30 May 2014

Keyboards, And A Cool Photo

Okay, let me start by saying that keyboards are important. Very important, even. You’re probably thinking: yes, genius, we get that. You’re a writer, right?

Now, I should probably mention that I always knew keyboards were important—the real question, of course, is how important.

My old keyboard—a Dell one (yes, Dell from Hell and all that)—was actually a very good keyboard. It had a nice, strong feel to it; it made a nice, big CLANK when you hit it; it had nice, big keys; and it was black; and it was a great keyboard. It even had really tall keys, that required a fair bit of effort to press.

It’s weird, huh? You’d think that a keyboard should be easier to press, not harder—but actually, I find that keyboards lacking in attack (is that what it’s called?) have a tendency to provoke errant keystrokes, which are very annoying!

There is nothing more irritating than typing away at your latest scene (‘The dragon made its lair, in much the same way an oversized, carnivorous bird would’) and then—BANG!—you’ve accidentally changed to a different window and all your prose is on the web browser!

Or—my personal pet hate—you’re typing away, and a bad keystroke sends your writing on the previous paragraph, in the middle of a sentence... heck, in the middle of a word!

(You must be thinking I’m really weird after all that...)

Anyway, I broke the Dell keyboard in a fit of rage. It wasn’t directed at the keyboard, mind you: I had to edit my Drama essay to hand in the next day, and LibreOffice writer had, for some unfathomable IT reason, decided that the particular paragraph I was trying to edit should be read-only.

I still don’t why it was doing that; instead I saved the doc, and worked on it from Word.

But not before I broke the keyboard.

(I would have broken the monitor, but that would have been rather more expensive to replace.)

Anyway, I bought a BenQ keyboard thereafter.

I’m not naming and shaming here. The keyboard was actually pretty decent: it had lots of buttons—like this one—whose purpose I have never ascertained; it had big keys; and plenty of spacing; and it was a decent enough keyboard.

But it didn’t have attack. It was too soft.

So, I am now writing this on a different keyboard which I managed to find buried in the house. I’m not sure who made it, because the only branding is a funny little blue thing that looks kinda like an ‘E’. Regardless, I can smash the keys with abandon and they CLACK! nicely, and it has everything the other ones do, so I’m happy.

The keyboard is also UK, so I don’t have to deal with all that no-pound-or-euro-sign bullshit the US ones give. (I’m not too keen on the placement of the @ and # signs either. Oh, Americans...)

What About That Photo

I was always confused about what you call pictures and images and photos in the English language. In Romanian, we just have ‘imagini’ and ‘poze’. ‘Pictures’ is kind of a grey area with me.

Anyway, take a look:

‘It’s a landscape!’ you say; ‘It has snow and mountains and trees and shit’.

Well, that is correct. However, it looks eerily similar to a major setting in my novel, the Necromancer. Specifically, it looks like the ‘Northern Mountains’; a mountain range—who would have thought?—towards the north of Arachadia—surprise!—in which the Necromancer has his lair.

So there you go. A little, pale view into my imagination.

Update: had to fix some typos. Sorry for that.

28 May 2014

The Three Days’ Word: Ephemeral

Here we go with the Three Days’ Word again. Since I am on holiday (though I’m still doing some revision as I have more exams afterwards), I have a bit more time on my hands. I have a little idea for some of the poems I’ve been talking about: it’s to do with visual art. I’ll tell you that much.



Pronunciation: /əfɛmərɘl/

Etymology: From GREEK ‘ephēmeros’ meaning ‘lasting but a day’.

Definition: Lasting a brief amount of time; fleeting; a will-o’-the-wisp.


‘The ephemeral memories of children; so easily forgotten, and so terrible for it.’

‘The ephemeral promises of politicians. Bah!’

‘Ephemeral dreams, and fleeting, forgotten wishes; humanity: an illusion?’

Well, there you have it. Sorry if I sound kinda tired. I am tired, you know? The work isn’t over yet, and the publishing world is a difficult one to break into. But, like the indefatigable, unyielding soldier that I am, I shall do my exams; and I’ll do well; and you can be expecting new work to come out soon enough.

My novel, the Necromancer, is under the watchful eye of a friend of mine. Decisions will be made. I may not publish it—it’s why I’m not giving you any previews of it. However, I do have a novelette written, so you can expect something from me, at least...

