Archive for category Self Improvement

Children – should they have ‘rights’? – A compelling answer to this question…

Mirna is an educational psychologist from Stellenbosch. She taught at several schools, amongst others Stellenbosch High School, Bloemhof Girls’ High and Jan Kriel School for learners with barriers to learning. She is a mother, loves art, the ocean and children.

Children

I have been writing on the effects of divorce for the last couple of letters and would like to conclude with this short but powerful voice for the rights of children to be respected when a family is going through a divorce.

I found this at Children in the Middle-and added thoughts I found important for children going through a divorce. It really succinctly encapsulate the essence of going through a “good” divorce.

Children of Divorce’s Bill of Rights

  1. Recognize that we love and need both parents.
  2. Don’t turn us into messengers. Mom and Dad should talk to each other directly.
  3. Don’t say bad things about our other parent.
  4. Don’t grill us about what is going on at our other parent’s home.
  5. Don’t ask us to take sides.
  6. Don’t make us feel like we’re being disloyal to you if we enjoy being with our other parent.
  7. If you have something angry to say to our other parent, don’t say it around us.
  8. We do not want to be used as weapons against the other parent.
  9. Do not bribe us or give us gift because of your guilt or revenge. More than anything we need your time, patience and attention.

If parents who are divorcing could follow these guidelines – they can ensure to go through the separation with less trauma and more secure children. 

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but they make a lot of sense to me.

I would wager that the many parents we read about who kill their children rather than let their spouse have them have not followed these rules. God, but they must really hate. Yes, I know they must be unbalanced, but why and how did they get that way?

Ampers

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Education, education, Education – he had that part right…

… pity he didn’t follow it up.

Pity nobody has followed it up, both before him, and afterwards.

The girl in this video probably went to a private school. The video is all about changing outcomes from using the right words.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this is not necessarily true if the words are chosen by a poet or educated person.

Enjoy the video, but do reflect on the message right at the end…

Ampers

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It could never happen here.

I was watching the story unfold in Egypt over the last few days and thought “This could never happen in England.”

For one thing, successive governments have made us far too reliant on the state and no matter how evil the politicians become, the people who actually have the time to take to the streets won’t want to knock the status quo.

Yes, I know of the students riots and the poll tax riots, but these are riots with a hidden agenda, orchestrated by a hidden agenda!

Then there is television and radio. No way will people riot in the street if they have to miss EastEnders or Coronation Street, not to mention the Archers or Neighbours!

Finaslly there is the molly-coddling of the young. I grew up in Africa and had access to a little bit of danger – in fact I had access to a huge amount of danger but my parents never found out! Kids nowadays aren’t allowed the slightest bit of danger so grow up into pretty strange human beings.

There are many other examples, but these should suffice to explain why we have been slowly conditioned by our political masters to be completely docile. Even young soldiers have difficulty coping, mentally, with war any more. They come home a bag of nerves and need serious treatment, even those who haven’t been physically wounded and it’s not their fault! And our government doesn’t do enough for them when they do!

We could never riot tomorrow, but we could start to toughen ourselves up politically. Here is a 5 point plan if you want to take a more active part of life in your country. I have also added a bonus item!

