INTRODUCING: musings|half-baked… ‘who should run the world and why’

Introducing ‘musings: half-baked

This is a new category, in some ways going back to my original idea of a scrapbook in the form of a blog. So half-baked musings are scraps of thinking, that I might do something with, or might pique my or someone else’s interest.

So here is the first one, file under ‘who should run the world and why’.

Very cool lady judge presiding over the Pistorius case. I’m going to extend the ‘the world should be run by 8 year old girls’ to include ‘successful black women of pensionable age’ (context: where black is an oppressed group within the dominant societies on this planet. Your culture may vary. May contain traces of nuts).

Despite being jovially couched, this is a serious notion. Its about experiences and perspectives. Its an idea emerging, slowly.

The idea is to specify, in a quasi-scientific manner, the ‘necessary and sufficient conditions’ for a thing. In this case ‘running the world nicely’. It’s like a concept car for management systems thinkers.

Judge MasipaArticle is from yesterday's 'i'


KIND THINKER OUT IN THE WORLD: an elegy for Perry Else



Kind thinker, out in

the world, away 

from the white towers; 

down by the riv’r.

Forthright, flexible and firm — 

the three frees.

Living, in the realm

of the possible:

not ‘they should’, only

‘well, maybe we can…’ 

Else we forget, the

value of play

and the value of

his playful life.

Arthur Battram

10:26 AM, Thursday, June 12, 2014, revised 2:02 PM  Friday, September 5, 2014 , and again so the scansion is better Tuesday, September 9, 2014, 2:04 PM.

A fitting obituary is here:

Evidence you say? What is that? Away with you and your ‘evidence’! (NAMED AND SHAMED: GPs who miss cancer diagnoses)

Read this blog, please. If you value any of my bloggage, read this other bloke’s blog. We need to bring as much as we can of this level of surgical precision to management.

If psychology can be a science, (a claim I find dubious having obtained a degree in it from an excellent college ranked number 3 or 4 in the UK, Hindustani).

(Hindustani? How could this idiotphone think I meant that when I wrote incidentally? This is why the robots well not take over just yurt)

As I was saying, if psychology can be a science then so can management.

There was a brief kerfuffle in the business schools about why they didn’t see the crash coming and why they failed to teach ethics to MBAs. Six months later all forgotten. Gary Wossname would have put on a conference or earned a big fee for meaculpaing, or both. Business school profs make admen look shamefaced and moral.

I’m not advocating Taylor’s Scientific Management. We have some better science now. And proper true facts are harder to come by in management consultancy. But we could work a lot harder than we do to seek truth amid opinion and cant.

Please read the wise words of the junior doctor.

If you saw the Mail on Sunday today you would have seen the above headline.

According to Wikiquotes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 4-time US senator and academic, once said “You are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts”. Rather than writing an extensive counter-diatribe of rhetoric on the ridiculousness of the article, the irresponsible attitude to health reporting and Jeremy Hunt in general, I have decided to try a new form of discussion. I call it ‘The Facts’.

Fact #1
Here are the National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidelines for referring patients to a specialist with the suspicion of cancer.*

Fact #2
This is how common bowel cancer is: there are 47.2 new cases per 100,000 people per year (crude). This equals around 40,000 new cases nationally, which means nearly 1 case per UK GP per year.

This is how common breast cancer is: there are 155…

View original post 978 more words

Out of sight, out of mind, out of the brain of Mr Chown, for your reading pleasure

Out of sight, out of mind.

Excellent blog by the wise Mr Chown. Sample quotes:

20 years on I still see signs of children playing out, unnoticed by adults. Surveys and questionnaires provide only a partial picture of children’s independent mobility. We need more direct observation and engagement with children and families in their own neighbourhoods, not just in schools, if we are to create policies to support children playing out and to measure their success.”

‘We have given up haunting the places where children play, we no longer have eyes for their games, and not noticing them suppose they have vanished’. Children’s Games in Street and Playground – Iona and Peter Opie.”

Out of sight, out of mind.

Even the sports guys think there is not enough play and too much testing



“I told a friend today that it’s time to take a stand. Here is that stand.

“I have been an advocate for, and more importantly a community worker in Active Play for quite a few years now, and have worked in a number of capacities.  Because of that, I have had the opportunity to watch our advocacy develop in the context of physical education, sports performance, the so called “obesity crisis”, and the push for academic “excellence”.”

