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. http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG27*

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

Things they didn’t teach me at Agricultural College…

Is Management Due for a Renaissance? http://feeds.harvardbusiness.org/~r/harvardbusiness/~3/odxH2hp0j7Q/

I wouldn’t normally give pieces like this, blog room, but David Hurst is the author of one of my favourite books, although to be honest, as is often the case for HBR, the paper it is based on is all you need. Check out his ‘Crisis and Renewal’.

Like Hurst, I have been waiting for that renaissance. We had the false dawn of applied complexity-based approached, for which I was a cheerleader, in the mid-Nineties. That little flame blew out because it couldn’t prosper within a machine approach. (Terrible sentence, I’m sorry)

Have a look, complexity and humanity fans. Have a think, too.

Disagreement is good: think on…

This link won’t make a lot of sense unless you both value and regularly practice not agreeing with people.

I put it that way to avoid the term ‘disagreement’ which, in these politically correct times, appears to many pale souls to be synonymous with being ‘disagreeable’, which is not.

When did it become fashionable to believe any rubbish?

When did it become stylish not to challenge daft ideas?

When did not agreeing or approving become almost the same as a hate crime?

(And in the case of some causes/issues/groups, when did it ACTUALLY become a hate crime?

I am entitled to my opinion!

(Still, I think – last time I checked)

You can’t learn without disagreement, even if it is disagreeing only with oneself.

And you certainly can’t ‘do reflective practice’ without, at the very least, disagreeing with yourself, and preferably with others.

Have a read, and as we used to say, think on.

“Argument: When losing is winning” http://feedly.com/k/152O0ku

Craft and playwork (“Science tells you that your opinion is worthless”)

Worth reading despite the presence of the sweetly-grinning fey keyboard-bothering popster, Mr. Cox.


here’s my edited highlights of the piece, designed to give you my choice of the most relevant points, while not quoting too much of the article and infringing the NS’ copyright:

—–my precis starts——-

”BC: That’s the point of exploration: you don’t know what you’re going to find.

“What do you make of neutrinos apparently being measured moving faster than the speed of light – which would overturn Einstein?
”BC: Science should be really honest – the experimenters don’t believe the result, I don’t think, because it does require a big revision of our understanding of physics. But they check it, they can’t find anything wrong, so the correct thing to do is publish.
JF: The false alarms get weeded out.
BC: You can think of areas where that’s problematic: medical research, for example, where the behaviour of people depends on the research – I’m thinking of disasters like the MMR scare. But in general science should be really naive; there shouldn’t be PR spin or politics.

“What motivates climate sceptics and the rest?
”BC: Carl Sagan pointed out that “Science challenges”. And the natural human response from people who are educated, who have a title or position, is to assume their opinion is worth something. And science tells you that your opinion is worthless when confronted with the evidence. That’s a difficult thing to learn.
“JF: As a theoretical physicist, most of my time is spent doing calculations that are wrong. It’s a humbling exercise, a massive dose of humility.

”How can we teach that process?
BC: Quantum mechanics is interesting, because it’s a theory that is absolutely shocking in its implications and yet not technically difficult. I think it should be taught in schools for that reason. Measurements of the world suggested something very odd – that particles can be in multiple places at once – so we developed a theory and it works. It’s that process of saying: “Your preconceptions about reality are not right, because the evidence says so.”

“One of the book’s messages is not to trust your intuition. So how do you distinguish between a bonkers idea – and a bonkers idea that’s right?
BC: Experiment! Make predictions.

”Are we all doomed?
BC: On the human timescale, the adoption of the scientific method – making rational decisions based on evidence – that’s the important thing. Look at public policy, health policy, economics: there’s a reluctance to be humble.

—–my precis ends——-

I’m referring to the bit in my title: how do you feel when I say that  most of what we think we know about children and play is, well, let’s just say ‘unscientific’?

I’ll unpack this a bit, then link it to my assertion that playwork is a craft, a bit (because I’m lazy).

Science is based on disproof. That’s why it’s Einstein’s or Darwin’s  theory, not because we don’t accept them,  but because they might be wrong. Lots of people in white coats are plotting to do them down by disproving them with the full approval of their biggest fans in the ‘scientific community’, as we have to call it.

