May 2010

While the rest of the world, including a lot of teachers I know, lounge about and wander in the sunshine I find myself with the prospect of seemingly endless meetings and talks.  Welcome to a staff day.  Yesterday as everyone was helpfully reminding me that I was in school today and they were all off, my niece posed an interesting question.  She is in primary school and her teachers are also in a staff day today.  She did not understand why they needed training.  Surely they already know how to teach and have been at university to learn this.  Why do they need to go to a staff training day?  If they really need training then why were they allowed to teach her?  I suppose I could list a lot of things that teachers need to be kept informed about.  However, when I actually think about it I have a measure of the worth of staff days.  I think to myself; could I have read this information on an A4 page and could I have been more productive with my time in school today.  On reflection the answers to most of these days are depressing and frustratingly similar.  Will today be the same or different?

Edit – I have definatly come to the conclusion that it is not so much the content of a staff day that is the problem, more the posture.  Sitting down for long periods of time seems to really annoy me and literally it is a pain in the neck.  I need to be in a state of motion.

I saw an amazing photo last week; the ISS and space shuttle transit the sun.  It is strange to imagine that it, and its occupants, are whirling around the earth.  I cannot imagine what it must be like to live on a space station.  How do they sleep?  I would not sleep easily knowing I was in space.

Then this week another ISS picture appeared.  This time it was transiting the planet jupiter.

It’s also amazing that these images can be captured.  It must require great skill.

Another interesting thing to ponder is the fact that we have been to the moon.  That same moon that hangs low and late in the sky these evenings.

May Moon over Collin, Co Antrim by Gilbert Lennox

You could say that it was all conspiracy and we never went to the moon.  You could say that the american public were fooled with the rest of the world.  You could also get yourself a powerful laser and point it at the moon.  Point it at a particular exact spot and then get some fancy equipment to measure the reflected light.  If you do this then you will prove to yourself that we have been to moon.  We left a reflector there sitting alone in the cold watching us occasionally point lasers at it.

A special request has been made, I must obey……….caturday….

lovely picture by superlekker



Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods. They have never forgotten this.


unknown source

The pessimist says, “the glass is half empty.”

The optimist says, “the glass is half full.”

The engineer says, “that’s the wrong size of glass.”

DIY (or engineering as I like to call it) is not a process, rather a state of mind.  It is with this state of mind that I have taken on some projects in the last couple of weeks, things that needed to be done in a long time.  One was servicing our boiler (don’t worry, not a gas boiler).  It is a straightforward process as long as the settings do not need changed, it helps that I borrowed my dad’s boiler servicing kit.  As well as the kit and the replacement jets I stole from said kit my dad gave me something else as well; confidence and experience.  From a very early age I was put to work spent quality time with my dad under car bonnets, under the cars themselves and even fitting water pipes in the spaces under the house were all the monsters live and the spiders are as big as dinner plates (or so I remember).

A useful DIY lesson  from dad is the shipyard spanner when all other spanners won’t fit or won’t work:

Another useful lesson is to just keep trying even when it is going wrong.  This was helpful when it did go wrong last weekend.  I needed to get the lovely Sharon’s car up on ramps in order to access the oil filter.  What should have been a simple service was turning into an epic because of the design, or lack of design, of her frustrating little car.

I have got a car onto ramps on a gravel driveway before so I knew it was possible.  Tricky but possible.  The technique involves digging down to solid ground and then trying to anchor the ramps down to stop them moving.  Two tree stumps should have done the job……they didn’t.



When we had eventually calmed down it turned out that it was easy enough to get off the grounded ramps with a trolley jack.  Two things were on my side; the fact that the lovely Sharon’s car is so light, and luck.  A bit of the car had to be reattached with cable ties but I don’t think it is a problem, it seems happy.

The oil filter had to be eventually removed by nearly crawling into the engine from above.  After brute force and ignorance did not work I threw in some blood and foul language and that seemed to do the trick.

The timetablers have been kicked out of their usual room.  The room is needed for some examinations so we have been displaced to a different location.  The temporary room has many uses including a meeting room so is much larger than the usual place.  Another interesting difference is the lack of windows!  There are windows but they do not go to the outside, instead they look out over the school’s mall area.  This means a lack of ventilation in a very warm school (damn those energy-efficient building controls).  But, not to worry as we have an air conditioning unit, so there is the energy efficiency displaced.  It gets better, much better.  Let me explain:

An air conditioning unit works by cooling the air already present in a room.  However, this process itself requires more heat is generated.  So an air conditioning unit has to take some of the warm air and heat it a bit more and then dump it to an outside location were the extra heat does not matter.

One day I was working at the computer and I put the air con on as it was getting a little too hot.  The cool air felt great until about five minutes later and I thought, “hold on, what’s that?”  As I felt very warm air on my head I looked up to see an air vent.  Standing up revealed that it was blasting out hot air.  Several minutes of investigation later I discovered something that is insanely stupid; the air con unit had been set up to blast its hot air back into the same room that it was supposed to cool!