Above and Beyond


“During this time, there have been herculean efforts made to justify ”moderate to vigorous physical activity” for kids and teens in terms of things like “productivity”, “test scores”, and “health”.  All you have to do is look at the terminology.  It is clinical and measurable.  That’s what I keep having to justify play against – clinical and measurable.  I will submit to you during this article that play can’t compete with measurable on it’s turf, but measurable is no match for LIVING.”



Go read it!






the PBI: ‘Pink Bicycle Indicator’ for play-friendly streets

Driven to put fingers to keyboard in response to Tim Gill and Marc Armitage talking about ‘the Popsicle test’ on Tim’s blog, I finally got round to writing up something about the PBI:

The PBI: ‘Pink Bicycle Indicator’

is one of (what I consider to be) my key ideas, first presented in  a workshop at the Play Wales’ conference  ‘Spirit of Adventure Play’ in 2007, PDF available on request.

The PBI:  my contention is that when a small pink bicycle (there are very few large pink bicycles) of the kind favoured by parents for 6 year old girls, is spotted lying on its side on a pavement, it tells us many lovely things. It tells us things like:

•  the owner is a young female child,  between 5 and 8 years of age,

•  who is allowed out on a bicycle in that street without adult supervision.

•  the area is a low street crime area.

I haven’t developed a crisp academic description of the PBI, so let me just say that its proposed application is limited to housing areas. A better name might be something like ‘PBOPCTHI’, for

‘Pink Bicycle On Pavement Close To Housing Indicator’.

The key point can be summed up like this: if I were a dad with a young family, looking move to somewhere child-friendly (and therefore human- friendly), and I spotted a PB, that area would immediately jump to the top of my list.

Sure we can disagree about individual PB sightings – maybe it was a stolen bike abandoned by a villain, maybe a parent rushed in to answer the phone and forgot to bring it in, but  I think my point still stands. The PBI isn’t the only indicator, but it covers a heck of a lot.

And notice the overwhelming advantages the PBI has over other indicators:

•  it doesn’t involve observing children in the street, an activity widely viewed as suspicious by nearby adults, sometimes leading to threats of violence with or without the calling of police

• it is quick – it doesn’t involve hours and hours of observations

• it is easy to capture and document- a photo of the bike and part of the surrounding area, geo-tagged on your smartphone will do the job in a few seconds

• parents ‘get’ it – it goes straight to their perceptions of their children’s safety outside the home

• it challenges comfortable preconceptions: ‘experts’ are often perturbed by it – those playworkers in my workshop really didn’t like the implication that their AP was in an area were younger children were not freely playing out and was therefore not meeting the majority of play needs in the area.

To recap the background briefly: in environmental sciences, there exists the notion of ‘indicator species‘. [that there, in highlighted text, is a link to the wikipedia entry] One such is the skylark. If you want to measure the ‘health’ of a field, say, you could run batteries of tests on the soil, – expensive lab tests, bug and microbug counts and so on, or you could simply look at how many skylarks nest on the site. Skylarks only nest in areas with high biodiversity, free from chemical residues from pesticides and the like. And the skylark is not just an indicator species, it is a ‘super indicator species’ – one species acting as a proxy for many species. The reason being that skylark’s diet is specialised to a narrow range of relatively rare insects and plants which will not be found in fields that have been recently sprayed.

{The notion of proxies is also important here. Respected and common-place proxies should always be examined with suspicion – such as the use of GDP to measure ‘prosperity’ – a well-worn example these days.  Most proxies will be less than totally satisfactory, depending on your viewpoint or agenda. Two examples of concern to the play field are the Tellus survey used by Ofsted, and the ONS’ well-being indicators (currently out to consultation until Jan 23rd).  My personal view is that both are unfit for purpose. Tellus suffers from a glaring over-reliance on a proxy: if I recall correctly, the answers to questions put to children aged 10-13 in a classroom by teachers, are used to gather data on the views of children aged 7-13 on a range of topics including outdoor activities out of school (I don’t think play is mentioned specifically). Just because a paper-based methodology is deemed unsuitable for gathering data on 7-9 year olds is no reason to not even make the attempt to gather their views! I won’t labour the point about the problems of identifying children’s needs via ‘consultation’ here, the point is – beware of proxies.}

So the PBI, like Tim Gill’s later broader notion of ‘the child as indicator species’, is a ‘super indicator’ of – well, I coined the term’ ludodiversity’ semi-humourously, in order to make a point to adventure playworkers about the narrowness of their provision in relation to the majority of unmet play needs in their neighbourhood, but more generally, I would describe the PBI as an indicator of the ‘child-friendliness of area of housing’. A PB in the middle of a school playing field is not likely to be an I of child-friendliness: it would  more likely be evidence of petty theft.

