Sweetie Review: Haribo Tangfastics

I have a confession: I’m prone to eating entire packets of sweets in one go. I sit down to work and open the packet, then I’m surprised a little while later that there are only two or three left. I’ll play a game with myself, pretending that I’m going to save them for another time, or even for 15 or 20 minutes.

But they just get munched.

Tangfastics are different. You start at the beginning of the pack (a real one, not the badly photoshopped idealised pack in the picture) and the first sweet is just the best. You screw your face up and the sour fills your face.

The second sweet, you get less of the sour and more of the flavour. And that’s the way it stays until you realise you’ve made your mouth numb, and… oh dear, is that going to be an ulcer?

You (well, I) simply can’t eat an entire pack in one go. Which is great, because then you have some left over from the breakfast sitting to have with your cup of tea around mid-morning.

Okay, perhaps that’s too much of a confession.


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Rules: Appendix i – A Short Note On Grammar

I’ve put together an idiot’s guide to grammar. It’s a guide that’ll stop people thinking you’re an idiot.

You’re and Your

In common with all grammar, it’s the difference between knowing you’re shit and knowing your shit.

You’re is a contraction of ‘You are’.
‘Your’ is something that belongs to you.

Because they sound the same people write the second when they mean the first. It’s an unforgivable mistake, and exposes a basic lack of literacy. People who mix these up simply never learned the difference. They are poorly educated, and that’s what their readers will realise.

Their, There and They’re

‘Their’ means something belongs to them.
‘There’ means not here, but in that location.
‘They’re’ – a contraction of ‘they are’ means those people are doing something.

They’re sure their car is over there.

Of and Have

This is another mistake that exposes a poor education. But also a spoken illiteracy. People simply will not want to read what you write, or hear what you say if you get this wrong. It’s as bad as mispronouncing ‘H’.

‘Could of’, ‘would of’, ‘should of’ are not English. They have no meaning. They sound a lot like the contractions for Could have, would have and should have: Could’ve, Would’ve, Should’ve. It’s an understandable mistake, but not one you should make if you want people to think you’re literate.

If you doubt how poor it sounds, imagine someone writing ‘They of’ instead of ‘They’ve’, or ‘I of’ instead of ‘I’ve’. It’s precisely the same.

It’s and Its

This is a more forgivable error, but even so not one you should be making. The rules aren’t as simple as the ones above, but they’re not difficult, either:

Usually, You’d use and apostrophe because you’ve missed some letters out:
‘Oliver’s a great writer!’ is a contraction of ‘Oliver is a great writer.’ You’ve lost the ‘i’ of ‘is’.
That’s when you use an apostrophe in ‘it’s’: when you’ve dropped letters. The ‘i’ of ‘is’, or the ‘ha’ of ‘has’, for instance.

But normally you’d also use an apostrophe when you mean something belongs to someone. ‘Oliver’s book’ means the book belonging to Oliver.
But when the ‘its’ you’re using means ‘something belonging to it’ you don’t use an apostrophe: ‘its wheels are turning’.

So, if you’re talking about a thing being inside the right box: ‘It’s in its box’

Lose and Loose

If you lose something, then you can’t find it. It’s lost.
But if something isn’t tight, then it’s loose.

You cannot loose something, other than an arrow when you fire it.

Alot, A lot and Allot

The bad news is there is no such word as alot. Many things are a lot of things. Two words. You can’t escape it, I’m afraid. You might allot time to something, when you set aside time for it.

You and I

This is forgivable. So many people get this wrong, even accomplished journalists. ‘You and I’ is not the same as ‘You and me.’

There’s an easy rule of thumb to help you get this right. Try and replace what you’re writing with ‘We’ or ‘Us’. If ‘Us’ works in the sentence, then you’re looking for ‘You and me’. If ‘We’ works, then use ‘You and I’.


Now with this guide you and I will always get our grammar right and people won’t be able to condemn you and me for getting it wrong.


Coming up…

My short sabbatical from blogging is over! Thank you all for keeping my readership figures up in the meantime.

I’ve spent the last few weeks completing a couple of projects (more about them soon) and tying up a personal loose-end. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing for the blog, too, so coming up from next Monday I have these delights for you…

Ad Reviews: Ikea Dollheads, The Famous Grouse, Spitfire and Bombardier, VO5 Express yourself, Rubicon Mango…

Sweetie Reviews: Haribo Tangfastics, Jelly Belly Super Sours, Percy Pigs, Mentos…

Whisky Reviews: The Famous Grouse, Dalwhinnie…

Along with new sections from The Social Media Guidebook, and some assorted extras.