  1. Take more of an interest in politics. If you have digital TV watch, not just BBC or ITV news, but watch Sky news as well – they keep winning the annual prize for being the best news programme. Go to meetings, the Adam Smith Institute have many free meetings in London. Attend the occasional local council meetings, this is permitted and you can see how awful democracy works locally. Understand what ALL the parties stand for, even those you hate. I keep an eye on them all, even the obnoxious BNP!
  2. Watch less TV. You are going to hate this but don’t watch any programme which is not self-contained into one showing. This means the soaps and anything that is serialised. This locks you into the TV. Get a good magazine which shows next week’s programmes, highlight only those you really want to watch. After a few months, become even more strict, choose one weekday and one weekend day where you will not turn on the TV. If you really “have” to see a programme, watch it next day on iPlayer or record it! Work towards eventually getting rid of TV and take control of your life again.
  3. I know you have a computer as you are reading this. Investigate RSS feeds and how they work. I use Google Reader to “collect” any additions to a lot of websites and read them all at once. You can read every article in your newspaper’s on-line edition very quickly this way. Read my blog on how it works at http://ampers.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/google-reader/ this can reduce an hour’s searching for news ino 60 seconds!
  4. My mother used to say to me “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.” This is an ideal philosophy to have when watching or listening to anyone in the political classes spouting on the box or in print. Ask yourself Cui bono (who benefits) or Cui malo (to whose detriment) or perhaps, what is their hidden agenda in saying this? All this is important as there will always be a hidden agenda, and whatever they do will usually be to our detriment and to their benefit.
  5. Know where you are on the political spectrum. Those of you who are a little older and can remember their school maths, will understand it when I talk about the ‘x’ axis and the ‘y’ axis. With politics, knowing where you stand in the political spectrum is important. The ‘x’ axis tells us where we stand between left and right but this is only a third of the picture. More important and counting for two-thirds, is the ‘y’ axis. This tells us exactly how much of a statist, centist or libertarian we are. If you aren’t sure, the statist believes the government should run the economy and also run people’s lives. The socialists are statists. A centist believes the government should run the economy but people should run their own lives. It is debatable whether the Conservatives are true centists but they lean a little towards that position. Libertarians are at the top and believe people should run their own economy and their own lives. To work out what you are, go to http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz and complete the ten questions. However, so that you can get proper results, spend a few minutes with every question, no matter how cut and dried they seem to be, and consider the implications of each before you tick the box.

    For example. Should we legalise drugs? Instead of letting your emotions run riot, mull over the fact that, for decades, we have not halted illegal drugs, we are not just losing the battle, we have lost the war. And it is costing the country billions. If we legalised drugs and you could buy them cheaply in Boots, then they would be ”clean”. Every drug dealer in Britain would be out of work, kids would not have access to drugs at the school gate in return for “deliveries”, muggings and burglaries would go down. If you still say “no” tnis is OK as you would have thought it through and would be making an “informed” decision..

  6. Bonus: This brings me to my last point, Thinking things through. You will never be free of the current political oppression unless you learn to think for yourself, to think everything through before making any decision. This will also help in your personal and business life.

My own politics are for me. I am not running this blog to try to influence you, but to attract like-minded people who like what I have to say and follow me.

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Wine tasting at home.

Photo of wineIt is sometimes difficult for an amateur to go to an wine tasting event with so many professionals using such flowery language but it doesn’t matter too much.

When you taste wine and you feel you haven’t the ability to smell the nose or taste the wine in such an expert way, don’t worry about it.

There is another way!

Use numbers. Score your wine out of twenty points. When you examine to colour, give points between 0 and 3 depending on the clarity and brightness of the colour and the size of the lip around the wine. Then give between 0 and 7 for the nose and how it pleases you. Finally give between 0 and 10 for the taste of the wine. 0 is equal for buying it for your mother-in law, and 10 for whether you intend trying to make an impression on a young millionnairess with large eyes.

When in a restaurant, and the wine waiter pours a sample for you to taste there should be enough in the glass to sip a couple of mouthfuls. Otherwise you cannot swill the wine around the glass to get a decent nose of the wine. A waiter without the experience will give you a quarter of an inch in the glass, don’t be afriad to say to them, I need at least two centimetres to be able to test the wine.

First of all look at the colour of the wine over a white light or a white table cloth. Look for cloud or foreign objects in the wine. Then swill the wine around the glass and sniff – you will soon know if there is something funny there! If all seems fine, take a decent mouthful and swirl the wine around the mouth before you swallow. This will give you the final judgement to see whether it is corked or not. One bottle in ten is corked but that isn’t quite as bad as it seems.

If you take corked wine in levels between level one a little corked, to level 10, very corked, different people’s palates can decide whether it is corked or not. Rather than the person at the head of the family testing, it is best to allow the person with the most experience of wine to make this important test. This way if the wine is corked and he can taste it, it can be exchanged. If someone who doesn’t know tests it and accepts it, then your experienced person will be saddled with a bad wine and his evening will be ruined.