What I like about these kinds of indicators is both their ‘attractive graspability’ and their implicit world-view, by which I mean the notion that if somewhere is child-friendly it is also likely to be older people-friendly, people with disabilities-friendly and so on. Hospitable for humans. A habitable habitat.

People will keep repeating ‘children are our future’ – I do wish they would stop. Maybe they could start saying something like ‘children are the measure of our present humanity’, instead.


Amended today, Tuesday, May 15, 2012, to explain that in the above I have glossed over the distinction between a canary indicator and a skylark indicator which is remiss of me. Luckily Adrian Voce has done that for me here:

A NICE CUP OF TEA AND A SATDOWN (was Mary Portas thinks we need high street management)

Mary Portas thinks we need high-street management teams to reverse the decline of the high street.

Yes folks, Mary Portas thinks we need more managers.

That’s right, folks, Mary Portas thinks managers make things better.

Aaaw, bless.


oh…hold on…

She’s not saying that. the headline is crass. blame the media, for, she’s not saying that. the headline is crass. oversimplifying. its what they do. bears say mass in the woods, popes use improvised woodland latrines, and the media sensationalise, simplify and distort. duh.


you really shouldn’t let me listen to the ‘Today’ programme

(its on Radio 4 in the morning, pre-9 am, folks, if you are instead listening to banging chewns on Radio Noise FM)

why not? why shouldn’t arthur be allowed to listen to ‘Today’?

because he rants off like this.

Mary Portas is on the radio. I am shouting at the radio, because she is right, and WRONG!

2 points:

1. not that kind of manager!

memo to self – write a piece on kids of managers, good non-managerialist managers versus bad managerialist managers. need to do this soon, before I get attacked by managers.\\

2. she thinks the goal should be footfall.

It’s not about bring back shops or less supermarkets its about do anything to get more feet on the street. and its not about organic markets its about barnsley market

I agree.



she then goes on to say ‘so we have to relax planning laws’.


why aargh?

because its the old mistake, good understanding, rubbish solution.

Mary Portas, has, I reckon, got a good understanding of what went wrong, and has been convinced to support a certain solution (relax planning law).

Who thinks letting developers do what they like is a good idea? no one, apart from developers, their partners and the politicians who are their paid-for friend (who thinks spending more on youth clubs? no one except, youth, unemployed youth workers, and the national yoof bureau). That won’t happen , because youth clubs HAVE NO INFLUENCE. Who thinks we should spend more on under 5s? on adventure playgrounds? you get the drift)


Oldest game in the book: analyse a complex problem, do a good job, then allow vested interests to pick one solution.

newsflash: if a problem is complex, rather than complicated or simple or wicked, THERE IS NO ONE SOLUTION.

(I wrote a book about this – ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’.that book sort of scratched the surface. since then, 15 years ago, some smarter management consultant than me have deveoped some useful tools. ASK ME )


if you only implement one solution to a complex problem, then it won’t work and you are wrong.


that’s what we got from Labour with Surestart and family tax credit. That’s what Alan Milburn MP ex-Labour minister of something, thinks (also on radio just now). Alan thinks we need to spend more on under-5s services. Great analysis, Alan, wrong answer because it’s a single solution to a complex problem. These won’t go away. the world is ever more complex.

So are we all doomed? nope, probably. What is to be done?


What is that? it is a way of working together to work on complex problems. it is a methodology by which 70 people could meet for 4 hours (Watford BGOP workshop 1999) and everybody could be heard and the complex problem better understood. When they next meet they could come up with some small actions to take. and so on. No big single wrong answer, many small answers, some of which will work, some of which won’t.

The process has a simple acronym, MLTQ: ‘many little things quickly’ (technically MLTQfb, fb = fed back, abbreviated to be reminiscent of TQM).


Everybody, but specifically small movements with no money who want to make a difference, like the UK Play lobby.