August Calendar

The Story Monkey

After migrating anthropith.com to this blog instead of a ‘real’ website, I’ve let The Story Monkey, which had it’s own section, to lay fallow. It’s still alive, on life support, gradually building the whole novel, so now it has its own section on this blog, too.

Last year The Story Monkey tweeted through Chapter 20 of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice. I loved doing it, and you (seem to have) loved following along. You’re still following, after all!

It’s just my hobby, a homage to one of my favourite books, so it always has to take a back seat to whatever I’m doing to pay the bills, but I’m gradually programming the whole book for a presentation. I’ll follow a slightly different format to before, so to receive the whole story, you’ll need to follow all the character accounts. I’ll post them a little while before I begin. I’ve had to roll back from a couple of start dates before, so I’m not going to give one again until I’m ready to go, but I’ll keep you all updated through the twitter.

As before, it’ll be co-ordinated through @TheStoryMonkey. Once they’re all ready to go, you’ll just need to click on the follow buttons I’ll post, and the story will unfold as the characters tweet to each other.

In the meantime, tell everyone else about it! Tweet


My Favourite Joke

Happy new week!

I’m overrun at the moment (a combination of taking on too much work and a couple of short deadlines), and I have a personal loose end to tie up in the next two weeks. So I’ll not be blogging quite as much as I have been until the last week of July.

I’ve set up some tweets to lead to a few of my favourite posts to cover the hiatus, but just this morning because the sun is out and everyone’s having a good time, I’m going to tell my favourite joke.

A man went to the pet shop to get a parrot. He’d always wanted one, and in the shop there was a beautiful parrot, which would say all sorts of things: a little Shakespeare, some poetry, and a few supportive inspirational quotes. The bird was perfect, so he took her home. As soon as he got her home, though she became a harridan. She started screeching profanities and insults. It didn’t matter what he said to the parrot, she always came back at him with the most offensive invective. One evening, after a dinner party when the bird had insulted all his guests in the most appalling way, he snapped. He grabbed the bird, told her he’d had enough and was going to teach her a lesson,  and he threw her in the freezer slamming the door. The parrot went crazy, scratching at the door, demanding to be let out, shouting at him with the most atrocious language. After about 20 minutes she stopped suddenly with a squawk. another few minutes passed and the man thought that perhaps the bird was starting to get cold and he felt remorseful, so he opened the freezer. The parrot walked slowly out and apologised. She said she was truly sorry, realised the error of her ways and she’d never again be rude. He accepted the apology and was just putting her back on her perch when she said “I’ve just got one question. What the f*** did the chicken do?”

Yes, I know. It’s funnier with all the swearing. And I said it was my favourite joke. Not that it’d be yours.

The LinkedIn Experiment

I use LinkedIn a great deal, and I recommend to my clients that they use it. It’s not just an elaborate digital rolodex. There are many innovative ways it can be used for education, direction and disseminating information among other things.

In fact, the thing I use it least to do, is contact people. It’s my impression that there are islands of well connected people who use a lot of the behind-the-scenes aspects of LinkedIn, and a much larger group of people who have a profile, but pay very little attention. This second group, the majority, use LinkedIn as a passive online CV service. Post your profile, then come back to change it when you change jobs. So I thought I’d do a little experiment.

The Method

It’s very unscientific, so don’t read too much into it. For the last few weeks I’ve viewed profiles. 100 a day, for three weeks.

  • In week one, I viewed profiles of my connections. 100 on Monday, 100 on Tuesday, right through the week.
  • In week two I viewed the profiles of second order connections: the people with whom I share at least one connection.
  • In week three I viewed third order connections: people who know someone who knows me.

I didn’t send any of the viewed profiles link requests, so nothing would be sent to alert them that I’d been to have a peek. The only way they’d know was if they checked to see who had looked at their profile. Of course then there’s the second activity they have to do: look at my profile in return.This is the proxy I’ve used for being ‘active’, it’s someone who does more than look at their homepage.

The Results

The results were disappointing.

After filtering out the views I usually get:

  • In week one, after 700 views of different direct connections, I received 68 ‘look backs’. fractionally under 10%
  • In week two, from 700 views of second order connections, I had 47 ‘look backs’ – 6.7%
  • From 700 views of third order connections in week three, I had 38 ‘look backs’ – 5.4%

I’d expect there to be fewer ‘look backs’ from more distant connections, but part of the point of the extended network is the lending of credibility. You trust me enough to connect, I trust them enough to connect, so you borrow my trust as a mutual friend to give some credibility to them. I’m disappointed that the drop off in look backs was as high as it was. I was just as disappointed that they number of active users of the network was so low.