(‘Poor Alex. He’s rambling now,’ you think. Well, you’d be right on that.)

25 May 2014

Words, Poems; Alex Stargazer’s Weird and Wonderful Musings

Hellooo! I have been rather busy last week, with exams (my old time favourites) and other stuff.

But with this week’s holiday, I can entertain you lot—I do entertain you, right?

First up, some obscure words. Yes, I have fallen way behind on that, so it had to be a plural.

(‘Yay! Two obscure and incomprehensible words to read. What fun!’ you say.)

But, anyway. I digress.


Pronunciation: /ækwɪɛs/

Etymology: From LATIN ‘acquiescere’ meaning ‘to rest at’: combination of ‘ad’ (at, to) and ‘quiescere’; to rest. Weird, huh?

Definition: (The above will seem even weirder now:) To express agreement; to concur and be willing.


‘It is the ineluctable nature of persuasive people; they shall always get what they want, even if they don’t really want it. Others always acquiesce.’

‘To acquiesce; or to deny your friend in favour of empiricism?’

‘Acquiesce with the dictator’s demands. Or else.’

(I’m a little morbid, aren’t I?)

Now, on to the next word: exigency. This is an odd one. It has two possible meanings! And yes—they’re both very different. English...


Pronunciation: /ɛksɪdʒənsi/

Etymology: From LATIN ‘exigentia’; in turn derived from ‘exigere’ meaning ‘enforce’.

Definition: Now here they are—number one is ‘a sudden and pressing demand; a crisis’; number two is ‘excessive and/or difficult requirements’. Since my name is Stargazer, I shall try and come up with something creative for both meanings. Maybe I’ll even write something ambiguous. Now that would be really clever...

‘The exigencies of bad times often come in the way they do: unexpectedly, frighteningly, and devastatingly. Woe befalls all who are subject to them; the vicissitudes of the incompetent leaders that lead us.’

‘He was exigent, annoying, and frequently wrong; but there was a kindness to him, also, that was hard to resist.’

‘Exigent fool prone to random fits of rage and exigency.’

Beat that!

On to Poems, Bunnies, and Musings

First off: the bunnies.

Well, one bunny, I should say more correctly. (‘What’s he going on about?’ you say; well, please bear with.)

Today, on the Sun’s Day, I—or rather my dad—found a bunny. In the middle of the road. Blind. And young. Well, you can probably guess from there on; but you’d be guessing wrong. I didn’t take her in with us—and no, I didn’t abandon her either. Eek!

No, we gave her to the owner of the nearby pub. She was really quite happy, I must say. Mummy even looked kinda jealous. Hehe.

Moving on from bunnies, I have written five poems, submitted them to an uppity-tightety—my bad, literary—magazine, and yes, it was predictable from all that: I got rejected. Too bad. There are other ways for a poet to express themselves; and as you can guess, one of those is through this blog.

I shall, however, not give you all of them. I’m keeping the big guns for something special...

The Maiden and the Lake

Download and View on Google Drive

I am going to write a short essay on this. If you don’t like essays, don’t read it. Although, I suspect anyone crazy enough to follow my blog would probably be fairly comfortable with essays already...


The poem is about following your dreams.

If you were still trying to deduce that, I’m sorry. In any case: a poem’s message should not be didactic—for such a thing cannot be considered a work of art; rather an essay like this one—and neither should a poem’s message require wrestling from its cold, dead words. (Haha.)

A poem’s message should be pretty clear. If it isn’t, I’m not doing a very good job; please tell me!

In any case, the poem is partially metaphorical—the Little Ones in particular, represent the man’s inner demons—but also a straight up narrative: the scenario depicted should resonate of a wish come true.

The narrator is unnamed. This is not random: the narrator is the archetypal wishful lover; the one constrained by unyielding biology.

And of course, what tale can speak more of wishes? Love, and unsurmountable barriers, is my answer.

Imagery is also quite an important aspect of the poem. Here’s a badly kept secret: poems aren’t novels. You cannot build empathy, and love, and a desire for sucess, in the reader’s mind with quite so few words; you must instead appeal to our visual sense—our fastest sense. (Or ‘bandwidth capable input device’ if you want to go into tech-speak.)

