LET THEM EAT CAKE

March 28, 2010

 

I laughed when it made the news in the Good ‘ol USA. And when Oteha Valley primary school in New Zealand started doing the same thing, I was surprised. The Kiwis are known for a no-nonsense approach that I admire. But when the same baloney was introduced in West Lothian, I despaired.

I am talking about the ban on pupils taking a cake into school on their birthday. Why the ban? Because according to the jobsworths in the education department, it breaches new antiobesity legislation.

This all started when the 2008 Schools Health Promotion and Nutrition Scotland Act came into force, banning sweets and fizzy drinks from school canteens. But, as usual, the weirdy-beardy blokes – and I am including the females, too – have taken things too far with a policy that bans little kids sharing their birthday treat with their chums.

How small minded can you get, I ask. About as small as the morsel you would get from a cake cut into thirty portions, I answer.

It’s even been reported that one school in West Lothian actually let a kid celebrate their birthday by covering an (empty) sweet tin with crepe paper and using Blu-tac to hold the candles in place. Still, I suppose this must have satisfied the education department’s understanding of the letter and spirit of the legislation.

But hang on. According to the Scottish Government, “…the legislation was not intended to ban the consumption of cakes and confectionery on special occasions.”

 And Murdo Fraser, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, described the situation as “utterly ridiculous”.

He’s not wrong there. Meanwhile, Nick Seaton from the Campaign for Real Education, said: “…surely some sort of common sense should prevail when it comes to the occasional birthday cake.” You would think so, Nick. Wouldn’t you?

Even Marina Saunders, from a leading children’s fitness organisation, described the ban as excessive. Now Adam Ingram, the Minister for Children, is going to clarify the issue to local authorities.

But some teachers are already trying to save face by claiming that another reason for not distributing morsels of birthday cake is that some children are allergic to some of the ingredients. Well, make sure they don’t get any, then!  But because some unfortunate is allergic to butter-icing, that’s no reason to ban the celebrations for everybody else. Not unless you are a bumptious numpty, of course.

When even the politicians think things have gone too far, we have to question just who is making these dippy decisions. The answer? Over-zealous chumps in the education department.

Drew McAdam

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BUBBLE HEADS

March 21, 2010

 

WITH MOST BEERS the bubbles obey the normal laws of physics and rise to the surface to form a frothy head. But with Guinness the bubbles appear to sink downwards.

Weird. But not as weird as the fact the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) recently turned their immense intellect and funding towards the question of whether or not this was really the case or if it was an optical illusion.

Now, I’ve never met anybody from the RSC, but Dr Andrew Alexander, senior lecturer in chemical physics at the University of Edinburgh, informed me that this project was based on his earlier “preliminary” work. I’m sure they are all jolly fine fellows – and I’m sure they’re remarkably bright people – but could they not have turned their time, resources and our tax money to something more useful?

Frankly, if they think research into this sort of thing is cutting-edge science then we’re all in trouble. And no mistake.

For one thing, had this team of ivory-tower academic intellectuals asked any drinker in any pub in West Lothian, they would have been told, “Yesh, the bubblesh in a pint of Guinnessh really DO go downwardsh.”

That would have saved a bob or two.

It would certainly have saved the cost of the super-fast camera they used to zoom in on the bubbles, and all the ancillary equipment. I mean, how much DID this research cost us?

This team of super-brains could also have made their job easier had they just Googled “bubbles”, “down” and “Guinness” because they would have discovered that some brain-boxes had a look at this several years ago.

What’s more, they posted video clips showing the bubbles sinking. And they even drew some pretty little cartoon pictures to show WHY it happens. Oh, and their drawings are marked with a copyright – dated 2004. Six years ago! What’s more, an article about this appeared in New Scientist towards the end of 1998.

Now, if I was a brilliant scientist with my lab coat pockets stuffed with tax-payers money, the first thing I would do is check to see if it had been done before. I mean, how many times do you have to chuck money at a project to find out if the bubbles in Guinness are still going in the same direction they were six years ago?

And who actually cares? Only people who have never left Student-land for the real world, I suspect.

But then, I’m not bright enough to be a super scientist. And anyway, I’m too busy working to pay my taxes so they can carry out more daft research.