A ten/seven/five percent return rate won’t have included the connections who noticed I’d viewed their page and didn’t bother to look at mine. But even accounting for that, I feel that the network is sorely underused. All those people just squat their resume on the site and forget about it. They’re missing all the valuable parts of the network.

But then, I suppose, they wouldn’t need to pay me to open their eyes to the possibilities.


On The Subject Of Faith Schools

Raised again on BBC’s Question Time last month was the ever green subject of Faith Schools. Some years ago I wrote a piece debunking the arguments in favour of them. The issues and arguments haven’t changed, except to say that with Free Schools there are now greater opportunities to set up these schools.

But rarely do the proponents of Faith Schools ask the question “Why do they work?” They simply (and I do mean simply) ascribe the credit to the faith aspect and call for more of it!

On examination it transpires that there is no evidence that religious ethos has any positive influence on educational outcomes. Arguably, the local selective school should be performing better than average catholic schools, so one might make a good case for the religious ethos actually hampering outcomes.
The key is selection. Faith schools can select their intake. In practice this happens in two ways. Using the most available figures (those for Catholic Schools). The 33% of intake who make no religious claim to a place are selected from the local community on the basis of aptitude and ability. This might be a home culture of excellence as with many asian families or it might be on 11-plus results or primary teacher’s recommendations. However it remains that 33% are openly selected on old ‘Grammar school’ terms.
One would expect, under those circumstances, for them to outperform the other local school that cannot select and has to take everyone else.

What of the other 66%? Proponents imply that the 33% selective element is just making up the numbers where local catholic families have moved away, but the numbers don’t back them up:
If a tenth of secondary schools are Catholic schools (as the catholic education service says), and two thirds of the intake claim to be Catholic, that suggests 6.5% of the population (3.9 million) are practicing Catholics. Yet even with the recent arrival of [non-school age] Polish Catholics there are fewer than 1 million weekly attendances at Catholic churches. As with many religions, more identify as Catholic, but without actually bothering with the inconvenient worshipping, confessing and getting up on Sunday morning aspects of being a Catholic.

These additional, apostate ‘lip-service’ catholics are claiming to maintain their adherence, when they patently do not. Could one of their motivations be to get their children a ‘bye’ into a high achieving school that academically selects 33% of its intake?

It means that of the 66% who claim to be catholic, perhaps a quarter (17%) actually attend church. The remainder come from families that might have a parent or grandparent who attends (and so are apostate themselves) or are from families who are simply pretending.

The will to pretend, to masquarade a religious belief, to get into the local (effectively) grammar school is not so strange when the local de facto grammar outperforms the local secondary modern. Who wouldn’t try it on for their children? Anyone prepared to commit to this charade is demonstrating a commitment to their child’s education. So either the children or the parents are displaying a characteristic of likely future achievement.

This means that 83% of the intake are selected on academic grounds or on other indicators of achievement ethos.

It is this selection that has the most marked effect on a child’s education. Not the religious ethos of the school. Again, it is worth comparing the outcomes of openly selective schools with the covertly selective faith schools. Faith schools don’t fare well on the comparison. So the evidence might actually be for the faith element to be counter productive to outcomes.

Whatever arguments people put into this debate, a few facts remain:

  1. The faithful feel a need to privilege themselves and immerse their offspring in an environment where their faith is ‘normal’. Without this their faiths would be dying even faster than they are.
  2. No other discrimination of this kind would be tolerated by our society: schools with an open political bias (marxist schools, fascist schools…), schools with an open gender bias (male supremacist schools), schools with an open race bias (asian only schools, white only schools). The list goes on.
  3. The state should not tolerate the subversion of education establishments to indoctrinate. Only secular schools avoid this indoctrination because…
  4. …Secular schools don’t expose children to, or endorse, atheism, they just don’t expose them to and privilege a specific superstitious or political worldview and tell kids, or imply to them that they’re true.
  5. Faith schools are de facto selective schools, that’s why they don’t flourish in Bucks and Kent, where there are proper selective schools.

In fact the whole argument is not one for faith schools, but one for selective schools when ‘God’ is the price you’re prepared to pay to get what amounts to a grammar place.

Well, not the whole argument: Adherents talk about what to tell children with regard to death, and say that they don’t want to expose their child to atheism yet.

Secular schools don’t expose children to atheism, they just don’t expose them to nonsense and fairy tales and tell them that they’re true. They don’t advocate an atheist position any more than they advocate a christian, jewish or satanist one. The only position they do advocate, when they are pressed to, is that they ‘dogmatically’ don’t take a position. In view of this they aren’t ‘exposing your child to atheism’.