If you want to test the difference between an old wine and a fresh wine at home, then buy a new wine and then also buy the exact wine, but a few years older. Then when you taste at home, open both bottles and taste the fresh wine first, followed by the old wine. This way you will learn that age with the right wines improves the wine magnificently.

A word of warning though. If you are happy with the low priced wines you are drinking, and for any reason, you are not prepared to pay more for the nectar of the gods, do not go to wine tastings at all. There is no point whatsoever in educating your palate if you are not willing to pay more.

I did, and am forever crippling myself buying wines which I find hard to afford on my pension!

And my mother-in-law stopped speaking to me.

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It’s easy to put fear into the politicians.

I was watching the story unfold in Egypt over the last few days and thought “This could never happen in England.”

For one thing, successive governments have made us far too reliant on the state and no matter how evil the politicians become, the people who actually have the time to take to the streets won’t want to knock the status quo.

Yes, I know of the students riots and the poll tax riots, but these are riots with a hidden agenda, orchestrated by the Labour movement. Have you noticed that the riots are always when the Conservatives are in power? And, that the Labour Government always seem to “break” our country, and the Tory governments always try to fix it? Not that they ever make a good job of it!

Then there is television. No way will people riot in the street if they have to miss EastEnders or Coronation Street, not to mention the Archers or Neighbours!

Then there is the molly-coddling of the young. I grew up in Africa and had access to a little bit of danger – in fact I had access to a huge amount of danger but my parents never found out! Kids nowadays aren’t allowed the slightest bit of danger so grow up into pretty strange human beings.

There are many other examples, but these should suffice to explain why we have been slowly conditioned by our political masters to be completely docile. Even young soldiers have difficulty coping, mentally, with war any more. They come home a bag of nerves and need serious treatment, even those who haven’t been physically wounded. And our government doesn’t do enough!

We could never riot tomorrow, but we could start to toughen ourselves up politically. Here is a 5 point plan if you want to take a more active part of life in your country. I have also added a bonus item!

  1. Take more of an interest in politics. If you have digital TV watch, not just BBC or ITV news, but watch Sky news as well – they keep winning the annual prize for being the best news programme. Go to meetings, the Adam Smith Institute have many free meetings in London. Attend the occasional local council meetings, this is permitted and you can see how awful democracy works locally. Understand what ALL the parties stand for, even those you hate. I keep an eye on them all, even the obnoxious BNP!
  2. Watch less TV. You are going to hate this but don’t watch any programme which is not self-contained into one showing. This means the soaps and anything that is serialised. This locks you into the TV. Get a good magazine which shows next week’s programmes, highlight only those you really want to watch. After a few months, become even more strict, choose one weekday and one weekend day where you will not turn on the TV. If you really “have” to see a programme, watch it next day on iPlayer or record it! Work towards eventually getting rid of TV and take control of your life again.
  3. I know you have a computer as you are reading this. Investigate RSS feeds and how they work. I use Google Reader to “collect” any additions to a lot of websites and read them all at once. You can read every article in your newspaper’s on-line edition very quickly this way. Read my blog on how it works at http://ampers.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/google-reader/ this can reduce an hours searching for news ino 60 seconds!
  4. My mother used to say to me “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.” This is an ideal philosophy to have when watching or listening to anyone in the political classes spouting on the box or in print. Ask yourself Cui bono (who benefits) or Cui malo (to whose detriment) or perhaps, what is their hidden agenda in saying this? All this is important as there will always be a hidden agenda, and whatever they do will usually be to our detriment and to their advantage.
  5. Know where you are on the political spectrum. Those of you who are a little older and can remember their school maths, will understand it when I talk about the ‘x’ axis and the ‘y’ axis. With politics, knowing where you stand in the political spectrum is important. The ‘x’ axis tells us where we stand between left and right but this is only a third of the picture. More important and counting for two-thirds, is the ‘y’ axis. This tells us exactly how much of a statist, centist or libertarian we are. If you aren’t sure, the statist believes the government should run the economy and also run peoples lives. The socialists are statists. A centist believes the government should run the economy but people should run their own lives. It is debatable whether the Conservatives are true centists but they lean a little towards that position. Libertarians are at the top and believe people should run their own economy and their own lives. To work out what you are, go to http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz and complete the ten questions. However, so that you can get proper results, spend a few minutes with every question, no matter how cut and dried they seem to be, and consider the implications of each before you tick the box. For example. Should we legalise drugs? Here you would mull over the fact that, for decades, we have not halted illegal drugs, we are not just losing the battle, we have lost the war. If we legalised drugs and you could buy them cheaply in Boots, then they would be ”clean”. Every drug dealer in Britain would be out of work, kids would not have access to drugs at the school gate in return for “deliveries”, muggings and burglaries would go down. OK, you might still say no, but at least you would have thought it through.Bonus: This brings me to my last point, Thinking things through. You will never be free of the current political oppression unless you learn to think for yourself, to think everything through before making any decision. This will also help in your personal and business life.