The poem also takes in irony certain aspects of superstition. Take, for example: ‘On the seventh day, / Of the sixth month (of the sixth year)[.]’ Seven, now, there’s a number: a prime number; Seven Deadly Sins; seven days; seven, seven, seven.

As for six? Well, ‘six six six’ and Old Nick’s here.

The irony, of course, is in the fact that the man does not drown, and neither is he abandoned; the man gets what he wants. If you are so inclined, you will also notice that deceiving foreshadow is used in other ways as well—the ‘omen of joy’ and ‘the moon is but a memory’ and so on and so forth.

Indeed, the latter quote presents an irony in and of itself. The moon—as the mythology scholars among you may be aware—is often presented as the symbol of femininity. And yet, the man himself is rather un-masculine. It is also rather fitting, since the Maiden—a.k.a the moon—decides to keep him waiting.

And thus concludes the essay. It wasn’t terribly long (I don’t think). Besides, this isn’t my best poem; those are reserved for the Secret Project.

Thank you for reading. You can leave a comment, if you like. This isn’t meant to be monologue, y’a know?

19 May 2014

On The Sandman

Unfortunately, the fates have not deemed to give me much time. Exams are known as hard, time-consuming things for a reason, you know?

But regardless: I shall be writing about my wee little short story—the Sandman—and about how it was written, and I shall also address some complaints I’ve come across.

This is not to say that I shall be giving you any evangelical preaching about its message or writing contrived literary dissertations.

The book itself has an essay in it; and moreover, its message is pretty clear anyway.

What I want to do is just give you a little background and trivia into the whole thing. And hey, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two while we’re at it. (One can only hope...)

How D’ya Write It?

This question is usually brought up for the big books. Short stories are a little too... short.

That said, there’s more than one meaning to the question.

I wrote my short story in an exam.

Strange, isn’t it? Most people think of writers as those weird people stuck in dry, dusty rooms; surrounded by other books; and of course, writing on a typewriter (and throwing out unsuccessful draft after unsuccessful draft).

I can assure you that most—in fact, all—of my work, is done on a computer. Computers are incredibly powerful tools: you can write, cut, track your changes, stick it on a kindle or on paper... the possibilities are virtually endless—provided that you know what you’re doing.

(And no, I don’t throw out drafts. Most of my work isn’t heavily revised; I can pretty much do something in one go.)

Computers sometimes give me incredible frustration. That’s okay. I have lots of computers; and dealing with the occasional oopsie is still easier than getting horrible cramps in my hands, or having to copy hundreds of pages of text to a computer anyway...

But you’re probably wondering why I wrote my short story in an exam. Did I fail the exam? Was it really that terribly done?

I apologise for not getting on with stuff. Such is my nature: I tend to wander, going from thought to thought, from feeling to feeling; from ideas to ideas. You can write books this way, you know. Three of them, to be more precise.

Now, I wrote my short story in an exam because it was an English exam. I was supposed to write it, believe it or not. It was one of the least stressful exams I’ve ever done.

(And yes, I got full marks. Indeed, the teacher called it ‘well beyond GCSE level’, though that’s not saying much.)

Was It Hard?

Well... it was easier than writing my previous books, I’ll tell you that much. This is partly because it was shorter than my other books; and partly because I am, now, a better writer. (Or at least, I hope so.)

That said, it wasn’t easy. There were times when I had to re-write sentences, or even paragraphs. There were times when I deleted certain sentences—either they didn’t work, or were inconsistent with the character’s actions. At other times, I even went off on a totally different tangent.

Writing is like that.

But not just any writing, mind you: non-fiction stuff is usually pretty methodical—it’s more about getting your thoughts on paper. You don’t really have to think about what you’re writing, because you know it already. And while good form is important; it isn’t critical.

Creative writing is harder. Quite a lot harder, I’d say. It’s why English teachers often can’t produce a good book: they don’t have the experience, sure, but there’s a deeper reason.

First of all, creative writing necessitates that you not only write good content, but also good sentences. In fact, the sentences themselves are a work of art, and create their own, unique effect; a good book can’t be good if you don’t get your message across—and a story is that much more effective if your sentences can mirror the emotions.

Examine the following: (Yes, I know I’m not supposed to doing this.)

The demon looked at me. There was madness in its eyes. Yes: and worse, there was evil.

Pure, unmistakable, evil.

It was the infernal glare of billions of years of killing and torture; of plans plotted, and executed; of a being that had not the slightest ounce of humanity.