As for what to tell children about death: The truth. At worst the truth can be “No one knows, you must make up your own mind.” Which is what I, as an atheist told my children. Certainly there is no need to speak of ‘heaven’ as if it were objective truth.

In this matter the truth can also be a great thing. To realise that this life is what you have, how improbable you are and how wonderful it is. To know that this isn’t a rehearsal, this is the life you have, get on with it, enjoy it and make the best you can. Treat others well, and make sure you’re remembered well, because the only sure immortality is in the love and memory of others.

The pro-faith school stance, already de-bunked as based on a wish not to expose children to adult opinions on faith, has nothing to do with faith and everything to do with selection. I think the system, while perhaps useful in virtual monocultures is a disaster here, as in Northern Ireland potentially generating a degree of sectarianism, segregation, mistrust and ultimately social breakdown. We become a number of separate ‘communities’ occupying the same geographical space but only rarely interacting and then in a tribal atmosphere of mistrust and hostility. But unlike Northern Ireland, with more than just two protagonists.
How? Being sent to a ‘faith school’ results in the said faith permeating your education to a greater or lesser degree. That might be one end of the spectrum – teaching creationism and bible based thinking as ‘science’ – or the other end of the spectrum: a prayer of thanks before meals, an amateur sermon in assembly and a priest on the board of governors (specifically for his religious perspective rather than as a parent).
This not only means that faith intrudes into the lives of non-believers who attend, but also is presented as ‘normal’ and as something that young impressionable minds are exposed to by people their parents tell them to trust and respect.

At a secular school, religion plays no part. The school is not there to promote a non-faith agenda, nothing happens to argue or advocate against any faith or belief, other than the presentation of evidence based teaching. Even then, teachers don’t end explanations with comments like “So christians are wrong!” or “So jews can’t be right!”. The faithful have nothing to fear from a secular school. No opposing opinions will be pushed on their children.

Going to a secular school doesn’t intrude into your observance of your faith it simply removes faith from the sphere of education. You can still pursue your faith at home and expose your child to whatever fairy tales and imaginary friends you please. They can still say a prayer before lunch or an exam, they can even set up school religious societies if they wish, and meet at breaktime or lunchtime.

The only things the religious might possibly find problematic at a secular school are the presentation of objective evidence that specifically denies the possibility of your faith based position (for example Evolution in a science class denying the possibility of creationism). But then that would be because your faith based position is objectively wrong.

Alternatively you might object to the presentation of knowledge about several faiths including your own being delivered on an even par with each other. However I would suggest the only reason you might have concerns about that are because it would expose your faith as no different from any other (when considering its basis and ‘truth’).

But both these objections are based not on your fear of anti-faith propagandising but of your child seeing that the wizard is really just a man behind the curtain.

The secular school is, by definition, neutral to your beliefs, to my beliefs, to everyone’s beliefs. Why is that a problem for the religious? Why do they feel their children need to be brought up in an environment that privileges their faith over other points of view? Why do they fear an education that doesn’t actively promote their faith?

[Originally posted on Fifth Donkey]

The CCTV Myth

CCTV prevents crime.

That’s the justification. After all, if you’re being watched you’ll behave, won’t you? And if you know all the bad guys are being watched, you know you’re safe, don’t you?

But it’s a myth. It’s simply nonsense.

Want my evidence? How many times have you heard on the news “The police are examining CCTV footage for clues,” or “The [criminal] was caught with the help of CCTV,” Or something similar? Think of all that footage on Crimewatch, Police Camera Action! or YouTube of people robbing shops, mugging people or driving too fast. The truth is that CCTV has become so ubiquitous that it’s either ignored or assumed to be a dummy camera. Criminals will still commit crime right in front of a real camera for us all to see. Tat’s just what happened every time you see the footage, or the police are examining the footage. Every time. What was preventative about that?

So does CCTV achieve anything?

What CCTV does do very effectively is give people a false sense of security. I wonder how many times people have said something like: “Of course it’s okay to take that shortcut at 1am, theres a CCTV camera covering the car park, no one will attack/mug/rape me in front of that.” Shortly before the police have to examine the footage?

Famously, we have more CCTV in the UK than any other country. What is its outcome? A detective force that is reliant upon it for their work, rather than on traditional detective work. We have a traffic police focussed primarily on speeding, because that’s what GATSO’s detect, rather than on the greater problem of bad driving. We have a population wandering around in a fog of false security.

But we still have crime. Right before our (electric) eyes.


[Originally posted on Fifth Donkey]