Ampers.

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Are you bored with your present situation?

Get a hobby!

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Use the “nudge” Mr Cameron!

Our government is, naturally, worried about the habit of over-drinking amongst the British.

However, as usual, and this applies to both major parties, they are clueless on what to do about their problems.

I can tell you that most of our ails concerning smoking, drinking, carrying weapons, bad behavour etc are caused by a dearth of education. We have to start teaching parents how to bring up children as Governments have molly-coddled the population so much, they expect the Government to do everything for them from cradle to grave. Because of this, certain swathes of the population no longer have any idea of parenting.

However, this will, naturally, take time and we should start addressing the problem now.

I read, in today’s London Metro, a letter by Frank Jacobs, of London E3 of a suggestions which would reduce the number of pubs which are closing at an alarming rate, and encourage the heavy drinkers to start drinking socially by bringing them off the streets and back into clubs. By all means increase the duty on bottled and canned beer, but at the same time, reduce the cost of draught beer.

I think this is a very good suggestion but I would like to take it one step further. Inform breweries what this is going to be on a brewery by brewery basis, and if any brewery pub manager sells too much beer to someone which causes the police to be called, either in the pub, or when that person leaves the pub, the duty reduction will cease for all that breweries pubs for three months, the first time, six months the second time, and twelve months the third time. After the fourth time it should be permanent.

This would “nudge” the street drinker back into the pubs whilst, at the same time, “nudge” the breweries to put the interests of the communities above the interests of the shareholder.

Ampers.

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Tell them why you’re leaving

The English don’t complain verbally, they just complain with their feet.

This may be a way of punishing the shop or supplier, but is it fair to your fellow Englishmen?

For example, if you don’t like a shop because the staff are rude to you, complain to the owner and tell him you don’t need “rudeness” and won’t be shopping there again. For example, I use Virgin and will leave for Three when my contract expires. I will tell them it is because Virgin charge me 10p to call them, and Three don’t charge anything.

OK it may be too late for me, but if enough of us complain about the same thing, the supplier may change his ways.

British management is renowned all over the world for being at the bottom of the list of countries with regard to employer employee relations. This can be partly because we don’t complain. If you hate your boss and you want to leave, state the reasons in full; send a copy of your resignation letter to the managing director (but be fair, add “copy to managing director” on your letter. The MD will do nothing at the time, but if the next person who leaves gives the same reason, he’ll start asking questions and if three do the same…

If you are stuck with a supplier because you are under contractual obligations, start a notebook with all the things which occur that has upset you, date each item. Write a report on all these just before your contract expires and tell the CEO why you are not renewing.

If you are not happy with the Government, write to your MP and tell him why. But to be effective, this has to be for genuine reasons. Of course, this is more potent if your local MP is of the same party as the one in power at the time. The same applies to complaining about local issues to your councillors.

