Last night I went to Andy Lewis’s talk on “What Every Parent Should Know About Steiner Schools”. I’d blogged my current thoughts about Steiner education the day before, just out of curiosity to see how my opinions might change. Briefly: I enjoyed my education (at a Steiner school) but I am worried about the connection between the ‘spiritual philosophy’ of anthroposophy and the actual practice in Steiner schools, as it is the former is somewhat odd and not entirely wholesome. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m looking forward to attending Andy Lewis’ talk “What Every Parent Needs to Know About Steiner Schools” tomorrow night, even though I’m not a parent and I think I probably know quite a lot about Steiner schools already. I attended a Steiner School for 7 years, and enjoyed my time there and I was taught by some great teachers. But while I was irritated at the time by some of the more weird accoutrements of the Steiner curriculum, I’m troubled more deeply now, looking back, by aspects of the underlying philosophy of Steiner which, despite a natural interest, I have only discovered years later. So although I felt that the particular school I attended was, on balance, a good school, I know find myself wondering whether any school that calls itself Steiner (and which is therefore required to be informed by ‘anthroposophy’ in its educational activity) is somewhere I’d want to send my kids (if I had any). Here I’m going to try and figure out my current thinking, and see if anything in Lewis’ talk changes my mind…
We should be grateful for tea bags. They are like little powder-filled litmus tests for the depth to which the rot of flat, insipid, lifeless cuppas have infested almost every aspect of our tea-drinking lives; leaching onto tea-breaks, infiltrating cafés, and eradicating true tea from all its natural habitats. Trading on convenience and speed, they have lured as into thinking that real tea is no longer worth making the time for. Despite the plethora of coffee shops with their fancy machines and their highly trained baristas, dumping a bag into a cup is almost universally considered acceptable in the modern café. But proper tea, whatever the Marxists tell you, is made in a pot, and it is made with leaves.
Pouring the water into a stone cold mug is never going get good results, but even if you warm a tea pot, if you then pour the scalding water onto those little mesh sacks full of (what I can only describe as) brown dust you are just wasting your time. Quality leaves, spooned in in the exact quantity to give you a brew that’s just how you like it is something those pouches of power can only dream of. Read the rest of this entry »
Or to put it another way, yn saesneg, for non-Welsh speakers (and, presumably, Welsh-speakers horrified by my grammar in the previous sentence) I’ve been coaxed into doing a workshop as “a blogger” along with m’librarian colleague. Now, regular readers here a Little Storping will not be fooled, having noticed that nothing short of a new episode of Doctor Who airing will result in my putting finger to keyboard, and things are even worse over on my work-ey blog where after knocking out four posts I’ve awarded myself a holiday of a little over 19 months (so far). Read the rest of this entry »
Furious this morning to see that O2 are apparently providing my phone number to every website I visit from my mobile while connected to their network. If you’re connected from your mobile you can see what is being sent out in the header using this website’s tool. When I tried it, while connected to the mobile network (not wifi) it showed my mobile number.
It appears O2 are doing this deliberately, because in response to a concern being raised, they tweeted
But when I got onto their customer services the representative I spoke to denied it was even happening, refused to address it, and said they were happy I raise it with the Information Commisioner’s Office.
info: Welcome to O2. Someone will be with you soon.
info: You’re through to O2 – Maria.
O2 – Maria: Hi I’m O2 – Maria. How can I help?
Simon Wood: Hi Maria, I have seen that O2 are giving out my phone number in http headers of sites I visit while using my iPhone on O2′s data network – I haven’t authorised this and I’m concerned it’s a breach of data protection. Advice here: suggests I give you a chance to put it righthttp://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints/data_protection/supporting_evidence.aspx#disclosure
O2 – Maria: I’ll check this for you.
Simon Wood: Thanks. There’s some info here http://lew.io/headers.php and your Twitter team appear to have confirmed it’s deliberate:http://twitter.com/#!/O2/status/161872584634408960.
O2 – Maria: Thanks for the info, please give me a minute while I check this for you.
Simon Wood: Okay.
O2 – Maria: Can you please give the website address on which your mobile number is included.
Simon Wood: This is the site: http://lew.io/headers.php but if it is in the header sent to this site, is there any reason to suppose you’d just be doing it for this site in particular?
O2 – Maria: I’ve check this and this is not our website, I request you to please don’t refer this website.
Simon Wood: I know it’s not your website. I don’t understand your request – what do you mean “refer this website”?
O2 – Maria: We don’t share any information about our customers with anyone.
O2 – Maria: I mean please don’t go to this website.