I suppose at some point they might make the leap and become laws, like Newton’s, but notice this: Newton’s laws HAVE been supplanted by Einstein’s, but that doesn’t mean that Newton’s laws don’t apply 99% if the time. (They called them laws back then; science is less confident these days.) You don’t need to worry about time dilation until your Ford Focus is capable of near-light speed, but if you are sending a probe to Mars, Einstein can really ruin your day.

The lovely Dr Jack Cohen is fond of these phrases:

‘false to fact’


‘that turns out not to be the case’

Just two of the ways that scientists try to politely say – ‘you are wrong, what you said is not true’.

Now, (as I’m fond of saying):

Are we putting enough energy into disproving the cherished theories of playwork?

Can were even call them theories? Theories have to be disprovable.

And… does playwork even need ‘theory’ (as we call it) ?


Personally, I’ve tried to be careful not to claim theory status for my ideas.

Those ideas including, but by no means restricted to (let’s attempt a comprehensive description) ‘on the application of the edge of chaos concept to various aspects of the play of children’.

I have become increasingly concerned about the application, by others, of my thinking to the range of playworker responses; an application which can easily slide into prescription.

If all art aspires to the condition of music, then all science aspires to the condition of mathematics; and if all all science aspires to the form of mathematics, then Bach’s fugues are the highest form of mathematics. Bethe’s formulas for stellar formation, when encoded, give us ‘Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star’ when played on a Fourier synth (ask me).

If playwork is aspiring to be scientific, it needs to abandon it’s flirtings with post-modern theory.

And equally if science has no place in playwork practice, then attempting to delouse playwork of it’s pseudo-science fleas by asserting a post-modern perspective on science is a pretty roundabout way to go about it.


which I want to get round to writing about sometime,



A craft is not a profession, nor is it merely an occupation, or a mere hobby. A craft CAN be a hobby or an occupation, and can exist within an occupation.

Last year we had double glazing (I know – finally!) to the remaining single (undouble?) windows in our lovely but 130 year old end-terraced house. The main guy that did the work was a craftsman. His attention to detail, his pleasure in the job well done was almost immediately apparent. I say almost, I had to get over the mess (minimal as it happened) , the noise and the disruption first. I finally gave in, did a bit of daytime telly, caught up on last weekends dead tree news and basically became their butler for the day, applying my theory that the best quality tea and coffee, and good biscuits are the best way to get good work out of yer stout British yeoman. That and honest appreciation. That last part was easy, as I say, this guy was class, he was skill, to use two archaiac working-class men’s expressions of appreciation.)

His story is interesting, though typical: now working for a double glazing firm, he was once a proper craftsman – carpenter or joiner, I forget which, sorry. Might have been cabinet maker – I think he trained as that, then went on .the building’. You can’t  really say he was ‘proud’ of his skills, because that word, along with ‘passionate’ has been hugely debased by the meejah to the extent that we are encouraged to be ‘proud’ if we bake a cake on Masterbake or get a yodelling audition on X-factor. I blame Heather Smalls – we were brought up to believe that pride was a sin.

So here we have this guy, and all he’s doing is bashing out our old windyframes and slotting in the new ones – made in some factory, cut to size on a computerised controlled CNC cutting machine, designed by some bloke on a CAD system sat in front of a big monitor, assembled by some lads in overalls- that he picked up from the depot this morning; nothing to it just slot ’em in. Think of all the money that little window-making companies used to waste employing craftsmen to make window frames by hand; think of all the employment created for painters repainting the bloody things every 5 years, now that money goes instead into the pockets of the IT guys and the factory owners, and the craftsman have to scrape a living basically installing Lego.


But if you’ve ever watched proper old fashioned physical work being done, you’ll know that there is a suprising amount of craft knowledge in use, no matter how routine and menial the task is. A good example is watching those 2 bonkers cleaning women on the telly, I forget their names: loads of intelligence, skill, knowledge and know-how being casually imparted to the nation’s slovens. (Is ‘sloven’ a real word? I was trying to avoid slattern or slut because of their sexist and sexual overtones. The gene for keeping a filthy house is not sex-linked. hope you didn’t think I meant Slovenians.)