There are advantages of us turning into a race which complains about everything that is not right. Eventually, it could strengthen the country as a whole and your local community in particular.

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Education, the abc of it.

The country needs better educated people if it is going to progress in the modern age. I agree they should pay their way but I also think we need to encourage them to take the right degree.

I think we should grade courses with an (a), (b) or (c) with the earnings to start paying back being on a sliding scale between 26k, 21k and 16k. Then we can grade all the degrees really useful to the country advancement in the international industrial market as (a); degrees that will help the country internally as (b); degrees that will only help the student as (c).

David Cameron has read the book called “Nudge” as I have – I know he has as he has invited the American author to Downing Street for a discussion. This is a way of nudging Students to go for courses that will help Britain, whilst at the same time not forcing them to follow a specific subscribed route.

Nudge, a book written by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, is about Libertarian Paternalism. An unfortunate phrase as it consists of two words not well accepted by society. However when put together, it shows how you can encourage the right choices by how you present them. For example, in supermarkets, they nudge you to buy the more expensive choices by putting those items at face level, as mentioned by Tim Harford in his “The Under Cover Economist”. Agreed, this use doesn’t come under paternalism!

I read these sort of books as I find, as a shopper, it is useful to understand the psychology the companies are using against me. Take Starbucks (far away please) for example, do you need the expensive Lattes or Cappuccinos when all you want is a coffee. I buy the cheaper “Americano”  (double espresso topped up to a full cup with hot water, with a small jug of cold milk) and it is tasty, I get my fix, and save up to two pounds a time!

Ampers.

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You don’t need a degree

This is addressed at alarmed parents and frustrated teenagers who worry about a University place in these trying times.

A visit to this website will show you that nine of the richest people in this world never went to University and the combined wealth of eight of them total over US$130 billion dollars. (The wealth of one of them, although in billions cannot be verified.)

Naturally only the very talented few make it to those dizzy hights but stories abound of how entrepreneurs make a very comfortable living.

The students who will go on to do well in life, even if they miss out on a University place, will be those who spent their school years soaking up the knowledge as they went along. In other words a dilligent school leaver has the ability to make good once they learn how the wicked world works.  Go out there, do anything to get work. If there really isn’t much, do something to help your local community whilst you are looking as a future employer will be more impressed with “Helping the local community doing xxx” rather than plain “unemployed” as this shows gumption and get-up-and-go.

When the Open University first started it was seen as a joke but nowadays employers look upon it as much more important than most standard degrees. It shows diligence and dedication, traits which will be an asset in any company. Especially as it takes six years at 10 hours a week. This is not for everyone, especially for the hedonistic. Go for it.

And for those who have decided that they want fun whilst they can enjoy it, the writer is over seventy and still has a most enjoyable life because he can afford it, because he concentrated on earning when he was young, and has had fifty years of enjoyment rather than just a few years at the beginning.

It’s up to you, you pays yer money and you takes yer choices…

Ampers.

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The best management book I have ever read

This is a book in two halves.

The first half is about giving a manager time to manage by helping him to avoid taking on a problem from a member of staff, and avoiding having to spend too much time on fire-fighting.

It is also about taking a person who has joined your company – not fresh out of college, but after a few other positions where they have been shouted at, bullied, and made to look small by bosses with king size inferiority complexes.

It enables you, whilst avoiding taking over the problem in the first part, to grow your member of staff into making responsible decisions for themselves in the second part.

It is part of a series of management books called The One-Minute manager by Ken Blanchard but, in my opinion, it is the only one that is a masterpiece and worth every penny of the price.

It is a paperback of around 150 pages and costs £6.99 retail so it doesn’t take long to get to the point and there is very little “fillings” in the text. It is called “The One-Minute Manager meets the Monkey” and is available on Amazon UK and the present price has been reduced to £4.22 including postage owing to its popularity and has been in print for well over a decade.

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Tribalism is the enemy within

Mark Shuttleworth, the first African tourist in space spent eight days in the Mir space station, in… errr… space! He went on to start a Linux distribution package called Ubuntu and although his article is aimed at the Ubuntu community, there are lessons for us all here. When reading, just discount references to software packages and read this as if it were about your own world.

