June 15, 2005

An ode to Westwood – the forgotten campus

Old mother Westwood went to her cupboard
To fetch her poor staff a bone
When she got there
The restaurant was bare
And so the poor staff had none!

What is going on with Westwood? What has it done? Who has it upset? Has it been removed from the campus? Has it just been set free to roam as a little island off the Channel?

Yes, we have just found out that our beloved Westwood restaurant is about to close from next Friday! What?? Why?? Not viable?? What a lot of old tosh!! It's used quite a lot from what I can see. The staff are fantastic, the food is good and overall it's excellent value for money.

In our building the multimedia centre/ITS we don't have anywhere else to go to have lunch away from the desk and we don't even have a vending machine! The nearest one is in the restaurant but we can't get to it if the restaurant is closed! We are now told that we have to traipse all the way over to University House for something to eat – gee thanks – that's a good 10/15 min walk for us! You really wanna do that when it's hammering down like it was this lunch time.

Okay, so we do have a great little Costcutter that stocks a very small selection of sarnies but somehow I don't think this can expand to cater for everyone.

And, and, another thing! I have also just found out today that the shuttle bus laid on by the Sports Centre to ferry people to the sports centre has ceased running from now as well. This is a great service but one that hardly anyone knew about (the times were a bit rubbish and it hasn't been publicised too well) and this is probably through lack of demand as well. It might come back in September if we're lucky!

So there you go – can't eat, won't eat (and can't even get a bus to somewhere with food!)

God I needed tha tlittle rant – feels so good baby!

April 14, 2005

Just do it!

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4442145.stm

Nike have published a list of its 700 factories in a bid to start addressing poor working conditions.

Very commendable.

Here's an idea. Instead of spending time and money trying to address poor conditions in your factories, why not just spend a few more quid on a footballer to do another 30 second ad?

How will it all end?

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,13026,1458536,00.html

It dawned on me that I've haven't used my blog for some time and thought I'd better start writing something before the world ends!

Talking of which, how will it end? The Guardian have provided a brief summary of 10 possible causes and the llikelihood of each happening.

1. Climate change – yeah yeah, but where's the fun in that?

2. Telomere erosion. Now doesn't that just sound fantastic? Yeah, this is definitely the way forward… I can't come to work today because I have telomered eroded in my sleep… long term prognosis – poor … could be off for the rest of the year or my life really, whichever comes first! Would John buy it I wonder?

3. Viral Pandemic – erggghhhh nasty – let's not go there. Although the word 'pandemic' seems to have just appeared – sounds even nastier than an epidemic. What's the difference?

4. Terrorism. Not convinced on this one. We've always had terrorists – they haven't suddenly erupted from nowhere just cos of 9/11. I think it's the terrorists in government we need to be wary of – oh controversial!

5. Nuclear war. Messy but fairly comprehensive. It's a bit much though when so called 'civilised' western countries try to ban other countries from having them though. "I'm allowed to have one cos I am a good guy and I've only got one as I'm protecting the rest of the world from people like you who can't be trusted with such an item". mmm. If we're gonna take them off anyone, could it be Israel first please? Thankyou. Time to get off the soapbox now.

6. Meteorite impact. That's more like it. I like this. What goes around comes around. Big bang in – big bang out. Go meteorite!

7. Robot's taking over. This is my joint favourite with telomere erosion – masters of our own destruction and all that – something quite appealing about it.

Hans Moravec is a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh says:

Robot controllers double in complexity (processing power) every year or two. They are now barely at the lower range of vertebrate complexity, but should catch up with us within a half-century. By 2050 I predict that there will be robots with humanlike mental power, with the ability to abstract and generalise…

Yeah, I know this is an old argument that's trotted out every now and again, and the likelihood of computers catching up with us is fairly slim but I don't think we can completely rule it out. The Guardian puts the chance of
super-intelligent robots in the next 70 years as high, with a danger score of 8. That's high on both counts. We should be scared! How do we know when it's happened? Perhaps it's already happened? Who's writing this blog?

8. Cosmic ray blast from exploding star. Bit too Dr Whoish for me.

9. Supervolcanos. Not to be snubbed. Again according to G chances of happening in next 70 years – very high and danger score 7. I saw a programme about this some time ago and it is very realistic possibility. Yellowstone was featured but these things could occur anywhere and at any time. According to the featured research, we are due one about now.

A super-volcano is 12 times more likely than a large meteorite impact.

Maybe it won't be one massive eruption – more a series of smaller but equally as devastating ones such as the one that caused the Tsuami disaster recently.

10. Earth swallowed by a black hole. Now that's exciting. Chances are low but it doesn't get much more final that that does it?

December 01, 2004

The Invasion of the Fingersnatchers


High streets up and down the country have been invaded by a new highly dangerous breed of Bodysnatcher – the FINGERSNATCHER!