Yes, Craft.

You might also notice that the technocrats of double-glazing have exported the risk (Ulrich Beck) of problems with fitting to the installer. The lowest paid worker is now shouldering the risk. We could suggest that while the task of making double-glazing has simplified, the task of installing it has complexified. The sleight of hand of the market. I wave my hand and the profit has left the warehouse and flown via the regional factory to the owners.


And the only playworkers I respect, and there are many, are those who stubbornly practice their craft, despite the best efforts of their managerialist bosses, the technocratic frameworks of monitoring, the viccissitudes of funding, the indifference of local authorities, the increasing stupidity of parents (I blame society) the vast ‘professional’ timidity and arse-covering of other agencies and the actions of the kids themselves.

Recalcitrants* all, stubbornly doing the best that they can.


So let me finish by saying this:




*Note to fans of my ‘Edge of Recalcitrance’  – the above is my best shot at why I call playworkers recalcitrant.

Further reading:

Richard Sennett : ‘The Craftsman’, ‘Together’, ‘Bowling Alone.

Matthew Crawford: ‘The case for working with your hands’.


This, dear reader, yes all 8 of you, may be worth a listen, especially as both  Adrian Voce and Bob Hughes are on  it:

 “Feral Kids and Feckless Parents”

the first in a series on Broken Childhood featuring an expert-led discussion on the contemporary issues, such as knife-crime and gun-crime and crime-crime and other feckless issues facing parents in our contemporary society

RADIO 4 today, Wednesday, at 8pm.

Do have a listen then we can discuss it online. Such fun!

I speak like this because the increasingly London-centric posh media types at the Beeb, seem to think everyone lives like this, cue vicious parody:

just after you have had a simple family supper of jugged hare in an aubergine and Marsala jus, and just before the ‘man of the house’ has to ‘pop’ upstairs to read Jemima and Jasper their organically-grown, fairly-traded recycled children’s story by Kate Winslet, entitled “ The day that Satsuma forgot about global warming”, you can huddle round the Pure DAB set and listen to (or record for later – such fun) this lovely programme:



From the actual BBC:

“Programme 1: Feral Kids and Feckless Parents

”The August riots in parts of England showed youngsters out of control on the streets, and put huge focus onto parenting skills.

“MPs and council leaders warned parents that they should know where their children were at night and keep them indoors and out of trouble.

”But parents themselves were saying they were unable to discipline their kids, either because they feared repercussions by the authorities, or because their children were simply physically too strong.

“In the first of the new series of “Bringing Up Britain”, Mariella Frostrup is joined by a panel of experts to discuss parental discipline right across British society.”

{uncontrollable interjection: RIGHT across? As in all classes? Somehow I doubt it}

”How easy is it for us to control our children, especially after they stop being biddable toddlers and begin to assert their own personalities?

“Have we given children too many rights and ignored those of parents?

”Can you really stop a large teenage child going out, and what restraining measures can you legally use?

“And, if your child is going off the rails, how do you break the cycle and get them back into good habits?”


Back to the totally made-up vicious parody:

Joining a woman in early middle-age who has a sexy voice because she is foreign, are 4 people who are already known to BBC researchers (who these days are all unpaid interns called Rebecca or Piers), because their names are already in the producer’s filofax (remember them). Joining poshtotty to explore these issues will be:

• Adrian Voce, OBE, freelance policy consultant and ex-Director of PlayEngland,

• Bob Hughes of PlayEducation, the UK’s leading thinker on children’s play and playwork

• some bloke who used to be a teacher who went to school with George Osborne

• the wife of George Osborne (is he married? I thought he was gay, must check) who has set up a charity for badgers distressed by quad bikes

•an ethnic minority person who was booked by mistake but the BBC has an equalities policy so they aren’t being told because it might upset them and they might call us racist

• Professor Martina Rousseau-Clarkson, the  founding director of the Luton University Centre  for the Study of the Causes of Research into the Parenting Strategies deployed in early adolescence by Developmentally Challenged Agricultural Workers in South America and Children

• Peter Rabid, the foreign policy editor of the Economist and best-selling author of ‘Shoot The Bloody Lotl!’

