Tag Archives: Mathematica

Middle management


I am now middle management. A term that means nothing to those above me or those below me. It doesn’t really mean much to me either to be honest apart from the fact I get a few extra pennies in my pocket each month. So what is middle management? And how do you survive it? Here goes…

1) don’t let the power go to your head, you don’t have any. As I said above, all it means is that you are not quite ready or not tried and tested enough to be management. You will have responsibilities that are so minor that if it all goes wrong it doesn’t really matter. Although this may be true you still have to consider…

2) you will be blamed for failure and ignored for success. Basically it breaks down like this: if you are successful then it is your bosses who will take the credit as they ‘knew you could do it’ and that’s why they hired you. If it all goes wrong then you will make a great scapegoat.

3) doing the crap jobs. Sometimes, jobs are so crap that they can’t even be given to staff to do. That’s where middle management comes in. These jobs are usually paperwork, the results of the paperwork are usually semi important, the paperwork itself is always as dull and laborious as a trip to a modern art gallery with someone who thinks they know about modern art.

4) management speak and americanisms. Pushing the envelope, thinking outside the box, moving forward together and so on. Best I ever heard was a manager say “you can’t have your cake and eat it, so you had better step up to the plate and face the music” awesome. Try here for more bollocksphere

I do find myself turning into David Brent from the office sometimes. I try to stop myself but I fear it may be inevitable. I suppose it’s all about career progression, one day I will be management, maybe even senior management. Then I get the power, the money, the glory and the ability to blame those around me no matter what I’ve done.

I shall end with a little Eddie Murphy and ‘coming to America‘. This week it’s the floors, next week the fries and one day I’ll make assistant manager, that’s when the big bucks come rolling in.



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‘Scissor sister’ and other hair based puns.


My sister is a hair dresser, which means she has to ask meaningless personal, but not over personal, questions to up to 20 clients a day. What’s more, she needs to act interested in the answers each time.
This is even worse at Christmas, as questions are all the same. It’s not just before Christmas though, it’s after as well. Here are my sisters most hated questions that she has to ask…

Before – have you done your Christmas shopping? Where you spending Christmas? What are you doing for new year?

After – how was your Christmas? What did you get? How was your new year?

Now I feel I need to point out (mainly because my sister told me to) that she is genuinely interested in what her regulars have to say. Some of her regulars have followed her round London for many years (not in a stalker sense but to get hair done) and a few of them are her close friends, these are the ones she would ask the questions to anyway. It’s the walk in, sit down, have an awkward chat types that do her head in.

As a customer at a hairdressers I know what she means. The small talk can be agonising. You can go one of two ways. 1) chat as little as possible, hoping the hairdresser will run out of steam and give up or 2) go full steam ahead and divulge your life story. I generally go for option one as I have no problem with awkward moments. I almost treat it as a challenge, trying to answer in the least possible words as I can without being outright rude. I believe there has to be a better answer though. Here are my suggestions.

1) bring back the barber shop quartet. There would be no awkward silences if the hairdressing staff all sang 1950’s songs (harmonising of course) all day long. There could be some awkward noise though.

2) get Buddhist monks to cut hair. This is a bit of a career change for them and they wouldn’t be able to practice on there friends but the vow of silence would solve all problems.

3) anaesthesia. Just like going in for an operation. Count back from 10, go to sleep and wake up with a brand new hair cut. It might bump up the price a little to have trained medical staff in the salon but hey, they could take whatever tip they wanted while you were out cold.

So next time you go to the hairdresser, why not ask them how they are, what they have been up to, where they are going on holiday this year. And don’t forget to seem interested when they show you the back of your head, even though you will never have to look at it!
Who else in our society keeps the pun as well as hairdressing salon names.



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Generation riot

For those of you who don’t know, we had riots in England last year. They started in London and ended in many major cities across the UK. Most of the people involved in these riots where under drinking age (18 in the UK) and seemed to do it so they could smash and loot footlocker and JD sport. How did we get to this? I understand that a few of the rioters decided that they were protesting against what they saw was an unfair shooting of a man (a drug dealer as well) in north London, I am unsure though how that justifies looting trainer shops. Forgive me for being stupid, but if there is a link I can’t see it. How did we get here as a nation? I have a few ideas, personal ones of course and with only anecdotal or personal evidence.

1) a sense of entitlement: I don’t mean the kind the gentry or aristocracy have, the kind of born with a silver spoon in your mouth thing, what I am talking about is based around the X factor. All of these children believe in a bastardised version of the American dream. Instead of ‘I can do anything if I try’ it’s more a ‘I should be given everything without trying cos that’s what happens on the TV’. And when they realise they are not the next Cheryl Cole or T-Pain then they start to feel a sense of worthlessness.

2) what can we do? My parents grounded me if I was naughty, my teachers gave me detention and phoned my parents (who then grounded me) if I was bad at school, my neighbours told me off and then told my parents (who then… You get it) if I was doing something I shouldn’t. Now? The parents don’t even come to parent teacher meetings. Many of them ask the school ‘what can I do?’ Try being a parent, see if that helps.

3) no respect: the kids round my way won’t listen to anyone, not even the police. I was stopped by a gang of kids (3 or 4 sixteen year olds) who were blocking the pavement. I simply said ‘excuse me’ and ended up having to talk my way out of a possible beating. I have seen police officers ask gangs of kids to move on, the kids say no and the police have no choice but to back down because they are so outnumbered (something indicative of the riots). When I was a kid, in fact even now, if a police officer asks me to move I do it.