‘Ready to meet your worst nightmare, human?’

See how the words ‘evil’ and ‘executed’ give the whole thing a visceral power that infuses into the prose itself? Notice the repetition? The short sentences? The way the clauses slide into one another until they begin to almost carry a rhythym of their own?

(Sorry if I sound arrogant there. We writers must have some measure of self confidence: we’d never write anything otherwise.)

Anyway, the second part of my point is to do with the content itself.

Where to start? In creative writing, you are not merely codifying known information into a human-readable format; you are actively creating the information itself. You must form every little detail—every rustle of a leaf, every cry of every zephyr; each part of a world. You must create emotion: both within the characters and the reader. You must be, for a brief while, god.

That’s quite a contrast isn’t it?

So, yes, writing is hard. Writing is work.

But it’s worth it.

Even if not for any monetary gain, there is a certain personal satisfaction in knowing you’ve done it; in knowing you can do something few people can do. And hey, if you get a truckload of money doing it, even better.

Finally: The Complaints

Your book’s too short.

Yes, it is. But I had to write it in two hours—exam, remember? And personally, I think writing a two and a half thousand word story in that amount of time isn’t a mean feat.

It could have been lengthened, that’s true. But would it have been the same tale?

Your book is anti-religious/anti-Islamic/etc.

It is difficult to see how a form of art that, by definition, is designed to instil empathy for a character; how can that be construed as hateful?

It baffles me.

Your book offends my religious sensibilities.

I shall say this simply: if you know a book is going to offend you, don’t read it. And if you accidentally read it, well; don’t hold it against the author. I do not write books to appeal to everyone on the planet. That’s just impossible.

Okay, that concludes my rather long blog post. Enjoy. I’ll be having fun in my exams...

13 May 2014

An Update On What the Hell is Going On

‘Alex, Alex! What have you been doing? You’ve left us all hanging!’ I hear you say.

Well, if you have been wondering what I’ve been doing these past few days—and why there’s been no Three Days’ Word or Poem of the Week—then the answer is: I’ve got exams!

Hurray! Wonderful exams; all in stuffy exam halls, with stern-faced invigilators (‘You there, with the book!’) and the faint irritated scratch of pencil on paper—of desperate, confused students (or ‘candidates’) and their scribblings out and sighs of hopelessness.

Well, your exams might not be so bad; and indeed neither are mine, considering that most of the students there would have been getting As. However, there really is something unpleasant about the whole thing.

Anyway, my last post talked enough about education in the good ol’ land of Grande Bretagne Great Britain, and I think it was a bit depressing and all.

So: I’ve done four exams so far; I’ve got 12 more left to go over the next month or so. I’ll be busy. But tomorrow I have neither school nor exams.

And that means I can post stuff!

I’ll try and hack up something worth your attention. Though I’ll probably bore you by rambling about pretentious fiction and all that. (Shrugs. ‘They’re getting what they want,’ he thinks.)

Oh, and I’ve written five poems to submit to the Threepenny Review literary magazine. I even sent them. I got rejected :(

But, I’ll try and find some less—how should I put it?—uppity tightety mags to submit to. Something commercial. That’s right: they just care about money, instead of this pandering to self-proclaimed literary critics the other magazines do.

If not, I’ll probably do a five-week series of poems on this little bit of the Internet I have. I’ll even do an analysis of them. Aren’t you a lucky duck?

9 May 2014

Off-topic: UK Education

Education is a contentious subject in any developed country. This is for a number of different reasons: it co-mingles children of all classes in the same environment; it costs a lot of money; and it is integral to the very future of a country.

This post will be centred on UK education. The reason for this is simple: I don’t know enough about other countries to comment. And yes, there are statistics; but these don’t give you the full picture—and as I shall elaborate on next, they’re often inaccurate.

Here’s another thing: this post will be anecdotal. Don’t expect to see wonderfully coloured pie charts anywhere; don’t expect numbers and algebra; don’t look for the bureaucrats’ report. (There are enough of those in the world.)

Of course, any anecdotal argument will—by definition—be less empirically sound than one based on statistics and ‘fact’ (however that may be determined). But: an argument that has no personal basis will not be complete. It will not tell you about the quality (or otherwise) of the mark schemes; it will not tell you what the pupils are actually learning; what they’re gaining. It will not even tell you much about the money.