The Fingernsnatcher is a highly evolved form of bodysnatcher. They try to blend in with the community (although to the experienced eye a glow so orange it's almost purple illuminates them) and are opening so called 'respectable' shops in their thousands. Do not approach.

Where have they come from? What do they want from us?

Some go under the dubious title of 'nail technicians' and others will call themselves 'talon salons'. Beware – this is a guise – they are trying to entice you into their evil trap.

They want to lure you in and … CHOP YOUR FINGERS OFF!

The horror doesn't end there my friend, oh no. After the deed, they will paint the dead dripping tips in garish colours and stick little jewels all over them, but in the final act of total depravity, they will do something far far worse than anything you can ever imagine….

yes, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but your fingertips will be turned into strange square shapes and then, horror of absolute horrors…painted death-defying white! arrrgghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

You have been warned.

November 12, 2004

SiteBuilder training for Medical School and Personnel EO

Yesterday we did a sb training session for about 18 people from the Medical School at Westwood. I think these were mainly course coordinators from the Division of Health in the Community section and some others from Walsgrave.

It was good to have so many turn up this time (many thanks to Julie Sherriff for rounding them up!) as the last couple of times we did training for the medical school, only a couple of people turned up.

The course was a short session, comprising a brief talk about what makes a good website, how websites are structured, what sb is and a demonstration of how it works. The delegates then worked through the 'Getting to Know the Basics' module at their own pace.

There were a couple of server type errors and pages sticking but nothing too major to report.

Site wtr13 – some problem with this site. The edit content page came up as 'page not found' – need to investigate.

Adrian Stokes raised some issues:

On creating a table of contents page, he found that the toc page itself was added to the top of the list, but we couldn't edit the page to delete it as it works like the 'get content from' feature. Will this be refined?

He wondered whether it would be possible to edit the forums in sb when you create a forum page, rather than having to go into the forums itself to do the editing.

Karen did speak to him in more detail on this and may be to shed further light here.

Everyone fairly okay with it. Some would like their site for longer:

Charmaine Smith – wtr07
Carmel Parrott – wtr25
Jeanette Pratt – wtr19

On Wednesday I went over to the Personnel Office and spent a bit of time with a couple from the Equal Opportunities section, going through basics such as creating pages, uploading documents, creating links and using relative links.

There were some problems uploading word documents, which turned out to be technical problem that was at the time being fixed, so hopefully should now work okay.

There was also something wrong with the relative links picker. A couple of times we uploaded documents but when trying to find the relative link – they weren't there.

October 29, 2004

The world is my oyster

I'm all excited me! Finally got computer and broadband connection sorted for home – it's only taken me 7 months! Wahey!

Yes the world is my oyster and I can go anywhere, do anything and what am I doing at 00.10 when I should be grabbing some highly desirable and elusive shuteye? Writing a bloomin silly blog entry that's what! Oh God, I'm already turning into a saddo computer geek – HELP!

October 27, 2004

SiteBuilder Training Course – 22nd October 2004

Friday was the termly SiteBuilder training course.

Unusually we had a full quota (20) of people attend.

At first there was some confusion as the usually efficient booking system (aka Gill) had broken down which resulted in a few people not being booked on or written on the sheet and the sheet we were given seemed not to be the comprehensive copy. Luckily a few people did not turn up, so this accommodated the new people and everything worked out okay. Having since spoken to Gill it transpires that as she was so busy in the run up to the course she had to pass it over to the ITS training team and several different people were dealing with it. Pauline said that the bookings were coming in thick and fast towards the end. I've suggested to Gill that should she get overwhelmed again, that she passes the SiteBuilder bookings directly over to us.

The day was a full day course. I was quite apprehensive as it had been some time since I had given a course, so I clued up in the days before and carefully went through each slide on the training site only to find that when going through the slides in real time that the slides on the tutor's machine are a different set and in a different order. arrgh!! That'd be right! I think I managed to wing it okay though and it turned out to actually be one of my better presentations – clear, not too woolly, didn't get lost too much and don't think I repeated myself repeated myself (yes I know – shamelessly old gag!) too many times. I felt as though I had most people engaged throughout.

We went through what makes a good website and did a brief evaluation of the School of Archeology web page and later the original School of Architecture site.

We then did the website structure exercise. I wasn't sure about doing this as Joanna seemed to think that in the last term's course, Karen had decided not to do it, but according to my notes it was scheduled in and so we were going to do it! As it happened it seemed to fit in well and in retrospect I'm glad that we did do it. I think it is quite a useful exercise to get people thinking about their web pages in the context of their overall web structure, rather than just creating arbitrary pages that don't logically fit together. I gave the delegates half an hour for this exercise.