Mark has given me permission to reproduce this here so it is only right to give a plug to the Ubuntu website.
Now read on:

Tribalism is when one group of people start to think people from another group are “wrong by default”. It’s the great-granddaddy of racism and sexism. And the most dangerous kind of tribalism is completely invisible: it has nothing to do with someone’s “birth tribe” and everything to do with their affiliations: where they work, which sports team they support, which linux distribution they love.

There are a couple of hallmarks of tribal argument:

1. “The other guys have never done anything useful”.

Well, let’s think about that. All of us wake up every day, with very similar ambitions and goals. I’ve travelled the world and I’ve never met a single company, or country, or church, where *everybody* there did *nothing* useful. So if you see someone saying “Microsoft is totally evil”, that’s a big red flag for tribal thinking. It’s just like someone saying “All black people are [name your prejudice]“. It’s offensive nonsense, and you would be advised to distance yourself from it, even if it feels like it would be fun to wave that pitchfork for a while.

2. “Evidence contrary to my views doesn’t count.”

So, for example, when a woman makes it to the top of her game, “it’s because she slept her way there”. Offensive nonsense. And similarly, when you see someone saying “Canonical didn’t actually sponsor that work by that Canonical employee, that was done in their spare time”, you should realize that’s likely to be offensive nonsense too.

Let’s be clear: tribalism makes you stupid. Just like it would be stupid not to hire someone super-smart and qualified because they’re purple, or because they are female, it would be stupid to refuse to hear and credit someone with great work just because they happen to be associated with another tribe.

The very uncool thing about being a fanboy (or fangirl) of a project is that you’re openly declaring both a tribal affiliation and a willingness to reject the work of others just because they belong to a different tribe.

One of the key values we hold in the Ubuntu project is that we expect everyone associated with Ubuntu to treat people with respect. It’s part of our code of conduct – it’s probably the reason we *pioneered* the use of codes of conduct in open source. I and others who founded Ubuntu have seen how easily open source projects descend into nasty, horrible and unproductive flamewars when you don’t exercise strong leadership away from tribal thinking.

Now, bad things happen everywhere. They happen in Ubuntu – and because we have a huge community, they are perhaps more likely to happen there than anywhere else. If we want to avoid human nature’s worst consequences, we have to work actively against them. That’s why we have strong leadership structures, which hopefully put people who are proven not to be tribal in nature into positions of responsibility. It takes hard work and commitment, but I’m grateful for the incredible efforts of all the moderators and council members and leaders in LoCo teams across this huge and wonderful project, for the leadership they exercise in keeping us focused on doing really good work.

It’s hard, but sometimes we have to critique people who are associated with Ubuntu, because they have been tribal. Hell, sometimes I and others have to critique ME for small-minded and tribal thinking. When someone who calls herself “an Ubuntu fan” stands up and slates the work of another distro we quietly reach out to that person and point out that it’s not the Ubuntu way of doing things. We don’t spot them all, but it’s a consistent practice within the Ubuntu leadership team: our values are more important than winning or losing any given debate.

Do not be drawn into a tribal argument on Ubuntu’s behalf

Right now, for a number of reasons, there is a fever pitch of tribalism in plain sight in the free software world. It’s sad. It’s not constructive. It’s ultimately going to be embarrassing for the people involved, because the Internet doesn’t forget. It’s certainly not helping us lift free software to the forefront of public expectations of what software can be.

I would like to say this to everyone who feels associated with Ubuntu: hold fast to what you know to be true. You know your values. You know how hard you work. You know what an incredible difference your work has made. You know that you do it for a complex mix of love and money, some more the former, others the more latter, but fundamentally you are all part of Ubuntu because you think it’s the most profound and best way to spend your time. Be proud of that.

