No beer in heaven

Alcohol was banned from Brazilian football stadia in 2003 as part of attempts to tackle violence between rival football fans. It is suggested that more alcohol is now consumed outside of those stadia, in areas that are more difficult to police.

In the lead up to the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Jerome Valcke, the FIFA General Secretary has said:

Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate.
The fact that we have the right to sell beer has to be a part of the law.

While there may be legitimate issues that the General Secretary is arguing against, this is a very dangerous quote. And although the media may have altered its context, they have certainly put a highly controversial spin on it – particularly when you consider that Budweiser are a major FIFA sponsor.

Appearing to encourage drinking alcohol is unlikely to be something that FIFA want to be associated with, although I suspect they made their stance clear when they chose which companies would be their sponsors.

Now, where’s my orange juice?

This post is based on this article

When the levee breaks

Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion
– Muhammed Ali, born 17/01/1941 – happy birthday

I like to think that I have a reasonably high pain threshold. Others may disagree, but I consider it one of the reasons that I have run many marathons. I often push myself to my apparent limits, and possibly cause myself injury and illness as a result. I do pay close attention to any pain, and try to detect whether or not I can continue to run, or if I must take time off. However, I have not had a day off work sick since I became a fully qualified teacher (5 years ago)*, and have not taken paracetamol or similar pain relieving medication since I went to secondary school.

I am not sure how this ‘tolerance’ developed, but I did go to a boarding school (although I didn’t board) where bullying was rife. We were exposed to some rather extreme acts and grew used to them. Alongside this, runners know that visits to the Doctor will often result in recommendations to stop running, so many avoid making the appointment in the first place. Some make the appointment, but choose not to follow any advice that includes ‘not running’. Others make the appointment, but don’t tell their Doctor they run and just hope for the best.

I tend to be in the first category, and usually avoid making the appointment with the Doctor. To date, I have recovered from any illness and injury myself; some would argue that I haven’t really been that ill. Others may suggest this is why I frequently seem to pick up colds – combined with the fact that I don’t give myself the opportunity to recover fully. Maybe I am just lucky.

Chris Finill, who has run every single London Marathon (ever) in under three hours and has sub three hour marathons in five different decades, was recently interviewed on MarahtonTalk (here). Despite all of this, the achievement he is most proud of is his recent Run Across America from San Francisco to New York (see here for the website).

There was one sequence in particular he refers to that really caught my attention. When describing his highs and lows, he describes his low as having to take a rest day. The pain he was in at the time meant that he couldn’t continue covering 40 miles every day so, naturally, he forced himself to take a day off. However, it is the events leading up to this that amazed me.

A physio had diagnosed his pain as a stress fracture, but Chris goes on to describe the following:

Physio: it’s a stress fracture, stop [the Run Across America]
CF: look I’ve been planning this trip for three years; you cannot tell me I’ve got to stop running
Physio: but it’s a stress fracture
CF (to MT Interviewer): I persuaded him it wasn’t a stress fracture
Physio: well, if you can walk on it without pain, maybe it isn’t a stress fracture
CF (to MT Interviewer): So I walked on it for 160 miles, and it then stopped hurting, so I started running on it again and within a week it was perfectly ok.

The only reason they didn’t xray it was because there wasn’t enough time.

So next time you think it hurts, think really carefully if it hurts and, if it does, does it hurt enough? Or at least walk on it for one hundred and sixty miles before deciding you’re going to quit.

*the benefits, or otherwise, of this may have to wait for another post.

Campbell’s tower demolition

NFK_1911/12Production of soup at Campbell’s Tower began in 1959. Premier Foods bought the company in 1996 and, in January 2007, announced that it would be closing the site. Tesco, who now owns the site, announced that the tower will be demolished (on 15th January 2012) to make way for a larger supermarket.

See article and video here for more information.

Jokers* and clowns**

On April 22nd 2012, I will be running the London Marathon for The Prostate Cancer Charity and Breast Cancer Care***. Prostate and breast cancer are the most common cancers in men and women in the UK, so the chances are you know someone who has been affected by these life-threatening diseases.

