January 2010

The moon has been fattening up over the last week readying for the January full moon: Wolf Moon.  So to see it with little light and distraction we headed for the mountains  (we didn’t really need and excuse).  A short stroll (with two rucksacks each!) was rewarded with a warm fire (once it got going),  good wine and great company.  The warm fire was nicely balanced by frequent short excursions out into the frigid night to stare at the moon.  It was brighter than I ever remember seeing with bold moon shadows cast on the ground.

Any grand ideas of walks and hikes had gradually faded over the week as the moon grew.  The lovely Sharon was tired from a hectic week and I had been complaining (cue sympathy) of stomach cramps since I ate something questionable mid week.  Instead, we spent Saturday relaxing and reading and making a big pot of chilli in preparation for people visiting.

it does not look it, but it was cold

our closest neighbours, I don’t think anyone is in

Eventually enough people were collected together for a short night nav to build up an appetite.  As we headed further into the mountains the sun soaked the sky with rich colours that changed and deepened every minute.

As we turned and began to pine after our pot of chilli we paused to see the moon rise over a ridge.  Remembering back on this I wonder if pictures are worth it.  A camera could never have captured it.  Maybe poetry could have as it can conjure something closer in the soul than the minds eye.  I used to hate poetry.  Is it one of these things that is gained with time, like the taste for olives, jazz and radio 4?

We piled fuel on the fire in time for more arrivals: a tired and weary party of friends who had been delivering a mountaineering course all day.  The chilli was divided and relished.  After dinner we once again sat around the big fire and nattered into the wee hours.  Although, two of the party departed just after dinner.  They were two brave souls who decided to head deeper into the mountains and the night to practice night navigation for their ML.  They planned to bivvy out somewhere far from the cottage much later on.  No amounts of wine and promise of the simmering apple crumble could tempt them back.  Crazy or dedicated, the line is thin.

the view, feebly captured with my camera phone

As with the previous night, people drifted away from the fire at random times to stand outside and stare at the sky and moon as it treated us to its icy halo .  Just as warming and intoxicating as any glass of wine.

moon halo by will merydith

EDIT – I have a clarification from the chief editor (the lovely chief editor).  It seems the ‘we’ I referred to in the making of the chilli might actually have not been ‘we’ but might have been just the lovely Sharon.  And I have been instructed to point out that while said chilli was being made I was asked to make a coffee for the afore mentioned chef and ended up drinking it myself.


The Outdoor Fox has a nice gallery and entry (click here) about the pot of legawherry adventure.  Just behind me in the above picture you may notice Meg the dog (megdog to her friends) without ice axes.  She does not need them, being the most experienced outdoor extreme dog I have ever seen.  She even has her own climbing harness and has been up a 160 metre multi-pitch route. Twice!

As our students in the Biology department follow the AQA specification, I got a chance to look at the famous ‘shrew’ paper. My first thought was that the paper had a lot of good biology in it.  It was heavy on statistics and the shrew question did go on a bit.  I must admit that the questions were a bit meandering and irrelevant at times.  The mock paper that is circulating the internerd sums it up well:

“b) A fandango is an organism which doesn’t exist. Below is a graph of the number of fandango sighted in a particular yard. This yard was a pretty yard with many flowers and bees surrounded by a selection of insects including a preying mantice. The praying mantice enjoys eating nettles because it gets a bit of a kick out of them. You may have realised by now that this paragraph is merely idle talk and, in no way relates to biology or the question.”

So, I thought the science was OK until I looked at the specification and read what the students had to study and revise for the examination…….SHOCKING!  I imagine that there were a lot of students who wondered why they studied and revised for the test at a all.  A face book user expresses this sentiment on the facebook group:

“WTF is the Hair Tube Index???????!!?!?!?!?!??!!?!?!?
Geese, Daffodils, SHREWS!!!!
WTH happened to Calvin Cycle, Inheritance, Hardy-Weinberg Priniciple [sic], Eutrophication!!!!

Again, the mock paper has something to say on the matter:

“f) List the items on the specification which we did NOT choose to include in this paper. (You may need extra paper).”

It does seem to be still a news item but the exam board have not really said much on the matter so far.  Although, I have heard rumours (only rumours so far) that some schools are considering writing the AQA to express their disappointment and concerns.  The plot thickens.



It seems that the people students are fighting back and making their voice heard on a facebook group.  Some people are a bit upset with AQA.   Sciencepunk blog explains the details further.  On a bad exam related theme he also  links to an interesting forum thread on The Time’s  science questions.  I really could not believe some of these questions.  Stop the earth, I want to get off.

Here are a few of my favourite…

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