Teachers—and pupils, who play along—will always put on a good show for the bureaucrat. They will always plan lessons in advance, and use all of the technology on offer.

Likewise, a bureaucrat may not always see the class at their best. They won’t know about the ingenious solutions teachers have to circumvent problems in their students’ learning, desire for sucess, or for those dealing with material constraints.

This post will not show a rainbow-filled, dancing unicorns version of education; neither will it present education as this dark, unpleasant place where everyone cheats and no one actually learns anything.

The reality is that education in any UK school will generally fall somewhere in between; and yes, this varies from school to school. (Though not as much as you’d think.)

My Background: And Why You Should Keep Reading

I am a sixteen year old student. My GCSE exams are next week. So yes: I have a deeply personal view on this. Perhaps it will interest you.

I am now studying at a grammar school; previously, I was in a comprehensive. I have a dual background, therefore: I have seen the best; I have seen the worst; and I know of everything in between.

I have also studied in the Netherlands and Romania. Both have given me an interesting perspective. In the case of the former, I saw that education does not have to be segregated—either through grammar schools or sets. I saw that anyone can get a reasonable grade. I saw that widespread bilinguality is perfectly possible... under the right cirumstances.

Being a native Romanian, I have some familiarity with my own system. Would I call it good? Probably not. Would I call it bad? No. My system has taught me that it is possible to learn a subject in real depth, even early on; but likewise, it has taught me that hard exams will often dissuade the less determined and interested pupils to the point of failiure.

As far as I can say, the Dutch system is the best out of these three. It is well-funded, first of all—that does help, though how the money is spent matters as well—and, moreover, it is fair, well set-up, considerate of different pupils’ needs; and it teaches the pupils a thing or two.

The Romanian system will give you the most in-depth knowledge out of these three, without a doubt. However, its disservice to the lower-grade pupils is detestable; and it is also, unquestionably, stressful.

The UK system won’t teach you a great deal. It will give you some useful skills—mainly in exam technique, literacy, and dealing with people. (Most of which is down to the teachers, not the spec.) It is reasonably well funded. It is good; it isn’t great. It can be an easy ride; but it depends hugely on the school. In my school, we do 11 GCSEs. It’s stressful, tiring and depressing. The school is thinking of cutting one.

Let’s go into more detail...

The UK System: Good, Bad, or Mediocre?

Let me start by saying that the Dutch system is one of the best in Europe—and by association, the world, since the only real competition comes from Australia and Canada. (No, Asian countries aren’t comparable. I’ll go into that later.)

The UK system isn’t far behind.

But this isn’t saying much. African countries are poor as peasants; and all that war, violence, disease, religiosity and social repression does them no good. Arab countries are plagued by religious fanaticism, a contempt of literature (aside from that damn book of theirs, of course), disturbing hatred of anyone who is different—whether they wish it or not—and a lack of free speech.

I could go on and on. The point is: the world-wide standard is pretty damn low.

And, objectively, the UK standard is pretty average.

So there you go. Now as to the why...

The Purpose of Education: And How the UK Fares

There is a fair amount of philosophy and debate around that question. Should education teach you life lessons? Should it give you skills that are valuable, or that employers specifically seek? Should it impart knowledge—and what kind of knowledge? Knowledge of intellectual merit; or knowledge that allows you to do something?

My answer to all the preceding: yes. Education should do every one of those... though of course, some are more important than others.

Teaching students to be good people; to think critically, objectively and without depth; to consider other people’s feelings; and to possess deep or very general knowledge—that is more important than anything else.

Sure, teaching them more maths or science or employability skills might give the economy a small boost; but these things can be learned in the course of time. And judging by the huge number of atrocities that go on in the world—mutinies, perfunctory trials, the imprisonment of innocent people—teaching people to be human beings is a pretty damn good idea, in my view.

However, education must be tempered by realism. Teaching pupils philosophy is all well and good; but realistically, many will not truly learn this until they have lived in the real world for a while. And of course, not preparing children for the world of work would inflict a great deal of stress and (righteous) anger towards their school.

So, there are two things to learn here: humanity is more important than employer skills or facts; but there is a limit to how much the former can be practically taught. Plus, skills and facts are pretty useful.

Okay, Okay, But What About Good Ol’ Britain?