Drew McAdam


AIR WAVES

March 13, 2010

 

What do Skye, Leith, Dunoon, Galashiels, Ullapool, Pitlochry, Oban, Fort William, East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian all have in common?

Well, the answer is that they all benefit from their very own community radio stations.

No, hang on a moment. West Lothian doesn’t.

In the past weeks I’ve been interviewed on community radio stations around Scotland, including Leith FM, L107 FM in Hamilton, and Haddington-based East Coast FM where a couple of my mates from The Red Hot Chilli Pipers have a Tuesday night slot.

It was great. Listeners were phoning and texting; emails were coming in from those listening online around the globe – and in Fife. There was local news and comment, while small-business advertisers and sponsors gleefully supported the shows. Local current affairs were discussed and listeners made aware of issues that would affect them.

Leith FM pulls in dozens of interviews with major celebrities and personalities. Politicians, authors, rock stars, actors are all desperate to get on air. And community radio meets their needs.

Next week I’m on Heartland FM – which is run from Pitlochry – and I get to plug my forthcoming show at the local theatre there.

Despite being run on a shoestring without managers, directors, company cars, OB vans, inflated salaries or shareholders these little stations work hard at putting heart into their communities. Local schools, colleges, organisations and businesses all have input; they have made the stations their own. They are in the studios giving interviews, offering advice, promoting their services and attracting increasing numbers of listeners.

But in thriving, business-savvy, up-and-coming West Lothian… nothing. I think that’s a disgrace.

We have the technology. We have the will. We have the talent. What we do not have is the radio station. With a population and towns the size we do, along with get-up-and-go businesses to sponsor it, we can’t even muster the enthusiasm to start a community radio station; something that areas a fraction of our size have managed.

Now, get this: local authority population projections demonstrate that the number of residents in West Lothian will rise by 22% in the period to 2031. This compares to 5% in the rest of Scotland. The projected growth in the county over the next five years will require an additional 16,000 houses. Put another way, we are outgrowing and outperforming those around us.

Compare this with Ullapool or Pitlochry. Yet they have their own great little community radio stations.

When it comes to something as personal and beneficial as local community radio, West Lothian is a black hole of silence on the airwaves.

Shame on us.

Drew McAdam


PICTURE THIS

March 7, 2010

 

I’m disappointed.

Have you heard of Google Earth? It’s an amazing website that explores satellite photographs of Earth. You can magnify any part of it, closer and closer in steps – a satellite view of your town or village.

Then, just to make things even more interesting, they brought out something called Street View. (If you haven’t seen it before just put in a search for “Street View”, enter the name of your town, and there you have it. It’s a view of your street… at eye level.)

Amazingly, you can click along the road and you will travel in that direction. Or you can stop and swivel the scene around to get a view of your surroundings: the shops, houses, parks and gardens.

It was all done last summer by strange little black cars with towering cameras mounted on their roofs. These cameras take a 360 degree pictures as it travels along, so what you end up with is a massive wrap-around jigsaw picture of a whole area, including your old school, the house where you used to live, or your unwashed car sitting at the gate of your house.

Of course, it caused an outcry because people were concerned that it invaded their privacy. They worried that some master criminal could log on, visit the street and see the MacGlumphey family loading up the car to go on holiday, and their devious mind would think, “Aha! I’ll go round and rob their house!”

Of course, the surprise would come when they broke in and found the whole MacGlumphy family sitting there watching TV. It’s not a live feed, it’s based on photographs that were taken months ago, remember?

Anyway, back to my original point: I am disappointed. Why so? Because I saw the camera car scooting in and out of the West Calder streets and so I spent most of the morning trying to get myself in front of it, or as near as possible, every time it nipped in or out of a street.

I thought it was rather funny. It meant that when anybody logged on and looked at West Calder in Street View they would see dozens of me at various locations and in various bizarre poses.

But you know what? I do not appear in a single shot! It’s as though I was never there – even though I almost smashed head first into the camera car as I roared into one street in an attempt to get ahead of it again.

I can only think that they were on a dry run that day and took the actual photographs later. What an utter waste of time.

Still, if you visit the web site you can explore West Calder and the A71 into Livingston to your heart’s content.

And I utterly refute the rumour that the little fella’ stumbling out the pub in a chicken suit  is me. Okay?

Drew McAdam