three advanced Central Eastern European countries (Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic) with three laggard countries in South Eastern Europe (Albania, Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro).
A theoretical framework is proposed based on three groups of factors influencing SME growth: innovative and entrepreneurial features of the firm, characteristics of the firm and those related to the institutional/business environment. Subsequently this article uses the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey (BEEPS) conducted by the World Bank/EBRD in 2002 and 2005 to test a number of hypotheses regarding the determinants of SME growth.
The two groups of countries have similarities and differences: both display similar trends with respect to the growth process; both are affected by entrepreneurship activities positively; but the institutional barriers affecting the two groups are somewhat different. We also find that despite the growing importance of SMEs in all transition economies, they still face many institutional barriers – which have prevented them from making greater contribution.
Research limitations/implications
The key limitations of our empirical investigation are the qualitative nature of survey data and the shortcomings associated with self-declaration of entrepreneurs. It is important to for future research to complement this line of research with panel data.
This cross-country study extends current understanding of the determinants of SME growth in various stages of transition economies based on a unique data set. It also provides some implications for policymakers as well as entrepreneurs/managers for improving the growth of SMEs.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Organizational attractiveness and prospective applicants’ intentions to apply

an article by Prof. Daniel Roque Gomes published in Personnel Review (Volume 40 Issue 6 (2011))


This paper aims to clarify the process that leads prospective applicants to apply to a job vacancy, when one is being evaluated. We propose that prospective applicants evaluate a job vacancy based on the characteristics of the job and the organizational attributes. This will determine organizational attractiveness perception, and will result in the intention to apply to a job vacancy.
We have presented an adapted employment ad that described a job and an organization to 51 Marketing professionals and to 73 undergraduate Marketing students, and asked them to respond to a questionnaire that contained the measures of the study variables. The hypotheses were tested using linear regression methodology.
Organizational attractiveness fully mediates the relations between the job characteristics and the organizational attributes with intention to apply to a job vacancy. Analysis over the compared importance of each factor has outlined the major importance of the organizational attributes and feedback of the job for determining this process.
Research limitations/implications
Future research should clarify the role of organizational image as an employer and organizational familiarity in this process.
Practical implications
Recruitment messages in employment ads should give preferential focus over the elements of organization attributes and feedback of the job. These elements will more strongly determine attractiveness perception, and consequentially, predict intention to apply to a job vacancy.
The study clarifies the role of organizational attractiveness on the process that leads to intention to apply to a job vacancy. Significant part of the proposed model was based on clues retrieved from existing research.

Wanted: New Employer Thinking for an Older Workplace

an article by Joseph F Coughlin on big think

This, by big think’s standards is short but it packs something of a punch.

Yesterday an employer [in the USA] had a ready supply of young people to choose from and actively encouraged older people to retire.

The current situation means that employers need to think differently about their workforce.

Read in full

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Modernist architecture - cold, alienating - was widely loathed. Postmodenism was but a fig leaf for it. Enter the authentic genius of Frank Gehry...more

This site is aimed at children, or those with an infantile sense of humour, but – and it is a BIG but – there are also lots of fun things to do with your child. The ubiquitous bicarbonate and vinegar volcano, play dough from flour and oil etc etc
Check it out for yourself

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Today’s most centralized empire-state, China, could be undone by its cities. Controlling cities, not countryside, is the key to the Middle Kingdom...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Every metaphor starts out as a wild beast, waiting to be tamed by usage, writes Carlin Romano. Even the word “metaphor” is a metaphor...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The satirical economist. John Kenneth Galbraith delighted in mockery. No sacred tenet was safe from his ridicule. But a sneer isn't an idea... more

via the How-To Geek by Asian Angel
Play Blockgineer
Having had a quick look at this I thought that you might appreciate, as I did, the detailed “how to play it” provided in the original blog post.

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
A nose for history. Napoleon's cologne, the resurrected stench of a Viking latrine: Can odour offer a sense of the past? Take a whiff...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Science fiction used to be more overtly political. Now, says Benjamin Plotinsky, it tends increasingly to employ Christian allegory... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Adverbs like surprisingly, predictably, and ironically tell the reader what to value in a sentence before he has read it. Even William Zinsser had to learn to avoid them... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
It is a truth universally acknowledged that over the years so many millions of people keep coming back to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice... more