Only joking all of those people are made-up. The two that are real people are the ones least likely to be actually, and disappointingly, on the programme. Follow the link to find out who the real panel is. Gosh, with luminaries like that, we’re assured of a jolly debate. I’m going to be glued to my set: if you miss it, and if I hear anything sensible or interesting or hopeful, and if I write it down, you might see it on here, later.

THE REDISCOVERY OF FIRE: playwork, training and the ‘problem’ of fire



This is some writing on playwork. 

I realise, on re-reading it, that it is somewhat opaque by virtue of being condensed to fit into two pages of a magazine. I am happy to expand and expound on any of the ideas.

What’s odd about this piece is that it was rejected because it had too many footnotes,

or was it simply because it had footnotes?  

I forget. So I took my bat home.

I thought it should see the light of day,

I thought that it should gambol free in the shallow-angled pasty light of midwinter, seeking its listeners.

I like this piece. It’s 18 months old, and I had forgottten it almost completely, so when I read it, it was as if I was not the author, so when I say I liked it, it’s not showing off, it’s just fact. (Fact in the sense that my opinion is factually reported by me, I mean). When I say I like it, it’s more that I appreciate it, despite its flaws. It should be longer: that means work that I’m reluctant to commit to without guidance – tell me, what of it to write more of, dear reader/s (too many prepositions, up with which one cannot put).

I will say this: it is absolutely about leadership and management. Absolutely, even though it contains no Tuckman, no norming, norman-ing, no storming norman-ing.

(‘Storming Norman’ was a Gulf War general. Sheena was a punkrocker).

It is absolutely about leadership and management.





© Arthur Battram, PleXity 2011


He said “Something on Management and Leadership“, which, as Picasso knew, just makes it more difficult, having to choose from EVERYTHING, which is why the Spanish philanderer chose the restrictions of the junkyard and its ‘objets trouveé’. That’s loose parts to you, play boy.


Management as we understand it,  developed in the huge multinational corporations of America, the UK and Europe in the middle years of the last century. These huge structures found it increasingly difficult to act in new ways and even to communicate, which lead to wave after wave of management fads, like TQM, BPR and the ‘Learning Organisation’. Evil management consultants, expert at exploiting the last drop of profit, moved on to the next chic fad, whilst marketing the already discredited fad to the gullible public sector and the larger national charities as ‘Best Practice’. Thus it was inevitable that ‘the Quality movement’ would pose the latest threat to tiny little play projects pottering along minding their own business – of course TQM is inappropriate, but you can get funding to do ‘Investors in People’, oh yes, funding to waste hundreds of hours (which aren’t funded) getting a framed piece of paper alongside such luminaries as McDonalds and Northern Rock.  The little fleas have littler fleas and thus the voluntary sector has PQASSO, its very own quality scheme. On the theory that ‘we should do it to ourselves before they do it to us’ we have the noble ‘Quality in Play’ – which unfortunately finds itself not to be the ‘preferred approach’ of many a Children’s Services Childcare Development Team (last year Play England failed to run a programme of training for assessors in the North basically because they were asking play people to pay commercial rates and nobody has the money).


I hear tales of woe about ‘childcare settings’ which, when not forced to operate some Gradgrindian ‘homework club’§§, are busy implementing some imagined ‘Prevention of Fun Act’ requiring them to ban most stuff because the school won’t like it, or the caretaker complained or the parents don’t like the kids getting messy or the head doesn’t approve or… Where does this stuff come from? Where are these Funeaters, these cold-water-pouring Blue Meanies, these banners of the sacred ‘Fire Play’?  Let’s go see – come with me now, dear reader, to another part of our world, a corner of our green and pleasant, a land of powder-blue Saabs and ‘themes’…


