A Level Day 2010

Today is the day that A levels results are released to students and their parents. For the first time in as long as I can remember, the news media has not been obsessed with grade inflation. The estimated 175,000 students who won’t get a place has moved that old chestnut off top spot. That said, universities which told a Guardian poll last week that they were full are suddenly able to take well qualified students (Clearing 2010: Universities offer lifeline to top students, The Guardian).

This is also the first year that the A* grade – awarded for grades of 90% and above – has been made available. [Few universities used it in making offers](http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/aug/17/a-levels-a-grade-universities), but more may use it in clearing.
The story is unfolding on the [BBC](http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11012369), [The Guardian](http://www.guardian.co.uk/education), [The Daily Telegraph](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/), and [The Independent](http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/).
The Times is behind a pay wall.

Podcast of the week: #4 Sprachbar

An odd one this … but bear with me.

Sprachbar is part of the Deutsch for Ausländer (German for foreigners) programming of Deutsche Welle, the German equivalent to the BBC World Service.

To quote from the website

Sprachbar is an offering that introduces you to the subtleties and secrets of the German language. You will listen to explanations of current headlines, quotes from literature, figures of speech and grammar.

I like it because my wife is German and though my writing and speaking skills are minimal, my aural comprehension is quite good, and I can actually understand these short, humorous explanations of the idioms of modern German. In other words, it helps to keep my ear in.

Deutsche Welle (dw-world.de) provides lots more interesting resources for the budding German speaker, potential visitor, or home-sick native. And don’t worry, lots of the web site and resources is actually in English. For the serious student there are also Lots of German as a Foreign Language resources including news, programming, videos and Podcasts.

The latest Sprachbar podcast is Ein Loch kommt nie allien:

Sommerloch – Astloch – Stopfloch: Es “löchelt” viel in der deutschen Sprache. Wer genug Löcher in die Luft gestarrt hat, besucht Loch Ness – und fällt dann vor Ent-täuschung in ein tiefes Loch.

There’s a full transcript (in German only!) on the site.

I can’t wait!

Cloud Computing – 44 Years On

Simon Wardley introduces cloud computing with an interesting history lesson on the commodization of technology. Includes an introduction to the OSCON 2010 Cloud Computing Summit. Memorable quote:

the only [service providers] who call their customers “users” are drug dealers and software vendors.

Update: Simon has posted his own introduction to the Summit in Arguably, the best cloud conference in the world?, Bits or Pieces.

Released by http://oscon.com under the Creative Commons Attribution license. Original source is blip.tv here.

More from the Cloud Computing Summit:

Sunday Walk

As part of my training for the Macmillan Gower Macmarathon, Renate and I walked to Verdi’s in the Mumbles yesterday. Across Singleton Park and down to Mumbles Road via Derwyn Fawr, up to Verdi’s and back to the bus stop at Oystermouth, this is a total of 5.3 miles. We did it in 1 h 50 walking time. Still need to build up some strength before September 11, including some more challenging walks in Gower, but feeling pretty good.

Sponsorship is building up quite nicely too …


EPSRC PPE to be a Victim of Austerity

In a circular email from the EPSRC forwarded to Engineering and Physical Sciences staff at my Institution via our Research Office, it seems like the public engagement of science is going to be an early victim of the Government’s new austerity package.

> As part of an ongoing review of how we allocate our resources, EPSRC will no longer be funding public engagement activities via the **Partnerships for Public Engagement (PPE)** Scheme. As a consequence, the PPE call planned for this autumn will not go ahead.

Given that this sort of funding was designed to encourage researchers to follow in the footsteps of the superstars of science popularization such as [Marcus Du Sautoy](http://people.maths.ox.ac.uk/dusautoy/), [Jim Al-Khalili](http://www2.surrey.ac.uk/physics/people/jim_al-khalili/) and [Brian Cox](http://www.apolloschildren.com:16080/brian/), one has to wonder what this decision will do to the future popularization of science and engineering. And, in the long term, to the science-base in the UK.
Some element will remain:
> … from April 2011, we will no longer offer dedicated support for public engagement; rather it will be embedded through our research and training investments.

and of course, *consultation* will be done ***after the fact**:*> Over the next few months we will be consulting with advisory groups on how to maximise the impact of our embedded public engagement portfolio. We also intend to hold workshops to help the research community adjust to our new way of working.

The small savings that this change will bring may have very large unexpected consequences.

Walking for Macmillan

In four week’s time, on the 11th September, Renate and I will be taking part in the Gower Macmarathon Walk from Rhossili to Mumbles. A distance of 22 miles. We’ve set up a page to help collect sponsorship (see widget to right) and hopefully some of my readers, followers, friends and colleagues will be able to contribute.

I’ll be posting more news here and on the JustGiving sponsorship page as I get into training for this event. And I’ll be posting regular updates on twitter and my Facebook page.
Hopefully, 3G coverage and data caps permitting, I’ll be live twitpicing and twitvideoing on the day.

Microsoft Office 2010 (Personalized)

Office 2010 will be tightly linked with your social networks. Follow this link and login with your Facebook account. It’ll make a promotional video with you as the star and your public Facebook network and photos as the co-stars! Pretty and potentially viral.

Seriously, if MS Office 2010 can deliver, it might be a Google Docs killer!

Caveat: maybe not so great if mobile access only works on Windows phones.