Simon Wood: So you are saying you are not giving out the mobile phone numbers of your customers in HTTP headers?
O2 – Maria: Yes, you are correct.
Simon Wood: Despite the evidence that you are – you won’t put this right?
O2 – Maria: I request you to ignore this site and please be assure that we don’t share our customer’s information on any websites. Our own website is safe and secure to access from a phone or a computer/laptop.
Simon Wood: Yes, but I am paying you to provide me with a mobile internet service – I want to be able to visit websites without you telling them my phone number. I want to give you a chance to put this right before I raise it with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
O2 – Maria: If you want you can contact Information Commissioner’s Office. If you find your number on any website then you need to contact the owner of the website and ask them about this.
Simon Wood: It’s not that the number is *ON* a website, it is that O2 are sending that information *TO* the website when requesting a webpage. I take it from your last reply that you are unwilling to address this, and I will have to go to the ICO?
O2 – Maria: I can just assure that we’re not sending your number or details to any website when you visit a webpage. If you want you can contact Information Commissioner’s Office and let them know about the information that you have got on the website.
Simon Wood: I would hope you are not, and I would like to believe your assurances, but the evidence suggests otherwise. I will certainly bring to the ICO’s attention the demonstration that website provides that this information is being sent by O2 in web page requests. Thank you.
info: We’ll email a copy of your chat transcript to email@example.com.
O2 – Maria: From my end I can assure you about this, yes you can go and contact them about this.
O2 – Maria: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Simon Wood: No, thank you.
I’ve asked followers on other networks to let me know if their network is doing this too – because I’m looking to switch if this is not sorted. So far I’ve heard T-Mobile are in the clear, I’d be pleased to hear about the other networks if anyone’s tried them?
Update (18.14): O2 (almost) fixed the problem and posted an explanation this afternoon. First of all, credit where it’s due. They were quick, and this is an (almost) full explanation. I’ll come back to those almosts. They’ve also been very active on Twitter letting people know what they were doing, which is also to be commended. Indeed I’m inclined to overlook the fact that the “apology” they tweeted wasn’t really an apology at all:
Being “sorry about the concern” is not the same as being sorry for giving out our mobile numbers without permission.
Thanks to @ptr10001, @SphericalN and all the commenters for confirming that T-Mobile, Vodafone and Virgin were not affected, while GiffGaff (which uses O2′s network) was. I’m not sure about Orange, but it transpires that this kind of problem has been known about for a couple of years, and there has been an instance of Orange sharing numbers.
Here’s the outstanding problem: O2 are still sharing my number and I don’t know who with.
When you browse from an O2 mobile, we add the user’s mobile number to this technical information, but only with certain trusted partners. This is standard industry practice.
O2 almost gave a full explanation, but they haven’t said who the “trusted partners” are. It’s almost a fix, but a true fix would allow us to opt out of any sharing. And because it’s only “trusted partners” websites like the one linked above that revealed the problem this morning (being, presumably, untrusted) won’t show it’s happening. How do we tell which other networks are doing this? O2 says it’s “standard industry practice”.
O2 need to publish a list of who they are sharing my phone number with, and explain how I can opt out.
I got very excited about this. This wisteria is considerably older than I am (it is at least 40) and it has never flowered. I remember it when I was tiny. I remember it before I knew what wisteria was. I remember not recognising it was wisteria because it never flowered. I remember finding out how wisteria can sometimes be temperamental, because of its position, or the soil, or whatever, and simply never flower. I remember realising that this was a wisteria that was never going to flower, perhaps it just didn’t like the salty Pembrokeshire air.
I don’t remember a time when it was not there.
This year it flowered.
We don’t know why. We’ve all had a go at pruning it this year, perhaps more harshly than ever and I’ve trained it horizontally above the windows. It could be these things, or something else entirely. But I’m excited because the wisteria that was never going to flower, that so many of us had tried to encourage to flower and had ended up giving up hope on, has flowered. And it looks beautiful.
I moved to Cardiff in January 2010.
In March that year the Guardian launched a new hyperlocal news site “Guardian Cardiff”. As a newbie to the city (I really had literally only fleetingly visited on a couple of occasions prior to moving here) having such an engaged, relevant and active hub for all things local has been of enormous benefit to me as I settled into and discovered the place. It wasn’t just finding out what was going on (though that was the best place for it) but also who and what I should know about and follow, the blogs, activities, experts and authorities that would have taken me months or years to learn so much about. All this, thanks to the creativity and commitment of @hrwaldram, the journalist behind it. It brought me local news with speed, relevance and authority; laced with rich media and social context. Now, as the Guardian winds down this great service, the knowledge and the network I have gained stayed with me.
