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I’ve been under the weather a bit in the last couple of days and one thing that helped me ignore the rather unpleasant effects of the ‘winter vomiting virus’ was a brilliant book by Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greaves called The Naked Jape – Uncovering the hidden world of jokes.  It a study of what makes us laugh and why and loads of jokes.  It covers history, politics, religion, race – you name it, it gets a mention.  This is not for those who are easily offended though so don’t rush off and buy it.  It has such gems as:

‘I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do.  And for those who like country music, denigrate means put down.’  – Bob Newhart.

And – ‘Throwing acid is wrong, in some people’s eyes’ – Jimmy Carr.

I was concerned that perhaps analysing humour may well make it a bit earnest and remove the comedy value, but that wasn’t to be.  So Kev, thanks it helped a lot.

And finally, in all the mayhem of last week, I became a Great Aunt as my neice gave birth to a baby boy.  So welcome to the world, Finlay Jack McCarthy and congratulations and well done to your new Mum and Dad.  Big kiss and hugs from me – I’ll be down there very soon!


This is an amazing site.  Live train map showing the movement of trains in and around Zurich in Switzerland.  I bet they’re on time too.  Having had a nightmare journey last night with train cancellations I’m impressed.  Couldn’t quite see it happening here though.

With all the excitement of the conference last week I forgot to post something on this blog’s first birthday. Last Monday it was one year old. It started as I prepared to travel to Tanzania to see my brother and the work he and his wife Pia are doing there. I had a fantastic trip and they really are making a difference to the people who live and work round Emau Hill. Their charity is relaunching their website soon so hopefully there will be something more I can post about. I really can also recommend three weeks of sunshine in a miserable and cold English winter.

Since then the blog has sort of developed a life of it’s own and it just depends what is particularly engaging me at any one moment. I’ve added tags as different subjects have come up and have included some work related posts also. The viewing figures still continue to increase and I thought I would never repeat the 72 hits I got when I first started and told everyone about it; I now get over 1000 per week and the busiest day so far was last week when 216 people visited. Not massive numbers admittedly, but it keeps me happy. In fact it has become quite a friend in a way and when I’ve been busy and had no time to post anything, it starts to nag – sigh.

Jaiku, the microblogging site that I send messages to along with a group of friends has been  down today, supposedly for 24 hours, but is now back up again.  Not a big deal you would think, but the whole point of it is that it is immediate, quick and part of an ongoing conversation.  I’ve tried to log on 3 times today having forgotten that I knew it was scheduled maintenance.  Hopefully, they will fix the various glitches that have arisen since their purchase by Google.  Come back – all is forgiven.  It’s miles better then Twitter.  And lo and behold, it is back – hello world.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks getting ready to hold a conference last Monday in Manchester.  The venue was the City of Manchester Stadium (home of Manchester City Football Club) and I was mortified to discover that the keynote speaker we had booked was a season ticket holder at the other club – United.  She was very gracious and only made a passing reference to their six nil drubbing of Newcastle at the weekend.  The day went well and was well attended and it was interesting for us to have a different audience than we are used to.  We members of the ‘elearning circuit’ for want of a better phrase, tend to talk to the same people – the converted as it were.  We talk to ILT managers or other advisers, consultants etc.  This conference was for learning support and senior managers from FE colleges in the North West and it became clear early in the day that we were making assumptions of knowledge that wasn’t there.  TechDis were fantastic as always, stayed for the whole day and just added their expertise along the way.

These things don’t happen overnight and thankfully we have a fabulous events organiser and a great team who all helped out.  Thanks guys.  Looking at the evaluation forms yesterday it seems the main complaint was – there wasn’t any pudding.  As the first to complain if the food isn’t good I can understand this, but if that is the main gripe, it must have been ok?

Next Monday, 21st January is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year and as such is named Blue Monday. It is the start of the last week in January and a combination of the debt, weather, time since Christmas, time since New Year resolutions are broken, lack of motivation and need for action can be represented in a mathematical equation. I’m not sure about the accuracy of the equation but it is certainly a depressing time of year, for all those reasons just stated.


The campaign to ‘Beat Blue Monday‘ was started by the Creativity at Work consultants and is being promoted by Green Communictions here in Yorkshire. There is a facebook group (of course) and the Samaritans are part of the partnership.