I will write more about SAT (Social Argument Technology), but for now I will merely point out, that some wise person, probably your mum, said there are few problems that can’t be made better with a nice cup of tea and a sit down (and biscuits). Heck, there’s even a website for that, because there is now a WEBSITE FOR EVERYTHING:

I’m saying that complex problems can only be made better with a nice cup of tea and a SAT down. and biscuits.

what is a ‘SATdown’?

it is a special meeting, in which we sit down together and use Social Argument Technology to have an arguement, nicely, listening to each other, not focussing on anyone problem or anyone solution, and stuff like that.

more on SAT later.



Posted from WordPress for Android

Maybe 10 years after 9 11 we are…

10 years after 9/11,
we are starting to reject the lie of the security and safety lobbies that

‘only we can make you safe’.

You can’t make me safe, only I can make me safe.

Having said that, please can we have more bobbies on the beat and our bus conductors back?

That by way of introducing this article:


Eliminating recess will only make the problem worse
By Lawrence J. Cohen & Anthony T. Debenedet, M.D.

some quotes from them for you- go read it.

“The recent decision by the Chicago Public Schools system to reinstate recess, effectively reversing years of optional recess policy (an option that was exercised less and less), is a step in the right direction. It’s also a stark reminder not to lose sight of the basics.


/…/”If you spend a few minutes at a playground watching recess, you’ll see the full range of human behavior — from friendship and sharing to conflict and cruelty.

/…/“There are the obvious health benefits of physical fitness, but there are more subtle benefits to be gained, like social intelligence, morality and ethical behavior. There’s also good evidence that learning inside the classroom actually comes more easily when children have a chance to let loose outside the classroom.

/…/”Lately, however, another antirecess argument has hit the scene. It stems from a nationwide consciousness and fear of bullying. Essentially the idea (albeit mistaken) is that without recess, bullies will have less opportunity to victimize their peers.

/…/“The real solution to bullying on the playground is to train recess supervisors to know the difference between playing and aggression, and to recognize and respond appropriately to escalating situations.”

Read more:


Thanks to Tim Gill on Facebook for finding this for us, Tim wrote:

‎”It may be difficult for adults to judge whether or not a particular incident is bullying… However, simply redefining all deliberately unpleasant behaviour as bullying does not solve this problem, it merely brushes it under the carpet. The unintended side-effect of such redefinition is that adults are likely to feel under growing pressure to step in whenever children fall out or argue with each other.”

“A quote from this Time article? No. A quote from No Fear. But I’m not jealous, I’m just pleased to see that others are thinking seriously about this thorny issue. (Time article via Marc Armitage.)”


I admire your equanimity, Tim. I seriously wish I was more equanimitous myself when I am quoted/misquoted with or without attribution.

Whoever and whatever is to blame/praise for the turning of the tide we might be seeing, it is worthy of celebration.

We all should be concerned about this ugly blame game over the M5 pile-up

The ugly blame game over the M5 pile-up | Tim Black | spiked.

Some extracts below. I hold no brief for the Spiked mob, their post-Marxist nihilism disguised as gung-ho responsibilism has more than a whiff of apolitical decadence to it; having said that, sometimes they locate a nail and hammer it all the way in. This is one such piece of stout carpentry:

“/… instead, it has been marked with a peculiarly contemporary impulse: a desire to blame, to find someone or something responsible. In the eyes of those willing to see something more than tragic misfortune at work, this was not an accident; it was caused by the contemporary equivalent of a bad spirit.Not that there was particularly compelling evidence for assuming that smoke from a fireworks display was the cause. As one Transport minister Mike Penning explained, the smoke that witnesses claimed to have seen at the time of the crash could just as likely have come from one of the several burning vehicles. Pyrotechnics experts have also been sceptical about the possibility of fireworks-related smoke travelling and then forming a ‘bank of smoke’ thick enough drastically to affect visibility. But then it doesn’t seem to have been evidence that informed speculation about the role played by a relatively small fireworks display 500 metres away. Rather, such blame-casting draws its force from the increasingly widespread antagonism towards fireworks, whether it’s kids getting their hands on them, or the supposed health‘n’safety implications that make Bonfire Night, in the words of one crash-related commentary, ‘the worst day of the year for air pollution’.”

Can I just interject here? Would any vaguely recycling conscious thrifty person actually want to ban bonfires because of air pollution? Why not ban people?  Well, some deep greens are happy to see us humans made extinct. Pah. Sorry, Captain Black, go on…

“/… In fact, there are all too many people willing to exploit a terrible accident in pursuit of those to blame. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a bonfire-less fireworks display being held responsible or lorries travelling at four miles under their 60 miles-per-hour speed limit: the search for the will-o’-the-wisp culprit, the reason for what steadfastly remains an accident, has paid no attention to what happened on Friday evening. Instead, that reality has been effaced in favour of what various campaigners and commentators want to believe happened.”

