Dydd Cyntaf yn yr Ysgol

June 25, 2012

Roedd hi’n braf ym Mhenmon ddoe, ac mi aethon ni am dro ger y goleudy efo ffrindiau. Mi naethon ni ffeindio ‘tegeirian gwenynog’ yn y chwarel mawr yno.
Mae’r Ysgol Haf yn ddechrau heddiw, a dwi’n edrych ymlaen at a dosbarth. Dan ni’n cyfarfod yn a ‘Safle Normal’ rhwng Bangor a Porthaethwy am 9.30. Teimlo tipyn bach fel dydd cyntaf yn yr ysgol! Yn anffodus iawn, fydda i ar y trên i Gaerdydd pnawn mha, achos mi gynnon ni cynhadledd yno yfory. Felly fydda i ddim yn a dosbarth yfory, ond gobeithio bod myfyrwyr gwell ar ôl ‘na!


Ysgol Haf Bangor 2012

June 21, 2012

Dyma’r post cyntaf a’r blog yma. Pwrpas o’r blog ydy ymarfer fy Nghymraeg ysgrifenedig. Ar y un pryd, mi fydda i mewn dosbarthiadau yn yr ‘Ysgol Haf’ ym Mangor. Gobethio, mi na i’n gwella y ddau peth ar y un tro.  Mi baswn i’n licio gweld os mae blogio yn dechneg effeithiol i ddysgu ieithoedd. Gawn ni weld!

Why did I strike? I’ll tell you why….

December 2, 2011

It has been a good week to be a trade unionist. The jury is probably still out on how effective the strike will be, but it felt absolutely the right course of action. It is not just about pensions either, or about the narrow agenda of fighting for my own conditions of service. No, it went well beyond that. For the first time I can remember, it was about a large section of the workforce coming out just to show that some things just aren’t right. It’s not right to prioritise business objectives over and above the core aims of public sector services like health and education, which simply are not there to make money. These services should be measured against the criteria which they are supposed to meet, and funded appropriately, with measures in place to ensure reasonable levels of efficiency. Cutting to the bone, and expecting a half-decent service just isn’t intelligent governance.

This is all bad enough. What makes the frustration harder to bear is that the UK government is clearly not going to even approach its targets for deficit reduction. This is quite simply because they are going the wrong way about this. High unemployment is inevitably going to lead to fewer taxes in the coffers, and less money to pay the interest and the bills. Did these people learn nothing from the last hundred years of economic theory and, more pertinently, the actual experience of depressions? The time to invest in the public sector is when there is a global recession, just like John Maynard Keynes said. You get more for your money, you keep the workforce occupied, and you collect the proceeds in taxes. Ok, you need to balance this against the risks of hyper inflation, but when did we last have anything approaching those conditions?

The trouble is, this reasoning is never aired, because the UK government passes off dogma as pragmatism. Well, I suppose it sounds half reasonable; times are hard, so we need to spend less money. This may work at the domestic level, but it is no way to run a national economy. “You can’t spend your way out of a recession!” says Cameron – has he tried any other way of getting out? That’s like saying you can’t climb your way out of a hole.

These debates don’t happen in parliament, and there is no significant resistance to the collation ideologues in the press either. Fortunately, there is another place to make these points – via the trade unions. They may have been on the decline since the 1980s, but look out, I think that may be all about to change.  It is certainly worth a shot, and some of us were giving it our best one last Wednesday.  If you haven’t already, you should think about joining us. 


Shri Footring

October 7, 2011

Once again, it is Ada Lovelace Day (#ald11). I work with some really fantastic people, and lots of them are women. However, I would like to give a special mention to @ShriFootring. 

A few years ago at a workshop, the facilitator was eliciting information about how many mobile devices people were carrying, and Shri came out with more than anyone in the room. This was remarkable on at least two counts. Firstly, because I don’t know how she could fit that many in her bag. Secondly, and more importantly, it surprised me because she doesn’t really talk about the gadgets themselves that much, but always relates them to people, and how they might use them. 

On another occasion, we were lining up in order of when we first started using specific technologies, and it turned out that Shri was an early adopter of just about every kind of networking technology I had heard of. This lends a real weight to the way she talks about technology – she really has been around the block – again not just in terms of technical ability (and she has plenty of that), but also understanding where the opportunities and the barriers lie, and how people of all kinds can use these tools in learning and teaching. 