I will be joined by my Brother and my Sister, neither of whom have ever run further than a half marathon. Please support us and this fantastic cause by checking our fundraising page, here.

* to the left of me
** to the right

*** The Prostate Cancer Charity and Breast Cancer Care have joined forces as joint official charities for the Virgin London Marathon. Together, they are TeamPB.

The Prostate Cancer Charity Team PB Breast Cancer Care

A parting gesture

I thought today’s quote of the day would be from the boy who, when asked what he was doing on the floor, responded with “he tried to suck me under the desk”, but this was superseded at the Year 11 Parents’ Evening.

I was coughing and, without a drink in sight, at times was struggling to maintain a conversation. Consequently, after one particular cough-interrupted discussion, the parent (whom I am unlikely to ever see again) left saying “I’ll leave you to die”. I wasn’t exactly expecting them to find me a glass of water, but I can think of nicer parting gestures.

On the subject of comments being made at Parents’ Evening, I had to think carefully how to respond to the student who said “shut up” to his mother as the three of us were having a conversation. Realising that the parent wasn’t perturbed, I suggested that it wasn’t an appropriate way to talk and left it that. I learnt a lot in those few seconds.

Every so often, I hear some truly amazing quotes and I have been intending to create a log of these for a while (as I often struggle to remember them). I’m not sure if this blog is the place to do it, so I’ll use the category “Quote of the day” along with the tag “Qotd” for the time being, and see how it develops.

Just be careful

Teachers, like many other professionals, are busy people. They care about what they do and they want to improve, but their network consists of a limited number of people (typically friends and colleagues) who they turn to for ideas and suggestions of how to do so*. Consequently the smaller the network, the smaller the potential scope for improvement.

Until Tim Berners-Lee created the internet.

The internet breaks down barriers and can provide a fantastic way for teachers (and other professionals) to communicate with each other and increase the size of their network. The internet as a whole, together with blogs and social media, provide a platform for reflection, discussion and the sharing of good practice. Questions can be asked to, and answered by, thousands of people. Instantly, the size of the network is increased and the potential for improvement is magnified.

However, the internet is a public domain and, as such, must be treated with respect. Anyone has access to the information that is published and it is very difficult to permanently remove comments that have been made in error or otherwise. It is also easy for information to be misinterpreted if not expressed clearly enough, which can be further hindered by the lack of feedback from the ‘audience’.

People are becoming increasingly aware of this, so the following recent warning from the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) would appear to restrict the improvement of good practice (see article here):

First thing is don’t bother telling anybody else about your social life. Nobody is interested about your social life and it doesn’t help.
Secondly, never make any comment about your work, about your employer, about teaching issues in general.
There is always a possibility it will be misinterpreted.

The article here dissects the specifics of the comments, but some common sense and careful thought should ensure that nothing inappropriate is published. For all intents and purposes, Twitter and blogging are public. Similarly, Facebook changes so often that it is very difficult to stay on top of privacy settings so, to avoid complications and potential difficulties, may as well be treated as if its information were public.

If everyone took this stance, maybe the SSTA and other professions (see similar discussions regarding footballers here and here) would realise the potential benefits that these improvements in communication can offer. People should be encouraged to use the internet responsibly (and educated accordingly, if necessary), rather than prevented from using it to its potential.

As a form of insurance, my pages state that views and opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect the organisations that I belong to, but I am not naïve enough to assume this absolves me of any responsibility. I do, however, hope that the organisations that I belong to would not disapprove of anything that I publish**.

*other limiting factors exist such as time, money and imagination; to a degree, the internet generally overcomes all of these.

** I would like to apologise to anyone who may be offended by anything I have written or whose future I may have jeopardised by writing this article. Just in case.


Having gone for a run along the beach on Christmas morning, I returned to a different beach on New Year’s Eve. The 40 ft sperm whale, pictured, had been drawing a crowd since Christmas Eve, but I was more interested by the clouds which parted momentarily to reveal the final sunset of the year.

