Monday, 24 December 2012

British Car Plates

I have always wanted to know why car placard numbers were different in Great Britain.
I have found it out, but it turned out to be more difficult to understand than I thought.

Basically, the whole sequence of numbers and letters is divided into three sets:
  1. What I'll call a geographical locator: The first section of letters tell you where the car is from.
  2. A date locator: if card get their plate between March and August, they just write the last two digits of the year, but it the plate is made between September and February, they get the same figure, plus 50 - don't ask me why -
  3. And last but not least, they write a set of three random sequence of letters. they don't include letters I, Q or Z.
This numbering method give the British people three major adavantages:
  1. You know when a car was made.
  2. In case of crime involvement, witnesses usually remember the area code.
  3. They have enough new codes until 2051 while the Spanish system can only cover until 2025. - but only if we are still buying cars by that time. -
FYI, I found this here, just in case you want to know more.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Power Distance

I had never thought of it, but once you twig the idea, you feel better with yourself as a teacher. When I was younger, it would have been impossible to shout in class or talk to other students when our teachers were speaking. In other words, the teachers were the authority in class. If they decided so, they would not repeat their explanations and they would not tell us how they made out their assessment calculations. We were invited to leave the classroom - sometimes forever - if our teachers decided we were misbehaving.

This is nolonger true: teenagers decide now what they eat at home;  they have their own properties - mobile phones, video games, etc. - and they argue with their parents if they disagree with  their opinions. Of course this is also happening during lesson periods. Our students tell us aloud if we say or write something wrong in class, they want to check their exams and they ask us how we made our assessment calculation - even if they aren't right at all - . Thus, we could state that Spanish people are getting used to freedom. The problem is parents still demand the same explanations as their sons as daughters: they both, parents and their siblings want to have meetings with teachers to make decisions about teachers' work. Needless to say that they always want to have positive marks at the end of each term - it doesn't matter if they worked hard or not -. 

Due to our education, we tend to be as flexible as we can, but you see, the supervising process we are going under is making the whole stuff really difficult.

No more complaints this time. Thanks to Speak Up magazine for the nice article at number 327.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Robotics Laws

1. A robot must not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by a human beings except where such orders conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existance as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A small, good thing

This short story by Raymond Carver is one of the most shocking ones I have ever read. Belive or not, the story hooks your attention from the first line but once you are onto it, you really feel the pressure of an uncomfortable situation. On and on you expect a negative conclusion and every clue you get, it makes you feel more pessimistic about the end of it. (I know it all sounds extremely confusing, but I don't want to make it more obvious).

It was surprising that it all happened the same as in a movie. The story plot followed a very straight forward time line. There was a beginning: the traffic accident of a child triggers all the subsequent situations. An ordinary family with unimportant problems or difficulties comes across a fatal and sudden event that affects one of its members. Philosophy or even religion become more important; more important  than anything else: their house, their professions or their money.

There is no room for imagination in the story, except for the doctor's explanations about the actual situation of his patient; there is no space for anything different from realism either. Every situation shows as it is; as though every scene had been recorded with a camera.

In my opinion, the story is no more than raw criticism against materialistic society and the narrow views of consumerism. The baker, for example, may endlessly go on and on, day after day making his muffins and cakes, but he would not care about anything else except for his money.

Whatever it is, please have a look at Mr. Carver's biography. It is as interesting as his own literature. If you have the chance, please read this short story.

Oh Joseph, I'm so tired

In once heard from a movie, that it's not us who choose books but the other way round. So I can't help talking about what happened when I decided to go to the city and buy a new book with a couple of short stories to read. I went into the shop and there he was....He never taught me for a whole term, but I saw him around for a long time at university and I attended some of his lectures about idioms both in Spanish and English. I was doubtful on whether he would recognize me or not. After all, I had been out of the education world for more than a decade and I had not seen him for more than fifteen years. Of course he looked older. I think he was discussing the sales figures of his most recent book with the book shop owner.

I wondered if he would remember me and I inquired in the most rude manner I could have imagined. I stared at him and immediately after that, he seemed to have a vague memory of myself. We greeted each other even thugh he could scarcely identify me with one of his former studets. I acknowledged how much I admired him at that time and told him I still kept a copy of each, his grammar and idioms books - the latter of which I probably acquired in a second hand book shop - and he made a few questions to me. As soon as he knew I was teaching, he stated we were colleagues, the mere fact of his declaring this, made me feel uncomfortable and ashamed as it is long ago that I knew I would never be as wise or intelligent as my teachers were.

Well..., going back to the book issue; one of the short stories included into this booklet I purchased was Oh Jesus, I'm so tired, by Richard Yates. I had no idea who the author was, and I even looked up the name in my American Literature handbook. His name was not in there, so I asked wikipaedia. I had seen the movie trailer on TV some time ago. Winslet and DiCaprio starred the film Revolutionary Road which was the author's most successful novel. I t was turned into a movie more than fifty years after it was written. So, the short story we are talking about was included in a short stories collection called Liars in Love.

The reason why I said books choose people is because the dramatic line within the book portraits a critical period of American History which resembles the one we are living in Europe now. The poor or middle class NY society of the early 1930s become an excellent background to tell us the story of a divorced mother and her two children and how their struggle for the Amerian dream ends up in deep frustration.

Apparently, the younger brother, who is seven years old when the story is happening, becomes the omniscient narrator when he grows old. The whole story turns around an anecdote happening to their mother, who at that time was appointed by President Roosvelt's office to make an sculpture of his head.

False and great expectations about the future, poverty and mediocrity, lack of means and money, hypocrisy and sour criticism to Amerian way of life are the main topics in the story. So, you could discribe this fine piece of writing as realistic as you feel all these places and characters really existing. The author really describes every feature in the characters' personalities and every single spot in this narrow geography of him, which in spite of this, makes you feel as though you could visit every room or call on every person or house he talks about.

I'll stop here for fear that I might write longer than I should. It is only about 60 pages long and it is worth spending one or two afternoons reading it. Hope you enjoy if you happen to come across a copy of the story. It was my pleasure to find my former teacher anyway.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Living Abroad

Nowadays, travelling is a possibility for everybody. Most people have already visited other countries over the world and an important number of people have lived abroad. The only idea of living abroad is very interesting, because it means a change in anyone's life.

If you move to another country, you'll find a new lifestyle: you'll know a new culture, you'll meet new people who can be really different from people in your own country. You'll also learn a new language..... Firstly, meeting new people always makes you happy, and also you can meet someone really special. You know what I mean! You can find some good friends. Secondly, you can start a new life: If you are not proud of our way of life, ou should change it. Finally, getting to know a new culture can make you get in touch with new customs and traditions.

However, not everything about living abroad is peaches and cream. Firstly, you mjust learn the language, because if you can't still speak the language, you won't be able to communicate to other people. Also you'll have to find a job to live on, and a house to live in. Secondly, you leave your family and friends in your country, something that is very sad... Finally, you aren't sure if everything will be okay in your new house, and this must make you think you do realy want to move.

In my opinions, there are enough arguments for living abroad. If I could, I'd like to try it, but diasadvantages keep me off from thinking about it. Anyway, I know that If I could, I wouldn't go alone; I'd like to take some of my friends with me!

by Antonio