Saturday, March 24, 2007

Chasing the Dime

by Michael Connelly

It's a bit of a cheat this because I haven't quite finished reading yet. I bought the book because I usually like Michael Connelly’s [] books but this one is dire! I’m getting really frustrated reading it. I have The Lincoln Lawyer sat waiting - but this has put me off.

Previous books I’ve read by Connelly have been Harry Bosch books: The Narrows and The Closers (I think that I even read The Poet, but cannot remember the plot) and they have been fine. Reading books like this just to pass the time on a train, in a hotel or on the beach is great – there’s no pressure and a story line that is credible (ish) and goes at some pace helps me to relax.

All this is untrue of ‘Chasing the Dime’. The chief honcho of an advanced techno company (small company on the verge of big-time) is lured into a nightmare world of prostitution, porno web sites and killers simply because his new flat has the ex-number of a call girl/escort. Most of us would wait until the next opportunity (in this case ‘Monday’) to change the number and get on with our lives. But not this guy. Henry Pierce goes off on a crusade to find the girl and to ‘rescue’ her. He does the most unimaginably stupid things, even after having one of the best defence lawyers (yes he gets into bother with the police) secured for him. Things that you and I would not do – we would do ‘this’ or ‘that’ but never what this geek does. I’m at a point now (I will finish the book – I’m determined to see if I’ve missed a point somewhere) where Henry has found hidden keys to a storage facility and (as usual) instead of saying “hey Mrs. Lawyer woman – where do you think these came from?” – He goes up to the facility and opens the solitary freezer he finds there! Well, you can guess can’t you? The body of said call girl is in the freezer and he’s now shed all of his DNA/hair fibres/fingerprints etc. all over the place. He's been set up, but any normal person would have seen that coming.

It’s so frustrating that I’ve had to write this just to calm me down. If we’d been on holiday and I’d been reading this somewhere, I’d have had all the tea prepared by now (not usual when I’m reading).


Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Hard Way

The Hard Way by Lee Child - a Jack Reacher Thriller (!)

You'll have seen this, I was half way through the book when I noticed that it was one of the big Ads on the London Underground. So there’s big big promotion behind it.

I'd bought the book in Newcastle Station last week, to see me on my way back to Yorkshire on the train. I'd never heard of Lee Child or especially of Jack Reacher. However, as the book was on offer at W.H Smiths @ half price, I was tempted.

It's a rollicking read - if you don't want anything believable and you just want to suspend reality for a while. Jack Reacher is one of those men that just don't exist. He doesn't wear a watch (neither do I - so what?) but knows the exact time to the second - and how many times do we hear of this feat! He can remember details of people that pass him in the street - I can't remember details of people who live in my house! He is super-human in many ways, not least (we are told) in his sexual exploits, although in this book he managed to bed a private investigator ten years older than him (AND she used to be FBI).


Mercenary kills first wife, second wife wants out, mystery moves from New York to East Anglia. Mystery solved. Jack slopes off.

Includes all sorts of US special forces, UK SAS and Para! As I said above - it's a cracking no brainer.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

AA Gill - Sunday Times 'Style' 04/03/07

For two weeks running now we’ve had reference to the ongoing Huddersfield joke in AA Gill’s ‘Table Talk’ (Sunday Times Style Magazine – 4th March 2007). Much as I and all my fellow Huddersfuddlians appreciate the recognition, more normally dolled out over intermittent periods, I must point out that this week’s historic and geographic references are not up to AA’s usual standards.

First of all Doncaster is in South Yorkshire and Huddersfield is in West Yorkshire. Whilst both towns are indeed in ‘God’s own county’ they are as far apart culturally and socially as Basques and Catalans – both easily recognisable as Spaniards but so very different.

Adrian spends more than half of his column comparing the origins of the Chinese-style New Year, recognising (no doubt correctly) that the Yorkshire beastly calendar came first. His forgivable historical inaccuracy is that this Yorkshire year is the year of the Yaffle. Lucky Stone: Coal, Lucky body part: cleft palette, Lucky car part: grease nipple, Spiritual word: bollocks! The year of the Yaffle (according to those East Yorkshire folk) is the year of clenched buttocks and tight smiles.

When it comes around, I’m certain that the year of the ferret (as predicted by AA) will cast a gilded glow of nicely nicely magic over Huddersfield – but until then we must abide within our dark and dank satanic Pennine valley.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Their Space

I realise that this is not a book, but it runs to over 80 pages and I enjoyed reading it, so I'm doing a review right here! The pamphlet is avaialble from the web page @ £10.00 but a .pdf file can be downloaded free of charge (guess which I did).

"Education for a digital generation draws on qualitative research with children and polling of parents to counter the myths obscuring the true value of digital media. "

It's well worth the time to sit and read this if you get the chance and if you are interested in moving the UK's Education system forward. The paper tends to echo what lies at the heart of everything I do. It pinpoints a real need for us all to understand the advances young people (from the very earliest cognitive age) are making. These are often seen but misunderstood - or not understood at all, in fact we often place barriers to the advances in their way.

Just looking beyond the titled subject matter for a minute - the document discusses young people and their ability (or capability, indeed social NEED) to change the world. The problem currently, is that teachers and lecturers have not yet faced this need and have not therefore adapted their style of teaching as necessary. The publication suggests that it is the 'system' that prevents these necessary changes - and I wholeheartedly agree but the system can be changed from within if enough teachers take up the mantle and adapt to suit their charges.

Unfortunately, there are no answers given or discussed to the knee-jerk reaction of most schools and colleges to 'inappropriate' use of 'the system'. The barriers mentioned earlier. Basically, kids using YouTube or MySpace scare adults and teachers who don't quite understand what is going on. Major shifts in learning (styles and capabilities) are taking place and our answer to this is to ban access to the sites. Oh, I know that young people shouldn't really be using institutional machines to view a variety of 'naughty' (or morally suspect - an example given to me was the early morning viewing of Saddam swinging from the rope) things, but they will always want to push boundaries of good taste and social mores. Instead of banning the use - why can't we implement those punishments the institution has in place. In colleges every student signs an acceptable use policy; beat them with it!

I’m told that the institutional fear is ‘Every Child Matters’ – which imposes a duty of care on all who work with ‘Children’.

Sadly, it seems that the re-training and re-skilling which is needed, is not high on the agenda of many college (or school) managements. Where it is, it is usually due to some external pressure. There is still a massive need for e-Learning staff development in this country and until the powers that be recognise this we'll get nowhere. I've heard all the glib answers, but coming from politicians so far removed from the classroom (or the social net-space!) they mean very little. When I can still go into a roomful of teachers, show them what CAN be done and simple ways of DOING it and come away leaving them enthused and motivated - it proves there is still a need. What those teachers then need is TIME to practice, to evaluate and to synthesise their learning, then to be supported and guided towards future devel0pment.

Rant over.