Last year I found myself teaching a group of childcare people the joys of playwork and our lovely principles of play. I met Tehanu* who—responding to the ‘demand characteristics’ of an enthusiastic and proselytising tutor (me)—told me about George****, a small boy who didn’t get involved in stuff, and just sat about, until one week in which the owner of the club, driver of a powder-blue Saab convertible†, friend of the Head, and decreer of ‘themes’, had decreed that this week the theme would be ‘Boxes’ and thus George was unexpectedly to be found making, playing, inhabiting ‘being free’ while being boxed in, like Picasso . And thus was George fulfilled: he had found his ‘signature play mode’.§ Until Powder Blue poppedin saw that this had continued into the following week, and was not happy and she spake unto Tehanu most crossly and ordered her to see to it, and Tehanu did not, for she valued George and his play and was prepared to suffer some wrath from the PB, who in any case was never there and probably wouldn’t remember, like a busy parent, which is how most managers of small businesses behave, for better or worse.


Cut to the chase – with this group I found myself going back to my roots as a playwork trainer, focussing on the installation of bullshit detectors***. I explained that their job, in order to be true to the creed of Playwork in its mighty Principles, was to be subversive in their Stalinist ‘settings’:  that they must develop ‘the bushido of the revolutionary’**, they must be cunning and practice tradecraft and proceed to cross the Great River using the ‘stepping stones of possible’, making innocent queries, attributing small intentions to the Gods of CACHE and NVQ, such as the display of the Charter, and the Principles, moving doggedly forward from one ‘adjacent possible’ to another, keeping their eye on their goal, which in this case was this: to offer many more, if not all, of the 16 Play Types of Bob. Of great help to me in this task is the unfairly neglected “Making Sense – Playwork In Practice”, the free to download CPC/Playlink publication,  I commend it to you because it illuminates very educational-sounding outcomes using lovely anecdotes of proper play.)


And blow me down but the next month they did , and it wasn’t the ones I thought it would be, so there’s me shown. ‘We’re doing fire play’ they chorused. Wow, I said tell me about it, and it transpired that they’d got the principles on the wall, and they’d circulated Making Sense, and talked to the Deputy Head who’d talked to the boyfriend of one of the other teachers who was an Outward Bounds Expert (I know what you’re thinking and I don’t care because they did it, so what if it needed some Goretexted herbert with a map on a string round his neck, needs must) and they prepared the Pit of Fire and they did Fire Play, or to put it another way, all this fuss and malarkey,  but yes ‘they had a bit of a fire’ as we used to call it, THEY HAD A BIT OF A FIRE.


And, and, they probably imported another bloody American ‘tradition’ – marshmallow toasting, and maybe they even did spuds. (We did spuds on my playground; thinking back, some of those kids must’ve lived off them – here’s the recipe: steal spud from Mum, bring to playground, wrap in foil (we always had some knocking around because of ‘chasing the dragon’)†† throw in fire, root about with stick until you think you have found it again in there, argue with other kid as to whose it is, which passes the 10 minutes or so until, not being able to wait any longer, you rake it out and grab it, and hop around like Rumpelstiltskin going ‘Ow ow ow ow ow’ juggling it as you peel back the foil and chew through the layer of grey hot ashes to reach the hot steamy fluffy mashy bit, which you gnaw away at until you are basically ricing raw spud.  Rewrap and repeat.  True story. I am Nigel Slater.)


But isn’t it a shame that we have to make such a bloody fuss about it? And isn’t it good when it works, though? Space will not allow me to more closely explicate my tale as the lesson in Strategic Playwork‡‡that it is, nor to explain the key difference between Leadership in a management context (as recently inflicted by the CWDC’s PLM programmes) and Professional Leadership, nor to reveal the identity of the Funeaters, although the clues are there to be found. Perhaps another article?


For those of you thinking I’m exaggerating the problems, I found this job ad:

“PLAYWORKER: Nursery School“


”Blue Peter style presenter needed for after school and holiday club, provides fun childcare during term time and school holidays for children between the ages of 4 and 11 years“.

