Wollaton Park

Wollaton Park by rutty
Wollaton Park, a photo by rutty on Flickr.

We are lucky to live in Nottingham. There are plenty of green spaces within a short distance, and a three year-old with lots of energy needs somewhere to run around.

There is a park directly opposite our street, which is great for a quick visit but it’s not very big and lacks trees. Luckily Wollaton Park is only a short drive away. There are plenty of trees there, a café, a lake, deer, ducks, swans and geese and miles of paths for Ruby to race along on her balance bike or scooter.

Balance Bike

We had a lovely afternoon there on Saturday. Now that Ruby is getting bigger we really should visit there more frequently.

Shut up and listen

I read Freethought Blogs quite a bit and came across this excellent post by Paul Fidalgo:

We do not like to be told we are being jerks. We do not like to be told we are being demeaning, or belittling, or discriminatory, or bigoted, even if by accident. Particularly we skepto-atheists, who so pride ourselves on our rationality, our grip on reality, our ability to coolly evaluate information on its merits.

But, inevitably — and especially if you are a white male — you will be called out. You will say something, you will write something, you will assess an idea or a cause or a feeling expressed. It will contain, in this assessment, this comment, or what have you, a word, a sentence, a supposition, a slant that causes offense. Someone, likely not a white male, will point out how this comment is hurtful, how it exacerbates a stereotype, how it reveals one’s unacknowledged social privilege, how it seems to minimize the grievances of another group.

You know what happens next. The blood boils, the eyes widen, the hackles rise, the jaw tightens. You argue back. How could you think this of me? How could you accuse me of such a thing? I am enlightened, I am sensitive, I am progressive, I am rational. I am not one of those white males. What I said was devoid of bigotry, it was not demeaning, it was not belittling, it was not in any way tainted by privilege.

This fits in with both my experiences as a white, able-bodied male and as a systems thinking student. My worldview is shaped by experiences, so it is difficult to understand the worldviews of those from different backgrounds. I’ve often said something that seems innocuous to me but could be construed as upsetting or insulting to others. It’s often impossible to discuss some subjects without upsetting someone, but I do think that it’s important to at least try to understand the arguments of people from different backgrounds.

Being aware that you might be wrong, or might have some gaps in your knowledge, is part of being epistemologically aware. We are part of our environment and we can only see bits of it – there are huge portions of our world that we are unaware of, but which is in closer focus of those around us. We should listen to these people when they air their grievances rather than just discount them as being unreasonable or part of the “political correctness gone mad” brigade.

We might learn something.

Snowy fun at Highfield’s Park

Snowy fun at Highfield's Park by rutty
Snowy fun at Highfield’s Park, a photo by rutty on Flickr.

Well, the snow is now all gone, but we managed to have some fun in it while it was still here. Jo, Ruby and I took a trip down to the Nottingham University campus at Highfield’s Park on Saturday morning and we had an enormous amount of fun with our little sledge.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been sledging and I was quite pleased that the slopes at the university are really gentle. Ruby loved it too.

It’s a shame it’s all melted. Can we have some more please?

Maynard Ferguson Legacy Big Band

Maynard Ferguson Legacy Big Band by rutty
Maynard Ferguson Legacy Big Band, a photo by rutty on Flickr.

This weekend saw me spend 48 hours or so in the most bracing part of England – Skegness for my favourite brass band event of the year, the Butlin’s Mineworkers Championships. Thousands of brass banders managed to get there despite the atrocious weather conditions. Music was played, beer was drunk and (in our case) disappointment in the eventual results was drowned in copious amount of alcohol.

I love this weekend. Love it.

One of the highlights was seeing the Maynard Ferguson Legacy Big Band in Reds on Saturday evening. They had the well-known trumpet screamer Chad Shoopman with them, and they were absolutely brilliant. I have no idea how the guy can reach some of those notes – it’s totally not natural.

Bring on 2014 (and a better result next time)

Halfway There

I was having a conversation with a colleague yesterday and the topic of retirement came up. It’s likely that I’ll be unable to retire until I’m 68 (thanks Government peoples!) which leaves me with another 25 years of working life to dredge through.

Then it occurred to me that I’ve also been working for 25 years. I got my first full-time job when I was 18 (putting pieces of paper into numerical order for a credit agency – yawn!) before joining the RAF when I was nearly 19. 25 years gone and 25 to go – I’m halfway through my working life!

I guess this is better than being near the end of you life, but it’s still a somewhat depressing realisation. It’s been such a long time since I started work and I’ve got another 25 years to go before I can put my feet up, read the paper and complain about all the crap on daytime TV.

Oh well, better make the most out it. Anyone got any lemons?

Running

Running by rutty
Running, a photo by rutty on Flickr.

The weather has been somewhat bracing of late, but that means nothing to our energetic daughter who loves running around and not wearing her gloves.

