All 39 entries tagged Diversions

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December 07, 2006

Moving on…

Writing about web page

Forgotten but not quite gone

Have now moved on…so this one goes into black hole but the occasional book review and playlist will be appearing care of wordpress

Fall cover

So, keep an eye on the new Prole Art Threat

And, if you must, you can always email me at:

And one final thing is to say thank you to everyone around the University (including special mentions to the SU, to the folks in the Commercial Group and those in University House) for the wonderful gifts and donations to make sure that I definitely do leave. I am touched and enormously grateful for everything and for the very kind words. Thank you so much.

Missing you already!

September 18, 2006

Very Onion–like

Writing about web page

But no worse for that

(and very slow….)

I particularly liked the idea of a Gary Glitter musical

August 17, 2006

By the way, this is not me

Writing about web page

Lest there be any doubt, this person who does reviews on Amazon, ain't me.

Just thought I would clarify that – I don't read that kind of book as a rule (as I'm sure previous reviews would indicate).

August 13, 2006

45,000 'ghost workers' – a tremendous achievement

Writing about web page

This really is staggering:

The authorities in Cameroon have discovered that they are paying civil service salaries to 45,000 employees who do not actually exist. Finance Minister Polycarpe Abah Abah said the fake employees were costing nearly $10m (£5m) a month.

It is just the sheer scale of it which defies belief. This must represent a pretty large proportion of the Cameroon civil service and it therefore seems extraordinary that no–one noticed!

July 27, 2006

Students 'own hi–tech gadgets' – new shock report

Writing about web page

Yes, extraordinary news, isn't it?

The massive survey shows that:

Students increasingly own an expensive range of personal items such as MP3 players, iPods, laptops and widescreen televisions, a survey suggests. In 1996, students had possessions worth £1,900, compared with £2,900 now, the poll of 587 students indicated.
Nearly two–thirds of those surveyed by YouGov owned laptop computers, more than half had MP3 players, 48% owned DVD players, 12% had widescreen TVs and 6% owned PDAs.

Amazing information!

But then it is followed by a staggering piece of misinformation:

The findings come as students starting courses this autumn will have to pay up to £3,000 a year on tuition fees alone.

Implication – silly students are blowing a fortune on electrical goods and won't be able to pay their fees. Oh dear.

July 11, 2006

The Gifted and Talented Solution?

Writing about web page

It appears from Chris Woodhead's comments to the BBC about the latest developments in gifted and talented education that the answer is…

Grammar Schools

That idea must have taken some time to arrive at.

Management issues in the NHS

Writing about web page

Whilst it is wrong to derive any satisfaction from this Audit Commission report, it seems bizarre that there remains a view (at least in parts of the Treasury) that universities are run as badly as parts of the NHS. Yet, there aren't many insitutions which would survive for very long with these kind of problems – and some of the findings in this about management problems in the NHS are really quite staggering:

We found that the origins of financial failure in the organisations we reviewed typically lay in ineffective management and weak or inadequate board leadership. The report identifies three crucial aspects of board–level culture that suggest trouble may be ahead: inadequate calibre of leadership, particularly in the key posts of chief executive and finance director; lack of board cohesion and inability to challenge, frequently compounded by a high turnover of board directors, both executive and non–executive, impeding the board’s ability to work effectively as a team; and the board’s eye being off the ball. We found this typically meant the board had other time–consuming business: the after–effects of a merger (or the preliminary stages of the next one), a large building project, responsibility for a shared service or consortium, or any combination of these.
These factors were often compounded by weaknesses in the information available to the organisation, particularly in financial monitoring and the forecasting of the year–end position.


Some boards surrendered to the view that the problem lay elsewhere within the local health system, usually on the other side of the commissioner/provider divide. Others looked for future funding increases to resolve their difficulties, with some NHS trusts believing that Payment by Results (PbR) will mean significant and justified income growth even if it is known that the local commissioners also have a deficit. The effect is for the organisation and its management to believe they are not in charge of their own destiny, waiting for external solutions rather than searching out internal improvements.

This, arguably, is analagous to the attitude of some HEIs – but in the mid–1980s, rather than now!

Even where boards operate better, operational problems were separated from financial ones with the finance director expected to solve them. Increasingly, this led to a reliance on short–term fixes: asset disposals, slippage and the use of non–recurrent funds to cover recurring (and growing) deficits, and borrowing from other NHS organisations. Finance directors rose to the challenge, but the results were damaging in the medium term with underlying imbalances not being addressed. Financial problems are operational ones. They require cost structures, service design and productivity to be addressed in detail.


We also found, among this small minority of organisations we reviewed, a tendency for the medical leadership and other senior clinicians to be disengaged from the core management processes of the trust. This dislocation, if allowed to continue over a period of years, appears to be a reliable indicator of impending financial trouble. It is, after all, clinicians who spend most of the NHS’s money.

The obvious analogy here is with problems faced where you have academic staff being disengaged from central University activities.

Anyway, a desperately depressing read in many places but at least we can feel a bit better about the calibre of management in many universities. If only parts of government would see it the same way.


I always thought that with a name as odd as mine there would be little room for (Google–led) confusion. But there are others, including:

  • A US truck driver who gave a testimonial to his driving school.
  • A Canadian banker.
  • A Welsh rugby–playing schoolboy (OK that was 35 years ago according to the archive photo).
  • And, most disconcertingly, someone who writes reviews of various fantasy and science fiction books on Amazon.

I'm sure that they all get fed up with me as well.

July 05, 2006

The end of a National Learning Grid?

Writing about web page

I'd forgotten about this particular educational initiative. Notable for two reasons:

– it is always difficult to kill things off but right to do it sometimes (although suspect it was years overdue)

– I was distracted by the headline – the idea of a Warwick–style Learning Grid but on a national scale just struck me as bizarre.

June 26, 2006

Band names derived from other bands' songs

Have always speculated about this ever since hearing about how Flock of Seagulls got their name. Limited list to date is:

  • Flock of Seagulls (line in 'Toiler on the Sea' by The Stranglers)
  • Ordinary Boys (Morrissey song of same name)
  • Pretty Girls Make Graves (Smiths song)
  • Deacon Blue (from Deacon Blues by Steely Dan)
  • Radiohead (from Radio Head by Talking Heads)
  • Sisters of Mercy (song by Leonard Cohen)
  • Death Cab for Cutie (song by Bonzo dog doo–dah band – or whatever they were called)
  • Simple minds (kind of from Jean Genie)

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