I thought this was hilarious as it turns an air conditioning unit into a very expensive and inefficient heater.  Leaving it running will simply heat up the room.  The engineer who fitted it must have known.  I can only guess at the conversation……

“I want an air conditioning unit”

“We can’t fit it as we are too deep into the building and the hot air vent has nowhere to go!”

“I don’t care where you put the hot air vent, just fit it!”


Today I am mostly trying to do nothing, I think I deserve it.  For the last week (and more) the lovely Sharon and I have been in tidy mode.  The house is now officially ridiculously clean.  We dusted, hoovered (or dysoned), scrubbed, painted, waxed, polished, mopped, cut, strimed, and hoovered some more.  We filled 3 car loads with stuff to take to the dump or give away.  My parents should be proud as even the towels in the hot press are insanely neat.

How do people live like this?

So, today we are just going to potter, lounge about and chillax.  The sun is shining and the birds are singing.  I shall start the day with coffee and move on to a glass of chilled white wine when it is dark and all the lawn mowers have gone to sleep.




unknown source

It would be beautiful if this video was not fake……..

….but it is.  It is beautiful anyway

I want this.  It defines me (when filled with coffee).

Oh my!  What a crazy busy day.  But it is caturday, so there is hope.

via 3Z

Sitting at home when I am working at my computer  and I go to step away from it I have to consciously stop myself from pressing CTRL + ALT + DELETE then ‘W’.  This is my subconscious reflex that locks the school computers.  It is clear evidence that I am working too much on computers but unfortunately it is that time of year.  Timetabling time, may the giant puzzle begin…….

unknown source

The senior classes are leaving.  They leave in a haze of blind panic, photocopied handouts and school shirts covered in felt pen signatures.   They have their fun as they leave and the teachers discuss, with nostalgia, the antics of previous year groups.  Older stories of the goings on of other schools are also shared.  One involves a cow being brought in and taken up stairs (apparently it is easy to take a cow up stairs) and then being trapped on the school’s first floor (apparently it is difficult to take a cow down stairs).  However, the top prize has to go to an unnamed large school in Belfast; three sheep were released in the school with dye on their wool numbering them 1, 2 and 4.  Genius.

Tsssk…..pathetic swiss army and their knife.  Now THIS is more like it:

Sulphur Dioxide levels

here via rjcobain

Happy Beltaine caturday.  Spare a thought for all the teachers and the fact that all the coursework was completed for yesterday.  Coursework is the most stressful time for the students and teachers.

unknown source


Did I mention that I had no coursework this year?  Sorry, there was no need for that.  I did not need to say that 🙂

The sun rises in the East and sets in the West……. No, it does not.  It is true as a general rule but it is not strictly correct and our ancestors were very aware of this.  There are only two days in the year when the sun perfectly rises in the East and sets in the West.  The rest of the time it rises and sets in different positions that vary quite a bit.  This strange wandering of our sun is actually due to us moving around the sun and the fact that the earth is spinning at a tilt.  The tilt explains the seasons; where the winter is due to us pointing away from the sun and the summer is due to us pointing towards the sun.

In the middle of the winter the sun sets in the South-West and seems to spend very little time in the sky giving us only seven hours of daylight and nearly fifteen hours of night.  This day is the shortest and is called the Winter Solstice.

The middle of the summer has its own special day; the Summer Solstice.  The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year and the sun seems to have a huge arching path across the sky, finally setting in the North-West.

Not to be left out are the Spring and the Autumn.  In the middle of these seasons we have the Equinoxes.  These days are days of equal daylight and night and on these days the sun obeys the myth and sets in the West.

These days were very significant in the timekeeping of our ancestors:

Spring Equinox – 20th or 21st March

Summer Solstice – 20th or 21st June

Autumn Equinox – 22nd or 23rd September

Winter Solstice – 21st or 22nd December

These were times of festival and gatherings and echoes of these occasions still exist in our Christian calendar in the form of Christmas and Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox).

Interestingly the days in the middle of these Solstices and Equinoxes seemed to be more important in the ancient calendar; the days that marked the changes of the seasons:

These days are still important festivals for us in the form of Halloween, May day and Lammas day.

So, what about the local people of Doagh, did they follow the calendar of the sun?  There is a stone which stands over the Six Mile Valley and has seen sixteen thousand seasons pass over it.  The stone has a hole which points to Donegore hill and the setting of the giant man in the sky (Orion) four thousand years ago.  The stone has a curious shape with a curved point.  It is my prediction (a compass and computer software helped with this prediction) that if you stand at the Holestone with Donegore hill lined up through the hole and you watch the sun set on either the Spring or the Autumn Equinox, you will see the sun touch the curved point of the Holestone and seem to roll down its back.

Predicted view at holestone with hole centered on Donegore Hill at Spring or Autumn Equinox

Only observing it can confirm it to be true.  I’ll make a note on my calendar.