Chilling, isn’t t? That’s chilling as in spine-chilling, not chilling as in ‘chillax’. I was going to put (sic) after ‘Blue Peter style presenter’, I’m choosing not to because I do have a little bit of pretend confusion: do they mean ‘style presenter’, a presenter of style, like on a ‘lifestyle show’ whatever that is, or do they mean ‘Blue Peter-style presenter’ ? I’m not sure where the illiteracy originated: was it with the employer or the advertiser? Whatever, someone should’ve spotted it. It’s easy for me: there’s just me writing this, so if there are errors they are mine, all mine. Mmmm, precious errors, demonstrating my humanity (in theory). Some may say that I’m being an old fusspot, that it is obvious what they meant to say. To which I say this: please meet me in a cafe. I will have a small piece of scrap timber, a big nail and a hammer. I will ask you to read out what it says on a piece of paper as I stand holding the hammer. The piece of paper will say this: “See that nail? When I nod my head, hit it”


Arthur Battram divides his time . He collects fountain pens and enjoys kerning more than a grown man should . He created Playstock with Eddie Nuttall, a free alternative conference coincidentally next door to IPA2011. He says read this: http://www.nicholaswhyte.info/sf/bdf.htm It’s a review of a story which inspired half of the title – the other half is from the US Ambassador to China in the 1930s, Paul Linebarger, who wrote a collection of linked stories ‘The Rediscovery of Man’.

~~~~~~~~~~actual end of article~~


(They didn’t like footnotes, so I renamed them so as not to cause offence.)

§§ is that ‘club’ as in free association around leisure interests, or ‘club’ as in baby seal?

  • an obvious and poetic pseudonym (google Tehanu).

† a poetic invention, justified by this maxim of the Klingon ambassador, who proclaimed that you simply cannot truly understand Shakespeare, dear boy, until you have read him in the original Klingon. Kurosawa would approve.

‡ which is why I mentioned him at the beginning, I realise: ah, the unconscious mind at play.

§ ‘Signature play mode’, as in ‘signature strength’. It’s the type of play (not necessarily ‘play type’) which invigorates you, the one that just feels right –  a lovely notion which I have invented, so you have to quote me, for it is mine, mine, precious, lifted from another field as one does, my precious, mine; ask nicely and I may tell.

#   Pop. The verb ‘to pop’ is a signifier of power in managerial relationships. Not sure? Then try this: next time you’re in the care of a health professional, query their use of an utterance they make, like this one: “Now, if you’d like to just pop up onto the table for me and we’ll have a little look…” Ooh, they do so hate having to, um, actually issue an order whilst loving that YOU DO WHAT THEY SAY!  I prefer the more blunt schtick of the security personnel “I’m going to have to ask you to…” Makes me sullen just writing about it – if I ever arrange to meet you at the British Library, make sure it isn’t in the courtyard café – because if it is you’ll be going through security with me which, trust me, you won’t enjoy.

** no, I didn’t actually say that.

††  Of course I’m joking, sheesh.

‡‡ Strategic Playwork: my term for an expanded playwork conception with elements of grass-roots community work, activism and resource-seeking. Email me for  my PDF from PlayEd’07.

*** google this : ‘Postman bullshit detector’. Neil Postman, iconoclastic educator.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~end of footy stuff~~

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.”




FIGHT RACISM! Dress witches in pink, avoid white paper!

Dress witches in pink and avoid white paper to prevent racism in nuseries, expert says – Telegraph.

“Dress witches in pink and avoid white paper to prevent racism in nuseries, expert says

Teachers should censor the toy box to replace witches’ black hats with a pink ones and dress fairies in darker shades, according to a consultant who has issued advice to local authorities.”

Ooh, this one got them going!

Good advice to avoid white paper though: just wish local authorities and Michael Gove avoid white paper also.

Let’s just contextualise this: Nursery World magazine HAVE issued a guide on equality and diversity, free (as in falls out of when you open it) with the magazine. It IS written by this Anne O’Connor. The writer may well have advised local authorities. I’m sure the ‘guide’ does contain all sorts of advice like that pilloried by the Torygrapher. This advice is a magazine pull-out, not advice to local authorities, and not official government or local government advice, just a freebie in a magazine.

And, and, what happens to ‘pull-outs’ or ‘fall’outs’? Straight in the recycling, maybe via the gerbil cage floor.

Great ‘rantortunity’ though. Keep ’em coming.