There is no need to get into a playground squabble about your values, your ethics, your capabilities or your contribution. If you can do better, figure out how to do that, but do it because you are inspired by what makes Ubuntu wonderful: free software, delivered freely, in a way that demonstrates real care for the end user. Don’t do it because you feel intimidated or threatened or belittled.

The Gregs are entitled to their opinions, and folks like Jono and Dylan have set an excellent example in how to rebut and move beyond them.

I’ve been lucky to be part of many amazing things in life. Ubuntu is, far and away, the best of them. We can be proud of the way we are providing leadership: on how communities can be a central part of open source companies, on how communities can be organised and conduct themselves, on how the economics of free software can benefit more than just the winning distribution, on how a properly designed user experience combined with free software can beat the best proprietary interfaces any day. But remember: we do all of those things because we believe in them, not because we want to prove anybody else wrong.

Mark Shuttleworth

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University loan schemes

First of all, let me declare myself. I didn’t go to university and over the years I always resented paying for other people’s children to go to university through the tax system.

We need children to be better educated, but at present this is not happening.

We need to take the decisions out of politicians’ hands for a start. Perhaps to create an organisation to set the standards, the curriculum and the educational requirements of teachers. It will be up to this new organisation to work to a longer time-frame than five years so we have continuity of education rather than chopping and changing every five years.

This new organisation will need to structure education so we have schools which cater for the brightest children, the average children, and children with lesser abilities. Then we need to have a structure so that kids who don’t go to university have a further education which will provide for their role in society. This could be education in the trades (building, wood and metal working and other similar skills). And, of course, technical colleges. Then there could be an expansion of apprenticeships.

The cost of education for university and technical colleges should be paid for by loans and repayment by the student. But in not quite the same way as it is done at present.

When you go to a bank for a loan or mortgage you are quizzed on how you are going to pay it back and your salary is taken into consideration. There should be a body that supplies “bank manager types” to interview the student. Asking questions like what is their ambition, what do they want to do, what do they need to study etc. Then they should be assessed on their ability for choosing a discipline which will pay high enough salaries to be able to pay the loan back. Suudents studying to be a Doctors, lawyer, scientist, computer scientist or other top paying position should therefore have a better chance of getting the money than those who want to do, as an example, media studies – very, very few journalists ever make it to the Nationals or television.

Those students who aren’t sure of what they want to do should be encouraged to work for a year or two to see what they really want to do in life. We should have more mature students at university, ones who know what the big bad world is really like.

Those who choose a path where they will be unlikely to be able to repay the loan should have the opportunity to have a wage earning adult to guarantee the money will be paid back in a reasonable period. They should be a householder and willing to put up their property to cover the debt.

Going to university is not a God Given Right! And students shouldn’t go with a begging bowl to poorer tax-payers to help them earn a lot more money and then look down on these people in society who have made this possible for them.

I feel better now!

Ampers

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Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end…

If you are reading this and were born in the 1930’s 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s this will bring back some lovely memories which children born later have probably never known, the poor souls.

First, we survived being born to mothers who drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer. Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle…

Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds , KFC, Subway or Nandos.

Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn’t open on the weekends, somehow we didn’t starve to death! We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this.

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gobstoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because… We were always outside playing!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars.

We did not have Play stations, Nintendo Wii , X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY , no video/dvd  films, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms… we had friends and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no Lawsuits from these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears!

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time…

We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthdays, We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Mum didn’t have to go to work to help dad make ends meet!

Rugby and Cricket had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based on merit!

Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and bully’s always ruled the playground at school. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

Our parents didn’t invent stupid names for their kids like ‘Kiora’ and ‘Blade’ and ‘Ridge’ and ‘Vanilla’

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all!

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What does Ubuntu really mean?

Mark Shuttleworth, the first African space tourist states in his Ubuntu version of Linux software:

Ubuntu is an ancient African word, meaning “humanity to others”. Ubuntu also means “I am what I am because of who we all are”. The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.”

Ignore this last bit as it is not about software or computers that I wish to write about today, it is about people changing their community environment.

Desmond Tutu described ubuntu in the following way:

“A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole.”