We spent a very enjoyable hour or so at Bramcote Park yesterday. Lots of space for little legs to exercise, and loads of lovely fresh air. There’s even a very nice play park, and an occasional visit from some guy selling coffee (missing on this visit, sadly).

Has it been 30 years?

I was born and brought up in Leeds and have been a fairly apathetic supporter of The Whites for most of my life. I’ve had some poorly-judged dalliances with both Nottingham Forest and Liverpool in my youth, but my home team has emerged as my chosen supported football club. I tend to follow most games via the BBC text if I can, but I otherwise don’t really make any effort to make it to any games.

I am the archetypal armchair supporter, for which I do not apologise. There are higher priorities than football, and I’ve pretty much put my other activities (brass banding especially) above standing amongst several thousand sweary men at Elland Road.

Anyway, my Dad took me to my first game at Elland Road. This was either very late 70s or early 80s, I can’t quite remember, but it was against Nottingham Forest and we lost 3-1 (if I remember correctly). Leeds were on their first slump out of the top division since the Revie heyday. For some reason my Dad knew David Harvey and we ended up meeting him on the day. I had no idea at all who he was, but I remember him having a nice ‘tache.

This was my first visit to Elland Road, but it took me around thirty years to visit again. My sister and her family visited from Toronto over Christmas and my brother-in-law Phil and I both got tickets to the Leeds v Bolton Wanderers game as gifts. On New Years Day Phil and I were dropped off for my first game in about three decades. Phil has been far more frequently than me and he lives in Toronto!

I had a lot of fun and I will not leave it another 30 years before I go again. It was great to stand in the South Stand and take in the atmosphere, although it would appear that the Bolton fans did most of the singing in the first half. Things are not exactly ticking along nicely at Leeds and the fans are frustrated. The quality of the football by both teams was absolutely awful, almost like a Sunday League game. There was a stray McDonald’s bag rolling around the pitch in the first half that was showing my footballing skill than most of the players on the pitch. The second half was slightly better, and Leeds won a penalty (converted by the mighty Luciano Becchio) to win all three points, but as games go it was bloody awful.

Still, Phil bought me some Bovril and a pie and it was fun just being there. If I lived in Leeds I would most certainly go a few times a year. I might even try and make some games when they visit Nottingham in the future. I’m not convinced that 2013 will see Leeds promoted – there needs to be some incredible improvement in quality – but I will be keeping my fingers crossed during every game.

New Year, New Me?

Hello 2013, you snuck up on me a bit there. 2012 has been a bit of a busy year and has ended rather earlier than I thought. Still, here we are in a brand new year.

I had loads going on in 2012, although my (irregular, rare) readers wouldn’t know it due to the paucity of blog entries in the latter half of the year. I have been a rubbish blogger over the last six months and I would like to write a lot more in 2013. We shall see.

Last year saw me complete two Open University modules: M257 and T306. I struggled with M257 (due to both lack of time and interest) but did achieve a grade 4 pass, while I enjoyed T306 rather more due to the nature of the materials. I have found systems thinking to be an immensely useful too for all sorts of situations and I was fully engaged with the course over its nine months run, when I did well enough in the exam to get a grade 2 pass. This means that I am well on the way to getting a 2:1 BSc (hons) in Computing and Systems Practice once I’ve finished the final four modules over the next two years.

I have less than two years left of OU study! Hurrah! Also: shame! I’m enjoying this experience immensely, but it’s taking up too much of my spare time and I have other things I’d like to do, like spend time with my wife and daughter.

2013 brings two modules, both Java-based: M362 and M256. Netbeans is going to be getting a battering this year for sure. I struggled a bit with concurrency in M257, so M362 will need a bit of extra work, and the exams in these programming modules are hard. I should probably book a week or so off prior to my exams for some intense revision because I really want to do well in these modules, if only to improve the latent developer in me.

I will do better this year, I will. I was repeatedly behind with my OU work in 2012, I must not let that happen this year. I won’t. I must get more organised. Yes.

T306: Block 4

This block has been a real struggle. It’s not that the subject material was particularly hard, it’s just that my poor old brain has been unable to cope with such a packed few months. I finished M257 – exam done, just awaiting my final mark at the beginning of August – I’ve taken on extra responsibilities at work (I’m now the test automation “expert” – so help me…) and I’ve also been off on a very rainy holiday in Dorset for a week.

I haven’t particularly engaged too deeply with the course materials and haven’t done any of the activities for the block at all. Disappointing. M257 took up far too much of this block’s reading time and my brain’s processing power. I lost all interest in the block and had to painfully construct the resultant assignment from fragments of half-remembered course notes. I, somehow, got 73%. I’m not sure how I did, but I’m glad that I covered enough of the subject material to get a decent mark.

Even better, my superb tutor marked it within 24 hours of me submitting it and provided me with some extremely useful feedback. I now need to plough on with block 5, which is all about reflection and becoming an aware systems practitioner. There’s some material about Chinese Astrology, which I really hope isn’t going suggest that there’s any element of truth in it at all.

Better get a move on with that then…