Saturday 13 October 2007

How To Spoil A Good Book...

...Jesus dies on page 1126 !

There May Be Trouble Ahead...

Not content with the furore over the MMR jab (which, IMHO, could have been avoided simply by allowing parents to opt for immunisation with three separate jabs for measles, mumps and rubella - it was the triple jab which occasioned the autism controversy), the Department of Health wants to bring in a new jab: the plan is to give jabs against the human papilloma virus (HPV) to all girls in Year 7 (that's the old First Year of secondary school for any middle-aged readers from England, and 11-12 year-olds for the rest of you.)

The Daily Mail has an article on it (I was in the garage a long time), though either they got the age-range wrong, or the Year Group for whom the immunisation programme is planned. Year 7's are 11-12 years old.

There are (surprise, surprise!) questions as to how safe this vaccine is.

Dr Szarewski [a researcher from the Wolfson Institute, London, who researches the effects of HPV] said safety data showed vaccination caused very few side-effects apart from a sore arm and some people who experienced flu-like symptoms.

But Jackie Fletcher of the vaccine awareness group JABS said: "We're worried about side effects reported in the U.S. including Guillain Barre syndrome, fainting spells and short seizures."

HPV is, of course, spread through sex, and the more partners a woman has, the more likely she is to contract HPV. Is it just me who finds it odd that no-one is mentioning abstinence as a sure-fire way of avoiding the virus?

...and how much do you want to bet that these 11 year-olds will be handed out condoms by the school nurse, to accompany the jabs... just to be on the "safe" side?

One To Watch...?

While waiting for the car tyres to be replaced, I amused myself by reading a paper... not something I do very often, as I usually get the news from the internet and (*sheepish grin*) the radio.

So I was interested to see in today's Daily Mail, a double-page spread alerting readers to a television programme next week. The programme, Channel 4's Dispatches, will give details about what actually happens to a foetus when it is aborted. The article was concentrating on the number of late abortions which are carried out in the UK, far later than allowed elsewhere, and highlighting the fact that modern medicine calls into question the idea that a foetus doesn't feel pain before 26 weeks' gestation.

The journalist who wrote the article, Deborah Davies, gives the impression that she is very much in favour of a woman's right to choose, but she is clearly unhappy with the number of abortions which are performed after 12-14 weeks' gestation... and obviously shocked by what medical staff have told her about the procedures used for such late-term abortions. I can't agree with her description of abortions in the first 12 weeks needing only a "simple" suction procedure - it's all pretty gross when you consider that a human life is at stake - but I'm interested to read that more and more people are beginning to question where a foetus is considered to be a "baby" in the making.

The article headline certainly made me sit up: "It's the great abortion taboo: what really happens to an unborn baby when a doctor terminates its life. Next week on TV, a surgeon finally breaks that silence. His words will shock you, but they need to be heard."

The article is also available online HERE. The Dispatches programme, "Abortion: What We Need to Know," is on Channel 4, Wednesday, 17th October 2007 at 10:40pm.

It's Been One Of Those Days...

I was a real cross-patch this morning. Last night, our parish sacristan had phoned to say she was feeling ill, and wouldn't be there to set up for Saturday morning's Mass and Benediction. So, no Saturday morning lie-in for me! Bleary-eyed, wet-haired and thoroughly disgruntled, I drove in early. Luckily, there is something soothing about preparing the sacred vessels for Mass. By the time I was able to sit down to pray the Office, I had regained a little composure, and was feeling slightly ashamed of my bad-temper. On the plus side, living alone means that I hadn't actually taken my temper out on anyone, but that wasn't the point.

I then found out that the wedding booked for this afternoon was actually a full-blown Nuptial Mass.

And then I was told that there was a Baptism between the wedding and Benediction.

And Sunday Mass after the wedding... I helped set up for the Baptism and prepared what I could for the Nuptial Mass, and then decamped... leaving the rest for the Deacon.

(I have no idea where Fr. Tim gets all his energy. I wish he'd bottle the stuff - I need some!)

Meanwhile, a friend of mine pointed out that one of my front car tyres was seriously flatter than the other. She offered to get her son to get it pumped up, but I said I'd go to a garage to get it checked out. I was sure that I'd had the tyres checked quite recently...

...and then realised that "recently" was somewhere in the region of three or four months and all I had done then was a check on the tyre pressure. It turned out that I needed all four tyres changed: three had degrading around the rim, and the fourth was balding on the inside. I thought I'd get the wheel alignment done while I was at it...

I'd hoped it could be done pretty quickly (I mean, how long does it take to change a tyre or two?) but a glut of customers also waiting for tyres to be sorted meant that the whole thing took about 2 hours... car garage waiting rooms are not the most comfortable of places...

Oh, the joys of car ownership!

Friday 12 October 2007

21st Century Science?

Ok, this is a long post, and I warn you that I'm having a rant. Not quite such a major rant as the ones I have on pc language and heretical hymns, but close. Feel free to ignore this post, and come back tomorrow...

Although I trained as a Science teacher, I found myself straying into the Humanities for a couple of years. This September, I found myself back in the heart of the Science Curriculum. I'm now teaching 21st Century Science (the rather pretentious name given to the new GCSE courses.) The textbooks look very attractive at first glance (lots of glossy photos) and there is an impressive set of notes and lesson plans for teachers to use, with PowerPoint presentations and worksheets...