NFK_3114 NFK_1885

And, being that time of year, I think Woodie Guthrie had the right idea with his resolutions.

Happy New Year

2011 annual report

These images represent my year of running in 2011.

Distance Speed


Following last year’s graphical analysis (here) of my running in 2010, I have done the same this year for a comparison. Please refer to that post to read how the two main charts were generated. The third is an amalgamation of the two using Photoshop.

A couple of points that are not obvious from the graphics:

  • I recorded 19 days ill or injured (days when I ran a couple of miles to test my fitness weren’t logged as ill or injured)
  • Except for one day, I trained no more than once a day, so each run averaged just over 10 miles at an average marginally quicker than 8 minutes per mile
  • 2514 miles marks my biggest ever annual mileage, 700 more than last year

Making reference to the third image, there is significantly more green from January to July and more red from August to December. This indicates a clear shift in focus from long distances (green) to increasing speeds (red) as the year has progressed.

After a difficult end to 2010 and start to 2011, I am happy with the year as a whole. I have included some of my best achievements below:

  • Running from Paris to London in 8 days in April
  • Swiss Alpine Ultra in July
  • 8 Personal Bests (PBs), including breaking a 7 year old 10k PB

With that in mind, I am looking forward to 2012 with much optimism, so here are a few things I would like to focus on:

  • More targeted training
  • Try to maintain three effort sessions each week, with designated recovery days
  • Increase speed, but not necessarily my mileage in training

Here goes…

Can you guess what it is yet?

Just a bit of fun for the end of the year.

See if you can work out what the image above represents. Use the form, below, to submit your response, making sure to describe as much detail as possible. There will be a prize (probably chocolate) for the first accurate answer and, depending on the responses, a prize for the funniest. Results will be announced after 2011.

Update, 1st January 2012:

Here is the solution.

Factorising quadratics

Many students who are comfortable factorising quadratics of the form x2 + bx + c struggle when there is a coefficient in front of the x term, as in ax2 + bx + c. They usually understand what is required, but become frustrated through the apparent ‘trial and error’ process that they apply until they identify the correct solution.

When I was a student at school, I remember being taught a structured trial and error process that worked methodically through all the possible combinations. It worked every time, but it was laborious and the greater the number of factors that the ‘a’ and ‘c’ terms had, the more tiresome the process became.

As a teacher, I continually look for improved methods of carrying out this process. However, many of them lose the understanding of what is going on – and students can end up struggling to remember a method, rather than remember what they are trying to achieve. To this end, I prefer for students to begin with a trial and error method, so that they appreciate the nature of the problem, before moving onto an appropriate method.

Consider the example 2x2 – x – 6 in order to study some of those methods.

Most methods start by multiplying the ‘a’ and ‘c’ terms…

…then finding factor pairs of their product, i.e. of -12…

…and identifying the pair that sums to give the ‘b’ term (i.e. -1). In the chosen example, this gives 3 and -4.

The ‘Lizzie method’ separates the pair, as shown, divides by the ‘a’ term, then multiplies the ‘x’ and the fraction (simplifying if necessary) until the denominator has been multiplied out.

A variation (see here for more detail) on the Lizzie method, separates the pair and multiplies the ‘x’ by the ‘a’ term, dividing by any common factors.

However, in my mind, these are rather formulaic and I prefer a method which is more intuitive. The method that I like to use (see here for more detail) involves rewriting the ‘b’ term as the sum of the factor pairs. The expression is then factorised in two parts; there is no need to have to ‘remember’ which number to write where, and which terms to multiply or divide by other terms.

OrHere is another example, 6x2 – 5x – 6.

Multiply ‘a’ and ‘c’ terms  Find factor pairs of -36  First method
 Second method  Third method  Third method, again

However, as a teacher, judgement is required as to which method, if any, may be more appropriate for the class, or just for individuals within it, to use. Experience has shown that time spent explaining lots of methods to lots of students can be detrimental. Many students don’t want to see more than one method, so finding time (*sigh*) to individualise explanations would be beneficial – even if this is done ‘out of class’, or otherwise.