Showing posts from January, 2010

There is No Such Thing as Technology. The iPad. Part 1.

The new iPad. Just like something else, or something new?

Apple has put the cat amongst the technology pigeons again with its new iPad. There are diehards for and against everything Apple does. Most technology writers and the majority of IT professionals tend to take the view that Apple produce expensive trinkets, when there are much cheaper and more feature-rich options available.

I think they miss the point completely. Apple understands technology better than any of the other consumer electronics companies. And much better than most IT professionals. The IT industry in general is pretty immature in its outlook, although not in its size. It has taken a long time to get to grips with being a mass-level consumer industry, rather than a specialised cosy group of widget boffins. It's clear that it still has some way to go.

What Apple basically understands is that there is no such thing as technology. Sounds a bit bizarre, but technology isn't (or shouldn't be) a noun. It's n…

Schools Again. The Flag and Patriotism.

Shaun Carney in today's Sydney Morning Herald sets out the case for the Rudd government having a longer-term strategy with the school data currently creating a fuss. So that sneaking suspicion I put in the last post might be what's really going on, which would be great for everybody.
Carney sums it all up very well.
The flight of the middle-class from the state sector, stimulated in part by the Coalition shovelling increasing amounts of taxpayer dollars into private schooling, has been relentless. This process has fed on itself, creating a middle-class mentality that assumes that state schools are a place of last resort for parents who could afford something better.
Exactly what happened, the conservatives always do this. It's what they believe, that the public system is a safety net only and the real action should be in vibrant private enterprise. Of course politically they rarely say this, gushing about the wonders of the public system. They say the same thing about medicar…

Kick Up The Kaiser - P.S.

Having said unkind things about the government's school statistics website, I forgot to add one important caveat, from my point of view. From memory I wrote here before that it is possible the government is playing a clever, strategic long game with this website.

John Howard was determined to preferentially fund private schools, even those with already vast resources. But he couldn't just up and do that without looking elitist and losing votes. So he devised an objective-looking formula based on postcodes to assess the wealth of particular schools, a formula that (he knew) ended up saying the richest schools in the country somehow needed millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars (often because these are boarding schools where wealthy parents from remote parts of Australia send their children, and those remote areas are poor if you average across the whole postcode). So the government of the time could hide behind a 'formula' for channelling vast rivers of taxpayer gold in…

A Nice Swift Kick up the Kaiser

Samuel Marsden (Reverend). Bring Back the Biff. Uninspiring portrait by Joseph Backler, but then Marsden was in many ways an uninspiring man.

Different faces. Same hymn sheet.

Julia Gillard is quoted in today's Sydney Morning Herald at length about the need for parents to get into their schools and sink the boot into underperforming teachers. Now any parent who can't wait to don the steel caps and march their righteous indignation in the front gates may know of one or two miserable taxpayer-funded leeches parading as educators. But how to identify them all, in the name of a great purge?

Julia is here to help.

Ms Gillard told the Herald the Government welcomed the fact that the website would empower parents to badger school staff to lift standards. ''We would expect parents to have robust conversations with teachers and principals,'' she said.

This must be a step forward. Teachers had nothing to do already, now they can expect hordes of badgering parents waving leag…

The Library

Beautiful World War 2 picture by Sam Hood, from the State Library collection. This couple possibly never saw each other again. The title of this one is "Farewell, n.d.", so a bit evocative for me. (Hopefully it shows up on the FB version of this post.)
Went to the local library this morning so the kids could get some books. I remember getting the archive newspaper microfiches out in the State Library and reading the daily news from various days in history. Day I was born, day war broke out - any interesting date, to see what the everyday concerns of people were at those times.
I love libraries, this morning brought back memories of the time when I lived in Sydney and would spend a lot of time in various libraries, usually as part of study, but also just for the heck of it. It's not so much the books and other media you can spend time with, although there's always something amazing lurking in the collections. It's the atmosphere, and above all the quiet. (It also do…

Climate Change?

Can't go past NASA for the real money shots.

What to think about climate change? It's an everyday topic for conversation these days, having once been a bit of a scientific side alley.

Like most debates most people seem to want to line up behind one of two (opposite) extreme positions. There either is climate change and we're causing it (and we're all doomed), or there's no human-caused climate change and the whole thing is a vast conspiracy. People seem to love extremes, especially when there's another opposing extreme to go up against.

Anyway as always the truth is at neither extreme.

What do the scientists say?It's come as a bit of a surprise to some that they say a whole lot of different things. They don't all agree. Funny thing is, scientists never all agree, that's what science is all about. If they all did nobody would ever discover anything. Now the vast majority of scientists think that climate change is real, and that humans are contributing. T…