However, having explored the material for the past month and a half, I have to say that it's rather disappointing. The PowerPoints are uninspiring - no real attempt at interactive stuff, just larger copies of the words and phrases from the textbooks - and the worksheets assume easy access to the textbooks - very few schools, in my experience, would be able to fork out the money for each child to have a textbook to take home - which means that the worksheets are useless as a homework resource. The questions in the textbooks often assume that computer access is readily available, and suggest "research" to find out the answers...

...but that is just the mechanics of the course. And any new course is going to have teething problems as it's applied to the real classroom.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem is the content... or, to be more specific, the lack of content. I'm teaching the Chemistry Units: the first is "Air Quality," the second is "Material Choices" and the third is "Food Matters."

Air Quality is concerned with the main gases in the atmosphere, and pollution. Combustion is the main chemical reaction, and it is used to explore what pollutants are produced when fossil fuels are burnt. The effects of pollutants on health, and the use of technology to improve air quality are also considered.

Be still my beating heart... the excitement is almost overpowering...

I'm currently teaching Material Choices: you can't have all the groups doing the same topics at once because of equipment availability. Material Choices is all about choosing the right materials for a particular purpose, with the emphasis on polymers and plastics. Oh, and the disposal of polymers and plastics. Recycling features here.

Note that the full extent of technical knowledge of the whole of Organic Chemistry has been distilled (pun intended, sorry) down to polymers being long chain molecules, monomers being the molecules which make up the chains, and hydrocarbons being chemicals obtained from crude oil.

The final Year 10 Chemistry topic is Food Matters. How food gets from the farm to the plate. Farming methods and their effects on the environment. Natural and artificial chemicals in food (including food additives.) Possible links between obesity and diabetes.

Quite apart from the fact that most of the fun stuff in Chemistry appears to have been ditched, the amount of scientific content which the students need to learn is laughable.

I've nearly finished the first topic. I explained this to the students, who were aghast at how little they felt they had learned. So, to reassure them (and myself) that I wasn't missing out half the course, I checked the exam paper for the topic which was set in January 2007.

I wanted to cry. The questions were a variety of multiple choice (A, B, C, D etc.), connecting boxes with straight lines (eg. "wool" in one box and "sheep" in another needed to be connected to show wool comes from sheep) or filling in missing words or phrases (a choice of words and phrases was given.)

No explanations. No elaborating. No description.

And not much Science.

Thursday 11 October 2007

How To Help A Fellow Blogger...

...The American Papist has ended up as a finalist in some scholarship award or other. The winner is the blog with most votes. There is no registration process, and it takes all of two minutes to cast your vote HERE. By the way, American Papist is "Thomas Peters", and he's second from the bottom...

Mantilla-twitch to Newhousenewjob (who is busy copying my dream-reality-confusion trick!)

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Rosary Crusade 2007

"Isn't time fun when you're having flies?" as one frog said to the other...

No, I haven't lost my marbles... I just cannot believe that it's already a whole year since the last Crusade. Re-reading my post from last year reminded me how very much has happened in a short time.

Anyway, the next Crusade is this Saturday, 13th October. No doubt this will be a "biggie" as the 13th October is the 90th anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal, when the miracle of the sun was observed by thousands of onlookers.

The procession will start outside Westminster Cathedral at 1:45pm and finish up at the Brompton Oratory. Fr. Julian Large will be preaching. Photos of last year's Crusade can be seen HERE.

Quiz Time

What Kind of Cross are You?

You are the San Damiano Cross: Rich in symbolism, this cross was first painted in the twelfth century gathering images from the Gospel of John. Christ is the central figure and is surrounded by the angels, the apostles and the Virgin Mary. The cross became well known because it was the cross in front of which St. Francis was praying when he received the call to rebuild the Church.
Take this quiz!

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Twitch of the mantilla to Thorn in the Pew.

Tuesday 9 October 2007

A plea For Help...

...this has appeared on the Sisters of the Gospel of Life blog: they are on the scrounge for any soundbites from people such as Cardinal Winning, Blessed Mother Teresa and so on, for inclusion in a PowerPoint presentation which they're busy putting together...

As part of the 40th anniversary events we’re organizing, we’re putting together a number of pro-life slide-shows on different themes. What we’re looking for are sound-bites from people like Cardinal Winning, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI speaking on specifically pro-life related issues. These would be sound clips that we could play over PowerPoint presentations. If you know of good sites on the internet or if you would be able to email clips to us, please leave a comment on this post or email us at

A very worthy cause, so if you can, send the info along...

Monday 8 October 2007

Aaaaaarghhhhh !

Marking books can be a soul-destroying exercise. I foresee a week of detentions (can't have too many kids in at once) for non-completion of homework...

...accompanied by the gentle hint, "Of course, if you can show me that you've done the homework when you arrive at the detention, you won't have to stay long..."

Sooner or later, the penny drops...

Sunday 7 October 2007

Bad Luck For The All Blacks...

...looks as though my drawing of New Zealand in the Staffroom Sweepstake has sounded the death-knell for the All Blacks. They lost their match on Saturday, and so are out of the World Cup.


While googling the result, I found the following refreshing quote from the New Zealand captain...

"We can't do anything about it now. It's going to hurt for a long, long time. I'm lost for words. We believed we could come out and play well. We didn't play as well as we could have."

Makes a change to hear a team admit that they could do better!
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