4) wanna be gangsters: not the godfather italian kind but the 50 cent ‘I got shot, how cool am I’ kind. Kids now carry knives (they would carry guns if they were legal to buy I’m sure) and so I am reticent to intervene in anything to do with them. I have often asked kids to turn down their mobile phones (why they can’t use headphones is beyond me) on the bus, and most of the time they do. Then I read some statistics on how many carried knives, now I just turn my music up on my headphones.

5) boredom. The government took away all the funding for summer holiday activities and centres. The riots happened in the summer. You do the maths.

Anyway, I know it’s not all the kids fault. I know it’s the parents, the media, the government and many other factors. It is also down to the young adult though, as not all of them got a new pair of trainers for free last summer. Some of them stayed in and locked their doors.



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What did we do before mobile phones?

From time to time, I meet my grandma at a shopping centre not far from either of our houses. She will ask where we should meet and at what time. I give her a vague ‘let’s meet here at this time ish’ and leave it at that. If I am late or can’t remember where I said to meet I just call. I take out my phone, find her number, hit the call button (the one on the screen, not an actual button) and wait. Nothing. Repeat again and again but still no answer. I then finally arrive, 20 minutes late and feeling guilty. You see, my grandma isn’t used to having a mobile. She was telling me about when she was on the bus the other day, a phone kept ringing and ringing. She started to get annoyed and thought to herself ‘why won’t the person just answer it?’ Guess whose phone it was! Got it in one, it was hers.

I have, on occasion, left the house without my mobile and it feels like having one arm tied behind my back. I can’t read, listen to music, check my email or Facebook, I can’t text, I can’t blog! The one thing that I didn’t miss was the one thing that the device was originally invented for, even though I couldn’t make a phone call as I didn’t have my mobile phone that didn’t even make my top 5. Crazy really. I suppose it’s not the only thing where it’s original use has now become a secondary one. Here comes the list…

1) the Internet. Originally invented to share raw scientific data across vast distances instantly. I won’t talk about the most popular thing the Internet is used for but I will talk about what happens when you don’t have it. Our wifi broke down just before Christmas. Luckily we both have iPhones, this kinda got us through, but the lack of broadband and having to stand by the window to get connection meant actually having to go out to do Christmas shopping. Either way, not what the original inventor had in mind I’m sure.

2) coca-cola was invented as a medicinal tonic. I suppose it still is if you mix it with whiskey. Now one of the largest corporations in the world, sponsors of everything big (even Christmas), sold everywhere in the world and so famous it even has its own museum (in Vegas of course). In 1886 it was just a feel good tonic.

3) Viagra was originally used for certain heart patients, and to reduce the symptoms of certain heart/lung conditions. That is all I shall say about that.

4) my car. No longer is my car means of transportation, it is the worlds biggest buggy and stereo. When the boy falls asleep I am quite happy to sit in it, playing games and listening to music. sometimes, I’ll just take him for a drive to send him off.

Hopefully, things will continue to have these ‘repurposed’ side effects such as a well know decongestant that can either be a sleep aid with nasal clearing side effects or a decongestant that may make you drowsy.

I guess that makes a teacher who also writes or a writer that also teaches. Depends how the books sell I suppose.



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A valuable lesson

I have been a teacher for a number of years now and I absolutely love it. This was not always the case. I now teach primary school children (between the ages of 7 and 11) which means that between teaching I get to be a big kid. When I started I taught secondary and college age kids (11 to 18 years old), and while teaching the older kids A levels was fun it was the 14/15 year olds that made me feel sick on the way to work, so much so that I nearly gave up. Primary school kids though are eager to learn (for the most part) and are desperate for the teacher to be impressed with their work. Here are my favourite reasons for being a primary school teacher…

1) science experiments. You are actually teaching them about the world, things that you or I would take for granted amaze them and things that we haven’t even thought about lead them off in new lines of enquiry. Some of the questions they ask are funny too as they don’t just accept things on face value. I was asked the other day why people don’t send parcels in helium packages as it would weigh less and hence be cheaper. I had no real response to that.

2) imagination. Say to the kids to do some free writing and you will be amazed at what you get. We had a theatre group come in and set up a little shop (it was really well done, amazing in fact) with a little old woman in it who told stories. As the children left they we’re given buttons and told to write a story of who they belonged to and how they got lost. We had everything from fairies to robots to dragons to beasts they had made up themselves. It was the most fun I have had marking in forever.

3) bluntness. This could also be called misunderstanding. I shall give you 2 of my favourite examples. The first is bluntness: I ask the child to write about a religious ceremony and for extra marks to compare it to another. He wrote about a wedding and a bar mitzvah. The difference was that in the bar mitzvah “they cut a snip of the dick”. Not in the wedding though. The second is a child who I asked to draw me a medieval room, he came back to me with a basement with a coffin, a werewolf and a giant spider. When I asked him what it was he told me it was his evil room.

4) I get to be a kid. I am a big kid, I love to play, that is all.

Although teaching is hard work with the planning, marking, discipline, long nights, parents, parents evenings, meetings, marking tests, administering tests, preparing for tests, dealing with fights, dealing with outside agencies (social workers and alike), the heartbreak of a kid who isn’t looked after properly at home and the threat of ofsted (school regulatory board). I do love my job. Every now and then you make a difference, that’s what it’s really about.

This fantastic picture was drawn by a 7 year old at my school, inspired by my books. That’s the kind of validation that gets me the most.


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