Last October saw the first monthly edition of North London’s Finchley community newspaper. Since we started up the newspaper we had the intention to try to change Finchley from a dormitory town to more of a caring cohesive community, we noticed that, simultaneously, other groups have started up with the same goals and I can’t help but think that maybe the time is right and that the people are beginning to want to put a little back into their community and not either just take, or to live their reclusive lives without wanting to reach out to the rest of the community.

Let’s check Mark’s definition: “I am what I am because of who we all are” Wouldn’t we all feel a little more whole if we lived in a thriving cohesive community? Wouldn’t we feel better in every respect if we all had ubuntu?

As many of my readers know, I am from South Africa and don’t mind admitting I used to think Tutu a bit silly at times but this man turned into a veritable giant when he introduced the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as this is what saved South Africa from bloodshed. I think he did as much, or even more, than even Nelson Mandela.

Desmond Tutu’s version is interesting as it suggests that we grow in stature if we live in a real community of people who interact and care for each other. It may take a few years, but shouldn’t you try to create this in your community?

If any reader would like to start up their own community newspaper (this is the second one I have started in the last two decades) please feel free to contact me and I will try to help by showing you how I started The Finchley Arrow in London N3 and The Archer in London N2 (where I used to live).

It has always been my belief that we can learn from everybody in this world and this certainly upholds that belief for me as I have certainly learned from ancient Africa. Does it for you?

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Saturday schools

The Tories have said that they would bring back Saturday schools to help poorer children.

This is a good idea, but I came up with what I thought was a good idea a few years ago.

To have a one Saturday morning a month school for children from the age of thirteen to teach them about the things in life that schools don’t prepare them for. Things like how to plan with written goals. How a business works through project management. How to negotiate (not selling) with people such as their manager, their bank, buying a new car or home, even their parents! A little simple programming so that they can understand how algebra, trigonometry and geometry relate to programming, so they can see a useful reason behind these subjects. How to relate with others, understanding their needs and aspiration and how to interact with them. A little about national economics. Perhaps a little about all the political parties, not just the Socialists and the Conservatives.

These pointers are not a be all and end all, but are included to give the reader ideas with which to expand. A morning of three hours once a month for two years would prepare our future generation for the future. And, at the same time, enriching their lives.

But nobody thought it was a good idea so it died a natural death.

Ampers.

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How to price a conference

There are lots of opportunities, in life, to attend a conference to learn more about a subject that is going to be useful to you. However, some of these conferences can be expensive and it is often difficult to decide whether you will receive value for money if you pay and attend. Notice I didn’t say whether the conference is value for money, but whether it will be value for money to you.

We can approach this dilemma in a reasoned way. Take the cost of the course. Add to it the cost of getting there and, if you are going to lose money by attending, add that cost as well. So now we have the gross cost of attending. For our simple example, we will assume the cost is £500.

How much do you earn in an hour? Gross of course! If dividing your annual salary by the number of weeks in a year, take into account your holiday entitlement to get the true weekly cost, then divide by the number of days you work in a week, then by the number of hours in the day you work. Here, do not include overtime. Let us assume this figure is £25.

Now divide your hourly figure by the gross cost of attending the course. Which is 20.

Round up, not down, any decimals to get a whole figure. That is the amount of good ideas you will need to get from the conference to break even. These have to be real ideas that you will put into practice and use for at least a year. If you think an idea could be beneficial to you for the rest of your life, you can count it as two ideas for the purpose of this exercise. So, in the above example, if you don’t think you are going to get twenty good ideas, then the conference is over-priced. There may be other reasons you need to attend the conference for, such as networking amongst your peers, but at least you know what you will eventually be paying for.

Most conferences contain a detailed list of all the points that will be covered. Go over them carefully, and make a tally of any idea that you think you could glean from that section of the conference.

I have used this, whether successful or not, I could never be totally sure. However, those conferences or seminars I did eventually attend all produced the required number of new ideas I have adopted, and often many more. So, in my opinion, the costs were never wasted.

Ampers

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