YES: AN ACCIDENT! Sorry, go on, Timbo…

“/… This unswerving conviction is marked by something almost medieval in sentiment. That is, there is a refusal to accept that no one or no thing is to blame for what happened. In other words, there is a refusal to face up to the fact that accidents, no matter how tragic, do happen. In place of the modern acknowledgement of sheer contingency, they revive a pre-modern belief in some animating spirit at work in the world. So just as a fourteenth-century village beset by bad harvests might hold the presence of a particular person responsible, so today’s willing blamers foist responsibility for a terrible accident on to a set of unwilling scapegoats, be they speed-happy motorists or a group of pyrotechnicians.

”One thing is for sure: while this cacophony of blaming may well result in the even tighter regulation of fireworks displays or a climate yet more inhospitable to motorists, it will do nothing to stop accidents from happening.”




Teaching Kids to be Citizens, not Consumers

PlexusCalls – Teaching Kids to be Citizens, not Consumers – Plexus Institute.


I like the Plexus lot; they were onto complexity at the same time as me, back in ’95, and they beat me into print. They’re a sort of Kings’ Fund (NHS-related think tank thingy) for US Hospitals, doing what I attemprted to do for local government when I was at the LGMB.


And here they are, presumably unwittingly, recycling Mark Smith’s landmark youth work handbook’s book title (go find it).

Worth a look, even if you can’t afford the transatlantic phone call.

Prof who keeps announcing links between the Internet, childhood dementia and autism should publish theories in a scientific …

It’s true.

I don’t mean her idea, I mean she should.

…all of life, rich in accidental beauty…

“…/ Mariella can set aside all her travails and dissolve in moments like this, new life burgeoning within her, the hot humid air heavy with the sharp smell of freshly cut grass and the drowsy scent of jasmine, trees spreading their branches above as if in benediction, leaves greedily drinking sunlight, light into life, light spangling the green shade of these fountains of solidified sunshine and dancing over the daylilies which line the drive, and birds singing their hearts out in a ceaseless struggle to define their territories, songs shaped by ruthless contest between the male drive to spread genes and the imponderabilities of female mate selection, and yet even so /…/, like all of life, rich in accidental beauty.”

The last sentence of Paul McAuley‘s ‘The Secret of Life‘.  As many have observed, science does not diminish or crush our awe of nature,on the contrary, it magnifies and enhances it. (If you are religious, simply substitute “‘s work” for “nature”.) Pretty much sums it up for me: about 6 months ago I had the fairly rare privelege of watching starlings flocking at dusk around the car park in the centre of Isaac Newton’s home town. Endlessly fascinating to play with the imposition of Langton’s 3 boid’s rules on my perception of their boiling glittering churning flight: do they obey the rules? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that Langton’s insight captures the core, the essence of flocking; no, because  the rules are broken all the time. But that’s the point, the rules are like 3 bungee cords attached to each bird – it’s impossible to obey all 3 AT ONCE, you get pulled by all 3, all 3 apply, and change their application according to the others around you; it must be a ‘hard n-factorial problem’ or somesuch – a problem that can’t actually be solved. Like life.



• Buy this lovely book here – say no to Amazon!

This posting doesn’t have a heading that’s because…

This posting doesn’t have a heading, that’s because it is entered on a desktop machine* via a browser**, rather than from the SUPERIOR android WordPress app.

Very very interesting item. Lying as a topic, and bad TV.

What I take from it is this:


What is the noun, is shrewdity, shrewdience, shrewdness? The latter probably, boringly.

What happened to shrewdness? I suspet it vanished at the same time that multi-tasking became fashionable. In the same accident, the deaths of free-speech, free-thinking and the near-fatal injuries to critical thinking were reported. The authorities said ”Someone must be at fault. There must be reasons, and blame. Someone did this. Someone is to blame. We do not accept that the world is complex, and we reject the charge that we have further encomplicated it“.

The Shrewd is an endangered species. Save the shrewd!

* Mac, ** Safari v.4.1.3, the last version that works under Mac OS 10.4 aka ‘Tiger’. Obsolescent? Not just yet…