Don’t plan your life: explore your interests and passions

The 2014 Weinberg College of Midwestern University Commencement speech by Daniel Pink was a really good piece of advice for the graduates present. It was also something that I feel every student present and future can benefit from seeing.

Pink states that he took a Linguistics degree from Weinberg and people asked him the usual question, “what are you going to do with a Linguistics degree?”.

I have to say that I had much the same said to me when I did a Politics degree. “Are you going to become a politician?”

Pink states that the value of a degree is in the process not the content. He states that too many people go to University with a preset plan and they have their lives mapped out for them. Unfortunately, these people often fail to enjoy their careers or get to truly find the thing that expresses their true self.

My profession, teaching, is full of would-be’s. We are the artists that never were, the failed scientists, doctors and in my case, ironically, academics. There are too few who go into the profession because they want to really teach. I found it a haven after a failed attempt to become an accountant, which I knew would condemn me to a life of drudgery.

My reasons for “drifting in” to teaching are that I had a life plan that was disrupted by my inability to do exams. I now realise that I should have drifted, explored and tried a lot of things which may have led me to truly achieve what I feel I was capable of and maybe taken me to areas of experience that I would now be looking back on (from the vantage point of retirement) with feelings of gratitude and pleasure.

I would recommend Daniel Pink’s wise words to any future or present student who asks themselves the age-old question, “what career path should I take and what is the best degree for me?”



The cartoon that says it all


I love the way that cartoons can capture the essence of a story. The above cartoon says all that needs to be said about the over-hyped World Cup in Brazil where very rich and mostly average-skilled footballers are able to parade their “talent” ( or lack of it) for the World’s media and enhance their commercial viability for selling perfumes, soft drinks or mobile phones.

In front of the stadium made from huge dollar bills lay  the ramshackle hospital and school. This is the reason for the protests you are not allowed to see. For the violence just down the road from the stadium that is brutally dealt with by the toughest policemen that can be used ( maybe they took lessons from China or Turkey).

The circus that is the Fifa World Cup will leave town. Many of the stadia will become unused white elephants. The ramshackle schools and hospitals will remain as the media moves on and the world forgets the real problems of poverty, crime and lack of education in Brazil.

The Longitude Prize

I received a really interesting email from today. It appears that they are one of the prime sponsors of the 2014 Longitude Prize.

Below I am inserting the main body of their text. I think the idea behind it is really good and hope that this prize will encourage innovative solutions, or steps along the road, to the problems highlighted.

Well done to all involved with this.

The Longitude Prize

It is 300 years since the Longitude Act of 1714, which offered a prize of £20,000 to anyone who could devise a method to accurately determine a ship’s position at sea. Among those on the committee who judged the merit of entries was the then serving Astronomer Royal. History is repeating itself.

In 2014, Britain is reconvening the historic Longitude Committee to oversee Longitude Prize 2014, with a prize fund of £10 million. The Prize is being developed and run by Nesta, with the Technology Strategy Board as launch funding partner, and Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees, as Chair of the revived committee.

“There’s now not just an obvious ‘number one’ challenge: there are many. A broad range of societal problems demand fresh thinking; we need to galvanise a new generation of innovators to address them. And it’s important to engage the public: we live in a world where science can do more and more to improve our lives,” says Lord Rees.

“So, the challenge to be addressed by the revived Longitude Prize 2014 will be decided not by government officials, as in 1714, but by the public. And you should have your say,” continued Lord Rees. “Through a rigorous process, engaging dozens of experts, as well as focus groups, we’ve identified six areas where innovations could improve people’s lives. And we’re asking the UK public to vote for which of the six areas should have top priority, and be the focus of the Longitude Prize 2014. Once chosen we hope that the public will also consider whether they can be a part of finding the solution.”

Below are the six challenges to choose from:


Antibiotics have changed the face of healthcare for the better; they on average add 20 years to our lives. 80 years on from the discovery of penicillin, we are still unable to distinguish bacterial from viral infections, or the type of bacteria in the clinic, which has caused the overuse of antibiotics and the evolution of multidrug-resistant strains of bacteria. We need a cheap, rapid and accurate point of care test kit that allows doctors to accurately prescribe antibiotics at the right time.