Why is it not continuing? Recently it was announced that the ‘experiment’ of these sites (there are others in Edinburgh and Leeds) would be wound down. It seems a terrible shame to me. Others are better placed to comment on the impact and transformation on local journalism.
But for me, if there was going to be a “Guardian Cardiff” for just 15 months it could not have been better timed. So thank you!
викWhy is reflexology more popular than iridology? In the absence of an evidence-base, what makes one treatment more successful (in terms of uptake) than another? Put another way, if I wanted to create my own alternative remedy, is there anything I could do to promote its chances of gaining popularity?
At the last Cardiff skeptics in the pub we were discussing the “why not try x” question. As in: “Why not try homoeopathy? What harm can it do?” There are lots of reasons why this is tempting, especially with “remedies” that really are harmless, such as homoeopathy (what harm can a sugar pill do anyway)? If evidence based medicine is making you no better, or worse you’ve not been prescribed anything but rest, the urge to find some alternative is understandable. Isn’t the rational choice try anything that might help (unless it’s harmful) even if the chances are so small as to be negligible?
But if you are in such a position, how do you pick just one ineffective “remedy” from so many? The question “what harm can it do?” is fine for one or two, but if you had to try everything that might help it would take all of your time and energy.
And so then this led on to wondering: what is it that makes certain alternative “medicines” catch on while others do not, given that there is no more evidence for their efficacy?
I wondered if there’s a pattern to be found in the way those that appeal are described, or if it’s just due to the lucky chance of a few well-timed anecdotal results. A couple of examples of the latter were related by the speaker that evening, Simon Singh: D. D. Palmer believed he’d cured a janitor’s deafness by manipulating his spine encouraging him to develop chiropractic; and New York Times journalist made acupuncture popular in the west after experiencing pain relief following an emergency appendectomy in China while he was there accompanying a diplomatic visit by Henry Kissinger.
Singh is the co-author of “Trick or Treatment” which surveys many of these alternative “medicines” with whole chapters dedicated to those that have gained most traction, and I’d hoped to ask him whether he’d spotted any pattern – but despite allowing extra time for questions he was so inundated we would probably have kept him there all night if it had been up to us. It was an excellent talk.
So, is there magic ingredient in the “rationale” (for example the like cures like concept and succession ritual of homoeopathy) or are the popular alternative remedies simply the ones that have benefited from a series of fortuitous coincidences?
I was lucky enough to get to hear Stephen Fry speak at one of our graduation ceremonies in the summer. It was a great speech, strong on kindness, lawnmowers and evidence-based knowledge (Stephen Fry Awarded Cardiff University Honorary Fellowship from Cardiff University on Vimeo).
One thing jumped out at me, and caused an alarm bell to ring in my head:
“You know, and I know, there are more and more people out there in the world questioning the benefits of the enlightenment… that is actually under threat at the moment from all quarters… people are questioning the benefits of evidence-based knowledge.”
If we get iTunesU at work there will be many discussions about whether to have a closed and/or open site. It would be great if the site had a pleasant, open face (apologies for the gratuitous Doctor Who quote there). But which is most important, pleasant or open? Is it really possible to ensure that what appears openly is perfect, or nearly so?
There are (quite rightly) PR opportunities to having an outward facing presence on the iTunes store, but the real work is centrally hosting all of the material and there are other benefits to providing and encouraging making learning material available to all (engagement, feedback, and if licensed openly too then all the OER jazz). In the conversations that take place in the many meetings that will now follow, I hope that this is borne alongside the inevitable focus on the PR angle. There’s a worry that if we have lacklustre or out-of-date material showing, we deter potential students. I wonder if that’s the case, or whether perhaps having nothing at all will be more of a deterrent (obviously up-to-date, professionally produced, cutting edge podcasts and video would be ideal). If students really are shopping around by trialing resources, or more likely using University resources whilst studying at A-level, will institutions they don’t have this connection with them get less interest from them when it comes to filling in their UCAS form? Is the best the enemy of the good here?
Obviously we must pay attention to the terms of licences and consent for the material we use, and we don’t want to get sued, but I wonder if we have too strict an approval process (rather than a devolved and lightweight scheme) we will stifle the creativity and immediacy that makes the material appealing. After all, real learning material can have rough edges, and should change and evolve in response to student feedback and the lessons of experience. I wonder if not only is it better to have something than nothing, but also if potential applicants are more sophisticated than we give them credit for, and are ready to divine the true value of learning materials that lack that PR polish.