So thanks for being a great mentor to so many of us, Shri, and keep letting us know when you spot the really good stuff….


Big Dams or Small Homes?

October 14, 2010

Dams may sometimes be needed. I am not sure. But who decides whether or not they are built?  Here are two lessons from recent history, to which no words need to be added.  

First, a moving commentary by Arandhati Roy about the Narmada Dam project in India. 

“Big Dams are to a Nation’s ‘Development’ what Nuclear Bombs are to its Military Arsenal. They’re both weapons of mass destruction. They’re both weapons Governments use to control their own people. Both Twentieth Century emblems that mark a point in time when human intelligence has outstripped its own instinct for survival. They’re both malignant indications of civilisation turning upon itself. They represent the severing of the link, not just the link – the understanding – between human beings and the planet they live on. They scramble the intelligence that connects eggs to hens, milk to cows, food to forests, water to rivers, air to life and the earth to human existence.” 

 Second, a list of homes and properties in the village of Capel Celyn inundated by the deliberate flooding of part of the Tryweryn Valley in 1965: 

“Moelfryn; Glan Celyn + y Llythyrdy (Post Office); Y Fynwent (Cemetery); Tynybont; Brynhyfryd; Brynhyfryd; Cae Fadog; Coed Mynach; Garnedd Lwyd; Y Tyrpeg (The Turnpike); Gwerndelwau; Y Capel (Chapel); Ty Capel (Chapel House); Yr Ysgol (School); Y Gelli; Penbryn Fawr; Dol Fawr; Hafod Fadog (Quaker meeting place); Mynwent y Crynwyr (The Quakers’ Cemetery); Tyddyn Bychan”

For Blog Action Day: Water



Is there any point in saving energy?

October 1, 2010

There are plenty of legal, ethical and economic reasons for wanting to minimise damage to the environment, and global warming is often near the top of people’s priorities. Most advice given to organisations and individuals starts from the premise that the best thing they can do to minimise global warming is to save energy. However, it is worth subjecting this notion to a little scrutiny. (I am not discussing, by the way, whether or not anthropogenic global warming is happening; that is an argument for another place. )

No this is not about that. It is about a distinction pointed out by Bill St. Arnaud in recent blog postings. As Bill points out, “The real problem facing the planet is not energy consumption but GHG emissions”.  He contends that as energy-using devices become more efficient,  more energy is used. He concludes that “Energy reduction or efficiency in many situations can be counter productive and actually increase GHG emissions”.

I seriously doubt this argument. Clearly, ever since electricity has been discovered and exploited, and ever since the invention of the internal combustion, machines which convert energy to a useful form have become more efficient. With lighting we have seen the sequence from tungsten filament, through fluorescent tube and on to light-emitting diodes. More efficient technologies yet may be just around the corner. Likewise, in the motor industry, fuel usage efficiency has improved rapidly. At the same time, energy usage has increased greatly. This is not surprising, since economic growth practically everywhere, coupled with population growth on an unprecedented scale, means that there is greater demand for energy. These changes may be inextricably linked by increased research and economic activity, but that does not make them causally interdependent. I would contend that these phenomena correlate simply because they taken place simultaneously. Statistically it would be very hard to uncouple these causalities. Attempts to use the Jevons paradox to fit  the data to economic models involving ‘perfect markets’ make too many assumptions, in my view.

The subject is rife with uncertainties. I don’t find this a problem, however, since I think that the precautionary principle should be invoked here. A presumption of causality would lead us to conclude that we don’t need to constrain energy consumption. However, this carries a risk. What if, as common sense might suggest, using more energy damages the environment by releasing additional CO2? Would it not be better to minimise this risk? While there is doubt about causality, it is less risky to assume there is no causality here. This leaves us free to employ two separate strategies; to generate electricity in a more sustainable way, and also to limit the amount we consume. These are not mutually inconsistent, and I see no good reason not to do both. Indeed, in the current economic climate, it would be irresponsible use of public funds for organisations to fail to save energy. 

In line with the work of both the JISC and the EAUC in this area, I will continue to work to persuade organisations to strive to minimise their energy use.