Right... where to start.

One major weakness of the UK is that it does not impart deep knowledge. A GCSE in something won’t mean much to you; it’ll only mean something to universities, employers, and gov’t—will you be a shop assistant, plumber or banker. Marxian classism to the very best.

This is not entirely without benefit: you get to study lots of subjects. However, the amount of depth is so low that it really doesn’t mean much.

Let me give you an example: the English Language GCSE is totally meaningless. You learn absolutely nothing about creating good prose; and the analysis is so low-level that how well you do on it lies mainly on your exam technique. (You have to answer the questions in a very specific manner, not like you would in normal life or even in higher education.)

So, my first recommendation would be to beef up the GCSE syllabi.

The second problem I have with the UK system is autonomy. Schools get too much of the damn stuff. While every school is different—a true one size-fits-all is impractical—at the current stage, a school can teach religious bull**** or make their students do 11 GCSEs, or make them do GCSEs they aren’t any good at, or make them do GCSEs that they hate and do them early...

Schools don’t always know best. I encountered these problems both in my comprehensive and in my grammar; both of whom are top in the league tables (if we take those to be any good).

So, yeah. Let’s put some reasonable limits on autonomy. Don’t allow schools to make mandatory subjects outside the national curriculum. Don’t allow schools to force their pupils to do more than 9 GCSEs. (Unless they want to.) And for God’s sake, look at what they actually teach!

However, I must admit that UK schools have excellent teachers; and that the GCSE curriculi—in particular, the RE one—do open the road to critical thought and understanding. And in fairness, exam technique is a useful skill.

But don’t evaluate students solely on it. Or even primarily on it. Knowledge and understanding is far more important.


I won’t say much on this. The man is an idiot living in the 20th century. Get rid of him.

Modern Foreign Languages

This is a topic of great annoyance for me. I hate learning languages in school. (And this is coming from someone who has native-speaker fluency in two languages.)

It shouldn’t be like this. Learning a language gives you insight into another culture; it gives you perspective, and forces you to question your own beliefs. Plus, it’s useful.

But MFL teachers are obsessed with grammar. Absolutely, fucking obsessed. We do grammar in every lesson. I hate it.

Grammar is boring; and it’s not how a language works. I don’t come up with all the rules in a tense and use that to write something. That’s stupid. You will get nothing but boring, lifeless word vomit.

The entire pedagogy in this subject should be overhauled. The only people who like it are the grammar geeks: everyone else can’t stand it. You can keep repeating it all you like; we’ll never understand it.

It is of no surprise to me that the UK is very monolingual. And to a degree, I don’t actually care: this language is the world-standard; and every hour not spent learning a language is an hour spent learning how to build an engine, or a computer, or thinking about why we exist.

The UK will never have the linguistic skills of a country like Holland. It doesn’t need it: and that’s a real benefit. Moreover, we have nowhere near enough exposure to do so even if we wanted to.

But for the people who genuinely like and want to learn a language, the MFL course is a failiure. It’s bad enough forcing people who don’t like languages to go through the arduous process of obtaining a GCSE in it; but blocking the option for non-grammar Nazis?

That’s criminal.

(I’m doing French though, which is a particularly unintuitive language. It might not be so bad for other ones.)

What Do You Suggest We Do?

Make the language focused on speaking, reading, and listening; writing a language is incredibly difficult, and beyond what a secondary school student should reasonably be expected to achieve. (I’m talking about more than ‘Je joue le foot’ here.)

Make us watch French films. Make us read French books. Give us a taste of the real thing—you never know. We might just like it.

Information Technology and Bullshit

In my grammar school, I am doing IGCSE Computer Studies. It’s a great course: there’s programming; there’s networks and systems; there’s a focus on practicality and business; and it’s a useful, all round course.

I did GCSE IT at my old school. It was crap.

All we did was Microsoft Excel—oh God, the spreadsheets!—and a tiny bit of audio editing. It was incredibly dull, boring and unintellectual.

So why the discrepancy?

I really think the IT courses in this country should get some serious quality control, preferably from people who work in the industry. The current state of affairs in this subject is frankly unacceptable.


The OECD has released a funny little education benchmark called PISA; it compares the performance of international students.

According to it, we should all be like China.