The rapid growth of carbon emissions caused by air travel needs to be addressed to help tackle climate change. The potential of zero-carbon flight has been demonstrated but it has had little impact on the carbon footprint of the aviation industry, which still relies exclusively on fossil fuels. We need to bring novel technologies into the mainstream to stimulate a significant change.


Paralysis can emerge from a number of different injuries, conditions and disorders and the effects can be devastating. Every day can be a challenge when mobility, bowel control, sexual function and respiration are lost or impaired. We need to find a way to vastly increase the freedom of movement for people with paralysis and address some of the secondary symptoms to make life easier.


An ageing population means more people are developing dementia and unfortunately there is currently no existing cure. This means there is a need to find ways to support a person’s dignity, physical and emotional wellbeing and extend their ability to live independently.


Water is a finite resource and we must seek to find ways of producing more fresh water. Some 98 per cent of the Earth’s water is too salty for drinking or agriculture and as water requirements grow and as our reserves shrink, many are turning to desalination. We require a scalable solution that demonstrates low carbon, sustainable production of water for drinking or agriculture from seawater helping bring new technology to fruition.


The world’s population is growing, getting richer and moving to cities. Current estimates suggest that by 2050 there will be about nine billion people on the planet; moreover our tastes will have turned to more resource-hungry foods such as meat and milk. In the face of limited resources and climate change, we must learn how to feed the world better, but more sustainably…

“I hope that the Longitude Prize 2014 will stimulate wide public interest and action, as well as encourage inventors and innovators over the next five years,” concludes Lord Rees. “Please find out more and vote for the challenge you would like to become the subject of Longitude Prize 2014, at the Longitude Prize website“.


Eisenhower’s draft speech on the event of the failure of the D-Day landings

On the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings I found this interesting article about a draft that General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote which would have been his speech if the landings had proved a failure.

Fortunately, for Eisenhower and for the allied forces, which included my father ( on D-Day + 1), the landings were the ” beginning of the end”  for Nazi Germany ( to quote Sir Winston Churchill out of context).

The speech reads as follows:

Our landings in the Cherbourg Le Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the Air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

Here is a picture of Eisenhower’s actual handwritten draft:


Brazil: the great divide


I think the above cartoon sums up the forthcoming World Cup in Brazil.

Look at the boy from the favela (slum)  not far from the beautiful newly built and just completed on time, football stadium. He stands in the midst of the poverty stricken environment that is his home watching the fireworks light the night sky.

He wears his beloved number 10 Brazil shirt and dreams of kicking the ball some day in that very same stadium. His dream is the same as so many like him in contemporary Brazil.

Last week we saw the protests of people who have seen expenditure on education in Brazil cut, sometimes to nothing, in order to pay for the stadia and host the World Cup.

I am a football fan ( my wife would say fanatic) but I really feel that we need to think about the costs of these great tournaments that come and go and are largely forgotten. Education is an engine for social and economic change in Brazil. A school, once built, will act as a base for education for years to come. Can we justify the expenditure on a World Cup and Olympics in two years time at the expense of the potential for development and progress of children such as the boy in the cartoon?

PhotosNormandie: An Online Archive of 3,000+ CC Photos from WWII

As we approach the 70th Anniversary of D-Day (June 6th) I decided to do an internet search on Creative Commons photos available for public use and re-use.

I found this excellent site with over 3000 brilliant photos. Below are two that I found really interesting. I feel that this would be a great, free resource for anyone doing research into a well documented historical event.

The photos are also valuable as a starting point for discussion on the significance of war, the sheer destructiveness of war, the morality of war.

Take a look at this picture:


The image of the child’s doll against the rumbling tank passing the bullet-marked wall with an old poster on it could lead to many interesting discussions. The great thing is that it is free to use courtesy of Photos-Normandie ( which my acknowledgement of fulfills the requirement of the Creative Commons Licence to use).

Here is a picture of the small town of St Germain which shows the devastation of the bombing in the ferocity of the invasion by the Allied Forces:


Aerial photography is a good source of information as it happened in real time as can be seen from the rising cloud of dust as a bomb hits one of the main buildings in the town.

These are just 2 of over 3000 photographs. It is another example  of where the “digital revolution” has opened up so many possibilities for us all.