They suggest you try and do something to cheer yourself and others up such as:

“Blog – Write a blog about what you are doing to Beat Blue Monday. Make your readers smile. If you do write a blog post on Monday 21 – make sure to tag it: “beatbluemonday”.
Try something new -Be creative, or learn something new to get your brain active and start thinking of new things instead of dwelling on the old.
Get physical – By changing your physical state, from a simple shoulder-shake at your desk to a full work-out at the gym, you can change the way you feel.
Contact a friend or relative – Get in touch with someone you have not heard from in a while; thinking of someone else takes your mind off you.
Take a break – Go somewhere different, whether it’s a coffee bar you have never been into, or a faraway luxury holiday; by changing your physical location, you change your perspective on the world.
Be nice to a stranger – Do a random act of kindness; doing good for others is the best form of self-satisfaction.
Help the planet – Be a good ancestor in some way; the planet will be here long after you are gone.
Pamper yourself – Spoil yourself, from a small indulgence to a luxury you have been promising yourself. You can even dye your hair blue to create a stunning eye-catching change.
Plan something new – Whether it’s planning a holiday for later in the year or deciding what to do at the weekend, looking forward to something new or different can be uplifting and refreshing.
Share your thoughts – A problem shared is a problem halved. Visit the Blue Monday blog to see what ideas people have come up with for dealing with life’s little problems. ”

Having read all those, I got a day’s pampering at the Spa of a rather smart hotel locally for my birthday so might just take that up next week.

There is  a great post here.  And a sneak (Pete) preview with this – lots more if you click on the link.


As part of the Consumer Electronics Show next week in Las Vegas, Bill Gates is to answer questions put to him by readers of the BBC News website.  So if you want to know why he ever thought that *&^%$ paperclip was a good idea or what is the logic of pressing start to close a machine down, go ahead.  I’ve already sent one question in about his philanthropic foundation work on malaria in Africa.  The answers will be posted on the BBC news website.

There is a report on the BBC website today on the effect of the film Miss Potter starring Renee Zellweger on tourists numbers.  Apparently visitors to the ‘World of Beatrix Potter’ were up by 35% and Mountain Goat tours had a 40% increase in taking their tours.

At the risk of sounding like an old cynic this is just depressing to me.  The numbers of visitors are now so great that paths down the fells are more like 6 lane motorways and some of the once beautiful villages are more like a Peter Rabbit theme park.  If anyone can remember the Lake District of 30 years ago, the place is now a cartoon of itself.  I know this isn’t particularly inclusive but I for one agree with Mr McGregor, Peter Rabbit should have gone into the pie!

Well Happy New Year everyone. I suppose now is the time to look back at the year and pick out the highs and forget the lows.

Well the year started with all the preparations for going out to Tanzania and that was definitely a high. It prompted the start of this blog which will be one year old on the 14th of this month and I’ve enjoyed posting a selection of random thoughts and ideas. It does seem to have now got the shorter identity of ‘Lisa’s Cotton Knickers’ – thanks Dave for the public mention at the RSC Conference. I hope I’ve managed to raise a bit of awareness of the work that Steve and Pia are doing at Emau Hill for Tukae.

It’s been a year of conferences, some good – HandHeld Learning, some not so good, the afformentioned RSC event! Others have been our own at the De Vere in Blackpool, an excellent single day at Salford University where I was introduced to jaiku, and a badly organised day at Manchester University (note to conference organisers, don’t make the delegates wait till 2 pm for lunch – they get crotchety).

Books of the year must include Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, as well as Kalheid Hussein’s A Thousand Splended Suns, Julian Barnes’ Arthur and George and yet more Bronte stuff. I’m looking forward to reading one of my Christmas presents, Shakespeare’s Wife by Germaine Greer as well as two more Shakespeare books, The Lodger by Charles Nichols and Bill Bryson’s latest.

It has also been the year of Facebook. What will come next? Bebo will become more popular; they are already getting new fans with KateModern – a 21st Century soap starring amongst others Ralph Little – check it out here though I think it is the season finale today.

So here’s to a new year and new aspirations. I’ve got a few ideas of what might transpire in the next 12 months, but until I’ve made complete plans it will have to stay under wraps. One thing is certain – I’ll be a Great Aunt in the next few weeks – so Good Luck Sarah and Paul!

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