Of course, the OECD also predicted that the financial crisis of 2007–2014 (and beyond) would never have happened:

Our central forecast remains indeed quite benign: a soft landing in the United States, a strong and sustained recovery in Europe, a solid trajectory in Japan and buoyant activity in China and India. In line with recent trends, sustained growth in OECD economies would be underpinned by strong job creation and falling unemployment.

—OECD, 2007.

Frankly, the organisation is full of idiot economists and bureaucrats. I wouldn’t believe a word they say.

Besides, the report is wrong on so many levels it seems barely worth my time to debunk it. But in short: the report only tests maths, science and literacy, completely ignoring the fact that students can study more broadly or concentrate in other subjects; the report took a top school in Shanghai, completely ignoring the poorly funded Chinese schools outside of the city; and Asian education in general is extremely stressful for the students, causes real psychological problems, and treats art with contempt.

Also, the history classes in China present an inaccurate and politically-skewed picture. And their country has an atrocious human rights record. And it’s poor. Not the signs of the world’s greatest education system, eh?


I’ve talked a lot. I have probably bored you with all the detail; but I hope you understand my point.

Education is not about memorising facts and learning how to do exams. Neither can it be all discussion, because those skills are necessary in the real world. It must be a combination of both.

Most of all though, I’d like to see some more common sense. Few people can learn 11 subjects meaningfully with 25 hours of lessons a week; even fewer can gain insight and do well on an exam.

IT is not Word. A language isn’t about forming tenses.

We, as a society, should have a long, in-depth think about what our education system aims to do; and whether it is any good.

Success in this department will save us young people a great deal of stress, effort and depression.

Perhaps it is too much to hope for. Or perhaps we might actually begin to solve the problems that have corrupted us for so long.

4 May 2014

Three Days’ Word & Poem of the Week

Hello everyone!

After having done quite a bit of science and history revision—and now being occupied with maths revision (algebraic fractions, hurray!)—I have been lax in my blogging. Sorry.

Anyway, I decided to give you a little treat: the three days’ word and the Poem of the Week! Aren’t you so lucky?


Pronunciation: /əgrɛdʒiəs/

Etymology: From LATIN ‘egregius’ meaning ‘illustrious’. (Note: etymology is a weird thing—don’t be surprised if it sounds tenuous or questionable!)

Definition: quite apparently and rather shockingly bad.


‘Such egregious publications from vanity presses; you’d think a 10 year-old could do a better job.’

‘Egregious is neoclassical economics—how anyone can take it seriously, I know not.’

‘Egregious teaching from a pedagogy obsessed with tests and league tables.’

And now...

Poem of the Week: The Little Pink House at the End of the Lane

Now, I should warn you: this poem is a little odd. It doesn’t entirely make sense. And if you want to get something out of it—well, there is a message, but it’s very subtle and embedded within the narrative’s arc. Mostly, the poem was my first attempt at rhyme.

The Little Pink House at the End of the Lane

There once was a little pink house:
It had cake-brown walls,
And a toffee-coloured roof;
It had cute, square little windows,
And it was small,
And it was the little pink house at the end of the lane.

Near the little pink house,
There lay a wood—
Its name was funny,
Because it sounded like eerie.
Wolves played at night there,
And caught naughty boys who stayed to listen.

In the little pink house,
There lived a woman and a mouse.
The mouse was pretty and white;
But the woman, oh dear oh dear,
She fed the mouse to the cat.
Such a nasty rat.

The woman was a little old:
She had faint wrinkles around the eyes,
(Of which were grassy green)
But people said she had always been like that.
She had her black and nasty cat,
And a broom as well.

She wore black;
She had a knack for that.
Children did not like her,
Because she gave out sweets,
That smelled like feet;
But the grown-ups thought she was a breeze.

One day,
She started to sneeze.
She had horrible green snot:
It was gooey and yucky, and we
Wouldn’t go near.
But one day we heard her singing, and we went.

It was rather frightening, what she said:
‘Eye of newt, and feet of toad;
‘Fur of rat, and feathers of owl;’
And then she did a funny little dance
And said:
‘Childrens’ teeth.’

She, the woman, then turned:
‘Hello my darlings! What doth thee do here?’
And we said:
‘Lady, lady, are you a witch?’
She laughed merrily, and said,
‘Why no. I’m only a baking a cake!’

And so we saw,
The delicious gingerbread men,
At the little pink house at the end of the lane.