After discussing the possible results, I then did a demonstration of SiteBuilder and NewsBuilder, which took us up to 12.05pm and this seemed a logical break for lunch.

After lunch the delegates started to work through the exercises at their own pace. There wasn't too many problems and no awkward customers luckily but all three of us (including Jamie on work experience) were kept busy all afternoon just answering general questions.

There were just a couple of things that came up:

A delegate was editing the right hand column and wanted to put things in different fonts and colours. At first she tried using the different headings options in the editor, but this seemed to screw up the spacing between each item (the heading closing tag didn't come in properly and this meant going into the html to change it). She didn't like this as she's not familiar with html and thought the whole purpose of sb was that you didn't need to know html. I suggested that she tried editing the rhs using edit live, but we discovered that we could only edit the main content and not the rhs. I guessed that as it is still under beta that this hasn't been considered but I said that I would bring it up. Will enter it onto the forum.

Someone else was editing wtr16. After doing her latest changes all her work seemed to have disappeared. I asked her if she had inadvertently gone into another site but she didn't think she had. On speaking to Chris we learnt that she had been editing site wtr07. We didn't understand how this had happened as it wasn't on her browser history, she hadn't entered it and also said that she wasn't a careless clicker, so not quite sure what happened here.

A third delegate (who works for IT Services) said that he had been given a staff page directly from the Warwick site:
link He wanted to know how to edit it using sb. I couldn't help as I didn't think pages like this were still being used and thought that everything was in sb. Is there someone I should notify about this?

There were a number of people who want to continue using sb for a bit longer – need to drop emails to these:

Helen Viney – wtr12
Tania Page – wtr14
Chae Jung – wtr21
Jenny Bull – wtr22

The feedback received was very good. I've created a spreadsheet with the replies and created a couple of graphs from it – below. Everyone but one said the course was delivered at the right pace, everyone said they would recommend it to their colleagues and most found that it would be helpful in their work and were generally satisfied with it. Interestingly the only negatives were one who said there should have been less talking and more doing and conversely another couple who said there should have been more talking and less of the doing on their own! It seems you can't win! Other points raised were:

  • copy of slides for making notes on (good idea)
  • people with poor eyesight found the documentation text too small to read (don't think there is too much we could do about this other than referring people to the electronic version where they can increase their own text size).

October 20, 2004

Life of Brian

DVD front cover
Monty Python's Life of Brian [DVD] [1979]
5 out of 5 stars

I know this film has been done to death (a bit like Brian actually!) but it is one of my all time favourites. Yeah, alright call me shallow, but I am!
It's one of the few films that I could watch over and over and never tire of.

Most memorable bits for me:

The Judea's People front, or is it the People's Front of Judea? – so true and just completely sums up all the current (and historical) religious biogtry. I think we have a lot to learn from it.

'Go away. I'm not the messiah'

'Yes he is. I should know, I've followed a few!'

Brian's mum: 'He's not the saviour. He's just a very naughty boy!' 'He's not coming out to play!'

And so so many other little snippets that make me smile every time

Responsible for others?

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3755070.stm

I heard an interesting news snippet. A couple in France were on trial for letting a friend of theirs drive home after a party. It was 4.00am, he was drunk and they didn't want him to drive home. The friends asked him to stay the night, then tried hiding his car keys but he got a bit aggressive so in the end they had to let him go. He was involved in an accident in which both he and another family died. The relatives of the deceased wanted to sue the friends for not doing enough to stop him!

What else could the friends have done? How responsible should we be for the actions of others?

September 29, 2004

Just a doin' the blog

The whole world and his dog are a doin the blog!

I don't know. You turn your back for 5 minutes and the next thing everyone seems to be into this blogging malarky!

Yes, just back from maternity leave (thanks Joanna for creating/looking after my blog in the interim) and must say from what I've seen so far, I'm really impressed! When I left, the blog concept seemed to be just a few post-it notes and some vague student feedback. I admit I didn't really see the point in it then, thinking that this was just likely to end up a sprawling random collection of personal musings (well I guess it is really) with no connection or relevance to anything else. I thought the forums could probably do a better job at organising academic discussion and for anything else there was always chatrooms or email.

However, looking at it now and seeing how easy it is to use and how everything fits together, I can definitely see the need(?- one for Rob that – the old td arguments!) or use for it anyway and to have it in such a good state in such as short time ready for the start of term is absolutely fantastic. The guys done good!! The marketing is pretty clever too. Everywhere you look there seems to be 'blog it' statements coming at you. The big banner in Senate or University House whatever it is now called – WOW! Haven't seen it in the flesh yet but saw it on Karen's computer – looks brill. Great idea to put it there too.

Anyway that's my first blog just to try it out. Perhaps one day I might get round to putting up something else.

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