BTW, the nursery world coterie is a perfect example of a SRSS (self-referential social system). for more details – ask me or read my book: ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’. you can pay a lot second hand or wait for the soon-come reprint.


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.


This is a lovely techno koan ”I was…

This is a lovely techno-koan:

”I was struck last week when I saw a colleague pecking away, very quickly, with two fingers on his computer keyboard.  I asked him about it and he told me that he had recently taken a course where he had learned to touch type.  The course had been very good and he had learned to type at 30 words pre minute.  But with his two finger pecking he typed at 60 words per minute. His plan was to continue to practice his touch typing, until it was fast enough to switch over.  Of course if he switched over now, he would be touch typing even faster, sooner, but at the cost of the learning curve frustration.”

And if my blogging chum had left it there it would’ve been great. But he wouldn’t let it lie, and so the next sentence is of the dreaded ‘And you know, that’s a little bit like Jesus isn’t? ’variety. You can read the whole thing if you follow the link below.

Now, I’m aiming his koan squarely at a Mancunian author of my acquaintance who hasn’t moved on from the ‘smartphone-stabby-stabby-grunt’ stage. Typical. Young people, eh. Perhaps there’s a kind of Pareto thing going on, where if you invest only 20% of the 20% you need to get to the 80% of the lovely usability of the device–because you can’t be bothered and you’re in a rush and you need to just use it and you’re not a geek–then you remain stuck in the stabby grunt frustration, irritation, ‘bloody stupid thing’ phase. No discipline, no gumption, no stick at it no deferred reward, More importantly perhaps, I say pretentiously and portentously, we can observe another rule of what Neil Postman calls ‘Technopoly’:

Battram’s 6th Law of Technology: the smarter the phone, the dumber the user can be until something bad happens.

I read somewhere recently of the incredulous response of a young woman, asked what she would do if she had an emergency and her mobile wouldn’t work. What do you mean if my mobile won’t work? She could no more comprehend that possibility than she could the idea that the sun might not rise. Powerful ju-ju.

Apple’s Siri personal assistant technology, nearly working and available now, though officially still ‘in beta’, promises Jeeves in your phone. But what happens when Jeeves isn’t there?

Bertie is in trouble when Jeeves goes on holiday. 
On a trip to Brinkley Court, Bertie finds himself 
surrounded by former fiancees and old adversaries. 
Bertie looks set for a troublesome time…

Siri being ‘in beta’ is unusual for Apple, unlike Google who keep most of their applications in beta long after they have been released and sorted out. What does this portend? My guess is that the betaness of Siri is more than just a Google-style early unfinished release. I think Apple are acknowledging that this sort of application can only be developed in a co-evolutionary loop with its users. So now we have an application that assumes another characteristic of all living systems – a ‘structural coupling’ as Maturana might term it, an autopoietic relationship.

And you know, isn’t ‘in beta’ a little bit like life? (Do not say the ‘J’ word, Ed) Living systems, living things, life -always unfinished, always learning, changing, striving and such…






…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.



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Just back from that London where I very…

Just back from that London, where I very narrowly avoided becoming embroiled in street gang violence. On the receiving end. Not fun; very scary. Fret not, dear reader: I am physically unharmed and not robbed. Wrong place, wrong time.

Food for thought, coming soon (possibly) some musings – working title something like: “The natural history of the street”.

(‘Natural history’ is a term that predates what might now be called ‘biology, or biological sciences. I’m thinking of Gilbert White’s ‘The Natural History of Selborne’ from 1789, ‘The Peregrine’ by J.A.Baker, sort of thing…

Just watching the IPA videos By which I…

Just watching the IPA videos. By which I mean the videos of talks by play experts given to the International Play Association 2011 in Wales. I’m watching Bob Hughes (who I am pleased to call a friend), ‘the man who invented playwork’ I choose to call him today.

Anyone who is interested in the fate of children in our world should learn from the material made available by the IPA here on the net.

If you go to:


that link takes you into the IPA2011 website, to the brief video extracts from the conference. There are a number of short clips of Bob’s talk – the 2nd one seems to be an error – as it was a repeat of the first. You can’t see Bob’s slides, or his movie clips, so it’s really just an audio. But still brilliant inspiring and wise stuff.

Go see it.